Editor’s Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative July 2017 news and views
New York Daily News cover for Aug. 1, 2017 print edition
New York Times, Scaramucci Is Forced Out of New Role at White House, Maggie Haberman, Michael D. Shear and Glenn Thrush, July 31, 2017. The decision to remove Anthony Scaramucci as communications director came at the request of President Trump’s new chief of staff, John Kelly, shown in an official photo. President Trump has decided to remove Anthony Scaramucci from his position as communications director, three people close to the decision said Monday, relieving him just days after Mr. Scaramucci unloaded a crude verbal tirade against other senior members of the president’s senior staff.
Mr. Scaramucci’s abrupt removal came just 10 days after the wealthy New York financier was brought on to the West Wing staff, a move that convulsed an already chaotic White House and led to the departures of Sean Spicer, the former press secretary, and Reince Priebus, the president’s first chief of staff.
The decision to remove Mr. Scaramucci, who had boasted about reporting directly to the president, not the chief of staff, John F. Kelly, came at Mr. Kelly’s request, the people said. Mr. Kelly made clear to members of the White House staff at a meeting Monday morning that he is in charge.
It was not clear whether Mr. Scaramucci will remain employed at the White House in another position or will leave altogether. Just days into his appointment, Mr. Scaramucci unloaded a crude verbal tirade against other senior members of the president’s staff.
Internet Dark Humor: Photoshopped photo on web shows ousted Trump asides in awkward poses
New York Times, A Divorce Report Caps Scaramucci’s Explosive First Week on the Job, Katie Rogers, July 31, 2017. After an eventful few days, the public seemed to have had a thorough introduction to Anthony Scaramucci, the White House communications director whose flair for gale-force showmanship makes his new boss look almost tame.
The railing against ever-springing leaks from the White House. The vulgar words about his colleagues. All of those celebratory photos posted from Air Force One. We’d seen plenty for one week, or so we thought. But as it turns out, New York City’s most prolific gossip column was just getting started.
On Friday, whispers began that a third person — President Trump — had come between Mr. Scaramucci and his wife, Deidre Ball, causing her to file for divorce while pregnant with the couple’s second child, a boy born last week. The report, published in The New York Post’s Page Six column and crediting unnamed sources, detailed name-calling, abandonment and a three-year marriage clouded by Mr. Scaramucci’s blind ambition and burning desire to Make America Great Again.
Mr. Scaramucci’s devotion to Mr. Trump is well documented, and he is thought to be the catalyst for two high-profile departures since his arrival: Sean Spicer, the former press secretary, is said to have resigned over Mr. Scaramucci’s hire, and Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, was ousted days after Mr. Scaramucci called him a “paranoid schizophrenic” during an expletive-laden tirade delivered to The New Yorker.
But the Trump-Scaramucci political union did not cause Ms. Ball (shown in a photo) to file for divorce in Nassau County on July 6 — at least according to Jill Stone, who is representing Ms. Ball in the divorce. “It has nothing to do with Trump,” Ms. Stone said. Ms. Stone, who may have been invoking a bit of wishful thinking when it comes to this White House, added: “Honestly, it’s a private matter, and she’s hoping that it just dies down.”
Courts, Cops and Corruption Around the Nation
HuffPo, Former Ethics Chief Warns That Trump Could Make U.S. Look Like A ‘Kleptocracy,’ Hayley Miller, July 31, 2017. “America really should stand for more than that,” Walter Shaub said. Former Ethics Chief Warns That Trump Could Make U.S. Look Like A ‘Kleptocracy.’ The former head of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics warns that President Donald Trump’s “wildly inappropriate” business dealings could drive the rest of the world to view the U.S. as a “kleptocracy.”
Walter Shaub (shown in an official photo), who resigned as the agency’s top official earlier this month, said the White House is in the midst of an “ethics crisis” and accused Trump of using the presidency to run a “free advertising campaign” for his companies. “The fact that we’re having to ask questions about whether he’s intentionally using the presidency for profit is bad enough, because the appearance itself undermines confidence in government,” Shaub told The Guardian in an interview published Monday.
Center for Public Integrity, Saving face: Facebook wants access without limits, Jared Bennett, July 31, 2017. Social network giant lobbies to prevent state limits on facial recognition. When Chicago resident Carlo Licata joined Facebook in 2009, he did what the 390 million other users of the world’s largest social network had already done: He posted photos of himself and friends, tagging the images with names.
But what Licata, now 34, didn’t know was that every time he was tagged, Facebook stored his digitized face in its growing database. Angered this was done without his knowledge, Licata sued Facebook in 2015 as part of a class action lawsuit filed in Illinois state court accusing the company of violating a one-of-a-kind Illinois law that prohibits collection of biometric data without permission. The suit is ongoing.
Facebook denied the charges, arguing the law doesn’t apply to them. But behind the scenes, the social network giant is working feverishly to prevent other states from enacting a law like the one in Illinois. Since the suit was filed, Facebook has stepped up its state lobbying, according to records and interviews with lawmakers. But rather than wading into policy fights itself, Facebook has turned to lower-profile trade groups such as the Internet Association, based in Washington, D.C., and the Illinois-based trade association CompTIA to head off bills that would give users more control over how their likenesses are used or whom they can be sold to.
That effort is part of a wider agenda. Tech companies, whose business model is based on collecting data about its users and using it to sell ads, frequently oppose consumer privacy legislation. But privacy advocates say Facebook is uniquely aggressive in opposing all forms of regulation on its technology.
JFK New Documents Release
JFKFacts.org, Beyond the smoking gun: The new JFK files fill in two holes in the assassination story, Jefferson Morley, July 31, 2017. The answer is no. There is no one piece of evidence in the 113,000 pages of JFK records scheduled to be released by October 26, 2017, that will change people’s minds about what happened long ago in Dallas.
But the new JFK files, if released in their entirety, will fill in the two key gaps in the JFK assassination story that have long been obscured by government misconduct, official secrecy, and lazy journalism.
Think of the JFK assassination story as an incomplete mosaic. The new files help complete the picture in two ways. The new files shed light on the CIA’s use of Lee Oswald for intelligence purposes before November 22, 1963. They also illuminate the illegal actions of government officials to conceal the CIA’s manipulation of Oswald and its plot to kill Fidel Castro in late 1963.
Once all of these files are in the public record, then — and only then — can we assess what they tell us about the conspiracy question. So I advise news reporters (and everyone else) to put aside fantasies of a “smoking gun,” and focus on what the new facts tell us.
The new files strengthen the claim —long denied by the CIA and mainstream news organizations — that the agency used accused assassin Lee Oswald for intelligence purposes. More of the story is coming in the testimony of Orest Pena, a New Orleans bar owner who said he saw Oswald in the company of a senior FBI agents in the summer of 1963. The Pena testimony was not included in the first batch of National Archives releases last week.
The newly-declassified financial records of the CIA front group, the Cuban Revolutionary Council, are also relevant, as Larry explains at The New JFK Show Blog. In his turn as a public supporter of Castro in the summer of 1963, Oswald had repeated contacts with people associated with the CRC. I will be writing more about these records in comings weeks.
Meanwhile, intelligence historian John Newman has already begun to use the new files to develop the granular knowledge of CIA covert operations and cryptonyms necessary to tell this story.
JFKFacts.org, #NewJFKfiles: In 1964 Nikita Khrushchev schooled Drew Pearson on the JFK conspiracy question, Jefferson Morley, July 31, 2017. To people interested in the new JFK releases, I can highly recommend item 3) on Bill Kelly’s Top Ten Newly Released Records: Drew Pearson’s interview with Nikita Khrushchev. In this May 1964 conversation about the assassination of JFK, Drew Pearson (shown on a 1948 Time Magazine cover), one of the nation’s leading syndicated columnists, failed to dispel the conspiratorial convictions of Nikita Khrushchev, the leader of the Soviet Union.
Khrushchev disbelieved the Warren Report and criticized American intelligence agencies, Pearson reported. Three years later, Pearson’s fellow investigative reporter Jack Anderson would break a story that shattered Washington’s confidence in the official JFK story and lent credence to Khrushchev’s view.
Boston Globe, What we know about the newly released JFK assassination records — and those yet to come, Nik DeCosta-Klipa, July 31, 2017. Last week, the National Archives released thousands of documents related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, hundreds of which had never before been publicly disclosed. Those who’ve studied the assassination say the new records expand on what was known about the government’s surveillance of Lee Harvey Oswald, as well as a mysterious trip he made to Mexico City two months before the assassination.
But the latest records release is also just the tip of the iceberg of what’s expected to come. “This all goes back to Oliver Stone’s movie JFK back in the early 1990s,” says Philip Shenon, a former New York Times reporter and author of the Kennedy assassination book A Cruel and Shocking Act.
“Whatever you think of it as a film, it created such an uproar and it got so many conspiracy theories whirling that Congress felt it was forced to act,” Shenon said.
More than 4 million pages of documents on the assassination were released in December 1992. Some agencies like the CIA and FBI withheld some documents at the time, arguing their release could endanger government spies or informants.
The newly disclosed documents are believed to amount to only about 1 percent of the remaining unreleased records, according to Larry Sabato, the director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics and author of the book The Kennedy Half-Century.
NPR, Israeli Authorities Arrest Antiquities Dealers In Connection With Hobby Lobby Scandal, Daniel Estrin, July 31, 2017. Israeli authorities arrested five Palestinian antiquities dealers in Jerusalem and confiscated items dating back thousands of years from their homes and shops: papyrus fragments from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the bust of an Etruscan woman, a fresco from Pompeii depicting swimming fish. They also seized more modern objects — two black luxury Audi vehicles — and more than $200,000 in cash.
NPR has learned the reason for the early Sunday morning arrests: Israel’s Antiquities Authority says the dealers were involved in sales of antiquities — including items that U.S. authorities determined were smuggled — to Hobby Lobby, the national U.S. arts and crafts chain.
The arrests could have a chilling effect on Jerusalem’s storied antiquities market, making it harder for pilgrims, tourists and high-end collectors to legally own a piece of history from the land of the Bible. Police say the dealers’ total antiquities sales to Hobby Lobby president Steve Green took place from 2010 to 2014 and added up to some $20 million.
Washington Post, Google’s new program to track shoppers sparks a federal privacy complaint, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg, July 31, 2017 (print edition). A prominent privacy rights watchdog is asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate a new Google advertising program that ties consumers’ online behavior to their purchases in brick-and-mortar stores.
The legal complaint from the Electronic Privacy Information Center, to be filed with the FTC on Monday, alleges that Google is newly gaining access to a trove of highly sensitive information — the credit and debit card purchase records of the majority of U.S. consumers — without revealing how they got the information or giving consumers meaningful ways to opt out. Moreover, the group claims that the search giant is relying on a secretive technical method to protect the data — a method that should be audited by outsiders and is likely vulnerable to hacks or other data breaches.
“Google is seeking to extend its dominance from the online world to the real, offline world, and the FTC really needs to look at that,” said Marc Rotenberg, the organization’s executive director.
Guardian, US hits Nicolás Maduro with sanctions after Venezuela’s ‘sham’ election, Virginia López, July 31, 2017. Sanctions freeze Venezuelan president’s assets under US jurisdiction and prevent US citizens from doing business with him. The US government has imposed financial sanctions on Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, after the election of a new legislative body to redraft the country’s constitution in a vote described by Washington as a “sham.”
Maduro hailed Sunday’s election as a popular mandate to dramatically recast the troubled state, but his political opponents have warned this could lead to the dissolution of existing powers and turn the country into a fully fledged dictatorship. On Monday, he was added to the growing list of high-ranking Venezuelan officials target for sanctions which freeze any of Maduro’s assets under US jurisdiction, and prohibit US citizens from doing business with him.
“Yesterday’s illegitimate elections confirm that Maduro is a dictator who disregards the will of the Venezuelan people,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “By sanctioning Maduro, the United States makes clear our opposition to the policies of his regime and our support for the people of Venezuela who seek to return their country to a full and prosperous democracy.”
According to Reuters, the US is still considering broader sanctions against Venezuela’s oil industry, which could prove devastating for a country which is already in a state of economic free fall. At least 10 people died in clashes around Sunday’s vote, during one of the deadliest days in nearly four months of political unrest.
Tufts University, Jerry Meldon, Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering, Dies, Staff report, July 29, 2017. Consortium News, Jerry Meldon’s Passion for History, Admin, July 29, 2017. Jerry Meldon (shown at right), a Tufts University professor who was one of our first writers at Consortium News and a great friend, drowned while swimming in a lake in North Carolina on July 18. He was 69. Though an associate professor of chemical engineering, Jerry had a passion for history, especially the dark corners of the Cold War. He wrote frequently about the ugly trade-offs that the U.S. government and the West in general made during those decades.
JFK Assassination Document Releases
JFKCountercoup, The Argot of Dealey Plaza: How to define and talk about what happened at Dealey Plaza, Bill Kelly, July 31, 2017. It now should be established and accepted as a fact that the modus operandi of the assassination of President Kennedy was not that of a deranged loner, but rather that of a covert intelligence operation.
The largest CIA station in the world at the time — at the University of Miami, went by the cover of Zenith Technological Enterprises, as US Army Ranger Bradley Ayers describes in his books The War that Never Was and The Zenith Secret.
As Ayers describes it, they set it up just like the Big Con artists set up a Big Store as a fake gambling joint or broker’s office. “Monday morning we met the station chief, Ted Shackley,” Ayers wrote. “As we sat in his outer office, waiting a little nervously, I saw they had missed no detail in setting up the false front of Zenith Technological Enterprises.” “There were phony sales and production charts on the walls and business licenses from the state and federal governments. A notice to salesman, pinned near the door, advised them of the calling hours for various departments. The crowning touch was a certificate of award from the United Givers’ Fund to Zenith for outstanding participation in the annual fund drive.”
As Malcolm Blunt recently noted: “Better we should look at the documents being released and work on what I’m sure to most is irrelevant minutiae. Although most of these releases are going to be absolutely meaningless to [Washington] Post and [New York] Times reporters, really we being given missing pages from an incomplete dictionary. Agency cryptonyms, pseudonyms, internal systems and management. Very valuable.”
JFKCountercoup, Kelly’s Top Ten Newly Released Records, William Kelly, July 29, 2017. The National Archives and Records Administration is releasing documents previously withheld in accordance with the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act. The vast majority of the Collection (88%) has been open in full and released to the public since the late 1990s. The records at issue are documents previously identified as assassination records, but withheld in full or withheld in part.
This first batch of releases consists of 3,810 documents, including 441 formerly withheld-in-full documents and 3,369 documents formerly released with portions redacted. The documents originate from FBI and CIA series identified by the Assassination Records Review Board as assassination records. More releases will follow. Except for the Collins Radio file, most of these records are among the first batch previously released with redactions.
Courts and Cops: Around the Nation
Atlantic, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Convicted Criminal, J. Weston Phippen, July 31, 2017. A federal judge has found the former Maricopa County, Arizona, lawman guilty of contempt of court. Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona (shown at right) is now a convicted criminal. The longest-serving lawman of the state’s most populous county, where he became a national figure known for immigration raids and sweeps aimed at rounding up illegal migrants, was found guilty Monday of contempt of court. He faces up to six months in jail.
The ruling was made by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton, and sentencing could come as soon as October. Legal experts doubt Arpaio will spend a day in jail, but the criminal conviction is the last major blow to the 85-year-old’s record, one that spans six terms in elected office. Arpaio lost reelection for the first time last November, which from the outside looking in, may have seemed a bizarre rejection of his hardline immigration policies at a time when many of those same policies were favored by then-candidate Donald Trump.
In fact, Arpaio was an early Trump supporter, and there was speculation he’d be asked to join the campaign as late as last July, when he gave a speech for Trump at the Republican National Convention. The rejection of Arpaio in last year’s election, however, came at a time when Maricopa County had turned away from the more controversial politicians who had made it the leader in anti-immigration policy.
CNN, White House officials hoodwinked by email prankster, Jake Tapper, July 31, 2017. A self-described “email prankster” in the UK fooled a number of White House officials into thinking he was other officials, including an episode where he convinced the White House official tasked with cyber security that he was Jared Kushner and received that official’s private email address unsolicited. “Tom, we are arranging a bit of a soirée towards the end of August,” the fake Jared Kushner on an Outlook account wrote to the official White House email account of Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert. “It would be great if you could make it, I promise food of at least comparible (sic) quality to that which we ate in Iraq. Should be a great evening.”
Bossert wrote back: “Thanks, Jared. With a promise like that, I can’t refuse. Also, if you ever need it, my personal email is” (redacted). Bossert did not respond to CNN’s request for comment; the email prankster said he was surprised Bossert responded given his expertise. The emails were shared with CNN by the email prankster. White House officials acknowledged the incidents and said they were taking the matter seriously. “We take all cyber related issues very seriously and are looking into these incidents further,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told CNN.
Harper’s, The Reichstag Fire Next Time, Masha Gessen, Aug. 1, 2017. The coming crackdown. When each day brings more news than we are used to seeing in a week, and the kind of news that only the most catastrophic imagination can accommodate, we find ourselves talking about the Reichstag fire. Time feels both accelerated and slowed down, and so we imagine that we have been talking about the fire for years. It is the new president’s new clothes: invisible, yet always present in our perception of him.
The Reichstag fire, it goes almost without saying, will be a terrorist attack, and it will mark our sudden, obvious, and irreversible descent into autocracy. Here is what it looks like: On a sunny morning you turn on the television as you make coffee, or the speaker in your shower streams the news, or the radio comes on when you turn the ignition key in your car. The voices of the newscasters are familiar, but their pitch is altered, and they speak with a peculiar haste. Something horrible has happened—it is not yet clear what—and thousands are dead, and more are expected to die. You hear the word “terror.” You feel it.
Nowhere is this unity more evident than in Washington. Bills are passed unanimously. These laws give new powers to the president and his security apparatus. The president, unpopular and widely considered incompetent before the attack, now steps up to direct the war effort. His demeanor—which some used to deride as primitive—is well suited for this new black-and-white era. His administration institutes sweeping surveillance to ferret out enemies at home, and wages one war and then another abroad.
American public life is profoundly transformed. The press becomes uncritical of the government. There is no outright censorship; correspondents are part of the effort now, as they were during the Second World War. American casualties pile up, the foreign carnage is enormous and unmeasured, but there is scant domestic resistance. Only at the margins of politics and the media do some people question the usefulness and legality of the war effort.
The government pushes the limits further, cutting off access to the judiciary for those deemed the enemy. The president is no longer unpopular, and he can impose his will on Washington and the country. The country is in a forever war, a state of exception that has taken away many American freedoms, some of which were ceded voluntarily.
Most recent protests share a fundamental flaw: They project the assumption that things were fine until America inexplicably elected Trump. To be worthy of the lofty name “resistance,” the opposition to Trump must aim to break the country’s post-9/11 trajectory. It must question the very premise of the war on terror, challenge the very fact of a perpetual state of emergency, and confront not only the Trump presidency but the legacy of the Bush and Obama Administrations.
JFK Records Release Research
Assassination Archives and Research Center (AARC), AARC Board responds to Sabato and Shenon, Editorial Board, July 31, 2017. On July 25, 2017, the Washington post published an opinion piece, President Trump, give us the full story on the JFK assassination, by Larry Sabato and Phil Shenon. The following three responses to that article are contributed by AARC Board members Dr. Don Thomas, Malcolm Blunt, and Dr. Gary Aguilar.
Dr. Donald B. Thomas: In an otherwise persuasively reasoned op-ed in the Washington Post arguing for unfettered release of JFK assassination documents (as required by law), Philip Shenon and Larry Sabato indulged in uninformed and unsupported overstatement by claiming that “… 21st-century forensic science demonstrates that Oswald was almost certainly the lone gunman in Dallas…”
A novice reading that statement would likely conclude that there have been recent (since 2000) scientific studies that incriminate Lee Harvey Oswald in the JFK murder case. But there are none. Not one. There is not even one that claims to be. There have been excellent (and otherwise) forensic studies on the JFK evidence in recent years, but none of them inculpate anyone. In short it is a Trumpism – made up – fake news. Shenon and Sabato’s bald claim about the forensics is an alternative fact, the very sort of invention the Washington Post should be striving hard to avoid.
Washington Post, Five myths about Steve Bannon, Joshua Green, July 30, 2017 print edition (July 28, 2017). Joshua Green is a national correspondent for Bloomberg Businessweek and the author of “Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency.”
Stephen K. Bannon (shown in a file photo) seemed to come out of nowhere in August 2016, taking over Donald Trump’s struggling campaign and leading it to the most shocking upset in U.S. presidential history. Few people, even in Washington, had heard of Bannon before then. And because he liked to cultivate an image of himself as a dark, nationalist political Svengali — a portrait the media mostly accepted — a number of myths have arisen about Bannon and his beliefs. Here are five of them:
Myth No. 1: Bannon is Trump’s Rasputin. Bannon hates Muslims. Bannon is a nationalist. ‘Seinfeld’ made Bannon fabulously rich. Bannon knows what he’s doing.
Washington Post, Putin orders 755 personnel cut at U.S. missions in Russia in response to sanctions, Andrew Roth, July 30, 2017. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s action (shown at right) is the single largest forced reduction in embassy staff since 1917 and a dramatic escalation in the Kremlin’s retaliation to sanctions over its meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. It also indicates that Russia has apparently abandoned its hopes for better relations with the U.S. under the Trump administration.
The Kremlin had said Friday, as the Senate voted to strengthen sanctions on Russia, that some American diplomats would be expelled, but the size of the reduction is dramatic. It covers the main embassy in Moscow, as well as missions in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok.
New York Daily News, Anthony Scaramucci’s wife filed for divorce from Trump-supporting husband while nine months pregnant, Dale W. Eisinger and James Fanelli, July 30, 2017. Anthony Scaramucci’s wife was nine months pregnant when she filed for divorce from her potty-mouthed, President Trump-obsessed husband earlier this month. Deidre Ball Scaramucci, 38 (and shown in a file photo), gave birth to a mini-Mooch named James on Monday while the new White House Communications Director was in West Virginia accompanying President Trump to the Boy Scouts Jamboree.
James is the name of the mom’s father. Her lawyer Jill Stone confirmed the news in a Saturday interview in which she shot down reports that the split was due to her husband’s naked political ambition and infatuation with Trump.
Washington Post, Scotland just made it much harder for Trump to expand his golf empire there, Amanda Erickson, July 30, 2017. In 2006, businessman and reality TV star Donald Trump bought an 1,800-acre estate in Scotland’s northeast, near Aberdeen. It was beautiful, with views of the North Sea and surrounding sand dunes.
Then he announced plans to build a golf course. In true Trump style, he promised the world. He envisioned a grand complex with two world-class golf courses, a luxury hotel and 1,450 homes on the property. It would be, he said, a $1.5 billion investment.
But then came a string of setbacks: The 2008 financial crisis roiled Trump’s businesses, forcing him to delay or cancel a number of projects. The local planning commission called his Scottish proposal “extremely implausible” and refused to support it. Recalcitrant neighbors would not surrender their land. So far, the Trump International Golf Links complex hasn’t lived up to Trump’s vision. There is only one golf course, which by many accounts is rarely busy. Instead of a gigantic hotel and pricey stretch of homes, there’s a single clubhouse with a few rooms for rent. Just 150 permanent jobs have been created, rather than the promised thousands. Corporate filings in Britain show that the course lost $1.8 million in 2015.
Politico, Clinton Foundation donor, feds settle suit over leaks, Diamond Naga Siu and Josh Gerstein, July 31, 2017. Major Clinton Foundation donor Gilbert Chagoury and the U.S. government have struck a deal to settle a lawsuit over leaks that suggested the Nigerian-born businessman was fundraising for a U.S.-identified terrorist organization. Press reports during Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign said Chagoury, a billionaire who lives in Lebanon, was denied a visa in 2015 due to those allegations. Last September, Chagoury filed a lawsuit against the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies for damaging his reputation and denying his Constitutional rights. Chagoury had visited the U.S. throughout the past 35 years, he said.
More Global News
Washington Post, U.S. displays military firepower after Pyongyang’s latest ICBM test, Carol Morello, July 30, 2017. In a sign that tensions are spiraling upward rapidly, the U.S. flew two supersonic B-1 bombers over the Korean Peninsula and conducted a successful missile defense test over the Pacific Ocean. On Friday, North Korea launched a missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.
Hackers Confirm Fears Of Election Machine Vote-Flipping
The Register (United Kingdom), It took DEF CON hackers minutes to pwn these US voting machines, Iain Thomson, July 29, 2017. We’ve got three years to shore up election security. After the debacle of the 2000 presidential election count, the US invested heavily in electronic voting systems – but not, it seems, the security to protect them. This year at the DEF CON hacking conference in Las Vegas, 30 computer-powered ballot boxes used in American elections were set up in a simulated national White House race – and hackers got to work physically breaking the gear open to find out what was hidden inside.
In less than 90 minutes, the first cracks in the systems’ defenses started appearing, revealing an embarrassing low level of security. Then one was hacked wirelessly. “Without question, our voting systems are weak and susceptible. Thanks to the contributions of the hacker community today, we’ve uncovered even more about exactly how,” said Jake Braun, who sold DEF CON founder Jeff Moss on the idea earlier this year. “The scary thing is we also know that our foreign adversaries – including Russia, North Korea, Iran – possess the capabilities to hack them too, in the process undermining principles of democracy and threatening our national security.”
The Hill, Hackers break into voting machines in minutes at hacking competition, John Bowden, July 29, 2017. Hackers at at a competition in Las Vegas were able to successfully breach the software of U.S. voting machines in just 90 minutes on Friday, illuminating glaring security deficiencies in America’s election infrastructure. Tech minds at the annual “DEF CON” in Las Vegas were given physical voting machines and remote access, with the instructions of gaining access to the software.
Trump Threatens To Collapse Nation’s Health Insurance
Daily Beast, Trump Wails He’ll Withhold Obamacare Payments Unless Repeal Passes, Staff report, July 29, 2017. President Trump has threatened to withhold crucial payments to insurance companies if a health-care bill is not approved “quickly.” In his second Twitter tirade of the day on Saturday, Trump said if legislation is not passed, “BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies and BAILOUTS for Members of Congress will end very soon!”
He was apparently referring to Cost Sharing Reduction payments to insurance companies, which reduce co-payments and deductibles for lower income customers under Obamacare. The White House said earlier that the payments would be made until the end of this month, though no commitment was made past July. The president made similar threats back in April, saying at that time the ensuing chaos in insurance markets would force Democrats to compromise on health-care legislation.
White House Staff Shake-Up Prompts Cat-Calls
White House Survivor Game (Opinion from the Right, New York Post cover July 29, 2017)
Palmer Report, Opinion From Left: Donald Trump faces pushback from police chiefs association, Boy Scouts leader, and military top brass in same week, Bill Palmer, July 29, 2017. The deranged clown illegitimately occupying the office of President of the United States has become such a liability that every time he opens his mouth, the group he’s addressing ends up having to put out a statement disassociating itself from his inappropriate words.
This week alone the head of the Boy Scouts, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and the top leaders of the military have all had to publicly push back against him.
First, Trump gave a speech to a group of Boy Scouts which was inappropriately partisan, disrespectful, profane, and seedy. In response, after parents around the nation threatened to remove their kids from the organization, the head of the Boy Scouts put out a statement condemning Trump’s speech. But as it turns out, Trump’s embarrassing week was just getting revved up.
When Trump announced on Twitter that he’ll no longer allow transgender people in the military, without even bothering to specify if he was including those who are already in the military. This prompted military leaders to state that they have no intention of implementing a policy change based on a tweet unless Trump issues a formal order through proper procedures (source: Vanity Fair). This means that, in effect, the military is using a technicality to defy Trump’s wishes, because it doesn’t truly see Trump as the president. But then came the matter of the police.
Today Trump told a group of police officers in Long Island that they should make a point of using violence against suspects they’re arresting. That led the Suffolk County Police Department to announce via Twitter that “The SCPD has strict rules & procedures relating to the handling of prisoners. Violations of those rules are treated extremely seriously. As a department, we do not and will not tolerate roughing up of prisoners.” (source: Twitter). And then the International Association of Chiefs of Police told him to buzz off as well (source: Raw Story), sinking Trump to an all time low.
And so now, within the span of a week, the leaders of the military, the police and the Boy Scouts have each publicly told Donald Trump to buzz off in their own way. It’s difficult to figure how Trump could find a way to humiliate himself and America any further, but we all know that he will.
New York Times, After Health Care Loss, Trump Urges End to Filibuster, Maggie Haberman, July 29, 2017. It wasn’t clear why the president was focused on the rule, a parliamentary delay tactic that requires 60 votes to overcome, since the repeal of Obamacare only required a simple 51-vote majority to pass.
Despite naming a chief of staff who is expected to bring a new sense of discipline to the White House, President Trump resorted to his old Twitter playbook on Saturday, attacking Senate Republicans who he said “look like fools” — even as he demonstrated an uncertain understanding of the legislative process.
In a series of early morning messages, the president criticized the Senate’s filibuster rules, saying they were hampering his agenda. “Republican Senate must get rid of 60 vote NOW! It is killing the R Party, allows 8 Dems to control country. 200 Bills sit in Senate. A JOKE!” Mr. Trump wrote in the flurry of Twitter posts that started shortly after 7 a.m.
It was not clear why he was focused on the filibuster rule, a parliamentary delay tactic that requires 60 votes to overcome. Republicans have a 52-seat majority in the Senate. A proposal this week to repeal portions of the health care law, as long demanded by Mr. Trump, required a simple 51-vote majority to pass and still failed.
African Famine, Climate Change
New York Times, Loss of Fertile Land Fuels ‘Looming Crisis’ Across Africa, Jeffrey Gettleman, July 29, 2017. Climate change, soil degradation and rising wealth are shrinking the amount of usable land in Africa. But the number of people who need it is rising fast. In Laikipia, Kenya, the two elders, wearing weather-beaten cowboy hats with the strings cinched under their chins, stood at the edge of an empty farm, covering their mouths in disbelief.
Their homes — neat wooden cabins — had been smashed open. All their cattle had been stolen. So had their chickens. House after house stood vacant, without another soul around. It was as if some huge force had barreled into the village and swept away all the life.
Sioyia Lesinko Lekisio, one of the elders, had no doubts who did this. Swarms of herders from another county had invaded, attacking any farm or cattle ranch in their path, big or small, stealing livestock, ransacking homes and shooting people with high-powered assault rifles. “There’s nothing we can do about it,” he said. “They want our land.”
Kenya has a land problem. Africa itself has a land problem. The continent seems so vast and the land so open. The awesome sense of space is an inextricable part of the beauty here — the unadulterated vistas, the endless land. But in a way, that is an illusion. Population swells, climate change, soil degradation, erosion, poaching, global food prices and even the benefits of affluence are exerting incredible pressure on African land. They are fueling conflicts across the continent, from Nigeria in the west to Kenya in the east — including here in Laikipia, a wildlife haven and one of Kenya’s most beautiful areas.
Crucial Juncture In Syrian War Fronts
SouthFront, Idlib Province And Death Of “Moderate Rebels,” Homsi, edited by J.Hawk, July 28, 2017. Since the Russian intervention in Syria in 2015, the Syrian government has consistently maintained the initiative on most major fronts in Syria. In that moment, barring a massive mobilization by Western and Gulf Arab states to support the various militants fighting against the Syrian Arab Army, outright military victory for the militants became impossible.
The militants’ disorganization and near total failure to consolidate their forces have made an already bad situation for them drastically worse. At the time of the Russian intervention, there were 3 major Salafi Jihadist militant groups who could have possibly seized and maintained power in a hypothetical collapse of Government forces: Jaysh al-Islam, Ahrar al-Sham, and de facto al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front (now known as Hayyat Tahrir al-Sham). The cooperation between Ahrar al-Sham and al-Nusra Front, which was then known as “Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS)”, came to a sudden and dramatic halt in January this year, in a dispute mostly involving the IS-affiliated terrorist organization Jund al-Aqsa.
Essentially, this most recent set of clashes have given HTS undisputed supremacy among the various militants fighting against Syrian Government forces. Needless to say, this is huge news which has fundamentally changed the dynamics of the war in Syria. The West will have an extremely hard time justifying further support to an insurgency which has become completely upended by a de facto al-Qaeda affiliate.
For Russia, this is some very welcome news, as they can officially give up any efforts towards overseeing a diplomatic resolution in Idlib, due to HTS and their categorical rejection of negotiations, as well as their exclusion from peace talks. Idlib will likely be treated by Russia in the same way that they treat Daesh-held areas, where they are able to bomb freely without endless condemnation from the West.
In the United States, it has been increasingly questioned as to why the US supports the militant groups, and these clashes might have provided a final answer. With the US’s announcement of the end of its program to support the militants, this effectively restricts the US to supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces. The complete and utter death of the militants posing any kind of credible alternative to the Syrian Government will bolster the latter’s standing greatly, and would probably aid in rebuilding of ties between Syria and the West. And as the opposition now have al-Qaeda as its undisputed leader, they are all but doomed to die a slow and humiliating death as the government slowly reasserts its authority nationwide with little criticism.
Al Jazeera, Assad troops enter ISIL-held town of al-Sukhna in Homs, Staff report, July 28, 2017. Monitor reports artillery and rocket firing at ISIL positions in lead-up to entry into southwestern part of al-Sukhna. Syrian government troops have entered the last ISIL stronghold in Homs province on Friday after fighters began withdrawing, according to a monitor.
Al-Sukhna, about 70km northeast of the ancient city of Palmyra, is the last town on the road to the eastern city of Deir Az Zor, where a government garrison has held out under siege by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, known as ISIS), since early 2015.
The monitor, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), earlier reported clashes on the city’s outskirts. It said government troops were firing artillery and rockets at ISIL positions. By early evening, SOHR said government forces had entered the southwestern part of al-Sukhna. “The ISIL organisation has carried out successive withdrawals from the town.”
The government forces of President Bashar al-Assad “have line-of-fire effective control of the town after the withdrawals”, said Rami Abdel Rahman, SOHR’s director. He said the streets were reportedly empty, but it was unclear if pockets of ISIL fighters remained. Since May, Assad’s army has been conducting a broad military campaign with Russian support to recapture the vast desert that separates the capital Damascus from Deir Az Zor and other towns along the Euphrates Valley.
Independent, On the Syrian frontline, the battle against Isis is reaching its crescendo, Robert Fisk on Karra Mountain, Western Syria, July 28, 2017. ISIS is now facing total defeat in Qalamoun. Their elimination will end the ISIS threat to the Hezbollah’s supply line down the Hermel-Baalbek highway inside Lebanon and restore secure Lebanese sovereignty to the town of Ersal. The West’s diplomats have been observing this last battle from the Lebanese side of the frontier but of course they cannot come to Syria.
The only Western witness to the Syrian side of the mountain conflict is The Independent, and General Median Abad gave a tactician’s description of the landscape.
