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

Jan. 21

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

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

“If stalemate continues,” he wrote on Twitter, Republicans should use the “Nuclear Option” to change the rules of the Senate and try to pass a long-term spending bill with a simple majority.

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers were set for another tense day, with the start of the workweek for many federal employees less than 24 hours away.

Books On Trump's First Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate Change

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

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

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

Inside Washington

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

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

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

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

#MeToo News, Commentary

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Global News: Jerusalem

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

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

 

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

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

Turkey is now attacking the Afrin canton in full force. The Turkish operation to go after Afrin was triggered by two events. The more important one was the U.S. announcement of a permanent occupation of north-east Syria with the help of a 30,000 men strong SDF "border protection force" consisting of mainly Kurds and some Arabs who earlier fought under ISIS.

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

Jan. 20

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Puppet Masters Reward GOP Speaker

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Accused GOPer Groper Sacked From House Ethics Committee

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

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

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

Courts, Cops, #MeToo: Olympic Assaulter

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

Courts Around the Nation: Kentucky Assault

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

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

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

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

Global News: Turks Begin Shelling Kurds

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

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

More On Trump and Porn Star

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

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

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

Jan. 19

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

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

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

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

david turpin louise turpin mugsParental suspects David Turpin and Louise Turpin

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

Trump and Porn Star

stormy daniels djt insight 1 19 2018 Custom

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

djt melania liberty ball inauguration 2017

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

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

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

“One or two,” Trump replied.

#MeToo Harassment Claims

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

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

Even when they don’t want to.

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

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

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

Changing Media: Verizon-owned HuffPost Replace Unpaid Writers

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

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

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

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

Inside the Trump White House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right To Know

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jan. 18

U.S. Government Shutdown Still looms

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

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

Supreme Court Allows GOP Gerrymanders For North Carolina This Year

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

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

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

More Background On U.S. Government Shutdown

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

Donald Trump

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

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

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

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

John Kelly

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

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

Media & #MeToo: Spiked Sex Scandal 'Stories'

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

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

Yet no one went with the story.

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

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

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

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

Inside Washington

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

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

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

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

Media: How Wolff Got His Book Scoop

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

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

Dangers of War

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

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

Media: "Fake News"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Politics Around the Nation

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

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

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

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

Jan. 17

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

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

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

National Security

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

wesley clark graphic quotation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Global News: Korea Tensions Thawing?

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

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

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

Inside Washington

rick perry robert murray simon edelman energy dept march 29 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

djt golf in shape custom

President Trump on the 2016 campaign trail

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

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

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

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Politics: Maryland and Wisconsin

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

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

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

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

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

Courts, Cops: Pennsylvania

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scandal In Missouri Deepens

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

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

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

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

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

Republicans Love 'Porn President?'

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

djt stormy nypost 1 13 18 Custom

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Confirmation of Trump Porn Star Scandal

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

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

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

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

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"Liar, Liar" Parody

Mediaite, Stormy Daniels Reportedly Spanked Trump With A Copy of Forbes Magazine, Rachel Dicker, Jan. 18, 2018. In the wake of a Wall Street Journal article that alleges Trump lawyer Michael Cohen paid off porn star Stormy Daniels  to keep quiet about a 2006 sexual encounter with now-president Donald Trump, several other stories about Daniels’ rendezvous with Trump have surfaced – including one account that she spanked Trump with a copy of Forbes.

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

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

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

More #MeToo Harassment Scandal Fallouts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump Probe Analysis: How A Trump Interview Would Work

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

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

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

Jan. 16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crime, Cops Around the Nation

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

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

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

#MeToo Reaction: U.S. Cultural Trends

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

Global News: Saudi Prince Shakedown Continuing?

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

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

Media and Scandal

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

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

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

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

Jan. 15

mlk day recent presidents wmr Custom 2 

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

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

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

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

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

Martin Luther King Day 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

martin luther king riot is language of unheard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Media Criticism: BBC Attacked As Propaganda Tool

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

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

#MeToo Pedophile Allegation By Olympian Against Team Doctor

simone biles usa team

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

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

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

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

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

#MeToo Harassment Claim Against Congressman

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

More on Civil Rights Issues: Women, Race

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

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

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

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

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

Jan. 14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nuclear Attack Scare In Hawaii

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inside Washington

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

djt pay trump bribes here 1 13 18In May, Bell projected on the same D.C. hotel “emoluments welcome” and “pay Trump bribes here.” (Both of those messages also appear in the most recent projection.) That same month, Bell projected “#SessionsMustGo” and “I thought the KKK was OK until I learned that they smoked pot” on the Department of Justice building, in reference to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Media: Fake News Claims

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New York Times, Trump Escalates a Dispute With The Wall Street Journal, Michael D. Shear, Jan. 14, 2018. The president said he did not say “I probably have a very good relationship” with the North Korean leader, claiming he said “I’d.” It was difficult to tell from audio clips whether the complaint had merit. President Trump on Sunday morning ratcheted up a dispute with The Wall Street Journal, accusing the newspaper of purposely misquoting him as saying in an interview that he has a good relationship with the leader of North Korea.

In two tweets from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., the president applied a familiar denigrating term — “fake news” — to a Journal report on Thursday that said Mr. Trump had boasted during an interview: “I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong-un. I have relationships with people. I think you people are surprised.”

Mr. Trump insisted that he had actually started his sentence with the contraction “I’d,” not “I,” which would change the meaning from a surprising boast of an existing relationship into a prediction that he could have a good relationship with the dictator if he wanted it. Mr. Trump’s attack came hours after Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, posted on Twitter what she called the “official audio showing WSJ misquoting @POTUS.” She also posted an image with the words “FAKE NEWS” in a bright red banner and saying: “THE WALL STREET JOURNAL. FAKE NEWS IS AT IT AGAIN. FALSELY QUOTING PRESIDENT TRUMP

Global News: Turkey Prepares To Fight U.S.-allied Kurds

Al Jazeera, Turkey to launch imminent Syria operation against YPG, Staff report, Jan. 14, 2018. Turkey's president vowed "to purge terrorism" across the border in Syria, as Turkish forces pounded US-backed fighters with artillery fire on Sunday.

Recep ErdoganA military operation in northern Syria against the city of Afrin - controlled by the Syrian Kurdish armed group YPG - will be launched "in the days ahead", President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (shown in a file photo) was quoted as saying by the official Anadolu news agency.

He said the attack on Afrin would be an extension of the 2016 Euphrates Shield Operation, which targeted Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) fighters, as well as the YPG. The eight-month combat effort officially ended in March 2017. Turkish soldiers are currently based in rebel-held territory on both sides of Afrin.

The US views the YPG as the most effective fighting force against ISIL. US President Donald Trump decided to arm YPG fighters, despite Turkey's objections and a direct appeal from Erdogan at a White House meeting last May.

Tensions between the NATO allies remain high, despite Trump saying last November that Washington would no longer supply weapons to the YPG.

Jan. 13

nbc news logoNBC News, Hawaii ‘ballistic missile threat’ alert to phones was false alarm, officials say, Erik Ortiz, Phil McCausland and Chelsea Bailey, Jan. 13 2018. Residents of Hawaii were thrown into a panic Saturday morning after an emergency alert was sent warning of a ballistic missile threat. But officials said minutes later it was a "false alarm."

"NO missile threat to Hawaii," the state's Emergency Management Agency tweeted at 8:20 local time (1:20 ET).

tulsi gabbardRep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii (shown at right), who also tweeted "there is no incoming missile to Hawaii," questioned how such an alert could have been sent out by mistake and why it took several minutes before it was corrected, adding that it triggered feelings of terror for no reason.

"What my family went through and what so many families in Hawaii just went through is a true realization that they have 15 minutes to seek some form of shelter or else they're dead — gone," she told MSNBC.

Inside Washington

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Washington Post, Trump’s apparent denial of vulgar comment fails to quell outrage, Ed O'Keefe and Anne Gearan, Jan. 13, 2018 (print edition). Trump’s comments about African countries and Haiti drew condemnation from around the world Friday, putting the White House and Republicans on the defensive while casting doubt on hopes of resolving disputes in the coming weeks over immigration legislation.

Alleged Trump, #MeToo Scandals

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New York Times, Porn Star Was Reportedly Paid to Stay Quiet About Trump, Megan Twohey and Jim Rutenberg, Jan. 13, 2018 (print edition). A lawyer for President Trump orchestrated a $130,000 payment to a pornographic-film actress in October 2016 to prevent her from going public with claims of a consensual sexual encounter with Mr. Trump, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

The reported payment came shortly before the presidential election and as the actress, Stephanie Clifford, 38, was discussing sharing her account with ABC’s “Good Morning America” and the online magazine Slate, according to interviews, notes and text messages reviewed by The New York Times.

Jacob Weisberg, editor-in-chief of the Slate Group, said on Friday that in a series of interviews with Ms. Clifford in August and October 2016, she told him she had an affair with Mr. Trump after meeting him at a 2006 celebrity golf tournament.

michael cohen 7 14 2015 cnnShe told him that Michael D. Cohen, a lawyer for Mr. Trump (and shown in a screen grab), had agreed during the presidential campaign to pay her the $130,000 if she kept the relationship secret, Mr. Weisberg said, adding that Ms. Clifford had told him she was tempted to go public because the lawyer was late in making the payment and she feared he might back out of their agreement.

Daily Beast, Trump Accuser Jessica Drake Has an NDA Preventing Her from Talking About Donald Trump, Marlow Stern and Aurora Snow, Jan. 13, 2018. The porn star came forward to accuse then-candidate Trump of sexual misconduct in October 2016.

djt jessica drakeThe Daily Beast was informed late Friday that porn star Jessica Drake (shown with Trump in a previous publicity photo published by The Daily Beast) is not allowed to discuss President Donald J. Trump on account of a non-disclosure agreement she signed barring her from any such talk. NDAs are often deployed as part of settlements to silence accusers.

“Jessica’s NDA blankets any and every mention of Trump, so she’s legally unable to comment,” her publicist informed The Daily Beast. “Jessica signed a non-disclosure agreement after her allegations of misconduct, and she can’t do as much as peep his name publicly.”

The White House has not yet responded to requests for comment.

In late October 2016, Drake became the 14th woman to accuse then-candidate Trump of sexual misconduct. At a public press conference, Drake, flanked by her attorney Gloria Allred, claimed that after she met Trump in July 2006 at Nevada’s American Century Celebrity Golf Championship, where she was working a promotional booth on behalf of the adult film company Wicked Pictures, he made a pass at her. Trump’s wife, Melania, had recently given birth to their son Barron at the time.

She alleged that Trump later called her and asked, “'What do you want? How much?” and then offered her $10,000 for sex. “This is not acceptable behavior for anyone, much less a presidential candidate,” Drake said at the presser.

Killers, Courts Around the Nation: Las Vegas

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stephen paddock 2002 croppedWashington Post, Las Vegas gunman methodically sought to ‘thwart’ investigation of massacre, FBI says, Mark Berman, Jan. 13, 2018. The Las Vegas gunman who opened fire on concertgoers in October carefully prepared both for the attack and the investigation that would follow, according to hundreds of pages of court documents made public late Friday.

In the court documents, which detail some of the early days of the investigation, 64-year-old gunman Stephen Paddock (shown in a file photo) is described as spending significant time amassing his weapons and stockpiling ammunition while also seeking “to thwart the eventual law enforcement investigation” into the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.

Paddock, firing from his high-rise hotel suite at the Mandalay Bay resort, killed 58 people and injured hundreds of others at a country-music festival on the Las Vegas Strip far below before killing himself, police said.

Media, #MeToo Claims

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New York Times, Male Models Claim Sexual Exploitation, Jacob Bernstein, Matthrew Schneier and Vanessa Friedman, Jan. 13, 2018. Models and assistants said Mario Testino and Bruce Weber, two prominent fashion photographers, used their authority to engage in unwanted sexual behavior. Representatives for both said they were dismayed and surprised by the allegations.

Global News: Iran

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New York Times, Iran to Trump: Nuclear Pact Is ‘Not Renegotiable,’ Thomas Erdbrink, Jan. 13, 2018. Iranian officials, responding to President Trump’s call to revise the nuclear agreement, said they would reject any changes to the 2015 deal, saying it was “not renegotiable.”

Jan. 12

Inside The White House: Immigration

djt s hole countries nydaily news cover 1 11 18 CustomNew York Daily News, Politicians, advocacy groups react to Trump blasting Caribbean and African immigrants from ‘s--thole countries,’ Megan Cerullo, Jan. 12, 2018 (print edition). Social media erupted Thursday after President Trump slammed protections for immigrants from “s--thole countries” in the Caribbean and Africa, while some leaders chose to ignore his controversial remarks.

“Why are we having all these people from s--thole countries come here?” the President reportedly griped during an Oval Office meeting Thursday afternoon. 

Advocacy group leaders called Trump’s comments “racist” but chose not to focus on his latest attack on immigrants. “How does one even react to that?” said Ninaj Raoul, co-founder of Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees (HWHR,) told the Daily News Thursday.

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donald trump make great logoWashington Post, Trump’s history of making offensive comments about nonwhite immigrants, Eugene Scott, Jan. 12, 2018 (printed edition). This is not the first time that Trump's remarks about immigrants, refugees and their homelands have raised eyebrows.

Trump Response

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donald trump time cover SmallWashington Post, Trump denies ‘language used’ at meeting amid fury over ‘shithole countries’ remark, Anne Gearan, Jan. 12, 2018. President Trump said he used “tough” language during a discussion on immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and some African nations but appeared to deny using the term “shithole.”

dick durbin speaking screenshotThe White House did not deny Thursday that Trump used the vulgarity. Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), left, who attended the meeting, said today that Trump’s denial was false. The president “said things that were hate-filled, vile and racist,” Durbin said.2018.

President Trump tweeted this morning: “The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made – a big setback for DACA!”

Congressional Reaction

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Washington Post, Immigration talks founder after White House rejects deal and Trump insults foreign countries, Ed O'Keefe, Erica Werner and Josh Dawsey, Jan. 12, 2018. Immigration talks on Capitol Hill foundered Thursday after the White House and some GOP lawmakers rejected a tentative deal from a bipartisan Senate group — and President Trump made incendiary remarks about people from developing countries.

adriano espaillat d nycThose explosive remarks from the president roiled the debate as Democrats erupted in outrage and accused Trump of setting back prospects for any deal.

“This is like throwing gasoline to the fire,” said Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), right, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. “It’s not consistent with what the behavior of a president should be.”

World and Media Reaction

don lemon djt shithole response 1 12 18

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Washington Post, Analysis: 'This is CNN Tonight. I’m Don Lemon. The president of the United States is racist,’ Samantha Schmidt, Jan. 12, 2018. It’s not every day you hear a television news anchor unabashedly calling a public figure “racist.” Broadcast journalists tend to tread lightly when describing racism, using terms such as “racially charged” or “racially tinged.” After all, racism is often in the eye of the beholder.

But it’s not every day that the president of the United States calls Haiti, El Salvador and African nations “shithole countries.” As The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey reported Thursday, Trump derided protections for immigrants from these “shithole countries,” and suggested that instead, the United States should be bringing more people from countries such as Norway.

cnn logoWhen covering the president’s remarks, some CNN hosts made it clear that this time, they would not be holding back.

“This is CNN Tonight, I’m Don Lemon. The president of the United States is racist. A lot of us already knew that.”

Those were the first words spoken by the news anchor at the opening of his show. He went on to call Trump’s comments “disgusting” but not shocking. “They’re not even really surprising. Because this is who Donald Trump is.”

Meanwhile, the sentiment on Fox News could not have been more different. Jesse Watters, host of Fox News’s “The Five,” defended the president’s comments, saying “this is how the forgotten men and women of America talk at the bar.” Fox News host Tucker Carlson suggested in a tweet that if El Salvador isn’t a “shithole,” then its migrants don’t need extended protections. fox news logo Small

“If you’re at a bar, and you’re in Wisconsin, and you think they’re bringing in a bunch of Haiti people, or El Salvadorians, or people from Niger, this is how some people talk,” he said.

djt baby doc duvalier

Businessman Donald Trump and the late Haitian dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier

Raw Story, Haitian government claims ousted dictator ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier laundered stolen money through Trump Tower, Travis Gettys, Jan. 12, 2018. President Donald Trump insulted Haiti during an Oval Office meeting with lawmakers, but he once signed off on a shady real estate deal with the nation’s ousted dictator.

More than a fifth of Trump’s condominiums in the U.S. have been purchased since the 1980s in secretive cash transactions that fit a Treasury Department definition of suspicious transactions, reported Buzzfeed News.

Records show more than 1,300 Trump condos were purchased through shell companies, which allow buyers to shield their finances and identities, and without a mortgage, which protects buyers from lender inquiries.

Those two characteristics raise alarms about possible money laundering, according to statements issued in recent months by the Department of Treasury, which has investigated transactions just like those all over the country. The agency may even require real estate professionals to adopt new programs to keep illegally obtained funds from being plowed into luxury housing to conceal the money’s origins.

Trump companies reportedly sold $35 million in real estate last year alone — mostly to secretive shell companies that open the president up to possible influence peddling.

According to the Buzzfeed News report, the Haitian government complained in the 1980s that former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier laundered money stolen from the Caribbean nation’s treasury by purchasing an apartment in Trump Tower.

Duvalier, nicknamed “Baby Doc,” was overthrown in 1986, but three years earlier used a Panamanian shell company called Lasa Trade and Finance to buy apartment 54-K in Trump’s Manhattan tower for $446,875 cash.

Probes of Trump: Evidence

robert mueller olderPalmer Report, Analysis: Robert Mueller takes possession of even more Donald Trump team laptops and cellphones, Bill Palmer, Jan. 12, 2018. Special Counsel Robert Mueller (right) has been so secretive about his investigation into Donald Trump’s Russia scandal, we’re often left to dig for clues in his official court filings about what he’s been up to. A month ago we learned that Mueller had taken possession of numerous laptops, cellphones and electronic devices belonging to the Trump team. Now we’re learning that Mueller has taken possession of far more of the Trump team’s electronic devices.

It was Rachael Maddow who discovered that in Mueller’s latest court filings in the case against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, the Mueller team is now disclosing possession of eighty-seven electronic devices, as opposed to just thirty-six such devices a month ago. That means that in the past month, Mueller and his team have somehow come into possession of an additional fifty-plus laptops and cellphones from Trump’s people. Here’s what that means in terms of prosecution and the overall investigation.

If Trump’s people were their usual sloppy selves, it’s unlikely that they wiped (or sufficiently wiped) any of the devices they had been using. This means Mueller would have access to every word processing document they typed, and perhaps access to personal email accounts that were being used on those laptops.

This is just the latest reminder that Robert Mueller and his team have consistently been several steps ahead of Donald Trump and his team throughout this investigation. Now we know that Mueller has his hands on eighty-seven of the Trump team’s electronic devices. This is why the Trump team should be shaking in its collective boots.

#MeToo and Probes Of Trump

djt stormy daniels nydaily 1 13 18 Custom

The front-page cover of the New York Daily News on Jan. 13, 2018 follows up coverage below by the Wall Street Journal of President Trump and the porn actress Stormy Daniels, above right. The cover also refers to Trump's vulgar remarks on immigrants.

Wall Street Journal, Trump Lawyer Arranged $130,000 Payment for Adult-Film Star’s Silence, Michael Rothfeld and Joe Palazzolo, Jan. 12, 2018. Agreement just before election required woman to keep quiet about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump in 2006, people familiar with the matter say.

michael cohen 7 14 2015 cnnA lawyer for President Donald Trump arranged a $130,000 payment to a former adult-film star a month before the 2016 election as part of an agreement that precluded her from publicly discussing an alleged sexual encounter with Mr. Trump, according to people familiar with the matter.

Michael Cohen (shown in a file photo), who spent nearly a decade as a top attorney for the Trump Organization, arranged payment to the woman, Stephanie Clifford, in October, 2016 after her lawyer negotiated the nondisclosure agreement with Mr. Cohen, these people said.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Donald Trump propositioned three different porn actresses for extramarital sex in the same weekend, Bill Palmer, Jan. 12, 2018. Earlier today, the Wall Street Journal reported that Donald Trump had consensual sex with porn actress Stormy Daniels at a Lake Tahoe event in 2006, and that he later paid her during the election to keep it quiet. Another porn actress, Jessica Drake, previously accused Trump of inappropriately touching her and unsuccessfully offering her $10,000 for sex during that same event. Now a third porn actress says Trump propositioned her for sex during that same weekend.

Alana Evans is confirming to the Daily Beast that Trump and Daniels had sex during that lake Tahoe event. How does she know? She was also at the event, and they called her on the phone and asked her to join them for a threesome (link). Evans declined the offer. She says that she spoke with Daniels the next day, and Daniels confirmed that sexual activity did take place between them. This stands in direct contrast to the statement produced by Trump’s attorney today, supposedly written and signed by Daniels, which disputes that any of it occurred.

Daily Beast, Porn Star: Donald Trump and Stormy Daniels Invited Me to Their Hotel Room, Marlow Stern and Aurora Snow, Jan. 12, 2018. ‘I ended up with Donald in his hotel room. Picture him chasing me around his hotel room in his tighty-whities,’ Stormy Daniels told fellow porn star.

The Daily Beast had also been in protracted talks with Daniels about arranging an interview after three sources — including fellow porn star Alana Evans — told The Daily Beast that Daniels and Trump were involved. She ultimately backed out on Nov. 3, just five days before the 2016 election.

djt official SmallCohen on Friday did not address the alleged payout to Daniels but provided the following statement to The Daily Beast: “These rumors have circulated time and again since 2011. President Trump once again vehemently denies any such occurrence as has Ms. Daniels.” The attorney also provided a letter dated Jan. 10, 2018, allegedly signed by Daniels, that denied any “sexual and/or romantic affair” with Trump or the receipt of any “hush money” from Trump.

Business Insider, Steve Bannon suggests Trump's lawyer 'took care' of 'a hundred' women during the presidential campaign, Eliza Relman, Jan. 12, 2018. Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump's former top strategist, alleged in journalist Michael Wolff's tell-all book (Fire and Fury) about the Trump White House that the president's longtime attorney, Marc Kasowitz, "took care" of 100 women during the presidential campaign.

marc kasowitz color portrait"Look, Kasowitz has known [Trump] for twenty-five years. Kasowitz has gotten him out of all kinds of jams," Bannon reportedly said. "Kasowitz on the campaign - what did we have, a hundred women? Kasowitz [shown below at left] took care of all of them."

This apparently off-hand remark may take on new significance after The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that another lawyer for the president, Michael Cohen, sent $130,000 to a porn star just weeks before the 2016 presidential election to keep her silent about an alleged 2006 sexual encounter with Trump.

Media: Facebook Plans Big Change

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New York Times, Zuckerberg Says Revamped Facebook Puts Friends First, Mike Isaac, Jan. 12, 2018 (print edition). Facebook has introduced sweeping changes to the kinds of posts, videos and photos that its more than two billion members will see most often, saying on Thursday that it would prioritize what their friends and family share and comment on while de-emphasizing content from publishers and brands.

facebook logoThe shift is the most significant overhaul in years to Facebook’s News Feed, the cascading screen of content that people see when they log into the social network. Over the next few weeks, users will begin seeing fewer viral videos and news articles shared by media companies. Instead, Facebook will highlight posts that friends have interacted with — for example, a photo of your dog or a status update that many of them have commented on or liked.

mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wThe changes are intended to maximize the amount of content with “meaningful interaction” that people consume on Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg (shown in a file photo), the company’s chief executive, said in an interview. Facebook, he said, had closely studied what kinds of posts had stressed or harmed users. The social network wants to reduce what Mr. Zuckerberg called “passive content” — videos and articles that ask little more of the viewer than to sit back and watch or read — so that users’ time on the site was well spent.

Thursday’s changes raise questions of whether people may end up seeing more content that reinforces their own ideologies if they end up frequently interacting with posts and videos that reflect the similar views of their friends or family.

Mark Zuckerberg told The Times that the emphasis will be on “meaningful interaction” for Facebook’s two billion users, who will see less content from publishers and brands and more posts shared by friends and family.

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Washington Post, Incendiary comments draw swift condemnation globally, Paul Schemm and Eli Rosenberg​, Jan. 12, 2018. A United Nations human rights spokesman was uncharacteristically blunt, describing President Trump’s remarks as “racist.”

Trump Health Report

New York Times, Trump Is in ‘Excellent Health,’ Doctor Says After Exam, Michael D. Shear and Lawrence K. Altman, M.D., Jan. 12, 2018. The Trump White House&action=click&contentCollection=Politics&module=Collection&region=Marginalia&src=me&version=newsevent&pgtype=article President Trump is in excellent health, his doctor said on Friday after his first comprehensive physical exam since he was elected. The brief statement did not include any basic information about Mr. Trump’s health, including his weight, blood pressure or cholesterol levels. The president’s doctors did not indicate what tests they performed during the exam or whether Mr. Trump, 71, was taking medications. But the White House has promised that information about those topics will be disclosed on Tuesday.

Media: Media Coverage Of Alleged Trump Scandals

rachel maddow leaning inMSNBC / Rachel Maddow Show, Trump lawyer paid porn star Stormy Daniels to hide affair: WSJ, Rachel Maddow, Jan. 12, 2018 (4:28 mins.) Michael Rothfeld, financial investigations reporter for The Wall Street Journal, talks with Rachel Maddow (shown at right) about his reporting that Donald Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about a sexual affair she'd had with Donald Trump.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Donald Trump tried to hire a convicted criminal in newly unearthed plot against President Obama, Bill Palmer, Jan. 12, 2018. In the wake of his Haiti scandal, his porn star scandal, and his Russia scandal, can Donald Trump sink any lower this week?

The answer is a definitive yes. It turns out while Trump was attempting to smear President Obama in racist fashion, he tried to hire a convicted criminal to steal Obama’s records. No really, this is straight out of Watergate, except it’s racist, and it’s even more stupid. James O’Keefe, a conservative propagandist best known for releasing doctored videos that have smeared everything from ACORN to Planned Parenthood, now admits that Trump tried to hire him to steal Obama’s college records in 2013, according to CNN (link ).

Trump was hoping that the transcripts would prove that Obama didn’t really attend Columbia University, which he believed would help validate his racist claim that Obama was secretly born in Kenya and has falsified much of his life.

cnn logoCNN, James O'Keefe says Trump asked him to go on birther-linked mission, Oliver Darcy, Jan. 12, 2018. Donald Trump in 2013 asked James O'Keefe, the controversial conservative filmmaker, if he could "get inside" Columbia University and obtain President Obama's sealed college records, according to a passage in O'Keefe's forthcoming book, a copy of which was reviewed by CNN.

bo deskwork 10 18 13O'Keefe, a guerrilla filmmaker whom critics have decried for his tactics and who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for entering federal property in 2010 under false pretenses, writes in "American Pravda: My Fight for Truth in the Era of Fake News" that during a meeting in New York City Trump complimented his ACORN sting videos ("That pimp and hooker thing you did, wow!"). But, O'Keefe writes, Trump "was a man with a plan" and "did not agree to this meeting to sing my praises."

According to O'Keefe, Trump "suspected Obama (shown at work in the White House in 2013) had presented himself as a foreign student on application materials to ease his way into New York's Columbia University, maybe even Harvard too, and perhaps picked up a few scholarships along the way."

O'Keefe wrote that during the 2013 meeting Trump suggested O'Keefe infiltrate Columbia and obtain the sealed records: "'Nobody else can get this information,'" O'Keefe quoted Trump as saying. "'Do you think you could get inside Columbia?'"

O'Keefe said he explained to Trump that the request did not fall into his "line of work," and that he considered himself and his colleagues to be journalists, not "private eyes."  But that didn't seem to deter Trump. At the end of the meeting, O'Keefe wrote, "Trump shook my hand, encouraged me to keep up the good work, and half-whispered, 'Do Columbia.'"

james okeefe american pravdaThe Daily Caller was the first to report on this part of O'Keefe's book (American Pravda: My Fight for Truth in the Era of Fake News). In the book, O'Keefe writes that the meeting was arranged by Republican political operative Sam Nunberg. Reached by phone, Nunberg recalled the meeting and confirmed he set it up. He said Trump was impressed with O'Keefe's work and, among other things, the number of retweets O'Keefe would get on Twitter.

Media: More #MeToo Developments

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Washington Post, Fox drops Patty Hearst biopic after she blasts the Jeffrey Toobin book it was based on, Travis M. Andrews, Jan. 12, 2018. Twentieth Century Fox said Thursday that it’s canceling an upcoming biopic of newspaper heiress Patty Hearst, a film based on a book by Jeffrey Toobin that chronicles Hearst’s 1974 kidnapping and eventual conviction for bank robbery.

jeffrey toobinAlthough the studio did not explain why the film had been pulled, the announcement came just hours after Hearst released a lengthy statement criticizing Toobin’s book, American Heiress, as factually incorrect and for “romanticizing my rape and torture.” Hearst, now 63, also said she was “saddened and appalled” that Fox “agreed to finance and produce a movie based on Toobin’s book.”

Toobin (shown in a file photo, a New Yorker magazine staff writer who also serves as the senior legal analyst for CNN, has not responded to Hearst’s statements. A CNN documentary, also based on Toobin’s book, is set to air on Feb. 11.

patty hearst mugHearst, the granddaughter of media mogul William Randolph Hearst, was kidnapped by a radical group that called itself the Symbionese Liberation Army when she was 19 years old. The group publicly claimed that it radicalized her and she was later photographed participating in a bank robbery while carrying an assault rifle. Shown at left in a mugshot, she served nearly two years of a seven-year prison sentence before President Jimmy Carter commuted the sentence. President Bill Clinton eventually granted her a full pardon.

In releasing her statement critical of Toobin to Deadline on Thursday, she said she was inspired to speak out after hearing the “incredibly moving testimony” of women at Sunday’s Golden Globes, echoing the #MeToo movement.

“It’s no secret that I was abducted, raped, and tortured at 19,” she said. “What followed was a series of events that were the direct result of a child having been destroyed both inside and out.” She pointed out that she’s given many interviews over the years “to discuss my ordeal” but that “each time I do, it puts me back in the nightmare which, as you might imagine, is deeply painful. This is why for the last several years, I have declined to answer any more questions.”

“It was offensive to me that a man would have the audacity to tell a woman that he would have the last word on her trauma,” said Hearst, who described her kidnapping experience in a 1981 memoir, which she expanded in 1988. “This project is attempting to rewrite history and directly flies in the face of the present #MeToo movement where so much progress is being made in regard to listening, and providing a voice, to those who have suffered abuse,” she said in her statement.

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New York Times, Wall St. Executive’s Downfall Was Years in the Making, Kate Kelly and Andrew Ross Sorkin, Jan. 12, 2018 (print edition). A female reporter accused Harold E. Ford Jr., a former congressman, of inappropriate behavior. Morgan Stanley found no proof but fired him. Why? It depends on whom you ask.

harold ford jr oLate last year, Morgan Stanley got a tip: Reporters were asking about allegations that a high-profile executive, the former congressman Ford (shown while representing a Memphis-areaa district in Tennessee as a Democrat), had harassed a female journalist.

Morgan Stanley conducted a quick investigation, interviewing the accuser and Mr. Ford, who denied the allegations. According to Morgan Stanley officials briefed on the internal process, the Wall Street bank concluded that it was a he-said, she-said situation and didn’t find proof of harassment.

Then Morgan Stanley fired Mr. Ford. Why?

Right Wing Watch /People for the American Way, Mark Taylor Claims Trump Will Unleash A Wave Of Arrests Of Satanic Pedophiles In February, Kyle Mantyla, Jan. 12, 2018. Earlier this week, self-proclaimed “firefighter prophet” and right-wing conspiracy theorist Mark Taylor appeared on the “Faithtalk” program, where he predicted that President Trump has already taken the steps necessary to prepare for a wave of arrests of thousands of satanic pedophiles in the month of February.

Taylor called on “the army of God” to pray that there would be no civil unrest “when they start rounding up these people” so that “divine justice will be served.”

“They’re fixing to, I believe, drop the hammer on a lot of these people and they’re going to start rounding these guys up,” Taylor said. “I think a lot of this stuff, from what I’m hearing in the natural or seeing in the natural—like the military presence, stuff like that—a lot of this stuff is going to start to go down in the month of February. So we’re only a couple of weeks away from when the big stuff might begin to happen. If they do pick the month of February to start rounding people up, that is usually the coldest month of the year for the entire country, so that will keep a lot of people off the streets, if you know what I mean.”

Global News: More U.S. Sanctions For Iran

iran flag mapWashington Post, U.S. keeps Iran nuclear deal alive for now but issues new sanctions, Anne Gearan and Carol Morello, Jan. 12, 2018.  President Trump retained the agreement that he detests by announcing that he would waive sanctions for the third time but said he will not repeat the reprieve unless the deal is changed to permanently block Iran’s potential pathway to building nuclear weapons.

Global News: Putin Condems Drone Attack On Russian Base

TASS, Putin slams drone attack on Russian base in Syria as provocation, Staff report, Jan. 11, 2018. These provocations are aimed at destroying previous agreements, the Russian president said. he UAV attack on the Russian base in Syria was a provocation aimed at destroying previous agreements, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a meeting with heads of the country’s printed media and news agencies.

JFK Records Disclosures

 

JFK Facts.org, Four key JFK files that are still censored, Jefferson Morley, Jan. 12, 2018.  In November I published a piece on the top five JFK files that are still being hidden by the government. Since the one of them, the transcript of James Angleton’s testimony to the Church Committee in September 1975, has been released.

Four other key JFK documents have been released late last year–but with extensive redactions. They are the files of four officers involved in the surveillance of Lee Harvey Oswald between 1959 and 1963. 

1. Birch O’Neal: Virtually unknown in the vast literature of JFK’s assassination, O’Neal played a key role in the CIA’s monitoring of Oswald. As an aide to James J. Angleton, O’Neal ran a secretive office known as the Special Investigations Group, which opened the agency’s first file on Oswald in October 1959 (a story I tell in my new biography of Angleton, The Ghost).

2. David Phillips: A decorated undercover officer, Phillips served as chief of Cuba operations in Mexico City in 1963. He supervised the surveillance of the Cuban Consulate in the Mexican capital, which Oswald visited six weeks before JFK was assassinated.His personnel files containing 602 pages of material were released November 3, but 60 percent of those pages are fully or partially redacted. Only 227 pages are open to the public.

3. Ann Goodpasture: The senior woman in the Mexico City station in 1963, Goodpasture worked closely with Phillips and coordinated the station’s audio and photo surveillance operations during Oswald’s visit to Mexico City in September 1963. Of the 288 pages of material in the Goodpasture file, 95 pages (33 percent) contain some redactions, and 18 pages (6 percent) remain completely secret.

4. George Joannides, CIA officer: George Joannides: A psychological warfare operations officer who worked in Miami and New Orleans, Joannides handled the anti-Castro Cuban Student Directorate, which was funded by the CIA under the code name AMSPELL.

Jan. 11

 

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The Daily Beast, Senators Reach Deal to Save Dreamers and Wall, Andrew Desiderio and Sam Stein, Jan. 11, 2018. The final agreement has wins for each side, including funding for a physical structure on the border. But the White House has yet to sign on. Congressional negotiators finalized an immigration deal on Thursday that would codify legal protections for undocumented minors while giving President Donald Trump some tangible victories of his own.

The deal, which was forged in the Senate, still faces major hurdles; chief among them a healthy skepticism from conservatives — including some officials in the White House — and a difficult path to passage in the House. But one lawmaker told the Daily Beast that there was a “growing sense of optimism” that negotiators had crafted an agreement that could, at a minimum, pass the Senate and put pressure on the House to act.

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New York Times, House Republicans Issue a Hard-Line Plan on Immigration, Thomas Kaplan and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Jan. 11, 2018 (print edition). The measure would cut the number of legal immigrants entering the U.S., curtail the hiring of illegal workers and allow the detention of minors arrested at the border with their parents.

Hospital Patient Dumping Scandal In Baltimore

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Washington Post, Social media fury follows video of dazed woman put out in cold by Baltimore hospital, John Woodrow Cox, Theresa Vargas and Justin Wm. Moyer, Jan. 11, 2018. The man hurried up the Baltimore sidewalk with a camera in his hand as four black-clad hospital security guards walked toward him, then past him. One of them was pushing an empty wheelchair.

“So wait, y’all just going to leave this lady out here with no clothes on?” said Imamu Baraka, referring to a dazed woman wearing only a thin hospital gown whom they had left alone at a bus stop Tuesday night in mid-30s temperatures. Her face appeared bloody, her eyes empty.

It was the latest incident of “patient dumping,” which has sparked outrage around the country — and one that, according to an expert, probably violated a 1986 federal law that mandates hospitals release those in their care into a safe environment.

“This kind of behavior is, I think, both illegal and I’m sure immoral,” said Arthur L. Caplan, founding head of the division of medical ethics at the New York University School of Medicine. “You don’t just throw someone out into the street who is impaired and may have injuries. You try to get them to the best place possible, and that’s not the bench in front of the hospital.”

Probes Of Trump

stephen bannon cropped npc 2013Daily Beast, Steve Bannon Lawyers Up... as Russia Investigators Get Ready to Pounce, Betsy Woodruff, Lachlan Markay and Asawin Suebsaeng, Jan. 11, 2018. Trump’s former chief strategist has largely avoided the spotlight of the Russia probe — until now.

Steve Bannon (shown in a file photo) is lawyering up as he gets ready to face investigators looking into the Trump-Russia nexus. The Daily Beast has learned that the former top White House strategist has retained Bill Burck, of the firm Quinn Emanuel.

Two sources tell us Burck is helping Bannon prepare for an interview with the House intelligence committee, which is currently scheduled for next week. Sources also said Bannon plans to “fully cooperate” with investigators. Burck also represents White House Counsel Don McGahn and former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus for the purposes of the Russia probe, as Law360 reported last September.

It is not unheard of for one attorney to represent more than one client on the same matter. But the fact that several key players with Trump administration ties have the same lawyer could irk investigators.

“In general, prosecutors don’t like it when the same attorney represents multiple people who are subjects — or more — because it looks like they’re controlling the story,” said Ken White, a former federal prosecutor who specializes in First Amendment issues, speaking of investigators’ targets.

djt bannon nypost et tu bannon jan 4 2018Palmer Report, Opinion: Steve Bannon is cutting a deal with Robert Mueller, Bill Palmer, Jan. 11, 2018. After one of the worst weeks that anyone in politics has ever had, Steve Bannon suddenly has nothing left to lose. His billionaire backer, his Breitbart site, and his satellite radio gig are all suddenly gone, thanks to his spat with his former pal Donald Trump. What is surprising is that, as given away by a move he made today, he’s already decided he’s cutting a deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Bannon hired an attorney today to represent him in the Trump-Russia scandal, as he prepares to be called to testify before Congress. But he didn’t just hire any attorney. He hired the same guy who also represents former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and current White House Counsel Don McGahn in the scandal, according to the Daily Beast (Steve Bannon Lawyers Up). The same attorney cannot represent different people in the same criminal investigation if those clients are in any danger of having competing legal interests.

Last week we learned from the New York Times that Priebus had been taking detailed personal notes about the Trump-Russia coverup all along (link), and that he voluntarily gave those notes to Mueller months ago. This means Priebus cut a formal or informal deal to flip on Trump. By extension it means McGahn must have done the same, or else their shared attorney would have had to immediately cut one of them loose. In other words, Bannon is flipping on Trump.

Now comes the question of what all Steve Bannon has to offer. Robert Mueller is already investigating Cambridge Analytica, the Donald Trump campaign’s voter data firm. Bannon just happened to be running that company before he took over the Trump campaign.

National Anti-Trafficking Day Jan. 11 and Month January

Down With Tyranny, Welcome To Waterbury: The City That Holds Secrets That Could Bring Down Trump, Guest post by Andrew Kreig and Wayne Madsen, Jan. 11, 2018 (reprint of this week's featured Justice Integrity Project and Wayne Madsen Report joint investigation).

national human trafficking awareness day jan 11 Custom

National Human Trafficking Awareness Day is observed annually on January 11. Beginning in 2010, by Presidential Proclamation, each January has been designated National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Following the start of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, with the help of non-government organizations, National Human Trafficking Day began and is observed annually on January 11.

U.S. Department of Defense, Human Trafficking Has No Place in DoD, Pentagon Official Says, Terri Moon Cronk, Jan. 11, 2018. Combating human trafficking is a responsibility the Defense Department takes very seriously, Anthony M. Kurta, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military personnel policy, said today. Human trafficking is modern-day slavery, he added. “It not only destroys the lives of those victimized, but also destroys countless families and poses a direct threat to the security and well-being of the entire world.”

Kurta spoke at the Pentagon Force Protection Agency’s Human Trafficking Awareness Day seminar in the Pentagon. Today is Human Trafficking Awareness Day, and January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

Those who engage in human trafficking exploit the weak and the vulnerable and capitalize on those who patronize the sex-trade industry and those involved in forced labor, Kurta said. For those reasons, DoD is committed to continuing its aggressive stance against human trafficking, he said, and will further training its personnel to expand awareness.

Inside Washington

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 Washington Post, States may impose work requirements for Medicaid, Trump administration says, Amy Goldstein​, Jan. 11, 2018. The guidance opens the door for states to deny Medicaid benefits to people unless they have jobs or participate in work-related activities or “community engagement.” The policy comes as 10 states are waiting for federal permission to add work requirements for the program.

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Washington Post, Trump upends debate over FISA with contradictory tweets about surveillance program, Karoun Demirjian and Josh Dawsey, Jan. 11, 2018. The White House has pushed for Congress to reauthorize the spying powers, but the president sent mixed signals after seeing a segment on Fox News. The tweets complicated what was already a difficult road for supporters of the measure.

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nsa official logoNew York Times, House Rejects Limits on Surveillance After Trump Roils Debate, Eileen Sullivan, Nicholas Fandos and Charlie Savage, Jan. 11, 2018. The House on Thursday voted against significant new limits on a surveillance law after President Trump muddled his administration’s position on the issue.

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Washington Post, Decision to exempt Florida from offshore drilling sparks a bipartisan uproar, David Weigel and John Wagner, Jan. 11, 2018. epa clean water logoThe carve-out for Florida, which came after a meeting between Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), generated a torrent of ridicule and anger from governors and senators in other coastal states. It also created new doubts about the fate of the entire offshore drilling decision.

Jobs, Economy, Wages

usa today logoUSA Today, Sam's Club closing dozens of stores; some being converted to distribution centers, Charisse Jones, Jan. 11, 2018.  Walmart has announced it is raising its starting hourly wage from $9 to $11 and Sam's Club is set to close a series of clubs across the United States. Sam's Club, the membership warehouse owned by retail giant Walmart, is shutting down or converting 63 stores. The company attributed the decision to the need to better fulfill online orders, less population growth than expected in some markets and too many locations given demand in others.

The Sam's Club closures were confirmed the same day that Walmart said it would lift the hourly minimum wage in the U.S. to $11 and give out bonuses of up to $1,000. Of the Sam's Club locations, about 50 will be going out of business for good. Roughly 10 of those locations are closing their doors as of Thursday, Jan. 11, while the remainder will be shuttered over the next three to four weeks.

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Washington Post, Walmart cites tax plan as it raises starting hourly wage to $11, expands parental leave and promises bonuses for some workers, Abha Bhattarai​, Jan. 11, 2018.The country’s largest employer, which has more than 1 million hourly workers, says the changes would take place beginning in February. The pay hikes will apply to all of the retailer’s hourly workers in the United States, including those at Sam’s Club stores.

Politics Around the Nation: North Dakota

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Washington Post, GOP, Trump suffer recruiting setback as N.D. Rep. Kevin Cramer will not run for Senate, Sean Sullivan and Josh Dawsey, Jan. 11, 2018. The Republican effort to enlist formidable candidates for the ­Senate uffered another setback Thursday when Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) announced that he will not run despite President Trump’s personal appeals for him to challenge Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp in one of the year’s top battlegrounds.

Cramer’s decision to instead seek reelection in the House, which he announced in a radio interview, followed other recruiting letdowns for Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in deeply conservative states where Republicans are hoping to unseat Democratic senators and pad their 51-49 majority.

Media Commentary on Trump

joe scarborough headshotThe Hill, Scarborough slams 'entire mainstream media' for being 'reflexively anti-Trump,' Joe Concha, Jan. 11, 2018. MSNBC "Morning Joe" co-host Joe Scarborough (shown at left) slammed "the entire mainstream media" for "being anti-Trump on all things" during an upcoming podcast interview with Katie Couric that was previewed by The Hollywood Reporter.

"The entire mainstream media, we are reflexively anti-Trump on all things," Scarborough told Couric, who launched her podcast with co-host Brian Goldsmith in 2017. "We're over our skis and it's going to hurt us," "Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski added.

The perspective from Scarborough and Brzezinski comes after they have hammered Trump and his family for the past 20 months on regular basis, particularly on a personal level.

usa today logoUSA Today, Opinion: Bannon's brutal ouster from Trump and Breitbart circles should frighten Americans, Cheri Jacobus, Jan. 11, 2018. Conservative institutions have embraced Bannon's political slaughter not for his past sins but because he criticized the president. That's chilling.

steve bannon cover timeSteve Bannon — the loathed architect of President Trump’s alt-right hate machine, Breitbart lies, racism, misogyny and Twitter thug troll factory — is banished to political Siberia. It was swift and decisive.

Bannon openly campaigned to tear down American institutions, the Republican Party and the government. But when he dared to tell the truth, when confirmation from an insider could help save the country from the danger, Bannon was cut out like a member of Tony Soprano’s “family” who turned state’s evidence.

#MeToo, #Times Up Sex Scandals

eric greitens mike pence

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, a first-term Republican, is shown meeting Vice President Mike Pence in a file photo

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Washington Post,  Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens admits extramarital affair but denies reports he blackmailed woman with nude photo, Fred Barbash, Jan. 11, 2018. Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R), responding to media reports, acknowledged Wednesday night that he was unfaithful to his wife “a few years ago” before being elected.

But his lawyer denied sensational allegations aired by a local TV station (Blackmail alleged as Governor Greitens admits to extramarital affair) that Greitens threatened to distribute naked photos he took of the woman with whom he was having a relationship if she ever said anything about it.

The woman, who has not been named publicly, was Greitens’s hair stylist, according to media reports confirmed by the Washington Post with a source familiar with the situation.

A joint statement posted Wednesday night by Greitens and his wife, Sheena, said in part that “a few years ago...there was a time when he was unfaithful in our marriage. This was a deeply personal mistake. Eric took responsibility, and we dealt with this together honestly and privately.”

eric greitens oGreitens, 44 (shown at right), is a relatively new star in the Republican Party who boasts an extraordinary résumé: Former Navy SEAL and Lt. Commander, attended Duke University on scholarship; Rhodes scholar at Oxford; PhD, author and White House Fellow during the administration of President George W. Bush.

He is the author of Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life and, according to a profile in St. Louis Magazine, has had presidential aspirations since he was a young man. His wife, Sheena Chestnut Greitens, is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Missouri, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Center for East Asian Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

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

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

Legal Schnauzer, Eric Greitens, Missouri's "Navy Seal" Republican governor, admits to an extramarital affair, as blackmail allegation hangs over his national political aspirations, Roger Shuler, Jan. 11, 2018. How bad could this get for Eric Greitens, who rose to high office mainly because his bio includes a stint as a Navy Seal? Well, the admitted affair likely will stick a fork in any "pro family" credentials he might have had. And the affair story includes allegations of blackmail that could prove especially troubling for Greitens.

Is the blackmail claim false? There seems to be quite a bit of doubt about that. From stltoday.com:

eric greitens oWhen questioned by News 4 (Blackmail alleged as Governor Greitens admits to extramarital affair,), Greitens (shown in an official photo) did not address the issue of the photograph but the Governor and his wife did release the following statement:

"A few years ago, before Eric was elected Governor, there was a time when he was unfaithful in our marriage. This was a deeply personal mistake. Eric took responsibility, and we dealt with this together honestly and privately. While we never would have wished for this pain in our marriage, or the pain that this has caused others, with God’s mercy Sheena has forgiven and we have emerged stronger. We understand that there will be some people who cannot forgive – but for those who can find it in your heart, Eric asks for your forgiveness, and we are grateful for your love, your compassion, and your prayers."

James Franco (screenshot from CBS appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Jan. 10, 2018)

James Franco (appearance on CBS The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Jan. 10, 2018)

Los Angeles Times, Five women accuse actor James Franco of inappropriate or sexually exploitative behavior, Daniel Miller and Amy Kaufman, Jan. 11, 2018. It should have been a pure moment of triumph for James Franco. He collected one of Hollywood’s top prizes at the Golden Globe Awards on Sunday, validating an untraditional career in which he’s been a bankable leading man, Ivy League academic and eccentric auteur.

But as he stood on the ballroom stage, some were paying more attention to the Time’s Up pin on his lapel than the gold statue he picked up for his turn in “The Disaster Artist.”

It “was like a slap in my face,” said Sarah Tither-Kaplan, a former acting student at the film school Franco founded who went on to appear in several of his productions.

Tither-Kaplan is one of five women who, in interviews with The Times, accused Franco, 39, of behavior they found to be inappropriate or sexually exploitative. Four were his students, and another said he was her mentor.

In some cases, they said they believed Franco could offer them career advancement, and acquiesced to his wishes even when they were uncomfortable. She told The Times that in a nude orgy scene she filmed with Franco and several women three years ago, he removed protective plastic guards covering other actresses’ vaginas while simulating oral sex on them.

Two other student actresses also recounted negative on-set experiences. Both said Franco became angry when no women, while at the shoot, would agree to be topless.

Franco’s attorney, Michael Plonsker, disputed all of the women’s allegations and directed The Times to Franco’s comments Tuesday night on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.”

“Look, in my life I pride myself on taking responsibility for things that I have done,” he told Colbert. “I have to do that to maintain my well being. The things that I heard that were on Twitter are not accurate. But I completely support people coming out and being able to have a voice because they didn’t have a voice for so long. So I don’t want to shut them down in any way.”

“If I have done something wrong,” he added, “I will fix it — I have to.”

The Hill, Washington Post suspends reporter for 'inappropriate workplace conduct,' John Bowden, Jan. 11, 2018. Washington Post reporter Joel Achenbach has been suspended for 90 days over "inappropriate workplace conduct," according to a Post report. In his statement to the Post reporter, Achenbach, a science and politics reporter, admitted to the misconduct but did not specify the nature of the claims made against him, only confirming that "women" were the victims.

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New York Times, Storm Grows Over ‘Media Men’ List as Creator Outs Herself, Jacyln Peiser, Jan. 11, 2018 (print edition).  Harper’s found itself under heavy pressure to conceal the identity of the creator of a list of men in the media industry accused of sexual harassment. Then the creator herself came forward.

Down With Tyranny, Welcome To Waterbury: The City That Holds Secrets That Could Bring Down Trump, Guest Post by Andrew Kreig and Wayne Madsen, Jan. 11, 2018 (republished).

washington post logoWashington Post, Two face life in prison for sex trafficking teenage girls, Rachel Weiner, Jan. 11, 2018. Ivan Williams and Dennis Davis used the proceeds from prostitution to start rap careers, prosecutors said.Two men face up to life in prison when they are sentenced in April for trafficking teenage prostitutes across the D.C. area.

Ivan Williams, 28, and Dennis Davis, 26, were found guilty by a jury in Alexandria federal court Wednesday evening. Prosecutors said the men used the proceeds from prostitution to fund their dreams of rap stardom.

Several former prostitutes testified against the two men, including two women who pleaded guilty to helping traffic minors. One, Davis’s ex-girlfriend, had worked for him as a prostitute when she was underage. When he went to prison for that crime, she had his name tattooed on her hip. She testified against him in this case, she said, because he had attacked her younger brother.

Fortune, Elon Musk Says He Accidentally Attended a Silicon Valley 'Sex Party.' But He Didn't See Any Sex, Abigail Abrams, Jan. 11, 2018. Even tech superstars sometimes get confused. It turns out Elon Musk unwittingly attended a now-infamous sex party held last summer at a venture capitalist’s Silicon Valley home. The event in question was mentioned in a Vanity Fair excerpt from journalist Emily Chang’s upcoming book Brotopia about the lavish and intense culture of Silicon Valley. The June 2017 party allegedly featured open drug use and public sexual behavior, according to the excerpt.

Media: CIA Whistleblower Sterling Moved To Halfway House

cia logoReporters Without Borders (RSF), RSF hails the upcoming release of CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling from prison to a halfway house on January 16, ahead of the original end date of his 3.5 year prison sentence on June 14, 2018, Staff report, Jan. 11, 2018.  Jeffrey Sterling has spent the last 2.5 years in a Colorado prison after he was convicted in 2015 of seven counts of espionage by a district court in Eastern Virginia for simply being in communication with a reporter.

jeffrey sterling headSterling (shown at left) was accused of offering New York Times journalist James Risen classified national defense information regarding Operation Merlin, a top-secret CIA operation that targeted Iran’s nuclear program which Risen described in his book, State of War.

During Sterling’s trial, the Department of Justice was unable to present any direct evidence proving that he divulged classified information to Risen. They relied on circumstantial evidence -- emails and telephone conversations -- to try to make a case to a jury who would likely favor his conviction.

Because he utilized proper channels and informed the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence of his concern for the safety of the American people, RSF considers Sterling to be a whistleblower and has been supporting his case.

Global News: Syria

SouthFront, Syrian Army Launches Final Push To Capture Abu al-Duhur, Staff report, Jan. 11, 2017. On Jan. 11, the Tiger Forces, the Syrian Army (SAA) and the National Defense Forces (NDF) launched a final push to recapture the strategic Abu al-Duhur Airbase from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in southern Idlib.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) released 400 former ISIS fighters a few weeks only after they had been captured, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported on Jan. 10. The SHOR added that 120 released ISIS members then joined the ranks of the SDF. Previously, the SDF released 75 former ISIS members on May 8, 2017 and 86 on Nov. 8, 2017.

Jan. 10

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robert mueller full face fileNew York Times, Trump Sidesteps Question on Mueller Interview, Julie Hirscheld Davis and Nicholas Fandos, Jan. 10, 2018. President Trump declined to commit to being interviewed by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III (shown at right), investigating whether his campaign colluded with Russia to sway the 2016 election.“I’ll speak to attorneys,” Mr. Trump told reporters, backing away from a promise he made last year. Related Story: New York Times, Named in Dossier, Trump’s Lawyer Files Two Lawsuits, Jan. 10, 2018.

Immigration News

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ICE logoNew York Times, DACA Program Must Stay in Place for Now, Judge Says, Michael D. Shear, Jan. 10, 2018 (print edition).  In the middle of an intense political fight over the program that shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation, a federal judge ordered that the Trump administration maintain it. 

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sarah huckabee sanders screenshotNew York Times, White House Calls Ruling ‘Outrageous,’ Eileen Sullivan, Jan. 10, 2018. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary (shown at right), said the fate of the program for young immigrants should be addressed by Congress.

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Washington Post, Democrats split over whether to force a shutdown over ‘dreamers,’ other issues, Mike DeBonis, Erica Werner and Ed O'Keefe​, Jan. 10, 2018. The party’s leaders face an uncomfortable question: Are they willing to force a government shutdown to extract political victories — a hardball tactic for which they have long blasted Republicans?

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New York Times, Immigration Agents Raid 7-Eleven Stores in 26 States; 21 Held, Patricia Mazzei, Jan. 10, 2018. Federal immigration agents visited 98 franchises across the country, arresting undocumented workers and demanding paperwork from managers.

Trump Seeks Crackdown On Media With State Libel Laws

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New York Times, Trump Says Again He’ll ‘Take a Strong Look’ at Libel Laws, Michael D. Grynbaum, Jan. 10, 2018.  President Trump called current libel laws a “sham and a disgrace” and said he wanted to make it easier for people to sue news organizations and publishers for defamation.

Political News

TPM, Trump’s Scattershot Immigration Remarks Leave Congress Reeling, Alice Ollstein, Jan. 10, 2018. Many of the more than two dozen lawmakers who attended Tuesday’s immigration meeting returned to Capitol Hill touting “progress” toward an agreement, but appeared to disagree on every aspect of the plan under discussion.

chuck schumer dmcaMost pressing, with government funding expiring in less than two weeks, is the question of whether an immigration deal will be part of the next spending bill.

“We continue to believe and insist that it be in this bill,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY, above left) told reporters. Moments before, at the very same podium, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) took the opposite position: “It will not be a part of any overall spending agreement.” . 

darrell issa flickrRoll Call, Darrell Issa Retiring, Opening Up Competitive House Seat, Bridget Bowman, Jan. 10, 2018. Issa (shown in a file photo via Flickr) was one of the most vulnerable incumbents in 2018, He was first elected in 2000 and previously chaired the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The California Republican narrowly won re-election in 2016, and Hillary Clinton carried his district by 8 points.

Probe Of Trump

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Washington Post, ‘Not a fabrication’: Six times the firm behind the Russia dossier contradicted Trump’s claims, Amber Phillips, Jan. 10, 2018 (print edition). The president’s characterization of the dossier as politically motivated is wrong, according to the co-founder of Fusion GPS. Read the full transcript of Glenn Simpson's Senate testimony (Aug. 22, 2017).

