December 2017 News Reports

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Editor's Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative December 2017 news and views

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.

“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

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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 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 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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New 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 — 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 the White House

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.

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 elipses 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!

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.

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

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.

Dec. 11

Legal 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.

You want to trust this guy with your taxpayer dollars?

On top of that, Jones has aligned himself with Rob Riley, one of the most grossly corrupt political figures in modern Alabama history -- and that is saying something. Noted Alabama whistle blower and oppo researcher Jill Simpson says she is convinced Jones played a role in her home catching fire and in several ugly highway incidents.

On a personal note, I have no doubt Jones was involved, directly or indirectly, in cheating me out of my job at UAB. It's undisputed that Rob Riley was directly involved in my unlawful incarceration in Shelby County, and that means Jones probably was involved -- or at least knows all about it, but has remained silent. For good measure, I have little doubt there is an "Alabama Underground Railroad" driving abuses against my wife, Carol, and me in Missouri -- including an unlawful eviction that led to cops breaking Carol's arm so severely that it required trauma surgery. We would not be surprised to learn (soon, hopefully) that Jones has been one of the conductors on the corrupt train from the Heart of Dixie.

Still, it appears Jones will lose in tomorrow's election. That might make him the first major political candidate to lose to an apparent child molester. That, if it happens, will be quite a distinction to take into history. From Politico:

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

michael flynn flickr gage skidmore phoenix 10 29 2016

 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

debbie wesson gibson

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

blake farenthold crush girls abyss club

 

lauren greeneThe 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.

But 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.

michael flynn flickr gage skidmore phoenix 10 29 2016

 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.

trickle down cartoon

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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, What the Flynn Court Documents Show, Charlie Savage, Dec. 1, 2017. Mr. Flynn admitted lying to the F.B.I. What is notable is what he was not charged with.

Trump Tax Plan

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New York Times, G.O.P. Says It Has Votes to Pass Tax Bill, Staff report, Dec. 1, 2017. Republican Holdouts Lining Up Behind Sweeping Overhaul. The Senate has resumed debate on the tax bill and Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, said voting will begin later Friday.

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New York Times, Senate Scorekeeper Says Bill Adds $1 Trillion to Deficit, Jugal K. Patel and Alicia Parlapiano, Dec. 1, 2017.  Senate Republicans’ tax cut would not pay for itself, according to a new report by the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation.

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ron johnson o CustomWashington Post, Senate inches closer to passing GOP tax bill after Johnson backs measure, Damian Paletta and Erica Weiner, Dec. 1, 2017. The announcement by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis., shown at right) removes one of the last few GOP holdouts and puts party leaders close to assembling the votes they’d need to pass the package. Johnson had withheld support over complaints the bill favors corporations over other businesses, but he says his concerns have been addressed.

He has long complained that the tax cut package does not provide enough benefits for a certain type of business, though he has requested numerous changes in recent days and it could not be immediately learned what precisely made him decide to back the bill.

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irs logoNew York Times, Republican Tax Bill Hits Snag Over Deficit Concerns, Thomas Kaplan, Alan Rappeport and Jim Tankersley, Dec. 1, 2017 (print edition). Senate Republicans scrambled to find ways to raise about $500 billion after some members expressed concerns that the bill would balloon budget deficits. Despite the bill’s rapid momentum coming to a grinding halt, a final vote is expected on Friday after a series of amendments are considered.

Verified Politics, Opinion: NY Times Just Dropped A Red Alert Bombshell About Trump’s Tax Plan, Benjamin Locke, Dec. 1, 2017. President Trump gave Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin a lead role in promoting his tax reform proposal to the public, business and especially Congress, but he has proven to be so awkward, unsuited to his role and inept in explaining the facts that House Speaker Paul Ryan has suggested it would be better if he didn’t lobby on Capitol Hill.

steven mnuchin wNow, it turns out he also has lied to everyone about the one thing he really needed to do. For weeks, Mnuchin (shown at left) has been saying that a team of over 100 economists and experts has been working in the Treasury Department on a plan that would prove the promise he and Trump have made that the growth of the economy caused by their tax plan would more than make up for the trillion and a half dollar rise in the national debt.

This refers to the so-called “dynamic analysis” of the plan, which would not be based just on the existing numbers, but on the impact of Trump and Mnuchin’s projections that this tax reform will make the economy grow at a pace of about three percent a year – which would be double or triple what it has done in recent years.

