November 2018 News Updates

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

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

Nov. 30

Former President George H.W. Bush Dies

usa today logoUSA Today, George H.W. Bush, the 41st U.S. president and father of the 43rd, has died at age 94, Susan Page and Judy Keen, Nov. 30, 2018. George Herbert Walker Bush, george hw bush HRthe president who managed the end of the Cold War and forged a global coalition to oust Iraqi forces from Kuwait, has died at age 94. In a political career that spanned three decades, he lost his bid for re-election, lived to see his son win the Oval Office and then, in a turn worthy of Shakespeare, died soon after Barbara Bush, his wife of 73 years.

The death of Bush — nicknamed “41” to distinguish himself from son George W. Bush, “43” — was announced by spokesman Jim McGrath.

Trump Abroad

ny times logoNew York Times, Dodging Friends, Chased by Legal Woes, Trump Navigates G-20, Mark Landler and Peter Baker, Nov. 30, 2018. President Trump’s first day at the Group of 20 summit meeting in Buenos Aires was a window into his idiosyncratic statecraft. Mr. Trump’s “America First” foreign policy has left him with a strange patchwork of partners at global gatherings.

Twitter, That feeling when you own the President of the United States and can do whatever you want.

Mueller Probe / Justice Dept.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Cohen Lied. Here’s Why It Matters, Editorial Board, Nov. 30, 2019 (print edition). With Michael Cohen’s latest deal, the special counsel shows he is President Donald Trump officialunafraid of crossing Donald Trump’s red lines on Russia. When all is said and done, the April raids by federal prosecutors targeting Michael Cohen’s office and other premises in Manhattan may be seen as a turning point for Donald Trump’s presidency.

Those raids — and Mr. Cohen’s own malfeasance — opened the door for Robert Mueller, on Thursday, to convict President Trump’s longtime loyalist and personal lawyer of lying to Congress.

What the special counsel has gathered since the raids provides the clearest proof yet to the American public that Mr. Mueller’s inquiry — derided by the president and his allies as an aimless fishing expedition — is rooted in the law and facts. To those critics, this latest move was surely meant to send another message as well: He’s not about to back down.

washington post logoWashington Post, Whitaker fielded complaints about patent company yet promoted it, records show, Carol D. Leonnig, Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger, Nov. 30, ftc logo2018. Months after joining the advisory board of a Miami-based patent company in 2014, Matthew G. Whitaker began fielding angry complaints from customers that they were being defrauded, including from a client who showed up at his Iowa office to appeal to him personally for help, records show.

Yet Whitaker, now the acting attorney general, remained an active champion of World Patent Marketing for three years — even expressing willingness to star in national television ads promoting the firm, the records show.

Internal Federal Trade Commission documents released Friday in response to a public records request reveal the extent of Whitaker’s support for World Patent Marketing, even amid a barrage of warnings about the company’s behavior.

Migrant Caravan Shelter

washington post logoWashington Post, Mexico begins moving caravan migrants to new shelter but faces mistrust, Sarah Kinosian, William Branigin and Antonio Olivo, Nov. 30, 2018. Authorities have begun moving migrants from an increasingly unsanitary encampment to a shelter farther from the U.S. border, raising fears among migrants that their dreams of seeking asylum will be dashed.

Alaskan Earthquake

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Major’ damage to Anchorage area after severe magnitude-7 earthquake in Alaska, Jeannette Lee Falsey, Mark Berman and Angela Fritz, Nov. 30, 2018. An intense earthquake struck the Anchorage area Friday morning, causing severe shaking and damage and triggering fears of a tsunami.

The magnitude-7 quake occurred at 8:29 a.m., local time, the epicenter just north of Anchorage, which is home to more than 294,000 people. Moments later, the National Weather Service issued a tsunami warning for Cook Inlet and South Kenai Peninsula. The warning was canceled shortly after 10 a.m.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates a low probability of fatalities from the earthquake. Estimated economic losses are most likely between $100 million and $1 billion, which is an “orange alert,” according to the survey’s algorithms.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal employees warned: No talk of ‘the Resistance’ or opinions about impeachment at work, Eli Rosenberg and Juliet Eilperin, Nov. 30, 2018. Some government watchdogs fear the new federal guidance will chill First Amendment rights and whistle-blowing.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump administration approves seismic tests that could harm thousands of Atlantic dolphins and whales, Darryl Fears, Nov. 30, 2018. Federal officials are expected to grant permits that allow companies to possibly kill marine life as they search for oil and gas deposits.

Privacy / Hacked Info

washington post logoWashington Post, Marriott discloses massive data breach affecting up to 500 million guests, Taylor Telford and Craig Timberg​, Nov. 30, 2018. The hotel giant said an unauthorized party had accessed the reservations database for Starwood hotels, one of Marriott’s subsidiaries. The breach included names, email addresses, passport numbers and payment information. Related story: What to do if your information was stolen in Marriott breach.

Media / Politics

ny times logofacebook logoNew York Times, Sheryl Sandberg Is Said to Have Asked Facebook Staff to Research George Soros, Nicholas Confessore and Matthew Rosenberg, Nov. 30, 2018 (print edition). Sheryl Sandberg asked Facebook’s communications staff to research George Soros’s financial interests in the wake of his high-profile attacks on tech companies, according to three people with knowledge of her request, indicating that Facebook’s second in command was directly involved.

Nov. 29

djt vladimir putin summit 7 16 18 white house shealah craighead

Presidents Trump and Putin meet last July (White House photo).

Buzzfeed, The Trump Organization Planned To Give Vladimir Putin The $50 Million Penthouse In Trump Tower Moscow, Anthony Cormier and Jason Leopold, Nov. 29, 2018. During the presidential campaign, Michael Cohen discussed the matter with a representative of Putin’s press secretary, according to two US sources.

President Donald Trump’s company planned to give a $50 million penthouse at Trump Tower Moscow to Russian President Vladimir Putin as the company negotiated the luxury real estate development during the 2016 campaign, according to four people, one of them the originator of the plan.

Two US law enforcement officials told BuzzFeed News that Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer at the time, discussed the idea with a representative of Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press secretary.

The Trump Tower Moscow plan is at the heart of a new plea agreement by Cohen, who led the negotiations to bring a gleaming, 100-story building to the Russian capital. Cohen acknowledged in court that he had lied to Congress about the plan in order to protect Trump and his presidential campaign.

The revelation that representatives of the Trump Organization planned to forge direct financial links with the leader of a hostile nation at the height of the campaign raises fresh questions about President Trump’s relationship with the Kremlin. The plan never went anywhere because the tower deal ultimately fizzled, and it is not clear whether Trump knew of the intention to give away the penthouse. But Cohen said in court documents that he regularly briefed Trump and his family on the Moscow negotiations.

Mueller Probe: Cohen Plea Links To Trump

ny times logoNew York Times, Michael Cohen Admits Talks for Trump Over Moscow Tower Occurred Well Into Campaign, Benjamin Weiser, Ben Protess, Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt, Nov. 30, 2018 (print edition). Mr. Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, admitted that he had engaged in negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow well into the 2016 presidential campaign, far later than previously known. After Mr. Cohen’s plea, Mr. Trump said his former fixer was once again lying in order to get a reduced sentence for the crimes he pleaded guilty to earlier this year.

michael cohen ap file croppedThe revelations, which came as Mr. Cohen (right) pleaded guilty to lying to Congress, were a startling turn in the special counsel’s investigation of Mr. Trump and his inner circle.

Mr. Cohen’s guilty plea comes at a particularly perilous time for Mr. Trump, whose presidency has been threatened by Mr. Cohen’s statements to investigators. In recent days, the president and his lawyers have increased their attacks on the Justice Department and the special counsel’s office.

Shortly after Mr. Cohen’s plea, Mr. Trump said his former fixer was once again lying in order to get a reduced sentence for the crimes he pleaded guilty to earlier this year. Under the earlier plea agreement, Mr. Cohen faced about four or five years in prison.

Mr. Cohen concluded his statement in court by saying, “I made these misstatements to be consistent with Individual 1’s political messaging and out of loyalty to Individual 1.”

“Individual 1” is President Trump, officials said.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, pleads guilty to lying to Congress, Rosalind S. Helderman, Nov. 29, 2018. Michael Cohen, a former personal attorney to President Trump, pleaded guilty Thursday to lying to Congress about a Moscow real estate project Trump pursued during the months he was running for president, according to the Associated Press. During the campaign, Cohen acted as Trump’s point person in an attempt to built a Trump-branded development in Moscow. He has said the project was in its early stages in the fall of 2015, as Trump’s presidential campaign heated up.

robert muellerCohen’s new guilty plea is the latest development in a wide-ranging investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, right, into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Trump had insisted in the summer of 2016 that he had no business interests in Russia, statements that would be undermined if Cohen is now asserting conversations about the project continued past January 2016.

msnbc logo CustomRelated commentary: MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell described the guilty pleas significance as the first time that Cohen had described Trump Organization financial dealings with Russia and a potential gateway to Cohen’s cooperation in prosecution focus on members of the Trump family. Former Justice Department executive Chuck Rosenberg, an MSNBC regular contributor, agreed with Mitchell’s analysis on the noon interview.

More On Mueller Probe

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: 4 key takeaways from Michael Cohen’s new plea deal, Aaron Blake, Nov. 29, 2018. Michael Cohen reached a new plea deal Thursday with the team of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, in which he admitted to lying to Congress about an effort to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Below are a few takeaways about what’s significant.

1. There are conspicuous mentions of Trump and his family

2. Putin’s spokesman appears to have helped cover this up

3. This ties the Trump family’s efforts to the Russian government

4) The deal apparently died the day The Post broke a story about Russian hacking

Trump Cancels Putin Meeting

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Cancels Meeting With Putin Over Russia’s Hostilities With Ukraine, Peter Baker, Nov. 29, 2018. President Trump on Thursday abruptly canceled his planned meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, citing the unresolved naval standoff between Russia and Ukraine and upending his hopes of further cementing the relationship between the two leaders.

The president’s decision, announced on Twitter barely an hour after he told reporters he still expected to go through with the meeting, came shortly after new revelations that Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer was secretly negotiating to build a tower in Moscow during the 2016 presidential election.

Money Laundering Claim

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s favorite money laundering bank, Deutsche Bank, just got its headquarters raided, Bill Palmer, Nov. 29, 2018. This morning, Special Counsel Robert Mueller made a major move against Donald Trump by having cooperating witness Michael Cohen plead guilty to having lied about the timeframe for the ill-fated Trump Tower Moscow project during the 2016 election. Even as this plays out, another major scandal has come to a head with Deutsche Bank – and while it’s not yet clear what’s happening, it would be one heck of a coincidence if the two aren’t related.

bill palmer report logo headerDeutsche Bank’s headquarters in Frankfurt just got raided by the authorities as part of what the New York Times says is a massive money laundering investigation. The Times story does not mention Donald Trump or Russia. But if you’ve been paying attention these past two years, you know two things about Trump, Russia, and Deutsche Bank.

deutsche bank logoFirst, Deutsche Bank has routinely loaned major sums of money to Donald Trump over the years, even after he became such a poor credit risk that other banks wouldn’t touch him, and even after Deutsche ran into financial troubles of its own.

Second, Deutsche Bank was busted by U.S. and UK authorities in early 2017 for having laundered massive sums of money from Russia into the hands of people in places like New York City. It’s never been proven, but it’s long been widely suspected that these two stories are the same, and that Deutsche Bank was using these “loans” to launder Russian money to Trump in New York.

Tax Lawyer Raided

Chicago Tribune, Federal agents raid powerful Chicago Ald. Ed Burke’s City Hall and ward offices, Bill Ruthhart, John Byrne and Jason Meisner, Nov. 29, 2018. Federal agents swarmed Ald. Ed Burke’s City Hall and ward offices Thursday morning, kicking out employees and hours later hauling boxes of records and computers from rooms that for decades have been at the center of Chicago’s longest-standing political power structure.

The scenario was a somewhat familiar one for Burke, Chicago’s longest-serving politician known for his bold pinstripe suits, great political wealth and as half of one of the city’s elite power couples. In his 50 years in politics, the Southwest Side alderman has been under federal scrutiny several times before, but never convicted or indicted.

“As you are aware, there have previously been several other investigations such as this. In every instance we cooperated fully. And in every instance nothing has been found,” Burke said in a statement. “So once again, we will be cooperating fully, and I am completely confident that at the end of the day nothing will be found amiss in this instance either.”

When the 74-year-old alderman arrived at his Southwest Side home late Thursday, he repeated variations of the same statement as reporters inquired about the investigation.

The FBI’s Chicago office also had little to say about the matter, other than to confirm the searches. That set off parlor games among City Hall insiders about just which slice of Burke’s political domain had once again fallen under the microscope.

Nationally, media outlets and websites were quick to note that Burke once served as the attorney who appealed property taxes on behalf of President Donald Trump’s Chicago tower before cutting those ties earlier this year. And the raids on Burke’s office came on the same day the president’s former attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about a Trump project in Moscow as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

The timing of that development and the raid on Burke’s offices led to rampant speculation that the searches were related to work Burke’s law firm did for Trump. The Burke investigation, however, was being conducted in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago, not Mueller’s office, said Joseph Fitzpatrick, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney John Lausch.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Feds invade office of Donald Trump’s former longtime tax attorney, Bill Palmer, Nov. 29, 2018. The Feds have invaded the office of Chicago Alderman Edward Burke, ordered everyone out, and placed brown paper over the doors, according to a tweet from Chicago Sun-Times City Hall reporter Fran Spielman. Here’s the thing about Burke. bill palmer report logo headerHe’s not just an Alderman for the city of Chicago. He also runs a law firm that did tax work for Donald Trump for twelve years, only to sever the relationship a few months ago. So what’s going on here?

The raid strongly suggests that Burke is being criminally investigated by the Feds. There are any number of potential reason for such an investigation, ranging from Burke’s political activities, to his various law firm clients. But when you factor in that Burke did tax work for Trump, and he’s being raided on the same day that Trump’s money guy Michael Cohen is incriminating Trump, and on the same day Trump’s favorite money laundering bank is being raided for money laundering, is this all one big coincidence?

Inside the Federal Judiciary

tim scott oRoll Call, Thomas Farr Nomination Likely Sunk After Tim Scott Announces Opposition, Niels Lesniewski, Nov. 29, 2018. Sen. Tim Scott, right, has announced his opposition to the nomination of Thomas Farr to a federal judgeship in North Carolina, potentially dooming his confirmation.

republican elephant logo“I am ready and willing to support strong candidates for our judicial vacancies that do not have lingering concerns about issues that could affect their decision-making process as a federal judge,” Scott said in a statement reported by The State newspaper.

“This week, a Department of Justice memo written under President George H.W. Bush was released that shed new light on Mr. Farr’s activities. This, in turn, created more concerns. Weighing these important factors, this afternoon I concluded that I could not support Mr. Farr’s nomination.”

Farr’s nomination was perhaps the most contentious lower-level judicial nomination of all of 2018, thanks to a number of concerns about his views and record on race-related issues.

#MeToo & Media

The Hill, Miami Herald reporter hits back at Scaramucci over criticism of Epstein story, John Bowden, Nov. 29, 2018. Miami Herald rejected accusations from former White House Jeffrey Epstein Harvard University communications director Anthony Scaramucci that her newspaper “planted” a story linking Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, right.

Julie Brown, an investigative reporter for the Herald, fired back at Scaramucci on Thursday afternoon after the former Trump aide wrote that the Herald tried to “do a number” on Acosta because of his success in the Trump administration.

“1. I’m not in D.C. and have very few D.C. connections 2. ‘Planted’ ? Hmm. I don’t even know what that means,” Brown wrote on Twitter.

“3. This was honest to god, shoe leather reporting & digging through dense court documents for a year,” she added. “No one contacted me to do this story. No one. It was totally my idea.”

Acosta did not respond to requests to comment from the Herald on the story, which detailed his work as a U.S. attorney to secure a lighter punishment for Epstein via a plea agreement despite evidence that the billionaire was involved in bringing underaged girls to the U.S. for prostitution.

Despite his conviction, Epstein was allowed under the agreement to leave jail during his 13-month sentence for 12-hour periods six days a week to commute to his private office for work. The agreement was kept secret from his accusers.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats reject new Republican plan to pay for Trump’s wall, increasing chances of shutdown, Erica Werner and Seung Min Kim, Nov. 29, 2018. Congressional Democrats said Thursday they’re prepared to reject a new GOP plan to get President Trump the money he is demanding for his border wall — escalating the chances of a partial government shutdown next week.

The new Republican plan would deliver $5 billion for Trump’s long-promised U.S.-Mexico border wall by dividing the expenditure over two years — $2.5 billion in 2019 and $2.5 billion in 2020.

But Democrats, who have rejected the idea of spending $5 billion on a wall Trump claimed Mexico would pay for, said splitting the money up over two years did not make it more palatable.

“No matter how many years you spread it over, $5 billion for President Trump’s wasteful wall is too much money,” said Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee. “While we are willing to negotiate on how best to secure our border, we will never support wasting tax dollars on a wall designed to gin up the Republican base.”

washington post logoscott pruitt nydn resignation 7 6 18 SmallWashington Post, EPA watchdog closes two investigations into Pruitt’s conduct, Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis​, Nov. 29, 2018. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Inspector General has closed two probes into Scott Pruitt’s conduct when he was EPA chief without reaching any conclusions because he resigned as administrator before he could be interviewed, according to a report the agency submitted to Congress on Thursday. The investigations focused on Pruitt’s use of staff members for personal purposes and a condo rental deal he made with a lobbyist.

The office did not make a finding as to whether Pruitt (shown in a New York Daily News front page upon his resignation) violated federal law, according to its semiannual report, saying in each case that “the result of the investigation was inconclusive.”

Pruitt, who stepped down from his post in July in the face of multiple investigations into his spending and management practices, came under scrutiny for a variety of possible conflicts of interest. In the case of the housing agreement, Pruitt paid just $50 a night — and only when he was in town — for the Capitol Hill condo owned by lobbyist Vicki Hart.

washington post logoWashington Post, Comey asks judge to stop congressional committees’ bid to compel his private testimony, Matt Zapotosky, Nov. 29, 2018. Former FBI director James B. Comey is asking a federal judge to quash a subpoena demanding he testify before the House Judiciary and Oversight committees next week and postpone the testimony until that request can be ruled on, court filings show.

In a forceful court filing Thursday, lawyers for Comey wrote that the he was fighting the committee’s bid to force him to testify “not to avoid giving testimony but to prevent the Joint Committee from using the pretext of a closed interview to peddle a distorted, partisan political narrative about the Clinton and Russian investigations.”

Comey and former attorney general Loretta E. Lynch were given subpoenas last week to appear before the committees as part of the committees’ investigation of two politically charged probes into Hillary Clinton’s private email server and possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia. Comey said on Twitter that he was willing to testify publicly but would resist doing so behind closed doors.

“Let the American people watch,” he said in a tweet announcing the court filings. Comey was to testify on Dec. 3 and Lynch on Dec. 4. A spokesman for Lynch declined to comment.

Major GOP Election Fraud Claim

washington post logoWashington Post, Certification in limbo in N.C. House race as fraud investigation continues, Amy Gardner and Kirk Ross, Nov. 29, 2018. State election officials have no plans at their meeting Friday to certify Republican Mark Harris’s 905-vote victory over Democrat Dan McCready in the 9th District.

republican elephant logoMounting evidence of voter fraud in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District could indefinitely delay the certification of a winner, as state election officials investigate whether hundreds of absentee ballots were illegally cast or destroyed.

The North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement has no plans to certify Republican Mark Harris’s 905-vote victory over Democrat Dan McCready, according to an agenda of a board meeting scheduled for Friday morning.

The board is collecting sworn statements from voters in rural Bladen and Robeson counties, near the South Carolina border, who described people coming to their doors and urging them to hand over their absentee ballots, sometimes without filling them out. Others described receiving absentee ballots by mail that they had not requested. It is illegal to take someone else’s ballot and turn it in.

Investigators are also scrutinizing unusually high numbers of absentee ballots cast in Bladen County, in both the general election and the May 8 primary, in which Harris defeated incumbent Rep. Robert Pittenger (R) by 828 votes. In the primary, Harris won 96 percent of all absentee ballots in Bladen, a far higher percentage than his win in the county overall — a statistic that this week is prompting fresh accusations of fraud.

Another irregularity in both the primary and general elections is the high number of absentee ballots in some precincts that were requested but not turned in.

Mueller Probe: Manafort

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The stunning implications of the Manafort-Trump pipeline, Harry Litman, Nov. 29, 2018 (print edition). Harry Litman teaches constitutional law at the University of California at San Diego. He has served as U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania and deputy assistant attorney general.

Following the implosion of Paul Manafort’s cooperation agreement with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, a lawyer for President Trump casually announced that Manafort’s lawyers had been briefing Trump’s lawyers about his sessions with the Mueller team all along.

This revelation, far from routine, in fact is jaw-dropping — and it has significant legal and political implications.

First, and least, it represents another breach of the demolished cooperation agreement that Manafort entered into to avoid the expense and near-certain conviction in a second trial.

Second, whatever Team Trump may assert, the conversations between some combination of Manafort, Trump and the lawyers for both of them were not privileged, and Mueller is entitled to know their contents. Thus, Mueller is fully entitled to subpoena Manafort counsel Kevin Downing and whichever Trump counsel spoke with him (one trusts it wasn’t Emmet Flood, who is too savvy for such shenanigans) and force them to reveal every word of the discussions.

Finally, the open pipeline between cooperator Manafort and suspect Trump may have been not only extraordinary but also criminal. On Manafort and Downing’s end, there is a circumstantial case for obstruction of justice.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: How Donald Trump appeals to men secretly insecure about their manhood, Eric Knowles and Sarah DiMuccio, Nov. 29, 2018. From boasting about the size of his penis on national television to releasing records of his high testosterone levels, President Trump’s rhetoric and behavior exude machismo. His behavior also seems to have struck a chord with some male voters. See, for example, the “Donald Trump: Finally Someone With Balls” T-shirts common at Trump rallies.

But our research suggests that Trump is not necessarily attracting male supporters who are as confidently masculine as the president presents himself to be. Instead, Trump appears to appeal more to men who are secretly insecure about their manhood. We call this the “fragile masculinity hypothesis.” Here is some of our evidence.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Is this the part where Matt Whitaker gets fired? Bill Palmer, Nov. 29, 2018. In all the surreal developments today surrounding Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s decision to have Michael Cohen publicly implicate Donald Trump in the Trump Tower Moscow election scandal, one of the most noteworthy aspects was that Mueller did anything at all. Trump installed Matthew Whitaker as Acting Attorney General specifically to hamstring Mueller, yet here was Mueller, pulling off a huge swing at Trump.

bill palmer report logo headerWe don’t know why Matt Whitaker rolled over today, but we do know that he did in fact roll over. Multiple major news outlets reported that Robert Mueller had Rod Rosenstein sign off on the Michael Cohen move, and while Whitaker was informed before it happened, he clearly didn’t stop it from happening. Did he try to stop it and fail? Did he fail to try? We don’t have any way of knowing. But the bottom line is that he utterly, crucially, failed Trump today.

Now Donald Trump has a decision to make. His scheme to stop Robert Mueller, by installing Matt Whitaker, is not working. So now what? Does Trump give Whitaker a stern talking to about his expectations going forward? Does Trump fire the guy, and try to find someone else to be his new Acting Attorney General?

Mueller Probe: Fake News?

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: This Intentional Guardian Fake News Story Proves That The Media Can’t Be Trusted, b, Nov. 29, 2018. In 2015, the British Guardian appointed Katherine Viner as editor in chief. Under her lead, the paper took a new direction. While it earlier made attempts to balance its shoddier side with some interesting reporting, it is now solidly main stream in the worst sense. It promotes neo-liberalism and a delves into cranky identity grievances stories. It also became a main outlet for manipulative propaganda peddled by the British secret services.

Its recent fake news story about Paul Manafort, Wikileaks and Julian Assange aptly demonstrates this.

On November 27 the Guardian prepared to publish a story which asserted that Paula Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, had met Julian Assange, the publisher of Wikileaks, in the Ecuadorian embassy in London on at least three occasions. Some two hours before the story went public it contacted Manafort and Assange’s lawyers to get their comments.

The piece did not include the public denial Wikileaks issued to its 5.4 million followers one and a half hour before it was published.

The Guardian piece came at a critical moment. Currently the U.K. and Ecuador conspire to deliver Julian Assange to U.S. authorities. On Monday special counsel Robert Mueller said Manafort lied to investigators, violating his recent plea deal.

The new sensational claim was immediately picked up by prominent reporters and major mainstream outlets. It is likely that millions of people took note of it. But many people who had followed Russiagate fairytale and the Mueller investigation were immediately suspicious of the Guardian claim.

The story was weakly sourced and included some details that seemed unlikely to be true. Glenn Greenwald noted that the Ecuadorian embassy is under heavy CCTV surveillance. There are several guards, and visitors have to provide their identity to enter it. Every visit is logged. If Manaford had really visited Assange, it would have long been known.

Mueller Probe

The Atlantic, Papadopoulos’s Russia Ties Continue to Intrigue the FBI, Natasha Bertrand, right, and Scott Stedman, Nov. 28, 2018. The former foreign-policy adviser to the Trump campaign boasted of a Russia business deal even after the election, according a new letter under review.

George Papadopoulos, a Trump-campaign adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents about his interactions with a Russia-linked professor in 2016, went to jail on Monday after fighting, and failing, to delay the start of his two-week prison sentence. But a letter now being investigated by the House Intelligence Committee and the FBI indicates that Papadopoulos is still in the crosshairs of investigators probing a potential conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s night-owl calls to Roger Stone in 2016 draw scrutiny in Mueller probe, Manuel Roig-Franzia, Manuel Roig-Franzia, Carol D. Leonnig, Rosalind S. Helderman and Josh Dawsey, Nov. 29, 2018 (print edition). The calls almost always came deep into the night. Caller ID labeled them “unknown,” but Roger Stone said he knew to pick up quickly during those harried months of the 2016 presidential campaign. There would be a good chance that the voice on the other end of the line would belong to his decades-long friend — the restless, insomniac candidate Donald Trump — dialing from a blocked phone number.

Those nocturnal chats and other contacts between the man who now occupies the Oval Office and an infamous political trickster have come under intensifying scrutiny as special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation bores into whether Stone served as a bridge between Trump and WikiLeaks as the group was publishing hacked Democratic emails.

Mueller’s keen interest in their relationship was laid out in a draft court document revealed this week in which prosecutors drew a direct line between the two men — referring to Stone as someone understood to be in regular contact with senior Trump campaign officials, “including with then-candidate Donald J. Trump.”

david cay johnston headshotDCReport, Opinion: Donald Trump May Have Just Lied His Way to Prison, David Cay Johnston (right, DCReport Editor-in-Chief and author of two books on President Trump’s career), Nov. 29, 2018. How the Mueller Team Has Played Two Con Artists, Unmasking a Double Agent and Enticing the Other to Perjury.

Pay close attention to the front page story in Wednesday’s New York Times about Paul Manafort’s lawyer cooperating with Trump’s lawyers (Manafort’s Lawyer Is Said to Have Briefed Trump Team on Mueller Talks). It may well prove to be very important news just a short way down the road.

Its sole named source is Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s television lawyer. Giuliani acknowledged that information gleaned from Manafort’s meetings with FBI agents and prosecutors as a cooperating witness was being passed to Team Trump by Manafort lawyer Kevin Downing.

That one fact could well doom Trump’s presidency and perhaps land Trump and others behind bars. After Manafort was convicted of eight federal felonies last August and was about to endure the costs of a second federal trial, the former Trump campaign manager agreed in September to cooperate with Muller’s prosecution team.

We call that “flipping” because you switch sides, from criminal to law enforcement. Flipping requires criminals to be completely truthful in every detail with prosecutors about known crimes as well as disclosing still hidden criminal activity.

If Trump and his lawyer relied on what Manafort’s lawyer passed on from meetings with Team Mueller, this double-agent legal game may blow up in Trump’s face.

More On Trump

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: 48 hours of Trump lies in a few tweets, Wayne Madsen, Nov. 29, 2018. In a mere 48 hours, incessant Donald Trump lies, communicated via Twitter, have rocked the stock market, enraged union workers, and have further eroded public confidence in the ability of the White House and its enablers in Congress to govern.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s night-owl calls to Roger Stone in 2016 draw scrutiny in Mueller probe, Manuel Roig-Franzia, Manuel Roig-Franzia, Carol D. Leonnig, Rosalind S. Helderman and Josh Dawsey, Nov. 29, 2018 (print edition). The calls almost always came deep into the night. Caller ID labeled them “unknown,” but Roger Stone said he knew to pick up quickly during those harried months of the 2016 presidential campaign. There would be a good chance that the voice on the other end of the line would belong to his decades-long friend — the restless, insomniac candidate Donald Trump — dialing from a blocked phone number.

Those nocturnal chats and other contacts between the man who now occupies the Oval Office and an infamous political trickster have come under intensifying scrutiny as special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation bores into whether Stone served as a bridge between Trump and WikiLeaks as the group was publishing hacked Democratic emails.

Mueller’s keen interest in their relationship was laid out in a draft court document revealed this week in which prosecutors drew a direct line between the two men — referring to Stone as someone understood to be in regular contact with senior Trump campaign officials, “including with then-candidate Donald J. Trump.”

Senate Flouts Trump On Yemeni Genocide

washington post logoWashington Post, Senators back effort to end U.S. support for Saudi-led campaign in Yemen, Karoun Demirjian, Carol Morello and John Hudson, Nov. 29, 2018 (print edition). In a historic jamal khashoggi western suitrebuke of Saudi Arabia and President Trump’s handling of the fallout over journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing last month, a decisive majority in the Senate voted to advance a measure to end U.S. military support for the Saudi-led war.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Officials, Fiercely Defending Saudis, Warn Senators Not to Abandon Yemen War, Gardiner Harris, Eric Schmitt, Helene Cooper and Nicholas Fandos, Nov. 29, 2018 (print edition). Officials urged senators against withdrawing military support for the Saudi-led war, warning that doing so could embolden Iran and endanger the U.S. The U.S. is facing new questions about its longtime alliance with Saudi Arabia after the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, shown in a file photo.

U.S. Mortality

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. life expectancy declines again, a dismal trend not seen since World War I, Lenny Bernstein, Nov. 29, 2018 (print edition). Public health and demographic experts reacted with alarm to the statistics, which are considered a reliable barometer of a society’s health. The reports show that the nation is still in the grip of escalating drug and suicide crises.

Trump-linked Bank Under Scrutiny

ny times logoNew York Times, Deutsche Bank Offices Are Searched in Money Laundering Investigation, Melissa Eddy and Amie Tsang, Nov. 29, 2018. The company’s headquarters in Frankfurt were searched as part of an inquiry related to the so-called Panama Papers. The money-laundering investigation involves hundreds of millions of euros.

deutsche bank logoOne hundred seventy officers searched the headquarters of Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt and five other sites in the area early Thursday as part of a money-laundering investigation involving hundreds of millions of euros, prosecutors in Frankfurt said.

Two employees, who were not publicly identified but whose ages were given as 50 and 46, and other “unidentified people in positions of authority” are suspected of failing to report possible money laundering for transactions worth 311 million euros, or more than $350 million.

The money flowed to organizations in the British Virgin Islands before spring 2016, prosecutors said in an emailed statement.

The German bank confirmed in a statement that the police were investigating several of its offices in Germany and said the investigation related to the Panama Papers, a trove of files that put a spotlight on global money laundering. “We are cooperating fully with the authorities,” Deutsche said in the statement.

In April 2016, news organizations in cooperation with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists released the Panama Papers, which revealed how some of the world’s wealthiest individuals, including more than 900 customers of Deutsche Bank, dodged taxes in their home countries by transferring money to offshore accounts.

Prosecutors said the documents indicated “that Deutsche Bank helped customers found offshore organizations in tax havens by transferring illegally acquired money without alerting authorities to suspected money laundering.”

Deutsche Bank, once known for its aggressive efforts to compete with Wall Street institutions, has shrunk after years of losses as a result of problems including a bloated investment bank and trading desk and costly legal settlements tied to the sale of toxic mortgage securities.

Even as its competitors have recovered from the 2008 financial crisis, Deutsche Bank has struggled. This year, the bank’s arm in the United States failed a Federal Reserve stress test, which found that it had “material weaknesses” in its operations.

JIP Editor’s Note: Deutsche Bank has been widely reported elsewhere to have been the major bank financing the Trump Organization after most major banks withheld financing. Justin Kennedy, son of the recently retired Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, was formerly a key liaison at the bank between it and organizations led by the future president and his son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Stormy ‘Whether?’

washington post logoWashington Post, Stormy Daniels says Michael Avenatti filed defamation suit against her wishes, Felicia Sonmez, Nov. 29, 2018 (print edition). In a statement, the adult-film actress said she is debating whether to part ways with the attorney, whom she also accused of launching a crowdfunding campaign without her permission.

stormy daniels 2010 83 w“I haven’t decided yet what to do about legal representation moving forward,” Daniels, left, said in a statement. “Michael has been a great advocate in many ways. I’m tremendously grateful to him for aggressively representing me in my fight to regain my voice. But in other ways Michael has not treated me with the respect and deference an attorney should show to a client.”

michael avenatti sketchIn a statement Wednesday, Avenatti, right, defended his work on behalf of Daniels and said he had “always been an open book” with her, although he did not specifically address Daniels’s allegation that he had filed the defamation suit against her wishes.

He said that the agreement Daniels signed in February stipulated that she would pay him $100 and that “any and all other moneys raised via a legal fund would go toward my legal fees and costs.”

“Instead, the vast majority of the money raised has gone toward her security expenses and similar other expenses,” Avenatti said. “The most recent campaign was simply a refresh of the prior campaign, designed to help defray some of Stormy’s expenses.”

Daniels had said in a CNN interview last month that she and Avenatti were in contact “every single day,” sometimes “three or four times” a day.

Media News: CNN

The Intercept, CNN Submits to Right-Wing Outrage Mob, Fires Marc Lamont Hill Due to his “Offensive” Defense of Palestinians at the UN, Glenn Greenwald (shown at right in a screenshot from a previous CNN appearance), Nov. 29 2018. CNN on Thursday afternoon fired its commentator, Temple University Professor Marc Lamont Hill, after right-wing defenders of Israel objected to a speech Professor Hill gave at the U.N. on Wednesday in defense of Palestinian rights. CNN announced the firing just twenty-four hours after Hill delivered his speech.

Hill’s firing from CNN is a major victory for the growing so-called “online call-out culture” in which people who express controversial political views are not merely critiqued but demonized online and then formally and institutionally punished after a mob consolidates in outrage, often targeting their employes with demands that they be terminated. Hill’s firing, conversely, is a major defeat for the right to advocate for Palestinian rights, to freely critique the Israeli government, and for the ability of journalism and public discourse in the U.S. generally to accommodate dissent.

cnn logoConservatives claimed to be offended, traumatized and hurt by Hill’s political views on Israel and Palestine, which they somehow construed as being anti-semitic, and demanded that CNN fire him as punishment for the expression of those opinions. CNN honored the demands of those claiming to be victimized by exposure to Hill’s viewpoints by firing him as a political analyst.

On Wednesday, Hill appeared at an event of the U.N. Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, commemorating the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. During his speech, he accused the Israeli Government of practicing “settler colonialism” and apartheid, supported the international boycott movement against Israel (modeled on the one that ended South African apartheid in the 1980s), and called for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea.”

The right-wing outrage machine sprung into immediate action. The Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein accused Hill of a “long history of anti-Semitism,” adding: “The phrase ‘from the river to the sea’ has been a rallying cry for Hamas and other terrorist groups seeking the elimination of Israel, as a Palestinian state stretching from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea would mean that Israel would be wiped off the map.”

Some on the pro-Israel right who agitated for Hill’s firing have previously mocked what they call “outrage culture,” in which people are fired for controversial comments. The Washington Examiner’s Executive Editor and fanatical Israel defender, Seth Mandel, has long denounced and ridiculed such “mobs,” angrily objecting, for instance, when Disney recently fired director James Gunn for provocative Twitter remarks about pedophilia. Mandel used similarly derisive language (“internet outrage machine”) to denounce the removal by Business Insider of a column by Daniella Greenbaum that many found to be hurtful and traumatizing because it was, they insisted, transphobic.

Yet the very same Seth Mandel who finds “outrage mobs” so offensive when they target people who have similar political views to his own helped lead his own “internet outrage mob” to have Hill fired. This Stalwart Champion of Free Expression posted a series of tweets directed at CNN claiming that Hill was an anti-Jewish bigot and an advocate of genocide, and then posted multiple childish tweets with gifs celebrating Hill’s firing.

Our discourse, our newsrooms, and our academic institutions are now drowning with people who demand that any speech be banned and suppressed that they regard as “hurtful,” “offensive,” “traumatizing,” or fostering a feeling of being “unsafe.” But what they really mean is that they want speech suppressed that they and those who agree with them find “hurtful” and “traumatizing.” Speech that makes their political enemies feel offended, uncomfortable or unsafe is heralded as brave and provocative.

Nov. 28

Mueller Investigationpaul manafort abc flickr Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Manafort’s Lawyer Is Said to Have Briefed Trump Team on Mueller Talks, Michael S. Schmidt, Sharon LaFraniere and Maggie Haberman, Nov. 28, 2018 (print edition). A lawyer for Paul Manafort, the president’s onetime campaign chairman shown above in a 2016 photo, repeatedly briefed President Trump’s lawyers on his client’s discussions with federal investigators after Mr. Manafort agreed to cooperate with the special counsel, according to one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers and two other people familiar with the conversations.

The arrangement was highly unusual and inflamed tensions with the special counsel’s office when prosecutors discovered it after Mr. Manafort began cooperating two months ago, rudy giuliani recentthe people said. Some legal experts speculated that it was a bid by Mr. Manafort for a presidential pardon even as he worked with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, in hopes of a lighter sentence.

kevin downing head portraitRudolph W. Giuliani, left, one of the president’s personal lawyers, acknowledged the arrangement on Tuesday and defended it as a source of valuable insights into the special counsel’s inquiry and where it was headed. Such information could help shape a legal defense strategy, and it also appeared to give Mr. Trump and his legal advisers ammunition in their public relations campaign against Mr. Mueller’s office.

For example, Mr. Giuliani said, Mr. Manafort’s lawyer Kevin M. Downing, right, told him that prosecutors hammered away at whether the president knew about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting where Russians promised to deliver damaging information on Hillary Clinton to his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.

The president has long denied knowing about the meeting in advance. “He wants Manafort to incriminate Trump,” Mr. Giuliani declared of Mr. Mueller

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: What Was Paul Manafort Thinking? Harry Litman (former United States attorney and deputy assistant attorney general), Nov. 28, 2018 (print edition). There’s no good explanation for why he lied to Mueller.

How to make sense of the bizarre turn of events involving Paul Manafort?

robert mueller kit fox medill flickr croppedTwo months ago, he struck a plea deal with Robert Mueller, right, the special counsel — he pleaded guilty but agreed to provide full and truthful information in exchange for a more lenient sentence. But according to a filing by Mr. Mueller’s team on Monday, Mr. Manafort lied to them repeatedly, and after multiple warnings. He is now in a far worse position than if he had never elected to cooperate, or if he had followed through on his agreement.

What was he thinking? All of the available explanations for Mr. Manafort’s self-destructive path seem highly implausible, at best. So which hypothesis is the least implausible?

Hypothesis No. 1: The Pardon Promise
Hypothesis No. 2: The Assassination Fixation
Hypothesis No. 3: The Bad Gambler

New York Post, Trump says pardon for Paul Manafort still a possibility, Marisa Schultz and Nikki Schwab, Nov. 28, 2018. Trump compares Mueller’s investigation to McCarthyism; Manafort lawyer shared Mueller probe details with Trump’s legal team. He’s never discussed a pardon for Paul Manafort, President Trump said Wednesday — but it’s “not off the table.” “It was never discussed, but I wouldn’t take it off the table. Why would I take it off the table?” the president said during an Oval Office interview.

He ripped special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe and charged that Manafort, former political adviser Roger Stone and Stone’s associate Jerome Corsi were all asked to lie by the special counsel. “If you told the truth, you go to jail,” Trump said.

“You know this flipping stuff is terrible. You flip and you lie and you get — the prosecutors will tell you 99 percent of the time they can get people to flip. It’s rare that they can’t,” Trump said.

“But I had three people: Manafort, Corsi — I don’t know Corsi, but he refuses to say what they demanded. Manafort, Corsi and Roger Stone.”

“It’s actually very brave,” he said of the trio. “And I’m telling you, this is McCarthyism. We are in the McCarthy era. This is no better than McCarthy. And that was a bad situation for the country. But this is where we are. And it’s a terrible thing,” Trump added.

Mueller’s team has accused Manafort of repeatedly lying to them “on a variety of subject matters.”

djt trump train obama clinton holder retweet nov 28 2018

cnn logoCNN, Donald Trump, Internet troll, Chris Cillizza, Nov. 28, 2018. Donald Trump has always had some Internet troll in him. He loves to provoke. He often traffics in half-truths (or less). He’s a big fan of memes. But of late — and with regard to Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation in particular — the President is embracing his inner troll. Consider how Trump spent his Wednesday morning.

The image features a series of people behind prison bars — including special counsel Mueller, former President Barack Obama and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — with the words, “Now that Russian collusion is a proven lie, when do the trials for treason begin?” written across the picture.

Then, Trump retweeted a set of month-old tweets from conservative commentators — Dan Bongino and Charlie Kirk — featuring Hillary Clinton cracking a joke after Recode’s Kara Swisher mixed up Eric Holder and Cory Booker. “I know they all look alike,” Clinton joked of the two African-American men.

usa today logoUSA Today, Senate again blocks Senate bill that would protect special counsel Robert Mueller, Eliza Collins and Bart Jansen, Nov. 28, 2018. The Senate again blocked an expedited vote on legislation that would protect special counsel Robert Mueller from being fired.

jeff flake oSens. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. (right); Chris Coons, D-Del., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., urged brisk debate on the legislation in an effort to prevent President Donald Trump from firing Mueller Wednesday. Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah objected to the request, blocking immediate action. Lee said the bill was unconstitutional.

The bill had passed on a bipartisan basis out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, but has been kept off the floor by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who said there is no need to bring it up. Before calling for unanimous consent, Flake said he worried that his colleagues who said there was no need for legislation because “there hasn’t been any indication that Mr. Mueller be removed from office” were making a mistake.

“With the president tweeting on a regular basis, a daily basis, that the special counsel is conflicted, that he is leading the so-called 12 angry Democrats and demeaning and ridiculing him in every way, to be so sanguine about the chances of him getting fired is folly for us, I believe,” Flake said.

nbc news logoNBC News, Trump’s legal team has joint defense agreement with Stone ally Corsi, Anna Schecter, Nov. 28, 2018. President Donald Trump’s legal team has a mutual defense agreement in place with conservative author Jerome Corsi amid special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into the 2016 election, according to Corsi and the president’s lawyer.

Corsi, an associate of Roger Stone, said his lawyer David Gray has spoken with Trump attorney Jay Sekulow on more than one occasion about his dealings with Mueller.

“I wanted Jay Sekulow as the president’s attorney to know what was happening to me with the Mueller investigation,” said Corsi.

“I did this because I support Donald Trump…I wanted him to survive the Mueller investigation unscathed, which I believe he will, and I want him to be reelected in 2020.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Losing cooperators is a blow, but not a fatal one, for Mueller, analysts say, Matt Zapotosky, Nov. 28, 2018 (print edition). Prosecutors said former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort violated his plea agreement by lying, while another possible witness declined to take a deal.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump throws deranged fit about “treason,” Bill Palmer, right, Nov. 28, 2018. Now that we’ve learned that Paul Manafort reportedly met with WikiLeaks bill palmerfounder Julian Assange during the 2016 election, the mainstream media is finally beginning to cautiously use the word “treason” to characterize the Trump-Russia scandal. After all, we’re talking about Donald Trump’s campaign boss conspiring with a foreign enemy to try to alter the outcome of the election in Trump’s favor – and it’s difficult to imagine that Trump wasn’t in on the plot. Now Trump is the one throwing around the word “treason” – in typically deranged fashion.

This morning, after Donald Trump finished hyperbolically comparing Special Counsel Robert Mueller to Joseph McCarthy, he then retweeted a post which said “Now that Russia collusion is a proven lie, when do the trials begin for treason?” Included was an image which depicted Mueller, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Barack Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, James Comey, and a number of other people in prison.

bill palmer report logo headerWith this retweet, Donald Trump – the supposed President of the United States – unquestionably accused all of his political opponents, and the people investigating his crimes, of committing “treason.” This is, of course, egregious beyond characterization, and should result in immediate impeachment and ouster.

But the real upshot here is that Trump now feels compelled to preemptively accuse his adversaries of treason because he knows that’s what his own people – and eventually himself – are going to be accused of having committed.

We can spend all day parsing the legal definition of the word treason. Many people mistakenly think treason charges require a declaration of war, when prosecutorial history reveals that such charges only require an act of war, and that the definition of an “act of war” has tended to be pliable. For instance, the Russian hacking of the elections could be defined as an act of cyber war.

U.S. Politics

mike espy cindy hyde smith jackson free press

Republican incumbent Cindy Hyde-Smith beat Democratic challenger Mike Espy (shown above) in a Mississippi Senate runoff on November 27.

ny times logoNew York Times, Mississippi Republican Holds Off Challenger to Keep Senate Seat, Alan Blinder, Nov. 28, 2018 (print edition). Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, a Mississippi Republican who had to apologize for a cavalier reference to a public hanging, won a special runoff election on Tuesday, defeating the Democratic candidate, Mike Espy, who was trying become the state’s first black senator since Reconstruction.

republican elephant logoMs. Hyde-Smith’s victory, reported by The Associated Press, came in the final Senate race of the midterm elections and will set the Republican majority in the chamber at 53 to 47 once the new Congress is sworn in, a net pickup of two seats.

Teetering after several rhetorical gaffes drew a harsh spotlight to her campaign, Ms. Hyde-Smith received a last-minute boost from President Trump, who appeared at two rallies with her on Monday and cautioned Mississippians that a victory for Mr. Espy would also be one for Democratic leaders like Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.

The Republican win came as a deep relief to the party and Mr. Trump in a state where they rarely struggle, especially in Senate contests. Mr. Trump boasted repeatedly this year about his influence in helping his preferred candidates win elections, but the party had to go to unusual lengths — with the two rallies, multiple tweets by the president, a vast financial investment and dozens of Republican election workers dispatched to the state — to help Ms. Hyde-Smith over the finish line.

ny times logoNew York Times, G.M., Not Trump, Is the Real Villain to Some Ohio Factory Workers, Noam Scheiber, Nov. 28, 2018.  After an election campaign in which he had pledged a manufacturing renaissance, President Trump came to [Lordstown, Ohio], this once-thriving industrial region of northeastern Ohio last year and all but waved a mission-accomplished flag.

The jobs are “all coming back,” he announced. “Don’t move, don’t sell your house.” That vow collided with the shifting dynamics of the auto industry on Monday when General Motors told workers it was idling Lordstown’s prized Chevrolet factory.

Many Lordstown residents recalled that Mr. Trump had promoted steel tariffs and his trade savvy as a way to create jobs. But while critics faulted the president for failing to deliver what he promised, a number of workers were quick to exonerate him.

Climate Change

washington post logoPresident Donald Trump officialWashington Post, Trump says he is among those who ‘have very high levels of intelligence’ but are not ‘believers’ in climate change, Josh Dawsey, Philip Rucker, Brady Dennis and Chris Mooney, Nov. 28, 2018 (print edition). The president’s comments during an interview with The Post marked his most extensive yet on why he disagrees with the National Climate Assessment.

Trump Interview

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump says he’s ‘not even a little bit happy’ with Fed chairman, Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey and Damian Paletta, Nov. 28, 2018 (print edition). In a wide-ranging interview with The Post, President Trump argued that higher rates and other Federal Reserve policies contributed to market declines and GM’s recently announced plant closures. The president insisted, though, that he is not worried about a recession.

Inside Trump World

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘There is no attempt to hide’: Ivanka Trump defends her use of a private email address in interview, Adapted from John Wagner story, Nov. 28, 2018. The president’s daughter dismissed comparisons to Hillary Clinton.

#MeToo Scandals In Prosecution

JIP Editor’s Note: The Miami Herald published a multi-part investigative project — “Perversion of Justice” — on Nov. 28 reporting how top officials gave a sweetheart deal to billionairre perversion of justice miami herald logopervert Jeffrey Epstein, a friend of future President Trump and past president Clinton, along with a promise not to investigate Epstein’s friends and accomplices in a ring allegedly involving hundreds sex victims, many of them high school and junior high schoolers.

The Justice Integrity Project also has extensively covered this case, Jeffrey Epstein (shown below at right), and his enablers, who include prominent prosecutors and other lawyers, including President Trump’s Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta.

But this Miami Herald series goes far beyond all previous news reports, which now number in the hundreds. The Herald credited reporter Julie K. Brown and visual producer Emily Jeffrey Epstein Harvard University Michot with the series. The Herald obtained thousands of FBI and court records, lawsuits, and witness depositions, and went to federal court in New York to access sealed documents in the reporting of “Perversion of Justice.” The Herald also tracked down more than 60 women who said they were victims, some of whom had never spoken of the abuse before.. 

miami herald logoMiami Herald, Cops worked to put serial sex abuser in prison. Prosecutors worked to cut him a break (Part 1), Julie K. Brown, Nov. 28, 2018. A decade before #MeToo, a multimillionaire sex offender from Florida got the ultimate break.

Palm Beach, Florida / November 2004

Jane Doe No. 2

Michelle Licata climbed a narrow, winding staircase, past walls covered with photographs of naked girls. At the top of the stairwell was a vast master bed and bath, with cream-colored shag carpeting and a hot pink and mint green sofa.

perversion of justice miami herald logoThe room was dimly lit and very cold.

There was a vanity, a massage table and a timer.

A silver-haired man wearing nothing but a white towel came into the room. He lay facedown on a massage table, and while talking on a phone, directed Licata to rub his back, legs and feet.

Michelle Licata says she was 16 when she first visited Jeffrey Epstein’s home on El Brillo Way to give him a massage. She says he tried to penetrate her with his fingers.

After he hung up, the man turned over and dropped his towel, exposing himself. He told Licata to get comfortable and then, in a firm voice, told her to take off her clothes.

At 16, Licata had never before been fully naked in front of anyone. Shaking and panicked, she mechanically pulled off her jeans and stripped down to her underwear. He set the timer for 30 minutes and then reached over and unsnapped her bra. He then began touching her with one hand and masturbating himself with the other.

“I kept looking at the timer because I didn’t want to have this mental image of what he was doing,’’ she remembered of the massage. “He kept trying to put his fingers inside me and told me to pinch his nipples. He was mostly saying ‘just do that, harder, harder and do this. …’ ”

After he ejaculated, he stood up and walked to the shower, dismissing her as if she had been in history class.

It wasn’t long before a lot of Licata’s fellow students at Royal Palm Beach High School had heard about “a creepy old guy” named Jeffrey who lived in a pink waterfront mansion and was paying girls $200 to $300 to give him massages that quickly turned sexual.

Eventually, the Palm Beach police, and then the FBI, came knocking on Licata’s door. In the police report, Licata was referred to as a Jane Doe 2 in order to protect her identity as a minor.

Virginia Roberts 2015 photo

miami herald logoMiami Herald, A decade before #MeToo, a multimillionaire sex offender from Florida got the ultimate break (Part 2), Julie K. Brown, Nov. 28, 2018.

Palm Beach County Courthouse / June 30, 2008

perversion of justice miami herald logoJeffrey Edward Epstein appeared at his sentencing dressed comfortably in a blue blazer, blue shirt, jeans and gray sneakers. His attorney, Jack Goldberger, was at his side.

At the end of the 68-minute hearing, the 55-year-old silver-haired financier — accused of sexually abusing dozens of underage girls — was fingerprinted and handcuffed, just like any other criminal sentenced in Florida.

But inmate No. W35755 would not be treated like other convicted sex offenders in the state of Florida, which has some of the strictest sex offender laws in the nation.

Ten years before the #MeToo movement raised awareness about the kid-glove handling of powerful men accused of sexual abuse, Epstein’s lenient sentence and his extraordinary treatment while in custody are still the source of consternation for the victims he was accused of molesting when they were minors.

Beginning as far back as 2001, Epstein lured a steady stream of underage girls to his Palm Beach mansion to engage in nude massages, masturbation, oral sex and intercourse, court and police records show. The girls — mostly from disadvantaged, troubled families — were recruited from middle and high schools around Palm Beach County. Epstein would pay the girls for massages and offer them further money to bring him new girls every time he was at his home in Palm Beach, according to police reports.

The girls, now in their late 20s and early 30s, allege in a series of federal civil lawsuits filed over the past decade that Epstein sexually abused hundreds of girls, not only in Palm Beach, but at his homes in Manhattan, New Mexico and in the Caribbean.

alex acosta swearing in mike pence c spanIn 2007, the FBI had prepared a 53-page federal indictment charging Epstein with sex crimes that could have put him in federal prison for life. But then-Miami U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta (shown with his being sworn by Vice President Pence as Labor Secretary last year) signed off on a non-prosecution agreement, which was negotiated, signed and sealed so that no one would know the full scope of Epstein’s crimes. The indictment was shelved, never to be seen again.

Epstein instead pleaded guilty to lesser charges in state court, and was required to register as a sex offender. He was sentenced to 18 months incarceration.

But Epstein — who had a long list of powerful, politically connected friends — didn’t go to state prison like most sex offenders in Florida. Instead, the multimillionaire was assigned to a private wing of the Palm Beach County stockade, where he was able to hire his own security detail. Even then, he didn’t spend much time in a cell. He was allowed to go to his downtown West Palm Beach office for work release, up to 12 hours a day, six days a week, records show.

miami herald logoMiami Herald, How a future Trump Cabinet member gave a serial sex abuser the deal of a lifetime, Julie K. Brown, Nov. 28, 2018. A decade before #MeToo, a multimillionaire sex offender from Florida got the ultimate break.

perversion of justice miami herald logoOn a muggy October morning in 2007, Miami’s top federal prosecutor, Alexander Acosta, had a breakfast appointment with a former colleague, Washington, D.C., attorney Jay Lefkowitz.

It was an unusual meeting for the then-38-year-old prosecutor, a rising Republican star who had served in several White House posts before being named U.S. attorney in Miami by President George W. Bush.

Instead of meeting at the prosecutor’s Miami headquarters, the two men — both with professional roots in the prestigious Washington law firm of Kirkland & Ellis — convened at the Marriott in West Palm Beach, about 70 miles away. For Lefkowitz, 44, a U.S. special envoy to North Korea and corporate lawyer, the meeting was critical.

Miami Herald, Where are they now? The biggest players in the Jeffrey Epstein case, Julie K. Brown, Nov. 28, 2018 (5:40 min. video above). A look at Jeffrey Epstein’s inner circle, plus the lawyers and police involved in his case, including Alexander Acosta, Alan Dershowitz, Prince Andrew, Ghislaine Maxwell, Nadia Marcinko and Kenneth Starr.

Supreme Court

washington post logoWashington Post, Kavanaugh worried scandal would end his coaching days. Now he’s back on the court, Ann E. Marimow, Nov. 28, 2018 (print edition). The Supreme Court’s newest justice has returned to lead his daughter’s basketball team.

Saudi Murder

washington post logoSaudi Arabian flagWashington Post, Opinion: The Khashoggi killing had roots in a cutthroat Saudi family feud, David Ignatius, Nov. 28, 2018 (print edition). Behind the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi lies a power struggle within the Saudi royal family that helped feed the paranoia and recklessness of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Eventually, this rage in the royal court led to the death and dismemberment of a Washington Post journalist.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Officials, Fiercely Defending Saudis, Warn Senators Not to Abandon Yemen War, Gardiner Harris, Eric Schmitt, Helene Cooper and Nicholas Fandos, Nov. 28, 2018. Trump administration officials urged senators against withdrawing American military support for the war in Yemen in an aggressive warning on Wednesday that doing so could embolden Iran and endanger the United States.

The forceful and coordinated effort came as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis briefed the Senate in a classified discussion where they also faced questions about the killing of the Saudi journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi, who was a United States resident.

Mr. Khashoggi’s death, in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, has raised new questions about the United States’ longtime alliance with Saudi Arabia. The kingdom is leading the yearslong assault against Houthi rebels in neighboring Yemen.

Pelosi Advances In House

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats Nominate Pelosi to Be Speaker but With Significant Defections, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Nov. 28, 2018. House Democrats nominated Representative nancy pelosi oNancy Pelosi of California to be the speaker in the new Democratic House majority, but with 32 Democrats voting no, she was well short of the number she will need to be elected speaker in January.

The 203-32 vote showed Ms. Pelosi, right, has most Democrats behind her, but in the coming weeks, she will have many arms to twist. The vote will also give a potential challenger time to step forward.

She did clinch the support of a small but critical bloc of Democrats, called Problem Solvers, after she agreed to change House rules to give rank-and-file members more influence in Congress.

After painstaking negotiations that stretched into the wee hours of Wednesday morning, Ms. Pelosi struck a deal with the Problem Solvers Caucus, who had withheld their support. They insisted on measures they said would break partisan gridlock by empowering lawmakers who forge bipartisan compromises.

U.S. Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Democratic Committee Ends House Campaign Cycle $18 Million in Debt, Sydney Ember, Nov. 28, 2018. In the three weeks since the midterm elections, Democrats have been steadily watching their number of victories in House races tick up. As of Wednesday, the party had gained 39 congressional seats, easily giving it control of the House.

But all that winning came at a cost: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the arm of the party focused on House races, ended the campaign cycle with $18 million in debt, according to a Democratic strategist briefed on the group’s finances.

U.S.-China Trade Wardjt china dinner xi jinping april 6 2017 screenshot

U.S. and Chinese leaders gathered at Mar-a-Lago club during friendlier times in 2017 (Twitter photo from New York Times photogapher Doug Mills).

ny times logochina flagNew York Times, Trump Could Seek a China Trade Truce at G-20, Despite Tough Talk, Mark Landler, Glenn Thrush and Keith Bradsher, Nov. 28, 2018 (print edition). President Trump is projecting a steely facade as he prepares for a critical meeting on trade this weekend with President Xi Jinping of China. But behind his tough talk and threats of higher tariffs is a creeping anxiety about the costs of a prolonged trade war on the financial markets and the broader economy.

That could set the stage for a truce between the United States and China, several American officials said, in the form of an agreement that would delay new tariffs for several months while the world’s two largest economies try to work out the issues dividing them. Such an outcome is not certain.

Migrant Border Crisis

ny times logoNew York Times, For Migrants on Both Sides of the Border, the One Constant Is a Long Wait, Miriam Jordan, Kirk Semple and Caitlin Dickerson, Nov. 28, 2018 (print edition). In an overcrowded shelter at a sports complex south of the Mexican border, nearly 6,000 migrants from Central America have been waiting in increasingly squalid conditions — and with an increasing sense of desperation — to cross into the United States.

Black Box On Fatal Air Crash

ny times logoNew York Times, Black Box Data Reveals Pilots’ Struggle on Doomed Lion Air Jet, James Glanz, Muktita Suhartono and Hannah Beech, Nov. 28, 2018 (print edition). Data from the jetliner that crashed into the Java Sea last month shows the pilots fought to save the plane almost from the moment it took off, as the Boeing 737’s nose was repeatedly forced down, apparently by an automatic system receiving incorrect sensor readings.

The information from the flight data recorder, contained in a preliminary report prepared by Indonesian crash investigators and released on Wednesday, documents a fatal tug of war between man and machine, with the plane’s nose forced dangerously downward over two dozen times during the 11-minute flight.

