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

July 16

Trump-Putin Meeting

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump and Putin end historic summit that Trump says ‘changed’ bad relations, Philip Rucker, Anton Troianovski and Seung Min Kim, July 16, 2018. President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin concluded their first formal one-one-one summit here Monday, a high-stakes meeting that Trump said “went very well” and changed relations that had never been worse.

Appearing at a joint news conference with Putin after the talks in the Finnish capital ended, Trump said in opening remarks that he and Putin discussed their disagreements “at length.” He added: “Our relationship has never been worse than it is now. However, that changed, as of about four hours ago.”

He said he also “spent a great deal of time” talking about Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The summit began hours after Trump blamed his own country, rather than Russia, for the hostilities between their two nations.

Speaking first at the news conference, Putin said the talks took place “in a frank and businesslike atmosphere,” adding: “I think we can call it a success.” He said that although bilateral relations have been “going through a complicated stage,” there was “no solid reason” for that. “The Cold War is a thing of the past,” he said.

He added later that Trump “mentioned the so-called interference of Russia in the American election” in 2016. Putin again denied any involvement by the Russian state and said any evidence of interference can be analyzed through a joint working group on cybersecurity.

Trump-Putin Preview

In hosting a meeting with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, at the White House last year, President Trump barred the U.S. media from attending while he disclosed classified information, according to later reports. Much of the news, including the photo above showing also Russia's ambassador to the United States (at right), came from Russian sources or leaks. Photo: Alexander Shcherbak/TASS.

All staff and other witnesses, except possibly a translator, are barred from Trump's meeting with Russian Premier Vladimir Puter in Finland on July 16, 2018. 

washington post logoWashington Post, Ahead of meeting with Putin, Trump faults U.S. ‘stupidity’ for poor relations with Russia, Philip Rucker, Anton Troianovski and Seung Min Kim, July 16, 2018. President Trump’s comments, which he tweeted before his one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, were in sync with Moscow’s view that Obama-era policies and the Justice Department’s probe into election interference have inflamed tensions between the countries.

Trade War Update

washington post logoWashington Post, Europe, casting itself as peacemaker, urges China and U.S. to halt trade war, Danielle Paquette​, July 16, 2018.  “There is still time to prevent conflict and chaos,” European Council President Donald Tusk said at a summit between China and the European Union.

Trump Watch: 'Witch Hunt?'

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Yes, special investigations can be witch hunts. The Mueller probe is not one, Nelson W. Cunningham, July 16, 2018 (print edition). President Trump and his allies have made much of the fact that 13 lawyers working for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III are Democratic voters or contributors. Almost all of them are career Justice Department employees who, like most in the D.C. and New York areas, seem to lean to the left.

This has understandably raised questions about their ability to be fair. But do you remember the 36 Angry Republicans who preceded them?

ken starr wBefore there was Mueller, there was Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel tasked with investigating President Bill Clinton over of the course of five years. Those Angry Republicans worked for him.

Starr (shown at left) started with the Whitewater land deal and Vince Foster’s suicide, and over more than five years also investigated the travel office firings, the handling of FBI files and the Monica Lewinsky scandal, for which Starr ultimately recommended that Congress consider Clinton’s impeachment.

The lesson from the Starr investigation is that the political makeup of independent investigations does matter — as do the checks and balances that can serve to keep such investigations from becoming a “witch hunt.” Unfortunately for Trump, it’s much harder to make the case that the Mueller investigation is improperly balanced against him than the Starr investigation was against Clinton.

Mueller himself is not only a registered Republican, but few can match his record of Republican presidential service, which includes senior appointments under Presidents Reagan, Bush 41 and Bush 43.

Nelson W. Cunningham served as general counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee under then-chair Joseph Biden and as general counsel of the White House Office of Administration under President Clinton. He is now president of McLarty Associates, a global strategy firm.

July 15

ny times logovladimir putin o wNew York Times, Just by Meeting With Trump, Putin Comes Out Ahead, Andrew Higgins and Neil MacFarquhar, July 15, 2018.  When President Vladimir V. Putin (right) of Russia sits down with President Trump in Helsinki, Finland, on Monday he will already have accomplished virtually everything he could reasonably hope for.

washington post logoWashington Post, 'I hadn’t thought’ of asking Putin to extradite indicted Russian agents, Trump says, Seung Min Kim, July 15, 2018. The president also tried to set expectations for his one-on-one meeting with Russia’s Vladimir Putin in a new CBS interview.

washington post logoWashington Post, For Mueller, pushing to finish parts of probe, question of U.S. involvement remains, Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky, Carol D. Leonnig and Shane Harris, July 15, 2018 (print edition). As Robert S. Mueller III attempts to resolve whether any Americans were involved in the conspiracy to interfere with the 2016 election — and whether President Trump has sought to obstruct the probe — there are signs that he is moving to finish a big part of his work by summer's end.

robert mueller full face fileIn a 29-page indictment Friday, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III (right) blamed specific officers in the Russian government for the 2016 hacking of Democrats, answering one of his investigation’s central questions while highlighting another he must still explain: Were any Americans involved in the conspiracy to interfere in the race for the White House?

GOP Sex Police Hypocritally Defend Trump

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FBI counter-intelligence supervisor Peter Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, above, have been interrogated by a GOP-led House investigation, including 10 hours of public hearings on July 13 against Strzok.

washington post logodana milbank CustomWashington Post, Opinion: It’s clear why Republicans interrogated Peter Strzok, Dana Milbank (right), July 15, 2018 (print edition). But by all means let’s hear more about the affair.

They stuck with Donald Trump when he was heard, on video, boasting about sexually assaulting women. They stuck with him still when he acknowledged paying hush money to a porn actress who alleged an affair.

republican elephant logoBut this week, congressional Republicans, determined to discredit the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, hauled in FBI agent Peter Strzok and sought to humiliate him over anti-Trump texts he exchanged with his mistress, FBI lawyer Lisa Page.

“I can’t help wonder,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.), “when I see you looking there with a little smirk, how many times did you look so innocent into your wife’s eye and lie to her about Lisa Page?”

The purpose of interrogating Strzok for 10 hours Thursday (after 11 hours in a private session) was clear: ritual humiliation.

In fairness, the vast majority condemned Strzok over his texts to his lover without invoking the affair. But then there was Rep. Karen Handel (R-Ga.), picking up where Gohmert left off. “Engaging in the kind of behavior that you have been engaging in, especially with scott desJarlais othe extramarital affair, it opens up an agent to exploitation and even blackmail,” she proclaimed.

If Republicans really want to go there, they’ll need to investigate the vulnerabilities of some of Strzok’s inquisitors on their glass-house committee:

Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.), who needled Strzok about “text messages with your friend.” DesJarlais (above right), according to divorce filings, had multiple extramarital affairs and encouraged his ex-wife and a patient with whom he had an affair to get abortions.

mark meadows small customRep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who has been under investigation by the House Ethics Committee over payments to a former staffer accused of sexual harassment. Other members of the panel are Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.), who was sentenced last year to community service and anger-management classes for assaulting a reporter, and Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), whose infidelity as governor of South Carolina made national headlines.

blake farenthold with bunny customJudging Strzok also would have been Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.), but he recently resigned after revelation of a taxpayer-funded sexual harassment settlement. (Farenthold, dressed in duck pajamas, is shown in a photo taken at the "Abyss" nightclub.)

And there’s Gohmert himself, who defended Jordan against the wrestlers’ allegations and who remained on Trump’s leadership team through the “Access Hollywood” scandal.

Caged Child Immigrants

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘They told us to behave, or we’d be here forever’: Children describe bleak days in shelters, Michael E. Miller, July 15, 2018. Under court order, federal officials have begun to return the more than 2,500 immigrant children taken from their parents weeks or months ago under the Trump administration’s short-lived family separation policy. Federal judge calls Friday filing by HHS ‘cover’ for its failings in reunification process.

Sports / Entertainment

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washington post logoWashington Post, As sun sets on glorious World Cup, France-Croatia final is one last chance to shine, Steven Goff, July 15, 2018 (print edition). France has won championships at every level of men’s soccer. Croatia, a small, young nation that has manufactured a disproportionate number of world-class players, has won exactly nothing.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘They told us to behave, or we’d be here forever’: Children describe bleak days in shelters, Michael E. Miller, July 15, 2018. Under court order, federal officials have begun to return the more than 2,500 immigrant children taken from their parents weeks or months ago under the Trump administration’s short-lived family separation policy. Federal judge calls Friday filing by HHS ‘cover’ for its failings in reunification process.

Media: Global Propaganda Wars

washington post logoWashington Post, Papers stolen in Israeli raid reveal the extent of Iran’s past weapons research, Joby Warrick​, July 15, 2018. New details from a trove of Iranian nuclear documents stolen by Israeli spies early this year show that Tehran obtained explicit weapons-design information from a foreign source and was on the cusp of mastering key bomb-making technologies when the research was ordered halted 15 years ago.

Trade Wars: Ivanka Factor

ny times logoNew York Times, Major Chain in Canada Pulls Ivanka Trump’s Clothing, Ian Austen, July 15, 2018. Canada’s largest full-line department store chain, the Hudson’s Bay Company, has pulled clothing, shoes and other merchandise bearing Ivanka Trump’s fashion brand from its website and said it would wind down their sale in its stores across the country.

The move by the retailer, which also owns Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor in the United States, comes at a time when many Canadians say they are boycotting American products because of President Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum as well as his repeated insults of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The decision to drop the brand was reportedly made last fall.

More than 2,000 Canadians responded to a recent request from The New York Times for their reaction to Mr. Trump’s actions with a mix of anger, betrayal, bafflement and sadness. Many of those people said they would go out of their way to keep American products off their shopping lists.

Media: White House Punishes CNN

cnn logoThe Hill, White House: We canceled Bolton’s interview with CNN after network's Acosta 'disrespected' Trump, Morgan Gstalter, July 14, 2018. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Saturday that the White House decided to cancel an interview between CNN and national security adviser John Bolton after a CNN reporter “disrespected” President Trump earlier this week.

CNN’s “State of the Union” host Jake Tapper on Saturday tweeted that the White House intervened and canceled a scheduled interview with Bolton who “remains fully prepared to do the interview” on Sunday.

“Actually a @CNN reporter disrespected @POTUS & PM May during their press conference,” Sanders tweeted in response. “Instead of rewarding bad behavior, we decided to reprioritize the TV appearances for administration officials.”

sarah huckabee sanders screenshotSanders (shown in a file photo) was referring to Trump's refusal to take questions from the network on Friday during an international press conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Trump lashed out at the network after CNN reporter Jim Acosta tried to ask him a question.“CNN is fake news. I don’t take questions from CNN,” Trump responded.

Trump Watch: Roger Stone Rebuttals

roger stone hands waving no credit from stone cold Custom

Stone Cold Truth, Opinion: Statement of Roger Stone on Russian indictment, Roger Stone (shown above in photo from his website), July 14, 2018. "This indictment is exoneration."

As I testified before the House Intelligence Committee under oath, my 24-word exchange with someone on Twitter claiming to be Guccifer 2.0 is benign based on its content, context, and timing.

This exchange is entirely public and provides no evidence of collaboration or collusion with Guccifer 2.0 or anyone else in the alleged hacking of the DNC emails, as well as taking place many weeks after the events described in today’s indictment and after Wikileaks had already published the DNC material.

The indictment does not allege or even allude that I was part of this alleged hacking nor does it allege or allude to me having anything to do with getting the allegedly hacked material to WikiLeaks.

The indictments announced show I did not conspire with any of the defendants to do the alleged hacking, distribute the allegedly stolen emails or aid them in any way.

See related video below from InfoWars interview by Harrison Smith, July 13, 2018 (11:57 min. video).

 July 14

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Above, the logo of the Russian intelligence service GRU 

dnc horizontal logo

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Indicts 12 Russian Officials in 2016 Hacking of Democrats, Eileen Sullivan and Katie Benner, July 14, 2018 (print edition). Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, on Friday announced new charges against 12 Russian intelligence officers accused of hacking the Democratic National Committee, the Clinton presidential campaign and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Hillary Clinton ButtonThe announcement came just a few days before President Trump is expected to meet with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in Helsinki, Finland.

robert mueller full face fileThe 11-count indictment includes charges of conspiracy by the Russian intelligence officials against the United States, money laundering and attempts to break into state boards of elections and other government agencies.

The indictment is part of the investigation of Special counsel Robert Mueller (shown at right) into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

The 29-page indictment is here.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Indictment lands at a really awkward moment for Trump, Amber Phillips​, July 14, 2018 (print edition). The development in the Russia investigation — coming days before a planned summit with Vladimir Putin — could force President Trump’s hand on something he has seemed loathe to do: Confront the Russian leader about election meddling.

The timing of the newest indictment in the special counsel's Russia investigation couldn't be better for President Trump's opponents — or more inconvenient for Trump and his allies.

Russian FlagFriday's indictment of 12 Russian spies, who are accused of hacking Democrats during the campaign, could blunt any positive results Trump's allies thought they had gleaned from Thursday's contentious congressional hearing about alleged FBI bias in the Russia investigation.

vladimir putin o wTrump is gearing up for a meeting Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin (right). This indictment could force his hand on something he has seemed loathe to do: confront Putin about election interference.

Meanwhile, these 12 new charges prove that the special counsel's Russia investigation is very real — not a “witch hunt” as the president has claimed. It brings the total indictments to 32 people, most of whom are either Russians or Trump campaign officials or people with ties to the Trump campaign.

And Friday's indictments come a day after some on the left found a new spokesman for protecting the FBI from Republican attacks, beleaguered FBI agent Peter Strzok.

Trump Backtracks On NATO, May

djt queen melania 7 13 18

Queen Elizabeth hosted President Trump and his wife Melania after Trump insulted the U.K.'s prime minister, then gave a qualified apology while also denouncing a taped interview by the Murdoch-owned Sun as "fake news"

ny times logotheresa may newer fileNew York Times, With May’s Government Teetering, Trump Gives It a Shove, Stephen Castle and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, July 14, 2018 (print edition). President Trump publicly undercut Prime Minister Theresa May in a remarkable breach of protocol just hours after landing in her country. In an interview with The Sun, Mr. Trump criticized how Mrs. May has handled Brexit negotiations. “She didn’t listen to me,” he said.

djt theresa may sun front page 7 13 18 Small

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump, In UK, Denies Critical Remarks About Its Leader, Staff report, July 14, 2018 (print edition). President Trump and Prime Minister Theresa May worked to avoid a political crisis after a bombshell interview in which Mr. Trump criticized the British leader on several fronts, most notably her approach to the British withdrawal from the European Union.

United Kingdom flagThe president has never shown much affection for diplomatic norms and multilateral institutions, as he demonstrated at the NATO summit meeting this week, but Mrs. May chose to nurture the “special relationship” rather than allow the remarks to fracture it. Here’s the latest:

• Mr. Trump sat down for talks with Mrs. May, and the two held a news conference in which they tried to restore a sense of unity after the devastating interview with the British tabloid The Sun. Tea with the queen will come later.

• Mr. Trump, having said that Mrs. May’s approach to Brexit, as the withdrawal is often called, would almost certainly imperil a trade deal that Britain badly wants, said that ties between the two countries were at the “highest level of special” and that she was doing a “fantastic job.”

Picking Press Favorites

cnn logoThe Hill, Trump: I don't take questions from CNN, Brett Samuels, July14, 2018 (print edition). President Trump on Friday at an international press conference lashed out at CNN, declaring that he would not take questions from the network.

CNN correspondent Jim Acosta attempted to interject with a question during a press conference with Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May. After criticizing CNN, Pres. Trump declines to take a question from a CNN reporter at joint presser with Theresa May. "CNN is fox news logo Smallfake news. I don't take questions from CNN."

Pres. Trump then called on a Fox News reporter: "Let's go to a real network." 

 

Supreme Court Watch

ny times logoNew York Times, Influential Judge, Conservative Warrior — and D.C. Insider, Scott Shane, Steve Eder, Rebecca R. Ruiz, Adam Liptak, Charlie Savage and Ben Protess, July 14, 2018.  The carefully crafted narrative around Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, plays down his legacy as a charter member of elite Washington.

When Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh introduced himself to the American people on Monday, with a beaming President Trump beside him, he had a lot to say about his mother, a former high school teacher and a Maryland judge. He accorded his father strikingly less attention — just 34 words, compared with 132 about his mother — mentioning his “unparalleled work ethic” while not saying exactly what work he did.

Yet Ed Kavanaugh’s career may shed light on his son’s hostility to government regulation, a major reason conservatives are so enthralled by his nomination to the Supreme Court. He spent more than two decades in Washington as a top lobbyist for the cosmetics industry, courting Congress and combating regulations from the Food and Drug Administration and other agencies. (Among his hires for legal work: John G. Roberts Jr., now the chief justice.)

U.S. Politics / Media

matt gaetz o CustomThe Hill, GOP lawmaker thinks he was duped by Sacha Baron Cohen, Avery Anapol, July 14, 2018. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said this week that he was likely duped by Sacha Baron Cohen in an interview earlier this year.

Gaetz (shown at right) told the Daily Beast that he thinks Cohen may have tricked him into an interview about Israel and asked him to endorse weapons systems. “They totally got me,” Gaetz told the Daily Beast on Friday night. He originally told the publication that he was not “aware” of an incident involving Cohen.

July 13

DOJ Russia Indictments

rod rosenstein indict russians 7 13 2018 screeengrab

Dep. Attorney Gen. Rod Rosenstein announces the federal indictment of 12 Russian GRU officers on July 12 (screenshot)

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump persists in his push for friendly ties with Putin despite Russia indictments, Philip Rucker, July 13, 2018. After he was told about the indictments of a dozen Russian officers on hacking allegations, President Trump publicly repeated his frequent attacks on the integrity of the Russia probe and offered kind words for Russian President Vladi­mir Putin ahead of their meeting next week.

washington post logoWashington Post, Election system firm with Maryland contract has ties to Russian oligarch, FBI tells state, Ovetta Wiggins, July 13, 2018. Top state officials have asked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to help ensure that the state’s election system is secure after learning about the link.

rudy giuliani recentAlternative Views Of Russian Indictments

HuffPost, Opinion: Rudy Giuliani Claims New Mueller Indictments Absolve Trump In Laughable Tweet, David Moye, July 13, 2018. Giuliani said the new charges prove the president is “completely innocent.” Twitter disagrees.

Giuliani (right): "The indictments Rod Rosenstein announced are good news for all Americans. The Russians are nailed. No Americans are involved. Time for Mueller to end this pursuit of the President and say President Trump is completely innocent."

Palmer Report, Opinion: Now we know why so many Republicans in Congress aren’t even bothering to run for reelection, Bill Palmer, July 13, 2018. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has obtained indictments against twelve Russian government spies who hacked and stole Democratic Party secrets during the election and then strategically shared them. Aside from the timing, which is clearly aimed at disrupting the Trump-Putin summit, the most notable new revelation here is the involvement of a Republican congressional candidate.

Mueller’s indictments allege that the Russian government hackers gave [stolen documents] to an unnamed congressional candidate in the 2016 election. The Russians would not have hacked the Democrats and then given that information to a Democratic candidate, so we know that the candidate in question is a Republican. We’re working on narrowing down that list further, but the bottom line is this: the Russian government obviously wouldn’t have wanted just one Republican candidate to have those Democratic Party secrets.

So what really happened here? Did the Kremlin give the one Republican congressional candidate instructions to share the stolen data with other Republican candidates? Did the Kremlin tell the Trump campaign to share that data with Republican candidates it trusted? Those details will come out later, and Mueller has his reasons for keeping them under wraps for now. But the bottom line is that this is almost certainly leading up to a big reveal that several Republican candidates in 2016 – and quite possibly the Republican Party leadership itself – had its hands on Democratic Party secrets stolen by the Russians.

The implications here are astounding. Knowingly receiving stolen goods is a crime. It’s also a crime for a candidate to accept gifts of value from a foreign government. These are the easy cut-and-dry charges to prove, before getting to the headier criminal charges like conspiracy against the United States or treason.

LaRouchePAC Statement, Opinion: Mueller Issues Fake Indictment, Staff report, July 13, 2016. Desperate to head off a possible accommodation between President Trump and President Putin, which could result in a principled approach to a viable peace, the British, Robert Mueller, and the "resist" holdover forces in the U.S. intelligence community and news media have staged a trifecta of calculated information warfare operations within the last 24 hours to sabotage the summit.

Reached today, after conducting a quick review of Mueller's indictment, former NSA Technical Director William Binney declared the document to be "a fabrication."

"The only actual forensic investigations performed on available data regarding "hacks" of the DNC are independent investigations assessed and approved by a group of us at the Veterans Intelligence Professionals for Sanity," Binney noted. (See, Intel Vets Challenge 'Russia Hack' Evidence, and A New Report Raises Big Questions About Last Year’s DNC Hack.)

william binneyBinney (shown in a file photo) continued:

The FBI never even bothered to examine the DNC computers, relying instead on the DNC and Atlantic Council cyber contractor Crowd Strike for its evidence. Our analysis demonstrated that the Guccifer II and DC Leaks personas were created inside the United States. Our analysis also fully demonstrated that the transfer of the information was consistent with a download to a thumb drive, not transmission over the internet.

Separate and apart from the VIPS analysis, Ray McGovern and I have consistently said that available data surrounding charges regarding ‘Russian hacking' suggest that the CIA's Vault 7 Cyber weapons arsenal enabling false attribution and ‘tell-tale' signs in Cyrillic and other ‘obfuscation' may be at work in a least some of this.

​Trump Watch: House Strzok Hearing

washington post logoWashington Post, The Strzok hearing damaged our democracy, Editorial Board, July 13, 2018 (print edition). Tempers boiled over on Capitol Hill peter strzok croppedThursday as Peter Strzok (right), the FBI official at the center of President Trump’s attempts to discredit special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, testified before a joint meeting of two House oversight committees. With all its yelling and interruptions, the hearing was a fitting coda to the hyperpartisan farce of an investigation that House Republicans have conducted into the FBI and Mr. Mueller’s Russia probe.

U.S. House logoRepublicans spent hours parsing text messages and waving documents in the air. But all of it, just like most of the broader House investigation, was a distraction from this central point about the conspiracy narratives the president and his defenders have been cooking up about the FBI: If the agency had been trying to harm Mr. Trump’s campaign, agents could have released damaging information on pro-Trump Russian interference before Election Day — and they did not.

wayne madsen screen shot

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: The FBI's "inquisitors" — a parade of the depraved, Wayne Madsen (shown above in a cable news screenshot), July 13, 2018 (subscription required). Investigative reporter and author of 15 books Wayne Madsen is a former Navy intelligence officer and frequent broadcast commentator.

U.S. House logoOn July 12, former deputy assistant director of the FBI Peter Strzok testified before 70 members of a joint hearing of the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees on his actions as the chief of the bureau's counter-intelligence division during the 2016 presidential election.

bob goodlatte cropped oStrzok's text messages, in which he criticized Trump, were fodder for the Republicans who used the occasion to push their various unfounded conspiracy theories.

The Republicans who took shots at Strzok represent a cavalcade of miscreants, misfits, perverts, and criminals, starting with House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), right, who is retiring at the end of the current term.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Devin Nunes tied to underage sex worker scandal, Tim Faulkner, July 13, 2018. Things just keep getting worse for Congressman Devin Nunes. On Wednesday, two separate organizations issued letters to the Office of Congressional Ethics requesting an investigation into his personal business investments.

devin nunes grimacingA complaint filed by the Campaign for Accountability alleges that Nunes (shown at left) possibly violated federal laws by omitting information from his financial disclosure forms when he failed to include information on his affiliation with three California companies. He left off information as to whether he had investments or received any financial gifts from the companies’ owners. Alpha Omega, a Napa County winery, was listed as one of Nunes’s primary assets, which he reported that he purchased in 2006 for between $50,001 and $100,000 but he claims to receive little income from it each year, “despite [its] apparent success.”

While this omission would clearly violate federal law, things get even worse for Nunes.

Another complaint, this one from the Swamp Accountability Project, was also filed Wednesday with the Office of Congressional Ethics. This complaint focuses on a sexual harassment lawsuit that was settled in 2015, alleging “the company hosted a fundraiser on a yacht with top investors using cocaine and hiring sex workers — some who appeared too young to consent.” With the recent allegations against fellow Republican Congressman Jim Jordan protecting Ohio State team doctor from molestation complaints, this is not a good time for Nunes to face such allegations.

So far, Devin Nunes has not answered any inquiries about his involvement or knowledge of this incident. “For this reason, OCE should prioritize a review of Rep. Nunes’ investment and involvement in the Alpha Omega Winery, and the facts reported by The Fresno Bee. Such review should be undertaken as swiftly as possible,” the complaint from the Swamp Accountability Project stated.

 

Supreme Court Battle: Voting Rights

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Does Brett Kavanaugh Spell the End of Voting Rights? Ari Berman, July 13, 2018. Mr. Berman is a journalist who specializes in voting rights. If he is confirmed for the Supreme Court, we will see the most extreme court on civil rights since the era of Jim Crow.

The threat of voter disenfranchisement will get worse if Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed to the court. His opinion in the South Carolina case and his record in civil rights matters suggests that he will join with the court’s conservative justices to further roll back voting rights protections and other civil rights laws.

If Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed, Chief Justice John Roberts will become the new swing voter. That’s terrible news for voting rights.

The Trump Swamp

washington post logowilbur rossWashington Post, Government ethics office scolds Wilbur Ross over stock sales, Steven Mufson, July 13, 2018 (print edition). The commerce secretary (right) was strongly reprimanded for failing to completely divest himself of his far-flung stock holdings in a timely fashion and for taking short positions in an effort to offset certain stocks until they could be sold.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jared Kushner lacks security clearance for most sensitive intelligence that goes to Trump, Carol D. Leonnig, Josh Dawsey and Ashley Parker, July 13, 2018 (print edition). Jared Kushner (right), a senior White House adviser and President Trump’s son-in-law, lacks the security clearance level required to review some of the government’s most sensitive secrets, according to two people familiar with his access.

For the first year of the Trump administration, Kushner had nearly blanket access to highly classified intelligence, even as he held an interim security clearance and awaited the completion of his background investigation.

Donald Trump and Mike Pence logoBut when White House security officials granted him a permanent clearance in late May, he was granted only “top secret” status — a level that does not allow him to see some of the country’s most closely guarded intelligence, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss security issues.

Kushner has not yet been approved to review “sensitive compartmented information,” better known as SCI. The Central Intelligence Agency determines who can access this information, which primarily involves U.S. intelligence sources and surveillance methods, they said.

The Hill, Top National Security Council official forced out: report, Jacqueline Thomsen, July 13, 2018. A top National Security Council (NSC) official was forced to leave the group on Thursday, the most recent departure since national security adviser John Bolton joined the administration earlier this year, Politico reports.

Jennifer Arangio, a senior director in the NSC who worked with global groups, was escorted off White House premises and told that she was no longer needed in the administration, according to Politico.

stephen miller nbc screenshot whAn NSC spokesman told the newspaper that the group doesn’t comment on personnel issues, and Arangio didn’t return the publication’s request for comment. A former White House official told the outlet that Arangio is “fiercely loyal” to President Trump, but that she clashed with White House aide Stephen Miller (shown at right).

U.S. First Lady / Politics

washington post logomelania trump i really dont care jacket twitterWashington Post, Opinion: Nothing else Melania Trump wears will ever matter again, Robin Givhan, July 13, 2018. Once again, Melania Trump stepped onto the international stage in the traditional role of first lady: an emissary of the American people and a fashion mannequin of soft diplomacy.

But her credibility has been significantly undermined by her own hand. All it took was a $39 olive-drab jacket.

Massive FEMA Breakdown In Puerto Rico

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washington post logoWashington Post, FEMA admits to failures in its response in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, Arelis Hernández, July 13, 2018. A report shows that responses to Harvey in Texas and Irma in Florida taxed the relief agency, leaving it understaffed and out of position for the catastrophe that unfolded in Puerto Rico.

International Court Orders Safe Passage For Assange

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julian assange august 2014 wEurasiafuture.com, Julian Assange Scores Major Legal Victory as Court Orders Safe Passage of Wikileaks Founder Out of Embassy, Adam Garrie, July 13, 2018. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights, a body of the Organization of American States, rules that UK must allow Assange safe passage from embassy to host nation Ecuador.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights based in Costa Rica is a multinational independent judicial body which handles court cases relating to the human rights of individuals in or effected by the laws of the members states of the Organization of American States (OAS).

At present the OAS is comprised of every North American, Central American and South American nation, although Venezuela has expressed a desire to withdraw from the body.

Today, the Court ruled that it is the duty of nations to allow for the passage of successful asylum seekers from embassies to the mainland territory of the state that has granted an individual asylum. For Julian Assange, this would mean that according to the Court’s decision, Britain has a legal obligation to allow Julian Assange to exit the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in peace and allow for his safe transit to an airport from which he would be able to fly to Ecuador, the country that has granted Assange asylum and where he now also holds formal citizenship.

