JIPLogo


Editor's Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative May 2019 news and views

Note: Excerpts are from the authors' words except for subheads and occasional "Editor's notes" such as this. 

May 20

Trump Scandals

Roll Call, Where all 24 House Judiciary Democrats stand on impeachment, Lindsey McPherson, May 20, 2019. Majority says that may eventually need to launch an impeachment inquiry to get information. More than half of the Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee say their panel may eventually need to open an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump if his administration’s efforts to stonewall congressional investigations continue.

democratic donkey logoCQ Roll Call talked to all but one of the 24 Democrats on the panel over the past two weeks about their views on impeachment in light of Trump, his administration and his allies deciding not to cooperate with their investigation into potential obstruction of justice, corruption and abuses of power.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Sorry, Donald Trump, you’re busted, Bill Palmer, May 20, 2019. Right after the New York Times reported on Sunday afternoon that Deutsche Bank flagged deutsche bank logoDonald Trump for foreign money laundering in 2016 and 2017 [, Investigation: Deutsche Bank Staff Saw Suspicious Activity in Trump and Kushner Accounts, by David Enrich], Trump suddenly decided that he needed to create a distraction by threatening Iran. The thing is, we’ve seen him do this before – to a different country – and he’s even recycling his own verbiage.

bill palmer report logo headerHere’s the juvenile idiocy that Donald Trump tweeted about Iran: “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!” Sound familiar? Back in September 23rd, 2017, when Trump needed a distraction, he posted this tweet: “Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!”

djt kim jong un djt wave singapore 6 12 18 CustomWe all know how that one ended up playing out. Trump had been bluffing all along when it came to his threats against North Korea. Not only did it work as a temporary distraction from his scandals, it set things up so Trump could later swoop in and “save the day” by cutting the world’s worst deal with North Korea [as illustrated by the photo of the leaders last June in friendly discussions].

We have no way of knowing what Donald Trump will end up doing with regard to Iran. But thus far every bit of it has come across as a convenient distraction to his worsening criminal scandals, and an attempt at setting the stage so he can eventually take credit for “fixing” the Iran mess he’s creating.

U.S. Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Va. Democratic Party turns to freshman congresswomen after Richmond scandals, Jenna Portnoy, May 20, 2019 (print ed.). Reps. Jennifer Wexton, Abigail Spanberger and Elaine Luria are stumping for state legislative candidates in a pivotal election year.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Pete Buttigieg creates another media moment, Jennifer Rubin, May 20, 2019. Pundits arguing that South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg simply jennifer rubin twittercannot be president because his only civilian public service has been at the local level, or that he is heavy on values and persona but lighter on policy, seem not to have learned anything from 2016.

President Trump won the Republican primary by stringing together media moments, dominating the airwaves and intensifying his audience’s emotions (anger, resentment, etc.).Buttigieg, in appearing on Fox News Sunday night, helped his cause tremendously. Projecting the same calm, incisiveness and wit that have impressed other audiences, he won enthusiastic applause and a standing ovation. He created some viral moments that will echo around the mainstream media for days:

washington post logoWashington Post, Justin Amash, tea party star, earns primary challenge for backing impeachment, Isaac Stanley-Becker, May 20, 2019. Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan says he enlists social media to do something unusual: explain why he bucks his party in terms his constituents can understand.

justin amashThe 39-year-old Republican, right, who was the youngest member of the freshman class in 2011, states his approach succinctly: “I defend liberty and explain every vote here.”

Amash’s latest decision — to state publicly that President Trump engaged in activity worthy of impeachment — could be the hardest yet for him to explain republican elephant logoto Republican voters, 9 in 10 of whom oppose impeachment, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted in April.

And on Sunday, it prompted an intraparty rival, Michigan state Rep. Jim Lower, to declare he would run in the Republican primary next year for Amash’s seat. Amash, the first Republican to break with the party’s line on impeachment, drew the president’s scorn. Trump responded by calling the five-term congressman a “loser” and “total lightweight.”

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, A CIA suicide sparks hard questions about the agency’s Memorial Wall, Ian Shapira, May 20, 2019 (print ed.). Of 129 fallen employees honored with engraved stars, Ranya Abdelsayed alone took her own life.

U.S. Crime, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, A jewelry box led police to revisit hundreds of deaths. They may have found a serial killer, Antonia Noori Farzan, May 20, 2019 (print ed.). As Phyllis Payne’s family learned, authorities now believe that she was murdered by Billy Chemirmir, who had been posing as maintenance worker at senior living facilities across the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area. Police believe he murdered at least a dozen elderly women.

paul craig roberts rob kall

OpEdNews, Opinion: The Assange/Manning Cases Discredit Humanity, Paul Craig Roberts (shown above at left in a radio interview with OpEdNews Publisher Rob Kall), May 20, 2019. Everyone who is aware of the US government's extraordinary criminal actions at home and abroad bears a heavy weight. The millions of peoples murdered, maimed, orphaned, widowed, and displaced by gratuitous American military aggression comprise a Holocaust of deaths based entirely on lies and false accusations in order to advance secret American and Israeli agendas.

I suspect that the heavy burden of responsibility for mass murder and destruction committed in our name is the reason most Americans prefer the fake news fed to them about how good and wonderful and exceptional we are and how hard our government works to protect us from the nasty folks elsewhere.

This story-line converts the illegal brutal war crimes of the US government against women, children, defenseless citizens, schools, wedding parties, funerals, and farmers in their fields into glorious and brave defenses of our liberty and virtue.

chelsea manning dan behrendt youtube screenshot dmcaIf you want the truth watch the video leaked by Chelsea Manning of US troops enjoying themselves while from the air they machine-gun reporters and innocent civilians walking along a street and follow up by machine-gunning a father and his two young children, babies, who stopped to help the wounded bleeding in the street. The leak of the video that showed the true picture of Washington's wars is the reason Manning (shown at right in a Dan Behrendt screenshot) was tortured and imprisoned.

It is the person who told the truth, not the criminals who committed the murders, who was punished.

I agree that the fake story of America's moral worthiness is much easier to live with than it is to bear the shame of the true story. But in the end the fake story destroys our liberty even more completely than would conquest by a foreign opponent. People are more suspicious of an occupying power than they are of their own government and are less likely to believe foreign occupiers when they lie to them. In contrast, a people's own government can trap them in a false consciousness and keep them there with fake news.

Washington's case against Julian Assange is so contrived and so weak, that the corrupt US attorney assigned to frame-up Assange has resorted to persecution of Manning in an effort to coerce false testimony against Assange from Manning. After being tortured and serving seven years in prison for revealing a US war crime, as Manning was required to do under the US military code, Manning was pardoned by President Obama.

Now Manning is back in prison for a second time after being pardoned, because Manning will not cooperate in the frame-up of Assange by giving false testimony to a grand jury. Without false testimony, the corrupt US attorney hasn't a case that could get a conviction from even the typical insouciant American jury, normally a collection of gullible people julian assange head bookeasily manipulated by the prosecutor.

When Manning (shown in a file photo at left) was imprisoned for 63 days for refusing to tell lies about Assange, Manning spent 28 of those days in solitary anthony trengaconfinement. Why?

A week after Manning was released, the corrupt US attorney called Manning again before the grand jury that the corrupt US attorney is using to contrive a case against Assange. Again Manning refused to cooperate in the frame-up, and was again held in contempt and again remanded into federal prison.

This time a corrupt US federal district judge, Anthony Trenga, right, added to Manning's jail time a daily fine of $500 rising to $1,000 daily after 60 days. In other words, the corrupt judge is helping the corrupt US attorney to coerce Manning into cooperating in a frame-up of Assange. Americans need to understand that their judges are not judges. They are operatives of the American police state.

Global News: Ukraine

volodymyr zelensky inaugurated may 20 2019 croppedSouthFront, Volodymyr Zelensky Inaugurated As Ukrainian President, Immediately Dissolved Parliament, Staff report, May 20, 2019. On May 20th, newly-elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was inaugurated in the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) and immediately dissolved it.

In his address, he said that one of the first actions that need to be undertaken is a ceasefire in Donbass. He called for the dismissal of the Head of the Security Service of Ukraine, the Prosecutor General of Ukraine and the Minister of Defense of Ukraine.

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Make him famous in a different way’: In this popular mobile game, you kill a journalist, Angela Fritz, May 20, 2019 (print ed.). The mission is called Breaking News. It’s the seventh mission in the game, and it comes after you’ve upgraded your sniper rifle to shoot at a distance of nearly 1,000 feet with accuracy.

By now, you’ve already taken out, among others, a gunman who allegedly killed several people at a pizzeria last year, someone who stole a backpack from a tourist, a sniper who (without a trace of irony) is killing innocent people, and three men who were guarding a gang’s weapon arsenal.

Breaking News has a clear goal: kill a reporter.

“A journalist bribed a cop and will pick up a briefcase from the cop,” the mission says. “The briefcase is full of sensitive documents. Make him famous in a different way.” (In reality, journalists’ codes of ethics ban them from paying sources for information or material. There would certainly be no bribing.)

Sniper 3D Assassin is a mobile game available on iOS and Android. It has a rating of about 4½ stars, with a combined 12 million reviews on both platforms. The app launched in 2014 and reached 10 million downloads in the first month, according to the developer, TFG, which is based in Brazil. In 2016, the developer claims it was the most-downloaded game in the App Store.

JIP Editor's Note: The game "level" regarding journalists was removed after Huffington Post published a story about it. “Our game Sniper 3D Assassin is fictional and is intended for mature audiences,’ said Michael Mac-Vicar, the CTO of the developing company. ‘At TFG, we work to create games that bring fun and entertainment to users all around the world. As such, we take feedback from our players very seriously. After listening to our community today, we have decided to remove the mission ‘Breaking News’ from the game.”

U.S. Jobs / Economy

washington post logoWashington Post, Ford to cut 7,000 jobs as part of company ‘redesign,’ Rachel Siegel, May 20, 2019. Ford Motor Co. will cut roughly 10 percent of its global salaried staff by August as part of a companywide “redesign.” The move will eliminate 7,000 white-collar jobs and save the U.S. auto giant about $600 million annually.

Ford is also looking to restructure its ranks globally, including in Europe, China and South America. The 7,000 job cuts include salaried employees who took buyouts within the past year, as well as jobs that were never filled and later eliminated. About 20 percent of the positions were senior-level management roles, the News reported.

In North America, about 500 workers will lose their jobs this week; the total will climb to 800 total by June, according to the Detroit Free Press. Some contract employees in the U.S. also will be let go. Ford is not alone. General Motors has laid off roughly 4,500 workers since early 2017.

May 19

Trump Scandals

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Deutsche Bank Staff Saw Suspicious Activity in Trump and Kushner Accounts, David Enrich, May 19, 2019. Anti-money laundering specialists at Deutsche Bank recommended in 2016 and 2017 that multiple transactions involving legal entities controlled by Donald J. Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, be reported to a federal financial-crimes watchdog.

deutsche bank logoThe transactions, some of which involved Mr. Trump’s now-defunct foundation, set off alerts in a computer system designed to detect illicit activity, according to five current and former bank employees. Compliance staff members who then reviewed the transactions prepared so-called suspicious activity reports that they believed should be sent to a unit of the Treasury Department that polices financial crimes.

But executives at Deutsche Bank, which has lent billions of dollars to the Trump and Kushner companies, rejected their employees’ advice. The reports were never filed with the government.

The nature of the transactions was not clear. At least some of them involved money flowing back and forth with overseas entities or individuals, which bank employees considered suspicious.

President Donald Trump officialReal estate developers like Mr. Trump and Mr. Kushner, below at left, sometimes do large, all-cash deals, including with people outside the United States, any of which can prompt anti-money laundering reviews. The red flags raised by employees do not necessarily mean the transactions were improper. Banks sometimes opt not to file suspicious activity reports if they conclude their employees’ concerns are unwarranted.

jared kushner head shotBut former Deutsche Bank employees said the decision not to report the Trump and Kushner transactions reflected the bank’s generally lax approach to money laundering laws. The employees — most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to preserve their ability to work in the industry — said it was part of a pattern of the bank’s executives rejecting valid reports to protect relationships with lucrative clients.

“You present them with everything, and you give them a recommendation, and nothing happens,” said Tammy McFadden, a former Deutsche Bank anti-money laundering specialist who reviewed some of the transactions. “It’s the D.B. way. They are prone to discounting everything.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump goes completely berserk after Deutsche Bank accuses him of being a Russian money launderer, Bill Palmer, May 19, 2019. The New York deutsche bank logoTimes reported this afternoon that watchdogs at Deutsche Bank flagged several of Donald Trump’s financial transactions for money laundering in 2016 and 2017, and that certain higher-ups at the bank then moved to quash it instead of reporting it to regulators. Some of these transactions were with Russia. This means there’s some kind of smoking gun, and considering how close House Democrats are to winning their court battles to get Trump’s financial records from places like Deutsche Bank, it means it’s time for Trump to panic. So naturally, he’s panicking.

bill palmer report logo headerDonald Trump had been spending the afternoon on autopilot, tweeting his usual rhetoric about how great of a job he’s done, and how all the news about his scandals is fake. But after the Deutsche Bank bombshell landed, Trump decided to tweet this: “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!” That’s right, he’s suddenly threatening to “end” a country – genocide, we think – because he’s desperate to change the narrative.

We’ll see how the media responds. The story of Russia using Deutsche Bank to launder money through Donald Trump’s businesses in New York city has been surfacing in pieces for the past two years, but most (not all) of the American mainstream media has paid little attention to it. Today’s bombshell is very different in that the bank itself is making the accusation, the financial records to substantiate it will soon be public, and there’s a whistleblower who can be brought in to testify.

U.S. Impeachment Politics

justin amash

ny times logoNew York Times, Breaking with his party, a G.O.P. lawmaker said President Trump’s conduct reaches the “threshold of impeachment,” Glenn Thrush, May 19, 2019 (print ed.). Representative Justin Amash, an iconoclastic Republican of Michigan -- shown above in a file photo-- who has considered a run against President Trump in 2020, became the first member of his party serving in Congress to publicly suggest that the president’s conduct had reached the “threshold of impeachment.”

Mr. Amash, 39, used Mr. Trump’s favorite medium — Twitter — to join a groundswell of Democrats who have concluded that the president’s behavior, including instances of potential obstruction of justice laid out in the report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, meets the constitutional threshold of high crimes and misdemeanors.

“President Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct,” Mr. Amash wrote in a series of messages after reading the redacted version of the 448-page report.

nancy pelosi djt

Palmer Report, Opinion: Nancy Pelosi just got lucky – or did she? Bill Palmer, May 18, 2019 (late evening). Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sure caught a lucky break today when Republican Congressman Justin Amash called for impeachment proceedings to begin against Donald Trump. It makes it a lot easier for Pelosi and the House Democrats to bill palmer report logo headermove forward with impeachment now that they have a sliver of bipartisan cover.

But did Pelosi really get lucky at all? I would argue that this wasn’t luck, and Nancy Pelosi simply knows what she’s doing.

Feel Good Graduation Day

washington post logoWashington Post, In commencement speech, billionaire pledges to pay off Morehouse College Class of 2019’s student loans, Allison Klein​, May 19, 2019. The surprise announcement during the address by Robert F. Smith in Atlanta on Sunday left the graduates crying and jumping for joy.

