July 2018 News Reports


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

Note: Excerpts are from the authors’ words except for subheads and occasional “Editor’s notes” such as this.

July 31

Inside DC

ny times logoNew York Times, Administration Mulls Unilateral Tax Cut for the Wealthy, Alan Rappeport and Jim Tankersley, July 31, 2018 (print edition). A proposal under consideration at the Treasury Department would bypass Congress and use federal regulation to index capital gains for inflation, a $100 billion boost for high earners. The move would face a near-certain court challenge and could reinforce a liberal critique of Republican tax policy.

According to the budget model used by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, indexing capital gains to inflation would reduce government revenues by $102 billion over a decade, with 86 percent of the benefits going to the top 1 percent.

ny times logoguiseppe conteNew York Times, Trump Again Threatens to Shut Down Government, Katie Rogers and Nicholas Fandos, July 31, 2018 (print edition). “We’re the laughingstock of the world,” President Trump said during a 40-minute news conference with Giuseppe Conte, right, the visiting Italian prime minister.

President Trump reiterated on Monday his threat to shut down the federal government this fall if Congress does not deliver on Republican demands to crack down on immigration by enforcing security on the border with Mexico and building his long-promised wall.

“If we don’t get border security after many, many years of talk within the United States, I would have no problem doing a shutdown,” Mr. Trump said during a 40-minute news conference with Giuseppe Conte, the visiting Italian prime minister. “We’re the laughingstock of the world.”

Mr. Trump repeated his vow for the second time in two days, continuing to rattle those in his party who are leery of a difficult midterm election season and are focused on confirming Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

If potentially throwing his party into disarray bothered the president, it did not show. “We have the worst immigration laws anywhere in the world,” Mr. Trump added.

washington post logofema logo Custom 2Washington Post, Top FEMA official allegedly harassed women for years, agency chief says, Lisa Rein, July 31, 2018 (print edition). An internal investigation found that the senior executive hired women so he and his friends could target them for sexual relationships, agency officials said, calling it a “systemic problem going on for years.”

Some of the claims about the agency’s former personnel chief are detailed in a written executive summary of the investigation provided to The Washington Post. FEMA officials gave other details and confirmed that the individual under investigation, whose name was redacted from the report, is Corey Coleman, who led the personnel department from 2011 until his resignation in June.

Online records show Coleman was a senior executive who was paid an annual salary of $177,150.

In an interview, Long described a “toxic” environment in the human resources department under Coleman at FEMA headquarters. Starting in 2015, investigators said, Coleman hired many men who were friends and college fraternity brothers and women he met at bars and on online dating sites. He then promoted some of them to roles throughout the agency without going through proper federal hiring channels.

Trump Watch

john kelly o dhsPalmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just made a move that suggests he knows the end is near, Bill Palmer, July 31, 2018. Donald Trump let it be known today that he plans to keep John Kelly as his White House Chief of Staff all the way through the end of his current term, and for once, I believe him. This development might sound initially surprising, considering how it’s widely known that Kelly (shown at right) no longer has any influence over Trump or the White House, and is no longer really doing the job. But there are two things to consider here.

The first is that Donald Trump is a coward who never wants to fire anyone. Donald Trump no longer has an inner circle. It’s why there’s no one to convince him to fire his bumbling lawyer Rudy Giuliani. There’s also no one to explain to Trump that since he’s stopped allowing John Kelly to function as Chief of Staff, he needs to replace him.

But that’s only half the explanation. The other half is that even the ever-deluded Trump has to know by now – at least on his comparatively lucid days – that his time is growing short. So why would Donald Trump even bother trying to replace his White House Chief of Staff this late in the game? The odds of him completing his term are small, and even if he does somehow make it to the finish line, he’ll be so crippled by then, he’ll just be barely hanging on.

Sure, he could fire John Kelly and replace him with one of his few remaining eager sycophants, such as Stephen Miller or Kellyanne Conway. But at this point, why bother?

Palmer Report, Opinion: Robert Mueller has a cooperating witness to nail Donald Trump Jr., Bill Palmer, July 31, 2018. Donald Trump Jr testified to Congress long ago under oath that he did not tell his father in advance about the Russia meeting. That became a problem for him over the weekend when it was revealed that Michael Cohen was willing to testify that he witnessed Junior telling his father about it. But Cohen hasn’t even cut a plea deal yet, and even once he does, how would he be able to substantiate his claim? Enter Rick Gates.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason Donald Trump and the Koch Brothers just declared war on each other, Bill Palmer, July 31, 2018. Donald Trump woke up this morning and bluntly declared war on the Koch Brothers, the pair of conservative billionaires who have been bankrolling the campaigns of numerous Republicans for years. This was a surreal moment of biting the hand that feeds. But this wasn’t merely Trump picking a random fight to try to distract us from today’s kickoff of the Paul Manafort trial. Trump suddenly has a serious problem when it comes to the Kochs, which prompted his meltdown.

U.S. Politics / Academics

washington post logoWashington Post, Leading scholars quit U-Va.’s Miller Center over hiring of former Trump official, Susan Svrluga, July 31, 2018 (print edition). Two prominent historians resigned in objection to the appointment of Marc Short, President Trump’s former legislative affairs director, which has roiled the university and led to a petition signed by more than 2,000 people demanding his appointment be revoked.

The professors who are stepping down, Melvyn P. Leffler and William I. Hitchcock, jointly announced their decision to leave the Miller Center, a nonpartisan affiliate of U-Va. focused on studying the presidency and public policy.

Leffler is a history professor, former dean of U-Va.’s College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and a recipient of the university’s most prestigious award for scholarship and service. Hitchcock is a history professor whose book about the liberation of Europe was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2009.

Leffler and Hitchcock wrote in their resignation letter that they would welcome Short to speak at the center. But granting him a senior fellowship position — one they learned of through a press release — runs “counter to the Center’s fundamental values of nonpartisanship, transparency, openness, a passion for truth and objectivity, and civility,” they wrote.

Syrian War

Syria FlagSouthFront, Syrian Army Fully Liberated Southwestern Syria From Militants (Map), Staff report, July 31, 2018. Following previous advances against ISIS in the Yarmouk Valley, the Syrian Army established full control of the entire area of southwestern Syria. About 100 ISIS members surrendered to government troops.

Some sources say that about 25 of the 100 surrendered ISIS members were executed by locals and ex-members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) that were participating in the Syrian Army operation. The total death toll of ISIS during the battle for the Yarmouk Valley remains unclear. But according to some local sources, over 1,000 terrorists were killed.

Media Trends, Scandal

ny times logoNew York Times, Local News, Brought to You by the State of New Jersey, Rick Rojas, July 31, 2018 (print edition). Like publications in the rest of the country, New Jersey’s suburban newspapers pulled back as their business model vaporized, leaving fewer reporters to dig into local scandals or dispatch to neighborhood events. The state’s lawmakers have responded to a crisis in local news coverage by dedicating public money to fund journalism, in what is believed to be the first effort of its kind.


alex jones radio logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Alex Jones, Pursued Over Infowars Falsehoods, Faces a Legal Crossroads, Elizabeth Williamson, July 31, 2018. In the five years since Noah Pozner was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., death threats and online harassment have forced his parents, Veronique De La Rosa and Leonard Pozner, to relocate seven times. They now live in a high-security community hundreds of miles from where their 6-year-old is buried.

“I would love to go see my son’s grave and I don’t get to do that, but we made the right decision,” Ms. De La Rosa said in a recent interview. Each time they have moved, online fabulists stalking the family have published their whereabouts.

“With the speed of light,” she said. “They have their own community, and they have the ear of some very powerful people.”

On Wednesday in an Austin courtroom, the struggle of the Sandy Hook families to hold to account Alex Jones, a powerful leader of this online community, will reach a crossroads. Lawyers for Noah Pozner’s parents will seek to convince a Texas judge that they — and by extension the families of eight other victims in the 2012 shooting that killed 20 first graders and six adults — have a valid defamation claim against Mr. Jones, whose Austin-based Infowars media operation spread false claims that the shooting was an elaborate hoax.

Immigrant Child Separation Scandal

ny times logoNew York Times, How an Agency Built a Large Business in Migrant Children, Liz Robbins, July 31, 2018. Despite a troubled history, Cayuga Centers has quietly become the largest provider of foster care for unaccompanied minors in federal government custody. When 17-year-old Destani Williams ran away from an upstate New York residential treatment program in May 2017 and was found dead a week later, it was but the latest in a string of troubling incidents at Cayuga Centers, a 166-year-old child-welfare agency.

In the year leading up to her death, three workers were arrested on charges of abuse, and the agency was sued for negligence as a result. The local police in Auburn, N.Y., complained about hundreds of emergency calls to deal with runaway residents and violent incidents on the campus, which included residents injuring police officers, throwing chairs through windows and wielding shards of glass to cut staff members.

“It seems that Cayuga Centers has evolved into a business whose priority is making money as opposed to a family service that helps youth meet the challenges of life,” Officer Joseph Villano, the president of the local police union, wrote in August 2017 to the agency’s board of trustees in a letter that was made public.

But by then, Cayuga Centers was far along in its transition from a modest nonprofit specializing in residential programs in the Finger Lakes region, first into an agency providing foster care services in New York City and beyond, and then into the country’s largest provider of foster care homes for unaccompanied minors — migrant children who had come to the U.S. border alone.

In 2013, the year before it first signed a contract with the federal government to provide foster care for migrant children, Cayuga Centers had a $1.1 million deficit. These days, it operates in three states, with $48.7 million in annual revenue in fiscal 2017. The bulk of that money has come from the federal government — a total of $123 million since 2014, including $29.5 million since May, in an apparent rush to increase its capacity to deal with the children entering from the Southwest border who had been separated from their parents as part of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy.

In June, it was revealed that Cayuga was caring for more than 300 of those children in New York City. City and federal officials say they have had no major problems with Cayuga Centers’ work in foster care and have plans to expand to accommodate more children.

But an investigation into Cayuga’s history found that as the agency was shifting its focus to working for the federal government, problems were festering at its upstate campus. A spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the office charged with the care of unaccompanied minors, declined to say whether HHS knew about the issues upstate as it kept pouring money into contracts with Cayuga.

Strategic Culture Foundation, Investigation/ Commentary: Steve Bannon’s Emerging Fascist International In Europe, Wayne Madsen, July 31, 2018. Stephen Bannon, Donald Trump’s former presidential campaign manager and White House chief strategist, has been creeping around Europe the past several months trying to cobble together an international front of far-right wing and neo-fascist political parties.

Bannon calls his group “The Movement.” It is not known where Bannon intends to find the money to fund his venture, but a good bet is from his previous paymaster at Breitbart News, billionaire hedge fund manager Robert Mercer and his daughter, Rebekah Mercer. Bannon may have other tranches of money from which to nurture his emergent pan-European neo-fascist vanguard and grow the current far-right contingent in the European Parliament from 43 seats to 204 of the total 751 seats.

In his Euro-quest, Bannon can be expected to rely on the deep data mining tactics employed by the former “election engineering” company, Cambridge Analytica of Britain and the United States. Bannon and his team will likely use the social media manipulation, micro-targeting, and push-polling techniques offered by firms that have stepped in to replace Cambridge Analytica. These companies include Emerdata of London, which now occupies the name building out of which Cambridge Analytica once operated; Data Propria of San Antonio, Texas; and Awareness Analytics Partners (A2P) of Alexandria, Virginia.

Supreme Court Watch

Consortium News, Opinion: In Shielding US from Legal Obligations, Kavanaugh Conflates International Law with Foreign Laws. Marjorie Cohn, July 31, 2018. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has nothing but contempt for international law. But he has shown uncritical deference to executive power, particularly in the so-called war on terror cases, argues Marjorie Cohn. For 12 years, while serving as a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Kavanaugh had the opportunity to rule on several cases stemming from the “war on terror.” In nearly all of them, he demonstrated nothing but disdain for international law and an uncritical deference to executive power.

July 30

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Air marshals have conducted secret in-flight monitoring of U.S. fliers for years, Missy Ryan and Ashley Halsey III, July 30, 2018 (print edition).  Under a sensitive, previously undisclosed program called “Quiet Skies,” authorities identify passengers who raise flags because of travel histories or other factors and conduct secret observations of their actions — including behavior as common as sweating heavily or using the restroom repeatedly — aboard U.S. flights.

washington post logoWashington Post, Koch group distances itself from GOP and Trump, condemns ‘divisiveness’ in Washington, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, July 30, 2018 (print edition). Officials affiliated with Charles Koch reiterated plans to spend as much as $400 million during the 2018 election cycle, but lamented the “deterioration of the core institutions of society” and “tremendous lack of leadership” in Washington.

washington post logoWashington Post, Linda Tripp says she was the victim of ‘a real high-tech lynching’ in first public address since 2000, Helena Andrews-Dyer, July 30, 2018. After years out of the spotlight, the former White House aide celebrated National Whistleblower Day with a speech on Capitol Hill. In her first public address in nearly two decades, Linda Tripp, known for her pivotal role in the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, said she had just one regret: “Not having the guts to do it sooner.”

“It was always about right and wrong, never left and right,” Tripp said at an event Monday marking National Whistleblower Day on Capitol Hill. “It was about exposing perjury and the obstruction of justice,” she continued. “It was never about politics.”

Tripp, a former White House aide, secretly recorded conversations with her “friend” Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern who had an affair with then-President Bill Clinton. Tripp’s tapes blew the whistle on Clinton, who had denied his relationship with Lewinsky in sworn statements. The ensuing and all-encompassing scandal led to Clinton’s impeachment and Lewinsky’s effective banishment (until she resurfaced as an anti-bullying advocate a few years ago).

Tripp, a career civil servant, also disappeared from the public, retreating to a quiet life in Middleburg, Va., and remaining relatively under the radar. But she conducted rare, gut-spilling interviews with the Daily Mail and Breitbart in 2015 and 2016, respectively, in which she called Hillary Clinton “ruthless” and said that Lewinsky was alive because of Tripp’s own actions.

She said that whistleblowers would never truly be safe until “enhanced protections” were put in place that prosecuted the individuals — not just the institutions — who retaliated against those who expose corruption. The room applauded that talking point.

When recounting the personal toll coming forward had on her personal life, Tripp said it was “virtually impossible to get your good name back.”

Monday’s event was attended by nearly 60 whistleblowers who exposed corruption in powerhouse institutions including the FBI and a nursing home in Virginia, with more than half a dozen speakers touting the patriotic duty of speaking truth to power. But Tripp, the afternoon’s keynote, nailed that message.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Here’s proof that Donald Trump was expecting to get dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russia meeting at Trump Tower, Bill Palmer, July 30, 2018. Back on July 10th of 2017, just after the news broke that Donald Trump Jr had met with Russian government representatives to try to obtain dirt about Hillary Clinton, Palmer Report pointed out that Donald Trump had incriminated himself just two days earlier. Now the pieces fit together much more clearly.

Free Press Issues

ny times logoNew York Times, Times Publisher and Trump Clash Over President’s Threats Against Journalism, Mark Landler, July 30, 2018 (print ed.). President Trump and the publisher of the New York Times, A. G. Sulzberger, engaged in a fierce public clash on Sunday over Mr. Trump’s threats against journalism, after Mr. Sulzberger said the president misrepresented a private meeting and Mr. Trump accused The Times and other papers of putting lives at risk with irresponsible reporting.

Mr. Trump said on Twitter that he and Mr. Sulzberger had discussed “the vast amounts of Fake News being put out by the media & how that Fake News has morphed into phrase, ‘Enemy of the People.’ Sad!”

In a five-paragraph statement issued two hours after the tweet, Mr. Sulzberger said he had accepted Mr. Trump’s invitation for the July 20 meeting mainly to raise his concerns about the president’s “deeply troubling anti-press rhetoric.”

“I told the president directly that I thought that his language was not just divisive but increasingly dangerous,” said Mr. Sulzberger, who became publisher of The Times on Jan. 1. “I told him that although the phrase ‘fake news’ is untrue and harmful, I am far more concerned about his labeling journalists ‘the enemy of the people,’” Mr. Sulzberger continued. “I warned that this inflammatory language is contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence.”

This is particularly true overseas, Mr. Sulzberger said, where governments are using Mr. Trump’s words as a pretext to crack down on journalists. He said he warned the president that his attacks were “putting lives at risk” and “undermining the democratic ideals of our nation.”

July 29

Trump Watch

huff post logoHuffPost, Analysis: Fox News Host Confronts Rudy Giuliani Over Michael Cohen ‘Liar’ Flip-Flop, Nick Baumann, July 29, 2018. In May, Giuliani said Cohen was “honest and honorable.” Now he’s changed his tune. 

Rudy Giuliani can’t get his story straight on Michael Cohen — and Fox News anchor Chris Wallace is calling him out on it. On “Fox News Sunday,” Wallace confronted Giuliani, who serves as one of President Donald Trump’s attorneys, on his flip-flopping about Cohen, Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer.

In May, Giuliani called Cohen an “honest, honorable lawyer,” Wallace noted. “But now you say, quote, your words… ‘a pathological liar’ who’s been lying for years. So what happened?”

rudy giuliani recentGiuliani (shown at left in a file photo) said his shift stemmed from the revelation that Cohen had been “surreptitiously recording his clients” — referring to the tape of Cohen and Trump discussing a payment to former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who’s alleged she had a long-running affair with Trump before he became president. The tape was released last week and initially aired on CNN.

“Obviously if I knew that, I never would’ve said he was a reputable lawyer,” Giuliani said. “I would’ve said he was a scoundrel.”

“I knew nothing bad about Michael Cohen until all of this started to happen in the past couple weeks,” Giuliani insisted.

Giuliani must not have been following previous news accounts about Cohen, who served as Trump’s personal lawyer for more than a decade and was targeted by an FBI raid in April. Cohen had reportedly compared himself to Tom Hagen, the fictional consigliere of the Corleone crime family in “The Godfather.” His business ventures are the subject of considerable interest from federal investigators, The New York Times reported in May, while Giuliani was still defending him.

And Giuliani months ago corrected a Cohen falsehood. Cohen claimed in February that he had paid Stormy Daniels, a porn actress who also has said she had a brief affair with Trump, $130,000 out of his own pocket, and Trump in April claimed he didn’t know about the payment. Giuliani later admitted that Trump had repaid Cohen.

Inside Washington

Roll Call, Trump to Dems: I’ll ‘Shut Down’ Government Over Immigration, John T. Bennett, July 29, 2018. Shelby told president new wall funding likely capped at $1.6B. President Donald Trump on Sunday threatened to shut down the federal government this fall unless Democrats give in to his border security demands, including by giving him billions more for his proposed southern border wall.

djt economist cover aug 19 2017Should Democrats continue denying Trump his border barrier and other demands and the president make good on his high-stakes threat, it would be the third funding lapse of his tenure. It also would shutter the government just weeks before voters will decide which party controls the House and Senate — and the Trump-GOP agenda — come January.

“I would be willing to “shut down” government if the Democrats do not give us the votes for Border Security, which includes the Wall!” he wrote.

Trump (shown on a cover of The Economist last year) called for dick shelby olawmakers to send him a bill that ends the visa lottery system and the policy known as “catch-and-release,” meaning detaining undocumented migrants and releasing them into the country while they await a court hearing. He also seemed to make his long-stated call for an “Immigration [system] based on MERIT!” a requirement to keep the government operating this fall.

But Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., shown at right,, and other spending-focused lawmakers have told Trump personally several times that the $1.6 billion amount likely is all that can get through the Senate this year. That means Trump could be headed for a showdown not only with Democrats, but also senior members of his own party.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Deleted’ families: What went wrong with Trump’s family-separation effort, Nick Miroff, Amy Goldstein and Maria Sacchetti, July 29, 2018 (print ed.). At the core of what is now widely regarded as one of the biggest debacles of Trump’s presidency were failures to record, classify and keep track of migrant ICE logoparents and children pulled apart by the “zero tolerance” border crackdown.

• Analysis: Status of the 2,600 children held at one point by the U.S.
Immigrant girl hides in auto shop after escaping attendants from Florida detention facility

washington post logoWashington Post, White House uses foreign aid agency to give jobs to Trump loyalists, Robert O’Harrow Jr., July 29, 2018 (print ed.). The White House’s reach into the agency’s operations shows how even obscure parts of the federal bureaucracy traditionally viewed as nonpartisan are being drawn into partisan orbits.


ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Picks Dow’s ‘Dioxin Lawyer’ for Superfund Program, Hiroko Tabuchi and Tryggvi Adalbjornsson, July 29, 2018 (print ed.). Peter Wright helped negotiate a major Dow toxic cleanup. During that time, the company was accused of submitting disputed data, misrepresenting scientific evidence and delaying the work.

The lawyer nominated to run the Superfund toxic cleanup program is steeped in the complexities of restoring polluted rivers and chemical dumps. He spent more than a decade on one of the nation’s most extensive cleanups, one involving Dow Chemical’s sprawling headquarters in Midland, Mich.

But while he led Dow’s legal strategy there, the chemical giant was accused by regulators, and in one case a Dow engineer, of submitting disputed data, misrepresenting scientific evidence and delaying cleanup, according to internal documents and court records as well as interviews with more than a dozen people involved in the project.

The lawyer, Peter C. Wright, was nominated in March by President Trump to be assistant administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency overseeing the Superfund program, which was created decades ago to clean up the nation’s most hazardous toxic waste sites. He is already working at the agency in an advisory role as he awaits congressional approval. If confirmed, Mr. Wright would also oversee the emergency response to chemical spills and other hazardous releases nationwide.

E.P.A. officials pointed to Mr. Wright’s expertise in environmental law and his tenure at Dow as valuable qualifications. The White House on Saturday referred questions to the E.P.A.

Supreme Court Watch

washington post logosusan collins oWashington Post, Analysis: Collins and Murkowski find pressure over Supreme Court lacks emotional pleas on health care, Paul Kane, July 29, 2018 (print ed.). Liberals are targeting the two moderate GOP senators who stopped the repeal of the Affordable Care Act last year, hoping they will break ranks and defeat high court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, is shown at right.

Free Press Issues

boris epshteyn mike pence screenshot Custom

On the nationwide Sinclair TV network, commentator and former Trump campaign aide Boris Ephsteyn’s pro-Trump propaganda segments are “must-run” for all stations. In this episode, Ephsteyn, right, essentially delivers the microphone to Vice President Mike Pence to claim that Trump policies are working great and no one should believe other media. Even Trump’s FCC opposed Sinclair’s recent big to buy 30 more TV stations.

Media Matters, Opinion: Sinclair’s pro-Trump propaganda doesn’t even bother with questions anymore, John Whitehouse, July 29, 2018. Sinclair has been producing pro-Trump “must-runs” that air during local news segments across the country.

Frequently these segments feature chief political analyst Boris Epshteyn asking softball questions of Trump administration figures like Sarah Huckabee Sanders or Scott Pruitt — at least when Epshteyn is not giving over the top pro-Trump commentary on his own. This week, Epshteyn gave a warm welcome to VP Mike Pence. The first parts of the interview were embarrassingly friendly, with Epsheyn praising Trump’s unpopular tax law.

sinclair broadcast logo customThe final segment with Pence really jumped the rails. In the clip, Epshteyn did not even ask a question. Rather, the entire “must-run” was Pence talking about how great the Trump administration has been, followed by Epshteyn saying that the Trump administration “has to focus on continuing to achieve success for the American people.”

The obvious goal here is to get audiences to only trust Sinclair — and Trump.

#MeToo Scandals

washington post logoWashington Post, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick resigns after reports of sexual abuse, Julie Zauzmer, July 29, 2018 (print ed.). Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington and longtime globe-trotting diplomat of the Catholic Church, resigned his position as a cardinal, the Vatican announced Saturday.

theodore mccarrickMcCarrick, 88 (shown at right), was found by the church in June to be credibly accused of sexually abusing a teenager nearly 50 years ago. Since then, additional reports of sexual abuse and harassment by the cardinal, over a span of decades, have been reported. The victims include one then-minor and three adults, who were young priests or seminarians when McCarrick allegedly abused them.

Pope Francis ordered McCarrick to remain in seclusion, and in prayer, until a church trial considers further sanctions against him. McCarrick is the highest ranked U.S. Catholic clergy member to ever be removed from ministry due to sexual abuse allegations.

Palestinian Teen Protester Freed

palestinian map

washington post logoWashington Post, Palestinian teen protester Ahed al-Tamimi leaves Israeli prison, Erin Cunningham July 29, 2018. Palestinian teenage protester Ahed al-Tamimi was released from an Israeli prison Sunday after serving an eight-month sentence on assault and incitement charges and arrived home to a hero’s welcome.

Tamimi, 17, whose December arrest drew international attention, tearfully embraced relatives as a crowd of supporters jostled for selfies with the teen. Israeli authorities also released her mother, Nariman, who served a similar sentence for incitement.

ahed tamimiThe mother and daughter were indicted by an Israeli military court after a video of the curly-haired teen kicking and slapping two armed Israeli soldiers in protective gear went viral on Facebook. Her mother was arrested shortly after she posted the footage on social media.

Tamimi (shown at right in a file photo during trial), soon became a potent symbol of the Palestinian protest movement, her image gracing murals and posters around the globe.

In Nabi Saleh, her village in the West Bank, activists and residents have staged weekly demonstrations since 2009, when Jewish settlers confiscated some of Nabi Saleh’s land, including a spring that served as its water source.

Israeli troops and border police have confronted the demonstrators, firing tear gas, arresting stone-throwers and imposing curfews. Israel says the security measures around Nabi Saleh, which has a population of about 500, and other areas are necessary to prevent the kind of attacks that Palestinians have recently carried out in Jewish settlements across the West Bank.

Israelis had nicknamed Tamimi “Shirley Temper” for her curls and repeated confrontations with Israeli soldiers. But rights groups said Sunday that her arrest highlighted Israel’s practice of detaining Palestinian minors, who are also subject to the military court system in the West Bank. According to statistics released by the Israeli rights group B’Tselem this month, 291 Palestinian minors were held in Israeli prisons as security detainees and prisoners.

July 28

Prominent Senator Demands 9/11 Documents

richard blumenthal portraitap logoAssociated Press, Blumenthal seeks declassification of last 9/11 documents, Staff report, July 28, 2018.  U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut says he plans to introduce a resolution that calls for declassifying all remaining documents related to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The Democrat is scheduled to appear Monday at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford with survivors and families of the 9/11 victims. Blumenthal contends the documents may reveal unknown connections between the terrorists and foreign nations.

Brett Eagleson of Middletown, who was 15 when his father Bruce was killed in the attack on the World Trade Center’s twin towers in New York, is scheduled to be on hand.

In April, his and other families announced plans to step up pressure to compel the CIA, the FBI and others to turn over information that could shed light on potential complicity by Saudi Arabia.

U.S. War Policy: Afghanistan

ny times logoNew York Times, Newest U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan Mirrors Past Plans for Retreat, Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Helene Cooper, July 28, 2018. The Trump administration is urging American-backed Afghan troops to retreat from sparsely populated areas of the country, officials said, all but ensuring the Taliban will remain in control of vast stretches of the country.

The approach is outlined in a previously undisclosed part of the war strategy that President Trump announced last year, according to three officials who described the documents to The New York Times on the condition of anonymity. It is meant to protect military forces from attacks at isolated and vulnerable outposts, and focuses on protecting cities such as Kabul, the capital, and other population centers.

The withdrawal resembles strategies embraced by both the Bush and Obama administrations that have started and stuttered over the nearly 17-year war. It will effectively ensure that the Taliban and other insurgent groups will hold on to territory that they have already seized, leaving the government in Kabul to safeguard the capital and cities such as Kandahar, Kunduz, Mazar-i-Sharif and Jalalabad.

Trump Attacks On Press

washington post logoWashington Post, Venting about press, Trump has repeatedly sought to ban reporters over questions, Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey and Ashley Parker, July 28, 2018 (print ed.). The move this week by senior aides against a CNN correspondent revealed a fresh willingness inside the West Wing to execute the president’s wishes to punish reporters.

Brits Slam ‘Fake News’

United Kingdom flag

ny times logofacebook logoNew York Times, British Lawmakers in ‘Fake News’ Inquiry Rebuke Facebook, David D. Kirkpatrick, July 28, 2018. In a report to be released Sunday, a parliamentary committee accused Facebook of providing “disingenuous” answers to questions and of withholding information.

Election Integrity

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump leads his first election-security meeting but gives no new orders to repel Russian interference, Ellen Nakashima, July 28, 2018 (print ed.).  The meeting, which lasted less than an hour, covered all the actions that federal agencies, in the absence of direct guidance from the White House, have taken to help state and local officials and to investigate Russian hackers seeking to undermine U.S. democracy.

Corrupt Trump Finances?

djt tump int hotel

washington post logoWashington Post, The framers worried about corruption. Their words may now haunt the president, Editorial Board, July 28, 2018 (print ed.). It seems a stretch to suppose that the president might be imperiled by a case that turns partly on definitions of the word “emolument” gleaned from 18th century dictionaries.

President Donald Trump officialOr maybe not much of a stretch for anyone who has spent time in the lobby of the Trump International Hotel (shown above in a Justice Integrity Project file photo), a few blocks from the White House. There, to the tune of $40 million in revenue last year, it’s possible to glimpse just the sort of influence-peddling the framers may have intended to prohibit by those clauses.

The hotel has been the lodging of choice for an unknown (but not unknowable) number of state and foreign officials, some of whom, it is a fair bet, thereby hoped to curry favor with the president. According to the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia, both Democrats, who have sued to stop it, that favor-currying falls squarely within the “emoluments” the framers meant to forbid.

Academic Balance Act

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washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Never has our work been more important than now’: U-Va. leader defends hiring of outgoing Trump official, William J. Antholis, July 28, 2018 (print ed.). “Service in the Trump administration should not be a bar to service,” the director of the Miller Center at the University of Virginia writes about the appointment of Marc Short (shown above), the former legislative director in the Trump White House, as a senior fellow.

Immigrant Child Prisoner Scandal

ny times logoNew York Times, A Little Girl Left Behind by ‘Zero Tolerance’ Rule, Miriam Jordan, July 28, 2018 (print ed.). More than 1,400 migrant children were reunited with their parents over the past week, but more than 400 parents had apparently already been deported without their children.

As the Trump administration has rushed to reunite thousands of children separated from their parents under a “zero-tolerance” policy on border enforcement, it is now left with 700 or more cases that have been more difficult to solve, including those of 431 parents who were apparently sent home without their children.

Adayanci Perez Chavez, who was separated from her father when they crossed the border from Guatemala more than two months ago, has watched as one playmate after another has checked out of the migrant children’s center in Michigan where they have spent their days studying, playing and meeting with their case managers.

One by one over the past few weeks, 90 percent of the children at the center, managed by Bethany Christian Services in Kalamazoo, have been put on planes and reunited with parents who had been held at immigration detention centers across the country.

“Yanci” was not among them, because there was no longer a parent with whom to reunite her. Desperate to get his daughter back, her father, Hugo Lionel Perez, said he had agreed to accept quick deportation as the price — except that when it came time to leave the country, he was put on a plane without her.

75 Egyptian Protesters Sentenced To Death

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Egyptian prisoners held for protesting at the 2013 Rabaa Sit-In (file photo)

Egypt Today, Court sentences to death 75 defendants, MB leaders, Staff report, staff, July 28, 2018. Cairo Criminal Court referred the papers of 75 defendants in the case known publicly as “Rabaa sit-in dispersal” to Egypt’s Mufti (Top religious authority).

mohamed morsiAmong the 75 defendants sentenced to death Saturday are members of the top Muslim Brotherhood guidance bureau: Essam el-Erian, Safwat Hegazy, Mohamed el Beltagy, Usama Yassin, and former president Mohamed Morsi (shown at right in a file photo).

The case includes more than 700 defendants who are charged with staging an armed gathering in Rabaa square in August 2013, illegally possessing and handling weapons, blocking driveways, deliberately vandalizing public property, along with other counts relating to murdering policemen and citizens.

According to Saturday’s ruling, photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zaid (known as Shawkan) will be handed a final sentence on August 7. Shawkan was on assignment for UK-led Demotix when he was arrested back in 2013. During the case’s hearing session held in late October, Shawkan said that he was only doing his job as a press photographer and that he was among other photographers who were called on by the government to cover the events of the Rabaa sit-in dispersal.

ISIS Kidnappings In Syria

AMN, ISIS threatens to burn alive women, children kidnapped from Al-Sweida, Leith Aboufadel, July 28, 2018. The Islamic State (ISIS) recently kidnapped several women and children inside the Al-Sweida Governorate after massacring over 250 people inside in the province.

According to military source in Al-Sweida, the terrorist group sent text messages to the families of the kidnapped civilians, demanding that they pay a ransom sum or else ISIS will burn alive all of the captives. The government is now working to pressure the terrorist group to release these kidnapped civilians.

U.S. Culture Wars

usa today logoUSA Today, Sean Spicer accused of using racial slur at a heated book signing event, Marina Pitofsky, July 28, 2018. Sean Spicer’s hotly anticipated book signing took a turn for the worse Friday when the former Trump administration press secretary was accused of using a racial slur toward a black classmate during his high school years.

sean spicerThe ex-communications director, shown at the White House in a file photo, was at a book signing in Middletown, Rhode Island for his recent release of “The Briefing” about his time with President Donald Trump. At the signing, Alex Lombard, a resident of Cambridge, Massachusetts, approached him.

Lombard told Spicer they attended the Portsmouth Abbey School together, a Catholic prep school in Rhode Island. After Spicer said hello to Lombard and confirmed that he boxed in school, Lombard charged Spicer with calling him the N-word before one of their fights, according to a video from the Newport Daily News. Lombard was then escorted away by a security guard.

A publicist told The Associated Press that was “taken aback” by the “outrageous claim.” In the video, other attendees at the event can be heard saying, “you should be arrested immediately” and “get out of here” in response to Lombard’s allegations.

Lombard can also be heard threatening to fight Spicer in the video as he left the store. “I was 14. I was a scared kid then, Sean. I’m not scared to fight you now,” Lombard said.

Supporters and critics of Trump’s administration also clashed at the signing. A few protesters gathered outside of the store during the event with signs calling Spicer a liar. Beth Murphy Ward, one of the demonstrators, explained why she came to the store to protest. Spicer was scheduled to have another book signing in Massachusetts on Saturday, but the event was canceled “due to the political climate,” according to the AP.

July 27

Federal Grand Juror Summons Trump CFO

wsj logoallen weisselberg croppedWall Street Journal, Trump Organization Finance Chief Called to Testify Before Federal Grand Jury, Rebecca Davis O’Brien, Rebecca Ballhaus, Michael Rothfeld and Alexandra Berzon, July 27, 2018 (print edition). Longtime Trump executive Allen Weisselberg, shown at right, has been subpoenaed in Michael Cohen probe,

Allen Weisselberg, a longtime financial gatekeeper for President Donald Trump, has been subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury in the criminal probe of Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, according to people familiar with the investigation.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump has suffered several major blows in the last 24 hours. The biggest blow may have gotten overlooked, Bill Palmer, July 27, 2018. Donald Trump has had such a horrible twenty-four hours, for so many different reasons, it’s almost difficult to keep track of them all without a checklist. 

Yesterday we learned that one of the people mentioned on the leaked Trump-Cohen tape has now been subpoenaed to testify. That person is Allen Weisselberg, who has been handling the finances for the Trump Organization for a number of years. Weisselberg knows where all the proverbial bodies are buried when it comes to Donald Trump’s financial crimes. This is pandora’s box, and this subpoena opens it.

We’re now looking at the Feds obtaining insider testimony about every criminal real estate deal, financial scam, and illegal coverup that Donald Trump has engaged in through the Trump Organization. Trump’s financial “empire” has long been a house of cards and a thinly veiled front for corruption and money laundering – and this testimony could expose it for all to see.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Trump’s international syndicate threatens to topple other leaders, Wayne Madsen, July 27, 2018. As Donald Trump’s legal problems grow, seemingly by the hour, other world leaders with whom his Trump Organization has conducted business may suffer the legal and political consequences of being identified with Trump and vice versa.

Senator Assails Trump Supreme Court Pick

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President Trump introduces Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his family on July 9 at the White House

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Kavanaugh won’t protect Mueller. His writings prove it, Richard Blumenthal, July 27, 2018 (print ed.). richard blumenthal portraitRichard Blumenthal, right, a former Supreme Court law clerk and editor in chief of the Yale Law Journal, is a U.S. senator from Connecticut and a former presidentially appointed U.S. attorney and attorney general for that state.

Recent days have left many Americans with a burning question: Does Vladimir Putin have something on President Trump? The investigation led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III offers the most realistic opportunity to answer that question. But the likelihood of that happening may have taken a hit when the president nominated to the Supreme Court someone whose writing suggests that he thinks presidents should be able to fire special counsels for any reason or no reason at all.

The president may also take comfort from Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s observation during a 1999 panel discussion that United States v. Nixon — the unanimous, landmark 1974 Supreme Court opinion forcing President Richard M. Nixon to turn over secretly recorded White House tapes — may not be good law. Even more unsettling than Kavanaugh’s skepticism on that score was his speculation that Nixon might deserve to “be overruled on the ground that the case was a nonjusticiable intrabranch dispute.”

Kavanaugh was thus lending credence to the Nixon White House’s argument that because the Justice Department is part of the executive branch, it has no authority to compel the president to release information relevant to a criminal case. Under this theory, presidents would not only be free to reject burdensome, unfair or otherwise problematic requests for information; they would also be free to reject all requests for information.

Climate Change Impact

washington post logoWashington Post, This is a hot, strange and dangerous summer across the planet, Joel Achenbach and Angela Fritz, July 27, 2018 (print ed). The brutal weather has been supercharged by human-induced climate change, scientists say. Climate models for three decades have predicted exactly what the world is seeing this summer. And they predict that it will get hotter.

Judge Upholds Trump Secrecy

National Security Archive, Opinion: Judge Lets Secret Service Hide White House Visitor Logs, Lauren Harper, July 27, 2018. Federal Judge Katherine Failla agreed with government lawyers and is allowing the Secret Service to hide the White House visitor logs in a FOIA lawsuit brought by the National Security Archive, together with the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). The visitor logs – 5.99 million records worth – were routinely released by the Obama administration, with no harm to national security or personal privacy.

Judge Failla, of the Southern District of New York, relied on a 2013 D.C. Circuit ruling in finding that the visitor logs for core White House offices are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, although she agreed that certain other parts of the Executive Office of the President are covered.

The Secret Service has already admitted during the course of the lawsuit that it maintains no records system for tracking the president’s visitors at Mar-a-Lago and other Trump properties, meaning anyone — foreign lobbyists and otherwise — can pay for access to the president without being vetted or recorded.

“Our suit gave the court a chance to address the transparency deficit in the Trump White House, but the court ducked,” said Archive director Tom Blanton. “Letting the Secret Service hide their records of everyone who lobbies the President is the opposite of what the Freedom of Information Act holds as American law and American values.” The Archive, Knight Institute, and CREW are considering an appeal to the 2nd Circuit.

U.S. Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump uses taxpayer-funded trip to campaign for GOP candidates, Seung Min Kim, July 27, 2018. The president blurred the line between official and political events in the heat of the midterm campaign season, saying during a visit to a steel plant in Illinois: “Vote for these two congressmen; they know what we’re doing.”

Trump Census Bias Feared

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge allows census lawsuit, citing evidence of Trump’s ‘animus toward immigrants of color, Samantha Schmidt, July 27, 2018. A federal judge on Thursday allowed a lawsuit to move forward against the Trump administration over its controversial decision to add a question about citizenship in the 2020 Census.

Judge Jesse Furman of Manhattan’s Southern District said the plaintiffs gave plausible evidence that U.S. officials intended to discriminate against immigrant communities, driven by President Trump’s incendiary statements about immigrants of color.

The plaintiffs, which include 18 states, the District of Columbia, several cities and advocacy groups, argued that including a question about citizenship would cause many immigrants to refuse to fill out the census, a risk they say is “heightened in the current political climate because of President Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric.”

This refusal to cooperate, critics say, could trigger an undercount that would deprive communities of their share of federal funding for crucial government services such as schools, roads and bridges.

Foreign Affairs: Turkey, Korea

washington post logoturkey flagWashington Post, A fist bump, then a rancorous call: How Trump’s deal to free an American pastor in Turkey fell apart, Carol D. Leonnig, Ashley Parker, Kareem Fahim and Karen DeYoung​, July 27, 2018 (print ed.). The fast unraveling of an agreement to release Andrew Brunson, who has been detained in Turkey for the past two years, followed a notable improvement in U.S. relations with Turkey after several years of dissonance.

washington post logonorth korea flagWashington Post, North Korea gives U.S. remains of Americans who died in Korean War, Adam Taylor and Dan Lamothe, July 27, 2018 (print ed.). Pyongyang turned over what are thought to be the remains of 55 Americans as part of an agreement reached between President Trump and Kim Jong Un in Singapore. It is the first repatriation of remains from North Korea since 2007.

U.S. Economic Growth

washington post logoWashington Post, Economic growth accelerated sharply in the second quarter, but economists caution it could be a blip, Heather Long​, July 27, 2018. The quarter’s 4.1 percent annualized growth rate marks a jump from the first three months of 2018, when the economy grew at a tepid 2.2 percent, according to government economists.

U.S. Economic Justice

washington post logoWashington Post, Women are facing economic instability in retirement age. And it shows no signs of improvement, Maria Del Russo, July 27, 2018. The reality of women hitting retirement age in Florida is not idyllic.

“Women in Florida are actually economically insecure,” says Mary Gatta, a professor of sociology at City University of New York’s Guttman Community College. Gatta recently published a report for the American Association of University Women on this very topic. The report will be a featured part of her forthcoming book Waiting On Retirement: Aging And Economic Insecurity In Low-Wage Work, which is due out this October.

“What we saw in Florida is that 40 percent of all retired households are economically insecure across the state,” she says. “That runs counter to the idea of the retiree who is living well.” If you break those numbers down by gender, the divide becomes even greater. Gatta found that women are significantly less secure than men. “Almost 67 percent live below economic security, compared to 48 percent of men,” she says.

This insecurity, it turns out, has more than a little to do with the ways in which women are treated in the workplace throughout their lives. The pay gap is an obvious culprit, although Gatta does point out that the gap is smaller in Florida than across the country.

Political / Culture Wars

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Omarosa Manigault Newman shown during an ABC TV interview on Dec. 14 last year following her ouster from the Trump White House

washington post logoWashington Post, Omarosa will take down President Trump in an ‘explosive, jaw-dropping’ new tell-all book, Helena Andrews-Dyer, July 27, 2018 (print ed.). Omarosa Manigault Newman, who left the White House last year after a fraught tenure, isn’t done spilling all the tea served at 1600 Penn.

Gallery Books announced Thursday that Omarosa is releasing a “stunning tell-all” titled “Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House.” The book, billed as an “explosive, jaw-dropping account,” hits shelves Aug. 14.

[Omarosa talks Trump on ‘Celebrity Big Brother’: ‘I was haunted by tweets every single day’]

Omarosa joins a shortlist of former Trumpers with stories to tell. Sean Spicer is on a national tour for his book, “The Briefing,” and Anthony Scaramucci’s “Trump, the Blue-Collar President” is scheduled for October. But unlike those titles, “Unhinged” is allegedly far from a glowing account of the Trump administration.

Omarosa’s loyalty to the Trump brand was fierce until her drama-filled White House departure in December. She spent nearly 15 years in Trump’s inner circle, making a name for herself as one of the original bad girls of reality TV on “The Apprentice” and later as a staffer with unfettered access to the president despite a nebulous job description.

More Ohio State #MeToo Charges

ap logoAssociated Press, 10 more ex-students sue Ohio State over sex abuse by doctor, Kantele Franko, July 27, 2018. Ten more former students have sued Ohio State University over alleged sexual misconduct by a now-dead team doctor, accusing school officials of facilitating abuse by ignoring complaints and requiring some athletes to get physicals from him to maintain their sports participation and scholarships.

richard strauss osu lantern screenshotThe case filed Thursday is the third federal lawsuit brought by men alleging sexual abuse by Dr. Richard Strauss (right), who worked at Ohio State from 1978 until he retired in 1998.

“Beginning his very first year of employment at OSU — and spanning his entire two-decade tenure — Dr. Strauss preyed on male students, fondling, groping, sexually assaulting, and harassing them. He did so with OSU’s knowledge and support,” the lawsuit said, adding that many of the students didn’t speak up then because they were embarrassed or unsure whether it was abuse.

The lawsuit accuses the university of having “a culture of institutional indifference” about students’ safety and rights and failing to appropriately address Strauss’ behavior in violation of federal Title IX law, which bars sex discrimination in education.

An independent investigation is ongoing at Ohio State, which says it’s committed to learning the truth.

The allegations that people at Ohio State didn’t respond appropriately at the time “are troubling and are a critical focus of the current investigation,” university spokesman Benjamin Johnson said.

All three lawsuits seek unspecified monetary damages, but unlike the first two, the newest case doesn’t propose to represent all Ohio State students mistreated by Strauss.

The plaintiffs include Steve Snyder-Hill, who lodged a complaint in 1995 about being inappropriately touched by Strauss during an exam at the student health center and recalls being told that Strauss denied it. Ohio State has a record of that complaint and the response sent by the health center’s director, who said it was the first such complaint he’d received about Strauss.

July 26

Trump Implicated In Russian Meeting?

nbc news logoNBC News, Cohen will tell Mueller Trump knew of 2016 Russia meeting, source says, Hallie Jackson, Kristen Welker, Peter Alexander and Alex Johnson, July 26, 2018. Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, asserts that Trump knew in advance about a meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 between his son Donald Trump Jr. (shown at right) and a donald trump jr time cover croppedRussian lawyer, in contradiction to Trump Jr.’s congressional testimony in May 2017, a knowledgeable source told NBC News on Friday night.

The source told NBC News that Cohen is willing to inform Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, about his version of the timeline surrounding the meeting. Cohen’s assertion was first reported by CNN.

Lanny Davis, a lawyer for Cohen, said he had no comment but told NBC News: “I have to wonder why the Trump people would put that out. It was not from us.”

But Trump’s attorney, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, pushed back against that and dismissed the report, saying that Cohen was “not credible.”

“Michael Cohen can’t be believed unless it’s corroborated five times,” Giuliani said in a phone interview Thursday night. “I talked to the president about this at length before, as well as other witnesses, and it’s not true.

nbc news logoNBC News, Just over half of separated children have been reunited with families ahead of deadline, Julia Ainsley and Jacob Soboroff, July 26, 2018. The U.S. government has reunited 1,442 out of 2,551 migrant children with their parents ahead of a midnight Pacific court-ordered deadline, according to a court filing that captured data as of 6 a.m. Eastern on Thursday.

djt immigrant children nypost june 19 2018But 711 children have not been reunited with their parents and the government has not committed to a timeline for finding them. The majority of those, some 431 children, have parents who have been deported, according to the court filing and government officials who held a call with reporters Thursday afternoon.

“By the court deadline this evening we are on track to reunite all eligible parents within ICE custody,” said Chris Meekins, an official with the Department of Health and Human Services. The U.S. government has reunited 1,442 out of 2,551 migrant children with their parents ahead of a midnight Pacific court-ordered deadline, according to a court filing that captured data as of 6 a.m. Eastern on Thursday.

But 711 children have not been reunited with their parents and the government has not committed to a timeline for finding them. The majority of those, some 431 children, have parents who have been deported, according to the court filing and government officials who held a call with reporters Thursday afternoon.

“By the court deadline this evening we are on track to reunite all eligible parents within ICE custody,” said Chris Meekins, an official with the Department of Health and Human Services.

U.S. Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, An Extremely Detailed Map of the 2016 Presidential Election, Matthew Bloch, Larry Buchanan, Josh Katz and Kevin Quealy, July 26, 2018. Even in areas that voted overwhelmingly for Donald J. Trump or Hillary Clinton, there are small pockets that went the other way. Explore the results down to the precinct level.

Roll Call, Analysis: 11 Eyebrow-Raising Comments From Trump’s Midwest Swing, John T. Bennett, July 26, 2018. President Donald Trump started his day trip to Iowa and Illinois by ducking reporters’ questions and ended with a spirited event on the GOP tax law that quickly took on the feel of a campaign rally.

At both stops — one a roundtable and one a speech with a podium and teleprompter — the president spent ample time ticking off a list of things his administration has done since it took office. Vice President Mike Pence did the same at an event in West Virginia sponsored by his political action committee.

But while the VP’s speech was that of a traditional politician, his boss — as he so often does — spoke off-the-cuff and uttered a number of eyebrow-raising lines. Here are 11 of Trump’s boldest claims and quips from his Midwest trip:

“I got more than she did,” he said of the women’s vote in 2016 and Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton. This is a false statement. Clinton took the overall female vote (54 percent to 42 percent). Perhaps the president, who often fixates on his conservative political base, was thinking about white women. He won them 53 percent to 43 precent.

“We’re having the best economy we’ve ever had in the history of our country,” he declared in Illinois with no supporting data. This doesn’t hold up, either. The Washington Post recently looked into Trump’s often-recited claim, using Bureau of Labor Statistics and other data, and found the economies of the 1990s, 1980s and 1960s were all stronger.

Inside DC

washington post logoclaire mccaskill oWashington Post, Claire McCaskill, a vulnerable Democrat running for reelection, targeted in Russian hacking attempt, Ellen Nakashima​, July 26, 2018. The hackers, who belong to Russia’s military spy agency GRU, also targeted two other candidates running in the midterms, according to a Microsoft executive. They failed to compromise the Missouri senator’s computer network. McCaskill is shown in an official photo.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: What kind of lawyer would tape a client? The kind Trump would hire, Karen Tumulty, July 26, 2018 (print edition). Perhaps what stings Trump is being on the receiving end of one of his own favorite tactics.

“What kind of lawyer would tape a client?” President Trump asked in a huffy tweet Wednesday, the morning after CNN obtained a recording of one of his conversations with his embattled former attorney, Michael Cohen.

michael cohen ap file croppedThat’s a question with an easy answer: The kind of lawyer who would thrive as Donald Trump’s longtime fixer.

The kind Trump would turn to in the closing weeks of a presidential election, when he needed to buy the silence of a former Playboy model who was claiming that she and Trump had had an extramarital affair. The kind who would fit the description that Trump bestows on the people he finds most impressive, or at least the most useful: “a killer.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump moves to punt three political problems until after the midterms, James Hohmann, July 26, 2018. Responding to pleas President Donald Trump officialfrom top Republican lawmakers, President Trump appeared willing to temporarily back off on his top priorities on trade, Russia and border wall funding as the party fights to retain its majorities in Congress.

Trump Watch

ny times logoNew York Times, Mueller Looking at Trump Tweets in Obstruction Investigation, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman, July 26, 2018. For years, President Trump has used Twitter as his go-to public relations weapon, mounting a barrage of attacks on celebrities and then political rivals even after advisers warned he could be creating legal problems for himself.

robert mueller full face fileThose concerns now turn out to be well founded. The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is scrutinizing tweets and negative statements from the president about Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey, according to three people briefed on the matter.

President Trump has used Twitter as his go-to public relations weapon, even after advisers warned he could be creating legal problems for himself. Now his attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey are being scrutinized by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel.

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal judge allows emoluments case against Trump to proceed, Ann E. Marimow, Jonathan O’Connell and David A. Fahrenthold, July 25, 2018. A federal judge on Wednesday rejected President Trump’s latest effort to stop a lawsuit that alleges Trump is violating the Constitution by continuing to do business with foreign governments.

peter messeti american universityThe ruling, from U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte, right, in Greenbelt, Md., will allow the plaintiffs in the case — the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia — to proceed with their case, which says Trump has violated the Constitution’s little-used emoluments clause.

The plaintiffs now want to interview Trump Organization employees and search company records to determine which foreign countries have spent money at Trump’s hotel in downtown Washington.

The Justice Department and Trump’s attorneys did not immediately respond to requests for comment. They could try to appeal the decision to a higher court and ask Messitte not to allow the attorneys general access to Trump Organization employees and books until the appeal is decided.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump’s Emoluments Trap, Karl A. Racine, Brian E. Frosh and Norman L. Eisen, July 26, 2018. Mr. Racine is the attorney general for the District of Columbia. Mr. Frosh is the attorney general for Maryland. Mr. Eisen is the chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Wednesday’s ruling on our suit against the president makes clear that he may be violating the Constitution.

On Wednesday, a federal district court made history. Judge Peter J. Messitte of Maryland allowed a lawsuit to move forward against President Trump, alleging that he is violating the Constitution by continuing to do business with foreign and domestic governments. In doing so, he became the first federal judge ever to rule on the meaning of the word “emolument” in the Constitution.

Coverage of the lawsuit, which was brought by two of us (with the third, Mr. Eisen, among the co-counsels), has sometimes cast doubt on the usefulness of the Emoluments Clauses, which we have argued forbid presidents from using their office to “profit, gain or advantage.” Critics have noted how rarely they have been deployed. That’s why Judge Messitte’s ruling is so important: It opens a path to enforcement of the ethics regime that the framers developed as a bulwark against corruption in the highest office in the land.

washington post logoWashington Post, Once a ‘punching bag,’ Cohen takes a swing at Trump, Philip Rucker, Carol D. Leonnig, Tom Hamburger and Ashley Parker, July 26, 2018. The actions of President Trump’s longtime attorney Michael Cohen appear to be driven more by his outrage over Trump’s indifference and feelings of betrayal than by a legal strategy to help his case.

michael cohen ap file croppedFor the past decade, Michael Cohen, shown at right, worked as Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer. He was an eager supplicant, executing the wishes of his celebrity boss and forever seeking his attaboy affection. He said he would take a bullet for Trump, and, even after the president passed him over for a White House job, Cohen still professed his eternal loyalty.

But in Trump’s world, eternity has limits.

By releasing audio of his covertly recorded conversation with Trump about purchasing the rights to a Playboy centerfold’s story of an extramarital affair, Cohen made a decisive break from his longtime client. The move punctuates the steady deterioration of a relationship between Cohen and Trump and raises concerns in the White House that the former could spill secrets about the latter to the FBI.

ny times logobetsy devos oNew York Times, DeVos to Drop Rules Aimed at Abuses by For-Profit Colleges, Erica L. Green, July 26, 2018. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos (shown at right) plans to eliminate regulations that forced for-profit colleges to prove that they provide gainful employment to the students they enroll, in what would be the most drastic in a series of moves that she has made to free the for-profit sector from safeguards put in effect during the Obama era.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump has a whole new Melania problem, Bill Palmer, July 26, 2018. As his numerous criminal scandals eat him alive and his illegitimate presidency collapses into a heap of treason, Donald Trump cannot afford any cnn logosideshow scandals that serve to make things even more difficult for him. So naturally, there’s now an ill timed sideshow scandal involving Melania Trump, Fox News, CNN, Air Force One, and a whole lot of defensive anger.

melania trump twitterShe was reportedly watching CNN on Air Force One, prompting him to throw a fit at his staffers, because no one on Air Force One is allowed to watch any channel but Fox News. This story sounds like small potatoes on the surface, but it actually is a big deal.

Melania Trump’s spokesperson is responding in defensive fashion, and believe it or not, this is an actual quote: “Seems kind of silly to worry about what channel she watches on TV (any channel she wants btw).” In other words, Melania’s camp isn’t even bothering to try to deny that the incident happened.

Melania was watching CNN because she wanted to know what’s really going on in the world, and perhaps more to the point, what’s really going on with her husband’s criminal scandals. In contrast, Donald Trump only wants to watch Fox News because fox news logo Smallthe network spends so much time dishonestly kissing his butt (though perhaps not so much after this past week).

Not only does Donald only want to hear positive lies about himself, he only wants his staffers and family members hearing positive lies about himself. He’s not trying to get a firm grasp on his situation and save himself; instead he’s clinging to the delusion that everything is going great, even as his presidency burns.

Trade Wars

washington post logoeuropean union logo rectangleWashington Post, Analysis: Trump declares premature victory with E.U. deal, Tory Newmyer, July 26, 2018. ​After going so far as to call the European Union a global foe, the president appears to be shelving a major escalation of his tariff fight. But details of what was hashed out are sketchy.

Facebook Stock Market Fall

ny times logofacebook logoNew York Times, Facebook’s Plunge Shatters Faith in Tech Firms’ Invulnerability, Matt Phillips, July 26, 2018. Roughly $120 billion in wealth was wiped out as Facebook shares fell 19 percent. It was among the largest one-day destructions a company has ever suffered.

#MeToo Scandals Continue

The Atlantic, The 24 Candidates for 2018 Sunk by #MeToo Allegations, Elaine Godfrey, Lena Felton, Taylor Hosking, July 26, 2018. This election cycle, claims of sexual harassment or misconduct have ended the bids of 11 Republicans and 13 Democrats. But many others facing accusations remain in office.

In the 10 months since allegations of sexual misconduct were first leveled against the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, America has seen the reputational demise of dozens of public figures. But arguably the most significant repercussions have been in the world of politics, affecting those with the power or potential to shape the country’s laws and represent communities across the nation.

The #MeToo movement is already having profound effects on the current election cycle, and not just at the national level: According to an analysis by The Atlantic, at least 24 candidates for office in 2018 have ended their campaigns or bids for reelection after allegations of sexual harassment or misconduct.

ronan farrowNew Yorker, Les Moonves and CBS Face Allegations of Sexual Misconduct, Ronan Farrow (shown at right), July 27, 2018 (August 6 & 13, 2018 print new yorker logoedition). Six women accuse the C.E.O. of harassment and intimidation, and dozens more describe abuse at his company.  For more than twenty years, Leslie Moonves has been one of the most powerful media executives in America. As the chairman and C.E.O. of CBS Corporation, he oversees shows ranging from “60 Minutes” to “The Big Bang Theory.”

His portfolio includes the premium cable channel Showtime, the publishing house Simon & Schuster, and a streaming service, CBS All Access. Moonves, who is sixty-eight, has a reputation for canny hiring and project selection. The Wall Street Journal recently called him a “TV programming wizard”; the Hollywood Reporter dubbed him a “Wall Street Hero.” In the tumultuous field of network television, he has enjoyed rare longevity as a leader. Last year, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, he earned nearly seventy million dollars, making him one of the highest-paid corporate executives in the world.

