April 2019 News Reports

Editor’s Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative April 2019 news and views

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

April 3

Trump Probes

washington post logoWashington Post, House Democrats seek six years of Trump’s tax returns, setting stage for fight, Erica Werner, Damian Paletta and Josh Dawsey, April 3, 2019. ​”This request is about policy, not politics,” the Ways and Means Committee chairman said. The president has said he does not plan to hand over his tax returns to Congress — and that he irs logowould fight it to the Supreme Court, according to two administration officials.

The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee asked the IRS on Wednesday for six years of President Trump’s personal and business tax richard neal oreturns, a request with which the president immediately said he was not inclined to comply.

The committee chair’s letter to the Internal Revenue Service — and Trump’s immediate and public response — set up what is likely to become an intense and drawn-out court fight as Democrats push to see tax records they think can shed light on numerous aspects of Trump’s business dealings and Trump resists their demands. The Ways and Means chairman’s request was expected but nonetheless represented a significant escalation in House Democrats’ wide-ranging probes of Trump and his administration.

The IRS was given until April 10 to respond. The panel’s chairman was able to make the request because of a 1924 law that gives the chairmen of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee broad powers to request and receive the tax returns of any American.

“Congress, as a coequal branch of government, has a duty to conduct oversight of departments and officials,” Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.), left, said in a statement. “The Ways and Means Committee in particular has a responsibility to conduct oversight of our voluntary federal tax system and determine how Americans — including those elected to our highest office — are complying with those laws.”

Barr Cover-Up / Spin Alleged

ny times logoNew York Times, Some on Mueller’s Team Say Report Was More Damaging Than Barr Revealed, Nicholas Fandos, Michael S. Schmidt and Mark Mazzetti, April 3, 2019.
Some of Robert S. Mueller III’s investigators have told associates that Attorney General William P. Barr failed to adequately portray the findings of their inquiry and that they were more troubling for President Trump than Mr. Barr indicated, according to government officials and others familiar with their simmering frustrations.

At stake in the dispute — the first evidence of tension between Mr. Barr and the special counsel’s office — is who shapes the public’s initial understanding of one of the most consequential government investigations in American history. Some members of Mr. Mueller’s team are concerned that, because Mr. Barr created the first narrative of the special counsel’s findings, Americans’ views will have hardened before the investigation’s conclusions become public.

Mr. Barr has said he will move quickly to release the nearly 400-page report but needs time to scrub out confidential information. The special counsel’s investigators had already written multiple summaries of the report, and some team members believe that Mr. Barr should have included more of their material in the four-page letter he wrote on March 24 laying out their main conclusions, according to government officials familiar with the investigation. Mr. Barr only briefly cited the special counsel’s work in his letter.

However, the special counsel’s office never asked Mr. Barr to release the summaries soon after he received the report, a person familiar with the investigation said. And the Justice Department quickly determined that the summaries contain sensitive information, like classified material, secret grand-jury testimony and information related to current federal investigations that must remain confidential, according to two government officials.

The officials and others interviewed declined to flesh out why some of the special counsel’s investigators viewed their findings as potentially more damaging for the president than Mr. Barr explained, although the report is believed to examine Mr. Trump’s efforts to thwart the investigation. It was unclear how much discussion Mr. Mueller and his investigators had with senior Justice Department officials about how their findings would be made public. It was also unclear how widespread the vexation is among the special counsel team, which included 19 lawyers, about 40 F.B.I. agents and other personnel.

House OKs Mueller Subpoenas

washington post logoWashington Post, House panel votes to authorize subpoenas to obtain full Mueller report, Rachael Bade​, April 3, 2019. Attorney General William P. Barr has pledged to deliver a redacted version of the special counsel’s report by mid-April, but Democrats said redactions are unacceptable. The fight over the report is expected to land in the courts. A House panel voted Wednesday to authorize subpoenas to obtain special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s full report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, laying down a marker in a constitutional power struggle that could end up in the courts.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 24-17 along party lines to authorize its chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), to subpoena the report and underlying documents of Mueller’s probe from Attorney General William P. Barr.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Today is going to be crucial in Donald Trump’s downfall, Bill Palmer, April 3, 2019. Donald Trump spent yesterday exhibiting some of his most frantic, deranged, and cognitively-challenged behavior yet – and for good reason. He knows what today is all about. Before the morning is over, the House Judiciary Committee will have voted to hand unilateral subpoena power to Chairman Jerry Nadler with respect to the Mueller report, and Nadler can be expected to put it to good use almost immediately.

bill palmer report logo headerAs Palmer Report has spent the past week cautioning, subpoenas aren’t magic wands; they don’t produce immediate or automatic results, which is why the House Democrats didn’t simply start firing them off willy nilly the minute the illegitimate Barr summary was published. Like any sophisticated weapon, the use of the subpoena process has to be handled smartly and strategically in order to get the intended result. For instance, simply subpoenaing the Mueller report, while taking no other action, could set up a lengthy court battle while a judge tries to decide how much of the report should be in the public purview. Nadler has to be smarter in his approach, and he will be.

jerrold nadler o SmallNadler, right, has several possible avenues for his subpoenas. He can subpoena the report itself. He can subpoena William Barr to testify about how he took a multi-hundred page report and “summarized” it into four cartoonishly pro-Trump pages. He can subpoena Robert Mueller to testify about his report, and then try to fight off Barr’s inevitable attempt at muzzling Mueller. He can try to subpoena materials from Mueller’s grand jury. The list goes on. The question is how he’ll choose to combine these tactics, and potentially others, into a cohesive strategy which will ensure that the law – and the court of public opinion – remain strongly on his side as Barr tries to fight him every step of the way.

Within hours, we’ll see what Jerry Nadler and his fellow House Democrats have up their sleeve. For now, the most telling sign we have is that Donald Trump is falling to pieces while he waits to find out what’s about to happen to him. Trump isn’t coming off like a guy who’s expecting today to go well for him. We think today will end up being a crucial day in his inevitable downfall.

Major Security Breach By Mar-A-Lago Visitor

ny times logoNew York Times, Woman From China Carrying Malware Arrested After Entering Mar-a-Lago, Frances Robles, April 3, 2019 (print ed.). A 32-year-old woman from China china flag Smallcarrying four cellphones and a thumb drive infected with malware gained access to Mar-a-Lago during President Trump’s visit to the Florida resort over the weekend, federal court records show.

The woman, identified as Yujing Zhang, had arrived at the Palm Beach resort and showed two Chinese passports when she sought to be admitted, saying she wanted to use the pool.

She was allowed to enter by Secret Service agents stationed outside the resort after the Mar-a-Lago security manager on duty verified that her last name matched the surname of a member of the club, according to a complaint filed in Federal District Court in South Florida.

wayne madsen reportWayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary: Mar-a-Lago: a center for Chinese espionage and prostitution? Wayne Madsen (right), April 3, 2019 (subscription required; excerpted with permission). WMR was the first to report the possible espionage connection between Cindy Yang, aka Li Yang — the Mar-a-Lago club habitué and previous owner of the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Florida — and the Chinese Ministry of State Security (Guójiā Ānquánbù) (国家安全部).

The spa / massage parlor was the scene of a law enforcement prostitution sting that nabbed New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and two other wealthy members of Mar-a-Lago, all three major political donors to the GOP and Trump campaign.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘You pay and you get in’: At Trump’s beach retreat, hundreds of customers — and growing security concerns, David A. Fahrenthold, Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey and Ellen Nakashima​, April 3, 2019. ​The FBI is looking at why a Chinese national illegally gained access to Mar-a-Lago last weekend.

washington post logojared kushner head shotWashington Post, Kushner is identified as senior White House official whose security clearance was denied, Tom Hamburger, Rachael Bade and Ashley Parker​​, April 3, 2019. The president’s son-in-law, described in a House committee document as “Official 1,” had “significant disqualifying factors,” according to a White House whistleblower.

Probing the Media

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: How Rupert Murdoch’s Empire of Influence Remade the World, Jonathan Mahler and Jim Rutenberg, April 3, 2019 (print ed.). Part 1: Imperial rupert murdoch newReach: Murdoch, 86, right, and his children have toppled governments on two continents and destabilized the most important democracy on Earth. What do they want? Over the last six months, we spoke to more than 150 people about the most powerful media family on earth.