Syrian troops are now set up in positions on the Lebanese side of the border between the two countries in their battle to destroy Isis in the towering mountains of Qalamoun. Corpses rot on the mountainsides here as the Lebanese Hezbollah – fighting now inside Syria – prepare for a final struggle against the Islamists, who are today surrounded on a towering black stone peak to the north.
From the heights of the Karra mountain, 7,000 feet above the Syrian-Lebanese border, I could see Syrian troops encamped on top of the two mountains – inside Lebanon. Walking around its soaring heights after the battle, which ended only five days ago, is a dizzying experience. The stench of still unburied ISIS bodies, the blast of mountain air tearing at the sandbags across the bleak trenches and earthworks erected by Isis before their last stand, and the network of tunnels – dug through the living rock by the Islamist defenders in the vain hope of withstanding Syrian air attacks – show just how fiercely this battle was fought.
Not one ISIS fighter survived – which tells its own story – although a remarkable video taken by the victors during the struggle shows a Hezbollah guerrilla telling a dying Isis man who is covered in blood: “God be with you” – a remarkable blessing to a dying Sunni from a Shia fighter.
Courts and Cops Around the Nation
Washington Post, U.S. police chiefs blast Trump for endorsing ‘police brutality,’ Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Mark Berman, July 29, 2017. Police departments across the country moved quickly to denounce President Trump’s comments condoning “roughing up” people who have been arrested. Police leaders across the country moved quickly to distance themselves from — or to outright condemn — President Trump’s statements about “roughing up” people who’ve been arrested.
The swift public denunciations came as departments are under intense pressure to stamp out brutality and excessive force that can erode the relationship between officers and the people they police — and cost police chiefs their jobs. Some police leaders worried that three sentences uttered by the president during a Long Island, N.Y., speech could upend nearly three decades of fence-mending since the 1991 Los Angeles Police Department beating of Rodney King ushered in an era of distrust of police.
Trump made the comments at a gathering of law enforcement officers at Suffolk County Community College in New York. “When you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over?” Trump said, miming the physical motion of an officer shielding a suspect’s head to keep it from bumping against the squad car. “Like, don’t hit their head, and they just killed somebody — don’t hit their head,” Trump continued. “I said, you can take the hand away, okay?”
Washington Post, Defrocked priest central to the ‘Spotlight’ child-sex-abuse scandal leaves Massachusetts prison, Alex Horton, July 29, 2017. Paul Shanley was released Friday after serving a 12-year sentence for the rape and indecent assault of a boy in a church in the 1980s. Phil Saviano, an advocate for sexual assault victims, had a list of Boston-area clergymen alleged to have raped young boys. And it was growing. He created a New England chapter of a support group for people who said they had been abused by priests and drew up the list of alleged offenders, along with other data points, beginning in 1997.
One of the names kept coming up in discussions: Paul Shanley. Shanley was a well-respected clergyman nicknamed the “Street Priest” for his habit of roaming dangerous neighborhoods to help troubled youths. But he also secretly used the anonymity of vulnerable, wayward boys as a weapon and a shield. Shanley, 86, was released from state prison Friday after serving a 12-year sentence for the rape and indecent assault of a boy in a Massachusetts church in the 1980s. He was defrocked by the Vatican in 2004 and convicted the following year.
Politico, Judge balks at FBI’s 17-year timeline for FOIA request, Josh Gerstein, July 29, 2017. Getting answers to Freedom of Information Act requests is often a protracted and tiring process, but how long a wait is too long? One federal judge just came up with an answer: 17 years.
U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler bluntly rejected the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s proposal that documentary filmmaker Nina Seavey wait until the year 2034 to get all the law enforcement agency’s records for a request pertaining surveillance of anti-war and civil rights activists in the 1960s and 1970s.
The request involved an unusually large amount of material – about 110,000 pages of records at the FBI and more at other agencies – but Seavey said waiting almost two decades for the complete files wasn’t viable for her. “Literally, they were talking 17 years out. I’m 60 years old. You can’t do that math,” the George Washington University professor and documentarian told POLITICO this week. “It wasn’t going to work for me.”
The FBI said it has a policy of processing and releasing large requests at a pace of 500 pages a month, while Seavey, represented by D.C. transparency lawyer Jeffrey Light, had proposed 5,000 pages a month. (At one point, the FBI thought it had about 150,000 pages of responsive records, which would’ve meant a 25-year wait.)
Justice Department lawyers and the FBI argued that going faster than 500 pages a month would disrupt the agency’s workflow and create the possibility of a few massive requests effectively shutting down the rest of the their FOIA operation. Kessler didn’t buy it.
“Neither proffered justification is persuasive,” the Clinton appointee wrote. “In the name of reducing its own administrative headaches, the FBI’s 500-page policy ensures that larger requests are subject to an interminable delay in being completed. Under the 500-page policy, requestors must wait 1 year for every 6,000 potentially responsive documents, and those who request tens of thousands of documents may wait decades.”
New York Times, Trump to Sign Russia Sanctions Bill, White House Says, Peter Baker, July 29, 2017. Congress had essentially forced the president to decide between taking a harder stance against Russia or issue a veto amid inquiries into his campaign’s contacts.
New York Times, As Venezuela Prepares to Vote, Some Fear an End to Democracy, Nicholas Casey, July 29, 2017. In Caracas this month, Venezuelans voted in an exercise that was organized to show opposition to a new national constituent assembly, which will be elected on Sunday.
One by one, the markers of Venezuela’s democracy have been pushed aside. First, the Supreme Court was packed with loyalists of the president, and several opposition lawmakers were blocked from taking their seats. Then, judges overturned laws that the president opposed, and elections for governors around the country were suddenly suspended. Next, the court ruled in favor of dissolving the legislature entirely, a move that provoked such an outcry in Venezuela and abroad that the decision was soon reversed.
Now, President Nicolás Maduro is pushing a radical plan to consolidate his leftist movement’s grip over the nation: He is creating a political body with the power to rewrite the country’s Constitution and reshuffle — or dismantle — any branch of government seen as disloyal. The new body, called a constituent assembly, is expected to grant virtually unlimited authority to the country’s leftists.
Venezuelans are going to the polls on Sunday to weigh in on the plan. But they will not have the option of rejecting it, even though some polls show that large majorities oppose the assembly’s creation. Instead, voters will be asked only to pick the assembly’s delegates, choosing from a list of stalwarts of Mr. Maduro’s political movement.
Moon of Alabama, Countdown To War On Venezuela, Admin, July 28, 2017. On Sunday Venezuela will hold an general election of participants of a constitutional assembly. Half of the representatives will be elected from regular electoral districts. The other half will be elected from and by eight special constituencies like “workers,” “farmers,” “employers,” etc. The second part may be unusual but is no less democratic than the U.S. system which gives voters in rural states more weight than city dwellers.
The new assembly will formulate changes to the current constitution. Those changes will be decided on in another general vote. It is likely that the outcome will reinforce the favorite policies of a great majority of the people and of the social-democratic government under President Manduro.
The more wealthy part of the population as well as the foreign lobbies and governments have tried to prevent or sabotage the upcoming election. The U.S. has used various economic pressure points against the Venezuelan government including economic warfare with ever increasing sanctions. The opposition has held violent street rallies, attacked government institutions and supporters and called for general strikes.
New York Times, Scaramucci’s Vulgar Rant Spurs Newsroom Debate: Asterisks or No Asterisks? Sydney Ember, July 28, 2017. “I can probably say that word, but I just won’t,” the CNN host Don Lemon said on Thursday night, as he tangled with the obscenity-laced quotations that were displayed on screen.
Mr. Lemon was wrestling with a thorny problem that was challenging all news organizations: Just hours earlier, The New Yorker had published an interview with Anthony Scaramucci, President Trump’s new communications director, that was a censor’s nightmare. Lacing his remarks with profanities and vulgar references, Mr. Scaramucci had warned his colleagues he would fire them, threatened to kill leakers in the White House and attacked the president’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus (since departed), and the chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon.
“The language is pretty rough here,” Mr. Lemon said, as he stumbled and tumbled over Mr. Scaramucci’s words. “Is this what the president wanted?”
Some news organizations avoided Mr. Scaramucci’s vulgar rant entirely. The Los Angeles Times, for instance, wrote a front-page story devoid of any of Mr. Scaramucci’s most indecent words. But many other news organizations deemed his rant newsworthy, obscenities and all. After all, this was the White House communications director. And this was how he had chosen to communicate.
National Archives JFK Assassination Document Releases
JFKCountercoup, Kelly’s Top Ten Newly Released Records, William Kelly, July 29, 2017. The National Archives and Records Administration is releasing documents previously withheld in accordance with the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act. The vast majority of the Collection (88%) has been open in full and released to the public since the late 1990s. The records at issue are documents previously identified as assassination records, but withheld in full or withheld in part.
This first batch of releases consists of 3,810 documents, including 441 formerly withheld-in-full documents and 3,369 documents formerly released with portions redacted. The documents originate from FBI and CIA series identified by the Assassination Records Review Board as assassination records. More releases will follow. Except for the Collins Radio file, most of these records are among the first batch previously released with redactions.
Washington Post, Trump ousts Priebus as chief of staff, Philip Rucker, Abby Phillip, Robert Costa and Ashley Parker, July 28, 2017. With his agenda stalled, President Trump became convinced that Reince Priebus (shown in a file photo) was a “weak” leader and had been lobbied intensely by rival advisers to remove the establishment-aligned Republican, who has long had friction with Trump loyalists, according to White House officials. Trump tapped Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly as the new chief of staff.
New York Times, New Chief of Staff Is Seen as Beacon of Discipline, Ron Nixon and Michael D. Shear, July 28, 2017. Mr. Kelly, a retired four-star Marine Corps general (shown an official photo), could impose new order on an unruly and chaotic West Wing. President Trump frequently referred to John F. Kelly as one of “my generals,” the three senior military leaders he recruited for his team.
On Friday, Mr. Trump decided to see whether Mr. Kelly, a retired four-star Marine Corps general, could impose a new sense of discipline on an unruly and chaotic West Wing. Mr. Kelly, who became a star in Mr. Trump’s eyes for overseeing immigration policy as secretary of homeland security, will become the president’s second chief of staff. He replaces Reince Priebus, the establishment Republican who never completely meshed with Mr. Trump.
Mr. Priebus was ousted after a nasty public feud with Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director.
The square-jawed Mr. Kelly, the first general to hold the chief of staff position since Alexander M. Haig during the Nixon administration, will be an imposing and strait-laced figure in a West Wing filled with constantly warring aides and advisers, most of whom came to Washington with virtually no experience in federal government before Mr. Trump’s victory last year.
New York Times, Senate Rejects Partial Health Law Repeal 51-49, Derailing 7-Year Effort by G.O.P., Robert Pear and Thomas Kaplan, July 28, 2017. 3 Republicans Defect on ‘Skinny Repeal’ in Blow to Trump. Senators Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and John McCain broke Republican ranks. The vote may spell the end of the party’s efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act anytime soon. President Trump quickly took to Twitter: “3 Republicans and 48 Democrats let the American people down.”
Related story: The process matters. Republicans grumbled about the secretive manner in which the majority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, put together his repeal bill. There were no public hearings or formal bill-drafting sessions, and Republicans used a fast-track procedure meant for budget matters as they tried to enact complex health policy and avoid a filibuster.
Washington Post, Lawmakers reject bid to advance scaled-back version of the Affordable Care Act, Ed O’Keefe, Juliet Eilperin, Sean Sullivan and Kelsey Snell, July 28, 2017. Republicans’ latest effort to redraw the health-care law failed after Sens. John McCain, Susan Collins (shown in a file photo) and Lisa Murkowski voted against the “skinny repeal” measure.
Center for Public Integrity, Who is killing the CFPB’s arbitration rule? Jared Bennett, July 28, 2017. Big Banks back representatives leading effort to stop regulation protecting right to class-action lawsuits. The financial industry’s hefty investment in the campaigns of House members appeared to pay off this week when that chamber voted to kill a new rule that allows consumers to file class-action lawsuits against banks and other institutions.
The Republican-led House passed a resolution on Tuesday to block a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) rule that was published earlier this month; that rule prohibits financial service companies from inserting agreements in contracts that prevent customers from filing class-action lawsuits against a company.
Those agreements, which have become popular in recent years, instead require consumers to settle complaints through arbitration, a less public and often less costly process favored by financial institutions.
Washington Post, Analysis: Trump’s hardball tactics backfire; Sen. Murkowski will not be bullied, James Hohmann, July 28, 2017. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke called Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) (shown in an official photo) and the state’s other Republican senator, Dan Sullivan, to threaten that the Trump administration may change its position on several issues that affect the state to punish Murkowski.
Washington Post, The night John McCain killed the GOP’s health-care fight, Ed O’Keefe, July 28, 2017. It was the most dramatic night in the United States Senate in recent history. Just ask the senators who witnessed it. A seven-year quest to undo the Affordable Care Act collapsed — at least for now — as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) kept his colleagues and the press corps in suspense over a little more than two hours late Thursday into early Friday.
Not since September 2008, when the House of Representatives rejected the Troubled Asset Relief Program — causing the Dow Jones industrial average to plunge nearly 800 points in a single afternoon — had such an unexpected vote caused such a striking twist. The bold move by the nation’s most famous senator stunned his colleagues and possibly put the Senate on the verge of protracted bipartisan talks that McCain is unlikely to witness as he begins treatment for an aggressive form of brain cancer.
“I’ve stated time and time again that one of the major failures of Obamacare was that it was rammed through Congress by Democrats on a strict party-line basis without a single Republican vote,” he said in a statement explaining his vote. “We should not make the mistakes of the past.”
McCain returned at 1:29 a.m. without Pence, approached the Senate clerk and gave a thumbs down — the third “no” vote.
World Socialist Web Site (WSWS), New Google algorithm restricts access to left-wing, progressive web sites, Andre Damon and Niles Niemuth, July 27, 2017. In the three months since Internet monopoly Google announced plans to keep users from accessing “fake news,” the global traffic rankings of a broad range of left-wing, progressive, anti-war and democratic rights organizations have fallen significantly.
On April 25, 2017, Google announced that it had implemented changes to its search service to make it harder for users to access what it called “low-quality” information such as “conspiracy theories” and “fake news.”
The company said in a blog post that the central purpose of the change to its search algorithm was to give the search giant greater control in identifying content deemed objectionable by its guidelines. It declared that it had “improved our evaluation methods and made algorithmic updates” in order “to surface more authoritative content.”
Google continued, “Last month, we updated our Search Quality Rater Guidelines to provide more detailed examples of low-quality webpages for raters to appropriately flag.” These moderators are instructed to flag “upsetting user experiences,” including pages that present “conspiracy theories,” unless “the query clearly indicates the user is seeking an alternative viewpoint.”
Google does not explain precisely what it means by the term “conspiracy theory.” Using the broad and amorphous category of fake news, the aim of the change to Google’s search system is to restrict access to alternative web sites, whose coverage and interpretation of events conflict with those of such establishment media outlets as the New York Times and the Washington Post.
By flagging content in such a way that it does not appear in the first one or two pages of a search result, Google is able to effectively block users’ access to it. Given the fact that vast amounts of web traffic are influenced by search results, Google is able to effectively conceal or bury content to which it objects through the manipulation of search rankings.
Just last month, the European Commission fined the company $2.7 billion for manipulating search results to inappropriately direct users to its own comparison shopping service, Google Shopping. Now, it appears that Google is using these criminal methods to block users from accessing political viewpoints the company deems objectionable.
The World Socialist Web Site has been targeted by Google’s new “evaluation methods.” While in April 2017, 422,460 visits to the WSWS originated from Google searches, the figure has dropped to an estimated 120,000 this month, a fall of more than 70 percent.
Even when using search terms such as “socialist” and “socialism,” readers have informed us that they find it increasingly difficult to locate the World Socialist Web Site in Google searches.
In the three months since Google implemented the changes to its search engine, fewer people have accessed left-wing and anti-war news sites. Based on information available on Alexa analytics, other sites that have experienced sharp drops in ranking include WikiLeaks, Alternet, Counterpunch, Global Research, Consortium News and Truthout. Even prominent democratic rights groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Amnesty International appear to have been hit.
Washington Post, Trump tells police not to worry about injuring suspects, drawing rebukes, Mark Berman, July 28, 2017. The president’s remarks, which came during a speech on gang violence and illegal immigration, drew applause from at least some of the law enforcement officers gathered on Long Island.July 27
Washington Post, GOP senators release text of ‘skinny repeal’ bill as vote nears, Juliet Eilperin, Sean Sullivan and Kelsey Snell, July 27, 2017. The release of the health-care bill sets up a cliffhanger vote slated for midnight on the eight-page document Republicans are calling the “Health Care Freedom Act.” Among other changes, it would eliminate the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that Americans obtain coverage or pay a tax penalty, and suspend for eight years the mandate that firms employing 50 or more workers provide insurance.
New York Times, The Sanctimony and Sin of G.O.P. ‘Moderates,’ Paul Krugman, July 27, 2017. Everyone in the world of opinion spends a lot of time talking about the awfulness of Donald Trump — and with plenty of reason. But can we take a moment to consider the awfulness of Senator John McCain?
Wild Times At Trumpville
New Yorker, Anthony Scaramucci Called Me to Unload About White House Leakers, Reince Priebus, and Steve Bannon, Ryan Lizza,
July 27, 2017. He started by threatening to fire the entire White House communications staff. It escalated from there.
Anthony Scaramucci’s first public appearance as communications director was a slick and conciliatory performance at the lectern in the White House briefing room last Friday. He suggested it was time for the White House to turn a page.
But since then, he has become obsessed with leaks and threatened to fire staffers if he discovers that they have given unauthorized information to reporters. Michael Short, a White House press aide considered close to Priebus, resigned on Tuesday after Scaramucci publicly spoke about firing him. Meanwhile, several damaging stories about Scaramucci have appeared in the press, and he blamed Priebus for most of them. Now, he wanted to know whom I had been talking to about his dinner with the President.
Scaramucci (shown below right in a 2016 file photo), who initiated the call, did not ask for the conversation to be off the record or on background.
“Is it an assistant to the President?” he asked. I again told him I couldn’t say. “O.K., I’m going to fire every one of them, and then you haven’t protected anybody, so the entire place will be fired over the next two weeks.”
I asked him why it was so important for the dinner to be kept a secret. Surely, I said, it would become public at some point. “I’ve asked people not to leak things for a period of time and give me a honeymoon period,” he said. “They won’t do it.” He was getting more and more worked up, and he eventually convinced himself that Priebus was my source.
“They’ll all be fired by me,” he said. “I fired one guy the other day. I have three to four people I’ll fire tomorrow. I’ll get to the person who leaked that to you. Reince Priebus—if you want to leak something—he’ll be asked to resign very shortly.” The issue, he said, was that he believed Priebus had been worried about the dinner because he hadn’t been invited. “Reince is a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac,” Scaramucci said.
He channelled Priebus (shown in a file photo) as he spoke: “ ‘Oh, Bill Shine is coming in. Let me leak the fucking thing and see if I can cock-block these people the way I cock-blocked Scaramucci for six months.’ ” (Priebus did not respond to a request for comment.)
Scaramucci was particularly incensed by a Politico report about his financial-disclosure form, which he viewed as an illegal act of retaliation by Priebus. The reporter said Thursday morning that the document was publicly available and she had obtained it from the Export-Import Bank. Scaramucci didn’t know this at the time, and he insisted to me that Priebus had leaked the document, and that the act was “a felony.”
“I’ve called the F.B.I. and the Department of Justice,” he told me.
“Are you serious?” I asked.
Scaramucci also told me that, unlike other senior officials, he had no interest in media attention. “I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock,” he said, speaking of Trump’s chief strategist. “I’m not trying to build my own brand off the fucking strength of the President. I’m here to serve the country.” (Bannon (shown below at right) declined to comment.)
I got the sense that Scaramucci’s campaign against leakers flows from his intense loyalty to Trump. Unlike other Trump advisers, I’ve never heard him say a bad word about the President. “What I want to do is I want to fucking kill all the leakers and I want to get the President’s agenda on track so we can succeed for the American people,” he told me.
Ryan Lizza is the Washington correspondent for The New Yorker, and also an on-air contributor for CNN.
New York Post, New York Post claims Anthony Scaramucci’s wife just filed for divorce, Bill Palmer, July 28, 2017. Suffice it to say that it’s been an, ahem, colorful week for Anthony Scaramucci. He started it off by getting himself hired as Donald Trump’s new White House Communications Director. He immediately took over the White House reality show in larger than life fashion. Then he quickly lost his grip and became a punchline. But even as he managed to oust his main enemy today, there’s a report claiming that his wife has filed for divorce.
That’s the word from Page Six, a division of the New York Post. It ran an article today titled “Anthony Scaramucci’s wife files for divorce” which claims to have inside sourcing that his wife had grown tired of his “naked political ambition,” and that she had no interest in joining him in his new life in Washington DC (link). If this proves to be true, it might help explain why Scaramucci (shown in a file photo) has been acting increasingly out of his mind by the day. If it proves false, let’s just say Page Six is going to have some explaining to do. But one way or the other the story comes at a surreal time for Scaramucci.
Brick Shore Beat (New Jersey), Son of Former Brick Mayor Dies After Jump from NYC Building, Daniel Nee, July 28, 2017.
Washington Post, White House’s dramatic infighting out in the open as Scaramucci rips Priebus in obscene tirade, Jenna Johnson, Philip Rucker and David Nakamura, July 27, 2017. The level of candor and raging frustration Anthony Scaramucci, the new communications director, expressed as part of his campaign to oust Chief of Staff Reince Priebus yet again stunned a Washington political class that has become increasingly inured to the unorthodoxy of this administration.
Washington Post, Opinion: The gang that couldn’t shoot straight, Jennifer Rubin, July 27, 2017.
Washington Post, ‘It’s inexplicable’: GOP senators try to warn Trump against going after Sessions, Paul Kane, July 27, 2017 (print edition). If President Trump forces out the attorney general, the fallout would be devastating to the rest of the White House’s agenda, said some Republican members of the Senate.
New York Times, Boy Scouts Apologize Over President Trump’s Remarks at Jamboree, Liam Stack, July 27, 2017. Facing an angry backlash from parents and former members, the chief executive of the Boy Scouts of America apologized on Thursday for political remarks made by President Trump (shown above in a file photo by Gage Skidmore) at the organization’s national jamboree this week, during which the commander-in-chief crowed over his election victory, attacked the news media and criticized Hillary Clinton and former President Obama.
Michael Surbaugh, the organization’s chief, said in a statement on Thursday that it was “never our intent” for the national jamboree to become a venue for partisan political attacks. I want to extend my sincere apologies to those in our Scouting family who were offended by the political rhetoric that was inserted into the jamboree,” he wrote. He added, “We sincerely regret that politics were inserted into the Scouting program.”
Speaking to a crowd of some 40,000 scouts, volunteers and others in West Virginia on Monday, Mr. Trump attacked the “fake media” and celebrated his “incredible” election victory.
Washington Post, Scaramucci: ‘If Reince wants to explain that he’s not a leaker, let him do that,’ Jenna Johnson, July 27, 2017. White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci (shown in a file photo) said that he didn’t know if his relationship with White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus could be repaired. White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci said Thursday that he doesn’t know if his relationship with White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus can be repaired, and he urged Priebus to publicly prove that he has not leaked damaging information to the media.
“If you want to talk about the chief of staff, we have had odds, we have had differences. When I said we were brothers, from the podium, that’s because we’re rough on each other. Some brothers are like Cain and Abel, other brothers can fight with each other and then get along. I don’t know if this is repairable or not — that will be up to the president,” Scaramucci said in a phone interview with CNN early Thursday morning, referencing the biblical brothers without mentioning that Cain murdered Abel.
Late Wednesday night, following dinner with the president and others at the White House, Scaramucci responded to a Politico report about the financial disclosure form he filed during his stint at the Export-Import Bank earlier this year. The public can request to see these documents, and the article notes that the form is “publicly available upon request.” Scaramucci fired off a tweet that labeled the release of his financial disclosure a “leak” and “a felony,” adding Priebus’s Twitter handle to the end of the message.
“In light of the leak of my financial disclosure info which is a felony. I will be contacting @FBI and the @TheJusticeDept #swamp @Reince45,” Scaramucci tweeted.
White House Chronicle, Scaramucci’s Vain Quest to Stop the Leaks, Llewellyn King, July 27, 2017. There’s a new sheriff in town. The sheriff is Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director, and the varmints are the “leakers.” Watch out!
The White House is leaking because it isn’t talking coherently. The Trump administration is not rooted in policy or philosophy, and the White House staff is divided against itself; a deeply unhappy place wanting in direction and internal clarity.
So, it leaks. It leaks for personal reasons. It leaks for patriotic reasons. It leaks out of frustration. And it leaks because no one is in charge administratively: too many assistants — including Scaramucci — are reporting directly to the president, eschewing the line of command that normally flows through the chief of staff and the national security adviser.
The communications failure is enormous and extends down to the inability of the press office to answer simple questions, like who was playing golf with the president? One wouldn’t assume this to be a state secret, but reporters ask and get no answer. They aren’t rebuffed, they’re just not answered. In this instance, a question not answered is a revelation of another sort: the communications staff members are willfully kept in the dark. It isn’t claimed that state secrets and initiatives are being discussed on the greens. It’s a simple matter of the president’s recreation. Is Trump ashamed of the company he keeps?
Trump versus Sessions
Washington Post, Trump ponders a recess appointment to replace Attorney General Sessions, Carol D. Leonnig, Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker, July 27, 2017 (print edition). Two people familiar with the issue described President Trump as musing about the idea rather than outlining a plan of action, and several others said the president’s fury peaked over the weekend and that he and Jeff Sessions now seem to be heading toward an uneasy detente.
Washington Post, Analysis: ‘It’s inexplicable’: GOP senators try to warn Trump against going after Sessions, Paul Kane, July 27, 2017 (print edition). If President Trump forces out the attorney general, the fallout would be devastating to the rest of the White House’s agenda, said some Republican members of the Senate.
Other Justice Department News
New York Times, Justice Dept. Says Rights Law Doesn’t Protect Gays, Alan Feuer, July 27, 2017. The Department of Justice has argued that a major federal civil rights law does not protect employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation.The department’s brief was filed in a case now being considered by a New York appeals court. The Department of Justice has filed court papers arguing that a major federal civil rights law does not protect employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation in a case now being considered by a New York appeals court.
The department’s decision to file a brief in the case was a rare example of top officials in Washington weighing in on gay rights in what is an important but essentially private dispute between a worker and his boss. Civil rights advocates criticized the filing not only for its arguments, but also for having been made on the same day that President Trump announced on Twitter that transgender people would be banned from serving in the military.
The department’s amicus brief was filed on Tuesday in the case of Donald Zarda, a sky diving instructor who in 2010 was fired by his employer, a Long Island-based company called Altitude Express. Before taking a female client on a tandem dive, Mr. Zarda told the woman he was gay in order to assuage any awkwardness that might arise from the fact that he would be tightly strapped to her during the jump. The woman’s husband complained to the company, which subsequently fired Mr. Zarda. Mr. Zarda then filed suit against Altitude Express, claiming it had violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination in the workplace based on “race, color, religion, sex or national origin.”
Syrian War Report
Anti-Media.org, The US Has Officially Lost the War in Syria: Report, Darius Shahtahmasebi, July 27, 2017. By ending the “secret” CIA program to arm and train Syrian rebels attempting to topple Bashar al-Assad in Syria, the Trump administration has accepted defeat in Syria, according to the Century Foundation, a prominent New York-based think tank.
The Century Foundation believes this signals an end to America’s commitment to achieving regime change in Syria and claims Washington’s attempt to topple Assad was half-hearted to begin with: “The problem with the program, which was reportedly running the CIA nearly a billion dollars a year, was not that it was under resourced or ‘insufficient in scale.’ The problem was that its logic was wrong and out of sync with the basic dynamics of the insurgency.”
There is plenty of evidence to indicate that the U.S. aimed to achieve regime change as early as 2012 — or at the latest by 2013 — yet Assad has shown no signs of stepping down some five years later. Though this is clear to the outside world, the problem is that the United States is never one to accept defeat outright.
The report doesn’t touch on the fact that, although it is common knowledge that the U.S. is partnering with the Kurds, the Trump administration is actually attempting to give the Kurds as much Syrian territory as possible, conveniently taking Syria’s most oil-rich region in the process. This would take the region directly out of the hands of the Syrian government, which retains an isolated military outpost there.
What happens if the Syrian government decides it doesn’t want the American-backed Kurds to take their most oil-rich city? Will regime change be back on the agenda?
Newly Release JFK Assassination Documents
JFK Facts, In 1972, CIA chiefs ordered no more questions about accused assassin Oswald, Jefferson Morley, July 27, 2017. On April 5, 1972, CIA counterintelligence chief James Angleton, backed by director Richard Helms, issued a blanket order: “the agency was not, under any circumstances, to make inquiries or ask any source or defector about Oswald.”
The order, found in the massive batch of JFK files released online this week, came nine years after Kennedy was shot dead in Dallas on November 22, 1963, allegedly by Lee Harvey Oswald, a 24 year old ex-Marine. The order was issued after officials in the agency’s Soviet Bloc division asked a Russian defector about the accused assassin who lived in the Soviet Union from 1959 to 1962.
The CIA memo, classified as a state secret for the past 35 years [Ed. note: Paul Hoch tells me the memo was released with a name redacted in 1998] sheds light on how Angleton, a legendary spy chief known for his brilliance and paranoia, tightly controlled the JFK investigation for years after the crime. No one at the CIA was supposed to ask questions about Kennedy’s accused killer.
Angleton’s espionage exploits have inspired a small library of spy novels and several Hollywood films since his death in 1987, including Norman Mailer’s novel Harlot’s Ghost and Robert DeNiro’s CIA film The Good Shepherd.
But the true story of Angleton’s sinister role in the events leading up to JFK’s assassination–and the cover-up that followed– is only beginning to come to light. The April 1972 memo and other newly-declassified records leave little doubt that Angleton was the mastermind of the CIA coverup that followed JFK’s assassination.
The memo is just one of the CIA records among the 113,000 pages of JFK records scheduled to be released by the National Archives by October 26.
Why Angleton felt so strongly that the defector, a KGB officer named Oleg Lyalin, is a complex story that I will recount in a future post. Angleton, a conspiracy theorist par excellence, has inspired many conspiracy theories himself. From my study of the declassified CIA records and extensive interviews, the new JFK files should be read with three factual points in mind.
Angleton suspected a KGB conspiracy behind Kennedy’s murder. He publicly testified to that effect at least four times. Angleton knew more about Lee Harvey Oswald before Kennedy was killed than anyone in the CIA or the U.S. government. Angleton’s aides, in a secret office known as the Special Investigations Group, monitored Oswald’s movements and correspondence from October 1959 through November 1963. After JFK was killed, Angleton gained control of the CIA’s investigation of Oswald and did not relinquish until he was fired by in December 1974.
The CIA wanted to control questions about Lee Harvey Oswald in 1972 because Angleton had a conspiracy theory he wanted to investigate. Angleton also had lot to hide about CIA operations involving the accused assassin before JFK was killed.
Recommended Event: National Press Club, Whistleblowers Summit Leaders Preview Annual DC Conference July 26-28, July 26, 2017, 11:00 a.m.-1 p.m., First Amendment Lounge, National Press Club, 529 14th St., NW, 13th Fl., Washington, DC. Leaders of the Annual Whistleblowers Summit on Capitol Hill will brief the media on the major events for the conference and for the whistleblowing community that works with the free press to enforce civic accountability.
The program unfolds primarily on Capitol Hill after a kick-off forum and news conference at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Press Club, entitled: “Whistleblowing, Nationally and Internationally.” The Whistleblower press conference is open to the press and the public. Distinguished whistleblowers and public interest advocates include.
• Tom Devine, Government Accountability Project (GAP)
• Stephen Kohn, National Whistleblowers Center (NWC)
• Michael McCray, ACORN 8
• Brad Birkenfeld, USB Whistleblower
• Robert Maclean, TSA Whistleblower
Washington Post, This is not okay, Editorial Board, July 26, 2017 (print edition). When President Trump attacked Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a tweet Tuesday for not aggressively investigating Hillary Clinton, most attention focused, understandably, on the implications for Mr. Sessions. Yet even more alarming than the president’s assault on his own attorney general is Mr. Trump’s return to the “lock her up” theme of his 2016 campaign. We need to recall, once again, what it means to live under the rule of law.
To list those basic expectations is to understand how low Mr. Trump is bringing his office. Just in the past few days, he urged Navy men and women to call Congress on behalf of his political goals and turned the National Scout Jamboree into an unseemly political rally, calling the nation’s politics a “cesspool” and a “sewer” and disparaging his predecessor and the media. Routinely he trades in untruths, even after they have been exposed and disproved. He has launched an unprecedented rhetorical assault on the independence of the Justice Department, the FBI and the special counsel’s office — and now he is again threatening his defeated 2016 opponent.
JFK Assassination Documents Release
Black Vault, Released JFK Documents, Admin, July 26, 2017. The National Archives and Records Administration is releasing documents previously withheld in accordance with the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act. The vast majority of the Collection (88%) has been open in full and released to the public since the late 1990s. The records at issue are documents previously identified as assassination records, but withheld in full or withheld in part.
The first release consists of 3,810 documents, including 441 formerly withheld-in-full documents and 3,369 documents formerly released with portions redacted. The Black Vault has archived them all below, and has created a much easier index to use.
The documents originated from FBI and CIA series identified by the Assassination Records Review Board as assassination records. More releases will follow. Four selected columns from the official Archives lists (maybe not all of them) are visible here, starting at “The Document Index – With Hyperlinks.”
Senate Health Care Vote
New York Times, Republicans Suffer Setback in Effort to Repeal Obamacare, Thomas Kaplan and Robert Pear, July 25, 2017. A comprehensive plan to replace the law fell short of the votes it needed on Tuesday night, with senators opposing an amendment crafted to appeal to conservative and moderate Republicans. Hours earlier, Vice President Mike Pence cast the tiebreaking vote to begin debate in the Senate on a bill to repeal much of the Affordable Care Act.
Washington Post, Senate GOP to begin debate on health-care bill, Sean Sullivan, Juliet Eilperin, Ed O’Keefe and Kelsey Snell, July 25, 2017. Vice President Pence cast the tie-breaking vote that gave Republican leaders the support needed to start deliberations on a bill. But while the move put the party one step closer to repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, it remained unclear just how much of the law could be changed given the deep policy schism between conservatives and centrists.
Washington Post, ‘Skinny repeal’ could be the bill of last resort in Senate, Amy Goldstein, July 25, 2017. The plan would repeal just three parts of the health law, including the individual mandate, according to several sources familiar with the approach.
Washington Post, McCain, in emotional return to Senate, delivers sobering message to lawmakers, Elise Viebeck, Paul Kane and Ed O’Keefe, July 25, 2017. The Arizona Republican, who cast a vote on the Senate health-care bill days after announcing he is battling brain cancer, warned colleagues that partisanship, gridlock and political subterfuge have dragged down the Senate. “Let’s trust each other,” McCain said. “Let’s return to regular order.”
