Editor’s Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative August 2017 news and views
Trump Now Taking Steps To Ruin ‘Obamacare’
HuffPost,Trump Ramps Up Obamacare Sabotage With Huge Cuts To Enrollment Programs, Jeffrey Young, Aug. 31, 2017. Advertising and promotional budget for HealthCare.gov has been slashed by 90 percent and programs to help people sign up also face a nearly 40 percent cut. President Donald Trump’s administration has taken more steps to undermine the Obamacare marketplaces it’s responsible for managing. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced Thursday that it’s making drastic cuts in spending on advertising for the 2018 open enrollment period on the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges, as well as significant cutbacks in funding for local organizations that help consumers navigate the buying process.
Weakening the two most important tools the federal government has to promote enrollment on the state-based exchanges ― 39 of which are run wholly or mainly by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services ― is the latest signal that the Trump administration isn’t committed to serving exchange customers and bolstering the marketplaces during the first open enrollment it will oversee from start to finish.President Donald Trump’s administration has taken more steps to undermine the Obamacare marketplaces it’s responsible for managing.
Trump himself repeatedly has said he wants to let or make the health insurance exchanges collapse, and his administration has taken a number of actions to destabilize them. That’s above and beyond his advocacy for the Affordable Care Act’s repeal.
More Hurricane News, Analysis
New York Times, Did Unbridled Growth Contribute to Houston Flooding? Manny Fernandez and Richard Fausset, Aug. 31, 2017 (print edition). Harvey is raising questions about whether there are, in fact, limits to the Houston model of perpetual growth.
Trump Pushes Tax Cuts
New York Times, Trump Pitches Tax Cuts on Business as Aiding Middle Class, Julia Hirshfeld Davis and Binyamin Appelbaum, Aug. 31, 2017 (print edition). In a speech on Wednesday in Springfield, Mo., President Trump laid out the case for cutting taxes for businesses and individuals and for simplifying the tax code.
Saudi-Genocide In Yemen Enabled By U.S,, UK?
New York Times, Opinion: The Photos the U.S. and Saudi Arabia Don’t Want You to See, Nicholas Kristof, Aug. 31, 2017 (print edition). That [photo] is a young Yemeni boy, acutely malnourished like two million other children in Yemen — caught up in what the United Nations calls the “world’s largest humanitarian crisis.”
Their suffering is largely a result of monstrous misconduct by a Saudi-led coalition that is supported by the United States and Britain.
Let’s be blunt: With U.S. and U.K. complicity, the Saudi government is committing war crimes in Yemen. “The country is on the brink of famine, with over 60 percent of the population not knowing where their next meal will come from,” the leaders of the U.N. World Food Program, Unicef and the World Health Organization said in an unusual joint statement.
Yemen, always an impoverished country, has been upended for two years by fighting between the Saudi-backed military coalition and Houthi rebels and their allies (with limited support from Iran). The Saudis regularly bomb civilians and, worse, they have closed the airspace and imposed a blockade to starve the rebel-held areas into submission.
I know, because I’ve been trying for almost a year to get there and thought I had arranged a visit for this week — and then Saudi Arabia shut me down. With commercial flights banned, the way into rebel areas is on charter flights arranged by the United Nations and aid groups. But Saudi military jets control this airspace and ban any flight if there’s a journalist onboard. I don’t think the Saudis would actually shoot down a plane just because I was on it, but the U.N. isn’t taking chances.
Guardian, Victory for Assad looks increasingly likely as world loses interest in Syria, Martin Chulov, Aug. 31, 2017. States that were until recently committed to toppling the Syrian leader [Bashar al-Assad, shown at right] are now resigned to him staying. An announcement earlier this week by Jordan – one of the opposition’s most robust supporters – that “bilateral ties with Damascus are going in the right direction” has, for many, marked a death knell for the opposition cause.
New York Times, In Retaliation, U.S. Orders Russia to Close Consulate in San Francisco, Mark Landler, Aug. 31, 2017. The Trump administration on Thursday ordered Russia to close its consulate in San Francisco and two diplomatic annexes, in New York and Washington, retaliating against Russia’s order for the United States to reduce its embassy staff in Moscow by 755 people.
The administration took pains to say the move was purely reciprocal, and was not designed to further escalate tensions between the United States and Russia. “In the spirit of parity invoked by the Russians,” the State Department’s spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, said in a statement, the United States would require Russia to close the three offices by Sept. 2.
But, in a statement, the Russian foreign ministry said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (shown above at left with President Trump at the White House earlier this year with the then-Russian ambassador to the United States) “expressed regret at the escalation of tension in bilateral relations,” and said the Russian government would study the move before deciding how to respond.
Google’s Media Power Shown Again
New York Times, Google Critic Ousted From Think Tank Funded by the Tech Giant, Kenneth P. Vogel, Aug. 31, 2017. In the hours after European antitrust regulators Levied a record $2.7 billion fine against Google in late June, an influential Washington think tank learned what can happen when a wealthy tech giant is criticized. The New America Foundation has received more than $21 million from Google; its parent company’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt; and his family’s foundation since the think tank’s founding in 1999. That money helped to establish New America as an elite voice in policy debates on the American left and helped Google shape those debates.
But not long after one of New America’s scholars posted a statement on the think tank’s website praising the European Union’s penalty against Google, Mr. Schmidt, who had been chairman of New America until 2016, communicated his displeasure with the statement to the group’s president, Anne-Marie Slaughter, according to the scholar.
Ms. Slaughter summoned the scholar who wrote the critical statement, Barry Lynn, to her office. He ran a New America initiative called Open Markets that has led a growing chorus of liberal criticism of the market dominance of telecom and tech giants, including Google, which is now part of a larger corporate entity known as Alphabet, for which Mr. Schmidt serves as executive chairman.
Verdict Exonerates Taliban Defendants In Assassination of Pakistani Leader Bhutto,
Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Taliban not guilty of Bhutto assassination, focus on Musharraf, Wayne Madsen (independent author, columnist and former Navy intelligence officer), Aug. 31, 2017 (Subscription required for full column). On August 30, 2017, an anti-terrorism court in Islamabad, Pakistan declared five alleged members of the Pakistani Taliban innocent of charges that they carried out the 2007 assassination in Rawalpindi of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto (shown at right in a Parade Magazine cover story).
The decision to acquit the five accused assassins and point the finger at former President Pervez Musharraf (shown in a file photo), a longtime “ally” of the United States in the “war on terrorism,” represents a significant crack in the façade of the entire George W. Bush (shown in an official photo at right) and Dick Cheney narrative on terrorism in Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan,
New York Times, 5 Suspects in Bhutto Assassination Are Cleared by Pakistani Court, Salman Masood, Aug. 31, 2017. In a surprise development, a terrorism court in Pakistan on Thursday acquitted five suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda militants in the 2007 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and declared the former leader Pervez Musharraf a fugitive in the case, lawyers said.
More on Media: Reported CIA Arms Smuggling That Armed ISIS, Other Rebels In Syria and Iraq
Zero Hedge, Journalist Interrogated, Fired For Story Linking CIA And Syria Weapons Flights, Staff report, Aug. 31, 2017. A months-long investigation which tracked and exposed a massive covert weapons shipment network to terror groups in Syria via diplomatic flights originating in the Caucuses and Eastern Europe under the watch of the CIA and other intelligence agencies has resulted in the interrogation and firing of the Bulgarian journalist who first broke the story. This comes as the original report is finally breaking into mainstream international coverage.
Investigative reporter Dilyana Gaytandzhieva (shown at right at a battle site) authored a bombshell report for Trud Newspaper, based in Sofia, Bulgaria, which found that an Azerbaijan state airline company was regularly transporting tons of weaponry to Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Turkey under diplomatic cover as part of the CIA covert program to supply anti-Assad fighters in Syria. Those weapons, Gaytandzhieva found, ended up in the hands of ISIS and al-Qaeda terrorists in Iraq and Syria.
Perhaps the more explosive finding involves private American companies contracting with the US government to help train and equip militants in Syria. An investigative series by Buzzfeed – the first of which was published in 2015 – named military contractor Purple Shovel LLC as the recipient of two no-bid contracts totaling more $50 million as part of the US train and equip program for Syria. Gaytandzhieva’s report definitively links Purple Shovel and other private American military contractors to the Azerbaijan Silk Way Airlines shipments.
On Sunday, Qatar-based Al Jazeera featured the story while reporting the shocking news that Gaytandzhieva had been interrogated by Bulgarian authorities before being fired from her newspaper: Report: Saudi, UAE weapons end up with armed groups; Investigative journalist says Azerbaijan-owned carrier used to move large quantities of heavy weapons to conflict zones,
Media: Federal Court Reinstates Civil Suit Alleging Bogus Alabama Arrest, Jailing Of Crusading Journalist
Legal Schnazuer, Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta reverses dismissal of a federal lawsuit over my unlawful 2013-14 arrest and incarceration in Shelby County, AL, Roger Shuler, Aug. 31, 2017. The U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, in a “Do Not Publish” opinion dated August 23, 2017, overturned the dismissal by District Judge R. David Proctor in the Northern District of Alabama. The Eleventh Circuit, based in Atlanta, covers Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. The case is styled Roger Shuler, et al v. Liberty Duke, et al. The three-judge panel that issued the reversal included Charles R. Wilson (Clinton appointee), Julie E. Carnes (Obama appointee), Jill A. Pryor (Obama).
What does this ruling mean? Well, it’s not a sweeping victory on the merits, by any means. It’s a procedural ruling that allows “The Jail Case” to finally begin, after being grounded for more than a year. What happens next? We will address that in an upcoming post. But the main thing is this: The court will issue summonses and complaints to defendants, as required by law, and a case that should have been well under way — maybe near the finish line — finally will get rolling.
Justice Integrity Project Editor’s Note: We have written extensively about the illegality and other unfairness of state and federal court proceedings against crusading Alabama blogger Roger Shuler, shown at right in a mug shot after he was beaten and jailed for five months without bond on trumped-up contempt of court charges. They stemmed from his columns alleging sex scandals on his blog Legal Schnauzer regarding prominent Alabama lawyers and other public figures. They included (albeit not in the case immediately at issue above) an 11th Circuit federal judge considered for a Trump Supreme Court appointment and a now-sitting U.S. senator from Alabama.
More Charlottesville Follow-up
Washington Post, Finding the white supremacists who beat a black man in Charlottesville, Ian Shapira, Aug. 31, 2017. The videos show how the beating unfolded, revealing its brutality and shocking speed from multiple perspectives.
Over the next few days, as people uploaded videos of the fight, a Black Lives Matter activist took it upon himself to do what law enforcement agencies apparently weren’t doing: Trying to identify the six attackers so they could be arrested. Shaun King, who at the time was a New York Daily News columnist and is now a writer-in-residence at Harvard Law School, scoured the Web to match old photos of the attackers with images from the Charlottesville fight.
Global News: ISIS Fighters, Families Now Stranded In Desert After U.S. Thwarts Lebanon’s Retreat Deal
Reuters, Islamic State convoy in Syria appears to have turned back, U.S.-led coalition says, Angus McDowall, Aug. 31, 2017. A convoy of Islamic State fighters appears to have turned back after U.S.-led airstrikes thwarted its attempt to reach territory held by the militant group in eastern Syria, the head of U.S.-led forces fighting Islamic State said on Thursday. Related story below:
New York Times, Islamic State Convoy Remains Stuck in Syria, Rod Nordland (shown below), Aug. 31, 2017. For four days now, an Islamic State convoy with more than 600 people has been stuck in the middle of the harsh Syrian desert, blocked by American airstrikes, as a deal to allow it safe passage across Syria has collapsed.
The American-led military coalition has used airstrikes to prevent the convoy from reaching its destination in the Islamic State stronghold of Deir al-Zour Province, and vowed to continue doing so, criticizing the Lebanese and Syrians for trying to relocate terrorists. The convoy includes 308 lightly armed ISIS fighters with 330 of their relatives in 17 buses. A dozen ambulances carry 26 wounded fighters. By relocating them, Syria and Lebanon removed any Islamic State presence on the western border and concentrated it in the east, where Iraqi and American forces would have to deal with them.
What’s Missing From Recent JFK Disclosures?
What’s Missing From Recent JFK Disclosures?JFK Facts, Missing from the new JFK files: a batch of CIA records on Lee Harvey Oswald, Jefferson Morley, Aug. 31, 2017.All of the U.S. government’s files on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy are supposed to be released by October 26. But one batch of the CIA records on suspected assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald (shown at right), has gone missing.
The records were part of 7-volume file on Oswald, held by the agency’s Office of Security (OS), which is responsible for protecting CIA property and vetting agency personnel. Declassified CIA records show that volume 5 of the file records existed in 1978. The contents of the missing file are not known.
The disappearance of the records, discovered by JFK researcher Malcolm Blunt (See Shell Games) is significant because the Office of Security was the first component of the CIA to open a file on Oswald, an ex-Marine who defected to the Soviet Union in October 1959.
JFK Centennial Commission Report, Thousands Gather Across U.S. for JFK100, Kenneth R. Feinberg, Aug. 31, 2017. Hundreds of events were held around the country in honor of President Kennedy’s Centennial year. News of JFK100 celebrations reached millions across the United States.
Trump’s Future: Analysis
President Richard Nixon prepares to address the nation in 1974 from the White House
National Interest, Will Trump Suffer Nixon’s Fate? The similarities are striking — but so are the differences. Len Colodny and Ray Locker, Aug. 31, 2017. Ray Locker is the Washington enterprise editor of USA TODAY and the author of Nixon’s Gamble. Len Colodny is the author of the best selling Silent Coup and The Forty Years War.
Each day since President Donald Trump took office comes another apparent similarity between him and the ill-starred administration of President Richard Nixon (shown in an iconic photo after resigning the presidency in 1974). For a Nixon scholar, it is an embarrassment of riches and a daily sign of Nixon’s continued relevance.
So much of the Trump administration’s problems and the dimensions of the various investigations into the activities of him and his campaign operatives have parallels in the Nixon administration. A student of what happened to Nixon can see the chalk outline of Trump’s career on the ground before the body has fallen.
The similarities are striking. For all their similarities, however, the two presidents have clear differences.
Cops, Courts, Mysteries Around the Nation
WHIO-TV (Ohio), Diplomatic Security special agent, former Dayton police officer, found dead in Potomac River, Staff report, Aug. 31, 2017. Kurt Smolek, a Diplomatic Security special agent with the State Department and a former Dayton police officer, was found dead in the Potomac River on Wednesday and the cause is listed as undetermined pending an autopsy.
Flooding in Houston (Texas National Guard photo)
Washington Post, After record rains in Texas, Harvey now menaces Louisiana, Arelis R. Hernández and Mark Berman, Aug. 30, 2017. More heavy rain is forecast along the upper Texas coast and western and northern Louisiana, but the storm’s immediate effects are not expected to be as devastating as its initial arrival in Texas. Up to 30 percent of Harris County in Texas — home to 4.5 million people in Houston and its suburbs — is under water. More than 20 people are confirmed dead.
Hurricane Backlash Against Mega-Church Pastor Osteen?
Washington Post, Here’s why people hate Joel Osteen, Kate Bowler, Aug. 30, 2017 (print edition). Twitter is loathing Houston’s megawatt-smile, mega-pastor Joel Osteen right now. What gives?
The question over whether Osteen’s 38,000-member Lakewood Church has sufficiently aided in the disaster relief effort in the wake of Hurricane Harvey has, once again, made America’s prince of the prosperity gospel into an object of social media contempt.
With his yachts and jets and endlessly-smiling mouth offering promises of “Your Best Life Now” (that’s the name of his best-selling book), Osteen was already a subject of contempt among Americans, in general.
But in the past few days he has been lambasted as being, at best, sluggish in providing emergency aid to those suffering from the disaster and, at worst, a hypocrite who cares more about people’s wealth than welfare.
I’ve been studying the American prosperity gospel for more than a decade, and I have come to the stunning conclusion that Joel Osteen seems to be a pretty nice guy. But there are three main reasons long after this controversy passes, Joel Osteen will still be the preacher America loves to hate — and perhaps for Christians more than others.
FBI Probes of Team Trump
Trump Counsel Michael Cohen (Photo via Flickr by iowa Politics.com and Preston Kemp)
WhoWhatWhy, Spotlight on Michael Cohen — Trump’s Mysterious Lawyer with Ukraine Ties, Ruiss Baker, Aug. 30, 2017. In this in-depth story, we take a close look at a key Trump-Russia figure who just this week generated headlines: the president’s “bulldog” ex in-house lawyer, Michael Cohen. With his own surprising ties to the former Soviet Union, Cohen may turn out to be a crucial missing link for investigators.
Palmer Report, Robert Mueller has figured out how to prevent Donald Trump from pardoning his co-conspirators, Bill Palmer, Aug. 30, 2017. When Donald Trump pardoned his criminal former campaign surrogate Joe Arpaio last week, it was his way of signaling to his co-conspirators in the Russia scandal that he’s willing to pardon them as well. The message was clear: Don’t flip on me, just take the rap and I’ll get you off the hook.
But it turns out Special Counsel Robert Mueller is one step ahead of Trump when it comes to these kinds of hijinks, and he’s already found a way to stop Trump’s scheme. Politico is reporting that Mueller is working with New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to bring state level charges against the likes of Paul Manafort. Why does this matter? The president can’t pardon anyone from state level charges or crimes.
Trump Tax Plans, Menendez Corruption Trial
Roll Call, Trump’s Tax Speech Shows Entire Agenda Rests on Overhaul Push, John T. Bennett, Aug. 30, 2017. President: ‘Foundation of our job-creation agenda’ is tax rate, tax code changes.
Roll Call, Government Outlines Corruption Case Against Menendez, Niels Lesniewski, Aug. 30, 2017. Some arguments will be about the Senate’s ethics rules. Federal law enforcement is outlining its case against Sen. Robert Menendez, alleging they have the evidence to show a pattern of corruption that includes a $20,000 flight to the local airport here.
When the private plane of a South Florida eye doctor who has been a friend and supporter of Menendez was unavailable to transport the New Jersey Democrat (shown at left) and others from the Dominican Republic, Dr. Salomon Melgen procured a friend’s plane.
At least that’s the allegation of federal prosecutors in Newark, N.J., outlining the case in a Wednesday court filing. Arguments are slated to begin in one week on Sept. 6, and elements of the federal trial could put the Senate’s internal operations under fire, as well.
Menendez was allegedly a frequent guest of Melgen’s in the Dominican Republic. The opthamologist has already been convicted in South Florida of substantial Medicare fraud.
Trump Administration Controversies
National Law Journal, Law School Alums Call for Labor Secretary Acosta to Resign, Saying He’s ‘Complicit’ with Trump, Karen Sloan, Aug. 30, 2017. A group 47 alumni from Florida International University College of Law have signed a letter asking Alex Acosta to resign as President Donald Trump’s secretary of labor, arguing that the former FIU dean’s legacy of good work at the law school and as U.S. attorney in South Florida will be tarnished by his continued association with Trump.
Washington Post, Opinion: How the pardon power could end Trump’s presidency, Philip Allen Lacovara, Aug. 30, 2017 (print edition). Philip Allen Lacovara, a former U.S. deputy solicitor general in the Justice Department, served as counsel to Watergate special prosecutors Archibald Cox and Leon Jaworski.
President Trump’s pardon of former Arizona sheriff and civil rights abuser Joe Arpaio (shown in a file photo at right) raises the question of whether the president may act with impunity to pardon individuals caught up in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of the Trump campaign’s dealings with Russia. Based on my experience studying the pardon power during the Watergate investigation, I believe the answer is no.
Washington Post, Conservative Opinion: Legal challenge to Arpaio pardon begins, Jennifer Rubin (shown at right), Aug. 30, 2017. After President Trump’s pardon of ex-sheriff Joe Arpaio, who had been convicted of criminal contempt for violating a court order designed to stop the violation of the constitutional rights of suspected illegal immigrants, conventional wisdom — and certainly the Trump administration — would have us believe that Trump’s pardon powers are unlimited.
However, never before has someone stretched the pardon power so beyond its original intent. Trump has now drawn scrutiny not simply from critics of his racist rhetoric but from the court itself. U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton…ordered Arpaio and the U.S. Department of Justice, which is prosecuting the case, to file briefs on why she should or shouldn’t grant Arpaio’s request.
Washington Post, HUD tightens requirements for loans seniors can take against their homes, Jenifer McKim, Aug. 30, 2017 (print edition). Concerned about financial losses in a federally insured mortgage program for seniors, the Department of Housing and Urban Development on Tuesday announced plans to adjust premiums and limit financial draws for elderly homeowners taking such loans.
HUD officials said the economic value of the federal reverse-mortgage program, estimated at negative-$7.7 billion last year, is putting at risk the Federal Housing Administration’s entire insurance fund that supports all single-family loan programs, including traditional mortgages.
The federal reverse-mortgage program, officially called a home equity conversion mortgage (HECM), has been marked by problems, including a rise in foreclosures, as reported Sunday in the Washington Post. On Tuesday, HUD officials said that if quick fixes aren’t made, the program will require an appropriation from Congress to ensure that the entire insurance fund maintains required reserves.
Global News: U.S. Attack On ISIS In ‘Peace’ Deal?
New York Times, U.S. Airstrikes Block Convoy Transferring ISIS Fighters, Rod Nordland, Aug. 30, 2017. The American military coalition on Wednesday strongly criticized a decision by the Lebanese Army and its allies to allow Islamic State fighters safe passage across Syria, and followed that up with airstrikes to prevent the convoy from continuing to its destination in the militant group’s territory, the coalition’s spokesman said.
“Earlier today, we did conduct strikes to crater the road, and we destroyed a small bridge to prevent that convoy from moving further east,” Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the American-led military coalition in Iraq and Syria, said. The coalition also bombed Islamic State vehicles and individuals who were seen heading toward the convoy from the east.
The Lebanese Army, in coordination with Hezbollah and the Syrian Army, arranged on Monday for 670 Islamic State fighters and their relatives to be taken in buses and ambulances from the Lebanese-Syrian border, near the town of Arsal, to Bukamal, close to the border with Iraq.
The evacuees included 26 wounded fighters, 308 armed fighters and 331 civilians, presumably family members of the militants. The Islamic State fighters were believed to be accompanied by family members in 17 buses and 12 ambulances. Some of the buses were emblazoned with the name of a tour company, Happy Journeys.
SouthFront, Hezbollah Leader Explains Deal With ISIS In Official Statement To Iraqi People, Staff report, Aug. 30, 2017. On Wednesday, Hezbollah Leader Hassan Nasrallah released an official message to the Iraqi people regarding the deal with ISIS fighters on the Syrian-Lebanese border. Nasrallah said that the message is an answer to some Iraqi officials comments on the deal with ISIS.
Moreover, Nasrallah confirmed that the Syrian government was not a part of the agreement, and said that the Syrian leadership only accepted the Hezbollah agreement.
SouthFront, Iraq, US-led Coalition Slam Deal With ISIS In Qalamoun That Allows Militants To Redeploy To Deir Ezzor, Staff report, Aug. 30, 2017. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi criticized a deal reached between ISIS militants the Lebanese military (with support of Hezbollah) in the Qalamoun area at the Syrian-Iraqi border. This ended the ISIS presence in the border area, but caused criticism from some powers. “Honestly speaking, we are unhappy and consider it incorrect,” Prime Minister al-Abadi said. “Transferring terrorists from Qalamoun to the Iraqi-Syrian border is worrying and an insult to the [Iraqi] people.”
Reporter Slams GOP Congressman Who Assaulted Him
Roll Call, Guardian Reporter Says Gianforte Reneged on Promised Interview, Eric Garcia, Aug 30, 2017. The reporter who was assaulted by Montana Rep. said the Republican congressman reneged on a promised interview. Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, who was body-slammed by the congressman the day before Montana’s special election, tweeted a statement saying Gianforte (shown at right) hadn’t fulfilled a commitment.
“From the beginning, I have tried to turn Congressman Gianforte’s assault against me into a positive experience,” Jacobs wrote, adding he never filed charges against the congressman and forgave him. He said he did so because he hoped Gianforte’s actions were not indicative of his character. “Instead, I have become increasingly convinced that those actions were a display of his true character,” Jacobs said.
Global Media Dispute
Reporters Without Borders (RSF), RT’s extraordinarily violent attack on RSF, Staff report, Aug. 30, 2017. The Russian state-funded international TV channel RT has lashed out in an unusually violent manner at the Paris-based media freedom NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The verbal attack on RSF by RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan reflects a concept of journalism far-removed from professional standards, RSF says.
The attack comes just as RT (the former Russia Today) is preparing to launch a French-language version of RT in Paris at the end of the year after signing an agreement with France’s High Council for Broadcasting (CSA). It is currently recruiting 100 employees, including 50 journalists.
Areas near Houston could see storm totals exceed 50 inches in some spots, as torrential rains begin to expand into Louisiana
Probes Into Trump-Russian Connections
Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen shown in a screenshot from a cable TV appearance during the 2016 presidential campaign
Washington Post, Top Trump Organization executive asked Putin aide for help on business deal, Rosalind S. Helderman, Carol D. Leonnig and Tom Hamburger, Aug. 29, 2017. A 2016 email from Michael Cohen, a Trump attorney and executive vice president for the Trump Organization shown above in a separate interview on CNN, to Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s top press aide, shows the Trump business official directly seeking Kremlin assistance in advancing Trump’s business interests during the campaign.
A top executive from Donald Trump’s real estate company emailed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s personal spokesman during the U.S. presidential campaign last year to ask for help advancing a stalled Trump Tower development project in Moscow, according to documents submitted to Congress on Monday.
The request came in a mid-January 2016 email from Michael Cohen, one of Trump’s closest business advisers, who asked longtime Putin lieutenant Dmitry Peskov for assistance in reviving a deal that Cohen suggested was languishing.
Cohen said that he discussed the deal three times with Trump and that Trump signed a letter of intent with the company on Oct. 28, 2015. He said the Trump company began to solicit designs from architects and discuss financing.
Crony Loans To Congress Exposed
Center for Public Integrity, Members of Congress scoring personal loans from political supporters, Nicholas Jahr and Ellen McCreary Ioanes, Aug. 29, 2017. Repayment terms often undisclosed, transactions together worth millions. A review of mandatory personal financial disclosure forms filed by all current members of the House and Senate reveals at least 19 have accepted loans from organizations or moneyed individuals instead of a bank or traditional financial institution.
Often, these organizations and individuals rank among the lawmakers’ key political supporters. In two of these cases, the loans were made to members’ spouses.
Two of the loans were made in the early 1990s; the rest were made in 2003 or later. While two of the congressional members in question have recently paid off their loans, the other 17 or their spouses remain in debt to their benefactors. The loans range in value from $15,000 to $5 million.
DC Media and Museum Shake-up
The Newseum at Sixth and Pennsylvania Avenues NW in Washington, DC (Photo courtesy of its designers, Ennead Architects)
Washington Post, Newseum’s president steps down as financial review begins; sale of D.C. building may be considered, Margaret Sullivan, Aug. 29, 2017. Although the museum on Pennsylvania Avenue is one of Washington’s most popular, its board said the “Newseum has not been able to become self-sustaining.”
Jeffrey Herbst, president and chief executive of the Newseum (shown at right)m, stepped down suddenly on Monday as the museum’s board announced a full-blown review of its long-troubled finances.
The review could result in the sale of the landmark building on Pennsylvania Avenue, according to a statement from the Freedom Forum, the creator and primary benefactor of the Newseum.The Newseum will remain open while the financial review takes place, the statement said. One of Washington’s most popular museums, the Newseum is devoted to free expression and the First Amendment.
The museum moved from Arlington to downtown Washington in 2008. Over the past 20 years, the statement said, the Freedom Forum has provided more than $500 million to build and fund the Newseum. The statement said the Freedom Forum has hired consultants to review all options regarding the seven-story, 250,000-square-foot building — including joint ventures and “a possible outright sale.” Herbst was named to the Newseum’s top position in July 2015. For the five previous years, he was president of Colgate University.
Washington Post, Is the cash-strapped Newseum facing a final deadline? Peggy McGlone, Aug. 29, 2017. The Newseum has been on a death watch before, but Monday’s announcement that its parent foundation is considering selling the sprawling Washington museum devoted to journalism is a stunning acknowledgment of its long-standing struggles.
Over the past 20 years, the Freedom Forum, formerly the Gannett Foundation, has contributed about $500 million to the institution, according to officials. For a museum dedicated to the importance of the press, the Newseum has remained silent. Prichard and Herbst did not respond to messages, and the spokesman for the museum declined to answer all questions.
Politico, Opinion: The Newseum Deserves to Die, Jack Shafer, Aug. 29, 2017. If the Newseum goes down, it will have deserved its death. Truth be told, it never deserved birth. Its owners, the Freedom Forum foundation, spent $450 million building its palace of journalism in 2008, making the Newseum among the most expensive museums then under construction. Featuring a facade constructed from 50 tons of Tennessee marble, the seven-level structure has sought to commemorate the news business by stuffing its exhibits with 60,000-plus baubles and artifacts from the trade.
It doesn’t require a PhD in comparative literature to see the Newseum’s troubles as a metaphor for the besieged state of the American press.
The First Amendment — whose words are etched impressively on the building’s exterior — is threatened by a media-hating president. The news industry’s financial turmoil continues. And many Americans mistrust the news media, even as many others cherish and support journalists’ watchdog role.
Newseum loyalists — and they do exist — will lecture you on the symbolic value, especially in the era of Trump, of having a building facing the U.S. Capitol that has the words to the First Amendment carved into its face. Surely worthy. But $450 million worthy?
Like journalism prizes, the Newseum is a monument to the news business’ high self-regard, built largely with the money tossed into a Freedom Forum’s coffers by Gannett (when Gannett printed money) and by other corporate journalism sponsors, such as ABC, Hearst, Time Warner, NBC, the Bancroft family, News Corp., Bloomberg, Cox, the New York Times and the Annenberg fortune.
Palin Libel Case Against NY Times Dismissed
The Hill, Judge dismisses Palin defamation case against New York Times, Jacqueline Thomsen, Aug. 29, 2017. A federal judge dismissed Sarah Palin’s defamation lawsuit against The New York Times on Tuesday. Palin (shown in a portrait by David Shankbone) sued the Times for defamation after an editorial in the newspaper on mass shootings tied an ad run by the former vice presidential nominee to the 2011 shooting of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (R-Ariz.).
9/11 Investigation Continues With Major Engineering Report, DC Lobbying, Fund-Raising
AE911Truth, Dr. Hulsey Presents from Alaska on Sept. 6th Followed by D.C. Launch of ‘Bobby McIlvaine Act’ Sept. 11th, Staff report, Aug. 29, 2017. The September 11th Anniversary is now less than two weeks away, and we at AE911Truth are revving up for two major events that will set the course for our next phase of activism.
The first is Dr. Leroy Hulsey’s presentation from the University of Alaska Fairbanks on Wednesday, September 6th. The second is the unveiling of the “Bobby McIlvaine Act” in Washington, D.C., on Monday, September 11th at a 1 p.m. news conference at the National Press Club.
After that, we will hand-deliver the Bobby McIlvaine package to every member of Congress on September 11th and 12th. See below for more details on these events. In addition, Richard Gage will be speaking and screening our newest documentary Stand for the Truth at the event “From 9/11 Truth to 9/11 Justice” at 6:30 PM on Friday, September 8th, at New York’s Foley Square. He’ll also be participating in the “9/11 Truth Seekers Panel” from 6:30 to 9:30 PM on Sept. 11th at the Holiday Inn Rosslyn, 1900 North Fort Myer Drive near Key Bridge on the Virginia side of the Potomac River.
Now Just $3,000 to Go — Thanks for Coming Through! Last Thursday we announced our fundraising goal of $10,000 in order to cover the costs of these events and other initiatives aimed at promoting awareness of the WTC 7 Study and the Bobby McIlvaine Act. And so far you’ve come through in a big way. We cannot thank you enough! As of today we need to raise just $3,000 more by this Friday, Sept. 1st.
More On Charlottesville White Supremacist Rally
White supremacists, neo-Nazis, Alt-right hate-mongers and their allies paraded in a torchlight march in Charlottesville, VA
Washington Post, Aftershocks and finger-pointing continue to roil Charlottesville, weeks after white supremacist rally, Joe Heim, Aug. 29, 2017. As charges have flown about whether the city was prepared for the violent clashes, the City Council will take the unusual step of holding a closed-door session to discuss “the performance and discipline of an elected official.”
Global News: DC Indictments Of Turkish Security Personnel
Washington Post, Turkish security officials indicted in May fracas in D.C., Martin Weil, Aug. 29, 2017. A total of 19 people, including 15 identified as Turkish security officials, were indicted Tuesday in Washington in connection with scuffles that broke out outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence here in May during the visit of the Turkish president, authorities said.
All were charged by a D.C. Superior Court grand jury with conspiracy to commit a crime of violence, said the U.S. Attorney’s office for the District of Columbia. According to the indictment, the goals of the alleged conspiracy were to assault and kick protesters gathered in Sheridan Circle, and to assault police who tried to stop the attacks.
Professor Fired After Climate Change Twitter Cited Houston Flooding, Victims
Washington Post, A university professor suggested Harvey was karma for Texas Republicans. Then, he was fired, Kristine Phillips, Aug. 29, 2017. The University of Tampa has fired a visiting professor who appeared to suggest on social media that Hurricane Harvey is karma for Texas for voting Republican.
Kenneth L. Storey, a sociology professor, was immediately slammed on social media after he tweeted this Sunday: “I dont believe in instant Karma but this kinda feels like it for Texas. Hopefully this will help them realize the GOP doesnt care about them.” Two days later, he was out of a job.
In a statement Tuesday, the university denounced Storey’s comments, saying they were made on his private Twitter account and do not reflect the school’s views.
Global News: Korea
Washington Post, N. Korea missile launch appears designed to cause maximum mayhem, minimal blowback, Anna Fifield, Aug. 29, 2017. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (shown in a file photo) launched the missile he’s been threatening to lob at Guam in the other direction, at Japan. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called the launch “a reckless act, and it represents a serious threat without precedent.”
Inside Trump White House
New York Post, Melania wears her heels to Harvey hell zone, Lia Eustachewich, Aug. 29, 2017. Melania Trump looked like she was headed to a red carpet rather than a hurricane zone as she set off for Texas wearing sky-high black heels Tuesday. The first lady’s baffling choice of footwear lit up the Twitterverse — and her critics included one of the top law enforcement officials in the country.
Melania and President Trump departed the White House shortly before 8 a.m. and boarded Marine One to head to Corpus Christi, where they’ll be briefed on rescue efforts during Tropical Storm Harvey. “Leaving now for Texas!” Trump tweeted just after 8 a.m.
George Gigicos on the campaign trail in 2016 with GOP nominee Donald Trump and running mate Mike Pence
New York Magazine, Trump Fires Longtime Event Organizer Over Sparse Crowd at Phoenix Rally, Margaret Hartmann, Aug. 29, 2017. If you watched the TV broadcast of President Trump’s rally in Phoenix, Arizona, it might have looked like the event went exactly as planned. The “Blacks for Trump” guy was front and center, and other enthusiastic Trump supporters booed journalists and applauded the president’s racist dog whistles, right on cue. As soon as Trump took the stage he marveled, “What a crowd,” and claimed (falsely) that there weren’t many protesters outside.
“A lot of people in here, a lot of people pouring right now,” Trump said. “They can get them in. Whatever you can do, fire marshals, we’ll appreciate it.” A short time after the event, Trump noted the crowd size again, tweeting: “Thank you Arizona. Beautiful turnout of 15,000 in Phoenix tonight!”
But according to Bloomberg, Trump was actually very upset by the “beautiful turnout” — so much so that he’s fired George Gigicos Or rather, he had top security aide Keith Schiller tell Gigicos — (who had been touted until his resignation a month ago as one of the top Greek-American officials in the White House) — that he’ll never manage a Trump rally again, because Trump doesn’t actually like to fire people. Trump appointed him as Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Advance on January 5, 2017. He served in the Trump Administration until July 31, 2017. Trump’s anger at the perceived small crowd at a rally in Phoenix Convention Center lead the President to promise Gigicos that he would never again manage a Trump rally.
Gigicos organized Trump’s rallies during the campaign, and he served as White House director of scheduling and advance until last month, when he quit to return to his consulting business. He organized the Phoenix event as a contractor to the Republican National Committee.
Trump’s notorious sensitivity about crowd size makes it hard to pin down how many people were actually at the event. City of Phoenix spokeswoman Julie Watters tried to back up Trump’s claim of 15,000, though she said there weren’t that many people in the venue. Though Gigicos has been banished, it seems Trump is still fixated on the size of his adoring crowd in Phoenix. “You saw the massive crowd we had,” he said at a White House news conference on Monday.
New York Times, A Guide: The Storm So Far, Maggie Astor, Aug. 28, 2017. Here’s a quick, complete guide to what our reporters have seen in Texas. Overwhelmed by the news from Texas since Hurricane Harvey made landfall? Here is an overview of coverage by the New York Times so far. It will be updated as events continue.
People fled to higher floors, and then to roofs; the Coast Guard rescued dozens. Chief Art Acevedo of the Houston Police Department warned residents not to take shelter in their attics “unless you have an ax or means to break through onto your roof.” Emergency dispatchers were overwhelmed, and some people began pleading for help on social media. Homeless Houstonians endured a night of terror as Harvey pounded the city from Saturday into Sunday. All across Houston, dramatic rescues unfolded.
See also: New York Times, Houston Paralyzed; 6.6 Million Residents Face Days of Floods.
Washington Post, Harvey may force 30,000 people into shelters, officials warn, Kevin Sullivan, Robert Samuels, Emily Wax-Thibodeaux and Mark Berman, Aug. 28, 2017. Thousands of rescue missions have been launched in Houston and across much of Central Texas, where flooding could become much more severe. More than 3,000 national and state guard troops were deployed to assist in relief efforts, with another 1,000 heading to Houston on Monday.
At least five people have been reported dead as a result of the storm, according to the National Weather Service. Local officials expect that number to rise. President Trump declared “emergency conditions” in Louisiana, where forecasts called for as much as two feet of rainfall in some areas.
Washington Post, Cost of cleaning up Harvey will bring new test of governance for Trump and the GOP, Mike DeBonis and Damian Paletta, Aug. 28, 2017. Harvey’s devastation poses President Trump’s first test in emergency assistance, potentially revealing whether he can overcome Congress’s deep divisions over spending and the budget to prioritize aid.
It will also test whether Trump can suspend his adversarial governing style and even postpone his own agenda, notably an overhaul of the tax code, to assemble a major — and costly — package that could be directed to law enforcement, emergency relief, schools, infrastructure, hospitals, food banks and several other entities.
The storm comes as Washington was gripped with a budget battle and little time to resolve differences. Many government operations are funded through only the end of September, and Trump has threatened to partially shut down the government if lawmakers don’t approve $1.6 billion in funding to construct parts of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Harvey could upend that budget fight, pressuring politicians to reach a quick resolution. That is because a government shutdown could sideline agencies involved in a rescue and relief effort that officials are predicting will last years.
The federal government had only $50.6 billion in cash reserves as of Thursday, down from more than $350 billion in January. It has drawn down this account because Congress has not been able to reach an agreement on how to deal with the debt ceiling.
Major New Trump-Russia Investigative Lead
Felix Sater (front) with Donald Trump (via Flickr of Emilio Labrador)
Washington Post, While Trump ran for president, his company was pursuing a plan to develop a Trump Tower in Moscow, Carol D. Leonnig, Tom Hamburger and Rosalind S. Helderman, Aug. 28, 2017 (print edition). The Trump Organization was pursuing the plan in late 2015 and early 2016, according to several people familiar with the proposal and new records reviewed by the company’s lawyers. As part of the discussions, a Russian-born real estate developer urged Donald Trump to come to Moscow to tout the proposal and suggested he could get President Vladimir Putin to say “great things” about Trump, according to several people who have been briefed on his correspondence.
New York Times, Moscow Tower Deal ‘Will Get Donald Elected,’ Ally Said, Matt Apuzzo and Maggie Haberman, Aug. 28, 2017. A Trump associate promised to engineer a real estate deal for a Trump Tower in Moscow with the aid of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. “We will get Donald elected,” he wrote. A business associate of President Trump promised in 2015 to engineer a real estate deal with the aid of the president of Russia, Vladimir V. Putin, that he said would help Mr. Trump win the presidency.
The business associate, Felix Sater, wrote a series of emails to Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, in which he boasted about his ties to Mr. Putin and predicted that building a Trump Tower in Moscow would be a political boon to Mr. Trump’s candidacy. (Trump and Sater are shown in another file photo at left.)
“There is no evidence in the emails that Mr. Sater delivered on his promises, and one email suggests that Mr. Sater overstated his Russian ties. In January 2016, Mr. Cohen (shown in a screenshot from a cable appearance, wrote to Mr. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, asking for help restarting the Trump Tower project, which had stalled. But Mr. Sater did not appear to have Mr. Peskov’s direct email, and instead wrote to a general inbox for press inquiries.”
What’s Missing From Recent JFK Disclosures?
Assassination Archives and Research Center (AARC), JFK Assassination Records: Shell Games, Malcolm Blunt (shown below at left), Aug. 29, 2017. Both the Church Committee* and the House Select Committee on Assassinations gained access to the CIA Office of Security files of Lee Harvey Oswald. In 1993, despite a directive from CIA Director Robert Gates seeking an all-encompassing search of ALL CIA components for ANY material/records relevant to the assassination of President Kennedy, the Oswald OS files remained hidden.
This huge search by CIA did not surface Oswald’s security files and the Assassination Records Review Board remained uninformed about their existence. In response to official requests from the US Government and despite specific directives from CIA Directors Robert Gates and George Tenet, which were acted upon by HRG Chief John Pereira in 1993 and J. Barry Harrelson in 1997, the Oswald Security files seem to have been turned inside out and outside in.
This beggars the question; for what possible reason? The intact files were previously given to both the SSCIA and the HSCA, so why did the CIA “not find them” until a direct, specific request from the ARRB in 1997? And then, why turn them over minus volume 5? How were the files missed during the Gates search of 1993 and the Tenet search of 1997? The two DCI orders were to search ALL CIA components.
Cause of Navy Fatal Accidents Suggested
New York Times, Analysis: The Problems Behind a Spate of U.S. Navy Collisions, Dave Philipps and Eric Schmitt, Aug. 28, 2017. After two deadly collisions involving Navy ships, more than a dozen current and former officers raised alarms about gaps in maintenance and training, grueling duty schedules and expanded operations. The USS John S. McCain is shown in a file photo.
Race Protests Violence, Fallout
Washington Post, Black-clad anarchists attack right-wing demonstrators in Berkeley, Kyle Swenson, Aug. 28, 2017. The group of more than 100 hooded protesters turned up at what had been a largely peaceful protest against hate and attacked at least five people, including the leader of a conservative group who canceled an event a day earlier in San Francisco amid fears of violence.