Relevant portions of the press release from the Court can be read below:

If the UK continues to ignore the court’s decision by insisting that local police will arrest Assange for a breach of bail conditions if he leaves the embassy, this means that the British government will have wantonly failed to uphold Assange’s rights as a legitimate receiver of asylum by Ecuador. While London has yet to respond to the Court’s ruling, it is imperative that Assange is allowed to make the safe passage to Ecuador demanded by the Court as his physical and mental health conditions have been described as deteriorating rapidly.

Legal Battle On Virginia Abortion Restrictions

washington post logoWashington Post, Virginia attorney general files motion to dismiss suit challenging state abortion restrictions, Laura Vozzella, July 14, 2018. Democrat Mark Herring, a vocal supporter of abortion rights, said the restrictions should be challenged in the legislature, not the courts.

Feds Reopen Emmett Till 1950s Murder Probe

emmett till

Emmett Louis Till, a 14-year-old visiting from Chicago, was kidnapped, tortured and killed in 1955 in Mississippi. (Associated Press)

Los Angeles Times, The Emmett Till case is reopened nearly 63 years after the teen's killing spotlighted racial violence, Jenny Jarvie, July 12, 2018.

The investigation into the death of Emmett Till, one of the most notorious slayings of the Jim Crow-era Deep South, has been reopened more than 60 years after the 14-year-old African American boy’s mutilated body was pulled out of Mississippi's Tallahatchie River.

Two white men, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, were prosecuted by state authorities in 1955 for the killing — only to be acquitted by an all-white jury after just an hour of deliberation. The case galvanized the civil rights movement, and even today, Till’s death has been invoked by protesters decrying brutality against African Americans.

In a report submitted to Congress in March, the Department of Justice said it had reopened its inquiry “based upon the discovery of new information.” The department did not elaborate, citing the ongoing nature of the investigation.

The boy from Chicago was visiting relatives in Money, Miss., in August 1955 when he walked into a white-owned grocery store. After one of the store owners, a 21-year-old white woman, Carolyn Bryant, said he had grabbed her and made crude sexual advances, white men later snatched him from his bed in the middle of the night.

Three days later, his body was found in the Tallahatchie River, along with a 75-pound cotton-gin fan tied to his neck with barbed wire. He had been beaten, tortured and shot in the head.

However, the woman who made the allegations against Till, now known as Carolyn Bryant Donham, remains alive — and last year, a historian revealed that in an interview, she recanted some of her claims.

In a book published last year, The Blood of Emmett Till, Duke University professor Timothy B. Tyson wrote that Donham said of her allegations that Emmett grabbed her and was sexually crude toward her: “That part is not true.”

Arrogant Cop's Traffic Stop Goes Viral

Arkansas Times, National spotlight on Walnut Ridge law enforcement: It's not a pretty picture, Max Brantley, July 11, 2018 (8:49 min. video, first 30 seconds without sound). The Washington Post's Radley Balko shines national attention on a pending lawsuit over Walnut Ridge police treatment of a man who apparently did nothing wrong. The officer, Matthew Mercado, who made a dubious stop of Adam Finley is gone.

But Prosecutor Henry Boyce of Newport who prosecuted Finley unsuccesfully is still at work, as is a police sergeant who backed up the dubious arrest and they have no apparent apologies. The police chief moved on after video of the encounter between an officer and Finley became public.

Small-town police stuff. But, Balko suggests, maybe representative of police bullying and rank-closing in many other places. Heroes here include Finley, who kept his cool under extreme police duress shown on the video of a stop of his truck near his job, and some dogged reporting and commentary by Stan Morris of NEA Report and the Jonesboro Sun.

UK Pedophile Victim Kills Father

washington post logoWashington Post, She found her father's child porn images of herself, then killed him — and kept it secret for 12 years, Samantha Schmidt, July 13, barbara coombes2018. Barbara Coombes, 51 (shown at right), had just been gardening in her father’s backyard, on a street of red-brick terrace homes in their suburb near Manchester, England, when she went inside and spotted a box on the dining room table.

Sifting through the box, she was repulsed by what she saw: A trove of pornographic photos — of children. Among them were explicit photographs of herself as a child, according to a court hearing reported by the Manchester Evening News.

The images were painful reminders of her childhood, of the decades of abuse at the hands of a father who allegedly used her as a “sex slave” and raped her hundreds of times, the Guardian reported, citing the Manchester crown court hearing.

“I could feel a black cloud appearing over me,” Coombes said in court this week, according to the Evening News. “In a haze of disgust and disbelief, I picked up a shovel I had been gardening.

#MeToo Assault Claim

mark aderholt southern baptist leader mug

Mark Aderholt is the former associate executive director and chief strategist of the South Carolina Baptist Convention

HuffPost, Former Southern Baptist Leader Charged With Sexual Assault, Carol Kuruvilla, July 13, 2018. Mark Aderholt’s accuser claims a church mission board has known about the abuse for over a decade.

War Powers / NATO

Jacob HornbergerFuture of Freedom Foundation, Opinion: NATO Is the Model Entangling Alliance, Jacob G. Hornberger (shown right), July 13, 2018.  Suppose I had an unlimited power of attorney to sign your name as a co-signer on any loan I made with the bank. Every time I went to the bank and borrowed money, I could legally obligate you to pay my loan if I defaulted.

How would you like that? My hunch is that you wouldn’t be too excited about that arrangement. That is precisely the authority that NATO has over the American people, only the obligation is much worse than a financial one. The obligation involves killing and dying. That is, NATO has the authority to obligate young Americans, both men and women, to kill and die for whatever overseas regime that NATO decides to admit as a member of the organization.

NATO logoHow does NATO work? If another nation attacks any member of NATO, the United States is automatically bound to come to its defense. https://www.fff.org/2018/07/13/nato-is-the-model-entangling-alliance/

That is not the type of system on which the United States was founded when the U.S. Constitution called the federal government into existence. The founding principle was that it would be up to Congress to decide whether the country would, in fact, go to war against another nation. There would be nothing automatic about it. If Congress declared war, then it would be the president’s responsibility to wage war. But if Congress failed to declare war, the government could not legally go to war.

U.S. Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, 4,500 Tech Workers on a Mission: Get Democrats Elected, Kevin Roose and Sheera Frenkel, July 13, 2018. Tech for Campaigns, a volunteer network of people with day jobs at companies like Google, is trying to drag Democratic campaigns into the digital age.

National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC), President Obama on Gerrymandering, Redistricting, & the 2018 Midterm Elections, July 11, 2018. Former President Barack Obama highlights the damaging effects of partisan and racial gerrymandering on our democracy and calls on Americans to get engaged in the 2018 mid-term elections as it is a critical year for redistricting and restoring fairness back to elections.

The National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC) is the centralized hub for executing a comprehensive redistricting strategy that shifts the redistricting power, creating fair districts where Democrats can compete. To learn more about what you can do to fight for fair maps alongside the NDRC, visit www.democraticredistricting.com.

Culture Wars / Entertainment

washington post logoroy moore cowboy hat no gunWashington Post, Roy Moore hints that he, too, was duped by Sacha Baron Cohen, blaming ‘shadowy media groups,’ Eli Rosenberg, July 13, 2018. The former Senate candidate from Alabama (shown in a photo during his campaign waving a gun) is the latest conservative who might be part of a new series Cohen has been filming, along with Dick Cheney and Sarah Palin.

More On Trump Probe

roger stone donald trump

Roger Stone shown in a file photo with his longtime friend Donald Trump

washington post logoWashington Post, Spotlight intensifies on Roger Stone after latest charges in Russia inquiry, Rosalind S. Helderman and Manuel Roig-Franzia​, July 13, 2018. The longtime Trump adviser has acknowledged exchanging Twitter direct messages in 2016 with Guccifer 2.0, who claimed to be a Romanian hacker. Stone has said there is no proof the account was connected to the Russians.

roger stone headshotA federal indictment filed Friday accusing a dozen Russian military intelligence officers of conspiring to hack Democrats during the 2016 campaign spotlights communications between Roger Stone (right), a longtime adviser to President Trump, and an online persona allegedly operated by the Russians.

Stone has previously acknowledged exchanging direct messages on Twitter in August and September 2016 with Guccifer 2.0, who claimed to be a Romanian hacker. Stone has said there is no proof the account was connected to the Russians.

But according to criminal charges filed Friday by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, Guccifer 2.0 was actually operated by a group of Russian military intelligence officers based in Moscow. The Russians used Guccifer 2.0’s Twitter account to send multiple messages to “a person who was in regular contact with senior members” of Trump’s campaign, Mueller wrote in the indictment.

Pakistani Political Turmoil

nawaz sharif pakistani pm muslim league 2017 via ap

ny times logopakistan flag wavingNew York Times, Pakistan’s Ex-Leader Is Arrested as Political Turmoil Grows, Salman Masood, July 13, 2018. Former Pakistania Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (shown above in a file photo) and his daughter were arrested upon their return to Pakistan in an attempt to rally their beleaguered party. The same day the campaign took a deadly turn, with more than 130 people killed in two militant attacks.

July 12

Trump Investigation

washington post logopeter strzok croppedWashington Post, GOP lawmakers threaten FBI’s Strzok with contempt during questioning of Mueller probe, Devlin Barrett and Karoun Demirjian, July 12, 2018. House Republicans sparred with FBI agent Peter Strzok (Right) from the very first question at a hearing after he refused, at the direction of an FBI lawyer, to answer questions about the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The Fix: 3 key moments from Peter Strzok’s contentious hearing.

ny times logofbi logoNew York Times, Judicial Hearing for F.B.I. Agent Devolves Into Spectacle, Nicholas Fandos, Peter Strzok, July 12, 2018. The F.B.I. agent who led the investigations into Russian interference and the Clinton emails, testified before the House judicial and oversight committees.

washington post logoWashington Post, Paul Manafort moves to Alexandria jail, a past home to spies and terrorists, Rachel Weiner, July 12, 2018. Officials confirm the former Trump campaign chairman was booked Thursday morning into the Alexandria Detention Center, a complex of low-slung brick buildings just off the Capital Beltway. Manafort resisted the move.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Paul Manafort’s plot to get out of jail just blew up in his face, Bill Palmer, July 12, 2018. In the weeks since a judge sent Paul Manafort (shown in a new mug shot) to jail for conspiring with a Russian spy to tamper with witnesses, Manafort and his lawyers have lost one motion after another.

paul manafort mugFirst a judge ruled that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has the authority to charge Manafort. Then came the ruling that the evidence in Manafort’s storage locker could be used against him. Now the judge in Manafort’s other upcoming trial has also ruled that the storage locker evidence is admissible. So Manafort decided to try to get out of jail entirely.

Manafort made the argument that becuase his jail is located a couple hours away from his attorney’s, it’s become difficult for them to work together on his defense. Manafort was clearly hoping that the judge would somehow decide to let him out on bail again. Instead, the judge simply offered to move Manafort to a jail that’s closer to his attorneys.

This was not at all what Paul Manafort wanted and, perhaps fearing that the conditions would be harsher in his new jail, he then decided that he wants to remain in his current jail. In so doing, Manafort admitted by default that his original claim of being too far away from his lawyers was nonsense. This is a good way to alienate the judge when it comes to other upcoming rulings ahead of the trial, particularly rulings that would require the judge to take Manafort at his word.

So not only is Paul Manafort still in jail, he’s exhausted every realistic avenue for trying to avoid trial, and now he’s angered the judge by trying to abuse the system. Manafort is out of options. He can go to trial and lose and spend every day of the rest of his life behind bars, or he can cut a plea deal against Donald Trump.

Trump Unplugged

djt uk visit daily mirror 7 12 18New York Magazine, In Wild Interview, Trump Says May Blew Brexit and Immigrants Ruined Europe, Eric Levitz, July 12, 2018. Donald Trump kicked off his diplomatic visit to the United Kingdom Thursday by gifting his host a political nightmare. In an interview with The Sun, a British tabloid, the president announced that Theresa May’s blueprint for a “soft Brexit” was a betrayal of British voters – one that, if implemented, “would probably end [Britain’s] major trade relationship with the United States.”

United Kingdom flagMay’s plan would commit the UK to coordinating many aspects of trade policy with the European Union leadership in Brussels – a gesture aimed at keeping Britain within the EU’s customs union (and thus, to save London’s status as the financial capital of Europe, while preventing a broader series of economic calamities inherent to the UK losing privileged access to the common market).

Trump told the Sun that if May went through with such an agreement, he would cancel a previously planned bilateral trade deal between the United States and Britain because “if they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union.”

“We have enough difficulty with the European Union,” Trump explained. “No, if they do that I would say that that would probably end a major trade relationship with the United States.”

The president went on to say that May’s plan “was not the deal that was in the referendum. I have just been hearing this over the last three days. I know they have had a lot of resignations. So a lot of people don’t like it.”

Trump added that Boris Johnson, who forfeited his position as Foreign Secretary Monday – in protest of the “soft Brexit plan” – would make “a great Prime Minister.”

These were the most undiplomatic remarks in Trump’s interview (if not, in the modern history of Anglo-American relations). But they still weren’t the most offensive quotes that the president gave to the paper.

Here’s a quick rundown of Trump’s other, incendiary reflections:

Immigrants have robbed Europe of its great culture. “I think what has happened to Europe is a shame. Allowing the immigration to take place in Europe is a shame. I think it changed the fabric of Europe and, unless you act very quickly, it’s never going to be what it was and I don’t mean that in a positive way. So I think allowing millions and millions of people to come into Europe is very, very sad. I think you are losing your culture. Look around. You go through certain areas that didn’t exist ten or 15 years ago.”

Sadiq Khan, the (Muslim) mayor of London, is responsible for terrorism in that city – because he allows immigrants to live there.

djt theresa may melania 7 12 18

President Trump, UK Prime Minister Theresa May and their spouses arrive for a ball on the president's European trip

ny times logoUnited Kingdom flagNew York Times, Trump Enters Brexit Debate, Criticizing Theresa May, Stephen Castle, July 12, 2018. President Trump said that Prime Minister Theresa May’s plans to keep close economic ties with the bloc could “kill” a possible trade deal with the United States. In an interview with The Sun, Mr. Trump also said that Mrs. May had ignored his advice on negotiations over Britain’s departure, known as Brexit.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Rattles Britain Hours After Unsettling NATO, July 12, 2018. Mr. Trump took credit for persuading U.S. allies to increase their military budgets, but European leaders disputed that any new pledges for increased spending were made.

Trump Watch

djt nato

President Trump, with U.S. NATO Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchinson, with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly at left

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump slams Germany, other allies in fiery exchange as NATO summit opens, Michael Birnbaum and Seung Min Kim​, July 12, 2018 (print edition). President Trump wasted no time hitting at Washington’s closest partners for what he said were hypocritical demands for U.S. security protection, including accusing Germany of being “captive to Russia” for getting energy from the country. Today’s WorldView: NATO trip shows ‘America First’ is ‘America Alone.’

NATO logoPresident Trump unleashed a blistering attack Wednesday on Germany and other NATO allies, wasting no time at the outset of a week of high-stakes diplomacy to hit at Washington’s closest partners for what he said were hypocritical demands for U.S. security protection.

“Germany, as far as I’m concerned, is captive to Russia because it’s getting so much of its energy from Russia,” Trump told NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, in a fiery on-camera exchange that was nearly without precedent in the history of the post-World War II alliance.

german flag“We have to talk about the billions and billions of dollars that’s being paid to the country we’re supposed to be protecting you against,” Trump said, referring to European purchases of Russian natural gas.

Russian FlagTrump has complained bitterly about Europe’s lagging defense spending, saying that NATO nations were taking advantage of U.S. military largesse at the same time they were offering unfair trade terms to U.S. businesses. A favorite target of his ire has been Germany, which has not met its NATO spending commitments and is beginning construction on a second natural gas pipeline to Russia.

djt nato summit nato photo 7 11 18

President Trump, at right, accompanied by advisors faces off against NATO colleagues on July 11, 2018

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump pushes for NATO countries to double spending on defense, Michael Birnbaum and Seung Min Kim​, July 12, 2018 (print edition). President Trump urged his counterparts to raise their defense spending to 4 percent of a country's gross domestic product, a substantial increase of a goal on which many are already falling short. The call came hours after a blistering critique by Trump against Germany and other allies. Schumer, Pelosi call Trump’s comments ‘an embarrassment.’

washington post logoNATO logoWashington Post, Trump upends NATO summit, demands allies increase their defense spending, Michael Birnbaum and Philip Rucker, July 12, 2018.  Some diplomats perceived President Trump’s comments as threatening a U.S. withdrawal from NATO. But Trump later declared, “I believe in NATO.”

Disputed Stormy Daniels Arrest Dismissed

abc news logostormy daniels mug 7 11 18ABC News, Charges dropped against adult film star Stormy Daniels after strip club arrest, Karma Allen, Morgan Winsor and Julia Jacobo, July 12, 2018. Authorities dropped the charges against adult film star Stormy Daniels Thursday after she was taken into custody during a performance at a strip club in Ohio, which her lawyer called a "politically motivated" setup. She is shown in a mug shot at right.

Daniels, who made headlines earlier this year over her claims of an alleged affair with President Donald Trump, was arrested Wednesday night while performing at the Sirens Gentlemen’s Club in Columbus after she allegedly allowed "a customer to michael avenatti sketchtouch her while on stage," her attorney, Michael Avenatti (left), said via Twitter early Thursday morning.

"Just [received] word that my client @StormyDaniels was arrested in Columbus Ohio [while] performing the same act she has performed across the nation at nearly a hundred strip clubs," Avenatti tweeted. "This was a setup [and] politically motivated. It reeks of desperation. We will fight all bogus charges."

Trump's Pardon Power

ny times logoNew York Times, The Quest to Get a Pardon From Trump: ‘It’s Who You Know,’ Campbell Robertson, July 12, 2018. Pardon seekers around the country are watching as President Trump helps people who have celebrity endorsements. And they are taking notes.

U.S. Politics

paul ryan oNew York Magazine, Opinion: Paul Ryan Unaware Constitution Lets Congress Override Presidential Veto, Jonathan Chait, July 12, 2018.  Asked by reporters if the chamber he leads would introduce a bill to scale back the president’s power to levy tariffs, House Speaker Paul Ryan brushed aside the idea as an impossibility. “You would have to pass a law saying ‘don’t raise those tariffs’ and the president would have to sign that law,” he said. “That’s not going to happen.”

That would come as a surprise to the drafters of the Constitution, who created a mechanism for exactly such a scenario. Trump doesn’t actually have to sign a law for it to take effect. A presidential veto can be overridden by a two-thirds supermajority in both chambers. Look it up, it’s true! But Ryan is helpfully demonstrating why many aspects of the Constitution do not work as designed, or at all.

The tariff question is especially striking. For one thing, Trump is acting in flagrant defiance of long-standing Republican party dogma, which has for better or worse endorsed free trade as an unmitigated good. For another, Trump is exploiting a legal loophole. Congress normally has to approve changes in taxes, which a tariff is. But a 1962 law gave presidents the authority to levy tariffs for national security reasons. The intent was to protect vital resources related to the military. Unwisely, though, Congress failed to set any parameters on this authority, and Trump is using it for manifestly non-security reasons.

Supreme Court Follow Ups

washington post logoWashington Post, What to expect from Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation battle, Amy Brittain, July 11, 2018. Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh incurred tens of thousands of dollars of credit card debt buying baseball tickets over the past decade and at times reported liabilities that could have exceeded the value of his cash accounts and investment assets, according to a review of Kavanaugh’s financial disclosures and information provided by the White House.

White House spokesman Raj Shah told The Washington Post that Kavanaugh built up the debt by buying Washington Nationals season tickets and tickets for playoff games for himself and a “handful” of friends. Shah said some of the debts were also for home improvements.

In 2016, Kavanaugh reported having between $60,000 and $200,000 in debt accrued over three credit cards and a loan. Each credit card held between $15,000 and $50,000 in debt, and a Thrift Savings Plan loan was between $15,000 and $50,000.

washington post logoWashington Post, In major abortion ruling, Kavanaugh offers clues of how he might handle divisive issue, Robert Barnes and Ann E. Marimow, July 12, 2018. Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh issued a strongly worded dissent last fall in a case involving a pregnant immigrant teenager in federal custody.

ny times logobrett kavanaughNew York Times, Democrats Zero In on Nominee’s View of Presidential Power, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, July 12, 2018 (print edition). Democrats thought the weakness of a Supreme Court nominee would be health care and abortion. Then came Brett M. Kavanaugh’s writings on shielding presidents from investigation.

Democrats who once saw health care and abortion as their best lines of attack against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, are recalibrating their approach to go after him for his view that a sitting president should not have to answer questions in a criminal case, much less face indictment.

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said in an interview on Wednesday that Judge Kavanaugh’s belief in broad presidential authority was “just off the deep end.”

For Democrats facing an uphill struggle to block Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation, his protective views of the presidency could prove to be a bright red ribbon. Rather than just playing it safe with a broad swath of voters worried about access to health care and abortion, Democrats now see an opportunity to excite their base by fanning fears that the highest court in the land could turn into a bulwark to protect the man appointing its members.

More Supreme Court Followups

SCOTUSblog,Thursday round-up, Edith Roberts, July 12, 2018. The nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court remains front and center in the news. For The Washington Post, Amy Brittain reports that financial disclosures and information provided by the White House indicate that “Kavanaugh incurred tens of thousands of dollars of credit card debt buying baseball tickets over the past decade and at times reported liabilities that could have exceeded the value of his cash accounts and investment assets.”

For The New York Times, Katie Benner reports that “Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, has asked federal prosecutors to help review the government documents of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh,” and that the request “was an unusual insertion of politics into federal law enforcement.” For The Washington Post’s Fact Checker column, Salvador Rizzo examines speculation about “a past business relationship between Donald Trump and one of Kennedy’s sons” that some have suggested may have influenced the justice’s recent rulings or his decision to retire, giving the allegations four Pinocchios.

At CNN, Joan Biskupic analyzes Kavanaugh’s record, concluding that “he stands to be more than just a reliable vote for the right” and that “[h]e could powerfully influence the country’s legal agenda for decades.”

For The Washington Post, Robert Barnes and Ann Marimow report that “Kavanaugh has only one major abortion ruling in his 12 years on the federal bench, but that forceful opinion will define the coming debate on what his elevation to the Supreme Court would mean for a woman’s constitutional right to the procedure.” At Bloomberg, Sahil Kapur and Greg Stohr report that “senators and activists on both sides of the debate” say “Kavanaugh’s views on gun rights may push the court to expand Second Amendment protections.”

Trump / Kushner Watch

ny times logoNew York Times, Kushner’s Firm Deepens Ties to Those With Business in Washington, Jesse Drucker and Kate Kelly, July 11, 2018. The family company of Jared Kushner (right), President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, is doing deals with investors who have a lot riding on federal decisions.

Eighteen months into Jared Kushner’s White House tenure, his family’s real estate firm is deepening its financial relationships with institutions and individuals that have a lot riding on decisions made by the federal government.

In the latest example, an arm of Brookfield Asset Management is close to completing an investment of up to $700 million in the Kushner family’s tower at 666 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. The deal will be a boon to the Kushners, who are struggling to recoup their investments in their flagship building.

At the same time, another Brookfield unit is awaiting the Trump administration’s approval of its acquisition of the nuclear-power company Westinghouse Electric. The deal is being reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, made up of senior federal officials who consider the potential national security risks of transactions involving foreign companies. Brookfield’s headquarters are in Canada.

Mr. Kushner, who is President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, has broad portfolios of both White House responsibilities and personal business interests — a combination that experts say has the potential to create real and perceived conflicts between his public and private roles.

Syrian War Update

Syria FlagMoon of Alabama, Opinion: Syria Sitrep -- Army Liberates Daraa City, B, July 12, 2018. Today the current Syrian government campaign in Daraa governorate saw another highlight. The 'rebels' in the southern part of the city of Daraa gave up and reconciled with the government. Currently the Syrian army is taking control of the area. The Syrian flag has been raised over its buildings.

The whole Daraa governorate campaign in southwest Syria proceeded with astonishing speed. In just three weeks the government forces recovered 84% of the 'rebel' held territory and dozens of cities and villages with little force. Jordan and the U.S. had finally denied support for the 'rebels' and their only choices were to reconcile or to die. Almost all of them chose to give up. An enormous amount of weapons, including at least 18 U.S. made TOW anti-tank missiles systems and two British made armored infantry carriers, were handed over to the Syrian government.

Israel is threatening the Syrian forces not to come near the deconfliction line on the Golan Heights. It wants to keep a buffer of Jihadis between itself and the Syrian army. Any attempt to achieve that will be in vane. Syria and its allies are determined to eradicate the Jihadis. As these are experienced fighters willing to die the fight will likely take several weeks. After that the Syrian army will move north and liberate Idleb.

Daraa was the first city where the foreign induced 'rebellion' was launched. In March 2011 protest over some dubious cause escalated into riots which soon turned violent. Shops and police stations were set on fire and policemen as well as demonstrators were killed. Raids by the police found weapons in Daraa's main mosque.

cia logoSleeper cells of the Muslim Brotherhood, long prohibited in Syria, had found outside sponsors who fueled their campaign. The CIA spend at least $1 billion per year to direct the attack on the Syrian state. With the help of the British MI6 its media arms promoted sectarian mass murder in Syria. Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait each spent several billions per year to pay the 'rebel' fighters and to provide them the thousands of tons of weapons and other needs. Nearly 100,000 foreign fighters moved to Syria and fought under the flags of the Islamic State and al-Qaeda against the Syrian state and later against each other.

Only with the help of its Iranian and Russian allies could the state of Syria and its people survive the onslaught. Since 2015 a systematic government campaign has turned the situation around. All parts of 'useful Syria' are under government control.

JFK Assassination Research

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Opinion: JFK Assassination Film: Proof of Tampering? Milicent Cranor, July 12, 2018. Milicent Cranor, a WhoWhatWhy senior editor with a background in forensic medical publishing, has studied the JFK assassination on and off for more than two decades. In this essay, Cranor asks readers to consider whether there is a significant discrepancy between the Nix and Zapruder films of the assassination, and if this indicates tampering. She also focuses on the Warren Commission testimony of Clint Hill, the Secret Service agent who jumped onto the back of the President’s limousine. What he said seems to suggest he saw Kennedy being shot in the head — for a second time — immediately after the first time. This would contradict the Commission’s central finding that JFK was killed by a single shooter.

The other day I was trying to make sense of some strange discrepancies in what a Secret Service agent said about what he saw when President John F. Kennedy was shot.

I’m referring to Clint Hill, the man who jumped onto the trunk of the limousine to protect Jackie Kennedy who had gone out onto the trunk of the car.

Here’s what I can’t sort out: His stories do not agree with the films, and the films do not seem to agree with each other.

Amateur films by Abraham Zapruder and Orville Nix do not agree with each other in at least one obvious way. James Norwood, a retired professor of Humanities, University of Minnesota, was perhaps the first to point out what seems to be a definitive discrepancy:

#MeToo Pressures In High-Level Banking

HuffPost, Inhuman Resources: A Whistleblower's Tale, David Dayen, July 12, 2018. Mike Picarella wanted to protect a co-worker from humiliating sexual harassment. He didn't expect his own life to be destroyed in the process,

The banking industry is hardly known for its moral rectitude. But if you look beyond the executive suites and venture into compliance departments and operations back offices, you’ll find a handful of sticklers and self-appointed heroes who have made it their mission to save Wall Street from its excesses. Mike is one of them.

July 11

NATO Confrontation

washington post logodjt g 20 sitting alone july 20 2017Washington Post, This remarkable exchange at NATO perfectly captures Trump’s ugly bad faith, Greg Sargent, July 11, 2018. This morning, at the NATO summit, President Trump got into an extended dust-up with Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, and the exchange generating the headlines is the one in which Trump ripped into Germany for getting so much energy from Russia.

But there’s another exchange with Stoltenberg that is also extremely telling. In it, Stoltenberg was talking about how NATO members had agreed to boost their contributions to NATO defense costs, as insisted upon by Trump, who claims the United States is getting ripped off. But then Trump demanded Stoltenberg give him credit for it. President Trump is shown above in a photo from last year's G-20 Summit meeting.

ny times logoNew York Times, Baltic Nations Worry as Trump Labels NATO Obsolete, Marc Santora, July 10, 2018. For Latvia and Estonia, nestled between Russia and the Baltic Sea and with large ethnic Russian populations, the NATO alliance is no abstraction.

U.S. Politics / Social Media

washington post logotwitter bird CustomWashington Post, Trump, Obama and other high-profile Twitter users expected to see ‘significant drop’ of followers as company purges fake accounts, Elizabeth Dwoskin, July 11, 2018. The move by Twitter is the latest in a series of hard choices that the company is making to prioritize cleaning up its platform — rife with spam, trolling and other questionable practices — over metrics that inflate the service’s popularity.