It was a hot, sticky morning in Atlanta on Sunday when billionaire investor and philanthropist Robert F. Smith stood atop an outdoor stage on the campus of Morehouse College and started delivering a speech that the nearly 400 graduates probably thought would be the usual commencement fare.

Smith described being bused to a high-performing, predominantly white school across town in Denver, where he grew up. He said he’ll never forget climbing onto bus No. 13 to Carson Elementary.

“Those five years drastically changed the trajectory of my life,” he said. “The teachers at Carson were extraordinary. They embraced me and challenged me to think critically and start to move toward my full potential. I, in turn, came to realize at a young age that the white kids and the black kids, the Jewish kids and the one Asian kid were all pretty much the same.”

U.S. Crime: Trump Pardons

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The President and His Power to Pardon, The Editorial Board, May 19, 2019 (print ed.). Donald Trump’s use of executive clemency may be lawful, but it is in no way normal. The Constitution assigns to the president the “power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.”

On its face, this authority appears unquestionable, and the Supreme Court has called it “unlimited.” But in his more than two years in office, Donald Trump has found ways to wield or dangle the pardon power in a manner that departs from any established practice and even calls into question the principles of justice that undergird it.

The full pardons of Conrad Black, a wealthy friend of Mr. Trump’s who has written charitably about him, and Patrick Nolan, a former Republican Assembly leader from California who has criticized aspects of the Russia investigation, are the latest examples in what seems to be a new trend in presidential clemency: mercy for lawbreakers in the mold of disgraced politicians, media personalities and political allies who have flattered, defended or curried favor with the president.

Then came news that the president may mark this Memorial Day with pardons for outlaws in a category all their own — war criminals.

U.S. Crime: Bank Whistleblowing

cbs news logoCBS 60 Minutes, Investigation: How the Danske Bank money-laundering scheme involving $230 billion unraveled, Steve Kroft, May 19, 2019. It could be the biggest money-laundering scheme in history, with suspicious money flowing from Russia and former Soviet republics

Money laundering is the way clever crooks hide and eventually spend all of the money they have stolen. And this is a tale about what's believed to be the biggest money-laundering scheme in history.

It involves nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars of very suspicious money from Russia and the former Soviet Union that was funneled into the western banking system right under the noses of major banks and regulators in the United States and Europe, who either facilitated it or turned a blind eye. At the heart of it is a whistleblower, who found one loose thread and decided to pull on it.

howard wilkinson

Related story: National Whistleblowers Center: On Sunday, 60 Minutes featured the case of whistleblower Howard Wilkinson (shown above), the former banker who blew the whistle on the largest money-laundering scandal in world banking history, involving $234 billion. U.S. authorities are reportedly investigating transactions of major banks operating in the U.S., including $150 billion in suspicious transactions handled by Deutsche Bank. The Danske Bank scandal highlights the impact of whistleblowers and their role in holding corporations accountable for wrongdoing.

U.S. Crime / Safety

washington post logoWashington Post, After 3 tours in Iraq, he set out on the Appalachian Trail to ‘find peace.’ He was killed there this month, Arelis R. Hernández and Tom Jackman, May 19, 2019 (print ed.)ronnie sanchez cropped. In February, Army veteran Ronnie Sanchez Jr. decided to take on another challenge in a life full of them — a thru-hike of the 2,192-mile trail from Georgia to Maine. He was fatally stabbed in Virginia on May 11.

Taxi Drivers Scammed?

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: How Reckless Loans Devastated a Generation of Taxi Drivers (Part 1), Brian M. Rosenthal, Photographs and Video by Kholood Eid, May 19, 2019. “They were conned.” Thousands of immigrant taxi drivers were trapped in exploitative loans by bankers who made huge profits. The drivers, chasing the dream of owning a New York taxi medallion, were left destitute, a Times investigation found.

The phone call that ruined Mohammed Hoque’s life came in April 2014 as he began another long day driving a New York City taxi, a job he had held since emigrating from Bangladesh nine years earlier.

The call came from a prominent businessman who was selling a medallion, the coveted city permit that allows a driver to own a yellow cab instead of working for someone else. If Mr. Hoque gave him $50,000 that day, he promised to arrange a loan for the purchase.

After years chafing under bosses he hated, Mr. Hoque thought his dreams of wealth and independence were coming true. He emptied his bank account, borrowed from friends and hurried to the man’s office in Astoria, Queens. Mr. Hoque handed over a check and received a stack of papers. He signed his name and left, eager to tell his wife.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: As Drivers Were Trapped in Loans, Top Officials Counted the Money (Part 2), Brian M. Rosenthal, Photographs and Video by Kholood Eid, May 19, 2019. “Nobody wanted to kill the golden goose.”  Despite warning signs, seven government agencies did little to stop abuses in the taxi medallion market.

Media / #MeToo / Free Press?

 washington post logoWashington Post, Is revenge porn protected by the Constitution? Some states might say yes, Deanna Paul, May 19, 2019. Forty-five states have revenge-porn laws in place, and appeals courts are beginning to take up cases involving the constitutionality of these statutes.

Inside DC

Axios Sneak Peek, Investigation: Leaked emails show Trump nominee called administration "heartless," Jonathan Swan, May 19, 2019. President Trump's pick to run U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is going to be working with the same president and the same top official who fired him as head of the Border Patrol in 2017. And leaked internal emails obtained by Axios' Alayna Treene reveal just how angry Mark Morgan was at the Trump administration when he was fired.

kevin mcaleenan o Custom 2The fact they are pushing for me to leave immediately is heartless and void of any decency and compassion," Morgan wrote to Kevin McAleenan, right, the former acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection who is now Trump's acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Why it matters: The emails — dated Jan. 24 and 25, 2017 — show the depth of Morgan's anger and disappointment with the Trump administration for forcing him out of the role. But they also show how extraordinary it is that Morgan has gotten back into Trump's good graces.

The trick: Morgan has gone on the president's favorite channel, Fox News, to talk up Trump's hardline immigration policies and endorse his proposed border wall.

Global News: Crimea / Ukraine

SouthFront, Opinion: Zelensky Plays Ethnic Card In Attempt To Get Support From Radicals, Fuel Tensions In Crimea, Staff report, May 19, 2019. On May 18, Ukraine’s president-volodymyr zelenskii cropped headshotelect Volodymyr Zelensky, right, made a statement on Facebook regarding the 75th anniversary of the deportation of Crimean Tatars. He claimed that he would free the “motherland of Crimean Tatars from the occupation.”

This statement shows that Zelensky is going to follow the patch of the previous Ukrainian political leadership, which has flirted with Crimean Tatar radicals and attempted (without success) to destabilize the situation in Crimea using the ‘ethnic factor.’ They are a part of political show and an attempt to get some support from religious and nationalist radicals.

Alabama's Abortion Law

kay ivey abortion cartoon donkey hotey whowhatwhy CC BY SA 2.0jpg

"This may not seem ordinary to you now, but after a time it will. This will become ordinary." — Kay ‘Aunt Lydia’ Ivey (Alabama governor). Photo credit: DonkeyHotey / WhoWhatWhy (CC BY-SA 2.0) See complete attribution in story below.

WhoWhatWhy, Opinion: The Hypocrisy of Anti-Choice Politicians, Klaus Marre and DonkeyHotey, May 19, 2019. It’s one thing for backward-thinking politicians to impose their ideology on a populace that views them as extreme. But they should at least be consistent. A clear-minded look at the abortion debate.

May 18

Major Political Upset In Australia

washington post logoWashington Post, Surprise upset: Australian prime minister stays in power as opponent concedes, A. Odysseus Patrick​, May 18, 2019. The center-right government of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, shown below in a 2016 photo, appeared on track to hold onto power Saturday after a surprise surge in national elections that left some pundits making comparisons to President Trump’s win in 2016.

scott morrison 2016The apparent upset victory was the latest election to trample predictions by polling firms, which all showed Morrison’s political bloc trailing the opposition Labor Party.

The expected Labor Party victory was seen as move toward greater attention on battling climate change, expanding social programs and ending political instability that had led to six prime ministers in eight years. The Labor lead also suggested Australia was ready to set a counternarrative to the rise in nationalist political movements in the West and australian flag wavingelsewhere.

Now, Morrison’s come-from-behind campaign may provide a further morale boost to conservative politicians in the U.S. and elsewhere in the Western World hostile to immigration and skeptical of renewable energy subsidies.

Austrian Political / Media Scandal

ny times logoNew York Times, Highlights From the Video That Brought Down Austria’s Vice Chancellor, Christopher F. Schuetze, May 18, 2019. A secretly filmed video that led Heinz-Christian Strache, Austria’s far-right vice chancellor, to step down on Saturday is filled with eyebrow-raising moments, according to excerpts published by the German heinz christian strachenewsmagazine Der Spiegel and the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Mr. Strache, right, not only resigned from his post less than 24 hours after the release of the video footage, which was recorded in July 2017 in a rented villa in Ibiza, Spain. He also vowed to resign as leader of the Freedom Party. The scandal prompted Chancellor Sebastian Kurz later on Saturday to call for a snap election, saying at a news conference in Vienna, “After yesterday’s video, enough is enough.”

Here’s what we learned from the taped conversations, which lasted for hours and were accompanied by more than a little alcohol (as well as sushi, tuna tartar and energy drinks).

Five people took part in the meeting, according to the German news outlets, which examined the tapes but have not released the full recordings.

They included Mr. Strache; a woman who said she was the niece of a Russian oligarch; an interpreter; another Freedom Party official, Johann Gudenus, who seems to have set up the meeting; and Mr. Gudenus’s wife, Tajana.

In the footage, the woman says she wants to invest a quarter-billion euros in Austria, and Mr. Strache explores ways that such a giant investment would help his Freedom Party.

Mr. Strache tells the presumed investor that he’s been to Russia many times and that he has met with advisers of President Vladimir V. Putin to plan for “strategic collaboration,” according to Der Spiegel.

At one point, he suggests that the woman could help his party in the 2017 election. One other option discussed: taking state road contracts away from Austria’s largest construction company, Strabag, one of Europe’s biggest builders, and turning them over to a company she would found.

Since the Freedom Party came to power, it has had an antagonistic relationship with the news media. The crux of the conversation in 2017 was about the woman taking over the tabloid Kronen Zeitung.

In the recorded conversations, Mr. Strache suggests that with her in control, she could give his party favorable coverage and lift its poll numbers. “If she takes over the Krone newspaper three weeks before election and brings us to spot No. 1, then we can talk about anything,” Mr. Strache says.

While suggesting that some of the editorial staff of Kronen Zeitung should be fired, he said most would play along. Mr. Strache called journalists “the biggest” prostitutes on the planet, though he used a crasser term.

Besides his focus on Kronen Zeitung, Mr. Strache seemed to be particularly set on restructuring ORF, Austria’s public broadcaster — even mentioning privatization. “We want to build a media landscape like Orban did,” Mr. Strache says in the tape. Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary has turned his country’s public news media into a pro-government propaganda machine, and allies have gradually bought up whole sectors of the private news industry. During its short time as junior coalition partner, the Freedom Party has attacked Austrian journalists and suggested cutting public broadcast fees.

Trump To Pardon Accused War Criminals?

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Shows Signs He Will Pardon Servicemen Accused or Convicted of War Crimes, Dave Philipps, May 18, 2019. President Trump requests immediate preparation of the paperwork needed to pardon several military members. A Navy SEAL accused of shooting unarmed civilians and killing an enemy captive is among those the president is considering.

President Trump has requested the immediate preparation of paperwork needed to pardon several American military members accused or convicted of war crimes — including high-profile cases of murder, attempted murder and desecration of a corpse — indicating that he is considering pardons for the men on or around Memorial Day, according to two United States officials.

edward gallagherThe requests are for Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, shown right in a family photo, of the Navy SEALs, who is scheduled to stand trial in the coming weeks on charges of shooting unarmed civilians and killing an enemy captive with a knife while deployed in Iraq.

They are also believed to include the case of a former Blackwater security contractor recently found guilty in the deadly 2007 shooting of dozens of unarmed Iraqis; the case of Maj. Mathew L. Golsteyn, the Army Green Beret accused of killing an unarmed Afghan in 2010; and the case of a group of Marine Corps snipers charged with urinating on the corpse of a dead Taliban fighter.

The White House sent requests on Friday to the Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney, which alerted the military branches, according to one senior military official. Pardon files include background information and details on criminal charges, and in many cases include letters describing how the person in question has made amends.

May 17

Mueller Probedjt sergey lavrov sergey kislyak wh may 10 2017 tass

President Trump relaxes with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, and Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak at the White House on May 10, 2017. U.S. news media were barred from the secret meeting. Photos became available only from the Russian outlet TASS, which was entrusted to attend and report those matters deemed appropriate and otherwise harmless for Western audiences to know.

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge tells prosecutors to release transcript of Michael Flynn’s call to Russian envoy, Carol D. Leonnig and Rosalind S. Helderman, May 17, 2018. The michael flynn stephen miller jared kushner reince priebustranscripts of the call and a separate voice mail would reveal conversations at the center of two major avenues of the Mueller probe. A federal judge on Thursday ordered that prosecutors make public a transcript of a phone call that former national security adviser Michael Flynn (shown at center of file photo at right surrounded by Stephen Miller, Jared Kushner and Reince Priebus) tried hard to hide with a lie: his conversation with a Russian ambassador in late 2016.

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan (below at left) in Washington ordered the government also to provide a public transcript of a November 2017 voice mail involving Flynn. In that sensitive call, President Trump’s attorney left a message for Flynn’s attorney reminding him of the president’s fondness for Flynn at a time when Flynn was considering cooperating with emmet sullivan 2012federal investigators.

The transcripts, which the judge ordered be posted on a court website by May 31, would reveal conversations at the center of two major avenues of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. So far they have been disclosed to the public only in fragments in court filings and the Mueller report.

Sullivan also ordered that still-redacted portions of the Mueller report that relate to Flynn be given to the court and made public. Sullivan’s orders came very shortly after government prosecutors agreed to release some sealed records in Flynn’s case. The release was in response to a motion filed with the court earlier this year by The Washington Post, which argued that the public deserved to know more about Flynn’s role in key events and cooperation with investigators.

The newly unsealed portions of court records showed Flynn was a deep source of useful information to the special counsel’s team in 2017 and 2018, helping it probe the Trump campaign’s effort to gain stolen emails and the question of whether Trump sought to criminally interfere in the investigation bearing down on him.

The records confirm the questions that Flynn, a retired lieutenant general and former military intelligence officer, helped federal prosecutors answer after his guilty plea. Flynn admitted in 2017 that he tried to conceal the nature of his conversations with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and then began cooperating with Mueller’s team to try to reduce and possibly avoid a prison sentence.