Liberal Opinion On Trump
Washington Post, Trump is dragging us toward a full-blown crisis. Here’s what has to happen now, Greg Sargent, Aug. 28, 2017. It is welcome that some Republicans stepped forward to condemn President Trump’s pardon of former Maricopa County (Ariz.) sheriff Joe Arpaio. But something more is needed right now: We also need to hear a loud, clanging alarm from Republicans and Democrats alike that signals to Trump in unequivocal terms that any pardons in the context of the Russia probe will be met by a forceful and immediate response from Congress.
This would be for the good of the country, of course, because it might help avert a full-blown constitutional crisis. But it would also be to the benefit of the GOP and even Trump himself — though he might not be capable of appreciating that right now.
Global News: Korea-Japan
Washington Post, North Korean missile flies over Japan, escalating tensions and prompting an angry response from Tokyo, Anna Fifield, Aug. 28, 2017. The Japanese government issued an alert for residents in some areas to take cover after a missile flew over the northern island of Hokkaido. The launch comes as Pyongyang has been threatening to fire a missile to land close to the American territory of Guam.
Crime and Courts
Palm Beach Post, Could U.S. case against billionaire sex offender Epstein be reopened? Jane Musgrave, Aug. 28, 2017. Hoping to establish a precedent that would help crime victims throughout the nation, women who claim billionaire Jeffrey Epstein (shown above) used them as sex toys when they were teens want a federal judge to toss the 10-year-old plea deal that allowed the politically-connected money manager to escape federal sex charges.
In court papers filed in Florida this month, attorneys for two of the 30 young women allegedly molested by Epstein lodged their final written pleas aimed at spurring U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra to force federal officials to reopen their investigation. The attorneys say U.S. prosecutors violated the federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act by failing to alert Epstein’s victims of the terms of what some describe as a “sweetheart deal” before the deal was put into action.
U.S. government lawyers will have a chance to defend themselves in September, and Marra could make a decision as early as this fall. He has already ruled that if he finds federal prosecutors violated the act, he will consider throwing out the controversial plea deal, setting a precedent for the 13-year-old federal act.
Breaking 911, This Alarming Photo From The Texas Flood Is Not Fake, Staff report, Aug. 27, 2017, A viral photo posted online showing elderly women trapped in Texas floodwaters is absolutely authentic, the owner of the facility says. Nursing home residents in Dickinson, Galveston County, Texas were airlifted to safety Sunday after flooding caused by hurricane Harvey swamped the building. The owner of ‘La Vita Bella,’ Trudy Lampson, told the New York Daily News she snapped the image and sent it to her daughter and son-in-law, Kim and Timothy McIntosh.
Washington Post, Harvey brings heavy damage to Texas coast, unloads torrential rain on Houston, Dylan Baddour, Kevin Sullivan and Wesley Lowery, Aug. 27, 2017. Harvey continued to pummel Texas during the early hours of Sunday morning, dropping nearly two feet of rain on Houston overnight and causing dire, and deadly, flash floods.
Among the cities at risk of major flooding is Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest, with a population in excess of 2 million. Saturday evening, the city was buffeted by mammoth rains and nonstop lightning.
Axios, Scoop: Trump frustration with Tillerson rising fast, Jonathan Swan, Aug. 27, 2017. There’s a ticking problem with Rex Tillerson (shown below), and it’s growing louder by the day, according to officials inside and close to the White House. President Trump has been growing increasingly frustrated with his Secretary of State. One time recently, after Trump had returned from a meeting on Afghanistan, a source recalled Trump saying, “Rex just doesn’t get it, he’s totally establishment in his thinking.”
Tillerson’s jaw-dropping comments on TV today will likely only worsen their relationship. Fox News Sunday moderator Chris Wallace asked Tillerson about Trump’s response to the racist carnage in Charlottesville.
Tillerson (shown in a file photo at right) replied: “I don’t believe anyone doubts the American people’s values or the commitment of the American government, or the government’s agencies to advancing those values and defending those values.”
Wallace asked the obvious follow-up question: “And the president’s values?”
“The president speaks for himself,” Tillerson said. Wallace looked stunned.
Why this matters: We’ve been hearing for weeks, from sources who’ve spoken to the president, that Trump is getting more and more fed up with Tillerson, who has still yet to staff his agency. Trump administration officials can’t get their heads around why he still doesn’t have political appointees in the top roles at the State Department. They know he’s reorganizing the agency, but can’t fathom why he’s allowed these crucial jobs to remain in the hands of staff whose diplomatic stature is diminished because they’re “acting” in the roles.
Al Jazeera, Report: Saudi, UAE weapons end up with armed groups;, Investigative journalist says Azerbaijan-owned carrier used to move large quantities of heavy weapons to conflict zones, Staff report, Aug. 27, 2017. An investigative report by a Bulgarian journalist says Saudi Arabia and the UAE have supplied Eastern European-made weapons to armed groups in Syria and Iraq using different intermediaries and diplomatic cover to mask their points of origin and final destinations.
The report, authored by Dilyana Gaytandzhiev (shown above right), claims Saudi Arabia, UAE, the US military and several countries have used Azerbaijani state-owned airlines Silk Way Airlines to transport large quantities of weapons that ended up in the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, known as ISIS) group, Kurdish fighters in the Middle East and armed groups in Africa.
“At least 350 diplomatic Silk Way Airlines flights transported weapons for war conflicts across the world over the last 3 years,” says the report, published in Trud, Bulgaria’s largest circulated newspaper.
“The state aircrafts of Azerbaijan carried on-board tens of tons of heavy weapons and ammunition headed to terrorists under the cover of diplomatic flights.”
According to the report, “Saudi Arabia has purchased huge quantities of Eastern European weapons and exported them using Silk Way Airline’s diplomatic flights. “In 2016, 2017 there were 23 diplomatic flights carrying weapons from Bulgaria, Serbia and Azerbaijan to Jeddah and Riyadh.”.
Washington Post, How Charlottesville lost control amid a deadly protest, Aaron C. Davis, Joe Heim and Laura Vozzella, Aug. 26, 2017. Confusion and conflicting information set the stage for what became one of the most violent white nationalist rallies in decades. The presence of the homegrown militia was just one in a series of unanticipated developments in Charlottesville for state and local law enforcement leaders who had planned for weeks for the Aug. 12 showdown between white nationalists and counterprotesters.
Despite warnings to the city manager and police chief that a more aggressive approach was needed, including an appeal from Gov. Terry McAuliffe, the local police in charge temporarily lost control of the city as people brawled on the streets, leaving one dead.
Most dangerously, law enforcement experts say, officers initially deployed without adequate protective gear to break up fighting and were not well positioned to keep the peace. As fights erupted, police stayed back. They stood not between the two opposing groups but behind them and off to the sides. And when they cleared the park where rallygoers had gathered near a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, police flushed many of them directly onto the same street where counterprotesters were gathered, according to witnesses and video.
The area became a flashpoint, and video that surfaced Friday appears to show a white nationalist fire a handgun after leaving the park. By the end of the day, two police officers were killed in a helicopter crash. The police tactics on the ground and approach mystified some law enforcement veterans and experts, including former Charlottesville police chief Timothy J. Longo, now a lecturer at the University of Virginia who teaches about the use of force by police.
Washington Post, New video shows man firing into crowd at Charlottesville; and Neo-Nazis marched past their synagogue chanting ‘Sieg Heil.’
Washington Post, Months before pardon, Trump asked Sessions about closing federal case against Arpaio, Philip Rucker and Ellen Nakashima, Aug. 25, 2017. As the former Arizona sheriff’s federal case headed toward trial this spring, the president asked the attorney general whether it would be possible for the government to drop the criminal case against him, but was advised that would be inappropriate, according to three people with knowledge of the conversation. The former sheriff, Joseph Arpaio, is shown in a file photo.
Politico, My Weekend at the Falwells’ South Beach Flophouse, Brandon Ambrosino, Aug. 25, 2017. Liberty University presents itself as a temple of virtue. But its founding family’s secret Miami hostel is a cesspool of vice.
At Liberty University, the Christian private school at which Jerry Falwell Jr. (shown below at left in a photo via Wikimedia) is the president and Jerry “Trey” Falwell III is the vice president for university operations — and from which I graduated in 2011 — all manner of vice is prohibited. Students — whether on campus or off, and whether school is in session or not — cannot consume alcohol or tobacco. Co-ed sleeping arrangements are verboten.
And, in the words of “The Liberty Way,” the school’s student handbook, “homosexual conduct or the encouragement or advocacy of any form of sexual behavior that would undermine the Christian identity or faith mission of the University” are strictly prohibited. Any one of these transgressions could get you saddled with reprimands, financial repercussions, and even expulsion. And yet, here we were, in perhaps the gayest 6 square miles in the United States — South Beach, Miami — staying in Falwell’s gay-friendly flophouse with an on-site liquor store.
At least that’s the story I thought I was there to report.
The more I dug into it, the larger and more byzantine the story became — and the more questions it raised. Though Liberty University officials declined to comment on the record for this story, senior-level sources at the university agreed to answer many of my questions. But rather than settling the matter, the answers they provided begat new and more serious inquiries that go beyond mere charges of hypocrisy over owning a hostel, and point to dubious behavior by Liberty University — actions which, according to several tax-law experts I consulted, could violate IRS rules.
Washington Post, Hurricane Harvey hits Texas, bringing heavy rain, storm surge, Tim Craig, Mary Lee Grant and Sandhya Somashekhar, Aug. 25, 2017. Texans from the Louisiana border to the Hill Country in the middle of the state awoke to dire warnings of a major natural disaster Saturday as Hurricane Harvey charged inland, with weather officials downgrading it to a Category 1 storm but cautioning that the danger was far from over as the region braced for catastrophic flooding and potential tornadoes.
Images of downed trees, collapsed buildings and darkened streets began trickling in early in the day, after the storm roared ashore at 10 p.m. Central time Friday with 130 mph winds — the strongest hurricane to hit the United States since Wilma in 2005. But residents of a broad swath of Southeast Texas braced for further damage as weather officials warned of tornadoes, torrential downpours and potentially days of flooding, including in Houston, the nation’s fourth largest city.
Trump Pre-Sentence Pardon Of Arizona Sheriff
New York Times, The Perils of a Pardon for Joe Arpaio, Editorial board, Aug. 25, 2017. The Constitution gives the president nearly unlimited power to grant clemency to people convicted of federal offenses, so Mr. Trump can pardon Mr. Arpaio. But Mr. Arpaio (shown at right) was an elected official who defied a federal court’s order that he stop violating people’s constitutional rights. He was found in contempt of that court. By pardoning him, Mr. Trump would show his contempt for the American court system and its only means of enforcing the law, since he would be sending a message to other officials that they may flout court orders also.
New York Times, A Pardon for Arpaio Puts Us in Uncharted Territory, Martin H. Redish, Aug. 25, 2017. If the president immunizes officials who violate constitutional rights, there will be no limit on his power.
More Charlottesville Fallout
Business Insider, Richard Spencer stayed at Trump’s D.C. hotel while he planned the Charlottesville rally, Jeremy Berke, Aug. 25, 2017. Richard Spencer, a noted white nationalist and supporter of President Donald Trump, is one of many frequent guests at the new Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C., according to a New York Times report published Friday.
Spencer was spotted at the hotel in early August, the Times reported, along with Evan McLaren, who works at Spencer’s white nationalist think tank, the National Policy Institute.
McLaren declined to answer Times’ reporter Katie Rogers’ request for comment at the time about his visit to the hotel because he said he was “too busy planning a rally” in Charlottesville, Virginia. That rally, where white nationalists clashed with counter-protesters, left one dead at the hands of an apparent white supremacist.
Still-Lingering Siegelman Prosecution Injustice
Legal Schnauzer, Don Siegelman’s push to shine spotlight on corruption gains momentum with Neil Cavuto interview on Fox, plus report of documentary screening in Montgomery, Roger Shuler, Aug. 25, 2017. Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman gained traction this week in his effort to shine light on corruption related to the political prosecution that sent him to prison for more than six years.
First came reports that a news Web site had arranged for a showing in Montgomery of the documentary Atticus v. The Architect: The Political Assassination of Don Siegelman. Then came a mostly favorable interview yesterday with Neil Cavuto, of Fox News, in which Siegelman argued that President Donald Trump should pardon him.
A screening of the Siegelman documentary is set for 3 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 1 at the Davis Theatre for the Performing Arts on Troy University’s Montgomery campus. Prattville-based Alabama Political Reporter (APR) is sponsoring the showing after the Capri Theatre canceled a scheduled screening because of complaints from board member Leura Canary, who was U.S. attorney for the Siegelman prosecution.
From a report by APR’s Josh Moon:
“Atticus v. The Architect: The Political Assassination of Don Siegelman,” as the documentary is officially named, was originally set to be shown at the Capri Theater in Montgomery in July. But former Federal Prosecutor Leura Canary, who serves on the Capri board, convinced her fellow board members in June to rescind that rental agreement. Montgomery residents were outraged, and a heated Capri board meeting a few days later ended in nasty exchanges but no change in the vote.
That’s when APR owners Bill and Susan Britt decided to step in. “When we heard that the documentary showing in Montgomery had been cancelled because of pressure from the so-called political elites, it wasn’t surprising,” Bill Britt said. “We don’t like censorship at APR, and we decided we’d do whatever we could to give Montgomery residents an opportunity to see the film, to judge for themselves the contents of it.”
It only makes sense that the film be shown in Montgomery. But Moon reports it was a challenge to make the screening a reality, and it might not have happened without a push from Dr. Jack Hawkins, president of Troy University:
Much of that story took place in Montgomery, and the city served as a backdrop for much of the documentary. Siegelman served as governor in this city. He was tried in this city and found guilty by a jury that resides in this city. Many of the people featured in the documentary reside in Montgomery. And yet, time and again, APR ran into fear and bureaucracy when trying to find a location to show the film. Every venue was surprisingly busy or uninterested in accepting their usual rental fees to show “Atticus.” Some never returned calls. Others had exorbitant insurance demands.
Enter: Troy president Dr. Jack Hawkins. . . .
“We are committed to freedom of speech and transparency,” Hawkins wrote. “Within the Academy and within a free society there is little room for censorship.”
That did the trick. A contract was prepared and signed within days. Many props to Hawkins, the Britts, APR, and Troy University for making this happen. How is this for irony? The Davis Theatre has a seating capacity of 1,200 (compared to 700 at Capri) and almost certainly is nicer and more spacious than the film house.
As for the interview with Neil Cavuto on Fox, Siegelman pushed the argument that Trump should pardon him. Cavuto said that is unlikely to happen, and he’s almost certainly correct — in part, perhaps, because Trump might soon be headed toward impeachment, indictment, conviction, and imprisonment himself. With any luck, Attorney General and former Alabama U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions, who played a major role in the Siegelman prosecution, also will be headed for the federal slammer soon.
Cavuto did note the dubious nature of the Siegelman case, which also ensnared former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy:
Cavuto stated with amazement that “Normally you look for a big ole suitcase of cash but there was no suitcase and no cash [in your case.]”
He warned “this could happen to Republican or Democrat, anyone in power, because…[in] campaigns you get money…they could be perfectly innocent but all of a sudden it looks like a ‘Pay to Play’ deal.” The interview can be viewed at the link below: Fox Business, Trump should pardon me, Fmr. Gov. Don Siegelman, Neil Cavuto, Aug. 24, 2017.
More White Nationalist Fallout
New York Times, Police ‘Never Moved’ as White Nationalist Fired in Virginia, Frances Robles, Aug. 25, 2017. Pleas for help and a safety plan were ignored at a rally in Charlottesville, Va., that turned deadly on Aug. 12, participants said. Both sides feel betrayed by law enforcement. As demonstrators clashed near a downtown park here two weeks ago, a white nationalist protester in a bulletproof vest turned, pointed a pistol toward the crowd and fired a single shot at the ground, in the direction of a black man wielding an improvised torch.
To make his escape, a video recording shows, the armed protester strolled past a line of about a dozen state police troopers who were safely positioned about 10 feet away behind two metal barricades. None of them budged.
“We all heard it and ran — I know damn well they heard it,” said Rosia Parker, a community activist in Charlottesville. “They never moved.” The police have identified a suspect in the shooting and intend to arrest him, the city manager said. But residents are still demanding to know why officers did not act in real time as heavily armed people fought and a car sped toward a crowd, killing a woman. So stark was the police failure to intervene, many participants in the protest and counterprotests believe it was by design.
Now, as white-power organizations declare their intentions to rally in cities around the country, police departments are looking to Charlottesville for hints on how to keep the peace — and what mistakes to avoid. Charlottesville, too, is seeking answers.
Washington Post, North Korea has launched what may be another ballistic missile, South Korean military says, Anna Fifield, Aug. 25, 2017. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said that a “projectile” had been fired into the sea between the Korean Peninsula and Japan on Saturday morning. It was not immediately clear what kind of missile it was.
Trump Administration Shake-Ups, Conflicts, New Controls
Washington Post, Trump slams another GOP senator, warning Bob Corker: ‘Tennessee not happy!‘ Philip Rucker, Aug. 25, 2017. The president taunted the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman on Twitter after Corker publicly questioned the president’s stability and competence.
Washington Post, Trump has pardoned former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose hardline views on immigration have allied him with the president, Staff report, Aug. 25, 2017. Joe Arpaio was recently convicted of criminal contempt for ignoring a federal judge’s order to stop detaining people because he merely suspected them of being undocumented immigrants.
Trump’s pardon is particularly unusual since Arpaio has not been sentenced yet. The move may prompt questions about how extensively Trump will use his pardon power, including whether he will do so on behalf of individuals caught up in the Russia investigation.This is a developing story. It will be updated.
New York Times, A Pardon for Arpaio Puts Us in Uncharted Territory, Martin H. Redish (constitutional professor at Northwestern Law School), Aug. 25, 2017. If the president immunizes officials who violate constitutional rights, there will be no limit on his power.
Washington Examiner, Sebastian Gorka quits White House, slams Trump in resignation letter, Anna Giaritelli, Aug. 25, 2017. President Trump’s deputy assistant, Sebastian Gorka, resigned from his White House post Friday, according to a report. “[G]iven recent events, it is clear to me that forces that do not support the MAGA promise are – for now – ascendant within the White House,” Gorka wrote in his resignation letter. “As a result, the best and most effective way I can support you, Mr. President, is from outside the People’s House.”
Gorka went on to say he did not believe Trump’s “Make America Great Again” agenda could be carried out.
“Regrettably, outside of yourself, the individuals who most embodied and represented the policies that will ‘Make America Great Again,’ have been internally countered, systematically removed, or undermined in recent months. This was made patently obvious as I read the text of your speech on Afghanistan this week…” Gorka wrote.
“The fact that those who drafted and approved the speech removed any mention of Radical Islam or radical Islamic terrorism proves that a crucial element of your presidential campaign has been lost.
Breitbart, Sebastian Gorka Resigns from Trump Administration, Ben Kew, Aug 25, 2017. Dr. Sebastian Gorka, who has served as deputy assistant to President Donald Trump since January, resigned from the White House administration on Friday evening. “Given recent events, it is clear to me that forces that do not support the MAGA promise are – for now – ascendant within the White House,” Gorka wrote in his resignation letter. “As a result, the best and most effective way I can support you, Mr. President, is from outside the People’s House.”
Sources within the administration close to Dr. Gorka claim he became disillusioned because Trump’s key policy platform of fighting radical Islamic terrorism was repeatedly undermined when his national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, fired key individuals from the National Security Council who were loyal to that platform.
Gorka had also become deeply frustrated with the unprecedented levels of personal abuse propagated against him by the mainstream media –which included attacks against his own children – as well the numerous bureaucratic obstacles used to slow down his work on national security issues, including delaying Gorka’s final permanent national security clearance.
New York Times, Trump Hotel: Lobbyists, Cabinet Members, $60 Steaks, Katie Rogers, Aug. 25, 2017. In the first summer of the Trump administration, the Trump International Hotel in Washington (shown at right in a Justice Integrity Project photo) has cemented its status as a place for supporters to curry favor with people in power.
Washington Post, Fed chair Yellen rejects Trump’s approach to Wall Street regulation, Damian Paletta, Aug. 25, 2017. Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen offered a forceful defense of broad new banking regulations enacted after the 2008 financial meltdown, saying the rules safeguard the economy against another crisis and rejecting assertions from President Trump and top aides that they should be rolled back. Her speech comes as Trump considers whether to reappoint her to a four-year term as head of the U.S. central bank.
Yellen’s speech comes just hours after the Financial Times published an interview with Gary Cohn, Trump’s top economic adviser, in which he openly criticized the way Trump handled violence carried out by neo Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville. Cohn was also considered a front-runner for the Fed chairman post, and the separate decisions by Cohn and Yellen to distance themselves from Trump could mean that neither is interested in cozying up to him as a way to try to get the nomination.
Washington Post, Trump’s economic adviser says president ‘must do better’ to denounce white nationalism, Damian Paletta and Philip Rucker, Aug. 25, 2017. Gary Cohn (shown at right), the White House economic adviser who stood beside President Trump last week as he blamed “many sides” for violence during the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, said the Trump administration now “must do better” to condemn neo-Nazis and other hate groups.
Trump Administration Shake-Ups, Conflicts, New Controls
Washington Post, CIA director’s close ties to Trump prompt what-ifs inside agency, Greg Miller, Aug. 25, 2017. CIA director Mike Pompeo has taken a special interest in an agency unit that is tied to the investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, requiring the unit to report directly to him. Current and former officials said that the arrangement has been a source of apprehension among the CIA’s upper ranks.
Washington Post, Trump directs Pentagon to implement ban on transgender service members, prohibit sex-reassignment surgery, Abby Phillip, Aug. 25, 2017. The presidential memorandum signed by Trump reverses an Obama administration decision, but it leaves it to military leaders to address the fate of transgender people currently serving in the armed forces.
New York Times, Kelly’s Mission: Control Information Flow to Trump, Maggie Haberman, Aug. 25, 2017 (print edition). John F. Kelly (shown at right), the new chief of staff and a retired Marine general, is seeking to calm the chaotic churn around President Trump, without directly controlling his behavior.
Codifying of paper flow and decision-making is not usually of note in a White House, and the practices laid out were fairly standard in previous administrations. But in Mr. Trump’s White House, where fiefs have been in constant combat and decision-making has often been ill defined, two memos, first reported by Politico, mark a new era.
The pair of memos, signed by Robert Porter, the assistant to the president for policy coordination and staff secretary, as well as Mr. Kelly, codified rules and procedures that a White House typically sets at the outset of an administration.
In one of the memos, White House aides were told that all materials prepared for the president must go first to Mr. Porter for vetting and clearance. Then Mr. Kelly must sign off on them before they go to Mr. Trump’s desk. That includes news articles, according to West Wing officials who described the memos’ content — of particular importance, given the propensity for some of Mr. Trump’s staff to slip him news accounts from dubious sources that shape his thinking or prompt him to cite unreliable or inaccurate information.
Since Mr. Trump returned from a working vacation at his golf club in New Jersey, the newly renovated West Wing has taken on a more formal air. Not only is the door to the Oval Office closed, preventing passers-by from catching the president’s eye, but a corridor door leading to the president’s office has also been kept closed.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, His pointed humor: Dick Gregory’s biting comedy was serious at core, Editorial Board, Aug. 25, 2017. In the parlance of the 1960s, it would be safe to say that the comedian and activist Dick Gregory was “out there.” Known for his biting comedy, activism and penchant for conspiracy theories in recent decades, Mr. Gregory died Saturday at age 84.
Mr. Gregory rose to fame as a comedian whose stage act owed more to astute observations about being black in America than it did to expounding on the foibles of the human condition, the territory of most successful comics. That’s not to say Mr. Gregory wasn’t funny. He was a very funny man whose humor bit down hard on whatever subject caught his fancy, but race in America fascinated him more than anything else.
Mr. Gregory’s humor was rooted in a political sensibility that boldly questioned the Establishment. He was part of the comedy revolution that emerged in the late 1950s and included such rebels as Mort Sahl and Lenny Bruce. He came of age at a time when being a comedian included the possibility of being arrested.
For his part, Mr. Gregory was arrested dozens of times over the years, usually supporting civil rights and equal rights for women and denouncing the Vietnam War and nuclear weapons.
Though he was later eclipsed by younger comedians such as Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor, Mr. Gregory held on to a devoted following. He was especially revered by comedy aficionados on both coasts and his fellow comedians who appreciated the way he told stories. The civil rights movement had given Mr. Gregory the kind of exposure and goodwill that paid dividends for decades.
At the height of his fame and notoriety, Mr. Gregory ran for mayor of Chicago and for president of the United States on top of the Peace and Freedom Party ticket. He got a lot of write-in votes in both cases and was one of the first entertainers to demonstrate the power of celebrity in the political realm. While his runs for political office were obvious stunts, Mr. Gregory was serious about the issues.
Mr. Gregory was also obsessed with health. He incorporated regular fasting into his regimen along with running and other exercises. He wanted America to face the fact that it had a problem with obesity and deal with it. In fact, he stopped performing in nightclubs in the 1970s because smoking and drinking were allowed — putting his values above earning potential.
On the darker side, Mr. Gregory was a sucker for conspiracy theories from the Kennedy assassination to 9/11. It was an idiosyncrasy that often colored his humor, but didn’t dominate it. Mr. Gregory was an American original who never lost his love of comedy or politics. He was always striving to be the kind of comedian all Americans could laugh with, regardless of their background. He succeeded masterfully.
Dr. Cyril H. Wecht Letter to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (“P-G”) Editor about its editorial printed above: His pointed humor: Dick Gregory’s biting comedy was serious at core, August, 2017. Editor’s note: Dr. Cyril Wecht, shown in a file photo/graphic by the investigative site WhoWhatWhy with the covers of severalof his books, is a consultant, medical professor, attorney, prolific author and leader of numerous professional societies. The cover of one of Dick Gregory’s books is shown also as illustration. Dr. Wecht’s letter to the editor is reprinted below:
I was delighted to read the editorial (“His pointed humor”) regarding Dick Gregory. Several years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Gregory and participating with him on some programs dealing with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Indeed, he was a very serious advocate and outspoken supporter of matters pertaining to civil rights and social justice. His great talent as a comedian enabled him to educate his audiences and stimulate their active interest in various important sociopolitical issues.
Regrettably, your statement “On the darker side Mr. Gregory was a sucker for conspiracy theories from the Kennedy assassination to…..” was quite insulting, dismissive, and invalid as a matter of accurate historical reflection.
Every national poll conducted since the JFK assassination on November 23, 1963, has indicated that a significant majority of Americans (ranging from 65 to as high as 82%) do not accept the conclusions of the Warren Commission Report (“WCR,” Fall, 1964), namely, that Lee Harvey Oswald was a lone gunman and nobody else had any involvement with JFK’s brutal murder. Despite all the efforts of the major news media establishment to support the WCR, and rebuff or simply ignore, all the forensic scientific and other physical investigative evidence to the contrary, two thirds to three fourths of US citizens have continued to reject that absurd, forensic scientifically invalid conclusion.
Pray tell, do all these people live “on the darker side”? Is the rejection of the WCR some kind of personal “idiosyncrasy” shared by millions of people?
Some day, the P-G may deign to write an obituary about me. Obviously, you will state whatever you wish. I have only one small request. Please refer to me as having been a long time, loud-mouthed leader of the idiosyncratic dark-sided population that believes the WCR is one of the greatest hoaxes ever perpetrated by our government.
Very truly yours,
Cyril H. Wecht, M.D., J.D.
National Law Journal, Paul Manafort’s Lawyer Leaves His Firm Two Weeks After Taking Case, Katelyn Polantz, Aug. 25, 2017. Kevin Downing, a tax partner at Miller & Chevalier in Washington, D.C., left the firm Thursday. He will continue to advise President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, who reportedly received subpoenas Friday from a federal grand jury probing a public relations firm that did work for Ukraine.
About two weeks after Paul Manafort Jr. swapped his lawyers from Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr for Miller & Chevalier, the former campaign manager for President Donald Trump saw another change in his legal representation.
Kevin Downing, a Miller & Chevalier partner advising Manafort in the U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation into alleged links between the Trump campaign and Russia, left the firm Thursday. “We conducted a conflicts check and analysis,” the firm said Friday through an outside spokeswoman. “We subsequently determined that an existing client matter prevents the firm from representing Mr. Manafort at this time.”
Washington Post, Escalating feud, Trump blames McConnell, Ryan for upcoming ‘mess’ on debt ceiling, Philip Rucker and Damian Paletta, Aug. 24, 2017. President Trump’s relationship with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (shown at right) in particular has deteriorated in recent weeks, with the president blaming his party’s senators for failing to pass health-care legislation this summer.
President Trump on Thursday sought to pin blame on his party’s congressional leaders for what the president predicts will be “a mess” to raise the federal governments debt limit. In a pair of morning tweets, Trump said he asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) to include a debt ceiling increase in a recent veterans bill.
Trump tweeted: “I requested that Mitch M & Paul R tie the Debt Ceiling legislation into the popular V.A. Bill (which just passed) for easy approval. They … didn’t do it so now we have a big deal with Dems holding them up (as usual) on Debt Ceiling approval. Could have been so easy — now a mess!”
More Fallout From Fatal White Nationalist Rally In Charlottesville
Elle Reeve, right, of Vice News interviews white nationalist Chris Cantwell in Charlottesville, VA for her documentary broadcast on HBO
Washington Post, White nationalist Christopher Cantwell in custody on Charlottesville charges, Dana Hedgpeth, Aug. 24, 2017. Authorities in Virginia said a self-professed white nationalist who gained notoriety after pepper-spraying a demonstrator in Charlottesville has turned himself in, days after arrest warrants were issued. The University of Virginia Police Department said the charges against Cantwell, 36, included one count of malicious bodily injury by means of a caustic substance and two felony counts of illegal use of tear gas.
Cantwell — shown in a mug shot and featured in a widely viewed documentary by Vice News — was wanted for an incident during clashes between white nationalists and counterprotesters earlier this month in Charlottesville. The events brought major political fallout after President Trump blamed “many sides” for violence, which included the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer when a driver with suspected Nazi sympathies rammed into a crowd of people.
Washington Post, The shadow of an assassinated American Nazi commander hangs over Charlottesville, Michael E. Miller, Aug. 24, 2017. George Lincoln Rockwell, the founder of the American Nazi Party, coined the phrase “white power” before he was shot by a disaffected follower 50 years ago in Arlington. He remains an influential figure to white supremacists.
Washington Post, Christopher Cantwell held without bond in connection with Charlottesville protest, Dana Hedgpeth, Aug. 24, 2017. A self-professed white nationalist featured in a widely watched documentary on the demonstrations in Charlottesville is being held without bond after Virginia authorities say he turned himself in following allegations that he pepper-sprayed a counterprotester.
The University of Virginia Police Department said Christopher Cantwell, 36, is charged with one count of malicious bodily injury by means of a caustic substance and two felony counts of illegal use of tear gas. Cantwell had turned himself in late Wednesday to the Lynchburg Police Department. Cantwell — who was featured in a widely viewed documentary by Vice News — was wanted for an incident during clashes between white nationalists and counterprotesters earlier this month in Charlottesville.
White rage violence victim Heather Heyer, 32, shown at right, in photo collage of her death scene in Charlottesville, VA
HuffPost, The Lessons Of Charlottesville: Speech And Guns, Geoffrey R. Stone (shown at left, a widely published constitutional scholar, professor and former dean of the University of Chicago School of Law), Aug. 21, 2017. The events in Charlottesville have given rise to a lot of discussion about speech and guns. That is, to what extent do protesters who are otherwise exercising their First Amendment rights also have a right to carry assault weapons and other guns as part of their demonstrations? It turns out that this is a complicated and interesting question, for which there is no simple answer.
First, does the Second Amendment give demonstrators a constitutional right to carry their weapons in public? Although the Supreme Court has held that the Second Amendment protects the right of private individuals to “keep and bear arms,” it has not gone much further in fleshing out the details of this right, and it has not yet considered whether the Second Amendment should be understood to guarantee individuals a right to “open carry.” If the Court were to hold that the Constitution guarantees individuals a right to walk down the street carrying assault weapons – an outcome I think unlikely – then that would go a long way to resolving the question. But that is not the law, and I rather doubt it will ever be the law, so we can move on to the next question.
Washington Post, A teen reunited with her birth mother — who then killed her and burned her body, police say, Avi Selk, Aug. 23, 2017. In an affidavit that reads like gothic fiction, investigators describe how a teen reunited with her birth mother last year on an isolated farm in Missouri — only to be tortured there, forced to crawl through hog pens and have salt rubbed in her wounds, and then finally murdered last month and burned in a fire pit.
Rebecca Ruud, 39, was arrested Monday by Ozark County sheriff’s deputies and charged, among other crimes, with the first-degree murder of Savannah Leckie, whom she had given up for adoption at birth, 16 years before.
The baby had been taken in by a husband and wife in Minnesota, according to sheriff’s documents, and raised there nearly all her life. But Savannah’s adoptive parents eventually divorced, and by late 2016 the teen was having trouble getting along with her adoptive mother’s new boyfriend. In November 2016, Ruud, who had been in casual contact with Leckie for years, “agreed to take Savannah back and she was delivered to Ruud in Ozark County,” wrote a sheriff’s deputy, as he recounted all the things the girl would subsequently endure.
Still-Lingering Siegelman Prosecution Injustice
Fox Business, Trump should pardon me, Fmr. Gov. Don Siegelman, Neil Cavuto, Aug. 24, 2017. Don Siegelman interview with Neil Cavuto of Fox News: Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman (D) on Thursday explained why President Trump should pardon him after serving a six year sentence for bribery. In 2006, Siegelman was convicted for appointing HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy to a board position, after he donated half a million dollars to Siegelman’s lottery campaign. Scrushy was also found guilty and was sentenced to jail time as well.
“This could happen to any governor or any president. It could have happened to President Obama or it could happen to President Trump. This is why I asked President Obama to pardon me and this is why President Trump should pardon me. It will clear up the law so that people will understand that you can’t go around putting people in prison for something that is clearly not a crime,” he told FOX Business’ Neil Cavuto on “Cavuto: Coast to Coast.”
Scrushy was released from prison in 2010, while Siegelman was released this year. Siegelman still believes that he had done nothing wrong.
“He [Scrushy, shown below in a file photo from a sympathetic interview on Fox News] didn’t want to serve on the board and he didn’t give me any money,” Siegelman said in an interview. “It was a campaign contribution to a referendum to support education. The important thing here is that I was not charged with receiving a single penny,” he said.
Trump’s Phoenix Campaign Rally
Washington Post, Trump threatens shutdown, hints at pardon for embattled former sheriff, John Wagner, Jenna Johnson and Danielle Paquette, Aug. 23, 2017. During a campaign-style rally in Phoenix, the president suggested a government shutdown might be needed to force Democrats’ hand on funding for a border wall. Trump also signaled he was prepared to pardon former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is an anathema to the Latino community.
Roll Call, Ryan: Shutdown Unnecessary But Continuing Resolution Is Needed, Lindsey McPherson, Aug. 23, 2017. Speaker says Republicans oppose shutdown but a short-term CR will likely be needed.
New York Times, Unbridled and Defensive, Trump Takes Aim at Press, Mark Landler and Maggie Haberman, Aug. 23, 2017. President Trump defended his earlier statement about the racially charged violence in Charlottesville, Va., and accused the “dishonest media” of distorting his words. Speaking against illegal immigration, the president suggested that Joe Arpaio, the hard-line former sheriff, would eventually be pardoned, but he said he was putting it off to avoid controversy.
Washington Post, Why Ben Carson’s appearance in Phoenix was likely a violation of federal law, Philip Bump, Aug. 23, 2017. Right before Ben Carson (shown at right) took the stage at President Trump’s rally in Phoenix on Tuesday night, the announcer introduced him.
“The secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Dr. Ben Carson,” the voice intoned, prompting cheers from the audience. And, as simply as that, a law was likely broken.
Among the prohibitions included in the Hatch Act is one prohibiting Cabinet secretaries from leveraging their positions for a political cause. That means that the head of, say, the Department of Housing and Urban Development can’t appear at a campaign rally in a way that implies he’s doing so in an official capacity. Say, by being introduced with his official title.
The act “prevents government employees from using their position and their station to promote candidates or political parties,” explained Larry Noble, senior director of the Campaign Legal Center. “The idea is that the government, once it’s in government, is supposed to be nonpartisan. It’s really to prevent the abuse of power.”
You might be wondering why this would apply to a Cabinet secretary appearing at an event for the president more than three years before he’s up for reelection. The reason, quite simply, is that Trump’s rallies over the past few months have, in a legal sense, been rallies on behalf of his 2020 bid.
Washington Post, The strange story of that ‘Blacks for Trump’ guy standing behind POTUS at his Phoenix rally, Katie Mettler and Lindsey Bever, Aug. 23, 2017. At a number of political rallies over the past year, a character calling himself “Michael the Black Man” has appeared in the crowd directly behind Donald Trump, impossible to miss and prompting widespread fascination. He holds signs that scream “BLACKS FOR TRUMP” and wears a T-shirt proclaiming with equal conviction that “TRUMP & Republicans Are Not Racist.”
Almost always, he plugs his wild website, Gods2.com, across his chest. And so it was Tuesday night before a crowd of Trump supporters in Phoenix who had come to watch another show. There was the president, whipping up the wildly cheering crowd, and then there was Michael the Black Man, chanting just beyond Trump’s right shoulder in that trademark T-shirt.
The presence of Michael — variously known as Michael Symonette, Maurice Woodside and Mikael Israel — has inspired not only trending Twitter hashtags but a great deal of curiosity and Google searches. Internet sleuths find the man’s bizarre URL, an easily accessible gateway to his strange and checkered past. The radical fringe activist from Miami once belonged to a violent black supremacist religious cult, and he runs a handful of amateur, unintelligible conspiracy websites. He has called Barack Obama “The Beast” and Hillary Clinton a Ku Klux Klan member. Oprah Winfrey, he says, is the devil.
Most curiously, in the 1990s, he was charged, then acquitted, with conspiracy to commit two murders. In the early 1990s, the New Times reported, Woodside, Yahweh and 14 other members of the cult were arrested by federal agents and charged with racketeering and conspiracy in 14 murders and a firebombing, reported the New Times.
Washington Post, As Trump ranted and rambled in Phoenix, his crowd slowly thinned, Jenna Johnson, Aug. 23, 2017. Just before President Trump strolled onto the rally stage on Tuesday evening, four speakers took turns carefully denouncing hate, calling for unity and ever so subtly assuring the audience that the president is not racist.
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson proclaimed that “our lives are too short to let our differences divide us.” Alveda King, the niece of Martin Luther King Jr., led everyone in singing a few lines of “How Great Thou Art.” Evangelist Franklin Graham prayed for the politically and racially divided nation and asked the Lord to shut the mouths of “those in this country who want to divide, who want to preach hate.” And Vice President Pence declared that “President Trump believes with all his heart … that love for America requires love for all its people.”
Trump spent the first three minutes of his speech — which would drag on for 75 minutes — marveling at his crowd size, claiming that “there aren’t too many people outside protesting,” predicting that the media would not broadcast shots of his “rather incredible” crowd and reminiscing about how he was “center stage, almost from day one, in the debates.”
Three times, the crowd burst into chants of “USA! USA! USA!” And once, at the mention of Trump’s former rival Hillary Clinton, they chanted: “Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!”
Trump’s American Legion Rally In Las Vegas
Washington Post, President calls for ‘unity’ at veterans’ convention, hours after raucous Ariz. rally, Abby Phillip, Aug. 23, 2017. In his address to the American Legion, President Trump touted “shared humanity,” along with “citizenship” and patriotism, as ways to bridge the nation’s political and racial divides.
President Trump called for unity in a speech at the American Legion’s 99th National Convention in Las Vegas, just hours after a raucous campaign-style rally in which he lambasted the media and his political rivals, and reignited the controversy over his response to a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville this month.
“It is time to heal the wounds that have divided us, and to seek a new unity based on the common values that unite us,” Trump said, speaking before more than 5,000 members of the largest veterans group. “We are one people, with one home, and one flag.” “We are not defined by the color of our skin, the figure on our paycheck or the party of our politics,” Trump continued.
Hillary’s New Memoir
Hillary Clinton in a 2016 campaign speech (Portrait by Gage Skidmore)
Washington Post, Hillary Clinton calls Donald Trump a ‘creep,’ says her ‘skin crawled’ during debate, Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Amy B Wang, Aug. 23, 2017. Hillary Clinton said her “skin crawled” as Donald Trump loomed behind her at a presidential debate in St. Louis, and added that she wished she could have pressed pause and asked America, “Well, what would you do?”
The words, Clinton’s most detailed public comments about what happened during one of the campaign’s more memorable moments, are included in her new book, “What Happened,” which she called an attempt to “pull back the curtain” on her losing bid for the presidency.
Some of the moments during the campaign, she said, “baffled” her. Others seemingly repulsed her: In recounting the October incident, she referred to Trump as a “creep.” The book comes out Sept. 12, but audio excerpts, read by Clinton, were played Wednesday morning on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
“This is not okay, I thought,” Clinton said, reading from her book. “It was the second presidential debate and Donald Trump was looming behind me. Two days before, the world heard him brag about groping women. Now we were on a small stage and no matter where I walked, he followed me closely, staring at me, making faces.”
Report: Climate Change To Transform Alaska
New York Times, By 2050, much of this frozen ground, a storehouse of ancient carbon, could be gone, Henry Fountain, Aug. 23, 2017. The loss of frozen ground in Arctic regions is a striking result of climate change. And it is also a cause of more warming to come.
Pentagon Pressure on Presidents
Future of Freedom Foundation, Libertarian Opinion: Unlike Trump, JFK Didn’t Bend the Knee, Jacob G. Hornberger (shown at right), Aug. 23, 2017. Like President Trump, President Kennedy was subjected to the same type of pressure by the Pentagon and the CIA to engage in military action overseas.
Unlike President Trump, however, Kennedy stood his ground and refused to succumb to the will of the national-security establishment. In fact, Kennedy is the only president in the post-World War II era who has stood up to the demands of what President Eisenhower called the “military-industrial complex.”
After the CIA’s regime-change debacle at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba, Kennedy never trusted the CIA again. It didn’t take long for him to have the same sentiment toward the Pentagon.
Like the CIA, the Pentagon was obsessed with regime change in Cuba. The national-security establishment was convinced that the United States would cease to exist with a communist “dagger” pointed at it from only 90 miles away. In the eyes of the Pentagon and the CIA, there was only one thing that could be done to save America — oust the communist regime in Cuba and replace it with a pro-U.S. dictatorship, much like the Batista regime that that Fidel Castro had ousted from power in the Cuban Revolution.
The Pentagon got around the problem by coming up with a plan that would make it look like Cuba had started a war with the United States and that the United States was simply acting in self-defense. That’s what Operation Northwoods was all about. Unanimously approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the plan called for terrorist attacks to be carried out here in the United States and for hijackings of American planes.
Here is the kicker: The terrorists and the hijackers were going to be CIA agents who would be posing as communist agents of Fidel Castro. Under the plan, Pentagon and CIA officials, as well as President Kennedy, would exclaim, “Our country has, once again, been hit by a surprise attack, this time by Cuban communists who have attacked our nation and killed innocent Americans. We have the right to defend ourselves by invading Cuba and effecting regime change there.”‘
Media Matters via National Memo, Paid Actors, A Fake Publicist, And Retweeted Bots: Trump Habitually Uses Deceit And Propaganda To Shape Perceptions, Cristina Lopez, Aug. 23, 2017. President Donald Trump’s Twitter habits help shape the media and public narrative about his administration, which is why his record of retweeting and quote-tweeting accounts with suspicious bot or sock-puppet activity raises concerns.