Rupert Murdoch was lying on the floor of his cabin, unable to move. It was January 2018, and Murdoch and his fourth wife, Jerry Hall, were spending the holidays cruising the Caribbean on his elder son Lachlan’s yacht. Murdoch tripped on his way to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Few private citizens have ever been more central to the state of world affairs than the man lying in that hospital bed, awaiting his children’s arrival.

As the head of a sprawling global media empire, he commanded multiple television networks, a global news service, a major publishing house and a Hollywood movie studio. His newspapers and television networks had been instrumental in amplifying the nativist revolt that was reshaping governments not just in the United States but also across the planet.

New York Times, Here are six takeaways from The Times’s investigation.

More Investigative Reports

greg palast hsGreg Palast Investigative Journalism, Trump May Name Kris Kobach New Immigration Czar, Greg Palast (right), April 3, 2019. Their real agenda: 2020 vote suppression. When the young Kris Kobach created a computer system for the Department of Homeland Security that secretly tracked visiting Muslims, President George W. Bush was so offended that he personally ordered the racially offensive program shut down.

And now Kobach may have power over that Department and all others dealing with immigrants – including Justice and Defense, and the Census — if the AP report that President Donald Trump is considering making Kobach his “Immigration Czar” becomes reality.

kris kobach kansas SmallIt’s an especially cute move by Trump, as this newly crafted position, unlike an apointment to other cabinet level posts, will not require Senate approval, not even a hearing.

I’ve been investigating Kobach (left) for six years for Al Jazeera and Rolling Stone. Trying to get straight answers from Kobach about his racially poisoned vote-purging shenanigans has not been easy. After several refusals to speak with me about our findings, in 2016, I finally tracked him down in Wichita, with my crew pretending to be from a local TV station. (We were indeed with Channel 4 … Channel 4 of London.)

Peace Activism

david swanson head SmallLet’s Try Democracy, Grassroots Activism / Opinion, NATO Interrupted, David Swanson (right), April 3, 2019. Wednesday morning an event was held in a building overlooking Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., at an organization called the Center for European Policy Analysis, which is funded by: FireEye, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Bell Helicopters, BAE systems, the U.S. State Department, the Pentagon, National Endowment for Democracy, the U.S. Mission to NATO, and NATO’s own Public Diplomacy Division.

Participating in the event were several foreign ministers from NATO nations, ambassadors to NATO, and U.S. Senator Chris Murphy. NATO is designed to david swanson no to nato sign2vigilantly protect you from numerous imaginary and NATO-provoked dangers, but its events are apparently protected by magic spells, as I just walked in and took a seat.

When I couldn’t take any more of the pro-militarism talk, I stood up and interrupted, holding up a sign reading: “Yes to Peace / NoToNATO.org.” Lots of media cameras were in the room, so there is bound to be video somewhere. (Please share it with me.) I said words to this general effect:

“NATO needs to be shut down, not enlarged. Russia spends a tiny percentage of what NATO nations do on war, and you pretend to be afraid of nato logo flags nameRussia. We’re not buying it. You’re provoking dangers. NATO makes up 3/4 of military spending in the world. Its members are also responsible for about 3/4 of foreign weapons dealing — to dictatorships and so-called democracies around the world. NATO wages aggressive wars far from the North Atlantic. The people you can hear chanting outside have had enough. We’re not believing these myths anymore.”

I continued along those lines for a little while before leaving. We sang songs and spoke to people in the building’s lobby and on the sidewalk out front, and did interviews with media from every continent other than North America, before heading off to Capitol Hill where the head of NATO was being welcomed in bipartisan harmony.

NATO is encountering protest everywhere it goes in Washington on Wednesday and will on Thursday as well. Detailed plans.

washington post logoWashington Post, NATO chief rebuts Trump’s criticisms — but also offers praise — in speech to Congress, Anne Gearan and Karoun Demirjian, April 3, 2019. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg drew bipartisan applause and some 18 standing ovations Wednesday as he made a case to Congress for the survival of the transatlantic alliance that was built out of the ashes of World War II, but his most important audience was not in the room.

nato logo flags nameAddressing a joint meeting of the House and Senate to commemorate NATO’s founding in Washington 70 years ago this week, Stoltenberg aimed much of his approximately 40-minute speech at answering President Trump’s skepticism and occasional hostility toward the alliance, while throwing in some praise of the president as well.

The NATO chief thanked the United States for building and sustaining the alliance as it grew from 12 members to 29 and credited Trump with forcing a reckoning among NATO nations over how they fund their joint commitment to military defense.

More U.S. Politics

Roll Call, Senate goes nuclear again, speeding up Donald Trump’s nominations, Niels Lesniewski, April 3, 2019. Senate Republicans moved ahead with deploying the “nuclear option” again Wednesday, this time following through on an effort to cut down on debate time for most of President Donald Trump’s nominees.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosIn an exercise that had far less suspense than when then-Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, made the move back in 2013, the Senate voted, 48-51, overturning the ruling of the presiding officer and setting a new precedent declaring that the remaining debate time for Jeffrey Kessler to be an assistant secretary of Commerce was two hours. A “no” vote was to overturn the presiding officer and establish the two-hour limit.

Senate rules had allowed for a maximum of 30 hours after cutting off debate, so the cut in deliberation time is drastic.

All Democrats voted against the effort put forward by GOP leadership. They were joined by Republicans Mike Lee of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine.

The vote to set a new precedent was just the most recent use of the “nuclear option.” It is called that because it changes the way the Senate does business by a simple majority, avoiding the need for proponents to secure the support of supermajorities of senators that filibuster rules typically require.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump leaves Washington reeling as he struggles with domestic agenda, Seung Min Kim and Erica Werner, April 3, 2019 (print ed.). Republicans are trying to Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)cope with the whiplash as the president rolls out new policies on health care and immigration.

• Washington Post, House set to rebuke Trump’s attempt to use courts to overturn Obamacare
• Washington Post, Aides warn Trump of economic peril in closing the border

 ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Takeover of the Republican Party Is Almost Complete, April 3, 2019. The Trump campaign helped install allies atop the most significant state parties, and urged them to discourage conservative criticism of the president. So far, loyalty has prevailed.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump mocks Biden over allegations of inappropriate touching, Felicia Sonmez, April 3, 2019 (print ed.). In a speech at a Republican fundraising dinner, the president took aim at his potential 2020 White House rival, who has faced growing allegations of inappropriate behavior toward women.

washington post logoWashington Post, Border surge puts pressure on Democrats to craft their own immigration solutions — not just oppose Trump, Michael Scherer, April 2, 2019.  Julián Castro, former San Antonio mayor, is the first of the party’s presidential candidates to offer a detailed immigration plan. Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro on Tuesday offered a far-reaching plan to remake the nation’s immigration policy, with a new call to end criminal penalties for migrants entering the country without permission and a plan to remove detention as a tool for most immigration enforcement.

julián castro hudCastro’s proposal, the first detailed immigration policy blueprint from any of the Democratic candidates for president, is a clear sign that the party’s leaders will be pressured to move beyond simply condemning President Trump’s policies over the coming months to offer their own detailed solutions to a surging influx of migrant families seeking asylum at the southern border.

Like other candidates, Castro, right, who is the only Latino in the race, calls for a wholesale rejection of Trump’s approach. But his plan is the first to offer specifics that would amount to a more permissive environment for undocumented immigrants than existed under the Obama administration.

Castro says his plan is premised on the idea that the southern border is more secure than it has been in decades. The former head of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and mayor of San Antonio would end border wall construction, allow deported veterans who honorably served to return to the United States, increase refu­gee quotas and make it easier for family members to be reunited with relatives who are U.S. residents. He would ask Congress to provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants living in the United States, including young people who received protections under the Obama administration and those covered by the Temporary Protected Status program.

He said he would also create a “21st-century Marshall Plan” for Central America to attack the woeful conditions there, seen as the root cause of the recent increase in asylum seekers. For those who reach the country’s interior, he would reconstitute the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE, by reassigning its interior enforcement functions to other agencies, including the Justice Department. He would also re-prioritize Customs and Border Protection efforts to focus on drug and human trafficking instead of interior law enforcement.

By repealing the criminal code that allows the Trump administration to prosecute people who enter the country, Castro would remove the mechanism that previously allowed the administration to separate asylum-seeking parents and children after detention. Trump has since stopped those prosecutions, though single adults continue to face criminal penalties. Castro said he would impose a civil legal process for sorting out refu­gee applications and deportations, with an emphasis on jailing and removing only those with criminal records.