New York Times, McCain on the Way for Senate Showdown on Health Care, Thomas Kaplan, Robert Pear and Reed Abelson, July 25, 2017. The Senate is expected to hold a procedural vote on health care that, if successful, would allow a debate to begin on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act; Senator John McCain, despite a diagnosis of brain cancer, is set to arrive at the Capitol at 2:45 p.m. for the vote.
After seven months of strategizing, debate and closed-door meetings, the Senate finally is voting. Senate Republican leaders can afford to lose only two Republicans. One is almost certainly gone, Senator Susan Collins of Maine. Senators Dean Heller of Nevada, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska are still on the fence, but leaders think they can win them over. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, one of the most vocal opponents of the Republican bill to replace the health care law, now appears ready to at least debate it.
If the motion to begin debate passes, the first vote will be on legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement. That is likely to fail, and would be followed by a vote on the Senate Republican bill to replace the health law. If that also fails, Senate leaders may fall back on a narrow bill that repeals the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that nearly everyone have health insurance, a separate mandate that most employers offer their employees health insurance and a repeal of the medical device tax. The goal of that would be to simply get senators to negotiations with the House on a final repeal measure.
Trump Attacks On His Attorney General
Washington Post, Trump renews attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Jenna Johnson and William Branigin, July 25, 2017. President Trump lashed out at Sessions again this morning, accusing him on Twitter of taking “a VERY weak position” on alleged “crimes” by Hillary Clinton and intelligence leakers.
Washington Post, Sessions has no good options as Trump ratchets up his attacks on the attorney general, Aaron Blake, July 25, 2017. President Trump’s criticisms of Jeff Sessions are getting more personal, including a new interview in which Trump suggested Sessions backed Trump’s candidacy only because he saw the big campaign rallies and wanted a piece of the action.
Washington Post, Trump team weighs options for replacing Sessions, Sari Horwitz, Matt Zapotosky and Robert Costa, July 25, 2017. Some of President Trump’s confidants are floating prospects who could take Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s place were he to resign or be fired, according to people familiar with the talks. It comes as Trump continued to vent his frustration with Sessions.
The Wayward Strongman
Washington Post, Trump’s speech to Boy Scouts irks some in ‘nonpartisan’ organization, Sandhya Somashekhar and David A. Fahrenthold, July 25, 2017. The president’s speech prompted a backlash from many current and former Scouts and their families, who said Trump’s remarks were inappropriate and undermined efforts to diversify and modernize the century-old organization.
Washington Post, From ‘fake media’ to Clinton, Trump brings political attacks to the Scout Jamboree, John Wagner and Jenna Johnson, July 25, 2017 (print edition). Ahead of President Trump’s appearance in West Virginia, Boy Scouts troops were offered advice: Be “courteous” and “kind.” But from the moment he took stage, Trump led them down a very different path.
5th Estate, Twitter suspends 5th estate account following CNN complaints – again, Robert Finnegan (Robert Finnegan, a former editor at the Jakata Post), July 25, 2017. Twitter has “suspended” The 5th Estate once again following complaints from CNN fake news for reporting the truth about their Syrian CIA/ISIS collusion.
JAKARTA: Given the gravity and possible impact on Independent Media of this and other account “suspensions” by compromised social media corporations such as Twitter, we urge readers to disseminate this report whenever and wherever possible – Ed.
Following multiple complaints from CNN and other “mainstream media” organizations regarding coverage and exposure of their repeated publication of false information and blatant propaganda, Twitter has suspended the account of The 5th Estate Asia “CNN_DOA.” The action came after Twitter released another statement announcing the pending suspension of “alt-right” accounts, which The 5th Estate Asia cannot be connected to in any way, shape or form legally or philosophically.
This account “suspension” was at the behest of CNN, who has repeatedly been exposed by The 5th Estate (http://www.the5thestate.asia/2017/) and other media organizations for their connections to and disseminating propaganda for the CIA and FSA/ISIS terrorists in Syria, Iraq and Libya under the former Obama administration.
These account “suspensions” now place Twitter, their assigns, investors and corporate officers in a new light and not simply as censors and tools of so-called “mainstream media” fake news outlets and cable networks, but also as collaborators seeking to silence alternative media critics. Twitter has a long and documented history of arbitrarily and for no stated reason suspending the accounts of individuals and organizations that do not adhere to their leftist/globalist agendas, while at the same time allowing terrorist groups such as ISIS to not only maintain their Twitter accounts but disseminate anti-U.S. propaganda while at the same time conducting active recruiting efforts on Twitter, making Twitter and it’s corporate officers legally and morally responsible for their acts of terrorism committed in the U.S., EU and other Middle East and African countries and more importantly, against U.S. military personnel overseas resulting in death and injury.
JFK Records Release
Washington Post, President Trump, give us the full story on the JFK assassination, Larry J. Sabato and Philip Shenon, July 25, 2017. Later this year — unless President Trump intervenes — the American people will get access to the last of thousands of secret government files about a turning point in the nation’s history: the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Larry J. Sabato is director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics and author of “The Kennedy Half-Century.” Philip Shenon, a former Washington correspondent for the New York Times, is the author of “A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination.”
The Washington Clown Car
U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, Republican of Texas (Houston area)
USA Today, Republican senator on congressman: ‘He’s so unattractive. It’s unbelievable,’ Sean Rossman, July 25, 2017. Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine shared how she really feels about Rep. Blake Farenthold on Tuesday. Just one thing: Her comments about the Texas Republican were picked up by a hot microphone and posted to the official Senate website. “He’s huge,” she said following a subcommittee meeting Tuesday morning. “He’s so unattractive. It’s unbelievable.”
The audio clip first appeared on the Senate’s website Tuesday afternoon. In it, the Washington Post reports, Collins (shown in an official photo) is speaking with Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island. Shortly after reporters began spreading Collins’ remarks, the file became inaccessible. Then a new version was posted without the senator’s comments.
In a Monday interview with a Texas radio station, Farenthold slammed Collins and other “female senators from the Northeast” for holding up an Obamacare repeal. Farenthold added, “If it was a guy from south Texas, I might ask him to step outside and settle this Aaron Burr-style.”
Collins referenced the challenge after Tuesday’s meeting. “Did you see the one who challenged me to a duel?” she asked Reed.
“You know why he challenged you to a duel?” Reed responded. “Because you could beat the s— out of him.”
Collins then references a widely spread photo of Farenthold wearing duck pajamas and standing next to a woman wearing lingerie.
Just one thing: Her comments about the Texas Republican were picked up by a hot microphone and posted to the official Senate website. Huffington Post producer JM Rieger was able to secure the clip.
Courts and Cops: Around the Nation
New York Times, Volkswagen Executive to Plead Guilty in Diesel Emissions Case, Neal E. Boudette, July 25, 2017. A Volkswagen executive accused of helping to cover up the automaker’s diesel emissions fraud has agreed to plead guilty in federal court next week, a development that could bolster the Justice Department’s efforts to prosecute individuals involved in the scandal. On Tuesday, lawyers for the executive, Oliver Schmidt, a German who was arrested in Miami in January, told a judge for the Eastern District of Michigan that their client had decided to enter a guilty plea at a hearing scheduled for Aug. 4.
Mr. Schmidt, 48, former head of Volkswagen’s environmental and engineering center in Auburn Hills, Mich., has been accused of knowingly providing false information to American regulators who became suspicious about the emissions of Volkswagen diesel vehicles in early 2014. The following year, Volkswagen admitted that it had rigged diesel models with software — known as a defeat device — that enabled the vehicles to pass emissions tests even though the vehicles were spewing far more pollutants outside testing labs. More than 11 million cars worldwide were equipped with the software, including 600,000 in the United States.
Volkswagen later pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and to violate the Clean Air Act, customs violations and obstruction of justice.
Washington Post, Trump leaves Sessions twisting in the wind while berating him publicly, Sari Horwitz, Matt Zapotosky and Robert Costa, July 24, 2017. President Trump and his advisers are privately discussing the possibility of replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and some confidants are floating prospects who could take his place were he to resign or be fired, according to people familiar with the talks. Members of Trump’s circle, including White House officials, have increasingly raised the question among themselves in recent days as the president has continued to vent his frustration with the attorney general, the people said.
Replacing Sessions (shown in a file photo) is viewed by some Trump associates as potentially being part of a strategy to fire special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and end his investigation of whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Kremlin to influence the 2016 election, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly.
The president took another swipe at Sessions on Monday, calling his attorney general “our beleaguered A.G.” and asking why Sessions was not “looking into Crooked Hillary’s crimes & Russia relations?” Both points are notable. Sessions was once considered one of Trump’s closest advisers and enjoyed access few others had. Now he is left to endure regular public criticism by his boss.
Washington Post, Kushner to deny collusion with Russia in testimony before Senate committee, Philip Rucker and Karoun Demirjian, July 24, 2017. Jared Kushner, President Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, will answer questions behind closed doors about his contacts with Russian officials this morning. In written remarks made public prior to his appearance, he denied any improper contacts and detailed four meetings he had with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign and transition period.
Washington Post, Jared Kushner just threw Donald Trump Jr. under the bus. Bigly, Greg Sargent, July 24, 2017. Presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner is set to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee this morning, and what is striking about his extensive opening statement is the degree to which it seeks to insulate Kushner himself from any culpability or responsibility for the problematic known facts about the Russia affair — particularly the known facts that concern Donald Trump Jr.
Kushner’s statement takes exceptional care to separate him, with scalpel-like precision, from the now-notorious meeting that Trump Jr. arranged with a Russian lawyer — a meeting that Trump Jr. had been informed would furnish the Trump campaign with information about Hillary Clinton supplied by the Russian government.
Related Opinion: Washington Post, Kushner’s damning account: At the very least, he’s in over his head, Jennifer Rubin, July 24, 2017. Kushner, in this telling, is a distracted, unobservant rube. He apparently did not recall the email heading that initiated the meeting (““Re: Russia – Clinton – private and confidential”). Kushner is not the worldly Boy Wonder in his version, but a distracted dilettante.
Judge Greenlights Trump Voter Data Collection
Washington Post, Federal judge allows nationwide voter data request made by Trump’s voting commission to go forward, Spencer S. Hsu, July 24, 2017. The court ruled that the panel is exempt from federal privacy review requirements regardless of the potential risk it might pose to Americans’ information. A federal judge on Monday allowed President Trump’s voting commission to go forward with seeking voter data from 50 states and the District, ruling that the White House advisory panel is exempt from federal privacy review requirements, whatever additional risk it might pose to Americans’ information.
The ruling averted a public setback for a president who has claimed that widespread fraud cost him the popular vote in November. The commission’s request for the voting information of more than 150 million registered voters remains controversial, with many state leaders from both parties voicing objections about its potential to reveal personal information, suppress voter participation and encroach on states’ oversight of voting laws. The panel’s June 28 letter to the states requested that they turn over “publicly-available voter roll data,” including names, addresses, dates of birth, party registrations, partial Social Security numbers and voting, military, felony and overseas histories, among other data.
Those changes appeared crucial in a 35-page ruling by U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of Washington. “The mere increased risk of disclosure stemming from the collection and eventual, anonymized disclosure of already publicly available voter roll information is insufficient” to block the data request, she wrote.
Kollar-Kotelly, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1997, ruled against the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a watchdog group that sought to block the commission’s data request because the panel had not conducted a full privacy impact statement as required by a 2002 federal law for new government electronic data collection systems. She concluded that although the watchdog group had the right to sue under the law for a privacy review, the commission was a presidential advisory panel, not a federal agency subject to the privacy law.
Other Trump News
Washington Post, Trump insists that senators — who won without him — owe him loyalty that he doesn’t return, Philip Bump, July 24, 2017. The president continues to not be able to figure out how to persuade senators to vote his way.
Health Insurance Senate Vote Tuesday
Roll Call, Ready or Not, McConnell Says Senate Voting on Health Care Tuesday, Jason Dick, July 24, 2017. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (shown in a photo) confirmed on Monday that the chamber would hold a procedural vote on Tuesday on a House-passed measure to overhaul the U.S. health insurance system.
Support from a simple majority of Republican members is needed to clear the motion to proceed. Should that happen, the chamber would kick off the so-called voterama after 20 hours of debate, a process under which virtually unlimited amendments could be offered from either party. Republicans would then need only a simple majority of members’ support to pass any subsequent bill, under the fast-track budget procedure known as reconciliation that the GOP is using to advance the health overhaul.
Final JFK Assassination Records Release Begins
National Archives, National Archives Begins Online Release of JFK Assassination Records, Staff report, July 24, 2017. Today at 8 a.m., the National Archives released a group of documents (the first of several expected releases), along with 17 audio files, previously withheld in accordance with the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992. The materials released today are available online only. Access to the original paper records will occur at a future date.
Download the files online here. Highlights of this release include 17 audio files of interviews of Yuri Nosenko, a KGB officer who defected to the United States in January 1964. Nosenko (shown below at left)
claimed to have been the officer in charge of the KGB file on Lee Harvey Oswald during Oswald’s time in the Soviet Union. The interviews were conducted in January, February, and July of 1964.
This set of 3,810 documents is the first to be processed for release, and includes FBI and CIA records — 441 documents previously withheld in full and 3,369 documents previously released with portions redacted. In some cases, only the previously redacted pages of documents will be released. The previously released portions of the file can be requested and viewed in person at the National Archives at College Park (these records are not online).
Background: The re-review of these documents was undertaken in accordance with the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992, which states: “Each assassination record shall be publicly disclosed in full, and available in the Collection no later than the date that is 25 years after the date of enactment of this Act, unless the President certifies, as required by this Act, that continued postponement is made necessary” by specific identifiable harm.
The act mandated that all assassination-related material be housed in a single collection in the National Archives and defined five categories of information that could be withheld from release. The act also established the Assassination Records Review Board to weigh agency decisions to postpone the release of records. The National Archives established the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection in November 1992, and it consists of approximately five million pages of records. The vast majority of the collection (88 percent) has been open in full and released to the public since the late 1990s. The records at issue are documents previously identified as assassination records but withheld in part or in full. Federal agencies have been re-reviewing their previously withheld records for release, and will appeal to the President if they determine that records require further postponement.
• JFK Assassination Records Processing Project—background and FAQs
• Final Report of the Assassination Records Review Board
• JFK Assassination Records FAQs
• Warren Commission Report
Heavy.com, Martin Luther King Jr. Files Among New JFK Documents Just Released, Stephanie Dube Dwilson, July 24, 2017. Hidden among the JFK documents just released by the National Archives are a series of documents about Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. The National Archives’ servers appear slammed and the documents are very large (with some compressed files being 2 GB or more), but lists of the contents for each file are quickly viewable.
Here is a list of some of the MLK files that are included among the JFK files just released. Because these documents must be downloaded before they can be viewed, and the servers are running slow, it’s not yet known what these documents contain, and there may be more MLK-related documents than found in this list. We’ll add to this list as that information becomes available:
CABLE: Subject had amazing resemblance — April 10, 1968
CABLE: Has not yet ruled out possibility — April 19, 1968
FBI has positively identified accused assassin — April 19, 1968
Dispatch: Transmittal of photographs of alias Eric Starvo Galt — April 22, 1968
Dispatch: James Early Ray, AKA Eric Starvo Galt, Harvey Lowmyer, John — April 22, 1968
CABLE: FBI advises that matching OG fingerprints proves — April 23, 1968
CABLE: Three photos James Earl Ray appeared “El Diario” — April 23, 1968
MF: James Earl Ray — April 23, 1968
CABLE: All pertinent information James Earl Ray passed — April 26, 1968
Official Routing Slip: Our files on Martin Luther King Reveal — October 22, 1975
Official Routing Slip: There is no indication in the files on James Earl Ray — October 23, 1975
Attorney General Ramsey Clark announced today that Eric Starvo Galt — January 1, 1968
MFR: Unknown Subject, possibly identifiable with Eric Starvo Galt — April 19, 1968
Routing and Record sheet: RE King Assassination — May 1, 1968
MF: Investigation in of report on suspicion actions of subject originally described as resembling suspected assassin of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — May 16, 1968
Cable: Initial details of Ray’s arrest — June 8, 1968
Cable: Tracing has produced no evidence that… — April 19, 1968
Cable: Has had to prepare two summaries — April 12, 1968
Cable: American involvement in Anti-Vietnam War — April 13, 1968 (Not known if this is related to MLK, but he spoke out against the Vietnam War about a year before he died)
Investigation of death of Martin Luther King. Junior — April 18, 1968 & April 25, 1968
Dispatch: Reports that the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King … — April 29, 1968
Report: Meeting of Dr. Martin Luther King — Sept. 28, 1964
Dispatch: Meeting of Dr. Martin Luther King — October 20, 1964
Dispatch: Publication of articles by Dr. Martin Luther King — Nov. 17, 1964
MEMO: Martin Luther King — Nov. 30, 1964
REPORT: King, Martin Luther — November 5, 1967
REPORT: Views on black militant situation in Chicago — October 5, 1967
REPORT: Views on domestic racial situation and the new politics convention — October 5, 1967
DISPATCH: Communist comments on the death of Martin Luther King/Reference to “Black Power” concept — April 10, 1968
King/Ray FOIA — January 1, 2000
Roll Call, Trump Lashes Out At Republicans, Saying They Won’t ‘Protect’ Him, John T. Bennett, July 23, 2017. President tweets that some aren’t being loyal, even those he ‘carried’ in last year’s election. President Donald Trump angrily lashed out at unnamed Republican lawmakers on Sunday, saying they should “protect” him as repayment for his 2016 election coattails.
“It’s very sad that Republicans, even some that were carried over the line on my back, do very little to protect their President,” Trump tweeted at 4:14 p.m. (EDT). That was just over an hour after he arrived back at the White House after spending around four hours at Trump National Golf Club in nearby Sterling, VA.
By launching a public attack on his fellow Republicans, Trump could open the door to an all-out revolt among some members of his own party. As some Democrats talk about possible impeachment proceedings over the Russia allegations, legal and political experts agree that is unlikely as long as the president has the support of Republican leaders and rank-and-file members, who control both the House and Senate.
But if Trump loses his own party mates and Mueller finds damning evidence, experts of all political stripes say he could find himself in legal and political quicksand. And while it was not immediately clear to whom Trump was referring in the tweet, all signs point to two of his 2016 GOP primary rivals: Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida. Both were on Sunday morning shows talking about the Russia matter. And both won re-election last November while failing to secure more than 58 percent of the vote in their respective races.
Washington Post, Republicans’ internal feuds threaten legislative goals of Trump and the party, Sean Sullivan and Robert Costa, July 23, 2017. The president’s allies on Capitol Hill have described the dynamic between the White House and GOP lawmakers as a “disconnect” between Republicans who are finding it difficult to accept that he is the leader of the party that they have long controlled.
Washington Post, Trump’s new team offers muddled messages on sanctions, pardons, David Nakamura and Ashley Parker, July 23, 2017.
The debut of the president’s retooled communications team on the Sunday political talk shows was a rough one. At one point, one of Trump’s lawyers appeared to contradict his new top spokesman Anthony Scaramucci on whether the president has been discussing his power to issue pardons.
Alien Smuggling Tragedy
Washington Post, 9 people dead after dozens found in sweltering tractor-trailer at a Walmart in Texas, Eva Ruth Moravec, Todd C. Frankel and Avi Selk, July 23, 2017. The victims, as young as 15, appeared to have been loaded like cargo into a trailer without working air conditioning during the height of the Texas summer. The truck’s driver was arrested and is expected to be charged Monday. The truck’s driver, identified as James M. Bradley, 60, of Clearwater, Fla., has been arrested and is expected to be charged Monday morning, said the U.S. attorney’s office for the Western District of Texas.
Strategic Culture Foundation, The End of the ‘New American Century’ Pronounced by the Pentagon, Wayne Madsen, July 23, 2017. The US Department of Defense is fond of issuing reports, many of which contain a massive amount of Pentagon jargon and gobbledygook terms. But, one recent report, while not lacking in typical gibberish, contains one clear and unambiguous message. The neo-conservative “New American Century” pet project, which saw the United States engage in quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as an unending “global war on terror,” is dead and buried.
A US Army War College (USAWC) report, titled “At Our Own Peril: DoD Risk Assessment in a Post-Primacy World,” has raised eyebrows inside the Washington Beltway and beyond. The report, written by an Army Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) and USAWC team headed by Professor Nathan Freier, states it does “not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense, or the US Government.” It is doubtful the report, sponsored by the Joint Staff of the Pentagon, would have been commissioned had the Pentagon not seen the need to prepare for the end of America’s unipolar military dominance that has been in place since the end of the Cold War.
DC Revise and Consent?
Washington Post, Read Anthony Scaramucci’s old tweets. You’ll understand why he deleted them, Kristine Phillips, July 23, 2017.
Saying his “Past views evolved & and shouldn’t be a distraction,” the incoming White House communications director deleted some of his previous posts that clash with the political views of the administration he now serves, but not before they were immortalized by other Twitter users.
In previous tweets, the Wall Street financier called Hillary Clinton “incredibly competent” and appeared to be at odds with his new boss on issues such as gun control, climate change, Islam and illegal immigration. But on Saturday, the day after he became Trump’s communications director, he announced on Twitter that he’s deleting his old tweets, which he said are only a distraction.
Washington Post, In tweet storm, Trump decries ‘illegal leaks’ and asserts ‘all agree’ he has complete power to pardon, David Nakamura, July 22, 2017. President Trump asserted Saturday morning that he has “complete power to pardon” in an apparent allusion to the ongoing probe into his campaign’s contacts with Russian officials.
And he lashed out at a new Washington Post report of previously undisclosed alleged contacts, calling the disclosures “illegal leaks” as he continues to try to shift the public focus to what he has said is a partisan attempt to undermine his presidency.
The president’s defense of his pardon powers came days after the Post reported that he and his legal team have discussed his power to pardon aides, family members and, possibly, even himself. Trump aides said the president is merely curious about his powers and the limits of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Washington Post, No, Trump can’t pardon himself, Laurence H. Tribe, Richard Painter and Norman Eisen, July 22, 2017 (print edition). Laurence H. Tribe is the Carl M. Loeb University Professor and Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School. Richard Painter, a law professor at the University of Minnesota, was chief White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2007 and is vice-chair of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). Norman Eisen, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, was chief White House ethics lawyer for President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2011 and is chair of CREW.
Can a president pardon himself? Four days before Richard Nixon resigned, his own Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel opined no, citing “the fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case.” We agree.
New York Times, Can the President Be Indicted? A Long-Hidden Legal Memo Says Yes, Charlie Savage, July 22, 2017. A newfound memo from Kenneth W. Starr’s independent counsel investigation into President Bill Clinton sheds fresh light on a constitutional puzzle that is taking on mounting significance amid the Trump-Russia inquiry: Can a sitting president be indicted?
The 56-page memo, locked in the National Archives for nearly two decades and obtained by the New York Times under the Freedom of Information Act, amounts to the most thorough government-commissioned analysis rejecting a generally held view that presidents are immune from prosecution while in office.
“It is proper, constitutional, and legal for a federal grand jury to indict a sitting president for serious criminal acts that are not part of, and are contrary to, the president’s official duties,” the Starr office memo concludes. “In this country, no one, even President Clinton, is above the law.”
Mr. Starr (shown at left in a recent file photo) assigned Ronald Rotunda, a prominent conservative professor of constitutional law and ethics whom Mr. Starr hired as a consultant on his legal team, to write the memo in spring 1998 after deputies advised him that they had gathered enough evidence to ask a grand jury to indict Mr. Clinton, the memo shows.
DC Revise and Consent?
Washington Post, In revised filing, Jared Kushner reveals dozens of previously undisclosed assets, Jonathan ‘Connell, Matea Gold, Drew Harwell and Steven Rich, July 22, 2017 (print edition). The records, which come as the White House adviser faces increasing scrutiny as part of investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign, show the vast and varied wealth of the president’s son-in-law.
Washington Post, The clock may have just run out on the White House press corps, Jennifer Palmieri, July 22, 2017. Jennifer Palmieri served as White House communications director from 2013 to 2015 and was communications director for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. When I was White House communications director for President Barack Obama I would warn the White House press corps that they were living on borrowed time. In a digital age, with the proliferation of communication platforms, the media was eventually going to need a better answer for why 50 or so reporters deserved daily access to the White House — access not available to other outlets and the general public.
Now, the clock has run out. The ultimate disrupter, in the form of President Trump, is seeking to change nearly every rule that presidents and the reporters who cover them have lived by. Scaramucci is well-suited to be Trump’s White House communications director. He is a more sincere representation of what Trump seeks in a spokesperson than Spicer. Scaramucci projects all that Trump respects — wealth, scrappiness, loyalty and an impressive ability to dissemble while defending Trump on television.
OpEdNews, Opinion from centrist-Democrat: Dems need council of war, Brent Budowsky, July 22, 2017. Democrats should convene a council of political war shortly after Labor Day to mobilize the full force and power of the party and the base that has been leading the resistance to the Trump presidency behind an aggressive campaign to win control of the House and Senate in 2018.
This council of political war should include former President Barack Obama, former first lady Michelle Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, former President Bill Clinton, former Vice President and 2000 presidential nominee Al Gore, former Secretary of State and 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton, and former Secretary of State and 2004 nominee John Kerry.
Global News: Congress Approves Russian Sanctions
New York Times, Congress Agrees on Sanctions for Russia, Defying White House, Matt Flegenheimer and David E. Sanger, July 22, 2017. The deal means that President Trump could soon be forced to veto the bill or agree to imposing sanctions that his administration abhors. The House version of the legislation was set for a vote on Tuesday. On Saturday, the agreement appeared destined for bipartisan support.
Global News: U.S. Fatal Error In Afghanistan
Washington Post, U.S. airstrike kills at least 9 Afghan officers, Max Bearak and Thomas Gibbons-Neff, July 22, 2017. A U.S. military spokesman provided the death toll, but an Afghan police chief later put the number at 12. U.S. forces apparently mistook the police for Taliban militants.
Washington Post, Sessions, Russian official discussed matters related to Trump campaign, intercepts show, Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima and Greg Miller, July 21, 2017. Russia’s ambassador to Washington (shown below right in a file photo) told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, according to current and former U.S. officials.
Ambassador Sergey Kislyak’s accounts of two conversations with Sessions — then a top foreign policy adviser to Republican candidate Donald Trump — were intercepted by U.S. spy agencies, which monitor the communications of senior Russian officials both in the United States and in Russia. Sessions initially failed to disclose his contacts with Kislyak and then said that the meetings were not about the Trump campaign.
One U.S. official said that Sessions — shown at left and who testified that he has no recollection of an April encounter — has provided “misleading” statements that are “contradicted by other evidence.” A former official said that the intelligence indicates that Sessions and Kislyak had “substantive” discussions on matters including Trump’s positions on Russia-related issues and prospects for U.S.-Russia relations in a Trump administration.
Fighting Political Assassinations
OpEdNews, “I have a lingering desire to see justice”: Dr. William F. Pepper on the Murder of Three 20th-century Heroes, Marta Steele (shown at left), July 21, 2017. Dr. William F. Pepper believes that the best way to move forward is to learn from the past. He is working on a new book that traces assassinations of high-powered rulers from ancient Sumeria through to the present.
Next year will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., Pepper told attendees of a press conference he held July 20 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. His focus was what moderator Andrew Kreig called “an exceptional slice of history”: the assassinations of two of the prolific author’s close friends, Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.
The real story hasn’t been told, he said. The public doesn’t know it. But the immediate purpose this morning was to announce his 200-page petition to the Organization of American States (OAS) human rights body “to obtain under treaty rights a new trial for Sirhan Sirhan or the kind of evidentiary hearing that California and other U.S. authorities have denied him.”
Since 2007, Pepper has been working to have RFK’s alleged assassin, Sirhan Sirhan (shown in a California prison mug shot), exonerated. He has collected reams of evidence to prove that Sirhan’s shots did not kill Kennedy. The lethal shot was to the back of his head, by another culprit still not brought to justice, he said.
Similarly, the JFK assassination has been proved to have been carried out by others in addition to Lee Harvey Oswald. The “Camelot” president had, in his brief tenure, antagonized a host of powerful entities because of “radical” policies like wanting to vacate U.S. troops from Vietnam, overthrow Fidel Castro in Cuba without using U.S. troops, force the resignation of war-mongering CIA and Pentagon leaders, promote desegregation, prosecute Mafia leaders, and review the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 and oil depletion allowance. He said to expect many books on the subject next year, which will contain but “a small hint of what happened.”
Hausfrauleaks, Sirhan Sirhan: A “Reel Bad” Arab? J. Michael Springmann, July 21, 2017. (Michael Springmann, shown in a portrait, is an author (“Visas for Al Qaeda” and “Chaos In Europe”), attorney and former U.S. State Department diplomat.) On July 20, 2017, William F. Pepper, Ed.D., J.D., spoke at the National Press Club about his previous day’s filing of a 200-page petition regarding Sirhan Sirhan. Sirhan, jailed since 1968, is the alleged killer of Robert F. Kennedy, late New York U.S. senator and Democratic presidential candidate. Organized by Andrew Kreig, J.D., editor of the Justice Integrity Project, the well-attended conference enabled Dr. Pepper to discuss his long-sought evidentiary hearing.
As Sirhan’s lawyer for many years, Pepper conceded that the legal remedies for his client in the United States have been exhausted–at both the State and federal levels. California, where Kennedy had been murdered in a Los Angeles hotel kitchen, did not assure a fair trial. Essentially, ineffective assistance of counsel got the accused wrongly convicted. Grant Cooper, his attorney, under threat of a sealed felony indictment, did almost nothing to defend Sirhan. He failed to investigate the matter, obtain the autopsy report, or examine ballistics tests. He spent most of the court proceedings arguing that Sirhan was guilty and, that because of diminished capacity, should not be given the death penalty.
Despite Andrew Kreig ‘s extensive and most vigorous efforts, only a few members of the press turned up at the conference: an intern from the Washington Times, a representative from Al-Mayadeen TV, Beirut, along with a knowledgeable White House correspondent for an alternative news site. This appeared to validate Dr. Pepper’s view of the heavily-managed American media. And it bodes ill for what seems to be the attorney’s goal in filing with the OAS–to generate enough adverse publicity to force the United States to re-examine the questionable trial of Sirhan Sirhan. Indeed, a casual search of the Internet turns up a number of references about “conspiracies” revolving around the problematically convicted man.
White House Media Shake Up
New York Times, Spicer Resigns After Dispute Over Trump Appointment, Glenn Thrush, July 21, 2017. Sean Spicer resigned as press secretary, telling President Trump he vehemently disagreed with his choice for communications director.
Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, resigned on Friday after denouncing chaos in the West Wing and telling President Trump he vehemently disagreed with the appointment of the New York financier Anthony Scaramucci as communications director. After offering Mr. Scaramucci the communications job Friday morning, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Spicer to stay on as press secretary. But Mr. Spicer (shown in a screenshot from a news conference earlier this year) told Mr. Trump that he believed the appointment of Mr. Scaramucci was a major mistake and said he was resigning, according to a person with direct knowledge of the exchange.
In one of his first official acts, Mr. Scaramucci, who founded the global investment firm SkyBridge Capital and is a Fox News contributor, joined Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Mr. Spicer’s chief deputy, in the White House briefing room and announced that she would succeed Mr. Spicer as press secretary.
He said he had great respect for Mr. Spicer, adding, “I hope he goes on to make a tremendous amount of money.” But he acknowledged the awkwardness of Mr. Spicer’s resignation. “This is obviously a difficult situation to be in,” Mr. Scaramucci said.
Ms. Sanders said Mr. Trump was grateful for Mr. Spicer’s service and that the president believes Mr. Spicer will succeed going forward. “Just look at his great television ratings,” Mr. Trump said in a statement read by Ms. Sanders.
Mr. Spicer has agreed to stay on for two weeks to a month, and Mr. Trump has told his advisers he is open to rotating new people into the briefing room, including one of the president’s personal favorites, Sebastian Gorka, a blustery foreign policy official who has been accused of having ties to far-right groups in Europe.
During the transition, Mr. Trump had planned to appoint Mr. Scaramucci, a 52-year-old Harvard Law graduate from Long Island, as director of his office of public liaison, but the offer was pulled at the request of Mr. Priebus over concerns about Mr. Scaramucci’s overseas investments.
His appointment Friday came two months after the previous communications director, Mike Dubke, stepped down. Mr. Trump was frustrated with Mr. Priebus over the slow pace of finding a replacement, according to a half-dozen people familiar with the situation. Mr. Trump made the appointment over the objection of Mr. Priebus, who thought Mr. Scaramucci lacked the requisite organizational or political experience.
But the president believed Mr. Scaramucci, a ferocious defender of Mr. Trump’s on cable television, was best equipped to play the same role in-house, and he offered him a role with far-reaching powers independent of Mr. Priebus’s. Mr. Spicer flatly rejected the president’s offer of a position subordinate to Mr. Scaramucci, according to two administration officials familiar with the exchange.
The appointment of Mr. Scaramucci, a favorite of Mr. Trump’s earliest campaign supporters, was backed by the president’s daughter Ivanka, his son-in-law and adviser Mr. Kushner and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, the officials said.
Mr. Spicer, according to several people close to him, was tired of being blindsided by Mr. Trump, most recently this week when the president gave a lengthy interview to The New York Times in which he questioned his appointment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He was also weary of the daily dressings-down and instituted the highly contentious practice of holding off-air briefings, less so to snub reporters than to avoid Mr. Trump’s critiques of his performance, according to one of Mr. Spicer’s friends.
New York Times, The Latest Voice at the Lectern: An Effusive New Yorker, Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Michael D. Shear, July 21, 2017. Mr. Scaramucci’s over-the-top style will be a distinct contrast with the southern drawl and folksy style of Sarah Sanders, the new press secretary. Related story: Washington Post, Spicer resigns, Scaramucci to be White House communications director, Abby Phillip, July 21, 2017. White House press secretary Sean Spicer resigned on Friday following the appointment of wealthy financier Anthony Scaramucci (shown above in a file photo) as White House communications director. Scaramucci has previously had a tense relationship with both Spicer and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus.
The chaos engulfing President Trump (shown at left) and his orbit intensified Friday, as Trump moved to shake up his legal and White House communications teams in response to the widening special counsel probe into his campaign’s possible collusion with the Russian government and its impact on the administration’s stalled legislative agenda.
Trump’s longtime personal attorney, Marc Kasowitz (shown at right), will step back from his central role in the president’s outside legal team with John M. Dowd, a seasoned Washington attorney with a focus on white-collar crime, now taking the lead in managing the president’s defense. Mark Corallo, a longtime GOP operative who had served as a spokesman for Trump’s legal team, resigned Thursday.
HuffPo, Sarah Huckabee Sanders Is The New White House Press Secretary, Mollie Reilly, July 21, 2017. She’ll replace Sean Spicer, who resigned on Friday. Sarah Huckabee Sanders is shown in a screen shot at a White House briefing.