CBS Media #MeToo

ny times logoles moonvesNew York Times, ‘If Bobbie Talks, I’m Finished’: How Les Moonves Tried to Silence an Accuser, James B. Stewart, Rachel Abrams and Ellen Gabler, Nov. 28, 2018. A trove of text messages details a plan by Mr. Moonves and a faded Hollywood manager to bury a sexual assault allegation.Instead, the scheme helped sink the CBS chief (shown right), and may cost him $120 million.

Media: Guardian Report Questioned

Politico, Did Someone Plant a Story Tying Paul Manafort to Julian Assange? Alex Finley (pen name of a former CIA officer), Nov. 28, 2018. A bombshell report in the Guardian on Tuesday claims Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, met directly with Julian Assange, the head of WikiLeaks, several times in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

If true, the ramifications are immense. It means the guy running Trump’s campaign met directly with the head of the organization that served as a tool of Russia’s intelligence services, distributing stolen Democratic emails in an effort to influence the U.S. presidential election. It could be the proverbial smoking gun that shows Trump’s campaign knew it was receiving help from Russian intelligence services and perhaps even aided the operation.

Luke Harding and Dan Collyns, the reporters behind the Guardian story, do not name their sources, although they claim to have multiple, and they write that they have seen an internal document from Ecuador’s intelligence service listing “Paul Manaford [sic]” as a visitor to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Manafort, for his part, has called the Guardian’s report “totally false and deliberately libelous.”

While the immediate reaction to the story was a collective “Wow!”, it is fair to take a step back and remain wary. Rather than being the bombshell smoking gun that directly connects the Trump campaign to WikiLeaks, perhaps the report is something else entirely: a disinformation campaign. Is it possible someone planted this story as a means to discredit the journalists?

If this latest story about Manafort and Assange is false — that is, if, for example, the sources lied to Harding and Collyns (or if the sources themselves were lied to and thus thought they were being truthful in their statements to the journalists), or if the Ecuadorian intelligence document is a fake, the most logical explanation is that it is an attempt to make Harding look bad.

As of this writing, no other news outlet has confirmed the Guardian’s story about Manafort meeting Assange. So is it fake or is it real? If it is real and others confirm it, it would be damning, and many people have an interest in trying to discredit it. On the other hand, if someone managed to dupe Harding and his colleague, it would mean someone was ready to put a lot of effort into discrediting the journalists in order to sow doubt about a wide swath of reporting.

Nov. 27

Mueller Probe

ny times logoNew York Times, Manafort Breached Plea Deal by Repeatedly Lying, Mueller Says, Sharon LaFraniere, Nov. 27, 2018 (print edition). Paul Manafort, above, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, repeatedly lied to federal investigators in breach of a plea agreement he signed two months ago, the special counsel’s office said in a court filing late on Monday. Prosecutors working for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, said Mr. Manafort’s “crimes and lies” about “a variety of subject matters” relieve them of all promises they made to him in the plea agreement. But under the terms of the agreement, Mr. Manafort cannot withdraw his guilty plea.

Defense lawyers disagreed that Mr. Manafort, shown at right in a mug shot, has violated the deal. In the same filing, they said that Mr. Manafort has met repeatedly with the special paul manafort mugcounsel’s office and “believes he has provided truthful information.”

But given the impasse between the two sides, they asked Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia to set a sentencing date for Mr. Manafort, who has been in solitary confinement in a detention center in Alexandria, Va., since June.

The dramatic development in the 11th hour of Mr. Manafort’s case is a fresh sign of the prosecutors’ aggressive approach in investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential race and whether anyone in the Trump campaign knew about or assisted Moscow’s effort.

Mr. Manafort had hoped that in agreeing to cooperate with Mr. Mueller’s team, prosecutors would argue that he deserved a lighter punishment. He is expected to face at least a decade-long prison term for 10 felony counts ranging from financial fraud to conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Instead, after at least a dozen sessions with him, federal prosecutors have not only decided Mr. Manafort does not deserve leniency, but also could seek to refile other charges that they had agreed to dismiss as part of the plea deal.

Palmer Report, Commentary: Looks like Robert Mueller just busted Paul Manafort, Julian Assange, and Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Nov. 27, 2018. This morning The Guardian revealed that Paul Manafort met with Julian Assange three times at the Ecuadorian embassy, according to its visitor logs, including once while Manafort was running Donald Trump’s campaign. This isn’t some zany coincidence. This is, rather obviously, what Manafort lied to Robert Mueller about.

Let’s be clear here about what Paul Manafort was doing. [I]t’s engaging in an international treason plot to systematically rig an election. It’s not something you do unless the candidate is on board. So yeah, Trump had to have known.

bill palmer report logo headerRobert Mueller’s ten-day delay is still the linchpin to all of this. He could have busted Manafort for lying ten days ago, when the status update was originally due. Instead he made a point of briefly delaying the news. As we pointed out last night, the only relevant item that transpired during those ten days was that Donald Trump reached his deadline and turned in his written answers about Trump-Russia collusion.

It’s not difficult to parse that Mueller was looking to bait Trump into lying, in writing, about Manafort and Assange. This means Mueller has Trump nailed for not only being in on the election collusion conspiracy, but then committing the additional crime of lying about it in writing. As we’ve seen, even when Mueller has strong evidence to prove that someone committed a complex crime, he likes initially nailing them on simpler crimes instead, because it’s quicker and easier.

The plot between the Trump campaign, Russia, and WikiLeaks wasn’t merely being run by sideshow clowns like Roger Stone or Jerome Corsi. It was being run by Donald Trump’s campaign boss, who was meeting with the enemy in person, and there’s no doubt Trump knew all about it.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s legal team has conniption after his name is included in Trump-Russia indictment, Bill Palmer, Nov. 27, 2018. This just keeps getting stranger. Jerome Corsi announced last week that he was about to get indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Then he announced that he was negotiating a plea deal with Mueller. Then he announced that he would not sign the plea deal. Then he publicly released a copy of his own indictment, which may or may not have been filed yet against him. But Donald Trump and his legal team are throwing a fit about the fact that Trump is mentioned in the indictment. Huh?

bill palmer report logo headerAfter Robert Mueller gave Jerome Corsi a draft copy of the indictment that was about to get filed, Corsi gave a copy to Donald Trump’s legal team. This happened about two weeks ago, according to new reporting tonight from the Washington Post. Trump’s legal team then “lodged a complaint with the Justice Department about the inclusion of Trump’s name in the draft filing.”

russian flag wavingOkay, so Donald Trump and his lawyers didn’t like that Trump’s name was mentioned in this criminal indictment of Jerome Corsi, even though it was a secret document that the public had not seen. But now Corsi – who is supposedly working with Trump – has publicly released the indictment, allowing the whole world to see that Trump’s name is mentioned in it. Isn’t this precisely what Trump and his legal team were fighting against?

At this point it’s fair to say that these people are not behaving rationally, they’re not on the same page with each other, and they’re not remotely competent at any of this to begin with. Corsi simply had to sign a piece of paper to avoid prison time, but he refused. Trump was outraged that he was named in a secret indictment, which his ally Corsi then made public. These are not the brightest bulbs in the tulip factory.

More On Mueller Probe

Guardian, Manafort held secret talks with Assange in Ecuadorian embassy, Luke Harding and Dan Collyns, Nov. 27, 2018. Trump ally met WikiLeaks founder months before emails hacked by Russia were published. Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort held secret talks with Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and visited around the time he joined Trump’s campaign, the Guardian has been told.

julian assange head bookSources have said Manafort went to see Assange in 2013, 2015 and in spring 2016 – during the period when he was made a key figure in Trump’s push for the White House.

It is unclear why Manafort wanted to see Assange (shown in a file photo) and what was discussed. But the last meeting is likely to come under scrutiny and could interest Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor who is investigating alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

A well-placed source has told the Guardian that Manafort went to see Assange around March 2016. Months later WikiLeaks released a stash of Democratic emails stolen by Russian intelligence officers.

Manafort, 69, denies involvement in the hack and says the claim is “100% false.” His lawyers declined to answer the Guardian’s questions about the visits. The revelation could shed new light on the sequence of events in the run-up to summer 2016, when WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of emails hacked by the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency. Hillary Clinton has said the hack contributed to her defeat.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Robert Mueller just worked around Matthew Whitaker, Bill Palmer, Nov. 27, 2018. Last night Special Counsel Robert Mueller did something explosive when he ripped up his cooperating plea deal agreement with Paul Manafort, accusing Manafort of having lied to him. In effect, Mueller decided that he was no longer interested in Manafort’s cooperation at all. Palmer Report theorized last night that Mueller may have done this in order to take things public in a way that Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker couldn’t stop.

bill palmer report logo headerThis evening, incoming House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler suggested more or less the same thing.

Because Robert Mueller has told the judge that Paul Manafort lied to him, Mueller is now required to tell the judge about the specific things Manafort lied about. That means Mueller has to disclose – in a court filing due next week – all the secrets involved in Manafort’s deception. This filing will instantly become a matter of public record. So we’re about to see Mueller essentially leak everything. We don’t think this is an accident.

U.S. Politics / Voter Suppression

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Hyde-Smith Reveals the Ugly Truth Behind GOP Election Laws, Nina Sparling, Nov. 27, 2018. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) made headlines again, this time for openly supporting voter suppression laws. But she’s not alone: other officials are also growing bolder about why they do what they do.

Today, Mississippians cast their ballots in a runoff election that will determine whether incumbent Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) will hang on to her seat — or if Democratic challenger Mike Espy will prevail and become the state’s first black senator in Mississippi.

If it were up to Hyde-Smith, she would bolster her chances by making it it more difficult for some voters in her state to cast their ballots — in particular those likely to oppose her.

Before a small crowd in Starkville, Mississippi, she recently said “…there’s a lot of liberal folks in those other schools who maybe we don’t want to vote. Maybe we want to make it just a little more difficult. And I think that’s a great idea.”

Hyde-Smith is not the only Republican caught revealing the real motivation behind GOP efforts to craft new election laws and redraw congressional districts. Rather than tout voter identification laws as a measure to protect against fraud or partisan gerrymandering as inevitable, some Republicans, in unguarded moments, now are telling the truth: voter suppression helps them win.

Migrant Caravan

caravan gas attack nov 25 twitterny times logoNew York Times, Mexico’s New Leader Faces Clash With Trump Over Migrant Caravan, Azam Ahmed and Elisabeth Malkin, Nov. 27, 2018 (print edition). The new president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has built his entire political career on defending the poor. Now, days before Mr. López Obrador takes office, President Trump is testing how firmly he will live up to that.

Thousands of migrants from Central America have massed along the border of Mexico and the United States — with thousands more on the way. American border patrol agents fired tear gas at them on Sunday to prevent hundreds from reaching the border.

Mr. Trump has vowed to keep the migrants on Mexican soil while they apply for asylum in the United States, a process that could squeeze them into squalid, overcrowded shelters for months, possibly even years. Mexican officials say the strain is already causing a humanitarian emergency, creating a political crisis for Mr. López Obrador even before he takes office.

Climate Change

climate change credits mellimage montree hanlue nasa site shutterstock

NASA graphic (Credits: Mellimage and Montree Hanlue via

ny times logopaul krugmanNew York Times, Opinion: The Depravity of Climate-Change Denial, Paul Krugman, right, Nov. 27, 2018 (print edition). Risking civilization for profit, ideology and ego. The Trump administration is, it goes without saying, deeply anti-science. In fact, it’s anti-objective reality. But its control of the government remains limited; it didn’t extend far enough to prevent the release of the latest National Climate Assessment, which details current and expected future impacts of global warming on the United States.

True, the report was released on Black Friday, clearly in the hope that it would get lost in the shuffle. The good news is that the ploy didn’t work.

The assessment basically confirms, with a great deal of additional detail, what anyone following climate science already knew: Climate change poses a major threat to the nation, and some of its adverse effects are already being felt. For example, the report, written before the latest California disaster, highlights the growing risks of wildfire in the Southwest; global warming, not failure to rake the leaves, is why the fires are getting ever bigger and more dangerous.

But the Trump administration and its allies in Congress will, of course, ignore this analysis. Denying climate change, no matter what the evidence, has become a core Republican principle. And it’s worth trying to understand both how that happened and the sheer depravity involved in being a denialist at this point.

U.S.To Block Yeman War Funding?

The Intercept, Democratic Opposition to the Yemen War Gains Momentum Ahead of Key Senate Vote, Alex Emmons and Ryan Grim, Nov. 27, 2018. Opponents of the war in Yemen have picked up momentum heading into a critical Senate vote on Wednesday on whether to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition. Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the highest-ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee has said that he would support the measure. Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, also on the Foreign Relations Committee, has told colleagues that he supports the effort as well, Democratic aides told The Intercept.

Both senators voted to table the effort — which was introduced by Sens. Bernie Sanders, Mike Lee, and Chris Murphy — the last time it arrived on the Senate floor in March. Menendez is one of the more hawkish Democrats in the chamber, and his support for the resolution is a sign that the party is coalescing around opposition to the war.

U.S. Politics

ny times logomichelle goldberg thumbNew York Times, Opinion: Maybe They’re Just Bad People, Not all Trump support is ideological, Michelle Goldberg, right, Nov. 27, 2018 (print edition). Seven years ago, a former aide to Ralph Reed — who also worked, briefly, for Paul Manafort — published a tawdry, shallow memoir that is also one of the more revealing political books I’ve ever read.

Lisa Baron was a pro-choice, pro-gay rights, hard-partying Jew who nonetheless made a career advancing the fortunes of the Christian right. She opened her book with an anecdote about performing oral sex on a future member of the George W. Bush administration during the 2000 primary, which, she wrote, “perfectly summed up my groupie-like relationship to politics at that time — I wanted it, I worshiped it, and I went for it.”

It’s not exactly a secret that politics is full of amoral careerists lusting — literally or figuratively — for access to power.

Still, if you’re interested in politics because of values and ideas, it can be easier to understand people who have foul ideologies than those who don’t have ideologies at all. Steve Bannon, a quasi-fascist with delusions of grandeur, makes more sense to me than Anthony Scaramucci, a political cipher who likes to be on TV. I don’t think I’m alone. Consider all the energy spent trying to figure out Ivanka Trump’s true beliefs, when she’s shown that what she believes most is that she’s entitled to power and prestige.

Afghan War

Washington Post, Three U.S. troops killed by roadside bomb in Afghanistan, Pamela Constable​, Nov. 27, 2018.  Three other U.S. service members, along with an American contractor, were wounded in the attack near Ghazni City.

Media News

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Fox & Friends’ Fed Interview Script to Trump’s EPA Chief, Emails Show, Maxwell Tani, Nov. 27, 2018.The president’s favorite cable-news show shared its interview scripts and its oh-so-hard-hitting questions in advance with an embattled Trump official.

scott pruitt epaFormer Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, left, was clearly taken aback last year when occasional Fox & Friends fill-in host Ed Henry grilled him about a number of ethical scandals facing his administration.

And Pruitt had a good reason to be surprised. In past interviews with President Trump’s favorite cable-news show, the then-EPA chief’s team chose the topics for interviews, and knew the questions in advance.

In one instance, according to emails revealed in a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the Sierra Club and reviewed by The Daily Beast, Pruitt’s team even approved part of the show’s script.

fox news logo SmallFox & Friends has long been a friendly venue for Trump and his allies, but the emails demonstrate how the show has pushed standard cable-news practices to the extreme in order to make interviews a comfortable, non-confrontational experience for favored government officials. “Every American journalist knows that to provide scripts or articles to the government for review before publication or broadcast is a cardinal sin. It’s Journalism 101,” said David Hawkins, a CBS News and CNN veteran who teaches journalism at Fordham University. “This is worse than that. It would and should get you fired from any news organization with integrity.”

“I can’t imagine why a high-level newsmaker—like a White House official—would ever receive a formal pre-interview,” added Sid Bedingfield, a former CNN executive who now teaches journalism at the University of Minnesota.

Leaks, Courts, Prosecutions

Reuters, Former Pennsylvania attorney general may soon begin jail sentence, Jonathan Allen, Nov. 27, 2018. Pennsylvania’s former top prosecutor Kathleen Kane could soon begin serving her jail sentence for perjury after the state’s Supreme Court denied her appeal, with prosecutors asking a judge on Tuesday to revoke bail.

kathleen kane headA jury convicted Kane, shown in a file photo, in 2016 of leaking secret grand jury information to the press to embarrass a former state prosecutor, and then lying about it to investigators. She was sentenced to serve 10 to 23 months in county jail. Kane was the first woman and the first Democrat to be elected as Pennsylvania’s attorney general, a role that first became an elected office in 1980. She resigned two days after the conviction and was released on bail pending her appeal.

Kane was accused of giving information from a grand jury proceeding in 2013 to a Philadelphia Daily News reporter to retaliate against a former state prosecutor, Frank Fina. She believed Fina had told the Philadelphia Inquirer about her decision to drop prosecution of a case that Fina had developed against six black Democratic legislators in Philadelphia. Grand jury information is bound by secrecy. Kane’s lawyers argued that Kane had intended only to legally leak information, and was unaware her aides would also include grand jury material.

daily beast logojulian assange indicter imageDaily Beast, Unkempt, Heavily Bearded Julian Assange No Longer Has Embassy Cat For Company, Barbie Latza Nadeau, Nov. 27, 2018. WikiLeaks founder (shown in a photo by The Indicter human rights journal) is living in isolation with limited human contact. Even his cat found it too lonely.

It has been six long years since Australian secret-spiller Julian Assange jumped bail and sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to escape an international arrest warrant for alleged sex abuse and rape in Sweden. During that time, he has gained Ecuadorian citizenship and the Swedish charges have been dropped, but if he leaves the embassy, he risks arrest for breaching bail and the possibility of extradition to the United States, where federal charges appear to have been filed against him in secret.

The Ecuadorian embassy staff have apparently grown tired of hosting their global persona non grata, and are essentially trying to squeeze him out by forcing him into what amounts to isolation. They’ve cut off his internet—his lifeline, and won’t let most visitors in to see him. Those who try to leave messages, like Trump presidential adviser Roger Stone, who left his card earlier this year, are apparently turned away. Not even former Baywatch star Pamela Anderson, his ardent supporter was a frequent guest and suspected paramour, can get past the guards.

But last week, journalists from the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, who have visited Assange annually for the last six years, were able to once again gain access — on the condition that they do not print an interview that might provoke even more pressure on Ecuador to kick him out.

What they found was a depleted man on the verge of going mad.

wikileaks logo Small“As soon as we saw him, we realized he has lost a lot of weight,” the La Repubblica reporters write. “He is so skinny. Not even his winter sweater can hide his skinny shoulders. His nice-looking face, captured by photographers all around the world, is very tense. His long hair and beard make him look like a hermit, though not a nutter: As we exchange greetings, he seems very lucid and rational.”

They say Assange’s cramped quarters at the embassy do not allow him access to the garden, which means he does not go outside — something even prisoners serving life sentences in isolation are afforded. He only speaks to his lawyer and the security guards, he has limited phone service, and his mail is strictly monitored.

Even the cat that once kept him company and “diffused tension” is gone, according to La Repubblica. “Assange preferred to spare the cat an isolation which has become unbearable and allow it a healthier life.”

He is suspected of acting on behalf of Russia’s GRU intelligence agency to distribute emails and hacked documents belonging to the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 presidential election.

Ukraine-Russia Challenge

petro poroshenko 2010Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Ukraine — Poroshenko Initiated Clash With Russia To Gain Dictatorial Powers – He Failed, b, Nov. 27, 2018. The Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko’s attempted to shore up his approval rate for the upcoming election by provoking a military incident. It was a gamble and it failed.

Three Ukrainian boats, a tug and two gun boats, attempted to sail from the Black Sea through the Kerch Strait into the Sea of Azov. The Kerch Strait is territorial Russian water since Crimea voted to join Russia. “Innocent passage” is allowed but necessitates following the laws and regulations of the territorial country.

Poroshenko’s intent was to provoke an incident that would allow him to present himself as a war-president. Elections are coming up and all polls show him below 10% and far behind two other candidates. He attempted to use the incident to introduce martial law over all the Ukraine.

Martial law would give Poroshenko, shown at right, full control over the country. He would be able to remove any regional or local government, to shut down the political opposition and to censor the media. He would be able to postpone the upcoming elections indefinitely.

Nov. 26

Caravan Jousts On Border

 washington post logoWashington Post, Mexican police deploy around caravan migrants after day of chaos at border, Sarah Kinosian and Joshua Partlow, Nov. 26, 2018. Mexican authorities sought to reestablish order Monday morning after the chaotic day before, when Central American migrants attempted to scale border fencing and U.S. authorities fired tear gas into Mexico.

Nine bus loads of Mexican federal police took up positions around the Tijuana sports complex where more than 5,000 migrants are camping out, with many waiting for the chance to apply for asylum in the United States.

mexico flag1Tijuana police said that 39 migrants have been arrested for participating in the unrest and causing disturbances. More than half of them are Hondurans, including five women. Police said they will be deported.

More than 500 Mexican police were estimated to be on hand outside the sports complex.

“They came to support the Tijuana police so that there’s a stronger presence, and the migrants don’t try to do what they did yesterday,” said Victor Coronel, head of migrant affairs at the Tijuana municipal police.

ICE logoU.S. authorities fired tear gas at members of a Central American migrant caravan who had rushed the fencing along the U.S. border with Mexico on Nov. 25. U.S. Customs and Border Protection commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan said in a conference call with reporters Monday that 69 migrants were arrested the previous day on the California side of the border. Another nearly 1,000 people ran through vehicle lanes or tried to cross illegally at other parts of the border, he said.

The volatile situation prompted U.S. authorities to close the San Ysidro port of entry, the busiest crossing along the U.S.-Mexico border, for six hours Sunday.

The migrant caravan has been camped out in Tijuana for the past two weeks. Mexican authorities say there are now more than 8,000 migrants involved. Many of the migrants say they want to apply for asylum in the United States, but U.S. border authorities are processing only a small number of asylum seekers per day, so frustration has grown.

That frustration bubbled over Sunday as a protest march by migrants turned into a chaotic scene, with people trying to breach the border fencing and U.S. authorities using tear gas to repel them.

washington post logoWashington Post, Caravan crisis escalates with tear gas and entry closure at the border, Sarah Kinosian and Joshua Partlow​, Nov. 26, 2018 (print edition). What had begun as a migrant protest of the slow pace of the asylum claims process devolved into a chaotic scramble in which hundreds tried to find ways to sneak onto U.S. soil. To block that from happening, U.S. authorities took the rare step of firing tear gas into Mexico as well as closing all legal vehicle and foot traffic to the San Ysidro border crossing.

Roll Call, Trump Threatens to Close U.S.-Mexico Border ‘Permanently,’ Dems Cry Foul, John T. Bennett, Nov. 26, 2018. President mostly wants to sow ‘chaos,’ Rep. Maxine Waters says. Donald Trump has a new threat about the U.S.-Mexico border: If he doesn’t get his way, he might just shut down the whole thing.

President Donald Trump officialThe president appeared to contradict a deal his administration reached with the Mexican government under which allow asylum seekers could remain in Mexcio as a legal process about their request to enter the United States played out. But on Monday morning, Trump pressed Mexican officials to “move the flag waving Migrants, many of whom are stone cold criminals, back to their countries.”

He appeared to be referring to several groups of Central Americans who have been traveling by foot from their home countries toward the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump used the so-called “caravans” as a campaign trail talking point during the final weeks of the midterm elections; the issue was less of one for him and conservative media for a few weeks after Election Day, but they have returned to it in the last week or so.

U.S. Jobs / Economy

washington post logoWashington Post, GM to cut jobs, halt production at five plants in U.S., Canada, Taylor Telford, Nov. 26, 2018. The Detroit-based automaker said it would reduce its workforce, including 15 percent of its salaried workers, amid a global restructuring. The company plans to halt production at facilities in Maryland, Ohio, Michigan and Ontario, Canada.

Feds Promise 9/11 Evidence Review

9 11 lawyers committee logoLawyers’ Committee for 9/11 Inquiry, U.S. Attorney Agrees To Comply With Federal Law Requiring Submission To Special Grand Jury Of Report By Lawyers’ Committee and 9/11 Victim Family Members of Yet-To-Be- Prosecuted 9/11 Related Federal Crimes, Mick Harrison (Lawyers Committee litigation director), Nov. 26, 2018. U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman (shown below at right) wrote on 7 November that his office will comply with the Lawyers’ Committee’s Petition.

geoffrey berman sdnyThe Lawyers’ Committee for 9/11 Inquiry, a nonprofit public interest organization, announces its receipt of a letter from the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York in response to the Lawyers’ Committee’s April 10, 2018 Petition and July 30, 2018 Amended Petition demanding that the U.S. Attorney present to a Special Grand Jury extensive evidence of yet-to-be-prosecuted federal crimes relating to the destruction of three World Trade Center Towers on 9/11 (WTC1, WTC2 and WTC7).

The U.S. Attorney, in his November 7, 2018 letter to the Lawyers’ Committee, stated: “We have received and reviewed The Lawyers’ Committee for 9/11 Inquiry, Inc.’s submissions of April 10 and July 30, 2018. We will comply with the provisions of 18 U.S.C. § 3332 as they relate to your submissions” (emphasis added).

The U.S. Attorney’s letter does not spell out the steps that will be taken to comply, but 18 U.S.C. § 3332 is clear as to what these steps must be.

This letter from the U.S. Attorney was signed by Michael Ferrara and Ilan Graff, Chiefs, Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. On November 24, 2018, the Lawyers’ Committee replied, thanking the U.S. Attorney and expressing support for a thorough inquiry into the crimes reported in the Lawyers’ Committee’s petitions.

911 world trade center creative commonsThe Lawyers’ Committee’s April 10th 52-page original Petition was accompanied by 57 exhibits and presented extensive evidence that explosives were used to destroy three WTC buildings. That evidence included independent scientific laboratory analysis of WTC dust samples showing the presence of high-tech explosives and/or incendiaries; numerous first-hand reports by First Responders of explosions at the WTC on 9/11; expert analysis of seismic evidence that explosions occurred at the WTC towers on 9/11 prior to the airplane impacts and prior to the building collapses; and expert analysis by architects, engineers, and scientists concluding that the rapid onset symmetrical near-free-fall acceleration collapse of three WTC high rise buildings on 9/11 exhibited the key characteristics of controlled demolition. The Lawyers’ Committee’s July 30th Amended Petition addresses several additional federal crimes beyond the federal bombing crime addressed in the original Petition. The Lawyers’ Committee concluded in the petitions that explosive and incendiary devices preplaced at the WTC were detonated causing the complete collapse of the WTC Twin Towers on 9/11 and increasing the tragic loss of life.

Attorney Mick Harrison, Litigation Director, stated: “The failure of our government to diligently investigate this disturbing evidence has contributed to the erosion of trust in our institutions. The Lawyers’ Committee felt it was out duty as public citizens to submit this evidence to the U.S. Attorney for submission to the Special Grand Jury.”

Attorney David Meiswinkle, President of the Lawyers’ Committee’s Board of Directors, stated: “We have offered to assist the U.S. Attorney in the presentation of this evidence to a Special Grand Jury. We have also requested that Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth provide us expert support in the hope that our organizations will be invited to make a joint presentation of relevant evidence to the Special Grand Jury.”

Attorney William Jacoby, Lawyers’ Committee Board Member, stated: “We call upon the public and legal community to contact us and support our efforts to contribute to this grand jury process and to monitor and ensure compliance by the Justice Department.”

Executive Director Ed Asner stated: “The U.S. Attorney’s decision to comply with the Special Grand Jury Statute regarding our petitions is an important step towards greater transparency and accountability regarding the tragic events of 9/11.”

More On Mueller Probe

abc news logoABC News, Roger Stone associate Jerome Corsi says he is rejecting a plea deal from Robert Mueller, Ali Dukakis, Pierre Thomas, Lucien Bruggeman, Nov. 26, 2018. Jerome Corsi, an associate of former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone, has decided to reject a plea deal he says was offered to him by special counsel Robert Mueller as part of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

jerome corsiIn an interview with ABC News on Monday, Corsi, right, said the special counsel offered to allow him to plead guilty to one count of lying to federal investigators in exchange for cooperation in the probe and leniency at sentencing.

He provided ABC News with copies of a plea agreement he says was drafted by Mueller’s prosecutors that would have exposed Corsi to a prison sentence of up to five years for “knowingly [making] materially false, fictitious and fraudulent statements” to the FBI about communications with an unidentified “associate’s request to get in touch with an organization that he understood to be in possession of stolen emails and other documents pertaining to the 2016 U.S. presidential election.” The unknown associate mentioned by Mueller matches the description of Roger Stone, who hired Corsi to do research for him during the 2016 election.

Corsi, a former Infowars bureau chief known for promulgating political smear campaigns and conspiracy theories, told ABC News that he could not sign on to a plea deal for a crime he says he did not commit.

“If I have to go to jail for the rest of my life, so be it,” Corsi said. “Have at it. I will not tell a lie to a federal judge or anybody else.”

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s conflicting demands create deficit dilemma, Josh Dawsey and Damian Paletta, Nov. 26, 2018 (print edition). President Trump is asking his aides to address the country’s ballooning budget deficits, but his limits on what they can do and calls for other spending have all but ruled out meaningful reduction. The president’s directive came last month and unnerved Republicans and investors, helping fuel a big sell-off in the stock market.

Donald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)President Trump is demanding top advisers craft a plan to reduce the country’s ballooning budget deficits, but the president has flummoxed his own aides by repeatedly seeking new spending while ruling out measures needed to address the country’s unbalanced budget.

Trump’s deficit-reduction directive came last month, after the White House reported a large increase in the deficit for the previous 12 months. The announcement unnerved Republicans and investors, helping fuel a big sell-off in the stock market. Two days after the deficit report, Trump floated a surprise demand to his Cabinet secretaries, asking them to identify steep cuts in their agencies.

In total, government debt has risen roughly $2 trillion since Trump took office, and the federal government now owes $21.7 trillion, according to the Treasury Department. The president’s agenda has contributed to that increase and is projected to continue to do so, both through the GOP tax cut and with bipartisan spending increases. The United States will soon spend more money on interest payments than it does for the entire Medicaid program, more than $400 billion.

Roll Call, GOP Rep. Mia Love Rips Trump In Concession Speech, Griffin Connolly, Nov 26, 2018. POTUS lives in cynical world with ‘no real relationships, just convenient transactions,’ Utah congresswoman says.

mia love oUtah GOP Rep. Mia Love, right, took a parting shot at President Donald Trump for living in a cynical world with “no real relationships, just convenient transactions’ at her first news conference since her midterm election defeat nearly three weeks ago.

Love publicly conceded the 4th District race to Salt Lake County Democratic Mayor Ben McAdams on Monday after nearly three weeks of counting and scrutinizing ballots showed McAdams won by 694 votes.

In his post-Election Day news conference, Trump criticized Love and other losing GOP candidates for rejecting him on the campaign trail, even though the president garnered less than 40 percent of the vote in Love’s district in 2016. “Mia Love gave me no love and she lost,” Trump said. “Too bad. Sorry about that, Mia.’

Love chastised the president in her prepared remarks Monday for prioritizing his own ego instead of helping vulnerable Republicans keep their seats in the midterms.

“The President’s behavior towards me made me wonder: What did he have to gain by saying such a thing about a fellow Republican,” Love said during her concession speech in Salt Lake City. “It was not really about asking him to do more, was it? Or was it something else? Well Mr. President, we’ll have to chat about that.”

Love said her election experience with the president provided her a clear window into his world: “No real relationships, just convenient transactions,” she said. “That is an insufficient way to implement sincere service and policy.”

The midterms also highlighted Republicans’ ongoing efforts reaching out to blacks and other minorities, Love, the only black woman Republican in the lame-duck 115th Congress, said in her remarks Monday. “It’s transactional. It’s not personal,” she said. “Because Republicans never take minority communities into their home and citizens into their homes and into their hearts, they stay with Democrats and bureaucrats in Washington because they do take them home — or at least make them feel like they have a home.”

Two Views Of Ukrainian-Russia Sea Joust

russia black sea territorial waters map

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Russia Isolated at U.N. as Western Nations Condemn Attack on Ukrainian Ships, Michael Schwirtz, Nov. 26, 2018. Western countries rose to Ukraine’s defense on Monday, using an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council to condemn Russia for opening fire on Ukrainian naval vessels a day earlier, impounding them and wounding several sailors.

nikki haley oRussia’s attempt to use the session to blame Ukraine for the violence backfired, as ambassadors from the United States, Britain, France and others accused Russia of recklessness and violating Ukraine’s sovereignty. Nikki R. Haley, left, the ambassador from the United States, called the episode an “arrogant act” by Russia that the Trump administration and the international community would not accept.

The confrontation on Sunday, in the vicinity of the Kerch Strait, a narrow passage between the Black and Azov Seas, was a serious escalation in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine and a rare example of direct military engagement between the two countries. Though they have been locked in a vicious war for almost five years, much of the fighting has been between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists in the east of Ukraine.

petro poroshenko 2010Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Russia Blocks Ukrainian Navy From Militarizing The Sea of Azov, B, Nov. 26, 2018. The Ukrainian government under the oligarch Petro Poroshenko, right, is in election campaign mode. That is one reason why it is launching new provocations against Russia. Yesterday Ukrainian forces reportedly occupied a town within the neutral zone between the government controlled part and the rebel held Donetsk area.

Today the Ukrainian navy sent a tug and two small gun boats, recently acquired from the U.S. Coast Guard, Ukrainian build Gurza-M class types, to pass through the Kerch Strait into the Sea of Azov.

When the ships entered Russian waters without announcing their intent, a Russian coast guard ship rammed (vid) and damaged the tug. The two gun boats escaped but did not pass the strait. The pictures show the melee at sea. With Crimea back in Russian hands, the Kerch Strait is solely Russian territorial water. The Treaty on the Legal Status of the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait, signed in 2003 by Russia and the Ukraine, provides that military ship entry into the sea is only allowed with mutual consent. Ukraine disputes the status of the sea in an arbitration court. For a legal discussion of the case see 1 (Part I: The Legal Status of Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov), 2, 3.

The Ukrainian government, urged on by the U.S., wants to establish a new military harbor in the Sea of Azov. The Ukrainian provocation may well be aimed to sour the meeting between President Trump and Putin that is planned for November 30 during the G20 summit in Argentina.

Since Crimea voted to again become a part of Russia the Kerch Strait is Russian territorial water. Ships can pass the strait but are required to take on a pilot and to undergo inspections if the Russian coast guard demand such. The Ukrainian side understands that these are legal measures.

War In Syria

new yorker logoNew Yorker, Forty Thousand Syrian Refugees Remain Trapped in a U.S.-Created No Man’s Land, Rozina Ali, Nov. 26, 2018. The Trump Administration’s decision to withdraw support from groups battling the Syrian government has worsened the plight of those living in the Rukban camp.

United Nations officials say that Rukban’s residents live in “dire” conditions: hunger and the threat of malnutrition are growing; there are a hundred and fifty urgent medical cases but not a single certified doctor there to treat them; last month, two children died awaiting medical care; and reports are circulating of child marriages, child soldiers, and prostitution.

In a conflict known for its staggering humanitarian crises, camp residents feel that Rukban is a symbol of the international community’s inability — or unwillingness  — to help Syrians.

Syrian and Russian officials insist that because the U.S. is in charge of the demilitarized zone, it is responsible for the camp’s deteriorating state. The camp lies just miles from the U.S. coalition’s military base in al-Tanf, from which the American military coördinates artillery strikes against ISIS and trains MAT fighters. For the past four years, the U.S. has argued that it is not responsible for conditions in the camp but has said that is doing what it can to help residents.

new yorker logoNew Yorker, Is the Trump Administration Pivoting the Fight in Syria Toward a War with Iran? Seth Harp, Nov. 26, 2018. The American intervention in Syria, now in its fourth year, began as a small Special Forces mission of the kind the Pentagon is currently running in a dozen countries. The stated purpose of the operation, which also iran world mapcomprises western Iraq, is to defeat the Islamic State.

Today, the American commandos and marines are down the Euphrates River Valley in Deir Ezzor, supporting the S.D.F. in a final offensive against the last pocket of ISIS territory in Syria. Meanwhile, the Assad regime, freed from having to fight the Islamic State on its own, is on the verge of defeating the remaining Sunni rebels in Idlib.

It might make sense for Trump to simply declare victory against the Islamic State and walk away, except for one thing: Iran.

Inside the White House

melania red xmas trees

Yahoo News, Commentary: Melania Trump slammed for showing off ‘historically ludicrous’ Christmas decor while children are tear-gassed at border: ‘What a great way to start the holiday season,’ Jerry Justich, Nov. 26, 2018. Melania Trump is gearing up for the holidays by showing off the newly decorated White House. But after posting a video to Twitter displaying all of the extravagant decor and numerous Christmas trees around the mansion, people can’t help but point out that the administration is celebrating this festive time all while children are being tear-gassed at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Hundreds of Central American migrant men, women and children began to make their way toward the border between Tijuana, Mexico, and San Diego over the weekend. But as they attempted to cross into the United States on Sunday, authorities began to fire tear gas to disperse the migrant caravan and shut down the border crossing. Photos of distressed children and families from the scene have caused an uproar online.

Nevertheless, President Trump used Twitter early Monday morning to post a threat about closing the border permanently and encouraging more funding for the wall.

Mexico should move the flag waving Migrants, many of whom are stone cold criminals, back to their countries. Do it by plane, do it by bus, do it anyway you want, but they are NOT coming into the U.S.A. We will close the Border permanently if need be. Congress, fund the WALL!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 26, 2018

Just about two hours later, his wife posted the video and some photos showcasing the administration’s decor.

The People’s House @WhiteHouse is ready to celebrate Christmas and the holiday season!

— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) November 26, 2018

Nov. 25

Brexit Moves Forward

washington post logoUnited Kingdom flagWashington Post, E.U. leaders approve Brexit plan, setting up a looming vote in British Parliament, Michael Birnbaum and William Booth​, Nov. 25, 2018. The deal, viewed as a tragedy by some E.U. leaders but still approved unanimously, will likely come with steep costs for both sides. The plan would leave Britain in legal limbo — obligated to follow most E.U. rules but no longer a member — until the end of 2020, as leaders haggle over the relationship to come.

Mueller Probe Of Trump Team

george papadopoulos simona mangiante mueller

Former Trump Team advisor George Papadopoulos (now a convicted felon), his wife Simona Mangiante, an outspoken critic of Special Counsel Robert Mueller III, right (file photos).

george papadopoulos mug croppedPalmer Report, Opinion: Judge in George Papadopoulos case hands major victory to Robert Mueller, Bill Palmer, Nov. 25, 2018. The judge in the George Papadopoulos case has ruled that he must start his fourteen day prison sentence tomorrow. This is not a big deal in and of itself, as he’ll be released with plenty of time left to go Christmas shopping. The big deal is the defense strategy that Papadopoulos (shown in a mug shot) was trying to use, and the fact that the judge rejected it out of hand.

In a separate ongoing legal battle, Robert Mueller tried to force Andrew Miller to testify before the grand jury about his longtime associate Roger Stone. Miller responded by challenging Mueller’s overall prosecutorial authority, and the battle is still playing out in court.

George Papadopoulos tried making the argument that his prison sentence should be delayed indefinitely, until a ruling is made in the Mueller/Miller matter. The logic was that if Mueller’s authority is struck down, then the charges against Papadopoulos would vanish anyway.

bill palmer report logo headerBut the judge in the Papadopoulos case rejected this argument out of hand, ruling that Papadopoulos “failed to demonstrate that the D.C. Circuit is likely to conclude that the appointment of the Special Counsel was unlawful.”

This is a major victory for Robert Mueller, for two reasons. First, it makes clear that this judge thinks Andrew Miller’s legal challenge is a joke, which suggests that the judge in the Miller case won’t think much of it either. Second, it sets a precedent against other Trump-Russia defendants trying to use the Miller case as an excuse to fend off their own prison sentences.

U.S. Politicsmike espy cindy hyde smith jackson free press

Republican incumbent Cindy Hyde-Smith and Democratic challenger Mike Espy (shown above) are headed for a runoff on November 27.

ny times logoNew York Times, Southern Democrats Who Speak Boldly Risk Alienating Rural White Voters, Jonathan Martin, Nov. 25, 2018 (print edition). After losses in Florida, Georgia and Texas, Democrats face a conundrum: Appealing to progressives comes at the cost of rural white voters who often decide elections. Mike Espy, the Democratic nominee in a campaign to snatch a Senate seat in Mississippi, has had to choose which demographic to satisfy. 

When Mike Espy, the Democrat challenging Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, faced his opponent at a debate ahead of this Tuesday’s runoff election, he had to make a choice: confront Ms. Hyde-Smith over her comments about attending “a public hanging,” which evoked the state’s racist history, or take a milder approach to avoid alienating the conservative-leaning white voters who will most likely decide the election.He chose the latter.

“The world knows what she said, the world knows that those comments were harmful and hurtful,” Mr. Espy said afterward, sounding not entirely convinced.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Civil forfeiture makes law enforcement lawless. The Supreme Court could change that, George F. Will, Nov. 25, 2018 (print edition). Economic sanctions can be as damaging as prison incarceration.

washington post logoryan zinke oWashington Post, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke remains defiant amid ethics probes, Lisa Rein and Juliet Eilperin, Nov. 25, 2018 (print edition). As speculation swirled around Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s future in the Trump administration this month, he flew home and hopped onto the Harley-Davidson he keeps in his driveway at the edge of town.

The roar from his motorcycle — which he rode around town on Veterans Day weekend before leaving to tour wildfire damage in California — signaled Zinke’s defiance in the face of national scrutiny.

As federal investigators examine his real estate dealings here in his hometown, Zinke (shown at right) is dismissing rumors of his departure from the Cabinet and plunging into the public debate over forest management.

President Trump has said several times that he intends to “review” multiple ethics investigations against the secretary, including a land deal Zinke struck here with the chairman of the oil services giant Halliburton, before he decides whether to keep Zinke on as he shakes up his Cabinet.

#MeToo, Church Disclosure

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Even as the Catholic Church claims to come clean, something is not right, Elizabeth Bruenig, Nov. 25, 2018 (print edition).  A list of accused predatory priests in the Washington archdiocese arouses suspicion that senior clergy are still holding back.

Nov. 24

Climate Change / Economyclimate change credits mellimage montree hanlue nasa site shutterstock

NASA graphic (Credits: Mellimage and Montree Hanlue via

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Climate Report Warns of Damaged Environment and Shrinking Economy, Coral Davenport and Kendra Pierre-Louis, Nov. 24, 2018 (print edition). Damage from climate change will slash the size of the economy by as much as 10 percent by 2100 if action is not taken, a major federal government report predicted.

The findings, the starkest warnings to date, are directly at odds with President Trump’s agenda of environmental deregulation, which he asserts will spur economic growth.

Inside DC

ICE logo

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. reaches deal with Mexico to make asylum seekers wait outside U.S., Joshua Partlow and Nick Miroff​, Nov. 24, 2018. The Trump administration has won the support of leftist president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador for a plan that could end a system — decried by President Trump as “catch and release” — that has generally allowed those seeking refuge to wait on safer U.S. soil while their cases are processed.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump questions technology central to Pentagon’s plans to launch aircraft at sea, Missy Ryan, Nov. 24, 2018. The exchange with a Navy commander was the president’s latest challenge of Pentagon procurement decisions, illustrating his confidence that he may know more than his military leaders.

In a call to service members on Thursday marking the Thanksgiving holiday, Trump asked the commander of the USS Ronald Reagan, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier deployed in the Pacific, whether he supported using electromagnetics rather than the traditional steam system to catapult aircraft off carrier decks and land them safely back on board.

“Steam is very reliable, and the electromagnetic — I mean, unfortunately, you have to be Albert Einstein to really work it properly,” Trump said. “What would you do?”

The Guardian, Opinion: If Trump is cornered, the judges he disdains may finally bring him down, Walter Shapiro, Nov. 24, 2018. The president thinks justice only matters as it affects him. As his defenders fall away, he may find this all too painfully true.

john roberts oA rational president, who had just bludgeoned Brett Kavanaugh onto the supreme court, would not jeopardize the long-awaited conservative majority by picking a fight with Chief Justice John Roberts, right. But rationality has never been Donald Trump’s strong suit when it comes to dealing with the judiciary.

Many phrases might describe Roberts’ 13 years as chief justice since he was appointed by George W Bush, but “hot-headed” is not among them. It presumably took dozens of provocations before he yielded to the temptation to instruct the president that with an independent judiciary, “we do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges.”

Trump’s concept of justice pivots around a simple question: “Is it good for me or bad for me?”

Nothing better illustrates Trump’s solipsistic approach to crime and punishment than the recent revelation by the New York Times that last spring he talked about ordering the justice department to prosecute Hillary Clinton and James Comey.

As he pursued such thuggish fantasies, it is possible Trump was influenced by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who had imprisoned hundreds of his political foes in the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh. (That, of course, was the more benevolent version of Prince Mohammed, before he became closely associated with a bone saw.)

In the American version of such a dragnet, you might see Robert Mueller confined to a room next to Elizabeth Warren with a couple of dozen recalcitrant federal judges down the hall. Of course, the incarcerated would be residing in a Trump hotel – and the president would be billing the federal government at inflated rates for its use.

The final line of defense of democratic values are judges and top law enforcement officials who answer to a higher loyalty than fealty to Trump. It would be both bracing and ironic if the president were ultimately thwarted by black-robed figures.

Trump’s Attorney General

matthew whitaker headshot recentPalmer Report, Opinion: What happened to Matt Whitaker? Bill Palmer, Nov. 24, 2018. Donald Trump, rather obviously, fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions and replaced him with Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker in the hope that Whitaker, right, would be able to quickly derail Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia investigation.

We’ve all been waiting for a sign that Whitaker either was, or wasn’t, seizing any meaningful control over the probe – and we just got a pretty strong signal on that front.

Global Conflicts: Syria

Strategic Culture Foundation via SouthFront, Opinion:: The Final Push for Idlib Will Come Soon, Federico Pieraccini, Nov. 24, 2018. The situation in Syria is that of a frozen conflict, fsyrian flag wavingollowing the agreements made between Russia, Turkey and Syria on the demilitarized zone created around Idlib. Except for some sporadic terrorist attacks, the truce seems to be holding up over the last few weeks, even though it has become clear to everyone what the next step is for the province.

The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has been busy eradicating Daesh in the southern part of Syria in recent weeks, concentrating its efforts on securing all areas that have been liberated from terrorist control but which still remain vulnerable to sporadic attacks, as occurred in Sweida at the end of July 2018.

angela merkel flikr glyn lowe photoworksWhile Moscow supplies Damascus with new equipment in preparation for the future advance on Idlib, Putin and his entourage continue diplomatic efforts to draw more of Syria’s enemies closer to the Russia-Iran-Syria axis.

The meeting that brought about the demilitarized zone included Macron and Merkel (shown at left), the Europeans having evidently come to terms with the impossibility of overthrowing the legitimate government of Syria. Macron and Merkel were offered a way out of ut of the Syrian conflict, decoupling themselves from the belligerent stance of the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia. The intention is to usher Paris and Berlin towards the same direction Qatar, Turkey and Jordan have been progressively gravitating.’


RT America, On Contact: Crucifying Julian Assange, Host Chris Hedges interviews Consortium News editor Joe Lauria, Nov. 24, 2018. Chris Hedges and Joe Lauria, journalist and editor-in-chief, Consortium, discuss efforts to force #WikiLeaks publisher, #JulianAssange, out of the Ecuador Embassy in London and extradite him to the USA to stand trial under the Espionage Act, subsection C (793), an American law, applied to a citizen of a different country who was not in the U.S. when the documents in question were published.

U.S. Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, House results underscore that what’s good for Trump isn’t so good for the GOP, Dan Balz, Nov. 24, 2018. When President Trump won the White House in 2016, he did it by hijacking the Republican Party. Now, after what happened in the midterm elections, it’s clearer than ever that the president’s fortunes and his party’s future are at odds.

During the final weeks of the fall campaign, Trump put the Republican Party on his back, ensuring that the elections would become even more of a referendum on his performance than the typical midterms in a president’s first term. As a result, Republicans paid a hefty price, with potentially longer-term implications.

Yes, Republicans added to their narrow majority in the Senate. But that came by reinforcing what already is the party’s greatest strength: Trump with his rallies maximized support in solid red states, especially among voters in rural areas and small-town communities.

But the Trump-centric strategy backfired spectacularly in the race for control of the House, as suburban voters revolted against the president, delivering a rebuke to his party’s candidates in district after district. Democrats have gained 39 seats in the House with the possibility of hitting 40 depending on the outcome of the still uncalled election in California’s 21st District.

If the enthusiasm for Trump in rural and small-town America constituted the story after 2016, the revolt against him in the suburbs, led by female voters, has become the story of the 2018 elections. The more you analyze the House results, the more the GOP’s suburban problem stands out.

washington post logoWashington Post, In book, Trump allies call out government officials, alleging they are ’embedded enemies,’ Philip Rucker​, Nov. 24, 2018. Two of the president’s longest-serving advisers allege in a new book that scores of officials inside the White House, Congress, the Justice Department and intelligence agencies are “embedded enemies of President Trump” working to stymie his agenda and delegitimize his presidency.

The authors, Corey R. Lewandowski and David N. Bossie, are both Republican operatives who do not work in the administration but are close to Trump and fashion themselves as his outside protectors. They portray the president as victim to disloyalty on his staff and “swamp creatures” intent on extinguishing his political movement.

Their book, Trump’s Enemies: How the Deep State Is Undermining the Presidency, which is being released Tuesday and was obtained in advance by The Washington Post, paints a dark and at times conspiratorial portrait of Trump’s Washington. The authors identify by name a number of Trump appointees who they claim have formed a “resistance” inside the government during the first two years of Trump’s presidency.

Lewandowski, the president’s former campaign manager, and Bossie, his former deputy campaign manager, enjoy personal relationships with Trump and traveled with him on campaign trips this year. But some White House aides are said to be suspicious of their motives and worry about them influencing the president — including Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, who routinely restricted their access to the West Wing, the authors write

UK, NATO, US-Funded Propaganda

Moon of Alabama, Investigative commentary: British Government Runs Secret Anti-Russian Smear Campaigns, b, Nov. 24, 2018. In 2015 the government of Britain launched a secret United Kingdom flagoperation to insert anti-Russia propaganda into the western media stream. We have already seen many consequences of this and similar programs which are designed to smear anyone who does not follow the anti-Russian government lines. The ‘Russian collusion’ smear campaign against Donald Trump based on the Steele dossier was also a largely British operation but seems to be part of a different project.

The ‘Integrity Initiative’ builds ‘cluster’ or contact groups of trusted journalists, military personal, academics and lobbyists within foreign countries. These people get alerts via social media to take action when the British center perceives a need.

On June 7 it took the Spanish cluster only a few hours to derail the appointment of Perto Banos as the Director of the National Security Department in Spain. The cluster determined that he had a too-positive view of Russia and launched a coordinated social media smear campaign (pdf) against him.

The Initiative and its operations were unveiled when someone liberated some of its documents, including its budget applications to the British Foreign Office, and posted them under the ‘Anonymous’ label at

The Initiative is nominally run under the (government financed) non-government-organisation The Institute For Statecraft. Its internal handbook (pdf) describes its purpose:

The Integrity Initiative was set up in autumn 2015 by The Institute for Statecraft in cooperation with the Free University of Brussels (VUB) to bring to the attention of politicians, atlantic council logopolicy-makers, opinion leaders and other interested parties the threat posed by Russia to democratic institutions in the United Kingdom, across Europe and North America.

It lists Bellingcat and the Atlantic Council as “partner organisations” and promises that:

“Cluster members will be sent to educational sessions abroad to improve the technical competence of the cluster to deal with disinformation and strengthen bonds in the cluster community. […] (Events with DFR Digital Sherlocks, Bellingcat, EuVsDisinfo, Buzzfeed, Irex, Detector Media, Stopfake, LT MOD Stratcom – add more names and propose cluster participants as you desire).”

The Initiatives Orwellian slogan is ‘Defending Democracy Against Disinformation’. It covers European countries, the UK, the U.S. and Canada and seems to want to expand to the Middle East.

NATOOn its About page it claims: “We are not a government body but we do work with government departments and agencies who share our aims.” The now published budget plans show that more than 95% of the Initiative’s funding is coming directly from the British government, NATO and the U.S. State Department. All the ‘contact persons’ for creating ‘clusters’ in foreign countries are British embassy officers. It amounts to a foreign influence campaign by the British government that hides behind a ‘civil society’ NGO.

The organisation is led by one Chris N. Donnelly (shown in a Euromaidanpress photo) who receives £8,100 per month for creating the smear campaign chris donnelly via euromaidanpressnetwork.

The Initiative has a black-and-white view that is based on a “we are the good ones” illusion. When “we” ‘educate the public’ it is legitimate work. When others do similar, it its disinformation. That is of course not the reality. The Initiative’s existence itself, created to secretly manipulate the public, is proof that such a view is wrong.

If its work were as legit as it wants to be seen, why would the Foreign Office run it from behind the curtain as an NGO? The Initiative is not the only such operation.

A look at the ‘clusters’ set up in U.S. and UK shows some prominent names. Members of the Atlantic Council, which has a contract to censor Facebook posts, appear on several cluster lists. The UK core cluster also includes some prominent names like tax fraudster William Browder, the daft Atlantic Council shill Ben Nimmo and the neo-conservative Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum.

state dept map logo SmallOne person of interest is Andrew Wood who handed the Steele ‘dirty dossier’ to Senator John McCain to smear Donald Trump over alleged relations with Russia. A separate subcluster of so-called journalists names Deborah Haynes, David Aaronovitch of the London Times, Neil Buckley from the FT and Jonathan Marcus of the BBC.

The programme is proposed to run until at least March 2019, to ensure that the clusters established in each country have sufficient time to take root, find funding, and demonstrate their effectiveness. FCO funding for Phase 2 will enable the activities to be expanded in scale, reach and scope.

The budget plan includes a section that describes ‘Risks’ to the initiative. These include hacking of the Initiatives IT as well as: “Adverse publicity generated by Russia or by supporters of Russia in target countries, or by political and interest groups affected by the work of the programme, aimed at discrediting the programme or its participants, or to create political embarrassment.”

We hope that this piece contributes to such embarrassment.

Nov. 23

Mueller Probe

washington post logojerome corsiWashington Post, Roger Stone associate Jerome Corsi is in plea negotiations with special counsel, according to person with knowledge of talks, Rosalind S. Helderman, Josh Dawsey and Manuel Roig-Franzia, Nov. 23, 2018. Conservative writer and conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi is in plea negotiations with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, according to a person with knowledge of the talks.

The talks with Corsi — an associate of both President Trump and GOP operative Roger Stone — could bring Mueller’s team closer to determining whether Trump roger stoneor his advisers were linked to WikiLeaks’ release of hacked Democratic emails in 2016, a key part of his long-running inquiry.

Corsi provided research on Democratic figures during the campaign to Stone, left, a longtime Trump adviser. For months, the special counsel has been scrutinizing Stone’s activities in an effort to determine whether he coordinated with WikiLeaks. Stone and WikiLeaks have repeatedly denied any such coordination.

Scandal At Justice Dept.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: We don’t know who was paying Matthew Whitaker, and that’s a problem, Ray Madoff, Nov. 23, 2018. His organization illustrates exactly what’s wrong matthew whitaker headshot recentwith charitable tax law. Someone was paying acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker, right, and we don’t know who it was.

As The Post reported earlier this week, Whitaker — who was chosen in 2014 to lead a mysterious charity with undisclosed funders — received more than $1.2 million over the course of three years before he joined the Justice Department.

We don’t know who funded this charity, called the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, or why they chose to do it. But what we do know is that the way it reportedly operated under Whitaker’s leadership raises questions as to whether the organization acted as a conservative political campaign operation. We also know that those who funded the organization were able to do so entirely anonymously while writing off their donations on their taxes, all thanks to an increasingly popular charitable vehicle called the donor-advised fund.

Ray Madoff is a law professor at Boston College and the director of the Boston College Law School Forum on Philanthropy and the Public Good.

Global Human Rights

myanmar map

Myanmar is shown on the map above, located between China and Indochina on the right and India and Bangladesh on the left

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: No Excuse for Myanmar’s Treatment of the Rohingya, Editorial Board, Nov. 23, 2018 (print edition). A plan to send the stateless Muslims back to Myanmar has been halted for now. But the cruelty and injustice endure.

Under international law — and the precepts of basic human decency — the nearly one million Rohingya people driven out of their homeland in Myanmar and crammed into refugee camps in Bangladesh ought to be able to return home. But simply pushing them back across the border, as Bangladesh and Myanmar tried to start doing last week under pressure from China, was wisely suspended.

The United Nations and dozens of rights groups dealing with the long-suffering Rohingya objected to the plan because it lacked any assurances that the returnees, members of a Muslim minority in Myanmar who had been the targets of a murderous campaign of ethnic cleansing, would be treated any better than before they fled. The United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, said that sending the refugees to Myanmar at this point “effectively means throwing them back into the cycle of human rights violations that this community has been suffering for decades.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Explosive report on clergy sex abuse spawns wave of inquiries as Catholic church stalls, Tom Jackman (right), Michelle Boorstein and Julie Zauzmer, Nov. 23, tom jackman2018 (print edition). A Pennsylvania grand jury report in August set off an unprecedented wave of investigations over the last several months, with attorneys general in 14 states and the District of Columbia announcing probes and demanding documents from Catholic officials.

The swift and sweeping response by civil authorities contrasts sharply with the Vatican’s comparatively glacial pace. While some U.S. dioceses have published lists of priests they say have been credibly accused of sexual abuse and two cardinals have been ousted, the Vatican this month put on hold a vote by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on measures to hold bishops more accountable until after a global synod in early 2019.

In the meantime, Rome has done little to address the crisis.

washington post logotheodore mccarrickWashington Post, Four months after McCarrick’s resignation, silence from the Vatican on his fate, Julie Zauzmer, Nov. 23, 2018. The ex-cardinal, right, whose conduct scandalized the church is living in Kansas and has not faced a trial.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ex-Soldier Gets 5,160 Years in Prison for Guatemala Massacre, Staff report, Nov. 23, 2018 (print edition). A Guatemalan court has sentenced a former soldier to more than 5,000 years in prison for the massacre of 171 people in what is considered one of the worst atrocities in that country’s 36-year civil war. Prosecutors said the soldier, Santos López Alonzo, 66, who is accused of belonging to an elite squad known as the Kaibiles, had participated in the killings of nearly all of the men, women and children in the farming village of Dos Erres on Dec. 7, 1982, according to Reuters.

He was sentenced to 30 years for crimes against humanity and an additional 30 years for each of the 171 victims, for a total of 5,160 years, although the sentences are symbolic as the maximum someone can serve in Guatemala is 50 years. According to a United Nations truth commission, about 200,000 people were killed and an additional 45,000 disappeared during the conflict, which lasted from 1960 to 1996. Most were killed by the army, though some were killed by leftist guerrillas.

Inside Washington

washington post logoWashington Post, Rhetorical bedlam erupts as Trump speaks to the world from Mar-a-Lago, Josh Dawsey, Nov. 23, 2018 (print edition). The president’s Thanksgiving began with an all-caps tweet of holiday tidings. Then came grievances, renouncing his own intelligence community’s findings, threats and sparring with familiar foes.

Donald TrumpPresident Trump’s Thanksgiving began, as his days often do, with an all-caps tweet: “HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL!”

Minutes later, he tweeted of potential “bedlam, chaos, injury and death,” a harbinger of what would be a frenetic Thanksgiving morning.