Terrorists’ Refugee Camp

washington post logoWashington Post, The Islamic State’s refugees are facing a humanitarian calamity, Erin Cunningham and Kamiran Sadoun, April 3, 2019 (print ed.). Last week, 31 people died on the way to a Syrian camp or shortly after arriving because of injuries and malnutrition, the International Rescue Committee says, bringing the total number of such deaths to 217.

More On Changing Media

ny times logoNew York Times, Media Companies Take a Big Gamble on Apple, Edmund Lee, April 3, 2019 (print ed.).  Executives have been burned by their previous dealings with big tech apple logo rainbowcompanies. But Apple’s promise of a billion devices worldwide was too good to pass up. Even for Rupert Murdoch.

The tech giant based the service on an app it acquired last year called Texture, which gave readers access to some 200 publications with a single subscription. The revamped and renamed version, introduced with much fanfare last week at the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., charges subscribers $9.99 a month ($12.99 in Canada) for content from more than 300 titles, including The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Vogue, Time, The Atlantic and People, as well as The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal. (Also included: Airbnb Magazine, Birds & Blooms, Retro Gamer and Salt Water Sportsman, befitting the app’s conceit as an omnibus newsstand.)

washington post logo

Washington Post, Inside the spectacular fall of the granddaddy of right-wing conspiracy sites, Manuel Roig-Franzia, April 3, 2019 (print ed.). In the feverish heyday of the “birther movement,” conspiracy-hungry readers swarmed to a website called WorldNetDaily for the latest on the specious yet viral theory that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.

The site’s founder, Joseph Farah — a former newspaperman with a dense, jet-black mustache and a cloak-and-dagger mystique — boasted in 2010 that he was well on the way to generating $10 million a year in revenue. His Northern Virginia-headquartered news site, known by the acronym WND, was having its moment by stoking rumors about Obama.

But Farah — a conservative Internet pioneer who’d once been labeled by the Clinton White House as part of a right-wing media conspiracy and was known to sport a pistol on his hip in the office—saw bigger things. Years earlier he’d launched one of the first large-scale digital newsgathering operations; now he wanted to be a player in Christian-themed movies and book publishing, churning out titles by big-name conservatives, such as anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly and future House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.).

He was building an empire.

A decade later, that realm is being sucked into a tornado of unpaid bills, pink-slipped employees, chaotic accounting, declining revenue and diminishing readership, according to interviews with more than 25 former employees, shareholders, company insiders and authors associated with the firm’s flailing publishing units, as well as a review of hundreds of internal documents, including emails and financial statements obtained by The Washington Post.

Even though Farah claimed in WND columns and emails to supporters last year to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations —including tax-deductible contributions — some former employees and contractors have been laid off or had their deals canceled without being paid money they say they were owed. Many authors who signed on with the site’s publishing arm, including former Republican senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, are fuming about allegedly not receiving royalties owed to them.

washington post logocia logoWashington Post, CIA long relied exclusively on Amazon for its cloud computing. Now it is seeking multiple providers, Aaron Gregg, April 3, 2019. The Central Intelligence Agency is taking early steps toward procuring a massive cloud computing infrastructure to support its national security mission, according to amazon logo smalldocuments reviewed by The Washington Post, with plans to award a contract worth “tens of billions” of dollars to more than one cloud provider by 2021.

The cloud effort, known as the C2E Commercial Cloud Enterprise, builds on an earlier $600 million cloud computing contract that was awarded to Amazon’s cloud computing division in 2013. And it runs parallel to a separate, $10 billion cloud effort being pursued by the Defense Department.

Both efforts are meant to outfit U.S. national security agencies with next-generation cloud computing innovations from Silicon Valley.

Crime, Courts

Politico, Feds: Manafort ex-son-in-law used meth, cocaine in jail, Josh Gerstein, April 3, 2019. Paul Manafort’s ex-son-in-law Jeffrey Yohai admitted to using methamphetamine and cocaine while being held in a federally-run jail in Los Angeles on a series of a fraud charges earlier this year, according to federal prosecutors.

Yohai pleaded guilty to one set of scams in federal court early last year, but allegedly committed more while out on bail and was arrested on state charges, then hit with another round on federal ones. A source familiar with the case told Politico Yohai made entreaties to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office, but little or nothing came of the effort.

U.S. Consumer Protection

washington post logoWashington Post, After hundreds of crashes, this BOB jogging stroller faced recall. Then Trump appointees stepped in, Todd C. Frankel, April 3, 2019 (print ed.). The untold story of the Britax case shows how changes in the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s leadership under President Trump influenced the handling of a product that the agency believed had injured consumers.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pork industry will soon have more power over meat inspections, Kimberly Kindy, April 3, 2019. The Trump administration is cutting the number of federal inspectors by about 40 percent and replacing them with plant employees.

washington post logoelizabeth warren o purpleWashington Post, Opinion: Corporate executives must face jail time for overseeing massive scams, Elizabeth Warren, April 3, 2019 (print ed.). Elizabeth Warren, right, represents Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate and is running for the Democratic presidential nomination. Opening unauthorized bank accounts. Cheating customers on mortgages and car loans. Mistreating service members.

If you can dream up a financial scam, there’s a good chance that Wells Fargo ran it on its customers in recent years. Last week, after years of pressure, the company finally parted ways with its second chief executive in three years. But that’s not nearly enough accountability. It’s time to reform our laws to make sure that corporate executives face jail time for overseeing massive scams.

ny times logoNew York Times, There Are Probably Cameras on Your Flight, but Relax, They’re Not On (Yet), Christine Negroni, April 3, 2019 (print ed.). A traveler asked Singapore Airlines if the seat back on his flight contained a camera. His question stirred attention on Twitter, and from two U.S. senators.

Vitaly Kamluk, a cybersecurity and malware expert, was returning from vacation on Singapore Airlines in February when his wife noticed a small circle that looked like a camera lens along the lower edge of the video screen in the seat back.

“It really looked like a camera to me, but you can never be sure,” Mr. Kamluk said. So he took a photo of the circle and tweeted it to the airline.

He got a quick response from Singapore, which acknowledged that it was a camera but said it had been “disabled.” He also got plenty of attention on Twitter.

washington post logoWashington Post, Disabled veteran wins $250,000 settlement after park rangers arrested him over handicapped spot, Alex Horton, April 3, 2019 (print ed.). Esquibel said rangers kicked his severely wounded leg so much, he now needs his foot amputated.

Militants in southern Afghanistan had already salted the earth with bombs when Sgt. Dominic Esquibel led his Marines through Sangin. On his final patrol, the ground ruptured under his feet in an explosion of light and blood.

The blast tore at his right arm and shattered parts of his right leg and foot. “I thank God it was me,” he told author Bing West from a hospital bed in 2011, “rather than one of my men.”

Doctors were barely able to salvage Esquibel’s foot. He wears an carbon-fiber exoskeleton brace to help him walk and run.

April 2

U.S. Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Lashes Out Again at Puerto Rico, Bewildering the island, Annie Karni and Patricia Mazzei, April 2, 2019. Mr. Trump lashed out at Puerto Rico again over federal aid after Hurricane Maria, leaving officials bewildered. President Trump on Tuesday lashed out at Puerto Rico’s local lawmakers as “grossly incompetent” and singled out one of his favorite targets, Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, as “crazed and incompetent.”

Mr. Trump’s latest invective toward the local leaders of an island devastated by a hurricane in September 2017 came in a torrent of tweets, which began on Monday night and spilled into Tuesday morning. Mr. Trump was reacting after the Senate on Monday blocked billions of dollars in disaster aid for Midwestern states, in part because Democrats said a proposed $600 million in nutritional assistance to Puerto Rico fell short of its needs.

“Puerto Rico got far more money than Texas & Florida combined, yet their government can’t do anything right, the place is a mess — nothing works,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. He also stated, incorrectly, that Puerto Rico had received $91 billion in aid from the federal government.