#MeToo, #Times Up Scandals

eric greitens oKMOV-TV (St. Louis), Blackmail alleged as Governor Greitens admits to extramarital affair, Laura Trager and John O'Sullivan, Jan. 10, 2018. Governor Eric Greitens (shown at right) on Wednesday night confirmed to News 4 he had an extramarital affair, an admission a months-long News 4 investigation prompted.

In a recording obtained by News 4, a woman says she had a sexual encounter with Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens and that he tried to blackmail her to keep the encounter quiet.

The details were provided to News 4 by the woman’s ex-husband, claiming the sexual relationship happened between his now ex-wife and Greitens in March 2015. News 4 is not naming the woman and she has not made an on-the-record comment about the story.

According to the ex-husband, the recording was made just days after Greitens’ and the woman’s first sexual encounter. And also that Greitens took a photograph during the encounter to use as “blackmail” according to the ex-husband.

Her now ex-husband said that statement upset him.

“He took a picture of my wife naked as blackmail. There is no worse person,” the ex-husband told News 4. And that is still what upsets him. He told News 4, “I think it's as bad as it gets, It’s as bad as it gets when someone takes advantage of something.”

In the recorded phone conversation, the woman takes on some of the blame and says that Greitens apologized after the encounter -- and told her he had deleted the picture.

During his campaign and while serving in his first year in office as Missouri’s Governor, Eric Greitens has billed himself a family man. During his campaign announcement, he stated: “I'm Eric Greitens, I'm a Navy SEAL, native Missourian and most importantly, a proud husband and father."

The Hill, Dems to invite sexual assault survivors as guests to Trump's State of the Union: report, Brandon Carter, Jan. 10, 2018. Some House Democrats are planning to invite sexual assault survivors as their guests to President Trump’s first State of the Union address, according to a new report.

An aide to Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) told NBC News that some Democrats are planning the invitations to bring awareness to the issue. "Some members will be bringing survivors of sexual assault and advocates as their guests," the aide told NBC News.

jackie speier abcThe report comes on the heels of Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), shown at right, saying Tuesday that she and other female House members are inviting lawmakers to weak black to Trump’s State of the Union in solidarity with the anti-sexual harassment “Me Too” and “Time’s Up” movements.

"This is a culture change that is sweeping the country and Congress is embracing it," Speier told The Hill in a statement. Speier said the Democratic Women’s Working Group, which includes all of the female House members, was encouraging lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to wear black to the event, and that support is very high.

More than a dozen women came forward to publicly accuse Trump of sexual harassment during the 2016 presidential campaign. Last month, three of the women banded together for the first time to call for a congressional investigation into Trump.

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Washington Post, A pastor admitted a past ‘sexual incident’ with a teen. His congregation gave him a standing ovation, Kyle Swenson, Jan. 10, 2018. During a Jan. 7 church service, pastor Andy Savage admitted to and apologized for a “sexual incident” that occurred between him and a teenage woman in 1998.

On Dec. 1, as headlines across the country blared with news about Matt Lauer’s surprise firing from the “Today” show for sexual misconduct, a woman named Jules Woodson tapped out a short email. It ran only about 80 words but was nearly 20 years in the making. “Do you remember?” the subject line read.

When Savage failed to respond to Woodson’s December email, she took her allegations public on Jan. 5, posting a detailed account of the alleged sexual assault on a blog for abuse survivors. Evangelical circles started spinning with reports of a then-college student forcing a sexual encounter with a student. She closed with three words and a hashtag. “Well I REMEMBER,” the email said. “#me-too.”

The message landed in the inbox of Andy Savage, a pastor at Highpoint Church, an evangelical Memphis mega-congregation that draws more than 2,000 Sunday worshipers.

Jan. 9

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New York Times, Trump Appears to Endorse Path to Citizenship for Millions of Immigrants, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Jan. 9, 2018. President Trump on Tuesday appeared to endorse a sweeping immigration deal that would eventually grant millions of undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship, saying he would be willing to “take the heat” politically for an approach that many of his hard-line supporters have long viewed as unacceptable.

ICE logoThe president made the remarks during an extended meeting with congressional Republicans and Democrats who are weighing a shorter-term agreement that would extend legal status for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children. Mr. Trump has said such a deal must be accompanied by new money for a border wall and measures to limit immigrants from bringing family members into the country in the future, conditions he repeated during the meeting on Tuesday.

But in backing a broader immigration measure, Mr. Trump was giving a rare public glimpse of an impulse he has expressed privately to advisers and lawmakers — the desire to preside over a more far-reaching solution to the status of the 11 million undocumented immigrants already living and working in the United States. Such action has the potential to alienate the hard-line immigration activists who powered his political rise and helped him win the presidency, many of whom have described it as amnesty for lawbreakers.

Donald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)

Donald Trump (Defense Department file photo by Dominique Pineiro)

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Washington Post, Trump systematically alienates the Latino diaspora — from El Salvador to Puerto Rico and Mexico, James Hohmann, Jan. 9, 2018. The administration’s plan to end protected status for about 200,000 Salvadorans is the latest in a full-court press to make America less hospitable to immigrants. President Trump’s nativism may cost Republicans seats in this year's midterms and could cause long-term damage to the GOP.

Media: Bannon Out At Breitbart After Book Comments

steve bannon michael vadon flickrbreitbart logoBreitbart, Stephen K. Bannon Steps Down from Breitbart News Network, Staff report, Jan. 9, 2018. Stephen K. Bannon has stepped down from Breitbart News Network, where he served as Executive Chairman since 2012. Bannon (shown in a Michael Vadon photo via Flickr) and Breitbart will work together on a smooth and orderly transition.

Bannon said, “I’m proud of what the Breitbart team has accomplished in so short a period of time in building out a world-class news platform.” According to Breitbart CEO Larry Solov, “Steve is a valued part of our legacy, and we will always be grateful for his contributions, and what he has helped us to accomplish.”

Trump Special Counsel Probe

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robert mueller full face fileWashington Post, Analysis: Six burning questions Mueller may want to ask Trump, Aaron Blake​, Jan. 9, 2018. With President Trump in negotiations to talk to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's team (he is shown at right) as part of the Russia probe, here are a few things that badly need an explanation from the commander in chief.

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Washington Post, Ex-spy behind Trump dossier was told FBI had source inside campaign, testimony reveals, Devlin Barrett and Tom Hamburger​, Jan. 9, 2018. A transcript of a congressional interview of the founder of Fusion GPS, the firm that compiled research on candidate Donald Trump, was released by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee (shown at right)dianne feinstein.

Glenn R. Simpson urged Congress to release his testimony, and Feinstein’s move marked a shift in the cooperative relationship she has had with the committee’s Republican chairman, Sen. Charles E. Grassley.

Read the full transcript of Glenn Simpson's Senate testimony (Aug. 22, 2017).

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Washington Post, Analysis: ‘Not a fabrication’: Six times the firm behind the dossier contradicted Trump’s claims, Amber Phillips, Jan. 9, 2018. The president's characterization of the dossier as politically motivated is wrong, said Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson.

National Politics

Roll Call, North Carolina Congressional Districts Struck Down for 2018, Simone Pathé, Jan. 9, 2018. General Assembly has two weeks to come up with new map. The state will likely appeal the decision to the Supreme Court and ask for a stay. The Supreme Court is currently considering two other partisan gerrymandering cases, one about state legislative districts in Wisconsin and one about Maryland’s congressional map.

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joe arpaio flagWashington Post, Joe Arpaio, ex-Arizona sheriff known for hard-line views on immigration, to run for Senate, David Weigel​, Jan. 9, 2018. Arpaio, who was pardoned by President Trump last fall after being convicted of criminal contempt, plans to run in this year’s GOP primary to replace Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).

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Washington Post, Thousands of Virginians may have voted in the wrong state House district, Ted Mellnik, Reuben Fischer-Baum and Kim Soffen​, Jan. 9, 2018. About 6,000 voters may be registered in the incorrect district. The errors are largely attributed to out-of-date technology used by county registrars.

Politico, White House plans to destroy Trump election fraud commission's voter data, Josh Gerstein, Jan. 9, 2018. The White House intends to destroy voter data collected by the election fraud commission President Donald Trump recently shut down, the Justice Department said in a court filing Tuesday night.

White House Director of Information Technology Charles Herndon said in a declaration submitted to a federal court in Washington that officials plan to erase the information, rather than transfer it to the Department of Homeland Security or the National Archives and Records Administration.Herndon also indicated that White House press secretary Sarah Sanders' comment last week that the commission's "preliminary findings" were being sent to DHS was inaccurate.

cbs news logoCBS News, Democratic congressman introduces "Stable Genius Act," Rebecca Shabad, Jan. 9, 2018.  Democratic Pennsylvania Rep. Brendan Boyle is unveiling a bill called the "Stable Genius Act" that would require all presidential candidates to undergo a medical exam and publicly disclose the results before the election. Boyle's measure would require nominees of each political party to file a report with the Federal Election Commission certifying that he or she underwent a medical exam by the Secretary of the Navy, which he said must contain the exam's results.

Global News

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north korea flagNew York Times, North Korea Agrees to Send Athletes to Winter Olympics, Choe Sang-Hun, Jan. 9, 2018. North Korea (with flag at right) agreed on Tuesday to send athletes to February’s Winter Olympics in South Korea (whose flag is below), a symbolic breakthrough after months of escalating tensions over the North’s rapidly advancing nuclear and missile programs.

south korea flag SmallIn talks held at the border village of Panmunjom, North Korean negotiators quickly accepted South Korea’s request to send a large delegation to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, next month, according to South Korean news reports. In addition to the athletes, the North will send a cheering squad and a performance-art troupe.

The event will be the first time North Korea has participated in the Winter Games in eight years. The country has competed in every Summer Olympics since 1972, except the 1984 Games in Los Angeles and the 1988 Games in Seoul, both of which it boycotted.

Fatal California Mudsides

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Washington Post, ‘Like a World War I battlefield’: At least 13 dead as mudslides wipe away Southern California homes, Max Ufberg, Eli Rosenberg and Marwa Eltagouri​, Jan. 9, 2018. Mudflows carried houses off their foundations and rose to people’s waists in the area near the coastal community of Montecito. A storm of mud descended on the town with no warning, said officials, who expect the number of deaths to increase as rescue workers continue to look for people who are missing.

#MeToo, #Times Up Scandals

ap logoAssociated Press, Ex-Idaho lawmaker facing sex-abuse inquiry kills himself, Kimberlee Kruesi, Jan. 9, 2018. A former Republican state lawmaker from Idaho who was facing a sexual abuse investigation has shot and killed himself, authorities said Tuesday. Brandon Hixon was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head in his home early Tuesday, Canyon County Coroner Vicki DeGeus-Morris said. A family member discovered his body. Officials have released no details about the criminal investigation into Hixon, 36, except that it was related to possible sexual abuse.

Daily Mail, Marvel creator Stan Lee, 95, is accused of groping nurses and demanding oral sex in the shower at his $20m Los Angeles home -- but says he is victim of a 'shake down,'  Ryan Parry, Jan. 9, 2018. Comic book legend Stan Lee has been hit with several allegations of sexual assault and harassment by nurses caring for him at his Hollywood Hills home.

The Marvel creator, 95, is alleged to have repeatedly groped and harassed a string of young female nurses employed to care for him. He is said to have asked for oral sex in the shower, walked around naked and wanted to be 'pleasured' in the bedroom.

The nursing company which employs the women and caters for celebrities and high-end clients is now in a legal dispute with icon Lee. But as yet no police complaint has been made and no lawsuits filed.

A lawyer representing Lee told DailyMail.com that Lee 'categorically denies' the 'false and despicable' allegations and fully intends to clear his 'stellar good name' and suggested the allegations could be part of a shakedown. Lee, 95, is the former president and chairman of Marvel and co-created Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, the X-Men, Hulk among many other beloved comic book heroes.

Inside Washington

colin powell secretaryPolitico, Judge: Drive to recover Colin Powell's emails could be fruitful, Josh Gerstein, Jan. 9, 2018. A federal judge has rejected the federal government's bid to toss out a lawsuit demanding official action to recover emails former Secretary of State Colin Powell sent during his four years as America's top diplomat more than a decade ago.

In a ruling Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Trevor McFadden called "anemic" the efforts the State Department and National Archives have made to obtain the messages, which Powell sent via an America Online account.

cory booker official profilePalmer Report, Opinion: Two powerful Democrats added to Senate committee investigating Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Jan. 9, 2018. This is a big deal. The resignation of Al Franken and the shift in partisan balance created by the election of Democrat Doug Jones have opened up two slots on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Today those slots were filled by Senator Cory Booker (left) of New Jersey and Senator Kamala Harris of California. It’s not a coincidence that these are two of the rising stars of the Democratic Party and two of the de facto contenders for President in 2020.

Cops, Courts Around the Nation

Black Listed News, Opinion: WATCH: Teacher Questions Superintendent’s Massive Raise, So She’s Attacked and Arrested, Wire and staff reports, Jan. 9, 2018 (video). An innocent English teacher was assaulted and arrested this week in Louisiana for merely asking why the superintendent was getting a raise when the rest of the school system is suffering. The entire infuriating interaction was captured on video and serves to make a powerful statement about who police protect.

Deyshia Hargrave, an English language arts teacher at Rene Rost Middle Schools, was addressing the Vermillion Parish school board meeting Monday night when the incident began. Hargrave — along with dozens of other teachers and staff — had filled the meeting Monday night to discuss the issue of teacher salaries and pay raises.

During the meeting, the panel gave the opportunity for anyone in the audience to voice their concerns over the vote to give the unelected superintendent a new 3-year contract with a $38,000 a year raise. Naturally, everyone in the audience wanted to speak out against this “slap in the face” because teachers in Vermillion Parish barely make $38,000 a year.

During the time for public comment, Hargrave was called upon to speak, stood up, and very eloquently and calmly voiced her concern that classroom sizes have greatly increased over the last few years as teachers’ salaries remained stagnant. Hargrave explained that they need more resources at the teaching level and watching an unelected new superintendent get a massive raise because of who he knows was disappointing.

The board headed up by president Anthony Fontana — a local defense attorney often referred to as a “tyrant” — couldn’t have cared less about Hargrave’s concerns. Still, Hargrave sat peacefully as the board voted themselves a massive raise in front of all the suffering teachers.

After the vote, Hargrave was given the floor again and was being addressed by superintendent Jerome Puyau — who was likely giddy over his new $38,000 raise — when, for no reason, a city marshal’s deputy approached Hargrave to remove her from the room.

Jan. 8

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New York Times, 200,000 From El Salvador Must Leave, U.S. Says, Miriam Jordan, Jan. 8, 2018. Salvadorans no longer qualify for temporary protection for deportation that had been granted after two devastating earthquakes in 2001, two officials said on Monday. It is the Trump administration’s latest reversal of years of immigration policies and one of the most consequential to date.

ICE logoNearly 200,000 people from El Salvador who have been allowed to live in the United States for more than a decade must leave the country, two government officials familiar with the decision said on Monday. It is the Trump administration’s latest reversal of years of immigration policies and one of the most consequential to date.

The officials, who declined to be identified because they were speaking before an official announcement on the decision later Monday morning, said that the administration was ending a humanitarian program, known as Temporary Protected Status, for Salvadorans who have been allowed to live and work legally in the United States since a pair of devastating earthquakes struck their country in 2001.

Salvadorans were by far the largest group of foreigners benefiting from temporary protected status, which shielded them from deportation if they had arrived in the United States illegally. The decision came just weeks after more than 45,000 Haitians, the second largest group, lost protections granted after Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, and it suggested that others in the program, namely Hondurans, may soon lose them as well. Nicaraguans lost their protections last year.

In the days leading up to the decision, immigrant advocates and the El Salvadoran government pleaded for the United States to extend the program, as it has several times since 2001, saying that conditions in El Salvador were still dire. A sense of dread gripped Salvadorans and their employers in California, Texas, Virginia and elsewhere.

But the Trump administration has been committed to reining in both legal and illegal immigration, most notably by ending protections for 800,000 young undocumented immigrants, known as Dreamers, beginning in March unless Congress grants them legal status before then.

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Washington Post, Salvadorans fear TPS decision will be a huge economic blow to their country, Joshua Partlow, Jan. 8, 2018. The Trump administration’s decision to eliminate the residency permits for some 200,000 Salvadoran immigrants could cause far-reaching disruptions in the small Central American country, including a steep decline in remittances from abroad and a destabilizing wave of returning citizens to a country still wracked by violence, according to Salvadoran officials and immigration experts.

ICE logoMonday’s decision could result in the deportation of immigrants who have lived in the United States for decades, whose children are U.S. citizens and who send home billions of dollars a year to relatives in El Salvador. They would be returning to a country that has had one of the highest murder rates in the world in recent years, as well as a rampant gang problem.

Under the terms of the decision announced by the Department of Homeland Security on Monday, the administration will notify Salvadorans who benefit from the program that they have until Sept. 9, 2019, to leave the United States or find a way to obtain legal residency.

Immigration: 'Dreamers'

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ICE logoWashington Post, Fate of ‘dreamers’ set to dominate next round of budget talks, Ed O'Keefe, Mike DeBonis and Erica Werner, Jan. 8, 2018 (print edition). Both sides agree that if President Trump and lawmakers can strike a deal that ends the impasse over the legal status of young immigrants, other obstacles to reaching a spending agreement could be resolved more quickly. But Democrats have balked at Trump’s demands to tie a decision to his pledge of building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, and the party is split over whether to force a government shutdown to get its way.

Inside Washington

edward royceRoll Call, House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce Announces Retirement, Bridget Bowman, Jan. 8, 2018,  Rep. Ed Royce (shown at right) announced Monday he will not be running for re-election. The California Republican is in his final term as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Royce becomes the fifth term-limited chairman to exit Congress this election cycle. House GOP rules state lawmakers can only serve three consecutive terms as chairman of a committee. Three other GOP chairmen have decided not to run for re-election, meaning eight of the 22 House committee chairmen will not be returning in 2019.

Royce, who was first elected to Congress in 1992, was a Democratic target in 2018 as one of the Orange County Republicans representing districts Hillary Clinton won in 2016. Clinton carried the 39th District by nearly 9 points, according to calculations by Daily Kos Elections. GOP presidential nominees Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain won the district in 2012 and 2008.

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michael wolff fire and furyNew York Times, Book Review: ‘Fire and Fury’ Is a Sensation. How Much Is True? Jonathan Martin, Jan. 8, 2018. A political correspondent for The Times looks at the book that has the town talking. Michael Wolff “has delivered an altogether fitting, if ultimately unsatisfying, book.”

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Washington Post, Analysis: Why ‘executive time’ is a particularly bleak scoop about Trump, Aaron Blake​, Jan. 8, 2018. A report indicates President Trump has significantly curtailed his official schedule — to the point where his first meeting is often held at 11 a.m.

Axios's Jonathan Swan reports that Trump has significantly curtailed his official schedule as president — to the point where his first meeting is often held at 11 a.m., and he spends almost the whole morning in his White House residence watching TV, tweeting and making phone calls. That chunk of his day, generally between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m., is dubbed “executive time” — a phrase that is bound to become the butt of plenty of jokes. Trump then has other periods of “executive time” sprinkled in throughout his official work schedule, which is usually between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. (Nice work if you can get it. And a short commute, too!)

The idea that Trump doesn't take his daily intelligence briefing until 11 a.m. is shocking just by itself. And whoever leaked his official schedules to Swan seems to be concerned that Trump just isn't up to the job right now.

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Democratic-Republican Campaign logosWashington Post, Why Trump and Republicans are suddenly talking up bipartisanship, James Hohmann, Jan. 8, 2018 (print edition). The best way to run against Washington in 2018 is by calling for an end to gridlock and dysfunction. Because of Senate rules, Republicans will need 60 votes to keep the government open beyond the end of next week. Now that Alabama’s Doug Jones has been sworn in, the GOP has only 51 seats. And two Republican members — John McCain and Thad Cochran — have serious health problems.

wayne madsen new observerStrategic Culture Foundation, Toxiphobe Leaders Tend to Be Paranoid Tyrants, Wayne Madsen (commentator, author and former Navy intellience officer shown at left), Jan.8, 2018. Recent revelations about President Donald Trump’s fear of poisoning from food or from his toothbrush are the fodder of political thriller novels or motion pictures. Trump’s alleged fears were revealed in the newly-published political kiss-and-tell book, Fire and Fury,” written by journalist Michael Wolff.

Trump’s fear of being poisoned has resulted in his affectation for meals that consist of two Big Macs, two fish filet sandwiches, French fries, and a chocolate milkshake, which are reportedly ordered and picked up by his Secret Service detail at the McDonald’s located three blocks from the White House at New York Avenue and 13th Street.

Trump’s opting to eat food from a fast-food restaurant arise from his concern that “deep state” forces might try to poison the food prepared by the well-vetted and US Navy-operated White House mess. US Navy mess specialists, who are part of the White House staff, also travel with the president and taste any food before it is eaten by the chief executive.

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New York Times, Fusion GPS Founder Hauled From the Shadows for the Russia Election Investigation, Matt Flegenheimer, Jan. 8, 2018. As investigators circle President Trump’s administration over ties to Russia during the 2016 campaign, Mr. Glenn R. Simpson, a 53-year-old Wall Street Journal veteran-turned-master of high-dollar research, has arrived at the biggest story of either of his careers, lurching to the center of the Russia-tinged scandal that clouds the presidency.

Media Matters, Infowars fully embraces “The Storm,” a conspiracy theory called “the new Pizzagate,” Cristina López G., Jan. 8, 2018. The outlet is now working directly with online message boards to promote the conspiracy theory that Trump is staging a counter-cabal against the “deep state” officials in government.

Brutal Cold Takes Its Toll

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Washington Post, An elderly woman went into the freezing cold to save her husband. They both died, Samantha Schmidt, Jan. 8, 2018. In a yellow-brick farmhouse, down a rural road in southwestern Ontario, Grant and Ada Triebner lived a quiet life together. It was outside their beloved farmhouse in the small municipality of Bluewater, after a bitterly cold night last week, that Grant and Ada Triebner died together within hours of each other, police told Canadian news outlets.

Grant Triebner was found dead inside an open barn on his snow-covered property Wednesday morning, having suffered a fatal “medical event,” provincial police told the Canadian Press in a statement.

Courts and Cops Around the Nation

cliven bundyLas Vegas Review-Journal, Judge in Las Vegas dismisses case against Cliven Bundy, 2 sons, David Ferrara, Jan. 8, 2018.  Mistrial declared in Bundy trial over withheld evidence. A federal judge dismissed all charges Monday against Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy (shown above), two of his sons and another man.

Justice Department log circularU.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro, who granted a mistrial in the case last month, said Monday’s decision was based, in part, on “flagrant prosecutorial misconduct.” Navarro granted the mistrial Dec. 20 after finding that the federal government improperly withheld evidence.

See related story: Associated Press via Las Vegas Review-Journal, Judge in Oregon standoff sanctions defendants for Bundy visit, Staff report, Jan. 3, 2018. An Oregon judge is taking action against two men who participated in the occupation of an Oregon wildlife refuge after Facebook photos showed they violated their release conditions by visiting the Bundy ranch in Nevada without permission.

U.S. District Judge Anna Brown has moved up Jon Ritzheimer’s date to surrender to prison to Jan. 12 from Feb. 15. Brown also ordered Montana militia leader Ryan Payne to return to home detention in Las Vegas. She also forbade Ritzheimer from having contact with any defendant from either the Oregon or Nevada standoff cases before his prison sentence begins. Payne received a similar order.

The two men have pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy in the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Oregon in 2016. Payne also faces other federal charges in Nevada along with Cliven Bundy and sons Ammon and Ryan Bundy.

Global Corruption?

benjamin netanyahu frownThe Guardian, Netanyahu son bragged about gas deal outside strip club, tape reveals, Peter  Beaumont, Jan. 8, 2018. While on tour of clubs with minder in tow, Yair Netanyahu is heard telling friend: ‘My dad made an awesome deal for your dad.’

Lawyers for Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanayhu (shown at right), tried to stop the broadcast of an embarrassing audiotape in which Netanyahu’s son Yair suggested his father helped push through a $20bn deal to the benefit of a gas tycoon.

The recording of the conversation, which took place outside a strip club, is the latest revelation to cast light on the Netanyahu family’s relationships with wealthy tycoons, which have so far spawned two corruption investigations into the prime minister’s activities.

According to the Israel Television Channel, the tape features the voices of Yair Netanyahu and Ori Maimon, a son of the gas tycoon Kobi Maimon. Maimon Sr is a shareholder in Isramco, which owns the Tamar gas fields.

According to the reports, Yair and friends, with his government-provided security guard and driver in tow, were going from one strip club to another.

He and Maimon can apparently be heard arguing about 400 shekels ($116) as they leave the club, with Yair reportedly telling his companion: “Bro, you got to spot me. My dad made an awesome deal for your dad, bro, he fought, fought in the Knesset for this, bro.”

He continues: “Bro, my dad now arranged for you a $20bn deal and you can’t spot me 400 shekels?”

The recording was apparently made in 2015, at a time when Israel was in the midst of a political controversy over newly discovered natural gas deposits and the rights to drill in them.

What is most likely to cause uproar in Israel is the revelation that a state security guard and government-provided car ferried Netanyahu’s son and his friends between strip clubs. The provision of a security detail for Netanyahu’s children was already controversial. While Yair, now 26, has a reputation for his crass behaviour, his remarks – serious or not – also feed into a growing sense of outrage in Israel over the cosy relationship between the Netanyahus and wealthy businessmen.

Jan. 7

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New York Times, Trump Defends Fitness, Saying He’s a ‘Stable Genius,’ Peter Baker and Maggie and Haberman, Jan. 7, 2018. President Trump, seeming to respond to revelations in a new book, issued an extraordinary defense of his fitness for office in a series of tweets.

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stephen bannon cropped npc 2013New York Times, Bannon Tries Backing Away From Explosive Comments, Jeremy W. Peters, Michael Tackett and Noah Weiland, Jan. 7, 2018. Stephen K. Bannon, who is quoted in a new book calling Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russians in 2016 “treasonous,” said that Mr. Trump was “both a patriot and a good man.”Mr. Bannon’s apology came as the White House continued its assault on him, with Stephen Miller, an adviser to President Trump, saying on CNN that the comments were “out of touch with reality.”

breitbart logoBreitbart, Steve Bannon Issues Statement: My Support Is ‘Unwavering’ for Trump and His Agenda, Kristina Wong, Jan. 7, 2018. Stephen K. Bannon, executive chair of Breitbart News and former White House chief strategist, issued the following statement on Sunday:

“Donald Trump, Jr. is both a patriot and a good man. He has been relentless in his advocacy for his father and the agenda that has helped turn our country around.

“My support is also unwavering for the president and his agenda — as I have shown daily in my national radio broadcasts, on the pages of Breitbart News and in speeches and appearances from Tokyo and Hong Kong to Arizona and Alabama. President Trump was the only candidate that could have taken on and defeated the Clinton apparatus. I am the only person to date to conduct a global effort to preach the message of Trump and Trumpism; and remain ready to stand in the breach for this president’s efforts to make America great again.

“My comments about the meeting with Russian nationals came from my life experiences as a Naval officer stationed aboard a destroyer whose main mission was to hunt Soviet submarines to my time at the Pentagon during the Reagan years when our focus was the defeat of ‘the evil empire’ and to making films about Reagan’s war against the Soviets and Hillary Clinton’s involvement in selling uranium to them.

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nbc news logoNBC News / Meet the Press, Michael Wolff: Trump White House facing '25th Amendment kind of stuff,' Host Chuck Todd interviews best-selling author Michael Wolff (shown atove at left), Jan. 7, 2018 (14:09 min.video). In an exclusive interview on Meet the Press, Michael Wolff, author of the new book, Fire and Fury, explains his reporting process to Chuck Todd, and describes the mood inside the Trump White House.

stephen miller white house screenshotBusiness Insider, Stephen Miller had to be escorted off CNN's set after his interview with Jake Tapper went off the rails, Linette Lopez, Jan. 7, 2017. His appearance on "State of the Union" ended abruptly after host Jake Tapper pressed him on damaging claims about President Donald Trump. Tapper said Miller was speaking "to an audience of one."

Two sources close to the situation told Business Insider that after the taping was done, Miller (shown above in a screenshot from a White House briefing) was politely asked to leave several times. He ignored those requests and ultimately security was called and he was escorted out, the sources said.

Miller's appearance on the cable network quickly went off the rails when Tapper pressed him on explosive claims about President Donald Trump that appeared in the book Fire & Fury.

More Politics Around the Nation

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Washington Post, Wide-open primaries will plunge both parties into historic battles over their identity, David Weigel and Michael Scherer, Jan. 7, 2018 (print edition). Starting this spring, thousands of contenders will compete at every level of elected office below the presidency for the chance to appear on the ballot in November. Races that Democrats once left uncontested are now brimming with candidates. Races in which Republicans had hoped to clear the field have grown crowded. And the power of national parties on both sides to moderate the conflicts remains low,

White House Financial Conflicts

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New York Times, Kushner’s Financial Israel Ties Deepen, Despite Mideast Role, Jesse Drucker, Jan. 7, 2018. An Israeli insurance company’s previously undisclosed $30 million investment in Jared Kushner’s family company could fuel the perception of conflicts of interest, as Mr. Kushner  continues his prominent diplomatic role in the region.

jared kushner ivanka trump july 4 2017 facebookLast May, Jared Kushner (shown with his wife Ivanka on a July Facebook posting) accompanied President Trump, his father-in-law, on the pair’s first diplomatic trip to Israel, part of Mr. Kushner’s White House assignment to achieve peace in the Middle East.

Shortly before, his family real estate company received a roughly $30 million investment from Menora Mivtachim, an insurer that is one of Israel’s largest financial institutions, according to a Menora executive.

The deal, which was not made public, pumped significant new equity into 10 Maryland apartment complexes controlled by Kushner’s firm. While Mr. Kushner has sold parts of his business since taking a White House job last year, he still has stakes in most of the family empire — including the apartment buildings in and around Baltimore.

Inside Washington

michael wolff fire and furyRaw Story, ‘You’ve wasted enough time’: Jake Tapper cuts off Stephen Miller after he goes berserk over tell-all book, David Edwards, Jan. 7, 2018. CNN host Jake Tapper abruptly ended an interview with White House staffer Stephen Miller after the Trump aide began shouting about a new tell-all book that casts the White House in a bad light.

During an interview that aired on Sunday, Tapper accused Miller of filibustering instead of answering questions that have been raised by Michael Wolff’s new book, Fire and Fury. Tapper noted that President Trump had recently called himself a “stable genius” in response to Wolff’s book, which alleges that the president is not fit to serve.

“It happens to be a true statement,” Miller shot back.

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john kelly o dhsWashington Post, John Kelly trained for a job serving Trump while heading up U.S. military in Latin America, Nick Miroff, Jan. 7, 2018 (print edition). People who worked alongside the four-star general (shown at right), who now serves as chief of staff, knew his worldview aligned more closely with President Trump’s than many may have realized. Kelly’s role leading the U.S. Southern Command put him at the intersection of U.S. diplomacy, national security and Washington politics.

Potomac River at C &O canal (EPA Photo)

Potomac River at C &O canal (EPA Photo)

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Washington Post, Official who improperly helped Redskins owner cut down trees to be National Park Service deputy director, Darryl Fears, Jan. 7, 2018 (print edition). P. Daniel Smith, who retired from the Park Service in 2014, helped Daniel Snyder cut down more than 130 trees to improve Snyder’s view of the Potomac River from his estate.

Miss America Contest Endangered?

nbc news logoNBC News, Future of Miss America, beauty pageants in question in the wake of #MeToo, Daniella Silva, Jan. 7, 2017. "Potentially big changes" are coming to the Miss America pageant, according to its new chairwoman Gretchen Carlson. The former Fox News anchor, who was crowned Miss America in 1989, has been a high-profile voice against workplace sexual harassment and her appointment comes after leaked sexist emails led to a shakeup of the organization's leadership.

Jan. 6

Trump Tweetstorms

djt tweet on brilliance 1 6 18

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djt official SmallWashington Post, Trump boasts he’s a ‘very stable genius’ amid questions over mental fitness, David Nakamura, Jan. 6, 2018. President Trump continued to defend himself in the wake of Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury,” which suggests that top White House aides worried that Trump was unfit for the job. In an early-morning tweetstorm, the president called being “really smart” one of his greatest assets.

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Washington Post, Analysis: Trump’s extraordinary tweetstorms mark an unsettling start to 2018, Dan Balz​, Jan. 6, 2018.  In a White House marked by a string of high-level comings and goings, there remains but one constant. That is the disorder at the center, perpetrated by a president who continues to break the norms of his office. It’s the reason this year could eclipse the previous one for political turbulence.

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Trump biographer Michael Wolff, shown on a CNBC screenshot from previous commentary

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Washington Post, Trump rages on against White House tell-all, calling it ‘a work of fiction’ and blaming weak libel laws, David Nakamura, Jan. 6, 2018. In an early-morning tweetstorm prompted after questions of his mental fitness raised by Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury,” the president said he is a “very stable genius.” During a short and wide-ranging news briefing from Camp David, Trump referred to the author as a “fraud.”

Don McGahn cato screengrabPalmer Report, Opinion/Predictions: Donald Trump’s White House Counsel prepares to leave the building, Bill Palmer, Jan. 6, 2018. This week we learned that Donald Trump’s White House Counsel Don McGahn (shown in a screenshot from a Cato Institute appearance) had tried to convince Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself in the Trump-Russia investigation, meaning that McGahn obstructed justice. Based on additional details in that reporting that could seemingly only have come from McGahn himself, it now very much appears he’s cut a deal. Now it’s become clear that McGahn is preparing to bail on the White House altogether.

Don McGahn’s wife Shannon McGahn has abruptly resigned her prominent position in Trump’s Treasury Department. Considering that Shannon is quitting her Trump administration job almost immediately after Don was outed as being guilty of a crime, and outed as probably having flipped on Trump, it’s fairly easy to see what’s going on here.

Not only is Don McGahn (a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission) preparing to bail on his White House Counsel job, his spouse is expecting the fallout to be acrimonious enough that she’s also swiftly bailing on her Trump administration job. This further points back to the notion that Don has flipped on Trump, and that it’s soon going to be officially confirmed.

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Washington Post, Justice Dept. lacks key leaders, and GOP senator threatens to keep it so, Matt Zapotosky​, Jan. 6, 2018. Some nominations have languished for months — even as President Trump’s party controls Congress. Legal analysts say the delays are more significant than others in recent memory.

Justice Department log circularNearly a year into President Trump’s administration, the Justice Department lacks Senate-confirmed appointees in leadership posts running the national security, criminal, civil rights and other key divisions. And the problem shows no sign of abating anytime soon.

On Thursday, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions revealed he was implementing new guidance to make it easier for federal prosecutors to pursue marijuana cases in states where the substance is legal, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) accused the Justice Department of trampling the will of Colorado voters and said he would “take all steps necessary, including holding DOJ nominees, until the Attorney General lives up to the commitment he made to me prior to his confirmation.”

Already, the department had a dearth of Senate confirmed nominees in leadership positions. While the top three posts are filled, the National Security Division, Criminal Division, Civil Rights Division, Tax Division, the Drug Enforcement Administration and others lack confirmed presidential appointees. A Justice Department official said the delays have been frustrating, particularly in the criminal and national security divisions.

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Washington Post, We’re seeing institutions start to waver as constraints to Trump’s impulses, Philip Bump, Jan. 6, 2018 (print edition). President Trump’s view of his power and the power of the Justice Department he leads is that this power can justifiably be leveled against his political opponents. This is in part because Trump came to office with the idea that he would wield influence at the White House as he did at Trump Tower: by fiat and without question.

Tax Fraud Prosecutions

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New York Times, A Banker Helped Americans Dodge Taxes. Was It a Crime? David Enrich, Jan. 6, 2018. Stefan Buck created Swiss bank accounts for dozens of Americans hiding money from tax collectors. The U.S. tried to hold him personally accountable.

Mr. Buck’s acquittal reverberated through the legal community. The Justice Department had now lost the three cases it had tried against foreign bankers who helped Americans avoid taxes.

Dozens more cases are pending. Those who represent accused Swiss bankers say they expect Mr. Buck’s verdict to embolden defendants and to cause prosecutors to think twice before bringing new charges.

Inside Washington

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Trump to Decide Fate of Thousands of Immigrants This Week, Claire Wang, Jan. 6, 2018. On January 8, President Donald Trump will make the most significant immigration decision of his first year in office: whether to deport the 200,000 Salvadorans in the US currently protected under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

The fate of tens of thousands of families hangs in the balance ahead of a crucial Department of Homeland Security decision Monday that could result in the mass deportation of legal immigrants.Opponents of TPS argue that it was designed as a short-term response to specific humanitarian crises, and its provisions should expire once the immediate dangers from such calamities have subsided.

Experts predict that terminating the program would be both economically and emotionally devastating. The sudden arrival in El Salvador of 200,000 TPS recipients, roughly 3 percent of the country’s population, could destabilize the economy.

The economic consequences for the US would also be substantial. Should Trump repeal the TPS for immigrants from El Salvador, Honduras and Haiti, the US gross domestic product (GDP) is estimated to drop by $164 billion over the next decade. Contributions to Social Security and Medicare from payroll taxes would fall by $6.9 billion.

Jan. 5

Trump Revelations

michael wolff CustomThe Hill, 'Fire and Fury' author disputes Trump claim he had 'zero access,' Brooke Seipel, Jan. 5, 2017. Michael Wolff, author of Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, is disputing President Trump's claim that he gave Wolff "zero access" to the White House for the book.

"I absolutely spoke to the president... it certainly was not off the record," Wolff (shown in a file photo) said on NBC's "Today Show" Friday morning, just hours after the midnight release of the book.

michael wolff fire and fury"My window into Donald Trump is pretty significant," he added. "I work like every journalist works. I have recordings. I have notes. I am certainly and absolutely in every way comfortable with what I have reported." Wolff also took a jab at Trump for his criticism, saying: "My credibility is being questioned by a man who has less credibility than anyone who walks on Earth."

djt bannon nypost et tu bannon jan 4 2018His comments come after Trump railed against the book on Twitter late Thursday. "I authorized Zero access to White House (actually turned him down many times) for author of phony book! I never spoke to him for book. Full of lies, misrepresentations and sources that don’t exist. Look at this guy’s past and watch what happens to him and Sloppy Steve!" Trump tweeted. The Murdoch-owned New York Post, generally a supported of the president, headlined its Jan. 4 cover (shown at right) with Shakesperean caption from a toga-clad Trump, "Et tu Bannon?"

In his interview with "Today" Friday morning, Wolff said his book details aides transitioning from viewing Trump as an "interesting, unique character" to reaching "the conclusion that he cannot do this job."

"This man does not read. Does not listen. He's like a pinball, just shooting off the sides," he said of Trump.

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President Trump, shown in a file photo by Gage Skidmore

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New York Times, Obstruction Inquiry Shows Trump’s Struggle to Keep Grip on Russia Investigation, Michael S. Schmidt, Jan. 5, 2018 (print edition). President Trump gave firm instructions in March to the White House’s top lawyer: stop the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, from recusing himself in the Justice Department’s investigation into whether Mr. Trump’s associates had helped a Russian campaign to disrupt the 2016 election.

 jeff sessions ag oPublic pressure was building for Mr. Sessions, who had been a senior member of the Trump campaign, to step aside. But the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, carried out the president’s orders and lobbied Mr. Sessions (shown at right) to remain in charge of the inquiry, according to two people with knowledge of the episode.

Mr. McGahn was unsuccessful, and the president erupted in anger in front of numerous White House officials, saying he needed his attorney general to protect him. Mr. Trump said he had expected his top law enforcement official to safeguard him the way he believed Robert F. Kennedy, as attorney general, had done for his brother John F. Kennedy and Eric H. Holder Jr. had for Barack Obama.

roy cohnMr. Trump then asked, “Where’s my Roy Cohn?” He was referring to his former personal lawyer and fixer (shown at left), who had been Senator Joseph R. McCarthy’s top aide during the investigations into communist activity in the 1950s and died in 1986.

The lobbying of Mr. Sessions is one of several previously unreported episodes that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has learned about as he investigates whether Mr. Trump obstructed the F.B.I.’s Russia inquiry. The events occurred during a two-month period — from when Mr. Sessions recused himself in March until the appointment of Mr. Mueller in May — when Mr. Trump believed he was losing control over the investigation.

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rebekah mercerWashington Post, Rebekah Mercer: The billionaire who backed Bannon and Trump chooses sides, Kyle Swenson, Jan. 5, 2018. Mercer, who has been called the “First Lady of the alt-right,” helped Stephen K. Bannon create President Trump. But the once-close bond between candidate, strategist and mega-donor (shown at right) was torched by the release of excerpts of a scathing book on Trump.

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Washington Post, Opinion: I asked Trump a blunt question: Do you read? Joe Scarborough, Jan. 5, 2018 (print edition). Mika Brzezinski and I had a tense meeting with Trump (shown in a photo by Gage Skidmore) following what I considered to be a bumbling debate performance in September 2015. I asked the candidate a blunt question.

donald trump w by gage skidmore“Can you read?”

Awkward silence.

“I’m serious, Donald. Do you read?” I continued. “If someone wrote you a one-page paper on a policy, could you read it?”

Washington Post, Opinion: Michael Wolff shows his nuclear button is ‘bigger’ and ‘more powerful’ than Trump’s, Jonathan Capehart, Jan. 5, 2018. The swirl of OMG surrounding Michael Wolff’s new book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, is unlike anything I’ve seen in politics. Ever. Sure, we’ve seen tell-all books and gasp-worthy revelations before from deep inside 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. But Wolff paints such a chaotic portrait of President Trump that we now know that the biggest nuclear button in the West Wing was the one on Wolff’s tape recorder.

[T]hat startling “what a child wants” appraisal of the president took me back to the blistering benediction at the conclusion of an interfaith service I attended last month in San Francisco with the Faith and Politics Institute.... Amos C. Brown, president of the San Francisco chapter of the NAACP and pastor of the Third Baptist Church of San Francisco [sermonized as follows]:

“I must say to you I cannot leave this podium with much hope,” he said. “I am disturbed about America. I am disturbed about my native land.” Brown turned to the words of H.L. Mencken to thunder blunt judgment upon Trump without mentioning his name. “Celebrated journalist H.L. Mencken … said, as democracy evolves and the common people get their desires, the day will come when the White House will be adorned with the presence of a moron as president.”

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The Hill, Steyer bought Wolff book for every member of Congress, Josh Delk, Jan. 5, 2018. Democratic mega-donor Tom Steyer says he purchased a copy of author Michael Wolff's controversial new book on the Trump presidency for each member of Congress to read. Steyer plans to hand-deliver 535 copies of "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House" to each member of Congress to read.

Wolff's book claims Trump did not expect to win the presidency and depicts Trump as incompetent and unwilling to listen to his advisers. The White House blasted the book as full of lies on Friday and tried to prevent its publication with a cease-and-desist letter. A billionaire Democratic donor and environmental activist, Steyer spent at least $20 million of his own money on the "Need to Impeach" campaign against Trump calling on members of Congress to support impeachment.

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Washington Post, Trump seeks $18 billion from lawmakers for border wall, Nick Miroff and Erica Werner​, Jan. 5, 2018. The administration laid out a detailed financial blueprint for the president’s signature campaign promise, indicating U.S. taxpayers would fund the wall for the foreseeable future. Democratic lawmakers blasted the request, which arrived in the middle of delicate budget negotiations that include the risk of a government shutdown Jan. 20 if no deal is reached.

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hillary clinton bill clinton flickr karen smith murphyWashington Post, FBI’s revival of Clinton Foundation investigation prompts accusations against Trump administration; FBI has been investigating the Clinton Foundation for months, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett​, Jan. 5, 2018. The FBI has been investigating the Clinton Foundation for months, reviving a probe that was dialed back during the 2016 campaign amid tensions between Justice Department prosecutors and FBI agents about the politically charged case, according to people familiar with the matter.

The inquiry resumed about a year ago. Agents are now trying to determine if any donations made to the foundation were linked to official acts when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013, these people said. The people did not identify what specific donations or interactions agents are scrutinizing.

chuck grassley officialWord of the investigation comes at a particularly fraught time for the Justice Department and FBI, as it tries to navigate several polarizing issues, including an ongoing special-counsel probe of President Trump and his associates, as well as demands from Republicans in Congress that Clinton be reinvestigated on a host of issues. Among those is the foundation case.

On Friday, Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), shown at right,  asked the Justice Department to investigate whether a key figure in the special-counsel probe, a former British spy who authored a dossier of allegations, may have lied to the FBI.

Inside DC: Census Sabotage?

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Washington Post, Opinion: The GOP is sabotaging this sacred mandate, Catherine Rampell, Jan. 5, 2018 (print edition). The decennial census is the country’s largest civilian mobilization. It determines where billions of federal dollars flow each year, and how many congressional and electoral college seats each state gets. The results have enormous influence over the decisions of businesses and local governments, too.

Yet despite all the brandishing of pocket Constitutions on the right, the Trump White House and Republican lawmakers are sabotaging this sacred mandate. First they refused to sufficiently fund it. Now they’re taking actions that would severely depress participation.

Reefer Madness?

cory gardner o Custom

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New York Times, Trump’s New Policy on Marijuana Draws Bipartisan Fire, Carl Hulse, Jan. 5, 2018. Lawmakers from both parties see it as a state decision and vow to force the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, to back down. One opponent is Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, shown above.

Police Shootings Remain High

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Washington Post, For a third year in a row, police shot and killed nearly 1,000 people across the U.S. in 2017, John Sullivan, Zane Anthony, Julie Tate and Jennifer Jenkins​, Jan. 5, 2018. Police fatally shot 987 people last year, or two dozen more than they killed in 2016, according to a project by The Washington Post that tracks the shootings. The grim annual tally has persisted despite widespread public scrutiny of officers’ use of fatal force.

Jan. 4

The Atlantic, Opinion: It's Been an Open Secret All Along, James Fallows, Jan 4, 2018. The scandal of Michael Wolff’s new book isn’t its salacious details—it’s that everyone in Washington has known its key themes, and refused to act.

Three months ago, when Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey of The New York Times unloaded their first big report about Harvey Weinstein’s pattern of sexual aggressiveness and abuse, the depth of detail made the story unforgettable—and as it turned out, historic. Real women went on the record, using their real names, giving specific dates and times and circumstances of what Weinstein had said or done to them.

michael wolff fire and furyThe details in Michael Wolff’s new book Fire and Fury make it unforgettable, and potentially historic. We’ll see how many of them fully stand up, and in what particulars, but even at a heavy discount, it’s a remarkable tale.

But what Wolff is describing is an open secret.

Based on the excerpts now available, Fire and Fury presents a man in the White House who is profoundly ignorant of politics, policy, and anything resembling the substance of perhaps the world’s most demanding job. He is temperamentally unstable. Most of what he says in public is at odds with provable fact, from “biggest inaugural crowd in history” onward.

donald trump apprentice color nbcWhether he is aware of it or not, much of what he asserts is a lie. His functional vocabulary is markedly smaller than it was 20 years ago; the oldest person ever to begin service in the White House, he is increasingly prone to repeat anecdotes and phrases. He is aswirl in foreign and financial complications. He has ignored countless norms of modern governance, from the expectation of financial disclosure to the importance of remaining separate from law-enforcement activities.

He relies on immediate family members to an unusual degree; he has an exceptionally thin roster of experienced advisers and assistants; his White House staff operations have more in common with an episode of The Apprentice (shown above at left) than with any real-world counterpart.

He has a shallower reserve of historical or functional information than previous presidents, and a more restricted supply of ongoing information than many citizens. He views all events through the prism of whether they make him look strong and famous, and thus he is laughably susceptible to flattering treatment from the likes of Putin and Xi Jinping abroad or courtiers at home.

reince priebus gage skidmore 3Palmer Report, Opinion: New bombshell confirms Reince Priebus and Don McGahn flipped on Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Jan. 4, 2018. Two weeks ago, Palmer Report connected the dots of the publicly available evidence and figured out that former White House Chief of staff Reince Priebus (left) and current White House Counsel Don McGahn had both flipped on Donald Trump in the Russia investigation (link). Now the New York Times has published a new bombshell story which, among many other things, confirms that Priebus and McGahn did indeed flip on Trump.

The stunning new expose from the NY Times reveals that Reince Priebus was taking copious notes during his entire time in the White House. This alone is revelatory. It’s long been known that White House Press Secretary was taking notes for the entire length of his tenure, but this was merely his custom at every political job he’s ever had, suggesting Spicer was naively doing so without realizing he was creating an evidence trail. Priebus is politically savvy enough to know that he was setting himself up as an eventual key witness by taking those notes, suggesting that he knew he would eventually need to get himself off the hook for Trump’s crimes. More importantly, Robert Mueller (shown at right) now has Priebus’ notes.

robert mueller full face fileThis means, in no uncertain terms, that Priebus has flipped. It doesn’t necessarily mean he’s cut a formal plea deal. Although Priebus arguably conspired to obstruct justice simply by discussing the Trump-Russia coverup with Donald Trump, it’s possible Mueller agreed not to charge him at all in exchange for his cooperation. Either way, we know that Priebus has flipped because he turned over his notes. It gets better.

As Palmer Report has previously explained, Priebus and Don McGahn still have the same attorney in the Russia scandal. If one of them flipped and the other didn’t, the attorney could no longer represent them both. So now that we know Priebus has flipped, we also know McGahn has flipped.

Trump Seeks Book Suppression

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Washington Post, Trump lawyers warn author, publisher of new tell-all book to halt its release, Josh Dawsey and Ashley Parker​, Jan. 4, 2018. The cease-and-desist letter comes as lawyers for President Trump said they are investigating “false statements” in the book by Michael Wolff. It follows a similar letter sent to former Trump chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, who was accused of breaching a confidentiality agreement by speaking to Wolff. Trump blasted his ex-aide, saying Bannon had “lost his mind.”

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Trump biographer Michael Wolff, shown on a CNBC screenshot from previous commentary

Hollywood Reporter, "You Can’t Make This S--- Up": My Year Inside Trump's Insane White House, Michael Wolff, Jan. 4, 2018  Author and columnist Michael Wolff was given extraordinary access to the Trump administration and now details the feuds, the fights and the alarming chaos he witnessed while reporting what turned into a new book.

michael wolff fire and furyHollywood Reporter Editor’s Note: Author and Hollywood Reporter columnist Michael Wolff’s new book, "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House" (Henry Holt & Co.), is a detailed account of the 45th president’s election and first year in office based on extensive access to the White House and more than 200 interviews with Trump and senior staff over a period of 18 months. In advance of the Jan. 9 publication of the book, which Trump is already attacking, Wolff (shown below in a screenshot from an NBC News interview) has written this extracted column about his time in the White House based on the reporting included in "Fire and Fury."

I interviewed Donald Trump for The Hollywood Reporter in June 2016, and he seemed to have liked — or not disliked — the piece I wrote. "Great cover!" his press assistant, Hope Hicks, emailed me after it came out (it was a picture of a belligerent Trump in mirrored sunglasses).

michael wolff nbc screenshot mtp 1 7 17After the election, I proposed to him that I come to the White House and report an inside story for later publication — journalistically, as a fly on the wall — which he seemed to misconstrue as a request for a job. No, I said. I'd like to just watch and write a book. "A book?" he responded, losing interest. "I hear a lot of people want to write books," he added, clearly not understanding why anybody would. "Do you know Ed Klein?"— author of several virulently anti-Hillary books. "Great guy. I think he should write a book about me." But sure, Trump seemed to say, knock yourself out.

djt bannon cuck fight nydaily news jan 4 2018Since the new White House was often uncertain about what the president meant or did not mean in any given utterance, his non-disapproval became a kind of passport for me to hang around — checking in each week at the Hay-Adams hotel, making appointments with various senior staffers who put my name in the "system," and then wandering across the street to the White House and plunking myself down, day after day, on a West Wing couch.

The West Wing is configured in such a way that the anteroom is quite a thoroughfare — everybody passes by. Assistants — young women in the Trump uniform of short skirts, high boots, long and loose hair — as well as, in situation-comedy proximity, all the new stars of the show: Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer, Jared Kushner, Mike Pence, Gary Cohn, Michael Flynn (and after Flynn's abrupt departure less than a month into the job for his involvement in the Russia affair, his replacement, H.R. McMaster), all neatly accessible.

The nature of the comedy, it was soon clear, was that here was a group of ambitious men and women who had reached the pinnacle of power, a high-ranking White House appointment — with the punchline that Donald Trump was president. Their estimable accomplishment of getting to the West Wing risked at any moment becoming farce.

Shown above, the New York Daily News headlined the fracas "Cuck Fight" on the newspaper's Jan. 4 front page, thereby invoking an off-color insult used by alt-right partisans as well as the more familiar term of "cock fight."

Suppressing the Vote

Center for American Progress, Voter Purges Prevent Eligible Americans from Voting, Danielle Root and Liz Kennedy, Jan. 4, 2018. On January 10, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, et.al., a case that will determine whether states can remove individuals from voter rolls for simply failing to vote in previous elections. Every American has the fundamental right to vote, but from 2011 to 2014, Ohio removed a reported 846,000 registered Americans from its voter rolls for infrequent voting over a six-year period.

Voter purges such as the one in Ohio are often targeted to keep certain groups, particularly communities of color, from casting ballots that count. If the Supreme Court approves Ohio’s voter removal process, it will give states the green light to manipulate their voter rolls and keep eligible Americans from participating in elections, endangering fair representation for all.

On June 28, 2017—the same day President Trump’s newly dissolved voter fraud commission requested sensitive information on state voter rolls—the Department of Justice sent a letter to states requesting information on their “list maintenance,” or voter removal, procedures. For many, this move—and its timing—signified the Trump administration’s intent to encourage or require voter purges across the country.

Here are some of the ways in which purges are being implemented:

Inside Washington

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New York Times, Trump Administration Takes Step That Could Threaten Marijuana Legalization Movement, Charlie Savage and Jack Healy, Jan. 4, 2018.  The Trump administration freed federal prosecutors on Thursday to more aggressively enforce marijuana laws, effectively threatening to undermine the legalization movement that has spread to six states, most recently California.

In a move that raised doubts about the viability and growth of the burgeoning commercial marijuana industry, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded an Obama-era policy that had discouraged federal prosecutors from bringing charges of marijuana-related crimes in states that have legalized sales of the drug.

In a statement, Mr. Sessions said the Obama-era guidance undermined “the rule of law” and the Justice Department’s mission to enforce federal statutes.

“Today’s memo on federal marijuana enforcement simply directs all U.S. attorneys to use previously established prosecutorial principles that provide them all the necessary tools to disrupt criminal organizations, tackle the growing drug crisis, and thwart violent crime across our country,” he said.

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Washington Post, U.S. cuts military aid to Pakistan as feud, fueled by Trump tweet, flares up, Missy Ryan, Annie Gowen and Carol Morello, Jan. 4, 2018.  The suspension of security funding, which the Trump administration blamed on Pakistan’s reluctance to curb extremists, came days after the president tweeted that Pakistan had repaid years of generous aid with “lies & deceit” — a claim Islamabad angrily denied.

More On Celebrity Sex Research

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Washington Post, I read decades of Woody Allen’s private notes. He’s obsessed with teenage girls, Richard Morgan, Jan. 4, 2018.  His 56-box archive is filled with misogynist and lecherous musings. The first person known to read Allen’s entire 56-box personal archive writes that it is filled with misogynist and lecherous musings.

hope hicks strategic communications directorWashington Times, Hope Hicks' family, friends say she'll need therapy after she leaves Trump: Report, Anna Giaritelli, Jan. 4, 2018. Family and friends of Hope Hicks (shown at right) believe the White House communications director will have to seek professional counseling after she leaves her job in the administration, according to a report published Thursday.

"Following the Trump victory and her [Hope Hicks] move into the White House, her friends and intimates talked with great concern about what kind of therapies and recuperation she would need after her tenure was finally over," an excerpt from Michael Wolff's forthcoming book "Fire and Fury" stated, as reprinted in GQ.

Hicks, 29, was the first person President Trump's campaign hired in 2015. She had worked for Matthew Hiltzik's New York-based public relations firm before jumping to Ivanka Trump's fashion brand, where the eldest Trump daughter recommended Hicks for her father's campaign.

"As the campaign progressed, moving from novelty project to political factor to juggernaut, Hicks’ family increasingly, and incredulously, viewed her as if having been taken captive," Wolff wrote.

Despite having worked directly for Trump over the past two and a half years, the now-president has had moments of intense rage with her performance. "On more than one occasion, after a day – one of the countless days – of particularly bad notices, the president greeted her, affectionately, with 'You must be the world’s worst PR person,'" the same excerpt stated.

Hicks took over for former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci in August and served as press secretary during the campaign.

Consumer Issues

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New York Times, 2 Major Flaws Are Discovered in the World’s Computers, Cade Metz and Nicole Perlroth, Jan. 4, 2018 (print edition). Called Meltdown, the first and most urgent flaw affects nearly all microprocessors made by Intel. The second, Spectre, affects most other chips.

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Washington Post, Sears Holdings has closed 400 stores in the past year; Now it’s closing 103 more, Abha Bhattarai, Jan. 4, 2018. The beleaguered retailer said it will close 64 Kmart stores and 39 Sears stores by early April. Macy’s also announced that it would close 11 U.S. stores in coming weeks as several major retailers shutter locations in an effort to cut costs.