Trade War

washington post logochina flag SmallWashington Post, Trump makes good on threat to target an additional $200 billion in Chinese imports with tariffs, David J. Lynch and Danielle Paquette, July 11, 2018 (print edition). The president escalated his trade war with China with a new range of tariffs to be imposed later this summer that will include consumer products. China warns U.S. about trade policies, files new WTO complaint.

Human Rights: Myanmar

ap logoAssociated Press via Washington Post, Myanmar opens peace conference with ethnic rebels, Min Kyi Thein and Victoria Milko, July 11, 2018. Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the country’s military commander on Wednesday opened a major conference with representatives of ethnic minority groups to try to move toward a lasting peace after seven decades of strained relations and armed conflict.

myanmar flag“I am worried that any delay in the peace conference could affect our people’s chance to get peace,” said Suu Kyi in a speech to the attendees. “That is the reason we are trying today to solve the problems politically by this peace conference.”

The third session of the 21st Century Panglong Conference is scheduled to last five days and follows meetings held in August 2016 and May 2017. Those sessions failed to make much headway in resolving differences between the government, the military and ethnic rebel groups seeking greater autonomy.

Since 2015, the government has promoted a cease-fire agreement that several ethnic minority groups have signed. However, some other major rebel groups, especially in the country’s north, are wary of committing to the deal until political terms are made clearer. They also have accused the government of provocative armed aggression.

washington post logoantónio guterres 2012 us missionWashington Post, Opinion: The Rohingya are victims of ethnic cleansing. The world has failed them, António Guterres, July 11, 2018 (print edition). António Guterres (shown at right in a U.S. State Department 2012 photo) is secretary-general of the United Nations.

The burden of helping desperate refugees should not fall to front-line countries such as Bangladesh.

myanmar flagSmall children butchered in front of their parents. Girls and women gang-raped while family members were tortured and killed. Villages burned to the ground.

Nothing could have prepared me for the bone-chilling accounts I heard last week in Bangladesh from Rohingya refugees who had fled widespread killings and violence in Rakhine state, Myanmar.

Supreme Court Follow Ups

ny times logobrett kavanaughNew York Times, Trump Subpoena May Put Nominee’s Legal Theory to the Test, Adam Liptak, July 11, 2018 (print edition). Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh (shown at right) has questioned the wisdom of forcing sitting presidents to answer questions from prosecutors.

washington post logoWashington Post, The elite world of Brett Kavanaugh, Paul Schwartzman and Michelle Boorstein, July 11, 2018. Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court grew up in Washington and lives in one of its most affluent neighborhoods, among Democrats who avoid talking politics with him.

ny times logorod rosenstein us attorneyNew York Times, Rosenstein Makes Unusual Request on Court Nominee’s Files, Katie Benner, July 11, 2018. Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, asked each of the nation’s 93 United States attorneys to provide up to three prosecutors to review the documents of President Trump’s Supreme Court pick.

Former law enforcement officials described Mr. Rosenstein’s directive as a troubling precedent. “It’s flat-out wrong to have career federal prosecutors engaged in a political process like the vetting of a Supreme Court nominee,” said Christopher Hunter, a former F.B.I. agent and federal prosecutor who is running for Congress. “It takes them away from the mission they’re supposed to be fulfilling, which is effective criminal justice enforcement.”

Mr. Rosenstein wrote that he expected to need the equivalent of 100 full-time lawyers to work on Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, and that the work would be supervised by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy in Washington. The office typically helps with judicial nominations; most of its staff is made up of career Justice Department lawyers.

Trump Watch

Palmer Report, Opinion: A dangerous day for democracy, Daniel Cotter, July 11, 2018. On Tuesday, two additional developments in the justice system emerged that should cause concern about our representative democracy.

The first was the latest Trump Executive Order, which he issued on July 10: “Executive Order Excepting Administrative Law Judges from the Competitive Service.” In previous Palmer Report articles, we have reported on the potential impacts of the SCOTUS case, Lucia v. Securities and Exchange Commission, which dealt with Administrative Law Judges (“ALJs”).

The Executive Order references the decision in Lucia and then takes away the competitive aspects, as well as removing the current process of selecting ALJs for a particular agency from the Office of Personnel Management Central Pool. The selections likely will be more political.

joe manchin oA second thing happened today: Senator Joe Manchin, a purported Democrat (shown at right), voted with Republicans in the Senate to close debate on the nomination of Brian Benczkowski to become the Director of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice. While Benczkowski is considered an experienced and talented litigator, as a partner at Kirkland & Ellis, he has no prosecutorial experience. In addition, while under consideration for an administration position last year, he represented for a brief time Alfa Bank, a subject of the Russian probe. Benczkowski could potentially have oversight of the investigation should Special Counsel Robert Mueller be fired.

With this administration, we must watch closely so that these two seemingly independent movements do not result in the slippery slope of losing our representative democracy.

#MeToo: Surviving Violence

ny times logoNew York Times, First Person: Surviving the Long-Term Trauma of Sexual Violence, Photographs and Text by Kate Ryan, July 11, 2018. After she was raped, a photographer asked 29 other survivors about their stories.

The trauma of sexual violence is not something we fix. It is something we manage daily. It takes work. And that work is as messy and complicated as the individuals who live it.

I aimed to get at that complexity with “Signed, X,” a collection of photographs and interviews with long-term survivors of sexual assault. This project began as a series of questions: What triggers you years after sexual violence? How do you ground yourself in those moments? Where do you carry stress? Where do you find hope? These are the questions I began asking survivors last October.

Cave Rescue Update

ny times logoNew York Times, Freed Soccer Players and Coach Are on the Mend, Thailand Says, Navaon Siradapuvadol and Mike Ives, July 11, 2018. "They took care of each other well in the cave,” a public health official said of the 12 boys and their coach, a day after the last of them were rescued.

July 10

Did Trump Connive With Retiring Justice On Pick?

Palmer Report, Opinion: Trump Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh caught lying under oath during Senate testimony, Bill Palmer, July 10, 2018. Donald Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh is falling apart by the hour – partly because Trump and his people rather obviously didn’t bother to do any real vetting of Kavanaugh while they were racing to try to hurry up and get him confirmed. The latest stunning revelation about Brett Kavanaugh is that he lied to the Senate in 2006. You don’t have to take our word for it, because a prominent Senator is the one making the accusation.

Kavanaugh went through Senate confirmation hearings to become a federal judge in 2006. Then in 2007, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin learned that Kavanaugh had lied during those hearings. He sought to get answers, but Kavanaugh stonewalled him. Now that Trump has put Kavanaugh under the microscope by nominating him for the Supreme Court, Durbin is going for the jugular.

anthony kennedy oPalmer Report, Opinion: Exposed: secret corrupt retirement deal between Anthony Kennedy and Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, July 10, 2018. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy was secretly negotiating with Donald Trump about his replacement, even as he was casting major pro-Trump votes that were out of character with his own judicial record. This comes on top of earlier revelations that Kennedy’s son played a key role at Trump’s favorite Russian money laundering bank. We’re now looking at a full blown scandal that’s getting uglier by the hour.

NBC News is now backing off from its earlier implication that Anthony Kennedy (shown at right) only agreed to retire if Donald Trump specifically picked Brett Kavanaugh, and is now reporting that Kennedy provided Trump with five names that would be acceptable to him. Brett Kavanaugh was the only conservative name on the list, so Kennedy would have known that Trump could only pick Kavanaugh. These negotiations reportedly began months ago. This means that Kennedy was secretly negotiating his retirement with Trump while he was casting the swing vote on issues like Trump’s Muslim Ban.

While Kennedy has sided with conservatives on fiscal issues, he’s often sided with liberals on civil rights issues like gay marriage; his vote in favor of the Muslim Ban was out of character. If Kennedy had voted against Trump on the Muslim Ban, at a time when he was negotiating with Trump over his potential replacement, it likely would have prompted the vindictive Trump to break off those negotiations. Kennedy would have known this – meaning that his final votes can be seen as fully corrupt.

If anyone were tempted to give Anthony Kennedy the benefit of the doubt about the corrupt nature of this secret deal, that goes out the window within the context of the fairly straight line that can be drawn from Kennedy to his son to Donald Trump to Russian money laundering to the Trump-Russia election rigging conspiracy. Kennedy’s legacy is clearly ruined; the only question is whether he’ll end up facing criminal charges.

fox news logo SmallFox News, NBC News reporter deletes tweet claiming Trump, Kennedy were in cahoots over Kavanaugh selection, Brian Flood, July 10, 2018. NBC News Capitol Hill reporter Leigh Ann Caldwell on Tuesday deleted a tweet that had triggered backlash, claiming President Trump and retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy were in cahoots to get Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill the seat.

Caldwell initially tweeted, “On Kavanaugh pick… Kennedy and Trump/WH had been in negotiations for months over Kennedy’s replacement. Once Kennedy received assurances that it would be Kavanaugh, his former law clerk, Kennedy felt comfortable retiring, according to a source who was told of the discussion.”

"I’ve deleted this tweet," Caldwell later tweeted, "because it incorrectly implies a transactional nature in Kennedy’s replacement. I am told by a source who was not directly part of the talks that Kennedy provided Pres. Trump/ WH a list of acceptable replacements."

Kavanaugh, 53, formerly clerked for Kennedy and was elevated to the powerful federal appeals court in the District of Columbia by former President George W. Bush, under whom he had also served as a White House lawyer and staff secretary. Trump officially nominated Kavanaugh to fill Kennedy’s seat on the Supreme Court on Monday night.

Politico, How a private meeting with Kennedy helped Trump get to ‘yes’ on Kavanaugh, Christopher Cadelago, Nancy Cook and Andrew Restuccia, July 9, 2018. While he was eager to keep the suspense alive, the president was always leaning toward Kennedy’s former clerk. After Justice Anthony Kennedy told President Donald Trump he would relinquish his seat on the Supreme Court, the president emerged from his private meeting with the retiring jurist focused on one candidate to name as his successor: Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Kennedy’s former law clerk.

Trump, according to confidants and aides close to the White House, has become increasingly convinced that “the judges,” as he puts it, or his administration’s remaking of the federal judiciary in its conservative image, is central to his legacy as president. And he credits Kennedy, who spent more than a decade at the center of power on the court, for helping give him the opportunity.

Trump Picks DC Insider For Court

djt brett kavanaugh family 7 9 18 Small

President Trump introduces Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his family on July 9 at the White House

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump picks Judge Kavanaugh for Supreme Court, Robert Costa, Robert Barnes and Felicia Sonmez​, July 10, 2018 (print edition). Conservative stalwart has deep ties to the Republican establishment. Brett Kavanaugh, 53, served on the U.S. Court of Appeals and worked in George W. Bush’s White House before moving to the federal bench. Democrats are preparing for a prolonged confirmation showdown on Capitol Hill — determined to rally in defense Roe v. Wade and all areas of the law they fear could be ruptured by the court.

washington post logoWashington Post, A more conservative high court could step, not lurch, to the right, Robert Barnes​, July 10, 2018 (print edition). President Trump’s nominee and fellow conservatives on the bench can achieve right-of-center goals without overturning rulings such as Roe v. Wade.

washington post logoWashington Post, Kavanaugh has endorsed robust views of presidential powers, Ann E. Marimow, July 10, 2018 (print edition).​ The record of the federal appeals court judge suggests he would be more to the right than retiring Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.

nbc news logoNBC News, How Kavanaugh ruled on gun control, health care, and other hot-button issues, Jessica Spitz, July 10, 2018. Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh has written almost 300 opinions on a range of issues over his 12 years serving on the federal appellate court.·

Roll Call, Opinion: GOP Should Beware of Roe v. Wade Becoming the Fight, Patricia Murphy, July 10, 2018. Republicans could lose the war for female voters for a generation. Now that we know President Donald Trump has settled on Judge Brett Kavanaugh as his next choice for the Supreme Court, Senate Republicans are poised to deliver on a promise they have been making to conservatives for decades.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosIn Kavanaugh, the GOP has both its biggest opportunity to move the court to the right for a generation as well as its biggest danger — months of unscripted moments when abortion, reproductive rights and women will be at the center of a heated debate that Republicans have proved uniquely terrible at navigating over the years.

With a slim GOP majority in the Senate and nearly a dozen Democratic senators up for re-election in red states this fall, the chances are good that Kavanaugh will make it through his confirmation process fairly easily, even if it isn’t pretty.

But the chances are equally high that in the process of winning the confirmation battle, Republicans could also lose the war for female voters for a generation as the fight over the future of the court becomes a debate over Roe v. Wade, and whether women or the government should decide when, or even whether, a woman carries a pregnancy to term.

Trump Plans Secret Meeting With Putin

vladimir putin djt g 20 2017

Russian President Vladimir Putin is shown with President Trump in a meeting last year

Boston Globe, America’s president is Russia’s pawn, Staff report, July 10, 2018. Next Monday, Donald Trump will meet with Vladimir Putin — alone. This bodes ill. Since taking office, Trump has assiduously furthered Russia’s geopolitical ambitions — weakening our democratic allies and America itself.

By relentlessly targeting America’s friends, Trump advances Putin’s goal of undermining Western democracies while shattering their alliances. “Sometimes,” Trump proclaims, “our worst enemies are our so-called friends and allies.” Castigating historic trading partners, he says, “We’re like the piggy banks that everybody is robbing.” The European Union, he complains, “was set up to take advantage of the United States.” As for NATO, it’s “as bad as NAFTA.” 

Are these newfound villains attacking our electoral processes, or aiming nuclear warheads at our mainland? Hardly. But such existential threats are either beneath Trump’s notice, or resolved by staging vapid media events with the manipulative autocrats who exploit his vanity and ignorance — particularly Putin, that virile object of his fascination.

Kavanaugh Helps CIA JFK Murder Cover-Up

jefferson morleyJFKFacts.org, Opinion: On JFK secrecy, Brett Kavanaugh sides with the CIA, Jefferson Morley (right), July 10, 2018. The D.C. Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 on Monday that the CIA does not have to pay my court costs incurred in the long-running FOIA lawsuit Morley v. CIA. The split decision was joined by Judge Brett Kavanaugh (below left), who was nominated by President Trump later that day to serve on the the Supreme Court.

brett kavanaughAbout the information I obtained via litigation, the unsigned opinion said, “the public benefit was small.” The decision made no reference to extensive coverage of Morley v . CIA in the New York Times, Fox News, San Diego Union, St. Paul Pioneer Press, CBS News in Dallas, and the New Yorker, among many other news organizations.

The Times and the U.K. Daily Mail, even published a photo, obtained by the lawsuit, of CIA officer George Joannides (show at right below receiving a lifetime award from the CIA) receiving a medal after he stonewalled JFK investigators in 1978. In the majority view, public interest in Morley v CIA is not a measure of its public benefit.

george joannides cia citation 1981 cia photoA strong dissent by Judge Karen Henderson takes a much more balanced and independent view of the case, in my view. Appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1990, Henderson points out that the court had previously found that I had met the standard of “public benefit” established in case law.

In a 2013 decision the court stated:

“Morley’s request had potential public value. He has proffered — and the CIA has not disputed — that Joannides served as the CIA case officer for a Cuban group, the DRE, with whose officers Oswald was in contact prior to the assassination. Travel records showing a very close match between Joannides’s and Oswald’s times in New Orleans might, for example, have (marginally) supported one of the hypotheses swirling around the assassination. In addition, this court has previously determined that Morley’s request sought information “central” to an intelligence committee’s inquiry into the performance of the CIA and other federal agencies in investigating the assassination. Under these circumstances, there was at least a modest probability that Morley’s request would generate information relevant to the assassination or later investigations.”

“In other words,” Henderson writes, “we held that Morley satisfied the public-benefit factor in this case,”

cia logoBy ignoring this finding, Henderson argues, the majority opinion ultimately depends on the assertion that the CIA responded “reasonably” to my request. Yet, Henderson notes, the ruling also ignores the fact that the appellate court had ruled the agency’s initial response to my FOIA request was deficient on seven different legal points.

Henderson again:

“The majority discusses five in its opinion. It acknowledges that the CIA: (1) missed the 20-day statutory deadline to respond, Maj. Op. 7; (2) incorrectly referred Morley to NARA rather than responding to his FOIA request itself, Maj. Op. 7-11; (3) failed to search its operational files, Maj. Op. 11; (4) submitted an incomplete Glomar response, Maj. Op. 11-12; and (5) relied on an interpretation of Exemption 2 that was later overruled, Maj. Op. 12. It addresses these errors of law seriatim and labels them “incorrect legally,” Maj. Op. 9, but not “unreasonable.” To me, the CIA’s multiple flawed legal positions suggests that it was “recalcitrant” in declining to produce any documents before being sued. Davy IV, 550 F.3d at 1162. At the least, the errors collectively undermine the district court’s conclusion that the fourth factor “weighs heavily against Morley.” Morley X, 245 F. Supp. 3d at 78 (emphasis added).”

Henderson concludes:

“In sum, I believe the district court erred on two levels: it erred in evaluating each of the four factors individually and abused its discretion in weighing them against one another. Accordingly, this case does not call for “[d]eference piled on deference.” Maj. Op. 11. It calls for an adherence to Davy IV and our four earlier Morley opinions. Because I believe the district court ignored our mandate and misapplied our precedent, I would vacate the district court order a fifth time and remand with instructions to award Morley the attorney’s fees to which he is entitled.”

Unfortunately, the majority, meaning Kavanaugh and Trump appointee Judge Gregory Katsas, disagreed. I have 45 days to appeal.

Thai Cavers All Saved

ny times logoNew York Times, Thai Cave Live Updates: All 13 Are Free After Weeks of Ordeal, Staff report, July 10, 2018. Rescue Effort Involved Dangerous Underwater Escape. The rescue operation at Tham Luang Cave in Thailand succeeded in freeing all 12 of the young soccer players and their coach in a drama that captured the world’s attention. It took dozens of divers, hundreds of volunteers and 18 days to do it. A retired Thai Navy SEAL died in the attempt.

Trump Pardons

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump pardons Oregon ranchers in case that sparked 2016 occupation, John Wagner and Mark Berman​, July 10, 2018. The president granted pardons to father-and-son cattle ranchers who were sentenced to serve prison time on two separate occasions for the same charges of arson on public lands. The case helped spark the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

The return to prison of Dwight Hammond Jr. and Steven Hammond helped spark the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in early 2016. Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, a rancher who acted as the protesters’ spokesman, was killed by a state trooper during an encounter between the armed occupation group and law enforcement — a shooting that led to charges against an FBI special agent.

Dwight Hammond is 76 and has served about three years in prison and that Steven Hammond is 49 and has served about four years.

The pardons were Trump’s latest use of clemency power in high-profile cases — a tool he’s been inclined to use more often than his recent predecessors at this point in his presidency.

Donald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: Anatomy of a Trump rally: 76 percent of claims are false, misleading or lacking evidence, Salvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly, July 10, 2018. The president (shown in a file photo) made 98 factual claims at a Montana rally. We found that 76 percent were false, misleading or unsupported by evidence.

More Court Analysis

Down With Tyranny! Opinion: Trump's Supreme Court Seat: The Art of the Steal, Andrew Kreig, July 10, 2018 (Republication with new graphics of Justice Integrity Project column). Did U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's sudden resignation on June 27 stem from corrupt motives?

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump makes good on threat to target an additional $200 billion in Chinese imports with tariffs, David J. Lynch and Danielle Paquette​, July 10, 2018. The president escalated his trade war with China with a new range of tariffs to be imposed later this summer that, unlike the first round of import levies, will include consumer products.

washington post logoWashington Post, Some migrant children are returned to parents, but judge tells Trump officials to move faster, Maria Sacchetti, Arelis R. Hernández and Marissa J. Lang, July 10, 2018. Some of the youngest children in government custody as part of the U.S. border crackdown were handed over to parents who had been released from detention, given ankle monitors and told to await deportation proceedings.

washington post logoWashington Post, Winners and losers from Trump’s second search for a new justice, Amber Phillips, July 10, 2018.  President Trump’s nomination process was not without controversy, and not everyone came out ahead. The big winner of President Trump’s second Supreme Court pick is Trump himself. He seized the retirement of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy to remind the Republican Party why it needs him: He has the power to make the Supreme Court lean more reliably conservative for a generation.

washington post logoWashington Post, With Brett Kavanaugh, Georgetown Prep can count two Supreme Court nominees among its alumni, Moriah Balingit​, July 10, 2018. Kavanaugh graduated from the elite prep school in 1983, two years ahead of Justice Neil Gorsuch.·​

Ethnic Hatred

washington post logoWashington Post, Woman beats a 91-year-old Mexican man with a brick, tells him to ‘go back to your country,’ Deanna Paul, July 10, 2018 (print edition). The Fourth of July fireworks display was just beginning when Erik Mendoza realized his 91-year-old grandfather was missing. Thinking he might have gone for his daily walk, Mendoza wandered around the Los Angeles neighborhood searching for him.

What he found was a bloodstained sidewalk. Mendoza told The Washington Post that Rodolfo Rodriguez, a permanent resident of the United States, had been attacked with a brick and taken to the hospital with a broken cheekbone and two broken ribs.

Misbel Borjas saw the assault as it happened. Traffic had slowed Borjas’s car at a corner in Willowbrook, Calif., around 7 p.m. on July 4. Rodriguez accidentally bumped into a young girl while walking on the sidewalk, Borjas told The Washington Post. Borjas, a 35-year-old Los Angeles resident, watched the child’s mother — a black woman — push the elderly man to the ground and repeatedly bash him in the face with a concrete brick while yelling, “Go back to your country.”

Press Freedom Protest: Myanmar

myanmar map

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), “Decision to try two Reuters reporters shows Myanmar court is following orders,” Staff report, July 9, 2018. A Myanmar judge announced today that the journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are to be tried under the Official Secrets Act.

myanmar flagReporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns this morning’s decision by a Yangon judge to go ahead with the trial of two Reuters journalists on a charge of possessing secrets and calls again for their immediate release.

After more than 200 days in detention and months of preliminary hearings, Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, are to face the possibility of up to 14 years in prison for investigating an army massacre of Rohingya civilians in Inn Din, a village near the Bangladeshi border in Rakhine state, in September 2017.

Arrested on 12 December after being lured into a trap by police and given supposedly classified documents, they are to be tried under Myanmar’s colonial-era Official Secrets Act, which the military uses whenever they want to prevent journalists from covering certain subjects.

“The refusal to dismiss the case against the journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo is indicative of a judicial system that follows orders and a failed transition to democracy in Myanmar,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.

“As a result of the decision to proceed with this trial, despite the many inconsistencies and the undeniable evidence of the two journalists’ innocence that came to light in the preliminary hearings, the chances of seeing a free and independent press emerge in Myanmar have declined significantly.”

RSF regards the detention of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo as patently arbitrary and calls for their immediate and unconditional release. Myanmar fell six places in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Indexand is now ranked 137th out of 180 countries.

Syrian Army Advances Along Border

Syria FlagSouthfront, Government Forces Liberated All Border Points South Of Daraa, Staff report, July 10, 2018 (3:59 mins. video). On July 9, units of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), assisted by the Russian Military Police, retook all militant positions on the Syrian-Jordanian border south of the city of Daraa. So, the SAA fully encircled the remaining militant positions in and near the city.

See also, ISIS Suicide Bomber Targets Syrian Army Troops In Western Daraa. Casualties Reported.

International Law: Germany

Moon of Alabama, German Parliament Report: U.S. Presence in Syria Is Illegal, B, July 10, 2018. The Scientific Services of the German Bundestag are the equivalent to the Congressional Research Service in the United States. Members of Parliament can ask the services to give their neutral expert opinions on legal questions and other issues. Opinions by the Scientific Services are held in high regard.

Alexander Neu, a Member of Parliament for the Left Party in Germany, requested an opinion on the legality of the military presence and operations by Russia, the United States and Israel in Syria. The result (pdf, in German) is quite clear-cut:

Russia was asked by the recognized government of Syria to help. Its presence in Syria is without doubt legal under International Law.

U.S. activities in Syria can be seen as two phases:

Regime Change

The provision of arms to insurgents in Syria by the U.S. (and others) was and is illegal. It is a breach of the Prohibition on the Use of Force in international law specifically of the UN Charter Article 2(4):

Fight against ISIS

The U.S. argues that its presence in Syria is in (collective) self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter because the Islamic State in Syria threatens to attack the United States. That, in itself, would be insufficient as Syria is a sovereign state. The U.S. therefore additionally claims that the Syrian state is "unwilling or unable" to fight against the Islamic State.

The Scientific Services says that the claim of "unwilling or unable" was already dubious when the U.S. operation started.

July 9

SCOTUS Pick Reaction

The Intercept, Chuck Schumer Warns Senate Democrats: Fight Brett Kavanaugh Or Pay the Price From the Base, Ryan Grim, July 9, 2018. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is warning Democrats in the chamber that if they don’t put up a brutal fight over the next Supreme Court justice, there will be hell to pay from the Democratic base, according to senior Senate aides briefed on Schumer’s message.

Democratic leadership’s response in the two weeks since Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement has been in stark contrast to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s firm, across-the-board rejection of any Obama nominee sent up in 2016. McConnell, flexing the power of a majority leader, announced within an hour of the news of the February 2016 death of Antonin Scalia that under no circumstances would the Senate consider a nominee before the November election.

What that fierce opposition will look like, and how broad it will be, remains to be seen, as Schumer lacks the full authority over the Senate that McConnell wielded in 2016. But as a major political party just two seats shy of a majority, Democrats are not as powerless as they sometimes let on.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: If the Supreme Court is Nakedly Political, Can It Be Just? Lee Epstein and Eric Posner, July 9, 2018. President Trump was always going to pick a conservative for the Supreme Court. The only question has been whether to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy with a “business conservative” or a “religious conservative.”

But we wonder whether a Supreme Court that has come to be rigidly divided by both ideology and party can sustain public confidence for much longer.

In the past 10 years, however, justices have hardly ever voted against the ideology of the president who appointed them. Only Justice Kennedy, named to the court by Ronald Reagan, did so with any regularity. That is why with his replacement on the court an ideologically committed Republican justice, it will become impossible to regard the court as anything but a partisan institution.

Ms. Epstein is a political scientist and law professor at Washington University. Mr. Posner is a professor at the University of Chicago Law School.

Major UK / Brexit Shakeups

boris johnson july 2015ny times logoNew York Times, U.K. Foreign Secretary Quits as Brexit Split Shakes Cabinet, Stephen Castle, July 9, 2018. Boris Johnson (shown at right) resigned as Britain’s foreign secretary on Monday, becoming the second cabinet minister to quit in less than 24 hours in protest over plans from Prime Minister Theresa May to soften the economic impact of British withdrawal from the European Union.

Mr. Johnson’s departure followed that of David Davis, who quit as Brexit secretary late Sunday, and deepens the mood of crisis gripping Mrs. May’s government three days after she thought she had won agreement from her cabinet on a Brexit plan.

United Kingdom flagThe public face of the 2016 campaign that persuaded Britons to quit the European Union, known as Brexit, Mr. Johnson is perhaps the most high-profile advocate of leaving the bloc, and his departure highlights the depth of the bitter divisions in Mrs. May’s government.

On several occasions, Mr. Johnson had appeared to undermine Mrs. May’s strategy, and in comments that were recently leaked, he described her government as lacking “guts,” unfavorably comparing the prime minister’s negotiating style to that of President Trump. Related story below:

washington post logoUnited Kingdom flagWashington Post, Britain’s ‘Brexit minister’ abruptly resigns, throwing May’s government into turmoil, William Booth and Karla Adam, July 9, 2018 (print edition). The resignation exposed Prime Minister Theresa May to challenge by Conservative party members outraged over what they see as her plan to secure a “soft Brexit” that keeps Britain tied to the European Union after it leaves the bloc next year.

Pedophile #MeToo Cover-up Scandal?

norman eisen SmallThe Hill, Former White House ethics chief requests probe into whether Jordan knew of alleged sexual abuse, Avery Anapol, July 9, 2018. Former White House ethics chief Norman Eisen, right, on Monday said that he has filed a formal ethics complaint against GOP Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio) amid accusations that the lawmaker ignored sexual abuse allegations while serving as an assistant coach for the Ohio State University wrestling program.

Eisen, who served as former President Obama's ethics chief (and also as a U.S. ambassador0, said that he and Fred Wertheimer of the nonprofit watchdog group Democracy 21 filed the complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE).

jim jordan 07 26 2011 fileJordan, shown in a file photo, has denied the allegations, saying that if he had known about the alleged abuse, he would have acted to stop it.

Seven former wrestlers have contradicted Jordan's claims, saying that the former assistant coach knew about alleged sexual abuse by athletic doctor Richard Strauss. Strauss killed himself in 2005.

Eisen and Wertheimer's complaint seeks an OCE investigation into whether Jordan is lying about his knowledge of alleged abuse. Eisen and Wertheimer argue that if Jordan is “publicly lying about his knowledge of the matter,” he is violating House Rules and should be held accountable.

virginia ginni thomas cpac 2017 gage skidmore flickr

Virginia "Ginni" Thomas, radical right activist, lobbyist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, at "CPAC 2017" (Gage Skidmore photo via Flickr)

virginia thomas jim jordan twitterRaw Story, Clarence Thomas’ wife defends Rep. Jim Jordan — says sex abuse allegations emerged because ‘he threatens the elite,’ Elizabeth Preza, July 9, 2018.

Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, on Monday claimed that Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH, right) is the target of “false accusations” stemming from his time as an assistant coach at Ohio State University because he “threatens elite” — even as a seventh former wrestler on Sunday accused the GOP representative of lying about his knowledge of sex abuse at the school.

“Jim Jordan is under attack, with false accusations, because he threatens the elite,” Thomas wrote, along with a video of Jordan emphatically denying any knowledge of sex abuse while he was a coach.

4 Reputed SCOTUS Top Contenders

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump weighs top picks for Supreme Court amid last-minute maneuvering, Robert Costa and Robert Barnes, July 9, 2018. The president is scheduled to announce the politically charged decision at 9 p.m. Monday.

thomas hardimanSCOTUSBlog, Potential nominee profile: Judge Thomas Hardiman, a close second to Gorsuch and a shortlister again, Amy Howe, July 2, 2018. When President Donald Trump was searching for a nominee in 2017 to fill the vacancy created by the 2016 death of Antonin Scalia, he reportedly narrowed the field to two candidates: then-Judge Neil Gorsuch, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, and Judge Thomas Hardiman (right) of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit.

raymond kethledgeSCOTUSblog, Potential nominee profile: Raymond Kethledge, Amy Howe, July 7, 2018. Like Thomas Hardiman, another potential nominee on the president’s shortlist, [U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals] Judge Raymond Kethledge (left) would bring educational diversity to a bench on which all of the current justices attended Ivy League law schools.

brett kavanaughSCOTUSblog, Potential nominee profile: Brett Kavanaugh, Edith Roberts, June 28, 2018. When then-candidate Donald Trump released his first two lists of potential Supreme Court nominees in May and September of 2016, the omission of Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit drew comment. Kavanaugh had served for 10 years on a bench known as a springboard to the Supreme Court. With his impeccable academic credentials and sterling reputation in conservative political and legal circles, he seemed like an obvious choice. And his name was eventually added to the roster of possible nominees, on November 17, 2017. No one else on the president’s current list can rival Kavanaugh for Washington credentials.

SCOTUSblog, Potential nominee profile: Amy Coney Barrett, Amy Howe, July 4, 2018. In November 2017, President Donald Trump released a amy coney barrett headshot notre dame photorevised list of potential Supreme Court nominees. The November 2017 list was an expanded version of two earlier lists, announced during the 2016 presidential campaign, from which then-candidate Trump pledged, if elected, to pick a successor to the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who died on February 13, 2016. First on the new list – because it was in alphabetical order – was Amy Coney Barrett, a Notre Dame law professor (and former Scalia clerk) who had recently been confirmed to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. She is shown at left.

8 Now Rescued From Cave

ny times logoNew York Times, Thailand Cave Rescue Live Updates: 8th Person Is Out, Staff report, July 9, 2018. (UPDATED at 9:50 a.m. Eastern.) The Times has reporters on the scene and will be providing updates regularly. Go here to see maps and diagrams of how the rescue is unfolding.

Eight people are now out of the cave complex: Four people were extracted from the cave on Monday and taken to the hospital, local officials said. The new extraction run was sped up, according to the search chief, after air tanks were replaced and guide ropes tightened along the long escape route.

Gaza Flotilla Includes U.S. Navy Survivor

uss liberty day after june 8 1967 attack

Consortium News, USS Liberty Survivor Named US Delegate on Gaza Flotilla, Joe Lauria, July 9, 2018. A survivor of the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty (shown above) that killed 34 U.S. sailors has joined the Freedom Flotilla headed towards Gaza.

Joe Meadors, a survivor of the 1967 Israeli attack on the USS Liberty, has joined the 2018 Gaza Freedom Flotilla as the delegate from the United States. He will board the Al Awda (The Return), which left Corisca Sunday night for the final 1,000 miles to Gaza. Al Awda is one of four boats on the 75-day voyage from Scandinavia. Born in Corpus Christi, Texas, Meadors is a past president of USS Liberty Veterans Association, founded in 1982.

The Flotillas aim to bring attention to the illegal blockade imposed by Israel on Gaza since 2007.

Trump Watch

bbc news logo2BBC, Trump: Is the President a Sex Pest? Richard Bilton, July 9, 2018 (20 mins.). Donald Trump has been accused of sexually inappropriate behaviour by more than 20 women, but he has dismissed them all as liars. Now one of those women is suing him for defamation.

An American court will have to decide what really happened and whether the President of the United States is a sexual predator. So what is the truth about Donald Trump's behaviour towards women? In the week of his visit to Britain, reporter Richard Bilton investigates new allegations about Mr Trump and meets the women who say the president is a sex pest.
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Raw Story, Trump’s personal chauffeur is suing him, David Badash, July 9, 2018. President Trump’s personal chauffeur is suing him. Noel Cintron, who has served the real estate mogul for 25 years, has filed suit against Trump claiming thousands of hours of unpaid overtime. He also says Trump eliminated his health insurance.

Cintron just “sued the Trump Organization for about 3,300 of overtime that he says he worked in the past six years. He’s not allowed to sue for overtime prior to that due to the statute of limitations,” Bloomberg reports. In his complaint, “Cintron says he was required to be on duty for Trump starting at 7 a.m. each day until whenever Trump, his family or business associates no longer required his services. He worked as long as 55 hours per week, but was paid a fixed salary of $62,700 in 2003, $68,000 in 2006, and $75,000 in 2010.”

He received just two raises over the past six years, but his 2010 raise “came with a catch, Cintron said. He was induced to surrender his health insurance, saving Trump approximately $17,866 per year in premiums, according to the lawsuit.”

The Spectator USA, The Beeb vs The Donald, The BBC brings up President Trump’s women problems, Staff report, Cockburn, July 9, 2018. While tens of thousands of demonstrators are expected in central London to protest Donald Trump’s visit this week, the BBC too is laying out its own welcome mat. Its most important current affairs programme, Panorama, tonight broadcasts a film titled ‘Trump: Is the President a Sex Pest?’

bbc news logo2The Panorama website says: “Donald Trump has been accused of sexually inappropriate behaviour by more than 20 women, but he has dismissed them all as liars. Now one of those women is suing him for defamation. An American court will have to decide what really happened and whether the President of the United States is a sexual predator.”

Trump doesn’t care much about protesters. As Freddy Gray argues, he probably delights in this kind of bien pensant virtue signalling. “So why play into his notoriously small hands?” On the other, small hand, he is said to be extremely thin skinned about media coverage. The President doesn’t like Aunty any more than he likes CNN. The BBC? “Another beauty,” he once said at a news conference. And despite his skirt-chasing-couldn’t-give-a-damn image, Trump has always gone to great lengths to cover up his sexual indiscretions. His personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, was used to pay off and shut up a long line of models, porn stars, party girls, reality TV show contestants, and others. Some of these women accuse him of forcible kissing, groping, or other sexual assault. As Panorama says, the count of women making these claims is up to 20, so far.

There are also claims of abortions. A forthcoming book, Everything Trump Touches Dies, by the Republican political consultant Rick Wilson, quotes a close friend of Trump’s. “The last conversation Trump ever has with one of his girls is when she calls and says, ‘Don, I’m late.’ Or when he gets bored with her. At that point, Cohen and his people take over. NDA, payout, go away. It’s all in Cohen’s office. He can’t have that come out.”

A significant part of Trump’s support comes from evangelicals, who so far have been turning the other cheek to a series of “bimbo eruptions” that began before the election. Whether they can ignore abortions and sexual assault – if proven – is another matter.

Politics: Illinois, Nebraska

bruce rauner-o

Politico, Illinois governor profits off ICE detention center contracts, Natasha Korecki, July 9, 2018. Gov. Bruce Rauner (shown above in an official photo) this year reported turning a profit from a health care group that services U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers, including facilities that hold immigrant families with children.

correct care solutions ccs logoIn his most recent statement of economic interests, the multi-millionaire Republican governor disclosed earnings from a private equity fund that owns Correct Care Solutions, a for-profit health care provider that has millions of dollars in government contracts with jails and prisons across the country, including immigrant detention centers.

The governor says he relinquished investment decisions to a third party and has no direct ties to Correct Care Solutions, a group whose work extends to places like Karnes County Residential Center in Texas, one of just four immigrant family detention centers in the country contracted for profit.

Still, Rauner’s disclosures reveal he’s earning income from the group, which reports making $1 billion in revenue annually. The financial connection between a sitting governor and for-profit ICE detention contractors is one that immigration rights groups insist is a clear conflict of interest. They also point to Correct Care Solutions’ track record involving dozens of lawsuits alleging wide-ranging negligence.

Politico, Sasse tempts Trump’s wrath by refusing to bow, Alex Isenstadt, July 9, 2018. The Republican senator and persistent Trump critic stokes speculation about his intentions with a soon-to-publish book and new nonprofit.

ben sasse o croppedU.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebaska (shown at right), has so far been spared the public floggings that Donald Trump inflicted on two since-vanquished GOP critics in the Senate, Jeff Flake and Bob Corker. But that may soon change.

As the “never Trump” faction of the Republican Party dwindles to a lonely few, the Nebraska senator has shown little interest in backing down – leaving him vulnerable to a Trump-fueled primary challenge in 2020, when he’s up for reelection.

How Sasse responds — he has a book coming out three weeks before the midterm elections and has quietly launched a new political non-profit group, fueling speculation that he might launch a Hail Mary bid for president rather than seek another term in the Senate — promises to be the next intra-GOP drama.

Behind the scenes, the president has stewed over Sasse’s recurring jabs, according to several people familiar with his thinking on the matter. After the 2016 campaign – in which Sasse refused to vote for Trump and compared the New York City mogul to white supremacist David Duke – Trump had a conversation with a GOP senator in which he referred to Sasse as “that guy” and said he’d like to see the Nebraska Republican “go away.”

More recently, the president has complained to aides that he views Sasse as dead-set against his “America First” trade agenda. In April, Trump sparred with Sasse during a meeting at the White House with farm-state lawmakers over the president’s decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Pedophile #MeToo Cover-up Scandal?

The Hill, Former White House ethics chief requests probe into whether Jordan knew of alleged sexual abuse, Avery Anapol, July 9, 2018. Former White House ethics chief Norm Eisen on Monday said that he has filed a formal ethics complaint against GOP Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio) amid accusations that the lawmaker ignored sexual abuse allegations while serving as an assistant coach for the Ohio State University wrestling program.

Eisen, who served as former President Obama's ethics chief, said that he and Fred Wertheimer of the nonprofit watchdog group Democracy 21 filed the complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE).

jim jordan 07 26 2011 fileJordan, shown in a file photo, has denied the allegations, saying that if he had known about the alleged abuse, he would have acted to stop it.

Seven former wrestlers have contradicted Jordan's claims, saying that the former assistant coach knew about alleged sexual abuse by athletic doctor Richard Strauss. Strauss killed himself in 2005.

Eisen and Wertheimer's complaint seeks an OCE investigation into whether Jordan is lying about his knowledge of alleged abuse. Eisen and Wertheimer argue that if Jordan is “publicly lying about his knowledge of the matter,” he is violating House Rules and should be held accountable.

Radical Right SCOTUS Wife Defends Jordan

virginia ginni thomas cpac 2017 gage skidmore flickr

Virginia "Ginni" Thomas, the radical Republican activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, at CPAC 2017 (Gage Skidmore photo via Flickr)

AlterNet, Clarence Thomas’ wife defends Rep. Jim Jordan — says sex abuse allegations emerged because ‘he threatens the elite,’ Elizabeth Preza, July 9, 2018.

Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, on Monday claimed that Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) is the target of “false accusations” stemming from his time as an assistant coach at Ohio State University because he “threatens elite” — even as a seventh former wrestler on Sunday accused the GOP representative of lying about his knowledge of sex abuse at the school.

“Jim Jordan is under attack, with false accusations, because he threatens the elite,” Thomas wrote, along with a video of Jordan emphatically denying any knowledge of sex abuse while he was a coach.

Inside DC

Naked Capitalism, Analysis: SEC Knifes Its Whistleblower Program, Yves Smith, July 9, 2018. The SEC always hated the whistleblower program that Congress imposed on it as part of Dodd Frank reforms. Congress was responding to the SEC’s grotesque institutional failure in ignoring Harry Markopolos’ repeated, detailed warnings about the Bernie Madoff fraud, a Ponzi scheme that reached $65 billion due to SEC inaction.

But as we’ll describe, the SEC issued new guidance – on a Saturday night in the summer – that guts the whistleblower program by imposing new standards that look to be contrary to the intent of Congress by making it difficult to win awards for large-scale frauds, and then reducing the payouts on them. It looks like career-minded SEC officials who resented that whistleblower filings could force them to probe wrong-doings of prospective employers are making sure the agency will only hand out parking tickets.

Admittedly, Congress had set out to enfeeble the SEC, by keeping it budget-starved and having Congressmen like Joe Lieberman threaten to cut its funding even further if it went too aggressively after big financiers. The agency had retreated to focusing enforcement almost entirely on insider trading, to the degree that became almost incapable of seeing the world any other way. For instance, it botched its first major crisis case involving the collapse of two Bear Stearns hedge funds, by bizarrely pursuing the execs managing the funds as insider traders, rather than understanding that they were victims of other Wall Street firms (and perhaps even Bear’s own trading desks) that were selling toxic subprime mortgage securities and CDOs. ‘

Nevertheless, the new whistleblower program established an awards fund entirely outside the SEC’s budget, and also tasked the SEC to set up a “Whistleblower Office.” The agency was obligated to pay sources compensation set as a portion of the SEC’s recovery if they contributed information that was valuable to an enforcement action.

The program went live in 2012, and under Chairman Mary Jo White, the SEC feigned enthusiasm for the new initiative, dutifully reporting how many tips it had received and asking for more funding to do a better job, even as high level SEC insiders grumbled about how the whistleblower program trampled on the agency’s discretion.

Last Saturday, in the dead of night, the SEC moved to make explicit, with the release of draft rule revisions, what close observers long suspected, that despite the agency’s weak support for whistleblowers, they have proven nevertheless too successful.

The proposed new rules have two main thrusts. First, they would change the formula for computing whistleblower awards so that large awards would receive fewer dollars. Second, new barriers to receiving awards would be placed in front of whistleblowers who include any public information in their evidence of wrong-doing. The reason that matters, as we’ll explain in detail, is that whistleblowers who provide evidence of widespread or systemic frauds will almost certainly be relying significantly on public information. Perversely, that could even been deemed to include information the whistleblower got into the public domain via FOIA.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s fight with federal employee unions gets real as new rules take effect, Lisa Rein, July 9, 2018 (print edition). The administration describes the executive orders as an effort to streamline a bloated bureaucracy and improve accountability. But unions say the rules are intended to weaken their bargaining power and make it easier to fire workers.

Inside Washington

sambonn lek rice

Famed St. Regis Hotel host Sambonn Lek displays a donor's photo with bags of rice contributed to his native Cambodia in one of countless charitable efforts

sambonn lek Hamlton2 on 5 6 13New York Times, Behind the Bar, Mixing Drinks With Aid for a Faraway Home, Elizabeth Williamson, July 9, 2018. Sambonn Lek, bartender at the St. Regis hotel near the White House, has shaken and stirred for movers and shakers since the Carter administration. At 66, he leads a disappearing fraternity: barkeeps who know their regulars’ names and favorite cocktails, and when they drink so much of the latter that they forget the former, find them a ride home.

When it’s quiet, he breaks out his repertoire of magic tricks, which in the days before the fire marshal stepped in included “breathing fire” by blowing a mouthful of spirits past a flame.

Mr. Lek’s greatest act, though, is performed daily in his native Cambodia, with the help of his affluent patrons. He is a Vietnam-era refugee turned philanthropist, collecting spare change and big checks from customers to fund Sam Relief, which builds schools, digs wells, and provides food, clothing and medical and school supplies in his native Cambodia. Since 2000 his nonprofit has built 27 schools, dug nearly 400 wells, delivered 290 tons of rice and awarded 120 scholarships to Cambodian schoolchildren.

Mr. Lek, who said he escaped Cambodia’s genocide and poverty because America opened its doors to him, believes that human generosity transcends politics. Over two decades, his patrons of both parties have proved him right.

Alternative Media

Unz Review, Why Was Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 Shot Down? Kees van der Pijl, July 9, 2018. Kees van der Pijl is a Fellow, Centre for Global Political Economy and Professor Emeritus of the School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex.

In my book Flight MH17, Ukraine and the New Cold War. Prism of Disaster (Manchester University Press), I have refrained from entering the slippery terrain of making claims about who pulled the trigger, intentionally or by accident, in the late afternoon of 17 July, or even which type of weapon was used. For the downing of the Malaysian plane has become part of a propaganda war that was already heating up prior to the catastrophe. Instead the book is about what we do know about the events surrounding it, in the preceding months, weeks, and days, indeed even on the day itself. Subsequent events have only underlined that it is this context that lends meaning to the tragedy.

Whether the actual downing of Flight MH17 was an intentional, premeditated act or an accident, whether it involved a jet attack, an anti-aircraft missile, or both, ultimately cannot be established with certainty.

Yet both the NATO war party and the coup regime in Kiev, which on many occasions has demonstrated that its ultra-nationalist and fascist antecedents are very much alive, would have been perfectly capable of such an act and had the means for it. Most importantly, they had the motive. Those in power in Kiev had several times already attempted to draw Moscow into the civil war, directly and through a NATO intervention. If this indeed was their aim, it would also have served the Atlantic bloc’s determined and long-standing commitment to force continental Europe into an antagonistic relation with Russia.

Unz Review, Opinion: American Pravda: Post-War France and Post-War Germany, Ron Unz, July 9, 2018. Back in Junior High School I became an avid war-gamer, and was fascinated by the military history of the past, especially World War II, the most titanic conflict ever recorded. However, although I much enjoyed reading the detailed accounts of the battles of that war, especially on the Eastern Front that largely determined its outcome, I had much less interest in the accompanying political history, and simply relied upon the accounts in my standard textbooks, which I considered quite reliable.

July 8

Free Press

washington post logoWashington Post, Wendi Winters, victim of Annapolis Capital Gazette shooting, rushed at gunman, Hannah Natanson, July 8, 2018 (print edition).
Wendi Winters stood as soon as she heard the bangs.

A man with a gun had broken the glass doors leading to the newsroom of the Capital Gazette and was shooting at her colleagues, many of whom dropped to the floor or dove under their desks. Not Winters.

Grabbing the trash can and recycling bin she kept by her desk, she ran toward the man and yelled at him to stop — distracting him long enough to allow some of her colleagues to escape. Of the 11 people in the room that day, six survived.

“In an act of extraordinary courage, she gave her heart, and she gave her last breath, and she gave her final eight pints of blood to the defense of the free press and in defense of her family at the Capital,” Winters’s son Phoenix Geimer told a crowd of more than 700 family members, co-workers and friends gathered on Saturday in the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts to celebrate Winters’s life. “She died fighting for what she believed in. My mom is an American hero, and we all have so much to live up to.”

Winters, 65, was among five Capital Gazette employees killed June 28 when, according to police, a man who had long borne a grudge against the paper opened fire in the Annapolis office in an effort to kill the reporters and editors inside.

washington post logoWashington Post, No comment’: The death of business reporting, Steven Pearlstein, July 8, 2018 (Print edition). More and more companies won’t talk with the press, and that’s bad for everyone.

Even the prospect of a positive story can’t crack open the door to the executive suite. Alan Murray, who spent years at the Wall Street Journal as a reporter and editor before taking the reins at Fortune magazine, summed it up this way: “One, they don’t trust us. And, two, they don’t need us.”

Indeed, what’s happened in the corporate world is not all that different from what has happened in politics and government in the era of Donald Trump, whose administration has set new highs in terms of distrust and hostility toward the press.

Child Rescue At Thai Cave

ny times logoNew York Times, Divers Begin Rescue Efforts at Thailand Cave, Staff report, July 8, 2018. Rescuers are racing against the threat of rains flooding the site and making such an effort impossible. Officials hope to pull the first boy out in the evening, but the operation could take days.The effort to rescue the trapped boys and their coach was underway Sunday, with officials hoping to pull the first boy out in the evening. But the operation could take days to remove all 13 of those trapped.

The decision came just as heavy monsoon rains returned to the area, after days of relative respite. Experts say the rain will not immediately make water levels rise within the cave, but it greatly increases the urgency of the operation.

A former Thai Navy diver who was helping with the rescue operation died Friday. He ran out of air while placing spare oxygen tanks along the route to the cavern where the boys are trapped.

ny times logoNew York Times, At Least 3 Are Rescued Alive, Officials Say, Staff report, [UPDATED at 8:53 a.m. Eastern, July 8]. The first of the trapped players have been rescued from the cave and were heading to the hospital, military and local officials said. Thai officials said Sunday morning that the extraction operation had begun, and that the whole effort could take days.

Health Care

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Do Poor People Have a Right to Health Care? Editorial Board, July 8, 2018 (print edition). The 16 Kentuckians who recently won a lawsuit challenging the legality of Medicaid work requirements include a law student with a rare heart condition, a mortician with diabetes, a mother of four with congenital hip dysplasia and a housekeeper with rheumatoid arthritis. It’s a mixed bunch, united by two grim facts: They live at or below the federal poverty level, and they’re caught in the cross hairs of a debate over what society owes its neediest members.

Their lawsuit argued that insisting that people work a certain number of hours a month in order to receive Medicaid benefits, like other requirements the state was planning to demand, is illegal because it runs counter to Medicaid’s purpose — to ensure that low-income people have access to decent care. The lawsuit also contended that such requirements would imperil the plaintiffs’ health by depriving them of the only medical insurance they could afford. The new rules, which would have stripped recipients of their benefits if they failed to meet monthly hours-worked quotas and strict reporting standards, were simply oblivious to the realities of low-wage living in Kentucky, and America in general.

On June 29, two days before those requirements were to take effect, a District Court judge ruled decisively for the plaintiffs, calling the Department of Health and Human Services “capricious” for approving Kentucky’s plan at the beginning of the year and lambasting Secretary Alex Azar for failing to consider the impact the measures would have on those in need. “The record shows that 95,000 people would lose Medicaid coverage,” Judge James Boasberg wrote in his decision. “And yet the Secretary paid no attention to that deprivation.”

Supreme Court Battle

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats Face Painful Choice on Supreme Court, Carl Hulse, July 8, 2018 (print edition). The Supreme Court votes by a handful of Senate Democrats from Republican states could have broad ramifications for their party, its leadership and its core voters.

ny times logomitch mcconnell2New York Times, McConnell Tries to Nudge Trump Toward 2 Justice Contenders, Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Martin, July 8, 2018 (print edition). Senator Mitch McConnell (right) argued that Judges Raymond M. Kethledge and Thomas M. Hardiman presented the fewest obvious obstacles to being confirmed, according to Republican officials.

While careful not to directly make the case for any would-be justice, Mr. McConnell made clear in multiple phone calls with Mr. Trump and the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, that the lengthy paper trail of another top contender, Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, would pose difficulties for his confirmation.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Fatal Flaw to Remake Health Care: Cutting Corners, Robert Pear, July 8, 2018 (print edition). The Trump administration is on a losing streak in court cases, but the naming of a new Supreme Court justice could alter the trajectory on some of the most controversial cases.

The recent court rebukes have only increased the focus on the Supreme Court and the impact that Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s retirement could have. Beyond abortion rights, which are sure to be a focus of Senate confirmation hearings, other health care issues could be in the balance.

The court upheld the Affordable Care Act in 2012, but challenges to various provisions are still pending in lower courts. In addition, the Supreme Court is being asked to decide questions with major implications for the future of Medicaid: whether states can exclude Planned Parenthood clinics from their Medicaid programs, and whether Medicaid patients can sue states to enforce their rights under federal law.

Inside DC

Axios, Payback: How Democrats will torment Trump, Jonathan Swan, July 8, 2018. At the end of last week, one of Washington’s most battle-hardened and sought-after lawyers forecast an ominous future for the Trump administration. We thought the lawyer's analysis — told to Mike Allen and me — was worth reproducing in full as it echoes what we're hearing from other attorneys in close touch with Trump's White House.

The big picture: "The Pruitt situation should be a warning sign to the administration about what will happen if the Democrats take the House."

Between the lines: "Pruitt’s ultimate downfall came from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee agreeing on a bipartisan basis to summon his staffers in for transcribed interviews. The Pruitt 'team' fell apart when he could no longer protect them and they had to hire their own lawyers, turn over documents and answer questions under penalty of perjury."

More Heath Care

ny times logoNew York Times, Most Nursing Homes Have Overstated Staffing for Years, Jordan Rau, July 8, 2018 (print edition). Payroll records for more than 14,000 facilities show that the number of nurses and aides at work dips far below average some days and consistently sinks on weekends.

ny times logoNew York Times, Health Insurers Warn of Market Turmoil as Trump Suspends Billions in Payments, July 8, 2018 (print edition).

Climate Change Impacts?

washington post logojapan flag stdWashington Post, At least 80 dead, dozens missing as ‘historic’ rains pound Japan, Simon Denyer​, July 8, 2018 (print edition). Millions of people have forced from their homes by landslides and flooding across western and central Japan.

ny times logoNew York Times, Wildfire Season Starts With Triple-Digit Heat in California, Tim Arango, July 8, 2018 (print edition). From the coast to the desert, an unseasonable heat wave struck Southern California, setting records and sparking wildfires.

Trump Watch

Politico, Details emerge on Justice Department meeting with reporters on Manafort, Josh Gerstein, July 8, 2018. Lawyers for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort (shown below) are crying foul over a meeting Justice Department prosecutors held with four Associated Press reporters last year as news organizations and the FBI bore down on the longtime lobbyist and political consultant.

Paul ManafortManafort's defense has argued for months that the off-the-record session on April 11, 2017, was a potential conduit for improper leaks to the press about the probe that led to two criminal cases against the former Trump campaign chief. Now, Manafort's attorneys have fresh evidence they say bolsters their claims: two memos written by FBI agents who attended the meeting and documented their version of what transpired.

Manafort's legal team paints the evidence as confirmation that journalists were given inside information about the investigation in violation of Justice Department policies and, perhaps, legal prohibitions on disclosure of grand jury secrets.

Justice Department log circularOne of the FBI memos indicates that the AP did get some information at the meeting. At the conclusion of the session, reporters got a vague assurance that they "appeared to have a good understanding of Manafort's business dealings," one memo says. The same memo says the meeting was "arranged" by Andrew Weissmann, the then-chief of the fraud section of Justice's Criminal Division and now the top prosecutor on the Manafort case.

However, the memos indicate that the bulk of the information flow at the meeting went the other way, with the AP journalists providing the FBI with a bevy of facts the news organization uncovered during its inquiries into Manafort's work and finances. The meeting took place a day before the AP published a story saying that Manafort received at least some payments ascribed to him or his companies in a so-called black ledger of off-the-books spending by former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Reporters do sometimes give government agencies a heads up on forthcoming stories that could significantly impact an investigation, but the details in the FBI memos show that the AP provided numerous details to the officials about the news outlet's investigation. Many appear to have already been public, but some seem unreported, like a claim that Manafort sent an internal White House document to people he was working with in Ukraine.

July 7

Trump's China Trade War Starts

washington post logoChina FlagWashington Post, Trump’s trade war starts, and China immediately retaliates with tariffs of its own, Danielle Paquette and Emily Rauhala, July 7, 2018 (print edition). The United States imposed levies on $34 billion in Chinese goods early today, prompting Beijing to accuse the U.S. of violating WTO rules and setting off “the largest trade war in economic history to date.” The financial jousting prompted concern over rising costs for a wide range of goods.

Global Info Wars

iran women hijab propaganda

Caitlin Johnstone via SouthFront, Opinion: This Is What Modern War Propaganda Looks Like, Caitlin Johnstone, July 7, 2018. I’ve been noticing videos going viral the last few days, some with millions of views, about Muslim women bravely fighting to free themselves from oppression in the Middle East.

Israel Flagrepublican elephant logoThe videos, curiously, are being shared enthusiastically by many Republicans and pro-Israel hawks, who aren’t traditionally the sort of crowd you see rallying to support the civil rights of Muslims. What’s up with that?

American FlagWell, you may want to sit down for this shocker, but it turns out that they happen to be women from a nation that the US war machine is currently escalating operations against. They are Iranian.

Rex TillersonBack in December a memo was leaked from inside the Trump administration showing how then-Secretary of State, DC neophyte Rex Tillerson (right), was coached on how the US empire uses human rights as a pretense on which to attack and undermine noncompliant governments. Politico reports:

The May 17 memo reads like a crash course for a businessman-turned-diplomat, and its conclusion offers a starkly realist vision: that the U.S. should use human rights as a club against its adversaries, like Iran, China and North Korea, while giving a pass to repressive allies like the Philippines, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

“Allies should be treated differently — and better — than adversaries. Otherwise, we end up with more adversaries, and fewer allies,” argued the memo, state dept map logo Smallwritten by Tillerson’s influential policy aide, Brian Hook.