In recent months, Moonves (shown in a file photo below) has become a prominent voice in Hollywood’s #MeToo movement. In December, he helped found the Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace, which is chaired by Anita Hill. “It’s a watershed moment,” Moonves said at a conference in November. “I think it’s important that a company’s culture will not allow for this. And that’s the thing that’s far-reaching. There’s a lot we’re learning. There’s a lot we didn’t know.”

les moonvesBut Moonves’s private actions belie his public statements. Six women who had professional dealings with him told me that, between the nineteen-eighties and the late aughts, Moonves sexually harassed them.

Four described forcible touching or kissing during business meetings, in what they said appeared to be a practiced routine. Two told me that Moonves physically intimidated them or threatened to derail their careers. All said that he became cold or hostile after they rejected his advances, and that they believed their careers suffered as a result.

Thirty current and former employees of CBS told me that such behavior extended from Moonves to important parts of the corporation, including CBS News and “60 Minutes,” one of the network’s most esteemed programs. It isn’t clear whether Moonves himself knew of the allegations, but he has a reputation for being closely involved in management decisions across the network.

donald trump jr kimberly guilfoyle and donald trump

Donald Trump Jr., Kimberly Guilfoyle and President Trump (file photo)

huff post logoHuffPost, Exclusive / Investigation: Kimberly Guilfoyle Left Fox News After Investigation Into Misconduct Allegations, Sources Say, Yashar Ali, July 27, 2018. Sources tell HuffPost that Guilfoyle, who is dating Donald Trump Jr., engaged in emotionally abusive behavior and showed colleagues personal photos of male genitalia.

When it was revealed last week that longtime Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle would be leaving the network, some Fox News and White House insiders were surprised that she was choosing to move on from the cable news channel and head to a pro-Donald Trump super PAC. For nearly two years — even once rumors eventually kicked up that she might join the Trump administration — Guilfoyle said that, as a single mother, she had to think of her son’s financial future and couldn’t afford to leave the high-paying gig, multiple sources told HuffPost.

fox news logo SmallGuilfoyle’s departure was initially billed as her decision. However, as HuffPost first reported last week, multiple sources said she did not leave the network voluntarily. They said Guilfoyle was informed her time at Fox News was up following a human resources investigation into allegations of inappropriate behavior including sexual misconduct, and that her lawyers had been involved since the spring.

Sources also said that despite being told she would have to leave by July, Guilfoyle repeatedly attempted to delay her exit and tried to have her allies appeal to Rupert Murdoch, the executive chairman of 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News, to let her stay at the network.

This story is based on interviews conducted over the past year with 21 sources inside and outside Fox News and 21st Century Fox. All sources spoke to HuffPost on the condition of anonymity because they aren’t authorized to speak to the press, did not want to raise Guilfoyle’s ire or have signed nondisclosure agreements that prevent them from speaking to others about their experiences.

In response to an email with a list of 19 detailed questions, Guilfoyle’s attorney John Singer wrote the following statement:  

“Any accusations of Kimberly engaging in inappropriate work-place conduct are unequivocally baseless and have been viciously made by disgruntled and self-roger ailes winterested employees. During her lengthy and decorated tenure with the company, Kimberly was beloved, well-respected, and supportive of anyone she ever met. It’s utterly preposterous that there are those who are nefariously and greedily twisting innocent conversations amongst close friends into much more than what it actually was for financial gain. Kimberly has happily moved onto the next chapter of her life and hopes others will do the same.”

Fox News was a hotbed of sexual harassment and retaliation under [former Chairman Roger] Ailes (shown at right), but executives at Fox News have worked over the past two years to improve the workplace culture and institute major changes in large part due to potential legal liabilities and regulatory concerns in the U.S. and U.K. Guilfoyle, according to several sources, failed to adapt to the new culture and still operated as if she were working under Ailes.

gavin newsom oGuilfoyle, a former San Francisco County prosecutor, started at the network in 2006 as a legal analyst and worked her way up to become co-host of “The Five.” She also served as a fill-in host for top-rated Fox News stars like Hannity.

While living in the city, Guilfoyle was married for several years to then-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, shown at left. (Newsom is now lieutenant governor of California and the front-runner in the current gubernatorial campaign).

This reporter worked for Newsom for several years but has no relationship with Guilfoyle and has never spoken to her.

Syrian War

SouthFront, Government Forces Kill 75 ISIS Members During Clashes In Al-Suwayda, Staff report, July 26, 2018. On July 26, the governor of al-Suwayda said that the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and local fighters killed more than 75 fighters of ISIS while repelling the terrorist group attack.

Syria FlagEarlier, RT TV revealed that the death toll of the terrorist attacks in al-Suwayda has risen to 215, including women and children. The Russian news TV channel added that 180 others were injured. Thousands of SAA soldiers and local fighters are massing to launch an offensive on the hideout of the terrorist group.

ny times logoNew York Times, Hundreds Died in Syrian Custody, Government Acknowledges, Ben Hubbard and Karam Shoumali, July 26, 2018. In recent weeks, hundreds of Syrian families have suddenly learned that their missing relatives have been registered as dead by the government. Government officials have not commented publicly on the new information, said how many people it applied to, or explained how they died

JFK Research Findings

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Analyzing the New JFK Revelations, Bill Simpich, July 26, 2018. Review of New CIA and FBI Documents That Change Cold War History.

Bill Simpich is a civil rights attorney in the San Francisco Bay Area. In the following essay, he offers a look at some of the gems found in the new JFK document releases and how to speed up the discovery of future finds.

More than 50 years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, thousands of government documents related to his death are still under classified lock and key.

By law, all of the remaining secret documents were supposed to have been released last year. President Donald Trump approved the release of approximately 35,000 files in 2017. But he delayed the publication of many other documents in full or in part until 2021 — when the winner of the 2020 presidential election will have another chance to review them for possible declassification.

The difficult job of understanding why a president was murdered, and unpacking the Cold War path that America was treading, involves working through the minutiae — the “boring” material — so that the little puzzle pieces can fit together to form a coherent bigger picture.

‘Populist’ Wins Pakistani Election

pakistan flag wavingEurasia Future, Imran Khan Declares Victory in Historic Elections: Pakistan Has Chosen Meaningful Change Over a Failed Status Quo, Adam Garrie, July 26, 2018. Imran Khan has claimed victory for his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI) in an historic election for Pakistan. The PTI represents a populist swing away from the legacy mainstream parties PML-N and PPP that both fared poorly during the election. Additionally, religious extremist parties fared particularly poorly compared to the previous two elections and also when contrasted with the expectations that many theocratic parties set for themselves prior to polling day. Lastly, the deeply controversial MQM ended up losing both seats and electoral momentum in its Karachi heartland, surrendering its erstwhile momentum to PTI.

Likewise, the incumbent PML-N not only fared poorly in the national vote in their traditional Punjab stronghold but even in the Punjab assembly election, Imran Khan’s PTI has proved formidable. Finally in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa which since 2013 has been governed by a PTI led provincial council, women were able to cast their votes for the first time. As was expected PTI heavily dominated throughout Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

While the final votes are still being counted, PTI’s decisive victory across Pakistan’s regions and major cities is indicative of a wider moment for radical change that has been embraced throughout the nation. In this sense, Imran Khan’s victory is a genuine national victory for all of the regions of Pakistan.

imran khan pakistan pm

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Pakistan’s ‘Populist’ Wins The Election, B, July 26, 2018. Imran Khan won yesterday’s elections in Pakistan. He is an unusual politician and his political program is laudable.

Imran Khan (shown above in a file photo) is an interesting character. He was born in 1952 into an affluent Pashtun family with an anti-colonial tradition. He was educated in Britain. After graduating from Oxford he excelled as a professional cricket player. In 1992 he won the Cricket World Cup for Pakistan as captain of the team. That made him a national hero but the high life also gave him a reputation as womanizer and playboy.

pakistan flag wavingHis 2012 talk with Julian Assange (vid) demonstrates that he is way more than that. In 1996 he founded his political party and slowly moved it into a winning position. The PTI rule in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the poor and war-torn Pashtun state next to Afghanistan, was surprisingly successful. Pakistan was long ruled by the military and several rich clans which used their political parties to enrich themselves. There is no evidence that Imran is of such a type.

The losing parties claim that the elections were rigged by the Pakistani military. During the campaign the military somewhat put its finger on the scale. It allegedly pushed some candidates into changing their party affiliation and interfered with some media. But the elections themselves went off mostly peaceful, the EU observer mission seems largely satisfied with the process and the result is consistent with earlier polls and predictions.

Imran campaigned on a social-democratic and anti-corruption platform. His victory speech (scroll down) emphasized his concern for the poor:The weak are dying of hunger. I will try my best – all of my policies will be made to raise our weaker classes, for our labourers … for our poor farmers, who work all year and get no money … 45 percent of children have stunted growth, they don’t reach the right height, or their brains don’t develop.

July 25

Trump Watch

djt Karen McDougal Donald Trump youtube

Donald Trump and former ‘Playmate of the Year’ Karen McDougal, who alleges a deal via the National Enquirer

washington post logoWashington Post, Cohen tape suggests Trump knew of model’s deal to sell story of alleged affair, Carol D. Leonnig and Robert Costa, July 25, 2018 (print ed.). During the September 2016 conversation with his longtime attorney Michael Cohen, the then-Republican presidential nominee appeared familiar with the outline of a deal with Playboy model Karen McDougal to purchase the rights to her story of an alleged affair with him, according to a transcript of the exchange provided by the president’s legal team.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Here’s what today’s impeachment filing against Rod Rosenstein really means, Bill Palmer, July 25, 2018. After weeks of threatening to do so, Donald Trump’s far right House GOP allies Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows filed impeachment charges against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein today.

So what does this mean, and what’s going to come of it? The short answer: nothing at all. This isn’t a step in the direction of anything. It has literally zero chance of succeeding.

ny times logoNew York Times, Cohen’s Lawyer, a Democrat, Comes Out Swinging at Trump, Matt Flegenheimer, July 25, 2018. Lanny Davis — best known as a high-profile lawyer for Bill and Hillary Clinton — has helped Michael Cohen, the president’s former personal lawyer, mount an aggressive defense in the news media.

Lanny J. Davis’s client list, like his quintessentially Washington career as an all-purpose lawyer, lobbyist, crisis consultant and television-talker, is lengthy, international — and more than occasionally contradictory.

Mr. Davis has represented Harvey Weinstein and Penn State, a Ukrainian oligarch with links to President Trump’s indicted former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and an Ivory Coast strongman whom Mr. Davis today insists he was trying to help dislodge as part of a secret arrangement with the State Department.

Trade Wars, Fallout

usda logo horizontal Customwashington post logoWashington Post, Critics decry Trump plan to offer billions in aid to farmers caught in trade war, Damian Paletta and Caitlin Dewey​, July 25, 2018. The aid comes as the Trump administration tries to stem growing Republican dissent over the president’s trade policies.

washington post logoDonald Trump and Mike Pence logoWashington Post, Trump pushes 25 percent auto tariff as top advisers scramble to stop him, Damian Paletta​, July 25, 2018. The president wants to move forward on the plan despite warnings from GOP leaders and business executives who have argued that such a move could damage the economy and lead to political mutiny.

Trump Seeks More FCC Licenses For Supporters

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washington post logoWashington Post, Trump criticizes FCC for opposing Sinclair-Tribune deal, Tony Romm and Brian Fung, July 25, 2018. The president said the media merger would provide a “conservative voice for and of the People,” though politics are not supposed to factor into such considerations.

President Donald Trump officialPresident Trump came to the defense of Sinclair Broadcast Group’s proposed merger with Tribune Media, days after the Federal Communications Commission raised “serious concerns” about the deal and began legal proceedings to challenge it on grounds the companies had misled regulators.

Trump said Tuesday it was “so sad and unfair” that the FCC, an independent agency, did not approve the merger, a $3.9 billion transaction that would create a conservative television giant that originally hoped to reach roughly 70 percent of U.S. households.

fcc logoIn his tweet, the president stressed how the deal would provide a “conservative voice for and of the People,” though politics are not supposed to factor into merger considerations.

“Liberal Fake News NBC and Comcast gets approved, much bigger, but not Sinclair. Disgraceful!” the president tweeted.

Media Flap On Air Force One?

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘A Stir’ on Air Force One as a Television Is Tuned to CNN, Katie Rogers and Maggie Haberman, July 25, 2018 (print ed.). On the first couple’s recent trip overseas, Melania Trump’s television aboard Air Force One was tuned to CNN. President Trump was not pleased.

fox news logo SmallHe raged at his staff for violating a rule that the White House entourage should begin each trip tuned to Fox — his preferred network over what he considers the “fake news” CNN — and caused “a bit of a stir” aboard Air Force One, according to an email obtained by The New York Times.

At the end of the email chain, officials confirmed that tuning the TVs to Fox would be standard operating procedure going forward.

cnn logoThe channel-flipping flap was the latest example of how Mr. Trump, at a pivotal moment in his presidency, is increasingly living in a world of selected information and bending the truth to his own narrative. As his aides work to keep him insulated from the outside world, Mr. Trump is doubling down in his efforts to tell supporters to trust him over the words of critics and news reports.

U.S. Politics

Democratic-Republican Campaign logos

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump creates an alternative reality, and he wants you to join him there, James Hohmann, July 25, 2018. “Just remember,” President Trump said on Tuesday in Kansas City, Mo., “what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”

Donald Trump and Mike Pence logoHe was complaining about the escalating fallout from his trade war. The president is angry that the press is telling the stories of farmers who are facing financial hardship because of the predictable retaliation by other countries to his tariffs. Speaking to a crowd of 4,000 at the annual convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Trump specifically cited a package he saw earlier in the day on NBC. “It was heart-throbbing,” he said. “In fact, I wanted to say, ‘I got to do something about this Trump. Terrible.’”

He then claimed NBC’s piece was “done by the lobbyists and by the people that they hire” and argued that the time to push for better trade deals is when the economy is growing. “This country is doing better than it’s ever done before,” Trump said.

washington post logobrian kempWashington Post, Ga. runoffs: Republicans pick Trump-endorsed secretary of state for governor, Sean Sullivan and David Weigel, July 25, 2018. President Trump’s preferred candidate for governor of Georgia, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, right, won the Republican nomination Tuesday, setting the stage for a marquee November showdown encapsulating the divisions that have deepened during his presidency.

stacy abrams brian kemp file

Georgia’s two major party candidates in the governor’s race are Democrat Stacey Abrams, left, and Republican Brian Kemp

washington post logoWashington Post, In Georgia, 2018 gets the woman-vs.-mini-Trump campaign it deserves, Philip Bump, July 25, 2018. Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s Kemp’s victory in the Republican primary for governor in that state was, unexpectedly, a cakewalk. Kemp beat his opponent, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, by more than 2 to 1 after Cagle won the first round of voting by 13 points.

What changed? One factor was certainly President Trump’s weighing in on Kemp’s behalf. In several tweets, Trump proclaimed that Kemp had his “full and total endorsement.” Vice President Pence made a trip to Georgia on Kemp’s behalf; on Tuesday morning, as polls opened in the state, Trump reminded people to get out to vote.

republican elephant logoIt’s hard to say how important Trump’s support was, but these charts provided to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Greg Bluestein suggest that it was all that was needed. Trump’s first endorsement came one week ago, on July 18.

Why did Trump like Kemp? Perhaps this campaign ad will explain. Blowing up government spending. Wielding a shotgun. Chainsawing regulations. And driving a pickup truck to round up criminals who migrated to the country illegally. It is about as Trump-y an ad as you can get. The only thing that’s missing is a celebration of Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, but that admittedly wouldn’t have been terribly pertinent to the race.

stacey abrams campaignIn the general election, Kemp will face former state legislator Stacey Abrams. Her campaign is a bit different. Expanding opportunities. Education. Prosperity for all Georgia families. Abrams’s spot features her with people of every age and race. It is almost as diametrically opposed to Kemp’s spot as one could imagine. Not an explosion in sight.

Abrams’s candidacy is also historic. Should she win, she would become the first black woman to lead a state. And not just any state: Georgia, a state in the Deep South. Like other Southern states, Georgia flipped from blue to red after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, but, unlike other Southern states, has swung back the other way. Trump won Georgia by five points, the 12th-closest margin of the 2016 election.

washington post logoelizabeth bruenigWashington Post, Opinion: America’s heart of darkness, Elizabeth Bruenig, right, July 25, 2018 (print edition). Trump’s presidency is part of a decades-long erosion of trust in government.

There is the obvious side of the scandal: Russia clearly took steps to interfere with the 2016 presidential election and, to some incalculable extent, probably succeeded.

dnc square logoIt appears to have meddled by way of dirty persuasion, purchasing (somewhat bizarre) anti-Clinton Facebook ads, launching (truly bizarre) pro-Trump Twitter bots and, the pièce de résistance, hacking into several Democratic National Committee members’ email accounts and publishing thousands of missives on WikiLeaks. Trump’s campaign may or may not have been actively involved in the plot to scuttle Hillary Clinton’s chances (maybe the plot wouldn’t have gone so well if it were?), President Trump may or may not believe Russia interfered whatsoever (his mind changes day to day), and Trump may or may not have won anyway. All of that’s secondary.

The primary things are these: It just wasn’t that hard for a foreign power to tinker with our deliberative democratic process, which suggests that it just isn’t that hard, full stop, for anyone to tinker with our deliberative democratic process.

And if Trump’s campaign played along, those who benefited when he won don’t really seem to mind. Republicans will issue all sorts of official-sounding tweets and news releases decrying the subversion of America’s hallowed institutions, but they’ve got their tax cuts and Supreme Court seats, and they’re not going to initiate impeachment proceedings or primary Trump come 2020. A neutral observer couldn’t be blamed for concluding that the rich and powerful people who contend for control of the country don’t much care how public offices wind up in their hands, so long as they do.

And this is true across the board.

Those emails the Russians loosed upon the electorate were damning precisely because they revealed a similar scheme operating in miniature during the Democratic primary campaign: The supposedly neutral DNC functioned as more or less a Clinton campaign organ, subsisting off Clinton campaign funds and musing behind the scenes about targeting then-primary contender Bernie Sanders for being a secular Jew, how best to discipline his campaign for complaining about the DNC’s partiality and, ironically, how to properly dispel the appearance of a DNC conspiracy against Sanders.

washington post logodemocratic donkey logoWashington Post, Opinion: If Democrats want to get out the vote, they need to stop playing it safe, Courtland Milloy, July 25, 2018 (print edition). Voters opposed to the president want answers about what can be done. At a recent town hall meeting, Maryland Rep. Anthony G. Brown missed a chance to make his case for himself or his party.

More Alabama Courtroom Injustice?

Legal Schnauzer, Opinion: U.S. Judge Madeline Haikala dismisses FOIA case on Siegelman prosecution, as DOJ is allowed to produce documents so heavily redacted as to be worthless, Roger Shuler, July 25, 2018. A lawsuit seeking information from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) about the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman has been dismissed.

madeline haikalaAs often is the case with federal-court matters in Alabama, the final ruling is dubious — in large part, because Judge Madeline Haikala (shown at right) received documents from the DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) last spring and sat on the case for roughly 10 months before making a final ruling.

Does Haikala’s ruling make sense under the law.? We don’t have access to the entire court file, so it’s hard to make a determination on that question. But an online summary of the case docket raises troubling questions and suggests powerful conservative forces — both in Alabama and Washington, D.C. — are trying to keep the lid on what really happened in a case that has become known as the most notorious political prosecution in American history.

Here is the most disturbing part: OPR turned over documents that “were so heavily redacted they were worthless,” a source close to the case says — and Haikala let the government get away with that.

Haikala, an Obama appointee and former attorney with Birmingham’s Lightfoot Franklin firm, is the same judge who twisted the facts and law into a pretzel in order to let Madison police officer Eric Parker off on criminal charges after he had body slammed Sureshbhai Patel (a grandfather from India), causing spinal injuries. We reported a four-part series about the myriad ways Haikala butchered the law in the Patel case.

Is there any reason to think Haikala got it right in the Siegelman matter? I don’t see any.

Race, Crime, Justice

washington post logoWashington Post, Killings of black people less likely to lead to arrests than white victims, Wesley Lowery, Kimbriell Kelly and Steven Rich​, July 25, 2018. In the past decade, nearly 26,000 murders have gone without an arrest in major American cities. Of those, more than 18,600 of the victims — almost three‑quarters — were black.

The Post has mapped about 55,000 homicides in major American cities over the past decade, and in almost every city, fewer arrests were made in the killings of black people. That lower arrest rate fuels a vicious cycle: It deepens distrust of police among black residents, making them less likely to cooperate in investigations, leading to fewer arrests.

U.S. Budget Deficit

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Tax Cut Is Pushing the Federal Deficit to $1 Trillion, Jim Tankersley, July 25, 2018. Corporate income tax collections are near a 75-year low, as a share of the economy, after a new law reduced rates and allowed companies to deduct investments immediately.

Trade News

washington post logoeuropean union logo rectangleWashington Post, Trump, E.U. strike deal to avert escalation of trade tensions, Damian Paletta and Jeanne Whalen​, July 25, 2018. Trump and the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said they have reached an agreement to work toward eliminating tariffs on industrial goods and to increase European imports of liquified natural gas and soybeans. The two leaders said both sides would hold off on further tariffs as they work to resolve disputes over steel, aluminum and cars.

U.S. Visas

New York Times, Visa Restrictions for Chinese Students Alarm Academia, Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks, July 25, 2018. Educators fear that the changes, which the Trump administration devised to curb intellectual property theft, will hinder innovation, intensify anti-Chinese aggressions and deter talented applicants.

Syrian War

Southfront, Israel Shoots Down Syrian Warplane Bombing ISIS Terrorists, Staff report, July 25, 2018. On July 24, the Syrian military faced the expected Israeli military actions resulting from Tel Aviv’s displeasure with the fact that its long-time supported militant-held buffer zone east of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights is crumbling.

Israel FlagThe Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) employed two Patirot air defense missiles to shoot down a Syrian Su-22 warplane involved in the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) operation against ISIS in the area. One pilot, Colonel Umran Mare, died in the incident.

Israel claimed that the warplane entered about 1 mile into its airspace, meaning the occupied Golans, and was shot down after a few warnings. The Syrian side said that this once again shows Israeli support for terrorist groups operating in Syria.

Despite this incident, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies continued their advance against ISIS capturing over 10 new localities, including Khirbat Khasfayn, Ayn Zabida and Bakkar. On July 25, the advance continued in the direction of Saydah and Aun Thakar.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed up by the US-led coalition, have captured the Sijan oil fields and many nearby points in the northeastern part of Syria from ISIS. In the coming weeks, the SDF will likely continue its advance along the border aiming to capture the oil fields area north of the government-held town of al-Bukamal.

Mint Press News, May’s Syria Policy Gets Thumbs Down from Bipartisan Group of UK Pols, Whitney Webb, July 21, 2018. The Global Network for Syria, which includes a bipartisan group of several British policymakers and former British ambassadors to Syria, has slammed the U.K. government’s current foreign policy on Syria, Saying that current efforts of “prolong suffering” in the country by funding “so-called moderate armed opposition forces” that are “dominated by Jihadist militants.”

United Kingdom flagThe group, combining U.K. politicians from the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and independents — as well as former Ambassadors to Syria Peter Ford and Lord Green of Deddington — wrote a letter to U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May that, according to U.K. newspaper The Independent, asserted that the country’s current Syria policy “will ensure that stabilisation and reunification under a unitary authority remain a distant possibility, prolonging the suffering of the Syrian people and weakening the stability of the Middle East as a whole.”

The letter also called for the U.K. government to lift sanctions against government-held portions of Syria, support diplomatic instead of military solutions, and allow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to remain in power. And it spoke against the de facto foreign occupation of Syrian territory in Syria’s northeast, a region that accounts for more than 30 percent of Syria’s total territory as well as most of its oil, gas, fresh water and agricultural resources. British forces are among the other foreign powers, which also include the United States and France, that are currently occupying that territory.

Ford, who served as the U.K.’s ambassador to Damascus from 2003 to 2006 under the Blair government, told The Independent that the letter seeks to draw attention to the impacts of current U.K. policies that have not worked and that instead create “the risk of a new conflict.” He noted that sanctions against Syria have been particularly ineffective, as they are only “damaging the Syrian people while doing nothing to hurt the Syrian government.”

July 24

cnn logoCNN, Exclusive: CNN obtains secret Trump-Cohen tape, Chris Cuomo, Kara Scannell and Eli Watkins, July 24, 2018. Presidential candidate Donald Trump is heard on tape discussing with his attorney Michael Cohen how they would buy the rights to a Playboy model’s story about an alleged affair Trump had with her years earlier, according to the audio recording of the conversation aired exclusively on CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time.”

The recording offers the public a glimpse at the confidential discussions between Trump and Cohen, and it confirms the man who now occupies the Oval Office had contemporaneous knowledge of a proposal to buy the rights to the story of Karen McDougal, a woman who has alleged she had an extramarital affair with Trump about a decade ago.

Cohen told Trump about his plans to set up a company and finance the purchase of the rights from American Media, which publishes the National Enquirer.

“I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David,” Cohen said in the recording, likely a reference to American Media head David Pecker.

Trump interrupts Cohen asking, “What financing?” according to the recording. When Cohen tells Trump, “We’ll have to pay.” Trump is heard saying “pay with cash” but the audio is muddled and it’s unclear whether he suggests paying with cash or not paying. Cohen says, “no, no” but it is not clear what is said next.

No payment was ever made from Trump, Rudy Giuliani, the President’s attorney, has said.

$12b In New Trump Slush Fund For Farmers?

usda logo horizontal Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. readies plan to extend billions in aid to farmers caught in Trump’s trade war, Damian Paletta and Caitlin Dewey​, July 24, 2018. The Trump administration on Tuesday announced up to $12 billion in emergency aid to farmers caught in an escalating trade war, seeking to temper growing Republican dissent over President Trump’s trade policies.

The aid is designed to help farmers facing tariffs in China, Mexico and other countries that imposed the levies on U.S. products in response to Trump’s new tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. It is the latest sign that growing trade tensions between the United States and other countries are unlikely to end soon.

White House officials say farmers will begin seeing payments by September, and they hope the payments will quiet protests by farm groups and lawmakers — many of them Republicans — who contend that Trump’s confrontational trade policy is harming American farmers months before the 2018 midterm elections.

rand paul cbs 1 10 2016But many Republicans criticized the administration’s aid package, saying the president should back off his trade war and help farmers regain more access to foreign markets, rather than offering them government payments.

“If tariffs punish farmers, the answer is not welfare for farmers. The answer is remove the tariffs,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky., shown in a file photo) wrote Tuesday on Twitter, echoing many Republicans.

Related story: ‘Just be a little patient’: Trump pleads with farmers caught in tariffs war, July 23, 2018.

Supreme Court Probe

washington post logoWashington Post, White House counsel huddles with GOP senators on dispute over Kavanaugh documents, Seung Min Kim​, July 24, 2018. Democrats are demanding that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh hand over all documents from his time at the George W. Bush White House, a compilation that could top 1 million pages.

republican elephant logoRepublicans have dismissed the Democrats’ expansive document request, saying the most relevant insight into Kavanaugh as a jurist would be in the hundreds of opinions he has written as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

But in May 2010, Kavanaugh singled out his tenure as Bush’s staff secretary as particularly “instructive” in his role as a federal judge.

“When people ask me which of my prior experiences has been most useful to me as a judge, I tell them that all of them have been useful, and I certainly draw on all of them,” Kavanaugh said then, according to documents submitted to the Judiciary Committee. “But I also do not hesitate to say that my five and a half years in the White House — and especially my three years as Staff Secretary for President Bush — were the most interesting and in many ways among the most instructive.”

​Ivanka Suddenly Closes Clothing Brand

washington post logoWashington Post, Ivanka Trump shuts down her namesake clothing brand, Drew Harwell and Abha Bhattarai, July 24, 2018. The president’s daughter and White House senior adviser said her “focus for the foreseeable future will be the work I am doing here in Washington” and called the company’s closure “the only fair outcome for my team and partners.”

ivanka trump in 2011Ivanka Trump, shown in a file photo, is shutting down her namesake clothing brand because of her work in Washington, she said Tuesday, a rare acknowledgement by a Trump family member about the challenges of holding an influential White House position while owning a global business.

In doing so, the president’s daughter and White House senior adviser has gone further than other Trump family members, who have remained active in both business and politics. She handed over day-to-day operations after her father won the election but continued to own the company — which raised ethical concerns that have dogged enterprises across the Trump empire.

But her brand, founded as a carefree fashion and lifestyle brand for young, professional women, has suffered from how polarizing it became during the campaign and her father’s move into the Oval Office, enduring boycotts, lost sales and controversies that saw its goods yanked from retailers’ shelves.

Ivanka Trump arrived at the company’s headquarters on Tuesday afternoon, where she spoke to staff members and left after about 45 minutes, company officials said. Employees had been told in the morning to attend a staff meeting, when they were informed of the brand’s immediate closure. Employees stayed afterwards for a glass of wine and will receive a severance package, officials said.

Heiress Indicted In Alleged Sex Trafficking Cult

nxivm executive success programs abc

Nxivm corporate logo from office park signage adjoining its corporate headquarters in New York (file photo)

ny times logoNew York Times, Seagram’s Liquor Heiress Charged in Nxivm Sex-Trafficking Case, Sean Piccoli, July 24, 2018. Clare Bronfman, an heiress to the Seagram’s liquor fortune, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday in federal court in Brooklyn after her arrest on conspiracy and racketeering charges in connection with her role at Nxivm, a self-help group that prosecutors call a pyramid scheme and former members say is a cult.

Ms. Bronfman was released on a $100 million bond — roughly half of her net worth, according to her lawyer, Susan Necheles  — and, after a sometimes contentious hourlong bail hearing, was ordered placed under house arrest by United States District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis.

Ms. Bronfman will have to wear an ankle monitor at her New York apartment under the terms of her release and must return to court on Friday with assets totaling $50 million to put up as security for her bail.

clare bronfman croppedMs. Bronfman was one of four people arrested in New York State on Tuesday after the unsealing of an updated seven-count indictment against Keith Raniere, leader of the now defunct-group, and five others in his “inner circle,” federal prosecutors said in the indictment.Mr. Raniere, 57, was arrested earlier this year in Mexico and brought to New York to face federal sex-trafficking charges.

Prosecutors said he and one of his followers, Allison Mack, 35, an actress known for her work in “Smallville,” coerced female members to have unwanted sex with him and branded them with a symbol containing his initials. Mr. Raniere is being held without bail in Brooklyn to await trial.

clare bronfman keith did good abc

Heiress Clare Bronfman, shown above, quoted on an ABC 20/20 report as describing NXIVM founder Keith Raniere

Related coverage: Albany Times Union, Faces of NXIVM: An alleged cult’s inner circle and beyond, Keith Raniere has surrounded himself with rich, famous, Joyce Bassett, April 24, 2018.  NXIVM, an upstate New York self-help group, is accused of branding some of its female followers and forcing them into unwanted sex.

Keith Raniere has courted the rich and famous for years through his leadership of NXIVM, the secretive Colonie-based “executive success program” that critics have described as a cult. Now, he has everyone’s attention.

NXIVM is making news worldwide after Raniere was arrested on March 25 on multiple federal counts of sex trafficking and forced labor. On Friday, Raniere and actress Allison Mack both were indicted by a federal grand jury in Brooklyn.

Raniere, the group’s founder — who is referred to within NXIVM as “Vanguard” — was arrested at a $10,000-a-week villa in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where he fled last November as the federal investigation took shape. Video of that arrest is shown below.

The U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York is leading the grand jury investigation of Raniere and NXIVM. Numerous people involved with NXIVM have been subpoenaed to testify in Brooklyn.


NXIVM website: “NXIVM is a company whose mission is to raise human awareness, foster an ethical humanitarian civilization, and celebrate what it means to be human.”

Important Message to our Members: It is with deep sadness that we inform you we are suspending all NXIVM/ESP enrollment, curriculum and events until further notice.  We will be in touch with more information for anyone currently enrolled in upcoming events/programs. While we are disappointed by the interruption of our operations, we believe it is warranted by the extraordinary circumstances facing the company at this time. We continue to believe in the value and importance of our work and look forward to resuming our efforts when these allegations are resolved.” 

ABC News, Former NXIVM member says she was branded when invited to secret sorority: Part I Dec. 15, 2017 (11:19 mins. video). Sarah Edmondson said she thought she was getting a tattoo when she willingly participated in strange initiation ritual for a sorority that she says is associated with NXIVM. ABC News 20/20, Inside the troubled past of NXIVM founder Keith Raniere, Part II, April 27, 2018 (7:06 mins. video).

Vanity Fair, The Heiresses and the Cult, Suzanna Andrews, Oct. 13, 2010. To family friends, Seagram heiresses Sara and Clare Bronfman are victims of a frightening, secretive “cult” called nxivm, which has swallowed as much as $150 million of their fortune. But the organization’s leader, Keith Raniere,

U.S. Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Uses Veterans Speech as Political Rally, and to Vent, Emily Cochrane, July 24, 2018. President Trump alternated between prepared remarks about his administration’s commitment to veterans and his own peeves about the reception of his tariffs.

President Donald Trump officialPresident Trump transformed a speech on Tuesday before thousands of veterans into a political rally, summoning a Missouri Senate candidate to the stage, venting about Democratic lawmakers and slamming the news media for not upholding his preferred interpretation of the success of his policies.

“Stick with us. Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news,” Mr. Trump said at the annual convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, as part of the crowd booed and hissed in the direction of the press corps.

“What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening,” the president added.

A spokeswoman for the veterans group, which is nonpartisan, said in a statement after the event that organizers were “disappointed to hear some of our members boo the press.”

The event on Tuesday was intended to showcase one of the Trump administration’s top priorities: improving the care of the nation’s veterans and stabilizing a department demoralized by scandal and staff vacancies.

Yet while Mr. Trump briefly acknowledged the presence of Robert Wilkie, the career Washington insider confirmed on Monday to head the Veterans Affairs Department, he did not invite Mr. Wilkie to speak in front of the veterans and members of the military he now serves.

Instead, Mr. Trump brought two other people onstage: Allen Q. Jones, 94, a World War II veteran, and Josh Hawley, the likely Republican challenger for Senator Claire McCaskill’s seat.

Trump-Iran War of Words

djt hassan rouhani iran

Above, file photos of President Trump and Iran’s leader Hassan Rouhani

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump threatens Iran, but officials have shunned military moves, Missy Ryan, Philip Rucker and Karen DeYoung, July 24, 2018 (print ed.). President Trump’s message exposed the disjointed nature of his administration’s strategy on Iran, as officials across the government continue to put economic and political pressure on Tehran despite the president’s sudden hint at a military strike.

Despite putting Iran “on notice” in the earliest days of Trump’s presidency, U.S. officials have shunned military moves that might bring an unwanted escalation and instead have opposed the international Iran nuclear deal and embraced a growing web of sanctions.

Iran FlagThat indirect approach has so far failed to halt Iran’s ballistic missile program or check its support for proxy groups across the Middle East.

“There’s a huge gap between the objectives that have been laid out and the means the administration has so far been willing to employ,” said former envoy Dennis Ross, who has advised Republican and Democratic presidents on the Middle East. “At some point, either you revise the objectives or you embrace new means.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded to Trump on Monday afternoon, tweeting that Iran was “UNIMPRESSED” by the president’s threat. “The world heard even harsher bluster a few months ago. And Iranians have heard them —albeit more civilized ones—for 40 yrs. We’ve been around for millennia,” he said.

Thai Cave Boys To Become Monks

ny times logoNew York Times, Boys Freed From Thai Cave Enter Monkhood to Honor Fallen Rescuer, Ben C. Solomon and Austin Ramzy, July 24, 2018. Three weeks after they emerged from a flooded cave complex, guided to safety by expert divers while their families and supporters around the world awaited word of their safety, the Thais known as the Wild Boars began a ceremony on Tuesday to become novice Buddhist monks.

Wearing white, the boys and their coach walked in a line in the northern town of Mae Sai, holding their heads low and their hands together. Hundreds of fans stood behind them with their phones out, occasionally trying to grab a quick photograph as the team passed by.

“It’s enough!” the acting head monk, Prayut Jetiyanukan, said over the loudspeaker system at the temple, Wat Pha That Doi Wao. Trying to keep a somber and respectful mood as the process to ordain the boys began, he added: “Fans! Please get back! They haven’t had a proper sleep in days and need their rest.”

Hundreds came from all over Thailand to get one of the first public glimpses of the Wild Boars, the small-town youth soccer team whose members survived more than two weeks in a flooded cave, riveting the world’s attention.

Just a week after their release from the hospital, all but one of the boys began the ritual to serve as novice monks, or “nen.” Their coach, Ekkapol Chantawong, will become a monk, rather than a novice, having spent almost 10 years in the monkhood. Not undergoing the Buddhist ordination is Adul Sam-on, 14, a stateless Christian from Myanmar.

The entrance of the 11 into monkhood represented a new beginning after an ordeal that brought together thousands of volunteers from around the world, and that thrust the young Thais into the international spotlight.

#MeToo Outrage / SCOTUS Commentary

alex kozinski c span nov 2014 Custom

Show above is a C-SPAN screenshot from a 2014 lecture at the National Press Club by then federal appeals court judge Alex Kozinski

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge who quit over harassment allegations reemerges, dismaying those who accused him, July 24, 2018. Some former clerks to Alex Kozinski and other women said they feared the retired federal appeals court judge was being allowed to reenter the legal community without a complete reckoning.

Alex Kozinski had largely retreated from public life since allegations of sexual misconduct prompted him to retire as a federal appeals court judge last year. Even as his case sparked changes in how the judiciary handles harassment, the outspoken jurist remained silent — never addressing specific accusations that he showed clerks explicit images in his chambers or touched women inappropriately.

But earlier this month, Kozinski tiptoed back into public view, sitting for an hour-long interview with a public radio station in California and writing a tribute in a legal-industry publication to retired Supreme Court justice Anthony M. Kennedy. Then President Trump nominated Brett M. Kavanaugh, one of Kozinski’s former clerks and professional friends, to a seat on the high court.

Kozinski was suddenly back in the spotlight, and the legal and political worlds were left to wrestle with the aftershocks of his fall from grace.

National Press Club, Progressive Women Candidates, Survivors of Sexual Assault and Harassment, Bring the #MeToo Movement to the Ballot Box, Press relations contacts Kawana Lloyd and Inaru Melendez, July 24, 2018. On July 24 at the National Press Club, young progressive female candidates from battleground states — including survivors of sexual assault and harassment — will join People For the American Way’s Next Up Victory Fund for a panel discussion about the impact of the #MeToo movement on candidates, races and the future of politics under a president with a record of discrediting women.

rachel crooks cnnRachel Crooks (shown in a file photo), one of the first of at least nineteen women who have accused President Trump of sexual assault, now candidate for Ohio State Legislator, is a featured speaker. Additional panelists will also share their personal stories and discuss how the #MeToo movement influenced their decisions to run for public office and continue to impact their candidacy, their campaigns, and the overall political environment.

• Rachel Crooks, candidate for Ohio State House, District 88.• Anna Eskamani, candidate for Florida State House, District 47• Katie Muth, candidate for Pennsylvania State Senate, District 44• Myya Jones, candidate for Michigan State House District 4

Disasters: Laos

ny times logoNew York Times, Hundreds Are Missing After Dam Collapses in Laos, Mike Ives, July 24, 2018. Hundreds of people were missing on Tuesday after a billion-dollar hydropower dam that was under construction in Laos collapsed, killing several people and displacing more than 6,600 others, a state news agency said.

KPL, the official Lao news agency, reported that the Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy hydropower dam collapsed at 8 p.m. on Monday, releasing five billion cubic meters of water and sweeping away homes in the southern province of Attapeu, which lies along the country’s border with Vietnam and Cambodia.

More On Ivanka Trump’s Brand Closing

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: Ivanka Trump’s fashion lie is finished, Robin Givhan July 24, 2018. The womenswear brand, founded in 2011, was built around the public persona of Ivanka: the tall, blonde corporate executive with the famous last name, a mother of three with a lifestyle glamorously — no, adorably — curated for Instagram.

ivanka trump in 2011The label was aimed at young, white-collar working women, and so the collections were filled with sheath dresses, simple silhouettes in feminine floral prints and office-ready shoes. There was nothing particularly unique about the products.

Indeed, the company was accused of knocking off other brands. But there was nothing wrong with the clothes, either. And that, along with the price and the marketing, was what made them sell. The company aimed to dress a group of women that much of Seventh Avenue has shunned, because designers like to make clothes for daring hipsters and wealthy CEOs. The on-a-budget middle goes wanting.

The Ivanka Trump fashion brand catered to managers, bureaucrats, assistants, junior executives and the like. For about $150, a woman could buy a perfectly appropriate work dress that made her look a little bit stylish. It gave her an alternative to the Ann Taylor ghetto, a break from the self-consciously trendy J. Crew, a reprieve from mass-market bland.

The Ivanka Trump label sold a narrative focused on professional glamour and mothers who have it all — preferably in an Upper East Side co-op. The story it told was of an idealized working woman whose light and airy home was always filled with fresh peonies and hydrangeas and whose daily schedule was a color-coded symphony of organization: morning run, board meeting, parent-teacher conference, date night.

The brand was Ivanka. Or at least the flawlessly coifed version of herself that she presented to the world.

Elections: Pakistan

ny times logopakistan flag wavingNew York Times, Violence Is Down in Pakistan’s Premier City. So Why Are Its Voters So Angry? Maria Abi-Habib and Zia ur-Rehman, July 24, 2018 (print ed.). Karachi’s residents will go to the polls angry this week.

The city, Pakistan’s economic powerhouse, is in shambles, roads crumbling, slums expanding, deprived of basic government services although it provides the country with about 40 percent of its revenue. And its political landscape has been profoundly jumbled.

Across the country, Pakistani voters will be making choices on Wednesday that have been heavily winnowed by the military establishment, which through intimidation and a sympathetic judiciary has repressed its unfavored candidates — and even entire political movements — in recent months. One result of Karachi’s new relative stability has been an upwelling of long-repressed dissent and complaints about the state of the city.

Media: Local Coverage, Accountability To Suffer

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The city that never sleeps finds that it’s running out of reporters to report, Paul Farhi, July 24, 2018 (print ed.). Local news plunges deeper into crisis as New York Daily News whacks half its staff.

New York City and its environs are home to 20 million people, Wall Street, Broadway, the fashion and media industries, and a mix of cultures unlike few cities on the planet.

And yet news organizations operating in this singular metropolis barely have enough reporters to cover the Bronx or Queens.

On Monday, the New York Daily News, one of the city’s three daily newspapers, said it would slash its news staff in half, a draconian cut that continues the long, slow bleeding of newspapers and reduces still further the amount of local news coverage in the nation’s largest city.

The story is largely the same across the United States as publishers have gradually pared their staffs amid the ongoing economic tumult wrought by the digital delivery of news and information.

The news industry has shriveled far faster than coal mining or heavy manufacturing, as exhaustively documented by the news industry itself. Employment in newspapers alone has sunk by more than half since the beginning of this century, tumbling from 424,000 people to 183,300 in mid-2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Trump Attacks On Immigrants

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump’s New Target in the Politics of Fear: Citizenship, John Ganz, July 24, 2018 (print ed.). The president has embraced McCarthy-era scare tactics. We may need a constitutional amendment to guarantee that citizenship can’t be revoked.

ICE logoCitizenship is squarely in the Trump administration’s cross hairs. It has organized a Citizenship and Immigration Services task force to denaturalize American citizens, the first effort of mass expatriation contemplated since the McCarthy era.

In a recent op-ed article for The Washington Post, Michael Anton, a former national security official in the administration, even proposed getting rid of birthright citizenship — by dictatorial fiat, no less: “It falls, then, to Trump. An executive order could specify to federal agencies that the children of noncitizens are not citizens.”

Yes, you’re reading that right: A high-ranking former member of the state security apparatus seriously believes that it is good policy to revoke citizenship by executive order

U.S. Immigrant Child Separation Scandal

washington post logoWashington Post, Government: 463 migrant parents may have been deported without their children, Nick Miroff, The Trump administration said in a court filing Monday that 463 parents of migrant children are no longer present in the United States, indicating that the number of mothers and fathers potentially deported without their children during the “zero tolerance” border crackdown could be far larger than previously acknowledged.

ICE logoThe progress report to U.S. District Judge Dana M. Sabraw cautioned the 463 cases are “under review,” meaning the filing was not a definitive tally of all migrant parents who have been deported while their children remain in U.S. government shelters.

Sabraw has issued the Trump administration a 30-day deadline — expiring Thursday — to quickly reunite as many separated families as possible, and last week he asked the government to clarify how many of the more than 2,500 parents eligible for reunions are no longer in the country. He also temporarily suspended deportations of families that have been reunited.

Stormy Times

washington post logoWashington Post, Stormy Daniels’s husband files for divorce and seeks restraining order, Samantha Schmidt, July 24, 2018. Stormy Daniels’s husband has filed for divorce, accusing the adult-film actress of adultery and asking for sole custody of their 7-year-old daughter, according to court documents.

stormy daniels mug 7 11 18Daniels and her husband, heavy-metal drummer and adult film actor Glendon Crain, have been married since November 2015, according to the divorce petition. They were living together outside Dallas until July 11, the day before she was arrested at an Ohio strip club and accused of illegally touching patrons. (Those charges were later dismissed. She is shown at left in a mug shot, and below right with her husband on the cover of the New York Post.)

Crain also sought and was granted a temporary restraining order against Daniels, whose legal fight over an alleged decade-old affair with President Trump has turned her into a celebrity.

stormy daniels nypost 7 24 2018“My client Stormy Daniels and her husband Glen have decided to end their marriage,” Michael Avenatti wrote, saying the accuracy of the divorce petition “is vehemently disputed.”

“Stormy’s daughter remains her number one priority,” the lawyer said. “She kindly asks for privacy for the sake of her family.”

But hours later, Daniels tweeted that, in fact, she does not “need or want privacy.”

“I want truth. And it will come out. I’m not afraid,” tweeted Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford.

U.S. Politics

Roll Call, Rep. Tom Garrett the Subject of Multiple Ethics Probes, Griffin Connolly, July 24, 2018. OCE and House Ethics Committee looking into Virginia rep’s alcoholism, use of staffers to run personal errands. Rep. Tom Garrett is facing more ethics probes than he has years under his belt in Congress. The GOP freshman from Virginia is the subject of two probes into allegations that he used his congressional aides to run personal errands for him and his wife on taxpayer-funded official time and how his self-reported alcoholism has affected his work, Politico first reported.

The Office of Congressional Ethics has received a request to review some of the allegations against Garrett. The House Ethics Committee has also launched a review into the case facts, though chairwoman Susan Brooks of Indiana has not officially formed an investigative subcommittee.

Garrett announced in May he would retire at the end of his first term to confront his excessive drinking. Garrett, a former state senator who joined the conservative House Freedom Caucus last year, was elected to Virginia’s 5th District in 2016 by a 17-point margin.

Digital ‘Fake News’ Scams

washington post logoWashington Post, On WhatsApp, fake news is fast — and can be fatal, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Annie Gowen, July 24, 2018 (print ed.). Americans associate misinformation with Facebook and the ways it shaped debate around the 2016 presidential election. But in other countries, falsities are just as likely to spread on private messaging services — sometimes with deadly consequences.

At least two dozen people have been killed in mob lynchings in India since the start of the year, their deaths fueled by rumors that spread on WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messaging service. In Brazil, messages on WhatsApp falsely claimed a government-mandated yellow-fever vaccine was dangerous, leading people to avoid it. And as Mexico was heading into its presidential election this month, experts there called WhatsApp the ugly underbelly of the country’s news environment, a place where politically misleading stories, memes and messages can spread unchecked.

On WhatsApp, with 1.5 billion users, information can go viral in minutes as individuals forward messages along to their friends or groups, without any way to determine its origin.

Messaging platforms have hosted disinformation campaigns in at least 10 countries this year, according to a report by the Computational Propaganda Project at Oxford University. WhatsApp was the main platform for disinformation in seven of those nations, including Brazil, India, Pakistan, Zimbabwe and Mexico.

Taxpayer Scams

washington post logoirs logoWashington Post, IRS outsources debt collection to private firms, and the poor feel the sting, watchdog charges, Jeff Stein, July 24, 2018 (print ed.). Private tax collectors acting on the Internal Revenue Service’s behalf have collected tax payments from more than 5,000 poor people in the past year, payments that an in-house IRS watchdog says should have been avoided.

Nina E. Olson, head of the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate, says a private debt collections program is not doing enough to spare people struggling to pay for food and shelter from additional drains on their income. She has also urged the IRS to stop referring to the private companies cases of individuals whose incomes put them below 250 percent of the poverty line.

July 23

Trump Floats ‘Enemies List?’

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump May Strip Clearances of Ex-Officials Critical of Him, Julian E. Barnes and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, July 23, 2018.President Trump is considering whether to revoke the clearances of former intelligence and national security officials who served in the Obama administration and have criticized Mr. Trump.

NSA Official LogoAll of the former officials have been critical of the president’s diplomacy with Russia.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders (shown in a file photo), the White House press secretary, said Mr. Trump was considering revoking the clearances of John O. Brennan, the former C.I.A. director; James B. Comey, fired by Mr. Trump as F.B.I. director last year; and James R. Clapper Jr., the former director of national intelligence, among others.

sarah huckabee sanders screenshot“The president is exploring the mechanisms to remove security clearances because they politicized and in some cases monetized their public service and security clearances,” Ms. Sanders said.

The suggestion was an unusual politicization of the security clearance process and is the latest turn in an effort by Mr. Trump to deflect scrutiny from his meeting last week with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, whom he sided with over his own intelligence community in casting doubt about whether Moscow attacked the 2016 presidential election.

susan rice wShe also said Mr. Trump is looking to strip the security clearance of Susan Rice, Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, and Michael V. Hayden, the former head of the C.I.A. and National Security Agency during the George W. Bush administration.

andrew mcCabe oShe also singled out Andrew G. McCabe (right), the former deputy director of the F.B.I., who was fired this year over a lack of candor about his dealings with reporters. Mr. McCabe does not have an active security clearance. Mr. Comey has also had no security clearance for about a year, according to a person briefed on the matter.

Security clearances allow former officials to work with companies on classified programs and provide advice to those firms and sometimes to government agencies. Stripping their clearances could harm their ability to work as consultants and advisers in Washington.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s security clearance stunt quickly blows up in his face, Bill Palmer, July 23, 2018. In his latest attempt at distracting us from his criminal scandals and carrying out petty personal revenge on those who have called him out for his crimes, Donald Trump is now seeking to revoke the security clearances of several former U.S. intelligence community leaders.

His Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced this morning from the White House press briefing podium that Trump plans to revoke the clearances of John Brennan, James Clapper, James Comey, Michael Hayden, Andrew McCabe and Susan Rice. However, it quickly blew up in his face.

FBI logoWhile all of the above people have held high ranking U.S. intel positions in recent years, none of them still have those jobs. Trump’s revocation of their security clearances would be symbolic at best, somewhere along the lines of taking down a former employee’s retirement plaque. But it turns out that, in at least one instance, what Trump is talking about isn’t even possible – because no such clearance exists.

james comey fbiBenjamin Wittes posted a tweet revealing that he texted his friend James Comey (shown at left in an official photo), asking if he even still has a security clearance. Comey’s answer: “Nope.” Comey confirms he was “read out” after Trump fired him from the FBI. This leaves Trump in the position of trying to take away something that doesn’t exist. McCabe’s spokesman then announced that McCabe doesn’t have any remaining clearance to be revoked either.

So not only is Donald Trump trying to distract us with a petty stunt that makes him look like a small minded loser, it also reveals that he’s an idiot who doesn’t do his homework. Moreover, these kinds of stunts aren’t doing much to distract the public from his criminal scandals for long.

Filings Prove Trump / GOP Wrong

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: G.O.P. Memo’s Shaky Foundation Revealed in Release of Records, Charlie Savage, July 23, 2018.  Documents released over the weekend plainly demonstrated that key elements of Republicans’ claims about the F.B.I.’s surveillance of Carter Page, a former Trump adviser, were misleading or false. President Trump nevertheless sought to declare victory.

republican elephant logoThe application dovetails with the Democrats’ account. The article is described in a section that discusses how the allegations about Mr. Page became public, prompting him to deny them but still leave the Trump campaign as it distanced itself from him. That section of the application is titled: “Page’s Denial of Cooperation With the Russian Government.”

The application materials identify the four judges who approved the wiretap and its extensions; all are appointees of Republican presidents. And while much of the material is redacted, it shows that the number of pages included in each application grew significantly, suggesting that the government was likely adding new information, such as discussing the information it obtained from the wiretap, to justify its request to prolong the surveillance.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump calls for end of Mueller probe, says it is ‘discredited’ by Carter Page surveillance, John Wagner​, July 23, 2018. The president falsely claimed that the special counsel investigation was sparked by surveillance of Page, a former Trump campaign adviser who was under suspicion by the FBI of being a Russian agent.

Trump Threatens War

Donald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)

washington post logoIran FlagWashington Post, Trump warns Iranian president of consequences ‘few … have ever suffered,’ Carol Morello​, July 23, 2018. In a late-night tweet, President Trump told Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to “NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN” or Iran would face severe consequences. It came after Rouhani said the United States should avoid inciting Iranians, telling his diplomats that “war with Iran is the mother of all wars.”

Supreme Court

ny times logoNew York Times, Brett Kavanaugh Will Fit Right In at the Pro-Corporate Roberts Court, Editorial Board, July 23, 2018 (print ed.).
President Trump’s choice for the latest Supreme Court vacancy will continue a trend toward widening America’s power and wealth gaps.

brett kavanaugh confirmation hearing 2004 CustomCorporate interests haven’t had it so good at the Supreme Court in a long time. Under Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. the court has given big business a leg up on workers, unions, consumers and the environment — and will do so even more aggressively if the Senate confirms Brett Kavanaugh, shown at right in a 2004 Senate confirmation hearing photo, President Trump’s choice to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy.

U.S. Supreme Court SealCorporations won the power to spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns in the 2010 Citizens United decision. The owners of businesses have earned the right to cite their personal religious beliefs to deprive workers of reproductive health care. At the same time, the justices have made it harder for employees and customers to sue big businesses by allowing corporations to require mandatory arbitration clauses in contracts people are forced to sign if they want jobs or want to buy goods and services. The court has also made it easier for polluters to get away with poisoning the air and water.

In many of these decisions the five conservative justices have shown no restraint in rejecting judicial precedent and in substituting their own judgment for that of lawmakers.

Just last month, in a blow to public-sector unions with contracts covering nearly seven million workers, their 5-to-4 ruling dismissed a unanimous 40-year-old decision that state governments and unions had long relied on. In the recent case, Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the court held that government workers covered by union contracts do not have to pay fees for collective bargaining expenses if they are not members.

The ruling does not directly involve businesses. But it will hurt all workers because benefits won by unions often establish benchmarks that help improve wages and working conditions even at companies without unions.

Roll Call, Supreme Court Nominee Kavanaugh’s Responses Reveal Views, Todd Ruger, July 23, 2018. Questionnaire part of confirmation process. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh described his volunteer work, his most important decisions and how President Donald Trump picked him in paperwork submitted as part of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s confirmation process.

brett kavanaugh younger handwaveThe questionnaire is a standard part of the confirmation process, and nominees can use it to bolster their case. For instance, Kavanaugh, when asked to list his 10 most important decisions, listed nine cases in which the Supreme Court later agreed with the positions he took as a federal appeals court judge.

Democrats will dig through the questionnaire for things to grill Kavanaugh (shown in a file photo) on during confirmation hearings, expected in the next two months. Here are five topics from the questionnaire and the thousands of pages of included materials that are likely to be asked about during the confirmation hearing.

Inside DC

msnbc logo Customdevin nunes head oMSNBC, Opinion: Congress should expel House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, host Lawrence O’Donnell interviews American Enterpise Institute scholar Norman Ornstein.

Ornstein argues for the California Republican’s expulsion based on his conduct creating diversions and obstructions to the investigation of Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election.

O’Donnell said that much much of Nunes has said has been proven false about the original warrant for an investigation of former Trump campaign aide Carter Page. O’Donnell showed also a Fox News clip in which Nunes admitted that he had not read the government’s application for a warrant before criticizing it.

Israel’s Future

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Israel Picks Identity Over Democracy. Others May Follow, Max Fisher, July 23, 2018. Israelis are less alone than they once were in questioning the half-century-old consensus that democracy should always prevail over national identity.

Amid a moment of national euphoria, Israel’s founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, emerged from retirement in July 1967 to warn Israelis they had sown the seeds of self-destruction.

Israel FlagIsrael had just won a stunning military victory against its neighbors, elating Israelis with a sense that the grand experiment of a Jewish state might really work.

But Ben-Gurion insisted that Israel give up the territories it had conquered. If it did not, he said, occupation would distort the young state, which had been founded to protect not just the Jewish people but their ideals of democracy and pluralism.

Now, a half century and one year later, Israel has formally declared the right of national self-determination, once envisioned to include all within its borders, as “unique to the Jewish people.”

ny times logoNew York Times, As Violence Flares, Kushner Threatens to Abandon Gaza Plan, Mark Landler, July 23, 2018. Jared Kushner (right) and his partner in Middle East peacemaking are rethinking efforts to rebuild Gaza’s economy as a way of opening the door to a broader peace accord.

Newspaper Cutbacks Continue

djt putin nydaily news 7 17 18

Above, the front page of the New York Daily News for July 17, 2018

ap logoAssociated Press via WABC TV, New York Daily News announces it is cutting half its newsroom staff, Staff report, July 23, 2018. The New York Daily News will cut half of its newsroom staff, saying it wants to focus more on digital news.

The paper was sold to tronc Inc. last year for $1, with the owner of the Chicago Tribune assuming liabilities and debt. In an email sent to staff Monday, tronc said staff at the Daily News will focus on breaking news involving “crime, civil justice and public responsibility.”

Revenue and print circulation have been sliding at the newspaper for years, even as it provided critical coverage of health issues in public housing and for first responders after the September 11 attacks.

Revenue slid 22 percent between 2014 and 2016, and the paper had already been letting people go.

“Since the year began, we’ve worked hard to transform the New York Daily News into a truly digitally-focused enterprise – one that creates meaningful journalism, delivers it more quickly and more frequently, and develops new approaches to engage our readers,” an email sent to staff said. “We’ve gained a deeper understanding of our readership. We’ve redefined our structures. But we have not gone far enough.”