Global News: Poland’s Democracy Crashing?
New York Times, Polish Parliament Votes to Let Ruling Party Control Courts, Rick Lyman, July 21, 2017. The measure, which the president is expected to sign, would curtail the country’s last bastion of independence, allowing the governing party to handpick Supreme Court justices.
Washington Post, Poland appears to be dismantling its own hard-won democracy, Kamil Marcinkiewicz and Mary Stegmaier, July 21, 2017. A bill now in Poland’s Parliament would destroy the judicial system’s independence and authority — and it’s likely to become law. In 2015, the far-right populist Polish Law and Justice (PiS) party won both the presidential and parliamentary elections. Since then — despite public protests and international pressure — PiS’s party leader Jarosław Kaczyński has steadily passed laws that have eroded Poland’s democratic system of government.
Washington Post, Former spy chiefs upbraid Trump for remarks on intelligence community, Ellen Nakashima, July 21, 2017. Former CIA director John Brennan and former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper sounded off on the president’s statements disparaging intelligence agencies and expressed disbelief at his embrace of Russia. More On Russian Investigations
Washington Post, Lawyer who met with Trump Jr. had Russian intelligence connections, Andrew Roth, July 21, 2017. The Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. and other senior advisers to the Republican presidential candidate in a highly scrutinized meeting at Trump Tower last year had previously represented Russia’s top spy agency, the Federal Security Service, in a land dispute in Moscow, according to court documents.
Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Moscow lawyer who has powerful government contacts, represented a military unit founded by the spy agency in court cases in 2011 and 2012, court rulings seen by The Washington Post show. In those cases, Veselnitskaya represented Military Unit 55002 in a property dispute over a five-story office building in northwest Moscow where a number of electronics companies were based. It was not immediately clear what the spy agency, known as the FSB, used the building for.
The news was first reported Friday by Reuters, which said it had seen documents showing the relationship began in at least 2005 and lasted until 2013.
Washington Post, This presidency can’t be saved. It’s all downhill from here, Jennifer Rubin, July 21, 2017. Jennifer Rubin (shown in a file photo) is a conservative, anti-Trump columnist. In light of news reports that President Trump’s team is scouring the record for conflicts of interest on special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team (the essence of chutzpah) and contemplating pardons (of aides and/or himself), it is worth considering how this may all play out.We offer several scenarios.
Daily Beast, Trump’s Former Business Partner Tries to Erase his Prostitution Bust From Web, Lachlan Markay, July 21, 2017. He once helped Trump look for properties in Moscow. Now this former business partner is trying to clean up his own past online.
A former Russian government official — and business partner of Donald Trump’s — is gaining new notoriety, as the federal investigation into alleged election meddling widens. Meanwhile, this Kazakh-born real estate mogul, Tevfik Arif, is doing his best to clean up his past, trying to purge the web of references to his arrest in an underage prostitution bust. He was later acquitted in the matter.
Arif, a former Soviet trade minister whose company once prospected for the Trump Organization in Russia and Eastern Europe, has demanded the removal of allegedly defamatory information about that arrest from websites that have investigated or recapped controversies involving some of President Donald Trump’s past business associates.
Cops and Courts Around the Nation
New York Times, Minneapolis Chief Forced Out After Australian’s Killing, Mitch Smith, July 21, 2017. The Minneapolis police chief, Janee Harteau, resigned on Friday at the mayor’s request, less than a week after one of the city’s officers fatally shot an unarmed Australian woman who had called 911 for help. Mayor Betsy Hodges said in a statement that “I’ve lost confidence in the chief’s ability to lead us further” and that “it is clear that she has lost the confidence of the people of Minneapolis as well.”
LGBTQ Nation, Kentucky GOP County chair arrested & punched after he exposed himself in a store bathroom, Alex Bollinger, July 21, 2017. David Narramore, 54, was the Republican Party county chairman of Letcher County, Kentucky, until earlier this week when he resigned following his arrest for exposing himself to a department store employee.
Last Saturday, Narramore was in the bathroom of the Belk department store in Kingsport, Tennessee. A Belk employee who works in loss prevention in the next stall said that Narramore started rubbing his foot against the employee’s foot. The Republican then exposed himself to the employee. Security escorted him to an office to wait for police to arrive. The police say that he “passively” resisted arrest and then attempted to fight officers, so they tried to tase him. When the taser didn’t work, a police officer hit Narramore in the face and wrestled him to the ground.
Narramore, who is also a dentist, resigned on Tuesday as county chairman. According to a statement from Kentucky’s Republican Party, “Dr. Narramore is clearly going through some personal issues.”
Health Insurance Senate Vote Next Week
New York Times, Senate Adviser Challenges Key Points of Health Bill, Robert D. Pear and Thomas Kaplan, July 21, 2017. The Senate parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, challenged key provisions in the bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, dealing another serious blow to its prospects.
Roll Call, Parts of Senate GOP Health Care Bill Break Rules, Parliamentarian Says, Mary Ellen McIntire, July 21, 2017. Abortion, insurance regulations, cost-sharing subsidies would require 60 votes. Several parts of the Senate health care bill would violate the chamber’s budget reconciliation rules, the Senate parliamentarian said in a guidance late Friday. Provisions related to abortion, certain insurance regulations and funding the law’s cost-sharing subsidies could be struck under the so-called Byrd rule and would require 60 votes to survive.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has said the Senate will take a procedural vote to proceed to debate on the health care measure early next week. It’s unclear whether enough Republican senators will vote to start debate or which version of the bill the Senate would consider. The parliamentarian’s ruling is on an early version released last month. Additionally, a provision that aims to incentivize individuals to purchase coverage and replace the health care law’s individual mandate was ruled out of order with the Byrd rule.
Media / Pop Culture / Political Humor
Daily Beast, Stephen Colbert Travels to Russia to Try to Prove Trump’s Pee Tape Is Real, Matt Wilstein, July 21, 2017. The ‘Late Show’ host saved his best Russian field piece for last, giving a tour of the infamous presidential suite at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton. As he promised on Monday’s Late Show, Stephen Colbert’s recent trip to Russia included a stay in the Ritz-Carlton presidential suite—“Yes, that one”—where President Donald Trump reportedly spent some time during his previous trips to Moscow. “It’s very nice,” he said. “I wore a hazmat suit.”
“For the past six months, a lot of people have been talking about alleged activities involving Donald Trump and the Ritz-Carlton presidential suite in Moscow,” Colbert said in a teaser for the field piece that aired on Thursday night. “And I’ve been thinking: ‘Why doesn’t somebody just go and look in the room?’ So I did.”
New York Times, President Trump’s Contempt for the Rule of Law, Editorial Board, July 20, 2017. In less than an hour on Wednesday afternoon, President Trump found a way to impugn the integrity and threaten the livelihoods of nearly all of the country’s top law enforcement officials, including some he appointed, for one simple reason: They swore an oath to defend the Constitution, not him.
For a president who sees the rule of law as an annoyance rather than a feature of American democracy, the traitors are everywhere. Attorney General Jeff Sessions endured the worst abuse, which came during Mr. Trump’s gobsmacking Oval Office interview with The Times. Mr. Sessions’s offense? Recusing himself in March from all investigations related to the 2016 presidential campaign, a decision that infuriated Mr. Trump. “If he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,” the president said. He called the recusal “extremely unfair — and that’s a mild word — to the president.”
Washington Post, Trump’s lawyers explore pardoning powers and ways to undercut Russia investigation, Carol D. Leonnig, Ashley Parker, Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger, July 20, 2017. President Trump’s lawyers are actively building a case against what they believe to be special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s conflicts of interest. Trump has asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the probe, according to one person. A second person said Trump’s lawyers have discussed pardoning powers among themselves.
New York Times, Inspiring Little Fear in Senators, Trump Struggles to Sell Health Bill, Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman, July 20, 2017. The president has proved too unpopular nationally, and too weak in many lawmakers’ home states, to scare senators into supporting the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. President Trump thought he could sell balky Republican senators like Ron Johnson of Wisconsin on the Senate health care bill through pleasantries, cajoling and, ultimately, some Oval Office muscle.
But Mr. Johnson could not be charmed. He could not be outbargained. And he could not be scared into supporting the measure for the sake of a president whose inability to bend fellow Republicans toward his political will has become a liability for his young presidency. As the brash Mr. Johnson reminded one associate recently, while Mr. Trump may have stunned the political world in 2016 by winning Wisconsin in the election, Mr. Johnson got 76,000 more votes in the state.
The starkest demonstration of Mr. Trump’s weakness came on Monday when Mr. McConnell and his stunned team learned that Jerry Moran, a typically reliable and evenhanded conservative from Kansas, felt safe stiff-arming Mr. Trump on his top legislative priority, announcing that he opposed the bill.
Trump Getting Russian Attention
Daily Kos, Here’s Donald Trump desperately, pathetically trying to get Putin’s attention at the G20 dinner, Jen Hayden, July 20, 2017. MSNBC was able to obtain video (no sound) of the G20 Summit dinner in Germany. The event was exclusive to world leaders and their spouses, with each leader bringing an interpreter. Watch the GIF below and see how pathetic Donald Trump looked trying to get Vladimir Putin’s attention from across the table.
Courthouse News, JFK Researchers Demand CIA Records on Themselves, Brandi Buchman, July 20, 2017. Investigators once tasked with examining the assassination of President John F. Kennedy claim in court that the CIA won’t respond to requests for records it might have on covert surveillance of them.
In a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Washington, D.C. federal court, Dan Hardway, Edwin Lopez and G. Robert Blakey say they filed a Freedom of Information Act request in May, requesting “201 files” or “soft files” on themselves.
[Blakey was general counsel of the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) created by Congress to re-investigate the 1963 Kennedy assassination and the 1968 assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Hardway and Lopez were staff members who worked in part on especially sensitive matters related to claims involving accused JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald’s purported activities in Mexico.]
Hardway (shown at left, Lopez and Blakey also requested the CIA turn over any “p files,” or surveillance records, maintained at the Office of Security. Specifically, the plaintiffs want records about surveillance on themselves conducted in Mexico, Cuba and the U.S., including any surveillance of interactions between them and “members or representatives of the Cuban Interest Section, or other representatives of the Cuban government,” according to the lawsuit.
In addition to records about surveillance on themselves, they also want CIA surveillance records on Gateon Fonzi. Asking for electronic, telephonic, mechanical, digital, video or any other physical observation, Hardway, Lopez and Blakey say their request is limited to files generated between 1976 and 1979. The request seeks “operational and non-operational files, records, information and materials including but not limited to counterintelligence and autonomous operations, regarding operations aimed at, targeting or related to the [House Select Committee on Assassinations],” according to the complaint, including “search slips, search instructions, routing slip and forms, memoranda, letters, telephone messages, email” and any other form of written communication about them.
Hardway, Lopez and Blakey – joined by the Assassination Archives and Research Center in Maryland – claim the CIA has not responded to their May FOIA request. he plaintiffs want an inventory list describing all of the information and materials the CIA finds. They also seek a court order that any records deemed to be exempt from disclosure be preserved by the CIA until the court authorizes their destruction or release. hey are represented by attorney James Lesar of Silver Spring, Md. The CIA declined to comment on the lawsuit Thursday.
Washington Post, During ‘Made in America Week,’ Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club applies to hire 70 foreign workers, David A. Fahrenthold, July 20, 2017. The for-profit club, where President Trump spent numerous weekends this spring, asked permission to hire 15 housekeepers, 20 cooks and 35 waiters because it says it cannot find qualified Americans for those jobs. July 19
Washington Post, Trump ends covert CIA program to arm anti-Assad rebels in Syria, a move sought by Moscow, Greg Jaffe and Adam Entous, July 19, 2017. President Trump has decided to end the CIA’s covert program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels battling the government of Bashar al-Assad, a move long sought by Russia, according to U.S. officials.
The program was a central plank of a policy begun by the Obama administration in 2013 to put pressure on Assad to step aside, but even its backers have questioned its efficacy since Russia deployed forces in Syria two years later.
Officials said the phasing out of the secret program reflects Trump’s interest in finding ways to work with Russia, which saw the anti-Assad program as an assault on its interests. The shuttering of the program is also an acknowledgment of Washington’s limited leverage and desire to remove Assad from power.
Just three months ago, after the United States accused Assad of using chemical weapons, Trump launched retaliatory airstrikes against a Syrian air base. At the time, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, said that “in no way do we see peace in that area with Assad at the head of the Syrian government.”
Washington Post, Senate panel to interview Kushner; subpoenas possible for Manafort and Trump Jr., Karoun Demirjian and Ashley Parker, July 19, 2017. President Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner (shown in a file photo) will speak to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and Donald Trump Jr. have been asked to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose leaders “have agreed to issue subpoenas, if necessary” for them.
President Trump in the White House Red Room on Jan. 20, 2017 (White House photo by Shealah Craighead)
New York Times, Citing Recusal, Trump Says He Wouldn’t Have Hired Sessions, Peter Baker, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman, July 19, 2017. In a rebuke of one of his staunchest supporters, President Trump said he “would have picked somebody else” had he known Attorney General Jeff Sessions (shown in a file photo) was going to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. In a wide-ranging interview with The Times, Mr. Trump also criticized the special counsel on the Russia inquiry and warned him about delving into his family finances.
New York Times, Manafort Owed About $17 Million to Pro-Russia Interests, Mike McIntire, July 19, 2017. Records from the secretive tax haven of Cyprus show a web of transactions by shell companies connected to Paul J. Manafort (shown in a file photo) while he was a consultant in Ukraine before joining the Trump campaign.
New York Times, Trump Loans From Deutsche Bank Face Regulatory Scrutiny, Ben Protess, Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Jesse Drucker, July 19, 2017. Hundreds of millions of dollars in loans to Trump businesses are being assessed for their risk to the German lender, which provided the funds despite bankruptcies making other institutions wary.
Washington Post, Sen. John McCain diagnosed with brain cancer, Sean Sullivan, Karoun Demirjian and Paul Kane, July 19 2017. The Mayo Clinic said tests revealed an aggressive type of cancer with a poor prognosis. McCain’s significance in Congress is hard to overstate — and his absence, however long, will reverberate across the Capitol.
Health Insurance Battle
New York Times, ‘Let Obamacare Fail,’ Trump Says as Health Bill Collapses, Thomas Kaplan, July 19, 2017 (print edition). If President Trump is determined to make good on that pledge, he has plenty of levers to pull. The seven-year Republican quest to undo the Affordable Care Act appeared to reach a dead end on Tuesday in the Senate, leaving President Trump vowing to let President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement collapse.
Mr. Trump declared that his plan was now to “let Obamacare fail,” and suggested that Democrats would then seek out Republicans to work together on a bill to bury the Affordable Care Act. If he is determined to make good on that pledge, he has plenty of levers to pull, from declining to reimburse insurance companies for reducing low-income customers’ out-of-pocket costs to failing to enforce the mandate that most Americans have health coverage.
“It’ll be a lot easier,” Mr. Trump said at the White House, adding: “We’re not going to own it. I’m not going to own it. I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it. We’ll let Obamacare fail, and then the Democrats are going to come to us.”
Washington Post, Trump’s false sense of confidence: Friendly chit-chat at White House dinner as health bill collapsed, Robert Costa, Kelsey Snell and Sean Sullivan, July 19, 2017 (print edition). One sign that the White House and Mitch McConnell didn’t see their support unraveling: the senators who were in the Blue Room on Monday night. They were not holdouts but mostly heavyweights of the Republican leadership.
U.S. Congressional Opponents Of Free Speech
The Intercept, U.S. Lawmakers Seek to Criminally Outlaw Support for Boycott Campaign Against Israel, Glenn Greenwald (shown in a file photo) and Ryan Grim, July 19, 2017. The criminalization of political speech and activism against Israel has become one of the gravest threats to free speech in the west. In France, activists have been arrested and prosecuted for wearing t-shirts advocating a boycott of Israel.
The U.K. has enacted a series of measures designed to outlaw such activism. In the U.S., governors compete with one another over who can implement the most extreme regulations to bar businesses from participating in any boycotts aimed even at Israeli settlements, which the world regards as illegal. On U.S. campuses, punishment of pro-Palestinian students for expressing criticisms of Israel is so commonplace that the Center for Constitutional Rights refers to it as “the Palestine Exception” to free speech.
But now, a group of 43 Senators – 29 Republicans and 14 Democrats – want to implement a law that would make it a felony for Americans to support the international boycott against Israel, which was launched in protest of that country’s decades-old occupation of Palestine.
The two primary sponsors of the bill are Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland (shown at left) and Republican Rob Portman of Ohio. Perhaps the most shocking aspect is the punishment: anyone guilty of violating its prohibitions will face a minimum civil penalty of $250,000, and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years in prison.
The proposed measure, called the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (S. 720), was introduced by Cardin on March 23. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that the bill “was drafted with the assistance of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee [AIPAC].” Indeed, AIPAC, in its 2017 Lobbying Agenda, identified passage of this bill as one of its top lobbying priorities for the year.
Roll Call, Trump Accuses Voting Officials of Hiding Something, John T. Bennett, July 19, 2017. At first vote commission meeting, accusations surround data claims. President Donald Trump kicked off the first meeting of a panel he has tasked with probing his own voter fraud claims by questioning why some states are refusing to turn over voting data to his administration.
“I’m pleased that more than 30 states have already agreed to share the information with the commission and the other states that information will be forthcoming,” Trump said. “If any state does not want to share this information, one has to wonder what they’re worried about.” That’s when the unpredictable president appeared to venture from his prepared remarks and went right after state officials who are withholding the voter data his administration is seeking. “And I ask the vice president and I ask the commission: What are they worried about?” he said, referring to Mike Pence, also the commission’s chairman.
Washington Post, Netanyahu accidentally reveals Israel has struck Iran-backed fighters in Syria ‘dozens of times,’ Adam Taylor, July 19, 2017. It has never been a particularly well-kept secret that Israel has conducted clandestine airstrikes in Syrian territory over recent years. But this week, Benjamin Netanyahu seemed to not only admit that these strikes had occurred, but that they had occurred “dozens” of times.
The Israeli prime minister (shown in a file photo) made this admission accidentally — all thanks to a hot mic. Netanyahu’s remarks came during a meeting with Eastern European leaders in Budapest on Wednesday. Although the meeting occurred behind closed doors, the Israeli leader’s microphone remained on and his voice was transmitted to headphones given to reporters earlier. It has never been a particularly well-kept secret that Israel has conducted clandestine airstrikes in Syrian territory over recent years. But this week, Benjamin Netanyahu seemed to not only admit that these strikes had occurred, but that they had occurred “dozens” of times.
New York Times, Demoralized G.O.P. Hopes to Rally Around Tax Cuts, Jeremy W. Peters, July 19, 2017. Many conservatives are worried that the party’s inability to pass ambitious legislation will imperil its chances next year.
The 5th Estate, RFK assassination expert to speak at National Press Club July 19 and 20, Cyril H. Wecht, M.D., J.D. (shown in his lab), July 19, 2017. I strongly endorse and support the petition that Attorney William Pepper is submitting to the Organization of American States seeking a new trial for Sirhan Sirhan, who was convicted for the 1968 killing of Senator Robert F. Kennedy.
As an official consultant in forensic pathology to Dr. Thomas Noguchi, the Los Angeles Chief Medical Examiner who performed the autopsy on Senator Kennedy, I had the opportunity to visit the shooting scene at the Ambassador Hotel and subsequently review and analyze all the relevant forensic scientific evidence and investigative findings in this matter. Based upon all the objective, indisputable physical and forensic evidence, there can be no doubt that Sirhan did not fire the bullet that caused Senator Kennedy’s death.
WLIS / WMRD (1420 and 1150 on the AM dial in Connecticut), The Phil Mikan Show, July 19, 2017. Longtime Connecticut talk show host Phil Mikan (shown in a file photo) interviewed Justice Integrity Project Editor Andrew Kreig for an hour about what can be learned about the Trump Administration and other current affairs from study of revelations about the 1968 assassination of Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy.
Prosecutors, Cops, Courts
Politico, Rosenstein rebuffs questions on Trump-Russia probe, Josh Gerstein, July 19, 2017. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (shown in a file photo) turned down opportunities Wednesday to discuss the ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia, including a question about whether he has a conflict of interest overseeing the probe because of his role in the firing of FBI Director James Comey. Rosenstein met with reporters for about a half-hour Wednesday to discuss the Justice Department’s decision to reverse an Obama-era policy and resume allowing local law enforcement to use federal agencies to seize assets suspected to be involved in crime.
New York Times, Saudi King’s Son Plotted Effort to Oust His Rival, Ben Hubbard, Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt, July 19, 2017 (print edition). The heir to the throne, Mohammed bin Nayef, was held in a palace in Mecca and forced to yield to Mohammed bin Salman, 31 (shown in a file photo), who became the new crown prince. The fate of the repeal effort looked to be sealed on Tuesday, when a last-ditch attempt to force a vote to abolish the health law without a replacement fell short of support.
Washington Post, Trump suggests Republicans will let ACA market collapse, then rewrite health law, Sean Sullivan and Juliet Eilperin, July 18, 2017. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he “regrets” that Republicans can’t reach an agreement on repealing and immediately replacing Obamacare on July 18, and said the party will pursue a repeal effort now and replacement legislation later. President Trump predicted Tuesday morning that Republicans may wait for the federal insurance market to collapse and then work to broker a deal to rewrite the nation’s landmark health-care law.
But as divisions between the two main ideological camps within the GOP widened Tuesday, Republicans were scrambling to contain the political fallout from the collapse of a months-long effort to rewrite Barack Obama’s signature domestic accomplishment. In a series of tweets, Trump blamed the demise of a plan to rewrite the Affordable Care Act on Democrats “and a few Republicans,” but he suggested that the drive to overhaul the law was not completely over.
“We were let down by all of the Democrats and a few Republicans. Most Republicans were loyal, terrific & worked really hard. We will return!” he tweeted. He added in a separate tweet: “As I have always said, let ObamaCare fail and then come together and do a great healthcare plan. Stay tuned!”
HuffPost, Senate’s New Plan To Repeal But Not Replace Obamacare On Brink Of Collapse, Paige Lavender, July 18, 2017. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell proposed a full repeal after the GOP health care bill died Monday. Some Republican senators are already saying they won’t vote to repeal Obamacare without providing a replacement for it, despite Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s proposal to do so Monday night after it became clear the GOP health care bill did not have enough votes to pass.
Fusion, Al Gore Breaks With Democratic Party Leadership to Support Single-Payer Healthcare, Eleanor Sheehan, July 18, 2017. A day after the Republican party’s effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act crumbled, Al Gore spoke at a community college in Manhattan, NY, about his new climate change movie. Completely unrelated to the documentary, however, Gore expressed his support for a single-payer healthcare system.
The Huffington Post first reported Gore’s comments during Tuesday’s event. Breaking with ranking Democrats like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senator Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Gore told the audience that private health insurance has failed to provide accessible coverage for all Americans. “The private sector has not shown any ability to provide good, affordable health care for all. I believe we ought to have single-payer health care,” Gore said at the event hosted by the New York Times.
Trump’s Appointment To The Vatican
Washington Post, Opinion: Callista Gingrich’s nomination to the Vatican stinks to high heaven, Dana Milbank, Let us consider the qualifications of President Trump’s nominee to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Holy See: one Callista Gingrich of Virginia. She is a former clerk on the House Agriculture Committee. She is the author of children’s books about an elephant named Ellis.
But really, Gingrich was receiving a confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee because of one qualification: She is married to Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House and a major backer of President Trump.
And now, for his support of Trump, he is getting the ultimate patronage: the chance to live in Rome on the taxpayer’s dime while his wife, the president of Gingrich Productions, enjoys a plum posting. Newt, who converted to Catholicism several years ago, set his wife up nicely for the job by co-hosting two videos with her about Pope John Paul II, produced with a Gingrich political ally. (They are shown together in a family photo.)
But if it is good news for the Gingriches, it is an(other) insult to Francis from Trump, who has sparred with the pope over immigration and climate change. Newt carried on a six-year extramarital affair with Callista in the 1990s when she, 23 years his junior, was a House staffer and he, as speaker, led the impeachment of Bill Clinton over his extramarital affair with an intern. National Catholic Reporter’s Michael Sean Winters called it “astonishing that a party that celebrates family values at every turn has a president who is on his third wife and who has bragged about his extramarital affairs and who is appointing an ambassador to the Vatican who had a six-year affair with her future husband while he was still married to his second wife.”
Elsewhere In DC
Daily Beast, CIA Plans to Destroy Some of Its Old Leak Files, Aliya Sternstein, July 18, 2017. The National Archives has tentatively approved a proposal to let the agency get rid of files that don’t have historical value. Historians fear there’s a lot of room for error.
The CIA wouldn’t say anything about the contents of the leak material headed for evisceration, beyond pointing to a paragraph-long description in an appraisal report, written by NARA officials: “Case files relating to investigations of alleged violations of Executive Orders, laws, or agency regulations for the safeguarding of national security information, including those referred to the Department of Justice (DOJ) or Department of Defense (DoD).”
Nate Jones, director of the Freedom Of Information Act Project at the nonprofit National Security Archive, expects information about notable leaks and more would fall into this category. “I suspect the majority is any leak of CIA classified information to a newspaper, magazine, or book, which happens very frequently, not just the high-profile cases,” said Jones, a critic of CIA records demolition. Jones warns that NARA and the CIA should err on the side of preservation, even if they believe the files at issue are backed up elsewhere. “History has shown that they are too eager to destroy their records,” he said of CIA officials. “The CIA does not have a lot of good will for preserving historically relevant documents.”
Matthew Aid, an ex-intelligence officer and historian, puzzled over the rationale behind the National Security Agency storing “several hundred times the volume of the Library of Congress every single day as part of its global eavesdropping operations,” while “the CIA can’t afford to scan its records.”
Since citizens can’t read the underlying CIA records, the nation depends on NARA’s judgment on what gets saved in servers and what gets emptied into the trash bin.
New York Times, Russia Mogul’s Aide Was 8th Person at Trump Jr. Meeting, Sharon LaFraniere and Adam Goldman, July 18, 2017. Irakly Kaveladze, an American-based employee of Russian property developers, attended the meeting with President Trump’s son in June 2016, Mr. Kaveladze’s lawyer says.
Report On Voter Suppression
Center for American Progress, Keeping Voters off the Rolls, Liz Kennedy and Danielle Root, July 18, 2017. Impact of Documentary Proof of Citizenship and Illegal Voter Purges. This new report from the Center for American Progress looks at two of the worst practices used to block eligible voters from having their voices heard and using their power at the ballot box: documentary proof of citizenship requirements, where people must show evidence of citizenship in order to become registered to vote, and illegal voter purges where registered voters are improperly removed from voter rolls so they can’t vote.
These voter suppression measures have arrived on the national stage in President Donald Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which is set to meet for the first time tomorrow, July 19.
Leading the Trump administration’s assault on American voters is Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) — dubbed the “king of voter suppression” for his crusading efforts to dismantle the NVRA — who has been tapped to serve as vice chair of the commission. Kobach (shown in a file photo), as secretary of state, is the architect of Kansas’ draconian documentary proof of citizenship law that would prevent tens of thousands of people from voting with the unnecessary, overly burdensome requirement that people provide documentation proving citizenship — such as a passport, a birth certificate, or naturalization papers — before being added to the state voter rolls. All Americans are already required to swear they are citizens under penalty of perjury before becoming registered to vote.
As this report shows, improper changes to voter rolls and barriers to voter registration such as those favored by Kobach would be enormously detrimental to American voters, particularly people of color and other historically underrepresented communities. The true purpose of this commission is to constrain voter participation by making the process of registering to vote and casting ballots more difficult, particularly for certain groups. This is a cowardly, illegitimate power grab, no more than a scheme to maintain power for a select few. We must keep up the fight for the right to vote for all eligible Americans if we want a free and fair democracy that works for all.
Inside the White House
Talking Ponts Memo, Bannon’s 2016: ‘Rootless White Males,’ ‘Pure Evil’ And A ‘F*cking Hammerhead,’ Esme Cribb, July 18, 2017. Donald Trump’s decision to bring on former Breitbart News chair Steve Bannon as chief executive of his campaign in August 2016 seemed like a last-ditch tactic for a foundering presidential bid. Bannon (shown in a file photo) was known to most people at the time as a conservative bomb-thrower in charge of a news site that served as refuge for those who found even Fox News too moderate. He did not seem like the kind of operative who could steer a controversial candidate to the Oval Office.
Joshua Green, senior national correspondent at Bloomberg Businessweek, posited otherwise in an October 2015 profile characterizing Bannon as “the most dangerous political operative in America.”
In the 21 months since, Trump won the presidency and promoted Bannon to the position of chief White House strategist. Green’s new book, Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency, covers the gradual convergence of Trump’s and Bannon’s personal and political trajectories. Here are some of the most eyebrow-raising anecdotes in Green’s new book.
Cops & Courts
‘The Chickenshit Club’ by Jesse Eisinger (Collage by WhoWhatWhy)
Slate, Book Review:’The Chickenshit Club,’ Leon Neyfakh, July 18 2017. A new book indicts the Justice Department with a fiery passion. So why do its arguments feel so inert?
Jesse Eisinger is a senior reporter at ProPublica who won a Pulitzer for his investigative work on Wall Street wrongdoing, and The Chickenshit Club can be read as a reaction to the years he spent covering the financial world in the wake of the 2008 crash. Why, Eisinger wanted to know, had federal prosecutors managed to put just one relatively obscure banker in prison in connection with all the misbehavior that had led up to and followed the crisis? Whose fault was it that the Justice Department, which brought cases against more than 1,000 people in connection with the savings and loan scandals of the 1980s, had become timid and soft on corporate crime since the turn of the century?
Named after a phrase James Comey once used to describe unambitious prosecutors who never lost cases because they played it so safe, Eisinger’s book describes the onset of a new age of caution and impotence at DOJ. His account is animated by clenched-jaw conviction: Eisinger sees a profound moral tragedy in the department’s failure to hold Wall Street executives criminally accountable for their role in causing and profiting from the crisis, and he believes the very notion of justice has been undermined by the government’s willingness to let wealthy, lawyered-up executives walk while zealously filling America’s prisons with poor people.
Eisinger’s book makes the case that, starting with the controversial prosecution of the Arthur Andersen accounting firm in 2001, a combination of political pressure, changes in the institutional culture at DOJ, and aggressive lobbying by the defense bar led to a “blunting and removal of prosecutorial tools in white-collar corporate investigations.” Thanks to the adoption of policies that were overly deferential to executives, Eisinger argues, and a loss of appetite at the highest ranks of the DOJ for the complexity and risk inherent in white-collar prosecution, the government allowed its hands to be tied in the face of financial crimes that “sapped the economy and created an uneven playing field” for investors. “The government failed,” as a former top prosecutor from Manhattan’s Southern District told Eisinger after the financial crisis. “We didn’t do what we needed to do.”
The Chickenshit Club is an admirably lucid, nuanced book about the tangle of complicated changes that, over the past decade or so, converged to make the DOJ less bold and less capable in its pursuit of corporate criminals.
[But] I wanted him to show me the buildup of the passion that fuels his book—how he came to believe in the ideas he argues for in it and how he learned the system well enough to authoritatively evaluate its breakdown. I can think of no subject that calls out for a personable, transparent narrator more urgently than financial crime.
Associated Press via TPM News, Former US House Speaker Hastert Released From Prison In Minnesota, Caryn Rousseau, July 18, 2017. Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert has been released from prison in Minnesota and transferred to a Chicago re-entry facility, according to Federal Bureau of Prisons records Tuesday. Hastert was sentenced to 15 months in prison in April 2016 in banking violations case that revealed accusations he had sexually abused teenagers while coaching wrestling at a suburban Chicago high school.
Hastert is no longer at the Minnesota federal prison where he was serving his sentence, but is at a Chicago residential re-entry management office, the online records show. His release date is listed as Aug. 16. The 75-year-old Republican pleaded guilty to violating federal banking law in seeking to pay $3.5 million in hush money to keep the sex abuse secret. He is one of the highest-ranking U.S. politicians to ever go to prison, where he was known as Inmate No. 47991-424.
When sentenced in April 2016 in Chicago, Hastert was branded “a serial child molester” by U.S. District Judge Thomas M. Durkin. Hastert was never charged with child abuse because the statutes of limitation blocked prosecutors from filing charges dating back to when Hastert coached at Yorkville High School, from 1965 to 1981. Instead, Hastert was charged with violating banking laws.
SouthFront, Saudi Arabia Arrested Woman Who Was Filmed Walking In Short Skirt, Staff report, July 18, 2017 (Video gone ‘viral’). The “democratic values” of one of the key US allies in the Middle East are in action.
Health Insurance Bill Crashes In Senate
New York Times, Health Bill Collapses With Dissent of Two G.O.P. Senators, Thomas Kaplan and Robert Pear, July 17, 2017. GOP Senators Jerry Moran of Kansas and Mike Lee of Utah said they would oppose the bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The announcement leaves Senate Republican leaders short of the necessary votes to begin debate, and for now, President Trump’s effort to replace Obamacare is over.
“There are serious problems with Obamacare, and my goal remains what it has been for a long time: to repeal and replace it,” Mr. Moran said in a statement. “This closed-door process unfortunately has yielded the” Senate repeal bill, which he asserted, “failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act or address health care’s rising costs.”
Washington Post, Support for Trump grows more tepid and opposition is increasingly inflamed, James Hohmann, July 17, 2017. Nearly six months into his presidency, only 1 in 4 Americans strongly support Trump, a Post/ABC News poll finds. Unlike former president Barack Obama, Trump’s approval leans more heavily on his strong backers. THE BIG IDEA: President Trump is not Teflon, and the conventional wisdom that “nothing matters” is wrong.
A fresh Washington Post/ABC News poll underscores the softness of Trump’s support as he prepares to mark six months in the White House on Thursday. It also highlights a growing intensity gap. Support for the president is more tepid, but opposition is increasingly inflamed.
The president’s overall approval rating has slipped to 36 percent from 42 percent in April. For context, George W. Bush (shown in an official photo) and Barack Obama both held 59 percent approval ratings in Post/ABC polls conducted around their six-month anniversaries. For context, George W. Bush and Barack Obama both held 59 percent approval ratings in Post/ABC polls conducted around their six-month anniversaries.
Washington Post, Trump’s treasury secretary is hurtling toward potential debt-limit fiasco, Damian Paletta, July 17, 2017. Steven Mnuchin’s struggles to win support in Congress or the White House for his strategy to raise the federal debt ceiling are casting doubt on whether the political neophyte has the Washington clout to win approval of a measure that could be necessary to avoid a historic, market-rattling default on U.S. government debt.
New York Times Letter to the Editor, How We Can Secure Our Election Process, Jonathan D. Simon (shown in file photo), July 17, 2017 (print edition). Re “The Real Threat to Election Integrity” (editorial, July 9): As one of the small cadre of Cassandras who have long been warning about this vulnerability, I must question the narrowness of your view of potential meddlers. You identify “hostile nations like Russia” or “hostile groups like ISIS,” but make no mention of homegrown people and groups having more than a rooting interest in who controls the American government.