The propaganda machine doesn’t operate any differently from the State Department, since they serve the same establishment.

Mohammed Bin Salman Al-SaudUS ally Saudi Arabia is celebrated by the mass media for “liberal reform” in allowing women to drive despite hard evidence that those “reforms” [led by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, right] are barely surface-level cosmetics to present a pretty face to the western world, but Iranian women, who have been able to drive for years, are painted as uniquely oppressed.

Iran is condemned by establishment war whores for the flaws in its democratic process, while Saudi Arabia, an actual monarchy, goes completely unscrutinized.

Syrian Civil War

SouthFront, Russia And Free Syrian Army Reach Initial Agreement On Southern Syria – Reports, Staff report, July 7, 2018. On July 6, the US-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Russia reached an initial agreement on southern Syria during a meeting in the town of Bosra al-Sham.

The FSA will hand over its weapons to the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and withdraw to the opposition-held areas in northern Syria along with radical fighters of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and the Ahrar al-Sham Movement. Syria FlagIn return, the SAA will be replaced by units of the Russian Military Police and later by the Syrian Police.

Militants of the western Daraa countryside and al-Qunitar have not approved the agreement yet. These areas are well known for hosting hundreds of HTS fighters; Due to this, they will likely reject this peaceful solution.

Inside DC

Rod Rosenstein Deputyty Atttorney Generalwashington post logoWashington Post, ‘A little steel in the spine'; Rod Rosenstein, facing mounting criticism from Congress, is starting to fight back, Matt Zapotosky and Karoun Demirjian July 7, 2018. Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein (right) has been in the hot seat ever since he appointed Robert S. Mueller III to investigate whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election.

The president dislikes him and conservative Republicans in Congress have toyed with impeaching him over Russia-related documents they say he won’t hand over. Those who work for Rosenstein know any day could be their boss’s last.

But in more than 14 months on the job, the former Maryland U.S. attorney seems to be getting used to the constant controversy and criticism that comes from overseeing Mueller. Rather than walking on eggshells, he’s starting to fight back.

At a House Judiciary Committee hearing last week, Rosenstein sparred with Republican lawmakers who accused him of inappropriately withholding documents on the Mueller probe, and asked him whether he had threatened staffers on the House Intelligence Committee.

The normally placid Rosenstein shook his finger at Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) in a fiery exchange in which Jordan (shown in a file photo) also told the jim jordan 07 26 2011 filedeputy attorney general his inquiries were “not personal.” He later raised doubts about Rosenstein’s credibility.

“Well, now, who are we supposed to believe? Staff members who we’ve worked with, who have never misled us? Or you guys, who we’ve caught hiding information from us, who tell a witness not to answer our questions?” Jordan said.

“Thank you for making clear it’s not personal, Mr. Jordan."

Rosenstein has opined publicly that the Justice Department cannot essentially open its files to Congress. Discussing the document spat during an event at the Newseum in May, Rosenstein said of those threatening to impeach him, “I think they should understand by now that the Department of Justice is not going to be extorted.”

#MeToo Scandal: New Witness Against Rep. Jordan

jim jordan ohio fourth district map Small

U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, represents the heavily gerrimandered Fourth District shown above to encompass heavily white, GOP voters

The Hill, Seventh former Ohio State wrestler claims Jordan knew of alleged sexual abuse, Jacqueline Thomsen, July 7, 2018.  A seventh former Ohio State jim jordan headshot CustomUniversity wrestler came forward Saturday with claims that Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) knew about alleged sexual abuse taking place on the wrestling team while he was an assistant coach.

David Range told The Washington Post that Jordan (shown at right) must have know about the alleged sexual abuse by athletic doctor Richard Strauss because it happened regularly and was often discussed.

“Jordan definitely knew that these things were happening — yes, most definitely,” Range told the newspaper. “It was there. He knew about it because it was an everyday occurrence.”

More Global News

washington post logomike pompeo portraitWashington Post, North Korea calls U.S. attitude toward talks ‘regrettable,’ John Hudson​, July 7, 2018. The Foreign Ministry rejected claims by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (right) that two days of talks were “productive” and that both sides engaged in “good-faith negotiations.”

north korea flagNorth Korea accused the United States of demanding unilateral denuclearization and said the United States violated the spirit of the June 12 Singapore summit between President Trump and Kim Jong Un. Related story: No, Pompeo did not give Kim a ‘Rocket Man’ CD, State Department says.

U.S. Supreme Court

raymond kethledgeSCOTUSblog, Potential nominee profile: Raymond Kethledge, Amy Howe, July 7, 2018. Like Thomas Hardiman, another potential nominee on the president’s shortlist, [U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals] Judge Raymond Kethledge would bring educational diversity to a bench on which all of the current justices attended Ivy League law schools:

He received both his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Michigan. He has returned to the law school as a lecturer to teach classes on legal writing and advocacy. (While he is there, he could bump into another potential nominee on Trump’s shortlist, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen, who has also taught there.)

During a decade on the bench, Kethledge has compiled an extensive body of opinions but has not weighed in on several high-profile and potentially divisive issues, including abortion and affirmative action. Conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt has nonetheless dubbed Kethledge “Gorsuch 2.0,” “in the mold of Antonin Scalia.”

World Crisis Radio, Opinion: Supreme Court Appointment, Webster G. Tarpley, July 7, 2018 (74:07 min. radio show). It is now going to be the responsibility of every person of goodwill to oppose Trump's nominee to the Supeme Court. There is now a coalition to organize a series of rallies in every state on Sunday, Aug. 26. It's hoped that the Senate vote will not have been completed by this time. The platform: that the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution means that government shall not deprive any person of rights. This is, in other words, an economic bill of rights. That's what President Franklin D. Roosevelt articulated in his 1944 State of the Union Address. It's what the GIs were fighting for when they were crushing fascism in World War II.

Trump Watch

rudy giuliani recentPalmer Report, Opinion: Sorry, Rudy Giuliani, that’s not how any of this works, Daniel Cotter, July 7, 2018. Rudy Giuliani disappeared for awhile. Things were quiet. We did not miss him. He is back, and his demands are more outrageous than ever. Giuliani has set conditions on the Robert Mueller interview that he and Trump have been promising since January: “If they can come to us and show us the basis and that it’s legitimate and that they have uncovered something, we can go from there and assess their objectivity.”

Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor, knows that demand is nonsensical for many reasons. Prosecutors and law enforcement often interview suspects or targets or “people of interest” about potential crimes. In addition, they do not disclose the crimes to the targets. Finally, if Special Counsel Mueller were to show his cards, we know that no lawyer would then submit his client to an interview designed to confirm or ferret out inconsistencies by the interviewee.

Media Criticism

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Syria: Mainstream Media Lie About Watchdog Report On The 'Chemical Attack' In Douma, B, July 7, 2018. Some mainstream media are outright lying about the OPCW report on the alleged 'chemical attack' in Douma.

washington post logoThe Washington Post writes: "[A] global watchdog concluded that chlorine was indeed used in the city of Douma a day before rebel forces surrendered there....In an interim report released Friday, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons [OPCW] said its inspectors had discovered traces of “various chlorinated organic chemicals” across two sites it inspected."

The OPCW did not conclude at all that "chlorine was indeed used." It found some chemical compounds which have chlorine, carbon and hydrogen in various configurations as their main elements. There are hundreds if not thousands of "chlorinated organic chemicals." A plastic pipe made from polyvenylchlorid (PVC = (C2H3Cl)n) is made of the same elements. One could call it a "chlorinated organic chemical." Burning something made of PVC will releases various compounds many of which will themselves be "chlorinated organic chemicals." But finding residues of a burned plastic pipe or isolation in a home does not mean that chlorine gas was used in that place. Several of the compounds the OPCW found result from using chlorine to disinfect water. They can be found within the chlorinated water and about anywhere where chlorinated water was used.

bbc news logo2The BBC made a similar 'mistake.' It headlined "Syria war: Douma attack was chlorine gas -- watchdog".

It took extensive social-media outrage and several hours for the BBC to correct its 'mistake.' It now headlines: Syria war: 'Possible chlorine' at Douma attack site -- Watchdog." That is better but still a lie. Nowhere do the OPCW report or its Technical Statement (pdf) use the expression 'possible chlorine.' No editorial note was added by the BBC to reveal that the original dispatch was changed.

A possible reason why so many outlets made this 'mistake' is the British news agency Reuters which first distributed this false claim. Reuters has since changed the headline and text of that item from "chlorine" to "chlorinated chemicals" but attached no note of that change. Moreover it does not explain that "chlorinated chemicals" will be found about anywhere.

It is doubtful that these 'mistakes' were made out of sloppiness. The writers likely intend to create the false impression that Syria was responsible for a 'chemical attack' that did not happen. They would otherwise have to expose the lies they published and told about the incident.

July 6

Scandal-Plagued Pruitt Out At EPA

scott pruitt lobbyist ties crew

Chart of Scott Pruitt's relationships and conflicts (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington)

washington post logoWashington Post, EPA chief Pruitt resigns amid scrutiny over ethics, spending, Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin​, July 6, 2018 (print edition). Scott Pruitt scott pruitt nydn resignation 7 6 18 Smallhas faced sharp inquiries for his travel expenses and pay raises for two close aides despite White House disapproval. In a tweet, President Trump praised Pruitt for having "done an outstanding job." Pruitt is (shown at right on today's front page of the New York Daily News.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pruitt’s likely successor has long lobbying history on EPA issues, Steven Mufson, July 6, 2018 (print edition). Andrew Wheeler, until now the low-profile deputy administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency, became a likely successor to the scandal-plagued Scott Pruitt Thursday and an appealing alternative for those hoping to continue to roll back key EPA policies.

Wheeler spent a decade lobbying for just the sort of companies the agency regulates, and before that he worked for Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), who rejects climate change. Drawing on more than a quarter-century in Washington, Wheeler is expected to pick up where the departing Pruitt left off — only without the controversy that constantly plagued him.

washington post logoWashington Post, President’s business keeps profiting from Chinese ties, Jonathan O'Connell and David A. Fahrenthold, July 6, 2018. Three months before he began his run for the White House — with China a target of his campaign — Donald Trump’s company proposed partnering with a subsidiary of a state-owned entity.

Trump Justice Snafus

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump administration seeks more time to reunite some migrant families split at border, Maria Sacchetti​, July 6, 2017. The Trump administration will not fully meet a federal judge’s deadline to reunite all migrant families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border, and instead is seeking more time in instances where officials are struggling to match children to parents, according to court records filed late Thursday.

The government’s request, hours before a scheduled hearing on the issue Friday, marks an abrupt departure from comments made earlier Thursday from President Trump’s secretary for Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, whose agency cares for the children in shelters. He had said the Trump administration “will comply” with the deadlines, though he criticized the judge’s timetable as “extreme.”

In a June 26 ruling, U.S. District Judge Dana M. Sabraw in San Diego ordered federal officials to bring the families back together within 30 days. He ordered them to reunite children under age 5 — there are 101, according to the most recent court records — with their parents by Tuesday.

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal prosecutors abruptly dismiss all remaining Inauguration Day rioting cases, Keith L. Alexander, July 6, 2017. District prosecutors on Friday said they would dismiss rioting charges against all remaining defendants arrested after destructive Inauguration Day protests, bringing to a close a controversial case which led to allegations of government overreach.

Prosecutors began filing paperwork Friday afternoon to formally drop the cases against 38 people who had been awaiting trial. The vandalism of downtown businesses on the day President Trump was sworn in stretched over 16 blocks as part of a disturbance called DisruptJ20. Members of a large group of protesters set small fires and used bricks and crowbars to smash storefronts.

In all, 234 people were arrested and charged with rioting. Of them, 21 defendants pleaded guilty before trial. But prosecutors had been unable to secure convictions at trial against others in the group. Defense attorneys have long contended that prosecutors went too far in pursuing cases against more than 200 people. They argued that their clients were not rioting, but were swept up in the arrests while peacefully protesting.

Federal Judge Protests Mandatory Terms

Politico, Manafort judge emerges as skeptic of long mandatory minimum sentences, Josh Gerstein, July 6, 2018. The judge overseeing former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's looming trial on tax and bank fraud charges is known as a tough jurist, often snapping at attorneys for ignoring his directions and rebuking defendants he views as insufficiently contrite.

But, in recent years, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis has begun to direct his public ire at an unusual target for a Reagan-appointed judge: laws that impose lengthy mandatory minimum sentences judges have no authority to waive or reduce.

Ellis has complained directly to Congress about what he's called the "excessive" sentences required for some offenders. He's also publicly lamented the situation, as he did recently during a drug dealer's sentencing that took place in an Alexandria, Virginia courtroom packed with national media, high-powered prosecutors and others awaiting a key hearing in the case against Manafort.

"This situation presents me with something I have no discretion to change and the only thing I can do is express my displeasure," Ellis said last week as he sentenced Frederick Turner, 37, to a mandatory minimum of 40 years in prison for dealing methamphetamine. "I chafe a bit at that, but I follow the law. If I thought it was blatantly immoral, I'd have to resign. It's wrong, but not immoral."

Thai Rescuer Dies

ny times logoNew York Times, Diver Dies During Supply Run to Boys in Thailand Cave, Staff report, July 6, 2018 (print edition). A retired Thai Navy SEAL diver died in when he ran out of air. He is the first fatality in the operation to rescue 12 boys and their soccer coach, who have been trapped in the cave for nearly two weeks.

The diver, identified as Saman Kunan, 38, was on his way back from delivering an air tank to the group when he became unconscious. The death highlights the difficulty of working in the cave complex with its flooded passageways, murky water and at times strong currents.

Trump Responds To Ohio Sex Scandal

jim jordan headshot CustomPalmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump has horrible response to Jim Jordan sexual abuse scandal, Bill Palmer, July 6, 2018. Four former members of the Ohio State University wrestling team have now come forward to assert they informed their coach Jim Jordan that the team doctor was sexually abusing them. Ohio State’s own lawyers say they emailed Jordan informing him of the abuse, and asking him to come in for an interview, which he ignored.

The evidence is stacking up against Jordan (right), who is now a Republican Congressman and a close ally of Donald Trump.

Here’s what Trump told the pool of reporters: “I don’t believe them at all. I believe him.” To be clear, Trump is accusing four Ohio State wrestling team members of all falsely claiming that they warned Jim Jordan about what was going on. Trump is also accusing the Ohio State legal department of falsely claiming that it informed Jordan, even though there are email records involved that can prove what the real story was.

U.S. Politics: Texas Senate

beto o rourke ted cruz

Democrat Beto O'Rouke, left, is facing Republican Ted Cruz in this year's race for a U.S. Senate seat representing Texas

Tyler Morning Telegraph, Rafael Cruz stumps for Sen. Ted Cruz in Tyler campaign stop, Erin Mansfield, July 5, 2018. The father of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, stumped for his son on Thursday night in front of a packed crowd at a campaign stop in Tyler.

“America is at a crossroads, and Texas is ground zero,” Rafael Cruz told the crowd. “The Democrats are doing all they can to turn Texas blue. We are not going to let that happen.” The Smith County Young Republicans sponsored the event at Palio's Pizza Café on South Broadway Avenue. Earlier in the day, the campaign made a similar stop in Longview.

rafael cruz senior headshotRafael Cruz, shown at right in a file photo, is an ordained minister. He is also a Cuban immigrant who came to the United States in 1957, two years before Fidel Castro took power in Cuba. [Editor's note: He has also never explained, even in his autobiography, myserious chapters in his life.]

“The Democratic platform is without a doubt the most evil document I’ve read in my entire life,” he said. “I’ve seen the other side, and it ain’t pretty. Don’t believe the lies of socialism.” He said Democrats “are just overwhelmingly committed to turning Texas blue. We cannot let that happen, but we can’t just win. We need to win by such an overwhelming amount that we will send them all back to California.”

Economic Injustice?

robert weiner columnistMichigan Chronicle via OpEdNews, Opinion: Washington's Latest Budget Cruelty Hurts Detroit and Nation's Vulnerable, Robert Weiner (shown at right) and Ben Lasky, July 6, 2018. On June 19, House Republicans released a proposal that would balance the federal budget in nine years by cutting entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security.

Two days later, the House passed a farm bill that included changes to the food stamp system that Center on Budget and Policy Priorities President Robert Greenstein said "would eliminate or reduce food assistance for more than one million low-income households with more than two million people." Food stamps (now SNAP) has kept 46 million Americans from going hungry and allowed people to find jobs.

With one of the country's top five poverty rates, Detroit is especially vulnerable, and the Administration's housing cutbacks hit especially hard in a city regularly exposed for deteriorated and vacant structures.

ben carson officialIn April, HUD Secretary Ben Carson (left) proposed raising rent for those living in subsidized housing to 35 percent of their income, up from the current 30 percent, itself up from the 1970's when it was 25 percent. The current $50 a month for the poorest families would triple to $150. A Detroit resident in low income housing would see rent increased by an average 21 percent. Instead of helping Americans living in poverty afford housing, the Administration is creating policies that will lead to more evictions and homelessness.

Carson, who was born and raised in Detroit, believes raising the rent will make people "more self-sufficient." In reality, the increase in public housing rent will hurt Detroit's most vulnerable.

republican elephant logoCongressional Republicans recently floated the idea of a rescission package that would take back $15.4 billion in approved and promised funds. If passed, this would mean even less money for children's healthcare and housing for the poor and the rest of the HUD budget. The Trump administration's 2019 budget already calls for cutting $6.8 billion from HUD, a 14 percent decrease from 2017. It would cut Medicaid and Medicare by 22.5 and 7.1 percent, respectively.

The United Nations special watchdog on world poverty, Phillip Alston, recently told The Guardian, "This is a systematic attack on America's welfare program that is undermining the social safety net for those who can't cope on their own. Once you start removing any sense of government commitment, you quickly move into cruelty."

turkey flagPress Freedom Crackdown: Turkey

Reporters Without Borders, Zaman Trial: Heavy prison sentences for six Turkish journalists, Staff report, July 6, 2018. Six former columnists from Zaman, a now-closed Turkish newspaper, were sentenced on July 6 to prison terms as high as 10 and a half years. Five others were acquitted. Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which attended the sentencing hearing, condemns the outcome as a political verdict that followed a Kafkaesque trial.

The verdict was handed down in Istanbul following a 10-month trial. Six former columnists for Zaman were sentenced to heavy prison terms for “membership in a terrorist organization.” The sentences for Şahin Alpay, Ali Bulaç and Ahmet Turan Alkan were eight years and nine months; Ibrahim Karayeğen got nine years; and Mustafa Ünaland Mümtazer Türköne were sentenced to 10 and a half years. Their colleagues İhsan Daği, Lale Kemal, Mehmet Özemir, Nuriye Ural and Orhan Kemal Cengiz, however, were pronounced not guilty.

All of the defendants were acquitted on the charge of “attempting to overthrow of the government,” for which they could have faced life in prison.

Global Press Freedoms: Alert For UK

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), UK Counter-Terrorism Bill threatens press freedom and the protection of journalistic sources, Staff report, July 6, 2018.  Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is concerned about provisions of the UK’s Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill that threaten press freedom, as outlined in a submission to the Joint Committee on Human Rights for its inquiry into the bill.

United Kingdom flagThe bill, which was tabled in the House of Commons on June 6, 2018 and is currently being scrutinized by the Public Bill Committee, contains a number of provisions that have worrying implications for press freedom and the protection of journalistic sources.

“We are alarmed by provisions of this bill that would restrict journalists’ ability to do their jobs and create a chilling effect on freedom of expression. This is particularly worrying in light of the broader trend of moves to restrict press freedom in the UK. Further, the speed at which this legislation is being pushed through is also concerning. We urge MPs to thoroughly scrutinize the bill and ensure that threatening measures are struck and sufficient protections for press freedom included”, said RSF UK Bureau Director Rebecca Vincent.

In particular, RSF has highlighted concerns about Clause 1, which criminalizes “reckless” expressions of opinion; Clause 2, which criminalizes the publication of images of clothing; Clause 3, which criminalizes the repeated viewing of vaguely defined content (a proposal RSF has previously spoken against); Clause 6, which proposes a significant increase in maximum sentences and could have a substantial chilling effect on journalism; Clause 12, which increases powers to enter and search home addresses, threatening the protection of confidential journalistic sources; and Clause 20 and Schedule 3, which create new powers of stop, search, detention, and retention and copying of material at ports and borders - again threatening the protection of journalistic sources.

RSF considers these measures unlawful, unnecessary, and disproportionate infringement of the fundamental right to freedom of expression and recommends that they are excised from the bill. The new offences created would threaten press freedom and could criminalise responsible journalists investigating and reporting on issues of public interest. The UK is ranked 40th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

Whistleblower Summit Starts July 30 In DC

Whistleblower Protection Blog, Upcoming Event: Whistleblower Summit on the Hill, Michael Ellis, July 6, 2018. On July 30th, 2018, the Whistleblower Summit for Civil and Human Rights will hold an opening plenary for National Whistleblower Day on the Hill. The event will commemorate the contributions of whistleblowers and celebrate the 240th anniversary of America’s first whistleblower law.

The summit will be held in Dirksen Senate Office Building, G50 from 10 AM-11:50 AM.

Representatives from several civil society organizations will be present, including from the National Whistleblower Center, ACORN 8, Justice Integrity Project, Federally Employed Women Legal and Education Fund, Government Accountability Project, Public Citizen, Project on Government Oversight, and Tax Payers Against Fraud. The panelists will include Stephen M. Kohn, leading whistleblower attorney and executive director of the National Whistleblower Center, Tom Devine, legal director for the Government Accountability Project, and Andrew Kreig, executive director for the Justice for Integrity Project.

This event will be a valuable opportunity to learn about the contributions of whistleblowers in exposing wrongdoing and promoting accountability. The opening plenary will be followed by an invite-only luncheon hosted by National Whistleblower Center. Details.

Kennedy Assassination Mystery

Jacob HornbergerFuture of Freedom Foundation, Opinion: The Mystery of Robert Knudsen, Jacob G. Hornberger (right), July 6, 2018. On January 29, 1989, the Washington Post published an obituary of Robert Knudsen, which stated in part: “He photographed … President Kennedy’s autopsy.”

There is one big problem, however: Knudsen did not photograph the president’s autopsy. The official autopsy photographer was John T. Stringer, a highly respected autopsy photographer for the U.S. Navy who taught photography at the Bethesda Naval Medical School. It is undisputed that Stringer photographed the president’s autopsy and that Knudsen wasn’t even at the autopsy.

What then are we to make of this? Why would Knudsen make up a story that could easily be exposed as false?

There are two conclusions that can be reasonably drawn: First, the official autopsy of President Kennedy, which was carried out by the U.S. military, was fraudulent and, second, there is no conceivable innocent explanation for having carried out a fraudulent autopsy.

For more information, see my book The Kennedy Autopsy.

July 5

ny times logoNew York Times, A Chaotic Scramble to Reunite Migrant Families by Deadline, Caitlin Dickerson, July 5, 2018. Officials are facing political and judicial pressure to reunite families separated at the border, with the authorities struggling to identify connections between family members.

Faced with a court-imposed deadline to reunite families separated at the southwest border, federal authorities are calling in volunteers to sort through records and resorting to DNA tests to match children with parents. And they acknowledged for the first time Thursday that of the nearly 3,000 children who are still in federal custody, about 100 are under the age of 5.

The family separations, part of an aggressive effort by the Trump administration to deter illegal immigration, have produced a chaotic scramble as officials now face political and judicial pressure to reunite families.

Records linking children to their parents have disappeared, and in some cases have been destroyed, according to two officials of the Department of Homeland Security, leaving the authorities struggling to identify connections between family members.

Trump Hypocrisy On Foreign Hiring?

mar a lago aerial Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club seeks to hire 40 foreign workers, David A. Fahrenthold​, July 5, 2018. The request sent to the Labor Department comes despite President Trump’s hard-line views on immigration.President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club (shown above in a file photo) has applied for permission to hire 40 foreign workers to serve as waiters during the winter social season in Palm Beach, Fla., according to data posted Thursday by the Labor Department.

The posting showed that Trump’s club wants to pay the workers a minimum of $12.68 an hour and to employ them from October to the end of May. At the end of that term, the workers would be expected to return home.

The application filed with the Labor Department signals that — despite Trump’s insistence that immigration is holding down wages and crowding out native-born American workers — his club believes it cannot find any Americans willing and able to hold the waiter jobs.

washington post logoChina FlagWashington Post, Trump’s trade war with China is about to begin. Analysts say it won’t be pretty, Danielle Paquette and Emily Rauhala​, July 5, 2018. President Trump’s first tariffs are set to hit $34 billion of Chinese imports on Friday, and Beijing plans to respond with its own levies. So would begin an unprecedented battle between the world’s two largest economies — a conflict analysts fear could rattle markets and cripple trade.

ny times logoNew York Times, Poland’s Supreme Court Is in Disarray as Judges Defy Purge, Mark Santora, July 5, 2018. Lech Walesa, the Solidarity leader and former president, warned of “civil war” if the right-wing governing party did not cease efforts to erode the independence of Poland’s judiciary.

polish flag wavingSurrounded by cheering supporters, Poland’s top Supreme Court justice took a defiant stand on the courthouse steps here Wednesday morning, hours after the government purged the tribunal. She vowed to keep fighting to protect the Constitution and the independence of the nation’s courts.

At the stroke of midnight, the government had effectively forced her and more than two dozen other justices out of their jobs, but on Wednesday morning, the authorities did not prevent her from entering the building. The courthouse confrontation was followed by dueling news conferences, fiery speeches and more street protests.

Ohio State/Congressional Wrestilng Scandal

jim jordan 07 26 2011 file

U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, shown in a 2011 file photo. The House Freedom Caucus leader announced a race to become GOP Speaker and was promptly accused in a sex scandal of years ago involving young men. He has denied knowledge or wrongdoing.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigation / Opinion: GOP House Caucus: a "Pleasure Palace" for pederasts and pedophiles, July 5, 2018 (subscription required for access to full story and site at $7 monthly or $32 for full year). Jim Jordan is merely another in a long parade of Republican perverts in the U.S. Congress.

U.S. House Speaker wannabe Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) has good reason to be concerned about allegations that he covered up incidents of sexual abuse of Ohio State University athletes while he was an assistant wrestling coach on the campus from 1986 to 1995. Jordan is in a typical Republican "full-nelson denial" about his involvement in covering up sexual assaults of male athletes by the OSU's Athletics Team Physician, Dr. Richard Strauss.

WMR Editor Wayne Madsen, shown at left, is a syndicated columnist, author of 15 books and a former Navy Intelligence officer who was deputized by the FBI in the 1980s to help gather evidence used to convict and imprison his Navy commanding officer on pedophilia charges. In 2006, Madsen published a three-part series exposing then-GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert as a gay pedophile, beginning during Hastert's career as a high school wrestling coach. A decade later Hastert was indicted for financial crimes related to victim payoffs and later imprisoned.

nbc news logoNBC News, Fourth Ohio State wrestler says Rep. Jim Jordan knew about sexual abuse, Corky Siemaszko, July 5, 2018. A fourth former Ohio State University wrestler came forward Thursday to contradict Rep. Jim Jordan’s claim that he had no idea the wrestling team doctor was molesting athletes.

The wrestler, Shawn Dailey, said he was groped half a dozen times by Dr. Richard Strauss in the mid-1990s, when Jordan was the assistant wrestling coach. Dailey said he was too embarrassed to report the abuse directly to Jordan at the time, but he said Jordan took part in conversations where Strauss' abuse of many other team members came up.

"I participated with Jimmy and the other wrestlers in locker-room talk about Strauss. We all did," Dailey, 43, told NBC News, referring to Jordan. "It was very common knowledge in the locker room that if you went to Dr. Strauss for anything, you would have to pull your pants down.”

Dailey spoke out two days after NBC News reported that three former wrestlers who were coached by Jordan more than two decades ago accused the GOP congressman of turning a blind eye to Strauss' alleged abuse and then lying about it. Jordan denied knowing anything about the abuse and continues to do so.Dailey corroborated the account of one of those wrestlers, Dunyasha Yetts, who told NBC News that Yetts had protested to Jordan and head coach Russ Hellickson after Strauss tried to pull down his wrestling shorts when Yetts went to see him for a thumb injury.

"Dunyasha comes back and tells Jimmy, ‘Seriously, why do I have to pull down my pants for a thumb injury?’" Dailey recalled. "Jimmy said something to the extent of, ‘If he tried that with me, I would kill him.'"

Calling Jordan “a close friend,” Dailey said he is a Republican and that he contributed to the powerful Ohio congressman’s first political campaign for state representative in 1994.