Palmer Report, Opinion: No wonder Robert Mueller has been waiting to testify, Bill Palmer, right, May 17, 2019. Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee publicly stated that bill palmerthey thought Robert Mueller was going to publicly testify on May 15th – and when they learned it wasn’t going to happen, they didn’t seem too upset about it. Now we know why they were confident Mueller’s testimony would happen soon enough, and why Mueller was waiting.

bill palmer report logo headerLast night Robert Mueller’s prosecutorial team – which apparently still exists on some level – made a court filing in the Michael Flynn case, despite the fact that it wasn’t under obligation to do so, and it wasn’t even close to being up against any deadline. The filing revealed that Flynn witnessed Trump and his underlings commit several crimes. This in turn prompted the judge in the case to order that far more evidence of these crimes be publicly released soon. This, of course, wasn’t coincidence.

democratic donkey logoWith his filing yesterday, Mueller is essentially unredacting the most important pieces of his own report by force, in a way that Attorney General William Barr can’t stop. If Mueller had publicly testified on the 15th as originally planned, would he have been legally able to discuss the Trump crimes that Flynn witnessed? But now that Mueller has found a way to force the Flynn stuff into the public purview, there’s nothing that Trump and Barr can even try to do to stop Mueller from testifying about the Flynn stuff.

We’ll see if Robert Mueller makes other similar moves in the coming days in order to force the key findings of his probe into public view. But it’s now fairly obvious why he’s been waiting to testify. Why fight with Barr’s compromised DOJ about what you can testify about, when you can instead use the courts to change the entire playing field?

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s downfall was always going to come back to Michael Flynn, Bill Palmer, May 17, 2019. When Michael Flynn, right, cut a plea deal in 2017, he was michael flynn djtallowed to plead guilty to just one minimal criminal charge, despite having committed something along the lines of treason. No one gets a deal this lenient unless they’ve given up a bigger fish, and they’ve provided smoking gun evidence to that end. At the time it was fairly obvious that Flynn had given up Donald Trump.

bill palmer report logo headerWe now know that additional people connected to the White House, and at least one person connected to Congress, also illegally tried to convince Flynn not to cut a deal. We now know that Flynn gave up which handful of members of Team Trump were involved in the WikiLeaks thing.

We now know that Flynn gave up which members of the Trump transition team were in on Flynn’s criminal conspiracy with the Russian Ambassador. And this is just the start.

ny times logoNew York Times, Frustrated House Democrats Pin Hopes on Mueller Testimony, Glenn Thrush and Nicholas Fandos, May 17, 2019 (print ed.). They had a plan: Stoke public anger about President Trump by dramatizing Robert S. Mueller III’s report on national television in their committees.

democratic donkey logoRobert Mueller (FBI Official Photo)But so far Mr. Trump and his allies have successfully stonewalled their efforts. Donald F. McGahn II, the former White House counsel and a central player in the story, is expected to either flout a subpoena to testify before the House Judiciary Committee next Tuesday or refuse to answer questions.

The White House has claimed executive privilege over the unredacted Mueller report and all the evidence underlying its 448 pages, and administration officials refuse to satisfy virtually any other request — setting up months, possibly years, of legal wrangling.

Mr. Mueller, shown in a file photo from his years as FBI director, who was invited to testify by the chairmen of the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees a month ago, has not agreed to do so.

ny times logoNew York Times, Barr Again Questions Russia Inquiry, Aligning With Trump, Charlie Savage, May 17, 2019. When Attorney General William P. Barr described the early stages of the Russia investigation as “spying” on the Trump campaign, he prompted questions about whether he had used that word spontaneously — or whether he was deliberately fueling conspiracy theories.

That question flared anew on Friday after Mr. Barr went even further in casting doubt on the legitimacy of the investigation in two interviews that, by design or coincidence, provided fresh ammunition for President Trump and allies to attack law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

Political Wire, Flynn Contacted GOP Mueller Critic While Cooperating, Taegan Goddard, May 17, 2019. “While he was cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn contacted at least one member of Congress who was publicly criticizing the special counsel probe,” according to messages obtained by CNN.

“Flynn sent Twitter direct messages to Rep. Matt Gaetz, encouraging the Florida Republican to ‘keep the pressure on.’ It’s not clear if Flynn sent additional messages to other lawmakers.”

djt li yang cindy

Mother Jones, In Defamation Lawsuit, a Trump Donor Acknowledges Providing Chinese Execs "Access" in US, David Corn and Dan Friedman, May 17, 2019. Last week, Li "Cindy" Yang (shown above), the Florida massage parlor entrepreneur and Trump donor who has been part of the recent controversy involving Donald Trump's private resort, Mar-a-Lago, filed a defamation lawsuit against the parent company of the Miami Herald. The suit focused on a Herald story that had placed Yang in the spotlight by reporting she had posed for a photo with Trump at his West Palm Beach golf club during a Super Bowl party in February and noting that Yang had founded the day spa where Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, had been busted for allegedly soliciting prostitution. (Yang sold that particular spa years earlier.)

The suit claims the newspaper published false statements about Yang and her business that suggested illegal conduct had occurred in her spas. But the suit also contained a surprising passage that acknowledged that Yang had also run a business that provided Chinese executives "access to American business and political culture," and this included entry to events at Mar-a-Lago.

After the Herald story appeared in March, Mother Jones reported that Yang owned a firm that had offered to sell Chinese clients access to Trump and his family via visits to Mar-a-Lago. The company, GY US Investments, noted on its website -- which has since been taken down -- that its business consulting services addressed clients looking to make high-level connections in the United States. On a page displaying a photo of Mar-a-Lago, the firm said its "activities for clients" included offering them "the opportunity to interact with the president, the [American] Minister of Commerce and other political figures." The company boasted it had "arranged taking photos with the President" and suggested it can provide clients with access to a "White House and Capitol Hill Dinner."

Weeks after that story was posted, Yang's attorney, Evan Turk, contacted Mother Jones and threatened a lawsuit, claiming the article defamed Yang. In a letter, Turk wrote that the Mother Jones article inaccurately reported that "Cindy Yang runs an investment business that has offerred [sic] to sell Chinese clients access to Trump and his family. This is nothing but false conjecture based on her company's website that offerred [sic] business assistance in America to potential Chinese clientele; a travel package." (No lawsuit has yet been filed.)

Yet in the lawsuit Turk dropped on the Herald, he stated that Yang was in the access business. A paragraph citing her entrepreneurial talents explained how GY US Investments was founded and operated:

"YANG came to the United States [from China] in search of a better life. She realized the American dream through her entrepreneurial acumen. She created GY US Investments which provided access to the American business and political culture through her understanding of opportunity. GY US Investments was a travel package for Chinese businessmen and philanthropists to travel to America. She realized the premium attached to a picture and story that her clients would cherish, while at the same time, supporting charitable causes. She had an opportunity to share her understanding of the Palm Beach charity scene and events publicly promoted at Mar-a-Lago (amongst others). YANG's business model relied upon her reputation and relationships she had painstakingly established during her time spent in the Palm Beach County area.

This complaint together with the GY US Investments website support the conclusion that Yang, who raised money for Trump, used her connections to bring Chinese executives into proximity of the president and Trump family members at his club and perhaps elsewhere.

Yang's lawsuit maintains that due to Herald article, she...

"is no longer able to maintain her current employment as a direct result of the defamatory statements, is no longer able to attend Mar-a-Lago [events], lost her role as an executive volunteer with the Republican Executive Committee, is undergoing psychiatric treatment to cope with the unconscionable fake allegations, suffers from significant headaches, cannot sleep and was forced to relocate as a direct result of the shame she has had to unnecessarily endure."

In the filing, Turk, a supporter of Roger Stone, the longtime Trump adviser who was indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and charged with lying to Congress, asserts the Herald story was a hit job that "paints a picture that President Trump is corrupt, and YANG is one of his cronies... The article reads as if it is the playbook for the anti-President Trump manifesto."

In response, the newspaper's managing editor, Rick Hirsch, said, "We stand behind our stories, which accurately reflect publicly available documents and investigations of spas run by Cindy Yang and her family." And a lawyer for the Herald noted that the lawsuit could entail taking depositions from Trump's family members who appeared in photos Yang posted online.

Police Brutality

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Not a Big Deal,’ Police Commander Said as Eric Garner Died, Ali Winston, May 17, 2019 (print ed.). The lieutenant reacted with seemingly little concern, according to previously unseen text messages, after being told by an officer that Mr. Garner was most likely dead.

The revelation provoked gasps at the disciplinary hearing for the officer who applied a chokehold to Mr. Garner, who died after exclaiming “I can’t breathe.” Audible gasps were heard as the texts were read aloud on Thursday during a police disciplinary hearing for Officer Daniel Pantaleo. He is accused of recklessly using a chokehold that led to Mr. Garner’s death after he was detained on the suspicion that he was selling untaxed cigarettes.

U.S. Abortion Restrictions

 washington post logoWashington Post, Missouri lawmakers pass strict antiabortion bill, joining a wave of conservative states, Lindsey Bever, May 17, 2019. The measure, which bans abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy, now heads to Gov. Mike Parson (R) for his signature.

ny times logomichelle goldberg thumbNew York Times, Opinion: Post-Roe America Won’t Be Like Pre-Roe America. It Will Be Worse, Michelle Goldberg, right, May 17, 2019 (print ed.). The new abortion bans are harsher than the old ones.

You can see, in the anti-abortion movement, a mood of triumphant anticipation. Decades of right-wing politics have all led up to this moment, when an anti-abortion majority on the Supreme Court could end women’s constitutional protection against being forced to carry a pregnancy and give birth against their will.

An end to Roe isn’t guaranteed — some court watchers expect Chief Justice John Roberts to allow it to be whittled away rather than overturned. But activists on both sides of the abortion divide agree that the precedent has never been more vulnerable.

Trump Impact Around U.S.

ny times logoNew York Times, Their Mother Is Undocumented. Under Trump Plan, They Might Be Evicted, Luis Ferré-Sadurní, May 17, 2019 (print ed.). The Trump administration proposed President Donald Trump officiala rule that would prohibit families from subsidized housing if any member is undocumented.

ny times logoNew York Times, College Scholarships Hit With Big Tax Increases in New Law, Erica L. Green, May 17, 2019. Higher education officials are calling on Congress to fix a provision in the sweeping tax overhaul of 2017 that has resulted in unintended tax bill increases.

republican elephant logoA little-noticed provision in President Trump’s sprawling new tax law is treating middle- and low-income college students as if they are trust-fund babies, taxing sizable financial aid packages at a rate first established 33 years ago to prevent wealthy parents from funneling money to their children to lower their tax burdens.

Higher-education leaders are calling on Congress to fix the provision, which drastically raised the tax rate on so-called unearned income for children with assets and young adults in school. Students with large financial aid packages are finding their nontuition assistance for items such as room and board taxed by as much as 37 percent, even if their family income tax rates are much lower.

U.S. Public Health

ny times logoNew York Times, Citrus Farmers Facing Deadly Bacteria Turn to Antibiotics, Alarming Health Officials, Andrew Jacobs, Photographs by Michael Adno, May 17, 2019. In its decision to approve two drugs for orange and grapefruit trees, the E.P.A. largely ignored objections from the C.D.C. and the F.D.A., which fear that expanding their use in cash crops could fuel antibiotic resistance in humans.

Global News

ny times logoIran FlagNew York Times, Trump Tells Pentagon Chief He Does Not Want War With Iran, Mark Landler, Maggie Haberman and Eric Schmitt, May 17, 2019 (print ed.). The president’s statement came during a briefing on the rising tensions with Tehran. Officials said he was firm in saying he did not want a military clash. For now, an administration that had appeared to be girding for conflict seems more determined to find a diplomatic off-ramp.

washington post logoWashington Post, Brexit talks collapse, setting up Theresa May’s likely departure, Karla Adam and William Booth, May 17, 2019. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said there is no point in talks with a government as weak and unstable as May’s.

Brexit talks between Britain’s two main political parties collapsed in a heap of finger-pointing Friday, with opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn saying the “weakness and instability” of Prime Minister Theresa May’s government had damaged negotiations.

With her own Conservative Party lawmakers openly demanding a timetable for her departure, not a day goes by without Britain’s political class guessing when May will leave office. Will it be next month? Or July? Or October? May has promised to offer a date soon.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Delays Auto Tariffs Amid Other Trade Fights, Ana Swanson, May 17, 2019. President Trump on Friday stepped back from opening another front in his global trade war, delaying for six months a decision on whether to impose tariffs on foreign cars and auto parts.

The delay gives a temporary reprieve to global automakers and their suppliers, which had been bracing for punishing tariffs on cars sent into the United States. The decision, which will primarily benefit car exporters like Germany and Japan, comes as the White House struggles to resolve an escalating trade fight with China.

Still, the move does not signal a final cease-fire in the trade war.

 washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. reaches deal with Canada, Mexico to lift steel and aluminum tariffs, David J. Lynch, Emily Rauhala and Damian Paletta​, May 17, 2019.  The agreement clears a major obstacle to congressional approval of President Trump’s new North American trade deal, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Politico, U.S. judge's rulings break with Australian explanation on Rwandan migrants, Josh Gerstein, May 17, 2019. Australian officials' explanation for why they accepted a U.S. request to take in two Rwandan men formerly charged with massacring tourists points to a contrast in the way the U.S. and its close ally resolved the question of whether the men may have committed atrocities or other abuses while guerrilla fighters in Africa two decades ago.

In the wake of an exclusive Politico Magazine report that the men were sent to Australia for resettlement after more than 15 years in U.S. jails, Australian officials faced a firestorm of criticism and pointed questions about why they accepted the men and whether it was part of a multi-part deal cut with the Obama administration in 2016 to empty offshore detention centers home to refugees seeking homes in Australia.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Thursday that security and intelligence officials in Australia "cleared" the two Rwanda men of involvement in the 1999 tourist massacre in Uganda and other atrocities or war crimes.

#MeToo: Ohio State Men

washington post logoWashington Post, Ohio State team doctor sexually abused 177 students over decades, report finds, Rick Maese​, May 17, 2019. A former Ohio State team doctor sexually abused at least 177 male students from 1979-96, according to an investigative report released Friday.

ohio state buckeyes logoThe abuse included athletes from at least 16 school sports teams and also encompassed other students who saw Dr. Richard Strauss at the school's student health center and an off-campus clinic.

richard strauss osu lantern screenshotAccording to the report, the school “had knowledge” of sexually abusive treatment from Strauss as early as 1979, “but reports about Strauss' conduct were not elevated beyond the Athletics Department or Student Health until 1996."

Strauss, shown in a photo of the Ohio State Lantern newspaper, died in 2005. He was employed by the university from 1978-98 but was suspended from his work as a treating physician in January 1996 after a patient accused Strauss of fondling him during a genital examination. Strauss continued jim jordan headshot Customin his role as a tenured faculty member, though. The school said it has initiated the process to revoke the faculty emeritus status that was conferred upon Strauss.

• Washington Post, Rep. Jim Jordan, right, says report confirms his denials of knowledge of sexual abuse at Ohio State, May 17, 2019.

Celebrity Sex Cult Trial

keith raniere nxivm

ny times logoNew York Times, Sex Cult ‘Grandmaster,’ Colin Moynihan, May 17, 2019.  Lauren Salzman, a senior member of the group, described how women would array themselves naked in front of the group’s founder as he sat in a chair and lectured. At the start of the meetings, female members of the so-called sex cult Nxivm — the “slaves” — would offer a tribute to their “master,” Keith Raniere, the group’s leader.

