January 2018 News Reports


Editor’s Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative January 2018 news and views

Jan. 31

FBI Leadership vs. White House On Memo

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Washington Post, FBI challenges accuracy of GOP’s surveillance memo, Devlin Barrett, Karoun Demirjian and Elise Viebeck​, Jan. 31, 2018.  The bureau spoke out against a memo criticizing the use of surveillance authorities, challenging the classified document’s accuracy as the White House and congressional Republicans are expected to soon make its contents public.

The FBI pushed back sharply Wednesday against a GOP memo criticizing the bureau’s use of secret surveillance orders — escalating a remarkable public standoff between the White House and the nation’s top law enforcement agency.

“As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about the material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy,” the FBI said in a statement.

rod rosenstein cspan It is highly unusual for the White House and the FBI to be publicly at odds over a matter of national security, and it was unclear what impact the disagreement might have on the standing of FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein (shown at left), two Trump appointees who went to the White House on Monday to urge that the memo not be released.

Ethics Violation At HUD By Secretary Carson?

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ben carsonWashington Post, HUD lawyers warned Ben Carson risked running afoul of ethics rules by enlisting son, Juliet Eilperin and Jack Gillum, Jan. 31, 2018. The head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (shown at right) allowed his son to help organize a “listening tour” in Baltimore despite warnings from department lawyers, according to internal documents and people familiar with the matter.

djt sotu screen jan 30 2018President Trump speaks at his first State of the Union address on Jan. 30, 2018. He is flanked by Vice President Mike Pence (left) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (Screenshot)

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New York Times, ‘This Is Our New American Moment,’ Trump Tries to Move Past Tumult in State of the Union Speech, Julie Hirshfeld Davis and Michael D. Shear, Jan. 31,  2018 (print edition). Addressing a deeply divided Congress and nation, President Trump called for bipartisan efforts on issues like infrastructure and immigration.Amid some jeers, he laid out a four-pillar immigration plan, one of the major debates looming over his

President Trump challenged Democrats on Tuesday night to join him in overhauling immigration policies and in rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure in his first State of the Union address.

Speaking to a joint session of Congress, Mr. Trump hailed what he called the “extraordinary success” of his administration’s first year, and sounded notes of unity and inclusion, steering clear of the nationalist rhetoric, political attacks and confrontational tone that have been his calling cards both as a candidate and a commander in chief.

“Tonight, I call upon all of us to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground and to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people,” Mr. Trump said to raucous applause from many Republicans, as Democratic leaders who have bitterly criticized his policies and messaging sat stone-faced in their seats.

“This, in fact, is our new American moment,” Mr. Trump said. “There has never been a better time to start living the American dream.”

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Washington Post, Analysis: Winners and losers from the State of the Union, Aaron Blake, Jan. 31, 2018 (print edition). It was a good night for strength metaphors, but not such a good night for facts. Here are some of the big takeaways.

WND (WorldNetDaily), Analysis: Trump rocks America in 1st State of the Union, Chelsea Schilling, Jan. 31, 2018. President outlines plan for ‘Dreamers’ to ‘become full citizens of United States.’ In an attempt to show America how far it has come in the first year of his presidency, President Trump praised his accomplishments in his first State of the Union address Tuesday night and listed new initiatives in his bold plan to build a “safe, strong and proud America.”

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Washington Post, Analysis: Speech underscored why Trump is his own worst enemy, James Hohmann, Jan. 31, 2018. While the president is a consummate showman, he will perennially struggle to be a unifying figure because he is so personally divisive, at one point using an inspiring example of a 12-year-old’s campaign to put flags on the graves of veterans to take another dig at black NFL players who kneel during the national anthem.

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Washington Post, Trump’s immigration, infrastructure plans meet swift resistance, Robert Costa​, Jan. 31, 2018. The president’s pledge to “extend an open hand” to both parties rammed quickly into the reality of a largely gridlocked Congress — and a deeply polarized Washington.  ​

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joe kennedy III o croppedWashington Post, Democrats to Trump: Not good enough, David Weigel, Jan. 31, 2018.Led by Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass., shown at right), at least eight current and former Democratic legislators took on one of the stiffest challenges in politics: responding to a State of the Union address in a time of strong economic growth.

Kennedy spoke from a technical school in his coastal Massachusetts district, facing a small crowd, framed by an antique car. His colleagues, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), spread out across TV studios and press clubs to deliver a message that, perhaps, some of the president’s critics would hear.

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dana milbank CustomWashington Post, Opinion: A uniquely depressing speech, Dana Milbank (right), Jan. 31, 2018 (print edition). I’ve been in the House chamber for many such addresses over the past couple of decades. This was the most depressing, for it displayed a hopelessly divided government and people — and a president deepening the rift.

Global News: War, Diplomatic Threats Over Korea

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south korea flag SmallWashington Post, Withdrawal of U.S. envoy candidate and tough talk from Trump worries South Korea, Anna Fifield, Jan. 31, 2018. South Korea’s progressive government was already nervous about President Trump’s intentions when it came to North Korea, fearing that he might press ahead with military action without Seoul’s consent.

The sudden withdrawal of the candidate for ambassador to Seoul — apparently because he argued against striking North Korea — coupled with the president’s tough language in the State of the Union has now only exacerbated those fears.

victor cha csis koreaThe Trump administration has abruptly ditched Victor Cha (shown at right), an academic who served in the George W. Bush administration and is known for his hawkish approach to North Korea, as its candidate for U.S. ambassador to South Korea.

Cha was suddenly withdrawn, however, partly because he raised concerns about the “bloody nose” idea of a limited strike to send a message without sparking a wider war.

Political analysts across the spectrum generally think this is an ill-advised strategy that could put at risk the 25 million South Koreans — and tens of thousands of Americans — living within North Korean artillery range.

Congressional Leadership / Corruption Probe News

Robert Menendez offRoll Call, Justice Department Drops Corruption Case Against Menendez, Staff report, Jan. 31, 2018. The Justice Department is dropping its case against Sen. Robert Menendez (shown at right), just a couple weeks after announcing it would retry the New Jersey Democrat on corruption charges.

The federal judge overseeing the case, U.S. District Judge William H. Walls, last week entered acquittals of seven of the 18 charges in the indictment against Menendez and his co-defendant, South Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen. That appeared to be a turning point for federal prosecutors, even though Walls left the rest of the government’s case intact.

“From the very beginning,” Menendez commented, “I never wavered in my innocence and my belief that justice would prevail. I am grateful that the Department of Justice has taken the time to reevaluate its case and come to the appropriate conclusion.”

trey gowdy better o SmallRoll Call, South Carolina’s Trey Gowdy Won’t Seek Re-election, Simone Pathé, Jan. 31, 2018. South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy announced Wednesday he will not be running for re-election and intends to leave politics after this term is over. The Republican lawmaker (shown at right), first elected to the 4th District in 2010, chairs the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

“I will not be filing for re-election to Congress nor seeking any other political or elected office; instead I will be returning to the justice system,” Gowdy said in a statement. “Whatever skills I may have are better utilized in a courtroom than in Congress, and I enjoy our justice system more than our political system. As I look back on my career, it is the jobs that both seek and reward fairness that are most rewarding,” he added.

robert brady paRoll Call, Report: Bob Brady Not Running for Re-Election, Bridget Bowman, Jan. 31, 2018. Brady’s campaign accused of bribing a former opponent to leave a primary. Rep. Robert A. Brady is not running for re-election, he told Philly.com Wednesday. The Pennsylvania Democrat already faced a handful of Democratic challengers amid an ongoing scandal relating to bribing a former opponent to abandon a primary challenge.

Two Brady aides were charged with making an unlawful payment to Brady’s 2012 primary challenger, who then left the race. One of Brady’s aides, Donald Jones, pleaded guilty in December to lying to federal agents about the statement.

The FBI had filed a search warrant relating to Brady’s emails in the case, the Philadelphia CBS affiliate reported in November. Philly.com reported that the statute of limitations for most of charges Brady could have faced expired in January.

Cops, Courts and Crime Around the Nation

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Baltimore Police Department officers arrested in racketeering probe (Baltimore Police Department photos via ABC News)

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Washington Post, Their job was to take guns off Baltimore streets. They admitted stealing drugs and cash instead, Rachel Weiner, Jan. 31, 2018 (print edition). Members of an elite Baltimore Police task force stole more than $300,000 and hundreds of thousands of dollars in watches from suspected drug dealers and civilians, according to officers’ plea agreements and statements in federal court.

Train To GOP Retreat Fatally Strikes Garbage Truck

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Washington Post, One person killed when Amtrak train carrying GOP lawmakers to retreat collides with truck, Martine Powers, Faiz Siddiqui, Ed O’Keefe and Hawes Spencer, Jan. 31, 2018. The train was carrying House and Senate members, aides and some members’ spouses and children, although it was not immediately clear which members were on board. The White House confirmed the fatality and said there were no serious injuries among members of Congress or their staffs.

#MeToo: Mississippi Station Hires Taylor Swift Groper

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taylor swift david mueller leaked photo tmzWashington Post, Taylor Swift groper hired as DJ by station manager who doesn’t believe he did it, Travis M. Andrews, Jan. 31, 2018 (print edition). Disc jockey David Mueller was fired from his job at Denver radio station KYGO in June 2013 after Swift said he slipped his hand underneath her dress and grabbed her bare buttocks while they posed together for a photograph (shown at right, via TMZ).

Mueller denied the accusations, sued Swift for $3 million and lost. She countersued for a single dollar, signaling that the suit wasn’t about money to her. She won.

Still, Larry Fuss, the chief executive of Delta Radio, believes him and not her. He hired Mueller as a DJ on country music station KIX in Greenwood, Miss., where on Monday Mueller began co-hosting a morning show called “Jackson & Jonbob,” according to the New York Daily News and Inside Radio.

Jan. 30

Republicans Mount Major Attacks On FBI Personnel, Trump Probe

andrew mccabe c span may 11 2017

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Washington Post, FBI deputy director stepping down from role amid mounting scrutiny from GOP, Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosk, Jan. 30, 2018 (print edition).​·​FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe — shown at right and a frequent target of President Trump’s ire dating to the 2016 presidential election — is stepping down as he nears the date in March when he can retire with full pension benefits.

McCabe’s departure has been expected. The Washington Post reported in late-December that he planned to retire and use accrued vacation time to reach his eligibility date. Trump responded to the revelation with a tweet, writing in part, “90 days to go?!!!”

On Monday, people close to the matter confirmed that’s still McCabe’s plan. Technically, he will remain an FBI employee for the next several weeks, but he has left the deputy director position and is not expected back to work, these people said.

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Washington Post, Justice Dept. probes McCabe’s role in final weeks of 2016 election, Devlin Barrett and Karoun Demirjian, Jan. 30, 2018.  A key question of the internal investigation is whether then-No. 2 FBI official Andrew McCabe or anyone else at the agency wanted to avoid taking action on the laptop findings until after the Nov. 8 election, according to three people familiar with the matter. It’s unclear whether the inspector general has reached any conclusions on that point

The Justice Department’s inspector general has been focused for months on why Andrew McCabe, as the No. 2 official at the FBI, appeared not to act for about three weeks on a request to examine a batch of Hillary Clinton-related emails found in the latter stages of the 2016 election campaign, according to people familiar with the matter.

The inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, has been asking witnesses why FBI leadership seemed unwilling to move forward on the examination of emails found on the laptop of former congressman Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) until late October — about three weeks after first being alerted to the issue, according to these people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive matter.

A key question of the internal investigation is whether McCabe or anyone else at the FBI wanted to avoid taking action on the laptop findings until after the Nov. 8 election, these people said. It is unclear whether the inspector general has reached any conclusions on that point.

The matter of the Weiner laptop emails has been debated publicly for more than a year, in part because many Clinton supporters say the FBI tilted the 2016 race toward Donald Trump when it announced in late October that it was reopening its probe into Clinton’s use of a private email server when she served as secretary of state.

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Washington Post, David Bowdich, the former sniper in line to become the FBI’s new deputy director, Marwa Eltagouri, Jan. 30, 2018 (print edition). Bowdich, who led the agency’s response to the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif., is expected to replace Andrew McCabe, who is stepping down.

Roll Call, House Intel Votes to Release Classified GOP Memo About FBI, Lindsey McPherson, Jan. 30, 2018 (print edition). The House Intelligence Committee on Monday voted along party lines to release a classified memo the panel’s Republicans put together on the FBI and its investigation into President Donald Trump.

adam schiff officialThe exact details of the memo remain unclear but could soon be available for public view if the executive branch agrees to the Intelligence Committee’s recommendation to release it.

Democrats opposed the move to release the memo. Intelligence Committee ranking member Adam Schiff (D-Cal., shown at left) said the committee crossed a line with its vote Monday, accusing Republicans of politicizing its investigatory powers.

The minority has prepared its own classified memo to counter the assertions made in the GOP memo. Schiff said he moved for a vote to release both memos but Republicans objected and instead voted just to release theirs.

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Washington Post, How the classified four-page missive set off a firestorm, Matt Zapotosky, Karoun Demirjian, Robert Costa and Ellen Nakashima, Jan. 30, 2018 (print edition). The contents of the memo — and how significant it is in showing any alleged wrongdoing — are a matter of intense debate.

The Atlantic, The Men Behind the Nunes Memo, Natasha Bertrand, Jan. 30, 2018. The House Intelligence Committee’s chair wasn’t alone in drafting the classified memo that it just voted to release.

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee voted on Monday to release a classified memo drafted by the panel’s chairman, Devin Nunes, outlining alleged surveillance abuses carried out by top officials at the Justice Department. The committee’s ranking member, Adam Schiff, called the decision to release the memo “transparently cynical and destructive” in a tweet on Monday night.

Two sources familiar with the matter told me that much of the heavy lifting was done by Kash Patel, a top Nunes staffer and senior committee counsel. Patel previously attracted media attention by traveling to London late last summer — without the knowledge of the U.S. embassy or British government — along with committee staffer Doug Presley in search of Christopher Steele, author of a controversial dossier on Trump.

Vox, There’s a second Trump-Russia dossier; Conservatives aren’t going to like this, Alex Ward, Jan. 30, 2018. Last year, a controversial dossier compiled by a former British spy sent shockwaves through Washington. It contained unverified claims that President Donald Trump had deep ties to Russia and was potentially compromised by the Russians.

But now it turns out that a second dossier exists — and it contains some of the same information as the first one.The Guardian reported on Tuesday that the FBI is in possession of both dossiers and is looking into whether any of the information is true. The agency is in the midst of an investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to win the 2016 presidential election.

This second document, like the first, is highly controversial. For starters, its author is Cody Shearer — a political activist with strong ties to the Clinton administration in the 1990s. He has no experience in intelligence, which makes his involvement with a document that could reflect badly on Trump look suspiciously partisan.

Things get murkier. Christopher Steele, the ex-British intelligence officer who authored the first dossier, gave the new “Shearer memo” to the FBI in October 2016. Apparently, he received Shearer’s work from an unidentified American contact and handed it over to authorities in an effort to give the FBI more evidence for its investigation. Steele noted that he couldn’t vouch for the claims in the second dossier, however.

But the fact that the FBI is continuing to assess the document, as one unnamed source told the Guardian, may indicate that there’s something there worth taking seriously. Both memos claim the Russians compromised Trump during his 2013 visit to Moscow when he allegedly engaged in lurid activity with prostitutes.

All of this will surely rankle Republican politicians — and the president — who believe the ongoing investigation into potential Trump-Russia ties is nothing more than a “witch hunt.”Conservatives hate ShearerThe fact that Shearer is the man behind the second dossier will do very little to convince conservatives there’s any merit to its claims.

State of the Union Address

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donald trump gage skidmoreNew York Times, Some Supporters Fear Trump Will Lose Hard Edge in State of Union Speech, Michael D. Shear and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Jan. 30, 2018 (print edition). “American carnage” appears to be out. Bipartisanship is in. And not everyone is happy about it.

When President Trump (shown in a Gage Skidmore photo) delivers his first State of the Union address on Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET, his most fervent supporters are anxious that he will squander the most high-profile moment of his presidency with a soft speech that bends more to the predilections of the political establishment in Washington and less to the populist army that sent him there to drain the swamp. 

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melania trump face wikimedia commonNew York Times, Absent Since Report of Affair, First Lady Set to Attend Speech, Katie Rogers and Maggie Haberman, Jan. 30, 2018. Melania Trump (shown at right) was said to have been blindsided by reports of an affair between President Trump and an adult film star, but is expected to resurface at the speech on Tuesday.

Trump’s Money, Conflicts

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Walter Shaub, former director of the United States Office of Government Ethics from 2013 to July 19, 2017. He is now senior director for ethics of the Campaign Legal Center (CLC).

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Washington Post, Nine questions about Trump’s businesses and possible conflicts of interest, David A. Fahrenthold and Jonathan O’Connell, Jan. 30, 2018. Is President Trump getting business from the federal government? Have foreign governments spent money at Trump properties?

1. Does President Trump still own his company? Yes.  But he’s not in day-to-day control of it.

2. How many properties does President Trump have his name on? About 50, around the world.

3. But how many of those buildings does Trump own? About 20….

Inside Washington

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steven mnuchin wNew York Times, As Deficit Soars Toward $1 Trillion, Congress Shrugs and Keeps Spending, Alan Rappeport and Thomas Kaplan, Jan. 30, 2018. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (shown at right) urged Congress on Tuesday to raise the federal government’s statutory borrowing limit and said Washington must soon grapple with the mounting federal debt, just as lawmakers are embarking on a significant spending spree.

Annual deficits are creeping up to $1 trillion a year and the national debt has topped $20 trillion. On Monday, Treasury said that the United States will need to borrow $441 billion in privately-held debt this quarter, the largest sum since 2010 when the economy was emerging from the worst downturn since the Great Depression.

Yet the need to deal with the federal debt seems to have taken a back seat to other priorities, including the $1.5 trillion tax cut increased defense and domestic spending, and an expected infrastructure request from President Trump.

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Washington Post, Governors association to cut ties with Steve Wynn, underscoring scope of allegations’ fallout, Amber Phillips, Jan. 30, 2018 (print edition). The Republican Governors Association announced Monday it was basically cutting all ties with Steve Wynn (shown below), the ousted finance chairman of the Republican National Committee who was accused of sexual misconduct by employees at his flagship Las Vegas casino.

steve wynn headshotThe RGA becomes the first major Republican campaign committee to return Wynn money. It announced it would return $100,000 that the organization received this election cycle from Wynn Resorts. In addition, the RGA said it would cancel a planned 2020 conference at Wynn’s Las Vegas casino and would not accept any future contributions from Wynn Resorts or Wynn himself.

“These are serious allegations,” RGA spokesman Jon Thompson said in a statement.

Hillary Clinton Addresses 2008 Campaign Harasser

hillary clinton twitterHuffPost, Hillary Clinton Addresses Campaign Employee’s Alleged Sexual Harassment In Lengthy Facebook Post, Sarah Ruiz-Grossman, Jan. 30, 2018. “The short answer is this: If I had it to do again, I wouldn’t,” she wrote.

Just minutes before President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, Hillary Clinton (shown in her Twitter photo) wrote a lengthy post on Facebook addressing the “inappropriate behavior” of an employee for her 2008 campaign and her response to it at the time.

“I very much understand the question I’m being asked as to why I let an employee on my 2008 campaign keep his job despite his inappropriate workplace behavior,” Clinton wrote late on Tuesday. “The short answer is this: If I had it to do again, I wouldn’t.”

An unnamed 30-year-old female staffer made a complaint at the time against Clinton’s faith adviser, Burns Strider. The woman said Strider had kissed her on the forehead, rubbed her shoulders and sent her suggestive emails. While Clinton’s campaign manager, Patti Solis Doyle, reportedly suggested that Strider be removed from his position, Clinton allowed him to stay. Strider was docked pay for several weeks and ordered to attend counseling, while the woman who accused him of harassment was moved to a different role.

“I didn’t think firing him was the best solution to the problem,” Clinton wrote in her post on Tuesday. “He needed to be punished, change his behavior, and understand why his actions were wrong. The young woman needed to be able to thrive and feel safe. I thought both could happen without him losing his job.”

Strider was later fired from a different role at Correct the Record, an independent group that supported Clinton’s 2016 presidential run, amid accusations that he harassed a female aide, according to the Times.

“That reoccurrence troubles me greatly. … Would he have done better – been better – if I had fired him?” Clinton wrote in her post, of his subsequent firing for harassment. “There is no way I can go back 10 years and know the answers. But you can bet I’m asking myself these questions right now.”

Pentagon Suppresses War Data

pentagonAssociated Press via CBS News, Pentagon restricts release of Afghanistan war data, Staff report, Jan. 30, 2018. The Pentagon has ordered an independent federal auditor to stop providing the public with key information about U.S. war efforts in Afghanistan, accelerating a clampdown on data, such as the size of the Afghan military and police forces, that indicate how the 16-year-old stalemated war is going.

The crackdown on information comes just months after President Donald Trump announced a new Afghanistan strategy aimed at breaking a battlefield stalemate by accelerating Afghan-led operations against the Taliban and other insurgent groups in the country.

Trump on Monday railed against the recent string of attacks in Afghanistan, and ruled out any U.S. discussions with the Taliban as part of the effort to seek peace talks between the Afghan government and the insurgents.The auditing agency, established by Congress and known as the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, revealed the new gag order in its latest three-month assessment of conditions in Afghanistan.

The restrictions fly in the face of Pentagon assertions over the past year that it was striving to be more transparent about the U.S. war campaigns across Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

Omarosa Returns To TV

omarosa manigault abc ml 12 14 17 CustomHollywood Reporter, Omarosa Goes From White House to Cast of ‘Celebrity Big Brother,’ Brian Porreca, Jan. 28, 2018. Omarosa Manigault (shown in a file photo at right), who left the White House under dramatic circumstances at the tail end of last year, is set to enter the Celebrity Big Brother house.

Omarosa, memorable from her appearances on NBC’s The Apprentice, and one of President Donald Trump’s most prominent African-American supporters, joined the Trump administration as the director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison. She officially left her post on Jan. 20.

In late December, she exited the White House under something of a cloud, and it was widely reported that she was fired by W.H. chief of staff John Kelly.

Omarosa is the biggest name in the new cast of Celebrity Big Brother. American Pie actress Shannon Elizabeth, Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath, The Cosby Show’s Keshia Knight Pulliam, Real Housewife Brandi Glanville, former NBA star Metta World Peace, UFC light heavyweight champ Chuck Liddell, actors James Maslow and Marissa Winokur, TV personality Ross Mathews and Miss Colombia Ariadna Gutierrez will also be moving into the Big Brother house this week.

Canada: “MeToo” Harassment Revelations

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canadian flagNew York Times, In Canada, a ‘Perfect Storm’ for a #MeToo Reckoning, Ian Austen and Catherine Porter, Jan. 30, 2018 (print edition). Canada’s House of Commons debated workplace law changes to define sexual harassment and protect political staff members. The debate came, coincidentally, as Canada is reeling from a maelstrom of accusations of sexually inappropriate behavior against men in positions of power, and their swift removal.

Just last week, two provincial Conservative Party leaders and a federal cabinet minister resigned. Outside of politics, one of the most prominent members of Toronto’s theater community quit the company he founded, accused in a lawsuit of sexual harassment. And last fall, two of Quebec’s most well-known celebrities disappeared from stages and television screens amid accusations of sexual impropriety.

Truancy, Phony Degrees?

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Washington Post, Report: Truancy rampant at D.C. public schools, many graduates didn’t meet standards for diploma, Perry Stein, Jan. 30, 2018 (print edition). The report, commissioned by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, takes the school district’s central office to task for its failure to enforce standards, and it calls into question the validity of up to a third of the diplomas issued last year.

More Sexual Assault Claims

ap logoAssociated Press via Washington Post, Lawsuit: Teen prisoner raped by inmate, infected with HIV, Michael Kunzelman, Jan. 30, 2018.  A 17-year-old inmate who was incarcerated with adults was raped by a prisoner who infected the teenager with HIV, according to a federal lawsuit that accuses the Louisiana jail of negligence. The teen, who was awaiting trial for a burglary case, was 5-foot-10, weighed 125 pounds and is “mildly mentally handicapped” from fetal alcohol syndrome. His age, size and “mental makeup” left him at high risk of being sexually assaulted in the jail, according to the suit.

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french flagWashington Post, Rape charge against budget minister roils French government amid debate on sexual assault, James McAuley, Jan. 30, 2018 (print edition). A rape accusation against France’s budget minister is roiling the government of President Emmanuel Macron. The minister, Gérald Darmanin, stands accused in an incident dating to 2009.

Cause Of Hawaiian Nuclear Alert Remains Disputed

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Washington Post, Hawaii’s false missile alert sent by worker believing attack on U.S. was imminent, Brian Fung and Mark Berman​, Jan. 30, 2018  The Jan. 13 alert was sent by an emergency worker who misheard a recording as part of an unscheduled drill, a preliminary federal investigation shows. The message sowed confusion and fear for 38 minutes. This contradicts the explanations previously offered by Hawaii officials, who have said the Jan. 13 alert was sent because the employee hit the wrong button on a drop-down menu.

Media Criticism: New York Times Caught In VoA Anti-Iranian Propaganda?

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iran flag mapNew York Times, Tired of Their Veils, Some Iranian Women Stage Rare Protests, Thomas Erdbrink, Jan. 30, 2018 (print edition).  Following the lead of a woman’s protest in late December, six women in Tehran took off their head scarves in public Monday and waved them overhead on a stick. The protests, still small in number, are nevertheless significant as a rare public sign that dissatisfaction with certain Islamic laws governing personal conduct may have reached a boiling point. As the 28-year-old woman said, “I took my scarf off because I’m tired of our government telling me what to do with my body.”

The first protest in December took place on a Wednesday and seemed connected to the White Wednesday campaign, an initiative by Masih Alinejad, an exiled Iranian journalist and activist living in the United States. Ms. Alinejad has reached out to Iranian women on Persian-language satellite television and through social media, and via a website she runs called My Stealthy Freedom. On the website, women post images of themselves without head scarves, demanding an end to the compulsory head scarf law.

Moon of Alabama, U.S. Government Runs Anti-Head Scarf Campaign Against Iran, b, Jan. 30, 2018. A U.S. government funded public relations campaign tries to incite women in Iran to break the law. The reporting of the campaign in western media is unproportionate to its effects in Iran. The larger propaganda scheme and the U.S. government influence in it are willfully ignored.

cia logoIn June 2017, the CIA created a new “mission center” for attacking Iran, The Wall Street Journal reported. The first visible results of the new center’s work was the hijacking of economic protests in Iran at the end of last year. The slogans and symbols used and specific western media support lets one assume that exile MEK terrorists and monarchist organizations were involved in the affair. The demonstrations immediately turned violent and lost all public backing. They petered out, as predicted, within a few days.

broadcasting board of governors logoThe anti-scarf campaign is run by Masih Alinejad who works for Voice of America’s (anti-) Iranian TV program and other U.S. “regime change” media outlets. Public contracts show that she receives $85.600 per annum from the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors. The BBG is running U.S. influence media like Voice of America in English and foreign languages. It is officially controlled by the U.S. State Department.

All of the above is public information and just a few clicks away. But U.S. media still try to hide the U.S. government connection. The New York Times just published a piece about one of those few Iranian women who reacted to the campaign. Thomas Erdbrink, the Times correspondent in Tehran, writes:

voice of america logo“The first protest in December took place on a Wednesday and seemed connected to the White Wednesday campaign, an initiative by Masih Alinejad, an exiled Iranian journalist and activist living in the United States. Ms. Alinejad has reached out to Iranian women on Persian-language satellite television …”

There are probably 150 Persian language satellite TV stations. At no point does Erdbrink explain that the TV station Alinejad is working for is the U.S. government financed and controlled VoA Farsi. Nowhere does the NYT piece mention U.S. government influence.

Media: Meltdown In LA?

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New York Times, Los Angeles Is Ambivalent as Its Newspaper Unravels, Tim Arango and Adam Nagourney, Jan. 30, 2018 (print edition). The turmoil at The Times in recent months — with upheaval in the editorial ranks and a publisher suspended over sexual harassment allegations — is a reminder of the slow decline of a newspaper that had long been a cohesive force in Los Angeles civic life. But more than that, it is symptomatic of something that this community has struggled with for nearly half a century: the absence of strong institutions to bind it together.

There are many reasons for this problem. Los Angeles County is made up of 88 different cities, including the City of Los Angeles, rolling across 4,571 square miles that stretch from the ocean to the desert. People here are more likely to identify themselves with the city or neighborhood where they live — be it Glendale, Compton, Beverly Hills or Whittier — rather than Los Angeles. The worsening traffic has encouraged people to stay close to the places where they live and work.

 Social Media Health Warning For Children

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New York Times, Turn Off Messenger Kids, Health Experts Plead to Facebook, Cecilia Kang, Jan. 30, 2018. At the age of 6, a child is full of imagination and may not distinguish reality from fantasy. She is beginning to read and can’t grasp nuances in written communication. She also doesn’t understand privacy. Citing those reasons and more, dozens of pediatric and mental health experts are calling on Facebook to kill a messaging service the company introduced last month for children as young as 6.

Inside Washington: Pence Presidency?

philip giraldiUnz Review, Opinion: Let’s Keep Donald Trump, True believer Mike Pence could be a whole lot worse, Philip Giraldi, Jan. 30, 2018. Pence is both a Christian fundamentalist and a dispensationalist, which means that he thinks every word in the Good Book is literally true and that Christianity is going through phases or dispensations that will lead to the rapture of true believers into heaven followed by the wrath of God descending on those who refuse to see the light.

mike pence o SmallThe odd thing about people like Pence (left) is that they stick like glue to their Scofield Reference Bibles but apparently rarely venture into the New Testament part with its talk of compassion and forgiveness. They much prefer the fire and brimstone in the Jewish part with Joshua smiting and Philistines (Palestines?) falling left and right.

Pence and his co-believers, who are sometimes labeled Christian Zionists, consider Jews to be the Chosen People of God and Israel’s creation and survival are all part of the master plan that will lead to the end of the world as we know it. The re-creation of a Jewish state and the gathering in of as many of the world’s Jews as possible is seen as a critical step to achieve the Second Coming of Christ, which Pence and his associates fervently hope will occur soon.

At that point, it is assumed that the Jews will realize that Christ is truly their Messiah and will mass-convert. If they do not they will be consumed in fire like all the other unbelievers.Well, Pence is undeniably a true believer in the worst way, but he can choose to believe whatever he likes.

The problem with him is that, given his senior role in the government, his firmly held religious beliefs are no longer a personal issue. They inevitably have political, economic and national security consequences for all Americans, not just for those who see things as he does. Only 20% of Americans actually go to church and of those only a portion are aligned with Pence on what Christianity means, suggesting that his is a minority viewpoint within a minority viewpoint.

Jan. 29

Shocking Profile Of Former Trump Campaign Manager Manafort

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Former Trump-Pence 2016 Campaign Manager Paul Manafort (file photo)

The Atlantic, American Hustler / The Plot Against America, Franklin Foer, Jan. 29, 2018 (March 2018 Issue). Decades before he ran the Trump campaign, Paul Manafort’s pursuit of foreign cash and shady deals laid the groundwork for the corruption of Washington.

The clinic permitted Paul Manafort one 10-minute call each day. And each day, he would use it to ring his wife from Arizona, his voice often soaked in tears.

donald trump make great logo“Apparently he sobs daily,” his daughter Andrea, then 29, texted a friend. During the spring of 2015, Manafort’s life had tipped into a deep trough. A few months earlier, he had intimated to his other daughter, Jessica, that suicide was a possibility. He would “be gone forever,” she texted Andrea.

His work, the source of the status he cherished, had taken a devastating turn. For nearly a decade, he had counted primarily on a single client, albeit an exceedingly lucrative one.

viktor yanukovychHe’d been the chief political strategist to the man who became the president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych (shown at left), with whom he’d developed a highly personal relationship. Manafort would swim naked with his boss outside his banya, play tennis with him at his palace (“Of course, I let him win,” Manafort made it known), and generally serve as an arbiter of power in a vast country.

tom barrackheadshot“I really need to get to” Trump, Manafort told an old friend, the real-estate magnate Tom Barrack (shown at right), in the early months of 2016. Barrack, a confidante of Trump for some 40 years, had known Manafort even longer. When Manafort asked for Barrack’s help grabbing Trump’s attention, he readily supplied it.

Once an indispensable man, he had not been missed in professional circles. He was without a big-paying client, and held heavy debts.

His attempts to prove his entrepreneurial skills had ended as expensive busts. “He has too many skeletons,” Andrea had written her sister soon after he had entered the clinic, noting that his work in Ukraine was legally dubious. “Don’t fool yourself,” she had texted Jessica a few months before. “That money we have is blood money.”

OpEd News, Analysis: Mueller’s End Game: Maybe As Soon As Trump Wants, But Not How He’d Like, Robert Weiner and Kyle Fleck, Jan. 29, 2018. It’s clear the pace of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election is rising to a crescendo.

djt on phone white house photoIt’s important to note Mueller’s history as an institutionalist. To protect the institution of the Presidency, he may call Trump (shown in a file photo by the White House) an “unindicted” co-conspirator for obstruction, paralleling the special prosecutor’s charges against Richard Nixon in Watergate. He may do the same with violation of federal campaign law and money laundering.

robert mueller olderBut he’s shown he won’t be so kind to the people in Trump’s orbit. Ty Cobb, Donald Trump’s lead attorney, has a habit of making rosy predictions for when Mueller (shown above right in a file photo) will be wrapping up his inquiry into possible Russian collusion in the 2016 election. With the interview of AG Sessions and 20 White House advisors completed, Mueller is now scheduling interviews of Trump’s closest associates and the President himself.

devin nunes head oThe latest act that Mueller will look at when building his obstruction case will be the push to release a memo written by Devin Nunez (R-Ca., shown at left) Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Trump’s latest push, to release the Nunes cherry-pickings memo despite the DOJ virtual “cease and desist” letter, where Assistant Attorney General, Stephen Boyd, emailed Nunes not to release the memo, saying the release would be “extremely reckless,” is just more obstruction — and Mueller will see it that way too. He’ll also see it as a violation of classified regulations.

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rod rosenstein cspan New York Times, Memo Hints at a New G.O.P. Target: Rod Rosenstein, Nicholas Fandos, Adam Goldman and Sharon LaFraniere, Jan. 29, 2018 (print edition). A secret, highly contentious Republican memo reveals that Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein (right) approved an application to extend surveillance of a former Trump campaign associate shortly after taking office last spring, according to three people familiar with it.

The renewal shows that the Justice Department under President Trump saw reason to believe that the associate, Carter Page, was acting as a Russian agent. But the reference to Mr. Rosenstein’s actions in the memo — a much-disputed document that paints the investigation into Russian election meddling as tainted from the start — indicates that Republicans may be moving to seize on his role as they seek to undermine the inquiry.

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McCabe’s departure has been expected. The Washington Post reported in late-December that he planned to retire and use accrued vacation time to reach his eligibility date. Trump responded to the revelation with a tweet, writing in part, “90 days to go?!!!”

On Monday, people close to the matter confirmed that’s still McCabe’s plan. Technically, he will remain an FBI employee for the next several weeks, but he has left the deputy director position and is not expected back to work, these people said.

Election Honesty News Feed Announced

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, WhoWhatWhy Launches Election Integrity News Feed, Staff report, Jan. 29, 2018. There are so many threats to democracy that it is hard to keep track of them all. That is why WhoWhatWhy is launching an Election Integrity News feed that provides an overview of all developments in this crucial area.

whowhatwhy election integrity feedAs a relatively small outlet, however, there is only so much we can do on our own. That is why we are proud to announce today that we are launching the WhoWhatWhy Election Integrity News feed (illustrated by graphic at right). Initially updated twice weekly, the feed will feature a team of contributors who compile stories from across the US and abroad that deal with threats to democracy and elections. You can bookmark it or access it from our main page.

We believe this will be an incredibly valuable tool for all those who want to be kept up to date on issues such as voter suppression, gerrymandering, money in politics, election infrastructure vulnerabilities, threats from abroad and much more.

And we hope that you will be more than just a reader. This issue is too important, and we are all in this together. So spread the word as widely as you can that there is now a one-stop shop for election integrity news.

U.S. Politics

john lewis officialRoll Call, Man Pleads Guilty to Threatening John Lewis’ Staff, Griffin Connolly, Jan. 29, 2018. A Georgia man accused of making repeated threats to Rep. John Lewis (shown at right) and his staff has pleaded guilty in federal court. Dante Antoine Rosser, 43, agreed to a plea deal on Friday that calls for an 18-month prison sentence followed by three years of supervised release.

From March 2016 to February 2017, Rosser threatened Lewis’ staff in Atlanta and Washington. Rosser even showed up to Lewis’ Atlanta office. Rosser threatened to “splatter their heads all over the ground” when he called 46 times over the course of two days, per a sworn statement from a U.S. Capitol Police agent. He sought “financial reparations” for his family, but it was unclear what the circumstances of that request were.

rodney frelinghuysen SmallRoll Call, Rodney Frelinghuysen Won’t Seek 13th Term, Simone Pathé, Jan. 29, 2018. Appropriations chairman was facing first competitive re-election in years. New Jersey Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen will not run for re-election in November. The Republican from northern New Jersey was a Democrat target in 2018 for the first time in years.

Restricting Federal Whistleblowers?

Naked Capitalism, New Dept of Justice Guidelines Will Stymie Whistleblowers, Jerri-Lynn Scofield, Jan. 29, 2018. Earlier this month, the Department of Justice (DoJ) quietly floated a new policy that will stymie whistleblowers.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal in U.S. Looks Toward Gatekeeper’s Role on Whistleblower Claims: “The Justice Department urged its lawyers to weed out meritless cases from the hundreds of suits brought on its behalf under an anti-fraud law called the False Claims Act….Justice Department attorneys should consider using a provision in the False Claims Act that lets the department ask a judge to dismiss claims, even if the whistleblower who brought the case wants to go ahead, according to an internal memo dated Jan. 10 from Michael D. Granston, director of the commercial litigation branch of the Civil Division.

Unfortunately, the new policy is neither good for whistleblowers, nor ultimately, the taxpayers who ultimately pay when the US government is defrauded.

New Alternative To YouTube Censorship

Unz Review, Advocacy: Resurrecting YouTube’s Banned Videos and Channels, Ron Unz, Jan. 29, 2018. Ron Unz, publisher of the Unz Review for alternative media, is a software developer and the former publisher of The American Conservative magazine. Last month, I announced that I was adding a new video section to this website, with a central motivation being the increasingly harsh ideological censorship that YouTube was beginning to impose upon its content.

During the last few weeks, this regime of YouTube censorship has indeed intensified. A few days ago, we ran an article by Sayed Hasan recounting YouTube’s sudden termination of his five-year-old video channel that had contained hundreds of videos [with] many millions of views. His content had sharply criticized Zionism and imperialism and strongly defended the rights of the Palestinians, presumably leading the ADL [Anti-Defamation League] to demand its liquidation.

Not long afterward, Colin Flaherty’s YouTube channel focused on black crime issues was also summarily vaporized, casting into limbo the 1,100-odd videos that had attracted nearly 25 million views. This was actually the second time that his channel had been eliminated by YouTube.

Since I only chanced to learn of these particular bannings, I’m sure that many, many other channels have also fallen to the censors, not to mention numerous individual videos of channels not yet completely banned. For example, RamZPaul’s video on Donald Trump’s controversial Haiti remarks was temporarily blocked by YouTube for allegedly having “misleading tags” (his tags being “Trump” and “Haiti”).

Fortunately, I’m now pleased to announce that I’ve completed and released the remaining components of my new video system aimed at helping to circumvent such YouTube censorship.

It is important to realize that YouTube’s near-monopoly on the distribution of video content is actually far less secure than might seem to be the case. A crucial fact is that the technology for hosting and serving videos has become a simple commodity these days, and although YouTube stands as the overwhelmingly dominant player, the same video files can be uploaded to any one of a number of different YouTube competitors including Vimeo, DailyMotion, and Bitchute, or even merely hosted on an individual server as simple .mp4 files.

Aside from its gigantic scale and established dominance, YouTube’s main competitive advantage seems to be the convenient and attractive interface it provides for displaying the hundreds or thousands of videos that constitute a sizeable channel.

However, I have now built a video display interface that I believe is at least as nice as YouTube’s, and currently provides convenient access to over 250,000 videos.

Although the overwhelmingly majority of these videos are drawn from a couple of dozen popular YouTube channels, this system can equally well handle videos from those various YouTube competitors, or additional hosting platform as the need arises. Therefore, whenever YouTube bans or censors a particular video, that video may easily be uploaded to a different host, with almost no noticeable changes to users.

Furthermore, under this system a flag will be set indicating that the particular video was banned or censored by YouTube, generating a red warning header to that effect. Such a label will help users avert their eyes from informational content that YouTube and the ADL do not wish them to see, or perhaps contrariwise draw them to the juiciest videos on a channel.

#MeToo Sexual Harassment Disputes, Fallout

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New York Times, Finance Firms Find Way to Cash In on #MeToo Movement, Matthew Goldstein nad Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Jan. 29, 2018 (print edition). Small financial firms, backed by hedge funds, are angling for business from sexual harassment victims. The industry has a checkered history.

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chuck close printsNew York Times, Accusations of Artist Misconduct Put Museums in a Bind, Robin Pogrebin and Jennifer Schuessler, Jan. 29, 2018 (print edition). Sexual harassment accusations have scuttled a Chuck Close exhibition at the National Gallery of Art. Museums are wrestling with the implications — not just for Mr. Close, but for centuries of artists. [He is shown on a book cover of collecting his work.]

See related story: The National Gallery of Art Cancels a Chuck Close Show After Misconduct Accusations, Colin Moynihan and Robin Pogregin, Jan. 26, 2018.

#MeToo Sexual Harassment Complaints

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Washington Post, Humane Society CEO is subject of sexual harassment complaints from three women, according to internal investigation, Danielle Paquette, Jan. 29, 2018. An internal investigation by a law firm hired by the Humane Society of the United States has identified three complaints of sexual harassment by chief executive Wayne Pacelle and found that senior female leaders said their warnings about his conduct went unheeded, according to two people familiar with the matter and a Humane Society memo describing the investigation.

The investigation also found the nonprofit agency, one of the country’s biggest animal charities, had offered settlements to three other workers who said they were demoted or dismissed after reporting Pacelle’s alleged behavior, according to the Humane Society memo. The memo said that several women who were former leaders of the group had warned Pacelle, who has led the organization since 2004, that his sexual relationships with subordinates, donors and volunteers could hurt the charity.

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woody allen tribeca festival 2009 david shankboneNew York Times, Is the #MeToo Movement Catching Up to Woody Allen? Melena Ryzik and Brooks Barnes, Jan. 29, 2018 (print edition). Can Woody Allen Work In Hollywood Again?

dylan farrow adultHis film distributor, Amazon, the presenters of his musical “Bullets Over Broadway,” and colleagues are now grappling with renewed scrutiny of allegations that Mr. Allen (shown at a 2009 film festival) molested his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow (shown as an adult) in 1992 when she was a child.

More Federal Electronic Communications Control?

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Washington Post, Why everyone is freaking out about a White House plan to nationalize the country’s 5G data networks, Brian Fung, Jan. 29, 2018.    A leaked White House memo that calls for the government to build and control a “5G” next-generation wireless data service drew immediate backlash Monday from industry groups, regulators, and even some within President Trump’s own administration. Although the proposal is reportedly dated, its disclosure sparked a debate over how much weight it carries.

Both Democrats and Republicans decried the idea of the government stepping so forcefully into an area that has largely been in the hands of private actors.

fcc logo“Any federal effort to construct a nationalized 5G network would be a costly and counterproductive distraction from the policies we need to help the United States win the 5G future,” said Ajit Pai, the Republican chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, the nation’s top telecom regulator. Pai’s criticism was echoed by the rest of the bipartisan commission.

Culture / Religion

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Washington Post, In the wake of porn-star allegations, most evangelicals stand by Trump, John Wagner and Michelle Boorstein​, Jan. 29, 2018. A year into the Trump presidency, white evangelicals are rewarding him with some of his strongest support, even amid continuing salacious headlines about his personal foibles.

stormy daniels djt insight 1 19 2018 CustomWhen news broke this month about President Trump’s alleged affair with porn star Stormy Daniels, it seemed the kind of story that would devastate a group of voters once known as the “Moral Majority.”

But this is the Trump era, and for white evangelicals, the days since the Daniels report have offered proof that the president remains righteous to them in ways that matter far more.

Trump stood among antiabortion activists in the Rose Garden, where he praised the mission of March for Life participants on the Mall. His administration opened an office to protect health-care workers who refuse to provide services that run counter to their religious convictions. And the White House announced that it would fast-track the move of the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Global News: Turkey vs. U.S.-backed Kurds

turkey flagNEO (New Eastern Outlook), Turkey’s Bid to Modify the ‘Syrian End-game,’ Salman Rafi Sheikh, Jan. 26, 2018. The irony of the US-Turkey relations is that Turkish jets, pounding Kurdish militias, take off from the same military base in Incirlik that the US uses to support its Syria operations. As is increasingly evident, there are only bad options left for the US; and the question now is that of choosing the best bad one.

Cops and Courts

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Washington Post, Ex-Justice Dept. lawyer offered to sell secret U.S. whistleblower lawsuits to targets of the complaints, Spencer S. Hsu, Jan. 29, 2018 (print edition). Jeffrey Wertkin had a plot to bring in business and impress his new partners after joining one of Washington’s most influential law firms. The 41-year-old partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in the District was caught wearing a wig and fake mustache trying to peddle a sealed federal lawsuit for $310,000 to a Silicon Valley technology company. “My life is over,” he told the undercover agent after his arrest at an intended cash drop at the Cupertino hotel.

Jan. 28

Media: Courageous Journalist Bob Parry Passes

robert parry headshotConsortiumnews.com, Robert Parry’s Legacy and the Future of Consortiumnews, Nat Perry, Jan. 28, 2018. Robert Parry, editor and publisher of Consortiumnews.com, died peacefully Saturday evening. In this tribute, his son Nat Parry describes Robert’s unwavering commitment to independent journalism. Parry (shown at right) broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. His latest book is “America’s Stolen Narrative.”

Robert Parry, 1949-2018. It is with a heavy heart that we inform Consortiumnews readers that Editor Robert Parry has passed away. As regular readers know, Robert (or Bob, as he was known to friends and family) suffered a stroke in December, which – despite his own speculation that it may have been brought on by the stress of covering Washington politics – was the result of undiagnosed pancreatic cancer that he had been unknowingly living with for the past 4-5 years.

He unfortunately suffered two more debilitating strokes in recent weeks and after the last one, was moved to hospice care on Tuesday. He passed away peacefully Saturday evening. He was 68.