Editor-in-chief Jim Rich and Managing Editor Kristen Lee are both included in the layoffs. Robert York, editor of Tronc-owned The Morning Call in Allentown, Pennsylvania, will take over as editor of The Daily News. Tronc Inc., based in Chicago, owns the Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, the Orlando Sentinel, and other media operations.

#Me Too Claim Against Jordan

Think Progress, The Beltway news cycle is burying the horrifying details of the Ohio, Lindsay Gibbs, July 23, 2018. State sex abuse scandal: This is not actually a story about partisan politics, or Jim Jordan.

It’s been 20 days since reports first surfaced about Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) ignoring allegations of sexual abuse when he was an assistant coach for the Ohio State wrestling team. Because of the trumped-up nature of these modern times, most reporters who are tied to the political news cycle have moved on, resigned to the fact that Jordan will remain in his prominent leadership position within the Republican Party.

With each new revelation about Dr. Richard Strauss’s decades of abuse during his time as a team doctor at Ohio State, the story is framed in one of two ways: Either as “bad news for Jordan,” by those inclined to believe survivors, or as the work of the “deep state” by those on the far right.

But this is not a story about politics. And it is absolutely not a story that should be viewed through the distortion of a partisan lens.

Yes, Jordan should be held accountable for any abuse his silence helped enable. But if we don’t look at this story systematically, we’re missing the entire point.

This is on behalf of my friend Laser Haas of Los Angeles, a dedicated whistleblower who instantly saw the justice of your appeal and dropped his own important work to help out.

U.S. Politics / Media

The Hill, Georgia lawmaker exposes himself, yells racial slurs on Sacha Baron Cohen show, Avery Anapol, July 23, 2018. A Georgia lawmaker is facing calls to resign after footage of him yelling racial slurs and exposing himself aired on Sacha Baron Cohen’s new show Sunday night.

republican elephant logoIn the latest episode of “Who Is America?,” the comedian plays Israeli military expert Erran Morad and enlists state Rep. Jason Spencer (R) to film an “anti-terrorism video.”

Spencer also reportedly gives an offensive impression of a “Chinese tourist” in the episode and stabs a knife into a mannequin wearing a hijab.

Spencer, who recently was defeated in the GOP primary after serving four terms, had threatened legal action against Showtime to prevent the network from airing the footage.

“They exploited my state of mind for profit and notoriety,” Spencer told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) last week. “This media company’s deceptive and fraudulent behavior is exactly why President Donald Trump was elected.”

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston (R) said in a statement that Spencer’s actions were “reprehensible,” according to the AJC.

“Representative Spencer has disgraced himself and should resign immediately,” Ralston said. “Georgia is better than this.” Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) said he was “saddened and disgusted” by Spencer’s behavior.

Cohen’s new undercover project has already featured a number of GOP figures, including several who were filmed purportedly endorsing a program to arm toddlers with guns. Sunday’s episode also featured former Vice President Dick Cheney signing a “waterboard kit.”

Attacks On Endangered Species Protections

ny times logoNew York Times, G.O.P. Pushes to Overhaul Law Meant to Protect At-Risk Species, Coral Davenport and Lisa Friedman, July 23, 2018 (print ed.). The Endangered Species Act, which for 45 years has safeguarded fragile wildlife while blocking ranching, logging and oil drilling on protected habitats, is coming under attack from lawmakers, the White House and industry on a scale not seen in decades, driven partly by fears that the Republicans will lose ground in November’s midterm elections.

republican elephant logoIn the past two weeks, more than two dozen pieces of legislation, policy initiatives and amendments designed to weaken the law have been either introduced or voted on in Congress or proposed by the Trump administration.

The actions included a bill to strip protections from the gray wolf in Wyoming and along the western Great Lakes; a plan to keep the sage grouse, a chicken-size bird that inhabits millions of oil-rich acres in the West, from being listed as endangered for the next decade; and a measure to remove from the endangered list the American burying beetle, an orange-flecked insect that has long been the bane of oil companies that would like to drill on the land where it lives.

Syrian Reconstruction, Refugee Return

SouthFront, Russia Launches Large-Scale Humanitarian Operation To Restore Syrian Infrastructure And To Accommodate Returning Refugees, Staff report, July 23, 2017. The Russian Centre for the Reception, Allocation and Accommodation of Refugees in Syria has prepared more than 336,000 places to accommodate returning refugees and temporarily displaced people in Syria, the Center said in its daily bulletin on July 21.

Russian FlagThese places were put up in 76 populated localities which were least affected by combat actions in the war-torn country. According to the Russian military, 83 medical facilities, 213 educational institutions, 73 power stations, 69 water supplies facilities and 2 fuel and energy facilities as well as 244km of roads have been restored so far.

232,792 refugees have returned from aboard to Syria since the start of the Russian military operation in the country in 2015, the Center said. Additionally, more than 100,000 people have returned to the Eastern Ghouta regionof Damascus, since it was liberated in the spring of 2018.

The military says that a total of 1.7m refugees may return to Syria from the following countries:

Lebanon – 890,000;
Turkey – 300,000;
Jordan – 150,000;
Iraq – 100,000;
Egypt – 100,000;
European countries (mostly EU member states) – 200,000.

According to the military, Russia is carrying out a comprehensive humanitarian operation in order to improve the humanitarian situation in Syria, to restore its infrastructure and to allow people to return to their homes.

Syria FlagIt should be noted that all these activities are taken in the part of Syria controlled by the Assad government. Areas occupied by militants and the US-led coalition are excluded from these efforts, first of all, because these sides prevent Russian humanitarian aid and oppose its transparent delivery. Furthermore, the coalition is opposing Russian efforts because it seeks to turn northeastern Syria, controlled by its proxies, into a semi-independent quasi state.

#MeToo Claims Target Cardinal

washington post logotheodore mccarrickWashington Post, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick is the target of new allegations of sexual misconduct, Michelle Boorstein and Julie Zauzmer, July 23, 2018 (print ed.). Since he was suspended a month ago for alleged child sexual abuse, four other allegations of abuse and misconduct against the former D.C. archbishop (shown at right) have surfaced.

Faux ‘Reformer’ Rhee Again Exposed

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘I’ve been a hostage for nine years’: Fired teacher wins battle with D.C. schools, Perry Stein, July 23, 2018 (print ed.). The arbitrator’s ruling means the educator who said he was unjustly dismissed could get hundreds of thousands of dollars in back pay and the opportunity to be a teacher in the District again.

For nine years, Jeff Canady lived in a cash-strapped limbo. The D.C. Public Schools teacher was fired in 2009 after 18 years in city classrooms, the school system deeming him ineffective.

Canady, 53, contested his dismissal, arguing that he was wrongly fired and that the city was punishing him for being a union activist and for publicly criticizing the school system.

For nearly a decade, Canady, jobless and penniless, waited for a decision in his case — until now.

Earlier this month, an arbitrator ruled in favor of the fired teacher, a decision that could entitle him to hundreds of thousands of dollars in back pay and the opportunity to be a District teacher again. The school system can appeal the ruling, which was made by an arbitrator from the American Arbitration Association, a nonprofit organization that settles disputes outside of court.

michelle rhee wCanady was one of nearly 1,000 educators fired during the 3½ -year tenure of Michelle Rhee (shown in a file photo) — the controversial former D.C. schools chancellor who clashed with the union and instituted a teacher evaluation system that dictated teachers’ job security and ­bonuses.

About 200 of those teachers lost their jobs because of poor performance, 266 were laid off amid a 2009 budget squeeze and the rest failed to complete new-employee probation or did not have licensing required under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Money Laundering

RT, Rothschild Bank caught up in money-laundering scandal, Staff report, July 23, 2018. Switzerland’s financial regulator has accused Rothschild Bank AG and its trust subsidiary of violating anti-money laundering law in relation to 1MDB, the troubled Malaysian sovereign wealth fund.

According to the regulator, both Rothschild Bank AG and Rothschild Trust AG failed to check where assets from a client came from. The firms reportedly disregarded signs that the funds could be connected to money-laundering and took the money anyway. The companies run by the Rothschild family are also accused of reporting on the issue too late.

An investigation into alleged illegal practices by 1Malaysia Development Berhad was launched as early as in 2011. Top management of the institution is under suspicion for reported embezzlement of funds designated for state economic development projects. The FBI joined the case three years ago with investigators from Hong Kong, Singapore, Luxembourg, the UAE, the Seychelles and Australia also involved.

The probe led to the arrest of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak earlier this year. The top official was accused of alleged breach of trust and abuse of funds.

Inside Washington: VA Chief Confirmed

robert wilkie vaRoll Call, Senate Confirms Robert Wilkie to be Veterans Affairs Secretary, Patrick Kelley, July 23, 2018. Newest Cabinet member has experience in Congress, Pentagon.

The Senate on Monday voted 86-9 to confirm former congressional staffer and Pentagon veteran Robert Wilkie, right, to lead the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs.

President Donald Trump tapped Wilkie for the post after his previous pick, Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, withdrew his nomination following reports that he improperly prescribed medication during his stint as White House physician.

Wilkie’s first order of business will be to reduce wait times, which often extend beyond 30 days, for veterans seeking medical appointments. Wilkie called the long wait times “unacceptable” during his June confirmation hearing.

U.S. Spy Capability

Politico, How U.S. intelligence agencies can find out what Trump told Putin, Josh Meyer, July 23, 2018. A top-secret Special Collection Service has extraordinary capabilities to hoover up intel from foreign adversaries.

President Donald Trump’s insistence on holding a one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin hobbled U.S. intelligence agencies that would usually get an intimate look at such a sit-down, but American spies still have extraordinary capabilities to piece together what was discussed.


CNN, Tronc will make cuts at other papers after NYDN layoffs, Brian Stelter, July 23, 2018. Tronc laid off half the staff of the New York Daily News on Monday. Astonishingly, the cuts are not over yet. The newspaper publisher is laying off staffers at some of its other papers “today and tomorrow,” according to a Monday afternoon memo from Tronc CEO Justin Dearborn.

The announcement immediately spooked staffers at papers like The Baltimore Sun and The Chicago Tribune. Dearborn said the cuts will not be as severe as in New York.

“The Daily News is unique in that local leadership determined a complete redesign of its structure was needed post-acquisition,” he wrote. “We do not expect reductions of this scale in any of our other newsrooms.”

A Tronc spokeswoman declined to provide further details about the size and scope of the cutbacks. The company’s other publications include the Orlando Sentinel, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Hartford Courant, and The Morning Call of Allentown, Pennsylvania.

July 22

U.S. Court Nominee Battles

ny times logoNew York Times, How a Failed Judicial Nomination Could Affect Kavanaugh, Carl Hulse, July 22, 2018 (print ed.). Senators expect the collapse of Ryan W. Bounds’s nomination to have major implications for the Senate and the coming showdown over the nomination of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

tim scott oMr. Bounds’s nomination was pulled after Senator Tim Scott, right, of South Carolina, the only black Republican senator, made clear he would not vote for him because of the writings, despite a hastily arranged face-to-face meeting with the nominee. Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, quickly sided with his close friend Mr. Scott, and other Republicans also signaled that they would vote against Mr. Bounds.

His nomination was scratched to avoid an embarrassing defeat for President Trump, a rare setback in the administration’s determined march to put conservatives on federal courts around the country. Mr. Bounds was to be named to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, a court dominated by liberal jurists that has been a particular thorn in the side of Mr. Trump.

The outcome underscored just how narrow a margin that Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and majority leader, has to work with when it comes to Judge Kavanaugh. Because of the continued absence of Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican being treated for brain cancer, the defection of a single Republican can doom a nominee if Democrats remain united in opposition.

richard blumenthal portraitAnd Democrats pounced on the fact that Mr. Bounds was undone by long-ago writings, saying the episode legitimized their demand that all documents from Judge Kavanaugh’s past work in government should be disclosed, even though it might be a ponderous task to produce them and take weeks to review them.

“This nomination’s defeat is a sign of inadequate vetting and excessive haste,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, left, a Connecticut Democrat who sits on the Judiciary Committee. “It should stand as a rebuke to my Republican colleagues who are seeking to severely constrict review of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Restricting documents chuck grassley officialand time is a great mistake for lifetime judicial appointments.”

Democrats want access to hundreds of thousands of documents and emails from Mr. Kavanaugh’s service in the administration of George W. Bush, and Republicans are resisting. Senator Charles E. Grassley, right, the Iowa Republican who is the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, says that he won’t allow a “government-funded fishing expedition,” and notes that many Democrats have already vowed to oppose the nomination without seeing any records.

Korean Reality Check?

djt kim jong un djt wave singapore 6 12 18 Custom

President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un smiled a lot at their summit in Singapore last month

washington post logoWashington Post, In private, Trump vents frustration over lack of progress on North Korea, John Hudson, Josh Dawsey and Carol D. Leonnig, July 22, 2018 (print ed.). U.S. negotiators have faced stiff resistance from their North Korean counterparts despite President Trump’s declaration that the crisis had been “largely solved.”

Trade War Impact On Indiana

washington post logomike pence oWashington Post, Dependent on trade, Vice President Pence’s hometown takes a hit from Trump’s tariffs, Gabriel Pogrund, July 22, 2018 (print ed.). An aggressive pursuit of foreign trade led to a recession-busting economic miracle in Columbus, Ind. Now it has made the area decidedly vulnerable, with businesses already canceling projects and mulling the depth of job losses.

Vice President Pence is shown at right. His brother Greg, a first time candidate, is running for Congress as a Republican in their import/export-dependent hometown.

Politics / Religion / Culture Wars

washington post logojennifer rubin new headshotWashington Post, Opinion: The hush-money payoffs: How many more are out there? Jennifer Rubin (right), July 22, 2018. For Trump’s apologists, the revelation creates a new wave of angst.

washington post logoWashington Post, Judgment Days: God, Trump and the meaning of morality, Story by Stephanie McCrummen; Photos by Michael S. Williamson, July 22, 2018 (print ed.). Southern Baptists who fill the pews every Sunday have been making their own moral calculations about President Trump in church sanctuaries in places such as Luverne, Ala., population 2,700.

Trump Watch

devin nunes file flagPalmer Report, Opinion: Release of FISA warrant is bad news for Carter Page – and even worse news for Devin Nunes and Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, July 22, 2018. Tthe FISA surveillance warrant against former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page has just been released to the public.

The warrant is heavily redacted, but based on what is visible, it’s bad news for Page – and even worse news for Devin Nunes, right. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes flat out lied about the nature of the Page warrant in his infamous “Nunes memo,” which should all but seal the deal on potential obstruction of justice charges against Nunes.

More On Russian Influencer Claims

washington post logoWashington Post, Russian billionaire with U.S. investments backed alleged agent Maria Butina, Rosalind S. Helderman, July 22, 2018.  Transportation magnate Konstantin Nikolaev was in contact with Butina, show below left, as she launched a gun rights group, according to a person familiar with testimony she gave Senate investigators.

maria butina headshotNikolaev’s fortune has been built largely through port and railroad investments in Russia. He also sits on the board of American Ethane, a Houston ethane company that was showcased by President Trump at an event in China last year, and is an investor in a Silicon Valley start-up. Nikolaev has never met Trump, according to his spokesman.

However, Nikolaev’s son Andrey, who is studying in the United States, volunteered in the 2016 campaign in support of Trump’s candidacy, according a person familiar with his activities. Nikolaev was spotted at the Trump International Hotel in Washington during Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, according to two people aware of his presence.

‘White Helmets’ Headed To UK, Canada, Germany

Jerusalem Post, Opinion: Israel evacuates hundreds of Syrian White Helmets in humanitarian effort, Seth J. Frantzman, July 22, 2018. The evacuation was kept secret and began at 9:30 p.m. Some 800 Syrians affiliated with israel flagthe White Helmets and their families are being evacuated from Quneitra through Israel to Jordan, according to the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit. Syrian Civil Defense, the official name of the White Helmets, is a volunteer organization that has worked in rebel areas of Syria providing medical support during the Syrian conflict.

syrian white helmetsAccording to a Bild report published Saturday night by Paul Ronzheimer, Giorgos Moutafis and Julian Ropcke, around 800 Syrians were transported across the Syrian-Israel border. “From there on to Jordan,” the article states. “They are members and families of the famous White Helmets.” Those evacuated will continue on to the UK, Canada and Germany, according to Bild.

canadian flagThe Syrians will stay in a closed area while in Jordan for no more than three months and their passage onward has been guaranteed by three western countries. Jordan emphasized that it has hosted 1.3 million refugees from Syria and that the latest deal was organized by the United Nations.

Neither the AP report nor the Jordanian government statement mention Israel. This points to the fact that Israel’s role was considered controversial and that the method of the evacuation had to be kept under wraps until it was complete.

‘Helmets’ Alleged To Be UK/IDF/US Operatives

syria white helmets attack april 2017

‘White Helmets’ shown in alleged anti-Syrian propaganda film in April 2017

SouthFront, Opinion: Israel Evacuates 800 Members Of White Helmets And Their Families From Syria To Jordan, Staff report, July 22, 2018. Israel is working to hide the evidence of special propaganda operations carried out by the US-Israeli-led block against the Damascus government in Syria.

According to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), Israel transported several hundred of the White Helmets and their families from the southwestern part of Syria to Jordan overnight Saturday. The IDF described it as “a humanitarian effort” at the request of the US and European countries.

syrian white helmetsThe IDF claimed it engaged in the “out of the ordinary” move due to the “immediate risk” to the lives of the civilians in the area. The move came as Syrian government forces, backed by Russia, were finishing their operation to defeat Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) and its allies in the southern provinces of Daraa and al-Quneitra.

The “civilians” evacuated by Israel were evacuated from the militant-held area.

According to Jordan’s official Petra state media outlet, the number of evacuated persons included 800 White Helmets members and their families.

Israel FlagGermany’s Bild newspaper reported that a convoy of dozens of buses crossed the contact line between the Israeli-controlled area and Syria late Saturday. Then the convoy was escorted to the Jordanian border by Israeli police and UN forces.

The White Helmets is an infamous Western-backed organization, which according to Syrian, Russian and Iranian governments as well as to multiple independent researchers, has been involved in staging chemical attacks and other propaganda actions in order to assist the US-led block in its attempts to overthrow the Assad government.

One of the most prominent cases if the “Douma chemical attack” on April 14, 2018.

According to Syrian experts, the key goal of the evacuation of the White Helmets members is to not allow forces of the Syrian-Russian-Iranian alliance from questioning members of the organization over their activities and to prevent further leaks and failures how the mainstream narrative on the conflict has been created through special propaganda operations.

bbc news logo2BBC, Opinion: Syria conflict: White Helmets evacuated by Israel, Staff report, July 22, 2018. Israel says it has carried out an evacuation of members of Syria’s White Helmets civil defence group from a war zone in south-western Syria. Some 422 volunteers and family members were taken to Jordan via the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights overnight.

Numbering about 3,000 volunteers, they also carry out essential repair works. Some 200 members have been killed.

The White Helmets have gained worldwide praise, were nominated for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize and were the subject of a Netflix documentary and BBC Panorama programme.

But Syria’s government and its ally Russia have accused the group of links to jihadist groups. President Assad said it used “humanitarian masks and umbrellas just to implement a certain agenda”.

The plan had been to evacuate 800 White Helmets and their families, but only 422 made it.The BBC’s Mark Lowen says the others have been hemmed in by the expansion of Islamic State group fighters into pockets of south-west Syria and, as this was a one-off operation, fears remain for the fate of those left behind.

More Background On ‘White Helmets’

syrian white helmetsRT, ‘Propaganda organization’: White Helmets ‘engage in anti-Assad activities’ – author Sy Hersh, Host Afshin Rattans, July 2, 2018 (4:32 min. video). Although some members of the Western-supported White Helmets may be in the business of saving lives, the group is also a ‘propaganda organization,’ author Sy Hersh has told RT’s ‘Going Underground.’

The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist also spoke about reporting in the United States and how it changed under the Obama administration, as well as the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, UK.


Age-restricted video (based on Community Guidelines).

The Indicter TV Channel, White Helmets assisting at al-Qaeda execution; Shown in Hollywood’s “Last Men in Aleppo, (3:23 min. video).

The execution-footage contained in this video was found in an article at Salon 2017, authored by Ben Nothon & Max Blumenthal. It again raises the issue of the alleged close collaboration between the White Helmets and Al Qaeda. And, hence, it confirms the true political stance of an organization whose apologetic megaphones in the Western media futility try to deny.

Trump Watch

carter page pbs screenshot

Former Trump foreign policy advisor Carter Page

washington post logoWashington Post, Administration releases application to wiretap Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, Shane Harris, July 22, 2018 (print ed.). The classified document, heavily redacted, accuses Page of acting as a Russian agent. Its release is sure to fuel the political fight between Republicans and Democrats over the propriety of the surveillance and how it was legally justified.

washington post logoPresident Donald Trump officialWashington Post, Analysis, Inside the White House’s tumultuous week of walk-backs after Helsinki, Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey and Carol D. Leonnig, July 22, 2018 (print ed.). The days that followed President Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin amounted to a scramble of corrections and clarifications from the West Wing. Each announcement was followed by another mishap that fueled only more consternation.

July 21

#MeToo Alabama Pedophile Claim Against Sheriff

Think Progress, Alabama sheriff who supported Roy Moore accused of sex with underage girls, Frank Dale, July 21, 2018. Todd Entrekin is alleged of sexual misconduct at “drug-fueled parties he hosted for fellow law enforcement officers.”

roy moore gunFailed Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore (shown at right with a gun at a campaign rally) was endorsed by Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin despite numerous accusations of Moore’s inappropriate sexual behavior with minors. Now Entrekin has also been accused of having sex with underage girls.

AL.com, the publication that broke much of the news regarding Moore’s alleged sexual misconduct, reports Entrekin is under investigation after being accused of sexual misconduct at “drug-fueled parties he hosted for fellow law enforcement officers and other adult men in the early nineties.”

AL.com detailed the timeline of the accusations:

A 41-year-old woman first detailed the claims during several hours of in-person interviews with AL.com in May, during which she alleged that Entrekin had sex with her four times in the late summer of 1992, when he was 29 and she was 15 years old. In Alabama, the age of consent is 16.

Entrekin, who previously made headlines for pocketing $750,000 that was intended to feed inmates and buying a $740,000 beach house, denied the report on Friday:

“I’ve never had sex with any 15-year-old girl or had drugs around or anything. I have never done drugs in my life. That’s the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard of. Never, ever has anything like that happened before.”

Foster Death’s 25th Anniversary Raises SCOTUS Questions

DCDave Blog, Opinion: Christopher Ruddy on Brett Kavanaugh, David Martin, July 21, 2018. Christopher Ruddy is the Long Island, New York, native who is the CEO of the media organization Newsmax, regularly sought out for interviews by the mainstream press because he keeps the company of his neighbor in Palm Beach, Florida, President Donald Trump and is one of his closest informal advisers.

vincent foster oRuddy first rose to prominence, though, as the only American reporter raising doubts about the mysterious July 20, 1993, death of President Bill Clinton’s deputy White House Counsel, Vincent W. Foster, Jr., shown at right. His first critical article appeared in the New York Post on January 27, 1994. In 1997 he would publish a book entitled The Strange Death of Vincent Foster: An Investigation. (Amazon used to tout my review of that book as the leading one, based upon the number of viewers finding it “helpful,” which it still is, but they have now deeply buried it away.)

Writing critically on the Vince Foster case, Ruddy could hardly avoid talking about young Brett Kavanaugh, who took over as Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr’s lead investigator after the resignation in disgust of Miguel Rodriguez. In the long passage below, we pick up the story on page 240 of Ruddy’s book.

He is talking about the troublesome witness, Patrick Knowlton, who had been tracked down by the British reporter, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard. Knowlton had happened by Fort Marcy Park where Foster’s body was found on the afternoon of July 20, where Knowlton had stopped in to take an emergency leak. Hearing on television that night about the discovery of the body there, he had done his civic duty and called the Park Police to tell them what he had seen. They had demonstrated little interest, taking only a short statement from him….

When Knowlton appeared before the grand jury the following week, Brett Kavanaugh, one of Starr’s prosecutors who (according to his official biography) had never prosecuted a case before, was doing the interrogation. Kavanaugh, a Yale graduate, was seen as one of the rising stars on the team: extremely bright, an establishment man in his late twenties with Harrison Ford looks and a demeanor to match.

Knowlton would later recount that during the proceedings he “was treated like a suspect,” with Kavanaugh focusing more on his character than on the potentially valuable information he had to offer. Kavanaugh asked a series of questions about Knowlton’s encounter with the Hispanic-looking man including one of a graphic sexual nature.

In contrast with Ruddy’s toned-down version, here is how Richard Poe described the grand jury interrogation, the details of which he got from the chapter entitled “Street Fascism” in Ambrose Evans-Pritchard’s 1997 book, The Secret Life of Bill Clinton:

Perhaps the most telling indication of Starr’s attitude toward Knowlton is the humiliating cross-examination to which this brave man was subjected before the grand jury. Knowlton says that he was “treated like a suspect.” Prosecutor Brett Kavanaugh appeared to be trying to imply that Knowlton was a homosexual who was cruising Fort Marcy Park for sex. Regarding the suspicious Hispanic-looking man he had seen guarding the park entrance, Kavanaugh asked, Did he “pass you a note?” Did he “touch your genitals?”

Knowlton flew into a rage at Kavanaugh’s insinuations. Evans-Pritchard writes that several African American jurors burst into laughter at the spectacle, rocking “back and forth as if they were at a Baptist revival meeting. Kavanaugh was unable to reassert his authority. The grand jury was laughing at him. The proceedings were out of control.”

It was at that point, reports Evans-Pritchard, that Patrick Knowlton was finally compelled to confront the obvious: “the Office of the Independent Counsel was itself corrupt.”

Trump Watch

washington post logoWashington Post, New York’s tax agency opens own probe of Trump Foundation, David A. Fahrenthold, July 21, 2018 (print edition). Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo says the investigation is separate from a long-running probe initiated by the state attorney general targeting the president and his children.

andrew cuomoCuomo, right, said this newly disclosed investigation, by the state Department of Taxation and Finance, is separate from the long-running probe of the Trump Foundation by New York’s state attorney general.

That attorney general’s investigation has already produced a civil suit, filed in June, alleging that Trump and three of his children ran a charity engaged in “persistently illegal conduct.”

But, in the midst of contentious Democratic primaries in New York, Cuomo had faced political pressure to do more and seek a criminal investigation into the case. On Thursday, Cuomo announced that such an investigation had, in fact, already begun. He said the tax agency’s probe could result in a recommendation that local or state prosecutors seek criminal charges.

djt michael cohen

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump has crazed meltdown after his Michael Cohen tape stunt backfires on him, Bill Palmer, July 21, 2018. As the day has gone on, the mystery surrounding the Trump-Cohen tape story has become more clear.

Several major news outlets are reporting that the tape was one of the very few pieces of evidence seized from Michael Cohen’s office that was ultimately ruled to have been protected under attorney-client privilege by a federal judge – and that it was Donald Trump who decided to waive privilege.

Now the new mystery is why he thought that would be a good idea, as it’s predictably blown up in his face.

michael cohen ap file croppedAs it became clear that waiving attorney-client privilege and alerting the media to the tape had only served to make things worse for him, Trump aimed his rage at the Feds and at Cohen (right), tweeting “Inconceivable that the government would break into a lawyer’s office (early in the morning) – almost unheard of. Even more inconceivable that a lawyer would tape a client – totally unheard of & perhaps illegal. The good news is that your favorite President did nothing wrong!”

To be clear, Donald Trump is lying on every count. The FBI conducted the raid based on a warrant signed by a judge. Michael Cohen had a legal right to secretly record his conversations with Trump under New York State law.

cnn logoCNN, Heart doctor for former President George H.W. Bush killed in bicycle drive-by shooting, Ralph Ellis, July 21, 2018. A cardiologist who treated former President George H.W. Bush was killed Friday morning in a bicycle-to-bicycle drive-by shooting near Texas Medical Center in Houston, authorities said.

Dr. Mark Hausknecht and the shooter were both riding bikes on South Main Street, near Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, shortly before 9 a.m. local time, Executive Assistant Police Chief Troy Finner said at a news conference.

Hausknecht, 65, was biking north when he passed the shooter going in the other direction, Finner said. The shooter turned, fired two shots at Hausknecht and rode away on his bike, Finner said. Hausknecht was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Finner said.

Finner said investigators didn’t know if the shooting was targeted, random or caused by road rage. He said a few people witnessed the shooting and video may become available.

Syria Evacuates Rebels To North

Al Jazeera, Syria’s war: Rebels reach north after Quneitra evacuations, Staff report, July 21, 2018. Syrian government now controls large swaths of territory in country’s strategic south.

Syria FlagThe first group of Syrian rebels and their families evacuated from southern Syria after a deal was struck with the government has arrived in the country’s northwest. A total of 55 buses carrying rebel fighters and members of their families departed the strategic area that adjoins the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Friday, Syria’s official SANA news agency said.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said a first convoy of some 2,800 people had arrived on Saturday at the Morek transit point, in Hama province, which separates opposition from government-held areas.

The evacuations came after a surrender deal was reached earlier in the week between the opposition and Russian negotiators acting on behalf of the Syrian government. It provides for the safe passage of residents who do not wish to live under Assad rule. A second group of rebels and their families is expected to begin later on Saturday.

Pro-government forces have captured 90 percent of the territory through similar surrender deals with the opposition whereby the latter agrees to also hand over medium to heavy weaponry.

Supreme Court Politics

ap logoAssociated Press via Chicago Tribune, SCOTUS nominee Kavanaugh questioned Watergate tapes decision, Mark Sherman, July 21, 2018. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh suggested several years ago that the unanimous high court ruling in 1974 that forced President Richard Nixon to turn over the Watergate tapes, leading to the end of his presidency, may have been wrongly decided.

Kavanaugh was taking part in a roundtable discussion with other lawyers when he said at three different points that the decision in U.S. v. Nixon, which marked limits on a president’s ability to withhold information needed for a criminal prosecution, may have come out the wrong way.

A 1999 magazine article about the roundtable was part of thousands of pages of documents that Kavanaugh has provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of the confirmation process. The committee released the documents on Saturday.

Kavanaugh’s belief in robust executive authority already is front and center in his nomination by President Donald Trump to replace the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. The issue could assume even greater importance if special counsel Robert Mueller seeks to force Trump to testify in the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“But maybe Nixon was wrongly decided — heresy though it is to say so. Nixon took away the power of the president to control information in the executive branch by holding that the courts had power and jurisdiction to order the president to disclose information in response to a subpoena sought by a subordinate executive branch official.

That was a huge step with implications to this day that most people do not appreciate sufficiently…Maybe the tension of the time led to an erroneous decision,” Kavanaugh said in a transcript of the discussion that was published in the January-February 1999 issue of the Washington Lawyer.

U.S. Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis, Midterm history 101: Trump’s win a boost to chances for Senate Democratic incumbents, Paul Kane, July 21, 2018. Since the 1978 midterm elections, 23 incumbent senators have run for reelection from a state a president from the other party had won two years earlier by single-digit margins. The Senate incumbent from the opposition party has won all 23 contests.

Media: Film / TV

Mediaite, Rob Reiner’s ‘Shock and Awe’ Earns a Measly $41,000 on Opening Weekend, Tamar Auber, July 15, 2018. Director Rob Reiner‘s new movie “Shock and Awe,” about journalists during the Iraq War, debuted this weekend… to disappointing numbers.

According to the movie’s description on Rotten Tomatoes, the film is “based on the true events of Knight Ridder journalists who were the only ones who ‘got it right’ in the lead-up to the 2003 Iraq War when they questioned the true nature of the Bush White House’s justification for the conflict.”

Yet, you would be forgiven for not knowing that because this weekend practically no one bought tickets to see the film, which opened in limited release on July 13th. According to Box Office Mojo, for the weekend of July 13-15th, Shock and Awe grossed a measly $41,000. In contrast, Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation, which topped ticket sales earned $44,100,00.

rupert murdoch david shankbone cropped lic. creative commons 3.0

Rupert Murdoch shown in photo by David Shankbone (licensed under the Creative Commons attribution 3.0).

White House Chronicle, Opinion: Rupert Murdoch, Mischief-Maker on a Global Scale, Llewellyn King, July 21, 2018. Liberals get apoplectic at the mention of the Koch brothers and, by the same token, conservatives gag at the mention of George Soros.

fox news logo SmallYet, it can be argued, another rich man might have had a much larger effect on the politics of this century: Rupert Murdoch.Murdoch is the uber publisher and broadcaster of our time, and manipulator of public opinion.

In Britain, he is courted by prime ministers and in the United States by politicians, left and right. Since the emergence of Fox News as the champion of the angry white voter, he has been the comfort and the looking glass of one Donald Trump.

July 20

Explosive Trump Sex Coverup Tapes?

djt Karen McDougal Donald Trump youtube

Donald Trump and former ‘Playmate of the Year’ Karen McDougal, who alleges a deal via the National Enquirer

ny times logoNew York Times, Cohen Taped Discussion With Trump About Paying Model, Matt Apuzzo, Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt, July 20, 2018. President Trump’s longtime lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, secretly recorded a conversation with Mr. Trump two months before the presidential election in which they discussed payments to a former Playboy model (shown also below at right) who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump, according to lawyers and others familiar with the recording.

karen mcdougal playboyThe F.B.I. seized the recording this year during a raid on Mr. Cohen’s office. The Justice Department is investigating Mr. Cohen’s involvement in paying women to tamp down embarrassing news stories about Mr. Trump ahead of the 2016 election. Prosecutors want to know whether that violated federal campaign finance laws, and any conversation with Mr. Trump about those payments would be of keen interest to them.

michael cohen ap file croppedThe recording’s existence further draws Mr. Trump into questions about tactics he and his associates used to keep aspects of his personal and business life a secret. And it highlights the potential legal and political danger that Mr. Cohen represents to Mr. Trump. Once the keeper of many of Mr. Trump’s secrets, Mr. Cohen (shown at left) is now seen as increasingly willing to consider cooperating with prosecutors.

The F.B.I. seized the recording this year in a raid on Mr. Cohen’s office.

Raw Story, Rachel Maddow exposes evidence showing Trump’s team was behind Cohen tape leak, Martin Cizmar, July 20, 2018. Rachel Maddow strongly suspects that Donald Trump and his legal team are behind today’s big news about an audio recording of Trump and his then-lawyer discussing payments to at least one of the women Trump paid hush money to following affairs.

As Maddow said, reporting suggests that these tapes were deemed privileged communication between an attorney and client. “So they would not be given to prosecutors,” she said.

FBI logoThen Maddow pivoted into explaining how this is “really important now to understanding why we have all learned about this today

“So that means the only people who would have had access are [Trump and] Michael Cohen’s lawyers,” she said. “His lawyers apparently didn’t leak this thing… it means by process of elimination that president Trump’s lawyers did.”

Maddow said that Trump’s lawyers leaking the tapes mean that they serve his own interests.

“Don’t get your chain yanked on this one,” she said. “President Trump’s lawyers found out this tape existed. For obvious reasons they realized it may be a pretty ugly thing. So today the president’s lawyers themselves appear today have leaked the existence of this tape to get out ahead of this story… They did it themselves.”

Another Trump-Putin Summit?

djt vladimir putin summit 7 16 18 white house shealah craighead

President Trump and Putin shake hands at their summit in Finland on July 16, 2018 (White House photo by Shealah Craighead)

ny times logodan coats congressNew York Times, Trump Plans to Invite Putin to Washington for Another Summit, Mark Landler, July 20, 2018 (print edition). Word of the planned invitation for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to visit in the fall came as President Trump’s advisers tried to glean details of what the two leaders discussed in the last meeting.

Mr. Trump’s director of national intelligence, Dan Coats (right), acknowledged frustration at being kept in the dark about the meeting.

washington post logomichael mcfaulWashington Post, Outrage erupts over Trump-Putin conversation about letting Russia interrogate ex-U.S. diplomat, Samantha Schmidt​, July 20, 2018 (print edition). White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to rule out the Kremlin’s request to question former ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, right, and other Americans whom Russia suspects of interfering in its affairs.

Partisan Voter Purges

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: How the Midterm Elections May Be Compromised, Myrna Pérez, July 20, 2018 (print edition). Ms. Pérez is a lawyer who specializes in voting rights.

Voter purges are a growing threat that may imperil the right to vote for millions of Americans in November. This fall, millions of Americans may head to the polls only to find their names aren’t on voter registration lists anymore. These voters may have to cast provisional ballots. Or worse, they could be turned away from the polls altogether.

republican elephant logoThe cause? Voter purges — an often-flawed method of cleaning up voter registration lists by deleting names from voter rolls.

Purges, of course, aren’t necessarily a bad thing. State and local election officials have a real need to ensure voting lists are accurate and up-to-date. During the course of a lifetime, people move. Sometimes people change their names. And inevitably, people die. Voter rolls should reflect those changes.

But purges are a growing threat that we’ve found may imperil the right to vote for millions of Americans in the midterm elections in November.

Sports / Civil Rights

washington post logoWashington Post, NFL puts national anthem policy on hold under agreement with NFLPA, Mark Maske, July 20, 2018 (print edition). The NFL halted implementation of its new national anthem policy under an agreement with the NFL Players nfl logoAssociation.

The sides announced the deal Thursday night. The agreement also keeps the grievance filed by the NFLPA over the anthem policy, ratified by the NFL owners at their May meeting in Atlanta, from moving forward, at least temporarily.

Israel Moves To Jewish State Status

palestinian map

ny times logoNew York Times, Israeli Law Declares the Country the ‘Nation-State of the Jewish People,’ David M. Halbfinger and Isabel KershnerJuly 20, 2018 (print edition). Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (shown at right) of Israel has long demanded that the Palestinians acknowledge his country’s existence as the “nation-state of the Jewish people.” On Thursday, his ruling coalition stopped waiting around and pushed through a law that made it a fact.

Benjamin Netanyahu smile TwitterIn an incendiary move hailed as historic by Mr. Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition but denounced by centrists and leftists as racist, anti-democratic and potentially fatal to ideals of equality, the Parliament enacted a foundational law that enshrines the right of national self-determination in Israel as “unique to the Jewish people” — not to all of its citizens.

The legislation, a “basic law” — giving it the weight of a constitutional amendment — omits any mention of democracy or the principle of equality, in what critics called a betrayal of Israel’s 1948 Declaration of Independence, which ensured “complete equality of social and political rights” for “all its inhabitants” no matter their religion, race or sex.

The new law promotes the development of Jewish communities, possibly aiding those who would seek to advance discriminatory land-allocation policies. And it downgrades Arabic from an official language to one with a “special status.”

Its passage demonstrated the ascendancy of ultranationalists in Israel’s government, who have been emboldened by the gains of similarly nationalist and populist movements in Europe and elsewhere, as Mr. Netanyahu has increasingly embraced illiberal democracies like that of Hungary — whose far-right prime minister, Viktor Orban, arrived in Jerusalem for a friendly visit only hours before the vote.

palestinian flagWith the political opposition too weak to mount a credible threat, and with the Trump administration providing a never-before-seen degree of American support, Mr. Netanyahu’s government, the most right-wing and religious coalition in Israel’s 70-year history, has been pressing its advantages on multiple fronts.

It has sought to exercise more control over the news media, erode the authority of the Supreme Court, curb the activities of left-wing advocacy groups, press ahead with moves that amount to de facto annexation of parts of the West Bank, and undermine the police by trying to thwart or minimize the effect of multiple corruption investigations against the prime minister.

NBC News, Israel ‘nation-state’ law prompts criticism around the world, including from U.S. Jewish groups, Paul Goldman, Lawahez nbc news logoJabari and F. Brinley Bruton, July 20, 2018. Israel ‘nation-state’ law prompts criticism around the world, including from U.S. Jewish groups.

The American Jewish Committee, a prominent mainstream Jewish advocacy group, said it was “deeply disappointed” by the law. Israel’s new “nation-state” law, which was was celebrated as a “defining moment” for the country by its supporters, has prompted forceful protests inside the country and around the world. The law, which narrowly passed early Thursday, declared among other provisions that only Jews have the right of self-determination in Israel. It was backed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government.

It was enacted just after the 70th anniversary of the birth of the state of Israel and, among other things, strips Arabic of its designation as an official language alongside Hebrew.

Israel v. Gaza Escalation

palestinian flagHaraatz (Israel), Major escalation in Gaza: Israel launches massive attack after Hamas snipers fire at troops, Yaniv Kubovich and Jack Khoury, July 20, 2018. Four Hamas members killed in Israeli attack after snipers target Israeli soldiers. Netanyahu holding emergency discussion at army headquarters. Three rockets launched from Gaza, two intercepted by Iron Dome.

The Israel Defense Forces launched a massive attack on the Gaza Strip late Friday evening, following an exchange of fire between Israeli troops and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Trump Fuels Fanatics

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Trump and his supporters encourage violence, Wayne Madsen (left), July 20, 2018 ($30 per year subscription required). Trump doubled-down on his incendiary comments about the press, again referring to the media as the “real enemy of the people.” Trump also continues to bash the Democratic Party, claiming it has a “death wish.”

Trump’s casual call for his ardent and mentally-unbalanced supporters to commit acts of violence against his opponents and the free press is reminiscent of Nazi Germany’s sponsorship of violence against Jews, opposition figures, and the press.

Last week, Michael Scheuer, the former chief of the Central Intelligence Agency’s “Alec Station,” the pre-9/11 station tasked to keep tabs on Osama Bin Laden, called on his blog for “millions of well-armed citizens who voted for Trump” to commit mass murder of “a long and very precise list” of Trump opponents. Scheuer wrote of Trump’s opponents, “if Trump does not act soon to erase” [them] “the armed citizenry must step in and eliminate them.”

National Security Warnings

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. plans to alert public to foreign attempts to subvert U.S. democracy, Ellen Nakashima, July 20, 2018 (print edition). The effort is designed to foil covert operations such as the one Russia undertook in 2016 to disrupt the presidential election.

SCOTUS Watch / Election Protection

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Here’s who should demand to see Kavanaugh’s White House paper trail, Ronald A. Klain, July 20, 2018. Ronald A. Klain, a Post contributing columnist, served as a senior White House aide to Presidents Barack Obama, where he worked on the selection and confirmation of Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, and Bill Clinton. He was also a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign.

“Brett Kavanaugh’s White House documents” may be the five least sexy words in a Supreme Court confirmation battle touching on many of our society’s most divisive issues. But the list of people who should demand their full release before Kavanaugh’s Senate hearings get underway is quite long — and contains a few surprises.

elena kagan harvard law schoolThe documents in question, from Kavanaugh’s time as a senior policy and legal aide to President George W. Bush, may offer rich insights into what he thinks about critical legal matters. Kavanaugh’s supporters justifiably boast of his stellar résumé, but in doing so they highlight its similarity to Justice Elena Kagan’s — who was likewise a White House policy and legal aide earlier in her career. It should be obvious, then, that just as the Judiciary Committee saw all of Kagan’s White House papers, it should see all of Kavanaugh’s. She is shown at left.

But Senate Republican leaders seem inclined to take whatever subset of materials the administration chooses to provide. So it comes down to this: Is anyone really going to get fired up about a dispute over documents? Who should care about seeing all this paper?

chuck grassley oFirst, Senate Republicans should . . . because they did. When Kagan was nominated, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa, shown at right) — now the chairman of the Judiciary Committee — said that “for the Senate to fulfill its constitutional responsibility of advise and consent, we must get all of her documents from [ex-president Bill Clinton’s files] and have enough time to analyze them so we can determine whether she should be a Justice.” The then-ranking Republican on the committee said the panel needed “to obtain the documents relating to [Kagan’s White House] service in advance of the hearings,” urging the former and then-current presidents to drop all claims of executive privilege in those documents. That Republican was Sen. Jeff Sessions, now President Trump’s attorney general.

Second, Senate Democratic leaders should be unflinching in their demands to see these documents. The vast majority of the documents were likely seen by a substantial number of people in the Bush White House when they were created and circulated. Some of these ex-officials may still have copies. Even if they don’t, they may know what Kavanaugh wrote about abortion, health care, civil rights and civil liberties. Bush-era officials could have easily shared these recollections with key people in the Trump White House during the process that led to Kavanaugh’s nomination.

Thus, when Kavanaugh testifies before the Judiciary Committee and says, inevitably, that he will offer “no hints, no winks, no nods” on potential rulings — that answer may not be true for everyone: The White House may indeed have ample “hints and nods,” by having seen (or been briefed on) Kavanaugh’s Bush-era writings. That knowledge should be in the possession of all senators, not just the White House.

Third, red-state Democrats especially should press hard for the documents. These senators are caught between Trump-led pressure demanding support for the nomination and Democratic base pressure demanding opposition. They have blunted these forces by saying that will decide based on the record, not politics.

But how can they decide based on the record if the White House withholds Kavanaugh’s records? And if the White House will not produce them in full, what more common-sense reason is there to oppose Kavanaugh’s confirmation than “I’m not going to vote for someone for the Supreme Court unless I see the paper trail”? It’s an argument tailor-made for practical voters in “Show Me” Missouri and throughout the Midwest.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russian firm indicted in Mueller probe cites Supreme Court nominee’s decision to argue that charges should be dismissed, Robert Barnes, July 20, 2018. A Russian company accused by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III of being part of an online operation to disrupt the 2016 presidential campaign is leaning in part on a decision by Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh to argue that the charge against it should be thrown out.

brett kavanaughThe 2011 decision by Kavanaugh (right), writing for a three-judge panel, concerned the role that foreign nationals may play in U.S. elections. It upheld a federal law that said foreigners temporarily in the country may not donate money to candidates, contribute to political parties and groups or spend money advocating for or against candidates. But it did not rule out letting foreigners spend money on independent advocacy campaigns.

Kavanaugh “went out of his way to limit the decision,” said Daniel A. Petalas, a Washington lawyer and former interim general counsel for the Federal Election Commission.

Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, The People Behind an Anti-Breitbart Twitter Account, Sapna Maheswari, July 20, 2018. No longer anonymously run, Sleeping Giants continues its mission of alerting companies to where their digital ads end up.

twitter bird CustomJust after the 2016 election, an anonymously run Twitter account emerged with a plan to choke off advertising dollars to Breitbart News, the hard-edge, nationalist website closely tied to President Trump’s administration.

The account, named Sleeping Giants, urged people to collect screenshots of ads on Breitbart and then question brands about their support of the site.

Sleeping Giants correctly guessed that many companies did not know where their digital ads were running, and advertisers were caught off guard as the account circulated images of blue-chip brands in proximity to headlines like “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy.”

As hundreds of brands blocked their ads from appearing on Breitbart, and the account expanded to put pressure on certain Fox News shows, the people behind Sleeping Giants maintained their anonymity — until this week.

Kimberly Guilfoyle screenshot by The Blaze

Kimberly Guilfoyle became a former co-host at Fox News on Friday after the cable news network confirmed that they had parted ways with the popular news pundit. (Image Source: YouTube screenshot by The Blaze)

The Blaze, Fox News confirms Kimberly Guilfoyle departure in a surprising statement, Carlos Garcia, July 20, 2018. Fox News confirmed a report Friday that their popular host Kimberly Guilfoyle had left the cable news network in a statement that is being described as “terse.”

The statement released Friday was perfunctory and brief: “Fox News has parted ways with Kimberly Guilfoyle,” the statement read.

Guilfoyle had been a longtime co-host of “The Five,” but reports that she was dating the recently divorced Donald Trump Jr. have been followed by new career opportunities. The 49-year-old will reportedly join the pro-Trump non-profit organization, America First Politics, according to CNN. The report appeared to be confirmed through a tweet by a Trump Jr. spokesperson. “Having [Kim Guilfoyle] on the trail campaigning with [Donald Trump Jr.] for Republicans this fall is a win for the entire GOP,” Surabian tweeted.
Trump Jr., who is 40 years old, has been a prolific fundraiser and defender of his father’s agenda and legacy. Guilfoyle recently praised Trump Jr. as “the number one up-and-coming political figure for sure, on the right.”

“He has a compelling political voice; he is incredibly bright,” Guilfoyle added. “I have seen him at these different rallies, and I went to Montana with him. I’ve known him for over a decade.”

ny times logomark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wNew York Times, What Stays and What Goes on Facebook? Site Can’t Answer, Farhad Manjoo, July 20, 2018 (print edition). Asked about the kind of content Facebook keeps up and the kind it removes, company executives from Mark Zuckerberg (shown at right) on down have been comically tripped up in their responses.

Facebook was once the most nimble company of its generation. The speed at which it adapted to every challenge was legendary. It needed only about a decade to go from a dorm-room start-up to the largest and most influential communications platform in the world.

facebook logoBut it’s been two years since an American presidential campaign in which the company was a primary vector for misinformation and state-sponsored political interference — and Facebook still seems paralyzed over how to respond.

In exchanges with reporters and lawmakers over the past week, its leaders — including Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive — have been comically tripped up by some of the most basic questions the site faces.

Mr. Zuckerberg, in an interview with the journalist Kara Swisher that was published Wednesday, argued that Facebook would not ban Holocaust denialism on the site because “there are things that different people get wrong.” He later explained there were many other ways that Holocaust deniers could be penalized by Facebook — yet lucidity remained elusive.

Media: Film / TV

Mediaite, Rob Reiner’s ‘Shock and Awe’ Earns a Measly $41,000 on Opening Weekend, Tamar Auber, July 15, 2018. Director Rob Reiner‘s new movie “Shock and Awe,” about journalists during the Iraq War, debuted this weekend… to disappointing numbers.

According to the movie’s description on Rotten Tomatoes, the film is “based on the true events of Knight Ridder journalists who were the only ones who ‘got it right’ in the lead-up to the 2003 Iraq War when they questioned the true nature of the Bush White House’s justification for the conflict.”

Yet, you would be forgiven for not knowing that because this weekend practically no one bought tickets to see the film, which opened in limited release on July 13th. According to Box Office Mojo, for the weekend of July 13-15th, Shock and Awe grossed a measly $41,000. In contrast, Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation, which topped ticket sales earned $44,100,00.

Mediaite, Fox News Announces Kimberly Guilfoyle is Leaving the Network, Aidan McLaughlin, July 20, 2018. Fox News confirmed in a statement to Mediaite on Friday that Kimberly Guilfoyle is leaving the network. “FOX News has parted ways with Kimberly Guilfoyle,” the short statement read, confirming reports that the longtime host is departing the network after more than a decade.

fox news logo SmallMediaite confirmed that Guilfoyle will not be appearing on The Five on Friday to say farewell. Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich will co-host in her place. She joined the network 2006, and served as a host on a series of shows, from Outnumbered to, most recently, The Five. Sources told Mediaite Guilfoyle will join America First, a pro-Trump Super PAC. Though a departure from Fox is abrupt and unexpected, the move into pro-Trump politics isn’t too surprising: last year, Trump was reported to have considered Guilfoyle to replace Sean Spicer as White House press secretary, a job she publicly lobbied for.

More On GOP Scandals

ny times logomichelle goldberg thumbNew York Times, Opinion: Are Republicans Covering for Trump, or for Themselves? Michelle Goldberg, July 20, 2018. If the N.R.A. was compromised by Russia, the whole party’s in trouble.

Of all the interlocking mysteries of the Trump-Russia scandal, one that I’ve found particularly perplexing is the utter servility of congressional Republicans before a president many of them hate and believe to be compromised by a foreign power.

Yes, I know they’re thrilled about tax cuts and judges. Given how Russia has become a patron of the right globally over the last decade, some Republicans might welcome its intervention into our politics, believing that the Democrats are greater enemies of the Republic. And some are just cowards, afraid of mean tweets or base blowback.

But that doesn’t explain why, for example, Speaker Paul Ryan, a Russia hawk who is retiring in January, allowed his party to torpedo the House Intelligence Committee investigation into Russian interference in the election. Ryan, after all, knows full well who and what Donald Trump is.

This week, however, a new possibility came into focus. Perhaps, rather than covering for Trump, some Republicans are covering for themselves.

Supreme Court (SCOTUS) Watch

SCOTUSblog, Friday round-up, Andrew Hamm, July 20, 2018. Judge Brett Kavanaugh remains atop the slow-moving Supreme Court news cycle. Adam Liptak of The New York Times surveys 12 sets of evaluations spanning 700 pages from about 350 law students at Harvard, Yale and Georgetown and finds “almost only glowing praise for Judge Kavanaugh’s teaching.” Former Harvard students praise Kavanaugh in a letter at Boston Globe.

supreme court buildingLorraine Woellert of Politico covers the refusal of New York Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Democratic leaders to meet with Kavanaugh, “another salvo in the deepening cold war” between Trump and Schumer.

Elise Viebeck of The Washington Post reports that Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, said Wednesday that senators expect to receive “at least 1 million pages of documents” related to Kavanaugh’s time in President George W. Bush’s administration and as a Republican “political operative,” which Viebeck calls “a sign of a mammoth task that could slow the timeline for confirmation hearings.” Coverage on polling about Kavanaugh’s possible confirmation – from Gallup, the Pew Research Center and Fox News – comes from Alex Lubben for Vice News and Nathaniel Rakich of FiveThirtyEight.

Commentary on the confirmation process comes from Kent Greenfield on WBUR’s Cognoscenti blog, who contends that the “Senate should wait to vote on Kavanaugh until we can be sure Trump’s entire presidency is not illegitimate because of espionage, conspiracy, collusion and — yes — treason.” Dahlia Lithwick and Jed Shugerman of Slate credit Kavanaugh for “his candor in taking his stands against Roe last year,” but argue that this topic “must also be addressed directly during his confirmation.”

David Savage of Los Angeles Times reports that the “Supreme Court could have a conservative majority to strike down bans on semi-automatic weapons in California and other liberal states and to decree that law-abiding Americans have a right to carry a gun in public.”

Mark Sherman and Jennifer Peltz of Associated Press report that although Kavanaugh’s record on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit does not “directly deal with LGBT issues,” “his approach to judging leads some scholars and activists to believe he is unlikely to echo Kennedy’s votes.”

Fox #MeToo Scandal ‘Baggage’

ny times logoNew York Times, Federal Prosecutors Questioned Trump’s Top Communicator, Elizabeth Williamson and Emily Steel, July 20, 2018. Bill Shine, the president’s new aide, brought baggage as well as long experience at Fox News to the White House. He has denied any wrongdoing amid a sexual harassment scandal at the network.

bill shineBill Shine, a former co-president of Fox News hired this month as President Trump’s communications chief, brought conservative credentials and heavy baggage with him into the White House. President Trump embraced the former and ignored the latter.

Mr. Shine (shown at left in a file photo), now struggling to limit the damage from Mr. Trump’s performance on Monday with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, was ousted from Fox News last year in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal at the network.

Mr. Shine was never publicly accused of harassment, but he was accused in multiple civil lawsuits of covering up misconduct by Roger E. Ailes, the founding chairman of Fox News, and dismissing concerns from colleagues who complained.

roger ailes wMr. Shine’s appointment to the White House job has drawn criticism from some women who worked for him at Fox News, and has brought new scrutiny of his record there.

In one previously undisclosed action, Mr. Shine was subpoenaed last year by a federal grand jury in New York as part of a criminal investigation into Fox News’s handling of sexual harassment complaints, according to a document viewed by The New York Times. Mr. Shine was never charged.

Mr. Ailes (shown at right) died in May 2017, and the federal investigation recently appeared to have gone dormant, according to people familiar with the case. Mr. Shine has denied any wrongdoing.

Boating Disaster In Missouri

washington post logoWashington Post, 17 people killed when duck boat capsizes during storm in Missouri, police say, Mark Berman, Allyson Chiu and Samantha Schmidt, July 20, 2018. The boat was coasting through the waters of Table Rock Lake near Branson when an evening storm suddenly moved in. Authorities said 31 people were on board, and divers recovered the final bodies this morning.

#MeToo / Trump Watch

donald trump beauty contests

A new BBC documentary that aired shortly before Donald Trump’s visit to the United Kingdom this month was entitled “Trump: Is the president a sex pest?” Above is a graphic by Democratic Underground compiling previous commentaries. Below is a story about it.

The Cut, New BBC Documentary Alleges Trump Pursued Models As Young As 17, Amanda Arnold, July 20, 2018. (video). Just days before the U.S. president’s visit to England in early July, the BBC figured it was a good time to revisit a very worthwhile question: Donald Trump, the sex scandal–plagued world leader who has been accused of sexual misconduct by numerous woman, and who once bragged about grabbing women by the pussy — could he be a sex pest?

bbc news logo2The BBC first ran a 30-minute report dedicated to this notable query on Monday, July 9 – three days before Trump’s visit to England. Titled “Trump: Is the president a sex pest?” it focused on Trump’s relations with women in the 1980s and 1990s. Now, for those of us stateside who would like an answer of our own, the documentary is scheduled to premiere in the US and Canada on Saturday, July 21, at 10:30am EST, with another airing on Sunday afternoon.

The report was not initially available for streaming outside of Europe, but outlets such as VICE News and the Mirror gained access when it first aired, and the BBC put out a press release today detailing some of the allegations from the documentary.

The half-hour show features two women and a man who say they witnessed Trump’s behavior at parties in the ’80s and ’90s. One woman, Barbara Pilling — who has never spoken publicly before about Trump — said she met the president at a New York party in the late 1980s, where he questioned her over her age. When she responded 17, the president allegedly responded, “Oh, great. So you’re not too old and not too young. That’s just great.”

“I felt like I was in the presence of a shark getting ready to roll his eyes back in his head and bite me,” Pillings told BBC. She also spoke of Trump’s predatory behavior toward other women at the party. According to Pillings, when a waitress offered Trump a drink, “He didn’t take the drink and slapped her on the bottom. She was a blonde. He gave her butt a slap and it was very loud. He was like, ‘Don’t worry, that’s not your tip.’”

Pillings also describes going to the restroom and discussing Trump with other models; one said the president was “trying to grab [her] ass” as she walked by.

The man, who asked to remain anonymous, claims he attended many of the same parties as the future president, where there was “a lot of cocaine around,” and wealthy men solicited sex from younger women. “It was kind of like a feeding frenzy. The girls were there as consumables.” (“There’s no evidence that Donald Trump had sex with underage girls,” the BBC notes, “but the program has been told he did pursue models in their teens.”)

eliot spitzerNew York Daily News, ‘Manhattan Madam’ Kristin Davis subpoenaed in Mueller probe, Denis Slattery, July 20, 2018. Robert Mueller wants to talk to the “Manhattan Madam.” Kristin Davis, the madam made famous for her role in the 2008 sex scandal that brought down former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (right), has been subpoenaed by the special counsel’s office, according to a report Friday.

