March 2018 News Reports


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

March 18

washington post logofbi logoWashington Post, After McCabe firing, Trump attacks FBI and his lawyer says Russia probe must end, Philip Rucker, Matt Zapotosky and Carol D. Leonnig, March 18, 2018 (print edition). The president celebrated via Twitter the ouster of former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe, who had been probing connections between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia, as “A great day for Democracy.” McCabe said his dismissal was a deliberate effort to slander him and part of an “ongoing war” against the FBI and the Russia probe being led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

Russian Elections

ny times logoNew York Times, Election in Russia Is Sure to Give Putin 6 More Years, Neil MacFarquhar, March 18, 2018. Russians went to the polls on Sunday to vote in what was more a referendum on giving President Vladimir Putin another six years in office than an actual competitive race.

Vladimir PutinWith cold winter temperatures covering the vast, continental country, more than 110 million people were eligible to vote from the distant Kamchatka peninsula in the Far East to the Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad, where the last polls were due to close at 8 p.m. on Sunday.

Gone were the Soviet days when there was just one name on the ballot and the winner habitually harvested 99 percent of the vote. The spirit was similar, however, with pictures of Mr. Putin and his campaign slogan, “Strong president, strong Russia,” blanketing the country.

Mr. Putin, shown above, is popular and expected to win big, the only question being how many voters will participate in a hollow exercise unlikely to bring any significant change. The size of the turnout will be interpreted as the strength Mr. Putin’s mandate.

russian flagThere was only one woman among the eight candidates — Ksenia A. Sobchak, 36, the daughter of Mr. Putin’s political mentor and a reality TV star turned political journalist. The attitude of many voters, however, was that choosing any of the opposition candidates would be like asking one of the seven dwarves to assume the role of Snow White. “It is not easy to rule Russia; it is too big a country,” said Christina Amelina, 50, an artist.

The only serious challenger, Aleksei A. Navalny, was barred from running and has called for a boycott. But early indications from election officials indicated that turnout was running higher than in previous presidential votes.

More On Trump Probes

washington post logomark pocan CustomWashington Post, Congressman offers McCabe a job so he can get his pension. It might work, Amber Phillips, March 18, 2018 (print edition). McCabe was fired roughly a day before he was set to retire. With 20 years of law enforcement service under his belt, he could take a federal job for a day to get his full retirement benefits, a former government official said.

[U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc., shown at right) made the job offer via Twitter.]

washington post logojennifer rubin twitterWashington Post, Opinion: McCabe’s firing shows yet again how readily Trump incriminates himself, Jennifer Rubin (shown at right), March 18, 2018 (print edition). President Trump, never able to conceal his vindictiveness and incapable of understanding what evidence might be used against him, gleefully tweeted, “Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI – A great day for Democracy. Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!”

No wonder Trump’s lawyers seem unable to imagine allowing him to sit for an interview with special prosecutor Robert S. Mueller III. He is likely to blurt out something akin to, “Yay, that’ll show McCabe and others what happens when they decide to help Comey!” That’s the essence of the tweet Trump could not resist sending.

Unfortunately for McCabe, his ability to challenge his firing is limited. “There is honestly few legal recourses for him to pursue absent discriminatory actions,” says attorney Mark Zaid, who specializes in defending national security employees. “In my 25 years of federal legal practice, I have found FBI’s due process to be sorely lacking.”

In sum, once more, a Trump-inspired stunt is likely to backfire. The politics are irrelevant to Mueller, who now views each of Trump’s antics through a single lens: Does this reveal corrupt intent to disable an investigation into Trump’s conduct? In this case, Trump leaves little doubt as to his motives.

March 17

djt robert mueller whowhatwhy adapted from fbi white house

Special Counsel Robert Mueller III and President Trump (FBI and White House photos adapted by WhoWhatWhy)

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Analysis: Subpoena of Trump Organization Records Brings Mueller Closer to Sater, Cohen, Kirsty Vitarelli, March 17, 2018. General Counsel Robert Mueller is scrutinizing Donald Trump’s business dealings and getting closer to the president’s friends who have Russian connections. News that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed Trump Organization records puts the president in a really tough spot with no good choices.

The move shows that Mueller clearly couldn’t care less about the “red line” President Donald Trump drew in July last year during an interview with the New York Times. The president was asked whether investigating his personal and family finances unrelated to Russia would be crossing a red line.

fbi logo“I would say yes,” Trump said back then. But that is precisely what Mueller seems to be doing now. Such a move could lead Trump to try getting rid of Mueller, something many of the president’s own allies believe would be a catastrophic decision.

If Mueller continues down this path, however, he will get a much clearer picture of Trump’s financial ties to Putin’s regime and to dubious figures in the US and within Russia. WhoWhatWhy has extensively covered some of the figures who likely will come under Mueller’s scrutiny.

andrew mccabe c span may 11 2017

ny times logoNew York Times, McCabe Says His Firing Was Meant to Undermine Mueller, Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, March 17, 2018. Andrew McCabe (shown above in a file photo), the ex-F.B.I. deputy director, said his dismissal was meant to undermine his credibility as a potential witness in the Russia inquiry led by Robert S. Mueller III.

Andrew G. McCabe, the former F.B.I. deputy director and a frequent target of President Trump’s scorn, was fired Friday after Attorney General Jeff Sessions rejected an appeal that would have let him retire this weekend. Mr. McCabe promptly declared that his firing, and Mr. Trump’s persistent needling, were intended to undermine the special counsel’s investigation in which he is a potential witness.

fbi logoMr. McCabe is accused in a yet-to-be-released internal report of failing to be forthcoming about a conversation he authorized between F.B.I. officials and a journalist. In a statement released late Friday, Mr. Sessions said that Mr. McCabe had shown a lack of candor under oath on multiple occasions.

Early Saturday morning, the president weighed in with another shot at Mr. McCabe, posting on Twitter that it was “a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI.”

In an interview, Mr. McCabe was blunt. “The idea that I was dishonest is just wrong,” he said, adding, “This is part of an effort to discredit me as a witness.”

F.B.I. disciplinary officials michael horowitz Custom(including Inspector General Michael Horwitz, shown at right) recommended his dismissal. Mr. McCabe, who stepped down in January and took a leave of absence, denied the accusation and appealed this week to senior career officials in the Justice Department. Lack of candor is a fireable offense at the F.B.I., but Mr. McCabe’s last-minute dismissal was carried out against a highly politicized backdrop.

james comey fbi portraitMr. McCabe was among the first at the F.B.I. to scrutinize possible Trump campaign ties to Russia. And he is a potential witness to the question of whether Mr. Trump tried to obstruct justice. Mr. Trump has taunted Mr. McCabe both publicly and privately, and Republican allies have cast him as the center of a “deep state” effort to undermine the Trump presidency.

As a witness, Mr. McCabe would be in a position to corroborate the testimony of the former F.B.I. director, James B. Comey (shown above left), who kept contemporaneous notes on his conversations with Mr. Trump. Mr. Comey said Mr. Trump prodded him to publicly exonerate the president on the question of Russian collusion and encouraged him to shut down an investigation into his national security adviser.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s lawyer calls on Justice Dept. to immediately end Russia probe, Carol D. Leonnig and Philip Rucker, March 17, 2018. Attorney John Dowd said in a statement that the investigation, now led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, was fatally flawed early on and “corrupted” by political bias.

He called on Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees that probe, to shut it down. Washington Post, Analysis: Dowd's statements seem to lay the groundwork for two things, one of which is firing Mueller, Aaron Blake.

washington post logoUnited Kingdom flagWashington Post, Russia to expel 23 British diplomats, close consulate in escalating row over poisoned ex-spy, Matthew Bodner and Karla Adam, March 17, 2018. The move comes three days after British Prime Minister Theresa May announced the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats.

john brennan official cia portraitThe Hill, Ex-CIA director slams Trump after McCabe firing: You'll be remembered as a 'disgraced demagogue,' Jacqueline Thomsen, March 17, 2018. Former CIA director John Brennan (shown in an official photo) tore into President Trump for celebrating the firing of former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe, saying Trump will be remembered as “a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history.”

“You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America...America will triumph over you,” Brennan tweeted at Trump. The former CIA director was responding to a tweet by Trump hailing McCabe’s firing as a "great day for democracy."

The Hill, Dem offers to hire McCabe to help him qualify for his pension, Jacqueline Thomsen, March 17, 2018. A Democratic lawmaker on Saturday offered to hire former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe in an effort to help McCabe qualify to receive his pension after being fired from the agency two days before he qualified to receive it.

Rep. Mark Pocanmark pocan Custom (D-Wisc., shown at left) was responding to a tweet from NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, who said the former FBI official might still be able to receive his pension if he’s hired by a member of Congress. “Andrew call me. I could use a good two-day report on the biggest crime families in Washington, D.C.,” Pocan tweeted.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired McCabe on Friday, two days before McCabe would qualify for his pension. Sessions dismissed McCabe after an internal report found he shared unauthorized information with the media and was not completely honest with investigators during their review.

Daily Beast, Andrew McCabe, formerly the deputy director of the FBI, has lawyered up, Betsy Woodruff, March 17, 2018. Michael Bromwich of the Bromwich Group confirmed to The Daily Beast that he is representing McCabe for the purposes of the matter that led to his firing.

fbi logo“This attack on my credibility is one part of a larger effort not just to slander me personally, but to taint the FBI, law enforcement, and intelligence professionals more generally,” McCabe said in a statement. “It is part of this Administration’s ongoing war on the FBI and the efforts of the Special Counsel investigation, which continue to this day.”

The Washington Post previously reported the news of Bromwich hire. Bromwich, who has been representing McCabe for several weeks, was formerly the inspector general of the Justice Department.

washington post logofacebook logoWashington Post, A voter profiling firm hired by Trump likely grabbed data for tens of millions of Facebook users, Craig Timberg and Elizabeth Dwoskin​, March 17, 2018. More than 50 million people may have been affected because of information collected by the “thisisyourdigitallife” app, much more than Facebook revealed earlier.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Now we know why Facebook chose right now to bust Cambridge Analytica, Bill Palmer, March 17, 2018. Last night Facebook took the unprecedented step of not only banning Trump campaign data firm Cambridge Analytica, but making a point of announcing it in a Friday night press release. The social network’s stated reasons for the ban related to abuse of Facebook user data, and made no mention of politics or the Trump-Russia scandal. Now we know why Facebook made the sudden move last night.

Despite having publicly denied it in testimony to the UK Parliament and elsewhere, Cambridge Analytica had business dealings with the Russians prior to the 2016 election, according to a New York Times report published today (link). This cannot have been a coincidence. Facebook had to have known this story was going to drop today, and thus it spent Friday night trying to get out ahead of it. There are major questions about whether Facebook should have banned the company a long time ago, but the upshot is this: Facebook appears to believe this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Trump Preparing For False-Flag War Against Syria, Russia?

syria flagSouthFront, Analysis: U.S. Deploys Naval Strike Groups For Attacks On Syria, Trains Militants For False Flag Chemical Attacks, Staff report, March 17, 2018. U.S. naval strike groups are preparing for a possible attack on Syria, the Russian Defense Ministry on March 17, 2018. “We note the evidence of preparation for possible attacks. Strike groups of naval carriers with cruise missiles are being formed in the Eastern part of the Mediterranean, in the Persian Gulf and in the Red Sea,” chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the Russian General Staff Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi said.

Rudskoi added that false flag chemical attacks and provocations will serve as a pretext for possible U.S. attacks. “We have reliable information at our disposal that US instructors have trained a number of militant groups in the vicinity of the town of At-Tanf, to stage provocations involving chemical warfare agents in southern Syria,” Rudskoi said. “Early in March, the saboteur groups were deployed to the southern de-escalation zone to the city of Deraa, where the units of the so-called Free Syrian Army are stationed.”

syrian white helmetsHe continued, “They are preparing a series of chemical munitions explosions. This fact will be used to blame the government forces. The components to produce chemical munitions have been already delivered to the southern de-escalation zone under the guise of humanitarian convoys of a number of NGOs.”

The Russian general added members of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (Jabhat al-Nusra) and the White Helmets (reportedly funded by pro-terrorist intelligence services and shown by their emblem) “are preparing a staged chemical attack in the Alghabit and Kalbb Lusa communities situated 25 km to the North-West of Idlib.” The militants allegedly have 20 chlorine containers for this.

sergei rudskoi

TASS, Over 44,000 civilians leave Eastern Ghouta through safe exit: Russian General Staff, Staff report, March 17, 2018. In recent days, a total of 44,639 people have been evacuated from Eastern Ghouta, the general Sergei Rudskoi said

More than 27,000 civilians have fled from Eastern Ghouta along the humanitarian corridor on Saturday, said Chief of the Russian General Staff’s Main Operations Department Colonel-General Sergei Rudskoi (shown above in a file photo). In recent days, a total of 44,639 people have been evacuated from Eastern Ghouta, the general said on Rossiya’24 television channel.

russian flagThe situation in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta has changed for the better, Rudskoi said. "Today, we can state that the situation in Eastern Ghouta has turned the tide," the general said. "Right now, you are witnessing a humanitarian operation, unique in scale."

A next aid convoy of the United Nations will set off to the Syrian town of Douma on Sunday, Chief of the Russian General Staff’s Main Operations Department Colonel-General. "Tomorrow, another UN humanitarian aid convoy, consisting of 25 heavy trucks, will head into the town of Douma for providing help to the residents," the general said.

Courts and Security

nsa logo 2Politico, Judge eases feds' case against NSA hoarder, Josh Gerstein, March 17, 2017. A federal judge handed prosecutors a significant win this week over a computer specialist accused of stealing a massive quantity of classified documents and data during two decades working at the National Security Agency and other agencies. U.S. District Judge Marvin Garbis backed away from his earlier concerns and ruled that prosecutors won't have to show defendant Harold Martin knew the contents of any of individual documents.

March 16

Justice Department Probes Of Trump

robert mueller graphic IMG 6401

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, as portrayed in a graphic widely disseminated on the web with the slogan "Objects in Mirror are Closer Than They Appear"

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Business Gets Subpoena From Mueller in Russia Inquiry, Michael S. Schmidt, and Maggie Haberman, March 16, 2018 (print edition). The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has subpoenaed records from President Trump’s business, including some related to Russia, people briefed on the matter said. It’s the first known time the special counsel has ordered that documents directly related to the president’s businesses be turned over.

Justice Department logoThe breadth of the subpoena was not clear, nor was it clear why Mr. Mueller issued it instead of simply asking for the documents from the company, an umbrella organization that oversees Mr. Trump’s business ventures. In the subpoena, delivered in recent weeks, Mr. Mueller ordered the Trump Organization to hand over all records related to Russia and other topics he is investigating, the people said.

The subpoena is the latest indication that the investigation, which Mr. Trump’s lawyers once regularly assured him would be completed by now, will drag on for at least several more months.

Word of the subpoena comes as Mr. Mueller appears to be broadening his investigation to examine the role foreign money may have played in funding Mr. Trump’s political activities. In recent weeks, Mr. Mueller’s investigators have questioned witnesses, including an adviser to the United Arab Emirates, about the flow of Emirati money into the United States.

washington post logoWashington Post, FBI's Andrew McCabe is fired just before retiring, Matt Zapotosky, March 17, 2018 (print edition). Former deputy director became lightning rod for Clinton email and Russia probes.

andrew mccabe c span may 11 2017Attorney General Jeff Sessions late Friday night fired former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe (shown at left), a little more than 24 hours before McCabe was set to retire. Sessions announced the decision in a statement just before 10 p.m., noting that both the Justice Department Inspector General and the FBI office that handles discipline had found “that Mr. McCabe had made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor — including under oath — on multiple occasions.”

He said based on those findings and the recommendation of the department’s senior career official, “I have terminated the employment of Andrew McCabe effective immediately.”

The move will likely cost McCabe a significant portion of his retirement benefits, though it is possible he could bring a legal challenge. McCabe has been fighting vigorously to keep his job, and on Thursday, he spent nearly four hours inside the Justice Department pleading his case.

McCabe has become a lightning rod in the political battles over the FBI’s most high-profile cases, including the Russia investigation and the probe of Hillary Clinton’s email practices. He has been a frequent target of criticism from President Trump.

Some in the bureau might view McCabe’s termination so close to retirement as an unnecessarily harsh and politically influenced punishment for a man who spent more than 20 years at the FBI. The White House had seemed to support such an outcome, though a spokeswoman said the decision was up to Sessions.

huff post logoHuffington Post, Read Andrew McCabe’s Response To Being Fired Two Days Before His Retirement, Eline Gordts, March 16, 2018. Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired the former deputy director of the FBI on Friday. In a court filing, the president weighs in for the first time directly on a case in which a porn actress was paid $130,000 to stay silent about an affair she claims she had with him.

McCabe response: "I have been an FBI Special Agent for over 21 years. I spent half of that time investigating Russian Organized Crime as a street agent and Supervisor in New York City. I have spent the second half of my career focusing on national security issues and protecting this country from terrorism. I served in some of the most challenging, demanding investigative and leadership roles in the FBI. And I was privileged to serve as Deputy Director during a particularly tough time.

"For the last year and a half, my family and I have been the targets of an unrelenting assault on our reputation and my service to this country. Articles too numerous to count have leveled every sort of false, defamatory and degrading allegation against us. The President’s tweets have amplified and exacerbated it all. He called for my firing. He called for me to be stripped of my pension after more than 20 years of service. And all along we have said nothing, never wanting to distract from the mission of the FBI by addressing the lies told and repeated about us.

No more...."

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. hits Russians with sanctions over election interference, cyberattacks, Ellen Nakashima​, March 16, 2018. The financial sanctions seek to deter Moscow from targeting this year’s midterm elections. It’s a noteworthy step, as President Trump has shown reluctance to blame the Kremlin for tampering with the 2016 presidential race despite the U.S. intelligence community's conclusion that Moscow did so.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Vanessa Trump hires criminal defense attorney amid Don Jr divorce. Here’s what that means for Trump-Russia, Bill Palmer, March 16, 2018. On Wednesday it was reported that Donald Trump Jr and Vanessa Trump were on the verge of getting divorced. On Thursday it was further reported that Vanessa had in fact filed for a speedy uncontested divorce, on the same day it was reported that Robert Mueller had subpoenaed the Trump Organization’s financial records, raising the question of whether she might be trying to hurry up and secure her share of the assets before they can end up being seized by the Feds.

Now the story has gotten even stranger. It’s now being reported by Page Six – the same celebrity site that got the divorce story correct to begin with – that Vanessa has hired a criminal defense attorney. That’s a highly irregular move for an uncontested divorce. Of course this is no ordinary divorce. Donald Trump Jr is under criminal investigation for his role in his father’s Trump-Russia scandal. He could end up being indicted for anything from obstruction of justice to conspiracy against the United States.

There are a few different reasons why Vanessa might have felt the need for a criminal attorney. One could be if she fears that the Feds might end up coming after her share of the family’s money. Another could be that she fears she’ll be targeted in the scandal, perhaps as a witness, as there is no indication that she’s a Trump-Russia investigation target (and yes, the divorce proceedings make spousal privilege murky). Yet another posssibility could be that she’s considering cutting a deal against Donald Trump Jr which would allow her to keep the money in exchange for her testimony.

The reality is that we still don’t know why this divorce is suddenly happening in the middle of the biggest criminal scandal in U.S. history. People get divorced all the time, and if Donald Trump Jr and Vanessa Trump are getting divorced for personal reasons, it’s none of our business. But if so, why did she just hire a criminal defense attorney? Stay tuned.

Porn Star Lawyer Claims Threat

nbc news logoNBC News, Stormy Daniels' lawyer says she was threatened with physical harm, Adam Edelman, Mar ch 16, 2018. Stormy Daniels' lawyer says she was threatened with physical harm. Michael Avenatti, the attorney for the adult film star, wouldn't say who threatened her.

Adult film star Stormy Daniels — who has said in a lawsuit that she had an "intimate" relationship with Donald Trump a decade before he became president — was physically threatened in relation to her attempts go public with her story, her attorney said Friday.

djt stormy daniels 2006In an interview with MSNBC’s "Morning Joe," Michael Avenatti, an attorney for Daniels, repeatedly said that his client had been threatened, but wouldn’t say by who. He also declined to give details on the nature of the threats. Attorney says Stormy Daniels (shown with Trump in a 2006 photo) was threatened physically.

"There’s the act and then there’s the cover-up, and the American people are going to learn about both," Avenatti said, referring to a secrecy agreement facilitated by Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, that Clifford signed in exchange for $130,000 before the 2016 election.

"Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski then asked whether Clifford was "threatened in any way."

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Lawyers Seek $20 Million From Stormy Daniels, Jim Rutenberg and Maggie Haberman, March 16, 2018. President Trump, weighing in directly on the Stephanie Clifford case for the first time, claimed in court papers filed by his lawyers on Friday that the porn actress who alleges she had an affair with him violated a confidentiality agreement at least 20 times, exposing her to damages of at least $20 million.

President Trump’s lawyers filed two motions on Friday in United States District Court in California in a public legal fight that Ms. Clifford, whose stage name is Stormy Daniels, started last week. That’s when she sued to get out of an agreement that she had struck to be paid $130,000 to stay silent about an affair she alleges to have had with Mr. Trump starting in 2006.

Mr. Trump formally joined his legal team’s response to Ms. Clifford’s suit in a motion, filed Friday, to move the case from state court in Los Angeles, where Ms. Clifford filed her claim, to federal court.

Mr. Trump’s reason for asking that the case be moved probably concerns the Federal Arbitration Act, which makes arbitration the preferred forum for resolving many kinds of disputes. Federal courts have applied that law more strictly than state courts, particularly ones in California. Mr. Trump may be hoping that his chances of keeping the dispute in arbitration and out of public view are better before a federal judge than a state one.

When Mr. Cohen brought a temporary restraining order seeking to silence Ms. Clifford in late February, he did so on behalf of a shell company he used to pay her through, not on behalf of Mr. Trump.

Florida Bridge Collapse

washington post logoWashington Post, Engineer on Fla. bridge project called state to report crack days before collapse, Michael Laris and Susan Svrluga, March 16, 2018.  The Florida Department of Transportation released the transcript of a call from an engineer that the agency got Tuesday. “Calling to, uh, share with you some information about the FIU pedestrian bridge and some cracking that’s been observed on the north end of the span.” The message was left on a land line and not retrieved until Friday.

ny times logoNew York Times, There Are Bodies Down There and We Can’t Get to Them,’ Patricia Mazzei and Jonah Engel Bromwich, March 16, 2018. Several cars were still trapped under the pedestrian walkway, which was designed to connect the campus of Florida International University to the city of Sweetwater.

washington post logoWashington Post, Recovery efforts continue after at least 6 killed in pedestrian bridge collapse at Fla. college, Francisco Alvarado, Susan Svrluga, Faiz Siddiqui and J. Freedom du Lac​, March 16, 2018. Officials don't expect to find any more survivors after the bridge fell over a busy road west of Miami, crushing eight vehicles and leaving rescue workers racing to free victims from chunks of concrete and snapped metal.

Other Top Trump Ousters Predicted

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: The Top Trump Aides Who Are Seen as Next in His Purge, Michael D. Shear and Maggie Haberman, March 16, 2018.  President Trump met with Ben Carson, who is under fire over spending at the housing department. And the national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, is rumored to be on the outs, too, but it is not clear when.

“There will always be change. I think you want to see change,” Mr. Trump said, ominously, on Thursday. “I want to also see different ideas.”

ben carsonJohn F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, met early Friday morning with Ben Carson, the secretary of housing and urban development, according to one official briefed on the meeting, amid speculation that Mr. Carson (shown at right) would be pushed out of the cabinet because of the bad publicity he received for the purchase of $31,000 in furniture for his office.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump decides to remove national security adviser, and others may follow, Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey, Philip Rucker and Carol D. Leonnig, March 16, 2018 (print edition). In yet another jolt to the senior ranks of his administration, President Trump is ready to remove H.R. McMaster but is willing to take his time to ensure that the three-star Army general is not humiliated and that he has a strong successor lined up, according to people familiar with the plans.

hr mcmaster cropped may 15 2017 ap President Trump has decided to remove H.R. McMaster (shown at right) as his national security adviser and is actively discussing potential replacements, according to five people with knowledge of the plans, preparing to deliver yet another jolt to the senior ranks of his administration.

The turbulence is part of a broader potential shake-up under consideration by Trump that is likely to include senior officials at the White House, where staffers are gripped by fear and un­certainty as they await the next move from an impulsive president who enjoys stoking conflict.

kim jong un uniformedFor all of the evident disorder, Trump feels emboldened, advisers said — buoyed by what he views as triumphant decisions last week to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum and to agree to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (shown at left). The president is enjoying the process of assessing his team and making changes, tightening his inner circle to those he considers survivors and who respect his unconventional style, one senior White House official said.

washington post logoWashington Post, President may hire multiple cable news personalities as part of White House shake-up, James Hohmann, March 16, 2018. Trump’s reality television presidency may be getting more star power as he turns to talking heads to join the administration. Trump has decided to remove H.R. McMaster as his national security adviser and is actively discussing Fox News contributor John Bolton as a potential successor.

A leading contender to replace Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin is Pete Hegseth, the co-host of “Fox and Friends Weekend.” The president named CNBC analyst and former host Larry Kudlow to replace former Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn as his chief economic adviser on Wednesday.

Heather Nauert, a former co-host of “Fox and Friends,” got promoted on Monday from being a spokeswoman for the State Department to acting undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs. She replaced Steve Goldstein, who was fired because he publicly contradicted the White House’s claim that Rex Tillerson knew he was being fired before Trump announced it on Twitter. (Is it any coincidence that Mike Pompeo got elevated from Langley to Foggy Bottom the morning after he aggressively went to bat for Trump on the Sunday shows?)

washington post logoelijah cummings oWashington Post, Democrats say they have proof State Dept. staff was pushed out for disloyalty to Trump, Karoun Demirjian and Carol Morello, March 16, 2018. Reps. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), shown at right, and Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.) said whistleblower documents suggest several career officials were targeted as part of a “cleaning” of staff suspected of being “not sufficiently ‘supportive’ of President Trump’s agenda.”

Global News: Missing Korean Story?

Truthdig, Analysis: South Korean Report on Summit Discredits U.S. Elites' Assumption, Gareth Porter, March 16, 2018. Media coverage of and political reactions to Donald Trump’s announcement of a summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have been based on the assumption that it cannot succeed, because Kim will reject the idea of denuclearization.

But the full report by South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s national security adviser on the meeting with Kim last week — covered by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency but not covered in U.S. news media — makes it clear that Kim will present Trump with a plan for complete denuclearization linked to the normalization of relations between the U.S. and North Korea, or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

The report by Chung Eui-yong on a dinner hosted by Kim Jong Un for the 10-member South Korean delegation on March 5 said the North Korea leader had affirmed his “commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” and that he “would have no reason to possess nuclear weapons should the safety of [his] regime be guaranteed and military threats against North Korea removed.”

Global News: South Africa

ny times logojacob zuma 2017New York Times, Former South Africa Leader Is Charged With Corruption, Norimitsu Onishi, March 16, 2018. The announcement was the latest chapter in a long-running case that nearly derailed Jacob Zuma’s bid for the presidency and laid the seeds of a culture of graft that has flourished in recent years.

Global News: Trump's $4b Plea To Saudis

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump wants to get the U.S. out of Syria’s war, so he asked the Saudi king for $4 billion , Paul Sonne and Karen DeYoung, March 16, 2018.  After a December phone call with King Salman, according to U.S. officials, President Trump believed he had a deal that would help rebuild and stabilize the parts of Syria that the U.S. military and its local allies have liberated from the Islamic State.

salman bin abdull aziz decr 9 2013In a December phone call with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman (shown left), President Trump had an idea he thought could hasten a U.S. exit from Syria: Ask the king for $4 billion. By the end of the call, according to U.S. officials, the president believed he had a deal.

The White House wants money from the kingdom and other nations to help rebuild and stabilize the parts of Syria that the U.S. military and its local allies have liberated from the Islamic State. The postwar goal is to prevent Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian and Iranian partners from claiming the areas, or the Islamic State from regrouping, while U.S. forces finish mopping up the militants.

The Saudis, whose crown prince arrives in Washington on Monday for extensive meetings with the administration, are part of the anti-Islamic State coalition but have largely withdrawn from the fight in Syria in recent years. They are questioning the eye-popping sum even as U.S. officials at one point were drawing up line items totaling $4 billion.

Seven U.S. Troops Killed In Iraq

ny times logoNew York Times, All 7 U.S. Troops Aboard Helicopter Killed in Crash in Iraq, Eileen Sullivan, March 16, 2018. All seven service members aboard a military helicopter died in a crash in western Iraq on Thursday. The crash is under investigation but is not believed to be a result of enemy action.

