January 2018 News Reports

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

Jan. 21

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

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

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

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

Books On Trump's First Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate Change

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

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

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

Inside Washington

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

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

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

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

#MeToo News, Commentary

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Global News: Jerusalem

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Jan. 20

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Puppet Masters Reward GOP Speaker

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Accused GOPer Groper Sacked From House Ethics Committee

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

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

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

Courts, Cops, #MeToo: Olympic Assaulter

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

Courts Around the Nation: Kentucky Assault

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

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

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

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

Global News: Turks Begin Shelling Kurds

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

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

More On Trump and Porn Star

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

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

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

Jan. 19

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

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

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

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

david turpin louise turpin mugsParental suspects David Turpin and Louise Turpin

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

Trump and Porn Star

stormy daniels djt insight 1 19 2018 Custom

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

djt melania liberty ball inauguration 2017

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

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

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

“One or two,” Trump replied.

#MeToo Harassment Claims

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

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

Even when they don’t want to.

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

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

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

Changing Media: Verizon-owned HuffPost Replace Unpaid Writers

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

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

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

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

Inside the Trump White House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right To Know

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jan. 18

U.S. Government Shutdown Still looms

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

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

Supreme Court Allows GOP Gerrymanders For North Carolina This Year

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

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

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

More Background On U.S. Government Shutdown

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

Donald Trump

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

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

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

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

John Kelly

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

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

Media & #MeToo: Spiked Sex Scandal 'Stories'

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

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

Yet no one went with the story.

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

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

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

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

Inside Washington

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

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

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

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

Media: How Wolff Got His Book Scoop

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

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

Dangers of War

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

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

Media: "Fake News"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Politics Around the Nation

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

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

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

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

Jan. 17

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

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

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

National Security

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

wesley clark graphic quotation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Global News: Korea Tensions Thawing?

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

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

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

Inside Washington

rick perry robert murray simon edelman energy dept march 29 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

djt golf in shape custom

President Trump on the 2016 campaign trail

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

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

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

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Politics: Maryland and Wisconsin

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

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

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

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

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

Courts, Cops: Pennsylvania

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scandal In Missouri Deepens

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

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

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

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

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

Republicans Love 'Porn President?'

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

djt stormy nypost 1 13 18 Custom

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Confirmation of Trump Porn Star Scandal

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

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

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

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

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"Liar, Liar" Parody

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

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

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

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

More #MeToo Harassment Scandal Fallouts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump Probe Analysis: How A Trump Interview Would Work

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

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

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

Jan. 16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crime, Cops Around the Nation

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

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

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

#MeToo Reaction: U.S. Cultural Trends

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

Global News: Saudi Prince Shakedown Continuing?

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

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

Media and Scandal

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

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

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

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

Jan. 15

mlk day recent presidents wmr Custom 2 

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

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

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

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

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

Martin Luther King Day 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

martin luther king riot is language of unheard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Media Criticism: BBC Attacked As Propaganda Tool

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

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

#MeToo Pedophile Allegation By Olympian Against Team Doctor

simone biles usa team

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

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

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

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

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

#MeToo Harassment Claim Against Congressman

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

More on Civil Rights Issues: Women, Race

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

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

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

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

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

Jan. 14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nuclear Attack Scare In Hawaii

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inside Washington

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Media: Fake News Claims

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jan. 13

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

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

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

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

Inside Washington

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

Alleged Trump, #MeToo Scandals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Killers, Courts Around the Nation: Las Vegas

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

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

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

Media, #MeToo Claims

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

Global News: Iran

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

Jan. 12

Inside The White House: Immigration

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

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

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

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

Trump Response

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

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

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

Congressional Reaction

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

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

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

World and Media Reaction

don lemon djt shithole response 1 12 18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

djt baby doc duvalier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Probes of Trump: Evidence

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

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

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

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

#MeToo and Probes Of Trump

djt stormy daniels nydaily 1 13 18 Custom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Media: Facebook Plans Big Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump Health Report

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

Media: Media Coverage Of Alleged Trump Scandals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Media: More #MeToo Developments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then Morgan Stanley fired Mr. Ford. Why?