More Book Controversy

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michael wolff CustomWashington Post, Michael Wolff’s Trump book: The latest in a career of controversy, Kyle Swenson, Jan. 4, 2018. Wolff (shown in a file photo) has made his career lobbing critical bombs from the pages of prestigious magazines like New York and Vanity Fair. He has also, as The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi wrote on Wednesday, been accused by critics of “pushing the facts as far as they’ll go, and sometimes further than they can tolerate.” Attacks have already started on the book’s credibility, coming from both beat reporters dialed into the administration, and far right Trump backers like Alex Jones.

Chaos In Washington?

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Washington Post, Opinion: We’re rushing toward the breaking point, E.J. Dionne Jr., Jan. 4, 2018. Can our government function normally when President Trump tweets about his “button” being bigger than that of an armed adversary? Can there be business as usual when the word “insane” is being applied with increasing frequency to his actions, and when one of his most loyal supporters has called a meeting between Russian operatives and Trump campaign officials “treasonous”?

Only a few days into the new year, there is a striking disconnect in the nation’s capital between the ordinary and the mind-boggling — between the sorts of transactions politicians routinely make to keep the country running and displays of the irrational, the abusive and the menacing emanating from the White House.

There has been an inclination over the past year in both politics and journalism to separate Trump’s tweets and other outbursts from the realities of governing. The idea is that his eruptions are either (a) largely irrelevant forms of his letting off steam or (b) signs of a brilliance beyond the comprehension of mere mortals. What looks to most of us like madness is cast as genius in setting up enemies, signaling his base or distracting us from one thing or another.

Puerto Rican Post-Hurricane Suffering

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, After Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico Faces Indifference, WhoWhatWhy Staff, Jan. 4, 2018. More than 100 years ago, in September of 1899, a category 4 hurricane hit Puerto Rico, killing 3400 people. A headline in the New York Times revealed the attitude of the day: SUFFERING IN PUERTO RICO: Hurricane Deprived Lower Classes of All Means of Livelihood; MANY PEONS ARE STARVING.

Such expressions — “lower classes”, “peons”— are painful to our modern, presumably enlightened sensibilities, but they are used in private by far too many people in the US today. And we wonder if the attitude reflected by these words is the real reason why the US government has done so little to save Puerto Rico. A statement signed by over 200 scholars, professors, writers, and Latin American experts contains these heartbreaking words: “Efforts are delayed for a population that the federal government considers expendable.”  

The situation is of course much more complicated. Below we present a small collection of insightful comments from a variety of sources on the issue. While it is complex, it is also tragically simple.

Puerto Ricans are not citizens like the rest of us, because Puerto Rico is not a state. It is a so-called commonwealth of the United States, whose people are denied electoral representation in the federal government that decides their political destiny: no voice in Congress, no vote in Presidential elections. This arrangement, born of America’s conquest of the island, in the Spanish-American War, makes the islanders more like colonial subjects than citizens of a democratic republic. They are, in effect, second-class citizens.

What's Next For Muller?

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Washington Post, Michael Wolff’s book leaves breadcrumbs for Mueller to investigate, Jennifer Rubin (shown at right), Jan. 4, 2018. Michael Wolff’s new book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” should set off alarm bells for President Trump’s legal team. Two tidbits in particular point to areas of inquiry for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

Most important of Wolff’s reports is Trump’s drafting while on Air Force One of the statement concerning his son’s June 2016 meeting with Russian officials. The Post reported last summer:

fbi logoFlying home from Germany on July 8 aboard Air Force One, Trump personally dictated a statement in which Trump Jr. said that he and the Russian lawyer had “primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children” when they met in June 2016, according to multiple people with knowledge of the deliberations. The statement, issued to the New York Times as it prepared an article, emphasized that the subject of the meeting was “not a campaign issue at the time.”

The claims were later shown to be misleading.

Justice Department log circularOver the next three days, multiple accounts of the meeting were provided to the news media as public pressure mounted, with Trump Jr. ultimately acknowledging that he had accepted the meeting after receiving an email promising damaging information about Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help his father’s campaign.

This is damning both because it involves an effort arguably to cover up the real purpose of the meeting and, more important, because Trump was personally involved. This would be one powerful element in an obstruction-of-justice charge, if one is forthcoming, and certainly in considering impeachment, which would look beyond the four-corners of criminal statutes to see if Trump abused his office (crafting a misleading statement from the White House) for nefarious purposes (concealing a possibly incriminating meeting).

Trump, Sessions Name Christie Lawyer As Top Federal Prosecutor In New Jersey

NJ Observer, Christie Bridgegate Lawyer Named Interim US Attorney, Christian Hetrick and Steve Cronin, Jan. 4, 2018. One of Gov. Chris Christie’s lawyers for the Bridgegate scandal has landed a job as New Jersey’s top federal prosecutor.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Wednesday that he will appoint Craig Carpenito as interim U.S. attorney for New Jersey effective Friday. He will replace Paul Fishman, who resigned in March along with 45 other U.S. attorneys appointed by former President Barack Obama. Sessions named 17 interim U.S. attorneys on Wednesday.

chris christie good hsCarpenito defended Christie from a now dismissed citizen’s complaint that accused the governor of having knowledge of the Bridgegate plot, in which two Christie allies were convicted of helping close two lanes to the George Washington Bridge to punish the Fort Lee mayor for declining to endorse Christie’s re-election in 2013.

Carpenito’s bio on his law firm’s website notes that he “represents a key figure in ‘Bridgegate'” in the investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, the office he will now be running. That could mean Carpenito will have to recuse himself on Bridgegate-related matters, as an Appellate Court is still considering the case.

Christie praised Sessions’ selection and called Carpenito “an outstanding lawyer.” For those keeping score, another one of Christie’s Bridgegate lawyers, Christopher Wray, is now the FBI director.

Global News

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pakistan flag wavingWashington Post, Feud between U.S. and Pakistan flares up after Trump’s ‘lies & deceit’ tweet, Missy Ryan and Annie Gowen, Jan. 4, 2018. Even by the standard of their tumultuous relationship, the growing feud between the United States and Pakistan is unusually serious, with the potential to trigger a breakdown in ties that could threaten cooperation on intelligence, nuclear safety and America’s war in Afghanistan.

Tensions flared this week after President Trump lashed out in his first tweet of the new year, saying Pakistan had repaid U.S. assistance with “nothing but lies & deceit,” a claim that Pakistani leaders labeled as “completely incomprehensible.”

The Trump administration, led by senior officials known for taking a hard line on Pakistan, has been considering a range of punitive measures to force Islamabad to eliminate safe havens used by militants blamed for stoking violence in Afghanistan. The United States has withheld $255 million in military aid since last year.

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iran flag mapMoon of Alabama, Analysis: Iran, Europe Rejects U.S. Drive To War, B, Jan. 4, 2018. Protests against the fallout of neoliberal policies by the Rouhani government are surely justified. Even Supreme Leader Khamenei supports them. But in late December people chanting "regime change" slogans started to take part. They were obviously pushed from abroad by the MEK, the monarchist and other CIA front groups.

The situation changed. Directed through Telegram channels, groups of young rioters tried to take over police stations and to gain access to weapons. The Iranian people saw the dangers therein and did not support such behavior. The original protesters disappeared, their important voice was no longer heard. But for lack of local backing the riots soon died down.

The riots exposed the anti-Iran propagandists and imperial dreamers who believe that there is some significant internal movement in Iran against the Islamic Republic. But a few ten-thousand total protesters are absolutely insignificant when they have no backing from the masses. Still, the U.S. tried to use the riots to expand sanctions against Iran. It was slapped down when it brought the issue up at the UN Security Council.

Moore Accuser Sues For Defamation

roy moore screenshot croppedAssociated Press via Time Magazine, Roy Moore Accuser Leigh Corfman Files Defamation Lawsuit Against Him, Staff report, Jan. 4, 2018. A woman who says failed U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore molested her when she was 14 has filed a defamation lawsuit Moore and his campaign. Leigh Corfman filed the lawsuit Thursday. The suit says Moore and his campaign defamed her and made false statements as they denied the accusations in the midst of the U.S. Senate race in Alabama.

Corfman says Moore sexually abused her when she was 14 and then “called me a liar and immoral when I publicly disclosed his misconduct.”

Corfman says she was 14 when Moore, then a prosecutor in his 30s, touched her during an encounter. Moore has denied the allegations. Corfman was one of several women who said Moore pursued them when they were teenagers. The lawsuit asks Moore to publicly apologize.

Ivanka Turns Off Bannon?

Newsweek via Raw Story, Ivanka Trump unfollowed Steve Bannon on Twitter, Summer Meza, Jan. 4, 2018. Ivanka Trump no longer follows former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon on Twitter, as of Thursday afternoon. She either unfollowed or blocked Bannon, according to the bot account @TrumpsAlert, which tracks changes to the Trump family’s Twitter accounts. The change comes one day after dozens of salacious details disparaging the Trumps were revealed in excerpts from journalist Michael Wolff’s upcoming book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.

Media: New York Times National Security Tells All

The Intercept, All The News Unfit to Print: James Risen on His Battles with Bush, Obama, and the New York Times, Jeremy Scahill interviews longtime New York Times reporter James Risen, Jan. 4, 2018 (podcast).

james risen h sJames Risen, shown at left, is a legend in the world of investigative and national security journalism. As a reporter for the New York Times, Risen broke some of the most important stories of the post 9/11 era, from the warrantless surveillance against Americans conducted under the Bush-Cheney administration, to black prison sites run by the CIA, to failed covert actions in Iran. Risen has won the Pulitzer and other major journalism awards. But perhaps what he is now most famous for is fighting a battle under both the Bush and Obama administrations as they demanded — under threat of imprisonment — the name of one of Risen’s alleged confidential sources. In the end, Risen prevailed and refused to testify and he was not locked up. But during the course of his case, there were rulings that could have far reaching implications for journalists, particularly in a climate where the president of the United States is characterizing news outlets as enemies of the people, contemplating arresting reporters, and is conducting at least 27 leak investigations. All before the end of his first year in office.

 But it isn’t just the government that Risen had to fight. He also battled his own editors and other powerful figures at the New York Times. Some of those people pushed the narrative that Iraq had WMDs and they regularly colluded with senior officials at the CIA, NSA, and White House in an effort to kill — or delay publication of — Risen’s stories. James Risen has now written an extensive account of his years at the New York Times and he names names: The Biggest Secret: My Life as a New York Times Reporter in the Shadow of the War on Terror..

Risen is now a senior national security correspondent at The Intercept, where his incredible inside story has now been published. We talked with Risen about his career at the New York Times in a special edition of Intercepted. Below is the transcript of that conversation.

Jeremy Scahill: Jim, welcome to this special edition of Intercepted.

James Risen: Thanks for having me.

JS: So, as I read this piece, first of all, I just have to say it’s phenomenal and unusual. I can’t recall a national security reporter writing this kind of personal, autobiographical, chronicling of their time as a reporter, the challenges they face working for the most reputable newspaper in the world and fighting battles against both Republican and Democratic administrations. So, you know, I encourage people to read every word of this article.

And I’m particularly struck by what I believe is just a fact that this piece is going to be so educational and inspirational for young reporters who aspire to do the kind of work that you’ve done, Jim, as a national security reporter.

So, I’d like to start from the beginning and have you explain how you decided to become a national security reporter and how you got into all of this.

Jan. 3

djt staff nypost cover july 29 17

The New York Post, a Murdoch-owned tabloid that generally provides favorable coverage to President Trump, last year published the above portrayal, with Steve Bannon at top left. Bannon is also shown below on a Time Magazine cover that generated Trump fury, then forgiveness.

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Washington Post, Trump slams Bannon: ‘When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind,’ Josh Dawsey and Ashley Parker​, Jan. 3, 2018.  President Trump released a remarkably fiery statement after Stephen K. Bannon, his former chief strategist and campaign chief, mocked the president’s intellect, criticized the operations of the White House and torched Donald Trump Jr. and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.President Trump unleashed on his former chief strategist and campaign manager Wednesday, issuing a long and unusual statement questioning Stephen K. Bannon’s mental stability, honesty and political influence.

steve bannon cover time“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency,” the statement said. “When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Steve was a staffer who worked for me after I had already won the nomination by defeating seventeen candidates, often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican party.”

Trump continued: “Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn’t as easy as I make it look. Steve had very little to do with our historic victory, which was delivered by the forgotten men and women of this country. Yet Steve had everything to do with the loss of a Senate seat in Alabama held for more than thirty years by Republicans. Steve doesn’t represent my base — he’s only in it for himself.”

The statement from Trump came after Bannon has criticized Trump and his family in recent interviews — mocking the president’s intellect, criticizing the operations of the White House and torching Donald Trump Jr. and the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner.

His most recent comments, published online Wednesday in excerpts from a book by journalist Michael Wolff, came two weeks after a Bannon profile in Vanity Fair that infuriated the president and his senior aides.

breitbart logoBreitbart, Book: Steve Bannon Calls Kushner, Manafort, Don Jr. Trump Tower Meeting with Russians ‘Treasonous, Charlie Spiering, Jan. 3, 2018. Former Trump Chief Strategist Steve Bannon says the Mueller investigation is targeting the alleged “greasy” money laundering of Trump associates like Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort as a path to attack President Trump, according to a new book by Michael Wolff called Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.

michael wolff fire and furyDavid Smith reports in the Guardian: "Bannon has criticised Trump’s decision to fire Comey. In Wolff’s book, obtained by the Guardian ahead of publication from a bookseller in New England, he suggests White House hopes for a quick end to the Mueller investigation are gravely misplaced."

“You realise where this is going,” Bannon is quoted as saying. “This is all about money laundering. Mueller chose [senior prosecutor Andrew] Weissmann first and he is a money-laundering guy. Their path to fucking Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr and Jared Kushner (shown at right) … It’s as plain as a hair on your face.”

jared kushner head shotLast month it was reported that federal prosecutors had subpoenaed records from Deutsche Bank, the German financial institution that has lent hundreds of millions of dollars to the Kushner property empire. Bannon continues: “It goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner shit. The Kushner shit is greasy. They’re going to go right through that. They’re going to roll those two guys up and say play me or trade me.”

Scorning apparent White House insouciance, Bannon reaches for a hurricane metaphor: “They’re sitting on a beach trying to stop a Category Five.”

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

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

stephen bannon cropped npc 2013Roll Call, Trump Tower Meeting With Russian Was ‘Treasonous,’ Bannon Says, John T. Bennett, Jan. 3, 2018. Former top Trump aide: Mueller probe focused on money laundering. Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is calling a 2016 meeting between senior Trump campaign aides and a Russian lawyer they believed had dirt on Hillary Clinton “treasonous.”

In an interview for a coming book by Michael Wolff, Bannon (shown at right in a file photo) slammed Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner (President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, below at left on the cover of Time Magazine, and a close campaign and White House adviser) and Paul Manafort (his campaign chairman at the time of the meeting who has been indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller).

donald trump jr time cover cropped“The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor — with no lawyers. They didn’t have any lawyers,” Bannon continued, according to the Guardian. fbi logo“Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad s***, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.”

The Guardian obtained a copy of the book and first reported Bannon’s comments.

Former Trump Campaign Manager Lashes Back At Special Counsel

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paul manafortWashington Post,  Ex-Trump campaign chairman Manafort challenges his indictment in Russia probe by filing lawsuit against Mueller, Spencer S. Hsu and Matt Zapotosky, Jan. 3, 2017. Paul J. Manafort challenged his indictment by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III in a federal lawsuit, saying Mueller’s and the Justice Department’s prosecution of him concerns business dealings that have nothing to do with their investigation of Russian interference in last year’s presidential campaign.

The lawsuit contends special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is exceeding his authority by focusing his investigation not on Manafort’s actions with the Trump campaign in 2016 but alleged fraud, conspiracy and money laundering in his secret lobbying for pro-Russian Ukrainian groups.

Scandal Allegations Among White House Staff

Groopspeak.com, Trump’s Young Staffer Abruptly Storms Off After Sexual Comment, Wire reports, Jan. 3, 2018. Explosive allegations in a new book by Michael Wolff roiled the White House today, as President Trump is again under fire for his treatment of women due to a revealed run-in WH Communications Director Hope Hicks.

According to Wolff, the author of Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, Trump referred to Hicks as a “piece of tail” in a moment that sent her fleeing from the room in humiliation. She is shown in a file photo with Corey Lewandowski, at one point the Trump campaign manager.

hope hicks cory lewandowski“Hicks sat in Trump Tower with Trump and his sons, worried about Lewandowski’s treatment in the press and wondering aloud how she might help him,” the book reads. “Trump, who otherwise seemed to treat Hicks in a protective and even paternal way, looked up and said, ‘Why? You’ve already done enough for him. you’re the best piece of tail he’ll ever have’ sending Hicks running from the room.”

It is not known whether Lewandowski (with Hicks in photo below) was privy to Trump’s treatment of Hicks, but it is known that the pair dated for an undisclosed length of time.

Bannon plays a large part in Fire and Fury, and accuses Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr. of “treasonous” behavior for their meeting in New York with a Russian lawyer who claimed to have opposition research on Hillary Clinton.

The populist Breitbart big-shot rails against Don Jr. in numerous excerpts, and told Wolff that Robert Mueller is going to crack the First Son “like an egg.”

Wolff (shown in a file photo) also claims in the book that Trump didn’t actually want to win, that his campaign in 2015-16 was a plot to fail on-purpose and still make money. In other words, a political version of The Producers.

Trump, the book clams, was shocked and crestfallen when he heard the news of his unlikely electoral win.

rupert murdoch newBut in the #MeToo era, the story of 45 calling a well-respected and accomplished woman – or any woman – a “piece of tail” in the White House will reverberate farther than any historical horse-race intrigue.

The POTUS should be grateful that he wasn’t photographed with Hicks too often, but this one just had its “creep” factor intensified for many viewers:

The book also alleges that Trump called Rupert Murdoch (shown above) a “f***ing idiot” and Sally Yates a “c***.”

 Spiking CIA Stories At The New York Times

james risen h sThe Intercept, The Biggest Secret: My Life as a New York Times Reporter in the Shadow of the War on Terror. James Risen (shown at left), Jan. 3, 2018. I was sitting in the nearly empty restaurant of the Westin Hotel in Alexandria, Virginia, getting ready for a showdown with the federal government that I had been trying to avoid for more than seven years.

The Obama administration was demanding that I reveal the confidential sources I had relied on for a chapter about a botched CIA operation in my 2006 book, State of War. I had also written about the CIA operation for the New York Times, but the paper’s editors had suppressed the story at the government’s request. It wasn’t the only time they had done so.

My case was part of a broader crackdown on reporters and whistleblowers that had begun during the presidency of George W. Bush and continued far more aggressively under the Obama administration, which had already prosecuted more leak cases than all previous administrations combined.

Obama officials seemed determined to use criminal leak investigations to limit reporting on national security. But the crackdown on leaks only applied to low-level dissenters; top officials caught up in leak investigations, like former CIA Director David Petraeus, were still treated with kid gloves.

 I discovered that there was, in effect, a marketplace of secrets in Washington, in which White House officials and other current and former bureaucrats, contractors, members of Congress, their staffers, and journalists all traded information. This informal black market helped keep the national security apparatus running smoothly, limiting nasty surprises for all involved. The revelation that this secretive subculture existed, and that it allowed a reporter to glimpse the government’s dark side, was jarring. It felt a bit like being in the Matrix.

The battles over national security reporting in the years after 9/11 have yielded mixed results. In my view, the mainstream media has missed some key lessons from the debacle over WMD reporting before the war in Iraq. Times reporter Judy Miller became an easy scapegoat, perhaps because she was a woman in the male-dominated field of national security reporting.

JFK Murder Investigation: "The Man Who Knew Too Much"

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Investigation: How to Avoid Being Linked to the JFK Assassination: Get Yourself Locked Up, Dick Russell (shown below at left), Jan. 3, 2018. Why would a man who knew Lee Harvey Oswald and had apparent connections to intelligence walk into a bank, shoot two holes in a wall, and await arrest months prior to JFK’s assassination? There is no better alibi than being in federal prison.

Dick RussellOn September 20, 1963, two months before President John F. Kennedy was gunned down in Dallas, a highly decorated Army veteran named Richard Case Nagell walked into a bank in El Paso, fired two shots into a wall from a revolver, and went outside to await arrest. There was speculation, even by the officer who put him in handcuffs, that for some reason he wanted to be locked up.

dick russell man who knew too much coverNagell was charged with attempted bank robbery. Only later would he indicate to the FBI that he feared being implicated in an “inimical act” — one that involved accused JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.

What could be known of Nagell’s strange saga was featured in my book on the Kennedy assassination, The Man Who Knew Too Much. Now recent releases from the National Archives of long-withheld CIA and FBI assassination-related files shed new light on Nagell, and on which branches of the CIA had the strongest interest in him.

Trump Scraps His Controversial Voting Fraud Commission

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New York Times, Trump Dissolves His Panel Investigating 2016 Election Fraud, Michael Tackett and Michael Wines, Jan. 3, 2017. President Trump on Wednesday abruptly shut down a White House commission he had charged with investigating voter fraud, ending a brief quest for evidence of election theft that generated lawsuits, outrage and some scholarly testimony, but no real evidence that American elections are at all corrupt.

Mr. Trump did not acknowledge the commission’s inability to find evidence of fraud, but cast the closing as a result of continuing legal challenges.

“Despite substantial evidence of voter fraud, many states have refused to provide the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity with basic information relevant to its inquiry,” Mr. Trump said in a White House statement.

“Rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense, today I signed an executive order to dissolve the commission, and have asked the Department of Homeland Security to review these issues and determine next courses of action,” he said.

In fact, no state has uncovered significant evidence to support the president’s claim, and election officials, including many Republicans, have strongly rejected it.Continue reading the main story  

Mr. Trump established the commission after his repeated insistence, without credible evidence, that widespread voter fraud explained how Hillary Clinton received about 2.9 million more votes while Mr. Trump won the presidency in the Electoral College.

kris kobach kansas SmallIt is an issue that continues to resonate with his base voters, and Mr. Trump has mentioned it in recent rallies, but there have been few Republicans in Congress who have followed him.

The closing of the commission was a blow for Kris Kobach, the secretary of state of Kansas and the panel’s vice chairman. Mr. i-l-photos Kobach (shown above) was one of a few state officials to support Mr. Trump’s contention of widespread fraud.

Global News: Korea 

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New York Times, North Korea Reopens Border Hotline With the South, Choe Sang-Hun, Jan. 3, 2018. The return of the hotline, suspended nearly two years ago, could lead to direct dialogue between the two Koreas after years of hair-trigger tensions.

kim jong un suitThe move came two days after North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un (shown at right in a file photo from a United Nations appearance), made a rare overture to the South. 

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New York Times, Trump Taunts Kim: ‘I Too Have a Nuclear Button,’ Peter Baker and Michael Tackett, Jan. 3, 2018 (print edition). In a tweet, the president said his nuclear button was “much bigger & more powerful” than Mr. Kim’s. “And my Button works!”

Inside Washington

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nsa official logoWashington Post, NSA quickly losing top talent, as highly skilled workers move to the private sector, Ellen Nakashima and Aaron Gregg, Jan. 3, 2018 (print edition). Since 2015, several hundred hackers, engineers and data scientists have left the spy service, some disillusioned with the agency’s leadership and an unpopular reorganization. The potential impact of the departures on national security is significant, according to current and former U.S. officials.

dana gresham doug jones Custom 2

Newly elected U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, an Alabama Democrat shown at right, with his newly named chief of staff, Dana Gresham

Alabama Political Reporter, Doug Jones, to be sworn in Wednesday, hires only Democratic African American chief of staff, Chip Brownlee, Jan. 3, 2018. Sen.-elect Doug Jones, who will be sworn in Wednesday, will be the only Democratic senator this Congress to hire an African American chief of staff. Jones on Tuesday announced three other top staff picks, including his legislative director, assistant legislative director and transition adviser.

Alabama’s newly elected senator has chosen Birmingham native Dana Gresham, a former Obama-era official with 14 years of experience on Capitol Hill, as his chief of staff. Gresham served as assistant secretary for government affairs at the U.S. Department of Transportation, leading the Legislative Affairs Office.

Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, and Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, are the only two senators with black chiefs of staff.

Legal, Security Costs For Sex Accusers Defended

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Washington Post, Lawyer claims donations fall far short of high costs of defamation suit against Trump, Frances Stead Sellers, Jan. 3, 2018. Facing questions about how a defamation suit against President Trump is being funded, a lawyer for plaintiff Summer R. Zervos has issued a statement saying that the Internet fundraising appeal she has hosted on her website has brought in only a fraction of what it will take to pursue the case.

gloria allred 2012 Custom“To date the fund has received donations of just under $30,000,” wrote prominent women’s rights lawyer Gloria Allred in a statement published Sunday on her Facebook page. (She is shown at right in a file photo from 2012.)

“We anticipate that the costs alone in this case will be hundreds of thousands of dollars,” wrote Allred, who said that she is not charging any fees for her own legal work, that neither of the two law firms involved in the case has been paid fees, and that “the donated funds have not and will not be used to personally benefit Ms. Zervos in any way.”

The statement comes as the #metoo movement continues to roil the spheres of show business, media and politics, and in the immediate wake of an article published in the Hill alleging that Allred’s daughter, Lisa Bloom, “sought to arrange compensation from donors and tabloid media outlets for women who made or considered making sexual misconduct allegations against Donald Trump.”

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New York Times, Opinion: The Republicans’ Fake Investigations, Glenn R.Simpson and Peter Fritsch, Jan. 3, 2018 (print edition). Glenn R. Simpson and Peter Fritsch, both former journalists, are the founders of the research firm Fusion GPS.

A generation ago, Republicans sought to protect President Richard Nixon by urging the Senate Watergate committee to look at supposed wrongdoing by Democrats in previous elections. The committee chairman, Sam Ervin, a Democrat, said that would be “as foolish as the man who went bear hunting and stopped to chase rabbits.”

Today, amid a growing criminal inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, congressional Republicans are again chasing rabbits. We know because we’re their favorite quarry.

In the year since the publication of the so-called Steele dossier — the collection of intelligence reports we commissioned about Donald Trump’s ties to Russia — the president has repeatedly attacked us on Twitter. His allies in Congress have dug through our bank records and sought to tarnish our firm to punish us for highlighting his links to Russia. Conservative news outlets and even our former employer, The Wall Street Journal, have spun a succession of mendacious conspiracy theories about our motives and backers.

Congress should release transcripts of our firm’s testimony, so that the American people can learn the truth about our work and most important, what happened to our democracy.We are happy to correct the record. In fact, we already have.

james risen h sThe Intercept, All The News Unfit to Print: James Risen on His Battles with Bush, Obama, and the New York Times, Jeremy Scahill, Jan. 3 2018. James Risen (shown at right) is a legend in the world of investigative and national security journalism. As a reporter for the New York Times, Risen broke some of the most important stories of the post 9/11 era, from the warrantless surveillance against Americans conducted under the Bush-Cheney administration, to black prison sites run by the CIA, to failed covert actions in Iran.

Risen has won the Pulitzer and other major journalism awards. But perhaps what he is now most famous for is fighting a battle under both the Bush and Obama administrations as they demanded — under threat of imprisonment —the name of one of Risen’s alleged confidential sources. In the end, Risen prevailed and refused to testify and he was not locked up.

But during the course of his case, there were rulings that could have far reaching implications for journalists, particularly in a climate where the president of the United States is characterizing news outlets as enemies of the people, contemplating arresting reporters, and is conducting at least 27 leak investigations. All before the end of his first year in office.

But it isn’t just the government that Risen had to fight. He also battled his own editors and other powerful figures at the New York Times. Some of those people pushed the narrative that Iraq had WMDs and they regularly colluded with senior officials at the CIA, NSA, and White House in an effort to kill — or delay publication of — Risen’s stories.

James Risen has now written an extensive account of his years at the New York Times and he names names.

Jan. 2

Investigations

matt gaetz dui

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Pensacola) is shown above in a billboard ad one Interstate 10 in his Florida district mocking his DUI (Driving while under the influence) arrests. The billboard ad GoFundMe ad campaign by activist Claude Taylor against Gaetz derives from the report below by Wayne Madsen.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigation: Mueller's "grand inquisitor" in Congress has a record of DWIs and a suspicious death, Wayne Madsen, Dec. 19, 2017.  (Excerpted from the subscription-only website WMR and released on Jan. 2 with permission.).

matt gaetz o CustomThe chief congressional enemy of Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller has a long record of drunk driving charges and one suspicious death, according to senior GOP sources in Tallahassee, the Florida capital.

fbi logoFirst-term U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz (in his official photo at left and also in a mug shot below) has led the charge against Mueller and his investigation of Donald Trump and his administration. Gaetz insists that Mueller, a Republican, is leading a politically-tainted witch hunt against Trump, his family members, and members of his campaign and administration. However, Gaetz has offered little, except for right-wing talking points, to disparage Mueller and his team of seasoned federal prosecutors.

matt gaetz mug CustomGaetz's record includes at least seven arrests for drunk driving and a closeted gay life style. Gaetz proclaims himself as an anti-gay rights social conservative. Gaetz's politically powerful father Don Gaetz, a former health care CEO who was sued by the U.S. Justice Department for Medicare fraud, is a powerful member of the Florida Senate. Senator Gaetz has used his position to propel his son into national politics. The Gaetz father-and-son team hails from a prominent North Dakota GOP political family.

Editor's note: The Justice Integrity Project will be ramping up the frequency of its investigative reporting in 2018, including by citations to the work of others, as here.

White House

Donald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)

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Washington Post, Trump’s true priorities revealed in holiday news dumps, James Hohmann​, Jan. 2, 2018. Underscoring how politically unpopular these moves were, most of the decisions were rolled out the Fridays before Christmas and New Year’s Eve to minimize media coverage and public notice.

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Washington Post, Trump’s lawyer is a specialist in securing preemptive pardons, Robert Nelson, Jan. 2, 2018. John Dowd has an unusual legal background.

National Politics

mitt romney 2012 open neck gage skidmore

Mitt Romney, the Republican president nominee in 2012, is shown on the campaign trail that year in a photo by Gage Skidmore

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orrin hatch oNew York Times, Orrin Hatch Plans to Retire, Creating an Opening for Romney, Jonathan Martin, Jan. 2, 2017. Orrin G. Hatch R-UT, shown at right), the longest-serving Senate Republican, announced that he will retire at the end of the year, clearing a path for Mitt Romney to run.

mitt romney wRoll Call, It’s Not Just Romney: Hatch Retirement Could Lead to Decisions for Grassley, Crapo, Niels Lesniewski, Jan. 2, 2018. Much of the talk after GOP Sen. Orrin G. Hatch’s announcement that he will retire from the Senate after serving Utah for more than four decades will focus on whether Mitt Romney (shown below) will seek to succeed him.

But on Capitol Hill, the Finance chairman’s pending departure when he still has time left under Conference rules to wield the tax writing panel’s gavel also raises questions about who will lead the Senate GOP on taxes, trade, health care and entitlements.

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jennifer rubin twitterWashington Post, Opinion: As Orrin Hatch retires, here are six things to watch, Jennifer Rubin (right), Jan. 2, 2018. Could we get a Sen. Romney? This might be the most consequential Senate retirement ever involving a seat that is highly unlikely to change parties. Here’s what to watch for:

First, the decision represents another Senate setback for President Trump, who wanted to keep Hatch, once a mainstream and practical Republican but more recently an unabashed apologist for Trump, in the Senate. After the announced retirements of Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) as well as the Alabama debacle, Trump may face a far more confrontational Senate, even if the GOP holds onto its majority.

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Washington Post, Iowa went big for Trump, but voters seem to be souring on him and the GOP, David Weigel, an. 2, 2018 (print edition). The state, the epicenter of Republicans’ surge in 2014 and 2016, is not an obvious place for a Democratic comeback. But a recent poll found only 34 percent of Iowans said they would back the party in this year's midterm elections, and more said they were turned off by politics altogether.

Inside Washington

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Washington Post, Congress will return to a full slate of thorny issues — with deadlines looming, Jeff Stein, Jan. 2, 2018 (print edition). Fresh off a party-line vote on the GOP tax overhaul, the ability of lawmakers and the White House to craft any form of bipartisan agreement will be tested on topics such as funding the government, stabilizing a health insurance program for poor children and whether to shield young undocumented immigrants from deportation.

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epa general logoWashington Post, How Scott Pruitt turned the EPA into one of Trump’s most powerful tools, Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin, Jan. 2, 2018. In legal maneuvers and executive actions, in public speeches and closed-door meetings with industry groups, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency has moved to shrink its reach, alter its focus, and pause or reverse numerous rules. The effect has been to steer the EPA in the direction sought by those being regulated.

Global News: Israeli Right Continues Land Grab

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benjamin netanyahu smileNew York Times, Israeli Right Presses Moves to Doom 2-State Solution, David M. Halbfinger, Jan. 2, 2017 (print edition). After President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party has seized momentum to strengthen Israel’s rule of the West Bank.

Moon of Alabama, Analysis: Iran. Protests Decrease, Riots Increase, U.S. Prepares The Next Phase, B, Jan. 2, 2018.  The riots and protests in Iran continue for a 6th day. While "western" media claim that the protests are growing I see no evidence for that in the various videos that appear online. The legitimate protests over price rises, failing private banks and against the new neoliberal austerity budget of President Rohani were hijacked early on by rioting gangs. These are obviously coordinated from the outside of the country through various internet applications, especially Telegram and Instagram.

iran flag mapThe groups of rioters are between 30 and 80 people in size with a some bystanders milling around. They seem to follow a flash mob strategy appearing here and there and to vanish again when police appears in force. In some cities rioters attacked police stations, military posts and were even stealing firetrucks. Some of the rioters are evidently trying to get their hands on weapons.

Altogether only a few thousand people, overwhelmingly male youth, seem to be involved. Thousands protest in Israel each week against the corruption of Prime Minister Netanyahoo. On New-Years-Eve more than 1,000 cars in France were set alight by arsonists. None of this is front page news but a few dozen riots in Iran get elevated to a "revolution".

The total death toll of the "peaceful protests" is now some 21 of which (by my count) at least five were policemen killed in attacks by "protesters" and two unrelated civilians who were run over and killed by rioters driving a stolen firetruck. Six rioters were killed when they tried to attack a police station in the town of Qahderijan. The governor there claimed that the attackers were armed with guns.

The same faking of pictures of large demonstrations and "evidence" of government brutality that we have seen with regard to the war on Syria is taking place with Iran. Videos of demonstrations from Argentine and Bahrain are used to claim large demonstrations in Iran.

The terrorist group MEK (NCRI, MKO) "leaked" fake protocols of an alleged government meeting which it claims shows panic over the protests. The MEK has paid large sums to get support from politicians, including John McCain in Washington and elsewhere. During the Iraq-Iran war it fought against Iran on the side of Iraq. After the U.S. invaded Iraq the MEK was held in special camps under U.S. control. According to a 2012 Seymour Hersh report the U.S. military trained MEK fighters in the U.S. in sabotage and insurgency technics. These people are deeply hated in Iran but feared they are not. Their early engagement in the "protests" via their website and propaganda ops in Iran may point to deeper role in the riots.

The rioting at the current level is in no way endangering the Iranian republic. Should some rioters acquire weapons the intensity might change a bit. But unless they receive material and personal support from the outside, like it happened in Syria, the situation will soon calm down.

cia logoI had documented in earlier posts that the Trump administration, in tight co-operations with Israel, long prepared for an intensification of a conflict with Iran. Half a year ago. the CIA set up a special office with a high level Iran hawk leading the charge. Last month Trump named another Iran hawk to lead the State Department Middle East section.

Since the Iranian people successfully achieved "regime change" in 1979 the U.S. and Britain have had an adversarial policy against Iran. It has ebbed and flowed in intensity but never changed. Under Trump, we will see a rapid increase of hostile actions. The administration just called for a UN emergency session about the situation. That is a laughable move when one considers the size of daily murder the U.S. and its allies commit in Yemen, Syria and Palestine. But the operation that unfolds now is likely just a small part of a larger anti-Iran strategy that has yet to become visible.

Jan. 1

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New York Times, Activists Exploit Effort to Expose Sex Harassment, Kenneth P. Vogel, Jan. 1, 2018 (print edition). The earthquake of sexual misconduct allegations has taken down powerful men without regard to politics, but as it shakes Washington, accusations are taking on a partisan tint.

djt official SmallAs the #MeToo movement to expose sexual harassment roils the nation’s capital, political partisans are exploiting the moment, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to support accusers who come forward with charges against President Trump and members of Congress, even amid questions about their motivation.

As accusations take on a partisan tint, activists and lawyers fear that such an evolution could damage a movement that has shaken Hollywood, Silicon Valley, media suites in New York and the hallways of Congress — and has taken down both a Democratic fund-raiser, Harvey Weinstein, and a conservative stalwart, Bill O’Reilly.

“There is a danger in this environment that unsophisticated individuals who have been abused by powerful people could be exploited by groups seeking partisan advantage, or by lawyers seeking a moment in the limelight,” said Debra Katz, a Washington lawyer who has brought sexual harassment cases against politicians from both parties.The lawyers and operatives behind the most politically charged cases brush off those concerns.

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New York Times, Powerful Hollywood Women Unveil Anti-Harassment Plan, Cara Buckley, Jan. 1, 2018 (print edition). Shonda Rhimes and Reese Witherspoon are among the 300 actresses and insiders behind Time’s Up, an initiative for legal protections for workers nationwide.

Deep DC Intrigues

jefferson morley newThe Intercept, Wilderness of Mirrors, Jefferson Morley (shown at right and the author of a new book, The Ghost, a biography of James J. Angleton), Jan. 1, 2018. Documents Reveal the Complex Legacy of James Angleton, CIA Counterintelligence Chief and Godfather of Mass Surveillance.

Veteran CIA officer Cleveland Cram was nearing the end of his career in 1978, when his superiors in the agency’s directorate of operations handed him a sensitive assignment: Write a history of the agency’s Counterintelligence Staff. Cram, then 61, was well qualified for the task. He had a master’s and Ph.D. in European History from Harvard. He had served two decades in the clandestine service, including nine years as deputy chief of the CIA’s station in London.

jefferson morley the ghost coverCram was assigned to investigate a debacle. The Counterintelligence Staff, created in 1954, had been headed for 20 years by James Jesus Angleton, a legendary spy who deployed the techniques of literary criticism learned at Yale to find deep patterns and hidden meanings in the records of KGB operations against the West. But Angleton was also a dogmatic and conspiratorial operator whose idiosyncratic theories paralyzed the agency’s operations against the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War, and whose domestic surveillance operations targeting American dissidents had discredited the CIA in the court of public opinion.

Cram’s mission — and he chose to accept it — was to soberly answer the questions that senior CIA officials were asking in their private moments: What in the name of God and national security had Jim Angleton been doing when he ran the Counterintelligence Staff from 1954 to 1974? Did his operations serve the agency’s mission? Did they serve the country?

Global News: Syrian War Update

syrian map 1 1 2018

SouthFront, Map Update: General Look At Military Situation In Syria, Staff report, Jan. 1, 2018.  This map, released by 24 Resistance Axis, provides a general look at the military situation in Syria on December 31, 2017.

According to the map, the Damascus government is noow in control of 100,120.03 km² – 51.9% of Syria (shown in red). The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces control 47,533.14 km², mostly in northern and eastern Syria – 24.6% of the country (yellow). Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) and its allies control 20,852.18 km² – 10.8% of the country (green, aside from a U.S.-influenced zone at the map's center and mostly desert). The Turkish Armed Forces and Turkish proxies control 7,101 km² – 3,7% of Syria (gray). ISIS still keeps official presence in about 16,109.4 km² – 8.4% of the country (dark brown, mostly desert). However, the group has a large network of sleeper cells across Syria.

The Syrian military, backed by Iran and Russia, is now focused on liberating the Beit Jinn pocket in west of Damascus and the militant-held areas in southern Idlib and southern Aleppo. The situation also remains tense in the Eastern Ghouta region east of Damascus where Ahrar al-Sham and Jaish al-Islam resist to the Syrian Army.

Media: New Publisher Opines At New York Times

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New York Times, Opinion: Note From Our New Publisher, A. G. (Arthur Gregg) Sulzberger, Jan. 1, 2018. In 1896 my great-great-grandfather left his hometown, Chattanooga, and traveled north to purchase a small, fading newspaper in New York. The moment was not unlike our own. Technological, economic and social turmoil were upending the traditions of the country. People trying to understand these changes and their implications found themselves confused by polarized politics and by a partisan press more focused on advancing its own interests than on informing the public.

Against this backdrop Adolph Ochs saw the need for a different kind of newspaper, and he committed The New York Times to the then-radical idea that still animates it today. He vowed that The Times would be fiercely independent, dedicated to journalism of the highest integrity and devoted to the public welfare.

Media: Wacko Discipline

Al.com, Anniston Star's ex-publisher spanked female employees in the 1970s, reports say, Leada Gore, Jan. 1, 2017. Brandt Ayers, former publisher and now chairman of the company that publishes The Anniston Star, spanked female employees in the 1970s, several former staffers claim.

The allegations come from female employees who said they were targeted and sexually abused by Ayers, now 82, while working in the paper's newsroom. One of the women, Veronica Pike Kennedy, told the Alabama Political Reporter she was working at the newspaper early one Saturday when Ayers approached her about an editorial he had written and then told her she was being a "bad girl" and he would "have to spank" her.

Kennedy said Ayers pulled her out of her chair, bent her over a desk and spanked her 18 times with a metal ruler. The incident was witnessed by another Star reporter who allegedly confirmed the account. Kennedy was 22 at the time of the alleged incident; Ayers was in his early 40s. Several other female Star staffers reported similar contact with Ayers.

Ayers issued a statement through a Jan. 1 story published in The Star. "As a very young man with more authority than judgment, I did some things I regret," Ayers said. "At my advanced age I wish I could relive those days again, knowing the seriousness of my position and with the accumulated judgment that goes with age."

The allegations against Ayers were first detailed in an article in the Alabama Political Reporter by Eddie Burkhalter, a former Star reporter who left the newspaper in November after allegedly being prevented from reporting on the story. The Star's current staff began looking into the story when Joey Kennedy, Veronica Kennedy's husband, mentioned the incident - both not the publisher or the newspaper involved - in November, The Star said.

Ayers, the son of the newspaper's founder Harry Ayers, took over as publisher of the The Star in 1969, remaining in the position until 2016. He now serves as chairman of the board of Consolidated Publishing, publisher of The Star, The Daily Home and several weekly newspapers, and writes a column for the newspapers. Among his recent subjects was Roy Moore, the failed Republican Senate candidate who has been accused of having improper sexual contact with teenage girls in the 1970s.

 

 

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Editor's Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative December 2017 news and views

 Washington Botanical Gardens

 Happy New Year!

The Justice Integrity Project thanks our readers for your interest and inputs.

Dec. 31

djt christmas eve 2017 on phone no credit

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New York Times, For Trump, a Year of Reinventing the Presidency, Peter Baker, Dec. 31, 2017. In ways that were once unimaginable, President Trump has discarded the conventions and norms established by his predecessors. The office has become a blunt instrument to advance personal, policy and political goals. Will that change the institution permanently?

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Washington Post, In first year, Trump starts delivering on vow to shrink government, Lisa Rein and Andrew Ba Tran,  Dec. 31, 2017.By the end of September, all but three Cabinet departments had fewer permanent staff than when President Trump took office — with most shedding hundreds of employees, according to an analysis by the Washington Post.

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New York Times, Democrats in High-Tax States Try to Cushion New Law’s Jolt, Ben Casselman, Dec. 31, 2017. Officials are considering legal challenges, other sources of revenue and ways to, in effect, restore deductions that the overhaul scaled back. Governments, as a rule, have not sought to exploit tax loopholes. But state leaders said Congress, in singling out certain states, had broken an implicit compact with them.

Supreme Court Report On Federal Courts

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john roberts oWashington Post, Chief justice announces courts will examine sexual harassment protections, saying federal judiciary ‘is not immune,’ Robert Barnes,  The initiative will ensure there are proper procedures in place to protect law clerks and other court employees from sexual harassment, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. (shown at right) announced in his 2017 State of the Judiciary Report.

alex kozinski informal wThe statement, in Roberts’s 2017 State of the Judiciary Report, follows the retirement last month of Judge Alex Kozinski (shown at left), of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The influential 67-year-old judge stepped down after two reports in The Washington Post detailed allegations he had subjected former law clerks and other women to inappropriate sexual behavior.

Pay To Play

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mar a lago aerial CustomWashington Post, Ticket prices go up for Trump’s ‘very glam’ New Year’s Eve bash at Mar-a-Lago, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Lori Rozsa and Ashley Parker, Dec. 31, 2017 (print edition). Critics say a boost in ticket prices to $750 for the annual party at the Florida club and President Trump’s regular trips to Trump Organization properties show how he is using his position to promote his brand.

Historical Truths, Human Rights

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The Indicter, Assessing New JFK Records, Alec Baldwin's Slam Of NBC Cover-up, Andrew Kreig, Dec. 31, 2017. The Indicter is a global human rights journal, marcello ferrado de noli glassesfounded and edited by Professor Emeritus Marcello Ferrada de Noli, Ph.D. (shown at left), a torture victim in the 1970s and retired medical school professor based in Sweden and Italy. This month's release of documents related to the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy continued the Trump administration's chaotic process that confuses the public under a guise of compliance with a law requiring full release this year that Congress had passed unanimously in 1992.

alec baldwin pr headshotMary Ferrell Foundation President Rex Bradford has described the Trump release process as a "travesty" and Future of Freedom Foundation President Jacob Hornberger called it a "fiasco," as we have previously reported.

Fortunately, the famed actor Alec Baldwin helped cut through the confusion last month with a bold, civic-minded revelation of how the NBC and MSNBC continue to support the disputed Warren Commission view of the murder and suppress alternative discussion.

This column also was reprinted here by The Education Forum, a UK-based global web encyclopedia and discussion group founded by John Simkin.

Inside Washington

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devin nunes head oWashington Post, Devin Nunes, targeting Mueller and the FBI, alarms Democrats and some Republicans with his tactics, Karoun Demirjian​, Dec. 31, 2017 (print edition). Actions by the California Republican, a Trump loyalist who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, have prompted rare public warnings that he should temper his attacks on federal law enforcement.

Consortium News, An Apology and Explanation, Robert Parry, Dec. 31, 2017. Robert Parry, a noted journalist and author, is founder and editor of Consortium News, and is shown at right below:

robert parry new hsFrom Editor Robert Parry:

For readers who have come to see Consortiumnews as a daily news source, I would like to extend my personal apology for our spotty production in recent days. On Christmas Eve, I suffered a stroke that has affected my eyesight (especially my reading and thus my writing) although apparently not much else. The doctors have also been working to figure out exactly what happened since I have never had high blood pressure, I never smoked, and my recent physical found nothing out of the ordinary. Perhaps my personal slogan that “every day’s a work day” had something to do with this.

Perhaps, too, the unrelenting ugliness that has become Official Washington and national journalism was a factor. It seems that since I arrived in Washington in 1977 as a correspondent for The Associated Press, the nastiness of American democracy and journalism has gone from bad to worse.

Which brings us to the crisis that is Donald Trump. Trump’s victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton has solidified the new paradigm of “liberals” embracing every negative claim about Russia just because elements of the CIA, FBI and the National Security Agency produced a report last Jan 6 that blamed Russia for “hacking” Democratic emails and releasing them via WikiLeaks. It didn’t seem to matter that these “hand-picked” analysts (as Director of National Intelligence James Clapper called them) evinced no evidence and even admitted that they weren’t asserting any of this as fact.

Hatred of Trump had become like some invasion of the body snatchers – or perhaps many of my journalistic colleagues had never believed in the principles of journalism that I had embraced throughout my adult life. To me, journalism wasn’t just a cover for political activism; it was a commitment to the American people and the world to tell important news stories as fully and fairly as I could; not to slant the “facts” to “get” some “bad” political leader or “guide” the public in some desired direction.

Race Relations Around the Nation: Tennessee

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Washington Post, The show was supposed to bring black and white students together. It almost tore them apart,  Robert Samuels, Dec. 31, 2017 (print edition). Over several years, the step show at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga became a point of pride and annual excitement — the centerpiece of homecoming weekend. Black and white Greek organizations practiced together, supporting one another onstage and off. In 2016, that changed as the campus became a microcosm of the country’s racial issues.

Iran Street Protests

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iran flag mapWashington Post, As protests turn deadly, Iran warns demonstrators will ‘pay the price’ for unrest, Erin Cunningham​, Dec. 31, 2017.  The government blocked access to two social media apps in an attempt to blunt the protests, which are the largest in Iran since 2009 and appear to have caught the country’s leadership off guard. Two protesters were shot and killed as the unrest spread across Iran for a third day.

Dec. 30

whowhatwhy logoruss baker 2017 2018 portrait Custom 2WhoWhatWhy, Analysis: Massive Erie Snow Dump Facilitated by Climate Change, Claire Wang and Kirsty Vitarelli, Dec. 30, 2017. (Russ Baker, founder of the WhoWhatWhy site, is shown at right.) Snowpocalypse Brings Wild 2017 Weather to a Fitting End. Record-breaking snowfall in Pennsylvania earlier this week turns out to be another symptom of the earth heating up at record-breaking speeds, according to government scientists, while President Donald Trump thinks global warming could help eradicate the current cold snap.

Why did so much snow fall? And does Trump have a point — does all this snow mean our climate crisis is over? The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is the arm of the government that helps Americans “make decisions on how to manage climate-related risks and opportunities they face,” they say on their website. WhoWhatWhy reached out to them for an answer.

“this weather event wouldn’t have occurred.”

“The Erie snow was driven by a lake-effect event,” said Jake Crouch, scientist at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. “It’s been fairly warm there and the lake was not yet frozen.”  

Normally, when air this cold arrives, much of Lake Erie is frozen solid, so the cold air would pass across the lake surface without gathering up much moisture. This year, the air drew up moisture from the warmer water — which then fell as masses of snow.

When the year’s weather is looked at in totality, climate change and its devastating impact on the entire world comes into clear focus: the epic hurricane season which decimated Puerto Rico and left Houston and its surroundings underwater; wildfires still burning in California; flooding in Bangladesh; drought in Somalia, Ethiopia, and the Middle East; and the brutal summer heatwave in Europe.

Inside Trump HQ

President Trump undertaking 'Sword Dance' with Saudis on trip to Saudi Arabia on May 20, 2017 (White House photo)

President Trump undertaking 'Sword Dance' with Saudis on trip to Saudi Arabia on May 20, 2017 (White House photo)

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Washington Post, Images of Yemeni crisis led to Trump’s ‘spontaneous’ rebuke of Saudi Arabia, officials say, Missy Ryan and Josh Dawsey, Dec. 30, 2017 (print edition). The president’s unusual public criticism of the Saudis highlights the powerful role that depictions of civilian suffering overseas have had on him, sometimes leading to sudden, consequential responses.

James mattis oSee also, Washington Post, Mattis defends U.S. efforts to prevent civilian casualties in Yemen: ‘Don’t screw with me on this,’ Dan Lamothe, Dec. 30, 2017 (print edition). Defense Secretary James (nicknamed "Mad Dog" as a general) Mattis, shown at right.

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Washington Post, Trump’s respite at Mar-a-Lago creates headaches for White House staffers, Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey, Dec. 30, 2017 (print edition). The president is often at his most unrestrained and unfettered when he visits his golf club in Palm Beach, Fla., making it harder for his aides to control his daily media diet and personal contacts.

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Washington Post, Analysis: In 30-minute interview, Trump makes 24 false or misleading claims, Glenn Kessler, Dec. 30, 2017 (print edition). President Trump gave an impromptu interview to the New York Times this week. We combed through the transcript and found he made a false or dubious claim at a rate of one every 75 seconds.

ShareBlue Media, White House says diabetics don’t deserve health insurance, Oliver Willis, Dec. 30, 2017. Donald Trump's budget chief again revealed the Republicans' callous approach to health care, arguing that some diabetics simply do not deserve health insurance, because of how they may have developed the illness.

Prosecution Probe of Trump

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george papadopoulos linked in croppedNew York Times, Russia Inquiry Began Over a Drink and a Revelation, Sharon LaFraniere, Mark Mazzetti and Matt Apuzzo, Dec. 30, 2017. In 2016, George Papadopoulos, a Trump foreign policy adviser (shown at right), revealed to a top Australian diplomat over drinks that Russia had information on Hillary Clinton.

Palmer Report, Opinion: New evidence reveals GOP may have known election was rigged for Trump when it blocked Merrick Garland, Bill Palmer, Dec. 30, 2017. Today we learned that Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos knew a whole lot more than we thought. Now the timeline suggests the Republican Senate may have known Russia was rigging the election when it made the decision to block President Obama’s appointment of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.

The New York Times published a lengthy profile today documenting that the Trump-Russia investigation began in mid-March of 2016, when George Papadopoulos drunkenly bragged about conspiring with Russia to an Australian diplomat, who promptly ratted him out (Russia Inquiry Began Over a Drink and a Revelation). This provides additional context to the original Papadopoulos guilty plea, which states that he first learned about Russia’s willingness to help rig the election on March 14th of 2016.

merrick garlandJust two days later, key Senate Republican John Cornyn announced that he intended to block the Merrick Garland nomination. In other words, immediately after the Trump campaign learned that Russia was going to rig the election, the Republican Party decided to stall the Supreme Court nomination of Garland (right) so a Republican President could fill it after the election.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Robert Mueller is investigating Trump-Russia election rigging in Michigan and Wisconsin. Here’s why, Bill Palmer, Dec. 30, 2017. Last night we received arguably the most significant news yet in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Donald Trump’s Russia scandal: he’s probing how the Trump campaign, the Republican Party, and Russia conspired to alter the outcome of the election in Michigan and Wisconsin.

The report first came from New York Magazine last night that Mueller is indeed investigating how Trump, the RNC and Russia rigged these two states (link). So let’s take a look at what we already know about what went down in Michigan and Wisconsin. While the polls were generally correct on a national level, they were wildly and suspiciously off in these two states. There was no reason for anyone to expect that Trump had any chance to win in either state. Yet at least two of the people running Trump’s campaign somehow knew otherwise.

Global News

SouthFront, Army Discovers Two Mass Graves Of Civilians And Soldiers In Western Raqqa Countryside (Photos), Staff report, Dec. 30, 2017. On Dec. 29, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) discovered two mass graves in the village of al-Wawi in the western Raqqa countryside after receiving information from the locals, according to the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA). The SANA said that the two mass graves included bodies of Syrian civilians and soldiers executed by ISIS when the area was under the terrorist group’s control. According to SANA, 115 bodies had been already recovered from one of the mass graves. The mass graves likely include the bodies of 350-700 SAA soldiers executed by ISIS on August 2014.

Dec. 29

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New York Times, Trump Veers Away From 70 Years of U.S. Foreign Policy, Mark Landler, Dec. 29, 2017 (print edition). President Trump has transformed the world’s view of the United States from an anchor of the international order into something more inward-looking and unpredictable.That is a seminal change from the role the nation played for 70 years, and it has lasting implications for how other nations chart their futures.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump fires entire White House panel over the holidays just to be a jerk, Bill Palmer, Dec. 29, 2017. Donald Trump cemented his role as Scrooge this week when he took advantage of the holiday distraction and summarily fired an entire White House panel.

He’s given no reason whatsoever, but there are two strong possibilities for why he might have done it. Both explanations are nothing short of pure evil, one of them policy related, the other perhaps a personal tantrum in response to a recent media report that embarrassed Trump.

Trump has fired all sixteen remaining members of the White House panel on HIV and AIDS, according to a new Daily Beast Report. Just to heighten the villainy, he fired them by mail over the holidays in order to avoid having to deal with them personally. So why would Trump make such an oddly specific and plainly harmful move?

The first explanation would be that he doesn’t want the panel standing in the way of his efforts to cut funding for HIV/AIDS patients, as he continues to try to screw the middle class and redirect all the money to his wealthy puppet masters. The second would be that, just days after the media embarrassed Trump by reporting that he said Haitians “all have AIDS,” he’s now retaliating in the most evil way he can think of, by trying to harm AIDS patients. If you think either of these two explanations might be too extreme, you haven’t been paying attention to Trump over the past year.

Bookstore Shakeout

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New York Times, Bookstore Chains, Long in Decline, Are Undergoing a Final Shakeout, David Streitfeld, Dec. 29, 2017 (print edition). This fall, at a moment when retailers traditionally look forward to reaping holiday profits, the owner of the fourth-largest bookstore chain in the country surrendered to the forces of e-commerce.

Book World, founded in 1976, sold hardcovers, paperbacks and sometimes tobacco in malls, downtowns and vacation areas across the Upper Midwest. It had endured recessions, the expansion of superstores like Borders and Barnes & Noble, and then the rise of Amazon. But the 45-store chain could not survive the shifting nature of shopping itself, and so announced its liquidation.

“Sales in our mall stores are down this year from 30 to 60 percent,” said Bill Streur, Book World’s owner. “The internet is killing retail. Bookstores are just the first to go.”

As e-commerce becomes more deeply embedded in the fabric of daily life, including for the first time in rural areas, bookstores are undergoing a final shakeout. Family Christian Stores, which had 240 stores that sold books and other religious merchandise, closed this year, not long after Hastings Entertainment, a retailer of books, music and video games with 123 stores, declared bankruptcy and then shut down.

“Books aren’t going away, but bookstores are,” said Matthew Duket, a Book World sales associate waiting for customers in the West Bend, Wis., store.