Over the span of a few hours, the president would mix the traditional pablum of Thanksgiving tidings with renouncing the findings of his Central Intelligence Agency, threatening Mexico, criticizing court decisions, attacking Hillary Clinton over her emails, misstating facts about the economy, floating a shutdown of the government — and per usual, jousting with the news media.

washington post logojohn roberts oWashington Post, What Chief Justice Roberts could have told Trump but didn’t, Fred Barbash, Nov. 23, 2018 (print edition). The administration’s extraordinary string of court defeats has come at the hands of judges across the country appointed by Republican as well as Democratic presidents.

As unusual as Roberts’s comments were, he could have said so much more, like maybe, you’ve got to be kidding, Mr. President, if you think your judicial problems are confined to “Obama” judges in a single circuit. The chief justice is shown at right.

Major Business Scandals

ny times logoNew York Times, On Thanksgiving Eve, Facebook Acknowledges Details of Times Investigation, Nellie Bowles and Zach Wichter, Nov. 23, 2018 (print edition). Joining a long tradition of companies and campaigns that drop bad news on holidays, Facebook on Thanksgiving eve took responsibility for hiring a Washington-based lobbying company, Definers Public Affairs, that pushed negative stories about Facebook’s critics, including the philanthropist George Soros.

facebook logoFacebook’s communications and policy chief, Elliot Schrage, said in a memo posted Wednesday that he was responsible for hiring the group, and had done so to help protect the company’s image and conduct research about high-profile individuals who spoke critically about the social media platform. Mr. Schrage will be leaving the company, a move planned before the memo was released.

Facebook fired Definers last week, after a New York Times investigation published on Nov. 14.

ny times logoNew York Times, Goldman Chairman Met Privately With Fugitive Accused in Malaysian Fraud, Emily Flitter, Matthew Goldstein and Kate Kelly, Nov. 23, 2018 (print edition). One day in December 2012, a young Malaysian V.I.P. entered the gleaming headquarters of Goldman Sachs in Lower Manhattan.

The man, Jho Low, a financier with close ties to Malaysia’s prime minister at the time, was there for a private meeting with one of the most powerful people on Wall Street: Goldman’s longtime chairman and chief executive, Lloyd C. Blankfein.

The meeting between Mr. Low and Mr. Blankfein, described to The New York Times by three people familiar with it, shows the expanding scope of a scandal that is rocking Goldman. Federal prosecutors are examining the 2012 meeting as they conduct a criminal investigation of the bank, two of the people said.

U.S. Crime / Far Right

washington post logojames fields jr mugWashington Post, Self-professed neo-Nazi to go on trial in deadly crash at Charlottesville rally, Paul Duggan, Nov. 23, 2018. James Fields Jr., right, has been charged with killing a counterprotester and injuring 35 others by allegedly ramming his car into counterprotesters at the racist demonstration.

More Trump News

ny times logoNew York Times, New York State’s Lawsuit Against Trump Foundation Can Proceed, Judge Rules, J. David Goodman, Nov. 23, 2018. The suit accuses President Trump and the Trump Foundation of misusing charitable assets, of self-dealing and of campaign finance violations during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers had argued that the court did not have jurisdiction over Mr. Trump, as president, and that the statutes of limitations had expired in the case of some of the actions at issue. They also contended the attorney general’s office suffered from a “pervasive bias” against Mr. Trump.

In her 27-page ruling, Justice Saliann Scarpulla disagreed. “I find I have jurisdiction over Mr. Trump,” she wrote.

It was the second time this year that a New York State judge in Manhattan had decided that Mr. Trump, just because he is president, is not immune from civil court cases that involve his unofficial activities or actions that took place before he was in office. In June, Justice Jennifer Schecter ruled that a defamation lawsuit could proceed against Mr. Trump for disparaging women who accused him of sexual misconduct. The suit was brought by Summer Zervos, a former contestant on Mr. Trump’s reality show “The Apprentice.”

JFK Assassination, Legacy

washington post logoWashington Post,  55 years later, JFK’s assassination still brings pilgrims to his grave, Michael E. Ruane, Nov. 23, 2018 (print edition). On a cold anniversary of his assassination, generations paid homage to a leader felled by a sniper in Dallas. Pat Mulloy reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. “I’ll show you,” he said. He fumbled a bit, then found it: a worn picture of President John F. Kennedy. He’s carried it forever, he said.

On a cold and breezy morning, he and his wife, Marjorie, 73, a former Peace Corps volunteer, were among dozens who trouped up the hill to the place where Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, are buried. Like many of his generation, he remembers where he was the day Kennedy was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald (sic).

Off Guardian, JFK 55 years on: Casting Light on 9/11 & Other 21st Century Crimes, Graeme MacQueen, Nov. 22, 2018. Fifty-five years ago, on November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Although there has been a great deal written about this event over the years, I want to draw attention to one exceptionally important article, originally delivered as a talk on November 20, 1998. Vincent Salandria gave this talk in Dallas at the invitation of the Coalition on Political Assassinations.

Salandria had been a high school teacher at the time of the assassination (he later became a lawyer) and was one of the first people in the US to write essays expressing dissent from the government narrative of lone gunman Lee Harvey Oswald, maverick leftist.

American FlagIn his 1998 talk, Salandria went through over a dozen of the famous obstacles to the government story — the grassy knoll witnesses, the “magic bullet,” the testimony of the doctors at Parkland Hospital, and so on — but he did not let himself get sidetracked into detailed debates on any of these. By 1998, he had already seen, and participated in, 35 years of such debates. He had long ago concluded that, “the national security state at the very highest level of its power killed President John F. Kennedy for his efforts at seeking to develop a modus vivendi with the Soviets and with socialist Cuba.”

In 1998 he felt it was time to warn researchers about the danger of wasting time in “false debates,” where the essential facts had clearly been established and the wrangling served only the purposes of the assassins. Rather than repeat the debates, Salandria decided in 1998 to outline his basic approach. I will call this the Salandria Approach. I draw attention to it because I believe it helps us find our feet when we tackle not only the JFK killing but many of the killings in the 21st century’s War on Terror.

Here are Salandria’s words:

“I began to sift through the myriad facts regarding the assassination which our government and the US media offered us. What I did was to examine the data in a different fashion from the approach adopted by our news media. I chose to assess how an innocent civilian-controlled US government would have reacted to those data. I also envisioned how a guilty US national security state which may have gained control of and may have become semi-autonomous to the civilian US governmental structure would have reacted to the data of the assassination.”

He adds that,

“…only a guilty government seeking to serve the interests of the assassins would consistently resort to accepting one improbable conclusion after another while rejecting a long series of probable conclusions.”

Global Crime: Turkey

Flag of TurkeySouthFront, Turkey Charges 28 Suspects In 2016 Murder Of Russian Ambassador: Report, Staff report, Nov. 23, 2018. Judicial sources told the Anadolu Agency that the Turkish prosecutors had completed investigation into the 2016 assassination of a Russian ambassador to Turkey and submitted an indictment to an Ankara court.

According to the sources, the indictment includes the names of twenty-eight suspects, among them Gulen movement leader, Fetullah Gulen (shown at right and fetullah gulen 2016living under heavy protection in Pennsylvania). The Gulen movement is recognized as a terrorist group by Turkey.

andrei karlov russian ambassador turkeyRussia’s ambassador to Ankara, Andrey Karlov (left), was assassinated at an art gallery in the Turkish capital on December 19, 2016 by Mevlut Mert Altintas, a Turkish police officer. Policmen killed Altintas on the spot.

Anadolu Agency revealed that Altintas, who is allegedly linked to the Gulen movement, had an earlier intent to assassinate Karlov. Ankara believes that the Gulen movement, which was also allegedly involved in the failed military coup on July 15, 2016, wanted to use the assassination of Karlov to damage the Russian-Turkish relations, which has witnessed a significant improve over the past two years.

Nov. 22

JFK Assassination Anniversary

john_f_kennedy_smilingJustice Integrity Project Editor’s Note: President John F. Kennedy, right, was assassinated on this date 55 years ago in Dallas. Compelling evidence continues to surface showing that a cover-up extending to the present obscures the reasons that he was killed and the effects on United States and world civic life since then.

This editor participated last weekend with leading experts in Dallas at a major research conference on the topic. Highlights will be summarized in a new column to be added shortly to this site’s so-far 52-part Readers Guide to the JFK Assassination. An index to that Guide can be found as an appendix to one of our latest analytic columns: Trump suppresses JFK murder records; Violates pledge; Bows to #CIA, #Deep State.

Our next column focuses on new evidence that accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was a longtime U.S. enforcement and intelligence undercover Lee Harvey Oswald militaryasset. Little known to the public even today, Oswald (shown as a teenager in Louisiana’s Civil Air Patrol) served as a U.S. Marine, including on the super-secret U-2 spy plane program. Then he went to the Soviet Union in 1959 on what U.S. authorities and the major media have always claimed was a defection showing his untrustworthiness, with scant reporting that U.S. authorities worked with Oswald upon his return.

One of those Oswald jobs was working in the Texas School Book Depository, a company on the JFK fatal parade route that was owned by the fierce anti-community and Lyndon Johnson ally D.H. Byrd. Byrd had previously co-founded the Civil Air Patrol and, more importantly, owned the important defense contractor LTV that profited immensely from the Vietnam War that JFK was winding down and that his successor LBJ dramatically escalated..

Before publication of our next installment, we recognize with deep appreciation on this American Thanksgiving holiday on Nov. 22 the sacrifice of the martyred president, many brave witnesses, including law enforcers (some dying premature deaths) and generations of researchers. They have brought forward facts that help us understand Kennedy’s life and legacy, which provide today a Rosetta Stone to understanding many of our most important current events.

Chief Justice Rebukes Trump

john roberts twitter

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, nominated by GOP President George W. Bush (file photo)

washington post logoWashington Post, Rebuking Trump’s criticism of ‘Obama judge,’ Chief Justice Roberts defends judiciary as ‘independent,’ Felicia Sonmez, Nov. 22, 2018 (print edition). U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts on Wednesday issued an extraordinary statement in response to President Trump’s criticism of federal judges, one day after the president blamed an “Obama judge” for ruling against his administration’s ban on asylum for those who cross the border illegally.

“We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges,” Roberts said in a statement released the day before Thanksgiving. “What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them.”

“That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for,” the statement concluded.

On Tuesday, Trump had told reporters outside the White House that he would file a “major complaint” against the federal judge who temporarily blocked his administration from denying asylum to migrants who illegally cross the southern border. See below for related articles on immigration and the courts.

Related News:

  • JIP Editor’s comment: Meanwhile, the conservative anti-Trump pundit Bill Kristol sent a Tweet: “Clever move by the script writers to introduce Chief Justice Roberts into the plot at the end of season two, foreshadowing a big role for the Roberts Supreme Court in handling Mueller-related appeals in season three.”

 “Justice Roberts can say what he wants, but the 9th Circuit is a complete & total disaster. It is out of control, has a horrible reputation, is overturned more than any Circuit in the Country, 79%, & is used to get an almost guaranteed result. Judges must not Legislate Security and Safety at the Border, or anywhere else. They know nothing about it and are making our Country unsafe. Our great Law Enforcement professionals MUST BE ALLOWED TO DO THEIR JOB! If not there will be only bedlam, chaos, injury and death. We want the Constitution as written!”

Trump, Mueller Probe

Palmer Report, Opinion: The calm before the storm, Bill Palmer, Nov. 22, 2018. Donald Trump’s meltdown yesterday about “bedlam, chaos, injury and death” was jarring even by his standards, and suggested that he’s fully cracked under the excruciating pressure of what he fears is about to imminently happen to him, his presidency, and his family. Trump’s withering House GOP allies sent subpoenas yesterday to James Comey and Loretta Lynch, in what felt like an attempt at distracting everyone from what’s about to happen. So what is about to happen?

robert mueller kit fox medill flickr croppedThere is no getting around Robert Mueller’s recent request for a ten day delay in filing a status update in the Paul Manafort cooperation agreement.

This strongly suggested that Mueller (right) was expecting to arrest one or more people sold out by Manafort within that timeframe, which means by the end of this weekend. Throw in the similar request for a delay in the Maria Butina case, and it all points to this being a very busy weekend for Mueller and company – and a very scary weekend for everyone involved in the Trump-Russia scandal.

Trump, Saudis

djt saudi medal may 20 2017 afp

President Trump receives Saudi medal (2017 file photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: With nothing-to-see-here tone, defense of Saudi prince distills a pure-Trump foreign policy, Anne Gearan, Nov. 22, 2018 (print edition). The president’s declaration that he won’t hold Riyadh accountable for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi shows his transactional approach to foreign affairs. 

jamal khashoggi washpost newsroom Small

Murdered and tortured Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi is shown in a selfie during his visit to the newspaper.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s dangerous message to tyrants: Flash money and get away with murder, Fred Ryan, Nov. 22, 2018 (print edition). Fred Ryan is publisher and chief executive of The Washington Post. He served as assistant to President Ronald Reagan.

A clear and dangerous message has been sent to tyrants around the world: Flash enough money in front of the president of the United States, and you can literally get away with murder.

In a bizarre, inaccurate and rambling statement — one offering a good reminder why Twitter has character limits — President Trump whitewashed the Saudi government’s brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. In the process, the president maligned a good and innocent man, tarring Khashoggi as an “enemy of the state” — a label the Saudis themselves have not used publicly — while proclaiming to the world that Trump’s relationship with Saudi Arabia’s 33-year-old crown prince was too important to risk over the murder of a journalist. Whatever objections people may have to our turning a blind eye to Khashoggi’s assassination, the president argued, they do not outweigh the (grossly inflated) revenue we can expect from U.S.-Saudi arms deals.

For many at The Post, Khashoggi’s murder is personal. He was a well-respected colleague, and his loss is deeply felt. But we are also mindful of our mission of public service. When officials here in Washington abandon the principles that the people elected them to uphold, it is our duty to call attention to it. For our part, we will continue to do everything possible to expose the truth — asking tough questions and relentlessly chasing down facts to bring crucial evidence to light.

Throughout this crisis, the president has maintained that he’s looking after our “national interests.”

But Trump’s response doesn’t advance the United States’ interests — it betrays them. It places the dollar values of commercial deals above the long-cherished American values of respecting liberty and human rights. And it places personal relationships above the United States’ strategic relationships. For more than 60 years, the U.S.-Saudi partnership has been an important one based on trust and respect; Trump has determined that the United States no longer requires honesty and shared values from its global partners.

ny times logoNew York Times, Saudis Want a U.S. Nuclear Deal. Can They Be Trusted? David E. Sanger and William J. Broad, Nov. 22, 2018. Before the Saudi crown prince was implicated in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, he had been overseeing a negotiation with the U.S. for nuclear power plant designs. But there is a hitch: Saudi Arabia insists on producing its own nuclear fuel, raising concerns that the country could divert it into a covert weapons project.

mohammad bin salman cropped fileSaudi Arabia insists on producing its own nuclear fuel, even though it could buy it more cheaply abroad, according to American and Saudi officials familiar with the negotiations. That raised concerns in Washington that the Saudis could divert their fuel into a covert weapons project — exactly what the United States and its allies feared Iran was doing before it reached the 2015 nuclear accord, which President Trump has since abandoned.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, set off alarms when he declared earlier this year, in the midst of the negotiation, that if Iran, Saudi Arabia’s fiercest rival, “developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.” His negotiators stirred more worries by telling the Trump administration that Saudi Arabia would refuse to sign an agreement that would allow United Nations inspectors to look anywhere in the country for signs that the Saudis might be working on a bomb, American officials said.

Third World Migration

ny times logohillary clintonNew York Times, Hillary Clinton: Europe Must ‘Handle’ Migration to Thwart Rise of Populism, Megan Specia, Nov. 22, 2018. Mrs. Clinton (shown in a file photo) said that while the decision of some European nations to welcome migrants was admirable, it had opened the door to political turmoil across the Continent. Some officials and academics denounced her criticism of European migration policies, saying it reflected the mentality of the very populists she criticized.

Missionary Murdered

washington post logoWashington Post, Fear and faith: Inside the last days of an American missionary killed by a remote island tribe, Joanna Slater and Annie Gowen, Nov. 22, 2018. John Chau’s initial contacts with the Sentinelese, a tiny tribe of hunter-gatherers who reject contact with the outside world, had not gone well. Yet he decided to return to the island and try again, galvanized by the feeling that he was God’s instrument.

Rapist Pastor Sentenced

washington post logoWashington Post, South Korean megachurch pastor sentenced to 15 years for raping women ‘on God’s orders,’ Simon Denyer, Nov. 22, 2018. Accusations that Jaerock Lee abused his power to have sex with female followers have circulated for two decades.

Lee is the head of the Manmin Central Church, which claims to have 133,000 followers, and 10,000 branches and associate churches worldwide.

He was ejected from the Christian Council of Korea in 1999 for his “heretical” beliefs and branded a “cult leader” by the Korean Ministry Association after claiming he was without sin and exempt from dying.

Inside DC

washington post logoloretta lynch oWashington Post, House Judiciary Committee subpoenas Comey, Lynch, Karoun Demirjian​, Nov. 22, 2018. The orders instruct former FBI director James B. Comey and former attorney general Loretta E. Lynch, right, to appear for closed-door interviews early next month. Comey has already objected to the format.
Comey himself tweeted his objection to the subpoena.

“I’m still happy to sit in the light and answer all questions. But I will resist a ‘closed door’ thing because I’ve seen enough of their selective leaking and distortion,” he wrote in a Thanksgiving Day tweet, acknowledging he had received the subpoena.

Nov. 21

JFK Assassination

jfk jeff morley james dieugenio russ baker 2018 whowhatwhy

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, JFK Assassination: Still Searching for Answers, Staff report, Nov. 21, 2018. It’s been 55 years since JFK was gunned down in Dallas. WhoWhatWhy founding editor Russ Baker and two other well-respected researchers, authors Jefferson Morley of and James DiEugenio of, discuss what they’ve learned since then — and what remains in the shadows.

Fifty-five years ago President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas. The widely accepted narrative for all these many decades is that he was murdered by lone-wolf gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald.

Yet the evidence is overwhelming that there was at least one other shooter present in Dealey Plaza. Skeptical? There’s really only one piece of evidence you need to see in order to overcome your doubts.

Do yourself a favor: watch the Zapruder film. This was taken by a bystander, Abraham Zapruder, who captured the assassination on his handheld 8mm camera. See that horrific headshot, with the president being thrown backwards and to the left? Where do you surmise that shot came from?

If you guessed somewhere to the front-right of the president (where numerous eyewitnesses said they heard a shot or shots coming from), congratulations — you’re using your common sense and the reasonable presumption that Newtonian mechanics are still applicable.

But the defenders of the lone-gunman narrative would have us believe that in this case we need to suspend our common-sense notions, to press “pause” on the basic laws of motion. They tell us that all the shots actually came from behind the president — fired by Oswald alone.

Saudi Murder

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump Stands Up for Saudi Arabian Values, Editorial Board, Nov. 21, 2018 (print edition). He disregarded the C.I.A.’s conclusions and American values in swallowing the Saudi version of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

President Trump confirmed the harshest caricatures drawn by America’s most cynical critics on Tuesday when he portrayed its central objectives in the world as panting after money and narrow self-interest.

Ignoring the findings of the C.I.A., Mr. Trump said in a muddled statement released by the White House that, in effect, no matter how wrong the murder of the journalist Jamal mohammed bin salman al saudKhashoggi, no matter where true responsibility lay, he would not stand up to the Saudi regime. He would not take any chance of risking its supplies of money, oil and help in the Middle East by holding the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, right, accountable for the killing.

Roll Call, Corker: White House Like a ‘Public Relations Firm’ for Saudi Arabia, Griffin Connolly, Nov. 21, 2018. Sen. Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was “really astounded” by President Donald Trump’s apparent dismissal of U.S. intelligence assessments that Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi last month.

bob corker closeup“I never thought I’d see the day a White House would moonlight as a public relations firm for the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia,” Corker, shown in a file photo, said in statement on Twitter Tuesday, in response to a statement put out by the White House casting doubt on the Saudi government’s involvement in the journalist’s slaying.

Corker and Sen. Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on his committee, sent a letter to Trump on Tuesday to determine within 120 days whether bin Salman “is responsible for Mr. Khashoggi’s murder.”

Corker indicated Tuesday that he was not remotely satisfied with the president’s statement that ran counter to the CIA’s claim that it has intelligence substantiating bin Salman’s involvement in Khashoggi’s killing.

“‘Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t’ won’t cut it,” Corker tweeted Tuesday. Trump has provided at least two reasons for his reticence to hold the Saudi government and the crown prince, to account: the military-industrial complex and oil.

Trump Targeted Hillary, Comey

hillary clinton gage skidmore Small

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton campaiging in 2016 (Gage Skidmore photo)

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Wanted to Order Justice Dept. to Prosecute Comey and Clinton, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman, Nov. 21, 2018 (print edition). President Trump sought in the spring to prosecute Hillary Clinton and James B. Comey, but the White House counsel said the move could lead to impeachment.

The episode was a blatant example of how Mr. Trump saw the typically independent Justice Department as a tool to be used against his political enemies.

james comey fbiPresident Trump told the White House counsel in the spring that he wanted to order the Justice Department to prosecute two of his political adversaries: his 2016 challenger, Hillary Clinton, and the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey, shown at left, according to two people familiar with the conversation.

The lawyer, Donald F. McGahn II, right, rebuffed the president, saying that he had no authority to order a prosecution. Mr. McGahn said that while he could request don mcgahn cato screengraban investigation, that too could prompt accusations of abuse of power. To underscore his point, Mr. McGahn had White House lawyers write a memo for Mr. Trump warning that if he asked law enforcement to investigate his rivals, he could face a range of consequences, including possible impeachment.

The encounter was one of the most blatant examples yet of how Mr. Trump views the typically independent Justice Department as a tool to be wielded against his political enemies. It took on additional significance in recent weeks when Mr. McGahn left the White House and Mr. Trump appointed a relatively inexperienced political loyalist, Matthew G. Whitaker, as the acting attorney general.

It is unclear whether Mr. Trump read Mr. McGahn’s memo or whether he pursued the prosecutions further. But the president has continued to privately discuss the matter, including the possible appointment of a second special counsel to investigate both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Comey, according to two people who have spoken to Mr. Trump about the issue. He has also repeatedly expressed disappointment in the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, for failing to more aggressively investigate Mrs. Clinton, calling him weak, one of the people said.

California Wildfires

washington post logocalifornia wildfire washington postWashington Post, During California wildfires, farmworkers say they felt pressure to keep working or lose their jobs,’ Danielle Paquette, Nov. 21, 2018 (print edition).  A sharp increase in wildfires, heat waves and other climate-fueled disasters has added urgency to California’s efforts at employee protection, especially for the most vulnerable — low-income and undocumented workers on the state’s sprawling farms.

Courts / Immigration

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Takes Aim at Appeals Court, Calling It a ‘Disgrace,’ Adam Liptak, Nov. 21, 2018 (print edition). President Trump lashed out on Tuesday against the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, based in San Francisco, calling it a lawless disgrace and threatening unspecified retaliation.

republican elephant logo“That’s not law,” he said of the court’s rulings. “Every case that gets filed in the Ninth Circuit we get beaten.” Mr. Trump’s remarks came after a federal trial judge ordered the administration to resume accepting asylum claims from migrants no matter where or how they entered the United States.

The ruling was issued by Judge Jon S. Tigar, of the United States District Court in San Francisco, and not by the Ninth Circuit itself, which hears appeals from that court and others in nine western states. The appeals court’s geographic jurisdiction is also sometimes called the Ninth Circuit. The Ninth Circuit has a reputation for being frequently reversed by the justices, but its reversal rate is only a little higher than average and not as high as that of some other circuits.

ny times logoNew York Times, Why Big Law Is Taking On Trump Over Immigration, Annie Correal, Nov. 21, 2018. Corporate lawyers at Paul Weiss, a prestigious Manhattan law firm, often spend their days scouring the fine print of client documents and government regulations. But for the past few months, they have been on a different search.

In the firm’s Midtown offices, about 75 lawyers have been trying to find more than 400 parents who were separated from their families at the southern border this year and then deported without their children.

Paul Weiss, where partners charge more than $1,000 an hour and clients include the National Football League and Citigroup, is looking for these parents, pro bono, as part of a federal American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit against the Trump administration over its family separation policy.

Big Law — a nexus of power where partners are often plucked for top government posts — has emerged as a fierce, and perhaps unexpected, antagonist to President Trump’s immigration agenda. While pro bono work is nothing new, over the past two years, major law firms have become more vocal and visible in pushing back against the administration’s policies.

Top firms have a well-earned reputation as cautious defenders of the establishment, and immigration is generally considered a safe area for pro bono work because it rarely conflicts with corporate clients. Still, both supporters and critics of the president’s agenda have noticed that large firms have been behind several of the biggest court battles.

“What’s different here is that the firms are on a wholesale basis, and dramatically, challenging the behavior of the White House,” said Stephen Gillers, a law professor at New York University and an expert in legal ethics.

U.S. Politicsmike espy cindy hyde smith jackson free press

Republican incumbent Cindy Hyde-Smith and Democratic challenger Mike Espy (shown above) are headed for a runoff on November 27.

Roll Call, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith’s Corporate Donors Want Their Money Back, Emily Kopp, Nov. 21, 2018. Companies say contributions made before lynching comments became public; law makes that unlikely. Half a dozen corporations have asked Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith to reimburse their contributions to her runoff campaign.

The companies have been under intense scrutiny in recent days for their financial support of the senator in the wake of her remark that she would be “on the front row” of a “public hanging” at a campaign stop earlier this month. The NAACP has said her comments evoke Mississippi’s bloody history of lynchings.

Roll Call, Challenger Brindisi Claims Victory Over Top Trump Ally Claudia Tenney, Griffin Connolly, Nov. 21, 2018. Democrat Anthony Brindisi claimed victory Tuesday in New York’s 22nd District over Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney, who ran one of the most pro-Trump campaigns this past cycle.

Brindisi, who billed himself as a centrist on the campaign trail and has signed a letter saying he will not vote for Nancy Pelosi for speaker on the House floor in January, led Tenney by 1,293 votes on Election Night, a lead of less than 1 percent.

Fresno Bee, Cox now 447 votes behind Valadao after Fresno County update, Rory Appleton, Nov. 21, 2018. A Fresno County elections update has moved Democrat TJ Cox to within 500 votes of Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, in California’s 21st Congressional District. The race is one of only a handful of House contests nationwide that remain undecided.

david valado tj cox

Cox (shown at the incumbent’s right above) now has 54,266 votes to Valadao’s 54,713 – a margin of 447 votes or four-tenths of a percentage point. Monday’s update cut through about half of Fresno County’s 30,000 remaining ballots. About 15,200 remain. The next Fresno County update will be Monday.

First Dem To Declare For 2020

richard ojeda screengrab Small

The Intercept, Richard Ojeda Comes Out Swinging on Abortion Rights, Ryan Grim, Nov. 21, 2018. Former West Virginia congressional candidate and Democratic presidential hopeful Richard Ojeda, shown above in a screenshot, facing questions from reproductive rights advocates about his position on abortion, has fired off a 500-word statement framing the issue in terms of class and racial politics.

“There has been some confusion about where I stand on the issue of abortion access so let me clear this up. I wholeheartedly support a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her body. Full stop,” he said. As president, Ojeda said, he would oppose any 20-week abortion ban or other such restrictions.

democratic donkey logoOjeda also committed to nominating only judges who were similarly invested in protecting women’s rights to make their own reproductive decisions, and vowed to oppose the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funds from being used for abortion. Globally, he committed to reinterpreting the Helms Amendment, which, as currently implemented, bars U.S. funds from being used to support abortion services in foreign countries, even in cases of rape or when the life of the pregnant woman is in jeopardy.

The full-throated endorsement of reproductive rights comes in response to criticism of Ojeda’s past description of his politics as “pro-life.” Yet Ojeda said he is not willing to cede the term to abortion rights opponents.

“I’m also calling bullshit on the idea that opposing abortion makes you pro-life,” he said in a statement provided to The Intercept. “If you just want to keep working class women from making their own decisions, you might be pro-birth but you’re not pro-life. I have always considered myself pro-life because I want to reduce the number of abortions by making birth control accessible, by quadrupling the funding for Planned Parenthood, and by making sure that those who would start families have jobs and childcare so that they can afford to raise their kids.”

Ojeda, a state senator from West Virginia and a retired major in the U.S. Army, lost a congressional race in November in a district that President Donald Trump carried in 2016 by 49 points. After the election, he announced that he’d be running for president.

Trump Agriculture and Lettuce Warning

oenearthlogoOpEdNews, Opinion: Trump’s Idiocracy and Your Lettuce, Rob Kall, right, Nov. 21, 2018. There is an emergency here in the US and it goes way beyond lettuce. The lettuce rob kallnarrative is just a symptom.

The CDC [Center for Disease Control] has told Americans to throw out all the lettuce we have and to not buy any. Nice way to destroy farmers.

Maybe this is the right thing to do. But the situation raises questions and issues.

Trump is an idiot, a moron, a liar and a fool. He has been such a toxic employer that he has run out of A class hirees and is now going with C and D class hirees.

So, we have a situation where it is reasonable to not trust the competency of the leadership of the agencies Americans rely on to keep them safe and protect them.

Another factor involves regulations. Trump has, to the accolades of the Republican party, launched a massive assault on regulations — including regulations to protect we-the-people. There could be regulations requiring electronic tracking of sources of food. Walmart already does it voluntarily. I’m sure there are massive farming lobby groups that have opposed this, because it costs money. Now, their farmers are shut out of the marketplace. They are getting zero money. How’s that working for them?

Bottom line, it is reasonable to assume that the Trump appointed heads of the agencies involved have slacked on regulations, and that could be a factor in this situation.

That brings us back to the lettuce. Was it really necessary to put out a warning to totally stop eating all Romaine lettuce? This is a question that carries more weight than perhaps any time in recent history — because the government is so untrusted.

Trump’s Attorney General

washington post logoWashington Post, As U.S. attorney, Whitaker sought longer-than-usual drug sentences, Michael Kranish, Nov. 21, 2018. In one case, Matthew G. Whitaker offered a woman charged in a third drug case a choice between spending the rest of her life in jail, or accepting a plea bargain sentence of 21 to 27 years, records show. Whitaker’s record is newly relevant after President Trump named him as acting attorney general.

matthew whitaker agRaeanna Woody’s crimes hardly seemed like they would add up to a life sentence in prison. She had two nonviolent drug convictions, for possessing marijuana and delivering 12 grams of methamphetamine. But when she was arrested in a third drug case, she said, the office of U.S. Attorney Matthew G. Whitaker, right, decided to make an example of her.

Under Whitaker, who is now acting attorney general, Woody was given a choice: spend the rest of her life in jail, or accept a plea bargain sentence of 21 to 27 years, according to court records. She took the deal.

Federal Judge Robert W. Pratt in the Southern District of Iowa later accused prosecutors of having “misused” their authority in her nonviolent case. He urged President Barack Obama to commute her sentence — and Obama did shorten her term , after she had served 11 years.

Courts, Trump

washington post logogeorge papadopoulos linked in croppedWashington Post, Special counsel urges judge to order former Trump campaign aide to prison Monday as scheduled, Rosalind S. Helderman, Prosecutors working for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III asked a federal judge Wednesday to order George Papadopoulos, a former campaign adviser to President Trump, to start serving time in prison on Monday as scheduled.

Papadopoulos’s lawyers had asked U.S. District Court Judge Randolph D. Moss to allow Papadopoulos, right, to delay his two-week prison sentence while an constitutional challenge to Mueller’s appointment filed in a separate case in Washington is resolved.

But Mueller’s team responded that Papadopoulos waived his rights to appeal when he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and that he had failed to file his request in a timely fashion.

More On Trump, Saudis

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Keeping Bin Salman In Place Will Hurt Trump’s Middle East Policies, b, Nov. 21, 2018. Against the advice from his intelligence services, U.S. President Trump decided to leave the effective Saudi ruler, clown prince Mohammad bin Salman, in place. That move is unlikely to help with his larger policy plans.

Bruce Riedel, a (former) high level CIA analyst, long warned of betting on Mohammad bin Salman. Even before the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, Riedel wrote that Saudi Arabia is at its least stable in 50 years. Riedel warned that the Trump administration, by betting on Mohammad bin Salman, put everything on one dubious card. MbS is unstable and made himself many internal enemies. If King Salman suddenly dies there will probably be a leadership crisis. Saudi Arabia could end up in chaos. U.S. Middle East policy, largely build around MbS, would then fall apart.

The CIA disliked MbS since he replaced Mohammed bin Nayef as crown prince. MbN is a longtime U.S. asset with a proven record of cooperation. MbS came from nowhere and the CIA has no control over him. That he is indeed impulsive and reckless only adds to that. That the CIA feared that MbS meant trouble even before the Khashoggi disaster, explains why it sabotaged Trump’s attempts to exculpate MbS over the murder of Khashoggi.

While Riedel was writing about the Saudi danger, Jamal Khashoggi, a longtime Saudi intelligence agent who had aligned himself with the wrong prince, went to Istanbul to build the public relation infrastructure for regime change in Saudi Arabia. Khashoggi’s projects were allegedly financed by Qatar but probably also had CIA support.

MbS got wind thereof. He told his private office chief Bader Al Asaker to send his bodyguards to kill Khashoggi. They did so on October 2 in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. But it was a much too large and too complicate mission. They Saudi agents made too many mistakes. They also underestimated the Turkish intelligence service.

The Turks had bugged the Saudi consulate and have records of all phone calls. When they learned from Khashoggi’s fiancee, a well connected daughter of a co-founder of Erdogan’s AK Party, that Khashoggi was missing, they wound back the tapes and unraveled the story. The killers had made four phone calls to Al Asaker to report back. In one of the calls the mission leader told him: “Tell your boss” that “the deed was done.” The Turkish president Erdogan was delighted to receive such a gift. It allowed him to cut his strategic competitor down to size.

The Saudis were too slow to recognize the danger. They came up with all sorts of unbelievable claims over what happened in their consulate. Trump sent Secretary of State Pompeo who told them to find a sufficiently high ranking scapegoat:

Trump fumbled the issue. He clearly did not want to accuse the crown prince. But the CIA preempted him. It went public and accused MbS of having given the order himself.

Nov. 20

Trump Targeted Hillary, Comey

james comey hillary clinton collage

bill palmerPalmer Report, Commentary: Wait, Donald Trump tried to do WHAT to Hillary Clinton and James Comey? Bill Palmer, right, Nov. 20, 2018. Donald Trump sought the criminal prosecution of Hillary Clinton and James Comey (shown above) back in April of this year, and it’s just now becoming public, thanks to the New York Times. As the story goes, Trump’s effort was stymied by then-White House Counsel Don McGahn, who warned him that these phony prosecutions could lead to Trump’s own impeachment and ouster.

It’s worth pointing out that every time one of these stories about Donald Trump’s overreach has surfaced over the past year, Don McGahn is always conveniently portrayed as the hero. This strongly suggests that McGahn is the source for these stories, and that he’s been putting them out there in order to distance himself from Trump’s crime spree. But despite the obvious bias involved here, there is no reason to believe that McGahn is making this up.

It’s notable that McGahn – if he is indeed the source on this – is choosing to leak it to the public right now, just as Special Counsel Robert Mueller is preparing to make his big moves against Donald Trump. This paints Trump as a criminally and psychotically out of control would-be dictator who truly did try to imprison Hillary simply for being his political opponent, and imprison Comey simply for doing his job as a law enforcement official.

nbc news logoNBC News, Trump submits written answers to Robert Mueller’s questions, Allan Smith, Nov. 20, 2018. President Donald Trump’s legal team submitted his written answers to special counsel Robert Mueller’s questions on Tuesday, Trump attorneys Jay Sekulow and Rudy Giuliani said in a Tuesday statement.

“It has been our position from the outset that much of what has been asked raised serious constitutional issues and was beyond the scope of a legitimate inquiry,” Giuliani said in a statement. “This remains our position today. The President has nonetheless provided unprecedented cooperation. The Special Counsel has been provided with more than 30 witnesses, 1.4 million pages of material, and now the President’s written responses to questions. It is time to bring this inquiry to a conclusion.”

Earlier Tuesday, Trump told reporters outside the White House that his attorneys have his answers and assumed they would “turn them in today or soon.”

Trump Whitewashes Saudi Murderjamal khashoggi entering Saudi consulate

Jamal Kashoggi, a dissident Saudi Arabian journalist living in Turkey, is shown entering a Saudi consulate before his disappearance on Oct. 2 and suspected murder.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Extraordinary Statement, Trump Stands With Saudis Despite Khashoggi Killing, Mark Landler, Nov. 20, 2018. President Trump declared his unswerving loyalty to Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, on Tuesday, declaring that the prince’s culpability in the killing of the journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, right, might never be known.

jamal kahshoggi“It could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Mr. Trump said in a remarkable, eight-paragraph, exclamation-point laden statement that appeared calculated to end debate over the American response to Mr. Khashoggi’s killing.

“We may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi,” Mr. Trump said in the statement, which read like a verbatim transcript of the president’s off-the-cuff musings. “In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump defends Saudi Arabia’s denial about death of Khashoggi, Josh Dawsey, Shane Harris and Karen DeYoung, Nov. 20, 2018.  President Trump issued a statement that defended Saudi Arabia, questioned the CIA’s conclusion that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and effectively declared the issue closed — as far as he was concerned.

djt smiling filePresident Trump issued an exclamation-mark packed statement Tuesday defending Saudi Arabia, undermining the CIA’s conclusion that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and effectively declaring closed the debate over whether to stand by the kingdom.

The United States “may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder,” Trump said, noting that both King Salman and his son, Mohammed, “vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi,” which Trump called a “crime.”

“Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Trump said, contradicting the CIA’s high-confidence assessment that Mohammed ordered Khashoggi’s assassination.

Ivanka’s Private Emails

washington post logoWashington Post, Ivanka Trump used a personal account to send emails about government business, Carol D. Leonnig and Josh Dawsey, Nov. 20, 2018 (print edition). Ethics officials learned Trump sent hundreds of emails last year. Some advisers to President Trump feared that his daughter’s practices bore similarities to the personal email use of Hillary Clinton. Ivanka Trump said she was not familiar with some details of the rules, according to people with knowledge of her reaction.

ivanka trump in 2011The White House referred requests for comment to Ivanka Trump’s attorney and ethics counsel, Abbe Lowell.

In a statement, Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Lowell, acknowledged that the president’s daughter, right, occasionally used her private email before she was briefed on the rules, but he said none of her messages contained classified information.

Austin Evers, executive director of the liberal watchdog group American Oversight, whose record requests sparked the White House discovery, said it strained credulity that Trump’s daughter did not know that government officials should not use private emails for official business.

“There’s the obvious hypocrisy that her father ran on the misuse of personal email as a central tenet of his campaign,” Evers said. “There is no reasonable suggestion that she didn’t know better. Clearly everyone joining the Trump administration should have been on high alert about personal email use.”

washington post logoWashington Post, House panel to investigate Ivanka Trump’s use of personal email, Felicia Sonmez and Colby Itkowitz, Nov. 20, 2018. The House Oversight Committee plans to investigate whether Ivanka Trump violated federal law by using a personal email account for government business, the panel’s incoming chairman, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), said Tuesday.

elijah cummings oIn a statement, Cummings said the committee launched a bipartisan investigation last year into White House officials’ use of personal email accounts, but the White House did not provide the requested information.

“We need those documents to ensure that Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and other officials are complying with federal records laws and there is a complete record of the activities of this Administration,” Cummings said.

In what appeared to be an acknowledgment of the potential risk of a backlash against Democrats for aggressively probing the Trump administration, Cummings also emphasized that his focus upon becoming chairman of the committee will be to address the everyday issues impacting Americans.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason the mainstream media is suddenly setting Ivanka Trump on fire, Bill Palmer, Nov. 19, 2018. There is major breaking news this evening, reported by the Washington Post and then echoed by outlets like MSNBC, about Ivanka Trump having used personal email for government business last year.

bill palmer report logo headerHere’s the thing: this isn’t news. Not even close. In fact Palmer Report covered it more than a year ago. It’s not as if we had some exclusive information; Ivanka’s email scandal was well known and well documented at the time. So what’s suddenly happening here?

For reasons known only to them, these mainstream media outlets have decided that right now is a good time to set Ivanka Trump on fire, based on an old scandal of hers that happened more than a year ago, and became public knowledge more than a year ago, despite having little to no new information to report about it.

Why trot this back out now? Why today? Why not a month ago, or a month from now? When the mainstream media suddenly starts dredging up old scandals about a public figure, it’s usually a sign that they’ve been tipped off that new scandals about that person are just a few days away. In essence, they’re whetting the public’s appetite for what they know is coming.

So what’s coming? That’s really tough to say. Palmer Report pointed out just yesterday that Robert Mueller and the FBI have been quietly targeting Ivanka Trump all along. And of course we’re in the midst of this surreal waiting period, after Mueller strongly hinted in a court filing four days ago that major arrests were coming within ten days. Stay tuned.

Court Blocks Trump On Asylum

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washington post logoWashington Post, Federal judge blocks U.S. from enforcing Trump’s asylum ban, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Maria Sacchetti​, Nov. 20, 2018. The temporary restraining order halts President Trump’s effort to automatically deny asylum to migrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.

A federal judge has temporarily blocked the Trump administration from denying asylum to migrants who crossed the southern border illegally, saying the president violated a “clear command” from Congress to allow them to apply.

In a ruling late Monday, Jon S. Tigar of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco issued a temporary nationwide restraining order barring enforcement of the policy, which President Trump has billed as an urgent attempt to halt the flow of thousands of asylum-seeking families across the border each month.

Several thousand migrants are now waiting to cross a legal entry point at San Ysidro, across from Tijuana. Many are from a caravan that drew Trump’s wrath in the weeks leading up to the midterm elections, when he made illegal immigration his closing argument. He and his allies spread fear about the “Caravan heading to the Southern Border,” which, as he asserted without evidence in one pre-election tweet, included “criminals and unknown Middle Easterners.”

Mueller’s Trump Probe

bill palmerPalmer Report, Commentary: Robert Mueller makes major new filing in the mysterious grand jury proceedings that appear to be against Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, right, Nov. 20, 2018. A few weeks ago, we all became aware that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has spent the past couple months pushing the courts to compel someone to comply with a grand jury subpoena. The person’s identity is top secret, and the legal battle itself has been given unprecedented priority by the courts. Numerous legal experts suspect that Mueller is trying to force Trump himself to testify before a grand jury.

In any case, Mueller just made a major new court filing in the matter.

Robert Mueller’s new filing is three thousand words long, and for better or worse, we can’t see what it says, because it’s under seal. But the most important clue here is the timing. Donald Trump keeps telling reporters that he’s finished answering Mueller’s questions in writing, while adding that he hasn’t turned them in yet. The question is why he’d do it this way.

bill palmer report logo headerOne of the most plausible explanations is that Trump and Mueller were both waiting to see which way the courts rule on this matter. If Trump is ordered to testify before a grand jury, then his written answers may be irrelevant. If the courts side with Trump, then Mueller will have to accept his written answers and nothing more. But here’s the kicker: shortly after Mueller made this filing, Trump’s legal team told ABC News that they’ve preemptively submitted Trump’s written answers to Mueller. This could be a last ditch effort at appeasing the court and preventing it from siding with Mueller.

leon jaworskiEarlier this month, thanks to a legal challenge, the long-secret roadmap was revealed for ousting Richard Nixon, which never was carried out because he resigned. That roadmap showed that Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski, right, was planning to have a grand jury conclude that Nixon should be indicted, and then turn those findings over to the House for impeachment proceedings.

If Robert Mueller is following this roadmap, there is every reason to believe that he’s trying to compel Donald Trump to testify before a grand jury that is then going to turn around and declare that he should be indicted.

Slush Funding For Trump AG

washington post logoWashington Post, Conservative nonprofit with undisclosed funders paid Whitaker $1.2 million, Robert O’Harrow Jr., Shawn Boburg and Aaron C. Davis, Nov. 20, 2018. Acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker worked for the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust for three years. The group became a lucrative steppingstone in a swift rise to the nation’s top law enforcement job.

matthew whitaker headshot recentIn the three years after he arrived in Washington in 2014, Matthew G. Whitaker, right, received more than $1.2 million as the leader of a charity that reported having no other employees, some of the best pay of his career.

The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust described itself as a new watchdog nonprofit dedicated to exposing unethical conduct by public officials. For Whitaker, it became a lucrative steppingstone in a swift rise from a modest law practice in Iowa to the nation’s top law enforcement job. As FACT’s president, he regularly appeared on radio and television, often to skewer liberals.

But FACT’s origins and the source of funding used to pay Whitaker — now the acting attorney general — remain obscured. An examination of state and federal records, and interviews with those involved, show that the group is part of a national network of nonprofits that often work in concert to amplify conservative messages.

Contrary to its claims in news releases and a tax filing, the group was created under a different name two years before Whitaker’s arrival, according to incorporation and IRS records. At least two of the organizers were involved in another conservative charity using the same address.

washington post logoWashington Post, Before Justice Dept., Whitaker made $900,000 from charity, took ‘legal fees’ from company accused of fraud, Matt Zapotosky, Nov. 20, 2018. In the roughly two years before he rejoined the Justice Department, acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker earned more than $900,000 from a conservative charity with no other employees and collected more than $1,800 in “legal fees” from a Miami-based invention-marketing company that was shut down amid accusations of fraud, according to a financial disclosure form made public Tuesday.

The form, which Whitaker first filled out after taking over as Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s chief of staff, shows Whitaker drew a salary from the conservative Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust of $904,000 and collected $1,875 in legal fees from World Patent Marketing.

That company is notable because it shut down in May and agreed to pay a settlement of more than $25 million to resolve a Federal Trade Commission inquiry into its practices.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Stick a fork in Matt Whitaker, Bill Palmer, Nov. 20, 2018. Just yesterday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller made a Trump-Russia court filing which all but declared that, one way or the other, he had already gained the upper hand against Donald Trump’s newly appointed Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker. Now comes late breaking news about Whitaker’s financial records which should be enough to finish him off entirely.

bill palmer report logo headerRespected legal activist group CREW has managed to get its hands on Matt Whitaker’s financial disclosures tonight, even after the Trump regime tried to keep them buried. It turns out Whitaker’s disclosures have been revised five times in the past two weeks. CREW principal Norm Eisen, below right, has tweeted that, as he works his way through the mess, there’s an “aroma of bad fish coming out of my computer already.”

norman eisen SmallSo what is CREW about to find in Whitaker’s financial disclosures? We don’t know yet, but there’s no question it’ll be ugly. The White House wouldn’t have tried to keep his disclosures from becoming public knowledge, and taken the extreme step of altering them five times, unless there was something in there that Trump and Whitaker really didn’t want to become public, for fear it would finish Whitaker off.

Pelosi House Rival Folds

washington post logoWashington Post, Ohio Rep. Fudge endorses Pelosi, abandoning possible challenge for speakership, Mike DeBonis​, Nov. 20, 2018. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, in an unmistakable show of political strength Tuesday, cut a deal to sideline a potential challenger, won fresh confidence from her party’s resurgent left and earned high praise from nancy pelosiDemocrats’ most influential figure, former president Barack Obama.

Together, the developments buoyed Pelosi, right, as she fights to repel a small group of dissidents inside the Democratic caucus who want to force a leadership shake-up after 16 years with the Californian at the helm.

One was Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio), who left Washington last week planning to take the Thanksgiving holiday to ponder a run against Pelosi for speaker. But democratic donkey logoher dalliance ended Tuesday. Fudge said she would support Pelosi after the minority leader agreed to make Fudge chairman of a resurrected subcommittee on elections and pledged that “the most loyal voting bloc in the Democratic Party, black women, will have a seat at the decision-making table.”

Speaking Tuesday in Chicago, Obama hailed Pelosi as “one of the most effective legislative leaders that this country’s ever seen.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: How Nancy Pelosi pulled it off, Bill Palmer, Nov. 20, 2018. When a centrist-led handful of House Democrats released a letter on Monday announcing that they U.S. House logowould refuse to vote for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House, it revealed that they had a problem: Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, the only potential Pelosi challenger they could find, hadn’t signed it. Sure enough, Fudge announced today that she was endorsing Pelosi. So how did Pelosi pull it off?

It’s not that centrist Democrats Tim Ryan and Seth Moulton truly wanted Marcia Fudge to be Speaker; it’s just that they’ve long wanted to topple Nancy Pelosi, and in the current climate, they know they can’t challenge her from her right. So instead they’ve been trying to find someone, anyone, to challenge Pelosi from the left. Fudge was the only one who seemed interested in taking them up on it. But in hindsight, it appears that Fudge simply realized she could use them to get the one thing she truly wanted.

bill palmer report logo headerIf you look at Marcia Fudge’s recent public remarks, it’s clear that she considers African American voting rights to be a priority. And if you look the blatantly racist voter suppression that just happened the midterms, it’s easy to understand why Fudge justifiably sees this as such a priority (as should we all). Nancy Pelosi, who always manages to get straight to the salient part, figured out that she could get Fudge on her side, simply by reinstating the subcommittee on elections (which the GOP had gotten rid of), and by making Fudge its Chair.

marcia fudge oCongressional movement is based on wheeling and dealing in general. But this wasn’t simply a matter of Nancy Pelosi giving Marcia Fudge, right, something to get her on board. Pelosi knows how crucial it is, both for the Democratic Party and for the good of America, to crack down on racist voter suppression. Fudge considers it to be a huge priority, so she’s clearly the right person to lead the charge. And because this is a subcommittee that hasn’t existed for years, Pelosi isn’t taking the job away from someone else to give it to Fudge.

This is precisely what congressional wheeling and dealing should look like. It’s a reminder that Nancy Pelosi knows how to get members of Congress on her side, and she knows how to go about it in the right way.

Fines For Huge Oil Spill

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. Coast Guard orders energy company to clean up massive 14-year-long oil spill in Gulf of Mexico or face $40,000-a-day fine, Darryl Fears, Nov. 20, 2018. The Coast Guard has ordered Taylor Energy Company to contain and clean up the spill, which has leaked more than a million barrels since 2004. The order, issued Oct. 23, came one day after The Washington Post reported that the ongoing spill verged on becoming one of the worst offshore disasters in U.S. history.

Wildfire Disaster Fallout

washington post logoWashington Post, With disease in shelters and hotels at capacity, wildfire evacuees desperately seek refuge, Frances Stead Sellers, Scott Wilson and Tim Craig, Nov. 20, 2018 california wildfire washington post(print edition). The main exhibit hall at the Yuba-Sutter Fairgrounds here has become the home of last resort for 68 people who fled the fires that swept through a broad swath of forest and hill towns nearby.

And some days, an ambulance shows up. A team of paramedics, wearing protective masks and disposable yellow plastic aprons, wheeled a sick man out of the exhibit hall Monday on a stretcher, another victim of the bitter repercussions of mass displacement that the Camp Fire has created.

The outbreak of vomiting and diarrhea has carried on for days.

“On average, about one a day goes to the hospital,” said Bob Christensen, 77, smoking a cigarette outside the exhibit hall and watching a cleanup crew with mops and buckets begin wiping down the metal door handles with a powerful chemical disinfectant.

Trump World

mar a lago aerial Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Most charities that deserted Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club after Charlottesville protests haven’t come back, David A. Fahrenthold, Nov. 20, 2018. Just two organizations that previously held high-dollar banquets at the resort in Palm Beach, Fla., shown above, returned this winter, a Washington Post analysis shows.

U.S. Politics

ny times logoirs logoNew York Times, Did a Tax Increase Tucked Into Trump’s Tax Cut Come Back to Bite Republicans? Jim Tankersley and Ben Casselman, Nov. 20, 2018 (print edition). Republicans capped a popular deduction for state and local taxes to pay for the tax bill. That may have hurt some House Republicans in the midterms.

President Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax cut was supposed to be a big selling point for congressional Republicans in the midterm elections. Instead, it appears to have done more to hurt than help Republicans in high-tax districts across California, New Jersey, Virginia and other states.

House Republicans suffered heavy Election Day losses in districts where large concentrations of taxpayers claim a popular tax break — the state and local tax deduction — which the law capped at $10,000 per household. The new limit resulted in an effective tax increase for high-earning residents of high-tax states who claim more than $10,000 per year in SALT.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: It’s time for the rats to leave Trump’s sinking ship, Eugene Robinson, Nov. 20, 2018 (print edition). ‘I would give myself an A-plus’: Six key takeaways from Trump’s Fox News interview.

Like a television show that has jumped the shark, President Trump’s frantic act grows more desperate and pathetic by the day.

Asked by Chris Wallace of “Fox News Sunday” to grade his presidency, Trump absurdly replied: “Look, I hate to do it, but I will do it, I would give myself an A-plus. Is that enough? Can I go higher than that?”

george conway twitterMuch closer to the mark is the assessment by Republican lawyer and operative George Conway, right, the husband of one of Trump’s closest White House aides, counselor Kellyanne Conway: “The administration is like a s—show in a dumpster fire.”

And it is all getting worse. The cravenness, incompetence, corruption, dysfunction, insanity — all of it.

Trump is anxious to award himself high marks because the nation, in no uncertain terms, just flunked him. A blue wave swept Democrats to take control of the House, with the party grabbing its biggest haul of GOP-held seats since the Watergate midterm following Richard M. Nixon’s resignation in 1974.

Business Crime

ny times logoNew York Times, DealBook Briefing: Can Carlos Ghosn’s Auto Empire Survive His Fall? Staff report, Nov. 20, 2018 (print edition). His arrest may spell big trouble for the three carmakers he has overseen, Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi.

Chicago Hospital Shooting

ny times logoNew York Times, Four People Dead After Shooting at Chicago Hospital, Mitch Smith, Nov. 20, 2018 (print edition). As a frantic scene played out inside and outside Mercy Hospital, south of Chicago’s downtown, four people were shot and killed. Among the dead, according to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, were a police officer, a doctor and a pharmacy employee. The gunman was also killed.

Californian Mass Killing Confession

washington post logoWashington Post, He claims he’s America’s deadliest serial killer with 90 victims. Police believe him, Kyle Swenson, Nov. 20, 2018. Samuel Little, who was convicted of three California murders in 2014, now claims he was involved in 90 killings across the country between 1970 and 2013.

Nov. 19

Trump Watch

washington post logowilliam mcraven 2012Washington Post, Trump risks alienating military community with attacks on revered admiral, Paul Sonne and Philip Rucker, Nov. 19, 2018 (print edition).  President Trump’s deriding remarks about retired Adm. William H. McRaven, right, came amid broader questions about the commander in chief’s relationship with the military.

djt gage skidmore2 cpacPresident Trump (shown in a Gage Skidmore photo) has long put the American military at the center of his presidential brand, tapping retired officers to serve as advisers, touting increases in defense spending, and citing support from troops and veterans as a sign of his success.

But the commander in chief has risked alienating parts of the military community by escalating a fight with one of its most revered members, retired Adm. William H. McRaven, amid other recent remarks and decisions that have fanned controversy in the ranks and among some who served.

washington post logocia logoWashington Post, Calling it a ‘suffering tape,’ Trump says he won’t listen to audio of journalist’s killing, Felicia Sonmez and Karen DeYoung, Nov. 19, 2018 (print edition). Despite the conclusions of the CIA, President Trump indicated that he believes claims by the Saudi crown prince that he had nothing to do with the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. He also dismissed a growing clamor among lawmakers for the kingdom to face more consequences for the murder.

washington post logoWashington Post, A look at Trump’s ‘A-plus’ weekend: Finnish leaf-raking, ‘Pleasure,’ Calif., and Adam ‘Schitt,’ Antonia Noori Farzan, Nov. 19, 2018. Asked how he would grade his presidency during a Sunday morning interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News, President Trump offered only the smallest amount of hesitation before giving himself top marks.

Donald Trump“Look, I hate to do it, but I will do it, I would give myself an A-plus,” he answered. “Is that enough? Can I go higher than that?”

Others might disagree with his self-assessment. This weekend, Trump managed to insult a venerated military veteran, mangled the name of a wildfire-scarred town that he had just left, confused the president of Finland by making strange comments about leaf raking and, like a grade-schooler, attempted to taunt a critic in Congress with a naughty play on his name. All in just 48 hours.

Politics & Courts

matthew whitaker agDaily Beast, Senate Democrats Sue To Block Matt Whitaker From Serving as Attorney General, Betsy Woodruff and Sam Stein, Nov. 19, 2018. This is now the second legal action seeking to stop the now-acting AG from serving any longer

Daily Beast, Thomas Farr Devised Ways to Keep Blacks From Voting. Mitch McConnell Wants to Make Him a Judge, Jay Michaelson, Nov. 19, 2018. A protégé of Jesse Helms wrote a law targeting minority voters with ‘surgical precision’ in North Carolina. His nomination is part of a plan to pack the courts with extremists.

Media / Press Freedom

washington post logoWashington Post, CNN seeks emergency court hearing after White House promises revocation of Acosta’s credentials again, Meagan Flynn, Nov. 19, 2018. CNN and the network’s chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta have asked a federal judge for an emergency hearing after the White House sent Acosta a letter saying it planned to suspend Acosta’s press pass again, just hours after the same judge ordered the White House to temporarily restore Acosta’s credentials Friday.

cnn logoThe 14-day order was issued Friday, and unless the judge extends it, it will expire at the end of the month.

In light of the White House’s unexpected action, the network’s lawyer requested an expedited schedule which would allow the judge to enter a more lasting preliminary injunction against the White House. The renewed confrontation represents an unusual escalation in the court battle between Trump, on the one hand, and CNN and Acosta, both regular targets of the president’s wrath for reporting on his administration.

Education / Diversity

washington post logoWashington Post, Michael Bloomberg gives Johns Hopkins a record $1.8 billion for student financial aid, Nick Anderson, Nov. 19, 2018 (print edition). The former New York City mayor’s gift, believed to be the largest private donation in modern times to higher education, was made in hopes of making the admissions process at his alma mater “forever need-blind.”  ​

ny times logomichael bloombergNew York Times, Opinion: Why I’m Giving $1.8 Billion for College Financial Aid, Michael R. Bloomberg, right, Nov. 19, 2018 (print edition). Let’s eliminate money problems from the admissions equation for qualified students.

U.S. Politics

Roll Call, 5 House Races Still Uncalled Nearly 2 Weeks After Midterms, Griffin Connolly, Nov. 19, 2018. A handful of House races up in the air. House Democrats have long since passed the threshold for a majority that they haven’t held since 2010. They currently have 232 seats called in their favor with the potential to win some of those five not-yet-called races. They’re likely to finish around 234 with a 33-seat majority. Here are the races yet to be called as of Monday that will determine the size of the Republicans’ majority in the Senate and the Democrats’ in the House.

washington post logoWashington Post, Broward County election supervisor Brenda Snipes resigns following chaotic Florida recount, Kyle Swenson, Nov. 19, 2018.  After a chaotic recount that drew national attention to South Florida, Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes resigned from her post Sunday.

The news, first reported by the Sun Sentinel, comes after an intense two-week period following the November midterm elections and vociferous attacks on Snipes and her office, as Broward recounted ballots from Florida’s contentious Senate and governor races.

nancy pelosi oRoll Call, 16 Pelosi Opponents Sign Letter Saying They Won’t Vote For Her for Speaker, Lindsey McPherson, Nov 19, 2018. Sixteen Democrats have signed a letter released Monday saying they will vote against Nancy Pelosi for speaker, which is more votes than the California Democrat can afford to lose in a floor vote if all House members participate. However, two of the signees — Ben McAdams of Utah and Anthony Bridnisi of New York — are in races that have yet to be called.

Counting only those races that have been called, there will be 232 Democrats next year, meaning Pelosi (right) can only lose 14 of them in a floor vote for speaker and get to 218. That’s the number she’ll need to be elected speaker unless some members don’t vote or vote “present,” thus lowering the majority threshold.

democratic donkey logoThere at least a few members and members-elect who have vowed to oppose Pelosi on the floor that did not sign the letter, including Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia. Notably absent from the letter is Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge, who is considering challenging Pelosi for speaker. Fudge said she wasn’t deterred from running after meeting with Pelosi Friday but that she wouldn’t make a decision until after Thanksgiving.