In fact, FEMA and other agencies have so far distributed $11.2 billion in aid to Puerto Rico, according to the Office of Management and Budget. Some $41 billion in aid has been allocated, while $91 billion is the budget office’s estimate of how much the island could receive over the next two decades.

lori lightfoot smiling

ny times logoNew York Times, Lori Lightfoot Is Elected Chicago Mayor, Becoming First Black Woman to Lead City, Julie Bosman, Mitch Smith and Monica Davey, April 2, 2019. Ms. Lightfoot, who had never held elective office, easily beat out Toni Preckwinkle, a longtime politician. When she takes office in May, Ms. Lightfoot also will be the city’s first openly gay mayor. The photo above is from her campaign biography.

philip giraldi

Unz Review, Opinion: Jewish Power Rolls Over Washington, Philip M. Giraldi (author and former CIA officer, shown at right), April 2, 2019. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has just completed its annual summit in Washington. It claims that 18,000 supporters attended the event, which concluded with a day of lobbying Congress by the attendees. Numerous American politicians addressed the gathering and it is completely reasonable to observe that the meeting constituted the most powerful gathering of people dedicated to promoting the interests of a foreign nation ever witnessed in any country in the history of the world.

There are a number of things that one should understand about the Jewish state of Israel and its powerful American domestic lobby. First of all, the charge that the actions of The Lobby (referred to with capital letters because of its uniqueness and power) inevitably involves dual or even singular allegiance based on religion or tribe to a country where the lobbyist does not actually reside is completely correct by definition of what AIPAC is and why it exists. It claims to work to “ensure that the Jewish state is safe, strong and secure” through “foreign aid, government partnerships, [and] joint anti-terrorism efforts…,” all of which involve the U.S. as the donor and Israel as the recipient.

Second, there is the claim that Israel benefits American security. That is also a lie. Washington’s relationship with Israel, which is now more subservient than it ever has been, is a major liability that is and always has been damaging to both American regional and global interests. The recent decisions to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights were ill-conceived and have been condemned by the world community, including by nearly all of America’s genuine close allies.

Trump Security Scandals

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The White House whistleblower bombshell, and what it could mean, Aaron Blake, April 2, 2019 (print ed.). Trump overrode officials’ concerns to demand Kushner’s security clearance. The White House has repeatedly shunned national security protocols when it comes to protecting information and clearances. And a named person stepping forward is a significant development.

It wasn’t that long ago that Donald Trump ran for president making the case that Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state represented a grave national security threat and made her unfit for office.

washington post logojared kushner head shotWashington Post, Jared Kushner dismisses concerns raised by White House whistleblower on security clearances, John Wagner​, April 2, 2019. In a rare television interview, the White House adviser and presidential son-in-law (right) said the Trump administration has faced “a lot of crazy accusations.”

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Ivanka Trump & Jared Kushner: A much more potentially damaging spy couple than Julius & Ethel Rosenberg, Wayne Madsen wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small(left, author, syndicated columnist and former Navy intelligence officer), April 2, 2019 (subscription required, excerpted with permission). Tricia Newbold, the Adjudications Manager for the White House Personnel Security Office, a career civil service position, experienced something she had not seen before in past Democratic and Republican administrations.

After denying security clearances to 25 Trump political appointees on the White House staff, including Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, Newbold was overruled by higher-level officials in the Trump administration.

jared kushner ivanka trump saudi

President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka Trump, shown above on one of their many foreign affairs events, were reportedly awarded security clearances at the president’s demand over the objections of professional security staff (White House photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, White House whistleblower says 25 security clearance denials were reversed during Trump administration, Rachael Bade, April 2, 2019 (print ed.). A White House whistleblower told lawmakers that more than two-dozen denials for security clearances have been overturned during the Trump administration, calling Congress her “last hope” donald trump o smilefor addressing what she considers improper conduct that has left the nation’s secrets exposed.

Tricia Newbold, a longtime White House security adviser, told the House Oversight and Reform Committee that she and her colleagues issued “dozens” of denials for security clearance applications that were later approved despite their concerns about blackmail, foreign influence, or other red flags, according to panel documents released Monday.

Newbold, an 18-year veteran of the security clearance process who has served under both Republican and Democratic presidents, said she warned her superiors that clearances “were not always adjudicated in the best interest of national security” — and was retaliated against for doing so.

elijah cummings o“I would not be doing a service to myself, my country, or my children if I sat back knowing that the issues that we have could impact national security,” Newbold told the committee, according to a panel document summarizing her allegations.

Newbold added: “I feel that right now this is my last hope to really bring the integrity back into our office.”

The allegation comes during an escalating fight over the issue between House Democrats and the White House. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), the committee chairman, said in a letter to the White House Counsel’s Office that his panel would vote on Tuesday to subpoena at least one individual who overruled Newbold — the committee’s first compulsory move aimed at the White House.

ny times logoNew York Times, Whistle-Blower Did the Unexpected: She Returned to Work, Katie Rogers, April 2, 2019 (print ed.).Tricia Newbold, the Trump administration’s latest whistle-blower, did something unexpected only hours after a House committee released her deposition that the White House had overruled career staff members who denied officials their security clearances: She went back to work.

tricia newbold“As you can imagine,” Ms. Newbold, left, a 39-year-old employee of the White House Personnel Security Office, wrote in an email during her commute on Monday, “I am extremely nervous for how people at work will treat me.”

But according to people close to her, she was not afraid to tell them about the things she had seen. Ms. Newbold’s decision to accuse her own office of rampant mismanagement of the security clearances of at least 25 employees came after months of what she characterized as personal discrimination and professional retaliation from Carl Kline, the office’s former director, after she spent roughly a year trying to raise issues internally.

In a White House where aggressive leak investigations are conducted in service of President Trump, who has aides sign nondisclosure agreements, Ms. Newbold’s account represents the rarest of developments: a damning on-the-record account from a current employee inside his ranks.

“She wasn’t looking for trouble,” Ms. Newbold’s lawyer, Edward Passman, said in an interview on Monday. “And she wasn’t looking to go public. But her back was to the wall and she did what she had to do.”

Described as both “no nonsense” and “intense” by people who have interacted with her during the clearance process, Ms. Newbold has served under four presidential administrations, beginning with the Clinton White House in 2000. Eventually she worked her way up to adjudications manager, a job that required her to help make determinations about the security clearances of administration employees. Her office is filled with holdovers from other administrations, and it is meant to be nonpartisan.

Mueller Probe

 ny times logojerrold nadler o SmallNew York Times, Opinion: The House Must See the Whole Mueller Report, Jerrold L. Nadler (right, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee), April 2, 2019 (print ed.). Someday, Trump will not be in office. Congress needs a full accounting of his misdeeds to ensure they don’t happen again.

washington post logoWashington Post, House committee plans vote this week to subpoena full Mueller report, John Wagner​, April 2, 2019 (print ed.). The House Judiciary Committee plans to vote Wednesday to authorize subpoenas to obtain special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, escalating a feud with the Justice Department.

U.S. Health Care

washington post logorepublican elephant logoWashington Post, Trump punts vote on health-care bill until after next year’s elections, John Wagner, April 2, 2019. President Trump has apparently heeded warnings from fellow Republicans about the perils of such a fight during campaign season.

Saudis Pay Off Murder Victim’s Kin

mohammad bin salman cropped file small

washington post logoWashington Post, Khashoggi children receive payments, houses from Saudi Arabia after killing, Greg Miller, April 2, 2019 (print ed.). Slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s children have received million-dollar houses and monthly five-figure payments, and they may also receive much larger payouts as part of “blood money” negotiations expected to ensue when the trials of the accused killers end, current and former Saudi officials say.

washington post logoWashington Post, Documentary: The assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, Joyce Lee and Dalton Bennett, April 2, 2019 (print ed.). It’s been six months since agents from Saudi Arabia killed The Washington Post contributing columnist. What has been done to hold those responsible accountable?

  • Washington Post, Opinion: It’s been six months since Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, and Trump has done nothing, April 2, 2019.
  • Washington Post, Opinion: How the mysteries of Khashoggi’s murder have rocked the U.S.-Saudi partnership, April 2, 2019.

U.S. Disaster Aid Stalls

washington post logoWashington Post, Massive disaster relief bill stalls in Senate after dispute over Puerto Rico, Erica Werner and Jeff Stein, April 2, 2019 (print ed.). Democrats opposed the $13.45 billion legislation, contending the $600 million included for Puerto Rico’s food stamp program is inadequate for the territory’s hurricane recovery effort.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump has complete meltdown after Democrats defeat him on Puerto Rico, Bill Palmer, April 2, 2019. Even as Donald Trump threatens to cut off all donald trump twitteraid to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras – or as Fox News calls them, the Mexican countries – it’s less clear than ever if Trump understands that Puerto Rico is part of the United States. After the Senate Democrats derailed Trump’s latest effort at screwing over Puerto Rico, Trump did what he does best: he threw an ignorant and dishonest tantrum.