Davis, who once ran for governor and controller before being busted selling prescription pills, worked with flamboyant Republican consultant Roger Stone for a decade. Stone, a longtime ally of President Trump, has been a rumored target in Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling.

julian assange head bookMueller is reportedly interested in Stone’s contacts with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (left) and the Twitter handle “Guccifer 2.0,” which was allegedly used by Kremlin-linked hackers during the 2016 election to share emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee.

Davis’ lawyer is negotiating the scope of the subpoena with Mueller’s team, according to TMZ.

In a statement, a rep for Davis said she and Stone “are very good friends and she has worked on and off for him for the last 10 years. Roger is the godfather to her son. She is currently in the cosmetology business and she knows nothing whatsoever about Russian collusion with the 2016 election.”

Andrew Miller, who ran Davis’ campaign for governor and worked with Stone during the 2016 campaign, was subpoenaed by Mueller last month.

Davis was a key part of Spitzer’s political downfall.The buxom 41-year-old admitted to providing the disgraced lawmaker with prostitutes, a claim he denies. Spitzer resigned from office after his affair with escort Ashley Dupre became public.

kristin davis roger stone jan 28 2013

This 2013 photo shows Kristin Davis, a then-candidate for New York City’s mayor’s office and formerly the notorious “Manhattan Madam,” with her friend and political consultant Roger Stone

Palmer Report, Opinion: Robert Mueller goes after head of prostitution ring in order to get to Roger Stone and Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, July 20, 2018. For the past several weeks, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been pulling out all the stops with his grand jury when it comes to Donald Trump’s oldest friend Roger Stone. Mueller has subpoenaed at least a dozen current and former Stone associates and employees, making clear that he’s zeroing in on indicting and arresting Stone. The goal is to get Stone to flip on Trump. Now Mueller is pulling out all the stops by going after the head of a prostitution ring.

robert mueller full face fileRobert Mueller, right, has subpoenaed Kristin Davis, who was once convicted for running a prostitution ring. Davis does not have any known connections to the Trump-Russia election scandal. So what does this have to do with Roger Stone? Davis has previously run for office, and her campaign was run by former Stone sidekick Andrew Miller, according to CNBC. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the second time it’s come up this week.

Earlier this week Palmer Report brought you the story of how Mueller sent at least five of his prosecutors to a hearing which centered around Andrew Miller’s refusal to cooperate with the grand jury. Mueller has been making a strong push to get Miller to cooperate in the case against Stone.

As he’s apparently been unable to make that happen, it looks like he’s moving on to try to use Davis to get to Miller, in order to get to Stone, in order to get to Trump. But there may be more to this.

More U.S. Politics

Miami Herald, Opinion: Democrats don’t need a new slogan, they need a pair of brass, er, knuckles, Leonard Pitts Jr., July 20, 2018. Norms are only norms when they are mutual,” wrote Goodman, “fairness is only fair when it’s shared. Democrats aren’t justified in breaking norms because they’ve been ‘wronged.’ They are justified because the current system has ceased to function.”

republican elephant logoSmack them with their own bat. That was the gist of, “Hey Democrats, Fighting Fair is for Suckers,” a provocative jeremiad that Politico ran on Independence Day. In it, writer Rob Goodman argued that, after Republicans have killed all the old political norms — denying a Supreme Court nominee a hearing, for example — it’s silly for Democrats to go on playing by the rules.. Why obey the law in a lawless world?

It’s possible to feel simultaneously uneasy at the brute force politics Goodman envisions — like packing the Supreme Court, for starters — and yet compelled by his larger point: Democrats must realize that they’re in a back-alley brawl, not a pillow fight. That they don’t get this yet can be inferred from the new slogan House Democrats unveiled last week: “For The People.” While that’s an improvement over last year’s, “A Better Deal,” with its musty scent of leftover Roosevelt, it still doesn’t suggest a party ready to rumble.

In that, the party is disconnected from its people, who are viscerally furious. Democratic leaders don’t seem to know what to do with that anger. Indeed, they seem to fear it.

July 19

Next Steps On Trump Russian ‘Deals’?

msnbc logo CustomMSNBC, Andrea Mitchell Recaps ‘Remarkable’ Dan Coats Interview, July 19, 2018. NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell recaps her interview with DNI director Dan Coats, including his reaction to the breaking news that the Trump Administration plans to invite Putin to the White House in the fall. 

nbc news logoNBC, Watch intel chief Dan Coats find out about Putin’s White House invite, July 19, 2018. At the Aspen Security Forum, NBC’s Andrea Mitchell breaks the news to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats that the White House has invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to Washington in the fall. Coats also expresses concern about Trump’s solo meeting with Putin in Helsinki.

washington post logoWashington Post, As Russians describe ‘verbal agreements’ at summit, U.S. officials scramble for clarity, Karen DeYoung, Missy Ryan and Anton Troianovski, July 19, 2018 (print edition). Officials at the most senior levels across the U.S. military, attempting since Monday to determine what President Trump may have agreed to on national security issues at his private meeting in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin, had little to no information on Wednesday.

The administration has offered few specifics on meetings that the president described as a “tremendous success.

ny times logoPresident Donald Trump officialNew York Times, Trump Invokes Those at ‘Higher Ends of Intelligence,’ Eileen Sullivan, July 19, 2018 (print edition). He said they loved his press conference with Mr. Putin. But it was not immediately clear to whom Mr. Trump was referring.

Mr. Trump’s own director of intelligence, Dan Coats — the most senior intelligence official in the Trump administration — pushed back against Mr. Trump’s remarks during Monday’s news conference and clearly stated, again, that the American intelligence agencies had concluded Russia tried to influence the 2016 election.

maria butina headshot

Accused Russian influence peddler Maria Butina (file photo)

washington post logoWashington Post, Alleged agent had ties to Russian intelligence agency and appeared ready to flee U.S., prosecutors say, Tom Jackman​, July 19, 2018 (print edition). Federal prosecutors also say Maria Butina was linked to wealthy businessmen with ties to the Putin administration.

The Russian woman arrested on charges of being a foreign agent had ties to Russian intelligence operatives and was in contact with them while in the United States, federal prosecutors said Wednesday. Maria Butina also had ties to wealthy businessmen linked to the Putin administration and appeared to have plans to flee the U.S., prosecutors said in a new court filing.

maria butina handgun facebookAs Butina (shown in a Facebook photo at a gun show) began making more contacts with leaders of the National Rifle Association and the Republican party, she landed on the radar of the FBI, who started tracking her movements to determine what she was doing in the United States, according to officials familiar with the case.

Butina told the Senate Intelligence Committee that she began a romantic relationship with Erickson, people familiar with her testimony  said, and investigators believed she may have intended to go to Erickson’s home state of South Dakota before she was arrested.

ny times logoNew York Times, What Was Maria Butina Doing at the National Prayer Breakfast? Katherine Stewart, July 19, 2018 (print edition). America’s Christian nationalists have been finding common cause with the Russian government for a while now.

New Report On Myanmar Genocide

ny times logoNew York Times, Myanmar’s Military Planned Rohingya Genocide, Rights Group Says, Hannah Beech, July 19, 2018. Myanmar’s military systematically planned a genocidal campaign to rid the country of Rohingya Muslims, according to a report released on Thursday by the rights-advocacy group Fortify Rights based on testimony from 254 survivors, officials and workers over a 21-month period.

myanmar flagThe 162-page report says that the exodus of around 700,000 Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh last year — after a campaign of mass slaughter, rape and village burnings in Rakhine State in Myanmar — was the culmination of months of meticulous planning by the security forces.

Fortify Rights names 22 military and police officers who it says were directly responsible for the campaign against the Rohingya and recommends that the United Nations Security Council refer them to the International Criminal Court.

“Genocide doesn’t happen spontaneously,” said Matthew F. Smith, a former Human Rights Watch specialist on Myanmar and China who is chief executive officer of Fortify Rights. “Impunity for these crimes will pave the path for more violations and attacks in the future.”

Fortify Rights, ‘They Gave Them Long Swords; Preparations for Genocide and Crimes Agianst Humanity against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State, Myanmar, Staff report, July 19, 2018. The Myanmar military’s ostensible trigger was on August 25, 2017, when Rohingya militants, armed mostly with sticks and knives, attacked several police outposts in northern Rakhine State, reportedly killing 12 officials. Members of ARSA explained to Fortify Rights their  involvement in and knowledge of these attacks.

myanmar flagAlmost immediately after these attacks, the Myanmar authorities moved into Rohingya villages and evidently activated groups of non-Rohingya residents, some of whom had earlier received arms and training by the Myanmar military. Armed with guns, swords, and knives, these groups of civilian perpetrators joined state security forces in using lethal force against Rohingya civilians in villages throughout northern Rakhine State.

For several weeks, the Myanmar Army, Police, and non-Rohingya civilians raided hundreds of Rohingya villages, committing massacres of men, women, and children, systematic rape of women and girls, mass arbitrary arrest of men and boys, and widespread and systematic arson attacks. More than 700,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh in a matter of weeks, resulting in the fastest refugee outflow since the Rwandan genocide.

Conservative estimates suggest that in the span of a few weeks, soldiers and police with the support of armed non-Rohingya civilian-perpetrators killed at least several thousand Rohingya civilians — if not tens of thousands — from hundreds of villages throughout the three townships of northern Rakhine State.

An annex to this report provides extensive documentation of similar crimes perpetrated against Rohingya in upwards of 40 villages in Maungdaw Township during military-led “clearance operations” in 2016. Fortify Rights documented a chilling continuity of killings by state security forces from 2016 to 2017, differing only in scale.

Justice Integrity Project, Myanmar Anti-Genocide Advocates Raise Alarms, Andrew Kreig, July 18, 2018. Amid continuing government-sponsored, mass atrocities in the southeast Asian nation of Myanmar, an interfaith coalition is ramping up anti-genocide advocacy nationally this month, particularly in Washington, DC.

The Interfaith Coalition To Stop Genocide In Burma, for example, is calling on the U.S. government to more aggressively intervene in the situation and to enact tough sanctions against the government of Myanmar, which was formerly (and sometimes still) known as Burma.

Faith Coalition member and spokeswoman Nicolee Ambrose, who recently returned from a visit to the region, opened a news conference July 9 with reactions from her recent visit to Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh.

“Since August 2017,” the coalition leaders said in their overview, “more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees have fled Burma due to horrific conditions of torture, rape, and murder at the hands of the Burmese government. The Kachin Christians are now facing the same treatment as the genocide continues.”

The Rohingya are primarily Muslims from the country’s western province Rakhine on the Bay of Bengal. Kachin, a northern province, is reported as overwhelmingly Christian, stemming from long ago missionary work.

“We cannot sit and do nothing,” said Rev. Bob Roberts, Senior Pastor at the Northwood Church in Dallas, Texas and co-chair of the Faith Coalition, shown at center of the photo of the news conference above.

“We are calling on President Trump to help the people of the region,” continued Roberts. “Our brothers and sisters cannot keep suffering at the hands of these thugs. Kachin and Rohingya people need to be repatriated to their country and villages with full rights.”

Trump Pulls Judicial Nominees Over Writings

Roll Call, White House Pulls Circuit Court Nominee at Last Minute, Staff report, July 19, 2018. Facing imminent defeat even in a roy blunt official SmallRepublican-controlled Senate, the White House on Thursday withdrew the nomination of Ryan Wesley Bounds to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, an abrupt turn of events just moments before the chamber was set to vote on confirmation of the judge.

The late-breaking issue appeared to be writings that came to light and turned the tide against him with some Republicans.

“There were some writings from when he was a student at Stanford that were maybe not racially sensitive. They weren’t racist but there is some concern that the issue could have been handled with more sensitivity,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., shown above.

Political Patronage

phil mikan with micWMRD / WLIS FM, The Phil Mikan Show  Interview of Andrew Kreig, July 19, 2018. Host Phil Mikan (shown at right) interviewed the Justice Integrity Project’s editor on latest news from the nation’s capital.

Much of the hour-long show simulcast on two Connecticut stations involved the demise of the federal civil service system under President Trump and how the origins of the system trade back in part to the 1881 assassination of President James Garfield, shown at right.

james garfield portraitA Republican, Garfield was shot by a disappointed campaign worker who assassinated the president after failing to receive a diplomatic posting in France as a reward for his campaign work. Garfield was shot while about to embark on a train trip at a station located at the current location of 6th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW. Kreig noted that the spot is just two blocks from his organization’s office, with the spot unmarked and the importance of the event little remembered.

Garfield’s successor, Chester Arthur, signed a civil service law creating a system of merit-based, non-partisan appointments for federal service, replacing the “spoils system.” Kreig noted two major developments this week undermining the civil service system.

The relevant news from this week were chronicled by two Washington Post articles excerpted below: Trump loyalists at VA shuffling, purging employees before new secretary takes over and the op-ed Opinion: Do you have a Social Security card? Then take this executive order personally,

washington post logous veterans administration sealWashington Post, Trump loyalists at VA shuffling, purging employees before new secretary takes over, Lisa Rein, July 19, 2018 (print edition). Ahead of Robert Wilkie’s likely confirmation to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, Trump loyalists at the agency are taking aggressive steps to purge or reassign staff members perceived to be disloyal to President Trump and his agenda for veterans, according to multiple people familiar with the moves.

The transfers include more than a dozen career civil servants who have been moved from the leadership suite at VA headquarters and reassigned to lower-visibility roles. The employees served agency leaders, some dating back more than two decades, in crucial support roles that help a new secretary. None said they were given reasons for their reassignments.

The moves are being carried out by a small cadre of political appointees led by Acting Secretary Peter O’Rourke who have consolidated power in the four months since they helped oust Secretary David Shulkin.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Do you have a Social Security card? Then take this executive order personally, Marilyn Zahm, July 19, 2018 (print edition). Trump changes the selection process for federal judges who might be hearing your case one day.

On July 10, the White House released an executive order ending a merit-based system for selecting federal administrative law judges, including those who hear Social Security cases. This is a big switch. In a joint statement, Reps. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.), Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) and Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.) described it this way: “The executive order will allow the Administration to appoint judges based on politics and nepotism rather than competence.” In other words, this is an under-the-radar White House court-packing plan.

Federal administrative law judges have, until now, been shielded from agency pressures by a law dating to the 1940s called the Administrative Procedure Act, which created uniform standards for the conduct of adjudication in the administrative law courts.

About 1,600 of the roughly 2,000 federal administrative law judges hear Social Security cases. Other federal ALJs hear cases in more than 30 federal agencies on a wide range of legal issues, including matters involving stocks and bonds, mine safety and mail delivery.

Americans are far more likely during their lifetime to encounter an ALJ than any other type of federal judge. Last year alone, judges who adjudicate Social Security cases conducted 605,483 hearings, according to agency statistics. What sorts of cases are heard? You would face an ALJ if you had a problem with the dollar amount in your Social Security retirement account; if there were a question about who is eligible to receive a deceased person’s benefits; or if, because of a workplace accident, injury or illness, you found yourself unable to work and you applied for disability benefits.

In every instance, you would want to know that the judge hearing your case was both competent and impartial. When you have your day in court, you also want a judge who isn’t being pressured to deny your case for political reasons or wasn’t placed in the job because of whom they know rather than what they know.

Marilyn Zahm, an administrative law judge who hears Social Security cases in Buffalo, is the president of the Association of Administrative Law Judges, which represents the administrative law judges employed at the Social Security Administration.

Media News

ny times logogoogle logo customNew York Times, Opinion: Nice Try, but the E.U.’s Case Against Google Won’t Fix Tech, Editorial Board, July 19, 2018. Officials need more effective ways to ensure competition in industries dominated by a handful of big players.

The European Union’s decision to fine Google $5.1 billion for abusing its dominance in the smartphone business unearthed some dubious corporate practices, but the penalty and an order for Google to change its practices are, regrettably, unlikely to make the technology industry more competitive.

european union logo rectangleAfter a yearslong investigation, Europe’s top antitrust official, Margrethe Vestager, on Wednesday said that Google had unfairly exploited its market power by imposing restrictions on manufacturers like Samsung that use the company’s Android software on their smartphones.

This case is important because about 80 percent of smartphones sold in Europe and globally run on Android, and Google is by far the largest player in internet search. The company is also the biggest player in online advertising, with a nearly 40 percent market share last year, and it has a commanding presence in a number of other internet businesses, like video, email and maps.

sinclair broadcast logo custom

ny times logoNew York Times, As Momentum for Sinclair Deal Stalls, Tribune Considers Options, Edmund Lee, July 19, 2018. The Sinclair Broadcast Group’s plan to create a broadcasting behemoth that it hoped would rival Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News appears to be coming to an end.

Already the largest local television operator in the nation, Sinclair agreed last year to buy the rival TV group Tribune Media for $3.5 billion. The deal would have given the combined company control of broadcasters reaching seven in 10 households across the country, including in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

But in light of the Federal Communications Commission’s draft order this week questioning whether Sinclair was sufficiently transparent in how it represented the deal to regulators and whether a merger would be in the public interest, Tribune said in a statement Thursday that it was “evaluating its implications and assessing all of our options.”

The merger agreement allows either side to walk away from the deal if it does not close by Aug. 8. Sinclair declined to comment.

Supreme Court Nomination

washington post logoWashington Post, Kavanaugh’s role in Bush-era detainee debate now an issue in his Supreme Court confirmation, Michael Kranish, July 19, 2018. Brett M. Kavanaugh was adamant as he sat in the witness chair at his 2006 confirmation hearing to be an appeals court judge. Kavanaugh was being questioned by Democrats about his knowledge of President George W. Bush’s torture policy and treatment of detainees while he served as associate White House counsel.

He responded that he was “not involved” in “questions about the rules governing detention of combatants.”

Senate Democrats have never fully accepted Kavanaugh’s answers to questions about one of the Bush administration’s most controversial policies, and now they are prepared to resurrect the issue as Kavanaugh faces a hearing as President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), whose questions in 2006 elicited Kavanaugh’s denial, said in an interview this week that “what he told us under oath is not accurate.” Democrats are seeking Bush White House files to pin down specifics of any Kavanaugh involvement in detainee policy discussions, which could slow the Trump administration’s hope to have Kavanaugh confirmed before the Supreme Court reconvenes Oct. 1.

Jobs / Trade Wars

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘We’re fighting against our own country’: Trump’s tariffs on Mexico are causing layoffs in the U.S., Erica Werner and Kevin Sieff, July 19, 2018 (print edition). Trade restrictions aimed at preventing U.S. jobs from heading elsewhere have instead hampered one Missouri company’s effort to create jobs in the United States. Officials at Mid Continent say that without relief, the nail plant could be out of business by Labor Day — or that remaining production could move to Mexico or another country.

U.S. Politics

ny times logorepublican elephant logoNew York Times, Trump Voters Mostly Stand by Him, but Cracks Open, Matt Flegenheimer, July 18, 2018 (print edition). Mr. Trump has said his admirers will support him through anything. His remarks on Russia have put them to the test.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s War on the Poor has just begun, William J. Barber II and Karen Dolan, July 19, 2018 (print edition). Anti-poverty measures have helped, but the fight is far from over.

Mission accomplished in the “War on Poverty.” So declares the White House, which in a white paper released last week from the president’s Council of Economic Advisers claims that the war is “largely over and a success” and that it is time for more stringent work requirements for public assistance.

Never mind all the decades President Trump’s party has spent trashing anti-poverty programs to justify shredding them: The new narrative states that these programs have worked so well that U.S. poverty has been all but eradicated.

The programs stemming from President Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1964 initiative have indeed improved the lives of millions of Americans. A Columbia University study found that poverty would be much worse today had it not been for food assistance, the earned income tax credit, Medicaid and the expansion of Social Security benefits.

William J. Barber II is president of Repairers of the Breach and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign. Karen Dolan is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The stench from Trump’s execrable performance grows ever more putrid, Max Boot, July 19, 2018 (print edition). Republicans have gone from denouncing useful idiots to becoming useful idiots.

Even Russian state television admits that Trump “really smells like an agent of the Kremlin.” The only question is whether he is a witting or unwitting agent.

But if Trump is, at best, a “useful idiot” for the Kremlin, what does that make Trump’s useful idiots? All of the “conservatives” (I use the word loosely) who serve as the president’s enablers should understand the price of their partisanship: They are weakening U.S. security and facilitating foreign aggression.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump criticizes Fed, breaking long-standing practice, David Lynch, July 19, 2018. The president told CNBC he’s “not thrilled” the U.S. central bank under Chairman Jerome Powell is continuing to raise interest rates, suggesting they may undercut his efforts to expand the economy.

washington post logoWashington Post, After Flint, EPA must strengthen oversight of state drinking water, watchdog says, Brady Dennis​, July 19, 2018. A report found that the EPA wasn’t alone in its failure to address the crisis that crippled a city of nearly 100,000 residents.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump administration plan strips Endangered Species Act of key provisions, Darryl Fears, July 19, 2018. The Trump administration unveiled a proposal Thursday that would strip the Endangered Species Act of key provisions, a move that conservationists say will weaken a law enacted 45 years ago to keep plants and animals in decline from going extinct.

The proposal, announced jointly by the Interior and Commerce departments, which are charged with protecting endangered wildlife, would end the practice of extending similar protections to species regardless of whether they are listed as endangered or threatened. If the proposal is approved, likely by year’s end, protections for threatened plants and animals would be made on a case-by-case basis.

Media / WikiLeaks

Consortium News, Opinion: Inside WikiLeaks: Working with the Publisher that Changed the World, Stefania Maurizi, July 19, 2018. Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi has worked with WikiLeaks for nine years on the Podesta emails and other revelations. Here’s an insider’s view of the publisher, which has incensed rulers around the world, desperate to hide their corruption.

Syrian War Reaches Golan Border

SouthFront, Al-Quneitra Militants Surrender And Accept Evacuation Agreement, Staff report, July 19, 2018. On July 19, the remaining militants of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in the southern governorate of al-Quneitra surrendered and accepted an evacuation agreement, according to the Hezbollah media wing in Syria.

Under the agreement, the militants will hand over all of their weapons to the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and then withdraw to the opposition-held areas in northern Syria, likely the governorate of Idlib.

The militants will also hand over two observation posts near the villages of Umm Batinah and Ruwayhibah, inside the demilitarized zone, to the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF). Back in 2013, the UNDOF withdrew from these posts following an attack of HTS.

The agreement, which will be executed over the upcoming days, will allow tens of thousands of displaced civilians to return to their towns and villages in the western Daraa countryside and al-Quneitra. Currently, most of these civilians are taking shelter near the separation line in the Golan Heights.

Once al-Quneitra is secured, the SAA and its allies will likely launch a large scale military operation against the ISIS-affiliated Jaysh Khalid ibn al-Walid in the western Daraa countryside.

#MeToo / Culture Wars

Surveillance photo of Georgia waitress fighting back against customer who groped her

People, Georgia Waitress, 21, Who Body-Slammed Man After He Groped Her in Pizzeria Speaks Out, Char Adams, July 19, 2018.  Emelia Holden, 21, didn’t hesitate to take matters into her own hands when a man groped her during her shift at Vinnie Van Go-Go’s in Savannah, Georgia on June 30.

In surveillance footage of the incident, 31-year-old Ryan Cherwinski is shown grabbing Holden’s backside as he walks behind her. Holden immediately turns around and grabs him by his collar and slams him into a counter. “I looked at him and I said, ‘You don’t touch me, motherf—–!’ ” Holden tells People. “I didn’t even think, I just reacted. I don’t know how I reacted the way I did. I’ve never done that before.”

Holden says she had just finished taking an order when the man assaulted her. At first, she says, she couldn’t fathom that a stranger would grab her in such a way.

U.S. Farming Economic Crisis

farm aid logoThe Hill, Opinion: American farmers are the biggest losers in Trump’s unnecessary trade war, Alicia Harvie, July 19, 2018. Alicia Harvie is Farm Aid’s advocacy and farmer services director. Farm Aid’s mission is to keep family farmers on their land to guarantee an agricultural system that values family farmers, good food, soil and water, and strong communities.

In the Trump administration’s trade war with China, American farmers are fast becoming the biggest losers. Despite the president’s recent assurances to the contrary, the administration’s reckless, self-serving policies will not level the playing field for our nation’s farmers. In fact, they are more likely to extinguish what’s left of family farm agriculture.

Farmers are enduring the worst cycle they’ve seen since the 1980s farm crisis: a multiyear slump in farm prices that has slashed net farm income by more than 50 percent since 2013. Increasingly, farmers are pinched by prices that are far below their cost of production, as well as rising input costs, growing debt, tightening credit conditions and much more.

Every day on our 1-800 Farm Aid hotline, we hear from farmers struggling to make ends meet. They can’t pay their electric bills. They can’t feed their animals. They grow our food and yet they struggle to feed their own families. As more and more farmers inch toward the brink of foreclosure, these self-inflicted trade wars with the European Union, Canada, China, and other major trade partners will only hasten the process.

In such precarious times, holding American farmers hostage as a bargaining chip in a trade war, and telling them to wait for some yet-to-be-revealed plan, as Agriculture Secretary Perdue has done, is offensive and dangerous.

To add insult to injury is Perdue’s rationale behind this escalation: theft of intellectual property in the form of patented genetically engineered seed varieties. We should remember that farmers are not the ones who reap benefits from patented seed technologies. Those profits go to the patent-holding company itself, which these days is one of ever-fewer multinational seed conglomerates, while farmers watch their seed prices skyrocket.

The supposed reason for this trade war with China, then, is not to protect farmers — it’s to shelter multinational seed and chemical giants, like Bayer-Monsanto, Dow-Dupont and Syngenta-ChemChina, and other agribusiness giants who benefit from free trade regimes that put corporate profits before people.

The administration is asking farmers to “hold tight,” when in reality they have nothing to hold on to. In retaliation to America’s tariffs, China announced plans to impose a 25 percent tariff on numerous U.S. exports, including soy, corn, wheat, cotton, beef, pork and more. This move will cripple America’s already struggling farm families that send a huge volume of agricultural exports to China: $14 billion in soy, $160 million in corn, $391 million in wheat and many millions more in other agricultural products.

July 18

Warnings To Trump On Russia Were Clear, Early

ny times logoNew York Times, From the Start, Trump Has Muddied a Clear Message: Putin Interfered, David E. Sanger and Matthew Rosenberg, July 18, 2018. President Trump was shown clear evidence on Jan. 6, 2017, that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had ordered cyberattacks to sway the 2016 election. But his statements since have suggested other explanations.

President Donald Trump officialTwo weeks before his inauguration, Donald J. Trump was shown highly classified intelligence indicating that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had personally ordered complex cyberattacks to sway the 2016 American election.

The evidence included texts and emails from Russian military officers and information gleaned from a top-secret source close to Mr. Putin, who had described to the C.I.A. how the Kremlin decided to execute its campaign of hacking and disinformation.

Mr. Trump sounded grudgingly convinced, according to several people who attended the intelligence briefing. But ever since, Mr. Trump has tried to cloud the very clear findings that he received on Jan. 6, 2017, which his own intelligence leaders have unanimously endorsed.

The shifting narrative underscores the degree to which Mr. Trump regularly picks and chooses intelligence to suit his political purposes. That has never been more clear than this week.

Dan CoatsRoll Call, Trump Again Breaks With Intel Chief Over Russia, John T. Bennett, July 18, 2018. Coats says ‘warning lights are blinking’ but POTUS denies threat. When asked if Russia is still targeting the United States and its midterm congressional elections, President Donald Trump on Wednesday responded “no” — again breaking with his top intelligence official.

His own top intelligence brass recently warned “red lights” are blinking with regard to Moscow’s plans to again meddle in an American election, spy talk used only when a threat is imminent.

“The warning signs are there. The system is blinking. It is why I believe we are at a critical point,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats (a former Republican senator from Indiana, show at right) said Friday during an event at the Hudson Institute in Washington. U.S. intelligence leaders only refer to the “red lights” when matters are dire.

Trump Treasury Department Unleashes ‘Dark Money’

steven mnuchin wWall Street On Parade, Analysis: Treasury’s Mnuchin Just Gave the Koch’s Dark Money Machine a Bonanza, Pam Martens and Russ Martens, July 18, 2018. On Monday the U.S. Treasury (via Secretary Stephen Mnuchin, right) announced that certain types of tax exempt organizations (read Koch front groups) would no longer have to reveal the names and addresses of their donors to the IRS.

That information has never been available to the public, but now it will no longer be available to the IRS in order for it to quickly detect patterns of fraud, illegal foreign donors inserting themselves into U.S. elections, or a mega-billionaire and his cronies potentially outspending an entire political party in an election.

‘Honeytrap’ Scandal For NRA, GOPers?

maria butina russian federation embassy via Twitter Custom

Mariia (sometimes spelled ‘Maria’) Butina speaking on Russian gun rights (Russian Federation embassy photo)

nbc news logoNBC News, Accused Russian agent Mariia Butina tried to trade sex for influence, say prosecutors, Tom Winter, Pete Williams and Tracy Connor, July 18, 2018. Previously, the FBI had said Butina was trying to establish relationships with a “gun rights organization,” which NBC News has reported is the NRA.

The gun-loving Russian woman charged with being an unregistered foreign agent and cozying up to politicians to infiltrate the U.S. political system tried to swap sex for influence, prosecutors alleged Wednesday.

The “Red Sparrow” scenario was unveiled in a memorandum that laid out reasons why prosecutors believe Mariia Butina, 29, should remain jailed until trial. Butina, who allegedly conspired with a Russian politician and banker to push Moscow’s agenda in the U.S., is due in federal court in Washington on Wednesday afternoon for a detention hearing.

nra logo CustomIn arguing that Butina is a flight risk, prosecutors said her only tie to the U.S. is a “personal relationship” with an unidentified man — which is branded “duplicitous,” suggesting she was using him for her own means. According to The Washington Post, the man’s description matches that of Republican operative Paul Erickson.

“Butina appears to treat it as simply a necessary aspect of her activities,” the memo says. “For example, on at least one occasion, Butina offered an individual other than U.S. Person 1 sex in exchange for a position within a special interest organization. Further, in papers seized by the FBI, Butina complained about living with U.S. Person 1 and expressed disdain for continuing to cohabitate with U.S. Person 1.”

Trump Watch

christopher wray cropped SmallPalmer Report, Opinion: FBI Director Christopher Wray openly defies Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, July 18, 2018. Donald Trump’s own handpicked FBI Director Christopher Wray has officially had enough of Trump’s crap. Wray (shown in a file photo) has already consistently made clear that he’s taking the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation seriously, as opposed to showing personal loyalty to Trump, as Trump was surely hoping. But now Wray is taking things further by openly defying Trump when it comes to Russian hacking.

Trump has spent the week insisting that Russia didn’t hack the election, then blaming the United States for the fact that Russia hacked the election, then changing his story so many times that we’ve lost track of what his current position is. But there’s no question about Christopher Wray’s position on the matter. He appeared at a security forum today, and was asked about Trump’s assertion that Russia isn’t interfering in our elections.

usgreat seal SmallHere’s how Wray responded: “[Trump’s] got his view, he’s expressed his view. I can tell you what my view is. The intelligence community’s assessment has not changed. My view has not changed, which is that Russia attempted to interfere with the last election.”

Wray was then asked if reports are true that he’s previously threatened to resign in order to force Trump to back down on various matters. He said “I’m a low-key understated guy, but that should not be mistaken for what my spine is made out of. I’ll just leave it at that.”

This comes after Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats released a statement reaffirming the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusions that Russia tried to interfere in the 2016 election. Considering the hole that Donald Trump is already in for his treasonous press conference, he doesn’t really have the muscle to oust any of his own people for openly defying him over it.

More On Trump-Putin Meeting

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Now Says He Accepts U.S. Intelligence Reports on Russian Election Meddling, Mark Landler and Maggie Haberman, July 18, 2018 (print edition). Under unrelenting pressure from congressional Republicans, his own advisers and his allies on Fox News, President Trump abruptly reversed course on Tuesday and claimed he had misspoken during a news conference with President Vladimir V. Putin about whether Russia tried to influence the 2016 presidential election.

President Trump on Time Magazine's cover Feb. 27, 2017Mr. Trump, reading from a script, said he believed the assessment of the nation’s intelligence agencies that Russia had interfered in the campaign after having seeming to have accepted Mr. Putin’s assertion the day before that Russia was not involved.

On Tuesday he said that he had misspoken. He also insisted that he has “on numerous occasions noted our intelligence findings that Russians attempted to interfere in our elections.” He did not mention the far greater number of occasions on which he has sown doubt about whether Russia meddled.

Mr. Trump (shown in a Time magazine cover from last year) also did not retract or explain his withering attack on the F.B.I. and the Justice Department for investigating his campaign’s ties to Russia. He did not withdraw his assertion, standing next to Mr. Putin, that the Russian leader had offered an “extremely strong and powerful” denial of involvement during their two-and-a-half-hour meeting.

ny times logodjt putin nydn 11 12 17 CustomNew York Times, Opinion: Trump Says He Got Only One Word Wrong. Please Decide for Yourself, Editorial Board, July 18, 2018 (print edition). He said he misspoke when he said he saw no reason Russia would be responsible for the election meddling. He said he meant to say “wouldn’t,” not “would.”

But here is what he said Monday, without notes, as he stood beside the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, on that and other subjects. We invite you to read the president’s own words and decide for yourself what he really thinks.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: How Trump retreats: Grudging apologies, plus a wink and nod to the original insult, Marc Fisher, July 18, 2018 (print edition). As President Trump pulled back on a statement from his news conference with Vladimir Putin, his unscripted aside and what appeared to be handwritten notes were reminiscent of other signals that he has inserted into apologies to remind his followers that he will never be the kind of politician who is managed by staffers.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: For G.O.P., ‘The Dam Has Broken.’ But for How Long? Peter Baker, July 18, 2018. Never has a president engendered such a wave of discussion about whether his real loyalty was to a foreign power.

Alleged Russian Influence-Peddler

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘She was like a novelty’: How alleged Russian agent Maria Butina gained access to elite conservative circles,
Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger, Shane Harris and Carol D. Leonnig July 18, 2018 (print edition). For nearly five years, the young Russian political-science student was an unusual fixture at the most important events of the U.S. conservative movement.

maria butina with gun adMaria Butina (shown in a gun promo on social media), who was indicted this week on charges of being a covert Russian agent, struck up friendships with the influential leaders of the National Rifle Association and the Conservative Political Action Conference, touting her interest in U.S. affairs and efforts to promote gun rights in Vladi­mir Putin’s restrictive Russia. She sidled up to GOP presidential candidates, seeking first an encounter with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and then, after his rising candidacy stumbled, with Donald Trump.

But by August 2016, when she moved to the United States on a student visa, the FBI was watching, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

Rather than question or confront her, they said, officials decided to track her movements to determine whom she was meeting and what she was doing in the United States — the kind of monitoring that is not uncommon when foreign nationals are suspected of working on behalf of a foreign government.


ny times logogoogle logo customNew York Times, Google Fined $5.1 Billion by E.U. in Android Antitrust Ruling, Adam Sataiano, July 18, 2018.  European officials hit the internet giant with a record penalty for abusing its power in the smartphone market. The decision on Wednesday underlined how European authorities are aggressively pushing for stronger regulation of the digital economy.

U.S. Political Asylum / Immigration

ny times logoNew York Times, Closed for Business: U.S. Moves to Shrink Grounds for Asylum, Caitlin Dickerson, July 18, 2018. The government has taken steps to restrict access to asylum, sending a message that America is no longer a safe haven for many refugees.

washington post logoWashington Post, House eyes $5 billion for Trump’s border wall, setting up a potential showdown with Senate, Erica Werner, July 18, 2018. The money would be included in a homeland-security spending bill expected to be released in the House today.

U.S. Political Corruption

dean skelos 2016

Then New York State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R) in 2016 video screengrab

ny times logoNew York Times, Skelos, Former N.Y. Senate Leader, Is Convicted in Retrial, Vivian Wang, July 18, 2018 (print edition). The conviction of Dean Skelos and his son, Adam, was the fourth major Albany corruption case won by federal prosecutors in the last five months. Dean G. Skelos, once one of the most powerful figures in New York State politics, was found guilty of bribery, extortion and conspiracy on Tuesday, the latest in a drumbeat of corruption convictions to roil Albany in a heated election year.

republican elephant logoThe verdict itself was not necessarily a surprise, as a different jury had found Mr. Skelos, the former leader of the State Senate, and his son guilty on the same charges in 2015 before the convictions were overturned. But its timing — on the heels of three other successful Albany-focused prosecutions this year, including one last week in the courtroom next door — fed the perception that the culture of ethical neglect in the state capital had reached its nadir.

Within an hour of the conviction, political candidates and government watchdog groups were already lobbing criticism of Albany’s seemingly intractable webs of money and power — and of the power brokers, including Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who they said had not done enough to untangle them.

The jury in Federal District Court in Manhattan deliberated for three days before finding Mr. Skelos and his son, Adam, guilty on all eight counts. Prosecutors said the older Mr. Skelos, the former leader of the Senate’s Republican majority, had wielded his political clout to pressure business executives to send his son about $300,000 for a patchwork of no-show or low-show jobs.

U.S-Backed Kurds Reaching Syrian Deal?

SouthFront, Political Wing Of Syrian Democratic Forces To Open Offices In Government-Held Areas, Staff report, July 18, 2018. On July 17, Ilham Ehmed, co-chairperson of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), told the Kurdish Rudaw TV that the SDC will open offices in the Syria governorates of Hama, Homs, Lattakia and in the Syrian capital of Damascus in the near future.

Ehmed explained that such a step is a part of the ongoing efforts to reach a “democratic” solution for the crisis in Syria. The SDC is the political wing of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which controls most of eastern and northeastern Syria. The council is mainly led by the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD).

The SDC’s plan to open offices in the government-held areas is a huge development that may put an end to the tension between the SDF and the Damascus government. Such a development would be impossible without the approval of the US and the efforts of Russia.

The dvelopment came just two days after a meeting between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Putin in Helsinki on July 16.

#Me Too Harassment Claims

ap logoAssociated Press via Talking Points Memo, Jim Jordan Interviewed By Law Firm Probing Ex-OSU Doctor Abuse Claims, Kantele Franko, July 18, 2018.  Former Ohio State University wrestling coach and current U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan was interviewed by the law firm investigating allegations that a now-dead team doctor sexually abused male athletes there decades ago, his spokesman confirmed Wednesday.

jim jordan headshot CustomThe Ohio Republican (shown right) spoke Monday morning with the firm looking into allegations against Dr. Richard Strauss and how the school responded to any complaints about Strauss, said spokesman Ian Fury, who declined to discuss details of the conversation.

“He told them the same things he’s told everybody in the press,” Fury said. “You know, the story stays the same because the truth doesn’t change.”

Jordan has publicly said he was never aware of abuse when he was an assistant coach from 1987 to 1995, and he has repeatedly denied some former wrestlers’ claims that he knew they were inappropriately groped by Strauss.

A watchdog group and a former special counsel to President Barack Obama have soughtan ethics review of the congressman, who is a founder of the conservative Freedom Caucus and potential contender for House speaker.

ISIS Prisoners: What To Do With Them?

ny times logoNew York Times, As ISIS Fighters Fill Prisons in Syria, Their Home Nations Look Away, Charlie Savage, July 18, 2018. On a rare tour of prisons for Islamic State suspects from nearly 50 countries, a Times reporter watched their jailers try to secure them humanely — but for how long?

AINISSA, Syria — The two-story building here still looks much like the school it once was. But the classrooms are closed off by reinforced black doors, padlocked from the outside. And the campus is surrounded by men with machine guns seeking refuge from the desert heat in the shade of towering concrete perimeter walls.

The visitors’ echoing footsteps and voices were the only sounds on a recent day in a dusty pink-and-white hallway once filled with schoolchildren. But when a guard slid open a small window in a classroom door, a man’s face pressed against the opening. Behind him, about 15 others, sitting on mats in black sleeveless shirts, stared back.

The old school is one of about seven makeshift wartime prisons in northern Syria housing suspects accused of fighting for the Islamic State and captured by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. The S.D.F. prisons for male detainees — about 1,000 men from nearly 50 countries — are generally off limits, but a New York Times reporter accompanied a congressional delegation touring two of them, the first such visit to either.

The prisoners pose a dilemma that has no easy solution and that is growing urgent. Their home countries have been reluctant to take back the men. Their governments are leery that battle-hardened members of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, might radicalize domestic prisoners. Some countries face legal hurdles to prosecuting militants if they take custody of them from a nonstate militia, as opposed to extraditing them from another government.

But the S.D.F. is unlikely to hold them forever. A debate is brewing inside the United States government about whether to take a few of them — either for prosecution in civilian court or to the wartime prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba — but even that leaves open the fate of the rest.

The uncertainty looms as a threat to the rest of the world, said Christopher P. Costa, a former senior director for counterterrorism on President Trump’s National Security Council who now heads the International Spy Museum. He pointed to the “wandering mujahedeen” of the 1980s who fought in Afghanistan, then metastasized Islamist mayhem to places like Bosnia.

Libertarian Slams Trump SCOTUS Nominee

July 18

Reason TV, Judge Andrew Napolitano on Trump, SCOTUS, and the Return of Freedom Watch, Nick Gillespie, July 18, 2018 (22:39 mins.). The most libertarian legal analyst on cable news dishes on Brett Kavanaugh, the end of his GOP, and his forthcoming new show.

A former New Jersey Superior Court judge, Napolitano is a nationally syndicated columnist—you can read him at Reason—and the author of a shelf full of books about law, history, and race in America.

Reason caught up with the judge at FreedomFest, the annual event held every July in Las Vegas. We talked about Donald Trump’s ongoing makeover of the federal judiciary, whether Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh will be good for libertarians, what it’s like to be an ex-Republican, and the imminent return of Freedom Watch, the popular and controversial show that Napolitano hosted on Fox Business from 2006 to 2010.

July 17

Trump Campaign Manager’s Trial

paul manafort mug

Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort is shown in this booking photo in Alexandria, Va., on July 12. (Alexandria Sheriff’s Office/Reuters)

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge refuses to move Paul Manafort trial to Roanoke, Rachel Weiner, July 17, 2018. Paul Manafort’s upcoming trial on bank and fraud charges will continue in Alexandria, Va., despite his efforts to move the proceedings to Roanoke.

thomas s ellis iii federal judgeThe former Trump campaign chairman had argued that the jury pool in Northern Virginia is too liberal and too saturated with coverage of the case to give him a fair trial.

Judge T.S. Ellis III, a Republican at left, ruled Tuesday that Manafort is not entitled to a completely ignorant jury, nor one with as many Republicans as Democrats. Moreover, the nationwide coverage of the case would make any move ineffectual.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Avoids Rebuking Putin on Meddling, Staff report, July 17, 2018 (print edition). Won’t Say If He Believes Moscow or U.S. Intelligence. President Trump said he raised the issue of Russian interference in the 2016 American election, and President Vladimir V. Putin again denied it.

Russian FlagAfter holding their first summit meeting, Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin held out the prospect of a new era of cooperation between the two countries, as Mr. Trump continued to throw into doubt longstanding assumptions about the West’s political, military and trade alliances.

But Mr. Trump refused to say that he believed American intelligence agencies’ findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 United States election, as a news conference where international affairs were expected to dominate turned again and again to the president’s domestic political troubles.

The timing was exceptionally awkward, just days after the Justice Department indicted 12 Russian intelligence agents on charges of hacking the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, in an attempt to aid Mr. Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The moment called for Trump to stand up for America. He chose to bow, Dan Balz, July 17, 2018 (print edition). When the history of Donald Trump’s presidency is ultimately written, July 16, 2018, will have a special entry. On a day when the setting called for a show of strength and resolve from an American president, Trump instead offered deference, defensiveness, equivocation and weakness.

If anyone can recall a performance by a U.S. president that rivaled the one seen around the world Monday, let them come forward. In the meantime, Trump’s extraordinary joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin will stand on its own, for sheer shock value and for the reality of an opportunity lost.

djt putin nypost 7 17 2018

ny times logoPresident Donald Trump officialNew York Times, Opinion: Trump Says He Got Only One Word Wrong. Please Decide for Yourself, Editorial Board, July 18, 2018 (print edition). He said he misspoke when he said he saw no reason Russia would be responsible for the election meddling. He said he meant to say “wouldn’t,” not “would.”

But here is what he said Monday, without notes, as he stood beside the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, on that and other subjects. We invite you to read the president’s own words and decide for yourself what he really thinks.

Washington Post, Trump, under fire after Putin summit, calls meeting ‘even better’ than NATO, John Wagner​, July 17, 2018. President Trump on Tuesday portrayed his widely panned summit with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin as a great success, saying that it had gone “even better” than a meeting with NATO allies the week before.

In a morning tweet, the president blamed the media for negative coverage of a joint news conference Monday with Putin, after which Trump was criticized by members of both parties for siding with the Russian leader over U.S. intelligence officials.

“While I had a great meeting with NATO, raising vast amounts of money, I had an even better meeting with Vladimir Putin of Russia,” Trump wrote, referring to his efforts to increase defense spending by U.S. allies. “Sadly, it is not being reported that way – the Fake News is going Crazy!”

A growing number of Republicans have called on President Trump to take swift action to limit the damage of his widely panned news conference with Vladimir Putin. Trump will speak to reporters about the summit this afternoon before a meeting with lawmakers, the White House said.

washington post logovladimir putin o wWashington Post, In the battle for nonverbal dominance, Putin was the clear winner, experts say, William Wan, July 17, 2018. The Russian president’s agile hop onto the podium (vs. President Trump’s lumbering walk), his animated gestures and the way he often disregarded the audience when speaking drew the attention of experts.

It’s hard to tell if Trump was deliberately late to his meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May a few days ago, James said, “but it seemed to lead to her lukewarm trait of greeting him from her doorstep at [her country residence] Chequers rather than rushing forward as he got out from his car.”

Similarly, Trump and Putin seemed to be competing to see who could keep whom waiting on Monday, with Putin ultimately showing up an hour late to the summit.

washington post logoWashington Post, Maria Butina, Russian gun rights advocate, charged in U.S. with acting as Russian Federation agent, Tom Jackman and Rosalind S. Helderman, July 17, 2018 (print edition). A Russian national with alleged ties to a top Russian official was charged in federal court in Washington Monday with conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation, and was ordered held without bond.

fbi logoMaria Butina, 29, was arrested Sunday in the District and made her first appearance in U.S. District Court before Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson. Her attorney, Robert Neil Driscoll, told the judge that Butina’s residence was searched by the FBI in April, that she had testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee in a closed session several months ago, and that “we have been offering to cooperate with the government the entire time.”

maria butina headshotButina (shown at left) did not speak during the brief hearing other than to state her name. A detention hearing and preliminary hearing were set for Wednesday.

The charges against Butina come days after the Justice Department unveiled an indictment against 12 Russian intelligence officers for allegedly conspiring to hack Democrats in 2016 and just hours after President Trump cast doubt on Russia’s involvement in an extraordinary joint news conference with President Putin.

Butina (shown also in a photo taken at a 2014 appearance) is accused of developing relationships with American politicians and a “gun rights organization,” none of which are named in the affidavit supporting the criminal complaint. FBI Special Agent Kevin Helson wrote that Butina was attempting to “establish a ‘back channel’ communication for representatives of the Government of Russia.”

dana rohrabacher oPalmer Report, Opinion: Dana Rohrabacher is officially screwed – and other Republicans in Congress are going down with him, Bill Palmer, July 17, 2018. Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, right, has been openly loyal to Russia for decades.

Now we have confirmation that this is not just some weird abstract fanboyism on Rohrabacher’s part, as he’s been caught up in the indictment and arrest of Russian political operative Maria Butina.

Rohrabacher [a former Reagan White House speech writer and special assistant representing California’s Orange County in Congress] is, to put it in layman’s terms, screwed.

But Rohrabacher is not the only GOP member caught up in the Butina indictment. The paperwork in the Butina case reveals that during the election, “key leaders” of the Republican Party had a backchannel with the Kremlin through the NRA.

Background On Related Story

maria butina with gun ad

Butina at the 2014 NRA convention in Indianapolis VK page

Mother Jones, The Very Strange Case of Two Russian Gun Lovers, the NRA, and Donald Trump, Denise Clifton and Mark Follman, March 1, 2018 for May/June 2018 Issue. Here’s what we uncovered about an odd pair from Moscow who cultivated the Trump campaign.

For more than a year, reports have trickled out about deepening ties among prominent members of the National Rifle Association, conservative Republicans, a budding gun-rights movement in Russia—and their convergence in the Trump campaign.

nra logo CustomNow attention is focused around a middle-aged Russian central bank official and a photogenic young gun activist from Siberia who share several passions: posing with assault rifles, making connections with Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates, and publicizing their travels between Moscow and America on social media.

Alexander Torshin and his protégé Maria Butina also share an extraordinary status with America’s largest gun lobbying group, according to Torshin: “Today in NRA (USA) I know only 2 people from the Russian Federation with the status of ‘Life Member’: Maria Butina and I,” he tweeted the day after Donald Trump was elected president.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump Shows the World He’s Putin’s Lackey, Michelle Goldberg, July 17, 2018 (print edition). Maybe the president is exactly as compromised as he looks. No matter how low your expectations for the summit between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin on Monday, it was hard not to be staggered by the American president’s slavish and toadying performance.

Trump, Putin Respond Via Fox News

fox news logo SmallFox News, Trump fires back at Helsinki summit critics; Putin calls Russian meddling charges ‘ridiculous,’ Staff report, July 17, 2018. In exclusive interview with FOX News’ Sean Hannity, President Trump defends his controversial comments at his post-summit news conference with Vladimir Putin, saying Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation has driven a ‘phony wedge’ between the U.S. and Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin denies having dirt on Trump, calls charges of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election ‘utterly ridiculous’ in exclusive interview with FOX News’ Chris Wallace.

  • Anti-Trump FBI lovebird Lisa Page was grilled by House Republican lawmakers for a second day behind closed doors on Monday
  • Alabama voters will decide a primary runoff election Tuesday between former Trump critic GOP Rep. Martha Roby and former Rep. Bobby Bright, a Democrat-turned-Trump Republican
  • Showtime is denying accusations of ‘stolen valor’ from Sarah Palin and other critics who say satirist Sasha Baron Cohen posed a disabled military veteran to trick them in his new cable series

fox news logo SmallFox News, Putin denies having dirt on Trump, calls meddling charge ‘utterly ridiculous’ in Fox News interview, Alex Pappas, July 16, 2018. Russian President Vladimir Putin, in an occasionally combative interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, called it “utterly ridiculous” that some people think the Russians could have swayed millions of American voters in the 2016 election, while insisting his country did not have dirt on President Trump or his family.

“Interference with the domestic affairs of the United States — do you really believe that someone acting from the Russian territory could have influenced the United States and influenced the choice of millions of Americans?” Putin said. “This is utterly ridiculous.”

The Russian president sat down for the interview airing on “Special Report” Monday after his summit earlier in the day with President Trump and other U.S. officials in Helsinki, Finland. Trump has faced harsh bipartisan criticism back home for his press conference with Putin, with lawmakers claiming Trump missed a key chance to “stand up” to the Russian president on election meddling.

“First of all, Russia, as a state, has never interfered with the internal affairs of the United States, let alone its elections,” Putin replied.

Putin also denied having “kompromat” — or “compromising material” — on Trump. Earlier Monday, after Putin and Trump’s joint news conference, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California claimed Trump’s “weakness in front of Putin… proves that the Russians have something on the president, personally, financially or politically.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Fox News’s Chris Wallace gives Putin the grilling Trump won’t, Aaron Blake, July 17, 2018 (print edition). The interview turned heated at points, with the news anchor clearly frustrated by the Russian president’s trademark filibustering and Putin clearly frustrated by a journalist actually challenging him.

Reporter Arrested At Summit

The Nation, I Came as a Journalist to Ask Important Questions, Sam Husseini, July 17, 2018. If I hadn’t been forcibly ejected from the Trump-Putin press conference, here’s what I would have asked.

I came to Helsinki to ask Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin questions about the threat of nuclear weapons and to distribute an open letter about the need for secure elections and true national security. Instead, I was dragged out of their press conference before it even began and into a Finnish jail.

I was taken to a small room downstairs where I was told that Finnish law allows for police to detain me for 24 hours without charge. They did not allow me access to my phone or other possessions, and they forced me to give up my press badge, which I later got back. I was then taken to a detention facility. As I was moved outside, I hollered to onlookers, “This is freedom of press in Finland!”

At that point, officers started tackling me to the ground, and my legs and hands were cuffed. At the detention facility, I was asked more questions and laid out the facts of what had happened. I was released around midnight.

Global Human Rights​

The IndicterThe Indicter, Court Grants Julian Assange Freedom Just As U.S. Ramps Up Claims, Andrew Kreig, July 17, 2018. A major international human rights body has ordered the United Kingdom to free WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for safe passage out of the kingdom — just when it seemed likely that the UK and other Western powers were on the verge seizing Assange on old charges and possibly major new ones.

Ruling on a petition brought by Ecuador, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights announced on July 12 a so-far little-reported ruling that political asylum in a nation’s foreign embassy — as Ecuador has granted Assange in London for six years — carries also a right of safe passage out of a country, as in Assange’s situation.

The Indicter is Stockholm-based independent monthly magazine on geopolitical & human rights issues, founded November 2015 by Prof. Marcello Ferrada de Noli. Andrew Kreig is an associate editor. Vol 4, N°32, July 2018 issue.

Syrian War

Reuters via New York Times, Syrian Army Says It Captures Strategic Hill Overlooking Israeli Border, Staff report, July 17, 2018. The Syrian army and its allies have taken control of a strategic hill overlooking the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights as it pushes forward with an offensive to seize the remaining parts of the southwest from rebels, state TV and rebels said on Monday.

It said the army had taken control of al-Haara hill on the second day of an offensive to take back the last parts of southwest Syria in Quneitra province that are in rebel hands and are close to the border with Israel. The hilltop, which had a major anti-aircraft radar base that was part of elaborate Syrian army defenses against Israel, and is the highest ground in Deraa province, fell into rebel hands in October 2014.

It has been heavily bombed by Russian and Syrian army raids in the past two days as the army has moved closer to the Israeli border after gaining control of most of Deraa province to the east in a push that began last June, according to rebels and a war monitor.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Michael Cohen takes conspicuous new shot at Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, July 17, 2018. Shortly after the michael cohen ap file croppedDonald Trump debacle played out on live national television, Cohen (shown at right) – who rarely posts anything to Twitter, decided to tweet this: “As I said to ABC’s@George Stephanopoulos, ‘I respect our nation’s intelligence agencies who determined that Russia, had in fact, interfered or meddled in our democratic process. I repudiate Russia’s effort…and call on all Americans to do the same.’”

This is consistent with Michael Cohen’s ongoing insistence that he’s not a traitor. He hasn’t attempted to publicly defend himself against the numerous white collar criminal charges he’s facing, but he keeps trying to distance himself from Donald Trump’s Russia scandal. So where does this leave Cohen? He’ll be indicted and arrested before much longer if he doesn’t hurry up and cut a deal first. All the words in the world won’t prevent him from seeing handcuffs.

U.S. Consumer News: Rural Care

ny times logoNew York Times, The Baby’s Coming. But the Hospital Is 100 Miles Away, Jack Healy, July 17, 2018 (print edition). After years of cost-cutting and closures, fewer than half of rural counties in the United States now have a hospital that offers any obstetric care, researchers say.

A few hours after the only hospital in town shut its doors forever, Kela Abernathy bolted awake at 4:30 a.m., screaming in pain. Oh God, she remembered thinking, it’s the twins. They were not due for another two months. But the contractions seizing Ms. Abernathy’s lower back early that June morning told her that her son and daughter were coming. Now.

Ms. Abernathy, 21, staggered out of bed and yelled for her mother, Lynn, who had been lying awake on the living-room couch. They grabbed a few bags, scooped up Ms. Abernathy’s 2-year-old son and were soon hurtling across this poor patch of southeast Missouri in their Pontiac Bonneville, racing for help. The old hospital used to be around the corner. Now, her new doctor and hospital were nearly 100 miles away.

Medical help is growing dangerously distant for women in rural America. At least 85 rural hospitals — about 5 percent of the country’s total — have closed since 2010, and obstetric care has faced even starker cutbacks as rural hospitals calculate the hard math of survival, weighing the cost of providing 24/7 delivery services against dwindling birthrates, doctor and nursing shortages and falling revenues.

Today, researchers estimate that fewer than half of the country’s rural counties still have a hospital that offers obstetric care, an absence that adds to the obstacles rural women face in getting health care. Specialists are increasingly clustered in bigger cities. Clinics that provide abortions, long-term birth control and other reproductive services have been forced to close in many smaller towns.

“It’s scary,” said Katie Penn, who said she was rejected by eight doctors before finding an obstetrician in Jonesboro, Ark., about an hour from Kennett. “You never know what can happen.”

#MeToo Claims

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘I Just Simply Did What He Wanted,’ Emily Kassie, July 17, 2018 (print edition) (9:30 min. video). Immigrant detention has been expanding, increasing the risk of sexual assault. Two women told us their stories of being sexually abused by guards while in U.S. immigration custody.

ap logoAssociated Press via New York Times, Lawsuit Alleges USA Diving Ignored Sex Abuse of Divers, July 16, 2018. Two former divers are suing USA Diving, accusing the national governing body of ignoring or obstructing inquiries into allegations that a coach sexually abused them when they were young athletes dreaming of Olympic glory.

The federal lawsuit, filed last week, names Indianapolis-based USA Diving, Inc., the Ohio State University Diving Club and Will Bohonyi. The suit alleges that Bohonyi, who had coached at the Ohio State University Diving Club and was fired in 2014, coerced and forced the divers into frequent sex, telling them, “You owe me this,” The Indianapolis Star reported.

July 16

Reaction To ‘Treason Summit’

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: If you work for Trump, quit now, Ruth Marcus (Deputy editorial page editor), July 16, 2018. Everyone who works for President Trump: Quit now. Save your souls. Save your honor, such as it is. Save your reputation, such as it remains.

Russia attacked our democracy. Trump has demonstrated repeatedly, and did so again with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, that he doesn’t care and won’t defend his country.

If you work for this man and you call yourself a patriot, it is time for you to go.

This may sound excessive, even irresponsible. Indeed, for months I have agonized over the question of public service in the age of Trump.