Health / Smallpox Controversy

washington post logoWashington Post, Anti-vaccination stronghold in N.C. hit with state’s worst chickenpox outbreak in 2 decades, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Nov. 19, 2018. Chickenpox has taken hold of a school in North Carolina where many families claim religious exemption from vaccines.

Cases of chickenpox have been multiplying at the Asheville Waldorf School, which serves children from nursery school to sixth grade in Asheville, N.C. About a dozen infections grew to 28 at the beginning of the month. By Friday, there were 36, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported.

The outbreak ranks as the state’s worst since the chickenpox vaccine became available more than 20 years ago. Since then, the two-dose course has succeeded in limiting the highly contagious disease that once affected 90 percent of Americans — a public health breakthrough.

The school is a symbol of the small but strong movement against the most effective means of preventing the spread of infectious diseases. The percentage of children under 2 years old who haven’t received any vaccinations has quadrupled since 2001, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

chris hedgesOpEdNews, Opinion: Are We About to Face Our Gravest Constitutional Crisis? Chris Hedges, right, Nov. 19, 2018. Before this lame-duck Congress adjourns in December we could face the most serious constitutional crisis in the history of the republic if Donald Trump attempts to shut down the investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

A supine and pliant Republican Party, still in control of the House and the Senate, would probably not challenge Trump. The Supreme Court, which would be the final arbiter in any legal challenge to the president, would probably not rule against him. And his cultish followers, perhaps 40 million Americans, would respond enthusiastically to his trashing of democratic institutions and incitements of violence against the press, the Democratic Party leadership, his critics and all who take to the streets in protest.

The United States by Christmas, if Trump plays this card, could become a full-blown authoritarian state where the rule of law no longer exists and the president is a despot.

nader r 0 11The potential crisis the nation faces is far more serious than the one that occurred when it was revealed that President Richard Nixon had funded and covered up he June 17, 1972, burglary at Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington.

“Trump knows once the Democrats control the House, they can subpoena the records of his administration,” Ralph Nader said when I reached him by phone in Connecticut. “He’s going to want to get this over with, even if it sparks a constitutional crisis, while the Republicans still control the Congress. There’s little doubt this will all come to a head before the Christmas holidays. Unfortunately for Mueller, he has not issued a subpoena to the president that would have protected him [Mueller]. If he had issued a subpoena, which he has every right to do, especially after being rebuffed in hours and hours of private negotiations for information from the president, he would be protected. Once you issue a subpoena, you have a lot of law on your side. If Trump defied a s

daniel best hhs

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative commentary, Another suspicious death and kooks blame Hillary, Nov. 19, 2018. Perhaps no other journalist has covered, in depth, more suspicious deaths in the nation’s capital than this editor.

So, when the problematic Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) of the District of Columbia ruled the suspicious death of Daniel Best, the Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Health and Human Services for Drug Pricing Reform, Food and Drug Administration, a “suicide,” we were naturally cynical.

See also:, Death of HHS official Daniel Best is ruled a suicide, Sabrina Eaton, Nov. 15, 2018.

U.S. Election Fraud Claims

whowhatwhy election integrity feed

WhoWhatWhy graphic illustrating its ongoing investigations of voter suppression and electronic election frauds

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Investigative commentary: It’s Time to Start Punishing Election Officials for Security and Privacy Violations, Kris Constable, Nov. 19, 2018. Millions of Americans are voting on hackable machines with no paper trail. Cyber systems are wide-open to attack. It’s time for election officials to take their security and privacy responsibilities seriously.

Bulger Mob Murder

ny times logoNew York Times, The Whitey Bulger Murder Mystery: A Prison Full of Suspects, Danielle Ivory and Serge F. Kovaleski, Nov. 19, 2018. When a gangster was transferred to Hazelton prison and placed with other inmates rather than in solitary confinement, it was “a death sentence,” an employee said.

whitey bulger US Marshals Service Mug1An unusual murder mystery is playing out inside the Hazelton penitentiary in West Virginia.

The prime suspects — inmates — are already locked up. The victim was an aging mobster, someone plenty of people had reason to want dead.But how James (Whitey) Bulger, right, the crime boss and law enforcement informant from Boston, came to be murdered just a few hours after arriving at Hazelton is still a puzzle.

Among the questions investigators are trying to answer, according to interviews with more than a dozen Federal Bureau of Prisons employees, lawyers with clients inside and relatives of inmates, are these: Of at least four men sent to solitary confinement following the attack, which ones beat him to death?

Why was Mr. Bulger, a notorious informant in frail health, placed with other inmates in the general population?

Global Affairs; Syria

syrian flag wavingMoon of Alabama, Opinion: Syria – Back In The Arab Fold, B, Nov. 19, 2018. Following Syria’s military success against its enemies, Arab states which supported the war on Syria are again making nice with it. The United Arab Emirates will reopen its embassy in Damascus. Kuwait and Bahrain will follow. Today a delegation of parliamentarians from Jordan visited Damascus and met with President Assad.

Behind this change is a fear of renewed Turkish ambitions. Not only Saudi Arabia but all the Arab states do not want Turkey to expand and become more powerful. They do not want to see Arab land in Syria under Turkish control. The sole exception so far is Qatar which is allied with Turkey and has Turkish troops on its land to protect it from Saudi imperialism.

Inside DC / Transparency

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump caves, Bill Palmer, Nov. 19, 2018. For all the chaotic and unstable things he says and does, there are two consistent patterns when it comes to Donald Trump. One is that, when he launches a verbal attack against someone and it goes poorly for him, he usually keeps digging himself a deeper hole. The other is that, when he takes tangible action against someone and it goes poorly for him, he tends to quickly back down. Sure enough, it’s happened again.

jim acosta gage skidmore croppedDonald Trump and his White House launched a surreal attempt at singling out and punishing CNN reporter Jim Acosta, right, who has spent the past two years asking too tough questions.

By now we’re all aware that CNN went into court and, with a little help from its competitors, including Fox News, convinced a judge to temporarily reinstate Jim Acosta’s press pass on a emergency basis. But over the weekend, the Trump White House publicly hinted that it would revoke Acosta’s credentials again as soon as the temporary injunction expired, which would have sent the battle back to court. That went over poorly, so sure enough, the Trump regime announced today that Acosta will permanently get his press pass back.

Huffington Post, White House Correspondents’ Dinner Won’t Feature Comedian For First Time In 16 Years, Jenna Amatulli, Nov. 19, 2018. The White House Correspondents’ Association 2019 dinner will not feature a comedian for the first time in 16 years after the group was engulfed in controversy over comedian Michelle Wolf’s 2018 performance.

Ron Chernow, the famed biographer of Alexander Hamilton, will be the featured speaker at the 2019 dinner on April 27, the association said Monday. Chernow wrote the 2004 biography of Hamilton that spawned the eponymous Broadway musical.

“The White House Correspondents’ Association has asked me to make the case for the First Amendment and I am happy to oblige,” Chernow said in a statement issued by the correspondents’ association. “Freedom of the press is always a timely subject and this seems like the perfect moment to go back to basics. My major worry these days is that we Americans will forget who we are as a people and historians should serve as our chief custodians in preserving that rich storehouse of memory.”

michael avenatti sketchDomestic Violence Dispute

TheWrap, Jacob Wohl Files Police Report After Michael Avenatti Tweets: ‘I Am Coming for You,’ Jon Levine, Nov. 19, 2018. Police spoke to Wohl but have taken no other action. Right-wing provocateur Jacob Wohl escalated a fight with Michael Avenatti, right, by filing an incident report with police after Avenatti said he was “coming after” Wohl.

The incident report came after Avenatti suggested in a tweet Friday that Wohl played a part in Avenatti’s arrest on domestic violence charges. Avenatti, best known for representing Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against President Trump, suggested that Wohl was also behind baseless accusations against special counsel Robert Mueller.

“First Mueller and now me. When we are fully exonerated I am coming for you Jacob Wohl aka Surefire,” Avenatti wrote, referring to Wohl’s opposition research company.

Avenatti has continued tweeting about Wohl, a 20-year-old blogger who says he lives in Irvine. “I have located someone more dishonest with less of a moral compass and lower standards than Donald Trump. His name is Jacob Wohl. And I am going to make it part of my life’s work to bring him to justice,” Avenatti tweeted on Sunday.

In a statement to TheWrap, Wohl denied any involvement in Avenatti’s arrest and said he looked forward to attending the attorney’s court appearance in December.

“I had nothing to do with Avenatti’s arrest. I’ve not been served with any papers. He would be well advised to stop threatening me. He is attempting to deflect blame away from the very serious charge he is facing,” Wohl told TheWrap. On Monday, actress Mareli Miniutti filed for a domestic violence restraining order against Avenatti. Avenatti tweeted Monday evening: “I look forward to a full clearing of my name and disclosure of all of the facts. I have NEVER abused a woman or committed domestic violence against anyone. Any claim to the contrary is completely bogus and fabricated. I am a target. And I will be exonerated.”

Wohl — a former Gateway Pundit writer — received public attention recently when he and lobbyist Jack Burkman attempted to snare Robert Mueller in a #MeToo scandal. The plot swiftly unraveled after media scrutiny and bizarre press conference the pair held in Washington D.C. on Nov. 1.

Biased Political Reporter Fired

washington post logoWashington Post, A reporter unwittingly left a voice mail for a GOP candidate. She was fired for what she said, Alex Horton, Nov. 20, 2018. Brenda Battel, a staff writer for the Huron Daily Tribune in rural Michigan, was seeking a chance to speak with Republican Senate candidate John James on Wednesday after the election.

Battel left a voice-mail message with the James campaign, and alerted it to a potential follow-up email to further discuss his campaign against Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D). Then Battel hung up the phone — or so she believed, she later said.

“Man, if he beats her … Jesus! F—ing John James. That would suck!” Battel is heard saying in a voice mail released by the James campaign. “I don’t think it’s going to happen though.”

The incident prompted the Daily Tribune to fire Battel later Monday after less than three years on staff. Battel responded Wednesday in a statement.

Crime, Courts

Associated Press via WAAY-TV (ABC Channel 31, Montgomery, Alabama), Prosecutor Hart out at Alabama attorney general’s office, Staff report, Nov. 19, 2018. Hart led the special prosecutions division under then-Attorney General Luther Strange and remained after Marshall took over.

Matt Hart, a prosecutor who led some of the state’s highest-profile corruption probes, has suddenly left the Alabama attorney general’s office. A spokesman said Attorney General Steve Marshall accepted Hart’s resignation on Monday and thanked him for his service.

Spokesman Mike Lewis declined to comment further, including on whether Marshall asked for the resignation. Hart did not immediately return a text message seeking comment.

Hart led the special prosecutions division under then-Attorney General Luther Strange and remained after Marshall took over. Hart led the case against former House Speaker Mike Hubbard who was convicted on multiple ethics charges. As a federal prosecutor, he led a probe of the two-year college system.

While known for his tenacity in corruption probes, Hart was sometimes criticized by defense lawyers for his aggressiveness.

Bar Passage Rates Fall

aba logoABA Journal, Lowest bar pass rate for California in 67 years; other states see drop, too, Stephanie Francis Ward, Nov. 19, 2018. Only 40.7 percent of the people who took the California July 2018 bar exam passed, according to a state bar news release.

Admitting law students with below-average LSAT scores and undergraduate GPAs, along with accusations that people don’t study enough for the bar, are often listed as reasons why pass rates have dropped.

What should be considered — but often is not — is that rote memorization is needed to pass a bar exam, and many new law graduates didn’t grow up with educations that focused on that skill, compared to prior generations, says Andrea A. Curcio, a professor at the Georgia State University College of Law, whose academic work includes examining law school learning assessments.

Nov. 18

Trump Watch

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Says He’s Unlikely to Sit for Interview in Russia Investigation, Maggie Haberman, Nov. 18, 2018. President Trump said in an interview aired Sunday that he robert mueller full face filemost likely would not sit for an interview with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, right, asserting that “we’ve wasted enough time on this witch hunt and the answer is, probably, we’re finished.”

The president also claimed that he had no idea that his acting attorney general, Matthew G. Whitaker, viewed the Mueller investigation skeptically, despite reports that the two had multiple conversations about the inquiry over the past year.

President Donald Trump officialThe comments from Mr. Trump were made during a wide-ranging, sometimes testy interview with Chris Wallace, the host of “Fox News Sunday,” who sat with the president at the White House last week. The president continued to be defensive about his abandoned trip to an American military cemetery during a visit to Paris last week, insulted the widely respected retired Navy admiral who oversaw the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and said he declined to listen to an audio recording of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi being killed by people connected to the Saudi crown prince last month.

His comments on the Mueller investigation marked an apparent reversal from a year of claiming that he was willing and eager to be interviewed by the special counsel, who is investigating possible collusion between the president’s campaign and Russian officials during the 2016 election. Mr. Trump’s legal team has blanched at the idea, fearing that the president might lie under oath, and has steadily narrowed the path for such an interview.

Nov. 18

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump Says He Wouldn’t Stop Acting Attorney General From Curtailing Mueller, Felicia Sonmez, Nov. 18, 2018. President Trump said he would not overrule his acting attorney general, Matthew G. Whitaker, if he decides to curtail the special counsel probe being led by Robert S. Mueller III into Russian interference in the 2016 election campaign.

“Look, it’s going to be up to him . . . I would not get involved,” Trump said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday.”

In the weeks since Trump forced Jeff Sessions to resign as attorney general and chose Whitaker to serve as his interim replacement, Whitaker has faced calls from Democrats to recuse himself from oversight of the probe given his previous criticism of the investigation. Trump said in Sunday’s interview that he “did not know [Whitaker] took views on the Mueller investigation as such” before he appointed him to his position.

Trump also essentially shut the door to sitting down with Mueller, telling host Chris Wallace that his written answers mean “probably this is the end” of his involvement in the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign.

“I think we’ve wasted enough time on this witch hunt and the answer is probably: We’re finished,” Trump said. He said that he had given “very complete answers to a lot of questions” and that “that should solve the problem.”

Trump said Friday that he had answered a set of written questions from Mueller “very easily.” The president told Wallace in Sunday’s interview that it “wasn’t a big deal” and that he expects his legal team to submit the answers “at some point very soon.”

U.S. Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Rick Scott Wins Florida Senate Race After Recount, Patricia Mazzei, Frances Robles and Maggie Astor, Nov. 18, 2018. Gov. Rick Scott became Florida’s next senator on Sunday, a feat delayed by a grueling 12-day recount that arrived at the same inexorable truth that emerged deep into election night: Mr. Scott, left, a Republican who entered the public arena only eight years ago, has become a formidable political force.

rick scott blue shirt fileAfter all the vote-tallying, accusation-trading and lawsuit-filing, Mr. Scott’s Democratic opponent, Senator Bill Nelson, accepted defeat once a manual recount showed him still trailing, by 10,033 votes out of more than 8.1 million cast.

Mr. Nelson’s concession brought Florida’s turbulent midterm election to its long-awaited close after a statewide recount did nothing to alter the race’s outcome, other than narrow the margin between candidates in the profoundly divided state.

ny times logoNew York Times, If Not Pelosi, Who? The Question Hovers Over a Simmering Rebellion, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Nov. 18, 2018. Among House Democrats, a quiet rebellion simmers in their ranks to block Representative Nancy Pelosi of California from being speaker. But would-be challengers are keenly aware of the immense power Ms. Pelosi wields, and fearful of testing the status quo.

nancy pelosiWhat if House Democrats tried to stage a coup and nobody showed up? That is the predicament facing Democrats as a quiet rebellion simmers in their ranks to block Representative Nancy Pelosi of California from being speaker. Inside the Capitol and at nearby watering holes and restaurants, there are hopeful whispers among a small band of Democrats that a fresh-faced new leader will come forward to challenge Ms. Pelosi, who has led House Democrats for 15 years.

democratic donkey logoBut so far, no one has emerged to take her on. As much as some House Democrats, including several among the wave of newcomers elected this month, say they want to shake up a calcified party leadership, would-be challengers are keenly aware of the immense power Ms. Pelosi wields, and fearful of institutional retribution and reputational damage if they step forward to test the status quo.

ny times logoNew York Times, Vote-Stealing Battle in Florida Portends More Distrust in 2020, Glenn Thrush and Jeremy W. Peters, Nov. 18, 2018. More than just a flashback to 2000, the Florida recount is an ominous dry run for messaging about vote-stealing that will further erode confidence in the election process.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosThe chaotic images out of Florida’s election recount last week — the brigade of Washington lawyers, the déjà vu meltdown of the tallying in Broward County, the vitriolic charges and countercharges — have prompted flashbacks among the electorate of the 2000 presidential election.

Yet to the combatants in both parties fighting over impossibly tight races for governor and senate, the 2018 election was less about revisiting past political traumas than about setting the stage for the bitter 2020 campaign ahead. The legal and political skirmishing in the state, Republicans and Democrats say, has been an ominous dry run for messaging and tactics about fraud and vote-stealing that threaten to further undermine confidence in the electoral system.

Florida emerged from the 2018 midterms with a fortified reputation as the nation’s most competitive battleground, a state whose political culture most closely reflects the slashing political style of its adopted son, President Trump — with candidates focused on energizing voters with visceral, at times over-the-top, messages.

That approach is “not a good long-term strategy for the party or for the country,” said Miami-area Representative Carlos Curbelo, one of two Republican House members in Florida to lose their seats to Democrats.

Murder, Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Why Trump Is Sticking With the Saudi Crown Prince, Mark Landler, Nov. 18, 2018. As evidence piles up pointing to the Saudi crown prince’s mohammed bin salman al saudresponsibility in the brutal killing of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, President Trump has only hardened his refusal to concede any possibility that the prince had a hand in the crime.

Mr. Trump, who had once condemned the Saudi leaders for perpetrating “the worst cover-up in history,” praised Saudi Arabia this weekend as a “truly spectacular ally,” even after the C.I.A. concluded that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, the kingdom’s de facto leader, ordered the murder.

U.S. Election Fraud Claims

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Investigative commentary: Forget ‘Fraud’ — Florida Has Bigger Issues, David Barry and Nina Sparling, Nov. 18, 2018. Election integrity issues in Florida have much less to do with fraud than with mismanagement and explicit attempts to skirt the law.

Migrant Caravan

ny times logoNew York Times, Long Wait Lies Ahead for Migrant Caravan, Elisabeth Malkin, Nov. 18, 2018. As many as 10,000 Central Americans may reach Tijuana, Mexico, in the coming weeks. The city is scrambling to provide for them.

After more than a month on the move, a caravan of migrants from Central America has come to a halt just a few yards from the border wall that divides Mexico and the United States.

The metal barrier looms near the sports center where Tijuana’s city government has set up a shelter for the migrants, whose numbers are swelling as buses arrive almost daily. On the other side — beyond floodlights, motion sensors, cameras and a second fence — lies their goal: the United States.

But it is dawning on many of them that the shelter could be their home for months if they decide to seek legal entry into the United States.

“We have to wait — for how long?” asked Lenin Herrera Batres, 20, who joined the caravan with his wife and their 2-year-old son to escape threats after the couple witnessed a murder in the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula.

“We don’t have the money to stay here for one month, two months,” he said, his voice trailing off.

Less than a week old, the shelter has assumed the squalor of an overwhelmed refugee camp, and the rhythms of enforced idleness have taken hold. One group spends hours watching karaoke singers at an end of the basketball courts there, while men bet on cards at the other. Children dart around a playground. Women fold donated blankets in the reflexive gestures of tidying up at home, now just a tiny patch under a large tent.

caravan mexico file photo

The “Caravan” of migrants travelling north from Central America towards the United States (file photo).

BuzzFeed, Trump’s Nationalist Rhetoric Has Trickled Down To Mexico — And Turned People Against The Caravan, Karla Zabludovsky, Nov. 18, 2018. Marches in support of and against the migrant caravan faced off in Tijuana on Sunday, underscoring the increasingly polarized debate over immigration in the border city — and the country.

The sun beat down on Rebeca Escala’s hands as she gripped a sign at a roundabout in this border city: “Tijuana, home of immigrants.” Around her, about a dozen people waved multicolor flags and handwritten placards denouncing xenophobia.

Suddenly, the small group dispersed. About 100 anti-immigrant protesters who had gathered at another traffic circle down the block, many of them wearing black, were making their way toward them, yelling, “Out, Hondurans! We don’t want you here!”

At times sprinting and eventually growing to nearly 300 total, the self-described nationalist demonstrators reached the perimeter of the shelter, where 2,526 recently arrived migrants are being housed. A line of riot police stood between the crowd and the families inside.

“It’s barbaric. They are influenced by Trump’s speech,” said Escala, 28.

The two dueling marches — one in support of and one against the migrant caravan — are a window into the burgeoning, and at times vitriolic, debate over immigration in Mexico. In recent months, it has awoken nationalistic and xenophobic rhetoric rarely heard here but increasingly normalized north of the border with the political rise of President Donald Trump.
Like Trump and many of his supporters, residents of northern Mexico have compared migrants of the Central American caravan that entered the country last month to animals, accused them of posing a risk to women, and claimed that they are bringing filth and disease with them. On Wednesday, several anti-immigrant protesters tried to run off a group of migrants who had recently sought shelter in Playas, a borough of the city.

Global News: Israel

ny times logoNew York Times, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, citing security issues, is trying to salvage his government, Nov. 19, 2018 (print edition)..

Nov. 16

Report: CIA Findings On Khashoggi Murder

ny times logoNew York Times, C.I.A. Concludes That Saudi Crown Prince Ordered Khashoggi Killed, Julian E. Barnes, Nov. 16, 2018. An autopsy expert. A lookalike. A black van. Our video investigation follows the movements of the 15-man Saudi hit team that killed and dismembered the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.Published On

cia logoThe Central Intelligence Agency has concluded that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, ordered the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to American officials. The C.I.A. made the assessment based on the crown prince’s control of Saudi Arabia, which is such that the killing would not have taken place without his approval, and has buttressed its conclusion with two sets of crucial communications: intercepts of the crown prince’s calls in the days before the killing, and calls by the kill team to a senior aide to the crown prince.

mohammad bin salman cropped fileThe C.I.A. has believed for weeks that Prince Mohammed, left, was culpable in Mr. Khashoggi’s killing but had been hesitant to definitively conclude that he directly ordered it. The agency has passed that assessment on to lawmakers and Trump administration officials.

The change in C.I.A. thinking came as new information emerged, officials said. The evidence included an intercept showing a member of the kill team calling an aide to Prince Mohammed and saying “tell your boss” that the mission was accomplished. Officials cautioned, however, that the new information is not direct evidence linking Prince Mohammed to the assassination, which was carried out in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Wildfires, Mueller, Election Overviews

Progressive Radio Network, California Fires, Mueller vs. The Mobster, & Stolen Elections, Solartopia Green Power and Wellness Hour Host: Harvey Wasserman with guests: Fire refugee Lance Simmens, and authors Craig Unger, Andrew Kreig and Jonathan Simon, Nov. 16, 2018. Today we start with the MALIBU FIRES and one of its refugees, LANCE SIMMENS. We then explore what we expect from the Mueller Report and the criminal in the White House, with world-class experts CRAIG UNGER and ANDREW KREIG.

We finish with JON SIMON, author of CODE RED to dissect what’s happening in the almost-but-not-yet-entirely STOLEN ELECTIONS IN FLORIDA & GEORGIA. A fantastic round robin. Don’t miss this show.

Trump Watch

bill palmerPalmer Report, Opinion: You’d better believe Robert Mueller is investigating Anthony Kennedy’s connection to Trump-Russia, Bill Palmer, right, Nov. 18, 2018. Earlier, Palmer Report pulled together all the confirmed pieces of the puzzle when it comes to Donald Trump, Russia, Deutsche Bank, and retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, shown below left. We argued that while the mountain of circumstantial evidence doesn’t prove anything, it’s the kind of situation that calls for a criminal investigation.

anthony kennedy oBased on the pattern we’ve watched play out with Robert Mueller over the past year, we can virtually guarantee you that one of two scenarios is true. Either Mueller and his team began investigating the Trump-Kennedy-Russia connection the minute it showed up in newspaper headlines last week, or Mueller and his team already knew about it and their investigation into it is well underway. How can we be so sure?

Robert Mueller (FBI Official Photo)We’re looking at a situation where a Supreme Court Justice’s son used his position at a major bank to steer absurdly inappropriate loans to Donald Trump, at the same time that bank just happened to be laundering billions of dollars of Russian money into the hands of clients in the city where Trump lived, even as Russia was working to get Trump elected President, and then that same Justice stepped down at just the right time to help Trump.

You’d better believe Robert Mueller, right, is looking into something that obvious and ominous – and if it is indeed a criminal matter, he’ll pursue it and expose it.

Trump Rants Against Prosecutors

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump blasts Mueller probe a week after installing new acting attorney general, John Wagner, Nov. 16, 2018 (print edition). President Trump on Thursday lashed out anew at the investigation of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, calling his team of lawyers “a disgrace to our NationNation” and accusing them, without evidence, of threatening witnesses to get answers they want.

matthew whitaker headshot recentTrump’s rant, in a pair of morning tweets, came a week after the installation of Matthew G. Whitaker, right, as acting attorney general, a move many Democrats have said appears designed to curtail Mueller’s investigation into possible coordination between Russia and Trump’s campaign during the 2016 election.

Donald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)Trump angrily dismissed a reporter’s question about that notion last week and said he had not spoken to Whitaker about the Russia probe before naming him to replace ousted Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Many of Trump’s complaints in Thursday’s tweets were familiar, but they took on heightened significance with Whitaker now overseeing Mueller’s probe, which is also examining whether Trump has obstructed justice.

washington post logoWashington Post, WikiLeaks founder hit with U.S. charges, court filing inadvertently reveals, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett, Nov. 16, 2018.  In a development that could advance the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and have major implications for those who publish government secrets, the WikiLeaks’s Julian Assange has been charged under seal, prosecutors inadvertently revealed in a court filing from another case.

julian assange indicter imageWikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been charged under seal, prosecutors inadvertently revealed in a recently unsealed court filing — a development that could significantly advance the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and have major implications for those who publish government secrets.

The disclosure came in a filing in a case unrelated to Assange. [JIP editor’s note: Assange is shown in a photo by the human rights webzine The Indicter, which has published numerous columns showing that Sweden’s sex allegations against Assange were politically motivated and otherwise trumped up].

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kellen S. Dwyer, urging a judge to keep the matter sealed, wrote that “due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged.” Later, Dwyer wrote the charges would “need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested.”

Dwyer is also assigned to the WikiLeaks case. People familiar with the matter said what Dwyer was disclosing was true, but unintentional.

Federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia have long been investigating Assange and, in the Trump administration, had begun taking a second look at whether to charge members of the WikiLeaks organization for the 2010 leak of diplomatic cables and military documents that the anti-secrecy group published. Investigators also had explored whether WikiLeaks could face criminal liability for the more recent revelation of sensitive CIA cybertools.

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III also has explored WikiLeaks’ publication of emails from the Democratic National Committee and the account of Hillary Clinton’s then-campaign chairman, John D. Podesta. Officials have alleged that the emails were hacked by Russian spies and transferred to WikiLeaks.

Feared WildFire Toll Mounts

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Investigative commentary: California Is Burning — Here’s Why, Jeff Schechtman, Nov. 16, 2018. 30 percent of California is forested. There are over 129 million dead trees, residential buildings increasingly closer to wildland, and conflicts about who’s responsible for managing it all. What could go wrong?

washington post logoWashington Post, Calif. rescue teams scour for remains with more than 600 missing in fire, Tim Craig, Nov. 16, 2018. A week after the deadliest wildfire in the state’s history began, searchers are sifting through an estimated 10,000 structures destroyed by the Camp Fire in Northern California. The reports of missing people has increased dramatically to 631.

Inside TrumpWorld

washington post logoWashington Post, Despite GOP leaders’ pleas, Trump won’t promise border compromise to avert shutdown, Erica Werner and Damian Paletta, Nov. 16, 2018. In a meeting about keeping the federal government funded past Dec. 7, President Trump was noncommittal about how he would proceed, said the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative commentary, Diamonds are a con’s best friend: Are “Javanka” involved in Israeli diamond smuggling ring? Nov. 16, 2018. The arrest of several Israeli diamond business officials, some linked to Donald Trump’s son-in-law and daughter —Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, both White House officials, who are nicknamed “Javanka” by White House insiders — has law enforcement officers in at least four countries looking more deeply into the Trump family’s dubious business activities.

Elections: Dems Reach 35-Seat Margin

jared golden bruce poliquin

Roll Call, Maine’s Bruce Poliquin Loses in Ranked-Choice Voting, Simone Pathé, Nov. 16, 2018 (print edition). Democrat Jared Golden, above left, claimed lead after third-party candidate eliminated. Poliquin, above right; Loss Wipes Out New England Republicans in the House Democrats.

Democrat Jared Golden has defeated Maine Rep. Bruce Poliquin in the nation’s first use of ranked-choice voting for a congressional race, according to state election officials. The Democrat won just over 50 percent of the vote in round one of ranked-choice voting, meaning he’ll be the next congressman from the 2nd District unless Poliquin’s legal challenges to the voting system prevail.

A Golden win in the 2nd District, which President Donald Trump carried in 2016, mean Democrats have picked up 35 seats and wiped out all New England Republicans in the House.

Florida Senate Election

bill nelson rick scott collage

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge orders Florida to allow more time to clear up disputed signatures on some ballots, Sean Sullivan and Isaac Stanley-Becker, Nov. 16, 2018 (print edition). Florida’s historic recount was thrown once more into uncertainty Thursday when a federal judge ruled that voters whose mail-in and provisional ballots were rejected because of issues with their signatures will have two more days to resolve the problems and possibly have their votes counted.

The decision by Judge Mark Walker of the U.S. District Court in Tallahassee came just hours ahead of the Thursday afternoon deadline for elections officials to complete a machine recount. It is particularly notable in the too-close-to-call Senate race, in which Gov. Rick Scott (R), above right, leads Sen. Bill Nelson (D), above left, by fewer than 13,000 votes.

Walker’s decision affects Floridians who cast their ballots by mail, or voted provisionally, but whose signatures did not match records maintained by state officials. More than 4,000 ballots across 45 counties in Florida were set aside because of inconsistent signatures, he wrote in his opinion. In the other 22 counties, the number is unknown.

washington post logoWashington Post, Hand recount of some Florida ballots ordered in Senate race, Sean Sullivan, Lori Rozsa, Beth Reinhard and Amy Gardner, Nov. 16, 2018 (print edition). Republican Rick Scott, the state’s governor, held a lead of about 12,600 votes over the Democratic Senate incumbent, Bill Nelson, after the afternoon deadline for a machine recount of results.

andrew gillum oThe five-day sprint to run ballots in Florida through counting machines for a second time ended Thursday, with the state ordering a manual recount of results in the U.S. Senate race, where about 12,600 votes separated Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson from Republican Rick Scott, the state’s governor. No such measure was ordered in the governor’s race, where former congressman Ron DeSantis (R) held an edge over Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D), right.

At least three counties did not submit new totals for the machine recount and are relying on counts from last week. Palm Beach County’s election supervisor said less than an hour before the 3 p.m. deadline that they would not finish the machine recount in any of three statewide races still in question and would move on to the manual recount at 4 p.m. In Broward County, results from the machine recount were received at 3:02 p.m. — two minutes past the deadline. And in Hillsborough County, officials said the number of votes after the recount was lower, but the margins in the races were the same, so they were sticking with the first unofficial returns.

In the governor’s race, former congressman Ron DeSantis (R) held a 0.41 percent lead over Gillum at the start of the recount, outside the 0.25 percent threshold for a hand recount. Gillum said in a statement that he would not concede.

The state race for agriculture commissioner is also going to a manual recount.

#MeToo: U.S. Congress

Roll Call, Ruben Kihuen Harassed Women, Ethics Committee Finds, Katherine Tully-McManus, Nov. 16, 2018. Rep. Ruben Kihuen harassed women who worked with him and violated the House’s official code of conduct, according to a House Ethics Committee report released Thursday.

democratic donkey logo“Kihuen made persistent and unwanted advances towards women who were required to interact with him as part of their professional responsibilities,” the report says. The advances included kissing, grabbing and comments about underwear.

The release comes after a nine-month inquiry by an investigative subcommittee empaneled in December, 2017. The Nevada Democrat refused to resign following allegations of harassment by women who worked for and with him, even after top Democrats called on him to step down. But Kihuen decided not to seek re-election, making the announcement a day after the Ethics Committee launched its investigation.

Nov. 15

Facebook’s Sellout of Customers?

ny times logoNew York Times, Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook’s Leaders Fought Through Crisis, Sheera Frenkel, Nicholas Confessore, Cecilia Kang, Matthew Rosenberg and Jack Nicas, Nov. 15, 2018 (print edition). In just over a decade, Facebook has connected more than 2.2 billion people, a global nation unto itself that reshaped political campaigns, the advertising business and daily life around the world. Along the way, Facebook accumulated one of the largest-ever repositories of personal data, a treasure trove of photos, messages and likes facebook logothat propelled the company into the Fortune 500.

But as evidence accumulated that Facebook’s power could also be exploited to disrupt elections, broadcast viral propaganda and inspire deadly campaigns of hate around the globe, Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg stumbled. Bent on growth, the pair ignored warning signs and then sought to conceal them from public view. At critical moments over the last three years, they were distracted by personal projects, and passed off security and policy decisions to subordinates, according to current and former executives.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Facebook Wrestled With Scandal: 6 Key Takeaways From The Times’s Investigation, Nicholas Confessore and Matthew Rosenberg, Nov. 15, 2018 (print edition). For more than a year, Facebook has endured cascading crises — over Russian misinformation, data privacy and abusive content — that transformed the Silicon Valley icon into an embattled giant accused of corporate overreach and negligence.

facebook logoAn investigation by The New York Times revealed how Facebook fought back against its critics: with delays, denials and a full-bore campaign in Washington. Here are six takeaways.

Facebook knew about Russian interference. In fall 2016, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, was publicly declaring it a “crazy idea” that his company had played a role in deciding the election. But security experts at the company already knew otherwise.

They found signs as early as spring 2016 that Russian hackers were poking around the Facebook accounts of people linked to American presidential campaigns. Months later, they saw Russian-controlled accounts sharing information from hacked Democratic emails with reporters. Facebook accumulated evidence of Russian activity for over a year before executives opted to share what they knew with the public — and even their own board of directors.

Saudis Accuse Scapegoats?

washington post logoWashington Post, Saudi Arabia seeks death penalty for five suspects in killing of Jamal Khashoggi, Kareem Fahim​, Nov. 15, 2018 (print edition). Saudi Arabia said Thursday it has indicted 11 people in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last month and that it is seeking the death penalty against five of them for ordering and committing the killing, according to the country’s public prosecutor.

Saud al-Mojeb said in a statement that the former deputy head of intelligence, Ahmed al-Asiri, had dispatched a Saudi team to Turkey to negotiate Khashoggi’s return to Saudi mohammed bin salman al saudArabia. The order to kill the journalist came from the head of the Saudi team in Istanbul, the prosecutor added.

Officials in several countries have said it is unlikely Khashoggi could have been killed without the knowledge of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader. But no definitive evidence has emerged showing that Mohammed ordered the operation. Saudi officials deny that the crown prince was in any way responsible for Khashoggi’s death.

Potential U.S. Deal To Protect Saudis

nbc news logoNBC News, To ease Turkish pressure on Saudis over killing, White House weighs expelling Erdogan foe, Carol E. Lee, Julia Ainsley and Courtney Kube, Nov. 15, 2018. “Once they realized it was a serious request, the career guys were furious,” a U.S. official said of request tied to Khashoggi killing.

The White House is looking for ways to remove an enemy of Turkish President Recep Erdogan from the U.S. in order to placate Turkey over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to two senior U.S. officials and two other people briefed on the requests.

Trump administration officials last month asked federal law enforcement agencies to examine legal ways of removing exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, left, in an attempt to persuade Erdogan to ease pressure on the Saudi government, the four sources said.

fetullah gulen 2016The effort includes directives to the Justice Department and FBI that officials reopen Turkey’s case for his extradition, as well as a request to the Homeland Security Department for information about his legal status, the four people said.

They said the White House specifically wanted details about Gulen’s residency status in the U.S. Gulen has a Green Card, according to two people familiar with the matter. He has been living in Pennsylvania since the late 1990s.

Career officials at the agencies pushed back on the White House requests, the U.S. officials and people briefed on the requests said.

“At first there were eye rolls, but once they realized it was a serious request, the career guys were furious,” said a senior U.S. official involved in the process.

U.S. Election Update

Roll Call, 8 House Races, 1 Senate Race Still Uncalled as Florida Recount Deadline Nears, Griffin Connolly, Nov. 15, 2018. Officials have yet to determine the winners in one Senate contest and eight (now seven; see above.) House races — a week and two days after the midterm elections.

House Democrats have already passed the threshold for a majority that they haven’t held since 2010. They currently have 229 seats called in their favor with the potential for some of those eight not-yet-called races. They’re likely to finish in the low-230s with a 28- to 32-seat majority. Here are the races yet to be called as of 3 p.m. Wednesday afternoon that will determine the size of the Republicans’ majority in the Senate and the Democrats’ in the House:

2018 Senate Elections:

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge orders Florida to allow more time to clear up disputed signatures on some ballots, Sean Sullivan and Isaac Stanley-Becker, Nov. 16, 2018 (print edition). Florida’s historic recount was thrown once more into uncertainty Thursday when a federal judge ruled that voters whose mail-in and provisional ballots were rejected because of issues with their signatures will have two more days to resolve the problems and possibly have their votes counted.

rick scott blue shirt fileThe decision by Judge Mark Walker of the U.S. District Court in Tallahassee came just hours ahead of the Thursday afternoon deadline for elections officials to complete a machine recount. It is particularly notable in the too-close-to-call Senate race, in which Gov. Rick Scott (R), left, leads Sen. Bill Nelson (D) by fewer than 13,000 votes.

Walker’s decision affects Floridians who cast their ballots by mail, or voted provisionally, but whose signatures did not match records maintained by state officials. More than 4,000 ballots across 45 counties in Florida were set aside because of inconsistent signatures, he wrote in his opinion. In the other 22 counties, the number is unknown.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The real fraudster in Florida is Mitch McConnell, Dana Milbank, right, Nov. 15, 2018 (print edition). In Palm Beach, the elections supervisor said its outdated dana milbank Customequipment overheated, causing figures to not add up as it attempts to meet the recount deadline of Thursday. Equipment problems in Broward also delayed the recount.

There is deep cynicism in Republicans complaining about the lengthy recounts and, worse, suggesting fraud is the cause: They voted down funds for updated voting equipment for states. Senate Republicans on Aug. 1 blocked Sen. Patrick J. Leahy’s (D-Vt.) plan to send $250 million to states for cybersecurity and “replacing outdated election equipment.” A few weeks later, the bipartisan Secure Elections Act stalled in the Senate, in part because “we didn’t have the level of Republican support we needed.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Sloppy Signatures May Disqualify Thousands of Florida Votes, Glenn Thrush, Audra D. S. Burch and Frances Robles, Nov. 15, 2018 (print edition). Ballots were rejected because voters’ signatures did not match what was on file, which Democrats argued was disenfranchisement. The issue emerged as a central point of contention in the Florida recounts and touched on constitutional questions of equal protection and free speech.

The nuns at Zina Rodriguez’s Catholic school in the Bronx thwacked her knuckles to punish sloppy handwriting, so she was shocked when her mail-in ballot in Florida was rejected because her signature did not match the one on record with elections officials.

Ms. Rodriguez, a registered Democrat, found the rejection notice in her mailbox at 7 p.m. the night before the Nov. 6 election, two hours after the deadline for appeal had passed. When she protested at the Palm Beach County Board of Elections the next morning, she learned that the culprit was a driver’s license signature, hastily squiggled on an electronic signature pad two years earlier.

“There were 13 amendments on that ballot. The only reason I chose to write in was because I wanted time to research all the questions. I was fulfilling my responsibility,” said Ms. Rodriguez, 47, a behavioral health care consultant from Lake Worth, Fla. “All of that got thrown away because I wanted to get out of the D.M.V. office as fast as I can. It is incredibly upsetting.”

The issue of faulty signatures, especially on mail-in ballots, has emerged as a central point of contention in the county-by-county recounts taking place in Florida, with lawsuits spinning off the 2018 election like tornadoes off a hurricane.

bill nelsonLawyers for Senator Bill Nelson, left, a Democrat who in his bid for re-election is running slightly behind Gov. Rick Scott, his Republican challenger, were in federal court in Tallahassee on Wednesday arguing that the ballots of traditionally Democratic voters — minorities and especially young people — were more likely to be thrown out because of signature variations than those of other voters.

At least 5,000 ballots from all voters — and perhaps twice that many — were left uncounted across Florida as a result of signature mismatches, according to various estimates from the Florida secretary of state and analysts examining the latest data. Before the recounts began over the weekend, Mr. Nelson was behind by 12,562 votes.

The signature battle touches on constitutional questions of equal protection and free speech. But it is rooted in larger societal trends that are rapidly rendering an individual’s handwriting an unreliable electoral hallmark.

Inside DC

washington post logonancy pelosi oWashington Post, Pelosi faces daunting challenge in speaker’s bid as Democratic foes stand firm, Erica Werner, Mike DeBonis and Elise Viebeck, Nov. 15, 2018 (print edition). In an electoral year marked by a record number of women joining the House, incoming female Democrats may help decide Nancy Pelosi’s fate.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, right, on Wednesday faced solid opposition from at least 17 Democrats and encountered a significant bloc of undecided women in her bid for speaker, setting the stage for an intense battle over who will ascend to one of the most powerful positions in Washington

washington post logoWashington Post, Veterans aren’t getting their GI Bill payments — because a 50-year-old computer system broke, Alex Horton​, Nov. 15, 2018. Thousands of veterans have been put under financial strain after the Department of Veterans Affairs’ computer systems buckled under complex new rules.

washington post logobetsy devos oWashington Post, Betsy DeVos set to bolster rights of accused in rewrite of sexual assault rules, Laura Meckler, Nov. 15, 2018 (print edition). Controversial regulation governing campus investigations set for release in coming days.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, right, is set to release a sweeping overhaul of how colleges and universities must handle allegations of sexual assault and harassment, giving new rights to the accused, including the ability to cross-examine their accusers, people familiar with the matter said.

The proposal is set for release before Thanksgiving, possibly this week, and replaces less formal guidance issued by the Obama administration in 2011. The new rules would reduce liability for universities, tighten the definition of sexual harassment, and allow schools to use a higher standard in evaluating claims of sexual harassment and assault., Death of HHS official Daniel Best is ruled a suicide, Sabrina Eaton, Nov. 15, 2018. The Nov. 1 death of Daniel Best, a pharmaceutical executive from Bay Village who led U.S. Department of Health and Human Services efforts to lower prescription drug prices, has been ruled a suicide, officials in Washington, D.C., said Thursday.

Police say Best was found “unresponsive” near the garage door exit of an apartment building in Washington, D.C.’s Navy Yard neighborhood at 5:25 a.m. on Nov. 1, and was pronounced dead by medical personnel who responded to the scene.

The city’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on Thursday said Best died from “multiple blunt force injuries” and it ruled his death a suicide. It would not release further information.

In announcing his death, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said the 49-year-old former CVSHealth and Pfizer Pharmaceuticals executive agreed to work at HHS “out of a desire to serve the American people by making health care more affordable.”

UK Brexit Crisis

washington post logoWashington Post, Brexit secretary, other ministers resign in a stinging setback for Theresa May, William Booth and Karla Adam​, Nov. 15, 2018. Dominic Raab, the minister in charge of helping Britain leave the European Union, said he could not support a withdrawal agreement just approved by Prime Minister May’s Cabinet. Two other ministers and a junior minister also quit their posts.

United Kingdom flagThe minister in charge of helping Britain leave the European Union, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, abruptly resigned from Prime Minister Theresa May’s government on Thursday morning, saying he could not support the withdrawal agreement approved by her cabinet the night before.

It was a stinging setback for May. Also quitting their posts were two other ministers and a junior minister in the Brexit ministry. The rapid-fire resignations sent shudders through London and E.U. headquarters in Brussels, raising the possibility that May does not have the support she needs to pursue her deal for a softer, slower-moving Brexit, a plan loaded with compromises that few in Britain like.

Crime: Child Murder?

washington post logoWashington Post, A man drove his severely autistic kids off a pier to their death. Prosecutors say he did it for the insurance money, Meagan Flynn, Nov. 15, 2018. It was April 9, 2015 and Ali Elmezayen was at the wheel. His two autistic children, ages 8 and 13, were strapped in tight in the back seat, and their mother was in the passenger’s seat — screaming for Elmezayen to hit the brakes.

But federal prosecutors said on Tuesday that Elmezayen knew exactly what he was doing that April night: They say he drove off the bridge on purpose to kill his family, and that it was all part of a scheme to collect on the millions of dollars in seven life insurance policies he had taken out on their lives. It was a plan he had been plotting for more than two years, according to prosecutors.

Avenatti Denies Charge

washington post logomichael avenatti sketchWashington Post, Michael Avenatti speaks out after his arrest on suspicion of domestic violence, Elise Viebeck and Eli Rosenberg, Nov. 15, 2018. The Los Angeles Police Department confirmed the arrest of Avenatti, right, a Democratic lawyer whose public profile exploded this year when he sued President Trump on behalf of adult-film star Stormy Daniels. In a statement, Avenatti called the allegations “completely bogus.”

California Wildfires

washington post logocalifornia wildfire washington postWashington Post, California’s deadliest wildfire is also a massive air quality problem, Ben Guarino, Zara Stone and Sawsan Morrar, Nov. 15, 2018. Children, the elderly and people who spend significant time outside are particularly at risk for breathing complications.

#MeToo Claims: Dartmouth

ny times logoNew York Times, 7 Women Accuse Dartmouth Professors of Sexual Abuse in Lawsuit, Anemona Hartocollis, Nov. 15, 2018. A lawsuit has accused three professors at Dartmouth College of turning the human behavior research department “into a 21st-century Animal House.”

For over a decade, the professors — Todd Heatherton, William Kelley and Paul Whalen — “leered at, groped, sexted, intoxicated and even raped female students,” according to the court papers, which were filed Thursday in federal court in New Hampshire.

The lawsuit, which seeks $70 million in damages, says this behavior went back as far as 2002, and accuses the college administration of looking the other way for more than 16 years.

Dartmouth, an Ivy League university in Hanover, N.H., announced in October 2017 that it was conducting a sexual misconduct investigation of the men, who were tenured professors in the school’s psychology and brain sciences department. That inquiry concluded that the professors should be stripped of their tenure and lose their jobs. All three were allowed to either resign or retire.

Nov. 14


washington post logoDonald TrumpWashington Post, Five days of fury: Inside Trump’s bad Paris temper, election woes and staff upheaval, Josh Dawsey and Philip Rucker, Nov. 14, 2018 (print edition). President Trump’s testy call with British Prime Minister Theresa May while en route to Paris set the tone for turbulence in the French capital and more presidential anger over the recent elections and media coverage of Trump’s decision to skip a ceremony honoring the military sacrifice of World War I, officials said.

washington post logoWashington Post, President refuses to acknowledge the fraught history of nationalism, Anne Gearan, Nov. 14, 2018 (print edition). President Trump has tried to define his brand of nationalism as a form of patriotism devoid of the darker aspects his critics warn the term conjures.

Protecting Special Counsel

washington post logoWashington Post, Flake refuses to vote for Trump’s judicial nominees until the Senate acts on bill to protect Mueller, Karoun Demirjian, Nov. 14, 2018. The move could complicate Republicans’ hope of confirming dozens of conservative judges this year.

Flake’s warning will likely force Republicans — who hold 51 seats in the Senate — to rely on Vice President Pence to confirm any of the 32 judicial nominees pending before the full Senate, as Democrats have little incentive to support those who Flake has committed to oppose. Flake issued his threat after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blocked Flake and Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) from holding a vote on the bill, which would give any fired special counsel the ability to swiftly challenge their termination before a panel of three federal judges.

washington post logoWashington Post, Whitaker’s unusual path to Justice Department included owning day-care center, trailer maker and concrete supplier, Robert O’Harrow Jr., Nov. 14, 2018.  Whitaker stands in vivid contrast to his predecessors, whose résumés typically boast judgeships, partnerships at prestigious firms and senior roles in the Justice Department. Britain’s prime minister, Theresa May, faced down her hard-line critics on Wednesday and won the support of a jittery cabinet for a plan to quit the European Union, keeping on track her push to avert an economically damaging rupture with the bloc in March.

ny times logomatthew whitaker headshot recentNew York Times, Justice Dept. Defends Legality of Trump’s Appointment of Acting Attorney General, Charlie Savage, Nov. 14, 2018. The Justice Department pushed back on Wednesday against accusations that President Trump’s appointment of Matthew G. Whitaker as acting attorney general was illegal, arguing that it complied with both federal statutes and the Constitution — and that it fit within a history of similar designations dating back to the earliest days of the country.

The Trump administration made its case in a 20-page memorandum by Steven E. Engel, the head of the department’s Office of Legal Counsel. It came a day after the State of Maryland asked a Federal District Court judge to issue an injunction declaring that when Mr. Trump ousted former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the role of acting head of the department passed instead to the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, as a matter of law.

matthew whitaker weightlifting twitter

Acting U.S. Attorney Gen. Matthew Whitaker, a former college football player, features this photo across the top of his Twitter page.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Matthew Whitaker is steeped in time travel and Bigfoot. He’s the right man for the job, Dana Milbank, right, Nov. 14, 2018 (print edition). In addition to dana milbank Customhis exotic legal views and his lack of relevant experience, Matthew G. Whitaker was already known to have hawked hot-tub seats for a business that shut down this year after reaching a $26 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission for defrauding customers. But that’s just the beginning of the crackpottery.

During the current U.S. attorney general’s time on the company’s advisory board, from 2014 onward, World Patent Marketing:

● Claimed that “DNA evidence collected in 2013 proves that Bigfoot does exist,” had a website selling Bigfoot paraphernalia and planned a celebrity event called “You Have Been Squatched!”

● Asserted that “time travel” could be “possible, perhaps within the next decade” and tried to raise money using bitcoin for time-travel research by one of Whitaker’s fellow board members. The company suggested users might “relive moments from your past” or “visit your future.”

● Announced, in the same media release heralding Whitaker’s appointment to the board, a patent application for an extra-deep “masculine toilet” for the well-endowed. Specifying the size of “average male genitalia,” the release said “this invention is designed for those of us who measure longer than that.”

Israeli Cabinet Crisis

benjamin netanyahu frownDaily Beast, Israel’s Government Is Collapsing After Accidental Gaza War and Embarrassing Truce, Noga Tarnopolsky, Nov. 14, 2018. In a surprise move, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has resigned, thrusting the Israeli government into uncertain territory.

Lieberman kept his intentions close to his chest, surprising everyone from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, to members of his own political party, who now find themselves in the parliamentary opposition.

Lieberman announced his departure from the coalition in a punchy press conference in which he accused Netanyahu of “capitulating to Hamas terror” with the truce that halted fire on the Israel-Gaza border yesterday after two days of battle. He called on Netanyahu to advance the elections that are currently scheduled for November 2019.

AMD, Israel’s Immigration Minister resigns shortly after Lieberman, Staff report, Nov. 14, 2018. Israeli Minister of Immigration and Absorption Sofa Landver, a member of the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party, has announced her resignation following the decision of the party leader and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman to resign. Landver headed the Ministry of Immigration and Absorption for over nine years. The resignation of Lieberman reduced the ruling coalition to 61 seats in the 120-seat Knesset.

Brexit Advances In UK

ny times logoUnited Kingdom flagNew York Times, U.K. Cabinet Backs Theresa May’s Brexit Plan, Stephen Castle, Nov. 14, 2018. Prime Minister Theresa May won approval of her Brexit plan from her cabinet. Now, she faces the far more difficult challenge of winning over Britain’s Parliament.

Hate Crimes

washington post logoWashington Post, Authorities arrest avowed white nationalist in D.C. who ‘fantasized about killing “Jews and blacks,” Spencer S. Hsu and Peter Hermann, Nov. 14, 2018 (print edition). A D.C. man who described himself as a white nationalist to law enforcement officers and became a social-media follower of the suspect in the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting has been arrested on a gun charge after his worried relatives contacted the authorities, according to federal court filings.

Jeffrey R. Clark Jr., 30, is charged with illegally possessing a firearm and a high-capacity magazine and made his initial court appearance Tuesday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Washington.

jack posobiec jeffrey clark edward clark source photo

Alleged Neo-Nazi Jeffrey Clark, center with camera, and his late brother Edward follow far-right “Pizzagate” propagandist Jack Posobiec (HuffPost source photo)

Huffpost, DC Neo-Nazi Who Called Pittsburgh Murders A ‘Dry Run’ Arrested; Has Deep Ties To ‘Alt Right,’ Jessica Schulberg, Nick Baumann, Ryan J. Reilly, Travis Waldron, and Luke huff post logoO’Brien, Nov. 13, 2018. Jeffrey Clark, the 30-year-old man federal agents arrested here Friday after he called the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting a “dry run” and his relatives worried he might try to launch a race war, wasn’t shy about being a neo-Nazi.

richard spencer CustomIn April 2017, when someone asked Clark at a White House rally organized by “alt-right” coiner Richard Spencer whether he considered himself a fascist, he said no ― he considered himself a Nazi. Antifa activists photographed him at the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017. He has posed for pictures in front of Nazi symbols and holding Nazi memorabilia.

On Gab, the favored social network of racists and anti-Semites, Clark had the username @PureWhitEvil and called himself “DC Bowl Gang,” a reference to Dylann Roof, the bowl-cut racist who murdered nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015.

It wasn’t until November, after Clark’s own family contacted law enforcement, that the FBI finally found the allegedly illegal weapons that have him facing gun charges.

Court documents, as well as photos and videos obtained by HuffPost, suggest Clark’s late brother, Edward Clark, shared a similar ideology. That both men were able to spew neo-Nazi rhetoric, amass an arsenal of weapons, and openly threaten journalists and critics for months without consequence shows just how much freedom far-right extremists have to operate in the U.S. — and how far their behavior has to escalate before law enforcement takes it seriously.

Clark lived in a rowhouse in Bloomingdale with his father, sister and younger brother Edward William “Teddy” Clark, who killed himself on Washington’s Theodore Roosevelt Island on Oct. 27, the day of the Tree of Life shooting.

In May 2017, the Clark brothers teamed up with far-right “Pizzagate” propagandist Jack Posobiec, who was then the D.C. bureau chief for the far-right website Rebel Media, to shoot footage for a film Posobiec was working on about Seth Rich, the Democratic National Committee staffer whose murder near the Clarks’ home in Bloomingdale has spawned numerous far-right conspiracy theories.

washington post logoWashington Post Magazine, The state of hate: Who should get to measure it? David Montgomery, Nov. 14, 2018 electronic front page. Researchers at the Southern Poverty Law Center have set themselves up as the ultimate judges of hate in America. But are they judging fairly?

Crime, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump endorses bipartisan criminal-justice reform bill, Seung Min Kim​, Nov. 14, 2018. The new Senate package includes language that lowers mandatory minimum sentences for drug felonies, including reducing the “three-strike” penalty from life behind bars to 25 years.

washington post logoWashington Post, Michael Avenatti arrested on suspicion of domestic violence, Elise Viebeck and Eli Rosenberg​, Nov. 14, 2018. The Los Angeles Police Department confirmed the arrest of Avenatti, a Democratic lawyer whose public profile exploded this year when he sued President Trump on behalf of adult-film star Stormy Daniels. Avenatti did not answer his cellphone or return messages late Wednesday. It was unclear who was involved in the alleged incident

Military Used For Caravan

washington post logoWashington Post, At the border, uncertainty about the migrant caravan and military concertina wire, Dan Lamothe and Maya Averbuch, Nov. 14, 2018. The Trump administration has dispatched more than 5,900 active-duty troops to the border to buttress U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents processing asylum claims. Federal law and Pentagon policy limits the scope of what the troops can do, though the military has said they could be asked to fly CBP officers in helicopters to less secure parts of the border if the caravan attempts to enter the country there.

The first group of migrants, meanwhile, decided last week to turn west toward Tijuana and began arriving there Tuesday. They numbered a few hundred on Wednesday. They could disperse into smaller groups, but other caravan groups are still farther away in Mexico and it is unclear where they will go.

U.S. Politics

washington post logokevin mccarthyWashington Post, Kevin McCarthy is caught between #MAGA and the GOP, Jacqueline Alemany, Nov. 14, 2018 (print edition). McCarthy (R-Calif.) is expected to be chosen as House minority leader. But will his close bond with President Trump be his greatest asset or put him at odds with his responsibilities to lead Republicans back from the wilderness in 2020?

Roll Call, Why So Few House Republican Leadership Races Are Contested, Lindsey McPherson, Nov. 14, 2018. Five of the seven House GOP leadership positions are solo affairs. At the top, California Rep. Kevin McCarthy is expected to easily defeat Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan for minority leader.

Jordan, a co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus, has been one of the few voices calling for new Republican leadership after the party’s drubbing last week.

The middle five leadership positions are uncontested, guaranteeing the Republican Conference will elect Louisiana’s Steve Scalise as minority whip, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney as conference chairwoman, Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer as National Republican Congressional Committee chairman, North Carolina Rep. Mark Walker as conference vice chairman and Missouri Rep. Jason Smith as conference secretary.

#MeToo, Sexual Assault, Universities

ny times logoNew York Times, For University of Minnesota, Chinese Tycoon’s Arrest Shines Light, Again, on Sexual Assault, Tiffany Hsu, Raymond Zhong and Carolyn Zhang, Nov. 14, 2018 (print edition). When the Chinese billionaire Richard Liu was arrested two months ago in Minneapolis on suspicion of rape, he wasn’t in town for business. Mr. Liu, a 45-year-old internet tycoon, was a student at the University of Minnesota, taking in lectures by day and enjoying dinner parties by night.

As prosecutors weigh whether to charge Mr. Liu, the case represents a setback for a university that has made progress on how it handles sexual misconduct. In recent years, the university has dealt with a series of sexual assault and harassment episodes involving students and faculty members, which have prompted a state audit and new campus policies. Now, the university is once again in the national conversation, and the focus this time is on a relatively new and lucrative academic program.

Mr. Liu, who has denied wrongdoing, was in Minnesota for a global business program, aimed at Asian executives, that is on track to generate over $10 million for the school in tuition since starting last year. His accuser, who has not been publicly identified, is a young Chinese student at the university who volunteered for the program.

The case “puts the university administration in an impossible situation” as it tries to simultaneously protect its students and its reputation, said Kristen Houlton Shaw, the executive director of the nonprofit Sexual Violence Center in Minneapolis.

Media Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Leading conservative lawyers criticized Mr. Trump’s attacks on the justice system and the news media, Adam Liptak, Nov. 14, 2018. The annual convention of the Federalist Society, the conservative legal group, has long been a glittering and bustling affair. In the Trump era, though, the group has become more powerful than ever, supplying intellectual energy and judicial candidates to an assertive administration eager to reshape the legal landscape.

But as the group prepares to gather on Thursday for the start of this year’s convention, more than a dozen prominent conservative lawyers have joined together to sound a note of caution. They are urging their fellow conservatives to speak up about what they say are the Trump administration’s betrayals of bedrock legal norms.

The group, called Checks and Balances, was organized by George T. Conway III, a conservative lawyer and the husband of President Trump’s counselor, Kellyanne Conway. In recent opinion articles, Mr. Conway has criticized Mr. Trump’s statements on birthright citizenship and argued that his appointment of Matthew G. Whitaker to serve as acting attorney general violated the Constitution.