Those of us close to him wish to sincerely thank readers for the kind comments and words of support posted on recent articles regarding Bob’s health issues. We read aloud many of these comments to him during his final days to let him know how much his work has meant to so many people and how much concern there was for his well-being.

I am sure that these kindnesses meant a lot to him. They also mean a lot to us as family members, as we all know how devoted he was to the mission of independent journalism and this website which has been publishing articles since the earliest days of the internet, launching all the way back in 1995.

With my dad, professional work has always been deeply personal, and his career as a journalist was thoroughly intertwined with his family life. I can recall kitchen table conversations in my early childhood that focused on the U.S.-backed wars in Central America and complaints about how his editors at The Associated Press were too timid to run articles of his that – no matter how well-documented – cast the Reagan administration in a bad light.

One of my earliest memories in fact was of my dad about to leave on assignment in the early 1980s to the war zones of El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala, and the heartfelt good-bye that he wished to me and my siblings. He warned us that he was going to a very dangerous place and that there was a possibility that he might not come back.

But besides this deeply held commitment to independent journalism, it should also be recalled that, ultimately, Bob was motivated by a concern over the future of life on Earth. As someone who grew up at the height of the Cold War, he understood the dangers of allowing tensions and hysteria to spiral out of control, especially in a world such as ours with enough nuclear weapons to wipe out all life on the planet many times over.

As the United States continues down the path of a New Cold War, my dad would be pleased to know that he has such committed contributors who will enable the site to remain the indispensable home for independent journalism that it has become, and continue to push back on false narratives that threaten our very survival.

In lieu of flowers, Bob’s family asks you to please consider making a tax-deductible donation to the Consortium for Independent Journalism.

robert parry new hsMoon of Alabama, Robert Parry Has Died, b, Jan. 28, 2018. Robert Parry, the classic investigative journalist, founder and editor of the Consortium News website, has died. This is a huge loss for everyone who has kept some skepticism about the propagandistic media onslaught on our conciseness. Parry’s writing was always fact based, well grounded and beyond the usual claptrap. The Iran-Contra stroy, Reagan’s October surprise and dozens of other political crimes would have been buried had Robert Parry not dug into them.

In his last post on December 31, An Apology and Explanation, he offered these closing words of his long career: “[A]s the New Year dawns – if I could change one thing about America and Western journalism, it would be that we all repudiate “information warfare” in favor of an old-fashioned respect for facts and fairness — and do whatever we can to achieve a truly informed electorate.”

Robert’s son Nat Parry, who also writes and edits at Consortium News, gives an overview of Robert’s work in his obituary. There was hardly any large political scandal in the last 40 years, that Robert Parry had not reported on. He truly made a difference. May he rest in peace.

Probes Of Trump, Administration

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Washington Post, Opinion: If Trump’s own advisers think he has obstructed justice, how could Republicans decide otherwise? Jennifer Rubin, Jan. 28, 2018. One day, law professors may use President Trump’s case in a law school exam: Find all the evidence of obstruction of justice. Diligent students will find a wealth of material, if news accounts are proven to be true. 

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Republicans have refused so far to form a select committee on the issue. Many lawmakers have trafficked in ridiculous conspiracy theories and unsubstantiated accusations against Robert Mueller (shown at right) and the FBI. They have refused to protect the special counsel legislatively from being fired. And they have completely suspended their own judgment as to whether Trump’s actions constitute an abuse of power — that is, an impeachable offense — relying on Mueller to make a legal judgment on possible criminal liability.

Republicans’ irresponsibility and willingness to participate in Trump’s schemes to bring down the investigation stun those who refuse to buy into crackpot conspiracies about a “deep state” and an FBI “secret society.” Republicans are so far hiding from scrutiny as to whether they will ever carry out their constitutional obligations.

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Washington Post, Trump at odds with Justice Dept. over release of classified Russia memo, Jan. 28, 2018 (print edition). The memo was written by congressional Republicans and suggests that the FBI may have relied on politically motivated or questionable sources to justify its request for a secret surveillance warrant early in the Russia probe. The president wants the memo made public, but Justice officials said releasing it without official review would be “extraordinarily reckless.”

devin nunes file flagTrump and his Republican allies have placed special emphasis on the classified memo, which was written by staff members for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif., shown in a file photo) and suggests that the FBI may have relied on politically motivated or questionable sources to justify its request for a secret surveillance warrant in the investigation’s early phase. Democrats have characterized the memo as misleading talking points designed to smear the FBI. They said it inaccurately summarizes investigative materials that also are classified.

Sally Q. Yates, the acting attorney general whom Trump fired early last year for failing to enforce his travel ban, said in an interview that Trump’s behavior — from his June decision to call for Mueller’s firing to other meddling throughout the year — is “beyond unusual” and “really dangerous.”

sally yates o“If you get to what’s most essential and important and, I think, really damaging to our country, beyond just the confines of this administration, it’s this attack on our democratic institutions and particularly the Department of Justice,” said Yates (shown in a file photo). “It is a firm tradition at the Department of Justice that the White House just has absolutely no involvement in criminal investigations or prosecutions, period.”

She added: “It seems like there are almost weekly efforts to try to get DOJ to open up a case on his former political rival….The near daily attacks on the FBI — we’ve never seen anything anywhere close to this before.”

#MeToo Sexual Harassment Scandals

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Washington Post, Lunches, hugs, and break-room banter: Where are the new boundaries at work? Steve Hendrix, Ellie Silverman and Marc Fisher, Jan. 28, 2018. As a wave of sexual misconduct allegations against prominent men crested in recent months, relationships between men and women in workplaces across the country have shifted — sometimes toward more honest discussions of what’s not okay at work, but also toward silence and exclusion, a quiet backlash against the righteous pride of the #MeToo movement.

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Washington Post, Analysis:In male prisons, women employees face harassment: ‘Why is this acceptable?’ Michael Alison Chandler, Jan. 28, 2018 (print edition). Taronica White of Laurel was a lead plaintiff in a $20 million class-action lawsuit at the nation’s largest federal prison complex in Florida. The case highlighted the conditions that female corrections officials face at the hands of co-workers and inmates.

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marco rubio buttonWashington Post, Rubio fires chief of staff after allegations of ‘improper conduct,’ Sean Sullivan, Jan. 28, 2018. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said he had “sufficient evidence to conclude” that Clint Reed “had violated office policies regarding proper relations between a supervisor and their subordinates.” 

Media: Fox Host’s Book Lauds Trump

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Washington Post, Fox News host’s hyperbolic take on the ‘war’ between Trump and the press, Margaret Sullivan, Jan. 28, 2018 (print edition). Howard Kurtz’s book Media Madness is fast-moving and lively, but it’s based on a false premise: that President Trump and the national press are at war with each other.

fox news logo SmallKurtz, a Fox News host, asserts this with hyperbolic drama in the opening pages: “Donald Trump is staking his presidency, as he did his election, on nothing less than destroying the credibility of the news media; and the media are determined to do the same to him.” He elaborates: “It is scorched-earth warfare in which only one side can achieve victory.”

Media: Kochs Mount New Propaganda On Taxes

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charles g. koch wWashington Post, Koch network to spend about another $20 million promoting GOP tax law, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Jan. 28, 2018 (print edition). After spending $20 million to push the tax-code overhaul through Congress, the influential Koch network plans to spend up to another $20 million to educate the public about the benefits of the new law, network officials announced Saturday.

The network views the education campaign, which will launch in February, as key to holding the Republican congressional majorities in the 2018 midterm elections. “We’re all in,” said Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, the main political arm of the network led by billionaire industrialist Charles Koch (shown in a file photo).

Inside Washington

ivanka trump in 2011Politico Magazine, José Andres: Ivanka Trump ‘had nothing to do’ with D.C. party snub after all, Brent D. Griffiths, Jan. 28, 2018. Celebrity chef José Andrés on Sunday backpedaled from his speculation that Ivanka Trump had blocked him from a party at a Washington restaurant, saying she had contacted him after he publicly asked whether she was behind the perceived snub.

“Thank you @IvankaTrump for reaching out. I believe now that you personally had nothing to do,” Andres wrote on Twitter on Sunday afternoon.

Around midnight the night before, Andrés tweeted that he was not allowed into Cafe Milano for an after-party for the Alfalfa Club, a Washington group that holds an annual dinner. The chef — who has criticized President Donald Trump and pulled out of a deal to open a restaurant at Trump’s D.C. hotel over campaign-trail comments about Mexican immigrants — mused on Twitter about whether the president’s oldest daughter had prevented him from attending.

Political Comedy

Showtime via YouTube, Our Cartoon President, Executive Producer Stephen Colbert, Jan. 28, 2018 (27:27 min. video, 1.56 million views as of Feb. 12, 2018). Viewer discretion advised. Parody of President Trump and his team’s preparation for the State of the Union speech.

Media: U.S. ‘Fake News’ Propaganda Plot?

Washington’s Blog via Consortium News, Unpacking the Shadowy Outfit Behind 2017’s Biggest Fake News Story, George Eliason, Jan. 28, 2018. George Eliason, an American journalist living in Ukraine, has published an article at Washington’s Blog – one of the other 200 blacklisted websites – examining the cast of characters who may be behind the PropOrNot endeavor. As explained in a disclaimer at the original article at Washington’s Blog: “A leading cybersecurity expert has publicly said that Mr. Eliason’s research as presented in this article [below in excerped form] does not violate the law. Washington’s Blog does not express an opinion about whether or not the claims set forth in this article are accurate or not. Make up your own mind.”

In late 2016, about 200 websites – including Consortiumnews.com – were identified as “Russian propaganda outlets” by the dubious website PropOrNot, hiding behind a cloak of anonymity. Now, journalist George Eliason peels back some of that anonymity in this article originally posted at Washington’s Blog.

Editor’s note: In November 2016, Consortiumnews.com was listed with about 200 other websites at the shadowy “PropOrNot” website, which was claiming to serve as a watchdog against undue “Russian influence” in the United States. The PropOrNot blacklist was elevated by the Washington Post as a credible source, despite the fact that the neo-McCarthyites who compiled the list hid behind a cloak of anonymity. As an article at Consortiumnews explained at the time, the Post granted PropOrNot anonymity “to smear journalists who don’t march in lockstep with official pronouncements from the State Department or some other impeccable fount of never-to-be-questioned truth.”

In this article, you’ll meet some of the people staffing PropOrNot. You’ll meet the people and publications that provide their expenses and cover the logistics. You’ll meet a few of the deep state players….Remember, fake news got off the ground and got its wings because of the attention this website received from the Washington Post in Dec. 2016.

At the Interpreter Mag level, here are the people:

cnn logoMichael Weiss is the Editor-in-Chief at the InterpreterMag.com. According to his Linkd profile, he is also a National Security Analyst for CNN since July 2017 as well as an Investigative Reporter for International Affairs for CNN since April 2017. He has been a contributor there since 2015. He has been a Senior Editor at The Daily Beast since June 2015.

The Interpreter is a product of the Atlantic Council. Fellows working with the Atlantic Council in this area include: PropOrNot -> Atlantic Council -> Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG)

broadcasting board of governors logoWho are the BBG? The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) is an independent agency of the United States government. According to its website, its mission is to “inform, engage, and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy.” Its projects include Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio y Television Marti, Radio Free Asia, and the Middle East Broadcast Networks.

voice of america logoThe BBG’s bipartisan board was eliminated and replaced with a single appointed chief executive officer as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017, which was passed in December 2016. On Jan. 1, 2016, the Interpreter became a special project of RFE/RL and under the oversight of the BBG. The Secretary of State had a seat on the board of the BBG until December 2016. Why the change?

The purpose of PropOrNot has been to trick people into demanding that freedom of speech be rolled back. This was/is to be done by destroying fact-based media. If you read further, the entire plan is laid out starting from 2015 when it started coming together.

These people want reality shaped on what the perceived majority (louder) group believes to be true, regardless of what the facts are. Perception based reality is only a Facebook like away from killing one person or elevating another to hero status regardless of what they have done.

Global News: Israeli First Lady

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New York Times, Sara Netanyahu’s Aides Sued Over Her Tirades. Now, There’s a Recording, David M. Halbfinger, Jan. 28, 2018. It’s gotten to the point where writing again about Sara Netanyahu, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s embattled wife, can feel a bit like piling on.

She faces criminal charges of sneaking $100,000 in catered meals from expensive restaurants into the prime minister’s residence while covering up the fact that she had cooks on the government payroll. Again and again, the Netanyahus’ defenders have sought to brand her accusers as malicious liars and political foes of her husband’s who are out to hurt him through her.

But on Sunday the Israeli public witnessed Mrs. Netanyahu’s stormy temper with its own ears: A recorded telephone conversation surfaced in which she berated a publicist over the way she had been described in a gossip column item about her fund-raising for a school her sons had attended.

U.S. Politics / Entertainment

hillary clinton fire and fury screengrab grammys 1 28 18Raw Story, Hillary Clinton reading Fire and Fury for Grammys cameo, Sarah K. Burris, Jan. 28, 2018 (video). Hillary Clinton’s hilarious cameo (shown at right) at Grammys mocked Donald Trump by reading ‘Fire and Fury’ aloud.

Grammys host James Corden announced that many who have won Grammys haven’t been musicians at all but those who have published narrations of their books. Stars like Barack Obama, Al Gore and others joined the list of Grammy winners. But Donald Trump?

When it came to the new book Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff, Corden wondered who would win the Grammy for reading it for the book on tape.

Jan. 27

#MeToo Scandals Continue In Politics, Entertainment

steve wynn headshotPolitico, RNC finance chair Steve Wynn resigns after sexual harassment allegations, Alex Isenstadt, Jan. 27, 2018. Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn on Saturday stepped down as Republican National Committee finance chairman, according to three senior Republicans briefed on the decision. The decision followed a Friday report in the Wall Street Journal alleging that Wynn engaged in sexual harassment.

Wynn, 76, was President Donald Trump’s handpicked choice for the finance position. It has not yet been determined who will replace him.

“Today I accepted Steve Wynn’s resignation as Republican National Committee finance chair,” said RNC chair Ronna Romney McDaniel, who spoke about the Wynn situation with the president on Saturday morning, according to a person with knowledge of the conversation. Trump returned from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Friday evening.

mar a lago aerial CustomWynn has had a long relationship with the president, himself a former casino owner. After the 2016 election, Trump tapped the Las Vegas Republican to oversee the RNC’s fundraising heading into a perilous midterm election for the party. Last Saturday, Wynn headlined a fundraiser for the president’s reelection campaign and the RNC at Trump’s posh Mar-a-Lago resort (shown in an aerial view). During recent fundraising events — including one recent one in New York City — Wynn has praised Trump as a history-changing president in the mold of Lincoln and Reagan.

But the sexual misconduct allegations against Wynn put Republicans in an untenable situation after the RNC and other GOP officials had ripped the Democratic Party last fall for its connections to Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced movie mogul who raised and contributed large amounts of money for Democrats.’

In a statement emailed to Politico Friday, Wynn said the allegations are “the continued work of my ex-wife Elaine Wynn, with whom I am involved in a terrible and nasty lawsuit in which she is seeking a revised divorce settlement.”

“The idea that I ever assaulted any woman is preposterous,” Wynn added. “We find ourselves in a world where people can make allegations, regardless of the truth, and a person is left with the choice of weathering insulting publicity or engaging in multi-year lawsuits.”

Global Economies Seen Booming

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New York Times, The Global Economy Is Finally Making Some Noise, Peter S. Goodman, Jan. 27, 2018. For the first time since the global economic downturn, every major economy on earth is expanding, creating jobs, lifting fortunes and tempering fears of popular discontent.The result is a hopeful albeit fragile recovery, one vulnerable to the increasingly unpredictable predilections of world leaders.


Inside Washington

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New York Times, Gridlock Deepens Under Trump. Is Our Democracy at Risk? Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Nicholas Fandos, Jan. 27, 2018.  The gloom is bipartisan as Republicans warn of a dark plot to overthrow the Trump government and Democrats talk of a creeping authoritarianism unchecked by Congress.

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don mcgahn cato screengrabNew York Times, White House Lawyer Attempts to Corral as Well as Advise, Charlie Savage, Jan. 27, 2018 9print edition). As a series of firings and resignations roiled the first year of the Trump administration, Donald F. McGahn II (shown in a file photo) maintained a low profile. Recently, that has changed.

When Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, moved into his corner office on the West Wing’s second floor last January, he chose not to decorate its walls or fill its glass-paneled shelving with personal items. He told colleagues that he travels light because he never knows when he might be asked to leave.

But even as a series of firings and resignations roiled the first year of the Trump administration, Mr. McGahn maintained a low profile. Toiling away on judicial appointments and efforts to dismantle regulations, he has rarely accompanied Mr. Trump on trips, and beyond delivering a speech at the annual conference of the conservative Federalist Society in November, has seldom appeared in public.

robert mueller full face fileNow, Mr. McGahn has been thrust squarely into the public eye by the disclosure that in June he threatened to resign in order to stop President Trump from firing Robert S. Mueller III (shown in a file photo), the special counsel leading the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and into whether Mr. Trump committed obstruction of justice. And it is increasingly clear that Mr. McGahn has been at the center of nearly everything Mr. Mueller’s obstruction investigation is scrutinizing.

#MeToo Gymnastics Scandal Ripple Effects

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New York Times, Remaining Members of U.S.A. Gymnastics Board to Resign, Matt Stevens, Jan. 27, 2018 (print edition). The organization said that it would comply with the demands of the U.S. Olympic Committee for the entire board to step down after a sexual abuse scandal involving the national team doctor, Lawrence G. Nassar.

Trump’s Appeal To Faithful

Politico, Millions of Americans Believe God Made Trump President, Amy Sullivan, Jan. 27, 2018. A surprisingly fascinating book explains why.

If Donald Trump gets a little bored on his flight home from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, he can always page through a book handed to him by a delegate not long after he arrived: God and Donald Trump.

The volume, written by Stephen Strang, a leading Pentecostal figure and the longtime publisher of Charisma magazine, is an easy read — part spiritual hagiography, part Fox News bulletin and part prophecy. It ultimately says far less about Trump than about the charismatic Pentecostals who were some of his earliest religious supporters and who now view his election as the fulfillment of God’s will.

Global Dynasties

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alwaleed bin talal hands up reuters fahad shadeedNew York Times, Billionaire Saudi Prince Is Freed From Detention, Ben Hubbard, Jan. 27, 2018. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, Saudi Arabia’s most prominent and flamboyant investor, has been released from detention in the Ritz-Carlton in the capital after he was arrested amid a sweeping crackdown on corruption, two close associates of his family said on Saturday.

The billionaire prince (shown in a file photo) was arrested in November and detained in Riyadh, along with 10 other princes and hundreds of other members of the Saudi elite, as part of what the government called a mass crackdown on corruption. But the arrests were also seen as the latest moves by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to consolidate power.

Two and a half months later, many of the high-profile detainees have been released, apparently after either being cleared or agreeing to hand over significant assets to the government.

Jan. 26

djt photo empty desk wh photo joyce boghosian 1 20 2018

President Trump pretends to talk by phone and otherwise work on Jan. 20 at empty White House desk during temporary shutdown   

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New York Times, President Backed Down After Lawyer Threatened to Quit, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman, Jan. 26, 2018 (print edition). President Trump wanted the Justice Department to dismiss Robert S. Mueller III, who is overseeing the Russia investigation. But the top White House lawyer, Donald F. McGahn II, said he would resign rather than carry out the directive to ask for Mr. Mueller’s firing. President Trump ordered the firing last June of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation, according to four people told of the matter, but ultimately backed down after the White House counsel threatened to resign rather than carry out the directive.

The West Wing confrontation marks the first time Mr. Trump is known to have tried to fire the special counsel. Mr. Mueller learned about the episode in recent months as his investigators interviewed current and former senior White House officials in his inquiry into whether the president obstructed justice.

Amid the first wave of news media reports that Mr. Mueller was examining a possible obstruction case, the president began to argue that Mr. Mueller had three conflicts of interest that disqualified him from overseeing the investigation, two of the people said.

First, he claimed that a dispute years ago over fees at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va., had prompted Mr. Mueller, the F.B.I. director at the time, to resign his membership. The president also said Mr. Mueller could not be impartial because he had most recently worked for the law firm that previously represented the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Finally, the president said, Mr. Mueller had been interviewed to return as the F.B.I. director the day before he was appointed special counsel in May.

don mcgahn cato screengrabAfter receiving the president’s order to fire Mr. Mueller, the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II (shown at an appearance at the Cato Institute), refused to ask the Justice Department to dismiss the special counsel, saying he would quit instead, the people said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to be identified discussing a continuing investigation.

Mr. McGahn disagreed with the president’s case and told senior White House officials that firing Mr. Mueller would have a catastrophic effect on Mr. Trump’s presidency. Mr. McGahn also told White House officials that Mr. Trump would not follow through on the dismissal on his own. The president then backed off.

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Washington Post, Analysis: Trump’s handling of the Russia probe has never looked more like a coverup, Aaron Blake​, Jan. 26, 2018.  President Trump didn’t just consider the most drastic conceivable response to the special counsel’s investigation; he actively tried to do it — until someone stopped him.

richard nixon office 1974 address

President Richard Nixon in the White House during a 1974 address

Politico, Donald Trump Wants to Fight the FBI? It’s a Suicide Mission, Tim Weiner, Jan. 26, 2018. Presidents who take on the Bureau rarely win. On Friday, April 27, 1973, a dozen armed FBI agents left their headquarters in the Old Post Office building — today a gilded Trump hotel — and marched up Pennsylvania Avenue. Waving their badges, they walked into the White House.

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Their orders were to stand guard in the West Wing, wherein lay evidence of high crimes. “They’re going to lock down and secure the business offices, including the president’s,” the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, Jack McDermott, told an astonished Secret Service man.

Caught in the web of Watergate, President Richard M. Nixon returned from Camp David and found a skinny young FBI man standing at attention down the hall from the Oval Office. Screaming in rage, he grabbed the agent by the lapels. “What the hell is this?” he shouted.

It was the rule of law challenging the power of the commander in chief — and the beginning of the end for Nixon. He knew that he was doomed. Within a year, the president would be named as an unindicted co-conspirator in an iron-clad criminal case. His impeachment inevitable, he resigned the presidency in the summer of 1974.

We now stand on the verge of the same kind of confrontation.

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Washington Post, Analysis: The Mueller confrontation that Republicans were trying to avoid has just arrived, Amber Phillips, Jan. 26, 2018.  Republicans had given the president the benefit of the doubt that he wouldn’t fire Mueller. But can they do that anymore?

U.S. Jobs, Economy, Taxes

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Washington Post, Trump encourages a buy-American brand of globalism in Davos speech, Anne Gearan​, Jan. 26, 2018. President Trump invited the world to share in U.S. economic success, but his much-anticipated address also served as a warning that he is setting tougher terms for international trade.

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Washington Post, Trump wins over global elites at Davos. All it took was a $1.5 trillion tax cut.trillion tax cut, Heather Long and Tory Newmyer, Jan. 26, 2018 (print edition). Donald Trump may have finally gained entry into the exclusive global club of the corporate elites he has long scorned — and which has scorned him. All it took was a $1.5 trillion tax cut and a much more hands-off approach toward regulating companies for business leaders to embrace him.

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Washington Post, U.S. economic growth slowed in 4th quarter of 2017, missing Trump’s targets, Jeff Stein​, Jan. 26, 2018. The slower rate underscores the challenge the Trump administration will have in delivering the growth President Trump has promised. He and Republicans are also counting on massive economic growth to prevent an increase in the deficit after Trump signed into law more than $1.5 trillion in tax cuts in December.

The U.S. gross domestic product, a broad measure of the economy, increased by 2.3 percent in 2017, federal economists reported Friday.

GDP growth slowed in the year’s fourth quarter to an annualized rate of 2.6 percent, breaking a two-quarter streak of growth of more than 3 percent.

The economy grew far faster in 2017 than during the year before, but the slowed fourth quarter growth underscores the challenge President Trump’s administration will have in delivering the growth rates he has promised. Officials had focused on 3 percent GDP growth as proof his economic policies were working, and Trump has said it could go far beyond that target.

Trump and Republicans are counting on massive economic growth to prevent the more than $1.5 trillion in tax cuts Trump signed into law in December from adding to the deficit, though that would require growth far beyond the 3 percent target. The tax bill will take effect in 2018’s first quarter, cutting tax rates for corporations and individuals.

The federal Bureau of Economic Analysis provides the GDP figures, which are subject to revision as the agency collects more data.

Overall, the domestic economy remains strong. Unemployment is at a low 4.1 percent, and job growth remains steady, if unspectacular. In 2017, the economy added 2.1 million jobs, compared with 2.2. million in 2016, federal economists reported earlier this month.

First Lady’s Reaction To Porn Star’s #MeToo Claim?

djt melania liberty ball inauguration 2017Daily Mail, Melania ‘staying in hotel’ after Stormy Daniels scandal, Ryan Parry, Jan. 26, 2018. Melania Trump has spent a number of nights at a posh D.C. hotel away from President Trump following allegations of a fling with porn star Stormy Daniels, White House sources told DailyMail.com. The first lady (shown at an inaugural ball a year ago) opted for time away from her husband since news of a possible $130,000 payoff from the President’s lawyer to Daniels to cover up an alleged tryst was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Then, last week, to add insult to injury, a celebrity magazine published a cringe-worthy 2011 interview with Daniels in which she talked about the alleged 2006 sexual encounter with the future president in a hotel room at a casino in Lake Tahoe, Nevada following a celebrity charity golf tournament. ‘It’s been upsetting and humiliating; her relationship with President Trump has become strained,’ a White House source told DailyMail.com.

djt stormy daniels 2006Over two hours after DailyMail.com posted this story, Melania’s  spokesperson, Stephanie Grisham, tweeted: The laundry list of salacious & flat-out false reporting about Mrs. Trump by tabloid publications & TV shows has seeped into “main stream media” reporting.’

She did not say specifically what, if  any, part of the DailyMail.com was ‘false.’ Grisham did not respond to several requests for comment from DailyMail.com regarding Melania’s hotel stays, although given several days notice prior to publication.

Prisons, Courts Around the Nation

darren rainey miami dade inmateMiami Herald, Florida OKs $4.5 million payout for brutal prison shower death of Darren Rainey, Julie K. Brown, Jan. 26, 2018. The family of Darren Rainey, the 50-year-old schizophrenic inmate whose barbaric shower death led to sweeping reforms in the Florida prison system, has settled a civil rights lawsuit against the state of Florida and others for $4.5 million, the Miami Herald has learned.

The deal comes nearly six years after Rainey’s death, which was all but ignored by authorities until 2014 — when the Miami Herald wrote about it as part of a three-year investigation into the abuse and suspicious deaths of inmates in the Florida Department of Corrections.Read the settlement notice here.

It also comes as Florida is set to open a new residential prison treatment facility next month for state prison inmates with mental illnesses. The program is one of a number of initiatives for inmates with disabilities begun since the Herald’s series.

Rainey’s daughter, brother and sister filed the civil lawsuit against the state; Corizon, the Department of Corrections’ former mental health contractor; Jerry Cummings, the former warden at Dade Correctional Institution; and two former corrections officers, Roland Clarke and Cornelius Thompson. It charged that they had subjected Rainey to cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of his constitutional rights.

harold hempsteadInmate Harold Hempstead, the whistleblower who alerted the Herald to Rainey’s death, said he is grateful that the case not only led to changes in Florida, but prompted other states to rethink the way they treat and house inmates with disabilities. 

“Even though it was a really bad and evil thing, when I look back and see the good that came as a result of attention to the problems in the prison system, I’m happy. It’s sad that someone had to die to make change happen. But they say God has a way of bringing good out of evil,’’ said Hempstead, who is now assigned to a prison out of state for his protection.

On June 23, 2012, Rainey was locked in a blistering hot shower by corrections officers who had specially rigged it to punish inmates who misbehaved in the prison’s mental health unit, the Herald found. The temperature controls were in another room.

Rainey screamed and begged to be let out of the steaming stall for nearly two hours until he finally collapsed and died, his skin peeling off his body, the Herald found.

katherine fernández rundle miami dadeDade CI’s guards also used other forms of torture: dousing prisoners with buckets of chemicals, over-medicating them, forcing them to fight each other and starving them. A group of officers at the prison that served inmates empty food trays was known as the “diet squad.’’

For more than a year afterward, Hempstead, an orderly at the prison, sent letters to Miami-Dade homicide detectives, the county medical examiner, the office of Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle (shown at right) and the prison system’s inspector general, telling them that the guards at the prison had killed Rainey and were harming other inmates. But no action was taken.

Authorities, facing public pressure after the Herald stories, finally reopened the case. The Department of Corrections forced the warden and assistant warden out, the head of the agency stepped down and dozens of officers accused of abusing inmates across the state were fired or forced to retire.

Rape, Assault, Harassment Allegations

cnn logojoan biskupic pbsCNN, What happens when judges judge themselves? Sexual misconduct by judges kept under wraps, Joan Biskupic, Jan. 26, 2018 (with video). Joan Biskupic (shown at right) is a CNN legal analyst and Supreme Court biographer. Statistics compiled by Aaron Kessler.

In recent months, powerful men in Hollywood, the media, Congress and other spheres have been accused of sexual harassment. A common theme has been men abusing their positions in settings where women feel they have no recourse.The abuse women have suffered in the nation’s courthouses has been a largely untold story. And its system for complaints — where judges police fellow judges — is a world so closely controlled and cloaked in secrecy that it defies public scrutiny.

alex kozinski informal wRarely do sexual misconduct allegations against federal judges become public, even belatedly, as in the Waco episode or as they did in late 2017, with myriad complaints against California-based U.S. Appeals Court Judge Alex Kozinski (shown at right) that drew national attention in the current #MeToo moment, forcing his resignation.

The federal judiciary occupies a distinct place in American life that makes what happens there potentially more striking than in other spheres. The nearly 900 federal judges who sit on trial and appellate courts are appointed for life. They have the authority to interpret the law on sex-based offenses. Their attitudes about harassment could reverberate in legal disputes that arise in other realms.

But the judiciary itself is hiding the depth of the problem of misconduct by judges.

CNN compiled and reviewed nearly 5,000 judicial orders related to misconduct complaints and available online over the past 10 years. The documents, covering an array of misbehavior beyond sexual misconduct, are remarkably short on details.

The CNN analysis found that:

  • Very few cases against judges are deeply investigated, and very few judges are disciplined in any way. In many years, not a single judge is sanctioned.   
  • None of the actual complaints (more than 1,000 are filed annually) are made public.
  • In the public judicial orders, claims are sparingly summarized, and accused judges’ names rarely appear. Some orders refer to “corrective action” by a judge without saying what happened.
  • Judicial orders are dumped onto circuit court websites as a series of numbered files with no indication of the allegations, person complaining or outcome.

The practice makes it even more difficult to identify the most serious misconduct cases hidden among the opaque lists of documents because each order must be opened and individually read to gain even minimal information about the nature of the complaint.

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New York Times, Will Testifying Help Nassar’s Sexual Abuse Victims Heal? Benedict Carey, Jan. 26, 2018. The psychological effects of disclosing a traumatic secret — of telling your story — depend on the audience, the nature of the trauma and other factors. The spectacle of more than 150 young women telling their stories of sexual abuse before a court, the world, and the perpetrator himself seemed straight from the movies, a cathartic ending to a dark, yearslong drama that had been all too real.

It is rare, perhaps unprecedented, for so many victims to stand in court and, with the encouragement of a judge, to describe aloud for days the abuse they endured. Therapists said that the chance to testify at the sentencing hearing of Dr. Lawrence B. Nassar was worth taking for those who felt ready to do so.

The women were taken at their word; they were part of group, bonded by shared experience; and they saw justice done before their eyes

“I can’t think of a better scenario,” said Elaine Ducharme, a psychologist in Glastonbury, Conn., who specializes in treating trauma from sexual abuse and other violations. “To have the judge hear them, to allow their stories to influence her decisions, and all without putting them through the trauma of an actual trial. Most of them are likely to have felt tremendous relief.”

Yet such scenarios are rare, as many less prominent victims know. Disclosing a traumatic secret — telling your story in all its awful detail — is a dicey proposition that may or may not bring relief, depending on who’s listening and the nature of the trauma itself, Dr. Ducharme and other experts said.

“The assumption that telling the story will automatically be healing is optimistic,” said Nadine Wathen, a researcher at the University of Western Ontario’s Center for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children. “All women have different experiences of abuse — all people dealing with trauma do.”

In a 2009 study, a research team including Dr. Wathen tested the impact of giving women who visit emergency rooms and other health clinics a domestic violence questionnaire — a brief, confidential checklist. Providers got the results of the questionnaire before seeing the women, and advised them based on the added information; the study tracked them over 18 months.

steve wynn headshotWall Street Journal, Dozens of People Recount Pattern of Sexual Misconduct by Las Vegas Mogul Steve Wynn, Alexandra Berzon, Chris Kirkham, Elizabeth Bernstein and Kate O’Keeffe, Jan. 26, 2018. Wynn Resorts employees and others described a CEO who sexualized his workplace and pressured workers to perform sex acts. Mr. Wynn responded: ‘The idea that I ever assaulted any woman is preposterous.’ 

Not long after the billionaire casino mogul Steve Wynn (shown at right) opened his flagship Wynn Las Vegas in 2005, a manicurist who worked there arrived at the on-site salon visibly distressed following an appointment in Mr. Wynn’s office. Sobbing, she told a colleague Mr. Wynn had forced her to have sex, and she repeated that to others later.

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Washington Post, Casino mogul and RNC finance chairman Steve Wynn faces allegations of sexual misconduct, Ed O’Keefe​, Jan. 26, 2018. A new Wall Street Journal report included interviews with dozens of people who have worked at Wynn’s casinos or been told of his behavior, including allegations that he pressured some employees to perform sex acts.

Casino mogul Steve Wynn has no immediate plans to relinquish his role as finance chairman of the Republican National Committee in the wake of reports detailing decades of alleged sexual misconduct, according to a company spokesman. A report by the Wall Street Journal published Friday included interviews with dozens of people who have worked at Wynn’s casinos or been told of his alleged behavior, including allegations that he pressured some employees to perform sex acts.

vince mcmahon twitterDaily Beast, She Said Vince McMahon Sexually Assaulted Her in a Tanning Booth. Ben Feuerherd, Jan. 26, 2018. Police Found ‘Probable Cause.’ Prosecutors Shrugged. She said the wrestling and future XFL magnate told her after she got away that “he was only trying to have some fun.” Then a Florida prosecutor decided not to press charges.

On a Saturday afternoon in January of 2006, a young woman walked into a Papa John’s pizza restaurant at the end of a Boca Raton strip mall and asked for help. The woman, who worked at a tanning salon a few doors down, was in tears. A man had just tried to “attack and rape her” at the salon, she told an employee of the pizza joint.

That man was later identified as Vince McMahon (shown in his Twitter photo), chairman of World Wrestling Entertainment. The Boca Raton police believed they had enough evidence to file an arrest warrant against McMahon for misdemeanor simple battery after the tanning salon employee accused him of groping her and trying to kiss her, according to a police report.

The allegation against McMahon was covered at the time by local media and in an Associated Press report. Some of the details about the alleged crime were included in the reports, but press attention dissipated after McMahon was not criminally charged, with prosecutors citing a lack of independent evidence to charge him.

McMahon, who was married to wife Linda, now the chief of the Small Business Administration for President Donald Trump, strongly denied the allegation at the time. He did not respond to requests for comment for this article.

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burns striderNew York Times, Hillary Clinton Chose to Shield a Top Adviser Accused of Harassment in 2008, Maggie Haberman and Amy Chozick, Jan. 26, 2018. A senior adviser to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign who was accused of repeatedly sexually harassing a young subordinate was kept on the campaign at Mrs. Clinton’s request, according to four people familiar with what took place.

Mrs. Clinton’s campaign manager at the time recommended that she fire the adviser, Burns Strider (shown at right). But Mrs. Clinton did not. Instead, Mr. Strider was docked several weeks of pay and ordered to undergo counseling, and the young woman was moved to a new job.

Mr. Strider, who was Mrs. Clinton’s faith adviser, a co-founder of the American Values Network, and sent the candidate scripture readings every morning for months during the campaign, was hired five years later to lead an independent group that supported Mrs. Clinton’s 2016 candidacy, Correct the Record, which was created by a close Clinton ally, David Brock.

He was fired after several months for workplace issues, including allegations that he harassed a young female aide, according to three people close to Correct the Record’s management.

Mr. Strider did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Hillary Clinton

A spokesman for Mrs. Clinton (who is shown at right in a file photo) provided a statement from Utrecht, Kleinfeld, Fiori, Partners, the law firm that had represented the campaign in 2008 and has been involved on sexual harassment issues.

“To ensure a safe working environment, the campaign had a process to address complaints of misconduct or harassment. When matters arose, they were reviewed in accordance with these policies, and appropriate action was taken,” the statement said. “This complaint was no exception.”

The woman’s experience and the reaction to it have not been previously reported. Until now, former Clinton associates were unwilling to discuss the events for publication. But that changed in the wake of the #MeToo movement, in which dozens of men across the country and across different industries, have been fired or suspended for sexual misconduct.

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chuck close printsNew York Times, The National Gallery of Art Cancels a Chuck Close Show After Misconduct Accusations, Colin Moynihan and Robin Pogregin, Jan. 26, 2018. The National Gallery of Art in Washington has canceled a Chuck Close exhibition, planned for May, because of accusations of sexual misconduct that have engulfed the artist in controversy. In December, The New York Times published a report that Mr. Close had asked women who visited his studio to undress and made unwelcome explicit comments.

Top Secret Writers, CIA Agent Says Agency Supplies Pedophiles With Children, Gabrielle Pickard, Jan. 26, 2018. In what has to be one of the most damning revelations of misconduct by the CIA, a veteran CIA agent has exposed the Central Intelligence Agency for running a child trafficking network, which involves providing children to elite pedophiles around the world.

john kiriakou welcome home partyJohn Kiriakou (shown in a 2015 photo upon his release from prison) had been an agent for the CIA for 14 years and left the Agency in 2004. He is also associated with Hollywood, having worked as an advisor in the movie industry.

Speaking at a recent Speaking at a recent World Beyond War event (Sept. 23 to 25, 2017 in Washington, DC), the former CIA agent blew the whistle on how the Intelligence Agency provides child sex slaves to powerful oligarchs in the showbiz industry, in Washington D.C., and further afield.Kiriakou continued that the CIA would provide these rich and powerful “sources” with a constant stream of “child prostitutes” in exchange for information. The children are usually raped and killed, and likely to be never seen again, continued Kiriakou.

The CIA veteran described how he would meet up with an elite source in a hotel. In return for information, the source would demand a child.

Kiriakou explained how he would think of the elite oligarchs as being “scumbags”, but that he would be forced to “give them what they wanted”.

In this clip of Kiriakou’s revelations about the American intelligence agency on YouTube, the CIA agent asks the audience who would meet a rich oligarch’s demands for a prostitute? When few people raise their hands, Kiriakou then asks:

“But what if he asks for a child prostitute?”

The CIA agent then proceeds to tell the audience: “Your job as a CIA agent is to break the laws of the country you are serving. That’s your job: Your job is to commit espionage, which in most countries is a death penalty crime.”

He continued: “Your job is to convince people to commit treason for you because they like you so much or they like the money that you’re giving them so much. So, because it’s the nature of your job to break the law they’re the rules that are written for you to carry out that job.”

Pedophilia Prosecutions

Courthouse News, Fourth Circuit Declines to Toss Evidence FBI Gathered Via Malware, Brad Kutner, Jan. 26, 2018. The Fourth Circuit declined Friday to suppress evidence the FBI collected using malware placed in a server used by a worldwide child porn ring. The case, argued before a three-judge panel last fall, involves the discovery of a server containing thousands of child porn images at the residence of a Florida man. The sever hosted a website called Playpen which ran on the Tor network, a part of the dark web that is harder to access, monitor, or track.


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Through the Playpen, website users were able to anonymously share and view child pornography. After a tipster lead the FBI to the server, they took it into custody and brought it to Virginia.


According the opinion, the FBI then asked a federal judge for a warrant allowing them to install government-developed malware on the server that would allow them to circumvent the Tor network’s protections for users and collect the personal data of anyone who accessed the site.

The FBI ran the malware for a month and then shared the collected user data with authorities across the country and around the world. Over 800 people were arrested as a result of the sting.

Among them was the plaintiff in the case before the Fourth Circuit, Robert McLamb. After the FBI confirmed his identity, a warrant was issued for his arrest and the search of his Virginia Beach home. Investigators found a hard drive in the house that contained child porn.

McLamb is challenging the lawfulness of the initial warrant that allowed for the malware-based investigation. Judges ordinarily authorize warrants for the jurisdictions in which they preside. In this case, however, McLamb says, the warrant listed “activating computers … of any user or administrator who logs into the [Playpen] by entering a username and password… wherever it may be located.”

GOP Candidate Pushes Culture War, Male Dominance

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Courtland Sykes: ‘Courtland Sykes for Senate’ Campaign 2018

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Washington Post, GOP candidate says feminists have ‘snake-filled heads,’ hopes daughters don’t become ‘she devils,’ Eli Rosenberg, Jan. 26, 2018. A Republican candidate who hopes to unseat a female Democratic senator in Missouri is drawing criticism for a statement he posted about women’s rights in which he called feminists “she devils” and said that he expected his fiancee to have dinner ready for him every night at 6 p.m.

“I want to come home to a home cooked dinner at six every night, one that she fixes and one that I expect one day to have my daughters learn to fix after they become traditional homemakers and family wives,” he wrote of his fiancée, Chanel Rion, saying he wanted his world to be more Norman Rockwell — the painter known for his depictions of classic American life — than the feminist Gloria Steinem.

The candidate, Courtland Sykes, wrote that “radical feminism” has a “crazed definition of modern womanhood.”

“They made it up to suit their own nasty, snake-filled heads,” he said. “Men and women are different and gender-bending word games by a goofy nest of drugstore academics aren’t going to change anything — except the fantasy life of those confused people in ivory towers.”

Sykes, who is one of several Republicans planning a run against Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), posted the remarks on his Facebook page this week, though they were originally from an interview in September. [A trailer for a campaign ad is here.]

Of the daughters he envisioned himself having in the future, he wrote that he wanted them to build “home based enterprises.”

Global News: Syria

Guardian, Analysis: Syrian rebels put their own aims aside to fight Turkey’s battles, Kareem Shaheen, Jan. 26, 2018. Fighters leading an offensive against Kurds say they have few options but to stick by their ally. Abandoned by all other international allies and very nearly defeated, Syria’s armed opposition now finds itself waging a battle against Syrian Kurdish militias on behalf of Ankara, a patron that in recent months has pursued geopolitical and national security interests that are far more important to it than the opposition’s aim of ousting the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad.

It highlights the rebels’ deep dependence on Turkey, their one remaining benefactor, and the powerlessness of Syrians to determine the course of a civil war that has now lasted nearly seven years. Interviews with nine Syrian rebel commanders and officials, most taking part in the Afrin campaign, show they are determined to stand by Turkey, the only country they say continued to support and train their forces despite global indifference.

Global News: Afghanistan

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New York Times, We Can’t Win in Afghanistan Because We Don’t Know Why We’re There, Steve Coll, Jan. 26, 2018. American war aims remain riddled with contradictions.

“The United States is not losing in Afghanistan, but it is not winning either, and that is not good enough,” reads the opening sentence of a top-secret review of the war in Afghanistan commissioned by President George W. Bush in 2008, according to multiple participants in that review. Subsequent classified reviews of the American strategy in the war have repeated that conclusion.

The Trump administration undertook the latest rethinking of the war in August. President Trump’s advisers again reviewed its causes: opium, corruption, ethnic factionalism and, above all, the support and sanctuary provided to the Taliban by Pakistan, through the covert action arm of its powerful spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence.

Why is this problem so hard? Why, since the Sept. 11 attacks, has the United States been unable to prevent Pakistan, a notional ally that has received billions of dollars in aid, from succoring the Taliban at such a high cost in American lives and Afghan misery?

One major reason is American war aims in Afghanistan have been, and remain, riddled with contradictions and illusions that Inter-Services Intelligence can exploit. President Bush, President Barack Obama and President Trump have all offered convoluted, incomplete or unconvincing answers to essential questions: Why are we in Afghanistan? What interests justify our sacrifices? How will the war end?

Jan. 25

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Washington Post, Trump proposes path to citizenship for ‘dreamers,’ $25 billion for wall, David Nakamura​, Jan. 25, 2018.  The plan, to be sent to the Senate next week, also calls for an end to family visas for parents and siblings of U.S. citizens. The plan is a concession to Democrats but is likely to produce sharp blowback among conservative Republicans.

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Washington Post, Analysis: Trump surprises his lawyers, alarms friends by offering to talk with Mueller, James Hohmann, Jan. 25, 2018.  President Trump said he was “looking forward” to testifying under oath to the special counsel in the Russia probe, leading his lawyers to quickly try to clarify the statements. The remarks reflect Trump’s self-confidence that he can talk his way out of any pickle.

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Washington Post, Missing texts from FBI officials who investigated Clinton and Trump have been recovered, inspector general says, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett​, Jan. 25, 2018. The missing messages have sparked a political firestorm in recent days, as GOP leaders and the president himself have raised questions about how the FBI could have failed to retain them.


whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Pennsylvania and Florida Take Big Steps Toward Election Fairness, Oliver Crook, Jan. 25, 2018.  With the Pennsylvania Supreme Court putting an end to gerrymandered congressional districts and Florida voters putting an important initiative on the November ballot, it has been a big week for all those seeking fair elections.Jan. 24

Trump Dangles Cooperation In Probe

robert mueller full face fileVox, Trump just said he’s “looking forward to” testifying under oath to Robert Mueller, Andrew Prokop, Jan. 24, 2018. Still, the details for the high-stakes interview haven’t yet been finalized. President Donald Trump told reporters Wednesday afternoon that he would testify under oath to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team — and that he was “looking forward to it” — but that his lawyers are still working out the specifics.

This isn’t the final confirmation of the interview that the political world has been waiting for with bated breath. It isn’t even the first time Trump has suggested he’d be happy to talk with Mueller (shown at right) under oath — he did so last June.

djt official SmallBut as Mueller’s team started talking with Trump’s lawyers about a sit-down in recent days, Trump began to sound more noncommittal. “When they have no collusion,” he said two weeks ago, “it seems unlikely that you’d even have an interview.” He added: “We’ll see what happens.”

So the president’s new comments Wednesday, made to Jonathan Karl of ABC News, do suggest an increasing openness toward a high-stakes sit-down with Mueller’s team, where he’d be at risk of perjuring himself.

Related Story; Washington Post, Trump says he would speak to Mueller under oath in Russia investigation, Josh Dawsey, David Nakamura and Devlin Barrett​, Jan. 24, 2018. The president said he is “looking forward” to testifying. He suggested he was being investigated for obstruction of justice as part of the Russia probe because he was “fighting back” and reiterated there was “no collusion” between his campaign and Moscow.