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

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

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

Global News: More U.S. Sanctions For Iran

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

Global News: Putin Condems Drone Attack On Russian Base

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

JFK Records Disclosures

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jan. 11

 

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

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

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

Hospital Patient Dumping Scandal In Baltimore

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

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

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

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

Probes Of Trump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

National Anti-Trafficking Day Jan. 11 and Month January

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

national human trafficking awareness day jan 11 Custom

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

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

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

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

Inside Washington

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

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

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

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

Jobs, Economy, Wages

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

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

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

Politics Around the Nation: North Dakota

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

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

Media Commentary on Trump

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

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

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

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

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

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

#MeToo, #Times Up Sex Scandals

eric greitens mike pence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Media: CIA Whistleblower Sterling Moved To Halfway House

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

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

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

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

Global News: Syria

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

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

Jan. 10

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

Immigration News

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

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

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

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

Trump Seeks Crackdown On Media With State Libel Laws

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

Political News

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

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

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

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

Probe Of Trump

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

#MeToo, #Times Up Scandals

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

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

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

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

Her now ex-husband said that statement upset him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jan. 9

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

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

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

Donald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)

Donald Trump (Defense Department file photo by Dominique Pineiro)

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

Media: Bannon Out At Breitbart After Book Comments

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

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

Trump Special Counsel Probe

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

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

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

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

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

National Politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

Global News

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

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

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

Fatal California Mudsides

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

#MeToo, #Times Up Scandals

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

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

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

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

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

Inside Washington

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

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

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

Cops, Courts Around the Nation

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jan. 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Immigration: 'Dreamers'

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

Inside Washington

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brutal Cold Takes Its Toll

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

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

Courts and Cops Around the Nation

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

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

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

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

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

Global Corruption?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jan. 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Politics Around the Nation

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

White House Financial Conflicts

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

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

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

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

Inside Washington

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

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

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

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

Potomac River at C &O canal (EPA Photo)

Potomac River at C &O canal (EPA Photo)

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

Miss America Contest Endangered?

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

Jan. 6

Trump Tweetstorms

djt tweet on brilliance 1 6 18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tax Fraud Prosecutions

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

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

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

Inside Washington

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

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

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

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

Jan. 5

Trump Revelations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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President Trump, shown in a file photo by Gage Skidmore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Awkward silence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inside DC: Census Sabotage?

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

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

Reefer Madness?

cory gardner o Custom

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

Police Shootings Remain High

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

Jan. 4

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

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

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

But what Wolff is describing is an open secret.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump Seeks Book Suppression

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suppressing the Vote

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

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

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

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

Inside Washington

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

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

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

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

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

More On Celebrity Sex Research

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consumer Issues

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

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

More Book Controversy

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

Chaos In Washington?

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

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

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

Puerto Rican Post-Hurricane Suffering

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

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

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

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

What's Next For Muller?

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

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

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

The claims were later shown to be misleading.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Global News

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moore Accuser Sues For Defamation

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

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

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

Ivanka Turns Off Bannon?

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

Media: New York Times National Security Tells All

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

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

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

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

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

James Risen: Thanks for having me.

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

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

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

Jan. 3

djt staff nypost cover july 29 17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Former Trump Campaign Manager Lashes Back At Special Counsel

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

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

Scandal Allegations Among White House Staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Spiking CIA Stories At The New York Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump Scraps His Controversial Voting Fraud Commission

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Global News: Korea 

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

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

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

Inside Washington

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

dana gresham doug jones Custom 2

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

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

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

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

Legal, Security Costs For Sex Accusers Defended

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

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

“We anticipate that the costs alone in this case will be hundreds of thousands of dollars,” wrote Allred, who said that she is not charging any fees for her own legal work, that neither of the two law firms involved in the case has been paid fees, and that “the donated funds have not and will not be used to personally benefit Ms. Zervos in any way.”

The statement comes as the #metoo movement continues to roil the spheres of show business, media and politics, and in the immediate wake of an article published in the Hill alleging that Allred’s daughter, Lisa Bloom, “sought to arrange compensation from donors and tabloid media outlets for women who made or considered making sexual misconduct allegations against Donald Trump.”

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New York Times, Opinion: The Republicans’ Fake Investigations, Glenn R.Simpson and Peter Fritsch, Jan. 3, 2018 (print edition). Glenn R. Simpson and Peter Fritsch, both former journalists, are the founders of the research firm Fusion GPS.

A generation ago, Republicans sought to protect President Richard Nixon by urging the Senate Watergate committee to look at supposed wrongdoing by Democrats in previous elections. The committee chairman, Sam Ervin, a Democrat, said that would be “as foolish as the man who went bear hunting and stopped to chase rabbits.”

