April 2018 News Reports


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

April 30

U.S. War Powers

washington post logotim kaine wWashington Post, Opinion: Congress must take away Trump’s unlimited authority to wage war, Tim Kaine, April 30, 2018 (print edition). U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, a Democrat from Virginia up for re-election in 2016, was the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 2016. President Trump believes he can launch missile strikes against Syria and broadly expand the global war on terrorism without seeking any congressional approval. If missile strikes against Syria can be carried out without authorization from Congress, there’s nothing to stop the administration from attacking Iran or North Korea, as some of the president’s advisers have publicly encouraged.

It is time for Congress to act. We should take back the unlimited authority the president believes he has. We should act in a bipartisan manner to define what military action the president can and can’t take against terrorist groups. And we should clarify that military action against a sovereign nation, except to defend the United States from imminent attack, requires separate congressional approval.

Associated Press​ via Washington Post, Report: Mueller gives list of questions to Trump’s lawyers, Staff report, April 30, 2018. The list from the special counsel includes almost four dozen questions that range from President Trump’s motivations for firing FBI Director James Comey a year ago to contacts Trump’s campaign had with Russians, according to a report published in the New York Times.

Special counsel Robert Mueller has given a list of almost four dozen questions to lawyers for President Donald Trump as part of his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and whether Trump obstructed justice, according to a report published in The New York Times.

The Times obtained a list of the questions, which range from Trump’s motivations for firing FBI Director James Comey a year ago to contacts Trump’s campaign had with Russians.

Although Mueller’s team has indicated to Trump’s lawyers that he’s not considered a target, investigators remain interested in whether the president’s actions constitute obstruction of justice and want to interview him about several episodes in office. The lawyers want to resolve the investigation as quickly as possible, but there’s no agreement on how to do that.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump-allied House conservatives draft articles of impeachment against Rosenstein as ‘last resort,’ Robert Costa, Sari Horwitz and Matt Zapotosky, April 30, 2018. Conservative House allies of President Trump have drafted articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who oversees the ongoing special counsel probe, setting up a possible GOP showdown over the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The document, which was obtained by The Washington Post, underscores the growing chasm between congressional Republican leaders, who have maintained for months that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III should be allowed to proceed, and rank-and-file GOP lawmakers who have repeatedly battled the Justice Department during the past year.

The draft articles, which one of its authors called a “last resort,” would be unlikely to garner significant support in Congress. But the document could serve as a provocative political weapon for conservatives in their standoff with Mueller and the Justice Department.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fake news’ might have saved Trump from an awkward confrontation over his vulgar remark about African countries, Callum Borchers, April 30, 2018. Just a few months ago, President Trump grew frustrated during a meeting in the Oval Office about protections for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries and asked, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”

muhammadu buhari suitThe African Union condemned the remark at the time. On Monday, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari became the first of its members to visit the Trump White House.

“Did you address his reported comments from earlier this year, when he reportedly used vulgar language to describe African nations?” Jordan Fabian of the Hill asked Buhari (shown in a file photo) during a joint news conference.

Buhari’s response showcased one possible effect of Trump’s “fake news” refrain.

“Well,” Buhari began, “I’m very careful with what the press says about others than myself. I’m not sure about, you know, the validity or whether that allegation against the president was true or not. So the best thing for me is to keep quiet.”

If he truly doubts that Trump made the statement, partly in reference to African countries, then Buhari may be one of the few. Even the White House initially did not dispute The Washington Post’s report on the comment in January.

washington post logoWashington Post, Kelly denies calling Trump an ‘idiot,’ says news report is ‘pathetic attempt to smear people,’ Josh Dawsey, April 30, 2018. White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly on Monday denied he said President Trump is an “idiot,” calling an NBC News story that said he had done so “total BS.”

Kelly’s statement came about 45 minutes after NBC News published a report that described a number of fights between Trump and his embattled chief of staff. The outlet reported that Kelly often tells senior aides that they have to save the president from himself and his impulses — and that Trump does not understand policy.

Trade & Competition

ny times logochina flag SmallNew York Times, China Prepares a Hard-Line Stance on U.S. Trade Demands, Keith Bradsher, April 30, 2018.  China will refuse to discuss President Trump’s two toughest trade demands in talks with U.S. negotiators this week, people involved in Chinese policymaking say. Its position could leave Washington with no choice but to escalate the dispute or back down.

ny times logofcc logoNew York Times, Sprint and T-Mobile Agree to Merge. Will the F.C.C. Allow It? Michael de la Merced and Cecilia Kang, April 30, 2018. With the merger, the two companies are betting that regulators will allow the U.S. wireless market to shrink to three big players. The new company would have nearly 100 million retail subscribers.

U.S. Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Ready, shoot, aim’: Loyalty alone can earn a nod from Trump, leading to hiring headaches, Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey, April 30, 2018 (print edition). The White House struggles to balance allegiance, qualifications and baggage as it vets nominees, officials said, sometimes resulting in embarrassment. “Trump decides who he wants and tells people,” said a strategist who works closely with the West Wing. “That’s the vetting process.”

washington post logorepublican elephant logoWashington Post, This little-known megadonor is pouring money into GOP candidates — and setting the tone for the primaries, Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Michael Scherer, April 30, 2018 (print edition). Richard Uihlein, a shipping-supplies magnate who shuns the spotlight, has risen to become one of the most powerful — and disruptive — GOP donors in the country, funneling cash to races in the service of his anti-union, free-market and small-government views.

mike pence o

washington post logonra logo CustomWashington Post, The NRA said guns will be banned during a Pence speech. School shooting survivors see hypocrisy, Alex Horton, April 30, 2018 (print edition). “I thought giving everyone a gun was to enhance safety. Am I missing something?” asked the father of a slain Parkland student. Even some NRA members and gun enthusiasts bristled at the notion of disarming for the vice president, shown above.

Israel Pounds War Drums With Unprovoked Attack Against Syria, Iran

israel flagSouthFront, Israel Carries Out Missile Strikes On Syria As Government Forces Gain Momentum In Southern Damascus, Staff report, April 30, 2018. Last night, missile strikes hit the 47th Brigade ammo depot east of the city of Hama, the Fire Fighters Center in west of Hama and a military position around Aleppo Airport.

According to pro-government sources, the missile strikes were carried out by the Israeli military. Different sources say that 26-48 members of Iranian-backed militias were killed in the incident. The strikes came amid important developments in southern Damascus where members of Jaish al-Islam, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and Jaish al-Abadali had agreed on an evacuation deal proposed by the government.

Haaretz, Analysis Israel Braces for Iranian Retaliation for Syria Strike – but War Isn’t Inevitable, Amos Harel, April 30, 2018. There could be a lull before Lebanon’s May 6 election and the Americans’ May 12 decision on the Iranian nuclear deal, but revenge could come from Lebanon, Syria, Iran or further afield. Update: Syria Strike Destroyed 200 Missiles, Killed 11 Iranians, pro-Assad Alliance Says,

About two and a half weeks after the bombing in which seven members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards were killed at the T4 base in Syria, Israel is apparently still waiting for the other shoe to drop. The Iranians’ response, despite their frequent threats of revenge, is being postponed. It’s also possible that as time passes, Tehran is becoming more aware of the possible complex consequences of any action. Still, the working assumption of Israeli defense officials remains that such a response is highly probable.

iran world mapThe Iranians appear to have many options. Revenge could come on the Syrian border, from the Lebanese border via Hezbollah, directly from Iran by the launch of long-range missiles, or against an Israeli target abroad. In past decades Iran and Hezbollah took part, separately and together, in two attacks in Argentina, a suicide attack in Bulgaria and attempts to strike at Israeli diplomats and tourists in countries including India, Thailand and Azerbaijan.

In any case, Lebanon seems all but out of bounds until the country’s May 6 parliamentary elections, and amid Hezbollah’s fear of being portrayed as an Iranian puppet. The firing of missiles from Iran would exacerbate the claims about Tehran’s missile project a moment before a possible U.S. decision on May 12 to abandon the nuclear agreement. Also, a strike at a target far from the Middle East would require long preparation.

Despite the tension fueled by warnings from both sides, a war with Iran in Syria is far from inevitable at present. The clash of intentions is clear: Iran is establishing itself militarily in Syria and Israel has declared that it will prevent that by force.

benjamin netanyahu frownOn this issue, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) is showing unusual resolve, which for a change is being supported by an equally belligerent top brass, which firmly rejects any Iranian presence. The fate of T4 far inside Syria, about 250 kilometers (155 miles) from the Israeli border, is the same as that of the Syrian Golan Heights; the fate of a Shi’ite militia base is the same as a deployment of Iranian long-range missiles, anti-aircraft systems and drones.

Israeli defense officials boasted this week of a two-and-a-half-day visit by the head of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM). The visit, which was first reported on by the Kan public broadcaster, is important for coordinating positions with Washington on Iran and Syria, but it doesn’t change the Americans’ plan to leave the region, which is clear to all players involved.

That leaves us with Russia as the great power in charge of decisions on Syria. In fact, this week there were separate meetings with emissaries from Israel and Iran in Sochi. But Israel finds it hard to rely on Moscow as an unbiased intermediary when Russia and Iran are in the same camp supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Meanwhile, both Russia and Israel are exchanging indirect threats. Russia intends to provide S-300 missile systems to the Assad regime, and Israel is threatening to destroy them. When Israeli spokespeople are so inclined, they even threaten to endanger the Assad regime itself.

Pompeo Offers Israel Support On Gaza After CENTCOM Strategic Meeting

ny times logoNew York Times, Pompeo Expresses Support for Israeli Response to Protests, Gardiner Harris, April 30, 2018. Mike Pompeo, the new U.S. secretary of state, said Israelis “have the right to defend themselves” in the face of the Gaza protests and declined to fully back the two-state solution.

rand paul cbs 1 10 2016

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, in a file photo from a television appearance

washington post logoWashington Post, In private chat with senator, Trump hints at policy shift in Afghanistan — and a return to isolationism, Michael Scherer, Greg Jaffe and Josh Dawsey, April 30, 2018. 1 In the days leading up to a key vote over the fate of his nominee for secretary of state, President Trump found a way to win over one of the biggest skeptics in the Senate.

mike pompeo portraitSen. Rand Paul (Ky.), a rare isolationist Republican, was signaling that he would oppose Trump’s pick, then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo (shown at right), a hawkish former congressman who had backed the Iraq War.

But the more Trump and Paul spoke, including three calls on Monday, the more assured Paul became that the president was moving back toward the non-interventionist world view that Trump had championed on the campaign trail. The conversations left Paul with a particularly enticing notion: that Trump was prepared to end the war in Afghanistan.

“The president told me over and over again in general we’re getting the hell out of there,” Paul said in an interview Thursday in his Senate office. “I think the president’s instincts and inclination are to resolve the Afghan conflict.” The two men discussed no exit dates and did not strike a written agreement, as Trump urged Paul to meet one-on-one with Pompeo and ultimately secured the senator’s support ahead of a key Foreign Relations Committee vote that paved the way for confirmation.

More News From Afghanistan, Syria

washington post logoWashington Post, Islamic State claims responsibility for suicide bombings in Kabul that killed dozens, including journalists, Pamela Constable and Sayed Salahuddin​, April 30, 2018. The back-to-back explosions occurred near an Afghan security compound in a neighborhood that is the site of a number of embassies and the NATO headquarters.

SouthFront, Thousands Of Government Supporters To Be Evacuated From al-Fu’ah and Kafriya In Eastern Idlib, Staff report, April 30, 2018. Thousands of pro-government civilians will be evacuated from the besieged towns of al-Fu’ah and Kafriya in Syria’s eastern Idlib under a new agreement between the Damascus government and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported on April 29.

The SANA said that HTS will also release 85 women and children who had been abducted by its fighters from the village of Eshtabraq in western Idlib three years ago during the battle for the town of Jisr al-Shughur. From its side, the Damascus government will allow all the besieged militants south of Damascus, including the militants in the ISIS-held Yarmouk camp, to withdraw towards Idlib governorate, according to the SANA.

However, several Syrian pro-government activists doubted that ISIS is a part of the agreement, as HTS has never publicly allowed ISIS fighters to enter its areas in Idlib governorate. Due to this, observers suggested that SANA may have referred to hundreds of HTS fighters who control a few blocks in the northern part of the Yarmouk camp.

Academic Freedom?

ap logoAssociated Press via WJLA TV, Koch Foundation donations linked to hiring, firing of professors at George Mason Univ., Matthew Barakat, April 30, 2018. Newly released documents show Virginia’s largest public university granted the conservative Charles Koch Foundation a say in the hiring and firing of professors in exchange for millions of dollars in donations. The documents’ release follows years of denials from George Mason University that the donations inhibit academic freedom.

antonin scalia cropped group portraitThe documents were released to a former student under a Freedom of Information Act request after a judge scrutinized Mason’s denial of similar requests at a trial last week. University President Angel Cabrera wrote a note to faculty Friday saying the agreements fall short of his standards for academic independence. The foundation said the agreements are “old and inactive.”

The school’s relationship with the foundation has received increased scrutiny since 2016 when Mason renamed its law school for conservative jurist Antonin Scalia. [Scalia, shown at right, died on a junket to a luxery ranch in Texas at an outing with a secret society that included a patron for his trip.]

April 29

White House Physician Forced Out

Politico, Ronny Jackson won’t return to old job as Trump’s physician, Eliana Johnson, April 29, 2018.  White House physician Ronny Jackson will not return to his role as the president’s personal physician, according to two senior administration officials, after a string of allegations caused the Navy rear admiral to withdraw his nomination last week to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. Sean Conley, a Navy officer who took over Jackson’s role as the president’s personal doctor last month, will continue in the role, the officials said.

jon tester oJackson bowed out last week after Montana Sen. Jon Tester (shown at right), the top Democrat on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, released a document summarizing allegations by current and former colleagues that Jackson overprescribed pills, drank on the job and created a hostile work environment. Jackson has denied the allegations and has returned to work in the White House Medical Unit.

President Donald Trump has continued defending Jackson, with whom he formed a tight personal bond. On Saturday, Trump wrote on Twitter that Tester should resign, saying that the Secret Service had been unable to confirm any of the allegations against Jackson. Tester is facing a tough reelection in November in a state that Trump won resoundingly in 2016.

The president also wrote that “Tester’s statements on Admiral Jackson” were as baseless as special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election — a probe he derided as “A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!!!” earlier this month.

ronnie jacksonPalmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s White House suffers yet another scandalous high profile resignation, Bill Palmer, April 29, 2018. Earlier this week Donald Trump withdrew his nomination of Dr. Ronny Jackson (shown at right) to lead the VA, after allegations surfaced that Jackson had been drunk on the job, handing out prescription drugs inappropriately, and harassing a woman. In general kinds of scandalous nominations aren’t usually withdrawn unless at least some of the allegations are true.

Now Jackson is also resigning as Trump’s White House doctor, raising questions about just how much uglier this might truly be.

Jackson’s resignation also undercuts Trump’s argument that the allegations were all merely some kind of frame job aimed at derailing Jackson’s nomination. It’s one thing to give up on trying to get a promotion amid scandal. It’s another to abruptly quit your current job as well. In any case, Jackson’s nomination never had any real chance of succeeding even before the scandal erupted.

Pervasive Propaganda?

Trumpenstein monster (Image by ABananaPeeled.com licensed under DMCA)

 Trumpenstein monster (Image by ABananaPeeled.com licensed under DMCA)

Michael Hayden CIA official portraitny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Michael Hayden: The End of Intelligence, April 28, 2018. Michael V. Hayden, shown at right in a file photo, is a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency.

In 1994 during the height of the Bosnian civil war, when I was head of intelligence for American forces in Europe, I walked through the ruined streets of Sarajevo. A city of once-beautiful steeples, onion-shaped domes and minarets had been devastated by Serbian artillery in the hills rising above the Miljacka River. I wondered what manner of man could pick up a sniper rifle and shoot former neighbors lining up for scarce water at a shuttered brewery.

The veneer of civilization, I concluded, was quite thin — a natural thought for an intelligence officer whose profession trends pessimistic and whose work is consumed by threats and dangers. Over the years I had learned that the traditions and institutions that protect us from living Hobbesian “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short” lives are inherently fragile and demand careful tending. In America today, they are under serious stress.

It was no accident that the Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year in 2016 was “post-truth,” a condition where facts are less influential in shaping opinion than emotion and personal belief. To adopt post-truth thinking is to depart from Enlightenment ideas, dominant in the West since the 17th century, that value experience and expertise, the centrality of fact, humility in the face of complexity, the need for study and a respect for ideas.

donald trump for president button nice smilePresident Trump both reflects and exploits this kind of thinking. It is fair to say that the Trump campaign normalized lying to an unprecedented degree. There was the candidate’s claim that legions of Arabs celebrated wildly in New Jersey as the World Trade Center collapsed. He defended his calls for the intentional killing of the Sept. 11 terrorists’ families because “they knew what was happening” and had “watched their husband on television flying into the World Trade Center,” something for which there is zero evidence. He insinuated that Senator Ted Cruz’s father had a hand in John F. Kennedy’s assassination and that the Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia had been murdered.

When pressed on specifics, the president has routinely denigrated those who questioned him, whether the “fake” media, “so called” judges, Washington insiders or the “deep state.” He has also condemned Obama-era intelligence officials as “political hacks.”

cia logoWe in the intelligence world have dealt with obstinate and argumentative presidents through the years. But we have never served a president for whom ground truth really doesn’t matter.

For many Americans, this is not a problem. Last year, I met a few of them in the back room of a Pittsburgh sports bar where my brother had arranged for several dozen Trump supporters to meet with me.

I knew many of them, indeed had grown up with several. But we could have been from different planets. They were angry. They work hard, pay taxes and struggle to raise children, but feel neglected by their government. And Donald Trump is still their guy. “He is an American.” “He is genuine.” “He doesn’t filter everything or parse every word.”

donald trump make great logoThey didn’t seem very interested in facts, either. Or at least not in my facts. Political partisanship in America has become what David Brooks calls “totalistic.” Partisan identity, as he writes, fills “the void left when their other attachments wither away — religious, ethnic, communal and familial.” Beliefs are now so tied to these identities that data is not particularly useful to argue a point.

Intelligence work — at least as practiced in the Western liberal tradition — reflects these threatened Enlightenment values: gathering, evaluating and analyzing information, and then disseminating conclusions for use, study or refutation.

Fake News

The Atlantic, The Era of Fake Video Begins, Franklin Foer, April 29, 2018 (May 2018 issue). The digital manipulation of video may make the current era of “fake news” seem quaint.

In a dank corner of the internet, it is possible to find actresses from Game of Thrones or Harry Potter engaged in all manner of sex acts. Or at least to the world the carnal figures look like those actresses, and the faces in the videos are indeed their own. Everything south of the neck, however, belongs to different women. An artificial intelligence has almost seamlessly stitched the familiar visages into pornographic scenes, one face swapped for another. The genre is one of the cruelest, most invasive forms of identity theft invented in the internet era. At the core of the cruelty is the acuity of the technology: A casual observer can’t easily detect the hoax.

Fabricated videos will create new and understandable suspicions about everything we watch. Politicians and publicists will exploit those doubts. When captured in a moment of wrongdoing, a culprit will simply declare the visual evidence a malicious concoction. The president, reportedly, has already pioneered this tactic: Even though he initially conceded the authenticity of the Access Hollywood video, he now privately casts doubt on whether the voice on the tape is his own.

Trump Probes

washington post logoWashington Post, Comey calls House Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation ‘a wreck,’ Sari Horwitz, April 29, 2018. On “Meet the Press,” the former FBI chief criticized the panel’s report as a “political document.” While the president has praised the report, Democrats released a rebuttal and charged that their Republican colleagues ended their work prematurely.

michael cohen ap file croppedPalmer Report, National Enquirer throws Michael Cohen under the bus, Bill Palmer, April 29, 2018. Ever since Donald Trump’s foray into politics began, the National Enquirer has consistently tried to steer public opinion in Trump’s direction. The tabloid rag has used its front page to push phony stories about Trump’s opponents, while playing up Trump to be some kind of hero. We’ve since learned that the Enquirer was also exclusively buying up the stories of Trump’s mistresses and accusers, in order to bury those stories. Now things have taken a major turn.

fbi logoThe Feds are investigating Donald Trump’s longtime fixer Michael Cohen (shown at right) on a number of matters, including his role in paying off Trump’s mistresses during the election, in apparent violation of campaign finance laws. The Feds are also investigating the payouts made by the National Enquirer; if those payouts were coordinated with the Trump team during the election, then they were also illegal. Now that Cohen is facing imminent criminal charges, the Enquirer just did something notable.

Guess who is now being attacked on the front page of the National Enquirer. It’s not Stormy Daniels. It’s not her attorney Michael Avenatti. It’s not even Hillary Clinton or any of Trump’s other usual favorite targets. Instead the Enquirer is attacking Michael Cohen. Its headline proclaims “Payoffs & Threats Exposed: Trump’s Fixer’s Secrets & Lies!” In other words, they’re throwing Cohen under the bus. At the bottom of their front page they’re falsely claiming Trump passed a polygraph test “proving no Russia collusion,” so they’re not really throwing Trump under the bus, just Cohen.

robert mueller full face filePalmer Report, Opinion: The real reason Robert Mueller met with Rudy Giuliani, Bill Palmer, April 29, 2018. The short answer is that they had to. If Donald Trump announces that Rudy Giuliani is his new attorney, then that’s who Robert Mueller (shown at right) and his team have to deal with. If Trump announces that Carrot Top is his new attorney, it’s the same story. But there’s more to it than that, because Trump and Giuliani just handed Mueller a great opportunity to get the inside track.

We still don’t know why Giuliani is doing this. Is Rudy nuts enough to believe he can somehow magically make both sides happy? Is Rudy desperately trying to get Trump to resign before the investigation can take Rudy down too? Is Rudy trying to put himself first in line for a plea deal? We don’t know. Rudy may not even know. But here’s the kicker: Giuliani is a co-conspirator in the plot to steal the election for Donald Trump. He was knee deep in the FBI faction that tried to force James Comey’s hand just days before election day.

Now Rudy Giuliani, a key co-conspirator in the election rigging conspiracy, who has tried to lay as low as possible, is suddenly in there talking to prosecutors. Giuliani may have been using that meeting to try to act as Donald Trump’s lawyer. But Robert Mueller and team were using that meeting to size up Rudy and figure out what he knows and what role he played. Of course they sat down with Rudy. It was a gift.

Disastrous Puerto Rican Storm Follow-up

washington post logoWashington Post, Sluggish storm recovery reignites calls for Puerto Rico’s statehood, independence, Arelis R. Hernández, April 29, 2018. The dissatisfaction with the recovery efforts from Hurricane Maria has aggravated the sense of abandonment and the sting of the island’s subordinate standing with the United States, according to residents, experts and island leaders.

Korean Prospects

ny times logokim jong unNew York Times, News Analysis: Koreans Set the Table for a Deal. Will Trump Be Able to Close It? David E. Sanger, April 29, 2018 (print edition). The Korean leaders agreed to seek denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in an encounter that set up the next summit meeting between the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un (shown at right in a file photo), and President Trump. The question is whether Mr. Kim is really ready for a deal, or if he’s betting on getting help for his economy while keeping at least parts of an arsenal.

washington post logoWashington Post, North Korea wants outsiders to observe closure of its nuclear test site, South says, Anna Fifield​, April 29, 2018.  The development came two days after the historic summit between South Korea’s Moon Jae-in and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, which resulted in a joint statement containing a vague agreement to work toward the “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

#MeToo / Cosby Analysis

ny times logobill cosbyNew York Times, Why She Testified Against Cosby: ‘I Had the Strength,’ Cara Buckley, April 29, 2018 (print edition). Lise-Lotte Lublin was one of several women who spoke in court about their experiences with Bill Cosby (shown at right), helping prosecutors convict him of sexual assault.

Trump Campaigns In Michigan

washington post logodonald trump make great logoWashington Post, Trump rallies in Michigan touting economy and diplomacy, and blasting media, Rachel Chason and David J. Lynch, April 29, 2018.  The campaign-style event held in Washington Township was billed as counterprogramming to the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in the nation’s capital, which the president skipped for the second consecutive year.

Controversial Comedian At Press Dinner: Just Deserts?

washington post logoWashington Post, The harshest jokes from Michelle Wolf’s correspondents’ dinner speech, Abby Ohlheiser and Emily Yahr, April 29, 2018. “Should have done more research before you got me to do this,” comedian Michelle Wolf told the audience, right after telling a joke about whether the famous “p—- hat” from the Women’s March was anatomically accurate.

Wolf’s speech at the White House correspondents’ dinner didn’t seem to win over the room of some of Washington’s best-known journalists, politicians and a slightly less celebrity-filled roster of guests. Online, the reaction was — surprise — divided. Some said that losing the love of a room of D.C. elites was proof that Wolf was hitting on something true.

Daily Kos, Opinion: Rob Reiner lights up Twitter with dead-on tweet about Michelle Wolf, Trump and the WHCD, Leslie Salzillo, April 29, 2018. Filmmaker, actor, producer, and staunch liberal activist Rob Reiner attended the 2018 White House Correspondents Dinner (WHCD) in Washington DC on Saturday night. Early Sunday morning, like many, Reiner took to Twitter to comment on Michelle Wolf’s live roast of the Republican Party. Here’s the tweet.

michelle wolf c spanReiner Text: “I attended the WHCD last night. Donald Trump has so poisoned the atmosphere by attacking the disabled, gold star parents, Muslims, Mexicans, Blacks, women, the press, the rule of law that a comedian who simply tells the truth is offensive? She’s joking. He’s not.”

Below is the YouTube video (via C-SPAN) of the referenced remarks by comedian Michelle Wolf (shown at left) at the 2018 White House Correspondents Dinner. Whether one likes Wolf or not, if the majority of the media had a fraction of the courage she showed on Saturday night, Trump would probably not be in office. To see the full video transcript, read below the fold.

Daily Beast, Opinion: Comedians Defend WHCD Speech: ‘F*ck the Niceties, Michelle Wolf Was Brilliant,’ Matt Wilstein, April 29, 2018. After journalists criticized the comedian for supposedly attacking Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ looks, Michelle Wolf’s comedian friends came to her defense.

That didn’t take long. Comedian Michelle Wolf had barely left the podium at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner Saturday night when the backlash began. CNN’s chyron instantly called her routine “controversial” and journalists like The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman were applauding White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders for not walking out of the room when Wolf supposedly joked about her “physical appearance.”

But while the criticism of Wolf’s admittedly risky performance persisted, comedians—including her former Late Night boss Seth Meyers—were quick to come to her defense Sunday morning. And many focused on the fact that Sanders and others in the Trump White House have no leg to stand on when it comes to playing the victim.

Judd Apatow: “This is the moment when people are supposed to call out the madness, cruelty and corruption. Fuck the niceities. @michelleisawolf was brilliant and all her targets deserved it. We have a racist lying President and politicians who support him. No time to soft sell anything.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: For the sake of journalism, stop the annual schmoozefest, Margaret Sullivan, April 29, 2018. It never has been a particularly good idea for journalists to don their fanciest clothes and cozy up to the people they cover, alongside Hollywood celebrities who have ventured to wonky Washington to join the fun. But in the current era, it’s become close to suicidal for the press’s credibility.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The mainstream media’s effort to silence Michelle Wolf, Bill Palmer, April 29, 2018. If you didn’t watch the White House Correspondents’ Dinner last night, and you’ve merely heard about it from the media, you’d think comedian Michelle Wolf had spent the entirety of her speech trashing Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ physical appearance. The media has spent all day debating whether those attacks were appropriate. Here’s the thing: that’s not even what really happened.

Michelle Wolf opened with one quip about how Sarah Huckabee Sanders reminded her of a certain character from the Handmaid’s Tale. There has been debate as to whether Wolf was making this comparison due to the character’s physical appearance or disturbing behavior. Somewhere in there Wolf also complimented Huckabee Sanders on how she does her makeup. There has been debate as to whether it was a genuine or sarcastic compliment. You can have whatever opinion you want about that. But none of it was at the center of Wolf’s remarks about Huckabee Sanders.

If you actually watched the dinner, you know that Michelle Wolf used the vast majority of her remarks about Sarah Huckabee Sanders to address her constant lies during the White House press briefings. In fact Wolf used the word “lies” three times in the span of a minute and a half. When a public figure is accusing the White House Press Secretary of being a constant liar, it’s a big deal. Yet the mainstream media is largely acting as if this didn’t happen. Similarly, after Wolf did an entire riff on how Donald Trump is financially broke, the media largely ignored this as well.

It’s as if the mainstream media went out of its way to create the false narrative that Michelle Wolf spent the whole time riffing on Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ looks, so it could bury the fact that Wolf called out Huckabee Sanders for lying, and called out Donald Trump for being broke. These are two topics the media has largely been afraid to touch on in general – perhaps because they’re afraid of losing their access to those White House press briefings. The real scandal here is that the media is trying to effectively silence Michelle Wolf by drowning out what she actually said by putting other words in her mouth instead.

PopCulture.com, Watch Stormy Daniels’ Lawyer Michael Avenatti Photobomb Kellyanne Conway, Sarah Huckabee at WHCD, Connor Casey, April 29, 2018.
Stormy Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti wound up stealing the show at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on Saturday night.

During a red carpet interview on CNN with Counselor of the President Kellyanne Conway and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Avenatti could be seen behind Conway walking past the interview. But once he realized the cameras were rolling, he decided to stop for a quick photobomb.

Avenatti has been in the news frequently representing his client in Daniels, who claims to have slept with President Donald Trump back in 2006 for a spot on Celebrity Apprentice. Daniels was reportedly threatened when she was ready to give an interview about the affair in 2011 and was paid off by Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen just before the 2016 presidential election for her silence. Daniels is currently in a legal battle with the President, arguing that he did not sign the non-disclosure agreement that was enforced on her.

On Friday a federal judge in Los Angeles delayed Daniels’ lawsuit against Trump and Cohen, stating that the recent FBI raid on Cohen’s home and offices could suggest a criminal indictment will be arriving soon.

Stormy Daniels Follow ups

Daily Beast, Stormy Daniels’ Lawyer: We Can Prove Trump Knew About $130,000 Agreement, Staff report, April 29, 2018. Stormy Daniels’ lawyer says he believes he can prove President Trump knew about a $130,000 nondisclosure agreement his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, signed with the adult film star on the eve of the 2016 presidential election.

In an interview on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, Michael Avenatti said he didn’t think it was “possible” that Trump learned about the payment from media coverage of the scandal. “And I think, at the end of the day, we’re going to be able to prove that the president knew about the agreement and knew about the $130,000,” he said.

Trump has repeatedly asserted that he was unaware of the agreement, and Cohen, who is currently the subject of a federal investigation, has maintained he made the payment out of his own pocket without informing Trump. “You may be able to be undisciplined in politics, you may be able to lie to the press and the American people, but you can’t lie in litigation,” Avenatti said. “It comes back and bites you every time.”

April 28djt emmanuel marcon april 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump and French President Macron at White House during Macron’s visit

washington post logodjt official SmallWashington Post, Analysis: Trump makes himself the axis on which events in Asia and Europe spin, Anne Gearan, April 28, 2018 (print edition). The dramatic turn of events on the Korean Peninsula was the capstone to a week that crystallized the ways the president has established his foreign policy approach.

President Trump on Friday placed himself at the center of the remarkable summit between the leaders of North and South Korea, taking credit for bold and innovative diplomacy that may open a path to peace where other leaders failed.

“It’s certainly something that I hope I can do for the world,” Trump said. “This is beyond the United States. This is a world problem, and it’s something that I hope I’m able to do for the world.”

The dramatic turn of events on the Korean Peninsula was the capstone to a week that crystallized the ways Trump has established his foreign policy djt emmanuel macron 7 13 17 wh photoapproach as one that rests largely on the pride he takes in busting the old conventions of diplomatic negotiations and remaking them in his image.

The world is adjusting. French President Emmanuel Macron (shown at left in a White House photo with Trump last July in Paris during a military review that Trump admired) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the White House this week hoping to convince Trump not to abandon the Iran nuclear deal and to back off his protectionist trade policies.

But by the time they left, both leaders had largely given up trying to convince Trump he was wrong and instead focused on how to work around their differences.

Inside Washington

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump calls for Sen. Tester to resign after review finds no evidence that former VA nominee ‘wrecked’ a car, Amy Gardner and Seung Min Kim, April 28, 2018.​ A document released by Senate Democrats this week alleged that presidential physician Ronny L. Jackson drank on the job and improperly prescribed and dispensed medications. Jackson has vehemently denied all of the allegations. President Trump and the White House have accused Sen. Jon Tester of a smear campaign.

#MeToo / Cosby Analysis

ny times logobill cosbyNew York Times, Cosby Verdict, Hailed as Breakthrough, Was Also an Anomaly, Timothy Williams, April 28, 2018 (print edition).  #MeToo flooded the world with reports of sexual assault. But it did not wash away the legal hurdles to proving it.

Syrian War Intrigues

syria chemical denial hague 4 26 18 hassan diab

News conference at The Hague on alleged Syrian gas attack on Douma, with purported victim Hassan Diab third from right

Dissident Voice, The West Closes its Ears to Douma Testimony, April 28, 2018. The response from the US, UK and France to a briefing on Thursday at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in the Hague was perverse, to say the least. Russia had brought 17 witnesses from Douma who stated that there had been no chemical weapons attack there earlier this month – the pretext for an illegal air strike on Syria by the three western states.

The witnesses, a mix of victims and the doctors who treated them, told accounts that confirmed a report provided last week from Douma by British reporter Robert Fisk – a report, it should be noted, that has been almost entirely blanked by the western media. According to the testimony provided at the OPCW, the victims shown in a video from the site of the alleged attack were actually suffering from the effects of inhaling dust after a bombing raid, not gas.’

sergey lavrovAl Jazeera, Sergey Lavrov: The US is trying to divide Syria, Staff report, April 28, 2018. Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, has accused the US of trying to divide Syria while ignoring international law by launching missiles into the country.

Lavrov (shown in a file photo) made the accusations on Saturday while meeting his Turkish and Iranian counterparts in Moscow following their talks on the seven-year Syrian war, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people. The meeting was meant to prepare the groundwork for the ninth round of Astana talks to be held next month in Kazakhstan, which will focus on political and humanitarian issues.

Al Jazeera, UNRWA: 3,500 Palestinian refugees flee Syria’s Yarmouk camp, Staff report, April 28, 2018. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/04/unrwa-3500-palestinian-refugees-flee-syria-yarmouk-camp-180428125645986.html People ‘sleeping in the streets and begging for medicine’ as Assad government steps up offensive in southern Damascus.

An estimated 3,500 Palestinians have fled the embattled Yarmouk refugee camp during a week of violence, according to the UN, as the Syrian government escalates its ongoing military operation in southern Damascus. Yarmouk, which has been besieged by the Syrian government and opposition groups since 2013, was once home to nearly 200,000 people, among them Palestinian refugees, Syrians and others.

UK Media Clam Up On Poisoning Claims

sergei skripal julia skirpal pub Moon of Alabama, The Silence Of The Skripals; Government Blocks Press Reports; Media Change The Record, B, April 28, 2018. There has been no recent reporting on the Skripal case in which a British-Russian double agent and his daughter were poisoned in Salisbury, England. There even seem to be attempts to change the public record of the case.

The British government alleged that the Skripals (shown in a restaurant after their alleged poisoning but before onset of symptoms) were poisoned by Novichok, a deadly nerve agent, and blamed Russia for it.

There are stiill many open questions to ask but the British media, otherwise not afraid of ‘door stepping,’ are curiously uninterested. We already noted in early April that the British press was throwing Novi-Fog™ onto the public. It was repeating outrageous and illogical claims from “security services” but did no genuine reporting on the Skripal case.

Now the former British ambassador Craig Murray quotes Clive Ponting, another former senior civil servant, who suspects that the British government issued a D-Notice. Such a notice forbids British media to report on an issue. Murray also points to a tweet by Channel 4 correspondent Alex Thomson from March 12 in which Thomsen mentions a D-Notice specifically related to Mr. Skripal’s MI6 handler:

The D-Notice attempt Thomsen mentioned was too late as some media had already reported the name of the Skripal’s MI6 handler. We spelled it out on March 8.

craig murray newCraigMurry.org, Opinion: Probable Western Responsibility for Skripal Poisoning, Craig Murray (Historian, Former Ambassador, Human Rights Activist, shown at right), April 28, 2018. Stupidly I had forgotten this vital confirmation from Channel 4 News (serial rebel Alex Thomson) of the D Notice in place on mention of Pablo Miller. Back then I did not realise what I now know, that the person being protected was Pablo Miller, colleague in both MI6 then Orbis Intelligence of Christopher Steele, author of the fabrications of the Trump/Russia golden shower dossier.

That the government’s very first act on the poisoning was to ban all media mention of Pablo Miller makes it extremely probable that this whole incident is related to the Trump dossier and that Skripal had worked on it, as I immediately suspected. The most probable cause is that Skripal – who you should remember had traded the names of Russian agents to Britain for cash – had worked on the dossier with Miller but was threatening to expose its lies for cash.

ORIGINAL POST: This comment from Clive Ponting, doyen of British whistleblowers, appeared on my website and he has now given me permission to republish it under his full name:

I have been reading the blogs for some time but this is my first post. Like Craig I was a senior civil servant but in the ministry of defence not the fco. I had plenty of dealings with all three intelligence agencies. It seems to me that the reason none of the MSM are doing any investigating/reporting of the Salisbury affair, apart from official handouts, is that the government have slapped a D-Notice over the whole incident and it is not possible to report that a notice has been issued.

Here is another theory as to what happened. The Russians pardoned Skripal and allowed him to leave (spy agencies have an understanding that agents will always be swapped after an interval – it’s the only protection they have and helps recruitment). In the UK Skripal would have been thoroughly debriefed by MI6 and MI5 (his ex-handler lives near Salisbury). If at some point they discovered that Skripal was giving them false information, perhaps he was told to do so by the FSB as a condition of his release, lives may have been endangered/lost. If he also was also involved in the ‘golden showers’ dossier then elements in the US would have a reason to act as well. The whole incident was an inside job not to kill him, hence the use of BZ, but to give him a warning and a punishment. The whole thing is being treated as though the authorities know exactly what went on but have to cover it up.

Addendum: I meant to add that the policeman who ‘just happened’ to be around was almost certainly the special branch ‘minder’ who was keeping Yulia under surveillance. The media are not allowed to mention the existence of a D notice.

Those of us who have been in the belly of the beast and have worked closely with the intelligence services, really do know what they and the British government are capable of. They are not “white knights.”

UK Media Continue Assault On Syria

Syria News, Opinion: Syrian MP Fares Shehabi Pummels BBC Colonialist Sackur, Miri Wood, April 28, 2018 (23:58 mins. video). Syrian MP Shreds BBC Propaganda on ‘Hard Talk.’

Fares Shehabi is a Member of Parliament representing Aleppo, and the Chairman of the Syrian Federation of Industry. On 27 April, he was interviewed on BBC’s HardTalk, by rabid colonialist Stephen Sackur. [In the BBC segment here], Sackur rudely tossed every bit of anti-Syria propaganda at Fares Shehabi, citing sources proven to lie, in attempts to intimidate the Syrian politician. Fares Shehabi used his mind as a boxer uses his fists, and ko’d the obnoxious Englishman every time he uttered a lie — which was virtually every time he opened his mouth.

Sackur seemed almost dizzy that Aleppo politician Fares Shehabi — elected by 200,000 voters — by the punches of reality, on the terrorists stealing factories from Aleppo, on the takfiri killing Syrian soldiers in Khan al Asal with chemical weapons, that the Syrian Arab Army is defending the Syrian citizenry from foreign invaders, funded by Britain, by France, by the US.

April 27

djt time covers april 23 2018 tim obrien feb 27 17 Custom

Time Magazine’s “Stormy” cover for its April 23 issue (currently on sale) at right contrasts with another cover by the same artist published on Feb. 27, 2017

washington post logoWashington Post, Chaos, contradiction disrupt week of triumph for Trump, Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey and Ashley Parker, April 27, 2018 (print edition). The darkening cloud hanging over some Cabinet agencies, including the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Environmental Protection Agency, has some GOP strategists worried.

Report: Israelis Kill 3, Wound 1,000 In Gaza

ny times logoNew York Times, As Gazans Charge Fence, Israeli Troops Wound Hundreds, Iyad Abuhewweila and David M. Halbfinger, April 27, 2018. Urged on by a Hamas leader, hundreds of Palestinian protesters tried to breach the fence between Gaza and Israel. Israeli troops opened fire, killing at least 3.

For weeks, Palestinians protesting along the fence between Gaza and Israel have conjured up the idea of swarming across the barrier, a mass of tens of thousands of people too numerous for Israeli soldiers to arrest or even to shoot.

And Israelis have been worrying aloud about what their soldiers would do in response. On Friday, both sides got a small sense of what that could mean when hundreds of Palestinians, urged on by a Hamas leader in a fiery midafternoon speech, rushed the security barrier at the eastern edge of Gaza City and tried to cross into Israel.

Dozens made it through a barbed-wire barrier about 30 yards inside Gaza territory, deploying wire cutters, hooks and winches. Israeli troops opened fire with a mix of live ammunition and rubber bullets, killing three people and wounding nearly 1,000 more, according to Gaza health officials.

Korean Conciliation

kim jong un moon jae in hold hands april 27 2018

ny times logoNew York Times, Leaders Meet, Eyeing a Peace Free of Nuclear Arms, Choe Sang-Hun, April 27, 2018. A summit meeting between Kim Jong-un (left in photo above) and President Moon Jae-in (at right) was the first time a North Korean leader had ever set foot in the South. They agreed to work on removing nuclear arms from the peninsula and vowed to pursue talks with the United States to declare an official end to the Korean War.

washington post logoWashington Post, North and South Korea agree to work toward ‘common goal’ of denuclearization, Anna Fifield​, April 27, 2018. The bold pledge from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in came after a historic day of talks on the border that has divided the countries for almost seven decades.

The leaders of North and South Korea made bold pledges Friday to work toward a “common goal” of denuclearizing their peninsula and formally ending the Korean War by the end of this year, following a historic day of talks on the border that has divided them for almost seven decades.

It was a day marked by an astonishing level of congeniality between the two, including a warm embrace at the signing of the “Panmunjom Declaration,” named after the truce village in the demilitarized zone where it was forged.

It was, however, short on details as to what “denuclearization” means for each of them. Still, the fact that Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-in spent so much time together — and came up with a joint statement that even includes the word “denuclearization” — marked a surprising development after a year of threats and missile launches that brought the specter of war back to the Korean Peninsula.

kim jong un moon jae in truce villageMoon of Alabama, Opinion: A Most Hopeful Korean Summit With Little Chance Of Final Success, b, April 27, 2018. At widely observed meeting today the leaders of North and South Korea took a step towards a peace agreement and maybe even a reunion of the partitioned country. We have been here before: See the New York Times on December 13 1991, June 15 2000, October 5 2007 and April 27 2018 respectively.  What makes this one special ?

  • North Korea has a new leader who has proven that he can and will deliver what he promises. Under him North Korea’s nuclear program reached its desired stage and brought the U.S. to the negotiating table. But Kim Jong-un keeps his options open. The inner Korean summit today was not broadcast on North Korean TV making it easier for Kim to later disavow it.
  • South Korea has a leader who is far from being a lame duck like his predecessors were at the time of their meetings with North Korean leaders. The conservatives and the U.S. aligned deep state in South Korea have been defeated in the million strong demonstrations in 2016. The current president Moon Jae-in is only at the beginning of his term and has a 75% approval rate in South Korea. His party has a strong lead over the opposition.
  • North Korea is now a nuclear capable state with intercontinental missiles. It can, for the first time, keep the U.S. under a nuclear threat. This gives at least some incentive to the Trump administration to seek serious negotiations and to achieve and stick to an agreement that contains the potential.

JFK Murder Records Mysteries

jfk limo jackie clint hill

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy stretches backwards to retrieve some of President Kennedy’s brain matter for potential rescue of her husband after his fatal shooting in Dallas in 1963 as Secret Service special agent Clint Hill, assigned for her special protection, boards a limo strangely left unprotected otherwise.

Miami Herald, In latest JFK files, some tantalizing nuggets — and stuff that makes you go ‘huh?‘ Glenn Garvin, April 27, 2018. Researchers who spent Thursday slogging through 19,000 newly declassified U.S. government documents on the Kennedy assassination learned little, except that the government’s ideas about what needs to be secret, and what doesn’t, are cryptic and unpredictable.

Some stuff in the documents that had been open for years is now classified again, and some stuff that had been classified and is now open is so innocuous that nobody can figure out what the point was.

What was apparent from early efforts to excavate the documents was the government’s standards on classification range from ephemeral to nuts. One document was a complaint from one part of the federal government to another about the slowness with which office keys were being issued.

robert blakeyAnother listed the salaries of the staff of the U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1979. If you’re interested in lawyer-salary porn, the committee’s chief counsel, G. Robert Blakey (shown at left in a file photo), was making just $47,500 a year at a time when young Wall Street attorneys just of law school were starting their jobs at $30,000 to $35,000.

In some cases, the documents re-redacted material that had already been declassified in previous versions. Often that seemed to reflect Trump administration sensitivities to the feelings of foreign governments.

A 1975 CIA report on the surveillance of shooter Lee Harvey Oswald during his visit to the Soviet embassy in Mexico City just a few weeks before Kennedy’s death was released years ago identifying a particular photo as coming from “a Mexican police surveillance camera.” In the same document, re-released Thursday, the words “Mexican police” had been covered over.

james angleton 1975 senate intelligence hearing ny times george tames customSimilarly, the transcript of an interview of former CIA counterintelligence chief James Angleton contained odd deletions. Angleton, shown at a right, talking in 1975 to a presidential commission investigating the CIA, recounted how he had persuaded Israeli intelligence to post a skilled spy in Havana who would cooperate with the short-staffed CIA station there.

That information was plainly visible in an earlier release of the transcript. But on Thursday, government censors had blocked out portions of six sentences to cover up the nationality of the Israeli spy.

Why there is still more to come?

Angleton, a professional paranoid whose job assignment was to prevent penetration of the CIA by foreign intelligence agencies, played key roles in some of the most cryptic episodes following the Kennedy assassination. He was involved to some degree in CIA surveillance of Oswald in Mexico. He is believed to have removed and destroyed some documents from the CIA station there. And he also retrieved and burned the diary of one of Kennedy’s paramours, the ex-wife of a senior CIA official.

So the transcript of his interview with the presidential commission has long been one of the most sought-after of the documents scheduled for release. Parts of it have been released before, but more than half remained redacted. Yesterday it was re-released, this time including much fascinating new information — but almost none of it having anything to do with the assassination.

The new material included Angleton discussing some of the great failures of Western intelligence during the 1950s, when the upper echelons of the British spy agency MI-6 were riddled with Soviet agents. There’s also a lengthy conversation between Angleton and the commission members in which he strongly implies — but never states plainly — that he suspects two New York Times reporters were working for a foreign intelligence service.

seymour hersh hsThe two, Polish-born Tad Szulc (who died in 2001) and Pulitizer-prize-winning Seymour Hersh (still based in Washington and writing for the London Review of Books), were asking questions about an operation code-named Easy Chair, a top-secret CIA attempt to plant bugs in the home of the Soviet ambassador to the Netherlands.

One of the investigators bluntly asked if Angleton believed Hersh (shown at left in a file photo) was a Soviet agent. “I am not saying that,” Angleton replied. But, he added, he would like to see the CIA’s files on Szulc and Hersh. You’ve got files on them? an investigator replied in seeming surprise. Yes, Angleton confirmed, and on other reporters, too.

“And on other Americans?” the investigator asked.

“A lot of them,” Angleton assured him.

Trump Threats

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump threatens to punish countries that don’t support North American World Cup bid, Samantha Schmidt, April 27, 2018. The president’s tweet began with a rare call for Pan-American unity and ended with an international threat. President Trump on Thursday night threw his support behind a joint North American campaign to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup, tweeting that the U.S. “has put together a STRONG bid w/ Canada & Mexico” to host the international soccer tournament in all three countries.

But then Trump appeared to threaten nations that decline to back the North American bid. “It would be a shame if countries that we always support were to lobby against the U.S. bid,” Trump wrote in the tweet. “Why should we be supporting these countries when they don’t support us (including at the United Nations)?”

The president’s comments come as the North American campaign faces significant competition from Morocco, the only other country vying to stage the 2026 World Cup. The FIFA Congress will meet to select the 2026 host in Moscow on June 13, just before the start of this summer’s World Cup in Russia.

the competition with Morocco has become tighter than anticipated, ESPN reported, in part because of Trump, who has enacted a travel ban against mostly Muslim countries and drawn intense criticism for making vulgar comments about African nations. (Statements he denies making.)

The chairman of the North American bid, Sunil Gulati, said in January that political factors were complicating the effort.

Inside Washington

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump’s War on the Poor, Paul Krugman, April 27, 2018 (print edition). I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything like the collection of petty grifters and miscreants surrounding Donald Trump. Price, Pruitt, Zinke, Carson and now Ronny Jackson: At this point, our default assumption should be that there’s something seriously wrong with anyone this president wants on his team.

What really matters are their policy decisions. Ben Carson’s insistence on spending taxpayer funds on a $31,000 dining set is ridiculous; his proposal to sharply raise housing costs for hundreds of thousands of needy American families, tripling rents for some of the poorest households, is vicious.

And this viciousness is part of a broader pattern. Last year, Trump and his allies in Congress devoted most of their efforts to coddling the rich; this was obviously true of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, but even the assault on Obamacare was largely about securing hundreds of billions in tax cuts for the wealthy. This year, however, the G.O.P.’s main priority seems to be making war on the poor.

ny times logoNew York Times, Sprint and T-Mobile Are Said to Be Close to Merging, Michael J. de la Merced and Cecilia Kang, April 27, 2018. Should the two companies combine, the United States cellphone market would be left with three dominant players.

Sprint and T-Mobile are hoping to get it right this time. The two wireless carriers are nearing a deal to merge, according to two people briefed on the matter, and an announcement could come as soon as this weekend.

The companies were at the bargaining table twice before, most recently last year. If a deal goes through now, it will create a wireless giant with more than 127 million customers — large enough to challenge Verizon and AT&T, which have long dominated the market. As a result, three companies would control almost the entirety of the American wireless industry.

washington post logoWashington Post, House Republicans criticize intelligence community in Russia report, Karoun Demirjian, Greg Miller, Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky​, April 27, 2018. The House Intelligence Committee said it found “no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded, coordinated or conspired with the Russian government.” But the report says the committee “did find poor judgment and ill-considered actions by the Trump and Clinton campaigns.” House Democrats refused to endorse the report’s finding.

angela merkel flikr glyn lowe photoworkscbs news logoCBS News, Trump and Angela Merkel address Iran, North Korea in joint press conference, Staff report, April 27, 2018. President Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel managed to fit in a joint news conference during her brief three-hour visit to the White House, her first trip outside Germany since she narrowly won re-election to her fourth term.

german flagMerkel’s visit follows a three-day visit from French President Emmanuel Macron, after which Macron said he believes Mr. Trump will leave the Iran nuclear deal. Merkel also seemed to indicate that whether the U.S. stays in the Iran deal is up to Mr. Trump. As the deadline for certifying the Iran deal quickly approaches, and the administration has suggested Mr. Trump might pull out, Mr. Trump addressed Iran and the deal in general terms. He did not say whether he has decided to stay in the deal.

Editor’s Note: Merkel reportedly dined on a $14.95 hamburger Thursday night with her security staff at a Georgetown bar, a stunning contrast to the state dinner and joint address to Congress the Trump administration accorded to the French President Macron.

National Press Club, Anthony Scaramucci praises Trump’s political instincts, use of Twitter, Chris Teale, April 27, 2018. Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci said President Donald Trump has great political instincts, and his use of Twitter is an effective way to appeal to his supporters. Scaramucci, who was fired from his position last year after 11 days, said Trump was smart to identify the disaffection of the working class and build his 2016 campaign on it.

anthony scaramucci salt conference 2016 croppedYou may not like his syntax or certain ways that he approaches things, but he’s got very, very good political instincts and he’s very, very intelligent,” Scaramucci (shown in a file photo) said at a press conference.

“He’s just intelligent in a different way than most people, which is why he’s been successful in a very unorthodox way.” Others in the administration have tried to stop Trump from using Twitter so much, but Scaramucci said it can help counter what the President sees as overly negative media reports.

patrick meehan oRoll Call, PA GOP Rep. Pat Meehan to Resign from Congress, Bridget Bowman, April 27, 2018. Meehan had already said he wasn’t running for re-election. The Pennsylvania Republican (shown at right) intends to repay the $39,000 in taxpayer dollars used to settle the harassment case with the staffer within the next 30 days. He had already announced he would not run for re-election following the allegations.

“While I do believe I would be exonerated of any wrongdoing, I also did not want to put my staff through the rigors of an Ethics Committee investigation and believed it was best for them to have a head start on new employment rather than being caught up in an inquiry,” Meehan said in a statement. “And since I have chosen to resign, the inquiry will not become a burden to taxpayers and committee staff.”

Meehan’s resignation will take effect Friday. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has 10 days to declare a special election, which must occur at least 60 days after the governor’s announcement.

A race is already underway for Meehan’s open seat in the Philadelphia suburbs, which became much more favorable to Democrats after the state Supreme Court imposed a new congressional map. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Likely Democratic.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats demand an investigation into Ryan’s ouster of House chaplain, Mike DeBonis, John Wagner and Paul Kane​,, April 27, 2018. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) cited frictions between the Rev. Patrick J. Conroy, a Catholic priest, and conservative evangelical members. 

house chaplain patrick conroyThe ouster of the chaplain serving the U.S. House roiled the chamber on Friday, as Democrats demanded an investigation into the move by House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and even some Republicans expressed anger over the dismissal. At a closed-door meeting of House Republicans on Friday morning, Ryan said he had received a couple of complaints about the Rev. Patrick J. Conroy (shown at right) and thought replacing the Catholic priest was in the best interest of the institution, according to participants.

Ryan also told colleagues that the dismissal was not motivated by Conroy’s political views or a prayer that the Jesuit gave in November on the House floor that stirred controversy when the chamber was debating a tax bill. But his assurances did little to assuage concerns of Democrats. Shortly afterward, Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) rose on the House floor, backed by several dozen members, most of them Catholic, as well as members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and read a resolution praising Conroy and calling for an investigation.

The Republican-led House voted mostly along party lines to quash the request from Democrats for an investigation. Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), who stood up in Friday’s meeting to ask Ryan for an explanation, said afterward that he was not satisfied with the speaker’s response.

“I’ve seen no evidence that he should have been removed,” King said. “To be the first House chaplain removed in the history of Congress in the middle of the term raises serious questions, and I think we deserve more of an explanation of why.”

Roll Call, Watch: The Prayer That Might Have Landed House Chaplain in Hot Water, Bian Elkhatib, April 27, 2018. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) forced Chaplain Patrick Conroy to resign.

Trump VA Nominee Withdraws After Misconduct Claims

washington post logoronnie jacksonWashington Post, Jackson withdraws as nominee to lead VA after misconduct allegations, Lisa Rein, John Wagner and Josh Dawsey​, April 27, 2018 (print edition). White House physician Ronny L. Jackson, President Trump’s choice to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, called the allegations against him “completely false and fabricated.” But his nomination had become imperiled even before Capitol Hill Democrats released new claims of professional misconduct, including allegations that Jackson (shown at right) had wrecked a government vehicle after getting drunk.

More #MeToo At NBC

tom brokaw msnbc

washington post logonbc logoWashington Post, Amid allegations against Lauer and Brokaw, NBC faces doubts on harassment reforms, Sarah Ellison, April 27, 2018 (print edition).  Matt Lauer is not the only prominent anchor accused of seeking inappropriate relationships with younger women. One former NBC correspondent told The Post that legendary anchor Tom Brokaw made unwanted advances toward her in the 1990s.

matt lauer todayMatt Lauer (shown at left on the Today Show set) is not the only prominent anchor at NBC who allegedly sought inappropriate relationships with younger women. Linda Vester, a former NBC correspondent, told The Post that legendary anchor Tom Brokaw made unwanted advances toward her on two occasions in the 1990s, including a forcible attempt to kiss her. Vester was in her 20s and did not file a complaint.

Brokaw denied anything untoward happened with Vester. “I met with Linda Vester on two occasions, both at her request, 23 years ago, because she wanted advice with respect to her career at NBC,” he said in a statement issued by NBC. “The meetings were brief, cordial and appropriate, and despite Linda’s allegations, I made no romantic overtures towards her, at that time or any other.”

Another woman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, also told The Post that Brokaw acted inappropriately toward her in the ’90s, when she was a young production assistant and he was an anchor. He said no such incident happened.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: What Do We Do With These Men? Katie J. M. Baker, April 27, 2018. Ms. Baker is an investigative reporter for BuzzFeed News who has covered institutional responses to sexual violence and harassment.

The bad men are plotting their comebacks. In recent days, Page Six reported that the former CBS anchor Charlie Rose, accused by employees of acts ranging from groping to walking around naked in their presence, is shopping a return to television. His new project? Interviewing other men felled by #MeToo.

Mr. Rose isn’t alone: In the past few weeks, men from Tom Ashbrook to Matt Lauer to Mario Batali to Louis C.K. have reportedly been testing the waters.

I get it. For the first time in history, it seems, an unprecedented number of powerful men are facing significant consequences for predatory behavior. For a minority — such as Bill Cosby, who was found guilty this week in the first post-#MeToo celebrity sex crimes trial — the road to justice seems obvious. But for the vast majority, it isn’t. 

That’s especially true of men who aren’t famous enough to make headlines, and whose career moves aren’t subjected to constant scrutiny. And so if we want the #MeToo movement to be about more than just which celebrity will be the next to fall, or whose comeback must be stopped — if we want it to lead to real, lasting and widespread cultural change — we need to talk. About what we do with the bad men.

Stormy Daniels Admission

djt stormy daniels screengrab

President Trump and Porn Star Stormy Daniels (File photos)

washington post logomichael cohen ap file croppedWashington Post, Trump says for first time that Cohen represented him in Stormy Daniels case, Philip Rucker​, April 27, 2018 (print edition). The president has previously denied knowledge of a $130,000 payment to the adult film star that was arranged by his personal attorney Michael Cohen (shown at right) and is the subject of a federal investigation.

ny times logoNew York Times, Former Judge Chosen to Review Materials Seized From Cohen, Benjamin Weiser and Alan Feuer, April 27, 2018 (print edition). Barbara S. Jones, a lawyer who served as a federal judge in Manhattan, was selected on Thursday to oversee the process of screening materials seized in a recent F.B.I. raid from President Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen.

The selection of Ms. Jones to determine whether any of the materials are protected by attorney-client privilege appeared to resolve, at least for now, a dispute between lawyers for Mr. Cohen and President Trump and the government over who should get to review the materials and how the process should proceed.

The judge overseeing the dispute, Kimba M. Wood of Federal District Court, announced in a hearing that she was choosing Ms. Jones to serve as the special master in the case. The parties had submitted seven other possible candidates, including former magistrate judges and prosecutors. Ms. Jones served on the district court for 16 years, and before that worked as a federal prosecutor in the United States attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, the same office that is now investigating Mr. Cohen. She later was a senior aide to Robert M. Morgenthau, the former Manhattan district attorney.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Did Trump just make a ‘hugely damning admission’ in the Stormy Daniels case? Aaron Blake, April 27, 2018 (print edition). President Trump made a rare public comment about the Michael Cohen-Stormy Daniels case Thursday morning, playing down the lawyer’s work for him and insisting that he didn’t know about Cohen’s business activities.

But Trump also said something that would seem … less than ideal. While describing Cohen’s allegedly limited work for him — a “tiny fraction” of his legal work, Trump assured — Trump confirmed to “Fox and Friends” that Cohen “represented” him in the Daniels case.

“Michael would represent me, and represent me on some things,” Trump said. “He represents me — like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, he represented me.”Daniels’s attorney, Michael Avenatti, said shortly after Trump’s interview that this constitutes a “hugely damning admission.” But does it? Experts generally agree that Trump faces an impossible choice. He can either disown Cohen’s actions — which would undermine both his claims to attorney-client privilege and the non-disclosure agreement that Daniels signed — or he can own them and potentially implicate himself in Cohen’s actions.