One report released this week came from the Joint Committee on Taxation, a government group that works with the House and Senate, which said even with economic growth, the Trump tax plan will add $1 trillion to the national debt in the coming decade. That leaves a gap of at least half a trillion beyond what Trump has promised, which is a big problem for Senators and others who believe it is important to keep the deficit down. So the report that Mnuchin has promised from the Treasury is more important than ever. Yet even as the vote nears, the report has never been made public.

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New York Times, Markets Pass Milestone, as Investors Cheer the Prospect of Tax Cuts, Staff report, Dec. 1, 2017 (print edition).

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Washington Post, After tax reform, Republicans eye cuts to welfare, entitlement programs, Jeff Stein, Dec. 1, 2017. High-ranking Republicans are hinting that they'll look at cutting spending on welfare, entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, and other parts of the social safety net.

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Washington Post, Opinion: Apparently Republicans want to kick the middle class in the face, Catherine Rampell, Dec. 1, 2017. It’s not enough to give money to rich people. Apparently, Republicans want to kick the poor and middle class in the face, too.

I used to think the Republican Party’s obsession with top-heavy tax cuts was about pleasing wealthy donors and maybe also fulfilling some misguided Randian fantasy. If the poor and middle class happened to be collateral damage, so be it.

But it’s starting to look like shafting the little guy has become a feature, not a bug, of the GOP’s budget-busting tax plan.

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Washington Post, Analysis: Here’s how income tax cuts will affect individual senators (and you), Philip Bump, Dec. 1, 2017. An interactive tool including data on every senator. The Joint Committee on Taxation, for example, figures that nearly every household making $75,000 or more a year will see a cut of at least $100 by 2019, compared with only about half of households earning less than that amount. By 2027, after the income tax cuts expire, wealthier households are still much more likely to see substantial savings than are poorer households.

There are 100 people in Congress who will soon decide whether to move this bill forward: the 100 members of the U.S. Senate. The vote will mostly fall along partisan lines, it seems, but the Senate is united in one respect: They all make enough to see the biggest income tax benefits.

The base salary for a senator is $174,000 a year, with senators in leadership positions making slightly more. What’s more, senators are also allowed to earn limited outside income, which inflates that total even more. The Center for Responsive Politics gathers data on outside income (including income from spouses), the most recent data for which is from 2015 filings. (That means it excludes some new senators.)

michael flynn flickr gage skidmore phoenix 10 29 2016

 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)

Consortium News, The Scalp-Taking of Gen. Flynn, Robert Parry, Dec. 1, 2017. The Russia-gate prosecutors have taken the scalp of ex- National Security Adviser (and retired Lt. Gen.) Flynn for lying to the FBI. But this case shows how dangerously far afield this “scandal” has gone.

fbi logoRussia-gate enthusiasts are thrilled over the guilty plea of President Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn for lying to the FBI about pre-inauguration conversations with the Russian ambassador, but the case should alarm true civil libertarians.

What is arguably most disturbing about this case is that then-National Security Adviser Flynn was pushed into a perjury trap by Obama administration holdovers at the Justice Department who concocted an unorthodox legal rationale for subjecting Flynn to an FBI interrogation four days after he took office, testing Flynn’s recollection of the conversations while the FBI agents had transcripts of the calls intercepted by the National Security Agency.

In other words, the Justice Department wasn’t seeking information about what Flynn said to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak – the intelligence agencies already had that information. Instead, Flynn was being quizzed on his precise recollection of the conversations and nailed for lying when his recollections deviated from the transcripts.

Trump, Crime, Courts

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Washington Post, Trump calls acquittal of illegal immigrant in San Francisco killing ‘a complete travesty of justice,’ Fred Barbash, Dec. 1, 2017. President Trump had cited the death of Kate Steinle to justify his proposed border wall and a crackdown on “sanctuary cities.” The suspect in the slaying, Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, had been deported multiple times.

A San Francisco jury acquitted an illegal immigrant Thursday charged with killing Kate Steinle, the 32-year-old woman whose death President Trump used to justify his proposed border wall and his crackdown on “sanctuary cities.”

Steinle was shot in the back as she and her father strolled along Pier 14 in San Francisco on July 1, 2015. Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, a much-deported illegal immigrant from Mexico, had been released from jail, where he was being held on a drug charge, even though federal immigration authorities had sought to detain him.

The case was one of the most politicized criminal trials in years, a fact the judge instructed the jurors to ignore. n a tweet hours after Thursday’s verdict, Trump called it “disgraceful.”