Of course, as a general matter, it is better to have more grown-ups around Trump, mitigating his worst impulses, providing wisdom born of experience to counter his ignorance and petulance. But that assessment assumes facts not in evidence: that Trump is educable or containable. Actually, it contravenes the available evidence. There is none that Trump has done anything but what Trump wants to do. Monday’s news conference made that clear.

Inside DC: Sinclair Media

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washington post logoWashington Post, FCC chairman expresses ‘serious concerns’ about Sinclair-Tribune merger, Brian Fung​, July 16, 2018. Ajit Pai signaled Thursday that he may seek to block Sinclair Broadcast Group’s proposed purchase of Tribune Media stations, a merger that would create one of the largest TV companies in the United States.

ajit pai headshot customSinclair Broadcasting’s proposed $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media has raised “serious concerns” at the Federal Communications Commission about the amount of control the combined company would have over the U.S. television market, said Ajit Pai, the agency’s chairman.

Pai said Monday that he intends to send key parts of the deal to review by an administrative law judge, which is typically the first step the FCC takes when it seeks to block a deal.

The merger would consolidate Sinclair’s position as a major conservative broadcasting entity, adding dozens of media stations to its roster. Its original merger proposal, if approved, would have given Sinclair access to 72 percent of television households in America, far surpassing a national ownership cap of 39 percent.

Press Freedom: Myanmar

ny times logoNew York Times, Jailed Reporter in Myanmar Challenges Prosecution’s Version of His Arrest, Mike Ives, July 16, 2018. The journalist, U Wa Lone, and his colleague, U Kyaw Soe Oo, each face up to 14 years in prison under Myanmar’s colonial-era Official Secrets Act if convicted.

A Reuters reporter jailed for months by Myanmar’s government has challenged the prosecution’s account of how he and a colleague were arrested, the latest twist in a closely watched trial that highlights the government’s tense relationship with the news media.

The testimony on Monday by the journalist, U Wa Lone, came more than half a year after he and a Reuters colleague were arrested in Yangon, Myanmar’s major city, while investigating violence against the persecuted Rohingya ethnic minority, Reuters reported. It was the first time the defense had a chance to present its case to the court.

The prosecution has said the two reporters were detained during a routine traffic stop, Reuters reported. But Mr. Wa Lone told a Yangon court on Monday that the arrest occurred after he and his colleague, U Kyaw Soe Oo, met two police officers in a Yangon restaurant.Mr. Wa Lone said that one of the officers, Naing Lin, had arranged a meeting for the same day, insisting that it was urgent because he was about to be reassigned to another region.

Trade War Update

washington post logoWashington Post, Europe, casting itself as peacemaker, urges China and U.S. to halt trade war, Danielle Paquette​, July 16, 2018. “There is still time to prevent conflict and chaos,” European Council President Donald Tusk said at a summit between China and the European Union.

More Reaction To Trump’s Summit

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New York Magazine, Opinion: At Summit With Russia, Trump Betrays His Country in Plain Sight, Jonathan Chait, July 16, 2018. tanding next to Vladimir Putin, after a meeting Putin had requested, President Trump was asked by a reporter if he believed the findings of his own intelligence agencies that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election.

He began by floating unfounded accusations that the FBI had ignored his opponent’s misdeeds. Then he proceeded to express his doubts. “All I can do is ask the question,” said Trump. “My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me, they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia. I’ll say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

Trump told the world he trusts the denial of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin — the very man who did the deed! — over his own government’s intelligence. Trump can’t think of a reason why Putin would have interfered in the election.

The fact that Russia has interfered in multiple elections, the fact its propaganda arm had broadcast its preference for Trump, the fact American intelligence concluded Russia intervened, that Robert Mueller has produced multiple indictments detailing evidence of this interference, all mean less to him than Putin’s say-so. Putin admitted at this press conference he wanted Trump to win.

My recent story argues that we have underestimated the possibility that the Russia scandal is much worse than it looks, that the depth and extent of the president’s covert ties to Russia might run deeper and longer than many people expect.

Even for those of us harboring serious suspicions about this, Trump’s performance in Helsinki was stunning. I expected some artifice, some superficial gestures of Trumpian independence, perhaps some finger-wagging for show at Russia’s naughty behavior, and assurances it would not recur. What transpired instead was far worse, and far more blatant. Trump is engaged in an act of open betrayal against his own country.

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Above, the front page of the New York Daily News for July 17, 2018

The Hill, Ex-CIA director calls Trump’s press conference with Putin ‘treasonous,’ Aris Folley, July 16, 2018. Former CIA Director John Brennan (shown below in his Twitter photo) on Monday blasted President Trump shortly after his press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes & misdemeanors,’ ” Brennan said on Twitter.

john brennan twitter“It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin,” the former CIA head continued (emphasis added). “Republican Patriots: Where are you???”

Trump condemned special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe as “ridiculous” during his press conference and slammed the suggestion that Russian meddling played any role in his winning the 2016 presidential election.

“The probe is a disaster for our country. I think it’s kept us separated. There was no collusion at all. Everybody knows it,” Trump said just days after Mueller indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers for hacking Democratic servers during the 2016 campaign.

Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump and Putin end historic summit that Trump says ‘changed’ bad relations, Philip Rucker, Anton Troianovski and Seung Min Kim, July 16, 2018. President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin concluded their first formal one-one-one summit here Monday, a high-stakes meeting that Trump said “went very well” and changed relations that had never been worse.

Appearing at a joint news conference with Putin after the talks in the Finnish capital ended, Trump said in opening remarks that he and Putin discussed their disagreements “at length.” He added: “Our relationship has never been worse than it is now. However, that changed, as of about four hours ago.”

He said he also “spent a great deal of time” talking about Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The summit began hours after Trump blamed his own country, rather than Russia, for the hostilities between their two nations.

Speaking first at the news conference, Putin said the talks took place “in a frank and businesslike atmosphere,” adding: “I think we can call it a success.” He said that although bilateral relations have been “going through a complicated stage,” there was “no solid reason” for that. “The Cold War is a thing of the past,” he said.

He added later that Trump “mentioned the so-called interference of Russia in the American election” in 2016. Putin again denied any involvement by the Russian state and said any evidence of interference can be analyzed through a joint working group on cybersecurity.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Disgraceful,’ ‘shameful’: Trump’s defense of Putin finds few supporters in Congress, Michael Scherer, July 16, 2018. Republicans — including some who usually avoid criticizing the president — joined with Democrats to upbraid him.

republican elephant logoWithin hours of the event’s conclusion, Republicans had joined Democrats in criticizing the president’s comments. Many more in the president’s party reasserted the findings of Russian culpability, distancing themselves from their leader.

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, How Deep Is Your Knowledge of the Deep State? Staff report, July 16, 2018. Blame it on the Deep State! This is what politicians do when they get in trouble. It helps that people don’t really know what they’re talking about. While the term is now common — and commonly abused — WhoWhatWhy has been exploring this fascinating topic for years.

However, for every real example of unelected government officials or groups of people taking matters into their own hands, there are also many cases in which the “Deep State” is blamed for the most ridiculous things.

A perfect example is the case of Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who is accused of having turned a blind eye to sexual abuse and harassment at the Ohio State University wrestling program when he was a coach there.

One of his supporters, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) asserted last week that this was somehow the work of the Deep State, as though sexual abuse of wrestlers 30 years ago was some sort of conspiracy to bring down a coach later in life if that coach ever ended up in Congress.

Clearly there is still some confusion as to what the “Deep State” is.

Trump Watch

Palmer Report, Opinion: New development in Paul Manafort court proceedings suggests he may be negotiating plea deal, Bill Palmer, July 16, 2018. Believe it or not, court proceedings in the Paul Manafort case have been moving forward at a swift pace by traditional glacially slow federal court standards. That’s both because Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been pushing for things to move swiftly, and because one of Manafort’s two federal trials is taking place in a district with a reputation for moving quickly. Now suddenly, with no reason given, there’s a one-week delay in the Manafort proceedings.

This sudden delay, coming out of nowhere, was reported by Rachel Maddow on Monday night on MSNBC. As she pointed out, there are a few different possible reasons that such a delay would be granted without any formal reason stated. But the most logical, and arguably the most likely, would be that Manafort is negotiating a plea deal. We’ll see if that ends up being the case. But a few recent developments would explain why Manafort would choose now to finally cut a deal.

Trump-Putin Preview

In hosting a meeting with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, at the White House last year, President Trump barred the U.S. media from attending while he disclosed classified information, according to later reports. Much of the news, including the photo above showing also Russia’s ambassador to the United States (at right), came from Russian sources or leaks. Photo: Alexander Shcherbak/TASS.

All staff and other witnesses, except possibly a translator, are barred from Trump’s meeting with Russian Premier Vladimir Puter in Finland on July 16, 2018. 

washington post logoWashington Post, Ahead of meeting with Putin, Trump faults U.S. ‘stupidity’ for poor relations with Russia, Philip Rucker, Anton Troianovski and Seung Min Kim, July 16, 2018. President Trump’s comments, which he tweeted before his one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, were in sync with Moscow’s view that Obama-era policies and the Justice Department’s probe into election interference have inflamed tensions between the countries.

Trump Watch: ‘Witch Hunt?’

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Yes, special investigations can be witch hunts. The Mueller probe is not one, Nelson W. Cunningham, July 16, 2018 (print edition). President Trump and his allies have made much of the fact that 13 lawyers working for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III are Democratic voters or contributors. Almost all of them are career Justice Department employees who, like most in the D.C. and New York areas, seem to lean to the left.

This has understandably raised questions about their ability to be fair. But do you remember the 36 Angry Republicans who preceded them?

ken starr wBefore there was Mueller, there was Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel tasked with investigating President Bill Clinton over of the course of five years. Those Angry Republicans worked for him.

Starr (shown at left) started with the Whitewater land deal and Vince Foster’s suicide, and over more than five years also investigated the travel office firings, the handling of FBI files and the Monica Lewinsky scandal, for which Starr ultimately recommended that Congress consider Clinton’s impeachment.

The lesson from the Starr investigation is that the political makeup of independent investigations does matter — as do the checks and balances that can serve to keep such investigations from becoming a “witch hunt.” Unfortunately for Trump, it’s much harder to make the case that the Mueller investigation is improperly balanced against him than the Starr investigation was against Clinton.

Mueller himself is not only a registered Republican, but few can match his record of Republican presidential service, which includes senior appointments under Presidents Reagan, Bush 41 and Bush 43.

Nelson W. Cunningham served as general counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee under then-chair Joseph Biden and as general counsel of the White House Office of Administration under President Clinton. He is now president of McLarty Associates, a global strategy firm.

Assange Ruling: Reprint of JIP Report

The 5th Estate (Indonesia), Court Grants Assange Freedom Just As U.S. Ramps Up Attack, Andrew Kreig, July 15, 2018.

#MeToo Scandals

ny times logotheodore mccarrickNew York Times, Ousted U.S. Cardinal Left a Trail of Abused Recruits, Laurie Goodstein and Sharon Otterman, July 16, 2018. Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, right, was removed from ministry last month for sexually abusing an altar boy. But for decades, the church overlooked his harassment of adult seminarians.

As a young man studying to be a priest in the 1980s, Robert Ciolek was flattered when his brilliant, charismatic bishop in Metuchen, N.J., Theodore E. McCarrick, told him he was a shining star, cut out to study in Rome and rise high in the church.

Bishop McCarrick began inviting him on overnight trips, sometimes alone and sometimes with other young men training to be priests. There, the bishop would often assign Mr. Ciolek to share his room, which had only one bed. The two men would sometimes say night prayers together, before Bishop McCarrick would make a request — “come over here and rub my shoulders a little”— that extended into unwanted touching in bed.

July 15

ny times logovladimir putin o wNew York Times, Just by Meeting With Trump, Putin Comes Out Ahead, Andrew Higgins and Neil MacFarquhar, July 15, 2018.  When President Vladimir V. Putin (right) of Russia sits down with President Trump in Helsinki, Finland, on Monday he will already have accomplished virtually everything he could reasonably hope for.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘I hadn’t thought’ of asking Putin to extradite indicted Russian agents, Trump says, Seung Min Kim, July 15, 2018. The president also tried to set expectations for his one-on-one meeting with Russia’s Vladimir Putin in a new CBS interview.

washington post logoWashington Post, For Mueller, pushing to finish parts of probe, question of U.S. involvement remains, Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky, Carol D. Leonnig and Shane Harris, July 15, 2018 (print edition). As Robert S. Mueller III attempts to resolve whether any Americans were involved in the conspiracy to interfere with the 2016 election — and whether President Trump has sought to obstruct the probe — there are signs that he is moving to finish a big part of his work by summer’s end.

robert mueller full face fileIn a 29-page indictment Friday, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III (right) blamed specific officers in the Russian government for the 2016 hacking of Democrats, answering one of his investigation’s central questions while highlighting another he must still explain: Were any Americans involved in the conspiracy to interfere in the race for the White House?

GOP Sex Police Hypocritally Defend Trump

peter strozk lisa page

FBI counter-intelligence supervisor Peter Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, above, have been interrogated by a GOP-led House investigation, including 10 hours of public hearings on July 13 against Strzok.

washington post logodana milbank CustomWashington Post, Opinion: It’s clear why Republicans interrogated Peter Strzok, Dana Milbank (right), July 15, 2018 (print edition). But by all means let’s hear more about the affair.

They stuck with Donald Trump when he was heard, on video, boasting about sexually assaulting women. They stuck with him still when he acknowledged paying hush money to a porn actress who alleged an affair.

republican elephant logoBut this week, congressional Republicans, determined to discredit the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, hauled in FBI agent Peter Strzok and sought to humiliate him over anti-Trump texts he exchanged with his mistress, FBI lawyer Lisa Page.

“I can’t help wonder,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.), “when I see you looking there with a little smirk, how many times did you look so innocent into your wife’s eye and lie to her about Lisa Page?”

The purpose of interrogating Strzok for 10 hours Thursday (after 11 hours in a private session) was clear: ritual humiliation.

In fairness, the vast majority condemned Strzok over his texts to his lover without invoking the affair. But then there was Rep. Karen Handel (R-Ga.), picking up where Gohmert left off. “Engaging in the kind of behavior that you have been engaging in, especially with scott desJarlais othe extramarital affair, it opens up an agent to exploitation and even blackmail,” she proclaimed.

If Republicans really want to go there, they’ll need to investigate the vulnerabilities of some of Strzok’s inquisitors on their glass-house committee:

Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.), who needled Strzok about “text messages with your friend.” DesJarlais (above right), according to divorce filings, had multiple extramarital affairs and encouraged his ex-wife and a patient with whom he had an affair to get abortions.

mark meadows small customRep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who has been under investigation by the House Ethics Committee over payments to a former staffer accused of sexual harassment. Other members of the panel are Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.), who was sentenced last year to community service and anger-management classes for assaulting a reporter, and Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), whose infidelity as governor of South Carolina made national headlines.

blake farenthold with bunny customJudging Strzok also would have been Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.), but he recently resigned after revelation of a taxpayer-funded sexual harassment settlement. (Farenthold, dressed in duck pajamas, is shown in a photo taken at the “Abyss” nightclub.)

And there’s Gohmert himself, who defended Jordan against the wrestlers’ allegations and who remained on Trump’s leadership team through the “Access Hollywood” scandal.

Caged Child Immigrants

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘They told us to behave, or we’d be here forever’: Children describe bleak days in shelters, Michael E. Miller, July 15, 2018. Under court order, federal officials have begun to return the more than 2,500 immigrant children taken from their parents weeks or months ago under the Trump administration’s short-lived family separation policy. Federal judge calls Friday filing by HHS ‘cover’ for its failings in reunification process.

Sports / Entertainment

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washington post logoWashington Post, As sun sets on glorious World Cup, France-Croatia final is one last chance to shine, Steven Goff, July 15, 2018 (print edition). France has won championships at every level of men’s soccer. Croatia, a small, young nation that has manufactured a disproportionate number of world-class players, has won exactly nothing.

Media: Global Propaganda Wars

washington post logoWashington Post, Papers stolen in Israeli raid reveal the extent of Iran’s past weapons research, Joby Warrick​, July 15, 2018. New details from a trove of Iranian nuclear documents stolen by Israeli spies early this year show that Tehran obtained explicit weapons-design information from a foreign source and was on the cusp of mastering key bomb-making technologies when the research was ordered halted 15 years ago.

Trade Wars: Ivanka Factor

ny times logoNew York Times, Major Chain in Canada Pulls Ivanka Trump’s Clothing, Ian Austen, July 15, 2018. Canada’s largest full-line department store chain, the Hudson’s Bay Company, has pulled clothing, shoes and other merchandise bearing Ivanka Trump’s fashion brand from its website and said it would wind down their sale in its stores across the country.

The move by the retailer, which also owns Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor in the United States, comes at a time when many Canadians say they are boycotting American products because of President Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum as well as his repeated insults of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The decision to drop the brand was reportedly made last fall.

More than 2,000 Canadians responded to a recent request from The New York Times for their reaction to Mr. Trump’s actions with a mix of anger, betrayal, bafflement and sadness. Many of those people said they would go out of their way to keep American products off their shopping lists.

Media: White House Punishes CNN

cnn logoThe Hill, White House: We canceled Bolton’s interview with CNN after network’s Acosta ‘disrespected’ Trump, Morgan Gstalter, July 14, 2018. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Saturday that the White House decided to cancel an interview between CNN and national security adviser John Bolton after a CNN reporter “disrespected” President Trump earlier this week.

CNN’s “State of the Union” host Jake Tapper on Saturday tweeted that the White House intervened and canceled a scheduled interview with Bolton who “remains fully prepared to do the interview” on Sunday.

“Actually a @CNN reporter disrespected @POTUS & PM May during their press conference,” Sanders tweeted in response. “Instead of rewarding bad behavior, we decided to reprioritize the TV appearances for administration officials.”

sarah huckabee sanders screenshotSanders (shown in a file photo) was referring to Trump’s refusal to take questions from the network on Friday during an international press conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Trump lashed out at the network after CNN reporter Jim Acosta tried to ask him a question.“CNN is fake news. I don’t take questions from CNN,” Trump responded.

Trump Watch: Roger Stone Rebuttals

roger stone hands waving no credit from stone cold Custom

Stone Cold Truth, Opinion: Statement of Roger Stone on Russian indictment, Roger Stone (shown above in photo from his website), July 14, 2018. “This indictment is exoneration.”

As I testified before the House Intelligence Committee under oath, my 24-word exchange with someone on Twitter claiming to be Guccifer 2.0 is benign based on its content, context, and timing.

This exchange is entirely public and provides no evidence of collaboration or collusion with Guccifer 2.0 or anyone else in the alleged hacking of the DNC emails, as well as taking place many weeks after the events described in today’s indictment and after Wikileaks had already published the DNC material.

The indictment does not allege or even allude that I was part of this alleged hacking nor does it allege or allude to me having anything to do with getting the allegedly hacked material to WikiLeaks.

The indictments announced show I did not conspire with any of the defendants to do the alleged hacking, distribute the allegedly stolen emails or aid them in any way.

See related video below from InfoWars interview by Harrison Smith, July 13, 2018 (11:57 min. video).

 July 14

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Above, the logo of the Russian intelligence service GRU 

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ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Indicts 12 Russian Officials in 2016 Hacking of Democrats, Eileen Sullivan and Katie Benner, July 14, 2018 (print edition). Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, on Friday announced new charges against 12 Russian intelligence officers accused of hacking the Democratic National Committee, the Clinton presidential campaign and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Hillary Clinton ButtonThe announcement came just a few days before President Trump is expected to meet with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in Helsinki, Finland.

robert mueller full face fileThe 11-count indictment includes charges of conspiracy by the Russian intelligence officials against the United States, money laundering and attempts to break into state boards of elections and other government agencies.

The indictment is part of the investigation of Special counsel Robert Mueller (shown at right) into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

The 29-page indictment is here.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Indictment lands at a really awkward moment for Trump, Amber Phillips​, July 14, 2018 (print edition). The development in the Russia investigation — coming days before a planned summit with Vladimir Putin — could force President Trump’s hand on something he has seemed loathe to do: Confront the Russian leader about election meddling.

The timing of the newest indictment in the special counsel’s Russia investigation couldn’t be better for President Trump’s opponents — or more inconvenient for Trump and his allies.

Russian FlagFriday’s indictment of 12 Russian spies, who are accused of hacking Democrats during the campaign, could blunt any positive results Trump’s allies thought they had gleaned from Thursday’s contentious congressional hearing about alleged FBI bias in the Russia investigation.

vladimir putin o wTrump is gearing up for a meeting Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin (right). This indictment could force his hand on something he has seemed loathe to do: confront Putin about election interference.

Meanwhile, these 12 new charges prove that the special counsel’s Russia investigation is very real — not a “witch hunt” as the president has claimed. It brings the total indictments to 32 people, most of whom are either Russians or Trump campaign officials or people with ties to the Trump campaign.

And Friday’s indictments come a day after some on the left found a new spokesman for protecting the FBI from Republican attacks, beleaguered FBI agent Peter Strzok.

Trump Backtracks On NATO, May

djt queen melania 7 13 18

Queen Elizabeth hosted President Trump and his wife Melania after Trump insulted the U.K.’s prime minister, then gave a qualified apology while also denouncing a taped interview by the Murdoch-owned Sun as “fake news”

ny times logotheresa may newer fileNew York Times, With May’s Government Teetering, Trump Gives It a Shove, Stephen Castle and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, July 14, 2018 (print edition). President Trump publicly undercut Prime Minister Theresa May in a remarkable breach of protocol just hours after landing in her country. In an interview with The Sun, Mr. Trump criticized how Mrs. May has handled Brexit negotiations. “She didn’t listen to me,” he said.

djt theresa may sun front page 7 13 18 Small

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump, In UK, Denies Critical Remarks About Its Leader, Staff report, July 14, 2018 (print edition). President Trump and Prime Minister Theresa May worked to avoid a political crisis after a bombshell interview in which Mr. Trump criticized the British leader on several fronts, most notably her approach to the British withdrawal from the European Union.

United Kingdom flagThe president has never shown much affection for diplomatic norms and multilateral institutions, as he demonstrated at the NATO summit meeting this week, but Mrs. May chose to nurture the “special relationship” rather than allow the remarks to fracture it. Here’s the latest:

• Mr. Trump sat down for talks with Mrs. May, and the two held a news conference in which they tried to restore a sense of unity after the devastating interview with the British tabloid The Sun. Tea with the queen will come later.

• Mr. Trump, having said that Mrs. May’s approach to Brexit, as the withdrawal is often called, would almost certainly imperil a trade deal that Britain badly wants, said that ties between the two countries were at the “highest level of special” and that she was doing a “fantastic job.”

Picking Press Favorites

cnn logoThe Hill, Trump: I don’t take questions from CNN, Brett Samuels, July14, 2018 (print edition). President Trump on Friday at an international press conference lashed out at CNN, declaring that he would not take questions from the network.

CNN correspondent Jim Acosta attempted to interject with a question during a press conference with Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May. After criticizing CNN, Pres. Trump declines to take a question from a CNN reporter at joint presser with Theresa May. “CNN is fox news logo Smallfake news. I don’t take questions from CNN.”

Pres. Trump then called on a Fox News reporter: “Let’s go to a real network.” 


Supreme Court Watch

ny times logoNew York Times, Influential Judge, Conservative Warrior — and D.C. Insider, Scott Shane, Steve Eder, Rebecca R. Ruiz, Adam Liptak, Charlie Savage and Ben Protess, July 14, 2018.  The carefully crafted narrative around Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, plays down his legacy as a charter member of elite Washington.

When Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh introduced himself to the American people on Monday, with a beaming President Trump beside him, he had a lot to say about his mother, a former high school teacher and a Maryland judge. He accorded his father strikingly less attention — just 34 words, compared with 132 about his mother — mentioning his “unparalleled work ethic” while not saying exactly what work he did.

Yet Ed Kavanaugh’s career may shed light on his son’s hostility to government regulation, a major reason conservatives are so enthralled by his nomination to the Supreme Court. He spent more than two decades in Washington as a top lobbyist for the cosmetics industry, courting Congress and combating regulations from the Food and Drug Administration and other agencies. (Among his hires for legal work: John G. Roberts Jr., now the chief justice.)

U.S. Politics / Media

matt gaetz o CustomThe Hill, GOP lawmaker thinks he was duped by Sacha Baron Cohen, Avery Anapol, July 14, 2018. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said this week that he was likely duped by Sacha Baron Cohen in an interview earlier this year.

Gaetz (shown at right) told the Daily Beast that he thinks Cohen may have tricked him into an interview about Israel and asked him to endorse weapons systems. “They totally got me,” Gaetz told the Daily Beast on Friday night. He originally told the publication that he was not “aware” of an incident involving Cohen.

July 13

DOJ Russia Indictments

rod rosenstein indict russians 7 13 2018 screeengrab

Dep. Attorney Gen. Rod Rosenstein announces the federal indictment of 12 Russian GRU officers on July 12 (screenshot)

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump persists in his push for friendly ties with Putin despite Russia indictments, Philip Rucker, July 13, 2018. After he was told about the indictments of a dozen Russian officers on hacking allegations, President Trump publicly repeated his frequent attacks on the integrity of the Russia probe and offered kind words for Russian President Vladi­mir Putin ahead of their meeting next week.

washington post logoWashington Post, Election system firm with Maryland contract has ties to Russian oligarch, FBI tells state, Ovetta Wiggins, July 13, 2018. Top state officials have asked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to help ensure that the state’s election system is secure after learning about the link.

rudy giuliani recentAlternative Views Of Russian Indictments

HuffPost, Opinion: Rudy Giuliani Claims New Mueller Indictments Absolve Trump In Laughable Tweet, David Moye, July 13, 2018. Giuliani said the new charges prove the president is “completely innocent.” Twitter disagrees.

Giuliani (right): “The indictments Rod Rosenstein announced are good news for all Americans. The Russians are nailed. No Americans are involved. Time for Mueller to end this pursuit of the President and say President Trump is completely innocent.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Now we know why so many Republicans in Congress aren’t even bothering to run for reelection, Bill Palmer, July 13, 2018. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has obtained indictments against twelve Russian government spies who hacked and stole Democratic Party secrets during the election and then strategically shared them. Aside from the timing, which is clearly aimed at disrupting the Trump-Putin summit, the most notable new revelation here is the involvement of a Republican congressional candidate.

Mueller’s indictments allege that the Russian government hackers gave [stolen documents] to an unnamed congressional candidate in the 2016 election. The Russians would not have hacked the Democrats and then given that information to a Democratic candidate, so we know that the candidate in question is a Republican. We’re working on narrowing down that list further, but the bottom line is this: the Russian government obviously wouldn’t have wanted just one Republican candidate to have those Democratic Party secrets.

So what really happened here? Did the Kremlin give the one Republican congressional candidate instructions to share the stolen data with other Republican candidates? Did the Kremlin tell the Trump campaign to share that data with Republican candidates it trusted? Those details will come out later, and Mueller has his reasons for keeping them under wraps for now. But the bottom line is that this is almost certainly leading up to a big reveal that several Republican candidates in 2016 – and quite possibly the Republican Party leadership itself – had its hands on Democratic Party secrets stolen by the Russians.

The implications here are astounding. Knowingly receiving stolen goods is a crime. It’s also a crime for a candidate to accept gifts of value from a foreign government. These are the easy cut-and-dry charges to prove, before getting to the headier criminal charges like conspiracy against the United States or treason.

LaRouchePAC Statement, Opinion: Mueller Issues Fake Indictment, Staff report, July 13, 2016. Desperate to head off a possible accommodation between President Trump and President Putin, which could result in a principled approach to a viable peace, the British, Robert Mueller, and the “resist” holdover forces in the U.S. intelligence community and news media have staged a trifecta of calculated information warfare operations within the last 24 hours to sabotage the summit.

Reached today, after conducting a quick review of Mueller’s indictment, former NSA Technical Director William Binney declared the document to be “a fabrication.”

“The only actual forensic investigations performed on available data regarding “hacks” of the DNC are independent investigations assessed and approved by a group of us at the Veterans Intelligence Professionals for Sanity,” Binney noted. (See, Intel Vets Challenge ‘Russia Hack’ Evidence, and A New Report Raises Big Questions About Last Year’s DNC Hack.)

william binneyBinney (shown in a file photo) continued:

The FBI never even bothered to examine the DNC computers, relying instead on the DNC and Atlantic Council cyber contractor Crowd Strike for its evidence. Our analysis demonstrated that the Guccifer II and DC Leaks personas were created inside the United States. Our analysis also fully demonstrated that the transfer of the information was consistent with a download to a thumb drive, not transmission over the internet.

Separate and apart from the VIPS analysis, Ray McGovern and I have consistently said that available data surrounding charges regarding ‘Russian hacking’ suggest that the CIA’s Vault 7 Cyber weapons arsenal enabling false attribution and ‘tell-tale’ signs in Cyrillic and other ‘obfuscation’ may be at work in a least some of this.

​Trump Watch: House Strzok Hearing

washington post logoWashington Post, The Strzok hearing damaged our democracy, Editorial Board, July 13, 2018 (print edition). Tempers boiled over on Capitol Hill peter strzok croppedThursday as Peter Strzok (right), the FBI official at the center of President Trump’s attempts to discredit special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, testified before a joint meeting of two House oversight committees. With all its yelling and interruptions, the hearing was a fitting coda to the hyperpartisan farce of an investigation that House Republicans have conducted into the FBI and Mr. Mueller’s Russia probe.

U.S. House logoRepublicans spent hours parsing text messages and waving documents in the air. But all of it, just like most of the broader House investigation, was a distraction from this central point about the conspiracy narratives the president and his defenders have been cooking up about the FBI: If the agency had been trying to harm Mr. Trump’s campaign, agents could have released damaging information on pro-Trump Russian interference before Election Day — and they did not.

wayne madsen screen shot

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: The FBI’s “inquisitors” — a parade of the depraved, Wayne Madsen (shown above in a cable news screenshot), July 13, 2018 (subscription required). Investigative reporter and author of 15 books Wayne Madsen is a former Navy intelligence officer and frequent broadcast commentator.

U.S. House logoOn July 12, former deputy assistant director of the FBI Peter Strzok testified before 70 members of a joint hearing of the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees on his actions as the chief of the bureau’s counter-intelligence division during the 2016 presidential election.

bob goodlatte cropped oStrzok’s text messages, in which he criticized Trump, were fodder for the Republicans who used the occasion to push their various unfounded conspiracy theories.

The Republicans who took shots at Strzok represent a cavalcade of miscreants, misfits, perverts, and criminals, starting with House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), right, who is retiring at the end of the current term.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Devin Nunes tied to underage sex worker scandal, Tim Faulkner, July 13, 2018. Things just keep getting worse for Congressman Devin Nunes. On Wednesday, two separate organizations issued letters to the Office of Congressional Ethics requesting an investigation into his personal business investments.

devin nunes grimacingA complaint filed by the Campaign for Accountability alleges that Nunes (shown at left) possibly violated federal laws by omitting information from his financial disclosure forms when he failed to include information on his affiliation with three California companies. He left off information as to whether he had investments or received any financial gifts from the companies’ owners. Alpha Omega, a Napa County winery, was listed as one of Nunes’s primary assets, which he reported that he purchased in 2006 for between $50,001 and $100,000 but he claims to receive little income from it each year, “despite [its] apparent success.”

While this omission would clearly violate federal law, things get even worse for Nunes.

Another complaint, this one from the Swamp Accountability Project, was also filed Wednesday with the Office of Congressional Ethics. This complaint focuses on a sexual harassment lawsuit that was settled in 2015, alleging “the company hosted a fundraiser on a yacht with top investors using cocaine and hiring sex workers — some who appeared too young to consent.” With the recent allegations against fellow Republican Congressman Jim Jordan protecting Ohio State team doctor from molestation complaints, this is not a good time for Nunes to face such allegations.

So far, Devin Nunes has not answered any inquiries about his involvement or knowledge of this incident. “For this reason, OCE should prioritize a review of Rep. Nunes’ investment and involvement in the Alpha Omega Winery, and the facts reported by The Fresno Bee. Such review should be undertaken as swiftly as possible,” the complaint from the Swamp Accountability Project stated.


Supreme Court Battle: Voting Rights

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Does Brett Kavanaugh Spell the End of Voting Rights? Ari Berman, July 13, 2018. Mr. Berman is a journalist who specializes in voting rights. If he is confirmed for the Supreme Court, we will see the most extreme court on civil rights since the era of Jim Crow.

The threat of voter disenfranchisement will get worse if Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed to the court. His opinion in the South Carolina case and his record in civil rights matters suggests that he will join with the court’s conservative justices to further roll back voting rights protections and other civil rights laws.

If Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed, Chief Justice John Roberts will become the new swing voter. That’s terrible news for voting rights.

The Trump Swamp

washington post logowilbur rossWashington Post, Government ethics office scolds Wilbur Ross over stock sales, Steven Mufson, July 13, 2018 (print edition). The commerce secretary (right) was strongly reprimanded for failing to completely divest himself of his far-flung stock holdings in a timely fashion and for taking short positions in an effort to offset certain stocks until they could be sold.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jared Kushner lacks security clearance for most sensitive intelligence that goes to Trump, Carol D. Leonnig, Josh Dawsey and Ashley Parker, July 13, 2018 (print edition). Jared Kushner (right), a senior White House adviser and President Trump’s son-in-law, lacks the security clearance level required to review some of the government’s most sensitive secrets, according to two people familiar with his access.

For the first year of the Trump administration, Kushner had nearly blanket access to highly classified intelligence, even as he held an interim security clearance and awaited the completion of his background investigation.

Donald Trump and Mike Pence logoBut when White House security officials granted him a permanent clearance in late May, he was granted only “top secret” status — a level that does not allow him to see some of the country’s most closely guarded intelligence, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss security issues.

Kushner has not yet been approved to review “sensitive compartmented information,” better known as SCI. The Central Intelligence Agency determines who can access this information, which primarily involves U.S. intelligence sources and surveillance methods, they said.

The Hill, Top National Security Council official forced out: report, Jacqueline Thomsen, July 13, 2018. A top National Security Council (NSC) official was forced to leave the group on Thursday, the most recent departure since national security adviser John Bolton joined the administration earlier this year, Politico reports.

Jennifer Arangio, a senior director in the NSC who worked with global groups, was escorted off White House premises and told that she was no longer needed in the administration, according to Politico.

stephen miller nbc screenshot whAn NSC spokesman told the newspaper that the group doesn’t comment on personnel issues, and Arangio didn’t return the publication’s request for comment. A former White House official told the outlet that Arangio is “fiercely loyal” to President Trump, but that she clashed with White House aide Stephen Miller (shown at right).

U.S. First Lady / Politics

washington post logomelania trump i really dont care jacket twitterWashington Post, Opinion: Nothing else Melania Trump wears will ever matter again, Robin Givhan, July 13, 2018. Once again, Melania Trump stepped onto the international stage in the traditional role of first lady: an emissary of the American people and a fashion mannequin of soft diplomacy.

But her credibility has been significantly undermined by her own hand. All it took was a $39 olive-drab jacket.

Massive FEMA Breakdown In Puerto Rico

fema logo Custom 2

washington post logoWashington Post, FEMA admits to failures in its response in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, Arelis Hernández, July 13, 2018. A report shows that responses to Harvey in Texas and Irma in Florida taxed the relief agency, leaving it understaffed and out of position for the catastrophe that unfolded in Puerto Rico.

International Court Orders Safe Passage For Assange

OAS seal

julian assange august 2014 wEurasiafuture.com, Julian Assange Scores Major Legal Victory as Court Orders Safe Passage of Wikileaks Founder Out of Embassy, Adam Garrie, July 13, 2018. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights, a body of the Organization of American States, rules that UK must allow Assange safe passage from embassy to host nation Ecuador.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights based in Costa Rica is a multinational independent judicial body which handles court cases relating to the human rights of individuals in or effected by the laws of the members states of the Organization of American States (OAS).

At present the OAS is comprised of every North American, Central American and South American nation, although Venezuela has expressed a desire to withdraw from the body.

Today, the Court ruled that it is the duty of nations to allow for the passage of successful asylum seekers from embassies to the mainland territory of the state that has granted an individual asylum. For Julian Assange, this would mean that according to the Court’s decision, Britain has a legal obligation to allow Julian Assange to exit the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in peace and allow for his safe transit to an airport from which he would be able to fly to Ecuador, the country that has granted Assange asylum and where he now also holds formal citizenship.

Relevant portions of the press release from the Court can be read below:

If the UK continues to ignore the court’s decision by insisting that local police will arrest Assange for a breach of bail conditions if he leaves the embassy, this means that the British government will have wantonly failed to uphold Assange’s rights as a legitimate receiver of asylum by Ecuador. While London has yet to respond to the Court’s ruling, it is imperative that Assange is allowed to make the safe passage to Ecuador demanded by the Court as his physical and mental health conditions have been described as deteriorating rapidly.

Legal Battle On Virginia Abortion Restrictions

washington post logoWashington Post, Virginia attorney general files motion to dismiss suit challenging state abortion restrictions, Laura Vozzella, July 14, 2018. Democrat Mark Herring, a vocal supporter of abortion rights, said the restrictions should be challenged in the legislature, not the courts.

Feds Reopen Emmett Till 1950s Murder Probe

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Emmett Louis Till, a 14-year-old visiting from Chicago, was kidnapped, tortured and killed in 1955 in Mississippi. (Associated Press)

Los Angeles Times, The Emmett Till case is reopened nearly 63 years after the teen’s killing spotlighted racial violence, Jenny Jarvie, July 12, 2018.

The investigation into the death of Emmett Till, one of the most notorious slayings of the Jim Crow-era Deep South, has been reopened more than 60 years after the 14-year-old African American boy’s mutilated body was pulled out of Mississippi’s Tallahatchie River.

Two white men, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, were prosecuted by state authorities in 1955 for the killing — only to be acquitted by an all-white jury after just an hour of deliberation. The case galvanized the civil rights movement, and even today, Till’s death has been invoked by protesters decrying brutality against African Americans.

In a report submitted to Congress in March, the Department of Justice said it had reopened its inquiry “based upon the discovery of new information.” The department did not elaborate, citing the ongoing nature of the investigation.

The boy from Chicago was visiting relatives in Money, Miss., in August 1955 when he walked into a white-owned grocery store. After one of the store owners, a 21-year-old white woman, Carolyn Bryant, said he had grabbed her and made crude sexual advances, white men later snatched him from his bed in the middle of the night.

Three days later, his body was found in the Tallahatchie River, along with a 75-pound cotton-gin fan tied to his neck with barbed wire. He had been beaten, tortured and shot in the head.

However, the woman who made the allegations against Till, now known as Carolyn Bryant Donham, remains alive — and last year, a historian revealed that in an interview, she recanted some of her claims.

In a book published last year, The Blood of Emmett Till, Duke University professor Timothy B. Tyson wrote that Donham said of her allegations that Emmett grabbed her and was sexually crude toward her: “That part is not true.”

Arrogant Cop’s Traffic Stop Goes Viral

Arkansas Times, National spotlight on Walnut Ridge law enforcement: It’s not a pretty picture, Max Brantley, July 11, 2018 (8:49 min. video, first 30 seconds without sound). The Washington Post’s Radley Balko shines national attention on a pending lawsuit over Walnut Ridge police treatment of a man who apparently did nothing wrong. The officer, Matthew Mercado, who made a dubious stop of Adam Finley is gone.

But Prosecutor Henry Boyce of Newport who prosecuted Finley unsuccesfully is still at work, as is a police sergeant who backed up the dubious arrest and they have no apparent apologies. The police chief moved on after video of the encounter between an officer and Finley became public.

Small-town police stuff. But, Balko suggests, maybe representative of police bullying and rank-closing in many other places. Heroes here include Finley, who kept his cool under extreme police duress shown on the video of a stop of his truck near his job, and some dogged reporting and commentary by Stan Morris of NEA Report and the Jonesboro Sun.

UK Pedophile Victim Kills Father

washington post logoWashington Post, She found her father’s child porn images of herself, then killed him — and kept it secret for 12 years, Samantha Schmidt, July 13, barbara coombes2018. Barbara Coombes, 51 (shown at right), had just been gardening in her father’s backyard, on a street of red-brick terrace homes in their suburb near Manchester, England, when she went inside and spotted a box on the dining room table.

Sifting through the box, she was repulsed by what she saw: A trove of pornographic photos — of children. Among them were explicit photographs of herself as a child, according to a court hearing reported by the Manchester Evening News.

The images were painful reminders of her childhood, of the decades of abuse at the hands of a father who allegedly used her as a “sex slave” and raped her hundreds of times, the Guardian reported, citing the Manchester crown court hearing.

“I could feel a black cloud appearing over me,” Coombes said in court this week, according to the Evening News. “In a haze of disgust and disbelief, I picked up a shovel I had been gardening.

#MeToo Assault Claim

mark aderholt southern baptist leader mug

Mark Aderholt is the former associate executive director and chief strategist of the South Carolina Baptist Convention

HuffPost, Former Southern Baptist Leader Charged With Sexual Assault, Carol Kuruvilla, July 13, 2018. Mark Aderholt’s accuser claims a church mission board has known about the abuse for over a decade.

War Powers / NATO

Jacob HornbergerFuture of Freedom Foundation, Opinion: NATO Is the Model Entangling Alliance, Jacob G. Hornberger (shown right), July 13, 2018.  Suppose I had an unlimited power of attorney to sign your name as a co-signer on any loan I made with the bank. Every time I went to the bank and borrowed money, I could legally obligate you to pay my loan if I defaulted.

How would you like that? My hunch is that you wouldn’t be too excited about that arrangement. That is precisely the authority that NATO has over the American people, only the obligation is much worse than a financial one. The obligation involves killing and dying. That is, NATO has the authority to obligate young Americans, both men and women, to kill and die for whatever overseas regime that NATO decides to admit as a member of the organization.

NATO logoHow does NATO work? If another nation attacks any member of NATO, the United States is automatically bound to come to its defense. https://www.fff.org/2018/07/13/nato-is-the-model-entangling-alliance/

That is not the type of system on which the United States was founded when the U.S. Constitution called the federal government into existence. The founding principle was that it would be up to Congress to decide whether the country would, in fact, go to war against another nation. There would be nothing automatic about it. If Congress declared war, then it would be the president’s responsibility to wage war. But if Congress failed to declare war, the government could not legally go to war.

U.S. Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, 4,500 Tech Workers on a Mission: Get Democrats Elected, Kevin Roose and Sheera Frenkel, July 13, 2018. Tech for Campaigns, a volunteer network of people with day jobs at companies like Google, is trying to drag Democratic campaigns into the digital age.

National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC), President Obama on Gerrymandering, Redistricting, & the 2018 Midterm Elections, July 11, 2018. Former President Barack Obama highlights the damaging effects of partisan and racial gerrymandering on our democracy and calls on Americans to get engaged in the 2018 mid-term elections as it is a critical year for redistricting and restoring fairness back to elections.

The National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC) is the centralized hub for executing a comprehensive redistricting strategy that shifts the redistricting power, creating fair districts where Democrats can compete. To learn more about what you can do to fight for fair maps alongside the NDRC, visit www.democraticredistricting.com.

Culture Wars / Entertainment

washington post logoroy moore cowboy hat no gunWashington Post, Roy Moore hints that he, too, was duped by Sacha Baron Cohen, blaming ‘shadowy media groups,’ Eli Rosenberg, July 13, 2018. The former Senate candidate from Alabama (shown in a photo during his campaign waving a gun) is the latest conservative who might be part of a new series Cohen has been filming, along with Dick Cheney and Sarah Palin.

More On Trump Probe

roger stone donald trump

Roger Stone shown in a file photo with his longtime friend Donald Trump

washington post logoWashington Post, Spotlight intensifies on Roger Stone after latest charges in Russia inquiry, Rosalind S. Helderman and Manuel Roig-Franzia​, July 13, 2018. The longtime Trump adviser has acknowledged exchanging Twitter direct messages in 2016 with Guccifer 2.0, who claimed to be a Romanian hacker. Stone has said there is no proof the account was connected to the Russians.

roger stone headshotA federal indictment filed Friday accusing a dozen Russian military intelligence officers of conspiring to hack Democrats during the 2016 campaign spotlights communications between Roger Stone (right), a longtime adviser to President Trump, and an online persona allegedly operated by the Russians.

Stone has previously acknowledged exchanging direct messages on Twitter in August and September 2016 with Guccifer 2.0, who claimed to be a Romanian hacker. Stone has said there is no proof the account was connected to the Russians.

But according to criminal charges filed Friday by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, Guccifer 2.0 was actually operated by a group of Russian military intelligence officers based in Moscow. The Russians used Guccifer 2.0’s Twitter account to send multiple messages to “a person who was in regular contact with senior members” of Trump’s campaign, Mueller wrote in the indictment.

fox news logo SmallFox News, Lisa Page ‘cooperative,’ ‘credible,’ lawmakers say after 5-hour closed-door session, Amy Lieu, July 13, 2017. Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page was “cooperative” and “credible” in a closed-door session Friday with select House committee members that lasted nearly five hours.

U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., had been among Page’s harshest critics heading into the session, but he said her cooperation “speaks well of her,” according to the Hill. Meadows said he thinks the American people “would be happy” with Friday’s transcribed interviews, the Washington Post reported. “She’s been willing to help in the spirit of transparency. … We’ve certainly learned additional things today,” Meadows said.

Update July 16: Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page was questioned behind closed doors for a second day Monday on Capitol Hill by GOP lawmakers about anti-Trump texts she exchanged with colleague and former lover Peter Strzok.

Pakistani Political Turmoil

nawaz sharif pakistani pm muslim league 2017 via ap

ny times logopakistan flag wavingNew York Times, Pakistan’s Ex-Leader Is Arrested as Political Turmoil Grows, Salman Masood, July 13, 2018. Former Pakistania Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (shown above in a file photo) and his daughter were arrested upon their return to Pakistan in an attempt to rally their beleaguered party. The same day the campaign took a deadly turn, with more than 130 people killed in two militant attacks.

Legacy of Stephen Hawking

Industrial Quick Start, What Was It That Made Stephen Hawking So Great? Anna Kucirkova, July 13, 2018. Stephen Hawking (who died on March 14 at age 74 and who is shown below in a 1980s photo at a NASA site) achieved a remarkable amount of things, personally and professionally, throughout his amazing life. While many stephen hawking star childpeople are familiar with him as a personality and perhaps as a scientist who made incredible discoveries about space, not many fully grasp what he did and how he did it.

He achieved his widespread fame and respect through a series of contributions to the scientific community that radically redefined our understanding of numerous subjects, all while defying the odds battling a debilitating degenerative disease.

Hawking’s competitive and curious personality led him into many friendly wagers with other physicists, which ultimately led him to make discoveries about the universe from intense research projects that were spurred by friendly arguments.

Throughout his life, he sought to reconcile quantum physics and general relativity–two disparate styles of physics that each contain multiple widely accepted theories but rarely seem to overlap in scope.

July 12

Trump Investigation

washington post logopeter strzok croppedWashington Post, GOP lawmakers threaten FBI’s Strzok with contempt during questioning of Mueller probe, Devlin Barrett and Karoun Demirjian, July 12, 2018. House Republicans sparred with FBI agent Peter Strzok (Right) from the very first question at a hearing after he refused, at the direction of an FBI lawyer, to answer questions about the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The Fix: 3 key moments from Peter Strzok’s contentious hearing.

ny times logofbi logoNew York Times, Judicial Hearing for F.B.I. Agent Devolves Into Spectacle, Nicholas Fandos, Peter Strzok, July 12, 2018. The F.B.I. agent who led the investigations into Russian interference and the Clinton emails, testified before the House judicial and oversight committees.

washington post logoWashington Post, Paul Manafort moves to Alexandria jail, a past home to spies and terrorists, Rachel Weiner, July 12, 2018. Officials confirm the former Trump campaign chairman was booked Thursday morning into the Alexandria Detention Center, a complex of low-slung brick buildings just off the Capital Beltway. Manafort resisted the move.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Paul Manafort’s plot to get out of jail just blew up in his face, Bill Palmer, July 12, 2018. In the weeks since a judge sent Paul Manafort (shown in a new mug shot) to jail for conspiring with a Russian spy to tamper with witnesses, Manafort and his lawyers have lost one motion after another.

paul manafort mugFirst a judge ruled that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has the authority to charge Manafort. Then came the ruling that the evidence in Manafort’s storage locker could be used against him. Now the judge in Manafort’s other upcoming trial has also ruled that the storage locker evidence is admissible. So Manafort decided to try to get out of jail entirely.

Manafort made the argument that becuase his jail is located a couple hours away from his attorney’s, it’s become difficult for them to work together on his defense. Manafort was clearly hoping that the judge would somehow decide to let him out on bail again. Instead, the judge simply offered to move Manafort to a jail that’s closer to his attorneys.

This was not at all what Paul Manafort wanted and, perhaps fearing that the conditions would be harsher in his new jail, he then decided that he wants to remain in his current jail. In so doing, Manafort admitted by default that his original claim of being too far away from his lawyers was nonsense. This is a good way to alienate the judge when it comes to other upcoming rulings ahead of the trial, particularly rulings that would require the judge to take Manafort at his word.

So not only is Paul Manafort still in jail, he’s exhausted every realistic avenue for trying to avoid trial, and now he’s angered the judge by trying to abuse the system. Manafort is out of options. He can go to trial and lose and spend every day of the rest of his life behind bars, or he can cut a plea deal against Donald Trump.

Trump Unplugged

djt uk visit daily mirror 7 12 18New York Magazine, In Wild Interview, Trump Says May Blew Brexit and Immigrants Ruined Europe, Eric Levitz, July 12, 2018. Donald Trump kicked off his diplomatic visit to the United Kingdom Thursday by gifting his host a political nightmare. In an interview with The Sun, a British tabloid, the president announced that Theresa May’s blueprint for a “soft Brexit” was a betrayal of British voters – one that, if implemented, “would probably end [Britain’s] major trade relationship with the United States.”

United Kingdom flagMay’s plan would commit the UK to coordinating many aspects of trade policy with the European Union leadership in Brussels – a gesture aimed at keeping Britain within the EU’s customs union (and thus, to save London’s status as the financial capital of Europe, while preventing a broader series of economic calamities inherent to the UK losing privileged access to the common market).

Trump told the Sun that if May went through with such an agreement, he would cancel a previously planned bilateral trade deal between the United States and Britain because “if they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union.”

“We have enough difficulty with the European Union,” Trump explained. “No, if they do that I would say that that would probably end a major trade relationship with the United States.”

The president went on to say that May’s plan “was not the deal that was in the referendum. I have just been hearing this over the last three days. I know they have had a lot of resignations. So a lot of people don’t like it.”

Trump added that Boris Johnson, who forfeited his position as Foreign Secretary Monday – in protest of the “soft Brexit plan” – would make “a great Prime Minister.”

These were the most undiplomatic remarks in Trump’s interview (if not, in the modern history of Anglo-American relations). But they still weren’t the most offensive quotes that the president gave to the paper.

Here’s a quick rundown of Trump’s other, incendiary reflections:

Immigrants have robbed Europe of its great culture. “I think what has happened to Europe is a shame. Allowing the immigration to take place in Europe is a shame. I think it changed the fabric of Europe and, unless you act very quickly, it’s never going to be what it was and I don’t mean that in a positive way. So I think allowing millions and millions of people to come into Europe is very, very sad. I think you are losing your culture. Look around. You go through certain areas that didn’t exist ten or 15 years ago.”

Sadiq Khan, the (Muslim) mayor of London, is responsible for terrorism in that city – because he allows immigrants to live there.

djt theresa may melania 7 12 18

President Trump, UK Prime Minister Theresa May and their spouses arrive for a ball on the president’s European trip

ny times logoUnited Kingdom flagNew York Times, Trump Enters Brexit Debate, Criticizing Theresa May, Stephen Castle, July 12, 2018. President Trump said that Prime Minister Theresa May’s plans to keep close economic ties with the bloc could “kill” a possible trade deal with the United States. In an interview with The Sun, Mr. Trump also said that Mrs. May had ignored his advice on negotiations over Britain’s departure, known as Brexit.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Rattles Britain Hours After Unsettling NATO, July 12, 2018. Mr. Trump took credit for persuading U.S. allies to increase their military budgets, but European leaders disputed that any new pledges for increased spending were made.

Trump Watch

djt nato

President Trump, with U.S. NATO Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchinson, with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly at left

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump slams Germany, other allies in fiery exchange as NATO summit opens, Michael Birnbaum and Seung Min Kim​, July 12, 2018 (print edition). President Trump wasted no time hitting at Washington’s closest partners for what he said were hypocritical demands for U.S. security protection, including accusing Germany of being “captive to Russia” for getting energy from the country. Today’s WorldView: NATO trip shows ‘America First’ is ‘America Alone.’

NATO logoPresident Trump unleashed a blistering attack Wednesday on Germany and other NATO allies, wasting no time at the outset of a week of high-stakes diplomacy to hit at Washington’s closest partners for what he said were hypocritical demands for U.S. security protection.

“Germany, as far as I’m concerned, is captive to Russia because it’s getting so much of its energy from Russia,” Trump told NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, in a fiery on-camera exchange that was nearly without precedent in the history of the post-World War II alliance.

german flag“We have to talk about the billions and billions of dollars that’s being paid to the country we’re supposed to be protecting you against,” Trump said, referring to European purchases of Russian natural gas.

Russian FlagTrump has complained bitterly about Europe’s lagging defense spending, saying that NATO nations were taking advantage of U.S. military largesse at the same time they were offering unfair trade terms to U.S. businesses. A favorite target of his ire has been Germany, which has not met its NATO spending commitments and is beginning construction on a second natural gas pipeline to Russia.

djt nato summit nato photo 7 11 18

President Trump, at right, accompanied by advisors faces off against NATO colleagues on July 11, 2018

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump pushes for NATO countries to double spending on defense, Michael Birnbaum and Seung Min Kim​, July 12, 2018 (print edition). President Trump urged his counterparts to raise their defense spending to 4 percent of a country’s gross domestic product, a substantial increase of a goal on which many are already falling short. The call came hours after a blistering critique by Trump against Germany and other allies. Schumer, Pelosi call Trump’s comments ‘an embarrassment.’

washington post logoNATO logoWashington Post, Trump upends NATO summit, demands allies increase their defense spending, Michael Birnbaum and Philip Rucker, July 12, 2018.  Some diplomats perceived President Trump’s comments as threatening a U.S. withdrawal from NATO. But Trump later declared, “I believe in NATO.”

Disputed Stormy Daniels Arrest Dismissed

abc news logostormy daniels mug 7 11 18ABC News, Charges dropped against adult film star Stormy Daniels after strip club arrest, Karma Allen, Morgan Winsor and Julia Jacobo, July 12, 2018. Authorities dropped the charges against adult film star Stormy Daniels Thursday after she was taken into custody during a performance at a strip club in Ohio, which her lawyer called a “politically motivated” setup. She is shown in a mug shot at right.

Daniels, who made headlines earlier this year over her claims of an alleged affair with President Donald Trump, was arrested Wednesday night while performing at the Sirens Gentlemen’s Club in Columbus after she allegedly allowed “a customer to michael avenatti sketchtouch her while on stage,” her attorney, Michael Avenatti (left), said via Twitter early Thursday morning.

“Just [received] word that my client @StormyDaniels was arrested in Columbus Ohio [while] performing the same act she has performed across the nation at nearly a hundred strip clubs,” Avenatti tweeted. “This was a setup [and] politically motivated. It reeks of desperation. We will fight all bogus charges.”

Trump’s Pardon Power

ny times logoNew York Times, The Quest to Get a Pardon From Trump: ‘It’s Who You Know,’ Campbell Robertson, July 12, 2018. Pardon seekers around the country are watching as President Trump helps people who have celebrity endorsements. And they are taking notes.

U.S. Politics

paul ryan oNew York Magazine, Opinion: Paul Ryan Unaware Constitution Lets Congress Override Presidential Veto, Jonathan Chait, July 12, 2018.  Asked by reporters if the chamber he leads would introduce a bill to scale back the president’s power to levy tariffs, House Speaker Paul Ryan brushed aside the idea as an impossibility. “You would have to pass a law saying ‘don’t raise those tariffs’ and the president would have to sign that law,” he said. “That’s not going to happen.”

That would come as a surprise to the drafters of the Constitution, who created a mechanism for exactly such a scenario. Trump doesn’t actually have to sign a law for it to take effect. A presidential veto can be overridden by a two-thirds supermajority in both chambers. Look it up, it’s true! But Ryan is helpfully demonstrating why many aspects of the Constitution do not work as designed, or at all.

The tariff question is especially striking. For one thing, Trump is acting in flagrant defiance of long-standing Republican party dogma, which has for better or worse endorsed free trade as an unmitigated good. For another, Trump is exploiting a legal loophole. Congress normally has to approve changes in taxes, which a tariff is. But a 1962 law gave presidents the authority to levy tariffs for national security reasons. The intent was to protect vital resources related to the military. Unwisely, though, Congress failed to set any parameters on this authority, and Trump is using it for manifestly non-security reasons.

Supreme Court Follow Ups

washington post logoWashington Post, What to expect from Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation battle, Amy Brittain, July 11, 2018. Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh incurred tens of thousands of dollars of credit card debt buying baseball tickets over the past decade and at times reported liabilities that could have exceeded the value of his cash accounts and investment assets, according to a review of Kavanaugh’s financial disclosures and information provided by the White House.

White House spokesman Raj Shah told The Washington Post that Kavanaugh built up the debt by buying Washington Nationals season tickets and tickets for playoff games for himself and a “handful” of friends. Shah said some of the debts were also for home improvements.

In 2016, Kavanaugh reported having between $60,000 and $200,000 in debt accrued over three credit cards and a loan. Each credit card held between $15,000 and $50,000 in debt, and a Thrift Savings Plan loan was between $15,000 and $50,000.

washington post logoWashington Post, In major abortion ruling, Kavanaugh offers clues of how he might handle divisive issue, Robert Barnes and Ann E. Marimow, July 12, 2018. Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh issued a strongly worded dissent last fall in a case involving a pregnant immigrant teenager in federal custody.

ny times logobrett kavanaughNew York Times, Democrats Zero In on Nominee’s View of Presidential Power, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, July 12, 2018 (print edition). Democrats thought the weakness of a Supreme Court nominee would be health care and abortion. Then came Brett M. Kavanaugh’s writings on shielding presidents from investigation.