A Media Matters study of an archive of Trump’s Twitter account revealed that over the past year, Trump has on a handful of occasions propped up praise from accounts that feature suspicious bot activity or that have since been suspended or deactivated.
If he’s unintentionally promoting bots, it shows gullibility and a lack of basic due diligence on his part that is terrifying in someone as powerful as the president. And if he’s promoting such tweets intentionally, that shows how shamelessly Trump resorts to propaganda in an effort to bolster his image, set narratives, distract the public from damaging news, spin stories in his favor, and provide talking points for far-right media networks with no regard for reality.
President Donald Trump’s Twitter habits help shape the media and public narrative about his administration, which is why his record of retweeting and quote-tweeting accounts with suspicious bot or sock-puppet activity raises concerns.
Trump’s history of using deceit to manipulate the media and project self-advantageous messages indicates that there’s perhaps nothing accidental about his tendency to retweet bots. For three decades, starting in the 1970s, Trump infamously pretended to be a fictional publicist named John Miller and used that pseudonym to plant pro-Trump stories in the media. In June 2015, Trump paid actors to cheer for him during his announcement that he would run for president, during which he called Mexican immigrants rapists. Trump has said that he retweets for a reason and that the retweets are an endorsement “to a certain extent.” This doesn’t leave much room to question the intentionality behind his insidious strategy.
Report: Climate Change To Transform Alaska
New York Times, By 2050, much of this frozen ground, a storehouse of ancient carbon, could be gone, Henry Fountain, Aug. 23, 2017. The loss of frozen ground in Arctic regions is a striking result of climate change. And it is also a cause of more warming to come.
Whither Sanders Voters?
Newsweek, Bernie Sanders Voters Helped Trump Win and Here’s Proof, Jason Le Miere, Aug. 23, 2017. Bernie Sanders supporters switched their allegiance to Donald Trump in large enough numbers last November to sway the election for the real estate billionaire, according to an analysis of voter data released Tuesday by the blog Political Wire. Since Trump’s shock victory over Hillary Clinton, much discussion has focused on the degree to which passionate Sanders supporters’ refusal to embrace Clinton led to the Republican winding up in the White House. A
According to the analysis of the 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Survey, fewer than 80 percent of those who voted for Sanders, an independent, in the Democratic primary did the same for Clinton when she faced off against Trump a few months later. What’s more, 12 percent of those who backed Sanders actually cast a vote for Trump.
The impact of those votes was significant. In each of the three states that ultimately swung the election for Trump — Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — Trump’s margin of victory over Clinton was smaller than the number of Sanders voters who gave him their vote. The data would suggest that Trump’s efforts were at least in part successful. Another factor, however, was that of those who switched their allegiance from Sanders to Trump less than 10 percent considered themselves strong Democrats, while less than 50 percent even leaned Democrat.
New York Times, McConnell, in Private, Doubts if Trump Can Save Presidency, Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin, Aug. 22, 2017. Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader (shown at right), has not spoken in weeks with President Trump, and has privately questioned if he can salvage his presidency. The rupture comes at a highly perilous moment for Republicans, who face a number of urgent legislative deadlines.
In a series of tweets this month, Mr. Trump criticized Mr. McConnell publicly, then berated him in a phone call that quickly devolved into a profane shouting match.
During the call, which Mr. Trump initiated on Aug. 9 from his New Jersey golf club, the president accused Mr. McConnell of bungling the health care issue. He was even more animated about what he intimated was the Senate leader’s refusal to protect him from investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to Republicans briefed on the conversation.
Preparing For More War
Washington Post, Rex Tillerson totally undercut Trump’s ‘we will win’ rhetoric on Afghanistan, Aaron Blake, Aug. 22, 2017. President Trump said repeatedly Monday that the U.S. military would win in Afghanistan. That’s apparently news to his secretary of state Rex Tillerson, shown in a file photo.
Washington Post, Analysis: The 12 key points in Trump’s speech on Afghanistan, James Hohmann, Aug. 22, 2017. President Trump gave an uncharacteristically introspective speech last night, acknowledging that he’s changed his position on the war in Afghanistan as he escalated the military’s involvement in America’s longest war.
After seven months, Trump has finally settled on a policy that does not go as far as his generals wanted but also represents a clear break with the populists and isolationists who he catered to as a candidate. Reading carefully from a teleprompter, in his first prime-time address to the nation, the president sought to explain why he’s been persuaded that staying in Afghanistan is in America’s national interest. Continuing to use a phrase he debuted in Saudi Arabia during his first foreign trip, Trump described his doctrine as “principled realism.”
“Although Trump did not specify how many more troops will be sent to Afghanistan, congressional officials said the administration has told them it will be about 4,000 more than the 8,500 U.S. service members currently in the region,” David Nakamura and Abby Phillip report.
Washington Post, Trump hints he will pardon controversial Arizona sheriff at Phoenix rally, John Wagner, Jenna Johnson and Danielle Paquette, Aug. 22, 2017. The president stopped short of pardoning former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio (shown at right) but signaled to a boisterous crowd that such a move could be coming soon, and he stepped up his attacks on the media, insisting he immediately condemned white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va.
Washington Post, Federal prosecutors vastly scale back request for info on visitors to anti-Trump website, Keith L. Alexander, Aug. 22, 2017. Prosecutors investigating Inauguration Day rioting have amended their warrant that originally demanded more than 1.3 million IP addresses from a Los Angeles tech company and said they are focusing on about 200 people who are already facing charges.
New York Times, Mnuchin’s Wife Mocks Oregon Woman Over Lifestyle and Wealth, Maggie Haberman and Mikayla Bouchard, Aug. 22, 2017. The wife of the Treasury Secretary on Monday night took a page from President Trump’s social media playbook for punching down. Louise Linton, the labels-loving wife of Steven Mnuchin (shown at right), replied condescendingly to an Instagram poster about her lifestyle and belittled the woman, Jenni Miller, a mother of three from Portland, Ore., for having less money than she does.
The brouhaha began when Ms. Linton posted a photograph of herself disembarking a military jet emblazoned with official government markings. She had joined her husband on a quick trip to Kentucky with the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell.
“Great #daytrip to #Kentucky!” Ms. Linton, 36, wrote under the photograph. She then added hashtags for various pieces of her expensive wardrobe, listing #rolandmouret, #hermesscarf, #tomford and #valentino.
Burlington Free Press, VT settles claims against economist Jonathan Gruber, April McCullum, Aug. 22, 2017. The Vermont Attorney General’s Office believes a health care economist submitted at least two false invoices to the state in 2014, but has agreed to drop the claims in a $90,000 settlement.
Jonathan Gruber, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, won a state contract in 2014 to conduct economic modeling for Vermont’s proposed single-payer health care system. Gruber submitted two bills for $100,000 in September and October 2014, claiming that he worked 100 hours and that his research assistant worked 500 hours during each period. The state paid the bills but retained a total of $40,000, which was expected to be paid when the work was complete.
Sanctions Skirmishing Over North Korea
Washington Post, U.S. sanctions Chinese and Russian firms, individuals for ties to North Korea, Carol Morello, Aug. 22, 2017. The Treasury Department said 10 firms and 6 individuals had done business that helped Pyongyang develop its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons program.
New York Times, Suspected Driver in Barcelona Attack Is Killed by Police, Patrick Kingsley and Raphael Minder, Aug. 21, 2017. Younes Abouyaaqoub, 22, had been the target of an international search. He was shot in Subirats, a village west of Barcelona. The fugitive believed to have driven the van in last week’s terrorist attacks in Spain was shot dead by the police on Monday in a village outside Barcelona after a European-wide dragnet. The fugitive, 22, used a van to mow down a crowd on Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s central boulevard, last Thursday, killing 13 people, according to the police. He then stole a car, killed its driver and made his getaway with the driver’s body still inside.
A manhunt stretching across Europe was undertaken, and France, Italy and other countries tightened security and border controls amid widespread speculation that Mr. Abouyaaqoub might have fled Spain. Over the weekend, the authorities had said they could not be certain that he was still on Spanish soil. But at 4:10 p.m. Monday, attention quickly turned to Subirats, a collection of villages about 20 miles west of Barcelona. The town was placed on lockdown as the authorities announced that a man wearing an explosive belt had been “shot down.”
The death toll from the attacks rose to 15 on Monday. In addition to the 13 people killed in the van attack in Barcelona, a 14th person died hours later in a related attack in the town of Cambrils, and the police on Monday announced a 15th victim: the driver of the car that Mr. Abouyaaqoub stole and used to make his escape.
Also on Monday, the authorities said that an imam believed to have inspired the twin attacks had almost certainly died on Wednesday when a house that the terrorists used as a bomb factory blew up — an event that appears to have precipitated the attacks.
Trump Announces New Build-up in Afghanistan
Washington Post, Trump unveils new plan for Afghanistan that includes increase in troops, David Nakamura and Abby Phillip, Aug. 21, 2017. In announcing the new strategy, President Trump took greater ownership of a protracted conflict that he had long dismissed as a waste of time and resources. He said success would be determined by conditions on the ground and not dictated by a specific timeline.
President Trump on Monday sought to rally the nation in support of a new strategy for the U.S. war in Afghanistan, taking greater ownership of a protracted conflict that he had long dismissed as a waste of time and resources.
Trump’s plan involves a modest increase of several thousand troops and the president said success would be determined by conditions on the ground and not dictated by a specific timeline. The change in policy laid out during a prime-time address from the Fort Myer military base in Arlington, Va., is the result of a lengthy policy review within his administration over how to proceed in the nation’s longest war.
“Our troops will fight to win,” he said. “From now on, victory will have a clear definition: attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al-Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over the country, and stopping mass terror attacks against Americans before they emerge.”
The president’s decision to endorse a Pentagon plan to boost troop levels reflects mounting concerns among military leadership that battlefield setbacks for Afghan government forces against the Taliban and al-Qaeda have led to a rapidly deteriorating security situation.
Washington Post, ‘It’s a hard problem’: Inside Trump’s decision to send more troops to Afghanistan, Philip Rucker and Robert Costa, Aug. 21, 2017. Interviews with more than a dozen senior administration officials and outside allies detail Trump’s deliberations in recent weeks, and how a president obsessed with winning has now settled on simply trying not to lose.
Trump’s decisions were put off in part because of infighting in his ranks, chiefly between [National Security Advisor H. L.] McMaster and chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, who departed the White House last week.
Tensions between the two erupted in July as they talked through Afghanistan options with colleagues and the president. When McMaster floated possibly sending tens of thousands of additional troops, Bannon shot back that such a commitment would be a folly in a country where intervention had crippled foreign powers through the centuries, officials said.
More Fallout from White Nationalist Rally
New York Times, Opinion: Failing All Tests of the Presidency, Charles M. Blow, Aug. 21, 2017. We are leaderless. America doesn’t have a president. America has a man in the White House holding the spot, and wreaking havoc as he waits for the day when a real president arrives to replace him. Donald Trump is many things — most of them despicable — but the leader of a nation he is not. He is not a great man. Hell, he isn’t even a good man.
New York Times, Opinion: Why Lee Should Go, and Washington Should Stay, Jon Meacham, Aug. 21, 2017. Jon Meacham, a distinguished visiting professor at Vanderbilt University, is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of biographies of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson. Trump asks where to draw the line. Trying to destroy the American experiment seems a pretty clear test. I grew up on Missionary Ridge, a Civil War battlefield overlooking Chattanooga, Tenn. In my childhood we could still find minie balls from the battle in which a young Union soldier, Arthur MacArthur, the father of Douglas, received the Medal of Honor. The war’s relics were real and tangible — I still have a few on my desk as I write — and so were the war’s perennial and tragic consequences.
From Baltimore to New Orleans, cities across the South are removing statues of Confederate figures from public property — memorials often built as emblems of defiance to federal authority in the post-Reconstruction period and in the Warren Court years of the 1950s and ’60s. The white-supremacist and neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Va., this month was occasioned by the city’s decision to take down a Robert E. Lee statue.
To me, the answer to Mr. Trump’s question begins with a straightforward test: Was the person to whom a monument is erected on public property devoted to the American experiment in liberty and self-government? Washington and Jefferson and Andrew Jackson were. By definition, the Confederate hierarchy fails that test.
WGBH-FM (Boston), Free Speech Banned On Boston Common: The City’s Ignominious Failure, Harvey Silverglate, Aug. 21, 2017. Harvey Silverglate (shown below) writes the WGBH News “Freedom Watch” column. He is a Cambridge-based writer and criminal defense and civil liberties lawyer. The blessings of free speech were lost on Boston Common (shown in a news photo) this past Saturday, and the question now is whether – and how – proponents of liberty will be able to come to terms with this shameful and distressing turn of events.
It won’t be easy. Boston is a bubble, a bastion of largely left-wing sentiment. Social discipline is maintained throughout the proper-thinking precincts of Boston and Cambridge by drawing room conventions that often confuse the intellectually inconvenient with rudeness. Saturday’s events, I fear, will become a case in point.
City Hall, police, and the media all proclaimed the exercise an overwhelming success. Why? Apparently because nobody was killed. So, the official test now for whether an expressive event succeeds in its purpose is not whether the speakers are able to say their piece, nor whether those who want to listen actually get to hear. The test is that nobody was killed during the course of an event where not a word was heard, where no political views were aired, where no debate took place.
Global News: 10 Missing U.S. Sailors
U.S.S. Destroyer John S. McCain (file photo)
Washington Post, Stricken U.S. destroyer arrives in Singapore after collision, 10 sailors missing, Anna Fifield, Aug. 21, 2017. A frantic search continued Monday for 10 sailors missing after a collision between a U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer and an oil tanker three times its size off Singapore.
Meanwhile, The U.S. Navy pushed ahead with investigations into the “the facts and circumstances” of the collision involving the USS John S. McCain — the second such incident between a U.S. warship and commercial vessel in the Pacific region this summer.
The John S. McCain arrived at the Changi Naval Base in Singapore, and photos showed a large hole in its side at the waterline. More than 14 hours after the collision, there had been no word of any progress with the hunt for the missing sailors.
This was the second time in two months that a Navy destroyer based at the 7th Fleet’s home port of Yokosuka, Japan, has been involved in a collision at sea, and this latest incident bears similarities. Seven sailors were killed when the USS Fitzgerald collided with a container ship south of Japan in June, which also led to flooding in berthing compartments.
Palmer Report, Ten U.S. Navy sailors are missing after another collision, and Donald Trump’s response is sickeningly tone-deaf, Bill Palmer, Aug. 20, 2017. For unknown reasons which are alarming in their own right, a U.S. Navy vessel has had a collision for the third time this year. This sentence from the Washington Post sums it up: “President Trump, returning to the White House on Sunday night, responded to reporters’ questions about the collision by saying: ‘That’s too bad.'”
That’s right. He said that’s too bad. What the hell kind of response is that from the guy who’s supposed to be in charge of the military? No words of assurance to the loved ones of those serving on the ship that everything possible is being done for them. No understanding that these situations are his responsibility. No nothing.
[JIP Editor’s note: The White House later issued a brief statement that thoughts and prayers are extended to victims and their families.]
Around the Nation
President Trump, shown by a New York Daily News cover at the White House with his wife, was one of many Americans who failed to use protective glasses at all times while watching the rare total eclipse of the sun creating a footprint across the entire nation
JFK Assassination Documents
Cox Media Group via Fox 23 (Tulsa, OK), Document release planned in JFK assassination, but some want them kept secret, Aug. 21, 2017. Those alive on Nov. 22, 1963 know exactly where they were when John F Kennedy died. Even those born in the decades after saw the images and learned about the tragic day.
More than 50 years after the president’s assassination, more than 3,000 documents remain classified “top secret,” locked away in the National Archives. By law, all documents related to the investigation must be unsealed and public by October. Recently, several new documents were released, but the final, still secret batch remains a mystery.
FOX23’s Justin Gray asked Shenon why government officials might want these old documents classified. Shenon said there are many theories. “I think it may show just much more bungling there had been by the government before the assassination, and how Kennedy’s life should have been saved,” Shenon said. “Many people who might arguably be involved in what might be thought of as a cover up are still quite prominent in America.”
Others say the assassination is more than just a 20th century mystery to be debated by history buffs. “Why in 2017 should people care about this” said Andrew Kreig at the Justice Integrity Project. “Because it’s the Rosetta Stone to current affairs.”
The files, Kreig said, offer a look into how the FBI, CIA and other agencies investigate present-day, high-profile cases, which is why seeing those documents remains important. “Whatever one’s view is, go to the evidence,” Kreig said.
More Reaction To White Nationalist Fatal Protest
Washington Post, The elites strike back — getting under Trump’s skin, James Hohmann, Aug. 21, 2017. From Wall Street to West Palm Beach and West Hollywood, the past week has been a turning point, perhaps even a tipping point. Since the president abdicated his moral leadership after Charlottesville, the well-connected have used their leverage — like checkbooks and celebrity — to send a message about what truly makes America great.
Washington Post, The shadow of an assassinated American Nazi commander hangs over Charlottesville, Michael E. Miller, Aug. 21, 2017. George Lincoln Rockwell, the founder of the American Nazi Party, coined the phrase “white power” before he was shot by a disaffected follower 50 years ago in Arlington.
As the founder of the American Nazi Party, George Lincoln Rockwell (shown at right) had hung swastikas on the Mall and picketed the marches of Martin Luther King Jr. He had called for shipping blacks to Africa and sending millions of “Communist Jews” to the gas chambers — all at a time when memories of World War II were still fresh.
Rockwell died amid a flurry of Ivory Snow soap flakes. For years, he had claimed his enemies were stalking him. But when police arrested the gunman minutes later, they identified him as 29-year-old John Patler: Rockwell’s neo-Nazi protege. John Patsalos, as he is again called, served a decade in prison before being released in the early 1980s. He is now 79 and lives in New York City. The man who once illustrated hate magazines for Rockwell now ekes out a living as a freelance cartoonist.
Washington Post, Liberty University graduates return diplomas because of support for Trump by Jerry Falwell Jr., Samantha Schmidt, Aug. 21, 2017. Since the early days of the 2016 presidential campaign, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. has been a staunch supporter of Donald Trump. For some students and alumni of the evangelical Christian school in Lynchburg, Va., Liberty’s perceived alignment with the president has been a source of “shame and anger,” a group of graduates wrote last week.
Last week, many reached their breaking point. After Trump’s equivocation about neo-Nazi groups following the violence in Charlottesville, Falwell once again voiced his unwavering support for the president, tweeting that he was “so proud” of Trump for his “bold truthful” statement on the tragedy. In response, Liberty University graduates are calling on fellow alumni to take a stand against by returning their diplomas. They are also writing letters to Falwell’s office and to the Board of Trustees, calling for his removal. More than 260 people have joined a Facebook group titled “Return your diploma to LU.”
By publicly “revoking all ties, all support present and future,” the graduates hope to send a message to the school that “could jeopardize future enrollment, finances and funding,” according to the Facebook group. They are urging graduates to return their diplomas to Falwell’s office by Sept. 5.
Huffpost, Vice News’ Elle Reeve Crushes Donald Trump’s Claims About Charlottesville, Rebecca Shapiro, Aug. 21, 2017. “They didn’t talk about Robert E. Lee being a brilliant military tactician.”
“Vice News Tonight” reporter Elle Reeve appeared on CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday morning to discuss her experience documenting white supremacists rallying in Charlottesville, Virginia, this month.
Reeve confirmed once again that the white supremacists and neo-Nazis gathered in Charlottesville were not rallying simply to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, as President Donald Trump argued last week. “They didn’t talk about Robert E. Lee being a brilliant military tactician,” Reeve said of the white supremacists gathered on the campus of the University of Virginia on Aug. 11 and 12. “They chanted about Jews. They wanted to be menacing. It’s not an accident.”
Newspapers: New Los Angeles Times Shake-up Installs Fox News Digital Guru
Los Angeles Times, Ross Levinsohn is named the new publisher and CEO of the L.A. Times as top editors are ousted, Meg James, Aug. 21, 2017. In a dramatic shake-up at the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago-based parent company has installed new leadership and plans to invest more resources in the news organization to move it more quickly into the digital age.
Ross Levinsohn, 54, a veteran media executive who worked at Fox and served as interim chief of Yahoo, was named publisher and chief executive of the 135-year-old news organization. The move was announced Monday by Justin C. Dearborn, chief executive of Tronc, the parent company of The Times and eight other daily newspapers. Jim Kirk, 52, a veteran Chicago news executive, who was publisher and editor of the Chicago Sun-Times until last week, was named interim executive editor of The Times.
Levinsohn becomes The Times’ 17th publisher and the fifth in the last decade. He has spent more than 20 years in media — though never in newspapers. He said he’s excited to take on such an important assignment. Levinsohn headed digital operations for Rupert Murdoch at Fox, formerly known as News Corp., as president of Fox Interactive Media, where he oversaw a diverse group of digital properties, including MySpace, Fox Sports and Rotten Tomatoes. He played an integral role in creating the online video streaming site Hulu.
Global News: Syria
In this photo released by the official Facebook page of the Syrian Presidency, Syrian President Bashar Assad speaks to Syrian diplomats, in Damascus, Syria, Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017. In defiant comments Sunday, Assad blasted the West, rejecting any security cooperation or reopening of embassies in Damascus before those countries cut relations with opposition groups. In the speech, Assad praised Russia, Iran, China and Lebanon’s Hezbollah for supporting his government. (Syrian Presidency Facebook page via AP) (Associated Press)
Associated Press via Washington Post, Syria’s Assad rejects security cooperation with the West, Albert Aji and Bassem Mroue, Aug. 20, 2017. Syrian President Bashar Assad on Sunday refused any security cooperation with Western nations or the reopening of their embassies, until they cut ties with opposition and insurgent groups.
Shortly after Assad gave his speech, a shell hit the first international fair in the country since the war began six years ago, killing and wounding several people. The Mortar News in Damascus Facebook page, which tracks violence in the capital, said the shell hit the entrance of the fair, killing four people and wounding four others.
Assad’s defiant comments come at a time when his troops and pro-Iranian militiamen are gaining ground across the country under the cover of Russian airstrikes. [(Syrian government lands are shown in red on the adjoining map, with ISIS in dark brown, Kurdish-U.S. in yellow and other rebels in green.] Many countries have ceased calling for him to step down.
Speaking before dozens of Syrian diplomats in Damascus, Assad praised Russia, Iran, China and Lebanon’s Hezbollah for supporting his government during the conflict.
He said Syria will look east when it comes to political, economic and cultural relations. “The direct support of our friends, politically, economically and militarily, made our advance on the ground greater and the losses of war less. Therefore, they are our partners in these achievements on the road to crush terrorism,” Assad said. “Let’s be clear. There will be no security cooperation nor opening of embassies or even a role for some countries that say that they want to play a role in ending the crisis in Syria before they clearly and frankly cut their relations with terrorism,” Assad said. “At that point maybe we can speak about opening embassies.”
The government had billed the international trade fair, which opened three days ago, as a “victory” and a sign of renewed confidence in the war-torn nation. The state-run news agency said the shelling inflicted casualties but gave no further details. It blamed the rebels in the suburbs of the capital, saying they fired the shell in violation of a truce reached earlier this month in the eastern suburbs of Damascus known as eastern Ghouta.
SouthFront, President Assad: “We have managed to foil the Western project,” Staff report, Aug. 21, 2017. On Sunday, the President of Syria Bashar al-Assad attacked Turkey and the West during a speech at the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and expatriates annual conference. “We have managed to foil the Western project. West is like a chameleon due to its behavior to fit different situations. The psychological war against the Damascus government has failed to discourage us from fighting terrorism or even frighten us… We have fought terror since day one, and we will continue to fight it until there is no terrorist in Syria,” Assad stressed.
Many considered that the speech was one of the most aggressive speeches of President Assad since the outbreak of the Syrian war. One very notable thing about the speech is that while the Syrian president aggressively attacked Turkey and the West, it didn’t directly attack the Gulf countries. A note that some believe it may mean that the near future might witness a Syrian-Saudi reconciliation, even if only on a low level.
SouthFront, ISIS Pulling Its Strongest Units To Deir Ezzor For Last Stand – Russian Military, Staff report, Aug. 21, 2017. ISIS terrorists are pulling their strongest units to the province of Deir Ezzor preparing for the last stand against the Syrian Army, supported by the Russian Aerospace Forces. ISIS is going to defend their area near the city of Deir Ezzor as government forces push to lift the ISIS siege from it.
“Syrian government forces supported by Russian Aerospace forces are swiftly pushing from three directions towards Deir Ezzor at the moment. The foothold around the city is the last stronghold of terrorists on Syrian soil,” General Sergey Rudskoy, spokesman for the Russian General Staff, said on Monday during a press briefing in Moscow. “The remaining forces are heading there. According to our data, militants from Mosul moved there and the most battle-ready units from Raqqa,” Rudskoy stated.
He also said that despite the withdrawal of the major part of ISIS forces from Raqqa, the “so-called Syrian Democratic Forces, supported by the US and allies” are still unable to capture it after a three-month siege.
SouthFront, Russian Warplanes Destroyed ISIS Column Heading To Deir Ezzor, Staff report, Aug. 21, 2017 (video: 8:06 mins.). Report: Over 200 Terrorists Killed, 20 Vehicles Destroyed. The Russian Aerospace Forces have destroyed a large ISIS military column heading to the area of the city of Deir Ezzor “to regroup and equip their last base in Syria,” the Russian Defense Ministry said. Over 200 ISIS members were killed and about 20 vehicles equipped with large-caliber weapons were destroyed, according to the statement. Russian warplanes also destroyed an unknown number of armored vehicles, including battle tanks.
Global News: U.S.-Russian Reprisal Battle
Washington Post, U.S. halts non-immigrant visas in Russia as diplomatic standoff deepens, Andrew Roth, Aug. 21, 2017. The U.S. Embassy faces a Sept. 1 deadline to cut more than 750 staff positions. The embassy also said it would suspend visa interviews at its consulates — effectively forcing Russians to travel to Moscow for a U.S. visa.
With a Sept. 1 deadline to cut more than 750 staff positions looming, the embassy announced on Monday that it would halt all non-immigrant visa applications and interviews until Sept. 1, and that afterward it would suspend visa interviews at the United States consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, and Vladivostok — effectively forcing Russians across the vast country’s 11 time zones to travel to Moscow for a U.S. visa.
Taxpayer Costs for Trump Security
USA Today, Exclusive: Secret Service depletes funds to pay agents because of Trump’s frequent travel, large family, Kevin Johnson, Aug. 21, 2017. The Secret Service can no longer pay hundreds of agents it needs to carry out an expanded protective mission – in large part due to the sheer size of President Trump’s family and efforts necessary to secure their multiple residences up and down the East Coast.
Secret Service Director Randolph “Tex” Alles, in an interview with USA TODAY, said more than 1,000 agents have already hit the federally mandated caps for salary and overtime allowances that were meant to last the entire year.
The agency has faced a crushing workload since the height of the contentious election season, and it has not relented in the first seven months of the administration. Agents must protect Trump – who has traveled almost every weekend to his properties in Florida, New Jersey and Virginia – and his adult children whose business trips and vacations have taken them across the country and overseas.
“The president has a large family, and our responsibility is required in law,” Alles said. “I can’t change that. I have no flexibility.” Alles said the service is grappling with an unprecedented number of White House protectees. Under Trump, 42 people have protection, a number that includes 18 members of his family. That’s up from 31 during the Obama administration.
Overwork and constant travel have also been driving a recent exodus from the Secret Service ranks, yet without congressional intervention to provide additional funding, Alles will not even be able to pay agents for the work they have already done.
GOP Support For Trump Family Properties
Washington Post, Republican committees have paid nearly $1.3 million to Trump-owned entities this year, Matea Gold and Anu Narayanswamy, Aug. 21, 2017. The money has helped boost Trump’s company at a time when business is falling off at some core properties. The Republican National Committee paid the Trump International Hotel in Washington $122,000 last month after the party held a lavish fundraiser at the venue in June, the latest example of how GOP political committees are generating a steady income stream for President Trump’s private business, new Federal Election Commission records show.
At least 25 congressional campaigns, state parties and the Republican Governors Association have together spent more than $473,000 at Trump hotels or golf resorts this year, according to a Washington Post analysis of campaign finance filings. Trump’s companies collected an additional $793,000 from the RNC and the president’s campaign committee, some of which included payments for rent and legal consulting.
Domestic U.S. Politics: Impeachment
OpEdNews, Opinion: Don’t Impeach Trump. Don’t Take Away His Twitter Account, Rob Kall (shown at left), Aug. 21, 2017. Trump is a bloviating, chronically lying, ignorant buffoon. His time as president has made it clear that the only way he could have become a billionaire was through corruption and fraud. No wonder he has been a serial bankrupt.
But I don’t believe all this talk of impeachment has been thought through. While I detest Trump and hate what he’s done, in terms of appointing people set on destroying ecological, educational, worker and social justice protections, policies and laws, I think we need to hold off on impeachment.
First, talk all you want about it. It’s become clear that the Republican controlled House of Representatives, where the first stage of impeachment would take place, is not even able to censure Trump’s offensive actions, statements and tweets, let alone reach a majority vote on impeachment.
But as a left of liberal progressive, I think it’s best to let Trump have all the leash he needs to hang himself and the Republican party. I do have some fears, that Trump could hit the nuclear trigger or start a war. But Pence could be just as warlike and probably diabolically smarter in terms of implementing right wing agenda change.
Miami Herald, About the 9/11 war crimes trial, Staff report, Aug. 11, 2017, updated Aug. 21, 2017. A Pentagon “Convening Authority” for Military Commissions has twice approved capital murder charges against five detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, naming them as alleged conspirators in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
They were first arraigned June 5, 2008 during the Bush administration, only to see the process suspended when President Barack Obama took office, time to review the case. A senior Pentagon official withdrew the charges “without prejudice” in January 2010. Attorney General Eric Holder for a time decided to put them on trial in New York City, not far from where the site of the World Trade Center. But he was met with such fierce political resistance he returned the case to the Pentagon, whose war crimes prosecutor issued new charge sheets on May 31, 2011. The Convening Authority at that time, retired Navy Vice Adm. Bruce MacDonald, approved the charges April 4, 2012.
The five were arraigned on May 5, 2012 at the Camp Justice war court compound at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba. The hearing, held on Saturday, stretched across 13 hours with breaks for the men to pray in the courtroom. No trial date has been set, although the chief prosecutor has suggested all sides could be ready to start next year. The 24th set of hearings is scheduled for Aug. 21-25 at Guantánamo Bay. Here is the judge’s agenda for the week.
The Accused: Khalid Sheik Mohammed, called KSM, is accused of engineering the Sept. 11 attacks by proposing the plot to Osama bin Laden in 1996, overseeing the operation, and training the hijackers in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The CIA subjected him to an interrogation technique called waterboarding before his 2006 transfer to Guantánamo Bay. In March 2007, according to a military transcript, he boasted: ”I was responsible for the 9/11 operation — from A to Z.”
Background: Jurist Magazine, Federal appeals court rules military judge should have recused himself in 9/11 case, Lawrenz Fares, Aug. 11, 2017. The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled Wednesday that Judge Scott Silliman should have recused himself in a case concerning multiple defendants who were charged with aiding in the 9/11 attacks. The petitioner, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, argued that Silliman was biased in the matter and cited a 2010 comment in which Silliman called Mohammad and his co-defendants the major conspirators in the 9/11 attacks.
The court found that because Silliman “expressed an opinion that Petitioner is guilty of the very crimes of which he is accused,” he manifested an “apparent bias” and thus should have recused himself. The court granted the petition asking the court to recuse Silliman and vacated a decision by the United States Court of Military Commission to reinstate charges for attacking civilians and destroying property in violation of the law of war against Mohammad and his co-defendants.
Elle Reeve, the brave Vice News documentary film maker whose 22-minute video of white nationalists aired on HBO Aug. 14, discussed on CBS “Face the Nation” on Aug. 20 her opinion that she did not see any nice or “very fine people” among the white nationalists chanting hate slogans at the rally in Charlottesville, VA
Trump Administration Prepares Afghan War Announcement For Monday Night
United States strong man Donald Trump poses last week with national security appointees at Camp David
Washington Post, Mattis confirms decision made on path forward in Afghanistan, Carol Morello and John Wagner, Aug. 20, 2017. President Trump on Monday night will announce a “path forward” on military strategy in Afghanistan, the White House said, offering his imprint on the longest-running war in U.S. history.
Trump is scheduled to address the military and American people from Fort Myer in Arlington, Va., White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a brief statement Sunday afternoon.
Earlier Sunday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (shown as a Marine general) confirmed that a decision has been made on a military strategy in Afghanistan, where more than 8,000 troops already are based.
Speaking to reporters on a military plane en route to meetings in Jordan, Mattis said it is up to President Trump to announce the details of a review of U.S. policy in Afghanistan and South Asia. The results have been delayed amid concerns that, more than 15 years after the United States invaded, an international coalition working together with Afghan forces are not winning the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
Washington Post, Jerry Lewis, comedy king and master of slapstick, dies at 91, Adam Bernstein, Aug. 20, 2017. Jerry Lewis, who died Aug. 20 at 91, was a comic actor whose rubber-limbed pratfalls, squeaky voice and pipsqueak buffoonery made him one of the most uncontainable screen clowns of all time.
His partnership with the suave and assured crooner Dean Martin made them a sensation, easily the most popular comedy team of the mid-20th century. After their bitter break up, which devastated their millions of fans, Mr. Lewis embarked on a solo career of dizzying summits and desperate lows, including an addiction to painkillers as years of physical comedy took their toll. Fascinated by the technical side of film, he became one of the first sound-era comedians to write, direct and star in his own movies.
He was credited with laying the groundwork for later comedic writer-director-actors such as Mel Brooks and Woody Allen.
Few comedians have been so beloved and so derided as Mr. Lewis, who amassed devoted fans and stunningly hostile reviews from critics. Few have been so accomplished as humanitarians — his annual muscular dystrophy telethons had raised almost $1.5 billion by the late 2000s — or so polarizing as personalities.
Palmer Report, Steve Bannon uses Breitbart to launch his first vicious attack on Donald Trump’s White House, Bill Palmer, Aug. 20, 2017. In the forty-eight hours since Donald Trump fired White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, we’ve already seen Bannon return to the helm of his alt-racist publication Breitbart. We’ve also already seen Trump publicly kissing up to Bannon (shown in a file photo at an appearance at the National Press Club) out of fear of retaliation. And now we’re seeing that it’s not going to do Trump one bit of good, as Bannon is already using Breitbart to try to get revenge on Donald Trump’s White House.
Not surprisingly, Bannon is using his initial Breitbart salvo to target the guy he was feuding with at the time of his firing. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster had recently fired three of Bannon’s allies from the National Security Council as a way of trying to nudge him toward the door. And so now Bannon’s Breitbart is accusing McMaster of being a “Quran-kissing” Muslim sympathizer.
The Root, Comedian and Civil Rights Activist Dick Gregory Dead at 84, Monée Fields-White, Aug. 19, 2017. Comedian Dick Gregory — who attacked racism through a biting and satirical style of comedy, and was equally well-known for his civil rights activism and advocacy of an austere health regimen — died Saturday, Aug. 19 at the age of 84.
Born Oct. 12, 1932, in St. Louis, Gregory (shown in a file photo) grew up in an impoverished community in that city. He helped to support his family from an early age. In high school he excelled in track and field, earning a scholarship to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. He set school records in the 1/2-mile and 1-mile races. His college career was interrupted when the U.S. Army drafted him in 1954.
Gregory began to venture into comedy while in the Army, performing various routines in military shows. After briefly returning to Southern Illinois after being discharged in 1956, he moved to Chicago to join the national comedy circuit, without finishing his degree. He performed mostly in small, primarily black nightclubs while working at the U.S. Postal Service during the day. It was at one of those nightclubs that he met Lillian, the woman who became his wife in 1959. She and Gregory would have 10 children.
His big break came in 1961, when a one-night show at the Chicago Playboy Club turned into a two-month engagement. Time magazine profiled him, and he landed an appearance on The Jack Paar Show. Gregory was a new phenomenon: a black comedian performing for white audiences. He was also part of a new generation of black comedians, including Nipsey Russell, Bill Cosby and Godfrey Cambridge, who shunned the stereotypical comedic minstrel show. In his routines, Gregory tackled issues of the day — especially racism and civil rights — head on.
During this time, Gregory became very active in the civil rights movement. He spoke before the voter-registration drive known as Freedom Day on Oct. 7, 1963, and made appearances at a number of other rallies, marches and benefits. In 1963 he was jailed in Birmingham, Ala. He was also an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War.
In 1964 Gregory released his autobiography Nigger, about his experiences with America’s color line, starting in boyhood; it has since sold more than 7 million copies. In response to his mother’s objection over the incendiary title, he wrote in the foreword, “Whenever you hear the word ‘nigger,’ you’ll know they’re advertising my book.”
Gregory’s political activism led him to run, unsuccessfully, for mayor of Chicago in 1966 and for the presidency as a write-in candidate of the Freedom and Peace Party in 1968. Throughout his life, Gregory remained outspoken on many issues, including world hunger, capital punishment, women’s rights (he marched for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1978), health care and drug abuse.
In 2005, at a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, he called the U.S. “the most dishonest, ungodly, unspiritual nation that ever existed in the history of the planet. As we talk now, America is 5 percent of the world’s population and consumes 96 percent of the world’s hard drugs.” As a protester, Gregory never stopped putting himself on the front lines: In 2004, at the age of 73, he was arrested while protesting against genocide outside the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, D.C.
In the 1970s, after moving to Massachusetts, Gregory became very interested in vegetarianism, nutrition and overall fitness, eventually advocating a diet of raw fruits and vegetables (this from a man who once weighed 350 pounds, drank heavily and smoked several packs of cigarettes a day). He was particularly opposed to the typical soul food diet, attributing to it much of African Americans’ disproportionate health challenges.
New York Times, Dick Gregory, 84, Dies; Found Humor in the Civil Rights Struggle, Clyde Haberman, Aug. 19, 2017. Dick Gregory, the pioneering satirist who transformed cool humor into a barbed force for civil rights in the 1960s, then veered from his craft for a life devoted to protest and fasting in the name of assorted social causes, health regimens and conspiracy theories, died Saturday in Washington. He was 84.
Early in his career, Mr. Gregory insisted in interviews that his first order of business onstage was to get laughs, not to change how white America treated Negroes (the accepted word for African-Americans at the time). “Humor can no more find the solution to race problems than it can cure cancer,” he said.
Nonetheless, as the civil rights movement was kicking into high gear, whites who caught his club act or listened to his routines on records came away with a deeper feel for the nation’s shameful racial history.
Mr. Gregory was a breakthrough performer in his appeal to whites — a crossover star, in contrast to veteran black comedians like Redd Foxx, Moms Mabley and Slappy White, whose earthy, pungent humor was mainly confined to black clubs on the so-called chitlin circuit.
Though he clearly seethed over the repression of blacks, he resorted to neither scoldings nor lectures when playing big-time rooms like the hungry i in San Francisco or the Village Gate in New York. Rather, he won audiences over with wry observations about the country’s racial chasm.
Washington Post, Trump, first lady to skip Kennedy Center Honors over concerns of ‘political distraction,’ David Nakamura, Aug. 19, 2017. President Trump and first lady Melania Trump have elected not to attend the annual Kennedy Center Honors in December amid a political backlash among those who will be feted at the event.
The first family will not participate “to allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement Saturday morning.
The announcement comes as three of the five honorees — television producer Norman Lear, singer Lionel Richie and dancer Carmen de Lavallade — said they would boycott the traditional White House reception related to the celebration. As for the other two, rapper LL Cool J has not said whether he would attend, and Cuban American singer Gloria Estefan said she would go to try to influence the president on immigration issues. The White House occupants have traditionally attended the Kennedy Center program each year.
Washington Post, Why those Confederate soldier statues look a lot like their Union counterparts, Marc Fisher, Aug. 19, 2017 (print edition). President Trump’s supportive comments about Confederate monuments have focused new attention on long-ignored Civil War statues of a mustachioed infantryman standing at rest, wearing a greatcoat and holding a rifle barrel. The nameless figure, known to many as the Silent Sentinel, gazes over town squares and courthouse steps in dozens of Southern towns — but not just there.
Many of the South’s Silent Sentinels turn out to be identical to the statues of Union soldiers that decorate hundreds of public spaces across the North. Identical, but for one detail: On the soldier’s belt buckle, the “U.S.” is replaced by a “C.S.” for “Confederate States.”
Washington Post, The rise and humiliating fall of Chris Cantwell, Charlottesville’s starring ‘fascist,’ Avi Selk, Aug. 19, 2017 (print edition). The white supremacists, nationalists and far-right trolls who starred in last weekend’s violent Charlottesville rallies have suffered no lack of humiliation in the days since.
Millions watched Cantwell swagger at a white nationalist rally. Then came footage of him at the point of tears and a leaked OkCupid profile. See also TPM, Report: Warrants Issued For White Supremacist Featured In Vice Film, Nicole Lafond, Aug. 18, 2017.
White House Shake-up: Bannon Out
The Weekly Standard, Bannon: ‘The Trump Presidency That We Fought For, and Won, Is Over,‘ Peter J. Boyer, Aug. 18, 2017. Departed White House strategist (shown in a file photo speaking at the Heritage Foundation) speaks to The Weekly Standard. With the departure from the White House of strategist Stephen K. Bannon, who helped shape the so-called nationalist-populist program embraced by Donald Trump in his unlikely path to election, a new phase of the Trump presidency begins. Given Trump’s nature, what comes next will hardly be conventional, but it may well be less willfully disruptive – which, to Bannon, had been the point of winning the White House.
“The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over,” Bannon said Friday, shortly after confirming his departure. “We still have a huge movement, and we will make something of this Trump presidency. But that presidency is over. It’ll be something else. And there’ll be all kinds of fights, and there’ll be good days and bad days, but that presidency is over.”
Bannon says that he will return to the helm of Breitbart, the rambunctious right-wing media enterprise he ran until joining the Trump campaign as chief executive last August. At the time, the campaign was at its nadir, and Trump was trailing Hillary Clinton in the polls by double digits.
New York Times, Bannon’s White House Run Comes to End, Maggie Haberman, Aug. 18, 2017. Embattled Chief Strategist Clashed With Other Advisers Stephen K. Bannon’s exit was described in a White House statement as a mutual decision between Mr. Bannon and Chief of Staff John Kelly. Critics of Mr. Bannon, a right-wing nationalist (shown in a file photo at right), bore down after the violence in Charlottesville.
Stephen K. Bannon, the embattled chief strategist who helped President Trump win the 2016 election but clashed for months with other senior West Wing advisers, is leaving his post, a White House spokeswoman announced Friday. “White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve’s last day,” the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said in a statement. “We are grateful for his service and wish him the best.”