The women would remove their clothes and array themselves on the floor in front of him, while he sat in a chair and spoke to them about philosophy and other topics. If he was not in attendance, they would pose for a group photo and send it to him, making sure that parts of their body that had been branded with a symbol related to the group were visible.

That is how Lauren Salzman, one of the women present at certain meetings, described them in graphic testimony on Friday during the racketeering and sex trafficking trial of Mr. Raniere.

The brief testimony by Ms. Salzman offered insight from a senior member of Nxivm about the ways in which Mr. Raniere, who was known as Vanguard or sometimes Grandmaster, exerted control over the women in the group, including high-ranking ones.

Mr. Raniere, 58, co-founded Nxivm (pronounced Nex-e-um) in the 1990s as a self-help organization based in a suburban town in upstate New York. He is now on trial in Federal District Court in Brooklyn, facing charges of racketeering conspiracy, identity theft, extortion, forced labor, money laundering, wire fraud and sex trafficking.

Over the last several weeks, five women who were charged as his co-defendants, including Ms. Salzman, pleaded guilty to various charges. Prosecutors have said that while Mr. Raniere purported to be a mentor to troubled people, he was really a “con man” who exploited their desire to improve their lives.

The meetings, according to Ms. Salzman, were for senior members of an ultra-clandestine group within Nxivm called The Vow, or D.O.S., which supposedly stood for a Latin phrase meaning “Lord/Master of the Obedient Female Companions,” and took place in a house near Albany called the Sorority House.

In her testimony, Ms. Salzman explained the pyramid structure of masters and slaves inside the group. She also identified senior members of Nxivm, known as the Inner Circle, and high-ranking members of D.O.S., including Allison Mack, an actress from the TV show “Smallville.”

U.S. Postal Service Crisis

The Hill, Opinion: Financial collapse of the United States Postal Service is coming, Kevin Kosar, May 17, 2019. The United States Postal Service (USPS) will run out of cash in five years. Postmaster General Megan Brennan shared this news in testimony before the House Oversight and Reform Committee earlier this month. The immediate consequence of USPS becoming insolvent would be that the world’s largest postal system — which moves 150 billion mail pieces per year, or 412 million pieces per day — would be dead in the water. This is something that has never occurred in the Postal Service’s long and storied history.

If you think these primary effects would be devastating, the secondary effects would be catastrophic. More than half a million postal workers would be without wages. Magazine companies, which send millions of glossies per month, would be stuck trying to find local deliverers. Retailers — particularly those that sell via catalogs — would see their main advertising medium vanish. The paper and printing companies they work with would see their revenues plunge. Prescription drug deliveries would be disrupted as sellers scrambled to find alternate means for delivery. Jury summons, voting materials (including ballots for overseas troops), and international mail and shipments would stop flowing.

During the hearing, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) demanded USPS produce a turnaround plan by July that would save the Postal Service. To date, the agency’s plan has consisted of trying to trim costs, mostly by reducing the hours worked by employees, and reaping more revenue by delivering more parcels. As Postmaster General Brennan noted in her testimony, these efforts have not solved the problem.

USPS is in dire financial straits because its revenues are insufficient to support its operational costs and long-term liabilities. Mail volume is down 31 percent since 2007, and the agency’s revenues ($72 billion per year) are the same as they were a decade ago. The agency has around $120 billion in unfunded debt and obligations, most of which flow from compensation and benefits owed to its huge cohort of employees and retirees.

This slow-moving financial catastrophe comes as no surprise to close watchers of the Postal Service. Indeed, back in 2007, then-Postmaster General John Potter told Congress that the agency’s “business model remains broken.” “With the diversion of messages and transactions to the Internet from the mail,” he warned, “we can no longer depend on printed volume growing at a rate sufficient to produce the revenue needed to cover the costs of an ever-expanding delivery network.”

Yet doing something about the problem has proved exceptionally difficult. Certainly, Congress has tried to solve it — many times, in fact. But postal policymaking is tricky because postal politics is complex. Consumers enjoy not having to support the agency via tax dollars, and those in rural areas are not thrilled at the prospect of reducing the number of days the mail carrier delivers. Unionized postal employees would rather not have their compensation cut or more of their work outsourced to the private sector. Both for-profit mailers and charities, the latter of which often rely on the mail to raise funds, do not want to be stuck with huge postal price increases. Neither do e-commerce shippers who like USPS’s low parcel rates and account for $19 billion of the agency’s annual revenue.

Transitions

ny times logoim pei 2006New York Times, Here Are 6 of I.M. Pei’s Most Important Works, Staff report, May 17, 2019. The master architect died at 102 on Thursday. His legacy includes some of the world’s most recognizable buildings, including the Louvre Pyramid.

Born in Guangzhou, China, in 1917, I.M. Pei (shown in a 2006 photo via Wikimedia) had a career in architecture that spanned over 60 years. Mr. Pei, who moved to the United States to attend college and died Thursday at the age of 102, created several masterpieces of modern architecture that are known around the world. These now-iconic structures include the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, the Louvre Pyramid and the National Gallery of Art’s East Building. Here are some of the highlights of his megawatt architecture career.

May 16

U.S. Political Groups: Fix Our Democracy!

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Activists to Presidential Candidates: US Democracy Is Broken, Fix It! Klaus Marre, May 16, 2019. Sounding the alarm on an eroding US democracy, a coalition of more than 100 good-governance, civil rights, and other groups is urging all presidential candidates and President Donald Trump to make democracy reform a priority on the american flag upside down distresscampaign trail and when in office.

“Our democratic institutions are under attack, and need renewal and repair,” the groups, which include the NAACP, Common Cause, and Public Citizen, said in the letter sent to candidates on Wednesday.

“Americans are looking for leaders who will take on our broken, entrenched campaign finance system, and who are committed to guaranteeing the absolute right of all eligible Americans access to the ballot,” the groups state. “Your leadership and commitment to action on these issues will show voters across the country that, like them, you believe our democracy works best when it represents everyone, not just those able to unduly influence policies based solely on their power and their wealth.”

Trump, Barr & Presidential Power Grab

Alliance for Justice, Opinion: Let’s Go, HJC! Time for Bold Creativity! Bill Yeomans, right, May 16, 2019. When Attorney General Barr released his wounded version of Robert Mueller’s bill yeomans afj cropped Customreport, House Democrats, under the tight control of Nancy Pelosi, announced that they would begin a process of examining the contents of the report, in addition to conducting oversight in several other areas. They then left town on a ten-day recess. Those ten days drained a disturbing amount of fuel from our democracy. The Democrats’ tepid response allowed Barr and Trump to peddle the lie that Mueller had found no collusion and no obstruction.

alliance for justice logoLess fearful House Democrats could have responded to the report with the unmitigated outrage that its contents warranted. Bold Democrats might have broadcast a narrative that the report showed Trump’s stunning contempt for America. He and his campaign knew about and welcomed the Russian attack on the election. They failed to notify law enforcement and embraced the Russian assistance.

Concerned about launching a polarizing process (because it would be a shame to disrupt the prevailing bipartisan harmony), Democratic leadership at first seemed to take impeachment off the table, only to let it creep back into the discussion as a possible step far down the investigative road. This posture drained Democratic efforts to convey the seriousness of the Mueller report of all momentum. No rush, no big deal.

Continued below.

Democratic hesitation has given Trump the upper hand. The House Judiciary Committee is now in the position of trying to kick-start its presentation of the Mueller report. But the Constitution awards the advantage of inertia to the executive in any investigation. That advantage is particularly acute in service of an executive who feels no obligation even to make a show of inter-branch comity. Trump’s posture of complete defiance toward all requests for testimony and documents should surprise nobody, least of all the House leadership.

djt handwave fileTrump has successfully mired House Democrats in a process battle. This is a battle the House must fight and should win on the law, but it loses unless it focuses on Mueller’s description of the substance of Trump’s conduct. Only then – if it understands the harm he inflicted — will the public care that Trump is obstructing the investigation. The Judiciary Committee is devoting its energy to a fight over Barr’s willingness to appear before the committee and its entitlement to the unredacted Mueller report and supporting evidence. Forget Barr. He does not need another platform from which to mislead.

The unredacted report is important, but the supporting evidence is more so. The fight to get both would be won if the committee moved to impeachment mode. Issues of grand jury secrecy and executive privilege wilt when confronted by the need for information for impeachment. But the committee will slog ahead demanding the material for oversight purposes, making the outcome in court less certain, particularly given Trump’s success in stocking the courts with supporters of expansive executive power, including his two Supreme Court appointees. Meanwhile, the clock will run.

The House must recapture the narrative. Its principal task now is to educate the public on Trump’s misdeeds. While a few among us get excited about battles over executive privilege, the interpretation of Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e), the unavailability of criminal contempt for executive branch officials, the complexities of civil contempt litigation, and the possibility of resurrecting the House’s ability to bypass courts and lock up recalcitrant witnesses pursuant to its inherent contempt authority, the vast majority of the public doesn’t give a damn. But they are more likely to listen to salacious details about the criminal and treacherous doings of their president and his inner circle.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House says demands for records, testimony on Mueller probe to be refused, Carol D. Leonnig, Josh Dawsey and Rachael Bade​, May 16, 2019 (print ed.). White House Counsel Pat A. Cipollone told the House Judiciary Committee chairman that Congress has no right to a “do-over” of the special counsel’s investigation. The White House’s top lawyer told the House Judiciary Committee chairman Wednesday that Congress has no right to a “do-over” of the special counsel’s investigation of President Trump and refused a broad demand for records and testimony from dozens of current and former White House staffers.

jerrold nadler o SmallWhite House counsel Pat Cipollone’s letter to Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), right, constitutes a sweeping rejection — not just of Nadler’s request for White House records but of Congress’s standing to investigate Trump for possible obstruction of justice.

pat cipollone file croppedIn his letter, Cipollone, left, repeated a claim the White House and Trump’s business have begun making — that Congress is not a law enforcement body and does not have a legitimate purpose to investigate the questions it is pursuing.

But Cipollone stopped short of asserting executive privilege. Instead, he told Nadler he would consider a narrowed request if the chairman spelled out the legislative purpose and legal support for the information he is seeking.

• Washington Post, Barr jokes to Pelosi outside Capitol: ‘Did you bring your handcuffs?’

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The obsession with redaction is hiding the obvious: Trump committed crimes, Walter Dellinger, May 16, 2019 (print ed.). Walter Dellinger, 78, shown at right in a 1996 file photo, was head of the Office of Legal Counsel from 1993 to 1996 and acting solicitor general from 1996 to 1997. I have become increasingly concerned about how the walter dellinger 1996country has received the Mueller report. The Republican talking point is that it exonerated the president. The message from the Democratic House, meanwhile, is that the report is inconclusive. Those responses, one mendacious, one tepid and both erroneous, have shaped public understanding. They have not only allowed the president falsely to claim vindication but also left the public without a clear understanding of just how damning the report is.

Most Americans, understandably not having read the 448-page (redacted) report, may be influenced by how the principal parties have responded. If the report were, as the Republicans insist, an exoneration, one might demand to know how this unwarranted investigation got started in the first place, which is exactly how the GOP has proceeded to turn the conversation.

Donald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)And if you thought the report was merely inconclusive, your natural reaction would be that you need to know more. You would say something like what many House Democrats are repeating endlessly: “We need to see the redactions” and “hear from witnesses” — suggesting that there is as of yet no sufficient basis for judging President Trump’s conduct.

The more I review the report, the more absurd and misleading the we-need-to-know-more response seems to be. And the more it seems to have contributed to public misunderstanding. How different would it have been if a unified chorus of Democratic leaders in Congress and on the campaign trail had promptly proclaimed the actual truth: This report makes the unquestionable case that the president regularly and audaciously violated his oath and committed the most serious high crimes and misdemeanors.

michael flynn flickr gage skidmore phoenix 10 29 2016

Palmer Report, Opinion: The Michael Flynn thing is about to get even worse for Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, May 16, 2019. Earlier this evening, court filings revealed that Donald Trump’s underlings pressured Michael Flynn (shown in a 2016 photo by Gage Skidmore) not to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which is a felony – and one of Trump’s personal lawyers was dumb enough to do it in a voicemail, which Flynn then gave to Mueller. This was obviously done at Trump’s instruction, making the voicemail a smoking gun when it comes to obstruction of justice. Now things just got even worse for Trump.

bill palmer report logo headerAfter the above bombshell was revealed in court filings, the judge in the case ordered that a transcript of the voicemail be publicly released within the next two weeks – along with transcripts of all of Flynn’s conversations with Russia, according to NBC News. This latter part is crucial, because it confirms what has long been suspected: Mueller and the Feds have recordings of Flynn’s phone calls with the Russian Ambassador, which were criminal in nature.

Even as Donald Trump’s corrupt Attorney General William Barr continues to try to suppress the aspects of the Mueller report that are the most damaging for Trump, this serves as a reminder that there are various other ways in which the redacted portions of the Mueller report are going to come to the surface – including in ways that Trump and Barr have no ability to stop.

In any case, it’s now more clear than ever that there are tapes that expose Donald Trump’s crimes in ugly fashion. The Flynn-Russia recordings are going to prove that Trump had his transition team criminally conspiring with the Kremlin before he took office in violation of the Logan Act, and the voicemail is going to prove that Trump committed obstruction of justice. These recordings will play a central role in the increasingly inevitable impeachment process.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats adhere to Pelosi’s no-impeachment strategy despite Trump’s defiance, Rachael Bade and Mike DeBonis, May 16, 2019 (print ed.). Several rank-nancy pelosiand-file lawmakers want to begin impeachment proceedings. President Trump, who is refusing to cooperate with more than 20 congressional investigations, instructed current and former aides Wednesday to ignore a House committee’s request for documents in the latest act of defiance that has prompted Democrats to declare that the nation is facing a constitutional crisis.

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), right, told Democrats in a closed-door caucus meeting Wednesday morning to stick to their policy agenda ahead of the 2020 election rather than initiate impeachment proceedings. And not a single lawmaker challenged her, according to a person in the room who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting.

washington post logoWashington, Opinion: Democrats are badly blowing it against Trump. A brutal new TV ad shows how, Greg Sargent, May 16, 2019. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has succeeded in stifling impeachment talk. The Post reports that the speaker privately told Democrats to stick to policy and forget about an impeachment inquiry, and not a single Democrat uttered a word in protest.

This is meant to illustrate the iron grip that Pelosi often successfully maintains on her caucus. But, whether you support an impeachment inquiry right now, there’s no way to describe the broader strategy that Democrats have adopted on the impeachment question as a success. It’s been a muddled mess.

democratic donkey logoA new ad that impeachment proponent Tom Steyer is set to launch illustrates this well. Notably, rather than merely making the case for an inquiry, the ad trains its fire at Democrats for failing to initiate one.