What actually happened on Monday was that Donald Trump and the Republicans tried to pass legislation which broadly provided funds for disaster relief across the United States, while coming up extraordinarily short on providing disaster relief for Puerto Rico. This isn’t surprising, considering that Trump’s racist agenda has no time for the primarily nonwhite U.S. territory, as he made clear when he refused to provide anything close to adequate relief after bill palmer report logo headerHurricane Maria.

This means Trump and the GOP are going to have to revise this legislation to include more aid for Puerto Rico. But don’t tell that bit of truth to Trump, who posted this word vomit about Puerto Rico on Twitter late on Monday night: “the place is a mess – nothing works.” That’s right, not only is Donald Trump trying to cover for his political and mental incompetence by ranting on Twitter, he’s also trying to cover for it by attacking nonwhite people.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House spokesman twice calls Puerto Rico ‘that country’ in TV interview, John Wagner, April 2, 2019. White House spokesman Hogan Gidley twice referred to Puerto Rico as “that country” during a television appearance Tuesday in which he defended a series of tweets by President Trump lashing out at leaders of the U.S. territory.

In two bursts of tweets — one late Monday night and another Tuesday morning — Trump complained about the amount of federal relief money going to the island and called its politicians “incompetent or corrupt.”

republican elephant logoHe also claimed that Puerto Rico “got 91 Billion Dollars for the hurricane,” a figure that actually reflects a high-end, long-term estimate for recovery costs. Only a fraction of that has so far been budgeted, and even less has been spent.

As he pressed to defend Trump’s contentions, Gidley sought to make the case that the leaders of the territory, whose residents are U.S. citizens, have mishandled the aid they’ve received thus far. During the interview, Gidley was also asked about a tweet in which Trump said Puerto Rico’s leaders “only take from the USA.”

Trump Aid Cut

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. officials said aid to El Salvador helped slow migration. Now Trump is canceling it, Kevin Sieff, April 2, 2019 (print ed.). PresidentTrump said the Central American country and two of its neighbors “haven’t done a thing for us,” a claim that baffled development officials and Salvadorans.

U.S. Crime, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, North Carolina GOP chairman indicted in campaign finance bribery scheme, Colby Itkowitz, April 2, 2019. A federal grand jury has indicted the chairman of the Republican Party of North Carolina in an alleged bribery scheme, accusing him of helping a wealthy political donor try to bribe a state regulator whose department has oversight of the donor’s company.

robin hayes o 109th congressFederal prosecutors said Tuesday that the chairman, Robin Hayes, right, who is also a former U.S. congressman, and three other people plotted to funnel campaign contributions to Mike Causey, the commissioner of the North Carolina Department of Insurance, in exchange for him taking actions that would benefit donor Greg Lindberg’s company.

Causey is not charged in the case. By January 2018, prosecutors say, Causey became suspicious and alerted federal law enforcement, then participated in their investigation.

Lawyers for Hayes and Lindberg could not immediately be reached. Hayes’s attorney Kearns Davis told Bloomberg News that Hayes “steadfastly denies” the allegations.

Roll Call, In prelude to nuclear option, Senate rejects speeding up confirmation of nominees, Niels Lesniewski, April 2, 2019. McConnell now expected to move forward with only Republican support. The Senate inched closer Tuesday to Republicans using the “nuclear option” to slash the time for debate on the vast majority of judicial and executive nominations.

Senators blocked, 51-48, an effort by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring up a resolution that would have set a new standing order. The support of 60 senators would have been needed to advance the debate.

It came as part of the never-ending debate over delays in confirmation of nominations, particularly on lower-level executive branch nominations and district judges

washington post logonipsey hussle twitter SmallWashington Post, Police name suspect in Nipsey Hussle killing; chaos erupts at memorial, Allyson Chiu and Tim Elfrink, April 2, 2019. Late on Monday, police identified Eric Holder as a suspect in the killing of Grammy-nominated rapper Nipsey Hussle, whose death over the weekend sent shock waves across Los Angeles and the country as city officials, celebrities and fans mourned the loss of a talented musician and dedicated community organizer.

The news came shortly after a memorial for the rapper (shown at right in his Twitter photo) erupted into chaos when hundreds of mourners, fearing that a gun had been fired, stampeded out of a parking lot, leaving at least a dozen injured.

eric holder nipsey hussle slay suspectAuthorities said they are still searching for Holder, a 29-year-old Los Angeles resident who was last seen fleeing the scene of the shooting on Sunday in a 2016 white Chevy Cruze driven by an unidentified woman.

Hussle’s murder happened around 3:20 p.m. Sunday, when the rapper and two other men were standing in front of his store. Police allege Holder walked up to the men and “fired numerous shots at them.” Holder then allegedly ran through a nearby alley and hopped into a waiting car, a news release said.\

Hussle’s death came just one day before he had plans to meet with the president of the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners and the city’s chief of police to “to talk about ways he could help stop gang violence and help us help kids.”

catherine pugh screenshot

washington post logoWashington Post, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh takes leave of absence amid scandal, Rachel Chason, Erin Cox and Ovetta Wiggins, April 2, 2019 (print ed.). Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh (shown above in a screenshot) is taking an indefinite leave of absence amid growing condemnation of profits she made from selling a children’s book to businesses intertwined with the government she oversees.

brian sapp

washington post logoWashington Post, He scammed his closest friends to go tailgating in a Mercedes, Rachel Weiner,April 2, 2019 (print ed.). As the best man at a Penn State classmate’s wedding, chosen over two blood brothers, Brian Sapp (shown above in one of his marketing promos) gave a toast to the importance of friendship.

He went on to steal the life savings of several people present, including half a million dollars from the groom. Among his victims were the father of a severely disabled child, the parents of his godchildren and a man dying of pancreatic cancer — whose widow Sapp asked for $75,000 just days after the funeral.

For his four-year, $1.8 million real estate scam, Sapp, 38, was sentenced Friday to nine years in prison.

washington post logojonathan oldaleWashington Post, Md. man sentenced to 20 years after hiding tiny cameras in bathrooms to record nude children, Dan Morse, April 2, 2019. A Maryland man was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison Monday after prosecutors said he hid tiny video cameras in his bathrooms, invited neighborhood children to backyard “splash parties” and secretly recorded more than 50 of them when they were nude and changing clothes.

Jonathan Oldale, 55, (right) had been a fixture in the town of Somerset, an affluent enclave of 1,200 just outside Washington. With two children of his own, he also was involved in the lives of other kids in the neighborhood. He led a Cub Scout pack, took photos for the elementary school yearbook and volunteered as a room parent at school.

#MeToo / Politics

meredith watson cbs

washington post logoWashington Post, In first TV interview, Meredith Watson details sex assault allegation against Va. Lt. Gov. Fairfax, Fenit Nirappil, April 2, 2019. Meredith Watson (above), one of two women who have accused Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) of sexual assault, on Tuesday urged the state legislature to hold a public hearing on the allegations during her first televised interview.

“I want action from the Virginia legislature,” Watson told interviewer Gayle King on “CBS This Morning”. “There is no amount of money that could ever compensate what he did to me or what I live with every day. I want the people of Virginia to know the truth and I would like the Virginia legislature to do the right thing.”

Watson says Fairfax sexually assaulted her in 2000 when both were undergraduate students at Duke University. Her television appearance comes a day after the CBS program aired an interview with Vanessa Tyson, who accused the lieutenant governor of forcing her to perform oral sex during the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

vanessa tyson meredith watson justin fairfax

Related story: Richmond Times-Dispatch, Fairfax accuser Vanessa Tyson details allegations against lieutenant governor in TV interview, Mel Leonor, April 2, 2019 (print ed.). Vanessa Tyson, one of two women who have publicly accused Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault, tearfully described her allegations in an interview with CBS’ Gayle King, which aired Monday. Tyson, a political science professor at Scripps College in Claremont, Calif., told King that her encounter with Fairfax in a Boston hotel room in 2004 began as consensual kissing, but quickly turned violent when Fairfax restrained her by the neck.

Using her hand, Tyson mimicked being pushed down by the neck to perform oral sex.

“I couldn’t feel my neck. I couldn’t hold my head up,” Tyson told King.

In a statement, Fairfax again denied the allegations by Tyson and second accuser Meredith Watson. A news release from his office Sunday said Fairfax had submitted to a polygraph with a former FBI expert that showed he was being truthful when he said the encounters were consensual.