Earlier on Friday, the president had told senior aides that he had decided to remove Mr. Bannon, according to two administration officials briefed on the discussion. But a person close to Mr. Bannon insisted that the parting of ways was his idea, and that he had submitted his resignation to the president on Aug. 7, to be announced at the start of this week. But the move was delayed after the violence in Charlottesville, Va.
The loss of Mr. Bannon, the right-wing nationalist who helped propel some of Mr. Trump’s campaign promises into policy reality, raises the potential for the president to face criticism from the conservative news media base that supported him over the past year.
Mr. Bannon’s many critics bore down after the violence in Charlottesville. Outraged over Mr. Trump’s insistence that “both sides” were to blame for the violence that erupted at a white nationalist rally, leaving one woman dead, human rights activists demanded that the president fire so-called nationalists working in the West Wing. That group of hard-right populists in the White House is led by Mr. Bannon.
On Tuesday at Trump Tower in New York, Mr. Trump refused to guarantee Mr. Bannon’s job security but defended him as “not a racist” and “a friend.” “We’ll see what happens with Mr. Bannon,” Mr. Trump said. Mr. Bannon’s dismissal followed an Aug. 16 interview he initiated with a writer with whom he had never spoken, with the progressive publication The American Prospect. \
In it, Mr. Bannon mockingly played down the American military threat to North Korea as nonsensical: “Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”
More Charlottesville Reaction, Analysis
New York Times, ‘Antifa’ Movement Grows, Swinging Fists at Far Right, Thomas Fuller, Alan Feuer and Serge F. Kovaleski, Aug. 18, 2017. The clash between white nationalists and counterprotesters has highlighted radicals ready to scuffle with right-wing extremists.
New York Times, Mother of Charlottesville Victim Says She Won’t Speak to Trump, Jonah Engel Bromwich, Aug. 18, 2017. The mother of the woman who was run down by a car during violent clashes in Charlottesville, Va., said Friday that after seeing President Trump’s comments equating white supremacist protesters with those demonstrating against them, she does not wish to speak with him. “I’m not talking to the president now; I’m sorry,” Susan Bro said. “After what he said about my child.”
In an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Ms. Bro said that she had initially missed several calls from the White House, the first of which came during the funeral of her daughter, Heather D. Heyer, who was killed when a man drove a car into a crowd of counter-protesters on Saturday.
Politico, Icahn cuts official ties with Trump administration, Patrick Temple-West, Aug. 18, 2017. Billionaire investor Carl Icahn (shown in a file photo) said today he will no longer serve as a special adviser to President Donald Trump on regulatory reform, saying his unofficial role overlaps with that of a recent administration appointee.
In a letter posted on his website, Icahn said he had a conversation with Trump today where the two agreed that Icahn would cut ties with the administration. Icahn said he received a number of inquiries about whether there would be overlap with his role and the duties of Neomi Rao, who was appointed administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. The Senate confirmed Rao in July.
TPM, Report: Warrants Issued For White Supremacist Featured In Vice Film, Nicole Lafond, Aug. 18, 2017. Charlottesville police have reportedly issued warrants for the arrest of Christopher Cantwell, a white supremacist prominently featured in a Vice News documentary. Cantwell is wanted for his involvement in the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend, where a counter-protester was killed when a man affiliated with white nationalists allegedly drove his car through a crowd. The warrants are for illegal use of gases and injury by caustic agent or explosive, the Boston Globe reported.
In the Vice documentary, Cantwell explains his white nationalist views and his hatred for Jewish people. He said he thinks “a lot more people are gonna die before we’re done here,” responding to reports of the death of Charlottesville counter-protester Heather Heyer allegedly at the hands of a man who claimed to be an ally of white supremacists.
Palmer Report, Seventeen people just resigned from Melania Trump’s committee in protest, Bill Palmer, Aug. 18, 2017. Today a committee chaired by Melania Trump saw all seventeen members resign en masse, including a famous face. The President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities lists First Lady Melania Trump as its “Honorary Chairman” but as of today she might have to change her title to “The Only One Still Here.”
Earlier today actor Kal Penn tweeted a joint resignation letter signed by sixteen of the committee members (link). Later in the day he posted an updated version which was signed by all seventeen members. That means, apart from Melania and her honorary position, there is now literally no one left on the committee. So how did Donald react? In response, the White House put out a statement insisting that Donald Trump was planning to disband the committee anyway (link). That prompted Kal Penn to react sarcastically, tweeting “Lol Donald Trump you can’t break up with us after we broke up with you LMFAO.”
Created in 1982 under President Reagan, the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities is an advisory committee to the White House on cultural issues.
The Cool Justice Report, Special Greeting for Ku Klux Klan in Connecticut, September 1980, Andy Thibault (shown in file photo), Aug. 18, 2017. Sometimes injustice and racism hit a roadblock that can’t be moved. It’s worth celebrating these moments, especially today as we realize forces engendering and supporting racism and fascism have a comfy home in the White House.
As Americans, most of us at least theoretically support the notion that all citizens have equal rights and standing — even though we know it’s not true in real life. My friend Andrew Kreig, a Washington, D.C.-based essayist and lawyer, has done a bit to stem the tide in a recent post entitled, Words Fail But One Must Speak Out.
Speaking out is important. It makes a difference. Putting your body where the story is and choosing a side in history also makes a difference. Seemingly small acts — for example, confronting a friend or relative over racist statements — make a difference. “We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change,” said the late historian Howard Zinn. “Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.”
In that spirit, a certain incident that took place in a private room at Bradley International Airport in 1980 seems especially relevant now. Here’s how a part of that story played out:
From 1980 to 1984, the Ku Klux Klan conducted 16 rallies and demonstrations in Connecticut. During that time state police seized a large variety of guns, knives, swords, machetes, baseball bats, pipes and chains, as well as slingshots, weighted knuckles, a detonator and clubs. Progressive forces for civil rights and equal treatment began to arise — in of all places — the Connecticut State Police.
Terror Attacks In Spain
Washington Post, Barcelona reels under coordinated assault that leaves at least 13 victims dead, James McAuley, Michael Birnbaum and William Booth, Aug. 18, 2017. Manhunt for driver continues; one dead after second attack in nearby resort town. The initial attack that injured scores of people occurred on the city’s iconic Las Ramblas promenade.
Hours after the chaos in Barcelona, police said they foiled a second attack by fatally shooting five men in a car who were hitting pedestrians in the seaside resort of Cambrils. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the incidents — which mimicked events in Berlin, London, Stockholm and the French city of Nice over the past year.
WhoWhatWhy, Too Big to Prosecute — DOJ Gives Giant Corporations a Pass, Jeff Schechtman, Aug. 18, 2017 (Podcast). The Justice Department is often zealous, sometimes to the point of recklessness, in prosecuting street crime and drug offenses. But it has been dilatory and feckless — our podcast guest this week calls it “chickenshit” — in prosecuting white collar criminals, many of whom helped to bring down the US economy in 2008.
Once, not that long ago, the government prosecuted the likes of Michael Milken and executives of Enron, Adelphia and Worldcom. It may have been the golden age of white collar prosecution. Today, executives at Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and so many others that played roles in precipitating the 2008/2009 crash, have escaped the long arm of the law.
What happened? What’s changed? In part, it was a backlash to the Enron era. Suddenly, defending executives became an increasingly lucrative practice at elite law firms.
This created a revolving door between the Department of Justice and “big law” — with the result that prosecutors and defense attorneys on opposite sides of the table were often the same people wearing different hats.
In a story that involves the likes of James Comey, Preet Bharara, Sally Yates, and Eric Holder, this week’s WhoWhatWhy guest, journalist Jesse Eisinger, the author of The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives,” tells Jeff Schechtman that it was Comey himself who said that federal prosecutors who had never lost a case and shied away from bringing hard, complex cases, were obviously “chickenshit.”
We’re going to talk about this today with guest Jesse Eisinger. He’s a Pulitzer Prize-winning senior reporter at ProPublica. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, and The Washington Post. He was previously the Wall Street editor of Conde Nast Portfolio and a columnist for The Wall Street Journal.
More Fallout From Charlottesville
A New York Daily News cover reflects how reporters, researchers debunked and mocked Trump’s ‘pig blood’ story last February
New York Times, Defiant, Trump Laments Assault on Culture and Revives a Bogus Pershing Story, Michael D. Shear and Maggie Haberman, Aug. 18, 2017 (print edition). Despite ongoing rebukes over his defense of white supremacists, President Trump defiantly returned to his campaign’s nativist themes on Thursday. He lamented an assault on American “culture,” revived a bogus, century-old story about killing Muslim extremists and attacked Republicans with a renewed vigor.
Hours after a terrorist attack in Spain, Mr. Trump recalled a debunked event in which Gen. John J. “Black Jack” Pershing supposedly killed Muslim rebels in the Philippines by shooting them with bullets dipped in the blood of pigs, which Muslims are forbidden to eat. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack in Barcelona, where the driver of a van crashed into a busy tourist boulevard, killing 13.
As when he trafficked in the same unproven legend during the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump ignored the conclusions of historians, who repeatedly have said it did not happen. Additionally, his claim that Pershing ended terrorism in the Philippines for 35 years is refuted by the violence that continued for decades after the rebellion that ended in 1913.
Mr. Trump also appeared in peril of losing support from key Republicans he will need to advance his agenda in Congress. Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, questioned the president’s “stability,” and Senator Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the Senate, declared Mr. Trump’s moral authority is “compromised.”
The president accused Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, of “publicity seeking” and said that Mr. Graham had uttered a “disgusting lie” when he said — accurately — that the president had equated the white nationalist protesters in Charlottesville with the counterprotesters who were there to oppose them.
Washington Post, Trump’s use of Confederate statues as a wedge issue underscores Bannon’s influence, James Hohmann, Aug. 18, 2017. Trump has held the opposite position, endorsing South Carolina’s decision in 2015 to remove the Confederate flag from its statehouse after a mass shooting in Charleston.
HuffPost, Mitt Romney Pens Powerful Message Calling On Trump To Apologize For Charlottesville Remarks, Paige Lavender, Aug. 18, 2017. Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney called on President Donald Trump to “acknowledge that he was wrong” and apologize for his remarks about the violent Charlottesville rally.
Washington Post, Arlington Cemetery’s Confederate Memorial could find itself in the spotlight, T. Rees Shapiro, Aug. 18, 2017. As monuments to the Confederacy come under fresh scrutiny following the violence in Charlottesville, the 32-foot-tall testament to Southern pride stands out for its location on hallowed ground. But there is little evidence of any public campaign to remove it. Even if there were, it’s unclear what legal path exists for its removal.
Palmer Report, Liberal Opinion: Donald Trump is going to hate what comes next, Bill Palmer, Aug. 18, 2017. During and after the TrumpCare debacle, there were some open skirmishes between Trump and the Republican Party, but that was manageable for both entities. But now he’s gone to a place, defending white supremacists, where the Republicans in Congress feel like they have to publicly push back to protect themselves. Now that they’ve started to do so, Trump has responded by declaring war on his own party. And he’s going to hate how this plays out.
Yesterday Trump called for Republican Senator Jeff Flake to lose his seat to an extremist primary challenger. In so doing, Trump just pissed off Mitch McConnell, who quickly and publicly took Flake’s side.
Washington Post, Conservative Opinion: There is a shriveled emptiness where Trump’s soul once resided, Michael Gerson, Aug, 17, 2017. Why should anyone not named Bannon stay at the White House?
Washington Post, Liberal Opinion: The Republicans who want to legalize running over protesters, Catherine Rampell, Aug, 17, 2017. Last weekend in Charlottesville, a driver mowed down peaceful protesters and killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer. The act was reminiscent of recent terrorist attacks across Europe committed in the name of the Islamic State, which has urged followers to use vehicles to kill enemies. This year, Republican lawmakers in at least six states have proposed bills designed to protect drivers who strike protesters. The first bill was introduced in North Dakota in January, and similar bills have since come under consideration in North Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, Texas and Rhode Island.
Washington Post, Gary Cohn stays put — for now — following Trump’s comments on Charlottesville, Damian Paletta and Renae Merle, Aug. 18, 2017. The White House took the unusual step of saying the president’s chief economic adviser would not resign after people close to him said he was mortified by Trump’s remarks and that he has been bombarded with calls from friends asking him if he will leave.
From Wikipedia: Gary Cohn ( shown at right) is an American investment banker and political figure. He is the chief economic advisor to President Donald Trump and Director of the National Economic Council. He was formerly the president and chief operating officer of Goldman Sachs from 2006 to 2017. Cohn is a registered Democrat, but has donated extensively to Republican politicians as well.
Washington Post, In conservative media, an amen chorus defends Trump’s comments on Charlottesville violence, David Weigel, Aug. 17, 2017. President Trump’s three-part reaction to the weekend’s violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville has inspired a few head-turning Fox News segments, with hosts and guests typically friendly toward the president scrambling off the Trump Train. But under less scrutiny, conservative hosts who have been generally supportive of Trump have spent the week endorsing his evolving message.
On Wednesday’s episode of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” (on Fox News), there was a second consecutive night of questions about why Trump, not left-wing protesters, was the focus of criticism. An opening segment questioned whether the First Amendment was shredded by companies denying Web services and hotel rooms to white nationalists; a second segment raised awareness of a pro-Trump protest in San Diego that had been threatened by protesters.
And on his radio show, Rush Limbaugh argued that criticism was being lobbed at Trump to “nullify the election,” referring obliquely to columnists who’ve urged the president to step aside.
New York Times, Opinion: Trump Makes Caligula Look Pretty Good, Paul Krugman, Aug. 18, 2017. Unlike the senators of ancient Rome, the Republican Congress won’t deal with a rogue leader.Even before the media obsession with Hillary Clinton’s email server put The Worst President Ever™ in the White House, historians were comparing Donald Trump to Caligula, the cruel, depraved Roman emperor who delighted in humiliating others, especially members of the empire’s elite. But seven months into the Trump administration, we can see that this comparison was unfair.
For one thing, Caligula did not, as far as we know, foment ethnic violence within the empire. For another, again as far as we know, Rome’s government continued to function reasonably well despite his antics: Provincial governors continued to maintain order, the army continued to defend the borders, there were no economic crises. Finally, when his behavior became truly intolerable, Rome’s elite did what the party now controlling Congress seems unable even to contemplate: It found a way to get rid of him.
For here’s the situation: Everyone in Washington now knows that we have a president who never meant it when he swore to defend the Constitution. He violates that oath just about every day and is never going to get any better.
View looking northwest to the Lee Monument on Monument Avenue, Richmond. Photo Credit: Jack E. Boucher / Library of Congress
WhoWhatWhy, An Evening in the Old South, Milicent Cranor, Aug. 18, 2017. I’m having an attack of nostalgia. I feel a deep pang of loss as I think about the Confederate statues that line Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia. Are their days numbered? They stand only a few blocks from where my maternal grandparents lived in the 1950s, and where I spent many summers.
I loved staring at those doomed soldiers because I felt like I was getting a good look at my ancestors. That street, and much of Richmond, was kind of like a theme park, only it was authentic. To think this was real! As a little Yankee kid, I felt a certain thrill walking around enemy territory. Was I in danger? I hoped so!
Legal Schnauzer, With left-leaning activists outing white supremacists from Charlottesville rally — costing some their jobs — Americans are learning First Amendment has limits, Roger Shuler, Aug. 18, 2017. A social-media campaign to identify and shame participants in a bloody right-wing rally at Charlottesville, VA, has caused at least three individuals to lose their jobs. That raises these questions: Is it legal to “out” protesters at a public gathering, and is it OK for employers to fire those who appear to support white-supremacist views in their free time?
The answer to both questions is “yes.” And it’s a sign that the First Amendment does not provide the kind of expansive free-speech coverage that many Americans think it does.
Gillian B. White of The Atlantic, addressed the issue in an article titled “Is Being a White Supremacist Grounds for Firing?” White explains how activists on the left got the outing movement rolling. After white nationalists descended upon Charlottesville, Virginia, a Twitter account with the handle @YesYoureRacist began soliciting the identities of rally goers based on photographs. “If you recognize any of the Nazis marching in #Charlottesville, send me their names/profiles and I’ll make them famous,” the account tweeted. And by famous, the user of course meant infamous.
The strategy of exposing the faces of rally attendees to hundreds of thousands of people on Twitter worked, and many were identified. By Sunday, one of those whose name and place of residence had been revealed had reportedly been fired from his job at Top Dog, a hot dog restaurant in Berkeley, California, according to Berkleyside.
That’s certainly not a brand new tactic, but it’s a variety of vigilantism to which social media is particularly well suited, finding and disseminating information and amplifying calls to action far beyond what would be possible within a single geographic community. After the news broke that White had been fired, many who had participated tweeted delighted responses. “Awesome! We must shame them into oblivion,” wrote one user.
The left-leaning folks might not find it so awesome if such tactics are used against them someday. For example, what if a pro choice counter-protester at an abortion clinic were photographed, and the picture made its way to his boss, who happens to be pro life? It might not end well for the pro-choicer.
President Trump met with national security advisors at Camp David and predicted a significant initiative soon on an unspecified matter
Global News: Turning Point in Syria?
Reuters, Assad advisor says Syria war nearing its end, Ellen Francis, Aug. 18, 2017. An advisor to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said the six-year war is nearly over as foreign states cut backing for rebels, and vowed the government would confront any “illegitimate” forces, whether Turkish or American.
Bouthaina Shaaban said the fact that Syria was staging the Damascus International Fair for the first time in the war “sends a message that the war has ended … and we are at the start of the path towards reconstruction.”
With the help of Russian air power and Iran-backed militias, Damascus has shored up its rule over much of the country’s populated west. Now, it is marching eastward towards the Deir al-Zor region near the Iraqi border. The war, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people, has reached its “penultimate stage” as foreign powers that backed rebels change their policies, Shaaban said in comments to Lebanese al-Mayadeen TV carried on Syrian state news agency SANA on Thursday.
Moon of Alabama, Syria Summary: Crossing The Euphrates At Deir Ezzor, Admin B, Aug. 18, 2017. [See related column: SouthFront, SDF Spokesperson: US Will Stay In Syria For Decades, Staff report, Aug. 17, 2017.] The last three weeks in Syria were marked by further consolidation of the Syrian government positions. While this will likely continue, a new front of contention with the U.S. occupation force in north-east Syria is building up over Deir Ezzor city and the oil-rich rural areas east of it.
Strategically the U.S. has lost the war it waged against Syria. All that is left is to defeat ISIS at Raqqa and to leave. But the imperial U.S. military, the neoconservatives and the liberal interventionists will not be happy with that outcome. They [will] attempt to resist the inevitable.
The U.S. occupation force in the north east of Syria and its Kurdish proxy forces make slow progress in their assault on Raqqa. ISIS resistance continues to be strong and the city is being “destroyed to save it.” The Kurdish forces assume that a prolonged fighting might be to their advantage in accumulating more U.S. support and equipment.
The U.S. has set up 12 bases in the Kurdish-held north-east Syria. The Kurds, under control of the authoritarian, anarcho-marxist YPG group, hope for a long-lasting support and a permanent stationing of U.S. forces. But the U.S. is an unreliable partner and its strategic interest is determined by its relations to Turkey, which vehemently opposes any Kurdish control over any parts of Syria.
The U.S. military has plans to move from Raqqa along the Euphrates towards Deir Ezzor and further east to the border city of Abu Kamal. A second front would move from the north towards the Euphrates and capture the al-Omar oil fields. That would consolidate the significant oil reserves north of the Euphrates and currently under ISIS control into the U.S.-occupied zone.
It seems unlikely that these U.S plans will succeed. The (assumed) Syrian plan currently looks more viable. The U.S. does not have enough proxy forces to move towards the east and south and to attack Deir Ezzor. The areas are Arab and U.S. recruiting of Arab proxy forces there has proven abysmal. The long term interests of the Arab tribes lie with the Syrian government.
Israel is pressing for further U.S. engagement. A full reestablishment of Syrian government control over Syria is seen as a “nightmare scenario.” The preferred outcome is a balkanized Syria in which Israel can play off various sectarian or ethnic groups against each other. We can therefore expect some resistance from the U.S. military and Israel-influenced experts against a Syrian army move across the Euphrates and to capture the oil fields.
Southfront, US Officially Rejects SDF Officials Claims About Staying In Syria After Defeating ISIS, staff report, Aug. 18, 2017. On August 18, spokesperson for the United States Department of State, Heather Nauert (shown above), rejected claims that the US is planning to stay in Syria for decades as the spokesperson of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) claimed on August 17.
“Our overall mission is to defeat ISIS, whether it’s in Iraq or in Syria. That is our intent to defeat ISIS and not do anything more than that,” Nauert said. Her comment responded to a report the previous day: SDF Spokesperson: US Will Stay In Syria For Decades.
New York Times, Opinion: Trump Makes Caligula Look Pretty Good, Paul Krugman, Aug. 18, 2017. Unlike the senators of ancient Rome, the Republican Congress won’t deal with a rogue leader.Even before the media obsession with Hillary Clinton’s email server put The Worst President Ever™ in the White House, historians were comparing Donald Trump to Caligula, the cruel, depraved Roman emperor who delighted in humiliating others, especially members of the empire’s elite. But seven months into the Trump administration, we can see that this comparison was unfair.
For one thing, Caligula did not, as far as we know, foment ethnic violence within the empire. For another, again as far as we know, Rome’s government continued to function reasonably well despite his antics: Provincial governors continued to maintain order, the army continued to defend the borders, there were no economic crises. Finally, when his behavior became truly intolerable, Rome’s elite did what the party now controlling Congress seems unable even to contemplate: It found a way to get rid of him.
For here’s the situation: Everyone in Washington now knows that we have a president who never meant it when he swore to defend the Constitution. He violates that oath just about every day and is never going to get any better.
Global News: Terror Attack With Van In Spain
Washington Post, Police kill 5 suspects, thwart second attack connected to Barcelona violence, Michael Birnbaum, William Booth and William Branigin, Aug. 17, 2017. After shooting the suspects early Friday in the resort town southwest of Barcelona, police checked four bodies for explosive belts.
A fifth suspect died later of his injuries. Seven others, including a police officer, were injured during the police operation. Police on Thursday arrested two suspects in the terrorist attack in Barcelona’s historic Las Ramblas district, which killed 13 people and injured more than 100.
Spain came under repeated attack starting Thursday in what authorities called linked terrorist incidents, when a driver swerved a van into crowds in Barcelona’s historic Las Ramblas district, killing more than a dozen people and injuring scores of others. Early Friday, an attempted attack unfolded in a town down the coast. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the Barcelona violence.
Related earlier story: New York Times, Van Driver Kills 13 in Barcelona Attack, 100 Injured in Heart of Tourist District; One Man in Custody, Anne-Sophie Bolon, Palko Karasz and Mark A. Walsh, Aug. 17, 2017. A van hit pedestrians in the center of the Spanish city in what the police called a terrorist attack. Witnesses said the driver weaved back and forth, apparently trying to hit as many people as he could.
Trump Battles Escalate
HuffPost, Vice News’ Elle Reeve Confirms There Were No ‘Very Fine People’ Among White Supremacists, Rebecca Shapiro, Aug. 17, 2017. “There’s no innocent person wandering up and accidentally getting involved in this.”
“Vice News Tonight” correspondent Elle Reeve spoke with CNN’s Anderson Cooper Wednesday night about her headline-making reporting from the white supremacist and neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend. Reeve’s coverage quickly went viral after it aired Sunday night, following a weekend of violence in which one person was killed, at least 19 others were injured, and two state troopers died in a crash of their helicopter.
Cooper asked Reeve if President Donald Trump’s characterization of the protesters was accurate. On Tuesday, the president said that there were “very fine people, on both sides” demonstrating in Charlottesville, and that some people were there to protest the removal of a statute of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
“No,” Reeve answered. “Everyone who was there knew what they were doing. They were shouting ‘Jews will not replace us.’ It was very well coordinated. They had an order to the chants. There was no mistaking. There’s no innocent person wandering up and accidentally getting involved in this.”
Reeve’s 22-minute documentary was heralded as required watching for Americans in 2017 by multiple news organizations, including HuffPost. Reeve focused her coverage on white nationalist leader Christopher Cantwell, and followed events from Friday night’s march to Sunday’s vigils.
Reeve also said she felt in danger while in Charlottesville. “They called me ‘lügenpresse’ ― that’s a Nazi term for ‘lying press.’ They said really misogynistic things to me,” Reeve said. “Additionally, it was just a thousand angry, foolish men with many, many guns.”
USA Today, After Charlottesville, time to censure President Trump, Editorial Board, Aug. 17, 2017 (print edition). When these things happen in the United States, and the president blames “both sides,” more formal condemnation is necessary. This is a moment of reckoning for members of the Party of Lincoln: Do they want to stand up for American values, or do they want to keep enabling a president whose understanding of right and wrong has slipped dangerously off the rails?
If congressional Republicans choose the former — and history will be watching — they should join together with Democrats to censure Trump.
USA Today, America’s ‘Confederate infrastructure:’ Too big to hide, move or raze, Rick Hampson, Aug. 17, 2017. Although a few communities are removing a few statues, the nation’s Confederate memorial infrastructure — estates, plantations, battlefields, graveyards, birthplaces, shrines and at least two huge obelisks — is too vast and diverse to be moved, hidden or destroyed.
The sites range from small, privately owned house museums honoring obscure soldiers to the massive bas-reliefs carved in the side of Stone Mountain, Ga., that historian Fitzhugh Brundage calls “a billboard to white nationalism.” These places are an almost inexhaustible source of potential flash points for battles between those who want to preserve or to remove Confederate symbols.
They’re an issue that President Trump raised Thursday on Twitter: “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments. You can’t change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson — who’s next, Washington, Jefferson?”
Erasing Confederate sites from the American landscape would be difficult or impossible.
There are a lot of them — more than 700 statues and monuments in 31 states. That does not include things like homesteads and museums, according to The Southern Poverty Law Center. There are more than 40 in Kentucky, even though two-thirds of Kentuckians who fought in the Civil War did so for the Union. And many of these sites not especially portable.
Beauvoir, the Mississippi homestead of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, is controlled by the state chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a neo-Confederate group. The only thing that’s going to move the 1852 mansion, one of only 2,600 National Historic Landmarks and a top Gulf Coast tourist attraction, is a hurricane.
But Beauvoir is a mere paperweight compared to the 35-story concrete obelisk (one of the nation’s largest) in a state park in Fairview, Ky., to mark Davis’s birthplace. Similarly, in Asheville, N.C., the most notable downtown landmark is a 75-foot high granite obelisk that sits in a public square. it honors a Reconstruction-era governor who’d owned slaves and opposed the freed slaves’ right to vote.
New York Times, Trump Opens Breach With Party, Military and Industry, Michael D. Shear, Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman, Aug. 17, 2017. In the wake of his defense of white supremacists, President Trump was abandoned by executives, contradicted by military leaders and shunned by Republicans. According to close aides, the president said he felt liberated by his news conference and viewed it as his latest retort to a political establishment trying to tame his impulses. The breach with the business community was the most striking.
Titans of American industry and finance revolted against a man they had seen as one of their own, concluding Wednesday morning they could no longer serve on two of Mr. Trump’s advisory panels.
But before Stephen A. Schwarzman, the chief executive of the Blackstone Group and one of Mr. Trump’s closest business confidants, could announce a decision to disband Mr. Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum — in a prepared statement calling “intolerance, racism and violence” an “affront to core American values” — the president undercut him and did it himself, in a tweet.
Politico, James Murdoch rebukes Trump over Charlottesville response, Cristiano Lima, Aug. 17, 2017. James Murdoch, CEO of 21st Century Fox (a parent company of Fox News), slammed President Donald Trump on Thursday for his response to the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., joining an increasingly long list of business leaders who have publicly condemned the president’s words.
“I can’t even believe I have to write this: standing up to Nazis is essential; there are no good Nazis. Or Klansmen, or terrorists,” Murdoch wrote in a memo to staff obtained by Yahoo that addresses the violence in Virginia and Trump’s reaction to it. “Democrats, Republicans, and others must all agree on this, and it compromises nothing for them to do so.”
Murdoch added that “what we watched this last week in Charlottesville and the reaction to it by the President of the United States concern all of us as Americans and free people.” He also unveiled to his staff that, in light of the weekend events, he and his wife, Kathryn, were donating $1 million to the Anti-Defamation League, an international nongovernmental organization that combats anti-Semitism.
Elle Reeve, right, of Vice News interviews white nationalist Chris Cantwell in Charlottesville, VA for her documentary broadcast on HBO
Background: Comedy Central’s Colbert Had Mocked Chris Cantwell In 2014 As Idiotic, Nasy ‘Freedom’ Advocate
Colbert Report/Comedy Central, The Difference Makers: The Free Keene Squad, Stephen Colbert, Nov. 19, 2014 (7:47 mins.). A ragtag team of patriots leads a crusade against tyrannical parking meter attendants in New Hampshire.
HuffPost, Donald Trump ‘Sad To See’ Confederate Monuments Being Taken Down, Paige Lavender, Aug. 17, 2017. “Who’s next, Washington, Jefferson?” President Donald Trump said he’s “sad to see” Confederate statues and monuments being taken down around the United States. Confederate memorials are being removed around the U.S. after a white supremacist protest to protect a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia, turned into a weekend of racist violence in which one woman was killed.
According to USA Today, there are more than 700 Confederate monuments installed in public areas across 31 states. Washington, D.C.; Lexington, Kentucky; Memphis, Tennessee; Birmingham, Alabama; and other places are taking steps to remove their monuments. Baltimore quietly removed its remaining Confederate monuments Tuesday night in the wake of the Charlottesville incident.
Washington Post, Mayors move quickly to avoid becoming the next Charlottesville, Janell Ross, Mark Berman and Joel Achenbach, Aug. 17, 2017. Boston laid down strict conditions for an upcoming rally and counterprotest. California lawmakers called for the revocation of a permit for an upcoming rally on federal park land. And other cities are grappling with what to do about their Confederate monuments.
Fox News, Missouri Democratic state senator says she hopes Trump is assassinated, Alex Pappas, Aug. 17, 2017. A Democratic state senator in Missouri is facing resignation calls for posting on Facebook Thursday that she hopes President Trump is assassinated. “I hope Trump is assassinated!” state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal wrote. Chappelle-Nadal eventually deleted the post, but a screenshot was saved and shared on Twitter.
HuffPost, Missouri State Senator Urged To Resign Over Her ‘Hope’ For Trump’s Assassination, Ryan Grenoble, Aug. 17, 2017. “There is no way in hell that I’m resigning,” the legislator responds.
Senator’s Corruption Trial Could Flip Senate Voting on Obamacare Bill
New York Times, At Senator Menendez’s Trial, Stakes Are High for Democrats, Shane Goldmacher, Aug. 17, 2017. When Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey goes on trial on federal corruption charges in less than three weeks, far more than his own fate hinges on the outcome.
If Mr. Menendez, a Democrat (shown at left), is convicted and then expelled from the United States Senate by early January, his replacement would be picked by Gov. Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey and an ally of President Trump.
That scenario — where Mr. Menendez’s interim replacement would more than likely be a Republican — would have immediate and far-reaching implications: The Republicans would be gifted a crucial extra vote just as the party remains a single vote shy in the Senate of advancing its bill to dismantle President Obama’s signature health care law. Those potential consequences only heighten the drama around the first federal bribery charges leveled against a sitting senator in a generation.
“This one vote, this one vote — if he’s convicted or does a plea deal — could change the course of history on Obamacare. It’s remarkable,” said Steve Lonegan, a New Jersey Republican who unsuccessfully ran for Senate three years ago.
He added, “That’s a big ‘if.'” It’s enough to have Democrats anxious. “Many of us have a personal concern about Bob Menendez,” said Robert G. Torricelli, a former Democratic senator of New Jersey. “But there’s also an overriding concern about the Republicans’ strengthening their control in the Senate and, in the near term, being able to repeal Obamacare and 16 million people losing their health care.”
Mr. Menendez stands accused of using his position to advance the interests of Dr. Salomon Melgen, a friend and political patron, in exchange for luxury vacations and hundreds of thousands of dollars of campaign support. Mr. Menendez has repeatedly declared his innocence — “This is not how my career will end,” he said when the indictment was handed down — and vowed to win acquittal and then re-election in 2018. He raised more than $2 million for his campaign in the first six months of 2017.
Even a bribery conviction would not automatically force Mr. Menendez from office, under the Senate rules. He would either have to voluntarily resign his seat, or two-thirds of his Senate colleagues — including at least 15 Democrats — would have to vote to expel him.
Trump White House
Washington Post, Bannon says rivals are ‘wetting themselves,’ mocks white supremacists and contradicts Trump on N. Korea, Derek Hawkins, Aug. 17, 2017. In an unusual interview with progressive magazine The American Prospect, the White House chief strategist (shown in a file photo) seemed to take issue with Trump on North Korea, attacked white supremacists as “clowns” and detailed how he would oust some of his opponents at the State and Defense departments.Washington Post, Trump White House failing to release even limited visitor logs, watchdog group says, Spencer S. Hsu, Aug. 17, 2017. Citing “grave national security risks,” the administration said in April that it would tamp down on disclosing who visits the executive complex.
New York Times, Settlement Reached in Case on C.I.A. Torture Program, Sheri Fink, Aug. 17, 2017. A lawsuit against two psychologists who helped devise the C.I.A.’s brutal interrogation program was an unusual effort to demand accountability for tactics adopted after Sept. 11. A settlement in the lawsuit against two psychologists who helped devise the Central Intelligence Agency’s brutal interrogation program was announced on Thursday, bringing to an end an unusual effort to hold individuals accountable for the techniques the agency adopted after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Lawyers for the three plaintiffs in the suit, filed in 2015 in Federal District Court in Spokane, Wash., said the former prisoners were tortured at secret C.I.A. detention sites. The settlement with the psychologists, Dr. Bruce Jessen and Dr. James Mitchell, came after a judge last month urged resolving the case before it headed to a jury trial in early September.
The plaintiffs — two former detainees and the family of a third who died in custody — had sought unspecified punitive and compensatory damages. The terms of the settlement are confidential, and it is unclear whether a financial payout was involved. The parties agreed to a joint statement in which the psychologists said that they had advised the C.I.A. and that the plaintiffs had suffered abuses, but that they were not responsible.
The plaintiffs said that Drs. Jessen and Mitchell, former military psychologists, profited from their work as contractors for the C.I.A. The men received up to $1,800 a day and later formed a company that was paid about $81 million to help operate the interrogation program over several years. James T. Smith, the psychologists’ lead counsel, said in a statement that his clients were “public servants whose actions in regard to the interrogation of suspected terrorists were authorized by the U.S. government, legal and done in an effort to protect innocent lives.”
Washington Post, The story behind a retracted CNN report on the Trump campaign and Russia, Paul Farhi, Aug. 17, 2017. The article said that federal investigators were looking into a January meeting between then-White House adviser Anthony Scaramucci and the fund’s director, a Russian national named Kirill Dmitriev. The story was based on information from an anonymous source.
On June 26, the news organization asked for and accepted the resignations of the three journalists — one a Pulitzer Prize winner, another a Pulitzer finalist — who were principally responsible for reporting and editing the article.
Global News: Kurd Spokesman Claims U.S. Role In Syria For Decades
SouthFront, SDF Spokesperson: US Will Stay In Syria For Decades, Staff report, Aug. 17, 2017. On August 17, spokesperson for the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Talal Silo, claimed that the US is planning to stay in Syria for decades after beating ISIS. “They have a strategy policy for decades to come. There will be military, economic and political agreements in the long term between the leadership of the northern areas – of Syria – and the US administration,” Silo said.
US-led collation spokesperson Colonel Ryan Dillon also said that there is a lot of fighting when he was answering a question from Reuters about the US long term strategy in Syria. “Still a lot of fighting to do, even after ISIS has been defeated in Raqqa,” Dillon said.
Wall Street Journal, Trump’s Business Councils Disband After CEOs Defect, Emily Glazer and Sarah Krouse, Aug. 16, 2017 (subscription required). Move follows Donald Trump’s controversial response to the recent violence in Charlottesville. Two of President Donald Trump’s councils of top business leaders are disbanding, following controversial remarks made by Mr. Trump on Tuesday.
Washington Post, Trump ends advisory councils as CEOs quit over his remarks on Charlottesville, Damian Paletta and Jena McGregor, Aug. 16, 2017. Several corporate leaders had announced they were resigning from the President’s Strategic and Policy Forum as well as a separate manufacturing council in recent days after Trump was slow to condemn white supremacy groups. But on Twitter, Trump said it was his decision to disband both councils.
Washington Post, Trump’s generals condemn Charlottesville racism — while trying not to offend the president, Andrew deGrandpre, Aug. 16, 2017. One by one, the U.S. military’s most senior leaders have publicly — and bluntly — repudiated the racist violence that plunged Charlottesville into chaos Saturday, declaring the nation’s armed forces as being unequivocally against hatred.
By midmorning Wednesday, the military’s four service chiefs had issued firm, forceful statements that stand apart from remarks made by President Trump, who faces deepening criticism for his repeated attempts to evenly distribute blame for clashes between white nationalists and the anti-fascist protesters who showed up to oppose them.
Washington Post, They tried to kill my child to shut her up,’ Heather Heyer’s mother mourns at funeral for woman killed during Nazi protest in Charlottesville, Ellie Silverman, Arelis R. Hernández and Steve Hendrix, Aug. 16, 2017. Those who loved Heather Heyer, along with strangers who have already elevated her into a symbol of defiance in the face of hate, gathered Wednesday at her memorial service to remember her as a born defender of justice who died for showing up when her beliefs demanded it.
“They tried to kill my child to shut her up, but guess what, you just magnified her,” said Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, sparking an ovation from a packed theater in downtown Charlottesville that lasted nearly a minute and a half. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) were among those in the crowd. Two Virginia gubernatorial candidates also attended: Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie.
Heyer, 32, was killed when a car allegedly driven by a reported white nationalist plowed into a crowd. The ramming followed hours of unrest Saturday between white supremacists and counterprotesters. Heyer was there to oppose the white nationalist rally.
New York Times, Richard Trumka: Why I Quit Trump’s Business Council, Richard Trumpka (president of the AFL-CIO), Aug. 16, 2017. He has no intention of following through on his promises to workers. And he may leave the country worse off.
On Tuesday, President Trump stood in the lobby of his tower on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and again made excuses for bigotry and terrorism, effectively repudiating the remarks his staff wrote a day earlier in response to the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Va. I stood in that same lobby in January, fresh off a meeting with the new president-elect. Although I had endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, I was hopeful we could work together to bring some of his pro-worker campaign promises to fruition.
Unfortunately, with each passing day, it has become clear that President Trump has no intention of following through on his commitments to working people. More worrisome, his actions and rhetoric threaten to leave America worse off and more divided. It is for these reasons that I resigned yesterday from the president’s manufacturing council, which the president disbanded today after a string of resignations.
New York Times, Stunned TV Hosts Reacted in Real Time to Trump, Michael M. Grynbaum, Aug. 16, 2017 (printed edition). Mr. Trump’s fiery news conference left many on cable news networks searching for ways to describe what they had just seen. “What I just saw gave me the wrong kind of chills,” a visibly stunned Chuck Todd said on MSNBC. “Honestly, I’m a bit shaken by what I just heard.” Unable to disguise her disgust, the Fox News host Kat Timpf said: “I’m still in the phase where I’m wondering if it was actually real life. I have too much eye makeup on to start crying right now.”
Washington Post, Conservative Opinion: Every Republican must sign a censure of the president, Jennifer Rubin, Aug. 16, 2017. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), member of the House Judiciary Committee and former chairman and ranking Democrat of the Constitution Subcommittee, along with Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) announced a resolution of censure against President Trump on Wednesday.
Republicans won’t agree with every word, but now is no time for quibbling. This is the test. They lifted this president to office and now they must disown him. The Party of Lincoln will continue, if at all, with those who are willing to condemn their own president for embracing these groups and individuals. Any Republican not willing to sign on should be voted out. Period. It’s the only litmus test that matters.
New York Times, Hope Hicks Will Be Trump’s Interim Communications Director, Eileen Sullivan and Maggie Haberman, Aug. 16, 2017. President Trump’s longtime aide Hope Hicks (shown in a file photo) will serve as the interim White House director of communications and will help the president find a permanent person for the job, according to a senior administration official.
However temporary it is, it was the latest reshuffling in the White House and comes at a time when the president’s remarks on white supremacists were drawing fire from Democrats and Republicans. The role of communications director is to set a clear and direct message coming from the White House each day.
Ms. Hicks, 28, already is considered one of the most important people in the president’s communications orbit and has the most sway over who in the news media gets interviews with the president. Her current title is director of strategic communications. Ms. Hicks was a spokeswoman for Mr. Trump during his presidential campaign and at the Trump Organization.
Aug. 16 cover of the New York Daily News
Washington Post, Obama’s response to Charlottesville violence is the most liked tweet in Twitter’s history, Kristine Phillips, Aug. 16, 2017 (print edition). “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion,” Obama said, quoting Nelson Mandela. The first tweet, which shows a picture of Obama smiling at four children, has been retweeted more than 1.1 million times and liked 2.723 million times as of Tuesday evening.
The message became the most liked tweet of all time, surpassing Ariana Grande’s response to the deadly terrorist attack after her concert in Manchester. It also ranks No. 7 among the most retweeted tweets according to Favstar, a tweet tracking site.
The Hill, Georgia judge suspended for comparing anti-Confederate protesters to ISIS: report, Max Greenwood, Aug. 16, 2017. Georgia judge suspended for comparing anti-Confederate protesters to ISIS. A judge in Georgia has been suspended for Facebook posts in which he compared protesters of Confederate statues to members of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Gwinnett County Judge Jim Hinkle called protesters opposing a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E Lee in Charlottesville, Va., “snowflakes.” He said they had “no concept of history” and should “leave history alone.” In a follow-up post, he likened taking down Confederate statues to ISIS’s destruction of historic sites and artifacts in the Middle East. Hinkle was suspended by Chief Magistrate Judge Kristina Hammer Blum, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Tuesday. Blum is considering further action against the judge.
NBC News, Right-Winger Jack Posobiec, Retweeted by Trump, Is Navy Intel Officer, Courtney Kube, Aug. 16, 2017. A right-wing activist who brought attention to debunked conspiracy theories — and who gained new prominence when he was retweeted by President Donald Trump this week — is a U.S. naval intelligence officer detailed to a reserve unit, Navy service records show. John Michael Posobiec III’s security clearance is currently suspended, according to a U.S. official, who did not disclose the reason for the suspension.
Posobiec, who goes by “Jack,” is a lieutenant junior grade in the U.S. Navy Reserves, assigned to Joint Reserve Intelligence Support Element Dekalb. From March 2014 through March 2017 he was assigned to a Reserve Intelligence Unit at Office of Naval Intelligence’s Naval Maritime Intelligence Center in Washington. During that time frame, Posobiec used his social media accounts to draw attention to false theories, including the rumor that former Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was murdered for leaking emails to Wikileaks.
He also delved into the so-called Pizzagate theory, which posited that Hillary Clinton was running a pedophile ring out of a pizzeria. Shortly after the election, Posobiec visited Comet Pizza and posted a video in which he talked in a seemingly joking way about trying to find out what’s happening in the bathroom.