Inside DC: Immigration, Budget Battles

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Washington Post, Trump puts path to citizenship for some ‘dreamers’ on the table in immigration deal, David Nakamura, Jan. 24, 2018. The president said his plan, to be released Monday, would grant provisional legal status to the 690,000 immigrants covered by a deferred action program that he terminated last fall. His proposal will also seek $25 billion for a border wall and $5 billion for additional border security.

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Washington Post, Trump’s 24-year-old drug policy appointee to step down by month’s end, Robert O’Harrow Jr.​, Jan. 24, 2018. Taylor Weyeneth, whose only professional experience after college and before becoming a political appointee was working on the Trump campaign, will leave because of controversy surrounding his appointment.

Related story: Roll Call, White House to Roll Out Immigration Framework on Monday, John T. Bennett, Jan. 24, 2018. Proposal will address border security, DACA and ending chain migration, visa lottery. The White House on Monday will roll out a legislative framework for an immigration overhaul deal that “that represents a compromise” that officials hope members of both parties can accept, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

The plan will propose border security measures, closing loopholes, ending so-called chain migration, canceling the visa lottery program and legalizing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, she added.

Rolling out the immigration framework on Monday will allow President Donald Trump to discuss it during his first State of the Union address on Tuesday night.

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Democratic Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (NY, file photo)

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Washington Post, Schumer rescinds offer to Trump on border wall, Ed O’Keefe and Sean Sullivan, Jan. 24, 2018 (print edition). Hopes for a fresh start on immigration slammed into reality as the Senate’s top Democrat withdrew an offer to help pay for a wall and the White House called an emerging bipartisan plan “dead on arrival.”

Trump, GOP Pressure On FBI To End Probe

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andrew mccabe c span may 11 2017Washington Post, Trump asked FBI official Andrew McCabe how he voted in 2016, Ellen Nakashima, Josh Dawsey and Devlin Barrett, Jan. 24, 2018 (print edition). In an Oval Office meeting, McCabe (shown in a file photo from Congressional testimony), who at the time was acting FBI director, told President Trump that he didn’t vote in the election, officials said.

The president also vented his anger over donations that McCabe’s wife, a Democrat, received for a failed bid for the Virginia state Senate. The conversation is said to be of interest to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

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 fbi logoWashington Post, Your guide to the anti-FBI conspiracy theories rippling through conservative media, Philip Bump, Jan. 24, 2018 (print edition). The memo. The text messages. The dossier. We sort through the emergent allegations made by the president’s defenders, including why some might be considered with a grain of salt.

paul manafort cnnPolitico, Errant court filing suggests feds had informant at Manafort firm, Josh Gerstein, Jan. 24, 2018. A document by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s attorneys appear to have accidentally filed in court Wednesday suggests that federal investigators had an informant inside Manafort’s consulting firm who provided information about his financial dealings.

The one-page memo submitted along with a routine scheduling motion seems to have been prepared by a defense lawyer or investigator trying to assemble information that could support a claim by Manafort’s defense of improper contacts between the prosecution team-now headed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller-and the media. The document, titled “DOJ, OSC and the Press,” says that a reporter appeared to have obtained access to internal documents from the firm founded by Manafort, Davis Manafort Partners International.

U.S. Park Police Fatal Shooting Of Motorist

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Washington Post, Video shows Park Police fired nine shots into Virginia man’s vehicle, killing him, Tom Jackman, Jan. 24, 2018. Two Park Police officers stood within close range of Bijan Ghaisar as he sat behind the wheel of his stopped Jeep Grand Cherokee, then fired into his vehicle as it slowly veered into a ditch away from the officers, a video recording of the Nov. 17 incident shows.

The video also captures two earlier encounters in which Ghaisar pulls to the side of the road, the two Park Police officers run to his car and one points a gun directly at Ghaisar, and then Ghaisar drives away.

But in the moments before he was repeatedly shot by both officers, there does not appear to be any interaction with or provocation by Ghaisar, whose window remained closed, though his Jeep begins to move forward after stopping, sparking the first set of five shots. When the Jeep drifts forward again, the officers fire two more times at close range. When it drifts again, the officers fire a final two shots, the video shows.

Ghaisar’s lawyers said medical records now show he was shot four times in the head, not three as previously reported, and once in the wrist. The lawyers said he was unarmed, and the video released Wednesday did not indicate that he wielded a weapon. He died ten days later.

“No one was even close to being in harm’s way,” said Austin and Connolly, the Ghaisar family’s attorneys, “until a pair of U.S. Park Police officers repeatedly shot Bijan at close range as he sat, unarmed, in his Jeep on a residential street.  We don’t know why the U.S. Park Police officers shot Bijan multiple times, or whether those officers are still patrolling the area’s parkways.  What we do know is that justice demands that those responsible for taking Bijan’s life answer for this illegal and unconstitutional killing.”

More Assault, Rape, #MeToo Harassment News Globally

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New York Times, Dr. Larry Nassar Sentenced to 40 to 175 Years for Sexual Abuse, Scott Cacciolo and Victor Mather, Jan. 24, 2018. After an extraordinary seven-day hearing that drew more than 150 young women to speak out publicly about sexual abuse they said was committed by Dr. Lawrence G. Nassar, the former team doctor for the American gymnastics team, a judge sentenced him on Wednesday to 40 to 175 years in prison.

larry nassar gymnastics plea [Dr. Nassar, shown at left in a court hearing with his attorney, has been sentenced to 60 years in prison on federal child pornography charges.]

Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, who had opened her courtroom to all the young women who wanted to address Dr. Nassar directly, and forced him to listen when he pleaded to make it stop, handed down the sentence, saying to him, “You’ve done nothing to deserve to walk outside a prison again.”

He had faced a minimum term of 25 to 40 years.

Just before sentencing Dr. Nassar, the judge read parts of a letter he submitted to the court last week. In the letter, he complained about his treatment in a separate federal child pornography case and wrote that his accusers in this case were seeking news media attention and money. “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” he wrote in the letter. There were audible gasps from the gallery when the judge read the line.

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rosemarie aquilinaNew York Times, Gymnastics Abuse Victims Find Advocate in Judge, Scott Cacciola, Jan. 24, 20178 (print edition). Clearing her docket, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina let more than 100 young athletes make statements about Larry Nassar, the former U.S.A. Gymnastics doctor convicted of sexual abuse. Judge Rosemarie Aquilina listened on Monday morning as yet another gymnast, one of scores coming forward in her courtroom, took her turn excoriating Lawrence G. Nassar, a prominent doctor for U.S.A. Gymnastics who has pleaded guilty to multiple sex crimes.

The young woman finished, and Judge Aquilina, who has now allowed nearly 140 girls and women, including several prominent Olympic gymnasts, to give statements against Dr. Nassar, leaned forward from the bench. She smiled at the gymnast, Bailey Lorencen, and delivered her own heartfelt statement in a manner and tone befitting a therapist.

“The military has not yet come up with fiber as strong as you,” Judge Aquilina told Ms. Lorencen, calling her a “heroine” and a “superhero.” She added: “Mattel ought to make toys so that little girls can look at you and say, ‘I want to be her.’ Thank you so much for being here, and for your strength.”

Belying the stone-faced image of dispassionate jurists, Judge Aquilina has emerged as an unusually fierce victims’ advocate in a sentencing hearing that has drawn national attention for the scope of Dr. Nassar’s abuse and for the role that institutions like U.S.A. Gymnastics and Michigan State University played in employing him for decades.

Judge Aquilina’s vow to let every victim speak has also unexpectedly turned the hearing into a cathartic forum that has emboldened dozens of women who had remained silent to come forward with accounts of abuse by Dr. Nassar. Court officials initially had expected 88 young women to speak when the hearing began last week, but the number is expected to top 150 by the time these proceedings conclude, likely Wednesday morning.

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New York Times, Sentencing Larry Nassar Is Only a Start, Editorial Board, Jan. 24, 2018. Others must also be held accountable for full justice to be served.

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lou anna simonNew York Times, Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon Resigns Amid Nassar Fallout, Matthrew Hag and Marc Tracy,  Jan. 24, 2018. Lou Anna Simon, who has come under fire because of the university’s ties to Dr. Lawrence G. Nassar, has worked at the school for more than four decades. 

Media & Entertainment

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Garrison Keillor, shown on the cover of his book “The Keillor Reader”

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New York Times, Garrison Keillor’s Accuser Described ‘Dozens’ of Offenses Over ‘Period of Years,’ Maya Salam, Jan. 24, 2018. In a letter to listeners, Minnesota Public Radio pushed back on Mr. Keillor’s account that all he’d done was touch a woman’s back. The network cut ties with him last year.

Global Sex Scandals

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New York Times, Afghan Pedophiles Get Free Pass From U.S. Military, Report Says, Rod Nordland, Jan. 24, 20178 (print edition). A special inspector says the American military uses loopholes to exempt Afghan security forces from punishment for enslaving and raping children, and other gross human rights violations.

defense department combatting trafficking logoOn 5,753 occasions from 2010 to 2016, the United States military reported accusations of “gross human rights abuses” by the Afghan military, including many examples of child sexual abuse. If true, American law required military aid to be cut off to the offending unit.

Not once did that happen.

That was among the findings in an investigation into child sexual abuse by the Afghan security forces and the supposed indifference of the American military to the problem, according to a report released on Monday by the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, known as Sigar.

The report, commissioned under the Obama administration, was considered so explosive that it was originally marked “Secret/ No Foreign,” with the recommendation that it remain classified until June 9, 2042. The report was finished in June 2017, but it appears to have included data only through 2016, before the Trump administration took office.

The report released on Monday was heavily redacted, and at least in the public portions it did little to answer questions about how prevalent child sexual abuse was in the Afghan military and police, and how commonly the American military looked the other way at the widespread practice of bacha bazi, or “boy play,” in which some Afghan commanders keep underage boys as sex slaves.

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china flagNew York Times, ‘Me Too,’ Chinese Women Say. Not So Fast, Censors Reply, Javier C. Hernandez and Zoe Mou, Jan. 24, 20178 (print edition). Demands for better treatment are clashing with a male-dominated culture and an authoritarian system that tightly controls free speech.

Congressman Claims Defense

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patrick meehan oNew York Times, Congressman Says Accuser ‘Invited’ His Romantic Overtures, Kenneth P. Vogel and Katie Rogers, Jan. 24, 20178 (print edition). Representative Patrick Meehan, Republican of Pennsylvania (and shown at right), denied any impropriety and said that he was emotionally wounded when a former aide filed a sexual harassment complaint against him.

#MeToo In Arts, Entertainment

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New York Times, Long Wharf Theater’s Artistic Director Fired Over Sexual Misconduct Accusations, Michael Paulson, Jan. 24, 20178 (print edition).  The board of trustees of Long Wharf Theater on Tuesday evening fired the longtime artistic director Gordon Edelstein over accusations of sexual misconduct.

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New York Times, The #MeToo Movement Hits the Circus: ‘Grandma’ the Clown Resigns, Andy Newman, Jan. 24, 20178 (print edition). One of America’s most revered circus performers, Grandma the clown, has resigned from the world-renowned Big Apple Circus after it was revealed that he pressured a 16-year-old aerialist into posing for pornographic photos in 2004.

Barry Lubin, 65, who played Grandma (shown at right) in a wig, pearls and a lumpy red dress to audiences of millions, offered his resignation on Friday shortly after the former aerialist contacted the circus to accuse him, said the circus’s chairman, Neil Kahanovitz, on Tuesday.

barry lubin grandmaMr. Lubin, through his lawyer, released a statement Tuesday night acknowledging and apologizing for his conduct. “The allegations,” the statement said, “are true. What I did was wrong, and I take full responsibility for my actions.”

Dr. Kahanovitz had told the accuser, Zoey Dunne, after receiving her letter, “We found the allegations put forth in your correspondence very disturbing.”

The circus just finished its annual three-month run at Lincoln Center in Manhattan, and will now open in Alpharetta, Ga., on Friday without its longtime star. Mr. Lubin, who spent decades at the pinnacle of his profession, becomes the latest antagonist in the string of sexual-misconduct scandals involving men who have taken advantage of less powerful people.

Presidential Blackmail?

wayne madsen new observerWayne Madsen Report (WMR), Trump’s multiple sex scandals endanger U.S. national security, Andrew Kreig and Wayne Madsen (shown at left), Jan. 24, 2018. Recent claims that Donald Trump paid hush money before the 2016 election to porn star Stormy Daniels to cover up a 2006 affair underscore far more sinister events. Such a payoff would show not simply Trump’s low morals and high arrogance —but also his propensity for outright crime.

Undercover At Posh UK Club

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Washington Post, Female journalist goes undercover at posh ‘men only’ London fundraiser, reports widespread groping, Fred Barbash, Jan. 24, 2018. Watch a reporter go undercover at scandalous ‘men only’ fundraiser.’ Financial Times reporter Madison Marriage went undercover to report on The President’s Club Charitable Trust’s annual fundraising dinner. Men only, except for 130 “hostesses” hired to cater to the needs of the roughly 360 attendees.

huff post logoHuffPost, Prestigious Men-Only Charity In London To Close Amid Sexual Harassment Claims, Antonia Blumberg, Jan. 24, 2018. A prominent, decades-old U.K. charity known for its annual, men-only fundraising dinners announced that it will close following reports that some of its guests groped and sexually harassed hostesses hired for an event last week.

Election Fairness

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Deutsche Bank: Where the Dots of Russiagate Connect, Jeff Schechtman, Jan. 24, 2018.  Martin Sheil, a retired branch chief of the IRS Criminal Division, discusses his WhoWhatWhy series on Deutsche Bank and how nearly all the main figures involved in Russiagate also have ties to the financial institution.

Watergate Revisited


Daily Caller, Watergate Journalism: The Seeds Of Our Discontent, John D. O’Connor, Jan. 24, 2018. There is a very good argument to be made that today’s agenda-driven journalism — born of the highly effective but deeply flawed Watergate reporting — has caused our societal distemper.

richard nixon wEvery schoolchild today is taught that President Richard Nixon (shown at right) resigned his presidency in disgrace because he falsely pointed to the Central Intelligence Agency to restrict the FBI’s Watergate investigation. But what if Nixon was right about CIA involvement — wittingly or otherwise? And what if a major newspaper deliberately concealed irrefutable evidence of CIA sponsorship of the Watergate burglaries?

In fact, there is a strong case that this is exactly what happened in Watergate. Burglary team leader James McCord had falsely retired from the CIA on an earlier occasion to go under cover. The operation’s supervisor, Howard Hunt (immediately identified in the burglary) was himself recently “retired” from the CIA, working not only for the White House, but also for Mullen and Company, a CIA cover front. Both McCord and Hunt had worked for the CIA’s black-ops, highly secretive Office of Security, which reported directly to CIA director Richard Helms.

Mark Felt, later my client and then associate director of the FBI, received a written CIA memo soon after the arrests confirming Mullen’s CIA cover status. Quite rationally, this savvy 30-year FBI veteran concluded that the burglary was likely a White House operation, a CIA operation or both.

Not to prolong the suspense, the answer was “both.”

John D. O’Connor is the San Francisco attorney who represented W. Mark Felt during his revelation as Deep Throat in 2005. O’Connor is the co-author of “A G-Man’s Life: The FBI, Being ‘Deep Throat,’ and the Struggle for Honor in Washington” and is a producer of “Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House” (2017), written and directed by Peter Landesman.

Jan. 23

Attempted Assassination of PLO Leader

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yasser arafat world economic forum 2001New York Times, How Arafat Eluded Israel’s Assassination Machine, Ronen Bergman, Jan. 23, 2018. The nation’s security forces tried for decades to kill the P.L.O. leader, Yasser Arafat.(shown at right during a 2001 speech at the World Economic Forum).  Now, former officials tell the story of how they failed — and how far they almost went to succeed.

As a reporter in Israel, I have interviewed hundreds of people in its intelligence and defense establishments and studied thousands of classified documents that revealed a hidden history, surprising even in the context of Israel’s already fierce reputation.

israel flagMany of the people I spoke to, in explaining why they did what they did, would simply cite the Babylonian Talmud: “If someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first.” In my reporting, I found that since World War II, Israel has used assassination and targeted-killing more than any other country in the West, in many cases endangering the lives of civilians.

But I also discovered a long history of profound — and often rancorous — internal debates over how the state should be preserved. Can a nation use the methods of terrorism? Can it harm innocent civilians in the process? What are the costs? Where is the line?

Increasingly, people want to talk.

Justice Department Under Scrutiny

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jeff sessions ag oNew York Times, Jeff Sessions Is Questioned for Hours in Russia Inquiry, Michael S. Schmidt, Jan. 23, 2018. Attorney General Jeff Sessions (right) was questioned for several hours last week by the special counsel’s office as part of the investigation into Russia’s meddling in the election and whether the president obstructed justice since taking office, according to a Justice Department spokeswoman.

The meeting marked the first time that investigators for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, are known to have interviewed a member of Mr. Trump’s cabinet.

FBI Director Christopher Wray, speaking at the White House (File photo from screen gra

FBI Director Christopher Wray (File photo from screen grab)

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Washington Post, Jeff Sessions pressured FBI director to replace Andrew McCabe and other senior personnel from Comey era, Devlin Barrett and Philip Rucker, Jan. 23, 2018 (print edition). As the attorney general tried to push Christopher Wray to make personnel changes, Wray became increasingly frustrated and conveyed that frustration to Sessions, according to people familiar with the matter.

Prosecution Ethics

cyrus vance jrProPublica, Manhattan District Attorney Says He’ll No Longer Accept Contributions From Lawyers With Cases Before Him, Jesse Eisinger Jan. 23, 2018. Cy Vance (shown at right) had faced criticism after declining to prosecute high-profile defendants such as Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. and Harvey Weinstein, whose lawyers had donated to his campaign.

After controversy over how he handled two prominent investigations, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said he would no longer take campaign donations from defense attorneys with cases before him.

Vance said his campaign will no longer accept contributions in any amount from such lawyers and will cap donations from their law partners. Vance was re-elected in November to a four-year term.Get ProPublica’s Top Stories by Email

The district attorney also will not solicit contributions personally and will have his campaign shield him from the identities of his donors. Candidates for judgeships in New York state follow similar guidelines.

In October, ProPublica, WNYC and The New Yorker reported that Vance had overruled prosecutors who wanted to bring felony fraud charges against two of the president’s children, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. The office had been investigating the two for making misleading statements as their father’s company attempted to sell apartments in a struggling condominium and hotel in downtown Manhattan called the Trump SoHo.Read the StoryIvanka and Donald Trump Jr. Were Close to Being Charged With Felony FraudNew York prosecutors were preparing a case. Then the D.A. overruled his staff after a visit from a top donor: Trump attorney Marc Kasowitz.

#MeToo Scandal Probe Hits Major Regional Theater

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gordon edelsteinNew York Times, Long Wharf Theater Leader Is Accused of Sexual Misconduct, Michael Paulson, Jan. 23, 2018 (print edition). The groping began about two months after Kim Rubinstein began working at [New Haven’s] Long Wharf Theater in 2003, she said.

She was having dinner at a restaurant with her new boss: Gordon Edelstein (shown at right), the artistic director, a college friend with whom she had had a one-night fling decades earlier, before he got married. Toward the end of the meal, after returning from the bathroom, he suddenly kissed her, with his tongue.

Ms. Rubinstein is one of four women who spoke on the record, describing unwanted sexual contact by Mr. Edelstein since his arrival in 2002 at Long Wharf, a respected nonprofit theater in New Haven that has had several productions mounted on Broadway. Six other former employees, women and men, described frequent sexually explicit remarks in the workplace by Mr. Edelstein, a prominent figure in American theater circles.

Long Wharf officials, after receiving questions from the New York Times, said Monday that Mr. Edelstein had been put on administrative leave, effective immediately. The staff was summoned to a meeting Monday and the board to a meeting on Tuesday.

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cory booker senateNew York Times, A Syria Plan That Breaks the Law, U.S. Sen. Cory A. Booker (D-NJ, shown at right) and Yale Law School Professor Oona A. Hathaway, Jan. 23, 2018. Clearly and lamentably, the president is prepared to flout constitutional limits on his authority to commit our troops on his own.

We’re not the first ones to point out such concerns. Senators Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, and Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, have worked for years to draw attention to the absence of legal authorization for military operations in the Middle East. And Bob Corker of Tennessee, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, made clear at a recent committee hearing that if the United States were to remain in Syria to fight Iranian proxies, “the authorizations are not there for that kind of activity.”

Jan. 22

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donald trump mike pence wives inauguralNew York Times, Lobbyists Romp in Trump’s Washington, Editorial Board, Jan. 22, 2018 (print edition). In his Inaugural Address, President Trump promised to upend the money-grubbing culture of the capital. It’s only gotten worse.

The numbers compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan organization that tracks money in American politics, might not seem surprising. The amount spent on lobbying during the first nine months of Donald Trump’s presidency, it found, was higher than in any corresponding period since 2012. A new administration would attract a new wave of lobbying, you would think. Except that Mr. Trump promised something different.

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Washington Post, Senate breaks impasse, paving way for government to reopen, Robert Costa, Erica Werner, Ed O’Keefe and Elise Viebeck​, Jan. 22, 2018. Democrats expected to join Republicans to pass short-term spending bill. The Senate voted 81 to 18 to end a filibuster of a spending bill that would fund the government through Feb. 8. Republicans pledged to hold a vote resolving the status of young undocumented immigrants next month.

President Trump lauded the development, saying, “I am pleased that Democrats in Congress have come to their senses.”  See previous story: Workweek begins as shutdown rolls into third day.

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Washington Post, Analysis: Democrats caved on the shutdown, and they’re admitting it, Aaron Blake, Jan. 22, 2018. They didn’t have much leverage in negotiations, but don’t expect their base to accept that explanation. 

dianne feinsteinKamala Harris on McConnell: “I don’t believe he made any commitment whatsoever and I think it would be foolhardy to believe he made a commitment.” Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), shown at right, says she’s “very disappointed” in deal because there’s no guarantee House will pass fix to help Dreamers.​·​

To be clear, most Senate Democrats wound up voting to reopen the government. They did so after a deal was struck in which Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) was assured that the Senate would vote on some kind of immigration deal by Feb. 8 — and if they didn’t have a deal, there would be an up-or-down vote on DACA, the program protecting the children of illegal immigrants from deportation.

Just 16 of the 49 members of the Senate Democratic caucus voted no, and it’s a group that is full of potential 2020 contenders like Harris who have a clear interest in appealing to the base

But that’s also the point. Those members have made appealing to the Democratic base their raison d’etre, and they’ve quickly wagered that this thing isn’t going to fly with that same base. The base was cheering Democrats for taking a stand on behalf of so-called dreamers and demanding that they be protected; instead, Schumer has merely been assured of a vote on something to-be-determined that may or may not succeed.

The Atlantic, Opinion: The Disappearing Dealmaker, David A. Graham, Jan. 22, 2018. The Senate struck a deal to reopen the government on Monday morning — but without any help from President Trump.

Investigative Reporting/ Commentary

john barbour facebookBBS Radio / John Barbour’s World Radio Show, Implications of ‘Welcome To Waterbury’  Scandal, Host John Barbour, Jan. 22, 2018. Film maker and five-time Emmy Award winner John Barbour (shown at right), interviews authors Wayne Madsen and Andrew Kreig about their story about Donald Trump. Barbour, whose latest film is The American Media: The Second Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, was the creator and co-star of the nation’s top-rated prime time television show Real People in the 1970s,

Inside the White House

Vanity Fair, Trump vs. Kelly: “I’ve Got Another Nut Job Here Who Thinks He’s Running Things”: Are Trump and Kelly Heading for Divorce? Gabriel Sherman, Jan. 22, 2018. With the president and his chief of staff arguing in public, Ivanka Trump takes charge of finding a replacement. 

John Kelly

Donald Trump’s relationship with John Kelly, his chief of staff (shown at right), fraught from the beginning, may finally have gone past the point of no return. Two prominent Republicans in frequent contact with the White House told me that Trump has discussed choosing Kelly’s successor in recent days, asking a close friend what he thought about David Urban, a veteran Washington lobbyist and political operative who helped engineer Trump’s victory in Pennsylvania.

ivanka trump twitter portraitIvanka (shown in her Twitter portrait) is also playing a central role in the search, quietly field-testing ideas with people. “Ivanka is the most worried about it. She’s trying to figure who replaces Kelly,” a person who’s spoken with her said.

Kelly’s departure likely isn’t imminent, sources said. “He wants to stay longer than Reince [Priebus],” an outside adviser said. Trump can also hardly afford another high-level staff departure, which would trigger days of negative news cycles. “This could be like [Jeff] Sessions,” one of the Republicans explained, referring to Trump’s festering frustration about not being able to replace his attorney general.

But the prospect of a Trump-Kelly rupture became more probable as news of their clashes over immigration leaked. Last week, Kelly reportedly infuriated Trump when he told Fox News that Trump had “evolved” on his position to build a southern border wall. Kelly further catalyzed Trump’s ire when he told Democratic lawmakers that Trump was “uninformed” when he made his campaign promise to build the wall. The next morning Trump rebutted his chief of staff with a tweet: “The Wall is the Wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it.”

Trump has increasingly been chafing at the media narrative that he needs Kelly to instill discipline on his freewheeling management style.

Sexual Abuse Scandals

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pope francis 2013 SmallNew York Times, Pope Apologizes to Abuse Victims but Again Doubts Them, Jason Horowitz, Jan. 22, 2018. The pope’s doubting of sexual abuse victims, most recently in Latin America, has prompted concerns that he will not hold the church hierarchy fully accountable.

Daily Beast, Texas Politician Accused of ‘Grooming’ Grieving Mother for Sex and a Ponzi Scheme, Olivia Messer, Jan. 22, 2018. Prosecutors say state Sen. Carlos Uresti allegedly romanced a grief-stricken mother, then convinced her to invest in a reckless Ponzi scheme.

carlos urestiTexas state Sen. Carlos Uresti “groomed” nearly $900,000 out of a former client and grieving mother by cultivating a sexual relationship with her, according to prosecutors in court on Monday.

The 54-year-old Uresti (shown at right), who has also been accused by multiple women of sexual harassment during his time as a legislator, is on trial for 11 felony charges — including money laundering, wire fraud, and securities fraud — over his alleged part in a Ponzi scheme involving frac sand company FourWinds Logistics‍. Uresti, who served as legal counsel for the now-defunct company, has repeatedly denied all of the charges.

Uresti’s alleged behavior towards Cantu comes on the heels of allegations, first reported in The Daily Beast in December, in which multiple women accused the San Antonio Democrat of making lewd comments, of repeatedly ogling them, and of sending inappropriate messages. One young female reporter even claimed that Uresti put his hands on her thigh and then “put his tongue down my throat.”

Fallout On Stormy Daniels Story

Politico, Alleged payment to porn star was illegal donation to Trump campaign, watchdog says, Josh Gerstein, Jan. 22, 2018. The call from Common Cause for criminal prosecution echoes charges against John Edwards.

A watchdog group filed a pair of complaints on Monday alleging that a $130,000 payment reportedly made to a pornographic film actress who claims to have had an affair with Donald Trump violated campaign finance laws.

In submissions to the Justice Department and the Federal Election Commission, Common Cause said the alleged payment to Stephanie Clifford — who uses the stage name Stormy Daniels — amounted to an in-kind donation to Trump’s presidential campaign that should have been publicly disclosed in its official reports.

An attorney for Common Cause, Paul Ryan, said the payment appeared to be hush money. He compared the situation to the series of events that resulted in the prosecution of former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) over nearly $1 million in payments allegedly made to cover up an affair he had with videographer Rielle Hunter during his 2008 presidential bid.

“The purpose is the heart of all this,” Ryan said. “It’s pretty obvious this payment to Ms. Clifford was intended to keep her quiet just weeks before the election so she would not damage the candidate’s effort to win the election.”

john edwards wEditor’s Note (drawn from Wikipedia): During the Obama administration and its Democrat-led Justice Department, a federal grand jury in North Carolina indicted the Democrat Edwards (shown at right) in 2011 on six felony charges of violating multiple federal campaign contribution laws to cover up an extramarital affair to which he admitted, following his 2008 presidential campaign. Edwards was found not guilty on one count, and the judge declared a mistrial on the remaining five charges, as the jury was unable to come to an agreement.

Jan. 21

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Washington Post, On Day 2 of shutdown, Trump suggests ‘nuclear option’ in Senate, Robert Costa, Paul Kane, Ed O’Keefe and Sean Sullivan, Jan. 21, 2018. President Trump (shown above at the White House and below in an official photo) pressured Congress on Sunday to end a government shutdown that reached its second day amid deep uncertainty over whether Democrats and Republicans could soon break an impasse to restore federal funding.

djt official SmallTrump praised Republicans for “fighting for our Military and Safety at the Border,” while he said Democrats “just want illegal immigrants to pour into our nation unchecked.”

Military Vet In Senate Challenges Trump

cnn logoCNN, Duckworth to Trump: I won’t be lectured by draft dodger, Jan 21, 2018 (video). Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), who lost both of her legs in the Iraq War, calls President Trump a “draft dodger” amid the ongoing debate about the government shutdown.

djt photo empty desk wh photo joyce boghosian 1 20 2018

White House photo of President Trump at empty desk inspires mockery

Mashable via Yahoo! Photo of Donald Trump at his desk inspires epic Twitter thread of past presidents at work, Adam Rosenberg, Mashable, Jan. 21, 2018. One day into the U.S. government’s first shutdown since 2013, the White House sent out a press blast featuring photos of Donald Trump at work. The message was simple: Look at our president working so hard to end this shutdown.

Books On Trump’s First Year

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Washington Post, American democracy is on a break. Welcome to ‘Trumpocracy,’ Carlos Lozada, Jan. 18, 2018 (Jan. 21 print edition). Four new books capture Year One under President Trump — and assess his long-term impact on American democracy.

Once the fire burns out and the fury subsides, what will chroniclers of our era make of this frenetic first year of America Under Trump?

michael wolff fire and furyMichael Wolff’s news-breaking and news-stretching bestseller has become the political book of the moment, depicting a White House torn by infighting and bereft of ideas. But it is at best a snapshot, already blurred and dated.

Accounts such as Let Trump Be Trump by former campaign aides Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie deliver insider details in a haze of 2016 MAGA nostalgia. Fortunately, other authors and analysts are looking past the news alerts and war stories to examine President Trump’s longer-term impact on the nation’s norms and governance — on American democracy itself.

david cay johnston its even worse cover CustomIn It’s Even Worse Than You Think, journalist David Cay Johnston diagnoses the Trump administration as a “kakistocracy,” or government by the least qualified and most venal among us. In How Democracies Die, political scientists Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt warn that Trump follows the playbook of authoritarian leaders who “maintain a veneer of democracy while eviscerating its substance.”

In Trump’s First Year, scholar Michael Nelson suggests that the president’s inexperience will render Trump painfully ineffective. And former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum sees a presidency bent not on the ideological deconstruction of the state but on its wreckage and exploitation — a system he calls Trumpocracy.

Climate Change

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Washington Post, The shutdown brouhaha has covered up far bigger news, Editorial Board, Jan. 21, 2018 (print edition). One byproduct of the day-to-day chaos of the Trump presidency is that the nation’s biggest, long-term challenges are often forgotten. While Washington spent this week agonizing over the prospect of a totally unnecessary government shutdown, what should have been far bigger news went nearly unremarked.

According to NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, last year was one of the warmest years on record — second or third, depending on which agency’s records you examine, because each has its own method for its calculations.

One warm year is not necessarily cause for concern. The trend, however, is. The past three years were the warmest three ever recorded. The five warmest years in the record all came since 2010. Seventeen of the 18 warmest years in the data came since 2001. This decade is on track to be warmer than the 2000s, which were warmer than the 1990s, and so on. The heating of the Earth is unmistakable.

Inside Washington

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Trump White House drug policy nominee Taylor Weyeneth, 24, with President Trump in a photo via Linked In

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Taylor weyenethWashington Post, Trump’s 24-year-old drug policy appointee had been dismissed from a law firm after he ‘just didn’t show,’ Robert O’Harrow Jr., Jan. 21, 2018 (print edition). Taylor Weyeneth, who is deputy chief of staff at the Office of National Drug Control Policy, submitted a résumé with errors, including how long he worked at a New York firm, a partner at the firm said.

While in college, late in 2014 or early in 2015, Taylor Weyeneth (shown above right) began working as a legal assistant at the New York firm O’Dwyer & Bernstien. He was “discharged” in August 2015, partner Brian O’Dwyer said in an interview.

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Washington Post, Shutdown could hurt Democrats seeking reelection in Trump states, David Weigel, Ed O’Keefe and Jenna Portnoy, Jan. 21, 2018. As the blame game launched following the shutdown of the U.S. government at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, it quickly and ferociously began playing out on perhaps the most contentious battlefield of the 2018 midterms: the Senate races where Democrats are seeking reelection in states that Trump won.

wilbur ross SmallAxios, Analysis: The decline and fall of Wilbur Ross, Jonathan Swan, Jan. 21, 2018. President Donald Trump has put Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (right) out to pasture. “Wilbur has lost his step,” Trump told one of our sources, shaking his head in resignation. “Actually, he’s probably lost a lot of steps.”

One problem: Ross’s efforts to wheel and deal with the Chinese have left the president unimpressed. Another problem: He keeps falling asleep in meetings.

#MeToo News, Commentary

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New York Times, Congressman Combating Harassment Settled His Own Misconduct Case, Katie Rogers and Kenneth P. Vogel, Jan. 21, 2018 (printed edition). Rep. Patrick Meehan, a Pennsylvania Republican who has taken a leading role in fighting sexual harassment in Congress, used thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to settle his own misconduct complaint after a former aide accused him last year of making unwanted romantic overtures to her, according to several people familiar with the settlement.

patrick meehan oA married father of three, Mr. Meehan, 62, had long expressed interest in the personal life of the aide, who was decades younger and had regarded the congressman as a father figure, according to three people who worked with the office and four others with whom she discussed her tenure there.

As a member of the Ethics Committee, Mr. Meehan was tasked with being a part of the solution. The panel has initiated investigations into sexual misconduct claims against at least four congressmen in recent months. Two have resigned: Trent Franks, Republican of Arizona, and John Conyers Jr., Democrat of Michigan. The other two, Blake Farenthold, Republican of Texas, and Ruben Kihuen, a freshman Democrat from Nevada, remain in office but have said they will not seek re-election.

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Washington Post, Opinion: What should scare us about Trump’s porn star scandal, Molly Roberts, Jan. 21, 2018 (print edition). It’s not the sex, it’s the secrecy.

djt jessica drakeThe Wall Street Journal reported last Friday that a lawyer for Donald Trump paid an adult-film actress (Jessica Drake, shown with Trump in a 2006 photo) $130,000 one month before the 2016 election in exchange for her silence about an alleged sexual encounter with the then-candidate 10 years earlier.

Adult performer Jessica Drake accused Trump of offering her $10,000 for sex the same year he allegedly slept with Daniels, and she claims she can’t say more because of a nondisclosure agreement. And, according to a separate Journal story from just four days before the election, the company that owns the Trump-friendly National Enquirer awarded a former Playboy centerfold model $150,000 for the rights to her story of an affair with Trump in, yes, 2006 again. Then, the tabloid quashed it.

The problem here isn’t Trump’s repeated ethical lapses alone, although they do induce a certain squeamishness. The problem is the possibility of blackmail against a presidential team willing to pay big to cover up misbehavior.

Global News: Jerusalem

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mike pence o SmallWashington Post, Jordan’s king delivers pointed public remarks to Pence in wake of Jerusalem decision, Jenna Johnson and Loveday Morris, Jan. 21, 2018. In pointed public remarks, Jordan’s King Abdullah II told Vice President Pence (shown at right) on Sunday that he had repeatedly warned Washington about the risks of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and that he hoped the United States would now “reach out” and find the right way to move forward.

At a meeting at his palace in the Jordanian capital Amman, Abdullah began by welcoming Pence and said that discussions between the two longtime allies would be “candid and frank” at a time that he described as “a very critical point” for the region.

Global News: Turkey Attack On U.S.-backed Kurds

turkey flagIndependent, Analysis: Syria crisis: Turkish assault on Kurdish enclave threatens to open deadly new phase in bloody seven-year civil war, Patrick Cockburn, Jan. 21, 2018.  President Recep Tayipp Erdogan has described opposition as ‘terrorists’ with his troops planning a 19-mile safe zone.

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Syria, Turks Attack Afrin, U.S. Strategy Fails, Kurds Again Chose The Losing Side, B, Jan. 21, 2018. After negotiations between Russia/Syria and the Kurds of Afrin had failed, the Russian side made a deal with Turkey. Now Turkey attacks Afrin while everyone else looks aside. The main impetus for this development was the announcement of a U.S. occupation in north-east Syria with the help of the Kurdish YPG/PKK. The occupation strategy is already failing. The Kurds made the false choice. They will be the losers of this game.

rex tillerson suggests regime change venezuelaThe U.S. move was amateurish. It ignored the security needs of its NATO ally Turkey in exchange for an illegal and unsustainable occupation of north-east Syria. Secretary of State Tillerson (shown in a file photo) tried to calm the Turks by claiming that the “border protection force” was not for border protection. Reports from the training ground expose that as a lie.

Global News: Qatar’s Crisis

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New York Times, Wealthy Qatar Goes Its Own Way, and Pays for It, Declan Walsh, Jan. 21, 2018. Among Persian Gulf states, Qatar was the picked-on little sibling. Gas riches andan independent-minded ruling family changed that. Now it’s in the fight of its life. For the emir of Qatar, there has been little that money can’t buy.

qatar mapNow at age 37, the emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, has run into a problem that money alone cannot solve.

Since June, tiny Qatar has been the target of a punishing air and sea boycott led by its largest neighbors, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Overnight, airplanes and cargo ships bound for Qatar were forced to change course, diplomatic ties were severed and Qatar’s only land border, a 40-mile stretch of desert with Saudi Arabia, slammed shut.

Jan. 20

huff post logoHuffPost, A Lot More Rage: A Year After The First Women’s March, Energy Is Still High, Emma Gray, Alanna Vagianos, and Laura Bassett, Jan. 20, 2018. Marsha Annon and Yong Lee didn’t attend the 2017 Women’s March on Washington. Annon, 44, had never been to a protest in her life before Saturday. But she and Lee, 42, decided to take their 7-year-old daughter to the 2018 Women’s March in New York City, joining more than 120,000 marchers locally and hundreds of thousands more around the world.  

The day after President Donald Trump was sworn in last year, women and men across the country took to the streets, making the first Women’s March the largest single-day protest in U.S. history. A year later, on the day of a government shutdown, the energy and rage are still there, bolstered by the #MeToo movement and anger at an administration that has been actively hostile to the rights of women and other marginalized groups.

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Washington Post, Congress returns to work Saturday as lawmakers press to keep shutdown short-lived, Mike DeBonis, Ed O’Keefe, Erica Werner and Elise Viebeck, Jan. 20, 2018. Congress prepared to return to work Saturday as negotiators pressed for a budget deal to keep a government shutdown that began at midnight shortlived.

Agencies shut down for the first time in more than four years late Friday after senators rejected a temporary spending patch and bipartisan efforts to find an alternative fell short as a midnight deadline came and went.

Republican and Democratic leaders both said they would continue to talk, raising the possibility of a solution over the weekend. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said Friday that the conflict has a “really good chance” of being resolved before government offices open Monday, suggesting that a shutdown’s impacts could be limited.

But the White House drew a hard line immediately after midnight, saying they would not negotiate over a central issue — immigration — until government funding is restored.

The early contours of the blame game appeared to cut against Trump and the Republicans, who control all levers of government but cannot pass major legislation without at least partial support from Senate Democrats. According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, Americans said by a 20-point margin that they would blame a shutdown on Trump and the GOP rather than Democrats.

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Washington Post, Marchers — many of them first-time protesters — have spent the past year disrupting local politics. Now they want to change Congress, too, Tim Craig, Jan. 20, 2018 (print edition). Donald Trump’s election so shocked Patricia Leigh that she did something she hadn’t done since college — march through the streets in protest.

Inspired by the Women’s March that followed Trump’s inauguration last January, the 66-year-old has spent the past year pushing business owners in this rural corner of Washington state to hand out voter registration forms, goading neighbors to run for local office and convening strategy sessions to win elections in traditionally conservative eastern Washington.

Now, from this sparsely populated valley nestled between Cascade Mountain peaks and snowy pine forests, Leigh and a group of new political activists say they can help wrest control of Congress from Republicans, channeling the energy that has shifted the political climate locally toward three races for GOP-held congressional seats this year.  Now, from this sparsely populated valley nestled between Cascade Mountain peaks and snowy pine forests, Leigh and a group of new political activists say they can help wrest control of Congress from Republicans, channeling the energy that has shifted the political climate locally toward three races for GOP-held congressional seats this year.

“To me, this is the single most critical thing facing our country where I know I can make a difference, and I bloody well will make a difference, even if it kills me,” Leigh said.

She is one of the more than 3 million people who turned out last January wearing knitted pink hats and carrying clever protest signs at one of the 654 women’s marches held across the country, according to researchers’ estimates. Organizers called on marchers — many of them first-time protesters — to remain politically engaged and “resist” the Trump administration after the event.

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 Donald TrumpWashington Post, Trump to antiabortion marchers: ‘We are with you all the way,’ Michelle Boorstein, Michael Alison Chandler and Julie Zauzmer, Jan. 20, 2018 (print edition). Trump spoke, via satellite from the White House Rose Garden, to the thousands of marchers gathered on the Mall near the Washington Monument. Thousands of activists at the annual March for Life enjoyed a rare display of political firepower Friday, with addresses by the president, vice president and House speaker all celebrating gains the antiabortion movement has made under Donald Trump. But the movement’s elevated status comes at the price of much internal debate.

 “Under my administration, we will always defend the very first right in the Declaration of Independence, and that is the right to life,” Trump said in the White House Rose Garden, in a speech that was broadcast to the marchers gathered near the Washington Monument.

The march — which typically draws busloads of Catholic school students, a large contingent of evangelical Christians and poster-toting protesters of many persuasions — falls each year around the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that recognized a legal right to abortion, and it intends to pressure Congress and the White House to limit legal access to the procedure.

Puppet Masters Reward GOP Speaker

paul ryan oHuffPost, Ryan Collected $500,000 In Koch Contributions Days After House Passed Tax Law, Mary Papenfuss, Jan. 20, 2018. That’s peanuts compared with what the Koch brothers will save. Just days after the House passed its version of the federal tax law slashing corporate tax rates, House Speaker Paul Ryan (shown at right) collected nearly $500,000 in campaign contributions from billionaire energy mogul Charles Koch and his wife, according to a recent campaign donor report.

Koch and his brother David spent millions of dollars to get the tax law passed and are spending millions more in a public relations campaign in an attempt to boost support for the law, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Koch Industries, one of the largest private corporations in the nation, operates refineries and manufactures a variety of products. The new tax law — which slices corporate tax rates from 35 percent to 21 percent, slashes estate taxes and includes a special deduction for oil and gas investors — is expected to save the Koch brothers and their businesses billions of dollars in taxes.

Just 13 days after the tax law was passed, Charles Koch and his wife, Elizabeth, donated nearly $500,000 to Ryan’s joint fundraising committee, according to a campaign finance report filed Thursday.

Five other donors, including billionaire businessmen Jeffery Hildebrand and William Parfet, each contributed $100,000 in the last quarter of 2017, according to the records. 

Accused GOPer Groper Sacked From House Ethics Committee

Roll Call, Ryan Removes Meehan From Ethics Committee, Lindsey McPherson, Jan. 20, 2018. Speaker Paul D. Ryan  has removed Rep. Patrick Meehan from the Ethics Committee as the panel will now open an investigation looking into sexual misconduct allegations raised against him.

patrick meehan oRyan spoke with Meehan (shown at left) on Saturday, and the Pennsylvania Republican agreed to submit himself to the Ethics Committee for review.

With the House set to pass a bipartisan bill to overhaul the process by which it handles claims of sexual harassment, “the speaker will apply these new standards to the allegations made against Mr. Meehan,” Strong said.

Courts, Cops, #MeToo: Olympic Assaulter

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New York Times, Women Recount Sexual Abuse by Gymnasts’ Doctor, Scott Cacciola and Christine Hauser, Jan. 20, 2018. The Olympic gymnasts Jordyn Wieber and Aly Raisman are among dozens of women speaking in a Michigan court this week about sexual abuse from the former team doctor, Larry Nassar.

Courts Around the Nation: Kentucky Assault

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rand paul hs oWashington Post, Neighbor intends to plead guilty to assault of Sen. Rand Paul, court documents say, Justin Jouvenal, Jan. 20, 2018 (print edition). A neighbor of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has agreed to plead guilty in federal court in a November attack that left the nation’s best-known libertarian (shown at right) with six broken ribs and briefly sidelined him during the debate over the tax overhaul, according to court documents.

Rene Boucher, 59, would face a count of assaulting a member of Congress. Authorities said he became angry and “had enough” after seeing Paul stack more brush on a pile near his yard on Nov. 3.

Boucher then executed a “running tackle” on Paul, 55, in the yard of his Bowling Green, Ky., home, according to court records. Paul, who had been mowing his lawn and was wearing headphones, did not see Boucher until the last second.

Boucher, who had previously been charged with a misdemeanor in a county court and had pleaded not guilty, denied in an interview with police that there was any political motivation for the assault, according to court documents. He said it was a property dispute that finally boiled over.

Global News: Turks Begin Shelling Kurds

recep erdogan throneRT, Erdogan Announces Afrin Operation, Staff report, Jan 20, 2018. Ankara has “de facto” begun its operation against Kurdish forces in Syria’s Afrin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (shown in a file photo) said after the army called the military strike “legitimate self-defense.”

The army said it shelled Kurdish positions in Syria’s Afrin region on Friday and Saturday, destroying shelters and hideouts used by militants from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Syria’s Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

More On Trump and Porn Star

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stormy daniels djt insight 1 19 2018 CustomWashington Post, The case for taking the Trump-Stormy Daniels saga seriously, Aaron Blake​, Jan. 20, 2018 (print edition). It’s salacious, yes. But the story seems to have gone beyond tabloid fluff and it’s worth asking some very serious questions.

By Friday, the magazine InTouch published what it said was a previously unpublished 2011 interview with Daniels (shown with Trump in a publicity photo) in which she describes having sex with Trump in 2006, when he was newly married to Melania Trump, who is now first lady.

What’s perhaps most notable about the interview is how many of the details deal with things that weren’t and aren’t widely known about Trump.

Current Affair In White House?

Vanity Fair, Michael Wolff Is “Absolutely Sure” Trump Is Currently Having an Affair, Emma Stefansky, Jan. 20, 2018. But the controversial author also says that he left that allegation out of “Fire and Fury” because he doesn’t have proof.

michael wolff nbc screenshot mtp 1 7 17Fire and Fury author Michael Wolff (shown in a screenshot) exposed a lot of purported White House secrets in his new book, from tales of CIA miscommunications to stories of womanizing to Steve Bannon calling Don Jr. “treasonous.”