In a famous passage in Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises,” a novel that Book World used to sell, a character is asked how he went bust. “Two ways,” he answers. “Gradually and then suddenly.”

That more or less mirrors what happened to Book World and other bookstore chains. A few years ago, e-books were widely assumed to be driving the physical book — and the physical bookstore — to extinction. Instead, e-book sales leveled off, and the physical book has retained much of its appeal. But readers are increasingly ordering those books online, getting them delivered with their clothes and peanut butter and diapers.

Legalized Corruption In U.S. Politics

Wall Street Journal, The Modern Campaign-Finance Loophole: Governors Associations, Susan Pulliam and Brody Mullins. Dec. 29, 2017. In many states, corporations can’t give large sums directly to campaigns, but they can funnel funds through groups that support Democratic and Republican gubernatorial candidates.

At the Republican Governors Association's (RGA) nondescript headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House, top staff met in the summer of 2014 where they discussed, among other things, helping Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker using money committed by casino magnate Steve Wynn, according to a person in the room at the time. 

On Oct. 1, 2014, Mr. Wynn’s company donated $2 million to the RGA, its largest-ever donation to the group. That same day, the RGA donated $1.1 million to help support Mr. Baker, the Massachusetts Republican candidate. It gave $1.1 million more eight days later, IRS filings show, one part of the organization’s significant investment in the race. In total, the RGA gave $10.75 million in 2014 to a political committee supporting Mr. Baker’s campaign, including $5.7 million in October.

 

Infrastructure Featherbedding Probe

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New York Times, The Most Expensive Mile of Subway Track on Earth, Brian M. Rosenthal, Dec. 29, 2017 (print edition). The estimated cost of the Long Island Rail Road project, known as “East Side Access,” has ballooned to $12 billion, or nearly $3.5 billion for each new mile of track — seven times the average elsewhere in the world. The recently completed Second Avenue subway on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and the 2015 extension of the No. 7 line to Hudson Yards also cost far above average, at $2.5 billion and $1.5 billion per mile, respectively.

The Times found that a host of factors have contributed to the transit authority’s exorbitant capital costs.

For years, The Times found, public officials have stood by as a small group of politically connected labor unions, construction companies and consulting firms have amassed large profits.

Trade unions, which have closely aligned themselves with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and other politicians, have secured deals requiring underground construction work to be staffed by as many as four times more laborers than elsewhere in the world, documents show.

Construction companies, which have given millions of dollars in campaign donations in recent years, have increased their projected costs by up to 50 percent when bidding for work from the M.T.A., contractors say.

Consulting firms, which have hired away scores of M.T.A. employees, have persuaded the authority to spend an unusual amount on design and management, statistics indicate.

Public officials, mired in bureaucracy, have not acted to curb the costs. The M.T.A. has not adopted best practices nor worked to increase competition in contracting, and it almost never punishes vendors for spending too much or taking too long, according to inspector general reports.

At the heart of the issue is the obscure way that construction costs are set in New York. Worker wages and labor conditions are determined through negotiations between the unions and the companies, none of whom have any incentive to control costs. The transit authority has made no attempt to intervene to contain the spending.

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Washington Post, After chilly forecast, Trump tweets U.S. ‘could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming,’ Dino Grandoni, Dec. 29, 2017 (print edition). As president, Donald Trump has held back on repeating his disbelief in the wide scientific consensus that human activity is indeed warming the planet — until now.

U.S. Politics: Florida

Politico, Billionaire kingmakers swarm Florida governor's race after Trump endorsement, Marc Caputo and Alexandra Glorioso, Dec. 29, 2017. Not long after an admiring presidential tweet, Congressman Ron DeSantis won the backing of some of the most influential players in GOP politics. After Donald Trump appeared to endorse Ron DeSantis’ campaign for Florida governor last week, a handful of the biggest and most influential billionaires in Republican politics threw their support behind the three-term GOP congressman, upending the race in the nation’s biggest swing state.

The stable of billionaires and millionaires listed on DeSantis’ “Finance Leadership Team,” obtained by POLITICO, includes casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, hedge fund heiress Rebekah Mercer, investment tycoon Foster Friess and other donors who have funded the conservative Koch brothers’ network and President Trump’s campaign. Just last week, Trump weighed in on Twitter to say that DeSantis “would make a GREAT Governor of Florida.”

As a member of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, DeSantis is a frequent Fox News guest who has earned a reputation as a small-government conservative, an opponent of the independent federal investigation of Trump and a supporter of moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. And donors have so far loved what they have heard.DeSantis, 39, is a Yale and Harvard Law School graduate and served as a military prosecutor in the Iraq War before he won his congressional seat in 2012. Putnam, 43, has continuously served in elected office since he was elected to the Florida House at the age of 22, then Congress and then to the position of agriculture commissioner.

Global Affairs

UN, Ambassador Nikki Haley meets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his office in Jerusalem, June 7, 2017.(U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv)

U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Nikki Haley meets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his office in Jerusalem, June 7, 2017 (Image credit: U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv).

philip giraldiOpEdNews, Opinion: Nikki Haley, The De Facto Agent of Influence, Philip Giraldi, Dec. 29, 2017  Philip Giraldi (right) is the executive director of the Council for the National Interest and a recognized authority on international security and counterterrorism issues. He is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer who served eighteen years overseas in Turkey, Italy, Germany, and Spain.

My candidate for most likely to be a de facto Israeli agent of influence is America's United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley. Haley has from the start made it clear that she is all about Israel and she has done nothing since to change that impression, most dramatically so over the past week when she was "taking names" and threatened retaliation against any country that was so "disrespectful" as to dare to vote against Washington's disastrous recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, which she also helped to bring about.

As governor of South Carolina, Haley first became identified as an unquestioning supporter of Israel. Immediately upon taking office at the United Nations she complained that "nowhere has the U.N.'s failure been more consistent and more outrageous than in its bias against our close ally Israel" and vowed that the "days of Israel bashing are over." On a recent visit to Israel, she was applauded -- honored -- by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In February, Haley blocked the appointment of former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to a diplomatic position at the United Nations because he is a Palestinian. In a congressional hearing this past week, she was asked about the decision: "Is it this administration's position that support for Israel and support for the appointment of a well-qualified individual of Palestinian nationality to an appointment at the U.N. are mutually exclusive?" Haley responded yes, that the administration is "supporting Israel" by blocking every Palestinian.

Haley is inevitably a hardliner on Syria and Iran, reflecting the Israeli bias. She has said that regime change in Damascus is a Trump administration priority.

I would point out that none of these positions taken by Haley is an actual American interest, but they all involve Israeli preferences. As in the cases of Kushner, Friedman and Greenblatt, I would like to know how frequently she meets alone with Israeli officials and, most particularly, intelligence officers. Is she taking direction from the Israeli government? Is she an Israeli agent of influence or just a gullible fool? The American public, which pays her, and has to bear the consequences of her actions need to know.

iran flag mapMoon of Alabama, Opinion: Iran: Regime Change Agents Hijack Economic Protests, B, Dec. 29, 2017. Yesterday and today saw some small protests in Iran. They are probably the first stage of a large "regime change" operation run by the U.S. and Israel with the help of Iranian terrorist group.

Some of these protests have genuine economic reasons but get hijacked by other interests. This very early engagement of the MEK -its first report was published yesterday at 10:26 am- is extremely suspicious. In 2012 it was reported that Israel had used the MEK terrorist organization to assassinate nuclear scientists in Iran.

Courts and Crime

Merced Sun-Star, Louisiana police arrest 'Nigerian prince' scammer, Don Sweeney, Dec. 29, 2017. Meet your ‘Nigerian prince.’ Police say he’s behind hundreds of scam emails.  Anyone with an email address has likely gotten a message from a Nigerian prince or two offering hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars in secret inheritances or, in some cases, payment for assistance laundering ill-gotten gains from mining conglomerates or royal treasuries.

Police in Slidell, Louisiana, say they finally caught up with one of the people behind some of those emails. He’s not exactly Nigerian royalty, either, police wrote in a Facebook post.

Michael Neu mug nigerian princeMichael Neu, 67, of Slidell, Louisiana (shown in a mug shot), faces 269 counts of wire fraud and money laundering following an 18-month investigation, police wrote. They say Neu took part in hundreds of financial transactions involving phone and online scams to con money from people across the United States.

In these scams, the supposed Nigerian prince (or other official) asks for the person’s personal banking information in order to speed the transfer of the purported inheritance or temporarily hold the allegedly pilfered funds. The information can then be used to withdraw funds from the victim’s accounts.

Dec. 28

bo prince harry social media bbc interview 12 27 2017 Custom 2

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Washington Post, In interview with Prince Harry, Obama says leaders shouldn’t use social media to divide, William Booth, Dec. 28, 2017 (print edition). In his first interview since leaving office, former president Barack Obama didn’t mention President Trump by name, but he really didn’t have to: He told his host, Prince Harry, that leaders shouldn’t use social media to stoke division. “All of us in leadership have to find ways in which we can recreate a common space on the Internet,” Obama said.

The interview (shown above from a screenshot of the program) took the form of a warm chat between the 44th U.S. president and Prince Harry, who was serving as guest host on BBC Radio 4’s popular “Today” program.

“One of the dangers of the Internet is that people can have entirely different realities. They can be cocooned in information that reinforces their current biases,” Obama said. “It is harder to be as obnoxious and cruel in person as people can be anonymously on the Internet.”

He continued, “The question is: How do we harness this technology that allows a multiplicity of voices, a diversity of views but does not lead to a Balkanization of our society but, rather, continues to promote ways of finding common ground?”

Inside Washington

Wall Street Journal, Opinion: A Big, Beautiful Trump 2018 Issue: Civil-service reform could get bipartisan support, even in a rough election year, Kimberley A. Strassel, Dec. 28, 2017. President Trump is on the hunt for a 2018 issue — a strong follow-up to his tax-cut victory that will motivate voters and gain bipartisan support.

Democrats are pushing for an infrastructure bill, inviting the president to spend with them. House GOP leaders are mulling entitlement reform — a noble goal, if unlikely in a midterm cycle.

New York Magazine, Mueller Probing Whether Trump Digital Team Aided Russian Disinformation Campaign, Adam K. Raymond, Dec. 28, 2017. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s influence on the 2016 election has begun to zero in on the joint digital operation that got Donald Trump elected, Yahoo News reports.

Mueller’s team is trying to determine if members of the Trump campaign and Republican National Committee, who worked together on the digital arm of Trump’s campaign, provided assistance to Russian trolls attempting to influence voters. It’s the latest scare for Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, who managed the digital campaign and has already come under scrutiny by the special counsel for his foreign contacts.

Mueller’s move appears to concern the disproportionate targeting of swing districts by Russian trolls during the presidential campaign. CNN reported in October that ads placed by Russia-linked Facebook accounts targeted Michigan and Wisconsin in particular, with many “geared at swaying public opinion in the most heavily contested battlegrounds.”

Tax Plan or Scam?

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New York Times, One Sure Thing About Complex Tax Bill: New Loopholes, Natalie Kitroeff, Dec. 28, 2017. A 2004 tax change by Congress may provide a cautionary tale: You can mine a lot of tax breaks from just one word. Already, lawyers and accountants are eyeing provisions in the new law that investors and companies could potentially exploit.

irs logoThe Hill, IRS warns taxpayers that prepaying property taxes might not work, Naomi Jagoda, Dec. 28, 2017. The IRS is warning taxpayers in new guidance issued Wednesday that they might not be able to deduct their prepaid 2018 property taxes on their 2017 returns.

Taxpayers expecting their bills to rise because of the new tax law’s restrictions on deductions for local, state and property taxes have reportedly rushed to prepay taxes for 2018, hoping to do so before the new law takes effect.

But in an advisory issued late Wednesday, the agency said that the prepaid taxes are only deductible if the property taxes are both assessed and paid in 2017.

Financial Manipulations

Bloomberg View, The U.S. Is Becoming the World’s New Tax Haven, Staff report. Dec. 28, 2017. Shuttering foreign tax shelters only to steal their business is a bad move. Seven years ago, the U.S. led an effort to address a problem facing governments everywhere. Each year, people manage to avoid paying an estimated $2.5 trillion in income tax -- a giant sum that could be used to combat poverty, update infrastructure or lower tax rates for law-abiding citizens.

Now, however, the U.S. is becoming one of the world’s best places to hide money from the tax collector. It’s a distinction that the country would do well to shed.

In 2009, amid growing budget deficits and a tax-fraud scandal at Swiss bank UBS AG, the Group of 20 developed and developing nations came to an agreement: They would no longer tolerate the network of havens, shell companies and secret accounts that had long abetted tax evasion. A year later, the U.S. passed the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, which required foreign financial institutions to report the identities and assets of potential U.S. taxpayers to the Internal Revenue Service.

Under threat of losing access to the U.S. financial system, more than 100 countries -- including such traditional havens as Bermuda and the Cayman Islands -- are complying or have agreed to comply.

The U.S. was expected to reciprocate, by sharing data on the accounts of foreign taxpayers with their respective governments. Yet Congress rejected the Obama administration’s repeated requests to make the necessary changes to the tax code. As a result, the Treasury cannot compel U.S. banks to reveal information such as account balances and names of beneficial owners. The U.S. has also failed to adopt the so-called Common Reporting Standard, a global agreement under which more than 100 countries will automatically provide each other with even more data than FATCA requires.

While the rest of the world provides the transparency that the U.S. demanded, the U.S. is rapidly becoming the new Switzerland. Financial institutions catering to the global elite, such as Rothschild & Co. and Trident Trust Co., have moved accounts from offshore havens to Nevada, Wyoming and South Dakota. New York lawyers are actively marketing the country as a place to park assets. A Russian billionaire, for example, can put real-estate assets in a U.S. trust and rest assured that neither the U.S. tax authorities nor his home-country government will know anything about it. That’s a level of secrecy that not even Vanuatu can offer.

brad birkenfeld npc 10 18 16 IMG 0317Justice Integrity Project Editor's comment: To educate readers, this column should have noted, especially in light of the new U.S. tax law, the bold and instrumental role that Swiss bank whistleblower Brad Birkenfeld (shown at right in a Justice Integrity Project photo) played in exposing money-laundering by VIPs and UBS, the world's largest financial institution. The story is described in Lucifer's Banker, his memoir describing his imprisonment in trumped-up charges after he brought the scandals to light.

Law and Courts

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New York Times, Sessions Says to Courts: Go Ahead, Jail People Because They’re Poor, Chiraag Bains, Dec. 28, 2017. Ferguson’s so-called debtors’ prisons devastated its black community. Sessions wants to keep it that way.

Alabama Senate Election

roy moore cowboy hat no gunTPM, Moore Files Lawsuit Hours Before State Expected To Declare Jones Winner, Nicole Lafond, Dec. 28, 2017. Former Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore still won’t accept the outcome of his stunning defeat in the deep red state earlier this month. Late Wednesday evening, the embattled candidate (shown in a file photo from the campaign) filed a lawsuit in an Alabama Circuit Court to try to block the state canvassing board from officially declaring Jones the winner, which it is set to do Thursday.

Moore’s complaint alleges that there were enough irregularities in 20 precincts in just one Alabama county — Jefferson County — to reverse the outcome of the election.

Update: Alabama certified the election of Jones on Dec. 28. He takes office in the Senate on Jan. 3, reducing the GOP majority to 51 votes.

Truthout, How Cheney and His Allies Created the North Korea Nuclear Missile Crisis, Gareth Porter, Dec. 28, 2017.  The Trump administration has been telling people for months that the crisis with North Korea is the result of North Korea's relentless pursuit of a nuclear threat to the US homeland and past North Korean cheating on diplomatic agreements. However, North Korea reached agreements with both the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations that could have averted that threat, had they been completed.Dec. 27

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New York Times, Years of Attack Leave Obamacare a More Government-Focused Health Law, Robert Pear, Dec. 27, 2017 (print edition). The Affordable Care Act was conceived as a mix of publicly funded health care and privately purchased insurance, but Republican attacks, culminating this month in the death of a mandate that most Americans have insurance, are shifting the balance, giving the government a larger role than Democrats ever anticipated.

And while President Trump insisted again on Tuesday that the health law was “essentially” being repealed, what remains of it appears relatively stable and increasingly government-funded.

In short, President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement is becoming more like what conservatives despise — government-run health care — thanks in part to Republican efforts that are raising premiums for people without government assistance and allowing them to skirt coverage.

By ending the tax penalty for people who do not have coverage, beginning in 2019, Republicans may hasten the flight of customers who now pay the full cost of their insurance. Among those left behind under the umbrella of the Affordable Care Act would be people of modest means who qualify for Medicaid or receive sizable subsidies for private insurance.

Law and Courts

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michael flynn microphoneWashington Post, Trump team plans to cast Flynn as a liar if he accuses president, aides of wrongdoing, Carol D. Leonnig, Dec. 27, 2017.  President Trump’s legal team plans to attack the credibility of former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn if he accuses the president or his senior aides of any wrongdoing, according to three people familiar with the strategy. The approach would mark a sharp break from Trump’s previously sympathetic posture toward Flynn (shown at right), who is cooperating with the special counsel’s Russia investigation.

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William Barber II FacebookNew York Times, Opinion: Trump’s Terrible Choice for Judge, William Barber II, Dec. 27, 2017 (print edition). William Barber II (shown at right) is a co-chairman of the new Poor People’s Campaign and the author of “The Third Reconstruction.” 

A lawyer with roots in white supremacy has no place on the federal bench. Among President Trump’s worrisome nominees to the judiciary, perhaps none is as alarming as Thomas Alvin Farr, a protégé of Jesse Helms, the former North Carolina senator, and a product of the modern white supremacist machine that Mr. Helms pioneered.

Mr. Farr, nominated to serve on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, began his career as counsel for Mr. Helms’s Senate campaigns, where he participated in racist tactics to intimidate African-American voters. This alone is reason to reject his nomination, as is his apparent lying on the topic to the Senate Judiciary Committee. But Mr. Farr’s connections to Mr. Helms’s white supremacist causes and political network go much deeper.

Having lived in North Carolina since childhood, I know Mr. Helms’s racist legacy and I hold no doubts that Mr. Farr perpetuates it. An unabashed segregationist, Mr. Helms was affiliated with the Council of Conservative Citizens, an outgrowth of the White Citizens’ Councils that promoted white supremacy.

Mr. Helms, who served in the Senate for 30 years, used his honorable seat to support the apartheid regime in South Africa while opposing desegregation, civil rights legislation and the creation of the Martin Luther King’s Birthday holiday in this country. Mr. Helms also belittled Carol Moseley Braun, the only black senator at the time, by singing “Dixie” to her in the Senate elevator.

ryan zinke lolita zinkeRaw Story, Trump’s interior secretary seems to be a nexus between shady government deals, private spies and white supremacists, Travis Gettys, Dec. 27, 2017. President Trump’s interior secretary seems to be the nexus for a shady government energy deal, a proposed private spy agency and white supremacists all based in a Montana town. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, a former Republican congressman, has links to each of the troubling national stories out of Whitefish, the tiny rural town where he grew up, reported Alternet.

His office insists Zinke (shown with his wife Lolita Zinke) had no role in securing a private contract for Whitefish Energy to rebuild Puerto Rico’s energy infrastructure after Hurricane Maria, but the Cabinet secretary admits he’s acquainted with CEO Andy Techmanski. “Whitefish is a small town where ‘everybody knows everybody,'” the office said in an email.

Mexican Justice Crisis

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Washington Post, A U.S.-backed plan aimed to fix Mexico’s justice system. It has resulted in chaos, Joshua Partlow, Photos by Michael Robinson Chavez​, Dec. 28, 2017. For a country torn apart by drug violence, authorities see the overhaul as crucial to restoring order. But bickering and confusion reign at each link in the legal chain — and powerful drug cartels are exploiting the weaknesses in the new system and strong-arming authorities with death threats and bribes.|

Middle East

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New York Times, Assad Must Go, Says Turkey’s Leader, Seeking Leverage as War Winds Down, Anne Barnard, Dec. 27, 2017. Turkey’s leader denounced President Bashar al-Assad of Syria on Wednesday as a terrorist mass murderer with no place in that country’s postwar future, scrapping a softened approach that Turkish officials had taken toward Mr. Assad in recent years.

The statement by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey (shown above right) came as Mr. Assad seemed more confident than ever that he has won the war and will remain Syria’s leader for the foreseeable future. It also came against the backdrop of maneuvering by many powers — most notably Russia and Iran, Mr. Assad’s most important allies — to influence the outcome of a devastating conflict that has reshaped Middle East politics.

Dec. 26

Constitutional Convention To Attack Social Security?

The Hill, Opinion: The GOP tax bill could kill two birds with one stone, Nancy MacLean, Dec. 26, 2017. Nancy MacLean is the author of Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America (Viking, 2017) and the William H. Chafe professor of history and public policy at Duke University. 

Why doesn’t the GOP seem to care that its tax bill will drive up the deficit by $1.5 trillion? After all, for most of its modern history, the Republican party has campaigned on controlling the debt. Many answers have been offered, some quite illuminating. Here’s one that hasn’t been considered, and it may be the most urgent to understand.

Running up the deficit so extravagantly would serve two strategic purposes: One, as many have pointed out, is to create a fiscal emergency that justifies massive cuts to and even possible privatization of Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare.

But there’s a second reason you likely haven’t heard about: sealing the case for a constitutional convention. And the real action on this front will not be in Washington, but out in the states, where almost no one is looking.

While the eyes of most journalists and citizens have been fixed on the White House and Congress, scores of organizations and elected officials funded by Charles Koch and his donor network have quietly achieving control over state governments. With the aid of the powerful lobby group American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), 28 of the 34 states needed to call such a convention have passed measures calling for one. Many state legislatures were persuaded in part by the lure of a Balanced Budget Amendment. A ballooning deficit could help get the remaining six on board.

Justice System Updates

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, On Boston Bombing, Right to Know is Zero, James Henry, Dec. 26, 2017. It has been nearly five years since two bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, and nearly three years since the conclusion of the trial of the sole surviving Tsarnaev brother, Dzhokhar. And yet, the government continues to maintain radio silence over many crucial questions related to the bombing.

Since the 2013 bombing, WhoWhatWhy has made dozens and dozens of records requests through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and other records request laws, from multiple government agencies, in an effort to fill in some of the many holes in the story that remain after a secretive federal investigation and trial. The results have been mixed, to say the least.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev HSMost of the ongoing secrecy relates to the deceased mastermind and main bombing perpetrator: the older brother Tamerlan (shown at right).

The lead prosecutor who secured the conviction against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, William Weinreb, even admitted that “it is fair to say that there are still a number of questions unanswered about that case.” And a surprising number of Boston’s local law enforcement question whether the FBI is coming clean about what it knows about the now-deceased Tsarnaev brother.

As we wrote back in July, some of these enduring questions are:

* How was Tamerlan able to travel back and forth to the country from which he sought asylum in 2012, despite being on multiple terror watchlists?

* Why was he not questioned about the 2011 murder of three of his friends?

* Was Tamerlan working for the US government in some capacity?

* Was the FBI or some other federal agency using Tamerlan’s desire to become a US citizen as leverage?

Other Justice System Stories

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New York Attorney Gen. Eric Schneiderman

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New York Times, New York’s Attorney General in a Battle With the President, Danny Hakim and William K. Rashbaum, Dec. 26, 2017. Eric Schneiderman’s office recently took its 100th legal or administrative action against “the biggest threat” to New Yorkers: the federal government.

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 Justice Department logoWashington Post, Justice Department faulted for ‘systemic’ mishandling of sex harassment cases, Sari Horwitz, Dec. 26, 2017. While allegations of sexual misconduct have been increasing over the past five years, supervisors at the Justice Department have often mishandled the complaints, and some perpetrators have been given little discipline or even later rewarded with bonuses or performance awards, according to the department’s inspector general.By The Justice Department has “systemic” problems in how it handles sexual harassment complaints, with those found to have acted improperly often not receiving appropriate punishment, and the issue requires “high level action,” according to the department’s inspector general.

Justice supervisors have mishandled complaints, the IG said, and some perpetrators were given little discipline or even later rewarded with bonuses or performance awards. At the same time, the number of allegations of sexual misconduct has been increasing over the past five years and the complaints have involved senior Justice Department officials across the country.

The cases examined by the IG’s office include a U.S. attorney who had a sexual relationship with a subordinate and sent harassing texts and emails when it ended; a Civil Division lawyer who groped the breasts and buttocks of two female trial attorneys; and a chief deputy U.S. marshal who had sex with “approximately” nine women on multiple occasions in his U.S. Marshals Service office, according to investigative reports obtained by The Washington Post under a Freedom of Information Act request.

“We’re talking about presidential appointees, political appointees, FBI special agents in charge, U.S. attorneys, wardens, a chief deputy U.S. marshal, a U.S. marshal assistant director, a deputy assistant attorney general,” Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz said in an interview.

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harvey weinsteinWashington Post, Why Harvey Weinstein? How a powerful but obscure figure touched off a social movement, Paul Farhi, Dec. 26, 2017. The Hollywood producer's story of abusing women whipped up a wave that is still crashing. But why Harvey Weinstein (right) and not, say, Donald Trump, Bill Clinton or Bill Cosby?

Perhaps the most important factor was the identity of the victims, not of the alleged perpetrator.

“The first [Weinstein] stories had highly identifiable victims, people everyone knew,” said Teresa Younger, chief executive of the Ms. Foundation for Women, a charitable organization. “These were wealthy white women whose images people have seen for years and years. . . . They were trusted and believed” in ways that previous accusers might not have been.

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nikki haley oNew York Times, Trump’s Envoy Hints at More U.N. Budget Cuts to Come, Rick Gladstone, Dec. 26, 2017 (print edition). Ambassador Nikki R. Haley (shown at right) coupled her applause for a $285 million cut in the 2018-2019 budget with a suggestion that she would seek further reductions. At least four times in the past week, the Trump administration has linked financial support for the United Nations to compliance with American demands.

First President Trump and his ambassador, Nikki R. Haley, fumed that all countries with seats on the Security Council except the United States had opposed American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his decision to put the United States Embassy there.

Then Mr. Trump dared the General Assembly to follow the Security Council’s example. “Let them vote against us,” he said. “We will save a lot.”

When the General Assembly voted 128 to 9 against the Americans, Ms. Haley said she would take names and remember them the next time the United States was asked for financial help from members who disagreed with its stance on Jerusalem. The vote against the United States, she said, would make a difference “on how we look at countries who disrespect us at the U.N.”

SUN logotrategic Culture Foundation, Opinion: How the US and Israel Extort Votes at the UN, Wayne Madsen, Dec. 26, 2017. On Dec. 21, 2017, 128 member states of the United Nations General Assembly voted against the United States in condemning the Donald Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Moreover, the General Assembly called on member states not to move their embassies in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, warned the members of the UN that she would be “taking names” of countries voting against the United States on Jerusalem. Not content with acting like some snippety schoolmarm, Haley took the pollyannaish course of inviting countries voting against, abstaining, or absenting themselves from the General Assembly Jerusalem resolution to a “friendship party” in New York in January 2018.

In an accusatory speech before the General Assembly, rivaled only by previous bombasts by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu against the assembly and its majority of nations, Haley whined, “The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation.”

In bellyaching about America’s right to sovereignty, Haley held no such pretensions for those nations that voted against the United States and Israel. She threatened those who did not stand with the Trump administration and Israel with the loss of American economic aid, merely because those nations exercised their own rights of sovereignty against diplomatic bluster and bellicosity from Washington.

In the General Assembly vote, the Trump administration and Israel could only rely on seven countries to vote along with them. These seven nations represented either small and poor Pacific island states, all endangered by rising ocean levels and heavily-dependent on international assistance, or small dictatorships propped up by advanced Israeli surveillance and riot-control technology.

Media: CIA influence & Russian Pranksters

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: From Snowden To Russia-gate - The CIA And The Media, B, Dec. 26, 2017. The promotion of the alleged Russian election hacking in certain media may have grown from the successful attempts of U.S. intelligence services to limit the publication of the NSA files obtained by Edward Snowden.

glenn greenwald hsIn May 2013, Edward Snowden fled to Hongkong and handed internal documents from the National Security Agency (NSA) to four journalists, Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Ewen MacAskill of the Guardian and separately to Barton Gellman who worked for the Washington Post. Some of those documents were published by Greenwald (shown at right) in the Guardian, others by Barton Gellman in the Washington Post. Several other international news site published additional material though the mass of NSA papers that Snowden allegedly acquired never saw public daylight.

In July 2013 the Guardian was forced by the British government to destroy its copy of the Snowden archive.

In August 2013 Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post for some $250 million. In 2012 Bezos, the founder, largest share holder and CEO of Amazon, had already a cooperation with the CIA. Together they invested in a Canadian quantum computing company. In March 2013 Amazon signed a $600 million deal to provide computing services for the CIA.

In October 2013 Pierre Omidyar, the owner of Ebay, founded First Look Media and hired Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras. The total planned investment was said to be $250 million. It took up to February 2014 until the new organization launched its first site, the Intercept. Only a few NSA stories appeared on it. The Intercept is a rather mediocre site. Its management is said to be chaotic. It publishes few stories of interests and one might ask if it ever was meant to be a serious outlet. Omidyar has worked, together with the U.S. government, to force regime change onto Ukraine. He had strong ties with the Obama administration.

Snowden had copies of some 20,000 to 58,000 NSA files. Only 1,182 have been published. Bezos and Omidyar obviously helped the NSA to keep more than 95% of the Snowden archive away from the public. The Snowden papers were practically privatized into trusted hands of Silicon Valley billionaires with ties to the various secret services and the Obama administration.

The motivation for the Bezos and Omidyar to do this is not clear. Bezos is estimated to own a shameful $90 billion. The Washington Post buy is chump-change for him. Omidyar has a net worth of some $9.3 billion. But the use of billionaires to mask what are in fact intelligence operations is not new. The Ford Foundation has for decades been a CIA front, George Soros' Open Society foundation is one of the premier "regime change" operations, well versed in instigating "color revolutions".

 

nikki haley prank call vladirmir kuznetsov alexei stolyarovUS. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, at right, was fooled by Russian pranksters Vladimir Kuznetsov, at left, and Alexei Stolyarov

Al Arabiya English, UN envoy Nikki Haley gets prank called by Russian comedians, Staff report, Dec. 26, 2017. It comes as no surprise that Russian comedians targeted Nikki Haley for quite an elaborate prank. The UN Ambassador to the United States has been in the news recently after she gave a scathing speech in response to the United Nations vote earlier this week against President Donald Trump’s decision to consider Jerusalem as the new capital of Israel. .

Hours after the UN’s decision was announced, Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexei Stolyarov gave Haley a call in which they made her believe that she was speaking to Mateusz Morawiecki, the Polish prime minister.

As one of the 35 countries abstaining from the anti-American vote, Haley highly praised this decision from Poland and begun the call by showing her gratitude: “Let me start with very much thanking you for the support we received on the vote today.”

Although Poland didn’t vote on America’s side and merely abstained, Haley thought this was memorable, adding: “We will never forget it.”

The pranksters continued the conversation and directed Haley’s attention to the topic of a “tense situation” on the island of Binomo in the South China Sea. “Do you know Binomo? They have declared independence. We suppose Russians had its intervention.”

This was met by Haley agreeing, “Yes, of course they did. We’ve been watching that very closely. I think we will continue to watch as we deal with the issues about the South China Sea.”

However, Binomo does not exist.

As the conversation progressed, Haley expressed her thoughts on Russia, stating that the country was “trying to be relevant in every region and they are trying to have some sort of say in every region.”

She continued: “They do try to cause some disruption, but we manage them and we continue to remind them what their place is.”

maria zakharovaOnce exposed, Haley’s comments cost her on a global scale, attracting attention from the Russian foreign ministry, Maria Zakarova (shown in a file photo), who responded “Nikki, do you really want Russia to remember all of its ‘places’ in the world?” on Facebook.

Interestingly, Haley’s mishap has yet to be covered by American media, who often praise Haley’s neo-conservatism to the point that she is now seen as a likely presidential contender.

Dec. 25 

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jeff flake oWashington Post, Departing GOP lawmakers warn of potential party losses in 2018, Karoun Demirjian, Dec. 25, 2017 (print edition).  “By and large, we’re appealing to older white men, and there are just a limited number of them,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), shown at right. He and Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) urged Republicans to diversify the party and warned the president that catering only to his base would drive other voters to look for an alternative.

Nightly Business Report, An investigative story on the role Wall Street played in wiping out the savings of some Puerto Ricans, Leslie Picker, Dec. 25, 2017 (video). The banking giant UBS and Wall Street played a role in wiping out the savings of some Puerto Ricans.

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Washington Post, Trump retweets an image of ‘CNN’ squashed beneath his shoe, Amy B Wang, Dec. 25, 2017 (print edition).  Trump spends Christmas Eve calling troops, golfing and tweeting. The image originated as a reply to one of the president's tweets boasting about his first-year achievements. Critics deemed the picture and its Christmas Eve timing offensive.

djt cnn squished 12 24 17 twitter

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump is having the worst Christmas Eve ever, Bill Palmer, Dec. 24, 2017. Here’s how Donald Trump is spending Christmas Eve: ranting and raving like an unhinged lunatic who thinks the entire world is about to come crashing down on him, and is desperately looking for someone – anyone – to blame for his own impending demise.

It’s almost difficult to put into words how far off the deep end Trump is going today. Thus far he’s dishonestly attacked Hillary Clinton, Andrew McCabe, the FBI, ObamaCare, the media, and everyone who is not part of his own “base.”New York Times, Opinion: America Is Not Yet Lost, Paul Krugman, Dec. 25, 2017. Many of us came into 2017 expecting the worst. And in many ways, the worst is what we got.

cnn logoHe’s yelled “fake news” three times and then he yelled “fake polls” as well. He retweeted an image of himself with CNN splatted on his shoe like a bug. ivanka trump prison stripesMerry Christmas, he seems to be saying, while encouraging violence against the media. And that’s just for starters.

It’s difficult to point to any point in this year in which this pitiful excuse for a human being has been particularly enjoying himself. But it’s clear that, here on Christmas Eve, he’s far more miserable and defensive than usual.

fbi logoPerhaps that’s because he’s figured out he can’t fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller or the leadership at the FBI, and combined they have enough evidence to take down him and his family.

Truthout: Opinion on Peace: A Christmas Present to Yourself, William Rivers Pitt, Dec. 25, 2017. If you're having trouble understanding just how thrilled Republicans in Congress and the White House are about the passage of this profoundly unpopular tax package, look no further than last Thursday, when Mike Pence and Ben Carson (right) actually prayed to Donald Trump.

ben carsonThey didn't pray with him or for him, or even at him. They prayed to him, lavishing honeyed compliments on him for everything from the bill (which he assisted by staying almost completely out of the way) to his courage in facing down the "fake news."

They prayed to him as the articulated realization of a dream three generations in the making, the supply-side savior, the God of Trickle-Down made flesh, with Reagan the Father smiling beatifically down from his heavenly steed like Death on its white horse.

The GOP donors who demanded this tax bill fiasco have gotten what they wanted, the GOP gets to run on "See, government doesn't work" with their campaign coffers full now that they've broken government again, and so they prayed to Donald Trump and gave voice to their joy, and it was a creepy dispiriting mess.

Is it a law yet? Yes, as of Friday morning.

I am supposed to be using this space to talk about Christmas, about the tree furnishing my floor with needles, about how I am utterly incompetent in the wrapping department, about food and family, the hell of shopping and maybe some snow on the big day.

I am supposed to be talking about that, but this is a Christmas like no other in living memory. We are, each and every one of us, watching the guy wires supporting this country snap under the weight of a homegrown televised fascism that appears finally ready to become the juggernaut it thinks it is.

I left something for myself under the tree this year, and I hope you do the same for yourself in whatever way best suits your approach to the season. Not long ago, I offered a plea to all of you for endurance, that you never allow any of this to become normal or routine.

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paul krugmanNew York Times, Opinion: America Is Not Yet Lost, Paul Krugman (shown at right), Dec. 25, 2017. Many of us came into 2017 expecting the worst. And in many ways, the worst is what we got.

Yet I’m ending this year with a feeling of hope, because tens of millions of Americans have risen to the occasion. The U.S. may yet become another Turkey or Hungary — a state that preserves the forms of democracy but has become an authoritarian regime in practice. But it won’t happen as easily or as quickly as many of us had feared.

Early this year the commentator David Frum warned that the slide into authoritarianism would be unstoppable “if people retreat into private life, if critics grow quieter, if cynicism becomes endemic.” But so far that hasn’t happened. What we’ve seen instead is the emergence of a highly energized resistance.

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Washington Post, Opinion: Trump’s first year was even worse than feared, Eugene Robinson, Dec. 25, 2017. Many of us began 2017 with the consoling thought that the Donald Trump presidency couldn’t possibly be as bad as we feared. It turned out to be worse.

Austerity In DC

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Washington Post, Deaths of mother and newborn triggered obstetrics ward to close at D.C.’s only public hospital, Peter Jamison, Dec. 25, 2017 (print edition). Regulators identified errors in the treatment of a D.C. woman and her daughter that led to the temporary closure of the ward at United Medical Center in August. The decision this month to permanently shut its delivery rooms and nursery has broad consequences for women in the poor and predominantly African American neighborhoods nearby.

Global News

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Washington Post, Russian election officials bar protest leader Navalny from running against Putin, Andrew Roth, Dec. 25, 2017. The decision, which was widely expected, cites a previous conviction for fraud that Alexei Navalny has said was politically motivated. 

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New York Times, ISIS Is Resilient in Afghanistan Despite U.S. Campaign, Mujib Mashal, Dec. 25, 2017. The Islamic State is far from being vanquished in eastern Afghanistan, surviving intense pressure from American airstrikes and raids by United States and Afghan forces. The group has waged brutal attacks that have displaced thousands of families and forced even some Taliban fighters to seek government protection.

Dec. 24

trickle down cartoon

 A Joke?

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Washington Post, Charities fear tax overhaul will change philanthropy, leaving it only to the rich, Todd C. Frankel, Dec. 24, 2017 (print edition). The  source of concern is how the tax overhaul, which President Trump signed into law Friday, is expected to sharply reduce the number of Americans who qualify for the charitable tax deduction — a big driver of gifts to nonprofits. The biggest declines are projected to come from the middle class — the rich will mostly keep their ability to take the tax breaks.

GOP Ramping Up Trump Defense

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robert muellerWashington Post, How criticism of the Mueller probe has grown from a whisper to a clamor, Michael Kranish, Devlin Barrett and Karoun Demirjian, Dec. 24, 2017. The allegation that FBI and Justice Department officials are part of a broad conspiracy against President Trump is suddenly center stage, amplified by conservative activists, GOP lawmakers, right-leaning media and Trump himself. The partisan atmosphere is a sharp departure from the near-universal support that greeted Robert Mueller III’s selection as special counsel in May. (He is shown at right.)

Global News

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New York Times, For Rohingya Women, Abuse Continues in Camps, Hannah Beech, Dec. 24, 2017 (print edition). Even after escaping Myanmar, survivors of rape and other trauma find themselves still vulnerable and commodified in the brokenness of refugee life.

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Washington Post, Russia warns that U.S. decision to arm Ukraine will fuel new bloodshed, Carol Morello and David Filipov, Dec. 24, 2017 (print edition). The U.S. move to provide heavy armaments to Ukraine for the first time brought a sharp rebuke from Moscow, which has tacitly backed separatists while denying it actively supports them.

The Intercept, Can the Supreme Court Continue to Live with Our Arbitrary and Capricious Death Penalty? Liliana Segura, Dec. 24, 2017. Rudolph J. Gerber has never forgotten where he was when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the death penalty over 45 years ago. He was a new lawyer in Phoenix, working as the associate director of the Arizona Criminal Code Commission. The landmark 1972 ruling in Furman v. Georgia invalidated death sentences across the country, including those of 16 people on Arizona’s death row. Outraged politicians vowed to bring back capital punishment; one Phoenix Republican declared his candidacy for Maricopa County attorney that very day.

The next day, Republican State Sen. Sandra Day O’Connor, a member of Arizona’s Senate  Judiciary Committee, came to Gerber’s office. She dropped the Furman decision on his desk. “I said, ‘What do you think we should do about it?’” Gerber recalled in a recent phone interview. “And her exact words were, ‘Rudy, I want you to write a death penalty we can live with.’”

Dec. 23

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Washington Post, Can GOP boost its 2018 outlook by selling the tax bill? Dan Balz, Dec. 23, 2017.  As President Trump signed the sweeping legislation into law, he said, “I think it’s selling itself.” But every Republican running in a competitive midterm race next year faces an uphill climb to turn his words into reality after the tax plan — with benefits heavily weighted toward corporations and the wealthiest Americans — was pushed through Congress with record speed.

naomi klein portrait Custom 2Truthout, Trump Embodies the Crisis of Capitalism: A Conversation With Naomi Klein, Laura Flanders, Dec. 23, 2017. (Interview excerpted below): How did we get to the Trump presidency and the current political moment? How might things get worse and what can we do to build an alternative? In her new book, No Is Not Enough, Naomi Klein (shown at right) offers what she describes as "a plan for how, if we keep our heads, we might just be able to flip the script and arrive at a radically better future."

Laura Flanders: After the spate of disastrous floods, fires and quakes that have shocked us this year, this is a good time to revisit Naomi Klein, whose work continues to dig deep into the way that the global capitalists use shock and chaos to advance their agenda, regardless of the impact on the vulnerable. It's hard to think of a national or global emergency that Donald Trump hasn't tried to exploit for his own purposes, but still, a year after his election, roughly 30 percent of Americans polled continue to support his presidency.

Naomi Klein No Is Not EnoughWhat is Trump selling? Who's buying? And why? And what do those who consider themselves part of the resistance need to say "yes" to, after so many months and years of saying "no" to Trump and Trumpism? Naomi Klein is the author of 2017's No Is Not Enough, as well as The Shock Doctrine and This Changes Everything.

So, what you say in the book is that we replace that story of "capitalism will help everybody" with the story of "it's winners and losers and you don't want to be a loser."

Naomi Klein: Donald Trump Cover Art of the DealRight, right, and that is key to understanding Trump, because what he has been selling in this period as the wealth gap has widened, this period of a small group of super winners, and a whole lot of people who are just losing, is: "I will teach you how to be a winner." I think it's really important to understand that that is what he has been promising since he wrote The Art of the Deal. Like, "I'm going to teach you how to be like me, never mind that wealth is inherited, never mind that everything was handed to me...." And this is what he was selling at Trump University. "I'm going to turn you into the next Donald Trump." University, right. That's what "The Apprentice" was, right?

mike pence o SmallLaura Flanders: I was reminded in your book of how the right come into a crisis. When you reminded me that it was Mike Pence who was behind that post-Katrina plan to basically do away with all the protections for workers that had been put in place by activists on the Gulf Coast for many years ... and I'm left always, reading your wonderful work with this sense of, "How can we take advantage of crisis with as much oomph as they did...?" And maybe you just need to remind our audience who is Mike Pence and what it was [like] to come across him again.

Naomi Klein: Well, when I was writing The Shock Doctrine, the book begins with Hurricane Katrina as the ultimate example of this tactic that the book focuses on: of using periods of severe collective trauma to push through policies that you'd never be able to push through without a crisis, because there's no consent. I mean, it's the ultimate abuse of the principle of consent democracy, whatever you want to call it, and New Orleans -- it was particularly abusive because people were not in their city. I mean, they were not home.

There had been many of them put onto buses and planes at gun point and given one-way tickets out of the city, and when they were gone, that's when their housing projects were demolished. That's when their schools were turned into charter schools or shut down completely, and New Orleans became this laboratory for these pet ideological, very profitable projects, and so, there was this meeting where this was all mapped out when New Orleans was still partially under water. It was at the Heritage Foundation....

Donald Trump Mike Pence logo SmallYou can put a checkmark next to a lot of them today ... and when Trump appointed Mike Pence as his running mate, I knew I knew the name from somewhere, but I couldn't quite place it, and then I remembered that his name was at the bottom of that document, because he was at that time, the chair of the Republican study group.

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fbi logoWashington Post, FBI deputy director, facing onslaught of GOP criticism, plans to retire, Devlin Barrett and Karoun Demirjian​, Dec. 23, 2017.  Andrew McCabe was the right-hand man to former agency director James Comey, which meant he was involved in most of the FBI’s actions that vex President Trump. He plans to step down in a few months when he is eligible for full pension benefits, people familiar with the matter said.

andrew mccabe c span may 11 2017Andrew McCabe, the FBI’s deputy director who has been the target of Republican critics for more than a year, plans to retire in a few months when he becomes fully eligible for pension benefits, according to people familiar with the matter. McCabe (shown via a C-SPAN clip of priory testimony) spent hours in Congress this past week, facing questions behind closed doors from members of three committees. Republicans said they were dissatisfied with his answers; Democrats called it a partisan hounding.

McCabe, 49, holds a unique position in the political firestorm surrounding the FBI. He was former director James B. Comey’s right-hand man, a position that involved him in most of the FBI’s actions that vex President Trump as well as the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state, a matter that still riles Democrats.

Trump versus Puerto Rico?

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Washington Post, Opinion: The cameras go off, and then comes the collapse, Dana Milbank, Dec. 23, 2017.  Trump devastates Puerto Rico twice. President Trump awarded himself a 10 out of 10 score two months ago for his response to Hurricane Maria, which leveled Puerto Rico.

“If you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina, and you look at the tremendous hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died,” Trump said as he toured Puerto Rico in October. “What is your death count, as of this moment — 17?”

“Sixteen certified,” the governor of Puerto Rico replied. “Sixteen versus literally thousands of people,” Trump said. “You can be very proud.” How proud we are now.

This week, we learned the truth. Some 1,065 more Puerto Ricans died in September and October of this year than in previous years, almost certainly storm-related deaths, according to the Center for Investigative Journalism. When all is tallied, the destruction in Puerto Rico will be very much on par with what Trump considers “a real catastrophe like Katrina,” which killed about 1,800.

Incredibly, a large portion of the island remains without power — three months after the storm. It was reported this week that power may not be fully restored until May. Puerto Ricans — American citizens — are still awaiting tarps and temporary roofs to shelter them after an untold number of homes were destroyed.

Transitions

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Washington Post, William W. Graham, lawyer, investor and philanthropist, dies at 69, Matt Schudel, Dec. 23, 2017.  William W. Graham, a lawyer, investor and philanthropist who was a member of the family that owned and published the Washington Post for many years, died Dec. 20 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 69. The cause was a self-inflicted gunshot wound, said his brother Donald E. Graham, a former Post publisher and chief executive. Mr. Graham was a lawyer at the prominent Washington firm of Williams & Connolly in the 1970s before settling in Los Angeles, where he taught trial law at his alma mater, the University of California at Los Angeles.

Global News: Saudi Arabia

SouthFront, One Of High Profile Persons Detained In Saudi ‘Anti-Corruption Crackdown’ Was Tortured To Death – Media, Staff report, Dec. 23, 2017. Major General Ali Alqahtani, who was detained in November as part of the Saudi ‘anti-corruption crackdown,’ has reportedly died under torture, the London-based newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported.

According to the report, Major General Alqahtani was a member of the royal guard forces and the manager of the private office of Prince Turki Bin Abdullah, the son of former king Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz. He and many other high profile persons were held at the Ritz Carlton. Alqahtani allegedly died on 12 December after being tortured with electric shocks. Furthermore, the newspaper said that his family struggled to recognise him after receiving his body.

In November, reports appeared that Saudi princes and billionaire businessmen arrested in the crackdown were tortured by by US private security contractors hired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Dec. 22

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Washington Post, Opinion: This tax deal is great for Trump. What a coincidence! Eugene Robinson, Dec. 22, 2017 (print edition). One of the biggest beneficiaries of the massive, slapdash tax bill that President Trump and Republican lawmakers celebrated at the White House on Wednesday will be, wait for it . . . President Trump. What a coincidence!

The rest of Trump’s wealthy family will benefit lavishly as well, including his son-in-law and all-purpose adviser, Jared Kushner. And, of course, it’s not a coincidence at all. The chance that this president would preside over a revision of the tax code without lining his own pockets was zero. Anyone who believed Trump’s claim that the tax bill would “cost me a fortune” hasn’t been paying attention.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Major Investigation: Trump's Puerto Rico psychopathy, Dec. 22, 2017. (Subscription required; excerpted with permission.) When it comes to the U.S. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, a territory of the United States where the residents are all U.S. citizens, Donald Trump maintains an extreme psychopathy.

Global News

australian flag wavingSouthFront, Australia To End Its Operations Against ISIS In Syria And Iraq, Staff report, Dec. 22, 2017. Australia’s Defense Minister, Marise Payne, announced on December 22 that Australia will withdraw its six F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets from the Middle East, and stop its airstrikes on ISIS in Syria and Iraq, according to Reuters. Payne said that the decision was taken after discussions with the US-led coalition and the Iraqi government.

Other members of the US-led coalition will likely end their missions against ISIS in Syria and Iraq in the upcoming months. One the other hand, US officials stressed on many occasions that US troops will maintain its presence in Syria after defeating ISIS for political reasons. If the US remains alone in Syria, it will face an additional pressure from the international community as its presence in the country will be lacking any legal bases or proper support from its own allies.

Whistleblowing Benefits To Taxpayers

chuck grassley officialChuck Grassley, Grassley Reform Credited with Recovering More Than $56 Billion Lost to Fraud, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Dec. 22, 2017. More than $3.7 Billion in Taxpayer Funds Recouped from Fraudsters in 2017 Alone. Senator Chuck Grassley’s False Claims Act reforms helped the federal government recover more than $3.7 billion from fraudsters in fiscal year 2017, according to a Justice Department announcement yesterday. That brings the total amount of taxpayer dollars recovered from fraud since Grassley’s reforms to more than $56.1 billion. 

“Over and over again the False Claims Act has proven to be the single most effective tool for recovering taxpayer dollars lost to fraudsters who exploit the government. It encourages whistleblowers to raise the alarm when they encounter unscrupulous crooks and prevents further government waste. And it clearly works. To those who doubt the value of whistleblowers and the False Claims Act, I’d just say: $56 billion and counting,” Grassley said. “Yesterday’s announcement marks yet another significant milestone in our efforts to protect taxpayers against fraud.” The False Claims Act was enacted to prosecute fraud against taxpayers by unscrupulous companies and government contractors. Grassley, the current Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, authored reforms to the False Claims Act in 1986 to encourage whistleblowers to come forward with information involving such fraud.

In the last decade, the government has clawed back an average of nearly $3.6 billion annually, thanks in large part to Grassley’s qui tam provisions, which allow whistleblowers to share in the government’s recovery. Of the more than $3.7 billion recovered in the last fiscal year, over $3.4 billion are related to law suits filed under the qui tam provisions. Many of the recoveries were initiated by whistleblowers who took advantage of Grassley’s provisions allowing them to bring their own case on the government’s behalf. Grassley also led an effort in 2009 to pass the Fraud Enforcement Recovery Act, which bolstered existing tools and resources for government investigators and prosecutors to combat fraud.

Dec. 21

Donald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)

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New York Times, With Tax Overhaul, Trump Tries to Defy the Economic Odds, Patricia Cohen, Dec. 21, 2017. President Trump and congressional Republicans are betting that their tax code rewrite will ultimately raise wages and create jobs, but few independent analyses offer similarly rosy forecasts.

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Washington Post, Rush to pass massive rewrite of tax code sows confusion, Renae Merle and Aaron Gregg, Dec. 21, 2017. Many workers will have to wait until 2019 to find out whether they will pay more or less to the federal government under the GOP tax bill. Tax attorneys, accountants and corporate payroll departments also are scrambling to adjust to looming changes.

Homeowners are already peppering local officials with questions about whether they can — and should — prepay their 2018 property taxes in the less than a dozen days left in 2017, before new limits on such deductions take effect. Others are asking their accountants whether there are expenses — such as moving costs — that they should pay now before they are no longer eligible for preferential tax treatment.

Much of the confusion is the result of how quickly Republican lawmakers were able to pass the legislation.

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Washington Post, One potential loser in the new GOP tax bill: Puerto Rico, Ed O'Keefe, Dec. 21, 2017. The storm-ravaged island’s governor warns a new tax on foreign entities could affect its critical manufacturing sector.

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Washington Post, Once again, Ivanka Trump shows off her cluelessness, Jennifer Rubin, Dec. 21, 2017.She’s a walking advertisement for the danger of nepotism, an exemplar of class privilege and a perfect representative for Republican know-nothingism. She was supposed to be the brains of the family and the moral ballast; instead, she’s a self-righteous enabler.

We’re speaking of Ivanka Trump, as you might have divined. She was out talking nonsense again on Thursday: “I’m really looking forward to doing a lot of traveling in April when people realize the effect that this has … The vast majority will be [doing their taxes] on a single postcard.” Thunk.

 There’s no postcard. That was a prop. And the filing for the first year under the new tax code will be in 2019.

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New York Times, G.O.P. Wins on Tax Cuts, but Faces a Brutal Election Year, Jonathan Martin, Dec. 21, 2017. The sweeping tax overhaul approved by Congress this week hands Republicans a long-sought achievement they believe will bolster their defenses in next year’s midterm campaign.But party officials concede the measure can only mitigate their losses in what is shaping up to be a punishing election year.

Scandal In Miss America Contest Leadership

Huffington Post, The Miss America Emails: How The Pageant’s CEO Really Talks About The Winners, Yashar Ali, Dec. 21, 2017. Internal correspondence reveals name-calling, slut-shaming and fat-shaming in emails between the Miss America CEO, board members and a pageant writer.

In late August 2014, the CEO of the Miss America Organization, Sam Haskell, sent an email to the lead writer of the Miss America pageant telecast, Lewis Friedman, informing him of a change he wanted to make in the script: “I have decided that when referring to a woman who was once Miss America, we are no longer going to call them Forever Miss Americas....please change all script copy to reflect that they are Former Miss Americas!”

Friedman replied, “I’d already changed “Forevers” to “Cunts.” Does that work for you?”

Haskell’s short reply came quickly: “Perfect...bahahaha.”

At that point, Haskell had been the leader of Miss America for nine years, after rising through the ranks at a top Hollywood talent agency. Many prior winners, or as they’re called, “formers,” consider the pageant a wonderful, wholesome activity for young women. But Haskell’s behavior behind closed doors shows he regularly maligned, fat-shamed and slut-shamed the former Miss Americas, calling them shocking names and in one case laughing at the suggestion that one of the women should die.

When it came to one particular former, Haskell took his efforts so far that she lost her pageant coaching business.

Two Miss America board members served as a virtual rubber stamp for Haskell’s behavior: Tammy Haddad, a media consultant and D.C. power connector; and Lynn Weidner, a Las Vegas socialite. And though Friedman was never a board member, he regularly sent offensive and sexist messages to Haskell, which Haskell often responded to by indicating he thought Friedman was funny or endorsed what Friedman was saying.

For this story, HuffPost reviewed nearly three years of internal emails provided by two sources. They reveal a CEO who regularly wrote and responded to unprofessional, offensive emails about the women who poured their hearts into the pageants and the organization he was leading.

(Update: The board suspended Haskell on Friday, hours after an open letter from 49 former Miss Americas called for top-level resignations, adding, “The Board will be conducting an in-depth investigation into alleged inappropriate communications and the nature in which they were obtained. In addition, the Board wishes to reaffirm our commitment to the education and empowerment of young women, supporting them in every way possible.”)

Bannon Tees Off On Trump?

stephen bannon cropped npc 2013Palmer Report, Opinion: Steve Bannon launches vicious personal attack against Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Dec. 21, 2017. Steve Bannon takes off the gloves and decides he wants Donald Trump to go down with him.

Donald Trump and Steve Bannon (shown in a file photo) have been frenemies since the day Trump pushed Bannon out of the White House this summer. At times they’ve informally plotted together, and at other times they’ve backed rival candidates or taken indirect shots at each other. It looks like the middle ground is finished, however. Bannon just launched a vicious personal attack against Trump, essentially calling him a child rapist in the process.

Bannon previously ripped into Ivanka Trump while campaigning for alleged child molester Roy Moore, using her “special place in hell” line against her. Now that Moore has lost, humiliating both Bannon and Donald Trump in the process, Bannon is squarely blaming Ivanka for having condemned Moore. However, Bannon is targeting Ivanka this time by criticizing her for ignoring the things that her father has been accused of doing.

Steve Bannon said this about Ivanka Trump to Vanity Fair “What about the allegations about her dad and that 13-year-old?” (link). This is in reference to a lawsuit brought by a woman who alleged that Trump raped her when she was thirteen. That lawsuit has since been dropped, and there are no criminal charges pending in the matter. However, that isn’t stopping Bannon from dredging it up again and trying to use it to harm Trump’s already battered reputation. So what is Bannon trying to do?

Vanity Fair, “I Have Power”: Is Steve Bannon Running for President? Gabriel Sherman, Dec. 21, 2017. On a whirlwind tour around the globe, Trump’s former aide and alter ego reveals what really went down in the White House, his unfettered thoughts on Javanka, his complicated relationship with his erstwhile boss — and his own political ambitions.

...And now Roy Moore’s Alabama Senate candidacy was threatening to implode. When I met Bannon at John F. Kennedy Airport, an hour before boarding the Tokyo flight, he’d turned the first-class lounge into a makeshift war room. A few days earlier, The Washington Post published allegations that Moore had pursued romantic and sexual relationships with teenagers in the 1970s while he was an assistant district attorney. One woman told the paper he molested her when she was 14—and he was 32....