Democrats who once saw health care and abortion as their best lines of attack against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, are recalibrating their approach to go after him for his view that a sitting president should not have to answer questions in a criminal case, much less face indictment.

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said in an interview on Wednesday that Judge Kavanaugh’s belief in broad presidential authority was “just off the deep end.”

For Democrats facing an uphill struggle to block Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation, his protective views of the presidency could prove to be a bright red ribbon. Rather than just playing it safe with a broad swath of voters worried about access to health care and abortion, Democrats now see an opportunity to excite their base by fanning fears that the highest court in the land could turn into a bulwark to protect the man appointing its members.

More Supreme Court Followups

SCOTUSblog,Thursday round-up, Edith Roberts, July 12, 2018. The nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court remains front and center in the news. For The Washington Post, Amy Brittain reports that financial disclosures and information provided by the White House indicate that “Kavanaugh incurred tens of thousands of dollars of credit card debt buying baseball tickets over the past decade and at times reported liabilities that could have exceeded the value of his cash accounts and investment assets.”

For The New York Times, Katie Benner reports that “Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, has asked federal prosecutors to help review the government documents of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh,” and that the request “was an unusual insertion of politics into federal law enforcement.” For The Washington Post’s Fact Checker column, Salvador Rizzo examines speculation about “a past business relationship between Donald Trump and one of Kennedy’s sons” that some have suggested may have influenced the justice’s recent rulings or his decision to retire, giving the allegations four Pinocchios.

At CNN, Joan Biskupic analyzes Kavanaugh’s record, concluding that “he stands to be more than just a reliable vote for the right” and that “[h]e could powerfully influence the country’s legal agenda for decades.”

For The Washington Post, Robert Barnes and Ann Marimow report that “Kavanaugh has only one major abortion ruling in his 12 years on the federal bench, but that forceful opinion will define the coming debate on what his elevation to the Supreme Court would mean for a woman’s constitutional right to the procedure.” At Bloomberg, Sahil Kapur and Greg Stohr report that “senators and activists on both sides of the debate” say “Kavanaugh’s views on gun rights may push the court to expand Second Amendment protections.”

The Hill, Yale Law School students, alumni denounce Trump Supreme Court pick, Justin Wise, July 12, 2018. More than 400 current and former Yale Law School students are banding together to denounce President Trump’s latest Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, saying that “people will die” if the Yale alum is confirmed.

“Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination presents an emergency — for democratic life, for our safety and freedom, for the future of our country,” they wrote in an open letter published earlier this week. “Without a doubt, Judge Kavanaugh is a threat to the most vulnerable. He is a threat to many of us, despite the privilege bestowed by our education, simply because of who we are.”

Trump / Kushner Watch

ny times logoNew York Times, Kushner’s Firm Deepens Ties to Those With Business in Washington, Jesse Drucker and Kate Kelly, July 11, 2018. The family company of Jared Kushner (right), President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, is doing deals with investors who have a lot riding on federal decisions.

Eighteen months into Jared Kushner’s White House tenure, his family’s real estate firm is deepening its financial relationships with institutions and individuals that have a lot riding on decisions made by the federal government.

In the latest example, an arm of Brookfield Asset Management is close to completing an investment of up to $700 million in the Kushner family’s tower at 666 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. The deal will be a boon to the Kushners, who are struggling to recoup their investments in their flagship building.

At the same time, another Brookfield unit is awaiting the Trump administration’s approval of its acquisition of the nuclear-power company Westinghouse Electric. The deal is being reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, made up of senior federal officials who consider the potential national security risks of transactions involving foreign companies. Brookfield’s headquarters are in Canada.

Mr. Kushner, who is President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, has broad portfolios of both White House responsibilities and personal business interests — a combination that experts say has the potential to create real and perceived conflicts between his public and private roles.

Syrian War Update

Syria FlagMoon of Alabama, Opinion: Syria Sitrep — Army Liberates Daraa City, B, July 12, 2018. Today the current Syrian government campaign in Daraa governorate saw another highlight. The ‘rebels’ in the southern part of the city of Daraa gave up and reconciled with the government. Currently the Syrian army is taking control of the area. The Syrian flag has been raised over its buildings.

The whole Daraa governorate campaign in southwest Syria proceeded with astonishing speed. In just three weeks the government forces recovered 84% of the ‘rebel’ held territory and dozens of cities and villages with little force. Jordan and the U.S. had finally denied support for the ‘rebels’ and their only choices were to reconcile or to die. Almost all of them chose to give up. An enormous amount of weapons, including at least 18 U.S. made TOW anti-tank missiles systems and two British made armored infantry carriers, were handed over to the Syrian government.

Israel is threatening the Syrian forces not to come near the deconfliction line on the Golan Heights. It wants to keep a buffer of Jihadis between itself and the Syrian army. Any attempt to achieve that will be in vane. Syria and its allies are determined to eradicate the Jihadis. As these are experienced fighters willing to die the fight will likely take several weeks. After that the Syrian army will move north and liberate Idleb.

Daraa was the first city where the foreign induced ‘rebellion’ was launched. In March 2011 protest over some dubious cause escalated into riots which soon turned violent. Shops and police stations were set on fire and policemen as well as demonstrators were killed. Raids by the police found weapons in Daraa’s main mosque.

cia logoSleeper cells of the Muslim Brotherhood, long prohibited in Syria, had found outside sponsors who fueled their campaign. The CIA spend at least $1 billion per year to direct the attack on the Syrian state. With the help of the British MI6 its media arms promoted sectarian mass murder in Syria. Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait each spent several billions per year to pay the ‘rebel’ fighters and to provide them the thousands of tons of weapons and other needs. Nearly 100,000 foreign fighters moved to Syria and fought under the flags of the Islamic State and al-Qaeda against the Syrian state and later against each other.

Only with the help of its Iranian and Russian allies could the state of Syria and its people survive the onslaught. Since 2015 a systematic government campaign has turned the situation around. All parts of ‘useful Syria’ are under government control.

JFK Assassination Research

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Opinion: JFK Assassination Film: Proof of Tampering? Milicent Cranor, July 12, 2018. Milicent Cranor, a WhoWhatWhy senior editor with a background in forensic medical publishing, has studied the JFK assassination on and off for more than two decades. In this essay, Cranor asks readers to consider whether there is a significant discrepancy between the Nix and Zapruder films of the assassination, and if this indicates tampering. She also focuses on the Warren Commission testimony of Clint Hill, the Secret Service agent who jumped onto the back of the President’s limousine. What he said seems to suggest he saw Kennedy being shot in the head — for a second time — immediately after the first time. This would contradict the Commission’s central finding that JFK was killed by a single shooter.

The other day I was trying to make sense of some strange discrepancies in what a Secret Service agent said about what he saw when President John F. Kennedy was shot.

I’m referring to Clint Hill, the man who jumped onto the trunk of the limousine to protect Jackie Kennedy who had gone out onto the trunk of the car.

Here’s what I can’t sort out: His stories do not agree with the films, and the films do not seem to agree with each other.

Amateur films by Abraham Zapruder and Orville Nix do not agree with each other in at least one obvious way. James Norwood, a retired professor of Humanities, University of Minnesota, was perhaps the first to point out what seems to be a definitive discrepancy:

#MeToo Pressures In High-Level Banking

HuffPost, Inhuman Resources: A Whistleblower’s Tale, David Dayen, July 12, 2018. Mike Picarella wanted to protect a co-worker from humiliating sexual harassment. He didn’t expect his own life to be destroyed in the process,

The banking industry is hardly known for its moral rectitude. But if you look beyond the executive suites and venture into compliance departments and operations back offices, you’ll find a handful of sticklers and self-appointed heroes who have made it their mission to save Wall Street from its excesses. Mike is one of them.

July 11

NATO Confrontation

washington post logodjt g 20 sitting alone july 20 2017Washington Post, This remarkable exchange at NATO perfectly captures Trump’s ugly bad faith, Greg Sargent, July 11, 2018. This morning, at the NATO summit, President Trump got into an extended dust-up with Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, and the exchange generating the headlines is the one in which Trump ripped into Germany for getting so much energy from Russia.

But there’s another exchange with Stoltenberg that is also extremely telling. In it, Stoltenberg was talking about how NATO members had agreed to boost their contributions to NATO defense costs, as insisted upon by Trump, who claims the United States is getting ripped off. But then Trump demanded Stoltenberg give him credit for it. President Trump is shown above in a photo from last year’s G-20 Summit meeting.

ny times logoNew York Times, Baltic Nations Worry as Trump Labels NATO Obsolete, Marc Santora, July 10, 2018. For Latvia and Estonia, nestled between Russia and the Baltic Sea and with large ethnic Russian populations, the NATO alliance is no abstraction.

U.S. Politics / Social Media

washington post logotwitter bird CustomWashington Post, Trump, Obama and other high-profile Twitter users expected to see ‘significant drop’ of followers as company purges fake accounts, Elizabeth Dwoskin, July 11, 2018. The move by Twitter is the latest in a series of hard choices that the company is making to prioritize cleaning up its platform — rife with spam, trolling and other questionable practices — over metrics that inflate the service’s popularity.

Trade War

washington post logochina flag SmallWashington Post, Trump makes good on threat to target an additional $200 billion in Chinese imports with tariffs, David J. Lynch and Danielle Paquette, July 11, 2018 (print edition). The president escalated his trade war with China with a new range of tariffs to be imposed later this summer that will include consumer products. China warns U.S. about trade policies, files new WTO complaint.

Human Rights: Myanmar

ap logoAssociated Press via Washington Post, Myanmar opens peace conference with ethnic rebels, Min Kyi Thein and Victoria Milko, July 11, 2018. Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the country’s military commander on Wednesday opened a major conference with representatives of ethnic minority groups to try to move toward a lasting peace after seven decades of strained relations and armed conflict.

myanmar flag“I am worried that any delay in the peace conference could affect our people’s chance to get peace,” said Suu Kyi in a speech to the attendees. “That is the reason we are trying today to solve the problems politically by this peace conference.”

The third session of the 21st Century Panglong Conference is scheduled to last five days and follows meetings held in August 2016 and May 2017. Those sessions failed to make much headway in resolving differences between the government, the military and ethnic rebel groups seeking greater autonomy.

Since 2015, the government has promoted a cease-fire agreement that several ethnic minority groups have signed. However, some other major rebel groups, especially in the country’s north, are wary of committing to the deal until political terms are made clearer. They also have accused the government of provocative armed aggression.

washington post logoantónio guterres 2012 us missionWashington Post, Opinion: The Rohingya are victims of ethnic cleansing. The world has failed them, António Guterres, July 11, 2018 (print edition). António Guterres (shown at right in a U.S. State Department 2012 photo) is secretary-general of the United Nations.

The burden of helping desperate refugees should not fall to front-line countries such as Bangladesh.

myanmar flagSmall children butchered in front of their parents. Girls and women gang-raped while family members were tortured and killed. Villages burned to the ground.

Nothing could have prepared me for the bone-chilling accounts I heard last week in Bangladesh from Rohingya refugees who had fled widespread killings and violence in Rakhine state, Myanmar.

Supreme Court Follow Ups

ny times logobrett kavanaughNew York Times, Trump Subpoena May Put Nominee’s Legal Theory to the Test, Adam Liptak, July 11, 2018 (print edition). Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh (shown at right) has questioned the wisdom of forcing sitting presidents to answer questions from prosecutors.

washington post logoWashington Post, The elite world of Brett Kavanaugh, Paul Schwartzman and Michelle Boorstein, July 11, 2018. Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court grew up in Washington and lives in one of its most affluent neighborhoods, among Democrats who avoid talking politics with him.

ny times logorod rosenstein us attorneyNew York Times, Rosenstein Makes Unusual Request on Court Nominee’s Files, Katie Benner, July 11, 2018. Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, asked each of the nation’s 93 United States attorneys to provide up to three prosecutors to review the documents of President Trump’s Supreme Court pick.

Former law enforcement officials described Mr. Rosenstein’s directive as a troubling precedent. “It’s flat-out wrong to have career federal prosecutors engaged in a political process like the vetting of a Supreme Court nominee,” said Christopher Hunter, a former F.B.I. agent and federal prosecutor who is running for Congress. “It takes them away from the mission they’re supposed to be fulfilling, which is effective criminal justice enforcement.”

Mr. Rosenstein wrote that he expected to need the equivalent of 100 full-time lawyers to work on Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, and that the work would be supervised by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy in Washington. The office typically helps with judicial nominations; most of its staff is made up of career Justice Department lawyers.

Trump Watch

Palmer Report, Opinion: A dangerous day for democracy, Daniel Cotter, July 11, 2018. On Tuesday, two additional developments in the justice system emerged that should cause concern about our representative democracy.

The first was the latest Trump Executive Order, which he issued on July 10: “Executive Order Excepting Administrative Law Judges from the Competitive Service.” In previous Palmer Report articles, we have reported on the potential impacts of the SCOTUS case, Lucia v. Securities and Exchange Commission, which dealt with Administrative Law Judges (“ALJs”).

The Executive Order references the decision in Lucia and then takes away the competitive aspects, as well as removing the current process of selecting ALJs for a particular agency from the Office of Personnel Management Central Pool. The selections likely will be more political.

joe manchin oA second thing happened today: Senator Joe Manchin, a purported Democrat (shown at right), voted with Republicans in the Senate to close debate on the nomination of Brian Benczkowski to become the Director of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice. While Benczkowski is considered an experienced and talented litigator, as a partner at Kirkland & Ellis, he has no prosecutorial experience. In addition, while under consideration for an administration position last year, he represented for a brief time Alfa Bank, a subject of the Russian probe. Benczkowski could potentially have oversight of the investigation should Special Counsel Robert Mueller be fired.

With this administration, we must watch closely so that these two seemingly independent movements do not result in the slippery slope of losing our representative democracy.

#MeToo: Surviving Violence

ny times logoNew York Times, First Person: Surviving the Long-Term Trauma of Sexual Violence, Photographs and Text by Kate Ryan, July 11, 2018. After she was raped, a photographer asked 29 other survivors about their stories.

The trauma of sexual violence is not something we fix. It is something we manage daily. It takes work. And that work is as messy and complicated as the individuals who live it.

I aimed to get at that complexity with “Signed, X,” a collection of photographs and interviews with long-term survivors of sexual assault. This project began as a series of questions: What triggers you years after sexual violence? How do you ground yourself in those moments? Where do you carry stress? Where do you find hope? These are the questions I began asking survivors last October.

Cave Rescue Update

ny times logoNew York Times, Freed Soccer Players and Coach Are on the Mend, Thailand Says, Navaon Siradapuvadol and Mike Ives, July 11, 2018. “They took care of each other well in the cave,” a public health official said of the 12 boys and their coach, a day after the last of them were rescued.

July 10

Did Trump Connive With Retiring Justice On Pick?

Palmer Report, Opinion: Trump Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh caught lying under oath during Senate testimony, Bill Palmer, July 10, 2018. Donald Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh is falling apart by the hour – partly because Trump and his people rather obviously didn’t bother to do any real vetting of Kavanaugh while they were racing to try to hurry up and get him confirmed. The latest stunning revelation about Brett Kavanaugh is that he lied to the Senate in 2006. You don’t have to take our word for it, because a prominent Senator is the one making the accusation.

Kavanaugh went through Senate confirmation hearings to become a federal judge in 2006. Then in 2007, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin learned that Kavanaugh had lied during those hearings. He sought to get answers, but Kavanaugh stonewalled him. Now that Trump has put Kavanaugh under the microscope by nominating him for the Supreme Court, Durbin is going for the jugular.

anthony kennedy oPalmer Report, Opinion: Exposed: secret corrupt retirement deal between Anthony Kennedy and Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, July 10, 2018. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy was secretly negotiating with Donald Trump about his replacement, even as he was casting major pro-Trump votes that were out of character with his own judicial record. This comes on top of earlier revelations that Kennedy’s son played a key role at Trump’s favorite Russian money laundering bank. We’re now looking at a full blown scandal that’s getting uglier by the hour.

NBC News is now backing off from its earlier implication that Anthony Kennedy (shown at right) only agreed to retire if Donald Trump specifically picked Brett Kavanaugh, and is now reporting that Kennedy provided Trump with five names that would be acceptable to him. Brett Kavanaugh was the only conservative name on the list, so Kennedy would have known that Trump could only pick Kavanaugh. These negotiations reportedly began months ago. This means that Kennedy was secretly negotiating his retirement with Trump while he was casting the swing vote on issues like Trump’s Muslim Ban.

While Kennedy has sided with conservatives on fiscal issues, he’s often sided with liberals on civil rights issues like gay marriage; his vote in favor of the Muslim Ban was out of character. If Kennedy had voted against Trump on the Muslim Ban, at a time when he was negotiating with Trump over his potential replacement, it likely would have prompted the vindictive Trump to break off those negotiations. Kennedy would have known this – meaning that his final votes can be seen as fully corrupt.

If anyone were tempted to give Anthony Kennedy the benefit of the doubt about the corrupt nature of this secret deal, that goes out the window within the context of the fairly straight line that can be drawn from Kennedy to his son to Donald Trump to Russian money laundering to the Trump-Russia election rigging conspiracy. Kennedy’s legacy is clearly ruined; the only question is whether he’ll end up facing criminal charges.

fox news logo SmallFox News, NBC News reporter deletes tweet claiming Trump, Kennedy were in cahoots over Kavanaugh selection, Brian Flood, July 10, 2018. NBC News Capitol Hill reporter Leigh Ann Caldwell on Tuesday deleted a tweet that had triggered backlash, claiming President Trump and retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy were in cahoots to get Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill the seat.

Caldwell initially tweeted, “On Kavanaugh pick… Kennedy and Trump/WH had been in negotiations for months over Kennedy’s replacement. Once Kennedy received assurances that it would be Kavanaugh, his former law clerk, Kennedy felt comfortable retiring, according to a source who was told of the discussion.”

“I’ve deleted this tweet,” Caldwell later tweeted, “because it incorrectly implies a transactional nature in Kennedy’s replacement. I am told by a source who was not directly part of the talks that Kennedy provided Pres. Trump/ WH a list of acceptable replacements.”

Kavanaugh, 53, formerly clerked for Kennedy and was elevated to the powerful federal appeals court in the District of Columbia by former President George W. Bush, under whom he had also served as a White House lawyer and staff secretary. Trump officially nominated Kavanaugh to fill Kennedy’s seat on the Supreme Court on Monday night.

Politico, How a private meeting with Kennedy helped Trump get to ‘yes’ on Kavanaugh, Christopher Cadelago, Nancy Cook and Andrew Restuccia, July 9, 2018. While he was eager to keep the suspense alive, the president was always leaning toward Kennedy’s former clerk. After Justice Anthony Kennedy told President Donald Trump he would relinquish his seat on the Supreme Court, the president emerged from his private meeting with the retiring jurist focused on one candidate to name as his successor: Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Kennedy’s former law clerk.

Trump, according to confidants and aides close to the White House, has become increasingly convinced that “the judges,” as he puts it, or his administration’s remaking of the federal judiciary in its conservative image, is central to his legacy as president. And he credits Kennedy, who spent more than a decade at the center of power on the court, for helping give him the opportunity.

Trump Picks DC Insider For Court

djt brett kavanaugh family 7 9 18 Small

President Trump introduces Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his family on July 9 at the White House

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump picks Judge Kavanaugh for Supreme Court, Robert Costa, Robert Barnes and Felicia Sonmez​, July 10, 2018 (print edition). Conservative stalwart has deep ties to the Republican establishment. Brett Kavanaugh, 53, served on the U.S. Court of Appeals and worked in George W. Bush’s White House before moving to the federal bench. Democrats are preparing for a prolonged confirmation showdown on Capitol Hill — determined to rally in defense Roe v. Wade and all areas of the law they fear could be ruptured by the court.

washington post logoWashington Post, A more conservative high court could step, not lurch, to the right, Robert Barnes​, July 10, 2018 (print edition). President Trump’s nominee and fellow conservatives on the bench can achieve right-of-center goals without overturning rulings such as Roe v. Wade.

washington post logoWashington Post, Kavanaugh has endorsed robust views of presidential powers, Ann E. Marimow, July 10, 2018 (print edition).​ The record of the federal appeals court judge suggests he would be more to the right than retiring Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.

nbc news logoNBC News, How Kavanaugh ruled on gun control, health care, and other hot-button issues, Jessica Spitz, July 10, 2018. Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh has written almost 300 opinions on a range of issues over his 12 years serving on the federal appellate court.·

Roll Call, Opinion: GOP Should Beware of Roe v. Wade Becoming the Fight, Patricia Murphy, July 10, 2018. Republicans could lose the war for female voters for a generation. Now that we know President Donald Trump has settled on Judge Brett Kavanaugh as his next choice for the Supreme Court, Senate Republicans are poised to deliver on a promise they have been making to conservatives for decades.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosIn Kavanaugh, the GOP has both its biggest opportunity to move the court to the right for a generation as well as its biggest danger — months of unscripted moments when abortion, reproductive rights and women will be at the center of a heated debate that Republicans have proved uniquely terrible at navigating over the years.

With a slim GOP majority in the Senate and nearly a dozen Democratic senators up for re-election in red states this fall, the chances are good that Kavanaugh will make it through his confirmation process fairly easily, even if it isn’t pretty.

But the chances are equally high that in the process of winning the confirmation battle, Republicans could also lose the war for female voters for a generation as the fight over the future of the court becomes a debate over Roe v. Wade, and whether women or the government should decide when, or even whether, a woman carries a pregnancy to term.

Trump Plans Secret Meeting With Putin

vladimir putin djt g 20 2017

Russian President Vladimir Putin is shown with President Trump in a meeting last year

Boston Globe, America’s president is Russia’s pawn, Staff report, July 10, 2018. Next Monday, Donald Trump will meet with Vladimir Putin — alone. This bodes ill. Since taking office, Trump has assiduously furthered Russia’s geopolitical ambitions — weakening our democratic allies and America itself.

By relentlessly targeting America’s friends, Trump advances Putin’s goal of undermining Western democracies while shattering their alliances. “Sometimes,” Trump proclaims, “our worst enemies are our so-called friends and allies.” Castigating historic trading partners, he says, “We’re like the piggy banks that everybody is robbing.” The European Union, he complains, “was set up to take advantage of the United States.” As for NATO, it’s “as bad as NAFTA.” 

Are these newfound villains attacking our electoral processes, or aiming nuclear warheads at our mainland? Hardly. But such existential threats are either beneath Trump’s notice, or resolved by staging vapid media events with the manipulative autocrats who exploit his vanity and ignorance — particularly Putin, that virile object of his fascination.

Kavanaugh Helps CIA JFK Murder Cover-Up

jefferson morleyJFKFacts.org, Opinion: On JFK secrecy, Brett Kavanaugh sides with the CIA, Jefferson Morley (right), July 10, 2018. The D.C. Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 on Monday that the CIA does not have to pay my court costs incurred in the long-running FOIA lawsuit Morley v. CIA. The split decision was joined by Judge Brett Kavanaugh (below left), who was nominated by President Trump later that day to serve on the the Supreme Court.

brett kavanaughAbout the information I obtained via litigation, the unsigned opinion said, “the public benefit was small.” The decision made no reference to extensive coverage of Morley v . CIA in the New York Times, Fox News, San Diego Union, St. Paul Pioneer Press, CBS News in Dallas, and the New Yorker, among many other news organizations.

The Times and the U.K. Daily Mail, even published a photo, obtained by the lawsuit, of CIA officer George Joannides (show at right below receiving a lifetime award from the CIA) receiving a medal after he stonewalled JFK investigators in 1978. In the majority view, public interest in Morley v CIA is not a measure of its public benefit.

george joannides cia citation 1981 cia photoA strong dissent by Judge Karen Henderson takes a much more balanced and independent view of the case, in my view. Appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1990, Henderson points out that the court had previously found that I had met the standard of “public benefit” established in case law.

In a 2013 decision the court stated:

“Morley’s request had potential public value. He has proffered — and the CIA has not disputed — that Joannides served as the CIA case officer for a Cuban group, the DRE, with whose officers Oswald was in contact prior to the assassination. Travel records showing a very close match between Joannides’s and Oswald’s times in New Orleans might, for example, have (marginally) supported one of the hypotheses swirling around the assassination. In addition, this court has previously determined that Morley’s request sought information “central” to an intelligence committee’s inquiry into the performance of the CIA and other federal agencies in investigating the assassination. Under these circumstances, there was at least a modest probability that Morley’s request would generate information relevant to the assassination or later investigations.”

“In other words,” Henderson writes, “we held that Morley satisfied the public-benefit factor in this case,”

cia logoBy ignoring this finding, Henderson argues, the majority opinion ultimately depends on the assertion that the CIA responded “reasonably” to my request. Yet, Henderson notes, the ruling also ignores the fact that the appellate court had ruled the agency’s initial response to my FOIA request was deficient on seven different legal points.

Henderson again:

“The majority discusses five in its opinion. It acknowledges that the CIA: (1) missed the 20-day statutory deadline to respond, Maj. Op. 7; (2) incorrectly referred Morley to NARA rather than responding to his FOIA request itself, Maj. Op. 7-11; (3) failed to search its operational files, Maj. Op. 11; (4) submitted an incomplete Glomar response, Maj. Op. 11-12; and (5) relied on an interpretation of Exemption 2 that was later overruled, Maj. Op. 12. It addresses these errors of law seriatim and labels them “incorrect legally,” Maj. Op. 9, but not “unreasonable.” To me, the CIA’s multiple flawed legal positions suggests that it was “recalcitrant” in declining to produce any documents before being sued. Davy IV, 550 F.3d at 1162. At the least, the errors collectively undermine the district court’s conclusion that the fourth factor “weighs heavily against Morley.” Morley X, 245 F. Supp. 3d at 78 (emphasis added).”

Henderson concludes:

“In sum, I believe the district court erred on two levels: it erred in evaluating each of the four factors individually and abused its discretion in weighing them against one another. Accordingly, this case does not call for “[d]eference piled on deference.” Maj. Op. 11. It calls for an adherence to Davy IV and our four earlier Morley opinions. Because I believe the district court ignored our mandate and misapplied our precedent, I would vacate the district court order a fifth time and remand with instructions to award Morley the attorney’s fees to which he is entitled.”

Unfortunately, the majority, meaning Kavanaugh and Trump appointee Judge Gregory Katsas, disagreed. I have 45 days to appeal.

Thai Cavers All Saved

ny times logoNew York Times, Thai Cave Live Updates: All 13 Are Free After Weeks of Ordeal, Staff report, July 10, 2018. Rescue Effort Involved Dangerous Underwater Escape. The rescue operation at Tham Luang Cave in Thailand succeeded in freeing all 12 of the young soccer players and their coach in a drama that captured the world’s attention. It took dozens of divers, hundreds of volunteers and 18 days to do it. A retired Thai Navy SEAL died in the attempt.

Trump Pardons

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump pardons Oregon ranchers in case that sparked 2016 occupation, John Wagner and Mark Berman​, July 10, 2018. The president granted pardons to father-and-son cattle ranchers who were sentenced to serve prison time on two separate occasions for the same charges of arson on public lands. The case helped spark the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

The return to prison of Dwight Hammond Jr. and Steven Hammond helped spark the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in early 2016. Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, a rancher who acted as the protesters’ spokesman, was killed by a state trooper during an encounter between the armed occupation group and law enforcement — a shooting that led to charges against an FBI special agent.

Dwight Hammond is 76 and has served about three years in prison and that Steven Hammond is 49 and has served about four years.

The pardons were Trump’s latest use of clemency power in high-profile cases — a tool he’s been inclined to use more often than his recent predecessors at this point in his presidency.

Donald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: Anatomy of a Trump rally: 76 percent of claims are false, misleading or lacking evidence, Salvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly, July 10, 2018. The president (shown in a file photo) made 98 factual claims at a Montana rally. We found that 76 percent were false, misleading or unsupported by evidence.

More Court Analysis

Down With Tyranny! Opinion: Trump’s Supreme Court Seat: The Art of the Steal, Andrew Kreig, July 10, 2018 (Republication with new graphics of Justice Integrity Project column). Did U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s sudden resignation on June 27 stem from corrupt motives?

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump makes good on threat to target an additional $200 billion in Chinese imports with tariffs, David J. Lynch and Danielle Paquette​, July 10, 2018. The president escalated his trade war with China with a new range of tariffs to be imposed later this summer that, unlike the first round of import levies, will include consumer products.

washington post logoWashington Post, Some migrant children are returned to parents, but judge tells Trump officials to move faster, Maria Sacchetti, Arelis R. Hernández and Marissa J. Lang, July 10, 2018. Some of the youngest children in government custody as part of the U.S. border crackdown were handed over to parents who had been released from detention, given ankle monitors and told to await deportation proceedings.

washington post logoWashington Post, Winners and losers from Trump’s second search for a new justice, Amber Phillips, July 10, 2018.  President Trump’s nomination process was not without controversy, and not everyone came out ahead. The big winner of President Trump’s second Supreme Court pick is Trump himself. He seized the retirement of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy to remind the Republican Party why it needs him: He has the power to make the Supreme Court lean more reliably conservative for a generation.

washington post logoWashington Post, With Brett Kavanaugh, Georgetown Prep can count two Supreme Court nominees among its alumni, Moriah Balingit​, July 10, 2018. Kavanaugh graduated from the elite prep school in 1983, two years ahead of Justice Neil Gorsuch.·​

Ethnic Hatred

washington post logoWashington Post, Woman beats a 91-year-old Mexican man with a brick, tells him to ‘go back to your country,’ Deanna Paul, July 10, 2018 (print edition). The Fourth of July fireworks display was just beginning when Erik Mendoza realized his 91-year-old grandfather was missing. Thinking he might have gone for his daily walk, Mendoza wandered around the Los Angeles neighborhood searching for him.

What he found was a bloodstained sidewalk. Mendoza told The Washington Post that Rodolfo Rodriguez, a permanent resident of the United States, had been attacked with a brick and taken to the hospital with a broken cheekbone and two broken ribs.

Misbel Borjas saw the assault as it happened. Traffic had slowed Borjas’s car at a corner in Willowbrook, Calif., around 7 p.m. on July 4. Rodriguez accidentally bumped into a young girl while walking on the sidewalk, Borjas told The Washington Post. Borjas, a 35-year-old Los Angeles resident, watched the child’s mother — a black woman — push the elderly man to the ground and repeatedly bash him in the face with a concrete brick while yelling, “Go back to your country.”

Press Freedom Protest: Myanmar

myanmar map

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), “Decision to try two Reuters reporters shows Myanmar court is following orders,” Staff report, July 9, 2018. A Myanmar judge announced today that the journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are to be tried under the Official Secrets Act.

myanmar flagReporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns this morning’s decision by a Yangon judge to go ahead with the trial of two Reuters journalists on a charge of possessing secrets and calls again for their immediate release.

After more than 200 days in detention and months of preliminary hearings, Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, are to face the possibility of up to 14 years in prison for investigating an army massacre of Rohingya civilians in Inn Din, a village near the Bangladeshi border in Rakhine state, in September 2017.

Arrested on 12 December after being lured into a trap by police and given supposedly classified documents, they are to be tried under Myanmar’s colonial-era Official Secrets Act, which the military uses whenever they want to prevent journalists from covering certain subjects.

“The refusal to dismiss the case against the journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo is indicative of a judicial system that follows orders and a failed transition to democracy in Myanmar,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.

“As a result of the decision to proceed with this trial, despite the many inconsistencies and the undeniable evidence of the two journalists’ innocence that came to light in the preliminary hearings, the chances of seeing a free and independent press emerge in Myanmar have declined significantly.”

RSF regards the detention of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo as patently arbitrary and calls for their immediate and unconditional release. Myanmar fell six places in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Indexand is now ranked 137th out of 180 countries.

Syrian Army Advances Along Border

Syria FlagSouthfront, Government Forces Liberated All Border Points South Of Daraa, Staff report, July 10, 2018 (3:59 mins. video). On July 9, units of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), assisted by the Russian Military Police, retook all militant positions on the Syrian-Jordanian border south of the city of Daraa. So, the SAA fully encircled the remaining militant positions in and near the city.

See also, ISIS Suicide Bomber Targets Syrian Army Troops In Western Daraa. Casualties Reported.

International Law: Germany

Moon of Alabama, German Parliament Report: U.S. Presence in Syria Is Illegal, B, July 10, 2018. The Scientific Services of the German Bundestag are the equivalent to the Congressional Research Service in the United States. Members of Parliament can ask the services to give their neutral expert opinions on legal questions and other issues. Opinions by the Scientific Services are held in high regard.

Alexander Neu, a Member of Parliament for the Left Party in Germany, requested an opinion on the legality of the military presence and operations by Russia, the United States and Israel in Syria. The result (pdf, in German) is quite clear-cut:

Russia was asked by the recognized government of Syria to help. Its presence in Syria is without doubt legal under International Law.

U.S. activities in Syria can be seen as two phases:

Regime Change

The provision of arms to insurgents in Syria by the U.S. (and others) was and is illegal. It is a breach of the Prohibition on the Use of Force in international law specifically of the UN Charter Article 2(4):

Fight against ISIS

The U.S. argues that its presence in Syria is in (collective) self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter because the Islamic State in Syria threatens to attack the United States. That, in itself, would be insufficient as Syria is a sovereign state. The U.S. therefore additionally claims that the Syrian state is “unwilling or unable” to fight against the Islamic State.

The Scientific Services says that the claim of “unwilling or unable” was already dubious when the U.S. operation started.

July 9

SCOTUS Pick Reaction

The Intercept, Chuck Schumer Warns Senate Democrats: Fight Brett Kavanaugh Or Pay the Price From the Base, Ryan Grim, July 9, 2018. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is warning Democrats in the chamber that if they don’t put up a brutal fight over the next Supreme Court justice, there will be hell to pay from the Democratic base, according to senior Senate aides briefed on Schumer’s message.

Democratic leadership’s response in the two weeks since Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement has been in stark contrast to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s firm, across-the-board rejection of any Obama nominee sent up in 2016. McConnell, flexing the power of a majority leader, announced within an hour of the news of the February 2016 death of Antonin Scalia that under no circumstances would the Senate consider a nominee before the November election.

What that fierce opposition will look like, and how broad it will be, remains to be seen, as Schumer lacks the full authority over the Senate that McConnell wielded in 2016. But as a major political party just two seats shy of a majority, Democrats are not as powerless as they sometimes let on.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: If the Supreme Court is Nakedly Political, Can It Be Just? Lee Epstein and Eric Posner, July 9, 2018. President Trump was always going to pick a conservative for the Supreme Court. The only question has been whether to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy with a “business conservative” or a “religious conservative.”

But we wonder whether a Supreme Court that has come to be rigidly divided by both ideology and party can sustain public confidence for much longer.

In the past 10 years, however, justices have hardly ever voted against the ideology of the president who appointed them. Only Justice Kennedy, named to the court by Ronald Reagan, did so with any regularity. That is why with his replacement on the court an ideologically committed Republican justice, it will become impossible to regard the court as anything but a partisan institution.

Ms. Epstein is a political scientist and law professor at Washington University. Mr. Posner is a professor at the University of Chicago Law School.

Major UK / Brexit Shakeups

boris johnson july 2015ny times logoNew York Times, U.K. Foreign Secretary Quits as Brexit Split Shakes Cabinet, Stephen Castle, July 9, 2018. Boris Johnson (shown at right) resigned as Britain’s foreign secretary on Monday, becoming the second cabinet minister to quit in less than 24 hours in protest over plans from Prime Minister Theresa May to soften the economic impact of British withdrawal from the European Union.

Mr. Johnson’s departure followed that of David Davis, who quit as Brexit secretary late Sunday, and deepens the mood of crisis gripping Mrs. May’s government three days after she thought she had won agreement from her cabinet on a Brexit plan.

United Kingdom flagThe public face of the 2016 campaign that persuaded Britons to quit the European Union, known as Brexit, Mr. Johnson is perhaps the most high-profile advocate of leaving the bloc, and his departure highlights the depth of the bitter divisions in Mrs. May’s government.

On several occasions, Mr. Johnson had appeared to undermine Mrs. May’s strategy, and in comments that were recently leaked, he described her government as lacking “guts,” unfavorably comparing the prime minister’s negotiating style to that of President Trump. Related story below:

washington post logoUnited Kingdom flagWashington Post, Britain’s ‘Brexit minister’ abruptly resigns, throwing May’s government into turmoil, William Booth and Karla Adam, July 9, 2018 (print edition). The resignation exposed Prime Minister Theresa May to challenge by Conservative party members outraged over what they see as her plan to secure a “soft Brexit” that keeps Britain tied to the European Union after it leaves the bloc next year.

Pedophile #MeToo Cover-up Scandal?

norman eisen SmallThe Hill, Former White House ethics chief requests probe into whether Jordan knew of alleged sexual abuse, Avery Anapol, July 9, 2018. Former White House ethics chief Norman Eisen, right, on Monday said that he has filed a formal ethics complaint against GOP Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio) amid accusations that the lawmaker ignored sexual abuse allegations while serving as an assistant coach for the Ohio State University wrestling program.

Eisen, who served as former President Obama’s ethics chief (and also as a U.S. ambassador0, said that he and Fred Wertheimer of the nonprofit watchdog group Democracy 21 filed the complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE).

jim jordan 07 26 2011 fileJordan, shown in a file photo, has denied the allegations, saying that if he had known about the alleged abuse, he would have acted to stop it.

Seven former wrestlers have contradicted Jordan’s claims, saying that the former assistant coach knew about alleged sexual abuse by athletic doctor Richard Strauss. Strauss killed himself in 2005.

Eisen and Wertheimer’s complaint seeks an OCE investigation into whether Jordan is lying about his knowledge of alleged abuse. Eisen and Wertheimer argue that if Jordan is “publicly lying about his knowledge of the matter,” he is violating House Rules and should be held accountable.

virginia ginni thomas cpac 2017 gage skidmore flickr

Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, radical right activist, lobbyist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, at “CPAC 2017” (Gage Skidmore photo via Flickr)

virginia thomas jim jordan twitterRaw Story, Clarence Thomas’ wife defends Rep. Jim Jordan — says sex abuse allegations emerged because ‘he threatens the elite,’ Elizabeth Preza, July 9, 2018.

Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, on Monday claimed that Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH, right) is the target of “false accusations” stemming from his time as an assistant coach at Ohio State University because he “threatens elite” — even as a seventh former wrestler on Sunday accused the GOP representative of lying about his knowledge of sex abuse at the school.

“Jim Jordan is under attack, with false accusations, because he threatens the elite,” Thomas wrote, along with a video of Jordan emphatically denying any knowledge of sex abuse while he was a coach.

4 Reputed SCOTUS Top Contenders

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump weighs top picks for Supreme Court amid last-minute maneuvering, Robert Costa and Robert Barnes, July 9, 2018. The president is scheduled to announce the politically charged decision at 9 p.m. Monday.

thomas hardimanSCOTUSBlog, Potential nominee profile: Judge Thomas Hardiman, a close second to Gorsuch and a shortlister again, Amy Howe, July 2, 2018. When President Donald Trump was searching for a nominee in 2017 to fill the vacancy created by the 2016 death of Antonin Scalia, he reportedly narrowed the field to two candidates: then-Judge Neil Gorsuch, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, and Judge Thomas Hardiman (right) of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit.

raymond kethledgeSCOTUSblog, Potential nominee profile: Raymond Kethledge, Amy Howe, July 7, 2018. Like Thomas Hardiman, another potential nominee on the president’s shortlist, [U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals] Judge Raymond Kethledge (left) would bring educational diversity to a bench on which all of the current justices attended Ivy League law schools.

brett kavanaughSCOTUSblog, Potential nominee profile: Brett Kavanaugh, Edith Roberts, June 28, 2018. When then-candidate Donald Trump released his first two lists of potential Supreme Court nominees in May and September of 2016, the omission of Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit drew comment. Kavanaugh had served for 10 years on a bench known as a springboard to the Supreme Court. With his impeccable academic credentials and sterling reputation in conservative political and legal circles, he seemed like an obvious choice. And his name was eventually added to the roster of possible nominees, on November 17, 2017. No one else on the president’s current list can rival Kavanaugh for Washington credentials.

SCOTUSblog, Potential nominee profile: Amy Coney Barrett, Amy Howe, July 4, 2018. In November 2017, President Donald Trump released a amy coney barrett headshot notre dame photorevised list of potential Supreme Court nominees. The November 2017 list was an expanded version of two earlier lists, announced during the 2016 presidential campaign, from which then-candidate Trump pledged, if elected, to pick a successor to the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who died on February 13, 2016. First on the new list – because it was in alphabetical order – was Amy Coney Barrett, a Notre Dame law professor (and former Scalia clerk) who had recently been confirmed to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. She is shown at left.

8 Now Rescued From Cave

ny times logoNew York Times, Thailand Cave Rescue Live Updates: 8th Person Is Out, Staff report, July 9, 2018. (UPDATED at 9:50 a.m. Eastern.) The Times has reporters on the scene and will be providing updates regularly. Go here to see maps and diagrams of how the rescue is unfolding.

Eight people are now out of the cave complex: Four people were extracted from the cave on Monday and taken to the hospital, local officials said. The new extraction run was sped up, according to the search chief, after air tanks were replaced and guide ropes tightened along the long escape route.

Gaza Flotilla Includes U.S. Navy Survivor

uss liberty day after june 8 1967 attack

Consortium News, USS Liberty Survivor Named US Delegate on Gaza Flotilla, Joe Lauria, July 9, 2018. A survivor of the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty (shown above) that killed 34 U.S. sailors has joined the Freedom Flotilla headed towards Gaza.

Joe Meadors, a survivor of the 1967 Israeli attack on the USS Liberty, has joined the 2018 Gaza Freedom Flotilla as the delegate from the United States. He will board the Al Awda (The Return), which left Corisca Sunday night for the final 1,000 miles to Gaza. Al Awda is one of four boats on the 75-day voyage from Scandinavia. Born in Corpus Christi, Texas, Meadors is a past president of USS Liberty Veterans Association, founded in 1982.

The Flotillas aim to bring attention to the illegal blockade imposed by Israel on Gaza since 2007.

Trump Watch

bbc news logo2BBC, Trump: Is the President a Sex Pest? Richard Bilton, July 9, 2018 (20 mins.). Donald Trump has been accused of sexually inappropriate behaviour by more than 20 women, but he has dismissed them all as liars. Now one of those women is suing him for defamation.

An American court will have to decide what really happened and whether the President of the United States is a sexual predator. So what is the truth about Donald Trump’s behaviour towards women? In the week of his visit to Britain, reporter Richard Bilton investigates new allegations about Mr Trump and meets the women who say the president is a sex pest.
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Raw Story, Trump’s personal chauffeur is suing him, David Badash, July 9, 2018. President Trump’s personal chauffeur is suing him. Noel Cintron, who has served the real estate mogul for 25 years, has filed suit against Trump claiming thousands of hours of unpaid overtime. He also says Trump eliminated his health insurance.

Cintron just “sued the Trump Organization for about 3,300 of overtime that he says he worked in the past six years. He’s not allowed to sue for overtime prior to that due to the statute of limitations,” Bloomberg reports. In his complaint, “Cintron says he was required to be on duty for Trump starting at 7 a.m. each day until whenever Trump, his family or business associates no longer required his services. He worked as long as 55 hours per week, but was paid a fixed salary of $62,700 in 2003, $68,000 in 2006, and $75,000 in 2010.”

He received just two raises over the past six years, but his 2010 raise “came with a catch, Cintron said. He was induced to surrender his health insurance, saving Trump approximately $17,866 per year in premiums, according to the lawsuit.”

The Spectator USA, The Beeb vs The Donald, The BBC brings up President Trump’s women problems, Staff report, Cockburn, July 9, 2018. While tens of thousands of demonstrators are expected in central London to protest Donald Trump’s visit this week, the BBC too is laying out its own welcome mat. Its most important current affairs programme, Panorama, tonight broadcasts a film titled ‘Trump: Is the President a Sex Pest?’

bbc news logo2The Panorama website says: “Donald Trump has been accused of sexually inappropriate behaviour by more than 20 women, but he has dismissed them all as liars. Now one of those women is suing him for defamation. An American court will have to decide what really happened and whether the President of the United States is a sexual predator.”

Trump doesn’t care much about protesters. As Freddy Gray argues, he probably delights in this kind of bien pensant virtue signalling. “So why play into his notoriously small hands?” On the other, small hand, he is said to be extremely thin skinned about media coverage. The President doesn’t like Aunty any more than he likes CNN. The BBC? “Another beauty,” he once said at a news conference. And despite his skirt-chasing-couldn’t-give-a-damn image, Trump has always gone to great lengths to cover up his sexual indiscretions. His personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, was used to pay off and shut up a long line of models, porn stars, party girls, reality TV show contestants, and others. Some of these women accuse him of forcible kissing, groping, or other sexual assault. As Panorama says, the count of women making these claims is up to 20, so far.

There are also claims of abortions. A forthcoming book, Everything Trump Touches Dies, by the Republican political consultant Rick Wilson, quotes a close friend of Trump’s. “The last conversation Trump ever has with one of his girls is when she calls and says, ‘Don, I’m late.’ Or when he gets bored with her. At that point, Cohen and his people take over. NDA, payout, go away. It’s all in Cohen’s office. He can’t have that come out.”

A significant part of Trump’s support comes from evangelicals, who so far have been turning the other cheek to a series of “bimbo eruptions” that began before the election. Whether they can ignore abortions and sexual assault – if proven – is another matter.

Politics: Illinois, Nebraska

bruce rauner-o

Politico, Illinois governor profits off ICE detention center contracts, Natasha Korecki, July 9, 2018. Gov. Bruce Rauner (shown above in an official photo) this year reported turning a profit from a health care group that services U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers, including facilities that hold immigrant families with children.

correct care solutions ccs logoIn his most recent statement of economic interests, the multi-millionaire Republican governor disclosed earnings from a private equity fund that owns Correct Care Solutions, a for-profit health care provider that has millions of dollars in government contracts with jails and prisons across the country, including immigrant detention centers.

The governor says he relinquished investment decisions to a third party and has no direct ties to Correct Care Solutions, a group whose work extends to places like Karnes County Residential Center in Texas, one of just four immigrant family detention centers in the country contracted for profit.

Still, Rauner’s disclosures reveal he’s earning income from the group, which reports making $1 billion in revenue annually. The financial connection between a sitting governor and for-profit ICE detention contractors is one that immigration rights groups insist is a clear conflict of interest. They also point to Correct Care Solutions’ track record involving dozens of lawsuits alleging wide-ranging negligence.

Politico, Sasse tempts Trump’s wrath by refusing to bow, Alex Isenstadt, July 9, 2018. The Republican senator and persistent Trump critic stokes speculation about his intentions with a soon-to-publish book and new nonprofit.

ben sasse o croppedU.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebaska (shown at right), has so far been spared the public floggings that Donald Trump inflicted on two since-vanquished GOP critics in the Senate, Jeff Flake and Bob Corker. But that may soon change.

As the “never Trump” faction of the Republican Party dwindles to a lonely few, the Nebraska senator has shown little interest in backing down – leaving him vulnerable to a Trump-fueled primary challenge in 2020, when he’s up for reelection.

How Sasse responds — he has a book coming out three weeks before the midterm elections and has quietly launched a new political non-profit group, fueling speculation that he might launch a Hail Mary bid for president rather than seek another term in the Senate — promises to be the next intra-GOP drama.

Behind the scenes, the president has stewed over Sasse’s recurring jabs, according to several people familiar with his thinking on the matter. After the 2016 campaign – in which Sasse refused to vote for Trump and compared the New York City mogul to white supremacist David Duke – Trump had a conversation with a GOP senator in which he referred to Sasse as “that guy” and said he’d like to see the Nebraska Republican “go away.”

More recently, the president has complained to aides that he views Sasse as dead-set against his “America First” trade agenda. In April, Trump sparred with Sasse during a meeting at the White House with farm-state lawmakers over the president’s decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Pedophile #MeToo Cover-up Scandal?

The Hill, Former White House ethics chief requests probe into whether Jordan knew of alleged sexual abuse, Avery Anapol, July 9, 2018. Former White House ethics chief Norm Eisen on Monday said that he has filed a formal ethics complaint against GOP Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio) amid accusations that the lawmaker ignored sexual abuse allegations while serving as an assistant coach for the Ohio State University wrestling program.

Eisen, who served as former President Obama’s ethics chief, said that he and Fred Wertheimer of the nonprofit watchdog group Democracy 21 filed the complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE).

jim jordan 07 26 2011 fileJordan, shown in a file photo, has denied the allegations, saying that if he had known about the alleged abuse, he would have acted to stop it.

Seven former wrestlers have contradicted Jordan’s claims, saying that the former assistant coach knew about alleged sexual abuse by athletic doctor Richard Strauss. Strauss killed himself in 2005.

Eisen and Wertheimer’s complaint seeks an OCE investigation into whether Jordan is lying about his knowledge of alleged abuse. Eisen and Wertheimer argue that if Jordan is “publicly lying about his knowledge of the matter,” he is violating House Rules and should be held accountable.

Radical Right SCOTUS Wife Defends Jordan

virginia ginni thomas cpac 2017 gage skidmore flickr

Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the radical Republican activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, at CPAC 2017 (Gage Skidmore photo via Flickr)

AlterNet, Clarence Thomas’ wife defends Rep. Jim Jordan — says sex abuse allegations emerged because ‘he threatens the elite,’ Elizabeth Preza, July 9, 2018.

Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, on Monday claimed that Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) is the target of “false accusations” stemming from his time as an assistant coach at Ohio State University because he “threatens elite” — even as a seventh former wrestler on Sunday accused the GOP representative of lying about his knowledge of sex abuse at the school.

“Jim Jordan is under attack, with false accusations, because he threatens the elite,” Thomas wrote, along with a video of Jordan emphatically denying any knowledge of sex abuse while he was a coach.

Inside DC

Naked Capitalism, Analysis: SEC Knifes Its Whistleblower Program, Yves Smith, July 9, 2018. The SEC always hated the whistleblower program that Congress imposed on it as part of Dodd Frank reforms. Congress was responding to the SEC’s grotesque institutional failure in ignoring Harry Markopolos’ repeated, detailed warnings about the Bernie Madoff fraud, a Ponzi scheme that reached $65 billion due to SEC inaction.

But as we’ll describe, the SEC issued new guidance – on a Saturday night in the summer – that guts the whistleblower program by imposing new standards that look to be contrary to the intent of Congress by making it difficult to win awards for large-scale frauds, and then reducing the payouts on them. It looks like career-minded SEC officials who resented that whistleblower filings could force them to probe wrong-doings of prospective employers are making sure the agency will only hand out parking tickets.

Admittedly, Congress had set out to enfeeble the SEC, by keeping it budget-starved and having Congressmen like Joe Lieberman threaten to cut its funding even further if it went too aggressively after big financiers. The agency had retreated to focusing enforcement almost entirely on insider trading, to the degree that became almost incapable of seeing the world any other way. For instance, it botched its first major crisis case involving the collapse of two Bear Stearns hedge funds, by bizarrely pursuing the execs managing the funds as insider traders, rather than understanding that they were victims of other Wall Street firms (and perhaps even Bear’s own trading desks) that were selling toxic subprime mortgage securities and CDOs. ‘

Nevertheless, the new whistleblower program established an awards fund entirely outside the SEC’s budget, and also tasked the SEC to set up a “Whistleblower Office.” The agency was obligated to pay sources compensation set as a portion of the SEC’s recovery if they contributed information that was valuable to an enforcement action.

The program went live in 2012, and under Chairman Mary Jo White, the SEC feigned enthusiasm for the new initiative, dutifully reporting how many tips it had received and asking for more funding to do a better job, even as high level SEC insiders grumbled about how the whistleblower program trampled on the agency’s discretion.

Last Saturday, in the dead of night, the SEC moved to make explicit, with the release of draft rule revisions, what close observers long suspected, that despite the agency’s weak support for whistleblowers, they have proven nevertheless too successful.

The proposed new rules have two main thrusts. First, they would change the formula for computing whistleblower awards so that large awards would receive fewer dollars. Second, new barriers to receiving awards would be placed in front of whistleblowers who include any public information in their evidence of wrong-doing. The reason that matters, as we’ll explain in detail, is that whistleblowers who provide evidence of widespread or systemic frauds will almost certainly be relying significantly on public information. Perversely, that could even been deemed to include information the whistleblower got into the public domain via FOIA.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s fight with federal employee unions gets real as new rules take effect, Lisa Rein, July 9, 2018 (print edition). The administration describes the executive orders as an effort to streamline a bloated bureaucracy and improve accountability. But unions say the rules are intended to weaken their bargaining power and make it easier to fire workers.

Inside Washington

sambonn lek rice

Famed St. Regis Hotel host Sambonn Lek displays a donor’s photo with bags of rice contributed to his native Cambodia in one of countless charitable efforts

sambonn lek Hamlton2 on 5 6 13New York Times, Behind the Bar, Mixing Drinks With Aid for a Faraway Home, Elizabeth Williamson, July 9, 2018. Sambonn Lek, bartender at the St. Regis hotel near the White House, has shaken and stirred for movers and shakers since the Carter administration. At 66, he leads a disappearing fraternity: barkeeps who know their regulars’ names and favorite cocktails, and when they drink so much of the latter that they forget the former, find them a ride home.

When it’s quiet, he breaks out his repertoire of magic tricks, which in the days before the fire marshal stepped in included “breathing fire” by blowing a mouthful of spirits past a flame.

Mr. Lek’s greatest act, though, is performed daily in his native Cambodia, with the help of his affluent patrons. He is a Vietnam-era refugee turned philanthropist, collecting spare change and big checks from customers to fund Sam Relief, which builds schools, digs wells, and provides food, clothing and medical and school supplies in his native Cambodia. Since 2000 his nonprofit has built 27 schools, dug nearly 400 wells, delivered 290 tons of rice and awarded 120 scholarships to Cambodian schoolchildren.

Mr. Lek, who said he escaped Cambodia’s genocide and poverty because America opened its doors to him, believes that human generosity transcends politics. Over two decades, his patrons of both parties have proved him right.

Alternative Media

Unz Review, Why Was Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 Shot Down? Kees van der Pijl, July 9, 2018. Kees van der Pijl is a Fellow, Centre for Global Political Economy and Professor Emeritus of the School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex.

In my book Flight MH17, Ukraine and the New Cold War. Prism of Disaster (Manchester University Press), I have refrained from entering the slippery terrain of making claims about who pulled the trigger, intentionally or by accident, in the late afternoon of 17 July, or even which type of weapon was used. For the downing of the Malaysian plane has become part of a propaganda war that was already heating up prior to the catastrophe. Instead the book is about what we do know about the events surrounding it, in the preceding months, weeks, and days, indeed even on the day itself. Subsequent events have only underlined that it is this context that lends meaning to the tragedy.

Whether the actual downing of Flight MH17 was an intentional, premeditated act or an accident, whether it involved a jet attack, an anti-aircraft missile, or both, ultimately cannot be established with certainty.

Yet both the NATO war party and the coup regime in Kiev, which on many occasions has demonstrated that its ultra-nationalist and fascist antecedents are very much alive, would have been perfectly capable of such an act and had the means for it. Most importantly, they had the motive. Those in power in Kiev had several times already attempted to draw Moscow into the civil war, directly and through a NATO intervention. If this indeed was their aim, it would also have served the Atlantic bloc’s determined and long-standing commitment to force continental Europe into an antagonistic relation with Russia.

Unz Review, Opinion: American Pravda: Post-War France and Post-War Germany, Ron Unz, July 9, 2018. Back in Junior High School I became an avid war-gamer, and was fascinated by the military history of the past, especially World War II, the most titanic conflict ever recorded. However, although I much enjoyed reading the detailed accounts of the battles of that war, especially on the Eastern Front that largely determined its outcome, I had much less interest in the accompanying political history, and simply relied upon the accounts in my standard textbooks, which I considered quite reliable.

July 8

Free Press

washington post logoWashington Post, Wendi Winters, victim of Annapolis Capital Gazette shooting, rushed at gunman, Hannah Natanson, July 8, 2018 (print edition).
Wendi Winters stood as soon as she heard the bangs.

A man with a gun had broken the glass doors leading to the newsroom of the Capital Gazette and was shooting at her colleagues, many of whom dropped to the floor or dove under their desks. Not Winters.

Grabbing the trash can and recycling bin she kept by her desk, she ran toward the man and yelled at him to stop — distracting him long enough to allow some of her colleagues to escape. Of the 11 people in the room that day, six survived.

“In an act of extraordinary courage, she gave her heart, and she gave her last breath, and she gave her final eight pints of blood to the defense of the free press and in defense of her family at the Capital,” Winters’s son Phoenix Geimer told a crowd of more than 700 family members, co-workers and friends gathered on Saturday in the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts to celebrate Winters’s life. “She died fighting for what she believed in. My mom is an American hero, and we all have so much to live up to.”

Winters, 65, was among five Capital Gazette employees killed June 28 when, according to police, a man who had long borne a grudge against the paper opened fire in the Annapolis office in an effort to kill the reporters and editors inside.

washington post logoWashington Post, No comment’: The death of business reporting, Steven Pearlstein, July 8, 2018 (Print edition). More and more companies won’t talk with the press, and that’s bad for everyone.

Even the prospect of a positive story can’t crack open the door to the executive suite. Alan Murray, who spent years at the Wall Street Journal as a reporter and editor before taking the reins at Fortune magazine, summed it up this way: “One, they don’t trust us. And, two, they don’t need us.”

Indeed, what’s happened in the corporate world is not all that different from what has happened in politics and government in the era of Donald Trump, whose administration has set new highs in terms of distrust and hostility toward the press.

Child Rescue At Thai Cave

ny times logoNew York Times, Divers Begin Rescue Efforts at Thailand Cave, Staff report, July 8, 2018. Rescuers are racing against the threat of rains flooding the site and making such an effort impossible. Officials hope to pull the first boy out in the evening, but the operation could take days.The effort to rescue the trapped boys and their coach was underway Sunday, with officials hoping to pull the first boy out in the evening. But the operation could take days to remove all 13 of those trapped.

The decision came just as heavy monsoon rains returned to the area, after days of relative respite. Experts say the rain will not immediately make water levels rise within the cave, but it greatly increases the urgency of the operation.