The new group also includes Tom Ridge, a former governor of Pennsylvania and secretary of homeland security in the Bush administration; Peter D. Keisler, a former acting attorney general in the Bush administration; two prominent conservative law professors, Jonathan H. Adler and Orin S. Kerr; and Lori S. Meyer, a lawyer who is married to Eugene B. Meyer, the president of the Federalist Society.

Nov. 13

Challenge To Trump, DOJ

Reuters, Maryland goes to court to challenge Trump’s attorney general pick, Sarah N. Lynch and Susan Heavey, Nov. 13, 2018.  The state of Maryland launched a court challenge on Tuesday to the legality of President Donald Trump’s appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting U.S. attorney general, saying the president overstepped his constitutional authority and broke federal law.

matthew whitaker headshot recentTrump installed Whitaker, right, as acting attorney general last week after ordering Jeff Sessions to resign from the post. Trump had repeatedly criticized Sessions for recusing himself in March 2017 from the federal investigation, now headed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, into Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. election, a probe Trump has called a “witch hunt.”

Maryland asked U.S. District Judge Ellen Hollander to bar Whitaker from appearing in an official capacity as acting attorney general in existing litigation related to the Affordable Care Act healthcare law and to substitute Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in Whitaker’s place.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Here comes that boatload full of House Democrat subpoenas against Donald Trump, his family, and his goons, Bill Palmer, Nov. 13, 2018. Over the weekend, Palmer Report explained that while the new Democratic House majority obviously intends to destroy and oust Donald Trump, the most effective way to do that is not to immediately jump into impeachment proceedings. Instead, the best chance of impeachment actually working is if the Democrats use their newfound subpoena power and committee hearing control to severely weaken Trump first. Sure enough, here comes the boatload of subpoenas.

Internally, House Democrats are preparing to launch a “subpoena cannon” in the direction of Donald Trump and everyone in his orbit, according to Axios. In all there are at least eighty-five different targets for these subpoenas. In our estimation, that’s enough to include Trump’s cabinet, his White House advisers, his campaign advisers, and his family.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that when the House Intelligence Committee was under Republican control, various Trump-Russia figures raced to testify before the committee, so the committee could falsely declare their innocence. The trouble for them now: their testimony is still on record, and now it’s about to fall under control of House Democrats. If any of Trump’s people lied during their testimony, look for quick criminal referrals on the part of incoming committee chairman Adam Schiff.

California Wildfires / Climate Change

california wildfire washington post

washington post logoWashington Post, For Trump, even disaster response is colored in red and blue, Matt Viser and Seung Min Kim, Nov. 13, 2018. California has been a leader in the resistance to President Trump, and his disdain for it has been evident during repeated bouts of wildfires and other difficulties.

ny times logoNew York Times, More Than 200 Missing in California’s Deadliest Wildfire, Thomas Fuller, Nov. 13, 2018. Search teams were heading back into the devastated town of Paradise with the grim expectation of finding more bodies. The Camp Fire, the deadliest in California history with 42 dead, and the Woolsey Fire, which killed two, were both only about 30 percent contained.

washington post logoWashington Post, California wildfire becomes state’s deadliest, turns retirees’ haven into a living hell, Scott Wilson, Nov. 13, 2018. The death toll from the Camp Fire in Northern California rose to 44 with the discovery of 13 more bodies, including 10 in Paradise.

Trump To Fire Homeland Secretary?

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump is preparing to remove Kirstjen Nielsen as Homeland Security secretary, aides say, Nick Miroff, Josh Dawsey and Philip Rucker, Nov. 12, kirstjen nielsen o2018. The president is believed to be looking for a replacement who will implement his immigration policy ideas with more alacrity.

President Trump has told advisers he has decided to remove Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, right, and her departure from the administration is likely to occur in the coming weeks, if not sooner, according to five current and former White House officials.

us dhs big eagle logo4Trump canceled a planned trip with Nielsen this week to visit U.S. troops at the border in South Texas and told aides over the weekend that he wants her out as soon as possible, these officials said. The president has grumbled for months about what he views as Nielsen’s lackluster performance on immigration enforcement and is believed to be looking for a replacement who will implement his policy ideas with more alacrity.

Nielsen’s departure would leave a leadership void at the government’s third-largest agency, which has 240,000 employees and a $60 billion budget. The deputy secretary job at DHS has been vacant since April, and the White House has not submitted to Congress a nomination for that post.

Trump Firings?

nbc news logoNBC News, After clashes with first lady and others, Kelly may soon exit White House, Carol E. Lee, Kristen Welker, Hallie Jackson and Courtney Kube, Nov. 13, 2018. The White John KellyHouse Chief of Staff has had an array of disputes with officials from the NSC and the East Wing in recent months.

washington post logoWashington Post, First lady Melania Trump’s office calls for firing of White House national security official, Felicia Sonmez and Josh Dawsey, Nov. 13, 2018.  The news of the potential ouster of deputy national security adviser Mira R. Ricardel comes amid reports of tensions between Ricardel and White House officials. A National Security Council spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Saudi Dissident’s Murder

ny times logomohammed bin salman al saudNew York Times, Tell Your Boss’: Recording Is Seen to Link Saudi Crown Prince to Khashoggi Killing, Julian E. Barnes, Eric Schmitt and David D. Kirkpatrick, Nov. 13, 2018 (print edition). Shortly after the journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed last month at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, a member of the kill team made a call to a superior. The recording is seen by intelligence officials as some of the strongest evidence connecting the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, right, to Mr. Khashoggi’s death.

Press Freedom

washington post logojim acosta gage skidmore croppedWashington Post, CNN sues White House to regain access for reporter Jim Acosta, Paul Farhi​, Nov. 13, 2018. The unusual lawsuit comes after the president banished Acosta from the White House grounds after a testy exchange last week.

CNN sued the Trump Administration on behalf of reporter Jim Acosta (shown at right in a Gage Skidmore photo) on Tuesday, asking a court to restore Acosta’s White House press pass after President Trump suspended it last week.

The unusual lawsuit, an escalation of Trump’s longrunning war of words with CNN, seeks a judge’s intervention after Trump banished Acosta from the White House grounds for an indefinite period after a brief altercation between Acosta and a White House press aide.

cnn logoAfter a testy exchange between the president and the reporter, the unidentified press aide went up to Acosta to take a microphone out of his hands. As a result, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced a few hours later that the White House had revoked Acosta’s “hard pass,” which enables reporters to enter and leave the grounds each day.

CNN filed suit in U.S. District Court in Washington. “We have asked this court for an immediate restraining order requiring the pass be returned to Jim, and will seek permanent relief as part of this process,” the network said in a statement released Tuesday morning.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House changes its tune on why it yanked CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s press pass, Aaron Blake, Nov. 13, 2018. That the White House isn’t sticking with its initial justification when faced with legal action shows how dodgy the claim was to begin with. In a statement Tuesday morning, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders suggested that the decision was about Acosta refusing to yield the microphone while questioning the president.

But that’s different from the initial justifications offered by the White House for revoking Acosta’s press pass. Less than a week ago, it was primarily about him supposedly placing his hands on and getting too rough with an intern.

Mediaite, Bob Woodward Criticizes CNN Lawsuit Against White House: We’re Taking Trump’s ‘Bait,’ Joe DePaolo, Nov. 13, 2018. One of the preeminent figures in American journalism is coming out against the rare lawsuit filed by a news organization against the White House.

bob woodwardIn comments reported by Dylan Byers of NBC News, Bob Woodward — speaking at the Global Financial Leadership Conference in Naples, FL — came out against CNN’s White House lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday morning. The network is suing to have access restored for its chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

But Woodward, shown in a file photo, believes CNN is just taking the “bait” being dangled by President Donald Trump. “This is a negative,” Woodward said. He added, “Trump is sitting around saying, ‘This is great.’ …When we engage in [Trump’s strategy] we’re taking his bait.”

The longtime Washington Post journalist added, “The remedy [isn’t a lawsuit], it’s more serious reporting about what he’s doing.”

Inside Trump World

washington post logoWashington Post, In a morning tweetstorm, Trump takes repeated aim at France’s Macron, John Wagner and James McAuley, Nov. 13, 2018.  President Trump lashed out at French President Emmanuel Macron’s approval rating, his country’s employment rate, its trade policies on wine and his vision for the military.

emmanuel macronPresident Trump unleashed verbal attacks Tuesday on French President Emmanuel Macron, right, taking aim at his approval rating, his country’s employment rate, its trade policies on wine and his vision for the military.

The broadside on Twitter escalated a spat that began Friday when Trump took umbrage at Macron’s call in a radio interview for a “true European army” so that the continent can defend itself without relying on the United States.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Donald Trump knows the true meaning of sacrifice, Dana Milbank, right, Nov. 13, 2018. On Veterans Day, Americans recall the sacrifices of dana milbank Customthose who served our country.

We think of the bayonet charge of Maine’s 20th Regiment on Little Round Top, the young men battling through rain and poison gas in the Argonne, the soldiers in the frozen Ardennes Forest in the Battle of the Bulge.

djt handwave fileAnd we think of President Trump [shown in a file photo], battling rain for not one but two days in France this weekend. On Saturday, the White House, citing “logistical difficulties caused by the weather,” canceled Trump’s trip to a memorial at Belleau, where 2,000 U.S. Marines died a century ago. It was raining — and Trump opted to remain at the U.S. ambassador’s residence, watching TV and tweeting.

The next day, when other world leaders marched down the Champs-Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe for the centenary of the Armistice ending World War I, Trump instead took his motorcade. The reason this time: security. Once again, it was raining, and Trump stayed dry in his armored limousine.

These were brave decisions, because they meant Trump would have to endure the hurtful images of other world leaders visiting other memorials around France despite the rain, then marching in soggy solidarity without him.

washington post logoWashington Post, Park Service nominee will be grilled on whether protesters should pay for security costs, Marissa J. Lang, Nov. 13, 2018. The Park Service has proposed changes to how the agency facilitates protests in the District — including a query on whether the agency should consider charging organizers for the costs of large-scale demonstrations — and several senators have raised objections to the change.

epa general, Trump’s southeast regional EPA administrator indicted on Alabama ethics charges, Kyle Whitmire, A Jefferson County grand jury has indicted the Southeast regional administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and a former Alabama Environmental Management Commissioner for violating state ethics laws.

Charges include multiple violations of Alabama’s Ethics Act, including soliciting a thing of value from a principal, lobbyist or subordinate, and receiving money in addition that received in one’s official capacity, according to the Alabama Ethics Commission.

trey glenn mugshotBefore being appointed by President Donald Trump to serve as the Region 4 administrator of the EPA, Trey Glenn worked closely with the Birmingham-based law firm Balch & Bingham and one of its clients, Drummond Co., to fight EPA efforts to test and clean up neighborhoods in north Birmingham and Tarrant.

President Donald Trump appointed Glenn, shown at left, to lead EPA’s Region 4 in August 2017, after incidents covered in the indictment. That region includes Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi.

After he was appointed to the EPA position, Glenn reported income from numerous public and private entities, including the BCA, City of Birmingham, Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority, Matrix LLC, Blue Ridge Partners, Strada and Big Sky Environmental.

Big Sky Environmental made headlines this year after it accepted human feces from New York for disposal at its Adamsville landfill. A train that delivered that refuse stunk up the surrounding community and after national news coverage became known as the “poop train.”

More on U.S. Elections

ny times logoNew York Times, A Week After the Election, Democratic Gains Grow Stronger, Alexander Burns, Nov. 13, 2018. What seemed like a mixed result for Republicans has turned more kyrsten sinema ogrim as Democrats continue to pick up seats in the House and statewide gains come into focus.

Democratic losses in the Senate look less serious than they did a week ago, after Kyrsten Sinema, right, was declared the winner in Arizona on Monday.

The underlying shifts in the electorate suggest President Trump may have to walk a precarious path to re-election in 2020, as several Midwestern states he won in 2016 threaten to slip away, and once-red states in the Southwest turn a purpler hue. The president’s strategy of sowing racial division and stoking alarm about immigration failed to lift his party, and Democratic messaging about health care undercut the benefit Republicans hoped to gain from a strong economy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge delays certification of Georgia results, citing concerns over provisional ballots, Vanessa Williams, Nov. 13, 2018. The court said that Georgia’s secretary of state must first try to contact voters and allow them to address problems that might prevent their provisional ballots from being counted.

ny times logomark sanford oNew York Times, Opinion: A Wake-Up Call for the G.O.P., Mark Sanford, Nov. 13, 2018 (print edition). Mr. Sanford, right, is a Republican representative from South Carolina. My South Carolina district hadn’t voted for a Democrat in 40 years. What happened?

In June, after winning three straight elections to the House of Representatives from South Carolina, I lost my primary race to Katie Arrington, who in turn lost last week’s general election to Joe Cunningham, a Democrat. After the general election, Ms. Arrington immediately blamed me for her loss because I did not endorse her.

While it’s human nature to blame someone, what happened here is far bigger than any postelection spin, given that it has been more than 40 years since a Democrat has held this seat, which runs along South Carolina’s coast and leans Republican by 10 points. In fact, there was not a more conservative district in the country to flip to the Democrats.

ny times logopaul krugmanNew York Times, Opinion: Truth and Virtue in the Age of Trump, Paul Krugman, right, Nov. 12, 2018. You’re a hero if and only if you serve The Leader’s interests.

What with the midterm elections — and the baseless Republican cries of voting fraud — I don’t know how many people heard about Trump’s decision to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Miriam Adelson, wife of casino owner and Trump megadonor Sheldon Adelson. The medal is normally an acknowledgment of extraordinary achievement or public service; on rare occasions this includes philanthropy. But does anyone think the Adelsons’ charitable activities were responsible for this honor?

Now, this may seem like a trivial story. But it’s a reminder that the Trumpian attitude toward truth — which is that it’s defined by what benefits Trump and his friends, not by verifiable facts — also applies to virtue. There is no heroism, there are no good works, except those that serve Trump.

In Trumpworld, which is now indistinguishable from, good and bad are defined solely by whether the interests of The Leader are served. Thus, Trump attacks and insults our closest allies while praising brutal dictators who flatter him (and declares neo-Nazis “very fine people”).

washington post logoWashington Post, Should 16-year-olds be able to vote for president in the nation’s capital? Fenit Nirappil, Nov. 13, 2018. The D.C. Council is poised to give preliminary approval to a bill allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to vote.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: How to lose in 2020 if you are a Republican, Jennifer Rubin, Nov. 13, 2018. Over the weekend, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) who heads the National Republican Senate Committee, joined President Trump and Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) in fanning conspiracy theories — baseless and irresponsible theories, that is — about possible vote stealing in Florida. Republicans cling to Trump and curry favor with the White House at their own risk. If they want to win independents’ and moderates’ voters support, they better stop acting like Trump lap dogs.

mike espy cindy hyde smith jackson free press

Republican incumbent Cindy Hyde-Smith and Democratic challenger Mike Espy (shown above) are headed for a runoff on November 27. Here’s why Espy has a better chance than you might guess.

GQ, How a Democrat Could Swipe a Senate Seat in Deep-Red Mississippi, Jay Willis, Nov. 13, 2018. Mississippi’s Cindy Hyde-Smith, appointed by the governor in March to replacing the retiring Thad Cochran, failed on Election Day to earn the majority necessary to win the special election for the right to serve out the remainder of Cochran’s term, which expires in 2021. Thus, the top two vote-getters — Hyde-Smith, a Republican who took home 41.5 percent of the vote, and Democrat Mike Espy, a black former congressman, who finished just behind her at 40.6 percent — will head to a runoff on November 27.

All this means is that right now is not a great time for Cindy Hyde-Smith to do this: “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row”- Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith says in Tupelo, MS after Colin Hutchinson, cattle rancher, praises her.

Hyde-Smith is not talking about Espy here. But even so, at best, her comments are a profoundly ill-advised attempt at folksy humor in the state that was the nation’s lynching capital between the end of the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement.

U.S. Economy / Jobs

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Tax Cut Was Supposed to Change Corporate Behavior. Here’s What Happened, Jim Tankersley and Matt Phillips, Nov. 13, 2018 (print edition). Nearly a year after the tax cut, economic growth has accelerated. Wage growth has not. Companies are buying back stock and business investment is a mixed bag.

The $1.5 trillion tax overhaul that President Trump signed into law late last year has already given the American economy a jolt, at least temporarily. It has fattened the paychecks of most American workers, padded the profits of large corporations and sped economic growth. Ten months after the law took effect, that promised “supply-side” bump is harder to find than the sugar-high stimulus. It’s still early, but here’s what the numbers tell us so far.

washington post logoamazon logo smallWashington Post, Amazon makes it official, selects Northern Va., NYC for new outposts, Jonathan O’Connell, Robert McCartney and Patricia Sullivan​, Nov. 13, 2018. The company will split its much-sought investment of up to 50,000 jobs between sites in Crystal City in Arlington County, Va., and New York City. Amazon also said it has selected Nashville for a new center for its operations business.

ny times logoNew York Times, Offering $2 Billion in Incentives, Did New York and Virginia Overpay for Amazon? Ben Casselman, Nov. 13, 2018. The states offered tax credits, rebates and other incentives to lure the online retail giant and 25,000 jobs. Neighboring states offered even more.

washington post logoWashington Post, Property owners are delighted Amazon is coming to the region. Renters, first-time buyers and low-income residents aren’t, Tracy Jan and Kathy Orton, Nov. 13, 2018.  An influx of highly paid tech workers could exacerbate inequality in the D.C. region, housing advocates and others warn.

Famine Disaster

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: To rescue Yemen, the U.S. must end all military support of the Saudi coalition, Editorial Board, Nov. 13, 2018. If the Trump administration will not get tough on Saudi Arabia, Congress should act in its place.

Brexit Draft Goes To UK Cabinet

ny times logoNew York Times, Britain and E.U. Agree on a Plan for Brexit, Stephen Castle, Nov. 13, 2018. The draft agreement opened the way for a high-stakes meeting of Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet.

United Kingdom flagBritish and European Union officials reached a long-awaited draft agreement on Tuesday on Britain’s troubled withdrawal from the bloc, opening the way for a high-stakes meeting of Prime Minister Theresa May’s most senior ministers to consider the plans, the prime minister’s office said.

Cabinet ministers will have a chance to review the draft text before a critical meeting of the full cabinet at 2 p.m. Wednesday, the prime minister’s office said.

After months of deadlock over the terms of Britain’s exit from the bloc, the presentation of the draft agreement is a moment of truth for Mrs. May, who is desperate to avoid a chaotic and disorderly “no-deal” Brexit. But she cannot be assured of support from hard-line Brexiteers in her cabinet, whom she may need to face down.

Nov. 12

California Wildfire

San Diego Union, California wildfires: New records set by 2018 fires, Luis Gomez, Nov. 12, 2018. It had only been nearly a year since the Thomas Fire was declared the largest wildfire recorded in California, but the fires burning in early November are already setting new records. The death toll was reported as 42 Monday night.

Three major wildfires in California continued to burn Monday with catastrophic results — 29 dead in Paradise where more than 6,000 homes have burned, thousands more threatened by two more blazes in Southern California, and as many as 210,603 acres burned collectively.

The Camp Fire, the largest and most destructive of all, was only 25 percent contained, San Francisco Chronicle reporter Lizzie Johnson said in a tweet Monday.

Whitaker Job, Mueller Probe

ny times logoNew York Times, Top Democrats Vow to Block Matthew Whitaker From Interfering in Russia Inquiry, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Nov. 12, 2018 (print edition). Newly empowered House Democrats threatened to subpoena the acting attorney general and take other measures as they push for his recusal from the investigation.

jerrold nadler o SmallThe incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, right, vowed to make Mr. Whitaker the panel’s first witness when the new Congress convenes in January — and subpoena him if necessary. The incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, said Democrats would investigate Mr. Whitaker, a Trump loyalist who has repeatedly and explicitly criticized the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race.

democratic donkey logo“The questions we will ask him will be about his expressed hostility to the investigation, and how he can possibly supervise it when he’s expressed, when he’s come out and said the investigation is invalid,” Mr. Nadler said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

And Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, warned that if Mr. Whitaker did not step aside, Democrats would attach legislation protecting the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, to a must-pass spending bill.

CNN, Roger Stone associate Jerome Corsi says he expects to be indicted by Mueller, Evan Perez with host Wolf Blitzer, Nov. 12, 2018 (3:30 mins.). Roger Stone associate Jerome Corsi said Monday he expects to be indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller for “giving false information to the special counsel or to one of the other grand jury.” Corsi made the comment during his streaming show on YouTube.

jerome corsi“And now I fully anticipate that the next few days, I will be indicted by Mueller for some form or other of giving false information to the special counsel or to one of the other grand jury or however they want to do the indictment. But I’m going to be criminally charged,” Corsi said Monday.

Corsi, right, could face any number of charges — spanning from perjury to making false claims to obstruction of justice. The potential charges are related to false statements he made about his relationship with WikiLeaks and Stone.

Corsi’s role in the investigation largely revolves around the possibility that he was an intermediary between Stone and WikiLeaks. Stone denies that he ever told Trump about WikiLeaks’ dumps before they became public. He also denies colluding with Russia.

Doctors Fight Gun Lobby

washington post logoWashington Post, “Being silenced is not acceptable: Doctors express outrage after NRA tells them ‘to stay in their lane,’ Frances Stead Sellers, Nov. 12, 2018 (print edition). At first, Judy Melinek didn’t know how to respond when she learned about a National Rifle Association tweet last week telling doctors who dared enter the gun debate “to stay in their lane.”

nra logo CustomBut two days later, when the West Coast forensic pathologist was on her way to the morgue to examine the body of one of the country’s many forgotten gunshot victims, the words came to her.

“Do you have any idea how many bullets I pull out of corpses weekly? This isn’t just my lane,” she tweeted Friday. “It’s my [expletive] highway.”

Joseph Sakran, a trauma surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore who suffers from a paralyzed vocal cord after taking a stray bullet in the neck almost 25 years ago, refused to stay silent as the country’s latest mass shooting hit the news.

“I have Two Words for you Hell No! #Hell No for #ThousandOaks #Hell No for all black men that die & no one hears about it. #Hell No for all those that we still may be able to save,” Sakran wrote.

Melinek and Sakran are among countless medical professionals who have taken to Twitter in the past few days to fire back at the NRA — creating a viral response that has ricocheted around the Internet under the hashtags #thisisourlane and #thisismylane.

countless medical professionals who have taken to Twitter in the past few days to fire back at the NRA — creating a viral response that has ricocheted around the Internet under the hashtags #thisisourlane and #thisismylane.

They have taken a debate that has churned for decades among powerful political gun lobbies and in academic journals and relaunched it in the unfiltered Twittersphere. And they have accompanied their indignant messages with photographs of feet sliding on red-splattered floors, of swabs and scrubs drenched in blood, and occasionally of unidentifiable and misshapen torsos heaped on gurneys.

U.S. Elections

kyrsten sinema oRoll Call, Kyrsten Sinema Becomes First Female Senator Elected From Arizona, Bridget Bowman, Nov. 12, 2018. She’s also the first Democrat to win an Arizona Senate election in 30 years.

Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, right, has made history by becoming the first woman elected to represent Arizona in the Senate. She defeated Republican Rep. Martha McSally after several days of ballot counting. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Sinema led McSally 50 percent to 48 percent when The Associated Press called the race six days after Election Day.

Sinema’s victory also marks the first time in 30 years that a Democrat has won a Senate seat in Arizona. Sinema’s historic win could appear surprising in a state where women had early success running for statewide office. But long-serving male senators kept Senate seats elusive, until the two women faced off this year to replace retiring GOP Sen. Jeff Flake.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump calls for halting recounts in Florida races, handing victories to fellow Republicans, Sean Sullivan, Beth Reinhard and John Wagner, Nov. 12, 2018. The president alleged without evidence that many ballots were missing and forged and that a valid tally was no longer possible in the races for governor and U.S. Senate. Florida officials say they have found no evidence of criminal conduct.

President Donald Trump officialPresident Trump on Monday called for halting the just-launched recounts in the Florida races for Senate and governor, alleging without evidence that many ballots were missing and forged and that a valid tally was no longer possible.

In a morning tweet, Trump suggested the results from the night of the election should stand, handing victories to fellow Republicans Rick Scott in the Senate race and Ron DeSantis in the gubernatorial race.

“The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged,” Trump said in a tweet that misstated what Florida officials have concluded. “An honest vote count is no longer possible-ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!”

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats signal aggressive scrutiny of Trump, resist impeachment calls, Felicia Sonmez and Colby Itkowitz, Nov. 12, 2018. Fresh off a resounding midterm elections victory, House Democrats on Sunday began detailing plans to wield their newfound oversight power in the next Congress, setting their sights on acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker while rebuffing calls from some liberals to pursue impeachment proceedings against President Trump.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Democrats Can’t Play It Safe. They Need Inspiring Candidates, Steve Phillips, Nov. 12, 2018. Learning the right lessons from the 2018 midterms is key for the party as it looks ahead to the 2020 elections. Andrew Gillum and Stacey Abrams, progressive African-American Democratic candidates, may not have won their races for governor in Florida and Georgia (both are still too close to call). But the strategy they followed is still the best strategy for Democrats to win: inspiring, mobilizing and turning out voters of color and progressive whites.

democratic donkey logoConventional wisdom dictated that both Mr. Gillum and Ms. Abrams did not give Democrats their best chance; more traditional, moderate white candidates were seen as the most competitive.

claire mccaskill 113th oMidterm results laid bare the fallacy of that view. In Missouri, Claire McCaskill, the incumbent Democratic senator, lost to Josh Hawley by six percentage points, 45.5 percent to 51.5 percent. Senator McCaskill, right, campaigned by highlighting her moderate credentials and ran a radio ad distancing herself from her party: “Claire’s not one of those crazy Democrats,” a narrator said. “She works right in the middle and finds compromise.”

In Tennessee, Phil Bredesen, the state’s former governor, lost his bid for the Senate by over 10 points despite his attempt to peel off Trump supporters by coming out in support of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court.

cindy hyde smith gov phil bryant 11 12 2018 twitter

Mississipppi Gov. Phil Bryant and Sen. Cind Hyde-Smith at an anti-abortion event on Nov. 12 (Twitter photo via Jackson Free Press).

Jackson Free Press, Governor Calls Abortion ‘Black Genocide,’ Amber Helsel, Ashton Pittman, Donna Ladd, Nov. 12, 2018. Defends Hyde-Smith on ‘Hanging’ Tape. Gov. Phil Bryant led a press conference about Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith’s anti-abortion position today by railing against the supposed “black genocide” by African American women choosing to have the procedure.

As state and national controversy swirls around U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith’s comment about a “public hanging” in her race against an African American opponent, Gov. Phil Bryant opened a press conference this morning implying that black women are participating in “the genocide of 20 million African American children” through legal abortions.

“See, in my heart, I am confused about where the outrage is at about 20 million African American children that have been aborted. No one wants to say anything about that. No one wants to talk about that,” Bryant said, with Hyde-Smith and National Right to Life President Carol Tobias standing nearby.

Bryant’s use of the abortion-as-genocide conspiracy theory about a woman’s right to choose a legal abortion, a trope popular with white conservatives, comes amid a state and national outcry after it went viral Sunday that Hyde-Smith had made a comment about “public hangings” at a campaign stop in Tupelo. She is in a run-off to keep her U.S. Senate set on Tuesday, Nov. 27, against former Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy, who would become Mississippi’s first African American senator since Reconstruction, should he win the race.

Anti-abortion activists, white and black, often point to black women choosing abortion as a form of “genocide” of African Americans. “Look at African Americans,” Bryant said Monday morning. “According to Wikipedia, had those (black) children not been aborted, the African American population would be 48 percent larger in America. Forty-eight percent larger. We can play with those numbers, and we can look at statistics, but the cold, grim truth is, children are being murdered.” (At press time, we had not located the Wikipedia page Bryant referred to.)

The “black genocide” charge draws heavy criticism from African American women who work to increase better health and reproductive care for Mississippi mothers.
How Personhood Failed in Mississippi

#MeToo Terror At Border

ny times logoNew York Times, They Were Stopped at the Texas Border. Their Nightmare Had Only Just Begun, Manny Fernandez with photographs and video by Caitlin O’Hara, Nov. 12, 2018. After crossing the Rio Grande, three immigrant women were picked up by a Border Patrol agent. Their relief soon turned to terror.

Pressures On Trump

washington post logojennifer rubin new headshotWashington Post, Opinion: Trump is cracking, Jennifer Rubin, right, Nov. 12, 2018. President Trump is back in the United States — and back to attacking democracy.

The press and the country at large should keep in mind that Trump acts out when he is weak, humiliated and cornered. He’s all those things right now:

• His performance in Europe was panned.• The election results get worse for Republicans with each passing day.• His great North Korea diplomacy, contrary to the gullible pundits and political spinners, was a bust. (He was snookered.)• We now have two major Middle East problems — Iran and out-of-control Sunni despots who think (not unreasonably) they can lead him around by the nose.• He is not winning the trade war, and it may be one of many factors leading to an economic pullback before the 2020 election.• Mueller plows ahead, with possibly more indictments (e.g., Roger Stone, Donald Trump Jr.). • Obamacare is here to stay. It’s more popular than ever, and red America has fallen in love with Medicaid expansion.• Trump’s finances are no longer protected from scrutiny, nor are his daughter and son-in-law’s.

Vatican Stops U.S. Sex Abuse Probe

washington post logopope francis 2013 SmallWashington Post, Vatican blocks plan by American Catholic leaders to confront sexual abuse, Julie Zauzmer and Michelle Boorstein, Nov. 12, 2018. In a surprising directive, the Vatican asked that America’s bishops halt their effort to hold bishops more responsible in abuse cases that have scourged the church. Pope Francis  is shown at right.

School Hitler Salute?

washington post logoWashington Post, Apparent Nazi salute at prom investigated by Wisconsin school district, Laura Meckler and Deanna Paul, Nov. 12, 2018. A large group of boys at a rural Wisconsin high school prom was photographed displaying what appears to be the Nazi salute, prompting international outrage and a local investigation.

In the photo, more than 50 boys from Baraboo, Wis., pose on outdoor steps. The vast majority are shown hoisting their right arms stiff and straight into the air, fingers pointed out, as Nazis did in Adolf Hitler’s Germany. One boy in the front row has his arms down but his right hand is forming the okay sign, a symbol adopted by the white power movement.

Israeli-Gaza Escalations

washington post logoWashington Post, Israel bombs more than 70 Gaza targets, including Hamas TV station, as 300 rockets are fired into Israel, Ruth Eglash, Hazem Balousha and Loveday Morris​, Nov. 12, 2018. A new round of hostilities triggered by a botched Israeli covert operation into the Gaza Strip pushed the territory’s fragile security situation to the brink on Monday, as Palestinian militants launched hundreds of rockets toward Israel and Israeli jets carried out bombing raids.

Israel’s military said it had rushed extra infantry troops and air defenses to the boundary with Gaza as at least 300 projectiles were launched toward Israeli territory in less than three hours into Monday evening. At least two projectiles hit houses, while an antitank missile hit a bus transporting soldiers near the border, the military said, critically injuring a 19-year-old soldier.

The military said it had targeted the TV station for “providing operational messaging to militants” as a barrage of rockets from Gaza showed no sign of slowing. Palestinian factions vowed revenge after a botched Israeli covert operation. ·​

Global News: N. Korea

ny times logonorth korea flagNew York Times, Missile Bases in North Korea Suggest a Great Deception, David E. Sanger and William J. Broad, Nov. 12, 2018. President Trump says the nuclear threat from North Korea is over. New satellite images of 16 hidden ballistic missile bases suggest that it has worsened since his summit meeting.

Crisis For Defrauded U.S. Students

ny times logoNew York Times, Borrowers Face Hazy Path as Program to Forgive Student Loans Stalls Under Betsy DeVos, Stacy Cowley, Nov. 11, 2018.  The students attended institutions with pragmatic names like the Minnesota School of Business and others whose branding evoked ivy-draped buildings and leafy quads, like Corinthian Colleges. Tens of thousands of them say they are alike in one respect: They were victims of fraud, left with useless degrees and crushing debts.

Now the government program meant to forgive the federal loans of cheated students has all but stopped functioning.

No Education Department employees are devoted full time to investigating borrowers’ complaints, according to three people familiar with the agency’s operations. Instead, the agency’s staff has fought in court to reduce the amount of relief granted to some students and to halt a rule change intended to speed other claims along.

U.S. Politics: 2020 Electionrichard ojeda screengrab

CNN, Richard Ojeda launches presidential bid after losing House race, Dan Merica, Nov. 12, 2018 (3:51 min. video). Richard Ojeda, shown above, the former congressional candidate who lost his 2018 bid as a Democrat in southern West Virginia, is running for president in 2020. “I’m Richard Ojeda and I’m running for the President of the United States of America,” he announced Monday at the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC.

Prior to his announcement, Ojeda filed with the Federal Election Commission to run for President and teased the run in an email to supporters on Sunday night.

democratic donkey logoOjeda’s entry to the race is unexpected and highlights just how massive the Democratic field for President will be in 2020. Democratic operatives believe big-name candidates will announce presidential bids in early 2019, but fully expect candidates like Ojeda and others to explore a run starting in late 2018.

richard ojeda CustomOjeda’s unique candidacy — he is a former Army paratrooper who ran on the Democratic ticket as a populist and Trump critic in Republican West Virginia — markedly over-performed how Hillary Clinton did in the state in 2016. Trump won the state’s 3rd Congressional District by 49 percentage points in 2016. Ojeda closed that gap, losing by 12 percentage points earlier this month.

But getting through a Democratic primary could be difficult: Ojeda, shown during his previous military service, voted for Trump in 2016, something that may be beyond the pale for some Democrats.
Ojeda has soured on Trump, though, and Trump called him “a total whacko” at campaign events in 2018.

At his announcement on Monday, Ojeda said, “I think I relate to the people far more than what the President can ever relate to these people. The very people he comes down to West Virginia and stands in front of could never afford one single round of golf in some of his fancy country clubs. That’s not where I stand.”
He continued, “I stand with the working-class citizens. I am a Democrat because I believe in what the Democratic Party is supposed to be: taking care of our working-class citizens.”

U.S. Health Care Costs

ny times logoNew York Times, Something Happened to U.S. Drug Costs in the 1990s, Austin Frakt, Nov. 12, 2018. Two decades ago, the costs began rising well beyond that of other nations, and in recent years have shot up again. What can explain it?

There was a time when America approximated other wealthy countries in drug spending. But in the late 1990s, U.S. spending took off. It tripled between 1997 and 2007, according to a study in Health Affairs.

Then a slowdown lasted until about 2013, before spending shot up again. What explains these trends?

Several factors could be at play in America’s spending surge. One is the total amount of prescription drugs used. But Americans do not take a lot more drugs than patients in other countries, as studies document.

In fact, when it comes to drugs primary care doctors typically prescribe — including medications for hypertension, high cholesterol, depression, gastrointestinal conditions and pain — a recent study in the journal Health Policy found that Americans use prescription drugs for 12 percent fewer days per year than their counterparts in other wealthy countries.

Another potential explanation is that Americans take more expensive brand-name drugs than cheaper generics relative to their overseas counterparts. This doesn’t hold up either. We use a greater proportion of generic drugs here than most other countries — 84 percent of prescriptions are generic.

Nov. 11

California Wildfirescalifornia wildfire washington post

washington post logoWashington Post, California wildfire threatens to become deadliest in state history, Joel Achenbach and Cleve R. Wootson Jr.​, Nov. 11, 2018. Already the most destructive wildfire in California history, the Camp Fire in the Sierra Nevada foothills has become the state’s third deadliest — killing 23 people in three days, with more than 100 people unaccounted for in a charred swath of land larger than Detroit.

Although the fire [portrayed above in a photo via the Washington Post] had been 25 percent contained by Sunday, high temperatures and gusty winds made the weather optimal for the Northern California fire to spread for at least another day.

As of Saturday, the Camp Fire had destroyed nearly 7,000 structures in and around the mountain town of Paradise and has been blamed for most of the last week’s fire deaths. The wildfire is the deadliest in the state since 1991. In Southern California, two people were found dead in fires burning outside Los Angeles.

Global Leaders Meet

Reuters, Russian President Vladimir Putin talked to his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump in Paris on Sunday Russian news agencies cited Putin as saying,  Maria Kiselyova, Nov. 11, 2018. Putin, who attended Armistice commemorations in the French capital, said the conversation was good, RIA reported.

washington post logoemmanuel macronWashington Post, Critics pile on after Trump cancels visit to U.S. military cemetery outside Paris, citing weather, David Nakamura, Seung Min Kim and James McAuley, Nov. 11, 2018 (print edition). French President Emmanuel Macron, right, says Europe should take on more of defense burden.

President Trump flew 3,800 miles to this French capital city for ceremonies to honor the military sacrifice in World War I, hoping to take part in the kind of powerful ode to the bravery of the armed forces that he was unable to hold in Washington.

But on his first full day here, it rained on his substitute parade weekend. Early Saturday, the White House announced Trump and the first lady had scuttled plans, due to bad weather, for their first stop in the weekend’s remembrance activities — a visit to the solemn Aisne Marne American Cemetery, marking the ferocious Battle of Belleau Wood.

It was not completely clear why the Trumps were unable to attend. The cemetery is 50 miles from Paris. Perhaps the president was planning to travel on Marine One, which is occasionally grounded by the military. But the sight of dignitaries arriving at other sites outside Paris, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, led some foreign policy analysts to speculate the U.S. commander in chief just wasn’t up for it.

“It’s incredible that a president would travel to France for this significant anniversary — and then remain in his hotel room watching TV rather than pay in person his respects to the Americans who gave their lives in France for the victory gained 100 years ago tomorrow,” David Frum, who served as a speechwriter to President George W. Bush, wrote in tweets. Trump is actually staying at the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Paris.

So began a weekend in which Trump — battling on a number of political fronts in Washington — seemed distracted and disengaged. Trump left Washington as the list of White House worries piled up: newly empowered Democrats, criticism of his pick for acting attorney general and backlash over his personal attacks against journalists.

washington post logoWashington Post, In remembrance of World War I, Macron denounces nationalism as a ‘betrayal of patriotism,’ David Nakamura, Seung Min Kim and James McAuley​, Nov. 11, 2018. French President Emmanuel Macron’s speech to more than 60 global leaders, including President Trump, aimed to draw a clear line between his belief that a global order based on liberal values is worth defending and those who have sought to disrupt that system.

U.S. Elections

democratic donkey logony times logoNew York Times, In the Campaign, Democrats Didn’t Let Trump Distract Them. That Will Be Harder Now, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Nov. 11, 2018. As Democrats prepare to assume control of the House, a central challenge will be remaining focused as they put forward their own agenda. Striking a balance between working to hold the Trump administration accountable and ignoring the president’s provocations will be imperative.

washington post logoWashington Post, Key Democrat wants to question whether Trump targeted CNN, Washington Post, Colby Itkowitz, Nov. 11, 2018. To the long list of investigations House Democrats have planned for next year, add a look into whether President Trump used his office to try to punish companies associated with CNN and The Washington Post.

Incoming Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) brought up the potential probe during an interview with Axios as an example of the type of oversight Democrats should be exercising.

Schiff pointed to Trump’s effort to block AT&T from purchasing Time Warner, the parent company of CNN, and his desire to get the U.S. Postal Service to increase shipping costs on Amazon, whose chief executive, Jeffrey P. Bezos, also owns The Post.

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, The Indicted and the Dead, Travis Dunn, Nov. 11, 2018. Once-Toxic Officials Elected Thanks to Partisanship. The indicted and the dead have been elected chris collins cropped obefore, and likely will be again. This past election was no different, providing several notable examples of criminal defendants being elected to office, as well as a congressman who sued an elderly constituent for defamation. And, of course, this list would not be complete without the dead pimp who won a race in Nevada:

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton; Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA 10); Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ); Dennis Hof, deceased brothel owner and newly elected representative for the 36th Assembly District of Nevada; Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY 27, shown at right); and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA 50).

While it is unusual for such candidates to win elections, it is not unheard of, particularly in Congress. Analysis found that at least 25 sitting congressmen since 1987 have been elected despite being under indictment.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Rick Scott spirals out of control as the Florida elections start to slip away from him, Bill Palmer, Nov. 11, 2018. The 2018 races for Governor and Senator in Florida have turned out to be as suspiciously stacked in the Republicans’ favor as the 2106 race for President was in Florida, and the most obvious commonality is that Rick Scott has been the Governor overseeing all of the above rig-jobs.

Scott also happens to be the GOP candidate in the 2018 Senate in question. Not shockingly, he’s done everything he could to try to prevent all the votes from being counted – but his efforts are starting to slip away from him, and he knows it.

rick scott blue shirt fileTrue to form, Rick Scott, shown in a file photo, has been trying to prevent a legitimate vote count from happening in Florida this week. First he falsely accused Democrat-heavy Broward County of voter fraud, and sent in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate. But that failed when the FDLE quickly concluded that there was no fraud in the county. So now Scott is spiraling out of control.

So far this evening Rick Scott has filed three bogus lawsuits aimed at preventing the votes from being properly counted. He’s trying to have the voting machines and ballots impounded in the midst of being counted, presumably so his henchmen can screw with the results. And, even though his own FDLE officials have confirmed that there was no voter fraud on the part of Democrats, he’s still using the word “fraud” in interviews.

ny times logoNew York Times, Uncounted Ballots, Overvoted Ballots: Why Is the Governor Claiming Fraud in Florida’s Election? Frances Robles and Patricia Mazzei, Nov. 11, 2018. On Sunday, rick scottas three statewide recounts were underway, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, right, whose initial 56,000-vote lead over the Democratic incumbent, Bill Nelson, has dwindled to fewer than 13,000, filed emergency motions in court asking law enforcement agents to impound and secure voting machines when they are not in use.

The latest legal maneuvering came amid growing doubts over the progress of the recounts, required under state law for races — in this case, for governor, Senate and state agriculture commissioner — where the candidates are separated by margins of 0.5 percent or less.

Although experts say that no credible allegations of fraud have surfaced, the number of problems identified in Broward County and the county’s history of botched elections have prompted a number of prominent Republicans to call for the ouster of the elections supervisor, Brenda C. Snipes, who is a Democrat elected to the post.

Roll Call, Rohrabacher Loss Marks End of an Era in Orange County, Andrew Menezes, Nov. 11, 2018. Longtime Republican congressman loses to Democrat Harley Rouda. After 30 years representing the longtime conservative bastion of Orange County, California, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher will not be returning to Congress next year.

Democrat Harley Rouda led the 15-term Republican congressman by more than 8,500 votes in the 48th District, 52 percent to 48 percent, when The Associated Press called the race Saturday night. Rohrabacher has not conceded, with a campaign spokesman citing the need to wait until all votes were counted. Rohrabacher had won all but one of his previous races by double digits going back to 1988 — including a 17-point win two years ago — but the Democratic enthusiasm and strong voter distaste for President Donald Trump in the affluent, suburban seat appears to have been a liability for him this year.

Conservatives On New AG Disputes

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion; Trump’s acting attorney general pick was an unnecessary self-inflicted wound — but not a fatal one, Hugh Hewitt, Nov. 11, 2018. The appointment of acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker strikes many as possibly unconstitutional and even more as an utterly unnecessary self-inflicted political wound by the president. A “regular order” acting attorney general would have avoided igniting conspiracy theories. Replacing Whitaker quickly could still douse those that have been lit.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House Spin: Tump does know acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker, Kellyanne Conway says, Felicia Sonmez, Nov. 11, 2018. The White House counselor’s comments came two days after President Trump sought to distance himself from his handpicked acting attorney general by claiming he didn’t personally know him.

U.S. Presidency / First Lady

washington post logoWashington Post, Book Review: For eight years, Michelle Obama watched every word. In her memoir, she’s done with that, Connie Schultz, Nov. 11, 2018. Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and the author of “ . . . and His Lovely Wife.”

michelle obama becoming cover horizontalAs first lady, every word Michelle Obama uttered and every action she took received advance scrutiny for signs of potential damage to her husband’s presidency. Now, freed of the constraints of the White House, she is ready to tell it as she sees it. Her new memoir crackles with blunt, often searing observations about politics, race and gender in America. Its title, Becoming, reflects her journey from modest beginnings on the South Side of Chicago to an incessant spotlight on the world stage.

Though her life has been full and large, Obama is still figuring out who she wants to be. For the first time in two decades, she is allowing herself to explore her own ambitions separate from the rest of her family. She writes that her little girls, Malia and Sasha, are now “young women with plans and voices of their own.” Her husband is “catching his own breath” after eight years as president. “And here I am,” she writes, “in this new place, with a lot I want to say.”

Becoming is a political spouse’s memoir like no other, and I say that as the author of one. Obama doesn’t waste time naming every person who helped to elect her husband. This is her book, not his. She also cites, by name and deed, some of those who offended her. This is not an act of revenge but rather a clear sign that she is unwilling to pretend none of that mattered. Good for her.

But it hasn’t been easy. “Since stepping reluctantly into public life, I’ve been held up as the most powerful woman in the world and taken down as an ‘angry black woman,’ ” she writes in the preface. Those three words — angry black woman — make her want to ask her detractors “which part of that phrase matters to them the most — is it ‘angry’ or ‘black’ or ‘woman’?”

Nov. 10

California Fires Continue

washington post logoWashington Post, More than 200,000 flee as wildfires leave trail of death, destruction in Calif., Joel Achenbach, Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Lindsey Bever and Eli Rosenberg​, Nov. 10, 2018.Officials announced nine dead in the Camp Fire and two more killed in Southern California fires. The massive Camp Fire north of Sacramento has destroyed some 6,700 structures, becoming the most destructive inferno in a state with a long and calamitous history of fires.

Election 2018

washington post logoWashington Post, Recount to begin in Fla. Senate and governor’s races, Beth Reinhard, Lori Rozsa and Sean Sullivan​, Nov. 10, 2018. Three statewide contests in Florida — including the closely watched Senate race — headed for history-making recounts, election officials confirmed Saturday, with the lead by Gov. Rick Scott (R) over Sen. Bill Nelson (D) in the marquee contest shrinking to 12,562 votes out of nearly 8.2 million cast.

The .15 percent margin is narrow enough to not only trigger a machine recount, which by law must be completed by Thursday, but is likely to result in a recount by hand across the state — a complicated logistical task in the nation’s biggest battleground state.

The new tally in the governor’s race was not quite as close, but also met the threshold for a voting machine recount. Numbers posted on the state election website showed Republican Ron DeSantis leading Democrat Andrew Gillum by 33,684 votes.

washington post logoWashington Post, For Democrats, a midterm election that keeps on giving, Dan Balz and Michael Scherer, Nov. 10, 2018. Democrats appear poised to pick up between 35 and 40 Democratic-Republican Campaign logosseats in the House, once the last races are tallied, according to strategists in both parties. That would represent the biggest Democratic gain in the House since the post-Watergate election of 1974, when the party picked up 49 seats three months after Richard M. Nixon resigned the presidency.

Republicans will gain seats in the Senate, but with races in Florida and Arizona still to be called, their pre-election majority of 51 seats will end up as low as 52 or as high as 54.

Meanwhile, Democrats gained seven governorships, recouping in part losses sustained in 2010 and 2014, and picked up hundreds of state legislative seats, where they had suffered a virtual wipeout in the previous two midterm elections.

washington post logoWashington Post, Prospect of another recount in Florida sparks partisan showdown, Amy Gardner, Beth Reinhard and Lori Rozsa, Nov. 10, 2010 (print edition). Trump says Florida officials ‘finding votes out of nowhere.’ The razor-close Senate race in Florida erupted into outright partisan warfare Friday as Democrats pressed for a recount and Republicans — including President Trump — accused local elections officials of tilting the outcome against them.

Trump and his allies offered no evidence that fraud was to blame for a diminishing GOP lead in heavily Democratic Broward County in South Florida, where the still-unfinished counting of absentee and provisional ballots has narrowed Republican Rick Scott’s statewide lead. The margin has prompted vocal protests from Republicans — a dramatic shift in rhetoric since Tuesday, when Trump declared “incredible” victories across the country and stayed away from accusations of a “rigged” election.

lucy mcbath anthony delgado kendra horn Small

Freshman Democratic House-members elect Karen Horn of Oklahoma, at left, Anthony Delgado of New York and Lucy McBath of Georgia (file photos).

ny times logomichelle goldberg thumbNew York Times, Opinion: The Resistance Strikes Back, Michelle Goldberg, Nov. 10, 2018. Two years of progressive organizing built the blue wave.

In April 2017, progressives across America turned toward Georgia’s Sixth District for the race to fill the House seat vacated by Tom Price, who’d become President Trump’s (short-lived) secretary of health and human services. That affluent, highly educated district in Atlanta’s northern suburbs had been solidly Republican for decades; Newt Gingrich had held it for 20 years, and Price won his 2016 election by more than 23 percentage points. But Trump had prevailed there only narrowly, and Democrats dreamed of using the special election to rebuke him.

Money poured in from all over the country for the Democratic candidate, Jon Ossoff. It became the most expensive House contest in history. He lost. Afterward, people complained — often on cable TV — that Democrats had squandered their money. But last week, some of that investment finally paid off.

democratic donkey logoOn Thursday we learned that a year and a half after Ossoff’s loss, Lucy McBath [shown above], an African-American gun control advocate, had flipped the seat.
McBath’s victory was emblematic of the Resistance triumphs in the midterms. The steady work of citizens who’ve been trying, over the last two years, to fight the civic nightmare of Trumpism bore fruit. It was a slog, pockmarked with disappointments.

nra logo CustomMcBath’s victory was especially sweet. She’d become an activist after the 2012 murder of her son, Jordan Davis, by a white man who, angry over loud music, shot up a car Davis was riding in. Running in her son’s memory, she beat an incumbent with a top rating from the National Rifle Association in a largely white district.

As I write this, Democrats have flipped at least 30 House seats, and their total haul could go as high as 40. Democrats virtually wiped out the Republican Party in the Northeast, but they also won new seats in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and South Carolina. The party is on track to make more gains in the House than it has in any election since Watergate’s aftermath. Across the country, Democrats flipped at least 333 statehouse seats, a third of all those lost over the course of Obama’s presidency.

Trump’s AG Pick: Unfit?

cnn logoCNN, Whitaker’s controversial prosecution of a gay Democrat, Drew Griffin, Collette Richards and Patricia DiCarlo, Nov. 10, 2018. When Iowa state Sen. Matt McCoy, right, learned matt mccoy iowaDonald Trump had appointed Matthew Whitaker to be acting attorney general of the United States, he was aghast — he believes Whitaker was behind a politically motivated prosecution that was personally “devastating” to him.

Whitaker has been facing questions from reporters about whether the case was politically motivated since the day the indictment was announced in 2007. An editorial in the Des Moines Register soon after McCoy was acquitted called for the government to compensate McCoy for his legal fees and questioned, “Was the McCoy prosecution a product of poor judgment, inexperience, misplaced zeal or partisan politicking? Perhaps all of the above.”

washington post logoWashington Post, There is no way this man should be running the Justice Department, Editorial Board, Nov. 10, 2018 (print edition). Is Matthew G. Whitaker the legitimate acting attorney general?

matthew whitaker headshot recentFrom approximately the second President Trump ousted Attorney General Jeff Sessions and tapped Mr. Whitaker, right, to temporarily exercise the office’s vast authority, legal experts have sparred over whether Mr. Trump can unilaterally elevate someone from a role that does not require Senate confirmation to one that does.

But regardless of whether the promotion is legal, it is very clear that it is unwise. Mr. Whitaker is unfit for the job.

Several prominent legal scholars point out that the Constitution demands that “principal officers” of the United States must undergo Senate confirmation. The Senate above all should be offended by the president’s end run around its authority.

And Mr. Whitaker is worse than random. It took less than 24 hours for material to emerge suggesting he could not survive even a rudimentary vetting.

  • First, there are Mr. Whitaker’s statements criticizing the Russia probe of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
  • Then there is Mr. Whitaker’s connection to a defunct patent promotion company the Federal Trade Commission called “an invention-promotion scam that has bilked thousands of consumers out of millions of dollars.” Mr. Whitaker served on its board and once threatened a complaining customer, lending the weight of his former position as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Iowa to the company’s scheme.
  • Finally, and fundamentally most damning, is Mr. Whitaker’s expressed hostility to Marbury v. Madison, a central case — the central case — in the American constitutional system. It established an indispensable principle: The courts decide what is and is not constitutional. Without Marbury, there would be no effective judicial check on the political branches, no matter how egregious their actions.

If the Senate were consulted, it is impossible to imagine Mr. Whitaker getting close to the attorney general’s office. He should not be there now.

Guardian, Trump’s acting attorney general involved in firm that scammed veterans out of life savings, Jon Swaine, Nov. 10, 2018 (print edition). Matthew Whitaker, a former US attorney in Iowa, was paid to work as an advisory board member for World Patent Marketing (WPM), a Florida-based company accused by the US government of tricking aspiring inventors out of millions of dollars. Earlier this year, it was ordered to pay authorities $26m.

In related news, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday FBI Is Investigating Florida Company Where Whitaker Was Advisory-Board Member. Details below.

Palmer Report, Commentary: Here comes Donald Trump’s Attorney General head-fake, Bill Palmer, Nov. 10, 2018. Donald Trump has fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions and temporarily replaced him with Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker. It’s already clear that the scandal-a-minute Whitaker isn’t long for the position, and that Trump will have to nominate someone else to be the new permanent Attorney General in January. Accordingly, some names are being publicly floated. Don’t believe it.

Here’s the thing. Even though the Republicans are going to retain control of the Senate, any Attorney General nominee is still going to face tough and potentially damaging questions from Senate Democrats during nationally televised hearings. That alone can derail things. For instance, while the Democrats weren’t able to stop Sessions’ confirmation in early 2017, they were able to get him to commit perjury, which resulted in him having to recuse himself, which ended up being Trump’s worst nightmare.

For that matter, Trump didn’t even bother to nominate Rudy Giuliani to his cabinet in early 2017, for fear that the Democratic cross-examination during confirmation hearings would expose Rudy’s role in the Trump-Russia election rigging scandal. So don’t look for Trump to nominate anyone who could make things worse for him – or worse for themselves – during a bruising confirmation battle. In that context, the names being floated right now are almost laughable.

Donald Trump’s people are telling multiple major news outlets that Chris Christie is on the Attorney General shortlist. But Christie was on the Trump transition team, which has since been exposed as having known about Michael Flynn’s illegal transition-period coordination with the Russian Ambassador. Outgoing Florida AG Pam Bondi is also supposedly on the short list, but she took a campaign donation from Trump in exchange for not pursuing the Trump University scandal.

These are not the kind of people Donald Trump wants to put through an Attorney General confirmation process. So why is he even floating their names? He wants us to get up in arms about the prospect of Christie, or Bondi, or Rudy, or Bigfoot, or whoever he’ll float next. That way, by the time he nominates some obscure henchman, we’ll be more likely to simply accept it, because at least it won’t be some big hated name.

At least that’s how he thinks it’ll go. The key for the Resistance is to fight this one all the way to the end. Trump doesn’t get to have a new Attorney General.

Reporter’s Murder By Saudis

washington post logoWashington Post, Audio of Khashoggi’s killing given to U.S., Saudi, Europeans, Erdogan says, Loveday Morris and Louisa Loveluck​, Nov. 10, 2018. Saudi journalist Jamal jamal khashoggi western suitKhashoggi, right, a contributor to The Post, was killed at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. Turkish officials say the recording from inside the consulate in Istanbul captures his death.

The tape is a critical piece of evidence that Turkey says backs up its assertion that Khashoggi, right, was killed by a Saudi hit team after he entered the consulate on Oct. 2. Saudi Arabia now acknowledges that Khashoggi was killed, but its internal investigation has not implicated leaders, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler.

Trump On World Stage

washington post logoemmanuel macronWashington Post, Macron and Trump meet in Paris amid strain over Iran, Syria and climate change, David Nakamura, Seung Min Kim and James McAuley, Nov. 10, 2018. President Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron, right, met Saturday amid tensions over Macron’s call for a “true European army” — remarks the U.S. president deemed “very insulting” moments after he landed here for World War I commemoration ceremonies this weekend.

There were some visible signs of strain between the two men Saturday even as they exchanged warm words at the start of their bilateral meeting at Elysee Palace.

U.S. Crime

washington post logoWashington Post, MS-13 associate sentenced to 40 years in prison in videotaped slaying of 15-year-old girl, Justin Jouvenal, Nov. 10, 2018. Venus Romero Iraheta orchestrated the killing of Damaris Reyes Rivas as part of a revenge plot.

A judge imposed a sentence of 40 years in prison on Iraheta, the most high-profile defendant in a slaying so horrific it drew national attention and was used by the Trump administration to grimly highlight the resurgence of MS-13 in the Washington area and beyond. Ten associates of MS-13 have been convicted of the vicious attack in wooded areas.

More On AG’s Vet Scam Scandal

matthew whitaker agGuardian, Trump’s acting attorney general involved in firm that scammed veterans out of life savings, Jon Swaine, Nov. 10, 2018 (print edition). Matthew Whitaker, right, a former US attorney in Iowa, was paid to work as an advisory board member for World Patent Marketing (WPM), a Florida-based company accused by the US government of tricking aspiring inventors out of millions of dollars. Earlier this year, it was ordered to pay authorities $26m. Continued from excerpt above.

Several veterans, two of them with disabilities, said they lost tens of thousands of dollars in the WPM scam, having been enticed into paying for patenting and licensing services by the impressive credentials of Whitaker and his fellow advisers. None said they dealt with Whitaker directly.

“World Patent Marketing has devastated me emotionally, mentally and financially,” Melvin Kiaaina, of Hawaii, told a federal court last year, adding that he trusted the firm with his life savings in part because it “had respected people on the board of directors”.

  • Matthew Whitaker was paid advisory board member for WPM
  • Veteran: ‘I spent the money on a dream. I lost everything’

The 60-year-old said he was a disabled veteran US army paratrooper and paid the company in 2015 and 2016 to patent and promote his ideas for fishing equipment.

“I received nothing for the $14,085 I paid to the company, other than a bad quality drawing and logo that my grandson could have made,” he said.

Kiaaina and other WPM customers described their experiences in declarations to court written under penalty of perjury, as part of a civil lawsuit brought by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against WPM and its chief executive, Scott Cooper. Emails filed as evidence to the case showed desperate customers begging Cooper and his team for their money back.

“You have caused me tremendous grief, I can’t sleep, my stress level is at an all-time high and the last of my savings has been stolen with nothing to show for it,” one unemployed widow, who lost $8,000, wrote to Cooper in December 2016. Another inventor who paid $12,000 said he was left with “a stress related condition that is eating away at my hair”.

In particular, WPM promoted itself as a champion of those who served in the military. “Not only do we honor the veterans and soldiers of our armed forces but we are also celebrating what they are protecting – the American dream,” it said in a statement timed for Veterans Day 2014, which highlighted Whitaker’s role at the firm. WPM claimed to have made an unspecified donation to the Wounded Warrior Project nonprofit, which did not respond to an email seeking confirmation of the payment.

Another WPM client, Ryan Masti, who served in the navy and suffers from dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), said a WPM representative boasted of the company’s connections to Whitaker and Mast in a promotional telephone call that persuaded him to hand over money.

Masti told the court he lost more than $75,000 after paying WPM to register, develop and promote his idea for “Socially Accepted”, a social network aimed at people with disabilities. He said that in return he received only a press release, a logo and a shoddy website template.Advertisement

Whitaker publicly vouched for WPM, claiming in a December 2014 statement it went “beyond making statements about doing business ‘ethically’ and translate[d] those words into action.” He said: “I would only align myself with a first-class organisation.”