Trump Probes

wsj logomichael cohen ap file croppedWall Street Journal, ‘Boss, I Miss You So Much’: The Awkward Exile of Michael Cohen, Michael Rothfeld, Alexandra Berzon and Joe Palazzolo, April 27, 2018 (print edition). Donald Trump’s self-described ‘fixer’ brooded about failing to get a White House post; now under criminal investigation, he has the president’s attention.

In the 15 months since Donald Trump shut him out of a White House job, Michael Cohen (shown at right), the president’s personal lawyer, has made a show of publicly dining with a vocal Trump critic, the billionaire Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.

After lunch at Freds restaurant in New York in April 2017, a gossip item appeared in the New York Post. When they had breakfast at the Time Warner Center in November, paparazzi “somehow” showed up, Mr. Cuban said. “I think he does it to piss off Trump when Trump is ignoring him.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Russian Lawyer Had Closer Ties to Kremlin Than She Let On, Andrew Kramer and Sharon LaFraniere, April 27, 2018. Newly released emails have renewed questions about who the Russian lawyer, Natalya V. Veselnitskaya, was representing when she met with top Trump campaign officials promising dirt on Hillary Clinton.

washington post logorobert mueller full face fileWashington Post, Senate Judiciary Committee backs bill to protect special counsel Robert S. Mueller III from being fired by President Trump, Staff report, April 27, 2018 (print edition). The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 14-7 to advance legislation that would protect Mueller (shown at right) after the panel’s Republican chairman backed off from changes that threatened the bipartisan support for the bill.

The committee voted to approve the bill, which would delay any action to fire a special counsel by 10 days and guarantee the ousted special counsel a chance to have three federal judges swiftly review the decision, after the panel adopted an amendment from chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) to require that Congress be notified 30 days in advance of any special counsel being terminated.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he would not bring the bill to the floor, but the bipartisan authors of the bill, and Grassley, have said they are working to change his mind. This is a developing story. It will be updated.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Here’s what Donald Trump was about to say when Fox & Friends abruptly kicked him off the air, Bill Palmer, April 27, 2018. Donald Trump went on such an unhinged and self-harming bender during his appearance on Fox & Friends on Thursday morning that the hosts ended the interview early. It was an unprecedented development for a sitting President of the United States. Considering the incestuous relationship between Trump and Fox & Friends, it can be assumed that they did it in the hope of preventing him from doing any more harm to himself. So what exactly was Trump about to say when they cut him off?

Donald Trump had already admitted that Michael Cohen isn’t really his attorney, and that he really did spend the night in Moscow during the Pee Pee Tape timeframe. By the time Trump was cut off, he had moved on to laying out his fantasy about seizing control of the Department of Justice and forcing it to only investigate the things he personally wants investigated. If Trump hadn’t been cut off, he probably would have specifically called for an end of the investigations into the criminal activities of him and his associates, in favor of phony investigations into Trump’s political enemies such as Hillary Clinton and James Comey.

But Fox News regularly pushes for phony investigations into Trump’s adversaries. So why would Fox feel compelled to prevent Trump from ranting about it? The most logical explanation would be that Fox feared he was coming across as too dictatorial in nature. It’s one thing for political pundits to call for investigations into Trump’s political enemies by falsely insisting that such investigations have merit. It’s another for Trump start publicly talking about forcing the DOJ to conduct such investigations without even bothering to pretend that there was a legitimate reason why.

False Flag Chemical Attack In Syria?

syria chemical denial hague 4 26 18 hassan diab

News conference at The Hague on alleged Syrian gas attack on Douma, with purported victim Hassan Diab third from right

RT, No attack, no victims, no chem weapons: Douma witnesses speak at OPCW briefing at The Hague (VIDEO), Staff report, April 27, 2018. Witnesses of the alleged chemical attack in Douma, including 11-year-old Hassan Diab and hospital staff, told reporters at The Hague that the White Helmets video used as a pretext for a US-led strike on Syria was, in fact, staged.

“We were at the basement and we heard people shouting that we needed to go to a hospital. We went through a tunnel. At the hospital they started pouring cold water on me,” the boy told the press conference, gathered by Russia’s mission at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague.

Hassan was among the “victims” seen being washed by water hoses in a video released by the controversial White Helmets group on April 7. The boy and his family later spoke to the media and revealed that Hassan was hurried to the scene by men who claimed that a chemical attack had taken place. They started pouring cold water on the boy and others, filming the frightened children.

“There were people unknown to us who were filming the emergency care, they were filming the chaos taking place inside, and were filming people being doused with water. The instruments they used to douse them with water were originally used to clean the floors actually,” Ahmad Kashoi, an administrator of the emergency ward, recalled. “That happened for about an hour, we provided help to them and sent them home. No one has died. No one suffered from chemical exposure.”

Qatar Rejecting U.S. War Alliance In Syria?

qatar flagSouthFront, Qatari Foreign Minister: Sending Arab Troops To Syria Will Complicate Situation, Staff report, April 27, 2018. Qatar’s Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al Thani during the interview with France 24 TV. On April 26.

Qatar’s Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al Thani said during an interview with France 24 TV that deploying Arab troops in Syria would only compacte the situation there. Mohammed bin Abdulrahman added that Qatar is only interested in a political solution of the conflict.

qatar map“Any move or any step should be within the policy of complete political transition in Syria according to ‘Geneva I’ resolution and there is a guarantee for the rights of the Syrian people. There must be a solution to stop the sufferings of the Syrian people … Sending Arab troops to Syria will complicate the situation,” the Qatar Tribune quoted Mohammed bin Abdulrahman as saying.

The foreign minister also revealed that Doha had told Washington that any decision on Syria should be aimed at fully solving the crisis and not just solving certain issues. This may be described as a hint to the US pressure on Iranian forces in Syria.

A senior US official told the Wall Street Journal arlier this month that US President Donald Trump is planning to establish an Arab force that would replace US troops in Syria and to pressure the Iranian forces in the country.

Qatar is not the first Arab ally of the US to criticize Trump’s new plan for Syria. Saudi Arabia Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir had said on April 24 that Qatar should be the one to deploy troops in the country. Some observers viewed al-Jubeir statement as a rejection of Trump’s plan. With Saudi Arabia and Qatar both unwilling to finance the US operations or to deploy own troops in Syria, its highly likely that the Trump administration will have to implement its plans for Syria using the existing resources.

Spy Games

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Spy University: How Intelligence Agencies Recruit Their Next Generation, Jeff Schechtman, April 27, 2018 (podcast). Higher education has evolved into a key source for obtaining military and technological intelligence. The post-9/11 efforts of the CIA and FBI, and the proliferation of international students have proven a fertile ground for nurturing future spies.

During the Cold War, our elite universities were a breeding ground for future spies. Schools like Yale and Harvard provided some of the “best and the brightest” to America’s intelligence agencies.

Today, the CIA and FBI are using college campuses once again to gain new recruits in the global war for clandestine information and technology. These government agencies, in many instances, are working with the full support and blessing of professors and often top university administrators, who rely on both government contracts and the maximum revenue that comes from over one million international students in US universities.

According to Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Daniel Golden, the efforts range from small colleges to large state universities to Ivy League institutions. In fact, Golden tells Jeff Schechtman in this week’s WhoWhatWhy podcast that Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government is one of the places where spies are most actively recruited. In addition, foreign governments see US universities as an almost unlimited reservoir for obtaining intelligence and for recruiting vulnerable students who are in need of money, filled with innocence, and/or ideologically confused.

April 26

washington post logoWashington Post, Mattis: U.S. would regret delegating security in Syria to a force with no American involvement, Paul Sonne and Missy Ryan, April 26, 2018. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Thursday that the United States would regret installing a holding force in Syria without American involvement, indicating military leaders harbor reservations about a White House effort to task Arab militaries with stabilizing areas liberated from the Islamic State.

Mattis, under questioning by the Senate Armed Services Committee, offered support, too, for lasting U.S. participation, alongside NATO allies, in the military mission in Iraq to maintain security and prevent the Islamic State from reconstituting itself there.

washington post logoangela merkel w 2008Washington Post, Trump-Merkel meeting is more business than pleasure for both leaders, Griff Witte and Anne Gearan, April 26, 2018. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s one-day visit to Washington on Friday includes meetings at the White House and a news conference alongside President Trump, but it is a businesslike affair that seems more duty than pleasure for both leaders.

german flagMerkel arrives with deadlines looming on two crucial issues. Trump has made May 12 his cutoff for deciding whether to pull the United States out of the Iran nuclear accord. Meanwhile, a European exemption from Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs expires May 1 — on Tuesday.

Yet there is little sign Merkel can get Trump to back down from decisions he sees as part of his populist promise to help American workers and secure better international deals. And for Trump, Germany’s pointed refusal to join the allied air assault on Syria this month is the latest on a list of grievances that include what he calls grossly unfair treatment of U.S. automakers.

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Trump Orders Release of JFK Assassination Files — But Many Redactions Remain, Jimmy Falls, April 26, 2018. The National Archives has released 19,045 JFK files today that were previously either partially redacted or withheld from the public. But secrecy continues.The National Archives just released 19,045 JFK files. Today was the deadline for President Donald Trump to announce whether files previously either partially redacted or withheld from the public would remain hidden.

According to NARA, 15,834 of the files still contain redactions. They also claim that 520 documents remain withheld in full from the public because they are not subject to disclosure, such as documents falling under the IRS code or a sealed court order. NARA clarified that the documents with remaining redactions would have another chance for disclosure in three years:

The President has determined that all information that remains withheld under section 5 must be reviewed again before October 26, 2021 to determine whether continued withholding from disclosure is necessary.

The White House also released a presidential memorandum stating the necessity for certain files to remain redacted.

roger stone headshotRoger Stone (shown in a file photo), a friend and former political consultant to the president, who also wrote a book on JFK claiming that President Lyndon Johnson was responsible for a conspiracy to assassinate Kennedy, told WhoWhatWhy,

“I am pleased that the president directed the final release of 19,045 documents today and that no document has been completely withheld. I am also pleased that the president ordered another review of withheld material by Oct 26, 2021 to determine whether further withholding can be justified. I have not yet had the opportunity to review how much of the material released today has been redacted but I am mindful that the president directed that redactions must relate to persons who are still living.”

Trump CIA Nominee’s Dark Past Revealed

National Security Archive, Gina Haspel’s CIA Torture File, Staff report, April 26, 2018. The National Security Archive is a non-partisan research center based at the George Washington University in Washington, DC. Findings:

  • Gina Haspel Custom 2CIA nominee supervised detainee torture at Thailand black site 
  • Drafted cable to destroy videotape evidence
  • Helped feed repeated lies about effectiveness of torture to CIA superiors, Congress, two Presidents

The Trump administration’s nominee to be CIA director, Gina Haspel (shown at right), personally supervised the torture of a CIA detainee in 2002 leading to at least three waterboard sessions, subsequently drafted the cable that ordered destruction of the videotape evidence of torture, and served as a senior CIA official while the Agency was lying to itself, Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the Congress, and the public about the effectiveness of torture in eliciting useful intelligence, according to declassified documents posted today by the National Security Archive at George Washington University.

cia logoThe documents include a new and less-redacted version of the CIA Inspector General’s report from 2004, repeated references in the declassified Senate Intelligence Committee torture report to Ms. Haspel’s tenure as chief of base of the CIA black site (“Detention Site Green” in Thailand) in 2002, and other CIA documents on the shyster shrinks, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, whose torture program Ms. Haspel supervised in November 2002 and supported through multiple senior CIA positions until President Obama ended the torture program in 2009.

As a senior officer in the CIA Counterterrorism Center and then at the National Clandestine Services (where she was chief of staff in 2005), Ms. Haspel played a leading role in the creation and perpetuation of the CIA’s false claims that torture uniquely produced actionable intelligence that saved lives. The exhaustive Senate Intelligence Committee torture report reviewed over 6 million pages of the CIA’s own documents and proved these justifications “rested on inaccurate claims of their effectiveness” and were “wrong in fundamental respects.”

kirsten gillibrand 2006 oDemocratic Hypocrisy On #MeToo Claims?

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigation: Al Franken’s chief inquisitor, Kirsten Gillibrand, linked to New York sex slave cult, April 26, 2018 (subscription required). Known as the “#MeToo” senator who was the first Democratic senator to call for the resignation of her Democratic colleague from Minnesota Al Franken over a series of dubious sexual harassment allegations, Kirsten Gillibrand is now mentioned as a potential 2020 presidential candidate to take on Donald Trump.

Trump Caves In To CIA On JFK Assassination Records Release

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump delays release of some JFK files until 2021, bowing to national security concerns, Ian Shapira, April 26, 2018.  After President Trump vowed last year to release all the long secret files related to the JFK assassination, the administration announced Thursday that some documents will be withheld until October 2021 for national security reasons.

In a White House memo, Trump said that the nation’s intelligence community persuaded him to keep some documents secret because their exposure could harm “identifiable national security, law enforcement, and foreign affairs concerns.”

Trump gave the CIA, FBI and other agencies a deadline of April 24 to release the last remaining documents related to the investigation into President Kennedy’s assassination by Lee Harvey Oswald on Nov. 22, 1963 in Dallas. Last year Trump, who once suggested Sen. Ted Cruz’s father played a role in the assassination, promised he was going to release the entirety of the five million pages of records, most of which have been available since the late 1990s.

As of Thursday morning, it was unclear exactly how many records are being kept secret. The President did authorize the disclosure of 19,045 documents that are available on the National Archives web site.

Trump said the next deadline for release of more documents would be Oct. 26, 2021.

“The need for continued protection can only grow weaker with the passage of time from this congressional finding,” Trump wrote.

Rex Bradford, president of the Mary Ferrell Foundation, which tracks the JFK files, said he wasn’t sure yet what had been withheld and needed to spend time scrutinizing the latest release of documents to see whether they contain a large or small amount of redactions. He said he did a quick “spot-check” Thursday morning and was surprised to see fewer whited-out sections than in previous releases.

“I checked a few dozen files and there were certainly many with redactions, but they tended to be names and short phrases,” Bradford said.

nara logoNational Archives and Records Administration (NARA), New Group of JFK Assassination Documents Available to the Public, Staff report, April 26, 2018. In accordance with President Trump’s direction on October 26, 2017, the National Archives today posted 19,045 documents subject to the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 (JFK Act). Released documents are available for download. he versions released today were processed by agencies in accordance with the President’s direction that agency heads be extremely circumspect in recommending any further postponement.

The John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection, established by the National Archives in November 1992, consists of approximately five million pages. The vast majority of the collection has been publicly available without any restrictions since the late 1990s.

As permitted by the JFK Act, agencies appealed to the President to continue postponement of certain information beyond October 26, 2017. The President provided agencies with a temporary certification until April 26, 2018 to allow for a re-review of all documents withheld in full or in part under section 5 of the JFK Act and directed agencies to “identify as much as possible that may be publicly disclosed” and to be “extremely circumspect in recommending any further postponement.”

Based on reviews conducted by agencies in accordance with the President’s direction, the National Archives released 3,539 documents on Dec. 15, 10,744 documents on Nov. 17, 13,213 documents on Nov. 9, and 676 documents on Nov. 3 of last year. The 19,045 documents released today represent the final release of documents in accordance with the President’s direction on October 26, 2017.

All documents subject to section 5 of the JFK Act have been released in full or in part. No documents subject to section 5 of the JFK Act remain withheld in full. The President has determined that all information that remains withheld under section 5 must be reviewed again before October 26, 2021 to determine whether continued withholding from disclosure is necessary.

Senate Confirms Ultra-Hawk Pompeo 57-42

mike pompeo portraitRoll Call, Senate Confirms Pompeo With Split Among 2018 Democrats, Niels Lesniewski, April 26, 2018. Final vote came immediately after the Senate limited debate. The Senate easily confirmed Mike Pompeo to be the next secretary of State on Thursday, but Democrats in the most competitive 2018 races delivered a split decision on the current CIA director.

The chamber confirmed Pompeo to the top diplomatic post, 57-42, after an identical vote to limit debate on the nomination.

Among the 10 Democrats running in states President Donald Trump won in 2016, five voted to confirm Pompeo and five voted against the nomination.

heidi heitkamp oThe five “yes” votes came from Heidi Heitkamp (shown at left) of North Dakota, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Bill Nelson of Florida and Claire McCaskill of Missouri.

sherrod brown o 2009The five “no” votes came from Sherrod Brown of Ohio (shown at right), Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Jon Tester of Montana and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania.

Nelson had opposed Pompeo’s nomination to his CIA post last year, and has said he thought he would be overly political for that job.

McCaskill, who is also among the Democrats most targeted by Republicans, cast votes in support of Pompeo as she had for his CIA job.

Baldwin had announced her opposition in a statement released on Twitter following a meeting with President Donald Trump’s secretary of State nominee. She expressed a belief he might not have the proper disposition for the job. “I am concerned that he is inclined to choose military force as a first option over diplomatic solutions to the many challenges we face around the world,” said Baldwin.

Among the 2018 class, Democrat Tim Kaine of Virginia also voted against Pompeo. Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent who caucuses with the Democrats who also faces voters this year, decided to support Pompeo’s move to Foggy Bottom, explaining his rationale in a detailed statement a day ahead of floor action.

Crime, Courts

washington post logobill cosbyWashington Post, Bill Cosby convicted on three counts of sexual assault, Manuel Roig-Franzia, April 26, 2018. Iconic entertainer Bill Cosby was convicted on three counts of sexual assault, a decision that punctuates one of the most thundering falls from grace in American cultural history. Cosby (shown in a file photo) faces a maximum of 10 years for each count of assault. No sentencing date has been set. The conviction comes in a retrial of a 2017 case in which a mistrial was declared.

As the foreperson of the jury, a slender woman with long graying hair and glasses, said those three words — guilty, guilty, guilty — the courtroom rocked with emotion. Two women who have accused Cosby of sexual assault but did not testify at the trial, burst out in loud sobs from their seats in one of the back rows of the cramped and tension-filed courtroom.

They were escorted from the courtroom by security officials. But their tears — tears of joy, sadness and exhaustion after a frustrating years-long struggle — still filtered into the courtroom through the heavy closed wooden doors. Their tears became the soundtrack for the next few moments of courtroom drama, an off-stage symphony of relief, release and pain.

ny times logoNew York Times, Did the #MeToo Movement Affect the Cosby Verdict? Timothy Williams, April 26, 2018. Between Mr. Cosby’s trials came the revelations about Harvey Weinstein and a cascade of other powerful men.

The trial of Bill Cosby provides what social scientists might call a natural experiment. In the spring of 2017, a jury could not agree on whether Mr. Cosby had drugged and sexually assaulted Andrea Constand, setting the stage for a retrial.

But between that trial and this one came the revelations over Harvey Weinstein and a cascade of other powerful men that invigorated the #MeToo movement. The big question: would it make any difference? It well may have. The jury deliberated not even two days — compared with six days the first time around — before finding Mr. Cosby guilty on all counts.

Parents’ Suit Charges North Korean Murder

washington post logoWashington Post, Amid Trump’s diplomatic thaw, Otto Warmbier’s parents sue North Korea for having ‘brutally tortured and murdered’ their son, David Nakamura​, April 26, 2018. The extraordinary lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, details in blunt language how the University of Virginia student, a former homecoming king and soccer standout from Cincinnati, was “brutally” abused after being detained on a tour in Pyongyang. He arrived home in a coma after being released last June, dying days later.

otto warmbier press conferenceThe family of Otto Warmbier (shown in a coerced press conference before his death) filed an extraordinary lawsuit against North Korea in federal court Thursday alleging that the 22-year-old college student was “brutally tortured and murdered” by Kim Jong Un’s “criminal” regime during 17 months in captivity.

The 22-page complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, details in blunt language how the University of Virginia student, a former homecoming king and soccer standout from Cincinnati, was “brutally” abused after being detained on a tour in Pyongyang. He arrived home in a coma after being released last June, dying days later.

The action aims to hold Kim’s regime legally accountable for their son’s death, but the timing also raises significant geopolitical implications, coming weeks before an expected meeting between President Trump and the North Korean leader in late May or early June. It also comes a day before a high-stakes inter-Korea summit between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, which is widely viewed as a crucial prelude to the potential denuclearization talks between Trump and Kim.

washington post logonancy pelosi oWashington Post, Pelosi defends party intervention in Democratic primaries, David Weigel and Erica Werner​, April 26, 2018. The minority leader’s comments came after a candidate in a contested Colorado primary released an audio recording of Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer urging him to quit the race.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) defended her party’s electoral operation on Thursday, after a candidate in a contested Colorado primary released audio tape of Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) urging him to quit the race.

“I don’t know that a person can tape a person without the person’s consent and then release it to the press,” Pelosi (shown above in a file photo) told reporters at her weekly news conference. “In terms of candidates and campaigns I don’t see anything inappropriate in what Mr. Hoyer was engaged in — a conversation about the realities of life in the race as to who can make the general election.”

steny hoyer oThursday’s controversy began when the Intercept released audio of a December 2017 meeting between Hoyer (shown at left) and Levi Tillemann, a green energy entrepreneur running for the Democratic nomination in Colorado’s 6th Congressional District. The Democratic-trending district, one of 23 that elected a Republican to the House while backing Hillary Clinton for president, is one of the party’s top targets in November’s midterm elections.

All that has amped up liberal criticism of the DCCC, which has long intervened in party primaries — but never in a year with so many challengers. After the Intercept’s story ran, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee emailed its donors to raise money for Tillemann.

Preview: JFK Records Release Due Today

jefferson morley newJFKFacts.org, Analysis: JFK researchers doubt Trump will free the files today, Jefferson Morley (shown at right, with the cover of his biography, The Ghost, about CIA spymaster James Angleton below at left), April 26, 2018. The extreme and strange secrecy around the government’s information about the JFK assassination continues — even as the CIA insists we already know the whole truth of who killed a popular liberal president a long, long time ago.

On President Trump’s April 26 deadline for full disclosure of the JFK files, that veil of secrecy is still in place. According to the Mary Ferrell Foundation’s analysis of the National Archives database, some 21,890 JFK files remain wholly or partially secret. Approximately 85 percent of the still-secret files are held by the CIA and FBI.

cia logoSuch secrecy not only stokes JFK conspiracy theories and the specter of a “deep state.” It also discourages historians, journalists and students from completing the historical record of JFK’s murder. Official secrecy helps cede the question of who killed JFK to the social media cohort educated by InfoWars and Reddit. Nothing abets the conspiracy mongering like CIA secrecy.

As a journalist and historian who has written about these files since I broke the story of their existence back in May 2013, I’m less interested in what they say about conspiracy theories than in what they reveal about Washington’s response to a spectacular crime. The president of the United States was gunned down in broad daylight, and no one was ever brought to justice. No one at the CIA or FBI even lost their job over this atrocious intelligence failure. Now tell me how did that happen?

As editor of the JFK Facts blog, I hoped the release of the last of the government’s JFK files in October 2017 would shed new light some aspect of the story. Was Kennedy’s death the work of unknown conspirators, abetted by CIA officers? Or the work of a lone gunman, abetted by sheer CIA incompetence?

mike pompeo portraitAs news organizations worldwide clamored to know what might be in the last of the government’s JFK files, President Trump tweeted boldly but proceeded cautiously. He acceded to pressure from CIA director Mike Pompeo (shown at right) and delayed full implementation of the law for six months.

In November and December, there was a partial release of files. The National Archives posted four large batches of newly declassified CIA, NSA and FBI files about JFK’s assassination. As reporters and researchers delved into the records they found some revelations about FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and CIA counterintelligence chief James Angleton (portrayed below left on the cover of The Ghost.).

They also found many files had not been released. Many still had blanked out paragraphs and even whole pages. These files concerned top CIA officers involved in the assassination story such as David Phillips, Howard Hunt, and George Joannides.

jefferson morley the ghost coverIt was weirdly fascinating, which is to say it was business as usual in Trump’s Washington. The president’s October 26 tweet, “JFK Files are released, long ahead of schedule!” was wholly misleading. In reality, thousands of JFK files are still secret and their release is way behind schedule. Sad!

The prospects that scholars, journalists, and interested citizens will ever see all of these files this week are not bright. The reason is found in the recently released transcript of what Angleton told Senate investigators behind closed doors in September 1975.

“It is inconceivable,” he said behind closed doors, “that a secret intelligence arm of the Government has to comply with all of the overt orders of the Government.”

Then Congress voted unanimously in favor of the JFK Records Act, which mandates the release of all files. The act was signed into law George H.W. Bush, a Republican, and implemented by Bill Clinton, a Democrat.

President Trump favors full disclosure. Yet the will of the people — it seems a quaint concept these days — has not been achieved despite the letter and spirit of the law. Indeed, since October 26, 2017, the CIA has flouted the JFK Records Act. The law gives the agency the right to postpone the release of records with the approval of the president. Trump’s October 26, 2017, order on JFK files does conform with the law.

But the law also requires the CIA to provide a declassified summary of the reasons for postponement for each and every JFK file. That has not been done for the 21,000-plus record withheld from public view since last October.

Angleton is dead, but his shadow is long. In 2018 the secret intelligence arm of the government is saying, with its actions, that it does not have to comply with the overt orders of the government, at least not as they concern ancient JFK assassination files.

Will Trump Cave?

Most JFK scholars and open government journalists who follow the JFK files story are pessimistic that Trump will deliver on his tweeted promise to open all the JFK files, save the names of living persons.

nate jones cspan croppedNate Jones (shown at right), director of the FOIA Project of the non-profit National Security Archive, said, “I think Trump will act like the presidents before him and have his opinions dictated by the disingenuous but hair-on-fire memorandums from the intelligence agencies warning of ‘grave irreparable harm’ to US espionage capabilities if all the information about what US spies were doing nearly 55 years ago during the JFK assassination is released.”

Jones predicts “the intelligence community will instruct to the president to sign off on the continued withholding of a substantial amount of material, and the president will listen to their orders.”

larry sabato hsLarry Sabato, University of Virginia professor and JFK author, concurs. “My bet is Trump will do whatever his new BFF Pompeo recommends. That means CIA will be protected.”

J. Pat Brown, executive editor of Muck Rock, a non-profit, collaborative investigative news site, said in an interview, “the original deadline was the last hope that the process would be held to any standard of control. [For the CIA] was more of a statement, ‘We can delay this as long as possible.’ So I would not be at all surprised if they continue to stall.”

Phil Shenon, former New York Times reporter and JFK author, thinks last October was “the best shot” for full disclosure. Joan Mellen, Temple University historian and biographer of New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, thinks Trump is not competent to judge the issues.

gerald posner coverOne of the few JFK authors who predicts Trump will enforce full disclosure is Gerald Posner, author of Case Closed, an anti-conspiratorial bestseller.

peter dale scott newPeter Dale Scott (shown at left), former diplomat turned literature professor, whose JFK books helped popularize the notion of “deep politics” in American life, thinks Trump will ultimately accede to the CIA’s wishes.

“My uninformed guess is that Trump may intend to release all, and perhaps even back this with some efforts unseen by us,” Scott wrote, “but that he will not avail against the entrenched forces who believe their own interests are the nation’s.”

Trump Counsel Takes Fifth

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump attorney Michael Cohen says he will invoke his Fifth Amendment right in Stormy Daniels case, Emma Brown and Rosalind S. Helderman​, April 26, 2018 (print edition). Cohen’s declaration cited an “ongoing criminal investigation by the FBI and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.”

michael cohen ap file croppedMichael Cohen (shown at right), the longtime attorney of President Trump, told a federal judge on Wednesday that he will invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself in a lawsuit brought by adult entertainer Stormy Daniels. Daniels, who alleges she had an affair with Trump years ago, is seeking to void a confidentiality agreement she signed just days before the 2016 presidential election in exchange for $130,000. Cohen has said he facilitated the payment using his own money from a home-equity line of credit.

The suit, filed last month, named the president and Essential Consultants, a company Cohen created as a vehicle for the payment, as defendants. Daniels later added Cohen as a defendant.

michael avenatti sketch“This is a stunning development,” Michael Avenatti (shown at left), a lawyer for Daniels, said in a tweet. “Never before in our nation’s history has the attorney for the sitting President invoked the 5th Amend in connection with issues surrounding the President. It is esp. stunning seeing as MC served as the ‘fixer’ for Mr. Trump for over 10 yrs.”

in 2016, Trump sneered at Hillary Clinton aides for exercising their right not to self-incriminate during a congressional investigation into her private email server. “The mob takes the Fifth,” Trump said at one campaign rally. “If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?” Yet in 1990, Trump himself took the Fifth to avoid answering 97 questions in a divorce deposition.

Cohen’s attorneys argued last week for a pause in the Daniels case, in the U.S. District Court of the Central District of California. Judge S. James Otero ordered them to file a declaration from Cohen himself, stating whether he intended to assert his constitutional right against self-incrimination.

Inside Washington

ny times logoNew York Times, Majority of Justices Signal Support for Trump’s Travel Ban, Adam Liptak and Michael D. Shear, April 26, 2018 (print edition).  By the end of the argument, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority seemed ready to defer to President Trump’s national security judgments and discount his campaign promises to impose a “Muslim ban.”

washington post logoscott pruitt epa o CustomWashington Post, EPA chief heads to Capitol Hill as inquiries by White House signal his shaky status, Juliet Eilperin, Brady Dennis and Josh Dawsey, April 26, 2018 (print edition). Scott Pruitt (shown at right) is likely to be grilled over allegations of unethical behavior, wasteful spending and several controversial decisions during two budget hearings with lawmakers.

washington post logoWashington Post, HUD Secretary Ben Carson to propose raising rent for low-income Americans receiving federal housing subsidies, Tracy Jan, Caitlin Dewey and Jeff Stein, April 26, 2018 (print edition).Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson (shown below at right) proposed far-reaching changes to federal housing subsidies Wednesday, tripling rent for the poorest households and making it easier for housing authorities to impose work requirements.

ben carsonCarson’s proposals, and other initiatives aimed at low-income Americans receiving federal assistance, amount to a comprehensive effort by the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress to restrict access to the safety net and reduce the levels of assistance for those who do qualify.

The ambitious effort to shrink federal assistance has been dubbed “Welfare Reform 2.0’’, after Bill Clinton’s overhaul of the welfare system in 1996. The proposals — affecting housing, food stamps and Medicaid — would require congressional approval.

Trump earlier this month signed an executive order directing federal agencies to expand work requirements for low-income Americans receiving Medicaid, food stamps, public housing benefits and welfare. The agencies are supposed to issue recommendations to the White House within 90 days.

Another #MeToo Gym Peeping Tom Arrest

washington post logoWashington Post, Md. gymnastics and cheerleading instructor charged with secretly filming people in bathroom at facility, Dana Hedgpeth​, April 26, 2018.Cristian Gill, 21, put video surveillance equipment in the bathroom at Shockwave Allstars in Rockville. Police found 49 pictures on his tablet after searching his home.

Political Assassinations

ny times logoNew York Times, Assassination in Malaysia Draws International Intrigue, Hannah Beach and Ronen Bergman, April 26, 2018 (print edition). An engineer is the latest Hamas figure to be targeted abroad by Israel’s Mossad spy agency, officials say, as another conspiracy plays out in Kuala Lumpur.

Fadi al-Batsh, a well-liked electrical engineering lecturer and devout family man, always had a smile for his friends and students in the seven years since he moved to Malaysia from his native Gaza. On Saturday, as he walked outside his apartment building in suburban Kuala Lumpur, he was gunned down in a hail of at least 14 bullets by two men on a motorcycle.

It was the Palestinian man’s undercover job — as what intelligence officials described as a technology expert for the military wing of the Gaza-based Hamas movement — that had put him in the cross hairs.

Malaysian officials said the attackers were “most likely born in the Middle East or in the West” but would not directly say who they thought was behind the killing. Mr. Batsh’s family blamed Mossad, the Israeli spy agency. That claim has been confirmed by Middle Eastern intelligence officials, who said the killing was part of a broader operation ordered by the Mossad chief, Yossi Cohen, to dismantle a Hamas project that sends Gaza’s most promising scientists and engineers overseas to gather know-how and weaponry to fight Israel.

Weymouth News (MA), Kennedy assassin ‘acquited’ (sic) in mock Weymouth High trial, Ed Baker, April 26, 2018. Lee Harvey Oswald, 24 was acquitted of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas during a recent mock trial staged by a Weymouth High School junior social studies class that raised conspiracy questions about the crime.

The students portrayed prosecutors, defense attorneys, and witnesses of the president’s assassination in Dealey Plaza, Nov. 22, 1963. Oswald, portrayed by Ryan Roger, denied being involved with the president’s murder and the slaying of Dallas police officer J.D. Tippet, which occurred shortly after the assassination.

“I was shocked by the accusations and quite scared,” Rogers said while being cross examined by defense attorneys. “I did not kill the president.” Rogers said police did not tell him what he was charged with after being arrested, but did admit to owning a rifle while being questioned by prosecutors

“I did not use it that much,” he said. Student Vincent Cuoco, who served as a prosecuting attorney, said he wanted to know why Oswald went to Russia in 1959 to live and seek citizenship during the height of the Cold War.

“I went to the Soviet Union because of a book I found when I was 15 years old,” Rogers said. He said the book glorified communism and made him desire to immigrate to Russia, where he unsuccessfully sought citizenship and was turned down by Russian authorities.

“When I got there, I realized it (communism) was not like the way it was in the book,” Rogers said. Rogers said he met Marina Prusakova, a Russian national, while in Russia and they married before returning to Texas in 1962.

A defense attorney portrayed by James Donnelly said it was impossible for Oswald to successfully wound Kennedy with a rifle shot because he was seated in a moving convertible. “A loving father and husband would not have reason to assassinate President John F. Kennedy,” he said. “This shooting was at a moving target with a $14 rifle. There is no way it could be done by one man.”

The trial featured a slow-motion home movie video clip of the assassination filmed by Abraham Zapruder, which showed Kennedy being struck by bullets as it passed the landmark Texas School Book Depository building. Oswald’s wife Marina, portrayed by Delaney Spinney, said her husband was a loving caring father of their child and incapable of murdering Kennedy.

April 25

More On Trump Scandals

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s presidency is dead and what we’re seeing now is rigor mortis, Bill Palmer, April 25, 2018. Donald Trump’s presidency is dead, and what you’re seeing right now is rigor mortis. Trump’s longtime “attorney” Michael Cohen just pleaded the Fifth Amendment in Trump’s latest scandal, even as Trump’s new “attorney” Rudy Giuliani is busy trying to negotiate Trump’s exit from office.

Palmer Report pointed out that Trump’s boastful tweets about Kanye had gone rather silent once the news broke that Cohen was pleading the Fifth, and it became the new trending topic on Twitter. Now Trump has finally mustered a response, and it goes like this: “I will be interviewed on Fox And Friends at 8:00 A.M. Enjoy!”

That’s right, the genius is now going to babble incoherently on his favorite propaganda channel in the hope of changing the media narrative away from the deceased nature of his presidency. This will fire up Trump’s base, but as we’ve explained before, Trump’s base alone isn’t large enough to save him.

French Globalist Pleads With Congress

emmanuel macronRoll Call, Macron Denounces Nationalistic Wave That Propelled Trump to White House, John T. Bennett, April 25, 2018. French President Emmanuel Macron, addressing a joint meeting of Congress, denounced the wave of nationalistic fervor that helped Donald Trump capture the White House and urged U.S. lawmakers to seek a new and broader deal with Iran.

After spending a day and a half with Trump and first lady Melania Trump that included private meals, cheek kisses, hand-holding and backslapping, the French president (shown at right in a file photo) broke with his political alter ego on several issues.

french flagHis hour-long speech highlighted matters on which he and Trump — as well as many congressional Republicans — agree but also brought into stark relief the issues on which there is ample daylight between them.

He said he sees the world at a crossroads, with “two possible ways ahead.” One is “nationalism,” and the other is a new multinationalism. Macron warned against countries turning inward in what amounted to a rebuke of Trump’s “America first” governing philosophy.

nato logo flags name“Closing the door to the world will not stop the evolution of the world,” Macron said, urging the U.S. House and Senate members not to let “nationalism overcome the hopes for greater prosperity.” In an ominous prediction, he said international institutions like the United Nations and NATO could soon become irrelevant if the 20th-century order collapses as the nationalistic wave that has swept across Europe and the United States becomes more powerful.

9/11 Mysteries, Outrage

donald rumsfeld and rudolph giuliani at Ground Zero

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and New York Mayor Rudoolph Giuliani in 2001 at Ground Zero in New York City

Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth, Who exactly destroyed the WTC steel? And can they be held accountable? AE911Truth Staff, April 25, 2018. On April 11, 2018, AE911Truth added a new piece to our library of technical articles titled, “Documenting the Destruction of Physical Evidence at the World Trade Center.”

The purpose of publishing the article on that date was to provide well-sourced information supporting the claim that New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s role in destroying the WTC evidence was “well-documented” — a claim we made in an accompanying news article, “Lawyers and Victims’ Families File Petition for Federal Grand Jury Investigation,” on the same day.

The larger reason for publishing the technical article was to clarify exactly who was responsible for destroying the WTC steel. The destruction of this evidence is widely known in the 9/11 Truth movement, but many are unaware of who actually carried it out. For example, some mistakenly believe the evidence was destroyed by FEMA, the government agency that conducted the first investigation.

Furthermore, we wanted to counter any suggestion that the destruction of evidence was simply an innocent action that had the unintended consequence of preventing a proper forensic investigation.

Indeed, the public record establishes very clearly that the destruction of evidence was deliberate and was carried out in direct defiance of requests by official investigators for the steel to be saved. The destruction of evidence then continued for several months, despite outcry by 9/11 families and members of the fire safety community.

rudy giuliani recentThe record also identifies four individuals who were most responsible for ordering and carrying out the recycling of the steel: Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (shown at right in a recent file photo), NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC) Commissioner Kenneth Holden, DDC Deputy Commissioner Michael Burton, and engineering advisor Richard Tomasetti of Thornton-Tomasetti Engineers.

In New York State, hindering prosecution of a class A felony (such as first degree murder) by way of destroying physical evidence is a class D felony and has a statute of limitations of three years. However, a strong argument can be made that the offense has not yet been discovered because prosecutors and the larger public have still not recognized, almost seventeen years after the crime, that the Twin Towers were destroyed by controlled demolition (in part because the offenders’ destruction of the physical evidence had its intended effect).

Thus, the destruction of physical evidence at the World Trade Center is likely to remain prosecutable beyond the point in time when it becomes widely recognized that the Twin Towers were destroyed by controlled demolition — whenever that may be.

We invite you to read the article, Documenting the Destruction of Physical Evidence at the World Trade Center, Ted Walter, Tony Szamboti, and Dennis McMahon, April 11, 2018.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally written as a letter to Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance as part of a four-week letter writing campaign by the NYC Coalition for Accountability Now (NYC CAN) in 2010. Each week, hundreds of activists participated in mailing identical letters to the District Attorney in an attempt to get him to investigate the unpermitted demolition of World Trade Center Building 7. This, the fourth and final letter of the campaign, presented carefully sourced, publicly available information on the illegal destruction of physical evidence, with a focus on identifying individuals most responsible for ordering and carrying out the recycling of the structural steel.

Claims Against Trump VA Nominee

washington post logoWashington Post, White House vows to fight for VA nominee facing allegations of misconduct, Josh Dawsey, Seung Min Kim, Lisa Rein and John Wagner, April 25, 2018. The White House rallied around Ronny L. Jackson’s nomination to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs late Tuesday as the president’s doctor was besieged by accusations that he improperly dispensed drugs, created a hostile workplace and became intoxicated on duty.

ronnie jacksonThe administration’s decision to fight on in defense of the nomination came hours after President Trump publicly suggested that Jackson (shown at right) should consider pulling out because of the “abuse” he was facing. But by late afternoon, Trump had huddled with Jackson, and White House aides vowed to fight the charges.

“I don’t want to put a man through a process like this,” Trump had said earlier when asked about Jackson’s nomination during a joint news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron. “It’s too ugly, and it’s too disgusting.”

Trump added: “I said to Dr. Jackson, what do you need it for? To be abused by a bunch of politicians? . . . If I was him . . . I wouldn’t do it.”

Jackson’s worsening problems flared into public view Tuesday when lawmakers nixed his confirmation hearing scheduled for Wednesday. The hearing was officially postponed by Sen. Johnny Isakson (Ga.), the Republican chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and Sen. Jon Tester (Mont.), the ranking Democrat.

Later Tuesday, Tester said during an interview with NPR that the committee had heard complaints from more than 20 current and former military members that Jackson had improperly dispensed drugs, become intoxicated on professional trips and belittled staff members.

washington post logous veterans administration sealWashington Post, Jackson tells colleagues he may withdraw from consideration to lead VA amid allegations, Amy Gardner, Josh Dawsey and Seung Min Kim, April 25, 2018. White House physician Ronny L. Jackson has grown frustrated with the nomination process and has told colleagues he may remove his name from consideration, according to two White House officials with knowledge of his deliberations. His indecision was brewing even before Democrats on Wednesday released new allegations of professional misconduct, including the claim that he had wrecked a government vehicle after getting drunk.

The allegations were contained in a two-page document described by the Democratic staff of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee as a summary of interviews with 23 of Jackson’s current and former colleagues. The document also described Jackson’s “pattern” of handing out medication with no patient history, writing himself prescriptions and contributing to a hostile work environment with “a constant fear of reprisal.”

One White House official said Jackson is growing weary of a process that has been besieged from the start. Veteran advocates and many lawmakers have expressed concerns about the former combat physician’s lack of management experience, and some have worried that he would capitulate to President Trump’s goal of outsourcing more veteran services.

jon tester oOn Wednesday, Jackson quickly denied crashing a vehicle. In private, he alternated between contemplating an end to his bid and striking a pugnacious tone, according to several White House officials, telling colleagues he hopes to defend himself even if he can’t win confirmation.

The Democrats’ document provided no evidence for the allegations, nor an explanation of the methodology of the investigation, which has been spearheaded by the office of Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), shown at right. According to Tester’s staff, every allegation has been substantiated by at least two people.

washington post logoWashington Post, How Ronny Jackson found his nomination imperiled, Amy Gardner, Seung Min Kim and Lisa Rein​, April 25, 2018. The White House physician’s nomination was already facing scrutiny from veterans groups and lawmakers who questioned his management experience. Then came the accusations of professional misconduct on several fronts.

Crime, Courts

joseph deangelo mug sketch

Joseph DeAngelo shown in a mug shot this week and in a police sktech four decades ago

ny times logoNew York Times, Suspect Arrested in Golden State Killer Case After Decades, Christine Hauser, April 25, 2018. The suspect in the long unsolved case is thought to have killed 12 people, raped 45 people and burglarized more than 120 homes in multiple California communities between 1976 and 1986.

Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, was arrested on a warrant from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department and booked early Wednesday on two counts of murder, according to Sacramento  County jail records. A person familiar with the matter confirmed that Mr. DeAngelo had been arrested in connection with the case.

The Golden State Killer, also known as the East Area Rapist and the Original Night Stalker, is thought to have killed 12 people, raped 45 people and burglarized more than 120 homes in multiple communities between 1976 and 1986. His victims included women home alone, women at home with their children, and husbands and wives from Sacramento to Orange County, the authorities said.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Golden State Killer’ suspect, a former police officer, arrested after DNA match, officials say, Mark Berman, Avi Selk and Justin Jouvenal, April 25, 2018. DeAngelo had worked for the Exeter, Calif., police department between 1973 and 1976, a department located about 10 miles east of Visalia. John Hall, the city’s police chief, said in an interview Wednesday that no one currently with the department was there at the time. Still, he said, the idea that DeAngelo might have worked for the department was a blow. “It’s absolutely shocking as well as disheartening and disappointing,” Hall said. “Not only did he commit these horrific crimes, but he did it while wearing the uniform and enjoying the public’s trust.”

U.S. Sports Rules

ny times logoNew York Times, Inside the Hush-Hush N.F.L. Meeting on Anthem Protests, Ken Belson and Mark Leibovich, April 25, 2018. N.F.L. owners and players discussed President Trump and Colin Kaepernick at a private meeting in October. The Times obtained a recording. N.F.L. owners, players and league executives, about 30 in all, convened urgently at the league’s headquarters on Park Avenue in October, nearly a month after President Trump began deriding the league and its players over protests during the national anthem.

It was an extraordinary summit; rarely do owners and players meet in this manner. But the president’s remarks about players who were kneeling during the anthem had catalyzed a level of public hostility that the N.F.L. had never experienced. In the spirit of partnership at the meeting, the owners decided that they and the players should sit in alternating seats around the large table that featured an N.F.L. logo in the middle.

“Let’s make sure that we keep this confidential,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said to begin the session.

Film / Global Politics

oliver stone portraitHollywood Reporter, Oliver Stone Compares Trump to “Beelzebub” at Iranian Film Festival, Deborah Young, April 25, 2018.  Speaking at the Fair International Film Festival in Tehran, the director also criticized French president Emmanuel Macron, Saudi Arabia’s influence and the “creative destruction” of U.S. policy in the Middle East.

Oliver Stone (shown at right in a file photo) spoke out forcefully against U.S. president Donald Trump and U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East on his first visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran this week, where he was the guest of the 36th Fair International Film Festival.

george w. bush wHaving once compared George W. Bush (shown at left) to John Wayne, he told a local journalist that he would have to liken Trump to “Beelzebub,” a name sometimes given to the devil.

Demonstrating a solid knowledge of regional politics as well as Persian history at a press conference Wednesday in Tehran, the director drew parallels to his films like Alexander and W and lambasted the recent meeting of presidents Trump and France’s Emmanuel Macron, in which they called for a revision of the Iran nuclear deal. He called Macron a “young man without much sense of history or memory of the great traditions of France” who sought a return to colonialism and imperialism, and compared him to French president Chirac, “who stood up to Bush” on the invasion of Iraq.

“National security trumps artistic freedom in every country, the U.S. as well as in the Middle East,” he said. “You can’t make a film critical of U.S. foreign policy,” he said. “W was very difficult to finance. There was no interest in making Snowden, which was turned down by all the studios. I couldn’t get a dime from them.” He felt the film was ill-promoted and when it was finally released in the U.S., it came out too late.

Time and again he referred to W as his dramatization of the role of the U.S. and its allies in the Middle East, along with their goals of attaining oil, money and resources at any cost. “I love the movie, it’s a satire,” he said. He referred the war in Iraq as a proxy war and to U.S. foreign policy since 2001 as aimed at regime change, “no matter how disastrous the invasion of Iraq was.”

“We made a mess out of Iraq, Syria, Libya, but it doesn’t matter to the American public. It’s okay to wreck the Middle East,” he said, criticizing the neo-conservative policy of “creative destruction.” He added: “It doesn’t matter who is president – Bush, Obama or Trump, the U.S. will break any treaty” in its interests.”

U.S. Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Republican Wins Arizona Special Election for Congress, Jonathan Martin, April 25, 2018. Debbie Lesko, a strong supporter of President Trump, fended off the challenger in an unexpectedly close race.

Top Trump Appointee Confesses Pay-To-Play Policy

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Mick Mulvaney’s confession highlights the corrosive influence of money in politics, James Hohmann​, April 25, 2018. The interim head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau told a crowd of banking executives that as a congressman, he only met with lobbyists who gave money.

Press Advocacy Group Announces 2018 National Rankings

Reporters Without Borders, Analysis: RSF Index 2018: Hatred of journalism threatens democracies, Staff report, April 25, 2018. The 2018 World Press Freedom Index, compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), reflects growing animosity towards journalists. Hostility towards the media, openly encouraged by political leaders, and the efforts of authoritarian regimes to export their vision of journalism pose a threat to democracies.

The climate of hatred is steadily more visible in the Index, which evaluates the level of press freedom in 180 countries each year. Hostility towards the media from political leaders is no longer limited to authoritarian countries such as Turkey (down two at 157th) and Egypt (161st), where “media-phobia” is now so pronounced that journalists are routinely accused of terrorism and all those who don’t offer loyalty are arbitrarily imprisoned.

More and more democratically-elected leaders no longer see the media as part of democracy’s essential underpinning, but as an adversary to which they openly display their aversion. The United States, the country of the First Amendment, has fallen again in the Index under Donald Trump, this time two places to 45th. A media-bashing enthusiast, Trump has referred to reporters “enemies of the people,” the term once used by Joseph Stalin.

The line separating verbal violence from physical violence is dissolving. In the Philippines (down six at 133rd), President Rodrigo Duterte not only constantly insults reporters but has also warned them that they “are not exempted from assassination.” In India (down two at 138th), hate speech targeting journalists is shared and amplified on social networks, often by troll armies in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pay. In each of these countries, at least four journalists were gunned down in cold blood in the space of a year.

“The unleashing of hatred towards journalists is one of the worst threats to democracies,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “Political leaders who fuel loathing for reporters bear heavy responsibility because they undermine the concept of public debate based on facts instead of propaganda. To dispute the legitimacy of journalism today is to play with extremely dangerous political fire.”

San Juan Mayor Wins ‘Courage’ Prize, Warns Of Continuing Hurricane Disasters

carmen yulín cruz soto57Think Progress, San Juan mayor warns of the ‘disaster economics’ devastating Puerto Rico, Stephanie Griffith, April 25, 2018. To hear Carmen Yulín Cruz tell it, Puerto Rico was hit by two disasters last year.

San Juan mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz (shown at right) sees big privatization battles ahead in Puerto Rico’s future. First, there was the devastation from Hurricane Maria, which crashed ashore last September as a category four storm, killing more than 1,000 people in the weeks after making landfall. In the wake of the storm, Cruz — mayor of the capital city San Juan — became a fixture on televisions around the world, wearing a baseball cap and mud-caked sneakers as she helped distribute food and drinkable water to thousands.

Since then, Puerto Rico has endured a second disaster: a months-long fight for survival as its inhabitants wait, mostly in vain, for the federal relief they say they need to fully recover. At the same time, Puerto Ricans are preparing for the next big storm, with a new hurricane season a mere five weeks away.

The mayor has gained renown for her tenacity helping Puerto Rico’s residents battle bureaucratic inefficiency and the federal government’s seeming indifference to the plight of the island.

As she wages her fight for more generous support post-Maria, Cruz said she is also trying to prevent the wholesale adoption on the island of what she calls “disaster economics” — the bid to privatize reconstruction, and much of the social fabric on the island as well.

“Disaster economics is using privatization as a means to strip Puerto Ricans of their right to ensure that essential services are democratically distributed,” she said last week in an interview with ThinkProgress. “We have to ensure that we understand what our priorities are.”

Those currently in charge of post-hurricane rebuilding have come out in favor of the privatization of some essential services, including schools and energy in some areas. That is an outcome Cruz told Think Progress she is determined to fight. “Disaster economics needs someone who is complacent and complicit,” she said. One goal is to ensure that Puerto Rico, with hundreds of years of history as a Spanish colony and now and U.S. commonwealth, gains greater self-determination. The island took a step backward in that regard last May, when it defaulted on $70 billion of dollars in debt. The following month, a control board was put in place to manage the island’s financial affairs.

Syrian Advances Against Rebels

SouthFront, Russian Aerospace Forces Rain Hell On Militants In Northern Hama And Southern Idlib (Videos), Staff report, April 25, 2018. On April 25, warplanes of the Russian Aerospace Force carried out a series of airstrikes on positions of Hay’at Tahir al-Sham (HTS) and its allies from the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

SouthFront, Syrian Army Establishes Full Control Of Eastern Qalamoun After Militants’ Withdrawal (Map), Staff report, April 25, 2018. On April 25, according to pro-government sources, the Syrian Army established a full control of the Eastern Qalamoun region in western Syria after a withdrawal of the last batch of militants in the area. However, the Syrian Defense Ministry still has confirm the control of the region in an official statement.

Moon of Alabama, Analysis: U.S. Cuddles ISIS – Others Plan For The Final Fight, B, April 24, 2018.  The U.S. military in Syria has refrained from fighting ISIS for months. It is obvious that the U.S. wants to keep ISIS alive and well to again use it, if need be, against the Syrian and Iraqi government.

While the U.S. cuddles with ISIS in Syria to again use it for its own purpose, the 4+1 plan for a larger common operation to finally destroy the Takfiri menace. I expect that operation to begin only after the Iraqi parliament election on May 12 is over and a new Iraqi government is in place. Enough forces will have to be prepared on the Syrian as well as the Iraqi side of the border. On the Syrian side a military bridge to cross the Euphrates has recently been rebuild by the Syrian military and new equipment is arriving in the area. The meeting of the Iranian defense minister with the PMU hints at a strong role for these units in the upcoming fight.

Will the U.S. try to prevent or undermine the plan or will it stay out of the way?

JFK Document Release Scheduled April 26

JFK Facts.org, Will Trump release all of the JFK files tomorrow? Jefferson Morley, April 25, 2018. Jesse Walker, author of United States of Paranoia, hedges his bets: “I know better than to try to predict the behavior of Donald Trump. All I’ll say is that I hope some advocate of government transparency can get booked on ‘Fox and Friends’ that morning.”

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, JFK Assassination: The Tell-Tale Brain, Milicent Cranor, April 25, 2018. Keeps on Telling — What Is It Saying? Researchers are now analyzing newly released documents concerning the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, but many extraordinary facts have been in plain sight for decades — and yet unseen. This report concerns one of those facts, and how, to this day, the story around it is being concealed.

Within minutes of Kennedy’s murder, witnesses were pointing at areas where they said they heard shots — and many pointed to a place in front of Kennedy. But, according to the official version of events, there was only one shooter, and he fired from behind. What did the body show? What did the autopsy report say?

More interesting is what it did not say. Autopsy reports are supposed to contain all information relevant to the cause of an individual’s death — as well as those details that are not related to the death. As Dr. Alan R. Moritz put it in the American Journal of Clinical Pathology in 1956: “In the protocol of a medicolegal autopsy, it is better to describe 10 findings that prove to be of no significance than to omit one that might be critical.”

An autopsy report should contain all findings visible to the naked eye and measurable. Kennedy’s autopsy report includes various details, both relevant and irrelevant. You will find in it meticulous notes on a variety of things: the width of each pupil … the circumference of each heart valve … the condition of the teeth … the location of each tear into the scalp … the length and location of fracture lines in the skull …

And an extensive description of damage to one part of the brain. Note: only one part. But since Kennedy died of a bullet (or bullets) to his head, you might expect that all parts of his head would be described.

Then how strange it is that Navy Commander James Humes, MD — the lead pathologist who performed the autopsy and wrote the report — left out any mention of what has become one of the most hotly debated subjects in the medical evidence, one that relates directly to the still-unsettled question of where the shots came from. You will not find one word about it in the report, nor in Humes’s detailed testimony before the Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination in 1964.

This omitted part of the brain is the cerebellum — the pink shape in the otherwise blue picture below. Some consider it a separate organ.

russ baker 2017 2018 portrait Custom 2

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Advocacy/Opinion/Fund-raising: Donate To WhoWhatWhy, Russ Baker, April 25, 2018. Russ Baker, shown above in an end-of-year portrait, is founder and editor of the investigative site WhoWhatWhy. Last October, when the deadline came for President Donald Trump to release what was supposed to be the ultimate batch of long-withheld JFK assassination documents, instead of resolution we got chaos and an extension of the foot-dragging that has gone on for decades. Trump announced that spy agencies, after having had 25 years to comply, wanted yet more time to review (and censor) the files. A new deadline was set for 180 days hence.

In preparation for last year’s release, WhoWhatWhy, alone among news organizations, had assembled a team of researchers and respected experts to examine the documents, create a comprehensive list of never-before-seen details and share our findings. This reader-supported dedication allowed us to publish unique stories (see here, here, and here) on key figures suspected of involvement in the assassination and to provide historical context for the continued agency stonewalling.

Trump’s extension expires on April 26. Tomorrow we will see if the government actually follows through on its promise to give the public access to the information we have waited more than 54 years to see.

Once again, presumably alone, WhoWhatWhy will painstakingly scrutinize whatever comes out — and will share our analysis. We will also report any more shenanigans by the authorities.

April 24

CIA Spying On Martin Luther King

JFK Facts.org, The CIA is still protecting its spy who shadowed Martin Luther King, Jefferson Morley, April 24, 2018. The CIA shadowed Martin Luther King during his stay at a Miami hotel in July 1966 with the help of a spy whose identity still remains a secret a half century later. The revelation is found in a 48-page file on King, portions of which were made public late last year, along with thousands of JFK assassination files.

President Trump has ordered all federal agencies to release the rest of their JFK-related files by April 26, a directive which covers the agency’s King file as well. Trump’s order, issued last October, exempts from disclosure only “the names and addresses of any mentioned person who is still living.” So if the CIA’s spy is deceased, his or her name is supposed to be made public this week.

“Surveillance was a joint effort of IDEN A [the spy] and local ODENVY [CIA’s code name for the FBI],” according to a cable from the chief of the agency’s south Florida station. The surveillance took place in July 1966 when King and two associates stayed at a Miami airport hotel.

While the FBI’s surveillance of King is notorious, much less is known about the CIA’s interest in the civil right leader. Such eavesdropping violated the agency’s charter barring operations on U.S. soil.

The cable describes the spy as a “cleared and witting contact,” meaning he or she had a working relationship with the agency at the time. Approximately five lines of text that identify the spy have been blanked out in the document released to the National Archives in November 2017.

The spy listened in on King’s conversations from an adjacent hotel room for six hours.

“References were made to the Florida Gubernatorial Race, a trip to Bimini [an island in the Bahamas] and several miscellaneous sex experiences,” the cable reported.

After King and associates checked out the next day, the CIA’s spy searched their rooms, according to the cable. The informant found a phone message in a trash can asking King to call Harry Wachtel, a New York lawyer who served as King’s legal counsel.

The CIA’s spy claimed, inaccurately, that Wachtel was “an identified member of the Communist Party.” In fact, the FBI only had a report that Wachtel once had been active in the National Lawyer Guild, a leftist organization that some charged was a communist influenced. The spy also found an envelope bearing the name of an unmarried woman who supposedly stay in the hotel room.

It seems likely that the CIA spying on King’s private life and is hiding the results. Nine of the next ten pages in the King file are completely classified, along with the spy’s name.

The memo supports the idea that the CIA worked with the FBI to obtain defamatory information about the civil rights leader less than two years before he was slain in Memphis on April 4, 1968. You can read the CIA’s partially declassified King file here .

Trump Cabinet Confirmations

ny times logomike pompeo portraitNew York Times, After Late Vote Switch, Senate Panel Approves Pompeo for Secretary of State, Nicholas Fandos, April 24, 2018 (print edition). The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in a late pivot on Monday evening, approved the confirmation of Mike Pompeo to be the next secretary of state, after Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, bowed to pressure from President Trump and dropped his opposition.

For days, the committee appeared ready to deliver a historic rebuke. Since it began considering nominees in the late 19th century, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has never given a nominee for secretary of state anything but a favorable vote, according to the Senate historian. It has been almost 30 years since any cabinet nominee was reported to the full Senate with an unfavorable recommendation.

But minutes before the committee convened, Mr. Paul, an ardent opponent of interventionist foreign policy, declared his support for Mr. Pompeo, the C.I.A. director, to lead the State Department, securing approval from the committee.

“After calling continuously for weeks for Director Pompeo to support President Trump’s belief that the Iraq war was a mistake, and that it is time to leave Afghanistan, today I received confirmation that Director Pompeo agrees with President Trump,” Mr. Paul wrote. “President Trump believes that Iraq was a mistake, that regime change has destabilized the region and that we must end our involvement with Afghanistan. Having received assurances from President Trump and Director Pompeo that he agrees with the president on these important issues, I have decided to support his nomination.”

Trump VA Pick Sidelined: Why?

washington post logoronnie jacksonWashington Post, Senate to delay confirmation hearing for Jackson to head Veterans Affairs, White House officials told, Seung Min Kim, Lisa Rein and Josh Dawsey​, April 24, 2018 (print edition). The development, coming just two days before Ronny Jackson (shown at right) was scheduled to testify before the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, appeared to put his confirmation in jeopardy.

Palmer Report, Analysis: That whole thing with Donald Trump and his doctor has found a way to get even worse for them both, Bill Palmer, April 24, 2018. Donald Trump somehow managed to find a military doctor who was willing to announce that Trump was 6’3″ when he’s visibly no more than 6’2″, and that he weighs 239 pounds when he visibly weighs at least a few dozen pounds more. The doctor also declared that Trump was in fantastic cognitive health because he was correctly able to identify a picture of a rhinoceros. It was cartoonish even for a Trump scandal, and it was one of those things you just knew would get even worse.