The reality is that we may wind up protecting our computers against outside intruders while leaving them as vulnerable as ever to insiders, working at, with or through the handful of private companies to which we have outsourced this bedrock protocol of our democracy. The computers are likewise vulnerable to anyone with an insider pathway and the funds to buy their services.
If we are to stop short of hand counting, then at the very least we must mandate uniform, public, risk-limiting audits, performed on election night. Anything short of that is to secure the windows of our electoral house while leaving the front door wide open.
Jonathan D. Simon, the writer, is executive director of Election Defense Alliance and the author of “Code Red: Computerized Election Theft and The New American Century.”
Washington Post, Vice chair of Trump’s voting commission wants to add new requirements for voting, email shows, Christopher Ingraham, July 17, 2017. Kris Kobach (shown in a file photo) in November told the Trump transition team of a proposal to change federal law to allow stricter requirements on voter registration.
Cops and Courts Around the U.S.
Washington Post, Minneapolis police officer fatally shoots Australian bride-to-be under mysterious circumstances, Katie Mettler, Kristine Phillips and Mark Berman, July 17, 2017. Australia native Justine Damond, 40, who was set to marry her fiance in August, was fatally shot by a police officer on Saturday, July 16. Few details have been revealed about the incident. Here’s what we know.
Washington Post, Jeff Sessions wants police to take more cash from American citizens, Christopher Ingraham, July 17, 2017. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday said he’d be issuing a new directive this week aimed at increasing police seizures of cash and property. “We hope to issue this week a new directive on asset forfeiture — especially for drug traffickers,” Sessions said in his prepared remarks for a speech to the National District Attorney’s Association in Minneapolis.
Media Matters via National Memo, Pro-Trump Troll Says He’s Doing “Performance Art” As Gateway Pundit’s White House Correspondent, Staff report, July 17, 2017 The Gateway Pundit’s Lucian Wintrich said he’s doing “performance art” as a White House correspondent in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette profile, reinforcing that his role is less of a journalist and more of a sycophantic troll. Wintrich, who was behind the “Twinks4Trump” photography exhibit, was hired by the far-right fringe (and often wrong) political blog The Gateway Pundit as its White House correspondent in February.
Since then, Wintrich has adopted the Trump administration’s playbook for delegitimizing the media, including referring to anything critical reported about the administration as fake news and attacking media organizations like CNN. This coincided with the propaganda effort by the Trump administration to rely on pro-Trump shills to spread its message. Additionally, according to The Hollywood Reporter, Wintrich admitted that “Half of what I do — well, on social media specifically — is f—ing with people.”
Future of Freedom Foundation, Opinion from Libertarian-Right: A Mainstream Dose of Reality on Iraq, Jacob G. Hornberger, July 17, 2017. Ever since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, we have been hit with a multiplicity of bromides, myths, falsehoods, and deceptions by U.S. officials and the mainstream media. “Saddam was coming to get us with his WMDs.” “Mushroom clouds were going to start appearing over U.S. cities.” “The troops in Iraq are defending our freedoms.” The troops are bringing freedom and democracy to Iraq.” “Occupation Iraqi Freedom is going to produce a paradise of freedom and prosperity.”
And then every once in a while a small dose of reality about Iraq creeps into the mainstream media, which is what happened in the July 15, 2017, issue of the New York Times. The Times’ article pointed out what we here at FFF have been saying about Iraq for the past 15 years: that the winner of the U.S-Iraq War in 2003 was … Iran! Yes, Iran, the country that the U.S. government ranks among the top of its official-enemies list. The title of the article says it all: “Iran Dominates in Iraq After U.S. “Handed the Country Over.”
Rather sad and pathetic, I’d say, considering 4,500 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq and more than $1 trillion in U.S. taxpayer money were spent on the invasion and occupation.
I wonder how many Americans realize that U.S. troops are now back in Iraq, helping to fortify the Iran-aligned Islamic regime they installed and protected for 8 years? How can anyone in his right mind still be an interventionist, especially after the U.S. interventions in Iraq … and Libya … and Syria … and Iran … and Iraq … and Afghanistan … and Guatemala … and Chile … and dozens of other countries?
Trump Vacation Problems
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), CREW to get Mar-a-Lago visitor records, Jordan Libowitz, July 17, 2017. As part of ongoing litigation brought by CREW, the National Security Archive (NSA) and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will turn over visitor logs for President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence. CREW will publicly release the visitor logs upon receiving them by September 8th. “The public deserves to know who is coming to meet with the president and his staff,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said. “We are glad that as a result of this case, this information will become public for meetings at his his personal residences—but it needs to be public for meetings at the White House as well.”
CREW, NSA and Knight sued for the release of visitor logs from the White House, Mar-a-Lago and Trump Tower. DHS claims to have no records of visitors at Trump Tower. The lawsuit is ongoing for the White House. The Obama administration began releasing White House visitor logs in September 2009 to settle four lawsuits.
Washington Post, Coast Guard will start kicking boats off Potomac River when Trump is golfing, Peter Jamison, July 17, 2017.Canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, sailboats, jet-skis, motorboats and anglers will be periodically cleared off the roughly two miles of waterway along Trump National Golf Course as part of the new “security zone.” The Trump family has offended many sectors of establishment Washington since their arrival in the nation’s capital, from Langley’s spymasters to mansion-dwellers in the District’s Kalorama neighborhood.
But 30 miles north of the White House, a conflict is now brewing on the banks of the Potomac River that pits the president’s interests against those of a very different — if no less zealous — constituency. This one is armed with paddles. Citing security concerns, the Coast Guard says it is adopting a policy of periodically cutting off access to roughly two miles of the Potomac where it borders Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va.
The restrictions would clear the water of canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, sailboats, Jet Skis, motorboats and anglers when Trump or other senior officials of his government decide to spend a day on the back nine. The buffer zone is stoking concern and opposition among recreational users of the river. The proposed shore-to-shore security area includes Riley’s Lock, the embarkation point for a popular summer camp and a kayaking program for wounded and disabled veterans.
McCain Recovery Delays Health Vote
New York Times, McCain’s Surgery May Be More Serious Than Thought, Denise Grady and Robert Pear, July 17, 2017 (print edition). The condition for which Senator John McCain had surgery on Friday may be more serious than initial descriptions have implied, and it may delay his return to Washington by at least a week or two, medical experts said on Sunday. The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, has already announced that votes on a bill to dismantle the Affordable Care Act will not begin until Mr. McCain’s return. The statement from Mr. McCain’s office said a two-inch blood clot was removed from “above his left eye” at the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix, “following a routine annual physical.”
New York Times, Government Ethics Chief Urges Major Changes on His Way Out, Eric Lipton and Nicholas Fandos, July 17, 2017. As director of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter M. Shaub Jr. has often gone head-to-head with the Trump administration over conflicts of interest. Actions by President Trump and his administration have created a historic ethics crisis, the departing head of the Office of Government Ethics said. He called for major changes in federal law to expand the power and reach of the oversight office and combat the threat.
Walter M. Shaub Jr., who is resigning as the federal government’s top ethics watchdog on Tuesday, said the Trump administration had flouted or directly challenged long-accepted norms in a way that threatened to undermine the United States’ ethical standards, which have been admired around the world. “It’s hard for the United States to pursue international anticorruption and ethics initiatives when we’re not even keeping our own side of the street clean.
It affects our credibility,” Mr. Shaub (shown in an official photo) said in a two-hour interview this past weekend — a weekend Mr. Trump let the world know he was spending at a family-owned golf club that was being paid to host the U.S. Women’s Open tournament. “I think we are pretty close to a laughingstock at this point.”
Mr. Shaub called for nearly a dozen legal changes to strengthen the federal ethics system: changes that, in many cases, he had not considered necessary before Mr. Trump’s election. Every other president since the 1970s, Republican or Democrat, worked closely with the ethics office, he said.
A White House official dismissed the criticism, saying on Sunday that Mr. Shaub was simply promoting himself and had failed to do his job properly. “Mr. Schaub’s penchant for raising concerns on matters well outside his scope with the media before ever raising them with the White House — which happens to be his actual day job — is rather telling,” Lindsay E. Walters, a White House spokeswoman, said in a statement that misspelled Mr. Shaub’s name. “The truth is, Mr. Schaub is not interested in advising the executive branch on ethics. He’s interested in grandstanding and lobbying for more expansive powers in the office he holds.”
Mr. Trump’s repeated trips to his family’s business properties — he has visited one of them on at least 54 days since moving into the White House nearly six months ago, including nearly 40 stops at a family golf course — have caused discomfort for Mr. Shaub each time.
Washington Post, Trump is killing the Republican Party, Joe Scarborough, July 16, 2017. When the GOP dies, the two-party duopoly that has strangled American politics for almost two centuries will finally end, too. I did not leave the Republican Party. The Republican Party left its senses. The political movement that once stood athwart history resisting bloated government and military adventurism has been reduced to an amalgam of talk-radio resentments. President Trump’s Republicans have devolved into a party without a cause, dominated by a leader hopelessly ill-informed about the basics of conservatism, U.S. history and the Constitution.
Global News: Middle East
Washington Post, UAE was behind cyberattack on Qatar that led to crisis, U.S. officials say, Karen DeYoung and Ellen Nakashima, July 16, 2017. It remains unclear whether the United Arab Emirates carried out the May hacks — in which incendiary false quotes attributed to Qatar’s emir were posted — itself or contracted to have them done, U.S. intelligence officials said. The incident led to a trade and diplomatic boycott, and sent the Persian Gulf into a political and diplomatic tailspin.
Haraatz, Netanyahu: Israel Opposes Cease-fire Deal Reached by U.S. and Russia in Southern Syria, Barak Ravid, July 16, 2017. Truce deal ‘very bad,’ senior official says. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters after his meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday that Israel opposes the cease-fire agreement in southern Syria that the United States and Russia reached because it perpetuates the Iranian presence in the country. The prime minister noted that in his meeting with Macron, he made it clear to the French president that Israel was totally opposed to the cease-fire plan.
By openly voicing his opposition to one of the most significant moves the United States and Russia have made in Syria in recent months, Netanyahu (shown in a file photo) made public a major disagreement between Israel and the two great powers that had until now been kept under wraps and expressed only through quiet diplomatic channels.
U.S. President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin agreed on the cease-fire on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg last week. In a tweet published shortly after the truce came into effect last week, Trump tweeted: “We negotiated a ceasefire in parts of Syria which will save lives. Now it is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia!”
The U.S.-Russian deal included establishing de-escalation zones, otherwise known as safe zones, along Syria’s borders with both Jordan and Israel. Over the past month, Israel had held talks on this agreement with senior American officials, including Brett McGurk, America’s special envoy for the battle against ISIS, and Michael Ratney, the special envoy for Syria, both of whom visited Israel several times.
During these talks, Israel presented a list of demands and voiced several reservations about the emerging agreement. Inter alia, Israel said that the de-escalation zones must keep Iran, Hezbollah and other Shi’ite militias away from the Israeli and Jordanian borders and must not enable Iran to consolidate its presence in Syria. Israel also told the Americans it objected to having Russian troops policing the cease-fire in the safe zones near its border.
New York Times, Comey’s Writing a Book, and Publishers Are Eager to Buy It, Alexandra Alter, July 16, 2017 (print edition). The former F.B.I. director James B. Comey’s book, which will address his run-ins with President Trump and other moments, is expected to go to auction this coming week. James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director who was fired in May by President Trump, is writing a book about his experience in public service, including his tumultuous and brief tenure in the Trump administration.
Mr. Comey (shown in a file photo) has been meeting with editors and publishers in New York in recent days, and is being represented by Keith Urbahn and Matt Latimer, partners at the literary agency Javelin. The book is expected to go to auction this coming week, and all the major publishing houses have expressed keen interest, Mr. Latimer said.
The book will not be a conventional tell-all memoir, but an exploration of the principles that have guided Mr. Comey through some of the most challenging moments of his legal career. Among those are his investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server during a contentious election, and his recent entanglement with the president over the F.B.I.’s inquiry into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
“It’s a book about leadership and his search for truth, informed by lessons and experiences he’s had throughout his career, including his recent experiences in the Trump administration,” said Mr. Latimer, whose agency also represents Tucker Carlson and Donna Brazile. “It will speak to a broader desire in our country for more ethical leadership.
Palmer Report, Opinion from Left: Does America want Donald Trump out of office badly enough to make a deal with the devil? Bill Palmer, July 16, 2017. What if Donald Trump wakes up tomorrow and decides it’s time to declare bankruptcy on his failed presidency, like he does with his failed businesses? What if he offers to resign in exchange for neither he nor his family facing any prison time? Who knows if America is ready to make that deal with him. But even more oddly, it’s not even clear how such a deal could work.
New York Times, Do Spy Agencies Hold Answer to Dag Hammarskjold’s Death? U.N. Wants to Know, Alan Cowell and Rick Gladstone, July 15, 2017. Mr. Hammarskjold and 15 others died in a plane crash in Ndola, Northern Rhodesia. After 56 years and many investigations, there is new hope that secrets lurking in Western intelligence archives could solve the biggest whodunit in United Nations history: the mysterious death of Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold (shown below, sitting at his desk).
Whether the keepers of those archives will allow access remains an open question. Mr. Hammarskjold, an iconic Swedish diplomat who was the second secretary general of the world body, died with 15 others when their plane, a chartered DC-6, crashed just after midnight on Sept. 18, 1961, minutes from its destination: an airfield in Ndola, in what was then the British protectorate of Northern Rhodesia and is now Zambia.
The three official inquiries that immediately followed suggested pilot error was the cause, but the third of the reports, by the United Nations Commission of Investigation in 1962, said sabotage could not be ruled out. That possibility helped feed suspicions and conspiracy theories that Mr. Hammarskjold, 56 at the time of his death, had been assassinated.
Since then, independent investigators and academics have spent years collecting and scrutinizing evidence that had been dismissed or suppressed, bolstering the theory of foul play. In her 2011 book “Who Killed Hammarskjold?,” Susan Williams, a University of London scholar of African decolonization, concluded that “whatever the details, his death was almost certainly the result of a sinister intervention.”
High-Tech Communications Policy
Wall Street Journal, Unlocking the Airwaves: Gregory L. Rosston reviews ‘The Political Spectrum’ by Thomas Winslow Hazlett, July 16, 2017. In regulating radio, the FCC enacted rules nominally in the public interest, but which actually enriched specific interest groups. Americans enjoy unprecedented choice in communications technology. We have millions of options for digital entertainment, keep a universe of information in our back pockets and can call nearly anywhere on earth for a pittance. To most consumers, government seems a minor player. So what’s wrong with communications regulation? As Thomas Hazlett explains in “The Political Spectrum,” there are many problems, and they have enormous consequences.
Reason Magazine, McCain and the Trump-Russia Dossier: What Did He Know, and When? Elizabeth Nolan Brown, July 16, 2017. A British spy. An Arizona senator. And one inflammatory dossier on Donald Trump. The connection between them is starting to unravel…Did John McCain and a controversial D.C. lobbying group conspire to get the infamous “pee dossier” into the hands of the press?
A lawsuit making its way through court in the UK hopes to determine just what role the senator and his associates had in making the lurid dossier public. New filings in the lawsuit, obtained by McClatchy, detail how David Kramer — employed by the nonprofit and purportedly non-political McCain Institute—acted as a representative of McCain in the Arizona senator’s dealings on sensitive intelligence measures. It also reveals that McCain was one of a just few people with whom the dossier’s author, ex-British spy Christopher Steele, shared a copy of his final findings. So how did they get from there to publication in Buzzfeed?
One possible — and intriguing — pathway lies with Orion Strategies, a group known for using the media and the McCain machinery to lobby on behalf of foreign governments. While the Steele suit doesn’t mention Orion, a closer look at the two-man lobbying shop showcases too-close-for-comfort ties to many principal players in the dossier’s leak and a long history of influencing McCain policy and press coverage when it comes to Russia-related issues.
By now we know the basics behind the dubious document: it was prepared by Steele in December, largely from work done between June and November 2016 for Fusion GPS, a D.C.-based political consulting firm. Fusion was paid first by anti-Trump Republicans and later by Hillary Clinton supporters to produce evidence of Trump’s alleged financial and political ties to Russia.
In January 2017, a leaked copy of the dossier was published by Buzzfeed, under the editorial direction of Ben Smith. Smith said the document was obtained by reporter Ken Bensinger and vociferously defended Buzzfeed’s decision to run a document it called “not just unconfirmed” but also inclusive of “clear” errors. “This was a real story about a real document that was really being passed around between the very top officials of this country,” Smith said on Meet the Press.
It was McCain who gave the FBI the dossier, in December. It alleges the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin to “hack” the U.S. election. “The Russian regime had been behind the leak of embarrassing email messages emanating from the Democratic National Committee (DNC), to the Wikileaks platform,” and as a result Trump had agreed to “sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue,” the dossier claimed. It also claimed Trump had personally commissioned a “golden showers” show from Russian sex workers.
McCain’s well-known feud with Trump, his longtime advocacy against Russia, and a possible personal beef with the firm behind the dossier—Fusion was also paid by Russia to push for the repeal of sanctions authored by McCain as part of the Magnitsky Act—provide reason to suspect altruism may not have been McCain’s sole motive.
Roll Call, McConnell Delays Obamacare Rollback While McCain Recovers From Surgery, Niels Lesniewski, July 15, 2017. Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (shown at right) is staying in Arizona next week, recovering from surgery to remove a blood clot, which will delay action on rolling back the 2010 health care law.
“Senator McCain received excellent treatment at Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix, and appreciates the tremendous professionalism and care by its doctors and staff. He is in good spirits and recovering comfortably at home with his family,” McCain’s office said in a statement. “On the advice of his doctors, Senator McCain will be recovering in Arizona next week.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, McCain is in good condition and resting at his home. His surgery took place on Friday. “Following a routine annual physical, Sen. John McCain underwent a procedure to remove a blood clot from above his left eye on Friday, July 14 at Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix. Surgeons successfully removed the 5-cm blood clot during a minimally invasive craniotomy with an eyebrow incision,” the Mayo Clinic said in a statement. “Tissue pathology reports are pending within the next several days.”
McCain’s absence from the Capitol would have changed the calculation for the week’s business, because it would have complicated the already tight math for the effort to repeal and replace the 2010 health care law. Following that announcement, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a statement sending best wishes to the Arizona Republican that also included the news that the health care legislation will be delayed.
White House Chronicle, A Plea to Start Again on the Whole Issue of Health Care, Llewellyn King (shown above), July 15, 2017. The process now underway in Congress to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) reminds me of what would happen if you tried to thread a small darning needle with a strand of bulky yarn: It won’t go through the eye. The more you try to pull the strand through the eye, the less useful the yarn coming through it will be. Therefore, isn’t it time to reconsider the whole proposition as though there were no Obamacare, no House version of its replacement, and no preconceived objective beyond affordable care for all?
Congress Must Assert Its Constitutional Duty For War Policy
Washington Post, Opinion From the Right: Congress is fleeing its warmaking responsibilities, George F. Will (shown below in a file photo), July 15, 2017. The United States needs a clear authorization of military force. Congress is in perpetual flight from responsibility. It should begin by revisiting the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which was enacted while the World Trade Center and Pentagon still smoldered.
The AUMF authorized the president to “use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations, or persons.”
As Rosa Brooks, a former Pentagon official and now Georgetown University law professor, crisply notes, five and three of those words especially matter. In her simultaneously witty and disturbing book “How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything” (2016), Brooks notes that the AUMF does not authorize force “against anyone, anywhere, anytime” but only against those who “planned, authorized, committed or aided” 9/11. And it authorizes force for a specific purpose — to “prevent any future acts” against this nation by such entities, “not to prevent all future bad acts committed by anyone, anywhere.”
Last month, the House Appropriations Committee voted — by voice, perhaps unanimously — to include in a defense measure a provision repealing the 16-year-old AUMF, for the purpose of forcing the writing of one responsive to 2017 realities.
Washington Post, Trump campaign paid firm of lawyer representing Trump Jr. before emails were made public, Mark Berman and Matea Gold, July 15, 2017. President Trump’s campaign committee made a payment to the law firm of an attorney representing Donald Trump Jr. last month, nearly two weeks before it was announced that the same attorney would be representing the president’s son in Russia-related probes, according to a campaign finance report filed Saturday. The committee reported in the filing to the Federal Election Commission that it paid $50,000 to the law firm of attorney Alan Futerfas on June 27. That payment was made 13 days before it was publicly revealed that Futerfas would represent Trump’s eldest son in the Russia investigations.
News of the payment came as controversy has swirled in recent days around Trump Jr. and a meeting he held in June 2016 with a Kremlin-connected lawyer who was said to have potentially damaging information about Hillary Clinton, the Democratic opponent of Trump’s father in the presidential election.
The filing also revealed that the campaign committee paid the Trump Corporation — a company being run by Trump Jr. and his brother Eric — more than $89,000 on June 30 for “legal consulting.” While the campaign committee has reimbursed Trump entities for services such as rent, air travel and hotel expenses in the past, it has not reported payments for legal fees, according to Federal Election Commission data.
The Trump campaign committee filing Saturday also showed that the committee paid legal fees to Jones Day, which served as the campaign’s principal law firm throughout the election. The firm was paid $538,265 between early May and late June, according to the filing. The huge legal outlays by Trump’s campaign committee came as it has been repeatedly tapping Trump’s small donor base for contributions, exhorting them in emails and text messages to give money to help the president fight the political establishment and “fake news.”
Trump supporters poured $13.4 million into three Trump committees between April 1 and June 30, including $5.9 million that went to his principal campaign committee. During the same period, that committee spent $4.37 million, including $677,000 on legal expenses.
World Crisis Radio, Opinion from the Left: A Turning Point in Modern U.S. and World History: The Tide Has Turned Against the Current Administration, Webster Tarpley (shown in file photo), July 14, 2017. The Siegfried Line for the Trump people was: “It’s a withhunt. It’s fake news. It’s not true. It’s the fake new news media. It’s a ruse concocted by the Democrats because they lost the election….There was a stonewall line of defense here, based on this stuff, “witchhunt, fake news, ‘I had nothing to do with Russia’…and this has now come crashing down. It’s a debacle for them. It’s a catastrophe. A lot of their stuff has now become useless.”
Palmer Report, Opinion from Left: Jared Kushner’s attorney Jamie Gorelick quits after she realizes she can’t keep him out of prison, Bill Palmer, July 15, 2017. Earlier today, after the news broke that a Russian spy had also been in the meeting with the Donald Trump campaign, I wrote that Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort may no longer be able to keep themselves out of prison (link). Sure enough, hours later, it was announced that Kushner’s attorney Jamie Gorelick will no longer be representing him in the Russia scandal (source: Politico). And that tells us a lot.
Jared Kushner (shown at right) is on the hook for a felony for lying on the security clearance forms, while Paul Manafort is on the hook for a felony for having taken money from a foreign government intermediary without registering as a foreign agent. They each appear to have confessed to the Feds at some point about the Donald Trump Jr. meeting (and their participation in it) as a last ditch effort at staying out of prison. But it’s increasingly looking like they weren’t fully honest about the nature of the meeting, or who attended. If they lied during their respective attempts at getting themselves off the legal hook, they’re sunk.
Miami Herald, Opinion from the Left: Who cares what’s wrong with Donald Trump? What’s wrong with us? Leonard Pitts, Jr., July 15, 2017. So here we are, six months later. On Thursday, we will be half a year through the Trump Era. And, contrary to his signature promise, America seems less great by the day. Nor are his other promises faring particularly well.
This has been said a million times: Donald Trump is a lying, narcissistic, manifestly incompetent child man who is as dumb as a sack of mackerel. But he is the president of the United States because 63 million people preferred that to facing inevitable cultural change. So I am done asking — or caring — what’s wrong with him.
Six months in, it’s time we grappled a far more important question. What in the world is wrong with us?
Washington Post, Revised Senate health-care bill still lacks the votes to pass, Sean Sullivan, Kelsey Snell and Juliet Eilperin, July 14, 2017 (print edition. The Senate GOP’s latest attempt to rewrite the Affordable Care Act showed few signs of gaining traction, further imperiling the party’s quest to overhaul Barack Obama’s 2010 law. At least three Republican senators said they remained opposed to bringing up the revised bill, while two rank-and-file Republicans announced intentions to offer their own plan just as leaders released an updated bill.
More Trump Initiatives
Washington Post, White House weighs dramatically expanding DHS powers to expedite deportations, Abigail Hauslohner and David Nakamura, July 14, 2017.A proposal would empower the agency to speed up the removal of illegal immigrants apprehended anywhere in the United States who cannot prove they have lived in the country continuously for more than 90 days, according to an internal memo obtained by The Post.
New York Times, Governors on Both Sides Strongly Oppose Health Bill, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, July 14, 2017. The nation’s governors, gathered for their annual conference, came out against the latest bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act – but for very different reasons. Opposition came not only from Democrats, but also from Republicans, who said the legislation did not go far enough.
Trump Family’s Russia Scandal
Washington Post, Russian American lobbyist was at Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russian lawyer, Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger, July 14, 2017. Rinat Akhmetshin confirmed that he was in the room for a June 2016 meeting between President Trump’s oldest son and a Kremlin-connected attorney. His presence adds to the number of people at the Trump Tower gathering that emerged this week as the clearest evidence to date of interactions between Trump campaign officials and Russia.
Washington Post, Trump set to bring in new attorney to manage response to Russia investigation, Carol D. Leonnig, July 14, 2017. Ty Cobb, a former prosecutor and defense lawyer at Hogan Lovells, will seek to play the role of crisis manager and disciplinarian in the White House.
HuffPo, GOP Congressman: Donald Trump Should Remove His Kids From The White House, Lee Moran, July 14, 2017. It would be in Trump’s “best interest” if he “removed all of his children from the White House,” Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas) told local news outlet KBTX on Wednesday. “Not only Donald Trump [Jr.], but Ivanka [Trump] and [son-in-law] Jared Kushner (shown in a file photo),” Flores said. “I wish that he would get them out of the way so that we could have a professional staff at the White House on policy issues.”
Washington Post, Ivanka Inc., The first daughter talks about improving the lives of working women. Her father exhorts companies to “buy American and hire American,” Matea Gold, Drew Harwell, Maher Sattar, Simon Denyer, July 14, 2017. But her fashion line’s practices collide with those principles — and are out of step with industry trends.
Travelers Win “Cloud” Cellphone Privacy Right
Washington Post, Travelers just won back a bit of their privacy at the border, Brian Fung, July 14, 2017. U.S. customs officials are a bit more limited in their searches than you might think. Travelers worried about having their smartphones or other electronic devices searched when they enter the United States can breathe a small sigh of relief: U.S. customs agents may be more limited than previously thought in their ability to browse the contents of your phone.
Border officials can only look through the portions of your phone in which data has been kept locally on the device’s physical storage, according to a letter from Customs and Border Protection to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a privacy advocate. The letter was first reported by NBC News. Under the policy, a border search can legally include any downloaded text messages, contacts or notes on a device. But it forbids any search that would require a border official to request data from a remote server — that is, social media accounts, online storage services or other cloud-based applications.
Suit Pressures Trump Officials To Provide Legal Basis For Syrian Bombing
Politico, Judge expedites requests for legal basis of Trump Syria strikes, Josh Gerstein, July 14, 2017. A judge has ruled that a watchdog group is entitled to quick answers to queries seeking the legal justification for the flurry of missile strikes President Donald Trump launched against Syria in April. U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Cooper ordered three federal agencies — the State Department, the Defense Department and the Justice Department — to expedite their responses to Freedom of Information Act requests the Protect Democracy Project filed the day after the attacks.
Cooper turned down the liberal group’s request to force the agencies to respond by a specific date and he has not yet ruled on whether the agencies may be able to withhold some or all of the records of legal advice related to the strikes, which Trump ordered in response to alleged Syrian use of chemical weapons against civilians. However, the judge said the organization had shown a “compelling need” to jump ahead of those seeking information on other matters, in part because there are signs Trump might strike Syria again in the near future.
Media Coverage of War
Washington Post, Russia will be back. Here’s how to hack-proof the next election, Tom Donilon, July 14, 2017. So far, Putin has paid too small a price for last year’s interference to deter him in the future. Tom Donilon was national security adviser to President Barack Obama from 2010 to 2013. In 2016, he chaired the President’s Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity. We now know that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a comprehensive effort to interfere with the 2016 presidential election. This mission involved the cybertheft and strategic publication of politically sensitive emails, the placement and amplification of misinformation on social media, overt propaganda and efforts to penetrate the systems of dozens of state election authorities.
This is not speculation or political posturing; it is the public and high-confidence conclusion of the U.S. intelligence community. And it is wholly consistent with past Soviet and Russian use of “active measures” — intelligence operations meant to shape an adversary’s political decisions — with the strategic goal of undermining the integrity of and confidence in the West. Modern technology has only increased the speed, scale and efficacy of such actions. Here are five concrete steps the United States should take to meet this ongoing threat to our democracy:
Antiwar.com, Behind the Headlines: Tucker Carlson, Neocon Slayer, Justin Raimondo, July 14, 2017. He scores two takedowns in two days. Fox News host Tucker Carlson, whose show is a shining light of reason in a fast-darkening world, has performed a public service by demolishing both Ralph Peters and Max Boot on successive shows. But these two encounters with evil weren’t just fun to watch, they’re also highly instructive for what they tell us about the essential weakness of the War Party and its failing strategy for winning over the American people.
Tribute To Journalist
CounterPunch, The Passing of Meg Laughlin: a Journalist Who Truly Cared for Truth and Justice, Sami Al-Arian, July 14, 2017.
Dr. Sami Al-Arian is a Palestinian academic and intellectual. He lived for four decades in the U.S. before relocating to Turkey in 2015.
Because of his long activism for the Palestinian cause and defending human and civil rights, he was a political prisoner in the U.S. and spent over a decade in prison and under house arrest until the charges were dropped in 2014.
One of the nicest and kindest human beings passed away on July 12. Meg Laughlin represented the best America has to offer. A serious journalist who dedicated her life to seeking the truth, exposing injustices, and holding the government to account. She was the only person in 2005 – aside from the court teams – to attend every day of my trial for over 6 months.
Because she came from out of town and was not exposed to the biases of the case, she was specifically hired from the Miami Herald to cover my trial in Tampa by the St. Petersburg Times. For over a decade, the Times was under tremendous pressure from pro-Israeli groups to change reporters because every time the paper assigned a reporter the coverage was fair and exposed the underhanded tactics and lies of the other side, as well as the political nature of the campaign to demonize our community [she came after reporters Jim Harper (reporting during 1995-1997) and Susan Aschoff (reporting during 1997-2003) were viciously attacked by pro-Israeli groups because of their fair reporting.]
Her exceptional coverage of the trial was a great relief from the incessant attacks, and the lies and deceit by the government and other media outlets.
Shortly after the end of the trial, she was the only reporter who was able to reach the jury and confirm that the majority of the jury (10 to 2) were in favor of total acquittal on the deadlocked counts (the distinguishing feature of the two jurors who refused to deliberate the remaining counts was that they were avid readers of the Tampa Tribune, the paper that demonized us for years. Ironically, a decade later the Times would buy out the Tribune and shut it down). Meg was featured in the 2007 award-winning documentary USA vs Al-Arian and freely stated her opinion on how the case lacked any real evidence for the alleged counts.
Those who knew her are sad today and will shed a tear. But the love and respect they have for her will bring a smile for knowing her. And her memory will forever endure. May God have mercy on her soul. She will be dearly missed.
Official Corruption Around the Nation: New York
New York Times, Silver’s Reprieve a Reminder That Albany’s ‘Watergate Moment’ Didn’t Stick, Jesse McKinley, July 14, 2017. The news that former New York General Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver had won a reprieve — a federal appeals overturned his conviction on Thursday — only served as a reminder that, for hopeful reformers, the result of the scandals has been more Waterloo than Watergate.
Miami Herald, Judge orders medical examiner to release skin tissue in autopsy of inmate’s shower death, Julie K. Brown, July 14, 2017. A federal judge on Friday ordered the Miami-Dade medical examiner to release key evidence in the autopsy of a mentally ill inmate suspected of being scalded to death in a shower at Dade Correctional Institution. U.S. Magistrate Alicia M. Otazo-Reyes said re-cuts of the inmate’s skin tissue as well as other organs must be sent within 10 days to the victim’s family, as well as two other experts hired by plaintiffs in the case.
The court showdown over autopsy evidence was held after Miami-Dade County officials failed to comply with a subpoena requiring them to send the specimens to an expert hired by his family. County attorneys, citing a provision of the Florida Administrative Code, say that any inspection of tissue samples has to be done in the medical examiner’s office, where the examination would be “supervised.”
The hearing is part of a federal civil rights lawsuit filed against the state and others by Darren Rainey‘s family. The family claims that Rainey, 50 (shown in a government mug shot), was burned over 90 percent of his body, and his temperature registered over 104 degrees after he was found dead in a shower at Dade Correctional Institution in 2012.
The lawsuit alleges that Rainey — diagnosed with severe schizophrenia — was tortured by corrections officers who used a “shower treatment”’ against him and other mentally ill inmates at the prison. It claims the Florida Department of Corrections and Corizon, the firm responsible for the prison’s healthcare at the time of Rainey’s death, not only knew that mentally ill inmates were being abused at the prison, but allowed staff to cover it up.
Media: Political Assassination Research and Events
Black Op Radio, 2017 Research Conferences, Host Len Osanic interviewed reporter, author and CAPA Director Andrew Kreig on July 14, 2017. The topic was recent and upcoming conferences featuring research on the assassinations of President Kennedy and his brother Robert Kennedy. Other recent and upcoming shows, each featured for a week after live launch at 6 p.m. Thursdays Pacific Times are:
845 Mark de Valk JFK Research July 28
844 Oliver Stone The Putin Interviews July 21
843 Andrew Kreig 2017 Research Events July 14
842 Jim DiEugenio JFK Research July 6
841 Scott Enyart / Randy Benson RFK / “The Searchers” film
New Republic, Trump’s Russian Laundromat, Craig Unger, July 13, 2017. How to use Trump Tower and other luxury high-rises to clean dirty money, run an international crime syndicate, and propel a failed real estate developer into the White House.
Since Trump’s election as president, his ties to Russia have become the focus of intense scrutiny, most of which has centered on whether his inner circle colluded with Russia to subvert the U.S. election. A growing chorus in Congress is also asking pointed questions about how the president built his business empire. Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has called for a deeper inquiry into “Russian investment in Trump’s businesses and properties.”
The very nature of Trump’s businesses — all of which are privately held, with few reporting requirements — makes it difficult to root out the truth about his financial deals. And the world of Russian oligarchs and organized crime, by design, is shadowy and labyrinthine. For the past three decades, state and federal investigators, as well as some of America’s best investigative journalists, have sifted through mountains of real estate records, tax filings, civil lawsuits, criminal cases, and FBI and Interpol reports, unearthing ties between Trump and Russian mobsters like Mogilevich. To date, no one has documented that Trump was even aware of any suspicious entanglements in his far-flung businesses, let alone that he was directly compromised by the Russian mafia or the corrupt oligarchs who are closely allied with the Kremlin. So far, when it comes to Trump’s ties to Russia, there is no smoking gun.