The book has been criticized in some circles for being a confusing mishmash of what might be fact and what might be fiction, though Wolff has said that he possesses recordings of most of the interviews he conducted for it.

But there was one potentially juicy bit of information that Wolff had to leave out of the text, simply because he didn’t have enough proof to back it up. During an appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher Friday, Wolff said that he’s “absolutely sure” Donald Trump is currently having an extramarital affair with someone inside the White House.

Maher asked if Wolff was talking about somebody Trump is “f—ing now,” and Wolff nodded. “It is,” he said. “You just have to read between the lines. It’s toward the end of the book….You’ll know it. Now that I’ve told you, when you hit that paragraph, you’re gonna say, ‘Bingo.’”

Jan. 19

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New York Times, Senate to Vote With Shutdown at Stake, Thomas Kaplan and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Jan. 19, 2018. Senate Democrats appear ready to block legislation to keep the government funded past midnight, gambling that President Trump will offer concessions on immigration and other issues.

tim kaine wThey hope Mr. Trump, scorched by the firestorm prompted by his vulgar, racially tinged comments on Africa last week, will be forced back to the negotiating table. “Congress should remain in session with no recess until we work out a long-term bipartisan budget deal,” Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (shown at left)of Va.

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 John KellyNew York Times, The Chaos President vs. His Iron-Fisted Chief of Staff, Maggie Haberman and Julie Hirshfeld Davis, Jan. 19, 2018 (print edition). President Trump’s public disagreement with John F. Kelly (right) over the border wall message was perhaps an inevitable clash between two similar but philosophically different men.

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New York Times, Inside the Meeting That Left a Senator Stunned and Shaken, Carl Hulse, Jan. 19, 2018. In an interview, Senator Richard J. Durbin says President Trump’s private comments on immigration shed new light on his policy motivations: “This may not be about security or American jobs at all.”

david turpin louise turpin mugsParental suspects David Turpin and Louise Turpin

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New York Times, Daring Escape From ‘Human Depravity’ in California, Jennifer Medina, Jan. 19, 2018 (print edition). The authorities said the couple wouldn’t let the children eat, shower or stay awake during the day, and shackled them for months. They could face up to 94 years to life in prison.

Trump and Porn Star

stormy daniels djt insight 1 19 2018 Custom

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Washington Post, Porn star Stormy Daniels detailed alleged affair with Trump in 2011 interview, Mark Berman, Frances Stead Sellers and Paul Farhi, Jan. 19, 2018. The interview with the magazine In Touch was published this week amid reports of a confidentiality settlement.

djt melania liberty ball inauguration 2017

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Washington Post, ‘I’ll give her a week’ to lose the baby weight, Trump said of Melania, months before alleged tryst with porn star, Callum Borchers, Jan. 19, 2018. Seven months before an alleged tryst with porn star Stormy Daniels, Donald Trump told radio host Howard Stern that he would give his pregnant wife, Melania (shown at a 2017 Inaugural ball), a couple of days — or maybe a week — to regain her model figure after giving birth.

“You know, Howard, she’s got the kind of a body and makeup where, about one day after the baby, it’s going to be the same as it was before,” Trump said during an appearance on Stern’s show on Dec. 7, 2005.

“You’re giving her one day?” Stern asked.

“One or two,” Trump replied.

#MeToo Harassment Claims

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Washington Post, In this #MeToo, moment, let’s not forget abused children, Adam Rosenberg and Joyce Lombardi, Jan. 19, 2018. In this #MeToo and #TimesUp moment, just as we’ve been shocked by the abuse, we are also disturbed by the enablers, the seemingly good people who either knew or strongly suspected that something foul was afoot but chose not to act.

It is utterly human for otherwise good people to look away and to give themselves a dozen reasons (such as disbelief and self-interest) for doing so. This is especially true — and damaging — in cases of child abuse. Unfortunately, predators do not stop until they have to. And that is precisely why every state requires adults, especially front-line workers such as teachers and nurses, to report suspected child abuse.

Even when they don’t want to.

Adam Rosenberg is executive director of the Baltimore Child Abuse Center. Joyce Lombardi is director of government relations and legal services at the Baltimore Child Abuse Center.

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Washington Post, Los Angeles Times CEO and publisher investigated for inappropriate, ‘frat-house’ behavior, Samantha Schmidt, Jan. 19, 2018. The Los Angeles Times chief executive and publisher is the latest media executive under investigation for inappropriate behavior, following an extensive NPR report.

Tronc, the parent company of the Los Angeles Times, began investigating Ross Levinsohn on Thursday after NPR reported he had been named a defendant in two sexual harassment lawsuits as an executive at two different companies, Alta Vista and News Corp, before joining the Times. Levinsohn’s former colleagues and employees described him as a party-loving executive who created a fraternity-like environment, often making women feel uncomfortable.

Media: Does WikiLeaks, Intercept Battle Taint Billionaire Funder?

pierre omidyarMintPress News, FBI Whistleblower on Pierre Omidyar and His Campaign to Neuter Wikileaks, Whitney Webb, Jan. 19, 2018. FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds asserts Pierre Omidyar (shown at right in a file photo) decided to create The Intercept to not only take ownership of the Snowden leaks but also to continue his blockade against WikiLeaks and create a “honey trap” for whistleblowers.

julian assange august 2014 wIntroduction: WikiLeaks, the transparency organization known for publishing leaked documents that threaten the powerful, finds itself under pressure like never before, as does its editor-in-chief, Julian Assange (shown in a 2014 file photo). Now, the fight to silence Wikileaks is not only being waged by powerful government figures but also by the media, including outlets and organizations that have styled themselves as working to protect whistleblowers.

As this three-part series seeks to show, these outlets and organizations are being stealthily guided by the hands of special interests, not the public interest they claim to serve. Part I focuses on the Freedom of the Press Foundation, The Intercept, and the oligarch who has strongly influenced both organizations in his long-standing fight to silence WikiLeaks.

Mid-November, 2017: The Daily Beast ran an exclusive report detailing how the Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF) was set to break ties with WikiLeaks amidst concerns among the foundation’s board, which includes such well-known figures as Daniel Ellsberg, Edward Snowden, Laura Poitras, John Cusack and Glenn Greenwald, among others. The news was confirmed less than a month later when the nonprofit’s board officially voted to stop accepting U.S. donations for WikiLeaks, which had been blacklisted for years by Visa, MasterCard and PayPal after publishing leaked U.S. government documents provided by Chelsea Manning.

sibel edmondsSibel Edmonds, FBI whistleblower and founder of the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition, told MintPress News that the FPF has a reputation for being a “very, very partisan organization and populated with ideologues.” She further asserted that the “number one reason” for the FPF’s decision was directly related to Wikileaks’ releases in 2016, namely the DNC leaks and the Podesta emails.

Edmonds (shown at right) added :

“Assange violated their criteria and this is basically their pay-back. All of the individuals [on the FPF] are known to be ideologues, are into this game of divide and conquer. Their role is to represent the left and Julian Assange challenged this. Before the election, many of the members of this organization supported Assange. It’s important to ask why this changed over night.”

More on Changing Media: Verizon-owned HuffPost Replace Unpaid Writers

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New York Times, HuffPost, Breaking From Its Roots, Ends Unpaid Contributions, Sydney Ember, Jan. 19, 2018 (print edition).The website’s platform for 100,000 unpaid contributors will be replaced by new opinion and personal sections. Since its founding nearly 13 years ago, The Huffington Post has relied heavily on unpaid contributors, whose ranks included aspiring writers, citizen journalists and celebrities from the Rolodex of the site’s co-founder Arianna Huffington.

huff post logoAn early example of the unfiltered amateur journalism that propagated on the internet, the contributor pages were a mix of reported pieces and personal essays, and even generated national news. In 2008, Mayhill Fowler, a woman who said she had sold her car to fund travel on the campaign trail, set off a firestorm when she quoted Barack Obama at a fund-raiser saying that working-class voters “cling to guns or religion.”

But the site’s days of encouraging everyday citizens to report on the news are over. On Thursday, it said it was immediately dissolving its self-publishing contributors platform — which has mushroomed to include 100,000 writers — in what is perhaps the most significant break from the past under its editor in chief, Lydia Polgreen, who joined the news site, which is now called HuffPost, a year ago.

Lydia Polgreen, HuffPost’s editor in chief, said unfiltered platforms had devolved into “cacophonous, messy, hard-to-hear places where voices get drowned out and where the loudest shouting voice prevails.” The decision was rooted as much in a move to declutter the site as in Ms. Polgreen’s desire to focus on quality reporting and minimize unvetted stories at a time when there is so much misinformation online.

Inside the Trump White House

omarosa manigault abc ml 12 14 17 CustomThe Hill, Omarosa may have secretly taped White House conversations: report, Jacqueline Thomsen, Jan. 19, 2018.  Former Trump staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman (shown in a file photo) might have secretly recorded private conversations in the White House out of fear for special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, The New York Daily News reported Friday.

Sources told the Daily News that Manigault Newman, who abruptly resigned from the White House late last year, “loves” to record meetings. Her official last day in the administration is Saturday.

“Everyone knows Omarosa loves to record people and meetings using the voice notes app on her iPhone,” one source said. “Don’t be surprised if she has secret audio files on everyone in that White House, past and present staffers included.”

The White House’s recent ban on staffers having their personal cellphones was tied to Manigault-Newman’s habit of recording her conversations, the source told the Daily News.

Manigault Newman is also reportedly seeking meetings with lawyers because she is concerned that she will become part of Mueller’s probe into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

She has met with top attorneys like Lisa Bloom and Monique Pressley, according to the Daily News.

A White House insider said that it was unlikely Manigault Newman had any inside information that could be relevant to Mueller’s probe, according to the Daily News.

Right To Know

Reason, The Right to Know Might Get You Sued, C.J. Ciaramella, Jan. 19, 2018. Oregon resident Kim Sordyl had a hunch. The outspoken education activist thought Portland Public Schools might be using lengthy and expensive paid leaves to avoid firing problem employees. So she filed a public records request, looking for data to back up her suspicion.

Instead of forking over the info—even after the county district attorney declared it part of the public record—the district sued Sordyl, along with a reporter who’d requested similar information, asking a judge to review the case in April.

Being named in a lawsuit for filing a public records request was “just more of the same” from a school system that “goes to great lengths to protect themselves and administrators at the expense of students, staff, and taxpayers,” Sordyl says. But transparency advocates argue cases like hers are part of a disturbing trend in recent years of local governments filing suits against citizens to keep their doings secret.

In September, the Associated Press detailed several such cases. In one, an education watchdog in Louisiana was sued for seeking records about student performance. In another, college journalists in Kentucky requesting records about sexual misconduct investigations of university employees found themselves named in a suit.

These so-called “reverse FOIA” lawsuits have historically been filed at the federal level, usually by companies seeking to protect trade secrets. Third parties have also intervened in local cases, as when the Chicago police union sued the city to block the release to the Chicago Tribune of decades’ worth of misconduct complaints. But experts say local governments have started adopting the tactic as well, asking judges to “clarify” public record law rather than simply deny requests under existing exemptions.

Adam Marshall, an attorney at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, says the greatest danger posed by such actions is their chilling effect. “If you know as a citizen that if you just ask your government about what it’s doing, they’ll turn and sue you, there’s lots of people who would reasonably not want to get involved with that,” he says. “They don’t have the time or resources to get in a protracted legal battle just because they want local property records or emails from their town council member.”

Jan. 18

U.S. Government Shutdown Still looms

Roll Call, House Passes CR, but Threat of Shutdown Still Looms, Lindsey McPherson, Jan. 18, 2018. A government shutdown still looms even as the House passed a four-week stopgap funding bill Thursday evening, sending the measure to the Senate, where prospects for its passage remain grim.

House Republicans put up the needed votes to pass the continuing resolution (CR) before a few Democrats added their “yes” votes, for a final tally of 230-197. A senior Senate Democratic aide said the House support for the CR does not change the caucus’s position to vote against it in the Senate.

Supreme Court Allows GOP Gerrymanders For North Carolina This Year

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supreme court buildingWashington Post, Supreme Court says North Carolina does not have to immediately redraw congressional maps that a lower court ruled unconstitutional, Robert Barnes, Jan. 18, 2018. The Supreme Court said late Thursday that North Carolina does not immediately have to redraw its congressional district maps, meaning that the 2018 elections will likely be held in districts that a lower court found unconstitutional.

The court granted a request from North Carolina’s Republican legislative leaders to put the lower court’s ruling on hold. The decision was not unexpected, because the Supreme Court generally is reluctant to require the drawing of new districts before it has had a chance to review a lower court’s ruling that such an action is warranted, especially in an election year. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor said they would not have granted the request.

The practical effect is that this year’s elections will almost surely be conducted under the 2016 boundaries, in which Republicans hold 10 of the 13 congressional seats. The GOP domination’s of the congressional delegation belies North Carolina’s recent history as a battleground state. It has a Democratic governor and attorney general, who have declined to defend the maps.

More Background On U.S. Government Shutdown

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New York Times, Trump Upsets G.O.P. Strategy to Avoid Shutdown, Thomas Kaplan, Jan. 18, 2018. President Trump (shown at right) blew up Republican strategies to keep the government open past Friday when on Thursday morning he said a long-term extension of the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program should not be part of a stopgap spending bill pending before the House.

Donald Trump

With a possible government shutdown looming this weekend, the House had planned to vote late Thursday on a stopgap spending bill that would keep government funding flowing to Feb. 16 as delicate negotiations continue to protect young, undocumented immigrants brought illegally as children from deportation.

Republican leaders have spent the week pressuring Democrats to vote for the spending bill, arguing that opposing it would effectively block a six-year extension of the children’s health program, attached to the spending bill as a sweetener for lawmakers in both parties.

But Mr. Trump’s tweet appeared to give Democrats a ready excuse to oppose the measure: the president wants the health program severed from the spending bill.

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ICE logoWashington Post, Trump pushes back on chief of staff’s claims that border wall pledges ‘uninformed,’ Ed O’Keefe, Jan. 18, 2018. “The Wall is the Wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it,” President Trump tweeted early today.

John Kelly

It came after White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly (right) told lawmakers that the United States will never construct a physical wall along the entire stretch of its southern border and that Mexico will never pay for it. Kelly told Democratic lawmakers Wednesday that some of the hard-line immigration policies President Trump advocated during the campaign were “uninformed,” that the United States will never construct a wall along its entire southern border and that Mexico will never pay for it, according to people familiar with the meeting.

Trump amplified this stance Thursday in back-to-back tweets that called the North American Free Trade Agreement “a bad joke” and asserted that reworked trade deals with Mexico would somehow pay for the wall “directly or indirectly.”

Media & #MeToo: Spiked Sex Scandal ‘Stories’

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Washington Post, Why are we only now hearing of a porn star’s tale about Trump? Paul Farhi, Jan. 18, 2018 (print edition). Journalists said they held back on a story that Stormy Daniels had allegedly had an affair with Donald Trump in 2006 because they couldn’t independently corroborate key elements of the account, including in one instance from Daniels herself. Several journalists surely knew who Stormy Daniels was in 2016, and it probably wasn’t because they’d seen her in one of the many porn films she’d made.

djt ivanka stormy daniels nydaily news The adult-film actress (shown in a New York Daily News cover with a reported quotation from Trump referencing his daughter) was on the radar of a number of mainstream news outlets in the waning days of the presidential campaign. Reporters from ABC, Fox News, the Daily Beast and Slate.com were pursuing a potentially explosive story: that Daniels had allegedly had an affair with Donald Trump in 2006, only months after Trump’s wife, Melania, had given birth to their son, Barron.

Yet no one went with the story.

huff post logoHuffPost, Dylan Farrow: Woody Allen Sexually Abused Me While I Played With Toys, Hayley Miller, Jan. 18, 2018. The filmmaker’s adopted daughter leveled molestation allegations in her first TV interview. Dylan Farrow is opening up about what she says was sexual abuse by her adoptive father, filmmaker Woody Allen, when she was 7 years old.

In her first TV interview, Farrow, 32, alleged Allen sexually assaulted her in the Connecticut home of actress Mia Farrow, her adoptive mother.

“I was taken to a small attic crawl space,” Farrow said in an interview with “CBS This Morning” that aired Thursday. “He instructed me to lay down on my stomach and play with my brother’s toy train that was set up, and he sat behind me in the doorway. And, as I played with the toy train, I was sexually assaulted.”

She continued: “As 7-year-old, I would say he touched my private parts. As a 32-year-old, he touched my labia and my vulva with his finger.” Allen has denied the allegation.

Inside Washington

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Washington Post, Analysis: Our democracy will not last’: Jeff Flake’s speech comparing Trump to Stalin, annotated, Amber Phillips, Jan.18, 2018 (print edition). U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake’s speech comparing Trump to Stalin, annotated, The retiring Republican senator from Arizona called out President Trump for launching a war on the media, comparing the president to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and warning his colleagues that nothing less than American democracy is at stake.

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Washington Post, March for Life and Women’s March will bring protesters and traffic challenges, Luz Lazo​, Jan. 18, 2018. Massive crowds, bearing banners and placards will be back in the nation’s capital this weekend — presenting travel challenges for commuters and the participants themselves.

The March for Life will draw thousands of abortion opponents from across the country Friday for a march that starts on the Mall and ends outside the U.S. Supreme Court.

Then Saturday, as many as 10,000 women and supporters are expected to march to the White House for the Women’s March on Washington, one of many demonstrations across the country to promote women’s participation in politics, voting and other civic engagements. The event follows up last year’s massive gathering of women in protest to President Trump’s disparagement of women, minorities and immigrants.

Media: How Wolff Got His Book Scoop

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michael wolff fire and furyWashington Post, The details of how Michael Wolff penetrated the White House are the most damning of all, Aaron Blake, Jan. 18, 2018 (print edition). Bloomberg News’s Jennifer Jacobs reports that Michael Wolff (author of Fire and Fury) worked his way into the White House by pitching the book with a laughably misleading working title — The Great Transition: The First 100 Days of the Trump Administration — and basically stayed there because nobody with any authority thought to question his motives or presence.

It’s a spectacular comedy of errors by the White House that would be a lot funnier if this weren’t describing the seat of the federal government of the United States.

Dangers of War

david cay johnston headshotDemocracy Now! David Cay Johnston: Trump is Determined to Provoke War to Draw Focus from Racist & Erratic Behavior, Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh interview Trump biographer and investigative reporter David Cay Johnston (shown at right), Jan. 18, 2018.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Right. And one of the very interesting things about this is, there have been surveys of military officers, and they show that the officer corps of the United States military is very troubled about Trump. You know, good military officers are diplomats who want to avoid war. And they’re not supporting him. So that one good piece of news out of this is, I don’t think Donald Trump can get the military behind him to take over the country.

Media: “Fake News”

Washington Times, CNN’s Jim Acosta: Trump is the ‘king of fake news,’ Bradford Richardson, Jan. 18, 2018.  Responding to the president’s Fake News Awards, CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta called President Trump the “king of fake news.”

“I would say, having been called ‘fake news’ myself, that the president of the United States is the king of fake news,” Mr. Acosta said. “He is the king of fake news.”

Mr. Acosta made the remark during a panel discussion, “Journalism in the Trump Era: Assessing Press Freedom in the United States,” Wednesday night at the Newseum in D.C. He said crowning Mr. Trump the “king of fake news” should not be interpreted as a “political” statement. “It’s just a fact,” the journalist said. “You know, we’ve been saying there’s an apple and there’s a banana. You know, we’ve been sticking to apples; they’re throwing out a lot of bananas.”

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Washington Post, Analysis: Trump’s ‘Fake News Awards’ focused on pieces that were quickly corrected, Glenn Kessler, Jan. 18, 2018. The “Fake News Awards” announced on the Republican National Committee website and touted by President Trump pose a conundrum: Does it really count if the news organization admits error?

 Regular readers of The Fact Checker know that we do not award Pinocchios if a politician admits error. Everyone makes mistakes — and the point is not to play gotcha. News organizations operate in a competitive arena and mistakes are bound to be made. The key test is whether an error is acknowledged and corrected.

President Trump almost never admits error, even as he has made more than 2,000 false or misleading statements. So with that context, here’s an assessment of the “awards”:

paul krugman“1. The New York Times’ Paul Krugman claimed on the day of President Trump’s historic, landslide victory that the economy would never recover.”

Krugman, of course, is a columnist (and a professor of economics and Nobel Prize winner shown at right). So it’s a bit odd to feature an opinion as fake news when it’s not really news, just opinion. (We don’t fact-check opinions at The Fact Checker.) Krugman wrote: “We are very probably looking at a global recession, with no end in sight. I suppose we could get lucky somehow. But on economics, as on everything else, a terrible thing has just happened.”

Clearly that prediction has not happened. So Krugman looks like he has egg on his face. But it turns out he retracted the prediction just three days later. “It’s at least possible that bigger budget deficits will, if anything, strengthen the economy briefly,” he wrote.

“2. ABC News’ Brian Ross CHOKES and sends markets in a downward spiral with false report.”

brian ross abc screenshotRoss (shown in a screenshot) got his timeline wrong, claiming that former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who had just pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, was expected to testify that Trump was a candidate when he instructed Flynn to contact Russian officials. Big mistake — but ABC News corrected the error, and Ross was suspended for the “serious mistake.”

Voting Suppression

Columbus Free Press, Opinion: Are the Supremes About to Give Trump a Second Term? Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, Jan, 18, 2018. The US Supreme Court may be about to make a second Trump term inevitable. The nine “Justices” have just heard oral arguments in an Ohio voter registration case. If their decision goes with Secretary of State Jon Husted (shown at right), it would mean Republicans like him throughout the United States will be able to scrub from the voter rolls millions of citizens merely because they are suspected of wishing to vote Democrat.

jon husted oIn Ohio alone, millions of Ohio voters have tried to vote on Election Day over the past four presidential elections, only to find their names were erased from the pollbooks.

What’s technically at stake is whether the federal government has the right to demand fairness in purging voter registration rolls. Or will the secretaries of the various states be free to purge whomever they want.

In Ohio, secretary Husted has become infamous for his extremely aggressive partisan purges. The state has roughly 5.5 million voters. GOP secretaries of state have become experts at the selective purging game.

Politics Around the Nation

chris christie press 200Bloomberg, Mortal Again: Christie Blocked at VIP Entrance to Newark Airport, Elise Young, Jan. 18, 2018. Police officer sends him to Terminal B with rest of nobodies; Three days out of office and Port Authority ends prized perk.

Meet Chris Christie, former New Jersey governor and current nobody at Newark Liberty International Airport. The two-term Republican, who left office on Jan. 16, was blocked from a VIP entrance he had used for eight years, and directed to stand in Transportation Security Administration screening lines at Terminal B like anyone else, according to a person familiar with the incident.

The order came from police for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airport, according to the person, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about security matters. The Port Authority also operates the George Washington Bridge, the target of a plot by Christie aides and allies to tie up traffic for political punishment in 2013.

Christie, and the state trooper who accompanied him for his security detail, complied with the instructions, the person said. The former governor used the entrance reserved for some airport employees and flyers who need extra security, for his two terms. He spent more than half of 2015 out of New Jersey traveling and campaigning for his failed White House bid.

McClatchyDC, FBI investigating whether Russian money went to NRA to help Trump, Peter Stone and Greg Gordon, Jan. 18, 2018, updated May 16, 2018. The FBI is investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency, two sources familiar with the matter have told McClatchy.

fbi logoFBI counterintelligence investigators have focused on the activities of Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA, the sources said.

It is illegal to use foreign money to influence federal elections. It’s unclear how long the Torshin inquiry has been ongoing, but the news comes as Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s sweeping investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, including whether the Kremlin colluded with Trump’s campaign, has been heating up.

Disclosure of the Torshin investigation signals a new dimension in the 18-month-old FBI probe of Russia’s interference. McClatchy reported a year ago that a multi-agency U.S. law enforcement and counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s intervention, begun even before the start of the 2016 general election campaign, initially included a focus on whether the Kremlin secretly helped fund efforts to boost Trump, but little has been said about that possibility in recent months.

Jan. 17

President Trump at rally in Laconia, NH (Photo by Michael Vadon, July 16, 2015)

President Trump at 2016 campaign rally in Laconia, NH (Photo by Michael Vadon (July 16, 2015)

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ICE logoWashington Post, Tensions on the Hill threaten immigration deal as shutdown deadline looms, Ed O’Keefe and Nick Miroff, Jan. 17, 2018 (print edition). A Senate hearing with the Homeland Security secretary exposed how much talks on immigration and border security have been set back since President Trump’s use of a vulgar expression during a meeting on the issue. It also heightened doubts that a deal to address the issues could be paired with a short-term plan to keep the government open beyond Friday.

National Security

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cia logoNew York Times, Former C.I.A. Officer Arrested on Suspicion of Helping Chinese, Adam Goldman, Jan. 17, 2018 (print edition). A former C.I.A. officer suspected of helping China dismantle U.S. spying operations has been arrested, the Justice Department said. The unraveling of the informant network was a devastating setback for the C.I.A. More than a dozen informants were killed or imprisoned by the Chinese government.

Future of Freedom Foundation, Opinion: Why Is the U.S. Spying on China? Jacob G. Hornberger (below right), Jan. 17, 2018. The federal government’s arrest of former CIA agent Jerry Chun Shing Lee for allegedly spying for China confirms, once jacob hornberger headshotagain, that for the U.S. national-security branch of the federal government, the Cold War never ended.

Wait a minute! Forgive me for asking a question that it doesn’t even occur to the mainstream media to ask: What in the world is the U.S. government doing spying on China? I thought the Cold War was over. I thought that it ended in 1989. I thought China was supposed to be a friend of the United States. Why is the U.S. government hiring Chinese citizens to spy on their own government?

china flag SmallIn fact, look at the dark irony involved here: U.S. officials are essentially alleging that Lee is a bad person because he allegedly spied for China by disclosing to China the identities of Chinese officials who were serving as spies for the United States.

I suppose the argument is that a spy is a bad person when he spies for another country and is a good person when he spies for the United States. Obviously, the communist regime in China takes the same position in reverse, which is why they executed those Chinese citizens who were serving as spies for the U.S. government.

Trump Secretary Predicts Mayor U.S. Armed Forces Commitment Against Syria, Iran

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rex tillerson suggests regime change venezuelaWashington Post, U.S. troops will stay in Syria to counter ‘strategic’ threat from Iran, Liz Sly and Carol Morello, Jan. 18, 2018 (print edition). Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (shown in a file photo) on Wednesday committed the United States to an indefinite military presence in Syria, citing a range of policy goals that extend far beyond the defeat of the Islamic State as conditions for American troops to go home.

But a crisis unfolding on the Syria-Turkey border that threatens to embroil the U.S. military in a wider regional conflict underscored how hard it will be for the relatively small U.S. presence in Syria to influence the outcome of the conflict there.

Centcom logoSpeaking in a major Syria-policy address hosted at Stanford University by the Hoover Institution, Tillerson listed vanquishing al-Qaeda, ousting Iran and securing a peace settlement that excludes President Bashar al-Assad as among the goals of a continued presence in Syria of about 2,000 American troops currently deployed in a Kurdish-controlled corner of northeastern Syria.

iran flag mapHis comments represented the most comprehensive and ambitious articulation of Washington’s often-contradictory policy in Syria since President Trump took office a year ago, and they underline the extent to which the war against the Islamic State has inevitably also entangled the United States in the region’s other conflicts.

Editor’s Note: Tillerson also stated that U.S. goals for the war including overthrowing Syria’s President Bashar Assad. A former NATO commander, Gen. Wesley Clark, warned the United States public in 2005 that he had learned that war hawks in government had determined to launch wars overthrowing the governments of seven Middle Eastern or African nations, as described below in a graphic drawn from Clark’s speech:

wesley clark graphic quotation

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Syria, Tillerson Announces Occupation Goals – Erdogan Makes Empty Threats, B, Jan. 18, 2018.  For a few days now Turkey has threatened to invade Afrin (Efrin), a Kurdish held canton in the north-west of Syria. The threat is not serious….

The real danger to Turkey is not Afrin but the much larger Kurdish protectorate the U.S. publicly announced in north-east Syria…..The two real issue the wannabe-Sultan Erdogan has are: 1) the upcoming meeting of Syrian opposition and government parties in Sochi; and 2) the U.S. backing of the PKK/YPG terrorists in north-east Syria.

Yesterday Secretary of State Tillerson announced the official “new” U.S. position on Syria. It is essentially a recap of the position the Obama administration had long held and does not make any more sense.

Reuters via New York Post, Syria: US military presence is an ‘aggression’ against sovereignty, Staff report, Jan. 18, 2018. The Syrian government said on Thursday that a U.S. military presence in Syria represented an “aggression” against Syrian sovereignty, and vowed to free the country from any “illegitimate” foreign presence.

syria flagThe Syrian Foreign Ministry statement was a response to a speech by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday in which he signaled that U.S. forces would stay in parts of Syria indefinitely.

“The American military presence on Syrian land is illegitimate and represents a blatant breach of international law and an aggression against national sovereignty,” the statement said. Syria would continue its “relentless war against terrorist movements with their different names until every inch of Syrian soil is cleansed” and would work with “the same determination” to free Syria of any “illegitimate foreign presence.”

syrian map 1 1 2018 CustomThe United States has around 2,000 military personnel in Syria, deployed as part of the U.S.-led coalition’s campaign against Islamic State. The Syrian Foreign Ministry statement said the government was not in need of U.S. dollars “stained with the blood of Syrians.”

A map at left shows the dominant forces as of Jan. 1, with Syria’s forces controlling land in red. Al Qaeda and other rebel groups, some backed by the nited States, are in green and yellow. The green section at center is largely desert, and is controlled by U.S. troops. Nearly a third of green area at top now has been claimed by Syrian government forces since Jan. 1.The ISIS section in dark brown is almost entirely desert.

Global News: Korea Tensions Thawing?

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South Korean National Flag (North Korean Flag below at right)

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north korea flagNew York Times, North and South Korea to March as One at Olympics, Choe Sang-Hun, Jan. 17, 2018. The agreement is a milestone in inter-Korean sports relations, and Seoul has said in the past it hoped such a move could contribute to a political thaw.

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Washington Post, Analysis: Our democracy will not last’: Jeff Flake’s speech comparing Trump to Stalin, annotated, Amber Phillips​, Jan. 17, 2018. The retiring senator from Arizona called out President Trump for launching a war on the media, comparing the president to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and warning his colleagues that nothing less than American democracy is at stake.

Investigative Reporting: Deceptions Alleged In Robert Mueller’s 9/11 Role

Florida Bulldog, Robert Mueller involved in FBI release of deceptive statements about Sarasota 9/11 probe, Dan Christensen, Jan. 18, 2018. A recent government court filing is raising questions about then-FBI Director Robert Mueller’s involvement in the public release of deceptive official statements about a secret FBI investigation of Sarasota Saudis with apparent ties to the 9/11 hijackers.

The misleading statements, issued by FBI officials in Miami and Tampa, were made within days of a September 2011 Florida Bulldog story disclosing the existence of the investigation and reporting that Congress had been kept in the dark about it.

The statements sought to discredit the story, asserting that agents had found no connection between the Sarasota Saudi family and the 9/11 plot. In fact, the FBI’s own files contained at least three reports that said the opposite: that agents found “many connections” between the family and “individuals associated with the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001.” The FBI released those reports later amid continuing Freedom of Information (FOI) litigation brought by Florida Bulldog.

robert mueller full face fileMueller (shown at right), now the special counsel overseeing the investigation into alleged Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, is referenced in a document index created in late November by the FBI at the direction of U.S. District Judge William J. Zloch of Fort Lauderdale. The index was compiled after Zloch asked the FBI to explain where in its complex file system it had located about 80 pages released earlier in the six-year-old FOI case.

The FBI has produced an additional 80,000 classified pages for Zloch’s private inspection. The judge recently indicated he’d completed his three-year review of those records, but has given no hint as to what they say.

News of Mueller’s involvement comes amid a flurry of 9/11 related activities, and not just in Fort Lauderdale. Today, January 18, lawyers for thousands of survivors, relatives and other victims of the 2001 al Qaeda terrorist attacks will appear in federal court in New York City to argue against Saudi Arabia’s renewed motion to dismiss their long-running lawsuit against it, and other matters.

Last week in Atlanta, attorneys for Florida Bulldog replied in a federal appeals court to government arguments that seek to block the further release of records of the 9/11 Review Commission. The filing also opposed the FBI’s effort to overturn rulings by Miami U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga that would require the FBI to restore the names of agents and others whose names were redacted from documents released earlier on privacy grounds.

In Washington last month, three members of Congress, two Republicans and one Democrat, introduced House Resolution 663 that calls for the declassification of all 9/11 documents “to the greatest extent possible” to allow for a “full public understanding” of what happened.

The index reference to former FBI Director Mueller is contained in an item about a FBI white paper that was written one week after the Bulldog and the Miami Herald simultaneously published the Bulldog’s story about the abrupt departure of Saudis Abdulaziz and Anoud al-Hijji from their Sarasota area home about two weeks before 9/11. The couple left behind their cars, clothes, furniture, jewelry and other personal items.

Inside Washington

rick perry robert murray simon edelman energy dept march 29 2017

U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, left, hugs Robert Murray, head of one America’s largest coal companies at a  March 29, 2017 meeting. Publication of the photo led to the termination of Energy Dept. photographer Simon Edelman. 

ny times logoNew York Times, He Leaked a Photo of Rick Perry Hugging a Coal Executive. Then He Lost His Job, Ben Protess, Jan. 17, 2018. As a photographer for the Department of Energy, Simon Edelman regularly attended meetings with Secretary Rick Perry and snapped pictures for official purposes.

Now he is out of a job and seeking whistle-blower protections after leaking photographs of Mr. Perry meeting with a major energy industry donor to President Trump.

Late last year, Mr. Edelman said, he shared with journalists photos he shot at the private meeting between Mr. Perry and the campaign contributor Robert E. Murray, the head of one of the country’s largest coal mining companies, Murray Energy.

Roll Call, Threats Force Raskin to Cancel Panel On How Trump Inspires Violence, Griffin Connolly, Jan. 17, 2018. Rep. Jamie Raskin was forced to cancel an event with mental health experts on Donald Trump’s mental fitness to be president after the congressman’s office received a string of threats. The event was scheduled for Thursday at a senior center in Maryland and intended to cover issues such as Trump’s perceived tendency to inspire violence.

But Raskin, a Maryland Democrat, called it off just 24 hours before its start time due to “significant safety risks” to attendees, Dr. Bandy X. Lee, an associate professor at Yale who was scheduled to speak at the event.

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Washington Post, Opinion: This way madness lies, Dana Milbank, Jan. 17, 2018 (print edition). In trying to cover for the president, Kirstjen Nielsen denies the obvious and attempts to defend the indefensible.

kirstjen nielsen dhs 1 16 18 CustomI knew that Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, when she appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, would deny that Trump said what the whole world knows he said: that he wants immigrants from Norway rather than from “shithole” countries in Africa.

What I was not expecting was that Nielsen (shown above right) would raise a question about whether Norwegians are mostly white.

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New York Times, Analysis: Trump’s Vulgarity: Hole? House? Does It Make a Difference? Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Martin, Jan. 17, 2018. If the argument over Mr. Trump’s use of an obscenity to describe third world countries seems to amount to a distinction without a difference, neither the White House nor its allies have acknowledged it.

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President Trump on the 2016 campaign trail

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Washington Post, Doctor says Trump is 6-3, 239 pounds, and the Internet has so many athlete comparisons, Des Bieler, Jan. 16, 2018. The results of President Trump’s first formal medical exam since taking office were announced Tuesday, and the big news was that the physician involved, Navy Rear Adm. Ronny L. Jackson, said the 71-year-old president received a perfect score on a cognitive test. However, other announced results were also of interest, particularly to those who couldn’t help but notice that Trump was listed at 6-3 and 239 pounds.

Of course, sports fans are often very well-versed in athletes’ heights and weights, and they are aware that those listed numbers don’t always precisely correlate with reality. For example, Kevin Durant is famously taller than his listed height of 6-9, and toward the end of his playing days, Shaquille O’Neal was widely thought to be far heavier than his listed weight of 324 pounds.

Adding to some online observers’ skepticism that Trump’s measurements were accurate was the fact that 239 pounds, at 6-3, conveniently put his body mass index at 29.9 — just below the 30.0 threshold for him to be officially described as obese, rather than merely overweight. In any event, plenty of Internet users were happy to juxtapose photos of the president with those of athletes with similar listed heights and weights.

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Politics: Maryland and Wisconsin

Democratic-Republican Campaign logos

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 chelsea manning twitterWashington Post ,How a defiant Chelsea Manning could upend the race for U.S. Senate in Maryland, Jenna Portnoy, Jan. 17, 2018 (print edition). The transgender former Army private convicted of passing classified government documents to WikiLeaks is challenging the highest-ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

In her first utterances as a U.S. Senate candidate, Chelsea Manning (shown at right in her Twitter photo) declares war on establishment politicians, proclaiming, “We don’t need them anymore” in a video that includes clips of white supremacists, police assaulting protesters and grinning congressional leaders meeting with President Trump.

ben cardin oThe transgender former Army private convicted of passing classified government documents to WikiLeaks is challenging Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (left), a two-term senator and the highest-ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Her candidacy brings drama to an otherwise staid primary and gives Republicans an opportunity to stoke divisions among Democrats. But analysts say Manning’s maverick approach may not play well in Maryland, a progressive but establishment state that is home to the National Security Agency and went for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders by a large margin in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary.

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Washington Post, Unexpected defeat in rural Wisconsin special election sets off alarm bells for Republicans, James Hohmann, Jan. 17, 2018. Jan. 16, 2018. While the midterm elections are still 10 months away, a stunning Democratic victory deep in the heart of Trump country suggests a blue tsunami could be forming.

Courts, Cops: Pennsylvania

Philadelphia Inquirer via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Former Pa. AG Kane seeks to reverse perjury conviction in Superior Court, Craig R. McCoy, Jan 18, 2018.  Former Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s fight to reverse her perjury conviction reached the state Superior Court Wednesday, another milestone in a long march that so far has kept Kane from serving a county jail sentence.

Her appeals lawyer, Joshua D. Lock, appeared before a three-judge panel to ask it to undo Kane’s August 2016 conviction of illegally leaking grand jury information to embarrass a political foe and then lying to investigators about it.

kathleen kane fileMs. Kane, 51 and a Scranton-area resident, did not attend Wednesday’s court session in Philadelphia. Facing 10 to 23 months in the Montgomery County jail, Ms. Kane (shown in a file photo) remains free while she pursues her appeal in the state courts.

Ms. Kane was the first woman and Democrat elected the state’s top prosecutor. The path to her conviction was a convoluted one that began when the Inquirer disclosed in 2014 that Ms. Kane had secretly ended a bribery investigation involving state legislators from Philadelphia.

To retaliate against a former state prosecutor whom she blamed for the story, Ms. Kane leaked secret grand jury information that she thought would embarrass the prosecutor.

The plot backfired. The judge who presided over the grand jury appointed a special prosecutor, Thomas Carluccio, to investigate the leak. After subpoenaing 30 witnesses, Mr. Carluccio pinned it on Ms. Kane and accused her of lying about her actions. Building on Mr. Carluccio’s inquiry, county prosecutors in Montgomery County, where the grand jury had been based, brought the criminal case against Ms. Kane.

Ms. Kane initially challenged the legality of Mr. Carluccio’s appointment before her trial in an appeal to the State Supreme Court. The high court rebuffed her 4-1.

Scandal In Missouri Deepens

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens and First Lady Sheena Greitens at 2017 Inaugural Ball (Missouri National Guard Photo)

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens and First Lady Sheena Greitens at 2017 Inaugural Ball (Missouri National Guard Photo)

Legal Schnauzer, As more audiotapes become known, Missouri GOP governor Eric Greitens faces evidence that he used state resources to help cover up a personal sex scandal, Roger Shuler, Jan. 17, 2018. The sex scandal swirling around Missouri Governor Eric Greitens has officially entered cover-up mode, with revelations that Greitens used a state-paid attorney to try to keep the story from hitting the press. If Missouri history is an indicator, that could be a sign that Greitens, considered a possible future GOP presidential candidate, is headed down a slippery slope that ends with a forced resignation.

eric greitens oAs if the news could not get much more treacherous for the embattled former Navy SEAL, reports broke last night that the ex husband of Greitens’ mistress has more audiotapes than had originally been made known to the public — and he has turned them over to the FBI and state law-enforcement officials. On top of that, five GOP lawmakers in Jefferson City called on Greitens to resign. The angle of Greitens (shown at right) using a state-paid attorney in an attempt at damage control could prove to be his undoing.  

You don’t have to go too far back in Missouri history to find another politician who paid dearly for using public resources for personal gain. Like Greitens, William Webster was considered possible presidential timber. But in the early 1990s, Webster became ensnared in a federal investigation.

Republicans Love ‘Porn President?’

djt official portraitNew Republic, The Triumph of Porn Over Social Conservatism, Jeet Heer, Jan. 17, 2018. Why Trump’s alleged affairs with erotic stars aren’t hurting him on the right. Trump’s ascendency over the Republican Party marks a little noticed, but real shift in American politics: Social conservatives, who once led the crusade against smut, have made their peace with a porn-saturated culture.

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Pornography was a political hot button topic from the 1960s until the 1990s, when changes in censorship law and new technologies like video recording made erotic imagery much more pervasive.

Along with opposing abortion and gay rights, being anti-porn was one of the key organizing principles of the religious right.

In 1997, Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell spoke for many social conservatives when he told CNN, “pornography hurts anyone who reads it, garbage in, garbage out. I think when you feed that stuff into your mind, it definitely affects your relationship with your spouse, your attitude towards life, morality.”

But today, Jerry Falwell’s son, Jerry Falwell Jr., is one of Donald Trump’s biggest supporters. (In 2016, he was photographed at Trump’s office in front of a framed copy of a Playboy cover featuring Trump.)

It’s easy for liberals to decry the hypocrisy of Republicans, the putative party of family values, embracing Trump as its avatar. But there is no real hypocrisy here. The core value is patriarchy, which can take different forms. There is an older patriarchy which wears the mask of chivalry, and offers women protection in exchange for submissiveness.

But the age of chivalry is no more. We now have raw patriarchy, which asserts its rights through naked displays of power. And the president, with his porn star mistresses, his boasting of sexual assaults, and even his phallic tweets about the size of his nuclear button, is the perfect leader for conservatives’ post-chivalric world.

More Confirmation of Trump Porn Star Scandal

The Hill, Adult film star: Trump cheated with me, Rebecca Savransky, Jan. 17, 2018. A former adult film star in the past claimed that President Trump had sex with her in 2006, when he was married to first lady Melania Trump.

In Touch published excerpts from an interview Wednesday it conducted in 2011 with Stormy Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford. In the excerpts, Daniels talks about a sexual encounter she says she had with Trump in 2006.

donald trump apprentice black and white“[The sex] was textbook generic,” Daniels said. “I actually don’t even know why I did it, but I do remember while we were having sex, I was like, ‘Please, don’t try to pay me.’ ” Daniels told the publication in 2011 that after the encounter, Trump (shown in an Apprentice publicity photo) kept saying: “ ‘I’m gonna call you, I’m gonna call you. I have to see you again. You’re amazing. We have to get you on The Apprentice.’”

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Trump arranged a six-figure payment to Daniels to keep her from discussing a sexual encounter with Trump. A White House official declined to comment to the Journal about the payment, but said that the allegations of the interaction between Trump and Daniels were “old, recycled reports, which were published and strongly denied prior to the election.”

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“Liar, Liar” Parody

Mediaite, Stormy Daniels Reportedly Spanked Trump With A Copy of Forbes Magazine, Rachel Dicker, Jan. 17, 2018. In the wake of a Wall Street Journal article that alleges Trump lawyer Michael Cohen paid off porn star Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about a 2006 sexual encounter with now-president Donald Trump, several other stories about Daniels’ rendezvous with Trump have surfaced – including one account that she spanked Trump with a copy of Forbes.

djt stormy daniels screengrabMother Jones reports that during a May 2009 “listening tour” of Louisiana when considering a run for Senate, Daniels (shown with Trump in a parody above and at right in a screengrab)compiled a list of potential campaign contributors, all of whom came from contacts in her cell phone, and one of whom was Donald Trump.

Upon receiving this list, one consultant expressed surprise that Trump’s number was in Daniels’ cell phone.

Another consultant named Andrea Dubé, who confirmed the veracity of this exchange to Mother Jones, replied: “She says one time he made her sit with him for three hours watching ‘shark week.’ Another time he had her spank him with a Forbes magazine.”

More #MeToo Harassment Scandal Fallouts

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Washington Post, Opinion: Staffers at The Hill press management about the work of John Solomon, Erik Wemple, Jan. 17, 2018. A group of newsroom staffers at The Hill have complained to management about stories written by John Solomon, the publication’s executive vice president of digital video. The complaints were launched in December when Solomon and reporter Alison Spann broke a story under this headline: “Exclusive: Prominent lawyer sought donor cash for two Trump accusers.”

The gist of Solomon and Spann’s story: Prominent California lawyer Lisa Bloom worked to secure payments for women who “made or considered making sexual misconduct allegations against Donald Trump during the final months of the 2016 presidential race.” The story cited “documents and interviews,” plus the on-the-record explanations by Bloom herself.

The story impressed the conservative media world. Fox News host Sean Hannity called it a “bombshell report,” while conservative websites aggregated away.

A New York Times story two weeks later noted that accuser-financing arrangements weren’t invented for the Trump era: Paula Jones’s harassment lawsuit against Bill Clinton received funding from the Rutherford Institute.

huff post logoHuffPost, Climate Denial Group Protected Former Executive Charged With Stalking Colleague, Ex-Staffers Say, Alexander C. Kaufman, Jan. 17, 2018. A former Heartland Institute director faced charges for violating a female subordinate’s restraining order. An official at the think tank came to his defense.

Eugene Koprowski’s temper earned him a reputation around the office pretty quickly. Former colleagues say Koprowski enjoyed protected status in the office because of his friendship with Joseph Morris, a conservative Chicago lawyer who is also a major fundraiser for Heartland and a close ally to its chief executive, Joseph Bast.

Heartland, they said, fostered a culture that allowed Koprowski, 52, to relentlessly harass a female subordinate half his age ― to the point where she took out a restraining order against him in October 2015. And though Koprowski was apparently fired sometime after the woman complained to human resources, her former colleagues say his termination came in response to other misbehavior ― not his repeated, undesired romantic pursuit of the woman who reported to him.  

The previously-unreported case of alleged stalking comes to light just as Heartland has become more powerful than ever. The think tank transformed itself over the past two decades from a defender of the tobacco industry ― under the banner of “smokers rights” ― to a leading proponent of climate change denial and champion of fossil fuels.