Inside Washington

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Washington Post, Trump tells confidants that a government shutdown might be good for him politically, Josh Dawsey, Sean Sullivan and Ed O'Keefe, Dec. 1, 2017. The president’s mixed messages on a partial shutdown has hampered Republicans ability to negotiate with Democrats on spending legislation. Trump also is said to be focusing on his hard-line immigration stance as a way to win back supporters unhappy with his past outreach to Democrats, 

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al frankenWashington Post, Franken fighting for political survival as Democrats demand ‘zero tolerance’ for sexual misconduct, Karen Tumulty, Elise Viebeck and Ed O'Keefe, Dec. 1, 2017 (print edition). On the same day that a fifth accuser stepped forward with allegations against the senator from Minnesota, a move by top Democrats to force out Rep. John Conyers showed a growing eagerness to immunize the party on an issue that is turning into a social movement.

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Washington Post, Opinion: Trump wants to gut America’s progress against AIDS, Michael Gerson, Dec. 1, 2017 (print edition). The Trump administration is proposing a reduction in funding and a shift in strategy in the fight against global AIDS that together would increase infections, cost lives and threaten the extraordinary progress of the past 15 years.

In its 2018 budget, the Trump administration proposes an $800 million cut in America’s bilateral HIV/AIDS programs (along with a $225 million cut for the Global Fund). The State Department, in turn, has written a new AIDS strategy to reflect this lower level of funding. Resources would be concentrated on 13 “priority” countries, while current levels of treatment would be maintained in other places. Neither South Africa nor Nigeria — which together have about a quarter of AIDS cases in the world — would be in the “priority” category.

The results? According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 800,000 fewer people (compared with the current trajectory) would be placed on treatment in the first year of the new strategy, and 2.7 million fewer by 2020. One recent study estimates 26 million additional AIDS infections and 4 million more preventable deaths over the next 15 years. When you are not moving forward against an epidemic, you end up moving backward, and rapidly.

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New York Times, Trump Denies Reports He Planned to Fire Tillerson, Gardiner Harris, Dec. 1, 2017. President Trump tweeted on Friday that reports he would soon fire Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson were “fake news,” and that “I call the final shots.”

More Sex Scandal News

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blake farenthold oNew York Times, Taxpayers Paid $84,000 to End Sex Harassment Claim Against Texas Lawmaker, Yamiche Alcindor and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Dec. 1, 2017, Representative Blake Farenthold, Republican of the Corpus Christi section Texas (shown at right and below left at a party), used $84,000 in taxpayer funds to settle a sexual harassment claim, one of six settlements for workplace issues ranging from veteran status discrimination to age bias that were paid out by a secretive congressional office since 2013.

 blake farenthold with bunny customThe six settlements for malfeasance in House offices totaled $359,450.

Details of the settlements emerged Friday after Congress’s Office of Compliance answered demands for information from the Committee on House Administration, part of an extensive review of sexual harassment and discrimination in congressional offices.

The sexual harassment and indiscretion scandals that had already ensnared Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, Representative John Conyers Jr., Democrat of Michigan, and Representative Joe Barton, Republican of Texas, pulled in two more lawmakers, Mr. Farenthold and Representative Ruben Kihuen, Democrat of Nevada.

A former finance director of Mr. Kihuen’s congressional campaign told Buzzfeed News that the up-and-coming young Democrat repeatedly propositioned her for sex and touched her inappropriately until she abruptly quit the campaign.

JFK Records Suppression Continues

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Washington Post, When the CIA bugged my dad in our Prince George’s home, Jim Scott, Dec. 1, 2017. Twenty-five years apparently is not enough time to properly review the most sensitive documents about the Kennedy assassination. Now the CIA and FBI require another 180 days to complete this extended vetting process. The agencies are running out of time to prevent us from viewing the long-held and perhaps embarrassing secrets regarding Lee Harvey Oswald and his activities prior to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

I can relate to this delaying tactic by the CIA and FBI.

cia logoMore than 54 years ago, the agencies started wiretapping my dad’s work phone and our home phone in Prince George’s County. I’ve been working since 2008 to get access to the papers that would help me understand why they wiretapped my father, nationally syndicated columnist Paul Scott — and what they heard. I won’t end my search until all critical material is made public.

The notable stories he covered before and after the wiretap included the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Kennedy assassination.

I hoped the release of more JFK files would expedite the declassification and release of material I sought regarding my father. It’s frustrating enough that it takes years for agencies to make a determination, but their responses often contain bureaucratic language, redacted pages or statutory exemptions without detailed explanation.