Media/Propaganda/Spy Poisoning

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Governments Decree 'Truth' About Skripal -- Dissenters Will Be Punished, B, March 16, 2018. The Skripal incident is now, by chance or by design, part of a much larger campaign about 'western' dominance over 'the east.' Russia, which ended the unilateral moment of U.S. nuclear primacy, is currently the main target. The situation is extremely dangerous as any further escalation, in the Middle East, the Ukraine ore elsewhere, might lead to a war between nuclear armed powers.

The government-decreed 'truth' about the Skripal case has many discrepancies. The connection of the case to Russia is much weaker than the propaganda claims. But doubt and dissent about it are not allowed to prevail.

The political response to the incident around the British-Russian double-agent Sergej Skripal and his daughter started slowly. On Sunday, the 4th of March, Skripal and his daughter were found unconscious on a public bench in Salisbury, England. The local police and emergency services took care of them. Only on March 8 did the case start to make larger waves.

What we are seeing here with the Skripal incident and the "Novichok" claims is a gigantic propaganda campaign comparable to the 2001 Anthrax scare in the U.S. and the whole "weapons of mass destruction" campaign that heralded the U.S./UK war on Iraq. Provoking Russia further will not end well. Rattlesnakes are shy, but at some point they have no other way out than to bite.

More Inside Washington

washington post logoWashington Post, The court battle over AT&T’s mega-merger comes down to $463 million vs. 45 cents, Brian Fung, March 16, 2018. How the government fares with its challenge to the $85 billion deal — saying it would hurt consumers — could change the course of American dealmaking.

Justice Department logoWhen the Justice Department goes to court Monday to try to block the $85 billion megamerger between AT&T and Time Warner, it will rely on a tried-and-true approach of arguing that the deal would raise prices for ordinary consumers. The agency’s expert economist has estimated the precise increase in cost to cable TV subscribers — $463 million a year or, as AT&T points out, about 45 cents a month per user.

Whether that amount is truly harmful to competition will be at the heart of one of the most closely watched antitrust trials in decades.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats balk as Republicans try to use must-pass spending bill to fix tax law, Erica Werner​, March 16, 2018.  The tax law inadvertently helped farm co-operatives over traditional businesses. But Democrats, who were shut out of the tax law process, now don't want to cooperate unless they get something in return.

washington post logodean hellerWashington Post, Trump nudges GOP challenger out of Nevada Senate race, aiding incumbent Dean Heller, Mike DeBonis, March 16, 2018. President Trump ended a nasty intraparty duel Friday by persuading a Republican running a populist, unabashedly pro-Trump campaign to abandon his effort to unseat Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev., shown at right) this year.

The challenger, Danny Tarkanian, said he would seek a Nevada House seat instead, removing a major headache for GOP strategists who are looking to preserve or even expand the one-seat Republican Senate majority in November’s midterm elections. A competitive GOP primary would have boosted Democrats who are hoping to snatch the seat.

U.S. Liberal Leader Dies

ny times logolouise.slaughterNew York Times, Louise Slaughter, 16-Term Liberal Congresswoman, Dies at 88, Joseph P. Fried, March 16, 2018. Louise M. Slaughter, a liberal Democrat who represented an upstate New York district in Congress for more than three decades, pushing to protect health privacy and abortion rights and playing a key role in the passage of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, died on Friday in Washington. She was 88 and in the midst of her 16th term in the House.

In announcing her death, at George Washington University Hospital, her chief of staff, Liam Fitzsimmons, said Ms. Slaughter (shown above) had sustained an injury last week at her home in Washington. Ms. Slaughter was a native of rural Kentucky who moved to the Rochester area with university degrees in microbiology and public health. Her studies shaped her agenda in the House, to which she was first elected in 1986 to represent Rochester and its surroundings. She rose to become the first chairwoman of the House Committee on Rules, which was formally constituted in 1789. She remained its ranking member.

Legislation that Ms. Slaughter proposed in 1995, and for which she pressed repeatedly, was finally enacted in 2008 as the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, aimed at banning discrimination by employers and insurers based on a person’s genetic information.

Courts, Crime, Race

washington post logoWashington Post, Black man beaten in Charlottesville found not guilty of assaulting white supremacist, Ian Shapira​, March 16, 2018. Two months after being beaten, DeAndre Harris, 20, unexpectedly faced a felony charge for the unlawful wounding of a League of the South member.

Hacker Dies

adrian lamo cropped Custom

New York Daily News, Infamous hacker who gave up whistleblower Chelsea Manning to the FBI dies in Kansas, Chris Sommerfeldt, March 16, 2018. The controversial hacker who gave up Chelsea Manning to the FBI died in Kansas this week, according to relatives and local officials.

Adrian Lamo (shown above in a file photo), who first came into the public spotlight after hacking into servers at the New York Times, Microsoft and Yahoo in the early 2000s, died in his hometown of Wichita, Kansas, at some point this week, a spokeswoman for the Segdwick County coroner confirmed to the Daily News. It was not immediately clear how or when the Colombian-American hacker passed away. He was 37.

March 15

wayne madsen presstvWayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Report: Trump clan has mob-linked double murder and maybe more on its hands, Wayne Madsen, March 15, 2018 (subscription required). Author and public affairs commentator Wayne Madsen (right) was a Navy intelligence officer for 14 years and then a defence contracting executive and think tank security and privacy expert.

Did Trump Admit Lying About Canadian Trade?

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Why Trump’s admission that he made stuff up to Justin Trudeau is particularly bad, Aaron Blake, March 15, 2018. It's one thing to make stuff up; it's another to do it like this. In fundraising speech, Trump says he made up trade claim in meeting with Justin Trudeau. In Missouri, the president also seemed to threaten to withdraw U.S. troops from South Korea over trade.

canadian flagIn a fundraising speech Wednesday, President Trump admitted once and for all that he just makes stuff up. The man who has racked up more than 2,000 false and misleading claims as president said he insisted to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that United States runs a trade deficit with Canada — despite having “no idea” whether that was the case. (Surprise! It's not.)

“I said, ‘Wrong, Justin, you do.’ I didn’t even know,” Trump said. “I had no idea. I just said, ‘You’re wrong.’ You know why? Because we’re so stupid.”

None of this is hugely surprising. Trump utters way too many falsehoods for it to be a coincidence. And we've seen over and over again — particularly most recently in meetings with lawmakers about guns and immigration — that Trump simply doesn't do his homework beforehand. He generally doesn't seem to have even a cursory understanding of what Congress is up to or about the underlying policies.

But the fact that Trump would make up this particular fact is especially remarkable and ominous.

washington post logoWashington Post, A whopper of an alternative fact from Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Callum Borchers, March 15, 2018. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders (shown at right in a file photo) fed reporters and the public a whopper of an alternative fact at Thursday's media briefing, denying that President Trump said something that is, in reality, on tape.

sarah huckabee sanders screenshotFox News Radio's Jon Decker tried to pose a question that he said “has to do with a story which appeared first in The Washington Post about an audio portion from a fundraiser the president had in Missouri, in which he said he was not exactly truthful in his conversation with his counterpart from Canada, Prime Minister Trudeau.”

Sanders cut off Decker there. “That's actually not what he said,” she asserted. Yes, it is what he said.

Trump Town

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump Cabinet members accused of living large at taxpayer expense, Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis, March 15, 2018. A half-dozen senior officials are mired in investigations over high-end travel, the role of family members in official business and extravagant expenses.

Newly disclosed documents revealed fresh details about scandals at the EPA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Fatal Bridge Collapse In Florida

ny times logoNew York Times, At Least Four Dead as Pedestrian Bridge Collapses in Miami, Nick Madigan, Frances Robles and Anemona Hartocollis, March 15, 2018. The pedestrian walkway at Florida International University was under construction and not yet open to the public, a university official said. The bridge had a span of about 174 feet over Southwest Eighth Street, a major thoroughfare that crosses the county, connecting the F.I.U. campus in western Miami-Dade County with the city of Sweetwater.

It had been assembled off-site and moved to the location on Saturday. The bridge was still under construction and was not expected to open to the public until the end of the year, a university official said.

The National Transportation Safety Board said that it would investigate the collapse. Munilla Construction Management, which was building the bridge, promised in a statement that it would investigate what went wrong and would cooperate with any other inquiry. The engineering firm for the project, FIGG Bridge Engineers, said that it would also cooperate with investigators.

U.S. Politics: House Recount?

washington post logorepublican elephant logoWashington Post, Republicans hint at recount in Pennsylvania congressional race, with odds against them, David Weigel and Mike DeBonis, March 15, 2018. The drama in the district apparently won by Democrat Conor Lamb is one of several roiling the state’s politics, just days before candidates file in new districts created by a court ruling.

washington post logofbi logoWashington Post, FBI official Andrew McCabe, hoping to retire, asks Justice Dept. not to fire him, Matt Zapotosky​, March 15, 2018. 1 The decision could be consequential for the former FBI deputy director’s financial future, as if he is fired, he could lose significant retirement benefits.

Climate Change: Islands At Risk

easter island icons Ahu Akivi 1ny times logoNew York Times, Easter Island is critically vulnerable to rising ocean levels, Nicholas Casey and Times photographs/video by Josh Haner, March 15, 2018. Waves are beginning to reach statues and platforms built by an ancient civilization,

Fox Pushes Reverse #MeToo, Targeting Women

ny times logoNew York Times, At the Fox News Site, a Sudden Focus on Women as Sex Offenders, Jonathan Galinsky, March 15, 2018 (print edition). In November, there was the story of a 22-year-old science teacher arrested in Oklahoma for her “sex romp” with a male student. In September, an article told of a 38-year-old teacher who kissed a student and let him “touch her breasts behind Culver’s,” a burger joint in Kerrville, Tex. And in July there was a report on a 54-year-old music teacher in Georgia who, a headline announced, “blames male student, 17, for tricking her into having sex ‘like a used-car salesman.’”

fox news logo SmallInstances of female teachers sexually abusing male students are rare. But stories on the subject have lately taken up a lot of space at

Through the first half of 2017, the site posted fewer than 20 stories on women accused of sex offenses. The new focus started on June 30, when published an article on “the apparently increasing frequency of female teachers having sex with their young male students.” Over the next six months the site posted some 98 articles on instances of sexual abuse allegedly committed by women, most of them teachers.

Tales of the unusual suit the tabloid aesthetic of much of the site’s content. What was noteworthy was the spike in coverage of the subject, which began a few weeks after Noah Kotch, a former producer at NBC’s “Today” show, became the site’s editor in chief. It also came in the aftermath of numerous sexual harassment scandals at Fox News.

Propaganda Wars Heat Up

washington post logoUnited Kingdom flagWashington Post, U.S., two major allies back Britain’s claim that Russia likely tied to ex-spy’s poisoning, Karla Adam and Matthew Bodner, March 15, 2018. The nerve agent attack “threatens the security of us all,” reads a joint statement from President Trump and the leaders of Britain, France and Germany. It signaled another step in mounting international pressure on Russia over apparent ties to the assault on the former spy and his daughter.

Evacuation of civilians from East Ghouta

SouthFront, Syrian Army Liberates Another Town In Heart Of Eastern Ghouta, Evacuates 12,500 Civilians (Map, Video), Staff report, March 15, 2018. On March 15, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the Tiger Forces backed up by the Russian Aerospace Forces captured the town of Hammuriyah in the center of the Eastern Ghouta region from US-backed Faylaq al-Rahman, according to pro-government sources.

syria flagEarlier, Riam Dalati, a BBC journalist, revealed that militants had started withdrawing from the towns of Hammuriyah and Saqba. Following the liberation of positions in the eastern part of Hammuriyah, the SAA opened a safe route allowing civilians to left the combat area. Thousands of families were immediately evacuated by the SAA through the route. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), the SAA evacuated over 12,500 civilians from Hammuriyah and neighboring areas during the last few hours only. More civilians are expected to leave the pocket in the upcoming hours.

Meanwhile, a new humanitarian aid convoy of the UN entered the Jaysh al-Islam-held district pf Duma in the northern part of Eastern Ghouta in coordination with the SAA, according to SOHR. The district is currently witnessing calmness as Jaysh al-Islam appears to be respecting the humanitarian ceasefire. The upcoming hours will likely witness further collapse of Faylaq al-Rahman’s defense in the western part of Eastern Ghouta. If the SAA continues its rapid advance there while evacuating the civilians, the battle for Eastern Ghouta may end in favour of the SAA soon.

SouthFront, White Helmets Accuse “Assad Regime” Of Using Chlorine Gas In Eastern Ghouta, MSM Repeats, Staff report, March 15, 2018. On March 15, the White Helmets, a notorious pro-militant propaganda mouthpiece, accused the “Assad regime” of conducing a chlorine gas attack in the Damascus subrub of Eastern Ghouta.

According to the White Helmets, the attack took place in the militant-held village of Hammuriyah late on March 14. The group claimed that many women and children had been targeted by the attack but that their number and condition are not yet clear.

The mainstream media already spreading reports about the new “chemical attack” using the White Helmets’ claims. It’s interesting to note that the new “chemical attack” came just few days after the US had threatened to strike Syrian government forces in response to military opartions or “chemical weapons” usage in Eastern Ghouta.

Evacuation of civilians from Eastern Ghouta

SouthFront, Overview Of Battle For Eastern Ghouta (Maps, Videos), Staff report, March 15, 2018. On March 15, the Republican Guard, the Tiger Forces and other pro-government factions continued developing momentum in the southern part of Eastern Ghouta.

On March 14, the Russian Defense Ministry announced that 437 civilians had been evacuateed from the twon of Douma to the government-held area via humanitarian corridors. On March 15, a convoy of international humanitarian organizations will deliver 137 tons of food supplies to the area. Another group of civilians is also set to leave the militant-held part of Eastern Ghouta to the government-held area.

washington post logoWashington Post, Amid onslaught by Syrian forces, thousands stream out of Damascus suburb, Liz Sly and Louisa Loveluck, March 15, 2018.  Clutching luggage and sacks of flour, throngs of people fled the Eastern Ghouta suburb, foreshadowing the chaos that may lie ahead as loyalist forces advance into the remaining rebel-held areas. As the scenes on Thursday demonstrated, the war that already has claimed the lives of as many as half a million people is far from over.

'Fake News' Lawsuit?


seth richwashington post logoWashington Post, Seth Rich parents sue Fox News over retracted story they say treated him like ‘a political football,’ Paul Farhi, March 15, 2018 (print edition).fox news logo Small The second lawsuit over the discredited conspiracy theory could well make it to trial, experts say. Fox News has found out the hard way as a result of a story it published online in May and promoted avidly on the air about slain Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich.

The network has now been sued twice for the widely discredited story — including on Tuesday when Rich’s parents filed a lawsuit that accuses the cable network of intentionally inflicting emotional distress on them in its handling of the story.

Federal Officials Steer Reporters To PR Offices Only 

national  press club logoNational Press Club, Despite efforts to gag them, government workers can speak to the press, panelists counsel, Bill McCloskey, March 15, 2018. A panel of journalists and government accountability experts told a National Press Club audience March 14 that journalists need to educate government employees that they have a legal right to talk to reporters. The education is necessary if reporters expect to combat what surveys say is a growing effort by agencies to inject public information officers between news gatherers and news sources, the speakers said.

"It just gets worse and worse," said Kathryn Foxhall, a freelance reporter and member of the Freedom of the Information Committee of the Society of Professional Journalists. "How can acquiescing to these controls be ethical journalism?" she asked.

It is becoming "cultural" panelists agreed. Newly minted reporters think going through publicists instead of going direct to the experts who have the information "is just the way it is," said Rachel Oswald, vice chair of the Club's Freedom of the Press Committee and a reporter for Congressional Quarterly. Henry Kerner, head of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, who has been in that job since Oct.30, said he wants to change the culture in which fellow workers feel a whistleblower or leaker "is a rat."

Kerner also amused the audience by clarifying that he was not "that special counsel," but noted that for a while when you did a Google search for "U.S. Special Counsel Henry Kerner," a photo of Special Counsel Robert Mueller accompanied the bio.

Although the panel was addressing the difficulty of getting access to sources without being subjected to "handlers," it expressed appreciation for the help of press officers. "We deal with the press offices because they exist," said AP Washington Bureau Chief Julie Pace. She noted they provide event schedules that they compile, for example. But, she emphasized that just because you deal with the press office doesn't mean you don't also go directly to the subject matter experts.

Tom Devine, legal director for the Government Accountability Project, which works to protect whistleblowers, conceded you can't have 1,000 employees claiming to speak for an agency. He said if you are speaking for the department, you need approval, but if you talk to reporters as an individual, that discussion is protected by federal law.

Media: 9-11 Truth-Telling Popular But Suppressed

richard gage cspan interview

Architects and Engineers For 9-11 Truth, At One Million Views, Analysis and Advocacy: Richard Gage’s Interview Is the Most-Watched C-SPAN Video — Ever, Staff report, March 15, 2018.  You Can Help Overcome the Media Blackout by Sharing This and Our Other Most-Popular Materials. “15 years later: On the physics of high-rise building collapses” has been downloaded nearly 700,000 times since its August 2016 publication in Europhysics News (the magazine of the European Physical Society), vastly outperforming all other articles on that site. It continues to rack up over 2,000 reads per week, keeping it at the top of Europhysics News’ “Most read articles.”

9/11 Father Seeks Justice: “9/11 Father Seeks Justice,” featuring Bob McIlvaine and promoting the Bobby McIlvaine Act, has climbed to 1.6 million views on Facebook since its release just three months ago, in December 2017.

Architects and Engineers: Solving the Mystery of Building 7: AE911Truth’s signature 15-minute documentary on WTC 7 garnered more than one million views before being arbitrarily pulled by YouTube in February 2015. It has since accumulated 1.5 million views on Facebook and, starting over from scratch three years ago, 230,000 new views on YouTube.

9/11: Explosive Evidence — Experts Speak Out: The one-hour version of AE911Truth’s signature feature documentary has received nearly 700,000 views on YouTube, along with countless additional views — easily totaling several million — on our other platforms and on other YouTube channels. The full 90-minute DVD version is available in our store.

Trump Jr.'s Wife Files For Divorce

Donald Trump jr and Vanessa Trump nypost cover 12-18-2008

Donald Trump Jr. and Vanessa Trump (New York Post Page Six photo on Dec. 18, 2008, as reported here: "Expecting their second child in February — they’re keeping the sex a delivery surprise again! — Donald Trump Jr. and wife Vanessa Haydon Trump pose with daughter Kai Madison, 19 months, on the cover of the newest Page Six Magazine. The family discuss their Christmas traditions, as well as gifts for the new baby — stepmom Melania Trump has already purchased two teddy bears (one pink, one blue) for the new arrival."

New York Post, Vanessa Trump files for divorce from Donald Trump Jr., Julia Marsh and Emily Smith, March 15, 2018. Vanessa Trump filed for divorce against her husband Donald Trump Jr. late Thursday in Manhattan Supreme Court. “After 12 years of marriage, we have decided to go our separate ways,” the couple told Page Six in a joint statement. “We will always have tremendous respect for each other and our families. We have five beautiful children together and they remain our top priority. We ask for your privacy during this time.”

The president’s daughter-in-law filed for an uncontested proceeding, meaning she’s not likely to fight her ex for custody of the couple’s five children or over their assets.

Legal experts say the former couple likely has a prenuptial agreement.

“Prenuptial agreements and confidentiality agreements are in the Trump dynasty DNA so I would be surprised if Donald Jr. went into the marriage completely naked,” said divorce lawyer Michael Stutman, of the firm Stutman Stutman & Lichtenstein LLP. He is not involved in the case.

Vanessa and Don Jr., ​both ​40, were married in 2005. Page Six first reported that they were struggling with marital problems related to Don Jr.’s travels and controversial tweets. The filing comes the same day as special counsel Robert Mueller subpoenaed President Trump’s family business, demanding that the Trump Organization release information related to Russia.

JFK Research: Controversial Figure Dies

Santa Rose Press Democrat, Michael Paine, debated politics with JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, dies at 89, Chris Smith, March 15, 2018. Michael Paine of Sebastopol was a civil libertarian and retired aeronautical engineer who, while living outside of Dallas in 1963, engaged in occasional political discussions with a self-identified Marxist named Lee Harvey Oswald. When Paine heard of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, he thought immediately of Oswald “but dismissed him because I didn’t think he was that irrational,” Paine later told an interviewer.

In testimony before the Warren Commission, created to investigate the assassination of JFK, Paine said he did not regard Oswald as someone likely to kill a president. “I saw he was a bitter person … very little charity in his view toward anybody, but I thought he was harmless,” he told the commission.
Through much of the 55 years since JFK’s murder, some conspiracy narratives have alleged that both Paine and his former wife, Santa Rosa resident Ruth Paine, were CIA operatives and framed Oswald.

Both rejected the scenario as ridiculous, declaring that their observations and knowledge of Oswald persuaded them that the killing of Kennedy was the work of him alone. Michael Paine told an interviewer not long after the shooting, “I think it’s a lone wolf thing. The opportunity presented itself to him and he probably wanted to make a mark on society.”

Paine died March 1 in Sebastopol, where he had lived with or near his son the past 14 years. He was 89. Michael Paine studied at Harvard and Swarthmore and was living in Pennsylvania when, in 1957, he married Ruth Avery Hyde. Two years later, Michael Paine took a job with Bell Helicopter that required a relocation to Texas. The couple settled in Irving, a suburb of Dallas. They had two children, Tamarin and Chris, when they separated amicably in the fall of 1962, then continued to spend time together as a family.

The children lived with Ruth Paine, a Quaker who has said she studied the Russian language in order to counter Cold War tensions by seeking out dialogue with Russian people. In February 1963, she heard of a Russian woman who spoke no English, having recently moved to the U.S. with her young daughter and her husband, Lee Harvey Oswald. Ruth, now a retired teacher and school counselor living in Rincon Valley, has said she liked the idea of having someone with whom to practice her Russian. So she reached out to the Oswalds. She invited her ex-husband, too, when she had 21-year-old Marina and Lee Oswald, 23, and baby June over for dinner. Ruth and Marina became friends.

That friendship on occasion brought Michael Paine and Lee Oswald together, and three or four times they engaged in political discussions. Paine, a liberal and longtime member of the American Civil Liberties Union, would later describe Oswald as a “pipsqueak,” but one whose politics he tried to understand.
“He told me he became a Marxist in this country by reading books and without having ever having met a communist,” Paine said in an interview following the assassination.

“With me he spoke very freely and he complained that with other people he couldn’t … they wouldn’t talk about political subjects. He would talk about nothing else.”

In interviews and in testimony before the Warren Commission, Paine described Oswald as a lonely man who seemed to like very few people. But in their conversations Oswald never revealed hostility toward Kennedy. “I expressed my appreciation of President Kennedy and he didn’t ever argue with me on that point,” Paine said in an interview. In a 2013 essay he titled, “My Experience with Lee Harvey Oswald,” Paine recalled that Oswald once declared emphatically that “change only comes through violence.”

“I’d also heard him say that President Kennedy was the best president he had in his lifetime. Looking back on what happened, these two statements seem impossibly contradictory … how could a man want to kill a president whom he thought was the best president he’d had in his lifetime?”
Though Michael Paine remained no more than an acquaintance to the Oswalds, Ruth took Marina Oswald under her wing and tried to be helpful to her struggling family.

Ruth, who became a key witness to the Warren Commission, has said she was hoping to bring a degree of stability to the Oswalds when, in the fall of 1963, she told Lee Oswald about a job opening she’d heard of — at the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas.

Editor's Note from Justice Integrity Project: Independent researchers have repeatedly challenged statements by the Paines and those who popularize the saga of the Paines' religiosity and other innocence, as in the above obituary. Author James Douglass wrote in JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died & Why It Matters (2009), for example, that the Paines and their family were heavily involved in the military-intelligence sector and functioned in effect as CIA "handlers" for Oswald after his previous CIA handler, George de Mohrenshildt, moved on to receive a payoff of lucrative oil engineering contracts involving Haiti. Douglass wrote also that Ruth Paine's father received a three-year contract from the heavily CIA-infiltrated U.S. Agency for International Development in October 1964 to supervise AID's insurance programs in Latin America. The contract was shortly after release of release of the Warren Report and provided a job giving the CIA, under AID cover, a thorough look into business practices in Latin America.

Separately, the Paines' religious, military, CIA and Oswald relationships were described extensively in A Certain Arrogance: The Sacrificing of Lee Harvey Oswald and the Cold War Manipulation of Religious Groups by U.S. Intelligence, published by TrineDay in 2011. The book by University of Hartford Professor George Michael Evica raised deep questions about the Paine family's Quaker-Unitarian ties, Oswald's little-known acceptance to Albert Schweitzer University (A Unitarian university described as a CIA front) and the likelihood that the Paines participated in using their religious appearance to help frame Oswald. 


Stormy's Mom Talks Child-Rearing, Trump

Dallas Morning News, ‘I would vote for him every time’: Stormy Daniels’ mother hopes alleged affair doesn’t hurt Trump, Naomi Martin, March 14, 2018. The woman sits hooked to an oxygen machine that whirrs like a vacuum cleaner, in an old house in Baton Rouge, in a rough neighborhood she can't afford to leave.

She clicks on the TV. Like the rest of America, she can't escape Stormy Daniels, the porn star who says she was paid $130,000 before the presidential election to keep quiet about her affair with Donald Trump. At the time, his wife Melania was home with their 4-month-old son.

stormy daniels djt insight 1 19 2018 CustomEach image of the smiling, busty blonde (shown on an In Touch Magazine cover — who is parlaying the alleged affair into a national strip club tour — strikes the woman like a bullet. And it's not just because it's an attack on her beloved president.

That 38-year-old isn't Stormy Daniels to her. It's Stephanie Gregory Clifford. Her daughter. The little girl who loved horses. "It hurts me deeply," said Sheila Gregory, 64. "My friends all say the same thing: 'I can't believe that is the same sweet child — you took such good care of her.'

Gregory said she hasn't spoken to her daughter in 12 years — around the time of the Trump encounter, which they've never discussed. She says she calls Daniels every few weeks, but they never connect. She says she doesn't know why her daughter stopped talking to her.

washington post logoWashington Post, CBS tentatively sets March 25 for airing ‘60 Minutes’ interview with Stormy Daniels, Frances Stead Sellers and Sarah Ellison​, March 16, 2018 (print edition). The porn actress is expected to reveal new details of her alleged 2006 affair with President Trump.

March 14

U.S. Politics: Pennsylvania Upset

conor lamb rick saccone Custom 3

Democrat Conor Lamb, left, declared a narrow victory over Republican Rick Saccone in a U.S. House race for Pennsylvania’s open 18th District seat. (Courtesy Conor Lamb / Rick Saccone/Facebook)

washington post logorepublican elephant logoWashington Post, Analysis: Pa. race shows GOP still hasn’t found a winning midterms message, James Hohmann, March 15, 2018. National Republicans threw the kitchen sink to hold a House seat in a Pennsylvania district that President Trump won by 20 points. But Democrat Conor Lamb’s narrow lead in the too-close-to-call race underscores the degree to which the GOP has been unable to hone in on a message that can reliably win races.

washington post logoWashington Post, House election too close to call with candidates separated by couple hundred votes, David Weigel and Elise Viebeck, March 14, 2018 (print edition). A special election for a U.S. House seat was too close to call late Tuesday as Democrat Conor Lamb and Republican Rick Saccone were separated by several hundred votes in a race that had become a test of President Trump’s political clout.

Update: The Democrat declared victory because his Republican opponent to prevail would have to win more than 70 percent of the nearly 1,400 absentee ballots from two counties where he'd won less than 60 percent of normal balloting.

Nationwide U.S. Student Protest For Gun Control

washington post logoWashington Post, Students are walking out of school after the Parkland shooting. Here’s what that looks like, Sarah Larimer, March 14, 2018. The demonstrations come one month after the mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., which killed 17 people. The Post is tracking how these protests unfold on social media, compiling pictures, videos and more.

Inside Trump's DC

Larry Kudlow CPAC 2016 Gage Skidmore Custom

Trump's new economic advisor Larry Kudlow as shown at the CPAC annual convention in 2016 (photo by Gage Skidmore)

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump taps Kudlow as top White House economic adviser, Robert Costa and Josh Dawsey, March 14, 2018. Larry Kudlow, a conservative economic media analyst and Trump campaign adviser, championed the president's plan to cut taxes. But Kudlow recently criticized Trump's moves to add tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. He’ll replace Gary Cohn, who recently resigned.