Since the Trump administration came to power, Heartland has enjoyed unprecedented influence at the Environmental Protection Agency, and works closely with hard-line science skeptics in Congress such as Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.). EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt joined the members of Congress in November to speak at Heartland’s America First Energy Conference in Houston.

Trump Probe Analysis: How A Trump Interview Would Work

Alliance for Justice “Yeomans Work: Making Sense of Justice in the Trump Era,” Analysis: Donald Trump, Meet Robert Mueller, Bill Yeomans, Jan. 17, 2018. We paused for a smattering of stories speculating about a possible Mueller interview of Trump. That’s speculation worthy of a pause. It is almost certain to happen in one forum or another before the investigation ends.

The scope, timing, setting, and rules governing the interview will tell us a great deal. Criminal investigations of substantial enterprises generally work from the smaller players toward the top in a hierarchical organization. The goal is to learn as much as possible from the little guys as they realize they are in legal jeopardy and see the value in talking.

Bill Yeomans is the Ronald Goldfarb Fellow for Justice at Alliance for Justice. He previously taught constitutional law, civil rights, and legislation at American University Washington College of Law. He also served for 26 years in the Department of Justice,

Jan. 16

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steve bannon screen shot jan 28 2017New York Times, Bannon Is Subpoenaed by Mueller in the Russia Inquiry, Michael S. Schmidt, Jan. 16, 2018. Stephen K. Bannon (shown at right), President Trump’s former chief strategist, was subpoenaed last week by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, to testify before a grand jury as part of the investigation into possible links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

The move marked the first time Mr. Mueller is known to have used a grand jury subpoena to seek information from a member of Mr. Trump’s inner circle. The special counsel’s office has used subpoenas before to seek information on Mr. Trump’s associates and their possible ties to Russia or other foreign governments.

robert mueller full face fileThe subpoena could be a negotiating tactic. Mr. Mueller (shown at left) is likely to allow Mr. Bannon to forgo the grand jury appearance if he agrees to instead be questioned by investigators in the less formal setting of the special counsel’s offices about ties between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia and about the president’s conduct in office, according to the person, who would not be named discussing the case.

us house logoBut it was not clear why Mr. Mueller treated Mr. Bannon differently than the dozen administration officials who were interviewed in the final months of last year and were never served with a subpoena. On Tuesday, Mr. Bannon testified behind closed doors before the House Intelligence Committee, which is also investigating Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

See also, Washington Post, Mueller subpoenas Bannon to testify in Russia investigation, Karoun Demirjian, Carol D. Leonnig and Rosalind S. Helderman, Jan. 16, 2018.

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New York Times, A Shutdown Looms. Which Party Would Voters Blame? Jonathan Martin, Michael D. Shear and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Jan. 16, 2018. Acrimony after President Trump’s incendiary comments last week has made it less likely that Congress will reach a spending and immigration deal by Friday.Fear of voter retribution is not limited to Republicans, who control both chambers. Democrats also are facing a growing schism in party messaging that could hurt them at the polls.

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kirstjen nielsen dhs 1 16 18 CustomWashington Post, ‘I did not hear that word used’: DHS Secretary Nielsen responds when asked about Trump’s vulgar comments, Ed O’Keefe and Nick Miroff, Jan. 16, 2018. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen (shown in a screenshot) confirmed on Tuesday that President Trump used “tough language” in an Oval Office meeting last week, but she said she did not hear him describe some African countries and Haiti as “shithole countries,” as has been reported.

Nielsen described Trump’s tone at the meeting on immigration policy while testifying under oath to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday morning. She repeatedly declined to cite specific words used by the president, but otherwise confirmed the general tenor of the exchange.

cory booker kirstjen nielsen 1 16 18MSNBC via Mediaite, Cory Booker: DHS Sec. Nielsen Tried to ‘Cover Up for the Vile and Bigoted Words of the President,’ Josh Feldman, Jan. 16, 2018. Senator Cory Booker followed up on his explosive grilling of DHS Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen today by talking with Chris Hayes about how her “artful dodges” were “insulting.”

Earlier today, Booker angrily told Nielsen (shown with him at right), “Your silence and your amnesia is complicity” (in reference to her not recalling President Trump‘s “shithole” remarks).

He told Hayes tonight she was trying to “cover up for the vile and bigoted words of the President.” Booker reiterated what he said earlier about the danger of the President’s “bigoted words” and talked about his concerns regarding the Trump White House’s immigration policy and a potential “discriminatory impact.” 

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jennifer rubin twitterWashington Post, Opinion: Secretary Nielsen, look in the mirror and ask yourself these questions, Jennifer Rubin (right), Jan. 16, 2018. In a nutshell, this is why you cannot serve a president who is racist, dishonest or personally corrupt. You inevitably wind up enabling racism, dishonesty and corruption. If you thought you could remain untainted, you were wrong. And now, you need to either quit or face the legal and personal consequences.

Crime, Cops Around the Nation

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New York Times, 13 Siblings, Some Shackled to Beds, Were Held Captive by Parents, Police in California Say, Matthew Haag and Louis Keene, Jan. 16, 2018. A 17-year-old girl who said she was being held captive by her parents in her home about two hours southeast of Los Angeles escaped on Sunday and alerted the authorities, who then rescued her 12 siblings — several of whom were found shackled to their beds and malnourished — the authorities said on Monday.

The 17-year-old used a cellphone she found in the home to call the police with her startling claim about her siblings being held against their will, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said.

Officers found the girl’s 12 siblings — who range in age from 2 to 29 — in the foul-smelling house in Perris, Calif., living in the dark without access to adequate food or water, the department said. Their parents, David Allen Turpin, 57, and Louise Anna Turpin, 49, were both arrested on nine counts each of torture and child endangerment.

#MeToo Reaction: U.S. Cultural Trends

Huffington Post, Opinion: On Aziz Ansari And Sex That Feels Violating Even When It’s Not Criminal, Emma Gray, Jan. 16, 2018. If the #MeToo movement is going to last, we need to renegotiate the sexual narratives we’ve long accepted.

Global News: Saudi Prince Shakedown Continuing?

alwaleed bin talal hands up reuters fahad shadeedZero Hedge via SouthFront, Prince Alwaleed Moved To Highest Security Saudi Prison After Refusing To Pay $6 Billion For Freedom: Report, Jan. 16, 2018. Goodbye Ritz Carlton. According to a report: Saudi Arabia’s billionaire prince Alwaleed Bin Talal (shown at right in a file photo), has been carted off to Al Ha’ir prison, south of Riyadh, after refusing to pay a reported $6 billion to Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman to secure his freedom, following a massive consolidation of power on November 4, 2017 in which over 300 princes, ministers and other elites were rounded up in an “anti-corruption” purge.

Sources told the Middle East Monitor that nearly 60 detainees were transferred to the most high security prison in the Kingdom. The prisoners include Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal as Prince Turki Bin Abdullah and a number of government officials who refused to make the large financial payments for their release.

Media and Scandal

The Hill, Fox News held story before election on Trump relationship with adult-film star: report, Brandon Carter, Jan. 16, 2018. Fox News did not publish a story the network had on an alleged sexual relationship between President Trump and adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford during the 2016 presidential election, according to a new report.

CNN reports that Fox News reporter Diana Falzone wrote a story a month before voters went to the polls in 2016 on the alleged relationship between Trump and Clifford, whose stage name is “Stormy Daniels.”

People familiar with the story told CNN that Falzone had seen emails about a settlement between Trump and Clifford and had a statement from Clifford’s manager affirming that Clifford did engage in a sexual relationship with Trump.

Noah Kotch, Fox News’s digital editor-in-chief and vice president, told CNN in a statement that the network was “unable to verify all of the facts and publish a story.”

Jan. 15

mlk day recent presidents wmr Custom 2 

Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton (top, l to r), with George W. Bush, Obama and Trump below (Wayne Madsen Report graphic)

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President Trump, as portrayed on Twitter as an alt-right Pepe the Frog image that Trump retweeted in 2016

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New York Times, I’m Not a Racist,’ Trump Says, as He Denies Vulgarity, Michael D. Shear, Jan. 15, 2018 (print edition). President Trump declared on Sunday night that he was “not a racist” and insisted that the derogatory comment attributed to him during an Oval Office meeting on immigration last week did not occur.

“I’m not a racist. I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed, that I can tell you,” Mr. Trump said as he arrived at Trump International Golf Club for dinner with Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the majority leader.

Asked about the comments he was reported to have made, including a reference to African nations as “shithole countries,” Mr. Trump indicated that he did not say what had been attributed to him.

Martin Luther King Day 2018

mlk head shot 1“My husband (shown at right) often told the children that if a man had nothing that was worth dying for, then he was not fit to live. He said also that it’s not how long you live, but how well you live…. He gave his life for the poor of the world — the garbage workers of Memphis and the peasants of Vietnam. Nothing hurt him more than that man could attempt no way to solve problems except through violence. He gave his life in search of a more excellent way, a more effective way, a creative rather than a destructive way.”

Coretta Scott King, speaking of her husband on Saturday, April 6, 1968

webster tarpley new striped shirtWorld Crisis Radio, Martin Luther King Weekend: Observe & Update the Vision, Webster G. Tarpley (radio commentator and author shown at left), Jan. 13, 2018 (73:35 mins., with beginning of show excerpted as follows):

Dr. King’s central insight relevant to today is that all of the main 1960s protest movements needed to be unified: civil rights, labor, unemployed poor people, anti-war and students “in the sense that not one of them could succeed with out the other.”

To the dark forces, represented by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, this was the worst possible outcome, the radio host Tarpley continued, saying: Therefore, these forces reacted following King’s death with their basic tool, “divide and conquer.” The less qualified leaders of the left today perpetuate those divisions by acting as if their subgroups must retain their identities forever and work together only occasionally, in contrast to the successful strategies of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the New Deal coalition.

rat haus reality press, Reflections and Resources on Martin Luther King Day, Dave Ratcliffe (Editor and Publisher), Jan. 15, 2018. The following is an excerpt from “The Truth of The Children of Vietnam: A Way of Liberation” published at the end of November.

After Dr. King gave his address “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” at Riverside Church on April 4, 1967, barrister and author William Pepper wrote of Martin King’s determination and commitment to bring 500,000 people to Washington in the Spring of 1968 culminating in an encampment in the shadow of the Washington Memorial, to stop the functioning of the United States government until the government agreed to abolish poverty. 

mlk injustice quotationTwo prominent faith leaders — the Rev. Liz Theoharis and the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II — are launching a new multi-issue, multi-racial Poor People’s Campaign to recapture the spirit of that 1968 campaign. 

“The Children of Vietnam” provides an instance of truth force that is needed now more than ever to counter the fragmentation and doublethink being amplified by the demands of capital and its accumulation. Because, tragically and horrifically, what the United States caused to happen in Vietnam has not stopped. It continues to this day, magnified on a global scale within numerous theatres of U.S. military and covert operations, including in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and Yemen.

greg palast hsGregPalast.com, How JFK Saved MLK’s Life And So Won The Presidency, Greg Palast (shown at right), Jan. 15, 2018. This harrowing and little known drama of terror and courage, confirmed for me by Martin Luther King III, changed American politics — and America — forever.

On October 19, 1960, Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested in Georgia for driving with an Alabama and sentenced to six months hard labor. No one expected King to survive the sentence — he’d be lynched at the outset.

richard nixon desk archivesHis father, Martin King Sr., had one desperate chance to save his son. Daddy King had endorsed Richard Nixon (shown in a file photo), a family friend, for the presidency. Nixon could count on King, a Republican like many African-Americans, who chose the party of Lincoln over the racist Democratic party of Jim Crow segregation.

A desperate King called Vice-President Nixon — who refused to answer. But MLK’s wife, Coretta, had a single hope. She called a friend, pacifist activist Harris (later Senator) Wofford who called Bobby Kennedy.

jfk portrait w CustomRFK didn’t hesitate, calling from a pay phone on Long Island to his brother, demanding John save MLK Jr.

It was just three weeks before the presidential election, a race too close to call. This was a crisis. Three Southern governors warned the Kennedys that any help for Dr. King and JFK would lose three Deep South states.

“Let us not forget that many though not all of the most iconic photos of and about Martin Luther King, Jr. were taken by Ernest Withers, MLK’s personal photographer. All the while, he was reporting to the FBI and providing copies of the photos to them.”

Louis Wolf, civil rights activist and former Covert Action Quarterly director, citing on Jan. 15 the evidence from a two-year investigation by Memphis Commercial Appeal published in 2010 about the photographer Ernest Withers, who lived from 1922 to 2007 and captured over 60 years of African American history in the segregated South:

Memphis Commerical Appeal via Knoxblogs, Photographer Ernest Withers doubled as FBI informant to spy on civil rights movement, Marc Perrusquia, Sept. 12, 2010. From the newspaper’s investigation, including government documents: Researchers who study the government informant system say patriotism, desire to do police work, thrill-seeking and money often are motivating factors.

Withers had served in the Army in World War II. In addition to serving briefly as a police officer, he ran successfully for Shelby County constable in 1974 and later was appointed a gun-carrying agent of the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverages Commission.

Withers’ legal troubles also can’t be discounted as a possible motive. Withers would claim late in life he was set up in the 1951 kickback incident while working for MPD [Memphis Police Department], yet his police personnel file contains transcripts that reveal admissions by Withers and detailed witness accounts supporting the allegations. He was fired but never charged criminally. Years later, in 1979, he faced similar charges, this time in federal criminal court. Then-ABC {Alcoholic Beverage Commission] agent Withers pleaded guilty to extorting kickbacks from a nightclub owner.

Regardless of his motives, the revelation of Withers’ FBI work doesn’t harm his memory for some who knew him. “It does not alter who he was a person,” said ex-Invader Coby Smith. “He did so many more things. That wasn’t a fulltime thing to be an informant for them. ”Rev. Lawson agreed. “It won’t tarnish his memory for his family and friends.” {See also a panel discussion at the National Press in 2013 on this topic archived by C-SPAN.]

martin luther king riot is language of unheard

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Washington Post, Opinion: How Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination shaped America’s identity 50 years ago and still affects us today, Jan. 15, 2018. The assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis on April 4, 1968, continues to reverberate throughout the nation in large and small ways almost 50 years later. In many ways our nation is still trying to recover from King’s death and the opportunities for racial equality, economic justice, and peace — what King referred to as a “beloved community”— that seemed to recede in its aftermath.

Media / Lobbying: Stolen IDs Used To Alter U.S. Policies

AlterNet, Corporate Powers Are Stealing Online Identities, Posting Fake Comments to Push for Consumer Law Repeals, Steven Rosenfeld, Jan. 15, 2018. At least five federal agencies targeted, from internet protections to predatory lending and investments.

A pattern of cyber deception is appearing across the federal government in the nooks and crannies of the process where White House directives or Congress’ laws are turned into the rules Americans must abide by—or in the Trump era, are repealed.

Hundreds of thousands of comments, purportedly made by Americans, have come in over the electronic transom to at least five different federal agencies calling for an end to Obama-era consumer protections and other regulations that impede profits, a series of investigative reports by the Wall Street Journal found. Except, the people who supposedly sent these comments never did.

The latest example concerns the so-called “Fiduciary Rule,” which originated in the Labor Department and was to talk effect in July 2019, to try to prevent conflicts of investment from investment advisers targeting retirees.

“Consider the experience of Robert Schubert, a Devon, Pa., salesperson,” the Journal’s Dec. 12 report said. “A comment posted in his name on the Labor Department website opposed the rule, saying: ‘I do not need, do not want and object to any federal interference in my retirement planning.’ In an interview, Mr. Schubert said the comment was a fraud. He didn’t post it and doesn’t agree with it. ‘I am disgusted that people can post comments using my name,’ Mr. Schubert said.”

In this report (Millions of People Post Comments on Federal Regulations. Many Are Fake by James V. Grimaldi and Paul Overberg), the Journal hired a polling firm that reached 50 people who allegedly commented and found that 40 percent said they didn’t post anything on the department’s website. A department spokesman told the Journal it removes fraudulent comments when notified and said posting them is a felony. But, as the Journal reported, “Most federal agencies make it difficult to independently check the authenticity of public comments; only a few publish email addresses along with the comments.

This example is just the tip of a much larger pro-corporate, anti-consumer effort.

securities exchange commission seal“The Journal previously found fraudulent postings under names and email addresses at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Communications Commission,” it continued. “The Journal’s findings were cited by calls from Congress to delay the repeal of the FCC’s net-neutrality rule.”

fcc logoThe FCC didn’t heed that call, but instead threw out the rule designed to stop the telecom giants that control data pipelines from charging different rates to users depending on the volume and speed of their online communications. The day before the FCC vote in late November, the Verge reported, “A search of the duplicated text found more than 58,000 results as of press time, with 17,000 of those posted in the last 24 hours alone.”

Media Criticism: BBC Attacked As Propaganda Tool

bbc news logo2American Herald Tribune, Opinion: BBC Betrays the Most Basic Journalistic Principles When It Comes to Syria, Jeremy Salt, Jan. 15, 2018. Jeremy Salt is a former journalist, turned academic. He is based in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Bilkent University, Ankara. His most recent book is “The Unmaking of the Middle East. A History of Western Disorder in Arab Lands” (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.) The BBC makes marvellous wildlife documentaries and excellent feature films but in its reporting of the Syrian conflict it has completely betrayed the most basic journalistic principles of objectivity and balance.

Along with the rest of the media it runs whatever the ‘rebels’ and ‘activists’ choose to tell it. Through its false reporting the media has supported the war on Syria and must share the responsibility for the massive death and destruction that has ensued. 

#MeToo Pedophile Allegation By Olympian Against Team Doctor

simone biles usa team

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Washington Post, Olympian Simone Biles says she was abused by USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, Bryan Flaherty, Jan. 15, 2018. Simone Biles (shown in a file photo), a four-time Olympic gold medalist, said in a statement that she, too, was sexually abused by former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, adding her name to the list of more than 140 women, including fellow Team USA members Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney, who have accused Nassar of abuse during his time with the sport’s governing body and while at Michigan State.

“I too am one of the many survivors that was sexually abused by Larry Nassar,” Biles, 20, wrote. “Please believe me when I say it was a lot harder to first speak those words out loud than it is now to put them on paper. There are many reasons that I have been reluctant to share my story, but I know now it is not my fault.

“It is not normal to receive any type of treatment from a trusted team physician and refer to it horrifyingly as the ‘special’ treatment. This behavior is completely unacceptable, disgusting, and abusive, especially coming from someone whom I was TOLD to trust.”

larry nassar gymnastics pleaNassar, shown at left in a court hearing with his attorney, has been sentenced to 60 years in prison on federal child pornography charges. He also has pleaded guilty to seven sexual assault charges in Michigan and faces sentencing beginning Tuesday.

As part of his plea agreement, the minimum sentence range for the charges involving a victim who was younger than 13 will be set between 25 and 40 years; he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison on those charges. The Michigan attorney general’s office is seeking a sentence of 40 to 125 years.

#MeToo Harassment Claim Against Congressman

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alcee hastings oWashington Post, A congressional harassment claim led to a secret $220,000 payment. Both sides see a broken system, Kimberly Kindy and Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Jan. 15, 2018 (print edition). The payment to Winsome Packer, a former aide to Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-Fla., shown at right), was one of the largest known settlements paid out in recent years by a fund for claims made against members of Congress. But with lawmakers working on legislation that would alter the process for handling accusations, both sides say their dispute reveals a flawed law that is unfair and abusive to the accuser and the accused.

More on Civil Rights Issues: Women, Race

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New York Times, One Year After Women’s March, More Activismbut Less Unity, Farah Stockman, Jan. 15, 2018.  Women’s March Inc., which organized the event in Washington, has encouraged more protests. But a new group is focused on winning elections, especially in red states.

So far, the split between Women’s March and March On has not dampened the enthusiasm for marking the anniversary. Many activists in the field said they were unaware of the division. Those who are say they seek resources from both organizations: Women’s March Inc. provides a unifying vision and a national spotlight, while March On gives on-the-ground support, such as legal advice on applying for nonprofit status.

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New York Times, Donald Trump’s Racism: The Definitive List, David Leonhardt and Ian prasad Philbrick, Jan. 15, 2018. Donald Trump has been obsessed with race for the entire time he has been a public figure. He had a history of making racist comments as a New York real-estate developer in the 1970s and ‘80s. More recently, his political rise was built on promulgating the lie that the nation’s first black president was born in Kenya. He then launched his campaign with a speech describing Mexicans as rapists.

The media often falls back on euphemisms when describing Trump’s comments about race: racially loaded, racially charged, racially tinged, racially sensitive. And Trump himself has claimed that he is “the least racist person.” But here’s the truth: Donald Trump is a racist. He talks about and treats people differently based on their race. He has done so for years, and he is still doing so.

Here, we have attempted to compile a definitive list of his racist comments – or at least the publicly known ones.

WhoWhatWhy, Big Money, Threats to Democracy: Deutsche Bank: A Global Bank for Oligarchs — American & Russian, Part 2, Martin J. Sheil, Jan. 15, 2018. Martin J. Sheil is a retired branch chief of the IRS Criminal Investigation division.

What do President Donald Trump and a number of Russian oligarchs have in common? Answer: Deutsche Bank. We pick up where we left off by examining how Trump first became involved with the international colossus — a bank catering to clients who understood that sometimes the line between profit and illegality blurs.

Editor’s Note: Part II of this in-depth, technical piece by a former IRS investigator raises more questions than it answers. But WhoWhatWhy believes this is a very useful service, particularly in relation to a complex topic of considerable public import — one that may be a key component for special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing Trump-Russia investigation. We hope in the coming weeks to explore many more of these questions in greater depth. And we welcome reader comments.

Jan. 14

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New York Times, As Lawmakers Debate Trump’s Words, Hope for DACA Dims, Thomas Kaplan and Noah Weiland, Jan. 14, 2018. Two Republican senators disputed a Democratic colleague’s account of the words used by President Trump during a meeting on Thursday as each side attacked in unusually personal terms. The rift risked further eroding trust at the beginning of a critical week for Congress, with government funding set to expire on Friday and Mr. Trump declaring the DACA program “probably dead.”

The uproar over President Trump’s vulgar remark on immigration took a bitter turn on Sunday as lawmakers attacked one another in unusually personal terms and hopes dimmed for any quick deal to protect young undocumented immigrants and avert a government shutdown.

Mr. Trump declared that the Obama-era program shielding those immigrants from deportation was “probably dead,” while a Republican senator who attended the Thursday meeting where the president addressed immigration denied that Mr. Trump had used the phrase “shithole” in describing African nations.

dick durbin speaking screenshotThe senator, David Perdue of Georgia, said Mr. Trump “did not use that word,” and he accused another participant in the White House meeting, Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois (shown at left in a file photo), of a “gross misrepresentation” of what the president had said at the session.

The rift over Mr. Trump’s comments, and how they have since been recounted, risked further eroding trust between Democrats and Republicans at the beginning of a critical week for Congress.

Government funding is set to expire on Friday, and lawmakers will need to pass a stopgap spending measure to avoid a government shutdown on Saturday.in Congress, the battle took on an increasingly personal dimension as Mr. Perdue and Mr. Cotton essentially accused Mr. Durbin of lying about the president’s comments, even after the vulgar remarks were widely reported and the White House did not immediately dispute that the president had made them.

tom cotton o CustomHe and another Republican senator at the meeting, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, had previously said they did “not recall the president saying these comments specifically.” But by Sunday, their recollections appeared to have sharpened, and Mr. Cotton joined Mr. Perdue in disputing Mr. Durbin’s account. The two senators’ latest assertions also seemed to conflict with the account of another Republican senator who was at the meeting, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Nuclear Attack Scare In Hawaii

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New York Times, Analysis: False Alarm Hints at Thin Line Between Mishap and War, Max Fisher, Jan. 14, 2018. Security experts called it a frightening warning of how a technical error could set off an unintended conflict with North Korea.

See also, New York Times, Hawaii Panics After Mistaken Missile Alert Is Sent to Public, Adam Nagourney, David E. Sanger and Johanna Barr, Jan. 14, 2018 (print edition). The alert set off panic in a state that was already anxious because of escalating tensions between the United States and North Korea. Telling people to “seek immediate shelter,” the warning was revoked after nearly 40 minutes, prompting confusion over why it was released — and why correcting it took so long.

See also,Poynter Institute, False missile alarm tests journalism’s response, Al Tompkins, Jan. 13, 2018. One of the big stories in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser Saturday morning was that military “brass” updated island officials on how the military would respond to a nuclear attack from North Korea. Military authorities warned there was a “real” threat.

At 8:07 a.m. Saturday, Hawaiian residents saw a terrifying alert message on their phones. The same automated alert interrupted an SEC basketball game being shown in Hawaii. That alert told viewers to seek “immediate shelter in a building” and “if you are driving, pull safely to the side of the road and seek shelter in a  building.” Though it ultimately turned out to be false, many who saw the alert took it to be real, including journalists who were working or vacationing there

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New York Times, Military Plans for a Last Resort: War With North Korea, Helene Cooper, Eric Schmitt, Thomas Gibbons-neff and John Ismay, Jan. 14, 2018. It’s normal for American commanders to draw up combat plans. But recent exercises signal that the military wants to be ready for options on the Korean Peninsula.

U.S. Politics: Romney To Run For Utah Senate Seat

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mitt romney 2012 open neck gage skidmoreNew York Times, Romney Says He’s Running, but as a Trump Friend or Foe? Jonathan Martin, Jan. 14, 2018. Mitt Romney’s expected return to politics as the next senator from Utah has set off a debate over whether he should actively counter President Trump. Romney is shown in a 2012 photo by Gage Skidmore when Romney was the GOP nominee for president.

See also, New York Times, A Dual Challenge for Another Romney, Loyal to Trump, Jeremy W. Peters, Jan. 14, 2018 (print edition). Ronna McDaniel, a niece of Mr. Romney who is the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, has to fortify her party in a hostile election environment while contending with the fault line running through her family.

Inside Washington

djt robin bell shithole stunt 1 13 2018CNN via KTLA-TV, ‘This Place Is a Shithole’ Projected Onto Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C., Staff report, Jan. 14, 2018. A projection onto the front entrance of the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C, declared Saturday night that the place was a “shithole” — the term which President Donald Trump reportedly used during an immigration reform meeting with lawmakers last week.

“Not a DC resident? Need a place to stay? Try our shithole,” the projections read, with grinning poop emojis scattering the bricks of the Trump International Hotel, formerly the Old Post Office building. \

robin bell bell visualsWashington-based Robin Bell (shown at left in his Twitter photo) took credit for the stunt. He told CNN the projection was up for around 40 minutes and claimed this is at least the 15th time he’s projected his work onto the hotel.

“By the time security came out we were already done,” Bell said, later adding that he looks at the projections as a First Amendment activity. “We’re not actually touching the building. We’re not on the property.”

The projection came in response to reports that, in referring to immigrants from African countries, Trump asked lawmakers during an Oval Office meeting on immigration reform: “Why do we want all these people from ‘shithole countries’ coming here?” The president has denied making the comment.

Huffington Post, Projector Lights Up Trump’s D.C. Hotel With ‘Shithole’ And Poop Emojis, Carla Herreria, Jan. 14, 2018. The Trump International Hotel’s new makeover was inspired by Donald Trump’s recent immigration meeting.

“The president distracts us from politics that are harming us,” the projection read later in the video.

The display was the work of artist Robin Bell, the founder of video projection company Bell Visuals. Bell has made news headlines in the past for projecting various messages on buildings with political ties.

In May, Bell projected on the same D.C. hotel “emoluments welcome” and “pay Trump bribes here.” (Both of those messages also appear in the most recent projection.) That same month, Bell projected “#SessionsMustGo” and “I thought the KKK was OK until I learned that they smoked pot” on the Department of Justice building, in reference to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Media: Sunday Times ‘Fire and Fury’ Review

michael wolff fire and furyThe Sunday Times, Book review: Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff, Andrew Sullivan, Jan. 14, 2018. Despite the accusations laid against it, Michael Wolff’s insider account of Donald Trump’s first year as president offers a devastating critique of the White House. The core reason to believe almost everything in Michael Wolff’s devastating exposé of the Trump White House is that we knew all of it already.

We’ve watched for an entire year as a delusional, belligerent know-nothing has careened and plunged through what’s left of American constitutional norms. If you came across Trump’s Twitter feed without knowing whose it was, you’d assume it was a crazy old geezer, slumped on a couch, remote in hand, venting at Fox News all day, the orange powder from his constant snacking visible on his fingertips. But you’d also be unable to ignore how vindictive, vain, bullying and cruel this pensioner is. I’ve tried for a couple of years — I really have — to find some redeeming characteristic in Trump, and have come up empty.

Wolff is a dodgy player. But his sleaziness is usually with respect to ground rules: sneakily turning off-the-record quotes into on-the-record ones, using second-hand sources and gossip, rather than the meticulous and somewhat dry journalism of the Washington press corps, and creating great narrative, even if the strict chronology defies a simple story.

Yet this White House is so dysfunctional that he didn’t even need to employ any shenanigans. He was allowed to do what he wanted, talk to anyone (directed by the White House itself), and the new players were so disorganised and naive he got away with it.

And Wolff doesn’t make stuff up from whole cloth. His main source, Steve Bannon, has not repudiated any of the astounding quotes from the book — including the view that the Trump campaign engaged in “treasonous” dealings with the Kremlin’s emissaries.

The pushback from the White House has, in turn, largely been a vague denial of everything — rather than a clear refutation of anything in particular — along with the insistence that Trump is, well, some kind of mad genius, whose shameless lying, massive ignorance of policy, constantly shifting alliances, staggering laziness and contempt for liberal democracy have nevertheless achieved important policy goals. The “mad king” White House, in this view, is supplemented by a “sane cabinet” White House, and therefore the damaging charges against the president may be true, but are largely moot. This is not, it is important to note, a refutation of Trump’s unfitness or of Wolff’s sourcing. It is a changing of the subject.

The weakness of the book is that it concentrates on drama, personalities and the spectacle of a self-described “very stable genius”. It fails to note something arguably more important: that in the month before the book’s publication, Congress passed a tax bill that was a Republican fantasy — drastically cutting taxes on corporations and the super-wealthy, adding a trillion dollars to the national debt, and opening up the Alaskan Arctic to oil drilling, a goal that the Republicans have tried and failed to achieve for the past 30 years.

Media: Fake News Claims

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New York Times, Trump Escalates a Dispute With The Wall Street Journal, Michael D. Shear, Jan. 14, 2018. The president said he did not say “I probably have a very good relationship” with the North Korean leader, claiming he said “I’d.” It was difficult to tell from audio clips whether the complaint had merit. President Trump on Sunday morning ratcheted up a dispute with The Wall Street Journal, accusing the newspaper of purposely misquoting him as saying in an interview that he has a good relationship with the leader of North Korea.

In two tweets from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., the president applied a familiar denigrating term — “fake news” — to a Journal report on Thursday that said Mr. Trump had boasted during an interview: “I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong-un. I have relationships with people. I think you people are surprised.”

Mr. Trump insisted that he had actually started his sentence with the contraction “I’d,” not “I,” which would change the meaning from a surprising boast of an existing relationship into a prediction that he could have a good relationship with the dictator if he wanted it. Mr. Trump’s attack came hours after Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, posted on Twitter what she called the “official audio showing WSJ misquoting @POTUS.” She also posted an image with the words “FAKE NEWS” in a bright red banner and saying: “THE WALL STREET JOURNAL. FAKE NEWS IS AT IT AGAIN. FALSELY QUOTING PRESIDENT TRUMP

Global News: Turkey Prepares To Fight U.S.-allied Kurds

Al Jazeera, Turkey to launch imminent Syria operation against YPG, Staff report, Jan. 14, 2018. Turkey’s president vowed “to purge terrorism” across the border in Syria, as Turkish forces pounded US-backed fighters with artillery fire on Sunday.

Recep ErdoganA military operation in northern Syria against the city of Afrin – controlled by the Syrian Kurdish armed group YPG – will be launched “in the days ahead”, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (shown in a file photo) was quoted as saying by the official Anadolu news agency.

He said the attack on Afrin would be an extension of the 2016 Euphrates Shield Operation, which targeted Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) fighters, as well as the YPG. The eight-month combat effort officially ended in March 2017. Turkish soldiers are currently based in rebel-held territory on both sides of Afrin.

The US views the YPG as the most effective fighting force against ISIL. US President Donald Trump decided to arm YPG fighters, despite Turkey’s objections and a direct appeal from Erdogan at a White House meeting last May.

Tensions between the NATO allies remain high, despite Trump saying last November that Washington would no longer supply weapons to the YPG.

Jan. 13

nbc news logoNBC News, Hawaii ‘ballistic missile threat’ alert to phones was false alarm, officials say, Erik Ortiz, Phil McCausland and Chelsea Bailey, Jan. 13 2018. Residents of Hawaii were thrown into a panic Saturday morning after an emergency alert was sent warning of a ballistic missile threat. But officials said minutes later it was a “false alarm.”

“NO missile threat to Hawaii,” the state’s Emergency Management Agency tweeted at 8:20 local time (1:20 ET).

tulsi gabbardRep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii (shown at right), who also tweeted “there is no incoming missile to Hawaii,” questioned how such an alert could have been sent out by mistake and why it took several minutes before it was corrected, adding that it triggered feelings of terror for no reason.

“What my family went through and what so many families in Hawaii just went through is a true realization that they have 15 minutes to seek some form of shelter or else they’re dead — gone,” she told MSNBC.

Inside Washington

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Washington Post, Trump’s apparent denial of vulgar comment fails to quell outrage, Ed O’Keefe and Anne Gearan, Jan. 13, 2018 (print edition). Trump’s comments about African countries and Haiti drew condemnation from around the world Friday, putting the White House and Republicans on the defensive while casting doubt on hopes of resolving disputes in the coming weeks over immigration legislation.

Alleged Trump, #MeToo Scandals

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New York Times, Porn Star Was Reportedly Paid to Stay Quiet About Trump, Megan Twohey and Jim Rutenberg, Jan. 13, 2018 (print edition). A lawyer for President Trump orchestrated a $130,000 payment to a pornographic-film actress in October 2016 to prevent her from going public with claims of a consensual sexual encounter with Mr. Trump, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

The reported payment came shortly before the presidential election and as the actress, Stephanie Clifford, 38, was discussing sharing her account with ABC’s “Good Morning America” and the online magazine Slate, according to interviews, notes and text messages reviewed by The New York Times.

Jacob Weisberg, editor-in-chief of the Slate Group, said on Friday that in a series of interviews with Ms. Clifford in August and October 2016, she told him she had an affair with Mr. Trump after meeting him at a 2006 celebrity golf tournament.

michael cohen 7 14 2015 cnnShe told him that Michael D. Cohen, a lawyer for Mr. Trump (and shown in a screen grab), had agreed during the presidential campaign to pay her the $130,000 if she kept the relationship secret, Mr. Weisberg said, adding that Ms. Clifford had told him she was tempted to go public because the lawyer was late in making the payment and she feared he might back out of their agreement.

Daily Beast, Trump Accuser Jessica Drake Has an NDA Preventing Her from Talking About Donald Trump, Marlow Stern and Aurora Snow, Jan. 13, 2018. The porn star came forward to accuse then-candidate Trump of sexual misconduct in October 2016.

djt jessica drakeThe Daily Beast was informed late Friday that porn star Jessica Drake (shown with Trump in a previous publicity photo published by The Daily Beast) is not allowed to discuss President Donald J. Trump on account of a non-disclosure agreement she signed barring her from any such talk. NDAs are often deployed as part of settlements to silence accusers.

“Jessica’s NDA blankets any and every mention of Trump, so she’s legally unable to comment,” her publicist informed The Daily Beast. “Jessica signed a non-disclosure agreement after her allegations of misconduct, and she can’t do as much as peep his name publicly.”

The White House has not yet responded to requests for comment.

In late October 2016, Drake became the 14th woman to accuse then-candidate Trump of sexual misconduct. At a public press conference, Drake, flanked by her attorney Gloria Allred, claimed that after she met Trump in July 2006 at Nevada’s American Century Celebrity Golf Championship, where she was working a promotional booth on behalf of the adult film company Wicked Pictures, he made a pass at her. Trump’s wife, Melania, had recently given birth to their son Barron at the time.

She alleged that Trump later called her and asked, “’What do you want? How much?” and then offered her $10,000 for sex. “This is not acceptable behavior for anyone, much less a presidential candidate,” Drake said at the presser.

Killers, Courts Around the Nation: Las Vegas

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stephen paddock 2002 croppedWashington Post, Las Vegas gunman methodically sought to ‘thwart’ investigation of massacre, FBI says, Mark Berman, Jan. 13, 2018. The Las Vegas gunman who opened fire on concertgoers in October carefully prepared both for the attack and the investigation that would follow, according to hundreds of pages of court documents made public late Friday.

In the court documents, which detail some of the early days of the investigation, 64-year-old gunman Stephen Paddock (shown in a file photo) is described as spending significant time amassing his weapons and stockpiling ammunition while also seeking “to thwart the eventual law enforcement investigation” into the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.

Paddock, firing from his high-rise hotel suite at the Mandalay Bay resort, killed 58 people and injured hundreds of others at a country-music festival on the Las Vegas Strip far below before killing himself, police said.

Media, #MeToo Claims

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New York Times, Male Models Claim Sexual Exploitation, Jacob Bernstein, Matthrew Schneier and Vanessa Friedman, Jan. 13, 2018. Models and assistants said Mario Testino and Bruce Weber, two prominent fashion photographers, used their authority to engage in unwanted sexual behavior. Representatives for both said they were dismayed and surprised by the allegations.

Global News: Iran

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New York Times, Iran to Trump: Nuclear Pact Is ‘Not Renegotiable,’ Thomas Erdbrink, Jan. 13, 2018. Iranian officials, responding to President Trump’s call to revise the nuclear agreement, said they would reject any changes to the 2015 deal, saying it was “not renegotiable.”

Jan. 12

Inside The White House: Immigration

djt s hole countries nydaily news cover 1 11 18 CustomNew York Daily News, Politicians, advocacy groups react to Trump blasting Caribbean and African immigrants from ‘s–thole countries,’ Megan Cerullo, Jan. 12, 2018 (print edition). Social media erupted Thursday after President Trump slammed protections for immigrants from “s–thole countries” in the Caribbean and Africa, while some leaders chose to ignore his controversial remarks.

“Why are we having all these people from s–thole countries come here?” the President reportedly griped during an Oval Office meeting Thursday afternoon. 

Advocacy group leaders called Trump’s comments “racist” but chose not to focus on his latest attack on immigrants. “How does one even react to that?” said Ninaj Raoul, co-founder of Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees (HWHR,) told the Daily News Thursday.

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donald trump make great logoWashington Post, Trump’s history of making offensive comments about nonwhite immigrants, Eugene Scott, Jan. 12, 2018 (printed edition). This is not the first time that Trump’s remarks about immigrants, refugees and their homelands have raised eyebrows.

Trump Response

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donald trump time cover SmallWashington Post, Trump denies ‘language used’ at meeting amid fury over ‘shithole countries’ remark, Anne Gearan, Jan. 12, 2018. President Trump said he used “tough” language during a discussion on immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and some African nations but appeared to deny using the term “shithole.”

dick durbin speaking screenshotThe White House did not deny Thursday that Trump used the vulgarity. Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), left, who attended the meeting, said today that Trump’s denial was false. The president “said things that were hate-filled, vile and racist,” Durbin said.2018.

President Trump tweeted this morning: “The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made – a big setback for DACA!”

Congressional Reaction

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Washington Post, Immigration talks founder after White House rejects deal and Trump insults foreign countries, Ed O’Keefe, Erica Werner and Josh Dawsey, Jan. 12, 2018. Immigration talks on Capitol Hill foundered Thursday after the White House and some GOP lawmakers rejected a tentative deal from a bipartisan Senate group — and President Trump made incendiary remarks about people from developing countries.

adriano espaillat d nycThose explosive remarks from the president roiled the debate as Democrats erupted in outrage and accused Trump of setting back prospects for any deal.

“This is like throwing gasoline to the fire,” said Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), right, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. “It’s not consistent with what the behavior of a president should be.”

World and Media Reaction

don lemon djt shithole response 1 12 18

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Washington Post, Analysis: ‘This is CNN Tonight. I’m Don Lemon. The president of the United States is racist,’ Samantha Schmidt, Jan. 12, 2018. It’s not every day you hear a television news anchor unabashedly calling a public figure “racist.” Broadcast journalists tend to tread lightly when describing racism, using terms such as “racially charged” or “racially tinged.” After all, racism is often in the eye of the beholder.

But it’s not every day that the president of the United States calls Haiti, El Salvador and African nations “shithole countries.” As The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey reported Thursday, Trump derided protections for immigrants from these “shithole countries,” and suggested that instead, the United States should be bringing more people from countries such as Norway.

cnn logoWhen covering the president’s remarks, some CNN hosts made it clear that this time, they would not be holding back.

“This is CNN Tonight, I’m Don Lemon. The president of the United States is racist. A lot of us already knew that.”

Those were the first words spoken by the news anchor at the opening of his show. He went on to call Trump’s comments “disgusting” but not shocking. “They’re not even really surprising. Because this is who Donald Trump is.”

Meanwhile, the sentiment on Fox News could not have been more different. Jesse Watters, host of Fox News’s “The Five,” defended the president’s comments, saying “this is how the forgotten men and women of America talk at the bar.” Fox News host Tucker Carlson suggested in a tweet that if El Salvador isn’t a “shithole,” then its migrants don’t need extended protections. fox news logo Small

“If you’re at a bar, and you’re in Wisconsin, and you think they’re bringing in a bunch of Haiti people, or El Salvadorians, or people from Niger, this is how some people talk,” he said.

djt baby doc duvalier

Businessman Donald Trump and the late Haitian dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier

Raw Story, Haitian government claims ousted dictator ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier laundered stolen money through Trump Tower, Travis Gettys, Jan. 12, 2018. President Donald Trump insulted Haiti during an Oval Office meeting with lawmakers, but he once signed off on a shady real estate deal with the nation’s ousted dictator.

More than a fifth of Trump’s condominiums in the U.S. have been purchased since the 1980s in secretive cash transactions that fit a Treasury Department definition of suspicious transactions, reported Buzzfeed News.

Records show more than 1,300 Trump condos were purchased through shell companies, which allow buyers to shield their finances and identities, and without a mortgage, which protects buyers from lender inquiries.

Those two characteristics raise alarms about possible money laundering, according to statements issued in recent months by the Department of Treasury, which has investigated transactions just like those all over the country. The agency may even require real estate professionals to adopt new programs to keep illegally obtained funds from being plowed into luxury housing to conceal the money’s origins.

Trump companies reportedly sold $35 million in real estate last year alone — mostly to secretive shell companies that open the president up to possible influence peddling.

According to the Buzzfeed News report, the Haitian government complained in the 1980s that former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier laundered money stolen from the Caribbean nation’s treasury by purchasing an apartment in Trump Tower.

Duvalier, nicknamed “Baby Doc,” was overthrown in 1986, but three years earlier used a Panamanian shell company called Lasa Trade and Finance to buy apartment 54-K in Trump’s Manhattan tower for $446,875 cash.

Probes of Trump: Evidence

robert mueller olderPalmer Report, Analysis: Robert Mueller takes possession of even more Donald Trump team laptops and cellphones, Bill Palmer, Jan. 12, 2018. Special Counsel Robert Mueller (right) has been so secretive about his investigation into Donald Trump’s Russia scandal, we’re often left to dig for clues in his official court filings about what he’s been up to. A month ago we learned that Mueller had taken possession of numerous laptops, cellphones and electronic devices belonging to the Trump team. Now we’re learning that Mueller has taken possession of far more of the Trump team’s electronic devices.

It was Rachael Maddow who discovered that in Mueller’s latest court filings in the case against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, the Mueller team is now disclosing possession of eighty-seven electronic devices, as opposed to just thirty-six such devices a month ago. That means that in the past month, Mueller and his team have somehow come into possession of an additional fifty-plus laptops and cellphones from Trump’s people. Here’s what that means in terms of prosecution and the overall investigation.

If Trump’s people were their usual sloppy selves, it’s unlikely that they wiped (or sufficiently wiped) any of the devices they had been using. This means Mueller would have access to every word processing document they typed, and perhaps access to personal email accounts that were being used on those laptops.

This is just the latest reminder that Robert Mueller and his team have consistently been several steps ahead of Donald Trump and his team throughout this investigation. Now we know that Mueller has his hands on eighty-seven of the Trump team’s electronic devices. This is why the Trump team should be shaking in its collective boots.

#MeToo and Probes Of Trump

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The front-page cover of the New York Daily News on Jan. 13, 2018 follows up coverage below by the Wall Street Journal of President Trump and the porn actress Stormy Daniels, above right. The cover also refers to Trump’s vulgar remarks on immigrants.

Wall Street Journal, Trump Lawyer Arranged $130,000 Payment for Adult-Film Star’s Silence, Michael Rothfeld and Joe Palazzolo, Jan. 12, 2018. Agreement just before election required woman to keep quiet about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump in 2006, people familiar with the matter say.

michael cohen 7 14 2015 cnnA lawyer for President Donald Trump arranged a $130,000 payment to a former adult-film star a month before the 2016 election as part of an agreement that precluded her from publicly discussing an alleged sexual encounter with Mr. Trump, according to people familiar with the matter.

Michael Cohen (shown in a file photo), who spent nearly a decade as a top attorney for the Trump Organization, arranged payment to the woman, Stephanie Clifford, in October, 2016 after her lawyer negotiated the nondisclosure agreement with Mr. Cohen, these people said.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Donald Trump propositioned three different porn actresses for extramarital sex in the same weekend, Bill Palmer, Jan. 12, 2018. Earlier today, the Wall Street Journal reported that Donald Trump had consensual sex with porn actress Stormy Daniels at a Lake Tahoe event in 2006, and that he later paid her during the election to keep it quiet. Another porn actress, Jessica Drake, previously accused Trump of inappropriately touching her and unsuccessfully offering her $10,000 for sex during that same event. Now a third porn actress says Trump propositioned her for sex during that same weekend.

Alana Evans is confirming to the Daily Beast that Trump and Daniels had sex during that lake Tahoe event. How does she know? She was also at the event, and they called her on the phone and asked her to join them for a threesome (link). Evans declined the offer. She says that she spoke with Daniels the next day, and Daniels confirmed that sexual activity did take place between them. This stands in direct contrast to the statement produced by Trump’s attorney today, supposedly written and signed by Daniels, which disputes that any of it occurred.

Daily Beast, Porn Star: Donald Trump and Stormy Daniels Invited Me to Their Hotel Room, Marlow Stern and Aurora Snow, Jan. 12, 2018. ‘I ended up with Donald in his hotel room. Picture him chasing me around his hotel room in his tighty-whities,’ Stormy Daniels told fellow porn star.