The siege on Roy Moore’s campaign continued. The previous day, Ivanka Trump told the Associated Press “there’s a special place in hell for people who prey on children.”

Bannon was incredulous she’d make the comment. “What about the allegations about her dad and that 13-year-old?” he said, referring to the California woman who alleged Trump raped her when she was a teen (the suit has since been dropped.) “Ivanka was a fount of bad advice during the campaign.”

Civilian Toll Rises In Allied Victory in Iraq

ap logoAssociated Press, Mosul is a graveyard: Final IS battle kills 9,000 civilians, Susannah George, Dec. 21, 2017. The price Mosul’s residents paid in blood to see their city freed was 9,000 to 11,000 dead, a civilian casualty rate nearly 10 times higher than what has been previously reported. The number killed in the nine-month battle to liberate the city from the Islamic State group marauders has not been acknowledged by the U.S.-led coalition, the Iraqi government or the self-styled caliphate.

But Mosul’s gravediggers, its morgue workers and the volunteers who retrieve bodies from the city’s rubble are keeping count. Iraqi or coalition forces are responsible for at least 3,200 civilian deaths from airstrikes, artillery fire or mortar rounds between October 2016 and the fall of the Islamic State group in July 2017, according to an Associated Press investigation that cross-referenced independent databases from non-governmental organizations.

No Fed Shutdown

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 Washington Post, Congress averts partial shutdown as Senate passes stopgap spending bill, Dec. 21, 2017. Mike DeBonis and Erica Werner, The measure extends current federal funding, but pushes into January showdowns on spending, immigration, health care and national security. Earlier in the day, House GOP leaders scrambled to gather votes for the bill, seeking to defuse squabbling that erupted after Republicans passed a landmark tax overhaul. See also: New York Times, G.O.P. Lawmakers Rush to Avoid Government Shutdown.

Washington Post, Angry Hispanic Caucus members confront Schumer as prospects for DACA deal slip again, Dec. 21, 2017.

CIA Involvement In Anti-Castro, JFK Plots

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Codebreakers and Killers: CIA Covert Ops and the JFK Assassination, Jimmy Falls, Dec. 21, 2017. To those not acquainted with the multifaceted narrative of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the idea that US intelligence was somehow involved sounds like wild speculation — an alternative reality deserving of the pejorative label “conspiracy theory.” But to those more familiar with the facts surrounding the case, and knowledgeable about the formation and history of operations of the various intelligence agencies — particularly the CIA — this doesn’t seem so far-fetched after all.

cia logoOne of the more notorious CIA operations involved recruiting elements of the American mafia — no friends of Castro after he had closed down their casinos — to whack the dictator through famed mafioso and CIA liaison Johnny Roselli.

These assassination attempts fell under the auspices of a top-secret assassination program, code name ZR/RIFLE, which was hidden in a strange place — inside the confines of a CIA signals intelligence section called “Staff D.” From what we can tell, Staff D was a kind of liason to the National Security Agency (NSA), which was in the business of breaking codes. Staff D’s goal was to provide the NSA with code books to decrypt foreign signals — by hook or crook. And the man in charge of this section was a notorious CIA figure — William “Bill” Harvey.

To help us understand who Harvey was, the origins and mission of these covert programs, and how Kennedy fell out of favor with the project’s leaders, esteemed JFK researchers Larry Hancock and Bill Simpich gave this joint in-depth talk (1:09:47 hrs. video here) at the recent JFK Lancer conference in Dallas.

UN Defiance To Trump, Israel

un vote jerusalem dec 21 2017 Custom 2

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New York Times, U.N. Votes 128-9 to Rebuke U.S. Over Jerusalem Move, Rick Gladstone, Dec. 21, 2017. The vote (shown above) amounted to a collective act of defiance toward the Trump administration at the United Nations, the world’s biggest diplomatic stage.

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A majority of the world’s nations delivered a stinging rebuke to the United States on Thursday, denouncing its decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and ignoring President Trump’s threats to retaliate by cutting aid to countries voting against it.

In a collective act of defiance toward Washington, the General Assembly voted 128 to 9, with 35 abstentions, to demand that the United States rescind its Dec. 6 declaration on Jerusalem, the contested holy city.

jerusalemThe resolution is nonbinding and therefore largely symbolic, but the lopsided vote indicated the extent to which the Trump administration’s decision to defy a 50-year international consensus on Jerusalem’s status has unsettled world politics and contributed to America’s diplomatic isolation.

Major allies like Britain, France, Germany and Japan all voted for the resolution, though some allies, like Australia and Canada, abstained.

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Carrying out a promise to his base of supporters, Mr. Trump’s decision on Jerusalem upended decades of American policy, aggravating an emotional issue that has festered since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, when the Israelis occupied the entire city. 

Aside from Israel, the only countries to side with the United States by voting no were Guatemala, Honduras, Togo, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru and Palau.

james foley isis 2012 via abc

Journalist James Foley shortly before he was executed by an Islamic State operative in August 2014

bo dodhq 7 6 15More Global News

Consortium News, Did Obama Arm Islamic State Killers? Daniel Lazare, Dec. 21, 2017. A new study shows that U.S. government weapons ended up in the hands of Islamic State jihadists, but no one in Washington seems interested in how they got there or what President Obama knew, writes Daniel Lazare.

Did Barack Obama (shown in a meeting at Defense Departgment headquarters) arm ISIS? The question strikes many people as absurd, if not offensive. How can anyone suggest something so awful about a nice guy like the former president? But a stunning report by an investigative group known as Conflict Armament Research (CAR) leaves us little choice but to conclude that he did.

CAR, based in London and funded by Switzerland and the European Union, spent three years tracing the origin of some 40,000 pieces of captured ISIS arms and ammunition. Its findings, made public last week, are that much of it originated in former Warsaw Pact nations in Eastern Europe, where it was purchased by United States and Saudi Arabia and then diverted, in violation of various rules and treaties, to Islamist rebels seeking to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The rebels, in turn, somehow caused or allowed the equipment to be passed on to Islamic State, which is also known by the acronyms ISIS or ISIL, or just the abbreviation IS.

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Mike PenceWashington Post, Pence pays surprise visit to Kabul, Jenna Johnson, Dec. 21, 2017. Vice President Pence arrived in Afghanistan on Thursday for an unannounced visit with U.S. troops, many of whom were just children when the war began here more than 16 years ago, and to meet with top Afghan leaders to discuss President Trump’s strategy for the conflict.

Politics Around the U.S.

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Washington Post, ‘We’re losing the war for truth’: Sen. Franken denounces Trump, GOP in final floor speech, Elise Viebeck, Dec. 21, 2017.  The Minnesota Democrat bade farewell to Capitol Hill with a lengthy broadside against the policies of the Trump administration and a call for politicians to commit themselves to “honesty in public discourse.”

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Washington Post, And the winner is ... Virginia will leave it up to fate to decide tied race, Fenit Nirappil, Dec. 21, 2017. A recount in a wild Virginia House of Delegates contest has Del. David Yancey tied with Democrat Shelly Simonds. The state board of elections will determine a winner by drawing a name from a bowl next Wednesday.

Yet the plot thickened Wednesday, when a three-judge court that was supposed to certify the recount accepted a last-minute challenge from Republicans, who argued a questionable ballot that had been set aside during the recount should be tallied in Yancey’s favor. The judges declared a tie between Simonds and Yancey, with 11,608 votes each and no winner.

Stakes are especially high because Republicans would lose their 50-49 majority in the chamber- for the first time in 17 years —  if Simonds prevails. If she wins, it would force Democrats and Republicans to negotiate a rare power-sharing arrangement.That will not be the end; the loser can seek a second recount.

Climate Change

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New York Times, Jakarta Is Sinking So Fast, It Could End Up Underwater, Michael Kimmelman, Dec. 21, 2017. A tsunami of human-made troubles in the Indonesian capital poses an imminent threat to the city’s survival. And it has to deal with mounting threats from climate change.

Rasdiono remembers when the sea was a good distance from his doorstep, down a hill. Back then he opened the cramped, gaily painted bayside shack he named the Blessed Bodega, where he and his family sell catfish heads, spiced eggs and fried chicken.

It was strange, Rasdiono said. Year by year, the water crept closer. The hill gradually disappeared. Now the sea loomed high over the shop, just steps away, held back only by a leaky wall.

With climate change, the Java Sea is rising and weather here is becoming more extreme. Earlier this month another freakish storm briefly turned Jakarta’s streets into rivers and brought this vast area of nearly 30 million residents to a virtual halt.

 

Courts, Crime

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Washington Post, To curb illegal border crossings, Trump administration weighs new measures targeting families, Nick Miroff​, Dec. 21, 2017. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is considering new measures to halt a surge of Central Americans coming across the Mexican border, including a proposal to separate parents from their children, according to officials with knowledge of the plans.

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Washington Post, Judge dismisses lawsuit alleging Trump violated Constitution, David A. Fahrenthold and Jonathan O'Connell, Dec. 21, 2017. A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit Thursday alleging that President Trump violated the Constitution’s emoluments clause because his hotels and restaurants do business with foreign governments while he is in office.

The plaintiffs argued that because Trump properties rent out hotel rooms and meeting spaces to other governments, the president was violating a constitutional provision that bans the acceptance of foreign emoluments, or gifts from foreign powers.

But Judge George B. Daniels of the Southern District of New York ruled that the plaintiffs, led by the government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), lacked standing to bring such a case, saying it was up to Congress to prevent the president from accepting emoluments.

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Washington Post, Not-guilty verdicts for first six people on trial in violent Inauguration Day protests, Keith L. Alexander and Ellie Silverman, Dec. 21, 2017. The six defendants were acquitted of multiple charges of rioting and destruction of property. More than 150 additional defendants are set to face trial in the coming months.

Space Wars?

 The Atlantic,Space Warfare Could Be On The Horizon, Thomas González Roberts, Dec. 21, 2017. This article (first published Dec. 15 and excerpted Dec. 21) is edited from a story shared exclusively with members of The Masthead, the membership program from The Atlantic.

Congress recently came close to creating a United States Space Corps, a new branch of the U.S. military intended to defend American interests in space. It would have been the first new military branch since Congress created the Air Force in 1947.

Although there has never been a military conflict in space, the history of human activity above our atmosphere is not entirely benign. In 1962, the United States detonated a 1.4 megaton nuclear weapon 250 miles above the Earth’s surface. The blast destroyed approximately one third of satellites in orbit and poisoned the most used region of space with radiation that lasted for years. Although the United States, Russia, and others soon agreed to a treaty to prevent another nuclear test in space, China and North Korea never signed it.

 No treaties address this kind of test, the creation of space debris, or the endangerment of other satellites.The U.S. has the most to lose in a space-based conflictWith by far the most satellites in orbit, the U.S. has the most to gain by establishing norms, but also the most to lose. Almost half of all operational satellites are owned and operated by the United States government or American commercial companies. That’s twice as many as Russia and China, combined.

Consumer News: Apple

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Washington Post, Apple slows your iPhone as the battery ages, but doesn’t give you a cheap way to replace it, Geoffrey A. Fowler, Dec. 21, 2017. The practice leaves owners with the impression that they should buy a new phone when all they really need is a new battery. And Apple could have been a little more transparent about the software update.  Washington Post, Residents can’t prepay property taxes in Montgomery County. But they can in Fairfax, D.C., Rachel Siegel​, Dec. 21, 2017. The option lacked support from lawmakers, who said there would be too much to sort out by the end of the year.Dec. 20

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irs logoWashington Post, Washington Post, Congress sends massive GOP tax plan to Trump, Damian Paletta and Jeff Stein, Dec. 20, 2017. President calls bill ‘an incredible Christmas gift’ for taxpayers. House Republicans gave final approval to the tax overhaul this afternoon, meaning President Trump's signature is all that's required for the sweeping set of changes to the tax code to become law.

Trump may wait until January to sign the measure, an adviser said. GOP lawmakers plan to go to the White House later today to celebrate the bill’s passage, which marks their first major legislative victory since Trump took office nearly a year ago.

marco rubio official.jpg SmallThe bill passed the Senate 51 to 48 just before 1 a.m., with no Democrats backing the bill while all Republicans present voted for it. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) did not attend the vote as he undergoes treatment for brain cancer. He said earlier this month that he supported the bill. The plan’s passage had not been in doubt since Friday, when holdout Republican Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.), right, and Bob Corker (Tenn.) pledged to support it.

GOPer Ouster of Trump?

Palmer Report, Opinion: Here’s who the Republicans are really trying to protect by sabotaging Robert Mueller (hint: not Donald Trump), Bill Palmer, Dec. 20, 2017. It all makes sense now. The Republicans in Congress have spent the past two weeks trying to sabotage the reputation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. If they wanted him gone, they’d just oust him. Instead they’re trying to bloody him. But why?

djt official SmallCertainly not to protect Donald Trump, whom they couldn’t care less about, and would rather be rid of under the right circumstances. But now the GOP’s latest moves, combined with Trump’s latest countermove, point to the attacks on Mueller being aimed at protecting someone else entirely.

On Wednesday, after the GOP had recklessly and riskily tried to hurry up and ram through its tax scam bill before the holiday break, Trump announced he won’t sign it until after the holidays. The White House is floating some fuzzy math about Medicare, but it doesn’t add up. This is about something else: leverage. The GOP tried to hurry up the bill for a reason. It began blocking Trump’s nominees this week for the same reason.

Trump’s buddy Steve Bannon has been saying for weeks that he believes the Republicans will strategically oust Trump the minute he signs the tax bill.

Mike PenceThey’d rather have Mike Pence anyway. He’s damaged goods too, but he’s far more their speed. Trump is waiting to sign the bill until January for fear that the GOP might try to quietly oust him over the holidays, either by blackmailing him into resignation or by simply having Pence (shown at right) invoke the 25th Amendment. This brings us back to why the GOP is trying to bloody Robert Mueller’s nose.

Again, if the Republicans were trying to protect Donald Trump, they’d simply push Mueller out the back door. Instead it’s clear they want him to finish taking Trump down; they just want him to lose credibility along the way.

That’s because once Trump is gone, they will in fact try to dump Mueller before he can also take down Mike Pence in the Russia scandal. The GOP is hoping the public will be satisfied with Trump’s demise, and leave Pence be. They’re probably wrong about that part. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that this is their strategy.

Maine Senator Folds On Health Safety Net Issues

Roll Call, GOP Will Wait 'Til Next Year on Health Insurance Stabilization, Joe Williams, Dec. 20, 2017. Susan Collins made vote on taxes contingent on passage of bills. Key Republicans announced on Wednesday they would no longer push for legislation to stabilize the health insurance markets to hitch a ride on a short-term measure to fund the government.

susan collins oSenate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, have been pushing the legislation, with Collins (shown at right) even staking her vote for the GOP tax bill in part on the measure passing before the end of 2017. The decision by the two lawmakers clears a major hurdle to Congress passing a measure to fund the government beyond Dec. 22, when current funding expires.

The release from Collins and Alexander also indicated Congress would wait until next year to fully reauthorize a popular children’s health insurance program. Funding for CHIP expired at the end of September. Several states say they will need to start freezing enrollment or even shutting down parts of their programs soon if Congress does not authorize the program. 

Media Bias, Corruption

djt signing papers oval wh photoNew York Magazine, Wall Street Journal Killed Editorial on Trump’s Mob Ties, Jonathan Chait, Dec. 20, 2017. In a short period of time, five staffers have departed The Wall Street Journal editorial page. The general cause of their departures, willing and otherwise, is known: the Journal editorial line has increasingly conformed with the pro-Trump dictates of the rest of the Murdoch media empire. (Most recently, Journal editorials, which once presented Ken Starr as the last hope to preserve the rule of law, have fomented various right-wing conspiracy theories about Robert Mueller and called for his firing.)

Sam Tanenhaus, deep into his excellent story on the dwindling band of anti-Trump conservative intellectuals, reports more specifically on the circumstances surrounding their departure. As Trump’s chances of winning the nomination grew, the paper buried an editorial highlighting his underworld connections:

Those were heavy losses in pages whose content is managed by fewer than thirty people in total. And the reason, according to several defectors, was the Journal’s skidding reversal once Rupert Murdoch realized Trump could win.

ted cruz oSeveral sources pointed to the editorials by one writer, James Freeman. “All-in for Ted Cruz” (shown at right) during the primaries, Freeman wrote a strong attack on Trump’s Mob dealings, and had a second ready to go. But as Trump got closer to clinching the nomination, Paul Gigot kept delaying publication, saying “it needed work.” Once Trump became the likely Republican nominee, Freeman executed a neat volte-face. “The facts suggest that Mrs. Clinton is more likely to abuse liberties than Mr. Trump,” he wrote. “America managed to survive Mr. Clinton’s two terms, so it can stand the far less vulgar Mr. Trump.”

(Trump’s Mafia connections are the sort of scandal that would have killed an ordinary candidacy but barely even register on the outsize scale of Trump scandals.)

The Journal editorial page is famously close to Paul Ryan, and generally reflects the priorities and interests of the Republican Party’s ruling money wing. Its complete submission to Trump is perfectly emblematic of the choice the party has made.

Immigrant Gang Violence

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Washington Post, ‘People here live in fear’: MS-13 menaces a community seven miles from the White House, Michael E. Miller and Dan Morse​, Dec. 20, 2017. It took Abigail Bautista less than a month to learn that her new neighborhood in Maryland had its own set of laws, written not in statutes but in gang graffiti and blood. Then her son Denis found himself on the fringes of MS-13 — and in grave danger.

Disgraced Boston Cardinal Dies

bernard law

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Washington Post, Cardinal Bernard F. Law, Boston archbishop who became a symbol of Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal dies at 86, Emily Langer, Dec. 20, 2017 (print edition). Bernard F. Law (shown above in a file photo) rose from parish priest to Boston archbishop and became one of the most influential Catholic leaders in the United States before resigning in 2002 amid revelations that he and other priests had known for years of rampant child molestation by parish priests.

Ponzi Scheme Aftermath

KSTP.com 5 (Minneapolis), Judge Approves Final Distribution of Funds to Vennes Victims in Ponzi Scheme, Michael Oakes, Dec. 20, 2017. A federal judge on Tuesday approved the final distribution of payments to victims of a Ponzi scheme perpetrated in part by ex-con Frank Vennes.

The $3.65 billion scheme was orchestrated by Minnesota businessman Tom Petters, who was convicted of fraud and sentenced to 50 years in 2009. Vennes, who was connected to Petters through Palm Beach Capital and Arrowhead Capital and helped bring investors to the scheme, was convicted of fraud in 2013 and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

On Tuesday, Judge Ann D. Montgomery issued the order to approve final payments to Vennes's victims and dissolve the trusteeship established to administer the funds, according to a release from the U.S. District Attorney's Office in Minneapolis. In all, 22 victims or creditors were named. The trustee, Gary Hansen, was tasked with the liquidation of a complex web of assets ranging from multiple businesses; office buildings, apartment buildings and other real estate; a rare coin collection; as well as other assets spread across the country.

The total value of assets and cash distributed will total about $20 million, according to the release.

Dec. 19

U.S. House logo

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New York Times, House Passes Tax Bill, Putting Republicans Closer to Victory, Staff report, Dec. 19, 2017. The House approved the $1.5 trillion G.O.P. tax plan along party lines. The Senate is expected to vote as early as Tuesday evening. Last-minute changes, however, will force the House to vote on the bill again.

How Each Member Voted on the Tax Bill

  • Republicans: 227 12   0
  • Democrats:       0 191 2
  • Total:            227  203 2

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New York Times, Tax Cuts Benefit the Ultra Rich, but Not the Merely Rich, Andrew Ross Sorkin, Dec. 19, 2017.  Many wealthy Americans are complaining bitterly that the new tax code will have them paying more, not less, in taxes.

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irs logoWashington Post, As final GOP tax bill heads to a vote, analysis shows the wealthy remain the biggest winners, Jeff Stein, Dec. 19, 2017 (print edition). While the bill, which heads to the House floor today, has a bit more in tax relief for the middle class, on average cuts for the highest earners far exceed those of people making less, the Tax Policy Center said. 

ted cruz oInternational Business Times, Cornyn Pipeline Amendment Enriches GOP Lawmakers, Jay Cassano, Josh Keefe and David Sirota, Dec. 19, 2017. Language Inserted As Cornyn’s Former Aide Lobbied On The Issue. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, inserted language into the final tax bill that would enrich three different constituencies: fossil fuel firms, Republicans’ major campaign donors and a handful of Cornyn’s GOP congressional colleagues including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (the 2016 presidential candidate shown at right) and two other Texas lawmakers in the House.

Cornyn originally added the language in an amendment to the Senate bill at the same time his former chief of staff was lobbying both the House and Senate on the tax treatment for those same oil and gas partnerships.

Cornyn’s amendment ensures Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs), which are publicly traded partnerships that aren’t required to pay corporate income taxes, get the “pass-through” tax break in the final tax bill. Congressional Republicans have  settled on a 20 percent deduction for some types of pass-through entities in their final tax bill as a way to give those businesses, which don't pay corporate taxes, some of the tax relief the bill gives to corporations, which do pay the corporate levy.

MLPs were first created in the 1980s, but by the end of the decade lawmakers, worried about revenue loss, restricted their use to certain industries — primarily natural resource extraction. Today they are mostly used by investors in oil and gas pipelines, who use the vehicles to raise capital and avoid corporate taxes.

An International Business Times investigation last week revealed that 16 members of Congress — 13 Republicans and three Democrats — are invested in between $4.6 million and $10.6 million worth of MLPs. Those lawmakers stand to benefit from Cornyn’s amendment, which reduces levies on income from MLPs, leaving more money for distributions to investors. Reps. David Trott of Michigan and Thomas MacArthur of New Jersey and Sen. David Perdue of Georgia, all Republicans, are among those who may see the biggest tax reductions. (See list below.)

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National Whistleblower Center, Opinion: Tax Bill Betrays Whistleblowers, Stephen Kohn (shown at right, and an attorney and author of The Whistleblower's Handstephen kohnbook), Dec. 19, 2017. Urge NO Vote!  The House-Senate Conference Committee has cut from the Tax Reform Bill two essential anti-fraud provisions to protect whistleblowers who report major criminal tax frauds.

stephen kohn bookSection 11079 (“Clarification of Whistleblower Awards” page 690-695) would have ensured that whistleblowers who testify in Grand Juries, or who report criminal tax frauds, such as those committed by big banks, Wall Street moguls or millionaires who hide monies in illegal overseas accounts, are covered under the whistleblower protection law and could qualify for rewards based on criminal fines and sanctions collected by the government.

Section 11078 (“Attorneys’ Fees Relating to Awards to Whistleblowers” pages 689-690) ensured that corporate whistleblower would not have been subjected to double-taxation on rewards in securities fraud cases.

This decision undercuts the very foundation of the tax whistleblower law. Cutting it from the final bill was a gift to every corporate criminal who fears detection from whistleblowers. It was a direct attack on accountability.

It is simply irresponsible to enact major tax legislation without ensuring that whistleblowers can detect and report criminal tax and corporate frauds necessary to protect honest Americans who pay their fair share of taxes.  

Please urge your representatives to VOTE NO on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act! Demand that the two whistleblower provisions, sections 11078-79 of the Senate bill, be put back into the law or immediately passed as free-standing legislation! We must show our government that attacks on whistleblowers will not be tolerated, and they must be protected and rewarded when speaking out against corporate fraud! In order to address your message to the appropriate recipient, we need to identify where you are.

Trump Team Efforts To Kill Muller Probe

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Mueller's "grand inquisitor" in Congress has a record of DWIs and a suspicious death, Wayne Madsen, Dec. 19, 2017 (Subscription required; excerpted with permission)

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Washington Post, Trump team’s meeting with Mueller’s office could ratchet up tensions, Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey and Carol D. Leonnig, Dec. 19, 2017 (print edition).  President Trump’s lawyers are expected to seek assurance that the investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller will soon end and their client will be cleared. But people with knowledge of the probe said it could last at least another year.

NJ.com, Christie: Kushner 'deserves the scrutiny' in Mueller probe, Susan K. Livio, Dec. 19, 2017. Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday said Jared Kushner "deserves to be scrutinized" in the Russia collusion probe because Kushner, President Donald Trump's son-in-law and adviser, attended the transition team meetings in question as a senior adviser. 

Asked during an interview with MSNBC whether Kushner -- whose father Christie prosecuted and jailed when Christie was New Jersey's U.S. attorney -- deserves to be scrutinized by the special counsel investigation, Christie didn't hesitate in his response: Of course, the governor said.

Politics: One Vote Flips Virginia House To Dems. Amazing.

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Washington Post, Democrat wins Va. House seat in recount by single vote, creating 50-50 tie in legislature, Gregory S. Schneider​, Dec. 19, 2017.  Republican incumbent David Yancey had held a tenuous 10-vote lead over Shelly Simonds before today’s recount. Her victory now resets politics in the state capitol.​ The balance of power in Virginia’s legislature turned on a single vote in a recount Tuesday that flipped a seat in the House of Delegates from Republican to Democrat, leaving control of the lower chamber evenly split.

The outcome, which reverberated across Virginia, ends 17 years of GOP control of the House and forces Republicans into a rare episode of power sharing with Democrats that will refashion the political landscape in Richmond. It was the culmination of last month’s Democratic wave that had already diminished Republican power in purple Virginia.

Democrat Shelly Simonds emerged from the recount as the apparent winner in the 94th House district, seizing the seat from Republican incumbent David Yancey. A three-judge panel still must certify the results, an event scheduled for Wednesday. Of the 23,215 votes cast in the district on Election Day, Yancey held a tenuous lead of just 10 votes going into Tuesday’s recount.

But five tedious hours later, after painstaking counting overseen by local elections officials and the clerk of court, Yancey’s lead narrowed before it gradually disappeared and then reversed. The final tally: 11,608 for Simonds to 11,607 for Yancey.

Politics: Another Conservative Pundit Turns Against Trump

paul craig roberts head sternPaulCraigRoberts.org, Opinion: Trump's National Security Speech, Paul Craig Roberts, shown at right, Dec. 19, 2017. Paul Craig Roberts is a conservative scholar and former Reagan assistant Treasury Secretary and Wall Street Journal associate editor who has strongly supported President Trump almost entirely until this column.

Trump has surrendered to the real rulers of America -- the powerful interest groups such as the military/security complex, the Israel Lobby, the environmental polluters, Wall Street and the banks "too big to fail."

America is a country in which, despite the hopes flyover America had in Trump, an oligarchy rules. The American people, regardless of who they elect, have no voice, no input, no representation.

Crime and Courts

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Washington Post, Va. pastor, wife found guilty of defrauding friends, flock out of millions of dollars, Rachel Weiner, Dec. 19, 2017.  The Alexandria couple told their parishioners that they could benefit themselves and do good by investing in a Christian-based company. The Alexandria, Va., pastor told his parishioners they could benefit themselves while doing good if they invested in his Christian-based company lending small amounts of money to entrepreneurs in developing countries. Instead, a jury in Alexandria federal court agreed that Terry Millender and his wife Brenda Millender, who together ran Victorious Life Church, defrauded their friends and flock out of millions of dollars.

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Washington Post, Teacher in Oregon accused of having sexual relationship with underage student, Lindsey Bever, Dec. 19, 2017. A 29-year-old teacher in Oregon is accused of numerous sex crimes after authorities said she had carried on a sexual relationship with an underage student. Andrea Nicole Baber, who taught literature, writing and speech at Logos Christian Academy in Springfield, started a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old student in 2016, officials with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office said.

U.S. Train Disaster

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New York Times, Derailed Train Was Traveling 80 M.P.H. in a 30-M.P.H. Zone, Kirk Johnson and Richard Pérez-Peña, Dec. 19, 2017. The first passenger train on a newly opened Amtrak route jumped the tracks near Tacoma, killing three and injuring dozens. Related story: Washington Post, Amtrak train was traveling at 80 mph in a 30-mph zone before deadly derailment in Washington state, officials say, Rodika Tollefson, Luz Lazo and Ashley Halsey III, Dec. 19, 2017 (print edition).

Global Wars: Syria

SouthFront, Syrian Army Advances In Southern Idlib, Staff report, Dec. 19, 2017 (2:35 mins. video). On Dec. 18, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the National Defense Forces (NDF) liberated the village of Ruwaydah in southern Idlib from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda).

bashar al assad greets troops fileSyrian President Bashar al-Assad described US-backed forces in eastern Syria as “traitors” during a meeting with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin on Dec. 18. “When we talk about those referred to as ‘the Kurds,’ they are in fact not just Kurds. All those who work for a foreign country, mainly those under American command…are traitors,” the president’s office quoted Assad in an online statement. He is shown in a file photo greeting SAA troops.

The US-led international coalition, particularly Washington, has given a military assistance and various supplies to the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Thanks to the US military support, the SDF had seized a notable part of eastern Syria, including the cities of Raqqa and Manbij.

History Lesson On North Korea?

wayne madsen reportStrategic Culture Foundation, US Germ Warfare Apology to North Korea Could Advance Dialogue, Wayne Madsen (shown at right), Dec. 19, 2017. With mounting evidence that the US conducted germ warfare operations against North Korea during the Korean conflict, a US apology to the North Korean people could go a long way toward bringing Washington and Pyongyang into a dialogue over North Korea’s nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missile programs. During the Korean War, there were substantive charges from the international community that the United States used chemical and biological weapons (CBW) on the Korean peninsula.

cia logoA formerly Secret Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) memorandum, dated July 7, 1953, from Horace S. (“Pete”) Craig to CIA director Allen Dulles, discussed a proposal to use the findings of the US Psychological Strategy Board (PSB) to counter efforts by the international community to investigate charges of US CBW use in Korea.

 Although the State Department memo admitted that the scientists who signed the ISC report were “highly competent people” and that their “handiwork” was “difficult to attack,” a team of State Department, CIA, and Pentagon officials -- backed by US ambassador to the United Nations Henry Cabot Lodge, President Dwight Eisenhower’s psychological warfare adviser C. D. Jackson, and Allen Dulles (shown on a Time Magazine cover) -- set out to discredit the ISC report.

allen dulles time coverColonel Arthur Long, the Pentagon’s representative on the PSB team and the Army’s chief epidemiologist called the ISC report a “fabrication” based on “evidence” that could not be “demolished” by the United States. In other words, the ISC report was based on facts that were uncomfortable for the CIA and the US foreign policy and military establishments. Because the ISC had substantially proven that the US was using biological weaponry in Korea, the US sought to discredit the report without criticizing the international team of reputable scientists who participated in the ISC study.

The PSB arranged for the intelligence community-linked National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to appoint a committee led by Dr. Detlev Bronk to punch holes in the ISC report. Bronk, a biophysicist, was president of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in New York and a person who was no stranger to the CIA’s and Pentagon’s secret biological weapons programs conducted under such CIA programs as MK-ULTRA, MK-NAOMI, and MK-DELTA.

Bronk actually expressed some displeasure over the NAS’s reliance on Colonel Long’s “findings” about the use of BW in Korea. These findings were circulated by the NAS among the international scientific community for review. However, Bronk ensured that Long’s conclusions were given a “low-key” treatment by the NAS.

The CIA’s and PSB’s goal was to arrange for a group of international scientists to challenge the ISC report before the U.N. General Assembly. The British Foreign Office rejected a US State Department proposal for Britain to lead off the condemnation of the ISC report. London was opposed to a proposal for leading British scientists to join the NAS in calling the ISC report baseless and without merit.

JFK Document Release

jefferson morley the ghost coverjefferson morley newJFKFacts.org, From the JFK files, a spymaster’s dictum on national security, Jefferson Morley (biographer, shown at left, in the recently published book The Ghost of the late CIA Counter-Intelligence Chief James J. Angleton, shown at right), Dec. 19, 2017.  From the new JFK files comes the long-suppressed testimony of CIA counterintelligence chief James Angleton. Among other things, he spoke on the nature of the national security state: “It is inconceivable that a secret intelligence arm of the Government has to comply with all of the overt orders of the Government.”The transcript of Angleton’s closed-door testimony to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Activities in September 1975, was released for the first time 42 years later, on December 15, 2017.

Dec. 18

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irs logoWashington Post, Opinions: Republicans are joining a festival of corruption, E.J. Dionne Jr., Dec. 18, 2017 (print edition). The tax bill is the epitome of the Washington “swamp.” The  bill the GOP is trying to foist on the country is not only an unfair and deficit-bloating hodgepodge written on the fly. It is also deeply corrupt. Every Republican who votes for this bill will be joining a festival of venality.

Donald Trump

NBC, Late Night with Seth Meyers, Trump's FBI Speech, the GOP Tax Plan and Bob Corker: A Closer Look, Seth Meyers, Dec. 18, 2017. Seth Meyers is an American comedian, political commentator, and television host.

 Sex Scandals: Dishonable Intentions?

donald trump jr fileWayne Madsen Report (WMR), Trump has the real "Pizzagate" scandal on his tiny hands, Wayne Madsen, Dec. 18, 2017 (subscription required: excerpted with permission). On Dec. 15, Donald Trump, Jr. (shown at right) raised eyebrows when he "liked" a tweet sent by far-right conspiracy monger Mike Cernovich citing a New York Times op-ed calling pedophilia a mental illness and not a crime. The 2014 article was written by Rutgers University Law Professor Margo Kaplan.

joe manchin oHuffington Post, Sen. Joe Manchin Says He’s ‘Moved On’ From Trump Sexual Misconduct Allegations, Alanna Vagianos, Dec. 18, 2017. Alabama’s Democratic Sen.-elect Doug Jones also urged Congress to “move on.” Manchin appeared on CNN’s “New Day” on Monday morning to discuss the recent ethics investigation into the sexual misconduct allegations against Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.).

During the conversation, Manchin (shown at right) also commented on the numerous accusations of sexual misconduct against Trump. When asked if he believes Trump should be investigated, Manchin said he’s “moved on.”

“You know I’m not going to make that determination because he went through an election process with all of this in the open,” he told CNN. “If people feel that to be done, I think we have other things to be done too. I think women ought to have a right to come forward, they feel very strong about this. They should be protected, they can’t be retaliated on.”

Trump has been publicly accused of sexual misconduct, ranging from harassment to assault and rape, by 21 women. Manchin is up for re-election next year in West Virginia, a predominantly Republican state.

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 alex kozinski informal wWashington Post, Federal appeals judge announces immediate retirement amid investigation prompted by accusations of sexual misconduct, Matt Zapotosky​, Dec. 18, 2017. Alex Kozinski, a powerful judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit shown at right, was accused of subjecting 15 women to inappropriate sexual behavior.

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Washington Post, A new sisterhood of Trump’s accusers pushes for action, Frances Stead Sellers and Mark Berman, Dec. 18, 2017 (print edition) (video: 2:51 mins.). Trump's accusers speak out, again: 'This time, the environment's different.'

Rachel Crooks and Samantha Holvey had never met. But through a twist of fate, they became players this week at the center of a national political storm over sexual misconduct that has now reached President Trump. Both women have accused Trump of inappropriate advances earlier in his career, and a liberal film producer brought them together for the first time Sunday evening at a private dinner in Manhattan.

djt official SmallThe White House says all the women are lying, and the president tweeted this week that their allegations — first made public during the presidential campaign last year — were “false accusations and fabricated stories.”

But Crooks and Holvey said their memories of Trump remain vivid and unsettling. No one had thought to try to forge a sisterhood of Trump accusers until former Hollywood producer Robert Greenwald and his colleague Shira Levine reached out to Crooks, Holvey and other women willing to step forward once again with their stories.

The filmmakers from Brave New Films had created a short video in November from old clips of 16 women making a range of allegations against Trump. When they posted it on YouTube, Facebook and other social media platforms, it went viral. They decided to contact the women and bring some of them together for a Monday appearance on NBC’s “Megyn Kelly Today” and a news conference that attracted international coverage.

douglas jonesLegal Schnauzer, Doug Jones' comments about Donald Trump and Senate Republicans indicate he's already planning to sell out black, female voters who put him in office, Roger Shuler, Dec. 18, 2017. Donald Trump should not resign from office over sexual harassment and assault allegations, newly elected Alabama U.S. Senator Doug Jones said in an interview yesterday on CNN's State of the Union. This is the same Jones (shown at right) who said during his campaign against Roy Moore that former Minnesota Senator Al Franken, a Democrat, should resign over sex-related allegations that seem far less serious than those leveled at Trump.

In the same interview, Jones said he likely would vote with Senate Republicans on certain issues, listing an upcoming infrastructure bill as one possibility. "Don't expect me to vote solidly for Republicans or Democrats . . . ," Jones said. "I don't think anybody should be able count on my vote for anything."

What's going on here? Regular readers of Legal Schnauzer know what's going on. Not even a week has passed since the election -- and Jones hasn't been installed in office, and he is proving that our reporting on his right-wing leanings are on target. How goofy are Jones' comment about Trump? Jones essentially is saying the most corrupt president in U.S. history, who has admitted to being a sexual predator, should be allowed off the hook on those issues. .

True Puerto Rican Death Toll?

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puerto rico map world atlasWashington Post, Puerto Rico said 64 people died after Maria. But analyses say the actual number is likely more than 1,000, Arelis R. Hernández, Dec. 18, 2017. The territory’s governor ordered agencies to reopen their books and initiate a recount of certified deaths related to the hurricane after weeks of reporting from news outlets pointing to a severe undercount of fatalities. See also:

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Washington Post, Life Without Power, Arelis R. Hernández, Whitney Leaming and Zoeann Murphy, Dec. 14, 2017 (video). Puerto Rico’s apagón, or “super blackout,” is the longest and largest major power outage in modern U.S. history. Without electricity, there is no reliable source of clean water. School is out, indefinitely. Health care is fraught. Small businesses are faltering. The tasks of daily life are both exhausting and dangerous. There is nothing to do but wait, and no one can say when the lights will come back on.

Trump Targets China, Russia

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Russian Flag

Washington Post, President touts ‘America First’ strategy, casts China and Russia as competitors, Anne Gearan and Steven Mufson, Dec. 18, 2017.  The president placed himself at the center of a new national security strategy, casting his election as a pivot from failed policies of the past and emphasizing his view that the United States has been cheated and taken advantage of abroad.

Poll Shows American Fears Of Politics

Cato Institute, Polls Reveals 58% of Americans Are Afraid of Sharing Political Views & 71% Say Political Correctness Has Silenced Discussions Society Needs to Have, Staff report, Dec. 18, 2017. The Cato 2017 Free Speech and Tolerance Survey, a new national poll of 2,300 U.S. adults, finds that 71% Americans believe that political correctness has silenced important discussions our society needs to have. The consequences are personal-58% of Americans believe the political climate prevents them from sharing their own political beliefs.

Democrats are unique, however, in that a slim majority (53%) do not feel the need to self-censor. Conversely, strong majorities of Republicans (73%) and independents (58%) say they keep some political beliefs to themselves.

JFK Document Release

Daily Mail, How the FBI LOST the fingerprints taken from rifle that killed JFK fifteen years after the president was assassinated, new files reveal, Amanda Cashmore, Dec. 18, 2017. The FBI lost fingerprints taken from the rifle agents found in the Texas School Book Depository after the president was assassinated in Dallas, new files have revealed. At the time of the investigation in 1963, agents and outside experts concluded that a palm print taken from the barrel off the rifle belonged to Lee Harvey Oswald.  

But 15 years later in July 1978, the agency revealed that the fingerprints had gone missing in their vast archives. Dallas Police say they sent over the original fingerprints to the FBI, and that those prints were never returned to them.

Dec. 17

Opinion: Tax Scam Bill Near Passage 

bob corker closeupInternational Business Times, Tax Bill: Bob Corker Demands Answers From Chairman Orrin Hatch About Last-Minute Tax Provision, David Sirota and Josh Keefe, Dec. 17, 2017. Facing a firestorm of criticism, Republican Sen. Bob Corker (TN) (shown at left) sent a letter Sunday night to Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, asking how the final tax bill ended up including a special tax cut provision experts say would particularly benefit investors in real-estate related LLCs.

The letter follows an International Business Times investigative series showing that Corker, President Donald Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan and a handful of key GOP lawmakers overseeing the tax bill have multimillion-dollar ownership stakes in such LLCs, meaning they could be personally enriched by the provision, which was added to the final tax legislation released on Friday.  

Corker this week could decide the fate of the entire $1.5 trillion tax bill in the closely divided U.S. Senate. He cast the lone Republican vote against the original Senate bill, which did not include the provision, but on Friday he announced he would support the final version of the legislation after GOP leaders added the provision to the final bill. Economist Dean Baker estimated that based on his financial holdings, “Corker could be saving as much as $1.1 million from this late addition to the tax bill.”

Under fire for switching his position after a personally lucrative provision was added to the legislation, Corker demanded to know how the language got into the final bill.

At issue is so-called “pass-through” income generated by entities such as LLCs, partnerships and S-corporations which don’t pay corporate taxes. Since reducing the tax burden on businesses has been a central tenet of the Republican tax reform effort, House and Senate Republicans passed bills that would both reduce the corporate tax rate and give a new tax break to pass-through businesses.

Speaking to IBT on Saturday, Corker said he didn’t have any knowledge of the provision, and admitted he had not read the final tax bill before switching his vote from “no” to “yes.” Just hours before the final bill was publicly released Friday, Corker issued a statement announcing he would support the bill, which he called “far from perfect.”

orrin hatch bob corker“But after great thought and consideration, I believe that this once-in-a-generation opportunity to make U.S. businesses domestically more productive and internationally more competitive is one we should not miss.

Corker (shown in a file photo with Hatch above right) is under intense pressure: since reversing himself and announcing he would support the bill, he has faced a wave of outrage -- including the Twitter hashtag #CorkerKickback -- for switching his vote.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Bob Corker may be facing legal trouble after voting for Donald Trump’s tax scam bill, Bill Palmer, Dec. 17, 2017. Remember those five minutes when Republican Senator Bob Corker tried to position himself as the principled conservative opposition to Donald Trump?

Bob CorkerThat ended this week, when the GOP bribed Corker into voting for his tax scam bill by adding a provision that benefitted him financially. It turns out Corker is nothing more than a financially corrupt conservative who happens to personally dislike Trump. Now it turns out Corker could be in actual legal trouble for his vote.

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Washington Post, GOP faces a five-day sprint to pass its tax bill, forge a deal with Democrats to avoid a shutdown, Jeff Stein, Mike DeBonis and Patrick Reis, Dec. 17, 2017. Republicans plan to vote on the tax bill early in the week, leaving them little time to strike a deal with Democrats to authorize funds to keep the government running.

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john mccain 2009 wWashington Post, John McCain, battling brain cancer, leaves D.C. for Christmas break before vote on tax bill, Dan Lamothe, Dec. 17, 2017. Sen. John McCain left the nation’s capital Sunday to spend Christmas in Arizona with his family as he battles brain cancer, giving his Republican Party one less vote as it is expected this week to attempt to push through a contentious tax bill along party lines.

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irs logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Tax Bill That Inequality Created, Editorial board, Dec. 17, 2017 (print edition). The tax bill is a consequence of a fraction of the population taking control of the nation’s wealth and, with it, the nation’s political power.

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Washington Post, Years of conservative attacks hamper IRS oversight of political activity by nonprofits, Robert O'Harrow Jr., Dec. 17, 2017. The fall in oversight, a byproduct of cuts to the IRS budget, comes as the number of politically active and financially complex charities grows. It represents a success for conservatives who were emboldened by the 2013 revelations of the IRS’s extra scrutiny of tea party groups. “This completely neutered” the IRS, one observer said. “The will is totally gone.”

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New York Times, File Taxes on a Postcard? A G.O.P. Promise That Fell Short, Jim Tankersley, Dec. 17, 2017 (print edition).  The tax bill on the cusp of being passed by Congress is not the grand simplification of the code that Republicans promised. Their ambitions fell to the powerful forces of lobbying and the status quo.

DEA Cover-Up Of Corporate Opiod Ring?

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Washington Post, We feel like our system was hijacked’: DEA agents say a huge opioid case ended in a whimper, Lenny Bernstein and Scott Higham, Dec. 17, 2017. After two years of painstaking investigation, David Schiller and the rest of the Drug Enforcement Administration team he supervised were ready to move on the biggest opioid distribution case in U.S. history.

dea badge logoThe team, based out of the DEA’s Denver field division, had been examining the operations of the nation’s largest drug company, McKesson Corp. By 2014, investigators said they could show that the company had failed to report suspicious orders involving millions of highly addictive painkillers sent to drugstores from Sacramento, Calif., to Lakeland, Fla. Some of those went to corrupt pharmacies that supplied drug rings.

The investigators were ready to come down hard on the fifth-largest public corporation in America, according to a joint investigation by The Washington Post and “60 Minutes.”

The DEA team — nine field divisions working with 12 U.S. attorney’s offices across 11 states — wanted to revoke registrations to distribute controlled substances at some of McKesson’s 30 drug warehouses. Schiller and members of his team wanted to fine the company more than $1 billion. More than anything else, they wanted to bring the first-ever criminal case against a drug distribution company, maybe even walk an executive in handcuffs out of McKesson’s towering San Francisco headquarters to send a message to the rest of the industry. But it didn’t work out that way.

“This is the best case we’ve ever had against a major distributor in the history of the Drug Enforcement Administration,” said Schiller, who recently retired as assistant special agent in charge of DEA’s Denver field division after a 30-year career with the agency. “I said, ‘How do we not go after the number one organization?’ ”

dea sealInstead, top attorneys at the DEA and the Justice Department struck a deal earlier this year with the corporation and its powerful lawyers, an agreement that was far more lenient than the field division wanted, according to interviews and internal government documents. Although the agents and investigators said they had plenty of evidence and wanted criminal charges, they were unable to convince the U.S. attorney in Denver that they had enough to bring a case.

Foreign Affairs

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vladimir putin portrait unknownWashington Post, Putin phoned Trump to thank him for intel that foiled an attack in Russia, David Filipov​, Dec. 17, 2017. Russian President Vladimir Putin (shown in a file photo) told President Trump that information provided by the CIA allowed Russian agents to detain suspects who planned to bomb the Kazan Cathedral and other locations in St. Petersburg. The unusual call — countries often share intelligence, but presidents rarely publicly thank one another for it — was confirmed by the White House, which lauded the tip as “an example of the positive things that can occur when our countries work together.”

The CIA tip apparently provided the breakthrough that allowed Russian authorities last week to detain seven members of what officials identified as Islamic State cells. The suspects, investigators said, had been planning a suicide bombing this weekend in Kazan Cathedral, a St. Petersburg landmark located on Nevsky Prospect, its main thoroughfare. The cathedral was built between 1801 and 1811, and, controversially at the time, was designed along the lines of a Roman Catholic basilica.

Mueller Probe

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robert muellerWashington Post, Trump says he won’t fire Mueller as campaign to discredit Russia probe heats up, Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey and Sari Horwitz​, Dec. 17, 2017. President Trump criticized Robert S. Mueller III (shown at right) for gaining access to transition team emails, telling reporters the situation was “not looking good.” A spokesman for the special counsel denied any wrongdoing, and some legal experts questioned the claim that the emails were improperly obtained.

Palmer Report, Donald Trump’s legal team may not even have the emails Robert Mueller has been sitting on, Bill Palmer, Dec. 17, 2017. Donald Trump’s attorneys in the Russia scandal have routinely come off as so inept that they either have no idea what they’re doing, or they’re following some legal strategy that no one on the outside understands. On Saturday we learned that they went months without realizing Robert Mueller had the Trump transition team emails all along. Now we’re learning new details which strongly suggest Trump’s lawyers may not even have their own copies of the emails in question.

ty cobb hogan lovalisTrump’s legal team (led by Ty Cobb, shown at right) initially responded to the revelation by asserting that Mueller had acquired the emails in improper fashion, because some of them may have been privileged. This strategy was largely laughed off by the legal community at large.

But now Trump’s lawyers are demanding that Mueller give all of the emails back. In so doing, they may have unwittingly tipped off that they don’t have the emails themselves. It’s not as if these are printouts or physical documents; they’re digital files. Trump’s team could have easily gotten copies of these emails from the General Services Administration just like Mueller did, right? Except it sounds like maybe they never did.

fbi logoWe know that the Trump transition team was using ptt.gov email addresses which were served from the GSA, and they were also using GSA-issued laptops and cellphones. This creates the very realistic possibility that they turned in that equipment without making local copies of the emails for themselves, and thus never retained their own emails. Is it possible that no one on Trump’s staff or legal team ever thought to go back and get copies of those emails until now?

For the moment, there is no way to know for sure. But when you consider that the Donald Trump administration was too inept to figure out that Robert Mueller got these emails from their own GSA back in August, and Trump’s attorneys have come off like bumblers throughout, it really does sound like they just admitted they don’t even have the emails in question – and now they’re so desperate to find out what Mueller has, they’re asking him for copies.

Global News: Syria-Iran

SouthFront, First Iranian Military Convoy Enters Syria Through Land Route From Iraq – Reports, Staff and wires, Dec. 17, 2017.  The first Iranian military convoy crossed into Syria coming from Iraq through the Tell al-Badi crossing during this week, the UK-based news outlet the New Arab reported on December 16.

Many Syria pro-government activists claimed before that the main aim of the US intervention in Syria was to control the Syrian-Iraqi border, and to close it in the face of Iran. These claims were confirmed later when former spokesman of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Tala Silo, revealed that the main aim of the US-led coalition attack in Deir Ezzor governorate was to reach the cities of Mayadin and al-Bukamal in the southeastern Deir Ezzor countryside before the SAA in order to control the borders.

MSNBC Payoff To Chris Matthews Accuser

chris matthews screenshotMediaite, NBC Reportedly Paid Settlement to Former Employee Who Accused Chris Matthews of Harassment, Ken Meyer, Dec. 17, 2017. A new report states that NBC paid off a former employee who claimed she was sexually harassed by Chris Matthews when she used to work on his show.

According to The Daily Caller, a former assistant producer for Hardball spoke with network executives in 1999 and complained about some sexually-charged comments Matthews (shown above in a screenshot) made about her. The report states that Matthews was “formally reprimanded” after a review on the matter, but even though his remarks were considered “inappropriate” and “juvenile,” the network determined they were not intended as propositions.

Nonetheless, two sources told Daily Caller that the network paid Matthews’ accuser $40,000 to settle the incident. NBC addressed the report by confirming that there was a separation-related compensation involved when the woman left the network. However, the network disputed the $40,000 figure, insisting that the package was actually a lot smaller than that.

Murdoch Steps In Scandal Controversy

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jennifer rubin twitterWashington Post, Opinions: The final straw: Rupert Murdoch needs to go, Jennifer Rubin (shown at right), Dec. 17, 2017. Unless you’ve been living under a rock — or are the aging executive chairman of News Corp. —  you know that Fox News has been ground zero in the epidemic of sexual assault scandals in which powerful men have abused younger, more vulnerable women. Fox, of course, has been slammed by a series of sexual harassment cases that cost the company tens of millions in settlement money and ended the careers of Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, Eric Bolling and Fox News co-president Bill Shine (who  was accused of covering up a culture of sexual predation).

 rupert murdoch 2009 world economic forumwSo it was more than a bit stunning that News Corp.’s executive chairman Rupert Murdoch (shown at right in a 2009 file photo) chose to brush off the epidemic of sexual harassment that has bludgeoned his company — especially during a cultural firestorm in which star news personalities, entertainment moguls and politicians have been forced out of their jobs (and in a few egregious cases now face criminal investigations) for accused sexual misconduct. Everywhere the code of silence that protected abusive men is crumbling — but the elderly news tycoon seems oblivious.

fox news logo SmallTo all but deluded Trumpians, Fox News has become a horror show for victimized women and a journalistic bad joke, disgraced by its cheerleading for the administration, ludicrous attacks on Trump adversaries (e.g. James Comey, the FBI as a whole, the special prosecutors) and bizarre conspiracy theorizing (e.g. Seth Rich). It would be hard to find a more precise encapsulation than Fox News not only of the plague of sexual violence and misogyny in American workplaces but also of the anti-democratic attacks on the (real) free press and on the notion of objective truth itself. Fox News’s damage to our political culture and to the intellectual integrity of the right is hard to measure.

Inside the White House

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason Donald Trump hasn’t posted any of his own tweets since Roy Moore lost, Bill Palmer, Dec. 17, 2017. One theory would be that the Alabama election broke his spirit. He threw all his weight behind Moore, even after his own party cautioned him not to, and the result was nothing short of humiliating for him. It’s also possible that he’s finally figured out how screwed he is in the Trump-Russia scandal, and he’s not even sure what to say. In any case, his staff seems worried enough to jump in and keep up appearances by creating the illusion that he’s still tweeting.

Dec. 16

Does Special Counsel Have 50,000 Trump Transition Emails Legally?

robert muellerPalmer Report: Opinion: Robert Mueller just pulled an ace from his sleeve, and Donald Trump’s team just flinched, Bill Palmer, Dec. 16, 2017. What, you thought Special Counsel Robert Mueller was just going to sit back and risk the possibility that Donald Trump might try to fire him? Mueller (shown at right) dropped a bomb on Trump’s entire team on Saturday night, and he did it in public.

It came largely in the form of a warning: back off or you’re all immediately going down, because I have far more dirt on all of you than you know. Less than an hour later, the Trump team indeed predictably flinched in equally public fashion.

It all began around around 5pm on Saturday when Axios reported (Scoop, below) that Mueller has been sitting on fifty thousand emails from the Trump transition team all along (link). Mueller had kept this a secret, and had tricked Trump’s people into a false sense of security by requesting copies of the emails that he already had. Trump’s people only turned over the non-incriminating emails, and thought they were covered. This means he has a whole lot of people nailed for various crimes. If Trump tries to make a move, Mueller can begin arresting them all before Trump can complete the complicated process of trying to fire him.

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Axios, Scoop: Mueller obtains "tens of thousands” of Trump transition emails, Mike Allen, Dec. 16, 2017. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has obtained “many tens of thousands" of Trump transition emails, including emails of Jared Kushner, transition team sources tell Axios.

Donald Trump and Mike Pence logoTrump officials discovered Mueller had the emails when his prosecutors used them as the basis for questions to witnesses, the sources said. The emails include 12 accounts, one of which contains about 7,000 emails, the sources said. The accounts include the team's political leadership and the foreign-policy team, the sources said.

Why it matters: The transition emails are said to include sensitive exchanges on matters that include potential appointments, gossip about the views of particular senators involved in the confirmation process, speculation about vulnerabilities of Trump nominees, strategizing about press statements, and policy planning on everything from war to taxes. “Mueller is using the emails to confirm things, and get new leads," a transition source told me.

How it happened: The sources say Mueller obtained the emails from the General Services Administration, the government agency that hosted the transition email system, which had addresses ending in “ptt.gov," for Presidential Transition Team.

Taking fight public: Charging "unlawful conduct," Kory Langhofer, counsel for the transition team, wrote in a letter to congressional committees Saturday that "career staff at the General Services Administration ... have unlawfully produced [transition team] private materials, including privileged communications, to the Special Counsel's Office."

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Washington Post, Mueller unlawfully obtained emails, Trump transition team says, Anne Gearan and Philip Rucker, Dec. 16, 2017. A lawyer for the Trump for America transition team contends the federal government should not have provided thousands of pages of emails to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III because transition documents are private property, not government records. The organization argues Mueller overstepped the law in acquiring private records without a warrant or subpoena.

djt official SmallTransition documents are private property, not government records, the organization contends. The letter invokes federal law and decades of precedent to argue that Mueller overstepped.

The transfer of transition documents is “unlawful conduct that undermines the Presidential Transition Act of 1963,” the letter said, “and will impair the ability of future presidential transition teams to candidly discuss policy and internal matters that benefit the country as a whole.”

Taxing Times

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irs logoWashington Post, The final GOP tax bill is complete. Here’s what is in it, Heather Long​, Dec. 16, 2017 (print edition). The plan would amount to the largest overhaul of the U.S. tax code in more than 30 years, affecting nearly every American business and family. Here’s a rundown of what it entails, including a massive corporate tax cut, new cuts for the rich and an expanded credit for working families.

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New York Times, What’s in the Final Republican Tax Bill, Wilson Andrews and Alicia Parlapiano, Dec. 16, 2017. The legislation would cut taxes for corporations. American taxpayers, in large part, would also get cuts, though most of the changes affecting them would expire after 2025.

djt bob corker north carolina rally

GOP Presidential nominee Donald Trump campaigned last year in North Carolina with Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee

International Business Times, Last-Minute Real Estate Tax Break In GOP Bill Will Benefit Trump, Josh Keefe and David Sirota, Dec. 16, 2017. President Donald Trump has made tens of millions of dollars of a specific kind of income that could be subjected to a last-minute tax break inserted into the Republicans’ tax legislation released Friday, according to federal records reviewed by International Business Times.

The same is true for Tennessee GOP Sen. Bob Corker — a commercial real estate mogul who suddenly switched his vote to “yes” on the tax bill after the provision was added to the legislation. Previously, Corker was the only Republican to vote against the Senate version of the bill.

Trump told a Missouri crowd on Nov. 29 that he would personally take a hit from the GOP tax plan. “This is going to cost me a fortune, this thing, believe me...I have some very wealthy friends. Not so happy with me, but that’s OK," Trump said. But a variety of experts have concluded that the tax bill overwhelmingly favors the wealthiest Americans — especially those with complex real-estate investments.