The ad — a $1 million buy on national cable and in Iowa and New Hampshire — takes aim at what might be called the Democrats’ “Wait For Mueller” strategy, referring to the investigation conducted by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Stringing together quotes from ordinary Americans, it says:

This is a message for leaders of the Democratic Party. For over two years, this president has broken the law, and nothing happened. You told us to wait for the Mueller investigation. And when he showed obstruction of justice, nothing happened.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump screws up and hands major legal leverage to House Democrats, Bill Palmer, May 16, 2019. The thing about Donald Trump is that even if he hires people who know what they’re doing, it still doesn’t help him any, because he’ll ignore their advice in favor of doing whatever plays into his infinite narcissism and God complex.

bill palmer report logo headerDonald Trump has put down a whole lot of his remaining chips on the idea that he can wage a legal battle in court to significantly slow down House Democrats in their efforts to subpoena witnesses and evidence. One of the first rules of winning a legal battle – or even obtaining enough benefit of the doubt to convince a judge to let you drag it out – is to make sure you appear reasonable in your approach.

Trump either doesn’t know this or doesn’t care. Yesterday the Washington Post reported that Trump told the House Judiciary Committee that he’s instructed all eighty-one of his associates not to comply with the document requests they received from the committee. This is troublesome for Trump in the sense that many of these people don’t even work for him, so he can’t “instruct” them to do anything – and in fact he’s arguably obstructing justice by even asking them not to comply. For that matter, the committee announced awhile back that several of the associates had already turned over the documents.

More importantly, Trump just helpfully confessed to his adversaries on the committee that he’s taking a legally indefensible approach.

Donald Trump could have potentially helped his legal case by making even a superficial gesture to create the appearance that he was being reasonable about the subpoena process. Instead, because he cares more about appearing powerful and demanding loyalty from his associates, his already-low odds of succeeding in court just dropped significantly.

Trump Team Embattled Over War

john bolton youtube guardian

Trump National Security Advisor John Bolton (file photo)

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump, frustrated by advisers, is not convinced the time is right to attack Iran, John Hudson, Shane Harris, Josh Dawsey and Anne Gearan, May 16, 2019 (print ed.). The president is not inclined to respond forcefully unless Iranians make a “big move,” a senior White House official said.

President Donald Trump officialPresident Trump is frustrated with some of his top advisers, who he thinks could rush the United States into a military confrontation with Iran and shatter his long-standing pledge to withdraw from costly foreign wars, according to several U.S. officials. Trump prefers a diplomatic approach to resolving tensions and wants to speak directly with Iran’s leaders.

Disagreements over assessing and responding to the recent intelligence — which includes a directive from Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that some American officials interpret as a threat to U.S. personnel in the Middle East — are also fraying alliances with foreign allies, according to multiple officials in the United States and Europe.Trump National Security Advisor John Bolton (shown in a file photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr)r

Trump National Security Advisor John Bolton (shown in a file photo by Gage Skidmore)

Consortium News via OpEdNews, Opinion: Pretexts for an Attack on Iran, Ray McGovern (peace advocate and retired CIA analyst), May 16, 2019. An Iraq-War redux is now in full play, with leading roles played by some of the same protagonists President Donald Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, for example, who says he still thinks attacking Iraq was a good idea. Co-starring is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The New York Times on Tuesday played its accustomed role in stoking the fires, front-paging a report that, at Bolton's request, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has come up with an updated plan to send as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East, should Iran attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons. The Times headline writer, at least, thought it appropriate to point to echoes from the past: "White House Reviews Military Plans Against Iran, in Echoes of Iraq War."

By midday, Trump had denied the Times report, branding it "fake news." Keep them guessing, seems to be the name of the game.

Following the Iraq playbook, Bolton and Pompeo are conjuring up dubious intelligence from Israel to "justify" attacking this time Iran. (For belligerent Bolton, this was entirely predictable.) All this is clear.

What is not clear, to Americans and foreigners alike, is why Trump would allow Bolton and Pompeo to use the same specious charges terrorism and nuclear weapons to provoke war with a country that poses just as much strategic threat to the U.S. as Iraq did that is to say, none. The corporate media, with a two-decade memory-loss and a distinct pro-Israel bias, offers little help toward understanding.

Before discussing the main, but unspoken-in-polite-circles, impulse behind the present step-up in threats to Iran, let's clear some underbrush addressing the two limping-but-still-preferred, ostensible rationales, neither of which can bear close scrutiny:

No. 1: It isn't because Iran is the world's leading sponsor of terrorism. We of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity shot down that canard a year and a half ago. In a Memorandum for President Trump, we said:

"The depiction of Iran as 'the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism' is not supported by the facts. While Iran is guilty of having used terrorism as a national policy tool in the past, the Iran of 2017 is not the Iran of 1981. In the early days of the Islamic Republic, Iranian operatives routinely carried out car bombings, kidnappings and assassinations of dissidents and of American citizens. That has not been the case for many years."

No. 2: It isn't because Iran is building a nuclear weapon. A November 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate concluded unanimously that Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon in 2003 and had not resumed any such work. That judgment has been re-affirmed by the Intelligence Community annually since then.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, imposed strict, new, verifiable restrictions on Iranian nuclear-related activities and was agreed to in July 2015 by Iran, the U.S., Russia, China, France, the U.K., Germany and the European Union.

Even the Trump administration has acknowledged that Iran has been abiding by the agreement's provisions. Nevertheless, President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal on May 8, 2018, four weeks after John Bolton became his national security adviser.

Trump Pardons Billionaire Crony

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump pardons billionaire friend Conrad Black, who wrote a book about him, Colby Itkowitz, May 16, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump gave a full pardon to a longtime friend who last year wrote a glowing book about Trump’s successes. Conrad Black, right, was convicted in 2007 on fraud charges, including alleged embezzlement, and conrad blackobstruction of justice. He served more than three years in prison and was deported to his native Canada after he was released in 2012. He was barred from returning to the United States for 30 years.

conrad black principle coverThe White House said in a statement that Black was “entirely deserving” of the pardon. In listing Black’s accomplishments, it mentions biographies Black wrote about presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Richard Nixon, but not his tome on Trump.

On the first page of that book, “Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other,” Black writes: “Like the country he represents, Donald Trump possesses the optimism to persevere and succeed, the confidence to affront tradition and convention, a genius for spectacle, and a firm belief in common sense and the common man.”

In addition to his book, Black frequently writes columns praising Trump and considers the president a friend.Black, whose media company owned the Chicago Sun Times, at one time partnered with Trump to build Trump Tower in Chicago, but Trump later bought him out.

Black denied at the end of last year that he was trying to get a pardon from Trump.

U.S. Politics / Civil Rights

washington post logoWashington Post, Alabama abortion ban threatens to reshape 2020 election, Michael Scherer and Felicia Sonmez, May 16, 2019 (print ed.). Democratic presidential contenders cast the nation’s strictest ban as a severe blow to women’s rights, while Republican leaders dodged questions about the law.

Hatiz Cengiz, Jamal Khashoggi's fiancee, testifies before a U.S. House Committee on May 16, 2019

Hatiz Cengiz, fiancee of murdered Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, testifies before a U.S. House Committee on May 16, 2019 (Aljazeera photo)

 washington post logoWashington Post, ‘I am asking for justice:’ Khashoggi’s fiancee urges Congress to put more pressure on Saudi Arabia in the wake of journalist’s killing, Felicia Sonmez, May 16, 2019. The fiancee of Jamal Khashoggi called Thursday for members of Congress to put greater pressure on Saudi Arabia to answer questions related to the Saudi journalist’s slaying, telling lawmakers, “I am asking for justice.”

jamal khashoggi western suit“This act — this murder — was a great brutality, and the last seven, eight months, nothing was done,” Hatice Cengiz said at a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing on the dangers of reporting on human rights. “We still do not know why he was killed. We don’t know where his corpse is.”

She urged lawmakers to press Saudi Arabia’s leaders and sanction the kingdom in response to the killing of Khashoggi, right, a contributing columnist for The Washington Post.

“In the early days, President Trump said that this would be solved,” Cengiz said. “And Ms. Pelosi talked about how unacceptable this was. But seven, eight months later, we see that nothing has been done, and that is why I’m here today.”

U.S. Crime, Courts​

adam matthewsAssociated Press via CBS News, U.S. Navy SEAL pleads guilty for role in Green Beret's hazing death, Staff report, May 16, 2019. A U.S. Navy SEAL pleaded guilty Thursday to ap logohazing and assault charges for his role in the 2017 strangulation of a U.S. Army Green Beret in Africa.

logan melgar sealAdam Matthews entered the plea at a special court-martial hearing at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia.

Matthews was one of four U.S. service members who were charged with murder and other crimes in the hazing-related death of Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar, left, a Texas native. "I can't describe how sorry I am for the death of Staff Sergeant Melgar," Matthews told the court. "I am truly sorry."

Military prosecutors agreed to drop the murder charge against Matthews, who agreed to testify against a fellow Navy SEAL and two Marines who were also charged in the incident.

washington post logoWashington Post, Colorado school shooting suspects will both be tried as adults, Corey Hutchins, May 16, 2019 (print ed.). The two suspects appeared separately in a courtroom that included the family of Kendrick Castillo, the 18-year-old student who was killed in the shooting at the suburban Denver school.

Prosecutors have charged two suspects in the STEM charter school shooting in Colorado with murder and dozens of other charges, but a judge is keeping details about them secret for now.

Citing electronic court documents, local media had already reported the number of charges at 48, with 30 of them being arrest charges and the rest main charges, including attempted first-degree murder, arson and theft. In a news conference Wednesday, District Attorney George Brauchler declined to confirm what charges and how many his office has leveled against Devon Erickson, 18, and Alec McKinney, 16, because of the judge’s order.

Brauchler said in court, however, that he will charge McKinney as an adult with first-degree murder.

Both suspects, dressed in jail uniforms, appeared separately in a courtroom that included the family of Kendrick Castillo, the 18-year-old student who was killed in the shooting at the suburban Denver school when classmates said he lunged at a shooter and helped stop the attack from escalating. Neither Erickson nor McKinney spoke beyond quietly answering the judge with yes or no.

More On Global Conflicts

washington post logoWashington Post, China formally accuses Canadians of espionage as Huawei standoff intensifies, Gerry Shih, May 16, 2019.  China on Thursday formally leveled grave espionage charges against two detained Canadians, raising the prospect of harsh punishment for the men caught in a spiraling three-way feud over the Trump administration’s treatment of the technology company Huawei.

China’s Foreign Ministry confirmed that prosecutors charged Michael Kovrig with “gathering state secrets and intelligence for overseas forces” and Michael Spavor with “stealing and providing state secrets to overseas forces.” The men were charged “recently,” ministry spokesman Lu Kang said without disclosing more specific timing.

After holding Kovrig and Spavor in undisclosed locations since December, China confirmed the formal charges just as the U.S. government all but banned American companies from doing business with Chinese tech giant Huawei, a move that could badly cripple a firm considered by China to be a national symbol of industrial prowess.

In the last six months, the timing of Chinese action against Canadian citizens has reinforced suspicions that Beijing is targeting a close American ally in retaliation for what China says is an unfair American effort to hobble Huawei and jail one of its executives — a campaign that it says is aided and abetted by the Canadian government.

washington post logoWashington Post, Venezuelan government and opposition reportedly headed to Norway for talks, Rick Noack, May 16, 2019. It was unclear whether representatives of both sides would meet directly, or whether Norwegian officials would serve as intermediaries to explore possible resolutions for the crisis in Venezuela.

More On Democratic Strategies

Alliance for Justice, Opinion: Let’s Go, HJC! Time for Bold Creativity! Bill Yeomans, right, May 16, 2019. When Attorney General Barr released his wounded version of Robert Mueller’s bill yeomans afj cropped Customreport, House Democrats, under the tight control of Nancy Pelosi, announced that they would begin a process of examining the contents of the report, in addition to conducting oversight in several other areas.

Democratic hesitation has given Trump the upper hand. The House Judiciary Committee is now in the position of trying to kick-start its presentation of the Mueller report. But the Constitution awards the advantage of inertia to the executive in any investigation. That advantage is particularly acute in service of an executive who feels no obligation even to make a show of inter-branch comity. Trump’s posture of complete defiance toward all requests for testimony and alliance for justice logodocuments should surprise nobody, least of all the House leadership.

Trump has successfully mired House Democrats in a process battle. This is a battle the House must fight and should win on the law, but it loses unless it focuses on Mueller’s description of the substance of Trump’s conduct. Only then – if it understands the harm he inflicted — will the public care that Trump is obstructing the investigation. The Judiciary Committee is devoting its energy to a fight over Barr’s willingness to appear before the committee and its entitlement to the unredacted Mueller report and supporting evidence. Forget Barr. He does not need another platform from which to mislead.

The unredacted report is important, but the supporting evidence is more so. The fight to get both would be won if the committee moved to impeachment mode. Issues of grand jury secrecy and executive privilege wilt when confronted by the need for information for impeachment. But the committee will slog ahead demanding the material for oversight djt handwave filepurposes, making the outcome in court less certain, particularly given Trump’s success in stocking the courts with supporters of expansive executive power, including his two Supreme Court appointees. Meanwhile, the clock will run.

The House must recapture the narrative. Its principal task now is to educate the public on Trump’s misdeeds. While a few among us get excited about battles over executive privilege, the interpretation of Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e), the unavailability of criminal contempt for executive branch officials, the complexities of civil contempt litigation, and the possibility of resurrecting the House’s ability to bypass courts and lock up recalcitrant witnesses pursuant to its inherent contempt authority, the vast majority of the public doesn’t give a damn. But they are more likely to listen to salacious details about the criminal and treacherous doings of their president and his inner circle.

Honest U.S. Elections

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: We Cannot Resign Ourselves to Disenfranchisement and Dismay, Stacey Abrams (founder of the voting rights group Fair Fight Action), May 16, 2019 (print ed.). As more people of color claim political power, efforts to block them will accelerate — unless we act.

stacey abrams campaignIn the mid-1960s, when my father was a teenager, he was arrested. His crime? Registering black voters in Mississippi. He and my mother had joined the civil rights movement well before they were even old enough to vote themselves.

They braved this dangerous work, which all too often created martyrs of marchers. In doing so, my parents ingrained in their six children a deep and permanent reverence for the franchise. We were taught that the right to vote undergirds all other rights, that free and fair elections are necessary for social progress. That is why I am determined to end voter suppression and empower all people to participate in our democracy.

Inside DC

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Nuclear Weapons Sisterhood, Carol Giacomo (member of the editorial board), May 16, 2019 (print ed.). It’s hard for women to be hired, promoted or taken seriously in the national security establishment.

For women, people of color and transgender people, sexism, discrimination and harassment are often barriers to being hired, promoted or taken seriously in the national security bureaucracy — overseas and at home. While the numbers have improved in the Foreign Service, where women hold about 40 percent of all officer jobs, and the State Department, where 40 percent of the senior posts are held by women, they hold only 20 percent of senior civilian jobs at the Pentagon.

Women are particularly underrepresented in senior positions dealing with nuclear issues, according to a study by New America, part of a growing effort involving various groups and individuals to make the fields more welcoming to women.

ny times logoNew York Times, President Trump’s Tariff Strategy for China Began With 1980s Japan, Jim Tankersley and Mark Landler, May 16, 2019 (print ed.). Few issues have defined Donald J. Trump’s presidency more than his fondness for tariffs. Allies and historians say that it comes from his experience doing business with Japan, then perceived as a threat to America’s economic dominance.