The Daily Beast had also been in protracted talks with Daniels about arranging an interview after three sources — including fellow porn star Alana Evans — told The Daily Beast that Daniels and Trump were involved. She ultimately backed out on Nov. 3, just five days before the 2016 election.

djt official SmallCohen on Friday did not address the alleged payout to Daniels but provided the following statement to The Daily Beast: “These rumors have circulated time and again since 2011. President Trump once again vehemently denies any such occurrence as has Ms. Daniels.” The attorney also provided a letter dated Jan. 10, 2018, allegedly signed by Daniels, that denied any “sexual and/or romantic affair” with Trump or the receipt of any “hush money” from Trump.

Business Insider, Steve Bannon suggests Trump’s lawyer ‘took care’ of ‘a hundred’ women during the presidential campaign, Eliza Relman, Jan. 12, 2018. Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s former top strategist, alleged in journalist Michael Wolff’s tell-all book (Fire and Fury) about the Trump White House that the president’s longtime attorney, Marc Kasowitz, “took care” of 100 women during the presidential campaign.

marc kasowitz color portrait“Look, Kasowitz has known [Trump] for twenty-five years. Kasowitz has gotten him out of all kinds of jams,” Bannon reportedly said. “Kasowitz on the campaign – what did we have, a hundred women? Kasowitz [shown below at left] took care of all of them.”

This apparently off-hand remark may take on new significance after The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that another lawyer for the president, Michael Cohen, sent $130,000 to a porn star just weeks before the 2016 presidential election to keep her silent about an alleged 2006 sexual encounter with Trump.

Media: Facebook Plans Big Change

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New York Times, Zuckerberg Says Revamped Facebook Puts Friends First, Mike Isaac, Jan. 12, 2018 (print edition). Facebook has introduced sweeping changes to the kinds of posts, videos and photos that its more than two billion members will see most often, saying on Thursday that it would prioritize what their friends and family share and comment on while de-emphasizing content from publishers and brands.

facebook logoThe shift is the most significant overhaul in years to Facebook’s News Feed, the cascading screen of content that people see when they log into the social network. Over the next few weeks, users will begin seeing fewer viral videos and news articles shared by media companies. Instead, Facebook will highlight posts that friends have interacted with — for example, a photo of your dog or a status update that many of them have commented on or liked.

mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wThe changes are intended to maximize the amount of content with “meaningful interaction” that people consume on Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg (shown in a file photo), the company’s chief executive, said in an interview. Facebook, he said, had closely studied what kinds of posts had stressed or harmed users. The social network wants to reduce what Mr. Zuckerberg called “passive content” — videos and articles that ask little more of the viewer than to sit back and watch or read — so that users’ time on the site was well spent.

Thursday’s changes raise questions of whether people may end up seeing more content that reinforces their own ideologies if they end up frequently interacting with posts and videos that reflect the similar views of their friends or family.

Mark Zuckerberg told The Times that the emphasis will be on “meaningful interaction” for Facebook’s two billion users, who will see less content from publishers and brands and more posts shared by friends and family.

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Washington Post, Incendiary comments draw swift condemnation globally, Paul Schemm and Eli Rosenberg​, Jan. 12, 2018. A United Nations human rights spokesman was uncharacteristically blunt, describing President Trump’s remarks as “racist.”

Trump Health Report

New York Times, Trump Is in ‘Excellent Health,’ Doctor Says After Exam, Michael D. Shear and Lawrence K. Altman, M.D., Jan. 12, 2018. The Trump White House&action=click&contentCollection=Politics&module=Collection&region=Marginalia&src=me&version=newsevent&pgtype=article President Trump is in excellent health, his doctor said on Friday after his first comprehensive physical exam since he was elected. The brief statement did not include any basic information about Mr. Trump’s health, including his weight, blood pressure or cholesterol levels. The president’s doctors did not indicate what tests they performed during the exam or whether Mr. Trump, 71, was taking medications. But the White House has promised that information about those topics will be disclosed on Tuesday.

Media: Media Coverage Of Alleged Trump Scandals

rachel maddow leaning inMSNBC / Rachel Maddow Show, Trump lawyer paid porn star Stormy Daniels to hide affair: WSJ, Rachel Maddow, Jan. 12, 2018 (4:28 mins.) Michael Rothfeld, financial investigations reporter for The Wall Street Journal, talks with Rachel Maddow (shown at right) about his reporting that Donald Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about a sexual affair she’d had with Donald Trump.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Donald Trump tried to hire a convicted criminal in newly unearthed plot against President Obama, Bill Palmer, Jan. 12, 2018. In the wake of his Haiti scandal, his porn star scandal, and his Russia scandal, can Donald Trump sink any lower this week?

The answer is a definitive yes. It turns out while Trump was attempting to smear President Obama in racist fashion, he tried to hire a convicted criminal to steal Obama’s records. No really, this is straight out of Watergate, except it’s racist, and it’s even more stupid. James O’Keefe, a conservative propagandist best known for releasing doctored videos that have smeared everything from ACORN to Planned Parenthood, now admits that Trump tried to hire him to steal Obama’s college records in 2013, according to CNN (link ).

Trump was hoping that the transcripts would prove that Obama didn’t really attend Columbia University, which he believed would help validate his racist claim that Obama was secretly born in Kenya and has falsified much of his life.

cnn logoCNN, James O’Keefe says Trump asked him to go on birther-linked mission, Oliver Darcy, Jan. 12, 2018. Donald Trump in 2013 asked James O’Keefe, the controversial conservative filmmaker, if he could “get inside” Columbia University and obtain President Obama’s sealed college records, according to a passage in O’Keefe’s forthcoming book, a copy of which was reviewed by CNN.

bo deskwork 10 18 13O’Keefe, a guerrilla filmmaker whom critics have decried for his tactics and who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for entering federal property in 2010 under false pretenses, writes in “American Pravda: My Fight for Truth in the Era of Fake News” that during a meeting in New York City Trump complimented his ACORN sting videos (“That pimp and hooker thing you did, wow!”). But, O’Keefe writes, Trump “was a man with a plan” and “did not agree to this meeting to sing my praises.”

According to O’Keefe, Trump “suspected Obama (shown at work in the White House in 2013) had presented himself as a foreign student on application materials to ease his way into New York’s Columbia University, maybe even Harvard too, and perhaps picked up a few scholarships along the way.”

O’Keefe wrote that during the 2013 meeting Trump suggested O’Keefe infiltrate Columbia and obtain the sealed records: “‘Nobody else can get this information,'” O’Keefe quoted Trump as saying. “‘Do you think you could get inside Columbia?'”

O’Keefe said he explained to Trump that the request did not fall into his “line of work,” and that he considered himself and his colleagues to be journalists, not “private eyes.”  But that didn’t seem to deter Trump. At the end of the meeting, O’Keefe wrote, “Trump shook my hand, encouraged me to keep up the good work, and half-whispered, ‘Do Columbia.'”

james okeefe american pravdaThe Daily Caller was the first to report on this part of O’Keefe’s book (American Pravda: My Fight for Truth in the Era of Fake News). In the book, O’Keefe writes that the meeting was arranged by Republican political operative Sam Nunberg. Reached by phone, Nunberg recalled the meeting and confirmed he set it up. He said Trump was impressed with O’Keefe’s work and, among other things, the number of retweets O’Keefe would get on Twitter.

Media: More #MeToo Developments

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Washington Post, Fox drops Patty Hearst biopic after she blasts the Jeffrey Toobin book it was based on, Travis M. Andrews, Jan. 12, 2018. Twentieth Century Fox said Thursday that it’s canceling an upcoming biopic of newspaper heiress Patty Hearst, a film based on a book by Jeffrey Toobin that chronicles Hearst’s 1974 kidnapping and eventual conviction for bank robbery.

jeffrey toobinAlthough the studio did not explain why the film had been pulled, the announcement came just hours after Hearst released a lengthy statement criticizing Toobin’s book, American Heiress, as factually incorrect and for “romanticizing my rape and torture.” Hearst, now 63, also said she was “saddened and appalled” that Fox “agreed to finance and produce a movie based on Toobin’s book.”

Toobin (shown in a file photo, a New Yorker magazine staff writer who also serves as the senior legal analyst for CNN, has not responded to Hearst’s statements. A CNN documentary, also based on Toobin’s book, is set to air on Feb. 11.

patty hearst mugHearst, the granddaughter of media mogul William Randolph Hearst, was kidnapped by a radical group that called itself the Symbionese Liberation Army when she was 19 years old. The group publicly claimed that it radicalized her and she was later photographed participating in a bank robbery while carrying an assault rifle. Shown at left in a mugshot, she served nearly two years of a seven-year prison sentence before President Jimmy Carter commuted the sentence. President Bill Clinton eventually granted her a full pardon.

In releasing her statement critical of Toobin to Deadline on Thursday, she said she was inspired to speak out after hearing the “incredibly moving testimony” of women at Sunday’s Golden Globes, echoing the #MeToo movement.

“It’s no secret that I was abducted, raped, and tortured at 19,” she said. “What followed was a series of events that were the direct result of a child having been destroyed both inside and out.” She pointed out that she’s given many interviews over the years “to discuss my ordeal” but that “each time I do, it puts me back in the nightmare which, as you might imagine, is deeply painful. This is why for the last several years, I have declined to answer any more questions.”

“It was offensive to me that a man would have the audacity to tell a woman that he would have the last word on her trauma,” said Hearst, who described her kidnapping experience in a 1981 memoir, which she expanded in 1988. “This project is attempting to rewrite history and directly flies in the face of the present #MeToo movement where so much progress is being made in regard to listening, and providing a voice, to those who have suffered abuse,” she said in her statement.

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New York Times, Wall St. Executive’s Downfall Was Years in the Making, Kate Kelly and Andrew Ross Sorkin, Jan. 12, 2018 (print edition). A female reporter accused Harold E. Ford Jr., a former congressman, of inappropriate behavior. Morgan Stanley found no proof but fired him. Why? It depends on whom you ask.

harold ford jr oLate last year, Morgan Stanley got a tip: Reporters were asking about allegations that a high-profile executive, the former congressman Ford (shown while representing a Memphis-areaa district in Tennessee as a Democrat), had harassed a female journalist.

Morgan Stanley conducted a quick investigation, interviewing the accuser and Mr. Ford, who denied the allegations. According to Morgan Stanley officials briefed on the internal process, the Wall Street bank concluded that it was a he-said, she-said situation and didn’t find proof of harassment.

Then Morgan Stanley fired Mr. Ford. Why?

Right Wing Watch /People for the American Way, Mark Taylor Claims Trump Will Unleash A Wave Of Arrests Of Satanic Pedophiles In February, Kyle Mantyla, Jan. 12, 2018. Earlier this week, self-proclaimed “firefighter prophet” and right-wing conspiracy theorist Mark Taylor appeared on the “Faithtalk” program, where he predicted that President Trump has already taken the steps necessary to prepare for a wave of arrests of thousands of satanic pedophiles in the month of February.

Taylor called on “the army of God” to pray that there would be no civil unrest “when they start rounding up these people” so that “divine justice will be served.”

“They’re fixing to, I believe, drop the hammer on a lot of these people and they’re going to start rounding these guys up,” Taylor said. “I think a lot of this stuff, from what I’m hearing in the natural or seeing in the natural—like the military presence, stuff like that—a lot of this stuff is going to start to go down in the month of February. So we’re only a couple of weeks away from when the big stuff might begin to happen. If they do pick the month of February to start rounding people up, that is usually the coldest month of the year for the entire country, so that will keep a lot of people off the streets, if you know what I mean.”

Global News: More U.S. Sanctions For Iran

iran flag mapWashington Post, U.S. keeps Iran nuclear deal alive for now but issues new sanctions, Anne Gearan and Carol Morello, Jan. 12, 2018.  President Trump retained the agreement that he detests by announcing that he would waive sanctions for the third time but said he will not repeat the reprieve unless the deal is changed to permanently block Iran’s potential pathway to building nuclear weapons.

Global News: Putin Condems Drone Attack On Russian Base

TASS, Putin slams drone attack on Russian base in Syria as provocation, Staff report, Jan. 11, 2018. These provocations are aimed at destroying previous agreements, the Russian president said. he UAV attack on the Russian base in Syria was a provocation aimed at destroying previous agreements, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a meeting with heads of the country’s printed media and news agencies.

JFK Records Disclosures

JFK Facts.org, Four key JFK files that are still censored, Jefferson Morley, Jan. 12, 2018. In November I published a piece on the top five JFK files that are still being hidden by the government. Since the one of them, the transcript of James Angleton’s testimony to the Church Committee in September 1975, has been released.

Four other key JFK documents have been released late last year–but with extensive redactions. They are the files of four officers involved in the surveillance of Lee Harvey Oswald between 1959 and 1963. 

1. Birch O’Neal: Virtually unknown in the vast literature of JFK’s assassination, O’Neal played a key role in the CIA’s monitoring of Oswald. As an aide to James J. Angleton, O’Neal ran a secretive office known as the Special Investigations Group, which opened the agency’s first file on Oswald in October 1959 (a story I tell in my new biography of Angleton, The Ghost).

2. David Phillips: A decorated undercover officer, Phillips served as chief of Cuba operations in Mexico City in 1963. He supervised the surveillance of the Cuban Consulate in the Mexican capital, which Oswald visited six weeks before JFK was assassinated.His personnel files containing 602 pages of material were released November 3, but 60 percent of those pages are fully or partially redacted. Only 227 pages are open to the public.

3. Ann Goodpasture: The senior woman in the Mexico City station in 1963, Goodpasture worked closely with Phillips and coordinated the station’s audio and photo surveillance operations during Oswald’s visit to Mexico City in September 1963. Of the 288 pages of material in the Goodpasture file, 95 pages (33 percent) contain some redactions, and 18 pages (6 percent) remain completely secret.

4. George Joannides, CIA officer: George Joannides: A psychological warfare operations officer who worked in Miami and New Orleans, Joannides handled the anti-Castro Cuban Student Directorate, which was funded by the CIA under the code name AMSPELL.

Jan. 11

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The Daily Beast, Senators Reach Deal to Save Dreamers and Wall, Andrew Desiderio and Sam Stein, Jan. 11, 2018. The final agreement has wins for each side, including funding for a physical structure on the border. But the White House has yet to sign on. Congressional negotiators finalized an immigration deal on Thursday that would codify legal protections for undocumented minors while giving President Donald Trump some tangible victories of his own.

The deal, which was forged in the Senate, still faces major hurdles; chief among them a healthy skepticism from conservatives — including some officials in the White House — and a difficult path to passage in the House. But one lawmaker told the Daily Beast that there was a “growing sense of optimism” that negotiators had crafted an agreement that could, at a minimum, pass the Senate and put pressure on the House to act.

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New York Times, House Republicans Issue a Hard-Line Plan on Immigration, Thomas Kaplan and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Jan. 11, 2018 (print edition). The measure would cut the number of legal immigrants entering the U.S., curtail the hiring of illegal workers and allow the detention of minors arrested at the border with their parents.

Hospital Patient Dumping Scandal In Baltimore

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Washington Post, Social media fury follows video of dazed woman put out in cold by Baltimore hospital, John Woodrow Cox, Theresa Vargas and Justin Wm. Moyer, Jan. 11, 2018. The man hurried up the Baltimore sidewalk with a camera in his hand as four black-clad hospital security guards walked toward him, then past him. One of them was pushing an empty wheelchair.

“So wait, y’all just going to leave this lady out here with no clothes on?” said Imamu Baraka, referring to a dazed woman wearing only a thin hospital gown whom they had left alone at a bus stop Tuesday night in mid-30s temperatures. Her face appeared bloody, her eyes empty.

It was the latest incident of “patient dumping,” which has sparked outrage around the country — and one that, according to an expert, probably violated a 1986 federal law that mandates hospitals release those in their care into a safe environment.

“This kind of behavior is, I think, both illegal and I’m sure immoral,” said Arthur L. Caplan, founding head of the division of medical ethics at the New York University School of Medicine. “You don’t just throw someone out into the street who is impaired and may have injuries. You try to get them to the best place possible, and that’s not the bench in front of the hospital.”

Probes Of Trump

stephen bannon cropped npc 2013Daily Beast, Steve Bannon Lawyers Up… as Russia Investigators Get Ready to Pounce, Betsy Woodruff, Lachlan Markay and Asawin Suebsaeng, Jan. 11, 2018. Trump’s former chief strategist has largely avoided the spotlight of the Russia probe — until now.

Steve Bannon (shown in a file photo) is lawyering up as he gets ready to face investigators looking into the Trump-Russia nexus. The Daily Beast has learned that the former top White House strategist has retained Bill Burck, of the firm Quinn Emanuel.

Two sources tell us Burck is helping Bannon prepare for an interview with the House intelligence committee, which is currently scheduled for next week. Sources also said Bannon plans to “fully cooperate” with investigators. Burck also represents White House Counsel Don McGahn and former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus for the purposes of the Russia probe, as Law360 reported last September.

It is not unheard of for one attorney to represent more than one client on the same matter. But the fact that several key players with Trump administration ties have the same lawyer could irk investigators.

“In general, prosecutors don’t like it when the same attorney represents multiple people who are subjects — or more — because it looks like they’re controlling the story,” said Ken White, a former federal prosecutor who specializes in First Amendment issues, speaking of investigators’ targets.

djt bannon nypost et tu bannon jan 4 2018Palmer Report, Opinion: Steve Bannon is cutting a deal with Robert Mueller, Bill Palmer, Jan. 11, 2018. After one of the worst weeks that anyone in politics has ever had, Steve Bannon suddenly has nothing left to lose. His billionaire backer, his Breitbart site, and his satellite radio gig are all suddenly gone, thanks to his spat with his former pal Donald Trump. What is surprising is that, as given away by a move he made today, he’s already decided he’s cutting a deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Bannon hired an attorney today to represent him in the Trump-Russia scandal, as he prepares to be called to testify before Congress. But he didn’t just hire any attorney. He hired the same guy who also represents former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and current White House Counsel Don McGahn in the scandal, according to the Daily Beast (Steve Bannon Lawyers Up). The same attorney cannot represent different people in the same criminal investigation if those clients are in any danger of having competing legal interests.

Last week we learned from the New York Times that Priebus had been taking detailed personal notes about the Trump-Russia coverup all along (link), and that he voluntarily gave those notes to Mueller months ago. This means Priebus cut a formal or informal deal to flip on Trump. By extension it means McGahn must have done the same, or else their shared attorney would have had to immediately cut one of them loose. In other words, Bannon is flipping on Trump.

Now comes the question of what all Steve Bannon has to offer. Robert Mueller is already investigating Cambridge Analytica, the Donald Trump campaign’s voter data firm. Bannon just happened to be running that company before he took over the Trump campaign.

National Anti-Trafficking Day Jan. 11 and Month January

Down With Tyranny, Welcome To Waterbury: The City That Holds Secrets That Could Bring Down Trump, Guest post by Andrew Kreig and Wayne Madsen, Jan. 11, 2018 (reprint of this week’s featured Justice Integrity Project and Wayne Madsen Report joint investigation).

national human trafficking awareness day jan 11 Custom

National Human Trafficking Awareness Day is observed annually on January 11. Beginning in 2010, by Presidential Proclamation, each January has been designated National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Following the start of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, with the help of non-government organizations, National Human Trafficking Day began and is observed annually on January 11.

U.S. Department of Defense, Human Trafficking Has No Place in DoD, Pentagon Official Says, Terri Moon Cronk, Jan. 11, 2018. Combating human trafficking is a responsibility the Defense Department takes very seriously, Anthony M. Kurta, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military personnel policy, said today. Human trafficking is modern-day slavery, he added. “It not only destroys the lives of those victimized, but also destroys countless families and poses a direct threat to the security and well-being of the entire world.”

Kurta spoke at the Pentagon Force Protection Agency’s Human Trafficking Awareness Day seminar in the Pentagon. Today is Human Trafficking Awareness Day, and January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

Those who engage in human trafficking exploit the weak and the vulnerable and capitalize on those who patronize the sex-trade industry and those involved in forced labor, Kurta said. For those reasons, DoD is committed to continuing its aggressive stance against human trafficking, he said, and will further training its personnel to expand awareness.

Inside Washington

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 Washington Post, States may impose work requirements for Medicaid, Trump administration says, Amy Goldstein​, Jan. 11, 2018. The guidance opens the door for states to deny Medicaid benefits to people unless they have jobs or participate in work-related activities or “community engagement.” The policy comes as 10 states are waiting for federal permission to add work requirements for the program.

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Washington Post, Trump upends debate over FISA with contradictory tweets about surveillance program, Karoun Demirjian and Josh Dawsey, Jan. 11, 2018. The White House has pushed for Congress to reauthorize the spying powers, but the president sent mixed signals after seeing a segment on Fox News. The tweets complicated what was already a difficult road for supporters of the measure.

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nsa official logoNew York Times, House Rejects Limits on Surveillance After Trump Roils Debate, Eileen Sullivan, Nicholas Fandos and Charlie Savage, Jan. 11, 2018. The House on Thursday voted against significant new limits on a surveillance law after President Trump muddled his administration’s position on the issue.

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Washington Post, Decision to exempt Florida from offshore drilling sparks a bipartisan uproar, David Weigel and John Wagner, Jan. 11, 2018. epa clean water logoThe carve-out for Florida, which came after a meeting between Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), generated a torrent of ridicule and anger from governors and senators in other coastal states. It also created new doubts about the fate of the entire offshore drilling decision.

Jobs, Economy, Wages

usa today logoUSA Today, Sam’s Club closing dozens of stores; some being converted to distribution centers, Charisse Jones, Jan. 11, 2018.  Walmart has announced it is raising its starting hourly wage from $9 to $11 and Sam’s Club is set to close a series of clubs across the United States. Sam’s Club, the membership warehouse owned by retail giant Walmart, is shutting down or converting 63 stores. The company attributed the decision to the need to better fulfill online orders, less population growth than expected in some markets and too many locations given demand in others.

The Sam’s Club closures were confirmed the same day that Walmart said it would lift the hourly minimum wage in the U.S. to $11 and give out bonuses of up to $1,000. Of the Sam’s Club locations, about 50 will be going out of business for good. Roughly 10 of those locations are closing their doors as of Thursday, Jan. 11, while the remainder will be shuttered over the next three to four weeks.

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Washington Post, Walmart cites tax plan as it raises starting hourly wage to $11, expands parental leave and promises bonuses for some workers, Abha Bhattarai​, Jan. 11, 2018.The country’s largest employer, which has more than 1 million hourly workers, says the changes would take place beginning in February. The pay hikes will apply to all of the retailer’s hourly workers in the United States, including those at Sam’s Club stores.

Politics Around the Nation: North Dakota

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Washington Post, GOP, Trump suffer recruiting setback as N.D. Rep. Kevin Cramer will not run for Senate, Sean Sullivan and Josh Dawsey, Jan. 11, 2018. The Republican effort to enlist formidable candidates for the ­Senate uffered another setback Thursday when Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) announced that he will not run despite President Trump’s personal appeals for him to challenge Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp in one of the year’s top battlegrounds.

Cramer’s decision to instead seek reelection in the House, which he announced in a radio interview, followed other recruiting letdowns for Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in deeply conservative states where Republicans are hoping to unseat Democratic senators and pad their 51-49 majority.

Media Commentary on Trump

joe scarborough headshotThe Hill, Scarborough slams ‘entire mainstream media’ for being ‘reflexively anti-Trump,’ Joe Concha, Jan. 11, 2018. MSNBC “Morning Joe” co-host Joe Scarborough (shown at left) slammed “the entire mainstream media” for “being anti-Trump on all things” during an upcoming podcast interview with Katie Couric that was previewed by The Hollywood Reporter.

“The entire mainstream media, we are reflexively anti-Trump on all things,” Scarborough told Couric, who launched her podcast with co-host Brian Goldsmith in 2017. “We’re over our skis and it’s going to hurt us,” “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski added.

The perspective from Scarborough and Brzezinski comes after they have hammered Trump and his family for the past 20 months on regular basis, particularly on a personal level.

usa today logoUSA Today, Opinion: Bannon’s brutal ouster from Trump and Breitbart circles should frighten Americans, Cheri Jacobus, Jan. 11, 2018. Conservative institutions have embraced Bannon’s political slaughter not for his past sins but because he criticized the president. That’s chilling.

steve bannon cover timeSteve Bannon — the loathed architect of President Trump’s alt-right hate machine, Breitbart lies, racism, misogyny and Twitter thug troll factory — is banished to political Siberia. It was swift and decisive.

Bannon openly campaigned to tear down American institutions, the Republican Party and the government. But when he dared to tell the truth, when confirmation from an insider could help save the country from the danger, Bannon was cut out like a member of Tony Soprano’s “family” who turned state’s evidence.

#MeToo, #Times Up Sex Scandals

eric greitens mike pence

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, a first-term Republican, is shown meeting Vice President Mike Pence in a file photo

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Washington Post,  Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens admits extramarital affair but denies reports he blackmailed woman with nude photo, Fred Barbash, Jan. 11, 2018. Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R), responding to media reports, acknowledged Wednesday night that he was unfaithful to his wife “a few years ago” before being elected.

But his lawyer denied sensational allegations aired by a local TV station (Blackmail alleged as Governor Greitens admits to extramarital affair) that Greitens threatened to distribute naked photos he took of the woman with whom he was having a relationship if she ever said anything about it.

The woman, who has not been named publicly, was Greitens’s hair stylist, according to media reports confirmed by the Washington Post with a source familiar with the situation.

A joint statement posted Wednesday night by Greitens and his wife, Sheena, said in part that “a few years ago…there was a time when he was unfaithful in our marriage. This was a deeply personal mistake. Eric took responsibility, and we dealt with this together honestly and privately.”

eric greitens oGreitens, 44 (shown at right), is a relatively new star in the Republican Party who boasts an extraordinary résumé: Former Navy SEAL and Lt. Commander, attended Duke University on scholarship; Rhodes scholar at Oxford; PhD, author and White House Fellow during the administration of President George W. Bush.

He is the author of Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life and, according to a profile in St. Louis Magazine, has had presidential aspirations since he was a young man. His wife, Sheena Chestnut Greitens, is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Missouri, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Center for East Asian Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens and First Lady Sheena Greitens at 2017 Inaugural Ball (Missouri National Guard Photo)

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens and First Lady Sheena Greitens at 2017 Inaugural Ball (Missouri National Guard Photo)

Legal Schnauzer, Eric Greitens, Missouri’s “Navy Seal” Republican governor, admits to an extramarital affair, as blackmail allegation hangs over his national political aspirations, Roger Shuler, Jan. 11, 2018. How bad could this get for Eric Greitens, who rose to high office mainly because his bio includes a stint as a Navy Seal? Well, the admitted affair likely will stick a fork in any “pro family” credentials he might have had. And the affair story includes allegations of blackmail that could prove especially troubling for Greitens.

Is the blackmail claim false? There seems to be quite a bit of doubt about that. From stltoday.com:

eric greitens oWhen questioned by News 4 (Blackmail alleged as Governor Greitens admits to extramarital affair,), Greitens (shown in an official photo) did not address the issue of the photograph but the Governor and his wife did release the following statement:

“A few years ago, before Eric was elected Governor, there was a time when he was unfaithful in our marriage. This was a deeply personal mistake. Eric took responsibility, and we dealt with this together honestly and privately. While we never would have wished for this pain in our marriage, or the pain that this has caused others, with God’s mercy Sheena has forgiven and we have emerged stronger. We understand that there will be some people who cannot forgive – but for those who can find it in your heart, Eric asks for your forgiveness, and we are grateful for your love, your compassion, and your prayers.”

James Franco (screenshot from CBS appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Jan. 10, 2018)

James Franco (appearance on CBS The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Jan. 10, 2018)

Los Angeles Times, Five women accuse actor James Franco of inappropriate or sexually exploitative behavior, Daniel Miller and Amy Kaufman, Jan. 11, 2018. It should have been a pure moment of triumph for James Franco. He collected one of Hollywood’s top prizes at the Golden Globe Awards on Sunday, validating an untraditional career in which he’s been a bankable leading man, Ivy League academic and eccentric auteur.

But as he stood on the ballroom stage, some were paying more attention to the Time’s Up pin on his lapel than the gold statue he picked up for his turn in “The Disaster Artist.”

It “was like a slap in my face,” said Sarah Tither-Kaplan, a former acting student at the film school Franco founded who went on to appear in several of his productions.

Tither-Kaplan is one of five women who, in interviews with The Times, accused Franco, 39, of behavior they found to be inappropriate or sexually exploitative. Four were his students, and another said he was her mentor.

In some cases, they said they believed Franco could offer them career advancement, and acquiesced to his wishes even when they were uncomfortable. She told The Times that in a nude orgy scene she filmed with Franco and several women three years ago, he removed protective plastic guards covering other actresses’ vaginas while simulating oral sex on them.

Two other student actresses also recounted negative on-set experiences. Both said Franco became angry when no women, while at the shoot, would agree to be topless.

Franco’s attorney, Michael Plonsker, disputed all of the women’s allegations and directed The Times to Franco’s comments Tuesday night on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.”

“Look, in my life I pride myself on taking responsibility for things that I have done,” he told Colbert. “I have to do that to maintain my well being. The things that I heard that were on Twitter are not accurate. But I completely support people coming out and being able to have a voice because they didn’t have a voice for so long. So I don’t want to shut them down in any way.”

“If I have done something wrong,” he added, “I will fix it — I have to.”

The Hill, Washington Post suspends reporter for ‘inappropriate workplace conduct,’ John Bowden, Jan. 11, 2018. Washington Post reporter Joel Achenbach has been suspended for 90 days over “inappropriate workplace conduct,” according to a Post report. In his statement to the Post reporter, Achenbach, a science and politics reporter, admitted to the misconduct but did not specify the nature of the claims made against him, only confirming that “women” were the victims.

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New York Times, Storm Grows Over ‘Media Men’ List as Creator Outs Herself, Jacyln Peiser, Jan. 11, 2018 (print edition).  Harper’s found itself under heavy pressure to conceal the identity of the creator of a list of men in the media industry accused of sexual harassment. Then the creator herself came forward.

Down With Tyranny, Welcome To Waterbury: The City That Holds Secrets That Could Bring Down Trump, Guest Post by Andrew Kreig and Wayne Madsen, Jan. 11, 2018 (republished).

washington post logoWashington Post, Two face life in prison for sex trafficking teenage girls, Rachel Weiner, Jan. 11, 2018. Ivan Williams and Dennis Davis used the proceeds from prostitution to start rap careers, prosecutors said.Two men face up to life in prison when they are sentenced in April for trafficking teenage prostitutes across the D.C. area.

Ivan Williams, 28, and Dennis Davis, 26, were found guilty by a jury in Alexandria federal court Wednesday evening. Prosecutors said the men used the proceeds from prostitution to fund their dreams of rap stardom.

Several former prostitutes testified against the two men, including two women who pleaded guilty to helping traffic minors. One, Davis’s ex-girlfriend, had worked for him as a prostitute when she was underage. When he went to prison for that crime, she had his name tattooed on her hip. She testified against him in this case, she said, because he had attacked her younger brother.

Fortune, Elon Musk Says He Accidentally Attended a Silicon Valley ‘Sex Party.’ But He Didn’t See Any Sex, Abigail Abrams, Jan. 11, 2018. Even tech superstars sometimes get confused. It turns out Elon Musk unwittingly attended a now-infamous sex party held last summer at a venture capitalist’s Silicon Valley home. The event in question was mentioned in a Vanity Fair excerpt from journalist Emily Chang’s upcoming book Brotopia about the lavish and intense culture of Silicon Valley. The June 2017 party allegedly featured open drug use and public sexual behavior, according to the excerpt.

Media: CIA Whistleblower Sterling Moved To Halfway House

cia logoReporters Without Borders (RSF), RSF hails the upcoming release of CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling from prison to a halfway house on January 16, ahead of the original end date of his 3.5 year prison sentence on June 14, 2018, Staff report, Jan. 11, 2018.  Jeffrey Sterling has spent the last 2.5 years in a Colorado prison after he was convicted in 2015 of seven counts of espionage by a district court in Eastern Virginia for simply being in communication with a reporter.

jeffrey sterling headSterling (shown at left) was accused of offering New York Times journalist James Risen classified national defense information regarding Operation Merlin, a top-secret CIA operation that targeted Iran’s nuclear program which Risen described in his book, State of War.

During Sterling’s trial, the Department of Justice was unable to present any direct evidence proving that he divulged classified information to Risen. They relied on circumstantial evidence — emails and telephone conversations — to try to make a case to a jury who would likely favor his conviction.

Because he utilized proper channels and informed the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence of his concern for the safety of the American people, RSF considers Sterling to be a whistleblower and has been supporting his case.

Global News: Syria

SouthFront, Syrian Army Launches Final Push To Capture Abu al-Duhur, Staff report, Jan. 11, 2017. On Jan. 11, the Tiger Forces, the Syrian Army (SAA) and the National Defense Forces (NDF) launched a final push to recapture the strategic Abu al-Duhur Airbase from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in southern Idlib.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) released 400 former ISIS fighters a few weeks only after they had been captured, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported on Jan. 10. The SHOR added that 120 released ISIS members then joined the ranks of the SDF. Previously, the SDF released 75 former ISIS members on May 8, 2017 and 86 on Nov. 8, 2017.

Jan. 10

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robert mueller full face fileNew York Times, Trump Sidesteps Question on Mueller Interview, Julie Hirscheld Davis and Nicholas Fandos, Jan. 10, 2018. President Trump declined to commit to being interviewed by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III (shown at right), investigating whether his campaign colluded with Russia to sway the 2016 election.“I’ll speak to attorneys,” Mr. Trump told reporters, backing away from a promise he made last year. Related Story: New York Times, Named in Dossier, Trump’s Lawyer Files Two Lawsuits, Jan. 10, 2018.

Immigration News

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ICE logoNew York Times, DACA Program Must Stay in Place for Now, Judge Says, Michael D. Shear, Jan. 10, 2018 (print edition).  In the middle of an intense political fight over the program that shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation, a federal judge ordered that the Trump administration maintain it. 

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sarah huckabee sanders screenshotNew York Times, White House Calls Ruling ‘Outrageous,’ Eileen Sullivan, Jan. 10, 2018. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary (shown at right), said the fate of the program for young immigrants should be addressed by Congress.

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Washington Post, Democrats split over whether to force a shutdown over ‘dreamers,’ other issues, Mike DeBonis, Erica Werner and Ed O’Keefe​, Jan. 10, 2018. The party’s leaders face an uncomfortable question: Are they willing to force a government shutdown to extract political victories — a hardball tactic for which they have long blasted Republicans?

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New York Times, Immigration Agents Raid 7-Eleven Stores in 26 States; 21 Held, Patricia Mazzei, Jan. 10, 2018. Federal immigration agents visited 98 franchises across the country, arresting undocumented workers and demanding paperwork from managers.

Trump Seeks Crackdown On Media With State Libel Laws

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New York Times, Trump Says Again He’ll ‘Take a Strong Look’ at Libel Laws, Michael D. Grynbaum, Jan. 10, 2018.  President Trump called current libel laws a “sham and a disgrace” and said he wanted to make it easier for people to sue news organizations and publishers for defamation.

Political News

TPM, Trump’s Scattershot Immigration Remarks Leave Congress Reeling, Alice Ollstein, Jan. 10, 2018. Many of the more than two dozen lawmakers who attended Tuesday’s immigration meeting returned to Capitol Hill touting “progress” toward an agreement, but appeared to disagree on every aspect of the plan under discussion.

chuck schumer dmcaMost pressing, with government funding expiring in less than two weeks, is the question of whether an immigration deal will be part of the next spending bill.

“We continue to believe and insist that it be in this bill,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY, above left) told reporters. Moments before, at the very same podium, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) took the opposite position: “It will not be a part of any overall spending agreement.” . 

darrell issa flickrRoll Call, Darrell Issa Retiring, Opening Up Competitive House Seat, Bridget Bowman, Jan. 10, 2018. Issa (shown in a file photo via Flickr) was one of the most vulnerable incumbents in 2018, He was first elected in 2000 and previously chaired the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The California Republican narrowly won re-election in 2016, and Hillary Clinton carried his district by 8 points.

Probe Of Trump

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Washington Post, ‘Not a fabrication’: Six times the firm behind the Russia dossier contradicted Trump’s claims, Amber Phillips, Jan. 10, 2018 (print edition). The president’s characterization of the dossier as politically motivated is wrong, according to the co-founder of Fusion GPS. Read the full transcript of Glenn Simpson’s Senate testimony (Aug. 22, 2017).

#MeToo, #Times Up Scandals

eric greitens oKMOV-TV (St. Louis), Blackmail alleged as Governor Greitens admits to extramarital affair, Laura Trager and John O’Sullivan, Jan. 10, 2018. Governor Eric Greitens (shown at right) on Wednesday night confirmed to News 4 he had an extramarital affair, an admission a months-long News 4 investigation prompted.

In a recording obtained by News 4, a woman says she had a sexual encounter with Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens and that he tried to blackmail her to keep the encounter quiet.

The details were provided to News 4 by the woman’s ex-husband, claiming the sexual relationship happened between his now ex-wife and Greitens in March 2015. News 4 is not naming the woman and she has not made an on-the-record comment about the story.

According to the ex-husband, the recording was made just days after Greitens’ and the woman’s first sexual encounter. And also that Greitens took a photograph during the encounter to use as “blackmail” according to the ex-husband.

Her now ex-husband said that statement upset him.

“He took a picture of my wife naked as blackmail. There is no worse person,” the ex-husband told News 4. And that is still what upsets him. He told News 4, “I think it’s as bad as it gets, It’s as bad as it gets when someone takes advantage of something.”

In the recorded phone conversation, the woman takes on some of the blame and says that Greitens apologized after the encounter — and told her he had deleted the picture.

During his campaign and while serving in his first year in office as Missouri’s Governor, Eric Greitens has billed himself a family man. During his campaign announcement, he stated: “I’m Eric Greitens, I’m a Navy SEAL, native Missourian and most importantly, a proud husband and father.”

The Hill, Dems to invite sexual assault survivors as guests to Trump’s State of the Union: report, Brandon Carter, Jan. 10, 2018. Some House Democrats are planning to invite sexual assault survivors as their guests to President Trump’s first State of the Union address, according to a new report.

An aide to Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) told NBC News that some Democrats are planning the invitations to bring awareness to the issue. “Some members will be bringing survivors of sexual assault and advocates as their guests,” the aide told NBC News.

jackie speier abcThe report comes on the heels of Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), shown at right, saying Tuesday that she and other female House members are inviting lawmakers to weak black to Trump’s State of the Union in solidarity with the anti-sexual harassment “Me Too” and “Time’s Up” movements.

“This is a culture change that is sweeping the country and Congress is embracing it,” Speier told The Hill in a statement. Speier said the Democratic Women’s Working Group, which includes all of the female House members, was encouraging lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to wear black to the event, and that support is very high.

More than a dozen women came forward to publicly accuse Trump of sexual harassment during the 2016 presidential campaign. Last month, three of the women banded together for the first time to call for a congressional investigation into Trump.

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Washington Post, A pastor admitted a past ‘sexual incident’ with a teen. His congregation gave him a standing ovation, Kyle Swenson, Jan. 10, 2018. During a Jan. 7 church service, pastor Andy Savage admitted to and apologized for a “sexual incident” that occurred between him and a teenage woman in 1998.

On Dec. 1, as headlines across the country blared with news about Matt Lauer’s surprise firing from the “Today” show for sexual misconduct, a woman named Jules Woodson tapped out a short email. It ran only about 80 words but was nearly 20 years in the making. “Do you remember?” the subject line read.

When Savage failed to respond to Woodson’s December email, she took her allegations public on Jan. 5, posting a detailed account of the alleged sexual assault on a blog for abuse survivors. Evangelical circles started spinning with reports of a then-college student forcing a sexual encounter with a student. She closed with three words and a hashtag. “Well I REMEMBER,” the email said. “#me-too.”

The message landed in the inbox of Andy Savage, a pastor at Highpoint Church, an evangelical Memphis mega-congregation that draws more than 2,000 Sunday worshipers.

Jan. 9

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New York Times, Trump Appears to Endorse Path to Citizenship for Millions of Immigrants, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Jan. 9, 2018. President Trump on Tuesday appeared to endorse a sweeping immigration deal that would eventually grant millions of undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship, saying he would be willing to “take the heat” politically for an approach that many of his hard-line supporters have long viewed as unacceptable.

ICE logoThe president made the remarks during an extended meeting with congressional Republicans and Democrats who are weighing a shorter-term agreement that would extend legal status for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children. Mr. Trump has said such a deal must be accompanied by new money for a border wall and measures to limit immigrants from bringing family members into the country in the future, conditions he repeated during the meeting on Tuesday.

But in backing a broader immigration measure, Mr. Trump was giving a rare public glimpse of an impulse he has expressed privately to advisers and lawmakers — the desire to preside over a more far-reaching solution to the status of the 11 million undocumented immigrants already living and working in the United States. Such action has the potential to alienate the hard-line immigration activists who powered his political rise and helped him win the presidency, many of whom have described it as amnesty for lawbreakers.

Donald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)

Donald Trump (Defense Department file photo by Dominique Pineiro)

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Washington Post, Trump systematically alienates the Latino diaspora — from El Salvador to Puerto Rico and Mexico, James Hohmann, Jan. 9, 2018. The administration’s plan to end protected status for about 200,000 Salvadorans is the latest in a full-court press to make America less hospitable to immigrants. President Trump’s nativism may cost Republicans seats in this year’s midterms and could cause long-term damage to the GOP.

Media: Bannon Out At Breitbart After Book Comments

steve bannon michael vadon flickrbreitbart logoBreitbart, Stephen K. Bannon Steps Down from Breitbart News Network, Staff report, Jan. 9, 2018. Stephen K. Bannon has stepped down from Breitbart News Network, where he served as Executive Chairman since 2012. Bannon (shown in a Michael Vadon photo via Flickr) and Breitbart will work together on a smooth and orderly transition.

Bannon said, “I’m proud of what the Breitbart team has accomplished in so short a period of time in building out a world-class news platform.” According to Breitbart CEO Larry Solov, “Steve is a valued part of our legacy, and we will always be grateful for his contributions, and what he has helped us to accomplish.”

Trump Special Counsel Probe

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robert mueller full face fileWashington Post, Analysis: Six burning questions Mueller may want to ask Trump, Aaron Blake​, Jan. 9, 2018. With President Trump in negotiations to talk to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team (he is shown at right) as part of the Russia probe, here are a few things that badly need an explanation from the commander in chief.

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Washington Post, Ex-spy behind Trump dossier was told FBI had source inside campaign, testimony reveals, Devlin Barrett and Tom Hamburger​, Jan. 9, 2018. A transcript of a congressional interview of the founder of Fusion GPS, the firm that compiled research on candidate Donald Trump, was released by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee (shown at right)dianne feinstein.

Glenn R. Simpson urged Congress to release his testimony, and Feinstein’s move marked a shift in the cooperative relationship she has had with the committee’s Republican chairman, Sen. Charles E. Grassley.

Read the full transcript of Glenn Simpson’s Senate testimony (Aug. 22, 2017).

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Washington Post, Analysis: ‘Not a fabrication’: Six times the firm behind the dossier contradicted Trump’s claims, Amber Phillips, Jan. 9, 2018. The president’s characterization of the dossier as politically motivated is wrong, said Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson.

National Politics

Roll Call, North Carolina Congressional Districts Struck Down for 2018, Simone Pathé, Jan. 9, 2018. General Assembly has two weeks to come up with new map. The state will likely appeal the decision to the Supreme Court and ask for a stay. The Supreme Court is currently considering two other partisan gerrymandering cases, one about state legislative districts in Wisconsin and one about Maryland’s congressional map.

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joe arpaio flagWashington Post, Joe Arpaio, ex-Arizona sheriff known for hard-line views on immigration, to run for Senate, David Weigel​, Jan. 9, 2018. Arpaio, who was pardoned by President Trump last fall after being convicted of criminal contempt, plans to run in this year’s GOP primary to replace Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).

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Washington Post, Thousands of Virginians may have voted in the wrong state House district, Ted Mellnik, Reuben Fischer-Baum and Kim Soffen​, Jan. 9, 2018. About 6,000 voters may be registered in the incorrect district. The errors are largely attributed to out-of-date technology used by county registrars.

Politico, White House plans to destroy Trump election fraud commission’s voter data, Josh Gerstein, Jan. 9, 2018. The White House intends to destroy voter data collected by the election fraud commission President Donald Trump recently shut down, the Justice Department said in a court filing Tuesday night.

White House Director of Information Technology Charles Herndon said in a declaration submitted to a federal court in Washington that officials plan to erase the information, rather than transfer it to the Department of Homeland Security or the National Archives and Records Administration.Herndon also indicated that White House press secretary Sarah Sanders’ comment last week that the commission’s “preliminary findings” were being sent to DHS was inaccurate.

cbs news logoCBS News, Democratic congressman introduces “Stable Genius Act,” Rebecca Shabad, Jan. 9, 2018.  Democratic Pennsylvania Rep. Brendan Boyle is unveiling a bill called the “Stable Genius Act” that would require all presidential candidates to undergo a medical exam and publicly disclose the results before the election. Boyle’s measure would require nominees of each political party to file a report with the Federal Election Commission certifying that he or she underwent a medical exam by the Secretary of the Navy, which he said must contain the exam’s results.

Global News

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north korea flagNew York Times, North Korea Agrees to Send Athletes to Winter Olympics, Choe Sang-Hun, Jan. 9, 2018. North Korea (with flag at right) agreed on Tuesday to send athletes to February’s Winter Olympics in South Korea (whose flag is below), a symbolic breakthrough after months of escalating tensions over the North’s rapidly advancing nuclear and missile programs.

south korea flag SmallIn talks held at the border village of Panmunjom, North Korean negotiators quickly accepted South Korea’s request to send a large delegation to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, next month, according to South Korean news reports. In addition to the athletes, the North will send a cheering squad and a performance-art troupe.

The event will be the first time North Korea has participated in the Winter Games in eight years. The country has competed in every Summer Olympics since 1972, except the 1984 Games in Los Angeles and the 1988 Games in Seoul, both of which it boycotted.

Fatal California Mudsides

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Washington Post, ‘Like a World War I battlefield’: At least 13 dead as mudslides wipe away Southern California homes, Max Ufberg, Eli Rosenberg and Marwa Eltagouri​, Jan. 9, 2018. Mudflows carried houses off their foundations and rose to people’s waists in the area near the coastal community of Montecito. A storm of mud descended on the town with no warning, said officials, who expect the number of deaths to increase as rescue workers continue to look for people who are missing.