But even without an investigation by Congress or a special prosecutor, there is much we already know about the president’s debt to Russia. A review of the public record reveals a clear and disturbing pattern: Trump owes much of his business success, and by extension his presidency, to a flow of highly suspicious money from Russia. Over the past three decades, at least 13 people with known or alleged links to Russian mobsters or oligarchs have owned, lived in, and even run criminal activities out of Trump Tower and other Trump properties. Many used his apartments and casinos to launder untold millions in dirty money. Some ran a worldwide high-stakes gambling ring out of Trump Tower—in a unit directly below one owned by Trump. Others provided Trump with lucrative branding deals that required no investment on his part. Taken together, the flow of money from Russia provided Trump with a crucial infusion of financing that helped rescue his empire from ruin, burnish his image, and launch his career in television and politics. “They saved his bacon,” says Kenneth McCallion, a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Reagan administration who investigated ties between organized crime and Trump’s developments in the 1980s.
It’s entirely possible that Trump was never more than a convenient patsy for Russian oligarchs and mobsters, with his casinos and condos providing easy pass-throughs for their illicit riches. At the very least, with his constant need for new infusions of cash and his well-documented troubles with creditors, Trump made an easy “mark” for anyone looking to launder money. But whatever his knowledge about the source of his wealth, the public record makes clear that Trump built his business empire in no small part with a lot of dirty money from a lot of dirty Russians—including the dirtiest and most feared of them all.
Courts and Cops Around the Nation
Associated Press via Fox News, Soldier accused of swearing loyalty to ISIS thought US was behind 9/11, Staff report, July 13, 2017. A U.S. soldier accused of wanting to commit a mass shooting after pledging loyalty to the Islamic State (ISIS) group believed the moon landing was faked, questioned the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and thought the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were an inside job coordinated by the U.S. government, according to a former Army bunkmate.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Ikaika Kang was ordered held without bail in federal court in Honolulu Thursday after a brief detention hearing. Kang’s court-appointed attorney Birney Bervar did not contest his client’s detention but said after the hearing that he will ask for a mental health evaluation.
A “turning point” for Kang’s mental state seems to be a 2011 deployment, Bervar said: “He’s a decorated American soldier for 10 years, goes to Afghanistan and comes back and things start going off the rails.” Bervar said his client may suffer from service-related mental health issues of which the government was aware but neglected to treat. “It looks like rather than helping him, the government exploited and took advantage of him,” Bervar said.
New York Times, Sheldon Silver’s 2015 Corruption Conviction Is Overturned, Benjamin Weiser, July 13, 2017. A federal appeals court on Thursday overturned the 2015 corruption conviction of Sheldon Silver (shown in a file photo), once the powerful speaker of the New York State Assembly, saying the judge’s jury instructions were in error in light of a United States Supreme Court decision that has since narrowed the legal definition of corruption.
Mr. Silver was convicted on charges that he had obtained nearly $4 million in illicit payments in return for taking a series of official actions that benefited others. But in the jury instructions, the judge’s explanation of an official action was too broad, the appeals court found, because it swept in some conduct that the Supreme Court’s decision would now exclude. Federal prosecutors quickly vowed to retry the case, noting that the appeals court said that the evidence against Mr. Silver was legally sufficient to support a conviction.
New York Times, Silver May Start ‘Parade of Horribles’ Out of McDonnell Case, Critics Say, Alan Feuer, July 13, 2017. here was a time when political corruption might have been described — as a former Supreme Court justice once said of pornography — as something you knew when you saw it. But last summer, after the court issued a landmark decision overturning the graft conviction of Bob McDonnell, the onetime governor of Virginia, it became much harder to define what it meant for a politician to partake in an illegal quid pro quo.
After that ruling, many prosecutors and government watchdogs expressed anxiety that the court had created a safe harbor for a subtle, wink-and-nod version of corruption. The court had essentially made it legal, these critics said, for elected officials to enrich themselves by engaging in unseemly forms of transactional politics.
That argument could apply to the case of Sheldon Silver, once the mighty speaker of the New York State Assembly, whose corruption conviction was overturned by an appeals court on Thursday — among the first federal verdicts to be reversed as a result of the McDonnell decision.
Washington Post, DOJ announces charges against 400 people for $1.3 billion in health-care fraud, Sari Horwitz and Renae Merle, July 13, 2017. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced charges against 412 people for $1.3 billion in health-care fraud in a
Trump Shares Putin Excuse
New York Times, Trump Backed Off Putin to Avoid a ‘Fistfight,’ He Jokes, Maggie Haberman and Mark Landler, July 13 2017. Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, President Trump said he’d stopped questioning President Putin about interfering in the election after he’d denied it. “What do you do? End up in a fistfight?” Other headlines:
- In Paris, Trump Downplays His Son’s Meeting
- Excerpts From Trump’s Conversation With Journalists
- In Paris, Trump Stands By His Son and Praises Macron
- Trump Tells French First Lady, ‘You’re in Such Good Shape’
Washington Post, Forecast of weak economic growth raises big questions about Trump’s populist agenda, Damian Paletta, Ana Swanson and Max Ehrenfreund, July 13, 2017. President Trump’s budget would not add to economic growth or eliminate the deficit in coming years, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Thursday, casting doubt on a plan the White House has touted as central to achieving the president’s domestic agenda.
New York Times, Senate G.O.P. Leaders Unveil Health Care Bill to Try Winning Over Skeptics, Robert Pear and Thomas Kaplan, July 13, 2017. Senate Republican leaders on Thursday unveiled a fresh proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, revising their bill to help hold down insurance costs for consumers while keeping a pair of taxes on high-income people that they had planned to eliminate.
With the revised bill, the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky (shown at left), is trying to keep alive his party’s seven-year quest to dismantle the health law that is a pillar of former President Barack Obama’s legacy. Republicans said the revised bill would provide roughly $70 billion in additional funds that states could use to help reduce premiums, hold down out-of-pocket costs and otherwise make health care more affordable. The bill already included more than $100 billion for such purposes.
The new bill, like earlier versions, would convert Medicaid from an open-ended entitlement to a system of fixed payments to states. But in the event of a public health emergency, state Medicaid spending in a particular part of a state would not be counted toward the spending limits, known as per capita caps.
New York Times, Trump Lawyer Marc Kasowitz Will Apologize After Sending Email Threats, Sharon LaFraniere, July 13, 2017. Marc E. Kasowitz, President Trump’s personal lawyer, said on Thursday that he would apologize for a series of threatening and profane emails he sent to a stranger who had suggested that he resign. Mr. Kasowitz (shown in file photo) said that his response to the man was “inappropriate” and that he wished he could take back his words. The man had noticed a ProPublica report on Tuesday that alleged that Mr. Kasowitz had a history of alcohol abuse, which could rule out a security clearance necessary to defend the president in the continuing inquiry of whether Mr. Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia.
FBI Nominee’s Promise
Washington Post, FBI nominee Wray: I’d resign before improperly dropping an investigation, Ellen Nakashima and Karoun Demirjian, July 13, 2017 (print edition). Michael Wray (shown above in a file photo from his previous post at the Bush Justice Department), President Trump’s pick to lead the FBI, testified at a Senate hearing that no one has asked him for any loyalty oath as part of his nomination. “And I sure as heck didn’t offer one,” he said.
Did Russians Kill Head of ISIS?
Southfront, Syrian War Report Govt Forces Put Pressure On US-backed Militants In Southern Desert, Voiceover by Harold Hoover, July 13, 2017. The Syrian Army and its allies have been attempting to capture the Abu Khashbah area in the eastern Damascus desert. If government troops clear the militant pocket, they will significantly shorten the frontline in southeastern Syria and make another important step in the isolation of US-held garrisons at the border with Iraq.
There is no evidence that ISIS Top Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (shown above center in a file photo) is still alive, according to US Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, who currently commands the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve. However, Townsend said that he cannot confirm that the top ISIS member is dead. Since June, reports have been circulating that al-Baghadi was killed in a Russian air strike on an ISIS command post in the province of Raqqah in May.
Inside Trump World
Pro Publica, Trump Lawyer Marc Kasowitz Threatens Stranger in Emails: ‘Watch Your Back, Bitch,’ Justin Elliott, July 13, 2017. Marc Kasowitz, President Trump’s personal attorney on the Russia case, threatened a stranger in a string of profanity-laden emails Wednesday night.
The man, a retired public relations professional in the western United States who asked not to be identified, read ProPublica’s story this week on Kasowitz (shown at right in a file photo) and sent the lawyer an email with the subject line: “Resign Now.’’
Kasowitz replied with series of angry messages sent between 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. Eastern time. One read: “I’m on you now. You are fucking with me now Let’s see who you are Watch your back , bitch.” In another email, Kasowitz wrote: “Call me. Don’t be afraid, you piece of shit. Stand up. If you don’t call, you’re just afraid.” And later: “I already know where you live, I’m on you. You might as well call me. You will see me. I promise. Bro.”
The exchange began after the man saw our story featured last night on the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC. We reported that Kasowitz is not seeking a security clearance even though the Russia case involves a significant amount of classified material. Experts said Kasowitz could have trouble getting a security clearance because of what multiple sources described as a recent history of alcohol abuse. Former employees also said Kasowitz had engaged in behavior that made them uncomfortable.
Since the story was published, his spokesman issued a statement disputing several parts of the story: “Marc Kasowitz has not struggled with alcoholism,” Sitrick wrote. “He has not come into the office intoxicated, attorneys have not had to go across the street to the restaurant during the workday to consult Kasowitz on work matters.”
GOP Operative Seeking Clinton Emails Committed Suicide, Records Show
Chicago Tribune, Peter W. Smith, GOP operative who sought Clinton’s emails from Russian hackers, committed suicide, records show, Katherine Skiba, David Heinzmann and Todd Lighty, July 13, 2017. Republican donor and operative from Chicago’s North Shore who said he had tried to obtain Hillary Clinton’s missing emails from Russian hackers killed himself in a Minnesota hotel room days after talking to the Wall Street Journal about his efforts, public records show.
In a room at a Rochester hotel used almost exclusively by Mayo Clinic patients and relatives, Peter W. Smith, 81, left a carefully prepared file of documents, which includes a statement police called a suicide note in which he said he was in ill health and a life insurance policy was expiring.
Days earlier, the financier from suburban Lake Forest gave an interview to the Journal about his quest, and it published stories about his efforts beginning in late June. The Journal also reported it had seen emails written by Smith showing his team considered retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, then a top adviser to Republican Donald Trump’s campaign, as an ally. Flynn briefly was President Trump’s national security adviser and resigned after it was determined he had failed to disclose contacts with Russia.
Another Trump White House Ethics Scandal?
Center for Public Integrity, Steve Bannon misreports $2 million debt in financial disclosure, Christina Wilkie and Chris Zubak-Skees, July 13, 2017. Trump adviser to amend filing after Center for Public Integrity questions. White House Chief Strategist Stephen K. Bannon (shown in a file photo) failed to properly disclose more than $2 million in mortgage debt on his required financial disclosure form — an error that was compounded when top White House ethics officers certified that Bannon’s incomplete disclosure form was complete and complied with federal rules.
Instead of disclosing the creditors for the four home loans he reported, Bannon simply wrote “HOME LOAN” on each line of the form. Bannon’s form was the only one of more than 400 forms filed by Trump Administration appointees — and reviewed by the Center for Public Integrity and Reveal — that did not specifically list the creditors.
The reason mortgages and creditors are disclosed is to ensure that government officials and those entering government are paying market interest rates for their loans, and not receiving preferential treatment from creditors on the terms.
“What’s most significant to me about this situation is that the chief ethics officers at the White House signed off on [Bannon’s forms],” said Kathleen Clark, a professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis and an expert on government ethics. “Individuals make mistakes. The real story is how shoddy the ethics process is in the White House,” Clark said. “This raises an important question about the quality of the work that’s being done, and how careful these White House ethics officers are.”
HuffPo, Most Americans Oblivious To Extreme Hunger Crises Overseas, Jesselyn Cook, July 13, 2017. Devastating food shortages threaten millions of lives in Africa and the Middle East, but a new poll finds little interest. Twenty million people are at risk of starving to death in the crisis-afflicted countries of Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen. A staggering 85 percent of Americans don’t know that, or are only dimly aware.
A new national poll from the International Rescue Committee found that only 15 percent of registered U.S. voters know “a lot” about the extreme food shortages and near-famine conditions in Africa and the Middle East. Once briefed, however, the issue was listed as a top concern ― especially among millennials. The poll findings support United Nations data showing a trend of “public fatigue,” or a decline in interest, in global hunger crises for the first time in several years. Somalia and South Sudan, in particular, “crises which normally command high levels of public attention,” have declined in internet traffic and searches, the U.N. noted in its 2016 Data and Trends report.
Trump In Paris
RT, Trump compliments French first lady’s figure in awkward moment, Staff report, July 13, 2017. Donald Trump inspired a collective cringe after telling French President Emmanuel Macron’s wife, Brigitte, she was in “good shape,” seemingly unable to mask his shock that an older woman could be so trim. The moment was captured in a live video on Macron’s Facebook page Thursday. The Trumps and Macrons are seen chatting after visiting museums at Les Invalides. Trump turns to Brigitte Macron and tells her, “You know, you’re in such good shape,” before turning to Macron and telling him, “She’s in such good physical shape.”
Chinese Democracy Proponent Dies In Prison
New York Times, Liu Xiaobo, Chinese Dissident Who Won Nobel While Jailed, Dies at 61, Chris Buckley, July 13, 2017. Liu Xiaobo, the renegade Chinese intellectual who kept vigil at Tiananmen Square in 1989 to protect protesters from encroaching soldiers, promoted a pro-democracy charter that brought him a lengthy prison sentence and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize while locked away, died under guard in a hospital on Thursday. He was 61.The Bureau of Justice in Shenyang, the city in northeastern China where Mr. Liu was being treated for liver cancer, announced his death on its website.
JIP Editor’s Note: An operation called “Your News Wire,” has published the following report, CIA Agent Confesses On Deathbed: ‘We Blew Up WTC7 On 9/11,’ Baxter Dmitry, July 13, 2017. Even serious skeptics of the official versions of the 9/11 attacks believe this report is click-bait “fake news” designed as either a horrid joke or cruel disinformation to distract and confuse the public.
McClatchy Washington Bureau, Trump-Russia investigators probe Jared Kushner-run digital operation, Peter Stone and Greg Gordon, July 12, 2017. Investigators at the House and Senate Intelligence committees and the Justice Department are examining whether the Trump campaign’s digital operation – overseen by Jared Kushner – helped guide Russia’s sophisticated voter targeting and fake news attacks on Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Congressional and Justice Department investigators are focusing on whether Trump’s campaign pointed Russian cyber operatives to certain voting jurisdictions in key states – areas where Trump’s digital team and Republican operatives were spotting unexpected weakness in voter support for Hillary Clinton, according to several people familiar with the parallel inquiries.
Also under scrutiny is the question of whether Trump associates or campaign aides had any role in assisting the Russians in publicly releasing thousands of emails, hacked from the accounts of top Democrats, at turning points in the presidential race, mainly through the London-based transparency web site WikiLeaks. Rep. Adam Schiff of California, ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told McClatchy he wants to know whether Russia’s “fake or damaging news stories” were “coordinated in any way in terms of targeting or in terms of timing or in terms of any other measure … with the (Trump) campaign.”
New York Times, Republicans Are Failing at Governing. And They Know It, Carl Hulse, July 12, 2017. The decision to sacrifice some of the lawmakers’ coveted August recess was a public confession that Republicans have not gotten the job done even while controlling the White House and Congress. Results have been in short supply as they have gotten badly bogged down in trying to overhaul the health care law.
Washington Post, White House plunges into chaos as Trump fumes over fallout from son’s Russia revelations, Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker, July 12, 2017. President Trump is enraged that the Russia cloud still hangs over his presidency and, now, over his family. The disclosure of an email exchange showing that Donald Trump Jr. welcomed the assistance of a “Russian government attorney” — a revelation that a Trump ally likened to a “Category 5 hurricane” — has set back the administration’s agenda and rattled the senior leadership team.
On Wednesday, in his first Twitter posts since the email disclosures, Trump (shown in a Gage Skidmore portrait) defended his son as “open, transparent and innocent” and repeated past claims that his administration is the subject of a “witch hunt” fueled by leakers. “My son Donald did a good job last night,” Trump wrote, referring to his son’s appearance on Fox News. “He was open, transparent and innocent. This is the greatest Witch Hunt in political history. Sad!”
New York Times, Democrats Will Use Senate Rules to Try to Block Health Bill, Robert Pear and Thomas Kaplan, July 12, 2017. Democrats may not have the votes to stop the Republican push to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but Senate rules can be exploited for partisan advantage.
U.S.-Based Russian Media
Washington Post, From the Kremlin to K St., live on Sputnik 105.5 FM, Justin Wm. Moyer, July 12, 2017. Broadcasting just a few blocks from the White House, Russian state media takes to Washington’s airwaves offering news and debate in English 24 hours a day. But are the strings being pulled from afar by some spymaster? “If they’re propaganda artists, they ain’t good at it,” one Sputnik host said.
Confirmation Hearing This Morning For FBI Nominee
New York Times, What to Expect at the F.B.I. Nominee’s Confirmation Hearing, Adam Goldman, July 12, 2017. Christopher A. Wray, President Trump’s nominee for F.B.I. director, will appear at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee for his confirmation hearing. If confirmed, Mr. Wray (shown at left in a file photo) will face a host of challenges, including low morale at the F.B.I., where many agents are still angry over the president’s firing in May of the F.B.I. director James B. Comey. Mr. Wray, a former federal prosecutor in President George W. Bush’s administration and a criminal defense lawyer, will face tough questions about whether he will maintain the bureau’s independence and resist pressure from the White House.
New York Times, Trump Campaign Is Sued Over Leaked Emails Linked to Russians, Charlie Savage, July 12, 2017. Two Democratic Party donors and a former party staff member have filed an invasion of privacy lawsuit against President Trump’s campaign and a longtime informal adviser, Roger J. Stone Jr., accusing them of conspiring in the release of hacked Democratic emails and files that exposed their personal information to the public.
The case was organized by Protect Democracy, a government watchdog group run by former Obama administration lawyers. It filed the claim just short of a deadline under a one-year statute of limitations for privacy invasion lawsuits: WikiLeaks published the first archives of stolen Democratic National Committee emails, which intelligence agencies say Russia hacked to harm Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and help Mr. Trump, last July 22.
Mr. Trump and his political advisers, including Mr. Stone, have repeatedly denied colluding with Russia, and the 44-page complaint, filed on Wednesday in the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia, does not contain any hard evidence that his campaign did. But it is seeking to depose witnesses and obtain campaign emails and other documents during the discovery process that is a standard part of lawsuits.
Corruption Questions: U.S. Financial Markets
Down with Tyranny, Give the Finance Sector an Inch, and Let Fly the Mile — IPO Transparency Takes a Hit, Skip Kaltenheuser, July 12, 2017. For several years I wrote columns and cover pieces aimed at explaining Washington influence and dysfunction to a group of international lawyers. It’s hard for me to damp down the feeling that regulatory power-grabs by the finance sector are evermore driven by a backstory of quiet desperation. Tangential to that feeling are several recent posts at the always interesting and concise WallStreetOnParade, written by Pam Martens and Russ Martens.
• These Charts Show the Fed’s Stress Tests as a Dangerous Illusion
• Financial System of U.S. Rests on Health of Just Five Mega Banks
• Why Wall Street Should Be Viewed as a Major National Threat
• New York Times Runs Editorial Today on the Mega Banks: You Need to Pay Attention
Global News: Brazil
New York Times, Brazil’s Ex-President ‘Lula’ Convicted on Corruption Charges, Ernesto Londoño, July 12, 2017. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was found guilty of corruption and money laundering and sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison, a stunning setback for a politician who has wielded enormous influence across Latin America.
New York Times, With Each Revelation, Tension in West Wing Rises, Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman, July 11, 2017. Every time the president tries to put the furor of Russian meddling behind him, more disclosures thrust it back to the fore, and people close to him are anonymously blaming one another. If President Trump emerged from his meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia last week hoping he had begun to “move forward” from the controversy over the Kremlin’s election meddling, as advisers put it, his flight home the next day made clear just how overly optimistic that was.
As Air Force One jetted back from Europe on Saturday, a small cadre of Mr. Trump’s advisers huddled in a cabin helping to craft a statement for the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., to give to The New York Times explaining why he met last summer with a lawyer connected to the Russian government. Participants on the plane and back in the United States debated how transparent to be in the statement, according to people familiar with the discussions.
Ultimately, the people said, the president signed off on a statement from Donald Trump Jr. for The Times that was so incomplete that it required day after day of follow-up statements, each more revealing than the last. It culminated on Tuesday with a release of emails making clear that Mr. Trump’s son believed the Russian lawyer was seeking to meet with him to provide incriminating information about Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
Advisers said the president was annoyed not so much by his son as by the headlines. But three people close to the legal team said he had also trained his ire on Marc E. Kasowitz, his longtime lawyer, who is leading the team of private lawyers representing him. Mr. Trump, who often vents about advisers in times of trouble, has grown disillusioned by Mr. Kasowitz’s strategy, the people said.
The strain, though, exists on both sides. Mr. Kasowitz and his colleagues have been deeply frustrated by the president. And they have complained that Mr. Kushner has been whispering in the president’s ear about the Russia investigations and stories while keeping the lawyers out of the loop, according to another person familiar with the legal team. But one person familiar with Mr. Kasowitz’s thinking said that his concerns did not relate to Mr. Kushner.
Roll Call, Recess Postponed in Senate, Niels Lesniewski, July 11, 2017. Mitch McConnell announces two extra weeks in session. Senators will need to delay their departures for August recess. Shortly after six rank-and-file Republican senators urged postponing the recess to focus on the GOP agenda, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced the break would start two weeks later than originally scheduled.
The Kentucky Republican criticized Democrats for slow-walking the pace of nominations and other legislative business. McConnell said that the fiscal 2018 defense authorization bill will be on the floor agenda after finishing up work on efforts to roll back the 2010 health care law. He also pointed to nomination votes.
New York Times, Trump’s Teams Face Minefield of Ethics Issues on Deregulation, Danielle Ivory and Robert Faturechi, July 11, 2017. A campaign to cut government regulations is being conducted largely out of public view, often by hires with potential conflicts, an investigation has found. The Times and ProPublica identified 71 appointees, including 28 with potential conflicts, through records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
Courthouse News Service, ACLU Sues Administration Over Voting Commission Transparency, Dan McCue, July 10, 2017. The American Civil Liberties Union on Monday sued the Trump administration over what it says is a lack of transparency by the commission the president established to ferret out claims of voter fraud. The 31-page lawsuit filed in Washington claims the commission failed to comply with the Federal Advisory Committee Act, a measure intended to ensure public accountability of all advisory committees.
Federal law requires commission meetings be open to the public with timely notice provided, allowing for in-person attendance, and that written records be made available to the public. The commission must also adopt measures to ensure that its work is not inappropriately influenced by special interests or the president himself. Despite being elected president, Trump has never gotten over losing the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million votes. Since the election, he has repeatedly claimed Clinton’s margin of victory in the popular vote count is entirely attributable to votes cast by those ineligible to do so.
White-Collar Sex-Trafficking Moguls Exposed
Washington Post, Backpage has always claimed it doesn’t control sex-related ads. New documents show otherwise, Tom Jackman and Jonathan O’Connell, July 11, 2017. A contractor for the controversial classifieds website Backpage.com has been aggressively soliciting and creating sex-related ads, despite Backpage’s repeated insistence that it had no role in the content of ads posted on its site, according to a trove of newly discovered documents.
The documents show that Backpage hired a company in the Philippines to lure advertisers — and customers seeking sex — from sites run by its competitors. The spreadsheets, emails, audio files and employee manuals were revealed in an unrelated legal dispute and provided to the Washington Post.
Washington Post, 16-year-old was found beaten, stabbed to death after being advertised as prostitute on Backpage, Tom Jackman and Jonathan O’Connell, July 11, 2017. At 16, Desiree Robinson ran away from her home in Chicago. Soon, federal authorities believe, she met a man named Joseph Hazley, and by November of last year, she had moved into his apartment on the city’s South Side.
And within a week of that, another woman told the FBI, Hazley began posting ads for Desiree on the classifieds site Backpage.com. On Christmas Eve, after meeting a man who contacted her through Backpage, Desiree was found beaten and stabbed to death in a garage outside Chicago, while Hazley dozed in his car nearby, according to an FBI affidavit filed in federal court in Chicago. Desiree’s mother, Yvonne Ambrose, filed a wrongful-death suit against Backpage in May. But where numerous other civil and criminal cases against Backpage have failed to hold the website liable for sex trafficking, Ambrose believes two major new developments may make her case different.
NATO War Mongering In Libya As Gateway To Global Wars
Ron Paul Liberty Report via YouTube, Back To Benghazi: Are More US Troops The Answer? July 11, 2017 (video). Former Congressman Ron Paul and Dan McDaniel discuss a recent Consortium News column by Joe Lauria: Hiding US Lies About Libyan Invasion, Joe Lauria, July 7, 2017. See also: RT via YouTube, US media hides report condemning Libyan invasion, Staff report, July 11, 2017 (2:43 min. video). Journalist Joe Lauria just did a great job investigating just how the American media covered this report in an article for Consortium News entitled, Hiding US Lies About Libyan Invasion. In it, Lauria leads us through his journey of trying to find just how the US covered a British report which condemned the west’s military intervention in Libya.
Government Probes of Politicians’ Families
Washington Post, Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russian lawyer said to have been set up by family with Kremlin ties, Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger, July 10, 2017. A publicist who represents the pop star son of a Moscow real estate developer confirmed that Emin Agalarov requested the meeting. Agalarov’s father helped sponsor the Trump-owned Miss Universe pageant in Russia in 2013, and the family previously signed a preliminary deal to build a tower with the Trump name in the Russian capital.
Washington Post, Trump Jr. is now at the center of the Russia controversy — and always ready to fight, John Wagner and Rosalind S. Helderman, July 10, 2017. The president’s eldest son has retained his own criminal defense attorney amid questions about his meeting with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign and his shifting explanations of what it entailed.
Washington Post, Donald Jr.’s meeting is a legal game-changer, Eugene Robinson, July 10, 2017. From now on, ignore the conventional wisdom about how the Russia scandal is not “resonating” with President Trump’s still-loyal base. The question at this point is what strikes a chord with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III — and what kind of legal jeopardy Trump’s closest associates, including his eldest son and son-in-law, might eventually face.
Trump spent Monday morning live-tweeting fawning segments from his favorite cable news show, “Fox & Friends.” Within the cozy confines of that alternate universe, the story “everyone is still talking about” was said to be video of the president, before boarding his helicopter at Andrews Air Force Base, retrieving a Marine’s wind-blown hat.
In Mueller’s office suite, though, I’m confident there was much more talk about Donald Trump Jr.’s stunning admission over the weekend: In June of last year, he summoned Trump’s then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to a meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer — described as having close connections with the Kremlin — in hopes of receiving derogatory information about Hillary Clinton.
Despite what Trump apologists may say, it is not normal practice for a campaign to welcome information undermining an opponent, regardless of the source. Is this all too complicated for voters to follow? Would Americans beyond the Beltway rather hear about jobs or health care? Perhaps so. But the questions that should be concentrating the minds of the president’s inner circle are legal, not political — and Mueller’s high-powered team of lawyers is experienced at connecting dots.
Another Side of Trump-Russian Story
McClatchy DC, John McCain faces questions in Trump-Russia dossier case, Kevin G. Hall, July 11, 2017. Sen. John McCain faces questions in a defamation lawsuit about leaks leading to publication of the now-infamous dossier that alleged Donald Trump’s campaign had connections to Russian operatives, McClatchy has learned. The dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele and his London firm, Orbis Business Intelligence Ltd., amounted to a collection of uncorroborated reports of collusion gathered as political research for sale to Trump’s opponents. It proved explosive when published by online news site BuzzFeed on Jan. 10.
Now, two lawsuits — one in the United States and a second in the U.K. — are being brought by lawyers for Aleksej Gubarev, a Cyprus-based Internet entrepreneur whom Steele’s Russian sources accused of cyber spying against the Democratic Party leadership. According to a new court document in the British lawsuit, counsel for defendants Steele and Orbis repeatedly point to McCain, R-Ariz., a vocal Trump critic, and a former State Department official as two in a handful of people known to have had copies of the full document before it circulated among journalists and was published by BuzzFeed.
The court document obtained by McClatchy confirms that Sir Andrew Wood, a former British ambassador to Moscow and a Russia adviser to former Prime Minister Tony Blair, discussed the 35-page dossier with McCain. “The Defendants considered that the issues were self-evidently relevant to the national security of the US, UK and their allies,” the document says, explaining why Steele and his partner, Christopher Burrows, felt it necessary to share the dossier’s findings.
A McCain spokesperson declined to comment Monday on the new court document, pointing instead to a Jan. 11 statement from the veteran senator about the dossier. “Upon examination of the contents, and unable to make a judgment about their accuracy, I delivered the information to the director of the FBI,” McCain had said then. “That has been the extent of my contact with the FBI or any other government agency regarding this issue.” In recent congressional testimony, ex-FBI Director James Comey, fired by Trump amid a widening probe, acknowledged receiving the dossier from McCain on Jan. 6. Kramer, a former State Department official who until recently served as a senior director at Arizona State University’s McCain Institute for International Leadership, declined comment.
Consortium News, Forgetting the ‘Dirty Dossier’ on Trump, Robert Parry, July 10, 2017. The new Russia-gate furor is over Donald Trump Jr. meeting a Russian who claimed to have dirt on Hillary Clinton, but the Clinton team’s Russian cash-for-trash search against Trump Sr. is all but forgotten.
Yes, I realize that the editors of The New York Times long ago cast aside any journalistic professionalism to become charter members of the #Resistance against Donald Trump. But the latest frenzy over a meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer who was dangling the possibility of information about the Democrats receiving money from Russians represents one of the more remarkable moments of the entire Russia-gate hysteria.
Essentially, Trump’s oldest son is being accused of taking a meeting with a foreign national who claimed to have knowledge of potentially illegal activities by Trump’s Democratic rivals, although the promised information apparently turned out to be a dud.
Yet, on Monday, the Times led its newspaper with a story about this meeting – and commentators on MSNBC and elsewhere are labeling Trump Jr. a criminal if not a traitor for hearing out this lawyer. Yet, no one seems to remember that Hillary Clinton supporters paid large sums of money, reportedly about $1 million, to have ex-British spy Christopher Steele use his Russian connections to dig up dirt on Trump inside Russia, resulting in a salacious dossier that Clinton backers eagerly hawked to the news media.
Washington Post, White House tries to play down meeting of Trump Jr., Russian lawyer as new details emerge, Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger and Greg Miller, July 10, 2017. Revelations about the June 2016 meeting, during which the lawyer purportedly offered damaging information about Hillary Clinton, put the Trump administration again on the defensive about its relationship with Moscow, and seemed to add to a pattern of not disclosing Kremlin contacts or providing false information about them.
Feds Ramping Up Probe Of Bad Loan That Crushed Vermont College Led By Senator’s Wife?
Washington Post, Bernie Sanders’s wife pushed for a loan that crippled a Vermont college. A federal probe is gathering steam, Shawn Boburg and Jack Gillum, July 10, 2017. Jane Sanders — wife of longtime Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) is shown in a file photo — led the purchase of more than 32 acres for Burlington College. Trustees said they were misled about how a $6.7 million loan would be repaid, and the 160-student school was forced to close last year. Jane Sanders is shown in a file photo.
Contractors Propose U.S. Mercenaries For Afghan War
New York Times, Trump Aides Seek Afghan Options. One Idea: Privatize War, Mark Landler, Eric Schmitt and Michael R. Gordon, July 10, 2017. In discussions with close advisers to President Trump, including Stephen K. Bannon and Jared Kushner, a founder of a private security firm and an owner of a military contractor have proposed relying on contractors instead of American troops.
FBI HQ Renovation To Be Cancelled
Washington Post, Trump administration cancels decade-long plan to replace crumbling FBI headquarters, Jonathan O’Connell, July 10, 2017. The decision, which is expected to be announced Tuesday, follows years of largely failed attempts to convince Congress to fully back a plan for a campus in the Washington suburbs that would be paid for by trading away the J. Edgar Hoover Building to a real estate developer and putting up nearly $2 billion in taxpayer funds to cover the remaining cost. For years, FBI officials have raised alarms that the decrepit conditions at Hoover constitute serious security concerns. But the plan to replace the building grew mired in a pit of government dysfunction and escalating costs with no end in sight.
New York Times, Spyware Targeted Investigators Seeking Students in Mexico, Azam Ahmed, July 10, 2017. A team of international investigators brought to Mexico to look for 43 students who vanished after clashing with the police was targeted with sophisticated surveillance technology sold to the Mexican government.
The spying took place during what the investigators call a broad campaign of harassment and interference that prevented them from solving the haunting case of 43 students who disappeared after clashing with the police nearly three years ago. (Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is shown in his official portrait, with his country’s flag.)
Trump Administation Appointments
New York Times, The Scholar Who Will Help Trump’s Regulatory Overhaul, Steve Eder, July 10, 2017 (print edition). Neomi Rao (shown in a file photo) is expected to be confirmed by the Senate this week to run an obscure but powerful office at the heart of President Trump’s plan to reshape government rules. When George Mason University changed the name of its law school last year to honor Antonin Scalia, the late conservative Supreme Court justice, the tribute rankled many liberal faculty members and students. That the naming was tied to a multimillion-dollar donation from the conservative Charles Koch Foundation only heightened concerns.
One outspoken advocate for the name change was Neomi Rao, an associate law professor who had come to know Mr. Scalia while serving as a clerk for Clarence Thomas, another conservative member of the court. Ms. Rao, a Republican, publicly celebrated the legacy of Mr. Scalia and praised the Koch donation as “game changing” for the law school.
Roll Call, White House, Schumer Clash Over Confirmation Votes, Staff report, July 10, 2017. The White House and Senate Democratic leaders clashed on Monday about what Trump administration officials are calling “unprecedented” blocking tactics of nominees from Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer — a charge the Senate Democratic leader scoffed at.
Just as White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders (shown in a file photo) was wrapping the briefing, Schumer’s press office fired off its own statement that pinned the blame for the slow pace of getting senior officials confirmed back on the Trump administration. The minority leader’s statement listed nearly 30 Trump nominations that arrived on Capitol Hill without the proper paperwork. The White House on Monday did not offer an explanation as to why it has sent 257 fewer nominations for jobs in agencies and departments to Capitol Hill than its predecessor at a comparable point in its first year.