But customers reported to authorities that they had been treated unethically by a company that, beneath its glossy marketing pamphlets, was a shabby operation.

Having voted for Trump enthusiastically in 2016, Masti said on Friday he would soon be changing his party affiliation to Democratic, following the president’s elevation of Whitaker.

“It’s totally ridiculous,” said Masti. “It makes the whole Republican party look so bad. How could a president appoint someone like this? And then not have a problem about it when it comes out? He should be taking care of the victims.”

U.S. Freedom To Advocate

Holland Sentinel (Michigan), Opinion: US colleges and universities are right to protest Israel’s anti-Palestinian policies, Wayne Madsen, Nov. 10, 2018. Backing the plight of the Palestinian people, particularly during a time when the Trump administration encourages further annexation of Palestinian territory by Israel’s current far-right government, is a worthy cause adopted by many institutions of higher learning.

Academic and campus organizations in the United States are opposing attempts to stifle student and faculty activism against current Israeli policies.

These include legislative moves at the federal and state levels to criminalize both the boycott of illegal Israeli settlements and advocacy for Palestinian rights by labeling them “anti-Semitic.” Any such criminalization, obviously is glaringly unconstitutional.

Nov. 9

Trump’s New Attorney General

Vox, Exclusive: Trump loyalist Matthew Whitaker was counseling the White House on investigating Clinton, Murray Waas Nov 9, 2018. Whitaker advised the president on launching a new special counsel while working as chief of staff for Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

matthew whitaker screengrabMatthew Whitaker, whom President Donald Trump named as his acting attorney general on Wednesday, privately provided advice to the president last year on how the White House might be able to pressure the Justice Department to investigate the president’s political adversaries, Vox has learned.

Whitaker (shown in a file photo) was an outspoken critic of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe before he became the chief of staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions in September 2017. That has rightfully raised concerns that Whitaker might now attempt to sabotage Mueller’s investigation. But new information suggests that Whitaker — while working for Sessions — advocated on behalf of, and attempted to facilitate, Trump’s desire to exploit the Justice Department and FBI to investigate the president’s enemies.

In May 2018, President Donald Trump demanded that the Justice Department open a criminal investigation into whether the FBI “infiltrated or surveilled” his presidential campaign and whether Obama administration officials were involved in this purported effort. Trump, his Republican allies in Congress, and conservative news organizations — most notably Fox News — were making such claims and amplifying those of others, even though they offered scant evidence, if any, that these allegations were true.

Sessions, Rosenstein, and other senior department officials believed that if they agreed to Trump’s wishes, doing so would constitute an improper politicization of the department that would set a dangerous precedent for Trump — or any future president — to exploit the powerful apparatus of the DOJ and FBI to investigate their political adversaries. Those efforts, in turn, coincided with the president’s campaign to undermine Mueller’s investigation into whether the president’s campaign aides, White House advisers, and members of his own family colluded with Russian to help Trump win the 2016 election.

washington post logoWashington Post, New acting attorney general was paid by firm the FTC called a ‘scam,’ Carol D. Leonnig, Rosalind S. Helderman and Robert O’Harrow Jr., Nov. 9, 2018 (print edition). Former customers of World Patent Marketing, which was forced to pay a settlement and cease operations, expressed dismay at Matthew G. Whitaker’s appointment to lead the Justice Department for now.

When federal investigators were digging into an invention-promotion company accused of fraud by customers, they sought information in 2017 from a prominent member of the company’s advisory board, according to two people familiar with the probe: Matthew G. Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney in Iowa.

matthew whitaker agIt is unclear how Whitaker, shown at right, — who was appointed acting attorney general by President Trump on Wednesday — responded to a Federal Trade Commission subpoena to his law firm.

In the end, the FTC filed a complaint against Miami-based World Patent Marketing, accusing it of misleading investors and falsely promising that it would help them patent and profit from their inventions, according to court filings.

In May of this year, a federal court in Florida ordered the company to pay a settlement of more than $25 million and close up shop, records show. The company did not admit or deny wrongdoing.

Whitaker’s sudden elevation this week to replace fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions has put new scrutiny on his involvement with the shuttered company, whose advisory board he joined in 2014, shortly after making a failed run for U.S. Senate in Iowa.

At the time, he was also running a conservative watchdog group with ties to other powerful nonprofits on the right and was beginning to develop a career as a Trump-friendly cable television commentator.

wsj logoWall Street Journal, FBI Is Investigating Florida Company Where Whitaker Was Advisory-Board Member, Mark Maremont and James V. Grimaldi, Nov. 9, 2018. Active case is being handled by FBI Miami office; acting attorney general oversees FBI.

fbi logoThe Federal Bureau of Investigation is conducting a criminal investigation of a Florida company accused of scamming millions from customers during the period that Matthew Whitaker, the acting U.S. attorney general, served as a paid advisory-board member, according to an alleged victim who was contacted by the FBI and other people familiar with the matter.

The investigation is being handled by the Miami office of the FBI and by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Says ‘I Don’t Know Matt Whitaker,’ Despite Several Oval Office Visits, Matthew G. Whitaker, Eileen Sullivan and Katie Benner, Nov. 9, 2018. The acting attorney general chosen by President Trump, is said to have easy chemistry with the president. Mr. Whitaker now oversees the Russia inquiry, which he said has gone too far and should not be permitted to investigate the president’s finances.

President Trump went out of his way on Friday to distance himself from Matthew G. Whitaker, his choice to replace Jeff Sessions as attorney general, saying repeatedly that he did not know Mr. Whitaker and had not spoken to him and emphasizing that the new attorney general was merely “there in an acting position.”

“I don’t know Matt Whitaker,” Mr. Trump told reporters as he left Washington for a weekend trip to Paris. But the president stressed that he did know Mr. Whitaker’s reputation well, calling him “a very respected man.”

The faint presidential praise came just two days after Mr. Trump unceremoniously dumped Mr. Sessions, putting Mr. Whitaker in charge of the Justice Department and the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Since then, criticism has mounted about Mr. Whitaker’s lack of credentials to be the nation’s top law enforcement official, along with allegations that he has conflicts of interest that should keep him from overseeing the Russia inquiry.

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the chamber’s top Democrat, sent a letter to Mr. Trump on Friday saying that the appointment of Mr. Whitaker, who was chief of staff to Mr. Sessions, was unconstitutional.

See also below:

ny times logoNew York Times, Acting Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker Once Criticized Supreme Court’s Power, Charlie Savage, Nov. 9, 2018 (print edition). The acting attorney general, Matthew G. Whitaker, once espoused the view that the courts “are supposed to be the inferior branch” and criticized the Supreme Court’s power to review legislative and executive acts and declare them unconstitutional, the lifeblood of its existence as a coequal branch of government.

washington post logoWashington Post, As a Senate candidate, Whitaker said he won’t support ‘secular’ judicial nominees and courts should be ‘inferior branch,’ Michael Kranish and Robert Barnes​, Nov. 9, 2018. Matthew G. Whitaker’s comments, made during an unsuccessful 2014 run, have drawn new scrutiny since he was named acting attorney general.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump’s Appointment of the Acting Attorney General Is Unconstitutional, Neal K. Katyal and George T. Conway III, Nov. 9, 2018 (print edition). The president is evading the requirement to seek the Senate’s advice and consent for the nation’s chief law enforcement officer and the person who will oversee the Mueller investigation. Mr. Katyal and Mr. Conway are prominent appellate lawyers.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Trump’s Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker panics and locks down his Twitter account after his scandals explode, Bill Palmer, Nov. 9, 2018. When it comes to Donald Trump, the only thing more consistent than his dirty scheming is the fact that he never bothers to do his homework before putting his schemes in motion.

The Atlantic, Opinion: It’s Probably Too Late to Stop Mueller, Benjamin Wittes (Editor in chief of Lawfare and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution), Nov. 9, 2018. The prospects for interference are dimmer than many imagine.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Mueller probe could be in mortal danger, Harry Litman, Nov. 9, 2018. Harry Litman teaches constitutional law at the University of California at San Diego and practices law at the firm Constantine Cannon. He was U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania from 1998 to 2001 and deputy assistant attorney general from 1993 to 1998.

washington post logoWashington Post, New acting attorney general once promoted a company accused of deceiving clients, Carol D. Leonnig, Rosalind S. Helderman and Robert O’Harrow Jr.​, Nov. 8, 2018. Former customers of World Patent Marketing expressed dismay at Matthew G. Whitaker’s appointment to lead the Justice Department for now.

washington post logoWashington Post, Commentary: Matthew Whitaker has experience advising con artists. Will he help more under Trump? Catherine Rampell, Nov. 8, 2018. But maybe Whitaker really was picked because he has experience advising con artists. Whitaker, after all, was involved with a Miami-based firm that federal regulators shut down last year as an alleged scam. The firm, World Patent Marketing, promised aspiring inventors that it would patent and market their brainchildren, based on what a 17-page Federal Trade Commission complaint characterized as bogus “success stories” and other false claims.

DeSmog, Dark Money Paid New Trump Attorney General Matthew Whitaker’s Salary for 3 Years, Sharon Kelly, Nov. 7, 2018. Whitaker was appointed as Session’s chief of staff on September 22, 2017. Before that, he served for three years as the executive director of the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), which describes itself as “a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting accountability, ethics, and transparency in government and civic arenas.”

FACT has come under fire for its own lack of transparency, with the Center for Responsive Politics calling attention to FACT’s funding, which in some years came entirely from DonorsTrust, an organization also known as the “Dark Money ATM of the Conservative Movement” and whose own donors include the notorious funders of climate denial, Charles and David Koch.

“In other words, an organization ‘dedicated to promoting accountability, ethics, and transparency’ gets 100 percent of its funds from a group that exists mainly as a vehicle for donors to elude transparency,” the Center for Responsive Politics wrote in 2016.

In 2014, FACT received $600,000 from DonorsTrust — the only donation it reported that year, according to An additional $500,000 flowed from DonorsTrust to FACT in 2015. And in 2016, DonorsTrust gave $800,000 to FACT, tax records show, as well as two additional donations, one for $100,000 and another for $450,000. That $2.45 million represents virtually all of FACT’s entire reported receipts for those years (except for a total of $456 from 2015 to 2016).

In 2016, Whitaker earned $402,000 as FACT’s director and president, according to the organization’s tax filings. That followed reported compensation from FACT for Whitaker of $63,000 in 2014, and $252,000 in 2015.

His work included advocacy for causes backed by the fossil fuel industry.

Mass Shooting

cnn logoCNN, Thousand Oaks gunman went from Marine vet to mass shooter. Investigators want to know why, Nicole Chavez and Holly Yan, Nov. 9, 2018. After a Marine Corps veteran stormed into a country music dance hall in California and killed 12 people, investigators said there is no clear motive behind the attack.

ian long croppedAuthorities say Ian Long, 28, right, fired a Glock .45-caliber handgun without a word as patrons line-danced at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks late Wednesday night. He first shot a security guard and a woman working at the counter, but authorities say there was no indication he was targeting employees.

Hours after Long was found dead, apparently from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police searched for clues at the home where he lived with his mother. As investigators dig for answers, loved ones and strangers mourn the victims — including some now known as heroes.

Hours after Long was found dead, apparently from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police searched for clues at the home where he lived with his mother. As investigators dig for answers, loved ones and strangers mourn the victims — including some now known as heroes.

washington post logoWashington Post, Deaths of guard and sheriff’s deputy fuel debate over active-shooter defenses, Justin Jouvenal and Alex Horton, Nov. 9, 2018 (print edition). The Ventura County mass shooting that left 12 dead Wednesday became a grim test case in a persistent debate about how places such as schools, nightclubs and houses of worship should ian long new york post coversteel themselves against shooters and how police should respond to them.

The massacre (whose aftermath is portrayed at left), and others like it in recent months, show how difficult devising an effective strategy to head off an attack can be — and the exceptionally high cost it can exact on those on the front lines.

The gunman began his rampage by shooting an unarmed security guard outside a country-music bar in California, police said. After the attacker began firing on patrons inside, a sergeant with the sheriff’s office charged into the building to confront him and was cut down by gunfire.

The debate has gained urgency during the past year, as President Trump and others have repeatedly said security guards — specifically armed ones — could have prevented the nation’s mass shootings; earlier this year, Trump tweeted his support for the controversial idea of arming teachers.

California Tragedies: 6 Deaths So Far

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘The Whole World Was on Fire’: Infernos Choke California, Thomas Fuller, Jennifer Medina and Jose A. Del Real, Nov. 9, 2018. The fire-prone state was battling three major blazes, one in the northern Sierra and two west of Los Angeles. Thousands of people have fled and hundreds of buildings have burned. At least six people have been killed.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘It Really Can’t Get Much Worse’: After Shooting, City Faces Fire, Jennifer Medina, Jose A. Del Real and Tim Arango, Nov. 9, 2018. Residents of Thousand Oaks had just begun to mourn the 12 people killed on Wednesday when wildfires forced some who had survived the attack to evacuate.

Only hours after a gunman attacked a country music bar in Thousand Oaks, the city was once again struck with panic. This time, fire forced the evacuation of the town still reeling from the devastating shooting.

Residents in Thousand Oaks had just begun to mourn the 12 people killed late Wednesday at the Borderline Bar & Grill when the second crisis this week set the city on edge. For hours after the shooting, people crowded into the Thousand Oaks Teen Center, anxious to find out if their loved ones had survived. It was well past lunchtime before it began to empty out. But by midnight, it was crowded again — this time as a fire evacuation center.

U.S. Political Culture

washington post logoWashington Post, In new memoir, Michelle Obama blasts Trump over birther theory and ‘Access’ tape, Krissah Thompson, Nov. 9, 2018 (print edition). The first lady’s book is not a Washington read full of gossip and political score-settling. But she does lay bare her deep, quaking disdain for President Trump, going so far as to write that her “body buzzed with fury” at one point.

michelle obama becoming cover horizontalAs Michelle Obama’s highly anticipated memoir Becoming arrives, it’s clear that the former first lady is occupying a space in the culture beyond politics. With an arena book tour featuring A-list special guests, she seems to exist in the middle ground between two icons she calls friends, Oprah Winfrey and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter. Her approach is short of Winfrey’s full-on confessional style but goes further than the guarded intimacy of Knowles-Carter’s art and performances.

Her book walks a similar line. It’s revealing, right down to the glossy cover photo in a casual white top — one shoulder exposed, eyes bright. (Spoiler: It’s not the kind of shirt a soon-to-be political candidate wears.) But Obama, who was famously guarded as first lady, still values her privacy — even as she offers frank opinions about Donald Trump and discloses past fertility struggles.

“I don’t think anybody will be necessarily prepared to read a memoir like this — especially coming from a first lady,” said Shonda Rhimes, the television producer, who read an advance copy of Obama’s book.

ny times logoNew York Times, In ‘Becoming,’ Michelle Obama Mostly Opts for Empowerment Over Politics, Jennifer Szalai, Nov. 9, 2018. For anyone who’s wondering: No, she’s not running. In her new memoir, Becoming — a book whose reportedly enormous advance rendered its contents almost as closely guarded as the bullion at Fort Knox — Michelle Obama puts to rest any speculation about her political ambitions. “I’ve never been a fan of politics,” she writes, “and my experience over the last 10 years has done little to change that.”

Note how she says “the last 10 years,” not two. She emerges in these pages as a first lady who steadfastly believed in her husband’s abilities but had no illusions that the sludge of partisanship and racism would melt away under the sunny slogans of hope and change. A month after President Obama started his first term in 2009, Michelle Obama was sitting in the balcony during a joint session of Congress, where she could see a cadre of Republicans scowling while her husband delivered his address. “They would fight everything Barack did, I realized, whether it was good for the country or not.” She continues, “It seemed they just wanted Barack to fail.”

This might sound like the acuity of hindsight if it weren’t consistent with the woman she had already shown herself to be: Michelle, the wry, orderly realist to the dreamy, cerebral Barack, joking on the 2008 campaign trail about her husband’s slovenly habits in the real world. She also talked candidly then about how the popular enthusiasm for him and his message — in a country in which the prospect of a black president had seemed far-fetched even to her — made her feel. “For the first time in my adult lifetime,” she told a crowd before the Wisconsin primaries, “I’m really proud of my country.”

wsj logoWall Street Journal, Donald Trump Played Central Role in Hush Payoffs to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, Joe Palazzolo, Nicole Hong, Michael Rothfeld,
Rebecca Davis O’Brien and Rebecca Ballhaus, Nov. 9, 2018. Federal prosecutors have gathered evidence of president’s participation in transactions that violated campaign-finance laws.

david pecker croppedAs a presidential candidate in August 2015, Donald Trump huddled with a longtime friend, media executive David Pecker, in his cluttered 26th floor Trump Tower office and made a request.

What can you do to help my campaign? he asked, according to people familiar with the meeting.

Mr. Pecker, chief executive of American Media Inc., offered to use his National Enquirer tabloid to buy the silence of women if they tried to publicize alleged sexual encounters with Mr. Trump.

djt Karen McDougal Donald Trump youtubeLess than a year later, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Pecker to quash the story of a former Playboy model who said they’d had an affair. Mr. Pecker’s company soon paid $150,000 to the model, Karen McDougal (shown with Trump at left), to keep her from speaking publicly about it. Mr. Trump later thanked Mr. Pecker for the assistance.

The Trump Tower meeting and its aftermath are among several previously unreported instances in which Mr. Trump intervened directly to suppress stories about his alleged sexual encounters with women, according to interviews with three dozen people who have direct knowledge of the events or who have been briefed on them, as well as court papers, corporate records and other documents.

djt stormy daniels 2006Taken together, the accounts refute a two-year pattern of denials by Mr. Trump, his legal team and his advisers that he was involved in payoffs to Ms. McDougal and a former adult-film star [widely reported to be Stormy Daniels, shown at right in a file photo]. They also raise the possibility that the president of the United States violated federal campaign-finance laws.

The Wall Street Journal found that Mr. Trump was involved in or briefed on nearly every step of the agreements. He directed deals in phone calls and meetings with his self-described fixer, Michael Cohen, and others. The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan has gathered evidence of Mr. Trump’s participation in the transactions.

On Thursday, the White House referred questions about Mr. Trump’s involvement in the hush deals to the president’s outside counsel Jay Sekulow, who declined to comment.

In an Oct. 23 interview with the Journal, Mr. Trump declined to address whether he had ever discussed the payments with Mr. Cohen during the campaign.

“Nobody cares about that,” he said. He described Mr. Cohen as a “public-relations person” who “represented me on very small things.”

Roll Call, Donald Trump’s Trans-Atlantic Tweetstorm on Air Force One, John T. Bennett, Nov. 9, 2018. President said he was focused on ‘the world.’ He spent hours attacking domestic foes. President Donald Trump assured reporters as he left the White House Friday morning for Paris he was “thinking about the world.” Only, he wasn’t.

The president and first lady Melania Trump boarded Marine One just before 9:30 a.m. and lifted off to link up with Air Force One a few minutes later. By 10 a.m., the executive jet was wheels up for a diplomatic trip to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

Before the roughly six-hour flight to Paris, any global focus of the diplomat in chief appeared to have been discarded on the South Lawn, where he took a list of questions from reporters on his way out.

Before Air Force One had made much progress crossing the Atlantic, Trump’s worldly thoughts had given way to an hourslong trans-Atlantic Twitter rant about exclusively domestic topics, including his political foes. Other world leaders he will see in Paris, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, were not mentioned.

The GOP president, whose base is mostly white and conservative and who is hammered regularly by critics for spouting racial “dog whistles,” mused just after 12:30 p.m. Eastern time about vote-counting issues in Florida’s Broward County. Never reluctant to espouse conspiracy theories, Trump wrote, “How come they never find Republican votes?” — referring to what he called the “Broward Effect.”

To find one answer, Trump could have had his staff seek out U.S. Census Bureau and Florida Department of State data about Broward’s demographics. For instance, the bureau found the county’s population is 64 percent white — but African-Americans and Latinos combine for 60 percent of residents. Both those groups largely vote Democratic. And the state office’s website says Broward has 249,822 registered Republicans and 586,833 registered Democrats.

2018 Elections Update

washington post logoWashington Post, Democratic candidates in Florida pull into recount range as state again is epicenter of post-election fight over ballots, Michael Scherer, Nov. 9, 2018 (print edition). Republicans maintain a narrowing lead in the U.S. Senate and governor’s races as votes continue to be counted. Nearly two decades after hanging chads transfixed the nation, rick scottFlorida is once again headed toward a high-stakes election recount, as vote margins narrowed in Democrats’ favor Thursday in the state’s marquee U.S. Senate and governor’s races.

Hundreds of party and interest-group volunteers spent the day trying to track down people who had cast provisional ballots, seeking affidavits to prove their votes should be counted. And in an echo of the 2000 presidential election, state Republicans tried to preempt the coming fight by accusing Democratic lawyers of democratic donkey logoheading to Broward County to “steal” the election.

In the Senate race, Gov. Rick Scott (R), above right, had a lead of just more than 15,000 votes, or 0.18 percent, over Sen. Bill Nelson (D) as of Thursday night. In the governor’s race, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D) trailed former congressman Ron DeSantis (R) by more than 36,000 votes, or 0.44 percent.

washington post logodave bratWashington Post, The Republican who toppled Cantor ran timidly this time in Virginia’s 7th District, Laura Vozzella, Nov. 9, 2018 (print edition). Rep. Dave Brat, the little-known economics professor who toppled then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in 2014 and presaged the rise of populism and Donald Trump, held few events during his failed reelection bid and was a no-show at his own election-night party.

abigail spanberger twitterThis year, up against the suburban rage unleashed by Trump’s presidency, the congressman seemed skittish. After Democratic protesters shouted him down at two town hall meetings last year, Brat, right, stuck to tightly scripted public appearances. Campaign events were mostly closed to the media and publicized only after the fact; he last advertised one on Facebook in July.

The winner was former CIA operative Abigail Spanberger, left.

washington post logoWashington Post, In Arizona Senate race, Democrat takes narrow lead as vote count continues, John Wagner and Elise Viebeck, Nov. 9, 2018. Questions of uncounted ballots remain in gubernatorial races in Georgia, Florida. Democratic Senate candidate Kyrsten Sinema has taken a narrow lead over Republican opponent Martha McSally in the Arizona kyrsten sinema oSenate race as officials continue to tally mail-in ballots — a change in fortunes that could narrow the size of the GOP martha mcsally omajority next year.

Sinema, right, now leads McSally, 49.1 percent to 48.6 percent, according to results provided by election officials at 8 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday. The two congresswomen were separated by just 9,610 ballots cast statewide, with a Green Party candidate lagging far behind.

McSally, left had consistently led in the count since Tuesday’s midterm elections, but more than 400,000 ballots remained outstanding as of Thursday night, leaving the race in flux in a state where about three-quarters of voters cast ballots by mail.

Mass Shooting

ny times logoNew York Times, Many Who Fled California Attack Were Survivors of Las Vegas Massacre, Jose A. Del Real, Jennifer Medina and Tim Arango, Nov. 8, 2018. Country music was blaring and beer was flowing. The Lakers game was on the television, and if revelers weren’t line dancing they were playing pool. Then all of a sudden, into “College Country Night!” at the Borderline Bar & Grill stepped a man with a gun.

Wearing dark clothing and a dark baseball cap, he set off smoke bombs to create confusion. He shot a security guard at the entrance and then opened fire into the crowd. Patrons dropped to the ground, dashed under tables, hid in the bathroom and ran for exits, stepping over bodies sprawled across the floor.

And as they raced for safety, many of them thought, Not again.

Just last year, they had fled the same chaos — gunshots, bodies falling — in Las Vegas, at a country music festival where 58 people were killed in the worst mass shooting in modern American history. The Borderline, a popular hangout for country music fans, had become a place of solace for dozens of survivors of the Vegas massacre to come together for music, for healing and for remembering — “to celebrate life,” in the words of one.

And now, at least some of them belong to a group that seems uniquely American: survivors of two mass shootings.

“This is the second time in about a year and a month that this has happened,” Nicholas Champion, a fitness trainer from Southern California who posted a group photo on Facebook of Vegas survivors gathering at the Borderline in April, said in a television interview. “I was at the Las Vegas Route 91 mass shooting as well as probably 50 or 60 others who were in the building at the same time as me tonight.”

Climate Change

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal judge blocks Keystone XL pipeline, dealing a major blow to Trump, Fred Barbash, Allyson Chiu and Juliet Eilperin​, Nov. 9, 2018. A federal judge temporarily blocked construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, ruling late Thursday that the Trump administration had failed to justify its decision granting a permit for brian morris 2014the 1,200-mile long project designed to connect Canada’s oil sands fields with Texas’ Gulf Coast refineries.

The judge, Brian Morris, right, of the U.S. District Court in Montana, said the State Department ignored crucial issues of climate change in order to further the president’s goal of letting the pipeline be built. In doing so, the administration ran afoul of the Administrative Procedure Act, which requires “reasoned” explanations for government decisions, particularly when they represent reversals of well-studied actions.

It was a major defeat for Trump, who attacked the Obama administration for stopping the project in the face of protests and an environmental impact study. Trump signed an executive order two days into his presidency setting in motion a course reversal on the Keystone XL pipeline, as well as another major pipeline, Dakota Access.

More On New Attorney General

ben wittes brookingsThe Atlantic, Opinion: It’s Probably Too Late to Stop Mueller, Benjamin Wittes (right, Editor in chief of Lawfare and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution), Nov. 9, 2018. The prospects for interference are dimmer than many imagine.

Eighteen months ago, I said, President Donald Trump had an opportunity to disrupt the Russia investigation: He had fired the FBI director and had rocked the Justice Department back on its heels. But Trump had dithered. He had broadcast his intentions too many times. And in the meantime, Mueller had moved decisively, securing important indictments and convictions, and making whatever preparations were necessary for hostile fire. And now Democrats were poised to take the House of Representatives. The window of opportunity was gone.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Mueller probe could be in mortal danger, Harry Litman, Nov. 9, 2018. Harry Litman teaches constitutional law at the University of California at San Diego and practices law at the firm Constantine Cannon. He was U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania from 1998 to 2001 and deputy assistant attorney general from 1993 to 1998.

How serious is the forced resignation of Jeff Sessions and the installation of his chief of staff, Matthew G. Whitaker, as acting attorney general? And what does it portend for the Mueller probe and related investigations?

The first question is easy: It is as serious as a heart attack. Whitaker’s appointment, which President Trump effectuated before all of the midterm election results were even final, immediately divested Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein of his oversight authority of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation.

washington post logoWashington Post, As a Senate candidate, Whitaker said he won’t support ‘secular’ judicial nominees and courts should be ‘inferior branch,’ Michael Kranish and Robert Barnes​, Nov. 9, 2018. Matthew G. Whitaker’s comments, made during an unsuccessful 2014 run, have drawn new scrutiny since he was named acting attorney general.

Acting Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker has said that judges should have a “biblical view,” that he could not support nominees who are “secular” and declared that federal courts should be the “inferior branch” of government.

Whitaker’s comments, made during an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate in 2014, have drawn new scrutiny since President Trump named him Wednesday to replace ousted Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

In an April 25, 2014, debate, moderator Erick Erickson asked the candidates about their faith. Whitaker said that, if elected, he would want judges who “have a biblical view of justice, which I think is very important …”

Erickson interjected: “Levitical or New Testament?”

“I’m a New Testament,” Whitaker answered, according to an account at the time in the Des Moines Register. “And what I know is as long as they have that world view, that they’ll be a good judge. And if they have a secular world view, where this is all we have here on Earth, then I’m going to be very concerned about that judge.”

ny times logocharlie savageNew York Times, Acting Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker Once Criticized Supreme Court’s Power, Charlie Savage, right, Nov. 9, 2018 (print edition). The acting attorney general, Matthew G. Whitaker, once espoused the view that the courts “are supposed to be the inferior branch” and criticized the Supreme Court’s power to review legislative and executive acts and declare them unconstitutional, the lifeblood of its existence as a coequal branch of government.

In a Q. and A. when he sought the Republican nomination for senator in Iowa in 2014, Mr. Whitaker indicated that he shared the belief among some conservatives that the federal judiciary has too much power over public policy. He criticized many of the Supreme Court’s rulings, beginning with a foundational one: Marbury v. Madison, which established its power of judicial review in 1803.

“There are so many” bad rulings, Mr. Whitaker said. “I would start with the idea of Marbury v. Madison. That’s probably a good place to start and the way it’s looked at the Supreme Court as the final arbiter of constitutional issues.”

The interview was among evidence that shed new light on Mr. Whitaker’s views, including disparagement of the Russia investigation, which he now oversees, and an expansive view of presidential power. Congressional aides, journalists and other observers scoured his record after Mr. Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday and replaced him with Mr. Whitaker, instantly raising questions about whether the president wanted a loyalist in charge at the Justice Department with the power to end the Russia investigation.

Groups throughout the nation marched on Thursday to support the inquiry of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, and to protest Mr. Whitaker’s appointment. Thousands demonstrated in dozens of cities, including in Washington, Philadelphia, Omaha and Salt Lake City.

In New York, about 4,000 people marched from Times Square to Union Square, the police said. Protesters held signs and chanted “Trump is not above the law.” On Twitter, #ProtectMueller was trending.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Mueller Has a Way Around Trump and His Minions, Richard Ben-Veniste and George Frampton, Nov. 9, 2018. A road map from the Watergate prosecution shows a potential route for the special counsel to send incriminating evidence directly to Congress.

Whitaker Appointment Unconstitutional?

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump’s Appointment of the Acting Attorney General Is Unconstitutional, Neal K. Katyal and George T. Conway III, Nov. 9, 2018 (print edition). The president is evading the requirement to seek the Senate’s advice and consent for the nation’s chief law enforcement officer and the person who will oversee the Mueller investigation. Mr. neal katyal oKatyal, shown at left, and Mr. Conway, shown below at right via his Twitter photo (and husband of Trump White House counselor Kellyanne Conway), are prominent appellate lawyers.

What now seems an eternity ago, the conservative law professor Steven Calabresi published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal in May arguing that Robert Mueller’s appointment as special counsel was unconstitutional. His article got a lot of attention, and it wasn’t long before President Trump picked up the argument, george conway twittertweeting that “the Appointment of the Special Counsel is totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL!”

Professor Calabresi’s article was based on the Appointments Clause of the Constitution, Article II, Section 2, Clause 2. Under that provision, so-called principal officers of the United States must be nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate under its “Advice and Consent” powers.

He argued that Mr. Mueller was a principal officer because he is exercising significant law enforcement authority and that since he has not been confirmed by the Senate, his appointment was unconstitutional. As one of us argued at the time, he was wrong. What makes an officer a principal officer is that he or she reports only to the president. No one else in government is that person’s boss. But Mr. Mueller reports to Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general. So, Mr. Mueller is what is known as an inferior officer, not a principal one, and his appointment without Senate approval was valid.

matthew whitaker agBut Professor Calabresi and Mr. Trump were right about the core principle. A principal officer must be confirmed by the Senate. And that has a very significant consequence today.

It means that Mr. Trump’s installation of Matthew Whitaker, shown left in a new official photo, as acting attorney general of the United States after forcing the resignation of Jeff Sessions is unconstitutional. It’s illegal. And it means that anything Mr. Whitaker does, or tries to do, in that position is invalid.

Much of the commentary about Mr. Whitaker’s appointment has focused on all sorts of technical points about the Vacancies Reform Act and Justice Department succession statutes. But the flaw in the appointment of Mr. Whitaker, who was Mr. Sessions’s chief of staff at the Justice Department, runs much deeper. It defies one of the explicit checks and balances set out in the Constitution, a provision designed to protect us all against the centralization of government power.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Trump’s Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker panics and locks down his Twitter account after his scandals explode, Bill Palmer, Nov. 9, 2018. When it comes to Donald Trump, the only thing more consistent than his dirty scheming is the fact that he never bothers to do his homework before putting his schemes in motion.

We all know why he named Matthew Whitaker as his new Acting Attorney General: the guy has already said he thinks the Trump-Russia investigation should be shut down. But the part Trump missed, or doesn’t understand the importance of, is that Whitaker is a disaster in a thousand other ways.

It’s not just that Matthew Whitaker has gone on national television and pre-confessed to the obstruction of justice he intends to commit, making it much easier for the Democrats to build a case for forcing him to recuse himself. It’s that Whitaker is a complete train wreck in every way imaginable. For instance he was part of a scam company that was shut down by the Federal Trade Commission last year. That’s right, Trump’s own federal government has already busted Whitaker and branded him a criminal, but Trump doesn’t seem to know or care. It gets worse.

After Democratic political operative Adam Parkhomenko began exposing Matthew Whitaker’s older pro-Russia tweets yesterday, Whitaker hit the panic button and locked down his Twitter account so that the public couldn’t see any of his old tweets. Those who visited Whitaker’s account last night were greeted with this message: “This account’s Tweets are protected. Only confirmed followers have access to @MattWhitaker46’s Tweets and complete profile. Click the “Follow” button to send a follow request.”

If Matthew Whitaker has done this with the intention of deleting his scandalous older tweets, he’s going to be disappointed to learn that public internet archive services already have caches of his old tweets, and he can’t delete those. In any case, the Acting Attorney General of the United States just locked down his Twitter account because his scandals are exploding so severely. That’s beyond precedent. He just made it even easier for the Democrats to use his scandals to push him out of a job.

More on 2018 Elections

OpEdNews, Opinion: Ten Midterm Takeaways, Bob Burnett (Berkeley writer and previously one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems), Nov. 9, 2018. The results of the 2018 midterm election are in. Democrats achieved some, but not all, of their objectives. Here are ten takeaways from the November 6th results.

1. The Resistance worked.

2. Nonetheless, a lot of work remains to be done.

democratic donkey logo3. Big voter turnout didn’t necessarily translate into wins. The New York Times estimates, “Approximately 114 million votes were cast in U.S. House races in 2018, compared to 83 million in 2014.” A record 80 million voters participated in Senate contests — not all states had a Senate race. Democrats cast 57 percent of the votes and still lost 3 seats.(!) Because Republicans turned out where they had to. For example, in Texas, Democrats had an excellent candidate, Beto O’Rourke, and Republicans had a loathsome candidate, Ted Cruz. Democrats turned out in record numbers — more than 4 million voters — but Cruz won (50.8 percent) because Republican voters also turned out.

Roll Call, Election Day +3: Here are the 13 House and 2 Senate Uncalled Races, Staff report, Nov. 9, 2018. Some races going to recounts, one is going to court. Three days after Election Day, two Senate and 13 House races remain uncalled, and if the 2000 presidential race is an indication, we could be waiting weeks for the outcome of one of those Senate races. A third race in the Senate will be decided later this month when Mississippi votes in a runoff for Tuesday’s top two finishers.

House Democrats have already passed the threshold for a majority that they haven’t held since 2010. Based on current projections, they could obtain as many as 234 seats — good for a 33-seat majority — though it is more likely they’ll land somewhere around 228 seats for a still-significant 21-seat margin.

In the Senate, the GOP flipped seats in Indiana, North Dakota and Missouri — states that President Donald Trump won by double digits in 2016 — over to their side.

Here are the races yet to be called by noon Friday that will determine the size of the Republicans’ majority in the Senate and the Democrats’ in the House:

Senate: Florida

bill nelsonThe race for the Senate seat in Florida has turned into a nasty battle of accusations as it is likely to go to a recount. After three terms in the upper chamber, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, right, conceded to Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott just after midnight Wednesday, but as the margin between the two narrowed later in the day Nelson called for a recount.

Scott and the National Republican Senatorial Committee sued Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes Thursday for failing to turn over information about ballots that have been counted. Scott also called for a Florida Department of Law Enforcement Investigation into Broward’s handling of ballots.

Trump accused Broward County officials with “finding votes out of nowhere” as he left the White House Friday morning for a trip to Paris for an Armistice Day celebration.

Want insight more often? Get Roll Call in your inbox

Senate: Arizona

Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema holds a lead of less than a point over GOP Rep. Martha McSally with almost all precincts reporting. Absentee and provisional ballots will also add to the vote totals over the next few days.

Senate: Mississippi

The race for Mississippi’s junior Senate seat has been called, but there will not be a declared winner until a Nov. 27 runoff election. GOP Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and former Democratic Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy advanced to the runoff after Hyde-Smith failed to reach the 50 percent threshold for an outright victory. Republican Chris McDaniel siphoned off 16.4 percent of the vote from Hyde-Smith.

Press TV, U.S. midterm elections fallout, Guests: Michael Springmann (American Author and Attorney); Don DeBar (Activist and Commentator), Nov. 9, 2018 (21:59 mins.). Justice Integrity Project views cited at 11:58 min. mark.

carol miller west virginiaRoll Call, Meet Carol Miller. She Could Be the Only New Republican Woman Coming to Congress Next Year, Simone Pathé, Nov. 9, 2018. Among the 33 new women elected to the House this week, only one is a Republican.

Carol Miller, right, the majority whip in the West Virginia state House and daughter of a former Ohio congressman, won the Mountain State’s 3rd District seat Tuesday night, defeating Democratic state Sen. Richard Ojeda.

Although she’s replacing a man (GOP Rep. Evan Jenkins didn’t run for re-election) Miller is joining a Republican conference with significantly fewer women than the current Congress.

Indonesian Air Disaster

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: From 5,000 Feet to Shattered in Seconds: What Caused a Jet’s Fatal Plunge? Hannah Beech and Keith Bradsher, Nov. 9, 2018 (print edition). The final moments of Lion Air Flight 610 as it hurtled from a calm Indonesian sky into the sea on Oct. 29 would have been terrifying but swift. What appears to have been a perfect storm of problems may have left the pilots with an insurmountable challenge, investigators have found.

indonesia flagThe final moments of Lion Air Flight 610 as it hurtled soon after dawn from a calm Indonesian sky into the waters of the Java Sea would have been terrifying but swift.

The single-aisle Boeing aircraft, assembled in Washington State and delivered to Lion Air less than three months ago, appears to have plummeted nose-first into the water, its advanced jet engines racing the plane toward the waves at as much as 400 m.p.h. in less than a minute.

The aircraft slammed into the sea with such force that some metal fittings aboard were reduced to powder, and the aircraft’s flight data recorder tore loose from its armored box, propelled into the muddy seabed.

Animal Rights – Gambling

ny times logoNew York Times, Thousands of Greyhounds May Need Homes as Florida Bans Racing, Audra D. S. Burch and Christina Caron, Nov. 9, 2018. Florida’s newly passed ban on greyhound racing will leave thousands of dogs homeless. Groups on both sides of the amendment will work to find homes.

Animal activists have been trying for years to put an end to greyhound racing in Florida, one of the country’s most popular spots to watch dogs chase mechanical rabbits round and round a track. In their view, the greyhounds were mistreated, subjected to harsh living conditions, then retired with broken bones.

On Tuesday, voters overwhelmingly backed a measure that set greyhound lovers scrambling in a new direction: finding new homes for thousands of dogs with no clear future.

Amendment 13, which proposed banning racing by the end of 2020 and hardened the battle lines between greyhound track owners and animal advocates, passed with 69 percent of the vote.

The industry has long been criticized as abusive to the dogs. Track owners and trainers pushed back, saying the dogs were well cared for and would not race if they were unhealthy or neglected.

But as Florida is home to 11 of the nation’s 17 active dog tracks, there is a concern that the networks of people who find new owners for dogs at the end of their short racing careers will be overwhelmed.

#MeToo In High-Tech

ny times logofacebook logoNew York Times, Facebook to Drop Forced Arbitration in Harassment Cases, Daisuke Wakabayashi and Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Nov. 9, 2018. Facebook said on Friday that it would no longer force employees to settle sexual harassment claims in private arbitration, making it the latest technology company to do away with a practice that critics say has stacked the deck against victims of harassment.

Facebook acted one day after Google announced similar plans. Last week, 20,000 Google employees staged a walkout from the company’s offices around the world to demand that it change the way it handled sexual harassment incidents. Microsoft changed its arbitration policy about a year ago, as did the ride-hailing company Uber six months ago.

Nov. 8

Election Follow-ups

washington post logoWashington Post, Questions of uncounted ballots remain in gubernatorial races in Georgia, Florida, Elise Viebeck, Nov. 8, 2018. Republican Brian Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state, claimed victory and submitted his resignation from that office, even though his race against Democrat Stacey Abrams had not been called.

In Florida, Democrat Andrew Gillum appeared to back off his election-night concession to Republican Ron DeSantis, citing reports of uncounted ballots. See also, Washington Post, Senate, governor’s races in Florida pull into recount range.

washington post logoWashington Post, Once in majority, House Democrats plan quick vote to protect coverage for those with preexisting conditions, Erica Werner​, Nov. 8, 2018. The vote would follow up Democrats’ successful midterms strategy of focusing on health care and attacking Republicans relentlessly over their attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Whitaker Helped Promote Scam Company

washington post logoWashington Post, New acting attorney general once promoted a company accused of deceiving clients, Carol D. Leonnig, Rosalind S. Helderman and Robert O’Harrow Jr.​, Nov. 8, 2018. Former customers of World Patent Marketing expressed dismay at Matthew G. Whitaker’s appointment to lead the Justice Department for now.

matthew whitaker screengrabWhen federal investigators were digging into an invention-promotion company accused of fraud by customers, they sought information in 2017 from a prominent member of the company’s advisory board, according to two people familiar with the probe: Matthew G. Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney in Iowa (shown in a screen shot).

ftc logoIt is unclear how Whitaker — who was appointed acting attorney general by President Trump on Wednesday — responded to a Federal Trade Commission subpoena to his law firm.

In the end, the FTC filed a complaint against Miami-based World Patent Marketing, accusing it of misleading investors and falsely promising that it would help them patent and profit from their inventions, according to court filings.

In May of this year, a federal court in Florida ordered the company to pay a settlement of more than $25 million and close up shop, records show. The company did not admit or deny wrongdoing.

New Insights On Mueller Probe

msnbc logo CustomMSNBC, Conservative Scholars Dispute Whitaker appointment, expert guests, Nov. 8, 2018. At least two prominent conservative scholars disputed President Trump’s power to promote Justice Department Chief of Staff Matthew Whitaker to the post of acting attorney general without senate confirmation.

Those scholars are University of California at Berkeley Law School professor John Yoo, a high-level Justice Department appointee during the George W. Bush presidency, and Fox News commentator and former New Jersey state court judge Andrew Napolitano.

Their views were reported by several MSNBC hosts, among others, who separately quoted guest Neal Katyal as saying many individuals would have “standing” before the courts to challenge Whitaker’s powers, particularly if Whitaker seeks to thwart Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of the Trump Administration.

Host Lawrence O’Donnell, formerly a longtime Democratic staffer for the U.S. Senate, also warned that Whitaker could be liable for the obstruction of justice charges that have a five-year statute of limitations that could extend into a Democratic administration.

In related news, a member of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team told a federal appeals panel how newly appointed Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker is now kept informed of the special counsel’s work and can affect major decisions.

Prosecutor Michael Dreeden made the comments in response to questions from a three-judge panel hearing arguments from Andrew Miller, a reluctant witness before the special counsel’s grand jury probe into the activities of GOP consultant Roger Stone. MSNBC host Rachel Maddow reported on the comments. The events were at the federal courthouse in Washington, DC. The Justice Integrity Project visited the courthouse vicinity based on a tip advising of unusual activity at the courthouse.

ny times logoNew York Times, Acting Attorney General Once Declared Courts ‘the Inferior Branch,’ Nov. 8, 2018. The newly installed head of the Justice Department, Matthew G. Whitaker, also criticized the Supreme Court’s power to review legislative and executive acts. In a Q. and A. in 2014, Mr. Whitaker espoused views that a constitutional scholar called “internally contradictory” and “ignorant.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Commentary: Matthew Whitaker has experience advising con artists. Will he help more under Trump? Catherine Rampell, Nov. 8, 2018. Many assume Matthew G. Whitaker was chosen as acting attorney general because he criticized the Russia probe, said he would have indicted Hillary Clinton and otherwise looks like a die-hard Trump loyalist.

But maybe Whitaker really was picked because he has experience advising con artists.

Whitaker, after all, was involved with a Miami-based firm that federal regulators shut down last year as an alleged scam. The firm, World Patent Marketing, promised aspiring inventors that it would patent and market their brainchildren, based on what a 17-page Federal Trade Commission complaint characterized as bogus “success stories” and other false claims.

Among the many, many ways this company hoodwinked customers, according to the FTC complaint: It claimed its customers’ inventions were sold in “big box” stores such as Walmart and Target, when in fact none were; it claimed it owned a manufacturing plant in China, though no such plant existed; and it said its board of advisers (“Invention Team Advisory Board”) personally reviewed customers’ invention ideas, when the board did no such thing.

The company allegedly bilked some customers out of their life savings and threw others deeply into debt; a Miami New Times exposé found that some had lost hundreds of thousands of dollars. In return, the company “provided almost no service,” according to the FTC.

Just as bad, when customers complained or asked for refunds, the FTC said, the company resorted to threats and intimidation.

Sometimes this involved ominous references to World Patent Marketing’s “intimidating security team, all ex-Israeli Special Ops and trained in Krav Maga, one of the most deadly of the martial arts.”

Mostly, the message came from lawyers. Including Whitaker.

Whitaker was on the World Patent Marketing’s “Invention Team Advisory Board” — yes, that body the FTC said was falsely advertised as reviewing customers’ creations. The company touted Whitaker’s credentials as a former U.S. attorney and Republican Senate candidate. Whitaker publicly vouched for the firm in promotional materials.

Investigator’s Report Announced

wayne madsen trumps bananas coverWayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigation: General release of Trump-Mafia collusion Road Map, Wayne Madsen (syndicated columnist, author of 16 books, including the recent Trump’s Bananas Republic, and former Navy intelligence officer), Nov. 8, 2018 (Most WMR columns are subscription only but this article is available to the general public.)

Since WMR began developing and maintaining the “Trump-Mafia collusion Road Map” in 2017, it has been WMR’s intention to release it to the general public the moment Donald Trump made a hostile move on the Department of Justice and specifically, Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Sessions — who was recused from overseeing the collusion investigation of Trump’s and his family’s criminal foreign entanglements — Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller are all being targeted by Trump and his criminal associates in an attempt to hide the Trump Organization’s close connections to and involvement with major international criminal networks.

The Trump-Mafia Road Map illustrates the myriad nature of Trump’s criminal enterprises. Due to its size and compression, the .PDF file [download here] must be expanded by at least 400 times, using a .PDF viewer, for proper reading and scrolling.

sam clovis fox news CustomOn November 7, Trump fired Sessions, removed Rosenstein from overseeing Mueller’s investigation, and named, as acting Attorney General, the Attorney General’s chief of staff Matt Whitaker, a GOP operative from Iowa and a close friend and political associate of Sam Clovis, left, a Trump campaign official and a witness called before a grand jury empanelled by Mueller.

This “Wednesday afternoon massacre” was the first step toward Trump’s shutting down the important work of Mueller and his team of investigators.

There is an inter-active version of the Road Map. It contains side notes and other relevant information. It can be accessed by clicking here. If you choose this viewing method, be prepared for very long load times. This is a massive document. Your device may freeze during accessing. We are, therefore, recommending only downloading the PDF document.

djt roy cohn mob clients carmine galante john gotti tony salerno1533348924301

More On Trump Probes

washington post logoWashington Post, Acting attorney general said to have no plans to recuse from Russia probe, Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky and Josh Dawsey​, Nov. 8, 2018. Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker has no intention of recusing himself from overseeing the special counsel probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to people close to him who added they do not believe he would approve any subpoena of President Trump as part of that investigation.

matthew whitaker agSince stepping into his new role on Wednesday, Whitaker (left) has faced questions — principally from Democrats — about whether he should recuse from the Russia investigation, given that he has written opinion pieces in the past about the investigation, and is a friend and political ally of a witness.

On Thursday, two people close to Whitaker said he has no intention of taking himself off the Russia case.

Ethics officials at the Justice Department are likely to review his past work to see if he has any financial or personal conflicts. In many instances, that office does not require a Justice Department official to recuse, but suggests a course of action. In the past, senior Justice Department officials tend to follow such advice, but they are rarely required to do so, according to officials familiar with the process.

Reuters via New York Times, Whitaker’s Friendship With Trump Aide Reignites Recusal Debate, Staff report, Nov. 8, 2018.  President Donald Trump’s pick for acting attorney general, Matt Whitaker, is a close friend of Trump’s 2016 election campaign co-chair, and a former government ethics chief said the friendship makes Whitaker unable to oversee impartially a politically charged investigation into the campaign.

Matthew Whitaker, named on Wednesday to replace Jeff Sessions, will directly oversee Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible links between Trump’s campaign team and Russian officials.

Whitaker publicly criticized Mueller’s investigation before he was hired as Sessions’ chief of staff last year.

walter shaubSam Clovis, who was co-chair of Trump’s 2016 campaign and has testified before the grand jury in the Mueller investigation, said he and Whitaker became good friends when they ran against each other as Republicans in a 2014 Senate primary campaign in Iowa. Whitaker also later served as the chairman of a Clovis campaign for state treasurer.

Walter Shaub, right, who was director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics for four years before resigning in July 2017, said the friendship between Whitaker and Clovis should disqualify Whitaker from supervising the Mueller investigation.

Palmer Report, Analysis, Buzz says Donald Trump Jr is on the verge of arrest, Bill Palmer, Nov. 8, 2018. Yesterday, Donald Trump made the too little, too late move of firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions after Special Counsel Robert Mueller had by all accounts already reached the finish line of his investigation. The question was why the usually-tepid Trump pulled the trigger at all. Now there’s suddenly buzz everywhere that Donald Trump Jr is on the verge of arrest. This is bolstered by the fact that one of the people making this assertion is Junior himself.

Donald Trump Jr has been running around telling people that he thinks he’s going to get indicted soon, according to New York Magazine and Politico. But this report is just the start of it. Now the Democratic Coalition has just announced that according to its sources, Junior’s arrest is “imminent.” Other usually-reliable pundits are floating the same thing. But really, this comes back to Junior’s own claim that he’s about to get popped – and yes, there are ways he could know it’s about to happen.

For instance, Robert Mueller’s people told Paul Manafort in advance that he was about to be indicted and arrested, in the hope of convincing him to cut a plea deal. It’s not quite as clear why Mueller would give Donald Trump Jr an advance heads-up, as he’s not going to flip on his father, at least not right away. That said, if Mueller has hauled Junior’s associates before a grand jury, they could have tipped him off about how far Mueller has progressed.

There are a couple key things to keep in mind here. We don’t know if Robert Mueller is planning to nail Donald Trump Jr for Trump-Russia collusion right out of the gate, or if he might initially have someone like SDNY nail Junior on more-easily-proven financial crimes instead. If Mueller hands it off, that would help circumvent any potential complications raised by Jeff Sessions’ recent firing. Also, if Junior is about to be arrested, it would mean he’s already been indicted, and it’s under seal. Stay tuned.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: This is what the firing of Mr. Sessions could mean for the Russia investigation, Charlie Savage, Nov. 8, 2018 (print edition). President Trump’s decision to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions and appoint Mr. Sessions’s former chief of staff, Matthew G. Whitaker, as the acting head of the Justice Department immediately raised questions about what the move means for Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel leading the Russia investigation.

What does this mean for the Mueller investigation?

The shake-up means that Mr. Whitaker assumes oversight of the inquiry from Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general.

jeff sessions ag oMr. Sessions, left, recused himself from overseeing cases arising from the 2016 election, citing his role as an active Trump supporter, so Mr. Rosenstein has been serving as acting attorney general for the investigation into whether any Trump associates conspired with Russia’s election interference and whether Mr. Trump obstructed the inquiry itself. He appointed Mr. Mueller as special counsel.

But because Mr. Whitaker is not recused from overseeing cases arising from the 2016 election, as Mr. Sessions was, he takes over the case. Mr. Rosenstein goes back to his day job overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Justice Department.

ny times logoNew York Times, Acting Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker Once Criticized Supreme Court’s Power, Charlie Savage, Nov. 8, 2018. The acting attorney general, Matthew G. Whitaker, once espoused the view that the courts “are supposed to be the inferior branch” and criticized the Supreme Court’s power to review legislative and executive acts and declare them unconstitutional, the lifeblood of its existence as a coequal branch of government.

In a Q. and A. when he sought the Republican nomination for senator in Iowa in 2014, Mr. Whitaker indicated that he shared the belief among some conservatives that the federal judiciary has too much power over public policy. He criticized many of the Supreme Court’s rulings, beginning with a foundational one: Marbury v. Madison, which established its power of judicial review in 1803.

“There are so many” bad rulings, Mr. Whitaker said. “I would start with the idea of Marbury v. Madison. That’s probably a good place to start and the way it’s looked at the Supreme Court as the final arbiter of constitutional issues.”

The interview was among evidence that shed new light on Mr. Whitaker’s views, including disparagement of the Russia investigation, which he now oversees, and an expansive view of presidential power. Congressional aides, journalists and other observers scoured his record after Mr. Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday and replaced him with Mr. Whitaker, instantly raising questions about whether the president wanted a loyalist in charge at the Justice Department with the power to end the Russia investigation.

Groups throughout the nation marched on Thursday to support the inquiry of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, and to protest Mr. Whitaker’s appointment. Thousands demonstrated in dozens of cities, including in Washington, Philadelphia, Omaha and Salt Lake City.

In New York, about 4,000 people marched from Times Square to Union Square, the police said. Protesters held signs and chanted “Trump is not above the law.” On Twitter, #ProtectMueller was trending.

Palmer Report, Donald Trump’s new Acting Attorney General stooge Matthew Whitaker is already crashing and burning, Bill Palmer, Nov. 8, 2018. After he fired Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump could have picked just about anyone to be his new Acting Attorney General. Trump has any number of loyal stooges who would be willing to do his corrupt bidding in this role. But as it turns out, Trump – true to form – picked the one guy who is already crashing and burning in real time.

matthew whitakerThe key to secretly putting your own corrupt stooge in power is to make sure it’s actually a secret. Donald Trump, who becomes more divorced from reality by the hour, doesn’t appear to understand that concept. Of all the stooges available, Trump chose Matthew Whitaker, right, – a guy who has spent the past several months flat out admitting on television and in writing that he thinks Trump should be shielded from any attempt at investigation.

If Trump had picked anyone else as Acting Attorney General, House Democrats would have had to wait for that person to actually commit obstruction of justice, and get caught doing it, before they’d be able to make any headway in forcing that person out. But because Matthew Whitaker has already publicly and repeatedly pre-confessed his intent to commit obstruction on Trump’s behalf, the Democrats can immediately make headway in taking this guy down.

In fact Nancy Pelosi is already calling for Matthew Whitaker to recuse himself. Will it happen? We’ll see. Keep in mind that Donald Trump installed Jeff Sessions as Attorney General specifically to protect himself in the Trump-Russia investigation, yet as soon as Sessions found himself facing potential criminal culpability of his own, he quickly recused himself. Whitaker is already crashing and burning; we’ll see how bad it gets for him.

ny times logoRobert Mueller (FBI Official Photo)New York Times, Opinion: Mueller Was Running on Borrowed Time. Has It Run Out? Editorial Board, Nov. 8, 2018. The president seems to want a lawman he can control. Robert Mueller (shown in a file photo), the special counsel, always knew he was running the Russia investigation on borrowed time. That time may have just run out on Wednesday afternoon, when President Trump ousted his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, less than 24 hours after Republicans lost their eight-year lock on the House of Representatives.

So who’s going to protect Mr. Mueller now?

rod rosenstein indict russians 7 13 2018 screeengrabUntil Wednesday, the job was being performed ably by Rod Rosenstein (shown in a screengrab), the deputy attorney general who assumed oversight of the Russia investigation when Mr. Sessions recused himself in March 2017.

Under Mr. Rosenstein’s leadership, the investigation Mr. Mueller took over has resulted in the felony conviction of the president’s former campaign chairman, guilty pleas from multiple other top Trump aides and associates and the indictments of dozens of Russian government operatives for interfering in the 2016 election. For more than a year, Mr. Rosenstein walked a political tightrope, guarding Mr. Mueller’s independence on the one hand while trying to appease Mr. Trump’s increasingly meddlesome demands on the other.

The good news is that no one, including Mr. Whitaker, can stop the multiple prosecutions or litigation already in progress — including the cooperation of Paul Manafort; the sentencing of Michael Flynn; or the continuing investigation of Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former lawyer, and the Trump Organization by federal prosecutors in New York. The courts will have the final say on what happens in each of those cases.

Mass Shooting Near L.A.

ny times logoNew York Times, Many Who Fled California Attack Were Survivors of Las Vegas Massacre, Jose A. Del Real, Jennifer Medina and Tim Arango, Nov. 8, 2018. Country music was blaring and beer was flowing. The Lakers game was on the television, and if revelers weren’t line dancing they were playing pool. Then all of a sudden, into “College Country Night!” at the Borderline Bar & Grill stepped a man with a gun.

Wearing dark clothing and a dark baseball cap, he set off smoke bombs to create confusion. He shot a security guard at the entrance and then opened fire into the crowd. Patrons dropped to the ground, dashed under tables, hid in the bathroom and ran for exits, stepping over bodies sprawled across the floor.

And as they raced for safety, many of them thought, Not again.

Just last year, they had fled the same chaos — gunshots, bodies falling — in Las Vegas, at a country music festival where 58 people were killed in the worst mass shooting in modern American history. The Borderline, a popular hangout for country music fans, had become a place of solace for dozens of survivors of the Vegas massacre to come together for music, for healing and for remembering — “to celebrate life,” in the words of one.

ny times logoNew York Times, Gunman Kills at Least 12 at California Bar, Jose A. Del Real, Gerry Mullany and Russell Goldman, Nov. 8, 2018. At least 11 bar patrons and a sheriff’s deputy, Ron Helus, shown at right, died late Wednesday in a shooting at a country and western dance hall in Thousand Oaks, Calif. The gunman is dead, officials said early Thursday. The bar had been holding an event for college students.

ron helus croppedThe shooting came just over a year after 58 people were killed at a country music festival in Las Vegas when a gunman opened fire from a high-rise hotel room. There was an eerie parallel between the two shootings as some of the same people who emerged from the bar, the Borderline Bar & Grill, described having survived the shooting on the Las Vegas Strip.

Witnesses recalled a chaotic scene at the bar, which was filled with hundreds of people, many of them college students: A gunman opening fire, first at a security guard, as patrons dropped to the dance floor, hid under tables and broke windows to escape. When other law enforcement officers arrived the gunman was already dead.

Helus, was described as a hero who was approaching retirement after a long career but who stepped forward in the crisis and saved many lives.

Experts said it was No. 307 in a count of “mass shootings” so far this year, as calculated by events where four or more persons were shot, with a total of 328 deaths..

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: How the N.R.A. Builds Loyalty and Fanaticism, Nicholas Kristof, Sahil Chinoy and Jessia Ma, Nov. 8, 2018. The evolution of the N.R.A.’s magazine shows that a group once about hunting and sports has transformed itself into a far-right political organization.

nra logo CustomAnother needless tragedy in America: This time a gunman opened fire in a bar in Thousand Oaks, Calif., killing at least 12 people and injuring many more.

These horrors happen far more often in America than in other advanced countries partly because of the outsize political influence of the National Rifle Association. N.R.A. candidates suffered some important defeats in Tuesday’s midterm elections, but in a broad swath of red state America it remains potent, controlling politicians who know that an N.R.A. endorsement can make or break an election.

It is not the richest interest group. The National Association of Realtors has spent twice as much in the 2018 federal election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

It is not the largest interest group. It claims about six million members (probably an exaggeration); AARP has more than six times that number.

But the N.R.A. attracts incredible loyalty from its members. “That’s the critical thing people miss,” said Robert Spitzer, a political scientist at SUNY Cortland and the author of five books on gun policy. He said that the group combines a shared pastime with “ideological fervor.”