#MeToo, #Times Up Scandals


Huffington Post, Dylan Farrow: Woody Allen Sexually Abused Me While I Played With Toys, Hayley Miller, Jan. 18, 2018. The filmmaker’s adopted daughter leveled molestation allegations in her first TV interview. Dylan Farrow is opening up about what she says was sexual abuse by her adoptive father, filmmaker Woody Allen, when she was 7 years old.

woody allen tribeca festival 2009 david shankboneIn her first TV interview, Farrow, 32, alleged Allen (shown in a 2009 photo by David Shankbone at a film festival) sexually assaulted her in the Connecticut home of actress Mia Farrow, her adoptive mother.

“I was taken to a small attic crawl space,” Farrow said in an interview with “CBS This Morning” that aired Thursday. “He instructed me to lay down on my stomach and play with my brother’s toy train that was set up, and he sat behind me in the doorway. And, as I played with the toy train, I was sexually assaulted.”

She continued: “As 7-year-old, I would say he touched my private parts. As a 32-year-old, he touched my labia and my vulva with his finger.” Allen has denied the allegation.


ap logoAssociated Press, Ex-Idaho lawmaker facing sex-abuse inquiry kills himself, Kimberlee Kruesi, Jan. 9, 2018. A former Republican state lawmaker from Idaho who was facing a sexual abuse investigation has shot and killed himself, authorities said Tuesday. Brandon Hixon was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head in his home early Tuesday, Canyon County Coroner Vicki DeGeus-Morris said. A family member discovered his body. Officials have released no details about the criminal investigation into Hixon, 36, except that it was related to possible sexual abuse.

Daily Mail, Marvel creator Stan Lee, 95, is accused of groping nurses and demanding oral sex in the shower at his $20m Los Angeles home — but says he is victim of a ‘shake down,’  Ryan Parry, Jan. 9, 2018. Comic book legend Stan Lee has been hit with several allegations of sexual assault and harassment by nurses caring for him at his Hollywood Hills home.

The Marvel creator, 95, is alleged to have repeatedly groped and harassed a string of young female nurses employed to care for him. He is said to have asked for oral sex in the shower, walked around naked and wanted to be ‘pleasured’ in the bedroom.

The nursing company which employs the women and caters for celebrities and high-end clients is now in a legal dispute with icon Lee. But as yet no police complaint has been made and no lawsuits filed.

A lawyer representing Lee told DailyMail.com that Lee ‘categorically denies’ the ‘false and despicable’ allegations and fully intends to clear his ‘stellar good name’ and suggested the allegations could be part of a shakedown. Lee, 95, is the former president and chairman of Marvel and co-created Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, the X-Men, Hulk among many other beloved comic book heroes.

Inside Washington

colin powell secretaryPolitico, Judge: Drive to recover Colin Powell’s emails could be fruitful, Josh Gerstein, Jan. 9, 2018. A federal judge has rejected the federal government’s bid to toss out a lawsuit demanding official action to recover emails former Secretary of State Colin Powell sent during his four years as America’s top diplomat more than a decade ago.

In a ruling Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Trevor McFadden called “anemic” the efforts the State Department and National Archives have made to obtain the messages, which Powell sent via an America Online account.

cory booker official profilePalmer Report, Opinion: Two powerful Democrats added to Senate committee investigating Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Jan. 9, 2018. This is a big deal. The resignation of Al Franken and the shift in partisan balance created by the election of Democrat Doug Jones have opened up two slots on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Today those slots were filled by Senator Cory Booker (left) of New Jersey and Senator Kamala Harris of California. It’s not a coincidence that these are two of the rising stars of the Democratic Party and two of the de facto contenders for President in 2020.

Cops, Courts Around the Nation

Black Listed News, Opinion: WATCH: Teacher Questions Superintendent’s Massive Raise, So She’s Attacked and Arrested, Wire and staff reports, Jan. 9, 2018 (video). An innocent English teacher was assaulted and arrested this week in Louisiana for merely asking why the superintendent was getting a raise when the rest of the school system is suffering. The entire infuriating interaction was captured on video and serves to make a powerful statement about who police protect.

Deyshia Hargrave, an English language arts teacher at Rene Rost Middle Schools, was addressing the Vermillion Parish school board meeting Monday night when the incident began. Hargrave — along with dozens of other teachers and staff — had filled the meeting Monday night to discuss the issue of teacher salaries and pay raises.

During the meeting, the panel gave the opportunity for anyone in the audience to voice their concerns over the vote to give the unelected superintendent a new 3-year contract with a $38,000 a year raise. Naturally, everyone in the audience wanted to speak out against this “slap in the face” because teachers in Vermillion Parish barely make $38,000 a year.

During the time for public comment, Hargrave was called upon to speak, stood up, and very eloquently and calmly voiced her concern that classroom sizes have greatly increased over the last few years as teachers’ salaries remained stagnant. Hargrave explained that they need more resources at the teaching level and watching an unelected new superintendent get a massive raise because of who he knows was disappointing.

The board headed up by president Anthony Fontana — a local defense attorney often referred to as a “tyrant” — couldn’t have cared less about Hargrave’s concerns. Still, Hargrave sat peacefully as the board voted themselves a massive raise in front of all the suffering teachers.

After the vote, Hargrave was given the floor again and was being addressed by superintendent Jerome Puyau — who was likely giddy over his new $38,000 raise — when, for no reason, a city marshal’s deputy approached Hargrave to remove her from the room.

Trump Fights Back

Newsweek, Is the ‘Pee Tape’ Dossier True? Trump Lawyer Files Defamation Suit Against Buzzfeed for Publishing Explosive Russia Allegations, Jason Le Miere, Jan. 9, 2018. Michael Cohen, the personal lawyer for President Donald Trump, has filed a defamation lawsuit against Buzzfeed News over its publishing of a dossier containing explosive allegations about Trump’s links to Russia, Bloomberg reported Tuesday.

While much of it remains unverified, the dossier has become a key part of the investigation by both Special Counsel Robert Mueller and various Congressional committees into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election. Cohen is featured prominently in the dossier, named as an individual who helped facilitate communication between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign. Specifically, the dossier claimed that Cohen traveled to Prague in August 2016 to meet with Russian officials.

“We have not uncovered a single document that would in any way corroborate the Dossier’s allegations regarding Mr. Cohen, nor do we believe that any such document exists,” Cohen’s lawyer, Stephen Ryan, wrote in a letter to the House Intelligence Committee last August. “We believe the allegations are so profoundly wrong about Mr. Cohen that the dossier is libelous and any repetition of its allegations by the Committee should be rejected,” the letter continued.

Jan. 8

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New York Times, 200,000 From El Salvador Must Leave, U.S. Says, Miriam Jordan, Jan. 8, 2018. Salvadorans no longer qualify for temporary protection for deportation that had been granted after two devastating earthquakes in 2001, two officials said on Monday. It is the Trump administration’s latest reversal of years of immigration policies and one of the most consequential to date.

ICE logoNearly 200,000 people from El Salvador who have been allowed to live in the United States for more than a decade must leave the country, two government officials familiar with the decision said on Monday. It is the Trump administration’s latest reversal of years of immigration policies and one of the most consequential to date.

The officials, who declined to be identified because they were speaking before an official announcement on the decision later Monday morning, said that the administration was ending a humanitarian program, known as Temporary Protected Status, for Salvadorans who have been allowed to live and work legally in the United States since a pair of devastating earthquakes struck their country in 2001.

Salvadorans were by far the largest group of foreigners benefiting from temporary protected status, which shielded them from deportation if they had arrived in the United States illegally. The decision came just weeks after more than 45,000 Haitians, the second largest group, lost protections granted after Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, and it suggested that others in the program, namely Hondurans, may soon lose them as well. Nicaraguans lost their protections last year.

In the days leading up to the decision, immigrant advocates and the El Salvadoran government pleaded for the United States to extend the program, as it has several times since 2001, saying that conditions in El Salvador were still dire. A sense of dread gripped Salvadorans and their employers in California, Texas, Virginia and elsewhere.

But the Trump administration has been committed to reining in both legal and illegal immigration, most notably by ending protections for 800,000 young undocumented immigrants, known as Dreamers, beginning in March unless Congress grants them legal status before then.

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Washington Post, Salvadorans fear TPS decision will be a huge economic blow to their country, Joshua Partlow, Jan. 8, 2018. The Trump administration’s decision to eliminate the residency permits for some 200,000 Salvadoran immigrants could cause far-reaching disruptions in the small Central American country, including a steep decline in remittances from abroad and a destabilizing wave of returning citizens to a country still wracked by violence, according to Salvadoran officials and immigration experts.

ICE logoMonday’s decision could result in the deportation of immigrants who have lived in the United States for decades, whose children are U.S. citizens and who send home billions of dollars a year to relatives in El Salvador. They would be returning to a country that has had one of the highest murder rates in the world in recent years, as well as a rampant gang problem.

Under the terms of the decision announced by the Department of Homeland Security on Monday, the administration will notify Salvadorans who benefit from the program that they have until Sept. 9, 2019, to leave the United States or find a way to obtain legal residency.

Immigration: ‘Dreamers’

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ICE logoWashington Post, Fate of ‘dreamers’ set to dominate next round of budget talks, Ed O’Keefe, Mike DeBonis and Erica Werner, Jan. 8, 2018 (print edition). Both sides agree that if President Trump and lawmakers can strike a deal that ends the impasse over the legal status of young immigrants, other obstacles to reaching a spending agreement could be resolved more quickly. But Democrats have balked at Trump’s demands to tie a decision to his pledge of building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, and the party is split over whether to force a government shutdown to get its way.

Inside Washington

edward royceRoll Call, House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce Announces Retirement, Bridget Bowman, Jan. 8, 2018,  Rep. Ed Royce (shown at right) announced Monday he will not be running for re-election. The California Republican is in his final term as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Royce becomes the fifth term-limited chairman to exit Congress this election cycle. House GOP rules state lawmakers can only serve three consecutive terms as chairman of a committee. Three other GOP chairmen have decided not to run for re-election, meaning eight of the 22 House committee chairmen will not be returning in 2019.

Royce, who was first elected to Congress in 1992, was a Democratic target in 2018 as one of the Orange County Republicans representing districts Hillary Clinton won in 2016. Clinton carried the 39th District by nearly 9 points, according to calculations by Daily Kos Elections. GOP presidential nominees Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain won the district in 2012 and 2008.

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michael wolff fire and furyNew York Times, Book Review: ‘Fire and Fury’ Is a Sensation. How Much Is True? Jonathan Martin, Jan. 8, 2018. A political correspondent for The Times looks at the book that has the town talking. Michael Wolff “has delivered an altogether fitting, if ultimately unsatisfying, book.”

Real Clear Politics, Wolff On Accusations That He Misquoted Trump Team: “They Are All Lying,” Ian Schwartz, Jan. 8, 2018. MSNBC’s Katy Tur interviewed Fire and Fury author Michael Wolff on the Monday broadcast of her show and grilled him on the feedback and response he has received from White House staffers who say they were misquoted or that he flat out lied about what they told him.

On FOX & Friends this morning, Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney, the man responsible for crafting the budget, said the quote attributed to him about Trump being too “scattershot to ever be much help” was “inaccurate.”

“I talked to the guy for about half an hour, I remember talking to him in March. I think he put two sentences about me in the book, both of which were inaccurate,” Mulvaney said.

“I hadn’t heard that before. I want to say, that’s completely ridiculous,” Wolff responded.

“Tom Barrack is saying that he’s misquoted. [Former Deputy Chief of Staff to Reince Priebus] Katie Walsh is saying she is misquoted. Are they all lying?” Tur asked the author.

“They are all lying,” Wolff answered. “They are in a situation now where Donald Trump has come to think that this book is a mortal threat. I don’t know if it is or it isn’t but he certainly feels that way, and he is making demands on everybody. I know, I hear through the grapevine that Katie Walsh’s job is at issue now, and — which I regret. And even then, she’s not really saying that I misquoted her. She’s saying that she was quoting something like she was quoting Steve Bannon that [Trump]’s a child.”

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Washington Post, Analysis: Why ‘executive time’ is a particularly bleak scoop about Trump, Aaron Blake​, Jan. 8, 2018. A report indicates President Trump has significantly curtailed his official schedule — to the point where his first meeting is often held at 11 a.m.

Axios’s Jonathan Swan reports that Trump has significantly curtailed his official schedule as president — to the point where his first meeting is often held at 11 a.m., and he spends almost the whole morning in his White House residence watching TV, tweeting and making phone calls. That chunk of his day, generally between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m., is dubbed “executive time” — a phrase that is bound to become the butt of plenty of jokes. Trump then has other periods of “executive time” sprinkled in throughout his official work schedule, which is usually between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. (Nice work if you can get it. And a short commute, too!)

The idea that Trump doesn’t take his daily intelligence briefing until 11 a.m. is shocking just by itself. And whoever leaked his official schedules to Swan seems to be concerned that Trump just isn’t up to the job right now.

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Democratic-Republican Campaign logosWashington Post, Why Trump and Republicans are suddenly talking up bipartisanship, James Hohmann, Jan. 8, 2018 (print edition). The best way to run against Washington in 2018 is by calling for an end to gridlock and dysfunction. Because of Senate rules, Republicans will need 60 votes to keep the government open beyond the end of next week. Now that Alabama’s Doug Jones has been sworn in, the GOP has only 51 seats. And two Republican members — John McCain and Thad Cochran — have serious health problems.

wayne madsen new observerStrategic Culture Foundation, Toxiphobe Leaders Tend to Be Paranoid Tyrants, Wayne Madsen (commentator, author and former Navy intellience officer shown at left), Jan.8, 2018. Recent revelations about President Donald Trump’s fear of poisoning from food or from his toothbrush are the fodder of political thriller novels or motion pictures. Trump’s alleged fears were revealed in the newly-published political kiss-and-tell book, Fire and Fury,” written by journalist Michael Wolff.

Trump’s fear of being poisoned has resulted in his affectation for meals that consist of two Big Macs, two fish filet sandwiches, French fries, and a chocolate milkshake, which are reportedly ordered and picked up by his Secret Service detail at the McDonald’s located three blocks from the White House at New York Avenue and 13th Street.

Trump’s opting to eat food from a fast-food restaurant arise from his concern that “deep state” forces might try to poison the food prepared by the well-vetted and US Navy-operated White House mess. US Navy mess specialists, who are part of the White House staff, also travel with the president and taste any food before it is eaten by the chief executive.

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New York Times, Fusion GPS Founder Hauled From the Shadows for the Russia Election Investigation, Matt Flegenheimer, Jan. 8, 2018. As investigators circle President Trump’s administration over ties to Russia during the 2016 campaign, Mr. Glenn R. Simpson, a 53-year-old Wall Street Journal veteran-turned-master of high-dollar research, has arrived at the biggest story of either of his careers, lurching to the center of the Russia-tinged scandal that clouds the presidency.

Media Matters, Infowars fully embraces “The Storm,” a conspiracy theory called “the new Pizzagate,” Cristina López G., Jan. 8, 2018. The outlet is now working directly with online message boards to promote the conspiracy theory that Trump is staging a counter-cabal against the “deep state” officials in government.

Brutal Cold Takes Its Toll

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Washington Post, An elderly woman went into the freezing cold to save her husband. They both died, Samantha Schmidt, Jan. 8, 2018. In a yellow-brick farmhouse, down a rural road in southwestern Ontario, Grant and Ada Triebner lived a quiet life together. It was outside their beloved farmhouse in the small municipality of Bluewater, after a bitterly cold night last week, that Grant and Ada Triebner died together within hours of each other, police told Canadian news outlets.

Grant Triebner was found dead inside an open barn on his snow-covered property Wednesday morning, having suffered a fatal “medical event,” provincial police told the Canadian Press in a statement.

Courts and Cops Around the Nation

cliven bundyLas Vegas Review-Journal, Judge in Las Vegas dismisses case against Cliven Bundy, 2 sons, David Ferrara, Jan. 8, 2018.  Mistrial declared in Bundy trial over withheld evidence. A federal judge dismissed all charges Monday against Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy (shown above), two of his sons and another man.

Justice Department log circularU.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro, who granted a mistrial in the case last month, said Monday’s decision was based, in part, on “flagrant prosecutorial misconduct.” Navarro granted the mistrial Dec. 20 after finding that the federal government improperly withheld evidence.

See related story: Associated Press via Las Vegas Review-Journal, Judge in Oregon standoff sanctions defendants for Bundy visit, Staff report, Jan. 3, 2018. An Oregon judge is taking action against two men who participated in the occupation of an Oregon wildlife refuge after Facebook photos showed they violated their release conditions by visiting the Bundy ranch in Nevada without permission.

U.S. District Judge Anna Brown has moved up Jon Ritzheimer’s date to surrender to prison to Jan. 12 from Feb. 15. Brown also ordered Montana militia leader Ryan Payne to return to home detention in Las Vegas. She also forbade Ritzheimer from having contact with any defendant from either the Oregon or Nevada standoff cases before his prison sentence begins. Payne received a similar order.

The two men have pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy in the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Oregon in 2016. Payne also faces other federal charges in Nevada along with Cliven Bundy and sons Ammon and Ryan Bundy.

Global Corruption?

benjamin netanyahu frownThe Guardian, Netanyahu son bragged about gas deal outside strip club, tape reveals, Peter  Beaumont, Jan. 8, 2018. While on tour of clubs with minder in tow, Yair Netanyahu is heard telling friend: ‘My dad made an awesome deal for your dad.’

Lawyers for Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanayhu (shown at right), tried to stop the broadcast of an embarrassing audiotape in which Netanyahu’s son Yair suggested his father helped push through a $20bn deal to the benefit of a gas tycoon.

The recording of the conversation, which took place outside a strip club, is the latest revelation to cast light on the Netanyahu family’s relationships with wealthy tycoons, which have so far spawned two corruption investigations into the prime minister’s activities.

According to the Israel Television Channel, the tape features the voices of Yair Netanyahu and Ori Maimon, a son of the gas tycoon Kobi Maimon. Maimon Sr is a shareholder in Isramco, which owns the Tamar gas fields.

According to the reports, Yair and friends, with his government-provided security guard and driver in tow, were going from one strip club to another.

He and Maimon can apparently be heard arguing about 400 shekels ($116) as they leave the club, with Yair reportedly telling his companion: “Bro, you got to spot me. My dad made an awesome deal for your dad, bro, he fought, fought in the Knesset for this, bro.”

He continues: “Bro, my dad now arranged for you a $20bn deal and you can’t spot me 400 shekels?”

The recording was apparently made in 2015, at a time when Israel was in the midst of a political controversy over newly discovered natural gas deposits and the rights to drill in them.

What is most likely to cause uproar in Israel is the revelation that a state security guard and government-provided car ferried Netanyahu’s son and his friends between strip clubs. The provision of a security detail for Netanyahu’s children was already controversial. While Yair, now 26, has a reputation for his crass behaviour, his remarks – serious or not – also feed into a growing sense of outrage in Israel over the cosy relationship between the Netanyahus and wealthy businessmen.

Jan. 7

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New York Times, Trump Defends Fitness, Saying He’s a ‘Stable Genius,’ Peter Baker and Maggie and Haberman, Jan. 7, 2018. President Trump, seeming to respond to revelations in a new book, issued an extraordinary defense of his fitness for office in a series of tweets.

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stephen bannon cropped npc 2013New York Times, Bannon Tries Backing Away From Explosive Comments, Jeremy W. Peters, Michael Tackett and Noah Weiland, Jan. 7, 2018. Stephen K. Bannon, who is quoted in a new book calling Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russians in 2016 “treasonous,” said that Mr. Trump was “both a patriot and a good man.”Mr. Bannon’s apology came as the White House continued its assault on him, with Stephen Miller, an adviser to President Trump, saying on CNN that the comments were “out of touch with reality.”

breitbart logoBreitbart, Steve Bannon Issues Statement: My Support Is ‘Unwavering’ for Trump and His Agenda, Kristina Wong, Jan. 7, 2018. Stephen K. Bannon, executive chair of Breitbart News and former White House chief strategist, issued the following statement on Sunday:

“Donald Trump, Jr. is both a patriot and a good man. He has been relentless in his advocacy for his father and the agenda that has helped turn our country around.

“My support is also unwavering for the president and his agenda — as I have shown daily in my national radio broadcasts, on the pages of Breitbart News and in speeches and appearances from Tokyo and Hong Kong to Arizona and Alabama. President Trump was the only candidate that could have taken on and defeated the Clinton apparatus. I am the only person to date to conduct a global effort to preach the message of Trump and Trumpism; and remain ready to stand in the breach for this president’s efforts to make America great again.

“My comments about the meeting with Russian nationals came from my life experiences as a Naval officer stationed aboard a destroyer whose main mission was to hunt Soviet submarines to my time at the Pentagon during the Reagan years when our focus was the defeat of ‘the evil empire’ and to making films about Reagan’s war against the Soviets and Hillary Clinton’s involvement in selling uranium to them.

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nbc news logoNBC News / Meet the Press, Michael Wolff: Trump White House facing ’25th Amendment kind of stuff,‘ Host Chuck Todd interviews best-selling author Michael Wolff (shown atove at left), Jan. 7, 2018 (14:09 min.video). In an exclusive interview on Meet the Press, Michael Wolff, author of the new book, Fire and Fury, explains his reporting process to Chuck Todd, and describes the mood inside the Trump White House.

stephen miller white house screenshotBusiness Insider, Stephen Miller had to be escorted off CNN’s set after his interview with Jake Tapper went off the rails, Linette Lopez, Jan. 7, 2017. His appearance on “State of the Union” ended abruptly after host Jake Tapper pressed him on damaging claims about President Donald Trump. Tapper said Miller was speaking “to an audience of one.”

Two sources close to the situation told Business Insider that after the taping was done, Miller (shown above in a screenshot from a White House briefing) was politely asked to leave several times. He ignored those requests and ultimately security was called and he was escorted out, the sources said.

Miller’s appearance on the cable network quickly went off the rails when Tapper pressed him on explosive claims about President Donald Trump that appeared in the book Fire & Fury.

More Politics Around the Nation

Democratic-Republican Campaign logos

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Washington Post, Wide-open primaries will plunge both parties into historic battles over their identity, David Weigel and Michael Scherer, Jan. 7, 2018 (print edition). Starting this spring, thousands of contenders will compete at every level of elected office below the presidency for the chance to appear on the ballot in November. Races that Democrats once left uncontested are now brimming with candidates. Races in which Republicans had hoped to clear the field have grown crowded. And the power of national parties on both sides to moderate the conflicts remains low,

White House Financial Conflicts

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New York Times, Kushner’s Financial Israel Ties Deepen, Despite Mideast Role, Jesse Drucker, Jan. 7, 2018. An Israeli insurance company’s previously undisclosed $30 million investment in Jared Kushner’s family company could fuel the perception of conflicts of interest, as Mr. Kushner  continues his prominent diplomatic role in the region.

jared kushner ivanka trump july 4 2017 facebookLast May, Jared Kushner (shown with his wife Ivanka on a July Facebook posting) accompanied President Trump, his father-in-law, on the pair’s first diplomatic trip to Israel, part of Mr. Kushner’s White House assignment to achieve peace in the Middle East.

Shortly before, his family real estate company received a roughly $30 million investment from Menora Mivtachim, an insurer that is one of Israel’s largest financial institutions, according to a Menora executive.

The deal, which was not made public, pumped significant new equity into 10 Maryland apartment complexes controlled by Kushner’s firm. While Mr. Kushner has sold parts of his business since taking a White House job last year, he still has stakes in most of the family empire — including the apartment buildings in and around Baltimore.

Inside Washington

michael wolff fire and furyRaw Story, ‘You’ve wasted enough time’: Jake Tapper cuts off Stephen Miller after he goes berserk over tell-all book, David Edwards, Jan. 7, 2018. CNN host Jake Tapper abruptly ended an interview with White House staffer Stephen Miller after the Trump aide began shouting about a new tell-all book that casts the White House in a bad light.

During an interview that aired on Sunday, Tapper accused Miller of filibustering instead of answering questions that have been raised by Michael Wolff’s new book, Fire and Fury. Tapper noted that President Trump had recently called himself a “stable genius” in response to Wolff’s book, which alleges that the president is not fit to serve.

“It happens to be a true statement,” Miller shot back.

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john kelly o dhsWashington Post, John Kelly trained for a job serving Trump while heading up U.S. military in Latin America, Nick Miroff, Jan. 7, 2018 (print edition). People who worked alongside the four-star general (shown at right), who now serves as chief of staff, knew his worldview aligned more closely with President Trump’s than many may have realized. Kelly’s role leading the U.S. Southern Command put him at the intersection of U.S. diplomacy, national security and Washington politics.

Potomac River at C &O canal (EPA Photo)

Potomac River at C &O canal (EPA Photo)

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Washington Post, Official who improperly helped Redskins owner cut down trees to be National Park Service deputy director, Darryl Fears, Jan. 7, 2018 (print edition). P. Daniel Smith, who retired from the Park Service in 2014, helped Daniel Snyder cut down more than 130 trees to improve Snyder’s view of the Potomac River from his estate.

Miss America Contest Endangered?

nbc news logoNBC News, Future of Miss America, beauty pageants in question in the wake of #MeToo, Daniella Silva, Jan. 7, 2017. “Potentially big changes” are coming to the Miss America pageant, according to its new chairwoman Gretchen Carlson. The former Fox News anchor, who was crowned Miss America in 1989, has been a high-profile voice against workplace sexual harassment and her appointment comes after leaked sexist emails led to a shakeup of the organization’s leadership.

Jan. 6

Trump Tweetstorms

djt tweet on brilliance 1 6 18

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djt official SmallWashington Post, Trump boasts he’s a ‘very stable genius’ amid questions over mental fitness, David Nakamura, Jan. 6, 2018. President Trump continued to defend himself in the wake of Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury,” which suggests that top White House aides worried that Trump was unfit for the job. In an early-morning tweetstorm, the president called being “really smart” one of his greatest assets.

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Washington Post, Analysis: Trump’s extraordinary tweetstorms mark an unsettling start to 2018, Dan Balz​, Jan. 6, 2018.  In a White House marked by a string of high-level comings and goings, there remains but one constant. That is the disorder at the center, perpetrated by a president who continues to break the norms of his office. It’s the reason this year could eclipse the previous one for political turbulence.

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Trump biographer Michael Wolff, shown on a CNBC screenshot from previous commentary

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Washington Post, Trump rages on against White House tell-all, calling it ‘a work of fiction’ and blaming weak libel laws, David Nakamura, Jan. 6, 2018. In an early-morning tweetstorm prompted after questions of his mental fitness raised by Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury,” the president said he is a “very stable genius.” During a short and wide-ranging news briefing from Camp David, Trump referred to the author as a “fraud.”

Don McGahn cato screengrabPalmer Report, Opinion/Predictions: Donald Trump’s White House Counsel prepares to leave the building, Bill Palmer, Jan. 6, 2018. This week we learned that Donald Trump’s White House Counsel Don McGahn (shown in a screenshot from a Cato Institute appearance) had tried to convince Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself in the Trump-Russia investigation, meaning that McGahn obstructed justice. Based on additional details in that reporting that could seemingly only have come from McGahn himself, it now very much appears he’s cut a deal. Now it’s become clear that McGahn is preparing to bail on the White House altogether.

Don McGahn’s wife Shannon McGahn has abruptly resigned her prominent position in Trump’s Treasury Department. Considering that Shannon is quitting her Trump administration job almost immediately after Don was outed as being guilty of a crime, and outed as probably having flipped on Trump, it’s fairly easy to see what’s going on here.

Not only is Don McGahn (a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission) preparing to bail on his White House Counsel job, his spouse is expecting the fallout to be acrimonious enough that she’s also swiftly bailing on her Trump administration job. This further points back to the notion that Don has flipped on Trump, and that it’s soon going to be officially confirmed.

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Washington Post, Justice Dept. lacks key leaders, and GOP senator threatens to keep it so, Matt Zapotosky​, Jan. 6, 2018. Some nominations have languished for months — even as President Trump’s party controls Congress. Legal analysts say the delays are more significant than others in recent memory.

Justice Department log circularNearly a year into President Trump’s administration, the Justice Department lacks Senate-confirmed appointees in leadership posts running the national security, criminal, civil rights and other key divisions. And the problem shows no sign of abating anytime soon.

On Thursday, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions revealed he was implementing new guidance to make it easier for federal prosecutors to pursue marijuana cases in states where the substance is legal, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) accused the Justice Department of trampling the will of Colorado voters and said he would “take all steps necessary, including holding DOJ nominees, until the Attorney General lives up to the commitment he made to me prior to his confirmation.”

Already, the department had a dearth of Senate confirmed nominees in leadership positions. While the top three posts are filled, the National Security Division, Criminal Division, Civil Rights Division, Tax Division, the Drug Enforcement Administration and others lack confirmed presidential appointees. A Justice Department official said the delays have been frustrating, particularly in the criminal and national security divisions.

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Washington Post, We’re seeing institutions start to waver as constraints to Trump’s impulses, Philip Bump, Jan. 6, 2018 (print edition). President Trump’s view of his power and the power of the Justice Department he leads is that this power can justifiably be leveled against his political opponents. This is in part because Trump came to office with the idea that he would wield influence at the White House as he did at Trump Tower: by fiat and without question.

Tax Fraud Prosecutions

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New York Times, A Banker Helped Americans Dodge Taxes. Was It a Crime? David Enrich, Jan. 6, 2018. Stefan Buck created Swiss bank accounts for dozens of Americans hiding money from tax collectors. The U.S. tried to hold him personally accountable.

Mr. Buck’s acquittal reverberated through the legal community. The Justice Department had now lost the three cases it had tried against foreign bankers who helped Americans avoid taxes.

Dozens more cases are pending. Those who represent accused Swiss bankers say they expect Mr. Buck’s verdict to embolden defendants and to cause prosecutors to think twice before bringing new charges.

Inside Washington

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Trump to Decide Fate of Thousands of Immigrants This Week, Claire Wang, Jan. 6, 2018. On January 8, President Donald Trump will make the most significant immigration decision of his first year in office: whether to deport the 200,000 Salvadorans in the US currently protected under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

The fate of tens of thousands of families hangs in the balance ahead of a crucial Department of Homeland Security decision Monday that could result in the mass deportation of legal immigrants.Opponents of TPS argue that it was designed as a short-term response to specific humanitarian crises, and its provisions should expire once the immediate dangers from such calamities have subsided.

Experts predict that terminating the program would be both economically and emotionally devastating. The sudden arrival in El Salvador of 200,000 TPS recipients, roughly 3 percent of the country’s population, could destabilize the economy.

The economic consequences for the US would also be substantial. Should Trump repeal the TPS for immigrants from El Salvador, Honduras and Haiti, the US gross domestic product (GDP) is estimated to drop by $164 billion over the next decade. Contributions to Social Security and Medicare from payroll taxes would fall by $6.9 billion.

Jan. 5

Trump Revelations

michael wolff CustomThe Hill, ‘Fire and Fury’ author disputes Trump claim he had ‘zero access,’ Brooke Seipel, Jan. 5, 2017. Michael Wolff, author of Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, is disputing President Trump’s claim that he gave Wolff “zero access” to the White House for the book.

“I absolutely spoke to the president… it certainly was not off the record,” Wolff (shown in a file photo) said on NBC’s “Today Show” Friday morning, just hours after the midnight release of the book.

michael wolff fire and fury“My window into Donald Trump is pretty significant,” he added. “I work like every journalist works. I have recordings. I have notes. I am certainly and absolutely in every way comfortable with what I have reported.” Wolff also took a jab at Trump for his criticism, saying: “My credibility is being questioned by a man who has less credibility than anyone who walks on Earth.”

djt bannon nypost et tu bannon jan 4 2018His comments come after Trump railed against the book on Twitter late Thursday. “I authorized Zero access to White House (actually turned him down many times) for author of phony book! I never spoke to him for book. Full of lies, misrepresentations and sources that don’t exist. Look at this guy’s past and watch what happens to him and Sloppy Steve!” Trump tweeted. The Murdoch-owned New York Post, generally a supported of the president, headlined its Jan. 4 cover (shown at right) with Shakesperean caption from a toga-clad Trump, “Et tu Bannon?”

In his interview with “Today” Friday morning, Wolff said his book details aides transitioning from viewing Trump as an “interesting, unique character” to reaching “the conclusion that he cannot do this job.”

“This man does not read. Does not listen. He’s like a pinball, just shooting off the sides,” he said of Trump.

donald trump gage skidmore

President Trump, shown in a file photo by Gage Skidmore

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New York Times, Obstruction Inquiry Shows Trump’s Struggle to Keep Grip on Russia Investigation, Michael S. Schmidt, Jan. 5, 2018 (print edition). President Trump gave firm instructions in March to the White House’s top lawyer: stop the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, from recusing himself in the Justice Department’s investigation into whether Mr. Trump’s associates had helped a Russian campaign to disrupt the 2016 election.

 jeff sessions ag oPublic pressure was building for Mr. Sessions, who had been a senior member of the Trump campaign, to step aside. But the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, carried out the president’s orders and lobbied Mr. Sessions (shown at right) to remain in charge of the inquiry, according to two people with knowledge of the episode.

Mr. McGahn was unsuccessful, and the president erupted in anger in front of numerous White House officials, saying he needed his attorney general to protect him. Mr. Trump said he had expected his top law enforcement official to safeguard him the way he believed Robert F. Kennedy, as attorney general, had done for his brother John F. Kennedy and Eric H. Holder Jr. had for Barack Obama.

roy cohnMr. Trump then asked, “Where’s my Roy Cohn?” He was referring to his former personal lawyer and fixer (shown at left), who had been Senator Joseph R. McCarthy’s top aide during the investigations into communist activity in the 1950s and died in 1986.

The lobbying of Mr. Sessions is one of several previously unreported episodes that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has learned about as he investigates whether Mr. Trump obstructed the F.B.I.’s Russia inquiry. The events occurred during a two-month period — from when Mr. Sessions recused himself in March until the appointment of Mr. Mueller in May — when Mr. Trump believed he was losing control over the investigation.

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rebekah mercerWashington Post, Rebekah Mercer: The billionaire who backed Bannon and Trump chooses sides, Kyle Swenson, Jan. 5, 2018. Mercer, who has been called the “First Lady of the alt-right,” helped Stephen K. Bannon create President Trump. But the once-close bond between candidate, strategist and mega-donor (shown at right) was torched by the release of excerpts of a scathing book on Trump.

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Washington Post, Opinion: I asked Trump a blunt question: Do you read? Joe Scarborough, Jan. 5, 2018 (print edition). Mika Brzezinski and I had a tense meeting with Trump (shown in a photo by Gage Skidmore) following what I considered to be a bumbling debate performance in September 2015. I asked the candidate a blunt question.

donald trump w by gage skidmore“Can you read?”

Awkward silence.

“I’m serious, Donald. Do you read?” I continued. “If someone wrote you a one-page paper on a policy, could you read it?”

Washington Post, Opinion: Michael Wolff shows his nuclear button is ‘bigger’ and ‘more powerful’ than Trump’s, Jonathan Capehart, Jan. 5, 2018. The swirl of OMG surrounding Michael Wolff’s new book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, is unlike anything I’ve seen in politics. Ever. Sure, we’ve seen tell-all books and gasp-worthy revelations before from deep inside 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. But Wolff paints such a chaotic portrait of President Trump that we now know that the biggest nuclear button in the West Wing was the one on Wolff’s tape recorder.

[T]hat startling “what a child wants” appraisal of the president took me back to the blistering benediction at the conclusion of an interfaith service I attended last month in San Francisco with the Faith and Politics Institute…. Amos C. Brown, president of the San Francisco chapter of the NAACP and pastor of the Third Baptist Church of San Francisco [sermonized as follows]:

“I must say to you I cannot leave this podium with much hope,” he said. “I am disturbed about America. I am disturbed about my native land.” Brown turned to the words of H.L. Mencken to thunder blunt judgment upon Trump without mentioning his name. “Celebrated journalist H.L. Mencken … said, as democracy evolves and the common people get their desires, the day will come when the White House will be adorned with the presence of a moron as president.”

h l mencken quote moron in wh

The Hill, Steyer bought Wolff book for every member of Congress, Josh Delk, Jan. 5, 2018. Democratic mega-donor Tom Steyer says he purchased a copy of author Michael Wolff’s controversial new book on the Trump presidency for each member of Congress to read. Steyer plans to hand-deliver 535 copies of “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” to each member of Congress to read.

Wolff’s book claims Trump did not expect to win the presidency and depicts Trump as incompetent and unwilling to listen to his advisers. The White House blasted the book as full of lies on Friday and tried to prevent its publication with a cease-and-desist letter. A billionaire Democratic donor and environmental activist, Steyer spent at least $20 million of his own money on the “Need to Impeach” campaign against Trump calling on members of Congress to support impeachment.

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Washington Post, Trump seeks $18 billion from lawmakers for border wall, Nick Miroff and Erica Werner​, Jan. 5, 2018. The administration laid out a detailed financial blueprint for the president’s signature campaign promise, indicating U.S. taxpayers would fund the wall for the foreseeable future. Democratic lawmakers blasted the request, which arrived in the middle of delicate budget negotiations that include the risk of a government shutdown Jan. 20 if no deal is reached.

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hillary clinton bill clinton flickr karen smith murphyWashington Post, FBI’s revival of Clinton Foundation investigation prompts accusations against Trump administration; FBI has been investigating the Clinton Foundation for months, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett​, Jan. 5, 2018. The FBI has been investigating the Clinton Foundation for months, reviving a probe that was dialed back during the 2016 campaign amid tensions between Justice Department prosecutors and FBI agents about the politically charged case, according to people familiar with the matter.

The inquiry resumed about a year ago. Agents are now trying to determine if any donations made to the foundation were linked to official acts when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013, these people said. The people did not identify what specific donations or interactions agents are scrutinizing.

chuck grassley officialWord of the investigation comes at a particularly fraught time for the Justice Department and FBI, as it tries to navigate several polarizing issues, including an ongoing special-counsel probe of President Trump and his associates, as well as demands from Republicans in Congress that Clinton be reinvestigated on a host of issues. Among those is the foundation case.

On Friday, Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), shown at right,  asked the Justice Department to investigate whether a key figure in the special-counsel probe, a former British spy who authored a dossier of allegations, may have lied to the FBI.

Inside DC: Census Sabotage?

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Washington Post, Opinion: The GOP is sabotaging this sacred mandate, Catherine Rampell, Jan. 5, 2018 (print edition). The decennial census is the country’s largest civilian mobilization. It determines where billions of federal dollars flow each year, and how many congressional and electoral college seats each state gets. The results have enormous influence over the decisions of businesses and local governments, too.

Yet despite all the brandishing of pocket Constitutions on the right, the Trump White House and Republican lawmakers are sabotaging this sacred mandate. First they refused to sufficiently fund it. Now they’re taking actions that would severely depress participation.

Reefer Madness?

cory gardner o Custom

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New York Times, Trump’s New Policy on Marijuana Draws Bipartisan Fire, Carl Hulse, Jan. 5, 2018. Lawmakers from both parties see it as a state decision and vow to force the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, to back down. One opponent is Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, shown above.

Police Shootings Remain High

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Washington Post, For a third year in a row, police shot and killed nearly 1,000 people across the U.S. in 2017, John Sullivan, Zane Anthony, Julie Tate and Jennifer Jenkins​, Jan. 5, 2018. Police fatally shot 987 people last year, or two dozen more than they killed in 2016, according to a project by The Washington Post that tracks the shootings. The grim annual tally has persisted despite widespread public scrutiny of officers’ use of fatal force.

Jan. 4

The Atlantic, Opinion: It’s Been an Open Secret All Along, James Fallows, Jan 4, 2018. The scandal of Michael Wolff’s new book isn’t its salacious details—it’s that everyone in Washington has known its key themes, and refused to act.

Three months ago, when Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey of The New York Times unloaded their first big report about Harvey Weinstein’s pattern of sexual aggressiveness and abuse, the depth of detail made the story unforgettable—and as it turned out, historic. Real women went on the record, using their real names, giving specific dates and times and circumstances of what Weinstein had said or done to them.

michael wolff fire and furyThe details in Michael Wolff’s new book Fire and Fury make it unforgettable, and potentially historic. We’ll see how many of them fully stand up, and in what particulars, but even at a heavy discount, it’s a remarkable tale.

But what Wolff is describing is an open secret.

Based on the excerpts now available, Fire and Fury presents a man in the White House who is profoundly ignorant of politics, policy, and anything resembling the substance of perhaps the world’s most demanding job. He is temperamentally unstable. Most of what he says in public is at odds with provable fact, from “biggest inaugural crowd in history” onward.

donald trump apprentice color nbcWhether he is aware of it or not, much of what he asserts is a lie. His functional vocabulary is markedly smaller than it was 20 years ago; the oldest person ever to begin service in the White House, he is increasingly prone to repeat anecdotes and phrases. He is aswirl in foreign and financial complications. He has ignored countless norms of modern governance, from the expectation of financial disclosure to the importance of remaining separate from law-enforcement activities.

He relies on immediate family members to an unusual degree; he has an exceptionally thin roster of experienced advisers and assistants; his White House staff operations have more in common with an episode of The Apprentice (shown above at left) than with any real-world counterpart.

He has a shallower reserve of historical or functional information than previous presidents, and a more restricted supply of ongoing information than many citizens. He views all events through the prism of whether they make him look strong and famous, and thus he is laughably susceptible to flattering treatment from the likes of Putin and Xi Jinping abroad or courtiers at home.

reince priebus gage skidmore 3Palmer Report, Opinion: New bombshell confirms Reince Priebus and Don McGahn flipped on Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Jan. 4, 2018. Two weeks ago, Palmer Report connected the dots of the publicly available evidence and figured out that former White House Chief of staff Reince Priebus (left) and current White House Counsel Don McGahn had both flipped on Donald Trump in the Russia investigation (link). Now the New York Times has published a new bombshell story which, among many other things, confirms that Priebus and McGahn did indeed flip on Trump.

The stunning new expose from the NY Times reveals that Reince Priebus was taking copious notes during his entire time in the White House. This alone is revelatory. It’s long been known that White House Press Secretary was taking notes for the entire length of his tenure, but this was merely his custom at every political job he’s ever had, suggesting Spicer was naively doing so without realizing he was creating an evidence trail. Priebus is politically savvy enough to know that he was setting himself up as an eventual key witness by taking those notes, suggesting that he knew he would eventually need to get himself off the hook for Trump’s crimes. More importantly, Robert Mueller (shown at right) now has Priebus’ notes.

robert mueller full face fileThis means, in no uncertain terms, that Priebus has flipped. It doesn’t necessarily mean he’s cut a formal plea deal. Although Priebus arguably conspired to obstruct justice simply by discussing the Trump-Russia coverup with Donald Trump, it’s possible Mueller agreed not to charge him at all in exchange for his cooperation. Either way, we know that Priebus has flipped because he turned over his notes. It gets better.

As Palmer Report has previously explained, Priebus and Don McGahn still have the same attorney in the Russia scandal. If one of them flipped and the other didn’t, the attorney could no longer represent them both. So now that we know Priebus has flipped, we also know McGahn has flipped.

Trump Seeks Book Suppression

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Washington Post, Trump lawyers warn author, publisher of new tell-all book to halt its release, Josh Dawsey and Ashley Parker​, Jan. 4, 2018. The cease-and-desist letter comes as lawyers for President Trump said they are investigating “false statements” in the book by Michael Wolff. It follows a similar letter sent to former Trump chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, who was accused of breaching a confidentiality agreement by speaking to Wolff. Trump blasted his ex-aide, saying Bannon had “lost his mind.”

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Trump biographer Michael Wolff, shown on a CNBC screenshot from previous commentary

Hollywood Reporter, “You Can’t Make This S— Up”: My Year Inside Trump’s Insane White House, Michael Wolff, Jan. 4, 2018  Author and columnist Michael Wolff was given extraordinary access to the Trump administration and now details the feuds, the fights and the alarming chaos he witnessed while reporting what turned into a new book.

michael wolff fire and furyHollywood Reporter Editor’s Note: Author and Hollywood Reporter columnist Michael Wolff’s new book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” (Henry Holt & Co.), is a detailed account of the 45th president’s election and first year in office based on extensive access to the White House and more than 200 interviews with Trump and senior staff over a period of 18 months. In advance of the Jan. 9 publication of the book, which Trump is already attacking, Wolff (shown below in a screenshot from an NBC News interview) has written this extracted column about his time in the White House based on the reporting included in “Fire and Fury.”

I interviewed Donald Trump for The Hollywood Reporter in June 2016, and he seemed to have liked — or not disliked — the piece I wrote. “Great cover!” his press assistant, Hope Hicks, emailed me after it came out (it was a picture of a belligerent Trump in mirrored sunglasses).

michael wolff nbc screenshot mtp 1 7 17After the election, I proposed to him that I come to the White House and report an inside story for later publication — journalistically, as a fly on the wall — which he seemed to misconstrue as a request for a job. No, I said. I’d like to just watch and write a book. “A book?” he responded, losing interest. “I hear a lot of people want to write books,” he added, clearly not understanding why anybody would. “Do you know Ed Klein?”— author of several virulently anti-Hillary books. “Great guy. I think he should write a book about me.” But sure, Trump seemed to say, knock yourself out.

djt bannon cuck fight nydaily news jan 4 2018Since the new White House was often uncertain about what the president meant or did not mean in any given utterance, his non-disapproval became a kind of passport for me to hang around — checking in each week at the Hay-Adams hotel, making appointments with various senior staffers who put my name in the “system,” and then wandering across the street to the White House and plunking myself down, day after day, on a West Wing couch.

The West Wing is configured in such a way that the anteroom is quite a thoroughfare — everybody passes by. Assistants — young women in the Trump uniform of short skirts, high boots, long and loose hair — as well as, in situation-comedy proximity, all the new stars of the show: Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer, Jared Kushner, Mike Pence, Gary Cohn, Michael Flynn (and after Flynn’s abrupt departure less than a month into the job for his involvement in the Russia affair, his replacement, H.R. McMaster), all neatly accessible.

The nature of the comedy, it was soon clear, was that here was a group of ambitious men and women who had reached the pinnacle of power, a high-ranking White House appointment — with the punchline that Donald Trump was president. Their estimable accomplishment of getting to the West Wing risked at any moment becoming farce.

Shown above, the New York Daily News headlined the fracas “Cuck Fight” on the newspaper’s Jan. 4 front page, thereby invoking an off-color insult used by alt-right partisans as well as the more familiar term of “cock fight.”

Suppressing the Vote

Center for American Progress, Voter Purges Prevent Eligible Americans from Voting, Danielle Root and Liz Kennedy, Jan. 4, 2018. On January 10, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, et.al., a case that will determine whether states can remove individuals from voter rolls for simply failing to vote in previous elections. Every American has the fundamental right to vote, but from 2011 to 2014, Ohio removed a reported 846,000 registered Americans from its voter rolls for infrequent voting over a six-year period.

Voter purges such as the one in Ohio are often targeted to keep certain groups, particularly communities of color, from casting ballots that count. If the Supreme Court approves Ohio’s voter removal process, it will give states the green light to manipulate their voter rolls and keep eligible Americans from participating in elections, endangering fair representation for all.