Today, amid a growing criminal inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, congressional Republicans are again chasing rabbits. We know because we’re their favorite quarry.

In the year since the publication of the so-called Steele dossier — the collection of intelligence reports we commissioned about Donald Trump’s ties to Russia — the president has repeatedly attacked us on Twitter. His allies in Congress have dug through our bank records and sought to tarnish our firm to punish us for highlighting his links to Russia. Conservative news outlets and even our former employer, The Wall Street Journal, have spun a succession of mendacious conspiracy theories about our motives and backers.

Congress should release transcripts of our firm’s testimony, so that the American people can learn the truth about our work and most important, what happened to our democracy.We are happy to correct the record. In fact, we already have.

james risen h sThe Intercept, All The News Unfit to Print: James Risen on His Battles with Bush, Obama, and the New York Times, Jeremy Scahill, Jan. 3 2018. James Risen (shown at right) is a legend in the world of investigative and national security journalism. As a reporter for the New York Times, Risen broke some of the most important stories of the post 9/11 era, from the warrantless surveillance against Americans conducted under the Bush-Cheney administration, to black prison sites run by the CIA, to failed covert actions in Iran.

Risen has won the Pulitzer and other major journalism awards. But perhaps what he is now most famous for is fighting a battle under both the Bush and Obama administrations as they demanded — under threat of imprisonment —the name of one of Risen’s alleged confidential sources. In the end, Risen prevailed and refused to testify and he was not locked up.

But during the course of his case, there were rulings that could have far reaching implications for journalists, particularly in a climate where the president of the United States is characterizing news outlets as enemies of the people, contemplating arresting reporters, and is conducting at least 27 leak investigations. All before the end of his first year in office.

But it isn’t just the government that Risen had to fight. He also battled his own editors and other powerful figures at the New York Times. Some of those people pushed the narrative that Iraq had WMDs and they regularly colluded with senior officials at the CIA, NSA, and White House in an effort to kill — or delay publication of — Risen’s stories.

James Risen has now written an extensive account of his years at the New York Times and he names names.

Jan. 2

Investigations

matt gaetz dui

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Pensacola) is shown above in a billboard ad one Interstate 10 in his Florida district mocking his DUI (Driving while under the influence) arrests. The billboard ad GoFundMe ad campaign by activist Claude Taylor against Gaetz derives from the report below by Wayne Madsen.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigation: Mueller's "grand inquisitor" in Congress has a record of DWIs and a suspicious death, Wayne Madsen, Dec. 19, 2017.  (Excerpted from the subscription-only website WMR and released on Jan. 2 with permission.).

matt gaetz o CustomThe chief congressional enemy of Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller has a long record of drunk driving charges and one suspicious death, according to senior GOP sources in Tallahassee, the Florida capital.

fbi logoFirst-term U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz (in his official photo at left and also in a mug shot below) has led the charge against Mueller and his investigation of Donald Trump and his administration. Gaetz insists that Mueller, a Republican, is leading a politically-tainted witch hunt against Trump, his family members, and members of his campaign and administration. However, Gaetz has offered little, except for right-wing talking points, to disparage Mueller and his team of seasoned federal prosecutors.

matt gaetz mug CustomGaetz's record includes at least seven arrests for drunk driving and a closeted gay life style. Gaetz proclaims himself as an anti-gay rights social conservative. Gaetz's politically powerful father Don Gaetz, a former health care CEO who was sued by the U.S. Justice Department for Medicare fraud, is a powerful member of the Florida Senate. Senator Gaetz has used his position to propel his son into national politics. The Gaetz father-and-son team hails from a prominent North Dakota GOP political family.

Editor's note: The Justice Integrity Project will be ramping up the frequency of its investigative reporting in 2018, including by citations to the work of others, as here.

White House

Donald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)

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Washington Post, Trump’s true priorities revealed in holiday news dumps, James Hohmann​, Jan. 2, 2018. Underscoring how politically unpopular these moves were, most of the decisions were rolled out the Fridays before Christmas and New Year’s Eve to minimize media coverage and public notice.

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Washington Post, Trump’s lawyer is a specialist in securing preemptive pardons, Robert Nelson, Jan. 2, 2018. John Dowd has an unusual legal background.