Remarkably, when Trump turned around and rewarded Dr. Ronny Jackson for the glowing and fake medical report by nominating him to be the head of the VA, even that wasn’t the wackiest part of the scandal. Sure, why not put a doctor, who has no corporate or managerial experience, in charge of a massive bureaucracy? Now we’ve gotten to the part that’s just plain ugly, and it’s a tale involving prescription drug fraud and alcohol abuse.

The Senate committee vetting Jackson’s nomination has learned that he’s been accused of everything from being drunk on the job, to fraudulently prescribing drugs to patients. It’s not yet clear how valid these accusations are, or what the evidence is, but it’s explosive enough that the Senate promptly postponed Jackson’s confirmation hearings, without even bothering to schedule a new date. That doesn’t mean his nomination is officially dead, though the odds have been against him from the start. But it does remind us of an all too familiar pattern.

Any time something weird happens that doesn’t make any sense in Trump land, it always ends up being something much uglier by the time it’s all said and done. We’ve gone from a doctor comically lying about Donald Trump’s weight, to Trump illegitimately nominating that same doctor for a job he’s clearly not qualified for, to serious accusations of malpractice against that doctor. These things always get worse before they get even worse.

Israeli-Controlled Warmonger At United Nations?

nikki haley aipac

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley in a file photo taken at an American-Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC) event

philip giraldiUnz Review, Opinion: Scarier Than John Bolton? Think of Nikki Haley for President! Philip Giraldi (shown at right), April 24, 2018. The musical chairs playing out among the senior officials that make up the President Donald Trump White House team would be amusing to watch but for the genuine damage that it is doing to the United States.

The lack of any coherence in policy means that the State Department now has diplomats that do not believe in diplomacy and environment agency heads that do not believe in protecting the environment. It also means that well-funded and disciplined lobbies and pressure groups are having a field day, befuddling ignorant administrators with their “fact sheets” and successfully promoting policies that benefit no one but themselves.

In the Trumpean world of all-the-time-stupid, there is, however, one individual who stands out for her complete inability to perceive anything beyond threats of unrelenting violence combined with adherence to policies that have already proven to be catastrophic.

That person is our own Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who surfaced in the news lately after she unilaterally and evidently prematurely announced sanctions on Russia. When the White House suggested that she might have been “confused” she responded that “With all due respect, I don’t get confused.” This ignited a firestorm among the Trump haters, lauding Haley as a strong and self-confident woman for standing up to the White House male bullies while also suggesting that the hapless Administration had not bothered to inform one of its senior diplomats of a policy change. It also produced a flurry of Haley for higher office tweets based on what was described as her “brilliant riposte” to the president.

Facebook Names Bush Operative As Privacy Leader

ny times logoNew York Times, Facebook Replaces Lobbying Executive Amid Regulatory Scrutiny, Cecilia Kang, April 24, 2018. Facebook on Tuesday replaced its head of policy in the United States, Erin Egan, as the social network scrambles to respond to intense scrutiny from federal regulators and lawmakers.

facebook logoMs. Egan, who is also Facebook’s chief privacy officer, was responsible for lobbying and government relations as head of policy for the last two years. She will be replaced by Kevin Martin on an interim basis, the company said. Mr. Martin has been Facebook’s vice president of mobile and global access policy and is a former Republican chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

Ms. Egan will remain chief privacy officer and focus on privacy policies across the globe, Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesman, said.

Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s vice president of communications and public policy, said in a statement on Wednesday: “We need to focus our best people on our most important priorities. We are committed to rebuilding people’s trust in how we handle their information, and Erin is the best person to partner with our product teams on that task.”

At the same time, Facebook is grappling with increased privacy regulations outside the United States. Sweeping new privacy laws called the General Data Protection Regulation are set to take effect in Europe next month. And Facebook has been called to talk to regulators in several countries, including Ireland, Germany and Indonesia, about its handling of user data.

Mr. Zuckerberg said told Congress this month that Facebook had grown too fast and that he hadn’t foreseen the problems the platform would confront.

“Facebook is an idealistic and optimistic company,” he said. “For most of our existence, we focused on all the good that connecting people can bring.”

kevin martin wThe executive shifts put two Republican men in charge of Facebook’s Washington offices. Mr. Martin will report to Joel Kaplan, vice president of global public policy. Mr. Martin (shown at left) and Mr. Kaplan worked together in the George W. Bush White House and on Mr. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign.

Facebook hired Ms. Egan in 2011; she is a frequent headliner at tech policy events in Washington. Before joining Facebook, she spent 15 years as a partner at the law firm Covington & Burling as co-chairwoman of the global privacy and security group.

Facebook is undergoing other executive changes. Last month, The Times reported that Alex Stamos, Facebook’s chief information security officer, planned to leave the company after disagreements over how to handle misinformation on the site.

End of the Line For ISIS?

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: U.S. Cuddles ISIS: Others Plan For The Final Fight, B, April 24, 2018. The U.S. military in Syria has refrained from fighting ISIS for months. It is obvious that the U.S. wants to keep ISIS alive and well to again use it, if need be, against the Syrian and Iraqi government.

While the U.S. cuddles with ISIS in Syria to again use it for its own purpose, the 4+1 plan for a larger common operation to finally destroy the Takfiri menace. I expect that operation to begin only after the Iraqi parliament election on May 12 is over and a new Iraqi government is in place.

Enough forces will have to be prepared on the Syrian as well as the Iraqi side of the border. On the Syrian side a military bridge to cross the Euphrates has recently been rebuild by the Syrian military and new equipment is arriving in the area. The meeting of the Iranian defense minister with the PMU hints at a strong role for these units in the upcoming fight.

U.S. Regional Military Chief Visits Israel On ‘Secret’ Mission

Zero Hedge, Opinion: US CENTCOM Chief Makes “Secret And Unprecedented” Visit To Israel As Russia Mulls Arming Syria, Tyler Durden, April 24, 2018.  Increasingly it appears that the recent US coalition missile strikes on Syria have utterly backfired: instead of weakening Syria or degrading its military capabilities, the attack may have actually served to strengthen Syria’s defenses.

Since the massive strike which involved the US, UK, and France launching over 100 cruise missiles, Russia is rumored to be moving forward on delivery of its advanced S-300 missile defense system, which would be a monumental upgrade allowing Syrian defenses to far surpass current capabilities which utilize the Soviet-made S-125 and S-200 air defense systems.

Crucially, S-300s have a range of up to 150-200 kilometers (or 120 miles), bringing Syrian deterrent reach easily to within Lebanese airspace (as Israel has routinely struck targets inside Syria while firing over “neutral” Lebanese airspace in recent years), and could even extend airspace coverage into Israel itself.

joseph votelCould this be the reason for some major behind-the-scenes diplomatic scrambling? On Monday VOA News chief White House correspondent Steve Herman announced that US CENTCOM commander General Joseph Votel (shown at right) is in the midst of “a secret and unprecedented visit to Israel.”

Knowledge of the “secret” visit was based on exclusive footage broadcast by Israel’s Kann News, which first reported, “the commander of the American Central Command arrived for the first time to Israel, and met with senior security officials, including the Chief of Staff.”

Suspicious Bannon Associate?

Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Behind the Casey Key address Steve Bannon used, a questionable associate, Chris Anderson, April 24, 2018. Questions raised about President Trump’s association with former adviser Stephen K. Bannon mirror those raised about Bannon’s relationship with Andrew Badolato.

Badolato’s past — according to county and federal court records, state business filings, Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office reports, interviews with former associates and internal documents obtained by the Herald-Tribune — includes numerous lawsuits, substantial monetary judgments and sizeable Internal Revenue Service liens filed against him; business dealings with convicted felons for stock-related fraud; an extortion attempt after he borrowed money from a self-described mobster that led to him wearing a wire for the FBI; an association with a Costa Rican offshore firm that was called a “money laundering hub” by the Justice Department; and sexual assault allegations made by three women over a period of four years that allegedly took place inside his million-dollar home on Casey Key Road.

Badolato, a 1982 graduate of Cardinal Mooney High in Sarasota, has never been charged with a crime, nor has he been the subject of any “regulatory body investigation, proceeding or hearing,” according to a letter from his attorney, Wil Florin, who added that “Mr. Badolato, as you know, is a private figure. He has no interest in entering the public discourse on any subject related to him including your upcoming article. He is a single father and a well-liked and respected businessman in the Tampa Bay area.”

Repeated attempts to reach Bannon, who has never been charged with a crime either, for comment about his longstanding relationship with Badolato were unsuccessful.

Their relationship has been such that Bannon declared on a Sarasota County voter registration form he lived at Badolato’s address while running Trump’s 2016 campaign, a logistical challenge considering the headquarters was based 1,198 miles away at Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan, where Bannon occupied a corner office that he was seen in nearly every day he wasn’t traveling on the campaign trail, according to Michael Wolff’s best-selling book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.”

Experts say Bannon’s relationship with Badolato should have raised red flags with the FBI — the agency responsible for the initial vetting of Bannon for his White House security clearance.

Former Obama Counsel Resigns After Manafort Probe

President Obama and White House Counsel Greg Craig talk with Supreme Court Justice David Souter in 2009 (Pete Souza photo)

Former White House counsel Greg Craig, right with former President Barack Obama in 2009 during president’s call with Supreme Court Justice David Souter upon his retirement. (White House photo by Pete Souza)

ABA Journal, Greg Craig, former White House counsel and lead lawyer on Ukraine report, leaves Skadden, Debra Cassens Weiss, April 24, 2018. Greg Craig has retired from Skadden and his name has been scrubbed from the law firm’s website.

Craig, a former White House counsel during the Obama administration, was lead lawyer on a controversial Skadden report assessing the fairness of a trial of a Ukrainian prime minister. He worked on the report with Skadden associate Alex van der Zwaan, who has pleaded guilty to lying to investigators in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Craig was of counsel at Skadden.

Craig, 73, told Barron’s that he left Skadden because he wanted to pursue “an early professional passion” as a senior adviser to the Truman Center’s national security project. Other publications with stories on Craig’s departure include the National Law Journal, Bloomberg, Bloomberg Big Law Business, Above the Law and the Associated Press.

Skadden was hired in 2012 by the Ukraine Ministry of Justice to prepare the report. It concluded that Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, a political rival to Urkaine’s then-leader Viktor Yanukovych, was denied counsel at critical stages of her trial but her conviction was supported by evidence.

Prosecutors had said van der Zwaan lied about his communications with “person A” and with former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates, who has pleaded guilty to failing to disclose his Ukrainian consulting work and offshore holdings.

Federal prosecutors filed a document on Monday alleging that Gates and Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, used offshore accounts to pay an unidentified law firm handling a report on the Urkainian opposition politician, according to the National Law Journal. Manafort is fighting charges that he laundered money he received for Ukrainian work.

April 23

Fatal Street Attack In Canada

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Pure Carnage’ in Toronto as Van Driver Kills at Least 10, Ian Austen and Liam Stack, April 23, 2018. A driver in a white van mounted a sidewalk on a busy thoroughfare and began plowing into people. In addition to the dead, more than a dozen people were injured, officials said. Earlier, related story below:

usa today logoUSA Today, Police: Nine dead, 16 injured when van slams into pedestrians in Toronto, Mike James and John Bacon, April 23, 2018. A white van jumped a curb and slammed into pedestrians Monday on a crowded Toronto street, killing at least nine people and injuring 16 others. A witness, Phil Zullo, told Canadian Press that he saw police arresting a man who had been driving a Ryder rental truck and saw people “strewn all over the road” where the incident occurred. “It must have seen about five, six people being resuscitated by bystanders and by ambulance drivers,” Zullo said. “It was awful. Brutal.”

Suspected Waffle House Racist Shooter Captured

washington post logoWashington Post, Suspect in deadly Waffle House shooting arrested after manhunt, Kristine Phillips and Mark Berman​, April 23, 2018. Just over an hour before Tennessee police said they had apprehended Travis Reinking, authorities had acknowledged having “no confirmed sightings” of him. Officials did not immediately say how he was found.

Earlier story: ‘No credible sightings’ of Waffle House shooting suspect as manhunt continues, police say, Kristine Phillips, April 23, 2018. Months earlier, he tried to breach barrier near White House. Police continued their intensive search Monday for the 29-year-old suspected of opening fire at a Tennessee Waffle House and killing four people one day earlier.

Months earlier, authorities arrested Travis Reinking for trying to breach a barrier near the White House and later seized his guns. The guns, however, were later returned to Reinking’s father, who has acknowledged he gave them back to his son, officials said.

Trump Cabinet Appointments

cbs news logoCBS News, Democrats reviewing allegations against VA nominee Ronny Jackson, O’Keefe & Nancy Cordes CBS News April 23, 2018. The ranking Democrat on the Senate Veterans Affairs committee is reviewing allegations he’s hearing about Ronny Jackson, the White House physician and President Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. It was unclear late Monday whether the Senate panel would postpone Jackson’s confirmation hearing, which was scheduled for Wednesday, in light of stories about the nominee told by current or former White House medical staff.

Sources familiar with the tales say Sen. Jon Tester’s committee staff is reviewing multiple allegations of a “hostile work environment.” The accusations include “excessive drinking on the job, improperly dispensing meds,” said one of the people familiar, who was granted anonymity to speak frankly about the situation. The other people familiar with the stories also confirmed those details. If proven true, “it’ll sink his nomination,” said one of the sources.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Say no to Mike Pompeo as secretary of state, Paul Waldman, April 23, 2018. There may be no more damaging idea to American foreign policy interests than the notion that we are in the midst of a civilizational struggle between Islam and the Christian west. It’s exactly what Al Qaeda believes, what ISIS believes, and what the next major terrorist group will believe. It feeds their propaganda and their recruitment.

It’s incredibly problematic to have high-ranking American officials repeat it, and you can bet that leaders around the world, particularly in Muslim-majority countries, are well aware that [CIA Director and Secretary of State nominee Mike] Pompeo, right, has said these things.

Trend: Public Employees Losing Ground

ny times logoNew York Times, Losing Their Foothold in the Middle Class, Patricia Cohen and Robert Gebeloff, April 23, 2018 (print edition). Even as private employers have rebounded from the recession, the public sector’s ranks have withered, and pay and benefits have lagged.Many states have also privatized services, transferring jobs to companies that have reduced salaries and benefits to increase their profits. For generations of Americans, working for a state or local government — as a teacher, firefighter, bus driver or nurse — provided a comfortable nook in the middle class. No less than automobile assembly lines and steel plants, the public sector ensured that even workers without a college education could afford a home, a minivan, movie nights and a family vacation.

In recent years, though, the ranks of state and local employees have languished even as the populations they serve have grown. They now account for the smallest share of the American civilian work force since 1967.

The 19.5 million workers who remain are finding themselves financially downgraded. Teachers who have been protesting low wages and sparse resources in Oklahoma, West Virginia and Kentucky — and those in Arizona who say they plan to walk out on Thursday — are just one thread in that larger skein.

U.S. Mass Shooting Suspect

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘No credible sightings’ of Waffle House shooting suspect as manhunt continues, police say, Kristine Phillips, April 23, 2018. Months earlier, he tried to breach barrier near White House. Police continued their intensive search Monday for the 29-year-old suspected of opening fire at a Tennessee Waffle House and killing four people one day earlier. The Metro Nashville Police Department said early Monday that “there have been no credible sightings” of the suspected gunman, Travis Reinking, after an overnight search by local, state and federal law enforcement officers.

Reinking, police said, was last seen Sunday morning behind his apartment complex. Months earlier, authorities arrested Reinking for trying to breach a barrier near the White House and later seized his guns. The guns, however, were later returned to Reinking’s father, who has acknowledged he gave them back to his son, officials said.

bo head shot whny times logoNew York Times, Setting Tone for Post-Presidency, Obama to Speak on Tolerance, Mark Landler, April 23, 2018 (print edition). Former President Barack Obama (shown in a White House file photo) is convening 200 young people this July in South Africa, a choice that is freighted with symbolism at a time when his political legacy is being dismantled.

Media / Trump Probes

Palmer Report, Analysis: Sean Hannity’s new Trump-connected real estate scandal explained, Daniel Cotter, April 23, 2018. The Hill and The Guardian are both reporting that Sean Hannity, the recently disclosed third legal client of Michael Cohen, has ties to shell companies that have purchased numerous foreclosure homes throughout the United States. Perhaps this is the “real estate advice” that Hannity stated he received from Cohen?

sean hannity gage skidmore 3This most recent disclosure would appear to support the reasons that Hannity (shown in a portrait by Gage Skidmore) did not want his name disclosed and raises questions about the use of shell companies (such as Essential Consultants LLC, which Cohen used to pay settlements in both the Broidy and Trump matters).

According to The Guardian, Hannity is connected “to a group of shell companies that spent at least $90m on more than 870 homes in seven states over the past decade. The properties range from luxurious mansions to rentals for low-income families. Hannity is the hidden owner behind some of the shell companies and his attorney did not dispute that he owns all of them.” As only Hannity can do, he sharply criticized President Barack Obama for the number of foreclosures and how it was hurting the country (never mind that the Great Recession occurred in the W years), while at the same time he was busy buying up this collection and hiding behind the shell companies.

According to The Guardian, the houses were in seven states- Alabama, Florida, Georgia, New York, North Carolina, Texas and Vermont. The shell companies were all created in Georgia using variants of his children’s initials. The reporting also mentions a real estate lawyer that Hannity uses. What is unclear is what, if any, connection this latest disclosure and information has to the disclosure that Hannity was one of three legal clients of Cohen’s from 2017 to the present. (The properties were mostly acquired in 2013.) At a minimum, it leaves one wondering why Hannity would call Cohen for advice on real estate manners when he has what appears to be a competent real estate lawyer that he uses regularly. Perhaps Judge Kimba Wood will inquire more into any potential connection to the Cohen investigation.

Claims of Chemical Attacks

SouthFront, Another Field Correspondent Finds Out That Douma Chemical Attack Was ‘Staged,’ Staff report, April 23, 2018. Uli Gack, a correspondent of the German state-run Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF) broadcaster has visited the Damascus countryside [Douma is lcoated near it] and has found that refugees from Douma say that the April 7 chemical attack was “staged.”

Earlier, The Independent’s Robert Fisk visited the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta, where Douma is located, and also found no evidence of the chemical attack by the Syrian military. Pearson Sharp, a reporter of One America News Network, visited the area of Douma with the same result.

A group of Russian journalists also found a boy filmed by militants in the Douma chemical attack video. The boy’s story also supports the version that the attack was staged.

Paul Ryan’s Group Sued Over Fund-Raising

Politico,Watchdog sues Paul Ryan-aligned dark money group, Maggie Severns, April 23, 2018. The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington sued the nonprofit American Action Network on Monday, the latest turn in a quest to reclassify the Paul Ryan-aligned nonprofit as a political committee and force it to reveal its secret donor list.

The lawsuit, which ramps up CREW’s complaint against the American Action Network after the Federal Election Commission twice voted not to act, could offer an unusual window into the inner workings of one of the country’s largest political nonprofits.

CREW is alleging that the American Action Network violated campaign law by operating as a political committee – using most of its resources to air campaign-related ads and otherwise support Republican candidates for Congress between 2009-2011 – while registering as a social welfare organization. Such groups, which are tax-exempt, can engage in political activity but can’t make it their primary focus.

Brett Kappel, a GOP campaign finance attorney at Akerman LLP, said this type of lawsuit is rare, but he said CREW appears to have a decent case.
“They have exhausted their administrative remedies at the FEC and their only recourse now is to turn to the courts,” he said.
American Action Network did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

The lawsuit demands that American Action Network give up its nonprofit status and disclose its donors. American Action Network is affiliated with Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC; the two groups combined spent $45 million on the 2016 election cycle.

CREW first filed its complaint with the FEC in 2012. The FEC has twice voted to not take action on CREW’s complaint about the American Action Network, and CREW has twice taken the issue to court to protest the FEC’s decision.

JFK Murder

JFK Facts.org, Documents illuminate death of diplomat who asked too many questions about Oswald, Jefferson Morley, April 23, 2018. Phil Shenon has a long piece inThe Guardian excavating the sad story of Charles Thomas, a U.S. diplomat who investigated Lee Harvey Oswald’s actions in Mexico in the 1960s. He was rebuffed by top CIA officials, including counterintelligence chief James Angleton, who wanted to keep a tight lid on the subject. Thomas was denied an expected promotion and later committed suicide.

The story illuminates a central mystery of the JFK assassination story but not quite in the way than Shenon proposes. Shenon suggests that Charles Thomas had found evidence the Cuban government was complicit in JFK’s assassination and this is why his career was derailed. This theory depends on the improbable assumption that Angleton, a conspiracy theorist and vigilant lifelong anti-communist, would condone the killing of his friend JFK. (Angleton and his wife Cicely socialized with Jack and Jackie Kennedy in the late 1950s.) To argue that Angleton protected a communist he wanted dead (Castro) by not disclosing evidence of a capital crime strikes me as close to absurd. Angleton’s behavior needs a better explanation

What Shenon’s account overlooks is that Thomas’ proposal to re-investigate Oswald’s actions in Mexico City threatened the CIA, much more than it threatened the Cuban government. Specifically, it threatened the CIA cover story, fed to the credulous Warren Commission, that agency officers knew very little about Oswald’s visit to Mexico City when it occurred.

April 22

MIA President At Barbara Bush Funeral

djt barbara bush funeral 4 21 18 Custom

Twitter, Opinion by Wayne Madsen: April 22, 2018

U.S. Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Mitt Romney forced into GOP primary for Senate seat in Utah, David Weigel, April 22, 2018 (print edition). Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee now seeking a Senate seat from Utah, was dealt a setback Saturday after his party’s delegates denied him their nomination, forcing him into a June 26 primary.

mitt romney wRomney, whose bid for the seat was endorsed by President Trump and retiring Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), came in second place after a lengthy and contentious party convention in Utah’s West Valley City.

Mike Kennedy, a three-term state representative with no national profile, edged out Romney with 50.18 of the delegate vote; the former Massachusetts governor won 49.12 percent. According to FEC reports, Romney had raised $1.68 million for the campaign; Kennedy had raised just over $289,000. But Kennedy had depicted himself as a bona fide Utahn, and portrayed Romney as an interloper.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Pence’s Brother Mounts House Bid, Scrutiny Follows, Michael Tackett, April 22, 2018. Greg Pence, Vice President Mike Pence’s oldest brother, is running something of a stealth campaign, years after leading a convenience store chain that went bankrupt and being sued over personal debts.

greg pence ballotpediaMr. Pence, 61 (shown at right), extols two central credentials in his House bid: his service in the Marines and his success as a business executive. But an examination of his record in business shows decidedly mixed results. He was the president of a convenience store chain that filed for bankruptcy protection and was assessed penalties of $8.4 million by the State of Indiana for environmental damage, caused primarily by leaking underground storage tanks.

A local bank, where he also served on the board of directors, was forced to sue him to recover $3.8 million in debts that he had personally guaranteed, only to have to settle for pennies on the dollar.

But when he needed a second chance, one seemed to be waiting for him. Mr. Pence’s race in a safely Republican district where he has lived most of his life — stretching from the far eastern suburbs of Indianapolis to Muncie in the north and the Kentucky line to the south — shows the durable power in politics of a famous name and insider connections even in an outsider era.

Trump Probes Heat Up

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Business Deals That Could Imperil Trump, Peter Fritsch and Glenn R. Simpson, April 22, 2018 (print edition). Mr. Fritsch and Mr. Simpson are the founders of the research firm Fusion GPS. 

Forget Stormy Daniels. The business records subpoenaed by Robert Mueller might be Donald Trump’s greatest legal headache. robert mueller full face fileThe most significant recent development involving the president may be that the special counsel, Robert Mueller (right), has subpoenaed Trump Organization business records as part of his inquiry into Russian interference in the presidential election.

Those documents — and records recently seized by the F.B.I. from the president’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen — might answer a question raised by the president’s critics: Have certain real estate investors used Trump-branded properties to launder the proceeds of criminal activity around the world?

christopher steele ex MI6 spy express croppedWe pored over Donald Trump’s business records for well over a year, at least those records you can get without a badge or a subpoena. We also hired a former British intelligence official, Christopher Steele (shown at left), to look into Mr. Trump’s possible ties to Russia. In that 2015-2016 investigation, sponsored first by a Republican client and then by Democrats, we found strong indications that companies affiliated with Mr. Trump, then a presidential candidate, might have been entangled in foreign corruption.

Global News: Iran

washington post logoWashington Post, Iran’s foreign minister warns nation will restart ‘nuclear activities’ if U.S. withdraws from accord, Karen DeYoung, April 22, 2018.  The reaction of the international community would “not be pleasant” for the United States if President Trump decides to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions on Tehran, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Sunday.

iran flag mapIn addition to U.S. isolation from the rest of the world, “Iran has many options and those options are not pleasant,” including “resuming at much greater speed our nuclear activities,” he said on CBS News’s “Face the Nation.”

A resumption, Zarif said, does not include developing nuclear weapons, because Iran “has never wanted to produce a bomb.” In recent weeks, Iranian officials have said that in the absence of the deal, they would feel free to install and operate thousands of new uranium centrifuges that could, in theory, produce weapons-grade material.

Zarif is on a visit to New York, where Iran maintains diplomatic representation to the United Nations, in advance of the May 12 deadline President Trump has set for his decision on whether to reimpose economic sanctions that were lifted as part of the 2015 nuclear agreement.

Actress Charged In Sex Trafficking

ny times logoNew York Times, Allison Mack of ‘Smallville’ Is Charged With Sex Trafficking, Christopher Mele, April 20, 2018. An actress from the television series “Smallville” was charged on Friday with sex trafficking for her involvement in an organization promoting itself as a self-help group for women that forced its members to have sex with its leader, federal prosecutors said.

allison mackThe actress, Allison Mack, 35 (shown at right, helped gain recruits for what was purported to be a mentorship group but instead exploited its followers, who were branded with a symbol containing the initials of the organization’s leader, said Richard P. Donoghue, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York, in a statement.

Ms. Mack participated in a group know as Nxivm (pronounced Nex-e-um), the authorities said. The organization, near Albany, was led by Keith Raniere, 57, who was arrested in March by federal officials in Mexico on sex-trafficking charges. Its followers were forced to have sex with him because they feared that if they did not do so, compromising material that they had provided about themselves would be released publicly, according to a complaint.

The group has denied it was a cult, but former members have said that Mr. Raniere demanded obedience from his followers, who referred to him as “Vanguard.” Ms. Mack played Chloe Sullivan in “Smallville,” which told the story of the upbringing of Clark Kent in Smallville, Kan., before he became known as Superman. In the series, which lasted for 10 seasons starting in 2001, Ms. Mack’s character was one of his best friends. Ms. Mack is also known for her roles in the movies “The Ant Bully” (2006) and “Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves!” (1997).

Global News: Afghan Attack On Voters

ny times logoNew York Times, Suicide Bomber Kills Afghans Registering to Vote in Kabul, Mujib Mashal and Jawad Sukhanyar, April 22, 2018. The bomber attacked a government office where Afghans were registering to vote, killing at least 52 and raising concerns that violence will tarnish long-delayed elections.

Global News: French Visit To DC

ny times logoemmanuel macronNew York Times, Macron Takes a Risk in Courting Trump, but Has Little to Show for It, Alissa J. Rubin and Adam Nossiter, April 22, 2018. French President Emmanuel Macron (shown at right) departs on Monday for his first official visit to Washington at a particularly difficult moment in his young presidency. His popularity is challenged on many fronts. His ambitious domestic reform program has been barraged by strikes. His big plans to overhaul the European Union are in tatters.

SouthFront, France’s President Says He Wants To Build “New Syria” With U.S., Staff report, April 22, 2018. On April 22, France’s President Emmanuel Macron said during an interview with Fox News TV that France, the US and their allies should stay in Syria after the defeat of ISIS in order to build what he called “a new Syria.” The French President added that the US and its allies, including France, should also counter the influence of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and Iran.

More  U.S. Politics

OpEdNews, Opinion: Mitch McConnell gets his own chapter in the story of America’s dying democracy. And it’s devastating, Will Bunch, April 22, 2018. It’s kind of trivial, perhaps, but one of my favorite odd facts about the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom — the epic event that produced Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech — is that not one but two college kids in the bobbing sea of faces crammed around the Reflecting Pool listening Mitchell McConnellto King’s immortal words would grow up to become U.S. senators many years later.

One future senator would — over the course of his 50-year-long, 1000-1-shot rise to political prominence — remain remarkable true to the expansive vision of that 1963 march, with an almost annoyingly loud but consistent, laser-like focus on expanding economic opportunity and fighting for the working classes. The other young man in the shadows of MLK grew up to become Mitch McConnell 9shown at left).

April 21

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Yulia Skirpal and her father, former Russian spy Sergei Skirpal, at a restaurant after they were allegedly poisoned in March in the United Kingdom

Consortium News, Analysis: Another Dodgy British Dossier: the Skripal Case, Gareth Porter, April 21, 2018. In this second part of a series, Gareth Porter compares the same faulty logic employed in two purposely misleading so-called British intelligence dossiers.

yulia skirpal facebookThe British government shared what was supposedly a dossier containing sensitive intelligence to convince allies and EU member states to support its accusation of Russian culpability in the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal (shown at right on her Facebook page) in Salisbury, England on March 4.

But like the infamous 2003 “dodgy dossier” prepared at the direction of Prime Minister Tony Blair to justify British involvement in the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the intelligence dossier on the Salisbury poisoning turns out to have been based on politically-motivated speculation rather than actual intelligence.

Trump Probes

ny times logomichael cohen ap file croppedNew York Times, Cohen Said He’d Take a Bullet for Trump. Maybe Not Anymore, Maggie Haberman, Sharon LaFraniere and Danny Hakim, April 21, 2018 (print edition). There’s a strong possibility that Michael D. Cohen (shown at right) could end up cooperating in a criminal investigation against the president, and insiders say Mr. Trump has long treated Mr. Cohen “like garbage.”

For years, a joke among Trump Tower employees was that the boss was like Manhattan’s First Avenue, where the traffic goes only one way. That one-sidedness has always been at the heart of President Trump’s relationship with his longtime lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, who has said he would “take a bullet” for Mr. Trump. For years Mr. Trump treated Mr. Cohen poorly, with gratuitous insults, dismissive statements and, at least twice, threats of being fired, according to interviews with a half-dozen people familiar with their relationship.

“Donald goes out of his way to treat him like garbage,” said Roger J. Stone Jr., Mr. Trump’s informal and longest-serving political adviser, who, along with Mr. Cohen, was one of five people originally surrounding the president when he was considering a presidential campaign before 2016.

Now, for the first time, the traffic may be going Mr. Cohen’s way. Mr. Trump’s lawyers and advisers have become resigned to the strong possibility that Mr. Cohen, who has a wife and two children and faces the prospect of devastating legal fees, if not criminal charges, could end up cooperating with federal officials who are investigating him for activity that could relate, at least in part, to work he did for Mr. Trump.

ny times logodjt official SmallNew York Times, Trump Criticizes Times Report About His Longtime Lawyer, Emily Cochrane, April 21, 2018. President Trump on Saturday criticized a report by The New York Times that described his years of poor treatment of his longtime personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, and concerns among the president’s advisers that Mr. Cohen will cooperate with the federal officials who are now investigating him.

Mr. Trump, in a series of tweets on Saturday morning, accused The Times and one of the reporters who wrote the article, Maggie Haberman, of “going out of their way to destroy Michael Cohen and his relationship with me in the hope that he will ‘flip.’” Mr. Trump accused The Times of using “non-existent ‘sources,’” though he did not assert that the article was false.

[Read the story: Michael Cohen Has Said He Would Take a Bullet for Trump. Maybe Not Anymore.]

fbi logoHe also said that “I don’t speak to” Ms. Haberman and “have nothing to do” with her. In fact, she has interviewed the president twice in the Oval Office and three times by telephone. Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The Times, said in a statement that “the story is filled with named quotes on the record, and everything Maggie has reported from inside the White House has proven true.”

Mr. Trump often assails news organizations over reports he sees as unfavorable. While he rarely criticizes reporters by name, it was not the first time that he has singled out Ms. Haberman, who was part of a team that was awarded a Pulitzer Prize this past week for its reports on the Russia investigation. In March, he disputed an article describing his discussions about expanding the legal team that is dealing with the special counsel.

Sessions, Rosenstein Seek Survival At FBI

washington post logojeff sessions ag oWashington Post, Sessions tells White House he might resign if Rosenstein is axed, Sari Horwitz, Rosalind S. Helderman, Josh Dawsey and Matt Zapotosky, April 21, 2018 (print edition).  The attorney general (shown at right) made his position known in a phone call to White House Counsel Donald McGahn last weekend, as President Trump’s fury at Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein peaked after he approved the FBI’s raid on the president’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen.

rod rosenstein cspan

ny times logoJustice Department log circularNew York Times, Analysis: Rosenstein’s Survival Bid Could Cost the Justice Deptartment, Katie Benner, Sharon LaFraniere and Nicholas Fandos, April 21, 2018. Under siege by the president’s allies in the House, Rod J. Rosenstein (shown above), the deputy attorney general, has acceded to some demands. But his allies worry that may expose the Justice Department to political meddling.

More EPA Scandal

scott pruitt epa

ny times logoNew York Times, Pruitt’s History: Fancy Homes, Lobbyists and a Shell Company, Steve Eder and Hiroko Tabuchi, April 21, 2018. Scott Pruitt (shown above), the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, is under investigation for allegations of unchecked spending and ethics lapses, including his interactions with lobbyists. But his pitfalls in Washington have echoes in his past. His stake in a showplace home in Oklahoma City was hidden in a shell company and not disclosed to ethics officials.

Global News

Jerusalem Post, Report: Gunfire outside king’s home in Saudi Arabia, Staff report, April 21, 2018. Gunfire and explosions have been reported outside the home of the Saudi king in Riyadh, the country’s capital. Update: Saudi sources said the gunfire was a reaction to a harmless recreational drone.

Cuba’s Presidential Transition

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Cuba’s new leader: President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez (Typically written President Miguel Díaz-Canel) (File photo)

ny times logoNew York Times, Cubans Doubt a Change at the Top Will Trickle Down, Azam Ahmed, April 21, 2018.  The new president of Cuba — the first non-Castro to lead the nation in decades — was talking. But no one seemed to be listening. The televisions at the bus station were tuned to other channels, while cafes airing his first remarks as president appeared largely empty. Radios, at least those in public areas, garnered little attention.

cuba flag saving CustomIn the midst of yet another historic moment on an island with its fair share of firsts in recent years, the anointment of a new president this week passed with little fanfare in the capital. Instead, a collective sense of apathy seemed to permeate Havana, a feeling that appeared to have been fostered, at least to some degree, by the government itself.

There were no big public events to mark the arrival of President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, the flag bearer of Cuba’s new generation of leaders, or any banners in sight to fete him. Rather, the long-awaited transition was a seamless and carefully managed affair, cloaked in the quiet formalism of a modest ceremony before the nation’s national assembly.

Global News: Korea

washington post logokim jong un suitWashington Post, North Korea’s Kim says he will suspend nuclear and missile tests, shutter test site, Anna Fifield, April 21, 2018 (print edition). The surprise announcement came less than a week before Kim Jong Un (shown at right) is due to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, a precursor to a meeting between Kim and President Trump. Tests will be suspended starting Saturday, according to the Korean Central News Agency. Analysts noted that the announcement made no mention of giving up its program, simply signaling a freeze.

natalie portman cannes 2015 w georges BiardThink Progress, Natalie Portman responds to critics of her decision to skip Israeli award ceremony, Adam Peck, April 21, 2018. “I can be critical of the leadership in Israel without wanting to boycott the entire nation.”  Academy Award-winning actress Natalie Portman made headlines late last week when she announced her decision to skip the ceremony for the Genesis Prize, an annual award given to notable individuals “who inspire others through their dedication to the Jewish community and Jewish values.”

The honor, known as Israel’s version of the Nobel Prize, is bestowed by the Genesis Prize Foundation at a ceremony each year. Portman was chosen as this year’s recipient back in November, but announced her decision to skip the event on Thursday. In light of her cancelation, the ceremony itself has been canceled.

Portman’s decision is thought to be in response to a recent flare-up of violence along the border separating Israel from the Gaza Strip. Fifteen Palestinian protesters were killed by the Israeli military at the end of March, which sparked several weeks of violent clashes along the border.

On Saturday, the actress explained her decision. “Let me speak for myself,” she said. “I chose not to attend because I did not want to appear as endorsing Benjamin Netanyahu, who was to be giving a speech at the ceremony. Like many Israelis and Jews around the world, I can be critical of the leadership in Israel without wanting to boycott the entire nation. I treasure my Israeli friends and family, Israeli food, books, art, cinema, and dance.”

The Genesis Prize Foundation, which canceled the ceremony, has expressed its disappointment and fear that Portman’s announcement “will cause our philanthropic initiative to be politicized, something we have worked hard for the past five years to avoid,” but added that it respects Portman’s decision.

Google Search Manipulation?

oenearthlogoOpEdNews, Google Continues its Attack on Alternative Media, Boosting Top-down MSM, Rob Kall, April 21, 2018.Google is leaving the roots that made it a success– using bottom-up algorithms that based search results on the behaviors of millions of people. Google has been changing its search criteria so it favors top-down mainstream media, while hurting alternative media Under the guise of addressing the problems with “fake news,” Google has used it’s almost monopoly search engine position to decimate search results for bottom-up, grassroots alternative media. I don’t have evidence to prove it, but I believe that this is exactly what the biggest mainstream media want– to take out their bottom-up competition.

google logo customWhat would a Google attack on a website look like? Because Google is a search engine, an attack would deprecate the search result rank of a website. Google doesn’t attack websites or people directly. They do it by modifying their algorithms. That means they change the weighting of factors that they consider in ranking a site. Google uses hundreds of different factors to assess site rank. Factors include number of links in to the site from other sites, security of the site (Https sites are favored over http sites, for example,) freshness of content, number of visitors to the site, to name a few

Imagine that a website had search results that put it at the top of the first page results. Deprecation would put it at the bottom of the first page or on the second, third or even 20th page.

I know because I’ve been following, for at least ten years, some of the key words for the website I founded and operate, OpEdNews.com. For many years OpEdNews was at the top of the first page search results, ranging from first to third place for the key words Progressive Opinion, Liberal Opinion and Liberal News.

Though our site traffic had not dropped by much, gradually, Google’s algorithm moved us down to the bottom of the first result page and then often the front page altogether, and then off the the second page. By then our traffic was being hurt.

This past week Google confirmed that it had again tweaked its search algorithm. So I, as I’ve done many times, I checked out the keywords I listed above. The results were clear. Not only was OpEdNews further down in page rank, but so were many other progressive news and opinion sites. The top ranks were replaced by big mainstream media, what many in the alternative media consider to be fake liberal, fake progressive. These include New York Times and the networks, even FOX. Then there’s a Linkedin page for a group– that has two followers, and there a number of aggregators who have lists of liberal or progressive sites. Even such aggregation is top down.

This latest Google attack by algorithm is bad for all alternative media, is bad for what Antonio Lopez calls the media ecosystem. But it may also be bad for Google, which earned its almost monopoly status by smartly tapping the wisdom of the crowd. The reality is that when people tap the power of bottom-up they can sometimes achieve top-down status. After all, understanding the bottom-up aspects of people’s behavior and the role in business can lead to great wealth and power.

Syrian  War Update

syria flagSouthFront, Militants In Eastern Qalamun Hands Over 37 Battle Tanks, Many Other Weapons To Syrian Army, Staff report, April 21, 2018. On April 20, members of Jaysh al-Islam in the Eastern Qalamun region handed over loads of heavy weapons to the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in the freamework of the evacuation deal that was reached on April 19, according to Syrian pro-government sources.

An officer of the SAA told SouthFront that 37 T-55, T-62 and T-72 battle tanks were among the heavy weapons that had been handed over to the SAA. Most of these tanks were captured by Jaysh al-Islam during a series of attacks on a large ammo depot of the SAA Republican Guard in 2013 and 2014, according to the officer.

Media / Propaganda

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: The Media War On Truthful Reporting And Legitimate Opinions — A Documentary, b, April 21, 2018. Last week saw an extreme intensifying of the warmongers’ campaign against individuals who publicly hold and defend a different view than the powers-that-be want to promote.

The campaign has a longer history but recently turned personal. It now endangers the life and livelihood of real people. In fall 2016 a smear campaign was launched against 200 websites which did not confirm to NATO propaganda.

Those working in the media are up in arms over alleged fake news and they lament the loss of paying readership. But they have only themselves to blame. They are the biggest creators of fake news and provider of government falsehood. Their attacks on critical readers and commentators are despicable.

Until two years ago, Hala Jabar was foreign correspondent in the Middle East for the Sunday Times. After fourteen years with the paper and winning six awards for her work, she was ‘made redundant’ for her objective reporting on Syria. She remarks on the recent media push against truth about Syria and the very personal attacks against non-conformist opinions.

April 20

Syria Situation Report

syria flagMoon of Alabama, Analysis: Cleanup Around Damascus; WMD Rumors Prepare For New U.S. Attack, b, April 20, 2018. After the Syrian army liberated Douma, the next Takfiri held areas near the capital Damascus fell in short order. The Jaish al-Islam militants in Dumayr, north-east of Damascus, gave up without a fight. As usual by now the Takfiris were transferred to the north-western Idleb governorate held by al-Qaeda and other Turkish supported forces. The town of Dumayr controls the Damascus Baghdad highway. Capitulation negotiations in the nearby Eastern Qalamoun are ongoing.

The former Palestinian refugee camp Yarmouk is an upbuild suburb south of Damascus. One part is in the hands of al-Qaeda and another was controlled by an Islamic State group. Offers to evacuate the groups were made but rejected. Yesterday the Syrian army launched a massive artillery barrage and the Russian and Syrian air force dropped bombs onto the quarter. Today, just twenty-four hours later, the Takfiris gave up. The al-Qaeda aligned militants will be evacuated to Idleb, the Islamic State aligned group to the eastern Syrian desert.

With each elimination of a ‘rebel’ pockets Syrian army is gaining strength. Ten-thousands of soldiers who were needed to hold the Takfiri held areas around Damascus surrounded and under control are now free to attack elsewhere. Some of the militants who did not evacuate also joined the government forces.

The evacuation of many militants to the north-west might later turn up to be problematic. They will eventually come under Turkish control and could be used in another Turkish attempt to take Aleppo. But for now they are infighting. Al-Qaeda in Syria, now renamed to Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) is fighting with other groups over control of the area. Over the last months about one thousand of the militants have killed each other, 3,000 were wounded and many of their heavy arms were destroyed. The Syrian government hopes that such infighting will continue for a while.

The greatest difficulty for the Syrian army operation in the south is the Israeli supply and support for a number terrorist groups in that area. Should Israel intervene in any form in the Syrian operation to liberate the area the fight can easily escalate into a larger war.

The destroyed city of Raqqa in the east is becoming a headache for the U.S. occupation force. The U.S. used unwilling Kurdish ground troops to attack the city. It was not much of an infantry fight. Anything that moved was simply bombed from the air or ground. The one U.S. artillery battalion that covered the city fired more than 35,000 155mmm rounds during the five month operation. Now some 80% of the buildings in Raqqa are completely destroyed. The rest is inhabitable.

The city has no water and no electricity. The U.S. claimed that 2,500 ISIS militants were in the city when the fighting started. In the end the U.S. let at least 500 of those leave the city and move further east to fight the Syrian army. It also said that only 30 civilians were killed in its attack. That is of course nonsense. At least 2,000 dead bodies have been recovered so far and 6,000 more dead are recorded as still lying under the ruins. There will be more. The city administration has no equipment and money to recover them. The U.S. is unwilling to spend any money for the city it destroyed and the Kurdish warlords who now occupy the city are incompetent and have no interest to help its Arab inhabitants. The population that has returned is hostile towards the U.S. and the Kurds. It wants to get back under Syrian government control.

Further east at the Syrian Iraqi border and north of the Euphrates some 3-5,000 ISIS fighters live unmolested by U.S. air or ground attacks. The U.S. prevented Syrian government troops who control the area south of Euphrates from attacking the ISIS forces. But neither Syria nor Iraq can allow that ISIS pocket to survive.

Democrats File Racketering Suit Over 2016 Election

 Hillary Clinton Button

washington post logodemocratic donkey logoWashington Post, Democratic Party sues Russia, Trump campaign and WikiLeaks over 2016 election, Tom Hamburger, Rosalind S. Helderman and Ellen Nakashima, April 20, 2018. The multimillion-dollar lawsuit filed by the Democratic National Committee alleges a far-reaching conspiracy to disrupt the presidential campaign and tilt the election to Donald Trump. Read the DNC’s lawsuit.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Donald Trump gets his worst news yet at the end of a terrible week for him, Bill Palmer, April 20, 2018. The week began with Donald Trump losing a criminal court battle to keep seized evidence from being turned over to prosecutors, continued with Sean Hannity being exposed as a client of michael cohen ap file croppedTrump’s “attorney” Michael Cohen (shown at right), got even worse when the Comey memos leaked and made Trump look terrible, and took a turn for the personal when Trump’s pal Roger Stone publicly came out against him. Now, at the end of a very bad week for him, Trump just got hit with his worst news yet.

Today the Democratic Party filed a lawsuit against the Donald Trump campaign, WikiLeaks, and Russia, for their roles in stealing and releasing the DNC emails during the election. This may initially sound like something between an irrelevant development and a farce. After all, lawsuits are supposed to be about winning money. So what is this? Are the Democrats just trying to get into Trump’s wallet? No, not at all, because this lawsuit isn’t about winning – it’s about what it’ll expose.

If you want to see how damaging a civil action can be to a criminally corrupt politician with a lot to hide, consider that Stormy Daniels’ lawsuit against Michael Cohen is a big part of the reason that the Feds were ultimately able to convince a judge to sign off on raiding Cohen’s office and seizing communications between Trump and Cohen. It’s the discovery process of a lawsuit like this that ends up being so ugly for Trump.

The Democratic Party will use its lawsuit to force the Donald Trump campaign to turn over embarrassing and incriminating documents and evidence that it can make public and turn over to criminal prosecutors. The lawsuit will help expose the dirty connections between the Trump campaign, the Kremlin, and WikiLeaks. As the Democrats are heading into the midterms, they’re putting the Trump-Russia criminal conspiracy on trial by proxy in civil court, for all to see. Trump now has to fight a legal battle on yet another front, and it’s one he’ll lose badly in the court of public opinion.

Republicans Leak Secret Justice Department Comey Memos

James Comey

 James Comey as FBI director (FBI file photo)

washington post logoWashington Post, Comey memos offer fresh details on Trump’s attempts to shape Russia probe, Ellen Nakashima and Devlin Barrett, April 20, 2018 (print edition). President Trump expressed concerns about the judgment of his national security adviser Michael Flynn weeks before forcing him to resign last year, according to memos kept by former FBI director James B. Comey. The memos also say that Trump repeatedly denied allegations that he had consorted with prostitutes in Moscow in 2013 and prodded Comey to help disprove the claims.

ny times logoNew York Times, 6 Takeaways From the Comey Memos, Michael S. Schmidt, April 20, 2018. The memos paint a revealing portrait of Mr. Comey’s interactions with the president.

Atlantic, Analysis: Bad News for President Trump, The Comey memos are more revealing than they seem, Quinta Jurecic and Benjamin Wittes, April 20, 2018. If someone had told you a year ago, when news first broke that James Comey had made memos of his conversations with President Trump, that those memos would eventually come out and make little news, you probably wouldn’t have believed it. These memos are, after all, a big deal. They will play a major role in corroborating Comey’s story in the investigative setting.

If we accept that Comey’s story has been remarkably consistent over time, and has been corroborated, as Comey has also said, by the contemporaneous FBI witnesses to whom he claims to have told about the events in real time—a few points follow.

First, the president will not realistically defeat an obstruction-of-justice charge—whether it arises in a criminal context or, as is more likely, as an allegation he has to contend with in the political realm—by throwing dust in the air about what happened. The effort so far to discredit Comey by declaring him a liar has the small problem, accentuated by the memos, that he is apparently telling the truth.

robert mueller full face fileAnd one person who certainly knows that he is telling the truth is Robert Mueller (shown at right), who has access not merely to the memos but to all of the FBI witnesses in whom Comey confided at the time. Don’t imagine for a minute that what Comey said to them differs materially from what he said to the Senate intelligence committee, to the public, or to his file. It will all be consistent. And to the extent the president’s forces predicate their arguments on contesting Comey’s account of what happened, they will have to do so relying on the word of a man from whom The Washington Post has documented 2,436 false statements since January 20, 2017. The memos highlight vividly what we already knew: that the facts are a loser for the president.

washington post logofbi logoWashington Post, Trump complains that Comey is making money off his book while Flynn’s life is ‘totally destroyed,’ John Wagner, April 20, 2018. Trump took fresh aim on Twitter at the fired FBI director, whose memos on White House meetings were released a day before. For $26 million, Elliott Broidy said he could get the Trump administration to lift sanctions from a Russian natural gas company. The deal appears never to have been consummated, but we have details of the talks, and a roadmap on how he would do it, in a story we just published.

washington post logovladimir putin o wWashington Post, Comey memos showed Trump wanted a faster response to Putin call,Josh Dawsey, Ellen Nakashima and Devlin Barrett, April 20, 2018. President Trump became irate at his then-national security adviser Michael Flynn, when he learned that Flynn had failed to tell him about a congratulatory phone call from Russian President Vladi­mir Putin (shown at right) after Trump’s inauguration. The president’s ire was compounded when Flynn scheduled a return call to the Russian leader six days later, according to a newly released memo written by then-FBI Director James B. Comey.

More Trump Scrutiny

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Donald Trump publicity photo from The Apprentice, his iconic show promoting his ostensible wealth and power

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump lied to me about his wealth to get onto the Forbes 400. Here are the tapes, Jonathan Greenberg, April 20, 2018.  Jonathan Greenberg is an investigative journalist, author and new-media innovator. Posing as ‘John Barron,’ he claimed he owned most of his father’s real estate empire.

roger stone fox news

Palmer Report, Analysis: The real reason Roger Stone is suddenly coming out against Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, April 20, 2018. Donald Trump is having a rather strange week, even by his standards. Now Roger Stone (shown above in a file photo), the closest thing Donald Trump has to a friend, is suddenly coming out against Trump. The Stone development might be the most notable of all.

Stone has decided to publicly attack Trump for how he’s treated [Michael] Cohen over the years. Here’s what Stone just told the New York Times about Trump and Cohen: “Donald goes out of his way to treat him like garbage.” So what just changed? Based on the timing, the Cohen raid has to be what changed Stone’s stance so radically. If Stone’s loyalty to Trump up to this point has been in the hope of getting a pardon, then suffice it to say that Stone just decided that it isn’t happening.

Either Roger Stone is planning to go to trial and try to defeat whatever criminal charges are brought against him, or Stone has decided he’s going to cut a plea deal, or Stone is now so far gone that he no longer cares what happens to him and he’s just lashing out indiscriminately. Take your pick. But Stone is clearly no longer on Team Trump. He just announced it for everyone to hear.

jay goldberg cnn screenshot Custom

Think Progress, In stunning CNN interview, Trump’s divorce lawyer suggests Cohen will flip, Aaron Rupar, April 20, 2018. “He’s of a type that I have recognized in the past as one not suited to stand up to the rigors of jail life.” Jay Goldberg, President Trump’s divorce lawyer, said during a CNN appearance on Thursday evening that he thinks Michael Cohen will end up cooperating with prosecutors because he’s afraid of being sexually assaulted in prison.

“He’s of a type that I have recognized in the past as one not suited to stand up to the rigors of jail life,” Goldberg said of Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal attorney and the current target of a federal criminal investigation. “I think, in many ways — and it’s difficult to say this — prison has a racial overtone, and a person like Michael doesn’t see himself walking down Broadway while people are clamoring, ‘you’re going to be my wife.’ And so he’s under pressure from his family to try to figure out what it would take to bring the government aboard as his sponsor.”

Goldberg, who claims to know Cohen personally, told CNN’s Erin Burnett he shared his concerns directly with President Trump during a phone conversation a few days after the FBI raided Cohen’s home, office, and hotel room on April 9.

Inside Washington

washington post logomitch mcconnell2Washington Post, McConnell struggles to reassert control in Senate amid bitter GOP primaries, thin majority, Michael Scherer, Sean Sullivan and Josh Dawsey, April 20, 2018 (print edition). The primary fights and defiance by rogue Republican senators risk hurting the party’s ability to hold its majority after November’s elections.

ny times logoNew York Times, Pruitt’s Inquiries Widen, and G.O.P. Support Shows Cracks, Coral Davenport, April 20, 2018.  Powerful conservative lawmakers have begun publicly questioning Scott Pruitt, the E.P.A. chief, and insisting on explanations of his travel and security spending. Some of the most reliable conservatives in Congress are starting to speak out against Scott Pruitt, the chief of the Environmental Protection Agency who is now facing a barrage of ethics and spending questions.

Previously, conservative Republicans had shown a reluctance to question the actions of top Trump administration officials. Their new outspokenness against a prominent architect of President Trump’s regulatory rollback represents a major break from the past.

In an interview this week, Senator John Boozman of Arkansas said of Mr. Pruitt, “I think there are legitimate concerns about him.” He applauded Mr. Pruitt’s industry-friendly environmental policies, but said, “I think the president at some point is going to weigh in.” Mr. Boozman serves on the Senate environment panel as well as the powerful Appropriations Committee, which controls the E.P.A.’s spending.

ny times logoGina Haspel Custom 2New York Times, C.I.A. in Public Push to Get Trump’s Pick Confirmed as Chief, Adam Goldman and Matthew Rosenberg, April 20, 2018. The unusually public effort reflects the view of many officials inside the agency that Gina Haspel (shown at right) is the C.I.A.’s best chance to keep a political partisan from being installed.

Celebrity Sex Trafficking Cult Claimed

Vanity Fair, This Keith Raniere Sex-Cult Story Is Much Deeper Than Allison Mack’s Arrest, Hilary Weaver, April 20, 2018. Investigators say Mack helped recruit women to join a group that was a cult masking as a female-mentorship group.

allison mackSmallville actress Allison Mack was arrested Friday in connection to what investigators are calling a pyramid scheme involving cult leader Keith Raniere. She will be arraigned Friday afternoon, per The Hollywood Reporter.

“As alleged in the indictment, Allison Mack recruited women to join what was purported to be a female-mentorship group that was, in fact, created and led by Keith Raniere,” United States Attorney Richard P. Donoghue said in a statement. “The victims were then exploited, both sexually and for their labor, to the defendants’ benefit.”

keith raniere nxivmF.B.I. assistant director-in-charge William F. Sweeney called the operation a “pyramid scheme” and asked for anyone who might have been a victim to come forward with any information they have. The upstate New York–based cult, called Nxivm (pronounced “Nexium”), has connections all over the world, per the New York Post. It allegedly masks as a “self-help” organization that has reportedly drawn other celebrity followers.

The Post says that as early as 1984, Raniere manipulated 15-year-old Gina Melita into a four-month relationship with him. “I was perfect picking—insecure at the time,” Melita told the Albany Times Union in 2012. “To have someone that mature, and that well thought of, to be interested in me, it was flattering. I was young, inexperienced, overwhelmed, out of my league.”

In 1990, Raniere started a buyers’ club called Consumers’ Buyline, which was later renamed Nxivm and got funding from the trusts of Clare and Sara Bronfman, heiresses to the Seagram liquor fortune. In 2003, Forbes wrote an exposé on the group; in the story, sources cast doubts on what Raniere was really doing. Their father, Edgar Bronfman Sr., was troubled by his daughters’ involvement with Raniere. “I think it’s a cult,” he said then.

Raniere has stayed mostly quiet in recent years, but he did respond to a 2017 New York Times story about Nxivm by posting on the Web site for his workshop Executive Success Programs. “Recently a media outlet unfoundedly, and incorrectly, linked Nxivm corporation, and its related companies, with a social group,” he said. “The allegations relayed in the story are built upon sources, some of which are under criminal investigation or already indicted, who act as a coordinated group. This story might be a criminal product of criminal minds who, in the end, are also hurting the victims of the story.”

U.S.-Led Bombing Disaster In Syria

washington post logoWashington Post, Syria: Reflections From a Shattered Land, Tamer El-Ghobashy, photos by Alice Martins, April 20, 2018. How American neglect imperils the victory over ISIS. Six months after the Islamic State was evicted from its self-proclaimed capital, Raqqa is a city sown with rubble, explosives and an uneasy mixture of despair and determination to rebuild. Its destruction and slow recovery is fueling the sentiment that the United States wrecked the city but is unwilling to help put it back together.

Once home to about 400,000 people, many in high-rise apartments, Raqqa has become nearly unrecognizable to those who try to return and navigate its streets. Public squares are hidden underneath debris, and the tallest residential towers are mere rubble. The city has no running water or electricity, and there aren’t enough public employees to defuse the hundreds of explosives planted by the militants as they desperately clung to the city. People often encounter human remains as they take stock of what’s left of homes and businesses.

More than 11,000 buildings in Raqqa were destroyed, severely damaged or moderately damaged between February and October 2017, during months of U.S.-led airstrikes.

The U.S. military has been investigating dozens of claims of civilian casualties in Raqqa that were caused by airstrikes and artillery fire and so far has confirmed 24 deaths. An Airwars analysis puts the number closer to 1,400.

Alabama Judge-Killer Executed

ny times logoNew York Times, Alabama Executes Mail Bomber, 83, the Oldest Inmate Put to Death in Modern Era, Alan Blinder, April 20, 2018. Walter Leroy Moody Jr., who used mail bombs to assassinate a federal appeals court judge and a civil rights lawyer in 1989, was executed Thursday night at the Alabama prison where he spent decades denying his guilt.

With his execution by lethal injection, Mr. Moody, 83, became the oldest prisoner put to death in the modern era of American capital punishment, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a research group.

Mr. Moody’s reign of terror — deadly bombings and thwarted attacks in three Southern states, as well as menacing letters to judges and the media — raised fears of racial violence and unsettled the federal judiciary. His complex case drew in people who would become household names of American law enforcement: Louis J. Freeh, a future F.B.I. director; Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election; and Jeff Sessions, now the United States attorney general.

Though Mr. Moody was found guilty on scores of federal charges, his execution was punishment for a 1996 state court conviction for the murder of Judge Robert S. Vance Sr. of the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.

April 19

Trump Probes

ny times logoNew York Times, Giuliani to Work on Russia Inquiry for Trump’s Legal Team, Maggie Haberman, Rudolph W. Giuliani, April 19, 2018. Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and longtime friend of President Trump, will join the president’s legal team in an effort to “quickly” resolve the special counsel investigation into Russian election interference and possible ties to Trump associates.

rudy giuliani wMr. Trump will also bring on Jane Serene Raskin and Martin R. Raskin, former federal prosecutors based in Florida, according to Mr. Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow.

“The president said, ‘Rudy is great. He has been my friend for a long time and wants to get this matter quickly resolved for the good of the country,’” Mr. Sekulow said in a statement.

The additions give Mr. Trump a broader legal stable to rely on as he faces not just the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, but the threat of an investigation by federal prosecutors in Manhattan into the president’s longtime personal lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen.

Mr. Giuliani is himself a former federal prosecutor and is going through a divorce from his third wife, which is playing out on the gossip pages of The New York Post.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. hands Congress Comey’s memos describing private talks with Trump, Ellen Nakashima​, April 19, 2018.  In the redacted, unclassified memos, then-FBI Director James B. Comey describes a conversation in which President Trump asked him to end an investigation into his former national security adviser. Unredacted memos will be made available for members of three House committees to review on Friday in a secure facility.

The Justice Department provided Congress with a set of redacted, unclassified memos written last year by then-FBI Director James B. Comey that described his private conversations with President Trump, including one in which Comey says the president asked him to end an investigation into his former national security adviser.

The redacted memos contained no substantive information that had not already been discussed publicly by Comey in his testimony to Congress last year or in his recently released memoir.

The unredacted memos will be made available for members of three House committees to review on Friday in a secure facility on Capitol Hill.