A former Thai Navy diver who was helping with the rescue operation died Friday. He ran out of air while placing spare oxygen tanks along the route to the cavern where the boys are trapped.

ny times logoNew York Times, At Least 3 Are Rescued Alive, Officials Say, Staff report, [UPDATED at 8:53 a.m. Eastern, July 8]. The first of the trapped players have been rescued from the cave and were heading to the hospital, military and local officials said. Thai officials said Sunday morning that the extraction operation had begun, and that the whole effort could take days.

Health Care

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Do Poor People Have a Right to Health Care? Editorial Board, July 8, 2018 (print edition). The 16 Kentuckians who recently won a lawsuit challenging the legality of Medicaid work requirements include a law student with a rare heart condition, a mortician with diabetes, a mother of four with congenital hip dysplasia and a housekeeper with rheumatoid arthritis. It’s a mixed bunch, united by two grim facts: They live at or below the federal poverty level, and they’re caught in the cross hairs of a debate over what society owes its neediest members.

Their lawsuit argued that insisting that people work a certain number of hours a month in order to receive Medicaid benefits, like other requirements the state was planning to demand, is illegal because it runs counter to Medicaid’s purpose — to ensure that low-income people have access to decent care. The lawsuit also contended that such requirements would imperil the plaintiffs’ health by depriving them of the only medical insurance they could afford. The new rules, which would have stripped recipients of their benefits if they failed to meet monthly hours-worked quotas and strict reporting standards, were simply oblivious to the realities of low-wage living in Kentucky, and America in general.

On June 29, two days before those requirements were to take effect, a District Court judge ruled decisively for the plaintiffs, calling the Department of Health and Human Services “capricious” for approving Kentucky’s plan at the beginning of the year and lambasting Secretary Alex Azar for failing to consider the impact the measures would have on those in need. “The record shows that 95,000 people would lose Medicaid coverage,” Judge James Boasberg wrote in his decision. “And yet the Secretary paid no attention to that deprivation.”

Supreme Court Battle

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats Face Painful Choice on Supreme Court, Carl Hulse, July 8, 2018 (print edition). The Supreme Court votes by a handful of Senate Democrats from Republican states could have broad ramifications for their party, its leadership and its core voters.

ny times logomitch mcconnell2New York Times, McConnell Tries to Nudge Trump Toward 2 Justice Contenders, Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Martin, July 8, 2018 (print edition). Senator Mitch McConnell (right) argued that Judges Raymond M. Kethledge and Thomas M. Hardiman presented the fewest obvious obstacles to being confirmed, according to Republican officials.

While careful not to directly make the case for any would-be justice, Mr. McConnell made clear in multiple phone calls with Mr. Trump and the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, that the lengthy paper trail of another top contender, Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, would pose difficulties for his confirmation.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Fatal Flaw to Remake Health Care: Cutting Corners, Robert Pear, July 8, 2018 (print edition). The Trump administration is on a losing streak in court cases, but the naming of a new Supreme Court justice could alter the trajectory on some of the most controversial cases.

The recent court rebukes have only increased the focus on the Supreme Court and the impact that Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s retirement could have. Beyond abortion rights, which are sure to be a focus of Senate confirmation hearings, other health care issues could be in the balance.

The court upheld the Affordable Care Act in 2012, but challenges to various provisions are still pending in lower courts. In addition, the Supreme Court is being asked to decide questions with major implications for the future of Medicaid: whether states can exclude Planned Parenthood clinics from their Medicaid programs, and whether Medicaid patients can sue states to enforce their rights under federal law.

Inside DC

Axios, Payback: How Democrats will torment Trump, Jonathan Swan, July 8, 2018. At the end of last week, one of Washington’s most battle-hardened and sought-after lawyers forecast an ominous future for the Trump administration. We thought the lawyer’s analysis — told to Mike Allen and me — was worth reproducing in full as it echoes what we’re hearing from other attorneys in close touch with Trump’s White House.

The big picture: “The Pruitt situation should be a warning sign to the administration about what will happen if the Democrats take the House.”

Between the lines: “Pruitt’s ultimate downfall came from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee agreeing on a bipartisan basis to summon his staffers in for transcribed interviews. The Pruitt ‘team’ fell apart when he could no longer protect them and they had to hire their own lawyers, turn over documents and answer questions under penalty of perjury.”

More Heath Care

ny times logoNew York Times, Most Nursing Homes Have Overstated Staffing for Years, Jordan Rau, July 8, 2018 (print edition). Payroll records for more than 14,000 facilities show that the number of nurses and aides at work dips far below average some days and consistently sinks on weekends.

ny times logoNew York Times, Health Insurers Warn of Market Turmoil as Trump Suspends Billions in Payments, July 8, 2018 (print edition).

Climate Change Impacts?

washington post logojapan flag stdWashington Post, At least 80 dead, dozens missing as ‘historic’ rains pound Japan, Simon Denyer​, July 8, 2018 (print edition). Millions of people have forced from their homes by landslides and flooding across western and central Japan.

ny times logoNew York Times, Wildfire Season Starts With Triple-Digit Heat in California, Tim Arango, July 8, 2018 (print edition). From the coast to the desert, an unseasonable heat wave struck Southern California, setting records and sparking wildfires.

Trump Watch

Politico, Details emerge on Justice Department meeting with reporters on Manafort, Josh Gerstein, July 8, 2018. Lawyers for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort (shown below) are crying foul over a meeting Justice Department prosecutors held with four Associated Press reporters last year as news organizations and the FBI bore down on the longtime lobbyist and political consultant.

Paul ManafortManafort’s defense has argued for months that the off-the-record session on April 11, 2017, was a potential conduit for improper leaks to the press about the probe that led to two criminal cases against the former Trump campaign chief. Now, Manafort’s attorneys have fresh evidence they say bolsters their claims: two memos written by FBI agents who attended the meeting and documented their version of what transpired.

Manafort’s legal team paints the evidence as confirmation that journalists were given inside information about the investigation in violation of Justice Department policies and, perhaps, legal prohibitions on disclosure of grand jury secrets.

Justice Department log circularOne of the FBI memos indicates that the AP did get some information at the meeting. At the conclusion of the session, reporters got a vague assurance that they “appeared to have a good understanding of Manafort’s business dealings,” one memo says. The same memo says the meeting was “arranged” by Andrew Weissmann, the then-chief of the fraud section of Justice’s Criminal Division and now the top prosecutor on the Manafort case.

However, the memos indicate that the bulk of the information flow at the meeting went the other way, with the AP journalists providing the FBI with a bevy of facts the news organization uncovered during its inquiries into Manafort’s work and finances. The meeting took place a day before the AP published a story saying that Manafort received at least some payments ascribed to him or his companies in a so-called black ledger of off-the-books spending by former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Reporters do sometimes give government agencies a heads up on forthcoming stories that could significantly impact an investigation, but the details in the FBI memos show that the AP provided numerous details to the officials about the news outlet’s investigation. Many appear to have already been public, but some seem unreported, like a claim that Manafort sent an internal White House document to people he was working with in Ukraine.

July 7

Trump’s China Trade War Starts

washington post logoChina FlagWashington Post, Trump’s trade war starts, and China immediately retaliates with tariffs of its own, Danielle Paquette and Emily Rauhala, July 7, 2018 (print edition). The United States imposed levies on $34 billion in Chinese goods early today, prompting Beijing to accuse the U.S. of violating WTO rules and setting off “the largest trade war in economic history to date.” The financial jousting prompted concern over rising costs for a wide range of goods.

Global Info Wars

iran women hijab propaganda

Caitlin Johnstone via SouthFront, Opinion: This Is What Modern War Propaganda Looks Like, Caitlin Johnstone, July 7, 2018. I’ve been noticing videos going viral the last few days, some with millions of views, about Muslim women bravely fighting to free themselves from oppression in the Middle East.

Israel Flagrepublican elephant logoThe videos, curiously, are being shared enthusiastically by many Republicans and pro-Israel hawks, who aren’t traditionally the sort of crowd you see rallying to support the civil rights of Muslims. What’s up with that?

American FlagWell, you may want to sit down for this shocker, but it turns out that they happen to be women from a nation that the US war machine is currently escalating operations against. They are Iranian.

Rex TillersonBack in December a memo was leaked from inside the Trump administration showing how then-Secretary of State, DC neophyte Rex Tillerson (right), was coached on how the US empire uses human rights as a pretense on which to attack and undermine noncompliant governments. Politico reports:

The May 17 memo reads like a crash course for a businessman-turned-diplomat, and its conclusion offers a starkly realist vision: that the U.S. should use human rights as a club against its adversaries, like Iran, China and North Korea, while giving a pass to repressive allies like the Philippines, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

“Allies should be treated differently — and better — than adversaries. Otherwise, we end up with more adversaries, and fewer allies,” argued the memo, state dept map logo Smallwritten by Tillerson’s influential policy aide, Brian Hook.

The propaganda machine doesn’t operate any differently from the State Department, since they serve the same establishment.

Mohammed Bin Salman Al-SaudUS ally Saudi Arabia is celebrated by the mass media for “liberal reform” in allowing women to drive despite hard evidence that those “reforms” [led by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, right] are barely surface-level cosmetics to present a pretty face to the western world, but Iranian women, who have been able to drive for years, are painted as uniquely oppressed.

Iran is condemned by establishment war whores for the flaws in its democratic process, while Saudi Arabia, an actual monarchy, goes completely unscrutinized.

Syrian Civil War

SouthFront, Russia And Free Syrian Army Reach Initial Agreement On Southern Syria – Reports, Staff report, July 7, 2018. On July 6, the US-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Russia reached an initial agreement on southern Syria during a meeting in the town of Bosra al-Sham.

The FSA will hand over its weapons to the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and withdraw to the opposition-held areas in northern Syria along with radical fighters of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and the Ahrar al-Sham Movement. Syria FlagIn return, the SAA will be replaced by units of the Russian Military Police and later by the Syrian Police.

Militants of the western Daraa countryside and al-Qunitar have not approved the agreement yet. These areas are well known for hosting hundreds of HTS fighters; Due to this, they will likely reject this peaceful solution.

Inside DC

Rod Rosenstein Deputyty Atttorney Generalwashington post logoWashington Post, ‘A little steel in the spine’; Rod Rosenstein, facing mounting criticism from Congress, is starting to fight back, Matt Zapotosky and Karoun Demirjian July 7, 2018. Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein (right) has been in the hot seat ever since he appointed Robert S. Mueller III to investigate whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election.

The president dislikes him and conservative Republicans in Congress have toyed with impeaching him over Russia-related documents they say he won’t hand over. Those who work for Rosenstein know any day could be their boss’s last.

But in more than 14 months on the job, the former Maryland U.S. attorney seems to be getting used to the constant controversy and criticism that comes from overseeing Mueller. Rather than walking on eggshells, he’s starting to fight back.

At a House Judiciary Committee hearing last week, Rosenstein sparred with Republican lawmakers who accused him of inappropriately withholding documents on the Mueller probe, and asked him whether he had threatened staffers on the House Intelligence Committee.

The normally placid Rosenstein shook his finger at Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) in a fiery exchange in which Jordan (shown in a file photo) also told the jim jordan 07 26 2011 filedeputy attorney general his inquiries were “not personal.” He later raised doubts about Rosenstein’s credibility.

“Well, now, who are we supposed to believe? Staff members who we’ve worked with, who have never misled us? Or you guys, who we’ve caught hiding information from us, who tell a witness not to answer our questions?” Jordan said.

“Thank you for making clear it’s not personal, Mr. Jordan.”

Rosenstein has opined publicly that the Justice Department cannot essentially open its files to Congress. Discussing the document spat during an event at the Newseum in May, Rosenstein said of those threatening to impeach him, “I think they should understand by now that the Department of Justice is not going to be extorted.”

#MeToo Scandal: New Witness Against Rep. Jordan

jim jordan ohio fourth district map Small

U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, represents the heavily gerrimandered Fourth District shown above to encompass heavily white, GOP voters

The Hill, Seventh former Ohio State wrestler claims Jordan knew of alleged sexual abuse, Jacqueline Thomsen, July 7, 2018.  A seventh former Ohio State jim jordan headshot CustomUniversity wrestler came forward Saturday with claims that Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) knew about alleged sexual abuse taking place on the wrestling team while he was an assistant coach.

David Range told The Washington Post that Jordan (shown at right) must have know about the alleged sexual abuse by athletic doctor Richard Strauss because it happened regularly and was often discussed.

“Jordan definitely knew that these things were happening — yes, most definitely,” Range told the newspaper. “It was there. He knew about it because it was an everyday occurrence.”

More Global News

washington post logomike pompeo portraitWashington Post, North Korea calls U.S. attitude toward talks ‘regrettable,’ John Hudson​, July 7, 2018. The Foreign Ministry rejected claims by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (right) that two days of talks were “productive” and that both sides engaged in “good-faith negotiations.”

north korea flagNorth Korea accused the United States of demanding unilateral denuclearization and said the United States violated the spirit of the June 12 Singapore summit between President Trump and Kim Jong Un. Related story: No, Pompeo did not give Kim a ‘Rocket Man’ CD, State Department says.

U.S. Supreme Court

raymond kethledgeSCOTUSblog, Potential nominee profile: Raymond Kethledge, Amy Howe, July 7, 2018. Like Thomas Hardiman, another potential nominee on the president’s shortlist, [U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals] Judge Raymond Kethledge would bring educational diversity to a bench on which all of the current justices attended Ivy League law schools:

He received both his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Michigan. He has returned to the law school as a lecturer to teach classes on legal writing and advocacy. (While he is there, he could bump into another potential nominee on Trump’s shortlist, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen, who has also taught there.)

During a decade on the bench, Kethledge has compiled an extensive body of opinions but has not weighed in on several high-profile and potentially divisive issues, including abortion and affirmative action. Conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt has nonetheless dubbed Kethledge “Gorsuch 2.0,” “in the mold of Antonin Scalia.”

World Crisis Radio, Opinion: Supreme Court Appointment, Webster G. Tarpley, July 7, 2018 (74:07 min. radio show). It is now going to be the responsibility of every person of goodwill to oppose Trump’s nominee to the Supeme Court. There is now a coalition to organize a series of rallies in every state on Sunday, Aug. 26. It’s hoped that the Senate vote will not have been completed by this time. The platform: that the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution means that government shall not deprive any person of rights. This is, in other words, an economic bill of rights. That’s what President Franklin D. Roosevelt articulated in his 1944 State of the Union Address. It’s what the GIs were fighting for when they were crushing fascism in World War II.

Trump Watch

rudy giuliani recentPalmer Report, Opinion: Sorry, Rudy Giuliani, that’s not how any of this works, Daniel Cotter, July 7, 2018. Rudy Giuliani disappeared for awhile. Things were quiet. We did not miss him. He is back, and his demands are more outrageous than ever. Giuliani has set conditions on the Robert Mueller interview that he and Trump have been promising since January: “If they can come to us and show us the basis and that it’s legitimate and that they have uncovered something, we can go from there and assess their objectivity.”

Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor, knows that demand is nonsensical for many reasons. Prosecutors and law enforcement often interview suspects or targets or “people of interest” about potential crimes. In addition, they do not disclose the crimes to the targets. Finally, if Special Counsel Mueller were to show his cards, we know that no lawyer would then submit his client to an interview designed to confirm or ferret out inconsistencies by the interviewee.

Media Criticism

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Syria: Mainstream Media Lie About Watchdog Report On The ‘Chemical Attack’ In Douma, B, July 7, 2018. Some mainstream media are outright lying about the OPCW report on the alleged ‘chemical attack’ in Douma.

washington post logoThe Washington Post writes: “[A] global watchdog concluded that chlorine was indeed used in the city of Douma a day before rebel forces surrendered there….In an interim report released Friday, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons [OPCW] said its inspectors had discovered traces of “various chlorinated organic chemicals” across two sites it inspected.”

The OPCW did not conclude at all that “chlorine was indeed used.” It found some chemical compounds which have chlorine, carbon and hydrogen in various configurations as their main elements. There are hundreds if not thousands of “chlorinated organic chemicals.” A plastic pipe made from polyvenylchlorid (PVC = (C2H3Cl)n) is made of the same elements. One could call it a “chlorinated organic chemical.” Burning something made of PVC will releases various compounds many of which will themselves be “chlorinated organic chemicals.” But finding residues of a burned plastic pipe or isolation in a home does not mean that chlorine gas was used in that place. Several of the compounds the OPCW found result from using chlorine to disinfect water. They can be found within the chlorinated water and about anywhere where chlorinated water was used.

bbc news logo2The BBC made a similar ‘mistake.’ It headlined “Syria war: Douma attack was chlorine gas — watchdog”.

It took extensive social-media outrage and several hours for the BBC to correct its ‘mistake.’ It now headlines: Syria war: ‘Possible chlorine’ at Douma attack site — Watchdog.” That is better but still a lie. Nowhere do the OPCW report or its Technical Statement (pdf) use the expression ‘possible chlorine.’ No editorial note was added by the BBC to reveal that the original dispatch was changed.

A possible reason why so many outlets made this ‘mistake’ is the British news agency Reuters which first distributed this false claim. Reuters has since changed the headline and text of that item from “chlorine” to “chlorinated chemicals” but attached no note of that change. Moreover it does not explain that “chlorinated chemicals” will be found about anywhere.

It is doubtful that these ‘mistakes’ were made out of sloppiness. The writers likely intend to create the false impression that Syria was responsible for a ‘chemical attack’ that did not happen. They would otherwise have to expose the lies they published and told about the incident.

July 6

Scandal-Plagued Pruitt Out At EPA

scott pruitt lobbyist ties crew

Chart of Scott Pruitt’s relationships and conflicts (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington)

washington post logoWashington Post, EPA chief Pruitt resigns amid scrutiny over ethics, spending, Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin​, July 6, 2018 (print edition). Scott Pruitt scott pruitt nydn resignation 7 6 18 Smallhas faced sharp inquiries for his travel expenses and pay raises for two close aides despite White House disapproval. In a tweet, President Trump praised Pruitt for having “done an outstanding job.” Pruitt is (shown at right on today’s front page of the New York Daily News.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pruitt’s likely successor has long lobbying history on EPA issues, Steven Mufson, July 6, 2018 (print edition). Andrew Wheeler, until now the low-profile deputy administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency, became a likely successor to the scandal-plagued Scott Pruitt Thursday and an appealing alternative for those hoping to continue to roll back key EPA policies.

Wheeler spent a decade lobbying for just the sort of companies the agency regulates, and before that he worked for Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), who rejects climate change. Drawing on more than a quarter-century in Washington, Wheeler is expected to pick up where the departing Pruitt left off — only without the controversy that constantly plagued him.

washington post logoWashington Post, President’s business keeps profiting from Chinese ties, Jonathan O’Connell and David A. Fahrenthold, July 6, 2018. Three months before he began his run for the White House — with China a target of his campaign — Donald Trump’s company proposed partnering with a subsidiary of a state-owned entity.

Trump Justice Snafus

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump administration seeks more time to reunite some migrant families split at border, Maria Sacchetti​, July 6, 2017. The Trump administration will not fully meet a federal judge’s deadline to reunite all migrant families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border, and instead is seeking more time in instances where officials are struggling to match children to parents, according to court records filed late Thursday.

The government’s request, hours before a scheduled hearing on the issue Friday, marks an abrupt departure from comments made earlier Thursday from President Trump’s secretary for Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, whose agency cares for the children in shelters. He had said the Trump administration “will comply” with the deadlines, though he criticized the judge’s timetable as “extreme.”

In a June 26 ruling, U.S. District Judge Dana M. Sabraw in San Diego ordered federal officials to bring the families back together within 30 days. He ordered them to reunite children under age 5 — there are 101, according to the most recent court records — with their parents by Tuesday.

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal prosecutors abruptly dismiss all remaining Inauguration Day rioting cases, Keith L. Alexander, July 6, 2017. District prosecutors on Friday said they would dismiss rioting charges against all remaining defendants arrested after destructive Inauguration Day protests, bringing to a close a controversial case which led to allegations of government overreach.

Prosecutors began filing paperwork Friday afternoon to formally drop the cases against 38 people who had been awaiting trial. The vandalism of downtown businesses on the day President Trump was sworn in stretched over 16 blocks as part of a disturbance called DisruptJ20. Members of a large group of protesters set small fires and used bricks and crowbars to smash storefronts.

In all, 234 people were arrested and charged with rioting. Of them, 21 defendants pleaded guilty before trial. But prosecutors had been unable to secure convictions at trial against others in the group. Defense attorneys have long contended that prosecutors went too far in pursuing cases against more than 200 people. They argued that their clients were not rioting, but were swept up in the arrests while peacefully protesting.

Federal Judge Protests Mandatory Terms

Politico, Manafort judge emerges as skeptic of long mandatory minimum sentences, Josh Gerstein, July 6, 2018. The judge overseeing former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s looming trial on tax and bank fraud charges is known as a tough jurist, often snapping at attorneys for ignoring his directions and rebuking defendants he views as insufficiently contrite.

But, in recent years, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis has begun to direct his public ire at an unusual target for a Reagan-appointed judge: laws that impose lengthy mandatory minimum sentences judges have no authority to waive or reduce.

Ellis has complained directly to Congress about what he’s called the “excessive” sentences required for some offenders. He’s also publicly lamented the situation, as he did recently during a drug dealer’s sentencing that took place in an Alexandria, Virginia courtroom packed with national media, high-powered prosecutors and others awaiting a key hearing in the case against Manafort.

“This situation presents me with something I have no discretion to change and the only thing I can do is express my displeasure,” Ellis said last week as he sentenced Frederick Turner, 37, to a mandatory minimum of 40 years in prison for dealing methamphetamine. “I chafe a bit at that, but I follow the law. If I thought it was blatantly immoral, I’d have to resign. It’s wrong, but not immoral.”

Thai Rescuer Dies

ny times logoNew York Times, Diver Dies During Supply Run to Boys in Thailand Cave, Staff report, July 6, 2018 (print edition). A retired Thai Navy SEAL diver died in when he ran out of air. He is the first fatality in the operation to rescue 12 boys and their soccer coach, who have been trapped in the cave for nearly two weeks.

The diver, identified as Saman Kunan, 38, was on his way back from delivering an air tank to the group when he became unconscious. The death highlights the difficulty of working in the cave complex with its flooded passageways, murky water and at times strong currents.

Trump Responds To Ohio Sex Scandal

jim jordan headshot CustomPalmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump has horrible response to Jim Jordan sexual abuse scandal, Bill Palmer, July 6, 2018. Four former members of the Ohio State University wrestling team have now come forward to assert they informed their coach Jim Jordan that the team doctor was sexually abusing them. Ohio State’s own lawyers say they emailed Jordan informing him of the abuse, and asking him to come in for an interview, which he ignored.

The evidence is stacking up against Jordan (right), who is now a Republican Congressman and a close ally of Donald Trump.

Here’s what Trump told the pool of reporters: “I don’t believe them at all. I believe him.” To be clear, Trump is accusing four Ohio State wrestling team members of all falsely claiming that they warned Jim Jordan about what was going on. Trump is also accusing the Ohio State legal department of falsely claiming that it informed Jordan, even though there are email records involved that can prove what the real story was.

U.S. Politics: Texas Senate

beto o rourke ted cruz

Democrat Beto O’Rouke, left, is facing Republican Ted Cruz in this year’s race for a U.S. Senate seat representing Texas

Tyler Morning Telegraph, Rafael Cruz stumps for Sen. Ted Cruz in Tyler campaign stop, Erin Mansfield, July 5, 2018. The father of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, stumped for his son on Thursday night in front of a packed crowd at a campaign stop in Tyler.

“America is at a crossroads, and Texas is ground zero,” Rafael Cruz told the crowd. “The Democrats are doing all they can to turn Texas blue. We are not going to let that happen.” The Smith County Young Republicans sponsored the event at Palio’s Pizza Café on South Broadway Avenue. Earlier in the day, the campaign made a similar stop in Longview.

rafael cruz senior headshotRafael Cruz, shown at right in a file photo, is an ordained minister. He is also a Cuban immigrant who came to the United States in 1957, two years before Fidel Castro took power in Cuba. [Editor’s note: He has also never explained, even in his autobiography, myserious chapters in his life.]

“The Democratic platform is without a doubt the most evil document I’ve read in my entire life,” he said. “I’ve seen the other side, and it ain’t pretty. Don’t believe the lies of socialism.” He said Democrats “are just overwhelmingly committed to turning Texas blue. We cannot let that happen, but we can’t just win. We need to win by such an overwhelming amount that we will send them all back to California.”

Economic Injustice?

robert weiner columnistMichigan Chronicle via OpEdNews, Opinion: Washington’s Latest Budget Cruelty Hurts Detroit and Nation’s Vulnerable, Robert Weiner (shown at right) and Ben Lasky, July 6, 2018. On June 19, House Republicans released a proposal that would balance the federal budget in nine years by cutting entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security.

Two days later, the House passed a farm bill that included changes to the food stamp system that Center on Budget and Policy Priorities President Robert Greenstein said “would eliminate or reduce food assistance for more than one million low-income households with more than two million people.” Food stamps (now SNAP) has kept 46 million Americans from going hungry and allowed people to find jobs.

With one of the country’s top five poverty rates, Detroit is especially vulnerable, and the Administration’s housing cutbacks hit especially hard in a city regularly exposed for deteriorated and vacant structures.

ben carson officialIn April, HUD Secretary Ben Carson (left) proposed raising rent for those living in subsidized housing to 35 percent of their income, up from the current 30 percent, itself up from the 1970’s when it was 25 percent. The current $50 a month for the poorest families would triple to $150. A Detroit resident in low income housing would see rent increased by an average 21 percent. Instead of helping Americans living in poverty afford housing, the Administration is creating policies that will lead to more evictions and homelessness.

Carson, who was born and raised in Detroit, believes raising the rent will make people “more self-sufficient.” In reality, the increase in public housing rent will hurt Detroit’s most vulnerable.

republican elephant logoCongressional Republicans recently floated the idea of a rescission package that would take back $15.4 billion in approved and promised funds. If passed, this would mean even less money for children’s healthcare and housing for the poor and the rest of the HUD budget. The Trump administration’s 2019 budget already calls for cutting $6.8 billion from HUD, a 14 percent decrease from 2017. It would cut Medicaid and Medicare by 22.5 and 7.1 percent, respectively.

The United Nations special watchdog on world poverty, Phillip Alston, recently told The Guardian, “This is a systematic attack on America’s welfare program that is undermining the social safety net for those who can’t cope on their own. Once you start removing any sense of government commitment, you quickly move into cruelty.”

turkey flagPress Freedom Crackdown: Turkey

Reporters Without Borders, Zaman Trial: Heavy prison sentences for six Turkish journalists, Staff report, July 6, 2018. Six former columnists from Zaman, a now-closed Turkish newspaper, were sentenced on July 6 to prison terms as high as 10 and a half years. Five others were acquitted. Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which attended the sentencing hearing, condemns the outcome as a political verdict that followed a Kafkaesque trial.

The verdict was handed down in Istanbul following a 10-month trial. Six former columnists for Zaman were sentenced to heavy prison terms for “membership in a terrorist organization.” The sentences for Şahin Alpay, Ali Bulaç and Ahmet Turan Alkan were eight years and nine months; Ibrahim Karayeğen got nine years; and Mustafa Ünaland Mümtazer Türköne were sentenced to 10 and a half years. Their colleagues İhsan Daği, Lale Kemal, Mehmet Özemir, Nuriye Ural and Orhan Kemal Cengiz, however, were pronounced not guilty.

All of the defendants were acquitted on the charge of “attempting to overthrow of the government,” for which they could have faced life in prison.

Global Press Freedoms: Alert For UK

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), UK Counter-Terrorism Bill threatens press freedom and the protection of journalistic sources, Staff report, July 6, 2018.  Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is concerned about provisions of the UK’s Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill that threaten press freedom, as outlined in a submission to the Joint Committee on Human Rights for its inquiry into the bill.

United Kingdom flagThe bill, which was tabled in the House of Commons on June 6, 2018 and is currently being scrutinized by the Public Bill Committee, contains a number of provisions that have worrying implications for press freedom and the protection of journalistic sources.

“We are alarmed by provisions of this bill that would restrict journalists’ ability to do their jobs and create a chilling effect on freedom of expression. This is particularly worrying in light of the broader trend of moves to restrict press freedom in the UK. Further, the speed at which this legislation is being pushed through is also concerning. We urge MPs to thoroughly scrutinize the bill and ensure that threatening measures are struck and sufficient protections for press freedom included”, said RSF UK Bureau Director Rebecca Vincent.

In particular, RSF has highlighted concerns about Clause 1, which criminalizes “reckless” expressions of opinion; Clause 2, which criminalizes the publication of images of clothing; Clause 3, which criminalizes the repeated viewing of vaguely defined content (a proposal RSF has previously spoken against); Clause 6, which proposes a significant increase in maximum sentences and could have a substantial chilling effect on journalism; Clause 12, which increases powers to enter and search home addresses, threatening the protection of confidential journalistic sources; and Clause 20 and Schedule 3, which create new powers of stop, search, detention, and retention and copying of material at ports and borders – again threatening the protection of journalistic sources.

RSF considers these measures unlawful, unnecessary, and disproportionate infringement of the fundamental right to freedom of expression and recommends that they are excised from the bill. The new offences created would threaten press freedom and could criminalise responsible journalists investigating and reporting on issues of public interest. The UK is ranked 40th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

Whistleblower Summit Starts July 30 In DC

Whistleblower Protection Blog, Upcoming Event: Whistleblower Summit on the Hill, Michael Ellis, July 6, 2018. On July 30th, 2018, the Whistleblower Summit for Civil and Human Rights will hold an opening plenary for National Whistleblower Day on the Hill. The event will commemorate the contributions of whistleblowers and celebrate the 240th anniversary of America’s first whistleblower law.

The summit will be held in Dirksen Senate Office Building, G50 from 10 AM-11:50 AM.

Representatives from several civil society organizations will be present, including from the National Whistleblower Center, ACORN 8, Justice Integrity Project, Federally Employed Women Legal and Education Fund, Government Accountability Project, Public Citizen, Project on Government Oversight, and Tax Payers Against Fraud. The panelists will include Stephen M. Kohn, leading whistleblower attorney and executive director of the National Whistleblower Center, Tom Devine, legal director for the Government Accountability Project, and Andrew Kreig, executive director for the Justice for Integrity Project.

This event will be a valuable opportunity to learn about the contributions of whistleblowers in exposing wrongdoing and promoting accountability. The opening plenary will be followed by an invite-only luncheon hosted by National Whistleblower Center. Details.

Kennedy Assassination Mystery

Jacob HornbergerFuture of Freedom Foundation, Opinion: The Mystery of Robert Knudsen, Jacob G. Hornberger (right), July 6, 2018. On January 29, 1989, the Washington Post published an obituary of Robert Knudsen, which stated in part: “He photographed … President Kennedy’s autopsy.”

There is one big problem, however: Knudsen did not photograph the president’s autopsy. The official autopsy photographer was John T. Stringer, a highly respected autopsy photographer for the U.S. Navy who taught photography at the Bethesda Naval Medical School. It is undisputed that Stringer photographed the president’s autopsy and that Knudsen wasn’t even at the autopsy.

What then are we to make of this? Why would Knudsen make up a story that could easily be exposed as false?

There are two conclusions that can be reasonably drawn: First, the official autopsy of President Kennedy, which was carried out by the U.S. military, was fraudulent and, second, there is no conceivable innocent explanation for having carried out a fraudulent autopsy.

For more information, see my book The Kennedy Autopsy.

July 5

ny times logoNew York Times, A Chaotic Scramble to Reunite Migrant Families by Deadline, Caitlin Dickerson, July 5, 2018. Officials are facing political and judicial pressure to reunite families separated at the border, with the authorities struggling to identify connections between family members.

Faced with a court-imposed deadline to reunite families separated at the southwest border, federal authorities are calling in volunteers to sort through records and resorting to DNA tests to match children with parents. And they acknowledged for the first time Thursday that of the nearly 3,000 children who are still in federal custody, about 100 are under the age of 5.

The family separations, part of an aggressive effort by the Trump administration to deter illegal immigration, have produced a chaotic scramble as officials now face political and judicial pressure to reunite families.

Records linking children to their parents have disappeared, and in some cases have been destroyed, according to two officials of the Department of Homeland Security, leaving the authorities struggling to identify connections between family members.

Trump Hypocrisy On Foreign Hiring?

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washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club seeks to hire 40 foreign workers, David A. Fahrenthold​, July 5, 2018. The request sent to the Labor Department comes despite President Trump’s hard-line views on immigration.President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club (shown above in a file photo) has applied for permission to hire 40 foreign workers to serve as waiters during the winter social season in Palm Beach, Fla., according to data posted Thursday by the Labor Department.

The posting showed that Trump’s club wants to pay the workers a minimum of $12.68 an hour and to employ them from October to the end of May. At the end of that term, the workers would be expected to return home.

The application filed with the Labor Department signals that — despite Trump’s insistence that immigration is holding down wages and crowding out native-born American workers — his club believes it cannot find any Americans willing and able to hold the waiter jobs.

washington post logoChina FlagWashington Post, Trump’s trade war with China is about to begin. Analysts say it won’t be pretty, Danielle Paquette and Emily Rauhala​, July 5, 2018. President Trump’s first tariffs are set to hit $34 billion of Chinese imports on Friday, and Beijing plans to respond with its own levies. So would begin an unprecedented battle between the world’s two largest economies — a conflict analysts fear could rattle markets and cripple trade.

ny times logoNew York Times, Poland’s Supreme Court Is in Disarray as Judges Defy Purge, Mark Santora, July 5, 2018. Lech Walesa, the Solidarity leader and former president, warned of “civil war” if the right-wing governing party did not cease efforts to erode the independence of Poland’s judiciary.

polish flag wavingSurrounded by cheering supporters, Poland’s top Supreme Court justice took a defiant stand on the courthouse steps here Wednesday morning, hours after the government purged the tribunal. She vowed to keep fighting to protect the Constitution and the independence of the nation’s courts.

At the stroke of midnight, the government had effectively forced her and more than two dozen other justices out of their jobs, but on Wednesday morning, the authorities did not prevent her from entering the building. The courthouse confrontation was followed by dueling news conferences, fiery speeches and more street protests.

Ohio State/Congressional Wrestilng Scandal

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U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, shown in a 2011 file photo. The House Freedom Caucus leader announced a race to become GOP Speaker and was promptly accused in a sex scandal of years ago involving young men. He has denied knowledge or wrongdoing.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigation / Opinion: GOP House Caucus: a “Pleasure Palace” for pederasts and pedophiles, July 5, 2018 (subscription required for access to full story and site at $7 monthly or $32 for full year). Jim Jordan is merely another in a long parade of Republican perverts in the U.S. Congress.

U.S. House Speaker wannabe Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) has good reason to be concerned about allegations that he covered up incidents of sexual abuse of Ohio State University athletes while he was an assistant wrestling coach on the campus from 1986 to 1995. Jordan is in a typical Republican “full-nelson denial” about his involvement in covering up sexual assaults of male athletes by the OSU’s Athletics Team Physician, Dr. Richard Strauss.

WMR Editor Wayne Madsen, shown at left, is a syndicated columnist, author of 15 books and a former Navy Intelligence officer who was deputized by the FBI in the 1980s to help gather evidence used to convict and imprison his Navy commanding officer on pedophilia charges. In 2006, Madsen published a three-part series exposing then-GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert as a gay pedophile, beginning during Hastert’s career as a high school wrestling coach. A decade later Hastert was indicted for financial crimes related to victim payoffs and later imprisoned.

nbc news logoNBC News, Fourth Ohio State wrestler says Rep. Jim Jordan knew about sexual abuse, Corky Siemaszko, July 5, 2018. A fourth former Ohio State University wrestler came forward Thursday to contradict Rep. Jim Jordan’s claim that he had no idea the wrestling team doctor was molesting athletes.

The wrestler, Shawn Dailey, said he was groped half a dozen times by Dr. Richard Strauss in the mid-1990s, when Jordan was the assistant wrestling coach. Dailey said he was too embarrassed to report the abuse directly to Jordan at the time, but he said Jordan took part in conversations where Strauss’ abuse of many other team members came up.

“I participated with Jimmy and the other wrestlers in locker-room talk about Strauss. We all did,” Dailey, 43, told NBC News, referring to Jordan. “It was very common knowledge in the locker room that if you went to Dr. Strauss for anything, you would have to pull your pants down.”

Dailey spoke out two days after NBC News reported that three former wrestlers who were coached by Jordan more than two decades ago accused the GOP congressman of turning a blind eye to Strauss’ alleged abuse and then lying about it. Jordan denied knowing anything about the abuse and continues to do so.Dailey corroborated the account of one of those wrestlers, Dunyasha Yetts, who told NBC News that Yetts had protested to Jordan and head coach Russ Hellickson after Strauss tried to pull down his wrestling shorts when Yetts went to see him for a thumb injury.

“Dunyasha comes back and tells Jimmy, ‘Seriously, why do I have to pull down my pants for a thumb injury?’” Dailey recalled. “Jimmy said something to the extent of, ‘If he tried that with me, I would kill him.'”

Calling Jordan “a close friend,” Dailey said he is a Republican and that he contributed to the powerful Ohio congressman’s first political campaign for state representative in 1994.

“What happened drove me out of the sport,” said Dailey, a married father of two who works as a fundraiser for an Ohio college. “So I was surprised to hear Jim say that he knew nothing about it.”

“Jimmy’s a good guy,” Dailey added. “But to say that he had no knowledge of it, I would say that’s kind of hurtful.”

Daily Caller, Opinion: Jim Jordan’s Accusers Have A Sketchy History, Raising Questions About Their ‘Authenticity,’ Chuck Ross, July 5, 2018. Two former Ohio State University wrestlers accusing Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan of ignoring sexual misconduct by a university physician more than two decades ago have a history of failed business dealings, lawsuits, harassment allegations, and in the case of one accuser, an 18 month prison sentence for fraud.

One of the former wrestlers, Mike DiSabato, is also being accused by the widow of a Marine who was killed in combat in Iraq of intimidating and bullying her over a memorial fund set up in her husband’s name.

“I question the intent, the authenticity, the verity, that Mike DiSabato shares in any of his words or actions,” Karen Mendoza, the wife of Ray Mendoza — a former teammate of DiSabato’s who was killed in 2005 — said in a statement.

The initial reports based on DiSabato and Yetts’ claims regarding Jordan ignores a large body of evidence that raises questions about the two former wrestlers’ motives.

NBC did note that Yetts served time in prison for a $1.8 million fraud scheme.

Yetts’ biggest victim was former NFL star Antoine Winfield, who was bilked out of $1.3 million. Yetts convinced Winfield to invest his NFL signing bonus with Yetts’ firm, World Wide Sports. As part of the scam, Yetts provided Winfield with false documents claiming to show his investments. Yetts was instead spending money on country club memberships, cars, student loans, and credit card payments.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, HHS pledges to comply with ‘extreme’ deadline to reunite families separated at the border, Maria Sacchetti​, July 5, 2018. The Department of Health and Human Services is working as “expeditiously” as possible to comply with a court order to reunite fewer than 3,000 separated migrant children with their parents, Secretary Alex Azar said.

Public Support For Suprme Cour?

SCOTUSblog, Academic highlight: Nelson, Gibson and Fontana on the public’s support for the Supreme Court, Amanda Frost, July 5, 2018. Do Americans continue to support the Supreme Court in the face of frequent criticism, including hostile tweets by the president of the United States? That question is particularly important on the eve of yet another confirmation battle and at the end of a term filled with high-profile cases.

A recent NYU Law Review Symposium hosted by the Brennan Center for Justice gathered a group of experts to examine the public’s support for the Supreme Court in the face of frequent attacks.

In their contribution, Professors Michael Nelson and James Gibson surveyed a random sample of Americans to determine whether criticism erodes the Supreme Court’s legitimacy and Americans’ support of that institution. Their findings confirmed previous studies showing that the public’s support for the court is strong, and that it dips more when the court is criticized as politicized rather than for making errors of law. To their surprise, however, they found that the public’s perceptions are affected more by criticism voiced by law professors than criticism by the president of the United States.

Another Media Chief For Trump

washington post logoWashington Post, Former Fox News executive named assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff for communications, Felicia Sonmez, July 5, 2018.  Former Fox News Channel executive Bill Shine is joining the White House as assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff for communications, the White House announced Thursday.

bill shineThe long-anticipated move follows weeks of speculation that the former Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network co-president (shown at left) was a front-runner for the job, which has remained vacant since former communications director Hope Hicks announced her resignation in February. In a statement, the White House said Shine “brings over two decades of television programming, communications, and management experience to the role.”

Shine, who started his two-decade-long career at Fox News as a producer for the show “Hannity & Colmes,” was ousted from his role as co-president last year after lawsuits suggested he enabled alleged sexual harassment by the network’s late chairman and chief executive, Roger Ailes.

washington post logoWashington Post, Former Fox News executive Bill Shine joins Trump White House as deputy chief of staff for communications, Paul Farhi and Felicia Sonmez, July 5, 2018. With Thursday’s announcement, Shine becomes the fifth communications chief since Trump took office nearly 18 months ago. Before Hope Hicks, Anthony Scaramucci served 10 days in the role. He was preceded by Mike Dubke and Sean Spicer.

The move will bolster the White House’s messaging operation ahead of what is shaping up to be a fierce partisan battle over Trump’s choice for a successor to retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, set to be unveiled on Monday.

Yet the appointment is also likely to open the White House up to attacks regarding Shine’s record at Fox, as well as the Trump administration’s response to sexual misconduct allegations against officials within its own ranks. During his time at Fox, Shine helped to build the network into the media juggernaut it is today. But much like his mentor and patron, Ailes, Shine’s long tenure was clouded by unsavory allegations and associations with darker chapters in the network’s history. Ailes died in May 2017.

Trump himself has been accused of sexual harassment and improper behavior by more than a dozen women, accusations which he denies. And earlier this year, White House staff secretary Rob Porter resigned amid reports that he had physically and emotionally abused his two ex-wives.

The presidential appointment reunites Trump with Shine, who gave the then-businessman and reality TV star copious airtime on Fox to opine on a range of subjects. Among them was a regular slot on “Fox & Friends,” on which Trump often promoted his false claim that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. The weekly appear­ances helped burnish Trump’s political credentials, at least with more than a million viewers of the morning program.

gretchen carlsonShine has spent the past 14 months off the public grid after his ouster from Fox last May. He briefly succeeded Ailes as the network’s top executive after Ailes was driven out by sexual harassment allegations, including a lawsuit by former host Gretchen Carlson (shown at left), which Fox’s parent company settled in mid-2016 for $20 million.

Shine himself was never directly accused of harassment at Fox. But his latter years at the network were pockmarked by his association with Ailes, especially accusations that he helped facilitate Ailes’s predatory behavior. Shine has consistently denied wrongdoing.

He also was part of Fox’s senior management during the period in which the network was paying millions of dollars in settlements to former employees who had accused Ailes and host Bill O’Reilly of harassment.

He was named in suits filed by Carlson and former network contributors Julie Roginsky and Andrea Tantaros for his role in allegedly discouraging women at the network from taking their harassment claims to court. Roginsky, who said Ailes sexually harassed her, accused Shine of retaliating against her for her refusal to join “Team Roger,” a cadre of women who supported Ailes in his battle with Carlson. Shine denied those allegations.

laurie luhn cropped squareHe also allegedly played a role in covering up Ailes’s relationship with Laurie Luhn, a former Fox booker who claimed she had a long, abusive affair with Ailes that eventually led to her mental breakdown. Luhn received $3.1 million from Fox in 2011 to settle her allegations of abuse and mistreatment by Ailes.

Shine’s appointment by Trump on Thursday brought swift rebuke from attorney Nancy Erika Smith, who represented Carlson and Roginsky in their suits against Ailes. “Roger Ailes’s enabler and confidant is well qualified to speak on behalf of a president who brags about assaulting women and preying on teenage beauty pageant contestants, and pays adult film actresses to be quiet about his adultery,” Smith said. “Being from Fox News, Shine is also well qualified to speak for a president who lies every single day.”

Media Transitions

ed schultzBismarck Tribune, Former Fargo radio personality, MSNBC broadcaster Ed Schultz dies at 64, Staff and wire report, July 5, 2018. Longtime broadcaster Ed Schultz has died, multiple sources say. Sources say that Schultz died of natural causes. He was 64.

Schultz started his broadcast career in TV and radio in Fargo in the early 1980s, including time as sports director at WDAY-TV in Fargo. He went on to host a show at MSNBC and most recently worked for Russia Today. Schultz is a former quarterback at Minnesota State University Moorhead.

From Wikipedia: He was the host of The Ed Show, a weekday news talk program on MSNBC from 2009 to 2015, and The Ed Schultz Show, a talk radio show, nationally syndicated by Dial Global from 2004 to 2014. The radio show ended on May 23, 2014, and was replaced by a one-hour podcast, Ed Schultz News and Commentary, which ran from 2015 until his 2018 death. Schultz most recently hosted a daily primetime weekday show, News with Ed Schultz, on RT America TV channel based in Washington, D.C., that is part of the RT network.

Disputed UN Refugee Claims

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Syria Sitrep — UN Refugee Numbers For Daraa Are Mere Propaganda — They Make No Sense At All, B, July 5, 018. UN organizations claim high internal refugee numbers in southwest Syria due to recent fighting in Daraa governorate. A review of the evidence finds that these numbers are implausible.

Neither the OCHA map nor the UN report explain how, when or why 164,000-171,000 people supposedly moved the few miles towards the Israel occupied Golan Heights. There is no evidence that this claimed movement of IDPs, who may or may not exist, happened at all.

Where does the OCHA claim come from? The nearly unreadable fine-print of the OCHA map says about the “Map Data Source(s)”: “The data of this map has a limited number of sources, including parties of the conflict. The data has not been independently verified and is subject to error or omission, deliberate or otherwise, by the various sources.”

There is the explanation for the unbelievable high refugee numbers the UN is peddling around. They are based on claims made by the Islamic State, the al-Qaeda offshoot Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham and various other sectarian “rebel” groups and their propaganda outlets. These claims have not be verified at all. Whoever made up that map did not even ask if the numbers were plausible or made any sense. They obviously don’t.

July 4

U.S. Supreme Court Watch

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ny times logoNew York Times, A Rift on the Right, Shown by Two Potential Court Picks, Adam Liptak, July 4, 2018 (print edition). The fight over who should replace Justice Anthony M. Kennedy on the Supreme Court is far from over, and there are still a half-dozen plausible candidates in the mix.

But the stark contrast between two of the leading contenders — Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh and Judge Amy Coney Barrett — reflects the division on the right between the conservative legal establishment, which is hostile to government regulation and the administrative state, and social conservatives, who are focused on issues like abortion and religious freedom.

Other candidates, notably Judges Raymond M. Kethledge and Amul R. Thapar, both of the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati, have had cordial meetings with President Trump, and a White House spokesman said Mr. Trump interviewed three more possible choices on Tuesday. See also “Facebook Ads Offer Peek at Looming Supreme Court Fight.”

Poles Protest Rightist Supreme Court Shake-up

ny times logopolish flag wavingNew York Times, Poland Purges Supreme Court, and Protesters Take to Streets, Marc Santora, July 4, 2018 (print edition).  Poland’s government carried out a sweeping purge of the Supreme Court on Tuesday night, eroding the judiciary’s independence, escalating a confrontation with the European Union over the rule of law and further dividing this nation. Tens of thousands took to the streets in protest.

Poland was once a beacon for countries struggling to escape the yoke of the Soviet Union and embrace Western democracy. But it is now in league with neighboring nations, like Hungary, whose leaders have turned to authoritarian means to tighten their grip on power, presenting a grave challenge to a European Union already grappling with nationalist, populist and anti-immigrant movements.

The forced retirements of up to 27 of 72 Supreme Court justices, including the top judge, and the creation of a judicial disciplinary chamber were the latest in a series of steps by Poland’s right-wing Law and Justice Party to take over the justice system.

For years, the party has demonized judges as unreconstructed Communists and obstructionists. Most recently, it asserted new powers to select judges. In recent days, judges who have spoken out against the changes have reported being harassed and intimidated.

djt economist cover aug 19 2017

Race: Trump Seeks Change In College Admissions

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump to Urge Schools to Ignore Race in Admissions, Erica L. Green, Matt Apuzzo and Katie Benner, July 3, 2018. The Trump administration will encourage schools and colleges to adopt race-blind admissions standards, reversing an Obama-era guideline meant to bolster diversity. The Supreme Court has steadily narrowed the ways that schools can consider race when trying to diversify their student bodies. But it has not banned the practice.

Donald Trump Logo Make America Great AgainLast November, Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked the Justice Department to re-evaluate past policies that he believed pushed the department to act beyond what the law, the Constitution and the Supreme Court had required, Devin M. O’Malley, a Justice Department spokesman said. As part of that process, the Justice Department rescinded seven policy guidances from the Education Department’s civil rights division on Tuesday.

Climate Change

washington post logoWashington Post, Red-hot planet: All-time heat records have been set all over the world during the past week, Jason Samenow, July 4, 2018 (print edition). Montreal, Glasgow, Belfast and Yerevan, Armenia, are among the cites to have witnessed their hottest weather ever recorded. Oppressive heat engulfing Northeast U.S. will spread west this weekend.

Trump Watch

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Opinion: New York Daily News July 4 front-page editorial: The Clown Who Plays King.

david cay johnston headshotny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: How to Make Trump’s Tax Returns Public, David Cay Johnston (right), July 4, 2018. Mr. Johnston is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and the author of two books about Donald Trump.

On June 14, the New York State attorney general, Barbara Underwood, filed a civil complaint against President Trump and his three oldest children, accusing them of “persistently illegal conduct” in using the Donald J. Trump Foundation as “little more than a checkbook for payments from Mr. Trump or his businesses to nonprofits, regardless of their purpose or legality.”

Ms. Underwood believes there is abundant evidence to bring criminal charges against Mr. Trump as well. She made that position very clear in the letters she sent to the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission in Washington recommending “further investigation and legal action.”

Ms. Underwood sent those letters, at the same time she filed the civil complaint, because New York state law does not grant her automatic authority to initiate criminal investigations. Her criminal referral to Washington noted that it would be a crime for the president to interfere in such an investigation.

However, given Mr. Trump’s assertion that he has the power to halt any criminal inquiry and to pardon himself for federal crimes, a criminal investigation by any part of the federal executive branch seems highly unlikely.

andrew cuomo2The attorney general could, however, easily gain that authority. All that’s needed is for Gov. Andrew Cuomo (left), the New York State Police or the state Department of Taxation and Finance to make a request, and the authority would be granted to her. Criminal jurisdiction also rests with Cyrus Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney. Mr. Vance has shown no interest, so far, in investigating other complaints against Mr. Trump.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker: Did Obama give citizenship to 2,500 Iranians during the nuclear deal talks? Salvador Rizzo, July 4, 2018. The allegation, tweeted by President Trump, appears to have originated with an Iranian politician who has criticized the nuclear deal.

#MeToo Claims Against Freedom Caucus Leader

Palmer Report, Opinion: Jim Jordan has deranged response to his worsening sexual abuse scandal, Bill Palmer, July 4, 2018. Republican Congressman Jim Jordan’s sexual abuse scandal continues to grow worse for him. He’s accused of having known that the team doctor was sexually abusing the athletes on the Ohio State University wrestling team he coached, and of having done nothing to try to stop it.

jim jordan cuomo cnnJordan (shown during a CNN appearance in his role as a rightist Freedom Caucus leader), claims he didn’t know about it, but Ohio State’s lawyers say they have evidence that they did inform him about it. As the pressure mounts on him to resign, Jordan is now responding to one of the victims in a manner that can only be described as deranged.

Mike DiSabato is one of the alleged sexual abuse victims. He and other members of the team have told the media that they informed Jim Jordan directly about the abuse, and that Jordan refused to do anything. Now, two different reports today paint a disturbing picture of Jim Jordan’s recent behavior toward DiSabato, as the scandal has spilled out into the open.

U.S. House logoThe Daily Beast reports that after DiSabato wrote a series of emails to Jim Jordan, he called the police and asked them to investigate DiSabato. These emails are being described as “vaguely threatening” but we’re not buying it. If the emails contained actual threats, Jordan would have made them public in order to make his case that he’s the real victim. Instead it seems more likely that DiSabato was merely threatening to go public, and Jordan is trying to falsely spin this into an actual threat against him. Jordan has already been caught lying about not having known about the accusations, so he has zero credibility in this. It gets worse.

If you’re not quite sure what to make of Jim Jordan calling the cops on Mike DiSabato, there’s another report today that should spell out just how viciously and derangedly Jordan is handling this. According to Brooke Baldwin of CNN, Jordan has his cousin going around to local media outlets and asking them to “look into” DiSabato. So this scandal is no longer merely about Jordan refusing to put a stop to the sexual abuse of the kids on the team he coached. It’s now about Jordan trying to punish one of the victims for having come forward.

Daily Caller, Former OSU Wrestler: ‘I Know Jim Knew About … Deviant Sexual Atmosphere,’ Virginia Kruta, July 4, 2018. Former Ohio State University wrestler Mike DiSabato told CNN on Wednesday that he was absolutely certain that Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan — who was a young assistant wrestling coach at the time — was aware of the “deviant sexual atmosphere” that DiSabato and others are alleging was fostered by Dr. Richard Strauss at the university.

Global News: ISIS Families Stranded

ny times logoNew York Times, Wives and Children of ISIS: Warehoused in Syria, Unwanted Back Home, Ben Hubbard, July 4, 2018. When her husband uprooted their family from Morocco to live under the Islamic State in Syria, Sarah Ibrahim had little choice but to go along. After he disappeared — she believes he was killed in an airstrike on a prison — she fled with her two sons.

The so-called caliphate of the Islamic State, which once stretched across large swaths of Syria and Iraq, drew tens of thousands of partisans from around the world who came to fight or to live in what was billed as a pure Islamic society. Among them were many women, some who were brought by their husbands or fathers. Others came alone and married, or were forced to marry, after they arrived.

But as the caliphate collapsed under a military campaign by Kurdish militias backed by a United States-led military coalition, many of the men were killed or captured. The wives and children who survived ended up in camps like this, unwanted by anyone.

They were captured last year and have been held ever since in this dusty, sweltering detention camp in northeastern Syria. They are among the more than 2,000 foreign women and children being held in such camps, trapped in a legal and political limbo with no foreseeable way out.

Their home countries do not want them back, fearing they could spread radical Islamist ideology. The Kurdish authorities that administer this stateless war zone do not want them either, and say it is not their job to indefinitely detain citizens of other countries.

“You told us to leave ISIS and we left, but we are still considered ISIS,” said Ms. Ibrahim, 31, her frustration dissolving into tears. “So who is responsible for us? Who will determine our fate?”

UN Accuses UAE Of Torture In Yemen Invasion

uae embassy sealSouthFront, UAE Troops Torture & Sexually Abuse Yemeni Detainees: Reports, Staff report, July 4, 2018. Yemeni detainees suffer from torture, sexual abuse and other kind of ill-treatment by UAE soldiers, the UN Human Rights Office in Geneva says adding that it has requested access to the prisons, but has not been allowed in so far.

In late June, Associated Press investigation revealed that up to 2,000 of detainees held by UAE forces in Yemen were subjected to torture and abuse. The news agency said that Yemeni guards, commanded by UAE officers, sexually violated detainees with wooden and steel poles filming these acts.

According to AP data, the UAE and allied forces run at least 18 secret prisons. The UAE denied this report saying there are no secret facilities or torture. Since 2015, the UAE has been actively participating in the Saudi-led (and U.S.-backed) intervention in Yemen.

Syrian Battlefront News

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Battlemaps of southwest Syria before and after current Syrian government (territory in red) offensive against rebels, shown in gray, with ISIS in black.

SouthFront, Government Forces Control 60% Of Daraa Province After Liberation Of About 1,00km2 From Militants (Maps), Staff report, July 4, 2018. Pro-government forces are now in control over about 60% of the southern Syrian province of Daraa, the Hezbollah media wing in Syria said on July 3 releasing maps allowing to compare the military situation before and after the start of the Syrian Army’s operation in the area.

SouthFront, Civilians Are Leaving Militant-held Area In Southern Syria. Russia And US Discuss Situation In Region, Staff report, July 4, 2018. Almost 4,000 people have left the militant-held area in southern Syria over the past 24 hours, the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the Opposing Parties in Syria says. According to the Syrian government, 2,500 people have been accommodated in the Jabab refugee camp in the government-held part of the province of Daraa.

The US has repeatedly accused Syrian government forces and their allies of violating the de-escalation zone in southern Syria by carrying out operations there. However, Washington ingores the fact that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which is the main target of the operation, is excluded from the ceasefire.

SouthFront, Son Of ISIS Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Killed By Syrian Military, Staff report, July 4, 2018. “Huthaifah al-Badri”, a son of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), while he was participating in an “Inghimasi” attack on the thermal plant in the central governorate of Homs, the ISIS-linked news agency revealed on July 3.

ISIS (with fighters shown above in a file photo) has lost tens of thousands of its fighters since its [rise] in 2014. Badir is the first close relative of al-Baghdadi to be killed in action, which exposes the double standards of the terrorist group.

More On Supreme Court

amy coney barrett headshot notre dame photoSCOTUSblog, Potential nominee profile: Amy Coney Barrett, Amy Howe, July 4, 2018. In November 2017, President Donald Trump released a revised list of potential Supreme Court nominees. The November 2017 list was an expanded version of two earlier lists, announced during the 2016 presidential campaign, from which then-candidate Trump pledged, if elected, to pick a successor to the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who died on February 13, 2016. First on the new list – because it was in alphabetical order – was Amy Coney Barrett, a Notre Dame law professor (and former Scalia clerk) who had recently been confirmed to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. She is shown in a Notre Dame photo.

Barrett’s confirmation hearings had received considerable attention after Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee – most notably, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California – grilled her on the role of her Catholic faith in judging. Feinstein’s criticism did not stop Barrett from being confirmed, and since then there has been speculation that it may have in fact strengthened her case to fill the seat that will be vacated by the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy.

The 46-year-old Barrett grew up in Metrairie, Louisiana, a suburb of New Orleans, and attended St. Mary’s Dominican High School, a Catholic girls’ school in New Orleans. Barrett graduated magna cum laude from Rhodes College, a liberal arts college in Tennessee affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, in 1994. (Other high-profile alumni of the school include Abe Fortas, who served as a justice on the Supreme Court from 1965 to 1969 and Claudia Kennedy, the first woman to become a three-star general in the U.S. Army.) ….