Donald J. Trump lost an auction in 1988 for a 58-key piano used in the classic film “Casablanca” to a Japanese trading company representing a collector. While he brushed off being outbid, it was a firsthand reminder of Japan’s growing wealth, and the following year, Mr. Trump went on television to call for a 15 percent to 20 percent tax on imports from Japan.

“I believe very strongly in tariffs,” Mr. Trump, at the time a Manhattan real estate developer with fledgling political instincts, told the journalist Diane Sawyer, before criticizing Japan, West Germany, Saudi Arabia and South Korea for their trade practices. “America is being ripped off,” he said. “We’re a debtor nation, and we have to tax, we have to tariff, we have to protect this country.”

Thirty years later, few issues have defined Mr. Trump’s presidency more than his love for tariffs — and on few issues has he been more unswerving. Allies and historians say that love is rooted in Mr. Trump’s experience as a businessman in the 1980s with the people and money of Japan, then perceived as a mortal threat to America’s economic pre-eminence.

Consortium News via OpEdNews, Opinion: Pretexts for an Attack on Iran, Ray McGovern, May 16, 2019.  An Iraq-War redux is now in full play, with leading roles played by some of the same protagonists President Donald Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, for example, who says he still thinks attacking Iraq was a good idea. Co-starring is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The New York Times on Tuesday played its accustomed role in stoking the fires, front-paging a report that, at Bolton's request, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has come up with an updated plan to send as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East, should Iran attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons. The Times headline writer, at least, thought it appropriate to point to echoes from the past: "White House Reviews Military Plans Against Iran, in Echoes of Iraq War."

By midday, Trump had denied the Times report, branding it "fake news." Keep them guessing, seems to be the name of the game.

Following the Iraq playbook, Bolton and Pompeo are conjuring up dubious intelligence from Israel to "justify" attacking this time Iran. (For belligerent Bolton, this was entirely predictable.) All this is clear.

What is not clear, to Americans and foreigners alike, is why Trump would allow Bolton and Pompeo to use the same specious charges terrorism and nuclear weapons to provoke war with a country that poses just as much strategic threat to the U.S. as Iraq did that is to say, none. The corporate media, with a two-decade memory-loss and a distinct pro-Israel bias, offers little help toward understanding.

May 15

Trump, Barr & Presidential Power Grab

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Unprecedented former prosecutors' letter contains a few surprises, Wayne Madsen, May 15, 2019. The unprecedented statement by former federal prosecutors emphasizing the report of Special Counsel Robert Mueller should have resulted in “multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice” being brought against Donald Trump -- if not for the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President -- has grown to over 900 signatures.

President Ronald Reagan, right, and Attorney General Edwin Meese, left, greeted in a White House 1983 meeting future Attorney General William P. Barr, a former CIA staffer who was then deputy assistant director of legal police at the Justice Department (Reagan Library photo)

President Ronald Reagan, right, and Attorney General Edwin Meese, left, greeted in a White House 1983 meeting future Attorney General William P. Barr, a former CIA staffer who was then deputy assistant director of legal police at the Justice Department (Reagan Library photo)

washington post logoWashington Post, How William Barr, now serving as a powerful ally for Trump, has championed presidential powers, Tom Hamburger, May 15, 2019 (print ed.). Embracing a theory that the Constitution grants presidents sweeping authority, Barr is part of a group of conservative intellectuals who have been leading the charge to expand the powers of the executive branch over the past four decades. The doctrine, which gained support amid a backlash against post-Watergate constraints on the presidency, is back in the fore as President Trump and Congress are locked in a bitter fight over the bounds of executive power.

william barr new oDuring his first tour at the Justice Department, Barr, right, issued a controversial secret opinion saying that the president could order the FBI to take people into custody in foreign countries, a ruling that paved the way for the arrest in Panama of then-leader Manuel Antonio Noriega.

Two years after that, Barr offered another far-reaching interpretation of presidential power, advising President George H.W. Bush that he did not need congressional approval to invade Iraq. Later, as attorney general, he backed Bush’s pardons of six Reagan administration officials charged in the Iran-contra investigation, a move the independent counsel described at the time as “a coverup.”

Now, back at the helm of the Justice Department under Trump, Barr is in a singular position to put his philosophy into action. In just a few months, he has made his imprint, defending the White House as it pushes a hard-line immigration policy, defies congressional subpoenas and boldly asserts the reach of executive privilege. Barr recently appointed a U.S. attorney to investigate the origins of the special counsel’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, a probe for which Trump has publicly called.

Barr has not been alone in advocating robust executive powers, a view articulated by Edwin Meese, attorney general under President Ronald Reagan; the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and Watergate-era Solicitor General Robert Bork, among others.

But Barr popularized, codified and interpreted the concept, helping put the theory into practice, legal experts and colleagues said.

Trump's Trade War

washington post logoWashington Post, Trade war’s pain for rural areas raises tensions between Trump, Republicans, Damian Paletta, Erica Werner and Taylor Telford, May 15, 2019 (print ed.). china flag SmallSome Republican senators, increasingly frustrated with President Trump, took the unusual step of openly criticizing him. Fueling their concerns was the impression that Trump may not have a clear endgame.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Moves to Ban Foreign Telecom Gear, Escalating Battle With China, Cecilia Kang and David E. Sanger, May 15, 2019. President Trump moved on Wednesday to ban American telecommunications firms from installing foreign-made equipment that could pose a threat to national security, White House officials said, stepping up a battle against China by effectively barring sales by Huawei, the country’s leading networking company.

Mr. Trump issued an executive order instructing the commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, to ban transactions “posing an unacceptable risk” but did not single out any nation or company. The action has long been expected and is the latest salvo in the administration’s economic and security battle with China. It is also the most extreme move in the Trump administration’s fight against China’s tech sector.

NRA Scandals?

ny times logoNew York Times, As N.R.A. Turns to Its Charity for Cash, Tax Experts Have Questions, Danny Hakim, May 15, 2019 (print ed.). The gun rights group lavished pay and perks on its leaders and partners, fueling an internal fight as it relied on its charity for funds. The foundation’s role is among the issues being examined in an investigation into the N.R.A.’s tax-exempt status.

The tantalizing leaks have spilled out in the weeks since the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Indianapolis devolved into civil war.

oliver north gage skidmoreAmid anxiety over falling revenue and mounting legal trouble has come news that the gun group’s longtime chief executive, Wayne LaPierre, billed $275,000 for purchases at the Zegna luxury men’s wear boutique in Beverly Hills. Its largely ceremonial president, Oliver L. North (shown in a Gage Skidmore photo), nra logo Customhad a contract worth millions of dollars a year. And a litany of payments benefited prominent officials, like the $60,000 for advertising on a TV show featuring the rock musician and N.R.A. board member Ted Nugent.

But behind the internecine squabbling lie deeper financial problems. A review of tax records by The New York Times shows that, to steady its finances, the powerful lobbying group has increasingly relied on cash infusions and other transactions involving its affiliated foundation — at least $206 million worth since 2010.

U.S. Civil Rights

ny times logoNew York Times, Alabama Governor Signs Nation’s Most Restrictive Abortion Law, Sabrina Tavernise, May 15, 2019. A clinic in Montgomery, Ala. The State Legislature passed a bill on Tuesday that would effectively ban abortions. Gov. Kay Ivey of Alabama signed the nation’s most restrictive abortion law on Wednesday, effectively banning the procedure in the state altogether in a move that activists hope will force a Supreme Court challenge to the nationwide right to an abortion.

The move comes as states across the country are passing some of the most restrictive abortion legislation in decades, deepening the growing divide between liberal and conservative states and setting up momentous court battles that could profoundly reshape abortion access in America.

In April, Indiana placed a near-total ban on the most common type of second-trimester abortion in the state. Days later, Ohio passed a bill banning abortion in the very early weeks of pregnancy after a fetal heartbeat is detected.

ny times logoNew York Times, San Francisco Bans Facial Recognition Technology, Taking a stand against potential abuse, Kate Conger, Richard Fausset and Serge F. Kovaleski, May 15, 2019 (print ed.). San Francisco banned the use of the software by the police and other agencies. It is the first such move by a major U.S. city to block a tool that many police forces are using in the search for criminal suspects.

Trump Watch

washington post logoPresident Donald Trump officialWashington Post, U. S. judge voices doubt on Trump bid to block House subpoena for financial records, Spencer S. Hsu, May 15, 2019 (print ed.). A federal judge in Washington expressed astonishment Tuesday at arguments raised by President Trump’s lawyers seeking to block his accounting firm from turning over years of financial records to the Democratic-controlled House Oversight and Reform Committee and seemed to signal a swift ruling in favor of lawmakers.

U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta fired pointed questions at the president’s lawyers, who argued in an April 22 lawsuit that the committee’s sweeping subpoena to Mazars USA for the financial records of Trump and various associated entities since 2011 was not “a valid exercise of legislative power.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s not claiming executive power. He’s going for divine right, Dana Milbank, right, May 15, 2019 (print ed.). North Carolina state dana milbank CustomSen. Dan Bishop (R) will face veteran and business executive Dan McCready (D) in September’s do-over election in North Carolina’s scandal-plagued 9th Congressional District, after last year’s results were thrown out amid allegations of election fraud.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s prized Doral resort is in steep decline, company documents show, David A. Fahrenthold and Jonathan O'Connell, May 15, 2019 (print ed.). The troubles at the Florida resort mark the first known case in which a Trump Organization representative has publicly acknowledged the president’s name has hurt business.

Late last year, in a Miami conference room, a consultant for President Trump’s company said business at his prized 643-room Doral resort was in sharp decline.

At Doral, which Trump has listed in federal disclosures as his biggest moneymaker hotel, room rates, banquets, golf and overall revenue were all down since 2015. In two years, the resort’s net operating income — a key figure, representing the amount left over after expenses are paid — had fallen by 69 percent.

rod rosenstein cropped william barr screenshot april 18 2019

Palmer Report, Opinion: Rod Rosenstein sinks to a whole new pro-Trump low, Ron Leshnower, May 15, 2019. It must be a happy time for Rod Rosenstein (at far right), who ended his tenure as Deputy Attorney General while becoming one of the newest 2019 inductees into the Donald Trump Fan Club. At least Rosenstein seems to think so, based on the way he is proudly defending his work with Attorney General William Barr (at left in adjoining photo announcing alleged Mueller Report conclusions) in the name of confusing the public about the Mueller probe.

bill palmer report logo headerRosenstein’s recent behavior caused former FBI Director James Comey to single him out as one whose soul Trump has been eating “in small bites” in a New York Times op-ed. “And how could Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, after the release of Mr. Mueller’s report that detailed Mr. Trump’s determined efforts to obstruct justice, give a speech quoting the president on the importance of the rule of law?” Comey wondered in his piece. “Or on resigning, thank a president who relentlessly attacked both him and the Department of Justice he led for ‘the courtesy and humor you often display in our personal conversations’?”

No longer an employee of the Department of Justice, Rosenstein decided to fire back at Comey’s characterization of him while addressing the Greater Baltimore Committee at its annual meeting yesterday. Rosenstein declared: “Now the former Director is a partisan pundit, selling books and earning speaking fees while speculating about the strength of my character and the fate of my immortal soul. I kid you not. That is disappointing. Speculating about souls is not a job for police and prosecutors. Generally, we base our opinions on eyewitness testimony.”

That should be enough for Rosenstein to send away for his first Donald Trump Fan Club achievement pin.

djt nato summit nato photo 7 11 18

Strategic Culture Foundation, Trump: Extortionist-in-Chief, Wayne Madsen, May 15, 2019. Donald Trump (shown at a NATO meeting last year) fancies himself as a deal-maker. His foreign and economic policies, however, are more akin to those of a Mafia extortionist. At a minute after midnight on May 10, Trump hiked tariffs from 10 to 25 percent on $200 billion of Chinese imports. He also threatened a 25 percent tariff on the rest of the $325 billion of imports from China.

Trump, who is as challenged in simple mathematics as he is with the English language, falsely tweeted that Chinese tariffs would be paid directly into the US Treasury. This statement was both comically and tragically wrong. Any increase in US tariffs on foreign goods are charged to the importer, which passes the higher costs on to the American consumer. Trump, in order to stoke his trade war with China, decided to hold the US consumers as hostages to higher costs for goods.

Retaliatory Chinese tariffs on US goods hurt American farmers already economically pummeled by Trump’s previous tariffs on the European Union, Canada, Mexico, and China. Trump’s promise of financial relief for American soybean, beef, pork, corn, and poultry producers was merely more thoughtless rhetoric from an empty-suit president who does not care one iota about the economic security of American workers, farmers, or importers.

The same week Trump slapped consumer-punishing sanctions on China, he announced a 17.5 percent tariff on Mexican tomatoes. That equates to a 40 to 85 percent increase in price for tomatoes at the supermarket. Trump’s “tomato tax” resulted from his cancellation of the US-Mexican Tomato Suspension Agreement, which had existed for 22 years and provided tariff relief for tomato imports from Mexico. The Fresh Produce Association of the Americas has stated that the price of tomatoes, which will be in short supply, will skyrocket for American consumers.

Trump’s tariff on agricultural imports is meant to target American urban areas, where Trump is unpopular. Unlike the rural areas, cities and metroplexes do not enjoy inexpensive local farm-to-store conduits for fresh produce.

A noteworthy vexing phenomenon of the Trump era is the support for Trump’s foreign policy from certain quarters of the “progressive left.” Erstwhile progressive individuals and groups are more concerned about the policies that Hillary Clinton would have enacted if she was president than what Trump is now doing to the Palestinians; Native Americans; and battered and mostly Mesoamerican Indian refugees from right-wing regimes in Central America. In their zeal to dwell upon an alternative course of history, these so-called progressives have sold the Palestinians, Native Americans, Puerto Ricans, and others down the river.

Global News

washington post logoWashington Post, As U.S. pulls some workers from Iraq, allies challenge claim of rising threat from Iran, Louisa Loveluck, Michael Birnbaum and Griff Witte​, May 15, 2019. Some U.S. allies have voiced concerns that the diplomatic spat with Tehran is being politicized by the Trump administration.

SouthFront, Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham Repels Syrian Army Attack In Northern Lattakia, Decapitates Syrian Soldiers (Map), Staff report,  Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) has repelled a new attack by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) on its positions near the strategic town of Kabani in the northern Latakia countryside.

The terrorist group’s news network, Iba’a, claimed that HTS fighters killed 4 Syrian soldiers and injured 7 others during the clashes in Kabani’s outskirt. HTS fighters captured the bodies of two Syrian soldiers, who were killed during the failed attack, and decapitated them. Supporters of the terrorist group released photos of the brutal act on social media. However, SouthFront chose to avoid sharing this kind of footage.