Kudlow, 70, is described by White House officials as someone who connects with the president personally and politically. Kudlow, born and raised in New Jersey, shares with Trump a hard-charging personality and a fondness for being a media figure and both have hosted television programs. Kudlow has also been an informal Trump adviser over the past year.

washington post logoWashington Post, FBI disciplinary office recommends firing former deputy director Andrew McCabe, Matt Zapotosky​, March 14, 2018. The recommendation is based on allegations that McCabe authorized the disclosure of sensitive information to a reporter and misled investigators when asked about it — though Justice Department officials are still reviewing the matter and have not come to a final decision, a person familiar with the case said.

fbi logoThe FBI office that handles employee discipline has recommended firing the bureau’s former deputy director over allegations that he authorized the disclosure of sensitive information to a reporter and misled investigators when asked about it — though Justice Department officials are still reviewing the matter and have not come to a final decision, a person familiar with the case said.

andrew mccabe c span may 11 2017The recommendation from the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility is likely to add fuel to the political fire surrounding former deputy director Andrew McCabe, who abruptly stepped down from his post earlier this year but technically remained an FBI employee.

McCabe (shown at left in a screenshot) was hoping to retire in just days, when he becomes eligible for his full benefits. If he is fired, he could lose his retirement benefits. President Trump has long made McCabe a particular target of his ire, and the recommendation to fire the former No. 2 FBI official could give him new ammunition. McCabe, 49, had long been expected to retire on March 18.

The situation now seems fraught for all involved. If the Justice Department does not move on the recommendation, conservatives might view officials there as unfairly protecting McCabe. Trump — who already has a strained relationship with Justice Department leaders — might be particularly displeased. But if the FBI fires McCabe with just days to go before his retirement, it could be viewed as bending to the will of a vindictive president.

Background briefings with reporters are common in Washington, particularly when reporters have information that officials feel compelled to respond to or add context to. In this instance, though, it might have been viewed as inappropriate because the discussion was focused on an ongoing criminal investigation.

Claims of Russian Spy Attack

washington post logoUnited Kingdom flagWashington Post, Britain to expel 23 Russian diplomats in nerve agent case and will block all high-level contacts with Moscow, William Booth and Matthew Bodner, March 15, 2018. The moves come after Britain charged that a Russian double agent and his daughter were poisoned by a "weapons-grade" nerve agent developed at a Russian laboratory. In response, the Russian Embassy in London denounced the British steps as “hostile” and a new blow to relations with Moscow.

craig murray uk, The Novichok Story Is Indeed Another Iraqi WMD Scam, Craig Murray, March 14, 2018. Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was British Ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and Rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010.

As recently as 2016 Dr Robin Black, Head of the Detection Laboratory at the UK’s only chemical weapons facility at Porton Down, a former colleague of Dr David Kelly, published in an extremely prestigious scientific journal that the evidence for the existence of Novichoks was scant and their composition unknown.

In recent years, there has been much speculation that a fourth generation of nerve agents, ‘Novichoks’ (newcomer), was developed in Russia, beginning in the 1970s as part of the ‘Foliant’ programme, with the aim of finding agents that would compromise defensive countermeasures. Information on these compounds has been sparse in the public domain, mostly originating from a dissident Russian military chemist, Vil Mirzayanov. No independent confirmation of the structures or the properties of such compounds has been published. (Black, 2016)

Robin Black. (2016) Development, Historical Use and Properties of Chemical Warfare Agents. Royal Society of Chemistry

Yet now, the British Government is claiming to be able instantly to identify a substance which its only biological weapons research centre has never seen before and was unsure of its existence. Worse, it claims to be able not only to identify it, but to pinpoint its origin. Given Dr Black’s publication, it is plain that claim cannot be true.

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Theresa May's 'Novichok' Claims Fall Apart, B, March 14, 2018. The British government claims that 'Novichok' poisons, developed 30 years ago in the Soviet Union affected a British double agent. But such substances may not exist at all.

The original source for the 'Novichok' poison claims published some chemical formulas that should enable any decent laboratory to reproduce them. But neither the existence of the claimed program nor the existence of the alleged substances have been accepted by the scientific community.

The highly constructed drama around the alleged poisoning of a British double agent Skripal and his daughter has thus turned into a surreal play. The British government has so far given no evidence that the Skripal's were poisoned at all or were poisoned by someone else. No detailed medical bulletin has been published. The British accusations lets one assume that a suicide attempt has been excluded. Why?

There is no independent evaluation of the alleged poison. The British government claims that its own chemical weapon laboratory at Porton Down, only a few miles from where the incident happened, has identified the poison as one of the 'Novichok' chemicals.

But in 2016 a leading chemist at Porton Down published a piece in a scientific journal that denied that such chemicals exist. (Tim Hayword and Craig Murray both point this out).

Consortium News, Analysis: Intel Committee Rejects Basic Underpinning of Russiagate, Ray McGovern, March 14, 2018. The assumption underpinning Russiagate – that Vladimir Putin preferred Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton – is not supported by the facts, according to “Initial Findings” of the House Intelligence Committee, as Ray McGovern reports.

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: Having a Torturer Lead the C.I.A., Editorial board, March 15, 2018. President Trump has displayed enthusiasm for brutality over the past year. He has told the police to treat suspects roughly, praised President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines for murdering people suspected of drug ties and called for the execution of drug dealers.

CIA LogoBut one of his most unsettling beliefs is still his acceptance of the value of torture. “In my opinion, it works,” he told Sean Hannity of Fox News early last year. Previously, anyone alarmed by Mr. Trump’s cavalier embrace of government-sanctioned cruelty was reassured by his vow to accept the advice of his defense secretary, Jim Mattis, who opposes torture and promised at his Senate confirmation hearing that he would uphold American and international laws against it.

Now we have reason to be uneasy yet again. When it comes to torture, no American officials have been more practiced in those heinous dark arts than the agents and employees of the Central Intelligence Agency who applied it to terrorism suspects after 9/11.

gina haspelFew American officials were so directly involved in that frenzy of abuse, which began under President George W. Bush and was ended by President Barack Obama, as Gina Haspel (shown in a file photo). As an undercover C.I.A. officer, Ms. Haspel played a direct role in the agency’s “extraordinary rendition program,” under which suspected militants were remanded to foreign governments and held at secret facilities, where they were tortured by agency personnel.

Ms. Haspel ran the first detention site in Thailand and oversaw the brutal interrogations of two detainees, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. Mr. Zubaydah was waterboarded at least 83 times in a single month; his C.I.A. torturers bashed his head into walls and subjected him to other unspeakable brutalities. This cruelty stopped when investigators decided he had nothing useful to tell them.

On Tuesday, in announcing that he had dismissed Rex Tillerson as secretary of state and was replacing him with Mike Pompeo, the C.I.A. director, Mr. Trump said that Mr. Pompeo’s successor would be his deputy, Ms. Haspel. The sessions were videotaped and the recordings stored in a safe at the C.I.A. station in Thailand until they were ordered destroyed in 2005. And who did that? By then, Ms. Haspel was at C.I.A. headquarters, and while the agency said the decision to destroy evidence was made by her boss at the time, Jose Rodriguez, Ms. Haspel’s name was on the cable with the destruction orders.

Global News: Syria

SouthFront, Government Forces Liberate Key Area In Southern Damascus, Staff report, March 14, 2018 (video shown above). On March 13, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) entered the area of al-Qadam in southern Damascus after local militants had been evacuated from it. ISIS launched an attack on al-Qadam seeking to capture the area before it could be fully secured by the SAA. Clashes continued on March 14.

On March 13, Head of the Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov commented on the US threat to strike Syrian government forces if the military operation in Eastern Ghouta continues.

“There are many Russian advisers, representatives of the Russian Center for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides and servicemen in Damascus and at Syrian defense facilities,” he said adding that Russian forces will take retaliatory actions against any “missiles” or “launchers” posing a threat to Russian service members.

Earlier, both Syrian and Russian officials warned that militants had been preparing to stage a chemical attack in Eastern Ghouta and to blame it on Damascus.

Crime and Courts

ny times logoNew York Times, Once a Silicon Valley Star, Theranos Chief Is Accused of Fraud, Katie Thomas, March 14, 2018. Elizabeth Holmes, the chief executive of the blood-testing company, agreed to a settlement in which she will be stripped of control. Elizabeth Holmes, the founder and chief executive of the blood-testing company Theranos, was charged with fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday for raising more than $700 million from investors by falsely promoting a key product, the commission said.

In announcing the charges, the S.E.C. also said that Theranos and Ms. Holmes had agreed to settle them, with Ms. Holmes agreeing to pay a $500,000 penalty. As part of the settlement, she was stripped of control of the company and barred from being an officer or director of any public company for 10 years.

Ms. Holmes was a self-made billionaire and Silicon Valley darling who persuaded high-profile investors to back Theranos, a private company, based on promises that it would revolutionize the lab-testing industry. She promoted tests that used a finger prick of blood and cost a fraction of traditional lab tests. But a series of articles in The Wall Street Journal in 2015 cast doubt on whether the technology worked.

Trump Scandal

washington post logoWashington Post, Second lawyer tied to Trump was involved in court action to keep Stormy Daniels quiet, new document shows, Staff report, March 14, 2018. A top attorney for the Trump Organization filed secret legal documents to keep Stormy Daniels from talking about her alleged affair with President Donald Trump, the first known link between Trump’s company and the effort to silence the porn star.

The documents, filed as part of confidential arbitration proceedings on Feb. 22, were made public Wednesday evening by CNN and the Wall Street Journal. The Washington Post confirmed their authenticity with Michael Avenatti, a lawyer for Daniels.

In a statement, the Trump Organization said it was not representing anyone in the Daniels dispute and “had no involvement in the matter.” One of its attorneys, Jill A. Martin, filed a document in her personal capacity while awaiting permission for another lawyer, not connected to the company, to practice in California, the statement said.

Daniels alleges that in the days leading up to the 2016 presidential election, she was paid $130,000 to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Trump. Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, has acknowledged making that payment, saying the money came from his home equity line of credit.

Trump Family

Daily Mail, Tablioid Opinion: Vanessa Trump steps out for first time since report that she and husband Donald Jr are preparing to file for divorce after 13 years and five children, Chris Spargo. March 14, 2018. Vanessa Trump was seen for the first time since Page Six reported that friends believe she and Donald Trump Jr will soon file for divorce. The couple has only been seen together twice this year, and Don Jr spent Valentine's Day with daughter Kai while Vanessa took out two of their sons.

A somber Vanessa Trump was spotted stepping out in new York City on Wednesday shortly after news broke that she and husband Donald Trump Jr would soon be filing for divorce. Vanessa and her oldest daughter Kai were photographed as they left a pharmacy, with the mother at one point reaching over and putting her arms around the 10-year-old girl as they headed home. She and Don Jr. have been married for 13 years and have five children - Kai (10), Donald III (9), Tristan (7), Spencer (5) and Chloe (3). Vanessa and Don Jr have yet to respond to requests for comment.

Major JFK Hearing Set For March 19 In DC

jefferson morleyJFK, Opinion: CIA to argue JFK lawsuit disclosures have no ‘public benefit,’ Jefferson Morley (shown at right), March 14, 2018. On Monday March 19, a three-judge federal appellate court in Washington, D.C. will hear oral arguments about the “public benefit” of disclosure of CIA files related to the assassination of President Kennedy.

With the release of the last of the U.S. government’s JFK assassination files set for April 26, 2018, the judges have to pass judgement on a still-timely question: is there any public benefit from learning more about the events of November 1963?

I say yes. A lot of news organizations have agreed with me. In the past 10 years, the New York Times, Fox News, Boston Globe, Politico, and Associated Press have all written about Morley v. CIA, and its revelations.

george joannides cia citation 1981 cia photoThe lawsuit, Morley v. CIA, obtained several hundred pages from the files of deceased CIA officer George Joannides. The new material included:

– a photograph showing that Joannides received a CIA medal in July 1981 (as indicated in an adjoining CIA photo, with Joannides on the left). That was three years after he had stonewalled Dan Hardway and other congressional investigators about what he knew of contacts between accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald and his agents in a CIA political action/propaganda program known by the code name AMSPELL.

While it was been known since 2001 that Joannides played a curious, if not suspicious, role in the JFK story, Morley v. CIA revealed he had received a CIA commendation for his actions.

–Two memos indicating that Joannides maintained a residence in New Orleans during his stint as the Miami-based chief of the agency’s psychological warfare operations in 1962-64.

Joannides’ role in funding the anti-Castro Cuban Student Directorate, (AMSPELL), at the time the group had contact with accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was previously known. Morley v. CIA revealed that Joannides travelled at least twice to New Orleans where the Oswald-AMSPELL encounters took place. AMSPELL is still a very sensitive topic. The CIA partially released an 86 page AMSPELL file last fall; all but 24 pages were redacted.

– A CIA memo stated that when Joannides acted as CIA liaison to the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1978, he served in an “undercover” role.Until Morley v. CIA no one knew that the CIA had assigned an officer to an “undercover” role in a JFK investigation.

– A so-called Vaughn Index listing scores of still-classified CIA records about Joannides’ actions, including a September 1978 evaluation of his job performance when he was stonewalling the House Select Committee on Assassinations. Dan Hardway, West Virginia attorney and former HSCA investigator, has explained how Joannides thwarted the HSCA investigation.

In sum, the lawsuit revealed that Joannides was rewarded for obstructing the investigation of the death of President Kennedy and that the CIA is still concealing information about his JFK-related activities in 1963 and 1978.

stephen hawking star childTransitions: Stephen Hawking

ny times logoNew York Times, Stephen Hawking, Whose Mind Roamed the Cosmos, Is Dead at 76, Dennis Overbye, March 15, 2018. The Cambridge-educated physicist made discoveries that changed the way we look at the universe, overcoming a disability to become an emblem of human determination. He is shown at right in a U.S. NASA photo.

Government Transparency

washington post logoWashington Post, Sunshine Week brings Trump’s information darkness to light, Joe Davidson, March 13, 2018. If sunshine is the best disinfectant, President Trump must pray for rain. He and his administration have a gloomy record when it comes to transparency, a particularly lamentable situation during Sunshine Week, which ends Saturday. Started by the American Society of News Editors (ASNE), the observance began in 2005 to celebrate openness and transparency in government.

sunshine week logo right to know squareBut what’s to celebrate under Trump? ASNE has “significant concerns with the level of transparency demonstrated by the Trump administration,” said Kevin M. Goldberg, the organization’s legal counsel. “Public data that was once available even without a Freedom of Information Act request has disappeared from public view, a trend of restricting access to government officials — especially those in agencies dealing with science and defense issues — has continued, and some forward-looking programs designed to improve the flow of information to the public that were created by prior administrations have been discontinued.”

“Transparency is in danger,” he added by email, “when it is needed most.”

March 13 state dept map logo Small

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump ousts Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker, March 13, 2018. President Trump has ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and plans to nominate CIA Director Mike Pompeo to replace him as the nation’s top diplomat, orchestrating a major change to his national security team amid delicate negotiations with North Korea, White House officials said Tuesday.

rex tillerson state deptTrump last Friday asked Tillerson (shown at left) to step aside, and the embattled diplomat cut short his trip to Africa on Monday to return to Washington.

mike pompeo portraitPompeo (shown at right) will replace him at the State Department, and Gina Haspel — the deputy director at the CIA — will succeed him at the CIA, becoming the first woman to run the spy agency, if confirmed.

In a statement issued to The Washington Post, Trump praised both Pompeo and Haspel.

“I am proud to nominate the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Mike Pompeo, to be our new Secretary of State,” Trump said. CIA Logo“Mike graduated first in his class at West Point, served with distinction in the U.S. Army, and graduated with Honors from Harvard Law School. He went on to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives with a proven record of working across the aisle.”

The president continued, “Gina Haspel, the Deputy Director of the CIA, will be nominated to replace Director Pompeo and she will be the CIA’s first-ever female director, a historic milestone. Mike and Gina have worked together for more than a year, and have developed a great mutual respect.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick for CIA director, tied to use of brutal interrogation measures, Greg Miller and Shane Harris, March 13, 2018. President Trump on Tuesday nominated CIA veteran Gina Haspel to be the spy agency’s next director, tapping a woman who spent multiple tours overseas and is respected by the workforce but is deeply tied to the agency’s use of brutal interrogation measures on terrorism suspects.

gina haspelHaspel, 61 (shown at left), would become the first woman to lead the CIA if she is confirmed to succeed outgoing director Mike Pompeo, who has been nominated to serve as secretary of state. Haspel’s selection faced immediate opposition from some lawmakers and human rights groups because of her prominent role in one of the agency’s darkest chapters.

Haspel was in charge of one of the CIA’s “black site” prisons where detainees were subjected to waterboarding and other harrowing interrogation measures widely condemned as torture.

When those methods were exposed and their legality came under scrutiny, Haspel was among a group of CIA officials involved in the decision to destroy videotapes of interrogation sessions that left some detainees on the brink of physical collapse.

Other Cabinet Firings Soon?

us veterans administrtion logo horizontal

david shulkincnn logoCNN, Trump eyes Rick Perry to replace VA secretary, Kaitlan Collins and Kevin Liptak, March 13, 2018. President Donald Trump has grown irritated with his embattled Veterans Affairs secretary, David Shulkin (shown at right, and is now making plans to remove him from his post, two sources familiar with the move tell CNN.

rick perry oTrump has eyed Energy Secretary Rick Perry (left) as a possible replacement, a person familiar with the matter said. Trump and Perry discussed the possible move during a lunch at the White House Monday. Shulkin's standing in the administration has been shaky for weeks now as his agency devolves into turmoil, and though White House press secretary Sarah Sanders maintained just last hr mcmaster cropped may 15 2017 ap week that he has done "a great job," Trump now wants him out.

CNN also reported that Chief of Staff John Kelly and National Security Advisor H.L. McMaster (shown at right), both former generals, are reported by sources to be on shaky ground also.

U.S. Politics: Pennsylvania Election Today

conor lamb rick saccone Custom 3

Democrat Conor Lamb, left, and Republican Rick Saccone are competing for Pennsylvania’s open 18th District seat. (Courtesy Conor Lamb/Rick Saccone/Facebook)

RollCall, Democrats Hate America, Trump, and God, Rick Saccone Says, Griffin Connolly, GOP nominee made comments at campaign rally on special election eve. Pennsylvania state Rep. Rick Saccone accused the Democratic party of being energized by “hatred” for “our country,” “God,” and “our president” on the eve of a most important day in his political career so far.

Saccone made the comments Monday at a rally at a local volunteer fire department in Blaine Hill. He squares off Tuesday against Democrat Conor Lamb in the special election for Pennsylvania’s 18th District. “They say the other side is energized,” Saccone said in a video posted to Twitter by NBC News. “Let me tell you, they’re energized for hate for our president. They have a hatred for our president.”

“I’ve talked to so many of these on the left,” Saccone said. “And they have a hatred for our president. And I tell you, many of them have a hatred for our country.”

“I’ll tell you some more — my wife and I saw it again today: They have a hatred for God,” Saccone said. “It’s amazing. You see it when I’m talking to them. It’s disturbing to me.”

democrat republican campaigns 2016

Inside Trump World

washington post logojeff sessions ag oWashington Post, ICE spokesman resigns, citing ‘false’ statements by agency chief, Sessions on immigrant arrests, Meagan Flynn, March 13, 2018. The San Francisco spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has resigned over what he described as “false” and “misleading” statements made by top-ranking officials, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions(shown at right) and ICE Acting Director Thomas D. Homan.

james schwab ice spokesmanThe now-former spokesman, James Schwab (shown at left), told news outlets late Monday that his resignation stemmed from statements by Homan and Sessions that potentially hundreds of “criminal aliens” evaded ICE during a Northern California raid in February because Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf warned the immigrant community in advance.

“I quit because I didn’t want to perpetuate misleading facts,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle, which broke the story. “I asked them to change the information. I told them that the information was wrong, they asked me to deflect, and I didn’t agree with that. Then I took some time, and I quit."

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump fires White House personal assistant John McEntee, who promptly rejoins president’s campaign, David Nakamura​, March 13, 2018. McEntee, who had been with the president since early in his campaign, becomes the latest in a series of West Wing departures in recent weeks. Trump has had a record rate of turnover in his senior staff. Before McEntee's departure, 43 percent of the president's executive staff had left in the first 13½ months.

Update: Multiple news outlets reported that he was fired because of suspicion of serious financial irregularities before his White House service, that he was escorted out of the White House and prompted hired as a senior advisor to Trump's 2020 re-election campaign.

roger stonewashington post logoWashington Post, Roger Stone claimed contact with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in 2016, according to two associates, Tom Hamburger, Josh Dawsey, Carol D. Leonnig and Shane Harris, March 13, 2018. In the spring of 2016, longtime political operative Roger Stone (shown above in a file photo) had a phone conversation that would later seem prophetic, according to the person on the other end of the line.

julian assange august 2014 wStone, an informal adviser to then-candidate Donald Trump, said he had learned from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (shown in a 2014 file photo) that his organization had obtained emails that would torment senior Democrats such as John Podesta, then campaign chairman for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The conversation occurred before it was publicly known that hackers had obtained the emails of Podesta and of the Democratic National Committee, documents that WikiLeaks released in late July and October. The U.S. intelligence community later concluded the hackers were working for Russia.

fbi logoThe person, who spoke to The Washington Post on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing federal investigation into Russian campaign interference, is one of two Stone associates who say Stone claimed to have had contact with Assange in 2016.

The second, former Trump adviser Sam Nunberg, said in an interview Monday that Stone told him that he had met with Assange — a conversation Nunberg said investigators for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III recently asked him to describe.

More On Foreign Affairs Crises

sergey lavrovSouthFront, Lavrov: US Strike On Syria Will Have “Grave Consequences,” Staff report, March 13, 2018. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (shown in a file photo) warned on March 13 that a new US strike on Syria [Washington threatened to do this on March 12] will have “grave consequences.”

“If a new strike of this kind takes place, the consequences will be very serious,” the minister said, according to the state-run news agency TASS. “Mrs. Haley should understand that it is one thing to irresponsibly exploit the microphone in the UN Security Council and it is another thing when both the Russian and American militaries have communication channels and it is clearly stated via these channels what can be done and what must not be done.”

SouthFront, US Officially Threatens To Strike Syrian Army, Staff report, March 13, 2018 (2:48 min. video above). On March 12, US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley actually threatened that the US will strike Syrian government forces if they don’t halt their operation against terrorists in Eastern Ghouta.

nikki haley o“We also warn any nation that is determined to impose its will through chemical attacks and inhuman suffering, most especially the outlaw Syrian regime, the United States remains prepared to act if we must,” said Haley (shown at right).

The US diplomat proposed a new UN ceasefire resolution that “will take effect immediately upon adoption by this Council. It contains no counterterrorism loopholes for Assad, Iran and the Russians to hide behind.” According to Haley, the previous resolution “failed” because it had allowed the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies to conduct operation in Eastern Ghouta against Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) and other militant groups.

Russian ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia reacted by saying that Syria has all the legal right to fight terrorism near its capital. The US-drafted document was not put to the vote on March 12.

rex tillerson portrait

Former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, now fired

washington post logojennifer rubin twitterWashington Post, Opinion: Tillerson is put out of his misery, Jennifer Rubin (shown at right), March 13, 2018. The good news is that Haspel, a 30-year veteran of the CIA, not uber-partisan Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), will replace Pompeo.

As for Tillerson’s departure, this was a long time in coming. Tillerson never enjoyed the trust of the president, which is essential for any secretary of state. When he was denied his pick for deputy secretary, Elliott Abrams, the handwriting was on the wall — he would be under the White House’s thumb.

After he was reportedly caught calling the president a “moron,” his days were numbered. (If not for the havoc and rash of dismissals in the White House, he might have departed sooner.)

djt rex tillerson moron graphic img 3219

Rex Tillerson is shown with the president in a cartoon now circulating on the web that recalls the secretary's reported f-bomb description of Trump

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Trump Votes For Rexit; Torture Girl To Become CIA Director, B, March 13, 2018. U.S. President Donald Trump just fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson [and wrote]: "Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State. He will do a fantastic job! Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service! Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!"

donald trump apprentice color nbcThe plan was "developed by John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff." It had nothing to do with Russia. Tillerson never got traction as Secretary of State. Congress disliked him for cutting down some State Department programs. Trump overruled him publicly several times.

There is some contradiction in the statements coming from the White House and the State Department. According to the Washington Post: Trump (shown above in a publicity photo from his show The Apprentice) last Friday asked Tillerson to step aside, and the embattled top diplomat cut short his trip to Africa on Monday to return to Washington.

steve irwin goldsteinBut a statement by Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein (shown at left) contradicts the Friday claim. Tillerson knew he was fired but did not tell his staff?

"NBC Politics....JUST IN: Under Secretary of State Steve Goldstein is being fired for contradicting the account of Rex Tillerson’s dismissal, White House official tells @PeterAlexander."

Thus ends the insurrection of State.

james mattis oWith Tillerson leaving, Secretary of Defense Mattis (shown at right) is losing an ally in the cabinet. Mattis sometimes calming influence over Trump on military issues will now become less effective.

CIA head Pompeo, the new Secretary of State, is a neoconservative with a racist anti-Muslim attitude and a special hate for Iran, which he compared to ISIS. That he will now become Secretary of State is a bad sign for the nuclear agreement with Iran. The Europeans especially should take note of that and should stop [looking] for a compromise with Trump on the issue. The deal is now dead. There is no chance that a compromise will happen.

The new CIA director Gina Haspel is well known for actively directing and participating in the torture of prisoners at 'black sites. Haspel would be in jail if former president Barack Obama had not decided against prosecuting the CIA torture crimes.

Both, Pompeo and Haspel, will need to be confirmed by Congress. Both will receive a significant number of 'yes'-votes from the Democratic side of the aisle.

Guns / Education

Donald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)

President Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)

washington post logodonald trump mike pence logo SmallWashington Post, White House vows to help arm teachers, backs off on raising age to buy guns, Philip Rucker​, March 13, 2018 (print edition). The Trump administration endorsed a bill to tighten the federal background check system following last month’s massacre at a Florida high school.

But the plan does not include substantial changes to gun laws. President Trump tweeted that officials are watching court cases before taking any action on raising the age to purchase guns.

U.S. Cyber-Security

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump blocks Singapore firm’s $117 billion bid for U.S. mobile chipmaker, citing national security concerns, Hamza Shaban​, March 13, 2018 (print edition). Experts say the government’s investigation into Broadcom’s hostile bid for Qualcomm has been unusual in its speed and intensity, a sign that the United States is concerned about putting mobile technology into the hands of an Asian company.

Trump White House Demurs On UK Spy Death Claim

The Hill, White House condemns poisoning of ex-spy after UK points to Russia, Brett Samuels, March 13, 2018 (print edition). The White House on Monday condemned the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy in the U.K. earlier this month but declined to say whether Moscow was responsible.

“The use of a highly lethal nerve agent on U.K. soil is an outrage. The attack was reckless, indiscriminate and irresponsible,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

United Kingdom flag

ny times logotheresa may home secretaryNew York Times, Britain Blames Russia for Poisoning of Former Spy, Ellen Barry and Richard Perez-Pena, March 13, 2018 (print edition). Prime Minister Theresa May’s remarks were an unusually direct condemnation of a country that Britain has been loath to blame for previous attacks. Mrs. May (shown at right) said she expected a response from Russia on Tuesday.

The March 4 nerve agent attack on Sergei V. Skripal, once an informant for Britain’s foreign intelligence service, and his daughter, Yulia, occurred in and around public spaces in the city of Salisbury.

Moscow has insisted that it played no role in the attack, and did so again on Monday. “This is a circus show in the British Parliament,” the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, told journalists in Moscow, according to the Interfax news agency.

Another #MeToo Harassment Scandal

ny times logoNew York Times, Celebrated Architect Is Accused of Sexual Harassment, Robin Pogregin, March 13, 2018.  Five women say that Richard Meier sexually harassed them, The Times has learned. In response, he announced a six-month leave as founder and managing partner of his firm.

Richard Meier, the celebrated architect and Pritzker Prize winner who designed the Getty Center in Los Angeles, established a graduate scholarship in January at his alma mater, Cornell University’s architecture school. Intended to honor the 55th anniversary of his practice, the scholarship was designed to “recruit and retain the most talented women applicants.”

But four women who have worked for Mr. Meier — and another who met him when he was working on the Getty — have described encounters when the architect, now 83, was, in fact, not good to women.

Two of the women have described incidents over the past 10 years in which they were sent to Mr. Meier’s New York apartment, where he exposed himself, according to interviews with one of the women and several former employees of the firm.

A third woman said in an interview that Mr. Meier grabbed her underwear through her dress at a firm holiday party, and a fourth said he asked her to undress at his apartment so she could be photographed.

Disputed #MeToo Claim On Video

Washington Post, Security video shows encounter that prompted Md. lawmaker’s complaint against lobbyist, Ovetta Wiggins, March 13, 2018. A Maryland state senator and a lobbyist she has accused of harassment both released security camera video Tuesday of their recent encounter in an Annapolis pub, with each declaring the footage proves their version of events.