He also promoted, through Twitter, leaked emails from the campaign of French President Emmanuel Macron. In June, he was in the audience when a fellow pro-Trump protester rushed the stage at a New York production of “Julius Caesar” that drew controversy because the title character resembled the president. “You are all Goebbels, you are all Nazis like Joseph Goebbels,” Posobiec shouted into the audience in video posted on his Twitter feed.
While Posobiec, 32, is frequently referred to as a member of the alt-right, he describes himself as a “conservative Republican” and member of the “New Right” — and an ardent Trump supporter.
Politico, Judge: Benghazi suspect’s prolonged shipboard interrogation didn’t violate rights, Josh Gerstein, Aug. 16, 2017. A judge has ruled that U.S. authorities did not violate the rights of an alleged ringleader in the Benghazi attack by interrogating him at length as he was transported from Libya to the U.S. on a slow-moving Navy ship over a nearly two-week period in 2014.
U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Cooper rejected arguments from Ahmed Abu Khatallah’s defense attorneys that officials intentionally prolonged the process in order to try to extract information from him and that they coerced him into speaking in FBI interviews that followed questions by CIA interrogators. “The Court finds that Abu Khatallah’s statements were voluntarily given,” Cooper wrote.
Abu Khatallah faces a slew of serious federal charges, including four counts of murder in connection with the killings of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans during a furious firefight at the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi on September 11, 2012. The Libyan militia leader is set to face a jury trial in federal court in Washington starting September 25.
Washington Post, This week should put the nail in the coffin for ‘both sides’ journalism, Margaret Sullivan, Aug. 16, 2017. He’s the false-equivalency president. During the 2016 presidential campaign, the national news media’s misguided sense of fairness helped equate the serious flaws of Hillary Clinton with the disqualifying evils of Donald Trump.
In a devastating post-election report, Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center concluded that media treatment was rife with false equivalency: “On topics relating to the candidates’ fitness for office, Clinton and Trump’s coverage was virtually identical in terms of its negative tone.” That was a factor — one of many — that helped to put Trump in the Oval Office.
“The whole doctrine of objectivity in journalism has become part of the [media’s] problem,” Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at New York University, said this week in a talk at the Chautauqua Institution in Western New York. He believes that journalists must state their biases up front and not pretend to be magically free of the beliefs or assumptions that everyone has.
New York Times, Trump Makes a Spectacle of Himself, Editorial Board, Aug. 15, 2017. Given another chance to condemn white supremacists, the president takes up their talking points.
New York Times, Trump Gives White Supremacists An Unequivocal Boost, Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman, Aug. 15, 2017. When Mr. Trump equated anti-racism protesters with neo-Nazis, he legitimized white supremacists like no modern president. President Trump buoyed the white nationalist movement on Tuesday as no president has done in generations — equating activists protesting racism with the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who rampaged in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend.
Never has he gone as far in defending their actions as he did during a wild, street-corner shouting match of a news conference in the gilded lobby of Trump Tower, angrily asserting that so-called alt-left activists were just as responsible for the bloody confrontation as marchers brandishing swastikas, Confederate battle flags, anti-Semitic banners and “Trump/Pence” signs.
“Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth,” David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, wrote in a Twitter post shortly after Mr. Trump spoke.
Richard B. Spencer, a white nationalist leader who participated in the weekend’s demonstrations and vowed to flood Charlottesville with similar protests in the coming weeks, was equally encouraged. “Trump’s statement was fair and down to earth,” Mr. Spencer tweeted.
New York Daily News, Opinion: Trump’s comments on James Fields may have created a legal headache for prosecutors, Mitchell Epner, Aug. 15, 2017. At his Tuesday press conference, President Trump was asked whether the attack on Heather Heyer was “terrorism.” His response may make it more difficult for Virginia to prosecute James Fields for murder (already charged) or the United States to prosecute him for federal crimes.
President Trump said: “I think the driver of the car is a disgrace to himself, his family and this country. And that is — you can call it terrorism, you can call it murder. You can call it whatever you want. I would just call it as the fastest one to come up with a good verdict. That’s what I’d call it. And there is a question. Is it murder? Is it terrorism? Then you get into legal semantics. The driver of the car is a murderer, and what he did was a horrible, horrible, inexcusable thing.”
I know that I have said similar things about James Fields [shown in a mug shot] on social media. But, I’m just some guy who used to be a federal prosecutor who rants to his friends. Because President Trump is not just some guy popping off on social media to his buddies, his statements may create problems for bringing the cases against Fields to trial.
Under our Constitution, every person charged with a crime has a presumption of innocence. A defendant can only be convicted after being found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt on the basis of the evidence presented at trial. The Supreme Court has held that if adverse pre-trial publicity makes it impossible for an accused to be judged on the basis of the evidence, then the accused cannot be found guilty, no matter his actual guilt.
To avoid interfering with successful prosecution, previous Presidents from both parties has made it a practice to respond to questions about a pending criminal case by saying, “That is the subject of a pending criminal matter and I cannot comment further.”
New York Daily News, Giant inflatable rat bearing resemblance to Trump appears on Fifth Ave., Kerry Burke and Christopher Brennan, Aug. 15, 2016. A giant inflatable of President Trump, in the style of labor unions’ blow up rodents, is greeting Midtown residents and tourists Monday afternoon at Fifth Ave. and 59th St. The grotesque model of Trump was claimed by gallery Bravin Lee, who said that the inflatable rat is “an enduring sign of resistance and ridicule.”
From the archives: Independent, Donald Trump ‘kept book of Adolf Hitler’s speeches in his bedside cabinet,’ Ben Kentish, March 20, 2017. In a 1990 interview, the billionaire businessman admitted to owning Nazi leader’s ‘Mein Kampf,’ but said he would never read speeches.
Washington Post, Trump doubles down, says ‘both sides’ to blame for Va. violence, David Nakamura, Aug. 15, 2017. President Trump declared Tuesday that counterprotesters at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville acted violently and should share the blame for the mayhem that left a woman dead and many injured.
Speaking at Trump Tower in Manhattan, the president called the events of Saturday at the “Unite the Right” rally a “horrible thing to watch,” but he emphasized that both sides acted irresponsibly. “I think there’s blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it,” Trump said. “You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent,” he added. “No one wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now: You had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit and they were very, very violent.”
Trump’s remarks came a day after he belatedly condemned the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and other hate groups that organized and participated in the rally. He had faced mounting pressure from lawmakers and civil rights groups over his failure to do so during his initial reaction to the violence, when he denounced violence “on many sides.”
Washington Post, Trump retweets — then deletes — image of train running over CNN reporter, David Nakamura and Brian Murphy, Aug. 15, 2017. The president was in the midst of a tweetstorm when he sent the image, posted by a supporter who added “Nothing can stop the #TrumpTrain!!” He also appeared to accidentally retweet another post from a man calling him a “fascist.”
HuffPost, Donald Trump Just Retweeted A Notorious Right-Wing ‘Pizzagate’ Troll, Ed Mazza, Aug.15, 2017. One critic called it “sickening.” Hours after denouncing far-right extremists on Monday, President Donald Trump retweeted a far-right “Pizzagate” conspiracy theorist known for disrupting a performance of “Julius Caesar” over the summer. Critics saw the retweet on Monday evening as an attempt to deflect attention from his belated response to white supremacist violence, but also as an implicit effort to draw attention to crime within the African-American community.
New York Times, The C.E.O.s on Trump Councils: Five Executives Have Resigned From the American Manufacturing Council, Staff report, Aug. 15, 2017. The Trump administration has created advisory groups of high-profile executives in an effort to forge alliances with big business. Recently, some of them have opposed President Trump’s stances on civil rights and climate change, and have distanced themselves from these groups in very public ways. The departures this week have been met with ire by the president.
New York Times, Trump Fires Back as More C.E.O.s Quit Advisory Panel, David Gelles, Kate Kelly, Rachel Abrams and Michael Corkery, Aug. 15, 2017. After six business leaders stepped down, Mr. Trump criticized their work and said they were “leaving out of embarrassment.” The C.E.O.s on (and Off) Trump’s Councils.
New York Times, Energized Far Right Plots Its Next Moves, Alan Feuer, Aug. 15, 2017 (print edition). Some white supremacists and right-wing extremists were planning to attend future marches, and others were planning to run for office.
New York Times, Bombing Plot in Oklahoma City Is Thwarted With Arrest, F.B.I. Says, Manny Fernandez, Aug. 15, 2017 (print edition). A 23-year-old Oklahoma man has been arrested after he tried to blow up a bank in downtown Oklahoma City using a vehicle bomb similar to the one that destroyed the federal building there in 1995, federal officials said Monday.
The man, Jerry Drake Varnell, had been plotting the attack for months, the authorities said, but was thwarted by a long-running undercover investigation led by an F.B.I. joint terrorism task force. During a meeting in June with an undercover F.B.I. agent posing as someone who could help him, Mr. Varnell said that he wanted to start the next revolution and that he identified with what is known as 3 percenter ideology, according to an affidavit filed in support of the federal criminal complaint against him. Mr. Varnell sought to form and arm a small militia group, inspired in part by the movie “Fight Club,” the authorities said.
“I’m out for blood,” Mr. Varnell wrote in one text message to a confidential informant who cooperated with the authorities, according to the affidavit, which was written by an F.B.I. special agent. “When militias start getting formed I’m going after government officials when I have a team,” he wrote. The complaint did not name the informant.
Washington Post, Trump acts like the president of the Red States of America, James Hohmann, Aug. 15, 2017. That’s at odds with the American tradition, and it’s problematic as a governing philosophy — especially in a moment of crisis. Trump’s initially tone-deaf response to Charlottesville underscores why.
Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), America is at the tipping point between fascism and democracy, Wayne Madsen, Aug. 15, 2017 (subscription required for details). The mass media is being used by the neo-Nazi and neo-Confederate movements to give greater exposure to far-right leaders like Richard Spencer, Jason Kessler, Jack Posobiec, Preston Wiginton, and the most recent self-outed Nazi, broadcaster Alex Jones, to mainstream them and their dangerous ideology. This is similar to the methods used by Adolf Hitler to increase his exposure from a few beer- and urine-reeking halls in Munich to all of Germany.
Wayne Madsen (shown in a file photo) is a former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst who edits the Wayne Madsen Report. He has authored 15 books and is a widely published syndicated op-ed columnist with columns appearing hundreds of times in American newspapers. He wrote as an editor’s note to the column above: “Although this editor was a non-paid contributor to Infowars on stories of my own choosing, I thoroughly reject and find personally repugnant the Nazi, Klan, and other extremist views of Alex Jones and his provocateurs and guests. There are absolutely no current links between WMR and Infowars, Prison Planet, or any other Jones enterprises, even though his websites continue to carry WMR stories dating back as early as 12 years ago.”
Politics Around the Nation: Alabama, Arizona
New York Times, Alabama Election Results: Two Republicans Advance, Democrat Wins in U.S. Senate Primaries, Matthew Bloch and Jasmine Lee, Roy Moore, a former state Supreme Court justice, and Senator Luther Strange, who was appointed earlier this year, advanced on Tuesday in the Republican primary for the Senate seat in Alabama vacted by Jeff Sessions, now the attorney general. Mr. Moore and Senator Strange will compete in a runoff on Sept. 26. The winner will face Doug Jones, a former United States attorney who won the Democratic primary, in the general election on Dec. 12.
Alex Jones Infowars, Corsi: Trump Set To Pardon Sheriff Joe Arpaio Before Planned Trip To Arizona, Jerome Corsi, Aug. 15, 2017. Arpaio might get pardoned after being charged with criminal contempt.
White House Staff: Bannon
Palmer Report, Opinion: Mr. Toad’s wild ride crashes and burns, Bill Palmer, Aug. 15, 2017. It shouldn’t have lasted this long, nor did he likely ever expect it to. Steve Bannon took over Donald Trump’s dying campaign fairly late in the game, with the seeming intent of simply using the losing effort to promote his own white supremacist site Breitbart. But after Russia and the FBI stunningly put Trump over the top, he and Bannon each found themselves stuck working in a White House they loathe. And now Mr. Toad’s wild ride is coming to an end.
It’s telling that Donald Trump and Steve Bannon are both such grotesque creatures that either of them could safely be referred to as “Mr. Toad” in a manner which would only serve to insult toads. But while Trump’s premature exit from the White House is now inevitable eventually, Bannon’s exit is imminent.
For reasons known only to him, Trump has spent the past few weeks weakening Bannon by firing all of his loyalists and leaking trash talk about him to the media. This is how Trump erodes his own top people in the hope they’ll quit so he doesn’t have to fire them. But a development that neither of them saw coming, the Charlottesville white supremacist terror attack has complicated Bannon’s exit while also cementing it.
Trump’s DOJ Seeks 1.3 Million Addresses From Critics’ Website
WhoWhatWhy, Trump DOJ Wants 1.3M IP Addresses, Personal Info from Anti-Trump Website, Celia Wexler, Aug. 15, 2017. The Trump White House, which had such a hard time castigating Nazis and the Klu Klux Klan protesters in Charlottesville, VA, seems to be moving swiftly to identify — and perhaps harass — the more than one million visitors to a website that coordinated demonstrations during the Trump inauguration.
The Department of Justice last month issued a sweeping demand for information from the website Disruptj20.org. The DOJ is seeking this data to assist its investigation of what it termed a “violent riot” on January 20. The “riot” resulted in some property damage and injuries during mostly peaceful protests that involved hundreds of thousands of participants. The website’s host, DreamHost, is resisting the demand for the information. A hearing on the case is set for this Friday in DC Superior Court.
In its brief opposing the warrant, Dreamhost charges: “In essence, the Search Warrant not only aims to identify the political dissidents of the current administration, but attempts to identify and understand what content each of these dissidents viewed on the website.” Editor’s note: The administration later reduced its request to IDs and details of several hundred targets.
Global News: North Korea Insults Trump, Defers Missile Test
New York Times, North Korea Says It Will Wait ‘a Little More’ Before Acting on Guam Threat, Choe Sang-Hun, Aug. 15, 2017. North Korea appeared on Tuesday to pause its threat to launch ballistic missiles toward Guam, saying it would wait to assess “the foolish and stupid conduct” of the United States before carrying the launchings out.
The statement came as the United States and South Korea were preparing to conduct joint military exercises on the Korean Peninsula and surrounding waters starting on Monday, despite North Korea’s vehement opposition to such drills.
In response to threats from President Trump, North Korea’s military announced last week that by mid-August, it would submit a plan to Kim Jong-un, the country’s leader (shown at right), for launching four ballistic missiles into waters around Guam, the United States territory that is home to American military bases.
On Monday, Mr. Kim reviewed the plan while visiting the command of the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army but said he would wait a bit before telling the military to proceed with the missile launchings, the state news media reported on Tuesday.
South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, on Tuesday offered an unusually blunt rebuke to the Trump administration’s discussions of possible military responses to the North, saying no country should take military action on the Korean Peninsula without his government’s approval.
See related story: New York Times, North Korea’s Missile Success Is Linked to Ukrainian Plant, Investigators Say, William J. Broad and David E. Sanger, Aug. 14, 2017.
Mudslide Disaster In Africa
New York Times, ‘This Is Too Much for Us’: Sierra Leone Deluged by Mud and Grief, Jaime Yaya Barry and Dionne Searcey, Aug. 15, 2017. The bodies floated down the streets and piled up at the morgue, where the coroners struggled to find room for all of the dead. An already devastating flood the day before produced even more anguish on Tuesday in Sierra Leone as residents of Freetown, the capital, dug through the mud in search of missing family members.
The Red Cross said hundreds of people had been killed and 600 were missing after torrential rains early Monday caused mudslides and transformed city streets into fast-moving rivers of muddy water, washing away everything in their path. One worker at the city’s morgue, who was not authorized to speak to reporters, said he had seen as many as 400 bodies there.
Residents of the poor communities built into the capital city’s unstable hillsides suffered the most. Their homes — shacks, really — were quickly buried or violently swept away in the deluge. Aid groups estimated that 3,000 people had been left homeless.
JFK Assassination Revelations
JFK Facts.org, How Shenon and Sabato came to Fake News in JFK’s Murder, Jefferson Morley, Aug. 15, 2017. After more than fifty years and zero quantum of proof since the JFK assassination, Philip Shenon and Larry J. Sabato insist on the out-worn hypothesis “Castro sorta done it” while reporting how the CIA came to doubt the official story. From a batch of documents recently released on line by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), they have cherry-picked an unauthored 1975-CIA memo that specifically:
“Noted the failure of the CIA, FBI and the Warren Commission to interview a key witness in Mexico City — Silvia Duran, the Mexican woman who worked in the Cuban consulate and was reported to have had the affair with Oswald.”
“Offered a detailed theory [about] how Oswald (…) may have been inspired to assassinate the president if, as seemed probable, he read an article on Monday, September 9, in the local newspaper, that suggested Castro was targeted for murder by the United States.”
Taylor Swift’s Victory Resonates
New York Times, Taylor Swift Spoke Up. Sexual Assault Survivors Were Listening, Melena Ryzik, Aug. 15, 2017. She’s sold millions of albums and heard stadiums full of fans chant her lyrics at sold-out concerts around the world. But the Taylor Swift line that might resonate the loudest now is “He grabbed my bare ass.”
Ms. Swift, the pop superstar, made that comment in a federal courtroom in Denver last week, as part of her testimony against David Mueller, a former radio host who sued her, claiming she falsely accused him of groping her during a backstage photo opportunity in 2013. Ms. Swift countersued for assault and battery. Her confident and blunt testimony swayed the jury — on Monday, she won her case, and Mr. Mueller lost his — and was shared widely across social media, where her responses were hailed as powerful.
Washington Post, Trump denounces KKK, neo-Nazis two days after Charlottesville unrest, David Nakamura, Aug. 14, 2017. The president spoke from the White House in an effort to tamp down criticism from Democrats and some Republicans that he had not been forceful enough in his comments Saturday. He also announced a Justice Department civil rights probe into the killing of a counterprotester.
Trump denounced the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis by name Monday, declaring racist hate groups as “repugnant to all that we hold dear as Americans,” as he sought to tamp down mounting criticism of his response to the killing of a counterprotester at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville over the weekend.
The statement came two days after the president failed to specifically condemn the white supremacist rally after a woman was killed and as many as 19 wounded by a driver who reportedly espoused racist and pro-Nazi sentiments and had taken part in the “Unite the Right” march in Charlottesville.
HuffPost, CEO Quits White House Council Over Trump’s Charlottesville Response — And Trump Attacks Him, Marina Fang, Aug. 14, 2017. Instead of denouncing neo-Nazis, Trump denounces a CEO criticizing him for not personally denouncing neo-Nazis. A CEO serving on President Donald Trump’s council on manufacturing announced his resignation early Monday from the White House panel, in protest of Trump’s continued silence on the white nationalist groups who incited Saturday’s deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Ken Frazier, the head of Merck pharmaceuticals, said in a statement he was stepping down “as a matter of personal conscience” and “to take a stand against intolerance and extremism.” In response, Trump ― who has yet to personally denounce the far-right groups who sparked Saturday’s deadly carnage in Charlottesville ― directly attacked Frazier on Twitter. “Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President’s Manufacturing Council,he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!”
See also: Washington Post, Merck CEO quits council over Trump’s initial response to rally, draws president’s ire, Carolyn Y. Johnson and Jena McGregor, Aug. 14, 2017. Kenneth Frazier’s decision shows how executives have struggled to balance their desire to engage the White House with growing expectations that they exercise a voice on social issues. Later, the CEOs of Under Armour and Intel said they, too, were resigning from the manufacturing council.
Washington Post, Sessions defends Trump’s response to Charlottesville, says violence meets standard for domestic terrorism, Sari Horwitz, Aug. 14, 2017. “His initial statement on this roundly and unequivocally condemned hatred and violence and bigotry,” said the attorney general (shown at right). The Justice Department is probing the clashes and will “advance the investigation toward the most serious charges that can be brought,” he said.
Palmer Report, Opinion: CNN reporter Jim Acosta calls Donald Trump “fake news” to his face, Bill Palmer, Aug. 14, 2017. The tables have finally turned. Donald Trump has spent the entirety of his time in office falsely accusing various major news outlets of being “fake news” simply because he didn’t like the real stories they were reporting. But when a weakened and tailspinning Trump tried to invoke the phrase today to fend off a question about his own white supremacist supporters, a CNN reporter threw the term right back in his face.
And so now we’ve reached the point where the mainstream media is actively fighting back against Trump’s lying and bullying tactics by throwing his favorite term “fake news” back into his face. All Trump could do was walk away without answering the question, which has become his go-to move since the Charlottesville terrorist attack sent him into a defensive political tailspin.
Washington Post, Neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer banned by Go Daddy for disparaging woman who died, Katie Mettler, Aug. 14, 2017. The site hosting service said Daily Stormer had 24 hours to move its website domain to another provider because it had “violated” terms of service with a negative post about Heather Heyer, who was killed when a car plowed into a crowd of counterprotesters.
Washington Post, Cuccinelli catches flak for telling Symone Sanders to ‘shut up’ on CNN, Laura Vozzella, Aug. 14, 2017. Virginia’s former attorney general and one-time candidate for governor took part in a heated discussion about President Trump’s response to deadly violence in Charlottesville.
Alt Right March Videos
YouTube, Charlottesville Riot Police unlawfully shutdown permitted rally, Clark Canepa, Aug. 14, 2017. (3:08 min.). YouTube, Ruptly, What Really Happened in Charlottesville, The Leftovers, Aug. 13, 2017. (9:01 min.).
Probes of Trump Campaign’s Russian Ties
Washington Post, Trump campaign emails show aide’s repeated efforts to set up Russia meetings, Tom Hamburger, Carol D. Leonnig and Rosalind S. Helderman, Aug. 14, 2017. A new batch of communications turned over to congressional committees reveals concerns within the campaign about establishing contacts.
New York Times, New on This Fall’s Law School Syllabus: Trump, Adam Liptak, Aug. 14, 2017. The president, a one-man course in constitutional arcana, has raised real-world questions for students to ponder on formerly dusty legal doctrines.
New York Times, U.S. Attorney Candidate for Manhattan: A Canny Mind With Humor, Alan Feuer, Aug. 14, 2017. As President Trump’s top choice to succeed the fired Preet Bharara, Geoffrey S. Berman has a solid résumé but not a “huge presence.” Mr. Berman, 57, is currently the co-managing shareholder of the New Jersey office of the law firm Greenberg Traurig, and his résumé includes standard entries for someone seeking to lead a sprawling prosecutor’s office that handles a range of terrorism cases, Wall Street prosecutions and general criminal matters.
He received his law degree from Stanford, after which he was a clerk for a judge at the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, not too far from Trenton, his hometown. At Greenberg Traurig, Mr. Berman has largely worked on white-collar defense cases, often representing large financial institutions in complex litigation.
Mr. Berman was considered in the spring as a possible nominee for the United States attorney in New Jersey. When his name first surfaced, he was backed by the presidential adviser Jared Kushner, whose family has large real estate holdings in the state, according to several news reports. Mr. Berman also works at Greenberg Traurig with former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, although Mr. Giuliani was said at one point to have supported another lawyer at the firm, Marc Mukasey, the son of the former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, for the New York prosecutor’s job.
New Yorker, Trump’s Business of Corruption, Adam Davidson, Aug. 14, 2017 (Aug. 21 Issue). What secrets will Mueller find when he investigates the President’s foreign deals?
President Donald Trump’s attorney Jay Sekulow recently told me that the investigation being led by Robert Mueller, the special counsel appointed by the Justice Department, should focus on one question: whether there was “coördination between the Russian government and people on the Trump campaign.”
Sekulow went on, “I want to be really specific. A real-estate deal would be outside the scope of legitimate inquiry.” If he senses “drift” in Mueller’s investigation, he said, he will warn the special counsel’s office that it is exceeding its mandate. The issue will first be raised “informally,” he noted.
But if Mueller and his team persist, Sekulow said, he might lodge a formal objection with the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, who has the power to dismiss Mueller and end the inquiry. President Trump has been more blunt, hinting to the Times that he might fire Mueller if the investigation looks too closely at his business dealings.
GOP Internal Turmoil
New York Times, Bannon in Limbo as Trump Faces Calls for Strategist’s Ouster, Maggie Haerman and Glenn Thrush, Aug. 14, 2017. President Trump has been urged by Rupert Murdoch and others to fire Stephen K. Bannon, his top strategist, who already has been relegated to an internal exile, according to aides.
Washington Post, Can Jeff Flake survive the role of chief Republican antagonist to Trump? Ed O’Keefe, Aug. 14, 2017 (print edition). Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz., shown at right) recently released a book, “Conscience of a Conservative,” criticizing the Trump administration and the Republican Party’s embrace of the president. Over two months, Flake has dodged bullets on a baseball field, buried his elderly father and watched one of his political mentors, Sen. John McCain, battle terminal brain cancer. And that was all before he published a book that doubles down on his criticisms of President Trump, which in less than two weeks since its release has once again put him at odds with members of his own party.
The best-selling book may make Flake the most high-profile Republican casualty of the Trump era. Or, he may prove that embracing one’s core principles can still be appealing to voters. He was already facing a primary challenge from a nationalist who campaigns with sharp-edged, Trump-style bombast when his party launched a revolt against his 160-page critique on the president. On Friday, a Democratic congresswoman who has a sizable campaign war chest also signaled that she is likely to run against Flake. For now, he is laughing off his newfound challenges.
Global News: North Korean Missiles from Ukraine?
New York Times, North Korea’s Missile Success Is Linked to Ukrainian Plant, Investigators Say, William J. Broad and David E. Sanger, Aug. 14, 2017. North Korea’s success in testing an intercontinental ballistic missile that appears able to reach the United States was made possible by black-market purchases of powerful rocket engines probably from a Ukrainian factory with historical ties to Russia’s missile program, according to an expert analysis being published Monday and classified assessments by American intelligence agencies.
The studies may solve the mystery of how North Korea began succeeding so suddenly after a string of fiery missile failures, some of which may have been caused by American sabotage of its supply chains and cyberattacks on its launches. After those failures, the North changed designs and suppliers in the past two years, according to a new study by Michael Elleman, a missile expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
Such a degree of aid to North Korea from afar would be notable because President Trump has singled out only China as the North’s main source of economic and technological support. He has never blamed Ukraine or Russia, though his secretary of state, Rex W. Tillerson, made an oblique reference to both China and Russia as the nation’s “principal economic enablers” after the North’s most recent ICBM launch last month.
Analysts who studied photographs of the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, inspecting the new rocket motors concluded that they derive from designs that once powered the Soviet Union’s missile fleet. The engines were so powerful that a single missile could hurl 10 thermonuclear warheads between continents.
Those engines were linked to only a few former Soviet sites. Government investigators and experts have focused their inquiries on a missile factory in Dnipro, Ukraine, on the edge of the territory where Russia is fighting a low-level war to break off part of Ukraine. During the Cold War, the factory made the deadliest missiles in the Soviet arsenal, including the giant SS-18. It remained one of Russia’s primary producers of missiles even after Ukraine gained independence.
Global News: Venezuela
New York Times, Trump’s Threat Against Maduro Unites Latin America, Against U.S., Nicholas Casey, Aug. 14, 2017. President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela had become a pariah among fellow Latin American leaders as his beleaguered country staggered toward dictatorship. But a threat by President Trump to use the American military against Mr. Maduro’s government has united those leaders in a different direction: demanding that the United States keep out of the region’s affairs.
“The possibility of a military intervention shouldn’t even be considered,” Juan Manuel Santos, Colombia’s president, said on Sunday during a visit by Vice President Mike Pence to the region. “America is a continent of peace. It is the land of peace.”
Mr. Santos’s response to Mr. Trump’s remarks — echoed by many other Latin American leaders in recent days — could endanger a fragile alliance against what many fear is the first dictatorship to emerge in the region in decades, analysts say.
“Threatening military action undermines the strongest Latin American consensus in support of democracy that I have seen since the end of the Pinochet regime,” said Mark L. Schneider, an adviser at the Americas program of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, referring to the Chilean military dictatorship led by Augusto Pinochet.
Syrian government forces and flag (File photo)
SouthFront, Govt-held Area In Syria Grown Significantly Over Two Months, Staff report, Aug. 14, 2017. The area controlled by the Damascus government in Syria has grown by 250 percent over the past two months, Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoigu said on Sunday. Shoigu added that the liberation of the key town of Sukhna in the province of Homs opens an opportunity to lift the ISIS siege from the strategic city of Deir Ezzor.
On Saturday, special operations units from the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) Tiger Forces carried out a successful air landing operation behind ISIS lines at the administrative border between Homs and Raqqah provinces. Government troops led by Tiger Forces Commander Suheil al-Hassan were transported by 4 Mi-35 attack helicopters to the eastern Raqqah countryside 21km behind the frontline and liberated Khirbet Makman village, Al-Qadir town and Bir Rahum. Government troops are now deployed in only about 40 km from the recently liberated town of Sukhna.
This was the first ever air landing operation conducted by the SAA during the ongoing war. It showed the growing military capabilities of the SAA supported and trained by Russia and Iran.
Strategic Culture Foundation, Recolonization Rears Its Ugly Head, Wayne Madsen (shown in a file photo), Aug. 14, 2017. Comments made during the Senate confirmation hearing by the Trump administration’s ambassador-designate to the Bahamas evoked memories of the turn of the 19th century United States, one that championed colonialism and imperialism to compete with Europe’s colonial empires.
The Trump administration nominated as US ambassador to the Bahamas a San Diego businessman and early Trump campaign supporter named Doug Manchester. During his confirmation hearing, Manchester called the independent Commonwealth of the Bahamas a US “protectorate.”
Contrary to Manchester’s musings, on July 10th of this year, the Bahamas celebrated 44 years of independence from Britain. Manchester sees himself not as an ambassador to an independent nation but as an American “viceroy” lording over a population of nearly 400,000, most inhabitants of Afro-Caribbean descent. Manchester told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that, “Well certainly, for all intents and purposes, we believe that it [the Bahamas] is a protectorate.”
It is not certain who Manchester was including as «we», but his comments would indicate that he was including Donald Trump, who has had his eye on Bahamas real estate ever since the Atlantis hotel and casino opened on Paradise Island, near Nassau, in 1998.
FCC To Gut Media Merger Regulation To Help Conservative Titan?
New York Times, How a Conservative TV Giant Is Ridding Itself of Regulation, Cecilia Kang, Eric Lipon and Sydney Ember, Aug. 14, 2017. The Sinclair Broadcast Group and the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission see eye-to-eye on the need to unleash television. Both are reaping big rewards. The day before President Trump’s inauguration, the top executive of the Sinclair Broadcast Group, the nation’s largest owner of television stations, invited an important guest to the headquarters of the company’s Washington-area ABC affiliate.
The trip was, in the parlance of the business world, a deal closer. The invitation from David D. Smith, the chairman of Sinclair, went to Ajit V. Pai, a commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission who was about to be named the broadcast industry’s chief regulator. Mr. Smith wanted Mr. Pai (shown at right) to ease up on efforts under President Barack Obama to crack down on media consolidation, which were threatening Sinclair’s ambitions to grow even bigger.
Mr. Smith did not have to wait long. Within days of their meeting, Mr. Pai was named chairman of the F.C.C. And during his first 10 days on the job, he relaxed a restriction on television stations’ sharing of advertising revenue and other resources — the exact topic that Mr. Pai discussed with Mr. Smith and one of his business partners, according to records examined by The New York Times.
“These are invaluable and effective tools, which were taken away by the commission,” according to a summary of their meeting filed with the F.C.C. It was only the beginning. Since becoming chairman in January, Mr. Pai has undertaken a deregulatory blitz, enacting or proposing a wish list of fundamental policy changes advocated by Mr. Smith and his company. Hundreds of pages of emails and other documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal a rush of regulatory actions has been carefully aligned with Sinclair’s business objectives.
Courts and Cops
Washington Post, Jury says Taylor Swift was groped by radio DJ, awards her a symbolic $1 verdict, Emily Yahr, Aug. 14, 2017. The eight-person jury also ruled that Swift’s mother and radio representative were not responsible for the Denver country radio host’s loss of his job. She is shown with a new look for her forthcoming album “Reputation.”
WhoWhatWhy, Barrett Brown Podcast, Barrett Brown, Aug. 14, 2017. Back in February of this year, WhoWhatWhy’s Jeff Schechtman spoke with Barrett Brown in one of his first interviews since being released from federal prison. Brown was incarcerated for four years for hacking the private intelligence firm Stratfor. This exploit — for which the hacker group Anonymous took credit — revealed that Stratfor was one of many companies hired to spy on activist groups on behalf of US corporations.
At the time Brown spoke of his plans to once again be active in a number of causes and to make his voice heard. One of the ways he’s now doing that is with a regular podcast on WhoWhyWhy, where he feels at home. Brown told us recently:
“The piece published by WhoWhatWhy in 2013 was the first to provide a comprehensive explanation of what it was that my associates and I had uncovered to prompt one of the most bizarre and draconian criminal investigations in public memory.
Four years later, that article remains the single most comprehensive summary of the private-public intelligence nexus that my Project PM organization documented. Well before the New York Times and its ilk came to understand what my case meant for the country as a whole, WhoWhatWhy had already told the story best.”
In his first podcast, Brown talks to Suzie Dawson, the leader of New Zealand’s Internet Party. Dawson explains that the party is an attempt to modernize the out-of-date politics and political system in New Zealand. To drag it kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
In her view, New Zealand has been converted into a proxy of the United States, and has been subjected to the full weight of the US security state.
Brown speaks next with John Kiriakou, who helped reveal the CIA torture program in 2007. Kiriakou tells Brown he has learned that being a whistleblower is not enough and that more direct activism may be required. This is not to say that whistleblowers can’t have an impact — the revelations of Edward Snowden being the prime example. Kiriakou says that “before Ed Snowden, it was Tom Drake, and Bill Binney, and Jeff Sterling, and me, and Chelsea Manning, but it was really Snowden that made this a national and international issue.”
JFK Assassination Revelations
President John F. Kennedy, his wife Jacqueline and their two children, John and Caroline
Cox Media Washington, DC Bureau via KIRO-TV, Thousands of secret documents on JFK assassination could be made public, Justin Gray, Aug. 14, 2017. Thousands of top secret documents that could hold never-before-revealed details about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy are scheduled to be made public this fall.
But some intelligence agencies are pushing to keep the secret files classified. President Trump will make the final decision about whether to declassify the documents. If you were alive on Nov. 22,1963, you likely remember where you were.
Even if you were born in the decades after, you’ve still seen the images and heard about what happened on that tragic day. Now, nearly 55 years later, more than 3,000 documents from the investigation remain locked up inside the national archives.
“Do you think there could be things in this evidence that dispute the official Warren account?” Gray asked.
“Oh yes,” said Andrew Kreig, with the Justice Integrity Project. By law, all the documents related to the investigation must be unsealed and made public by October.
Just weeks ago, thousands of pages of new documents were released, but it’s unknown what’s in the final, still secret, batch.
JFK Facts, 4 CIA lies: New JFK files show how assassination investigation was controlled, not ‘botched,’ Jefferson Morley, Aug. 14, 2017. The JFK story is back in the news. Under a law passed by Congress in 1992, all of the government’s JFK files had to be released within 25 years, by 2017. The July 24 release was the first in a series of document dumps that National Archives says will take place before October 24, the statutory deadline for full disclosure.
Politico claims the first batch of new files show “How the CIA Came to Doubt the Official Story of JFK’s Murder.” In the article, reporter Philip Shenon and professor Larry Sabato revive the theory that Fidel Castro might have been behind the crime.
The “Castro done it” theory, it is worth noting, was first floated within hours of JFK’s murder — by CIA propaganda assets. The Cuban Student Directorate, a Miami-based organization funded by the agency, published a broadsheet less than 48 hours after JFK’s death, declaring that Oswald and Castro were the “presumed assassins.” The group was funded under a covert program with the code name AMSPELL. A declassified CIA memo shows the group was receiving $51,000 a month (the equivalent of $350,000 today) from the agency at the time of its conspiracy mongering.
The “botched” investigation of the Warren Commission failed to pick up on the possible Oswald-Castro connection in 1964, Shenon and Sabato say. Only in 1975, they claim, did CIA officials realize that “no one had properly followed up on clues about an especially mysterious chapter in Oswald’s life — a six-day, apparently self-financed trip to Mexico City.” As result of these lapses, they say, Oswald’s ties to Cuban intelligence were never properly investigated.
This is a charitable reading of the new files, as WhoWhatWhy has noted. A more thorough reading of the new records tells a different story: The JFK investigation was not “botched” or “bungled” — it was controlled by two top CIA officials. The new records, available on the National Archives website and searchable in more accessible form at BlackVault.com, document how the CIA misled JFK investigators on four key issues:
1. The agency’s conspiracy in November 1963 to assassinate Fidel Castro.
2. The date CIA personnel first opened a file on Lee Harvey Oswald.
3. What CIA operations officers knew about Oswald’s contacts with an agency-funded anti-Castro group in New Orleans in the summer of 1963.
4. What top officials knew about Oswald’s visit to the Cuban consulate six weeks before the assassination.
Eugene (OR) Register-Guard, Opinion: Be careful what you believe in age of Trump, R.A. Kris Millegan, Aug. 14, 2017. “You’re a conspiracy theorist,” my friend said disparagingly to me. I had told him about some of my research findings based upon information from my father, a former intelligence officer. Now, with the rise of conspiracy-theorist-in-chief Donald Trump and his apprentice Stephen Bannon (or is it the other way around?), there is plenty to talk about — a golden-age of conspiracy theories.
Many years of study of conspiracy theory lore leads me to suggest that Donald Trump is a co-opted sycophantic con man chucklehead, put in place to further an agenda. The “conspiracy’s” end game: rule the world through China. To do that, America, its institutions and its standing in the world must be destroyed.
Psychological warfare comes from the German term “weltanschauungskrieg,” meaning worldview warfare. So, in this age of Trump, be aware of what your read and hear. And be very, very careful about what you believe.
R.A. Kris Millegan of Springfield is the publisher of TrineDay, whose catalogue includes dozens of books about national and international conspiracies.
New York Daily News, Charlottesville crash suspect James Fields brandished shield for Vanguard America hate group before attack, Nicole Hensley, Aug. 13, 2017. James Fields Jr., the maniac driver who police say steered his beloved Dodge Challenger into a crowd of peaceful protesters, had been brandishing a shield emblazoned with a white supremacist emblem just hours before the deadly rampage. The Daily News photographed Fields on the front lines of a volatile rally about 10:30 a.m. Saturday in Charlottesville — flanked by other white men in polo shirts and tan slacks clutching the racially charged black-and-white insignia of the Vanguard America hate group.
Southern Poverty Law Center spokeswoman Rebecca Sturtevant told The News the logo — two white axes — is a variation of imagery used by the white supremacists and Fields’ outfit is standard among the hate group’s ranks. The Anti-Defamation League depicted Vanguard American as one focused on white identity, but noted that its members have “increasingly demonstrated a neo-Nazi ideology.”
Indeed, Fields’ Facebook page was peppered with similar alt-right and Nazi imagery — such as Hitler’s baby photo; a tourist shot of the Reichstag in Berlin; and cartoon of Pepe the Frog, the anthropomorphic frog hijacked by right-wing groups — before it was deactivated around 11:30 p.m. Saturday. Fields, 20, is being held at the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail.
Fields, of Maumee, Ohio, titled the page “Conscious Ovis Aries,” using the Latin word for sheep. There was also a picture of him posing with the car that authorities say caused so much mayhem in downtown Charlottesville. Fields’ mother, Samantha Bloom, said she did not know of her son’s apparent involvement in the deadly wreck until late in the day.
Washington Post, Charlottesville victim ‘was there standing up for what was right,’ Ellie Silverman and Michael Laris, Heather D. Heyer, 32, was killed when a vehicle plowed into a group of counterprotesters. Authorities said 19 other pedestrians suffered injuries and the driver was charged with second-degree murder.
Palmer Report, In wake of Charlottesville attack, conservative Drudge Report turns against Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Aug. 13, 2017. Drudge Report has spent the past twenty-plus years prominently pushing the conservative political agenda, and the site has been a major supporter of Donald Trump along the way. As Trump has unraveled in office and his popularity has sunk, there have been a few recent instances of Drudge’s support for Trump seeming to soften. But in the wake of the Charlottesville attack and Trump’s weak response to it, Drudge Report now appears to have turned against Trump entirely.
Here’s what the front-and-center of the Drudge Report home page looks like as of right now. This is the precise opposite of the kind of headline you might expect from the site:
Drudge Report is mocking Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan by invoking the “Make America Hate Again” version of it that Trump’s detractors have long been using. This is a remarkable development, in that Drudge is essentially acknowledging the hateful and racist and divisive rhetoric from Trump which led to the deadly Charlottesville terrorist attack. This comes far too late for Drudge to score any points with the anti-Trump crowd, but he’s not worried about them one way or the other. The point is that Drudge is now clearly hedging its bets when it comes to its own conservative audience.
Matt Drudge (shown at right) knows his audience. He previously bet that he could score big with them by getting on the Donald Trump train. Now he seems to be betting that an already unraveling Trump will be hurt badly by this latest incident, and that he can score with his own audience by going against Trump. Considering that Drudge’s audience is made up entirely of Republicans and conservatives, this can be interpreted as a sign that there’s now more to be gained on that side of the fence by kicking Trump than by continuing to prop him up.
RT, Kentucky to speed up relocation of Confederate monuments after Charlottesville violence, Staff report, Aug. 13, 2017. The mayor of Lexington, Kentucky, is speeding up the relocation of Confederate statues in the wake of Saturday’s violent clashes and a car-ramming incident in Charlottesville, in neighboring Virginia. On Saturday, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray said that Confederate-era symbols – statues of Generals Breckinridge and Hunt Morgan – will be taken down from the historic courthouse in Lexington.
Alaska’s Top Newspaper Files for Bankruptcy Protection: Media Around the Nation
Craig Medred, Dispatch in bankruptcy, Aug. 13, 2017. Alice Rogoff is out as the publisher of the Alaska Dispatch News. The Binkleys of Fairbanks and Alaska Media LLC are in, at least for now. And what it means for Alaska journalism is to be decided in Bankruptcy Court. Rogoff’s last act as Alaska’s biggest media mogul was to announce via here newspaper that Chapter 11 bankruptcy papers were filed on Saturday evening. They had been expected after GCI, the Alaska telecommunications company, went to court on Friday demanding she pay nearly $1.4 million in back rent and electric bills due for use of its building and leave the building as she promised three years ago.
Rogoff (shown in a file photo) in 2014 cut a deal with GCI to sell it the old Anchorage Daily News building on the edge of Mountain View just north of downtown in order to obtain enough cash to complete the financing of her $34 million purchase of the News itself. Advisors told her the newspaper wasn’t worth that much.
She wanted it so much she refused to listen and after the purchase refused to make the staff and budget cuts necessary to make the paper financially stable. As a result, it lost a reported $4 million in its first year, and continued to lose money at a similar rate up until about February of this year when Rogoff started saving money by simply not paying her bills. She now appears ready to let her prize go for a tiny fraction of the original cost.