National Politics

mitt romney 2012 open neck gage skidmore

Mitt Romney, the Republican president nominee in 2012, is shown on the campaign trail that year in a photo by Gage Skidmore

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orrin hatch oNew York Times, Orrin Hatch Plans to Retire, Creating an Opening for Romney, Jonathan Martin, Jan. 2, 2017. Orrin G. Hatch R-UT, shown at right), the longest-serving Senate Republican, announced that he will retire at the end of the year, clearing a path for Mitt Romney to run.

mitt romney wRoll Call, It’s Not Just Romney: Hatch Retirement Could Lead to Decisions for Grassley, Crapo, Niels Lesniewski, Jan. 2, 2018. Much of the talk after GOP Sen. Orrin G. Hatch’s announcement that he will retire from the Senate after serving Utah for more than four decades will focus on whether Mitt Romney (shown below) will seek to succeed him.

But on Capitol Hill, the Finance chairman’s pending departure when he still has time left under Conference rules to wield the tax writing panel’s gavel also raises questions about who will lead the Senate GOP on taxes, trade, health care and entitlements.

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jennifer rubin twitterWashington Post, Opinion: As Orrin Hatch retires, here are six things to watch, Jennifer Rubin (right), Jan. 2, 2018. Could we get a Sen. Romney? This might be the most consequential Senate retirement ever involving a seat that is highly unlikely to change parties. Here’s what to watch for:

First, the decision represents another Senate setback for President Trump, who wanted to keep Hatch, once a mainstream and practical Republican but more recently an unabashed apologist for Trump, in the Senate. After the announced retirements of Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) as well as the Alabama debacle, Trump may face a far more confrontational Senate, even if the GOP holds onto its majority.

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Washington Post, Iowa went big for Trump, but voters seem to be souring on him and the GOP, David Weigel, an. 2, 2018 (print edition). The state, the epicenter of Republicans’ surge in 2014 and 2016, is not an obvious place for a Democratic comeback. But a recent poll found only 34 percent of Iowans said they would back the party in this year's midterm elections, and more said they were turned off by politics altogether.

Inside Washington

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Washington Post, Congress will return to a full slate of thorny issues — with deadlines looming, Jeff Stein, Jan. 2, 2018 (print edition). Fresh off a party-line vote on the GOP tax overhaul, the ability of lawmakers and the White House to craft any form of bipartisan agreement will be tested on topics such as funding the government, stabilizing a health insurance program for poor children and whether to shield young undocumented immigrants from deportation.

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epa general logoWashington Post, How Scott Pruitt turned the EPA into one of Trump’s most powerful tools, Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin, Jan. 2, 2018. In legal maneuvers and executive actions, in public speeches and closed-door meetings with industry groups, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency has moved to shrink its reach, alter its focus, and pause or reverse numerous rules. The effect has been to steer the EPA in the direction sought by those being regulated.

Global News: Israeli Right Continues Land Grab

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benjamin netanyahu smileNew York Times, Israeli Right Presses Moves to Doom 2-State Solution, David M. Halbfinger, Jan. 2, 2017 (print edition). After President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party has seized momentum to strengthen Israel’s rule of the West Bank.

Moon of Alabama, Analysis: Iran. Protests Decrease, Riots Increase, U.S. Prepares The Next Phase, B, Jan. 2, 2018.  The riots and protests in Iran continue for a 6th day. While "western" media claim that the protests are growing I see no evidence for that in the various videos that appear online. The legitimate protests over price rises, failing private banks and against the new neoliberal austerity budget of President Rohani were hijacked early on by rioting gangs. These are obviously coordinated from the outside of the country through various internet applications, especially Telegram and Instagram.

iran flag mapThe groups of rioters are between 30 and 80 people in size with a some bystanders milling around. They seem to follow a flash mob strategy appearing here and there and to vanish again when police appears in force. In some cities rioters attacked police stations, military posts and were even stealing firetrucks. Some of the rioters are evidently trying to get their hands on weapons.

Altogether only a few thousand people, overwhelmingly male youth, seem to be involved. Thousands protest in Israel each week against the corruption of Prime Minister Netanyahoo. On New-Years-Eve more than 1,000 cars in France were set alight by arsonists. None of this is front page news but a few dozen riots in Iran get elevated to a "revolution".

The total death toll of the "peaceful protests" is now some 21 of which (by my count) at least five were policemen killed in attacks by "protesters" and two unrelated civilians who were run over and killed by rioters driving a stolen firetruck. Six rioters were killed when they tried to attack a police station in the town of Qahderijan. The governor there claimed that the attackers were armed with guns.