The video shows lobbyist Gil Genn approaching Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-Montgomery) near a crowded bar at Castlebay Irish Pub, putting his hand on Kagan’s back and moving it around. The physical contact is brief, and it is hard to tell exactly when Genn — who previously denied touching Kagan at all — removes his hand. (The two are shown at the lower right of the video, with the incident at the beginning)

At a hastily called news conference, Kagan held up her laptop to play the 86-second video, saying it showed how Genn put his hand on her back and slid “it down my body.” “Most women who are harassed or sexually assaulted will not have access to such undeniable proof,” she said in an interview.

Genn, meanwhile, demanded an apology from Kagan, saying in a statement that the video shows “beyond dispute that I did not grab or grope her.”

March 13

roger stone sam nunberg screenshots

Mueller grand jury witness Sam Nunberg, left, and his friend Roger Stone, author of the column below debunking misleading reporting

Stone Cold Truth, Witness Commentary on Mueller Probe: Sam Can’t Take A Joke; More Fake News By The Washington Post, Roger Stone, March 13, 2018. I must address reports in today’s Washington Post in which my friend Sam Nunberg is identified as one of two sources who allegedly claim I told them I met Julian Assange in 2016. Sam Nunberg’s statements do not create evidence. There is no evidence that I participated in or have any knowledge of any collusion with the Russians to effect the 2016 elections. I had no advance notice of the content, source or timing of the Wikileaks publication of any material.

Nor did I receive any allegedly hacked material from any source and pass them on to Donald Trump or the Trump campaign. Nor did i know in advance that Wikileaks had obtained John Podesta’s emails and would publish them nor did I predict that his e-mail would be published.

No communication from me to Sam Nunberg or anyone else will prove otherwise- in fact documents I submitted to the House Intelligence Committee prove that I did not collaborate with Wikileaks and that my testimony there was truthful.

Allegations that I met with Julian Assange in London in 2016, allegations apparently repeated by Sam Nunberg and apparently a second unidentified person, are provably false.

My passport shows I never left the country in 2015 or 2016 and surveillance camera’s for a guy in a virtual gulag at the Ecuadorian Embassy show he never left there and I never arrived there.

Now you have to understand when you worked with Sam would call and text you over and over. As Sam would call and text you 30 time a day. Sam said in a interview that he spoke to Steve Bannon 30 times a day.One major reporter said he called her eight times late one night.

Nunberg told CNN “They want me to testify against Roger,” Nunberg said. “They want me to say that Roger was going around telling people he was colluding with Julian Assange.” We can clear this up right now.

Late one Friday night when I was trying to get Sam off the phone. Sam asked if I had plans for the weekend -- and I said, “I thought I would fly to London to have dinner with Julian Assange “- a joke and hung up. It was jocular and of course provably false via passport record and security video. It was a throw away line. I was amused when Sam took it seriously. I now realize Sam told several people- including two reporters that I had actually met Assange.

Sam called me to warn me that Mueller was out to get me three times after his initial interview with OSC then told me I must admit I told 58 people that I had gone to London…which of course is not true- I told ONE person….who was too intense to figure out it was a joke. Just the same I bare Sam no ill will as he struggles with his demons.

Now as to the second person baring false witness against me I am asked to answer a faceless charge and an e-mail I have not seen allegedly making claims I don’t recall. I had no advance notice of the alleged hacking of the DNC emails or John Podesta’s emails.

Sam is a talented researcher and writer and a relentless gossip and yenta. In this case he has done me a disservice.

The claim that I got documents or allegedly hacked email from Wikileaks – or anyone else it and gave them to Donald Trump or anyone in the Trump Camp is as false as the certainty that they were hacked by Russians or anyone else.

These are lies created by Democrats and some in the media that will be dispelled by the investigation.

My testimony before the House Intelligence Committee was 100 % truthful and documents I submitted to them show I did not collaborate with Wikileaks.

As far as the so-called “Back Channel – I addressed it here- the claim by Mother Jones that Randy Credico’s confirmation that Wikileaks would publish non-specific Clinton material predates his meeting and first interview with Assange is irrelevant – Credico was well aquainted with members of Assange’s legal team.

While we’re at it let’s dispense with Guccifer 2.0 since Chuck Todd revived this chestnut late week. My exchange with someone claiming to be a hacker has been fully released publicly. It is innocuous, banal and based on the timing, content and context certainly doesn’t constitute collusion. (Editors note: several minor typos were corrected in this column.)

philip giraldiThe Unz Review, Christopher Steele As Seen By the New Yorker, Philip Giraldi (shown at right), March 13, 2018.  The latest salvo in the Russiagate saga is a 15,000 word New Yorker article entitled “Christopher Steele the man behind the Trump dossier: how the ex-spy tried to warn the world about Trump’s ties to Russia” by veteran journalist Jane Mayer.

christopher steele ex MI6 spy express croppedSteele is shown in a file photo at left.

The premise of the piece is clear from the tediously long title, namely that the Steele dossier, which implicated Donald Trump and his associates in a number of high crimes and misdemeanors, is basically accurate in exposing an existential threat posed to our nation by Russia. How does it come to that conclusion? By citing sources that it does not identify whose credibility is alleged to be unimpeachable as well as by including testimony from Steele friends and supporters.

In other words, the Mayer piece is an elaboration of the same “trust me” narrative that has driven the hounding of Russia and Trump from day one. Inevitably, the Trump haters both from the left and the right have jumped on the Mayer piece as confirmation of their own presumptions regarding what has allegedly occurred, when, in reality, Trump might just be more right than wrong when he claims that he has been the victim of a conspiracy by the Establishment to discredit and remove him.

The account of Donald Trump performing “perverted sexual acts” in a Moscow hotel is likewise a good example of what is wrong with the article. Four sources are cited as providing details of what took place, but it is conceded that none of them was actually a witness to it. It would be necessary to learn who the sources were beyond vague descriptions, what their actual access to the information was and what their motives were for coming forward might be. One was allegedly a “top-level Russian intelligence officer,” but the others were hotel employees and a Trump associate who had arranged for the travel.

Finally, from an ex-intelligence officer point of view I have some questions about Steele’s sources in Russia. Who are they? If they were MI-6 sources he would not be able to touch them once he left the service and would face severe sanctions under the Official Secrets Act should he even try to do so.

March 12

Saudi Shakedown Update

mohammad bin salman cropped file

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman

ny times logoNew York Times, Saudis Said to Use Coercion and Abuse to Seize Billions, Ben Hubbard, David D. Kirkpatrick, Kate Kelley and Mark Mazzetti, March 12, 2018 (print edition). As the Saudi crown prince comes to the U.S. to court investment, new details cast doubts on his claims of a transparent, legal anti-corruption effort.

Businessmen once considered giants of the Saudi economy now wear ankle bracelets that track their movements. Princes who led military forces and appeared in glossy magazines are monitored by guards they do not command. Families who flew on private jets cannot gain access to their bank accounts. Even wives and children have been forbidden to travel.

In November, the Saudi government locked up hundreds of influential businessmen — many of them members of the royal family — in the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton in what it called an anti-corruption campaign.

Most have since been released but they are hardly free. Instead, this large sector of Saudi Arabia’s movers and shakers are living in fear and uncertainty. During months of captivity, many were subject to coercion and physical abuse, witnesses said. In the early days of the crackdown, at least 17 detainees were hospitalized for physical abuse and one later died in custody with a neck that appeared twisted, a badly swollen body and other signs of abuse, according to a person who saw the body.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Trump Seeks One Nuclear Deal, He Could Kill Another, David E. Sanger, March 12, 2018 (print edition). Iran and North Korea will be paying close attention to President Trump’s decisions regarding each nation’s nuclear ambitions in the coming months.

Suppressed JFK Records

cia, Roger Stone’s valid JFK point: CIA is not complying with the law, Jefferson Morley, March 12, 2018. As we approach President Trump’s April 26, 2018 deadline for release of the last of the government’s JFK files, Roger Stone makes a legally valid point: The CIA is not obeying the JFK Records Act.

Stone pointed out that the 1992 law which required the JFK documents be released also required the agency redacting records to justify their redactions in writing and that those explanations be published in the Federal Register.

Stone is referring to a specific passage in the JFK Records Act, Section 4 (g) (2) (B), which states “All postponed assassination records determined to require continued postponement shall require an unclassified written description of the reason for such continued postponement. Such description shall be provided to the Archivist and published in the Federal Register upon determination.”

From the passage of the law in 1992 until 2017, the CIA and other agencies adhered to this passage, and did so scrupulously. If the CIA released a JFK file to the National Archives with redactions, a coded comment in the margin gave an unclassified description of why information was withheld. Typical reasons were “national security,” “personal privacy” or “sources and methods.”

Climate Change: Africa

ny times logoNew York Times, Hotter, Drier, Hungrier: How Global Warming Punishes the World’s Poorest, Somini Sengupta, March 12, 2018. A series of droughts with little recovery time between them has pushed millions to the edge of survival in the Horn of Africa.

rex tillerson exxon mobilNorthern Kenya — like its arid neighbors in the Horn of Africa, where Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson (shown at right) paid a visit last week, including a stop in Nairobi — has become measurably drier and hotter, and scientists are finding the fingerprints of global warming. According to recent research, the region dried faster in the 20th century than at any time over the last 2,000 years. Four severe droughts have walloped the area in the last two decades, a rapid succession that has pushed millions of the world’s poorest to the edge of survival.

Amid this new normal, a people long hounded by poverty and strife has found itself on the frontline of a new crisis: climate change. More than 650,000 children under age 5 across vast stretches of Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia are severely malnourished. The risk of famine stalks people in all three countries; at least 12 million people rely on food aid, according to the United Nations.

U.S. Media

ny times logotime logo ogNew York Times, Far From Manhattan, a Magazine Empire Humbly Reigns, Sydney Ember, March 12, 2018 (print edition). After buying Time Inc. for $2.8 billion, Des Moines-based Meredith is the nation’s largest magazine company. But it’s not about to change its unassuming style.

U.S. Politics: Trump Scandals

washington post logoWashington Post, Republicans find no evidence of collusion or Russian preference for Trump, Karoun Demirjian, March 12, 2018. House Intelligence republican elephant logoCommittee Republicans have completed a draft report in their year-long Russia probe that states they found no evidence President Trump or anyone affiliated with him colluded with Russian officials to affect the outcome of the 2016 elections, a conclusion expected to incite backlash from committee Democrats.

Republicans also determined that while the Russian government did pursue “active measures” to interfere in the 2016 election, they did not do so with the intention of helping Trump’s campaign, contradicting the findings of the intelligence community.

U.S. Politics / Missouri Scandals

eric greitens oSt. Louis Post-Dispatch, Once a selling point, Greitens' charity now under microscope, Kurt Erickson and Jack Suntrup, March 12, 2018. Though [ Missouri] Gov. Eric Greitens (shown at right) used ties to his former veterans charity as an asset during the 2016 election, those connections are now proving to be a liability as he negotiates a legal minefield in an attempt to preserve his political career.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, a Republican, recently announced he was launching an inquiry into St. Louis-based The Mission Continues. St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner and a Missouri House panel could also look into the charity, and the New York attorney general’s office won’t say whether it is investigating.

Among the issues investigators may scrutinize is whether Greitens or the charity violated federal tax laws that forbid charities from taking sides in elections. Charity insiders also are barred from using organization assets for personal gain.

The Greitens campaign has admitted to using one of the charity’s donor lists to raise money during the 2016 election. But in a March 5 letter to its donors, The Mission Continues stressed that it did not coordinate with the 43-year-old former Navy SEAL when it came to his bid for public office.

republican elephant logoWhile recent reporting on Greitens’ use of charity assets has triggered a wave of scrutiny, documents obtained by the Post-Dispatch indicate that at least some Missouri political operatives have long known about pitfalls that Greitens’ cozy relationship with his charity could pose for the candidate. He founded the organization in 2007 but left in 2014.

The documents suggest Greitens’ charity may have helped boost his book sales — which, if true, could pose additional legal problems for the governor, or The Mission Continues, if charity resources were improperly used for personal business ventures. The memo also says that donors to The Mission Continues included Wall Street banks, hedge fund managers and drug companies — each of which could have posed a liability to the political newcomer.

That Greitens appeared to use a charity email list to promote his book — and the donor list to promote his campaign — highlights how he may have used the organization’s resources improperly.

U.S. Politics: PA House Vote Tuesday

democrat republican campaigns 2016

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Bad news for Trump is brewing in Pennsylvania, Greg Sargent, March 12, 2018.  Prediction: If Republican Rick Saccone scrapes out a close win in tomorrow’s special election for a House seat in southwestern Pennsylvania, Donald Trump will claim it was all because of Donald Trump. But if Saccone falls just short, Donald Trump will claim it was all because Saccone didn’t sufficiently emulate Donald Trump.

But either way, it will be very bad news for Trump. This isn’t just because this election is deep in the heart of Trump country. It’s also because the failure of the Trump/Republican argument to prevent this contest from being so close also carries ominous signs for the GOP this fall.

ny times logoNew York Times, My Union or My President? Dueling Loyalties Mark Pennsylvania Race, Trip Gabriel, March 12, 2018 (print edition). Working-class voters are the prize in a widely watched special congressional race on Tuesday, as unions try to line up their pro-Trump members behind a moderate Democrat, Conor Lamb.

Mueller Probe

robert mueller full face fileBloomberg, Mueller Weighs Putting Off Trump Obstruction Decision, Chris Strohm and Shannon Pettypiece, ‎March‎ ‎12‎, ‎2018. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice is said to be close to completion, but he may set it aside while he finishes other key parts of his probe, such as possible collusion and the hacking of Democrats, according to current and former U.S. officials.

That’s because Mueller may calculate that if he tries to bring charges in the obstruction case -- the part that may hit closest to Trump personally -- witnesses may become less cooperative in other parts of the probe, or the president may move to shut it down altogether.

The revelation is a peek into Mueller’s calculations as he proceeds with his many-headed probe, while pressure builds from the president’s advisers and other Republicans to show progress or wrap it up.

The obstruction portion of the probe could likely be completed after several key outstanding interviews, including with the president and his son, Donald Trump Jr. The president’s lawyers have been negotiating with Mueller’s team over such an encounter since late last year. But even if Trump testifies in the coming weeks, Mueller may make a strategic calculation to keep his findings on obstruction secret, according to the current and former U.S. officials, who discussed the strategy on condition of anonymity.

Trump Scandaldjt stormy daniels 2006

ny times logoNew York Times, Lawyers Battle as ‘60 Minutes’ Prepares Porn Star Interview, Jim Rutenberg and Mich M. Grynbaum, March 12, 2018 (print edition). "60 Minutes” was moving forward with plans to show a segment with the pornographic film actress Stephanie Clifford, known as Stormy Daniels, who says she had an affair with President Trump. The two are shown in a file photo.

Washington Post, Analysis: It is almost certainly too late for Trump to stop Stormy Daniels’s ‘60 Minutes’ interview, Callum Borchers, March 12, 2018.

ny times logomelania trump face wikimedia commonNew York Times, Opinion: Melania Knew, Charles M. Blow, March 12, 2018 (print edition). The ongoing saga over a president, a porn star and a payoff is so lewd and tawdry that it can’t simply be added to the ever-expanding list of horrible misbehaviors of a womanizing misogynist.

It’s not even the infidelity that most bothers me. I view that as an issue between spouses and with the other person involved. I contend that we on the outside never really know what understandings may exist in a marriage, unless the two parties within reveal it.

In this case, Melania knew exactly the kind of man she was getting.When Donald first meets Melania, they are at a New York Fashion Week party to which Donald has been invited by the wealthy Italian businessman who brought Melania to America on a modeling contract and work visa. According to GQ, sometimes, to promote his models, the businessman “would send a few girls to an event and invite photographers, producers, and rich playboys.”

Trump is on a date with another woman that night. He is also in the process of divorcing Marla Maples, his second wife, with whom he had had an affair while still married to his first wife, Ivana Trump.

Fraud Claims Against Silicon Valley Star

New York Times, Once a Silicon Valley Star, Theranos Chief Is Accused of Fraud, Katie Thomas, March 14, 2018. Elizabeth Holmes, the chief executive of the blood-testing company, agreed to a settlement in which she will be stripped of control. Elizabeth Holmes, the founder and chief executive of the blood-testing company Theranos, was charged with fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday for raising more than $700 million from investors by falsely promoting a key product, the commission said.

In announcing the charges, the S.E.C. also said that Theranos and Ms. Holmes had agreed to settle them, with Ms. Holmes agreeing to pay a $500,000 penalty. As part of the settlement, she was stripped of control of the company and barred from being an officer or director of any public company for 10 years.

Ms. Holmes was a self-made billionaire and Silicon Valley darling who persuaded high-profile investors to back Theranos, a private company, based on promises that it would revolutionize the lab-testing industry. She promoted tests that used a finger prick of blood and cost a fraction of traditional lab tests. But a series of articles in The Wall Street Journal in 2015 cast doubt on whether the technology worked.

#MeToo Scandal

ny times logoNew York Times, James Levine’s Final Act at the Met Ends in Disgrace, Michael Cooper, March 12, 2018. The Metropolitan Opera fired Mr. Levine, one of the greatest American conductors and one who defined the company for more than four decades, after finding evidence of “sexually abusive” conduct.

The Metropolitan Opera fired the conductor James Levine on Monday evening, ending its association with a man who defined the company for more than four decades after an investigation found what the Met called credible evidence that Mr. Levine had engaged in “sexually abusive and harassing conduct.”

james levine 12 2 2017 nypost front page CustomThe investigation, which the Met opened in December after a report in The New York Times, found evidence of abuse and harassment “both before and during the period” when Mr. Levine worked at the Met, the company said in a statement. It was an extraordinary fall from grace for a legendary maestro, whom many consider the greatest American conductor since Leonard Bernstein.

Four men accused Levine of assault, including Ashok Pai, who told the Daily News that the conductor “basically sexually assaulted me hundreds of times.”

james levine 40 years cover

James Levine: 40 Years at the Metropolitan Opera

New York Daily News, Metropolitan Opera fires James Levine after sexual abuse allegations, Kate Feldman, March 12, 2018. Three months after multiple men accused James Levine of sexual assault, the Metropolitan Opera officially fired the conductor. “The investigation uncovered credible evidence that Mr. Levine had engaged in sexually abusive and harassing conduct both before and during the period when he worked at the Met,” the opera said in a statement Monday.

“The investigation also uncovered credible evidence that Mr. Levine engaged in sexually abusive and harassing conduct towards vulnerable artists in the early stages of their careers, over whom Mr. Levine had authority.” Four men accused Levine of assault, including Ashok Pai, who told the Daily News that the conductor “basically sexually assaulted me hundreds of times.”

Bomb Explosions In Austin

ny times logoNew York Times, Three Package Explosions in Austin Appear to Be Linked, Maya Salam, March 12, 2018. The interim police chief in Austin, Tex., warned residents not to touch any unexpected or suspicious packages after one person was killed and two were injured in separate blasts miles apart in the city.

Education / Media

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Why it was so easy for ’60 Minutes’ to rebut Betsy DeVos’s charter-school arguments, Philip Bump​, March 12, 2018.  An examination of schools in Michigan — DeVos’s home state — undercuts much of the education secretary’s rhetoric on charters.

betsy devos oEducation Secretary Betsy DeVos (shown at right) was picked to run the Education Department largely to continue the work she had embraced through her philanthropic work: advocating an expansion of charter schools. Hers was the most controversial Cabinet nomination by President Trump, requiring Vice President Pence to cast a tie-breaking vote confirming her for the position.

That controversy had many causes, but a significant one was that many in the education community were concerned about turning over the department to someone who advocated transferring scarce public funding to what amounted to educational experiments.

cbs news logoWhich is to say that DeVos should, by now, be very aware that her advocacy of charter schools is contentious, to understate it a bit. Meaning, by extension, that when being interviewed by one of the most established television news programs in the country, she should be able to defend her position.

Yet when interviewed by “60 Minutes” for a program that aired on Sunday — she wasn’t.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump administration uses fuzzy logic to derail $11 billion tunnel plan for New York and New Jersey, Salvador Rizzo, March 12, 2018. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao says New Jersey and New York want the federal government to pay for their new tunnel, but that's not the whole story.

ny times logoisrael flagNew York Times, Mideast Peace Plan Is Nearly Finished. Is It Dead on Arrival? Mark Landler, March 12, 2018 (print edition). Mr. Trump is likely to present his administration’s proposal soon, despite risking swift rejection by the Palestinians and already having taken on another thorny dispute with North Korea.

Middle East War: Syria

bashar al jaafari syria

Syria's ambassador to the United Nations Bashar al-Jaafari argues that terrorists in East Ghouta are concocting false flag phony claims of gas attacks and are holding civilians hostage to stave off the Syrian government's anti-terrorist operation in the Damascus suburb

SouthFront, Militants’ Defense Collapsed In Eastern Ghouta, Staff report, March 12, 2018. Last weekend, a defense of militant groups operating in Eastern Ghouta collapsed under pressure of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies and the militant-held pocket was cut off into two separate parts.

Reports are circulating that US and Israeli-backed militant groups are preparing for an attack against the SAA in the city of Daraa in southern Syria. The alleged attack would exploit the SAA involvement in Eastern Ghouta operation and aimed at indirectly assisting militants there.

nikki haley oReuters, U.S. warns if Security Council doesn't act on Syria, it will, Staff report, March 12, 2018. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley (shown at right) warned on Monday that if the U.N. Security Council fails to act on Syria, Washington“remains prepared to act if we must,” just as it did last year when it bombed a Syrian government air base over a deadly chemical weapons attack.

“It is not the path we prefer, but it is a path we have demonstrated we will take, and we are prepared to take again,” Haley told the 15-member Security Council. “When the international community consistently fails to act, there are times when states are compelled to take their own action.”

Haley’s warning came as the United States asked the Security Council to demand an immediate 30-day ceasefire in Damascus and rebel-held eastern Ghouta, where Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, backed by Russia and Iran, say they are targeting “terrorist” groups which are shelling the capital.

Editor's Note: Haley and other U.S. proponents of launching a new war against Syria's government almost never cite any Constitutional or other legal provision accepted under international law to justify a first-strike against a nation that has not threatened the United States.

kurd flagSouthFront, Syrian Government Allowed 2,000 SDF Members To Reinforce Kurdish Forces In Afrin – Reports, Staff report, March 12, 2018. 2,000 members of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have reportedly reinforced the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YGP) fighting the Turkish Army and the Free Syrian Army in the area of Afrin.

The YPG is a core of the US-backed group. So, in a major part of cases, the SDF is just used as a PR brand to cover the US support to the YPG in eastern Syria.

According to reprots in the Russian media, the SDF column consisting of 2,000 fighters, moved from the city of Manbij through the government-held area towards Afrin on March 11.

There were also reports about the second column consisting of US-linked private military contractors branded as “the SDF”, which were also willing to “help” Afrin. However, the Syrian Army did not allow this very column to reach the YPG-held area.

The YPG has repeatedly rejected Damascus proposals to reach a wide-scale reconciliation agreement, which would return Afrin under the formal government control and to integrate local YPG members into Syrian security. However, all proposals have been rejected by the YPG. This has put the group into a very complicated situation because it cannot stop the Turkish advance itself.

U.S. Disasters

washington post logoWashington Post, 5 passengers dead after helicopter plunges into New York City’s East River; the pilot survived, Samantha Schmidt and Kristine Phillips, March 12, 2018. A helicopter plunged into the frigid waters of New York’s East River on Sunday night, killing five of the six people on board.

Global Media: Russia

megyn kelly valadimir putin nbc march1 2018

Russian President Vladimir Putin is interviewed on March 1 by NBC's Megyn Kelly

Consortium News, Opinion: NBC’s Clueless Boost for Putin, Ray McGovern, March 12, 2018. With the Russian president in the heat of a re-election campaign, Putin sat down to talk with NBC’s Megyn Kelly for an interview that enabled him to burnish his credentials to the Russian electorate, Ray McGovern explains.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s team swept a doubleheader on March 1, with his mid-day speech claiming strategic parity with the U.S., and then the nightcap duel with NBC’s Megyn Kelly. Any lingering doubt that Putin is a shoo-in for another term as President is now dispelled. Putin might consider sending NBC a thank-you note.

Megyn Kelly interviews Vladimir Putin on March 1, 2018.

As I watched NBC’s special, “Confronting Putin,” Friday evening, I asked myself — naively — what possessed President Putin to subject himself again to what NBC calls a Megan Kelly “grilling,” replete with supercilious questions and less-than-polite interruptions, just nine months after his first such “grilling.” It then hit me that “grilling” is in the eye of the beholder.

Reviewing the original Russian tape of the interviews, it became clear that the tête-à-tête showed a Putin looking patiently but supremely presidential to Russian viewers who could see the whole interviews, not just the selective selected excerpts aired by NBC and “interpreted” by Russophobe-de-jour Richard Haas. (A close adviser to Secretary of State Colin Powell, Haas was among those who told him it was a swell idea to invade Iraq. When the anticipated “cakewalk” turned rather bloody, with no WMD to be found, Haas quit in July 2003 and became President of the Council on Foreign Relations where he is now well into his 15th year.)

March 11

washington post logoivanka trump in 2011Washington Post, ‘Where is Ivanka?’ First daughter seeks control in dual role as White House aide, Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker, March 11, 2018. Ivanka Trump (shown at right) tried to travel to South Korea as the president’s envoy — but she could not escape also being his celebrity daughter. Ivanka Trump likes to be in complete control — over-prepared and deliberate — in contrast to her freewheeling and impulsive father.

But at the moment, Ivanka — whose first name has become a brand identity — controls increasingly little of the world she inhabits. The White House is careening from crisis to crisis. Her colleagues are leaking damaging anecdotes about her and husband Jared Kushner. Tensions between the couple and Chief of Staff John F. Kelly are intensifying. And all the while, the dark legal cloud hanging over her family is threatening to unleash a downpour.

Moon of Alabama, Analaysis: Syria — The Fall Of Two Cities, B, March 11, 2018. The Turkish proxy Takfiris have nearly encircled the Kurdish held city of Afrin. The water supply to the city is cut off. It will fall within a few days. This is the direct result of gigantic miscalculations by the YPG Kurds who controlled the Afrin area.

Flag of TurkeyThey had a clear offer from the Syrian and Russian government: Hand over the administration to the legitimate Syrian government and the Syrian army will come and defend your land. They rejected that offer multiple times. They thought they could withstand an attack by a numerical superior enemy which has abundant air and artillery support.

Meanwhile the U.S. is on the verge of giving away the Kurdish held Manbij to the Turks. The Syrian Arab Army has split east-Ghouta next to Damascus into two and soon three parts.

March 10

ny times logoNew York Times, Out of Public View, Trumps and Kushners Are Talking Business, Ben Protess, Steve Eder and Jesse Drucker, March 10, 2018. The Trump and Kushner families are stepping up their real estate collaborations, blurring the line between family, business and politics. Jared Kushner’s family company recently began construction on an oceanfront development in this Jersey Shore city, a project that has the strong backing of local officials, who agreed to support it with $20 million in bonds.

But unknown to Long Branch officials, the Kushners have been in talks to team up with another family-run company that has an even bigger presence in the White House: the Trump Organization.

jared kushner head shotThe Kushners are in private discussions to have President Trump’s company manage at least one hotel at the center of the development known as Pier Village, according to people briefed on the previously unreported talks. The Kushner Companies and the Trump Organization have signed a letter of intent, though no deal is final and the Kushners are not required to inform city officials.

The long-running talks blur the line between family, business and politics in ways that lack precedent: Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Kushner, the president’s senior adviser and son-in-law (shown at right), retain financial interests in their family businesses. The Trump Organization’s outside ethics adviser has raised questions about a potential deal — one reason the two-year-long discussions have not been completed.

DC School Scandal With National Implications

michelle rhee wwashington post logoWashington Post, It was hailed as the national model for school reform. Then the scandals hit, Emma Brown, Valerie Strauss and Perry Stein, March 10, 2018. Data suggested that the District was a national model. Sometimes, data can mislead.

Michelle Rhee was new to town. It was 2007, she had just been named to run the District’s public schools, and she had an alluringly simple message about what it would take to transform a system known for crumbling buildings, chaotic classrooms and students who graduated without being able to read.

She would use data. It was a new era of accountability, she promised, and numbers would reveal whether teachers were effective and students were learning. Data would tell the truth.

Yet a cascade of D.C. school scandals in recent months has shown that data can sometimes mislead. In the decade after the city dissolved its elected local school board and turned management of the schools over to the mayor, Rhee and her successor, Kaya Henderson, created a system that demanded ever-higher accomplishments — higher test scores, higher graduation rates. They used money as an incentive: Principals and teachers were rewarded financially if they hit certain numbers.

bo officialAnd with only weak oversight from the D.C. Council and other city education agencies — which report to the same mayor who is politically liable for the schools — there was no strong check on any impulse to gloss over shortcomings and pump up numbers.