Craig Medred, The Fallacy, Aug. 13, 2017. The Alaska Dispatch News, the 49th state’s largest newspapers and most-visited online news site, is teetering on the edge of financial collapse, and some on the right in one of the nation’s most conservative states are celebrating. “If they hadn’t become a shill for left-wing policies, I’m sure many would still have subscriptions,” opined retired Marine Tom Burton from Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. He echoed the views of many.
There is, no doubt, a sliver of truth to this observation as Dispatch publisher Alice Rogoff would admit if she were up to admitting anything these days. Given that she isn’t, what she once told this reporter will have to stand: “Why do they think I’m so liberal? I’m a Romney Republican.”
Rogoff clearly understood the negatives attached to the L-word in parts of Alaska, but associating herself with a man so widely viewed as part of the American ruling class seems only slightly better. That Rogoff’s behind the scenes political maneuverings and lack of transparency while preaching openness have caused credibility problems for her newspaper that far outweigh issues of political balance or lack thereof cannot be ignored.
As for the product produced by the people under her command, the idea that the newspaper itself was or is some flaming liberal organ is simply wrong. Yes, it often leans left, and the Three Partisans – columnists Charles Wohlforth, Dermot Cole and Shannyn Moore, the She-Ra of slurs – can sometimes make it look far more leftist than the old Anchorage Daily Worker, as critics of the Daily News once called that newspaper.
Palmer Report, Tom Arnold says, “the right people” now have Donald Trump’s racist Apprentice tapes, Bill Palmer, Aug. 13, 2017. During the 2016 election, actor Tom Arnold and others asserted that they’d seen video of Donald Trump saying grotesquely racist things while on the set of The Apprentice. But no one could access the video because it was locked down by a time-limited password, and the matter ended up being largely forgotten. Now, however, Arnold is speaking up about the video and he seems to be offering hope that it’ll surface.
Washington Post, 1 dead after car hits crowd during protests amid white nationalist gathering in Va., Joe Heim, Ellie Silverman, T. Rees Shapiro and Emma Brown, Aug. 12, 2017. A chaotic and violent day turned to tragedy Saturday as hundreds of white nationalists, neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members — planning to stage what they described as their largest rally in decades to “take America back” — clashed with counterprotesters in the streets and a car plowed into crowds, killing one person and injuring 19 others.
One woman died and others were hurt when a car hit a crowd in Charlottesville, where white nationalists, neo-Nazis and Klansmen clashed with counterprotesters. The car’s driver, James Alex Fields Jr., of Ohio, was arrested and charged with one count of second-degree murder and other crimes. Later, two state troopers assisting with the unrest died in a helicopter crash. The FBI field office in Richmond and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Virginia said late Saturday that they have opened a civil rights investigation into the deadly car crash.
“The violence and deaths in Charlottesville strike at the heart of American law and justice,” U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “When such actions arise from racial bigotry and hatred, they betray our core values and cannot be tolerated.”
In brief remarks at a late-afternoon news conference in New Jersey to discuss veterans’ health care, Trump said he was following the events in Charlottesville closely. “The hate and the division must stop and must stop right now,” Trump said, without specifically mentioning white nationalists or their views. “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides.”
Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, a Trump supporter who was in Charlottesville on Saturday, quickly replied. “I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror & remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists,” he wrote. Asked by a reporter in New Jersey whether he wanted the support of white nationalists, dozens of whom wore red Make America Great Again hats during the Charlottesville riots, Trump did not respond.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency shortly before 11 a.m., saying he was “disgusted by the hatred, bigotry and violence” and blaming “mostly out-of-state protesters.”
Washington Post, Opinion: Trump babbles in the face of tragedy, Michael Gerson, Aug. 12, 2017. Michael Gerson (shown at right) is a nationally syndicated columnist who was a speechwriter for GOP President George W. Bush. One of the difficult but primary duties of the modern presidency is to speak for the nation in times of tragedy. A space shuttle explodes. An elementary school is attacked. The twin towers come down in a heap of ash and twisted steel. It falls to the president to express something of the nation’s soul — grief for the lost, sympathy for the suffering, moral clarity in the midst of confusion, confidence in the unknowable purposes of God.
Not every president does this equally well. But none have been incapable. Until Donald Trump. Trump’s reaction to events in Charlottesville was alternately trite (“come together as one”), infantile (“very, very sad”) and meaningless (“we want to study it”). “There are so many great things happening in our country,” he said, on a day when racial violence took a life.
Washington Post, Trump condemns ‘egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides,’ John Wagner and Jenna Johnson, Aug. 12, 2017. The president ignored shouted questions from reporters about what he thought of the white nationalists at the event who said they supported him and were inspired by his campaign.
Raw Story, ‘The f*cking Jew-lovers are gassing us!’: Nazi Charlottesville marcher drops F-bomb live on Fox News, David Ferguson, Aug. 12, 2017. Fox News reporter Doug McKelway got more than he bargained for on Saturday when he attempted to interview a group of pro-Nazi marchers at the “Unite the Right” protest in Charlottesville, VA. McKelway seemed shocked that the right-wing marchers who showed up in vintage Nazi helmets, armed with brass knuckles and carrying shields weren’t interested in having an intellectual conversation about the role of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in U.S. history.
“Nobody’s having any sort of political discussions here,” McKelway said. “No one’s having any intellectual discussions or historical discussions about the significance of Robert E. Lee or the Confederate flag or anything.” “They’re just angry,” he said, “and demonstrating it here. Let’s see if we can talk to some of these guys.” He approached a group of helmeted, shield-carrying men and asked where they were headed.
“We’re trying to survive,” one said melodramatically. “They’re gassing us!” said another in reference to police tear gas being used to disperse the protesters. “The f*cking Jew-lovers are gassing us!”
White Nationalists March In Charlottesville Torchlight Parade
Inside Trump White House
Axios, Trump suspects Bannon of leaking, putting job in jeopardy, Jonathan Swan, Aug. 12, 2017. President Trump has told close associates that he believes Steve Bannon is behind damaging leaks about White House colleagues, putting the chief strategist’s job in fresh jeopardy, sources close to the president tell me.
Trump has told associates he’s fed up with what he sees as self-promotion by Bannon, who did not join the core team this week at the president’s golf club in Bedminster, N.J. Bannon’s time with Trump has diminished since the new chief of staff, retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, took over and imposed discipline on the circus around the Oval Office. Bannon declined to comment.
Why it matters: POTUS has been frustrated with Bannon in the past, but he never had as easy a vehicle for getting rid of him. Kelly is expected to make West Wing changes, anyway. As one top aide said: “Kelly can do the dirty work.”
Washington Post, What will North Korean leader Kim Jong Un do? Even the experts don’t know, Anna Fifield, Aug. 12, 2017. If North Korea goes ahead with its threat to fire ballistic missiles toward the American territory of Guam, the order will come from none other than Kim Jong Un himself. The regime has a history of making bellicose threats that it cannot or does not make good on. This may well be one of those cases. Or it might not.
CNN, 7 White Helmets rescuers shot dead in Syria gun attack, Eyad Kourdi and Angela Dewan, Aug. 12, 2017. Seven members of the White Helmets rescue group were shot dead Saturday by unidentified gunmen who stormed the volunteers’ office in northwestern Syria, the group and opposition activists said. The attackers also stole two vans, helmets and walkie-talkies, according to a statement from the group, which is formally known as the Syrian Civil Defense.
The Aleppo Media Center activist group also said seven volunteers were killed in an attack — and posted video and photos of their funeral. A procession of mostly men carried the dead to be buried, the images show. Many of the mourners wore the White Helmets badge and broke down in tears.
The attack occurred in the city of Sarmin in Idlib province, which last month came mostly under the control of Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, a coalition of Salafi jihadist groups that includes Fateh al-Sham. The latter group had been known as Jabhat al-Nusra before renouncing its ties to al Qaeda. Idlib, one of the last Syrian provinces still beyond regime control, has been experiencing spikes in violence.
After the Syrian government — with the help of Russian air power — regained control of the key city of Aleppo last year, masses of opposition rebels were bused to Idlib as part of a people-swap agreement.
The Spy Who Loved Her
Washington Post, Mistress and muse of James Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming, dies at 104, Matt Schudel, Aug. 12, 2017. Blanche Blackwell’s romantic life inspired one of Noël Coward’s plays about an upper-crust love triangle, and swashbuckling Hollywood star Errol Flynn wanted to marry her. She was a member of one of Jamaica’s richest families but was best known as the mistress and muse of Ian Fleming, the rakish author who was the creator of James Bond.
Mrs. Blackwell died Aug. 8 in London at 104. Vivacious and outdoorsy, Mrs. Blackwell was known for her bright smile and casual allure. She first met Flynn — “a gorgeous god,” in her words — in the 1940s, during one of his Jamaican vacations. She lived long enough to give business advice to U2’s Bono, whose career was launched by her son, Chris Blackwell, the founder of Island Records.
CNN Plugs O’Reilly’s New Book
Media Matters via National Memo, Opinion: CNN Is Sending The Wrong Message By Hosting Bill O’Reilly, Pam Vogel, Aug. 12, 2017. Less than four months after reported serial workplace sexual harasser Bill O’Reilly was forced out at Fox News, he’s returning to cable airwaves on CNN to promote his latest weird amateur history book.
CNN’s Tom Kludt reported on August 10 — less than four months after O’Reilly was allowed to leave behind 21st Century Fox with up to $25 million in hand after several women reported him for sexual harassment — that O’Reilly will soon sit down for an interview with CNN’s Michael Smerconish. It’s hard to think of another move by CNN that would be as wholly unnecessary and deeply insulting to its audience as this.
After O’Reilly and 21st Century Fox, Fox News’ parent company, paid out at least $13 million in settlements with five women reporting sexual harassment by O’Reilly (shown in a file photo), and after weeks of relentless activism from progressive organizers including Media Matters and Color of Change, of advertisers pulling their ads from the O’Reilly Factor time slot, of more courageous women coming forward to share their own reports of misconduct by O’Reilly, of hundreds of sexual violence survivors asking Fox to do better, O’Reilly was finally deemed too toxic — even for Fox.
He has spent the months since his firing broadcasting his unsolicited thoughts about the news from his office, via an independent podcast and, now, a video show available on his website for paying members.
Media and Politics: Sharper Trump Reporting Needed?
Salon, I didn’t get his endorsement when I ran for governor — but the severely troubled man I met has only gotten worse, Bill Curry, Aug. 12, 2017. The author, former Connecticut State Treasurer Bill Curry. was the Democratic Party’s nominee for governor twice, losing each time. He then worked as counselor in the Clinton White House.
In 1994, I visited the home of Donald Trump. He was a Democrat then, of sorts, and I was the party’s nominee for governor of Connecticut. He’d taken an interest in our state owing to his keen desire to lodge a casino in Bridgeport, an idea I found economically and morally dubious. I had scant hope of enlisting him, but made the trip anyway, thinking that if I convinced him I might win, he’d be less apt to bankroll my opponent.
In 2016, the precariousness of Trump’s mental health was clear to all with eyes to see, but like extras in a remake of “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” reporters averted their glances. The day after the election, they were all in a state of shock, like staff at an asylum who woke one morning to find that the patient who thought he was Napoleon had just been named emperor of France.
The pathologies of American journalism are by now clichés: aversion to policy analysis; addiction to horse-race politics; smashing of walls that once separated news, opinion and advertising; an ideology that mistakes evenhandedness for objectivity. Yet we hear scant talk of reform. The press excels at public rituals of soul-searching but has little taste for the real thing. That said, its reluctance to discuss mental health reflects its virtues as well as its vices. Of major outlets, Fox News does by far the most psychological profiling. (It turns out all liberals are crazy.)
In 2016 Trump’s real vulnerabilities were his mental health and personal finances. We can now add his proto-fascism and his possible or intended treason to the list. Trump was lucky in the draw. His defects were so monumental, so toxic, we had no protocol for talking about them. There are effective and responsible ways to talk about all such things, but first our media and political elites must find the courage to name them. They know as well as you or I who he is.
Trump got to be president in part because there were so many things Democrats and the media didn’t think or couldn’t bring themselves to say. Trump’s whole life is a fraud that Robert Mueller may soon expose as a criminal enterprise. His business career was a disaster till a book someone else wrote and a TV show someone else produced made him a celebrity. He then fell into the only line of work he ever prospered in: licensing that celebrity. He does it pretty well, but Zsa Zsa Gabor did it first and Kim Kardashian did it better and neither of them should be president.
In 2016 Trump’s real vulnerabilities were his mental health and personal finances. We can now add his proto-fascism and his possible or intended treason to the list. Trump was lucky in the draw. His defects were so monumental, so toxic, we had no protocol for talking about them. There are effective and responsible ways to talk about all such things, but first our media and political elites must find the courage to name them. They know as well as you or I who he is.
New York Times, Trump Warns North Korea: U.S. Is ‘Locked and Loaded,’ Peter Baker, Aug. 11, 2017. For the third time in a week, President Trump suggested he was ready to strike the small, isolated Asian country that has been developing nuclear weapons.
As a practical matter, Mr. Trump’s comment does not necessarily indicate a change in military readiness or any imminent action.
New York Times, Even the Most Precise Strike Could Prompt Retaliation, Michael R. Gordon and Eric Schmitt, Aug. 11, 2017. A limited action, like knocking out a missile before it launches, could set off a spiral of escalation.
Washington Post, China warns North Korea: You’re on your own if you go after the United States, Simon Denyer, Aug. 11, 2017. China won’t come to North Korea’s help if it launches missiles threatening U.S. soil and there is retaliation, a state-owned newspaper warned on Friday, but it would intervene if Washington strikes first. The Global Times newspaper is not an official mouthpiece of the Communist Party, but in this case its editorial probably does reflect government policy and can be considered “semiofficial,” experts said.
China has repeatedly warned both Washington and Pyongyang not to do anything that raises tensions or causes instability on the Korean Peninsula, and strongly reiterated that suggestion Friday. “The current situation on the Korean Peninsula is complicated and sensitive,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a statement.
The Atlantic, How America Went Haywire, Kurt Anderson, Aug. 11, 2017 (September issue). The term American exceptionalism refers to the notion that the force of the American idea, along with the force of American arms, combine to make the United States the indispensable global defender of freedom and progress. Only Americans could have defeated fascism and Soviet Communism in a span of 50 years; only Americans, fueled by faith in the inexorable, universal rightness of their national creed, could successfully lead a global network of free and thriving democracies across a century.
But in a cover story this month, Kurt Andersen argues that Americans are exceptional in other ways as well: We are, as a people, unusually susceptible to fantastical beliefs, implausible schemes, and visions of heavenly and earthly utopias. Our weakness for the improbable and the incredible makes our country a fountainhead of invention and idealism. It also turns us into easy marks for grifters and charlatans.
Washington Post, Trump won’t ‘rule out a military option’ in Venezuela, Jenna Johnson and John Wagner, Aug. 11, 2017. President Trump said Friday that he is “not going to rule out a military option” to confront the autocratic government of Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro and the deepening crisis in the South American country. When asked by a reporter whether this military option would be led by the United States, Trump responded: “We don’t talk about it, but a military operation, a military option is certainly something that we could pursue.”
Venezuela is edging toward the economic brink after an internationally condemned election last month created an all-powerful legislature loyal to Maduro. The government is sharply intensifying its crackdown on dissent, issuing arrest warrants for rebellious mayors, targeting unfriendly politicians and menacing average citizens who speak their minds.
Since the July 30 vote, the value of the local currency, the bolívar, has fluctuated more wildly than ever, a significant feat for a country saddled with the world’s highest inflation rate. As a result, street prices for staples such as bread and tomatoes have doubled in less than two weeks. New estimates from the large Venezuelan data firm Ecoanalítica suggest that the economy could shrink 10.4 percent this year, exacerbating a four-year nose dive that some economists already call worse than the United States’ Great Depression.
The president’s aggressive approach rattled Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “No. Congress obviously isn’t authorizing war in Venezuela,” Sasse (shown at right) said in a statement late Friday. “Nicolas Maduro is a horrible human being, but Congress doesn’t vote to spill Nebraskans’ blood based on who the Executive lashes out at today.
GOP Domestic Agendas, Infighting
Washington Post, Congress will have 12 working days to prevent a government shutdown, Kelsey Snell, Aug. 11, 2017. When lawmakers return in September, the House will also have just 12 legislative days to raise the federal borrowing limit to avoid default. And Republicans will probably have to turn to Democrats for results.
Washington Post, At raucous town halls, Republicans have faced another round of anger over health care, David Weigel, Aug. 11, 2017. Republicans had hoped to begin a conversation about tax reform and must-pass budget measures. Instead, they’ve faced constituents still focused on the stalled effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Courts and Cops: Huge Judgment for ‘False” Rape Claim
Washington Post, Jury orders blogger to pay $8.4 million to ex-Army colonel she accused of rape, Tom Jackman, Aug. 11, 2017. Col. David “Wil” Riggins, after a highly decorated Army career that included multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, was on the verge of promotion to brigadier general in July 2013 when he got a phone call at the Pentagon from the Army’s Criminal Investigative Division to come in for a meeting. Once there, he learned that a blogger in Washington state had just accused him of raping her, when both were cadets at West Point in 1986. An investigation was underway.
Riggins waived his right to an attorney and immediately gave a statement denying any sexual assault of the woman, Susan Shannon of Everett, Wash. Shannon also cooperated with the CID investigation, which could not “prove or disprove Ms. Shannon’s allegation she was raped,” the CID report concluded. But in the spring of 2014, with the armed forces facing heavy criticism for their handling of sexual assault cases, Secretary of the Army John McHugh recommended removing Riggins from the list for promotion to general. Riggins promptly retired.
Trump White House & The Media
New York Times, White House Aide Causes Uproar at Journalism Event, Yamiche Alcindor, Aug. 11, 2017. Omarosa Manigault-Newman’s appearance at a gathering of black journalists devolved into a shouting match after she refused to discuss President Trump’s remarks endorsing harsh police tactics. The appearance of Omarosa Manigault-Newman, a White House aide shown at right in a portrait by Gage Skidmore, caused an uproar at a National Association of Black Journalists convention on Friday after she refused to answer some questions about President Trump’s recent remarks encouraging the police to be rougher while arresting criminal suspects.
Ms. Manigault-Newman, whose role in the Trump administration as an advocate on issues concerning African-Americans was also scrutinized, appeared at the annual gathering for a panel that was called “Black and Blue: Raising Our Sons, Protecting Our Communities.” It was moderated by a longtime journalist, Ed Gordon, a host at Bounce TV. The event began cordially, but within minutes, it devolved into a shouting match between Ms. Manigault-Newman and Mr. Gordon. She interrupted him, accusing him several times of attacking her as Mr. Gordon pressed for answers about her role in the Trump administration and changes to criminal justice policies under Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
In one of the tensest exchanges, Ms. Manigault-Newman said, “Shame on you,” to Mr. Gordon. He replied, in part, “So here’s what you’re not gonna do,” before explaining that he would not let her “railroad” the event. The panel started with Ms. Manigault-Newman answering a question about the deaths of her father and brother to violence in Ohio. She said she understood the pain of losing a family member and that she was dismayed by accusations that she does not sympathize with families whose loved ones have been killed by the police.
Ms. Manigault-Newman is the director of communications for the White House Office of Public Liaison. She also noted that in her role, she is often the “only African-American representative” in the White House and frequently tries to be an advocate on behalf of black people. But the discussion quickly worsened from there. It became a 25-minute argument during which Ms. Manigault-Newman called Mr. Gordon “aggressive,” with Mr. Gordon pointedly asking what effect Ms. Manigault-Newman had made on the president.
Mother Jones Magazine, Trump Has Been Thinking About Nuclear War for Decades. Here’s Why That’s Scary, David Corn, Aug. 11, 2017. It’s been quite some time since Americans — and citizens of other nations — had to worry about nuclear war during their daily lives. But it has taken just a few tweets and a couple of utterances from President Donald Trump to remind people that the planet can be turned into ashes by the act of one man.
In a 1984 interview with the Washington Post, Trump, then merely a 38-year-old celebrity developer, shared his fantasies: He was hoping to build the “greatest hotel in the world” and construct the world’s “tallest” building in New York City — and one day become the United States’ chief negotiator with the Soviet Union for nuclear weapons.
In between boasts of how rich and famous he was, Trump declared that he could negotiate a great nuclear arms deal with Moscow and said he wanted to head the US arms negotiating squad. “He says he has never acted on his nuclear concern,” the newspaper reported. “But he says that his good friend Roy Cohn, the flamboyant Republican lawyer, has told him this interview is a perfect time to start.”
New Trial Ordered for 9-11 Suspect ‘KSM’
Jurist Magazine, Federal appeals court rules military judge should have recused himself in 9/11 case, Lawrenz Fares, Aug. 11, 2017. The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled Wednesday that Judge Scott Silliman should have recused himself in a case concerning multiple defendants who were charged with aiding in the 9/11 attacks. The petitioner, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, argued that Silliman was biased in the matter and cited a 2010 comment in which Silliman called Mohammad and his co-defendants the major conspirators in the 9/11 attacks.
The court found that because Silliman “expressed an opinion that Petitioner is guilty of the very crimes of which he is accused,” he manifested an “apparent bias” and thus should have recused himself. The court granted the petition asking the court to recuse Silliman and vacated a decision by the United States Court of Military Commission to reinstate charges for attacking civilians and destroying property in violation of the law of war against Mohammad and his co-defendants.
Washington Post, Trump escalates rhetoric on North Korea’s nuclear program, Philip Rucker and Karen DeYoung, Aug. 10, 2017. The president said that his “fire and fury” threat to North Korea may not have been tough enough and that “things will happen to them like they never thought possible” should the isolated country attack the United States or its allies.
President Trump (shown on the current Newsweek cover) escalated his rhetoric about North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, threatening here Thursday that “things will happen to them like they never thought possible” should the isolated country attack the United States or its allies.
Trump told reporters that his Tuesday statement warning of “fire and fury” may not have been “tough enough,” but even as he stepped up his brinksmanship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the president sought to reassure anxious people around the world that he has the situation under control.
Washington Post, China urges North Korea to stop missile tests, Simon Denyer, Aug. 10, 2017. China’s foreign minister said new U.N. Security Council sanctions on North Korea were the right response to a series of missile tests. To many Americans, China bears a huge responsibility for the North Korea crisis because of its failure to rein in its volatile ally in Pyongyang.
But in Beijing, the view is different. Here, a large slice of the blame goes to Washington, because of its consistently hostile attitude toward North Korea — a stance that China argues has only encouraged the regime to accelerate its nuclear weapons program. Trump’s rhetoric gave China the perfect platform to project itself as the voice of reason — especially as it had just agreed to join the world in stiffening sanctions against North Korea.
DC ‘Swamp’ Intrigues, Bombast
New York Times, New Jab, Trump Says McConnell Perhaps Should Quit, Matt Flegenheimer, Aug. 10, 2017. For days, Mr. Trump has trained his fire on Mr. McConnell, venting on Twitter about the Senate majority leader’s inability to get a health care repeal bill passed. President Trump on Thursday sharply escalated his criticism of the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, raising the possibility that Mr. McConnell should perhaps relinquish his position if he cannot deliver on signature legislative priorities.
For days, Mr. Trump has trained his fire on Mr. McConnell, venting on Twitter about the Senate’s inability to pass a health care repeal bill before lawmakers left for the August recess. Speaking to reporters on Thursday afternoon outside his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., Mr. Trump was asked if Mr. McConnell should consider stepping down.
Daily Beast, The ‘No-Nonsense’ Judge Who Could Decide Trump’s Fate, Betsy Woodruff, Aug. 10, 2017. Judge Beryl Howell might be on her way from behind-the-scenes player to household name. Robert Mueller may be the face of the independent investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. election, but a cybersecurity wonk on the federal bench may help decide Trump & Co.’s fate.
Behind the scenes, Beryl Howell is in a position to make pivotal decisions. And her importance could only grow. Federal court rules indicate that she signed off on Mueller’s request to assemble a grand jury, a highly secretive gathering of about two dozen people in Washington’s E. Barrett Prettyman courthouse that will grill witnesses and demand Trump associates’ documents.
New York Times, Trump Thanks Putin on U.S. Expulsions: We’ll Save Money, Peter Baker, President Trump kept to his habit of not criticizing President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia after the Kremlin forced the U.S. Embassy in Moscow to cut its staff by 755 people.
Haaretz (Israel), The ‘Alt-right’ Plot Against McMaster, Spurred by Its Jewish Fellow Travelers, Dov S. Zakheim, Aug. 10, 2017. Dov S. Zakheim was Under Secretary of Defense (2001-2004) and Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (1985-87). If ever there was a ménage à trois made in hell, it is the one between Steve Bannon, Mort Klein and Caroline Glick. The recent Breitbart News “scoop,” headlined “Exclusive – Zionist Organization of America Analysis Determines McMaster Hostile to Trump, Calls for Reassignment,” is the latest indication of the unholy alliance between the so-called alt-right and extreme Zionists that seeks to oust U.S. National Security Advisor General H. R. McMaster.
Breitbart reported that ZOA, “backed in large part by Trump ally GOP mega-donor and Israel defender Sheldon Adelson, is calling for President Trump at the very least to reassign McMaster to a different administration position where he can do no more harm to Israel and efforts to battle radical Islamic terrorism.” Breitbart added that the ZOA’s critique, articulated by its long-time president Mort Klein, “was provided to Breitbart News exclusively ahead of its public release.”
Breitbart reported that ZOA, “backed in large part by Trump ally GOP mega-donor and Israel defender Sheldon Adelson, is calling for President Trump at the very least to reassign McMaster to a different administration position where he can do no more harm to Israel and efforts to battle radical Islamic terrorism.” McMaster had Bannon removed from the committee. McMaster has also undertaken the systematic purge of several of Flynn’s more extreme and less competent assistants, which has outraged Klein and Glick.
Trumps Cash In
Washington Post, Trump D.C. hotel turns $2 million profit in four months, Jonathan O’Connell, Aug. 10, 2017. The figure dramatically beat the Trump Organization’s expectations and gave the first hard number to critics who charge that Trump is profiting from his presidency.
Setbacks For Trump Media Defenders
Washington Post, Ex-Trump staffers confirm they have a son but offer different accounts, Emily Heil, Aug. 10, 2017. Jason Miller and A.J. Delgado on Wednesday confirmed the birth of their son, but the former campaign staffers to President Trump offered differing accounts of their relationship to a New York tabloid and on Twitter. Miller, who was named White House communications director during the presidential transition — and who is married to another woman — confirmed the birth of son William to the New York Post, which reported that the child was the result of a campaign fling with Delgado.
Miller, a frequent defender of Trump as a CNN commentator, told the tab that his wife has accepted the child. The couple have two children of their own, including a daughter born in January. “My wife and I, along with our two daughters, are excited to welcome William into the world and into our family, and we appreciate the well wishes we’ve received from so many,” Miller told the New York Post.
So all’s happy, right? Maybe not. Delgado, 40, a Trump adviser and member of the transition team, swiftly clapped back on Twitter, saying she and Miller had dated for two months and that Miller had told her he was separated from his wife. She also disputed Miller’s statement. “I’m not sure what Jason means that he and his wife are excited to welcome Will. Really? News to me.”
The Hill, CNN cuts ties with Jeffrey Lord after ‘Sieg Heil’ tweet, Josh Delk and Joe Concha, CNN is reporting that it has severed ties with commentator Jeffery Lord on Thursday after he tweeted “Sieg Heil!” at a liberal activist on Twitter. Lord, a columnist for conservative magazine The American Spectator, tweeted the Nazi victory salute at Angelo Carusone, president of the liberal group Media Matters for America. “Nazi salutes are indefensible,” a CNN spokesperson said, according to the network. “Jeffrey Lord is no longer with the network.”
The controversial tweet by Lord gained attention after several publications reported it and Carusone took a screenshot and tweeted it at CNN, asking for the network to comment on “on air talent issuing (in serious and non-ironic way) Nazi victory salutes.” In the opinion piece that eventually led to his ouster from CNN, Lord took issue with a Media Matters campaign to get Fox’s Sean Hannity fired from his network.
McClatchy, Kushner fined for late financial report, Anita Kumar and Ben Wieder, Aug. 10, 2017. Jared Kushner (shown at right), who has spent months divesting pieces of his vast business empire to serve in the White House, was slapped with a fine by the Office of Government Ethics for late reporting of a financial transaction, according to a newly released document.
Another 17 White House staffers, including some of President Donald Trump’s top aides, filed their required personal financial disclosure statements late, according to data compiled by American Bridge 21st Century, a Democratic opposition research group, and confirmed by McClatchy.
Reince Priebus (shown above at left), who served as chief of staff until recently, was four days late. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was 23 days late. And Omarosa Manigault, director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison, received a 32-day extension but still missed her deadline by eight days.
Attack On U.S. Diplomats In Cuba?
Washington Post, U.S. investigates whether diplomats in Cuba were victims of an attack by a ‘covert sonic weapon,’ Anne Gearan, Aug. 10, 2017. A U.S. official confirmed that embassy employees suffered hearing damage and neurological symptoms that remain unexplained.
Future of Freedom Foundation, Opinion: The Cold War Roots of a New Korean War, Jacob G. Hornberger, Aug. 10, 2017. While President Trump’s impulsiveness and erratic behavior is clearly bringing America closer to war with North Korea, the real root of the Korean crisis lies not with him but rather with the Pentagon and the CIA, whose overwhelming power within the federal governmental structure is what really governs foreign policy, especially with respect to Korea.
Who would have ever thought that the national-security state’s anti-communist crusade in the 1940s and 1950s would lead to the possibility of another war in Korea in 2017, one that could lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, including tens of thousands of Americans?
Yet, that is precisely what has happened. Almost 70 years ago, the U.S. government intervened in the Korean civil war. It was a violent intervention that tremendously increased the death toll and destruction in both North Korea and South Korea. In North Korea, U.S. forces bombers carpet-bombed the entire nation, destroying not only cities but also rural villages. While Americans call the Korean War the “Forgotten War,” the North Koreans don’t. They have never forgotten the massive death and destruction that the Pentagon and the CIA intentionally wreaked on their nation.
Under what legal authority did the Pentagon and the CIA intervene in the Korean civil war? No legal authority whatsoever. The U.S. Constitution requires a congressional declaration of war before the president can legally wage war against another nation. President Truman, who ordered U.S. troops into Korea, did not secure that declaration of war. Instead of going to Congress, where America’s elected representatives are, he went to the United Nations, which is composed of unelected bureaucrats from foreign nations. Truman secured the permission of those unelected bureaucrats to sacrifice the lives of tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers in a foreign war thousands of miles away.
Needless to say, U.S. troops obeyed Truman’s order, notwithstanding the oaths they had all taken to support and defend the U.S. Constitution.
To make their moral case to the American people for intervening in Korea, Truman, the Pentagon, and the CIA, along with other U.S. officials, claimed that there was a vast communist conspiracy to take over the United States and the rest of the world, a conspiracy that supposedly was based in Moscow, Russia. The civil war in Korea was a step by the communists to further that conspiracy, they said. If the United States didn’t stop the Reds in Korea, it wouldn’t be long, U.S. officials maintained, before they came to America and turned our nation Red.
Paul Manafort, shown in a file photo when he was chairman of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, is a focus of a special counsel investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election
Washington Post, FBI raided ex-Trump campaign chairman’s home for Russia probe, Carol D. Leonnig, Tom Hamburger and Rosalind S. Helderman, Aug. 9, 2017. FBI agents raided the Alexandria home of President Trump’s former campaign chairman late last month, using a search warrant to seize documents and other materials, according to people familiar with the special counsel investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Federal agents appeared at Paul Manafort’s home without advance warning in the predawn hours of July 26, the day after he met voluntarily with the staff for the Senate Intelligence Committee. The search warrant was wide-ranging and FBI agents working with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III (shown at left) departed the home with various records.
The raid came as Manafort has been voluntarily producing documents to congressional committees investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. The search warrant indicates investigators may have argued to a federal judge they had reason to believe Manafort could not be trusted to turn over all records in response to a grand jury subpoena.
Palmer Report, MSNBC analyst: Robert Mueller already has Donald Trump’s tax returns, Bill Palmer, Aug. 9, 2017. Today we all learned that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had the FBI launch a pre-dawn raid on Paul Manafort’s home in order to seize evidence in Donald Trump’s Russia scandal – while Manafort was asleep in the bedroom (link). This points to Mueller taking the most aggressive approach possible in the Trump-Russia probe. Now one MSNBC analyst is asserting that Mueller already has Trump’s tax returns.
Matthew Miller, a frequent on-air Justice and Security Analyst on MSNBC, put it this way after the details surfaced of the Manafort raid: “Every sign we’ve seen to date shows Mueller moving very aggressively. Think it’s safe to assume he’s already gotten Trump’s tax returns.” And it’s easy to agree with his assertion. Today’s news, combined with the recent news that Mueller has had a Trump-Russia grand jury underway for weeks and it’s already issuing subpoenas, makes clear that he’s pulling no punches.
It also points to another crucial aspect of Mueller’s strategy. News of the Trump-Russia grand jury didn’t leak out until after the first round of subpoenas had gone out, which was weeks after the grand jury had first been impaneled. The FBI raid on Paul Manafort’s home, which was overseen by Mueller, involved the agents getting as far as Manafort’s bedroom door before waking him up. And so Mueller is quietly taking aggressive action, while also using the element of surprise to catch everyone involved in the Trump-Russia scandal off guard.
Project on Government Oversight, Watchdog: Significant Concerns Regarding Drinking Water Safety at Navy Bases Overseas, Mandy Smithberger, Aug. 9, 2017. A 2013 investigation by the Navy Inspector General (Navy IG) reveals shortfalls in the oversight and management of drinking water for Navy personnel stationed overseas — even in wealthy, developed countries. The previously unreleased report, obtained by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), concludes that “not a single Navy overseas drinking water system meets U.S. compliance standards” or the Navy’s own governing standards.
The Navy IG’s investigation found that One-Day Assessments were being used as the primary tool to determine whether water was safe to drink, and that such tests were “insufficient to verify the range and scope of compliance deficiencies, [or] water quality issues.” Relying on those assessments “created a very high risk for the Navy” (emphasis in original).
If our Navy overseas installations were operated in the United States, selective use of “health risk assessments” to circumvent drinking water standards/regulations and indifference to public health deficiencies would constitute knowing and willful violation of U.S. law. Unlike facilities in the continental United States, Navy installations overseas were not required to submit operational records or logs to review compliance with water standards. Additionally, the IG found that the sanitary surveys used were “not always independent.”
New York Times, Trump’s Threat of ‘Fire and Fury’ Raises Alarm in Asia, Steven Lee Myers and Choe Sang-Hun, Aug. 9, 2017. President Trump’s warning to Pyongyang sent a shudder through Asia on Wednesday. Some took Mr. Trump’s remark as posturing, but others said the danger of war had not seemed as clear and present in decades.
President Trump’s threat to unleash “fire and fury” against North Korea sent a shudder through Asia on Wednesday, raising alarm among allies and adversaries and, to some observers, making the possibility of military conflict over the North’s nuclear program seem more real.
With North Korea responding that it would, if attacked, strike American military forces in Guam, analysts warned that the escalating statements increased the likelihood of war — perhaps one based on miscalculation, should one side’s fiery rhetoric be misread by the other. Some played down Mr. Trump’s remark on Tuesday as simply a warning not to attack the United States, albeit one whose tone was more typical of North Korean propagandists than it was of past American presidents. Officials in South Korea and Japan said that while the situation was tense, it had not reached a crisis point.
Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson (shown at right) played down any imminent threat from North Korea, saying on Wednesday, “I think Americans should sleep well at night, have no concerns about this particular rhetoric of the last few days.”
Washington Post, Trump’s threats to North Korea were spontaneous and not drafted by advisers, officials say, Philip Rucker and Karen DeYoung, Aug. 9, 2017. The president had discussed escalating his rhetoric with chief of staff John F. Kelly and other advisers, but his warning of “fire and fury” was unscripted, according to officials with knowledge of the situation.
Politics Around the Nation
Legal Schnauzer, Why has Alabama political pipeline produced such awful candidates for Senate special election? That question can be answered with two words: Karl Rove, Roger Shuler, Aug. 9, 2017. The primaries in Alabama’s special election for the U.S. Senate are less than a week away (next Tuesday, August 15), and a member of the mainstream media (MSM) is complaining about the poor slate of candidates from both parties. That’s ironic because the MSM has a lot to do with the dismal political climate in Alabama. Kyle Whitmire, of al.com, wrote a piece yesterday, titled “What’s Wrong With Alabama’s Political Pipeline?” Whitmire’s been around long enough to know the answer to that question is easy; it can be summed up in two words — “Karl Rove.”
Daily Mail, North Korea threatens Guam: Pyongyang declares Kim Jong-un is ‘carefully examining’ plan to strike US Pacific military bases after Trump’s ferocious ‘fire and fury’ warning falls on deaf ears, Francesca Chambers and Regina F. Graham, Aug. 8, 2017. North Korea said it is ‘carefully examining’ a plan to strike the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam with missiles, just hours after President Donald Trump told the country that any threat to the U.S. would be met with ‘fire and fury.’
A spokesman for the Korean People’s Army, in a statement carried by the North’s state-run KCNA news agency, said Wednesday the strike plan will be ‘put into practice in a multi-current and consecutive way any moment’ once leader Kim Jong Un (shown at right) makes a decision.
Guam, which is roughly 2,128 miles from North Korea, is home to both Andersen Air Force Base and Naval Base Guam housing thousands of American service members and their families. Roughly 28 percent of the island is occupied by the U.S. military. The base houses bomber assurance and deterrence missions, including six B-52s which the air force says provide ‘strategic global strike capability [to] deter potential adversaries and provide reassurance to allies’ and that they are ready to go. In another statement citing a different military spokesman, North Korea also said it could carry out a pre-emptive operation if the U.S. showed signs of provocation.
Earlier Pyongyang said it was ready to give Washington a ‘severe lesson’ with its strategic nuclear force in response to any U.S. military action. The statement from the North comes after Trump told the country’s leader Tuesday that additional threats of violence against the U.S. ‘will be met with fire and the fury like the world has never seen.’
The Pentagon overlooking the skyline in Washington, DC (Defense Department photo)
New York Times, Trump Warns North Korea of ‘Fire and Fury’ If Threatened, Peter Baker and Choe Sang-Hun, Aug. 8, 2017. President Trump threatened on Tuesday to unleash “fire and fury” against North Korea if it endangers the United States as tensions with the isolated nuclear-armed state grow into perhaps the most serious foreign policy challenge yet in his young administration.
“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” Mr. Trump told reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J. “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening beyond a normal state and as I said they will be met with fire and fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.”
The president’s comments came as North Korea earlier in the day escalated its criticism of the United States, as well as its neighboring allies, by warning that it will mobilize all its resources to take “physical action” in retaliation against the latest round of United Nations sanctions.
The statement, carried by the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency, was the strongest indication yet that the country could conduct another nuclear or missile test, as it had often done in response to past United Nations sanctions. Until now, the North’s response to the latest sanctions had been limited.
Kim Jong-un, shown above in a file photo, is the Chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) and supreme leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), commonly referred to as North Korea.
Roll Call, Cautious Congressional Response to Trump’s ‘Fire and Fury’ With North Korea, Niels Lesniewski, Aug. 8, 2017. President Donald Trump’s warning of “fire and fury” in response to additional provocations by North Korea is not being received lightly by senior lawmakers. “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” Trump said Tuesday at his golf club in Bedminster Township, N.J., according to the White House pool covering Trump. “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening beyond a normal statement, and as I said they will be met with fire and fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.”
Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (shown at right) thought the language might be ill-advised, particularly since carrying out a strike on North Korea could lead to significant destruction in South Korea. The Arizona Republican signaled he would prefer the “speak softly and carry a big stick” of President Theodore Roosevelt. “I take exception to the president’s comments because you’ve gotta be sure you can do what you say you can do,” McCain said on KTAR radio.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat shown at left, said that efforts to isolate Pyongyang have not worked, and she called for direct talks with the regime. “The United States must quickly engage North Korea in a high-level dialogue without any preconditions. Hopefully, Secretary [of State Rex Tillerson] is already discussing the possibility of reopening talks with our Asian partners during his current trip. In my view, diplomacy is the only sound path forward,” said Feinstein, a former chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Washington Post, North Korea making missile-ready nuclear weapons, U.S. analysts say, Joby Warrick, Ellen Nakashima and Anna Fifield, Aug. 8, 2017. North Korea has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles, crossing a key threshold on the path to becoming a full-fledged nuclear power, U.S. intelligence officials have concluded in a confidential assessment.
The analysis completed by the Defense Intelligence Agency comes after another assessment that raised the estimate for the number of bombs in the country’s atomic arsenal. North Korea has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles, crossing a key threshold on the path to becoming a full-fledged nuclear power, U.S. intelligence officials have concluded in a confidential assessment.
The new analysis completed last month by the Defense Intelligence Agency comes on the heels of another intelligence assessment that sharply raises the official estimate for the total number of bombs in the communist country’s atomic arsenal. The U.S. calculated last month that up to 60 nuclear weapons are now controlled by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. Some independent experts believe the number of bombs is much smaller.
The findings are likely to deepen concerns about an evolving North Korean military threat that appears to be advancing far more rapidly than many experts had predicted. U.S. officials last month concluded that Pyongyang is also outpacing expectations in its effort to build an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking cities on the American mainland.
Washington Post, A federal climate report counters the Trump administration’s views. The White House is reviewing, Steven Mufson, Aug. 8, 2017 print edition). Many scientists view the draft report — which finds a strong link between climate change and human activity — as a test of the new administration’s attitude toward science in general. A climate report based on work conducted by scientists in 13 federal agencies is under active review at the White House, and its conclusions about the far-reaching damage already occurring from global warming are at odds with the Trump administration’s views.
The report, known as the Climate Science Special Report, finds it is “extremely likely” that more than half of the rise in temperatures over the past four decades has been caused by human activity — in contrast to Trump Cabinet members’ views that the magnitude of that contribution is uncertain.
Palmer Report, Opinion: Amid the dumbest vacation of all time, Donald Trump’s approval rating just fell to another all new all time low, Bill Palmer, Aug. 8, 2017. When the going gets tough, Donald Trump goes and hides in New Jersey and makes everything even worse for himself. Okay, so maybe that’s not quite how the classic phrase goes, but at this point society is just winging it anyway. And now that Trump is taking out his frustrations on poorly aimed golf balls instead of fighting for what little remains of his political life, a new major poll says that his approval rating just hit another all time low.
Forget about the other day when Quinnipiac pegged Donald Trump’s approval rating at an all time low of 33% (link), because that’s already old news. Today the IBD/TIPP poll from Investors Business Daily has Trump pegged even lower at 32% (link). As long as polling has existed, this kind of thing has never happened to a new president this early on. We’re in uncharted territory. And there’s every reason to believe it’ll continue to get worse imminently.
Washington Post, Kenya’s president takes strong lead in election count as opposition claims results hacked, Kevin Sieff, Aug. 9, 2017. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta (shown below) took what appeared to be an unassailable lead Wednesday in his bid for reelection, even as his opponent called the results fraudulent, raising fears of political violence after a bitterly contested race.