The delivery of the memos was in response to an April 13 request by the GOP chairmen of the House Judiciary, Intelligence, and Oversight and Government Reform committees for access to the memos.

wsj logomichael cohen ap file croppedWall Street Journal, Cohen Would Turn Against President if Charged, Counselor Warned Trump, Joe Palazzolo, Michael Rothfeld and Michael Siconolfi, April 19, 2018 (print edition). Former prosecutor Jay Goldberg says he cautioned president that his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen (shown in a file photo), could be compelled to cooperate with prosecutors Mr. Trump made the call seeking advice from Jay Goldberg, who represented Mr. Trump in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Mr. Goldberg said he cautioned the president not to trust Mr. Cohen. On a scale of 100 to 1, where 100 is fully protecting the president,  Mr. Cohen “isn’t even a 1,” he said he told Mr. Trump.

eric schneiderman

Eric T. Schneiderman, New York’s attorney general, wants the power to prosecute presidential aides if they are federally pardoned.

ny times logoNew York Times, New York Attorney General Seeks Power to Bypass Presidential Pardons, Danny Hakim and William K. Rashbaum, April 19, 2018 (print edition). Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman of New York is moving to change New York state law so that he and other local prosecutors would have the power to bring criminal charges against aides to President Trump who have been pardoned, according to a letter Mr. Schneiderman sent to the governor and state lawmakers on Wednesday.

The move, if approved by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Legislature, would serve notice that the legal troubles of the president and his aides may continue without the efforts of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Under the plan, Mr. Schneiderman, a Democrat, seeks to exempt New York’s double jeopardy law from cases involving presidential pardons, according to the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times. The current law and the concept of double jeopardy in general mean that a person cannot be tried for the same crime twice.

Right now, New York state law prevents people from being prosecuted more than once for crimes related to the same act, even if the original prosecution was in federal court. There are already a number of exceptions to the law, and the letter says that Mr. Schneiderman is proposing to add a new one that could be used if federal pardons are issued.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Schneiderman have a contentious past. Mr. Schneiderman led a three-year investigation of Trump University that resulted in a $25 million settlement. For his part, the president has dubbed Mr. Schneiderman “the nation’s worst AG.” He has also called him a “lightweight” and a “total loser,” and even tweeted that he wore eyeliner.

cnn logoandrew mcCabe oCNN, Justice IG sends criminal referral of Andrew McCabe to US attorney, Pamela Brown, April 19, 2018. The Justice Department’s inspector general has sent a criminal referral regarding former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe (shown at right) to the US attorney’s office in Washington, according to a source familiar with the matter. A McCabe spokesperson, the Justice Department and US attorney’s office all declined to comment. See related story below:

washington post logoWashington Post, DOJ refers findings on McCabe for consideration of criminal charges, Karoun Demirjian and Matt Zapotosky​, April 19, 2018. The Justice Department inspector general, who found that former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe repeatedly misled investigators who were examining a media disclosure, referred the matter to the top federal prosecutor in D.C. to determine whether McCabe should be charged with a crime, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Justice Department inspector general referred its finding that former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe repeatedly misled investigators who were examining a media disclosure to the top federal prosecutor in D.C. to determine whether McCabe should be charged with a crime, according to people familiar with the matter.

The referral to the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office occurred some time ago, after the inspector general concluded McCabe had lied to investigators or his own boss, then-FBI Director James B. Comey, on four occasions, three of them under oath.

It was not immediately clear how the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office responded to the referral, or whether prosecutors there are conducting their own investigation or believe criminal charges are appropriate. A referral to federal prosecutors does not necessarily mean McCabe will be charged with a crime.

Global News: Korea

ny times logokim jong un suitNew York Times, North Korea Is Said to Remove Major Obstacle to U.S. Talks, Choe Sang-Hun, April 19, 2018. Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader (shown at the United Nations in a file photo), is no longer demanding that American troops be removed from South Korea as a condition for denuclearizing his country, the South’s president said. The change in stance, if officially confirmed by the North, could affect the United States’ long-term military plans in Northeast Asia and ease Washington’s reluctance to strike a deal with North Korea.

ny times logokorean peninsula google maps customNew York Times, Trump Says He May Exit Kim Talks if They Are ‘Not Fruitful,’ Mark Landler, April 19, 2018 (print edition). Even as President Trump expressed optimism about a meeting with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, he acknowledged that it was a perilous undertaking that could still end in failure.

U.S. Politics / Trade Wars

ny times logorepublican elephant logoNew York Times, Farmers Warn of G.O.P. Losses Over Trump’s Trade Policy, Jonathan Martin, April 19, 2018 (print edition). China’s proposed tariffs on soybeans would hit hard in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, North Dakota and other states with highly competitive House and Senate races.

Consumer Protections

ny times logoNew York Times, Wells Fargo Expected to Be Fined $1 Billion by Regulators, Emily Flitter and Glenn Thrush, April 19, 2018.  The fine would be imposed for a variety of alleged misdeeds, including forcing customers to buy auto insurance policies that they didn’t need. It would mark the toughest action that the Trump administration has taken against a major bank.

Settlement: Playboy Model Can Tell Her Trump Story

djt Karen McDougal Donald Trump youtube

Donald Trump and Karen McDougal

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-Playboy model settles with tabloid publisher, ending lawsuit over story of her alleged Trump affair, Staff report, April 19, 2018 (print edition). The National Enquirer’s parent company had bought — but never published — Karen McDougal’s story for $150,000.

Other Trump Scandals

washington post logoWrod rosenstein cspan ashington Post, Trump allies press Rosenstein for files on conduct of officials in Russia and Clinton probes, Robert Costa and Ellen Nakashima, April 19, 2018 (print edition). A private meeting came just days after a warning that House Republicans could impeach the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein (shown at right) if he does not meet GOP demands.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Mocks Sketch of Man Who Allegedly Threatened Stormy Daniels, Eileen Sullivan, April 19, 2018 (print edition). President Trump turned to Twitter early on Wednesday to dismiss the sketch of the man a pornographic actress claims threatened her years ago on his behalf. It was just the second time the president weighed in on the subject after weeks of frenzied news media coverage.

stormy daniels sketch threatThe president mocked the sketch (shown at left), which the pornographic actress, Stephanie Clifford (known as Stormy Daniels) released on Tuesday. His tweet accompanied a post from another Twitter user, who said the man looked like Ms. Clifford’s former husband.

“A total con job,” Mr. Trump wrote in his first ever Twitter post related to Ms. Clifford, who has said she had an affair with Mr. Trump in 2006. In making fun of the sketch, Mr. Trump shared it with his more than 50 million Twitter followers.

michael avenatti sketchMr. Trump’s representatives have denied that the two had an affair. Ms. Clifford says the man in the sketch threatened her in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2011 while she was with her infant daughter. Ms. Daniels and her attorney, Michael Avenatti (shown at right), are offering a $131,000 award for the person who identifies the man in the sketch. Ms. Clifford has said that Mr. Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, paid her $130,000 to keep quiet about an affair she says she had with Mr. Trump while he was married. The F.B.I. has been investigating Mr. Cohen for bank fraud related to this payment and other matters.

Alliance for Justice, Analysis: Is Comey Flap Giving Congress Cover? Bill Yeomans, April 19, 2018. As James Comey continues his book promotion, it has become painfully clear – as predicted – that the tour is another expression of Comey’s hubris that is likely to do more harm than good. He has gone toe-to-toe with Trump, who has been tweeting back insults as if he couldn’t care less about the country or its institutions. Unfortunately, Comey has tangled with Trump on the playground, making their exchange a distasteful round of political mud wrestling.

A few points merit highlighting. First, when it comes to veracity, there is no contest. For all his flaws, Comey comes across – as he did in his congressional testimony – as a superlative fact witness. He tells a story complete with compelling narrative structure and enriching detail. Trump, by contrast, is stunningly inarticulate, scattered, illogical, and transparently self-serving. Oh, and he lies shamelessly, spouting easily disprovable nonsense.

james comey fbiIndeed, Comey’s problem has never been his truthfulness. He has always been convincing when he sticks to the facts. His troubles arise from his recurring belief that he must reject received wisdom because he sees a better way. Frequently, that better way reflects his view that he can better protect institutions and himself than would conventional approaches.

His highly inappropriate editorial comments on Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information were an obvious effort to assuage the political outrage he knew would come from the right after he announced there would be no prosecution. His usurpation of the powers of the Attorney General and the rest of the Department of Justice in making that announcement rested on his view that the announcement would be viewed as political coming from the proper officials.

Demise of Regional U.S. Newspapers

The Hill, Tampa Bay Times to lay off dozens of staff in response to Trump tariffs, Jacqueline Thomsen, April 19, 2018. The Tampa Bay Times announced that it would cut about 50 jobs after new tariffs imposed by the Trump administration dramatically increased the cost of newsprint. They are directly in response to the tariffs imposed on newsprint imported from Canada.

The Tampa Bay Times has faced significant financial struggles over the past few years in the face of declining print advertising revenues and increasing online readership, according to the Journal. The paper bought and closed rival paper Tampa Tribune in 2016 and announced a round of layoffs after the purchase. The size of the newsroom was halved between 2006 and 2015. The publication has also sold off some properties in recent years, including its flagship building in St. Petersburg, Fla.

The Times got a $12 million loan from local investors in 2017, along with a $20 million secured credit facility, including a line of credit and two loans, the Journal reported. Paul Tash, chairman and CEO of the Times, warned in a column last month that the tariffs would add about $3 million in newsprint costs and could lead to layoffs. “This month, the U.S. government piled huge tariffs onto the imports of newsprint from Canada, including those from our biggest supplier. As a result, the price will jump from $600 to $800 for every ton, and we use about 17,000 tons every year,” Tash wrote.

The Trump administration imposed the tariffs on newsprint from Canada in January, but increased them in March. The trade move was in direct response from a complaint by a paper producer in Washington, who argued that Canadian publishers were using government subsidies to sell papers at lower prices. American newspaper publishers and owners warned at the time that the tariffs would hurt U.S. newspapers and lead to job cuts.

Fruits Of Gerrymandering

Texas Observer, Blake Farenthold and the Consequences of Extreme Gerrymandering, Michael Barajas, April 19, 2018. How the Corpus Christi Republican, who abruptly resigned from Congress this week, benefited from a discriminatory redistricting plan that’s now before the Supreme Court.

blake farenthold with bunny customBlake Farenthold’s frat bro image started with a photo from an adult pajama party that surfaced a month before his unlikely rise to Congress in 2010. Thanks to Farenthold, the image of a portly, rosy-cheeked man stuffed into a duck-pattern onesie posing next to a young lingerie-clad waitress is now forever burned into the collective memory of Texas politics.

A lawsuit lodged against the Corpus Christi Republican, filed not long after BuzzFeed revealed that Farenthold’s computer consulting business bought up domains like “blow-me.org,” further fueled the congressman’s party boy reputation. The complaint, by former communications director Lauren Greene, alleged that Farenthold’s excessive drinking and office sex-talk had created a toxic work environment where he’d dish to staffers about his “sexual fantasies” and “wet dreams”

By late 2017, however, Farenthold’s political career, one filled with more gaffes than legislative accomplishments, took an even sharper nosedive when news broke that he’d settled Greene’s sexual harassment lawsuit with $84,000 of taxpayer money. While Farenthold has denied any wrongdoing and insisted he’s a misunderstood shy guy, he nevertheless abruptly resigned from Congress last week upon learning that a House Ethics Committee investigation into his behavior would not end well, as first reported by the Huffington Post.

How did Farenthold hold on to his seat for so long? Maybe he was simply a shining example of a statesman truly in touch with the people. The more likely answer: He was the beneficiary of extreme gerrymandering.

Campus Partisan Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, After calling Barbara Bush an ‘amazing racist,’ a professor taunts critics: ‘I will never be fired,’ Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Herman Wong, April 19, 2018. A creative writing professor at California State University at Fresno had a blunt message for those offering up fond remembrances: “Barbara Bush was a generous and smart and amazing racist who, along with her husband, raised a war criminal,” Randa Jarrar wrote Tuesday night on Twitter, according to the Fresno Bee.

On Wednesday, on talk-radio station KMJ, the university president told host Ray Appleton: “I want all of your listeners to know that I condemn the tone, substance and timing of Dr. Jarrar’s comments on Twitter last night. I want that to be unambiguous. And how do I feel? I was shocked, upset, appalled just like everybody else.”

Behind the Headlines

washington post logotammie jo shults cropped midamerica nazareneWashington Post, They were aboard a Southwest plane when its engine exploded. Then a soothing voice came over the intercom, Faiz Siddiqui, Samantha Schmidt and Ashley Halsey III, April 19, 2018. Capt. Tammie Jo Shults (shown at right) is being heralded as a hero after the former Navy pilot deftly guided the plane to safety. “She has nerves of steel,” one passenger said.

washington post logoWashington Post, An 8-year-old girl’s gang rape and murder trigger new outrage over India’s rape culture, Annie Gowen, April 19, 2018. In India, the January attack on Asifa Bano attracted little attention until last week, when police charged seven men and one juvenile, including four officers, in her death.

india flag wavingThe young girl was Muslim. Her alleged assailants are Hindu, a circumstance ripe for conflict in an area where religious tensions and nationalism are rising under the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

wsj logoWall Street Journal, How Tony Podesta, a Washington Power Broker, Lost It All, Brody Mullins and Julie Bykowicz, April 18, 2018. The Democratic lobbyist had money, connections and a rarefied art collection. Then came a divorce, Paul Manafort and Donald Trump, and his world came crashing down


Think Progress, Puerto Rico to sever relationship with contractor after island-wide power outage, Mark Hand, April 19, 2018. Puerto Rico’s governor has called on the government-owned electric utility to end its relationship with the company that caused a power outage on Wednesday that knocked out electricity to the entire island. The same company, D. Grimm, was also responsible for last week’s outage that affected 870,000 customers after a tree fell on a major electric transmission line.

An excavator operated by D. Grimm, a subcontractor for Cobra Acquisitions LLC, caused this week’s blackout, according to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA). Workers reportedly were removing a fallen tower when the excavating machine got too close to an energized line and an electrical ground fault led to the outage, according to Mammoth Energy, Cobra’s parent company.

On Thursday morning, PREPA said electricity had been restored to more than 80 percent of the island, aside from the approximately 50,000 residents who were still waiting for power to return in the wake of Hurricane Maria. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is overseeing the federal power restoration efforts, said they hope to have the entire island fully energized by May.

More On Syrian War

The 5th Estate, Opinion: U.S. Ambassador To UN Lives In Her Fantasy World, Alex Gorka, April 19, 2018. Washington appears to believe that if one wishes something strongly, it will come true. That’s what makes it harp on the same string, telling the world stories about Russia’s “isolation.”

nikki haley un speakingUS Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley 9shown at left), did her best to portray Russia as an ostracized state after the UN Security Council did not support the Moscow-submitted draft resolution on Syria on April 15.

Eight countries out of 15 voted no, four abstained and three supported the document. “They don’t have very good friends,” she said happy about the fact that Kazakhstan abstained. “The friends that they do have are causing them harm,” she added. Was there any reason to say so? The resolution was backed by Russia, Bolivia and China, the economic giant with huge global influence.

April 18ridenhour prizes 2018

The Nation Institute, Announcing the 2018 Ridenhour Prizes, Staff report, March 26, 2018. The Nation Institute, Fertel Foundation, and Stewart R. Mott Foundation are proud to announce the winners of the 2018 Ridenhour Prizes, awards given annually for the past 15 years to extraordinary individuals “who persevere in acts of truth-telling that protect the public interest, promote social justice, or illuminate a more just vision of society. “This year’s winners include #MeToo founder Tarana Burke; San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto; Lauren Markham, author of The Faraway Brothers; and Joe Piscatella Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower.

These prizes memorialize the spirit of fearless truth-telling that whistleblower and investigative journalist Ron Ridenhour reflected throughout his extraordinary life and career. Ridenhour exposed the horrific My Lai massacre of the Vietnam War to the public, and today, the Ridenhour Prizes continue to honor his important legacy of speaking truth to power.

tarana burkeTarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement, whose lifelong civil rights work fighting for gender equity and empowerment has led to a major social movement and raised awareness about sexual abuse in America, will receive The Ridenhour Courage Prize. “I look forward to continuing this work, anchored by the legacy of my predecessors and emboldened by tenacity of survivors worldwide,” said Burke. “I am so very honored to receive the Ridenhour Prize for 2018.”

carmen yulín cruz soto57Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto, Mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, who spoke truth to power on behalf of the people of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, will receive the 2018 Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling. When Hurricane Maria devastated the island in September 2017, Yulín made frequent appearances on national and international television. She pleaded for help, criticized federal aid efforts, and accused President Donald Trump and his administration of “killing us with inefficiency.”

lauren markhamLauren Markham, author of The Far Away Brothers: Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life, will receive the 2018 Ridenhour Book Prize. Markham brings stereotypes into sharp relief with reality by introducing readers to pieces of immigrant life in America. “I wrote this book with the understanding that the ways in which we choose to support — or not to support — our newest community members will determine the next chapter in the American story.”

joe piscatella58Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower,” directed by Joe Piscatella, follows the story of Joshua Wong, one of the student leaders of Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution in 2014. Joshua, 17-years-old at the time, was arrested while protesting Beijing’s attempt to joe jiscatella joshua coverencroach on the independence of “one country, two systems” in Hong Kong. “I am both proud and humbled by this award: proud, because the award recognizes the tremendous feats of Joshua Wong and his friends who have braved tear gas, police brutality, threats of being disappeared or jailed to stand up for Hong Kong against the largest government on the planet, and humbled to be carrying on the spirit of Ron Ridenhour.”

U.S.-Korean Summit Planning

kim jong podium un

washington post logomike pompeo portraitWashington Post, CIA Director Pompeo made top-secret visit to North Korean leader weeks ago, Shane Harris, Carol D. Leonnig, Greg Jaffe and David Nakamura, April 18, 2018 (print edition). Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state nominee, traveled to North Korea over Easter weekend to meet with Kim Jong Un (shown above), according to two people with direct knowledge of the trip.

The extraordinary meeting between one of President Trump’s most trusted emissaries and the authoritarian head of a rogue state was part of an effort to lay the groundwork for direct talks between Trump and Kim about North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

Trump-Cohen Scandals

james comey north dakota 2016 flickr Custom

FBI Director James Comey meets with state, local, and tribal leaders in North Dakota in June 2016 (Flickr/FBI)

Lawfare, Behind James Comey’s ‘A Higher Loyalty,’ Benjamin Wittes, April 18, 2018. The first time I had lunch with James Comey at the FBI, it was still early in his tenure as director. We walked from his office to the bureau’s cafeteria one floor up to get a sandwich for him and a salad for me. The director walking into the cafeteria was a big deal. Conversations stopped. Heads turned. In a comic irony to me that was, I’m sure, mortifying to her, the only person who did not seem to notice that Comey had entered the room was the young woman in front of him in the sandwich line.

fbi logoWatching from my vantage point at the salad bar, I saw this woman turn, realize who was behind her and become intensely flustered. Then I saw Comey refuse to cut the line and engage her in conversation while they waited. By the time they reached the front and ordered their sandwiches, she was chatting comfortably. I don’t know who this woman was (she did some kind of counterterrorism analysis, I believe I overheard her say), but I’m certain she remembers that day too.

As we walked back to his office, Comey explained that while he thought the world of his predecessor, Robert Mueller, he wanted to change the vertically integrated paramilitary culture of the FBI. Comey wanted to break down the cult of the director. He wanted people to speak more freely. It was important, he said, for him to be seen in the cafeteria, where Mueller almost never set foot. As part of this campaign of humanization, he told me, he was also mixing up shirt color; Mueller famously wore a white shirt every day and expected other men to do the same.

Baby steps, I thought.

michael cohen ap file croppedChicago Sun-Times, Trump lawyer’s family lent $20M to wife of Chicago cab mogul, Tim Novak, April 18, 2018. The ties between President Donald Trump’s embattled personal lawyer Michael D. Cohen (shown in a file photo) and Chicago’s taxicab industry go deeper than previously known. Over the past eight months, Cohen’s father-in-law has given at least $20 million in loans to Yasya Shtayner, records examined by the Chicago Sun-Times show. Her family owns Chicago Medallion Management Corp., which manages 368 taxicabs, including 22 owned by Cohen.

Shtayner and her husband Semyon Shtayner — Chicago Medallion Management’s corporate secretary — were identified in a warrant the FBI used to raid Cohen’s law office and home, looking for documents relating to his business interests as well as his $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels to keep her from discussing her alleged dalliance with Trump, according to a CNN report.

Shtayner has received eight loans from Cohen’s father-in-law, Fima Shusterman, according to documents filed with the Cook County recorder of deeds. Early in March, the records show Shusterman made four loans worth a total of at least $8 million — possibly as much as $16 million — to Yasya Shtayner and two companies she owns, including 2737 W. Fulton LLC, named after the address where Chicago Medallion Management operates. Last Aug 21, Shusterman gave Shtayner four loans totaling at least $12 million and possibly as much as $24 million.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Michael Cohen’s taxi cab mystery, Daniel Cotter, April 18, 2018. One of the questions that prosecutors were asking in the weeks prior to the raid on Michael Cohen’s office and residencep was about his family’s taxi business. In a Chicago Sun-Times article on April 18, some of that relationship is explained. It appears that Michael Cohen’s father-in-law, Ukrainian citizen Fima Shusterman, loaned at least $20 million to Yasya Shtayner, whose family owns Chicago Medallion Management Corp. Chicago Medallion manages hundreds of taxicabs in Chicago, including 22 that the Sun-Times reports are owned by Cohen.

Taxi medallions were valuable possessions in Chicago and many other cities until the last few years, when shareriding options have entered such markets. For example, according to Chicago Dispatcher, in September 2014, medallion prices had a median value of $357,500 and an average of $341,333 (3 medallions sold during that month). Jump ahead to September 2017, when the same volume saw a median value of $40,000 and an average value of $40,000.

In January 2018, medallion prices in Chicago continued to hover between $30,000 and $40,000. If the only ownership interest is Cohen’s 22 medallions, then the total value of those medallions is approximately $900,000.

Both the Shtayners and Shusterman are immigrants from the Ukraine. Shusterman was indicted in 1993 in the District Court of the Eastern District of New York, United States v. Shusterman (1:93-cr-00186) and pleaded guilty to federal income tax fraud in connection to his New York taxicab business.

According to the excellent Sun-Times reporting, Chicago Medallion has several issues with their medallions, including the 22 owned by Cohen. According to an April 13, 2018, report by Tim Novak, “A dozen of the 22 cabs operated in Chicago by Donald Trump’s personal attorney Michael D. Cohen have been suspended by city regulators” for not having insurance and in the last year, those same dozen cabs “have been cited with 89 violations.”

The mysteries of where this New York investigation will lead are interesting. Every layer that gets peeled, every revelation that is made, just raises many more. This loan situation with Shusterman would appear to be one more puzzle to be solved – what is the purpose of $20 million in loans for a fleet of medallions owned by Chicago Medallion that may be worth less than half of those loans?

fox news logo SmallFox News, GOP reps refer Comey, Clinton, McCabe for criminal investigation, Judson Berger and Brooke Singman, April 18, 2018. Nearly a dozen Republican members of Congress on Wednesday sent a criminal referral to the Justice Department and FBI seeking an investigation of former bureau boss James Comey, his deputy Andrew McCabe, ex-Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Hillary Clinton in connection with 2016 campaign controversies.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions already announced last month he had assigned a federal prosecutor to review some of those broader issues, while resisting calls for a second special counsel. But the referral represents an escalation of Republican pressure to probe top Democrats and Trump critics.

Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., and 10 other House lawmakers want an investigation into potential violations that cover everything from the handling of the Clinton email probe to the anti-Trump dossier’s funding to the Uranium One controversy. They made their case in a letter sent Wednesday to Sessions, FBI Director Christopher Wray, and U.S. Attorney John Huber, whom Sessions named to lead the previously announced evaluation.

Complaining about “dissimilar degrees of zealousness” in the investigations into Clinton and Trump campaign associates, they wrote: “Because we believe that those in positions of high authority should be treated the same as every other American, we want to be sure that the potential violations of law outlined below are vetted appropriately.”

Politico, Judge sets Friday hearing on Trump bid to delay Stormy Daniels suit, Josh Gerstein, April 18, 2018. A federal judge in Los Angeles has set a hearing for Friday on a bid by President Donald Trump and his embattled personal attorney Michael Cohen to delay a lawsuit filed by porn star Stormy Daniels, who claims to have had a sexual encounter with Trump about a decade ago.

U.S. District Court Judge S. James Otero scheduled the hearing after attorneys for Trump and Cohen said the suit should be put on hold for 90 days because of the criminal investigation federal prosecutors in New York are pursuing into Cohen’s involvement in various matters, including a $130,000 pre-election payment to Daniels.

Otero did not explain in detail why he is convening the first hearing in the case, filed by Daniels last month in an attempt to have the alleged ‘hush money’ deal declared invalid. Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti has argued that the agreement was never consomated, in large part because Trump never signed it. In a brief order Wednesday, Otero — an appointee of President George W. Bush — said simply that a hearing on the stay request “is warranted.”

Last week, the FBI raided Cohen’s Manhattan apartment, office and a hotel room he was using temporarily. Agents had court-issued search warrants authorizing them to collect papers and electronic records on a variety of topics, including the payment to Daniels. Attorneys for Cohen and Trump say the raids intruded on attorney-client privilege.

Fatal Disasters

puerto rico map world atlas

 ny times logoNew York Times, Puerto Rico is Once Again Hit by an Islandwide Blackout, James Wagner and Franes Robles, April 18, 2018. It was the second widespread failure on the island in less than a week and could take up to 36 hours to fix.

An electrical contractor working to restore power in Puerto Rico accidentally knocked out a major transmission line on Wednesday, leaving the entire island without power nearly seven months after Hurricane Maria destroyed the electrical grid. It could take up to 36 hours to restore electricity to nearly 1.5 million affected customers, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority said.

Justo González, the agency’s chief operating officer, said the outage occurred after a bulldozer operated by a subcontractor, working to pick up a fallen tower in a rural area, got too close to a high-voltage line. The resulting electrical fault had a domino effect at power plants across the south, where the bulk of the island’s power is generated.

The subcontractor has been fired, Mr. González said in a telephone interview. “I’m angry. This is the second time in a row,” he said. “I give the people of Puerto Rico my word: We are going to restore power to every last house.”

It was the second widespread failure in less than a week, underscoring just how fragile Puerto Rico’s electricity remains since the storm hit on Sept. 20. In the earlier failure on Thursday, about 870,000 customers lost power across the island after a tree fell on the main line to the capital, San Juan. The city’s main public hospital and international airport were forced to switch to backup generators

The power authority had boasted earlier in the day that electricity had been restored to 97 percent of its nearly 1.5 million clients. Three hours later, nearly 100 percent were without power.

The power authority had boasted earlier in the day that electricity had been restored to 97 percent of its nearly 1.5 million clients. Three hours later, nearly 100 percent were without power.

Angel Figueroa Jaramillo, the head of the electrical worker’s union in Puerto Rico, said the electric company was letting the restoration efforts collapse in a deliberate attempt to justify privatizing the electric company. Gov. Ricardo Rosselló has said he plans to privatize the company, known as Prepa, which is in bankruptcy and has suffered from years of neglect and lack of maintenance.

ny times logoNew York Times, Pilot Who Landed Plane Is Veteran With ‘Nerves of Steel,’ Matthew Haag, April 18, 2018. Passengers hailed Capt. Tammie Jo Shults as a hero after an engine exploded on Flight 1380. She started out as one of the first female fighter jet pilots in the Navy.

Syrian War Follow Up

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘The incoherence is plain to see’: Lawmakers ‘unnerved’ by U.S. plan in Syria — or lack thereof, Karen DeYoung, April 18, 2018.  Politicians from both parties expressed alarm over President Trump’s intention to forge ahead with the withdrawal of U.S. troops. The administration seems willing “to give Syria to Assad, Russia and Iran,” one GOP senator said.

In a House hearing, members repeatedly challenged the State Department’s top officials on the Middle East and Russia to explain how the administration planned to reach its stated goals of defeating the Islamic State, building a stable Syria without President Bashar al-Assad, and keeping his Russian and Iranian backers from taking over.

edward royce“As tempting as it is to say ‘enough’ and retreat to our shores, smart, focused and determined engagement in the Middle East must be our approach,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Edward R. Royce (R-Calif., shown at right) said. “We need to talk strategy with the administration.”

Earlier Wednesday, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said that he was convinced Trump “does plan to leave” Syria despite the advice of many of the president’s senior national security aides.

ny times logoNew York Times, Mattis Wanted Congressional Approval Before Striking Syria. He Was Overruled, Helene Cooper, April 18, 2018 (print edition).  Defense Secretary Jim Mattis urged President Trump to get congressional approval before the United States launched airstrikes against Syria last week, but was overruled by Mr. Trump, who wanted a rapid and dramatic response, military and administration officials said.

Update: Mattis (shown at right) denied the Times story.

james mattis oMr. Trump, the officials said, wanted to be seen as backing up a series of bellicose tweets with action, but was warned that an overly aggressive response risked igniting a wider war with Russia.

Friday night’s limited strikes on three targets, which lasted under two minutes, were the compromise.

The debate reflects a divide between Mr. Trump and the defense secretary, who, like no other member of the cabinet, has managed to maintain a cordial relationship with the president even while reining him in.

Until this month, Mr. Mattis had a buffer at the White House in the former national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, who often deferred to the defense secretary, a retired four-star Marine general. The arrival of Mr. Trump’s new national security adviser, John R. Bolton, means that buffer is gone.

Overseas Views On Syria

Eurasia.expert via SouthFront, Analysis: Six Consequences Of US Strike On Syria, Dmitri Evstafiev translated by Alex D, April 18, 2018. The strike by the US and its satellites on Syria in the morning of April 14, 2018 became the most acute foreign policy event of recent times.

The main political conclusion from this is that the foreign policy of the major powers of the world, that is, the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany and a number of others, in the medium term will be determined not so much by foreign policy logic and classical rules of diplomacy, but by the domestic political context. To a large extent, respect for classical diplomatic decency and the hope of using diplomatic tools and mechanisms as a means of containing destructive tendencies are superfluous.

SouthFront, Tiger Forces Launch Military Operation Against Militants In Eastern Qalamun (Map, Photos), Staff report, April 18, 2018. On April 18, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the Tiger Forces launched a military operation against the US-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) in the Eastern Qalamun region, 40km north of the city of Damascus. Syrian pro-government sources reported that the SAA had begun its advance around the town of al-Ruhaybah and had captured the Hawash area.

Warplanes of the Syrian Arab Air Force and the Russian Aerospace Forces supported the SAA attack and conducted more than 600 airstrikes on positions of the FSA in the mountainous areas of the Eastern Qalamun region, according to Syrian opposition sources.

The unified command of the FSA announced in an official statement on April 12 that it is against any evacuation or reconciliation agreement in Eastern Qalamun and vowed to fight until the end. Local observers believe that the SAA and its allies will be able to capture most of the Eastern Qalamun region within a few weeks as airstrikes had already destroyed most of the assets of the FSA in the region.

Inside Trump White House

ny times logolarry kudlow cpac 2016 gage skidmore CustomNew York Times, Rift Between Haley and White House Erupts Over Sanctions, Peter Baker, Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Maggie Haberman, April 18, 2018 (print edition). A top White House official (Larry Kudlow, shown at right in a Gage Skidmore portrait) said Nikki Haley, the ambassador to the United Nations, experienced “momentary confusion” by announcing new sanctions on Russia. “I don’t get confused,” she replied.

President Trump was watching television on Sunday when he saw Nikki R. Haley, his ambassador to the United Nations, announce that he would impose fresh sanctions on Russia. The president grew angry, according to an official informed about the moment. As far as he was concerned, he had decided no such thing.

It was not the first time Mr. Trump has yelled at the television over something he saw Ms. Haley saying. This time, however, the divergence has spilled into public in a remarkable display of discord that stems not just from competing views of Russia but from larger questions of political ambition, jealousy, resentment and loyalty.

The rift erupted into open conflict on Tuesday when a White House official blamed Ms. Haley’s statement about sanctions on “momentary confusion.” That prompted her to fire back, saying that she did not “get confused.” The public disagreement embarrassed Ms. Haley and reinforced questions about Mr. Trump’s foreign policy — and who speaks for his administration.

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: Scott Pruitt Has Become Ridiculous, His behavior has sullied his agency, Editorial Board, April 18, 2018 (print edition). Despite stiff competition, Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, is by common consensus the worst of the ideologues and mediocrities President Trump chose to populate his cabinet.

scott pruitt epaPolicies aside — and they’re terrible, from an environmental perspective — Mr. Pruitt’s self-aggrandizing and borderline thuggish behavior has disgraced his office and demoralized his employees. We opposed his nomination because he had spent his career as attorney general of Oklahoma suing the federal department he was being asked to lead on behalf of industries he was being asked to regulate.

As it turns out, Mr. Pruitt (shown above at left) is not just an industry lap dog but also an arrogant and vengeful bully and small-time grifter, bent on chiseling the taxpayer to suit his lifestyle and warm his ego. Any other president would have fired him. Mr. Trump praises him.

U.S. Politics, Propaganda

sinclair broadcast logo customRoll Call, Sinclair TV Owner Maxed Out Donations to Gianforte, Montana GOP, Griffin Connolly, April 18, 2018. An owner of the controversial Sinclair Broadcast Group has donated more than $10,000 to Montana Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte in the last year and a half. Robert E. Smith, whose family owns the largest local television station operator in the country, gave the maximum $5,400 to Gianforte’s campaign in March, The Guardian reported.

republican elephant logoHe did the same last year, ahead of Gianforte’s 6-point special election victory over Democrat Rob Quist. The night before the special election, Gianforte attacked Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs. He later pleaded guilty to assault charges and was sentenced to community service and anger management classes.

Robert E. Smith, who identified himself as ‘retired’ and worked in real estate, also donated to Trump’s campaign

syria east ghouta false gas hassan diab

SouthFront, Journalists Found Boy Filmed In White Helmets’ Douma Chemial Attack Video. He Did It For Food, Staff report, April 18, 2018. A group of syrian white helmetsRussian correspondents led by Evgeny Poddubny has found a boy filmed by the White Helmets in their video showing people “affected” by the alleged chemical attack in Douma on April 7.

According to Poddubny: “11-year-old Hassan Diab is fine; He suffered no injures from the “chemical attack” because there was no attack (at least then and there); The boy participated in the video for food (rice, dates and cookies).” The boy, father and others are shown in photos below after the Syrian government reclaimed control of Douma.

syria east ghouta false gas hassan diab after false flag

Poddubny also contacted Hassan’s father. He also said that there was no chemical attack in the town.Hassan’s story is quite similar to the case observed during the battle for Aleppo city in 2016.

A photo of Omran Daqneesh (shown below in an ambulance) became popular in the mainstream [Western] media and was widely used for propaganda purposes against Syrian forces fighting militants in the city [but the boy and his father later described the White Helmets campaign as a stunt over which they had no control].

syrian boy injured aleppo media center 2016

Omran Daqneesh: “We were very harmed because of the gunmen and how they used things to their benefit with my child,” Omran’s father told Ruptly after the city was liberated. “Thank god, he was only slightly wounded. Thank god after the army advanced and retook these areas; we are now back in our homes. The situation now is very good, thank god.” Daqneesh’s father also accused militants of using his son for propaganda purposes.

mike pompeo portraitCIA, JFK Records Deadline — and Obstruction?

JFKFacts.org, Opinion: Is the CIA’s chief historian obstructing justice in the JFK case? Jefferson Morley (shown at right), April 18, 2018. President Trump will soon announce his decision on whether the last of the U.S. government’s JFK files will be fully released or not. April 26 will be a moment to assess what we know about JFK’s assassination that we didn’t know before, and specifically, what have we learned about the CIA’s role in the events of November 1963.

Among those vouching for the probity of the CIA in the JFK assassination story is the agency’s chief historian David Robarge.

david robarge cia cspan.320While Robarge (shown at left) has acknowledged in an open-source article that the CIA did not cooperate with the Warren Commission–and indeed deceived its members about key facts–he asserts that, in the case of the murdered president, the agency was guilty of nothing more than a “benign coverup” of embarrassing information.

Peter Dale Scott, professor at the University of California and JFK author, has a different opinion: He says Robarge himself is liable for obstructing justice in the case of the murdered president. In a 2015 article for WhoWhatWhy, Scott made a strong case that Richard Helms (shown below right on a Time Magazine cover, deputy CIA director in 1963, had perjured himself while obstructing the investigation of JFK’s death.

richard helms time coverConclusion: Some people have deduced, from the fact that CIA officials lied to the Warren Commission, that the CIA killed Kennedy. I myself do not believe that, though I do believe that some CIA individuals were involved, along with others in other agencies.

My hypothesis is not that the killing was a CIA operation, but that the plot was piggybacked on an authorized CIA covert operation that was not under secure control and may have been outsourced.

Some agency actions before the assassination, notably the protection of Oswald by suppressing the reported allegation that he had been in contact with presumed KGB officer Valeriy Kostikov, suggest to me that some members of the Counterintelligence Staff, and in particular CI Chief James Angleton, may have participated to some degree in the piggybacked plot.

At a minimum, we can say that the CIA was sufficiently involved in the facts of the assassination to have been embarrassed into covering them up. That coverup began the day JFK died, and it continues to this day.

U.S. Politics

Roll Call, White House Presses Vulnerable Dems on Pompeo Nomination, John T. Bennett, April 18, 2018. The White House circled the wagons Wednesday around CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s nomination to become secretary of State, arguing vulnerable red-state Democrats will feel “consequences” in November if they vote against him.

The Trump administration dispatched Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas to argue Pompeo (shown at right) is highly qualified for the top State Department position and to press Democrats running for re-election in states won by President Donald Trump to vote in favor of his nomination.

The vote-counting on Pompeo comes amid reports of the CIA director’s secret trip to North Korea to meet with that country’s leader, Kim Jong Un. At his confirmation hearing, Pompeo did not disclose the trip to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Think Progress, 170 lawmakers sign resolution calling for Scott Pruitt’s resignation, including zero Republicans, Luke Barnes, April 18, 2018. A group of 131 representatives and 39 senators, all of them Democrats, signed a resolution on Wednesday calling on embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to resign.

jefferson morley new

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP fears political risk in Senate races as House moves to extend tax cuts, Erica Werner​, April 18, 2018. Republican campaign strategists worry that another round of tax cuts being pushed in the House could give Senate Democrats in red states the chance to vote in favor of them, undermining one of the GOP’s most effective lines of attack in conservative-leaning states.

The Intercept, The GOP Is Trying to Bring Down This Anti-Establishment Republican. Can He Survive the Trump Era? Lee Fang, April 18, 2018. As the 2018 midterm election cycle ramps up, Republican operatives are busy strategizing about how to protect incumbent GOP lawmakers. In one case, though, Republicans are working to overthrow one of its incumbents: Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina, shown at right.

This time could be different. Jones is one of the last remaining populists in the GOP, and his repeated votes against the Trump agenda, especially on tax cuts, could provoke a backlash. In 2016, North Carolina’s 3rd District went for Trump by 20 points. In any case, Jones announced recently that this election campaign will be his last. Even if he survives this latest primary challenge, he intends to retire after the following cycle.

walter jones oJones, who is in his 11th term in office, cuts an unlikely figure in Washington, D.C. He has fought for a higher minimum wage, tougher regulations on Wall Street, and stronger limits on big money in politics. He has called for restrictions on government surveillance, sharply criticized the leadership of his party for being too cozy with K Street lobbyists and corporate interests, and waged a one-man battle to rein in United States-backed wars raging throughout the Middle East. Though once a strong supporter of the Iraq War, Jones changed his tune as the disastrous war unfolded: “Lyndon Johnson’s probably rotting in hell right now because of the Vietnam War, and he probably needs to move over for Dick Cheney,” he once quipped.

These sorts of strident positions have put him at odds with Republican-aligned special interest groups and the GOP establishment over the years, with party leadership at one point revoking a plum committee assignment, and also dispatching a parade of Washington insiders to undermine him in his Republican primary. Jones has beaten back every attempt in the past, but faces a spirited challenge again this year.

Scott Dacey, a casino and tax lobbyist who also serves on the Craven County Board of Commissioners, will be Jones’s opponent in North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District Republican primary on May 8. Dacey divides his time between Washington, D.C., and North Carolina. According to a recently filed ethics form, he manages a Washington lobbying firm, from which he collected $509,899 last year in salary and profit-sharing, and co-owns a lucrative investment property on Capitol Hill.

More On Syrian War

New Eastern Outlook via The 5th Estate, Opinion: U.S. “Deep State” Doesn’t Want End To Syria War, Salman Rafi Sheikh, April 18, 2018. CNN fake news, MSM stooges continue to spew ludicrous lies trying to shore-up bogus Douma “gassing.” The Islamic State (IS) has been defeated in Syria root and square, but the war hasn’t ended yet and it might not end as long as the American war machine continues to pound both directly and indirectly.

April 17

Fox News Scandal

Politico, Fox News says Hannity has ‘our full support’ amid Cohen controversy, Cristiano Lima, April 17, 2018. Fox News said on Tuesday that the network was previously unaware of what it described as an “informal relationship” between Sean Hannity and President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, but that the host “continues to have our full support.”

sean hannity gage skidmore 3“While FOX News was unaware of Sean Hannity’s informal relationship with Michael Cohen and was surprised by the announcement in court yesterday, we have reviewed the matter and spoken to Sean and he continues to have our full support,” a spokesperson said in a statement, according to reports. Hannity, the top-rated prime time host at Fox News, is shown in a portrait by Gage Skidmore.

A lawyer for the president’s attorney named Hannity in court on Monday as one of Cohen’s few clients, an announcement that sent ripples across the political media landscape and raised questions about his failure to disclose his legal affiliation on air. But Hannity, one of the president’s most prominent and outspoken backers on cable television, disputed the characterization of his relationship with Cohen.

“I never retained him, received an invoice, or paid legal fees,” Hannity said in a statement on social media. “I have occasionally had brief discussions with him about legal questions about which I wanted his input and perspective. I assumed those conversations were confidential, but to be absolutely clear they never involved any matter between me and a third-party.”

fox news logo SmallFox News’ announcement marks the latest instance of the network’s standing by its leading primetime anchor in the face of criticism over ethical decision-making. During the 2016 campaign, Hannity was sharply criticized for appearing in a pro-Trump campaign ad, and last year became the subject of a large-scale boycott campaign after propagating conspiracy theories surrounding the death of Seth Rich, a Democratic National Committee staffer.

After news broke that Hannity, who reportedly pushed Cohen’s legal team to have his identity kept confidential, was named in court, a wave of media figures and analysts blasted the host and network for not making the extent of his dealings with the attorney clear.

President vs. Porn Star

stormy daniels sketch threatPolitico, Stormy Daniels releases sketch of man who allegedly threatened her, Louis Nelson, April 17, 2018. Adult film actress Stormy Daniels and her attorney released a composite sketch of the man they say threatened her in a Las Vegas parking lot to “leave Trump alone” in the wake of an interview she had given about her alleged affair with President Donald Trump.

This artist’s drawing released by attorney Michael Avenatti, reports to show the man that the adult film actress Stormy Daniels says threatened her in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2011 to remain quiet about her affair with President Donald Trump.

This artist’s drawing released by attorney Michael Avenatti, reports to show the man that the adult film actress Stormy Daniels says threatened her in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2011 to remain quiet about her affair with President Donald Trump. | Michael Avenatti via AP

michael avenatti sketchDaniels and Michael Avenatti, her lawyer (shown at right), appeared Tuesday on ABC’s “The View,” where they released the sketch publicly for the first time. Avenatti offered $100,000 for information leading to the identification of the man in the sketch and asked members of the public to email tips to [email protected].

“We want to get to the bottom of who this is. We think we know who sent him, but we want to confirm it,” Avenatti said. He declined to say whether the sketch has been shared with law enforcement.

In an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” earlier this month, Daniels recalled the 2011 incident wherein she said a man approached her and her child as she made her way to an exercise class in Las Vegas. The adult film actress said the man told her to “leave Trump alone” and “forget the story” of her alleged affair with Trump, which she had shared with “In Touch” magazine.

Trump Lawyer Probe

washington post logokimba wood croppedWashington Post, Federal judge weighs special master to review seized Cohen records, Philip Bump and Devlin Barrett, April 17, 2018. To avoid the appearance of bias, the U.S. District Court judge, Kimba Wood (shown at right) indicated she may appoint an outside attorney to assess whether any materials seized during a search of Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s office, home, hotel room and safe-deposit box are protected by attorney-client privilege.

Comey Response To Trump Jailing Threat

James Comey

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘This is not some tin-pot dictatorship’: Comey pushes back against Trump’s suggestion he be jailed, John Wagner​​, April 17, 2018. Former FBI director James B. Comey (shown above in a file photo) told NPR that the president’s tweets pose a “great danger.”

Trump Slows Russian Sanctions

washington post logonikki haley oWashington Post, Trump puts brakes on new Russia sanctions, walking back Haley’s remarks, Philip Rucker, Carol D. Leonnig, Anton Troianovski and Greg Jaffe​, April 17, 2018 (print edition). Administration officials said it was unlikely President Trump would approve any additional sanctions without another triggering event by Russia, describing the strategy as in a holding pattern. The sanctions announcement made Sunday by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley (shown at right) was swiftly denounced by the Kremlin as “international economic raiding.”

In Missouri, AG Suspects GOP Gov.’s Scam Of Veterans

Kansas City Star, AG Hawley: Greitens committed ‘potentially criminal acts’ involving veterans charity, Jason Hancock, Lindsay Wise And Bryan Lowry,  April 17, 2018. Attorney General Josh Hawley announced Tuesday that his office has uncovered potential criminal wrongdoing by Gov. Eric Greitens, a fellow Republican, and has turned that evidence over to the St. Louis prosecutor.

josh hawley missouriHawley, left, said that during an investigation into the Mission Continues, a charity founded by Greitens (shown below at right), his office “uncovered evidence of wrongdoing that goes beyond Missouri’s charity laws” and indicates “potentially criminal acts were committed by Gov. Eric Greitens.”

eric greitens oHawley, who is a candidate for U.S. Senate, said his team found evidence that Greitens allegedly obtained and transmitted the charity’s donor list for political fundraising. He said there is no evidence of wrongdoing by the charity, only by the governor. “And he did all of this without permission of the Mission Continues,” Hawley said.

Related story: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Hawley says Greitens may have committed felony by using donor list to raise money, Jack Suntrup, April 17, 2018. Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley said Tuesday that his office had uncovered evidence that Gov. Eric Greitens may have committed a felony by using a charity donor list to solicit donations to fuel his 2016 campaign for governor.

Tax Day Breakdown By IRS

washington post logoWashington Post, IRS electronic filing system breaks down hours before midnight deadline, Jeffrey Stein and Mike DeBonis, April 17, 2018. The agency said it was struggling to accept returns from the widely used software program TurboTax and the massive tax preparation company H&R Block. Officials said taxpayers would not be punished if their returns arrive late because of the glitches.

irs logoKautter said he did not yet know how many people would be affected, but he said “it could be millions, potentially.” The agency estimates approximately 30 million people still need to file their returns, though many of those individuals will seek extensions. Last year, 5 million people filed their returns on the final day, IRS spokesman Dean Patterson said.

More Spending Revelations About EPA’s Pruitt

washington post logoWashington Post, Pruitt upgraded to a larger, customized SUV with bullet-resistant seat covers, Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis​, April 17, 2018. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt (shown below) upgraded his official car last year to a costlier, larger vehicle with bullet-resistant covers over bucket seats, according to federal records and interviews with current and former agency officials.

scott pruitt epaMeanwhile, the 2014 Chevy Tahoe with four-wheel-drive that was used by Gina McCarthy, Pruitt’s predecessor as EPA administrator, has largely sat idle at the EPA’s headquarters, according to several current and former staffers. The agency had its lease renewed on Feb. 2, 2017, at a cost of $9,180.

The decision to customize a larger SUV is the latest instance of Pruitt seeking more elaborate trappings than his predecessors. He currently faces a congressional probe into his repeated use of first-class travel as well as other matters, such as a security sweep of his office and the installation of biometric locks. On Monday, the Government Accountability Office concluded that the administrator had violated federal spending laws by installing a secure phone booth in his office that cost taxpayers roughly $43,000.

Post-Castro Cuba Starts Now

washington post logocuba flag saving CustomWashington Post, In Cuba, the Castro era ends this week as Raúl steps down as ruler, Anthony Faiola​, April 17, 2018. Miguel Díaz-Canel, a little-known engineer and Communist Party member who was born after the revolution, is expected to take his place on Thursday.

BBC Interviews Russian Foreign Minister


bbc news logo2BBC Hard Talk, Sergey Lavrov’s interview with BBC, Host: Stephen Sakur, April 16, 2018 (23 minutes) (YouTube displays longer version: 32:31 mins.). Stephen Sackur is in Moscow for an exclusive interview with Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, who compared the joint U.S., British, French bombing under an evidentiary standard of “highly likely” as like the scene in Alice In Wonderland whereby the Queen rejects a jury trial and insists “sentence first, verdict afterward.” 

“Proof by the punishment is what is being applied by the troika of Western countries,” Lavrov continued. “You have hard talk.  We want hard facts.”

After repeated accusations and interruptions by the talk show host Sakur, Lavrov said late in the interview, “For a Brit, you have very bad manners.”

SouthFront, Russia’s Stance On Skripal Case, Douma Chemical Attack And US Strikes On Syria – Sergey Lavrov’s Interview, Staff report, April 17, 2018.   This is a transcript of [the beginning of] Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with BBC HardTalk host Stephen Sakur:

Question: The world was deeply alarmed last week by the prospect of a direct military confrontation between the United States and Russia. How close do you believe we came to that?

Sergey Lavrov: Well, I don’t think that was very close. I think it was a situation created by very reckless behavior of our Western colleagues who accused the Syrian Government and us as allies of the Syrian Government in applying chemical weapons against civilians without waiting for OPCW to inspect the place. Actually, at the moment when OPCW was physically ready to move from Lebanon to Syria, they executed these strikes. As the representatives of our military explained, the deconflicting channel has been engaged all the time.

Consortium News, Opinion: An Alternative Explanation to the Skripal Mystery, Gareth Porter, April 17, 2018. An alternative explanation to the mystery surrounding the poisoning of Russian double-agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter may involve a possibility that neither the British nor Russian governments want to talk about, as Gareth Porter explains.

Israel, Saudis Seek More War Against Syria

israel flagThe Sun, Rocket Alert: Syria’s air defence shoots down nine ‘Israeli missiles’ after fresh airstrike over Homs, James Cox, April 17, 2018. Videos on social media show what appear to be shots fired over the countryside in the East of the region. The Syrian air defence has shot suspected Israeli missiles out of the sky after a new airstrike. Videos on social media show what appear to be shots fired over a region north of Damascus.

adel al jubeir western garb saudi fm

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir

SouthFront, Saudi Arabia Claims It’s Open To Sending Troops To Syria, Staff report, April 17, 2018. Saudi Arabia is open to sending troops to Syria under the US-led coalition if such a decision is taken, Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said on April 17, according to the state media.

“We are in discussion with the U.S. and have been since the beginning of the Syrian crisis about sending forces into Syria,” said Jubeir (shown below at right) during a news conference with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in Riyadh. The foreign minister added that Saudi Arabia had previously proposed this idea to then US President Barack Obama.

Earlier the Wall Street Journal’s report speculating that the administration of US President Donald Trump is seeking to establish some “Arab force” that would repalce US troops in northern and northeastern Syria. This “Arab force” reportedly could be established with the support of Saudi Arabia and some other Gulf states.

However, a possible deployment of Saudi troops in Syria is far away from reality according to Syrian experts. Saudi Arabia is currently involved into a long and complicated military conflict in Yemen. The Saudi-led coalition intervened in the country in 2015 in order to defeat the Houthis and to establish a puppet government in the area. However, since then, the Saudi-led coalition has not achieved its main goals in the country. Its forces have even failed to retake the Yemeni capital. At the same time, the Houthis have increased cross-border attacks against and missile launches at Saudi Arabia.

Syrians Showcase Militants’ Tunnel Fortress Under Hospital

syrian tunnels douma hospitalSouthFront, Video: Syrian Troops Found Underground Fortress Under Douma National Hospital, Staff report, April 17, 2018 (3:58 mins. video). A network of underground tunnels with weapon caches and workshops has been discovered by Syrian troops under the National Hospital of the town of Douma. The network was built by militants while the town used to be under their control.

#MeToo Coverage Nets Pulitzers

ny times logoharvey weinsteinNew York Times, Times, New Yorker Win Pulitzers for Harassment Coverage, Michael M. Grynbaum, April 17, 2018. The Pulitzer board recognized The New York Times and The New Yorker for reporting on sexual harassment in the workplace — including the predations of the film mogul Harvey Weinstein (shown at right).

Pulitzer Prizes were awarded on Monday to the news organizations that drove two of the biggest stories of the year: the high-stakes investigation into President Trump’s relationship with Russia and the consequential reckoning about the treatment of women by powerful men.

The prize for public service, considered the most prestigious of the Pulitzers, went to The New York Times and the New Yorker magazine for their revelations of sexual harassment and abuse that had gone on, unheeded and unpunished, in the spheres of Hollywood, politics, the media and Silicon Valley.

The national reporting prize went to The Times and The Washington Post for their coverage of Mr. Trump’s possible ties to Russia — a recognition of two journalism stalwarts that exposed the hidden activities of the Trump White House while withstanding much presidential ire.

And in a surprise pick, the rapper Kendrick Lamar received the prize for music for his pointed and defiant album, “DAMN.” It was the first time that a musician outside the classical discipline or jazz had won the award since it was first handed out in 1943.

Trump Meets Scandalized Japanese Leader

japan flag

washington post logoshinzō abe oWashington Post, Analysis: A grumpy Trump welcomes Japan’s weakened leader, Ishaan Tharoor, April 17, 2018. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (shown at right) and the president are weathering scandals at home, with investigators and journalists poring over evidence of both leaders’ alleged cronyism.

U.S.-China Trade War?

washington post logochina flag SmallWashington Post, In new sign of trade battle, China slaps U.S. sorghum producers with 179 percent deposit, Emily Rauhala​, April 17, 2018. The deposits could discourage imports of U.S. sorghum, and potentially hurt farming states that have backed President Trump.

Fake News: Sandy Hook Parents Sue Radio Host Alex Jones

alex jones radio logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Sandy Hook Parents Sue Alex Jones for Defamation, Matthew Haag, April 17, 2018. k Three parents whose children were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 filed a defamation lawsuit on Tuesday against Alex Jones, the right-wing conspiracy theorist who has long claimed the shooting was “completely fake” and a “giant hoax” perpetrated by opponents of the Second Amendment.

Mr. Jones, the popular radio show host who also operates the conspiracy theory website Infowars, has questioned for years whether 20 children and six adults died in the school massacre in Newtown, Conn. To bolster his false claims, he often cites news reports and video clips from the hours after the shooting that turned out to be incomplete or based on wrong information.

Soon after they buried their children, many Sandy Hook parents started to come under fierce attack by conspiracy theorists who have said they are actors in an elaborate scheme to enact stricter gun control laws. The fringe theories still thrive in small forums online but have reached a far greater audience through Mr. Jones, the most vocal propagator.

The two lawsuits filed on Tuesday represent the first civil action taken by parents accusing Mr. Jones of defamation. One was filed by Leonard Pozner and his former wife, Veronique De La Rosa, and the other was filed by Neil Heslin. Their sons, Noah Pozner and Jesse Heslin, both 6, were killed at Sandy Hook.

The suits focus on comments made by Mr. Jones in the past year. In a segment on his radio show called “Sandy Hook Vampires Exposed,” which aired on April 22, 2017, Mr. Jones highlighted an interview that Ms. De La Rosa did with Anderson Cooper of CNN after the shooting. While they are standing outside a downtown Newtown building, Mr. Cooper turns his head to face her.

Fatality From SouthWest Flight

NBC10 News (Philadelphia), Woman Partially Sucked Out of Jet When Window Breaks Mid-Flight; Plane Lands Safely in Philadelphia, Staff report, April 17, 2018. Update: The injured woman died. The jet’s left engine blew shortly after takeoff, passengers said. Pieces of shrapnel flew into the plane’s fuselage and at least one window, the passengers and FAA said. A Southwest Airlines flight landed safely in Philadelphia Tuesday after the jet violently depressurized when a piece of an engine flew into and broke a window, according to passenger accounts and air traffic controllers.

One passenger’s father-in-law, relaying information from his daughter, said the impact was so severe that a female passenger was partially sucked out of the plane when the window imploded. “One passenger, a woman, was partially … was drawn out towards the out of the plane … was pulled back in by other passengers,” he said in a phone interview with NBC10.

World News: ISIS Executions

ny times logoNew York Times, 2 Hours, 14 Death Sentences: Iraq Puts ISIS Suspects on Trial, Margaret Coker and Falih Hassan, April 17, 2018. Iraq is ramping up prosecutions of thousands of people accused of supporting the Islamic State, handing death sentences to workers, wives and fighters (with some of the latter shown in a file photo at right below).

The 42-year-old housewife had two minutes to defend herself against charges of supporting the Islamic State. Amina Hassan, a Turkish woman in a flowing black abaya, told the Iraqi judge that she and her family had entered Syria and Iraq illegally and lived in the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate for more than two years. But, she added: “I never took money from Islamic State. I brought my own money from Turkey.”

isis raqqa syria 1 14 14The whole trial lasted 10 minutes before the judge sentenced her to death by hanging. Another accused Turkish woman entered the courtroom. Then another, and another. Within two hours, 14 women had been tried, convicted and sentenced to die. As millions of Iraqis struggle to recover from the bloodshed and destruction of the period, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has found widespread public support for his push to step up the pace of prosecutions — and for punishments to the full extent of the law, which in Iraq means execution.

The government has not released statistics about its terrorism detainees, but two people familiar with the court who were not authorized to speak to journalists said that approximately 13,000 people had been detained on suspicion of ties to the Islamic State since 2017, when the vast majority of arrests were made.

Corrupt Trump Appointee To Advisory Board

fcc logoThe Verge, Broadband adviser picked by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai arrested on fraud charges, Nick Statt, April 16, 2018.  Elizabeth Pierce allegedly tricked investors into pouring $250 million into a fiber optic scheme by forging revenue agreements.

ajit pai headshot customA broadband adviser selected by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai (shown at left) to run a federal advisory committee was arrested last week on claims she tricked investors into pouring money into a multimillion-dollar investment fraud scheme, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The adviser, Elizabeth Pierce, is the former chief executive of Quintillion, an Alaska-based fiber optic cable provider operating out of Anchorage. In her capacity as CEO, Pierce allegedly raised more than $250 million from two New York-based investment companies using forged contracts with other companies guaranteeing hundreds of millions of dollars in future revenue.

Pierce resigned from Quintillion in August of last year, and she stepped down from her role in Pai’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC) the following month. 

geoffrey berman sdny“As it turned out, those sales agreements were worthless because the customers had not signed them,” US attorney Geoffrey Berman (shown at right) said in prepared remarks, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. “Instead, as alleged, Pierce had forged counter-party signatures on contract after contract. As a result of Pierce’s deception, the investment companies were left with a system that is worth far less than Pierce had led them to believe.” Pierce was trying to raise money to help build out a fiber optic system that would wire Alaska with high-speed internet and better help connect it to networks in other US states. Pierce was charged with wire fraud last Thursday and faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

republican elephant logoPierce was tapped by Pai in April of last year to be the chair of the BDAC, which he formed “to accelerate the deployment of high-speed internet access, or broadband, by reducing and removing regulatory barriers to infrastructure investment.” According to broadband industry news and advocacy website Stop the Cap, Pierce may have gotten on Pai’s radar by complaining about how cumbersome it was to bring internet access to parts of the country like Alaska.

In a statement issued last week, Quintillion says it began cooperating with the Department of Justice as soon as allegations against Pierce surfaced last year. “Quintillion became aware of the situation regarding the alleged actions of Ms. Pierce last year, took swift action and self-reported to the Department of Justice (DOJ). Quintillion has been cooperating fully with the authorities during this ongoing investigation,” reads the company’s press release on the charges. The company goes on to say that “the ongoing investigation has not impacted Quintillion’s operations nor the quality of its services,” and that it “continues to move aggressively to extend its network and provide world-class telecommunications to Alaska and beyond.”