City lawmakers repeatedly boasted that the District’s schools had become the fastest-improving in the nation. Philanthropic dollars poured in. President Barack Obama offered praise. And one of the most dysfunctional school systems in America became known as a model for education reform efforts nationwide.

Suppressed JFK Records

Kennedys and King, Opinion: Ricochet of a Lie: And Kennedy's Throat Wound, Milicent Cranor, March 10, 2018. Milicent Cranor addresses the question of JFK's throat incision, bringing to light the fact that it was, and is, standard procedure to make a fairly wide incision when penetrating trauma to the throat is observed. She also reports a very interesting lie Commander James Humes told to JAMA — and its significance.

March 9

Korean Talks

kim jong un suit

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (File photo)

ny times logonorth korea flagNew York Times, Kim Offers Nuclear Talks; Trump Accepts, Mark Landler, March 9, 2018. Would Be 1st Sitting President to Meet With North Korea. The invitation from North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, is an audacious diplomatic overture for two world leaders who have exchanged threats of war, as well as personal insults.

American FlagNorth Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, has invited President Trump to meet for negotiations over its nuclear program, an audacious diplomatic overture that would bring together two strong-willed, idiosyncratic leaders who have traded threats of war.

The White House said that Mr. Trump had accepted the invitation, and Chung Eui-yong, a South Korean official who conveyed it, told reporters that the president would meet with Mr. Kim within two months.

Jobs, Tariffs, Trade Wars

ny times logoLabor Department logoNew York Times, U.S. Added 313,000 Jobs Last Month, Exceeding Estimates, Patricia Cohen, March 9, 2018. The data is the last major economic report before the Federal Reserve decides whether to increase the benchmark interest rate later this month.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. allies express anger, confusion as Trump signs tariffs order, Anna Fifield and Michael Birnbaum, March 9, 2018 (print edition).  Bewilderment rippled across countries that figured, no matter the bumps in relations with Washington, they would be on the same side against China in any trade dispute. Japan, which is not just led by a friendly politician but also is a key security ally of the United States, looks likely to be slapped with tariffs on its steel exports to the United States. And to add insult to injury, the reason, Trump says, is rooted in national security.

ny times logopaul krugmanNew York Times, Opinion: Oh, What a Trumpy Trade War! Paul Krugman (shown at right), March 9, 2018 (print edition). There’s near-universal consensus among both economists and business leaders that Donald Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum are a bad idea, and that the wider trade war those tariffs could trigger would be very destructive. But the chances of heading off this policy disaster are small, because this is a quintessential example of Trump being Trump.

In fact, the tariffs are arguably the Trumpiest thing Trump has done so far. After all, trade (like racism) is an issue on which Trump has been utterly consistent over the years. He has spent decades railing at other countries that, he claims, hurt America by taking advantage of our relatively open markets. And if his views are based on zero understanding of the issues or even of basic facts, well, Trumpism is all about belligerent ignorance, across the board.

But wait, there’s more. There’s a reason we have international trade agreements, and it’s not to protect us from unfair practices by other countries. The real goal, instead, is to protect us from ourselves: to limit the special-interest politics and outright corruption that used to reign in trade policy.

ny times logo New York Times, Analysis: What History Has to Say About the ‘Winners’ in Trade Wars, James B. Stewart, March 9, 2018 (print edition). Has President Trump studied the Smoot-Hawley act of 1930? Or the McKinley tariff act of 1890? Maybe he should.

With President Trump ordering steep new tariffs on imported steel and aluminum on Thursday, and with America’s trading partners threatening to retaliate, it looks as if Mr. Trump will get the trade war that he seems to want and that he thinks will be “easy” for the United States to win. “Trade wars aren’t so bad,” he had said at the White House on Wednesday.

Which made me wonder: What trade wars does Mr. Trump have in mind? The most prominent trade war of the 20th century was ignited by the Smoot-Hawley Tariff act of 1930, which imposed steep tariffs on roughly 20,000 imported goods. Led by Canada, America’s trading partners retaliated with tariffs on United States exports, which plunged 61 percent from 1929 to 1933. The tariffs were repealed in 1934.

Inside Trump Town

us veterans administrtion logo horizontal

washington post logodavid shulkinWashington Post, ‘It’s killing the agency’: Ugly power struggle paralyzes Trump’s plan to fix veterans’ care, Lisa Rein, March 9, 2018. David Shulkin (shown at right), who by most accounts tallied multiple wins in his first year as Veterans Affairs secretary, is fighting to regain his standing amid a mutiny. In a sign of how deeply Shulkin’s trust in his senior staff has eroded, an armed guard now stands outside his office.

us veterans administration sealVeterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin is managing the government’s second-largest bureaucracy from a fortified bunker atop the agency’s Washington headquarters.

He has canceled the morning meetings once attended by several of President Trump’s political appointees — members of his senior management team — gathering instead with aides he trusts not to miscast his remarks. Access to Shulkin’s 10th-floor executive suite was recently revoked for several people he has accused of lobbying the White House to oust him. He and his public-affairs chief have not spoken in weeks.

washington post logoWashington Post, Scandal continues to burn the U.S. Forest Service, Darryl Fears, March 9, 2018 (print edition). In an email to workers, agency Chief Tony Tooke acknowledged that he had lost the confidence needed to execute his duties. The agency faces claims of inappropriate behavior, gender discrimination, sexual harassment and rape.

Schools, Crime, Courts

ny times logoNew York Times, Ex-Leader of Baltimore County Schools, a Tech Booster, Pleads Guilty to Perjury, Natasha Singer, March 9, 2018 (print edition). The former official, Dallas Dance, has been at the center of questions about the relationships between school officials and education technology companies.

A former superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools, the 25th-largest district in the United States, pleaded guilty on Thursday to four counts of perjury related to payments totaling about $147,000 that he received for consulting and speaking engagements.

dallas dance baltimore schoolsThe state said the former superintendent, Shaun Dallas Dance (shown at right), had made false statements on his financial disclosure forms “to conceal the nature and extent of his outside business interests and conflicts of interest.” Among other sources of income, the state said, Mr. Dance received payments from a school leadership training company that he had helped win an $875,000 no-bid contract from his school district.

After his financial relationship with that school vendor became known, the state said, Mr. Dance falsely told a Baltimore County Public Schools ethics panel that he had not been paid by the company while it was doing business with the district. He also provided the ethics panel with what the state described as a “sham” service agreement with the company supporting his false claims.

Global  News: U.S. War Against Syria?

Strategic via SouthFront, Analysis: The US Ponders a Strike Against Syrian Government Forces: What’s Behind This Aggressive Approach? Peter Korzun, March 9, 2018. The US is considering the option of military action against Syria. The alleged use of chemical weapons (CW) by the Syrian government, which is not backed by any solid evidence, is to serve as the pretext. Syrian President Assad is going to be “punished.” On March 6, US President Trump and Israeli PM Netanyahu discussed the threat posed by Iran’s presence in Syria and ways to counter it.

American FlagChemical weapons? But why should Syria’s President Assad use them if he has had no trouble winning with conventional weapons wherever he goes? Couldn’t the rebels be using CW? Instances of that have been uncovered and confirmed. But no, US officials don’t even bother to give a passing thought to such “unimportant and irrelevant” considerations.

Inventing a reason to use force against Syria is a way to fight Iran and roll Russia back. This is a very dangerous policy. As a result, Syria will become a battlefield where powerful actors clash in their pursuit of strategic goals. That will be much worse than fighting jihadists.

JFK Research

roger stone2StoneZone, Roger Stone Says JFK Cover Continues, Roger Stone, March 9, 2018. Bestselling author and political operative Roger Stone told a conference of JFK researchers that “the cover-up continues, even today.” Stone (shown at right) referred to the recent National Archive release of long-held secret documents and records on the Kennedy assassination, the release of which was mandated by Congress in the 1992 JFK Records Act.

“Huge portions of the material that President Trump ordered released was unreasonably redacted or withheld by the Intelligence agencies,“ said Stone, making much of the material useless to reporters and researchers.

President Trump has ordered that redactions in the records he ordered released must regard someone who is still living. “Given the failure of the National Archives to justify their black out of so much material it is impossible to determine if the President’s orders are being countermanded by Deep State bureaucrats,“ said Stone.

Stone pointed out that the 1992 law which required the JFK documents be released also required the agency redacting records to justify their redactions in writing and that those explanations be published in the Federal Register. “The Government has not done so - the Deep State cover-up continues,” said Stone, author of “The Man Who Killed Kennedy- the Case Against LBJ” which makes a compelling case that Vice President Lyndon Johnson worked with the CIA, organized crime and Big Texas oil to orchestrate the Dallas, Texas murder of President John F. Kennedy.

Stone, the subject of a hit Netflix documentary “Get Me Roger Stone,” said he would contact Sen. Charles Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Rep. Walter Jones to seek enforcement of the requirement that the redactions in the recently release documents be explained.

MIT Study of Fake Twitter Messages

Science, Lies spread faster than the truth, Soroush Vosoughi, Deb Roy, Sinan Aral, March 9, 2018. ,There is worldwide concern over false news and the possibility that it can influence political, economic, and social well-being. To understand how false news spreads, Vosoughi et al. used a data set of rumor cascades on Twitter from 2006 to 2017. About 126,000 rumors were spread by ∼3 million people. False news reached more people than the truth; the top 1% of false news cascades diffused to between 1000 and 100,000 people, whereas the truth rarely diffused to more than 1000 people. Falsehood also diffused faster than the truth. The degree of novelty and the emotional reactions of recipients may be responsible for the differences observed.

Abstract: We investigated the differential diffusion of all of the verified true and false news stories distributed on Twitter from 2006 to 2017. The data comprise ~126,000 stories tweeted by ~3 million people more than 4.5 million times. We classified news as true or false using information from six independent fact-checking organizations that exhibited 95 to 98% agreement on the classifications. Falsehood diffused significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information, and the effects were more pronounced for false political news than for false news about terrorism, natural disasters, science, urban legends, or financial information. We found that false news was more novel than true news, which suggests that people were more likely to share novel information. Whereas false stories inspired fear, disgust, and surprise in replies, true stories inspired anticipation, sadness, joy, and trust. Contrary to conventional wisdom, robots accelerated the spread of true and false news at the same rate, implying that false news spreads more than the truth because humans, not robots, are more likely to spread it.

Politics / Democratic Veracity?

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker: DNC vice chair Keith Ellison and Louis Farrakhan: ‘No relationship’? Glenn Kessler, March 9, 2018. The vice chair of the Democratic National Committee hasn't told the full story about his interactions with Louis Farrakhan.

“We’re talking about something that happened in 1995. This was the year that the Million Man March took off. People were attacking the march at the time. . . . Man, I’m telling you back in 2006 and before, I disavowed them. That’s the ridiculous thing about this, that we keep on having to answer this kind of stuff.”
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Dec. 14, 2016

“Ellison’s spokesperson noted to CNN that ‘President Obama, Stevie Wonder, Maya Angelou, and many others also attended the March’ and said he ‘had no additional involvement with March organizer Louis Farrakhan or his organizations, has long since denounced him, and rejects all forms of anti-Semitism.’”
CNN news report, Dec. 1, 2016

Ellison, vice chair of the Democratic National Committee and one of two Muslim members of Congress, faced questions about his association with Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, when he sought the chairmanship of the DNC in 2017.

Ellison, who had defended Farrakhan against charges of anti-Semitism as a law student, publicly renounced the Nation of Islam in 2006 when he first ran for Congress, but the issue re-emerged after a CNN exploration about his decade-long involvement in the group.

March 8

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Anna Fifield​, March 8, 2008. President Trump accepted the offer from Kim and agreed to meet him “by May,” said South Korea’s national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, who delivered the invitation from North Korea to the White House. Kim also committed to stopping nuclear testing, Chung said. President Trump has agreed to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for talks by May, an extraordinary development following months of heightened nuclear tension during which the two leaders exchanged frequent military threats and insults.

north korea flagKim has also committed to stopping nuclear and missile testing, even during joint military drills in South Korea next month, Chung Eui-yong, the South Korean national security adviser, told reporters at the White House on Thursday. Chung extended the invitation from Kim to meet while briefing Trump on the four-hour dinner he had with the North Korean leader in Pyongyang on Monday.

South Korean flagAfter a year in which North Korea fired intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching all of the United States and tested what is widely thought to have been a hydrogen bomb, such a moratorium would be welcomed by the United States and the world.

kim jong un chung eui yong korean central news agencymarch5 2018 CustomBut there is also significant risk for Trump in agreeing to a meeting apparently without the kind of firm preconditions sought by previous U.S. administrations.

There has never been a face-to-face meeting, or even phone call, between sitting leaders of the two nations because American presidents have been wary of offering the Kim regime validation of a leaders-level summit on the global stage. Kim Jong-Un and Chung Eui Yong (Photo by Korean Central News Agency, March 5, 2018)

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: President Trump’s North Korea Gamble, Nicholas Kristoff, March 8, 2008. For many years, over several trips to North Korea, I’ve argued for direct talks between the United States and North Korea, and it’s certainly better to be engaging the North than bombing it. If the choice is talk versus missiles, I’ll go with the talk.

But the proper way to hold a summit is with careful preparation to make sure that the meeting advances peace — and certainly that it serves some purpose higher than simply legitimizing Kim’s regime. Kim and Trump are both showmen with a flair for the dramatic and unexpected. That would make a summit thrilling — but creates great risks if everything turns out wrong.

washington post logoWashington Post, American allies see Trump’s tariffs on metals as an insult, Anna Fifield and Michael Birnbaum​, March 8, 2008. Bewilderment, anger and frustration rippled across the capitals of countries that figured, no matter the bumps in relations with Washington, they would be on the same side against China in any trade dispute.

Trump Probes

washington post logoWashington Post, Mueller gathers evidence that 2017 meeting was effort to establish back channel to Kremlin, Sari Horwitz and Devlin Barrett, March 8, 2018 (print edition). A witness cooperating with the special counsel has said the meeting in Seychelles was set up so that a representative of the Trump transition team could meet with an emissary from Moscow to discuss U.S.-Russia relations — apparently contradicting statements made to lawmakers by one of its participants, people familiar with the matter said.

robert mueller full face fileSpecial counsel Robert S. Mueller III (right) has gathered evidence that a secret meeting in Seychelles just before the inauguration of Donald Trump was an effort to establish a back channel between the incoming administration and the Kremlin — apparently contradicting statements made to lawmakers by one of its participants, according to people familiar with the matter.

erik princeIn January 2017, Erik Prince (shown in a file photo), the founder of the private security company Blackwater, met with a Russian official close to Russian President Vladi­mir Putin and later described the meeting to congressional investigators as a chance encounter that was not a planned discussion of U.S.-Russia relations.

A witness cooperating with Mueller has told investigators the meeting was set up in advance so that a representative of the Trump transition could meet with an emissary from Moscow to discuss future relations between the countries, according to the people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.

george nader c spanGeorge Nader (shown at right), a Lebanese American businessman who helped organize and attended the Seychelles meeting, has testified on the matter before a grand jury gathering evidence about discussions between the Trump transition team and emissaries of the Kremlin, as part of Mueller’s investigation into Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 election.

See related story: The Intercept, George Nader, Cooperating Witness in Mueller Probe, Was Arrested for Child Pornography in the 1980s, Ryan Grim and Clayton Swisher, March 8, 2018. In July 1986, just ahead of a jury trial, the charges were dismissed, according a docket sheet from the U.S. District Court in Washington.(Amplified below and on special sections "Trump Probes" and "#MeToo" via buttons on JIP home page.

School Shootings Reaction

washington post logonra logo CustomWashington Post, Bucking the NRA, Fla. lawmakers pass gun-control bill after Parkland shooting, Michael Scherer, March 8, 2018 (print edition). Approval of the bill, which would impose a waiting period for most purchases of long guns and raise the minimum age for purchasing those weapons to 21, signaled a major shift for a state known as a legal laboratory for gun rights activists.

Global News: Saudis

mohammed bin salman nameplate file

Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman (File photo)

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Saudi crown prince sees a new axis of ‘evil’ in the Middle East, Ishaan Tharoor, March 8, 2018. Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s comments about Iran, Turkey and Islamic extremist groups seemed to echo the notorious bluster of the George W. Bush administration.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Beware of Saudis bearing mega-city projects, March 8, 2018. Saudi Arabia's 32-year old Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, is on a whirlwind tour of Egypt, Britain, and the United States. What he is selling is a Middle East that should worry everyone on the planet, but most of all, the Palestinian people.

Global News: Kurds, Turks, Syrians

washington post logokurd flagWashington Post, Syrian rebels are using the Turkish offensive to take revenge against Kurds, Louisa Loveluck and Zakaria Zakaria, March 8, 2018 (print edition). Syrian rebels who have joined Turkey’s cross-border offensive against a Kurdish enclave say they see the assault as a way to settle personal scores, and reports are mounting of looting and summary executions carried out by the Syrian fighters.

turkey flagBacked by Turkish troops and warplanes, thousands of Syrian rebels are now tightening their grip on the Kurdish-controlled Afrin enclave in northern Syria as part of an offensive that Turkey has framed as a matter of its national security.

Turkey has been fighting a decades-old war against Kurdish militants at home, who are closely allied with the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, just across the border in Afrin.

syria flagSouth Front, Syrian Army Liberates Key Town, Advances Further In East Ghouta, Staff report, Mach 8, 2018 (2:09 min, video). The Syrian Arab Army (SAA), the Tiger Forces and their allies liberated the town of Bayt Siwa, the Tank Base around Hawsh al-Ash’ari and imposed fire control over the town of Misraba in the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta on March 7.

Next day, the SAA advanced further on militant positions in Misraba, where clashes erupted. Pro-government rallies (circumstances of video not confirmed) were reported in the villages of Hammuuriyah and Kafr Batna. Locals are especially upset with a decision by militant groups to reject a Russian evacuation proposal for Eastern Ghouta.

Stormy Daniels Scandal Implications

washington post logodjt stormy daniels 2006Washington Post, Opinion: Stormy Daniels beat Trump at his own game, Eugene Robinson, March 8, 2008. The president who boasted of treating women like sex objects is being outplayed at his own tabloid-warfare game by a porn star. Maybe there’s justice in the world after all.

You might have missed it in the ceaseless fusillade of news, but on Wednesday the White House all but confirmed the story that actress and director Stormy Daniels is dying to tell: Shortly before the election she was paid $130,000 in hush money to keep quiet about an “intimate relationship” she had with Donald Trump in 2006, soon after Melania Trump gave birth to the couple’s son, Barron. They are shown together in a file photo.

ny times logoNew York Times, Stormy Daniels Suit Opens Door to More Trouble for Trump, Jim Rutenberg and Mike McIntire, March 8, 2008. The actress’s case, seeking to break an agreement to keep silent about an alleged affair with the president, could lead to his having to testify in a deposition.

#MeToo and Yale Rape Claim Acquittal

ny times logoNew York Times, Yale Student Is Found Not Guilty of Rape, Vivian Wang and Cheryl P. Weinstock, March 8, 2018 (print edition). Defense lawyers worked relentlessly to discredit the accuser’s account, resulting in a verdict that showed the divides in a national reckoning around sexual consent and assault.

A Yale student who had been suspended by the university was found not guilty on Wednesday of sexually assaulting a fellow student, in a rare college rape accusation to be tried in the courts. The verdict laid bare seemingly gaping divides in the national reckoning around sexual consent and assault.

Over several grueling days on the witness stand in a New Haven courtroom, the woman described what she said was her rape by the accused student, Saifullah Khan, 25, on Halloween night 2015. The testimony, in open court, offered a glimpse into the kinds of encounters that are more often described behind closed doors, to university panels or among friends.

Mr. Khan’s lawyers worked relentlessly to discredit the account of the woman, who was not identified by name in the arrest warrant application. They asked repeatedly how much she had to drink, and how she could claim not to remember certain details, such as how she arrived back at her dorm room, but remembered others, such as the alleged assault itself. They parsed her text messages with Mr. Khan, asking if she had not been flirting with him in the days before the incident. They showed off her Halloween costume, a black cat outfit, and asked her why she had not chosen a more modest one, such as “Cinderella in a long flowing gown.”

Laura Palumbo, a spokeswoman for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, called the defense’s line of questioning “all victims’ worst fears in coming forward.”

Media Criticism, Propaganda, Net Neutrality

fcc net neutrality op ed washpost rosenworcel pai

Washington Post Op-Ed by Jessica Rosenworcel, illustated with photo of Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai

jessica rosenworcel fccMoon of Alabama, Opinion: No, Russians Do Not Hack The FCC's Public Comments, b, March 8, 2018. A [former] member of the Federal Communications Commission, Jessica Rosenworcel (right), wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post. It is unlikely that the headline was chosen by the author of the op-ed. The editors of the Washington Post opinion page wrote it. I also doubt that she would have chosen a picture of the FCC head to decorate her piece. For the record: The headline is false.

fcc logoThe op-ed is about a request for comments the Federal Communications Commission issued last year in preparation of its net-neutrality decision. Anyone, and anything, could comment multiple times. Various lobbying firms, political action groups and hacks abused the public comment system to send copy-paste comments via single-use email accounts or even without giving any email address.

Historical / Scientific News

amelia earhart 1937 lockheed model 10 E electra smallwashington post logoWashington Post, Bones discovered on a Pacific island belong to Amelia Earhart, a new forensic analysis claims, Marwa Eltagouri, March 8, 2018 (print edition). Amelia Earhart’s story is revolutionary: She was the first woman to fly alone across the Atlantic Ocean, and might have been the first to fly around the world had her plane not vanished over the Pacific Ocean in 1937.

A new scientific study claims that bones found in 1940 on the Pacific Island of Nikumaroro belong to Earhart (shown above in a 1937 photo with her Lockheed plane four months before her Pacific flight), despite a forensic analysis of the remains conducted in 1941 that linked the bones to a man.

JFK Assassination Records Release Deadline

national archives

National Archives Building in Washington, DC, Later this month, Trump will decide on release of 23,000 secret JFK files, Jefferson Morley, March 8, 2018. The final countdown for disclosure of the last of the U.S. government’s JFK assassination files begins next Monday with prospects for full disclosure, as mandated by law, still in doubt.

CIA LogoOn March 12, the CIA, NSA, and FBI, and other federal agencies are due to submit to the National Archivist a list of any JFK assassination files they wish to keep fully or partially secret. Under the terms of an order issued by President Trump last fall, archivist David Ferreiro has two weeks to review the requests.

By March 26, Ferreiro, appointed by President Obama in 2009, must advise President Trump about “whether the specific information within particular records identified by agencies warrants continued withholding from public disclosure after April 26, 2018.”

Trump has tweeted that he hopes all JFK files will be made public, except for the names of living informants by April 26. The list of still-secret JFK files is not short. Tens of thousand of files have been released since last October, including more than 200 previously unknown files from the National Security Agency.

More on Mueller Probe

The Intercept, George Nader, Cooperating Witness in Mueller Probe, Was Arrested for Child Pornography in the 1980s, staff report, March 8, 2018. George Nader, reportedly a cooperating witness in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into collusion between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia, was arrested in 1985 on child pornography charges.

A frequent visitor to the Trump White House in 2017, Nader is the latest enigmatic character to saunter onto the stage as part of Mueller’s inquiry. A New York Times story last weekend said that Mueller was looking into whether Nader, a Lebanese-American with access to Persian Gulf elites, had helped funnel foreign money toward Trump’s campaign. On Tuesday, the paper said that Nader was cooperating with Mueller’s investigation.

The 1985 criminal case against Nader on child pornography charges was eventually dismissed, according to court documents obtained by The Intercept. The existence of the charges was first reported by The Atlantic.

“The court found that Mr. Nader’s constitutional rights had been flagrantly violated, and the case was thrown out in its entirety before trial,” a representative for Nader told The Intercept. “Mr. Nader vigorously denies the allegations now, as he did then.”

The 1985 criminal case against Nader on child pornography charges was eventually dismissed.

According to prosecutors, as relayed in the U.S. District Court judge’s ruling on a motion to suppress evidence in the case, Nader received a package that included both a film of young boys engaged in sexual acts and pictures depicting nude boys. Authorities conducted a search based on a warrant, and similar material was found in a room that Nader rented in a Washington home, according to the court documents. The evidence discovered in the home was ruled inadmissible when the warrant was challenged, but the material delivered in the original package was not ruled inadmissible at the time.

The Atlantic, An Operative With Trump Ties Was Once Indicted on an Obscenity Charge, Natasha Bertrand, March 8, 2018. George Nader was accused of importing photographs of nude boys “engaged in a variety of sexual acts.” The 1985 charges were dismissed after key evidence was thrown out.

A political operative who frequented the White House in the early days of President Trump’s administration, George Nader, was indicted in 1985 on charges of importing to the United States obscene material, including photos of nude boys “engaged in a variety of sexual acts,” according to publicly available court records. Nader pleaded not guilty, and the charges against him were ultimately dismissed several months after evidence seized from Nader’s home was thrown out on procedural grounds. “Mr. Nader vigorously denies the allegations now, as he did then,” a lawyer representing Nader said.

Nevertheless, the indictment raises questions about what the White House knew, if anything, about Nader’s past while senior officials were meeting with him. The Trump administration is already under fire for failures to vet members of the president’s inner circle.

Courts and Crime: Alabama

charles todd, Former Jefferson County DA Charles Todd Henderson sentenced for perjury conviction, Kent Faulk, March 8, 2018. Charles Todd Henderson, the man elected Jefferson County's district attorney in 2016 but never served, was sentenced today to serve six months in jail for his conviction on a perjury charge.

Henderson (shown at right), who was found guilty by a jury of first degree perjury in October 2017, was sentenced by Chilton County Circuit Judge Sibley Reynolds, who was specially appointed to preside over the case. The judge ordered Henderson to serve two-year split sentence, but suspended it with six months to serve in the county jail, followed by 12 months supervised probation. The judge also ordered Henderson to pay a $10,000 fine and another $1,000 to the state crime victims fund.

Henderson's attorneys say he will appeal his conviction. But the judge ordered him to jail pending an order to allow him to post an appeal bond. As of 10 p.m. Thursday, Henderson was being held in the jail with no bail set.

Henderson was indicted on the perjury charge and suspended the week before he was to take office in early January 2017. The charge relates to his testimony in a divorce case in 2016 when he was questioned about his role as guardian ad litem and whether he had a romantic relationship with the mother in the case.

Joe Espy, one of Henderson's attorneys, told the judge that the event that led to the charge is inconsistent with Henderson's life. He worked his way through college and law school, was an Eagle Scout, he said.

March 7

Trump Tariff Chaos

donald trump apprentice color nbc

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump may exempt Canada and Mexico from steel and aluminum tariffs, David J. Lynch and Damian Paletta​, March 7, 2018. The White House confirmed that President Trump (shown in an Apprentice publicity photo) plans to move forward with the new tariffs this week, despite objections by many economists, businesses and GOP lawmakers.

carl icahn file

washington post logoWashington Post, Carl Icahn denies he knew about steel tariff announcement before dumping stocks, Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Marwa Eltagouri, March 7, 2018. Billionaire activist-investor Carl Icahn (shown above in a file photo) said Wednesday that he knew nothing about President Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports before deciding to sell shares in a company that makes cranes for heavy construction.

“We don’t generally comment on rumors, but the recent media speculation regarding our sale of Manitowoc stock calls for a response,” Icahn, a former Trump adviser, said in a short statement on his website.

“We state for the record: Any suggestion that we had prior knowledge of the Trump administration’s announcement of new tariffs on steel imports is categorically untrue. We reduced our position in Manitowoc for legitimate investment reasons having nothing to do with that announcement.”

Trump’s tariff decision March 1 took many by surprise — particularly investors, with the Dow Jones industrial average closing the day’s trading down more than 400 points, or 1.7 percent, at 24,608.

Icahn dumped roughly a million shares tied to the steel industry a week before the president announced 25 percent tariffs for foreign-made steel.

washington post logoWashington Post, Kurds pull back from ISIS fight in Syria, saying they feel let down by U.S., Liz Sly, March 7, 2018 (print edition). The forces cite the United States’ warming ties with Turkey in announcing the move, jeopardizing the fight against the militants.

kurd flag wavingU.S.-allied forces in eastern Syria said Tuesday that they are withdrawing from the front lines of the war against the Islamic State in order to battle the United States’ NATO ally Turkey elsewhere in the country, jeopardizing the fight against the militants.

American FlagCiting disappointment with the United States, the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said they were pulling fighters off the front lines in the province of Deir al-Zour, where Islamic State fighters have been putting up a fierce fight in a pocket of territory on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River. The holdouts there are thought to include some of the most senior leaders of the organization who escaped the cities of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria last year, U.S. officials say.