With 93 percent of the votes counted, Kenyatta led with about 54 percent, far ahead of opposition leader Raila Odinga at about 45 percent, according to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.
But Odinga called the results of Tuesday’s election “a complete fraud,” outlining an elaborate hacking scheme that he said significantly manipulated the outcome. According to Odinga, a hacker used the login information of a top election official, Chris Msando, who was mysteriously killed last month, to enter the country’s electoral database. He told his supporters not to accept Kenyatta’s reelection.
New York Times, Israel Imagines Life After Netanyahu as Inquiries Intensify, Isabel Kershner, Aug. 8, 2017. As an ex-aide turns state’s witness, Israelis across the spectrum are trying on the idea of the curtain coming down on the career of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Now, with one of Mr. Netanyahu’s closest former aides having turned state’s witness in two cases involving suspicions of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, Israelis across the political spectrum are trying on the idea of the curtain coming down on Mr. Netanyahu’s durable political career.
For the past eight years, Mr. Netanyahu has dominated the Israeli political scene and become nearly synonymous with the state on the world stage. Long called “the magician” for his survival skills, he has quashed rivals from right and left despite never enjoying particular popularity in the street. Yet Mr. Netanyahu, the longest-serving prime minister since Israel’s first, David Ben-Gurion, suddenly appears not so invincible after all.
Strategic Culture Foundation, Opinion: Trump’s Knowledge of Lebanese Situation Is Non-Existent, Wayne Madsen (shown in file photo), Aug. 8, 2017. U.S. President Trump, hobbled by a two-minute attention span, demonstrated his utter lack of knowledge about the political situation in Lebanon during a recent visit to the White House of Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri. During a press conference outside the White House, Trump opened his remarks by stating to an astonished Hariri and the viewing Lebanese television audience, “Lebanon is on the front lines in the fight against ISIS, Al Qaeda, and Hezbollah.”
Trump was correct that Lebanon is battling the Islamic State and Al Qaeda but is doing so with the assistance of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shi’a movement with which Hariri’s government maintains a fragile but maturing political accommodation. Following his meeting and news conference with Trump, Hariri was forced to correct the record in order not to face a government collapse back in Beirut.
Palmer Report, More Donald Trump administration freefall as Nikki Haley’s staffers begin resigning, Bill Palmer, Aug. 9, 2017. The administration has been besieged in recent weeks by resignations, firings, and controversial departures. That’s included the Chief of Staff, Communications Director, Press Secretary, and three members of the National Security Council, among others. But now it turns out there’s major chaos in another corner of the Trump administration as well.
In recent weeks it’s seemed that Trump’s UN Ambassador Nikki Haley has become increasingly agitated in her role. At one point she said that she was done talking about North Korea, and after Trump posted classified information Twitter this week, she refused comment (link). And it turns out that agitation may be boiling over into her office. According to political reporter Laura Rozen (link), Haley’s spokesperson Jonathan Wachtel has now resigned, and her Chief of Staff is also leaving. This in turn raises the question of whether Nikki Haley herself may be on her way out.
JFK Assassination Revelations
WhoWhatWhy, Politico’s Challenge to JFK Orthodoxy That Isn’t, Staff report, Aug. 8, 2017. Politico Magazine featured an article that appeared to question the official narrative of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy — that he was killed by a lone-nut — but in the end only supported it. Why does mainstream media refuse to recognize any evidence to the contrary?
For a fascinating example of disinformation, mainstream-media style, consider this story in Politico Magazine, How the CIA Came to Doubt the Official Story of JFK’s Murder by Philip Shenon and Larry J. Sabato.
Those familiar with the circumstances surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy are aware that the official story pronounced by the Warren Commission — the first official government investigation into Kennedy’s murder — was that lone-wolf Lee Harvey Oswald, a 24-year old ex-Marine with a curious past, shot the president from the 6th floor window of the Texas Schoolbook Depository building in Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963.
Although in the 1970s a second government investigation — the House Select Committee on Assassinations — concluded that the murder was the result of a probable conspiracy, the official line out of Washington, D.C., and nearly every mainstream news organization since that day in November, has been to parrot the Warren Commission. Oswald acted alone — although the idea of involvement of Castro and Russia is often hinted at.
Future of Freedom Foundation, Figuring Out the Kennedy Assassination, Part 2, Jacob G. Hornberger, Aug. 8, 2017. (Part I here.) The official story of the Kennedy assassination is that he was killed by a former U.S. Marine, lone-nut, communist assassin named Lee Harvey Oswald. The big problem, however, is that the official story has never comported with much of the circumstantial evidence in the case nor with common sense, reason, and logic. That’s why no one has ever been able to come up with a credible motive for Oswald to kill Kennedy.
As I pointed out in Part 1, by the time he was assassinated Kennedy was ending the Cold War against the communist world and had announced his intention for America to live in peace, friendship, and mutual coexistence with the Soviet Union, especially Russia, Cuba, and the rest of the communist world. If Oswald had, in fact, been an genuine communist, that would have made him ecstatic. Why kill Kennedy knowing that he would be replaced by Johnson, who vehemently disagreed with JFK’s change of direction and, instead, was on the same page as the Pentagon and the CIA?
The obvious question arises: Why would a genuine communist want to joint to join an organization — the U.S. Marine Corps — that had just killed and injured millions of communists in Korea? Indeed, it wasn’t communists who hated Kennedy for what he was doing. It was instead the U.S. national-security establishment, which believed that Kennedy’s actions constituted a grave threat to national security.
There is an easy explanation — one, however, that is not consistent with the official story. In the 1950s, there was a famous television series called I Led Three Lives, which is based on a book of the same name by a man named Herbert Philbrick. The series revolved around an American man who posed as a communist but who was actually a FBI agent. The man’s job was to infiltrate communist cells that were supposedly operating here in the United States and secretly report their activities to the FBI.
It’s worth watching a couple of episodes of I Led Three Lives just to get a sense of what life was like here in the United States during the Cold War and the anti-communist crusade. You can access them on YouTube by searching for “I Led Three Lives.” The commies were supposedly everywhere — the State Department, the Army, Hollywood, the public schools, and other walks of life. The Russians were coming! They were coming to get us, take over the federal government, and turn America entirely Red.
As a PBS documentary entitled Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald? pointed out, I Led Three Lives was Lee Harvey Oswald’s (shown above) favorite TV Show as a teenager. Now things makes sense.
Vanity Fair, Why Trump Is Wasting His Energy on Blumenthal? James Warren, Aug. 8, 2017. President Donald Trump’s new era of Twitter moderation took a predictable U-turn on his first day of vacation as he bashed Sen. Richard Blumenthal as a “phony Vietnam con artist” who lied about a military past. Blumenthal’s real transgression was the same as the “failing” media Trump harps on, namely bringing up all that sticky Russian stuff. As for regurgitating Blumenthal’s own personal deceit of long ago, the great self-image maker is spinning his wheels, as journalists who know Blumenthal well can attest.
“The story died surprisingly fast here, even in 2010,” says Mark Pazniokas of the Connecticut Mirror, an online news service that’s been a refuge for quality Hartford Courant journalists scared away by downsizing there. He was state politics writer for the paper. “The national talking heads pronounced him DOA,” he recalls, after The New York Times broke the 2010 story about Blumenthal (shown at left), Connecticut’s former attorney general, fabricating service in Vietnam.
But his support proved stable and the cable news pundits moved on. Pro wrestling mogul Linda McMahon (now Trump’s small business chief), “who had a campaign budget of $50 million in a state where $10 million is a decent campaign bankroll, tried to resurrect the issue closer to the election with massive media buys. They didn’t take.”
Don Carter, Blumenthal’s underfunded GOP rival last year, tried resurrecting the deceit but it didn’t work for him, either. “So, I’d say the conventional wisdom is that there is a small base, which may or may not be the third of the electorate still with Trump, that thinks Blumenthal is a fraud.”
Courts and Cops
WIAT-TV, Don Siegelman heralds removal of ‘electronic shackle,’ exclaims ‘yaaaaay!‘ Haley Townsend Rhinehart, Aug. 8, 2017. Former Alabama governor Don Siegelman was convicted of bribery in 2006 in connection with Richard Scrushy’s HealthSouth case, and was sentenced to prison. He spent six years behind bars, and was released on Feb. 8, 2017. Since his release, he has been on probation and had an electronic ankle monitor while he was on house arrest. Tuesday, he celebrated the removal of his ‘electronic shackle’ with two gleeful videos, including one titled, “NO MORE SHACKLE!”
Consortium News, A New Twist in Seth Rich Murder Case, Joe Lauria, Aug. 8, 2017. The U.S. mainstream media dismisses any link between the murder of DNC official Seth Rich and leaked DNC emails as a “conspiracy theory” – while blaming Russia instead – but a new possibility has arisen.
With U.S.-Russia tensions as dangerously high as they’ve been since the worst days of the Cold War, there is potential new evidence that Russia was not behind a hack of the Democratic National Committee, although Congress and the U.S. mainstream media accept the unproven allegation of Russia’s guilt as indisputable fact.
The possible new evidence comes in the form of a leaked audiotape of veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh in which Hersh is heard to say that not Russia, but a DNC insider, was the source of the Democratic emails published by WikiLeaks just before the start of the Democratic National Convention in late July 2016. n the audiotape – which Hersh told me was made without his permission – he quoted an unnamed government source who told him that Rich offered the DNC emails to WikiLeaks in exchange for money.
Hartford Courant, Yale Grad, An Ex-Con, Must Prove ‘Moral Character’ To State Bar Committee, Vinny Vella, Aug. 8, 2017. A budding lawyer who overcame a teenage felony conviction faces another hurdle in his path to practice in Connecticut.
Reginald Dwayne Betts, 36, graduated from Yale last year and passed the bar exam in February. But the Connecticut Bar Examining Committee has given his application pause due to the eight years he spent behind bars for his role in a carjacking in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. Per state regulation, any applicant for the bar must prove “his or her good moral character and fitness to practice law by clear and convincing evidence” to the examining committee.
New York Times, A Senseless Immigration Proposal, Editorial board, Aug. 7, 2017. The only way to understand President Trump’s support of an obvious turkey is as an attempt to energize his dwindling base.
New York Times, Evidence Hidden From Defendants, Until It’s Too Late, Beth Schwartz Apfel, Aug. 7, 2017. New York is one of 10 states where prosecutors can wait until just before trial to share evidence, which critics say is unfair. But a new bill could change the rules.
Washington Post, Booz Allen Hamilton’s criminal probe could drag on for years, CEO says, Aaron Gregg, Aug. 7, 2017. The Department of Justice’s probe into the billing practices at Booz Allen Hamilton is unlikely to wrap up quickly, the McLean government contracting firm’s chief executive told analysts Monday. The criminal investigation could take years to resolve.
New York Times, Many Politicians Lie, but Trump Elevates It to a New Level, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Aug. 7, 2017. President Trump is not the first president to be caught in lies. But the degree to which he has trafficked in falsehoods is raising questions about whether standards for veracity have eroded.
New York Times, Opinion: America’s Whiniest ‘Victim’ Donald Trump is the reigning king of American victimhood, Charles Blow, Aug. 7, 2017 (print edition). He is unceasingly pained, injured, aggrieved. “No politician in history — and I say this with great surety — has been treated worse or more unfairly,” he laments.
It is in this near perfect state of perpetual aggrievement that Trump gives voice to a faction of America that also feels aggrieved. Trump won because he whines. He whines in a way that makes the weak feel less vulnerable and more vicious. He makes feeling sorry for himself feel like fighting back.
In this way he was a perfect reflection of the new Whiny Right. Trump is its instrument, articulation, embodiment. He’s not so much representative of it but of an idea — the waning power of whiteness, privilege, patriarchy, access, and the cultural and economic surety that accrues to the possessors of such. Trump represents their emerging status of victims-in-their-own-minds.
Washington Post, How the Trump hotel has become a sort of White House annex, Jonathan O’Connell, Aug. 7, 2017. For the first time in presidential history, a profit-making venture touts the name of the commander in chief in its gold signage. The Post sent reporters to the hotel every day for a month to see how business and politics are adjusting to the new culture of Washington influence.
Right Wing Watch, End Times Prepper Pastor Jim Bakker Was Invited To The White House, Kyle Mantyla, Aug. 7, 2017. Jim Bakker, the disgraced former televangelist who reinvented himself as an End Times prepper pitchman following his time in prison, was among the dozens of evangelical leaders who were brought to the White House recently to meet with members of President Trump’s administration.
Bakker revealed on his program today that he and his wife Lori were in the White House on the day that Anthony Scaramucci was fired from his short stint as White House communications director, noting that it was not a coincidence that Scaramucci was let go at the moment when George O. Wood, who heads the General Council of the Assemblies of God, spoke out against “unnecessary swearing” during a meeting with White House staff. According to the Bakkers, Trump is eager to hear from right-wing Christian leaders and hopes to use them to spread his message to their audiences.
WhoWhatWhy, GOP Plan to Suppress the Rising Millennial Vote: How Will They Do It? Max Skidelsky, Aug. 7, 2017. The Republican-championed voting requirements aim to reshape the changing electorate in their favor, cut millennial voters out of politics, and reassert control over a crumbling coalition.
Unanimously, the election integrity experts contacted by WhoWhatWhy for this article believe that Republicans will try to put in place measures that make it more difficult for young people to vote. They are unsure, however, whether this would be done through tailor-made voter ID laws — both on the federal and state level — or other restrictions, for example, residency requirements for college students or targeted polling place closures.
Washington Post, Pence has his eye on 2020. Uh-oh, Richard Cohen, Aug. 7, 2017. Mike Pence is denying reports that he is positioning himself to run for president in 2020 if, for some reason, Donald Trump falls by the wayside or decides that one term is enough. The vice president’s denial was so over-the-top — “disgraceful and offensive,” he called the New York Times article — that had he been on a polygraph, he would have frizzled the wires and blown the circuits. The only thing wrong about the article was its timing. Pence’s presidential ambitions are nothing new. He’s been running his entire life.
This is a hard one. Trump is a menace, both ignorant and chaotic. His saving grace is his incompetence. In his first six months in office, he has made a hash of our foreign policy, set back efforts to contain global warming, exploited public land and depopulated the State Department. But these efforts — as bad as they might be — have been so far confined to the margins. Trump has not passed any major legislation or, for that matter, built any walls.
Massive Media Merger Protested
Common Cause, Sinclair Deal Under Scrutiny, Dale Eisman, Aug. 7, 2017. Broadcasting Giant Wants Presence In Nearly Three-Fourths of US Households. The regulatory review of Sinclair Broadcasting’s $3.9 billion plan to acquire the Tribune Media Group is moving into a critical phase with today’s deadline for submission of comments on the merger to the Federal Communications Commission.
Sinclair is trying to buy 42 television stations, including outlets in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, from Tribune; the takeover would give Sinclair more than 200 stations with nearly 600 channels and a presence in nearly three-fourths of American households, far more than the FCC’s current 39 percent limit. Sinclair already is the nation’s largest broadcaster.
“No one company should have such power over the news and information that citizens must have to successfully practice the art of self-government,” said former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, now serving as special adviser to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative. “And that doesn’t even get into the vices of this particular company.”
The merger plan is attracting a wide assortment of corporate and nonprofit opponents, including Common Cause. Their concerns range from Copps’ complaint that the merged company will dominate the flow of broadcast news and information in much of the country, to suggestions that Sinclair’s political spending and unabashed support for conservative Republicans is being repaid with favorable treatment from an FCC controlled by appointees of President Trump.
Sinclair stations are notorious among journalists for their use of “must run” segments dictated by the company’s Baltimore headquarters. Politico reported last year that Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, boasted that the Trump campaign had struck a deal with Sinclair for friendly coverage on its stations. In December, a review by the Washington Post concluded that Sinclair stations “gave a disproportionate amount of neutral or favorable coverage to Trump during the campaign” while airing negative stories on Hillary Clinton.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai already has engineered the removal of one obstacle to the merger, reinstating a “UHF discount” policy the commission had jettisoned during the Obama administration. The discount changes the way the commission counts a company’s stations across the country, giving UHF stations a lower value than VHF outlets.
Under former chairman Tom Wheeler, an Obama appointee, the commission counted all stations equally, reasoning that digital technologies now give UHF and VHF stations equal range; before the digital revolution, UHF signals covered smaller geographic areas.
With the discount in place for counting purposes, the Sinclair-Tribune combination will penetrate more than the FCC’s limit of 39 percent of American households, forcing it to sell a few stations even as it dramatically increases its national reach.
Variety, Sinclair-Tribune Merger Opponents Warn of ‘Excessive, Unbalanced Market Power,’ Cynthia Littleton, Aug. 7, 2017. A coalition of TV and media industry entities is urging the FCC to reject Sinclair Broadcast Group’s proposed $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media, arguing that the combination would give Sinclair a dangerous level of power over the local TV marketplace.
Today marks the deadline set by the FCC for the initial round of public comments in opposition to the merger agreement reached in May. The deal would give Sinclair control of more than 200 stations nationwide, expanding the Baltimore-based station owner’s presence to the nation’s largest TV markets for the first time. Executives from the American Cable Association, which represents smaller cable operators, Common Cause, the Competitive Carriers Association and the Computer and Communications Industry Association held a conference call Monday morning to outline their grave concerns about the Sinclair-Tribune deal. Sinclair declined to comment.
USA Today, Two big reasons Sinclair-Tribune TV merger should be nixed, opponents say, Mike Snider, Aug. 7, 2017. The opposition to Sinclair Broadcast Group’s nearly $4 billion merger with Tribune Media Co., is fighting the deal with words and documents. The Hunt Valley, Md.-headquartered Sinclair’s acquisition, announced three months ago, could create a broadcasting powerhouse with more than 200 TV stations in 108 markets.
Not all in the media and TV industry think such a deal should be approved by regulators. “We believe this merger as proposed is unlawful, not in the public interest and should be rejected,” said Matthew Polka, CEO of the American Cable Association Monday. The ACA represents about 750 smaller telecom/broadband/pay-TV providers in small and rural areas.
With its 200-plus stations, a combined Sinclair-Tribune company, opponents note, would surpass the federally-mandated maximum reach of 39% of national TV homes. Sinclair has said its reach would grow to 72% of U.S. homes across 108 markets including 39 of the top 50. And the broadcaster would own two of the top four affiliates in 10 of the 14 markets where the two companies currently operate on their own, which opponents argue is a violation of the Federal Communications Commission’s television ownership rules.
But Sinclair, already the largest U.S. broadcaster with 173 stations, expects to benefit from a recent FCC move that loosens TV ownership rules. A so-called UHF discount, which allows broadcasters to count only UHF stations as having only half the reach of VHF channels would let broadcasters wider growth options.
The FCC in April, led by Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican, reinstated the UHF discount. Back in September 2016, the FCC, then led by Democrat Tom Wheeler, had passed a motion to eliminate the measure. Pai has said he may support the eventual elimination of the UHF discount, but as part of a overall review of the ownership cap.
“We don’t think we need to sell any” of the 14 markets where there are currently Sinclair and Tribune stations, said Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley said in May in a discussion of the deal. “When you take a look at all the overlaps they really have no impact on overall competition and we hope that the regulators will agree with us.”
Sinclair “comes with an ideology that is far more focused on conservative points of view than any sense of balance or any deep-dive journalism,” said Michael Copps, a former FCC commissioner and special adviser to Common Cause.
About Copps’ comments, Scott Livingston, Sinclair’s vice president of news, said, “I find that to be outrageous and it’s also an insult to more than 4000 hardworking journalists across Sinclair.” “Our agenda is to serve up relevant information that our local communities value,” Livingston said. “And If we weren’t serving our viewers with information they care about, we would be out of business, right?”
New York Times, Partisan C.I.A. Chief Heartens Trump and Worries the Agency, Matthew Rosenberg, Aug. 7, 2017. Mike Pompeo (shown at right) has become a favorite of the president’s with tough talk and hawkish views at the helm of the C.I.A., which prides itself on being apolitical.
New York Times, States Fret as Trump Threatens Insurance Subsidy for Millions, Robert Pear, Aug. 7, 2017. State commissioners are debating what to do if President Trump stops subsidies paid to insurance companies on behalf of millions of low-income people.
NBC News, Trump Says Blumenthal Lied About Vietnam (He Did) and Cried (He Didn’t), Jane C. Timm, Aug. 7 2017. President Donald Trump on Monday unleashed a hostile tweet storm on Sen. Richard Blumenthal, making a number of claims against the Connecticut Democrat, including that he had lied about serving in Vietnam.
Trump’s Twitter fusillade was apparently set off by Blumenthal’s appearance on CNN earlier Monday in which he spoke about the investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia. “I think is very important to protect and safeguard the independence and integrity of that investigation,” said Blumenthal (shown in an official photo). Later Monday, Trump suggested Blumenthal take a long vacation in Vietnam “so he can at say he was there.”
Let’s look at the facts: What’s true: Years ago, Blumenthal did misrepresent his military service, repeatedly conflating his time in the Marine Reserves in Washington, D.C., with those who served overseas in Vietnam. The idea that he was a Vietnam veteran became an accepted part of his biography. “When we returned, we saw nothing like this,” the senator said at a Connecticut rally in support of troops in 2003. “We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam,” he said at another event in 2008.
In reality, the senator obtained at least five military deferments from 1965 to 1970, according to The New York Times’ 2010 expose that found Blumenthal had sometimes falsely claimed to have served in Vietnam; when he eventually enlisted in 1970, Blumenthal got a spot in the Marine Reserves, engaging in Washington drills and local projects like campground repairs.
He later apologized for misrepresenting his service, saying he regretted saying he’d served “in” Vietnam instead of “during” Vietnam.
What’s not true: There’s no evidence that Blumenthal bragged — as Trump claimed in the tweets — about “battles” or “conquests” or cried when the scandal erupted during his Senate bid.
“No and no,” a Blumenthal spokesman told NBC News on Monday when asked if the senator had bragged or cried.
Blumenthal himself hit back at Trump on Twitter, saying the president’s “bullying” wasn’t working.
New York Times, Opinion: Krugman: What’s Next for Progressives? Paul Krugman, Aug. 7, 2017. For now, at least, the attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act appears dead. This represents a huge victory for progressives, who did a startlingly good job of marshaling facts, mobilizing public opinion, and pressuring politicians to stand their ground. But where do they go from here?
Washington Post, The once-whispered topic of women’s menstruation now has political cachet, Michael Alison Chandler, Aug. 7, 2017. Lawmakers are passing laws to exempt tampons and pads from taxes and helping ensure they are accessible to all women.
Washington Post, N. Korea remains defiant on nuclear weapons, threatens to retaliate for U.N. sanctions, Carol Morello, Aug. 7, 2017. The foreign minister said Pyongyang would use nuclear weapons only against the United States or another country that might join it in military action against North Korea. And he dismissed stiff new Security Council sanctions as illegal. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had said the U.S. is willing to talk if Pyongyang will stop testing ballistic missiles.
JFK Facts.org, The new JFK files: What Politico missed about the CIA role, jefferson Morley, Aug. 7, 2017. The first JFK writers to weigh in on the new JFK files are Phil Shenon and Larry Sabato, former New York Times reporter and University of Virginia professor respectively. In a story for Politico Magazine, they purport to tell the story How the CIA Came to Doubt the Official Story of JFK’s Murder.
The tipoff to the story’s limitations is the headline, which sounds a bit odd: how the CIA came to doubt the official story….If the CIA did not doubt the official story–that a lone gunman killed Kennedy out of “hatred for American society” – it was because the agency, on several key points, was the source of that story. The Warren Commission relied on the CIA’s information in telling the American public about Oswald’s defection to the Soviet Union in October 1959, his return in June 1962, and his curious visit to Mexico City in October 1963.
As Shenon and Sabato note, perhaps too casually, senior CIA officials lied to the Warren Commission on each and everyone of these points. Any reasonable person would say that the initial lies call in to question the sincerity of the later doubts. In fact Oswald had been monitored closely by the CIA’s Counterintelligence Staff from 1959 to 1963.
The new JFK files do not, in my view, support Shenon and Sabato’s “Castro Done It” theory, which predictably points the figure of culpability at the Cuban government in Havana. Rather these files, in their totality, tell a more disturbing story, which points to culpability in the U.S. government in Washington, and the CIA in Langley.
Courts and Cops
New York Times, Critics of Tillerson Say C.E.O. Skills Are Missing in New Role, Gardiner Harris, Aug. 6, 2017. Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson was expected to quickly revamp the agency, but critics say the former Exxon Mobil chief has been focused on minutiae.
Washington Post, GOP governors stir tension by increasing police patrols to fight violence in cities, Tim Craig and Emma Ockerman, Aug. 6, 2017. The response from governors in states such as Missouri, Arkansas, Texas and South Carolina follows rising homicides in some large cities, but the action has unsettled some residents and threatens to drive another wedge between officials in heavily Democratic cities and their Republican counterparts in statehouses and Washington.
Washington Post, Mueller can dig into crimes uncovered in Russia probe, Justice official says, Kelsey Snell and John Wagner, Aug. 6, 2017. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein declined to comment on reports that Robert Mueller III is using a grand jury to aid in his work, but he said such a step is routine in “many investigations.” President Trump has dismissed the inquiry as “a total fabrication.”
Palmer Report, Mike Pence’s AOL email scandal is back again, Bill Palmer, Aug. 6, 2017. Back in November, Palmer Report brought you the story of Mike Pence’s email scandal, which at the time was largely only making headlines in his home state of Indiana (link). Pence had been using an America Online email account to conduct state business while he was Governor. The scandal died down after he went to court and was successful in temporarily blocking the release of those emails. But nine months later, that effort has now failed.
Palmer Report, Braindead Donald Trump thanks fake Russian bot on Twitter for supporting him, Bill Palmer, Aug. 6, 2017. Now that Gen. John Kelly has taken over as White House Chief of Staff with the goal of getting Donald Trump to stop acting so erratically, Trump is already making a point of rebelling against him. Trump has resumed his former habit of quoting the tweets of a few random supporters who have said nice things about him. In so doing, he thanked a fake Russian bot account which has since been suspended from Twitter entirely.
Instead, as first pieced together by movie producer Robert Schooley, the supposed photographs of “Nicole” wearing a Trump t-shirt were instead just stock images of a random woman, with the Trump logo clumsily superimposed onto the shirt (link). In fact everything about the account screamed that it was a fake.
New York Times, Mueller’s Office Is Said to Seek White House’s Flynn Records, Matthew Rosenberg, Matt Apuzzo and Michael S. Schmidt, Aug. 5, 2017 (print edition). The request is the first known instance of investigators working for Robert S. Mueller III asking the White House to hand over records, according to people close to the inquiry.
Investigators working for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, recently asked the White House for documents related to the former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn (shown in a file photo), and have questioned witnesses about whether he was secretly paid by the Turkish government during the final months of the presidential campaign, according to people close to the investigation.
Taking money from Turkey or any foreign government is not illegal. But failing to register as a foreign agent is a felony, and trying to hide the source of the money by routing it through a private company or some other entity, and then paying kickbacks to the middleman, could lead to numerous criminal charges, including fraud.
Inside the Trump Administration
Washington Post, For 17 days away on a ‘working vacation,’ Trump retreats to his N.J. golf club, John Wagner and Elise Viebeck, Aug. 5, 2017. The president arrived Friday at Bedminster with aides including newly minted Chief of Staff John F. Kelly (shown at right). Although he criticized his predecessor’s work ethic when Barack Obama left Washington, Trump follows in the tradition of U.S. presidents escaping the capital in late summer. With the Russia investigation gaining steam and looming crises in North Korea and other hot spots, no one expects a truly quiet couple of weeks.
Washington Post, Trump faces reality that his words — and tweets — often lack their desired impact, Abby Phillip, Aug. 5, 2017 (print edition). Challenges to President Trump’s authority and influence are growing six months into his chaotic presidency. His allies hope new Chief of Staff John F. Kelly can help stop the the downward slide.
New York Times, Trump Defends McMaster as Conservatives Seek His Dismissal, Peter Baker, Aug. 5, 2017 (print edition). President Trump defended Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, his embattled national security adviser, on Friday in the face of a full-bore campaign by the nationalist wing of his political coalition accusing him of undermining the president’s agenda and calling for his dismissal.
General McMaster (shown in a file photo) has angered the political right by pushing out several conservatives on the national security staff and cautioning against ripping up the nuclear agreement with Iran negotiated by President Barack Obama without a strategy for what comes next. His future has been in doubt amid speculation that Mr. Trump might send him to Afghanistan.
But after two days of unrelenting attacks on General McMaster by conservative activists and news sites, complete with the Twitter hashtag #FireMcMaster, the president weighed in to quash such talk. “General McMaster and I are working very well together,” he said in a statement emailed to The New York Times. “He is a good man and very pro-Israel. I am grateful for the work he continues to do serving our country.”
Washington Post, National security adviser attempts to reconcile Trump’s competing impulses on Afghanistan, Greg Jaffe and Philip Rucker, Aug. 5, 2017 (print edition). In meeting after meeting with his national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, this spring and summer, President Trump angrily hammered home two questions: He wanted to know why the U.S. military wasn’t winning in Afghanistan, and he asked, repeatedly, why, after more than 16 years of war, the United States was still stuck there.
The president’s two questions have defined a contentious debate over whether to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan to halt two years of Taliban gains. And they have exposed a potentially deep philosophical rift with McMaster, a three-star general. “H.R. heard the first question and seized on it,” said a senior White House official who is close to McMaster. “But he never heard, or didn’t want to hear, the president’s second question.”
The debate over Afghanistan strategy, which McMaster had initially hoped to have resolved by May, continued Thursday when the president and his national security adviser met in the Oval Office. Trump’s reluctance to commit to a new strategy reflects the paucity of good options in Afghanistan and the dim prospects for peace.
Washington Post, Trump’s new chief of staff did work for company with federal contracts, Drew Harwell, Aug. 5, 2017. Before joining administration, John F. Kelly (shown at right) was a paid adviser to DynCorp. President Trump’s new chief of staff, John Kelly, made much of his income last year advising companies that depend on federal contracts, including a private military conglomerate that has made billions of dollars for its work in Afghanistan and Iraq, financial filings show.
Kelly, a four-star Marine Corps general who retired last year as head of U.S. Southern Command, was paid $166,666 to work as an adviser on “military defense issues” for the defense contractor DynCorp International, the documents show. During Kelly’s time at DynCorp, a company subsidiary was awarded a $700,000 contract with the Department of Homeland Security, the agency Kelly would soon be named secretary, though it is not clear what role, if any, he had in the contract.
War Crime: Courts and Cops Around the Nation
Washington Post, Murder conviction in Blackwater case thrown out, other sentences overturned, Spencer S. Hsu, Aug. 4, 2017. A U.S. appeals court on Friday threw out the first-degree murder conviction of a former Blackwater Worldwide security guard sentenced to life in prison in the killings of 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians in a Baghdad traffic circle in 2007. The court also ordered resentencings for three others convicted in the incident.
The September 2007 shootings, which also wounded 17 people, fomented deep resentments about the accountability of American security forces during one of the bloodiest periods of the Iraq War. The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the trial court “abused its discretion” in not allowing Nicholas A. Slatten, 33, of Sparta, Tenn., to be tried separately from his three co-defendants, even though one of them said he, not Slatten, fired the first shots in the civilian massacre.
In a split ruling, the court also found that the 30-year terms of the others convicted of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter — Paul A. Slough, 37, of Keller, Tex.; Evan S. Liberty, 35, of Rochester, N.H.; and Dustin L. Heard, 36, of Maryville, Tenn. — violated the constitutional prohibition against “cruel and unusual punishment.”
Overview of JFK Assassination Documents
Kennedys and King, The Larry and Phil Show, James DiEugenio, Aug. 5, 2017. Jim DiEugenio excoriates two articles concerning the July NARA document release which appeared in the Washington Post and Politico. As most of us know, the National Archives began a premature release of JFK assassination documents on July 25th. The legal target date had previously been late October. For whatever reason, NARA decided to begin early. As I noted in my “Open Letter to Martha Murphy and John Mathis,” the first week was marked by many problems. Most of which, in my opinion, could have been avoided.
Anyone familiar with the JFK case understands that these documents are the leftover residue from the work of the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB). Formed to declassify all the records in the JFK case, that citizens’ panel ceased operations in 1998. But they specified that, by law, certain documents could be exempted from their declassification efforts. They also stated, however, that 2017 would be the termination date for those documents.
There were many valuable documents that the ARRB declassified, dealing both with the Kennedy presidency, and Kennedy’s assassination. Concerning the former, the ARRB declassified the records of the SecDef conference of May 1963, which cinched the case that President Kennedy had assigned Robert McNamara to implement his withdrawal plan from Vietnam. (James DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed, Second Edition, p. 366).
Unfortunately for the public, there was little fanfare attended to both the process and the discoveries of the ARRB. There were some sporadic stories, for instance, about the Vietnam withdrawal plans and Operation Northwoods, but generally speaking, the MSM did not explain the task of the ARRB, nor did it inform the public about the gold in the treasure trove of documents — over two million pages — that finally saw the light of day after over 30 years of secrecy.
Last week’s early batch of releases also featured some bracing documents. For instance, there was a document revealing the CIA status of Dallas Mayor Earle Cabell. Another one showed that, by the seventies, Collins Radio was quite close to the CIA. Collins Radio relates to the assassination through both George De Mohrenschildt and Carl Mather. And this is only from a first glance through several thousands of pages of newly declassified documents.
Which brings us to the Larry and Phil Show. I refer here to the commentary on this NARA release by authors Larry Sabato and Phil Shenon. These two men penned two largely irrelevant books at the time of the fiftieth anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination: respectively, The Kennedy Half Century, and A Cruel and Shocking Act, told us very little that was new about either the Kennedy presidency or the facts of his assassination.
What is exceptional about that fact is this: Both men wrote their books over a decade past the closing down of the ARRB. Yet one would be hard pressed to show how those millions of documents, or Gunn’s extensive medical inquiry, figured into those two books, both of which, unsurprisingly, came to the conclusion that none of the documents mattered. Neither did Jeremy Gunn’s inquiry. The Warren Commission was right all along. Lee Oswald killed JFK; the Magic Bullet lived.
Courts and Cops
New York Times, Judge Drops Rape Case Against U.S.C. Student, Citing Video Evidence, Hannah Alani, Aug. 5, 2017. The judge said during a preliminary hearing last week that he believed that the sex was consensual and that the videos were a “very strong indication” the woman was the initiator, according to reports.
Media: Another Fox News Sex Scandal
Washington Post, Fox News suspends host Eric Bolling after new allegation of sexually inappropriate behavior, Paul Farhi, Aug 5, 2017. Fox News said Saturday that it has suspended Eric Bolling, co-host of its late-afternoon news program “The Specialists,” while it investigates allegations he sent a lewd photo to co-workers.
Word of the suspension came one day after a HuffPost report relying on anonymous sources stated Bolling had sent a lewd photo to at least three female colleagues at Fox News and Fox Business. “Eric Bolling has been suspended pending the results of an investigation, which is currently underway,” Fox News said in a brief statement. An attorney for Bolling, Michael J. Bowe, denied the allegations.
Washington Post, Venezuela’s chief prosecutor is removed from office in crackdown on dissent, Mariana Zuniga and Anthony Faiola, Aug. 5, 2017. A new governing body that critics of President Nicolás Maduro have called a “puppet congress” stripped outspoken critic Luisa Ortega of her title and replaced her with a government loyalist.
Huffington Post, Dictators and Double Standards, Jeremy Kuzmarov, On Saturday, Paul Kagame was reelected with 99 percent of the vote, an outcome that ensures he will remain president of Rwanda until at least 2024. The State Department expressed concerns about irregularities in the vote tabulating process. The main opposition candidate, Diane Rwigara, had naked photos of herself displayed on the internet and was barred from running. She said that Rwanda is “like a pretty girl with a lot of makeup, but inside is dark and dirty.”
For years, the country has been the darling of the western donor community. Bill Clinton called Kagame a “visionary leader” and Bill Gates said he was “among the greatest leaders of our time.” Kagame has allegedly presided over an economic miracle in which growth has expanded by 8 percent per year, and poverty rates decreased by 17 percent. Former economic adviser, David Himbara, however, said that state authorities manipulated statistics and that Rwanda was an “economic midget compared to its neighbors.”
Mr. Kagame also established a police state in which the government maintains control through a network of surveillance in which each village has a chief and an informer. Dissidents have been hunted down and murdered even in exile, including the former intelligence chief Patrick Karegeya who was killed in South Africa.
It stands to reason that Mike Pence cared a great deal about making sure the contents of these emails never saw the light of day. Was he trying to hide something scandalous, illegal, or just personally embarrassing? It looks like we’re about to find out. And it comes at a particularly tricky time for Pence, as it’s just been revealed that he’s gearing up to run for president in 2020 (link) under the presumption that Donald Trump will be sunk by then.
During the height of the Congo war, as Wayne Madsen documents in Genocide and Covert Operations in Africa, 1993-1999 (Edwin Mellen Press, 1999), the Pentagon provided the Rwandan and Ugandan invaders over $10 million in arms through CIA conduits, installed a command and communications center in Kigali and in the coastal areas of Uganda, and shared intelligence and satellite imagery of refugee movements some of which was provided free of charge by the defense contractor Bechtel.
A blatant double standard can be seen when we compare coverage of Kagame and leaders who have been defiant of the West such as the late Muammar Qaddafi of Libya, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Nicholas Maduro and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Washington Post, Attorney general says Justice Dept. has tripled the number of leak probes, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett, Aug. 4, 2017. Jeff Sessions offered the first public confirmation of the breadth of the department’s efforts to crack down on unauthorized disclosures of sensitive information. Last week, President Trump wrote on Twitter that his attorney general had taken a “VERY weak position” on “Intel leakers.”
Sessions (shown at left) made the announcement at a long-anticipated news conference with his deputy, Rod J. Rosenstein, as well as Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and National Counterintelligence and Security Center Director William Evanina.
Sessions said in the first six months of this year, the Department of Justice had received nearly as many criminal referrals involving unauthorized disclosures of classified information than it had received in the past three years combined. Though he did not say if it resulted in a criminal referral, Sessions cited in particular a recent disclosure to The Washington Post of transcripts of President Trump’s conversations with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto (shown in an official photo) and another with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Deep State Dangers To Trump?
WMR, Trump business linked to major corruption scandals on 5 continents, Wayne Madsen, Aug. 4, 2017 (Subscription required). Investigative reporter and author Wayne Madsen has compiled a relationship chart of two thousand individuals and companies (primarily limited liability corporations) related in what he regards as often-suspicious ways to the Trump-Kushner-Manafort-Epstein b businesses. Justice Department Special counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury in Washington, DC that could be looking into Donald Trump’s complicated but suspicious financing of his businesses, as well as his presidential campaign.
Future of Freedom Foundation, Opinion from Libertarian Right: Where Trump Might Be Vulnerable, Jacob G. Hornberger (shown at right), Aug. 4, 2017. It’s still not clear to me the particular crime for which special prosecutor Robert Mueller is investigating President Trump. Was it illegal for Vladimir Putin to support Trump for president instead of Hillary Clinton? Nope. Was it illegal for Trump to receive advice, support, and consultation from Vladimir Putin or any other Russian politico on how best to defeat Clinton? Nope.
Ordinarily, a special prosecutor would have evidence that a certain crime has been committed and would be investigating whether there is sufficient evidence to warrant an indictment for that crime. That’s not what Mueller is doing. It’s clear that he is on a giant wide-ranging fishing expedition in which he and his cohorts are examining evidence in which they hope to find a crime — any crime — on which to get Trump.
And that’s where Trump is likely to be in danger, especially given that he is a businessman and a builder. Every businessman, builder, and banker, both here and in Russia, knows the danger of the regulatory and tax power that hangs over his head like the Sword of Damocles. That’s undoubtedly why there are no major CEOs in the country publicly speaking out against U.S. foreign policy. They know what will happen to them in terms of regulatory and tax enforcement.
Look what they did to former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio. After the 9/11 attacks, U.S. officials approached Nacchio and asked him to sell his customers down the river by illegally giving their personal information to the feds. The feds told Nacchio that he would be a “patriot” by doing this.
To his everlasting credit, Nacchio said no. But he ended up paying a big price. The feds went after him on some stupid insider-trading violation and he ended up getting convicted and spending time in jail. Businessmen, bankers, and builders are most at risk given the extensiveness and complexity of the regulations and tax provisions under which they operate. I think there is a good possibility that Mueller is going to go after Trump in the same way that the feds went after Nacchio — by trying to find some stupid regulatory or tax provision that Trump or his subordinates might have violated.
New York Times, An Ally Is Set to Execute Critics. Will Mr. Trump Be Silent? Editorial Board, Aug. 4, 2017 (print edition). Mujtaba al-Sweikat was a bright 17-year-old student on his way to visit Western Michigan University when he was arrested at King Fahd Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in 2012. (The newly elevated Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman is shown at right.)
Since then, Mr. Sweikat has been in Saudi custody, subjected to torture, including beatings so severe his shoulder was broken, in order to extract confessions that sealed his fate: condemned to death, likely by beheading. Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court has upheld Mr. Sweikat’s June 2016 death sentence, as well as those of 13 other Saudi citizens tried with him — including a disabled man and two who were juveniles when sentenced — after a mass trial that made a mockery of international standards of due process.
Now, the only person who can prevent these barbarous executions is King Salman, who must ratify the death sentences.
Cops, Courts and Crooks Around the Nation
Washington Post, Martin Shkreli is found guilty of three of eight securities fraud charges, Renae Merle, Aug. 4, 2017. The jury in the Martin Shkreli trial deliberated for five days.
Washington Post, An alert airline passenger exposed a suspected child sex predator after glancing at his text, Kyle Swenson, Aug. 4, 2017.San Jose police arrested Michael Kellar, 56, after a flight from Seattle to San Jose July 31. A passenger noticed Keller swapping text messages about sexually molesting children and alerted the flight crew who contacted authorities on the ground.
Wall Street Journal, Special Counsel Robert Mueller Impanels Washington Grand Jury in Russia Probe, Del Quentin Wilber and Byron Tau, Aug. 3, 2017 (subscription required). Expansion beyond Flynn grand jury is a sign the investigation in election meddling is ramping up. Special Counsel Robert Mueller (shown in an official photo) has impaneled a grand jury in Washington to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections, a sign that his inquiry is growing in intensity and entering a new phase, according to people familiar with the matter.
Washington Post, Senators unveil two plans to protect Mueller’s Russia probe from presidential interference, Karoun Demirjian, Aug. 3, 2017. Two bipartisan pairs of senators detailed legislation that would prevent President Trump from firing Robert Mueller without cause, by making any decision to get rid of a special counsel subject to the approval of a panel of three federal judges.
HuffPo, Special Counsel Robert Mueller Reportedly Assembles Grand Jury, Ramping Up Russia Probe, Marina Fang, Aug. 3, 2017. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury as part of his investigation into possible collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia in last year’s election, sources tell the Wall Street Journal. The report follows Mueller stepping up the probe by hiring several high-powered lawyers. Earlier this week, Reuters reported that Greg Andres, a former Justice Department attorney who specialized in corruption and bribery cases, joined the investigation.