On June 28, 2017—the same day President Trump’s newly dissolved voter fraud commission requested sensitive information on state voter rolls—the Department of Justice sent a letter to states requesting information on their “list maintenance,” or voter removal, procedures. For many, this move—and its timing—signified the Trump administration’s intent to encourage or require voter purges across the country.

Here are some of the ways in which purges are being implemented:

Inside Washington

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New York Times, Trump Administration Takes Step That Could Threaten Marijuana Legalization Movement, Charlie Savage and Jack Healy, Jan. 4, 2018.  The Trump administration freed federal prosecutors on Thursday to more aggressively enforce marijuana laws, effectively threatening to undermine the legalization movement that has spread to six states, most recently California.

In a move that raised doubts about the viability and growth of the burgeoning commercial marijuana industry, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded an Obama-era policy that had discouraged federal prosecutors from bringing charges of marijuana-related crimes in states that have legalized sales of the drug.

In a statement, Mr. Sessions said the Obama-era guidance undermined “the rule of law” and the Justice Department’s mission to enforce federal statutes.

“Today’s memo on federal marijuana enforcement simply directs all U.S. attorneys to use previously established prosecutorial principles that provide them all the necessary tools to disrupt criminal organizations, tackle the growing drug crisis, and thwart violent crime across our country,” he said.

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Washington Post, U.S. cuts military aid to Pakistan as feud, fueled by Trump tweet, flares up, Missy Ryan, Annie Gowen and Carol Morello, Jan. 4, 2018.  The suspension of security funding, which the Trump administration blamed on Pakistan’s reluctance to curb extremists, came days after the president tweeted that Pakistan had repaid years of generous aid with “lies & deceit” — a claim Islamabad angrily denied.

More On Celebrity Sex Research

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Washington Post, I read decades of Woody Allen’s private notes. He’s obsessed with teenage girls, Richard Morgan, Jan. 4, 2018.  His 56-box archive is filled with misogynist and lecherous musings. The first person known to read Allen’s entire 56-box personal archive writes that it is filled with misogynist and lecherous musings.

hope hicks strategic communications directorWashington Times, Hope Hicks’ family, friends say she’ll need therapy after she leaves Trump: Report, Anna Giaritelli, Jan. 4, 2018. Family and friends of Hope Hicks (shown at right) believe the White House communications director will have to seek professional counseling after she leaves her job in the administration, according to a report published Thursday.

“Following the Trump victory and her [Hope Hicks] move into the White House, her friends and intimates talked with great concern about what kind of therapies and recuperation she would need after her tenure was finally over,” an excerpt from Michael Wolff’s forthcoming book “Fire and Fury” stated, as reprinted in GQ.

Hicks, 29, was the first person President Trump’s campaign hired in 2015. She had worked for Matthew Hiltzik’s New York-based public relations firm before jumping to Ivanka Trump’s fashion brand, where the eldest Trump daughter recommended Hicks for her father’s campaign.

“As the campaign progressed, moving from novelty project to political factor to juggernaut, Hicks’ family increasingly, and incredulously, viewed her as if having been taken captive,” Wolff wrote.

Despite having worked directly for Trump over the past two and a half years, the now-president has had moments of intense rage with her performance. “On more than one occasion, after a day – one of the countless days – of particularly bad notices, the president greeted her, affectionately, with ‘You must be the world’s worst PR person,'” the same excerpt stated.

Hicks took over for former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci in August and served as press secretary during the campaign.

Consumer Issues

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New York Times, 2 Major Flaws Are Discovered in the World’s Computers, Cade Metz and Nicole Perlroth, Jan. 4, 2018 (print edition). Called Meltdown, the first and most urgent flaw affects nearly all microprocessors made by Intel. The second, Spectre, affects most other chips.

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Washington Post, Sears Holdings has closed 400 stores in the past year; Now it’s closing 103 more, Abha Bhattarai, Jan. 4, 2018. The beleaguered retailer said it will close 64 Kmart stores and 39 Sears stores by early April. Macy’s also announced that it would close 11 U.S. stores in coming weeks as several major retailers shutter locations in an effort to cut costs.

More Book Controversy

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michael wolff CustomWashington Post, Michael Wolff’s Trump book: The latest in a career of controversy, Kyle Swenson, Jan. 4, 2018. Wolff (shown in a file photo) has made his career lobbing critical bombs from the pages of prestigious magazines like New York and Vanity Fair. He has also, as The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi wrote on Wednesday, been accused by critics of “pushing the facts as far as they’ll go, and sometimes further than they can tolerate.” Attacks have already started on the book’s credibility, coming from both beat reporters dialed into the administration, and far right Trump backers like Alex Jones.

Chaos In Washington?

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Washington Post, Opinion: We’re rushing toward the breaking point, E.J. Dionne Jr., Jan. 4, 2018. Can our government function normally when President Trump tweets about his “button” being bigger than that of an armed adversary? Can there be business as usual when the word “insane” is being applied with increasing frequency to his actions, and when one of his most loyal supporters has called a meeting between Russian operatives and Trump campaign officials “treasonous”?

Only a few days into the new year, there is a striking disconnect in the nation’s capital between the ordinary and the mind-boggling — between the sorts of transactions politicians routinely make to keep the country running and displays of the irrational, the abusive and the menacing emanating from the White House.

There has been an inclination over the past year in both politics and journalism to separate Trump’s tweets and other outbursts from the realities of governing. The idea is that his eruptions are either (a) largely irrelevant forms of his letting off steam or (b) signs of a brilliance beyond the comprehension of mere mortals. What looks to most of us like madness is cast as genius in setting up enemies, signaling his base or distracting us from one thing or another.

Puerto Rican Post-Hurricane Suffering

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, After Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico Faces Indifference, WhoWhatWhy Staff, Jan. 4, 2018. More than 100 years ago, in September of 1899, a category 4 hurricane hit Puerto Rico, killing 3400 people. A headline in the New York Times revealed the attitude of the day: SUFFERING IN PUERTO RICO: Hurricane Deprived Lower Classes of All Means of Livelihood; MANY PEONS ARE STARVING.

Such expressions — “lower classes”, “peons”— are painful to our modern, presumably enlightened sensibilities, but they are used in private by far too many people in the US today. And we wonder if the attitude reflected by these words is the real reason why the US government has done so little to save Puerto Rico. A statement signed by over 200 scholars, professors, writers, and Latin American experts contains these heartbreaking words: “Efforts are delayed for a population that the federal government considers expendable.”  

The situation is of course much more complicated. Below we present a small collection of insightful comments from a variety of sources on the issue. While it is complex, it is also tragically simple.

Puerto Ricans are not citizens like the rest of us, because Puerto Rico is not a state. It is a so-called commonwealth of the United States, whose people are denied electoral representation in the federal government that decides their political destiny: no voice in Congress, no vote in Presidential elections. This arrangement, born of America’s conquest of the island, in the Spanish-American War, makes the islanders more like colonial subjects than citizens of a democratic republic. They are, in effect, second-class citizens.

What’s Next For Muller?

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Washington Post, Michael Wolff’s book leaves breadcrumbs for Mueller to investigate, Jennifer Rubin (shown at right), Jan. 4, 2018. Michael Wolff’s new book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” should set off alarm bells for President Trump’s legal team. Two tidbits in particular point to areas of inquiry for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

Most important of Wolff’s reports is Trump’s drafting while on Air Force One of the statement concerning his son’s June 2016 meeting with Russian officials. The Post reported last summer:

fbi logoFlying home from Germany on July 8 aboard Air Force One, Trump personally dictated a statement in which Trump Jr. said that he and the Russian lawyer had “primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children” when they met in June 2016, according to multiple people with knowledge of the deliberations. The statement, issued to the New York Times as it prepared an article, emphasized that the subject of the meeting was “not a campaign issue at the time.”

The claims were later shown to be misleading.

Justice Department log circularOver the next three days, multiple accounts of the meeting were provided to the news media as public pressure mounted, with Trump Jr. ultimately acknowledging that he had accepted the meeting after receiving an email promising damaging information about Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help his father’s campaign.

This is damning both because it involves an effort arguably to cover up the real purpose of the meeting and, more important, because Trump was personally involved. This would be one powerful element in an obstruction-of-justice charge, if one is forthcoming, and certainly in considering impeachment, which would look beyond the four-corners of criminal statutes to see if Trump abused his office (crafting a misleading statement from the White House) for nefarious purposes (concealing a possibly incriminating meeting).

Trump, Sessions Name Christie Lawyer As Top Federal Prosecutor In New Jersey

NJ Observer, Christie Bridgegate Lawyer Named Interim US Attorney, Christian Hetrick and Steve Cronin, Jan. 4, 2018. One of Gov. Chris Christie’s lawyers for the Bridgegate scandal has landed a job as New Jersey’s top federal prosecutor.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Wednesday that he will appoint Craig Carpenito as interim U.S. attorney for New Jersey effective Friday. He will replace Paul Fishman, who resigned in March along with 45 other U.S. attorneys appointed by former President Barack Obama. Sessions named 17 interim U.S. attorneys on Wednesday.

chris christie good hsCarpenito defended Christie from a now dismissed citizen’s complaint that accused the governor of having knowledge of the Bridgegate plot, in which two Christie allies were convicted of helping close two lanes to the George Washington Bridge to punish the Fort Lee mayor for declining to endorse Christie’s re-election in 2013.

Carpenito’s bio on his law firm’s website notes that he “represents a key figure in ‘Bridgegate’” in the investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, the office he will now be running. That could mean Carpenito will have to recuse himself on Bridgegate-related matters, as an Appellate Court is still considering the case.

Christie praised Sessions’ selection and called Carpenito “an outstanding lawyer.” For those keeping score, another one of Christie’s Bridgegate lawyers, Christopher Wray, is now the FBI director.

Global News

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pakistan flag wavingWashington Post, Feud between U.S. and Pakistan flares up after Trump’s ‘lies & deceit’ tweet, Missy Ryan and Annie Gowen, Jan. 4, 2018. Even by the standard of their tumultuous relationship, the growing feud between the United States and Pakistan is unusually serious, with the potential to trigger a breakdown in ties that could threaten cooperation on intelligence, nuclear safety and America’s war in Afghanistan.

Tensions flared this week after President Trump lashed out in his first tweet of the new year, saying Pakistan had repaid U.S. assistance with “nothing but lies & deceit,” a claim that Pakistani leaders labeled as “completely incomprehensible.”

The Trump administration, led by senior officials known for taking a hard line on Pakistan, has been considering a range of punitive measures to force Islamabad to eliminate safe havens used by militants blamed for stoking violence in Afghanistan. The United States has withheld $255 million in military aid since last year.

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iran flag mapMoon of Alabama, Analysis: Iran, Europe Rejects U.S. Drive To War, B, Jan. 4, 2018. Protests against the fallout of neoliberal policies by the Rouhani government are surely justified. Even Supreme Leader Khamenei supports them. But in late December people chanting “regime change” slogans started to take part. They were obviously pushed from abroad by the MEK, the monarchist and other CIA front groups.

The situation changed. Directed through Telegram channels, groups of young rioters tried to take over police stations and to gain access to weapons. The Iranian people saw the dangers therein and did not support such behavior. The original protesters disappeared, their important voice was no longer heard. But for lack of local backing the riots soon died down.

The riots exposed the anti-Iran propagandists and imperial dreamers who believe that there is some significant internal movement in Iran against the Islamic Republic. But a few ten-thousand total protesters are absolutely insignificant when they have no backing from the masses. Still, the U.S. tried to use the riots to expand sanctions against Iran. It was slapped down when it brought the issue up at the UN Security Council.

Moore Accuser Sues For Defamation

roy moore screenshot croppedAssociated Press via Time Magazine, Roy Moore Accuser Leigh Corfman Files Defamation Lawsuit Against Him, Staff report, Jan. 4, 2018. A woman who says failed U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore molested her when she was 14 has filed a defamation lawsuit Moore and his campaign. Leigh Corfman filed the lawsuit Thursday. The suit says Moore and his campaign defamed her and made false statements as they denied the accusations in the midst of the U.S. Senate race in Alabama.

Corfman says Moore sexually abused her when she was 14 and then “called me a liar and immoral when I publicly disclosed his misconduct.”

Corfman says she was 14 when Moore, then a prosecutor in his 30s, touched her during an encounter. Moore has denied the allegations. Corfman was one of several women who said Moore pursued them when they were teenagers. The lawsuit asks Moore to publicly apologize.

Ivanka Turns Off Bannon?

Newsweek via Raw Story, Ivanka Trump unfollowed Steve Bannon on Twitter, Summer Meza, Jan. 4, 2018. Ivanka Trump no longer follows former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon on Twitter, as of Thursday afternoon. She either unfollowed or blocked Bannon, according to the bot account @TrumpsAlert, which tracks changes to the Trump family’s Twitter accounts. The change comes one day after dozens of salacious details disparaging the Trumps were revealed in excerpts from journalist Michael Wolff’s upcoming book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.

Media: New York Times National Security Tells All

The Intercept, All The News Unfit to Print: James Risen on His Battles with Bush, Obama, and the New York Times, Jeremy Scahill interviews longtime New York Times reporter James Risen, Jan. 4, 2018 (podcast).

james risen h sJames Risen, shown at left, is a legend in the world of investigative and national security journalism. As a reporter for the New York Times, Risen broke some of the most important stories of the post 9/11 era, from the warrantless surveillance against Americans conducted under the Bush-Cheney administration, to black prison sites run by the CIA, to failed covert actions in Iran. Risen has won the Pulitzer and other major journalism awards. But perhaps what he is now most famous for is fighting a battle under both the Bush and Obama administrations as they demanded — under threat of imprisonment — the name of one of Risen’s alleged confidential sources. In the end, Risen prevailed and refused to testify and he was not locked up. But during the course of his case, there were rulings that could have far reaching implications for journalists, particularly in a climate where the president of the United States is characterizing news outlets as enemies of the people, contemplating arresting reporters, and is conducting at least 27 leak investigations. All before the end of his first year in office.

 But it isn’t just the government that Risen had to fight. He also battled his own editors and other powerful figures at the New York Times. Some of those people pushed the narrative that Iraq had WMDs and they regularly colluded with senior officials at the CIA, NSA, and White House in an effort to kill — or delay publication of — Risen’s stories. James Risen has now written an extensive account of his years at the New York Times and he names names: The Biggest Secret: My Life as a New York Times Reporter in the Shadow of the War on Terror..

Risen is now a senior national security correspondent at The Intercept, where his incredible inside story has now been published. We talked with Risen about his career at the New York Times in a special edition of Intercepted. Below is the transcript of that conversation.

Jeremy Scahill: Jim, welcome to this special edition of Intercepted.

James Risen: Thanks for having me.

JS: So, as I read this piece, first of all, I just have to say it’s phenomenal and unusual. I can’t recall a national security reporter writing this kind of personal, autobiographical, chronicling of their time as a reporter, the challenges they face working for the most reputable newspaper in the world and fighting battles against both Republican and Democratic administrations. So, you know, I encourage people to read every word of this article.

And I’m particularly struck by what I believe is just a fact that this piece is going to be so educational and inspirational for young reporters who aspire to do the kind of work that you’ve done, Jim, as a national security reporter.

So, I’d like to start from the beginning and have you explain how you decided to become a national security reporter and how you got into all of this.

Jan. 3

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The New York Post, a Murdoch-owned tabloid that generally provides favorable coverage to President Trump, last year published the above portrayal, with Steve Bannon at top left. Bannon is also shown below on a Time Magazine cover that generated Trump fury, then forgiveness.

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Washington Post, Trump slams Bannon: ‘When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind,’ Josh Dawsey and Ashley Parker​, Jan. 3, 2018.  President Trump released a remarkably fiery statement after Stephen K. Bannon, his former chief strategist and campaign chief, mocked the president’s intellect, criticized the operations of the White House and torched Donald Trump Jr. and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.President Trump unleashed on his former chief strategist and campaign manager Wednesday, issuing a long and unusual statement questioning Stephen K. Bannon’s mental stability, honesty and political influence.

steve bannon cover time“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency,” the statement said. “When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Steve was a staffer who worked for me after I had already won the nomination by defeating seventeen candidates, often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican party.”

Trump continued: “Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn’t as easy as I make it look. Steve had very little to do with our historic victory, which was delivered by the forgotten men and women of this country. Yet Steve had everything to do with the loss of a Senate seat in Alabama held for more than thirty years by Republicans. Steve doesn’t represent my base — he’s only in it for himself.”

The statement from Trump came after Bannon has criticized Trump and his family in recent interviews — mocking the president’s intellect, criticizing the operations of the White House and torching Donald Trump Jr. and the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner.

His most recent comments, published online Wednesday in excerpts from a book by journalist Michael Wolff, came two weeks after a Bannon profile in Vanity Fair that infuriated the president and his senior aides.

breitbart logoBreitbart, Book: Steve Bannon Calls Kushner, Manafort, Don Jr. Trump Tower Meeting with Russians ‘Treasonous, Charlie Spiering, Jan. 3, 2018. Former Trump Chief Strategist Steve Bannon says the Mueller investigation is targeting the alleged “greasy” money laundering of Trump associates like Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort as a path to attack President Trump, according to a new book by Michael Wolff called Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.

michael wolff fire and furyDavid Smith reports in the Guardian: “Bannon has criticised Trump’s decision to fire Comey. In Wolff’s book, obtained by the Guardian ahead of publication from a bookseller in New England, he suggests White House hopes for a quick end to the Mueller investigation are gravely misplaced.”

“You realise where this is going,” Bannon is quoted as saying. “This is all about money laundering. Mueller chose [senior prosecutor Andrew] Weissmann first and he is a money-laundering guy. Their path to fucking Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr and Jared Kushner (shown at right) … It’s as plain as a hair on your face.”

jared kushner head shotLast month it was reported that federal prosecutors had subpoenaed records from Deutsche Bank, the German financial institution that has lent hundreds of millions of dollars to the Kushner property empire. Bannon continues: “It goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner shit. The Kushner shit is greasy. They’re going to go right through that. They’re going to roll those two guys up and say play me or trade me.”

Scorning apparent White House insouciance, Bannon reaches for a hurricane metaphor: “They’re sitting on a beach trying to stop a Category Five.”

President Trump at rally in Laconia, NH (Photo by Michael Vadon, July 16, 2015)

President Trump at 2016 campaign rally in Laconia, NH (Photo by Michael Vadon (July 16, 2015)

stephen bannon cropped npc 2013Roll Call, Trump Tower Meeting With Russian Was ‘Treasonous,’ Bannon Says, John T. Bennett, Jan. 3, 2018. Former top Trump aide: Mueller probe focused on money laundering. Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is calling a 2016 meeting between senior Trump campaign aides and a Russian lawyer they believed had dirt on Hillary Clinton “treasonous.”

In an interview for a coming book by Michael Wolff, Bannon (shown at right in a file photo) slammed Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner (President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, below at left on the cover of Time Magazine, and a close campaign and White House adviser) and Paul Manafort (his campaign chairman at the time of the meeting who has been indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller).

donald trump jr time cover cropped“The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor — with no lawyers. They didn’t have any lawyers,” Bannon continued, according to the Guardian. fbi logo“Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad s***, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.”

The Guardian obtained a copy of the book and first reported Bannon’s comments.

Former Trump Campaign Manager Lashes Back At Special Counsel

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paul manafortWashington Post,  Ex-Trump campaign chairman Manafort challenges his indictment in Russia probe by filing lawsuit against Mueller, Spencer S. Hsu and Matt Zapotosky, Jan. 3, 2017. Paul J. Manafort challenged his indictment by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III in a federal lawsuit, saying Mueller’s and the Justice Department’s prosecution of him concerns business dealings that have nothing to do with their investigation of Russian interference in last year’s presidential campaign.

The lawsuit contends special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is exceeding his authority by focusing his investigation not on Manafort’s actions with the Trump campaign in 2016 but alleged fraud, conspiracy and money laundering in his secret lobbying for pro-Russian Ukrainian groups.

Scandal Allegations Among White House Staff

Groopspeak.com, Trump’s Young Staffer Abruptly Storms Off After Sexual Comment, Wire reports, Jan. 3, 2018. Explosive allegations in a new book by Michael Wolff roiled the White House today, as President Trump is again under fire for his treatment of women due to a revealed run-in WH Communications Director Hope Hicks.

According to Wolff, the author of Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, Trump referred to Hicks as a “piece of tail” in a moment that sent her fleeing from the room in humiliation. She is shown in a file photo with Corey Lewandowski, at one point the Trump campaign manager.

hope hicks cory lewandowski“Hicks sat in Trump Tower with Trump and his sons, worried about Lewandowski’s treatment in the press and wondering aloud how she might help him,” the book reads. “Trump, who otherwise seemed to treat Hicks in a protective and even paternal way, looked up and said, ‘Why? You’ve already done enough for him. you’re the best piece of tail he’ll ever have’ sending Hicks running from the room.”

It is not known whether Lewandowski (with Hicks in photo below) was privy to Trump’s treatment of Hicks, but it is known that the pair dated for an undisclosed length of time.

Bannon plays a large part in Fire and Fury, and accuses Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr. of “treasonous” behavior for their meeting in New York with a Russian lawyer who claimed to have opposition research on Hillary Clinton.

The populist Breitbart big-shot rails against Don Jr. in numerous excerpts, and told Wolff that Robert Mueller is going to crack the First Son “like an egg.”

Wolff (shown in a file photo) also claims in the book that Trump didn’t actually want to win, that his campaign in 2015-16 was a plot to fail on-purpose and still make money. In other words, a political version of The Producers.

Trump, the book clams, was shocked and crestfallen when he heard the news of his unlikely electoral win.

rupert murdoch newBut in the #MeToo era, the story of 45 calling a well-respected and accomplished woman – or any woman – a “piece of tail” in the White House will reverberate farther than any historical horse-race intrigue.

The POTUS should be grateful that he wasn’t photographed with Hicks too often, but this one just had its “creep” factor intensified for many viewers:

The book also alleges that Trump called Rupert Murdoch (shown above) a “f***ing idiot” and Sally Yates a “c***.”

 Spiking CIA Stories At The New York Times

james risen h sThe Intercept, The Biggest Secret: My Life as a New York Times Reporter in the Shadow of the War on Terror. James Risen (shown at left), Jan. 3, 2018. I was sitting in the nearly empty restaurant of the Westin Hotel in Alexandria, Virginia, getting ready for a showdown with the federal government that I had been trying to avoid for more than seven years.

The Obama administration was demanding that I reveal the confidential sources I had relied on for a chapter about a botched CIA operation in my 2006 book, State of War. I had also written about the CIA operation for the New York Times, but the paper’s editors had suppressed the story at the government’s request. It wasn’t the only time they had done so.

My case was part of a broader crackdown on reporters and whistleblowers that had begun during the presidency of George W. Bush and continued far more aggressively under the Obama administration, which had already prosecuted more leak cases than all previous administrations combined.

Obama officials seemed determined to use criminal leak investigations to limit reporting on national security. But the crackdown on leaks only applied to low-level dissenters; top officials caught up in leak investigations, like former CIA Director David Petraeus, were still treated with kid gloves.

 I discovered that there was, in effect, a marketplace of secrets in Washington, in which White House officials and other current and former bureaucrats, contractors, members of Congress, their staffers, and journalists all traded information. This informal black market helped keep the national security apparatus running smoothly, limiting nasty surprises for all involved. The revelation that this secretive subculture existed, and that it allowed a reporter to glimpse the government’s dark side, was jarring. It felt a bit like being in the Matrix.

The battles over national security reporting in the years after 9/11 have yielded mixed results. In my view, the mainstream media has missed some key lessons from the debacle over WMD reporting before the war in Iraq. Times reporter Judy Miller became an easy scapegoat, perhaps because she was a woman in the male-dominated field of national security reporting.

JFK Murder Investigation: “The Man Who Knew Too Much”

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Investigation: How to Avoid Being Linked to the JFK Assassination: Get Yourself Locked Up, Dick Russell (shown below at left), Jan. 3, 2018. Why would a man who knew Lee Harvey Oswald and had apparent connections to intelligence walk into a bank, shoot two holes in a wall, and await arrest months prior to JFK’s assassination? There is no better alibi than being in federal prison.

Dick RussellOn September 20, 1963, two months before President John F. Kennedy was gunned down in Dallas, a highly decorated Army veteran named Richard Case Nagell walked into a bank in El Paso, fired two shots into a wall from a revolver, and went outside to await arrest. There was speculation, even by the officer who put him in handcuffs, that for some reason he wanted to be locked up.

dick russell man who knew too much coverNagell was charged with attempted bank robbery. Only later would he indicate to the FBI that he feared being implicated in an “inimical act” — one that involved accused JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.

What could be known of Nagell’s strange saga was featured in my book on the Kennedy assassination, The Man Who Knew Too Much. Now recent releases from the National Archives of long-withheld CIA and FBI assassination-related files shed new light on Nagell, and on which branches of the CIA had the strongest interest in him.

Trump Scraps His Controversial Voting Fraud Commission

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New York Times, Trump Dissolves His Panel Investigating 2016 Election Fraud, Michael Tackett and Michael Wines, Jan. 3, 2017. President Trump on Wednesday abruptly shut down a White House commission he had charged with investigating voter fraud, ending a brief quest for evidence of election theft that generated lawsuits, outrage and some scholarly testimony, but no real evidence that American elections are at all corrupt.

Mr. Trump did not acknowledge the commission’s inability to find evidence of fraud, but cast the closing as a result of continuing legal challenges.

“Despite substantial evidence of voter fraud, many states have refused to provide the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity with basic information relevant to its inquiry,” Mr. Trump said in a White House statement.

“Rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense, today I signed an executive order to dissolve the commission, and have asked the Department of Homeland Security to review these issues and determine next courses of action,” he said.

In fact, no state has uncovered significant evidence to support the president’s claim, and election officials, including many Republicans, have strongly rejected it.Continue reading the main story  

Mr. Trump established the commission after his repeated insistence, without credible evidence, that widespread voter fraud explained how Hillary Clinton received about 2.9 million more votes while Mr. Trump won the presidency in the Electoral College.

kris kobach kansas SmallIt is an issue that continues to resonate with his base voters, and Mr. Trump has mentioned it in recent rallies, but there have been few Republicans in Congress who have followed him.

The closing of the commission was a blow for Kris Kobach, the secretary of state of Kansas and the panel’s vice chairman. Mr. i-l-photos Kobach (shown above) was one of a few state officials to support Mr. Trump’s contention of widespread fraud.

Global News: Korea 

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New York Times, North Korea Reopens Border Hotline With the South, Choe Sang-Hun, Jan. 3, 2018. The return of the hotline, suspended nearly two years ago, could lead to direct dialogue between the two Koreas after years of hair-trigger tensions.

kim jong un suitThe move came two days after North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un (shown at right in a file photo from a United Nations appearance), made a rare overture to the South. 

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New York Times, Trump Taunts Kim: ‘I Too Have a Nuclear Button,’ Peter Baker and Michael Tackett, Jan. 3, 2018 (print edition). In a tweet, the president said his nuclear button was “much bigger & more powerful” than Mr. Kim’s. “And my Button works!”

Inside Washington

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nsa official logoWashington Post, NSA quickly losing top talent, as highly skilled workers move to the private sector, Ellen Nakashima and Aaron Gregg, Jan. 3, 2018 (print edition). Since 2015, several hundred hackers, engineers and data scientists have left the spy service, some disillusioned with the agency’s leadership and an unpopular reorganization. The potential impact of the departures on national security is significant, according to current and former U.S. officials.

dana gresham doug jones Custom 2

Newly elected U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, an Alabama Democrat shown at right, with his newly named chief of staff, Dana Gresham

Alabama Political Reporter, Doug Jones, to be sworn in Wednesday, hires only Democratic African American chief of staff, Chip Brownlee, Jan. 3, 2018. Sen.-elect Doug Jones, who will be sworn in Wednesday, will be the only Democratic senator this Congress to hire an African American chief of staff. Jones on Tuesday announced three other top staff picks, including his legislative director, assistant legislative director and transition adviser.

Alabama’s newly elected senator has chosen Birmingham native Dana Gresham, a former Obama-era official with 14 years of experience on Capitol Hill, as his chief of staff. Gresham served as assistant secretary for government affairs at the U.S. Department of Transportation, leading the Legislative Affairs Office.

Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, and Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, are the only two senators with black chiefs of staff.

Legal, Security Costs For Sex Accusers Defended

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Washington Post, Lawyer claims donations fall far short of high costs of defamation suit against Trump, Frances Stead Sellers, Jan. 3, 2018. Facing questions about how a defamation suit against President Trump is being funded, a lawyer for plaintiff Summer R. Zervos has issued a statement saying that the Internet fundraising appeal she has hosted on her website has brought in only a fraction of what it will take to pursue the case.

gloria allred 2012 Custom“To date the fund has received donations of just under $30,000,” wrote prominent women’s rights lawyer Gloria Allred in a statement published Sunday on her Facebook page. (She is shown at right in a file photo from 2012.)

“We anticipate that the costs alone in this case will be hundreds of thousands of dollars,” wrote Allred, who said that she is not charging any fees for her own legal work, that neither of the two law firms involved in the case has been paid fees, and that “the donated funds have not and will not be used to personally benefit Ms. Zervos in any way.”

The statement comes as the #metoo movement continues to roil the spheres of show business, media and politics, and in the immediate wake of an article published in the Hill alleging that Allred’s daughter, Lisa Bloom, “sought to arrange compensation from donors and tabloid media outlets for women who made or considered making sexual misconduct allegations against Donald Trump.”

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New York Times, Opinion: The Republicans’ Fake Investigations, Glenn R.Simpson and Peter Fritsch, Jan. 3, 2018 (print edition). Glenn R. Simpson and Peter Fritsch, both former journalists, are the founders of the research firm Fusion GPS.

A generation ago, Republicans sought to protect President Richard Nixon by urging the Senate Watergate committee to look at supposed wrongdoing by Democrats in previous elections. The committee chairman, Sam Ervin, a Democrat, said that would be “as foolish as the man who went bear hunting and stopped to chase rabbits.”

Today, amid a growing criminal inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, congressional Republicans are again chasing rabbits. We know because we’re their favorite quarry.

In the year since the publication of the so-called Steele dossier — the collection of intelligence reports we commissioned about Donald Trump’s ties to Russia — the president has repeatedly attacked us on Twitter. His allies in Congress have dug through our bank records and sought to tarnish our firm to punish us for highlighting his links to Russia. Conservative news outlets and even our former employer, The Wall Street Journal, have spun a succession of mendacious conspiracy theories about our motives and backers.

Congress should release transcripts of our firm’s testimony, so that the American people can learn the truth about our work and most important, what happened to our democracy.We are happy to correct the record. In fact, we already have.

james risen h sThe Intercept, All The News Unfit to Print: James Risen on His Battles with Bush, Obama, and the New York Times, Jeremy Scahill, Jan. 3 2018. James Risen (shown at right) is a legend in the world of investigative and national security journalism. As a reporter for the New York Times, Risen broke some of the most important stories of the post 9/11 era, from the warrantless surveillance against Americans conducted under the Bush-Cheney administration, to black prison sites run by the CIA, to failed covert actions in Iran.

Risen has won the Pulitzer and other major journalism awards. But perhaps what he is now most famous for is fighting a battle under both the Bush and Obama administrations as they demanded — under threat of imprisonment —the name of one of Risen’s alleged confidential sources. In the end, Risen prevailed and refused to testify and he was not locked up.

But during the course of his case, there were rulings that could have far reaching implications for journalists, particularly in a climate where the president of the United States is characterizing news outlets as enemies of the people, contemplating arresting reporters, and is conducting at least 27 leak investigations. All before the end of his first year in office.

But it isn’t just the government that Risen had to fight. He also battled his own editors and other powerful figures at the New York Times. Some of those people pushed the narrative that Iraq had WMDs and they regularly colluded with senior officials at the CIA, NSA, and White House in an effort to kill — or delay publication of — Risen’s stories.

James Risen has now written an extensive account of his years at the New York Times and he names names.

Jan. 2


matt gaetz dui

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Pensacola) is shown above in a billboard ad one Interstate 10 in his Florida district mocking his DUI (Driving while under the influence) arrests. The billboard ad GoFundMe ad campaign by activist Claude Taylor against Gaetz derives from the report below by Wayne Madsen.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigation: Mueller’s “grand inquisitor” in Congress has a record of DWIs and a suspicious death, Wayne Madsen, Dec. 19, 2017.  (Excerpted from the subscription-only website WMR and released on Jan. 2 with permission.).

matt gaetz o CustomThe chief congressional enemy of Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller has a long record of drunk driving charges and one suspicious death, according to senior GOP sources in Tallahassee, the Florida capital.

fbi logoFirst-term U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz (in his official photo at left and also in a mug shot below) has led the charge against Mueller and his investigation of Donald Trump and his administration. Gaetz insists that Mueller, a Republican, is leading a politically-tainted witch hunt against Trump, his family members, and members of his campaign and administration. However, Gaetz has offered little, except for right-wing talking points, to disparage Mueller and his team of seasoned federal prosecutors.

matt gaetz mug CustomGaetz’s record includes at least seven arrests for drunk driving and a closeted gay life style. Gaetz proclaims himself as an anti-gay rights social conservative. Gaetz’s politically powerful father Don Gaetz, a former health care CEO who was sued by the U.S. Justice Department for Medicare fraud, is a powerful member of the Florida Senate. Senator Gaetz has used his position to propel his son into national politics. The Gaetz father-and-son team hails from a prominent North Dakota GOP political family.

Editor’s note: The Justice Integrity Project will be ramping up the frequency of its investigative reporting in 2018, including by citations to the work of others, as here.

White House

Donald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)

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Washington Post, Trump’s true priorities revealed in holiday news dumps, James Hohmann​, Jan. 2, 2018. Underscoring how politically unpopular these moves were, most of the decisions were rolled out the Fridays before Christmas and New Year’s Eve to minimize media coverage and public notice.

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Washington Post, Trump’s lawyer is a specialist in securing preemptive pardons, Robert Nelson, Jan. 2, 2018. John Dowd has an unusual legal background.

National Politics

mitt romney 2012 open neck gage skidmore

Mitt Romney, the Republican president nominee in 2012, is shown on the campaign trail that year in a photo by Gage Skidmore

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orrin hatch oNew York Times, Orrin Hatch Plans to Retire, Creating an Opening for Romney, Jonathan Martin, Jan. 2, 2017. Orrin G. Hatch R-UT, shown at right), the longest-serving Senate Republican, announced that he will retire at the end of the year, clearing a path for Mitt Romney to run.

mitt romney wRoll Call, It’s Not Just Romney: Hatch Retirement Could Lead to Decisions for Grassley, Crapo, Niels Lesniewski, Jan. 2, 2018. Much of the talk after GOP Sen. Orrin G. Hatch’s announcement that he will retire from the Senate after serving Utah for more than four decades will focus on whether Mitt Romney (shown below) will seek to succeed him.

But on Capitol Hill, the Finance chairman’s pending departure when he still has time left under Conference rules to wield the tax writing panel’s gavel also raises questions about who will lead the Senate GOP on taxes, trade, health care and entitlements.

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jennifer rubin twitterWashington Post, Opinion: As Orrin Hatch retires, here are six things to watch, Jennifer Rubin (right), Jan. 2, 2018. Could we get a Sen. Romney? This might be the most consequential Senate retirement ever involving a seat that is highly unlikely to change parties. Here’s what to watch for:

First, the decision represents another Senate setback for President Trump, who wanted to keep Hatch, once a mainstream and practical Republican but more recently an unabashed apologist for Trump, in the Senate. After the announced retirements of Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) as well as the Alabama debacle, Trump may face a far more confrontational Senate, even if the GOP holds onto its majority.

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republican elephant logoWashington Post, Iowa went big for Trump, but voters seem to be souring on him and the GOP, David Weigel, an. 2, 2018 (print edition). The state, the epicenter of Republicans’ surge in 2014 and 2016, is not an obvious place for a Democratic comeback. But a recent poll found only 34 percent of Iowans said they would back the party in this year’s midterm elections, and more said they were turned off by politics altogether.

Inside Washington

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Washington Post, Congress will return to a full slate of thorny issues — with deadlines looming, Jeff Stein, Jan. 2, 2018 (print edition). Fresh off a party-line vote on the GOP tax overhaul, the ability of lawmakers and the White House to craft any form of bipartisan agreement will be tested on topics such as funding the government, stabilizing a health insurance program for poor children and whether to shield young undocumented immigrants from deportation.

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epa general logoWashington Post, How Scott Pruitt turned the EPA into one of Trump’s most powerful tools, Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin, Jan. 2, 2018. In legal maneuvers and executive actions, in public speeches and closed-door meetings with industry groups, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency has moved to shrink its reach, alter its focus, and pause or reverse numerous rules. The effect has been to steer the EPA in the direction sought by those being regulated.

Global News: Israeli Right Continues Land Grab

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benjamin netanyahu smileNew York Times, Israeli Right Presses Moves to Doom 2-State Solution, David M. Halbfinger, Jan. 2, 2017 (print edition). After President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party has seized momentum to strengthen Israel’s rule of the West Bank.

Moon of Alabama, Analysis: Iran. Protests Decrease, Riots Increase, U.S. Prepares The Next Phase, B, Jan. 2, 2018.  The riots and protests in Iran continue for a 6th day. While “western” media claim that the protests are growing I see no evidence for that in the various videos that appear online. The legitimate protests over price rises, failing private banks and against the new neoliberal austerity budget of President Rohani were hijacked early on by rioting gangs. These are obviously coordinated from the outside of the country through various internet applications, especially Telegram and Instagram.

iran flag mapThe groups of rioters are between 30 and 80 people in size with a some bystanders milling around. They seem to follow a flash mob strategy appearing here and there and to vanish again when police appears in force. In some cities rioters attacked police stations, military posts and were even stealing firetrucks. Some of the rioters are evidently trying to get their hands on weapons.

Altogether only a few thousand people, overwhelmingly male youth, seem to be involved. Thousands protest in Israel each week against the corruption of Prime Minister Netanyahoo. On New-Years-Eve more than 1,000 cars in France were set alight by arsonists. None of this is front page news but a few dozen riots in Iran get elevated to a “revolution”.

The total death toll of the “peaceful protests” is now some 21 of which (by my count) at least five were policemen killed in attacks by “protesters” and two unrelated civilians who were run over and killed by rioters driving a stolen firetruck. Six rioters were killed when they tried to attack a police station in the town of Qahderijan. The governor there claimed that the attackers were armed with guns.

The same faking of pictures of large demonstrations and “evidence” of government brutality that we have seen with regard to the war on Syria is taking place with Iran. Videos of demonstrations from Argentine and Bahrain are used to claim large demonstrations in Iran.

The terrorist group MEK (NCRI, MKO) “leaked” fake protocols of an alleged government meeting which it claims shows panic over the protests. The MEK has paid large sums to get support from politicians, including John McCain in Washington and elsewhere. During the Iraq-Iran war it fought against Iran on the side of Iraq. After the U.S. invaded Iraq the MEK was held in special camps under U.S. control. According to a 2012 Seymour Hersh report the U.S. military trained MEK fighters in the U.S. in sabotage and insurgency technics. These people are deeply hated in Iran but feared they are not. Their early engagement in the “protests” via their website and propaganda ops in Iran may point to deeper role in the riots.

The rioting at the current level is in no way endangering the Iranian republic. Should some rioters acquire weapons the intensity might change a bit. But unless they receive material and personal support from the outside, like it happened in Syria, the situation will soon calm down.

cia logoI had documented in earlier posts that the Trump administration, in tight co-operations with Israel, long prepared for an intensification of a conflict with Iran. Half a year ago. the CIA set up a special office with a high level Iran hawk leading the charge. Last month Trump named another Iran hawk to lead the State Department Middle East section.

Since the Iranian people successfully achieved “regime change” in 1979 the U.S. and Britain have had an adversarial policy against Iran. It has ebbed and flowed in intensity but never changed. Under Trump, we will see a rapid increase of hostile actions. The administration just called for a UN emergency session about the situation. That is a laughable move when one considers the size of daily murder the U.S. and its allies commit in Yemen, Syria and Palestine. But the operation that unfolds now is likely just a small part of a larger anti-Iran strategy that has yet to become visible.

Jan. 1

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New York Times, Activists Exploit Effort to Expose Sex Harassment, Kenneth P. Vogel, Jan. 1, 2018 (print edition). The earthquake of sexual misconduct allegations has taken down powerful men without regard to politics, but as it shakes Washington, accusations are taking on a partisan tint.

djt official SmallAs the #MeToo movement to expose sexual harassment roils the nation’s capital, political partisans are exploiting the moment, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to support accusers who come forward with charges against President Trump and members of Congress, even amid questions about their motivation.

As accusations take on a partisan tint, activists and lawyers fear that such an evolution could damage a movement that has shaken Hollywood, Silicon Valley, media suites in New York and the hallways of Congress — and has taken down both a Democratic fund-raiser, Harvey Weinstein, and a conservative stalwart, Bill O’Reilly.

“There is a danger in this environment that unsophisticated individuals who have been abused by powerful people could be exploited by groups seeking partisan advantage, or by lawyers seeking a moment in the limelight,” said Debra Katz, a Washington lawyer who has brought sexual harassment cases against politicians from both parties.The lawyers and operatives behind the most politically charged cases brush off those concerns.

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New York Times, Powerful Hollywood Women Unveil Anti-Harassment Plan, Cara Buckley, Jan. 1, 2018 (print edition). Shonda Rhimes and Reese Witherspoon are among the 300 actresses and insiders behind Time’s Up, an initiative for legal protections for workers nationwide.

Deep DC Intrigues

jefferson morley newThe Intercept, Wilderness of Mirrors, Jefferson Morley (shown at right and the author of a new book, The Ghost, a biography of James J. Angleton), Jan. 1, 2018. Documents Reveal the Complex Legacy of James Angleton, CIA Counterintelligence Chief and Godfather of Mass Surveillance.

Veteran CIA officer Cleveland Cram was nearing the end of his career in 1978, when his superiors in the agency’s directorate of operations handed him a sensitive assignment: Write a history of the agency’s Counterintelligence Staff. Cram, then 61, was well qualified for the task. He had a master’s and Ph.D. in European History from Harvard. He had served two decades in the clandestine service, including nine years as deputy chief of the CIA’s station in London.

jefferson morley the ghost coverCram was assigned to investigate a debacle. The Counterintelligence Staff, created in 1954, had been headed for 20 years by James Jesus Angleton, a legendary spy who deployed the techniques of literary criticism learned at Yale to find deep patterns and hidden meanings in the records of KGB operations against the West. But Angleton was also a dogmatic and conspiratorial operator whose idiosyncratic theories paralyzed the agency’s operations against the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War, and whose domestic surveillance operations targeting American dissidents had discredited the CIA in the court of public opinion.

Cram’s mission — and he chose to accept it — was to soberly answer the questions that senior CIA officials were asking in their private moments: What in the name of God and national security had Jim Angleton been doing when he ran the Counterintelligence Staff from 1954 to 1974? Did his operations serve the agency’s mission? Did they serve the country?

Global News: Syrian War Update

syrian map 1 1 2018

SouthFront, Map Update: General Look At Military Situation In Syria, Staff report, Jan. 1, 2018.  This map, released by 24 Resistance Axis, provides a general look at the military situation in Syria on December 31, 2017.

According to the map, the Damascus government is noow in control of 100,120.03 km² – 51.9% of Syria (shown in red). The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces control 47,533.14 km², mostly in northern and eastern Syria – 24.6% of the country (yellow). Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) and its allies control 20,852.18 km² – 10.8% of the country (green, aside from a U.S.-influenced zone at the map’s center and mostly desert). The Turkish Armed Forces and Turkish proxies control 7,101 km² – 3,7% of Syria (gray). ISIS still keeps official presence in about 16,109.4 km² – 8.4% of the country (dark brown, mostly desert). However, the group has a large network of sleeper cells across Syria.

The Syrian military, backed by Iran and Russia, is now focused on liberating the Beit Jinn pocket in west of Damascus and the militant-held areas in southern Idlib and southern Aleppo. The situation also remains tense in the Eastern Ghouta region east of Damascus where Ahrar al-Sham and Jaish al-Islam resist to the Syrian Army.

Media: New Publisher Opines At New York Times

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New York Times, Opinion: Note From Our New Publisher, A. G. (Arthur Gregg) Sulzberger, Jan. 1, 2018. In 1896 my great-great-grandfather left his hometown, Chattanooga, and traveled north to purchase a small, fading newspaper in New York. The moment was not unlike our own. Technological, economic and social turmoil were upending the traditions of the country. People trying to understand these changes and their implications found themselves confused by polarized politics and by a partisan press more focused on advancing its own interests than on informing the public.

Against this backdrop Adolph Ochs saw the need for a different kind of newspaper, and he committed The New York Times to the then-radical idea that still animates it today. He vowed that The Times would be fiercely independent, dedicated to journalism of the highest integrity and devoted to the public welfare.

Media: Wacko Discipline

Al.com, Anniston Star’s ex-publisher spanked female employees in the 1970s, reports say, Leada Gore, Jan. 1, 2017. Brandt Ayers, former publisher and now chairman of the company that publishes The Anniston Star, spanked female employees in the 1970s, several former staffers claim.

The allegations come from female employees who said they were targeted and sexually abused by Ayers, now 82, while working in the paper’s newsroom. One of the women, Veronica Pike Kennedy, told the Alabama Political Reporter she was working at the newspaper early one Saturday when Ayers approached her about an editorial he had written and then told her she was being a “bad girl” and he would “have to spank” her.

Kennedy said Ayers pulled her out of her chair, bent her over a desk and spanked her 18 times with a metal ruler. The incident was witnessed by another Star reporter who allegedly confirmed the account. Kennedy was 22 at the time of the alleged incident; Ayers was in his early 40s. Several other female Star staffers reported similar contact with Ayers.

Ayers issued a statement through a Jan. 1 story published in The Star. “As a very young man with more authority than judgment, I did some things I regret,” Ayers said. “At my advanced age I wish I could relive those days again, knowing the seriousness of my position and with the accumulated judgment that goes with age.”

The allegations against Ayers were first detailed in an article in the Alabama Political Reporter by Eddie Burkhalter, a former Star reporter who left the newspaper in November after allegedly being prevented from reporting on the story. The Star’s current staff began looking into the story when Joey Kennedy, Veronica Kennedy’s husband, mentioned the incident – both not the publisher or the newspaper involved – in November, The Star said.

Ayers, the son of the newspaper’s founder Harry Ayers, took over as publisher of the The Star in 1969, remaining in the position until 2016. He now serves as chairman of the board of Consolidated Publishing, publisher of The Star, The Daily Home and several weekly newspapers, and writes a column for the newspapers. Among his recent subjects was Roy Moore, the failed Republican Senate candidate who has been accused of having improper sexual contact with teenage girls in the 1970s.






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