Boston Marathon Bombing Defendant

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Still Gagged As Death Penalty Appeal Grinds On, James Henry, April 17, 2018. WhoWhatWhy makes its semiannual interview request with convicted Marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The feds answer: Nope. As the fifth anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing comes and goes, we can’t help but wonder what Dzhokhar Tsarnaev might have to say for himself — if he were allowed to speak.

For one thing, we’d like to ask him if he could fill in some details about his brother Tamerlan’s mysterious activities in the years leading up to the bombings — much of which the government continues to withhold as “classified.”

Dzhokhar Tsaraev HSDzhokhar (right) is being held at the maximum-security federal penitentiary in Florence, Colorado — known as the “Alcatraz of the Rockies” — under extreme confinement conditions called Special Administrative Measures (SAMs). He was convicted and sentenced to death in 2015 for his role in the bombing near the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon. Tsarnaev is appealing his federal death penalty conviction. (All death penalty convictions are automatically appealed.)

Essentially a form of solitary confinement, SAMs prevent inmates from communicating with all but a few pre-approved individuals. Tsarnaev is not even allowed to communicate with other inmates in the facility. The government justifies the imposition of SAMs by pointing to the possibility that Tsarnaev could try to secretly communicate with criminal compatriots or incite violence of one kind or another.

It’s not clear who that might be, since the government insists that Dzhokhar and his brother Tamerlan acted on their own.

More On Trump Probes

Talking Points Memo (TPM), Investigation: Good Grief. Cohen’s World Gets Mobbier The Closer I Look, Josh Marshall, April 17, 2018 (podcast 44:46 mins).  We look into the background of Michael Cohen. TPM first reported last year that Cohen was actually a childhood friend of Felix Sater, whose father was himself a reputed capo in the Mogilevich organized crime syndicate, said to be Russia’s largest and most dangerous. Filling out this picture of how Cohen fell into this milieu we’ve always been focused on the fact that Cohen’s uncle, Morton Levine, owned and ran a Brooklyn social club, El Caribe, which was a well-known meeting spot for members of Italian and Russian organized crime families in the 1970s and 1980s. (Levine, a medical doctor has never been charged with a crime.) But now it turns out there’s a bit more to this story.

I came across this in a January AP article about Boris Nayfeld, one-time organized crime boss in Brooklyn who now wants to go home to Russia to start a new life. Nayfeld is 70 and he just finished his latest prison sentence. The whole story is a bit low energy and a sad sack in a nonetheless menacing and predatory way.

According to published reports, in the 70s and early 80s, the boss of the Russian mob in New York (and for practical purposes the whole U.S) was a man named Evsei Agron. Things ended badly for Agron when was gunned down in a mob hit in 1985. After Agron was assassinated, his organization was taken over by under-boss Marat Balagula. Authorities believed Balagula was behind Agron’s killing. But he was never charged with the crime. Balagula ran things until 1991 when he was convicted of gasoline bootlegging. Nayfeld had been the bodyguard and enforcer for both Agron and Balagula, one would say more successfully in the latter case than the former. He took over the organization when Balagula went to prison.

What I didn’t realize until now is that both Agron and his successor Balagula ran their operations out of an office in the El Caribe social club. So the El Caribe wasn’t just a mob hangout. From the 70s through the 90s at least, the bosses of the Russian mafia in the U.S. literally ran their crime organization out of the El Caribe. So Michael Cohen’s uncle Morton Levine’s social club was the headquarters of Russian organized crime in the U.S.

That’s quite something. The AP article includes another detail. According to Levine, who is apparently still alive, all his nieces and nephews owned shares of the El Caribe and still do. Levine told the AP that Michael Cohen owned his stake in the club until Donald Trump was elected President when he “gave up his stake.” That was probably wise!

It was also very recent. One of the abiding questions about Cohen is how he became so deeply enmeshed in the Ukrainian and Russian emigre communities from such an early age and moved so early into businesses heavily infiltrated by organized crime. He married a Ukrainian immigrant whose father got him into the taxi business and himself had at least one conviction for money laundering. Cohen was raised in the Five Towns area of Long Island, not far from Brighton Beach as the crow flies – just across Jamaica Bay – but worlds away culturally. The El Caribe seems like the logical locus which brought Cohen into this world.

sean hannity nydailynews 4 17 2018 Custom

New York Daily News front page on April 17, 2018.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Sean Hannity is just the tip of the iceberg, Bill Palmer, April 17, 2018. One week after Donald Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen saw his life shattered into little pieces in the form of an FBI raid of his office and residence, we saw Trump’s most notorious television ally Sean Hannity dragged into the Trump-Cohen criminal investigation as well. It’s led to the question of just how many of Trump’s allies and sycophants are going to end up getting taken down in Trump’s scandals. The answer: we’re just getting started.

sean hannity white houseDonald Trump likes to surround himself with people who are either already morally corrupt, or who can be corrupted. The one consistent pattern we’ve seen is that the longer an associate or underling hangs around Trump, the more that person’s moral fiber disintegrates. Michael Cohen and Sean Hannity (shown at right) were not good people before Trump took them under his wing.

But Trump steered Cohen toward some truly ugly “fixer” work that has him in serious danger of going to prison, and Trump steered Hannity from merely misrepresenting the news for ratings, to outright rigging the news out of misguided personal loyalty. They’re part of a larger pattern that we’re soon going to see on full display.

republican elephant logoWhy do these types of people end up making a mess of their own careers and lives for the sake of the greater glory of Donald Trump? That’s a question for a psychologist. But the key here is that Trump knows how to find these types, and how to manipulate them. Was Hope Hicks intending to commit obstruction of justice when she signed on to work for Trump? Probably not. But former Trump spokesman Mark Corallo testified to Robert Mueller (shown at right) that he heard Hicks promising to scuttle key evidence. If that proves true, it’ll mean that Hicks started as merely someone who was unqualified for the job, and ended as a felon. There are endless similar examples.

robert mueller full face fileThe criminal investigations into Donald Trump’s lifetime of crime are spreading so far and wide, it’s now clear that everyone involved in Trump’s crimes is going to be exposed. Some of these Trump associates will testify against him, while others will take a fall for him. But we’re now at a point where Sean Hannity of all people is smack in the middle of a federal criminal investigation into Trump’s crimes and coverups. Before long, everyone in league with Trump will be called to answer for it. Hannity is just the tip of the iceberg.


barbara bush portrait Custom 2Roll Call, Former First Lady Barbara Bush Dies at 92, Robin Opsahl, April 17, 2018. The matriarch of the Bush family had chosen to no longer seek medical treatment. Former first lady Barbara Bush (shown at left) died Tuesday after a long battle with congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. She was 92.

Bush was the wife of former President George H.W. Bush, and the mother of former President George W. Bush and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. She died after choosing over the weekend to pursue “comfort care” — focusing on symptom control and ceasing medical attention for her diseases.

Freedom of the Press

Consortium News, Instead of a Pulitzer, He was Fired, Don North, April 17, 2018. Don North, veteran TV reporter, looks back on his days with the late Consortium News founder and editor Bob Parry, beginning in Central America during Reagan’s wars.

I first met Bob back in the early 80’s in El Salvador. We bonded immediately over our mutual revulsion for US President Ronald Reagan and his dirty wars in Central America. I was trying to film and produce documentaries and spent three months in the mountains with FMLN guerrillas trying to tell their story. Bob was with the Associated Press and later Newsweek and The Nation. But we both had the same problem — few mainstream media organizations wanted to go up against what Reagan was promoting. On a meagre budget I produced a half-hour program “Guazapa: The Face of War in El Salvador.”

It got a few showings in church basements and colleges but no network would run it and even PBS, supposedly a haven for independent journalism said, “Show us something supporting the Salvador government and we might consider it.”

Bob uncovered the Iran-Contra scandal, but instead of a Pulitzer he was fired by the AP and later Newsweek and Bloomberg. So Bob took the advice of renowned media critic A.J. Liebling: ”Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”

Campus Partisan Politics

Truthout, Turning Point USA: Well-Funded Conservative Organization Attacks, Inflames and Provokes Liberals On Campuses Across the Country, Bill Berkowitz, April 17, 2018. From Colorado State University where Turning Point USA’s founder and executive director, Charlie Kirk, told the audience that “White privilege is a myth and a lie,” to Florida Atlantic University, where the organization is defending a professor, Marshall DeRosa, who has ties to the white nationalist hate group League of the South, Turning Point USA is making its presence felt on the nation’s college campuses.

The stated mission of TPUSA is to “identify, educate, train and organize students to promote the principles of fiscal responsibility, free markets and limited government.” Or as Splinter’s Katherine Krueger pointed out, the organization that is aiming “to take back America’s colleges from the menace of liberalism — is best known for the very small but deeply embarrassing spectacles its student members make on their campuses.”

April 16

Trump Probes By Special Counsel

ny times logo New York Times, Trump Won’t Get First Look at Cohen Files, Benjamin Weiser and Alan Feuer, April 16, 2018. A judge indicated that she was not prepared to grant Mr. Trump exclusive first access to documents seized in raids on the office of his personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, and said that she was considering appointing a lawyer to assist in reviewing the materials.

kimba wood croppedFeeling her way toward a resolution of the high-stakes clash involving Mr. Trump and the federal prosecutors investigating the lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, the judge, Kimba M. Wood (shown at right), did not grant Mr. Trump’s request to review the trove of materials ahead of prosecutors. But she also decided that prosecutors would not immediately have access to the materials and that Mr. Trump would ultimately receive copies of the documents that pertain to him.

The courtroom battle over what to do with the seized material came one week after federal agents, in an extraordinary move, descended on Mr. Cohen’s properties and walked away with 10 boxes of documents and as many as a dozen electronic devices, including cellphones and computer hard drives.

Lawyers for Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen, and prosecutors with the United States attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, had asked Judge Wood for the right to look at the documents in order to determine which among them might be protected by attorney-client privilege. That step is important because it could affect which documents prosecutors can ultimately use in the investigation.

In the aftermath of the raid, people in the Trump administration said they saw the Cohen inquiry as a more serious threat to Mr. Trump than the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.

washington post logodjt official SmallWashington Post, Fired FBI director Comey says Trump is ‘morally unfit’ and may be vulnerable to Russian blackmail, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett, April 16, 2018 (print edition). In his first televised interview since being fired, James B. Comey took aim at President Trump in no uncertain terms, comparing his administration to a mafia family, likening his presidency to a forest fire and asserting there was evidence that he had committed a crime. The interview aired just days before Comey is set to release a book and begin promoting it.

washington post logosean hannity gage skidmore 3Washington Post, Trump lawyer Michael Cohen did legal work for Fox News commentator Sean Hannity, Devlin Barrett, April 16, 2018. Hannity’s identity was revealed by an attorney for Cohen during a court hearing in Manhattan, according to the Associated Press, and confirmed by a source familiar with the relationship. Hannity, the top-rated prime time host at Fox News, is shown in a portrait by Gage Skidmore.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Why Robert Mueller just had the best day ever, Bill Palmer, April 16, 2018. Donald Trump, Michael Cohen, and Sean Hannity all had very bad days today. Trump and Cohen lost their desperation bid in court to get the seized communications between them thrown out, and in the process Hannity was bizarrely outed as a client of Cohen. But none of that is the reason why Special Counsel Robert Mueller had his best day ever today. Instead it had to do with what Mueller didn’t do today.

Even as today’s court battle played outo, with the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York on one side, Trump and Cohen on the other side, and Stormy Daniels also in attendance because at this point why not just invite everyone, someone was conspicuously missing. Robert Mueller wasn’t anywhere near this court battle, physically or jurisdictionally. Nor was anyone from Mueller’s team. That, of course, was the entire point.

Mueller smartly handed off the Cohen investigation to the SDNY, because it places it in the hands of people who don’t work for him. Let’s say Trump wakes up in a bad mood tomorrow and decides he’s going to try to fire Mueller after all. Even if Trump succeeded in firing him, which would be a long shot to begin with, it wouldn’t stop anything that’s playing out in that courtroom. Is Trump also going to fire the U.S. Attorney for SDNY? He just appointed the guy recently. Even if he did, the Deputy U.S. Attorney would inherit the case, and he’s the one who signed off on the raid in the first place. Trump would have to fire him too.

It’s bad enough for Donald Trump that he might have to fire half the Department of Justice just to find an Acting Attorney General willing to fire Robert Mueller. Now he’d also have to fire a bunch of people at the U.S. Attorney’s office in SDNY. Mueller has spread out the investigation to the point that Trump can’t come close to shutting it down simply by getting rid of any one person. As much as Trump is reeling from his stinging and humiliating loss in court today, Mueller wasn’t even involved. That’s why today was such a great day for Mueller. He’s managed to make this investigation larger than just himself.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump lawyer Cohen seeks to withhold identity of mystery client, Philip Rucker, Carol D. Leonnig, Anton Troianovski and Greg Jaffe, April 16, 2018. Devlin Barrett, who is under criminal investigation for possible bank fraud and campaign finance violations, has argued that material seized in the raids could contain privileged information. What to make of the dramatic court fight over Michael Cohen’s documents?

More Trouble For Pruitt At EPA

scott pruitt epa

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt

washington post logoepa general logoWashington Post, Scott Pruitt’s $43,000 soundproof phone booth at EPA violated spending laws, federal watchdog finds, Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin​, April 16, 2018. A Government Accountability Office investigation found that the installation violated a law that prohibits an agency from paying more than $5,000 to redecorate or furnish a presidential appointee’s office without approval.

Trump Deficits?

washington post logoDonald Trump Logo Make America Great AgainWashington Post, How Congress’s and Trump’s latest deficit binge paved the way for the next one, Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin​, ​April 16, 2018. By 2022, the U.S. government is projected to spend almost as much money on interest payments for its massive debt as it will on the Pentagon. President Trump and Congress have not only massively expanded the U.S. government’s debt, they have broken free of multiple guardrails intended to keep budgets balanced, freeing future lawmakers to further expand the yawning gap between what the government takes in and what it spends.

A Government Accountability Office investigation found that the installation violated a law that prohibits an agency from paying more than $5,000 to redecorate or furnish a presidential appointee’s office without approval,

Scandal-plagued Japan Leader To Meet Trump

washington post logojapan flagWashington Post, Japanese Prime Minister Abe, embroiled in scandals, faces calls to stand down, Anna Fifield, April 16, 2018. Protesters call for Japan’s prime minister to step down amid scandals. President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will have something new to bond over when they meet at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida on Tuesday: how to weather a storm of relentless political onslaughts.

Both are embroiled in controversies surrounding dodgy financial deals, but while Trump’s poll numbers are holding up, Abe’s have plummeted to record lows. The Japanese leader is flailing so badly that former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi has suggested that he should stand down at the end of June to avoid tainting the entire Liberal Democratic Party.

 washington post logoJames Comey Higher Loyalty coverWashington Post, The morning after Comey’s interview airs, Trump throws another punch at the fired FBI director, John Wagner and Matt Zapotosky, April 16, 2018. President Trump took fresh aim at fired FBI director James B. Comey on Monday, lambasting his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server and asserting again that Comey and another FBI official had committed crimes. Trump’s comments on Twitter were his first since Comey’s high-profile television interview Sunday night in which he said he believes Trump is “morally unfit” to be president and that he hopes Trump will be voted out of office.

washington post logofbi logoWashington Post, Trump wants to review material seized from personal lawyer before federal investigators, Devlin Barrett, April 16, 2018 (print edition). In a new court filing, the president’s attorneys argued that his team should be allowed to review material taken from Michael Cohen’s office.President Trump asked a federal judge Sunday night to allow him to review documents that FBI agents seized from the office of his longtime lawyer before criminal investigators have a chance to see the material.

michael cohen iowa politics.com via flickr preston kempThe request underscores the high stakes in an ongoing legal fight in federal court in New York, where Michael Cohen, Trump’s lawyer (shown at right), is also fighting to get a chance to review material seized as part of a criminal investigation of his business dealings.Trump’s request, in the form of a letter from other lawyers representing him, could further complicate a hearing set for Monday afternoon.

During that session, lawyers for Cohen are expected to tell the judge overseeing the case how many legal clients he has and how many seized documents he thinks might be covered by attorney-client privilege.Cohen is set to attend the hearing. Also expected to be on hand is adult-film star Stormy Daniels (shown below with Trump), whom Cohen secretly paid $130,000 in 2016 to keep quiet the details of an alleged sexual liaison she had with Trump.

djt stormy daniels screengrab

Syria, Media, Fake News

wayne madsen may 29 2015 croppedStrategic Culture Foundation, Opinion: British Propaganda and Disinformation: An Imperial and Colonial Tradition, Wayne Madsen (shown at left during a panel discussion), April 16, 2018. Investigative reporter Wayne Madsen, a widely published commentator in the U.S. and internationally, was a Navy intelligence officer for 14 years. His most recent of 15 books is a wayne madsen cia front cover Smallunique, 400-page encyclopedia “The Almost Classified Guide To CIA Front Companies, Proprietaries & Contractors,” based on non-classified sources and showing a number of prominent “news organizations”  as partners of intelligence agencies. Its cover is at right.

When it comes to creating bogus news stories and advancing false narratives, the British intelligence services have few peers. In fact, the Secret Intelligence Service (MI-6) has led the way for its American “cousins” and Britain’s Commonwealth partners – from Canada and Australia to India and Malaysia – in the dark art of spreading falsehoods as truths.

sergei skripal julia skirpal pub Recently, the world has witnessed such MI-6 subterfuge in news stories alleging that Russia carried out a novichok nerve agent attack against a Russian émigré and his daughter (shown in a restaurant after supposedly being poisoned with a fast-acting nerve agent) in Salisbury, England. This propaganda barrage was quickly followed by yet another – the latest in a series of similar fabrications – alleging the Syrian government attacked civilians in Douma, outside of Damascus, with chemical weapons.

It should come as no surprise that American news networks rely on British correspondents stationed in northern Syria and Beirut as their primary sources. MI-6 has historically relied on non-official cover (NOC) agents masquerading primarily as journalists, but also humanitarian aid workers, Church of England clerics, international bankers, and hotel managers, to carry out propaganda tasks.

United Kingdom flagThese NOCs are situated in positions where they can promulgate British government disinformation to unsuspecting actual journalists and diplomats.

For decades, a little-known section of the British Foreign Office – the Information Research Department (IRD) – carried out propaganda campaigns using the international media as its platform on behalf of MI-6. Years before Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi, and Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir became targets for Western destabilization and “regime change.” IRD and its associates at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and in the newsrooms and editorial offices of Fleet Street broadsheets, tabloids, wire services, and magazines, particularly “The Daily Telegraph,” “The Times,” “Financial Times,” Reuters, “The Guardian,” and “The Economist,” ran media smear campaigns against a number of leaders considered to be leftists, communists, or FTs (fellow travelers).

Through IRD-MI-6-Central Intelligence Agency joint propaganda operations, many British journalists received payments, knowingly or unknowingly, from the CIA via a front in London called Forum World Features (FWF), owned by John Hay Whitney, publisher of the “New York Herald Tribune” and a former US ambassador to London. It is not a stretch to believe that similar and even more formal relationships exist today between US and British intelligence and so-called British “journalists” reporting from such war zones as Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan, and the Gaza Strip, as well as from much-ballyhooed nerve agent attack locations as Salisbury, England.

No sooner had recent news reports started to emerge from Douma about a Syrian chlorine gas and sarin agent attack that killed between 40 to 70 civilians, British reporters in the Middle East and London began echoing verbatim statements from the Syrian “White Helmets” and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

In actuality, the White Helmets – claimed by Western media to be civilian defense first-responders but are Islamist activists connected to jihadist radical groups funded by Saudi Arabia – are believed to have staged the chemical attack in Douma by entering the municipality’s hospital and dowsing patients with buckets of water, video cameras at the ready.

syrian white helmetsThe White Helmets distributed their videos to the global news media, with the BBC and Rupert Murdoch’s Sky News providing a British imprimatur to the propaganda campaign asserting that Assad carried out another “barrel bomb” chemical attack against “his own people.” And, as always, the MI-6-financed Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an anti-Assad news front claimed to be operated by a Syrian expatriate and British national named Rami Abdel Rahman from his clothing shop in Coventry, England, began providing second-sourcing for the White Helmet’s chemical attack claims.

With President Trump bringing more and more neo-conservatives, discredited from their massive anti-Iraq propaganda operations during the Bush-Cheney era, into his own administration, the world is witnessing the prolongation of the “Trump Doctrine.”The Trump Doctrine can best be explained as follows: A nation will be subject to a US military attack depending on whether Trump is facing a severe political or sex scandal at home.

Fatal Prison Riot In South Carolina

washington post logoWashington Post, 7 inmates dead, 17 injured after hours of rioting at South Carolina prison, Amy B Wang and Mark Berman, April 16, 2018. It took nearly eight hours to contain multiple fights at Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville, S.C.

U.S. Court News

rod blagojevich 2017Reuters, U.S. Supreme Court rejects ex-Illinois governor’s latest appeal, Lawrence Hurley, April 16, 2018. The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday turned away former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s latest bid to shorten his 14-year prison sentence for corruption offenses including soliciting bribes for appointment to the Senate seat that Barack Obama vacated after being elected president in 2008.

The justices left in place a lower court ruling that rejected Blagojevich’s arguments that he deserved leniency because he has been a “model prisoner” in the years he has already spent in federal prison and because some counts in his original 2011 conviction had been thrown out.

Blagojevich, 61 (shown at right in prison), was convicted on charges including wire fraud, extortion and soliciting bribes while governor. He served from January 2003 to January 2009, when the Illinois Senate removed him from office. Blagojevich began serving his sentence in 2012.

Iran Sanctions Update

Reuters via Jerusalem Post, EU fails to agree on new Iran sanctions as Trump deadline nears, Staff report, April 16, 2018. The EU is eager to safeguard the pact, under which Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear ambitions for at least a decade, but United States President Donald Trump has been a fierce critic. The European Union failed to agree on new sanctions against Iran on Monday amid Italy’s opposition and fears that punishing Tehran for its missile program and regional role would not stop US President Donald Trump from abandoning a separate nuclear deal.

Speaking on the sidelines of EU foreign ministers’ discussions in Luxembourg, some diplomats said the outcome meant the EU might not make the US President’s May 12 deadline to “fix” the 2015 nuclear accord. The EU is eager to safeguard the pact, under which Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear ambitions for at least a decade, but Trump has been a fierce critic.

He has threatened not to extend US sanctions relief on Iran related to the agreement which sees the West mostly lifting extensive sanctions in exchange for the Islamic republic curbing its nuclear program.Seeking to respond to Trump’s criticism of the nuclear accord and Tehran more broadly,

France, Britain and Germany proposed directing sanctions at Iranian “militias and commanders” fighting on behalf of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. They hoped holding Iran accountable for this could help convince Trump not to walk away from the nuclear agreement. But they ran into opposition by Italy, backed by Austria.

More On Trump-Cohen Hearings

kimba wood croppedNew York Daily News, Michael Cohen case is being heard by Judge Kimba Wood — aka the ‘Love Judge,’ James Fanelli, April 16, 2018. The judge hearing the legal fight between federal investigators and the President Trump lawyer who inked a hush agreement with a porn star knows her way around Playboy Playmates and a steamy scandal.

Judge Kimba Wood (shown in a file photo at right), the brilliant legal mind who has served in Manhattan Federal Court since 1988 and was once nominated for the U.S. Attorney General post, briefly worked at a Playboy casino in 1966.

But her flirtation with Hugh Hefner’s bunny biz pales in comparison to an extramarital affair she allegedly had in the 1990s that became tabloid fodder. Wood was dubbed the “Love Judge” in 1995 when the soon-to-be ex-wife of a multimillionaire Wall Street financier found his diary, which was filled with passionate prose about his trysts with the jurist. Moneyman Frank Richardson gushed about the time he spent with Wood, describing her as “absolutely wonderful, very intelligent, a complete woman and able to give love wonderfully and freely.”

The illicit romance began in the spring of that year with dinners at ritzy restaurants and weekend getaways at Wood’s country home. At the time, Kimba was married to a Time magazine columnist but the two were about to divorce. Richardson — who was worth an estimated $157 million at the time — wrote in superlatives about the judge, even describing one fireside rendezvous at the country home as “beautiful an eight hours as I have spent in my life.”

April 15

Trump Probes By Special Counsel

washington post logorobert mueller full face fileWashington Post, Congress should ‘forcefully respond’ if Trump fires Mueller, 245 former Justice Department officials say, Kristine Phillips, April 15, 2018 (print edition). Former department employees signed a statement defending special counsel Robert S. Mueller III (shown at right) and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump assails Comey in tweetstorm, suggests ex-FBI director deserves ‘jail,’ Josh Dawsey, April 15, 2018.​ President Trump sharply attacked James B. Comey in a fusillade of tweets Sunday morning, suggesting that the former FBI director deserves to be imprisoned and serving up several of his favorite theories and unsubstantiated allegations of misdeeds.

James Comey Higher Loyalty coverTrump’s tweets are part of a wider effort by the White House and the Republican National Committee to discredit Comey, who has written a damaging tell-all book, titled A Higher Loyalty, to be released Tuesday. A Sunday night interview on ABC News will kick off his national book tour.

Comey’s book is a scathing depiction of his interactions with Trump, whom he likens to an “unethical” mob boss, and casts his inner circle in largely unflattering terms, saying it was more focused on politics than national security.

“I honestly never thought these words would ever come out of my mouth, but I don’t know whether the current President of the United States was with prostitutes, peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013,” Comey said, according to an excerpt released by ABC News. “It’s possible, but I don’t know.”

Syrian Bombing Spin

djt james mattis dod hq

President Trump with Defense Secretary James Mattis in a file photo at Defense Department headquarters

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump tries to appear strong in Syria even as he plans to withdraw, Greg Jaffe, April 15, 2018 (print edition). If the Assad regime is accused again of using chemical weapons, President Trump will have a difficult choice: escalate into a messy conflict that he said he wanted to abandon; or do nothing and risk looking weak.

oenearthlogoOpEdNews, Opinion: The Real Syria Story-Trump, MSM & Bi-Partisan Warhawk Lies, rob kall hsRob Kall (shown at right, April 15, 2018. The real Syria story is that the Democrats, Republicans, almost all of the mainstream media and Trump’s team of liars and chickenhawk war mongers are selling the American public and the world a bill of goods about Syria poisoning its people. Worse, this picture is a re-run. But what the hell. It’s worked before, so they keep on using it.

Here’s my take. Trump had several “good” reasons for sending a quarter billion dollars worth of Tomahawk missiles to Syria. First, he had to distract from the really bad news that the FBI raid of former attorney Cohen’s office could portend prosecution for even worse law violations than Russiagate. Then, there’s that glorious military parade Trump’s been wanting. This fusillade of Tomahawk missiles was a pretty fun substitute for Donny to play with.

syria flagThe truth is, as Jimmy Dore points out in a video here, while also giving Tucker Carlson [of Fox News] credit, is that there is no proof that Syria’s Assad used poison gas on his people, nor any rationale for why he would. This exact scenario, where all the mainstream media and both the Dems and Republicans agree, is a situation where Carlson and Dore propose that we have to be very careful and question the claims, especially when there is bi-partisan agreement.

Honest Foreign News

robert parry headshotConsortium News, Bob Parry: Holding Government and Media to Account, Joe Lauria, April 15, 2018. A memorial was held on Saturday for Robert Parry (shown at right), the late founder and editor of this web site. Among the speakers paying tribute to Bob was Joe Lauria (shown below at left), the new editor of Consortium News.

If you watch Bob’s various talks available on YouTube you’ll see that he was often asked why he started Consortium News. Bob says, essentially, that he got fed up with the resistance he faced from editors who put obstacles in the way of his stories, often of great national significance. One editor at Newsweek told him they were suppressing a story for “the good for the country.”

The facts he’d unearthed went too far in exposing the dark side of American power. His editor was speaking, of course, about what was for the good of the rulers of the country, not the rest of us. As we just heard from John Pilger, Bob created a consortium for journalists who ran up against similar obstruction from their editors: a place for them to publish what they could not get published in the mainstream.

joe lauria head bookSixteen years after Bob launched Consortium News with Sam and Nat, I became one of those journalists. I’d had similar experiences. When I covered the diplomacy at the U.N. leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq for a Canadian chain that published the Montreal Gazette, Ottawa Citizen, and other papers, I gave equal weight in my stories to the German, French and Russian opposition on the Security Council to the invasion. So the chain’s foreign editor called me up one day from Ottawa to berate me for not supporting the war effort in my reporting.

Later, while covering the U.N. for The Wall Street Journal, I found that several of my stories were suppressed or inconvenient facts were getting edited out. One was a story I twice had rejected on a declassified Defense Intelligence Agency document that predicted the rise of ISIS back in 2012 but was ignored in Washington. It said the U.S. and its allies in Europe, Turkey and the Gulf were supporting a Salafist principality in eastern Syria that could turn into an Islamic State. Such a story would undermine the government’s war on terrorism.

Bob was without doubt the best editor I’ve ever had. He was the only one who really understood—or accepted–what I was writing about.

Bob was a supreme skeptic, but he never descended to cynicism. His legacy, which I am committed to carry on, was of a principled, non-partisan approach to journalism. He took a neutral stance reporting on international issues, which some wrongly saw as anti-American. Bob knew never to take a government official’s word for it, especially an intelligence official. He knew people in all governments lie.

But there are two other parties involved: the press and the public. He understood that the press had to act as a filter, to verify and challenge government assertions, before they are passed on to the public. Bob became distraught, and in his last piece poignantly said so, about the state of American journalism, where careerism and vanity had aligned the profession with those in power, a power through which too many reporters seem to live vicariously.

The press’ power is distinct from the government’s, it is the power to hold government accountable on behalf of the public. Bob understood that the mainstream media’s greatest sin was the sin of omission: leaving out of a story, or marginalizing, points of view at odds with a U.S. agenda, but vital for the reader to comprehend a frighteningly complex world.

These things aren’t normally mentioned in polite society. But Bob Parry built his extraordinary career telling those truths. And I’m going to do my damnedest to continue, and honor, his legacy.

Afghan Death Rampage

ny times logoNew York Times, Afghanistan Attacks Leave Dozens Dead and 2 Schools Burned, Najim RFahim and Jawad Sukhanyar, April 15, 2018. Assailants killed at least 26 security officers at checkpoints in four provinces, while separate strikes saw educational archives and labs set ablaze.

Presidential Approval

washington post logodjt official SmallWashington Post, Trump’s approval rating is back near first-100-day levels, Emily Guskin, April 15, 2018. Trump’s approval rating stands at 40 percent in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, slightly more than his 36 percent approval rating when last measured in January. It’s also the highest he’s enjoyed in Post-ABC polling since his first 100 days in office.

JIP 9/11 Column Reprinted Globally

5th Estate (Indonesia), Andrew Kreig: Readers React To Lawyers Petition To DOJ Demanding 9/11 Grand Jury Probe Of WTC 1, 2 and 7 Explosion Data, Editing and graphics by Robert Finnegan, April 15, 2018. Slowly the veil is being pulled back on 9/11 truth. A federal grand jury should investigate the collapses of the World Trade Center Twin Towers during the 9/11 attacks, as well as WTC 7, according to a petition that an expert lawyers group filed on April 10 in New York City’s federal court.

More On Syria

Axios, Opinion: Globally consequential news, Jonathan Swan, April 15, 2018. French President Emmanuel Macron claimed in a television interview that France has convinced President Trump that it is “necessary” to remain in Syria “long-term,” according to the AFP.”

Ten days ago, President Trump was saying the United States of America had a duty to disengage from Syria,” said Macron, according to Agence France-Presse White House correspondent Jérôme Cartillier. “We convinced him it was necessary to stay. I assure you, we have convinced him that it is necessary to stay for the long-term.

“Why this matters: If Trump follows through on this alleged commitment to Macron, it would be one of the biggest and most abrupt foreign policy reversals in his presidency. Trump has demanded for months — over the objections of his national security team — that his administration withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.Trump thinks Syria is a “dump” that probably can’t be fixed — though he’d be happy to let Russia try. He thinks it’s a waste of lives and money and that the U.S. gets “nothing” for its involvement in Syria, according to multiple sources familiar with his thinking.

However, when Trump sees the images of gassed children, he flips in the other direction and issues missiles to Syria — as he did on Friday and last year when news reports and allied intelligence indicated Assad had used chemical weapons to murder Syrian civilians.

But, but, but: Trump’s apparent reversal on Syria wouldn’t be the first time he’s backflipped on the foreign policy instincts he trumpeted during the campaign. Last year, Trump told his aides over and over that he wanted to get out of Afghanistan — citing the same arguments he used for Syria and previously to argue that the Iraq War was a waste of lives and money. But his national security team, led by Defense Secretary James Mattis, ultimately persuaded Trump to keep America in Afghanistan.

WH response: I’ve asked the White House whether it’s true that Macron persuaded Trump to stay the course in Syria. We will update you when we hear back. (Though we suspect Trump may tweet before that happens!)

Different opinion: Moon of Alabama, Analysis/Opinion: F.U.K.U.S. Strikes Syria: Who Won? B, April 14, 2018.

Transitions: Barabara Bush

barbara bush portrait Custom 2

Former First Lady Barbara Bush

washington post logobush family formalWashington Post, Former first lady Barbara Bush turns to ‘comfort care,’ spokesman says, Carolyn Y. Johnson, April 15, 2018. A person close to the family said Bush, 92 (shown at center in a file copy of a family portrait), has been suffering from a lung disease called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and congestive heart failure.

April 14

pentagon dc skyline dod photo

The Pentagon, Washington, DC

Department of Defense Seal

ny times logoNew York Times, Pentagon Declares Syria Strikes Successful, Helene Cooper and Ben Hubbard, April 14, 2018. ‘Heart’ of Assad’s Chemical Program Struck, Officials Say. Warplanes and ships from the United States, Britain and France launched more than 100 missiles at three chemical weapons storage and research facilities near Damascus and Homs, the officials told reporters, in an operation that President Trump and Pentagon leaders hailed as a success.

nikki haley oThe United States is “locked and loaded” to strike again if Mr. Assad again is believed to have used chemical weapons, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley (shown at left) told the Security Council on Saturday at an emergency meeting called by Russia.A statement by the Syrian military said 110 missiles had been fired. Three people were injured in Homs, it said.

Videos from Damascus showed Syrian air defense missiles launching into a dark night sky, and the Russian military said that at one Syrian air base, all 12 cruise missiles that targeted the site had been shot down.Defense Department officials batted down those claims, saying that the entire American-led operation was over and the targets were destroyed before Syria launched any of the 40 missiles it fired into the air.

“If this is it, Assad should be relieved,” tweeted Randa Slim, an analyst at the Middle East Institute. Sure enough, early Saturday morning, Mr. Assad’s office posted a video that appeared to show him strolling into work in a suit and tie and carrying a briefcase as if nothing had happened.

UN logoCondemnation of the strikes from Syria’s allies was swift.“The United States and its allies continue to demonstrate blatant disregard for international law,” said the Russian ambassador to the United Nations, Vasily A. Nebenzya, on Saturday. “It’s time for Washington to learn that the internal code of behavior regarding the use of force is regulated by the United Nations Charter,” he added.

djt syria briefing wh photo

President Trump, center, leads a meeting of advisors regarding plans regarding for Syria (White House photo)

Moon of Alabama, Analysis/Opinion: F.U.K.U.S. Strikes Syria: Who Won? B, April 14, 2018. Last night France, the UK and the U.S.(F.U.K.U.S.) launched an illegal attack on Syria and bombed several military and civilian sites within the country. They justify their attack as revenge or punishment for an alleged ‘chemical attack’ that had taken place a week earlier.

The ‘chemical incident’ on April 7 in Douma was designed to reverse Trump’s publicly announced decision to order the U.S. military out of Syria. The Saudi financed Salafi ‘rebels’ in Douma collected bodies, probably from another incident, and stacked them up in one apartment to stage a scene and to create fake videos of a ‘chemcial attack’ which they falsely attributed to the Syrian government. Trump pretended to fall for the videos and tweeted threats against Syria and Russia. Russia threatened to respond with strong force should any U.S. attack hurt its soldiers or interests in Syria.

United Kingdom flagThe UK and France, who like the U.S. were only recently visited by the Saudi clown prince and showered with fresh Saudi billions, jumped onto the case. France now admits that its ‘intelligence’ of the Douma incident is solely based on the obviously staged YouTube videos and claims made by ‘western’ financed propaganda operations who cooperate with the Jihadis. The ‘White Helmets’ are financed by the British government and are led by a ‘former’ British military intelligence officer.

The direct accusations against Britain may have been a factor in the hasty launch of last night’s strike. Another was surely the arrival of technicians of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in Damascus. These will today investigate the alleged incident in Douma and will likely find that it did not take place. That the three countries did not even wait for preliminary results from the investigation must be seen as an admission of guilt. They know that the ‘chemical attack’ did not take place.

james mattis oThe U.S. military was wary of any potential conflict with Russia. Intense negotiations took place over the last week between the Pentagon and the Russian defense ministry. Secretary of Defense Mattis (right) is said to have talked Trump out of a more serious strike. World War III was avoided.

Last night some 107 missiles and cruise missiles were fired against two research sites and eight military airports in Syria by U.S., French and British forces. The Russian and Syrian forces were warned. People and equipment had been moved. The Russian forces did not directly respond as their areas in Syria were not targeted. The Syrian air defense managed to shoot down or divert 71 of the incoming missiles before they reached their target. The Pentagon claims that none of its missiles were destroyed or diverted from its aim. 

 It is to be stressed that several years ago, given the strong request by our western partners, Russia opted out of supplying the S-300 AD systems to Syria. Taking into account the recent incident, Russia believes it possible to reconsider this issue not only regarding Syria but other countries as well. More countries will now be able to buy and receive state-of-the-art Russian air defense equipment. Future interferences by the U.S. as well as Israeli strikes against Syria will become significantly more risky.

When Syrian receives the S-300 systems it will have the reach to detect and attack any Israeli plane flying over Lebanon. Israel has often used Lebanese airspace to attack targets in Syria.  It will soon lose that luxury. The Pentagon keeps the option open for such further ‘chemical attack’ stunts and U.S. strikes. It today claimed that Syria still has additional chemical weapon facilities. If this were really the case why isn’t the U.S. demanding an inspection and dismantling of these facilities by the OPCW? Syria has signed the Chemical Warfare Convention and would have to accept that.

john bolton youtube guardianThe new U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton, who began work on Monday, is show at right in a screenshot from a YoutTube video.

The obvious U.S. disregard for any international law and for the international organizations like the UN, the OPCW and IAEA will have serious consequences. The U.S. can now surely forget about its desire for an disarmament agreement with North Korea. Russia, China and others will use the example of last night’s strikes to disregard international law when it will suit them. There will be no more favors like holding back S-300 systems or adhering to U.S. sanctions against other countries. In the end the instigators of the incident, the U.S., and its partners in crime, will have hurt themselves more with these strikes than they hurt Syria.

Different opinion: Axios, Opinion: Globally consequential news, Jonathan Swan, April 15, 2018. French President Emmanuel Macron claimed in a television interview that France has convinced President Trump that it is “necessary” to remain in Syria “long-term,” according to the AFP.”

ny times logoNew York Times, News Analysis: Trump Says ‘Mission Accomplished!’ But What Are His Goals? Peter Baker, April 14, 2018. The strike reflected Mr. Trump’s competing impulses: an effort to demonstrate strength countered by a view that involvement in the Middle East since 9/11 has been a waste. “Right now this is a one-time shot, and I believe it has sent a very strong message to dissuade him, to deter him from doing it again,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said of Mr. Assad, although Mr. Trump suggested there might be more to come. “We are prepared to sustain this response,” he said, until Syria abandons its use of chemical weapons.

jonathan shawDaily Mail, Former head of Britain’s special forces says Assad ‘doesn’t need to use gas’ because he’s ‘already won the war’ but give May ‘benefit of the doubt’ over intelligence, Mark Nichol, April 14, 2018. Major General Jonathan Shaw (pictured in an Atlantic Speakers Bureau photo) said: ‘Why would Assad use chemical weapons at this time? He’s won the war.’

A former head of Britain’s Special Forces has challenged Theresa May’s claim that President Assad was behind the chemical attack in Douma. Major General Jonathan Shaw said: ‘Why would Assad use chemical weapons at this time? He’s won the war. ‘That’s not just my opinion, it is shared by senior commanders in the US military. There is no rationale behind Assad’s involvement whatsoever.

“He’s convinced the rebels to leave occupied areas in buses. He’s gained their territory. So why would he be bothering gassing them?” Speaking exclusively to The Mail on Sunday, the ex-SAS and Parachute Regiment commander added: ‘The jihadists and the various opposition groups who’ve been fighting against Assad have much greater motivation to launch a chemical weapons attack and make it look like Assad was responsible.

9/11 Truth Action Project, Opinion: Tripartite Attack on Syria: Another Stepchild of 9/11, 9/11 TAP Staff, April 14, 2018. Government and Mainstream Media Willfully Misinform. The April 14th attack by the United States, Britain and France against the sovereign state of Syria is another troubling incident stemming from the failure of a mainstream media that has not been called to account for their failure to expose the true facts about 9/11.

This attack can only have occurred in an environment in which decisions are made based on the ability to control the media – not the facts. One year ago in April 2017, the United States launched 59 cruise missiles in response to an alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian military. This latest attack launched twice as many cruise missiles as a year ago.

This current example of misinformation, orchestrated by the government and mainstream media, is only possible because of the failure to hold the U.S. government and it’s allies to account for 9/11. Continuing failure to hold the U.S. Government to account for 9/11 can only mean that the poor people of counties like Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya, and will continue to suffer, even though they pose no threat to the United States.

The reason for the attack, as trumpeted through the media, was that the Assad government had used chemical weapons against its citizens on April 7th in the city of Douma. Immediately after the incident before any investigation could be carried out, the US and its allies accused the Assad government of being behind the alleged attack and started drawing up plans for a military action.

The US has brazenly declared that they have proof that the Syrian government, under the direction of Bashar al-Assad, conducted a chemical attack on the town of Douma, ten kilometers out of Damascaus, and that they have a “very high confidence” in their “evidence.” Moreover, Russia is “part of the problem” because of its “failure to stop them”, and their “continued distraction on this front” exacerbates the issue, according to White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Additionally, the State Department’s spokesman Heather Nauert is issuing the declaration that “the Syrian government was behind the attack” at a press briefing.

However, none of the tripartite attackers has provided any evidence to support such a claim.

ny times logobashar al assadNew York Times, 7 Takeaways From the Airstrikes on Syria, Michael Wolgelenter, April 14, 2018.  The strikes were the latest development in a long-running and complex conflict with consequences far beyond Syria itself — including in the United States, Iran, Russia and other parts of Europe. Here are seven takeaways from the airstrikes and their aftermath:

The strikes were intense, limited.

American FlagThe United States and its allies tried to walk a fine line with the airstrikes, sending a strong message to President Bashar al-Assad (shown above right) of Syria without provoking a military response from Russia and Iran, Mr. Assad’s two strongest allies.

Theresa May avoided a conflict at home.

theresa may newer fileMrs. May (the UK prime minister shown at right), has said she believed there was a need to send a strong message about the use of chemical weapons, but she also had compelling diplomatic and political reasons to support the United States — and to carry out the strikes as soon as possible. One imperative was the desire to reciprocate the support London has received from the United States in the dispute with Russia over the poisoning of a former spy, Sergei V. Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia S. Skripal, on British soil

United Kingdom flagMrs. May, who made an explicit connection between the airstrikes in Syria and the poisoning of the Skripals, benefited from the timing of the airstrikes, two days before lawmakers were to return from vacation. While not obligated to consult Parliament, she may have felt constrained to do so and could easily have lost a vote on a strike, as her predecessor David Cameron did in 2013……

washington post logoWashington Post, After Syria attack, U.S. and Russia tensions rise but fears ease of wider military confrontation, Carol Morello, Anne Gearan and Missy Ryan, April 14, 2018. Western leaders warned Syria on Saturday that they could launch further missile strikes if chemical weapons are used again, while the pre-dawn attacks were denounced by Damascus and its backers as illegal actions that would carry repercussions.

The morning after coordinated attacks by the United States, France and Britain, it was unclear whether the strikes by 100 or more missiles would have any long-term impact on Syria’s use of chemical weapons or on Russia’s critical backing of the Syrian government.

There was, however, an uneasy sense of relief that the strikes on three targets — believed to be research and storage cogs in Syrian’s chemical weapons production — had not caused Russian casualties, which could have led to a direct confrontation between Washington and Moscow.

vladimir putin o wThe rhetoric was harsh, though. Russian President Vladimir Putin (shown at left) said the strikes would have “a destructive effect on the entire system of international relations” and called for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council. But there were no signs the Russian military was preparing a retaliatory response that could bring Moscow and Washington into direct confrontation. Syrian television called the attacks a “flagrant violation” of international law, and Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, derided them as a “military crime.”

Washington, Paris and London have said they have proof, without identifying it, that chlorine gas caused victims to suffocate. Inspectors from the international Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons were expected to make their initial foray Saturday to Douma. They will collect soil samples and talk to witnesses in attempts to pin down what occurred.

james mattis oDefense Secretary Jim Mattis (shown at right) called the overnight attacks a “one time shot.” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said no more attacks were planned for now, but threatened more strikes if the Syrian military used chemical weapons again.

“A perfectly executed strike last night,” tweeted President Trump. “Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine Military. Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!”

Russia further claimed that Syrian forces used older Soviet-made air defense systems to intercept incoming missiles. The Pentagon has given no immediate assessment on whether any missiles were taken down by air defenses.

sergei rudskoi

SouthFront, Russia Says Syrian Forces Intercepted 71 Of 103 Launched Missiles, Announces Possible S-300 Systems Deliveries To Syria, Staff report, April 14, 2018. Russia Says Syrian Forces Intercepted 71 Of 103 Launched Missiles, Announces Possible S-300 Systems Deliveries To Syria.

russian flagThe US, the UK and France launched 103 missiles on Syria last night, 71 of them were shot down by Syrian forces, Head of the Russian General Staff Main Operations Department Sergey Rudskoy (shown above in a file photo) announced during a short press briefing on April 14. “Syria’s means of air defense: S-125, S-200 air defense systems, [as well as] Buk and Kvadrat units were used in the repelling the missile strike,” the Russian Defense Ministry said.

Rudskoy added that no missiles had entered into the zone of responsibility of the Russian Air Defense Forces and Russian air defense system had not responded to the attack.

He described the US strikes on Syria as a response to the recent achievements of the Syrian Arab Army in restoring Syrian territorial integrity and combating the terrorism. As a resulf of the event, Russia will consider S-300 air defense systems deliveries to Syria and “other countries.”

Trump Probes

washington post logodjt official SmallWashington Post, Real or ‘Fake News’? Either way, lewd tape allegations pose a challenge for Trump, Ashley Parker, April 14, 2018. As the former FBI director’s new book describes President Trump as obsessed with uncorroborated intelligence about a Moscow hotel encounter, the president’s yawning credibility problem undercuts claims that the allegations are false.

The tawdriest detail in former FBI director James B. Comey’s new memoir offers the perfect mix of sex, spies and kink — call it “Fifty Shades of le Carré” for the Trump era. Comey describes President Trump’s obsession with uncorroborated intelligence suggesting that Russia had compromising material on him — specifically including footage of him watching prostitutes urinate on each other in a Moscow hotel room in 2013, while Trump was in town for the Miss Universe pageant.

The president has repeatedly denied the allegation — which emerged in early 2017 with news reports of a dossier funded by political opponents of his — and there currently exists no credible evidence to verify the claim. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders forcefully attacked the entire dossier in a news conference Friday.

And yet.

robert mueller full face fileMcClatchy DC, Sources: Mueller has evidence Cohen was in Prague in 2016, confirming part of dossier, Peter Stone And Greg Gordon, April 13, 2018. The Justice Department special counsel has evidence that Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and confidant, Michael Cohen, secretly made a late-summer trip to Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Confirmation of the trip would lend credence to a retired British spy’s report that Cohen strategized there with a powerful Kremlin figure about Russian meddling in the U.S. election. It would also be one of the most significant developments thus far in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of whether the Trump campaign and the Kremlin worked together to help Trump win the White House. Undercutting Trump’s repeated pronouncements that “there is no evidence of collusion,” it also could ratchet up the stakes if the president tries, as he has intimated he might for months, to order Mueller’s firing.

Trump’s threats to fire Mueller (shown at right) or the deputy attorney general overseeing the investigation, Rod Rosenstein, grew louder this week when the FBI raided Cohen’s home, hotel room and office on Monday. The raid was unrelated to the Trump-Russia collusion probe, but instead focused on payments made to women who have said they had sexual relationships with Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, Michael Cohen’s visiting Prague would be a huge development in the Russia investigation, Philip Bump​, April 14, 2018. Three unconfirmed reports in the Steele dossier outline a trip President Trump’s personal lawyer made in 2016, suggesting he took over management of the relationship with Russia after campaign chairman Paul Manafort was fired. Cohen said he never made the trip.

ny times logomichael cohen iowa politics.com via flickr preston kempNew York Times, Trump Calls Cohen as Court Case Reveals Scope of Raid, Matt Apuzzo, Eileen Sullivan, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman, April 14, 2018 (print edition). A major donor with close ties to the White House resigned on Friday as deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee after the revelation that he had agreed to pay $1.6 million to a former Playboy model who became pregnant during an affair.

republican elephant logoThe deal was arranged by President Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen (shown at right), a Deputy Director of the Republican National Committee. Under the terms of the deal, the Republican donor, Elliott Broidy, would pay the woman in installments over the course of two years, and in return, she would agree to stay silent about their relationship, two people with knowledge of the arrangement told The New York Times. The deal was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

The lawyer for the woman, Keith M. Davidson, also represented two women who were paid during the presidential campaign for their silence about alleged affairs with Mr. Trump — a former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, who sold the rights to her story to American Media Inc., and Stephanie Clifford, the pornographic actress known as Stormy Daniels, who received a payment of $130,000 that Mr. Cohen said came out of his own pocket.

President Trump’s call to “check in” with his longtime confidant, Michael D. Cohen, came as prosecutors revealed a monthslong investigation into Mr. Cohen’s activity. It is not clear what else they discussed in a call that came days after a series of F.B.I. raids. Depending on what was said, the call could be problematic for both men.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason Donald Trump is so worried about Michael Cohen, Daniel Cotter, April 14, 2018. Reports Friday noted that Donald Trump was more concerned/worried about the raids on his lawyer’s office and home than he is by the Mueller Russia investigation. There may be several reasons that Trump is concerned, including what it might mean for his organization.

On June 16, 1999, then-Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder issued a memo, “Bringing Criminal Charges Against Corporations,” setting forth factors to take into account when charging a corporation. The memo states: “Corporations are ‘legal persons,’ capable of…committing crimes. Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, a corporation may be held criminally liable for the illegal acts of its [representatives].” The memo recognized that corporations are artificial, acting through their agents, including employees.

The Holder Memo has been amended several times over the years by subsequent Deputy Attorney Generals, including most recently Yates, but the basics remain. The corporation may be indicted, considering the “pervasiveness of wrongdoing.”

michael cohen iowa politics.com via flickr preston kempMichael Cohen (shown at right) has been the Executive Vice President of The Trump Organization.In a recent excellent book, We The Corporations, Adam Winkler describes the development of rights that corporations have achieved under the Constitution.

Like people, corporations are subject to criminal indictment and conviction, and nothing in the developments Winkler describes changes that reality.Recall that in 2017, one of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ first initiatives was a resurged focus on civil-asset forfeitures, which allows law enforcement to seize assets with provable ties to crime without conviction and many argue without due process. There is also the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which makes it criminal for “certain classes of person and entities to make payments to foreign government officials to assist in obtaining or retaining business.”

While the investigation of Cohen and his potential criminal activity is ongoing, one reason Trump might be sweating this investigation is the potential consequences it holds for his namesake entity. If evidence gained from the Cohen search warrants (which revealed he does little if any legal work) shows criminal conduct of the entity, could Trump Organization be next? Mueller has indicted several Russian entities in his investigation, so we know the Feds are not afraid to pursue corporate wrongdoing.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s attorney’s attorney is “missing,” Bill Palmer, April 14, 2018. Michael Avenatti, the attorney for Stormy Daniels, is having fun this week – because he’s winning. Their lawsuit against Donald Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen has at least partially led to an FBI raid of Cohen’s office and residence, and Trump has been dragged right into the center of it.

David Schwartz, the attorney for Michael Cohen, doesn’t appear to be having fun this week, as he’s gone “missing. ”That’s the word being used by Avenatti, at least. Ever since Monday’s FBI raid, it’s been Trump’s legal team taking the lead in the courtroom, even though Cohen is the confirmed target of the SDNY U.S. Attorney’s office investigation in question. So what happened to Cohen’s legal team? Specifically, where has Cohen’s attorney been since the raid?

That’s a question that Avenatti would now like answered.Avenatti tweeted this today: “David Schwartz (Mr. Trump’s lawyer’s lawyer) is missing. He has not been seen since his Megyn Kelly interview 2 weeks ago. I wonder if he is in the audio/docs that were seized from Mr. Cohen by the FBI? So now we’re at a point where a porn star and her attorney are running circles around the President of the United States, his attorney, and his attorney’s attorney.

April 13

U.S., Britain, France Bomb Syria on Disputed Claim Of Chemicals

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S., allies launch strikes in Syria in response to suspected chemical attack, Anne Gearan and Missy Ryan, April 13, 2018. Trump joins Britain and France in ordering missile strikes against Syrian government. The coordinated attack was in retaliation for what Western nations said was the deliberate gassing of Syrian civilians. The assault announced Friday night in an address to the nation followed repeated threats of military action from President Trump.

Consortium News, Trump Urged to Seek Evidence Before Attacking Syria, April 13, 2018. In this memo to the White House, the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity urge President Trump to get the evidence first before deciding to strike Syria.


FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

SUBJECT: Evidence Required for Military Decision on Syria

Mr. President,

We the undersigned Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity join a number of other credible experts including former UK Ambassador to Syria, Peter Ford (this recent interview on BBC Radio Scotland), former UN weapons inspectors and former military officers who are strongly recommending that you obtain and review actual evidence from the site of the alleged chemical attack in Douma, Syria, before ordering any military action. VIPS has previously reported credible evidence indicating that anti-government forces in Syria have themselves produced and used toxic chemical agents.

Centcom logoContradictory indications exist given that the video and images of victims in the locations purportedly affected by chemical weapons came from rebel-affiliated entities known as the “Douma Revolution” and the “White Helmets” while Russian military units which later got physical access to the supposed sites and Syrian Red Crescent personnel working in the area reportedly found no indication of a chemical weapon attack.

A major question for us, as former intelligence officers with some knowledge of the operational use of misinformation and false flag actions, is what motive would the Syrian government have for making a chemical weapons attack on its own civilian population, especially at a time when it has growing popular support and is having increased military success. Why would it risk Western ire?

Rebel fighters and their families were already being evacuated to Turkish occupied Jarabulus by air-conditioned bus. As described in more detail by Scott Ritter (here), only Salafist fighters from the “Army of Islam” (Jaish al-Islam) had refused to surrender at the time of the supposed attacks.

One must therefore consider the possibility that the supposed chlorine gas attack at Douma may have been a carefully constructed propaganda fraud. Such a fraud would have as its purpose the elicitation of precisely the kind of political pressure that now has you contemplating military action. In other words, Mr. President, this may be a bid to mousetrap you into a war that neither you nor your fellow Americans want nor need.

Trump Faces Tightening Legal Noose

djt time covers april 23 2018 tim obrien feb 27 17 Custom

Time Magazine’s “Stormy” cover for its April 23 issue (currently on sale) at right contrasts with another cover by the same artist published on Feb. 27, 2017

Trump’s Personal Lawyer, An RNC Official Under Criminal Probe For Months

Trump Goes Ballistic Against Former FBI Director

James Comeyny times logoJames Comey Higher Loyalty coverNew York Times, Trump Attacks Comey: ‘Untruthful Slime Ball,’ Michael D. Sear and Eileen Sullivan, April 13, 2018. President Trump, who fired James B. Comey (shown above) as his F.B.I. director, took to Twitter to disparage him as a leaker and a liar, a day after excerpts from Mr. Comey’s upcoming memoir were shared.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Untruthful slime ball’: Trump blasts Comey as details emerge from scathing book, John Wagner, April 13, 2018. President Trump fires off tweets as former FBI director James B. Comey talks about his new book that savages Trump and his presidency.

New Playboy Scandal On Abortion Hits Republicans

elliott broidyWall Street Journal, Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen Negotiated $1.6 Million Settlement for Top Republican Fundraiser, Joe Palazzolo and Michael Rothfeld, April 13, 2018. President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer negotiated a deal in late 2017 to pay $1.6 million to a former Playboy model who said she was impregnated by a top Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy (shown at right), according to people familiar with the matter.

ny times logoNew York Times, R.N.C. Official Quits Over $1.6 Million Payment to Model, Rebecca R. Ruiz, and Jim Rutenberg, April 13, 2018. Elliott Broidy resigned as deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee after the revelation of a $1.6 million payout to a Playboy model arranged by President Trump’s lawyer.

republican elephant logoA major donor with close ties to the White House resigned on Friday as deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee after the revelation that he had agreed to pay $1.6 million to a former Playboy model who became pregnant during an affair.

The deal was arranged by President Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen.

Justice Department log circularUnder the terms of the deal, the Republican donor, Elliott Broidy, would pay the woman in installments over the course of two years, and in return, she would agree to stay silent about their relationship, two people with knowledge of the arrangement told The New York Times. The deal was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

The lawyer for the woman, Keith M. Davidson, also represented two women who were paid during the presidential campaign for their silence about alleged affairs with Mr. Trump — a former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, who sold the rights to her story to American Media Inc., and Stephanie Clifford, the pornographic actress known as Stormy Daniels, who received a payment of $130,000 that Mr. Cohen said came out of his own pocket.

DOJ Report Slams Former Deputy Director

ny times logobashar al assadNew York Times, Former F.B.I. Deputy Director Is Faulted in Scathing Report, Adam Goldman and Nicholas Fandos, April 13, 2018.  The Justice Department inspector general accused the former official, Andrew G. McCabe (shown at right) of repeatedly misleading investigators. Mr. McCabe was fired in March hours before he was eligible for a full pension.

Trump Tapes Seized From Private Counsel?

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s attorney was known for taping conversations. Now the president’s allies worry the FBI has the recordings, Ashley Parker, Carol D. Leonnig, Josh Dawsey and Tom Hamburger​, April 13, 2018. Michael D. Cohen, a close confidant of the president, was known to store the conversations using digital files and then replay them for colleagues, according to people who have interacted with him.

michael cohen iowa politics.com via flickr preston kempPresident Trump’s personal attorney Michael D. Cohen (shown at right) sometimes taped conversations with associates, according to three people familiar with his practice, and allies of the president are worried that the recordings were seized by federal investigators in a raid of Cohen’s office and residences this week.

Cohen, who served for a decade as a lawyer at the Trump Organization and is a close confidant of Trump, was known to store the conversations using digital files and then replay them for colleagues, according to people who have interacted with him.

FBI logo“We heard he had some proclivity to make tapes,” said one Trump adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation. “Now we are wondering, who did he tape? Did he store those someplace where they were actually seized? . . . Did they find his recordings?”

Cohen did not respond to requests for comment. Stephen Ryan, an attorney for Cohen, declined to comment. A White House spokeswoman referred a request for comment to Cohen and his attorney.

Trump Businesses

washington post logoWashington Post, Whatever happened to Trump steaks and coffee? They’re over. So is most of Trump’s merchandising empire, Zane Anthony, Kathryn Sanders and David A. Fahrenthold​, April 13, 2018. When Donald Trump ran for president in 2015, he had 19 companies paying him to put the Trump name on their products. Now, only two are left.

Threat Alleged From Roger Stone

roger stoneYahoo News, Comedian Randy Credico says Trump adviser Roger Stone threatened his dog, Michael Isikoff, April 13, 2018.  New York City comic and ex-radio host Randy Credico says that longtime Donald Trump adviser Roger Stone (shown in a file photo) sent him “scary,” obscenity-filled emails — including one threatening his dog — after he went public disputing Stone’s claim that Credico was his “backchannel” to WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential campaign.