“What happened drove me out of the sport,” said Dailey, a married father of two who works as a fundraiser for an Ohio college. “So I was surprised to hear Jim say that he knew nothing about it."

“Jimmy’s a good guy,” Dailey added. “But to say that he had no knowledge of it, I would say that’s kind of hurtful.”

Daily Caller, Opinion: Jim Jordan’s Accusers Have A Sketchy History, Raising Questions About Their ‘Authenticity,’ Chuck Ross, July 5, 2018. Two former Ohio State University wrestlers accusing Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan of ignoring sexual misconduct by a university physician more than two decades ago have a history of failed business dealings, lawsuits, harassment allegations, and in the case of one accuser, an 18 month prison sentence for fraud.

One of the former wrestlers, Mike DiSabato, is also being accused by the widow of a Marine who was killed in combat in Iraq of intimidating and bullying her over a memorial fund set up in her husband’s name.

“I question the intent, the authenticity, the verity, that Mike DiSabato shares in any of his words or actions,” Karen Mendoza, the wife of Ray Mendoza — a former teammate of DiSabato’s who was killed in 2005 — said in a statement.

The initial reports based on DiSabato and Yetts’ claims regarding Jordan ignores a large body of evidence that raises questions about the two former wrestlers’ motives.

NBC did note that Yetts served time in prison for a $1.8 million fraud scheme.

Yetts’ biggest victim was former NFL star Antoine Winfield, who was bilked out of $1.3 million. Yetts convinced Winfield to invest his NFL signing bonus with Yetts’ firm, World Wide Sports. As part of the scam, Yetts provided Winfield with false documents claiming to show his investments. Yetts was instead spending money on country club memberships, cars, student loans, and credit card payments.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, HHS pledges to comply with ‘extreme’ deadline to reunite families separated at the border, Maria Sacchetti​, July 5, 2018. The Department of Health and Human Services is working as "expeditiously" as possible to comply with a court order to reunite fewer than 3,000 separated migrant children with their parents, Secretary Alex Azar said.

Public Support For Suprme Cour?

SCOTUSblog, Academic highlight: Nelson, Gibson and Fontana on the public’s support for the Supreme Court, Amanda Frost, July 5, 2018. Do Americans continue to support the Supreme Court in the face of frequent criticism, including hostile tweets by the president of the United States? That question is particularly important on the eve of yet another confirmation battle and at the end of a term filled with high-profile cases.

A recent NYU Law Review Symposium hosted by the Brennan Center for Justice gathered a group of experts to examine the public’s support for the Supreme Court in the face of frequent attacks.

In their contribution, Professors Michael Nelson and James Gibson surveyed a random sample of Americans to determine whether criticism erodes the Supreme Court’s legitimacy and Americans’ support of that institution. Their findings confirmed previous studies showing that the public’s support for the court is strong, and that it dips more when the court is criticized as politicized rather than for making errors of law. To their surprise, however, they found that the public’s perceptions are affected more by criticism voiced by law professors than criticism by the president of the United States.

Another Media Chief For Trump

washington post logoWashington Post, Former Fox News executive named assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff for communications, Felicia Sonmez, July 5, 2018.  Former Fox News Channel executive Bill Shine is joining the White House as assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff for communications, the White House announced Thursday.

bill shineThe long-anticipated move follows weeks of speculation that the former Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network co-president (shown at left) was a front-runner for the job, which has remained vacant since former communications director Hope Hicks announced her resignation in February. In a statement, the White House said Shine “brings over two decades of television programming, communications, and management experience to the role.”

Shine, who started his two-decade-long career at Fox News as a producer for the show “Hannity & Colmes,” was ousted from his role as co-president last year after lawsuits suggested he enabled alleged sexual harassment by the network’s late chairman and chief executive, Roger Ailes.

washington post logoWashington Post, Former Fox News executive Bill Shine joins Trump White House as deputy chief of staff for communications, Paul Farhi and Felicia Sonmez, July 5, 2018. With Thursday’s announcement, Shine becomes the fifth communications chief since Trump took office nearly 18 months ago. Before Hope Hicks, Anthony Scaramucci served 10 days in the role. He was preceded by Mike Dubke and Sean Spicer.

The move will bolster the White House’s messaging operation ahead of what is shaping up to be a fierce partisan battle over Trump’s choice for a successor to retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, set to be unveiled on Monday.

Yet the appointment is also likely to open the White House up to attacks regarding Shine’s record at Fox, as well as the Trump administration’s response to sexual misconduct allegations against officials within its own ranks. During his time at Fox, Shine helped to build the network into the media juggernaut it is today. But much like his mentor and patron, Ailes, Shine’s long tenure was clouded by unsavory allegations and associations with darker chapters in the network’s history. Ailes died in May 2017.

Trump himself has been accused of sexual harassment and improper behavior by more than a dozen women, accusations which he denies. And earlier this year, White House staff secretary Rob Porter resigned amid reports that he had physically and emotionally abused his two ex-wives.

The presidential appointment reunites Trump with Shine, who gave the then-businessman and reality TV star copious airtime on Fox to opine on a range of subjects. Among them was a regular slot on “Fox & Friends,” on which Trump often promoted his false claim that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. The weekly appear­ances helped burnish Trump’s political credentials, at least with more than a million viewers of the morning program.

gretchen carlsonShine has spent the past 14 months off the public grid after his ouster from Fox last May. He briefly succeeded Ailes as the network’s top executive after Ailes was driven out by sexual harassment allegations, including a lawsuit by former host Gretchen Carlson (shown at left), which Fox’s parent company settled in mid-2016 for $20 million.

Shine himself was never directly accused of harassment at Fox. But his latter years at the network were pockmarked by his association with Ailes, especially accusations that he helped facilitate Ailes’s predatory behavior. Shine has consistently denied wrongdoing.

He also was part of Fox’s senior management during the period in which the network was paying millions of dollars in settlements to former employees who had accused Ailes and host Bill O’Reilly of harassment.

He was named in suits filed by Carlson and former network contributors Julie Roginsky and Andrea Tantaros for his role in allegedly discouraging women at the network from taking their harassment claims to court. Roginsky, who said Ailes sexually harassed her, accused Shine of retaliating against her for her refusal to join “Team Roger,” a cadre of women who supported Ailes in his battle with Carlson. Shine denied those allegations.

laurie luhn cropped squareHe also allegedly played a role in covering up Ailes’s relationship with Laurie Luhn, a former Fox booker who claimed she had a long, abusive affair with Ailes that eventually led to her mental breakdown. Luhn received $3.1 million from Fox in 2011 to settle her allegations of abuse and mistreatment by Ailes.

Shine’s appointment by Trump on Thursday brought swift rebuke from attorney Nancy Erika Smith, who represented Carlson and Roginsky in their suits against Ailes. “Roger Ailes’s enabler and confidant is well qualified to speak on behalf of a president who brags about assaulting women and preying on teenage beauty pageant contestants, and pays adult film actresses to be quiet about his adultery,” Smith said. “Being from Fox News, Shine is also well qualified to speak for a president who lies every single day.”

Media Transitions

ed schultzBismarck Tribune, Former Fargo radio personality, MSNBC broadcaster Ed Schultz dies at 64, Staff and wire report, July 5, 2018. Longtime broadcaster Ed Schultz has died, multiple sources say. Sources say that Schultz died of natural causes. He was 64.

Schultz started his broadcast career in TV and radio in Fargo in the early 1980s, including time as sports director at WDAY-TV in Fargo. He went on to host a show at MSNBC and most recently worked for Russia Today. Schultz is a former quarterback at Minnesota State University Moorhead.

From Wikipedia: He was the host of The Ed Show, a weekday news talk program on MSNBC from 2009 to 2015, and The Ed Schultz Show, a talk radio show, nationally syndicated by Dial Global from 2004 to 2014. The radio show ended on May 23, 2014, and was replaced by a one-hour podcast, Ed Schultz News and Commentary, which ran from 2015 until his 2018 death. Schultz most recently hosted a daily primetime weekday show, News with Ed Schultz, on RT America TV channel based in Washington, D.C., that is part of the RT network.

Disputed UN Refugee Claims

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Syria Sitrep -- UN Refugee Numbers For Daraa Are Mere Propaganda -- They Make No Sense At All, B, July 5, 018. UN organizations claim high internal refugee numbers in southwest Syria due to recent fighting in Daraa governorate. A review of the evidence finds that these numbers are implausible.

Neither the OCHA map nor the UN report explain how, when or why 164,000-171,000 people supposedly moved the few miles towards the Israel occupied Golan Heights. There is no evidence that this claimed movement of IDPs, who may or may not exist, happened at all.

Where does the OCHA claim come from? The nearly unreadable fine-print of the OCHA map says about the "Map Data Source(s)": "The data of this map has a limited number of sources, including parties of the conflict. The data has not been independently verified and is subject to error or omission, deliberate or otherwise, by the various sources."

There is the explanation for the unbelievable high refugee numbers the UN is peddling around. They are based on claims made by the Islamic State, the al-Qaeda offshoot Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham and various other sectarian "rebel" groups and their propaganda outlets. These claims have not be verified at all. Whoever made up that map did not even ask if the numbers were plausible or made any sense. They obviously don't.

July 4

U.S. Supreme Court Watch

djt brett kavanaugh amy coney barrett

ny times logoNew York Times, A Rift on the Right, Shown by Two Potential Court Picks, Adam Liptak, July 4, 2018 (print edition). The fight over who should replace Justice Anthony M. Kennedy on the Supreme Court is far from over, and there are still a half-dozen plausible candidates in the mix.

But the stark contrast between two of the leading contenders — Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh and Judge Amy Coney Barrett — reflects the division on the right between the conservative legal establishment, which is hostile to government regulation and the administrative state, and social conservatives, who are focused on issues like abortion and religious freedom.

Other candidates, notably Judges Raymond M. Kethledge and Amul R. Thapar, both of the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati, have had cordial meetings with President Trump, and a White House spokesman said Mr. Trump interviewed three more possible choices on Tuesday. See also "Facebook Ads Offer Peek at Looming Supreme Court Fight."

Poles Protest Rightist Supreme Court Shake-up

ny times logopolish flag wavingNew York Times, Poland Purges Supreme Court, and Protesters Take to Streets, Marc Santora, July 4, 2018 (print edition).  Poland’s government carried out a sweeping purge of the Supreme Court on Tuesday night, eroding the judiciary’s independence, escalating a confrontation with the European Union over the rule of law and further dividing this nation. Tens of thousands took to the streets in protest.

Poland was once a beacon for countries struggling to escape the yoke of the Soviet Union and embrace Western democracy. But it is now in league with neighboring nations, like Hungary, whose leaders have turned to authoritarian means to tighten their grip on power, presenting a grave challenge to a European Union already grappling with nationalist, populist and anti-immigrant movements.

The forced retirements of up to 27 of 72 Supreme Court justices, including the top judge, and the creation of a judicial disciplinary chamber were the latest in a series of steps by Poland’s right-wing Law and Justice Party to take over the justice system.

For years, the party has demonized judges as unreconstructed Communists and obstructionists. Most recently, it asserted new powers to select judges. In recent days, judges who have spoken out against the changes have reported being harassed and intimidated.

djt economist cover aug 19 2017

Race: Trump Seeks Change In College Admissions

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump to Urge Schools to Ignore Race in Admissions, Erica L. Green, Matt Apuzzo and Katie Benner, July 3, 2018. The Trump administration will encourage schools and colleges to adopt race-blind admissions standards, reversing an Obama-era guideline meant to bolster diversity. The Supreme Court has steadily narrowed the ways that schools can consider race when trying to diversify their student bodies. But it has not banned the practice.

Donald Trump Logo Make America Great AgainLast November, Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked the Justice Department to re-evaluate past policies that he believed pushed the department to act beyond what the law, the Constitution and the Supreme Court had required, Devin M. O’Malley, a Justice Department spokesman said. As part of that process, the Justice Department rescinded seven policy guidances from the Education Department’s civil rights division on Tuesday.

Climate Change

washington post logoWashington Post, Red-hot planet: All-time heat records have been set all over the world during the past week, Jason Samenow, July 4, 2018 (print edition). Montreal, Glasgow, Belfast and Yerevan, Armenia, are among the cites to have witnessed their hottest weather ever recorded. Oppressive heat engulfing Northeast U.S. will spread west this weekend.

Trump Watch

djt july4 nydn Small

Opinion: New York Daily News July 4 front-page editorial: The Clown Who Plays King.

david cay johnston headshotny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: How to Make Trump’s Tax Returns Public, David Cay Johnston (right), July 4, 2018. Mr. Johnston is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and the author of two books about Donald Trump.

On June 14, the New York State attorney general, Barbara Underwood, filed a civil complaint against President Trump and his three oldest children, accusing them of “persistently illegal conduct” in using the Donald J. Trump Foundation as “little more than a checkbook for payments from Mr. Trump or his businesses to nonprofits, regardless of their purpose or legality.”

Ms. Underwood believes there is abundant evidence to bring criminal charges against Mr. Trump as well. She made that position very clear in the letters she sent to the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission in Washington recommending “further investigation and legal action.”

Ms. Underwood sent those letters, at the same time she filed the civil complaint, because New York state law does not grant her automatic authority to initiate criminal investigations. Her criminal referral to Washington noted that it would be a crime for the president to interfere in such an investigation.

However, given Mr. Trump’s assertion that he has the power to halt any criminal inquiry and to pardon himself for federal crimes, a criminal investigation by any part of the federal executive branch seems highly unlikely.

andrew cuomo2The attorney general could, however, easily gain that authority. All that’s needed is for Gov. Andrew Cuomo (left), the New York State Police or the state Department of Taxation and Finance to make a request, and the authority would be granted to her. Criminal jurisdiction also rests with Cyrus Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney. Mr. Vance has shown no interest, so far, in investigating other complaints against Mr. Trump.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker: Did Obama give citizenship to 2,500 Iranians during the nuclear deal talks? Salvador Rizzo, July 4, 2018. The allegation, tweeted by President Trump, appears to have originated with an Iranian politician who has criticized the nuclear deal.

#MeToo Claims Against Freedom Caucus Leader

Palmer Report, Opinion: Jim Jordan has deranged response to his worsening sexual abuse scandal, Bill Palmer, July 4, 2018. Republican Congressman Jim Jordan’s sexual abuse scandal continues to grow worse for him. He’s accused of having known that the team doctor was sexually abusing the athletes on the Ohio State University wrestling team he coached, and of having done nothing to try to stop it.

jim jordan cuomo cnnJordan (shown during a CNN appearance in his role as a rightist Freedom Caucus leader), claims he didn’t know about it, but Ohio State’s lawyers say they have evidence that they did inform him about it. As the pressure mounts on him to resign, Jordan is now responding to one of the victims in a manner that can only be described as deranged.

Mike DiSabato is one of the alleged sexual abuse victims. He and other members of the team have told the media that they informed Jim Jordan directly about the abuse, and that Jordan refused to do anything. Now, two different reports today paint a disturbing picture of Jim Jordan’s recent behavior toward DiSabato, as the scandal has spilled out into the open.

U.S. House logoThe Daily Beast reports that after DiSabato wrote a series of emails to Jim Jordan, he called the police and asked them to investigate DiSabato. These emails are being described as “vaguely threatening” but we’re not buying it. If the emails contained actual threats, Jordan would have made them public in order to make his case that he’s the real victim. Instead it seems more likely that DiSabato was merely threatening to go public, and Jordan is trying to falsely spin this into an actual threat against him. Jordan has already been caught lying about not having known about the accusations, so he has zero credibility in this. It gets worse.

If you’re not quite sure what to make of Jim Jordan calling the cops on Mike DiSabato, there’s another report today that should spell out just how viciously and derangedly Jordan is handling this. According to Brooke Baldwin of CNN, Jordan has his cousin going around to local media outlets and asking them to “look into” DiSabato. So this scandal is no longer merely about Jordan refusing to put a stop to the sexual abuse of the kids on the team he coached. It’s now about Jordan trying to punish one of the victims for having come forward.

Daily Caller, Former OSU Wrestler: ‘I Know Jim Knew About … Deviant Sexual Atmosphere,’ Virginia Kruta, July 4, 2018. Former Ohio State University wrestler Mike DiSabato told CNN on Wednesday that he was absolutely certain that Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan — who was a young assistant wrestling coach at the time — was aware of the “deviant sexual atmosphere” that DiSabato and others are alleging was fostered by Dr. Richard Strauss at the university.

Global News: ISIS Families Stranded

ny times logoNew York Times, Wives and Children of ISIS: Warehoused in Syria, Unwanted Back Home, Ben Hubbard, July 4, 2018. When her husband uprooted their family from Morocco to live under the Islamic State in Syria, Sarah Ibrahim had little choice but to go along. After he disappeared — she believes he was killed in an airstrike on a prison — she fled with her two sons.

The so-called caliphate of the Islamic State, which once stretched across large swaths of Syria and Iraq, drew tens of thousands of partisans from around the world who came to fight or to live in what was billed as a pure Islamic society. Among them were many women, some who were brought by their husbands or fathers. Others came alone and married, or were forced to marry, after they arrived.

But as the caliphate collapsed under a military campaign by Kurdish militias backed by a United States-led military coalition, many of the men were killed or captured. The wives and children who survived ended up in camps like this, unwanted by anyone.

They were captured last year and have been held ever since in this dusty, sweltering detention camp in northeastern Syria. They are among the more than 2,000 foreign women and children being held in such camps, trapped in a legal and political limbo with no foreseeable way out.

Their home countries do not want them back, fearing they could spread radical Islamist ideology. The Kurdish authorities that administer this stateless war zone do not want them either, and say it is not their job to indefinitely detain citizens of other countries.

“You told us to leave ISIS and we left, but we are still considered ISIS,” said Ms. Ibrahim, 31, her frustration dissolving into tears. “So who is responsible for us? Who will determine our fate?”

UN Accuses UAE Of Torture In Yemen Invasion

uae embassy sealSouthFront, UAE Troops Torture & Sexually Abuse Yemeni Detainees: Reports, Staff report, July 4, 2018. Yemeni detainees suffer from torture, sexual abuse and other kind of ill-treatment by UAE soldiers, the UN Human Rights Office in Geneva says adding that it has requested access to the prisons, but has not been allowed in so far.

In late June, Associated Press investigation revealed that up to 2,000 of detainees held by UAE forces in Yemen were subjected to torture and abuse. The news agency said that Yemeni guards, commanded by UAE officers, sexually violated detainees with wooden and steel poles filming these acts.

According to AP data, the UAE and allied forces run at least 18 secret prisons. The UAE denied this report saying there are no secret facilities or torture. Since 2015, the UAE has been actively participating in the Saudi-led (and U.S.-backed) intervention in Yemen.

Syrian Battlefront News

syria darea 7 3 18 map

Battlemaps of southwest Syria before and after current Syrian government (territory in red) offensive against rebels, shown in gray, with ISIS in black.

SouthFront, Government Forces Control 60% Of Daraa Province After Liberation Of About 1,00km2 From Militants (Maps), Staff report, July 4, 2018. Pro-government forces are now in control over about 60% of the southern Syrian province of Daraa, the Hezbollah media wing in Syria said on July 3 releasing maps allowing to compare the military situation before and after the start of the Syrian Army’s operation in the area.

SouthFront, Civilians Are Leaving Militant-held Area In Southern Syria. Russia And US Discuss Situation In Region, Staff report, July 4, 2018. Almost 4,000 people have left the militant-held area in southern Syria over the past 24 hours, the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the Opposing Parties in Syria says. According to the Syrian government, 2,500 people have been accommodated in the Jabab refugee camp in the government-held part of the province of Daraa.

The US has repeatedly accused Syrian government forces and their allies of violating the de-escalation zone in southern Syria by carrying out operations there. However, Washington ingores the fact that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which is the main target of the operation, is excluded from the ceasefire.

SouthFront, Son Of ISIS Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Killed By Syrian Military, Staff report, July 4, 2018. “Huthaifah al-Badri”, a son of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), while he was participating in an “Inghimasi” attack on the thermal plant in the central governorate of Homs, the ISIS-linked news agency revealed on July 3.

ISIS (with fighters shown above in a file photo) has lost tens of thousands of its fighters since its [rise] in 2014. Badir is the first close relative of al-Baghdadi to be killed in action, which exposes the double standards of the terrorist group.

More On Supreme Court

amy coney barrett headshot notre dame photoSCOTUSblog, Potential nominee profile: Amy Coney Barrett, Amy Howe, July 4, 2018. In November 2017, President Donald Trump released a revised list of potential Supreme Court nominees. The November 2017 list was an expanded version of two earlier lists, announced during the 2016 presidential campaign, from which then-candidate Trump pledged, if elected, to pick a successor to the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who died on February 13, 2016. First on the new list – because it was in alphabetical order – was Amy Coney Barrett, a Notre Dame law professor (and former Scalia clerk) who had recently been confirmed to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. She is shown in a Notre Dame photo.

Barrett’s confirmation hearings had received considerable attention after Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee – most notably, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California – grilled her on the role of her Catholic faith in judging. Feinstein’s criticism did not stop Barrett from being confirmed, and since then there has been speculation that it may have in fact strengthened her case to fill the seat that will be vacated by the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy.

The 46-year-old Barrett grew up in Metrairie, Louisiana, a suburb of New Orleans, and attended St. Mary’s Dominican High School, a Catholic girls’ school in New Orleans. Barrett graduated magna cum laude from Rhodes College, a liberal arts college in Tennessee affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, in 1994. (Other high-profile alumni of the school include Abe Fortas, who served as a justice on the Supreme Court from 1965 to 1969 and Claudia Kennedy, the first woman to become a three-star general in the U.S. Army.) ....

Barrett then held two high-profile conservative clerkships, first with Judge Laurence Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, from 1997-1998 then with the late Justice Antonin Scalia, from 1998-1999. After leaving her Supreme Court clerkship, she spent a year practicing law at Miller, Cassidy, Larroca & Lewin, a prestigious Washington D.C. litigation boutique that also claims former U.S. solicitor general Seth Waxman, former deputy attorney general Jamie Gorelick, and two regular contributors to this blog – John Elwood and editor Edith Roberts – as alums.

Barrett was confirmed to the 7th Circuit by a vote of 55 to 43. Three Democratic senators – her home state senator, Joe Donnelly, Virginia’s Tim Kaine, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia – crossed party lines to vote for her, while two Democratic senators (Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Robert Menendez of New Jersey) did not vote.

Because Barrett has spent just eight months on the 7th Circuit, she has compiled a relatively small body of opinions, most of them fairly uncontroversial.

One case that would almost certainly draw attention if she were nominated came shortly after she took the bench: EEOC v. AutoZone, in which the federal government asked the full court of appeals to reconsider a ruling against the EEOC in its lawsuit against AutoZone, an auto parts store. The EEOC had argued that the store violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which bars employees from segregating or classifying employees based on race, when it used race as a determining factor in assigning employees to different stores – for example, sending African-American employees to stores in heavily African-American neighborhoods. A three-judge panel (that did not include Barrett) ruled for AutoZone; Barrett joined four of her colleagues in voting to deny rehearing by the full court of appeals.

washington post logoWashington Post, There’s no conspiracy between Trump and Kennedy. There’s just the swamp, David Litt, July 3, 2018. A surprising number of progressives are dusting off Glenn Beck-style chalkboards, connecting the dots in a web with Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s son in the center. But the search for a shadowy conspiracy surrounding the Kennedy and Trump families obscures a far greater scandal taking place right in front of us: the dangerous concentration of wealth and political power in the United States.

Donald TrumpThe theory, for the record, goes something like this: Justin Kennedy worked at Deutsche Bank. Deutsche Bank was the only Wall Street firm willing to lend money to Donald Trump. In 2017, Deutsche Bank was fined $630 million for its involvement in a Russian money-laundering scheme. After his first address to Congress, President Trump told Kennedy, “Say hello to your boy,” to which the justice replied, “Your kids have been very nice to him.” Now, the court’s swing justice is retiring, giving President Trump the chance to cement a far-right court for a generation.

The implication is that Kennedy was coerced, via bribery, blackmail or something similarly sinister, into giving up his seat before the election. But the line between cause and effect remains hazy. In a tweet that accumulated more than 35,000 likes, @ProudResister summed it up as follows: “THAT’S WAY TOO MANY ‘COINCIDENCES.’ ”

There are, it must be said, a few problems with this all-caps logic. First, coincidence does not equal conspiracy. Democrats and progressives have long stood for science, facts and rational argument. Abandoning a commitment to the truth isn’t beating Trump at his own game; it’s surrendering the field. Second, you don’t need a tortured rationale to explain Kennedy’s actions. He’s a conservative. At 82 years old, he’s ready to retire, and he’d rather be replaced by another Neil M. Gorsuch than another Sonia Sotomayor.

But there’s a third and far more important reason to look past the convoluted speculation around Kennedy and his son Justin. It distracts us from a relationship that is legal but outrageous, nonetheless.

The existence of a personal connection between a conservative Supreme Court justice and a real estate billionaire turned president seems to shock some political observers. It shouldn’t. Of course the Trumps and Kennedys know each other: Both families belong to the most exclusive circle of America’s elite. This upper-upper crust has members from across the country, but it functions as a kind of a gated community, one in which personal and professional relationships inevitably intertwine. America’s super-elite sends its kids to the same schools. They bump into each other at Davos or Aspen or the Alfalfa Club in Washington. They socialize. They do business. They donate. They raise money. They take one another’s calls.

Fake News? Brit Poisoning Claims

ny times logoNew York Times,2 Britons Sickened by Same Nerve Agent as Ex-Russian Spy, Ellen Barry, July 4, 2018. A man and a woman were in critical condition in southern England after falling ill a few miles from where a former Russian spy and his daughter were poisoned in March.

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: British Government Peddles Warmed Over Novichok Muck, B, July 4, 2018. It seems that Theresa May felt a need to stoke some more Russia hate.

All British media outlets report of a middle-aged British couple, Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley, who fell seriously ill in Amesbury, a town near Salisbury and near the British chemical weapon site Proton Down. The couple were transported to the Salisbury hospital. They were first suspected to have taken drugs but the police now speaks (vid) of a "potential exposure to an unknown substance" and that they "remain in a critical condition". [Update - July 5: British officials now say the two were poisoned with "Novichok."]

The parallels to the poisoning of the British-Russian spy Sergej Skripal and his daughter four month ago are obvious. The government alleged the Skripals were poisoned by a nerve agent of the Novichok series. Like back in March the British government will soon name the evildoer of this new drama.

The most curious issue of the current case is that it happened Saturday morning. A lot of local emergency action took place since then. But news of the incident emerged only early today. None of the pieces I read explains the four days long lack of reporting. The British government obviously issued a D-notice and prohibited all news of the case until early today and now prohibits [anything] to explain the censoring.

Why? It is inexplicable that the public was not immediately informed of a new occurrence of a "nerve agent" in the Wiltshire area. If, as we are made to believe, the two persons picked up "Novichock" somewhere in a park, a warning to the public should have been the very next step. There was obviously a high risk that others might also make contact with the same substance. That no public warning was given lets me assume that the truth is somewhat different that the (censored) official story.

Since the Skripals mysteriously recovered from a "nerve agent ten times stronger than VX" and the police released a hostage video of Julia Skripal they vanished from the scene. Likewise nothing was since heard of the policeman who also fell ill at that time and recovered a few days later.

No explanations have been given for the myriad of misleading and contradicting claims the British government made about the Skripal case. Now we are getting a public rerun of the whole affair with a case which seriousness was obvious early on but which was censored for four days without giving any reason. I doubt that the currently presented version of Saturday's incident is more valid than the fairytales we were told about the Skripal case.

July 3

Trump Watch

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Daily Beast, Bipartisan Senate Panel Gives Middle Finger to Devin Nunes, Spencer Ackerman, July 3, 2018. A bipartisan report from the Senate Intelligence Committee says intelligence agencies were right to find the Russians interfered in the election to harm Clinton and elect Trump.

fbi logoThe Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have said the NSA, CIA, and FBI got it wrong when they assessed that the point of Russia’s 2016 election interference was to harm Hillary Clinton and elect Donald Trump. But now their counterpart in the Senate, in a bipartisan report, said the intelligence agencies got it right.

In April, the House Intelligence Committee Republicans put out an extensive report exonerating Trump from accusations of collusion with Russian President Vladimir Putin, delivering a conclusion that Democrats had come to consider pre-ordained. Democrats quickly distanced themselves from it. Chief panel Democrat Adam Schiff said at the time that the GOP report suffered from a “raft of misleading conclusions, insinuations, attempts to explain away inconvenient facts, and arguments meant to protect the President and his campaign.”

devin nunes file flagOne of the key findings of the GOP report, led by critical White House ally Devin Nunes (shown at right) of California, was that the three intelligence agencies erred in their assessment of “Putin’s strategic intentions” behind his election interference. Nunes’ report struck a delicate balance. It conceded that the election interference happened and that most of the intelligence community analysis (ICA) “held up to scrutiny,” but accused the agencies of not meeting their own standards for tradecraft.