Tyson’s first televised interview on the alleged assault comes days before Virginia lawmakers gather in Richmond on Wednesday to consider Gov. Ralph Northam’s vetoes and proposed budget amendments.

The interview could increase pressure on lawmakers to heed Tyson’s calls for a public hearing on the matter.

Venezuelan Leadership

Associated Press via Fox News, Venezuela lawmakers strip opposition leader of his immunity, Scott Smith, April 2, 2019. Venezuelan lawmakers loyal to President Nicolas Maduro have stripped opposition leader Juan Guaido of his immunity from prosecution. The move by the government-backed National Constituent Assembly on Tuesday paves the way for Guaido’s prosecution, and possibly his arrest.

venezuela flag waving customBut it is still unclear whether Maduro will actively threaten Guaido, who has embarked on an international campaign to topple the president’s socialist administration. Up until now, Maduro has avoided throwing the 35-year-old lawmaker in jail — a man that the U.S. and roughly 50 other nations have recognized as Venezuela’s legitimate leader.

In January, Guaido declared himself Venezuela’s interim president and vowed to overthrow Maduro. Maduro blames Washington for trying to install a puppet government to seize Venezuela’s vast oil reserves.

Inside DC

Yahoo News, Trump keeps claiming his father was born in Germany. It was the Bronx, David Knowles, April 2, 2019. Speaking to reporters in the White House Tuesday, President Trump misstated his father’s place of birth as Germany, rather than New York City.

“My father is German, right? Was German. And born in a very wonderful place in Germany, so I have a great feeling for Germany,” Trump said during a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who is from Norway.

Trump’s father, Frederick Christ Trump, was born in the Bronx on Oct. 11, 1905.

Tuesday’s misstatement was not the first time that the president has incorrectly identified his father’s birthplace. In a 2018 interview with “Fox News Sunday,” Trump did the same.

“I was there many, many years ago,” the president said of the European Union, which was not founded until 1993. “Meaning, my parents were born in the European Union. I love these countries; Germany, Scotland, they are still in there, right?”

During a visit to Scotland last July, Trump told reporters, accurately, that his mother was from Scotland, but he repeated the misinformation about his father.

“Don’t forget both of my parents were born in EU sectors — my mother was Scotland, my father was Germany.”

Trump’s grandfather Friedrich was indeed born in the German town of Kallstadt on March 14, 1869. Friedrich emigrated to the United States in 1885, at the age of 16, but did so before fulfilling his military service. In 1905 the kingdom of Bavaria wrote Friedrich a letter ordering him never to return.

Seeking to distance himself from his German heritage, Trump’s father, Fred, a prominent builder in New York, went on to claim Swedish heritage, probably for business reasons. Trump himself pushed this false narrative in The Art of the Deal, saying his father had emigrated to America “from Sweden as a child.”

Turkey’s Election Surprise

ny times logoNew York Times, Erdogan’s Party Plans to Challenge Election Losses in Istanbul and Ankara, Carlotta Gall, April 2, 2019. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s party has lost control of Turkey’s two largest cities, Istanbul and Ankara, a complete tally of local election ballots showed on Tuesday, but the governing party said it would challenge the outcomes.

recep erdogan with flagThe loss of Istanbul, the country’s business capital and Mr. Erdogan’s political base, is a particularly sharp setback for a president (shown in a file photo) who has tightened his control of the government and news media, stifled dissent, and, critics contend, manipulated election results.

Results reported on Tuesday by the semiofficial Anadolu news agency showed the opposition candidate for mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem Imamoglu, at 48.79 percent, against 48.51 percent for Binali Yildrim, the candidate of Mr. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, or AKP, with 100 percent of ballots counted.

The results also confirmed the victory of the opposition Republican People’s Party, or C.H.P., in Ankara, the capital. The opposition candidate Mansur Yavas won 50.91 percent of the vote, over the AKP candidate Mehmet Ozhaseki’s 47.1 percent, with 100 percent of ballots counted.

More On Barr, Mueller

Alliance for Justice, Opinion: Barr Puts the Politics in DOJ, Bill Yeomans, right, April 2, 2019. Congress confirmed William Barr as attorney general despite his disqualifying record of bill yeomans afj cropped Customenabling presidential misconduct. Nobody should be surprised that his short tenure has already revealed his willingness to elevate the political interests of the president over the traditions of the Department of Justice and the role of Congress.

His memo spinning the conclusions of the Mueller report made him a cheerleader for Trump, while his capitulation to Trump’s demand that the Department of Justice no longer defend the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act debased the rule of law for Trump’s political gain. His behavior bodes ill for the future in which Trump, with support from Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), will clamor for revenge investigations of the Mueller investigators. It will be up to Barr to stand up to political demands for investigations that lack an evidentiary predicate.

alliance for justice logoBarr’s letter summarizing the principal conclusions of the Mueller report was an overtly political act. He should have said nothing and sent the report itself to Congress. Not only did he spin the contents of the report, but he stepped in to override Mueller’s decision not to make a prosecutorial determination regarding obstruction of justice. According to Barr, Mueller’s non-decision left it to the Attorney General to make the call. Barr – whose 19-page memo contended that the president could not commit obstruction while exercising power given to him by Article II of the Constitution – was eager to oblige.

The most likely reason for Mueller’s non-call was that he knew DOJ could not prosecute the president. He had, however, found substantial evidence of obstruction that prevented exoneration of the president. He, therefore, decided to pass the information to Congress, which is the only entity with power to hold the president accountable.

william barr new oThere was no reason for anybody at DOJ to answer the hypothetical question whether the president should be prosecuted. Barr, right, playing free safety for Team Trump, however, swooped in to intercept Mueller’s pass to Congress and ran it back for a score, which prompted Trump and his entire bench to empty into the end-zone for a round of celebratory taunting.

By answering the obstruction question, Barr gave Trump the talking point he craved — no collusion and no obstruction – which is far better than no collusion and no decision on obstruction. Barr, by issuing his memo well before release of any part of the actual report, gave Trump and his supporters ample time to spread the message. Despite the head start, the public isn’t buying. Polling by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal shows that only 29 percent believe that Trump has been exonerated. That number will not increase once the public sees the report, which surely contains evidence harmful to Trump.

Global Research, Book Review: The CIA Takeover of America in the 1960s Is the Story of Our Times, Edward Curtin (author and sociologist Edward Curtin is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization), April 2, 2019. The Killing of the Kennedys and Today’s New Cold War. A Quasi-Review of “A Lie Too Big To Fail: The Real History of the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy” by Lisa Pease.

When Senator Robert Kennedy was assassinated on June 5, 1968, the American public fell into an hypnotic trance in which they have remained ever since. The overwhelming majority accepted what was presented by government authorities as an open and shut case that a young Palestinian American, Sirhan Sirhan, had murdered RFK because of his support for Israel, a false accusation whose ramifications echo down the years. That this was patently untrue and was contradicted by overwhelming evidence made no difference.

lisa pease rfk cover“‘We’re all puppets,’ the suspect [Sirhan Sirhan] replied, with more truth than he could have understood at that moment.”

Lisa Pease, quoting from the LAPD questioning of Sirhan’

Sirhan did not kill Robert Kennedy, yet he remains in jail to this very day. Robert Kennedy, Jr., who was 14 years old at the time of his father’s death, has visited Sirhan in prison, claims he is innocent, and believes there was another gunman. Paul Schrade, an aide to the senator and the first person shot that night, also says Sirhan didn’t do it. Both have plenty of evidence. And they are not alone.

There is a vast body of documented evidence to prove this, an indisputably logical case marshalled by serious writers and researchers. Lisa Pease is the latest. It is a reason why a group of 60 prominent Americans has recently called for a reopening of, not just this case, but those of JFK, MLK, and Malcom X. The blood of these men cries out for the revelation of the truth that the United States national security state and its media accomplices have fought so mightily to keep hidden for so many years.

That they have worked so hard at this reveals how dangerous the truth about these assassinations still is to this secret government that wages propaganda war against the American people and real wars around the world. It is a government of Democrats, Republicans, and their intelligence allies working together today to confuse the American people and provoke Russia in a most dangerous game that could lead to nuclear war, a possibility that so frightened JFK and RFK after the Cuban Missile Crisis that they devoted themselves to ending the Cold War, reconciling with the Soviet Union, abolishing nuclear weapons, reining in of the power of the CIA, and withdrawing from Vietnam. That is why they were killed.