Iraq Announces Victory Over ISIS In Mosul
New York Times, Iraqi Prime Minister Arrives in Mosul to Declare Victory Over ISIS, Tim Arango and Michael R. Gordon, July 10, 2017 (print edition). The monthslong battle led to about a thousand deaths among the Iraqi security forces and civilians. Officials must now confront a humanitarian crisis. Dressed in a military uniform, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi arrived here in Mosul on Sunday to congratulate Iraq’s armed forces for wresting the city from the Islamic State. The victory marked the formal end of a bloody campaign that lasted nearly nine months, left much of Iraq’s second-largest city in ruins, killed thousands of people and displaced nearly a million more.
While Iraqi troops were still mopping up the last pockets of resistance and could be facing guerrilla attacks for weeks, the military began to savor its triumph in the shattered alleyways of the old city, where the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, put up a fierce last stand. Hanging over the declaration of victory is the reality of the hard road ahead. The security forces in Mosul still face dangers, including Islamic State sleeper cells and suicide bombers. And they must clear houses rigged with explosive booby traps so civilians can return and services can be restored.
Mosul was the largest city in either Iraq or Syria held by the Islamic State, and its loss signifies the waning territorial claims of a terrorist group that had its beginnings in the aftermath of the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. The group is also threatened with the loss of its de facto capital, the Syrian city of Raqqa, which is encircled by Arab and Kurdish fighters supported by the United States.
New York Post Sneers At Financial, Media Bigwigs’ Party?
New York Post, One Hamptons party explains what’s wrong with American politics, Maureen Callahan, July 10, 2017. For anyone still wondering why Middle America’s so angry, just take a look at the guest list for the annual bash thrown by Washington Post heiress Lally Weymouth, currently the paper’s senior associate editor, in the Hamptons last week.
It was full of politicians and power brokers — the ones who pantomime outrage daily, accusing the other side of crushing the little guy, sure that the same voter will never guess that behind closed doors, they all get along. Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner partied with billionaire Democratic donor George Soros, who rubbed shoulders with billionaire GOP donor David Koch. Chuck Schumer and Kellyanne Conway were there. So were Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Ronald Lauder, Carl Icahn, Joel Klein, Cathie Black, reporters Steve Clemons and Maria Bartiromo, columnists Richard Cohen and Margaret Carlson, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, Ray Kelly, Bill Bratton and Steven Spielberg.
Big Questions Linger on Boston Marathon Bombing
WhoWhatWhy, The FBI’s Increasingly Odd Silence on Boston Bombing, James Henry, July 10, 2017. As another mega-budget Hollywood movie about the Boston Marathon bombing nears release, the mainstream media are finally addressing the many unanswered questions concerning the mastermind of the bombing, Tamerlan Tsarnaev. And yet — four years after the bombing and two years after Tamerlan’s younger brother Dzhokhar (shown below, left) was sentenced to death for his role — the feds still aren’t talking.
WhoWhatWhy readers will be familiar with most of these open questions:
How was Tamerlan able to travel back and forth to the country from which he sought asylum in 2012, despite being on multiple terror watchlists? Why was he not questioned about the 2011 murder of three of his friends? Was Tamerlan working for or manipulated by the feds for some purpose? Was the FBI or some other federal agency using Tamerlan’s desire to become a US citizen as leverage?
As we highlighted in April, ABC News investigative reporter Michele McPhee published a damning exposé which documents the suspicion in Boston’s local law enforcement that the FBI is covering up its interactions with Tamerlan Tsarnaev prior to the bombing. McPhee’s investigation led her to conclude that there is indeed an FBI cover-up afoot.
It’s not just the media that’s still being shut out. As Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s automatic federal death penalty appeal gets underway, prosecutors are refusing to turn over “classified” documents to Tsarnaev’s appellate lawyers. The judge in the case, George A. O’Toole Jr. (shown at right), ignited a veritable firestorm among Boston media when, three months after the conclusion of the trial, he continued to refuse to release the names of jurors.
OpEdNews, Opinion from the Right: Trump Cannot Improve Relations With Russia When Trump’s Government and the US Media Oppose Improved Relations, Paul Craig Roberts, July 10, 2017. Trump’s own ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, and Trump’s own Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, sound exactly like Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee, the neoconservatives, the Washington Post, the New York Times, CNN and the rest of the totally discredited presstitute media that is committed to raising tensions between the US and Russia to the point of nuclear war.
On the same day that President Donald Trump said “it is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia,” and the day after he said “I had a tremendous meeting yesterday with President Putin,” the ignorant, stupid, Nikki Haley, who Trump appointed as US UN Ambassador, publicly contradicted her president, forcefully stating: “we can’t trust Russia and we won’t ever trust Russia.”
Joining Nikki Haley was Trump’s Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson (shown in a file photo). Tillerson, allegedly a friend of Russia, is also working overtime to worsen relations between the two nuclear powers by publicly contradicting the President of the United States, thereby making it clear that Trump is barely even a cipher. Tillerson, a disgrace, said that Putin’s refusal to admit that Putin elected Trump by interfering in the US election “stands as an obstacle to our ability to improve the relationship between the US and Russia and it needs to be addressed in terms of how we assure the American people that interference into our elections will not occur by Russia or anyone else.”
Washington Post, Jason Kander lost a big Senate race. In today’s Democratic Party, he’s still a rising star, Ben Terris, July 10, 2017. Jason Kander doesn’t feel like a loser. He doesn’t feel much like a millennial either, whatever that means. But having lost his bid to represent Missouri in the United States Senate at the age of 35 last year, he is, technically, both of those things. And so, on a recent Wednesday evening, one of the oldest, losing-est millennials in American politics headed to the annual gathering of the High School Democrats of America to speak about, what else, the future of their party.
“We are, believe it or not, in the same generation,” Kander, now 36, told the group of about 100 17-year-olds seated in a George Washington University auditorium. “It’s our generation that will have to fix all this stuff.” He might seem like an odd person to deliver this message, considering that voters decided against sending him to Washington to be the fixer of things. But Kander still has a lot to offer — and Democrats aren’t in a position to turn away young talent.
Reader comment posted on Washington Post site by JIP’s editor: “This is a puff piece of mind-boggling proportions. What’s the newspaper’s agenda? And I’ll bet Ben Tillis calls himself a “reporter” and not a flack. Where are the other sides of the story? Media columnist Margaret Sullivan, published on the same Style page, should stop reflexively defending the mainstream press on everything long enough to realize that fake news — or at least agenda-driven political news — flourishes right under her nose and nostrums.”
Palmer Report, Opinion from the Left: Here’s near-proof that Donald Trump knew his son Donald Jr was meeting with the Kremlin that day, Bill Palmer, July 10, 2017. Now that Donald Trump Jr. has almost surreally admitted to having met with a Kremlin representative to discuss dirt on Hillary Clinton, he’s on the legal hook for somewhere between collusion and treason. But based on what else is documented to have taken place that same day, there is strong evidence that Donald Trump was well aware of his son’s meeting – meaning that Trump is on the hook for son’s crimes.
The New York Times, which broke the story of the Trump Jr meeting, says that it took place on June 9th at Trump Tower in New York. During most days of the election cycle, Donald Trump would have been out on the road campaigning. But on June 9th, he was also at Trump Tower, according to an NBC News article that was published at the time (source). Moreover, Trump Sr held a meeting of his own at Trump Tower that day which included Paul Manafort – who also attended the Russia meeting with Trump Jr.
Bizarrely, Donald Trump bragged during his (fundraising) meeting that he wouldn’t need as much money to beat Hillary Clinton in the election “as people think.” And again, this was either directly before or directly after Trump’s son met with the Kremlin in the same building and discussed how to discredit Clinton.
AlterNet, Opinion from Left: Is Trump Simply the Worst Human Being We Can Imagine? 4 Experts Weigh In, Don Hazen, July 10, 2017. Not only did Trump quickly become the worst president ever, he may just be the most hated person alive. No doubt, there are historians who are already willing to call Donald Trump the worst president in history. But all this may add up to more than just “worst president.” Trump may be the worst human being alive—the most hated person in America and throughout the world today.
How do you decide whether someone is the worst person alive? TV Cheat Sheet likes to keep track of all the truly unpopular people, and it has dubbed Donald Trump the “most hated person in 2017” so far. Trump was also number one in 2016, which kind of says it all.
Trump’s most serious competition for most hated person alive is Martin Shkreli, who is high on most lists of people the public loathes. Shkreli, the former CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, earned the ire of millions of Americans by hiking the price for the anti-parasitic drug Daraprim by 5,000 percent. He was also arrested for fraud. The two other people who consistently rate high on the TV Cheat Sheet hate-o-meter, perhaps offering Trump some competition, are Kim Jong-un and Justin Beiber. Kim is “North Korea’s supreme leader, a petty dictator who is more concerned with being feared on the international stage than fixing the horrid living conditions of his country’s citizens,” while Bieber has had “a string of bad actions and public controversies in recent years, including vandalism, driving under the influence, resisting arrest and taking prescription drugs.”
Others who find their way onto various most-hated lists are child molester Jared Fogel, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian (both as a couple and when measured separately), O.J. Simpson, Casey Anthony, Bernie Madoff, Michael Moore, Mel Gibson, and Tiger Woods.
And some of the worst dead people in history consistently show up on these kinds of lists: Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Osama bin Laden to name a few. In the end, Trump triumphs as the most despised man alive today in America, and probably the world.
Adweek, Baltimore Sun Media Group Is Closing City Paper, Corinne Grinapol, July 10, 2017. The decline of the alt-weeklies continues. Last month’s victory for staff at Baltimore City Paper, a decision to form a union that was voluntarily recognized by parent company Baltimore Sun Media Group (BSMG), looks to be short-lived, as BSMG announced that it will be ending the 40-year-old publication’s run sometime this year. The reason, according to a statement delivered by BSMG’s director of marketing, Renee Mutchnik, was “declining ad revenue.”
Media News: New York/New Jersey
New York Daily News, Chris Christie called ‘fat-a–‘ by well-known WFAN caller, Justin Tasch, July 7, 2017. NJ Governor dubs caller a ‘communist.’ See also: Chris Christie filling in for Mike Francesa as part of WFAN audition, Nicholas Parco, July 7, 2017. Christie is set to co-host the afternoon drive time from 2-6:30 p.m. on New York City’s most popular sports talk station next Monday and Tuesday with WFAN’s Evan Roberts. Christie better hope his radio ratings are higher than his approval rating.
President Trump with Russian President Vladimir Putin July 8, 2017 (screenshot from White House video at G-20 Summit)
Washington Post, Trump vows to work ‘constructively with Russia’ after Putin denied election hacking, Philip Rucker, July 9, 2017. President Trump did not say whether he accepted Vladimir Putin’s denial of election meddling, stating only, “I’ve already given my opinion.” Putin and his foreign minister both have said that Trump believed the assurances that Russia did not interfere — an assertion U.S. officials have not disputed.
Twitter via @RealDonaldTrump, Make America Great Again! President Trump Attends G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, Donald J. Trump, July 9, 2017 (1:47 min. music video).
New York Times, Trump’s Son Met With Russian Lawyer After Being Promised Damaging Information on Clinton, Jo Becker, Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, July 9, 2017. President Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., was promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton before agreeing to meet with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign, according to three advisers to the White House briefed on the meeting and two others with knowledge of it.
The meeting was also attended by his campaign chairman at the time, Paul J. Manafort, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Mr. Manafort and Mr. Kushner only recently disclosed the meeting, though not its content, in confidential government documents described to The New York Times. The Times reported the existence of the meeting on Saturday. But in subsequent interviews, the advisers and others revealed the motivation behind it.
The meeting — at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, two weeks after Donald J. Trump clinched the Republican nomination — points to the central question in federal investigations of the Kremlin’s meddling in the presidential election: whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians. The accounts of the meeting represent the first public indication that at least some in the campaign were willing to accept Russian help.
U.S. Politics: Alabama
New York Times, Alabama’s Special Senate Election Is All About Wooing Trump, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, July 9, 2017. The Republicans squaring off for the Senate seat once held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions know President Trump holds the key to victory. The special election for a Senate seat in Alabama is, at first glance, a complex affair, with 10 Republican candidates in the party’s primary, at least three of whom could plausibly win, and a possible runoff this fall if nobody can garner a majority when ballots are cast Aug. 15.
But under closer examination, the contest may boil down to a single question: How will President Trump respond to the candidate who denounced him for “serial adultery”? The campaign for the Senate seat once held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions is ostensibly playing out between Muscle Shoals and Mobile Bay.
But the battle is being waged just as fiercely inside the White House, where Mr. Trump’s endorsement could determine who will serve as the state’s junior senator for the next three years. The Republican race has pitted the current, appointed senator, Luther Strange (shown above left), against Representative Mo Brooks, a conservative firebrand whose brash, anti-immigrant, pro-gun politics are distinctly Trumpian — save that “serial adultery” jab.
Activist Post, After Trump Bows to Saudis, Decision to Release Evidence of Saudis Funding 9/11 Gets Reversed, Rachel Blevins, July 8, 2017. President Trump’s change in attitude towards Saudi Arabia has apparently had a trickle-down effect, as a federal judge in Miami has reversed her decision to push for the release of crucial documents revealing information on the funding of the 9/11 attacks. Judge Cecilia Altonaga is now ruling in favor of the FBI, granting the agency’s request to keep large portions of a slide show titled “Overview of the 9/11 Investigation” secret from the public.
The presentation Altonaga is now helping to keep private, includes sections on “Funding of the 9/11 Attacks,” “Early to Mid-2001 Additional Funding,” “Early to Mid-2000: Pilots/Intended Pilots Arrive U.S.,” “Investigative Findings” regarding hijacker “Identification,” and “Financial: Ample Financing was provided.” This decision is the opposite of Altonaga’s ruling from May 16, in which she stated that the documents “should be largely opened for public inspection,” given the fact that the FBI failed to establish Freedom of Information Act Exemption 7(E), which applies when the release of the information would “disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions.”
Palmer Report, Opinion from the Left: It’s strategically more important to destroy Donald Trump than it is to oust him, Bill Palmer, July 8, 2017. Let’s say Trump announces tomorrow that he’s tired of this and he’s resigning. Then what? Mike Pence takes over, and while we know him to be an extremist bigoted monster, the people in the middle – the ones who always decide if a president sinks or swims – just see him as a mild mannered doofus.
Pence could hit the ground running, team up with the Republican majority in Congress, and enact sweeping monstrous legislation that could transform America into no longer being America. And yeah, they could pull that off before the Democrats can retake Congress in the midterms.
New York Times, U.S., Russia and Jordan Reach Deal for Cease-Fire in Part of Syria, Gardiner Harris, July 8, 2017 (print edition). The United States, Russia and Jordan have agreed to foster a cease-fire in a limited area of southwestern Syria that will begin at noon on Sunday, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson (shown below right) said on Friday after the first face-to-face meeting between President Trump and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
The agreement came after months of negotiations among the three countries. A senior State Department official who was involved in the talks said important pieces of the deal remained to be hammered out in the coming days, including who would monitor and enforce the pause in violence. The agreement came after months of negotiations among the three countries. A senior State Department official who was involved in the talks said important pieces of the deal remained to be hammered out in the coming days, including who would monitor and enforce the pause in violence.
The agreement hinges on a boundary line — as set by the United States, Russia and Jordan — between areas of control for the warring forces and state proxies, the State Department official said. But outlawed factions — including Al Qaeda — could refuse to abide by the agreement and even actively work to undermine it, the official said.
Moscow has assured the United States that the government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria will abide by the agreement, the official said. The assent of the government in Damascus came even though the United States continues to insist that neither Mr. Assad, nor any member of his family, can have a long-term role in the country’s leadership.
The United States and Russia agreed to similar cease-fires last year, all of which quickly disintegrated. But Mr. Tillerson said there were reasons to believe that this latest attempt would not only hold, but could serve as a model for cease-fires elsewhere in Syria.
Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister (shown above left in a file photo), later said the cease-fire would take effect from midnight to noon local time on Sunday in the areas of Daraa, Quneitra and Sweida in Syria along the Jordanian border. “At first, security around this de-escalation zone will be guaranteed by the forces and means of the Russian military police, in coordination with the Americans and Jordanians,” he said. But the senior State Department official disputed that, saying the parties had yet to agree on monitoring.
Defense SecretaryJames Mattis In Qatar (April 21, 2017 Defense Department photo)
Consortium News, Risk of Unleashing ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis, David Marks, July 8, 2017. Despite a constructive meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin at the G-20, Official Washington’s hawks still hold a strong hand, in part, because Trump has ceded broad power to the military, says David Marks.
During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump boasted that he would “bomb the hell out of ISIS,” but he also suggested a reversal of the “regime change” strategies of his recent predecessors. So, some peace voters thought Trump might actually be preferable to Hillary Clinton, who often came across as the more hawkish candidate.
However, in Trump’s near-half-year in office, he has slid more into line with the war hawks both by continuing to beat his chest over his own application of military force and by shifting control over many attack decisions to military field commanders and the Pentagon high command.
Although Mattis intentionally limits his contact with the public and the press, some of his past statements reveal his mindset. In Iraq in 2003, Mattis coached arriving Marines, “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.” And in 2005, the man who has been unleashed by the President said, “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them. Actually it’s quite fun to fight them, you know. It’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right up there with you. I like brawling.”
The man who likes “brawling” is also the first Secretary of Defense since George Marshall in 1947 confirmed with a waiver of the National Security Act. By law, members of the armed forces must have a seven-year waiting period before becoming Defense Secretary. The reason for the legislation was to respect civilian control of the military and to keep those favoring military solutions — as an early recourse — away from the levers for taking the country to war. The Congress after World War II attempted to prevent the very situation that is now unfolding.
Consortium News, The Syrian Test of Trump-Putin Accord, Ray McGovern, July 8, 2017. Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. As a CIA analyst for 27 years, he led the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch and, during President Ronald Reagan’s first term, conducted the early morning briefings with the President’s Daily Brief.
The U.S. mainstream media remains obsessed over Russia’s alleged “meddling” in last fall’s election, but the real test of bilateral cooperation may come on the cease-fire in Syria. The immediate prospect for significant improvement in U.S.-Russia relations now depends on something tangible: Will the forces that sabotaged previous ceasefire agreements in Syria succeed in doing so again, all the better to keep alive the “regime change” dreams of the neoconservatives and liberal interventionists?
Last fall’s limited ceasefire in Syria, painstakingly worked out over 11 months by Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and approved personally by Presidents Obama and Putin, lasted only five days (from Sept. 12-17) before it was scuttled by “coalition” air strikes on well-known, fixed Syrian army positions, which killed between 64 and 84 Syrian troops and wounded about 100 others. In public remarks bordering on the insubordinate, senior Pentagon officials a few days before the air attack on Sept. 17, showed unusually open skepticism regarding key aspects of the Kerry-Lavrov agreement – like sharing intelligence with the Russians (an important provision of the deal approved by both Obama and Putin).
Washington Post, Ivanka Trump takes her father’s seat at world leaders’ table during a G-20 meeting, Abby Phillip, July 8, 2017. President Trump’s daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump has an expansive portfolio in her father’s administration. But on Saturday, she literally took his seat at the table at the Group of 20 summit. The first daughter was spotted slipping into Trump’s seat at a working session on “Partnership with Africa, Migration and Health,” putting her shoulder to shoulder with British Prime Minister Theresa May. Russian President Vladimir Putin was sitting one seat down.
Trump’s presence at the high-level table was somewhat unusual, given that government ministers or senior officials are typically the ones called to stand in for heads of state at such sessions. But she is both the president’s daughter and an unpaid “assistant to the president” who focuses on issues of women’s empowerment and workplace development, and she maintains broad influence in the administration. She entered the session with her father but “briefly joined the main table when the President had to step out,” a spokesperson for the first daughter said.
Global G-20 Meetings
President Trump with Russian President Vladimir Putin July 8, 2017 (screenshot from White House video at G20 Summit)
Washington Post, Putin denies election hacking after Trump pressed him, Tillerson says, Abby Phillip, David Filipov and Damian Paletta, July 7, 2017. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who attended the lengthy meeting, said it did not focus on the United States moving to punish Russia for the allegations that it hacked and leaked information that would help Trump win the election. Instead, Tillerson said, the two leaders discussed “how do we move forward from what may be simply an intractable disagreement at this point” regarding the election-hacking issue.
G-20 Protests In Hamburg (Screenshot on July 6, 2017)
The Indicter Magazine, Welcome to Hell for Capitalists Who Wreck and Exploit, Gilbert Mercier, July 7, 2017. Anti-capitalist and anti-globalist protesters, by the thousands, have greeted world leaders and their entourage in Hamburg, Germany, for the G20 summit. About 15,000 demonstrated on Thursday, July 6, 2017, and the riot police cracked down on them with water cannons set on armored vehicles.
The local police expect a massive assault in the coming two days, when as many as 100,000 protesters, including anarchists from France, Italy, Scandinavia, Spain, and Switzerland, will join the German black-block. Even though some of the protesters were comically made up and shuffled like zombies, being a brain dead puppet is a characteristic widely shared by the elite of fake leaders.
The G20 summit meeting in Hamburg between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump might not offer much solution unless the Russian leader schedules side talks with critical people in the Trump administration.
By contrast to Mr. Putin, who is in charge of his administration, Mr. Trump throws his weight around and acts like he is in charge, but real US policy decisions seem to come alternately from a weakened State Department and a Pentagon with increased powers, such as defining troop-level deployment in Afghanistan and directly commanding — bypassing the executive branch — various military operations elsewhere, like in Yemen, Somalia and Syria. The State Department, Pentagon and White House share a singular interest in frantic weapons sales.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently arranged the sale of $1.42 billion of weapons to Taiwan, which angered China, and despite the White House siding with Saudi Arabia, Secretary of Defense James”mad dog” Mattis sold $12 billion of weapons to Qatar.
Sometimes elected officials gain some gravitas from the office they hold. This has not been the case for President Donald Trump, whose histrionic antics have antagonized countless people domestically and abroad.
The main problem for the international community is to figure out who is really in charge of the US government apparatus and then apply, within reason, the appropriate pressure. Recently Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov had a meeting with 94-year-old Henry Kissinger, who has advised Donald Trump officially at least once. Perhaps Lavrov did get a glimpse on the enigma: who runs the US administration, if anyone, and what should be expected? In the Trump era it is “shoot first, talk later.” The international community must find the right people to talk to in order to avoid worst case scenarios.
New York Times, Trump-Putin Meeting Runs Far Longer Than Scheduled, Barbara Marcolini, July 7, 2017. “It’s an honor to be with you,” President Trump said as he met with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir V. Putin, at the Group of 20 summit meeting. Their encounter lasted more than two hours. “I’m delighted to meet you,” the Russian leader replied.
The larger gathering of the world’s leading economies will focus on high-profile issues like climate change, global trade, North Korea, Syria and Ukraine. Tens of thousands of protesters turned out in the host city, after a demonstration Thursday night, called “Welcome to Hell,” turned violent. Both the police and demonstrators reported injuries, and cars were set on fire.
Washington Post, E.U. warns of trade war if Trump imposes steel restrictions, Michael Birnbaum and Damian Paletta, July 7, 2017. In one of the most consequential moves of his young administration, President Trump could within days impose new restrictions, a decision that could impact trade with more than a dozen major countries. The European Commission president responded with comments that were a reflection of how European officials have become more comfortable challenging Trump’s foreign policy stances.
Consortium News, Hiding US Lies About Libyan Invasion, Joe Lauria (shown in a file photo), July 7, 2017. In 2016, when a British parliamentary report demolished the excuse for the U.S. and its allies invading Libya in 2011, it should have been big news, but the U.S. mainstream media looked the other way. In George Orwell’s 1949 dystopian novel 1984, the protagonist Winston Smith’s job was to delve into The Times of London archive and rewrite stories that could cause trouble for the totalitarian government ruling Britain. For instance, if the government made a prediction of wheat or automobile production in their five-year plan and that prediction did not come true, Winston would go into the archives and “correct” the numbers in the article on record.
In writing a response the other day to a critic of my recently published book on Hillary Clinton’s electoral defeat, I was researching how the U.S. corporate media covered a 2016 British parliamentary report on Libya that showed how then Secretary of State Clinton and other Western leaders lied about an impending genocide in Libya to justify their 2011 attack on that country. I first searched The New York Times archives to find that the paper never did a staff-written story on this explosive parliamentary report. It only ran an Associated Press article.
But when you click on the link for the AP article you get a message saying that it is no longer available on nytimes.com. Using a combination of different keywords, a search of The Washington Post archives was even worse. I could find no story on the parliamentary report at all. A search of The Los Angeles Times archives likewise comes up empty. Ignoring or downplaying a story is one way U.S. corporate media deliberately buries news critical of American foreign policy. It is often news vital for Americans to understand their government’s actions abroad, actions which could mean death or life for U.S. soldiers and countless civilians of other lands.
How then could The New York Times and The Washington Post, the most influential American newspapers, refuse to cover a story of such magnitude, a story that should have been front page news for days? It was a story that undermined the U.S. government’s entire rationale for an unjustified attack that devastated a sovereign nation.
There can be only one reason the story was ignored: precisely because the report exposed a U.S. policy that led to a horrible crime that had to be covered up. Defending U.S. policy appears to be the underlying motive of U.S. news coverage of the world. The Libya story is just one example. I’ve had personal experience of editors rejecting or changing stories because it would undermine U.S. foreign policy goals. I twice pitched a story about a now declassified Defense Intelligence Agency document warning of the rise of a U.S.-backed Salafist principality in eastern Syria, intended to pressure Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, that could join with Iraqi extremists to become an “Islamic State,” two years before it happened. My story was twice rejected. It would have undermined the entire American narrative on the War on Terror.
One can only conclude that U.S. corporate media’s mission is not to tell all sides of an international story, or report news critical of U.S. foreign policy, but instead to push an agenda supporting U.S. interests abroad. That’s not journalism. That’s instead the job Winston Smith did.
Joe Lauria is a veteran foreign-affairs journalist. He has written for the Boston Globe, the Sunday Times of London and the Wall Street Journal among other newspapers. He is the author of “How I Lost By Hillary Clinton” published by OR Books, from which part of this article was adapted. See also: Ron Paul Liberty Report via YouTube, Back To Benghazi: Are More US Troops The Answer? July 11, 2017 (video). Former Congressman Ron Paul and Dan McDaniel discuss a recent Consortium News column by Joe Lauria.
December Civil Trial Date Set For Billionaire Pervert Jeff Epstein, Friend of Trump
Palm Beach Post, Trial date set for lawsuit against billionaire sex offender Epstein, Jane Musgrave, July 7, 2017. A trial that promises to offer the first public airing of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein’s activities with teenage girls at his Palm Beach mansion is to be held in December, a Palm Beach County circuit judge agreed Thursday. The malicious prosecution lawsuit that attorney Bradley Edwards filed against the Palm Beach billionaire has been on hold for years while various appeals were filed. With the issues resolved by the Florida Supreme Court last month, Circuit Judge Donald Hafele said the jury trial should begin Dec. 5.
While attorney Jack Scarola, who represents Edwards, had put President Donald Trump on the witness list, he has said he won’t need Epstein’s fellow part-time Palm Beacher to prove his case. The legal hurdles he would face to try to force a sitting president to take the witness stand are unnecessary, he said. “We can prove our case without Donald Trump’s testimony,” Scarola said in May.
Scarola claims Epstein (shown in a file photo) sued Edwards in 2009 to punish him for representing roughly a half-dozen women against Epstein. The women claimed Epstein paid them for sexually charged massages at his mansion when some were as young as 14. Epstein eventually dropped his lawsuit against Edwards, but the state Supreme Court recently ruled Edwards could still pursue the 64-year-old politically connected money manager for malicious prosecution.
As part of a plea deal in 2008, Epstein settled the lawsuits that more than two dozen young women, including Edwards’ clients, had filed against him. The settlement agreements were confidential. When he agreed to plea guilty to charges of solicitation of prostitution and soliciting minors to engage in prostitution, he also agreed not to contest the women’s claims. In what Edwards and others have described as a “sweetheart deal,” Epstein served 13 months of an 18-month sentence. He was allowed to leave the Palm Beach County jail during the day to work, but he has been forced to register as a sexual offender.
Probes of Trump Supporters On Groping Claims
Washington Post, FBI investigated complaints that Bobby Knight groped women at U.S. spy agency, Craig Whitlock, July 7, 2017. Four female employees accused the Hall of Fame basketball coach of touching them inappropriately before and after his speech at the NGA. Knight denied wrongdoing and prosecutors decided not to bring charges, his attorney said.
NewsOK, Accused Oklahoma state senator removed from leadership positions, Nolan Clay, July 7, 2017. State Sen. Bryce Marlatt was stripped Thursday of three leadership positions pending the outcome of a police sex crimes investigation. “Further action may be taken as deemed necessary,” Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz wrote in a letter to members. Oklahoma City police are investigating Marlatt, R-Woodward, because of a complaint made by an Uber driver June 28. She told police he “made advances on her during transit,” according to a police report. She specifically complained he grabbed her forcefully and kissed her on the neck while she was driving in Oklahoma City late June 26.
Media Around the Nation
New York Daily News, Chris Christie filling in for Mike Francesa as part of WFAN audition, Nicholas Parco, July 7, 2017. Christie is set to co-host the afternoon drive time from 2-6:30 p.m. on New York City’s most popular sports talk station next Monday and Tuesday with WFAN’s Evan Roberts. Christie better hope his radio ratings are higher than his approval rating. The New Jersey governor currently owns a record-low 15 percent approval rating.
Washington Post, Hobby Lobby’s smuggling case casts cloud over museum slated for D.C., Julie Zauzmer and Sarah Pulliam Bailey, July 6, 2017. A federal court settlement that requires Hobby Lobby Stores to pay a $3 million fine for illegally importing thousands of ancient Iraqi artifacts is casting a cloud over the much-anticipated Museum of the Bible associated with the store’s owners just as the museum prepares to open near the Mall.
Hobby Lobby President Steve Green also chairs the board of the Museum of the Bible, and the Green family is the museum’s major funder. In a civil complaint filed Wednesday, federal prosecutors said that the craft store chain that Green leads had smuggled more than 3,000 items into the United States including clay tablets and seals –precisely the sort of artifacts that would be slated for the museum’s collection, which contains many items donated by the Green family.
Though the items seized by the U.S. government were shipped to Hobby Lobby, not the museum, scholars say the federal case is a blot on the $500 million museum, which is set to open in November two blocks from Mall over the Federal Center Metro Station in Southwest Washington.
CNN, Bannon ally leaves the National Security Council after less than six months, Kaitlan Collins, July 6, 2017. Tera Dahl is exiting the National Security Council; Dahl previously worked as an aide to former Rep. Michele Bachmann. A former Breitbart writer and ally of Steve Bannon’s is leaving the White House after less than six months of serving as the deputy chief of staff for the National Security Council.
Tera Dahl is exiting the group and will move on to a role “that she wants” at the US Agency for International Development. Dahl wrote for Breitbart from October 2013 until August 2016.
The Future of Freedom Foundation, Free Videos now available of conference “The National Security State & JFK,” Jacob G. Hornberger, July 6, 2017. The all-day conference was held at the Washington Dulles Marriott on June 3, 2017. The Future of Freedom Foundation organized the conference and posted videos on its website, shown above.
C-SPAN has announced its schedule for airing the conference, beginning on July 8 via C-SPAN 3, the American History channel. Viewers should be able to find them in C-SPAN’s video library at www.c-span.org/history by using the search box up top to search by speaker name. The schedule is posted below:
— Saturday, July 8, 2017, 12:00 p.m. ET: The conference AM session, including opening remarks by Jacob Hornberger, Jeffrey Sachs, Michael Glennon, Stephen Kinzer and Douglas Horne. Replayed at 4 a.m. Sunday.
— Sunday, July 9, 2017, 12:00 p.m. ET: Michael Swanson, Peter Janney, Jefferson Morley, Ron Paul. Replayed at 4 a.m. Monday.
— Saturday, July 15, 2017, 2:00 p.m. ET: Jacob Hornberger, James DiEugenio, and Oliver Stone.
Washington Post, Trump took a question from a reporter he considered hiring and used it to bash the media, Callum Borchers, July 6, 2017. Trump rails on CNN, MSNBC and ‘fake news’ in Poland. President Trump spoke for about seven minutes during a joint news conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda in Warsaw on Thursday before an interpreter opened the session to questions from journalists. Without hesitation, Trump called on the Daily Mail’s David Martosko, who was a candidate to become White House press secretary before withdrawing from consideration two weeks ago.
“I have to ask about this,” Martosko said. “Since you started the whole wrestling thing, what are your thoughts about what has happened since then? I mean CNN went after you and has threatened to expose the identity of a person they said was responsible for it. I’d like your thoughts on that.”
“Yeah, I think what CNN did was unfortunate for them,” Trump replied. “As you know, now they have some pretty serious problems. They have been fake news for a long time. They’ve been covering me in a very, uh, very dishonest way.”
Trump’s message to the world on Thursday was that the U.S. president’s idea of a free press is one based on favors: Cozy up to the White House and the president will let you ask questions. Fail to deliver positive coverage as a reward for previous business relationships, and you will be labeled “fake news.”
Washington Post, Trump reaffirms commitment to NATO, chides Russia, Abby Phillip and John Wagner, July 6, 2017. Addressing a friendly crowd in Poland, President Trump made the case for defending Western civilization against challenges posed by terrorism and ideological extremism. His speech also included an explicit commitment to Article 5, the collective security provision of the NATO treaty. Trump refuses to say he believes Russia was solely responsible for U.S. election interference; Hamburg braces for mass protests as G-20 gathering puts the city under a spotlight.
CAPA, Save The Date: CAPA Mock Trial On Oswald Nov. 16-17 In Houston, Lawrence Schnapf, July 6, 2017. A two-day mock trial State of Texas v. Lee Harvey Oswald will be held on November 16th and 17th at the South Texas College of Law-Houston, the Committee Against Political Assassinations (CAPA) announced today.
Building on what has been learned from the Innocence Project and the 2009 National Academy of Sciences report on forensic evidence, the CAPA mock trial will apply 21st Century techniques to examine the physical evidence used by the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee on Assassinations to identify Lee Harvey Oswald (shown in a New Orleans police mug shot and separately in a file photo below) as the alleged sole assassin of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963.
A senior judge from the Harris County Criminal Court will preside over the event with the jury selected from the Harris County jury pool.
Alec Baldwin (shown in a photo from a Cannes Film Festival) will be the keynote speaker for the Nov. 16th dinner following the first day of the mock trial. He will also participate in a book signing for registrants prior to dinner for his new book Nevertheless: A Memoir. The mock trial will offer 7.5 hours of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits including 1.5 of CLE Ethics credits.
Seating capacity will be limited. So early registration is recommended. The event will also be streamed live for registrants who are unable to travel to Houston. Look for our pre-registration announcement at the CAPA website or sign-up page for further updates.