Inside DC

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Bars Immigrants Who Cross Border Illegally From Seeking Asylum, Michael D. Shear, Nov. 8, 2018. The Trump administration announced new immigration rules on Thursday that give President Trump vast new authority to deny asylum to virtually any migrant who crosses the border illegally, invoking national security powers meant to protect the United States against threats from abroad.

djt gage skidmore2 cpacOfficials declined to say who will be affected, but they indicated that the president will issue a proclamation on Friday. It is widely expected inside the government and by migrant advocates that Mr. Trump (shown in a Gage Skidmore portrait) intends to deny asylum to members of Central American nations, some of whom are marching toward the United States in a caravan.

Administration officials said the new regulations — which draw upon the same authority that Mr. Trump used to ban travel from predominantly Muslim countries only days after his inauguration — give the president, and his successors, new power to deny asylum to any group of immigrants who cross the border illegally.

That assertion is certain to be challenged in court. Immigration advocates said it violates longstanding federal asylum law that is meant to judge each person’s asylum claim on its own merits. And they said the new rules conflict with treaties in which the United States pledged to accept asylum claims from migrants.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House shares doctored video to support punishment of journalist Jim Acosta, Drew Harwell​, Nov. 8, 2018. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders on Wednesday night shared a video of CNN reporter Jim Acosta that appeared to have been altered to make his actions at a news conference look more aggressive toward a White House intern.

jim acosta gage skidmore croppedThe edited video looks authentic: Acosta (shown in a file photo by Gage Skidmore) appeared to swiftly chop down on the arm of an aide as he held onto a microphone while questioning President Trump. But in the original video, Acosta’s arm appears to move only as a response to a tussle for the microphone. His statement, “Pardon me, ma’am,” is not included in the video Sanders shared.

Critics said that video — which sped up the movement of Acosta’s arms in a way that dramatically changed the journalist’s response — was deceptively edited to score political points. That edited video was first shared by Paul Joseph Watson, known for his conspiracy-theory videos on the far-right website Infowars.

Watson said he did not change the speed of the video and that claims he had altered it were a “brazen lie.” Watson, who did not immediately respond to requests for comment, told BuzzFeed he created the video by downloading an animated image from conservative news site Daily Wire, zooming in and saving it as a video — a conversion he says could have made it “look a tiny bit different.”

Congress, Crime, Courts

linda sánchez oRoll Call, Rep. Linda Sánchez’s Husband Indicted for Theft of Federal Funds, Lindsey McPherson, Nov. 8, 2018. California Democrat dropped leadership bid citing “unexpected family matter.” Linda Sánchez, right, Withdraws From Democratic Caucus Chair Race. Cathy McMorris Rodgers Not Running for Leadership Hakeem Jeffries Enters Democratic Caucus Chair Race.

The “unexpected family matter” cited by California Rep. Linda T. Sánchez in withdrawing from the race for House Democratic Caucus chair relates to her husband, who was indicated on theft and conspiracy charges related to spending corporate money on personal trips, including some allegedly spent on Sánchez.

democratic donkey logo“Earlier today I learned that my husband is facing charges in Connecticut,” Sánchez said in a statement Thursday. “After careful consideration of the time and energy being in leadership demands, I have decided that my focus now needs to be on my son, my family, and my constituents in California.”

Sánchez, the current vice chairwoman of the Democratic Caucus, was expected to face fellow California Rep. Barbara Lee for the caucus chair position. New York Rep. Hakeem T. Jeffries joined the race earlier Thursday.

Sánchez’s husband, James Sullivan, was one of five individuals associated with the Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Corporation indicted by a federal grand jury for spending more than $800,000 of the corporation’s money on personal trips.

The CMEEC is a cooperative public corporation that has membership agreements with Connecticut municipalities that allows the towns’ electric utilities to work together to furnish power to the combined areas. The CMEEC membership agreement requires excess revenues to be returned to the member towns to help keep electricity costs stable.

The indictment against Sullivan and his CMEEC colleagues, all of whom hold or have held board or executive positions, spent corporate money on trips to the Kentucky Derby in 2015 and 2016 and to a luxury golf resort in West Virginia in 2015.

They directed the funds used to pay for the trips from the CMEEC Margin account, without a vote of the board and written consent of the member towns as required by the membership agreement.

Justice Hurt In Fall

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hospitalized With 3 Broken Ribs, Eileen Sullivan and Adam Liptak, Nov. 8, 2018. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the Supreme Court, shown in a file photo, was hospitalized on Thursday morning, with three broken ribs after falling in her office Wednesday evening, a spokeswoman said.

ruth bader ginsburg scotusJustice Ginsburg, 85, went home after her fall, but experienced discomfort over the night. She was admitted to George Washington University Hospital, where doctors found three broken ribs on her left side, Kathy Arberg, a Supreme Court spokeswoman, said in a statement.

The next sitting of the Supreme Court begins on Nov. 26, and Justice Ginsburg’s history suggests the injuries are not likely to keep her away. She broke two ribs in 2012, without missing work. And she returned to work quickly after undergoing a heart procedure in 2012. She is also a cancer survivor and returned to work less supreme court graphicthan three weeks after having surgery.

Even as Justice Ginsburg has shown she bounces back quickly from health setbacks, liberals have become jittery about how much more time she will be able to serve, particularly with the balance of the Supreme Court shifting to the right because of President Trump’s appointment of two conservative justices.

Update: She was reported released from the hospital on Nov. 9 and working from home.

More On U.S. Elections

ny times logoNew York Times, A Trump-Fueled ‘Wipeout’ for House Republicans in the Northeast, Shane Goldmacher and Nick Corasaniti, Nov. 8, 2018 (print edition).  Of the 60 congressional races on Tuesday in eight Northeastern states, including New York and New Jersey, not a single Republican is on pace to top 57 percent of the vote ballot. The party was poised to cede six seats — more than one-third of their overall total — and of the nine remaining Republican-held seats, two incumbents were leading with less than 50 percent of the vote.

republican elephant logoIn New Jersey, voters slashed the number of Republicans in Congress from five down to two, and possibly only one.

In New York, Democrats declared victory in three congressional races in President Trump’s home state, ejecting the last remaining Republican from New York City.

And in the six other states in the Northeast, the lone remaining Republican congressman, Representative Bruce Poliquin of Maine, was clinging to his seat on Wednesday, his fate to be decided by the second choices of third-party voters through ranked-choice voting.

“This was a wipeout for Republicans in the Northeast,” declared Christopher H. Shays, a former moderate Republican congressman from Connecticut who lost his own re-election a decade ago.

Associated Press via NBC News, Arizona GOP sues to limit mail-in ballots in Senate race, Staff report, Nov. 8, 2018. Republicans filed a lawsuit Wednesday night to challenge the way some Arizona counties count mail-in ballots as election officials began to slowly tally more than 600,000 outstanding votes in the narrow U.S. Senate race — a task that could take days.

kyrsten sinema oRepublican Rep. Martha McSally and Democratic Rep. Kyrstin Sinema (shown at right) were separated by a small fraction of the 1.7 million tabulated votes.

Breaking: NBC News reported the evening of Nov. 8 that new votes have put the Democratic candidate in the lead by nearly 10,000 votes, flipping a previously announced win by the Republican at at least temporarily, with hundreds of thousands of votes remaining to be counted.

About 75 percent of Arizona voters cast ballots by mail, but those ballots have to go through the laborious signature confirmation process, and only then can be opened and tabulated. If county recorders have issues verifying signatures they are allowed to ask voters to verify their identity.

The suit filed Wednesday by four county Republican parties alleges that the state’s 15 county recorders don’t follow a uniform standard for allowing voters to adjust problems with their mail-in ballots, and that two counties improperly allow those fixes after Election Day.

Democrats believe the uncounted urban ballots dropped off shortly before Election Day favors Sinema. The lawsuit is scheduled to be heard Friday, after the next release late Thursday of tallied ballots.

It’s one window into the complexities of mail ballots and the so-called “late earlies” that arrive just before Election Day and regularly gum up the state’s vote counting system. This election featured heavy statewide turnout of about 60 percent, more in line with a presidential election than a midterm — part of the reason county registrars were overloaded with uncounted ballots.

One candidate familiar with the long wait is McSally. It took The Associated Press 12 days to name her as the loser of her first congressional race in 2012 because the margin was so narrow and vote counting was slow. McSally’s second and successful bid for the seat ended with a recount in December of 2014, more than one month after the election.

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP’s Kemp claims victory in Georgia governor’s race as Abrams declines to concede, Elise Viebeck​,​ Nov. 8, 2018. Brian Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state, submitted his resignation from that office, though his race against Democrat Stacey Abrams has not been called. Voting rights advocates have accused Kemp of disenfranchising voters.Georgia Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp declared victory and resigned his state position on Thursday, though his race against Democrat Stacey Abrams remains unresolved.

brian kempAs Democrats accused Kemp (shown at right) of disenfranchising thousands of voters, Kemp convened a news conference where he said he had submitted his resignation as Georgia secretary of state, effective Thursday.

“We’re in court this morning still dealing with a lot of these quite honestly ridiculous lawsuits,” Kemp said. “We’re going to continue to fight that. The votes are not there for her.”

Abrams vowed to press on as election officials counted thousands of absentee and provisional ballots.

Kemp had 50.3 percent of the vote to Abrams’s 48.7 percent with 100 percent of precincts reporting as of Thursday morning, according to the Associated Press. Meanwhile, Democrats triumphed in one of Georgia’s tightest congressional races on Thursday after Republican Rep. Karen Handel conceded to anti-gun violence advocate Lucy McBath.

McBath will come to Congress as part of the House’s new Democratic majority. Her victory marked the party’s 29th pickup in the lower chamber, with several races still undecided, according to a tally by The Washington Post.

McBath was a first-time congressional candidate who jumped into the race at the last minute, citing February’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 dead. She became an activist after her 17-year-old son was fatally shot in 2012 by a man who had argued with the teen and his friends about loud music coming from their car.

White House Press Dispute

The Hill, Reporters accuse Sarah Sanders of sharing edited video of The Hill, Avery Anapol, Nov. 8, 2018. Trump to Acosta: CNN should be ‘ashamed’ of employing you. White House sarah huckabee sanderspress secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders (shown in a file photo) is facing accusations that she shared an edited video of the exchange between CNN correspondent Jim Acosta and an administration aide at President Trump’s post-midterm news conference on Wednesday.

Sanders shared the video on her official Twitter account to justify the White House’s decision to revoke Acosta’s press credentials after his tense exchange with Trump:

We stand by our decision to revoke this individual’s hard pass. We will not tolerate the inappropriate behavior clearly documented in this video.— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) 10:33 PM – Nov 7, 2018

Sanders cited Acosta’s interaction with the press aide as reason for suspending his “hard pass.”

During the press conference, the aide attempted to take a microphone away from Acosta as he questioned Trump, but he refused to let go. Video shows his arm brushing hers in the process.

But dozens of social media users, including several reporters and political analysts, said that the video Sanders shared zooms in on the moment of contact, and appears to have been sped up to make the moment appear more aggressive.

cnn logoMatt Dornic, CNN’s vice president of communications and digital partnerships, said it was “absolutely shameful” for Sanders to share the video. “History will not be kind to you,” Dornic tweeted. “Absolutely shameful, @PressSec. You released a doctored video – actual fake news. History will not be kind to you.”

Sample comments:

  • This is a video that Infowars made. They sped it up so that it seems more violent than it is.— Nicole Goodkind (@NicoleGoodkind) 11:42 PM – Nov 7, 2018
  • 1) Took @PressSec Sarah Sanders’ video of briefing 2) Tinted red and made transparent over CSPAN video 3) Red motion is when they doctored video speed 4) Sped up to make Jim Acosta’s motion look like a chop 5) I’ve edited video for 15+ years 6) The White House doctored it— Rafael Shimunov (@rafaelshimunov) 3:34 AM – Nov 8, 2018.

Terror Threat Against CNN

benjamin craig matthews baxter countyArkansas Democrat-Gazette, Arkansan charged in threats to CNN, Baxter County man accused of 40 calls, Bill Bowden, Nov. 8, 2018. A Mountain Home man was arrested Tuesday, accused of making threatening telephone calls to CNN headquarters in Atlanta. Benjamin Craig Matthews, 39, made more than 40 threatening calls to CNN from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2, according to a probable-cause affidavit filed in Baxter County Circuit Court.

cnn logoIn several calls, Matthews threatened a CNN journalist described in court documents as DL. In one call, according to the affidavit, Matthews asked the CNN switchboard operator, “Could I be directed to DL’s dead body hanging from a tree?” In another call, Matthews spoke of “bloody pictures of DL cut up in small pieces, like the movie Saw,” according to the affidavit from Sgt. Brad Hurst with the Baxter County sheriff’s office.

CNN has been a consistent target of President Donald Trump.

Matthews’ telephone records indicate that he had also made calls to MSNBC; U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif.; U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.; attorney Michael Avenatti; Washington Speakers Bureau; and Planned Parenthood, “suggesting a pattern of harassment towards certain political affiliations,” according to the affidavit.

Matthews has been charged with five counts of felony terroristic threatening, four counts of misdemeanor terroristic threatening and nine counts of harassing communications, which is a misdemeanor.

#MeToo Ruling On NY AG

ny times logoNew York Times, Schneiderman Will Not Face Criminal Charges in Abuse Complaints, Alan Feuer, Nov. 8, 2018. After a six-month investigation, prosecutors said Thursday that they would not pursue criminal charges against Eric T. Schneiderman, right, the former New York State attorney general who resigned in May after four women accused him of assaulting them.

eric schneiderman oThe decision not to file charges was announced in a statement issued by Madeline Singas, the Nassau County district attorney, who was asked by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to investigate the case shortly after Mr. Schneiderman left his post.

Ms. Singas said the women who accused Mr. Schneiderman of abuse were credible, but there were legal hurdles to bringing charges. She did not elaborate on those obstacles, except to say that some of the accusations were too old to pursue under state law.

Trump World

New York Observer, Rudy Giuliani Has Spent $286,000 on His Mistress in Six Months, According to his Wife, Davis Richardson, Nov. 8, 2018. According to his third wife, Judith Nathan, Rudy Giuliani, right, has two very expensive habits: Cigars and mistresses.

rudy giuliani recentCourt filings from the pair’s divorce proceedings in Manhattan claim Giuliani dolled out $286,536 to his mistress, Maria Rosa Ryan, over the last six months. The two began an affair earlier this year, prompting Nathan to file for divorce. Like Giuliani, Ryan is also married.

When President Trump’s attorney wasn’t bankrolling his affair, he was reportedly spending $447,938 on activities “for his own enjoyment” and $165,165 on travel, per NBC. Nathan also alleges Giuliani spent $12,012 on cigars and $7,131 on pens. All expenses are said to have occurred since April.

Yemen: Major Houthi Victory?

Al-Masdar News (AMS), Houthis cuts all supply lines to Saudi Coalition troops in Hodeidah, Leith Aboufadel, Nov. 8, 2018. The Houthis Movement scored an important advance on Thursday that resulted in the complete encirclement of the Saudi Coalition troops inside Hodeidah.

The Houthis released a statement this evening that said all Saudi Coalition troops inside of Hodeidah are now trapped after they cut all the supply lines to these fighters in the provincial capital. the Houthis said that at least 150 members of the pro-government forces had been killed over the last few days.

Furthermore, the Houthis managed to destroy another 17 military and technical vehicles that belonged to the Saudi Coalition forces in western Yemen. This latest news from Hodeidah comes just 48 hours after the Saudi Coalition forces broke through the frontline defenses of the Houthis at the provinc

Syrian War

SouthFront, In Special Operation: Syrian Army Frees Remaining Al-Suwayda Hostages From ISIS (Video), Staff report, Nov. 8, 2018. The Syrian Special Forces freed all the remaining al-Suwayda hostages from the ISIS hands during a special security operation in the eastern Homs countryside, according to the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), which said:

syrian flag waving“In a heroic and precise operation, a group of heroes of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) clashed, in the area of Hamimah east of Palmyra, with a group of ISIS terrorists, who had abducted women and children from the governorate of al-Suwayda weeks ago … after fierce battle our heroes managed to free all the hostages and killed all the terrorists,”the SANA said in a short press release.

The state-run news agency didn’t provide further information about the special operation. However, Syrian pro-government activists believe that Russia Special Forces may have played a role in the supposed operation, especially that they were deployed in al-Suwayda earlier.

The hostages were abducted on July 25 during a brutal attack by ISIS terrorists on several villages in the eastern al-Suwayda countryside. Back then, more than 250 civilians and local fighters were killed.

Now when the hostages are freed, the SAA and its allies will be able to use all their fire power against the remaining terrorists in al-Safa.

Nov. 7

Sessions Resigns: Threat To Mueller?

washington post logoWashington Post, Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigns at Trump’s request, Devlin Barrett, Nov. 7, 2018. Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department on Oct. 26.

jeff sessions ag oAttorney General Jeff Sessions resigned on Wednesday at President Trump’s request, ending the tenure of a loyalist he soured on shortly after Sessions took office in 2017 because the former senator from Alabama had recused himself from oversight of the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Despite the tension with the White House, Sessions had described the position of top law enforcement officer as his dream job and he pursued his conservative agenda with gusto. But he also had to live with sometimes humiliating attacks from a president he couldn’t seem to please and the suspicions of career staff jeff sessions djt new york post front cover nov 7 2018 Smallmembers who feared the politicization of a Justice Department that prides itself on its independence.

Department veterans have expressed concerns that Trump’s repeated public attacks on Sessions, the Justice Department and the FBI could cause lasting damage to federal law enforcement.

Sessions, 71, was the first U.S. senator to endorse Trump, and in many ways he had been the biggest supporter of the president’s policies on immigration, crime and law enforcement.

But all of those areas of agreement were overshadowed by the Russia investigation — specifically, Sessions’s recusal from the inquiry after it was revealed that he had met more than once with the Russian ambassador to the United States during the 2016 campaign even though he had said during his confirmation hearing that he had not met with any Russians.

Trump has never forgiven Sessions for that decision, which he regarded as an act of disloyalty that denied him the protection he thought he deserved from his attorney general. “I don’t have an attorney general,” he said in September.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sessions’s ouster throws future of special counsel probe into question, Rosalind S. Helderman, Matt Zapotosky and Carol D. Leonnig, Nov. 7, 2018. The new acting attorney general could sharply curtail Robert S. Mueller III’s authority or budget.

matthew whitakerTrump named as acting attorney general Matthew F. Whitaker, right, Session’s chief of staff, who as a legal commentator last year wrote that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III appeared to be taking his investigation too far.

A Justice Department official said Wednesday that Whitaker would assume final decision-making authority over the special counsel probe instead of Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein.

Since last year, Rosenstein has overseen the investigation because Sessions, a key Trump surrogate in 2016, recused himself from dealing with matters involving the campaign. It wasn’t immediately clear what role, if any, Rosenstein may play in the probe going forward.

msnbc logo CustomMSNBC, Analyst: Sessions Replacement ‘Worst Possible,’ Katie Tur interview of Matthew Miller, Nov. 7, 2018. Former Obama Administration Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller said that President Trump’s replacement of Attorney General Jeff Sessions with his replacement, Chief of Staff Matthew G. Whitaker is the “worst possible” choice

That’s because, in Miller’s view, a 2017 Whitaker opinion column for CNN described as improper any attempt by the ongoing investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller III to probe Trump’s finances or the behavior of his family. Whitaker wrote that it would be a “red line” if Mueller extends the probe into matters not covered by the “four corners” of his initial appointment.

matthew whitaker cnn july 26 2017 don lemon SmallThat would presumably exclude Donald Trump Jr.’s 2016 campaign meeting at Trump Tower with Russian operatives to obtain dirt on rival presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. “I doubt if you could find any other person at the Justice Department” who has taken that position, Miller said. Whitaker is shown second from the left in a screenshot from a CNN interview on the topic by host Don Lemon, at far left, on July 26, 2017.

Miller said that the appointment poses a “red alert” to the continued viability of the Mueller investigation but would probably not result in Mueller’s firing. Instead, Miller said, the Justice Department is likely to simply sit on any new Mueller findings and never approve major new indictments or forward any report to congressional authorities. Miller said it is a time for the public to think of taking to the streets in protest of new developments.

Sessions had been recused from supervision of the Mueller probe because of a Sessions conflict whereby some of his own activities. Deputy Attorney Gen. Rod Rosenstein had been supervising Mueller but that authority is now likely to transfer to Whitaker, who had been a Bush-appointed U.S. attorney for Iowa from 2004 to 2009.

Justice Department log circularTrump is now under investigation for, among other possible crimes, obstruction of justice for his firing of FBI director James Comey who was investigation allegations of election rigging in 2016 with Russian influence.

MSNBC analyst Robert Costa, a Washington Post reporter, said that Whitaker is a “hard-right” Republican partisan Costa observed years ago in Whitaker’s unsuccessful campaign for a U.S. Senate seat in Iowa.

Another MSNBC analyst, former Justice Department executive Chuck Rosenberg, told host Nicole Wallace that the circumstances of Whitaker’s appointment might be highly relevant to a Mueller obstruction of justice probe.

NBC analyst and author John Heilmann said that Trump has installed a “lackey” in Whitaker instead of the normal transition figure, Deputy Attorney Gen. Rod Rosenstein, and is rather clearly moving towards thwarting the Mueller probe, thereby prompting a possible constitutional crisis.

The potential crime at issue in the Mueller probe is “ten times worse” than President Richard Nixon’s Watergate cover up, according to historian Michael Bechloss, who said that Nixon was covering up a burglary, whereas Mueller’s core probe is about alleged interference by Russia into the 2016 presidential election of Trump. 

matthew whitaker 2012 campaign statement cspanDeSmog, Dark Money Paid New Trump Attorney General Matthew Whitaker’s Salary for 3 Years, Sharon Kelly, Nov. 7, 2018.Today, President Donald Trump announced on Twitter that Matthew G. Whitaker, who served as chief of staff for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, would replace his boss. Sessions was forced from office a day after the midterm elections, which were rough for climate and anti-fracking measures around the country.

Whitaker (shown in a C-SPAN screenshot as a Republican surrogate during the 2012 presidential campaign) was appointed as Session’s chief of staff on September 22, 2017. Before that, he served for three years as the executive director of the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), which describes itself as “a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting accountability, ethics, and transparency in government and civic arenas.”

FACT has come under fire for its own lack of transparency, with the Center for Responsive Politics calling attention to FACT’s funding, which in some years came entirely from DonorsTrust, an organization also known as the “Dark Money ATM of the Conservative Movement” and whose own donors include the notorious funders of climate denial, Charles and David Koch.

“In other words, an organization ‘dedicated to promoting accountability, ethics, and transparency’ gets 100 percent of its funds from a group that exists mainly as a vehicle for donors to elude transparency,” the Center for Responsive Politics wrote in 2016.

In 2014, FACT received $600,000 from DonorsTrust — the only donation it reported that year, according to An additional $500,000 flowed from DonorsTrust to FACT in 2015. And in 2016, DonorsTrust gave $800,000 to FACT, tax records show, as well as two additional donations, one for $100,000 and another for $450,000. That $2.45 million represents virtually all of FACT’s entire reported receipts for those years (except for a total of $456 from 2015 to 2016).

In 2016, Whitaker earned $402,000 as FACT’s director and president, according to the organization’s tax filings. That followed reported compensation from FACT for Whitaker of $63,000 in 2014, and $252,000 in 2015.

His work included advocacy for causes backed by the fossil fuel industry.

As FACT’s executive director, Whitaker sought documents from the Attorneys General United for Clean Power Coalition, alleging in a 2016 op-ed that the Coalition “launched a campaign to silence many public policy organizations and even individuals for their work challenging liberal views on climate change, as well as private companies like ExxonMobil.”

That coalition, representing attorneys general from 17 states, included Eric Schneiderman, then attorney general for New York state, Maura Healey of Massachusetts, and Claude Walker of the Virgin Islands, who were all reportedly investigating ExxonMobil for failing to disclose what it knew about climate change to its investors for decades.

Whitaker labeled the probe of ExxonMobil, which has funded climate denial efforts to the tune of at least $33 million, “both unconstitutional and unethical” — but it recently led to charges against the company.

barbara underwoodLast month, following three years of investigation, Schneiderman’s successor Barbara Underwood, left, filed a 91-page lawsuit alleging that ExxonMobil had engaged in four counts of fraud.

“Investors put their money and their trust in Exxon — which assured them of the long-term value of their shares, as the company claimed to be factoring the risk of increasing climate change regulation into its business decisions,” Underwood said in a statement, according to Courthouse News. “Instead, Exxon built a facade to deceive investors into believing that the company was managing the risks of climate change regulation to its business when, in fact, it was intentionally and systematically underestimating or ignoring them, contrary to its public representations.”

FACT has also come under fire for its right-wing partisan bent.

“It’s perhaps worth noting that although FACT describes itself as a ‘non-partisan ethics watchdog,’ its ethics complaints are targeted overwhelmingly (though not exclusively) at Democrats, and it is funded entirely by an anonymous trust fund (a so-called ‘pass-through) favored by ultra-wealthy conservative donors, including Charles Koch,” the Global Anti-Corruption Blog wrote in September of this year.

As Acting Attorney General, Whitaker will replace Jeff Sessions, described as a “climate change skeptic” by the Washington Post for saying on the floor of Congress in 2015 that “Carbon pollution is CO2, and that’s really not a pollutant; that’s a plant food, and it doesn’t harm anybody except that it might include temperature increases.”

The Department of Justice’s Office of Public Affairs has not yet responded to questions about Whitaker and FACT sent by DeSmog.

U.S. Midterm Elections

Democratic-Republican Campaign logos

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats seize House as GOP expands Senate majority, Philip Rucker, Matt Viser, Elise Viebeck and Isaac Stanley-Becker, Nov. 7, 2018. Democrats leveraged fury with President Trump to capture the House on Tuesday after a hard-fought election that saw Republicans expand their majority in the Senate, a split verdict that set the stage for divided government and partisan conflict that will shape the rest of Trump’s first term.

The dramatic conclusion of the most expensive and consequential midterm in modern times fell short of delivering the sweeping repudiation of Trump wished for by Democrats and the “resistance” movement. But Democrats’ takeover in the House still portended serious changes in Washington, as the party prepared to block Trump’s agenda and investigate nancy pelosihis personal finances and potential ties to Russia.

“Thanks to you, tomorrow will be a new day in America,” said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), right, who is poised to reclaim the speaker’s gavel she lost eight years ago. The Democratic victory, she said, “is about restoring the Constitution’s checks and balances to the Trump administration,” as well as a check on Senate Republicans.

washington post logoWashington Post, Which House seats flipped, Staff report, Nov. 7, 2018. Democrats needed a net gain of 23 seats to win control of the House. Here’s the result for each seat and how likely it was to flip, based on pre-race ratings from Cook Political Report.

washington post logoWashington Post, How to explain to someone living abroad that Democrats can have over 10 million more Senate votes and still lose, Rick Noack, Nov. 7, 2018. As Europeans woke up to the results of the 2018 midterm elections on Wednesday, their primary question — what next for a president who is so deeply unpopular here? — remained largely unanswered.

And while viewers here tried to make sense of the results, they repeatedly stumbled over two numbers: the total votes for Democratic and Republican Senate candidates. More than 45 million Americans voted for Democratic Senate candidates vs. about 33 million for Republican contenders, according to figures updated around 11 a.m. Eastern time Wednesday.

As the animated TV graphics clearly showed, though, it was Republicans who ended the night in control of the Senate — not the Democrats.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Winners and losers from election night 2018, Aaron Blake, Nov. 7, 2018. Democrats leveraged fury with President Trump to capture the House on Tuesday after a hard-fought election that saw Republicans expand their majority in the Senate, a split verdict that set the stage for divided government and partisan conflict that U.S. House logowill shape the rest of Trump’s first term.

The dramatic conclusion of the most expensive and consequential midterm in modern times fell short of delivering the sweeping repudiation of Trump wished for by Democrats and the “resistance” movement. But Democrats’ takeover in the House still portended serious changes in Washington, as the party prepared to block Trump’s agenda and investigate his personal finances and potential ties to Russia.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump says he would take a ‘warlike posture’ if House Democrats investigate him, Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey, Nov. 7, 2018. While President Trump vowed to work with the Democratic House majority on issues, he warned those efforts could stall if the party uses its subpoena power to investigate him or his administration.

President Trump threatened Wednesday to retaliate with a “warlike posture” should the new Democratic House majority use its subpoena power to launch investigations into his administration, warning that any probes would jeopardize prospects for bipartisan deals.

During a lengthy and at times combative White House news conference, Trump repeatedly praised Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), who could reclaim the speaker’s gavel she lost eight years ago, and said his chances of striking agreements on legislation were greater with a divided government.

“The election’s over,” Trump said. “Now everybody is in love.”

The president, who had demonized Democrats in apocalyptic terms and attacked Pelosi on the campaign trail, said he looked forward to working with her on “a beautiful bipartisan-type situation.” He said they could find common ground on rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, lowering the cost of prescription drugs and refashioning trade policy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Republicans retain control of Senate with candidates who embraced Trump, Sean Sullivan, Nov. 7, 2018. Republicans lost their most vulnerable Senate seat, in Nevada, but retained control of the chamber after victories by candidates who aligned closely with President Trump.

Republicans cemented control of the Senate for two more years Tuesday and positioned themselves for a more conservative majority, with victories by candidates who aligned closely with President Trump.

josh hawley missouriNorth Dakota Rep. Kevin Cramer, Indiana businessman Mike Braun, and Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, left, all staunch Trump allies, won seats held by Democrats. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R), another Trump loyalist, defeated a popular former governor in Tennessee.

The results held implications for coming battles over the federal judiciary, trade, health care, government spending and immigration. Trump’s worldview is expected to be reflected strongly in those debates in the wake of Tuesday’s elections.

The outcomes also held significance for Trump himself. His administration could face an onslaught of investigations beginning next year. Democrats took over in the House. Some Democrats have even raised the possibility of impeachment. Senate Republicans could be Trump’s bulwark on Capitol Hill.

“I see two things,” said Jim Manley, a former top Democratic Senate aide, looking ahead. “A president unwilling to tone down his rhetoric, along with the Senate Republicans unwilling to break with him.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats flip at least 7 governorships, Tim Craig, Nov. 7, 2018. The party won contests in Wisconsin, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Illinois, Nevada and New Mexico. But the race was too close to call in Georgia.

andrew gillum oDemocrat Andrew Gillum, right, was defeated in his bid to become Florida’s first black governor Tuesday, but the party flipped at least seven governorships after voters rejected some Republican candidates in the Midwest and the Sun Belt, including in Wisconsin, Kansas and New Mexico.

At times choking up during a speech at Florida A&M University, Gillum conceded his race to Republican Ron DeSantis, who is closely associated with President Trump.

“I sincerely regret that I couldn’t bring it home for you,” he told his supporters.

Gillum performed relatively well in Florida’s cities and suburbs. But DeSantis won massive margins from Florida’s rural counties, underscoring the advantage Republicans continue to hold in statewide elections there.

“Throughout the campaign, I knew the only thing I could control was how hard I worked,” DeSantis said in his victory speech. “And although I was confident in achieving a victory, I was at peace knowing I worked as hard as I possibly could, and I left everything out on the field.”

Including Florida’s, the 36 gubernatorial races on state ballots offered examples of America’s cultural and ideological divides under Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: How Trump helped the Democrats and further divided the GOP, Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey, Nov. 7, 2018. This account is based on more than four dozen interviews with campaign strategists, White House advisers and others, on both sides of the aisle.

keith ellison o smallMinneapolis Star-Tribune, Keith Ellison defeats Doug Wardlow in Minnesota attorney general race, Stephen Montemayor, Nov. 7, 2018. Democratic U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison will be Minnesota’s next attorney general, defeating Republican Doug Wardlow after a bitter campaign marked by allegations of domestic abuse and an intense spotlight on both candidates’ pasts.

Ellison, right, helped deliver the DFL Party a sweep of the statewide elected offices and was met by a raucous room of supporters chanting his name at the party’s election night celebration in St. Paul. Ellison acknowledged the difficulty of the race but said his campaign persevered thanks to his supporters.

Ellison, who is also deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee, has risen to national political prominence since becoming the nation’s first Muslim congressman in 2006. In June, he surprised supporters by announcing that he would give up a safe Democratic House seat to pursue the Attorney General’s Office after Lori Swanson filed to run for governor. Ellison won the DFL Party’s primary just days after ex-girlfriend Karen Monahan alleged that he emotionally and physically abused her.

Ellison, 55, of Minneapolis, has denied Monahan’s claim, and an investigation commissioned by the DFL Party concluded that it could not substantiate the allegations. Republicans dismissed the investigation because the attorney who led the probe works for a law firm that has represented DFL Party interests.

The election promises to usher in a new era for an office led by Swanson since 2006. Ellison has said that he would approach the office as a tool to challenge certain Trump administration policies in court as other state attorneys general have since Donald Trump’s election.

Ellison said recently he would make as his “first legislative priority” safeguarding staff attorneys from being fired based on their politics — a proposal that was in direct response to a recording of Wardlow pledging to a group of Republican donors that he would purge the office of 42 DFL attorneys.

Before launching his campaign, Wardlow also worked for the national Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian nonprofit legal group behind numerous court challenges to same-sex marriage and transgender rights.

Probes of Trump Team

Roll Call, Here’s How a House Democratic Majority Might Protect Mueller If Trump Fires Him, Griffin Connolly, Nov 7, 2018. With power to investigate and subpoena, Democrats have options to protect special counsel.

House Democrats, with their new majority, will have an expansive new toolkit once they take control of the chamber on Jan. 3 to protect special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation — even if acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker decides to shut it down.

If President Donald Trump, through Whitaker or his full-time replacement, does indeed order Mueller to shutter his investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election, that would trigger a quick response from Democrats. In two months, they will wield the all-important power of subpoenaing officials.

Democrats’ first step would be to preserve evidence Mueller has collected over roughly the last year and a half so that the Trump administration doesn’t confiscate files and hide them.

With their new majority, Democrats could bypass Trump’s Justice Department, which has the authority to enforce or toss out congressional subpoenas, by subpoenaing Mueller himself to learn what he knows.

“Either [top House Intelligence Committee Democrat] Adam Schiff or Judiciary or Oversight or all three — I would imagine they’d do this jointly — would issue a subpoena for all the documents that Mueller had in possession at the time of his removal,” Bardella said. “It would have to be a subpoena because it’s classified information.”

Democrats could then essentially move the investigation under the jurisdiction of a congressional committee and hire Mueller, to see it through with full subpoena power. That assumes Mueller would be willing to effectively work for Democrats in a highly politicized role.

The Democrats could — and probably would — instead establish a select committee with Mueller or another hand-picked investigator as the committee’s chief counsel.

Trump appears to believe that a confrontational game of chicken with House Democrats can be a political point machine for him. That’s evident from the events of Wednesday, including the forced resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Trump’s combative press conference, and his tweets threatening political opponents with counter-investigations for conducting oversight of his administration.

“If the Democrats think they are going to waste Taxpayer Money investigating us at the House level, then we will likewise be forced to consider investigating them for all of the leaks of Classified Information, and much else, at the Senate level,” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning. “Two can play that game!”

But Democrats had a warning of their own for Trump: If you fire Mueller, we’re going to investigate the circumstances of that decision — you don’t want that.

By firing Mueller, Trump would potentially be laying himself a trap by opening his administration and Justice Department up to yet another investigation, this one a sweeping probe into the circumstances surrounding the decision to shut down the special counsel.

washington post logoWashington Post, With the midterms over, Mueller faces key decisions in Russia investigation, Rosalind S. Helderman, Matt Zapotosky and Carol D. Leonnig, Nov. 7, 2018.  robert mueller kit fox medill flickr croppedAmong the most pressing matters before the special counsel: a probe into longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone’s activities and ongoing negotiations for a presidential interview.

For more than seven weeks, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, shown in a file photo, has been silent.

FBI logoIn the run-up to Election Day, there were no indictments or public pronouncements by the special counsel’s office, in keeping with Justice Department guidelines that prosecutors should avoid taking steps that could be perceived as intending to influence the outcome of the vote.

With the midterm elections now over, Mueller faces key decision points in his 18-month-old investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign — a probe that has already led to charges against 32 people, including 26 Russians. Four aides to President Trump have pleaded guilty to various charges, most recently his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort in September.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Sees ‘Big Victory,’ and Threatens Democrats, Peter Baker and Eileen Sullivan, Nov. 7, 2018. The president vowed to retaliate if the new Democratic-controlled House investigates his finances and political dealings.

George W. Bush saw a “thumpin’.” Barack Obama saw a “shellacking.” Donald J. Trump sees a “Big Victory.” Never one to admit defeat, even in the face of a major setback, President Trump wasted little time on Wednesday morning trying to frame his party’s election losses as a win even though Democrats seized control of the House of Representatives.

President Donald Trump officialHis Tweet: “Received so many Congratulations from so many on our Big Victory last night, including from foreign nations (friends) that were waiting me out, and hoping, on Trade Deals. Now we can all get back to work and get things done!”

But even as he claimed victory, he quickly went on offense against the newly elected Democratic House, threatening to retaliate if the opposition uses its new subpoena power to investigate him for corruption and obstruction of justice in an early foreshadowing of the bitter partisan warfare that could dominate the next two years.

“If the Democrats think they are going to waste Taxpayer Money investigating us at the House level, then we will likewise be forced to consider investigating them for all of the leaks of Classified Information, and much else, at the Senate level,” he wrote. “Two can play that game!”

Then, in a head-spinning pivot, Mr. Trump shortly afterward endorsed Representative Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, for House speaker and even volunteered Republican votes if she cannot muster enough in her own caucus.

“In all fairness, Nancy Pelosi deserves to be chosen Speaker of the House by the Democrats,” he wrote. “If they give her a hard time, perhaps we will add some Republican votes. She has earned this great honor!”

Whether he meant it as a gracious gesture or a tweak because he enjoys having Ms. Pelosi as a foil was not immediately clear.

While Bill Clinton, Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama expressed humility following major midterm losses in 1994, 2006 and 2010, Mr. Trump acted as if he had nothing to regret.

ny times logoNew York Times, Breaking Barriers, Letitia James Is Elected New York Attorney General, Jeffery C. Mays, Nov. 7, 2018 (print edition). Ms. James made history on three fronts and positioned herself at the forefront of America’s legal bulwark against the policies of President Trump.

letitia james public advocateLetitia James was overwhelmingly elected as the attorney general of New York on Tuesday, shattering a trio of racial and gender barriers and placing herself in position to be at the forefront of the country’s legal bulwark against the policies of President Trump.

With her victory over Republican nominee Keith H. Wofford, Ms. James, 60, right, the public advocate for New York City, becomes the first woman in New York to be elected as attorney general, the first African-American woman to be elected to statewide office and the first black person to serve as attorney general.

The victory follows a rugged political season that arose after the surprise resignation of former attorney general Eric T. Schneiderman, following charges that he physically abused multiple women. Ms. James will succeed Barbara D. Underwood, who was appointed by the State Legislature in May to complete Mr. Schneiderman’s term.

barbara underwoodMs. Underwood, left, already has dozens of cases pending against Mr. Trump, including an investigation into his charity and lawsuits to stop immigrant families from being separated at the border and to block the rollback of net neutrality and environmental regulations.

In her victory speech in Brooklyn, Ms. James vowed to continue the office’s scrutiny of the president. “He should know that we here in New York — and I, in particular — we are not scared of you,” she said. “And as the next attorney general of his home state, I will be shining a bright light into every dark corner of his real estate dealings, and every dealing, demanding truthfulness at every turn.”

Ms. James has said she will continue cases such as the lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, which the state charges has misled the public about the dangers of OxyContin. She also said she intends to name a public ethics counsel, pursue criminal justice reform and push for the power to bring corruption cases independent of the governor’s office.

Newsmaking Results

Roll Call, Rosen’s Win in Nevada One Bright Spot for Senate Democrats, Bridget Bowman, Nov. 7, 2018. Silver State is so far the first Senate seat Democrats have flipped. Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen won the Nevada Senate race Tuesday, defeating GOP Sen. Dean Heller in one of the most hotly contested races of the cycle. Rosen’s victory was a rare piece of good news for Democrats on a night when Republicans decisively retained control of the chamber.

jacky rosenWith 78 percent of precincts reporting, Rosen, left, led Heller 51 percent to 45 percent when The Associated Press called the race.

Heller was a top target for Democrats, who had a narrow path to flipping the chamber, defending nearly three times as many Senate seats as Republicans this year. Heller, who prior to Tuesday had never lost an election, had consistently ranked among the most vulnerable Senate incumbents as the only Republican running in a state that backed Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Roll Call, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin Stays Put in Trump Country, Simone Pathé, Nov. 7, 2018 (print edition). Embattled Democrat played up his willingness to work with the president and buck his own party

heidi heitkamp kevin cramerRoll Call, Heidi Heitkamp’s Loss Cements North Dakota’s Shift to the Right, Bridget Bowman, Nov. 7, 2018 (print edition). Kevin Cramer unseated Heidi Heitkamp in the North Dakota Senate race, defeating the last remaining Democrat to hold statewide office. With 68 percent of precincts reporting, Cramer led Heitkamp 58 percent to 42 percent when The Associated Press called the race. They are shown at right in official photos.

Roll Call, Hawley Beats McCaskill in Missouri After Stressing Supreme Court Fight, Bridget Bowman, Nov. 7, 2018 (print edition). Republicans believe Kavanaugh battle helped energize their voters.

Roll Call, Democrats Score Oklahoma Upset Despite Deep-Red Struggles, Bridget Bowman, Nov. 7, 2018. As Democrats struggled in deep red districts Tuesday night, Kendra Horn pulled off a surprise upset in Oklahoma. She defeated Republican Rep. Steve Russell in the 5th District, which includes Oklahoma City.

democratic donkey logoPresident Donald Trump won Russell’s district by nearly 14 points in 2016, and the race wasn’t considered a potential Democratic pickup. Russell, who was first elected in 2014, did not communicate to the National Republican Congressional Committee that he was in any trouble, according to a source with knowledge of the conversations. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Horn defeated Russell 51 percent to 49 percent, according to The Associated Press.

beto o rourke ted cruz

republican elephant logoRoll Call, Cruz Defeats O’Rourke, Dashing Democratic Hopes in Texas, Bridget Bowman, Nov. 7, 2018. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, above right, won a second term Tuesday night, beating back a spirited challenge from Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke, above left, in one of the most closely watched contests of the cycle. Cruz’s victory comes after O’Rourke had shattered fundraising records in his high-profile challenge, and could dampen Democratic hopes that the Lonestar State is shifting in their direction.

Roll Call, Polis Makes Another Bit of History With Governor Win, Alex Gangitano, Nov. 7, 2018. Colorado congressman becomes first openly gay chief executive of a state. Democratic Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado made history Tuesday when he was elected the nation’s first openly gay governor.

The five-term congressman announced in June 11 2017 that he would be retiring from the House to run for governor. He beat Republican Walker Stapelton to replace term-limited Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper. The win is another milestone in the 43-year-old Polis’ barrier-breaking career. He was the first openly gay man elected to Congress as a non-incumbent.

Salt Lake Tribune, ‘Love gave me no love’: President Trump slams Utah Rep. Mia Love in post-election news conference, says she lost, Benjamin Wood, Nov. 7, 2018. President Donald Trump praised Republicans for expanding their majority in the Senate on Wednesday, while offering harsh criticism to GOP House members — including Utah’s Rep. Mia Love — who failed to wholeheartedly embrace his agenda.

Trump said Love had called him “all the time” asking for help freeing Utahn Josh Holt, who had been imprisoned in Venezuela. But her re-election campaign distanced itself from his administration, Trump said, which led to her poor performance in Utah’s 4th Congressional District.

“Mia Love gave me no love and she lost,” Trump said. “Too bad. Sorry about that Mia.”

jon tester oRoll Call, Jon Tester Ekes Out Third Term in Montana, Simone Pathé, Nov. 7, 2018. Trump helped nationalize the race for GOP challenger. Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester prevailed in a tight re-election race, securing a third term in a state President Donald Trump carried by 21 points in 2016.

With 91 percent of precincts reporting, Tester, right, led Republican state Auditor Matt Rosendale 49 percent to 48 percent when The Associated Press called the race Wednesday. Libertarian candidate Rick Breckenridge, who had appeared to endorse Rosendale last week, finished with just under 3 percent.

First elected in 2006, Tester has never won more than 50 percent of the vote in his previous Senate races. But his personal brand once again helped him overcome partisan leanings in Big Sky Country.

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrat Edges Out Scott Walker in Wisconsin Governor’s Race, Monica Davey, Nov. 7, 2018. The election of Tony Evers, an educator, buoyed the hopes of Democrats in a state that helped secure the presidency for Mr. Trump.

scott walker oGov. Scott Walker, right, who moved Wisconsin to the right over the last eight years, cutting taxes and sharply diminishing the power of labor unions, was defeated on Wednesday by the Democrat, Tony Evers, the state schools superintendent, The Associated Press reported.

The advantage for Mr. Evers was razor thin, a little over 1 percentage point. With more than 2.6 million votes cast and 99 percent of precincts reporting, Mr. Evers led by about 30,000 votes.

Still, Mr. Walker was not conceding, and his running mate, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, emerged to speak to supporters in the early morning hours Wednesday and suggested that a recount might be ahead. An adviser to Mr. Walker, Brian Reisinger, said that an official canvass and the counting of military ballots needed to occur before the campaign made any decision on how to proceed. Under a new set of rules in Wisconsin, a second-place finisher must be no more than 1 percentage point behind the leading vote-getter to be eligible to seek a recount, election officials said.

The outcome buoyed the hopes of Democrats in a long-divided state for a resounding return after 2016, when Wisconsin surprised many by helping secure the presidency for Donald J. Trump. This year’s Wisconsin race has been viewed as a crucial test of partisan control in the Midwest, where governors’ offices and state legislatures, including Wisconsin’s, have been dominated by Republicans.

Election Commentaries

Palmer Report, Commentary: What the hell just happened in Florida? Bill Palmer, Nov. 7, 2018. The Democrats outperformed the polls and made gains all over the place last night, including a number of red states. For that matter the Democrats outperformed in House races in Florida. So what the hell just happened in the races for Governor and Senate in Florida?

andrew gillum oAndrew Gillum, left, the Democratic candidate for Governor of Florida, was ahead in every poll, by an average of around four points. Bill Nelson, the Democrat running for Senate reelection in Florida, was ahead in most polls. Yet they both shockingly appear to have lost, and it looks like they’re both conveniently just outside the 0.5% margin required for an automatic recount. If this feels all too familiar, that’s because it’s precisely what happened in Florida in 2016.

Yes, polls can be wrong. But this was a night where the Democrats met expectations or outperformed in most races. They won House seats in red districts, flipping dozens of seats. They flipped several Governor races, including in Kansas.

This wasn’t a blue tsunami, but it was undoubtedly a blue wave. Yet here we are, for the second election in a row, scratching our heads at how the Democrats came in so far beneath their poll numbers in Florida. Are we really supposed to believe that the national polling outlets, which tend to be so skilled at assessing all the other states, are somehow inept when it comes to Florida?

stacy abrams brian kemp file

Georgia candidates for governor Stacey Abrams, the Democrat at left, and Republican Brian Kemp, the reputed winner after allegations of vote suppression.

The Atlantic, Brian Kemp’s Lead in Georgia Needs an Asterisk, Carol Anderson (Professor of African American Studies at Emory University), Nov. 7, 2018. If the governor’s race had taken place in another country, the State Department would have questioned its legitimacy.

The Democrat Stacey Abrams, a black woman, made a valiant effort to win the governor’s race in Georgia, one of the original 13 states, whose commitment to human bondage ensured that the U.S. Constitution would treat slavery with kid gloves. She tried to write a new narrative for this state.

Although Abrams has not yet conceded, citing uncounted ballots, it looks as though the other side has won, and the narrative is the same as ever. Abrams didn’t have to fight just an electoral campaign; she had to fight a civil-rights campaign against the forces of voter suppression.

Indeed, I can’t quite bring myself to say that Abrams “lost,” because there’s an asterisk next to her Republican opponent’s victory.

republican elephant logoBrian Kemp, who billed himself as a “Trump conservative,” refused to step aside as Georgia’s secretary of state; he ran for governor of a state while overseeing the elections in that state. Former President Jimmy Carter, a Georgian with much experience monitoring elections abroad, stressed that this conflict of interest ran “counter to the most fundamental principle of democratic elections—that the electoral process be managed by an independent and impartial election authority.”

Kemp had no intention of relinquishing a post he has held since 2010, and often wields as a weapon to cull Georgia’s electorate. He understood that he would need every trick in the book because he was up against a woman who, in addition to serving as the minority leader of the state’s House of Representatives from 2011 to 2017, founded a formidable voter-registration organization, the New Georgia Project.

stacey abrams campaignSeveral years ago, Abrams noticed that the state’s demographics were changing quickly, as minorities made up an increasing share of the age-eligible electorate. Abrams noticed, as well, that more than half a million black Georgians were not registered to vote. In 2013, as the executive director of the New Georgia Project, she set out to “register and civically engage the rising electorate in our state.”

When tens of thousands of voter-registration cards poured into Kemp’s office, he heard warning bells. He told the media that “we’re just not going to put up with fraud,” and launched a highly publicized investigation into Abrams’s organization. While accusations of criminality hung in the air, however, he relayed a very different story to his fellow Republicans. Kemp explained to them in 2014 that “Democrats are working hard, and all these stories about them, you know, registering all these minority voters that are out there and others that are sitting on the sidelines, if they can do that, they can win these elections in November.”

The claim of voter fraud, it seems, was a ruse to try to intimidate the New Georgia Project, Abrams, and black voters with criminal prosecution. It didn’t work. Abrams, a Yale-educated attorney, knew the laws, knew that the New Georgia Project had not broken any, and stood her ground. Kemp was forced to walk away, unable to even charge her or the organization with any violations. (A countersuit by the New Georgia Project alleging voter suppression was thrown out.)

Under Kemp, Georgia purged more than 1.5 million voters from the rolls, eliminating 10.6 percent of voters from the state’s registered electorate from 2016 to 2018 alone. The state shut down 214 polling places, the bulk of them in minority and poor neighborhoods. From 2013 to 2016 it blocked the registration of nearly 35,000 Georgians, including newly naturalized citizens. Georgia accomplished this feat of disfranchisement based on a screening process called “exact match,” meaning the state accepted new registrations only if they matched the information in state databases precisely, including hyphens in names, accents, and even typos.

Although a judge ruled that exact match was biased and had a disparate impact on minority applicants, the Georgia legislature in 2017 scoffed at the decision and created a new exact-match program plagued by the same bias for traditional, anglicized names. Exact match is supposed to weed out attempted voter-impersonation fraud before it can begin. What it actually does is remove tens of thousands of otherwise eligible voters, overwhelmingly minorities, from the electorate.

Kemp plied his trade with purges, poll closures, registration limbo, and more. He was the voter-suppression king, who now wanted to be governor. He had the state machinery on his side, and he was ready to use it.

jennifer rubin new headshotwashington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Here’s what did and didn’t work for Democrats, Jennifer Rubin, right, Nov. 7, 2018. Democrats lost to President Trump in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio in 2016. Tuesday, they were delighted to see that the 2016 losses might have been an aberration. Consider that Democrats held on to all four of the Senate seats, flipped the governorship in Wisconsin and Michigan, and held the governorship in Pennsylvania. The only loss was the Ohio governorship. (More about that in a moment.)

Democrats in these states ran on health care, education and other bread-and-butter issues. They didn’t have to adopt Trump’s anti-immigrant claptrap, nor did they change their views on social issues. In other words, they had a clear message, appealed to a wide audience and were able to put together an electoral majority of college-educated whites, younger voters, women and nonwhites — President Barack Obama’s winning coalition. ‘

Perhaps the problem wasn’t the Democratic message of economic opportunity and fighting for the little guy but a presidential candidate in 2016 who just didn’t connect with voters and a campaign that dropped the ball. Lesson: You can keep the message, not give in to xenophobia, and still win in the Rust Belt and upper Midwest with a down-to-earth candidate.

Two final, big lessons remain for Democrats. First, exciting progressives Andrew Gillum, Stacey Abrams and Beto O’Rourke came up short, although they ran remarkably competitive races. (Abrams does have an outside shot at a runoff.) Democrats need to continue to expand the electorate, engaging and registering young people but most critically, Hispanic voters. Making such voters into reliable, regular voters should be the party’s top priority. Second, losses in the Senate should remind Democrats that not only are they not going to remove Trump by impeachment but also there is less incentive than ever for Republicans to break with him. Those who won owe their victories to him. The “moderate Republican” is essentially extinct. Democrats will need to beat a fully Trumpized GOP to complete their quest to repair our democracy and oust a dangerous, divisive president.

Slate, Trump’s Press Conference Was Nutty, Self-Absorbed, and Full of Lies, William Saletan, Nov. 7, 2018. The president dismissed the public’s election rebuke and stabbed his allies in the back. And that was just the start.

On Wednesday, for more than an hour, President Trump stood before the press fielding questions about the midterm elections and his plans for the next two years. A normal president might have lamented his party’s loss of the House, acknowledged the humbling message from voters, and thanked Republican politicians who lost their jobs on Tuesday. But not Trump. He dismissed the public’s rebuke, stabbed his allies in the back, and threatened to escalate a legal and political war with Congress. Here’s what he said.

1. Screw Republicans, it’s all about me. In his opening remarks, Trump boasted, “We saw the candidates that I supported achieve tremendous success last night.” This was a prepared talking point, and Trump made sure to include the key words: that I supported. He went on to trash, by name, Republican candidates who had avoided him during the campaign. “They did very poorly,” Trump gloated. “I feel just fine about it. Carlos Cubela. [Trump mispronounced Curbelo’s name.] Mike Coffman. Too bad, Mike. … Mia Love gave me no love, and she lost. Too bad. Sorry about that, Mia.” Later, Trump bragged that he had forced out Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, creating an open seat. “I retired him. I’m very proud of it,” said the president.

Halfway through the press conference, a reporter told Trump, “Last night was not an absolute victory for you.” This was a laughably generous description, given the loss of the House. Instead, Trump protested that it wasn’t generous enough. “I thought it was a very close to complete victory,” he declared. Instead of thanking Republicans who had helped him on the trail, Trump complained that unlike Democrats, “I only had me, I didn’t have anybody else.” He told the press that his takeaway from the election was his own popularity: “That’s what I learned, [that] I was very well-received by this great country.” He also claimed that he “created the greatest economic success in the history of our country,” that he was responsible for the falling price of oil—“That’s because of me”—and that “I am a great moral leader.”

2. If the House investigates me, I won’t cooperate on legislation. “You can’t do them simultaneously,” Trump insisted, referring to investigation and legislation. “If they’re doing that, we’re not doing the other.” Specifically, he warned that if the House subpoenas his tax returns, he’ll launch counterinvestigations—and in that case, “government comes to a halt.” A reporter asked, “Can you compartmentalize that and still continue to work with [Democrats] for the benefit of the rest of the country?” Trump replied: “No. No.” He went on to explain how, having orchestrated this gridlock, he would blame Democrats for it: “Being in the majority, I’m just gonna blame them. You understand, I’m gonna blame them. They’re the majority. Honestly, it makes it much simpler for me.”

The Hill, Retiring GOP lawmaker rips Trump over midterm criticism, John Bowden, Nov. 7, 2018. Retiring GOP Rep. Ryan Costello (Pa.) ripped President Trump on Wednesday for his criticism of Republican lawmakers who lost their reelection bids, accusing the president of being the reason why Democrats picked up more than two dozen House seats on Tuesday.

Costello, who did not seek another term and saw Pennsylvania’s 6th Congressional District turn blue on Election Day, wrote that having Trump “piss on [you]” after being responsible for Republican losses was too much.

“To deal w harassment & filth spewed at GOP MOC’s in tough seats every day for 2 yrs, bc of POTUS; to bite ur lip more times you’d care to; to disagree & separate from POTUS on principle & civility in ur campaign; to lose bc of POTUS & have him piss on u,” Costello wrote during Trump’s criticism of GOP lawmakers at a White House press conference on Wednesday.

“Angers me to my core,” he added.

Media News

cnn logoCNN, White House pulls CNN correspondent Jim Acosta’s pass after contentious news conference, Brian Stelter, Nov. 7, 2018. In a stunning break with protocol, the White House said Wednesday night that it’s suspending the press pass of CNN’s Jim Acosta “until further notice.”

The move came just hours after Acosta, CNN’s chief White House correspondent, drew the ire of President Donald Trump and his allies by asking multiple questions at a post-midterms news conference. Trump insulted Acosta and called him a “terrible” person.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders announced in a statement that Acosta would be stripped of what’s known as a “hard pass,” which gives him access to the White House grounds.

CNN said in a statement that Acosta has the network’s full support.

The revocation of his pass “was done in retaliation for his challenging questions at today’s press conference,” the statement said. “In an explanation, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders lied. She provided fraudulent accusations and cited an incident that never happened. This unprecedented decision is a threat to our democracy and the country deserves better. Jim Acosta has our full support.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump calls CNN reporter ‘rude, terrible person,’ ‘enemy of the people,’ Lindsey Bever, Nov. 7, 2018. President Trump lashed out at journalists during an afternoon press briefing, calling some of them “hostile,” instructing them to sit down and telling a CNN reporter, “You are a rude, terrible person.”

cnn logoThe heated exchange occurred Wednesday when CNN reporter Jim Acosta continued to question Trump after the president dismissed him during a news conference about the 2018 midterm elections. Acosta had brought up the Central American migrant caravan, asking the president why he characterized it as “an invasion.”

“I think you should let me run the country, you run CNN and if you did it well, your ratings would be much better,” Trump told Acosta.

Then when Acosta tried to question Trump about the Russia investigation, the president shouted: “That’s enough. That’s enough. That’s enough. That’s enough,” telling him to “put down the mic.”

Trump then told the reporter: “CNN should be ashamed of itself having you working for them. You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn’t be working for CNN. … You’re a very rude person. The way you treat Sarah Huckabee is horrible. And the way you treat other people are horrible. You shouldn’t treat people that way.”

As The Washington Post’s Elise Viebeck reported, Trump snapped at yet another reporter later in the press conference after she noted that the president had once called himself a “nationalist” and asked him whether his embrace of “nationalism” is supporting white nationalists.

“I don’t know why you’d say that — that’s such a racist question,” Trump told PBS Newshour’s White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor, who is black.

Booksellers Protest Against

amazon logo smallny times logoNew York Times, After Protest, Booksellers Are Victorious Against Amazon Subsidiary, David Streitfeld, Nov. 7, 2018. A worldwide strike by antiquarian booksellers against an Amazon subsidiary proved successful after two days, with the retailer apologizing and saying it would cancel the actions that prompted the protest.

It was a rare concerted uprising against any part of Amazon by any of its millions of suppliers, leading to an even rarer capitulation. Even the book dealers said they were surprised at the sudden reversal by AbeBooks, the company’s secondhand and rare bookselling network.

The uprising, which involved nearly 600 booksellers in 27 countries removing about four million books, was set off by the retailer’s decision to cut off stores in five countries: the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, South Korea and Russia. AbeBooks never explained its actions beyond saying it was related to payment processing.

“AbeBooks was saying entire countries were expendable to its plans,” said Scott Brown, a Eureka, Calif., bookseller who was an organizer of the strike. “Booksellers everywhere felt they might be next.”