The same faking of pictures of large demonstrations and "evidence" of government brutality that we have seen with regard to the war on Syria is taking place with Iran. Videos of demonstrations from Argentine and Bahrain are used to claim large demonstrations in Iran.

The terrorist group MEK (NCRI, MKO) "leaked" fake protocols of an alleged government meeting which it claims shows panic over the protests. The MEK has paid large sums to get support from politicians, including John McCain in Washington and elsewhere. During the Iraq-Iran war it fought against Iran on the side of Iraq. After the U.S. invaded Iraq the MEK was held in special camps under U.S. control. According to a 2012 Seymour Hersh report the U.S. military trained MEK fighters in the U.S. in sabotage and insurgency technics. These people are deeply hated in Iran but feared they are not. Their early engagement in the "protests" via their website and propaganda ops in Iran may point to deeper role in the riots.

The rioting at the current level is in no way endangering the Iranian republic. Should some rioters acquire weapons the intensity might change a bit. But unless they receive material and personal support from the outside, like it happened in Syria, the situation will soon calm down.

cia logoI had documented in earlier posts that the Trump administration, in tight co-operations with Israel, long prepared for an intensification of a conflict with Iran. Half a year ago. the CIA set up a special office with a high level Iran hawk leading the charge. Last month Trump named another Iran hawk to lead the State Department Middle East section.

Since the Iranian people successfully achieved "regime change" in 1979 the U.S. and Britain have had an adversarial policy against Iran. It has ebbed and flowed in intensity but never changed. Under Trump, we will see a rapid increase of hostile actions. The administration just called for a UN emergency session about the situation. That is a laughable move when one considers the size of daily murder the U.S. and its allies commit in Yemen, Syria and Palestine. But the operation that unfolds now is likely just a small part of a larger anti-Iran strategy that has yet to become visible.

Jan. 1

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New York Times, Activists Exploit Effort to Expose Sex Harassment, Kenneth P. Vogel, Jan. 1, 2018 (print edition). The earthquake of sexual misconduct allegations has taken down powerful men without regard to politics, but as it shakes Washington, accusations are taking on a partisan tint.

djt official SmallAs the #MeToo movement to expose sexual harassment roils the nation’s capital, political partisans are exploiting the moment, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to support accusers who come forward with charges against President Trump and members of Congress, even amid questions about their motivation.

As accusations take on a partisan tint, activists and lawyers fear that such an evolution could damage a movement that has shaken Hollywood, Silicon Valley, media suites in New York and the hallways of Congress — and has taken down both a Democratic fund-raiser, Harvey Weinstein, and a conservative stalwart, Bill O’Reilly.

“There is a danger in this environment that unsophisticated individuals who have been abused by powerful people could be exploited by groups seeking partisan advantage, or by lawyers seeking a moment in the limelight,” said Debra Katz, a Washington lawyer who has brought sexual harassment cases against politicians from both parties.The lawyers and operatives behind the most politically charged cases brush off those concerns.

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New York Times, Powerful Hollywood Women Unveil Anti-Harassment Plan, Cara Buckley, Jan. 1, 2018 (print edition). Shonda Rhimes and Reese Witherspoon are among the 300 actresses and insiders behind Time’s Up, an initiative for legal protections for workers nationwide.

Deep DC Intrigues

jefferson morley newThe Intercept, Wilderness of Mirrors, Jefferson Morley (shown at right and the author of a new book, The Ghost, a biography of James J. Angleton), Jan. 1, 2018. Documents Reveal the Complex Legacy of James Angleton, CIA Counterintelligence Chief and Godfather of Mass Surveillance.

Veteran CIA officer Cleveland Cram was nearing the end of his career in 1978, when his superiors in the agency’s directorate of operations handed him a sensitive assignment: Write a history of the agency’s Counterintelligence Staff. Cram, then 61, was well qualified for the task. He had a master’s and Ph.D. in European History from Harvard. He had served two decades in the clandestine service, including nine years as deputy chief of the CIA’s station in London.

jefferson morley the ghost coverCram was assigned to investigate a debacle. The Counterintelligence Staff, created in 1954, had been headed for 20 years by James Jesus Angleton, a legendary spy who deployed the techniques of literary criticism learned at Yale to find deep patterns and hidden meanings in the records of KGB operations against the West. But Angleton was also a dogmatic and conspiratorial operator whose idiosyncratic theories paralyzed the agency’s operations against the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War, and whose domestic surveillance operations targeting American dissidents had discredited the CIA in the court of public opinion.