In response to my most recent Freedom of Information Act request to the FBI for 40 pages in my dad’s files, the agency declassified the material but then applied a security exemption to prevent public release. I still have no idea of the time frame or subject matter of the documents that could be more than 50 years old. Why can’t the FBI simply redact sensitive or personal info and not delete entire pages? I also can’t imagine that sources and methods used more than 50 years ago can’t be disclosed.

It’s even more frustrating dealing with the CIA. I learned a few months ago that I could not inquire about the status of my latest FOIA request (initiated in 2015) until June 30. And, even if I uncover information useful in the search, the CIA makes it extremely difficult to contact a case manager. Since my request with the CIA focuses primarily on locating the wiretap transcript, I posed these questions to the CIA: Could a CIA historian explain whether the transcript still exists? Was it destroyed or transferred to another government agency?

Accused JFK Killer's Brother Dies

Dallas News, Robert Oswald, brother to JFK's assassin, dies in Wichita Falls, Charles Scudder, Dec. 1, 2017. Robert Edward Lee Oswald, whose brother Lee Harvey Oswald killed President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, died Monday in Wichita Falls. He was 83.

His obituary in the Wichita Falls Times Record News made no mention of his brother's infamous place in history except to say "he spent his youth in Louisiana with his brothers Lee and John Pic before joining the Marine Corps in 1952 at age 18."

Oswald often said he believed the findings of most experts that his brother acted alone in killing the president on Nov. 22, 1963. Late in life, he said he still didn't understand why. "This is mind over heart," Oswald once told ABC News. "The mind tells me one thing, the heart tells me something else, but the facts are there."

Global News: Turkey Indicts Former Top CIA Executive Graham Fuller On Coup Charge

turkey flagHurriyet, Turkey issues arrest warrant for former CIA official Graham Fuller over coup attempt, Toygun Atilla, Dec. 1, 2017. The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on Dec. 1 issued an arrest warrant for Graham Fuller, the former vice-chairman of the National Intelligence Council of the CIA, over his alleged involvement in the July 2016 coup attempt.

The arrest warrant alleges that Fuller was in Turkey during the coup attempt on July 15, 2016 and left the country after the failure of the attempted military takeover.

Graham FullerThe warrant accuses Fuller (shown in a file photo) of “attempting to overthrow the government of the Republic of Turkey and obstructing the duties of the Republic of Turkey,” ”obtaining state information that must be kept secret for political and military espionage purposes,” and “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order.”

It also states that Fuller was in contact with American academic Henri Barkey, who was also previously subject of an arrest warrant in Turkey, as well as other figures who played a role in the coup attempt. Barkey is accused by prosecutors of organizing and coordinating the coup attempt in a meeting on Istanbul’s Büyükada island between July 15 and July 16, 2016.

cia logoProsecutors claim that Fuller also participated in this meeting. The arrest warrant comes after notorious Russian strategist Alexander Dugin had claimed during a recent TV broadcast in Turkey that both Barkey and Fuller attended the meeting on Büyükada. Dugin also stated that Russian intelligence agencies had “concrete evidence that CIA agents commanded the failed coup attempt.”

In 2006 Fuller wrote a letter supporting the U.S. green card application of Fethullah Gülen, who Turkey considers the coup's mastermind.

Global News: ISIS Atrocities

syrian pilot killed isis major azzam eid CustomSouthFront, ISIS Burns Syrian Pilot To Death, Executes 13 Syrian Soldiers In Brutal Propaganda Video, Staff report, Dec. 1, 2017. On November 29, the ISIS media agency al-Hayat released a 58-minuate long propaganda video named “Flames of War II”. The video shows ISIS terrorists burning a pilot of the Syrian Arab Air Force (SyAAF) to death after he was chained at the neck.

The Syrian pilot was identified as Major Azzam Eid (shown above), from the city of Salamiyah located in the eastern Hama countryside. Major Eid’s warplane, a Soviet-made MiG-23BN, crashed near Tall al-Dakwah in the eastern Qalamun region on April 22, 2016. Back then, the ISIS-linked news agency Amaq claimed that Major Eid’s warplane was shot down by ISIS fighters and released a video that shows him being captured by ISIS fighters.

Al-Hayat’s propaganda video also shows ISIS fighters executing 13 soldiers of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and a video of ISIS attack on a column of the Egyptian Army in northern Sinai on September 14. The propaganda video also included footage of many old ISIS attacks in Syria, Egypt and Iraq.

Major Eid was not the first pilot burned alive by ISIS. On February 3, 2015, the ISIS media agency al-Furqan released a propaganda video showing ISIS terrorists burning Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasasbeh to death. Al-Ksasbeh was captured by ISIS fighters after his warplane crashed near the city of Raqqa on December 24, 2014.