 

The Guardian, Venezuela: Maduro thanks military and denounces 'senseless coup-mongers and traitors, Tom Phillips and Julian Borger, May 15, 2019. After a botched attempt to overthrow him, Maduro holds ‘march to reaffirm the absolute loyalty of the armed forces.’ See below.

nichola maduro march of loyalty may 15 2019 Custom

Media News

ny times logoamazon logo smallNew York Times, Amazon and Google on a Collision Course as They Expand, Daisuke Wakabayashi and Karen Weise, May 15, 2019 (print ed.). Amazon wants to sell ads. Google wants to woo shoppers. The two tech giants now have a range of competing interests.

google logo customFor years, Google and Amazon stuck to their strengths. Google’s search monopoly and universe of online services seemed to present little overlap with Amazon’s web commerce empire. But as the ambitions of each have expanded, it is becoming unavoidably, inescapably clear that the technology giants are heading for a collision.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tabloid talk show canceled after death of guest who failed lie-detector test over fidelity, Lindsey Bever and Jennifer Hassan, May 15, 2019. “The Jeremy Kyle Show” — a popular but divisive British tabloid program that’s often been called the British version of “The Jerry Springer Show” — has been canceled indefinitely after the death of a guest who had failed a lie-detector test during a recent taping.

British broadcaster ITV said Wednesday that it decided to cancel the program after the guest, Steven Dymond, 63, was found dead in an apparent suicide soon after the taping of an episode on infidelity, according to ITV News. During the episode, Dymond was given a polygraph test intended to prove that he had not been disloyal to his fiancee but failed, ITV News reported.

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Commentary: Truth? WTF Is That? Milicent Cranor, May 15, 2019. At a time when the American public seems to be more ignorant than ever, the tools of deception have become more sophisticated.

We live in an age of scams that trick the senses. Photos can be altered, films and videos can be manipulated to an exquisite degree of realism. Malware can add images of nonexistent cancerous lymph nodes to CT scans. Artificial intelligence can generate photorealistic images of people who do not even exist. Videos appear to show someone saying things in a speech they never said. Voice simulators can fool your nearest relative into thinking that’s you on the phone asking for $500 to spring you from a Turkish prison.

And then there are the sophisticated tools of psychological manipulation. The human sock puppets. The trolls who control the internet. The CIA, with its department of perception management and its assets in the media. The unlimited supply of bribable witnesses who will swear to anything. And those who manufacture scandals, like the conservative activists who tried to frame presidential candidate Peter Buttigieg for sexual assault.

Public Health Menaces

washington post logoWashington Post, The Past, Rediscovered: A mystery illness killed a boy in 1969. Years later, doctors learned what it was: AIDS, Steve Hendrix, May 15, 2019. Robert Rayford died nearly a decade before the country’s first known AIDS cases, changing the narrative about the epidemic. The 16-year-old boy had the kind of illness that wouldn’t be familiar to doctors for years: He was weak and emaciated, rife with stubborn infections and riddled with rare cancerous lesions known as Kaposi’s sarcoma, a skin disease found in elderly men of Mediterranean descent.

The boy, Robert Rayford, died on May 15, 1969, in St. Louis. It would be more than a decade before doctors started seeing similar cases among gay men in New York and California. In 1982, with the numbers of sick surging, the disease got a name: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. The AIDS epidemic had begun.

In time, the case of a poor young African American who apparently never left the Midwest would add a surprising twist to the understanding of a disease many connected with gay white men in cosmopolitan coastal cities. Researchers would come to see Rayford as the country’s first known death from a strain of the human immunodeficiency virus, HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

David Swanson, Book Review: Where Lyme Disease Came From and Why It Eludes Treatment, david swanson headDavid Swanson, May 15, 2019 (excerpted). A new book called Bitten: The Secret History of Lyme Disease and Biological Weapons by Kris Newby adds significantly to our understanding of Lyme disease, while oddly seeming to avoid mention of what we already knew.

Newby claims (in 2019) that if a scientist named Willy Burgdorfer had not made a confession in 2013, the secret that Lyme disease came from a biological weapons program would have died with him. Yet, in 2004 Michael Christopher Carroll published a book called Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government’s Secret Germ Laboratory. He appeared on several television shows to discuss the book, including on NBC’s Today Show, where the book was made a Today Show Book Club selection. Lab 257 hit the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list soon after its publication.

Newby’s book reaches the same conclusion as Carroll’s, namely that the most likely source of diseased ticks is Plum Island. Newby reaches this conclusion on page 224 after mentioning Plum Island only once in passing in a list of facilities on page 47 and otherwise avoiding it throughout the book. This is bizarre, because Newby’s book otherwise goes into great depth, and even chronicles extensive research efforts that lead largely to dead ends, and because there is information available about Plum Island, and because Carroll’s best-selling book seems to demand comment, supportive or dismissive or otherwise.

In fact, I think that, despite the avoidance of any discussion of Plum Island, Newby’s research complements Carroll’s quite well, strengthens the same general conclusion, and then adds significant new understanding. So, let’s look at what Carroll told us, and then at what Newby adds.

Less than 2 miles off the east end of Long Island sits Plum Island, where the U.S. government makes or at least made biological weapons, including weapons consisting of diseased insects that can be dropped from airplanes on a (presumably foreign) population. One such insect is the deer tick, pursued as a germ weapon by the Nazis, the Japanese, the Soviets, and the Americans.

Deer swim to Plum Island. Birds fly to Plum Island. The island lies in the middle of the Atlantic migration route for numerous species. “Ticks,” Carroll writes, “find baby chicks irresistible.”

In July of 1975 a new or very rare disease appeared in Old Lyme, Connecticut, just north of Plum Island. And what was on Plum Island? A germ warfare lab to which the U.S. government had brought former Nazi germ warfare scientists in the 1940s to work on the same evil work for a different employer. These included the head of the Nazi germ warfare program who had worked directly for Heinrich Himmler. On Plum Island was a germ warfare lab that frequently conducted its experiments out of doors. After all, it was on an island. What could go wrong? Documents record outdoor experiments with diseased ticks in the 1950s (when we know that the United States was using such weaponized life forms in North Korea). Even Plum Island’s indoors, where participants admit to experiments with ticks, was not sealed tight.

And test animals mingled with wild deer, test birds with wild birds.

By the 1990s, the eastern end of Long Island had by far the greatest concentration of Lyme disease. If you drew a circle around the area of the world heavily impacted by Lyme disease, which happened to be in the Northeast United States, the center of that circle was Plum Island.

Plum Island experimented with the Lone Star tick, whose habitat at the time was confined to Texas. Yet it showed up in New York and Connecticut, infecting people with Lyme disease — and killing them. The Lone Star tick is now endemic in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey.

If Newby agrees or disagrees with any of the above, she does not inform us. But here’s what she adds to it.

The outbreak of unusual tick-borne disease around Long Island Sound actually started in 1968, and it involved three diseases: Lyme arthritis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and babesiosis. A U.S. bioweapons scientist, Willy Burgdorfer, credited in 1982 with discovering the cause of Lyme disease, may have put the diseases into ticks 30 years earlier. And his report on the cause of Lyme disease may have involved a significant omission that has made it harder to diagnose or cure. The public focus on only one of the three diseases has allowed a disaster that could have been contained to become widespread.

Newby, who has herself suffered from Lyme disease, blames the profit interests of companies and the corruption of government for the poor handling of Lyme disease. But her writing suggests to me a possibility she doesn’t raise, namely that those who know where Lyme disease came from have avoided properly addressing it because of where it came from.

Newby assumes throughout the book that there has to have been a particular major incident near Long Island Sound, either an accident or an experiment on the public or an attack by a foreign nation. Burgdorfer reportedly claimed to another researcher that Russia stole U.S. bioweapons. Based on that and nothing else, Newby speculates that perhaps Russia attacked the United States with diseased ticks, coincidentally right in the location where the U.S. government experimented with diseased ticks.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, McConnell sets vote on disaster aid bill as negotiators near deal, Erica Werner and Jeffrey Stein, May 15, 2019 (print ed.). No final deal had been reached on the $17 billion package for Puerto Rico and other affected areas, but the Senate majority leader said a vote would take place next week.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Immigration Proposal Emphasizes Immigrants’ Skills Over Family Ties, Michael D. Shear, May 15, 2019. The plan, to be unveiled Thursday, would vastly scale back family-based immigration and increase education and skill requirements to move to the U.S. But officials conceded the plan was a long way from becoming a legislative reality. One said it represented a “first step toward having that discussion.”

alice rivlin cbo graphic

ny times logoNew York Times, Alice M. Rivlin, Leading Government Economist, Dies at 88, Robert D. Hershey Jr., May 15, 2019 (print ed.). Alice M. Rivlin, who had a guiding hand in national economic affairs for decades, playing a foundational role with the Congressional Budget Office and serving as budget director, a cabinet-level post, under President Bill Clinton, died on Tuesday at her home in Washington. She was 88.

The Brookings Institution, the Washington think tank with which she was long affiliated, announced her death.

Ms. Rivlin spent much of her career bouncing back and forth between Brookings and top government posts, among them vice chairwoman of the Federal Reserve Board under Alan Greenspan.

In yet another incarnation, she volunteered to help nurse the near-bankrupt District of Columbia government back to health in the 1990s by running its Financial Management Assistance Authority. In that post she was said to wield more operational power than the mayor and the City Council combined.

U.S. Politicsmark harris north carolina district nine mapwashington post logoWashington Post, N.C. lawmaker who sponsored ‘bathroom bill’ nominated to run in congressional race, Felicia Sonmez and Amy Gardner, May 15, 2019 (print ed.). Republican state Sen. Dan Bishop captured 47 percent of the vote in a do-over election after last year's results were thrown out amid allegations of election fraud. Bishop will face veteran and business executive Dan McCready (D) in September’s do-over election in North Carolina’s scandal-plagued 9th Congressional District, after last year’s results were thrown out amid allegations of election fraud.

washington post logosarah huckabee sanders screenshotWashington Post, Opinion: I asked candidates if they’d restore press briefings. Here’s what they said, Karen Tumulty, May 15, 2019 (print ed.). It has now been more than two months since presidential press secretary Sarah Sanders (shown in a screenshot) has held a scheduled, on-the-record briefing for White House reporters.

Briefings had been a near-daily event in recent presidencies, going back to when Richard M. Nixon converted the West Wing swimming pool into a room to be used specifically for such gatherings. For nearly as long, those on both sides of the lectern have found it a frequently maddening exercise — particularly after Bill Clinton’s spokesman Mike McCurry in 1995 allowed his briefings to be televised, a decision he later regretted.

In place of regular sessions with White House officials, reporters have been reduced to chasing Sanders and others for comment on the White House driveway, or throwing questions at the president himself in chaotic settings, such as photo ops, where there is little opportunity for follow-up.

All of this is bad for our democracy. The daily briefing, whatever its flaws, provided a ritualized means of holding power accountable.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Adam Schiff reveals his backdoor strategy to take Donald Trump down, Bill Palmer, May 15, 2019.  Even as Jerry Nadler and the House Judiciary Committee line up the likes of Robert Mueller and Don McGahn to publicly testify about Donald Trump’s various crimes and scandals, Adam Schiff and the House Intelligence Committee are approaching Trump’s malfeasances from a different angle. Schiff just revealed one of the key pieces of his strategy to nail Trump.

bill palmer report logo headerTwo months ago we all learned that members of Donald Trump’s criminal defense team – led by attorney Jay Sekulow – instructed Michael Cohen to make false statements under oath to Congress. This has raised questions about whether the team committed crimes like witness tampering and obstruction of justice. Worse, Jay SekulowSekulow (shown at right) allegedly ran it all past Trump, who was pleased with the scheme. Trump’s corrupt Attorney General William Barr is going to make sure Sekulow isn’t criminally prosecuted, for now at least. But Trump and Barr will be gone eventually, and Sekulow could be looking at prison time once that happens.

Adam Schiff revealed last night that he’s about to drop the hammer on Trump’s legal team over this. It’s not difficult to see where this is headed. Schiff is going to try to scare Sekulow into flipping on Trump in order to protect himself. Sekulow can testify that Trump instructed him to instruct Michael Cohen to lie to Congress, which would nail Trump for witness tampering and obstruction.

May 14

Pain From Trump-China Trade War

washington post logochina flag SmallWashington Post, U.S. prepares to slap tariffs on remaining Chinese imports, Taylor Telford, Damian Paletta and Gerry Shih​, May 14, 2019 (print ed.). The U.S. Trade Representative has taken the first steps toward imposing import taxes on roughly $300 billion of Chinese goods. If approved, American consumers would probably see higher prices on products including cellphones and TVs.

 ny times logoNew York Times, After Big Loss for Market, Fears of a Lasting Effect, Matt Phillips, May 14, 2019 (print ed.). Wall Street had its worst day in four months as the U.S.-China trade war showed no sign of ending. With new measures from both sides, it will be hard for businesses and consumers to avoid the fallout.

Trump Hard-Liners Prepare Iran War?

ny times logoNew York Times, White House Reviews Military Plans Against Iran, in Echoes of Iraq War, Eric Schmitt and Julian E. Barnes, May 14, 2019 (print ed.). At a meeting of President Trump’s top national security aides last Thursday, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan presented an updated military plan that envisions sending as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East should Iran attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons, administration officials said.

iran flag mapThe revisions were ordered by hard-liners led by John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser. They do not call for a land invasion of Iran, which Department of Defense Sealwould require vastly more troops, officials said.

The development reflects the influence of Mr. Bolton, one of the administration’s most virulent Iran hawks, whose push for confrontation with Tehran was ignored more than a decade ago by President George W. Bush.

It is highly uncertain whether Mr. Trump, who has sought to disentangle the United States from Afghanistan and Syria, ultimately would send so many American forces back to the Middle East.

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: U.S. Increases Risk Of War On Iran Without A Path To De-escalation, b, May 14, 2019. Is the U.S. military, which lost its powerful positions in the White House, trying to get National Security Advisor John 'Stache' Bolton fired?

A 'leak' to the New York Times accuses Bolton of preparing for war on Iran.

If asked for 'options' the military typically lays out three scenarios. The first is very minor action unlikely to have any effect. The second is what the military sees as reasonable or wants. The third option is fantastically exaggerated. The 120,000 troop deployment is the third option. The number is too high for an attack by air and on sea and too low for an attack on land, i.e. an invasion of Iran. Releasing the third option number is likely designed to rally against such a move.

Trump Watch

washington post logoWashington Post, A riddle in New England: A casino, 321 acres of Indian tribal land and a presidential tweet, Marc Fisher, May 14, 2019 (print ed.). The measure in the House that drew the president’s Twitter scorn offers an intricate example of the ways his business dealings, personal bonds and political alliances can complicate the ordinary doings of government.

Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)Between a boast about bringing jobs to Ohio and a statement of sympathy for victims of a school shooting in Colorado, President Trump last week found time to tweet about an obscure House bill that would assure a Massachusetts Indian tribe control of 321 acres of land it wants to use for a gambling casino.

The president was against the bill, he wrote, because it was “unfair and doesn’t treat Native Americans equally!”

Presidents don’t usually get involved in local tiffs over a planned 900-room casino hotel. And even though this president has a four-decade-long record of slamming American Indian casinos as scams that pose unfair competition to other gambling enterprises, notably his own, Trump’s decision to weigh in on a measure that had strong bipartisan support seemed unusual for a chief executive who doesn’t like to be bothered with the little stuff.

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr taps U.S. attorney to review origins of Russia probe, Matt Zapotosky and Felicia Sonmez, May 14, 2019 (print ed.). The investigation is designed to ensure the U.S. government’s “intelligence collection activities” related to the Trump campaign were “lawful and appropriate.” Attorney General William P. Barr has tapped John H. Durham, the U.S. attorney for the District of Connecticut, to investigate the origins of the special counsel’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

john durhamBarr picked Durham, right, in recent weeks to work on the review, which is designed to ensure the U.S. government’s “intelligence collection activities” related to the Trump campaign were “lawful and appropriate,” a person familiar with the decision said.