Palmer Report, Democratic challenger Janet Garrett speaks out about GOP Congressman Jim Jordan’s sex abuse scandal, Bill Palmer, July 3, 2018. Earlier today, influential Republican Congressman Jim Jordan found himself at the center of a sexual abuse scandal dating back to his days as an Ohio State University wrestling coach. Jordan is not accused of any abuse himself, but former team members are accusing Jordan of having covered up the team doctor’s abuse. The scandal has sent shockwaves through the political world, and now Jordan’s Democratic opponent is speaking up.

Janet Garrett, the Democratic Party candidate challenging Jim Jordan for his seat in November, posted this statement to her official website today: “Any allegation of sexual abuse — or complicity regarding such abuse—is very serious. That damage cannot be undone. For any teacher, protecting kids is the absolute first priority — and I say that as a former kindergarten teacher. Ohio State has an obligation to get to the bottom of this with a thorough and fair investigation. Jim Jordan has an obligation to cooperate fully with that investigation.”

U.S. House logoGarrett has been mounting an upstart campaign in 2018 and has gained momentum, due to the overall Blue Wave of Democratic Party election victories since Donald Trump office, and due to the fact that Jordan has been embarrassing himself by buffoonishly trying to sabotage the investigation into Trump’s Russia scandal on live national television.

Jim Jordan is denying that he knew about the sexual abuse, but multiple major news outlets are reporting that former members of the team are willing to testify that they informed Jordan of the abuse. It’s not yet clear whether House Republicans will rally around Jordan and try to protect him, or whether they’ll force him to resign out of fear that this scandal could cost the party in the November elections. Meanwhile, Janet Garrett has spent the day using her Twitter account to document Jordan’s numerous other failings.

Palmer Report, Opinion: How Rep. Jim Jordan’s sex abuse scandal impacts Trump-Russia, Bill Palmer, July 3, 2018. Republican Congressman Jim Jordan has been accused of having covered up, and thus prolonged, a sex abuse scandal while he was the wrestling coach at Ohio State University; he denies having known about the abuse. This is a disturbing development which requires urgent discussions about how to stop sex abuse crimes from happening, and those discussions are playing out across social media today as we speak. This article will focus strictly on the siginficant political impact that the Jim Jordan scandal will have on the Trump-Russia scandal.

We have yet to see whether the GOP will try to rally around Jim Jordan and protect him, or whether the party will force him to resign for fear of the impact his sex abuse scandal could have on the entire party in the November election. That decision may ultimately depend on how much public outrage there is over the next few days. The House GOP has done nothing of late to suggest that it’ll do the right thing for moral reasons, but it could dump Jordan for selfish reasons.

Just days ago, we were reminded of the key role that Jim Jordan has been playing in trying to sabotage the investigation into Donald Trump’s Russia scandal. Jordan leads the committee that hauled in Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein last week, trying and failing to trip up Rosenstein for Trump’s benefit. If Jordan resigns, Trump loses a key co-conspirator in his coverup. If Jordan tries to remain on the job, it’s difficult to imagine that he could continue acting as a public face of Trump’s defense.

World News

ny times logoNATO logoNew York Times, Trump Criticizes NATO Allies for Not Increasing Defense Budgets, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, July 3, 2018 (print edition).  President Trump warned several allies, including Germany, Belgium, Norway and Canada, that the U.S. is losing patience with their failure to meet security obligations shared by NATO. The sharply worded letters, which went out last month, are the latest sign of acrimony between Mr. Trump and American allies as he heads to a NATO summit meeting next week.

ny times logoAngela MerkelNew York Times, Merkel Reverses Stance on Migration to Save Government, Katrin Bennhold and Melissa Eddy, July 3, 2018 (print edition). Chancellor Angela Merkel, who staked her legacy on welcoming hundreds of thousands of migrants into Germany, agreed on Monday to build border camps for asylum seekers and to tighten the border with Austria in a political deal to save her government.

German FlagIt was a spectacular turnabout for a leader (shown at right) who has been seen as the standard-bearer of the liberal European order but who has come under intense pressure at home from the far right and from conservatives in her governing coalition over her migration policy.

ny times logoNew York Times, 12 Boys Are Found Alive After 10 Days in Thailand Cave, Muktita Suhartono and Richard C. Paddock, July 3, 2018 (print edition). The boys and their soccer coach seemed in surprisingly good condition after having been trapped by rising floodwaters. Evacuating them will be a difficult operation.

ny times logomalaysia flagNew York Times, Malaysia’s Ex-Leader Arrested; Hundreds of Millions Feared Stolen, Hannah Beech and Austin Ramzy, July 3, 2018. The arrest amid a corruption inquiry comes just two months after the former prime minister, Najib Razak, was voted out, accused of stealing hundreds of millions of dollars while in office.

Scandal Alleged

jim jordan headshot CustomColumbus Dispatch, Lawyers for Ohio State contradict Jim Jordan’s claim he’s not been contacted, Jennifer Smola, July 3, 2018. Congressman Jim Jordan denied hearing about Dr. Richard Strauss’ alleged sexual abuse while Jordan (at right) was assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University.

U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan never witnessed abuse by the Ohio State University wrestling team’s doctor and he hasn’t been contacted by anyone investigating possible incidents that occurred while he was an assistant coach two decades ago, the Urbana Republican’s spokesman said Tuesday.

However, lawyers hired by OSU to probe the allegations said Jordan was contacted — both by phone and email — to request an interview, but he never responded.

republican elephant logoAnd three members of the wrestling team under Jordan insist that he knew about the abuse but looked the other way.

Ian Fury, a spokesman for Jordan, said in a written statement that Jordan “never saw any abuse, never heard about any abuse, and never had any abuse reported to him during his time as a coach at Ohio State. He has not been contacted by investigators about the matter but will assist them in any way they ask, because if what is alleged is true, the victims deserve a full investigation and justice.”

Fury also denied that Jordan had been contacted about the case. “Despite claims to the contrary, Congressman Jordan’s office has not received a request for interview from the investigative team. We have demanded that they send us the supposed communication and remain willing to assist in any way that we can.”

A written statement from Porter Wright Morris & Arthur attorney Kathleen Trafford, provided by the university, said investigators had previously contacted Jordan’s office by email and phone to request an interview.Listen to the latest Buckeye Forum politics podcast:

“To date, Rep. Jordan has not responded to those requests, but we understand from public statements issued on his behalf today that Rep. Jordan is willing to talk to the investigative team,” Trafford said.

Jordan, who has represented a swath of west-central Ohio since 2007, is considered one of the more-powerful conservatives in Congress and is widely credited as being a driver in former House Speaker John Boehner’s resignation. Earlier this year, Jordan said he was considering running for House speaker if Republicans keep control of the chamber in November.

Inside Washington

nbc news logoNBC News, Powerful GOP Rep. Jim Jordan accused of turning blind eye to sexual abuse as Ohio State wrestling coach, Corky Siemaszko, July 3, 2018. At the end of the day, he is absolutely lying if he says he doesn’t know what was going on," a former Ohio State wrestler said.

jim jordan headshot CustomRep. Jim Jordan, the powerful Republican congressman from Ohio, is being accused by former wrestlers he coached more than two decades ago at Ohio State University of failing to stop the team doctor from molesting them and other students. The university announced in April that it was investigating accusations that Dr. Richard Strauss, who died in 2005, abused team members when he was republican elephant logothe team doctor from the mid-1970s to late 1990s.

Jordan (shown at right), who was assistant wrestling coach at the university from 1986 to 1994, has repeatedly said he knew nothing of the abuse until former students began speaking out this spring. His denials, however, have been met with skepticism and anger from some former members of the wrestling team.

richard strauss osu lantern screenshot

Richard Strauss, a former wrestling team physician and an assistant professor of medicine, is being investigated by Ohio State on allegations of sexual misconduct. Credit: Lantern file photo

The Lantern (Ohio State University), Rep. Jim Jordan accused by former wrestlers of knowing about Strauss’ alleged assaults, Colin Gay, July 3, 2018. Rep. Jim Jordan, a Republican congressman from Ohio’s fourth congressional district and former assistant coach for the Ohio State wrestling team, has been accused of knowing about the sexual assaults made by former team doctor Richard Strauss, according to a report.

ny times logoscott pruitt epa o CustomNew York Times, Former E.P.A. Aide Says Pruitt Asked Her to Help His Wife, Lisa Friedman, July 3, 2018 (print edition). The former aide said that Scott Pruitt (right), the Environmental Protection Agency’s chief, asked her to help find his wife a job. It’s the latest allegation that he used government staff for personal errands.

Newsroom Massacre Follow-ups

ny times logoNew York Times, Suspect Sent Letter Stating Plans to Kill at Capital Gazette, Matt Stevens and Daniel Victor, July 3, 2018 (print edition). The man suspected of fatally shooting five people in an Annapolis newsroom last week sent a letter to the Capital Gazette’s lawyer announcing that he planned to go there “with the objective of killing every person present,” a copy of the letter shows.

jarrod ramosIn the bizarre letter — which is postmarked June 28, the day of the shooting — the suspect, Jarrod W. Ramos formatted his remarks in such a way that the letter looks and reads much like a court document. Mr. Ramos, 38  (shown in a mug shot), had a yearslong legal dispute with The Capital over a 2011 column that detailed his harassment of a former high school classmate and had represented himself in the proceedings.

In his letter, he appears to blame the judiciary for being “too cowardly” to confront what he calls “lies.” He also uses an apparent quotation to argue that one reason defamation law exists is to prevent a defamed person from “wreaking his own vengeance.” And in what appears to be a separate attachment, he writes directly to a judge who had heard his case against the newspaper: “Welcome,” he tells the judge, “to your unexpected legacy: YOU should have died.” He then signs the letter, “Friends forever.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump to order flags to half-staff to honor Capital Gazette shooting victims, Staff report, July 3, 2018. Flags will be flown at half-staff at federal buildings to honor the five victims of the Capital Gazette shooting in Annapolis, the White House said. The decision follows a request by Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley (D), which he said was initially denied (as reported in the Baltimore Sun story below).

Baltimore Sun / Capitol Gazette, Trump declines request to lower flags in memory of Capital Gazette shooting victims, Danielle Ohl, July 2, 2018. President Donald Trump has declined a request from Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley to lower American flags in honor of the fatal shooting of five employees of The Capital newspaper last week.

“Obviously, I’m disappointed, you know? … Is there a cutoff for tragedy?” Buckley said Monday afternoon. “This was an attack on the press. It was an attack on freedom of speech. It’s just as important as any other tragedy.”

Gov. Larry Hogan ordered Maryland state flags to be lowered to half-staff from Friday through sunset on Monday.

Race / Immigration

washington post logoWashington Post, He once defended the poor in court. Now he defends white supremacists, Ian Shapira, July 3, 2018 (print edition). Elmer Woodward was in no mood for concessions.

The mutton-chopped Virginia defense lawyer, a onetime Civil War reenactor who has become the legal face of the white nationalist movement, was being asked by opposing attorneys in a federal lawsuit to do something seemingly minor: Call their client — Emily Gorcenski, a prominent counterprotester during last year’s violent “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA — by her legal female name in court pleadings. Stop referring to the transgender activist by her original male name or with male pronouns.

chris cantwell mugWoodard — who represents Christopher Cantwell, known as the “crying Nazi,” in the lawsuit — ignored them. In this liberal university town, where the Aug. 12, 2017, rally left a counterprotester dead and 35 others injured, Woodard has become a courthouse fixture, legal counsel to the boldfaced names of the white nationalist movement.

Media Transition

ny times logoNew York Times, New York Times Reassigns Reporter in Leak Case, Michael M. Grynbaum, July 3, 2018. Ali Watkins, the New York Times reporter whose email and phone records were secretly seized by the Trump administration, will be transferred out of the newspaper’s Washington bureau and reassigned to a new beat in New York, The Times said on Tuesday.

Ms. Watkins, 26, had been the subject of an internal review by The Times after revelations that she had a three-year affair with a high-ranking aide on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which she covered for several news organizations before joining The Times in December.

The aide, James Wolfe, 57, who handled classified material for the committee, was arrested last month as part of a leak investigation in which the Justice Department also seized Ms. Watkins’s communications, an unusually aggressive move against a journalist that prompted an outcry from press advocates. Mr. Wolfe was charged with lying to the F.B.I. but not with leaking classified information; he has pleaded not guilty.

More #MeToo Sex Scandal Claims

washington post logoWashington Post, Harvey Weinstein indicted on new sexual assault charges, could face life in prison, Elahe Izadi, July 3, 2018 (print edition).  harvey weinsteinDisgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein faces additional counts of sexual assault that could carry a potential life sentence if he is convicted, prosecutors announced Monday.

A Manhattan grand jury voted to charge Weinstein (shown at right in a file photo) with two counts of predatory assault, which carry a minimum 10-year sentence, and an additional count of criminal sexual act in the first degree, stemming from what prosecutors said was a forcible sexual act against a woman in 2006.

ny times logoNew York Times, Why Court Pick May Affect Gay Marriage as Well as Abortion, Liam Stack and Elizabeth Dias, July 3, 2018. In the week since Justice Anthony M. Kennedy announced his retirement, the future of Roe v. Wade has dominated the conversation among both liberals and conservatives, becoming a flash point in the partisan battle over President Trump’s pick to fill the seat.

The effect Justice Kennedy’s retirement could have on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights has received less attention. The prospect of a more conservative justice, though, has L.G.B.T. rights groups worried about legal challenges from conservative groups that oppose gay marriage, who may see an opportunity to challenge rulings that have established its legality.

L.G.B.T. groups have made great advances in recent years thanks largely to a string of Supreme Court decisions written by Justice Kennedy, including cases that legalized gay sex and established a right to same-sex marriage.

Election Fraud Scandal

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook’s disclosures about Cambridge Analytica under scrutiny as investigation widens, Craig Timberg, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett, July 2, 2018.The inquiry has broadened to focus on the actions and statements of the tech giant and now involves the FBI, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Trade Commission, according to people familiar with the official inquiries.

cambridge analytica facebook logosA federal investigation into Facebook’s sharing of data with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica has broadened to focus on the actions and statements of the tech giant and now involves three agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to people familiar with the official inquiries.

Representatives for the FBI, the SEC and the Federal Trade Commission have joined the Department of Justice in its inquiries about the two companies and the sharing of personal information of 71 million Americans, suggesting the wide-ranging nature of the investigation, said five people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a probe that remains incomplete.

Facebook discovered in 2015 that Cambridge Analytica, which wasn’t yet working for the Trump campaign and other Republican candidates, had obtained Facebook data to create voter profiles. Yet Facebook didn’t disclose that information to the public until March, on the eve of the publication of news reports about the matter.

Culture Wars

ny times logoNew York Times, Dershowitz Says He’s Being ‘Shunned’ on Martha’s Vineyard Over Trump, Niraj Chokshi, July 3, 2018  It was not the sort of complaint likely to draw public sympathy, and it did not. Alan Dershowitz, the lawyer and professor emeritus at Harvard Law School, argued in an op-ed last week for The Hill that Americans have grown increasingly intolerant of opposing political views, focusing on a call by Representative Maxine Waters to harass Trump administration officials wherever they go.

But it was a personal note in the column that soon grabbed attention. “I never thought I would see McCarthyism come to Martha’s Vineyard, but I have,” he wrote, of the elite island enclave off Cape Cod where he is a fixture.

alan dershowitz2Mr. Dershowitz, a self-professed “liberal Democrat,” said that friends on the Vineyard had snubbed him for publicly arguing against impeaching President Trump on television talk shows and in a forthcoming book.

“For them, it is enough that what I have said about the Constitution might help Trump,” said the lawyer (shown at right), known for his fierce advocacy for civil liberties and his defense of famous clients like O.J. Simpson and Claus von Bulow. “So they are shunning me and trying to ban me from their social life on Martha’s Vineyard.”

This claim only seemed to draw a wave of mockery online that crested just as many of the nation’s media and political elites headed to the Cape for the Fourth of July. “It is outrageous that people are now shunning Alan Dershowitz in their social lives,” one Twitter user wrote. “Really, what the heck took so long?”

Many rejected the comparison to McCarthyism, with its blacklists and smears that ruined careers. Countless people offered Mr. Dershowitz their thoughts and prayers. One enterprising troll even set up a crowdfunding campaign with a $5 million goal to “buy Alan some new friends.”

The Hill, Trump supporters boycott Walmart for selling 'Impeach 45' clothing, Justin Wise, July 3, 2018. Supporters of President Trump on Monday launched a boycott against Walmart after it was discovered the superstore was selling apparel promoting Trump's impeachment.

The hashtag #BoycottWalmart became a trend on Twitter as users railed against the company. Users were taking issue with "Impeach 45" apparel that was being offered on Walmart's website. Fox News notes that Old Glory is the company that is selling the clothing with "Impeach 45" emblazoned across the front. But the news outlet adds that a search on Walmart.com revealed that three other companies also sell clothing that promotes impeaching Trump.

Walmart sells myriad "Make America Great Again" items, such as hats, T-shirts and coffee mugs. Walmart has caused outrage over its apparel before. In November, the company stopped selling a shirt that read “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some assembly required" after facing massive backlash. The shirt was removed from the store's website after the Radio Television Digital News Association sent a letter to the company about the shirt, according to the group.

“As a fierce proponent of the First Amendment that is politically nonpartisan, we recognize Walmart’s right to sell the T-Shirts, and the right of consumers to purchase and wear them,” the group's executive director, Dan Shelley, wrote in his letter to the retailer. “However, just because Walmart has the right to sell the shirts, that doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do.”

As of early Tuesday morning, the "Impeach 45" clothing was still available on Walmart's website.

washington post logobrett kavanaughWashington Post, Leading contender to be Trump’s Supreme Court pick faces scrutiny from social conservatives, Robert Costa and Josh Dawsey​, July 3, 2018. An intensifying debate over Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, a front-runner in President Trump’s search for a Supreme Court nominee, gripped Republicans on Tuesday, with conservative critics highlighting past rulings and his links to GOP leaders while his allies — including inside the White House — forcefully defended him.

The sparring over Kavanaugh, one of four federal appeals court judges who met with the president Monday, underscored the challenges facing Trump as he aims to pick a successor to retiring Justice Anthony M. Kennedy by his own July 9 deadline. Even as Trump mulls a shortlist that has been carefully cultivated by influential Republican lawyers, frictions in the conservative legal community and on Capitol Hill threaten to disrupt the search process.

The political moment for Trump remained fragile as a president devoted to his base weighed what a Kavanaugh selection could mean for him, unfolding amid a flurry of op-eds and phone calls praising the 53-year-old judge as well as a clamor from those who see him as out of step on health care and abortion, or too tied to George W. Bush’s White House.

washington post logoWashington Post, Why a teacher carried her 2-year-old up to Scott Pruitt at a D.C. restaurant and asked him to resign, Avi Selk, July 3, 2018. “Hi,” she told the head of the EPA. “I just wanted to urge you to resign for what you're doing to the environment in our country.”

The Hill, Trump Uses Charity Event to Bash Democrats Over ICE Criticism, John T. Bennett, July 3, 2018. President alleges opposition party wants to ‘abandon’ border security agents.

President Donald Trump used a charity dinner honoring military troops Tuesday to deliver a campaign-style attack on Democrats, saying again that they want to “abandon” federal personnel who patrol the country’s borders.

“You have to be tough. … We need tough laws, we need fair laws,” Trump said in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. “But when these people come in … illegally, and they’re dispersed across the country, and you see nests of MS-13. … it’s like you’re liberating towns. And we send ICE in.”

He was referring to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which has become a major midterm election issue since the administration’s practice of separating migrant children from their parents caught illegally entering the country became a crisis. That’s because some Democrats — including likely presidential candidates such as Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — have called for the agency to be terminated.

Immigration policy experts dispute the president’s frequent claims that the United States has, in his words, an “immigration crisis” and that MS-13 gang members are taking over large swaths of the country. But the president keeps trying to paint Democratic incumbents and other candidates as putting undocumented migrants’ interests ahead of those of American citizens.

July 2

Supreme Court Watch

ny times logoanthony kennedy oNew York Times, Trump Talks to 4 Candidates as Staff Focuses on Court Pick, Michael D. Shear, July 2, 2018. President Trump said he spoke with four candidates to replace Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who is retiring (and shown at right), as the White House raced to meet the president’s deadline to announce a Supreme Court nominee in one week.

Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump said he likely would meet with two or three other candidates before making his decision. The president has said he plans to announce his choice next Monday, kicking off a sprint to get the nominee confirmed by the fall.

“I had a very, very interesting morning,” Mr. Trump said as he met with Mark Rutte, the prime minister of the Netherlands. White House officials declined to say which potential judicial nominees Mr. Trump talked with Monday morning, but the short list of candidates is believed to include six federal appeals court judges: Thomas M. Hardiman, William H. Pryor Jr., Amul R. Thapar, Brett M. Kavanaugh, Joan L. Larsen and Amy Coney Barrett.

richard painterPoliticusUSA.com, Bush Ethics Lawyer Richard Painter Calls For Investigation If Kennedy Was Paid To Resign, Leo Vidal, July 2, 2018. Richard Painter, the former White House Ethics Attorney for President George W. Bush, has come up with a way to delay hearings for a new Supreme Court justice to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.

According to Painter (shown in a file photo), there should be no hearings on a replacement for Kennedy until there is a full and complete investigation into the circumstances surrounding Kennedy’s resignation.

In other words, if Kennedy was paid or bought off in some way by Trump or his family, then the American people need to know about it. After Kennedy’s unexpected retirement announcement several stories appeared in the media claiming financial ties between Kennedy and his two sons and Trump and his family. Some people speculated that Kennedy was bought off in some way due to these extensive and longstanding financial connections.

supreme court buildingLate last week Painter tweeted his novel theory for why Senate hearings for Kennedy’s replacement should be delayed:

“The circumstances of Justice Kennedy’s resignation must be investigated by the Senate Judiciary Committee before any replacement is considered. The Constitution does not give Trump the power to use underhanded means to induce Supreme Court resignations.”

As Painter points out it would be both unethical and unconstitutional for a president to “induce Supreme Court resignations” by using financial remuneration of some kind.

Soon after Painter’s tweet there was a response from a group he called “the right wing Power Blog” attacking him for his suggestion:

“The right wing Power Line Blog blows a fuse over this, but Sen. Jud. Comm. must investigate the circumstances of the Kennedy resignation before confirmation hearings for ANY new justice. @GovArne agrees."

Painter is a lifelong Republican who is now running for the U.S. Senate in Minnesota — as a Democrat. He is the subject of an in-depth article today at Salon.com which discusses in detail the transition he has gone through from being in Bush’s White House to being one of Donald Trump’s fiercest critics.

In the article Painter asks the same questions as millions of other Americans: “Trump admires dictators and authoritarians. His loyalty to Vladimir Putin is clear and he now has a bromance with Kim Jong-un. This is a truly dire situation, but the American people still seem asleep to what is really happening. Where is the outrage? How is Trump able to get away with this?”

Then he adds: “Donald Trump’s conduct is very dangerous for the United States.”

Salon, Donald Trump, Anthony Kennedy and the “boy” at Deutsche Bank: Not just about the money, Jesse Kornbluth, July 2, 2018. There’s a tangled web linking the Trump and Kennedy families. But financial corruption isn’t the whole story.

As a way of looking at a presidency that is enamored of every possible felony -- self-dealing, conflicts of interest, emoluments, collusion with foreign governments and domestic corporations -- crime-breeds-crime is a reasonable way to look at any Trump-related event.

But the resignation of a Supreme Court justice? Because Trump cares so much about money, that’s been suggested. And there’s smoke: the links between Trump, Kennedy and Kennedy’s son Justin. In years past we’d call that the League of White Men, taking care of their own, behind the scenes, The Way It Is. Today we tend to call it something else: collusion.

Here’s why. On the surface, Kennedy’s resignation looked textbook: He’ll leave effective July 31, at the end of the Supreme Court term, as is traditional. But he announced it on June 27. Hand-delivering his letter to the Oval Office was no surprise to the White House, which had a list of candidates ready to roll out. Trump says he’ll announce his nominee on July 9.

republican elephant logoIf Kennedy had waited a few weeks, some analysts believe Trump couldn’t have gotten his successor approved before the midterm elections. If the Democrats did well in November, it’s at least conceivable they could have blocked any conservative nominee. Approving a nominee before November means our likely future has the court killing Roe v. Wade, giving more power to corporations, turning the poor and minorities into serfs, exiling or detaining Others the president might choose to torture. That’s huge. But let’s consider the bottom line: For Donald Trump, the only real issue of interest is . . . himself. If a 4-4 Court had to rule on a difficult question -- Does the president have the power to pardon himself? -- it might not go well for Trump.

What started the speculation about dirty money connecting Trump, Kennedy and his son is the revelation that Kennedy and Trump have had a longstanding relationship through their children and their children’s success. We knew about Trump’s dealings with Deutsche Bank, the only bank willing to do business with him. (It’s also, perhaps not coincidentally, the bank that seems to have the longest illegal relationship with laundered Russian money. In January 2017, it was fined $425 million by New York regulators to settle allegations that it helped Russian investors launder as much as $10 billion through its branches in Moscow, New York and London.) But we’re just finding out about the Trump relationship with Justin Kennedy, the justice’s son, who worked at Deutsche Bank for a decade.

Trump Watch

cambridge analytica facebook logos

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook’s disclosures about Cambridge Analytica under scrutiny as investigation widens, Craig Timberg, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett, July 2, 2018. The inquiry has broadened to focus on the actions and statements of the tech giant and now involves the FBI, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Trade Commission, according to people familiar with the official inquiries.

A federal investigation into Facebook’s sharing of data with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica has broadened to focus on the actions and statements of the tech giant and now involves three agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to people familiar with the official inquiries.

fbi logoRepresentatives for the FBI, the SEC and the Federal Trade Commission have joined the Department of Justice in its inquiries about the two companies and the sharing of personal information of 71 million Americans, suggesting the wide-ranging nature of the investigation, said five people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a probe that remains incomplete.

Facebook discovered in 2015 that Cambridge Analytica, which wasn’t yet working for the Trump campaign and other Republican candidates, had obtained Facebook data to create voter profiles. Yet Facebook didn’t disclose that information to the public until March, on the eve of the publication of news reports about the matter.

michael cohen abc george stephanopoulos 7 2 18

ABC News, EXCLUSIVE: Michael Cohen says family and country, not President Trump, is his 'first loyalty,' George Stephanopoulos, July 2, 2018. Michael Cohen -- President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney and a former executive vice president at the Trump Organization -- has always insisted he would remain loyal to the president.

abc news logoHe was the fix-it guy, the pit bull so fiercely protective of his boss that he’d once described himself as "the guy who would take a bullet" for the president.

But in his first in-depth interview since the FBI raided his office and homes in April, Cohen strongly signaled his willingness to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller and federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York -- even if that puts President Trump in jeopardy.

“My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will,” Cohen told me. “I put family and country first.”

We spoke for 45 minutes Saturday evening at a Manhattan hotel, where Cohen has been staying for the past several months. And during that time, the question of whether Cohen might flip on the president has been the subject of intense speculation.

djt michael cohen

washington post logomichael cohen ap file croppedWashington Post, Trump lawyer Michael Cohen says his first loyalty is to his family, not the president, John Wagner​, July 2, 2018. President Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen (shown at right in a file photo) signaled in a new interview a willingness to cooperate with federal prosecutors, even if doing so undercuts the interests of the president.

Inside DC

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Will Pruitt Math Harm Your Air and Water? Celia Wexler, July 2, 2018. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt wants to change the way the agency measures the costs and benefits of rules. It may sound wonky, but critics call it “sophisticated sabotage” — aimed at gutting rules protecting public health and the environment.

Wall Street Journal, Trade Fight Threatens Farm Belt Businesses, Jesse Newman, July 2, 2018. Many farmers, who depend on shipments overseas for one-fifth of the goods they produce, say they are anxious, The U.S. Farm Belt helped deliver Donald Trump to the White House, drawn to his promises to revive rural America and deregulate industry. Now, the president’s global trade offensive is threatening the livelihoods of many farmers.

djt wh wavingwashington post logoWashington Post, Trump embraces the big-money donor world he once shunned, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, July 2, 2018. The money is flowing to America First, an independent operation stocked with former Trump aides that aims to scoop up $100 million through two entities, with the bulk of the funds flowing to a nonprofit arm that is not required to disclose the names of its donors.

Trump Battle Against the Press

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: The assassination of journalists represents a post-facto slide into fascism, Wayne Madsen, July 2, 2018. America has slid down that pathway (subscription required for column).

Trade War Updates

washington post logoPresident Donald Trump officialWashington Post, Trump stands firm on trade, even as foreign tariffs begin kicking in, Heather Long, July 1, 2018. President Trump defiantly stood by his tariffs on Sunday as Canada hit back hard, Mexico was poised to elect a new leader who seems prepared to confront him, and the European Union issued a scathing condemnation of his policy as “in effect, a tax on the American people.”

canadian flagInstead of backing down, Trump brushed off the mounting pressure from businesses and world leaders to scale back the taxes before they cause additional job losses and slower economic growth.