The reconciled tax bill includes a new 20 percent deduction for so-called “pass-through” entities, business structures such as LLCs, LPs and S-Corporations that don’t pay corporate taxes, but instead “pass through” income to partners who pay individual tax rates on that money. The Senate version of the bill included safeguards that would only allow businesses to take advantage of the new break if they paid out significant wages to employees. But the new provision, which wasn’t included in either version of the bill passed by the House and Senate, and was only added during the reconciliation process, gives owners of income-producing real estate holdings a way around that safeguard, effectively creating a new tax break for large landlords and real estate moguls.

"This change will primarily benefit wealthy investors with lots of assets and few employees,” Matt Gardner, a Senior Fellow at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, told IBT in an email. “You can't describe this as a job-creation strategy with a straight face, which begs the question of why anyone thinks this last-minute change was a good idea."

Because the new language wasn’t in the bills passed by the House and Senate, Democrats cannot offer a floor amendment to eliminate the provision, which experts say would reduce the amount of money that Trump, Corker and other wealthy lawmakers owe to the IRS on their real-estate-related pass-through income.

Bob CorkerInternational Business Times, Senator Bob Corker Said He Hasn’t Read The Tax Bill, Denies Changing His Vote In Exchange For Personal Tax Breaks, Josh Keefe and David Sirota, Dec.16, 2017. U.S. Sen. Bob Corker made a series of rapid-fire telephone calls to International Business Times, declaring that he has not read the $1.4 trillion tax legislation that he said he will cast a pivotal vote for. He insisted that he did not switch his vote to "yes" on the bill in exchange for GOP lawmakers inserting a special provision that could enrich him. Corker at first slammed the provisions, but then called back to say he needed more time to study them.

IBT has published a series of investigative reports showing that GOP lawmakers added a provision to the final tax bill that could enrich real estate moguls like Corker and President Donald Trump, as well as top Republicans writing the tax bill. Corker had voted against the original Senate bill, but then suddenly said he would support the final bill -- after GOP leaders added the provision to the conference report on Friday night.Top Democratic senators have cited IBT's revelations as reasons the bill should be blocked.

A few minutes later, however, Corker called back, and tried to back off that criticism.

“I don’t really know what the provision does to be honest. I would need an accountant to explain it,” Corker said. “I had no knowledge of this and would have no knowledge of it except for you guys are calling me about it. I have no idea whatsoever whether it impacts me or doesn’t impact me.”

The provision was not included in the bills that originally passed the House and Senate. Corker previously said he opposed the legislation because he was concerned about it increasing the deficit, but on Friday he announced he would support it -- even though Congress’s own Joint Committee on Taxation projects that the legislation will increase the deficit by $1.4 trillion.

sherrod brown o 2009Responding to IBT's revelations, Democrats denounced the provision as a giveaway to the wealthy. Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen called the tax break "unconscionable." Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown (shown at right) denounced it as an example of a deal cut "for millionaires behind closed doors."

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, blasted the provision in a statment to IBT.

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New York Times, Homeowners Have It Good. Too Good, Says the Tax Bill, Conor Dougherty, Dec. 16, 2017. The tax code has long offered rewards for buying rather than renting, an equation that has troubled some economists — and that the Republican bill upends. The bill will increase many homeowners’ monthly housing costs by scaling back deductions that allow them to reduce mortgage interest and property taxes.

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susan collins official SmallWashington Post, Sen. Collins is taking a big leap of faith with the tax bill. Critics say she’s getting played, Erica Werner, Dec. 16, 2017 (print edition). In exchange for her support for the bill, Republican Susan Collins of Maine (shown at right) extracted commitments from the Trump administration and Senate leaders to back legislation pumping money into the health-care system. She will have to vote on the tax bill without knowing for certain that the commitments will be honored.

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Washington Post, Analysis: 'America First’ was supposed to keep jobs here, but the tax plan might push them out, David J. Lynch, Dec. 16, 2017. President Trump has vowed to prevent economic dislocation and repeatedly has proclaimed the imminent return of millions of U.S. jobs. But experts say the bill fails to eliminate longtime incentives for companies to move abroad and, in some cases, may even increase them.

Nonpartisan tax experts say one reason offshoring is attractive is that the more equipment a corporation has in other countries, the more tax-free income it can earn. The legislation thus offers corporations “a perverse incentive” to shift assembly lines abroad, one expert said.

Packing the Courts With Conservatives

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Washington Post, Trump’s push to fill courts with conservative judges hits head winds, John Wagner, Robert O'Harrow Jr. and Karoun Demirjian, Dec. 16, 2017 (print edition). The president’s effort to fill scores of federal court vacancies with conservative judges hit severe turbulence this week as he was forced to withdraw two nominees and an embarrassing video went viral showing a third struggling to answer rudimentary questions about the law.

President Trump’s aggressive push to fill scores of federal court vacancies with conservative judges hit severe turbulence this week, as he was forced to withdraw two nominees and an embarrassing video went viral showing a third struggling to answer rudimentary questions about the law.

The White House said Friday that it is standing by the nomination of Matthew Petersen, a nominee for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, despite a clip from his confirmation hearing posted on Twitter in which Petersen was unable to answer questions about legal and courtroom terms posed by a Republican senator.

The episode offered more ammunition to Democrats, who have accused Trump of tapping inexperienced nominees in a rush to reshape the federal judiciary. Even some Republicans have suggested they’ve felt pressured by the White House to move forward with his picks.

This year is the first since 2006 in which the GOP has controlled both the presidency and Senate, presenting a prime opportunity to fill lifetime appointments to what are currently 143 vacancies on the federal bench.

Trump Claims FBI 'Tainted,' Must Be Reformed

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fbi logoWashington Post, Analysis: President Trump claims the FBI is tainted and its reputation in tatters. This graph shows he’s wrong, David Lewis, Dec. 16, 2017 (print edition). “It’s a shame what’s happened with the FBI,” President Trump told reporters yesterday, “really, really disgraceful.” He was building on criticisms he’d levied earlier this month, when he labeled the Federal Bureau of Investigation “tainted” and said its reputation was “in tatters.” The president claimed that ideological bias was behind the FBI’s decisions about criminal investigations involving Hillary Clinton and Robert S. Mueller III’s ongoing special counsel investigation.

Is the FBI biased? The legitimacy of our legal system depends upon apolitical law enforcement. Justice demands that all citizens be treated equally before the law. Calling the FBI biased is a very serious charge.

The president charges FBI bias because some attorneys and investigators on special counsel Mueller’s team gave campaign contributions to Democrats, including two donations to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Further, some top officials on Mueller’s team exchanged a series of anti-Trump texts.

rod rosenstein oath cropped no credit SmallHowever, Mueller and Rod J. Rosenstein (shown in a file photo), who appointed Mueller, are both longtime Republicans. The former FBI director James B. Comey and current FBI director Christopher A. Wray have both previously donated to Republicans.

All agencies this size include employees who donate to Democrats and others who donate to Republicans — donations that are protected as part of their free speech rights. That does not tell us enough to judge bias.

California Wildfires

california wildfires near burbank verdugo mountains scott l flickr cc by sa 2.0

A Los Angeles Fire Department helicopter drops water while fighting the La Tuna Fire in the Verdugo Mountains above Burbank, California, September 2, 2017. Photo credit: Scott L / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

WhoWhatWhy, Deadly Wildfires Prompt Longest Red Flag Warning In History, Kirsty Vitarelli, Dec. 16, 2017. It is hard to imagine the impact the California wildfires have had on those in their path. All demographics are touched — from millionaire landowners to immigrant day laborers. And they are unrelenting — not even two months ago WhoWhatWhy wrote about the presumed cause of fires in October.

This time around firefighters are facing a seemingly insurmountable battle — the “Thomas” fire in Santa Barbara, Summerland and Montecito has burned more than 395 square miles, and is currently only 35% contained. It has claimed the lives of at least two people, one a firefighter, and has destroyed more than 900 buildings. This fire has contributed to an unprecedented 13-day long string of red-flag warnings from the

his time around firefighters are facing a seemingly insurmountable battle — the “Thomas” fire in Santa Barbara, Summerland and Montecito has burned more than 395 square miles, and is currently only 35% contained. It has claimed the lives of at least two people, one a firefighter, and has destroyed more than 900 buildings. This fire has contributed to an unprecedented 13-day long string of red-flag warnings from the National Weather Service.

No one knows for sure how the latest fires started, and the internet is buzzing with unlikely causes. Aside from the colorful ideas touted in the comments section of YouTube, actual investigations are pointing towards snapped and sparking power lines as the cause of at least one of these fires, and the loss of 12 multi-million homes is being blamed on a cooking fire gone wrong at a homeless people’s encampment in a nearby ravine.

There is little doubt that climate change has contributed to the ferocity of the fires. Powerful seasonal winds have whipped the fires along, eating up the mass of new growth which sprung up when rains broke a 5-year drought earlier in the year.

Inside Washington

pentagon dc skyline dod photo

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Washington Post, Head of Pentagon’s secret ‘UFO’ office sought to make evidence public, Joby Warrick, Dec. 16, 2017. The chief of a little-known agency said the Pentagon did not take his UFO investigations seriously. He quit, but before leaving his job, intelligence officer Luis Elizondo quietly arranged for the release of three of the most unusual videos in the Pentagon’s secret vaults:  raw footage from encounters between fighter jets and “anomalous aerial vehicles” — military jargon for UFOs.

The videos, all taken from cockpit cameras, show pilots struggling to lock their radars on oval-shaped vessels that, on screen, look vaguely like giant flying Tic Tacs. The strange aircraft — no claims are made about their possible origins or makeup — appear to hover briefly before sprinting away at speeds that elicit gasps and shouts from the pilots.

Elizondo, in an internal Pentagon memo requesting that the videos be cleared for public viewing, argued that the images could help educate pilots and improve aviation safety. But in interviews, he said his ultimate intention was to shed light on a little-known program Elizondo himself ran for seven years: a low-key Defense Department operation to collect and analyze reported UFO sightings.

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Washington Post, Opinion: Roy Moore lost, but his type of right-wing white populism still dominates the GOP, Joseph Lowndes, Dec. 16, 2017. Joseph Lowndes is associate professor of political science at the University of Oregon and author of "From the New Deal to the New Right." Roy Moore won’t be in Washington next year, after all. But the Republican Party isn’t anywhere near rid of his style of racialized right-wing rhetoric — or of politicians like him.

Exit polls showed that 91 percent of Republicans who voted in Alabama’s special election Tuesday supported the controversial former judge, even as Doug Jones became the first Democrat since 1997 to represent the state in the Senate. Right-wing populism has been an influential force in the GOP for decades, and it’s now dominant.

American Politics

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Washington Post, Opinion: How Doug Jones won, Anne Applebaum, Dec. 16, 2017. “How did he do it?” That’s the question I was asked more than once by European friends the day after Alabama’s Senate election: How did Doug Jones win? The question was not idle. In many ways, the electoral challenge Jones faced in Alabama was strikingly similar to the challenge facing European politicians of the center-left and even — or maybe especially — the center-right: How to defeat racist, xenophobic or homophobic candidates who are supported by a passionate, unified minority?

roy moore cowboy hat no gunThis was the same question asked after the victory of Emmanuel Macron in the French elections, and part of the answer, in both cases, was luck. Nobody predicted a Roy Moore (shown in photo) sex scandal. Nobody predicted that the French political establishment would fold so quickly either. France’s previous, center-left president was so unpopular that he discredited his party;

But beyond luck, both Macron and Jones also tried to reach across some traditional lines, in part by appealing to traditional values. In Alabama, Jones used remarkably similar language.

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Washington Post, Rep. Ruben Kihuen won’t seek reelection amid sexual harassment allegations, Elise Viebeck, Dec. 16, 2017 (print edition). The freshman lawmaker, a Nevada Democrat, is the seventh member of Congress felled by such accusations since October. He said the allegations, which he denies, would be “a distraction from a fair and thorough discussion of the issues in a reelection campaign.”

Once considered a rising star in Democratic politics, Kihuen announced Saturday that he will leave Congress at the end of his first term. Kihuen has been accused of making unwanted advances toward multiple women, including an employee on his 2016 congressional campaign and a lobbyist during his time as a state legislator.

Hollywood Scandals

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Washington Post, The two expat bros who terrorized women correspondents in Moscow, Kathy Lally, Dec. 16, 2017. Matt Taibbi and Mark Ames trafficked in hideous stereotypes and body-shaming. There’s more than one way to harass women. A raft of men in recent weeks have paid for accusations of sexual harassment with their companies, their jobs, their plum political posts.

But one point has been overlooked in the scandals: Men can be belittling, cruel and deeply damaging without demanding sex. (Try sloughing off heaps of contempt with your self-esteem intact.) We have no consensus — and hardly any discussion — about how we should treat behaviors that are misogynist and bullying but fall short of breaking the law.

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Washington Post, Anita Hill chosen to lead Hollywood sexual harassment commission, Ellen McCarthy,  Dec. 16, 2017. A group of entertainment executives formed the commission to combat the kind of  sexual misconduct that recent revelations have shown to be pervasive in Hollywood.

As announced late Friday by the commission — an initiative spearheaded by producer Kathleen Kennedy, along with attorney Nina Shaw, venture capitalist Freada Kapor Klein and Nike Foundation co-chair Maria Eitel — the goal of the new group is to help combat the kind of sexual misconduct that recent revelations have shown to be pervasive in Hollywood. In her new role, Anita Hill once again will find herself leading the charge against sexual harassment, a mission that began when she testified on Capitol Hill at the 1991 confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.

Hill’s name has been in the news lately, as harassment allegations mount. Earlier this week, former vice president Joe Biden expressed regret over the way Hill had been treated in 1991 when she testified about Thomas before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he was the chairman of at the time. “I wish I had been able to do more for Anita Hill,” the former Democratic senator from Delaware said in an interview with Teen Vogue. “I owe her an apology.”

Natural Disaster: California Wildfires

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Washington Post, Deadly California wildfire rages on, threatening coastal Santa Barbara County, Danielle Paquette, Dec. 16, 2017. Aerial photos showed the blaze was about 40 percent contained, a fire official said. But the risk remains high for people living near the foothills of Montecito — home to a number of celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres.

Dec. 15

Taxing Times

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New York Times, With Billions at Stake, Tax Lobbyists Played Hardball, Kenneth P. Vogel and Jim Tankersley, Dec. 15, 2017. The rapid pace of the tax bill moving through Congress left lobbyists with little time and few lawmakers to press for changes in the $1.5 trillion overhaul.

As the largest tax rewrite in decades powered through Congress, lobbyists found themselves sprinting to keep up and find ways to persuade, influence or cajole the small group of lawmakers empowered to tweak language in the final version of the joint Senate and House bill.

The lobbyists and their allies opened their wallets wide to fund advertisements, phone banks and field campaigns. They leaned on longstanding relationships with lawmakers and staff, dashed off letters to congressional leaders and wrote checks to secure a few minutes of precious face time at fund-raisers.

They brought families struggling with rare diseases to Capitol Hill. Some deployed an outside-in approach, enlisting rank-and-file allies in both chambers to bend those writing the bill to their point of view. Others went for the jugular, trying to use partisan politics to prevent a provision from getting through.

The winners and losers in the $1.5 trillion bill are just beginning to emerge after a scramble that, in different times, would have taken months or weeks, instead of days, and involved scores of lawmakers, not a handful.

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paul krugmanNew York Times, Opinion: Republicans Despise the Working Class, Paul Krugman (shown at right), Dec. 15, 2017 (print edition). You can always count on Republicans to do two things: try to cut taxes for the rich and try to weaken the safety net for the poor and the middle class. That was true under George W. Bush, who sharply cut tax rates on the top 1 percent and tried to privatize Social Security. It has been equally true under President Trump; G.O.P. legislative proposals show not a hint of the populism Trump espoused on the campaign trail.

But as a terrible, no good, very bad tax bill heads for a final vote, something has been added to the mix. As usual, Republicans seek to afflict the afflicted and comfort the comfortable, but they don’t treat all Americans with a given income the same. Instead, their bill — on which we don’t have full details, but whose shape is clear — hugely privileges owners, whether of businesses or of financial assets, over those who simply work for a living.

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marco rubio fx wallace.jpgWashington Post, GOP expands child tax credit in bid to win support from Rubio, Damian Paletta, Erica Werner, Jeff Stein and Mike DeBonis​, Dec. 15, 2017. The change was added to meet demands from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla., shown in a file photo), who threatened to oppose the $1.5 trillion tax overhaul. A Rubio spokeswoman said the senator was reviewing the final measure to see if it was enough to meet his demands. Update: Rubio will vote for the bill.

GOP Internet Takeover?

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Washington Post,The never ending battle over net neutrality is far from over. Here’s what’s coming next, Brian Fung, Dec. 15, 2017. The Federal Communications Commission's vote on Thursday to repeal its net neutrality rules marked the end of a brief experiment by the network regulator to rein in the tremendous power of Internet providers by treating them like the highly-regulated telecoms. Now, providers will be allowed to speed up some websites — and block or slow down others — so long as they disclose it to the public, and violations will largely be handled after the fact by the Federal Trade Commission, not the FCC.

Far from settling the matter, the Republican-led FCC has simply opened a new chapter in a bruising Washington battle that stretches back nearly as far as the dot-com boom itself.

ed markey“We will fight the FCC’s decisions in the courts, and we will fight it in the halls of Congress,” said Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass., shown at center in a file photo), who promised Thursday to introduce legislation along with more than a dozen other lawmakers to overturn the FCC vote. New York's attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, announced Thursday he intends to file a multistate lawsuit against the FCC.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers in California and Washington have said they will try to write their own legislation to replace the federal rules — though that effort could be swiftly quashed. The FCC's decision on Thursday explicitly sought to preempt states from going around the federal rules, and agency officials made clear they would act against such attempts.

Under President George W. Bush, the FCC concluded all consumers deserved to enjoy four fundamental freedoms online: The freedom to access any Web content of their choice, so long as it was legal; the freedom to use any online application; the freedom to use their home broadband connections on any device; and the freedom to get subscription information from their own providers.

First unveiled in a speech in 2004 by Republican FCC Chairman Michael Powell, those principles were formalized as an “Internet policy statement” in 2005. Those provisions were nonbinding, and they didn't have the force of regulation.

 Inside The Courts

alex kozinski c span nov 2014 Customny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Who Will Judge the Judge? Editorial Board, Dec. 15, 2017 (print edition). Alex Kozinski is one of the nation’s most respected and influential federal judges. Appointed by President Ronald Reagan (and shown above delivering a 2014 lecture), he has served more than three decades on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the largest in the country. He is an outspoken and iconoclastic jurist with a quick, irreverent wit. A clerkship in his chambers, coveted by top law students, often leads to the biggest prize of all, a clerkship at the Supreme Court.

And if Judge Kozinski (shown below in the main photo illustrating his Wikipedia profile) were anything but a federal judge with life tenure, he’d most likely be out of a job by now.

alex kozinski informal wLast week, The Washington Post reported the allegations of six women who had worked for the judge as clerks or staff members, and who accused the judge in detail of crude behavior and sexual harassment.

What is the right way to deal with unacceptable conduct over many years by a life-tenured judge? The Constitution says federal judges “shall hold their offices during good behavior.” By any reasonable measure, Judge Kozinski’s behavior has not been good for a long time, yet he has been able to skate by.  

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Washington Post, Nine more women say judge subjected them to inappropriate behavior, including four who say he touched or kissed them, Matt Zapotosky, Dec. 15, 2017. Nine more women say that Alex Kozinski — a high-profile judge who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit — subjected them to sexual comments or other conduct, including four who say he touched them inappropriately.

Kozinski, known for his libertarian views and colorful written opinions, already had been accused of subjecting several women to a range of inappropriate sexual conduct or comments, and the circuit’s chief judge on Thursday took the first step in launching an investigation into his behavior. The matter was assigned Friday to the 2nd Circuit judicial council.

The new allegations — which span decades and include not just those who worked for Kozinski but those who encountered him at events — bring the total number of women accusing the judge of inappropriate behavior to at least 15.

State Department News

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rex tillerson suggests regime change venezuelaWashington Post, Trump allies say Tillerson has ‘not learned his lesson’ and cannot continue in job for long, Josh Dawsey and Anne Gearan, Dec. 15, 2017. The secretary of state (shown in a file photo) exasperated President Trump and White House officials when he went off script with another invitation for talks with North Korea.

More JFK Assassination Documents Released

national archivesNational Archives, New Group of JFK Assassination Documents Available to the Public, Staff report, Dec. 15, 2017. In the sixth public release this year, the National Archives today posted 3,539 documents subject to the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 (JFK Act).  Released documents are available for download.

The versions released today were processed by agencies and, in accordance with the President’s guidance, are being posted expeditiously in order to make the documents available to the public, even before the 2018 deadline established by the President on October 26, 2017.  This is the last release planned by the National Archives for this year. 

At this point, with the exception of 86 record identification numbers where additional research is required by the National Archives and the other agencies, all documents subject to section 5 of the JFK Act have been released either in full or in part.  Any information subject to section 5 of the Act, which has been redacted from documents in any of the six public releases this year, remains subject to further review by the agencies and the National Archives, in accordance with the President’s direction. 

The National Archives will release additional documents in 2018 based on the outcome of the reviews conducted pursuant to the President’s direction.

The National Archives previously released 10,744 documents on Nov. 17, 13,213 documents on Nov. 9, 676 documents on Nov. 3, 2,891 documents on Oct. 26, and 3,810 documents on July 24. The National Archives established the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection in November 1992, and it consists of approximately five million pages. The vast majority of the collection has been publicly available without any restrictions since the late 1990s.

nara logoRelated records site: National Archives, JFK Assassination Records: 2017 Additional Documents Release. The National Archives is releasing documents previously withheld in accordance with the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act.  The vast majority of the Collection (88%) has been open in full and released to the public since the late 1990s. The records at issue are documents previously identified as assassination records, but withheld in full or withheld in part. These releases include FBI, CIA, and other agency documents (both formerly withheld in part and formerly withheld in full) identified by the Assassination Records Review Board as assassination records. The releases to date are as follows:

  • July 24, 2017: 3,810 documents (read press release)   
  • October 26, 2017: 2,891 documents (read press release)   
  • November 3, 2017: 676 documents (read press release)   
  • November 9, 2017: 13,213 documents (read press release)   
  • November 17, 2017: 10,744 documents (read press release)   
  • December 15, 2017: 3,539 documents (read press release)

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whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Breaking: National Archives Releases Yet Another 3,500+ JFK Files, Staff report, Dec. 15, 2017. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) today released its sixth 2017 batch of records that may in some way relate to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The agency’s press release states that this latest cache includes 3,539 documents. It appears that 1,240 files are labeled “withheld-in-full,” meaning the public has never seen these documents before, and 2,259 labeled “withheld-in-part”, meaning they had previously been released to the public, but with some information blacked out. Yet another 439 files on their index give no indication at all of their status.

The documents from this release appear to originate from a mix of government agencies including the FBI, CIA, Army, NSA, and various congressional committees — although approximately 35 percent of the documents listed are not labeled in NARA’s index with an originating agency.

It remains to be seen what percentage of the redactions the various agencies will unredact by the April deadline.

Thus far, only a few of the documents have drawn keen interest — in part, perhaps, because of the unlikelihood that any “smoking gun” documents ever existed, or if they did, the likelihood they have already been removed from government files. Still, experts and aficionados expect to find “breadcrumbs” that, put together, can help paint a better picture of what did happen on November 22, 1963 in Dallas. Polls have consistently shown that the public doubts the conclusion of the Warren Commission that Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, was responsible.

WhoWhatWhy’s research team has been diligently sifting through these documents since the first release, sorting and analyzing them to try and understand their significance. Stay tuned as we bring you the latest.

Dallas Morning News, New JFK files show FBI misplaced Oswald's fingerprints, and CIA opened his mail -- and John Steinbeck's, Todd J. Gillman and Charles Scudder, Dec. 15, 2017. The 3,539 records include FBI and CIA reports on Soviet spies, the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and Lee Harvey Oswald's trip to Mexico City a few weeks before he murdered President John F. Kennedy in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.

 This batch likely will be the last released pending a final review of records. Many remain sealed at the request of the FBI, CIA and other agencies that pressed for more time ahead of a deadline set a quarter century earlier.

For decades, debate has raged not only over whether Oswald acted alone but whether the FBI and CIA could have stopped him. The latest documents provide fresh proof that he was in their sights: a 1975 CIA memo marked "top secret" shows that Oswald was on a "watch list" of people whose mail would be intercepted from Nov. 9, 1959, to May 3, 1960, and again from Aug. 7, 1961, through May 28, 1962.

The same watch list included Francis Gary Powers, the U-2 pilot shot down on May 1, 1960. His mail was opened until two months after his release by the Soviets. CIA also opened the mail of Earl Browder, the head of the Communist Party of the United States, playwright Edward Albee, novelist John Steinbeck, and a daughter of David Rockefeller, chairman of Chase Manhattan bank.

Another revelation comes from a July 1978 memo to an attorney on the staff of the House Select Committee on Assassinations: The FBI was unable to locate the original fingerprints lifted from the rifle found at the sniper's perch on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository.

Dallas police turned those over a few days after the assassination and never got them back. Top FBI officials told House investigators that finding the prints would be a "mammoth research effort."

The head of the bureau's fingerprint section told House investigators that standard procedure would have required returning the original prints to Dallas police, but "this case was not routine, nor was it handled as such."

Donor Payments Sought For Trump Accusers?

lisa bloomThe Hill, Exclusive: Prominent lawyer sought donor cash for two Trump accusers, John Solomon and Alison Spann, Dec. 15, 2017. A well-known women’s rights lawyer (shown at right in a file photo) sought to arrange compensation from donors and tabloid media outlets for women who made or considered making sexual misconduct allegations against Donald Trump during the final months of the 2016 presidential race, according to documents and interviews.

California lawyer Lisa Bloom’s efforts included offering to sell alleged victims’ stories to TV outlets in return for a commission for herself, arranging a donor to pay off one Trump accuser’s mortgage and attempting to secure a six-figure payment for another woman who ultimately declined to come forward after being offered as much as $750,000, the clients told The Hill.

The women’s accounts were chronicled in contemporaneous contractual documents, emails and text messages reviewed by The Hill, including an exchange of texts between one woman and Bloom that suggested political action committees supporting Hillary Clinton were contacted during the effort.

Bloom, who has assisted dozens of women in prominent harassment cases and also defended film executive Harvey Weinstein earlier this year, represented four women considering making accusations against Trump last year. Two went public, and two declined.

In a statement to The Hill, Bloom acknowledged she engaged in discussions to secure donations for women who made or considered making accusations against Trump before last year’s election.

“Donors reached out to my firm directly to help some of the women I represented,” said Bloom, whose clients have also included accusers of Bill Cosby and Bill O’Reilly.

Bloom said her goal in securing money was not to pressure the women to come forward, but rather to help them relocate or arrange security if they felt unsafe during the waning days of a vitriolic election. She declined to identify any of the donors.

And while she noted she represented sexual harassment victims for free or at reduced rates, she also acknowledged a standard part of her contracts required women to pay her commissions as high as 33 percent if she sold their stories to media outlets.

“Our standard pro bono agreement for legal services provides that if a media entity offers to compensate a client for sharing his or her story we receive a percentage of those fees. This rarely happens. But, on occasion, a case generates media interest and sometimes (not always) a client may receive an appearance fee,” she said.

Bloom told The Hill she had no contact with Clinton or her campaign, but declined to address any contacts with super PACs that supported the Democratic presidential nominee.

Josh Schwerin, the communications director for Priorities USA Action, the largest pro-Clinton super PAC, told The Hill that the group had no relationship with Bloom and had no discussions with her about supporting Trump accusers.

One Bloom client who received financial help from Bloom was New York City makeup artist Jill Harth. The former beauty contestant manager filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Trump in 1997 and then withdrew it under pressure. The news media discovered the litigation during the election, and Harth’s name became public in the summer of 2016. She asked Bloom to represent her in the fall after hearing Trump describe her allegations against him as false, and became a vocal critic of Trump.

“I consider myself lucky to have had Lisa Bloom by my side after my old lawsuit resurfaced. She advised me with great competence and compassion,” Harth told The Hill.

White House Speaks On Trump Accusers

The Hill.com, WH clarifies Trump tweet claiming he “never met” women accusers, Dec. 15, 2017. Videos and photos showing President Trump with some of the women who have accused him of sexual misconduct are resurfacing after Trump in a tweet Tuesday said his accusers are "women who I don’t know and/or have never met."

"Despite thousands of hours wasted and many millions of dollars spent, the Democrats have been unable to show any collusion with Russia — so now they are moving on to the false accusations and fabricated stories of women who I don’t know and/or have never met. FAKE NEWS!" Trump tweeted Tuesday.

People magazine published a photo later in the day showing Trump standing alongside Natasha Stoynoff, a former foreign correspondent for the magazine, while at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in 2005. People said that the photo was taken the same day that Stoynoff, in 2016, accused Trump of forcibly kissing her.

Democrat Drops From House Race

Roll Call, Top Democratic Candidate Drops Out of Kansas Race After She Faced Sexual Harassment Allegations, Bridget Bowman, Dec. 15, 2017. Ramsey had been endorsed by EMILY’s List and was a top potential challenger. Democrat Andrea Ramsey dropped out of the race to take on Kansas GOP Rep. Kevin Yoder, after sexual harassment allegations surfaced against her — and, she claimed, national Democrats abandoned her campaign.

Ramsey announced she was pulling out of the race Friday, in a lengthy statement denying that she engaged in any harassment or retaliation against a former colleague. The Kansas City Star first reported Ramsey's decision, which came after the outlet approached her about a 2005 lawsuit involving a male subordinate.

The case stems from Ramsey’s time as vice president of human resources at the company LabOne, according to the Kansas City Star. She allegedly made sexual advances towards a subordinate and retaliated against him when he rebuffed them.

The man was eventually fired. He sued the company and included the accusations against Ramsey in the case, which was eventually dismissed. Ramsey was not party to the lawsuit, so she was not involved in resolving the case.

“Had the false allegations been brought against me directly, I would have fought to exonerate my name and my reputation,” Ramsey said. “I would have sued the disgruntled, vindictive employee for defamation.”

james mattis mohammad bin salman

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

Unz Review, Analysis: Mohammed Bin Salman's Ill-Advised Ventures Have Weakened Saudi Arabia, Patrick Cockburn, Dec. 15, 2017. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) of Saudi Arabia is the undoubted Middle East man of the year, but his great impact stems more from his failures than his successes. He is accused of being Machiavellian in clearing his way to the throne by the elimination of opponents inside and outside the royal family. But, when it comes to Saudi Arabia’s position in the world, his miscalculations remind one less of the cunning manoeuvres of Machiavelli and more of the pratfalls of Inspector Clouseau.

Dec. 14

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Washington Post, Analysis: The suburban revolt against Trump continued in Alabama, James Hohmann, Dec. 14, 2017. The backlash in the suburbs against President Trump is one of the most significant political stories of 2017. If Democrats win the House next year, it will be the main reason.

doug jones senateIn Alabama, Sen.-elect Doug Jones (D, shown at right) flipped or came close on Tuesday in suburban counties that Trump had won around Birmingham and Montgomery. His victory offers the latest data points for a trendline that stretches back to April, when a special election in Kansas to replace Mike Pompeo — who gave up his House seat to become CIA director — was unexpectedly close because of Democratic strength and high turnout in the Wichita suburbs, specifically Sedgwick County.

In Virginia last month, Chesterfield County — which includes the suburbs around Richmond — backed a Democratic gubernatorial candidate for the first time since 1961. Several GOP state legislators unexpectedly went down in suburban districts that were not thought to be in play. Gov.-elect Ralph Northam (D) won the district held by Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) in the D.C. suburbs by 13 points. Four years before, Terry McAuliffe got 60 percent in Fairfax County. Northam pulled 68 percent.

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New York Times, How the Tide Turned Against Roy Moore, Ford Fessenden and K.K. Rebecca Lai, Dec. 14, 2017 (print edition). Big cities, college towns and black communities sent a wave of energized voters to cast ballots for Doug Jones, the Democratic Senate candidate.

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New York Times, Loss in Alabama Race Aggravates Rifts for Republicans, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, Dec. 14, 2017. With the Republican majority in the Senate down to a single seat, the party’s establishment is uneasy about what the populist wing could do in next year’s primary races.

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New York Times, Will Backing Moore Stain Evangelicals? Some Are Worried, Laurie Goodstein, Dec. 14, 2017. Reflexive support for divisive, scandal-plagued figures like the Alabama Senate candidate Roy S. Moore is hurting their movement’s image, some evangelical Christians say.

Is GOP Tax Plan Based On Lies, Hurting Middle Class, Safety Net, Charities?

TheRealNewsNetwork.com, Virtually No Economist Believes the GOP Tax Bill Will Generate Much Growth, Sharmini Peries interviews Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C and the author of several books, Dec. 14, 2017. The $1.5 trillion growth dividends that Republicans project on their tax bill remained the same at 20% and at 21% , this shows that they are picking the figure out of the air, and it is "pretty far-fetched," says economist Dean Baker.

ady barkan msnbc dec 14 2017MSNBC / All In, Activist with ALS: Kill the GOP tax bill & save my life, Host Chris Hayes, Dec. 14, 2017 (with 7:19 mins. video). Ady Barkan (shown above) has been lobbying Republican Senators to oppose the bill, which could slash the safety net to finance tax cuts for the rich. Editor's note: The young father is telling senators that he will die if the bill is passed because of his medical expenses. 

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Washington Post, Bad news for nonprofits: Will people still give or as much if they can’t get a tax deduction for their charitable giving? Michelle Singletary, Dec. 14, 2017. There’s a lot of worry in the nonprofit world. Republicans are hashing out their differences in an overhaul of the tax system and if things go as planned, a boost in the standard deduction may result in fewer people itemizing. And, without itemizing, not as many taxpayers will be able to deduct charitable contributions. The tax deduction has been a mighty powerful tool in getting people to be generous.

irs logo“The tax cuts bill the GOP is trying to get through Congress before Christmas would make 2017 the last year tens of millions of Americans would get a tax break for donating to charity,” reports Ashlea Ebeling for Forbes. “The reason: a new higher standard deduction of $24,000 per couple ($12,000 single) would mean that only 5 percent of taxpayers would take itemized deductions, such as those for charitable gifts.”

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New York Times, Republicans Hunt for Ways to Pay for Tax Cuts, Alan Rappeport and Thomas Kaplan, Dec. 14, 2017. Republicans plan to unveil a final bill Friday with the aim of voting early next week and delivering it to President Trump before Christmas.But many of the last-minute changes are expected to drive up the bill’s cost, and Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican, said

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Washington Post, White House wants technology cuts, pay freeze to fund border wall, according to Democrats, Nick Miroff, Dec. 14, 2017 (print edition). The Trump administration is planning to offset the steep cost of a Mexico border wall by instructing the Department of Homeland Security to cut spending on surveillance technology and freeze the pay of federal officers in the 2019 fiscal year, according to a report released Wednesday by the Democratic staff of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

The report, which the staffers said was based on information provided to them by “a whistleblower” in late November, said the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) told DHS to boost its projected spending on border wall construction for the 2019 fiscal year to $1.6 billion, an amount that would be “$700 million more than the Department’s original budget request.”

The $1.6 billion would be used to build additional physical barriers in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, the border’s busiest sector for illegal immigration. To offset some of the costs, OMB instructed DHS to decrease its funding request for border security technology and equipment by nearly $175 million, the report said.

Inside Washington

paul ryan oPalmer Report, Opinion: Paul Ryan just completely imploded, Bill Palmer, Dec. 14, 2017. Paul Ryan’s friends are now telling major news outlets that he’s considering not seeking reelection in 2018, and he’s even considering resigning before his current term is up. Ryan’s office is vaguely denying the reports. But it’s difficult to imagine Ryan’s friends telling something like this to the media unless he wanted them to. So why is the sitting Speaker of the House (shown at right) trying to spread the word that he’s on the verge of quitting? There are a few potential explanations, and the timing may be key.

Ryan is politically savvy enough to know that Trump’s toxic unpopularity and exploding Russia scandal mean that the rest of the legislative term is essentially over. The political focus for the entirety of 2018 will be about Trump’s downfall and demise, and there will be little room for any organized effort at passing partisan legislation.

World Crisis

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Washington Post, Trump plan to move U.S. embassy to Jerusalem angers Middle East Christians, Loveday Morris, Dec. 13, 2017. Some of the festive cheer was missing this weekend at a public Christmas tree lighting near the site where Christians believe an angel proclaimed Christ’s birth to local shepherds.

“Our oppressors have decided to deprive us from the joy of Christmas,” Patriarch Michel Sabbah, the former archbishop and Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, told the crowd in the town of Beit Sahour in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. “Mr. Trump told us clearly Jerusalem is not yours.”

The Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. Embassy there has provoked widespread opposition among Christians across the Middle East. When Vice President Pence arrives next week on a trip touted as a chance to check on the region’s persecuted Christians, he will be facing an awkward backlash. Update: Pence will postpone his trip if his vote is needed on the congressional tax vote.

The pope of the Egyptian Coptic Church, who leads the largest Christian denomination in the Middle East, has called off a scheduled meeting with Pence in Cairo. The Chaldean Church in Iraq warned this week that the White House move on Jerusalem risks sparking regional violence and extremism and demanded that the Trump administration respect U.N. resolutions on the city.

In the West Bank city of Bethlehem, which is about 12 percent Christian and is a scheduled stop on Pence’s tour, religious leaders turned off the city’s Christmas tree lights last week to protest the White House announcement.

Murder Charge Upgraded In Supremacist Attack

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charlottesville ny daily news cover death hate august 13 2017 custom 3Washington Post, Charge upgraded to first-degree murder for driver accused of ramming Charlottesville crowd, Paul Duggan, Dec. 14, 2017.  A self-professed neo-Nazi who allegedly used his car as a weapon, killing a woman and injuring 35 other people during a demonstration by white supremacists, was charged with first-degree murder after being jailed for the past four months on a lesser homicide charge.

james fields mugJames Alex Fields Jr., 20, who was arrested Aug. 12 in the death of 32-year-old counterprotester Heather D. Heyer, had been charged with second-degree murder, punishable by five to 40 years in prison. But moments after Fields (shown in a mug shot) entered a courtroom Thursday for a preliminary hearing — his first extended appearance before a judge since the violent demonstration — prosecutor Joe Platania announced that the main charge against him had been upgraded to first-degree murder, which carries a sentence of 20 years to life behind bars.

Authorities had initially said that 19 people were injured, in addition to Heyer, when Fields allegedly rammed his 2010 Dodge Challenger into another vehicle on purpose on a crowded street. But testimony at the preliminary hearing revealed that there were many more victims. Besides first-degree murder, Fields, who lived in Ohio before his arrest, is charged with eight counts of “aggravated malicious wounding,” meaning that at least eight of the 35 people who were hurt suffered what Virginia law describes as “permanent and significant physical impairment.”

Media Changes

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New York Times, Net Neutrality Rules Are Repealed, Giving Providers Free Rein, Cecilia Kang, Dec. 14, 2017. The Federal Communications Commission scrapped Obama-era rules meant to protect an open internet in a 3-to-2 vote along party lines.

fox news logo SmallAdweek, Disney Will Acquire 21st Century Fox For $52.4 Billion, Jason Lynch, Dec. 14, 2017. Fox's TV and film studios, FX, and Hulu stake are included, but not Fox TV or Fox News. A deal that would have been unimaginable just a couple months ago has now been finalized: Walt Disney Company announced that it will acquire 21st Century Fox, including Twentieth Century Fox movie and TV studios, most of its cable networks, international assets like Star and Sky and its stake in Hulu for $52.4 billion. Just before the acquisition, assuming it passes regulatory hurdles, Fox will spin off news sports and the broadcast network to its shareholders and create “a new Fox.”

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Washington Post, FCC poised to repeal net neutrality rules in a sweeping act of deregulation, Brian Fung​, Dec. 14, 2017. Internet providers would be able to speed up service for some apps and websites — and block or slow down others — in the expected repeal of Obama-era rules for broadband companies such as AT&T and Verizon.

Tony CárdenasBroadcasting & Cable, Rep. Cárdenas: Doing a Number on Diversity, U.S. Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), Dec. 14, 2017. Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif, shown at right.) weighs in on another big FCC vote Dec. 14 -- launching the review of the 39% national broadcast audience reach cap.

This holiday season, the Federal Communications Commission has made it clear they have massive broadcast conglomerates like Sinclair Broadcasting on their “nice” list while an independent and local media will only be receiving coal.  At Thursday’s public FCC meeting, this coal comes in the form of a proposal passed right under our noses -- in the thick of net neutrality talks -- that will set us on the path to blowing the cap off the laws that keep a single voice from controlling our nation’s airwaves. 

fcc logoCurrently, the national media ownership cap is set at 39% of television households in the United States. This means a single broadcast group cannot own stations that reach more than 39% of households. This rule prevents a single company, with a single agenda, from controlling everyone’s local news.  Other countries that don’t have rules like this – like the former USSR – sometimes end up forcing their citizens to only get their information from one source. Sometimes it’s one corporation, and sometimes it’s the government, but whether it’s private or public, 100 percent is 100 percent. The FCC is proposing blowing the cap off the rule that ensures there is more than one source of information.

ajit pai headshot customThe Hill, FCC chair dances with Pizzagate proponent in video promoting net neutrality repeal, Max Greenwood, Dec. 14, 2017. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai (shown at right) appeared Wednesday in a video promoting his impending net neutrality repeal, dancing with a woman who has a history of promoting the so-called "Pizzagate" conspiracy.

The baseless Pizzagate conspiracy theory, which proliferated during the final days of the 2016 presidential race, posits without evidence that high-ranking Democrats were involved in a nonexistent pedophile ring based out of a Washington, D.C. pizzeria. In December 2016, a man motivated by the conspiracy theory fired a gun in the business.

The video, produced by the conservative Daily Caller, features Pai insisting that the FCC's impending, highly criticized repeal of net neutrality will not affect what users can do online. In one clip, Pai is seen dancing alongside Martina Markota, a video producer for The Daily Caller.

Gizmodo reports that Markota had previously included an unlisted YouTube video on her website, in which she talks about Pizzagate. “This is not something I’m making up because I’m trying to, you know, put in my fantasy version of what’s going on and interject it into these email scandals, this is independently of the campaign I know what cheese pizza is,” Markota reportedly says in the clip, according to Gizmodo.

Scandals Around the Nation

jackie speier abcTPM, Dem Reps Urge Ethics Office To Probe Trump Sexual Misconduct Allegations, Caitlin MacNeal, Dec. 14, 2017. Two Democratic members of Congress on Wednesday asked the Office of Government Ethics to investigate sexual misconduct allegations made against President Donald Trump before he took office. In a letter, Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY), the chair of the House Democratic caucus, and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA, shown in a file photo), a leading voice in the #MeToo movement in Congress, noted that the ethics committees in the House and the Senate have launched probes into claims about lawmakers’ conduct but that accusations against Trump have not been investigated.

“Following the release of a video tape in October 2016 in which then-candidate Donald Trump admits ― and brags about ― making unwanted and inappropriate sexual advances toward women, numerous individuals came forward to share their own personal stories of their encounters,” they wrote in the letter.

us house logo“We believe public officials must set the gold standard for professional behavior, particularly those who hold the high offices of representative, senator, and ― especially ― president of the United States,” the Democratic lawmakers added. “That is why it is incredibly important that you conduct an investigation into claims of sexual misconduct by the president. No individual is above the law, regardless of his or her profession, persona, or power.”

Several Democratic members of Congress asked the House Oversight Committee to investigate the sexual misconduct claims against Trump earlier this week, but Chair Trey Gowdy (R-SC) declined to launch a probe and referred the matter to the Justice Department.

 blake farenthold crush girls abyss club

 The married Rpublican Texas Congressman Blake Farenthold, in the duck pajamas at right, frolicked with models from "The Crush Girls" agency at the Corpus Christi nightclub Abyss shortly before his first election

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Washington Post, Farenthold won’t seek reelection amid allegations of sexual harassment, Mike DeBonis and Elise Viebeck, Dec. 14, 2017. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), who settled a complaint with his former communications director but has denied engaging in improper behavior, plans to serve out the rest of his term, according to three Republicans familiar with his plans.

blake farenthold oRep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), who settled a complaint with his former communications director but has denied engaging in improper behavior, plans to serve out the rest of his term but will not seek reelection in 2018. He is shown both in an official photo and one above from his appearance at The Abyss Club in Corpus Christi.

His appearance and behavior prompted a news report last July in The Hill newspaper, Collins on hot mic: Farenthold 'so unattractive, it's unbelievable,  when U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) was overheard on an open microphone speaking with a colleague

Mediaite, GOP State Rep Commits Suicide After Denying Sexual Misconduct Allegations, Joseph A. Wulfsohn, Dec. 13, 2017. A Kentucky lawmaker took his own life just days after he denied allegations of sexual misconduct. Republican state Rep. Dan Johnson reportedly shot and killed himself on a bridge in Mt. Washington, KY. Police told WDRB they have recovered the gun he used.

Dan Johnson Kentucky rep. suicide screenshot croppedOn Monday, The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting published an exposé with an accuser, who was friend of his daughter, saying that Johnson raped her when she was 17 years old. She alleged that the assault took place in 2012 at a New Years Eve sleepover party when he was a pastor. “This allegation concerning this lady, this young girl, absolutely has no merit,” he said Tuesday. “It is the season. Last election it seemed to be racism. This election it seems to be sexual impropriety.”

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New York Times, Music Mogul Russell Simmons Is Accused of Rape by 3 Women, Joe Coscarelli and Melana Ryzik, Dec. 14, 2017.  Mr. Simmons, a powerful gatekeeper in the media and entertainment worlds, damaged careers and self-confidence with his pattern of sexual assault and harassment, the women say.

The Cut, Dustin Hoffman Accused of Sexually Assaulting Two Women, Exposing Himself to a Minor, Jackson McHenry, Dec. 14, 2017. Two women have accused Dustin Hoffman of sexual assault, while another has accused him of exposing himself to her when she was a minor, according to a report from Variety. Cori Thomas was 16 years old and a high-school classmate of Hoffman’s daughter Karina when she met him in 1980. One night, she says she was left in a hotel with the actor waiting for her parents to pick her up after Karina went home. Hoffman went into the shower and then emerged, according to Thomas, with a towel wrapped around him, which he dropped to reveal himself naked. She alleges he then put on a robe and asked her to massage his feet. “I didn’t know that I could say no, so I did it,” she said. “And he kept telling me, ‘I’m naked. Do you want to see?’”

Melissa Kester, who met Hoffman while her boyfriend was working on the music for Ishtar, alleges that Hoffman grabbed her while in the recording booth and then stuck his fingers inside of her while her boyfriend was watching. “He kind of laughed,” she said. “Then I just ran out of there, and I sat in the bathroom crying. I thought, ‘Oh my God.’ I felt like I’d been raped. There was no warning. I didn’t know he would do that.” Hoffman has also recently been accused of sexual harassment by actress Kathryn Rossetter, who was in Death in a Salesman with him; Anna Graham Hunter, a PA on Death of Salesman’ and Wendy Riss Gatsiounis, an executive producer of Genius.

The Cut, The Head of the Congressional Ethics Office Is Accused of Assaulting Women, Madeleine Aggeler, Dec. 14, 2017. In a federal lawsuit filed in Pennsylvania last month, the head of the Office of Congressional Ethics — which reviews allegations of misconduct against members of the House of Representatives, and decides which cases will be sent to the Committee on Ethics for further investigation — was accused of assaulting three women and using his position in the federal government as a way to influence local law enforcement, Foreign Policy reports.

According to the lawsuit brought by Greg Martucci, on the night of Valentine’s Day, 2015, Omar Ashmawy was verbally abusive to two women, and physically assaulted two others. In a police statement given by one of the women, Dawn Jorgensen, she claimed she saw Ashmawy “clearly sexually harassing” the female bartender, and that he said “You’ll give me drinks, but you won’t fuck me.” She also said she saw Ashmawy grab the bartender by the wrist, and when she tried to intervene, he grabbed her by the wrist “so tightly that he falls down to the ground landing to the left of me.” Jorgensen’s husband then reportedly came and dragged Ashmawy outside.

When the police arrived, Ashmawy was injured and bloody. Months later, Martucci, Jorgensen, and another man were charged with assaulting him. The charges against Martucci were later dropped, but he was still suspended from his job as a federal air marshal.

Omarosa 'Firing' From White House

omarosa manigault newman gage skidmore custom 2Mediaite, Omarosa Blasts April Ryan Over Firing Report: ‘Personal Vendetta to Bring Me Down,’ Aidan McLaughlin, Dec. 14, 2017. Omarosa Manigault appeared on Good Morning America Thursday to give her account of the mystery — and supposed drama — surrounding her ouster from the White House. The former Apprentice star, who served a tempestuous almost-year in in the White House as Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison, pushed back against the myriad of reports that indicated her “resignation” was a messy affair (some even suggested Secret Security “physically dragged” her out.)

“I resigned, and I didn’t do that in the Residence as being reported,” Omarosa told ABC’s Michael Strahan. Manigault described reports to the contrary as “100% false,” claiming she calmly discussed her resignation with Chief of Staff John Kelly in the Situation Room. Manigault claimed that she wanted to last a year in the White House before going back to her life, which is why her resignation is slated for January 20.

She also took aim at old White House foe April Ryan, correspondent at American Urban Radio Networks, who led the charge on reports that Manigault’s exit was a messy one. “Let’s be clear, only one person,” Manigault asserted, “no one else has reported what she’s reporting. And this is the one person who has attacked me for the past year — so you know this is personal.” (Fact check: a number of outlets reported Manigault was removed from the White House in a less than ceremonious fashion.)

Manigault also claimed that the deactivation of her White House pass was a means of restricting her access to certain areas, but that she will still have another pass for her remaining month in the White House.

“But when I have my story to tell as the only African-American woman in this White House, as a senior staff and assistant to the president, I have seen things that have made me uncomfortable, that have upset me, that have affected me deeply and emotionally, that has affected my community and my people and when I can tell my story, it is a profound story that I know the world will want to hear,” Manigault concluded.omarosa manigault abc ml 12 14 17 Custom

Omarosa Manigault, speaking on ABC's Good Morning America about her resignation from the White House as its most senior African-American appointee

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Washington Post, Without Omarosa Manigault, lack of diversity in White House becomes even more pronounced, Vanessa Williams and David Nakamura, Dec. 14, 2017. One of the president’s most prominent African American supporters (Omarosa Manigault, shown in a portrait by Gage Skidmore) resigned under pressure after a confrontation with Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, who had grown frustrated with her abrasive and attention-seeking style.

secret service logoPalmer Report, Secret Service disputes Donald Trump’s claims about Omarosa’s firing and removal, Bill Palmer, Dec. 13, 2017. The Donald Trump administration parted ways with White House senior adviser Omarosa on Wednesday, officially characterizing it as a resignation, but admitting to various news outlets that it was a calamitous firing. One White House source told the Wall Street Journal that she was physically “dragged” out of the building, while other sources told other news outlets that she was “escorted” out of the building. This removal was attributed to the Secret Service. Now the Secret Service is disputing that version of events.

The Secret Service used its official Twitter account to assert that “Reporting regarding Secret Service personnel physically removing Omarosa Manigault Newman from the White House complex is incorrect.” It went on to add “The Secret Service was not involved in the termination process of Ms Manigault Newman or the escort off of the complex. Our only involvement in this matter was to deactivate the individual’s pass which grants access to the complex.”

However, CBS News is now reporting that the White House is claiming Omarosa was dragged out after she tried to “tried to get into the White House residence after she was fired, tripping security alarms.” In such case the Secret Service would absolutely have responded. Let’s assume that the Secret Service is telling the truth here, and that not even a con artist like Donald Trump can get the revered agency to lie on his behalf. That would mean that none of this actually happened, and it was all some kind of mutually coordinated stunt.

Omarosa recently got married. Let’s say that she was planning to resign anyway, as the hours involved in White House jobs do not leave time for personal lives in general. Donald Trump desperately needed a distraction today, after his humiliating loss in Alabama last night. Omarosa has spent her entire reality television career carefully staging meltdowns for publicity, with each controversy leading to yet another TV gig for her. Did she go along with a phony controversial firing today, so she could use the resulting publicity to market herself for her next gig? Stay tuned. There’s much more to this story.

California Wildfires

california wildfires near burbank verdugo mountains scott l flickr cc by sa 2.0

A Los Angeles Fire Department helicopter drops water while fighting the La Tuna Fire in the Verdugo Mountains above Burbank, California, September 2, 2017. Photo credit: Scott L / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Los Angeles Times, Bel-Air fire displays L.A.'s extremes of wealth and misery, Steve Lopez, Dec. 14, 2017. Sunbaked and wind-battered Los Angeles, blessed and burdened city of extremes, is home to those with everything and those with nothing. Last week, the two worlds intersected when a cooking fire at a homeless encampment destroyed six homes and damaged a dozen others in Bel-Air, where affluent residents complain now and then about the scale of colossal estates that dwarf their own mansions.

We have more than 34,000 homeless people within city limits alone, and all the efforts to do something about this — including City Council approval Wednesday of a so-called linkage fee on new development to pay for affordable housing — are never enough to meet ever-growing demand.

“As soon as that fire erupted I said to myself, ‘Oh, God, I’ll bet it’s going to be from that homeless encampment near the 405.’ And that’s exactly what it turned out to be,” said Nickie Miner, vice president of the Bel Air-Beverly Crest Neighborhood Council.

Global News

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Washington Post, Doubting the intelligence, Trump pursues Putin and leaves a Russian threat unchecked, Greg Miller, Greg Jaffe and Philip Rucker, Dec. 14, 2017. Nearly a year into his presidency, Trump continues to reject the evidence that Russia waged an unprecedented assault on a pillar of American democracy and supported his run for the White House. Interviews with more than 50 U.S. officials show that the personal insecurities of the president have impaired the government’s response to a national security threat, with Trump resisting or attempting to roll back efforts to hold Moscow to account as he tries to forge a partnership with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Media and Elections

lawrence odonnell thomas burr

Lawrence O’Donnell of MSNBC (left) talks about his latest book, “Playing with Fire: The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American Politics” at a National Press Club Headliners Book Rap, Dec. 13, 2017. He's joined on stage by 2016 NPC President Thomas Burr, Washington Bureau Chief of the Salt Lake Tribune. (Photo/Image: Noel St. John)

National Press Club, O’Donnell talks politics then and now, Dominique Maria Bonessi, Dec. 14, 2017. Talking about his new book on the 1968 election of Richard Nixon as president, Lawrence O’Donnell, host of MSNBC’s “The Last Word,” on Wednesday night drew strong parallels to the 2016 election of Donald Trump.

“I wanted to write about the craziest presidential campaign we’ve ever had,” O’Donnell said. He added that the 2016 presidential campaigns were invented by Nixon in his 1968 campaign, with the exception of “one eccentric candidate.

Dec. 13

orrin hatch oRoll Call, Senate, House Reach Tax Overhaul Agreement, Niels Lesniewski, Dec. 13, 2017. Senate and House Republicans have reached a broad agreement on a major overhaul of the U.S. tax code, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch said Wednesday. As he was leaving for the White House, the Senate Finance Chairman confirmed the House and Senate have reached a deal on overhauling the tax code.

irs logo“We reached the agreement,” the Utah Republican told reporters. He said he planned to update President Donald Trump on the agreement when he reached the White House, declining to answer any questions about specifics, such as the final corporate tax rate or when exactly the deal was reached.

Hatch also did not say whether he and House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, intended to announce the details while with the president. Hatch also said he was confident there would be enough votes in each chamber to approve the conference report on the tax bill.

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Washington Post, GOP reaches compromise tax plan to drop corporate tax rate to 21 percent, cut rates for top earners, Staff report, Dec. 13, 2017. House and Senate Republican leaders have reached an agreement in principle that would lower the corporate tax rate to 21 percent beginning in 2018, a person briefed on the discussions said, part of a compromise $1.5 trillion tax plan they hope to vote into law by next week. The agreement would also lower the top tax rate for families and individuals to 37 percent, a change that would deliver a major tax cut for upper-income households.

Alabama Democratic Senate Victory

doug jones victory

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douglas jonesWashington Post, Jones wins in Democratic upset, but Moore refuses to concede, Sean Sullivan, David Weigel and Michael Scherer. Dec. 13, 2017. In a surprising flip of a solidly Republican state, Doug Jones (shown with his wife at victory party and at right) became the first Democrat elected to the Senate from Alabama since 1992 in a victory that showed the increasing power of sexual misconduct allegations and the limits of President Trump’s political influence. Roy Moore told his supporters “it’s not over” and suggested that the race might go to a recount, but the Alabama Republican Party said it would not support his push for one.

roy moore 8 accusers Custom

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Nation tires of pedophile politicians; Defeat of Roy Moore just the beginning, Wayne Madsen, Dec. 13, 2015 (subscription required, reprinted with permission). The historic victory of Democrat Doug Jones over Republican candidate Roy Moore in the Alabama special election to fill the seat of Attorney General Jeff Sessions has sent a message across the country that voters have no stomach for politicians convicted or accused of sexually preying on children.

roy moore cowboy hat no gunLegal Schnauzer, Opinion: Donald Trump develops a "Roy Moore Problem" as outtakes from "The Apprentice" reportedly show him speaking approvingly about sex with underage girls, Roger Shuler, Dec. 13, 2017. Roy Moore went down in yesterday's Alabama special election for the U.S. Senate, largely because of lower-than-expected turnout in his rural strongholds -- and that likely was driven by allegations during the campaign that Moore had, as a 30-ish district attorney, dated teen-aged girls.