Sources tell Reuters that “grand jury subpoenas have been issued related to [a] June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Russian lawyers and others.” Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, met with a Russian lawyer last summer after being promised information that was part of a Russian government effort to benefit Trump and would “incriminate” Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton. Mueller’s probe is one of several government investigations into possible collusion. In addition, it is investigating whether Trump obstructed justice.
The report follows Mueller stepping up the probe by hiring several high-powered lawyers. Earlier this week, Reuters reported that Greg Andres, a former Justice Department attorney who specialized in corruption and bribery cases, joined the investigation.
Sources tell Reuters that “grand jury subpoenas have been issued related to [a] June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Russian lawyers and others.” Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, met with a Russian lawyer last summer after being promised information that was part of a Russian government effort to benefit Trump and would “incriminate” Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton.
CIA To End Secret War Against Syrian Government?
Syrian government soldiers celebrating an advance (file photo)
New York Times, Behind the Sudden Death of a $1 Billion Secret C.I.A. War In Syria, Mark Mazzetti, Adam Goldman and Michael S. Schmidt, Aug. 3, 2017 (print edition). The shuttering of the C.I.A. program, one of the most expensive efforts to arm and train rebels since the 1980s, has forced a reckoning over its successes and failures.
The end came quickly for one of the costliest covert action programs in the history of the C.I.A. During a White House briefing early last month, the C.I.A. director, Mike Pompeo, recommended to President Trump that he shut down a four-year-old effort to arm and train Syrian rebels. The president swiftly ended the program.
The rebel army was by then a shell, hollowed out by more than a year of bombing by Russian planes and confined to ever-shrinking patches of Syria that government troops had not reconquered. Critics in Congress had complained for years about the costs — more than $1 billion over the life of the program — and reports that some of the C.I.A.-supplied weapons had ended up in the hands of a rebel group tied to Al Qaeda further sapped political support for the program.
While critics of Mr. Trump have argued that he ended the program to curry favor with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, there were in fact dim views of the effort in both the Trump and Obama White Houses — a rare confluence of opinion on national security policy.
The shuttering of the C.I.A. program, one of the most expensive efforts to arm and train rebels since the agency’s program arming the mujahedeen in Afghanistan during the 1980s, has forced a reckoning over its successes and failures. Opponents say it was foolhardy, expensive and ineffective. Supporters say that it was unnecessarily cautious, and that its achievements were remarkable given that the Obama administration had so many restrictions on it from the start, which they say ultimately ensured its failure.
Related Commentary: Moon of Alabama, Why Petraeus, Obama And Brennan Should Face 5,000 Years In Prison, B, Aug. 3, 2017. The NYT story [above] is largely a whitewash. It claims that the CIA paid “moderate” FSA rebels stormed Idleb governate in 2015. In fact al-Qaeda and Ahrar al Sham were leading the assault. It says that costs of the CIA program was “more than $1 billion over the life of the program” when CIA documents show that it was over $1 billion per year and likely much more than $5 billion in total. The story says that the program started in 2013 while the CIA has been providing arms to the Wahhabi rebels since at least fall 2011.
Daily Beast, California CEO Allegedly Smuggled Rifle Scopes to Syria, Aug. 1, 2017. Rasheed Al Jijakli,[the CEO of a check-cashing business who lives in Walnut,] along with three co-conspirators, allegedly transported day and night vision rifle scopes, laser boresighters used to adjust sights on firearms for accuracy when firing, flashlights, radios, a bulletproof vest, and other tactical equipment to Syrian fighters….If Jijakli is found guilty, he could face 50 years in prison. Jijakli’s case is being prosecuted by counterintelligence and Terrorism and Export Crimes Section attorneys. An FBI investigation, in coordination with other agencies, is ongoing.
When will the FBI investigate Messrs Petraeus, Obama and Brennan? Where are the counterintelligence and Terrorism and Export Crimes Section attorneys prosecuting them? Those three men engaged in the exactly same trade as Mr. Jijakil did, but on a much larger scale. They should be punished on an equally larger scale.
New York Magazine, The Original Russia Connection, Andrew Rice, Aug. 3, 2017. Felix Sater (shown at right) has cut deals with the FBI, Russian oligarchs, and Donald Trump. He’s also quite a talker.
As a convicted racketeer with murky ties to the Mafia, law enforcement, intelligence agencies (both friendly and hostile), various foreign oligarchs, and the current president of the United States, Sater has become an obsession of the many investigators — professional and amateur — searching for Trump’s Russia connection.
Since the election, especially in the more feverish precincts of the internet, he has been the subject of constant speculation, which has at times been contradictory. Was he the missing link to the Kremlin? (“Trump, Russia, and a Shadowy Business Partnership,” read the headline of a recent column by Trump biographer Tim O’Brien.)
Or could he be Mueller’s inside man? (“Will a Mob-Connected Hustler Be the First Person to Spill the Beans to the FBI on Trump’s Russian Ties?” asked a story on the lefty site Alternet.) Could he be playing both sides?
At least one clue to the answer, Sater’s pursuers suspect, may be found in the records of his closed criminal case — which just so happened to have been overseen by one of the top prosecutors working on Mueller’s investigation.
For an international man of mystery, Sater can be quite talkative. Over the past few months, I’ve reached out to him regularly by phone and email, and every once in a while, he has responded. He would vent about how he was “tired of being kicked in the balls” over long-ago offenses, by reporters investigating his ties to Trump. Then he asked what I wanted to know.
“What do you do for a living?” I asked. “I am the epitome of the word ‘the deal guy,’ ” Sater replied.
Washington Post, This is not how Mitch McConnell wanted to head into recess, Paul Kane, Aug. 3, 2017. The Senate majority leader worried that if the health-care debate dragged out, little else would get done. Instead, everything got consumed by the health-care storm, which culminated in the bill failing by a single vote last week. The Senate plans to leave town Thursday for a five-week break with no major legislative accomplishments to show for the first seven months of unified Republican control of Congress and the White House.
Washington Post, Secret Service vacates Trump Tower post in lease dispute with president’s company, Carol D. Leonnig, David A. Fahrenthold and Jonathan O’Connell, Aug. 3, 2017. The Secret Service moved its command post from a unit one floor below the president’s apartment to a trailer on the sidewalk, more than 50 floors below.
Washington Post, Hundreds of officers fired for misconduct returned to policing, Kimbriell Kelly, Wesley Lowery and Steven Rich, Aug. 3, 2017. Since 2006, the nation’s largest police departments have fired at least 1,881 officers for misconduct that betrayed the public’s trust, from cheating on overtime to unjustified shootings. But a Washington Post investigation has found that departments have been forced to reinstate more than 450 officers after appeals required by union contracts.
Washington Post, Trump urged Mexican president to end his defiance on border wall, transcript reveals, Greg Miller, Aug. 3, 2017. The Post has obtained full transcripts of President Trump’s conversations with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto (shown at right) and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (shown below left). The documents provide an unfiltered glimpse of Trump’s approach to the diplomatic aspect of his job.
President Trump made building a wall along the southern U.S. border and forcing Mexico to pay for it core pledges of his campaign. But in his first White House call with Mexico’s president, Trump described his vow to charge Mexico as a growing political problem, pressuring the Mexican leader to stop saying publicly that his government would never pay.
“You cannot say that to the press,” Trump said repeatedly, according to a transcript of the Jan. 27 call obtained by the Washington Post. Trump made clear that he realized the funding would have to come from other sources but threatened to cut off contact if Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto continued to make defiant statements.
The funding “will work out in the formula somehow,” Trump said, adding later that “it will come out in the wash, and that is okay.” But “if you are going to say that Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, then I do not want to meet with you guys anymore because I cannot live with that.” He described the wall as “the least important thing we are talking about, but politically this might be the most important.”
New York Times, White House Purging Michael Flynn Allies From National Security Council, Glenn Thrush and Peter Baker, Aug. 3, 2017 (print edition). The White House has engaged in a slow-motion purge of hard-line officials at the National Security Council in recent weeks, angering conservatives who complain that the foreign policy establishment is reasserting itself over a president who had promised a new course.
The latest to go was Ezra Cohen-Watnick (shown at left), who ran the N.S.C.’s intelligence division and, like others who have left, was originally appointed by Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s first national security adviser. Mr. Flynn (shown above right) resigned in February after it was disclosed that he misled Vice President Mike Pence and others about a telephone call with Russia’s ambassador.
Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster (shown at right) succeeded Mr. Flynn and has slowly tried to move out some of Mr. Flynn’s appointees. He initially tried to fire Mr. Cohen-Watnick earlier this year, only to be rebuffed by Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser. But Mr. Kushner dropped his opposition this week, according to someone with knowledge of the decision.
A fierce Trump loyalist, Mr. Cohen-Watnick drew attention when he and another White House official briefed Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, on classified intelligence reports revealing that American intelligence agencies had conducted incidental surveillance of Mr. Trump’s transition team. The briefing was intended to bolster Mr. Trump’s unsubstantiated claim that President Barack Obama ordered phones tapped at Trump Tower.
JFK Assassination Records Release Revelations
Dr. John M. Newman author of Countdown to Darkness, JFK and Vietnam, Oswald and the CIA, Where Angels Tread Lightly and more. Photo credits: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform and Skyhorse Publishing, with collage by WhoWhatWhy
WhoWhatWhy, 2017 JFK Document Release Shows Former Intelligence Analyst Got It Right, Alan Dale, Aug. 3, 2017. For decades, those investigating the assassination of President John F. Kennedy have been eagerly anticipating the release of previously withheld documents scheduled for later this year, October 26. One major question that remains is whether President Donald Trump will use his authority to further keep these documents from the public eye.
Fifty-four years is long enough. The potential for discovery represented by the recent and upcoming release of remaining government files on the Kennedy assassination was realized this week with the startling revelation that beginning in 1956, Earle Cabell (shown at left), brother of Deputy Director of Central Intelligence Charles P. Cabell and Mayor of Dallas at the time JFK was assassinated, was a CIA asset.
We are now able to review his 10/17/56 CIA Secrecy Agreement, his CIA 201 file cover sheet, his 5/13/57 CIA Personality 201 File Request, and a cover sheet indicating that the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) reviewed his 201 file. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) master listing of files scheduled for release indicates that the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) classified these records as “Not Believed Relevant” (NBR).
ARRB Director Judge John Tunheim, shown at left in a Noel St. John photo speaking at the National Press Club during a CAPA sponsored event this past March, said that he now believes that many of the NBR-designated documents are indeed relevant. With the benefit of hindsight, that may have been an understatement.
The passage of many days, months, or years may be necessary for information to be placed in the correct context and understood as being significant.
The example of George Joannides, who was brought out of retirement to act as liaison between the Agency and the HSCA, is a case in point. Joannides’ role as the CIA case officer for the DRE (Revolutionary Student Directorate), an anti-Castro group with which Lee Harvey Oswald had interacted in the summer of 1963 in New Orleans, was withheld by the agency throughout the term of the HSCA which was investigating CIA connections to the group.
When asked directly if Joannides (shown at right) could assist the HSCA by identifying the officer who had handled the DRE during the summer of 1963, he responded by saying, “I’ll look into that.” Perhaps the CIA did not feel that revealing Joannides’ true identity to the Committee investigators was “assassination-related.”
JFK Records Release Research
JFKCountercoup, The Annotated Shenon and Sabato on the New JFK Records, Bill Kelly, Aug. 3, 2017. Phil Shenon and Larry Sabato are at it again. After their piece in the Washington Post [President Trump, give us the full story on the JFK assassination], that the AARC [Assassination Archives and Research Center] responded to [AARC Board responds to Sabato and Shenon] they are picking up where Gus Russo, Brien Latell and Bob Baer left off and are stuck parroting the same old, sorry story that is just not true.
Phil Shenon is a former New York Times reporter who says he is not interested in any other aspect of the assassination of President Kennedy other than that which indicates Castro was behind the dirty deed. In his book A Cruel and Shocking Act, he tries to make the claim that Oswald met Cuban embassy officials at a private Twist Party where they encouraged him to kill JFK. There was a party at which Oswald was encouraged to kill General Walker, but Shenon isn’t interested in that. See my reviews: JFKcountercoup: A Cruel and Shocking Twist.
Sabato is associated with the University of Virginia Center for Politics, and together they represent a Punch and Judy show that we will have to get used to. We will have to respond and correct each of their articles, especially as they try to promote the original cover story: the false black propaganda and disinformation campaign to promote the idea that Castro was behind the assassination of JFK.
Trump White House v. Media
Washington Post, Stephen Miller vs. Jim Acosta sent the daily briefing totally off the rails, Callum Borchers, Aug. 3, 2017 (print edition). The White House adviser seemed more determined to expose CNN’s alleged bias than to make the case for Trump’s latest policy proposal.
Politics Around the Nation
Washington Post, At West Virginia rally, Trump rejects allegations of collusion with Russia as ‘total fabrication,’ John Wagner, Aug. 3, 2017. Prosecutors should look into Hillary Clinton’s emails instead, Trump said, and the crowd responded with ‘Lock her up!’
Washington Post, West Virginia’s governor is switching back to the GOP. And Democrats hit a new low, Amber Phillips, Aug. 3, 2017. At a rally for President Trump, Gov. Jim Justice announced that after a few years as a Democrat, he’s becoming a Republican again. His decision leaves the Democratic Party with the fewest governors it has had in modern times. “Like it or not, but the Democrats walked away from me,” he told Trump supporters. ” … West Virginia, I can’t help you anymore by being a Democratic governor.”
It’s not immediately clear why Justice is doing an about-face. But the fact he is underscores just how fragile Democrats’ hold on power is. With one politician’s decision to switch parties, Democrats now hold a record-low number of governorships — and Republicans hold a record high. Justice will be the 34th Republican governor, tying an all-time high for the party. Republicans now control both the governor’s mansions and state legislatures in 26 states. Democrats have total control in just six states. (In 2018, they’ll have a chance to pick up governorships, with Republicans defending 27 of 38 seats, many in blue or purple states.)
“The people of West Virginia deserve better,” state Senate President Mitch Carmichael (R) said of the governor recently during a budget debate. “I don’t believe anybody who owes this state $4.5 million in unpaid taxes is in a position to tell a legislative body that has responsibly managed its own budget for decades . . . how to spend a single penny.”
Los Angeles Times, Column: Does carrying a gun make you safer? No. In fact, right-to-carry laws increase violent crime, Patt Morrison, Aug. 2, 2017. Does carrying a gun make you safer? Does it make other people safer? Millions of Americans who pack heat think so, and 33 states with “right to carry” laws permit them to tote a gun.
But a long-range study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that these states would have had less violent crime had they restricted gun-carrying. John J. Donohue, a Stanford law professor and economist (shown at right), is a lead author of the analysis, which used more than 30 years of crime statistics and a novel algorithm: Researchers identified states whose crime rates paralleled those of states like Texas before it passed a “right to carry” law, and came up with models — called synthetic states — to look at before-and-after violent crime in right-to-carry states and non-right-to-carry “synthetic” states.
It’s comparing apples and virtual apples, and Donohue – who’s also an expert witness in a right-to-carry lawsuit against the state of California — concluded that gun-toting indeed makes a difference in violent crime: it can increase it, by as much as 15%.
Daily Beast, Trump’s DHS Ordered Agents to Block Congressmen During Travel Ban, Betsy Woodruff, Aug. 2, 2017. In the first hours of the travel ban, Trump administration officials stiff-armed Congress, treated lawyer calls like ‘protests,’ and shared photos among themselves of protesters. On the chaotic day the Trump administration’s travel ban went into effect, high-level Homeland Security officials directed their staff at airports around the country to stiff-arm members of Congress and treat lawyers with deep suspicion.
Members of Congress say they’re shocked by the orders, uncovered in documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request from the Daily Beast and the James Madison Project, both of which were represented by the law office of Mark S. Zaid.
New York Times, Trump Embraces Immigration System Based on Job Skills, Peter Baker, Aug. 2, 2017. Two Republican senators visited the White House to introduce their legislation, which some critics said would keep out badly needed low-wage workers.
Related story: Washington Post, Trump, GOP senators to introduce bill to slash legal immigration levels, David Nakamura, Aug. 2, 2017. The bill, which aims to cut immigration by half from the current level of more than 1 million green cards per year, is expected to face fierce resistance from congressional Democrats and immigrant rights groups.
New York Times, Trump Signs Bill Imposing Sanctions Against Russia, Peter Baker, Aug. 2, 2017. The measure, which passed both houses of Congress with near-unanimous votes, has already escalated tensions with the Russian government
Washington Post, Jared Kushner stepped down from 266 ‘corporate positions.’ What does that mean? Jena McGregor, Aug. 2, 2017 (Print edition). In Donald Trump’s White House, Jared Kushner has many jobs. The president’s son-in-law is a senior adviser to Trump. He has been charged with leading the administration’s “Office of American Innovation,” an entity launched in March with sweeping authority to revamp the federal bureaucracy and bring ideas from the business world to work on issues such as veterans health care and the opioid addiction crisis. He has been described as a shadow diplomat, with a foreign policy portfolio that includes Mexico and the Middle East.
But counting up the titles he stepped down from leading up to Trump’s inauguration, and the number looked to some, at first glance, as even more eye-popping. In a recent story following the release of revised filings by Kushner and Ivanka Trump, The Washington Post reported that Kushner had “resigned from 266 corporate positions, and Trump stepped down from 292 positions.”
SouthFront, Government Forces Overrun ISIS Defense, Liberate Sabkah Village In Southern Raqqah (Map), Staff report, Aug. 2, 2017. Syrian government forces, led by the Syrian Arab Army Tiger Forces and pro-government tribal forces, have overrun the ISIS defense in the southern Raqqah countryside and liberated the village of Sabkah, according to pro-government sources. Sabkah had been used by ISIS terrorists for conducting counter-attacks against government forces. Government forces will be able to secure the recent gains in southern Raqqah and to develop further their operation against ISIS in the administrative border area between the provinces of Raqqah and Deir Ezzor.
SouthFront, Syrian Government Disbands Desert Hawks Brigade – Reports, Staff report, Aug. 2, 2017. The Syrian government has reportedly disbanded the Desert Hawks Brigade (Liwa Suqur al-Sahara), a private armed militia founded and led by Colonel Mohammad Jaber. The decision followed of a series of the questionable events linked to the group. According to local sources, tensions with the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and other pro-government units were the reason behind the decision. Members of the Desert Hawks Brigade will have an opportunity to join pro-government units.
Politico, Appeals court won’t block Kobach deposition, Josh Gerstein, Aug. 2, 2017. A federal appeals court has turned down Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s emergency request to escape a deposition set for Thursday about voter registration proposals he took into a meeting with President-elect Donald Trump last November.
Kobach (shown in an official photo) is facing a deposition in connection with a lawsuit pending in federal district court in Kansas City, challenging the state’s law requiring proof of citizenship when individuals are seeking to register to vote. A federal judge already ordered Kobach to turn over a memo he took into the meeting with Trump in November at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. Kobach is currently serving as vice chairman of a federal advisory panel Trump set up to explore strategies to combat voter fraud.
JFK Assassination Records Release
Politico, How the CIA Came to Doubt the Official Story of JFK’s Murder, Philip Shenon and Larry J. Sabato, Aug. 2, 2017. Newly released documents from long-secret Kennedy assassination files raise startling questions about what top agency officials knew and when they knew it.
After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in November 1963, the CIA appeared eager, even desperate, to embrace the version of events being offered by the FBI, the Secret Service and other parts of the government.
The official story: that a delusional misfit and self-proclaimed Marxist named Lee Harvey Oswald killed the president in Dallas with his $21 mail-order rifle and there was no evidence of a conspiracy, foreign or domestic. Certainly, the CIA’s leaders told the Warren Commission, the independent panel that investigated the murder, there was no evidence of a conspiracy that the spy agency could have foiled.
But thousands of pages of long-secret, assassination-related documents released by the National Archives last week show that, within a few years of Kennedy’s murder, some in the CIA began to worry internally that the official story was wrong — an alarm the agency never sounded publicly.
Assassination Archives and Research Center (AARC), AARC Board responds to Sabato and Shenon, Editorial Board, Aug. 2, 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 (shown at left) 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.
Houston Chronicle, Jim Marrs, Texas-based conspiracy theorist and author, dies at 73, Craig Hlavaty, August 3, 2017. Jim Marrs, shown in a portrait and best-known for his work researching the various theories surrounding the JFK assassination, UFOs, and a guest on many talk shows, died this week at the age of 73. According to his official Facebook page he died of a heart attack on Wednesday.
He had recently been put on dialysis. The Fort Worth-native was a mainstay on late-night radio show “Coast to Coast AM” and the “Alex Jones’ Infowars” program. In late June, Marrs posted a note on his official website that said he was suspending work on the site to address his health issues.
New York Times, Breakthrough Reported in Gene Editing in Human Embryo, Paem Belluck, In a major milestone, researchers have found a way to reliably remove disease-causing mutations from human embryos. The achievement raises the prospect that gene editing may one day protect babies from a variety of conditions but is sure to renew ethical concerns.
New York Times, Uneasy Welcome as Ultra-Orthodox Jews Extend Beyond New York, Joseph Berger, Aug. 2, 2017. To the gentrifying stew of bankers, artists and college graduates who are transforming this once blue-collar city across the Hudson River from Manhattan, add an unexpected flavor. In a heavily African-American neighborhood, 62 families from a number of Hasidic sects based in Brooklyn and rarely seen here have bought a scattering of faded but roomy wood-frame rowhouses whose prices are less than half what homes of similar size would cost in New York — roughly $300,000 compared with $800,000.
These families are pioneers in a demographic and religious shift that is reshaping communities throughout the region. The influx, however, has provoked tensions with long-established residents, as the ultra-Orthodox seek to establish a larger footprint for their surging population.
Haaretz (Israel), Opinion: Netanyahu Jr. Refuses to Pick Up Dog Poop, Then Claws at His Critics, Uri Misgav, Aug. 2, 2017. 25-year-old Yair Netanyahu responds to bad press with scathing attacks on the New Israel Fund and sons of former Israeli prime ministers.
New York Post, Russia PM predicts establishment will ‘remove’ Trump from power, Bob Fredericks, Aug. 2, 2017. Russia’s prime minister said Wednesday that a new sanctions bill signed by President Trump earlier in the day was the first shot of a “full-scale trade war” — and predicted the US president would be booted from office.
“The issue of sanctions came about, primarily, as another way to knock Trump down a peg,” Dimitry Medvedev wrote in a Facebook post. “New steps are to come, and they will ultimately aim to remove him from power.” Medvedev also said that the sanctions showed the Trump administration was powerless. “The hope that our relations with the new American administration would improve is finished,” he wrote.
Trump signed the bill, which he called deeply flawed, to punish Russia for election meddling. “The US establishment fully outwitted Trump; the President is not happy about the new sanctions, yet he could not but sign the bill,” the Russian prime minister wrote. The law also targets North Korea and Iran for their nuclear programs.
Washington Post, Trump’s golf game tells us an awful lot about Trump, Dana Milbank, Aug. 2, 2017. The late golf legend Bobby Jones called his sport “the closest game to the game we call life. You get bad breaks from good shots; you get good breaks from bad shots — but you have to play the ball where it lies.” Unless you are Donald Trump.
I just read one of the best pieces of political journalism of the Trump age. It’s Sports Illustrated’s report on the president’s golf game. He breaks rules, exaggerates scores and ignores the game’s decorum. Sound familiar? He is, Sports Illustrated asserted, “easily the best golfer” ever to occupy the White House. Likewise, he is an enormously talented politician, with a genius for marketing. Yet in golf, as in life, he doesn’t leave it at that. He gilds the lily with dishonesty.
Washington Post, Trump dictated son’s misleading statement on meeting with Russian lawyer, Ashley Parker, Carol D. Leonnig, Philip Rucker and Tom Hamburger, Aug. 1, 2017 (print edition). President Trump’s personal intervention, described by people with knowledge of the deliberations, is part of a series of actions that some advisers fear could place him and some members of his inner circle in legal jeopardy as the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election proceeds.
Lawsuit Claims Bogus Fox News Political Scandal Story
New York Times, Lawsuit Asserts White House Role in Fox News Article on Seth Rich, Emily Steel, Aug. 1, 2017. The private detective at the center of a Fox News article about the death of a young Democratic aide claims that the White House and a wealthy Trump supporter urged the network to publish the article as part of a scheme to blunt speculation about the president’s ties to Russia, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.
Rod Wheeler, who was hired by the family of the aide, Seth Rich (shown at left), to look into his death, filed the lawsuit against Fox News and its parent company, 21st Century Fox, accusing the network of fabricating quotes from him in an article on FoxNews.com. Mr. Wheeler states that the network was aware that he had not said the statements yet it published them “with reckless disregard for their truth.”
The network later retracted the article, saying it did not meet its standards.
In the suit, Mr. Wheeler, who is a Fox News contributor, asserts that he was a pawn in a broader plan by the White House, a Trump supporter named Ed Butowsky and Fox News to “shift the blame from Russia and help put to bed speculation that President Trump colluded with Russia in an attempt to influence the outcome of the presidential election.” The lawsuit, alleging defamation and racial discrimination, was filed Tuesday morning in the United States District Court in the Southern District of New York.
Mr. Rich, who worked for the Democratic National Committee, was fatally shot in July 2016. The case is unsolved. The retracted article, citing law enforcement sources, said Mr. Rich had shared thousands of D.N.C. emails with WikiLeaks — a theory that would undercut the assertions that Russia had interfered in the election on behalf of Mr. Trump.
Mr. Wheeler, who is black, states in the suit that he has faced discrimination at Fox News because of his race. Mr. Wheeler, who is paid a set amount for each appearance he makes on the network, says that he has received less airtime, money and notoriety than his white colleagues.
Jay Wallace, the president of news at Fox News, said in a statement: “The accusation that FoxNews.com published Malia Zimmerman’s story to help detract from coverage of the Russia collusion issue is completely erroneous. The retraction of this story is still being investigated internally and we have no evidence that Rod Wheeler was misquoted by Zimmerman.”
“Additionally, Fox News vehemently denies the race discrimination claims in the lawsuit — the dispute between Zimmerman and Rod Wheeler has nothing to do with race,” Mr. Wallace added.
Washington Post, Sean Spicer claimed to be unaware of Seth Rich story after meeting with donor who pushed it, David Weigel and Paul Farhi, Aug. 1, 2017. Outgoing White House communications director Sean Spicer (shown below in a screenshot) has admitted meeting with a Republican donor who shopped a conspiracy-soaked story about a dead staffer at the Democratic National Committee, despite telling reporters that he was unaware of the story when Fox News ran several segments about it.
In a lawsuit first reported by NPR’s David Folkenflik, Fox contributor and private investigator Rod Wheeler described his work with Republican donor Ed Butowsky to attempt to prove an explosive claim that has since been debunked — that Seth Rich, an DNC IT staffer who was killed in Washington, D.C., last year, had been the source of internal emails later published by WikiLeaks. Rich’s killing remains unsolved.
Washington Post, A timeline of the explosive lawsuit alleging a White House link in the Seth Rich conspiracy, Philip Bump, Aug. 1, 2017. The suit claims that the president may have been aware of or involved in a discredited Fox News story about the killing of a Democratic National Committee staffer in Washington.
It’s a complicated story that, we hasten to add, is based on allegations in a lawsuit filed by a person whose quotes in that discredited story were themselves discredited. But the lawsuit includes documentary evidence (like text messages), and Folkenflik was given access to recorded calls that bolster the story as presented. What’s more, the lawsuit is predicated on Wheeler’s assertion that he never said the quotes attributed to him.
Given the complexity of the story, we’ve taken the details in the lawsuit and arranged them as a timeline. First, though, it’s important to understand the cast of characters.
Elsewhere In Washington
New York Times, Trump Inquiry Hints at a Bias Against Whites by Universities, Charlie Savage, Aug. 1, 2017. The Trump administration is preparing to redirect resources of the Justice Department’s civil rights division toward investigating and suing universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants, according to a document obtained by The New York Times.
The document, an internal announcement to the civil rights division, seeks current lawyers interested in working for a new project on “investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.” The announcement suggests that the project will be run out of the division’s front office, where the Trump administration’s political appointees work, rather than its Educational Opportunities Section, which is run by career civil servants and normally handles work involving schools and universities.
The document does not explicitly identify whom the Justice Department considers at risk of discrimination because of affirmative action admissions policies. But the phrasing it uses, “intentional race-based discrimination,” cuts to the heart of programs designed to bring more minority students to university campuses.
Roll Call, Christopher Wray Faces Challenges as New FBI Director, Todd Ruger, Aug. 1, 2017. Senate confirms new director (shown above) on 92-5 vote, showing bipartisan support Tuesday’s confirmation vote of 92-5 is a rare moment of bipartisanship for a Trump nominee, especially because of the president’s abrupt firing of James B. Comey from the FBI post in May and his reasons for doing so.
Wray starts a 10-year term at the helm of the bureau, which has 30,000 agents and open counterterrorism investigations across the nation. Both House and Senate appropriators have increased funding for the FBI in fiscal 2018 spending bills, saying the real and evolving threats of cybercrime, terrorism and espionage must be addressed.
The job will be made even tougher in the unsettled political environment after his predecessor’s exit. Among other reasons, Trump said he fired Comey over the handling of the Russia investigation and called Comey “a show boat” and “grand stander,” and charged “the FBI has been in turmoil.”
“Quite simply, he is as professional and as nonpolitically associated as anyone can be going into this position,” Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal (shown in an official photo), a Judiciary Committee member and one of the most vocal opponents of Trump nominees, said Tuesday on the Senate floor.
CNN, Only once had a US Senator ever voted against a nominee for FBI director — until today, Staff report, Aug. 1, 2017. Five Democrats cast their ballots Tuesday afternoon opposing the confirmation of Christopher Wray, President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the country’s top investigative agency. The vote was 92-5. The final list of negative votes included Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, Ed Markey, Jeff Merkley, Elizabeth Warren and Ron Wyden. Historically, lawmakers have aimed for broad bipartisan support on pivotal, nonpartisan nominees, but data shows lawmakers and their constituents are more divided than they’ve been in decades.
Democracy Now!, Wray Confirmed as FBI Director as Questions Swirl over His Past Record & Close Ties to Big Business, Host Amy Goodman interviews guests James Henry and Marcy Wheeler, Aug. 2, 2017. The Senate has confirmed longtime corporate lawyer Christopher Wray, in a 92-to-5 vote, to become the next director of the FBI, replacing James Comey, who was fired by Donald Trump in May. In an unprecedented vote, five senators, all Democrats, voted against Wray. Before yesterday, only one senator had ever voted against an FBI nominee. Before yesterday, only one senator had ever voted against an FBI nominee. In addition, three senators abstained from the vote.
Senator Ron Wyden, who voted against Wray’s confirmation, said he did so because of Wray’s position on government surveillance. “In his public and private statements, Chris Wray failed to oppose government backdoors into Americans’ personal devices, or to acknowledge the facts about encryption. That it isn’t about liberty versus security, it’s about more security versus less security.” The American Civil Liberties Union also criticized Wray for his involvement in the U.S. torture program under George W. Bush. We speak with independent journalist Marcy Wheeler and economist James Henry.
For more on Christopher Wray, we’re joined by two guests. Marcy Wheeler is with us. She is an independent journalist who covers national security and civil liberties. She runs the website EmptyWheel.net, joining us from Michigan. And joining us via Democracy Now! video stream is economist and lawyer James Henry, global justice fellow at Yale University, senior adviser with the Tax Justice Network, former chief economist at McKinsey & Company. He recently wrote for The American Interest a piece that is headlined “No Wray.”
Washington Post, EPA doing the ‘right thing’ is ‘not possible’ under Trump, says latest protesting official, Joe Davidson, Aug. 1, 2017. After 30 years at the agency, Elizabeth “Betsy” Southerland became the latest “heartbroken” person to leave the federal workforce. Elizabeth “Betsy” Southerland loved her work at the Environmental Protection Agency. Then Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt came along.
Now Southerland, who was director of science and technology in the agency’s Office of Water, said she is “heartbroken about the impact of the new administration on environmental protection in this country.” After 30 years at EPA, her last day was Monday.
Southerland becomes the latest in a series of protesting federal scientists. She denounced the destructive environmental policies of President Trump and EPA Administrator Pruitt. Family concerns played an important role in her decision to leave, but she also can’t stomach the current direction of an agency that answers to a White House wallowing in disarray and disgrace.
In a statement planned for release Tuesday by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and during email and phone interviews with The Washington Post, she talked about how “EPA has been the guiding light to make the ‘right thing’ happen for the greater good, including public health and safety.” But with Trump and Pruitt in charge, “that will not be possible under the current administration.”
“There is no question,” she said, “the administration is seriously weakening EPA’s mission by vigorously pursuing an industry deregulation approach and defunding implementation of environmental programs.” Southerland went public with her opposition to Trump’s environmental program, because she said “I felt it was my civic duty to explain the impact of this administration’s policies on public health and safety.”
Raw Story, Omarosa keeps ‘dossiers’ on president’s enemies — and is seeking ‘revenge’ on friends who didn’t back Trump, Eric W. Dolan, Aug. 1, 2017. Omarosa Manigault-Newman, a former Apprentice star turned White House communications official, is reportedly keeping tabs on the “enemies” of President Donald Trump. According to the Daily Mail, the former reality TV star is keeping a “dossier” on her political rivals. Manigault has targeted journalists April Ryan and Roland Martin and Pastor Jamal Bryant in particular.
The three public figures once were on friendly terms with Manigault, shown in a portrait by Gage Skidmore. But their relationships broke down during the 2016 presidential campaign. “It’s shocking that three people she once considered her close friends are not just her personal nemeses, but she’s always bashing in meetings with senior White House staff and has her team keeping a dossier on each of them,” one source told the Daily Mail.
Manigault served as the Trump campaign’s director of African-American outreach. Now she is the director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison for the Trump administration. In March, she confronted Ryan and reportedly threatened to smear her as “a paid Clinton surrogate.” Ryan said Manigault “stood right in my face like she was going to hit me” during the confrontation just outside the West Wing.
JFK Assassination Cover-up
Future of Freedom Foundation, Will Trump Continue the CIA’s Cover-Up in the JFK Assassination? Jacob G. Hornberger (shown below at left), Aug. 1, 2017. Last week, the National Archives suddenly released a batch of long-secret official records relating to the JFK assassination. This was surprising because the official release date for all the JFK-assassination records, as mandated by law, is coming this October. The still-secret records amount to tens of thousands of pages of documents, many of which are records of the CIA, the super-secret federal agency that has specialized in the art of assassination, cover-up of assassination, and regime change practically since its inception in 1947.
The gig is finally up. With one possible exception: The CIA can request President Trump to continue the secrecy on grounds of “national security.” If the president grants the request, the secrecy continues. If it doesn’t, the secrecy finally comes to an end, at least with respect to the CIA’s records that have been in the custody of the National Archives for the past 25 years.
Will the CIA seek another secrecy extension? Will the agency tell President Trump that “national security” will be threatened if the American people are permitted to see its 54-year-old records? I don’t have any doubts about it, and I’ve been saying that for several months now.
Just as I and others have been predicting for several months. Of course, there will be those who will cry “National security, Jacob!” or simply chalk it up to the CIA’s customary penchant for secrecy.
Do the still-secret records contain a videotaped confession by CIA officials stating that they orchestrated the assassination of President Kennedy to protect “national security,” just as they orchestrated regime-change operations in Cuba, Iran, Guatemala, Indonesia, Brazil, Congo, Chile, and elsewhere to protect “national security”? Of course not.
But the CIA knows that the still-secret records will provide further bits of circumstantial evidence that further fill in the overall mosaic of what happened. That’s why they’re going to ask Trump to continue the secrecy — to prevent assassination researchers from getting their hands on those additional pieces of circumstantial evidence.
Inside the Trump Empire
Raw Story, Scaramucci secretly dined with Katrina Pierson at Trump Hotel hours after firing announced, Sarah K. Burris, Aug. 1, 2017. Just moments after being “released” from his position as communications director, Anthony Scaramucci headed to the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C. Hanging out at the Trump Hotel’s BLT Prime, Scaramucci sat on his cell phone most of the night and barely even touched his food, the Daily Mail reported.
He was there with other Trump loyalists, including Katrina Pierson, who is working for Trump’s PAC (and shown in Scaramucci in television screenshots from previous appearances). The group chose a secluded table in the corner under a tree, reminiscent of former press secretary Sean Spicer hiding “among” the bushes outside the west wing of the White House. He declined to be interviewed and left quietly through a side door. Meanwhile, his old boss President Donald Trump was tweeting about what a great day it was.
Washington Post, Chelsea Clinton defends White House staff after Trump reportedly calls the place ‘a real dump,’ Emily Heil, Aug. 1, 2017. A White House spokesman denied that the president, who frequently spends weekends at his own properties rather than at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., insulted the executive mansion, as reported by Golf.com.
Washington Post, Debt-ceiling talks between White House, Senate break up with no progress, Damian Paletta, Aug. 1, 2017. The Senate and House have 12 joint working days before Sept. 29, when the Treasury Department says it would no longer be able to pay all of the government’s bills unless Congress acts. Talks between the White House and the Senate’s top Republican and Democrat broke up Tuesday with no progress on raising the country’s debt ceiling, an impasse that threatens a financial crisis if left unresolved.
The Senate and House have 12 joint working days before Sept. 29, when the Treasury Department says it would no longer be able to pay all of the government’s bills unless Congress acts. A default would likely set off a major disruption to the world financial system, with a stock market crash and surging interest rates that could send the economy into a recession. Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin is shown in an official photo.
HuffPo, Why The Mooch Lost His Cool, Vicky Ward, Aug. 1, 2017. Anthony Scaramucci tells HuffPost about the highs and lows of his fiery stint at the White House and what that cuss-filled rant was really about. I received a call Monday night from Roger Stone, the infamous political prankster and Donald Trump confidant. He wanted to talk about Anthony Scaramucci, whose 10-day tenure as White House communications director had just ended in ignominy.
Stone said that Scaramucci reminded him of “a suicide bomber,” then switched centuries for his next metaphor. “The administration is like the French Revolution,” Stone said. “You never know who will be beheaded next.” But Stone didn’t believe that Scaramucci would stay far from the president for long. “As you know, none of us are ever really gone. He still has the president’s cellphone, the president’s private number. Just because he’s not in the White House, no one should think his influence has gone.”
Politico, Wife of new Mueller prosecutor just bailed as judge in 2 Trump cases, Josh Gerstein, Aug. 1, 2017. A federal judge who is the wife of a lawyer joining special counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia investigation recently recused herself from a pair of lawsuits challenging President Donald Trump’s business dealings with foreign governments. Mueller’s office confirmed Tuesday evening that former fraud and corruption prosecutor Greg Andres has agreed to join the special counsel staff.
The development offers an explanation for the previously unanswered question of why U.S. District Court Judge Ronnie Abrams, who married Andres in 2001, suddenly recused herself last month from the emoluments lawsuits. One of the cases was filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW) in Washington and the other was brought by White Plains, N.Y. attorney William Weinstein.
TruNews, Saudi Arabia Asks Judge to Dismiss 9/11 JASTA Lawsuits, Staff report, Aug. 1, 2017. On Tuesday Saudi Arabia asked a U.S. Judge to dismiss 25 lawsuits claiming that it helped plan the terror attacks on September 11th 2001 and should pay damages to victims. In a filing in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Saudi Arabia said the plaintiffs cannot show that the kingdom or any affiliated charities were behind the attacks. It also said it deserved sovereign immunity.
The Saudi government has long denied involvement in the attacks, in which airplanes hijacked by al Qaeda crashed into New York’s World Trade Center, the Pentagon outside Washington, and a Pennsylvania field. Nearly 3,000 people died. Saudi Arabia is being sued for billions of dollars by the families of roughly 2,500 of those killed, more than 20,000 people who suffered injuries, businesses and various insurers.
“It is what we expected,” James Kreindler, a lawyer representing the wrongful death claimants, said in an interview, referring to Tuesday’s filing. “We have tons of allegations of what many Saudis and the country’s alter ego charities did. Saudi Arabia cannot hide from the facts.”
In September 2015, U.S. District Judge George Daniels, who oversees the litigation, had dismissed claims by victims’ families. But last September, the U.S. Congress overrode a veto by President Barack Obama and adopted the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), which permits such claims to proceed. In Tuesday’s filing, Saudi Arabia acknowledged that JASTA eliminated some of its defenses. But it said the plaintiffs still could not show that any Saudi official, employee or agent planned or carried out the attacks.
Apartheid-Era Political Assassination In South Africa?
South Africa’s flag under its racist apartheid regime is shown above. The current flag, adopted in 1994, is at right
Washington Post, An anti-apartheid activist died in police custody in 1971. New testimony points to murder, Kyle Swenson, Aug. 1, 2017. Ernest Matthis spied the falling body but heard no scream. It was late afternoon, October 1971. The South African prosecutor was in the middle of a witness interview, part of an ongoing insurance investigation. “I was standing some distance from the window and I saw a person fall,” Matthis recounted last week in a courtroom in Pretoria.
Below, Ahmed Timol wrestled with his last breaths. A Muslim schoolteacher and political activist, the 29-year-old had been arrested six days earlier. Above, on the Vorster Square’s 10th floor, were the offices of the South African Police’s Special Branch, the much-feared ideological shock troopers tasked with uprooting dissent — and the unit that had grabbed Timol and a friend from a checkpoint.
Washington Post, As Maduro takes Venezuela into uncharted waters, the opposition has few options, Anthony Faiola and Heather Long, Aug. 1, 2017. The United States imposed sanctions on President Nicolás Maduro (shown above) after a controversial election that critics called a tipping point toward dictatorship.
This photo released by Pakistan’s Muslim League shows Pakistani ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif addressing a party in Islamabad, Pakistan on July 29, 2017.
Center for Public Integrity, Pakistani PM disqualified by court over Panama Papers links, Hamish Boland-Rudder and Martha M. Hamilton, Aug. 1, 2017. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has voted unanimously to disqualify Nawaz Sharif from the prime ministership and has referred his case to the country’s top anti-corruption authority for an investigation into his family’s offshore assets, as revealed in the Panama Papers.
Sharif’s removal comes one year before he was due to end his third term as Pakistan’s leader, and means his party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, will need to appoint an interim prime minister to serve until the next election in mid-2018.
The case now goes to Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau for an investigation into the family’s alleged corruption. According to the BBC, the Supreme Court also recommended anti-corruption cases against Sharif’s daughter Mariam and her husband Safdar, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and others. The News reports that Safdar and Dar have also been disqualified from their offices.
The outcome marked a perhaps predictable end to a process that had consisted of one negative finding after another for the prime minister and his family after the Panama Papers reported on April 3, 2016 that his family owned expensive properties in London through offshore companies.
Little more than a month later, Sharif, facing calls for his resignation, abruptly left Pakistan and checked himself into a London hospital. Through his lawyer, Sharif told the Pakistan Supreme Court that he did not own any shell companies or property through offshore holdings himself without addressing whether his children did. The embattled prime minister subsequently returned to Pakistan after undergoing heart bypass surgery.