Cram’s mission — and he chose to accept it — was to soberly answer the questions that senior CIA officials were asking in their private moments: What in the name of God and national security had Jim Angleton been doing when he ran the Counterintelligence Staff from 1954 to 1974? Did his operations serve the agency’s mission? Did they serve the country?

Global News: Syrian War Update

syrian map 1 1 2018

SouthFront, Map Update: General Look At Military Situation In Syria, Staff report, Jan. 1, 2018.  This map, released by 24 Resistance Axis, provides a general look at the military situation in Syria on December 31, 2017.

According to the map, the Damascus government is noow in control of 100,120.03 km² – 51.9% of Syria (shown in red). The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces control 47,533.14 km², mostly in northern and eastern Syria – 24.6% of the country (yellow). Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) and its allies control 20,852.18 km² – 10.8% of the country (green, aside from a U.S.-influenced zone at the map's center and mostly desert). The Turkish Armed Forces and Turkish proxies control 7,101 km² – 3,7% of Syria (gray). ISIS still keeps official presence in about 16,109.4 km² – 8.4% of the country (dark brown, mostly desert). However, the group has a large network of sleeper cells across Syria.

The Syrian military, backed by Iran and Russia, is now focused on liberating the Beit Jinn pocket in west of Damascus and the militant-held areas in southern Idlib and southern Aleppo. The situation also remains tense in the Eastern Ghouta region east of Damascus where Ahrar al-Sham and Jaish al-Islam resist to the Syrian Army.

Media: New Publisher Opines At New York Times

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New York Times, Opinion: Note From Our New Publisher, A. G. (Arthur Gregg) Sulzberger, Jan. 1, 2018. In 1896 my great-great-grandfather left his hometown, Chattanooga, and traveled north to purchase a small, fading newspaper in New York. The moment was not unlike our own. Technological, economic and social turmoil were upending the traditions of the country. People trying to understand these changes and their implications found themselves confused by polarized politics and by a partisan press more focused on advancing its own interests than on informing the public.

Against this backdrop Adolph Ochs saw the need for a different kind of newspaper, and he committed The New York Times to the then-radical idea that still animates it today. He vowed that The Times would be fiercely independent, dedicated to journalism of the highest integrity and devoted to the public welfare.

Media: Wacko Discipline

Al.com, Anniston Star's ex-publisher spanked female employees in the 1970s, reports say, Leada Gore, Jan. 1, 2017. Brandt Ayers, former publisher and now chairman of the company that publishes The Anniston Star, spanked female employees in the 1970s, several former staffers claim.

The allegations come from female employees who said they were targeted and sexually abused by Ayers, now 82, while working in the paper's newsroom. One of the women, Veronica Pike Kennedy, told the Alabama Political Reporter she was working at the newspaper early one Saturday when Ayers approached her about an editorial he had written and then told her she was being a "bad girl" and he would "have to spank" her.

Kennedy said Ayers pulled her out of her chair, bent her over a desk and spanked her 18 times with a metal ruler. The incident was witnessed by another Star reporter who allegedly confirmed the account. Kennedy was 22 at the time of the alleged incident; Ayers was in his early 40s. Several other female Star staffers reported similar contact with Ayers.

Ayers issued a statement through a Jan. 1 story published in The Star. "As a very young man with more authority than judgment, I did some things I regret," Ayers said. "At my advanced age I wish I could relive those days again, knowing the seriousness of my position and with the accumulated judgment that goes with age."

The allegations against Ayers were first detailed in an article in the Alabama Political Reporter by Eddie Burkhalter, a former Star reporter who left the newspaper in November after allegedly being prevented from reporting on the story. The Star's current staff began looking into the story when Joey Kennedy, Veronica Kennedy's husband, mentioned the incident - both not the publisher or the newspaper involved - in November, The Star said.

Ayers, the son of the newspaper's founder Harry Ayers, took over as publisher of the The Star in 1969, remaining in the position until 2016. He now serves as chairman of the board of Consolidated Publishing, publisher of The Star, The Daily Home and several weekly newspapers, and writes a column for the newspapers. Among his recent subjects was Roy Moore, the failed Republican Senate candidate who has been accused of having improper sexual contact with teenage girls in the 1970s.