New York Times, Official Watchdog Who Clashed With Trump Is Resigning, Nicholas Fandos, July 6, 2017. Walter M. Shaub Jr., the director of the Office of Government Ethics, butted heads repeatedly with the Trump administration, but he cited a new job, not pressure, as his reason for leaving. Walter M. Shaub Jr., the government’s top ethics watchdog who has repeatedly gone head-to-head with the Trump administration over conflicts of interest, said on Thursday that he was calling it quits.
Mr. Shaub’s five-year term as the director of the Office of Government Ethics is not set to expire until January, but with little chance of renewal and an appealing offer in hand from a nonpartisan advocacy group, he said the time was right to leave.
It is the job of the ethics office, a creation of a post-Watergate Congress, to work with a web of ethics officials at each agency to help those entering the government sidestep potential conflicts. The office guides each administration’s political appointees though financial disclosure requirements and creates agreements to restrict participation in deliberations over topics they handled for paying clients. Mr. Shaub will leave the agency this month to take up his new position as a senior director for ethics at the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, a nonpartisan group that advocates campaign finance reform and litigates voting rights cases.
Daily Beast, States Declare Independence From Trump’s Voter Fraud Commission, Michael Waldman, July 6, 2017. When the White House’s “Voter Fraud Panel”— as President Trump calls it — sought the personal information of tens of millions of Americans, it provoked a roaring backlash. This Fourth of July weekend, state voting officials rebelled. Trump’s allies are flailing. Late today the commission’s de facto leader Kris Kobach denounced media reports as, what else, “fake news.” The panel has not yet convened its first meeting, and already it’s a debacle.
Global News: Libya, Syria, Qatar
SouthFront, Libyan War, Syrian War And Qatar Crisis, J.Hawk, Daniel Deiss, Edwin Watson; Voiceover by Oleg Maslov, July 6, 2017 (video). The war in Libya was caused not so much by any internal dissent but rather by the West’s need for continued economic expansion. Naturally, politically correct Westerners have been unbothered by the “humanitarian interventions” invariably making the situation far worse, and Libya has not been an exception. Since the fall of the regime of Muammar al-Gaddafi, Libya has not experienced any political, financial or even social stability, as the country is witnessing a state of constant fighting between all parties despite the absence of any religious or sectarian differences between the populations. Libya turned from one of the richest countries in the world to a failed state.
Given the balance of forces outlined above, the conflict in Libya would have come to a close years ago had it not been for the direct involvement of the Qatar-Turkey alliance, whose aggressive acts against Syria had likewise escalated that conflict. To be sure, the Qatar-Turkey alliance was one of convenience, with the two parties pursuing different objectives which simply happened to be not mutually exclusive.
For Turkey, the aim of the game at the time was neo-Ottomanism. Both Syria and Libya are, after all, parts of the former Ottoman Empire, with the former being wrested from its grasp by the French and the British at the end of World War I, and the former falling to Italy in Italo-Turkish War of 1911-1912.
For Qatar, the objective was establishing oneself as a regional power player not only independent of Saudi Arabia but also equivalent to it, a task that would have been greatly facilitated by establishing Qatar-friendly regimes in Libya and Syria, extending Qatar’s control over the region’s hydrocarbons, and gaining access to new markets in Europe. That final point of the Turkey-Qatar strategy was welcome by European factions favoring continued eastward expansion because the Qatari gas pipeline could be used as a political weapon against Russia.
However, that coalition proved too weak to overcome the resistance of legitimate government forces in Libya and Syria, particularly after the direct Russian military involvement in Syria spelled the end of the “Assad must go” campaign, and it never managed to secure the support of the United States for either of its objectives. The US, for its part, attempted to sponsor its own jihadists in Syria or favored the Saudi-led efforts.
Therefore it was only a matter of time before either Turkey or Qatar realized its strategy was doomed and sought to pursue a different course of action. Turkey proved the weaker link in that coalition thanks to, ironically, US enlistment of the Kurds as its proxy army in Syria. Faced with an impossible to dislodge Russian presence in Syria, Turkey opted to change its aims to become an “energy gateway” to Europe by joining forces with Russia in the form of the Turkish Stream pipeline.
Business Insider, Hope Hicks gets paid a huge salary that’s as high as Trump’s top aides — how a 28-year-old with no political experience wound up in the president’s inner circle, Rebecca Harrington, July 6, 2017. Hope Hicks, 28, was born in Greenwich, a town of 60,000 on the southwest tip of Connecticut that’s a favorite spot for hedge fund headquarters. She was a model, actress, and lacrosse player as a child, before getting her English degree at Southern Methodist University. Hicks didn’t intend on playing such a large role in a presidential campaign, instead falling into the gig through a job at the Trump Organization.
But she now finds herself as one of President Donald Trump’s youngest advisers, serving as assistant to the president and director of strategic communications in the White House. Hicks has been with Trump — to use his words — “from the beginning.” She stuck on his campaign through multiple staff revamps, including two high-profile changes at the campaign-chair position. Here’s what we know about Hicks.
Washington Post, Most states partly or fully rebuff Trump’s voter fraud commission, Mark Berman and John Wagner, July 5, 2017. Many states said local officials should manage elections and argued that the White House went too far in its request for voter data.
Greg Palast via The Progressive, Republican States Send Voter Files to Kobach While Claiming They Will “Resist” His Demand, Greg Palast (shown at left), July 5, 2017. A national outcry followed last week’s request from Kris Kobach, Vice Chair of President Donald Trump’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, that state election officials provide him with a long list of personal information on every voter, including party affiliation, date of birth, last four digits of social security number, and more.
Election officials in forty-four states say they will refuse to comply with the June 28 written request from Kobach, whose advisory commission was created in May by Trump via executive order. Trump has made repeated and so-far unsubstantiated claims that millions voted illegally in the 2016 election.
The President’s Commission has quickly politicized its work by asking states for an incredible amount of voter data that I have, time and time again, refused to release,” said Louisiana’s Secretary of State Tom Schedler. To the contrary, Schedler and voting officials from fifteen other Republican states, the majority of those allegedly “resisting” Kobach’s demand, have already shared detailed voter files with Kobach (shown at right) in his capacity as Secretary of State of Kansas.
Records obtained by The Progressive from the Kansas Secretary of State office showed that Schedler turned over nearly three million voter files to Kobach earlier this year, including voter birthdates and Social Security information.
Miami U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga. Photo: Federal Bar Association, South Florida Chapter
FloridaBulldog, Miami judge rules out FOIA trial, says FBI document on 9/11 funding to remain secret, Dan Christensen, July 5, 2017. Secret FBI information about who funded the 9/11 attacks will remain hidden indefinitely after a Miami federal judge reversed herself last week and decided that the FBI was not improperly withholding it from the public.
At the same time, Judge Cecilia Altonaga ruled out holding a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) trial to evaluate the need for such continued secrecy nearly 16 years after the 9/11 attacks. A trial would likely have included testimony from government witnesses in support of continued secrecy as well as others like Bob Graham, the former Florida senator who co-chaired Congress’s Joint Inquiry into 9/11 and believes the FBI documents should be made public.
“The court sees no need for further facts to be elicited at trial,” Altonaga wrote in her seven-page order granting the FBI’s request to keep secret large portions of an FBI slide show titled “Overview of the 9/11 Investigation.” The FBI had argued the information was exempt from public disclosure because it “would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions.”
Judge Altonaga’s order requires the government to draft a proposed final summary judgment order for the court’s consideration by July 11.
DC Bible Museum Affiliate Fined For Massive Theft of Artifacts
Talking Points Memo, US Confiscates Ancient Iraqi Artifacts Illegally Imported By Hobby Lobby, Esme Cribb, July 5, 2017. The Department of Justice on Wednesday filed to forfeit thousands of ancient Iraqi cuneiform tablets and clay bullae, or seals, illegally imported in 2010 by arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby. Hobby Lobby agreed in December 2010 to purchase “over 5,500 Artifacts, comprised of cuneiform tablets and bricks, clay bullae and cylinder seals, for $1.6 million,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York announced in a release. The artifacts “originated into the area of modern-day Iraq and were smuggled into the United States through the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel, contrary to federal law,” the office said.
Counterpunch, The Useful Idiots Who Undermine Dissent on Syria, Jonathan Cook, July 5, 2017. There has been much disingenuous criticism of those, like me, who question why the western corporate media have studiously ignored the latest investigation by renowned journalist Seymour Hersh on Syria. Hersh had to publish his piece in a German newspaper, Welt am Sonntag, after the entire US and UK media rejected his article. There has still been no mention of his investigation more than a week later.
Those who support, either explicitly or implicitly, the meddling in Syria’s affairs by hostile foreign powers are, of course, delighted that Hersh’s revelations are being kept out of the spotlight. They don’t want every side heard, only their side. And those of us who expect all the evidence to be aired, so we aren’t corralled into yet another disastrous “intervention” in the Middle East, are being mischievously denounced as Assad loyalists.
His sources in the US intelligence establishment have countered an official narrative – spread by western governments and the corporate media – that assumes Assad was behind a chemical weapons attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun on April 4. Hersh’s account suggests that Syria used a conventional bomb to hit a jihadist meeting in the town, triggering secondary explosions in a storage depot containing pesticides, fertilisers and chlorine-based decontaminants. A toxic cloud was created that caused symptoms similar to sarin for those nearby.
Trump was so convinced that Assad had used sarin in Khan Sheikhoun that he violated international law and fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase as punishment, even though, according to Hersh, his own intelligence community disputed that this is what had happened.
New York Times, ‘Surgical’ Strike in North Korea Could Swiftly Turn to Carnage, Motoko Rich, July 5, 2017. Over decades, the Pentagon drafted and refined multiple war plans for North Korea. But the military options are grimmer than ever. The stakes are even higher now. American officials believe North Korea has built as many as a dozen nuclear bombs — perhaps many more — and can mount them on missiles capable of hitting much of Japan and South Korea. Beyond that, there is no historical precedent for a military attack aimed at destroying a country’s nuclear arsenal.
Moon of Alabama, The Saudi-Qatar Spat; Qatar And Iran Are Winning: MbZ, MbS Lose Face, Admin, July 5, 2017. The Saudi/UAE campaign against Qatar quickly turned into a mess.
Qatar did not fold as had been expected. There was no plan B. The instigators of the plan (including newly appointed Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, shown at right, have now to fear for their head.
New York Times, Russia Deploys a Potent Weapon in Syria: The Profit Motive, Andrew E. Kramer, July 5, 2017. The Kremlin is bringing a new weapon to the fight against the Islamic State militant group in Syria, using market-based incentives tied to oil and mining rights to reward private security contractors who secure territory from the extremists, Russian news outlets have reported. So far, two Russian companies are known to have received contracts under the new policy, according to the reports: Evro Polis, which is set to receive profits from oil and gas wells it seizes from the Islamic State using contract soldiers, and Stroytransgaz, which signed a phosphate-mining deal for a site that was under militant control at the time.
New York Times Magazine, All the President’s Lawyers, Jonathan Mahler, July 5, 2017. Donald J. Trump’s life and career have been defined by his legal battles. But do the attorneys who guided him know how to navigate Washington?
New York Times, Health Care? Taxes? Budget? G.O.P. Has Big To-Do List, but Little Time, Alan Rappeport, July 5, 2017. An iffy health care vote. An unresolved budget resolution. A heavy debt ceiling lift. And, of course, there is that tax overhaul plan. Congress has a lot to do, and it doesn’t have much time. So much for a lazy July in Washington.
When members of Congress return next week from their Fourth of July break, they will be greeted by a mammoth legislative logjam. Republicans are increasingly skeptical that they can get everything done. There are even calls from some to forgo their sacred August recess — a respite from the capital in its swampiest month.
“Our current Senate calendar shows only 33 potential working days remaining before the end of the fiscal year,” a group of 10 Republican senators wrote on Friday in a letter to Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, highlighting the deadline at the end of September. “This does not appear to give us enough time to adequately address the issues that demand immediate attention.”
The Republican Party is under intense pressure to achieve something of consequence in that limited time in order to legitimately claim that the first year of the Trump administration has been a success. So far, the ambitious agenda has stagnated without a signature achievement. President Trump’s unpredictability has only made matters more complicated.
Washington Post, The Reddit user behind Trump’s CNN meme apologized. But #CNNBlackmail is the story taking hold, Abby Ohlheiser, July 5, 2017. The Reddit user said he never intended his anti-CNN meme — you know, the one tweeted by President Trump in which the now-president beats up CNN in a wrestling match — to become a call for violence against journalists. The apology, which has since been deleted along with the user’s entire Reddit account, ended with a call for peace. #CNNBlackmail was the top trending Twitter topic Wednesday morning, thanks to the efforts of a furious Trump Internet, who had concluded that the user’s apology was forced by a “threat” from CNN.
Washington Post, North Korea missile launch marks a direct challenge to Trump administration, Anne Gearan and Emily Rauhala, July 4, 2017. President Trump’s tough talk has yet to yield any change in Pyongyang’s behavior as the regime continues efforts to build a nuclear weapon capable of striking the mainland United States — the latest missile flew high and long enough to reach all of Alaska, experts say. Experts also say the administration does not have many choices for what to do next.
Unz Review, The Fraud of the White Helmets, Philip Giraldi (shown in a file photo), July 4, 2017. Hollywood buys into yet another lie. “The White Helmets” is available on Netflix. It is 40 minutes long, is of high quality cinematographically speaking, and tells a very convincing tale that was promoted as “the story of real-life heroes and impossible hope.” It is overall a very impressive piece of propaganda, so much so that it has won numerous awards including the Oscar for Best Documentary Short this year and the White Helmets themselves were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
More to the point, however, is the undeniable fact that the documentary has helped shape the public understanding of what is going on in Syria, delivering a Manichean tale that depicts the “rebels” as always good and Bashar al-Assad and his government as un-redeemably evil.
It has been reliably reported that celebrities like George Clooney, Justin Timberlake and Hillary Clinton really like the White Helmets documentary and have promoted it with the understanding that it represents the truth about Syria, but it is, of course, not the whole story. The film, which was made by the White Helmets themselves without any external verification of what it depicts, portrays the group as “heroic,” an “impartial, life-saving rescue organization” of first responders.
Excluded from the scenes of heroism under fire is the White Helmets’ relationship with the al-Qaeda affiliated group Jabhat al-Nusra and its participation in the torture and execution of “rebel” opponents. Indeed, the White Helmets only operate in rebel held territory, which enables them to shape the narrative both regarding who they are and what is occurring on the ground. Because of increasing awareness of the back story, there is now a growing movement to petition the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to revoke the Oscar based on the complete and deliberate misrepresentation of what the White Helmets are all about.
Exploiting their access to the western media, the White Helmets have de facto become a major source of “eyewitness” news regarding what has been going on in those many parts of Syria where European and American journalists are quite rightly afraid to go. It is all part of a broader largely successful “rebel” effort to manufacture fake news that depicts the Damascus government as engaging in war crimes directed against civilians.
Washington Post, Appeals court says Trump EPA can’t suspend Obama-era emissions standards, Juliet Eilperin and Steven Mufson, July 4, 2017 (printed edition). An appeals court Monday struck down the Environmental Protection Agency’s 90-day suspension of new emission standards on oil and gas wells, a decision that could set back the Trump administration’s broad legal strategy for rolling back Obama-era rules. In a 2-to-1 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit concluded that the EPA had the right to reconsider a 2016 rule limiting methane and smog-forming pollutants emitted by oil and gas wells but could not delay the effective date while it sought to rewrite the regulation.
Richard Lazarus, an environmental-law professor at Harvard Law School, said in an email: “The D.C. Circuit’s ruling today makes clear that neither the president nor his EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt (shown above at left), can by fiat unilaterally and instantaneously repeal or otherwise stay the effectiveness of the environmental protection rules put into place during the Obama administration.”
The ruling could affect myriad agencies that have delayed the Obama administration’s regulations, some for long periods. And it underscores the extent to which activists are turning to the courts to block President Trump’s most ambitious policy shifts. “The court says you can consider changing the rules but you have to do it the normal way, with a comment period,” said David Doniger, director of the climate and clean-air program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “You can’t yank it out of existence on your say-so.”
Chaotic Capital On Independence Day?
Crooks and Liars, Confused Trump Wanders Away From His Limousine, Gets Directed Back To It, Admin, July 4, 2017.
Palmer Report, Narcissistic Donald Trump desecrates Fourth of July with campaign song in place of National Anthem, Bill Palmer, July 4, 2017. For a moment there today, it almost seemed Donald Trump had tweeted something presidential. After five consecutive mornings of Twitter posts that were so grotesque and unhinged as to bring universal condemnation and widespread calls for invoking the 25th Amendment, this morning Trump simply tweeted “#HappyIndependenceDay #July4 #USA” along with what initially appeared to be a video of a chorus singing a patriotic American song. But upon hearing the song… oh dear Lord.
The video posted by Trump was actually a chorus decked out patriotically, but singing a “Make America Great Again” song. That was his signature propaganda slogan during the election – and it was thinly veiled code for promoting racist and xenophobic policies that are unpatriotically incompatible with the true ideals that America has always stood for. This garbage tweet was clearly aimed at enabling Trump’s own small and shrinking base, while insulting the vast majority of Americans who are not his base.
And so this least patriotic, least liked, least decent, least sane, and certainly least presidential individual to ever occupy the office of President of the United States has now even found a way to desecrate the Fourth of July. Moreover, by posting a song dedicated to himself instead of one dedicated to the nation, Trump has once again reminded Americans that he’s a narcissistic sociopath with dictator tendencies. If you want nightmare fuel that you’ll never be able to un-hear, you can listen to Trump’s song here.
Washington Post, Maryland will not forward voter data to Trump’s election commission, Ovetta Wiggins, July 3, 2017. The administrator for the state Board of Elections said in a letter Monday to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity that the request violates state election law.
New York Times, New Jersey Reaches Budget Deal and Ends State Shutdown, Russ Buettner and Nate Schweber, July 3, 2017. State beaches and parks may be reopened for the July 4 holiday, after a three-day standoff over Gov. Chris Christie’s demand that the governor’s office be given more control over the state’s largest health insurer.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at New Jersey state beach on July 2, 2017 (Photo by Andrew Mills of Advance Media)
New York Times, Chris Christie’s Fall: From Dreams of White House to an Empty Beach, Nick Corasaniti, July 3, 2017. The governor and his family were easy to spot on the shimmering Jersey Shore, amid 10 miles of a state beach closed by a budget standoff, even from 1,000 feet above. Andy Mills, a photographer for the Star-Ledger, dangled out of a Cessna 152 two-seater and aimed his long lens at what looked like just dots on the sand. Following a hunch that with an empty Sunday morning schedule, Gov. Chris Christie might be indulging in some private holiday weekend sun on a beach he had ordered closed as part of a government shutdown, Mr. Mills fired away.
The hunch paid off. “As we came back up, I’m looking, I’m like, ‘that’s him,’ there’s no doubt in my mind that’s him,” Mr. Mills said. He peered through his 400-millimeter lens and saw Mr. Christie looking right back at him. “When you make eye contact with someone, both you know and he knows what’s going on.”
Mr. Christie has been adamant that he had a right to the use the beach house at Island Beach State Park — it is an official governor’s residence — and that he was not going to cancel weeks of planning because of the shutdown. When a reporter asked about his use of the home, Mr. Christie said: “That’s just the way it goes. Run for governor, and you can have a residence.”
The photographs were yet another self-inflicted indignity, exposed by the news media, for a governor who long dreamed of the dignified office of the presidency. In 2011, photographs published by The Star-Ledger caught him using a state helicopter paid for by taxpayers to attend his son’s baseball game.
About 30,000 state employees were also ordered to stay home after the governor and State Assembly leader failed to reach agreement on the budget by Saturday, as the state Constitution requires. The dispute is over Mr. Christie’s plan to give the state significant powers over Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, the state’s largest health insurer.
At the height of Mr. Christie’s popularity, when he was celebrated at home and nationally as one of the Republican Party’s brightest stars, Mr. Christie easily shrugged off seemingly damaging episodes, rarely giving any credence to concerns about political optics. Armed with a quick, sharp tongue and a brash sense of humor, his “sit down and shut up” tongue lashings were often praised as authentic and tough. But now, with Mr. Christie having been battered by the George Washington Bridge scandal, a disastrous presidential bid and the lowest approval ratings of any governor in state history, his continued reliance on biting defensive humor is less endearing and more enraging.
The images drew immediate ridicule from friends and opponents. “It’s beyond words,” said Mr. Christie’s lieutenant governor, Kim Guadagno, a Republican who is running to replace him. “If I were governor, I sure wouldn’t be sitting on the beach if taxpayers didn’t have access to state beaches. We need to end the shutdown now. It’s hurting small businesses and ordinary New Jerseyans.”
HuffPost, Justice Official Quits Over White House Conduct ‘I Would Not Tolerate Seeing In A Company,’ Mary Papenfuss, July 3, 2017. A top Justice Department corporate crime expert has quit, saying it’s impossible to hold suspected lawbreakers to standards that President Donald Trump is not meeting himself. Hui Chen, who was the compliance counsel in the fraud unit of DOJ’s criminal division, discussed her reasons for quitting in a LinkedIn post published June 25. She wrote that it was impossible to sit across from corporate representatives and demand a basic standard of behavior that is not being enforced in the White House.
Washington Post, Appeals court says Trump EPA can’t suspend Obama-era emissions standards, Juliet Eilperin and Steven Mufson, July 3, 2017. An appeals court Monday struck down the Environmental Protection Agency’s 90-day suspension of new emission standards on oil and gas wells, a decision that could set back the Trump administration’s broad legal strategy for rolling back Obama-era rules. In a 2-to-1 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit concluded that the EPA had the right to reconsider a 2016 rule limiting methane and smog-forming pollutants emitted by oil and gas wells but could not delay the effective date while it sought to rewrite the regulation.
Global News: Israel Yields To Ultra-Orthodox
New York Times, Israel Faces Uproar Abroad as Netanyahu Yields to Ultra-Orthodox Jews, Isabel, Kershner, July 3, 2017. The president of the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee lobbying group flew to Israel for an emergency meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while other Jewish leaders canceled a dinner with him. One prominent Jewish donor demanded a refund for the $1 million in Israel bonds he had just purchased.
Jews around the world have been in an uproar in the week since Mr. Netanyahu yielded to pressure from his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners and suspended a plan to provide a better space for non-Orthodox men and women to worship together at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. That new prayer space had long been a goal of the Reform and Conservative movements, popular in the West. And in another blow to those more liberal wings of Judaism, the government also approved a contentious bill enshrining the strictly Orthodox Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly over conversions to Judaism in Israel.
Together, those moves have reawakened a decades-old dispute over who is a Jew. And they have prompted an emotional debate over the nature of the relationship between the world’s Jews and the Jewish homeland — at a time when a right-wing Israeli government, under increased international criticism, has relied on support among the generally more liberal Jewish diaspora in the West.
The furor over the Western Wall agreement boils down to a refusal by Israel’s Orthodox religious authorities to grant any recognition to Reform and Conservative Judaism. The main prayer space at the Western Wall, known in Hebrew as the Kotel, has separate men’s and women’s sections, in the Orthodox tradition, and is run like an Orthodox synagogue. The response to the government’s moves has been disappointment and rage, particularly among Jews in North America.
Future of Freedom Foundation, Murder with Impunity in Russia … and the U.S., Jacob G. Hornberger (shown at right), July 3, 2017. Last Friday, the Washington Post published an excellent editorial about murder and the rule of law. The editorial described how Russian prosecutors secured convictions of five men for murdering Boris Nemtsov, a popular critic of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, but criticized Russian officials for failing to pursue the people who ordered the killings.
The editorial, entitled “No Justice After the Cold Blooded Murder of a Russian Opposition Leader,” suggested that the assassination may have been orchestrated by Russian officials and criticized the judge presiding over the case for his lack of “curiosity” about who ordered the killing.
Even though the Post might not realize it, its editorial, however, says much more about the United States than it says about Russia. After all, if Russian officials did in fact orchestrate Nemtsov’s assassination, I don’t think many people would be surprised. That’s what oftentimes happens in countries ruled by authoritarian or totalitarian regimes.
What should be disconcerting to the Post and every American citizen is that state-sponsored assassinations with impunity have been made a permanent feature of the U.S. government ever since the conversion of the federal government to a national-security state in the latter part of the 1940s.
Here in the United States, U.S. officials engage in state-sponsored assassinations and other felonies with the same impunity that Russian officials presumably engage in. Nothing ever happens to U.S. officials who engage in such crimes. They’re certainly not prosecuted. If victims or victims’ families sue for damages, the federal courts summarily dismiss their cases, holding that U.S. officials have the power to assassinate anyone they want, so long as it relates to “national security.”
SouthFront, US-led Coalition Airdrops Militants From At-Tanf To Al-Shaddadi, Aims To Seize More Border Area: Media, Staff report, July 3, 2017. The US-led coalition has airdropped about 100 members of US-backed groups of the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) from the US-held At-Tanf area in southeastern Syria to the Al-Shaddadi area in northeastern Syria, according to pro-militant media activists and media outlets. Both At Tanf and Al-Shaddadi are located near the border with Iraq. According to reports, the goal of this move is to set a foothold for the US-backed advance on the government-held city of Deir Ezzor besieged by ISIS terrorists. Another obvious target for the US-led operation is the ISIS-held border town of al-Bukamal.
HuffPost, Trump Marks Independence Day Weekend With Fantasy About Beating Up Journalists, Marina Fang, July 2, 2017. During his raucous campaign rallies, Trump often incited protests and violence against reporters. President Donald Trump renewed his attacks on the media Sunday, tweeting a video that seemed to endorse violence against journalists.
The video appears to be a repurposed clip of Trump, then a reality TV star, beating up WWE owner Vince McMahon in 2007 ― with the logo for CNN, which Trump has continually labeled a “fake news” media outlet, replacing McMahon’s head.
Trump’s official White House account subsequently retweeted the video, which appeared on a Reddit thread on Wednesday, entitled “Trump takes down fake news.” During his raucous presidential campaign rallies, Trump often incited protests and violence against reporters. On Thursday, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders falsely insisted that Trump “in no way, form or fashion has ever promoted or encouraged violence. If anything, quite the contrary.”
Washington Post, Lawmakers blast Trump’s ‘crude, false, and unpresidential’ CNN tweet, Amy B Wang, July 2, 2017. Some accused the president of encouraging violence against journalists and many defended the free press as critical to the nation’s democracy.
Washington Post, The White House is playing a game of chicken with the media, Callum Borchers, July 2, 2017. The president (shown in a Gage Skidmore file photo) and his aides do not want to be the ones to pull the plug on press briefings. So the administration is making the situation so untenable that reporters just might stop covering them. The apparent strategy has three prongs:
Turn off the cameras. Eight of the last 11 briefings have been held off camera, including Friday’s. The White House also banned live audio broadcasts of those sessions. This is the new normal, and it makes for lousy television. Cable news networks initially aired audio recordings on delay, under still images, but quickly abandoned the degraded productions.
Stop answering questions. A month ago, the White House said it would refer all questions about the special counsel-led investigation of Russian election meddling to Trump’s private attorneys. On other subjects, too, White House spokesmen increasingly say they don’t know the answers or haven’t asked the president.
Show the media at its worst. The White House picked two days this week to hold briefings on camera: Tuesday, the day after three CNN journalists resigned following a retraction, and Thursday, the day that Trump tweeted a sexist attack on MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski.
Probes of Trump Colleagues
FBI Headquarters in Washington, DC (photo via Wikimedia)
New York Times, Ex-Trump Confidant Faces Scrutiny in Russia Investigation, Michael Schwitz, William K. Rashbaum and Danny Hakim, July 2, 2017. Michael D. Cohen rose from personal injury lawyer to become Mr. Trump’s confidant. Now, he appears to be outside the Trump inner circle and under scrutiny by the F.B.I.
‘Since Mr. Trump became president, his need for loyal foot soldiers like Mr. Cohen has never been greater. But instead of helping his longtime employer navigate F.B.I. and congressional investigations into whether his campaign colluded with Russia in the 2016 election, Mr. Cohen now appears to be outside the Trump inner circle, a man on the defensive. The House Intelligence Committee has summoned him for questioning in its inquiry. (Mr. Cohen’s lawyer in Washington said his client was cooperating.)
He is under scrutiny by the F.B.I., along with other Trump associates, in the Russia investigation. An unverified dossier prepared by a retired British spy and published this year said that Mr. Cohen had met overseas with Kremlin officials and other Russian operatives, which he has denied. (He once posted on Twitter, “The #RussianDossier is WRONG!”) He has also attracted attention for playing a role in a failed effort to open a back channel for peace negotiations between Russia and Ukraine, where his wife’s family is from.
After years of loyal service to Mr. Trump, Mr. Cohen, 50, expected to be offered a senior administration post, according to four people who know him, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they feared angering Mr. Cohen. He was given no such job.
On the networking site LinkedIn, Mr. Cohen refers to himself as the “personal attorney to President Donald J. Trump,” but his precise role and current relationship with the president is unclear, and he would not elaborate. The White House did not respond to requests for comment. In recent weeks, another lawyer, Marc E. Kasowitz, seems to have largely taken Mr. Cohen’s place as Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer.
New York Times, Christie Basks in a Last Battle Over the New Jersey Budget, Russ Buettner and Nate Schweber, July 2, 2017. The state government will be closed for a third day on Monday, having not met the July 1 budget deadline as Gov. Chris Christie shows that he will maintain his brash style of governing to the end.
Now, with Mr. Christie’s punches weakened by scandal and support among voters sagging, the State Assembly is refusing to go along. Lawmakers rejected his effort to link passage of the state budget to his plan to force Horizon to hand over $300 million of its roughly $2.4 billion reserve. The resulting shutdown will enter its third day on Monday.
New Jersey is one of at least nine states that failed to meet their July 1 budget deadline. That had an immediate effect on residents of three of the states — Illinois, Maine and New Jersey. The other six states — Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island and Wisconsin — either have laws that maintain current spending levels or provide for stopgap measures in case of a budget impasse.
Officials said states without budgets would feel the full effects on Wednesday, after the Fourth of July holiday, when courts, motor-vehicle agencies and other state offices are to resume normal business. Monday is not a holiday, but because it falls between the weekend and the holiday, state officials expected less activity than usual. See also: New York Times, Christie Hits a Closed State Beach, and Kicks Up a Fury.
Docile U.S. Press?
Map of Syria, with government in red, rebels in green, ISIS in gray, Kurdish forces in yellow (SouthFront graphic as of July 1, 2017)
Moon of Alabama, NYT, WaPo Send Top Reporters To Stenograph Five O’Clock Follies, Admin B, July 2, 2017. When the U.S. military takes a bunch of journalists on a press junket to a foreign country it has a certain intention and prepares every detail in advance. There will be witnesses and local people who are briefed for their two minute talk with the journalists to convey exactly what the military wants them to convey. The outcome is predictable. The stories the journalists will write will be the same.
The military wanted to convey that nearly everything is fine now in Tabqa. The people love the U.S. occupation and all that is needed now are a few billion $$$ for some minor nation building. The journalists ate up the prepared bites and transmit exactly what the military wanted them to say.
The mainstream media want their readers to believe that their narratives from war zones are genuine reporting. The above examples [omitted here] show that they are not. Their journalists are simple recording highly choreographed shows the Pentagon and State Department press advisors made up and the local press officers prepared in advance. A modern version of the Vietnam war’s five o’clock follies.
Syrian Government Thwarts “Moderates” Terror Attack In Damascus
SouthFront, Security Forces Prevent Triple Terrorist Attack In Damascus, Staff report, July 2, 2017. Terrorist groups attempted to carry out attacks against civilian targets using 3 VBIEDs (Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Devices) in the capital Damascus. Syrian Security Forces managed to identify the three VBIEDs and chase them before they enter Damascus. Two VBIEDs were destroyed in the roundabout area of the Damascus International Airport but the third VBIED was able to enter the city before it was surrounded by security forces in Tahrir Square, where the suicide attacker blew up the VBIED.
According to official sources, 8 civilians lost their lives and 13 were injured as a result of the third VBIED. So far no party has claimed responsibility for the attack, but it is believed that Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) might been behind it. HTS had already launched dozens of terrorist attacks in Damascus without recognizing some of them in cooperation with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Ahrar al-Sham Movement. TRT World, Breaking News: Car bomb explodes in Syrian capital of Damascus, Staff report, July 2, 2017 (video).
Inside the White House
Roll Call, Salary Data Show Gender Pay Gap in Trump White House, Female office staffers are making 80 cents on the dollar, on average, Sean McMinn, July 2, 2017. Ivanka Trump’s voluntary $0 salary at the White House has been widely reported, but she’s not the only woman making less than her male colleagues there. The annual report to Congress from the Executive Office of the President, released Friday, shows that women earn an average of $84,500, compared to $105,000 for men, according a Roll Call analysis of the salary data. That means female office staffers at the White House are making, on average, 80 percent of what their male colleagues make.
Washington Post, Number of fatal shootings by police on track to hit nearly 1,000 for third year, John Sullivan, Reis Thebault, Julie Tate and Jennifer Jenkins, July 1, 2017. The Washington Post began tracking all fatal shootings by on-duty police in 2015 after the 2014 death of Michael Brown, who was unarmed and had an altercation with the officer who shot him in Ferguson, Mo. Police nationwide shot and killed 492 people in the first six months of this year, a number nearly identical to the count for the same period in each of the prior two years.
Washington Post, CNN punished three journalists for missteps on a Trump-Russia story. Did it overreact? Margaret Sullivan, July 1, 2017. If accepting the resignations of the three was meant to appease the president and his allies, it backfired big time. At this strange moment in history, any journalistic error can have extremely serious consequences.
Three CNN journalists found that out a few days ago when they resigned under pressure after reporting, editing and publishing a story — based on a single anonymous source — that the network says didn’t go through the proper review channels. When the story came under fire (it tied a Trump transition team member to a Russia-related investigation), CNN not only retracted it but sent the journalists packing.
Some hailed the move as welcome accountability, if a draconian form of it. James Risen of the New York Times, though, saw it as “a cowardly, panicked move.” CNN brass was “easily intimidated by Trump,” he told me. “CNN doesn’t seem willing to show the kind of courage required to back up your people who do difficult investigative reporting,” said Risen, one of the nation’s most prominent investigative reporters. Risen won a Pulitzer Prize in 2006 for a story co-written with one of the fired journalists, Eric Lichtblau, whom he called “one of the finest reporters I’ve ever worked with.”
If the effort was intended to mollify CNN’s chief critic — President Trump — it certainly backfired. Trump and his surrogates took the opportunity to bash the network and the rest of the mainstream media more vociferously than ever. The accustomed cries (and tweets) of “FAKE NEWS” played at an especially high decibel level all week
Washington Post, Debunking the claim on Alex Jones’s show that NASA is hiding kidnapped children on Mars, Peter Holley, July 1, 2017. Jones is known for peddling elaborate conspiracy theories on his radio show, which airs on 118 stations and reaches millions of listeners. One of his guests made the preposterous claim about a Mars colony earlier this week.