Now, another GOP politician might be developing a "Roy Moore Problem." And his name is Donald Trump. Outtakes from The Apprentice include scenes of Donald Trump speaking approvingly about sex with underage girls, according to a report from a D.C.-based investigative journalist. Officials at NBC have taken steps to make sure the outtakes remain out of public view, reports Wayne Madsen. From a recent article at the Wayne Madsen Report (WMR): Trump’s “Apprentice” outtakes reportedly reveal boasts about sex and young girls. The Wayne Madsen Report is a subscription-only Web site, but Legal Schnauzer has received permission to publish portions of its content.

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Washington Post, Republicans point fingers after Jones stuns in Alabama Senate race, Moore refuses to concede, says ‘it’s not over,’ Sean Sullivan, Elise Viebeck, David Weigel and Michael Scherer, Dec. 13, 2017. Doug Jones’s win in a part of the Deep South that has not elected a Democratic senator since 1992 left Republicans picking through the wreckage after a blow that showcased voter backlash to sexual misconduct allegations and the limits of President Trump’s influence. Trump, who supported the losing candidates in both the GOP primary and on Tuesday, defended his record by saying he knew Roy Moore would lose. “Roy worked hard but the deck was stacked against him!,” Trump tweeted.

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douglas jonesNew York Times, Roy Moore Loses, Sanity Reigns, Editorial Board, Dec. 13, 2017 (print edition). Doug Jones strikes a blow against Donald Trump and for morality in American politics. That Alabama’s voters chose Doug Jones for the United States Senate is cause for celebration. A triumph for decency and common sense in a state that seemed for a time at risk of abandoning both, Mr. Jones’s win narrows the Republicans’ Senate majority and delivers a deeply deserved rebuke to President Trump. It is hard to get too intoxicated by a slim victory over an atrocious candidate, a suspected sexual abuser with bigoted politics, but Alabama, the Senate and the nation will be a whole lot better off with Mr. Jones than with Roy Moore.

Alabama’s deep-red politics argued against Mr. Jones’s chances. A former federal prosecutor, Mr. Jones won convictions of two Ku Klux Klan members for the 1963 bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church that killed four girls, and no Democrat had won a Senate race in two decades. But a report in The Washington Post in which four women accused Mr. Moore of sexually harassing or abusing them as teenagers turned the race into a close contest. Mr. Jones’s victory came thanks to overwhelming support from Alabama’s African-American voters.

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kirsten gillibrand oWashington Post, Trump attack on Gillibrand criticized as sexually suggestive and demeaning, John Wagner, Ed O'Keefe and Ashley Parker, Dec. 13, 2017 (print edition). The White House disputed the characterization of the president’s tweet as sexually suggestive. But Democratic calls increased for congressional investigations or Trump’s resignation.

President Trump attacked Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in a sexually suggestive tweet Tuesday morning that implied Gillibrand would do just about anything for money, prompting a swift and immediate backlash.

“Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Charles E. Schumer and someone who would come to my office 'begging' for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump,” the president wrote. “Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!”

usa today logodjt official SmallPalmer Report, Opinion: USA Today editorial board: Donald Trump is “unfit to clean toilets,” Bill Palmer, Dec. 13, 2017. After he endorsed a child molester in a Senate race, Donald Trump found a whole new way to reach a new low when he launched a bizarre attack on Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. After Gillibrand called on Trump to resign, Trump responded by accusing her of having offered him sexual favors in exchange for political favor. Suffice it to say, Trump faced severe pushback and condemnation. But as it turns out, USA Today hit him the hardest of anyone.

USA Today is far from a liberal newspaper, and it has taken Republican positions on various matters. But its editorial board is slamming Donald Trump for his attack on Gillibrand. The article starts off like this: “A president who’d all but call a senator a whore is unfit to clean toilets in Obama’s presidential library or to shine George W. Bush’s shoes.” From there it finds a way to be even more harsh.

House Oversight Hearing Of FBI Probe

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Washington Post, Rosenstein defends Mueller after anti-Trump texts from senior FBI officials surface, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett, Dec. 13, 2017. Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein told the House Judiciary Committee that he had not seen good cause to fire special counsel Robert S. Mueller III amid questions over whether bias might have infected the investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

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fbi logoWashington Post, Texts from FBI officials reveal pair’s contempt of Trump, Devlin Barrett, Dec. 13, 2017 (print edition). The messages — now the subject of an ethics probe — show two senior officials involved in probes of President Trump and Hillary Clinton exchanging harsh opinions of politicians, such as describing Trump as “a loathsome human” and calling Sen. Bernie Sanders “an idiot like Trump.”

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robert muellerNew York Times, Republicans Plan to Accuse Justice Department of Bias, Nicholas Fandos, Dec. 13, 2017. The release Tuesday night of F.B.I. officials’ text messages describing the possibility of a victory by Donald J. Trump as “terrifying” and saying that Hillary Clinton “just has to win” is certain to fuel a Republican campaign to attack the impartiality of the Justice Department and its special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III (shown at right) — and possibly hamper him with an investigation of the special counsel’s office.

Accusations of bias, primed by the newly released texts from an F.B.I. agent, Peter Strzok, and an F.B.I. lawyer, Lisa Page, are likely to take center stage on Wednesday when Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who appointed Mr. Mueller as special counsel, testifies before the House Judiciary Committee.

Republicans say they will press Mr. Rosenstein to appoint a second special counsel to investigate political partisanship in the department and to scrutinize Mr. Trump’s former presidential rival, Mrs. Clinton.

Inside Washington

peter kingCNN, GOP congressman to Chris Cuomo: Bannon like 'some disheveled drunk that wandered onto the political stage,' Maegan Vazquez, Dec. 13, 2017. Rep. Peter King says Roy Moore's election loss in Alabama is partly a result of the American people's "revulsion" toward former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon's divisive style and political views.

"You know, I was even raising this, not even so much as a political issue almost as a moral issue," the New York Republican told CNN's "New Day." "This guy does not belong on the national stage. He looks like some disheveled drunk that wandered onto the political stage."

joe biden meagan mccain CustomABC News "The View," Meghan McCain Gets Emotional With Joe Biden, Staff report, Dec. 13, 2017 (7:56 mins.). Her Dad Has The Same Cancer as Joe's Son Did....Couldn't Finish Biden's Book About Beau!!

FCC Threatens 'Net Neutrality' In Unpopular Vote

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Washington Post, Analysis: Net neutrality keeps the Web from running like an airport security line. And it might go away, Geoffrey A. Fowler, Dec. 13, 2017. Without neutrality rules, Internet providers could set up their own fast lanes — meaning certain websites could buy first-class treatment, while others are stuck in cattle class. Who could suffer most? Start-ups.

Inside the White House: The Apprentice

Donald Trump Apprentice

omarosa manigault newman gage skidmore custom 2Associated Press via Bloomberg, Omarosa Manigault Newman Plans to Leave the White House Next Month, Darlene Superville, Dec. 13, 2017. The White House says Omarosa Manigault Newman — one of President Donald Trump's most prominent African-American supporters — plans to leave the administration next month. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says Manigault Newman's resignation is effective Jan. 20, one year since Trump's inauguration. She is shown in a portrait by Gage Skidmore.

Manigault Newman's decision comes at the start of what's expected to be a round of departures heading into the new year. The White House said last week that deputy national security adviser Dina Powell will leave the administration early next year. Manigault Newman is a former contestant on Trump's reality TV show "The Apprentice." She joined the administration as director of communications for the White House Office of Public Liaison, working on outreach to various constituency groups.

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New York Times, Omarosa Manigault Newman to Leave White House Job Next Month, Maggie Haberman and Yamiche Alcindor, Dec. 13, 2017. Omarosa Manigault Newman, who achieved a measure of fame playing a villain on “The Apprentice” and cemented a relationship with President Trump that led to a White House appointment, will be leaving her position in January, the administration said on Wednesday.

Ms. Newman “resigned yesterday to pursue other opportunities,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said in a statement. “Her departure will not be effective until Jan. 20, 2018. We wish her the best in future endeavors and are grateful for her service.”

One of the president’s prominent African-American supporters, Ms. Newman served as director of communications for the White House Office of Public Liaison. But the division, which was absent a clear leader for most of the year, atrophied with her in a key position.

Two people close to the administration said that Ms. Newman neglected to find enough attendees for a Black History Month event early in the administration, for instance. And the office — which is key for building coalitions — became seen as what one person close to the White House described as the “island of misfit toys,” where people who couldn’t be slotted into other roles were sent. Reached by phone on Wednesday, Ms. Newman referred a reporter to Ms. Sanders’s statement about her departure.

Twitter and CNN, April D Ryan. I heard there was drama and she was escorted out of the building and off campus. American Urban Radio White House Correspondent and CNN contributor April Ryan told CNN colleagues on Dec. 13 these findings from her reporting from sources, excerpted here with ellipses omitted:

"It was very ugly, It was high drama from what I'm hearing. He (chief of Staff John Kelly) was tired of all the drama. There were concerns about her wedding, how she brought all the guests to the White House. He’s had enough. According to TMZ, there was some sort of tension last evening. They worked out a negotiation for her to leave Jan. 20. That didn’t sit very well with Omarosa. She tried to see the President. We've never seen anything like that. They wondered what she was doing for her $180,000 a year salary. And it did not end well."

TMZ, Omarosa Butted Heads with Trump Over Charlottesville, Roy Moore, Staff reports, Dec. 13, 2017. The White House is officially saying Omarosa quietly resigned, but multiple sources tell TMZ there was plenty of drama between her, Donald Trump and his Chief of Staff prior to her departure. Sources close to Omarosa tell us she started thinking about resigning back in August after the Charlottesville riots, because she disagreed with Trump's handling of the crisis. We're told she took issue with Trump saying there were good people on both sides ... which, of course, included the neo-Nazis.

Our sources in Omarosa's camp say she also didn't appreciate Trump beefing with Rep. Frederica Wilson, or bungling a call with an African-American Gold Star widow. We're told Trump's endorsement of Roy Moore was the last straw. Now, people in Omarosa's camp say she pulled the trigger on resigning Tuesday night. However, other White House sources tell us she was "fired" by Gen. John Kelly after she tried to get an audience with the Prez following Moore's loss. Even our Omarosa sources admit she had frequently bumped heads with Kelly. We're told she talked to Trump every other day, and Kelly wasn't happy she had so much access.

Other TMZ accounts: Omarosa Battled Trump & Gen. Kelly Prior to White House 'Firing'....Omarosa Yeah, I'm Out ... But the Prez & I Are All Good!

The Hill, Omarosa Manigault Newman leaving the White House next month, Mallory Shelbourne, Dec. 13, 2017. Trump administration aide Omarosa Manigault Newman reportedly set off White House alarms in an attempt to gain access to the residence after learning that she had been fired from her job.

According to a report from CBS News, Manigault Newman tried to enter the White House residence after chief of staff John Kelly told her that her employment in the administration would end in January. Manigault Newman, a former star of President Trump’s former NBC show “The Apprentice,” has served as the director of communications for the White House Office of Public Liaison.

April Ryan, a journalist with American Urban Radio Networks, reported during an on-air appearance with CNN that "everything blew up" when Kelly attempted to discuss Manigault Newman's walk-in privileges and access to Trump.

Franken Resignation

RollCall, Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith Picked to Replace Al Franken in Senate, Simone Pathé, Dec. 13, 2017. Says she will run for election in 2018 in Likely Democratic race. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton on Wednesday appointed Lt. Gov Tina Smith to fill the Senate seat vacated by outgoing Sen. Al Franken, who has yet to announce his resignation date.

Smith said Wednesday she will run for the remainder of Franken’s term, which is up in 2020. The special election will be held concurrently with next year’s midterms, when Democratic-Farmer-Labor Sen. Amy Klobuchar also faces voters.

“It is up to Minnesotans to decide for themselves who they want to complete Sen. Franken’s term. I will run in that election,” Smith said. Dayton was under pressure to appoint a woman after Franken resigned amid allegations he inappropriately touched women.

Tavis Smiley Fights PBS Suspension

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Washington Post, This has gone too far,’ says defiant Tavis Smiley after PBS suspends his show for ‘misconduct,’ Samantha Schmidt, Dec. 13, 2017. PBS is “indefinitely” suspending distribution of the late-night talk show “Tavis Smiley” after multiple misconduct allegations emerged against the show’s 53-year-old host, PBS announced Wednesday.

While a statement from a PBS spokeswoman did not say what sort of misconduct was alleged, “PBS News Hour,” on its website, said the allegations involved “sexual misconduct.”

In a Facebook video posted early Thursday morning, Smiley said he was “shocked” to hear PBS’s sudden announcement and intends to “fight back” against the network’s “so-called investigation.”

He said he has the “utmost respect” for all women, and celebrates “the courage of those women who have come forth of late to share their own truth.”

“Let me also assure you that I have never groped, inappropriately exposed myself or coerced any colleague in the workplace ever in my 30-year career,” Smiley said.

“If having a consensual relationship with a colleague years ago is the stuff that leads to this kind of public humiliation and personal destruction, heaven help us,” he added in a written statement posted on Facebook.

The news was first reported by Variety on Wednesday afternoon. The probe revealed allegations that Smiley had engaged in sexual relationships with multiple subordinates, Variety reported, citing unnamed sources. Some witnesses “expressed concern that their employment status was linked to the status of a sexual relationship with Smiley,” Variety reported. They described the longtime TV personality as creating a “verbally abusive and threatening environment” and raised concerns about retaliation, according to Variety.

FCC Chairman Dances With "Pizzagate" Fake News Promoter

ajit pai pizzagate martina markola

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, center, dances with Fake News "Pizzagate" promoter Martina Markota, at right, during the "Harlem Shake" portion of their video promoting the FCC's expected vote on party lines to end "Net Neutrality" 

Gizmodo, Ajit Pai Thinks You're Stupid Enough to Buy This Crap, Tom McKay, Dec. 13, 2017. Update: One of the 7 Things Is Dancing With a Pizzagater. On Thursday, the Republican-dominated Federal Communications Commission and its chairman, Verizon BFF Ajit Pai, will hold a vote on whether to repeal Barack Obama-era net neutrality rules. If passed, the FCC would allow ISPs to begin setting up a tiered internet designed to suck as much money from customers’ pockets as possible while screwing with their ability to access competitors’ content, or really anything that might suck up amounts of bandwidth inconvenient for their profit margins.

fcc logoThe plan is immensely unpopular, even with Republicans. This type of situation would typically call for a charm offensive, though Pai has apparently decided to resort to his time-honored tactic of being incredibly condescending instead. In a video with the conservative site Daily Caller’s Benny Johnson — the dude who got fired from BuzzFeed for plagiarizing Yahoo Answers — Pai urged the country to understand that even if he succeeds in his plan to let ISPs strangle the rest of the internet to death, they’ll let us continue to take selfies and other stupid bullshit.

“There’s been quite a bit of conversation about my plan to restore Internet freedom,” Pai says in the cringe-inducing clip. “Here are just a few of the things you will still be able to do on the Internet after these Obama-era regulations are repealed.”

Pai then pantomimed things users will supposedly still be able to do, like being able to “gram your food,” “post photos of cute animals, like puppies,” “shop for all your Christmas presents online,” “binge watch your favorite shows,” and “stay part of your favorite fan community.”

“You can still drive memes right into the ground,” Pai added before breaking into a literal Harlem Shake segment. Astute viewers may remember that this was an intolerable meme from all the way back in 2013 which has not grown any less intolerable in the intervening four years. Pai then pantomimed things users will supposedly still be able to do, like being able to “gram your food,” “post photos of cute animals, like puppies,” “shop for all your Christmas presents online,” “binge watch your favorite shows,” and “stay part of your favorite fan community.”

“You can still drive memes right into the ground,” Pai added before breaking into a literal Harlem Shake segment. Astute viewers may remember that this was an intolerable meme from all the way back in 2013 which has not grown any less intolerable in the intervening four years.

All of these claims on what users “will still be able to do” are actually questionable, seeing as under Pai’s plan, ISPs could easily hit up their customers with crushing fees to let them access any of these services at reasonable speeds—particularly those binge-watching streaming services he claims to love so much. Strangely, Pai didn’t mention torrenting, one of the applications of the internet he believes ISPs should be able to turn off entirely to save on bandwidth.

Update 12/14/2017: As first discovered by Twitter user and musician Alexander Smith, one of the Daily Caller employees that danced alongside Pai in the video seems to be a proponent of Pizzagate, the infamous and completely baseless internet conspiracy theory claiming prominent Washington, D.C. Democrats were running a child sex trafficking ring out of a local pizza restaurant.

The woman in question, Daily Caller video producer Martina Markota, appears to the right of Pai during the Harlem Shake portion of the video.

Smith directed Gizmodo to Markota’s website. There, one of her demo reels included an unlisted YouTube video in which she discussed a sprawling conspiracy theory intertwining the Clinton political dynasty, John Podesta, email scandals, cocaine, “government pedo programs,” and “cheese pizza,” which she alleged was a code word referring to sex with children.

“This is not something I’m making up because I’m trying to, you know, put in my fantasy version of what’s going on and interject it into these email scandals, this is independently of the campaign I know what cheese pizza is,” Markota continued.

Several prominent Pizzagate proponents, including far-right personalities Mike Cernovich and Alex Jones, quickly distanced themselves from the whole mess after a gunman stormed a D.C.-area pizza restaurant. That perhaps explains why the video is unlisted on Markota’s YouTube feed.

Earlier in the day, Markota additionally appeared to have referenced her presence in Pai’s video on Twitter, writing “Party hard with the chairman of the FCC? Why not.”

Roger Stone's New Book On Trump

roger stone donald trump2Newsweek, It’s ‘Painfully Obvious’ Trump Will Be Charged by Mueller, Says President’s Ally Roger Stone, Marie Solis, Dec. 13, 2017. One of President Donald Trump's longtime allies is foretelling doom for the commander in chief, who is embroiled in multiple controversies that threaten his office. Political strategist Roger Stone (shown in a file photo with Trump) said it's only a matter of time before special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe and the Trump sexual misconduct allegations that number well into the double digits catch up to the president.

"It’s painfully obvious Mueller will bring charges," Stone told Vanity Fair. "The theory is Mueller will indict him on some process-related matter.... The only people who don’t seem to know it are [Trump lawyers] Ty Cobb, [John] Dowd, and the president."

Stone, however, may also be sticking a knife in the president's back. The political consultant has a long history of self-promotion, from his many conspiracy theorist books to his radio show to his eponymous blog StoneColdTruth.com.

Stone stepped away from Trump's presidential campaign in 2015, though there was some dispute about whether he left of his own volition or was fired by Trump's campaign aides, who believed Stone had "sought attention for himself instead of the candidate," according to The Washington Post.   

nikki haley oAlso, Stone said it's telling that members of Trump's cabinet, including Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, seem to be turning against him. During a Sunday interview on CBS's Face the Nation, Haley (shown in an official photo) said the 19 women who have accused Trump of sexual harassment or assault "should be heard" and "dealt with." Two unidentified sources later told the Associated Press that the president was angry about her comments—as he should be, Stone told Vanity Fair.

“Nikki Haley stuck a knife in his back," he said. Stone said he has been compiling anecdotes about the political strife that has punctuated Trump's presidency into a book to be called The Fall of Trump, reportedly the first in a series he'll publish with Skyhorse Publishing. Stone said he's been adding to the book "as we go along" in Trump's presidency.

U.S. Military Interventions Overseas

jacob hornberger headshotFuture of Freedom Foundation, Why Are There Still Any Foreign Interventionists? Jacob G. Hornberger, Dec. 13, 2017. For the first hundred years of American history, the United States was founded on the concept of a limited-government republic, one whose government did not intervene in the affairs of other nations, specifically in Europe and Asia. America’s non-interventionist philosophy was summed up by John Quincy Adams’ Fourth of July address to Congress in 1821, the title of which is “In Search of Monsters to Destroy.”

Later generations of Americans abandoned that founding foreign-policy principle and adopted the opposite philosophy — interventionism. The big turn came in 1898 with the Spanish American War, continued with World War I and World War II, followed by the Korean War and Vietnam War, culminating in today’s forever wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan, with coups, invasions, assassinations, kidnappings, and partnerships with and support of foreign dictators thrown into the mix.

Americans today have a choice: Restore America’s founding principle of non-interventionism or continue embracing foreign interventionism. The good news is that according to an excellent op-ed in the Los Angeles Times by Texas A&M professor Elizabeth Cobbs, a Pew organization poll conducted in 2016 found that 57% of Americans said that the United States should  “‘mind its own business’ and allow other countries to get along on their own.” That was up from 52% in 2013.

That means that we might well be very close to a critical mass that brings one of those gigantic societal shifts that have periodically occurred in history in the direction of freedom.

Hastert Scandal

dennis hastert mugDaily Mail, Disgraced former House Speaker Dennis Hastert is barred from being alone with minors and watching porn following conviction in sex abuse case, Associated Press and Keith Griffith, Dec. 13, 2017. A judge has barred disgraced former House Speaker Dennis Hastert from being alone with minors or watching porn. Tuesday's court order in Chicago requires that Hastert never be left alone with anyone under 18 unless another adult is present who is aware of his conviction in a sex abuse hush-money case.

US District Judge Thomas M. Durkin didn't explain in his brief order why that and other new restrictions on the 75-year-old were called for now, three months into his two-year period of supervised release from prison. Others new requirements included barring Hastert from possessing pornography and using 'any sex-related telephone numbers.'

He also must allow - and pay for - the installation of software that records all his computer activity, from browser history to email correspondence and internet chats. The new restrictions on Hastert came a day after a report filed under seal by his probation officer, which likely explained why the officer felt they were necessary.

dennis hastert wrestling cnn 1960sIt is unclear what prompted the new probation restrictions, which follow a report filed under seal by a probation officer on Monday 'You think about shame, guilt, embarrassment, humiliation -- the Hasterts of the world have so much trust and respect over you that you really have a hard time processing and understanding it,' Cross added.

In a memo written in advance of his 2016 sentencing hearing, prosecutors spelled out in graphic detail how Hastert (shown above left in a 1960s photo as a high school wrestling coach) sexually molested or inappropriately touched five teenagers who trusted him as their wrestling coach. And as Hastert rose to power, believing that his wrongdoing would never be made public, his victims struggled with the effects of the abuse, prosecutors wrote. At the time of sentencing, Durkin said he would have given him a longer sentence if it had not been for his age and poor health.  

Dec. 12

Unz Review, Bad Moon Rising, Philip Giraldi, Dec. 12, 2017.  A new cabinet will mark neocon ascendancy. Back during the admittedly brief shock and awe period that immediately followed on the Trump electoral victory, it appeared that there might be an actual realignment of American foreign policy. The neoconservatives virtually unanimously had opposed Donald Trump in the most vile terms, both in the GOP primaries and during the actual electoral campaign, making clear that Hillary was their choice for a future full of unrelenting, ideologically driven warfare to convert the world to democracy. By that metric, one would assume that Trump would prefer to be roasted on a spit rather than have neocons on his national security team, and many in the punditry did agree with that analysis and went on to share that view.

Which brings us to the latest shuffle in the Donald Trump cabinet and what it is likely to mean down the road. Multiple sources are predicting Tillerson out and Mike Pompeo in at State Department with Pompeo replaced at CIA by Senator Tom Cotton. The White House is denying the story, calling it “fake news,” but it is clear that Trump is uncomfortable with the current arrangement and Tillerson will be gone sooner or later.

Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State replaces a somewhat bumbling businessman adept at dealing in energy futures contracts who has been struggling with reducing State’s enormously bloated payroll. Pompeo, a real hard-nosed political hardliner who tends to see complex issues in fairly simplistic ways, has become a presidential confidant, briefing Trump frequently on the state of the world, most recently pushing for the horrific decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. In a recent speech , Pompeo criticized the CIA, observing that it had both forgotten how to spy, which is almost certainly true, while adding that it will have to become “more vicious” to accomplish its mission of making the United States “safe.” Pompeo would like to turn the United States into an unleashed wrecking ball directed against the enemies of the American Way and he appears intent on starting that process in the Middle East.

And Pompeo will be replaced as CIA Director by Tom Cotton. The less said about Tom the better, but I will attempt to summarize in 8 words here: Tom is completely owned by the Israel Lobby. In his 2014 election as junior Senator from Arkansas, he received $1 million from the Emergency Committee for Israel headed by Bill Kristol as well as additional assistance from the Republican Jewish Coalition. In March 2015, Tom paid those supporters back when 47 Republican United States Senators signed a letter allegedly written by him that was then sent to the Iranian government directly, warning that any agreement over that country’s nuclear program reached with President Barack Obama would likely be overturned by the Congress. The letter, which undercuts the authority of the American president before an international audience, was signed by the entire Republican Party leadership in the Senate and also included then presidential contenders Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

I do not wish to imply that Cotton and Pompeo are somehow stupid, but they do tend to see the world in a very monochromatic fashion, just like their boss. Pompeo was first in his class at West Point and Cotton graduated from Harvard as an undergrad and also from the Law School. Trump claims to be the smartest person in the room no matter where he is standing. But for all the academic credentials and other posturing, it is hard to imagine how the new choices could possibly be worse from a common-sense perspective unless one includes Nikki Haley, who is, fortunately, otherwise engaged. Haley really is stupid. And ambitious. And is also owned by the Israel Lobby, which appears to be a thread that runs its way through all the Trump foreign policy appointees.

What is wrong about the whole Trump team is that they all seem to believe that you can go around the world kicking the shit out of everyone without there being any consequences. And they all hate Iran for reasons that continue to be obscure but may be connected to their relationships with – you guessed it – the neoconservatives and the Israeli Lobby!

Yes, the neocons are back.

Activist Post, DOJ Wall Street – Get Rich Quick – Revolving Door$, Aaron Kesel, Dec. 12, 2017. This is the fourth part of an investigative series concerning the troubling matter of Wall Street crimes protected by federal agents switching sides to protect their secret buddies’ “bizness” schemes by conflict of interests and “revolving doors.”

In this segment, we’ll look into apparent acts of federal agents’ incompetence, willful blindness and observable acts of clear duplicity. Today we will be looking at what are known as Deferred Prosecution Agreements. (“Defers”) aren’t even slaps on the wrists, because those fines are paid by the stockholders and not Wall Street executives who should be convicted.

An even more alarming fact is that the more this reporter digs and talks to the eToys federal case whistleblower Laser Haas, the more cases that show numerous occasions where federal agents are turning up directly connected to this revolving door; some even have payoffs involved to exiting prosecutors under the guise of Deferred Prosecution Agreements.

A good majority of the population, not so long ago, had another phrase coined for federal agents getting millions of dollars to forego prosecutions! But it seems today that the rule of law has been forgotten.

Back in 2001, with smoking guns unearthed in 2004, several Wall Street crimes were brought to the attention of federal agents and agencies alike, such as the SEC, DOJ, FBI and United States Trustee program, in Delaware, by the eToys federal case whistleblower.

Unbeknownst to the eToys whistleblower at the time, the Delaware United States Attorney, Colm Connolly, had been a partner of the very MNAT law firm that Laser Haas sought to be indicted for a plethora of alleged crimes. This single case of Colm Connolly & MNAT is corroborative proof that the “revolving door” paradigm needs to be addressed by Congress. But this isn’t the only instance of revolving doors you will hear about in this series. As noted by his résumé (archived), Connolly was a clerk for a 3rd Circuit Justice who was, coincidentally, a partner of MNAT.

Media

usa today logoDonald Trump Apprentice USA Today, Opinion: Will Trump's lows ever hit rock bottom? Editorial Board, Dec. 12, 2017. A president who'd all but call a senator a whore is unfit to clean toilets in Obama's presidential library or to shine George W. Bush's shoes: Our view. With his latest tweet, clearly implying that a United States senator would trade sexual favors for campaign cash, President Trump (portrayed in a photo from his NBC show "The Apprentice.") has shown he is not fit for office. Rock bottom is no impediment for a president who can always find room for a new low.

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New York Times, ‘Fake News,’ Trump’s Cry, Is Now a Cudgel for Strongmen, Steven Erlanger, Dec. 12, 2017. Leaders who don’t like to be criticized or investigated have embraced the term. Scholars fear that it further erodes trust in democracy.

Inside Washington

irs logoHuffPost, Doug Jones’ Victory Could Be Trouble For Tax Reform, Arthur Delaney, Dec. 12, 2017. Senate Republicans already have a thin margin for error, but they’re hoping to finish their tax bill before the Alabama winner is seated. The Republican tax agenda could face an additional obstacle now that Democrat Doug Jones has defeated Republican Roy Moore in Alabama’s special Senate election on Tuesday.

Jones likely won’t be seated until January, which is after Republicans plan to send a tax bill to the president’s desk. But if for some reason the legislation were delayed, Senate Republicans would have an even thinner margin for success without Moore as a senator. The Senate approved its version of tax reform earlier this month by a margin of 51-49, so having one fewer Republican would not necessarily imperil the bill, since Vice President Mike Pence can break a 50-50 tie.

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Washington Post, Judge bars disgraced former House speaker Dennis Hastert from being alone with children, Samantha Schmidt, Dec. 13, 2017. Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert must not be left alone with children unless another adult is present who knows that he paid money to conceal that he’d sexually abused teenage boys, a federal judge in Chicago ordered on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.

dennis hastert prison wheelchair abcHastert, who admitted in 2015 to doling out hush money and lying about it to the FBI, is also barred from possessing pornography and using sex chat lines. The Illinois Republican (shown in a file photo being wheeled by his wife) left a federal prison in Minnesota in July after serving nearly 13 months of his 15-month sentence. He is now on supervised release.

Zero Hedge via SouthFront, Opinion: "Trump Should Go F Himself" – Texts Leak From FBI Agents On Russia Probe, Hillary Emails Investigation, Staff report, Dec. 13, 2017. Over 10,000 text messages sent between two top FBI investigators – one of whom led both the Clinton email investigation and the early Trump-Russia probe, have been turned over to Congress Tuesday evening and promptly leaked to the press.

Peter Strozk Lisa PageThe profanity-laced messages reveal a deep hatred for Trump between veteran agent Peter Strzok and FBI attorney Lisa Page, who were having an extramarital affair while working together on the Clinton email investigation when the texts were exchanged. Strzok and Page were fired from Robert Mueller’s special counsel in mid-August over the messages, yet the reason was not revealed until last month. Strzok notably changed the wording of then-FBI Director James Comey’s statement on Clinton’s mishandling of classified information from “grossly negligent” to “extremely careless.”

fox news logo SmallIn one exchange obtained by Fox News sent on March 4th, 2016 – right around the time Trump emerged as a serious threat in the GOP primary race, Page texted Strzok “God, Trump is a loathsome human,” to which Strzok responded “Yet he many[win]” Strzok responded, adding “Good for Hillary.” Later that day, Strzok texted Page, “OMG [Trump’s] an idiot” to which Page replied “He’s awful.” Strzok then texted Page “America will get what the voting public deserves,” to which Page responded “That’s what I’m afraid of.”

Fox reporter Shannon Brem tweeted that Fox News producer Jake Gibson has obtained 10k texts between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, one of which says “Trump should go f himself,” and “F TRUMP.”

Inside Washington

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Washington Post, Investigation: NOAA nominee’s financial conflicts, efforts to curb agency’s role draw rare criticism from former chiefs, Robert O'Harrow Jr., Dec. 12, 2017. Three former administrators of the agency responsible for the government’s vast weather forecasting system have serious concerns about the businessman President Trump has nominated to be its next leader, and two of them say the nominee has conflicts of interests that should disqualify him, documents and interviews show.

It is the first time in the half-century history of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, that former administrators have voiced such strong opposition, agency veterans say. The nominee, Barry Myers, is among a growing number of controversial figures Trump — who has promised to disrupt and downsize the federal government — has selected for key posts.  

hope hicks strategic communications directorPalmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump may have just sent some of his own White House advisers to prison, Bill Palmer, Dec. 12, 2017. Now that Hope Hicks (shown at right) has spent two full days cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and Donald Trump has figured out that it means she’s given him up, he’s throwing a tantrum. Trump is suddenly stomping his feet and making new demands that he can’t legally make or enforce. Yet some of his own top White House staffers will likely go along with it, meaning they might as well report directly to prison.

Trump has announced through his attorneys today that he’ll no longer allow any more of his current White House advisers to be interviewed by Mueller. Even though it’s been reported by several major news outlets and came straight from Trump’s own attorney’s mouth, it’s still an incredible development. Trump doesn’t have the legal power to block his employees from speaking to Mueller. More importantly, Mueller does have the legal power to compel all of these people to sit down with him.

Robert Mueller has also already gotten to White House Counsel Don McGahn, White House adviser Stephen Miller, and former White House advisers Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer. Based on how long their interviews lasted, it appears they were all fully cooperative – which would mean that they gave Donald Trump up for obstruction as well. Keep in mind none of these staffers were necessarily involved in the Russia scandal, only the coverup. Mueller already has his star collusion witness, Michael Flynn, in hand.

Sex Crime Claims, Politics, Hyopocrisy

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Washington Post, Accused of molesting a teenage girl, Kentucky lawmaker refuses to resign, Marwa Eltagouri, Dec. 12, 2017. State leaders from both parties are calling for state Rep. Dan Johnson’s resignation after the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting published an exposé detailing allegations about his actions with a daughter’s friend.

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Washington Post, Why is Trump attacking Kirsten Gillibrand, the only female senator who has said he should resign? Amber Phillips, Dec. 12, 2017. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) isn't the first Democratic senator this week to say President Trump should resign over allegations that he made unwanted sexual advances on more than a dozen women. But she is the first woman to say it. And she is the one to get attacked by the president for it. But she is definitely not the first female critic of the president to get attacked with overtly sexist language.

The battle Trump launched with Gillibrand is not politically advisable, as The Fix's Aaron Blake points out. But based on his past behavior, it was entirely predictable.

Here are a couple likely reasons Trump is attacking Gillibrand and leaving the other senators alone.

Police Terror Suspect Claims Entrapment By FBI

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Washington Post, Former police officer argues FBI pushed him to support terrorism, Rachel Weiner, Dec. 12, 2017. Nicholas Young, who worked for the Metro Transit Police, hopes to be the first person since the­ Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to win a terrorism trial by arguing that he was entrapped by law enforcement.

In the years Nicholas Young went to work patrolling Washington’s Metro system, a federal prosecutor said, an FBI agent was lying awake at night worrying about what he might do.

fbi logoAs the first police officer to face terrorism charges in the United States goes to trial in federal court this week, FBI special agents and undercover operatives explained to jurors how they began investigating Young in 2010 — and why he was not arrested until August 2016. It was then that Young bought Google Play gift cards that prosecutors say he thought would be used by Islamic State recruits to download encrypted messaging applications.

During the years-long investigation of the Alexandria, Va., native, several law enforcement officials testified, Young repeatedly made violent remarks that were concerning but did not prompt immediate action. Prosecutors said a sting operation involving the gift cards was necessary to get a dangerous radical not just off the streets, but also out of law enforcement.

Media Changes

john pilgerConsortium News, Silencing of Courageous Documentaries, John Pilger (documentary film maker shown at right), Dec. 12, 2017. Historically, documentaries have told important truth in powerful ways and often challenging powerful groupthinks, but such brave films are becoming an endangered species.

Britain remains one of the few countries where documentaries are still shown on mainstream television in the hours when most people are still awake. But documentaries that go against the received wisdom are becoming an endangered species, at the very time we need them perhaps more than ever.

In survey after survey, when people are asked what they would like more of on television, they say documentaries. I don’t believe they mean a type of current affairs program that is a platform for politicians and “experts” who affect a specious balance between great power and its victims. Observational documentaries are popular; but films about airports and motorway police do not make sense of the world. They entertain.

The Coming War on China, which I completed last year, has been broadcast in the United Kingdom but not in the United States – where 90 per cent of the population cannot name or locate the capital of North Korea or explain why Trump wants to destroy it. China is next door to North Korea.

According to one “progressive” film distributor in the U.S., the American people are interested only in what she calls “character-driven” documentaries. This is code for a “look at me” consumerist cult that now consumes and intimidates and exploits so much of our popular culture, while turning away film-makers from a subject as urgent as any in modern times.

Dec. 11

doug jones senateLegal Schnauzer, Campaign finance reports for Democrat Doug Jones show quite a few of his boosters are longtime donors to GOP stalwarts like Sessions, Shelby, and Bachus, Roger Shuler, Dec. 11, 2017. Anyone who doubts Alabama Republicans have backed Democrat Doug Jones' run for the U.S. Senate should be able to take it to the bank now. An article over the weekend at Politico shows, in black and white, that long-time GOP donors make up a meaningful portion of Jones' financial support -- and still, polls show he is likely to lose tomorrow to Republican theocrat and child molester Roy Moore.

We've already shown that GOP luminaries such as Karl Rove, Tom Donohue, Rob Riley, and Bill Canary have been backing Jones. But Politico adds to the right-wing equation backing Jones. From the article by Daniel Strauss and Luis Sanchez:

A small group of Alabama Republicans have joined forces with Democrat Doug Jones’ campaign ahead of Tuesday’s special Senate election. But they are having trouble swaying many friends and family members to cross the aisle, too.

Democrat Doug Jones’ campaign finance reports are dotted with longtime donors to Alabama Republicans like Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Sen. Richard Shelby and former Rep. Spencer Bachus. Republican attorneys in Birmingham and Mobile who have disliked Moore since he was a judge have banded together to offer support to Jones. The Republicans for Jones include Gina Dearborn, an Alabama lobbyist and former Shelby staffer who has backed Jones on social media and is married to White House deputy chief of staff Rick Dearborn.

Roy Moore is a detestable candidate in the eyes of many Alabamians with functioning cerebrums -- and many held that view long before reports that Moore, as an early 30-ish district attorney, had a taste for the flesh of teen-aged girls. But what do you get with Jones? A "Democrat" who likely will be taking marching orders from right-wingers like Sessions, Shelby, Rove, Donohue, and Riley.

Jones' documented ties to Rob Riley should be troubling for anyone with the slightest hint of a moral compass. The two of them worked to help generate $51 million in attorney fees from a HealthSouth lawsuit -- while Jones, at the same time, was "defending" former Gov. Don Siegelman, whose co-defendant was former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy. It's hard to imagine a more glaring conflict of interest than that. Plus, Jones charged Siegelman $300,000 for a criminal defense he didn't perform; Jones bailed out before trial, because of his own scheduling conflict, and apparently did not repay a dime of the money he took from Siegelman.

Global News: Syria

New Yorker, Trump to Let Assad Stay Until 2021, as Putin Declares Victory in Syria, Robin Wright, Dec. 11, 2017. Despite the deaths of as many as half a million people, dozens by chemical weapons, in the Syrian civil war, the Trump Administration is now prepared to accept President Bashar al-Assad’s continued rule until Syria’s next scheduled Presidential election, in 2021, according to U.S. and European officials. The decision reverses repeated U.S. statements that Assad must step down as part of a peace process.

As recently as October, after a swing through the Middle East, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, “The United States wants a whole and unified Syria with no role for Bashar al-Assad in the government.” He told reporters travelling with him, “The reign of the Assad family is coming to an end. The only issue is how that should that be brought about.”

The U.S. decision reflects the Administration’s limited options, the military reality on the ground, and the success of Syria’s Russian, Iranian, and Hezbollah allies in propping up the beleaguered Assad regime. In a surprise visit to Syria, on Monday, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin declared victory against both ISIS jihadis and Western-backed rebels. “In just over two years, Russia’s armed forces and the Syrian Army have defeated the most battle-hardened group of international terrorists,” Putin told Russian forces stationed at an airbase in Syria’s coastal province of Latakia. Russia’s decision, in 2015, to provide air power to Assad is widely considered the pivotal turning point for the regime, which has now defied steep odds to hold on to power.

Over the past few months, facts on the ground have led the Administration to accept that Assad, whose family has ruled Syria for almost a half century, may be around for as much as four more years. Syria now controls the majority of territory — including cities such as Damascus, Hama, Homs, Latakia, and Aleppo, which was once the opposition’s crown jewel — that U.S. analysts refer to as “useful Syria.” The regime and its foreign allies — Russia, Iran, and Lebanon’s Hezbollah — have consolidated what were, a year ago, unconnected patches of territory. And Assad’s rule has been restored over the majority of the Syrian population.

Diplomatically, Washington has been marginalized by the powerful troika of Russia, Iran, and Turkey, which now dominates the peace process. Several rounds of talks sponsored by the United Nations, in Geneva, have made no progress. The U.N. effort has been superseded by the Russian-led troika’s peace talks, launched in January, held in Astana, Kazakhstan. After his visit to Syria, Putin flew to Turkey to discuss the next steps in that process with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Dec. 10

Bloomberg, The Trump-Russia Probe Is About to Get UglierUnpleasant facts are spilling out. Republicans don't want to know them, Albert R. Hunt, Dec. 10, 2017. Here are two certainties about the Trump-Russia investigation. It won't end soon. It will get uglier. A new shoe drops almost daily in special counsel Robert Mueller's probe. First, Former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying and agreed to cooperate. Then the White House changed its story (again) on what President Donald Trump knew after he was first advised in January that Flynn posed security problems.

Last week came news that Mueller had subpoenaed financial records from Deutsche Bank pertaining to people affiliated with Trump. Then Donald Trump Jr. said he wouldn't tell Congress about conversations he had with his father about his 2016 meeting with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer, invoking a dubious claim of attorney-client privilege.

This is not a saga in its closing chapter. Equally clear is that no matter what is revealed, Trump and his allies won't go quietly. Already, some congressional Republicans are trying to smear Mueller, the most experienced and respected special counsel in more than 40 years. If cornered, does anyone doubt that Trump will summon his core supporters to the streets?

The constant revelations create such a blur that context sometimes is overlooked. Trump and his operatives have lied repeatedly, denying that they had any contacts with Russians. We now know of at least 19 meetings among 31 interactions.

Dec. 9

wayne madsen presstvWayne Madsen Report (WMR), Trump’s “Apprentice” outtakes reportedly reveal boasts about sex and young girls, Wayne Madsen (shown in a screen shot), Dec. 9, 2017 (subscription required, exceerpted with permission). There are reports from media insiders that Donald Trump made favorable comments about sex with underage girls during several taping sessions of “The Apprentice” reality television show during its 11-season run. These comments are in addition to previously reported remarks by Trump that were racist, anti-Semitic, and misogynistic in nature.

Dec. 7

Flynn Allegedly Tweeted About Gaining Private Riches During Trump Inauguration

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 Retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen Michael Flynn at a campaign rally for Donald Trump at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Oct. 29, 2016. (Flickr Gage Skidmore)

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New York Times, Russian Sanctions Would be ‘Ripped Up,’ Flynn Said, Mark Mazzetti and Michael S. Schmidt, Dec. 7, 2017 (print edition). A whistle-blower told Congress that Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, thought that ending the sanctions would help a business project he was once involved with.

Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, told a former business associate that economic sanctions against Russia would be “ripped up” as one of the Trump administration’s first acts, according to an account by a whistle-blower made public on Wednesday.

Mr. Flynn believed that ending the sanctions could allow a business project he had once participated in to move forward, according to the whistle-blower. The account is the strongest evidence to date that the Trump administration wanted to end the sanctions immediately, and suggests that Mr. Flynn had a possible economic incentive for the United States to forge a closer relationship with Russia.

Mr. Flynn had worked on a business venture to partner with Russia to build nuclear power plants in the Middle East until June 2016, but remained close with the people involved afterward. On Inauguration Day, as he sat behind the president listening to the inaugural address, Mr. Flynn, according to the whistle-blower, texted the former business associate to say that the project was “good to go.”

The account is detailed in a letter written by Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee. In the letter, Mr. Cummings said that the whistle-blower contacted his office in June and has authorized him to go public with the details. He did not name the whistle-blower.

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Washington Post, Flynn told former business associate that Russia sanctions would be ‘ripped up,’ according to congressional witness, Tom Hamburger, Dec. 7, 2017 (print edition). During President Trump’s inaugural address, the new national security adviser allegedly sent a text that a plan to build nuclear power plants in the Middle East in partnership with Russian interests was “good to go.

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fbi logoWashington Post, GOP steps up criticism of Mueller, FBI as Russia probe intensifies, Devlin Barrett and Sean Sullivan, Dec. 7, 2017. For months, President Trump and his allies have been seizing on any whiff of possible impropriety by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team or the FBI to argue that the Russia investigation is stacked against Trump — potentially building the political support needed to dismiss the special counsel. 

Global News: Israel

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israel flagWashington Post, In Jerusalem move, Trump delivers on campaign promise despite warnings, Josh Dawsey, Missy Ryan and Karen DeYoung, Dec. 7, 2017. The president’s choice to align himself with prominent proponents of the decision underscored his determination to break with past policy and keep a pledge to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel — despite the potential risks to U.S. interests in the region.

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Washington Post, ‘This will be bad’: Clashes break out in West Bank and Gaza Strip, Loveday Morris and Ruth Eglash​, Dec. 7, 2017.  Israeli forces fired tear gas and stun grenades at hundreds of Palestinian protesters who gathered near Ramallah to air their anger after President Trump announced that his administration would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

DC Sex Scandal Fallouts

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al franken

Washington Post, As calls grow for Franken to resign, senator is set to make announcement about his future, Elise Viebeck, Ed O'Keefe and Karen Tumulty, Dec. 7, 2017. A majority of Senate Democrats said Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) should step aside after determining that they could no longer tolerate his presence in their midst as a growing number of women accused him of sexual harassment. But Franken’s office disputed a report that the senator plans to resign.

Inside Washington

Palmer Report, Opinion: Everyone piles on after Donald Trump’s teeth appear to fall out during speech, Bill Palmer, Dec. 7, 2017. Donald Trump gave a nationally televised speech on Wednesday in which he announced the relocation of the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. It was a blatantly timed attempt at provoking a war in the Middle East, as he desperately tries to create a distraction from his worsening Russian treason scandal. Instead, most people ended up focusing on the fact that Trump’s teeth appeared to fall out during the speech. No, really.

While Trump was giving his speech, he began slurring his words rather severely. That slurring kept getting worse until he ended his speech by saying what sounded like “God blesh the United Shesh.” The whole time, it looked like his teeth were moving around in his mouth, which led many to wonder if his dentures had come loose. There’s no shame in a seventy-one year old man having dentures, but it sure goes a long way toward proving that he’s been flat broke for years, or else he’d have implants. In any case, the hashtag #DentureDonald began trending on Twitter as people piled on.

Global News: Syria

SouthFront, Military Situation In Syria And Iraq, Staff report, Dec. 7, 2017. This map provides a general look at the military situation in Syria and Iraq. The Syrian Arab Army, Hezbollah and their allies have taken a full control over the Deir Ezzor-al-Bukamal highway closing the last gap in the large land route, which links Lebanon and Iran.

Dec. 6

Donald Trump Jr. Ducks Questions On Disputed Legal Privilege

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donald trump jr. fox screenshot customWashington Post, Donald Trump Jr. grilled about Russian contacts by House intelligence committee, Karoun Demirjian and Rosalind S. Helderman​, Dec. 6, 2017. In his roughly seven-hour interview, the president’s eldest son (shown in a file photo) was queried about a June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer and his contact with WikiLeaks in October 2016.

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New York Times, Trump Jr. Tells Panel He Won’t Discuss Call With Father, Sharon LaFraniere and Nicholas Fando, Dec. 6, 2017. Donald Trump Jr. refused on Wednesday to provide a congressional committee details of a July telephone conversation with his father about a meeting last year at which Trump campaign officials had expected to receive damaging information from the Russian government about Hillary Clinton.

Testifying in a closed session before the House Intelligence Committee, Mr. Trump claimed that his conversation over the summer with his father, two days after The New York Times disclosed the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan, was protected under attorney-client privilege because lawyers for both men were on the call.

What, if anything, Donald J. Trump knew about the Trump Tower meeting as a presidential candidate — and his role in drafting a misleading statement about it once he was president and it became public — are key questions for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who is investigating Russian interference in the election.

Donald Trump Jr. had agreed to the meeting after receiving an email stating that a Russian government lawyer would provide incriminating facts about Mrs. Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” He has said that no damaging information was delivered.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Robert Mueller exposes how Russian banks literally bought Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Dec. 6, 2017. Based on his actions, it’s been clear all along that Donald Trump is a financial puppet of the Russian government. It’s why he allowed the Russians to run his campaign at every level, and it’s why his political policies are so blatantly pro-Russia. The tricky part has been figuring out how Russia took financial control of Trump to begin with. Now, just one day after learning that Special Counsel Robert Mueller was seeking Trump’s banking info, we have at least part of the answer.

Yesterday’s news had Robert Mueller seizing financial records from Deutsche Bank, which has loaned a suspiciously large amount of money to Donald Trump over the years. Deutsche Bank was also caught earlier this year having facilitated the laundering of billions of dollars of Russian money into the hands of clients in the United States. This may have been how Russia funneled money to Trump in order to put him even further in debt to the Kremlin.

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New York Times, G.O.P. Works to Fix Tax Bill Differences as Cost Fears Loom, Alan Rappeport, Dec. 6, 2017. The Senate voted to begin the formal process of reconciling its tax bill with the House version as lawmakers continued to discuss changes to the legislation.

House Leader Seeks Austerity To Pay For Tax Cuts

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paul ryan oWashington Post, Ryan says Republicans to target welfare, Medicare, Medicaid spending to ‘tackle the debt,’ Jeff Stein, Dec. 6, 2017. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan's remarks add to the growing signs that top Republicans aim to cut government spending next year. Democrats say the GOP will use higher deficits — in part caused by their tax bill — as a pretext to cut government health-care and social-service spending.

Rampant LA Wildfires

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Washington Post, Ferocious wildfires force thousands to evacuate in Southern California, Mark Berman and Eli Rosenberg​, Dec. 6, 2017. Authorities and forecasters warned that dangerous fires could endanger the region for days. The largest of the wildfires has already engulfed 50,000 acres.

Trump Partners With Israel On Jerusalem

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israel flagWashington Post, Trump recognizes Jerusalem as Israeli capital in reversal of longtime U.S. policy, David Nakamura, Dec. 6, 2017.  The president said he remains fully committed to a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians even as his announcement brought recriminations in the Middle East. Washington Post, ‘It’s catastrophic’: U.S. allies reject Trump’s Jerusalem pronouncement.

Pressure Grows On Franken To Resign Senate Seat

al franken

Roll Call, Senate Democratic Women Call on Franken to Resign, Niels Lesniewski, Dec. 6, 2017. Nearly simultaneously, a series of Senate Democratic women issued calls for Democratic Sen. Al Franken (shown at right) to resign Wednesday morning including Patty Murray, a trusted lieutenant to Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and rising star Kamala Harris. “I’m shocked and appalled by Sen. Franken’s behavior,” Murray said in a statement. “It’s clear to me that this has been a deeply harmful, persistent problem and a clear pattern over a long period of time. “It’s time for him to step aside,” she said. Murray was not alone.

The message from Gillibrand was roughly simultaneous as a statement from Sen. Mazie K. Hirono, a Democrat from Hawaii who serveson the Judiciary Committee with Franken. The calls for Franken to leave the Senate come amid an increasing number of allegations of inappropriate conduct toward women by the Minnesota senator.

Related Story: Washington Post, Senate Democrats increase calls for Franken to resign amid sexual harassment allegations, Elise Viebeck, Ed O'Keefe and Karen Tumulty​, Dec. 6, 2017. The growing push raises the possibility that Minnesota Democrat will become the second lawmaker to step aside over recent accusations of inappropriate behavior. Franken has denied intentional wrongdoing and has apologized.

Massive U.S. Election Voter Hacking Threat Seen

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Washington Post, Trump’s voter fraud commission plans to create a massive voter database, Hamza Shaban, Dec. 6, 2017. Former national security officials say it could be hacked. The data collected by Trump's voter fraud commission could be manipulated by foreign actors, leading the administration to wrongfully purge legitimate voters, experts say.

More than a half-dozen technology experts and former national security officials filed an amicus brief Tuesday urging a federal court to halt the collection of voter information for a planned government database.

James Clapper oFormer national intelligence director James R. Clapper Jr. (shown in a file photo), one of the co-signatories of the brief, warned that a White House plan to create a centralized database containing sensitive information on millions of American voters will become an attractive target for nation states and criminal hackers.

This summer, the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity issued a sweeping request to state officials to submit voter data to "analyze vulnerabilities and issues related to voter registration and voting.” The commission, which is chaired by Vice President Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), was established after President Trump claimed that he would have won the popular vote if not for as many as 5 million illegally cast ballots. State officials haven't found any indication that there was widespread voter fraud.

Trump Probes Heat Up

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fbi logoWashington Post, As Russia investigation intensifies, Republicans take aim at Mueller, FBI, Devlin Barrett and Sean Sullivan​, Dec. 6, 2017.  Several law enforcement officials said they are concerned that the drumbeat of criticism from GOP activists and lawmakers seems designed to erode special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s credibility, making it more politically palatable to ignore his recommendations as his inquiry moves further into President Trump’s inner circle.

U.S. Politics: Bannon Blasts Romney At Moore Rally

roy moore cowboy hat no gun

steve bannon heritage foundation

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Washington Post, Bannon unloads on Mitt Romney in Alabama speech: ‘You hid behind your religion’ to avoid Vietnam, David Weigel, Dec. 6, 2017. Former White House political strategist Stephen K. Bannon (shown in a file photo) rallied for Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore (shown above in a file photo) by picking another fight with a figure from the so-called Republican establishment: 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney (shown in a file photo below).

mitt romney w“Judge Roy Moore has more honor and integrity in that pinkie finger than your entire family has in its whole DNA,” Bannon said in his 30-minute speech at Oak Hollow Farm. “You hid behind your religion. You went to France to be a missionary while guys were dying in rice paddies in Vietnam. Do not talk to me about honor and integrity,” he said, referencing Romney’s Mormon faith.

Romney, one of many Republicans who called on Moore to quit the race last month, had taken another swing at the candidate after President Trump officially endorsed him. Like all but one of those Republicans — Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) — Romney criticized Moore without urging voters to support his Democratic rival.

New Call For GOP Accountabiilty On Harassment Claims

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Washington Post, Opinion: Fellow conservatives, it’s time to call on Clarence Thomas to resign, Jay Kaganoff, Dec. 6, 2017. Jay Kaganoff is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn. He has written for National Review Online and Commentary Magazine, among others.

In this new environment, several on the left have begun reconsidering their support for Bill Clinton. Clinton should have resigned, wrote Matt Yglesias at Vox; Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) also said that Clinton should have resigned. Alyssa Rosenberg went even further, arguing that Democrats even now should shun Clinton.

Those of us on the right could use a reckoning, too. Obviously, Donald Trump has no business being president; I opposed his candidacy and I oppose his presidency, so I don’t need to reiterate that further. The same is true for Roy Moore. But I’ve been thinking about Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill, and I think it’s time conservatives seriously reconsider our continued support for Thomas in light of his past.

Corrupt Media Power Plays?

harvey weinstein

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New York Times, Weinstein’s Complicity Machine: I’m Harvey Weinstein — you know what I can do,’ Megan Twohey, Jodi Kantor, Susan Dominus, Jim Rutenberg and Steve Eder, Dec. 6, 2017. ‘I am a man who has great resources.... ‘I have ears and eyes everywhere!’

The producer Harvey Weinstein (shown at right) relied on powerfulrelationships across industries to provide him with coveras accusations of sexual misconduct piled up for decades.

Inside Washington

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New York Times, Under New Boss, Consumer Watchdog Loses Its Bite, Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Stacy Cowley, Dec. 6, 2017. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is showing a softer regulatory touch under President Trump’s new appointee. And internal resistance is brewing.

The defanging of a federal consumer watchdog agency began last week in a federal courthouse in San Francisco.

After a nearly three-year legal skirmish, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau appeared to have been victorious. A judge agreed in September with the bureau that a financial company had misled more than 100,000 mortgage customers. As punishment, the judge ordered the Ohio company, Nationwide Biweekly Administration, to pay nearly $8 million in penalties.

All that was left was to collect the cash. Last week, lawyers from the consumer bureau filed an 11-page brief asking the judge to force Nationwide to post an $8 million bond while the proceedings wrapped up.

mick mulvaney omb SmallThen Mick Mulvaney (head of the White House Office of Management and Budget and a former South Carolina congressman shown at right) was named the consumer bureau’s acting director.

Barely 48 hours later, the same lawyers filed a new two-sentence brief. Their request: to withdraw their earlier submission and no longer take a position on whether Nationwide should put up the cash.

It was a subtle but unmistakable sign that the consumer bureau under Mr. Mulvaney is headed in a new direction — one that takes a lighter touch to regulating the financial industry. The reversal is part of a broad push by the Trump administration to unfetter companies from Obama-era regulations.

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New York Times, The CHIP Program Is Beloved. Why Is Its Funding in Danger? Abby Goodnough and Robert Pear, Dec. 6, 2017. A children’s health insurance program popular with both Republicans and Democrats is in limbo because of partisan rancor that has stymied legislative action in Washington.

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us house logoWashington Post, House votes to kill Texas lawmaker’s Trump impeachment effort, Mike DeBonis, Dec. 6, 2017. Republicans and most Democrats in the House banded together Friday to stop an attempt to impeach President Trump.