In a new interview on the Yahoo News podcast “Skullduggery,” Credico shared with co-hosts Daniel Klaidman and Michael Isikoff email messages he said he had received from Stone in just the last few days. Asked for comment, Stone responded Thursday night in an email to Isikoff: “Go f*** yourself FBI Schill [sic].”

U.S. Attack On Syria Disputes

Roll Call, Democratic Veterans Slam Trump Tweets on Syria, Eric Garcia, April 13, 2018. ‘We know that launching missiles is serious business.‘ Democratic members of Congress who served in the military criticized President Donald Trump’s tweets on Syria and Republicans’ unwillingness to rein in the use of military force in a press conference Friday.

Rep. Mike Thompson of California said the president’s tweeting was a disservice to veterans and the humanitarian crisis that has emerged in Syria. “Veterans had to grapple with what war means and we know that launching missiles is serious business,” Thompson said. “Not something you joke about and not something you joke or tweet about at a dinner.”

#MeToo Scandal Hits Nobel Prize Leader

ny times logosweden flagNew York Times, In Nobel Scandal, a Man Is Accused of Sexual Misconduct. A Woman Takes the Fall, Christina Anderson, April 13, 2018 (print edition). The first woman to lead the body that awards the Nobel Prize in Literature was forced out on Thursday, a stunning casualty in a sexual abuse and harassment scandal that has threatened to sully one of the world’s most acclaimed cultural honors.

Since 2015, Sara Danius, a literary scholar and the first woman to lead the body, had been the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, which was created in 1786 and has awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature since 1901. She was ousted on Thursday from her role as permanent secretary — the de facto public face of the literature prize — as part of a feud that has bitterly divided the academy’s board.

“It has already affected the Nobel Prize quite severely, and that is a big problem,” an emotional Ms. Danius told reporters Thursday evening, accompanied by an ally, the author Sara Stridsberg, who has also threatened to quit. The scandal has reached the highest levels of the government. “It’s up to the academy to restore faith and respect,” the prime minister, Stefan Lofven, told reporters on Thursday. “It’s a very important issue for Sweden, and therefore it is important that this institution works.”

Cornell Grad Seeks Arsonist In Fatal Fire

ny times logoNew York Times, A College Dorm Fire Has Become One Man’s Obsession, N. R. Kleinfield, April 13, 2018. N. R. Kleinfield, a former long-time member cornell bannerof The Times’s Metro staff, is a freelance writer and the author of eight books. The 1967 blaze at Cornell University killed nine, including members of a fast-track Ph.D. program. No one was ever charged, but an amateur investigator thinks he knows who set it.

Students awoke to what they thought was the murmur of children playing. They awoke to what they assumed was a pesky classmate banging on the door to borrow a textbook. They awoke from a lifelike dream that they were at a barbecue, could even smell the smoke. There was smoke. It was just after 4 in the morning. The dorm was on fire.

It had ignited in the basement lounge of the Cornell Heights Residential Club, a repurposed motel on the northern fringe of the expansive Cornell University campus in Ithaca, N.Y. Its principal residents were in the initial class of an experimental program inviting gifted students to earn a Ph.D. in six years. There were 50 of them (a few were elsewhere that night), and they called themselves Phuds or Fuds. The building also housed two dozen women on the second floor who were seniors or graduate students, plus three faculty counselors, a student adviser and a cook.

Bleary students scrambled to escape, some barefoot and one hobbling on crutches. Blinding smoke made it virtually impossible to reach the front doors, and few did. Students used shoehorns and grapefruit knives to detach screens and squirm out windows, or stumbled out a basement exit into the stabbing cold. A few jumped or knotted sheets together to shimmy down. Those on the second floor mostly backed down the ladders of firefighters or ones Phuds appropriated from a fraternity house. The cook was carried out unconscious by a muscular fraternity member and a Phud. John Finch, an associate English professor, got out, then sprinted back in to alert students, smacking furniture and screaming for them to run.

Afterward, many of the residents assembled at a nearby sorority. The mood darkened when the unimaginable news filtered in. Eight students died from asphyxiation. So did the heroic Mr. Finch. Three students were Phuds — Martha Beck, Jeffrey Smith and Peter Cooch — while the others were women from the second floor: Jennie Zu-wei Sun, Meimei Cheng, Anne McCormic, Carol Kurtz and Johanna Christina Wallden.

In 1967, William Fogle was a Cornell freshman studying engineering. The fire barely registered for him. He didn’t know any Phuds. He lived on the west side of campus, distant from the Res Club, as it was known. Besides his studies, he was preoccupied with two adventures. A member of R.O.T.C., he was preparing for a Navy tour and getting ready to pledge a fraternity.

“I was oblivious,” he said. “The fire had no personal meaning to me — none at all.”

This detachment continued for many years. And then one day the fire found him.

April 12

nbc news logoNBC News, Trump, Mueller teams prepare to move forward without presidential interview, Carol E. Lee, Julia Ainsley, Kristen Welker and Hallie Jackson, April 12, 2018. Monday’s raid on Trump’s personal lawyer upended talks for the president to sit down with investigators. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office and President Donald Trump’s legal team are now proceeding with strategies that presume a presidential interview will likely not take place as part of the Russia investigation, after months of talks between the two sides collapsed earlier this week, according to multiple people familiar with the matter.

republican elephant logoOn Monday Trump’s lawyers were discussing a possible interview with Mueller’s team and had begun to hash out the final sticking points, including the timing, scope and length, according to people familiar with the discussions. One person familiar with the strategy said the president’s lawyers had over the weekend sought to expand his legal team to include individuals who would prepare him for an interview. Another person familiar with the matter, however, said preparations had not yet gone that far.

But the prospects for a presidential interview dramatically dimmed once the FBI raided the home, office and hotel room of Trump’s long-time personal lawyer, Michael Cohen on Monday, these people said. The president criticized the raid as out of bounds in Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion with Trump aides.


time logo ogTime Magazine, The Story Behind TIME’s ‘Stormy’ Donald Trump Cover, Skye Gurney and D.W. Pine, Illustrations by Tim O’Brien for Time, April 12, 2018, Nothing to See Here, Feb. 27, 2017 Stormy, April, 23, 2018. The April 23 Time cover, depicting the growing chaos within the Trump White House, may look familiar to some readers: We asked longtime TIME collaborator Tim O’Brien to reimagine a cover he did for us just over a year ago.
 With his inventive style and fine hairline brush, Tim’s updated piece shows the rising water from the storms swirling inside the Oval Office.

“When I painted the ‘Nothing to See Here’ cover art, like many, I assumed the level of chaos could not last, that patriots on both sides of the aisle would step forward to control much of what transpired in the past year,” says O’Brien, a Brooklyn-based artist whose work has appeared on over two dozen TIME covers since 1989, covering subjects ranging from the Catholic church to Osama Bin Laden.

“As the never-ending flood of breaking news washed over the White House, and the firings, the scandals and the general mayhem filled each news cycle, I felt the storm metaphor was as relevant as ever,” says O’Brien, who used air brush, pencil, gouache and oil paint to create the piece.” “I mostly thought about how water would fill the space, how it would be transparent in some areas and reflective in others.”

New Comey Book

ny times logoNew York Times, Review: Comey’s Story of a ‘Forest Fire’ Presidency, Michiko Kakutani, April 12, 2018. In A Higher Loyalty,” James B. Comey, the James Comey Higher Loyalty coverformer F.B.I. director, offers an inside view of the drama leading up to the 2016 presidential election, and he doesn’t mince words. Here’s our critic’s review of the memoir.

From publisher’s announcement of Comey memoir, to be released next Tuesday 13: In his forthcoming book, former FBI director James Comey shares his never-before-told experiences from some of the highest-stakes situations of his career in the past two decades of American government, exploring what good, ethical leadership looks like, and how it drives sound decisions. His journey provides an unprecedented entry into the corridors of power, and a remarkable lesson in what makes an effective leader.

washington post logoWashington Post, Comey says in his memoir that Trump was fixated on proving lewd dossier allegations false, Philip Rucker, April 12, 2018. In his new book, the fired FBI director details his “disturbing” talks with Trump and concludes that this presidency is “a forest fire” that must be contained. James B. Comey describes Trump as having been obsessed with the prostitutes portion of the infamous dossier compiled by a former British intelligence officer, raising it at least four times with the FBI head.

The nation’s intelligence chiefs had just finished briefing Donald Trump on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election when FBI Director James B. Comey stayed behind to discuss some especially sensitive material: a “widely circulated” intelligence dossier contained unconfirmed allegations that Russians had filmed Trump interacting with prostitutes in Moscow in 2013.

The president-elect quickly interrupted the FBI director. According to Comey’s account in a new memoir, Trump “strongly denied the allegations, asking — rhetorically, I assumed — whether he seemed like a guy who needed the service of prostitutes. He then began discussing cases where women had accused him of sexual assault, a subject I had not raised. He mentioned a number of women, and seemed to have memorized their allegations.”

The January 2017 conversation at Trump Tower in Manhattan “teetered toward disaster” — until “I pulled the tool from my bag: ‘We are not investigating you, sir.’ That seemed to quiet him,” Comey writes.

The discussions about the Steele dossier — which Comey recounts for the first time in his book — are among a number of explosive revelations in A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, a 304-page tell-all in which the former FBI director details his private interactions with Trump as well as his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.

The Washington Post obtained a copy of the book before its scheduled release on Tuesday. In his memoir, Comey paints a devastating portrait of a president who built “a cocoon of alternative reality that he was busily wrapping around all of us.” Comey describes Trump as a congenital liar and unethical leader, devoid of human emotion and driven by personal ego.

msnbc logo CustomMSNBC, Breaking: Stormy Daniels’s lawyer says Trump’s counsel Cohen is pleading 5th amendment in civil suit, Nicole Wallace, April 12, 2018. In a late afternoon interview with MSNBC host Nicole Wallace, Michael Avenatti revealed that Trump’s personal counsel Michael Cohen has filed an emergency motion on grounds of the Fifth Amend to be relieved from testifying in the civil litigation with porn actress Stormy Daniels. The Fifth Amendment is the Constitutional protection against self-incrimination.

michael avenatti ccn 3 23 18 CustomAvenatti (shown at left in a file photo) said the filing was Cohen’s right but was also a major development that shows that his client should be able to tell her story to the public. Daniels, the stage name for Stephanie Clifford, has said in a lawsuit that Cohen paid for her silence shortly before the 2016 election regarding what she says was a long-running affair with Trump.

stormy daniels djt insight 1 19 2018 CustomAvenetti also said in his interview that he thought it likely that federal authorities would learn from their raid on Cohen’s law offices Monday the identity of a man Avenetti and Daniels allege threatened her with physical harm if she told her story. She described it in part in an interview with In Touch Magazine and also on CBS 60 Minutes. Cohen and other Trump representatives has said Daniels should pay one million dollars in damages for each time she speaks about the matter..

New Leads On FBI Raid / Trump Sex Scandals

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), FBI search and seizure targeting Cohen gathered evidence on Trump’s past sex crimes, Wayne Madsen, April 12, 2018 (Subscription required; excerpted with permission). Wayne Madsen, a syndicated columnist widely published in American newspapers, editor of WMR, author of 15 books and former Navy intelligence officer, has also been a frequent contributor and source for the National Enquirer’s investigative stories and those appearing elsewhere about the cutting-edge of sex scandals involving government officials at the highest levels of power. The top sentence of his investigative report today is excerpted with permission below:  

Trump’s and Cohen’s legal troubles: they’re worse than you think. There is an avalanche of evidence that suggests that the criminal referral by Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) — which resulted in a “no-knock” search and seizure of President Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen’s office, temporary hotel residence, and home — was to gather evidence about Trump’s past sex crimes and cash payments for silence from assault victims.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigators Look at National Enquirer’s Ties to Trump Lawyer, Jim Rutenberg, Emily Steel and Mike McIntire, April 12, 2018 (print edition). A federal inquiry is examining the relationship between a tabloid company, President Trump and his lawyer Michael D. Cohen, whose office was raided by the F.B.I. (Story excerpted at greater length below.)

donald trump arianne zucker billy bush access hollywood

Celebrity businessman Donald Trump, actress Arianne Zucker and TV personality Billy Bush in a still shot from the notorious Access Hollywood videotape

ny times logoNew York Times, F.B.I. Raid Sought Files Tied to ‘Access Hollywood’ Tape, Maggie Haberman, Matt Apuzzo and Michael S. Schmidt, April 12, 2018 (print edition). Agents in a raid this week sought records on the “Access Hollywood” tape in which President Trump was heard making vulgar comments about women, as well as any evidence that Michael D. Cohen, the president’s lawyer, tried to suppress damaging reports. (Story excerpted at greater length below.)

new yorker logoNew Yorker, The National Enquirer, a Trump Rumor, and Another Secret Payment to Buy Silence, Ronan Farrow, April 12, 2018. How the media organization protected the Presidential candidate early in his campaign.

Late in 2015, a former Trump Tower doorman named Dino Sajudin met with a reporter from American Media, Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer, at a McDonald’s in Pennsylvania. A few weeks earlier, Sajudin had signed a contract with A.M.I., agreeing to become a source and to accept thirty thousand dollars for exclusive rights to information he had been told: that Donald Trump, who had launched his Presidential campaign five months earlier, may have fathered a child with a former employee in the late nineteen-eighties. Sajudin declined to comment for this story.

david pecker croppedHowever, six current and former A.M.I. employees, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared legal retaliation by the company, said that Sajudin had told A.M.I. the names of the alleged mistress and child. Reporters at A.M.I. had spent weeks investigating the allegations, and Sajudin had passed a lie-detector test, during which he testified that high-level Trump employees, including Trump’s head of security, Matthew Calamari, had told him the story. AMI’s top executive, David Pecker, a close friend of Trump, is shown in a file photo at right.

djt national enquirer coversThe New Yorker has uncovered no evidence that Trump fathered the child. A spokesperson for the Trump Organization denied the allegations, including the assertion that Calamari told Sajudin the story. When I reached out to the alleged daughter, she declined through a representative of her employer to answer questions. Her mother did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

I spoke with the father of the family, who said that Sajudin’s claim was “completely false and ridiculous” and added that the Enquirer (with a collage of pro-Trump covers shown at left) had put the family in a difficult situation. “I don’t understand what they had to pay this guy for,” he said. The New Yorker is not disclosing the family members’ names, out of respect for their privacy. Regardless of the veracity of Sajudin’s claims, legal experts said that A.M.I.’s payment to Sajudin is significant because it establishes the company’s pattern of buying and burying stories that could be damaging to Trump during the Presidential campaign.

Associated Press via NBC News, $30,000 Trump rumor? Tabloid paid for, spiked, salacious tip, Staff report, April 12, 2018. The payment was made to a doorman at a Trump building for a rumor that he’d heard.’ Eight months before the company that owns the National Enquirer paid $150,000 to a former ap logoPlayboy Playmate who claimed she’d had an affair with Donald Trump, the tabloid’s parent made a $30,000 payment to a less famous individual: a former doorman at one of the real estate mogul’s New York City buildings.

As it did with the ex-Playmate, the Enquirer signed the ex-doorman to a contract that effectively prevented him from going public with a juicy tale that might hurt Trump’s campaign for president.

The story of the ex-doorman, Dino Sajudin, hasn’t been told until now. The Associated Press confirmed the details of the Enquirer’s payment through a review of a confidential contract and interviews with dozens of current and former employees of the Enquirer and its parent company, American Media Inc.

Sajudin got $30,000 in exchange for signing over the rights, “in perpetuity,” to a rumor he’d heard about Trump’s sex life. The contract subjected Sajudin to a $1 million penalty if he disclosed either the rumor or the terms of the deal to anyone.

Many Crises In D.C.

washington post logodjt official SmallWashington Post, Trump operating on tornado of impulses as he deals with Syria, trade and Russia probe, Ashley Parker, Seung Min Kim and Philip Rucker, April 12, 2018. Many of the guardrails that previously helped stabilize President Trump — from West Wing aides to clear policy processes — have been cast aside, with little evident organization or long-term strategy emanating from the White House.

War In Syria?

theresa may newer file

United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May (File photo)

Guardian, Cabinet backs Theresa May’s call for robust response to Syria crisis, Pippa Crerar, Heather Stewart and Jessica Elgot, April 12, 2018. Unanimous support for need to challenge Assad’s likely use of chemical weapons paves way for military action. The cabinet has unanimously backed Theresa May’s warning that Syria’s use of chemical weapons could not go unchallenged, leaving the way open for British participation in military action against Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Downing Street said senior ministers had agreed it was “highly likely” that the Syrian government was responsible for the “shocking and barbaric” gas attack on the rebel-held town of Douma, which killed up to 75 people.

Within hours of the meeting, the prime minister spoke to Donald Trump by phone about the crisis, with the two leaders agreeing to work closely together on the international response. They stressed that Syria must be prevented from launching a similar onslaught on its own people in future.

At the two-hour cabinet meeting, ministers backed plans to take further action – along with the United States and France – to prevent Assad’s forces from ever launching such an “appalling and inhumane” attack again.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Says Attack on Syria Could Be ‘Not So Soon at All,’ Eileen Sullivan, April 12, 2018. President Trump (shown in a 2015 cover from the conservative National Review) said on Twitter that he had not telegraphed the timing of a strike on Syria in response to a suspected chemical attack, saying it “could be very soon or not so soon at all!” Britain’s cabinet is meeting to discuss a possible strike, while France says it has proof the Syrian regime used chemical weapons in the attack.

donald trump national review oct 2015 coverDonald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump – 10:15 AM UTC – 12 Apr 2018. “Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all! In any event, the United States, under my Administration, has done a great job of ridding the region of ISIS. Where is our “Thank you America?””

ny times logoNew York Times, Mattis Urges Caution in Responding to Attack in Syria, Helene Cooper, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Eileen Sullivan, April 12, 2018. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis took pains on Thursday to walk back President Trump’s threats of an imminent strike on Syria, reflecting mounting concerns at the Pentagon that a concerted bombing campaign could escalate into a wider conflict between Russia, Iran and the West.

A Thursday afternoon meeting is scheduled of the president’s top national security advisers, during which Mr. Mattis is expected to urge caution and consideration of a wider strategy. Defense Department officials said that will include trying to get more commitments from allies of help immediately after any strikes.

But officials also noted it may be difficult to extricate the Trump administration from military action, given the president’s Twitter post a day earlier that American missiles “will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart.’”

Speaking Thursday morning before the House Armed Services Committee, Mr. Mattis said that retaliation for the suspected chemical weapons attack had to be balanced against the threat of a wider war.

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Syria: Threat Of Large War Recedes But May Come Back, B, April 12, 2018. The expected U.S. attack on Syria last night did not happen. Today U.S President Trump seemed to pull back from his earlier attempt to pressure Russia over a faked chemical incident in Ghouta, Syria. Overnight high level military and political negotiations between Russia and the U.S. continued with at least some success:

Elijah J. Magnier. “#Russian sources told me: possibility of war on #Syria has gone down from 9 to 5/10. Diplomatic contacts with #USA never stopped. It was acknowledged that the possible war on #Syria serves no purposes but to create a war situation where worse case scenario can happen.”

A war on Syria has been ongoing for over seven years. It will continue for another two or three years. But Trump’s recent threat of a large U.S. air or missile campaign against the country has probably been defused.

Trump is certainly under pressure to attack Syria. U.S. media, the neoconservatives and Zionists are pushing for it. The CBS News graphic department revealed their real aim:

What made Trump blink? Was it the lack of evidence his Secretary of Defense Mattis acknowledged? Or was it the earlier reluctance of Britain to become a partner in crime? Was it the threat of Russian retribution?

emmanuel macronJust now Britain seems to reengage. Prime Minister May called a cabinet meeting to discuss a possible strike on Syria. Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn demands a parliament vote on the issue. The British public opposes any missile or airstrikes. The French poodle Emmanuel Macron (shown at right) claims that he has proof that the Syrian government attacked Douma with chemical weapons. He did not provide any.

Britain, the U.S. and France have recently been visited by the Saudi clown prince Mohammad bin Salman. He offered billions of dollars in form of new contracts. Where promises to attack Syria part of those deals?

The only ‘proof’ for a ‘chemical attack’ in Douma are dubious videos and claims from the White Helmets, a mainly British financed propaganda organization, and by SAMS, the Syrian American Medical Society which is a Muslim Brotherhood outlet financed by the CIA offshoot USAID.

UN personal in Damascus, the Syrian Red Cross, journalists on the ground and Russian military police have checked the place where the incident allegedly happened as well as local hospitals. They found neither casualties nor witnesses confirming such an attack.

The often quoted Syrian Observatory For Human Rights in Britain did not report any casualties of a chemical attack. Its report of the day in question notes of Douma: “21 civilians including 9 children and 3 women were killed as a result of suffocation caused by the shelling which destroyed basements of houses as a result of the violence bombardment.”

Senate Grills CIA Director On State Dept.Nomination

ny times logoNew York Times, Senators Urge Pompeo to Avoid Trump’s ‘Worst Instincts,’ Gardiner Harris and Eileen Sullivan, April 12, 2018.  At the confirmation hearing for Mike Pompeo, the president’s pick for secretary of state, senators demanded a steady hand for an administration that, in the words of one, “lurches crisis to crisis.”

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mike pompeo portraitPolitico, Pompeo’s diplomatic foray falls flat, Elana Schor and Nahal Toosi, April 12, 2018. The secretary of state nominee failed to win over Democrats at a contentious confirmation hearing. Mike Pompeo had his best chance yet Thursday to win over skeptical Democrats.

But after hours of tough questions at his confirmation hearing, he had changed no new minds in his bid to become secretary of state. This sentiment, shared broadly by Democrats after a contentious confirmation hearing, doesn’t mean Pompeo’s nomination is doomed. But he’s in danger of squeaking through with what would prove to be a historically partisan vote count for a State Department leader — potentially undermining his start at Foggy Bottom and signaling Trump’s other nominees are in grave jeopardy.

With Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) opposed to Pompeo, Corker faces a thorny task in steering the nominee to the floor before a scheduled recess at the end of the month. The Foreign Relations panel is divided 11-10, meaning that if Democrats unite alongside Paul in opposition, they would deal Pompeo a negative recommendation.

The committee also could take no action on the nomination, which is more common than an unfavorable vote, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Pompeo expected to be grilled about his closeness to Trump at confirmation hearing, Karoun Demirjian and Carol Morello, April 12, 2018. Secretary of state nominee Mike Pompeo (shown at right) is expected to describe his plans to reinvigorate the department’s diplomatic mission at his confirmation hearing Thursday. But his stance on critical foreign policy issues and closeness to President Trump could draw the most pointed questions.

As the hearing began before the Senate Foreign Relations committee, a protester who shouted “This man is not a diplomat” was led from the room. Pompeo began by vowing to be a “good platoon leader” to the diplomatic corps at the State Department.

cia logoSenators who have recently met with Pompeo said he appears to be preparing for the job and “doing his homework,” as one aide put it — including contacting eight former secretaries of state in advance of his hearing. But many Democrats on the panel said they are concerned he might be missing a critical attribute for the job: a willingness to stand up to Trump when the situation requires it.

“His reputation is not as strong on standing up to the president,” Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), a senior member of the panel, told reporters Tuesday, comparing Pompeo to his predecessor, Rex Tillerson, who “we know disagreed with the president on several important issues” — and possibly lost his job for it.

Trump To Use Census For Politics?

Bozeman Daily Chronicle (Montana) via Associated Press and Tribune News Service, CON: Such questions don’t belong in a free country’s census, Wayne Madsen (via Tribune News Service), April 12, 2018. For the first time since the 1950 decennial census, the 2020 census will include a question on a respondent’s citizenship status.

The Trump administration enunciated some worrying plans for the 2020 census when Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross testified before the Senate in 2017 that he wanted census data to be “strategically reused” by other government departments and the private sector.

The inclusion of a citizenship question in the 2020 census and the willingness of Ross and Trump to “re-use” census data for other purposes, including informing the Department of Homeland Security and its Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents where pockets of non-citizens are located — right down to 9-digit zip code addresses — is worrying.

Given the jingoistic and xenophobic hateful rhetoric emanating from Trump, other high-ranking officials and Republicans in Congress, the interest of Trump’s Census Bureau in collecting citizenship information can only have a malevolent intent.

Trump Flip-Flop On Trade Deal?

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump tells officials to look at rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership amid trade dispute with China, Erica Werner, Seung Min Kim and Damian Paletta​, April 12, 2018.  The 11-nation Pacific Rim trade deal was intended by the Obama administration as a way to counter China’s influence, but Trump criticized the pact when he was a candidate and pulled the United States out of it in early 2017.

New Plan For Food Stamp Users

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP proposes stricter work requirements for food stamp recipients, a step toward an overhaul of the social safety net, Caitlin Dewey​, April 12, 2018. Under the proposal, most adults between 18 and 59 who do not have jobs will be required to enroll in 20 hours a week of workforce training to receive assistance.

More On U.S. Politics

paul ryan ony times logoNew York Times, Ryan’s Departure Is ‘Nightmare Scenario’ for Republicans, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, April 12, 2018. Fifteen months after Republicans took full control of Washington, the man long seen as central to the party’s future (shown at right) is abandoning one of the most powerful jobs in the capital, imperiling the G.O.P. grip on the House and signaling that the political convulsions of the Trump era are taking a grave toll on the right months before Election Day.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s retirement announcement on Wednesday blindsided many House Republican candidates and their campaign leaders who were counting on him to lead them to victory in the November midterm elections. His decision to leave Congress at 48 sent an undeniably pessimistic message to Republicans: that stable, steady leadership is lacking in their deeply divided party as they head into a campaign season defined by the whims of President Trump.

steve scaliseRoll Call, Steve Scalise Says He Won’t Run Against Kevin McCarthy to Succeed Paul Ryan, April 12, 2018. It was the race that wasn’t. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (right) on Thursday threw his support behind House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to succeed Speaker Paul D. Ryan as the House GOP leader. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise on Thursday threw his support behind House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to succeed Speaker Paul D. Ryan as the House GOP leader.

“I’ve never run against Kevin, and wouldn’t run against Kevin,” the Louisiana Republican said on Fox News Thursday morning. There is some wiggle room for Scalise, because it assumes McCarthy runs for the slot. If McCarthy opted not to run for the position, Scalise would be a natural person to run.

Governor’s Scandal In Missouri

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)

ny times logoNew York Times, Report on Missouri Governor Gives Vivid Details of Sex Claim, John Eligon, April 12, 2018 (print edition). The report details allegations of unwanted sexual advances by Eric Greitens and has led to bipartisan calls for him to step down. Mr. Greitens says he is the victim of a witch hunt.

He blindfolded and bound a woman to exercise equipment, spanked her, and tried to kiss her without her consent.

eric greitens oThose are among the scandalous allegations against Gov. Eric Greitens of Missouri (shown at right) that were released in a legislative report on Wednesday that has put the first-term Republican governor’s political future in deep trouble.

The report, the result of a House committee’s weekslong investigation into an extramarital affair that the governor admitted he had before he took office, has led to intense, bipartisan calls for him to step down. Mr. Greitens, however, insisted that he would not resign.

Among those calling for Mr. Greitens to step aside was Josh Hawley, the Republican state attorney general who is challenging longtime incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, in November. (Ms. McCaskill also called for his resignation.)

“The conduct the report details is certainly impeachable, in my judgment,” Mr. Hawley said in a statement.

Labeling the report “tabloid trash, gossip,” Mr. Greitens, who took office in January 2017, said that the relationship was consensual and that any claim of violence or sexual assault was false.

“I want to say again what I’ve said from the beginning: This is a political witch hunt,” he said from the State Capitol in Jefferson City, Mo.

He added: “I will continue to serve the people of Missouri as their governor and to work for you every day. And they know, they need to know, that fake charges and falsehoods aren’t going to stop us.”

He is scheduled to go on trial in St. Louis next month on felony charges that he took a picture of the woman without her consent and threatened to release it if she told anyone about their affair.

The report made no recommendations on the governor’s political future. The investigative committee will continue its work and will probably not make any recommendations on how to proceed until after the regular session ends next month, the speaker of the House, Todd Richardson, said. Republicans solidly control both the House and the Senate.

Report: Trump Plans Pardon Of Libby — Preparation for Trump Pardons?

abc news logoABC News, President Trump poised to pardon Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, sources say, Jonathan Karl, Katherine Faulders, John Santucci, April 12, 2018. lewis scooter libbyThe president has already signed off on the pardon for Lewis “Scooter” Libby, which is something he has been considering for several months, sources told ABC News.

The move would mark another controversial pardon for Trump and could raise questions as an increasing number of the president’s political allies have landed themselves in legal jeopardy. The White House has repeatedly said that no pardons are currently on the table for people caught up in the Russia investigation.

Early in his term, Trump pardoned controversial former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio after he was found guilty in July on criminal contempt charges stemming from his refusal to stop imprisoning suspected undocumented immigrants.

Libby was convicted in 2007 of lying to the FBI and obstruction of justice in the investigation into the leak of the identity of Valerie Plame, a former covert CIA operative. Then-President George Bush commuted Libby’s 30-month sentence, sparing him prison time, but didn’t pardon him.

After Libby claimed that he couldn’t have been the source of the leak, multiple people came forward to testify that they learned of Plame’s identity from Libby prior to when Libby said he had first received the information.

At trial, Libby claimed to have simply forgotten he actually learned about the identity from Cheney a month before he said he had. Since the conviction, Libby has since had his law license restored and former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell restored his voting rights in 2013. Many conservatives have been urging a pardon for Libby, including attorneys Joe diGenova and his wife, Victoria Toensing.

Kushner Bailout

Palmer Report, Jared Kushner gets a bailout, Daniel Cotter, April 12, 2018. The Kushner family has owned the property at 666 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan since 2007, when a young Jared Kushner overpaid for the property, paying a surprising $1.8 billion. The financial crisis and Great Recession ensued, and the property cursed Kushner like the number of the beast its address mimicked. Seeking an exit or deleveraging, Kushner sold a major piece of the property, including the retail spaces, to Vornado Realty Trust.

A balloon payment on the mortgage of $1.2 billion comes due in February 2019. With the building aging and retail space not being in high demand, many questioned how the payment could be made by Kushner. When Kushner moved to the White House to be part of the administration of his father-in-law, Donald J. Trump, Kushner purported to transfer the property to a trust managed by his brother and mother.

The handshake partner has not been disclosed, but it would permit Kushner to regain possession of the entire building. The handshake agreement raises significant questions about the identity of lender. Previously, Kushner’s father had attempted to obtain a $1 billion loan to refinance the 666 property with Qatar and, when that failed, the administration supported Saudi Arabia’s economic blockade of Qatar. The identity of the “handshake” lender must be disclosed and investigated, raising potential national security concerns and potential “pay to play” politics by a foreign state.

More On Mueller Probe

Roll Call, Mueller Protection Bill Faces Political, Procedural Headwinds, Todd Ruger, April 12, 2018. Judiciary Committee looks at consideration of bill in two weeks. The Senate Judiciary Committee appears poised to vote in two weeks on a bill that would give job protections to Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III, even as President Donald Trump asserted again Thursday that he has the authority to fire the man investigating connections between Trump’s campaign and Russian operatives.

republican elephant logoThursday’s discussion revealed how the bill still faces potential political hazards at the Judiciary Committee. Democrats have raised concerns about a yet-to-be-seen amendment that Republicans want to add to the measure. Some Republicans have concerns about the constitutionality of a bill that would limit a president’s ability to make personnel decisions in the executive branch.

The bill faces additional hurdles even if it overcomes opposition on the Judiciary Committee. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who controls what bills reach the floor, has said such a bill is not needed. The Republican-led House might not support such a bill, and even if it did, Trump himself could veto it.

Chairman Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, said he still has concerns about the constitutionality of the bill, but has a responsibility to put it on the agenda because it is a bipartisan compromise among four committee members: Republicans Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Democrats Chris Coons of Delaware and Cory Booker of New Jersey.

The measure combined two bills, first introduced eight months ago, and give a special counsel 10 days to ask a federal judge to review whether a removal was for “good cause,” and if not, allow the special counsel to stay in the job.

“It’s clear that the constitutionality of these bills is something the court would have to resolve,” Grassley said.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the panel’s top Democrat, said there is bipartisan agreement that Mueller needs to be able to finish his work without political interference, and that she supports the bill and wants it to “be considered as soon as possible.”

Yet Feinstein did not agree to put the bill on Thursday’s agenda, which would have allowed a vote next week, because of an amendment Democrats haven’t been able to review that they say could undermine the investigation.

“There should be no political pressure brought to bear on the special counsel by the White House or by Congress,” Feinstein said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump chooses impulse over strategy as crises mount, Ashley Parker, Seung Min Kim and Philip Rucker​, April 12, 2018 (print edition). The president’s early-morning taunting of Russia via Twitter caught West Wing staff members by surprise, but it was emblematic of a president operating on a tornado of impulses — and with no clear strategy — as he faces some of the most consequential decisions of his presidency, including Syria, trade policy and the Russian interference probe that threatens to overwhelm his administration.

steve bannon michael vadon flickr

Former Trump White House senior advisor and Campaign Manager Steve Bannon (Photo by Michael Vadon via Flickr)

washington post logoWashington Post, Bannon pitches White House on plan to cripple Mueller probe and protect Trump, Robert Costa​, April 11, 2018. Ousted from the White House, former chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon is pushing a plan to White House aides and congressional allies to cripple the special counsel probe. Step 1: Fire the deputy attorney general, according to four people familiar with the discussions.

djt national enquirer covers

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigators Look at National Enquirer’s Ties to Trump Lawyer, Jim Rutenberg, Emily Steel and Mike McIntire, April 12, 2018 (print edition). A federal inquiry is examining the relationship between a tabloid company, President Trump and his lawyer Michael D. Cohen, whose office was raided by the F.B.I.

donald trump arianne zucker billy bush access hollywood

Celebrity businessman Donald Trump, actress Arianne Zucker and TV personality Billy Bush in a still shot from the notorious Access Hollywood videotape

ny times logoNew York Times, F.B.I. Raid Sought Files Tied to ‘Access Hollywood’ Tape, Maggie Haberman, Matt Apuzzo and Michael S. Schmidt, April 12, 2018 (print edition). Agents in a raid this week sought records on the “Access Hollywood” tape in which President Trump was heard making vulgar comments about women, as well as any evidence that Michael D. Cohen, the president’s lawyer, tried to suppress damaging reports.

U.S. War Against Syria

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia tries to tamp down fears of a looming conflict with the U.S. over Syria, Anton Troianovski and Louisa Loveluck​, April 12, 2018. Moscow had warned of the possibility of a direct military confrontation with the United States as a result of a U.S. strike. But officials now appear to be trying to make clear that the country does not want a war.

oenearthlogoSouthFront, Russian Ministry of Defense: White Helmets Staged “Chemical Weapons Attack” In Duma, Staff report, April 12, 2018. On April 11, First Deputy Chief of the Russian General Staff’s Main Operations Department Lieutenant General Viktor Poznikhir (shown at right) said that the supposed April 7 chemical attack in the Duma district had been staged and filmed by the Western-backed White Helmets organization.

“On April 7, probably the last attempt to stage a chemical weapons attack in Eastern Ghouta was made,”said Poznikhir. “The notorious White Helmets, who operate as part of terrorist groups, staged and filmed a chemical weapons attack on civilians in the town of Duma,” Lt. Gen Poznikhir told reporters, according to the Russian news agency TASS.

Poznikhir added that the White Helmets had made several failed attempts to stage a chemical attacks during the recent battle in the Eastern Ghouta region. The Russian commander also revealed that the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) had discovered toxic agents in an underground workshop of the militants during its operations in Eastern Ghouta.

“On March 3 the militants’ workshop was found in an underground tunnel in Hazrama. Makeshift ammunition pieces were charged with poisonous agents there,” said Lt. Gen Poznikhir.

The Iranian news agency FARS also reported on April 11 that the SAA had allegedly discovered a location in the town of Saqba in Eastern Ghouta, which had been used by the White Helmets to fabricate videos against the SAA. This report can be linked to the information provided by Lt. Gen Poznikhir.

Syrian pro-government activists expect that all of these evidences and many others will likely be presented to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) investigation committee that’s expected to arrive to the Syrian capital of Damascus this week.

Global Research, Opinion: Trigger-Happy Trump and Syria: “The Worst Case Scenario Is Now Our Reality,” Felicity Arbuthnot, April 12, 2018. The discredited White Helmets – a “rescue” group only operating in areas held by “rebels” who routinely decapitate, including children, set fire to people and commit numerous unspeakable acts – have produced a video of an apparent chemical attack on 7th April.

syrian white helmetsThe “White Helmets” are funded in millions by the UK Foreign Office, the US, Canada and various other Western governments. Coupled with this is: A UK government £5.3 million media activists programme included training Syrian independent journalists and activists, including for reporting of “White Helmets” activities across Twitter and Facebook. (See Foreign and Commonwealth Office: “Providing non-humanitarian assistance in Syria”, Updated 1 December 2015.)

No wonder every seemingly staged “rescue” always has a few convenient camera people handy, recording the “victims.” The duty of first responders of course, is to also protect the victim at all cost, in their vulnerable state, from public view.

The latest camera-friendly crisis is yet another “chemical weapons attack” which the US, UK and usual suspects are blaming on the Syrian government. However this is such a worn and discredited theme, were it not for trigger-happy Trump and his band of war obsessed mongers, it would simply be dismissed out of hand. For the US both supplying chemical weapons to the “moderate head choppers” and the discrediting of the endless attempts to pin chemical attack on the government, see Professor Michel Chossudovsky’s meticulous documentations.

See also Robert Stuart’s impressive, minute unraveling of the propaganda which was “Saving Syria’s Children.” It also seems to have escaped the Trumposphere that in 2013, Syria surrendered all stocks of chemical weapons, under the auspices of the UN Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical weapons and international observers and participants.

SouthFront, Russia Starts Exercises Off Syrian Coast, Vows Response To US Strikes, Staff report, April 12, 2018 (2:58 mins. video). The Russian Navy has launched live-fire exercises off the Syrian coast as the US is still preparing for a possible military action against the country’s government.

The Russian exercises will be held from April 11 to April 26, the period when, according to some experts, the US strike will be most likely if the administration of US President Donald Trump decides to attack Syria.

On April 10, Russia’s envoy to Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin once again confirming that Russian forces are ready to shoot down missiles and target the launchers in case of an escalation in the war-torn country.

Ali Akbar Velayati, the top adviser to Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei, vowed to support the Damascus government against any attack of the US and its allies.

On the other hand, Israel, which is alongside with Saudi Arabia, is the main Iranian competitor in the region openly supports a US military action against Syria. Housing Minister Yoav Galant, a former commander of the Israeli Defense Forces Southern Command, publicly vowed to assassinate the Syrian president arguing that “the world will be a better place without Assad.”

The UK, France and Germany are following the course of the US administration.

According to the Ministry of Defense of Russia, over 3,354 fighters of Jaysh al-Islam and 8,642 members of their families had been evacuated from Duma district since the evacuation agreement was reached between the group and Damascus on April 8.

The number of the remaining fighters of Jaysh al-Islam in Duma district is unknown. However, local sources expect that the evacuation process will be over within 48 to 72 hours. Formally, the Syrian Army already established a full control of the area.

On April 12, serivcemembers of the Russian Military Police are set to be deployed in the Duma district. According to pro-government sources, they will secure the area for OPCW investigators that may arrive area later this week to probe the alleged chemical attack, which took place there on April 7.

Russia, Syria and Iran described the chemical attack reports as provocation while the US and its allies used them to increase pressure on the Assad government and started drawing up plans for military actions against Damascus.

shukri al quwatli 1943

Consortium News, America’s Long History of Trying to Determine Who Rules Syria, Caitlin Johnstone, April 12, 2018. The CIA organized its very first coup in Syria in 1949 to overthrow a democratically elected president and install a military dictator. The U.S. has never given up trying to determine who rules Syria, comments Caitlin Johnstone.

One interesting and completely undeniable fact that we don’t talk about nearly enough is how Syria has been a target for regime change by the US-centralized power establishment since long before the uprising in 2011. Shukri al-Quwatli, shown at right a democratically elected president overthrown with CIA help in March, 1949.

Proponents of US military interventionism in Syria will avoid addressing this known fact like the plague. They’re more than happy to dispute claims about false flags and the White Helmets, but if you start asking them “Hey don’t you think it’s a little odd that the government we’re all freaking out about right now just so happens to be one that’s been a target for regime change by US defense and intelligence agencies since long before any of this started?” they get real squirmy all of a sudden.

It’s true though. Let’s go over five key items in the mountain of evidence for this, starting with the most recent and working our way backward.

More On U.S. War Against Syria

jacob hornberger headshotFuture of Freedom Foundation, Dropping Hypocrisy Bombs on Syria, Jacob G. Hornberger (shown at right), April 12, 2018. Whatever bombs Donald Trump decides to use against Syria, one thing is for certain: the U.S. government has already dropped enough hypocrisy bombs on that country to last a lifetime. Trump, Congress, and the U.S. national-security establishment (e.g., the Pentagon and the CIA) are shedding big crocodile tears over the plight of the Syrian people, especially those who recently died or suffered from a purported gas attack supposedly committed by the Syrian government against Syrian revolutionaries.

The truth is that U.S. officials couldn’t give a hoot for people in Syria. How do we know this? Lots of reasons. For one thing, keep in mind that it was the U.S. government that encouraged the Syrian people to violently revolt against their dictatorial regime. Did U.S. officials do that because they wanted the Syrian people to live in a free and prosperous society? Of course not. A violent domestic revolution against a foreign dictator is one of the methods by which the U.S. government achieves regime change in countries that have independent dictatorial regimes — that is, ones that are independent of U.S. government control. The fact that the Syrian dictatorship is aligned with Russia, rather than the United States, has inevitably made it a target of a U.S. regime-change operation.

Regime change has been a core mission of the U.S. government ever since the federal government was converted from a limited-government republic to a national-security state after World War II. The goal is to remove recalcitrant (i.e., independent) foreign dictators from power and replace them with pro-U.S. dictators. In that way, the U.S. government can wield control over everyone in the world by exercising power through their domestically installed dictators.

Gun Violence

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Opinion: Musings of a Mass Shooting Survivor, Toni Johnson, April 12, 2018. WhoWhatWhy editor Toni Johnson shares her experience of being a mass shooting survivor, and decries the failure to have an honest conversation about gun violence in America. It happened on December 14, 1992, at Bard College at Simon’s Rock, a very small liberal arts college in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. We would learn later that day that the shooter was a fellow student. He killed two and wounded four more people before his semi-automatic rifle jammed.

Personal Consumer Self-Help

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: I Downloaded the Information Facebook Has on Me. Yikes, Brian X. Chen, April 12, 2018.  Using a tool that Facebook offers its users, our columnist found out more than he wanted to know about the social network, the ad industry and himself.

When I downloaded a copy of my Facebook data last week, I didn’t expect to see much. My profile is sparse, I rarely post anything on the site, and I seldom click on ads. (I’m what some call a Facebook “lurker.”)

But when I opened my file, it was like opening Pandora’s box.

With a few clicks, I learned that about 500 advertisers — many that I had never heard of, like Bad Dad, a motorcycle parts store, and Space Jesus, an electronica band — had my contact information, which could include my email address, phone number and full name. Facebook also had my entire phone book, including the number to ring my apartment buzzer. The social network had even kept a permanent record of the roughly 100 people I had deleted from my friends list over the last 14 years, including my exes.

April 11

ny times logoNew York Times, The Law Is Coming, Mr. Trump, Editorial Board, April 11, 2018 (print edition). Why don’t we take a step back and contemplate what Americans, and the world, are witnessing?

fbi logoEarly Monday morning, F.B.I. agents raided the New York office, home and hotel room of the personal lawyer for the president of the United States. They seized evidence of possible federal crimes — including bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations related to payoffs made to women, including a porn actress, who say they had affairs with the president before he took office and were paid off and intimidated into silence.

That evening the president surrounded himself with the top American military officials and launched unbidden into a tirade against the top American law enforcement officials — officials of his own government — accusing them of “an attack on our country.”

Justice Department log circularMr. Trump has spent his career in the company of developers and celebrities, and also of grifters, cons, sharks, goons and crooks. He cuts corners, he lies, he cheats, he brags about it, and for the most part, he’s gotten away with it, protected by threats of litigation, hush money and his own bravado.

Those methods may be proving to have their limits when they are applied from the Oval Office. Though Republican leaders in Congress still keep a cowardly silence, Mr. Trump now has real reason to be afraid. A raid on a lawyer’s office doesn’t happen every day; it means that multiple government officials, and a federal judge, had reason to believe they’d find evidence of a crime there and that they didn’t trust the lawyer not to destroy that evidence.

On Monday, when he appeared with his national security team, Mr. Trump, whose motto could be, “The buck stops anywhere but here,” angrily blamed everyone he could think of for the “unfairness” of an investigation that has already consumed the first year of his presidency, yet is only now starting to heat up. He said Attorney General Jeff Sessions made “a very terrible mistake” by recusing himself from overseeing the investigation — the implication being that a more loyal attorney general would have obstructed justice and blocked the investigation.

Robert Mueller (FBI Official Photo)In fact, the raids on the premises used by Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, were conducted by the public corruption unit of the federal attorney’s office in Manhattan, and at the request not of the special counsel’s team, but under a search warrant that investigators in New York obtained following a referral by Mr. Mueller, who first consulted with the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein. To sum up, a Republican-appointed former F.B.I. director consulted with a Republican-appointed deputy attorney general, who then authorized a referral to an F.B.I. field office not known for its anti-Trump bias. Deep state, indeed.

April 11

ny times logoNew  York Times, Raid on Trump’s Lawyer Sought Records on ‘Access Hollywood’ Tape, Maggie Haberman, Matt Apuzzo and Michael S. SchmidtApril 11, 2018. The warrant also sought evidence of whether the lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, tried to suppress damaging information on the president before the election.

The F.B.I. agents who raided the office and hotel of President Trump’s lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, were seeking details on his relationship with the Trump campaign and his efforts to suppress negative information about Mr. Trump, according to three people briefed on the matter.

Prosecutors are interested in whether Mr. Cohen, who had no official role in the 2016 campaign, coordinated with it to quash the release of anything detrimental to it and whether that violated campaign finance laws — a new front in the investigation into Mr. Cohen.

The warrant executed Monday by the agents was striking in its breadth, according to those people. It demanded documents related to the “Access Hollywood” tape in which Mr. Trump was heard making vulgar comments about women, and to other materials related to secret agreements Mr. Cohen made with women in exchange for them not speaking publicly about sexual encounters with Mr. Trump.

The warrant also covered emails and other documents that could reveal Mr. Cohen’s private communications with Mr. Trump during a tense period in the presidential campaign when Mr. Trump confronted the possibility of embarrassing details of his extramarital affairs. And it delved deeply into Mr. Cohen’s past, including documents about Mr. Cohen’s personal and business finances, including his work as a New York taxi fleet manager.

April 10

Poynter institute, YouTube, Facebook lean on Wikipedia, but is it too much? David Beard, April 10, 2018. In the past few weeks, both Facebook and YouTube have come up with a similar solution to some of their thornier problems.

On a day when Mark Zuckerberg has to face questions from U.S. members of Congress, this particular explanation seems so easy.

Let Wikipedia do it. Last month, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki announced a partnership with Wikipedia in which the online encyclopedia’s content on conspiracy theories would go alongside YouTube videos on such matters. Wikipedia, she said, would sort out these conspiracy videos, which have plagued the video service.

It was the first that Wikipedia had heard of such a partnership. Last week, with more warning, Facebook rolled out a part of an initiative to increase news verification with descriptions of a particular news source, taken from Wikipedia.

Oh, Apple is leaning on Wikipedia, too. If you use an iPhone and plug in a name on the default search bar, chances are the “Siri knowledge” is actually from Wikipedia. Or, hey Alexa, even many of the facts on your smart speaker may be from Wikipedia, says Samantha Lien, a spokesperson for the Wikimedia Foundation.

The idea that Google’s YouTube would dump one of its most contentious issues — conspiracy theories — on Wikipedia without warning caused some consternation in the Wikipedia community, as has the general issue of other platforms using its content wholesale as a Band-Aid for their own lack of editorial oversight.

Will the increasing exposure to YouTube conspiracy theorists increase the burden on Wikipedia’s volunteer editors? Will the platforms send new hordes to Wikipedia without contributing to its sustainability? Around the Wikimedia Foundation lately, “The Lorax” — the Dr. Seuss character who tries to protect the natural environment amid rampaging industrialism — has been referenced, Lien says.

Others are less polite, using terms that news providers might understand when they feel taken advantage of by the platforms.

U.S. Politics: House Leader To Retire?

paul ryan ony times logoNew York Times, Ryan Won’t Seek Re-election in Blow to House Republicans, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, April 11, 2018.  Speaker Paul D. Ryan will tell colleagues in the House that he will retire at the end of the year, signaling the peril that the Republican majority faces in the midterm elections. His retirement will kick off a succession battle and could also trigger another wave of retirements among Republicans not eager to face angry voters in the fall.

Speaker Paul D. Ryan will tell House Republican colleagues on Wednesday that he will not seek re-election in November, ending a brief stint atop the House and signaling the peril that the Republican majority faces in the midterm elections.

Mr. Ryan’s retirement will kick off a succession battle for the leadership of the House Republican Conference, likely between the House majority leader, Kevin McCarthy of California, and the House majority whip, Steve Scalise of Louisiana. It could also trigger another wave of retirements among Republicans not eager to face angry voters in the fall and taking their cue from Mr. Ryan.

Mr. Ryan’s intentions were first reported on the website Axios. Mr. Ryan’s decision to quit, confirmed by two Republicans close to the Wisconsin lawmaker, caught many in the party by surprise. He had just hosted a donor retreat last week in Texas and most officials believed he would not leave until after November.

Mr. Ryan is by far the most prominent figure fleeing Congress in a long season of Republican retirements. More than three dozen House Republicans are leaving the chamber to retire or seek other offices,

Vox, Opinion: House Speaker Paul Ryan was the biggest fraud in American politics. Good riddance. Matthew Yglesias, April 11, 2018. House Speaker Paul Ryan, who is announcing his retirement today, was not the most pernicious figure in American life during his era of prominence, but he was the biggest phony.

Mitchell McConnellHis Senate counterpart, Mitch McConnell (shown at left), was always willing to wear the black hat, from his early rise to prominence as a lonely opponent of campaign finance reform to the cynical smirk with which he stole a Supreme Court seat from Merrick Garland. Ryan wanted something more. Power, yes. To improve the lives of the wealthy while reducing the living standards of the poor, of course.

But he also craved a certain form of respectability that’s led him to leave behind a staggering track record of broken promises and glowing press clips from journalists who were gullible enough to believe them.

From his early days as a Social Security reformer to his mid-career posturing as a deficit hawk to his rebranding as a person deeply concerned with poverty, he’s been the Jack Abernathy of Congress. Eventually, the con ran out, leaving Ryan with little in the way of substantive accomplish as he chose to cut and run before a midterm election that’s shaping up to be a race between his party’s deep unpopularity and the strength of its aggressive gerrymandering.

Trump Claims Missile Strike ‘Soon’ Against Syria

Donald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump, in warning to Russia, says missiles ‘will be coming’ to Syria, John Wagner, Anton Troianovski and Philip Rucker, ​April 11, 2018. President Trump, in a tweet, taunted Russia for vowing to shoot down any incoming strikes and condemned its backing of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Trump (shown above in a Defense Department photo) previously said the administration was working on a response to a suspected chemical attack in Syria.

syria flag“Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’” the president wrote on Twitter, referring to missile strikes. He also condemned Russia’s backing of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!” Trump wrote.

Earlier this week, Trump said his administration was working on a response to the suspected chemical attack on Saturday, including military options. The United States has been building a circumstantial case, based largely on videos and photographs, that a chemical attack by Syrian forces took place in the rebel-held enclave of Douma.

Syria and Russia, a main backer of Assad, have insisted no chemical attack occurred, and that only the opposition groups they call “terrorists” possess chemical weapons.

oenearthlogoOpEdNews, Opinion with open thread: Stop the US War against Syria and Iran, Lila York, April 11, 2018. As of 2:30 PM today (April 11), Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg News reports that Trump will not order a bombing raid today and is considering options. Warships were only deployed today for the Mideast and will not reach their targets until mid-May.

What that means is that there is still time for the American people to speak up, protest, phone Congress and voice our anger at the idea of waging yet another gratuitous war in the Mideast – this one against nuclear-armed Russia, a country that will certainly protect both Syria and Iran in any bombing campaign. We are late to this battle, and we need to organize.

Please take the initial step of calling your reps in Washington and demanding that Congress take back its war powers, stop feeding the anti-Russia hysteria, and evict John Bolton and Nikki Haley from their posts. The US is now viewed as a pariah state across the globe, thanks to the hysterical and nakedly aggressive behavior of Trump and Congressional neocons. Speak up. Our very lives depend upon it.

viktor poznikhir lt gen

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump’s taunts fuel growing tension between U.S. and Russia over suspected chemical attack in Syria, Anne Gearan, John Wagner and Anton Troianovski, April 11, 2018. A heated war of words over Syria between old Cold War adversaries raised the possibility of open military conflict between the U.S. and Russia after President Trump taunted Russia in a tweet, vowing “missiles will be coming” at Syrian targets in the wake of a suspected chemical attack near Damascus that killed more than 40 civilians. Shown at right is a file photo of Russian Lt. Gen. Viktor Poznikhir.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: There’s no victory for Trump in Syria, but he could court disaster, Ishaan Tharoor, April 11, 2018. No matter how President Trump follows through on his promise of a “very tough” response to the Syrian regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons, he still has to swallow a tougher reality: When it comes to the brutal war there, his administration is boxed into a corner.

colin powell anthrax un 2003 george tenant john negroponte

Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell at the United Nations calls in 2003 for war against Iraq, justified by false claims of Weapons of Mass Destruction

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Syria: A U.S. Attack Would Be Futile But Serve A Purpose, M. K. Bhadrakumar, April 11, 2018. The United Nations Security Council turned down a compromise resolution on Syria, proposed by Sweden and seconded by Russia seeking investigation on the alleged chemical attack in Douma. Five countries supported the resolution with two permanent members – United States and Britain – opposing it. Earlier, a resolution on the same lines which was supported by Russia and China was also opposed by the US and Britain.

This is a significant political and diplomatic victory for Russia insofar as only two other countries joined the US and Britain to oppose the Swedish resolution. Six countries abstained.

syria flagThe big question is whether this development portends an impending US attack on Syria, bypassing the UN. The UN has refused to confirm there has been any attack at all. Russia and Syrian government insist there has been no attack and have approached the Organization for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons for an international investigation. The good thing is that the OPCW is deputing two teams of experts to go to Douma later this week. Russia has offered to give them full security protection.

So Trump has a major decision to make. Logically, punishment follows a crime that has been committed and it seems no crime has been committed. This appears to be a false flag operation – that is, a fabrication with a view to trigger a sequence of events. That was how the US invaded Iraq in 2003 and it is an established fact today that Saddam Hussein did not have any program to develop weapons of mass destruction, as then US Secretary of State Colin Power had misled the UN Security Council. (Powell later admitted that he was misled by his own administration.)

un security councilConsortium News, International Lawyers: Strike Against Syria Would Be Illegal, April 11, 2018. In this statement released Wednesday, a group of international law experts warn that a U.S. military strike on Syria would be illegal if not in self-defense or with U.N. Security Council (shown in a file photo) authorization. We are practitioners and professors of international law. Under international law, military strikes by the United States of America and its allies against the Syrian Arab Republic, unless conducted in self-defense or with United Nations Security Council approval, are illegal and constitute acts of aggression.

The unlawful killing of any human being without legal justification, under every legal system, is murder. And an act of violence committed by one government against another government, without lawful justification, amounts to the crime of aggression: the supreme international crime which carries with it the evil of every other international crime, as noted by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg in 1946.

The use of military force by a state can be used in self-defense after an armed attack by another state, or, with the approval of the United Nations Security Council. At present, neither instance would apply to a U.S. strike against Syria.

U.S. Political Propaganda

Pew Research Center, Bots in the Twittersphere, Stefan Wojcik, Solomon Messing, Aaron Smith, Lee Rainie and Paul Hitlin, April 9, 2018. An estimated two-thirds of tweeted links to popular websites are posted by automated accounts – not human beings

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosThe role of so-called social media “bots” – automated accounts capable of posting content or interacting with other users with no direct human involvement – has been the subject of much scrutiny and attention in recent years. These accounts can play a valuable part in the social media ecosystem by answering questions about a variety of topics in real time or providing automated updates about news stories or events.

At the same time, they can also be used to attempt to alter perceptions of political discourse on social media, spread misinformation, or manipulate online rating and review systems. As social media has attained an increasingly prominent position in the overall news and information environment, bots have been swept up in the broader debate over Americans’ changing news habits, the tenor of online discourse and the prevalence of “fake news” online.

In the context of these ongoing arguments over the role and nature of bots, Pew Research Center set out to better understand how many of the links being shared on Twitter – most of which refer to a site outside the platform itself – are being promoted by bots rather than humans. To do this, the Center used a list of 2,315 of the most popular websites and examined the roughly 1.2 million tweets (sent by English language users) that included links to those sites during a roughly six-week period in summer 2017. The results illustrate the pervasive role that automated accounts play in disseminating links to a wide range of prominent websites on Twitter.

How does this study define a Twitter bot?

Broadly speaking, Twitter bots are accounts that can post content or interact with other users in an automated way and without direct human input. Bots are used for many purposes. This study focuses on a particular kind of bot behavior: bots that tweet or retweet links to content around the web. In other words, these are bots that post or promote specific websites or other online content.

Many bots do not identify themselves as bots, so this study uses a tool called Botometer to estimate the proportion of Twitter links to popular sites around the web that are posted by automated or partially automated accounts. One study suggests Botometer is about 86% accurate, and Pew Resesarch Center conducted its own independent validation tests of the Botometer system. To acknowledge the possibility of misclassification, we use the term “suspected bots” throughout this report. For details on how Botometer functions, see the methodology.

Among the key findings of this research

Of all tweeted links to popular websites, 66% are shared by accounts with characteristics common among automated “bots,” rather than human users.

Among popular news and current event websites, 66% of tweeted links are made by suspected bots – identical to the overall average. The share of bot-created tweeted links is even higher among certain kinds of news sites. For example, an estimated 89% of tweeted links to popular aggregation sites that compile stories from around the web are posted by bots.

A relatively small number of highly active bots are responsible for a significant share of links to prominent news and media sites. This analysis finds that the 500 most-active suspected bot accounts are responsible for 22% of the tweeted links to popular news and current events sites over the period in which this study was conducted. By comparison, the 500 most-active human users are responsible for a much smaller share (an estimated 6%) of tweeted links to these outlets.

The study does not find evidence that automated accounts currently have a liberal or conservative “political bias” in their overall link-sharing behavior. This emerges from an analysis of the subset of news sites that contain politically oriented material. Suspected bots share roughly 41% of links to political sites shared primarily by conservatives and 44% of links to political sites shared primarily by liberals – a difference that is not statistically significant. By contrast, suspected bots share 57% to 66% of links from news and current events sites shared primarily by an ideologically mixed or centrist human audience.

Mueller Trump Probes

washington post logodana boenteWashington Post, Dana Boente, former top Justice Department official now at FBI, has been interviewed by Mueller and turned over notes, Matt Zapotosky, April 11, 2018. The interview shows how special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is exploring whether President Trump obstructed justice and keying in on conversations Trump had with former FBI director James B. Comey. Boente is shown at right.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump signs ‘FOSTA’  bill targeting online sex trafficking, enables states and victims to pursue websites, Tom Jackman, April 11, 2018. President Trump signed a bill Wednesday that gives federal and state prosecutors greater power to pursue websites which host sex trafficking ads, and enables the victims and state attorneys general to file civil lawsuits against those sites. Addressing the victims and family members in attendance, the president said, “I’m signing this bill in your honor…You have endured what no person on earth should have to endure.”

Standing next to Trump as he signed the legislation was Yvonne Ambrose of Chicago, whose 16-year-old daughter, Desiree Robinson, was slain after being prostituted on Backpage in 2016. “It means so much to our family,” Ambrose said of the bill. “Hopefully there won’t be many more people who have to endure that pain.”