The move follows an effort by the Trump administration to assuage Turkish ire over the U.S. military’s close relationship with Syrian Kurdish forces.

Porn Star Sues Trump

djt stormy daniels screengrab

washington post logo

Washington Post, Porn actress Stormy Daniels sues Trump, says hush agreement is null because he didn’t sign it, Beth Reinhard, Frances Stead Sellers and Emma Brown​, March 7, 2018 (print edition). The lawsuit filed in Los Angeles alleges that President Trump, then the Republican presidential nominee, never approved a $130,000 settlement arranged by his personal attorney, making it invalid.

Stormy Daniels, the porn star who says she was paid to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Donald Trump, sued the president Tuesday, asking the court to declare that her nondisclosure agreement before the 2016 election is void because Trump did not sign it.

In the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Daniels — whose real name is Stephanie Clifford — said she had wanted to go public with the story of her alleged decade-old affair with Trump in the weeks leading up to the election. The lawsuit was first reported by NBC News.

michael cohen iowa via flickr preston kempTrump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen (shown in a file photo at Trump Tower), and Daniels’s attorney at the time, Keith Davidson, negotiated what the lawsuit calls a “hush agreement” in which she would be paid $130,000. After delays and even a cancellation of the contract by Daniels on Oct. 17, the payment arrived on Oct. 27, 12 days before the election, according to e-mails reviewed by The Washington Post. Cohen said recently that he had used his own money to “facilitate” the payment.

ny times logodjt stormy daniels 2006New York Times, Trump’s Lawyer Got Restraining Order to Silence Porn Star, Jim Rutenberg and Peter Baker, March 7, 2018. The order was obtained last week to keep the porn star quiet about her alleged affair with Mr. Trump. President Trump’s lawyer secretly obtained a temporary restraining order last week to prevent a pornographic film star from speaking out about her alleged affair with Mr. Trump (shown with her twelve years or so ago), according to legal documents and interviews.

The order, issued by an arbitrator in California and reviewed by The New York Times, pertained to the actress Stephanie Clifford, who had been paid $130,000 shortly before the 2016 election in what she calls a “hush agreement.” In recent weeks, she had prepared to speak publicly about Mr. Trump, claiming his lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, had broken the agreement.

The details of the order emerged on Wednesday after the White House’s spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said that Mr. Trump’s lawyer had won an arbitration proceeding against Ms. Clifford, who goes by the name of Stormy Daniels.

Ms. Sanders’s statement put the White House in the middle of a story that Mr. Trump and his lawyer had been trying to keep quiet for well over a year. The turn of events created the spectacle of a sitting president using legal maneuvers to avoid further scrutiny of salacious accusations of an affair and a payoff involving the porn star.

Inside Trump Town

ProPublica, Trump Town: Tracking White House Staffers, Cabinet Members and Political Appointees Across the Government, Derek Kravitz, Al Shaw and American FlagClaire Perlman, March 7, 2018. The Trump administration has appointed hundreds of staffers to powerful positions across the federal government. Some are old policy hands from conservative D.C. think tanks. Others have little-to-no government experience and come straight from the industries they are now tasked to regulate and oversee.

We've collected personnel records for thousands of these appointees. Use this database to search for them by name, former employer and agency. In This Database:

  • 2,475 Appointees
  • 187 Are Former Lobbyists
  • 125 Worked at Conservative Think Tanks
  • 254 Worked for Trump Campaign Groups

ny times logoNew York Times, How the Spoils Were Doled Out to Trump Campaign Workers and Allies, Eric Lipton and Danielle Ivory, March 7, 2018.  Presidents have 4,000 federal jobs to fill. Mr. Trump has turned to campaign staff, lobbyists and conservatives, some lacking relevant experience, a ProPublica tally shows.

One appointee went from “battleground states” director for the Trump presidential campaign to a role at the State Department that sent him to South Africa to meet with health officials.

Another traded in her campaign experience as a field director in Virginia for a federal job promoting nuclear energy sales abroad.

And another, who spent four months on the campaign in New York after graduating from college, landed a job as an aide to the commerce secretary with a résumé that included work as a receptionist at an animal hospital and a summer job at a country club’s golf shop.

The three newly minted federal employees are among the nearly 260 or so former Trump campaign and inauguration workers who have gotten jobs reserved for political appointees in the administration, according to public records compiled by ProPublica and analyzed by The New York Times.

A database of the employees, assembled through hundreds of open records requests, has been posted online by ProPublica. It offers a comprehensive look at how Mr. Trump is influencing the direction of the federal government, beyond high-profile cabinet appointments and other Senate-confirmed posts, and how he has rewarded people who have been loyal to him or share his priorities.

In all, more than 2,475 political appointees have joined the federal government since President Trump took office, including at least 187 former lobbyists and also 125 people with ties to conservative think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute, the records show.

Korean Tensions Easing

kim jong un chung eui yong korean central news agencymarch5 2018 Custom

Kim Jong-Un and Chung Eui Yong (Photo by Korean Central News Agency, March 5, 2018)

ny times logoNew York Times, Kim Jong-un, a Mystery to the World, Surprises in Diplomatic Debut, Choe Sang-Hun, March 7, 2018. When senior South Korean envoys sat down this week with North Korea’s reclusive leader, Kim Jong-un, they had a series of talking points in hand for a man whose diplomatic experience was limited to meetings with officials from China, Cuba and Syria.

north korea flagIt was a rare chance to make the case for nuclear disarmament directly to Mr. Kim, but it was also an unusual opportunity to size up a young dictator who has remained an enigma even as his weapons tests have terrified the world.

south korea flag SmallEven so, South Korean officials said, the envoys were not prepared for how “forthcoming and daring” Mr. Kim was over the course of more than four hours on Monday.Mr. Kim, who is just 34, surprised the much older South Korean diplomats not only by accepting joint South Korean-United States military drills but also by expressing his willingness to start negotiations with Washington on ending his nuclear weapons program. He also told them he would suspend all nuclear and ballistic missile tests while talks were underway.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump says North Korea is ‘sincere’ on reported offer to hold nuclear talks, Karen DeYoung and Anna Fifield, March 7, 2018 (print edition). Word of North Korea’s willingness to hold talks came from South Korean officials, returning from what they described as productive meetings in the North. The White House responded with cautious optimism Tuesday to North Korea’s reported proposal to hold “candid talks” with the United States and South Korea, and to put its nuclear weapons and missile testing programs on hold while engaged in dialogue.

north korea flagny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: On North Korea, Trump Is in Familiar Predicament, Mark Landler and David E. Sanger, March 7, 2018 (print edition). North Korea’s offer to put its nuclear weapons on the bargaining table opens the door to negotiations of unpredictable length and inevitable complexity, putting President Trump in the same position as his predecessors.

From the day he took office, President Trump has vowed not to repeat what he regarded as the cardinal error of his predecessors in dealing with North Korea. He would not get drawn into a lengthy negotiation in which the United States offers concessions that keep the North Korean regime alive, while the North Koreans retain the key elements of their nuclear arsenal.

High-Stakes Pentagon Contracting: As Favorite?

The Pentagon Against the Washington, DC skyline (U.S. Defense Department photo)

The Pentagon Against the Washington, DC skyline (U.S. Defense Department photo)

washington post logoWashington Post, Pentagon kicks off a winner-take-all among tech companies for multibillion-dollar cloud-computing contract, Christian Davenport and Aaron Gregg, March 7, 2018.  followed months of industry speculation that might have the inside track to the contract award.

After months of scrutiny, complaints and at least one legal action, a group of Pentagon leaders sought to assure the country’s top technology companies Wednesday that the competition to build an Internet cloud network for the Defense Department would be an open and fair competition.

Department of Defense SealSpeaker after speaker in a packed hotel ballroom in Pentagon City stressed that the Defense Department needs to upgrade its often-antiquated technology as a matter of urgent national security, and they insisted the program had the attention of the agency’s top leaders.

“This is not another IT project,” Air Force Brig. Gen. David Krumm said during the meeting, known as an “industry day.” This is going to make a difference like few things have — to get data to our warfighters when and where he or she needs it.”

Given the high stakes, the Pentagon's plans to pick a single winner have alarmed industry officials who fear the losers could be locked out of a multibillion-dollar program for a decade or more.

“The Pentagon would never limit the Air Force to flying only cargo planes for every mission,” said Sam Gordy, the general manager for IBM U.S. Federal. “Locking the entire U.S. military into a single, restrictive cloud environment would be equally flawed.”

In a statement, Microsoft expressed disappointment that the Pentagon would be pursuing “a single cloud solution.”

In a call with reporters after the meeting, Tim Van Name, the deputy director of the ‎Defense Digital Service, said that having a single cloud provider is the best approach because having several “would exponentially increase the overall complexity.” With several providers, the Pentagon “would have to manage the seams between the applications,” making it riskier and more difficult to manage.

He vowed it would be an open and fair competition, despite some concerns in industry that Amazon's web services unit, which holds a $600 million cloud contract from the Central Intelligence Agency, has an advantage: “We want the best solution for the department. We have no favorites.”

Inside DC

Michelle Obama and Parker Curry, 2, via Instagram

Michelle Obama and Parker Curry, 2, via Instagram

washington post logoWashington Post, Michelle Obama meets the 2-year-old who was captivated by her portrait, Michael S. Rosenwald, March 7, 2018 (print edition). The Internet went crazy at the sight of the former first lady and Parker Curry, age 2, talking and dancing together.

gary cohn headshotny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: An Important Voice for Free Trade Advocates Goes Silent, Peter Baker, March 7, 2018 (print edition). Gary D. Cohn (shown at right) is a Democrat, but his resignation as President Trump’s top economic aide underscores the divide between Mr. Trump and his fellow Republicans as he seeks new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Mr. Cohn’s departure deprives free trade proponents of perhaps their strongest voice inside the president’s inner circle.

Trump Probes

washington post logoWashington Post, Businessman with ties to United Arab Emirates is cooperating with Mueller probe, Devlin Barrett, Sari Horwitz and Rosalind S. Helderman, March 7, 2018 (print edition). Investigators are interested in the role that George Nader, a Lebanese American businessman, played in a January 2017 meeting in the Seychelles, and whether any foreign money aided the Trump campaign.

george nader c spanA Lebanese American businessman who has acted as an adviser to the United Arab Emirates has been cooperating with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, after he was hit with a subpoena upon arriving in the United States in mid-January, according to people familiar with the matter.

The businessman, George Nader (shown at right on a C-SPAN appearance), was served with a grand jury subpoena shortly after landing at Dulles International Airport, these people said. Investigators are interested in Nader’s role at a January 2017 meeting in the Seychelles between Erik Prince, a supporter of President Trump, and a Russian official close to President Vladi­mir Putin, according to the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.

Nader — and the Seychelles meeting — are of interest to Mueller’s team as it examines whether any foreign money or assistance fueled the Trump campaign, and how Trump officials during the transition and early days of the administration communicated with foreign officials. One person described Nader as an important witness in Mueller’s efforts — one who has spoken repeatedly to investigators since his arrival in the United States.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Spoke to Inquiry Witnesses, Ignoring Lawyers, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman, March 7, 2018.  President Trump asked key witnesses in the Russia inquiry about matters they discussed with the special counsel. Experts say the conversations likely do not constitute witness tampering. The special counsel in the Russia investigation has learned of two conversations in recent months in which President Trump asked key witnesses about matters they discussed with investigators, according to three people familiar with the encounters.

In one episode, the president told an aide that the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, should issue a statement denying a New York Times article in January. The article said Mr. McGahn told investigators that the president once asked him to fire the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. Mr. McGahn never released a statement and later had to remind the president that he had indeed asked Mr. McGahn to see that Mr. Mueller was dismissed, the people said.

reince priebus gage skidmore 3In the other episode, Mr. Trump asked his former chief of staff, Reince Priebus (shown in a Gage Skidmore portrait), how his interview had gone with the special counsel’s investigators and whether they had been “nice,” according to two people familiar with the discussion.

The episodes demonstrate that even as the special counsel investigation appears to be intensifying, the president has ignored his lawyers’ advice to avoid doing anything publicly or privately that could create the appearance of interfering with it.

More GOP Sex Scandal

djt melania liberty ball inauguration 2017Pornographic actress Stormy Daniels alleges she had an affair with President Donald Trump during the months after first lady Melania Trump gave birth to their son, Barron Trump. The Trumps are shown in a White House photo during the Inaugural in 2017.

Roll Call, Stormy Daniels Lawsuit Raises Election Law Questions for Trump, Griffin Connolly, March 7, 2018. Democratic lawmakers have asked FBI to investigate payments from president’s lawyer to porn actress. As Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller (shown below left in a graphic adapted from a photo) continues to probe members of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign for possible collusion with Russia, some lawmakers have raised ethical concerns over the president’s alleged preemptive coverup of an affair with porn actress Stormy Daniels.

robert mueller graphic IMG 6401Reps. Kathleen Rice of New York and Ted Lieu of California, both former prosecutors, have asked the FBI to investigate payments from Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, to Daniels, who filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the president in Los Angeles Superior Court. NBC News first reported the lawsuit.

Lieu and Rice believe the alleged “hush” agreement — which involved a $130,000 payment from Cohen to Daniels — violates federal election laws. “[The] hush agreement & side letter attached to Stormy Daniels’ filing essentially shows coordination between @realDonaldTrump, Cohen & Daniels,” Lieu tweeted Tuesday night. “That means the $130k payment from Cohen to Daniels to silence her during the campaign violated federal election law.” The penalty, he added, is a five-year felony sentencing.

In the lawsuit complaint filed Tuesday, Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, states that her nondisclosure agreement regarding her alleged 2006 affair with Trump is invalid because Trump never actually signed the document — only Cohen and Daniels did. According to the lawsuit, Daniels’ affair with Trump lasted “well into 2007.”

The suit alleges that Cohen has tried to intimidate Daniels into silence on the matter as recently as Feb. 27. “To be clear, the attempts to intimidate Ms. Clifford into silence and ‘shut her up’ in order to ‘protect Mr. Trump’ continue unabated,” the suit claims. “On or about February 27, 2018, Mr. Trump’s attorney Mr. Cohen surreptitiously initiated a bogus arbitration proceeding against Ms. Clifford in Los Angeles.” The suit also alleges Trump must be aware of Cohen’s attempts to silence Daniels since New York bar rules require Cohen to keep his client informed at all times.

The president has not publicly commented on the alleged affair, which is said to have occurred in the months after his third wife, Melania Trump, gave birth to their son Barron. White House spokesman Raj Shah told members of the press he had never asked the president about the alleged relationship, NBC reported. Cohen has acknowledged the payment, but has not publicly said what the payment was for. He has also said he paid out of his own pocket and was never reimbursed.

Legal Schnauzer, Analysis: Three Republicans deal with legal fallout of sex scandals in one 24-hour news cycle, giving new meaning to the term GOP (Gross Old Perverts), Roger Shuler, March 7, 2018. Republicans put on quite a display of their "family values" recently, according to an article at the Wayne Madsen Report (WMR). In one 24-hour news cycle, three Republicans were hit with legal issues connected to sexual misconduct. And that did not include another republican elephant logoGOPer's use of public funds to help pay for trysts with a prostitute -- in one of our most conservative states. That missed the list only because it came just before the infamous news cycle.

nicholas kettle oGee, imagine how bad it would be if conservatives weren't so virtuous. Madsen dubbed them the GOP (Gross Old Perverts), and the phrase seems to fit. From the article at WMR:

"Within a 24-hour news cycle, three top Republican officials in three states were mired in legal trouble stemming from sex scandals. One, Missouri Governor Eric Greitens, was arrested. Rhode Island State Senator Nicholas Kettle (shown at right) resigned as he faced certain expulsion from the body. In Louisiana, Secretary of State Tom Schedler was accused of sexual harassment and stalking."

jon stanardAs for the Gross Old Pervert who fell outside the news cycle, that would be Utah Rep. Jon Stanard (shown at left), who resigned his position on Feb. 6. From a Salt Lake City Tribune article on Feb. 8:

"A British newspaper reported Thursday that Rep. Jon Stanard, R-St. George, resigned abruptly Tuesday after he met a Salt Lake City call girl twice for sex, and it released racy texts that it says he sent to her."

Syrian War

maria zakharova feb 14 2018 tass cropSouthFront, Syria’s Operation In Eastern Ghouta Does Not Contravene UN Resolution – Russian Diplomat, Staff report, March 7, 2018.  Moscow does not see the Syrian army’s operation in Eastern Ghouta as a move running counter to the latest UN Security Council resolution on Syria, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova (shown in file photo) said on Wednesday.

She recalled that the Syrian army had launched a large-scale counterterrorism operation in Eastern Ghouta in response to daily artillery bombardments of the central districts of Damascus “with a view to eliminating he threat to local residents’ security emanating from there.” “Russia does not view Damascus’ counterterrorism operation as contravening the provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 2401 passed recently and supports the fight against terrorists in Eastern Ghouta by the actions of its Aerospace Forces,” Zakharova stressed.

“Paragraph 2 of this resolution clearly states that the cessation of hostilities does not extend to military operations against ISIL (former name of the Islamic State terror group), Al Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusra (these terrorist organizations are outlawed in Russia) and other terror groups labeled as such by the UN Security Council,” she noted. “Simultaneously, in coordination with the Syrian authorities, all possible measures ae taken to avoid casualties among civilians who are used by terrorists as a human shield.”

Militants continue to control 80 square kilometers in Eastern Ghouta or about one-third of this area located along the Damascus-Homs highway. On March 4, a spokesman for the Syrian armed forces told the SANA news agency that government troops continue military operations against terrorists during the breaks between the humanitarian pauses declared at Russia’s initiative. They are in effect from 09:00 (10:00 Moscow time) to 14:00 (15:00 Moscow time) local time. They are called to “facilitate civilians’ evacuation from the districts controlled by armed gangs,” he stressed.

On Sunday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told reporters in Damascus that “the Syrian army would pursue terrorists in Easten Ghouta but, at the same time, will observe the agreed humanitarian pauses for civilians’ evacuation.”

JFK Assassination Research

jefferson morley, Who you going to believe on JFK? Jefferson Morley (shown at right), March 7, 2018. On the perennial, perhaps boring, question of a JFK assassination conspiracy, the question may boil down to: who do you believe?

Fidel Castro, leader of Cuba in the 1960s, was a tireless Latin revolutionary. Charles de Gaulle, president of France, was a conservative continental statesman. They both came to the conclusion that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated by right-wing enemies within his own government.

fidel castro speaksTo be sure, Castro (shown at left) and De Gaulle were themselves both targets of CIA-sponsored assassination attempts–or so they believed. Some say Castro and De Gaulle were “anti-American.” If so, they owed their long lives to prescience about the ways of the American power. Despite 638 documented assassination attempts, Castro died peacefully his bed

richard helms time coverAt the time of JFK’s assassination in 1963, Richard Helms (shown on a Time Magazine cover) was deputy director of the CIA. According to his biographer, he was the man who kept the secrets in Washington, Arlen Specter was a District Attorney from Philadelphia who became the senior senator from Pennsylvania.

Both Helms and Specter asserted, for the record and under oath, that Kennedy was killed by a lone gunman whose motives were unknown.

The Obvious Question: If you had to decide the JFK conspiracy question based solely on the judgement of these four men, who would you believe?

U.S. Politics

democratic donkey logoWorld Socialist Web Site, The CIA Democrats: Introduction, Patrick Martin, March 7, 2018 (Three parts). An extraordinary number of former intelligence and military operatives from the CIA, Pentagon, National Security Council and State Department are seeking nomination as Democratic candidates for Congress in the 2018 midterm elections.

CIA LogoThe potential influx of military-intelligence personnel into the legislature has no precedent in US political history.

If the Democrats capture a majority in the House of Representatives on November 6, as widely predicted, candidates drawn from the military-intelligence apparatus will comprise as many as half of the new Democratic members of Congress. They will hold the balance of power in the lower chamber of Congress.

March 6

Inside Washington

gary cohn headshotRollCall, Report: Trump Economic Adviser Gary Cohn to Resign, Staff report, March 6, 2018. President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser Gary Cohn (shown right) plans to resign, putting a fresh top on a growing list of high-profile White House departures. White House officials said there was no one factor behind Cohn’s departure, according to the New York Times, which first reported the news.

republican elephant logoHowever, internal disagreement both in the administration and the Republican party over steel and aluminum tariffs became the subject of recent controversy. “Gary has been my chief economic adviser and did a superb job in driving our agenda, helping to deliver historic tax cuts and reforms and unleashing the American economy once again,” Mr. Trump said in a statement to the Times.

Flight From Disaster-Ridden Puerto Rico

washington post logoWashington Post, Exodus from Puerto Rico grows as island struggles to recover from Hurricane Maria, Arelis R. Hernández, March 6, 2018. The savage storm devastated the U.S. territory five months ago, weakening the island's already-faltering economy and accelerating a migration to the mainland that experts expect will surpass 200,000 residents this year.

More On Jobs, Tariffs, Trump Policy

ny times logorepublican elephant logoNew York Times, Trump ‘Not Backing Down’ on Tariffs as G.O.P. Pushes Back, Ana Swanson, Mark Landler and Maggie Haberman, March 6, 2018 (print edition). Republicans intensified pressure on President Trump to relent on his steel and aluminum tariffs, while the president indicated he might provide exemptions for certain countries.

washington post logojames mattis oWashington Post, How the Washington establishment is losing the battle over tariffs, Damian Paletta and Josh Dawsey​, March 6, 2018. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (shown at right) and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, along with House Speaker Paul Ryan and trusted Trump economics adviser Gary Cohn, all suddenly found themselves in a losing battle with a small posse of trade advisers who have nurtured President Trump’s long-running skepticism of foreign trade.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason behind Gary Cohn’s resignation today paints a roadmap for Donald Trump’s demise, Bill Palmer, March 6, 2018. White House Chief Economic Adviser Gary Cohn has spent the better part of the past year attacking his boss Donald Trump in public and private, while repeatedly vowing to resign. Today, Cohn finally officially pulled the trigger.

As long as Cohn saw a chance to get in there and steer Trump toward helping out corporations and the wealthy at the expense of the working class, he was willing to hold his nose. Then Trump finally did something that might cost Cohn and his ilk some money, and Cohn drew the line. So did normally spineless Paul Ryan, who’s suddenly standing firm against Trump over tariffs.

Global News

ny times logokim jong un suitNew York Times, North Korea Is Open to Ending Nuclear Efforts, South Says, Choe Sang-Hun, March 6, 2018. North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un (shown in a file photo) has told South Korean envoys that his country is willing to begin negotiations with the United States on abandoning its nuclear weapons and to suspend all nuclear and missile tests during such talks. The two Koreas also agreed to hold a summit meeting between Mr. Kim and President Moon Jae-in of South Korea in late April.

djt bibi netanyahu handshakeny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Hopes to Be Neutral in Mideast Seem Long Gone, Peter Baker and David M. Halbfinger, March 6, 2018 (print edition). Hosting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, the president (shown above in a file photo with the visitor) said he still had “a good chance” of forging peace, but a deal seems further away than ever.

ny times logoisrael flagNew York Times, Visiting U.S., Netanyahu Is Stalked by Troubles at Home, Israel Kershner, March 6, 2018 (print edition). A former top aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel turned state’s witness on Monday, the third close associate to agree to testify against him in a corruption scandal that threatens to end his career.

The deal came after days of feverish speculation in Israel that Mr. Netanyahu, beleaguered by police investigations and facing possible bribery charges, might call a snap election in hopes of a quick validation of public support.

School Shooting Aftermaths

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, What Gun Background Checks Can’t Detect: Stupidity, Milicent Cranor, March 6, 2018. While you are reading this, a baby boy may be replacing the pacifier in his mouth with the barrel of a gun someone left lying around and forgot about. Or, more typically, someone will be killed cleaning a loaded gun, or showing off a loaded gun to a friend.

If you go to the Gun Violence Archive section titled “Accidental Shootings,” you will see an impressive, ever-expanding list of people shot for nothing — every day. As of March 5, there have been 289 unintentional shootings this year. Not all resulted in death — but they easily could have. And think of all the accidents that weren’t reported because no one was hurt.

Every one of these accidents was infinitely preventable. According to a Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Survey, 54 percent of gun owners do not lock up their guns or even use trigger locks — and in 34 percent of their homes, there were children under the age of 18.

Trump Cuts To Consumer Protections

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump is systematically backing off consumer protections, to delight of corporations, Renae Merle and Tracy Jan, March 6, 2018. President Trump and the regulators he appointed are taking a far less aggressive approach to consumer protection than their predecessors, delaying key regulations and imposing fewer penalties against financial institutions and other corporations accused of wrongdoing, according to a Washington Post review of available data and interviews with consumer advocates and government officials.

At the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, for example, enforcement actions have dropped from an average of three-to-five each month during the past four years down to zero since a Trump appointee took charge of the agency in late November. The Labor Department has delayed full implementation of a rule requiring financial advisers to act in their clients’ best interest.

Another Trump Team Ethics Violation?

kellyanne conway fox aug.28 2016

Roll Call, White House Denies Kellyanne Conway Violated Hatch Act, John T. Bennett, March 6, 2018. Trump aide accused of advocating for political candidates while on government business. The White House denies a special counsel’s finding that White House aide Kellyanne Conway (shown above in a file photo) violated the Hatch Act by advocating for political candidates while conducting official government business. The special counsel, Henry Kerner, told President Donald Trump in a letter that during television interviews late last year Conway “impermissibly mixed official government business with political views about candidates in the Alabama special election.”

Kerner pointed to interviews Conway did in November and December with CNN’s “New Day” and Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends” programs. The interviews came during a special election in the Yellowhammer State in which Democrat Doug Jones defeated controversial Republican Roy Moore. In one interview with the Fox show, Conway said of Jones: “He’ll be a vote against tax cuts. He’s weak on crime, weak on borders. He’s strong on raising your taxes. He’s terrible for property owners.”

fox news logo SmallThe 1939 Hatch Act prohibits most executive branch employees — except the president, vice president and a handful of others — from conducting political business while in their official capacity. A report accompanying Kerner’s letter details several occasions on which the White House Counsel’s Office, either in group ethics training sessions or direct correspondence to Conway, spelled out what the Hatch Act prohibits.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley denied Conway did anything wrong, despite her own words in the Fox interview.

More on Trump Probes

Palmer Report, Opinion: Roger Stone gives away that he’s going to be arrested, Bill Palmer, March 6, 2018. One day after Sam Nunberg made a mess for himself and his friend Roger Stone by giving one unhinged television interview about the Trump-Russia scandal after another, Stone tried to step to the plate today to put the fire out. Instead he made things worse for himself. When Stone appeared on MSNBC today, he revealed that he hasn’t heard a peep from Mueller thus far. No subpoenas. No requests for interviews or testimony. Stone seems to think this means he’s in the clear. Based on Mueller’s patterns, it means the precise opposite.

Opiod Crackdown?

ny times logoNew York Times, Can This Judge Solve the Opioid Crisis? Jan Hoffman, March 6, 2018. The Ohio federal judge overseeing hundreds of opioid lawsuits wants a swift settlement with solutions. But first he must tame skeptical legal lions.

Another Government Sex Scandal: Nashville

Daily Beast, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry Resigns Over Scandalous Affair With Ex-Bodyguard, Olivia Messer, March 6, 2018. The Democrat pleaded also pleaded guilty on Tuesday for felony theft over the misuse of city funds. Nashville Mayor Megan Barry’s soap opera-like affair with her former police bodyguard—marked by early-morning private cemetery trips and nude cellphone photos—on Tuesday culminated in a felony guilty plea and a resignation for the Democrat.

More #MeToo, Corruption Scandal

jorge dominguezny times logoNew York Times, Harvard Professor Resigns Amid Allegations of Sexual Harassment, Stephanie Saul, March 6, 2018. A prominent government professor at Harvard who has been accused of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior by as many as 18 women over several decades resigned on Tuesday following a decision by the university to place him on leave.

The professor, Jorge I. Domínguez, 72, was the subject of a Feb. 27 article in The Chronicle of Higher Education that reported that at least 10 women had accused him of sexual harassment. A subsequent article, published on Sunday, reported that additional women — including Harvard professors, students and staff members — had come forward alleging inappropriate behavior by Dr. Domínguez, bringing the total to 18.

The reaction to disclosures about Dr. Domínguez — many just now coming to light despite occurring years ago — reflects a marked shift in the type of behavior tolerated in the workplace since the reports last year regarding inappropriate sexual behavior by high-profile men like Bill O’Reilly and Harvey Weinstein.

eric greitens mike pence

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

Legal Schnauzer, Already under indictment for felony charges related to a sex scandal, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens now faces questions about campaign-finance irregularities, Roger Shuler, March 6, 2018.  Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, already under felony indictment for invasion of privacy related to an extramarital affair, now faces allegations of possible campaign-finance violations. Federal law prohibits use of nonprofits in political campaigns, but it appears Greitens might have violated that ban.