Axios, U.S. Chamber of Commerce makes the case against Trump's tariffs, Henrietta Reily, July 2, 2018. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched a new lobbying campaign on Monday to illustrate the ways that the Trump administration's tariffs can hurt every state in the nation economically.

Why it matters: The nation's biggest business group — with 3 million members, per Reuters, who first reported the campaign — is usually an ally of the Republican Party and its politicians. And it has previously advocated for economic moves from the administration, like the GOP's new tax law, so its opposition is striking.

Independent, Trump administration set to abandon fundamental WTO rules after devising bill called Fart Act, Chris Baynes, July 2, 2018.  'The US FART Act stinks', says longstanding Trump ally Anthony Scaramucci.

Donald Trump’s administration has drafted a bill that proposes abandoning fundamental principles of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The Fair and Reciprocal Tariff Act, dubbed the Fart Act, would give the president licence to raise tariffs without congressional consent and sidestep international rules.

The legislation, reportedly ordered by Mr Trump himself, would mark an extraordinary shift in trade policy, allowing the US to raise tariffs above ceilings agreed by WTO countries and set different rates for individual nations outside of free trade agreements.

Trump tells aides he wants to withdraw US from WTO, reports say. “It would be the equivalent of walking away from the WTO and our commitments there without us actually notifying our withdrawal,” a source familiar with the bill told news website Axios, which obtained a leaked copy of the proposals (see Exclusive: A leaked Trump bill to blow up the WTO by Jonathan Swan of Axios).

The source described the bill as “insane” and said most officials involved in its drafting think it is unrealistic or unworkable.

washington post logotimothy geithner wWashington Post, ‘A way of monetizing poor people’: How private equity firms make money offering loans to cash-strapped Americans, Peter Whoriskey, July 2, 2018 (print edition). As treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner (right) criticized predatory lenders. Now the private equity firm he leads runs a company that mails high-rate loans to risky customers.

Newest Mexican President

washington post logoandrés manuel lópez obrador 2017Washington Post, López Obrador poised to win Mexico’s presidency as closest competitors concede, Joshua Partlow and Maya Averbuch, July 2, 2018 (print edition). Andrés Manuel López Obrador, an anti-corruption crusader and former mayor (shown at right), has a commanding lead in Mexico’s election, according to several exit polls, positioning him to be the first leftist president since Mexico began its transition to democracy more than three decades ago.

mexico flag1Several exit polls gave him ­double-digit leads over his two closest competitors, and both of them conceded the race shortly after polls closed on Sunday night.

Global News: Syria, ISIS and Israel

SouthFront, Opinion: Militants In Over 15 Settlements Surrender To Syrian Army, Staff report, July 2, 2018. The Syrian Arab Army (SAA), the Tiger Forces and their allies are about to achieve a stunning and rapid victory in their battle against Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and their allies in southern Syria. Over the past few days, government forces have liberated over 15 settlements in the eastern and western countryside of Daraa.

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have deployed additional armoured and artillery forces, including battle tanks, in the occupied Golan Heights, near the contact line with Syria. Israel claimed the additional forces were deployed solely to “respond” to potential incidents. Meanwhile, in reality, Israeli forces have repeatedly targeted forces of the Damascus government in southern and central Syria describing these strikes as a defensive measure.

Many of these strikes took place during important battles between the SAA and terrorist groups. If Israeli forces continue striking SAA troops attacking the Khalid al-Walid Army near the occupied Golan Heights the international audience will easily find out that Israel is encouraging ISIS in the area and using the terrorist group to create a buffer zone there.

Politico, Judge: Trump tweet did not declassify CIA program for Syrian rebels, Josh Gerstein, July 2, 2018. The judge rejected arguments that Trump effectively confirmed the existence of the program when he used his Twitter account last July to counter a Washington Post story.

cia logoA tweet from President Donald Trump disputing aspects of a news report about a CIA program to aid Syrian rebels did not declassify the program or undermine the government’s legal authority to keep details about it secret, a federal judge ruled in an opinion released Monday.

U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Carter Jr. rejected arguments that Trump effectively confirmed the existence of the program when he used his Twitter account last July to counter a Washington Post story that reported Trump’s decision to end the effort and suggested that the move was a concession to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“The Amazon Washington Post fabricated the facts on my ending massive, dangerous, and wasteful payments to Syrian rebels fighting Assad,” Trump wrote, referring to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Armed with Trump’s statements, The New York Times filed a Freedom of Information Act request demanding details of the program, then sued when the CIA did not immediately respond. The newspaper argued that Trump’s statements declassified the program, at least in broad strokes, nullifying the CIA’s position that it could neither confirm nor deny the reported $1 billion effort to provide Syrian rebels with arms, training and nonlethal assistance.

'Justice' and Trump Administration

New York Times Magazine, The A.C.L.U. vs. Trump: 170 Legal Actions (So Far), Joel Lovell, July 2, 2018. A lawsuit filed on behalf of families separated at the U.S. border was just the latest action against the Trump administration by the civil liberties group.

On the morning of Friday, June 22, the American Civil Liberties Union won a major Supreme Court decision in Carpenter v. United States, which was possibly, at least in terms of pure jurisprudence, the most important case argued before the court this past session. It was a landmark ruling that changed the future of digital privacy in America, but news of the win was only the second most important thing happening at the A.C.L.U. offices that day. At 3 p.m., a conference call was scheduled to discuss the more than 2,000 children whose fates were tied to another A.C.L.U. suit against the government.

That case — Ms. L. v. ICE — was filed in late February, long before most of the rest of the world was aware that thousands of children were being separated from their families at the border. (As a point of comparison, a coalition of 18 state attorneys general filed a suit to stop family separation on June 26, four months to the day after the A.C.L.U. filed its suit.) It began with a single client, a 39-year-old Congolese woman, Ms. L., whose daughter was taken from her in November 2017, but it quickly grew into a national class action on behalf of every family whose children had been taken from them.

On June 6, Judge Dana M. Sabraw, a George W. Bush nominee in the Southern District of California, rejected the government’s motion to dismiss the case and ruled that in detaining the immigrants, it was violating the due-process clause of the Fifth Amendment. The A.C.L.U. asked that Sabraw issue a nationwide injunction, which the judge was still considering when the White House, with no legal room to maneuver and public outcry intensifying by the day, issued an executive order on June 20 saying the practice would be stopped. Now, on that Friday afternoon, Sabraw asked the lawyers to call in to discuss how the executive order affected their cases. Did the White House’s decision — in theory, anyway — negate the need for a nationwide injunction to stop family separation? And how did it affect the children who had already been separated?

More Kennedy Supreme Court Reaction

SCOTUSblog, Anthony Kennedy and free speech, Erwin Chemerinsky, July 2, 2018. Erwin Chemerinsky is Dean and Jesse H. Choper Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law.

Justice Anthony Kennedy will be remembered as a staunch advocate of freedom of speech, but his actual record is more complicated than that. Kennedy wrote the majority opinions, or joined them, in some of the most important cases protecting free speech in the last 30 years.

Yet, he also wrote, or was part of, decisions limiting the free speech rights of government employees, students and prisoners. Perhaps the easiest way to summarize Kennedy’s free speech jurisprudence is that he generally was on the side of freedom of expression except when the institutional interests of the government were involved.

Kennedy’s most important free speech opinion was Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, in which the court held in 2010 that corporations have the right to spend unlimited sums in independent expenditures from corporate treasuries to have candidates elected or defeated. The court overruled a precedent from seven years earlier, McConnell v. Federal Election Commission. Kennedy believed that spending money in elections is speech protected by the First Amendment and consistently voted to strike down campaign-finance laws, such as in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission (2014); Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett (2011); and Davis v. Federal Election Commission (2008).

Daily Beast,Opinion: Anthony Kennedy, You Are a Total Disgrace to America, Michael Tomasky, July 2, 2018. No one expected Kennedy to allow Donald Trump to pick his successor. But he has. And it should forever taint his legacy as a jurist.

It’s been a few days now, but the shock of Anthony Kennedy’s retirement announcement hasn’t abated a bit. This is partly because of the ghastly coming ramifications, more on which later. But it’s also because I honestly didn’t think Kennedy would allow Donald Trump to name his successor.

I thought he had more respect for the United States of America than to allow this corrupt gangster who’s almost certainly never read a Supreme Court opinion in his life to name his successor. Yes, Kennedy is conservative, so to that extent it makes sense that he’d want a Republican president to make the call, and maybe it’s just that simple. But whatever his motivation, Kennedy has altered and destroyed his legacy.

djt neil gorsuch anthony kenned at white house

President Trump in 2017 with Supreme Court Associate Justice William Kennedy, who swore onto the court his former clerk Neil Gorsuch, center

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump makes clear Roe v. Wade is on the chopping block, Aaron Blake, July 2, 2018. Anyone promising that Roe v. Wade will be overturned by President Trump's next Supreme Court justice is engaging in guesswork — and, in many cases, political advocacy.

Abortion rights supporters are understandably concerned about nullifying one of the court's most prominent and passion-inducing precedents, yes, but we don't even have a nominee yet. This also happens to be a great way to rally the troops. All of that said, they have clear — and increasing — reason for concern.

In an interview with Fox airing Sunday and Monday, Trump doubled down on his past rhetoric about sending the issue of abortion to the states, which is another way of saying overturning Roe. (Roe legalized abortion nationwide, meaning its repeal would allow states to decide the issue.) Trump said he would “probably not” ask potential nominees directly about Roe — given that such litmus tests are frowned upon — but then he reiterated his past view of how this issue would play out.

“Maybe someday it will be to the states,” he said. “You never know how that’s going to turn out. That’s a very complex question. The Roe v. Wade is probably the one that people are talking about in terms of having an effect, but we’ll see what happens. But it could very well end up with states at some point.”

“We'll see what happens” is Trump's default when he doesn't want to commit to something but welcomes speculation about that thing.

U.S. Legal Research

SCOTUS for law students, Supreme Court mysteries and the justices’ papers, Stephen Wermiel, July 2, 2018. In the month of June, when the Supreme Court issues dozens of decisions to conclude its term, who would not want to be a fly on the wall inside the conference of the justices trying to understand what compromises were made or why cases came out as they did?

Rarely has this been more true than this past month, in which a seemingly large number of the court’s most closely watched cases produced decisions that decided much less than was anticipated by court-watchers and litigants.

What is one to do to satisfy curiosity about why, for example, the court yet again declined to confront questions about the constitutionality of political gerrymandering of legislative districts?

The short answer is wait. Wait for what, you ask? Often, the answers to nagging mysteries about what happened inside the court and why can only be answered by historians who some time in the future get to pore over the papers of justices who have long since retired or died.

How does this process work and what might one learn from the papers of the justices?

The first thing to know is that there is no uniformity of any kind among the justices and their files and records. Justices are free to save or destroy whatever records they choose, to donate them wherever they want, to make them available whenever they want and to include whatever content they like.

This thoroughly unregulated field is in marked contrast to the papers of presidents, which are governed by federal law. Under presidential records statutes, every piece of paper must be saved and preserved. The Supreme Court, however, has no such statute, and so it is up to each justice to decide what to do with his or her files.

thurgood marshallWhat has this meant in recent decades? Justices have spread their papers around the country. The largest single repository of justices’ papers is the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress, housed in the Madison Building in Washington, D.C. There, one can find the papers, among others, of Chief Justices Earl Warren, Fred Vinson, Harlan F. Stone and William Howard Taft, and Associate Justices William J. Brennan, Thurgood Marshall (shown at right), Harry Blackmun, Hugo Black, William O. Douglas, Byron White, Arthur Goldberg and many more.

Steve Wermiel is a Fellow in Law & Government at American University Washington College of Law, where he teaches constitutional law and a seminar on the Supreme Court and directs a Summer Institute on Law & Government for lawyers and law students. He is the co-author of “Justice Brennan: Liberal Champion,” published in 2010. He was the Wall Street Journal Supreme Court correspondent from 1979 to 1991 and has been teaching law since 1991.

Suspicions of Deep State Assassinations

Unz Review, Opinion: American Pravda: Our Deadly World of Post-War Politics, Ron Unz, July 2, 2018. A year or so after encountering the strongly substantiated claims of [W.W. II Gen. George] Patton’s assassination, I happened to read Desperate Deception by Thomas E. Mahl, a mainstream historian, whose book was released by a specialized military affairs publishing house.

This fascinating account documented the long-hidden early 1940s campaign by British intelligence agents to remove all domestic political obstacles to America’s entry into World War II.

wendell willkieA crucial aspect of that project involved the successful attempt to manipulate the Republican Convention of 1940 into selecting as its presidential standard-bearer an obscure individual named Wendell Wilkie [sic, actually Willkie], who had never previously held political office and moreover had been a committed lifelong Democrat. Wilkie’s great value was that he shared Roosevelt’s support for military intervention in the ongoing European conflict, though this was contrary to virtually the entire base of his own newly-joined party. Ensuring that both presidential candidates shared those similar positions prevented the race from becoming an referendum on that issue, in which up to 80% of the American public seems to have been on the other side.

Wilkie’s nomination was surely one of the strangest occurrences in American political history, and the path to his improbable nomination was paved by quite a number of odd and suspicious events, most notably the extremely fortuitous sudden collapse and death of the Republican convention manager, a key Wilkie opponent, which Mahl regards as highly suspicious.

Among those who grow skeptical of establishment media verdicts, there is a natural tendency to become overly suspicious, and see conspiracies and cover-ups where none exist. The sudden death of a prominent political figure may be blamed on foul-play even when the causes were entirely natural or accidental. “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” But when a sufficient number of such persons die within a sufficiently short period of years, and overwhelming evidence suggests that at least some of those deaths were not for the reasons long believed, the burden of proof begins to shift.

Excluding the much larger number of less notable fatalities, here is a short list of six prominent Americans whose untimely passing during 1944-1949 surely evoked considerable relief within various organizations known for their ruthless tactics:

  • Wendell Wilkie, lifelong Democrat nominated for President by the Republicans in 1940, Died October 8, 1944, Age 52, Heart attack.
  • Gen. George Patton, highest-ranking American military officer in Europe, Died December 21, 1945, Age 60, Car accident.
  • Harry Hopkins, FDR’s “Deputy President,” Died January 29, 1946, Age 55, Various possible causes.
  • Harry Dexter White, Soviet agent who ran the Treasury under FDR, Died August 16, 1948, Age 55, Heart attack.
  • Laurence Duggan, Soviet agent, Prospective Secretary of State under Henry Wallace, Died December 20, 1948, Age 43, Fall from 16th story window.
  • James Forrestal, former Secretary of Defense, Died May 22, 1949, Age 57, Fall from 18th story window.

I do not think that any similar sort of list of comparable individuals during that same time period could be produced for Britain, France, the USSR, or China. In one of the James Bond films, Agent 007 states his opinion that “Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action.” And I think these six examples over just a few years should be enough to raise the eyebrows of even the most cautious and skeptical.

Foreign leaders outraged over America’s destructive international blundering have sometimes described our country as possessing physical might of enormous power, but having a ruling political elite so ignorant, gullible, and incompetent that it easily falls under the sway of unscrupulous foreign powers. We are a nation with the body of a dinosaur but controlled by the brain of a flea.

SCOTUSBlog, Potential nominee profile: Judge Thomas Hardiman, a close second to Gorsuch and a shortlister again, Amy Howe, July 2, 2018. When President Donald Trump was searching for a nominee in 2017 to fill the vacancy created by the 2016 death of Antonin Scalia, he reportedly narrowed the field to two candidates: then-Judge Neil Gorsuch, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, and Judge Thomas Hardiman (right) of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit.

On January 31, 2017, Trump nominated Gorsuch, and the rest is history. But with Justice Anthony Kennedy’s announcement last week that he would step down from the Supreme Court bench, Hardiman’s name has resurfaced as a potential nominee. The 52-year-old Hardiman (who will turn 53 on July 8, the day before Trump is expected to announce his new nominee) has a solidly conservative background and a champion in the president’s sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, who served with Hardiman on the 3rd Circuit and has been described as “high on Hardiman.”

In some ways, Hardiman has more in common with Justice Sonia Sotomayor than with Justice Anthony Kennedy, whom he would replace: The Massachusetts-born Hardiman became the first person in his family to go to college when he went to the University of Notre Dame, and he financed his law degree at the Georgetown University Law Center by driving a taxi. (If nominated and confirmed, Hardiman would also bring educational diversity to a court on which all of the other justices attended Ivy League law schools.)

After his law school graduation, Hardiman worked for two years in the Washington office of Skadden Arps before moving to Pittsburgh, where he practiced law until 2003. At the age of 37, Hardiman became a federal district judge; he was unanimously confirmed to the 3rd Circuit in 2007, at the age of 41. Taking the bench at a young age is yet another similarity with Sotomayor, who also became a district judge at the age of 37 and who took her seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit at the age of 44. But the comparisons with Sotomayor largely end there. Hardiman is a solid, although hardly knee-jerk, conservative who was active in Republican politics before joining the federal bench, and his jurisprudence as a Supreme Court justice likely would be closer to another justice who hails from the 3rd Circuit: Justice Samuel Alito.

July 1

Trump Watch

michael cohen 7 14 2015 cnn customPalmer Report, Opinion: “My silence is broken” – Michael Cohen is spilling his guts, Bill Palmer, July 1, 2018. You knew something was about to give. Donald Trump’s longtime fixer Michael Cohen (shown in a file photo) has spent the past two weeks making one eyebrow raising move after another, from taking a selfie with notorious Trump detractor Tom Arnold to resigning from the RNC in protest of Trump, even as three major news networks reported that he was planning to cut a plea deal. Now Cohen is indeed spilling his guts to the media.

abc news logoHere’s what Michael Cohen tweeted just now: “Spent Saturday afternoon with George Stephanopoulos ABC (not on camera) interview for Monday’s GMA. My silence is broken!” In response, Stephanopoulos tweeted “Tune in tomorrow morning on GMA for more on my conversation with President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen.” Neither of them is giving away the particulars of what they discussed, but it’s not difficult to figure out what’s happening here.

Michael Cohen has been taking one coded but clear shot at Donald Trump after another over the past two weeks, signaling that he’s not interested in taking the fall for Trump in the various criminal scandals that have tied the two men together. So unless Cohen has decided to completely and abruptly change his tune, this interview should consist of Cohen officially distancing himself from all things Trump. There is, however, an odd twist to this.

nbc logoNBC News reported two weeks ago that federal prosecutors have informed Michael Cohen that he would soon be indicted and arrested if he didn’t hurry up and cut a plea deal. Considering that Cohen is about to be criminally charged, it’s an awfully risky move to do a television interview about his scandals, as anything he says can and will be used against him by prosecutors. The Cohen saga keeps getting weirder, but it should get more clear tomorrow morning.

donald trump jr filePalmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump Jr gets into bed with the Russian bots, Bill Palmer, July 1, 2018. Public opinion is still split as to . (shown in a file photo) whether Donald Trump Jr was actively conspiring with the Russian government during the election because he was just that evil, or just that stupid.

If the increasingly idiotic conspiracy drivel he posts on Twitter is an indication, he might indeed simply be an idiot who doesn’t quite understand what treason is. Today Junior did something which either showed us just how naive and stupid he is, or just how complicit he is with the Russians.

Over the past thirty-six hours Donald Trump Jr has posted four tweets and retweets that used the hashtag #walkaway. It’s supposed to be the official hashtag for the people who are abandoning the Democratic Party in protest of how poorly liberals are treating Donald Trump. As there is no real-world evidence whatsoever that any such movement exists, the whole thing has come off as suspicious at best. Sure enough, it’s turned out to be an easily documented Russian bot conspiracy.

Respected political reporter Dave Weigel did a little digging, and found that the #walkaway hashtag was being driven by Twitter accounts that were either clearly identifiable as bots, or clearly identifiable as newly created fake accounts. It’s long been widely documented that when bots are used in organized fashion to drive a Trump-friendly hashtag on Twitter, those bots are Russian in origin.

Climate Change

al gore2 SmallThe Hill, Al Gore warns of 'ominous' record-breaking heat, Justin Wise, July 1, 2018. Former Vice President Al Gore (shown in a file photo) on Saturday issued a warning about Earth's "ominous" record-breaking heat.

"Another ominous record has been set," Gore tweeted, citing a Washington Post article. "The city of Quriyat, Oman, hit an overnight LOW of 108.7 degrees on Tuesday -- likely the highest minimum daily temp recorded on Earth. For those suffering from the heat in the U.S. this weekend, be safe and stay cool!"

The world's previous hottest minimum temperature was 107.4 degrees, which was set in Oman on June 27, 2011. On June 26, the temperature reportedly reached a high of 121.6 degrees, just two degrees shy of the country's all-time heat record, setting the record for the hottest temperature in June.

Gore, who has been a longtime champion of causes related to climate change, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for his work. In November 2017, he said the U.S. could remain in the Paris Climate Agreement, the international accord that sets standards for dealing with greenhouse gas emissions, if there was a new U.S. president by 2020.

Global News: Iran

iran flag mapMoon of Alabama, Opinion: On The Path To Failure -- U.S. Attempts Violent "Regime Change" In Iran, B, July 1, 2018. A year ago the CIA created a new mission center to attack Iran (as reported by Shane Harris of the Wall Street Journal):

"The Iran Mission Center will bring together analysts, operations personnel and specialists from across the CIA to bring to bear cia logothe range of the agency’s capabilities, including covert action....To lead the new group, Mr. Pompeo picked a veteran intelligence officer, Michael D’Andrea, who recently oversaw the agency’s program of lethal drone strikes.... Mr. D’Andrea, a former director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, is known among peers as a demanding but effective manager, and a convert to Islam who works long hours.....Some U.S. officials have expressed concern over what they perceive as his aggressive stance toward Iran.

The tool the U.S. is using in Iran are operatives of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), a terror cult that has been fighting with Saddam's Iraq against Iran and is despised by the Iranian people. When the U.S. was kicked out of Iraq it transferred the MEK camps from Iraq to Albania where the cult is now training its terrorists.

rudy giuliani recentYesterday a conference of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), a political umbrella controlled by the MEK, was held in Paris. One of the well paid guest speakers was Donald Trump's lawyer Rudi Giuliani (shown at right in a file photo). He acknowledged U.S. involvement in the protests in Iran: “Those protests [in Iran] are not happening spontaneously. They are happening because of many of our people in Albania and many of our people here and throughout the world.”

The MEK is just a front group, trained by Mossad and financed with U.S. and Saudi money. It is not backed by Iranian people. Only half of the attendees of the conference were Iranians at all. These "color revolution by force" regime change protests are only one of the tools the U.S. is using to destroy Iran.

Trump wants to end all oil exports from Iran to starve the country of foreign currencies. Iran's biggest customers are Europe, India and China. The big Europe oil companies have already folded under Trump's pressure, India followed and China has still to decide if it wants to take a (costly) stand. Trump is pressing Saudi Arabia to increase its oil supplies to replace the Iranian oil that can no longer reach the world market.

Making Iranians poorer is thought to lead to an uprising and regime change. But it is doubtful that such will work. The identity of the Islamic Republic is quite strong. It is more likely that the Iranian people will pull together and accept the hardship while asymmetric Iranian operations slowly destroy the U.S.'s policies. Saudi oil ports are quite vulnerable targets.

Inside DC

Axios, Exclusive: A leaked Trump bill to blow up the WTO, Jonathan Swan, July 1, 2018.  Axios has obtained a leaked draft of a Trump administration bill — ordered by the president himself — that would declare America’s abandonment of fundamental World Trade Organization rules.

Why it matters: The draft legislation is stunning. The bill essentially provides Trump a license to raise U.S. tariffs at will, without congressional consent and international rules be damned.

ICE logo

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘A political suicide march’: Trump aims to inflict political pain on Democrats over calls to abolish immigration enforcement agency, President Donald Trump officialDavid Nakamura, July 1, 2018 (print edition). Trump to ICE agents: 'We will protect you.' President Trump on Saturday opened a new front in the immigration debate, diverting attention away from his administration’s treatment of undocumented immigrants to a broader fight over the federal agency charged with detaining and deporting them.

In a pair of tweets from his private golf club in Bedminster, N.J., Trump forcefully defended the performance of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and lambasted Democrats as pushing a “radical left” agenda to abolish it, even though only a handful have publicly supported doing so.

washington post logoscott pruitt epa o CustomWashington Post, Top EPA ethics official discloses that he has urged additional investigations into Scott Pruitt, Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin, July 1, 2018 (print edition). “Additional potential issues regarding Mr. Pruitt (shown at right) have come to my attention through sources within the EPA and media reports,” ethics official Kevin Minoli wrote in a letter to the Office of Government Ethics about the EPA administrator.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘We have to pick a great one’: Inside Trump’s plan for a new Supreme Court justice, Philip Rucker and Seung Min Kim, July 1, 2018 (print edition). The president, following a methodical course in hopes of avoiding the lurching disorder that so often engulfs his White House, is moving quickly in hopes of replicating last year’s chaos-free pick of Justice Neil M. Gorsuch.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats scramble to keep the outrage that could fuel midterm wins from becoming a liability, Michael Scherer​, July 1, 2018. Still considered key to liberal momentum, anger at Republicans has also led to radical ideas and open disputes among party members over what to focus on as elections approach.

Growing liberal agitation over a pivotal Supreme Court retirement and a simmering crisis about immigrant child separation have left Democratic leaders scrambling to keep the political outrage they’d counted on to fuel midterm election wins from becoming a liability for the party.

Internal party debates have broken into public view over maintaining civility and the usefulness of liberal slogans like “abolish ICE,” which some Republicans have embraced to argue falsely that Democrats oppose immigration enforcement. At the same time, liberal activists have begun to argue for more radical measures to counter President Trump, who they assert presents an immediate threat to the republic.

Immigration Scandal Stems From War-Mongering?

OpEdNews, Opinion: The Blame is Bipartisan: How the Democrats Ruined Central America and Worsened the Mess at the Border, Ted Rall, July 1, 2018. In foreign policy the biggest mistake the United States keeps making is interfering in the sovereign domestic politics of foreign countries it doesn't know enough about.

More often than not, the U.S. supports the wrong side: a privileged minority who oppresses the people, aka the majority. Eventually, because they are the majority, the people overthrow the jerks. Unsurprisingly to everyone except the State Department, the new government is pissed at the United States.

At this writing the Trump Administration's mistreatment of illegal immigrants attempting to enter the United States from Mexico has drawn international condemnation, and rightly so. The cliche' that most migrants come here to pursue economic opportunities is out of date. Nowadays much if not most of the migratory flow is comprised of refugees from violence, specifically from the so-called "Northern Triangle countries" of Central America: Honduras, El Salvador, Belize and Guatemala. Homicide rates are especially high in Honduras and El Salvador.

A 2015 Doctors Without Borders survey of refugees from these countries found that most Central Americans seeking political asylum on the southern border were fleeing physical attacks or threats of violence against themselves or a close family member. More than 40% had had a family member killed in the previous two years.

American officials blame the violence on the drug trade, and accept some responsibility by noting the U.S. demand for illegal narcotics that is behind the violence. But while drug cartels are indisputably a big part of the problem, what no one wants to talk about -- especially not Democrats who are having a field day watching the Republicans get beat up in the polls because the optics of forcibly separating children from their parents are so hideous -- is the U.S. interventionism, most recently carried out by former President Barack Obama, behind the disintegration of civil society in Central America.

hillary clinton oShortly after becoming president in 2009, Barack Obama and his bellicose secretary of state Hillary Clinton faced a foreign policy dilemma: what, if anything, to do about a military coup that toppled Honduras' democratically-elected president Manuel Zelaya.

Thanks to WikiLeaks we know that behind the scenes and in defiance of international law, Clinton reached out to the new junta leader to assure him of U.S. support and rejected the international community's requests that the U.S. demand Zelaya's reinstatement. The secretary of state worked hard to make certain democracy did not return to Honduras so that the new junta could remain in power. The right-wing military junta, many of whom graduated from the Pentagon's notorious assassin-training School of the Americas, were not good stewards.

washington post logoWashington Post, McConnell once pushed sanctions against Myanmar. Now he’s blocking a new round, Shibani Mahtani, July 1, 2018. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who spent over a quarter century promoting human rights and democracy in Myanmar, is now the principal senator holding up fresh legislation pressuring the country to improve its treatment of the Rohingya.

McConnell (R-Ky.) was the architect of harsh economic sanctions against the former military junta, which were dropped in 2016. His current stance has surprised human rights advocates in Washington who once viewed the senator as their most powerful ally in regard to Myanmar, also known as Burma. They characterize him now as an obstructionist who remains loyal to Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi even as others sour on her over her response to the Rohingya crisis.

“It is very surprising given Sen. McConnell’s history, and the seriousness of this crisis,” said a congressional staffer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. “This is not on a small scale — this is ethnic cleansing.”

 

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