Outside Washington

Fox Business, Bankrupt Toys R Us execs could still get up to $21 million in holiday bonuses, Jade Scipioni, Dec. 6, 2017. Toys R Us won court approval on Tuesday to pay its top executives up to $21 million in holiday bonuses, including CEO David Brandon, even though the company was driven into bankruptcy earlier this year.

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irs logoNew York Times, Groups Seeking Support for Tax Cuts Find It a Tough Sell, Jeremy W. Peters, Dec. 6, 2017.  Conservative groups like the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity are trying to convince ordinary Americans that the Republican tax bill is good for them too. Some are not convinced.

Russian Defamation Suit Dropped

oleg deripaskaPolitico, Russian oligarch Deripaska drops libel suit against Associated Press, Josh Gerstein, Dec. 6, 2017. A Russian oligarch (shown at right) whose business dealings have come under scrutiny by investigators probing Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election has dropped a libel suit against the Associated Press. Lawyers for aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, who worked closely with indicted former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort several years ago, joined with the news service Tuesday in a joint court filing dismissing appeals of a judge's decision in October tossing out the defamation lawsuit.

Deripaska's suit, filed in May, alleged that an AP story published two months earlier falsely implied that Deripaska was paying Manafort for work aimed at advancing the goals of the Russian government and Russian president Vladimir Putin.The suit also said the article created the false impression that Deripaska's dealings with Manafort were intertwined with the Trump campaign, despite the fact that the two men ended their work together by 2009

Dec. 5

Probe of Trump White House

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Washington Post, New defense by Trump’s lawyer is dismissed by legal experts, leaves aides baffled, Sari Horwitz and Philip Rucker, Dec. 5, 2017. The brazen assertion by President Trump’s personal lawyer that a president cannot be found guilty of obstruction of justice has political advisers increasingly concerned about the legal advice Trump is receiving.

german flagPalmer Report, Opinion: How Robert Mueller is using Deutsche Bank to prove Russia bought off Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Dec. 5, 2017. Many Americans were surprised to learn today that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is working with a bank in Germany to try to connect the dots between Donald Trump and the Russian government. If you’ve been reading Palmer Report since January, you’re not surprised to see this story at all. All year long it’s been inevitable that Mueller would target Deutsche Bank in the Trump-Russia scandal. We know exactly what he’s looking for, because the biggest clues have long been hiding in plain sight.

robert muellerFor years, Deutsche Bank has been loaning unreasonably large sums of money to Donald Trump. Even after most banks worldwide concluded that Trump had become too unlikely to repay his loans and had thus stopped lending to him, Deutsche Bank continued floating Trump almost single handedly. Even after Deutsche Bank hit hard times of its own and should’t have been making risky loans of any kind, it continued to keep Trump afloat for no apparent reason. Then in January of 2017, we learned what appeared to be the reason.

Regulators in the United States and Europe busted Deutsche Bank for having laundered billions of dollars in Russian money into the hands of clients in places like New York City. The story was widely reported in the British press at the time, but it barely got a mention in the American press.

Nonetheless it wasn’t difficult to put the pieces together: the Russian government appeared to be sending money to Deutsche Bank, which the bank then turned around and “loaned” to Donald Trump, as a way of funneling money to him. 

mike pence o SmallPalmer Report, Opinion: Robert Mueller reveals he’s taking down Mike Pence along with Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Dec. 5, 2017. For quite some time, it’s been clear that Mike Pence (shown at right) willfully lied to the American public in an attempt at protecting Michael Flynn and covering up Donald Trump’s Russia scandal. That means Pence is guilty of obstruction of justice and maybe a lot more. The big question has been whether Special Counsel Robert Mueller would try to take Pence down along with Trump, or wait to tackle Pence until after Trump has been ousted. Now we’re getting our answer.

Flynn is admitting that he was notifying the Trump transition team in real time about his efforts to get the Russian Ambassador to delay the Russian government’s sanctions response.

Mike Pence was the head of the transition team. So unless the entire team conspired to keep this information from Pence, which is not a believable scenario, Pence knew that Flynn was committing crimes. That means Pence lied a month later when he claimed he had no knowledge of Flynn doing anything wrong.

Global News On Jerusalem

President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs file photo)

President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs file photo)

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New York Times, U.S. Will Recognize Jerusalem as Israeli Capital, Trump Says, Mark Landler and David M. Halfinger, Dec. 5, 2017. President Trump told Israeli and Arab leaders of the decision, which upends U.S. policy and risks unrest.

 President Trump told Israeli and Arab leaders on Tuesday that he plans to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a symbolically fraught move that would upend decades of American policy and upset efforts to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

israel flagMr. Trump is expected to announce his decision on Wednesday, two days after the expiration of a deadline for him to decide whether to keep the American Embassy in Tel Aviv.

Palestinian officials said Mr. Trump told the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, that the United States would move the embassy to Jerusalem. Jordan said the president gave a similar message to King Abdullah II.

American officials, however, said such a move could not occur immediately for logistical reasons, given the lack of facilities to house the embassy staff. As a result, Mr. Trump is expected to sign a national security waiver that would authorize the administration to keep it in Tel Aviv for an additional six months.

Still, Mr. Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital — and to set in motion an embassy move — is his riskiest foray yet into the thicket of Middle East diplomacy. Arab and European leaders warn that it could derail any peace initiative and even ignite fresh violence in the region.

King Abdullah II strongly cautioned against the move, “stressing that Jerusalem is the key to achieving peace and stability in the region and the world,” according to a statement from the royal palace in Amman.

Sex Scandal Fallout

john conyers press clubRoll Call, The Race to Replace John Conyers, Simone Pathé, Dec. 5, 2017. Retirement of longest-serving member will spark crowded Democratic primary. Michigan Rep. John Conyers Jr. (shown in a file photo) endorsed his son, John Conyers III, to replace him Tuesday after announcing he’s retiring from Congress. First elected in 1964, Conyers is the longest-serving current member of the House.

Conservative 'Examiner' Probes Alabama's Moore

roy moore senate campaign robe Custom 2Washington Examiner, Court records suggest Roy Moore dated wife while she was still married, Gabby Morrongiello, Emily Jashinsky and Philip Wegmann, Dec. 5, 2017. Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore's account of when he began dating his wife Kayla would place the start of their courtship before her divorce from her first husband, according to court documents.

This comes as the Moore campaign's defense of the retired judge against multiple allegations of sexual misconduct hinges on disputing minute details of the accusers' versions of events.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Washington Examiner asked Moore's campaign to explain apparent contradictions between his account of his relationship with Kayla Kisor and information contained in public records.

“Regardless of when they met, Judge and Kayla did not date while she was still with her ex-husband or legally married,” campaign spokesman Brett Doster responded by email.

Moore claims in his 2005 book So Help Me God to have met Kayla at a church gathering the week before Christmas in 1984.

Divorce records obtained by the Washington Examiner show that Kayla, however, had not yet even filed for divorce from her first husband, John Charles Heald, by the time she caught Moore’s attention at the Christmas gathering. In fact, Kayla and Heald had only just separated on Dec. 1, 1984, two weeks before her and Moore’s serendipitous introduction.

The same records show Kayla filed for divorce at a courthouse in Floyd County, Ga., on Dec. 28, 1984. The divorce was finalized nearly four months later on April 19, and a permanent custody judgment was issued on Jan. 9, 1989.

Washington Examiner, Roy Moore suggests George Soros is going to hell, Caitlin Yilek, Dec. 5, 2017. Roy Moore suggested liberal billionaire George Soros is going to end up in hell because of the “sexual” agenda he’s pushing. “He is pushing an agenda and his agenda is sexual in nature, his agenda is liberal, and not what Americans need,” the Republican Alabama Senate candidate said on American Family Radio on Monday. Moore did not clarify what was “sexual” about Soros’ agenda. “It’s not our American culture,” he continued.

"Soros comes from another world that I don’t identify with,” he added. Moore then suggested Soros would be condemned to hell. “No matter how much money he’s got, he’s still going to the same place that people who don’t recognize God and morality and accept his salvation are going,” Moore said. “And that’s not a good place.”

Moore is facing allegations from at least nine women that he sexually harassed or assaulted them when they were teenagers or young adults. Moore has denied the allegations.

Legal Schnauzer, Roy Moore supporters scuttled Bill Pryor's chances for SCOTUS seat, but new report doesn't tell full story about Pryor's ties to badpuppy.com and gay porn, Roger Shuler, Dec. 5, 2017  Roy Moore supporters helped stick a fork in Bill Pryor's chances for a U.S. Supreme Court seat earlier this year by arguing Pryor too often sided with gay interests, according to a report at a conservative news/propaganda site. A prominent Alabama whistle blower and opposition researcher suggests the site, Yellowhammer News (YH), isn't telling the whole story.

Toys R Us won court approval on Tuesday to pay its top executives up to $21 million in holiday bonuses, including CEO David Brandon, even though the company was driven into bankruptcy earlier this year.

Lawyers for the toy giant argued that even though the retailer filed for bankruptcy in September, the bonus money is needed to help incentivize executives to boost sales during its critical year-end shopping season.

"The company is laser-focused on the holidays," Joshua Sussberg, a Toys R Us lawyer said at a hearing at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Richmond, Virginia Tuesday, according to Reuters.

Quin Hilyer, author of the YH article, takes Democrat Doug Jones to task for a recent ad hinting that Moore, while chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, went easy on child sexual abusers because -- as reported in a string of investigative articles connected to the Moore v. Jones U.S. Senate special election (set for Dec. 12) -- Moore himself is a child sexual abuser.

Hilyer decries Jones' attack on Roy Moore, just as he finds Moore's earlier attack on Bill Pryor to be unseemly. But Hilyer does not complete the circle with the Pryor story and essentially sets up a false equivalency. Siegelman-case whistle blower Jill Simpson, in a post at her Facebook page, is more than happy to complete the circle that allegedly torpedoed Pryor's SCOTUS hopes.

 In so doing, she raises the likelihood that -- regardless of what Roy Moore supporters might have done -- the genesis of the Pryor implosion rests with our reporting at Legal Schnauzer on the judge's ties to 1990's gay pornography. In fact, Simpson adds some fascinating history about the Pryor gay-porn photos, which are connected to a couple of Montgomery lawyers -- one on the right and one on the left.

Fake News: Media's Cover-up of JFK Assassination News Leads)

jacob hornberger headshotFuture of Freedom Foundation, Opinion: The Mainstream Media’s Deference to Authority in the JFK Assassination, Jacob G. Hornberger (shown at right), Dec. 5, 2017.

I just finished watching an interesting documentary film entitled The Searchers by Randolph Benson, who teaches at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. The film focuses on private researchers during the aftermath of the JFK assassination who have questioned and investigated the official narrative put out by the Warren Commission and the Washington, D.C., establishment.

randy benson npc capa noel st johnAccording to an interview of Benson (Editor's note: shown in a photo by Noel St. John at a National Press Club lecture ignored by the mainstream media), his work “has appeared on the Bravo Network and Canal Plus-France, and his film Man and Dog received several awards, including a Gold Medal from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Student Academy Awards.” According to its home page, The Searchers is the 2017 Winner of the Orson Wells Award at the Tiburon International Film Festival, a 2017 Official Selection by the International Freethought Film Festival, and a 2017 Official Selection of the Let’s All Be Free Film Festival.

randy benson searchers poster 001Early JFK researchers featured in the film include Mark Lane, John Judge, Cyril Wecht, Robert Groden, Josiah Thompson, Jim DiEugenio, Jim Marrs, Gary Aguilar, Rex Bradford, Penn Jones, Vincent Salandria, Debra Conway, Harold Weisberg, Mary Farrell, Lisa Peace, Walt Brown, Mae Brussell, Ray Marcus, Shirley Martin, Lisa Pease, and John Kelin, most, if not all, of whom would be recognized by people who have delved into the JFK assassination.

There were two things that struck me about the film.

One, how the researchers are ordinary, regular, down-to-earth people who came to the realization that there was something fundamentally wrong with the official narrative in the JFK assassination and who decided to devote much of their lives to seeking the truth about the assassination.

Two, how reporters and commentators within the mainstream media overwhelming did the opposite, automatically deferring to the official account and steadfastly declining to pursue any investigation to determine whether the official account was truthful.

Much of the film focuses on this unusual dichotomy. After all, ordinarily you would think that it would be enterprising reporters who would be investigating a story that is riddled with contradictions, anomalies, inconsistences, secrecy, mysteries, and lies by federal and state officials and that everyone else would be content to read the results of their investigations.

In the JFK assassination, it was (and is) the exact opposite. The mainstream media rolled over, and a group of self-selected individuals has done the investigating and ferreting out of the truth.

Of course the obvious question arises, one that the film does not answer or try to answer: Why?

Why did the reporters and the mainstream media simply roll over and accept the official story from the very start? Why didn’t they consider the possibility that they were being lied to? Why didn’t they even consider the possibility that the accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was telling the truth when he denied having committed the crime and, going a critical step further, alleged that he was being framed for the crime? Why did they leave it to ordinary citizens to uncover the vast amount of circumstantial evidence, most of which U.S. officials kept secret, that has ultimately pointed in the direction of a U.S. national-security regime-change operation conducted against Kennedy?

Why weren’t they even a bit suspicious about how the entire investigation into what was purportedly a lone-nut assassination was shrouded in national-security secrecy for decades? Why didn’t they at least wonder whether all that secrecy was designed to cover up evidence of a crime?

Media: Right-Wing Pizzagate Advocate Forces Out Sam Seder From MSNBC

Washington Post, MSNBC is cutting ties with Sam Seder. ‘I think they’re afraid’ of Mike Cernovich & Co., he says, Erik Wemple, Dec. 5, 2017. Over the course of just one week, one of the leading names in the U.S. news business took personnel cues from Pizzagate Inc.

Seder got a call from Errol Cockfield, senior vice president of communications at MSNBC. Do you know who Mike Cernovich is, Seder was asked on the call. Of course: Cernovich describes himself as a “journalist, documentary filmmaker and best-selling author of Gorilla Mindset.”

Others, however, know him as an advocate of the Pizzagate conspiracy — in which a D.C. restaurant served as a pedophilia hub; not — and the generator of vile tweets on the topic of women and rape. “By the media’s standards, Sam Seder has Tweeted out something far worse than even my most sarcastic or satirical Tweet. And the media won’t say anything, because Sam Seder is one of them,” wrote Cernovich on Medium in a blast at Seder.

In response, Seder tells the Erik Wemple Blog, he sent Cockfield an email explaining the situation.

Dec. 4

GOP Senate Tax Planners Showing Their Greed, Arrogance?

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Washington Post, Opinion: Two ugly quotes from Republicans reveal the truth about their tax plan, Paul Waldman, Dec. 4, 2017. With Republicans well on their way to passing a dramatic overhaul of the tax code, they have presented to the public a sweeping, comprehensive vision not just of what taxes should look like, but also of what government is there for, what our obligations are to one another and even how each of us should think about our value as human beings.

irs logoThis is a moment of uncommon clarity.

 We’ll get to how the tax bill itself fits into that picture, but first I want to present a couple of things influential Republican senators said in the past few days. Let’s start with Iowa’s Chuck Grassley (shown at right, who made this comment on the estate tax:

chuck grassley official“I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing,” Grassley said, “as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”

Right now, the first $5.5 million of any estate is not subject to the tax. Because of that, fewer than one in 500 estates owes any tax at all. So Grassley is saying that 99.8 percent of Americans lead contemptible lives of waste and folly, while only that remaining sliver of the extra-wealthy have shown the virtue that should win their heirs the ability not to pay taxes on the fortunes bequeathed to them. The Senate bill would double the tax’s exemption, while the House bill would eliminate the tax entirely; depending on how the final version turns out, Eric Trump may finally be free of the fear that he’ll have to pay taxes on his inheritance.

Now let’s turn to Utah’s Orrin Hatch, who explained why, despite his support of a bill offering trillions of dollars in tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations, we absolutely must start slashing the social safety net immediately:

“I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves, won’t lift a finger, and expect the federal government to do everything.”

Grassley and Hatch (shown above at right) orrin hatch oare being criticized for these remarks, but we should appreciate that this isn’t one of those occasions when politicians are just spinning. There isn’t much political advantage in saying that if you die with less than $5.5 million in assets, like nearly all Americans do, that means you were lazy and self-indulgent, while only the wealthy have proved their moral worth by the size of their bank accounts.

So when someone says something like that, you can be pretty sure he’s expressing his actual beliefs.

Trump Backs Alabama GOPer & Teen 'Groper' Moore For Senate

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The New York Daily News front-paged the story, as shown above

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Washington Post, Trump offers his most explicit endorsement to date of Roy Moore in Alabama race, Philip Rucker, Dec. 4, 2017. “We need Republican Roy Moore to win in Alabama,” the president tweeted, leaving no question that he was supporting a Senate nominee that many other Republican leaders have repudiated and called upon to quit the race.

Roll Call, RNC Reverses Course, Backs Roy Moore After Pulling Support, Bridget Bowman, Dec. 4, 2017. National party changes position following Trump’s endorsement of Alabama Republican.  The Republican National Committee is reversing course and once again backing Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore, after initially pulling its support following allegations of sexual misconduct. 

New Veracity, Teen Dating Evidence Against Alabama's Roy Moore

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Debbie Wesson Gibson, shown at high school graduation in Alabama

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Washington Post, Woman shares new evidence of relationship with Roy Moore when she was 17, Stephanie McCrummen, Dec. 4, 2017. Debbie Wesson Gibson, who says she dated Roy Moore in 1981, recently found a high school graduation card she says he gave her at the time and inscribed to her. Moore, who is running for the U.S. Senate in Alabama, said in a campaign appearance last week, “I do not know any of these women, did not date any of these women and have not engaged in any sexual misconduct with anyone.”

roy moore cowboy hat no gunDebbie Wesson Gibson was in her attic hauling out boxes of Christmas decorations last week when she noticed a storage bin she said she had forgotten about. Inside was a scrapbook from her senior year of high school, and taped to a page titled “Those Who Inspire” was a graduation card.

“Happy graduation Debbie,” it read in slanted cursive handwriting. “I wanted to give you this card myself. I know that you’ll be a success in anything you do. Roy.”

The inscription, Gibson said, was written by Roy Moore (shown in a campaign file photo), the Alabama Republican nominee for U.S. Senate who in recent days has repeatedly denied the accounts of five women who told The Washington Post that he pursued them when they were teenagers and he was an assistant district attorney in his 30s.

roy moore 8 accusers CustomSince those allegations were published last month, four more women have come forward to allege that Moore made unwanted sexual advances.

The accounts in The Post included those of Leigh Corfman, who said she was 14 when Moore touched her sexually, and Gibson, who said that she publicly dated Moore when she was 17 and he was 34, a relationship she said she “wore like a badge of honor” until she began reevaluating it in light of the accounts of other women, and now, Moore’s own denials.

Shortly after the allegations first surfaced, Moore said in a radio interview with Sean Hannity that he did not know Corfman, but that he remembered Gibson as well as Gloria Thacker Deason, who had told The Post that she dated Moore when she was 18. He called each one “a good girl,” and said that he did not remember dating them.

But at two campaign events in recent days, Moore has backtracked.

At a Nov. 27 campaign event in the north Alabama town of Henagar, Moore said, “The allegations are completely false. They are malicious. Specifically, I do not know any of these women.”

At a Nov. 29 rally at a church in the south Alabama town of Theodore, Moore said, “Let me state once again: I do not know any of these women, did not date any of these women and have not engaged in any sexual misconduct with anyone.”

debbie wesson gibson hillary clinton rallyGibson (who identifies herself as a Republican who work in educational services) now said that after finding the scrapbook, she was not sure whether to make it public given the threats she received after publication of the original story.

Then she heard what Moore said last week, she said, and contacted The Post. Gibson is shown in a file photo providing sign interpretation at a Hillary Clinton campaign speech.

Trump Blasts FBI Probe Again

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fbi logoNew York Times, Trump Lashes Out on Twitter, Saying F.B.I. Is in ‘Tatters,’ Michael D. Shear, Dec. 4, 2017 (print edition). In an extraordinary attack on the top law enforcement body in his own government, Mr. Trump accused the F.B.I. and its career investigators of having a bias against him.

 ap logoAssociated Press via Chicago Tribune, Prosecutors: Manafort wrote op-ed with colleague in Russia, Chad Day and Eric Tucker, Dec. 4, 2017. While facing several felony charges, Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort has been working on an op-ed essay with a longtime colleague "assessed to have ties" to a Russian intelligence service, according to court papers filed Monday by prosecutors working for special counsel Robert Mueller.

paul manafortIn a court filing, prosecutors say Manafort (shown at right) and the colleague sought to publish the op-ed under someone else's name and intended it to influence public opinion about his work in Ukraine. The op-ed was being drafted as late as last week, with Manafort currently under house arrest. Prosecutors did not name the colleague but noted the person is based in Russia.

Palmer Report: Opinion: Robert Mueller forced Michael Flynn to agree to wear a wire, Bill Palmer, Dec. 4, 2017. This week Special Counsel Robert Mueller finalized a plea agreement with Donald Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who agreed to testify in the Trump-Russia scandal in exchange for sentencing leniency. Now that the deal is official, its details are becoming a matter of public record. Among the most fascinating aspects of the plea deal: Mueller forced Flynn to agree to wear a wire.

robert muellerIn exact words, the deal required Flynn to agree to participate “in covert law enforcement activities,” as dug up by the Guardian (link). In other words, Flynn had to agree to spy on other suspects or targets involved in the Trump-Russia scandal. In Flynn’s case that could only have meant wearing a wire, planting a bug, or something similar.

We don’t know that Flynn actually did wear a wire, only that he was forced to agree to wear a wire. The strange part is that the clause is being included in Flynn’s plea deal just now, as his deal is becoming public, so everyone in the Trump-Russia scandal now knows not to talk to Flynn anyway. Some will argue that this is merely boilerplate language. But I believe there are two other possible, and more specific, explanations.

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Washington Post, Opinion: The populist mask is slipping for Trump and the GOP, E.J. Dionne Jr., Dec. 4, 2017. The date Dec. 1, 2017, will be remembered as the day when the vast majority of Americans fully grasped the consequences of the 2016 elections. They installed a man in the White House “likely to be under investigation for criminality for a very, very long time to come.” And they gave power to a Republican Party whose only purpose is to comfort the already extremely comfortable.

The day after Michael Flynn’s guilty plea on Friday, Trump compounded his legal jeopardy with a tweet suggesting that (contrary to what he had said before) he knew Flynn, his onetime national security adviser, had lied to the FBI.

Trump’s lawyers will keep trying to explain his tweet away, but his overall vulnerability on obstructing justice has increased exponentially.

But it’s almost as important that Friday was also the day Senate Republican leaders brought forth a tax bill heralding the death of anything resembling a populist form of conservatism within the Republican Party. Plutocracy will now be the GOP’s calling card. Facing one of the most scandalous special-interest tax bills in a long history of such measures, even supposedly moderate members of the party caved in before the power of big money when the votes were counted early Saturday morning.

Politics, Sexual Assault, Scandal and Entertainment

Donald Trump, Arianne Zucker, Billy Bush via "Access Hollywood" screenshotThen entertainment and business figure Donald Trump, Arianne Zucker, Billy Bush via "Access Hollywood" screenshot

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New York Times, Billy Bush: Yes, Donald Trump, You Said That, Billy Bush, Dec. 4, 2017 (print edition). The president is currently engaging in some revisionist history.

He said it. “Grab ’em by the pussy.” Of course he said it. And we laughed along, without a single doubt that this was hypothetical hot air from America’s highest-rated bloviator. Along with Donald Trump and me, there were seven other guys present on the bus at the time, and every single one of us assumed we were listening to a crass standup act. He was performing. Surely, we thought, none of this was real.

We now know better. Recently I sat down and read an article dating from October of 2016; it was published days after my departure from NBC, a time when I wasn’t processing anything productively. In it, the author reviewed the various firsthand accounts about Mr. Trump that, at that point, had come from 20 women.

Some of what Natasha Stoynoff, Rachel Crooks, Jessica Leeds and Jill Harth alleged involved forceful kissing. Ms. Harth said he pushed her up against a wall, with his hands all over her, trying to kiss her.

“He was relentless,” she said. “I didn’t know how to handle it.” Her story makes the whole “better use some Tic Tacs” and “just start kissing them” routine real. I believe her.

Kristin Anderson said that Mr. Trump reached under her skirt and “touched her vagina through her underwear” while they were at a New York nightclub in the 1990s. That makes the “grab ’em by the pussy” routine real. I believe her.

President Trump is currently indulging in some revisionist history, reportedly telling allies, including at least one United States senator, that the voice on the tape is not his. This has hit a raw nerve in me.

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Washiington Post, Trump may face a reckoning in case brought by former ‘Apprentice’ contestant, Frances Stead Sellers​, Dec. 4, 2017. If a defamation case proceeds to trial, attorneys for Summer Zervos, who had been a contestant on the reality show, could gather and make public incidents from Trump’s past, and the president could be called to testify, with the unwelcome specter of a former president looming over him: Bill Clinton.

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Washington Post, How Jimmy Kimmel’s operative ruined Roy Moore’s rally, Avi Selk, Dec. 4, 2017. What Roy Moore hoped to do inside Magnolia Springs Baptist Church, as the Associated Press saw it, was put the drama behind him.

roy moore senate campaign robe Custom 2He wanted to get away from the accusations that have entangled his Senate campaign — that he preyed on teen girls as a younger man — and get back to the Christian-infused politics that had made him a popular judge-turned-candidate in Alabama.

And he wanted to do it with a half-hour speech, written especially for an intimate crowd of worshipers at a small-town church outside Mobile on a Wednesday night.

More Harassment Charges

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 The married Rpublican Texas Congressman Blake Farenthold, in the duck pajamas at right, frolicked with models from "The Crush Girls" agency at the Corpus Christi nightclub Abyss shortly before his first election

Politico, A congressman's accuser: Blackballed and babysitting for cash, Rachal Bade, Dec. 4, 2017. North Carolina native Lauren Greene (shown at right) aspired to a career in politics when she arrived on Capitol Hill as an intern in 2009. She spent the next five years climbing the Capitol Hill ladder, ultimately becoming a communications director for a congressman in 2014.

lauren greeneBut Greene’s budding career imploded, she said, the minute she accused Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) of sexually harassing her.

Since the summer of 2014, when she says Farenthold (shown below in an official photo) fired her for raising concerns about a hostile work environment, Greene has been unable to land a full-time job. She’s making $15 an hour working temporary gigs for a homebuilder. She babysits on the side to earn extra cash.

Her family has had to support her financially. And Greene, now 30, has left D.C., with no illusions that she will ever work in politics again.

blake farenthold o“It’s definitely turned my life upside down,” Greene said in her first interview since she made the accusations against Farenthold. “It’s been a tough road. Emotionally, it was tough. Professionally, it’s been hard to figure out next steps. And it’s definitely had an impact on my career.”

While the nation has overwhelmingly embraced and supported victims of sexual harassment who’ve spoken out since Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein’s downfall, many victims in congressional offices are loath to come forward, figuring doing so will dash their hopes of careers in politics.

Greene did, and she says she’s paid a heavy price. Her one comfort, however, is her firm belief that she did the right thing. Teh Daily Mail reported on her allegations in 2014: Drunken Congressman 'flirted with women, talked about a threesome and said an aide could show her nipples whenever she wanted to,' claims ex-staffer in lawsuit by Francesca Chambers, Dec. 16, 2014:

Republican lawmaker Blake Farenthold's former communications alleges that the congressman sexually harassed her on multiple occasions. The former aide says the married congressman had 'sexual fantasies' and 'wet dreams' about her, according to his personal assistant. The ex-staffer claims she was fired in July after she brought her concerns about her 'hostile work environment' to her boss.  Farenthold also made headlines this week after a Twitter user discovered that he owns the domain name blow-me.org.

bill oreilly 2010New York Times, Bill O’Reilly Accuser Sues, Saying He Violated Settlement, Emily Steel, Dec. 4, 2017. Mr. O’Reilly (shown in a file photo) has said harassment allegations that led to his ouster at Fox News have no merit. One woman says that violates the conditions of their settlement, and is suing for defamation and breach of contract.

Supreme Court Hands Trump Interim Victory On Travel Ban

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New York Times, Travel Ban May Proceed While Appeals Heard, Justices Say, Adam Liptak, Dec. 4, 2017. The decision was a win for the Trump administration after its mixed success before the Supreme Court over the summer, when justices dismissed disputes over the second version. The court’s orders mean that the administration can fully enforce its new restrictions on travel from eight nations, six of them predominantly Muslim.

Another Crook Exits Congress

corrine brown oRoll Call, Former Rep. Corrine Brown Sentenced to Five Years, Eric Garcia, Dec. 4, 2017. Florida Democrat (shown at right) convicted in May on fraud and corruption charges. A federal court sentenced former Florida Democratic Rep. Corrine Brown to five years in prison Monday for fraud and conspiracy charges. Brown was found guilty in May for fraudulently taking thousands of dollars from her bogus charity One Door for Education, concealing income on financial filings and filing false tax returns.

Brown’s former chief of staff Ronnie Simmons and his ex-girlfriend, Carla Wiley, who ran the bogus charity, were sentenced to 48 months in jail and 21 months in jail with a three-year supervised release, respectively. Wiley and Simmons both pleaded guilty.

More Scandal Among Entertainers, Academics

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New York Times, Met Opera Suspends James Levine After New Sexual Abuse Accusations, Michael Cooper, Dec. 3, 2017. The Metropolitan Opera suspended James Levine, its revered conductor and former music director, on Sunday after three men came forward with accusations that Mr. Levine sexually abused them decades ago, when the men were teenagers.

Peter Gelb, the general manager of the Met, announced that the company was suspending its four-decade relationship with Mr. Levine, 74, and canceling his upcoming conducting engagements after learning from The New York Times on Sunday about the accounts of the three men, who described a series of similar sexual encounters beginning in the late 1960s. The Met has also asked an outside law firm to investigate Mr. Levine’s behavior.

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New York Times, Sexual Assault Furor Roils 2 Historically Black Colleges, Caitlin Dickerson and Stephanie Saul, Dec. 4, 2017 (print edition). Spelman and Morehouse, the historically black colleges in Atlanta, are among a number of schools nationwide fielding complaints about sexual misconduct.

Health Care

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New York Times, CVS Agrees to Buy Insurance Giant Aetna for $69 Billion, Michael J. de la Merced and Reed Abelson, Dec. 4, 2017 (print edition). The deal would shake up the health care industry by combining the drugstore giant with one of the United States’ biggest health insurers. It reflects the increasingly blurred lines between traditionally separate spheres of the industry.

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Washington Post, Mega-merger between CVS, Aetna could shake up health-care industry, Carolyn Y. Johnson​, Dec. 4, 2017 (print edition). As part of the $69 billion blockbuster deal, which could set off even more mergers in the health-care industry, CVS Health plans to transform its pharmacy storefronts into medical hubs for primary care and basic procedures to serve Aetna’s 22 million medical members.

Inside Washington

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New York Times, As Shutdown Looms, Republicans Work on Stopgap Measure, Thomas Kaplan, Dec. 4, 2017 (print edition).  With government funding set to expire Friday, and President Trump embroiled in a feud with Democratic leadership, Republicans are trying to pass a two-week delay to negotiate a long-term spending package. To force the issue, Democrats could draw a line and withhold their support for a measure to fund the government. But Mr. McConnell warned against that approach on Sunday, noting that Mr. Trump had given Congress until March to find a solution on DACA.

“I don’t think that Democrats would be very smart to say they want to shut down the government over a nonemergency that we can address anytime between now and March,” Mr. McConnell said. “That’s a very untenable position.”

JFK Asassination Records Suppression

jefferson morley newJFKFacts.org, CIA conceals files on wiretapped newsman who broke a big JFK story, Jefferson Morley (shown at right), Dec. 4, 2017. In this Washington Post piece (When the CIA bugged my dad in our Prince George’s home), Jim Scott tells the story of how the CIA wiretapped his father, news reporter Paul Scott, for decades. In the 1960s, Paul Scott and his partner Robert Allen wrote a syndicated column on Washington politics that was driven, not by punditry, but by investigations. One reason Scott was targeted: his JFK reporting.

In March 1967, Allen and Scott published a sensational item in their column. The then-secret records of the Warren Commission, held by the National Archives, contained a State Department cable about suspected assassin Lee Harvey Oswald dated October 11, 1963.

The scoop was a threat to the CIA’s cover story about Oswald. The cable first reported by Paul Scott is a verbatim copy of the CIA cable that Jim Angleton’s staff sent to Mexico City the day before, on October 10.

In early 1967, the agency was still claiming, falsely, that its personnel knew little about Oswald’s visit to Mexico City in October 1963. When Warren Commission staffers asked in March 1964 for copies of the cable traffic concerning Oswald, Angleton said he preferred to “wait out” the Commission.

The Agency was also mobiilzing against the investigation of New Orleans District Attorny Jim Garrison. Leading publications such Life and Look, two of the country’s most popular magazines, were calling for reopening the JFK investigation.

When Mexico City station chief Win Scott (no relation) read the Allen-Scott report he immediately cabled Langley. He warned against declassification of the cable saying it would open the CIA and State Department to “criticism” over “poor security.”

Foreign Policy Commentary

Future of Freedom Foundation, Russia: Our New (and Old) Official Enemy, Jacob G. Hornberger, Dec. 4, 2017. Robert Mueller’s investigation of the Trump administration confirms the overarching power of the national-security establishment section of the federal government and what happens when a president bucks that power.

At the center of the controversy is Russia, which the Pentagon and the CIA and their assets and acolytes in the mainstream press and Washington, D.C., establishment, have deemed to be an official enemy of the United States.

No, there is no war going on between Russia and the United States, at least not in the shooting and bombing sense. This war is a repeat of the old Cold War that began after World War II, when U.S. officials decreed that America’s World War II partner and ally, the Soviet Union (whose principal member was Russia), was now to be considered an official enemy by the American people.

Central to any national-security state is the need for official enemies, ones that are used to frighten and agitate the citizenry. If there are no official enemies, the American citizenry might begin asking some discomforting questions: What do we need a national-security state for? Why not abolish the CIA and dismantle the military-industrial complex and the NSA. Why can’t we have our limited-government, constitutional republic back?

Houthi Rebels In Yemen Reportedly Kill Former Ally

ap logoAssociated Press via New York Times, Rebels Kill Yemen's Strongman Saleh as Alliance Collapses, Staff report, Dec. 4, 2017. Yemeni rebels killed their erstwhile ally Ali Abdullah Saleh, the country's former president and strongman, as their forces battled for control of the capital, Sanaa, officials said. The collapse of their alliance throws Yemen's nearly 3-year-old civil war into unpredictable new chaos.

The circumstances of Saleh's death were unclear but Houthi officials said their forces caught up with him as he tried to flee Sanaa.

It was a grisly end for a figure who was able to rule the impoverished and unstable country for more than three decades and remained a powerhouse even after he was ousted in a 2011 Arab Spring uprising. His death recalled another Arab leader killed in the midst of his own country's uprising, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, whose body was shown in a video being abused by rebels who killed in him 2011.

Saleh's death was announced by the rebels, known as Houthis, who have been fighting Saleh's forces for the past week.

Middle Eastern Roundup: Saudis To Undercut Palestinians?

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Washington Post, Arab nations issue dire warnings to stop Trump from recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Loveday Morris​, Dec. 4, 2017.  President Trump promised he would relocate the U.S. Embassy during the campaign, but he has reluctantly held off as his administration attempts to broker peace.

For more than two decades, successive U.S. presidents have signed a waiver every six months that allows them to delay a move of the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on national security grounds. During his campaign, Trump vowed to relocate the U.S. Embassy but reluctantly signed the waiver six months ago as his administration attempts to broker a peace process.

The White House is mulling a proposal to delay moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem but, as a compromise measure, to issue a formal declaration that the city is Israel’s capital. Related story:

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New York Times, Saudi Peace Plan That Snubs Palestinians Roils Mideast, Ann Barnard, David M. Halbfinger and Peter Baker, Dec. 4, 2017. A plan that the Saudi crown prince was said to foist on the Palestinians would offer them limited sovereignty and deny them Jerusalem as the capital.

'ISIS Hunters' Syrian Government Group Exacts Revenge

South Front, Russian-Trained 5th Assault Corps Eliminated ISIS Members Allegedly Involved In Capturing Two Russian Nationals (Graphic Photos), Staff report, Dec. 4, 2017. On December 4, ISIS Hunters of the Russian-trained 5th Assault Corps of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) reported that their fighters have eliminated ISIS members allegedly involved in capturing and executing two Russian nationals in Syria.

ISIS Hunters conducted a special operation north of the border city of al-Bukamal. Most likely, the statement refers to two Roman Zabolotniy and Grigory Surkanov captured by ISIS in late September. The ISIS-linked media outlet Amaq argued that the captured persons were Russian soldiers. However, the victims appeared to be volunteers supporting the Syrian government, according to the Russian media.

Global News: SDF Whistleblower Against U.S.?

SouthFront, US Intelligence Chief Promised SDF Corridor To Mediterranean Sea – Former SDF Spokesman, Staff report, Dec. 4, 2017. Talal Silo, former spokesman for the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), revealed during his interview with the Turkish Anadolu News Agency that a U.S. intelligence chief promised the SDF leadership that the U.S. support will support their plans to reach the Syrian coast if they attacks ISIS in Deir Ezzor.

“If you direct towards Deir Ezzor, the U.S. will give the necessary support to provide a post towards the sea to the SDF and the Syrian Democratic Parliament,” the U.S. intelligence chief told the SDF leadership, during a meeting according to Silo.

If true, this means that the SDF and the U.S. have not only conspired to attack the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), but also to capture strategic positions along the Syrian coast that’s considered a heartland for Russia in Syria. Many Syrian pro-government activists have warned before that the U.S. might use the SDF to fight the SAA once ISIS is defeated.

Developers Gain On Western Lands

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Washiington Post, Trump shrinks two national monuments in Utah by about 2 million acres, Josh Dawsey and Juliet Eilperin, Dec. 4, 2017. The move to scale back the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments immediately sparked an outpouring of praise from conservative lawmakers as well as activists’ protests outside the White House and in Utah. It is the largest reduction of public lands protection in U.S. history.​

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New York Times, Trump Set to Shrink Monument in Utah by as Much as 90%, Julie Turkewitz, Dec. 4, 2017. The drastic cuts to Bears Ears National Monument, which the president is expected to announce on Monday, could touch off a legal battle that alters the course of American land conservation.

 Media: Public Slams Media In Poll

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Washington Post, Yikes: Nearly half of Americans believe news media fabricates stories about Trump, Erik Wemple, Dec. 4, 2017. Forty-four percent of Americans believe that media outlets fabricate stories about President Trump “more than once in a while,” according to the just-released 2017 Poynter Media Trust Survey. The breakdown goes like this: 24 percent believe that the media fabricates Trump stories “about half of the time,” 14 percent “most of the time,” and 6 percent “all of the time.”

Ouch, right?

Those staggering tallies would seem to reflect the success of Trump’s “fake news” wars, in which he counters negative coverage by insisting it’s all made up. In his 318 days as president, in fact, Trump has tweeted about “fake news” 155 times, according to the Trump Twitter Archive. He also delights in alleging that when media outlets base information on anonymous sources, those sources don’t actually exist.

The Poynter study speaks to the impact of the president’s media attacks, though it does so in a complicated manner. As the study’s authors — Andrew Guess of Princeton University, Brendan Nyhan of Dartmouth College and Jason Reifler of the University of Exeter — explain, they gave respondents one of four different articles — one on a big error by CNN, one on a “fake news” attack by Trump related to Russia, one a neutral (placebo) news story on the Russia investigation and one a control story about cooking sauces.

Dec. 3

Democratic-Republican Campaign logos

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Washington Post, Tax vote sparks brawl over populism that will carry into midterms, David Weigel, Robert Costa and Paul Kane, Dec. 3, 2017 (print edition). As Democrats attacked the legislation as a “scam” to benefit wealthy donors and corporations, Republicans, who promised years of growth once the bill becomes law, acknowledged that they face a difficult task convincing voters to have faith in the plan.

irs logoThe Senate Republicans’ chaotic late-night vote Friday to overhaul the tax system widened the country’s partisan divisions Saturday — sparking a political grudge match that lawmakers vowed to carry into next year’s midterm elections.

Democrats, united in their opposition, attacked the legislation as a “scam” passed to benefit wealthy donors and corporations. Republicans, promising years of wage and job growth once the bill becomes law, acknowledged that they face a difficult task convincing voters to have faith in a measure that received support from the GOP alone.

Mitchell McConnell“They tend not to be popular,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky., shown at right), referring to bills passed with only one party’s support, told The Washington Post in an interview Saturday. “Generally speaking, in the beginning, people decide they don’t like it.”

The test for Republicans is whether they can convince voters that this legislation will put more money in their wallets — and the GOP leader is not sure whether they can do that in time for the 2018 elections.

bernie sanders oJust hours after the vote, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT, shown at left), who ever since his unsuccessful bid for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination has been a leading voice pushing the party to the left on economic matters, demonstrated his intention to make the tax bill a marquee issue in 2018.

Sanders headed to the airport for an urgent trip across the Midwest, starting at Dayton’s Masonic Temple to try to rally 1,300 supporters against the bill, and telling them they could still defeat it when a conference committee is formed to combine differing House and Senate packages.

“The president was lying to you,” Sanders said. “This is class warfare, and we’re going to stand up and fight.”

Voter Suppression, Election Fraud

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Washington Post, I’m on Trump’s voter fraud commission. I’m suing it to find out what it’s doing, Matthew Dunlap, Dec. 3, 2017 (print edition). Matthew Dunlap, a member of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, is Maine’s secretary of state.

Why is a presidential advisory panel on elections operating in such secrecy? On Nov. 9, I filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Washington, seeking to obtain the working documents, correspondence and schedule of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. What’s remarkable about my lawsuit is that I’m a member of the commission, and apparently this is the only way I can find out what we’re doing.

The commission was formed in May to answer monster-under-the-bed questions about “voter fraud,” but the implicit rationale for its creation appears to be to substantiate President Trump’s unfounded claims that up to 5 million people voted illegally in 2016.

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 Retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen Michael Flynn at a campaign rally for Donald Trump at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Oct. 29, 2016. (Flickr Gage Skidmore)

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Washington Post, ‘I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn’: Trump issues series of tweets criticizing the FBI, John Wagner, Dec. 3, 2017. President Trump issued a fresh denial Sunday that he asked former FBI director James B. Comey to halt an investigation into the conduct of his dismissed national security adviser Michael Flynn.

fbi logoTrump lawyer John Dowd drafted the president’s tweet, according to two people familiar with the message. Its authorship could reduce how significantly it communicates anything about when the president knew that Flynn had lied to the FBI, but it also raises questions about the public relations strategy of the president’s chief lawyer. Two people close to the administration described the tweet simply as sloppy and unfortunate.

Palmer Report, Opinion: How Robert Mueller takes Donald Trump down from here, Bill Palmer, Dec. 3, 2017. Special Counsel Robert Mueller (shown below at left) has cut a plea deal with Michael Flynn, who in return will provide sufficient evidence to prove Donald Trump and Jared Kushner guilty of serious crimes. Mueller will end up cutting a deal with Kushner which will provide proof of even more crimes committed by Trump. Now that we’re nearing that point, it’s time to talk about what comes next. It’s complex, and widely misunderstood, but it is ultimately understandable.

robert muellerIn real world terms, Robert Mueller’s job is to dismantle Donald Trump and his entire crime syndicate for all to see, such that the American people leave the Republican Congress with no choice but to oust Trump for fear of getting wiped out in the midterms.

Mueller knows this. He’s been beating a path toward Jared Kushner all along for a reason. He knows that Kushner is the only member of the Trump family who’s willing to flip on Trump to save himself, and he knows that Kushner is uniquely vulnerable due to the activities he’s been tied to.

Once Kushner flips, Mueller will be able to prove for all to see that Trump is a career criminal and traitor. That will push his approval rating so low that the Republicans will have no choice but to dump him in the hope of getting themselves reelected.

Trump Slammed In New 'Saturday Night Live' Skit

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Washington Post, SNL’s Trump gets spooked by Michael Flynn, and the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, Elahe Izadi, Dec. 3, 2017 (print edition). Alec Baldwin returns as President Trump, who is confronted by Billy Bush, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Hillary Clinton. It was another busy news week full of headlines about powerful men accused of sexual misconduct. But “Saturday Night Live” tackled that later in the show, and instead kicked off by making fun of President Trump with a Dickens-inspired sketch.

Alec Baldwin returned to play the president, who despite the tax bill’s Senate passage, has left the White House Christmas party early and is feeling down about the FBI probe. Baldwin’s Trump wants to instead think back on all the good he’s done over the year.

Soon, he’s spooked by a Michael Flynn character, who has just pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. He’s wearing heavy chains and appears as Jacob Marley in “A Christmas Carol,” or, as SNL’s Flynn says, “the ghost of witness flipped.”

Tax-Exempt Koch Funds Support Black Op Propagandists

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Washington Post, Project Veritas received $1.7 million last year from charity associated with the Koch brothers, Robert O'Harrow Jr., Dec. 3, 2017 (print edition).  Project Veritas, an activist group that mounts undercover video stings of liberals and mainstream news organizations, received nearly $1.7 million in donations last year from a giant charity associated with the Koch brothers, according to documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service.

The donations pushed Project Veritas contributions to new highs during the 2016 presidential election and highlight the prominent spot the group occupies in a national network of conservative nonprofits that strongly supported Donald Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

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New York Times, Emails Dispute White House Claims That Flynn Acted Independently on Russia, Michael S. Schmidt, Sharon LaFraniere and Scott Shane, Dec. 2, 2017. When President Trump fired his national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in February, White House officials portrayed him as a renegade who had acted independently in his discussions with a Russian official during the presidential transition and then lied to his colleagues about the interactions.

 sergey kislyak headshotBut emails among top transition officials, provided or described to The New York Times, suggest that Mr. Flynn was far from a rogue actor. In fact, the emails, coupled with interviews and court documents filed on Friday, showed that Mr. Flynn was in close touch with other senior members of the Trump transition team both before and after he spoke with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak (shown at right), about American sanctions against Russia.

On Dec. 29, a transition adviser to Mr. Trump, K. T. McFarland, wrote in an email to a colleague that sanctions announced hours before by the Obama administration in retaliation for Russian election meddling were aimed at discrediting Mr. Trump’s victory. The sanctions could also make it much harder for Mr. Trump to ease tensions with Russia, “which has just thrown the U.S.A. election to him,” she wrote in the emails obtained by The Times.

Global News: U.S. Strategies In Syria

Brent McGurk with former Kurdistan Regional President Masoud Barzani via Twitter

Brent McGurk, center, with former Kurdistan Regional President Masoud Barzani, right, via Twitter

SouthFront, Former Spokesman for SDF Reveals Important Details About Its Command Structure And Relations With U.S., Staff report, Dec. 3, 2017. On December 2, Talal Silo former spokesperson for the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) revealed during an interview with the Turkish Anadolu Agency that the US and Kurdish factions -- including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party -- (PPK) agreed to found the SDF only as an excuse to provide arms and supplies to Kurdish militias: the PPK, the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Women Protection Units (YPJ).

Brent McGurkThe former spokesmen for the SDF also said that the US gave the leadership of the SDF to the Kurds and the PKK: Brett McGurk, the Special US Presidential Envoy for the US-led coalition shown at right, was behind the idea of using the Arab units as a tool to traffic arms to the PKK and other Kurdish militias.

The US and a leader of the PKK and the SDF named “Shahin Jilo” agreed to allow ISIS fighters to withdraw from Raqqa, according to Silo. According to Silo, the US didn’t monitor the weapons it was suppling to the YPG and the PKK, and continued supplying the weapons whenever the SDF leadership demanded more.

According to this, the entire SDF is only a branch of the PKK in Syria. The PKK is considered a terrorist organization not only by Turkey, but also by the US, the main backer of the SDF. While many would doupt Silo statements for many reasons, the fact that he was the “third man” in the SDF proves that he knew a lot about the SDF, before he willingly defected from it on November 15.

Dec. 2

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Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, shown in a file photo

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New York Times, A Historic Tax Heist, Editorial board, Dec. 2, 2017. With barely a vote to spare early Saturday morning, the Senate passed a tax bill confirming that the Republican leaders’ primary goal is to enrich the country’s elite at the expense of everybody else, including future generations who will end up bearing the cost. The approval of this looting of the public purse by corporations and the wealthy makes it a near certainty that President Trump will sign this or a similar bill into law in the coming days.

susan collins official SmallThe votes for the bill by Susan Collins of Maine (shown at right) and John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona were particularly disheartening. Ms. Collins, who helped sink an effort to effectively repeal the A.C.A. in September, blithely voted for a tax bill that will leave a gaping hole in that law by repealing its requirement that most people have insurance or pay a penalty. She traded away her vote for an inadequate deduction for property taxes and empty promises from Mr. Trump and the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, that they would help shore up the A.C.A., which they have repeatedly tried to sabotage.

john mccain 2009 wMr. McCain (at left), who previously voted against tax cuts in the Bush era because they were heavily tilted in favor of the rich rather than the middle class, seemed unconcerned that this bill was even worse in that regard. Then there is Mr. Flake, who has spoken powerfully against Mr. Trump and who is not seeking re-election. He folded on the basis of vague assurances about protecting the Dreamers, young undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children.

irs logoRepublicans offered one fantasy after another to make the case for their budget-busting tax cuts. For example, the White House has said that cutting the corporate tax to 20 percent from 35 percent will lead to a boom in investment and wages — an argument disputed by most credible economists. Almost all of those extra profits will enrich senior executives and shareholders, experts say.

The bill is expected to add more than $1.4 trillion to the federal deficit over the next decade, a debt that will be paid by the poor and middle class in future tax increases and spending cuts to Medicare, Social Security and other government programs. Its modest tax cuts for the middle class disappear after eight years. And up to 13 million people stand to lose their health insurance because the bill makes a big change to the Affordable Care Act.

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djt official SmallWashington Post, Trump waffles on corporate tax cut, hours after Senate bill meets his demands, Damian Paletta, Dec. 2, 2017. President Trump suggested for the first time that he would consider significant changes to the emerging tax overhaul plan, including setting the corporate tax rate at 22 percent, higher than the red line he had drawn for weeks during negotiations. He did not explain why he was now considering allowing a different rate.

Palmer Report, Opinion: After tax bill vote, Donald Trump opens his mouth about it and belatedly puts the bill in jeopardy, Bill Palmer, Dec. 2, 2017.  Late on Friday night, after most Americans had gone to bed, the Republican Senate rammed through a hastily written and criminally corrupt piece of tax legislation which steals from the working class and gives it all to the wealthy. There are now only a few small steps required to sign the travesty into law. But for reasons known only to him, Donald Trump opened his mouth about the tax bill on Saturday and he may have put the legislation in jeopardy.

There was such widespread backlash against the bill’s passage on Saturday, including some pushback from Trump’s own supporters, he ended up publicly waffling in his own support for it. Trump now says that the corporate tax rate should be two points higher than what the Senate bill dictates, according to a Washington Post article (link). It’s not clear what Trump is trying to do here, but he’s suddenly making a mess for his own side.

Trump may be publicly disagreeing with the bill simply so he can blame the Republicans in Congress for it when he signs it.

Common Dreams, NYC Greets Trump: "Lock Him Up! Lock Him Up! "Staff report, Dec. 2, 2017. President Trump was greeted in New York City on Saturday by thousands loudly chanting “Lock Him Up! Lock Him Up!”, "Shame on You!" and “Traitor!”

The NY Post reports: “I believe it’s time to stop lining the pockets of the rich and stealing from the poor,” said John Eng, a 54-year-old real estate agent from Manhattan who was holding a sign declaring, “The poor will have to eat the rich.”

The protesters were particularly enraged by the Senate’s early-morning passage of a $1.2 trillion tax reform bill supported by Trump. A few shouted “Kill the bill, don’t kill us.”

Trump is in town to attend a series of Republican fundraisers - including one for his reelection campaign - and is being accompanied by White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, The Hill reported.

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bob corkerWashington Post, Senate passes Republican tax plan, Erica Werner and Damian Paletta, Dec. 2, 2017. Massive changes to the tax code mark a major victory for Trump and party leaders. Senate Republicans passed a $1.5 trillion tax bill that would bestow massive benefits on corporate America and the wealthy while delivering mixed blessings to everybody else.

After a frantic round of negotiations, Republicans came together in near unanimity behind the landmark legislation. The final vote was 51 to 49, with Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee (shown above right), the lone GOP holdout. Democrats were unanimously opposed.

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Washington Post, Analysis: Who will save more on taxes: You or a senator? Amy Goldstein​, Dec. 2, 2017. Tax bill’s ripple effects could be enormous for health-care system. The GOP-backed plan would not end the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate but would eliminate tax penalties for flouting that requirement.

That could cause an extra 13 million people to become uninsured and drive up insurance premiums in marketplaces created under the law, according to an estimate by Congress’s nonpartisan budget analysts.

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Washington Post, 7 differences Republicans must resolve between the House and the Senate proposals, Jeff Stein, Kim Soffen, Reuben Fischer-Baum and Kevin Uhrmacher, Dec. 2, 2017. The two tax bills have a lot in common — including dramatic cuts in corporate tax rates and the elimination of a number of personal tax deductions — but they also have crucial differences that must be reconciled before a final version can be sent to the president.

Inside Washington

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david bossie gage skidmoreWashington Post, Former Trump aides reveal a campaign filled with screaming fits, constant rivalries, Big Macs, Michael Kranish, The Washington Post obtained an advance copy of “Let Trump Be Trump,” scheduled for release Tuesday. Written by former aides Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie (shown in a Gage Skidmore portrait), it paints a portrait of a campaign with an untested candidate and staff rocketing from crisis to crisis, in which a cast of mostly neophyte political aides learned on the fly and ultimately accepted Donald Trump’s propensity to go angrily off message.

Media: Russian Retaliation

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Washington Post, Russia rolls out plan to bar American media from parliament in RT retaliation, Andrew Roth, Dec. 2, 2017 (print edition). Russian lawmakers declared Friday that they probably will ban all U.S. media from entering both houses of the Russian parliament in retaliation for a U.S. decision to block Moscow-funded broadcaster RT from Congress.

ap logoThe decision — which could come as early as next week — is part of escalating tit-for-tat actions that began in October with a Justice Department order to add RT to a list of media entities that must register as foreign agents.

cnn logoThe Russian ban would affect at least 21 news outlets, the Russian news agency Interfax said, citing a government list of accredited U.S.-based news organizations.

They include state-funded Radio Free Europe and Voice of America, private news agencies such as Bloomberg News and the Associated Press, and other media entities including the Washington Post, the New York Times, CNN, CBS and NBC.

More Media

brian ross abc screenshotThe Wrap, ABC News Suspends Brian Ross for 4 Weeks Without Pay: ‘Effective Immediately,’ Jon Levine, Dec. 2, 2017. ABC News has announced that Brian Ross would be suspended for four weeks without pay “effective immediately.” Ross came under considerable fire on Friday after he erroneously reported on live television that then-candidate Donald Trump had instructed Michael Flynn to make contact with the Russians. In a correction seven hours later, the channel admitted that it was “President-elect” Trump who had made the request of Flynn — a pretty significant difference.

FBI Agent Reassigned In Trump Probe

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fbi logoWashington Post, Top FBI official assigned to Mueller’s Russia probe said to have been removed after sending anti-Trump texts, Karoun Demirjian and Devlin Barrett, Dec. 2, 2017. The former top FBI official assigned to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election was taken off that job this past summer after his bosses discovered he and another member of Mueller’s team had exchanged politically charged texts disparaging President Trump and supporting Hillary Clinton, according to multiple people familiar with the matter.

Peter Strzok, as deputy head of counterintelligence at the FBI, was a key player in the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server to do government work as secretary of state, as well as the probe into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election.

During the Clinton investigation, Strzok was involved in a romantic relationship with FBI lawyer Lisa Page, who worked for Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. The extramarital affair was problematic, these people said, but of greater concern among senior law enforcement officials were text messages the two exchanged during the Clinton investigation and campaign season, in which they expressed anti-Trump sentiments and other comments that appeared to favor Clinton.

Dec. 1

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michael flynn stephen miller jared kushner reince priebusWashington Post, Michael Flynn charged with making false statement to FBI, Josh Dawsey, Dec. 1, 2017. President Trump’s former national security adviser (Michael Flynn, shown at center in a file photo with other top administration officials) is expected to appear in federal court this morning after being charged with making a false statement to the FBI about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. It marks another monumental development in the wide-ranging probe of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

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djt official SmallNew York Times, Flynn Pleads Guilty to Lying to the F.B.I., Eileen Sullivan, Adam Goldman and Michael D. Shear, Dec. 1, 2017. Ex-Trump Aide Says He Is Cooperating in Russia Inquiry. The guilty plea by Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, brings the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election into Mr. Trump’s inner circle. Mr. Flynn acknowledged that he is cooperating with the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.

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New York Times, Michael Flynn’s Guilty Plea: 10 Key Takeaways, Harry Litman, Dec. 1, 2017. Impeachment just became a lot more likely.

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New York Times, After Flynn, Are Kushner and Don Jr. Next? Richard W. Painter and Norman L. Eisen, Dec. 1, 2017. The Flynn deal opens the door to charges against the president’s inner circle.

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fbi logoNew York Times,