On top of that, St. Louis circuit attorney Kim Gardner has procured the services of Harvard law professor Ronald S. Sullivan to assist with the Greitens prosecution, and former FBI agent Anthony Box has been hired as chief investigator.

eric greitens oReports in recent weeks indicate investigators are looking at more than just the Greitens sex scandal. A recent Associated Press report shows the probe extends to campaign-finance issues. From AP: Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (shown at right) used an email address for a veterans charity he founded to arrange political meetings as he prepared to launch his first bid for public office, despite a federal ban on nonprofits participating in political campaigns, according to records obtained by The Associated Press.

Greitens, who was on the board of directors of The Mission Continues at the time, sent meeting invitations from the charity's email address to three political consultants. He asked them to join him for a series of meetings over two days in January 2015 with more than a dozen state lawmakers, a lobbyist and an anti-abortion activist, according to copies of the emails obtained by the AP.

Media Criticism: The New Yorker

jane mayer cspanMoon of Alabama, The New Yorker Attempts But Fails To Boost The Steele Dossier, b, March 6, 2018. Yesterday The New Yorker published a 15,000- word piece about Christopher Steele, the former British spook who created the "dossier" about alleged Russian interference with Trump. Written by Jane Mayer (shown above in a file shot) the piece is designed to let Steele shine in the very best light. A civil servant who only followed his conscience when he peddled his made-up dirt to the FBI, the media and Congress.

New Yorker logoThat a private investigator, highly paid by the Clinton campaign to find dirt about Trump, was acting out of decency, would be unbelievable in the best case. But the piece is way worse. There are at least six factual errors in it which anyone who has followed the affair can easily detect. Some new allegations in the piece are so thinly sourced that any decent editor would have thrown them out.

New JFK Assassination Tape 

JFK, Spy vs. Spy: Soviet defector Yuri Nosenko confronted CIA accuser James Angleton, Jefferson Morley (shown at right), March 6, 2018. A new yuri nosenkoJFK assassination tape found among the new JFK files in the the National Archives yields the previously unknown coda of one of the most famous espionage controversies of the 20th century.

Yuri Nosenko (shown at left), a KGB officer accused of being a Soviet mole by CIA counterintelligence chief James Angleton, confronted his accuser after being exonerated by the CIA. Angleton told the story to congressional investigators in June 1978. A researcher found the tape in the National Archives and shared it with JFK Facts, which published a transcript for the first time.

Commentary On Hollywood Awards

Fort Russ, Opinion: The Oscars are propaganda for globalism and imperialism, Paul Antonopoulos, March 6, 2018. What counts is the offer of more “representativeness” and “empowerment” of “minorities,” the defense of “diversity” and anything other than rewarding quality: everything under the Oscars is “too white,” “too masculine,” or “too much hetero.” It would be a waste of time to cite specific cases, but we can say that the last Oscars was the most politically propagandistic of all.

March 5

Trump Investigation

sam nunberg msnbc

washington post logoWashington Post, Former Trump aide Sam Nunberg called before grand jury, says he will refuse to go, Josh Dawsey​, March 5, 2018. In an interview with The Washington Post, Nunberg said he was asked to come to Washington to appear before the grand jury on Friday. The subpoena includes requests for a wide range of documents related to President Trump and his associates.

“Let him arrest me,” Nunberg told The Washington Post in his first stop on a media blitz, saying he does not plan to comply with a subpoena from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to hand over emails and other documents related to President Trump and nine current and former Trump advisers.

“Mr. Mueller should understand I am not going in on Friday” to the grand jury, he added. It is unclear what actions Mueller might take if Nunberg does not appear.

In a remarkable act of rebellion, Nunberg seized the national media spotlight for much of Monday afternoon to denounce Mueller’s investigation as a “witch hunt” and to detail what he said he had learned about the probe from his private interview last month with Mueller’s team. He at times sounded nervous and self-doubting, openly questioning his legal fate. Update: A day later, the witness said he would testify on Friday.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Mueller is casting a wide net. We now know the target is Trump, Greg Sargent, March 5, 2018. Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is now directly gunning for President Trump — and not just on one front. It appears that Mueller is investigating whether Trump himself robert mueller full face filecommitted misconduct or possible criminality on two fronts, and possibly more.

NBC News is now reporting that Mueller (shown in a file photo) has sent a subpoena to an unnamed witness that appears to hint at just how wide a net Mueller has cast. NBC reports that the subpoena suggests Mueller is focused, among other things, on determining what Trump himself knew about Russian sabotage of the 2016 election as it was happening.

nbc news logoThe subpoena demands a range of documents that involve Trump himself, in addition to nine of his top campaign advisers and associates. The documents solicited include emails, text messages, work papers and telephone logs dating back to November 2015, about four months after Trump declared his presidential candidacy.

This builds on NBC’s previous report that Mueller’s investigators are asking witnesses questions that indicate that Mueller is examining whether Trump knew Democratic emails had been hacked before that became public, and whether he was somehow involved in their “strategic release.”

stormy daniels djt insight 1 19 2018 CustomWall Street Journal, Trump Lawyer’s Payment to Stormy Daniels Was Reported as Suspicious by Bank, Joe Palazzolo and Michael Rothfeld, March 5, 2018. The bank used by President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer to wire $130,000 to a former adult-film actress (shown above) flagged the transaction as suspicious and reported it to the Treasury Department, according to a person familiar with the matter.

michael cohen iowa via flickr preston kempThe lawyer, Michael Cohen (shown in a file photo), wired the money to a lawyer for former actress Stephanie Clifford, known professionaly as Stormy Daniels, form an an account at First Republic Bank.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Robert Mueller just officially dragged nearly every big name into the Trump-Russia scandal, Bill Palmer, March 5, 2018. Thus far we’ve seen Special Counsel Robert Mueller focus on certain individuals in the Trump-Russia scandal in a manner that’s spilled over into clear public view: paul manafortPaul Manafort (shown in a screenshot). Rick Gates. George Papadopoulos. Michael Flynn. We’ve also long been seeing scattered media reports that he’s focusing on various other players. But now suddenly just about everyone has officially been dragged into the scandal, thanks to a flurry of grand jury subpoenas.

fbi logoMultiple media outlets including Axios and NBC News have obtained copies of a grand jury subpoena that was recently sent to an unnamed witness in the Trump-Russia scandal. That subpoena demands access to all conversations between that witness and a whole lot of key players in the scandal.

hope hicks cory lewandowskiIs Mueller targeting these people because they’re criminal suspects, or because they’re uncooperative witnesses? That remains to be seen. But everyone on the list should have trouble sleeping tonight, and for that matter, so should everyone else involved with the scandal.

The list itself is remarkable: Steve Bannon. Michael Cohen. Rick Gates. Hope Hicks and Corey Lewandowski (shown together in a file photo). Paul Manafort. Carter Page. Keith Schiller. Roger Stone. And some guy named Donald Trump. Imagine learning that Mueller is so focused on your role in the Trump-Russia scandal, that he’s subpoenaing other people simply because you talked to them.

christopher steele ex MI6 spy express croppedNew Yorker logoNew Yorker, Christopher Steele, the Man Behind the Trump Dossier: How the ex-spy tried to warn the world about Trump’s ties to Russia, Jane Mayer, March 5, 2018 (March 12 print edition). Steele (shown at right in a file photo) told friends that Trump supporters were using him as a “battering ram” to “take down the whole intelligence community.”

In January, after a long day at his London office, Christopher Steele, the former spy turned private investigator, was stepping off a commuter train in Farnham, where he lives, when one of his two phones rang. A friend in Washington, D.C., was calling with bad news: two Republican senators, lindsey grahamLindsey Graham (shown below at left) and Charles Grassley, had just referred Steele’s name to the Department of Justice, for a possible criminal investigation. They were accusing Steele — the author of a secret dossier that helped trigger the current federal investigation into President Donald Trump’s possible ties to Russia — of having lied to the very F.B.I. officers he’d alerted about his findings.

The details of the criminal referral were classified, so Steele could not know the nature of the allegations, let alone rebut them, but they had something to do with his having misled the Bureau about contacts that he’d had with the press. For nearly thirty years, Steele had worked as a close ally of the United States, and he couldn’t imagine why anyone would believe that he had been deceptive. But lying to an F.B.I. officer is a felony, an offense that can be punished by up to five years in prison.

djt official portraitThe accusations would only increase doubts about Steele’s reputation that had clung to him since BuzzFeed published the dossier, in January, 2017. The dossier painted a damning picture of collusion between Trump and Russia, suggesting that his campaign had “accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his Democratic and other political rivals.”

It also alleged that Russian officials had been “cultivating” Trump as an asset for five years, and had obtained leverage over him, in part by recording videos of him while he engaged in compromising sexual acts, including consorting with Moscow prostitutes who, at his request, urinated on a bed.

Pro Publica, ‘Trump, Inc.’ Podcast Extra: The Trump Organization Ordered Golf Course Markers With the Presidential Seal. That May Be Illegal, Katherine Sullivan, March 5, 2018. The president’s company has ordered a set of presidential seal replicas for its golf course tee markers, raising more ethics questions. Under federal law, the seal’s use is permitted only for official government business. Misuse can be a crime.

Banks, Jobs, Trade

washington post logopaul ryan oWashington Post, Ryan splits with Trump on trade as GOP lawmakers move to block tariffs, Erica Werner, Damian Paletta and David J. Lynch, March 5, 2018. Congressional Republicans say President Trump’s planned tariffs on steel and aluminum imports run counter to the core of their economic agenda and could cause political problems heading into the 2018 midterms.

Congressional Republicans are maneuvering to stop President Trump from levying harsh tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, arguing that the move runs counter to the core of their economic agenda and could even cause political problems heading into the 2018 midterms.

“We are extremely worried about the consequences of a trade war and are urging the White House to not advance with this plan,” AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis., shown above right), said in a statement Monday. “The new tax reform law has boosted the economy and we certainly don’t want to jeopardize those gains.”

Members of the House Ways and Means Committee were also circulating a letter criticizing the tariffs, while high-ranking Senate Republicans voiced their own opposition. “My constituents are worried about the cost of their beer cans. It’s a concern,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.). “The price of cars. A tariff obviously is going to get passed on to the consumer eventually in the price of goods and that ought to be everybody’s concern.”

washington post logous senate logoWashington Post, 10 years after financial crisis, Senate prepares to roll back banking rules, Erica Werner and Damian Paletta, March 5, 2018 (print edition). The Senate is preparing to scale back the sweeping banking regulations passed after the 2008 financial crisis, with more than a dozen Democrats ready to give Republicans the votes they need to weaken one of President Barack Obama’s largest legislative achievements.

Congress’s appetite for pulling back bank regulations shows the renewed clout of the financial sector in Washington, not just in the GOP but also among Democrats. Eight years after nearly every Senate Democrat backed a sweeping set of new rules for financial firms large and small, the party is now split, with moderates, several of them facing tough midterm election contests, working with the opposing party.

washington post logocanadian flagWashington Post, Trump says Canada and Mexico will only escape new tariffs if they make NAFTA concessions, Damian Paletta, March 5, 2018. President Trump on Monday further expanded his personal trade war, telling Canada and Mexico that he would consider lifting possible tariffs on steel and aluminum only if they concede to White House demands for renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Like almost every broadside over trade war so far, his latest message was sent in a Twitter post with little explanation. He also demanded that Mexico do more to prevent drugs from entering the United States as one of the conditions for lifting upcoming steel and aluminum tariffs announced last week.

The measures are expected to hit Canada particularly hard. It is the top exporter to U.S. markets of both steel and aluminum. Canada is also the biggest importer of U.S. steel and aluminum. The three NAFTA partners — Canada, Mexico and the United States — have been locked in talks aimed at possibly revamping the trade deal, but no clear framework has emerged. The latest round of negotiations is expected to wrap up Monday in Mexico City.

Inside Washington

ny times logoben carsonNew York Times, Brain Surgery No Match for Reign at HUD, Carson Says, Glenn Thrush, March 5, 2018. Ben Carson (shown at right) has been whipsawed by a job he has found puzzling, with his goals undermined by his indecisiveness, his staffing mistakes and a president indifferent to his department’s mission.

Trump Business In Panama

washington post logoWashington Post, The Trump Panama hotel showdown may have just ended, with the ouster of the Trump Organization, Ana Currud and David A. Fahrenthold​, March 5, 2018. The apparent end of the Trump-branded hotel illustrated how — in some areas — Trump’s divisive presidency appears to have damaged the fortunes of his businesses.

Global News: Italy, Nigeria

ny times logoitaly flagNew York Times, Election in Italy Gives Big Lift to Far Right and Populists, Jason Horowitz, March 5, 2018 (print edition). The most likely result of the election, which had no outright winner but handed a majority of votes to hard-right and populist forces, will be a government in Italy that is significantly less invested in the project of a united Europe.

ny times logoNew York Times, 4 Takeaways From a ‘Throw the Bums Out’ Italian Election, Steven Erlanger, March 5, 2018. In Italy’s first national vote in five years, much of the country’s political landscape was overturned. Here’s why.

ny times logonigerian flag wavingNew York Times, In Nigeria, Pressure Mounts on President to Bow Out of Race, Donne Searcey and Taony Iyare, March 5, 2018 (print edition). Nigeria’s presidential election is next year but already calls are out for President Buhari to stand down from a second term

U.S. Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, With Trump now a candidate, further restrictions on political activities apply to federal employees, Eric Yoder, March 5, 2018. While on duty or in the workplace, federal employees are now forbidden from such activities as using particular hashtags on social media or displaying non-official pictures of the president.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sen. Cochran (R-Miss.) to resign after 4 decades in Congress, vacating post as appropriations chair, Sean Sullivan and Paul Kane, March 5, 2018. Thad Cochran (shown at right) said he will resign when the spending-bill process is completed, saying his health “has become an ongoing challenge.”

thad cochranThe 80-year-old was elected to the Senate in 1978, the first Republican in more than 100 years to win a statewide election in Mississippi. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) will resign from the Senate on April 1, he announced Monday, ending a four-decade congressional career and triggering a fall election that could carve new divisions in the Republican Party and put the GOP Senate majority at greater risk.

Cochran, 80, has been suffering from health problems in recent months. He missed several weeks in the Senate last fall while recuperating from a urinary tract infection. He has appeared frail since his return and has been keeping a low public profile.

“I regret my health has become an ongoing challenge,” Cochran said in a statement. “I intend to fulfill my responsibilities and commitments to the people of Mississippi and the Senate through the completion of the 2018 appropriations cycle, after which I will formally retire from the U.S. Senate.”

First elected to the Senate in 1978 after a stint in the House, Cochran is one of the longest-serving members of Congress in history.


ny times logoNew York Times, Here Come the Fake Videos, Too, Kevin Roose, March 5, 2018 (print edition). Artificial intelligence video tools make it relatively easy to put one person’s face on another person’s body with few traces of manipulation. I tried it on myself. What could go wrong?

In the room was Michelle Obama, or someone who looked exactly like her. Wearing a low-cut top with a black bra visible underneath, she writhed lustily for the camera and flashed her unmistakable smile.

Then, the former first lady’s doppelgänger began to strip.

The video, which appeared on the online forum Reddit, was what’s known as a “deepfake” — an ultrarealistic fake video made with artificial intelligence software. It was created using a program called FakeApp, which superimposed Mrs. Obama’s face onto the body of a pornographic film actress. The hybrid was uncanny — if you didn’t know better, you might have thought it was really her.

Until recently, realistic computer-generated video was a laborious pursuit available only to big-budget Hollywood productions or cutting-edge researchers. Social media apps like Snapchat include some rudimentary face-morphing technology.

War In Syria — And By Words

syria east gouta march 5 2018 petolucem

Battle map of Syria's historic section of East Gouta as of March 5, with rebel-held areas in green and a dotted line marking recent government gains. Just 3.5 kilometers separated government forces advancing from the east in dividing the pocket into two. Syrian auhorities say terrorists, led by an al Qaeda affiliate, are holding civilians as human shields, preventing escape during five-hour time slots and corridors. Western officials, including the Trump White House, have denounced as inhumane the rapid government advance over areas held more than five years by rebels who bomb the country's capital city of Damascus (Map by PetoLucem via South Front).

SouthFront, Government Forces Liberate Rayhan From Militants In Eastern Ghouta, Staff report, March 5, 2018. Following previous advanced in Eastern Ghouta, Syrian government forces have continued developing momentum in the eastern part of the militant-held pocket, liberated the village of Rayhan and entered the village of Muhammadiyah.

An intense fighting is now also ongoing in the vicinity of Beit Sawa and Mersaba. The advance followed an end of daily humanitarian pause in the area, which had been set to allow civilians to leave the combat area. However, Ahrar al-Sham, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra), Jaish al-Islam and Faylaq al-Rahman prevented a major part of the civilians attempting to leave from evacuating the area.

syrian red cross supplies douma

The Syrian Red Crescent said 46 truckloads of food parcels were delivered to 27,500 people, along with health items for more than 70,000 people in the town of Douma (Red Crescent photo via Twitter and BBC).

bbc news logo2BBC, Syria war: Aid reaches Eastern Ghouta despite air strikes, Staff report, March 5, 2018. An aid convoy with urgently needed supplies has reached the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area of Syria, for the first time since mid-February. Shelling and gunfire were heard despite a supposed five-hour truce. At least 719 people have been killed in recent weeks, many of them children.

SouthFront, Washington Is Concerned About ‘Ceasefire’ In Eastern Ghouta As Terrorists’ Defense Collapses There, Staff report, March 5, 2018. As the terrorists’ defense collapses in the Syrian region of Eastern Ghouta, Washington has increased its diplomatic acivity blaiming and shaming the Syrian-Iranian-Russian alliance for combating terrorist groups [Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra), Ahrar al-Sham and others] in the area.

White House Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said on March 4 that Moscow had ingored the terms of the UN resolution on a ceasefire in Syria causing deaths among civilians in Eastern Ghouta. However, Sanders forgot to mention that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and other militant groups linked to it and cooperating with it closely are exlcuded from the terms of the ceasefire.

Leonid Slutsky, a chairman of the Russian Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, said that Sanders’ statement “is another unproven lie not backed by any facts.”

Honduran Assassination Scandal

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, CEO Behind Murder of Environmental Activist Arrested, Oliver Crook, March 5, 2018.  When masked gunmen killed renowned Honduran environmentalist Berta Cáceres in her home two years ago, many believed the murder was connected to her protests against the construction of a dam on a river sacred to an indigenous tribe.

The arrest last week of Roberto David Castillo was a major break in the investigation of the crime. At the time of the murder, Castillo was the CEO of Desarrollos Energéticos SA (DESA), the construction company that initiated the dam project.

Castillo was arrested at the airport as he attempted to leave the country. He is the ninth person to be charged in connection with the murder — the others are already serving varying sentences — and his arrest suggests that the order for the killing came from the very top.

March 4

djt photo empty desk wh photo joyce boghosian 1 20 2018washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Pure madness’: Dark days inside the White House as Trump shocks and rages, Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey, March 4, 2018 (print edition). Aides in the White House over the past week have described an air of anxiety and volatility — with an uncontrollable commander in chief at its center. Some worry just how much deeper President Trump (shown above in a White House photo with a MAGA hat) and his administration may plunge into unrest and malaise before they start to recover. As one official put it: “We haven’t bottomed out.”

washington post logoWashington Post, In his expanding war over global trade, Trump aims harsh rhetoric at close U.S. allies, Steven Mufson and Damian Paletta, March 4, 2018 (print edition). On Twitter, he vowed to strike back at European leaders who said they would retaliate for his promised tariffs on aluminum and steel. The country that escaped Trump’s tweeting ire was China, the very nation the president has wanted to hit hardest.

Probe Of White House Broadens

ny times logoNew York Times, Mueller Signals Wider Inquiry With Focus on U.A.E. Adviser, Mark Mazzetti, David D. Kirkpatrick and Maggie Haberman, March 4, 2018 (print edition). March 4, 2018 (print edition).  Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, has asked about the role of the adviser, George Nader, in White House policymaking. The focus on Mr. Nader could also prompt an examination of how money from multiple countries has flowed through and influenced Washington during the Trump era.

George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman, has hovered on the fringes of international diplomacy for three decades. He was a back-channel negotiator with Syria during the Clinton administration, reinvented himself as an adviser to the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates, and last year was a frequent visitor to President Trump’s White House.

Mr. Nader is now a focus of the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel. In recent weeks, Mr. Mueller’s investigators have questioned Mr. Nader and have pressed witnesses for information about any possible attempts by the Emiratis to buy political influence by directing money to support Mr. Trump during the presidential campaign, according to people with knowledge of the discussions.

The investigators have also asked about Mr. Nader’s role in White House policymaking, those people said, suggesting that the special counsel investigation has broadened beyond Russian election meddling to include Emirati influence on the Trump administration. The focus on Mr. Nader could also prompt an examination of how money from multiple countries has flowed through and influenced Washington during the Trump era.

School Shooting Aftermaths

washington post logoWashington Post, Inside the mind of an alleged school shooter: A plot to kill ‘50 or 60,’ John Woodrow Cox, March 4, 2018 (print edition). Jesse Osborne, accused of opening fire on a South Carolina school playground in 2016 and killing a 6-year-old, detailed his motives in dozens of online messages, in his 46-page confession and in interviews with doctors. He had been researching other school shooters and, determined to outdo them, learned exactly how many people they’d murdered.

washington post logonra logo CustomWashington Post, Fla. Senate rejects assault weapons ban, then holds moment of silence for shooting victims, Katie Zezima, March 4, 2018 (print edition). The Florida Senate on Saturday voted down a bill to ban assault weapons, then immediately pivoted to a moment of silence for victims of the shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school last month.

rick scottMany student survivors of the Valentine’s Day shooting that left 17 people dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School flocked to the State House in the days after the attack to lobby legislators to ban assault weapons and take other measures on gun control.

The bill to ban assault weapons, including the AR-15 used in the school shooting, failed by a 20-to-17 vote. After the vote, Senate President Joe Negron (R) asked senators to take their seats. He said that by the proclamation of Gov. Rick Scott (R), shown at right, there would be a moment of “silence and reflection” for the Parkland victims.

Sudden Death

Daily Mail Online, Political science professor, 58, shoots his two sons dead and turns the gun on himself, Staff and wire reports, March 4, 2018. Bodies are discovered in family's Illinois home after cops received welfare request from estranged wife.

According to property tax records, the home is owned by renowned political science professor P.S. Ruckman Jr. Police arrived to the home at around 7.10am Saturday morning to perform a welfare check. Upon entering the premises, authorities said that they found the man and two boys in separate bedrooms with gunshot wounds. Professor at Rock Valley College and an instructor at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, P.S. Ruckman is an expert on presidential pardons.

Syrian War

Fort Russ, Did terrorists really think a simple trench could stop the advancing Syrian Army in East Ghouta? Paul Antonopoulos, March 2, 2018. It appears that terrorist forces in East Ghouta, to the east of Damascus city center, thought that a simple water-filled trench, effectively a moat, could stop the advancement of the Syrian Army. Terrorist forces had years to prepare their defenses in East Ghouta, and some of the most commonly found defense infrastructure and the constructed trenches.

Panama Dispute Over Trump Hotel

ny times logoNew York Times, Thugs, Leeches and Shouting at Trump Hotel in Panama, Kirk Sempple, Ben Protess and Steve Eder, March 4, 2018 (print edition).  The new owner of the Trump International Hotel in Panama City wants the Trump brand gone. The president’s family business refuses. The standoff has not been pretty.

Presidential Leadership?

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Donald Trump Sure Has a Problem With Democracy, Editorial board, March 4, 2018. The president’s praise of Xi Jinping’s authoritarian rule goes against basic American principles. djt wmr tweet march 2018 3215

Investigative reporter and political commentator Wayne Madsen responds on Twitter to President Trump's self-congratulatory Tweet following the annual Gridiron Club dinner with elite journalists in Washington, DC. Madsen's Tweet showed a federal prison located in North Carolina

March 3

washington post logoNew York Times, Around the World, Threats of Retaliation Against U.S. Exorts, Ana Swanson, March 3, 2018 (print edition). Be it Europe, Canada or Asia, other countries said they would respond to Mr. Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs with restrictions of their own. A day after President Trump took a swing at United States trading partners by threatening stiff and sweeping tariffs on steel and aluminum, they hit back. They promised to retaliate against quintessential American goods like Kentucky bourbon, bluejeans and Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

That is likely to turn into a wave of protest aimed at American products as other countries, including traditional allies, respond to Mr. Trump’s plan to clamp down on imports of metals from overseas.

Canada, China and the European Union have already said they would respond with tariffs of their own that could lead to billions of dollars in American export losses. Those levies would harm the farmers and business interests that the Trump administration has promised to protect and would fuel a trade fight that could undermine the president’s goal of strengthening American industry.

Li Xinchuang, the vice chairman of the China Iron and Steel Association, called the president’s move “stupid,” saying, “Trump’s decision does no good to everyone except a few American steel enterprises.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Days before the election, Stormy Daniels threatened to cancel deal to keep alleged affair with Trump secret, Beth Reinhard, Frances Stead Sellers and Emma Brown, March 3, 2018 (print edition). The account of how the agreement came together — and how it briefly fell apart — adds a dimension of brinkmanship to the public understanding of the transaction.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘I don’t envy them’: Hope Hicks and other White House women struggle to defend Trump in the #MeToo era, David Nakamura, March 3, 2018 (print edition). President Trump’s team of White House defenders is a nearly all-female lineup that to a degree has helped inoculate him by their gender from criticism amid the national conversation over the #MeToo movement.

While the public reckoning over sexual harassment and assault swiftly knocked out captains of industry, media stars, Hollywood moguls and politicians, Trump has survived. Now one of those defenders is leaving — communications director Hope Hicks, the loyal, mostly silent one. Among those left are his daughter Ivanka Trump, senior adviser Kellyanne Conway and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Women in such those rightly or wrongly can defuse the criticism aimed at Trump, who has been accused by 19 women of sexual misconduct.

Media: Start-up To Report On 'Fake News'

washington post logoWashington Post, A journalistic fix for fake news? A new venture seeks to take on the epidemic, Paul Farhi, March 3, 2018. Media entrepreneur Steven Brill thinks there’s something missing from all the efforts to separate fake news from the real kind: Some smart and discerning humans. Faced with the waves of mis- and disinformation lapping up on social media, Brill is proposing to apply some reader-beware labels to Internet news sources. His idea: ratings, as determined by teams of independent journalists, that would enable readers to understand where their news — or “news” — is coming from.

Brill, a veteran journalist and founder of American Lawyer, Court TV and the late Brill’s Content magazine, has turned the idea into a fledgling company. NewsGuard is backed by about $6 million in venture funds from the likes of Publicis Groupe, a multinational ad agency, and the Knight Foundation, which has launched many journalism initiatives.

As Brill and his business partner, former Wall Street Journal publisher and columnist Gordon Crovitz, describe it, the New York-based company aims to assign a “reliability” rating — green for generally trustworthy, yellow for consistently biased or inaccurate, or red for deliberately deceptive — to some 7,500 sources of online news, based on an assessment by its teams of journalists. The rating would cover each site’s overall track record as a news purveyor. It wouldn’t apply to any specific article or journalist. The ratings would be supplemented by what Brill and Crovitz call “nutrition labels” — a longer description of each site’s history, journalistic track record and ownership. The information would enable a reader to learn instantly that, say, a popular news site such as is a Kremlin-funded adjunct of the Russian government.

If “platform” giants such as Facebook and Google play ball — and so far NewsGuard has no commitment that they will — these assessments would be incorporated in search results, on YouTube videos and on the Facebook or Twitter postings that share the articles. Alternatively, individual users may someday be able to add a plug-in that would display ratings for each news site they accessed. The Good Housekeeping-type seals hold out the promise of appealing to marketers and ad agencies — hence, Publicis’s involvement — in that they could be used to form a “whitelist” of approved sites to keep advertisers from linking their brands to toxic content.

“Our goal isn’t necessarily to stop [fake news] but to arm people with some basic information when they’re about to read or share stuff,” Brill said. “We’re not trying to block anything.”

NewsGuard aims to roll out its system in time for the midterm elections this year, but Brill and Crovitz acknowledge they have their work cut out for them. The venture has assessed and rated only about 100 of the 7,500 sites it hopes to tackle.

The project also faces head winds from the platforms that would figure to be its largest potential customers — most of which have undertaken their own media-rating initiatives amid the public and government outcry over fake news. Google, for example, adjusted its search algorithms last summer to push down “low-quality” content, such as Holocaust-denial pages.