The web of deceit surrounding the now officially debunked Democratic led Russia-gate propaganda operation that has strengthened Trump to double-down on his anti-Russia operations (a Democratic goal) is an example of the perfidious and sophisticated mutuality of this game of mass mind-control.

The killing of the Kennedys and today’s new Cold War and war against terror are two ends of a linked intelligence operation.

Moreover, more than any other assassination of the 1960s, it is the killing of Bobby Kennedy that has remained shrouded in the most ignorance.

It is one of the greatest propaganda success stories of American history.

In her exhaustive new examination of the case, A Lie Too Big To Fail, Lisa Pease puts it succinctly at the conclusion of her unravelling of the official lies that have mesmerized the public:

The assassination of the top four leaders of the political left in the five year period – President John Kennedy in 1963, Malcolm X in 1965, and Martin Luther King, Jr. and Senator Robert Kennedy in 1968 – represented nothing less than a slow-motion coup on the political scene.

If anyone wishes to understand what has happened to the United States since this coup, and thus to its countless victims at home and throughout the world, one must understand these assassinations and how the alleged assassins were manipulated by the coup organizers and how the public was hoodwinked in a mind-control operation on a vast scale. It is not ancient history, for the forces that killed these leaders rule the U.S. today, and their ruthlessness has subsequently informed the actions of almost all political leaders in the years since. A bullet to the head when you seriously talk about peace and justice is a not so gentle reminder to toe the line or else.

April 1

Mueller Report

Politico, Press group asks judge to lift grand jury secrecy in Mueller report, Josh Gerstein, April 1, 2019. A group advocating for journalists and First Amendment rights is asking a judge to clear away one of the key obstacles the Justice Department is citing as grounds for withholding portions of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report: the presence of information gathered through the secret actions of a grand jury.

beryl howellThe Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed a petition Monday with Chief Judge Beryl Howell, right, of the U.S. District Court in Washington, asking her to rule that officials need not withhold from the Congress — or the public — any grand jury material in Mueller’s report on his probe into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

The move comes as Attorney General William Barr has pledged to prepare a version of the report for public release by mid-April. However, that pledge came with several caveats, including that the department would have to excise grand jury-related testimony and evidence.

Barr even noted in one letter that it could be a criminal offense for officials to release information covered by grand jury secrecy.
The new petition amounts to a pre-emptive step to take the grand-jury concern off the table by having Howell rule that the interests of public and Congress in seeing the Justice Department logoinformation outweigh any other concerns.

“This Court should enable the release of the Special Counsel’s Report to the public to the greatest extent possible,” attorney Ted Boutrous and other lawyers wrote in the new filing. “Although the Special Counsel’s investigation has only recently concluded, the resulting report — and the grand jury material the Attorney General has proposed to redact therein—is of unique public and historical significance… The grand jury material at issue cuts to the core of our democracy.”

A Justice Department spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the petition. (Note: This reporter serves on an oversight board for the Reporters’ Committee.)

The move by the journalists’ group is just the latest attempt to try to force disclosure of a broader portion or the entirety of Mueller’s report, notwithstanding Barr’s indication of the need for redactions.

On the same day Mueller sent his report to Barr, a Washington-based watchdog group — the Electronic Privacy Information Center — filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit demanding access to the document.

U.S. Border Issues

washington post logomick mulvaney oWashington Post, White House doubles down on threat to close U.S.-Mexico border, David J. Lynch, Maria Sacchetti and Joel Achenbach, April 1, 2019 (print ed). Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, right, said it would take “something dramatic” to persuade President Trump not to close the border. Such a move would have dramatic consequences for families seeking asylum and would seriously impede trade.

U.S. Economic Policy

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Why Moore is less, Robert J. Samuelson, April 1, 2019 (print ed). The real reason that Stephen Moore does not belong on the Federal stephen moore twitterReserve Board is not that he is unqualified for the job, though he is. Nor is it that he has been a highly partisan and divisive figure for many years, though he has been.

The real reason is that, if confirmed by the Senate, Moore, right, could become the Fed chairman — and that is a scary possibility. It could spawn a global financial calamity.

Media News

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Tucker Carlson is a white nationalist because he grew up around them, Wayne Madsen, April 1, 2019 (subscription required).  Fox News’s right-wing wunderkind Tucker Carlson draws quite a fan base. For Carlson, his fans include white supremacists, the white identity movement, and garden-variety neo-Nazis.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Most people think local journalism is financially healthy. Here’s the troubling reality, Margaret Sullivan (right), April 1, 2019 (print ed.). The business model margaret sullivan 2015 photofor local news has crumbled, but the public seems blissfully unaware. In the 1990s, 30 percent profit margins were common at regional newspapers and the chains that owned them. Then came some brutal blows. The main source of revenue — print advertising — fell off a cliff as advertisers moved to the Internet or found other ways of reaching their customers. Department stores, once a mainstay of advertising, withered away in the digital economy.

And a new generation of news consumers never developed the daily-newspaper habit that their parents and grandparents had.

Newspapers (and to a lesser extent local TV stations) were forced to cut costs. Often, they did so in a way that made them less valuable to their remaining customers: By eliminating journalists from their newsrooms.

Newspapers cut 45 percent of their newsroom employees between 2008 and 2017.

And some of them — including those owned by hedge funds — are down far more than that. (In Denver, for example, the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News boasted 600 journalists not much more than a decade ago; the latter paper has folded and the Post is down to well below 100 in its newsroom.)

But even in their shrunken state, many regional newspapers are producing important public-interest journalism. While this may seem encouraging, the ability to do so is fragile: the gutting of many local papers continues apace.

On Thursday, I will moderate a panel discussion featuring three journalists who exemplify this. (It’s one part of a morning-long event, devoted to saving local journalism, that will be live-streamed on The Washington Post’s website.)

Media News / Political Threat

hope carpenter john gray aventa gray screenshot Custom

Pastor Hope Carpenter, co-founder of a church in South Carolina, with her successors, Pastors Aventer (left) and John Gray on March 31, 2019.

The Christian Post, Hope Carpenter defends Pastor John Gray and wife Aventer, tells critics ‘I cut people,’ Leonardo Blair, April 1, 2019. Pastor Hope Carpenter, co-founder of Redemption World Outreach Center in Greenville, South Carolina, which was rebranded Relentless Church last year, defended pastors John and Aventer Gray from critics Sunday with a public threat to critics that “I cut people.”

“I love you Pastor John and Pastor Aventer. I believe in you, I’m praying for you, I’m rooting for you. I cut people. I’ve got a knife right in that pocket book,” Carpenter declared after riling up the Relentless congregation with a message she said she got from God to “hold fast.”

hope carpenter crop relentless church greenville sc march 31 2019 facebookSpeaking at the 8:30 a.m. service where she was introduced by Aventer Gray as “one of the greatest women of God that has ever graced the earth,” Carpenter (shown at right in a photo via Facebook) expressed her support for the couple, who succeeded Ron and Hope Carpenter.

The support comes in the wake of a slew of controversies concerning allegations of marital infidelity, the Relentless Church’s purchase of a $1.8 million home for the Grays, and John Gray gifting his wife a $200K Lamborghini. The Christian Post, the Greenville News and other media have reported on different aspects of the controversies but on Sunday, Carpenter took aim at the local news source.

“Greenville News, come on. We done went through this. Alright. I’m still here and guess who else still gon’ be here?” she said, pointing to the Grays.

“See, if I did not know what God had brought me through back here and what God brought me through 10 years ago and what God brought me through five years ago, I would not have a deep intertwined root system that would help me to be able to hold on,” Carpenter told the congregation.
Pastor Hope Carpenter (foreground) defends Pastors John and Aventer Gray at Relentless Church in Greenville, S.C., on March 31, 2019. | Screenshot: YouTube

In the nearly 30 years that Carpenter did ministry in Greenville with her husband, the couple faced controversies. It was in 2013 that Ron Carpenter revealed to their congregation that Hope had committed adultery multiple times over the previous 10 years and was under psychiatric observation.

“For the last 10 years, I have been masking a situation that has absolutely almost destroyed me. In 2004, the date we dedicated this facility, Easter Sunday 2004, I left here to find a very different woman than I had ever met,” he told his church about the woman he courted in a “sex-free” relationship for three and a half years before they got married.

Describing his wife’s behavior at the time as “erratic, reckless, nonsensical, [and] destructive,” he told his flock that he “sat through two years of grueling therapy with her to no avail.”