Experts believe that the new propaganda release is a desperate attempt by ISIS to raise the low morale of its supporters, epically after the last ISIS defeats in Syria, Iraq and Egypt. Despite the collapse of ISIS’ self-proclaimed Caliphate in Syria and Iraq, the terrorist group’s media branch is still able to produce high-quality propaganda.

Global News

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 New York Times, Snubbing the U.S., Russia and Egypt Near Deal on Bases, David D. Kirkpatrick, Dec. 1, 2017 (print edition). Moscow and Cairo signed a preliminary agreement to allow Russian military jets to use its airspace and bases, giving the country its deepest presence in Egypt since the Soviet era.

Inside Washington

djt xmas tree lighting 11 30 17 steve rudin abc twitter

Steve Rudin ABC7. @SteveRudinABC7 The National Tree Lighting ceremony was beautiful this evening - but hard not to notice the empty seats. #Christmas #DMV #USA

Verified Politics, Opinion: Trump Just Held His White House Tree Lighting Ceremony And The Obamas Must Be CRACKING UP, Sheila Norton, Dec. 1, 2017. Tonight at the White House tree lighting ceremony, President Trump suffered a familiar self-inflicted wound.

bo xmas tree lighting 2016By constantly bragging about his giant imaginary crowds and comparing himself to his predecessor — a man whose shoes he is not fit to look at much less fill — Trump has invited unnecessary scrutiny to a game he cannot win.

Because of his bluster, photographers could not help grabbing shots of the many empty seats at tonight’s ceremony — a stark contrast to the packed crowd from President Obama’s ceremony a year ago. (Photos above from this year and at right from last year.)

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rex tillerson exxon mobilWashington Post, White House lays groundwork for seismic personnel change with plan to oust Tillerson, Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey​, Dec. 1, 2017 (print edition), The plan to force out Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (shown at right) and install loyalists to President Trump in two top national security positions, which has been confirmed by two administration officials, would shake up an already turbulent presidency.

The White House is readying a plan to oust Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and install loyalists to President Trump in two top national security positions, laying the groundwork for another seismic personnel change in an already turbulent presidency, two administration officials confirmed Thursday.

tom cotton o CustomThe emerging strategy to stabilize the floundering State Department, which is under active consideration by the president and might change further, could have CIA Director Mike Pompeo replacing Tillerson and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) being elevated to succeed Pompeo.

The plan, first reported by the New York Times, was confirmed by the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the White House has not publicly announced any moves.

Pompeo has become one of the most personally loyal and ­politically savvy members of Trump’s national security team, while Cotton is one of Trump’s most steadfast congressional defenders and a confidant to national security adviser H.R. McMaster and other top officials.

 Media: Geraldo Apologizes

geraldoThe Wrap, Geraldo Rivera Apologizes to Bette Midler, Women Named in His ‘Tawdry’ Memoir, Beatrice Verhoeven, Dec. 1, 2017. “I’ve deeply regretted its distasteful & disrespectful tone & have refrained from speaking about it,” Fox News contributor writes.

Geraldo Rivera has apologized to Bette Midler and other women named in his “tawdry” memoir, saying he is “embarrassed and profoundly sorry to those mentioned.” Rivera tweeted, “27 years ago I wrote a tawdry book depicting consensual events in 1973-45 years ago – I’ve deeply regretted its distasteful & disrespectful tone & have refrained from speaking about it-I’m embarrassed & profoundly sorry to those mentioned – I have & again apologize to anyone offended.”

On Thursday, Midler demanded an apology from the Fox News contributor after a video re-surfaced of the veteran singer and actress telling Barbara Walters in 1991 that Rivera and a producer “groped” and drugged her in a bathroom in the 1970s.

CIA Spy Studies

cia logoThe Telegraph, Did traitor Kim Philby have a gay affair with former director of the CIA? Jefferson Morley, Dec. 1, 2017. Kim Philby and Jim Angleton first met at Bletchley Park, in early 1944. Angleton, a precociously literate 26 year old Yale graduate, had been spotted as a promising spy by his professors and sent to the British intelligence centre for espionage training. There, Philby, chief of MI6 intelligence operations in Spain and Portugual, taught him the black arts of counterintelligence.  

The men renewed their friendship in Washington in late 1949, when Philby took over the MI6 station here. Angleton, then a rising star at the newly-created CIA - and who would go on to become its counterintelligence chief - never guessed that his friend was really a communist spy, who was passing on his every confidence straight to Moscow.