NewsGuard’s initial team of journalists includes Brill, Crovitz and executive editor James Warren, the former managing editor of the Chicago Tribune; and managing editor Eric Effron, formerly of Reuters, the Week and Legal Times. Brill said he expects to hire “three or four dozen” staffers and freelancers.

March 2

Trump Promises Trade Wars

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump insists ‘trade wars are good, and easy to win’ after vowing steel tariffs, Damian Paletta, March 2, 2018. President Trump continued to buck advisers and GOP leaders by acknowledging for the first time that he could be triggering a global trade war by imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum. Meanwhile, some top U.S. trading partners are denouncing the move and planning their own strategies.

In a series of Twitter posts, the first of which was launched before 6 a.m., Trump argued that the United States was being ripped off by other countries because the U.S. imports more goods than it exports from many countries.

Background opinion from 2017: MadAbout Trade, Analysis: Section 232 study more about protecting U.S. steel industry than national security, Daniel Griswold, April 20, 2017. Senior Research Fellow and Co-Director, Program on the American Economy and Globalization, Mercatus Center at George Mason University, Arlington, VA. President Trump announced today that his administration will launch an investigation into whether steel imports are damaging national security. While the outcome of the investigation is uncertain, the objective answer is almost certainly no.

Probes Of Trump, Kushner

jared kushner head shotThe Intercept, Jared Kushner’s Real-Estate Firm Sought Money Directly From Qatar Government Weeks Before Blockade, Clayton Swisher and Ryan Grim, March 2 2018. The real estate firm tied to the family of presidential son-in-law and top White House adviser Jared Kushner (shown at right) made a direct pitch to Qatar’s minister of finance in April 2017 in an attempt to secure investment in a critically distressed asset in the company’s portfolio, according to two sources. At the previously unreported meeting, Jared Kushner’s father Charles, who runs Kushner Companies, and Qatari Finance Minister Ali Sharif Al Emadi discussed financing for the Kushners’ signature 666 Fifth Avenue property in New York City.

The 30-minute meeting, according to two sources in the financial industry who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the potential transaction, included aides to both parties, and was held at a suite at the St. Regis Hotel in New York.

qatar flagA follow-up meeting was held the next day in a glass-walled conference room at the Kushner property itself, though Al Emadi did not attend the second gathering in person.

The failure to broker the deal would be followed only a month later by a Middle Eastern diplomatic row in which Jared Kushner provided critical support to Qatar’s neighbors.

rex tillerson state deptLed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, a group of Middle Eastern countries, with Kushner’s backing, led a diplomatic assault that culminated in a blockade of Qatar. Kushner, according to reports at the time, subsequently undermined efforts by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (shown at left) to bring an end to the standoff.

Officials in four countries discussed ways to manipulate Jared Kushner, President Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law

jared ivanka kushner may 20 2017 9 day djt trip facebook Smallwashington post logoWashington Post, ‘Jared has faded’: Inside the 28 days of tumult that left Kushner badly diminished, Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey, March 2, 2018. They were the ascendant young couples of the Trump White House: Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, and Rob Porter and Hope Hicks. They enjoyed rarefied access to the president and special privileges in the West Wing. Glamorous and well-connected, they had an air of power and invincibility. They even double-dated once.

But an unlikely cascade of events — set in motion by paparazzi photos of Porter and Hicks published Feb. 1 in a British tabloid — crashed down on Kushner this week. The shortest month of the year delivered 28 days of tumult that many inside and outside the White House say could mark the fall of the House of Kushner.

Once the prince of Trump’s Washington, Kushner is now stripped of his access to the nation’s deepest secrets, isolated and badly weakened inside the administration, under scrutiny for his mixing of business and government work and facing the possibility of grave legal peril in the Russia probe.

Kushner’s tensions with chief of staff John F. Kelly have spilled into public view, while other dormant rivalries have resurfaced.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Ivanka Trump’s Brand Building at the White House, Editorial Board, March 1, 2018. Why would any policymaker with the agenda or values she espouses work for a president so determined to lay waste to them?  This is the third part of an editorial series on nepotism in the White House. Read more on the history of nepotism and politics here, and on Jared Kushner’s role here.

Syrian Warning: Rebels Plan 'False Flag'

SouthFront, Militants Prepare To Stage Chemical Attack In Eastern Ghouta – Syrian Media, Staff report, March 2, 2018. The Ahrar al-Sham Movement, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and Faylaq al-Rahman are planning to stage a chemical attack in the Eastern Ghouta pocket to blame the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) for it, the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported on March 1.

A military official told SANA that according to recently received information these armed groups have been ordered to carry out an attack with “toxic materials” against civilian areas near the front lines with the SAA in the East Ghouta pocket. So that the US, the UK and other Western countries will be able to accuse the SAA of conducting “a chemical attack”.

syria flagThe official added that the SAA Higher Command stresses yet again that the SAA has no chemical weapons and that it is not planning to produce or use such weapons.The so-called Syrian opposition had accused the SAA of using “chemical weapons” against civilians in the East Ghouta pocket many times during over the last few months. However, these groups didn’t provide any evidence what so ever to support their claims.

According to local sources, militants in the East Ghouta pocket likely believe that such propaganda move could provoke a US-led military action against the SAA. Such a military action by the US is seen by many Syrian opposition activists as the only way to stop the SAA advance on their last strongholds near the Syrian capital, Damascus.

Inside DC

BC News via Washington Press, Opinion: Trump just got caught on video abandoning Melania in the freezing wind as he fled for cover, Natalie Dickinson, March 2, 2018 (1:05 mins. video). The president of the United States put his self-obsession on full display this morning when he nearly sprinted up the steps to Air Force One in the freezing wind, leaving his wife Melania shivering alone on the tarmac as they boarded the jet in order to travel to the funeral of notorious bigot and radical Christian cleric Billy Graham.

 whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Opinion: How Trump’s Controversies Distract from America’s Real Problems, Barrett Brown, March 2, 2018. Barrett Brown and filmmaker Alex Winter remind us that all of our broken institutions needed reform before Trump — and will need even more reform after he is gone.

barrett b rown behind barsIn this wide-ranging podcast, Barrett Brown (shown at right) and actor and documentary filmmaker Alex Winter talk about the complacency that ails so much of American society. They also discuss how, instead of fixing the systemic problems that plague the US, people across the political spectrum are focusing on the sideshow that President Donald Trump provides. In the meantime, however, all the institutions that are in dire need of reform are neglected — making the job of fixing them in the future even more difficult.

Yet because we are now relying on some of those same institutions — like the FBI and the national security apparatus — to protect us, we might easily forget some of the institutional excesses and missteps that got us here. What we have, according to Brown and Winter, is a massive lack of appreciation for nuance, which may come to haunt us later.

ben carsonwashington post logoWashington Post, After furniture fuss, Ben Carson wants to cancel order for $31,000 dining set, Samantha Schmidt, March 2, 2018. A day after news broke that the Department of Housing and Urban Development purchased a dining set worth $31,000, Secretary Ben Carson told his social media followers to “rest assured” that he had done no wrong. He asked for “God’s guidance to do what is right.”

Now Carson (shown at right) wants to cancel the $31,000 order, he said in a statement Thursday. “I was as surprised as anyone to find out that a $31,000 dining set had been ordered,” Carson said. Because of the contracts involved, and the money already spent on the order, it might not be possible for the agency to get a full refund.

The secretary’s statements followed days of uproar over money his office spent on the lavish furniture, prompted by news of a complaint filed by a former HUD chief administrative officer, Helen Foster. She accused the agency of demoting her in retaliation for concerns she raised about office expenses.

Shortly before Donald Trump’s inauguration, acting secretary Craig Clemmensen told Foster that Carson’s wife, Candy Carson, wanted her husband’s office upgraded, Foster wrote in her complaint. When Foster replied that the department could not spend more than $5,000 on the refurbishment without congressional approval, Clemmensen instructed her to “find money,” Foster wrote.

Andrew McCabe

washington post logofbi logoWashington Post, Ex-FBI deputy director approved media disclosure, misled inspector general, report expected to say, Matt Zapotosky and Karoun Demirjian, March 2, 2018. President Trump, who has attacked Andrew McCabe (shown above in a file photo), is likely to seize on findings from the Justice Department’s inspector general.

washington post logoWashington Post, FBI interviewed top Clinton aide Huma Abedin after saying probe of her boss had concluded, Matt Zapotosky​, March 2, 2018. The interview is important because it shows that even after the bureau had intimated publicly that its probe into Hillary Clinton was over, the FBI knew it still had work to do with one of her close aides. It is also notable for one of the people advocating it: FBI Agent Peter Strzok, a key figure in both the Clinton probe and the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, whose anti-Trump texts have come under scrutiny.

Trump-Baldwin Dispute

Alec Baldwin PR headshotPalmer Report, Opinion: Alec Baldwin fires back after Donald Trump’s “Alex Baldwin” meltdown, Bill Palmer, March 2, 2018. Donald Trump got people talking for all the wrong reasons this morning when he went on an unhinged tirade about someone named Alex Baldwin. It turned out Trump was attacking Alec Baldwin, the actor who portrays Trump on Saturday Night Live. Trump ended up deleting the tweet out of embarrassment, but not until after “Alex Baldwin” had begun trending on Twitter, and millions of people had begun making fun of Trump. Now Alec Baldwin is firing back at Trump in response.

Trump kicked it all off with this bizarrely misspelled tweet at five-something this morning: “Alex Baldwin, whose dieing mediocre career was saved by his impersonation of me on SNL, now says playing DJT was agony for him. Alex, it was also agony for those who were forced to watch. You were terrible. Bring back Darrell Hammond, much funnier and a far greater talent!” Alex who? Eventually, Alec (not Alex) Baldwin responded: “Agony though it may be, I’d like to hang in there for the impeachment hearings, the resignation speech, the farewell helicopter ride to Mara-A-Lago. You know. The Good Stuff. That we’ve all been waiting for.” But then Baldwin kept going.

alec baldwin trump humor book you cant spell americaAlec Baldwin (who published a book last year You Can't Spell America Without Me) piled on with this sarcastic tweet: “Looking forward to the Trump Presidential Library. A putting green. Recipes for chocolate cake. A live Twitter feed for visitors to post on. A little black book w the phone numbers of porn stars. You’re in and out in five minutes. Just like…” He never did finish the thought, leaving it to the imagination.

Then finally Alec Baldwin went for the ultimate zinger: “And Mr President… please ask your wife to stop calling me for SNL tickets. (Hey, Melania…we’ve got Charles Barkley this Saturday!” We’re going to award the victory in this feud to Alec Baldwin. Consolation prize goes to anyone out there whose real name might be Alex Baldwin.

March 1

washington post logorobert mueller full face fileWashington Post, Mueller digs into Trump’s attempt to force Sessions to quit, Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey and Rosalind S. Helderman, March 1, 2018 (print edition).Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III (shown at right) has been investigating a period of time last summer when President Trump seemed determined to drive Attorney General Jeff Sessions from his job, according to people familiar with the matter.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Jared Kushner Flames Out, Editorial Board, March 2, 2018 (print edition). Bad advice, shady deals and incompetence define the presidential son-in-law’s tenure at the White House. This is the second part of an editorial series on nepotism in the White House. Read more on the history of nepotism and politics here, and on Ivanka Trump’s role here.

For a Middle East negotiator, President Trump could have chosen a seasoned envoy trusted by all stakeholders and fluent in the region’s nuance. Instead he appointed the heir to an opaque Manhattan real estate empire with deep ties to Israel who boasts that, as a businessman, “I don’t care about the past.”

So one year in, what has Mr. Kushner accomplished? The answers point to why, from the nation’s founding to the present day, the architects of American democracy have tried so mightily to restrict the hiring of presidential relatives. Mr. Kushner’s achievements have not only been paltry, but he is directly implicated in some of the president’s most destructive — and self-destructive — decisions, as well as in some of the most serious accusations of self-dealing that have been made against the administration.

washington post logoPresident Trump on Time Magazine's cover Feb. 27, 2017Washington Post, Opinion: Never have we seen such chaos and corruption, Eugene Robinson, March 2, 2018 (print edition). None of what’s happening is normal, and none of it should be acceptable. I spent years as a foreign correspondent in Latin America. To say we are being governed like a banana republic is an insult to banana republics. It’s that bad, and no one should pretend otherwise. Editor's Note: Trump is shown on a Time Magazine cover dated Feb. 27 of last year when the chaos was apparent even then.

More On School Massacres

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Wants to Arm Teachers. These Schools Already Do, Erica L. Green and Manny Fernandez, March 2, 2018 (print edition).  Hundreds of school districts across the country have given staff access to guns, seeing the weaponry not as a political statement but a practical response to a potent threat.

March 1

vladimir putin april 14 2016

washington post logoWashington Post, Putin claims Russia has nuclear arsenal capable of avoiding missile defenses, Anton Troianovski​, March 1, 2018. Russian President Vladimir Putin (shown above in a 2016 file photo) said his country plans to bolster its arsenal with nuclear-powered cruise missiles capable of hitting any point on the globe. In a speech, Putin also warned that Moscow would consider any nuclear attack, of any size, on it or its allies an attack on Russia that would lead to an immediate response.

Gun Control / Mass Shootings

nra logo CustomThe Hill, Opinion: Florida’s student-survivors: The new face of law and lobbying in America, Nicholas W. Allard (shown below left), March 1, 2018. Overnight, the student-survivors and allies are taking on the arguably most powerful influence-brand in the nation, the NRA.

nick allardLobbyists and their sponsors should neither underestimate nor fear this student-movement. Rather, they must understand and embrace the students’ motivation, concerns and genuine commitment. The professional lobbying community certainly can learn from these youthful teachers. We all must understand what truly resonates with these impressive young people — and how and why their approach so strongly resonates with us all.

Nicholas W. Allard is president, Joseph Crea Dean and professor of law at Brooklyn Law School. He serves as senior counsel in the public policy and regulation practice at Dentons, a global law firm. He worked on Capitol Hill for the late Sens. Edward Kennedy and Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

ny times logodonald trump make great logoNew York Times, Trump Stuns Lawmakers With Calls for Gun Control, Michael D. Shear, March 1, 2018. In a televised meeting, President Trump embraced gun control measures long opposed by the N.R.A. and many Republicans. “It would be so beautiful to have one bill that everyone could support,” Mr. Trump said. “It’s time that a president stepped up.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Contradicted Himself on Guns. We Checked His Claims, Linda Qiu, March 1, 2018. Mr. Trump mixed facts and falsehoods while discussing gun policy and potential solutions with legislators. Related story: New York Times, Kroger Raises Age Limits on Gun Sales, Joining Walmart and Dick’s.

Trump Probes

washington post logorobert mueller full face fileWashington Post, Mueller digs into Trump’s attempt to force Sessions to quit, Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey and Rosalind S. Helderman, March 1, 2018 (print edition).Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III (shown at right) has been investigating a period of time last summer when President Trump seemed determined to drive Attorney General Jeff Sessions from his job, according to people familiar with the matter.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Why Robert Mueller can’t hurry, Bill Palmer, March 1, 2018. “Robert Mueller, Please Hurry” has become a popular and understandable rallying cry for the Resistance. Recent events have reminded us that it’s probably not the best advice.

fbi logoThis week Mueller informed a federal judge that he’s ready to start the trial against Paul Manafort right now, and yet the judge assigned a September start date anyway. It’s just how these things work. The trial, if it happens, may last for years. By that time Trump’s fate will likely have already been decided. Manafort was always going to be inclined to take his chances at trial, because he can afford the kind of high priced attorneys who just might be able to find creative way to beat the rap.

paul manafort rick gates nbcnews Custom 2In fact, Mueller arrested Manafort’s sidekick Rick Gates (shown at far right with Manafort in file photos) in the hope of getting him to flip on Manafort, which might cause Manafort to realize that he’s going to have to cut a deal after all. That plan is now in the process of working, and we’ll see if Manafort flips or not. But it’s a reminder that if Manafort does go to trial, then whether Manafort wins or loses that trial, he’ll end up being no use to Mueller at all.

Keep in mind that Paul Manafort is facing one of the most broad and serious collections of criminal charges ever brought against any American, and yet he’s still hesitating about cutting a deal. To get people closer to Donald Trump to flip on him, the ones who can truly take him down, Robert Mueller has to put together some of the scariest sets of criminal charges in history.

If Mueller moves on people like Jared Kushner or Hope Hicks too quickly, before he’s built those criminal cases into pure nightmare fuel, and they decide to simply take their chances at trial, then that’ll be a fail for Mueller. He needs to scare them into cutting deals, and it takes time to dig through every dark corner of these people’s lives in order to find all of their skeletons. If Mueller tries to hurry up the process, he may blow it forever. He only gets one shot at these people. You don’t want him cutting corners. You want him getting it right.

ny times logoNew York Times, Senate Intelligence Panel Blames House G.O.P. for Leak, Nicholas Fandos, March 1, 2018. In an unusual confrontation, the bipartisan leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee told the House speaker that his members had leaked a senator’s texts that were published on Fox News.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has concluded that Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee were behind the leak of private text messages between the Senate panel’s top Democrat and a Russian-connected lawyer, according to two congressional officials briefed on the matter.

richard burr o SmallSenator Richard M. Burr of North Carolina (shown at right), the committee’s Republican chairman, and Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat, were so perturbed by the leak that they demanded a rare meeting with Speaker Paul D. Ryan last month to inform him of their findings. They used the meeting with Mr. Ryan to raise broader concerns about the direction of the House Intelligence Committee under its chairman, Representative Devin Nunes of California (shown below left), the officials said.

devin nunes head oTo the senators, who are overseeing what is effectively the last bipartisan investigation on Capitol Hill into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, the leak was a serious breach of protocol and a partisan attack by one intelligence committee against the other. The text messages were leaked just days after the same House Republicans had taken the extraordinary step of publicly releasing, over the objections of the F.B.I., a widely disputed memorandum based on sensitive government secrets. Taken together, the actions suggested a pattern of partisanship and unilateral action by the once-bipartisan House panel.

ny times logojared kushner head shotNew York Times, Kushner’s Business Got Loans After White House Visits, Jesse DCrucker, Kate Kelly and Ben Protess, March 1, 2018. Apollo, the private equity firm, and Citigroup made large loans last year to the family real estate business of Jared Kushner (shown right), President Trump’s senior adviser. Early last year, a private equity billionaire started paying regular visits to the White House.

Joshua Harris, a founder of Apollo Global Management, was advising Trump administration officials on infrastructure policy. During that period, he met on multiple occasions with Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, said three people familiar with the meetings. Among other things, the two men discussed a possible White House job for Mr. Harris. The job never materialized, but in November, Apollo lent $184 million to Mr. Kushner’s family real estate firm, Kushner Companies. The loan was to refinance the mortgage on a Chicago skyscraper.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s Taj Mahal money laundering bust looms large in Trump-Russia scandal, Virginia Kugel, March 1, 2018. If you think it’s a “wild coincidence” that Robert Mueller has charged thirteen Russians in absentia and is now shining a spotlight on potential money laundering by the NRA and questionable family loans in connection with the Trump-Russia probe, here’s a leftover nugget from Trump’s Taj Mahal to consider.

“The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) today imposed a $10 million civil money penalty against Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort (Trump Taj Mahal), for willful and repeated violations of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). In addition to the civil money penalty, the casino is required to conduct periodic external audits to examine its anti-money laundering (AML) BSA compliance program and provide those audit reports to FinCEN and the casino’s Board of Directors.”

cnn logoCNN, Rick Gates tells judge he's canceling trip due to threat invoking Russian mafia, Katelyn Polantz, March 1, 2018. Former Trump campaign deputy Rick Gates told a federal court Thursday afternoon that he and his wife believe it's "not prudent" for them to take their four children on a trip to Boston, after feeling threatened by an online commenter who invoked the Russian mafia.

washington post logohope hicks strategic communications directorWashington Post, Hicks resignation jolts a West Wing besieged by internal tumult, Russia probe, Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker, March 1, 2018 (print edition). Hope Hicks, the White House communications director, is one of President Trump’s longest-serving advisers. But her special relationship with Trump has ensnared her in the wide-ranging investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Hope Hicks told the truth about lying for Trump. Now she’s gone, Dana Milbank, March 1, 2018 (print edition). On Tuesday, White House communications director Hope Hicks did what for the Trump White House was extraordinary, if not unprecedented: She admitted to lawmakers that working for President Trump required her to lie. On Wednesday, she announced her resignation.

Inside Washington

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Conservatives are using the Supreme Court to destroy unions, E.J. Dionne Jr., March 1, 2018 (print edition). Many conservatives believe in the untrammeled rights of employers. Consequently, they despise unions. They also can’t stand that organized labor usually backs Democrats, and they especially detest public employee unions which, by their very nature, advocate for government.

For decades, these same conservatives criticized the politicization of the courts, accusing liberals of “inventing rights,” “making new law” and indulging in “judicial activism.”

supreme court buildingAnd one more thing: Conservatives of late have charged that liberals refuse to acknowledge the importance of allowing revered and useful social institutions to thrive and maintain their organizational integrity. So, for example, the right insists that organizations affiliated with religious groups opposed to contraception must, under no circumstances, be required to cover birth control in their health plans.

This bundle of contradictions is on open display in the case of Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Argued this week before the Supreme Court, the suit is an effort to overturn 41 years of settled precedent for the purpose of crippling the American labor movement.

Tariffs, Trade War, Stock Prices

Roll Call, GOP Reaction to Trump Tariffs is Fast, Furious and Negative, Joe Williams, March 1, 2018. Republicans fret about retaliatory action, effect on agricultural trade.

The Hill, Opinion: Stocks sink after Trump tariff announcement, Sylvan Lane, March 1, 2018. U.S stocks sunk Thursday just moments after President Trump announced new, steep tariffs on steel and aluminum to be imposed next week. Trump said Thursday he would announce a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum from all countries that send metals to the U.S. The move is expected to lead to retaliation by trade partners.

jennifer rubin twitterwashington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump just started a trade war. Any recession will be on him, Jennifer Rubin (shown at right0, March 1, 2018. Both in process and substance, President Trump’s announcement on steel and aluminum tariffs reflects his willful ignorance and the utter failure of those around him to curb his grave defects.

Reacting to Trump’s horrendous trade decision, the Dow Jones industrial average is as of this writing down 500 points [420,or 1.68 percent by close). Perhaps loss of bragging rights about stock prices may shock Trump into reconsidering his move. The former car czar Steven Rattner tells me, “As today’s stock market reaction indicates, Donald Trump is in a small minority of people who think these kinds of tariffs are a good idea. I thought we had all learned our lesson after Smoot-Hawley in 1930.”

Trump Immigration Hypocrisy?

washington post logodjt melania nydaily news eclipse 8 21 17 customWashington Post, Questions linger about how Melania Trump, a Slovenian model, scored ‘the Einstein visa,’ Mary Jordan​, March 1, 2018. In 2001, the future first lady was granted a green card in the elite EB-1 program, which is reserved for people with “extraordinary ability.”

melania trump twitterThat year, only five people from Slovenia obtained legal residency in the United States under the program, according to the State Department. (In a New York Daily News cover photo, President Trump is shown staring at the sun during an eclipse while his wife weas sunglasses.)

Privacy, Propaganda, Media

RT, ‘NSA-proof’ Tor actually funded by US govt agency, works with BBG, FBI & DOJ – FOIA docs, Staff report, March 1, 2018. ‘NSA-proof’ Tor actually funded by US govt agency, works with BBG, FBI & DOJ – FOIA docs. The Tor Project, hailed as a bulwark against the encroaching surveillance state, has received funding from US government agency the BBG and cooperates with intelligence agencies, newly released documents reveal.

Tor, free software which enables anonymous communication over the internet, is a “privatized extension of the very same government that it claimed to be fighting,” claims journalist Yasha Levine, who obtained 2,500 pages of correspondence about the project via Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

Hailed as “NSA-proof” and used by journalists and whistleblowers alike to protect themselves and their sources from government retribution, Tor is painted in an entirely new light in the FOIA documents, which reveal cooperation between the software’s developers and US government agencies.

voice of america logoThe documents released by Levine mostly focus on how Tor received funding from the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which supervises Washington-funded media, including Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. But they also tell a story of how employees of the non-profit met regularly with the Department of Justice, the FBI, and other three-letter agencies for training sessions and conferences, where the agencies pitched their software needs, the documents show.

Commenting on the potentially explosive contents, Levine wrote in a blog post published on his website: “Why would the US government fund a tool that limited its own power? The answer, as I discovered, was that Tor didn’t threaten American power. It enhanced it.”

#MeToo Media Claims

nick micarelli wpvi screenshot Custom

Associated Press via Chron, House GOP leaders urge member accused of sex abuse to resign, Mark Scolforo, March 1, 2018. A state representative (shown above in a screenshot) was urged Thursday by House Republican leaders to resign amid allegations he forced a woman to have sex after they broke up and threatened to kill another while driving at a high speed and brandishing a gun. The chamber's seven highest-ranking GOP leaders released a statement that said the claims should be properly investigated by police but Republican Rep. Nick Miccarelli of Delaware County should step down in the meantime.

"What we have in front of the House right now is about the integrity of the institution, the safety of its staff and members, and the best paths forward for the individuals involved — the accusers and accused, as well as their respective families," the statement read. "With that in mind, it would be in the best interest of all involved if Rep. Miccarelli would resign." In a Facebook post Wednesday evening, Miccarelli denied the allegations entirely, calling them "complete fabrications

alex jones headshotNew York Daily News, Infowars’ Alex Jones accused of sexual harassment, racism and anti-Semitism: report, Jessica Chia, March 1, 2018,  Two former employees filed complaints against Infowars founder Alex Jones alleging he made racist and anti-Semitic comments, groomed them for sex and groped a female staffer.

Rob Jacobson, who worked as a video editor for Infowars for 13 years, filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claiming Jones (shown above right) frequently singled out his Jewish background and referred to him as a “beefcake” over the course of four years, according to documents obtained by the Daily Mail.

Jacobson, who said the term referred to male porn stars, wrote, “I felt like this was intimidating and harassing and a form of sexual harassment in that he was grooming me for homosexual sex.”

washington post logoWashington Post, In a prestigious high school math and science program, alumni say #MeToo, Donna St. George, March 1, 2018. Years after they left one of the nation’s premier high school programs in math and science, hundreds of alumni have come forward to support allegations that a celebrated Maryland teacher sexually harassed and demeaned female students. Many have described sexual comments, suggestive humor and sexist put-downs they said went unchecked for years as Eric Walstein became one of the pillars of a selective magnet program in a suburb outside Washington.

They accuse the nationally recognized teacher at Montgomery Blair High School of giving back rubs, leering at girls, calling them sexy, stroking their hands, and remarking on their bodies and sex lives — one account after another in what has become a #MeToo moment focused on experiences in high school.

ed murray wyomingWyoming Tribune Eagle, Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Murray resigns amid sexual misconduct allegations, Joel Funk, March 1, 2018. Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Murray resigned Friday following two separate allegations of prior sexual misconduct within two months. Murray made the unexpected announcement through a statement emailed to the media just before the close of business. He said no one asked him to resign.

“After deep and profound contemplation, I am announcing my resignation as secretary of state, effective today,” the statement said. “I step aside with peace and serenity in order that I may fully focus on what is most important in my life: my marriage, my family and my health.” In December, Tatiana Maxwell, a Colorado resident, made allegations on Facebook that Murray assaulted her more than 30 years ago when they worked together at a Cheyenne law firm.

A second accuser, Theresa Sullivan Twiford, the daughter of former Democratic Wyoming Gov. Mike Sullivan, said in a January statement to the Casper Star-Tribune that Murray forcibly kissed her in 1988. Twiford now lives in Virginia. Both women were 18 at the time the alleged incidents took place.

Murray forcefully denied the first allegation and said he could not recall the second alleged incident. It all follows speculation last fall about whether Murray would enter the race to become Wyoming’s next governor. Before the allegations, Murray told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle he was considering a run for governor, but planned to seek re-election as secretary of state should he not pursue higher office.

YouTube Cuts Channel of InfoWars DC Pundit

jerome corsiDeadState, YouTube just deleted InfoWars conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi’s channel, Sky Palma, March 1, 2018. In the wake of the Parkland high school shooting that left 17 people dead and dozens injured, YouTube is targeting videos published by far-right conspiracy theorists who are prolific disseminators of fake news, and wiping them off the platform.

YouTube has also been doling out strikes to offenders, and Alex Jones’ InfoWars is reportedly on its second one after posting videos that accused Parkland survivors of being “crisis actors.” Now, the platform has taken out one of Jones’ most visible reporters, Jerome Corsi, shown at right.

In a post to Twitter this Thursday, Corsi announced that his YouTube channel was deleted. According to him, the company deciding it no longer wants his business is comparable to the “USSR.”