Nov. 6

U.S. Elections Preview

ny times logoNew York Times, When Will the Results Come In? Astead W. Herndon and Jugal K. Patel, Nov. 6, 2018. An hour-by-hour mapped guide to the races at stake in the midterm elections across the country. The first polls close at 6 p.m., Eastern time, and the last closes seven hours later in Alaska. Here are the closing times, state-by-state, and what to watch each hour as the vote counting begins.

joe donnelly6 p.m., E.T. Most of Indiana / Eastern half of Kentucky. Keep an eye on the most watched race in Kentucky: the Sixth Congressional District, where Amy McGrath, a former Marine, is trying to unseat a male Republican incumbent. This race is likely to provide an early glimpse into whether the so-called blue wave is on. The big prize in Indiana is the Senate race, where Joe Donnelly, right, a Democrat, is trying to hold on to his seat.


us senate, Analysis: Forecasting the race for the Senate, Nate Silver, Nov. 6, 2018. 4 in 5 Chance Republicans keep control (81%). The chance of winning for each candidate in the 35 Senate elections taking place in 2018, as well as the controlling party for the 65 seats not on the ballot this cycle. Predicted average Republican gain: .5 seats.

U.S. House, Analysis: Forecasting the race for the House, Nate Silver, Nov. 6, 2018. 7 in 8 Chance Democrats win control (88.1%). The chance of each candidate winning, with all 435 House districts shown. Predicted average Democratic gain: 39 seats., Analysis: Forecasting the races for governor, Nate Silver, Nov. 6, 2018.

  • 195 million: Average population forecasted to be governed by Democrats
  • 134 million: Average population forecasted to be governed by Republicans
  • 24: Average number of states forecasted to be governed by Democrats
  • 26: Average number of states forecasted to be governed by Republicans

Real Clear Politics Monday Polls

Election 2018 News, Commentary

djt smiling file

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s judgment day has arrived, Bill Palmer, Nov. 6, 2018. And here we are. For the past two years since Donald Trump treasonously conspired with a foreign enemy to rig the presidential election in his favor and then illegally seized the Oval Office, the Resistance has been heroically holding America together while Trump has tried to destroy it.

If we turn out and vote today, Donald Trump and his party will never be able to pass another corrupt piece of legislation. Every complicit Republican House committee chair will be replaced with a Democrat who will work to expose Trump’s crimes and bring him to justice. Republican subpoena power will become Democratic subpoena power. Robert Mueller will be chuckling at how much easier his job just became.

If we turn out and vote today, Donald Trump will be on a path to prison. Yes, Trump and his family really will end up getting locked up. Even if Mueller and the Democrats only manage to oust him and not incarcerate him, the state of New York will take care of the rest. The five or six Trump underlings who have been sent packing for prison these past two years will look like a drop in the bucket in comparison to what’s to come.

If we turn out and vote today, America has a chance to become America again. Democracy will be back in fashion. Donald Trump will be on the run. We’ve spent these past two years holding America together by a thread. Now, today, we get to take a proverbial sledgehammer those who have been trying to destroy it.

washington post logoWashington Post, Without evidence, Trump and Sessions warn of voter fraud, Amy Gardner, Nov. 6, 2018. Accusations of voter fraud and voter suppression have roared to the forefront in several closely fought races this year, raising the possibility of recounts and disputed results among dozens of contests.

jeff sessions ag oPresident Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday issued strong warnings about the threat of voter fraud in Tuesday’s elections, echoing the president’s baseless claims that massive voter fraud marred his 2016 election and prompting accusations that his administration is trying to intimidate voters.

In a tweet early Monday, Trump said that law enforcement has been “strongly notified” to watch for “ILLEGAL VOTING.” He promised that anyone caught voting improperly would be subjected to “Maximum Criminal Penalties.” Sessions, in a statement laying out the Justice Department’s plans to monitor ballot access on Election Day, said “fraud in the voting process will not be tolerated. Fraud also corrupts the integrity of the ballot.”

In remarks to reporters on his way to a campaign rally in Cleveland, Trump also falsely claimed that voter fraud is commonplace.

Purged Voters Get No Notice

greg palast logo

Truthout, Purged Voters Get Out the Vote, Greg Palast, Nov. 6, 2018. On Sunday, I watched President Donald Trump warn a rally in Macon, Georgia, that Stacey Abrams, running to become the first Black female governor in US history, “is one of the most extreme far left politicians in the entire country,” adding, “you know that! You put Stacey in there, you’re going to have Georgia turn into Venezuela. I don’t think the people of Georgia like that.”

Trump’s rant against Abrams has not driven away her many supporters. But voters like Atlanta filmmaker Rahiem Shabazz are being driven away from the ballot box.

“I want to vote for Stacey Abrams.” Shabazz told me, but, “I won’t be able to vote in the November 6 election.”

stacy abrams brian kemp fileShabazz’ voter registration, his right to vote, has been cancelled by Georgia’s Secretary of State, Brian Kemp, shown at right in adjoining photo.

Notably, Kemp, while running the election for the state of Georgia, is also running in the election for governor of Georgia — against Democrat Stacey Abrams (shown also at right).

rahiem shabazz palast investigative fund SmallRahiem (shown in a Palast investigative team photo) is just one of more than 340,134 Georgians Kemp has purged from the voter rolls based on dead-wrong evidence they’d moved from the state or from their home county.. It took a federal lawsuit — which I filed jointly with voting rights advocate Helen Butler — to force Kemp to divulge the names and addresses of those whose registration he cancelled in a single year, 2017.

And, while Kemp may believe that the tidal wave of purges may overcome a Democratic Blue Wave, there is another possibility: When a voter turning up to the polling station discovers his/her registration is missing or cancelled, the voter has the right, under federal law, to cast a “provisional” ballot.

However, the man who decides whether these “provisional” ballots will be counted is… Brian Kemp.

But Kemp should stop grinning. “Federal judges may feel differently about Kemp’s right not to count these provisional ballots,” says Jeanne Mirer, lead attorney on the lawsuit filed against Kemp in October. If the court determines that Kemp misused his power as Georgia’s “Purge’n General” it could order that those provisional votes be counted.

During Trump’s Georgia rally, assorted right-wing and white supremacist attendants took selfies in front of Air Force 1, while fanatics sported Qanon, Three Percenter and Oath Keepers T-shirts. Proud Boys flashed “white power” signs. One Trumper thought Abrams’ supporters should stop complaining, telling me, “We all have rules to vote. Just follow the rules.”

Still, Kemp’s wrongful purging frenzy may, in the end, backfire, even if it does not come down to a court fight over the provisional ballots.

Shabazz warns Kemp, “You took one vote away, but Stacey Abrams is going to get ten more because I’m going to bring ten more people out to vote.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Five things to look for today, Jennifer Rubin, Nov. 6, 2018. More than 5,000 presidential lies later, we are ready to see if the electorate shifted in some permanent ways in 2016 or whether 2016 was a perfect storm, an aberration and a wake-up call.

The perfect storm explanation for 2016 would say that a poor presidential candidate, a complacent Democratic base, a TV celebrity candidate and a last-minute intrusion into the election campaign by FBI Director James B. Comey produced a narrow victory for President Trump, a result few expected, including the candidate.

The permanent-shift explanation is that Americans demand entertainment from politics, dismiss (or even embrace) racism and misogyny, and are indifferent about the survival of democracy. They want someone to break the furniture and don’t much care how he does it or what he says.

Here then are five questions, the answers to which will help clarify whether 2016 was closer to the perfect storm or a harbinger of a permanent shift, one that reveals democracy’s decay.

Guam Territorial Voting Results

Pacific Daily News / USA Today Network (Guam), Leon Guerrero maintains large lead, with 20 precincts counted, Staff reports, Nov. 6, 2018. Democrat Lou Leon Guerrero and running mate Joshua Tenorio retained their commanding lead in the race for governor, according to the latest batch of unofficial results, released about 12:55 a.m. on Nov. 7.

democratic donkey logoWith 20 of 67 precincts counted, Leon Guerrero has 50.7 percent of the vote, with Republican Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio receiving 25.89 percent of the vote. In the race for congressional delegate, Sen. Mike San Nicolas, D-Dededo, is leading Republican candidate and former public auditor Doris Brooks, with 53.02 percent of the vote, to Brooks’ 45.77 percent.

Palmer Report, Commentary: Donald Trump’s last minute voter distraction antics go off the rails, Daniel Cotter, Nov. 5, 2018. “President” Donald J. Trump is obviously scared, and also wants to try to explain the results of Tuesday should the blue wave transpire. On Monday morning, Trump tweeted: “Law Enforcement has been strongly notified to watch closely for any ILLEGAL VOTING which may take place in Tuesday’s Election (or Early Voting). Anyone caught will be subject to the Maximum Criminal Penalties allowed by law. Thank you!”

Trump is trying to make a big deal of illegal voting. He has claimed that during 2016, more than 3 million illegal votes were cast. Notwithstanding such scare tactics, the truth is that when a comprehensive investigation of 1 billion ballots cast, credible incidents of voter impersonation were found in 31 cases, or .0000031%.

Another statistic worth noting is the voter apathy in the United States. In the 2016 presidential election, nearly half of all eligible voters (46.9%) did not vote. If eligible voters are not heading to the polls, then who would be these illegal voters who march to the polls, risking conviction and punishment, when many of them are eligible and don’t vote as it is?

Not to be deterred, Attorney General Jeff “Suck up” Sessions issued a press release on Monday, confirming that he is sending out monitors to “35 jurisdictions in 19 states.” The jurisdictions include counties in North Dakota, Arizona, and Gwinnet and Fulton Counties in Georgia. Gwinett is the jurisdiction where thousands of absentee ballots were set aside by Brian “Corrupt as F” Kemp before a judge intervened. The press release cites potential voter fraud, which again is mostly non-existent.

Trump and Sessions should be reminded that intimidating voters is a federal crime and that any monitors sent should be very careful in interfering in local polling places. Voters should get out and vote in what is an important election and ignore what is more intimidation tactics by Trump.

Wikileaks Prosecution

Consortium News, Opinion: The West is Failing Julian Assange, Stefania Maurizi, Nov. 6, 2018. Stefania Maurizi works for the Italian daily La Repubblica as an investigative journalist, after ten years working for the Italian newsmagazine l’Espresso.

I have worked as a WikiLeaks media partner for the last nine years, and over these nine years I have met Assange many, many times, but only once did I meet him as a free man: that was back in September 2010, the very same day the Swedish prosecutor issued an arrest warrant for allegations of rape. Initially he was under house arrest with an electronic bracelet around his ankle, then he entered the Ecuadorian embassy in London on June 19, 2012. Since then he has remained buried in that tiny embassy: a depressing building, very small, with no sunlight, no fresh air, no hour outdoors. In my country, Italy, even mafia bosses who strangled a child and dissolved his corpse in a barrel of acid enjoy an hour outdoors. Assange doesn’t.

Julian Assange’s situation is very precarious. His living conditions within the embassy have become unsustainable, and his friends speak as if there is no hope: “When the U.S. gets Julian”, they say, as if it is a foregone conclusion that the U.S. will get him and no journalist, no media, no NGO, no press association will do anything to prevent it.

In the last six years that Assange has been languishing in the embassy, not a single major Western media has dared to say: we shouldn’t keep an individual confined with no end in sight. This treatment of Julian Assange by the UK – and, more in general, by the West – is not only inhumane, but counterproductive.

Documents reveal that the UK authorities referred to the Assange case as not an ordinary one from the very beginning. “Please do not think that the case is being dealt with as just another extradition request,” they wrote on January 13, 2011 to the Swedish prosecutors. A few months later, a UK official added: “I do not believe anything like this has ever happened, either in terms of speed or in the informal nature of the procedures. I suppose this case never ceases to amaze.”

What is special about this case? And why did the UK authorities keep insisting on extradition at all costs?

Nov. 5

U.S. Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Midterms test whether Republicans not named Trump can win by stoking racial animosity, Matt Viser, Nov. 5, 2018 (print edition). President Trump succeeded in 2016 after disparaging minority groups. That strategy has spread to other GOP campaigns, with blatant and overtly racial attacks rarely seen since the civil rights era of the 1960s.

ny times logoDonald Trump Logo Make America Great AgainNew York Times, Trump’s America: Aggrieved and Adoring Voices From Inside the Presidential Bubble, Michael D. Shear, Nov. 5, 2018 (print edition). At rallies, the president’s most fervent supporters look past his falsehoods, racially charged statements and attacks on critics. For his party to win Tuesday, he needs them to turn out in droves.

Roll Call, DOJ Civil Rights Division to Monitor Polls in 35 Counties on Election Day, Griffin Connolly, Nov 5, 2018. Arizona, Nevada, Florida, North Dakota, and Texas among 19 states where DOJ personnel will monitor polling places.

When Americans head to the polls on Tuesday for the midterm elections, voters in 35 counties — from Las Vegas to Dallas to Tampa — will head to precincts that are being closely monitored by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division for “compliance with the federal voting rights laws,” the DOJ announced Monday.

“Voting rights are constitutional rights, and they’re part of what it means to be an American,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.

Sessions also warned that “fraud in the voting process will not be tolerated.”

In January, President Donald Trump shut down a commission he created shortly after he arrived at the Oval Office to investigate possible voter fraud. In its six months of existence, that commission did not turn up any evidence of voter fraud from the 2016 election.

The list of jurisdictions that the DOJ will monitor comprises 35 counties, including many that election experts say are pivotal battlegrounds for the outcomes of roughly a half-dozen neck-and-neck Senate races and even more House races.

Civil Rights Division personnel will observe, for example, Maricopa County, Arizona, which encompasses much of Phoenix. Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema hopes to see a surge of voting in Phoenix for her Senate match-up against GOP Rep. Martha McSally, who will be looking for a strong showing from the county’s non-urban reaches. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the Arizona Senate race Tilts Democratic.

jacky rosenClark County (Las Vegas) and Washoe County (Reno) in Nevada will also be subject to the DOJ’s monitoring efforts. Nevada GOP Sen. Dean Heller faces Rep. Jacky Rosen, right, in another prime pick-up opportunity for the Democrats in a race rated Tilts Democratic by Inside Elections.

In Florida, where Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson has faced an historically expensive challenge from Florida Gov. Rick Scott, DOJ personnel will be keeping an eye on polling places in Pinellas County (Tampa) and Palm Beach County. Inside Elections also rates that race Tilts Democratic.

The Texas, New Jersey, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania Senate races will also have some polling places under DOJ surveillance.

ny times logoNew York Times, Two Vastly Different Election Outcomes That Hinge on a Few Dozen Close Contests, Nate Cohn, Nov. 5, 2018.  Democrats appear poised to win the House popular vote on Tuesday by a wide margin, with national polls showing sustained disapproval of President Trump — and yet the fate of the chamber is not a foregone conclusion.

democratic donkey logoOn the day before the midterm elections, two vastly different outcomes remain easy to imagine. There could be a Democratic blowout that decisively ends Republicans’ control of the House and even endangers their Senate majority. Or there could be a district-by-district battle for House control that lasts late on election night and perhaps for weeks after.

washington post logorepublican elephant logoWashington Post, Analysis: ‘Full Trumpism’: The president’s apocalyptic attacks reach a new level of falsity, Philip Rucker, Nov. 5, 2018 (print edition). In the campaign’s final days, President Trump has claimed without evidence that Democrats want to destroy the economy, obliterate Medicare and open the borders to violent criminals.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Will there be a youth wave? Early voting points to yes, Jacqueline Alemany, Nov. 5, 2018. Youth turnout rates in the midterm early vote are up by 125 percent compared to 2014, according to Catalist, a voter database servicing progressive organizations.

Fighting Contested Results

Columbus Free Press via OpEdNews, Warning To Democrats! Do NOT Concede!! Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, Nov. 5, 2018. Donald Trump is in power in large part because Democrats have repeatedly conceded elections they really won. On Tuesday, that MUST change. Anyone deemed a close loser MUST fight. Every tally must be contested, every denial challenged, all missing ballots found, every provisional honored.

Media, Elections

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: You ‘Approved This Message’? Seriously? Jim Rutenberg, Nov. 5, 2018 (print edition). In 2002, lawmakers tried to save voters from election-season sludge by adding a brief refrain as part of every commercial. Their plan didn’t count on the ugly campaign tactics of President Trump, our media columnist writes.

In the final week of the midterm campaigns, President Trump tweeted a 53-second video that interspersed footage of the caravan with a courtroom scene featuring Luis Bracamontes, an undocumented immigrant and convicted murderer. After Mr. Bracamontes boasts of killing two police officers, these words appear onscreen: “Democrats let him into our country. Democrats let him stay.”

As numerous fact checkers have pointed out, the ad is false. Mr. Bracamontes was deported after entering the United States during Bill Clinton’s presidency and came back during the years George W. Bush was president. He was deported once again, only to return and kill two sheriff’s deputies in California in 2014. He had even passed through the infamous Maricopa, Ariz., jail system of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a Republican, before being released on drug charges that were never resolved.

The video was so demonizing of Latino migrants and so defamatory of Democrats that it took a place alongside the infamous Willie Horton ad that helped George Bush defeat his Democratic opponent, Michael Dukakis, in the 1988 presidential election.

huff post logoHuffpost, Fox News Pulls Racist Trump Ad, Lydia O’Connor, Nov. 5, 2018. The Trump-friendly network said it’s decided to stop airing the ad “upon further review.” Fox News said Monday it has stopped airing the controversial political ad paid for by President Donald Trump’s campaign, which likens members of the Central American migrant caravan to a man convicted of killing police officers in the U.S.

fox news logo SmallThe Trump-friendly network’s decision comes after CNN made headlines on Saturday for refusing to air it and after NBC came under fire for running it during prime time on Sunday night.

“Upon further review, Fox News pulled the ad yesterday and it will not appear on either Fox News Channel or Fox Business Network,” ad sales president Marianne Gambelli said in a statement.

Trump re-election official Brad Parscale responded on Twitter: So, @NBCNews @CNN @facebook have chosen to stand with those ILLEGALLY IN THIS COUNTRY. Instead of standing with LEGAL IMMIGRANTS and those that follow our laws. The #FakeNewsMedia and #PaloAltoMafia are trying to control what you see and how you think. STOP THE CARAVAN!

The ad is Trump’s latest effort to rouse fear about the migrant caravan in the days ahead of the midterm elections. Last week, he announced he was sending more than 5,200 troops to the U.S.’s southern border despite the caravan being weeks away and posing no known threat.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Trump camp goes berserk after NBC and Fox News cancel his racist caravan ad, Bill Palmer, Nov. 5, 2018. Various television networks, including CNN, have made clear from the start that they would not run Donald Trump’s racist and fictional “caravan” ad, no matter how much money they were being offered for the ad placement. But during last night’s NFL Sunday Night Football game, NBC decided to run the ad. Palmer Report and others quickly organized a pushback campaign, and while the ad did run again this morning, it’s now been pulled – and not just from NBC.

Early this afternoon, NBC and Fox News released separate statements announcing that they were canceling the remainder of the ad run. Facebook also announced that it would stop allowing Donald Trump to run the ad on its social network. Just how racist and dishonest does an ad have to be for Fox News to decide it’s gone too far? Suffice it to say that Trump and his people were not happy.

Brad Parscale, the “campaign manager” for Donald Trump’s imaginary 2020 reelection campaign, angrily lashed out on Twitter at NBC and Facebook, but conveniently left out the fact that Fox News had also dropped the ad. These television networks never should have aired this ad to begin with. But, at the least, this is further proof that mainstream Americans can work together and force soulless corporate entities to bend to their will.

Fallen Utah Mayor Urged Voting

huff post logoHuffington Post, Utah Mayor Pleaded With Americans To Vote Before He Was Killed In Afghanistan, Mary Papenfuss, Nov. 5, 2018. Utah mayor Brent Taylor, a major in the Utah National Guard, pleaded with “united” Americans in a moving Facebook post to vote just days before he was killed in an insider attack in Afghanistan.

The emotional appeal came after Taylor witnessed Afghanistan citizens risking their lives to cast their votes.

The “beautiful” turnout of 4 million voters who braved “threats and deadly attacks” was a “success for the long-suffering people of Afghanistan and for the cause of human freedom,” wrote Taylor, the mayor of the small town of North Ogden, with a population of 17,000. He became mayor of the town, located an hour north of Salt Lake City, in 2013.

“As the USA gets ready to vote in our own election next week, I hope everyone back home exercises their precious right to vote. And that whether the Republicans or the Democrats win, that we all remember that we have far more as Americans that unites us than divides us,” he wrote in his last post.

Taylor, a father of seven young children, also posted photos of people voting in Afghanistan. He ended his post: “United we stand, divided we fall.”

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump administration prepares for massive shake-up after midterms, Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey and Philip Rucker, Nov. 5, 2018. The expected exodus would bring fresh uncertainty and churn to the White House, and many in the president’s orbit worry that the administration will face challenges filling the vacancies.

washington post logoryan zinke oWashington Post, Newly released emails suggest Zinke contradicted ethics pledge, Juliet Eilperin​, Nov. 5, 2018. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, right, continued to engage in discussions involving his family foundation’s property in summer 2017 despite the fact that he had pledged to recuse himself from such matters for a year, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

At issue is an August 2017 email exchange with David Taylor, the city planner for Whitefish, Mont. Zinke authorized him to access the property and explained that he was engaged in negotiations with a real estate developer over building a parking lot on his foundation’s land.

But under an ethics pledge he signed Jan. 10, 2017, Zinke vowed to step down from his position as president of the Great Northern Veterans Peace Park Foundation after winning confirmation and refrain from participating in any matters concerning the group for one year.

U.S. Farmers / Trade / Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Farmers Wince in Trump Country as Soybean Exports to China Fall 94%, Binyamin Appelbaum, Nov. 5, 2018. This is harvest season in the rich farmlands of the eastern Dakotas, where farmers have prospered over the last two decades by selling soybeans to the Chinese. But this year, the Chinese have all but stopped buying.

Amazon Picks New Sites?

ny times logoNew York Times, Amazon Marches Closer to Its Goal of Becoming the Everything Company, David Streitfeld, Nov. 6, 2018. What a farce. That was one of the immediate reactions when word leaked out on Monday that Amazon’s much-ballyhooed search for a second headquarters outside of Seattle would result in not one, but two new locations. On Twitter, people used farce, sham or stunt to describe what had happened.

amazon logo smallAmazon’s critics were apoplectic at what they called a bait and switch. From the company’s point of view, however, things seem to be working out rather nicely.

The quest kept a persistent spotlight on Amazon as the suitor everyone sought — would it choose Denver? maybe Atlanta? surely Chicago? — even as the company apparently decided instead to set up smaller operations in the Washington metro area and in New York City, the two most obvious places all along.

Cops, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, CIA contractor gets 3-month prison sentence for taking home classified information, Rachel Weiner, Nov. 5, 2018 (print edition). A former CIA contractor who kept 60 notebooks full of classified information will spend three months in prison.

cia logoWhy Reynaldo Regis over his 10 years at the agency felt compelled to look up classified information about individuals outside his purview and take it home with him, however, remains a mystery.

“The $64 question is why he was keeping those notebooks,” U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady said Friday before sentencing Regis in an Alexandria courtroom.

david petraeus cia oRegis, a Philippine native who spent 25 years in the U.S. military and held a top-secret security clearance, only told O’Grady, “I’m really sorry for what I have done . . . truly sorry.”

Sentences in such cases vary widely. A National Security Administration employee who brought work on sensitive hacking tools home was recently sentenced to five years in prison by a federal judge in Maryland. But retired Army general and former CIA director David Petraeus, left, and former national security adviser Sandy Berger both got probation for taking home classified information.

Global News

washington post logoiran flag mapWashington Post, Iran vows to ‘break’ U.S. sanctions and resist ‘psychological warfare’ as Trump reimposes penalties, Erin Cunningham and Carol Morello, Nov. 5, 2018. The unilateral sanctions reintroduce some of the most crippling restrictions on Iran’s oil, shipping and banking sectors.

Iran’s military forces staged war exercises and its president defiantly vowed Monday to “break” U.S. sanctions on oil sales that were reimposed at midnight, as Tehran resisted a Trump administration pressure campaign aimed at isolating the country economically.

“We will proudly break the sanctions,” Rouhani said during a meeting of government officials in the Iranian capital.

Rouhani’s vow to keep exporting oil came as the Trump administration snapped back sanctions on more than 700 individuals and companies that received sanctions relief when a landmark 2015 nuclear deal took effect.

The unilateral sanctions reintroduce some of the most crippling restrictions on Iran’s oil, shipping and banking sectors and seek to penalize even non-U.S. entities that do business with Iran.

ny times logoNew York Times, As U.S. Sanctions on Iran Kick In, Europe Looks for a Workaround, Steven Erlanger, Nov. 5, 2018. The Trump administration’s decision to quit the nuclear treaty with Tehran and restore the measures has divided Washington from its closest allies.

The Europeans consider the 2015 Iran nuclear deal crucial to their national interests, and say they intend to keep honoring it. But to date, they have not managed to put in place a mechanism for sidestepping the sanctions without antagonizing the Trump administration.

Realistically, European officials say, they may be able to preserve only 20 percent to 30 percent of existing trade with Iran, given that large European companies with ties to the United States have already pulled out of Iran or are in the process of doing so to avoid the sanctions.

king abdullah left crown prince salman abdul aziz third right praying during 2103 funeral saudi press agency via ap

Saudi leaders at 2013 funeral (Saudi royal family photo via Associated Press)

washington post logoWashington Post, A year after Ritz-Carlton roundup, Saudi elites remain jailed by crown prince, Kevin Sullivan and Kareem Fahim, Nov. 5, 2018. Human rights activists and other analysts said Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may be preparing to release more detainees to help cool the furor over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Somewhere in this kingdom, Prince Turki bin Abdullah is locked away.

Turki, 47, was once a golden scion of Saudi Arabia’s gilded royal family, a prominent son of former King Abdullah and a fighter pilot with advanced degrees who trained in the United States and Britain. He was the powerful governor of Riyadh province, then chief executive of the multibillion-dollar King Abdullah Foundation, which funds charitable work around the world.

He is now among an unknown number of superwealthy Saudis who remain detained a full year after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman startled his country by turning Riyadh’s posh Ritz-Carlton hotel into a 5-star jail for some of the nation’s most prominent citizens in what he called an anti-corruption sweep.

Prince Turki, who officials have reportedly accused of graft related to construction of the Riyadh subway, remains detained without any formal charges. His chief of staff, Gen. Ali al-Qahtani, was also arrested and died in detention under circumstances that have never been fully explained.

Early this year, the Saudi attorney general said 56 men remained locked up, some the subject of criminal investigations, with more than $106 billion in cash, real estate, businesses, securities and other assets recovered in the Ritz operation.

Mohammed said in interview last month with Bloomberg only eight men were still detained. He offered no other details, except to say, “They’re with their lawyers and facing the system that we have in Saudi Arabia.”

But other people familiar with the detentions said the number is much higher, with 45 Ritz detainees still locked up.

Nov. 4

2018 U.S. Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Why this election matters so much, Editorial Board, Nov. 4, 2018 (print edition). The stakes are higher than usual, much higher, in next Tuesday’s election. At issue is not simply the future of federal legislation on health care, taxes and many other policy matters, important as they are. Rather, the pivotal question this November is whether the American electorate will reward a campaign based on divisiveness and dishonesty.

washington post logoWashington Post, Anxiety high in campaign’s final days as voters prepare to render judgment on Trumpism, Matt Viser and Philip Rucker, Nov. 4, 2018 (print edition). As the midterms roared into their final weekend — with the biggest names in both parties exhorting their followers to vote — tight races across the country were setting the stage for an uncertain, but dramatic, conclusion. Much is on the line as voters will render a nationwide judgment on whether Trumpism is a historic anomaly or a reflection of modern-day America.

Two years of political volatility will culminate Tuesday when voters for the first time since the stunning 2016 election render a nationwide judgment on whether Trumpism is a historic anomaly or a reflection of modern-day America.

As the midterms roared into their final weekend — with the biggest names in both parties exhorting their followers to vote — uncertainty enveloped the contest amid signs that tightening races appeared headed toward dramatic finishes.

Just how many House seats Democrats might pick up — they need a net gain of 23 to win the majority — remained unclear. Republicans are favored to keep control of the Senate, but enough top-tier races from Florida to Nevada to Tennessee and Missouri were sufficiently close that the outcome was in doubt. And in two closely watched gubernatorial races, where African American Democrats in Georgia and Florida are seeking to make history, the contests looked to be coming down to the wire.

Election Fraud Claims Mount

stacy abrams brian kemp file

washington post logoWashington Post, Brian Kemp’s office orders ‘hacking’ probe of Ga. Democrats on eve of election he’s competing in, Avi Selk, Vanessa Williams and Amy Gardner​, Nov. 4, 2018. As Georgia’s secretary of state, Kemp oversees the same election he is competing in for governor. Democrats called the investigation a sham and abuse of power.

But voters’ rights groups pushed back within hours of the announcement, suggesting that the investigation was a political distraction after Democratic officials, among others, alerted authorities over the weekend to security vulnerabilities in the voting system Kemp oversees. The Abrams’ campaign called the investigation “nothing more than a pathetic attempt to cover up for his failures.”

republican elephant logoThe office of the secretary of state, which Democrats have accused throughout Kemp’s campaign of manipulating the electoral system for his benefit, announced the investigation Sunday morning with an all-caps headline that appeared directly below a voter’s guide on a government website.

The attached statement contained no evidence and almost no details on the Democratic Party of Georgia’s “possible cyber crimes,” but it said Kemp’s office had launched the investigation Saturday evening and alerted the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.

The investigation was immediately condemned as a political ploy by Democrats and some commentators, who believe Kemp should not oversee an election in which he is competing.

“Brian Kemp’s scurrilous claims are 100 percent false, and this so-called investigation was unknown to the Democratic Party of Georgia until a campaign operative in
Kemp’s official office released a statement this morning,” Rebecca DeHart, executive director of the state Democratic Party, wrote in a statement to reporters. “This is yet another example of abuse of power by an unethical Secretary of State.”

whowhatwhy election integrity feed

WhoWhatWhy graphic illustrating its ongoing investigations of voter suppression and electronic election frauds

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Georgia’s voter registration system like open bank safe door, Jordan Wilkie and Timothy Pratt, Nov. 4, 2018. Two days before the midterm elections, a series of security vulnerabilities have been discovered that would allow even a low-skilled hacker to compromise Georgia’s voter registration system and, in turn, the election itself. It is not known how long these vulnerabilities have been in place or whether they have already been exploited.

Just before noon on Saturday, a third party provided *WhoWhatWhy* with an email and document, sent from the Democratic Party of Georgia to election security experts, that highlights “massive” vulnerabilities within the state’s My Voter Page and its online voter registration system.

According to the document, it would not be difficult for almost anyone with minimal computer expertise to access millions of people’s private information and potentially make changes to their voter registration — including canceling it.

In this election and during the primaries, voters have reported not showing up in the poll books, being assigned to the wrong precinct, and being
issued the wrong ballot.

All of that could be explained by a bad actor changing voter registration data — and at this point there may be no way of knowing if that happened.

It is not clear what impact — if any — this will have on Tuesday’s elections, or what it has had on early voting. Voters should still go to the polls and, if they are encountering problems, ask to cast a provisional ballot as is their right.

*WhoWhatWhy *contacted five computer security and election systems experts to review the document.

None of these cyber security experts tested the vulnerabilities described, downloaded any files, or altered any data.

All five noted that testing these vulnerabilities without permission would be illegal.

Instead, several logged onto the My Voter Page to look at the code used to build the site — something any Georgian voter could do with a little
instruction — and confirmed the voter registration system’s vulnerabilities.

They all agreed with the assessment that the data of voters could easily be accessed and changed.

Mass Shooting In Florida

washington post logoWashington Post, Man who had been accused of groping opens fire on Tallahassee yoga class, killing two, police say, Avi Selk, Nov. 4, 2018 (print edition). Shooting at Tallahassee yoga studio rattles Florida. A man who had been repeatedly accused of groping women and linked to misogynistic YouTube rants walked into a yoga class and opened fire on Friday evening, according to Tallahassee police, shooting six people and killing two of them.

scott paul beierlePolice said the shooting suspect, Scott Paul Beierle (shown in a mug shot), 40, killed himself minutes before they arrived at the Hot Yoga studio, which sits above a row of restaurants at a northern Tallahassee shopping center.

About a dozen people were inside Hot Yoga when a man with a black bag walked in around 5:30 p.m., the Tallahassee Democrat reported. The studio had advertised a Pilates certification class for the weekend.

Among the yoga students were Florida State University student Maura Binkley, 21, and 61-year-old Nancy Van Vessem, a local physician and a faculty member at Florida State. Both women were killed in the gunfire.

Axios Sneak Peek, Trump: Saudis “don’t know how to use” U.S. bombs, Jonathan Swan, Nov. 4, 2018. In August, Saudi-led coalition forces used an American bomb to blow up a school bus in Yemen, reportedly killing at least 51 people, including 40 children. In his first public comments on that attack. President Trump told Axios on HBO that the killings were “a horror show.” But he declined to say if it’s made him reassess American arms sales to the Saudis.

 “I think it’s a terrible situation. I hated seeing what happened with the bus and the children cause that’s pure — that’s a horror show when you see a thing like that, you saw the bus.”

Why it matters: Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the UN. The U.S. has been selling the Saudis weapons to fight the Iran-backed Houthis, and Trump has boasted repeatedly about the size of his Saudi arms deal.

I asked Trump whether it bothered him that the Saudi-led coalition has been using U.S. bombs to kill civilians. What’s next: Last week, the U.S. called for a cease-fire, but within two days, per the Washington Post, “the U.S.-backed Saudi-led coalition launched a fresh offensive.”

Voter Impact On Mueller

Palmer Report, Opinion: You can vote for Robert Mueller on Tuesday. No, really, Bill Palmer, Nov. 4, 2018. Donald Trump is on the ballot in every single House and Senate race; you just won’t see his name. There’s also another person on the ballot: Special Counsel Robert Mueller. By all accounts he’s gearing up to make his big move against Trump shortly after the election. He’s simply waiting to see how things shake out, so he can decide how to proceed – and he needs your help.

robert mueller screenshot washington postIf the Democrats win the House, it will allow Robert Mueller, right, to hand his findings and recommendations to the House, and let the Democrats run with it. After all, the destruction and ouster of a criminally corrupt president is still ultimately a political process. House Democrats can immediately begin holding daily televised hearings to destroy Trump one swift blow at a time, even while sending subpoenas flying and taking a proverbial buzzsaw to what little is left of Trump’s viability.

If the Republicans retain control of the House and Senate, that will leave Robert Mueller as the lone ranger. Much as we might enjoy the visual, it’s not the ideal scenario. Mueller would be forced to try more unilateral and riskier moves.

Booksellers Boycott Against

ny times logoNew York Times, Sellers Unite to Pull Books Off Amazon-Owned Site in Protest, David Streitfeld, Nov. 4, 2018. More than 250 antiquarian book dealers in 24 countries say they are pulling over a million books off an Amazon-owned site for a week, an impromptu protest after the site abruptly moved to ban sellers from several nations.

The flash strike against the site, AbeBooks, which is due to begin Monday, is a rare concerted action by vendors against any part of Amazon, which depends on third-party sellers for much of its merchandise and revenue. The protest arrives as increasing attention is being paid to the extensive power that Amazon wields as a retailer — a power that is greatest in books.

amazon logo smallThe stores are calling their action Banned Booksellers Week. The protest got its start after AbeBooks sent emails last month to booksellers in countries including South Korea, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Russia to say that it would no longer “support” them. “We apologize for this inconvenience,” the company said.

As the news spread, even unaffected dealers were surprised and angered. AbeBooks, together with Amazon itself, is by far the biggest international marketplace for secondhand and rare books.

AbeBooks lists millions of books and manages the payments. The booksellers mail the books directly from their shops. The platform was founded in 1995 and was bought by Amazon in 2008. It continues to operate independently, and many of its customers never even realize who the owner is. AbeBooks is based in Victoria, British Columbia, where it started.

The Amazon subsidiary told the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers that it was scaling back because “it is no longer viable for us to operate in these countries due to increasing costs and complexities.”

Peter Harrington, a leading London antiquarian dealer, said AbeBooks’ “high-handed manner” was at the root of the protest, with the platform taking the affected booksellers and “destroying their livelihoods in just a couple of impersonal sentences.”

Dealers in 24 countries say they are removing over a million books from AbeBooks for a week after the site moved to ban sellers from several nations.

The flash strike is a rare concerted action by vendors against any part of Amazon, which depends on third-party sellers.

Nov. 3

ny times logoNew York Times, G.O.P. Has Strong Economy to Tout, but Trump Rhetoric Muddies Message, Astead W. Herndon and Sydney Ember, Nov. 3, 2018 (print edition). A glowing jobs report right before an election should be a gift to the party in power and a uniform talking point for its candidates. But President Trump’s strident tone on immigration is drowning out the good news, creating a political bind Republicans did not envision.

ny times logoNew York Times, Once Reluctant to Speak Out, an Energized Obama Now Calls Out His Successor, Peter Baker, Nov. 3, 2018 (print edition). Former President Barack Obama’s voice has a way of lifting into a high-pitched tone of astonishment when he talks about his successor, almost as if he still cannot believe that the Executive Mansion he occupied for eight years is now the home of President Trump.

bo solo 8 4 14For most of the last two years, he stewed about it in private, only occasionally speaking out. But as he hit the campaign trail this fall, Mr. Obama (shown in a file photo) has vented his exasperation loud and often, assailing his successor in a sharper, more systematic way arguably than any former president has done in three-quarters of a century.

Although some admirers believe he remains too restrained in an era of Trumpian bombast, Mr. Obama has excoriated the incumbent for “lying” and “fear-mongering” and pulling “a political stunt” by sending troops to the border. As he opened a final weekend of campaigning before Tuesday’s midterm elections, Mr. Obama has re-emerged as the Democrats’ most prominent face, pitting president versus president over the future of the country.

washington post logoWashington Post, Obama rips hecklers: Why are the people who won the last election ‘so mad all the time?’ Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Nov. 3, 2018. For former president Barack Obama, it was a spontaneous response to a parade of hecklers — not a teleprompter remark that had been vetted for maximum effect — but it still seemed to sum up the final weeks of a searing midterm election campaign characterized by incendiary rhetoric, politically motivated package bombs and hate.

“Why is it that the folks that won the last election are so mad all the time?” Obama asked a crowd of 4,000 as the fifth interrupting protester was escorted out of a Miami rally on Friday. Any further shouts were drowned out by the crowd’s roar.

whowhatwhy election integrity feed

WhoWhatWhy graphic illustrating its ongoing investigations of voter suppression and electronic election frauds

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Voting Machines — Unregulated, Unverifiable, Easy to Hack, Staff report, Nov. 3, 2018. On Tuesday, millions of Americans will cast their ballots on antiquated machines built when many voters were still in diapers. These machines use software that is even older. They are easy to hack, yet election officials don’t want to recognize that this is a problem.

Georgia GOP Voter Suppression Thwarted

brian kemp

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge rules against Brian Kemp over Ga. voting restrictions days before gubernatorial election, Eli Rosenberg, Nov. 3, 2018 (print edition). The state must change its procedures to make it easier for some people flagged under the state’s restrictive “exact match” law to vote, a federal judge ruled, dealing a blow to Kemp, right, the GOP gubernatorial candidate and secretary of state.

Georgia must change its procedures to make it easier for some people flagged under the state’s restrictive “exact match” law to vote, a federal judge ruled Friday, dealing a blow to Republican gubernatorial candidate and Secretary of State Brian Kemp.

The “exact match” law flags voter registrations that are found to have discrepancies, such as a dropped hyphen, with other official identifications. Potential voters are allowed to settle the discrepancy by providing proof of identity.

stacey abrams campaignBut the state’s procedures under Kemp, whose office oversees elections, stipulated that those who had been flagged as potential noncitizens be cleared first by a deputy registrar when seeking to vote. In October, a coalition of civil rights groups sued him.

[Kemp is both supervising election rules as secretary of state and also running as the GOP candidate for governor against Democrat Stacey Abrams, left, an African-American and state legislative leader hoping to energize new voters.]

U.S. District Judge Eleanor L. Ross ruled Friday that the procedures were likely to result in the violation of voting rights for a large group of people and needed to be halted immediately. She said Kemp’s restrictions raised “grave concerns for the Court about the differential treatment inflicted on a group of individuals who are predominantly minorities.”

The preliminary injunction she issued required the state to change its procedures immediately to allow those flagged, some 3,100 individuals, to prove their citizenship more easily, with a U.S. passport or similar documentation, and only to a poll manager. It also signaled that the coalition of civil rights groups that brought the case against Kemp would probably succeed should the lawsuit continue.

Another Mass Shooting, Analysis

BuzzFeed News, Tallahassee Yoga Shooter Was A Far-Right Misogynist Who Railed Against Women And Minorities, David Mack, Amber Jamieson and Julia Reinstein, Scott Beierle killed two women at a Florida yoga studio on Friday night. He had posted a series of misogynistic videos and songs online, and appeared to identify as an “involuntary celibate.” This is the second deadly attack by an “involuntary celibate” in 2018.

The man who shot dead two women at a yoga studio in Tallahassee, Florida, on Friday before killing himself was a far-right extremist and self-proclaimed misogynist who railed against women, black people, and immigrants in a series of online videos and songs.

Scott Beierle, 40, was named by Tallahassee Police as the shooter who opened fire inside the Hot Yoga Tallahassee studio, killing two and injuring four other women and a man.

Those killed were named as Dr. Nancy Van Vessem, 61, who worked at Florida State University’s College of Medicine, and FSU student Maura Binkley, 21.

On a YouTube channel in 2014, Beierle filmed several videos of himself offering extremely racist and misogynistic opinions, in which he called women “sluts” and “whores,” and lamented “the collective treachery” of girls he went to high school with.

“There are whores in — not only every city, not only every town, but every village,” he said, referring to women in interracial relationships, whom he said had betrayed “their blood.”

The Tallahassee Police Department could not tell BuzzFeed News whether women were specifically targeted in the attack.

ny times logoNew York Times, How U.S. Law Enforcement Failed to See the Threat of White Nationalism, Janice Reitman, Nov. 3, 2018. For two decades, domestic counterterrorism strategy has ignored the rising danger of far-right extremism.In the atmosphere of willful indifference, a virulent movement has grown and metastasized.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. militia groups head to border, stirred by what they see as Trump’s call to arms, Mary Lee Grant and Nick Miroff, Nov. 3, 2018. Local landowners are worried, and U.S. military planners see potential dangers in the armed groups.

Gun-carrying civilian groups and border vigilantes have heard a call to arms in President Trump’s warnings about threats to American security posed by caravans of Central American migrants moving through Mexico. They’re packing coolers and tents, oiling rifles and tuning up aerial drones, with plans to form caravans of their own and trail American troops to the border.

“We’ll observe and report, and offer aid in any way we can,” said Shannon McGauley, a bail bondsman in the Dallas suburbs who is president of the Texas Minutemen. McGauley said he was preparing to head for the Rio Grande in coming days.

“We’ve proved ourselves before, and we’ll prove ourselves again,” he said.

McGauley and others have been roused by the president’s call to restore order and defend the country against what Trump has called “an invasion,” as thousands of Central American migrants advance slowly through southern Mexico toward the U.S. border. Trump has insisted that “unknown Middle Easterners,” “very tough fighters,” and large numbers of violent criminals are traveling among the women, children and families heading north on foot.

Economics / Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Economic / Political Opinion: The Perversion of Fiscal Policy (Slightly Wonkish), Paul Krugman, right, paul krugmanNov. 2, 2018. Austerity in a slump, stimulus in a boom.

As many people have pointed out, the Trump tax represented a total break with the normal principles of fiscal policy. Historically, we’ve tended to run big deficits when the economy is weak, smaller deficits or surpluses when it’s strong. But now the deficit is soaring even in the face of low unemployment. This is irresponsible, and shows that Republican handwringing over deficits was always phony – which some of us pointed out at the time.

But something that has been pointed out less is that this is actually part of a broader story: fiscal policy has been off the rails since 2010, not because of what it has done to the national debt, but because of what it has done to the macroeconomy.

Here’s what fiscal policy should do: it should support demand when the economy is weak, and it should pull that support back when the economy is strong.

Paul Krugman joined The New York Times in 1999 as an Op-Ed columnist. He is distinguished professor in the Graduate Center Economics Ph.D. program and distinguished scholar at the Luxembourg Income Study Center at the City University of New York. In addition, he is professor emeritus of Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School.

Saudi Sisters In NYC: Suicide? Murder?

washington post logoWashington Post, No indication Saudi sisters found in NYC were killed, authorities say, Justin Jouvenal, Nov. 3, 2018 (print edition). The bizarre discovery of the women from Fairfax County, dead and bound with duct tape, turned the case into national news and left a lingering mystery: Had they been killed? The New York City police said Friday the medical examiner has not yet made a determination on the cause or manner of death.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s border deployments could cost $200 million by end of 2018, Paul Sonne, Nov. 3, 2017. The operations come as the White House calls on the Pentagon to slash its budget for next year in response to the largest increase in the federal deficit in six years.

Nov. 2

Trump Pumps Race Fears

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump ratchets up racially divisive messages in a bid to rally support in the midterms, Philip Rucker and Felicia Sonmez, Nov. 2, 2018 (print edition). President Trump, joined by many Republican candidates, is dramatically escalating his efforts to take advantage of racial divisions and cultural fears in the final days of the midterm djt economist cover aug 19 2017campaign, part of an overt attempt to rally white supporters to the polls and preserve the GOP’s congressional majorities.

On Thursday, Trump (shown in a file photo of an Economist cover) ratcheted up the anti-immigrant rhetoric that has been the centerpiece of his midterm push by portraying a slow-moving migrant caravan, consisting mostly of families traveling on foot through Mexico, as a dangerous “invasion” and suggesting that if any migrants throw rocks they could be shot by the troops that he has deployed at the border. The president also vowed to take action next week to construct “massive tent cities” aimed at holding migrants indefinitely and making it more difficult for them to remain in the country.

“If you don’t want America to be overrun by masses of illegal aliens and giant caravans, you better vote Republican,” Trump said at a rally here Thursday evening.

washington post logoWashington Post, After GOP’s 2018 tax cut plans fell apart, immigration filled the campaign void, Damian Paletta and Erica Werner, Nov. 2, 2018. With their 2018 tax plans having failed to come to fruition and their 2017 tax law still polling poorly, President Trump and some other Republicans have made a hard pivot away from economics and into nationalism to energize the conservative base ahead of Tuesday’s midterm elections.

Inside DC

washington post logoryan zinke oWashington Post, White House is increasingly concerned Interior Secretary Zinke violated federal rules, Juliet Eilperin, Josh Dawsey and Lisa Rein, Nov. 2, 2018 (print edition). President Trump has asked aides for more information about a Montana land deal under scrutiny by the Justice Department, according to two senior administration officials. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is shown at right.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s election-eve border mission puts the military in partisan crosshairs, Greg Jaffe and Dan Lamothe​, Nov. 2, 2018. President Trump’s decision to send as many as 15,000 troops to the southern border has drawn sharp and unusual criticism from former military leaders. Their blunt words reflect the strain that his unusual presidency has put on one of America’s most important norms: the tradition of an apolitical military.

washington post logoWashington Post, FDA approves a powerful new opioid despite fears of more overdose deaths, Lenny Bernstein, Nov. 2, 2018. The agency approved the new painkiller for use in health-care settings, rejecting criticism from some of its own advisers that it would inevitably be diverted to illicit use. The drug is five to 10 times more potent than pharmaceutical fentanyl.

washington post logokanye west maga hat twitterWashington Post, Kanye West finally became an Obama supporter, David Swerdlick, Nov. 2, 2018. Distancing himself from Trump this week, West declared support for a big chunk of the former president’s agenda. The rapper shown at right wearing a “Make America Great Again” along with a sweatshirt with the name of civil rights protester Colin Kaepernick, has 28 million Twitter followers and recently made news by praising Donald Trump in an extended rant with the president in the Oval Office.

Trump Probes, Suits

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge denies Trump request to stay emoluments suit, could allow plaintiffs to seek details on hotel’s foreign customers, Jonathan O’Connell and David A. Fahrenthold, Nov. 2, 2018. U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte in Greenbelt, Md., denied the Justice Department’s request that he pause the case alleging that the president is violating the Constitution by continuing to do business with foreign governments.

washington post logoWashington Post, High court lets trial proceed on census citizenship question, Robert Barnes, Nov. 2, 2018.​ The Supreme Court refused to delay an upcoming trial in which a number of states and civil rights organizations allege there was an improper political motive in Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.

Saudi Murder Of Journalist

king abdullah left crown prince salman abdul aziz third right praying during 2103 funeral saudi press agency via ap

Saudi leaders at 2013 funeral (Saudi royal family photo via Associated Press)

washington post logorecep erdogan throneWashington Post, Opinion: Saudi Arabia still has many questions to answer about Jamal Khashoggi’s killing, Recep Tayyip Erdogan (president of Turkey, shown at right in a file photo,), Nov. 2, 2018. The story is all too familiar: Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and a family man, entered Saudi Arabia’s Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 for marriage formalities. No one – not even his fiancee, who was waiting outside the compound — has ever seen him again.

Over the course of the past month, Turkey has moved heaven and earth to shed light on all aspects of this case. As a result of our efforts, the world has learned that Khashoggi was killed in cold blood by a death squad, and it has been established that his murder was premeditated.

Yet there are other, no less significant questions whose answers will contribute to our understanding of this deplorable act. Where is Khashoggi’s body? Who is the “local collaborator” to whom Saudi officials claimed to have handed over Khashoggi’s remains? Who gave the order to kill this kind soul? Unfortunately, the Saudi authorities have refused to answer those questions.

The murder of Jamal Khashoggi involves a lot more than a group of security officials, just as the Watergate scandal was bigger than a break-in and the 9/11 terror attacks went beyond the hijackers. As responsible members of the international community, we must reveal the identities of the puppetmasters behind Khashoggi’s killing and discover those in whom Saudi officials — still trying to cover up the murder — have placed their trust.

U.S. Politics / Dirty Tricks?

gary hart donna rice monkey business

Model Donna Rice and 1988 Democratic presidential candidate Gary Hart, a Colorado senator taking a cruise on a yacht named Monkey Business.The photo, allegedly a political dirty trick set up against Hart, was taken during the campaign by Rice’s friend Lynn Armandt and provided to the news media

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump and the Hart-less Presidency, Maureen Dowd, Nov. 2, 2018. After 30 years, Gary Hart still wonders what might have been.

While the rest of us obsess on what happened in 2016 and what will happen on Tuesday, Gary Hart is bedeviled by what happened in 1987, and whether the tabloid mania sparked by his liaison with Donna Rice led down a rattlesnake-filled path straight to our tabloid president.

gary hart the front runner jason reitman directorHart, and a new Jason Reitman movie about the Rice imbroglio, The Front Runner, both pose the question: Is there a direct connection between Hart’s fall and Trump’s rise?

If reporters had not hidden in the bushes, would there have been any Bushes?

“I bear a very heavy burden of responsibility,” Hart says, picking at a “game plate” of elk, buffalo and quail at The Fort restaurant outside of Denver. “If all that stuff had not happened and if I had been elected, there would have been no gulf war. H.W. wouldn’t have been president. W. wouldn’t have been president. Everything would have changed. I don’t say that to aggrandize myself. It’s just, history changed.

“And that has haunted me for thirty years. I had only one talent and it wasn’t traditional politics — I could see farther ahead than anybody.’’

Hart maintained that “there was no relationship” with Rice. Rice — who became an evangelical and supports Trump — told People this week, “I’m just not discussing it.” But a married candidate can’t have a gorgeous young model fly up to D.C. from Miami for the weekend to visit his house — “the infamous townhouse,’’ as Hart’s son dryly calls it — and not attract questions if they are seen.

A recent piece by James Fallows in The Atlantic reported that Lee Atwater, the Republican dirty trickster and Poppy Bush party chief, confessed before his death that he had set up Hart for his weekend of doom on “Monkey Business.”

“That’s the only way that 48-hour period makes any sense,’’ Hart told me.

See also for background:

  • Miami Herald, The Gary Hart Story: How It Happened, by Jim McGee, Tom Fiedler and James Savage, May 10, 1987. This article was prepared by Jim McGee, Tom Fiedler and James Savage. It was first published in the Miami Herald on May 10, 1987. It is reprinted with permission of The Miami Herald. Note: This article is from  the University of North Carolina “AFS” site, which is being close on Nov. 13, 2018.
  • The Atlantic, Was Gary Hart Set Up? James Fallows, Oct. 16, 2018. November 2018 issue, What are we to make of the deathbed confession of the political operative Lee Atwater, newly revealed, that he staged the events that brought down the Democratic candidate in 1987?

Nov. 1

U.S. Elections 2018

ny times logoU.S. House logoNew York Times, Meet the Would-Be House Committee Leaders Who Could Torment Trump, Nicholas Fandos, Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Catie Edmondson, Nov. 1, 2018 (print edition). If Democrats win control of the House, they will gain control of powerful committees that could put a check on Mr. Trump’s agenda. Expect subpoenas, must-see hearings and lots of investigations.

democratic donkey logoIn the House, the majority rules. Just ask Democrats, who have introduced bills destined for nowhere, watched oversight requests pile up and seen Republicans overrule most of their policy efforts. But if the Democrats take the House on Nov. 6, they will assume control of two of the most powerful tools in Washington: gavels and subpoenas.

Trump Complains Mass Murder Hurt GOP Campaign ‘Momentum’

CNN, Trump laments that ‘two maniacs’ stopped GOP momentum in midterms, Caroline Kelly and Betsy Klein, Nov. 1, 2018. Trump: Maniacs stopped the momentum.

President Donald Trump lamented on Thursday that last week’s two domestic terror incidents had stopped Republican momentum ahead of the midterm elections.Trump said the pipe bombs mailed to prominent Democratic politicians and CNN and the shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue had taken attention away from the Republican campaign to hold on to control of Congress during the midterms.

“We did have two maniacs stop a momentum that was incredible, because for seven days nobody talked about the elections,” he said during his closing remarks at a Missouri rally. “It stopped a tremendous momentum.”

Trump acknowledged the human cost of the package bombs and the shooting.

“More importantly, we have to take care of our people, and we don’t care about momentum when it comes to a disgrace like just happened to our country,” he added. “But it did nevertheless stop a certain momentum, and now the momentum is picking up.”

National Emergency?

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump ignoring the curbs on declaring a national emergency, David Nakamura, Nov. 1, 2018 (print edition). As a caravan of migrant families heads toward the United States, the president said that he was “bringing out the military for a National Emergency.” But he has filed no proclamation declaring a national crisis.

U.S. Elections

washington post logoDemocratic-Republican Campaign logosWashington Post, Democrats in prime position to retake House, but wild cards remain, poll shows, Scott Clement and Dan Balz​, Nov. 1, 2018. A Washington Post-Schar School poll of likely voters in battleground districts found the Democratic Party’s base of less frequent voters and concerns about illegal immigration stand out as wild cards in the final days of the midterm elections.

Trump Claims Black George Leader, Yale Law Grad ‘Unqualified’

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump, Offering No Evidence, Cites Stacey Abrams’s ‘Past’ and Calls Her ‘Unqualified,’ Alan Blinder, Nov. 1, 2018. President Trump disparaged Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee for governor of Georgia, in ambiguous and unusually personal terms on Thursday, warning that “her past” left her “not qualified to be the governor.”

stacey abrams campaignMr. Trump did not elaborate and offered no evidence for his assertion, which seemed to be a potential preview of the political message he will deliver on Sunday, two days ahead of the election, at a Georgia rally for Brian Kemp, Ms. Abrams’s Republican rival.

But the decision of the president, who has been criticized for inflammatory language, to invoke Ms. Abrams’s background so broadly was a distinct escalation in his attacks on her bid to become the first black woman to be elected governor in the United States.

Ms. Abrams, a former Democratic leader of the Georgia House of Representatives, has staked out an array of liberal positions during her campaign, but her tenure in the Legislature has drawn measured praise from the Republicans who led the State Capitol.

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: When Trump Voters Go For Democrats, Timothy P. Carney (author of the forthcoming book “Alienated America: Why Some Places Thrive While Others Collapse”), Nov. 1, 2018. Why is the Rust Belt trending blue for the midterms? The collapse of community may provide an answer.

democratic donkey logoIt’s easy to assume that Rust Belt voters have soured on the president, that blue-collar voters are upset Mr. Trump never Made America Great Again. But it’s not about the president: Mr. Trump still has extraordinarily high approval ratings among those who voted for him. The problem for the Republicans is that Mr. Trump made these Rust Belt voters into Trump voters, but he never made them Republicans.

Low social trust and low civic engagement defined the places that swung hardest to Mr. Trump. Because the vote was an expression of alienation and dissatisfaction, rather than an expression of partisan fealty, many of those places will swing back enough to give Democrats statewide wins on Election Day.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Tip Sheet: Warning Signs for G.O.P., Including Steve King; Trump’s Finger Pointing: 5 Days to Go, Jonathan Martin and Matt Flegenheimer, Nov. 1, 2018. We’re entering the homestretch, and our just-completed poll in the New Jersey district of Representative Leonard Lance carries ominous news for him — and for other Republicans in high-income districts….

jon tester oPresident Trump is getting ahead of a possible midterm loss with an unsubtle message to fellow Republicans: It wasn’t me….Senator Jon Tester of Montana has won two Senate elections without clearing 50 percent of the vote. One big reason: A Libertarian on the ballot has presumably hurt the Republican more than Mr. Tester, a Democrat. But on Wednesday, Mr. Tester, right, faced a complication: The Libertarian candidate this year, Rick Breckenridge, endorsed Matt Rosendale, the Republican nominee and state auditor.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Vote against all Republicans. Every single one, Max Boot, Nov. 1, 2018. I’m sick and tired of a president who pretends that a caravan of impoverished refugees is an “invasion” by “unknown Middle Easterners” and “bad thugs” — and whose followers on Fox News pretend the refugees are bringing leprosy and smallpox to the United States. (Smallpox was eliminated about 40 years ago.)

I’m sick and tired of a president who misuses his office to demagogue on immigration — by unnecessarily sending 5,200 troops to the border and by threatening to rescind by executive order the 14th Amendment guarantee of citizenship to anyone born in the United States.

I’m sick and tired of a president who is so self-absorbed that he thinks he is the real victim of mail-bomb attacks on his political opponents — and who, after visiting Pittsburgh despite being asked by local leaders to stay away, tweeted about how he was treated, not about the victims of the synagogue massacre.

Most of all, I’m sick and tired of Republicans who feel that Trump’s blatant bigotry gives them license to do the same — with Rep. Pete Olson (R-Tex.) denouncing his opponent as an “Indo-American carpetbagger,” Florida gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis warning voters not to “monkey this up” by electing his African American opponent, Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R-Calif.) labeling his “Palestinian Mexican” opponent a “security risk” who is “working to infiltrate Congress,” and Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) accusing his opponent, who is of Indian Tibetan heritage, of “selling out Americans” because he once worked at a law firm that settled terrorism-related cases against Libya.

If you’re sick and tired, too, here is what you can do.

Vote for Democrats on Tuesday. For every office. Regardless of who they are. And I say that as a former Republican. Some Republicans in suburban districts may claim they aren’t for Trump. Don’t believe them. Whatever their private qualms, no Republicans have consistently held Trump to account. They are too scared that doing so will hurt their chances of reelection. If you’re as sick and tired as I am of being sick and tired about what’s going on, vote against all Republicans. Every single one. That’s the only message they will understand., Analysis: Election Update: Democrats Need A Systematic Polling Error To Win The Senate, Nate Silver, Nov. 1, 2018. And even that might not be enough.

The divide between the House outlook and the Senate outlook continues to widen. Democrats’ chances of winning a majority remain at or near their all-time highs in our House forecast — ranging between 78 percent (7 in 9) and 85 percent (6 in 7) in the various versions of our model. But they’re at their lowest point yet in the Senate. All three versions of our forecast give them only about 1 in 7 shot (about 15 percent) of taking over the Senate from Republicans.

By a systematic polling error, I mean one that occurs in a correlated way across every race, or in certain groups or races — not merely errors that happen on a one-off basis.