U.S. Politics: Senate Races

washington post logoWashington Post, Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp: Trump ‘asked me to switch parties,’ Sean Sullivan, April 11, 2018 (print edition). Donald Trump was still weeks away from being sworn in as president when, according to one Democratic senator, he was already trying to get her to defect to the Republicans. “When I visited with him in Trump Tower before he was sworn in, he asked me to switch parties,” Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) said Tuesday, responding to questions in an interview with The Washington Post.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosTrump won North Dakota by about 36 points in 2016. To secure a second term this year, Heitkamp will likely have to win over many conservative voters who cast ballots for Trump. She said she has agreements — deregulation and caring about “working people,” for example — and disagreements — tariffs, for example — with the president.

Asked why it was important to remain a Democrat, given her posture, Heitkamp replied, “I do feel allegiance and ties to the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party.” She was using a acronym for the name of the state party, the North Dakota Democratic-Nonpartisan League Party.

April 26 JFK Records Deadline

jacob hornberger headshotFuture of Freedom Foundation, April 26: The CIA Has Something to Hide, Jacob G. Hornberger, April 11, 2018. Referring to President Trump’s condemnation of the Justice Department’s violation of attorney-client privilege with its subpoena on Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen, the New York Times writes in an editorial today, “Anyway, one might ask, if … Mr. Trump has nothing illegal or untoward to hide, why does he care about the privilege in the first place?”

Of course, one has to ask why the Times doesn’t address the same question to the CIA with respect to the upcoming April 26 deadline for the release of official records relating to the JFK assassination: If the CIA has nothing illegal or untoward to hide, why does it care whether the National Archives releases the records that the CIA has been keeping secret for more than 50 years? Why does it continue fighting the release of those long secret records?

cia logoTrump would probably respond to the Times by saying: The principle of the attorney-client privilege is such an important part of a free society that it is worth fighting to preserve even if someone has nothing to hide.

The CIA, on the other hand, can’t make the same type of argument. The best it can do is come up with the standard “national-security” justification for continued secrecy, which, as everyone knows, has been used to cover up all sorts of official crimes and other wrongdoing ever since the federal government was converted into a national-security state after World War II.

After all, let’s state the patently obvious: If the National Archives complies with the JFK Records Act and releases the CIA’s long-secret JFK assassination-related records, the United States is not going to fall into the ocean and the federal government is not going to fall to the communists.

There is only one conceivable reason for the CIA’s wish for continued secrecy in the JFK assassination: It does have something illegal and untoward to hide: that it conspired to effect a domestic regime-change operation against President Kennedy, the president that decided to go to war against the Pentagon, the CIA, and the rest of the U.S. national security establishment over the future direction of the United States. (See JFK’s War with the National Security Establishment: Why Kennedy Was Assassinated by Douglas Horne.)

That’s why “national security” and secrecy surrounded the JFK assassination from the get-go. Secrecy was absolutely essential to the success of the plot and the cover-up.

Think about the official story: A lone-nut assassin suddenly decides to kill the president. He in turn is killed two days later. End of story. The investigation is quickly shut down. Everything is shrouded in secrecy. Even the Warren Commission hearings are held in secret. “National security” is cited.

April 10

Trump Payoff Probe Update

washington post logodjt official SmallWashington Post, Federal inquiry into Trump’s lawyer seeks records on two women who alleged affairs with president, Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky and Ashley Parker, April 10, 2018. The interest in an adult-film actress and a former Playboy model indicates that investigators are trying to determine if there was a strategy among Trump associates to buy the silence of women whose accounts could harm the president’s electoral chances and whether any crimes were committed.

fbi logoThe stakes were underscored by the involvement of Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who approved the move to seek a search warrant for Michael Cohen’s records.

washington post logomichael cohen iowa politics.com via flickr preston kempWashington Post, Analysis: President’s longtime ‘fixer’ is now under federal scrutiny, Michael Kranish, April 10, 2018. The attorney sums up his extraordinary closeness with President Trump in one word: “Loyalty.” A looming question now is whether Cohen (shown at right) went too far in seeking to solve Trump’s problems.

Palmer Report, Opinion: New evidence suggests Rudy Giuliani has flipped on Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, April 10, 2018. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has likely had Rudy Giuliani nailed since last year, when he cut a plea deal with Giuliani’s former client, Turkish criminal Reza Zarrab. Since that time the question has been whether Giuliani has secretly cut a plea deal against Donald Trump. Believe it or not, the FBI’s sudden raid against Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen provides strong evidence that Giuliani has indeed flipped on Trump.

rudy giuliani wIn January, Donald Trump nominated Geoffrey Berman as the new Attorney General for the Southern District of New York, which has jurisdiction over New York City. Berman had been law partners with Rudy Giuliani (right). This is presumably why Trump picked Berman, expecting that Berman would protect everyone involved in the Trump-Russia scandal. But it was Berman who signed off on the FBI raid against Michael Cohen.

This made abundantly clear that Berman is a man of principle who is only interested in the rule of law, and not at all interested in obstructing justice on Trump’s behalf. Now that we know Berman is one of the proverbial “good guys” in the sense that he’s on the side of the law, it’s extraordinarily difficult to imagine that he would have been willing to take the SDNY job – knowing that the Trump Russia scandal would inevitably come under his purview – if his parter Rudy Giuliani were still a suspect or potential suspect. It would have been too obvious of a conflict.

High Tech Under Investigation

washington post logofacebook logoWashington Post, ‘We didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm,’ Facebook CEO tells Congress, Craig Timberg, Tony Romm and Elizabeth Dwoskin, April 10, 2018. In his first-ever public appearance in front of Congress, Mark Zuckerberg is facing aggressive questioning from senators from both parties over issues that go beyond how the social network has handled the data of tens of millions of Americans.

The Telegraph, European Commission raids Murdoch’s Fox offices in London over sports rights ‘cartel,’  Christopher Williams, April 10, 2018. The British offices of the Murdoch entertainment empire 21st Century Fox have been raided by investigators from the European Commission, The Daily Telegraph can reveal.

rupert murdoch newIt is understood that competition watchdogs gained access to the company’s offices in Hammersmith, west London, early today to seize documents and computer records. The full details of the confidential investigation, which is believed to be in its early stages, are unclear. The building is home to Fox Networks, the company’s channels business. Rupert Murdoch is shown at right.

Threats To Muller Probe?

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate Republican leaders warn Trump but reject calls to pass legislation to protect Mueller, Sean Sullivan, Seung Min Kim and Karoun Demirjian​, April 10, 2018. republican elephant logoTheir reluctance to take more forceful action came as Democratic leaders voiced new urgency to shield Robert S. Mueller III a day after Trump said he had been encouraged by some to dismiss the special counsel. At least one rank-and-file Republican endorsed moving forward soon with a bill to protect him.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Denounces Raid as ‘Attack on Our Country,’ Michael D. Shear, April 11, 2018. Calling the raid on his lawyer’s office “disgraceful,” Mr. Trump mused about firing the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.

President Trump angrily unloaded on his top law enforcement officials on Monday night, complaining that the F.B.I. “broke into” the office of Michael D. Cohen, his personal lawyer, and assailing two early-morning raids as a “disgraceful situation” and an “attack on our country in a true sense.”

The president repeatedly said that the raids were part of a “witch hunt” against him that has been conducted since he took office, and he mused about the possibility that he might soon fire Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel in the Russia inquiry.

fbi logo“We’ll see what may happen,” Mr. Trump said as he began a meeting with senior military officials to discuss responses to a chemical attack in Syria. “Many people have said, ‘You should fire him.’” The president railed against Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, for recusing himself in the Russia investigation, and he blasted the F.B.I. for failing to investigate Hillary Clinton, “where there are crimes.” He also lashed out at Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, who is overseeing the Russia investigation.

Mr. Trump delivered the emotional tirade hours after federal officials raided Mr. Cohen’s office and hotel room, seizing business records, emails and documents, including information related to a payment that Mr. Cohen (shown below right in a file photo) made to a pornographic film actress.

michael cohen iowa politics.com via flickr preston kempUpdate: President Trump had attorney-client privilege on his mind early Tuesday, tweeting out his frustrations a day after the F.B.I. raided the office and hotel room of his personal attorney. “Attorney–client privilege is dead!” Mr. Trump wrote, in what appeared to be a reference to federal agents seizing records belonging to Michael D. Cohen, the president’s personal attorney.

“A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!” the president wrote in a separate tweet, repeating a favorite phrase Mr. Trump has used to describe the government’s ongoing investigation into Russia’s 2016 election interference and possible coordination with some of his associates.

ny times logofbi logoNew York Times, F.B.I. Raids Office of Trump Lawyer Who Paid Accuser, Matta Apuzzo, April 11, 2018 (print edition). Michael D. Cohen is at the center of several aspects of the special counsel’s investigation. He also acknowledged paying $130,000 to Stephanie Clifford, who said she had an affair with President Trump.

ny times logoNew York Times, Mueller Investigating Ukrainian’s Payment for Trump Talk, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman, April 11, 2018 (print edition).  The $150,000 payment was made as a donation to the Trump Foundation for a 20-minute video appearance in 2015. The special counsel is investigating a payment made to President Trump’s foundation by a Ukrainian steel magnate for a talk during the campaign, according to three people briefed on the matter, as part of a broader examination of streams of foreign money to Mr. Trump and his associates in the years leading up to the election.

Robert Mueller (FBI Official Photo)Investigators subpoenaed the Trump Organization this year for an array of records about business with foreign nationals. In response, the company handed over documents about a $150,000 donation that the Ukrainian billionaire, Victor Pinchuk, made in September 2015 to the Donald J. Trump Foundation in exchange for a 20-minute appearance by Mr. Trump that month through a video link to a conference in Kiev.

fbi logoMichael D. Cohen, the president’s personal lawyer whose office and hotel room were raided on Monday in an apparently unrelated case, solicited the donation. The contribution from Mr. Pinchuk, who has sought closer ties for Ukraine to the West, was the largest the foundation received in 2015 from anyone besides Mr. Trump himself.

The subpoena is among signs in recent months that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is interested in interactions that Mr. Trump or his associates had with countries beyond Russia, though it is not clear what other payments he is scrutinizing.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Michael Cohen and dirty money transfers suspected at heart of Mueller criminal referral, Wayne Madsen, April 10, 2018. The FBI’s “no-knock” search and gathering of evidence conducted during the early morning of April 9 on the hotel residence, home, and office of Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, was based on incidental evidence obtained by Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

The evidence showed that Cohen was involved in ongoing criminal transfers of money in violation of federal laws against money laundering and bank and wire fraud. The referral also reportedly had no connection to Mueller’s probe of Trump and his campaign for collusion with foreign interests.

rnc logoCohen, as a former top attorney for the Trump Organization and the current Deputy Finance Committee chairman for the Republican National Committee, is in possession of a number of documents that may point to various campaign finance crimes, as well as illegal banking and wire transfers to pay “hush money” to victims of Trump’s sexual harassment and assault, as well as consensual trysts, such as that involving porn actress Stormy Daniels, aka Stephanie Clifford.

RedState, Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen Got His Degree from the ‘Worst Law School in the Country,’ Sarah Rumpf, April 10, 2018. It’s not necessary to attend Harvard Law School in order to get a quality legal education and be a good lawyer, but degrees from certain bottom-tier law schools should raise flags of concern regarding the abilities of the attorneys with diplomas from those institutions hanging on their walls. Such is the case with Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s attorney and spokesman, whose herculean efforts to make a mockery of Trump’s promise that he would hire “the best people” are truly something to behold.

Cohen saw his name in headlines this week when the FBI raided his home, office, and hotel room, reportedly to seize evidence related to Cohen’s $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels to buy her silence about an alleged sexual affair with Trump, among other matters. (Ahem, like Trump’s tax returns, according to the New York Times.)

Both Trump and Cohen have adamantly denied Daniels’ story and insisted the president did nothing wrong, but the escalating series of missteps, bumbles, and weaponized ineptitude by Team Trump have made it clear that Cohen is, as The Daily Beast‘s Rick Wilson described him, “far from being the superlawyer.”

Cohen earned his law degree in 1991 from Thomas M. Cooley Law School, which later became affiliated with Western Michigan University. To say that Cooley is bottom-tier doesn’t begin to describe the problems; Cooley is the sub-basement of the bottom-tier, and then digging furiously through the floor deep into the substrata below.

Cooley has been accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA) since the mid-1970s, but that accreditation is on increasingly shaky ground. According to ABA Standard 501, “a school shall not admit an applicant who does not appear capable of satisfactorily completing its program of legal education and being admitted to the bar.”

The foundation of Cooley’s problems are its unbelievably lax admission standards, accepting almost 86% of applicants in 2016. The entering class that fall had a median GPA of 2.90 and median LSAT score of 141 (bottom 15th percentile of test takers).

In several blog posts lamenting the ABA’s failure to end “predatory admission practices,” law professor and chair of the National Advisory Council for Law School Transparency David Frakt described Cooley’s 2015 entering class as “statistically the worst entering class of law students in the history of American legal education at an ABA-Accredited law school,” cementing the college’s status as the “law school of last resort.”

Legal blog Above the Law excoriated Cooley for these dismal statistics, citing Frakt’s research to name Cooley the absolute worst on their list of the “Worst Laws School in the Country.”

This may explain how Cohen has found himself entangled in some of his more ridiculous legal theories, such as the time he defended Trump against an allegation by his ex-wife Ivanka Trump by claiming there was no such thing as marital rape. There absolutely is, and there definitely was a law making such act a crime in New York when the incident between the Trumps allegedly occurred. Cohen’s penchant for the bombastic and theatrical aside, you won’t see the intellectual heavyweights of the legal world insisting that there is “very clear case law” when that is simply not true.

Compounding the woes of Cooley’s students is how utterly, insanely expensive it is. Current estimates for tuition, fees, books, and living expenses are around $70,000 per year at Cooley’s various campuses. Tuition alone is over $53,000 annually, about $10,000 less than Harvard — but if you graduate from Harvard, well, you’ve got a Harvard degree and your employment opportunities will be looking very different.

More Martin Luther King Jr. Coverage

Corbett Report, Interview 1272 – William Pepper Reveals Who Really Killed MLK, James Corbett, April 29, 2017. Dr. William Pepper’s remarkable 40 year investigation into the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. is summarized in his equally remarkable book, The Plot to Kill King: The Truth Behind the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. In this conversation we discuss Dr. Pepper’s relationship with Dr. King, the mind-blowing evidence that destroys the official story of the assassination, who really killed MLK, and the complete media blackout that has served to keep this information from the public for half a century.

Consortium News, The Washington Post’s ‘Breakthrough’ on the MLK Murder, William F. Pepper and Andrew Kreig, April 10, 2018. The Washington Post broke with recent corporate media practice by daring to raise questions about who killed Martin Luther King Jr., as William F. Pepper and Andrew Kreig explain.

The bold, top-of-the-front-page treatment on April 2 of reporter Tom Jackman’s in-depth piece —“The Past Rediscovered: Who killed Martin Luther King Jr.?” — represents a major turning point in the treatment of the case for the past five decades by mainstream media. Print, broadcast and all too many film makers and academics have consistently soft-pedaled ballistic, eye-witness and other evidence that undermines the official story of King’s death.

This time, the Post and Jackman, an experienced reporter, undertook bold but long overdue initiative. One can only hope that it leads to similar coverage — rigorous and fair — for other history-changing events, including current ones that are inherently secret.

fox news logo SmallFox News, Opinion: Tucker Carlson: We should be skeptical [about war against Syria], Tucker Carlson, April 10, 2018. We’ve seen this movie before and we know how it ends, says Tucker Carlson, who hosts U.S. Sen Roger Wicker, Republican from Mississippi, and Theo Padnos, a journalist who was held hostage by Al Nusra for two years.

Padnos explained that there’s no way anyone can determine who did the chemical weapons attack in Syria because none of the inspectors can get close enough to the site to investigate it. He said if any journalists or inspectors go in that area, they’re liable to get their heads chopped off. So how is it we are so sure that Assad did it?

April 9

9 11 wtc squibs Custom 2

The World Trade Center Tower at the top of this column illustrates “ejections” or “squibs marked by arrows that, according to the petition-filers, provide evidence of explosion. So does molten steel, they say, which most logically could come from thermite or thermate, not from airplane fuel. The photo below at right shows examples of molten steel.

oenearthlogoOpEdNews, Lawyers To Petition DoJ Demanding 9/11 Grand Jury Investigation of WTCs 1, 2 and 7, Andrew Kreig, April 9, 2018. A federal grand jury should investigate the collapses of the World Trade Center Twin Towers during the 9/11 attacks, as well as WTC 7, according to a petition that an expert lawyers group plans to file on April 10 in New York City’s federal court.

Molten WTC2 PouringThe 54-page petition and its 57 exhibits detail the evidence that explosives were used to destroy the WTC buildings during the attack on Sept. 11, 2001. The non-profit Lawyers’ Committee for 9/11 Inquiry demands that the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York convene and submit the evidence in the petition to a grand jury.

The petition’s executive summary and full text are posted on the Lawyers’ Committee website, as of April 9.

Sex Record Raid On Trump Lawyer

washington post logoWashington Post, FBI seizes records related to payment of adult-film star in raid of Trump attorney’s office, Carol D. Leonnig and Tom Hamburger, April 9, 2018. Among what federal agents seized in Michael D. Cohen’s offices were records related to a 2016 payment Cohen made to adult-film star Stormy Daniels, who says she had a sexual encounter with President Trump. The raid came as part of an investigation referred by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to federal prosecutors in New York, an attorney for Cohen said.

Among the documents seized were privileged communications between Cohen and his clients — including those with Trump, according to a person familiar with the investigators’ work. Investigators took Cohen’s computer, phone and personal financial records as part of the search of his office at Rockefeller Center, the person said.

Trump, Generals Seek More War In Syrfia

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump says U.S. to make decision soon on response to ‘atrocious’ attack in Syria, John Wagner and Anne Gearan​, April 9, 2018.  President Trump said his administration would make “major decisions” within the next 24 to 48 hours after dozens were killed in a suspected chemical attack near Damascus. “This is about humanity, and it can’t be allowed to happen,” he said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Syria says strike on military base carried out by Israeli warplanes, Erin Cunningham and Ruth Eglash​, April 9, 2018. There were multiple casualties after the missile strike overnight on an airfield in the Homs province, which came amid fears of a wider confrontation between world powers. Russia, Syria’s ally, called the Israeli raid a “dangerous development.”

U.S. Economy

washington post logoWashington Post, Annual deficit to top $1 trillion by 2020 as Congress cuts taxes and bumps spending, CBO reports, Jeff Stein​, April 9, 2018. The ballooning deficits reflect a growing gap between the level of military services and social spending the government is promising and how much it’s willing to tax Americans to pay for them.

U.S. Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Farmers who supported Trump fear becoming pawns in a trade war, David Weigel, April 9, 2018.  President Trump’s aggressive attacks on China over trade are putting Republicans in a difficult spot — torn between siding with the president and acknowledging the economic peril a trade fight could have on their constituents.

john bolton full cropped CustomPalmer Report, Opinion: Yet another Donald Trump White House adviser abruptly resigns, Bill Palmer, April 8, 2018.  National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton may not be a household name, but just last year ago Vanity Fair wrote that he was one of Donald Trump’s most influential White House advisers.

Now he’s exiting the building, according to White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. No official reason has been given yet for his departure, but based on his position and the specific timing, it’s not difficult to figure it out. John Bolton (shown at right) is just now taking the reins as Trump’s new National Security Adviser, so it’s not shocking to see that the National Security Council spokesman is beating a path to the door.

JFK Murder Records

jefferson morley newJFK Facts, JFK Files Watch: Trump set a high bar for full disclosure, Jefferson Morley (right), April 9, 2018. With 17 days to go until President Trump’s April 26 deadline for release of the last of the U.S. government’s assassination files, it is worth recalling what Trump told the head of U.S. government agencies in his October 26, 2017 order.

“The need for continued protection can only have grown weaker with the passage of time since the Congress made this finding. Accordingly, each agency head should be extremely circumspect [Emphasis added] in recommending any further postponement of full disclosure of records.”

What will Trump do? I truly don’t know. Larry Sabato, presidential scholar and JFK author, says: “My bet is Trump will do whatever his new BFF [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo recommends. That means CIA will be protected.”

More Trump Scandal

alicia machado clinton ad

Newsweek, Trump Tried to Have Sex With Teenage Beauty Queen Alicia Machado While He Fat-Shamed Her, Former Miss Universe Claims, Cristina Maza, April 9, 2018. As executive producer of the Miss Universe beauty pageant, Donald Trump made it his mission to publicly shame Alicia Machado, a Venezuelan national who won the 1996 Miss Universe competition, for her weight.

But at the same time as he was making Machado’s life miserable by allegedly calling her “Miss Piggy” and forcing her to exercise in front of television cameras, the man who is now President of the United States was repeatedly trying to have sex with the then-teenage beauty queen, Machado (shown above in a 2016 campaign ad on behalf of Hillary Clinton) claimed for the first time last week.

In an exclusive interview with the Spanish-language channel Telemundo, Machado explained that she had a preexisting contract with Miss Universe before Trump purchased the Miss Universe Organization in 1996. The purchase meant that Trump was now her boss, although he didn’t have the power to alter the terms of her employment, Machado said. Nevertheless, she noted that Trump disrespected her continuously throughout their time working together, and he also tried to sleep with her.

“I know Trump very well. I know him as a person,” Machado said during the interview, adding that she never had sexual relations with Trump.

“Did he try?” the Telemundo anchorman asked Machado. Machado has previously claimed that she developed an eating disorder and suffered psychological trauma due to Trump’s actions. The events were used by then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election when she accused Trump of sexism over his treatment of Machado. The former Miss Universe is now a successful actress in Latin America, and has started speaking out against Trump since he rose to political prominence.

Moral Crusader

jerome corsiRight Wing Watch, Jerome Corsi Is Overwhelmed By His Calling To Expose Rampant Satanic Pedophiliam, Kyle Mantyla, April 9, 2018.  Jerome Corsi, the Washington bureau chief for the right-wing conspiracy theory outlet Infowars, appeared on “The SGT Report” over the weekend to discuss his efforts to promote the QAnon/The Storm conspiracy theory, which alleges that President Trump is secretly working to take down a massive satanic pedophile ring that involves untold numbers of elite political, business and entertainment leaders.

Corsi said that it is only through the grace of God that he is able to maintain his sanity as he works tirelessly to expose the terrible truth about the rampant satanic pedophilia that is taking place and that he often finds himself unable to sleep over the thought that he may be missing an opportunity to get the word out and “red pill” one more person.

“The corruption, the evil of devoting yourself to Lucifer ends up in satanic sacrifices, children abused, human rights kidnapping, just incredible human torment, torture, snuff films,” Corsi said. “The evil depths and corners of this are so abhorrent to me, and should be to every right-thinking American, that we need to expose this, we need to bring it out, we need to show it the light of day despite how many people it’s going to be disturbing to.”

April 8

Inside DC

washington post logojohn kelly o dhsWashington Post, ‘When you lose that power’: How John Kelly faded as White House disciplinarian, Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey and Philip Rucker, April 8, 2018 (print edition). The White House chief of staff (shown at right) grew so frustrated on the day that President Trump fired Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin that other Cabinet members tried to calm him down, according to three people with knowledge of the incident.

Opioid Crisis

washington post logoWashington Post, As the opioid epidemic rages, cities are suing Big Pharma to foot the bill, Katie Zezima, April 8, 2018 (print edition). The biggest fight against the opioid crisis is being waged in a federal courthouse in Cleveland, where hundreds of lawsuits have been brought together into one case with a scope that rivals anything seen in the U.S. legal system.

Inside Trump Administration

Palmer Report, Opinion: Yet another Donald Trump White House adviser abruptly resigns, Bill Palmer, April 8, 2018. National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton may not be a household name, but just last year ago Vanity Fair wrote that he was one of Donald Trump’s most influential White House advisers. Now he’s exiting the building, according to White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. No official reason has been given yet for his departure, but based on his position and the specific timing, it’s not difficult to figure it out.

John Bolton is just now taking the reins as Trump’s new National Security Adviser, so it’s not shocking to see that the National Security Council spokesman is beating a path to the door.

April 7

Trump Tower Fire In NYC

Palmer Report, Opinion: As someone dies in Trump Tower fire, stunning revelation about unsafe building conditions, Bill Palmer, April 7, 2018. As today’s 50th floor fire was playing out at Trump Tower in New York City, Donald Trump took the opportunity to brag on Twitter that it was a “well built building.” Before he made this remark, it had already been reported that one person was seriously injured in the blaze. Unfortunately, that person later died. Now the fire department in New York has revealed that the Trump Tower floor in question had no sprinklers.

FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro spoke to the media and was asked about Donald Trump’s assessment of how Trump Tower was built. Nigro agreed that “It’s a well built building.” But then he added that “The upper floors, the residence floors, are not sprinklered.” Apparently, Trump Tower was grandfathered in, even after regulations began requiring that all new (or newly renovated) New York City skyscrapers have sprinklers included.

What stands out here is that while the Commissioner didn’t explicitly say that the individual died as a direct result of the lack of sprinklers, he did make a point of citing the lack of sprinklers when asked what he thought about the safety of the building. And while it appears Trump Tower technically wasn’t violating the law, it’s shocking to learn that such an expensive high-end building wouldn’t have retroactively added sprinklers by now.

cbs news logoCBS News, Trump Tower fire: Fire breaks out on 50th floor, FDNY says, Caroline Linton, April 7, 2018. New York City firefigthers on Saturday are battling a fire on the 50th floor of Trump Tower, the fire department tweeted. The FDNY said at 7 p.m. that it was a four-alarm fire. They remained on the scene. The FDNY said that one man, whose apartment the fire started in, is in critical condition. Four firefigthers suffered minor injuries, including two with burns. Over 44 units and about 190 firefighters responded.

President Trump tweeted at 6:43 p.m. that the fire had been extinguished. Mr. Trump’s son Eric, who lives in the nearby Trump Parc building, tweeted that the fire had been extinguished. He also thanked the fire department.

Trump Tower, which opened in 1983, is located on 5th Ave. and 57th St. in New York City. Before moving to the White House, Mr. Trump, the first lady and Barron Trump lived in the triplex penthouse apartment, which occupies sections of floors 66-68, according to Forbes.

Massive Evictions Blight Lives

ny times logoNew York Times, A Portrait of U.S. Housing in 83 Million Evictions, Emily Badger and Quoctrung Bui, April 7, 2018. A 2016 book by a Princeton sociologist chronicled the human toll of eviction in one U.S. city. But it remained unclear how widespread the problem was. Now, his project of mining court records across the country may reveal that evictions are rampant in many places.

american flagPrinceton sociologist Matthew Desmond turned eviction into a national topic of conversation with “Evicted,” a book that chronicled how poor families who lost their homes in Milwaukee sank ever deeper into poverty.

New data, assembled from about 83 million court records going back to 2000, suggest that the most pervasive problems aren’t necessarily in the most expensive regions. Evictions are accumulating across Michigan and Indiana. And several factors build on one another in Richmond: It’s in the Southeast, where the poverty rates are high and the minimum wage is low; it’s in Virginia, which lacks some tenant rights available in other states; and it’s a city where many poor African-Americans live in low-quality housing with limited means of escaping it.

News Tanks U.S.Markets By Over 2%

washington post logoWashington Post, Dow slides 570 points as Trump threatens to escalate trade dispute with China, Thomas Heath​, April 7, 2018 (print edition). Leading the Dow down were companies that are considered the most vulnerable to a U.S.-Chinese trade feud.

Trade War

washington post logochina flagWashington Post, China vows ‘any measure’ to fight Trump on trade, but holds off on wider retaliation, Emily Rauhala, April 7, 2018 (print edition). If President Trump’s threat of $100 billion in additional tariffs on goods from China was supposed to send Chinese officials scrambling, it failed — at least for now. China’s initial response to Thursday’s statement from Trump was firm but cool. It did not punch back immediately. It did not rush to comment. But when officials did respond, they did not mince words.

On Friday evening in Beijing — during a long holiday weekend — an official from the Commerce Ministry reiterated that China will use “any measure” to fight back, and has more “very detailed countermeasures” ready if needed. “We will not exclude any option,” said Gao Feng, the spokesman for the Commerce Ministry, adding that Beijing is not currently considering talks with American trade envoys.

“The Chinese way of doing things is like this: We do not pick a fight, but if someone does pick a fight, we will fight resolutely,” GeoFeng told reporters. “The Chinese have always been very serious in handling these matters. We mean what we say.” In other words, Beijing’s message is that it will respond when and how it pleases, that it is not scared by Trump.

Trump v. The Generals?

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. military says it’s not finished with ISIS in Syria, even as Trump pushes for exit, Missy Ryan and Paul Sonne, April 7, 2018. Pentagon leaders, mindful of the fleeting nature of earlier military gains in Iraq and Afghanistan, have spoken repeatedly of the need for a robust post-conflict agenda.

DOJ Seizes BackPage Site

backpage.com doj seizure

ny times logoNew York Times, Backpage.com, Accused of Enabling Prostitution, Is Seized, Charlie Savage and Timothy Williams, April 7, 2018. The federal authorities took down the site, which had been under pressure in recent years, partly because it featured ads that included what child advocates said were code words for underage girls.

Federal authorities have taken down Backpage.com, a major classified advertising website that has been repeatedly accused of enabling prostitution and sex trafficking of minors. “Backpage.com and affiliated websites have been seized,” a notice on the website says.

Backpage has been under increasing pressure in recent years, in part because it featured ads that included what child advocates said were code words for underage girls, including “Amber Alert.”

michael lacey backpage founder mugIn January 2017, the site shuttered its “adult services listings” section under mounting criticism from law enforcement groups and senators. But many of the adult listings were simply rerouted to sections of the site dedicated to dating. Revenue at Backpage increased to $135 million in 2014 from $5.3 million in 2008, according to a Senate report last year. More than 90 percent of the earnings came from adult ads, the California Department of Justice found.

The federal seizure notice appeared on the website Friday afternoon. Earlier that day, according to news reports in Arizona, the F.B.I. had raided the Sedona home of Michael Lacey (shown at right), a founder of Backpage. An F.B.I. spokesman in Phoenix confirmed that there was “law enforcement activity” there and referred further questions to the Justice Department.

Inside DC: Economics

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump’s economic policy in Year 2 deviates from GOP agenda, Heather Long, April 7, 2018. Wall Street and business leaders are aghast as President Trump moves from prioritizing a pro-business agenda of tax cuts and deregulation to a populist agenda of trade barriers and immigration restrictions. For some in the finance world, the protectionist turn is unwelcome, and it’s ushering in a period of great uncertainty for markets and companies.

Terror Attack In Germany?

washington post logogerman flagWashington Post, At least 3 dead, dozens hurt after driver rams crowd, German officials say, Souad Mekhennet and Michael Birnbaum, April 7, 2018.  The man in a van plowed into people in downtown Münster before shooting himself, a security official said. Police were responding as though the incident were a terrorist attack, but that they remained uncertain about whether it was.

BET Founder Praises Trump

robert johnson trump cnbc april 6 2018

washington post logoWashington Post, America’s first black billionaire says Trump economy has been good for African Americans, Tracy Jan, April 7, 2018. BET founder Robert L. Johnson says (speaking on a CNBC interview April 6 shown above) “something is going right” for black Americans. But black unemployment was dropping long before President Trump took office.

bo wh law walking alone june 13 2016While Trump often claims credit for the lower black unemployment rate — touting it in his State of the Union address in January and even tweeting a CNBC story about Johnson’s comments Friday — the brightening economic outlook preceded his presidency. The black unemployment rate had steadily declined during Barack Obama’s two terms, from nearly 17 percent in 2010, after the recession, down to 7.8 percent by the time Trump entered office in January 2017. Obama is shown in a 2016 White House photo.

More On Martin Luther King’s Murder

william pepper stephen henderson detroit ptv 4 6 18 Custom 3

Detroit Public TV / American Black Journal, The Plot To Kill King, Hosted by Stephen Henderson (above with William Pepper), April 6, 2018 (2:43 mins). Who killed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. fifty years ago? We’ll delve into the decades long belief by some that Dr. King’s assassination was the result of a government plot. Stephen talks with William Pepper, the former attorney for the King family and the author of a book detailing the conspiracy theory.

William Pepper and Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. William F. Pepper is shown at right with Dr. Martin Luther King in a 1967 photo by Ben Fernandez on the platform of the National Conference for New Politics, which helped launch in Chicago what they and others intended as a new political movement. As Pepper, the planned executive director, recounts in his books, including “Orders To Kill” and “The Plot to Kill King,” provocateurs disrupted the movement before it could reach its goals of a mass movement, including a 1968 Third Party presidential ticket that could have been led by King and the famed author / peace activist Dr. Benjamin Spock.

oenearthlogoOpEdNews, The Washington Post’s ‘Breakthrough’ on the MLK Murder, Dr. William F. Pepper and Andrew Kreig, April 7, 2018. For the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s murder, the Washington Post last week overcame its tainted history of softball coverage and published a hard-hitting account quoting the King family’s disbelief in the guilt of convicted killer James Earl Ray.

The bold, top-of-the-front-page treatment on April 2 of reporter Tom Jackman’s in-depth piece –The Past Rediscovered: Who killed Martin Luther King Jr.? — represents a major turning point in the treatment of the case for the past five decades by mainstream media. Print, broadcast and all too many film makers and academics have consistently soft-pedalled the ballistic, eye-witness and other evidence that undermines the official story of King’s death.

This time, the Post and Jackman, an experienced reporter, undertook bold but long overdue initiative. One can only hope that it leads to similar coverage — rigorous and fair — for other history-changing events, including current ones that are inherently secret.

Global Research News Hour, The Plot to Kill Martin Luther King: “We All Knew He [Ray] Was Not the Shooter,” A Conversation with William Pepper on Global Research (Episode 215) Dr. William Pepper and Michael Welch, April 7, 2018.

A single bullet from an assassin’s rifle targeted Martin Luther King the evening of April 4th 1968 while he stood on the third floor balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. The murder was rightly recognized as a tragedy for the progress of civil rights and anti-racist struggle in the United States.

William Pepper’s account of King’s death, as encompassed in three books, including his latest, The Plot to Kill King: The Truth Behind the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., provides an indispensable resource for those not content with the official story of King’s Murder. Not only does his work lay out more than three decades of diligent research into the assassination, including an under-reported wrongful death civil trial in 1999, it provides a notable case study on how and why high-level conspiracies, involving government entities, carry out crimes and successfully conceal them from the public.

mlk quotation modern societyIn this 50th anniversary commemoration of the death of one of America’s most inspiring crusaders for social and economic justice, the Global Research News Hour is proud to present this exclusive feature-length interview with Dr. William Pepper. A transcript of the entire conversation is available below.

We asked Dr. William Pepper to give us some background on how he came to be associated with Martin King.

William Pepper: I had been a journalist in Vietnam, and when I returned, I published an article in Ramparts Magazine, called The Children of Vietnam, that dealt with American war crimes and some of the reality of the war. He was a subscriber to Ramparts, saw the piece, read the piece, was very distressed by it, and asked to meet with me. So I met him and opened up more files to him, and he was devastated by what his government was doing. I then worked with him that last year of his life, really, for the National Conference for New Politics. He asked me to run that, and we were looking to have a King-Spock ticket which was subverted at a convention on Labor Day weekend in Chicago.

Global Research (GR): You’re talking about Dr. Benjamin Spock.

WP: Yes, it was ….Dr. Benjamin Spock. That was their projection for the ticket.

GR: And, course, the assassination was taking place, took place, on April 4 1968, and this would have been right in the middle of the U.S. primary season.

WP: Yes, it was, it was. And, of course, we didn’t have that third party ticket because the convention with 5,000 delegates was subverted, disrupted by government agents who made it impossible to run this kind of ticket because the attending black caucus, a small part, but a disruptive part, Blackstone Rangers began to introduce anti-semitic resolutions which drove away all of the northern liberal Jewish money, so it cut the legs off from under that potential campaign.

GR: Interesting. Now, when it came to the assassination, you originally accepted the official story that James Earl Ray was the lone killer. He had been in a rooming house across from the motel where King had been staying, or at least he had a room checked out, and that was the official line. He pled guilty in 1969 and was sentenced to 99 years.

GR: At what point did you start to doubt that official take on events?

WP: Well, I began to doubt it when I interrogated Ray for 5 hours in August of ‘78. Abernathy wanted me to do that. He and I and Jim Lawson and a psychiatrist friend of mine attended effectively that interrogation at the Brushy Mountain Penitentiary in August. And it raised a number of issues and number of facts that conflicted with the official story, and so I decided at that point to begin to look into it and see what I could find out for myself.

And that’s really when this 40-year investigation began, following the interrogation of Ray. I would go to see him periodically and give questions and ask questions and try to get more information from him, and he kept asking me to represent him, and I refused to do so until 1988, which was 10 years after I met him, because I had to be certain that he was… we all knew he was not the shooter. That was evident from the interrogation that I conducted in ‘78. But what we didn’t know was what role he might have played in terms of the assassination. It took 10 years for me to be convinced that he was an unknowing patsy.

April 6

‘Homeland Security’ Plan To Catalog All Journalists

Donald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)

President Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)

EWeek, Homeland Security will start collecting data on hundreds of thousands of journalists, Summer Mezza, April 6, 2018..The Department of Homeland Security wants to compile a database to monitor hundreds of thousands of news outlets and journalists around the world.

us dhs big eagle logo4Bloomberg Law reports that DHS (which has a new logo at left) is looking for a contractor to help build the database and keep track of more than 290,000 news sources, collecting data about each source’s “sentiment,” influence, language, and circulation. The data would allow the agency to identify “any and all” coverage related to a particular event, DHS officials told Bloomberg Law.

The tracking would apply to online, print, broadcast, cable, and radio sources — essentially, any journalist, editor, blogger, or correspondent deemed a possible “media influencer” could be included. DHS also wants to follow social media activity and hopes to be able to instantly translate coverage in more than 100 languages to English to add to the database.

kirstjen nielsen dhs 1 16 18 Custom“Services shall provide media comparison tools, design and rebranding tools, communication tools, and the ability to identify top media influencers,” DHS said in a statement. [Ed. Note: The new Homeland Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is shown at her confirmation hearing in January, which had no reported indication of such a radical plan.]

The service would fill “a critical need to incorporate these functions into [DHS] programs in order to better reach federal, state, local, tribal, and private partners.”

Government officials have recently put various media under the microscope. Nineteen lawmakers questioned last month whether news outlet Al Jazeera, a state-owned media company based in Qatar, should be considered a foreign agent because of its coverage that “undermines” U.S. interests. The Congressional Black Caucus, meanwhile, criticized the FBI for monitoring online activity of suspected “black identity extremists” in November.

Seven companies have reportedly put in a bid for the contract with DHS. Read more at Bloomberg Law.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Sorry, Donald Trump, you’re not going to intimidate me out of covering your criminal antics, Bill Palmer, April 6, 2018. The Homeland Security Department of the Donald Trump administration has revealed that it’s putting together a plan to monitor U.S. journalists, bloggers, and media influencers, presumably to track and intimidate those whose coverage of Trump is negative. Homeland Security’s job is supposed to be keeping the U.S. safe from things like terrorist attacks, which means that the Trump administration now officially views the free press as something akin to terrorism. That’s scary – but it doesn’t scare me.

From the start, Donald Trump and his administration have taken an overtly hostile and almost cartoonishly evil stance toward the free press. And frankly, why wouldn’t they? Trump and his co-conspirators won the election by illegally conspiring with foreign enemies; if you’re going to go that far to secure power, you’re not going to think twice about persecuting those who try to expose your criminal antics. Because of what I do for a living, I’ve always assumed that I’m on some Trump administration watch list or other, and that other political journalists like me are as well. Frankly, I’m surprised if it took Trump this long.

In fact, come to think of it, this doesn’t feel like Trump and his people confidently cracking down on the free press. Instead it feels like a last ditch desperation move. The key here is that they’ve revealed this tracking and monitoring system. Credit goes to Bloomberg Law https://biglawbusiness.com/homeland-security-to-compile-database-of-journalists-bloggers/ for writing the defining expose on it, but this Homeland Security plan is sitting in plain sight on the FBI website. There’s no real attempt at putting this database together under the radar. They wanted the media to find it. They’re trying to scare us off.

Trade War

john thune croppedRoll Call, Sen. Thune Peeved at Trump Trade War, Eyes Hits To U.S. Agriculture, Griffin Connolly, April 6, 2018. South Dakota senator John Thune joins chorus of GOP leaders upset with Trump over ‘lose-lose’ tariff battle.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump seeks $100 billion more in tariffs against China in escalation of trade confrontation, David J. Lynch​, April 6, 2018 (print edition). President Trump said he was acting in response to China’s announcement of plans to introduce new import taxes on $50 billion worth of American goods. american flag“Rather than remedy its misconduct, China has chosen to harm our farmers and manufacturers,” the president said in a statement.

Related news: ny times logo New York Times, Trump Considers More Tariffs on $100 Billion in Chinese Goods, Ana Swanson and Keither Bradsher, April 6, 2018 (updated from April 5). Any new levies would come on top of tariffs on $50 billion in goods that the White House has already authorized over what President Trump says is Beijing’s “misconduct” on trade. The move is a high-stakes gamble aimed at cowing China into backing down and forcing it to make the kinds of changes that the United States is seeking — namely reducing the coercive tactics American officials say Beijing uses to try to dominate leading-edge industries like artificial intelligence, robotics and autonomous vehicles.

U.S. Jobs Report

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Job Growth Eased in March; Unemployment Steady at 4.1%, Ben Casselman, April 6, 2018. The Labor Department released its official hiring and unemployment figures for March on Friday morning, providing the latest snapshot of the American economy. 103,000 jobs were added last month. Wall Street economists had expected an increase of about 185,000, according to Bloomberg.

March was the 90th consecutive month of job growth, by far the longest streak on record. Employers have added an average of just over 200,000 jobs per month so far in 2018, a pace that has held relatively steady for the past two years. The unemployment rate hasn’t budged since October, but remains at its lowest level since 2000.

Mueller Probe Of Trump Aides

robert mueller full face filePalmer Report, Opinion: Robert Mueller to Donald Trump: I’m coming for your money, Bill Palmer, April 6, 2018. In the past forty-eight hours, we’ve learned that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is suddenly subpoenaing Donald Trump’s business associates in aggressive fashion, and that Mueller seized Paul Manafort’s bank accounts last year. The former provides a clue as to just how thoroughly Mueller (shown at right) is going after every aspect of Trump’s lifetime of crime, above and beyond the stolen election. The latter, which Mueller made a point of including in court filings just now, may be the real story.

Why would Mueller choose now to use court filings to make public the fact that he seized Manafort’s financial assets six months ago? From a trial and prosecution standpoint, there was no need. Manafort certainly already knows that Mueller seized his bank accounts last year. Yet we’ve seen time and again that Mueller has tossed details into his court filings which very much seemed timed to deliver a message.

fbi logoSo it stands out that Mueller is now essentially bragging about his previous Trump-Russia asset seizures, just as he’s moving in on Donald Trump’s business partners. Clearly he’s willing to go after their money if it was ill-gotten, as evidenced by the fact that he just subpoenaed them in a major criminal investigation. Mueller is grilling these Trump business associates about their interactions with Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen, and clearly Mueller is willing to go after Cohen’s money if it was illegally obtained. But based on the fact that Cohen had to take out a home equity loan just to pay Stormy Daniels, it doesn’t appear he has any money to be seized.

This message is being aimed at one person: Donald Trump. For reasons thus far only known for sure to him, Robert Mueller is now sending a clear signal to Trump that he’s going to seize any assets that Trump obtained illegally. Mueller is clearly not quite in legal position to do it yet, or he’d just do it instead of broadcasting it. The big question here is why Mueller wants Trump to know that he’s eventually going to go after his money.

The most logical conclusion would be that Robert Mueller has thought long and hard about how he’s going to force Donald Trump to resign from his stolen presidency when the time comes.

EPA Chief’s Firing Pushed: Report

ny times logojohn kelly o dhsNew York Times, Trump’s Chief of Staff Urged Him to Fire Head of E.P.A., Julie Hirshfeld Davis and Lisa Friedman, April 6, 2018. John Kelly (right), the White House chief of staff, urged President Trump last week to fire Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency mired in ethics questions.

But Mr. Trump, who is personally fond of Mr. Pruitt and sees him as a crucial ally in his effort to roll back environmental protections, has resisted firing him, disregarding warnings that the drumbeat of negative headlines has grown unsustainable, and that more embarrassing revelations could surface.

GOP Harasser, Slush-Fund Cheat Resigns From House

blake farenthold with bunny custom

U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold at the Abyss Club in Texas before his first race

ny times logoNew York Times, Congressman Resigns After Settling Suit With Taxpayer Funds, Emily Cochrane, April 6, 2018. Blake Farenthold, the Texas Republican who used $84,000 in taxpayer funds to settle a sexual harassment case with his former communications director, abruptly resigned from Congress on Friday afternoon.

blake farenthold oIn December, Mr. Farenthold, who represented the 27th District of Texas, said that he would not run for re-election amid scrutiny over the payment and accusations from other aides that he set the tone for a hostile work environment in his office. At the time, he was one of several lawmakers to announce his eventual departure from Congress after being accused of sexual harassment and discrimination.

“While I planned on serving out the remainder of my term in Congress, I know in my heart it’s time for me to move along and look for new ways to serve,” Mr. Farenthold said in a statement on Friday, thanking his staff, his family and the voters who elected him.

It was known for several years that Mr. Farenthold, already notorious for a heavily circulated photograph of him in duck pajamas, had been accused of sexual harassment by Lauren Greene, his former communications director. She sued him in 2014, claiming that he had illegally fired her after she complained about mistreatment.

#MeToo Fight Coming To Congress

Roll Call, Hundreds of Former Staffers Urge Senate to Act on Sexual Harassment, Alex Gangitano, April 6, 2018. Senate leadership to receive letter following recess.

mitch mcconnell2Over 600 former staffers have signed a letter urging Senate leadership to consider legislation that would address sexual harassment on Capitol Hill. That number continued to grow Friday morning. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (right), Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, Rules Committee Chairman Richard Shelby and ranking member Amy Klobuchar will receive the letter early next week, coinciding with the Senate’s return.

“Part of our goal is to make sure that this issue stays in the forefront and senators are hearing from hundreds and hundreds of former staff who care about the institution and want to make sure that the folks who are there now are being protected and supported,” said Kristin Nicholson, former chief of staff to Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I.

Nicholson worked on the Hill for 20 years and left in January 2017. She has been a leading voice for Congress Too, the group behind the letter. “It’s been certainly a bipartisan effort in the House, our letter is completely bipartisan, the measures that are pending in the Senate are largely bipartisan and so we would hope that it would make it pretty easy for the momentum to continue,” she said.

The group said it was discouraged when the omnibus spending package did not include the House-passed harassment measure and feels the clock is ticking as midterms approach. “We wanted to make sure that we stayed energized and tried to get something done before everyone tunes out for the election,” Nicholson said.

Stormy News

djt stormy daniels screengrab

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Says He Didn’t Know About Payment to Porn Actress, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, April 6, 2018 (print edition). In his first public remarks, Mr. Trump told reporters on Air Force One that he knew nothing about $130,000 paid to Stormy Daniels (shown above along with a file photo of the president). President Trump denied on Thursday knowing of a $130,000 payment his lawyer made to a pornographic film actress who claims to have had a sexual encounter with him, referring questions about the transaction to his personal lawyer.

Mr. Trump made his first public remarks about the matter on Air Force One as he returned to Washington from White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., where he had held a round table on tax cuts. Asked by a reporter whether he knew about the payment to the actress, Stephanie Clifford, known in her films as Stormy Daniels, he said, “No.”

Asked why Michael D. Cohen, his personal lawyer, had made the payment, Mr. Trump said, “You’ll have to ask Michael.” The president said he did not know where the money had come from.

Ms. Clifford has said that she was paid $130,000 before the 2016 election to buy her silence. She is now suing Mr. Trump to abrogate a nondisclosure agreement that was supposed to prevent her from discussing her relationship. She claims the agreement is null and void because Mr. Trump never signed it.

Ms. Clifford’s pugnacious lawyer, Michael Avenatti, quickly responded to the president on Twitter, pressing to use legal discovery to expose the back-and-forth around the $130,000 payment. He accused Mr. Trump of a “feigned lack of knowledge” about the payment. And he repeated his desire to depose Mr. Trump in a legal proceeding. “As history teaches us, it is one thing to deceive the press and quite another to do so under oath,” Mr. Avenatti wrote.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Michael Cohen’s view from under the bus: Trump denies knowing about Stormy Daniels payment, Jennifer Rubin (shown right), jennifer rubin twitterApril 6, 2018. The president’s denial and refusal to comment on whether there is a hush-money slush fund raises a raft of questions and complications for both Trump and Cohen.

First, if Trump is telling the truth and really did not know about the payment — made days before the election and designed to stave off more controversy over Trump sexual conduct — Cohen may have made an illegal campaign donation.

Lewd Photos: Air Force Officer Accused

The Hill, Air Force officer charged over solicitation of graphic photos, Josh Delk, April 6, 2018. An Air Force Officer once assigned to the president’s security detail has been charged after allegedly encouraging a group of active military officers to send him graphic photos from different “cool” places around the world, according to The Associated Press.

Second Lt. Travis Burch could face a court martial in Texas on charges of conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman after being arrested at an Air Force base there earlier in April as part of a case that investigators have been following for over a year, according to the AP.

us air force logoThe secret club known by the code name “Whiskey Delta Tango” consisted of 84 people, including 58 active military, who would reportedly take explicit photos of their genitals in different locations, and send them to him for a chance to win commemorative items.

Upon searching Burch’s quarters, investigators found the hard-drive used to store the photos in a hollowed-out book, and items such as T-shirts and tokens emblazoned with a rooster given as rewards to club members who completed certain challenges. Burch reportedly served on the presidential detail from 2014 to 2016 while stationed at the Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, and took his most recent explicit photo outside the vice president’s residence in Washington before being charged.

The defense lawyer for Burch has stated that his client and Burch’s compatriots committed no crimes, though the lieutenant could face a court martial on any of three counts including that he solicited military members to commit indecent conduct.

More On EPA Problems

scott pruitt epa o Customny times logoNew York Times, Officials Who Questioned Pruitt Faced Consequences, Eric Lipton, Kenneth P. Vogel and Lisa Friedman, April 6, 2018 (print edition). At least five Environmental Protection Agency officials were sidelined after raising concerns about the unusual spending and security demands of the agency’s chief, Scott Pruitt. The staff tumult comes to light as Mr. Pruitt’s stewardship of the agency is under mounting scrutiny.

The concerns included unusually large spending on office furniture and first-class travel, as well as certain demands by Mr. Pruitt for security coverage, such as requests for a bulletproof vehicle and an expanded 20-person protective detail, according to people who worked for or with the E.P.A. and have direct knowledge of the situation.

epa general logoMr. Pruitt bristled when the officials — four career E.P.A. employees and one Trump administration political appointee — confronted him, the people said.

The political appointee, Kevin Chmielewski, was placed on administrative leave without pay, according to two of the people with knowledge of the situation. Mr. Chmielewski was among the first employees of Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign, serving as a senior advance official. The two people, who are administration officials, said that Mr. Chmielewski flagged some of his concerns about Mr. Pruitt directly to the White House’s presidential personnel office.

The White House declined to comment on Thursday, referring questions to the E.P.A., though President Trump, as he boarded Air Force One, said he had confidence in Mr. Pruitt. And in speaking to reporters on the plane, he described Mr. Pruitt as “very courageous,” while suggesting he was reviewing the complaints about him. “I’ll make that determination,” Mr. Trump said. “But he’s a good man, he’s done a terrific job. But I’ll take a look at it.”

Politico, Pruitt fell behind on payments for his $50-a-night condo rental, Eliana Johnson and Andrew Resuccia, April 6, 2018. Trump said Thursday he still has confidence in his EPA chief, even as the agency is considering adding a review of Pruitt’s lease arrangement amid other ethics probes.

FBI Mum On Slain Driver

washington post logobijan ghaisar headWashington Post, Federal officials take more steps to maintain silence in Park Police slaying of Va. man, Tom Jackman​, April 6, 2018. The FBI informed Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) that Director Christopher A. Wray would not meet with him to discuss the Nov. 17 U.S. Park Police shooting of Bijan Ghaisar in Fort Hunt. The names of the officers involved have never been released.

As the five-month anniversary approaches of the slaying of Bijan Ghaisar (shown at right) by two U.S. Park Police officers, the FBI and the Justice Department have taken more steps to maintain the silence surrounding the case. Late Thursday, the FBI informed Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) that Director Christopher A. Wray would not meet with him to discuss the Nov. 17 shooting, in which no charges have been filed. The names of the officers have never been released.

In addition, the U.S. attorney’s office in the District sent a letter last month to Arlington County’s emergency communications department urging them not to release the 911 phone call by an Uber driver, which started the chain of events that led to Ghaisar’s shooting.

Global News: South Korea

washington post logosouth korea flag SmallWashington Post, Disgraced former South Korean president gets 24 years in prison on corruption charges, Anna Fifield​, April 6, 2018.  Park Geun-hye, who maintains her innocence after being impeached last year, was found guilty of charges including bribery, coercion and abuse of power. The prison term is tantamount to a life sentence for the 66-year-old.

Global Wars: U.S. ‘Victory’ Disputed

washington post logoWashington Post, For Trump and his generals, ‘victory’ has different meanings, Greg Jaffe, April 6, 2018 (print edition). President Trump believes wars should be waged and won with overwhelming firepower, but American generals have found their own lessons from years of combat — a difference in opinion causing tension between the military and the commander in chief.

Global News: Spain/Catalonia

carles puigdemontor catalonia president 40559

Strategic Culture Foundation, Analysis: When Germany Arrests Madrid’s Opponents, the Parallels Are Too Eerie to Dismiss, Wayne Madsen (shown at left), wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallApril 6, 2018. The arrest by Germany of Catalonia’s exiled former President, Carles Puigdemont (shown above), follows on a German tradition of tracking down and imprisoning political opponents of the “regime du jour” in Madrid since the fascist putsch launched by Generalissimo Francisco Franco in 1936.

spain flag customPuigdemont, who had been living in exile in Belgium since being deposed by Spain’s right-wing Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in October 2017, was arrested on March 25 by police in Schleswig-Holstein. Puigdemont’s detention by German police was based on a European arrest warrant issued by Spain, a warrant that had been conveniently ignored by authorities in Finland, where Puigdemont had spoken after traveling to Helsinki from Brussels by automobile;

german flag“Rebellion” is not a crime under German law. If it were, Germany would have long ago extradited several of secessionists based in Germany wanted for “rebellious” activities in their home countries.

These include Kurds, who are members of groups favoring independence from Turkey and Iraq and who are strong in Berlin and Frankfurt; Chinese Uighurs, whose secessionist World Uighur Congress is based in Munich; Tibetans, whose exile organization is based in Bonn; Chechen separatists, who are numerous in Berlin; members of the Baloch National Movement, numerous in Hamburg and Berlin; members of the Ambazonia Liberation Movement; and Oromo secessionists, mainly found in and around Frankfurt.

Many of these secessionists are wanted by their homelands for sedition and rebellion in, respectively, Turkey, China, Russia, Pakistan, Cameroon, and Ethiopia. More recently, these separatists have been joined in a welcoming Germany by Muslim Rohingya from Myanmar, West Papuans, and a few Zanzibaris from Tanzania and Rehoboth Basters from Namibia.

On April 6, a court in Schleswig-Holstein ruled that the Spanish charge of “rebellion” did not constitute grounds to either hold Puigdemont or extradite him to Spain. It should be noted that in ordering Puigdemont freed on a usurious $90,000 bail, the German court stipulated that Puigdemont’s extradition to Spain was only “suspended,” not vacated. The court ruled that Spain’s charge that Puigdemont used public funds to hold the Catalonian independence referendum could still constitute a reason to extradite him to Spain. In addition, the German court said it would consult with Spanish and federal German authorities on this point.

Foreign Wars

patrick j buchananBuchanan.org, Opinion: Syrian Showdown: Trump vs. the Generals, Patrick J. Buchanan, April 6, 2018. Former Nixon aide Pat Buchanan (right) is a conservative commentator. With ISIS on the run in Syria, President Trump this week declared that he intends to make good on his promise to bring the troops home. “I want to get out. I want to bring our troops back home,” said the president. We’ve gotten “nothing out of the $7 trillion (spent) in the Middle East in the last 17 years. … So, it’s time.”

Not so fast, Mr. President.

For even as Trump was speaking he was being contradicted by his Centcom commander Gen. Joseph Votel. “A lot of good progress has been made” in Syria, Votel conceded, “but the hard part … is in front of us.” Moreover, added Votel, when we defeat ISIS, we must stabilize Syria and see to its reconstruction.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had been even more specific:
“It is crucial to our national defense to maintain a military and diplomatic presence in Syria, to help bring an end to that conflict, as they chart a course to achieve a new political future.”

But has not Syria’s “political future” already been charted?

Bashar Assad, backed by Iran and Russia, has won his seven-year civil war. He has retaken the rebel stronghold of Eastern Ghouta near Damascus. He now controls most of the country that we and the Kurds do not.

A showdown is coming. And, stated starkly, the divide is this:

Trump sees al-Qaida and ISIS as the real enemy and is prepared to pull all U.S. forces out of Syria as soon as the caliphate is eradicated. And if Assad is in power then, backed by Russia and Iran, so be it.

The War Party does not concede Syria is lost. It sees the real battle as dead ahead. It is eager to confront and, if need be, fight Syrians, Iranians and Shiite militias should they cross to the east bank of the Euphrates, as they did weeks ago, when U.S. artillery and air power slaughtered them in the hundreds, Russians included.

If U.S. troops do remain in Syria, the probability is high that Trump, like Presidents Bush and Obama before him, will be ensnared indefinitely in the Forever War of the Middle East.

More On Russian Spy Poisoning

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: The Best Explanation For The Skripal Drama Is Still … Food Poisoning, B, April 6, 2018. Doctors at the Salisbury District Hospital announced today that Sergej Skripal’s health is rapidly improving. He and his daughter Yulia will likely be well again. It is unlikely that any targeted poisoning with a real ‘military grade’ nerve agent would have allowed for such an outcome. This brings us back to food poisoning as a possible cause of the Skripals’ ordeal.

A friend of this blog, Tore, sent us his considerations, which we publish below. He suggest that shellfish poisoning, which is caused by a neurotoxin known as Saxitoxin or STX, is the real culprit of the Skripal incident. He explains how this would fit to the observable behavior of the British government and other participants in the drama. In my view his theory has significant merit.

On Wednesday, the niece of Sergej Skripal, Viktoria Skripal, received a phone call from Yulia Skripal. She was interviewed by a Russian TV station and suggested that food poisoning might have been the real cause of the calamities her relatives were in.

For those who have not read our previous posts on the issue we offer a short recap of the case. Regular readers may want to scroll down to Tore’s part.

Sergej and Yulia Skripal were found on a public bench in Salisbury at about 4pm on March 4. They had collapsed, were conscienceless and were brought into emergency care at the Salisbury District Hospital. Local media wrote of a potential Fentanyl overdose.

sergei skripal julia skirpal pub Half an hour before the Skripal’s collapsed they had eaten at Zizzi, a seafood and pizza outlet (as shown at right).

Over the next days the British government started to make a fuzz about the case. Sergej Skripal was a British spy who had been caught in Russia, put into jail and, in 2010, exchanged for Russian spies. The British government hinted of Russian involvement in the Salisbury incident.

But that story smelled fishy from its very beginning. To target an exchanged spy would guarantee that no further exchanges would ever happen. Sergej Skripal had links to the “dirty dossier” about Donald Trump that was created for the Hillary Clinton campaign. Russia had no good motive, others potentially had one. If there was something nefarious going on it seemed unlikely that Russia was involved.

I now believe that the British government jumped onto the case because it needed to divert attention from the seriously bad results of the Brexit negotiations in Brussels. There are local elections coming up in May and Theresa May’s Tory party was lagging in the polls. (There may have been additional reasons related to a planned ‘chemical weapon’ surprise in the east-Ghouta campaign in Syria.)

U.S. Politics

Politico, Kander hires Des Moines Register scribe amid 2020 buzz, David Siders and Edward-Isaac Dovere, April 6, 2018. Potential 2020 presidential candidate Jason Kander is hiring an Iowa-based communications director as his national organization staffs up. Kander, the former Missouri secretary of state and failed 2016 Senate candidate who has become an unlikely national Democratic figure, is bringing on Jason Noble, who on Friday announced he was leaving his job as political reporter for the Des Moines Register.