Barrett then held two high-profile conservative clerkships, first with Judge Laurence Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, from 1997-1998 then with the late Justice Antonin Scalia, from 1998-1999. After leaving her Supreme Court clerkship, she spent a year practicing law at Miller, Cassidy, Larroca & Lewin, a prestigious Washington D.C. litigation boutique that also claims former U.S. solicitor general Seth Waxman, former deputy attorney general Jamie Gorelick, and two regular contributors to this blog – John Elwood and editor Edith Roberts – as alums.

Barrett was confirmed to the 7th Circuit by a vote of 55 to 43. Three Democratic senators – her home state senator, Joe Donnelly, Virginia’s Tim Kaine, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia – crossed party lines to vote for her, while two Democratic senators (Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Robert Menendez of New Jersey) did not vote.

Because Barrett has spent just eight months on the 7th Circuit, she has compiled a relatively small body of opinions, most of them fairly uncontroversial.

One case that would almost certainly draw attention if she were nominated came shortly after she took the bench: EEOC v. AutoZone, in which the federal government asked the full court of appeals to reconsider a ruling against the EEOC in its lawsuit against AutoZone, an auto parts store. The EEOC had argued that the store violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which bars employees from segregating or classifying employees based on race, when it used race as a determining factor in assigning employees to different stores – for example, sending African-American employees to stores in heavily African-American neighborhoods. A three-judge panel (that did not include Barrett) ruled for AutoZone; Barrett joined four of her colleagues in voting to deny rehearing by the full court of appeals.

washington post logoWashington Post, There’s no conspiracy between Trump and Kennedy. There’s just the swamp, David Litt, July 3, 2018. A surprising number of progressives are dusting off Glenn Beck-style chalkboards, connecting the dots in a web with Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s son in the center. But the search for a shadowy conspiracy surrounding the Kennedy and Trump families obscures a far greater scandal taking place right in front of us: the dangerous concentration of wealth and political power in the United States.

Donald TrumpThe theory, for the record, goes something like this: Justin Kennedy worked at Deutsche Bank. Deutsche Bank was the only Wall Street firm willing to lend money to Donald Trump. In 2017, Deutsche Bank was fined $630 million for its involvement in a Russian money-laundering scheme. After his first address to Congress, President Trump told Kennedy, “Say hello to your boy,” to which the justice replied, “Your kids have been very nice to him.” Now, the court’s swing justice is retiring, giving President Trump the chance to cement a far-right court for a generation.

The implication is that Kennedy was coerced, via bribery, blackmail or something similarly sinister, into giving up his seat before the election. But the line between cause and effect remains hazy. In a tweet that accumulated more than 35,000 likes, @ProudResister summed it up as follows: “THAT’S WAY TOO MANY ‘COINCIDENCES.’ ”

There are, it must be said, a few problems with this all-caps logic. First, coincidence does not equal conspiracy. Democrats and progressives have long stood for science, facts and rational argument. Abandoning a commitment to the truth isn’t beating Trump at his own game; it’s surrendering the field. Second, you don’t need a tortured rationale to explain Kennedy’s actions. He’s a conservative. At 82 years old, he’s ready to retire, and he’d rather be replaced by another Neil M. Gorsuch than another Sonia Sotomayor.

But there’s a third and far more important reason to look past the convoluted speculation around Kennedy and his son Justin. It distracts us from a relationship that is legal but outrageous, nonetheless.

The existence of a personal connection between a conservative Supreme Court justice and a real estate billionaire turned president seems to shock some political observers. It shouldn’t. Of course the Trumps and Kennedys know each other: Both families belong to the most exclusive circle of America’s elite. This upper-upper crust has members from across the country, but it functions as a kind of a gated community, one in which personal and professional relationships inevitably intertwine. America’s super-elite sends its kids to the same schools. They bump into each other at Davos or Aspen or the Alfalfa Club in Washington. They socialize. They do business. They donate. They raise money. They take one another’s calls.

Fake News? Brit Poisoning Claims

ny times logoNew York Times,2 Britons Sickened by Same Nerve Agent as Ex-Russian Spy, Ellen Barry, July 4, 2018. A man and a woman were in critical condition in southern England after falling ill a few miles from where a former Russian spy and his daughter were poisoned in March.

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: British Government Peddles Warmed Over Novichok Muck, B, July 4, 2018. It seems that Theresa May felt a need to stoke some more Russia hate.

All British media outlets report of a middle-aged British couple, Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley, who fell seriously ill in Amesbury, a town near Salisbury and near the British chemical weapon site Proton Down. The couple were transported to the Salisbury hospital. They were first suspected to have taken drugs but the police now speaks (vid) of a “potential exposure to an unknown substance” and that they “remain in a critical condition”. [Update – July 5: British officials now say the two were poisoned with “Novichok.”]

The parallels to the poisoning of the British-Russian spy Sergej Skripal and his daughter four month ago are obvious. The government alleged the Skripals were poisoned by a nerve agent of the Novichok series. Like back in March the British government will soon name the evildoer of this new drama.

The most curious issue of the current case is that it happened Saturday morning. A lot of local emergency action took place since then. But news of the incident emerged only early today. None of the pieces I read explains the four days long lack of reporting. The British government obviously issued a D-notice and prohibited all news of the case until early today and now prohibits [anything] to explain the censoring.

Why? It is inexplicable that the public was not immediately informed of a new occurrence of a “nerve agent” in the Wiltshire area. If, as we are made to believe, the two persons picked up “Novichock” somewhere in a park, a warning to the public should have been the very next step. There was obviously a high risk that others might also make contact with the same substance. That no public warning was given lets me assume that the truth is somewhat different that the (censored) official story.

Since the Skripals mysteriously recovered from a “nerve agent ten times stronger than VX” and the police released a hostage video of Julia Skripal they vanished from the scene. Likewise nothing was since heard of the policeman who also fell ill at that time and recovered a few days later.

No explanations have been given for the myriad of misleading and contradicting claims the British government made about the Skripal case. Now we are getting a public rerun of the whole affair with a case which seriousness was obvious early on but which was censored for four days without giving any reason. I doubt that the currently presented version of Saturday’s incident is more valid than the fairytales we were told about the Skripal case.

July 3

Trump Watch

us senate logo

Daily Beast, Bipartisan Senate Panel Gives Middle Finger to Devin Nunes, Spencer Ackerman, July 3, 2018. A bipartisan report from the Senate Intelligence Committee says intelligence agencies were right to find the Russians interfered in the election to harm Clinton and elect Trump.

fbi logoThe Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have said the NSA, CIA, and FBI got it wrong when they assessed that the point of Russia’s 2016 election interference was to harm Hillary Clinton and elect Donald Trump. But now their counterpart in the Senate, in a bipartisan report, said the intelligence agencies got it right.

In April, the House Intelligence Committee Republicans put out an extensive report exonerating Trump from accusations of collusion with Russian President Vladimir Putin, delivering a conclusion that Democrats had come to consider pre-ordained. Democrats quickly distanced themselves from it. Chief panel Democrat Adam Schiff said at the time that the GOP report suffered from a “raft of misleading conclusions, insinuations, attempts to explain away inconvenient facts, and arguments meant to protect the President and his campaign.”

devin nunes file flagOne of the key findings of the GOP report, led by critical White House ally Devin Nunes (shown at right) of California, was that the three intelligence agencies erred in their assessment of “Putin’s strategic intentions” behind his election interference. Nunes’ report struck a delicate balance. It conceded that the election interference happened and that most of the intelligence community analysis (ICA) “held up to scrutiny,” but accused the agencies of not meeting their own standards for tradecraft.

Palmer Report, Democratic challenger Janet Garrett speaks out about GOP Congressman Jim Jordan’s sex abuse scandal, Bill Palmer, July 3, 2018. Earlier today, influential Republican Congressman Jim Jordan found himself at the center of a sexual abuse scandal dating back to his days as an Ohio State University wrestling coach. Jordan is not accused of any abuse himself, but former team members are accusing Jordan of having covered up the team doctor’s abuse. The scandal has sent shockwaves through the political world, and now Jordan’s Democratic opponent is speaking up.

Janet Garrett, the Democratic Party candidate challenging Jim Jordan for his seat in November, posted this statement to her official website today: “Any allegation of sexual abuse — or complicity regarding such abuse—is very serious. That damage cannot be undone. For any teacher, protecting kids is the absolute first priority — and I say that as a former kindergarten teacher. Ohio State has an obligation to get to the bottom of this with a thorough and fair investigation. Jim Jordan has an obligation to cooperate fully with that investigation.”

U.S. House logoGarrett has been mounting an upstart campaign in 2018 and has gained momentum, due to the overall Blue Wave of Democratic Party election victories since Donald Trump office, and due to the fact that Jordan has been embarrassing himself by buffoonishly trying to sabotage the investigation into Trump’s Russia scandal on live national television.

Jim Jordan is denying that he knew about the sexual abuse, but multiple major news outlets are reporting that former members of the team are willing to testify that they informed Jordan of the abuse. It’s not yet clear whether House Republicans will rally around Jordan and try to protect him, or whether they’ll force him to resign out of fear that this scandal could cost the party in the November elections. Meanwhile, Janet Garrett has spent the day using her Twitter account to document Jordan’s numerous other failings.

Palmer Report, Opinion: How Rep. Jim Jordan’s sex abuse scandal impacts Trump-Russia, Bill Palmer, July 3, 2018. Republican Congressman Jim Jordan has been accused of having covered up, and thus prolonged, a sex abuse scandal while he was the wrestling coach at Ohio State University; he denies having known about the abuse. This is a disturbing development which requires urgent discussions about how to stop sex abuse crimes from happening, and those discussions are playing out across social media today as we speak. This article will focus strictly on the siginficant political impact that the Jim Jordan scandal will have on the Trump-Russia scandal.

We have yet to see whether the GOP will try to rally around Jim Jordan and protect him, or whether the party will force him to resign for fear of the impact his sex abuse scandal could have on the entire party in the November election. That decision may ultimately depend on how much public outrage there is over the next few days. The House GOP has done nothing of late to suggest that it’ll do the right thing for moral reasons, but it could dump Jordan for selfish reasons.

Just days ago, we were reminded of the key role that Jim Jordan has been playing in trying to sabotage the investigation into Donald Trump’s Russia scandal. Jordan leads the committee that hauled in Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein last week, trying and failing to trip up Rosenstein for Trump’s benefit. If Jordan resigns, Trump loses a key co-conspirator in his coverup. If Jordan tries to remain on the job, it’s difficult to imagine that he could continue acting as a public face of Trump’s defense.

World News

ny times logoNATO logoNew York Times, Trump Criticizes NATO Allies for Not Increasing Defense Budgets, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, July 3, 2018 (print edition).  President Trump warned several allies, including Germany, Belgium, Norway and Canada, that the U.S. is losing patience with their failure to meet security obligations shared by NATO. The sharply worded letters, which went out last month, are the latest sign of acrimony between Mr. Trump and American allies as he heads to a NATO summit meeting next week.

ny times logoAngela MerkelNew York Times, Merkel Reverses Stance on Migration to Save Government, Katrin Bennhold and Melissa Eddy, July 3, 2018 (print edition). Chancellor Angela Merkel, who staked her legacy on welcoming hundreds of thousands of migrants into Germany, agreed on Monday to build border camps for asylum seekers and to tighten the border with Austria in a political deal to save her government.

German FlagIt was a spectacular turnabout for a leader (shown at right) who has been seen as the standard-bearer of the liberal European order but who has come under intense pressure at home from the far right and from conservatives in her governing coalition over her migration policy.

ny times logoNew York Times, 12 Boys Are Found Alive After 10 Days in Thailand Cave, Muktita Suhartono and Richard C. Paddock, July 3, 2018 (print edition). The boys and their soccer coach seemed in surprisingly good condition after having been trapped by rising floodwaters. Evacuating them will be a difficult operation.

ny times logomalaysia flagNew York Times, Malaysia’s Ex-Leader Arrested; Hundreds of Millions Feared Stolen, Hannah Beech and Austin Ramzy, July 3, 2018. The arrest amid a corruption inquiry comes just two months after the former prime minister, Najib Razak, was voted out, accused of stealing hundreds of millions of dollars while in office.

Scandal Alleged

jim jordan headshot CustomColumbus Dispatch, Lawyers for Ohio State contradict Jim Jordan’s claim he’s not been contacted, Jennifer Smola, July 3, 2018. Congressman Jim Jordan denied hearing about Dr. Richard Strauss’ alleged sexual abuse while Jordan (at right) was assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University.

U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan never witnessed abuse by the Ohio State University wrestling team’s doctor and he hasn’t been contacted by anyone investigating possible incidents that occurred while he was an assistant coach two decades ago, the Urbana Republican’s spokesman said Tuesday.

However, lawyers hired by OSU to probe the allegations said Jordan was contacted — both by phone and email — to request an interview, but he never responded.

republican elephant logoAnd three members of the wrestling team under Jordan insist that he knew about the abuse but looked the other way.

Ian Fury, a spokesman for Jordan, said in a written statement that Jordan “never saw any abuse, never heard about any abuse, and never had any abuse reported to him during his time as a coach at Ohio State. He has not been contacted by investigators about the matter but will assist them in any way they ask, because if what is alleged is true, the victims deserve a full investigation and justice.”

Fury also denied that Jordan had been contacted about the case. “Despite claims to the contrary, Congressman Jordan’s office has not received a request for interview from the investigative team. We have demanded that they send us the supposed communication and remain willing to assist in any way that we can.”

A written statement from Porter Wright Morris & Arthur attorney Kathleen Trafford, provided by the university, said investigators had previously contacted Jordan’s office by email and phone to request an interview.Listen to the latest Buckeye Forum politics podcast:

“To date, Rep. Jordan has not responded to those requests, but we understand from public statements issued on his behalf today that Rep. Jordan is willing to talk to the investigative team,” Trafford said.

Jordan, who has represented a swath of west-central Ohio since 2007, is considered one of the more-powerful conservatives in Congress and is widely credited as being a driver in former House Speaker John Boehner’s resignation. Earlier this year, Jordan said he was considering running for House speaker if Republicans keep control of the chamber in November.

Inside Washington

nbc news logoNBC News, Powerful GOP Rep. Jim Jordan accused of turning blind eye to sexual abuse as Ohio State wrestling coach, Corky Siemaszko, July 3, 2018. At the end of the day, he is absolutely lying if he says he doesn’t know what was going on,” a former Ohio State wrestler said.

jim jordan headshot CustomRep. Jim Jordan, the powerful Republican congressman from Ohio, is being accused by former wrestlers he coached more than two decades ago at Ohio State University of failing to stop the team doctor from molesting them and other students. The university announced in April that it was investigating accusations that Dr. Richard Strauss, who died in 2005, abused team members when he was republican elephant logothe team doctor from the mid-1970s to late 1990s.

Jordan (shown at right), who was assistant wrestling coach at the university from 1986 to 1994, has repeatedly said he knew nothing of the abuse until former students began speaking out this spring. His denials, however, have been met with skepticism and anger from some former members of the wrestling team.

richard strauss osu lantern screenshot

Richard Strauss, a former wrestling team physician and an assistant professor of medicine, is being investigated by Ohio State on allegations of sexual misconduct. Credit: Lantern file photo

The Lantern (Ohio State University), Rep. Jim Jordan accused by former wrestlers of knowing about Strauss’ alleged assaults, Colin Gay, July 3, 2018. Rep. Jim Jordan, a Republican congressman from Ohio’s fourth congressional district and former assistant coach for the Ohio State wrestling team, has been accused of knowing about the sexual assaults made by former team doctor Richard Strauss, according to a report.

ny times logoscott pruitt epa o CustomNew York Times, Former E.P.A. Aide Says Pruitt Asked Her to Help His Wife, Lisa Friedman, July 3, 2018 (print edition). The former aide said that Scott Pruitt (right), the Environmental Protection Agency’s chief, asked her to help find his wife a job. It’s the latest allegation that he used government staff for personal errands.

Newsroom Massacre Follow-ups

ny times logoNew York Times, Suspect Sent Letter Stating Plans to Kill at Capital Gazette, Matt Stevens and Daniel Victor, July 3, 2018 (print edition). The man suspected of fatally shooting five people in an Annapolis newsroom last week sent a letter to the Capital Gazette’s lawyer announcing that he planned to go there “with the objective of killing every person present,” a copy of the letter shows.

jarrod ramosIn the bizarre letter — which is postmarked June 28, the day of the shooting — the suspect, Jarrod W. Ramos formatted his remarks in such a way that the letter looks and reads much like a court document. Mr. Ramos, 38  (shown in a mug shot), had a yearslong legal dispute with The Capital over a 2011 column that detailed his harassment of a former high school classmate and had represented himself in the proceedings.

In his letter, he appears to blame the judiciary for being “too cowardly” to confront what he calls “lies.” He also uses an apparent quotation to argue that one reason defamation law exists is to prevent a defamed person from “wreaking his own vengeance.” And in what appears to be a separate attachment, he writes directly to a judge who had heard his case against the newspaper: “Welcome,” he tells the judge, “to your unexpected legacy: YOU should have died.” He then signs the letter, “Friends forever.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump to order flags to half-staff to honor Capital Gazette shooting victims, Staff report, July 3, 2018. Flags will be flown at half-staff at federal buildings to honor the five victims of the Capital Gazette shooting in Annapolis, the White House said. The decision follows a request by Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley (D), which he said was initially denied (as reported in the Baltimore Sun story below).

Baltimore Sun / Capitol Gazette, Trump declines request to lower flags in memory of Capital Gazette shooting victims, Danielle Ohl, July 2, 2018. President Donald Trump has declined a request from Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley to lower American flags in honor of the fatal shooting of five employees of The Capital newspaper last week.

“Obviously, I’m disappointed, you know? … Is there a cutoff for tragedy?” Buckley said Monday afternoon. “This was an attack on the press. It was an attack on freedom of speech. It’s just as important as any other tragedy.”

Gov. Larry Hogan ordered Maryland state flags to be lowered to half-staff from Friday through sunset on Monday.

Race / Immigration

washington post logoWashington Post, He once defended the poor in court. Now he defends white supremacists, Ian Shapira, July 3, 2018 (print edition). Elmer Woodward was in no mood for concessions.

The mutton-chopped Virginia defense lawyer, a onetime Civil War reenactor who has become the legal face of the white nationalist movement, was being asked by opposing attorneys in a federal lawsuit to do something seemingly minor: Call their client — Emily Gorcenski, a prominent counterprotester during last year’s violent “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA — by her legal female name in court pleadings. Stop referring to the transgender activist by her original male name or with male pronouns.

chris cantwell mugWoodard — who represents Christopher Cantwell, known as the “crying Nazi,” in the lawsuit — ignored them. In this liberal university town, where the Aug. 12, 2017, rally left a counterprotester dead and 35 others injured, Woodard has become a courthouse fixture, legal counsel to the boldfaced names of the white nationalist movement.

Media Transition

ny times logoNew York Times, New York Times Reassigns Reporter in Leak Case, Michael M. Grynbaum, July 3, 2018. Ali Watkins, the New York Times reporter whose email and phone records were secretly seized by the Trump administration, will be transferred out of the newspaper’s Washington bureau and reassigned to a new beat in New York, The Times said on Tuesday.

Ms. Watkins, 26, had been the subject of an internal review by The Times after revelations that she had a three-year affair with a high-ranking aide on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which she covered for several news organizations before joining The Times in December.

The aide, James Wolfe, 57, who handled classified material for the committee, was arrested last month as part of a leak investigation in which the Justice Department also seized Ms. Watkins’s communications, an unusually aggressive move against a journalist that prompted an outcry from press advocates. Mr. Wolfe was charged with lying to the F.B.I. but not with leaking classified information; he has pleaded not guilty.

More #MeToo Sex Scandal Claims

washington post logoWashington Post, Harvey Weinstein indicted on new sexual assault charges, could face life in prison, Elahe Izadi, July 3, 2018 (print edition).  harvey weinsteinDisgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein faces additional counts of sexual assault that could carry a potential life sentence if he is convicted, prosecutors announced Monday.

A Manhattan grand jury voted to charge Weinstein (shown at right in a file photo) with two counts of predatory assault, which carry a minimum 10-year sentence, and an additional count of criminal sexual act in the first degree, stemming from what prosecutors said was a forcible sexual act against a woman in 2006.

ny times logoNew York Times, Why Court Pick May Affect Gay Marriage as Well as Abortion, Liam Stack and Elizabeth Dias, July 3, 2018. In the week since Justice Anthony M. Kennedy announced his retirement, the future of Roe v. Wade has dominated the conversation among both liberals and conservatives, becoming a flash point in the partisan battle over President Trump’s pick to fill the seat.

The effect Justice Kennedy’s retirement could have on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights has received less attention. The prospect of a more conservative justice, though, has L.G.B.T. rights groups worried about legal challenges from conservative groups that oppose gay marriage, who may see an opportunity to challenge rulings that have established its legality.

L.G.B.T. groups have made great advances in recent years thanks largely to a string of Supreme Court decisions written by Justice Kennedy, including cases that legalized gay sex and established a right to same-sex marriage.

Election Fraud Scandal

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook’s disclosures about Cambridge Analytica under scrutiny as investigation widens, Craig Timberg, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett, July 2, 2018.The inquiry has broadened to focus on the actions and statements of the tech giant and now involves the FBI, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Trade Commission, according to people familiar with the official inquiries.

cambridge analytica facebook logosA federal investigation into Facebook’s sharing of data with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica has broadened to focus on the actions and statements of the tech giant and now involves three agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to people familiar with the official inquiries.

Representatives for the FBI, the SEC and the Federal Trade Commission have joined the Department of Justice in its inquiries about the two companies and the sharing of personal information of 71 million Americans, suggesting the wide-ranging nature of the investigation, said five people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a probe that remains incomplete.

Facebook discovered in 2015 that Cambridge Analytica, which wasn’t yet working for the Trump campaign and other Republican candidates, had obtained Facebook data to create voter profiles. Yet Facebook didn’t disclose that information to the public until March, on the eve of the publication of news reports about the matter.

Culture Wars

ny times logoNew York Times, Dershowitz Says He’s Being ‘Shunned’ on Martha’s Vineyard Over Trump, Niraj Chokshi, July 3, 2018  It was not the sort of complaint likely to draw public sympathy, and it did not. Alan Dershowitz, the lawyer and professor emeritus at Harvard Law School, argued in an op-ed last week for The Hill that Americans have grown increasingly intolerant of opposing political views, focusing on a call by Representative Maxine Waters to harass Trump administration officials wherever they go.

But it was a personal note in the column that soon grabbed attention. “I never thought I would see McCarthyism come to Martha’s Vineyard, but I have,” he wrote, of the elite island enclave off Cape Cod where he is a fixture.

alan dershowitz2Mr. Dershowitz, a self-professed “liberal Democrat,” said that friends on the Vineyard had snubbed him for publicly arguing against impeaching President Trump on television talk shows and in a forthcoming book.

“For them, it is enough that what I have said about the Constitution might help Trump,” said the lawyer (shown at right), known for his fierce advocacy for civil liberties and his defense of famous clients like O.J. Simpson and Claus von Bulow. “So they are shunning me and trying to ban me from their social life on Martha’s Vineyard.”

This claim only seemed to draw a wave of mockery online that crested just as many of the nation’s media and political elites headed to the Cape for the Fourth of July. “It is outrageous that people are now shunning Alan Dershowitz in their social lives,” one Twitter user wrote. “Really, what the heck took so long?”

Many rejected the comparison to McCarthyism, with its blacklists and smears that ruined careers. Countless people offered Mr. Dershowitz their thoughts and prayers. One enterprising troll even set up a crowdfunding campaign with a $5 million goal to “buy Alan some new friends.”

The Hill, Trump supporters boycott Walmart for selling ‘Impeach 45’ clothing, Justin Wise, July 3, 2018. Supporters of President Trump on Monday launched a boycott against Walmart after it was discovered the superstore was selling apparel promoting Trump’s impeachment.

The hashtag #BoycottWalmart became a trend on Twitter as users railed against the company. Users were taking issue with “Impeach 45” apparel that was being offered on Walmart’s website. Fox News notes that Old Glory is the company that is selling the clothing with “Impeach 45” emblazoned across the front. But the news outlet adds that a search on Walmart.com revealed that three other companies also sell clothing that promotes impeaching Trump.

Walmart sells myriad “Make America Great Again” items, such as hats, T-shirts and coffee mugs. Walmart has caused outrage over its apparel before. In November, the company stopped selling a shirt that read “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some assembly required” after facing massive backlash. The shirt was removed from the store’s website after the Radio Television Digital News Association sent a letter to the company about the shirt, according to the group.

“As a fierce proponent of the First Amendment that is politically nonpartisan, we recognize Walmart’s right to sell the T-Shirts, and the right of consumers to purchase and wear them,” the group’s executive director, Dan Shelley, wrote in his letter to the retailer. “However, just because Walmart has the right to sell the shirts, that doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do.”

As of early Tuesday morning, the “Impeach 45” clothing was still available on Walmart’s website.

washington post logobrett kavanaughWashington Post, Leading contender to be Trump’s Supreme Court pick faces scrutiny from social conservatives, Robert Costa and Josh Dawsey​, July 3, 2018. An intensifying debate over Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, a front-runner in President Trump’s search for a Supreme Court nominee, gripped Republicans on Tuesday, with conservative critics highlighting past rulings and his links to GOP leaders while his allies — including inside the White House — forcefully defended him.

The sparring over Kavanaugh, one of four federal appeals court judges who met with the president Monday, underscored the challenges facing Trump as he aims to pick a successor to retiring Justice Anthony M. Kennedy by his own July 9 deadline. Even as Trump mulls a shortlist that has been carefully cultivated by influential Republican lawyers, frictions in the conservative legal community and on Capitol Hill threaten to disrupt the search process.

The political moment for Trump remained fragile as a president devoted to his base weighed what a Kavanaugh selection could mean for him, unfolding amid a flurry of op-eds and phone calls praising the 53-year-old judge as well as a clamor from those who see him as out of step on health care and abortion, or too tied to George W. Bush’s White House.

washington post logoWashington Post, Why a teacher carried her 2-year-old up to Scott Pruitt at a D.C. restaurant and asked him to resign, Avi Selk, July 3, 2018. “Hi,” she told the head of the EPA. “I just wanted to urge you to resign for what you’re doing to the environment in our country.”

The Hill, Trump Uses Charity Event to Bash Democrats Over ICE Criticism, John T. Bennett, July 3, 2018. President alleges opposition party wants to ‘abandon’ border security agents.

President Donald Trump used a charity dinner honoring military troops Tuesday to deliver a campaign-style attack on Democrats, saying again that they want to “abandon” federal personnel who patrol the country’s borders.

“You have to be tough. … We need tough laws, we need fair laws,” Trump said in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. “But when these people come in … illegally, and they’re dispersed across the country, and you see nests of MS-13. … it’s like you’re liberating towns. And we send ICE in.”

He was referring to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which has become a major midterm election issue since the administration’s practice of separating migrant children from their parents caught illegally entering the country became a crisis. That’s because some Democrats — including likely presidential candidates such as Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — have called for the agency to be terminated.

Immigration policy experts dispute the president’s frequent claims that the United States has, in his words, an “immigration crisis” and that MS-13 gang members are taking over large swaths of the country. But the president keeps trying to paint Democratic incumbents and other candidates as putting undocumented migrants’ interests ahead of those of American citizens.

July 2

Supreme Court Watch

ny times logoanthony kennedy oNew York Times, Trump Talks to 4 Candidates as Staff Focuses on Court Pick, Michael D. Shear, July 2, 2018. President Trump said he spoke with four candidates to replace Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who is retiring (and shown at right), as the White House raced to meet the president’s deadline to announce a Supreme Court nominee in one week.

Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump said he likely would meet with two or three other candidates before making his decision. The president has said he plans to announce his choice next Monday, kicking off a sprint to get the nominee confirmed by the fall.

“I had a very, very interesting morning,” Mr. Trump said as he met with Mark Rutte, the prime minister of the Netherlands. White House officials declined to say which potential judicial nominees Mr. Trump talked with Monday morning, but the short list of candidates is believed to include six federal appeals court judges: Thomas M. Hardiman, William H. Pryor Jr., Amul R. Thapar, Brett M. Kavanaugh, Joan L. Larsen and Amy Coney Barrett.

richard painterPoliticusUSA.com, Bush Ethics Lawyer Richard Painter Calls For Investigation If Kennedy Was Paid To Resign, Leo Vidal, July 2, 2018. Richard Painter, the former White House Ethics Attorney for President George W. Bush, has come up with a way to delay hearings for a new Supreme Court justice to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.

According to Painter (shown in a file photo), there should be no hearings on a replacement for Kennedy until there is a full and complete investigation into the circumstances surrounding Kennedy’s resignation.

In other words, if Kennedy was paid or bought off in some way by Trump or his family, then the American people need to know about it. After Kennedy’s unexpected retirement announcement several stories appeared in the media claiming financial ties between Kennedy and his two sons and Trump and his family. Some people speculated that Kennedy was bought off in some way due to these extensive and longstanding financial connections.

supreme court buildingLate last week Painter tweeted his novel theory for why Senate hearings for Kennedy’s replacement should be delayed:

“The circumstances of Justice Kennedy’s resignation must be investigated by the Senate Judiciary Committee before any replacement is considered. The Constitution does not give Trump the power to use underhanded means to induce Supreme Court resignations.”

As Painter points out it would be both unethical and unconstitutional for a president to “induce Supreme Court resignations” by using financial remuneration of some kind.

Soon after Painter’s tweet there was a response from a group he called “the right wing Power Blog” attacking him for his suggestion:

“The right wing Power Line Blog blows a fuse over this, but Sen. Jud. Comm. must investigate the circumstances of the Kennedy resignation before confirmation hearings for ANY new justice. @GovArne agrees.”

Painter is a lifelong Republican who is now running for the U.S. Senate in Minnesota — as a Democrat. He is the subject of an in-depth article today at Salon.com which discusses in detail the transition he has gone through from being in Bush’s White House to being one of Donald Trump’s fiercest critics.

In the article Painter asks the same questions as millions of other Americans: “Trump admires dictators and authoritarians. His loyalty to Vladimir Putin is clear and he now has a bromance with Kim Jong-un. This is a truly dire situation, but the American people still seem asleep to what is really happening. Where is the outrage? How is Trump able to get away with this?”

Then he adds: “Donald Trump’s conduct is very dangerous for the United States.”

Salon, Donald Trump, Anthony Kennedy and the “boy” at Deutsche Bank: Not just about the money, Jesse Kornbluth, July 2, 2018. There’s a tangled web linking the Trump and Kennedy families. But financial corruption isn’t the whole story.

As a way of looking at a presidency that is enamored of every possible felony — self-dealing, conflicts of interest, emoluments, collusion with foreign governments and domestic corporations — crime-breeds-crime is a reasonable way to look at any Trump-related event.

But the resignation of a Supreme Court justice? Because Trump cares so much about money, that’s been suggested. And there’s smoke: the links between Trump, Kennedy and Kennedy’s son Justin. In years past we’d call that the League of White Men, taking care of their own, behind the scenes, The Way It Is. Today we tend to call it something else: collusion.

Here’s why. On the surface, Kennedy’s resignation looked textbook: He’ll leave effective July 31, at the end of the Supreme Court term, as is traditional. But he announced it on June 27. Hand-delivering his letter to the Oval Office was no surprise to the White House, which had a list of candidates ready to roll out. Trump says he’ll announce his nominee on July 9.

republican elephant logoIf Kennedy had waited a few weeks, some analysts believe Trump couldn’t have gotten his successor approved before the midterm elections. If the Democrats did well in November, it’s at least conceivable they could have blocked any conservative nominee. Approving a nominee before November means our likely future has the court killing Roe v. Wade, giving more power to corporations, turning the poor and minorities into serfs, exiling or detaining Others the president might choose to torture. That’s huge. But let’s consider the bottom line: For Donald Trump, the only real issue of interest is . . . himself. If a 4-4 Court had to rule on a difficult question — Does the president have the power to pardon himself? — it might not go well for Trump.

What started the speculation about dirty money connecting Trump, Kennedy and his son is the revelation that Kennedy and Trump have had a longstanding relationship through their children and their children’s success. We knew about Trump’s dealings with Deutsche Bank, the only bank willing to do business with him. (It’s also, perhaps not coincidentally, the bank that seems to have the longest illegal relationship with laundered Russian money. In January 2017, it was fined $425 million by New York regulators to settle allegations that it helped Russian investors launder as much as $10 billion through its branches in Moscow, New York and London.) But we’re just finding out about the Trump relationship with Justin Kennedy, the justice’s son, who worked at Deutsche Bank for a decade.

Trump Watch

cambridge analytica facebook logos

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook’s disclosures about Cambridge Analytica under scrutiny as investigation widens, Craig Timberg, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett, July 2, 2018. The inquiry has broadened to focus on the actions and statements of the tech giant and now involves the FBI, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Trade Commission, according to people familiar with the official inquiries.

A federal investigation into Facebook’s sharing of data with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica has broadened to focus on the actions and statements of the tech giant and now involves three agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to people familiar with the official inquiries.

fbi logoRepresentatives for the FBI, the SEC and the Federal Trade Commission have joined the Department of Justice in its inquiries about the two companies and the sharing of personal information of 71 million Americans, suggesting the wide-ranging nature of the investigation, said five people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a probe that remains incomplete.

Facebook discovered in 2015 that Cambridge Analytica, which wasn’t yet working for the Trump campaign and other Republican candidates, had obtained Facebook data to create voter profiles. Yet Facebook didn’t disclose that information to the public until March, on the eve of the publication of news reports about the matter.

michael cohen abc george stephanopoulos 7 2 18

ABC News, EXCLUSIVE: Michael Cohen says family and country, not President Trump, is his ‘first loyalty,’ George Stephanopoulos, July 2, 2018. Michael Cohen — President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney and a former executive vice president at the Trump Organization — has always insisted he would remain loyal to the president.

abc news logoHe was the fix-it guy, the pit bull so fiercely protective of his boss that he’d once described himself as “the guy who would take a bullet” for the president.

But in his first in-depth interview since the FBI raided his office and homes in April, Cohen strongly signaled his willingness to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller and federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York — even if that puts President Trump in jeopardy.

“My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will,” Cohen told me. “I put family and country first.”

We spoke for 45 minutes Saturday evening at a Manhattan hotel, where Cohen has been staying for the past several months. And during that time, the question of whether Cohen might flip on the president has been the subject of intense speculation.

djt michael cohen

washington post logomichael cohen ap file croppedWashington Post, Trump lawyer Michael Cohen says his first loyalty is to his family, not the president, John Wagner​, July 2, 2018. President Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen (shown at right in a file photo) signaled in a new interview a willingness to cooperate with federal prosecutors, even if doing so undercuts the interests of the president.

Inside DC

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Will Pruitt Math Harm Your Air and Water? Celia Wexler, July 2, 2018. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt wants to change the way the agency measures the costs and benefits of rules. It may sound wonky, but critics call it “sophisticated sabotage” — aimed at gutting rules protecting public health and the environment.

Wall Street Journal, Trade Fight Threatens Farm Belt Businesses, Jesse Newman, July 2, 2018. Many farmers, who depend on shipments overseas for one-fifth of the goods they produce, say they are anxious, The U.S. Farm Belt helped deliver Donald Trump to the White House, drawn to his promises to revive rural America and deregulate industry. Now, the president’s global trade offensive is threatening the livelihoods of many farmers.

djt wh wavingwashington post logoWashington Post, Trump embraces the big-money donor world he once shunned, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, July 2, 2018. The money is flowing to America First, an independent operation stocked with former Trump aides that aims to scoop up $100 million through two entities, with the bulk of the funds flowing to a nonprofit arm that is not required to disclose the names of its donors.

Trump Battle Against the Press

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: The assassination of journalists represents a post-facto slide into fascism, Wayne Madsen, July 2, 2018. America has slid down that pathway (subscription required for column).

Trade War Updates

washington post logoPresident Donald Trump officialWashington Post, Trump stands firm on trade, even as foreign tariffs begin kicking in, Heather Long, July 1, 2018. President Trump defiantly stood by his tariffs on Sunday as Canada hit back hard, Mexico was poised to elect a new leader who seems prepared to confront him, and the European Union issued a scathing condemnation of his policy as “in effect, a tax on the American people.”

canadian flagInstead of backing down, Trump brushed off the mounting pressure from businesses and world leaders to scale back the taxes before they cause additional job losses and slower economic growth.

Axios, U.S. Chamber of Commerce makes the case against Trump’s tariffs, Henrietta Reily, July 2, 2018. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched a new lobbying campaign on Monday to illustrate the ways that the Trump administration’s tariffs can hurt every state in the nation economically.

Why it matters: The nation’s biggest business group — with 3 million members, per Reuters, who first reported the campaign — is usually an ally of the Republican Party and its politicians. And it has previously advocated for economic moves from the administration, like the GOP’s new tax law, so its opposition is striking.

Independent, Trump administration set to abandon fundamental WTO rules after devising bill called Fart Act, Chris Baynes, July 2, 2018. ‘The US FART Act stinks’, says longstanding Trump ally Anthony Scaramucci.

Donald Trump’s administration has drafted a bill that proposes abandoning fundamental principles of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The Fair and Reciprocal Tariff Act, dubbed the Fart Act, would give the president licence to raise tariffs without congressional consent and sidestep international rules.

The legislation, reportedly ordered by Mr Trump himself, would mark an extraordinary shift in trade policy, allowing the US to raise tariffs above ceilings agreed by WTO countries and set different rates for individual nations outside of free trade agreements.

Trump tells aides he wants to withdraw US from WTO, reports say. “It would be the equivalent of walking away from the WTO and our commitments there without us actually notifying our withdrawal,” a source familiar with the bill told news website Axios, which obtained a leaked copy of the proposals (see Exclusive: A leaked Trump bill to blow up the WTO by Jonathan Swan of Axios).

The source described the bill as “insane” and said most officials involved in its drafting think it is unrealistic or unworkable.

washington post logotimothy geithner wWashington Post, ‘A way of monetizing poor people’: How private equity firms make money offering loans to cash-strapped Americans, Peter Whoriskey, July 2, 2018 (print edition). As treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner (right) criticized predatory lenders. Now the private equity firm he leads runs a company that mails high-rate loans to risky customers.

Newest Mexican President

washington post logoWashington Post, López Obrador poised to win Mexico’s presidency as closest competitors concede, Joshua andrés manuel lópez obrador 2017Partlow and Maya Averbuch, July 2, 2018 (print edition). Andrés Manuel López Obrador, an anti-corruption crusader and former mayor (shown at right), has a commanding lead in Mexico’s election, according to several exit polls, positioning him to be the first leftist president since Mexico began its transition to democracy more than three decades ago.

mexico flag1Several exit polls gave him ­double-digit leads over his two closest competitors, and both of them conceded the race shortly after polls closed on Sunday night.

Global News: Syria, ISIS and Israel

SouthFront, Opinion: Militants In Over 15 Settlements Surrender To Syrian Army, Staff report, July 2, 2018. The Syrian Arab Army (SAA), the Tiger Forces and their allies are about to achieve a stunning and rapid victory in their battle against Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and their allies in southern Syria. Over the past few days, government forces have liberated over 15 settlements in the eastern and western countryside of Daraa.

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have deployed additional armoured and artillery forces, including battle tanks, in the occupied Golan Heights, near the contact line with Syria. Israel claimed the additional forces were deployed solely to “respond” to potential incidents. Meanwhile, in reality, Israeli forces have repeatedly targeted forces of the Damascus government in southern and central Syria describing these strikes as a defensive measure.

Many of these strikes took place during important battles between the SAA and terrorist groups. If Israeli forces continue striking SAA troops attacking the Khalid al-Walid Army near the occupied Golan Heights the international audience will easily find out that Israel is encouraging ISIS in the area and using the terrorist group to create a buffer zone there.

Politico, Judge: Trump tweet did not declassify CIA program for Syrian rebels, Josh Gerstein, July 2, 2018. The judge rejected arguments that Trump effectively confirmed the existence of the program when he used his Twitter account last July to counter a Washington Post story.

cia logoA tweet from President Donald Trump disputing aspects of a news report about a CIA program to aid Syrian rebels did not declassify the program or undermine the government’s legal authority to keep details about it secret, a federal judge ruled in an opinion released Monday.

U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Carter Jr. rejected arguments that Trump effectively confirmed the existence of the program when he used his Twitter account last July to counter a Washington Post story that reported Trump’s decision to end the effort and suggested that the move was a concession to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“The Amazon Washington Post fabricated the facts on my ending massive, dangerous, and wasteful payments to Syrian rebels fighting Assad,” Trump wrote, referring to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Armed with Trump’s statements, The New York Times filed a Freedom of Information Act request demanding details of the program, then sued when the CIA did not immediately respond. The newspaper argued that Trump’s statements declassified the program, at least in broad strokes, nullifying the CIA’s position that it could neither confirm nor deny the reported $1 billion effort to provide Syrian rebels with arms, training and nonlethal assistance.

‘Justice’ and Trump Administration

New York Times Magazine, The A.C.L.U. vs. Trump: 170 Legal Actions (So Far), Joel Lovell, July 2, 2018. A lawsuit filed on behalf of families separated at the U.S. border was just the latest action against the Trump administration by the civil liberties group.

On the morning of Friday, June 22, the American Civil Liberties Union won a major Supreme Court decision in Carpenter v. United States, which was possibly, at least in terms of pure jurisprudence, the most important case argued before the court this past session. It was a landmark ruling that changed the future of digital privacy in America, but news of the win was only the second most important thing happening at the A.C.L.U. offices that day. At 3 p.m., a conference call was scheduled to discuss the more than 2,000 children whose fates were tied to another A.C.L.U. suit against the government.

That case — Ms. L. v. ICE — was filed in late February, long before most of the rest of the world was aware that thousands of children were being separated from their families at the border. (As a point of comparison, a coalition of 18 state attorneys general filed a suit to stop family separation on June 26, four months to the day after the A.C.L.U. filed its suit.) It began with a single client, a 39-year-old Congolese woman, Ms. L., whose daughter was taken from her in November 2017, but it quickly grew into a national class action on behalf of every family whose children had been taken from them.

On June 6, Judge Dana M. Sabraw, a George W. Bush nominee in the Southern District of California, rejected the government’s motion to dismiss the case and ruled that in detaining the immigrants, it was violating the due-process clause of the Fifth Amendment. The A.C.L.U. asked that Sabraw issue a nationwide injunction, which the judge was still considering when the White House, with no legal room to maneuver and public outcry intensifying by the day, issued an executive order on June 20 saying the practice would be stopped. Now, on that Friday afternoon, Sabraw asked the lawyers to call in to discuss how the executive order affected their cases. Did the White House’s decision — in theory, anyway — negate the need for a nationwide injunction to stop family separation? And how did it affect the children who had already been separated?

More Kennedy Supreme Court Reaction

SCOTUSblog, Anthony Kennedy and free speech, Erwin Chemerinsky, July 2, 2018. Erwin Chemerinsky is Dean and Jesse H. Choper Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law.

Justice Anthony Kennedy will be remembered as a staunch advocate of freedom of speech, but his actual record is more complicated than that. Kennedy wrote the majority opinions, or joined them, in some of the most important cases protecting free speech in the last 30 years.

Yet, he also wrote, or was part of, decisions limiting the free speech rights of government employees, students and prisoners. Perhaps the easiest way to summarize Kennedy’s free speech jurisprudence is that he generally was on the side of freedom of expression except when the institutional interests of the government were involved.

Kennedy’s most important free speech opinion was Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, in which the court held in 2010 that corporations have the right to spend unlimited sums in independent expenditures from corporate treasuries to have candidates elected or defeated. The court overruled a precedent from seven years earlier, McConnell v. Federal Election Commission. Kennedy believed that spending money in elections is speech protected by the First Amendment and consistently voted to strike down campaign-finance laws, such as in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission (2014); Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett (2011); and Davis v. Federal Election Commission (2008).

Daily Beast,Opinion: Anthony Kennedy, You Are a Total Disgrace to America, Michael Tomasky, July 2, 2018. No one expected Kennedy to allow Donald Trump to pick his successor. But he has. And it should forever taint his legacy as a jurist.

It’s been a few days now, but the shock of Anthony Kennedy’s retirement announcement hasn’t abated a bit. This is partly because of the ghastly coming ramifications, more on which later. But it’s also because I honestly didn’t think Kennedy would allow Donald Trump to name his successor.

I thought he had more respect for the United States of America than to allow this corrupt gangster who’s almost certainly never read a Supreme Court opinion in his life to name his successor. Yes, Kennedy is conservative, so to that extent it makes sense that he’d want a Republican president to make the call, and maybe it’s just that simple. But whatever his motivation, Kennedy has altered and destroyed his legacy.

djt neil gorsuch anthony kenned at white house

President Trump in 2017 with Supreme Court Associate Justice William Kennedy, who swore onto the court his former clerk Neil Gorsuch, center

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump makes clear Roe v. Wade is on the chopping block, Aaron Blake, July 2, 2018. Anyone promising that Roe v. Wade will be overturned by President Trump’s next Supreme Court justice is engaging in guesswork — and, in many cases, political advocacy.

Abortion rights supporters are understandably concerned about nullifying one of the court’s most prominent and passion-inducing precedents, yes, but we don’t even have a nominee yet. This also happens to be a great way to rally the troops. All of that said, they have clear — and increasing — reason for concern.

In an interview with Fox airing Sunday and Monday, Trump doubled down on his past rhetoric about sending the issue of abortion to the states, which is another way of saying overturning Roe. (Roe legalized abortion nationwide, meaning its repeal would allow states to decide the issue.) Trump said he would “probably not” ask potential nominees directly about Roe — given that such litmus tests are frowned upon — but then he reiterated his past view of how this issue would play out.

“Maybe someday it will be to the states,” he said. “You never know how that’s going to turn out. That’s a very complex question. The Roe v. Wade is probably the one that people are talking about in terms of having an effect, but we’ll see what happens. But it could very well end up with states at some point.”

“We’ll see what happens” is Trump’s default when he doesn’t want to commit to something but welcomes speculation about that thing.

U.S. Legal Research

SCOTUS for law students, Supreme Court mysteries and the justices’ papers, Stephen Wermiel, July 2, 2018. In the month of June, when the Supreme Court issues dozens of decisions to conclude its term, who would not want to be a fly on the wall inside the conference of the justices trying to understand what compromises were made or why cases came out as they did?

Rarely has this been more true than this past month, in which a seemingly large number of the court’s most closely watched cases produced decisions that decided much less than was anticipated by court-watchers and litigants.

What is one to do to satisfy curiosity about why, for example, the court yet again declined to confront questions about the constitutionality of political gerrymandering of legislative districts?

The short answer is wait. Wait for what, you ask? Often, the answers to nagging mysteries about what happened inside the court and why can only be answered by historians who some time in the future get to pore over the papers of justices who have long since retired or died.

How does this process work and what might one learn from the papers of the justices?

The first thing to know is that there is no uniformity of any kind among the justices and their files and records. Justices are free to save or destroy whatever records they choose, to donate them wherever they want, to make them available whenever they want and to include whatever content they like.

This thoroughly unregulated field is in marked contrast to the papers of presidents, which are governed by federal law. Under presidential records statutes, every piece of paper must be saved and preserved. The Supreme Court, however, has no such statute, and so it is up to each justice to decide what to do with his or her files.

thurgood marshallWhat has this meant in recent decades? Justices have spread their papers around the country. The largest single repository of justices’ papers is the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress, housed in the Madison Building in Washington, D.C. There, one can find the papers, among others, of Chief Justices Earl Warren, Fred Vinson, Harlan F. Stone and William Howard Taft, and Associate Justices William J. Brennan, Thurgood Marshall (shown at right), Harry Blackmun, Hugo Black, William O. Douglas, Byron White, Arthur Goldberg and many more.

Steve Wermiel is a Fellow in Law & Government at American University Washington College of Law, where he teaches constitutional law and a seminar on the Supreme Court and directs a Summer Institute on Law & Government for lawyers and law students. He is the co-author of “Justice Brennan: Liberal Champion,” published in 2010. He was the Wall Street Journal Supreme Court correspondent from 1979 to 1991 and has been teaching law since 1991.

Suspicions of Deep State Assassinations

Unz Review, Opinion: American Pravda: Our Deadly World of Post-War Politics, Ron Unz, July 2, 2018. A year or so after encountering the strongly substantiated claims of [W.W. II Gen. George] Patton’s assassination, I happened to read Desperate Deception by Thomas E. Mahl, a mainstream historian, whose book was released by a specialized military affairs publishing house.

This fascinating account documented the long-hidden early 1940s campaign by British intelligence agents to remove all domestic political obstacles to America’s entry into World War II.

wendell willkieA crucial aspect of that project involved the successful attempt to manipulate the Republican Convention of 1940 into selecting as its presidential standard-bearer an obscure individual named Wendell Wilkie [sic, actually Willkie], who had never previously held political office and moreover had been a committed lifelong Democrat. Wilkie’s great value was that he shared Roosevelt’s support for military intervention in the ongoing European conflict, though this was contrary to virtually the entire base of his own newly-joined party. Ensuring that both presidential candidates shared those similar positions prevented the race from becoming an referendum on that issue, in which up to 80% of the American public seems to have been on the other side.

Wilkie’s nomination was surely one of the strangest occurrences in American political history, and the path to his improbable nomination was paved by quite a number of odd and suspicious events, most notably the extremely fortuitous sudden collapse and death of the Republican convention manager, a key Wilkie opponent, which Mahl regards as highly suspicious.

Among those who grow skeptical of establishment media verdicts, there is a natural tendency to become overly suspicious, and see conspiracies and cover-ups where none exist. The sudden death of a prominent political figure may be blamed on foul-play even when the causes were entirely natural or accidental. “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” But when a sufficient number of such persons die within a sufficiently short period of years, and overwhelming evidence suggests that at least some of those deaths were not for the reasons long believed, the burden of proof begins to shift.

Excluding the much larger number of less notable fatalities, here is a short list of six prominent Americans whose untimely passing during 1944-1949 surely evoked considerable relief within various organizations known for their ruthless tactics:

  • Wendell Wilkie, lifelong Democrat nominated for President by the Republicans in 1940, Died October 8, 1944, Age 52, Heart attack.
  • Gen. George Patton, highest-ranking American military officer in Europe, Died December 21, 1945, Age 60, Car accident.
  • Harry Hopkins, FDR’s “Deputy President,” Died January 29, 1946, Age 55, Various possible causes.
  • Harry Dexter White, Soviet agent who ran the Treasury under FDR, Died August 16, 1948, Age 55, Heart attack.
  • Laurence Duggan, Soviet agent, Prospective Secretary of State under Henry Wallace, Died December 20, 1948, Age 43, Fall from 16th story window.
  • James Forrestal, former Secretary of Defense, Died May 22, 1949, Age 57, Fall from 18th story window.

I do not think that any similar sort of list of comparable individuals during that same time period could be produced for Britain, France, the USSR, or China. In one of the James Bond films, Agent 007 states his opinion that “Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action.” And I think these six examples over just a few years should be enough to raise the eyebrows of even the most cautious and skeptical.

Foreign leaders outraged over America’s destructive international blundering have sometimes described our country as possessing physical might of enormous power, but having a ruling political elite so ignorant, gullible, and incompetent that it easily falls under the sway of unscrupulous foreign powers. We are a nation with the body of a dinosaur but controlled by the brain of a flea.

SCOTUSBlog, Potential nominee profile: Judge Thomas Hardiman, a close second to Gorsuch and a shortlister again, Amy Howe, July 2, 2018. When President Donald Trump was searching for a nominee in 2017 to fill the vacancy created by the 2016 death of Antonin Scalia, he reportedly narrowed the field to two candidates: then-Judge Neil Gorsuch, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, and Judge Thomas Hardiman (right) of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit.

On January 31, 2017, Trump nominated Gorsuch, and the rest is history. But with Justice Anthony Kennedy’s announcement last week that he would step down from the Supreme Court bench, Hardiman’s name has resurfaced as a potential nominee. The 52-year-old Hardiman (who will turn 53 on July 8, the day before Trump is expected to announce his new nominee) has a solidly conservative background and a champion in the president’s sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, who served with Hardiman on the 3rd Circuit and has been described as “high on Hardiman.”

In some ways, Hardiman has more in common with Justice Sonia Sotomayor than with Justice Anthony Kennedy, whom he would replace: The Massachusetts-born Hardiman became the first person in his family to go to college when he went to the University of Notre Dame, and he financed his law degree at the Georgetown University Law Center by driving a taxi. (If nominated and confirmed, Hardiman would also bring educational diversity to a court on which all of the other justices attended Ivy League law schools.)

After his law school graduation, Hardiman worked for two years in the Washington office of Skadden Arps before moving to Pittsburgh, where he practiced law until 2003. At the age of 37, Hardiman became a federal district judge; he was unanimously confirmed to the 3rd Circuit in 2007, at the age of 41. Taking the bench at a young age is yet another similarity with Sotomayor, who also became a district judge at the age of 37 and who took her seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit at the age of 44. But the comparisons with Sotomayor largely end there. Hardiman is a solid, although hardly knee-jerk, conservative who was active in Republican politics before joining the federal bench, and his jurisprudence as a Supreme Court justice likely would be closer to another justice who hails from the 3rd Circuit: Justice Samuel Alito.

July 1

Trump Watch

michael cohen 7 14 2015 cnn customPalmer Report, Opinion: “My silence is broken” – Michael Cohen is spilling his guts, Bill Palmer, July 1, 2018. You knew something was about to give. Donald Trump’s longtime fixer Michael Cohen (shown in a file photo) has spent the past two weeks making one eyebrow raising move after another, from taking a selfie with notorious Trump detractor Tom Arnold to resigning from the RNC in protest of Trump, even as three major news networks reported that he was planning to cut a plea deal. Now Cohen is indeed spilling his guts to the media.

abc news logoHere’s what Michael Cohen tweeted just now: “Spent Saturday afternoon with George Stephanopoulos ABC (not on camera) interview for Monday’s GMA. My silence is broken!” In response, Stephanopoulos tweeted “Tune in tomorrow morning on GMA for more on my conversation with President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen.” Neither of them is giving away the particulars of what they discussed, but it’s not difficult to figure out what’s happening here.

Michael Cohen has been taking one coded but clear shot at Donald Trump after another over the past two weeks, signaling that he’s not interested in taking the fall for Trump in the various criminal scandals that have tied the two men together. So unless Cohen has decided to completely and abruptly change his tune, this interview should consist of Cohen officially distancing himself from all things Trump. There is, however, an odd twist to this.

nbc logoNBC News reported two weeks ago that federal prosecutors have informed Michael Cohen that he would soon be indicted and arrested if he didn’t hurry up and cut a plea deal. Considering that Cohen is about to be criminally charged, it’s an awfully risky move to do a television interview about his scandals, as anything he says can and will be used against him by prosecutors. The Cohen saga keeps getting weirder, but it should get more clear tomorrow morning.

donald trump jr filePalmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump Jr gets into bed with the Russian bots, Bill Palmer, July 1, 2018. Public opinion is still split as to . (shown in a file photo) whether Donald Trump Jr was actively conspiring with the Russian government during the election because he was just that evil, or just that stupid.

If the increasingly idiotic conspiracy drivel he posts on Twitter is an indication, he might indeed simply be an idiot who doesn’t quite understand what treason is. Today Junior did something which either showed us just how naive and stupid he is, or just how complicit he is with the Russians.

Over the past thirty-six hours Donald Trump Jr has posted four tweets and retweets that used the hashtag #walkaway. It’s supposed to be the official hashtag for the people who are abandoning the Democratic Party in protest of how poorly liberals are treating Donald Trump. As there is no real-world evidence whatsoever that any such movement exists, the whole thing has come off as suspicious at best. Sure enough, it’s turned out to be an easily documented Russian bot conspiracy.

Respected political reporter Dave Weigel did a little digging, and found that the #walkaway hashtag was being driven by Twitter accounts that were either clearly identifiable as bots, or clearly identifiable as newly created fake accounts. It’s long been widely documented that when bots are used in organized fashion to drive a Trump-friendly hashtag on Twitter, those bots are Russian in origin.

Climate Change

al gore2 SmallThe Hill, Al Gore warns of ‘ominous’ record-breaking heat, Justin Wise, July 1, 2018. Former Vice President Al Gore (shown in a file photo) on Saturday issued a warning about Earth’s “ominous” record-breaking heat.

“Another ominous record has been set,” Gore tweeted, citing a Washington Post article. “The city of Quriyat, Oman, hit an overnight LOW of 108.7 degrees on Tuesday — likely the highest minimum daily temp recorded on Earth. For those suffering from the heat in the U.S. this weekend, be safe and stay cool!”

The world’s previous hottest minimum temperature was 107.4 degrees, which was set in Oman on June 27, 2011. On June 26, the temperature reportedly reached a high of 121.6 degrees, just two degrees shy of the country’s all-time heat record, setting the record for the hottest temperature in June.

Gore, who has been a longtime champion of causes related to climate change, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for his work. In November 2017, he said the U.S. could remain in the Paris Climate Agreement, the international accord that sets standards for dealing with greenhouse gas emissions, if there was a new U.S. president by 2020.

Global News: Iran

iran flag mapMoon of Alabama, Opinion: On The Path To Failure — U.S. Attempts Violent “Regime Change” In Iran, B, July 1, 2018. A year ago the CIA created a new mission center to attack Iran (as reported by Shane Harris of the Wall Street Journal):

“The Iran Mission Center will bring together analysts, operations personnel and specialists from across the CIA to bring to bear cia logothe range of the agency’s capabilities, including covert action….To lead the new group, Mr. Pompeo picked a veteran intelligence officer, Michael D’Andrea, who recently oversaw the agency’s program of lethal drone strikes…. Mr. D’Andrea, a former director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, is known among peers as a demanding but effective manager, and a convert to Islam who works long hours…..Some U.S. officials have expressed concern over what they perceive as his aggressive stance toward Iran.

The tool the U.S. is using in Iran are operatives of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), a terror cult that has been fighting with Saddam’s Iraq against Iran and is despised by the Iranian people. When the U.S. was kicked out of Iraq it transferred the MEK camps from Iraq to Albania where the cult is now training its terrorists.

rudy giuliani recentYesterday a conference of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), a political umbrella controlled by the MEK, was held in Paris. One of the well paid guest speakers was Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudi Giuliani (shown