The Carpenters moved to San Jose, California, last year and were officially installed as the new pastors of the 14,000-member Jubilee Christian Center, now rebranded as Redemption. They passed on the reins of their South Carolina church, which they founded in 1991, to the Grays.

Hope Carpenter insisted in her message on Sunday at Relentless Church that she survived by “holding fast” to her confession of faith and encouraged the church to do the same.

Related story: Washington Post, ‘I cut people,’ a megachurch pastor warned as she preached. Her target? The local newspaper, Michael Brice-Saddler​, April 2, 2019. The apparent threat toward the Greenville News came after the South Carolina newspaper published stories about the pastors of Relentless Church.

U.S. Courts

Roll Call, Trump’s district court picks are languishing. That could change, Todd Ruger, April 1, 2019. Senate rules change would shift focus to lower court nominees. As much as Senate Republicans pushed to confirm President Donald Trump’s appeals court nominees, the picks for the district courts have taken a backseat when it comes to getting a final confirmation vote on the floor.

republican elephant logoThat could all change with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s move to reduce the floor time needed for those lower court confirmation votes, a rules change the Senate could vote on as early as this week.

And there are plenty of district court nominees lined up and ready for votes for lifetime positions — some that have languished for more than a year.

Matthew Kacsmaryk, a nominee to be a judge for the Northern District of Texas, was first ready for a floor vote in December 2017. Howard Nielson, a nominee for the District of Utah, and Daniel Domenico, a pick for the District of Colorado, were ready for a floor vote in January 2018.

mitch mcconnell2The rules change could allow McConnell to push the trio through in one day, two hours at a time. Under current rules — if Democrats objected to holding a floor vote on them and required 30 hours of debate — that might have eaten up an entire legislative week.

McConnell’s strategy to focus on appeals court picks was clear in the first two years of Trump’s presidency and has been a point of pride for the Kentucky Republican (shown at above right). He took only 26 days on average to get a final confirmation vote on the floor once the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced those nominees, according to the Congressional Research Service.

The dozen Trump appointments to the influential appeals courts — which have the final say in all but the roughly 70 cases that the Supreme Court decides each year — set a record for a president’s first year in office, and Republicans have now confirmed 37 of those circuit court judges. There are only two awaiting a Senate floor vote.

But it’s been a different story for district court nominees. It took an average of 133 days from committee vote to final confirmation vote for those lower court picks, CRS found. And there are 37 district court nominees still awaiting a floor vote.

Opioid Crisis

ny times logoNew York Times, Lawsuits Lay Bare Sackler Family’s Role in Opioid Crisis, Danny Hakim, Roni Caryn Rabin and William K. Rashbaum, April 1, 2019. The billionaire family, which controlled Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, knew of opioid abuse risks, according to lawsuits. But as America’s addiction crisis worsened, they saw a new market: selling treatments for the very problem their company helped create.

purdue pharma logoThe Sacklers had a new plan.

It was 2014, and the company the family had controlled for two generations, Purdue Pharma, had been hit with years of investigations and lawsuits over its marketing of the highly addictive opioid painkiller OxyContin, at one point pleading guilty to a federal felony and paying more than $600 million in criminal and civil penalties.

But as the country’s addiction crisis worsened, the Sacklers spied another business opportunity. They could increase their profits by selling treatments for the very problem their company had helped to create: addiction to opioids.

U.S. Justice / Courts / Taxes

ny times logoNew York Times, A Rural County Owes $28 Million for Wrongful Convictions. It Doesn’t Want to Pay, Jack Healy, April 1, 2019. Six innocent people who were sent to prison for a murder sued and won. Now the county in eastern Nebraska that wrongfully convicted them has to raise taxes to pay them.

Kathy Gonzalez knows that many people across the cornfields and cattle ranches of eastern Nebraska believe she is a murderer. It doesn’t change the fact that they owe her American Flagmillions of dollars.

Ms. Gonzalez was one of six innocent people who collectively spent 77 years in prison in the murder of a 68-year-old woman named Helen Wilson, whose death haunted this rural county for decades. Now, years after DNA evidence exonerated the defendants, they are about to collect a $28 million civil rights judgment against Gage County, which prosecuted them based on false confessions.

Wichita Eagle / Kansas.com, Former candidate, talk radio host arrested on drug charges, Chance Swaim, April 1, 2019. A former candidate who recently launched his own talk radio jim price mugshot cropshow has been arrested and charged with multiple drug offenses.

Republican Jim Price of Wichita (shown in a mugshot) was arrested last month and charged in Sedgwick County. Prosecutors say that on May 17 he had 129.55 grams of dabs, a highly-concentrated hash oil, with intent to distribute, which is a felony in Kansas. He also faces misdemeanor charges of possession of steroids and marijuana, court records show.

He was initially arrested in May on suspicion of illegally possessing a gun and marijuana, but was not charged in court for that case until last week, court records show. The Wichita Eagle first reported that incident in September, when Price was running for a seat in the Kansas House. At that time, Price denied the arrest and charges had not been filed in the case.

Prosecutors filed charges against Price on March 25. That day, he bonded out of jail. The state is not pursuing gun-related charges, according to court filings.

republican elephant logoHis charging documents allege he had between 100 and 1,000 doses of THC dabs. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the the psychoactive compound in marijuana that makes a user feel “high.” A dab is a highly-concentrated THC-based substance that is typically made by extracting THC from marijuana plants with a solvent like alcohol or butane.

Price said in an email that he was recovering from surgery and would answer questions through email.

Between the time a warrant was issued and his arrest, Price launched his own AM talk radio show, “The Jim Price Show,” which airs Saturday nights from 7 to 8 p.m.

On March 12, Price appeared on the conservative talk show “The Voice of Reason” with host Andy Hooser, the treasurer of the Sedgwick County Republican Party. Hooser announced Price’s show as the latest local program on KQAM, a Steckline Communications station.

“It’s good stuff,” Price told Hooser. “I’m looking forward to going in and diving deep, just like you have, and make sure that we talk about the issues as they are real, not where we get this fluffed up stuff at the media level.”

Asked if he thought Price would be allowed to keep his show given the pending criminal court case, Hooser said, “the station itself really doesn’t have anything to do much with the show.”

Hooser said Price actually pays the station to have his show on the air. “It’s kind of like an infomercial of sorts, where he pays for the time on the air to broadcast the show, and there’s a disclaimer on the show as well that you know it’s not in any affiliation with KQAM or Steckline Communications,” Hooser said.

Global Affairs: Venezuela 

juan guaido nicolas maduro

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Trump, Putin and a Possible ‘Red-Line Moment’ in Venezuela, David E. Sanger, April 1, 2019. During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump often complained about how President Obama drew red lines that he never enforced. President Trump is now facing his own red-line moment, our correspondent writes in an analysis.

For the past week, the Trump administration has escalated its warnings about Russian intervention in the country, claiming that Moscow is helping to prop up President Nicolás Maduro (above right) of Venezuela and undermining the hopes of American officials that the Venezuelan military will oust him.

The United States recognizes Juan Guaidó (above left), the opposition leader, as Venezuela’s rightful president.

Algerian Leader Forced Out

washington post logoWashington Post, Algerian leader to resign from office by end of April after weeks of protests, Sudarsan Raghavan, April 1, 2019. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika would become the fifth Arab leader to be ousted by populist pressure since the 2011 Arab Spring revolts.

Elections: Ukraine, Turkeyukraine flag

ny times logoNew York Times, No Joke: Ukraine TV Comedian Wins Election’s First Round, Iuliia Mendel and Neil MacFarquhar, April 1, 2019 (print ed). Voters crowded into polling stations in a presidential race in which a leading candidate was a 41-year-old who plays a president on television.

ny times logoNew York Times, Erdogan Appears to Suffer Major Defeats in Turkey’s Two Biggest Cities, Carlotta Gall, April 1, 2019 (print ed). Amid a deepening economic turkey flagcrisis, the Turkish president’s party seemed poised to lose the capital, Ankara, and his home city, Istanbul, in mayoral elections.

U.S. Politics: Gender Issues

washington post logoWashington Post, Joe Biden’s affectionate, physical style with women comes under scrutiny, Elise Viebeck, Colby Itkowitz, Michael Scherer and Matt Viser, April 1, 2019 (print ed). The appropriateness of the former vice president’s physical behavior is being questioned after a Democratic politician wrote a viral Internet post describing an alleged 2014 encounter that left her offended and uncomfortable.

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