Crime: Prosecutor Assaulted At Court

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal prosecutor attacked outside D.C. Superior Court following murder trial, Keith L. Alexander, April 6, 2018. A federal prosecutor was assaulted outside D.C. Superior Court on Thursday, just minutes after a jury returned guilty verdicts in a homicide case on which the prosecutor had worked, according to police.

D.C. police officers, U.S. marshals and court security officers ran outside after the prosecutor, Kendra Briggs, was attacked by a man who is a relative of a defendant convicted in the murder case, two D.C. homicide detectives said late Thursday.

More On King Murder

mlk i am a man usda nat civil rights museum memphis

Displays at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN. Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture / Flickr / WhoWhatWhy

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Revealing the Ploy That Drew MLK to Memphis, William Pepper, April 6, 2018. On February 1, 1968, two underpaid sanitation workers died a gruesome death in Memphis when they were swallowed alive by a poorly maintained garbage packer. In his book, The Plot to Kill King: The Truth Behind the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. William Pepper claims the deaths were not an accident. Instead, he argues, they were part of a ploy to get Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to return to Memphis so he could be murdered.

Pepper believes this alleged plan, which he says was hatched by the Dixie Mafia family of Russell Adkins in coordination with Memphis Director of Police and Fire Frank Holloman, led to the assassination of King 50 years ago this week.

To anybody who only knows King from current history books as a celebrated and revered civil rights leaders, it would seem odd that there were forces high in the US government who wanted to see him dead at the time.

Those who lived during that era of strife, however, know firsthand of the animosity King faced at every turn. His life was in danger every step he took on that long march toward equality in the US. The list of those who wanted to see King dead was probably as long as his accomplishments.

In the end, however, his assassination, like several others of that turbulent decade, was ascribed to a lone gunman, James Earl Ray. But skeptics, including King’s own family and the jurors of a 1999 civil court case in Memphis, have questioned that explanation for five decades. For that narrative may shield a darker, more disturbing truth about King’s assassination — that he threatened a racial and economic power structure that was capable of going to great lengths to silence him.

April 5

Doubts On UK Spy Poison Story

sergei skripal julia skirpal pub

Former Russian spy Sergei Skirpal and his daughter Yulia Skripal on the day they were poisoned in England

craig murray uk ambassadorCraigMurray.com, Knobs and Knockers, Craig Murray (Former UK ambassador shown at right), April 5, 2018. What is left of the government’s definitive identification of Russia as the culprit in the Salisbury attack? It is a simple truth that Russia is not the only state that could have made the nerve agent: dozens of them could. It could also have been made by many non-state actors.

Two questions arise. How credible is the British government’s possession of a Russian secret training manual for using novichok agents, and how credible is it that the Skripals were poisoned by their doorknob.

United Kingdom flagTo take the second question first, I see major problems with the notion that the Skripals were poisoned by their doorknob. The first is this. After what Dame Sally Davis, Chief Medical officer for England, called “rigorous scientific analysis” of the substance used on the Skripals, the government advised those who may have been in contact to wash their clothes and wipe surfaces with warm water and wet wipes. Suspect locations were hosed down by the fire brigade.

But if the substance was in a form that could be washed away, why was it placed on an external door knob? It was in point of fact raining heavily in Salisbury that day, and indeed had been for some time. Can somebody explain to me the scenario in which two people both touch the exterior door handle in exiting and closing the door? And if it transferred from one to the other, why did it not also transfer to the doctor who gave extensive aid that brought her in close bodily contact, including with fluids?

theresa may quizzical look fileThe second problem is that the Novichok family of nerve agents are instant acting. There is no such thing as a delayed reaction nerve agent. Remember we have been specifically told by Theresa May (shown at right) that this nerve agent is up to ten times more powerful than VX, the Porton Down developed nerve agent that killed Kim’s brother in 15 minutes. But if it was on the doorknob, the last contact they could possibly have had with the nerve agent was a full three hours before it took effect.

Campaign Promises

President Trump and Vice President Pence display the proposed Trump budget in November (White House photo)

washington post logoDonald Trump and Mike Pence logoWashington Post, Policies that Trump called ‘easy’ fixes as a candidate smack into political reality, Michael Scherer, Josh Dawsey and Philip Rucker, April 5, 2018 (print edition). President Trump has returned to the gut-level basics that got him elected: tough talk on China, a promise of an immigration crackdown and an isolationist approach to national security. But that has created backlash among some of his allies.

Trump Probes

bill yeomans afj cropped CustomAlliance for Justice, Opinion: Are We There Yet? Making Sense of Justice in the Trump Era, Bill Yeomans (right), April 5, 2018. The ever-expanding chaos in the Trump administration has amped up concern that we are reaching the bursting point.

The departures of Gary Cohn, H.R. McMaster, Hope Hicks, Rex Tillerson, Rob Porter, David Shulkin, John Dowd, and others launch a new phase in which Trump can surround himself with characters from his TV world and act even less responsibly. Trump has spewed ever more astonishing tweets disparaging the FBI, DOJ, Democrats, immigrants, and Amazon. Mueller’s net is tightening and, apparently, driving Trump toward desperation.

This is a phase to be dreaded – an endgame in which Trump will cast aside any remaining constraints, launching an orgy of firings, pardons, and maybe a couple of wars. Members of Congress heightened the concern by issuing statements cautioning Trump not to fire Bob Mueller and pushing for legislation to protect him.

rod rosenstein us attorneyThe legislation, which is a fine idea and probably constitutional, is not going to happen. In any event, even Trump should recognize that firing Mueller will not end the Russia investigation. Though Mueller, because of his talent and personal qualities, would be sorely missed, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (left) would appoint a replacement and carry on.

The power to define the scope of the investigation and to approve major steps rests with Rosenstein.

Trump would love to get rid of Rosenstein or, better yet, get rid of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and replace him with a TV crony who could stifle the Russia investigation. Sessions has survived this long because of his support in the Senate. Rosenstein has survived because Trump has not yet been willing to risk the outrage that might follow his ouster and because he is uncertain he can put a reliable crony in his place. As the vise tightens, he may become less risk-verse.

Threat To Privacy

ny times logofacebook logoNew York Times, Facebook Now Says Improper Data Use Affected 87 Million, Cecilia Kang and Sheera Frenkel, April 5, 2018 (print edition). Facebook said that the personal information of up to 87 million people may have been improperly shared during the 2016 election with Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm, a sharp increase from the company’s previous estimate.

More EPA Disputes

washington post logoscott pruitt epa o CustomWashington Post, Top EPA ethics official says he lacked key facts about Pruitt’s condo rental, Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis, April 5, 2018. The agency’s principal deputy general counsel said he only evaluated the terms of Administrator Scott Pruitt’s lease with a lobbyist — not activities the document did not cover — when he concluded the lease did not violate federal gift laws. Pruitt is shown at right.

The Hill, Top Pruitt aide resigns from EPA amid controversies, Miranda Green, April 5, 2018. A top aide and close friend of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt has issued her resignation in the wake of various scandals plaguing the agency chief. Samantha Dravis, the senior counsel and associate administrator in EPA’s Office of Policy, tenured her resignation last week, the agency confirmed to The Hill on Thursday.

epa general logoThe sudden departure is described by one source with close knowledge of Dravis’ relationship with Pruitt as a “five alarm story.” Dravis (shown below right with a photo from C-SPAN) has a long history with Pruitt, the former attorney general of Oklahoma.

samantha dravis c spanShe previously worked with Pruitt as policy director and general counsel at the Republican Attorneys General Association. She was also president of the Rule of Law Defense Fund, affiliated with the same organization, and before that legal counsel at Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce — an organization of conservative political donors led by the Koch brothers.

The source described the relationship between Pruitt and Dravis as a close friendship, saying the aide was Pruitt’s “best friend” and someone he had dinner with “several times every week.” Dravis did not return requests for comment surrounding the nature of her resignation. Two sources told the Washington Post that her resignation was unrelated to Pruitt’s recent onslaught of ethics issues and that she is leaving to join the private sector.

Dravis has found herself tied to at least one other controversy during her time at the administration: She is reportedly an ex-girlfriend of former senior White House aide Rob Porter. Dravis was responsible for a call made to White House Counsel Don McGahn in November 2017, informing him of abuse allegations made by both of Porter’s ex-wives, CBS reported.

ny times logoNew York Times, Pressure Mounts on Scott Pruitt, E.P.A. Chief, as Top Advisers Eye the Exit, Coral Davenport and Lisa Friedman, April 5, 2018. Ms. Dravis’ departure comes on the heels of questions raised by Senator Thomas Carper, a Democrat from Delaware, about her work history.

According to a letter that Mr. Carper sent to the E.P.A. inspector general, Ms. Dravis did not attend work or perform her duties for most of November, December and January while continuing to draw a salary. The March 28 letter, obtained by The New York Times, said the information “raises questions” about whether the agency is adhering to internal rules regarding employee time and attendance.

Inside Washington

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President Donald Trump boards Air Force One before departing Joint Base Andrews en route West Virginia (Reuters photo by Kevin Lamarque)

Daily Caller, PHOTOS: The Wind Got The Best Of POTUS On His Way To West Virginia, Christian Datoc, April 5, 2018. President Donald Trump did battle with an unexpected enemy Thursday before departing Washington, D.C., for West Virginia. You wind some, you lose some.

ny times logoNew York Times, For Mueller, a Feared Weakness Becomes a Sudden Strength, Charlie Savage, April 5, 2018. The special counsel is emphasizing his lack of independence to defend the indictment of Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. won’t rebuild Syria after defeat of ISIS, Trump tells aides, Karen DeYoung and Shane Harris, April 5, 2018 (print edition).  President Trump ordered military leaders to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria as soon as possible and stressed that American strategic goals in Syria do not include longer-term stability or reconstruction.

#MeToo GOP Consultant Scandal

Roll Call, Hardy Campaign Adviser Fired After He Made Ex-Fiancee His ‘Slave,’ Griffin Connolly, April 5, 2018. Benjamin Sparks was fired from consultant’s job working on Rep. Cresent Hardy’s campaign.

cresent hardy nv4Benjamin Sparks, a political strategist who has worked on several high-profile Republican campaigns over the last decade, was fired in March from his position working on former Rep. Cresent Hardy’s campaign after police responded to a domestic dispute between Sparks and his then-fiancee. Hardy, shown at right, is seeking re-election this spring for a seat he lost in 2016.

It turns out Sparks and his fiancée had signed a contract in November making the woman his “slave in training,” the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported, citing text messages, emails and a copy of the contract the ex-fiancee shared with the publication.

The contract, signed a day after the two began dating, stated that she would be Sparks’ “slave and property.” She was forced to kneel and look down when she entered his presence, be nude at all times, have sex with him whenever he wanted and wear a collar when they were in private, the Review-Journal reported.

“He was very demanding and did not take no for an answer,” Sparks’ ex-fiancée said. “Over the last month it escalated into very rough sex where he’d actually hurt me. He back-handed me … and forced himself on me.”

republican elephant logoSparks, 36, was political affairs director for RedRock Strategies, a political consulting firm in Washington, D.C., with an office in Las Vegas. Before he was fired last week, he had been working on Hardy’s campaign to win back Nevada’s 4th District, which the former congressman represented from 2015 to 2017.

He had also been working for Republican Yvette Herrell, who is campaigning for New Mexico’s 2nd District seat. Both RedRock Strategies and Hardy did not return multiple calls for comment, the Review-Journal reported. Herrell declined to comment on the story. Sparks previously worked as a top communications aide and spokesman for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign.

democratic donkey logoIncumbent Ruben Kihuen (D) announced that he would not seek re-election on December 16, 2017, following reports that he had solicited sexual favors from a female staffer.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fired over an Instagram post and a rumor, Saints cheerleader could force NFL to address double standard, Adam Kilgore, April 4, 2018. For three years as a member of the New Orleans Saints cheerleading team, the Saintsations, Bailey Davis complied with the eight-page booklet of team rules. Sometimes they made her angry, but she loved performing and had worked her entire life to make it to an NFL sideline, so she accepted what was asked of her.

The form of social interaction most scrutinized was contact with players. It was forbidden in any form. If an NFL player liked her social media post, it was incumbent on her to block the player. She could not be in the same section of a club, or party, or restaurant as a player, regardless of who arrived there first.

Despite her efforts to follow rules, Davis was fired in January after a rumored encounter with a player at a party and a picture the Saints considered racy posted to her Instagram account. Davis subsequently filed a gender discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the Saints and the NFL, claiming female cheerleaders and male players unfairly faced different standards.

The rules that led to Davis’s firing and complaint filing, first uncovered last week by the New York Times, typify attitudes and treatment toward NFL cheerleaders. After a flurry of movements nationwide meant to empower women and increase equality between genders, rules that have been overlooked or accepted for years in the NFL may no longer be compatible with the cultural moment.

King Retrospective

Salon, Martin Luther King Jr. had a much more radical message than a dream of racial brotherhood, Paul Harvey (Professor of American History, University of Colorado), April 5, 2018. Martin Luther King Jr. has come to be revered as a hero who led a nonviolent struggle to reform and redeem the United States. His birthday is celebrated as a national holiday. Tributes are paid to him on his death anniversary each April, and his legacy is honored in multiple ways.

But from my perspective as a historian of religion and civil rights, the true radicalism of his thought remains underappreciated. The “civil saint” portrayed nowadays was, by the end of his life, a social and economic radical, who argued forcefully for the necessity of economic justice in the pursuit of racial equality.

MLK Death / Race / Culture

washington post logoWashington Post, Retropolis: The Past, Rediscovered: In 1968, MLK was dead. Cities were burning. Could James Brown keep Boston from erupting, too? Terence McArdle, April 5, 2018 (7:28 min. WGBH video). Brown’s band feared for his safety. But Boston officials begged him to take the stage. James Brown’s televised concert in Boston a day after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination is credited with sparing the city the unrest seen elsewhere.

Sports / Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Donald Trump’s divisive decision to skip Opening Day: For more than a century, presidents have used Opening Day to unite the country. Not anymore, Randy Roberts and Johnny Smith, April 5, 2018. For a president who seems to be a constant presence, President Trump is strangely missing in action today. Again, he is skipping the spring ritual celebrating one nation under baseball.

He is not avoiding baseball fans — he is avoiding the opposition. In Washington he carries a 6 percent approval rating, lower than any state in the country. He knows that the Nationals’ fan base is not his fan base.

In the summer of 1862, Republican President Abraham Lincoln abandoned the White House for an afternoon and took his youngest son, Tad, to a baseball game. According to legend, Lincoln sat along the first-base line, Tad positioned between his long legs, and for a few hours forgot about the Civil War and enjoyed watching the game in the warm sun.

Free Press

Bloomberg Law, Homeland Security to Compile Database of Journalists, Bloggers, Cary O’Reilly, April 5, 2018. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security wants to monitor hundreds of thousands of news sources around the world and compile a database of journalists, editors, foreign correspondents, and bloggers to identify top “media influencers.” It’s seeking a contractor that can help it monitor traditional news sources as well as social media and identify “any and all” coverage related to the agency or a particular event, according to a request for information released April 3. Details:

• Seeks contractor that can monitor 290,000 global news sources

• ‘Media influencer’ database to note `sentiment’ of coverage

April 4

Donald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Drops Push for Immediate Withdrawal of Troops From Syria, Julia Hirschfeld Davis, April 4, 2018. President Trump has instructed his military commanders to quickly wrap up the American military operation in Syria so that he can bring troops home within a few months, senior administration officials said on Wednesday. He dropped his insistence on an immediate withdrawal, they said, after commanders told him they needed time to complete their mission.

The president’s decision to keep the 2,000 troops on the ground in Syria for the immediate future came in a meeting of the National Security Council in the White House Situation Room on Tuesday, hours after Mr. Trump had told a roomful of reporters that “it’s time” to bring American forces home from a conflict that has been a crucial battlefield in the fight against the Islamic State.

At the meeting, Mr. Trump’s top military advisers told him they had drawn up plans to pull American troops out of Syria immediately. But they also presented a plan for the forces to stay longer to clean out the residual pockets of Islamic State fighters and to train local forces to stabilize the liberated territory so that the group could not regain a foothold.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump instructs military to prepare to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, Karen DeYoung​, April 4, 2018. In a meeting with national security officials Tuesday, President Trump stressed that troops can be involved in current tasks to ensure security in areas liberated from the Islamic State, an official said. But Trump said that the U.S. mission would not extend beyond the destruction of the Islamic State.

The decision, which Trump had telegraphed with recent statements saying it was time for the United States to “get out” of Syria, appeared to conflict with senior military officials who have repeatedly outlined the need for an ongoing military presence in Syria.

joseph votel centcomAt the same time, Gen. Joseph L. Votel (shown in a file photo), head of the U.S. Central Command, agreed that “a lot of very good military progress has been made” but said that “the hard part, I think, is in front of us.” Votel, speaking at the U.S. Institute of Peace on Tuesday, described the military’s counter-Islamic State mission as including “stabilizing, consolidating gains” and “addressing long-terms issues of reconstruction” along with U.S. diplomatic and nonmilitary aid efforts.

ny times logoNew York Times, China Strikes Back at U.S. With Further Retaliatory Tariffs, Keith Brasher and Steven Lee Myers, April 4, 2018. Hours after the Trump administration unveiled tariffs on 1,300 Chinese products, China outlined plans for tariffs on American soybeans, cars and other goods, raising fears of an all-out trade war.

China hit back at the United States on Wednesday with proposed tariffs on $50 billion worth of American soybeans, cars, chemicals and other goods, in a move likely to spark fears that the countries’ escalating confrontation could become an all-out trade war.

Moving with unusual speed, Chinese officials outlined plans to make it more costly to import 106 categories of American goods into China. The move came just hours after the Trump administration detailed its plan to impose tariffs on a similar value of Chinese-made aircraft parts, cars and car parts, televisions, steel and much more.

The American products come largely from Republican-dominated states, where lawmakers might be expected to have some influence with President Trump and could persuade him to back down from his latest trade demands.

“China has never succumbed to external pressure,” Zhu Guangyao, vice minister of finance, said at a news briefing on Wednesday. He added, “External pressure will only make the Chinese people more focused on economic development.”

Chinese retaliation for the Trump administration’s latest move had been widely expected. Beijing typically responds to overseas tariffs with similar ones of its own, and Chinese officials had promised a proportional response if the Trump administration went ahead this week with the next step toward broad tariffs on Chinese goods. The dueling tariffs are relatively modest in the context of a trade relationship valued at nearly $650 billion a year. Still, economists worry that the clash could escalate quickly if the two sides can’t find a way to resolve their differences, threatening a commercial relationship that is essential to the world economy.

April 4

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘The Business of War’: Google Employees Protest Work for the Pentagon, Scott Shane and Daisuke Wakabayashi, April 4, 2018. Thousands of Google employees, including dozens of senior engineers, have signed a letter protesting the company’s involvement in a Pentagon program that uses artificial intelligence to interpret video imagery and could be used to improve the targeting of drone strikes.

google logo customThe letter, which is circulating inside Google and has garnered more than 3,100 signatures, reflects a culture clash between Silicon Valley and the federal government that is likely to intensify as cutting-edge artificial intelligence is increasingly employed for military purposes.

“We believe that Google should not be in the business of war,” says the letter, addressed to Sundar Pichai, the company’s chief executive. It asks that Google pull out of Project Maven, a Pentagon pilot program, and announce a policy that it will not “ever build warfare technology.”

That kind of idealistic stance, while certainly not shared by all Google employees, comes naturally to a company whose motto is “Don’t be evil,” a phrase invoked in the protest letter. But it is distinctly foreign to Washington’s massive defense industry and certainly to the Pentagon, where the defense secretary, Jim Mattis, has often said a central goal is to increase the “lethality” of the United States military.

From its early days, Google has encouraged employees to speak out on issues involving the company. It provides internal message boards and social networks where workers challenge management and one another about the company’s products and policies. Recently, the heated debate around Google’s efforts to create a more diverse work force spilled out into the open.

Courtroom Peek Into Private Prisons

ny times logoNew York Times, In a Private Prison, Blood, Suicide and Poorly Paid Guards, Timothy Williams, April 4, 2018 (print edition). A trial in Mississippi provides a rare glimpse into a world where mistreatment of inmates is commonplace, at a time when the Trump administration wants to expand the use of private prisons.

On the witness stand and under pressure, Frank Shaw, the warden of the East Mississippi Correctional Facility, could not guarantee that the prison was capable of performing its most basic function. Asked if the guards were supposed to keep inmates in their cells, he said, wearily, “They do their best.”

So many shackled men have recounted instances of extraordinary violence and neglect in the prison that the judge has complained of exhaustion. The case, which has received little attention beyond the local news media, provides a rare glimpse into the cloistered world of privately operated prisons, at a time when the number of state inmates in private facilities is increasing and the Trump administration has indicated that it will expand their use.

UK Claims Of Russian Spy Poisoning

sergei skripal julia skirpal pub

Former Russian spy Sergei Skirpal and his daughter Yulia Skripal on the day they were poisoned in England

United Kingdom flagMoon of Alabama, “It’s The Cover-Up”: UK Foreign Office Deletes Tweet, Posts False Transcript, Issues New Lies, B, April 4, 2018. The British government is trying to cover-up the lies it made with its false allegations against Russia. The cover-up necessitates new lies some of which we expose below.

Yesterday the head of the British chemical weapon laboratory in Porton Down stated that the laboratory can not establish that the poison used in the alleged ‘Novichok’ attack in Salisbury was produced by Russia. This was a severe blow to the British government allegations of Russian involvement in the poisoning of Sergej and Yulia Skripal.

Now the British government tries to hide that it said that the poison used in the Salisbury was ‘produced in Russia’ and that Porton down had proved that to be the case. The government aligned media are helping to stuff the government lies down the memory hole. We all need to make sure that the new lies get exposed and that the attempts to change the record fail.

Malaysia: Prison For ‘Fake News’?

ny times logoNew York Times, As Malaysia Moves to Ban ‘Fake News,’ Worries About Who Decides the Truth, Hannah Beech, April 4, 2018 (print edition). In highway billboards and radio announcements, the government of Malaysia is warning of a new enemy: “fake news.” On Monday, the lower house of Parliament passed a bill outlawing fake news, the first measure of its kind in the world. The proposal, which allows for up to six years in prison for publishing or circulating misleading information, is expected to pass the Senate this week and to come into effect soon after.

The legislation would punish not only those who are behind fake news but also anyone who maliciously spreads such material. Online service providers would be responsible for third-party content, and anyone could lodge a complaint. As long as Malaysia or Malaysians are affected, fake news generated outside the country is also subject to prosecution. What qualifies as fake news, however, is ill defined. Ultimately, the government would be given broad latitude to decide what constitutes fact in Malaysia.

U.S. ‘Fake News’

washington post logoWashington Post: Opinion: The term ‘fake news’ has lost all meaning. That’s just how Trump wants it, Margaret Sullivan​, April 4, 2018. A poll shows we have officially crossed through the looking glass on the subject of trust in the traditional news media. A new Monmouth University poll says that 3 of 4 Americans believe that traditional news organizations report “fake news.”

I’ve been arguing for more than a year that the term should be shunned because its original meaning — that is, fabricated stories intended to fool you — has been so purposely blurred and tainted. That’s largely the doing of President Trump, who wants nothing more than to have the American public distrust the reality-based press which often reports unflattering — but true — things about him.

Trump Threatens Border Crossers

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Says He Plans to Send National Guard to Mexico Border, Julie Hirshfeld Davis, April 4, 2018 (print edition). For the third consecutive day, President Trump warned about the looming dangers of unchecked immigration. The White House press secretary did not say how many troops would be sent or when. Immigration advocates denounced the plan as a political ploy.

Secret Cellphone Snooping In DC?

washington post logoWashington Post, DHS has detected possible cellphone surveillance in D.C. — and doesn’t know who’s doing it, Matt Zapotosky, April 4, 2018. The Department of Homeland Security has detected in the Washington area what appears to be the unauthorized use of a controversial technology that allows for the surreptitious surveillance of people’s cellphones — though it has not been able to pinpoint who or what is causing it, the department revealed in a letter released Tuesday.

The technology, a cell-tower simulator commonly known as a StingRay, has been deployed for years by federal and local law enforcement to pinpoint suspects’ locations, though its unauthorized use in the Washington area raises fears that foreign adversaries might also be taking advantage of it to spy on U.S. citizens.
The simulators work by tricking cellphones nearby to register with them, rather than normal cell towers. Once the device finds the phone it is seeking, it can pinpoint the phone’s location. Some versions of the technology can also be used to eavesdrop on calls.

MLK Death At 50

mlk head shot 1JFKMoon.org, MLK 50 Years Later: Truth and Reconciliation, Mark Robinowitz, April 4, 20128. 50 years ago, on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered in Memphis. Now, MLK is a cultural icon, memorialized by the federal holiday, with schools and roads named in his honor.

He is best known for his “I have a dream” speech at the 1963 March on Washington, but King’s legacy is far broader. In 1964, King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He received this as a responsibility to do more.

On April 4, 1967, at Riverside Church in New York City, he gave perhaps his most powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam,” an indictment of what he called the “triple evils” of racism, militarism and poverty. Virtually the entire media attacked Dr. King for denouncing the war. Many of his allies ostracized him. Donations dropped to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He was never invited to the White House again.

In a 2016 article for Sojourners magazine, Rabbi Arthur Waskow recalled that King’s “friend and co-worker Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel was heard to mutter than by giving this profoundly radical speech he had signed his death warrant — and indeed, exactly one year later, he was murdered.”

When King was killed, he had been organizing the “Poor People’s Campaign,” a second March on Washington. The plan was to camp on the National Mall by the US Capitol to demand the government address poverty (not only African Americans). Federal government leaders saw this as a dangerous threat. They feared MLK would not be able to keep the protest non-violent, especially after their demands were not met.

The official narrative of King’s assassination is that he was killed by James Earl Ray, supposedly a lone racist motivated by hate. King had received countless racist threats, but racism was not the only reason he was killed.

After some years, the King family suspected that James Earl Ray, the accused killer, was not the murderer. They asked their friend, attorney William Pepper, to investigate. Pepper had helped persuade King to speak out more against the war on Vietnam, and toward the end of Ray’s life, became Ray’s attorney.

Ray never had a trial. He was coerced into pleading guilty to avoid the electric chair — and spent the rest of his life trying to withdraw that plea. The King family eventually supported Ray’s (unsuccessful) effort for a trial.

Ray died in prison in 1998. In 1999, the family filed a suit against Loyd Jowers and “other unknown co-conspirators.” Jowers owned the rooming house next to the Lorraine Motel where King was shot. He had admitted, in a public interview and in talks with Dexter King and Andrew Young, to have hidden the rifle that was used; fired, he said, by a Memphis police sharpshooter.

King v. Jowers did not seek to prosecute or punish anyone, but to use the legal system to expose the truth. (They only asked for a symbolic fine of $100 and no jail time.) The family was inspired by the “Truth and Reconciliation” process pioneered in South Africa after Apartheid, which gave amnesty for politically motivated crimes if the perpetrators were willing to confess in public. The jury heard three weeks of testimony and took one hour to reach a verdict: elements in the federal and local governments conspired with organized crime to kill King.

The family said the trial was “everything that the family members have to say about the assassination.” They said they “have done our part [and] those of you, if you find it in your hearts to get the ‘powers that be’ to officialize what 12 independent people have already done, that is your business.” Since then, there has not been a groundswell to highlight the implications for civil rights, issues of peace and war, and the contrast of poverty in the wealthiest nation in history.

Truth and Reconciliation applies not only to the perpetrators who ordered this and similar crimes of state, but also to the citizenry who have been hesitant to admit unpleasant parts of our history. The King family’s message of love and reconciliation could free our society from fear and divisiveness to reach our positive potentials.

Mark Robinowitz publishes www.JFKMoon.org, about President Kennedy’s 1963 effort to end the Cold War and convert the Moon race to a joint US – Soviet mission. He will present a paper on “Truth and Reconciliation for the National Insecurity State” at “Of Kennedys and Kings: Reinvestigating the RFK and MLK assassinations at 50” Details at www.duq.edu/rfkmlk

JFK Murder Records

jefferson morley newJFKFacts.org, JFK Files Watch: With 22 days to go, these key files remain secret, Jefferson Morley (right), April 4, 2018. As President Trump’s April 26, 2018 deadline for full disclosure looms, key JFK files remain beyond public view. These files concern a subject the mainstream media coverage has shied from: the pre-assassination surveillance of accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald from 1959 to 1963.

The files of four CIA officers who participated in the surveillance of Oswald have been released – but only in partial and redacted form. David Phillips, Birch O’Neal, George Joannides, and Ann Goodpasture, all deceased, were undercover operations officers who received reports on Oswald in the years, months, and weeks preceding JFK’s murder. After JFK was killed, they all obfuscated and concealed their knowledge of the man who was accused of killing Kennedy and denied it.

Phillips and Joannides broke the law by obstructing a Congressional investigation in the 1970s, according to Robert Blakey, general counsel of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, and Dan Hardway, an investigator. The partially released files of these four officers (viewable here, here, here and here) are still larded with white patches of deletions.

These redactions are a road map to the continuing JFK coverup. They obscure what the CIA wants to hide the most: the actions of certain counterintelligence and Cuban operations officers in late 1963.

ny times logoNew York Times, Where Today’s Black Church Leaders Stand on Activism, John Eligon, April 4, 2018 (print edition). Fifty years after the assassination, black pastors are issuing a call to action and using different methods to achieve common goals.

United Kingdom flag

sergei skripal julia skirpal pub

Former Russian spy Sergej Skirpal and his daughter Yulia Skripal on the day they were poisoned in England

theresa may home secretaryGlobal Research, Opinion: U.K. is Lying: If Skripal was Poisoned at His Home, The Agent Used against Him Cannot be Nerve Gas, Bassim al-Khalili, April 4, 2018. The United Kingdom unknowingly admitted that its government has been lying, accusing Russia of allegedly poisoning former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia by the nerve agent Novichok on March 4 in Salisbury. The British government (especially via Prime Minister Theresa May, at right) has already made two grave mistakes.

First, it reported that an assassin smeared a nerve agent on the door handle at Skripal’s home. Second, according to the doctors of the hospital where Yulia Skripal is being treated, her condition is getting better and her health status is currently described as stable.

Previously, the same doctors stated that Sergei Skripal and his daughter have only 1% hope of survival and ‘will be invalids for life’. Moreover, former chemical weapons scientist and former Russian chemical weapons’ program whistleblower Vil Mirzayanov, who is currently a leading western expert on toxic agents, assured the British media that 2 grams of Novichok will be enough to kill 500 people instantly. He also told the Daily Mail:

“These people are gone — this man and his daughter. Even if they survive they will not recover.” If Sergey and Julia Skripal were poisoned in front of their house, then they wouldn’t have been able to walk through Salisbury. Thus, this fact completely excludes the use of nerve agent Novichok.

Crime: Shooting At YouTube

washington post logoWashington Post, YouTube shooter was motivated by anger at the company, police say, Mark Berman, April 4, 2018. Relatives of Nasim Najafi Aghdam, an active YouTube user, have said that they warned police that she had expressed frustration with the company.

ny times logoNew York Times, Police Identify Woman Who Wounded 3 at YouTube and Killed Herself; Motive Is Unclear, Daisuke Wakabayashi, Maggie Astor, Maya Salam and Matt Stevens, April 4, 2018 (print edition).  A woman opened fire with a handgun at YouTube’s headquarters in California on Tuesday afternoon, shooting three people — one of whom was critically injured — before killing herself, the authorities said. The San Bruno Police Department identified the attacker late Tuesday as Nasim Najafi Aghdam, who was in her late 30s.

April 3

Probes Of Manafort, Trump

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice official gave special counsel clearance to probe whether Manafort colluded with Russia, Spencer S. Hsu and Rosalind S. Helderman, April 3, 2018. Court filings show that Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein authorized special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to investigate whether onetime Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort illegally coordinated with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election.

fbi logoMueller’s team revealed the existence of the Aug. 2, 2017, memo in filings that seek to counter arguments by Manafort’s attorneys that the special counsel investigation has exceeded its legal authority. In a detailed, 53-page defense, Mueller’s team countered late Monday that an investigation of possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia would “naturally cover ties” between the campaign’s chairman and “Russian associated political operatives, Russian-backed politicians and Russian oligarchs.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump not currently a criminal target, Mueller tells president’s lawyers, Carol D. Leonnig and Robert Costa​, April 3, 2018.​ The special counsel informed Trump’s attorneys last month that he is continuing to investigate the president but does not consider him a criminal target at this point, according to three people familiar with the discussions. Some Trump advisers fear the president is not in the clear and could be baited into an interview that could put him in legal jeopardy.

Political War Pushbackjill mccabe

Dr. Jill McCabe, pediatrician, former Virginia State Senate candidate in 2015 and wife of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe (photo via YouTube)

washington post logoandrew mcCabe oWashington Post, Opinion: Jill McCabe: The president attacked my reputation. It’s time to set the record straight, Jill McCabe, April 3, 2018 (print edition). Jill McCabe, an emergency room pediatrician, is married to former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe (shown at right). Jill McCabe breaks her silence. Here’s why you should care.

I am an emergency room pediatrician and an accidental politician — someone who never thought much about politics until I was recruited to run for state office after making a statement about the importance of expanding Medicaid. That decision — plus some twisted reporting and presidential tweets — ended up costing my husband, Andrew, his job and our family a significant portion of his pension my husband had worked hard for over 21 years of federal service. For the past year and a half of this nightmare, I have not been free to speak out about what happened. Now that Andrew has been fired, I am.

democratic donkey logoAndrew and I met as sophomores in college, at Duke University. He was interested in law (eventually law enforcement), I in medicine (eventually pediatrics). Andrew’s a reliable Republican; I have voted, over time, for both Republicans and Democrats.

As we have raised our children, I tried to vote more regularly and pay more attention to the issues that affect our community. And with my work in a hospital emergency room in Virginia, I saw the impact of how government decisions hurt my patients, especially when the state decided not to accept the federal government’s funding to expand Medicaid.

I lost my race in November 2015. It was disappointing, and particularly hard for me because I have always been the kind of person who gives everything her all. But I felt good about my effort and enjoyed returning to normal life.

Almost a year later, everything changed. A reporter called my cellphone on a Sunday in October 2016, asking questions about contributions to my campaign and whether there had been any influence on Andrew’s decisions at the FBI.

fbi logoThis could not be further from the truth. In fact, it makes no sense. Andrew’s involvement in the Clinton investigation came not only after the contributions were made to my campaign but also after the race was over. Since that news report, there have been thousands more, repeating the false allegation that there was some connection between my campaign and my husband’s role at the FBI.

Related Story: Imagine being the accidental agent of your husband’s demise. Deputy Editorial Page Editor Ruth Marcus explains why she asked Jill McCabe to break her silence.

Voting Rights / Race Relationssupreme court building

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: What the Supreme Court Doesn’t Get About Racism, Editorial board, April 3, 2018 (print edition). The court has a chance to be more honest than it has been about discriminatory voting laws.

This is part of a series on voting in America, which will run up to Election Day in November. For Part 1, on the importance of voting, go here. And for Part 2, on a court case over a Kansas voter registration law, go here.

martin luther king riot is language of unheardIn the last speech of his life, on April 3, 1968, in Memphis, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. laid out the case for the dignity and equality of African-Americans as simply as he could. “We aren’t engaged in any negative protest and in any negative arguments with anybody. We are saying that we are determined to be men. We are determined to be people,” he said. “All we say to America is, ‘Be true to what you said on paper.’”

The moral clarity of that appeal is bracing, and so is the difficulty of achieving it — a fact that is evident nowhere as much as in the fight for voting rights. As Dr. King knew well, the history of voting in the United States was, and is, in large part the history of white people in power devising endless ways to keep black people from casting a ballot.

In the years before Mr. Trump’s election and in the time since, Republican lawmakers around the country aggressively pushed through laws to make voting harder for certain groups, particularly minorities. Poll taxes and literacy tests have given way to voter-ID laws, cutbacks to early voting and same-day registration, polling place closings, voter-roll purges, racially discriminatory redistricting and felon disenfranchisement laws — most of which, though justified on race-neutral grounds, harm minority voters more.

democrat republican campaigns 2016They can also depress turnout, when voters who are not in fact blocked from voting become discouraged by a state apparatus that exudes hostility toward their attempts to exercise their fundamental right.

Are these laws, passed almost invariably by Republican lawmakers, intentionally racist? Or are they merely taking partisan advantage of the fact that black people today vote overwhelmingly for Democrats? It shouldn’t matter. Either way, black voters are targeted, their right to vote hampered.

Police Brutality / Race Relations

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘I can’t breathe’: Asheville police video shows white officer beating, choking black jaywalking suspect, Meagan Flynn, April 3, 2018. Johnnie Rush was trying to get home from a long shift at the Cracker Barrel. Then he got stopped for jaywalking — an encounter with the police department in Asheville, N.C., that ultimately left Rush with a bloodied face after an officer punched him multiple times, used a stun gun on him and put him in a chokehold on the ground.

On Monday, the city of Asheville released nine videos from the officers’ body-worn cameras showing the incident from various angles while Rush screamed, “Help!” and “I can’t breathe,” echoing the cry of Eric Garner, an African American who died in 2014 after a white New York City police officer put him in an apparent chokehold during an arrest.

Roll Call, Trump Suggests Using Military to Secure Southern Border, John T. Bennett, April 3, 2018. U.S. code, however, may prohibit troops used for such police functions.

Chain Media Bias

sinclair broadcast logo custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: With Sinclair, We Have Trump TV. America Doesn’t Need More, Cliff Schecter, April 4, 2018.  With Sinclair, We Have Trump TV. America Doesn’t Need More. I was a Bush-era political analyst at Sinclair. Its propaganda is only getting worse.

Transitions: China Lobbyist Dies

washington post logoWashington Post, Anna Chennault, secret Nixon envoy and Washington figure of ‘glamour and mystery,’ dies at 94, Matt Schudel, April 3, 2018.​ Anna Chennault, a Chinese-born writer and business executive who married a storied American general and became a Washington hostess, Republican Party activist and secret emissary for candidate Richard M. Nixon during the 1968 presidential campaign, died March 30 at her home in Washington. She was 94.

April 2

ny times logojared kushner ivanka trump july 4 2017 facebookNew York Times, Kushners Saw Hope in the White House, but It Was a Mirage, Sharon LaFraniere and Katie Benner, April 2, 2018 (print edition). It was sweet redemption for Charles Kushner last year when his son Jared was named senior White House adviser. A dozen years earlier, a sordid scandal stemming partly from a family falling-out had reduced the senior Mr. Kushner from real estate baron to felon making wallets at a prison camp in Alabama.

Now, with his son newly installed as a top aide to the president, Mr. Kushner even expressed hope, one close family friend said, that he might receive a pardon. Absolution, however, is not what the White House has conferred on the Kushners (shown in a file photo from last summer). For the patriarch and his family, the pinnacle of American political power has turned out to be a wellspring of trouble.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump’s tweets on DACA speak volumes about his presidency, James Hohmann​, April 2, 2018. President Trump’s declaration that there would be no deal to resolve the fate of undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children shows that he is either woefully uninformed or intentionally misleading the American people about one of his most consequential decisions.

Trade War Heats Up With China

washington post logoWashington Post, Trade war escalates as China slaps tariffs on 128 U.S. exports, including pork and fruit, Damian Paletta, April 2, 2018 (print edition).  The Chinese government said the tariffs would serve as retaliation for restrictions Trump announced last month. If U.S. goods become more expensive in China, Chinese buyers could opt to purchase products from Europe, South America or elsewhere.

china flag SmallRoll Call, Lawmakers From Pork, Soybean Areas Mum on China Tariffs, John T. Bennett, April 2, 2018. White House blames Beijing as one pork state Dem says ‘Trump isn’t cutting it.’ Lawmakers were noticeably mum Monday after China retaliated against the Trump administration by slapping tariffs on U.S. goods like pork and soybeans, including Republicans in states and districts that will be affected.

Folly of U.S. Wars

bruce fein 2The American Conservative, Opinion: Avoiding the Cicero Trap, Bruce Fein (right), April 2, 2018. Forget the next great statesman, we need to make the Constitution the battleground of our politics.

Cicero foolishly believed that he could salvage the Roman Republic from Julius Caesar’s dictatorship by inculcating Republican virtue in Octavian, his would-be successor.The Cicero Trap — the delusion that real statesmanship is the key to national salvation in lieu of scrupulous adherence to a separation of powers and checks and balances — has snared professed reformers and revolutionaries from the beginning of time.

The United States is at the precipice of ruination. We are there not because “real statesmen” have failed to surface like a Deus ex Machina. We are there because we have dishonored Madison’s wisdom and the Constitution’s separation of powers in favor of endless, gratuitous, presidential wars and limitless executive power. We have become a warfare state fueled by a multi-trillion-dollar military-industrial-counterterrorism complex that revels in crony capitalism, escalating conflict, unaudited defense budgets, and a spiraling national debt exceeding $20 trillion.

Since the 1950 Korean War, the United States has discarded the Declare War Clause in favor of presidential wars or other offensive uses of the military in Vietnam, the Dominican Republic, Laos, Cambodia, Kuwait, Granada, Panama, Nicaragua, Bosnia, Serbia, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, Syria, and against al Qaeda and ISIS. We are on the cusp of beginning a second generation that has never experienced a single day of peace. We are becoming more like Prussia every day: not a state with armed forces, but armed forces with a state.

Our salvation may be found in making the Constitution the battleground of our politics — especially unwavering adherence to its separation of powers and checks and balances in matters of war and peace.

The Constitution embodies more collective wisdom about human nature, the corruption of power, and the majesty of liberty and justice than any other government charter that has been conceived or tried. We must elude the Cicero Trap. Our plight is not the absence of a Sir Launcelot to rescue Guinevere. It is the withering of our constitutional institutions calculated to protect against limitless executive power and tyranny.

Bruce Fein is a constitutional lawyer and international consultant with Bruce Fein & Associates and The Lichfield Group.

Trump Probe Fallout

washington post logoandrew mcCabe oWashington Post, McCabe will shut down GoFundMe page started for his legal defense, Matt Zapotosky​, April 2, 2018. Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe (shown at right) said the contributions — surpassing $538,000 — have been “overwhelming.” His spokeswoman said the amount was more than triple the goal. In a statement, McCabe said he “never imagined that I would need to rely on this type of assistance,” but the support “has been simply overwhelming and has led to contributions that have left us stunned and extraordinarily grateful.”

fbi logo“Hopefully our efforts, fueled by this incredible support, will encourage others to stand up for themselves, and the truth, as well,” he said. “It is not lost on me that each contribution reflects not just someone’s well wishes, but also their acknowledgment that something in this situation is not fair or just.”

U.S. Political Corruption: Alabama

Al.com, Jack Williams, ex-GOP chief Marty Connors, medical exec arrested on corruption charges, John Archibald, April 2, 2018. State Rep. Jack Williams, R-Vestavia Hills, Marty Connors, the former chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, and a California health care executive were arrested today on federal bribery charges. “Three individuals — two of whom reside in Alabama and one who resides in California — were arrested on charges stemming from their involvement in a public corruption scheme,” United States Attorney Louis V. Franklin, Sr., announced today in a press release.

The charges stem from an effort to by G. Ford Gilbert, the Carmichael, California owner of Trina Healthcare, to push a bill through the Alabama Legislature that would force Blue Cross and Blue Shield to cover diabetes treatments at centers such as the ones he owned. Williams and Connors appeared in court this afternoon in Montgomery after their arrests this morning at their homes. Both men appeared in court in handcuffs shackled to their waists.

Missing L.A. Boy Rescued

washington post logoWashington Post, Boy found alive 12 hours after he was washed away in a ‘maze’ of drainage pipes, Cleve R. Wootson Jr., April 2, 2018. More than 100 rescuers worked through the night searching for the 13-year-old who fell through an abandoned maintenance shed at a Los Angeles park.

Media, Poverty and Race

ny times logomlk head shot 1New York Times, Television: Seeing Martin Luther King Jr. in a New Light, Salamishah Tillet, April 2, 2018 (print edition). The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., more than most civil rights leaders, understood the singular role that television played in documenting the brutality of racial violence on African-Americans and eliciting sympathy from white viewers.

As three new television documentaries marking the 50th anniversary of his assassination show, King embraced prime time news television coverage as a matter of political strategy and survival through his savvy use of sound bites, well-timed protests and the practice of nonviolence in the face of abuse.

These documentaries share much in common. They feature some familiar civil rights voices, most notably those of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee activists John Lewis and Diane Nash, and reveal how King’s relationships with the news media and the movement waned dramatically in his final years. And they attempt to present a more radical version of King to a new generation of viewers, with varying degrees of success.

Media: Sinclair’s National Propaganda Network sinclair broadcast logo custom

sinclair broadcasting deadspin tim burke 3 31 2018

Sinclair-owned “news” anchors parrotting the same propagand script word-for-word around the nation (Deadspin investigation)

ny times logoNew York Times, Sinclair Made Dozens of Local News Anchors Recite the Same Script, Jacey Fortin, April 2, 2018. On local news stations across the United States last month, dozens of anchors gave the same speech to their combined millions of viewers. It included a warning about fake news, a promise to report fairly and accurately and a request that viewers go to the station’s website and comment “if you believe our coverage is unfair.”

It may not have seemed strange until viewers began to notice that the newscasters from Seattle to Phoenix to Washington sounded very similar. Stitched-together videos on social media showed them eerily echoing the same lines.

fcc logoSinclair has been accused of using connections in the Trump administration to ease regulations on media consolidation. In an effort to expand its reach, the company is seeking approval from the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission for a $3.9 billion deal to buy Tribune Media.

South African Activist Dies

washington post logoWashington Post, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela: 1936–2018; Anti-apartheid activist and former wife of Nelson Mandela dies at 81, Stephanie Hanes, April 2, 2018. One of South Africa’s most prominent and polarizing figures for decades, Madikizela-Mandela was called the “Mother of the Nation.” And in many ways, she epitomized the so-called “new” South Africa far more than her idealized former husband, the country’s first democratically elected president.

Syria/Israel/Saudi News

mohammed bin salman al saudHaaretz (Israel), Analysis: Trump, Saudi Arabia in Lockstep: Give Syria Up to Assad, Ignore Gaza, Zvi Bar’el, April 2, 2018. Trump’s talk with the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (shown at right) made him conclude that there’s nothing Washington can do in Syria; they also see eye to eye on the weekend’s events in Gaza and the question of Hamas’ status.

Last week U.S. President Donald Trump left his aides and cabinet secretaries agape when he said America was “coming out of Syria very soon.” Just a few days earlier, Defense Secretary James Mattis said the exact opposite, declaring that America would be in Syria indefinitely.

Senior American officials made similar statements last month, explaining that America’s presence was necessary until a diplomatic solution to Syria’s civil war was found.

What pushed Trump, who also used the occasion to freeze $200 million in aid for Syria’s reconstruction, to make this announcement? Apparently, his conversation with the Saudi crown prince made him conclude that there’s nothing Washington can do in Syria. Granted, Mohammed said in an interview with Time magazine that it’s important for American forces – some 2,000 combat soldiers and trainers – to remain in Syria to block the spread of Iranian influence there. But in the same interview he said of Syrian President Bashar Assad, “Bashar is staying. But I believe that Bashar’s interest is not to let the Iranians do whatever they want to do.”

If Trump’s announcement was a U-turn in America’s Mideast policy, the prince broke the rules of the game entirely. Saudi Arabia, the last Arab state to stand firm against the possibility of Assad remaining in power, is now coming down from the ramparts and effectively admitting the failure of its Syria policy, a direct continuation of the failure of its efforts to reshape Lebanon’s government.

The Atlantic, Saudi Crown Prince: Iran’s Supreme Leader ‘Makes Hitler Look Good,’ Jeffrey Goldberg, April 2, 2018.  In a wide-ranging conversation, Prince Mohammed bin Salman also recognized the Jewish peoples’ right to “their own land.”

This much, at least, can be said for Mohammed bin Salman, the putatively reformist crown prince of Saudi Arabia: He has made all the right enemies. Among those who would celebrate his end are the leaders of ISIS, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Hamas, as well as Yemen’s Houthi rebels, and the entire clerical and military leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran. As a bonus, there are members of his own family, the sprawling, sclerotic, self-dealing House of Saud, who would like to see him gone—or at the very least, warehoused at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh, where the 32-year-old prince recently imprisoned many of his enemies and cousins during an anti-corruption sweep of the kingdom.

The well-protected Prince Mohammed does not seem particularly worried about mortal threats, however. He was jovial to the point of ebullience when I met him at his brother’s compound outside Washington (his brother, Prince Khalid bin Salman, is the Saudi ambassador to the U.S.). Prince Mohammed (who is known widely by his initials, MbS) seemed eager to download his heterodoxical, contentious views on a number of subjects—on women’s rights (he appears doubtful about the laws that force Saudi women to travel with male relatives); on Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, who is, in the prince’s mind, worse than Hitler; and on Israel. He told me he recognizes the right of the Jewish people to have a nation-state of their own next to a Palestinian state; no Arab leader has ever acknowledged such a right.

Mysterious Car Crash

washington post logohart family california cliff alameda sheriffs office CustomWashington Post, SUV carrying family was intentionally driven off California cliff, investigators say, Kristine Phillips, Kevin Sullivan and Marwa Eltagouri, April 2, 2018. Preliminary data from the SUV’s air bag module suggested the vehicle came to stop on a gravel pullout roughly 70 feet from the cliff before it accelerated and plunged over the edge. The cliff and Pacific Ocean are shown at right in a photo from the Alameda County sheriff’s office.

Sexual Blackmail?

ny times logoNew York Times, An Escort and Her ‘Coach’ Offer Secrets on Russia, Richard C. Paddock, April 2, 2018. From a Thai jail, a Belarusian escort and her “seduction coach” fear deportation. They say they know too much about Russian meddling in the 2016 American election.

Culture and Control: Football

ny times logoNew York Times, No Sweatpants in Public: Inside the Rule Books for N.F.L. Cheerleaders, Ken Belson, April 2, 2018. They’re subject to rules on etiquette and hygiene. Panthers cheerleaders must leave the stadium to change into their personal clothes.

More On McDougal Playmate Suit

djt Karen McDougal Donald Trump youtube

washington post logoWashington Post, Publisher seeks to dismiss lawsuit brought by ex-Playboy model who claims affair with Trump, Beth Reinhard and Emma Brown​, April 2, 2018. The publisher of the National Enquirer, American Media Inc., argued that the deal it struck with Karen McDougal for the rights to her story is protected under the First Amendment. The publisher of the National Enquirer asked a California court Monday to dismiss a lawsuit brought by a former Playboy centerfold (shown above) who claims she had an affair with Donald Trump, arguing that the deal it struck with Karen McDougal is protected under the First Amendment.

The 199-page response by American Media Inc. comes less than two weeks after McDougal sued in Los Angeles Superior Court to get out of the deal in which she sold the rights to her story for $150,000. McDougal argued that the National Enquirer violated campaign finance law when it bought her story not to publish it but to bury it, sparing Trump from an embarrassing revelation in the run-up to the 2016 election.

McDougal alleges that AMI colluded with the Trump campaign to hide the story of her affair, citing as evidence company chief executive David Pecker’s friendship with Trump.

In its response, AMI said McDougal was attempting to run roughshod over freedom of the press, suing over an ordinary editorial decision. Media organizations “have a First Amendment right not to publish, and cannot be punished for exercising that right,” the company said in its court filing.

In a tweet, McDougal’s attorney, Peter Stris, said: “As we have learned through brave truth-tellers like Ms. McDougal, the tabloid went to great lengths to silence her and others, and they are now attempting to silence her again with the absurd claim that their own free speech was violated.”

Jury, Judge Jaded With FBI?

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Are Judges and Juries Done Believing Everything the FBI Says? James Henry, April 2, 2018. Since 9/11, the FBI has had little trouble winning prosecutions against anyone it says is a “terrorist.” That might be changing. The wife of the Pulse nightclub shooter was acquitted by a Florida jury on Friday. Is this a sign we have reached peak post-9/11 hysteria against Muslims facing terrorism charges?

Omar Mateen killed 49 and wounded 58 patrons of Orlando’s Pulse nightclub in the early morning hours of June 12, 2016. He was shot and killed by police following a standoff. Mateen’s wife, Noor Salman, was charged by federal prosecutors with “aiding and abetting” a terrorist act for supposedly assisting her husband in planning the attack against the Orlando nightclub. She was also accused of lying to FBI agents, and faced life in prison if convicted on all charges.

But despite the fact that most Muslims charged by the FBI with terrorism-related crimes in post-9/11 America end up being convicted, no matter how trumped up the charges may be, a jury of 12 in Orlando’s federal district court acquitted Salman Friday of all charges.

Inside Washington

djt melania easter egg 2018

Addicting Information: Opinion: Trump Insanely Tells Kids At Easter Egg Roll That ‘There Is No Name’ For The White House (Video), Conover Kennard, April 2, 2018. Former reality show star Donald Trump spoke to the children attending today’s Easter Egg Roll to brag about the military, which he said would soon be “at a level it’s never been before.”

It was straight out of a surreal script with a batshit crazy manbaby acting as leader of the free world. Trump was speaking off-script because he’s talking to kids, but the so-called president really should have used a teleprompter anyway. This, of course, followed Trump major Tweetstorm in which he blamed Democrats for not fixing DACA, a policy he ended, raged at Amazon, yelled at his own Department of Justice, then praised Sinclair broadcasting, a group that was just outed for its blatant propaganda. So, it’s one of those days.

Before boasting of the military, Trump spoke of the White House, but referred to it as “this house or building or whatever you want to call it because there is no name for it, it is special.” Except there is a name for it. It’s called the White House. Raw Story notes that Trump went on to say that he and his staff keep the White House “in tip-top shape, we call it sometimes tippy-top shape, and it’s a great, great place.”

April 1

Easter Memories:  Media “News” Scripted Fluff / Propaganda (Not a Joke)

Conan on Turner Broadcast System (TBS), 2013 Easter Program / Newscasters Agree: ‘Economic Factors May Take Some Spring Out of the Easter Bunny’s Steps This Year,’ Conan O’Brien, March 26, 2013 (1:45 mins. video). The comedian shows coordinated local “news” videos from anchors from around the nation who repeat word-for-word the same scripted “news story” about Easter disguised to appear as locally generated.

Reader comment: This shows us the degradation of the press into mere puppets. Regurgitating forced lines of “information” unto the Americans that tune in and zone out. The zombification of these docile sheeple starts here, having their opinions made for them through a mass disinformation campaign.

This, to me, is not a laughable matter. It is disgusting. What this shows is that media is not a trustworthy way to receive information, when they are apparently being told what to say to the people. Our people are being told what the “higher powers” want us to believe and it is a sickening nightmare I hope America can wake up from.

Trump Administration

President Trump on Time Magazine's cover Feb. 27, 2017

washington post logoWashington Post, With White House stabilizers gone, Trump calls his own shots, Philip Rucker and Robert Costa, April 1, 2018. As he shakes up his administration, the president (shown on a Time Magazine cover last year) is prioritizing personal chemistry above all else, replacing aides who have tended toward caution and consensus with figures far more likely to encourage his more rash instincts. He is making hasty decisions that jolt markets and shock leaders and experts — including those on his own staff.

ny times logoICE logoNew York Times, Trump Vows ‘No More DACA Deal’ and Threatens Nafta, Katie Rogers, April 1, 2018. President Trump in a series of tweets on Sunday, blamed Democrats and the Mexican government for an increasingly “dangerous” flow of illegal immigrants.

washington post logojennifer rubin twitterWashington Post, Opinion: This Trump legal defeat may force Trump to decide: His presidency or his businesses? Jennifer Rubin (right), April 1, 2018. In a decision with far-reaching implications for President Trump, a federal court ruled this week that a lawsuit could go forward claiming he unconstitutionally received foreign emoluments — that is, monies from foreign governments explicitly prohibited by the Constitution — from his hotel in Washington.

If Maryland and the District are successful, Trump may be ordered to do something he has so far avoided and which spineless Republicans have refused to demand — namely, disclose what his businesses receive from foreign governments, and either permanently jettison his ties to those operations or reject payments and other things of value from foreign governments (e.g. trademarks in China).

New York Magazine, Opinion: Corruption, Not Russia, Is Trump’s Greatest Political Liability, Jonathan Chait, April 1, 2018). “My whole life I’ve been greedy, greedy, greedy,” declared Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign. “I’ve grabbed all the money I could get. I’m so greedy. But now I want to be greedy for the United States.” To the extent that Trump’s candidacy offered any positive appeal, as opposed to simple loathing for his opponent, this was it. He was a brilliant businessman, or at least starred in a television show as one, and he would set aside his lifelong pursuit of wealth to selflessly serve the greater good. This was the promise that pried just enough Obama voters away from Hillary Clinton in just enough upper-Midwest states to clinch the Electoral College.

Trump’s core proposition to the public was a business deal: If he became president, he would work to make them rich. Of course, the fact that Trump was able to reduce the presidency to such a crass exchange, forsaking such niceties as simple decency and respect for the rule of law, exposed terrifying weaknesses in the fabric of American democracy.

Small episodes of corruption can play an outsize role in American politics, since the human scale of petty self-dealing is often easy to understand. And in Trump’s case, the smaller and larger scandals reinforce each other. Why is Trump giving rich people and corporations a huge tax cut? Why has he been threatening to take away your health insurance? Why is he letting Wall Street and Big Oil write their own rules? Above all, if Trump supposedly believed that “if I become president, I couldn’t care less about my company — it’s peanuts,” why are his children still running it? For the same reason he has let his Cabinet secretaries run up large travel expenses, and why his son-in-law met with oligarchs in China and the Gulf States whose money he was trying to get his hands on.

Trump represented himself as a rich man feared by the business elite. He had spent much of his life buying off politicians and exploiting the system, so he knew how the system worked and could exploit that knowledge on behalf of the people. In fact, his experiences with bribery opened his eyes to what further extortion might be possible. Trump was never looking to blow up the system. He was simply casing the joint.

Asia-Middle East

Israel FlagReuters, No Gaza inquiry, Israeli defense minister says, Nidal al-Mughrabi and Jeffrey Heller, April 1, 2018. Israel’s defense minister rejected on Sunday calls for an inquiry into the killing of 15 Palestinians by the military during a Palestinian demonstration that turned violent on Friday at the Gaza-Israel border.

Hamas, the dominant Palestinian group in Gaza, said five of the dead were members of its armed wing. Israel said eight of the 15 belonged to Hamas, designated a terrorist group by Israel and the West, and two others came from other militant factions.

A tense calm descended on Sunday on the border area, where hundreds of Palestinians, a fraction of the tens of thousands who initially turned out, remained in tent encampments along the fenced 65-km (40-mile) border.

ny times logoNew York Times, Taliban’s Move Into High Tech Poses Dilemma for the U.S., Thomas Gibbons-Neff, and Jawad Sukhanyar, April 1, 2018. The Taliban are increasingly attacking security forces in Afghanistan using night-vision goggles and lasers that United States military officials say are either stolen or bought on the black market. American commanders are now considering giving Afghan forces more access to night-vision devices, even though they fear the equipment could be lost or sold underground.

SouthFront, Jaysh al-Islam Political Leader Denies That Evacuation Agreement Is Reached In Duma, Staff report, April 1, 2018. Political leader of Jaysh al-Islam Mohamad Alloush denied that his group had reached an agreement with the Damascus government to evacuate its fighters from Duma district in the northern part of the Eastern Ghouta pocket to the northern city of Jarabulus, the Syrian pro-opposition news outlet Enab Baladi reported on April 1.

However, Alloush told Enab Baladi that an agreement had been reached to extend the ceasefire in the Duma district and to allow more injured and sick civilians to leave the city. Earlier, the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported a claim that Jaysh al-Islam had agreed to withdraw from Duma to the city of Jarabulus and to release all the captives from its prisons.

syria flagMeanwhile, Syrian pro-government sources revealed that the militants who had been evacuated from Duma district earlier were in fact fighters of Faylaq al-Rahman who had withdrawn to Duma after losing their positions in the southern part of the Eastern Ghouta region. The evacuation of these militants was conducted in the framework of the