Barr had confirmed the review publicly, though the person leading it was not previously known. Durham’s selection was first reported by the New York Times.

Durham was confirmed as a U.S. attorney in February 2018 and had previously earned a reputation as a dogged career prosecutor tapped by previous attorneys general for other high-profile roles.

Palmer Report, Opinion: We told you the Florida 2018 election was rigged for Ron DeSantis and Rick Scott, Bill Palmer, May 14, 2019. The night of the 2016 election, Palmer Report pointed out Donald Trump’s victory – not the fact that he won, but the way in which he won – was all but statistically impossible. The results in certain key swing states simply had to have been altered. Sure enough, we’ve spent the past two years learning that Russian hackers did indeed get into the voter registration databases of those swing states.

bill palmer report logo headerThe night of the 2018 election, Palmer Report looked at the results and concluded that they seemed mathematically and statistically valid in nearly every major race in every state – with the notable exception of Florida, where Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, below right, and Republican Senator Rick Scott somehow pulled off victories that were almost literally impossible. We concluded that the results in Florida must have somehow been altered. Now we know that they were.

ron desantis oWhen word first surfaced earlier this year about Russian hackers having hacked the 2018 election in Florida, the two people who showed the most immediate interest in the news were the two people who were the most likely to have benefited from that hacking. This was suspicious in its own right. Why would Scott and DeSantis, of all people, want to draw the public’s attention to the possibility that Russian hackers rigged the election in their favor?

Now Ron DeSantis has announced today that the FBI has informed him that Russian hackers did indeed penetrate voter registration databases in two Florida counties in 2018. DeSantis also announced that the FBI told him that this hacking did not alter the outcome of the election. Ah, so that’s why DeSantis and Scott were so eager to get out ahead of this.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Before Trump’s purge at DHS, Nielsen and top ICE official challenged secret White House plan for mass family arrests, Nick Miroff and Josh Dawsey, May 14, kirstjen nielsen o2019 (print ed.). In the weeks before they were ousted last month, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, right, and top immigration enforcement official Ronald Vitiello challenged a secret White House plan to arrest thousands of parents and children in a blitz operation against migrants in 10 major U.S. cities.

According to seven current and former Department of Homeland Security officials, the administration wanted to target the crush of families that had crossed the U.S.-Mexico border after the president’s failed “zero tolerance” prosecution push in early 2018. The ultimate purpose, the officials said, was a show of force to send the message that the United States was going to get tough by swiftly moving to detain and deport recent immigrants — including families with children.

The sprawling operation included an effort to fast-track immigration court cases, allowing the government to obtain deportation orders against those who did not show for their hearings — officials said 90 percent of those targeted were found deportable in their absence. The subsequent arrests would have required coordinated raids against parents with children in their homes and neighborhoods.

Axios, Scoop: Top aide to Labor secretary to depart after clash with White House, Jonathan Swan, May 14, 2019. Nick Geale, the top aide to Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, is leaving the Trump administration after a clash with White House officials who regarded him as personally difficult and an impediment to President Trump's deregulatory agenda, according to sources with direct knowledge.

alexander acosta labor oBehind the scenes: Senior White House officials — especially within the Domestic Policy Council — have made it clear to Acosta, right, that they're frustrated that, in their view, the Labor Department hasn't been moving quickly or aggressively enough on deregulation. And some have pointed to Geale as the problem. The White House also separately lodged a complaint about Geale.

A source who is close to the president and has direct knowledge of the situation told me: "The pace of change has not been sufficient. [Acosta] tends to be fairly fearful of taking hardline positions. He tends to be solicitous of the unions, often making the argument that that's what the president wants."

A Labor Department spokesperson defended the department against White House accusations that it had been slow on deregulation.

Context: The White House's frustrations with Acosta's Labor Department are not new. Bloomberg Law describes the clashes and philosophical disagreements between the White House and the Labor Department exhaustively in this article. They boil down to a view among conservative White House officials that Acosta hasn't cracked down hard enough against unions and has been too cautious to implement deregulatory policies that might spark an uproar on Capitol Hill.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump will hijack any event. Please, not the Fourth of July, Editorial Board, May 14, 2019 (print ed.). In the abstract, it might seem fitting for the president of the United States to deliver an address to the country as part of the Fourth of July festivities in the nation’s capital. It is, after all, the country’s birthday; why shouldn’t the nation’s highest officeholder lead the celebration? There is even some precedent.

Unfortunately, no imagination is needed to know what President Trump might say, and that is one reason to worry about his plans to interject himself into the day’s events. According to an account by Post reporters, he has “effectively taken charge” of planning for the D.C. celebration. The plans apparently include moving the giant fireworks display from its traditional spot on the Mall to make room for Mr. Trump to give a speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Global News: Venezuela

washington post logoWashington Post, How a last-minute change of heart foiled a secret plot to oust Venezuela’s leader, Anthony Faiola, May 14, 2019 (print ed.). For weeks, the country’s spy chief, its chief justice and a Miami businessman tried to seal a high-stakes deal to remove President Nicolás Maduro. This is what went wrong.

Maduro’s spy chief, Maj. Gen. Manuel Ricardo Cristopher Figuera, and Cesar Omaña, a 39-year-old Venezuelan businessman based in Miami, were trying to seal a deal venezuela flag waving customhashed out over weeks with Maikel Moreno, the chief justice, according to one of the participants in the meeting. Figuera and Omaña were part of the plan to force Maduro out, but they needed Moreno’s help.

This account is based on hours of interviews with three people familiar with the talks: the participant, a senior opposition official who was kept informed on the developments, and a senior U.S. official briefed on the talks. The account also sheds new light on the key question of what went wrong in the Venezuelan opposition’s high-stakes move to oust Maduro on April 30.

See also: SouthFront, Venezuelan ‘Opposition’ Asks For US Military Support Against Maduro Government And ‘Foreign Forces,’ Staff report, May 13, 2019. The US-backed juan guaido puppet CustomVenezuelan opposition, led by self-proclaimed Interim President of Venezuela Juan Guaido, shown at right in an opinion graphic,  is now openly requesting a US military help to overthrow the legal government of the country.

U.S. Politics 

ny times logoNew York Times, How Democrats Who Beat Republicans Last Year Plan to Keep Their Seats, Jennifer Steinhauer, May 14, 2019.  Desperate to maintain their one perch of power in Washington, House Democrats are moving aggressively to defend their majority. Incumbents, under intense pressure from the party to begin their campaigns, raised a record $11.6 million in the first quarter of the year and are moving quickly to protect the 31 seats they hold in districts where President Trump prevailed in 2016.

President Trump prevailed in 228 congressional districts in the 2016 presidential election. During the midterm elections last year, Democrats won 31 of those House districts. ohio congressional districts 2012

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: My district was gerrymandered. The damage is easy to measure, Marcy Kaptur, (shown right, with her gerrymandered district as of 2012 at center in the light green strip above), May 14, 2019 (print ed.). Marcy Kaptur, a Democrat, represents marcy kapturOhio’s 9th Congressional District in the House. When I was first elected to Congress in 1982, women weren’t allowed in the House gym, American Motors was still producing cars such as the Gremlin and the Pacer in my hometown of Toledo, and Ohio had just elected 10 Democrats to Congress.

That last number might not sound like a big deal, but the chance of that happening today borders on impossible.

In 1982, Ohio sent 21 representatives — 10 Democrats and 11 Republicans — to Congress from districts that were drawn to be competitive and compact. Voting patterns haven’t changed much since: In 2018, 2,245,403 Ohioans voted to send a Republican to Congress and 2,019,120 Ohioans voted to send a Democrat. That’s 52 percent to 47 percent. Yet only four Democrats were elected last fall, compared with 12 Republicans.

May 14

Assange Evidence Review

News from Underground, Here's the best account of Sweden's "case" against Assange for rapes that he did not commit, Mark Crispin Miller, May 14, 2018. Kudos to my dear friend Celia Farber [writing the investigation below in 2017 and republished here]:

jullian assange anna ardin sofia wilenThe Indicter, New Analysis of Swedish Police Report Confirms Julian Assange’s Version in Sweden’s case, Celia Farber, January, 2017. Article beginning: Two Swedish women — Anna Ardin and Sofia Wilen (shown at center and right, with a photo with a younger Assange) — had consensual sex with Julian Assange in Stockholm, in their respective apartments, in the month of August, 2010.

In an investigation conducted by Swedish prosecutor, Marianne Ny, he found himself suspected (but not charged) of discrete items of sexual molestation and one count of “non-serious” rape. Swedish prosecutors had initially dropped all allegations against him, when Ny suddenly took over as lead prosecutor and revived them, which is just one of many inexplicable twists and turns in the gluey saga.

Nobody outside of Sweden, certainly, is likely to ever understand this disorienting morass.

indicter logo sloganThe aspects above have not been considered in a correlation analysis, apart of the mentioning in articles earlier published in our Swedish-based The Professors’ Blog, and in sections of the book “Sweden vs. Assange. Human Rights Issues and Political Background“. An earlier version of Ms Farber’s piece appeared in “The New York Observer”.

celia farber twitter Custom 3Celia Farber (shown in her Twitter photo) Author’s Note for The Indicter Magazine version: The following article is an update for The Indicter Magazine of a previous publication in The New York Observer, drawing on additional materials. The invasion of privacy contained in the text that follows in regrettable and unavoidable. It is strictly for the purpose of clarification about the events that took place in Stockholm in 2010, between Julian Assange and two women, and how the Swedish State came to bypass their wishes, as well as that of the original prosecutor, who dismissed the charges in the first days.

The international media has a perverse tradition of de-humanizing Mr. Assange, treating him as a symbolic object (at best.). My intention is not to invade the sacred privacy of anybody, but rather, to dare go into the micro-details, so as to expose the absurdity and in some ways –with apologies to Sweden– the Swedishness of the tragic situation. I can cast light on this because my Swedish mother moved us to Sweden when I was a child, and I spent my formative years there.

Media News: Fox

Media Matters, Opinion: How Fox News pushed a debunked conspiracy theory -- and then rewarded those involved, Matt Gertz, May 14, 2019. Two years ago, Fox News published seth richa story that promoted the conspiracy theory that murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich, right, and not the Russians, had provided DNC emails to Wikileaks. Fox would retract the story a week later, before promising an investigation. That investigation never actually happened -- so we did it for them.

There were five parts to the investigation -- and a comprehensive timeline as well:

• Part 1: Horrible sourcing led to the discredited report. The report that led to the entire event was sourced to a "federal investigator" from an unnamed government agency. The only corroboration was then-Fox contributor Rod Wheeler saying his investigation was "consistent" with that allegation. Based on this flimsy (at best) evidence, Fox published a story that Rich was a source for WikiLeaks, and that Democrats were engaged in a widespread effort to cover it up.

• Part 2: Fox's "news" side correspondent pushed the conspiracy theory on air. Fox News correspondent Griff Jenkins reported on this story for Fox & Friends, putting the credibility of Fox's news side behind it. Jenkins hyped "bombshell new evidence" and even vouched for Wheeler at one point.

fox news logo Small Part 3: Laura Ingraham's ghastly attack on Seth Rich's family. At one point during Fox & Friends's coverage of this conspiracy theory, Laura Ingraham suggested that Rich's parents were squelching efforts to find out the truth about their son’s death for partisan or monetary gain.

• Part 4: Jay Sekulow helped Hannity promote the conspiracy theory -- and then became Trump's lawyer. Just a few weeks before he became Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow appeared on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show to express support for the conspiracy theory about Seth Rich. Sekulow's motives were clear, saying “I think this whole Russian argument, Sean, is such subterfuge from reality.”

• Part 5: Everyone involved was rewarded . How did Fox News responded to this retracted report? As far as we know, no one was punished. In fact, several people involved were actually promoted. The person who edited the story was promoted to managing editor of FoxNews.com. Hannity's executive producer at the time was promoted to vice president and editor-in-chief of Fox News digital. Laura Ingraham was given her own show (where predictably enough she faced backlash for going after the family and friends of victims of gun violence). Newt Gingrich still appears regularly on the network. And, of course, Hannity has faced no negative consequences whatsoever. As one senior Fox employee told CNN at the time: "No one ever gets fired from Fox for publishing a story that isn't true."

• A complete timeline. We've put all the relevant information in one place, in an easy to download and easy to read PDF.

So, why do this? There are some powerful people even today who think that Fox News is like any other news organization, save for a few bigoted opinion hosts. Those people are wrong. Fox News takes conspiracy theories from the fever swamps, and injects them into mainstream GOP politics. It rewards people who participate in this farce, no matter what they got wrong. Fox News is rotten to the core, and sadly, too many people still don't realize it.

May 13

Pain From Trump-China Trade War

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s trade tactics under fire as China retaliates on tariffs, Taylor Telford, Damian Paletta and Gerry Shih, May 13, 2019. President Trump’s efforts to calm investors while he launches a full-scale trade war with China showed signs of cracking Monday, as one of his top advisers admitted the approach could damage the U.S. china flag Smalleconomy, a Goldman Sachs report predicted it might lead to higher interest rates, and China vowed to impose tariffs on $60 billion in U.S. goods on June 1.

China’s response, announced by its Ministry of Finance, said it targeted “U.S. unilateralism and trade protectionism.”

djt maga hatThe rapid-fire succession of stark economic news spooked financial markets. The Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index are both down sharply in morning trading. While many business executives and investors had hoped that tensions between the United States and China would be resolved easily, the recent developments show how much each country is digging in for a long fight.

Amid signs that investors were questioning his adversarial approach, Trump attempted to assuage the public in a series of Twitter posts. But some of his tweets contained typos and misspellings, suggesting that his comments had not been thoroughly vetted by White House officials and might not represent fully planned-out policy initiatives.

ny times logolarry kudlow cpac 2016 gage skidmore CustomNew York Times, Trump’s Trade War Escalation Will Exact Economic Pain, Adviser Says, Jeanna Smialek, Jim Tankersley and Mark Landler, May 13, 2019 (print ed.). Raising tariffs on Chinese products will hurt U.S. consumers, economists say, but the full impact depends on how far President Trump takes the fight. “Both sides will pay,” said Larry Kudlow, right, Mr. Trump’s chief economic adviser, in a Fox News interview, contradicting claims from the president.

Venezuelan Rebels Seek U.S. Military Support

juan guaido puppet Custom

juan guaido cellphoneSouthFront, Venezuelan ‘Opposition’ Asks For US Military Support Against Maduro Government And ‘Foreign Forces,’ Staff report, May 13, 2019. The US-backed Venezuelan opposition, led by self-proclaimed Interim President of Venezuela Juan Guaido, shown above in an opinion graphic and at left in a file photo, is now openly requesting a US military help to overthrow the legal government of the country.

In a letter dated May 11, addressed to US Southern Command chief Navy Admiral Craig Faller and shared May 13 to Twitter by Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, Guaido’s “US envoy” Carlos Vecchio said the opposition “welcomes the support of the United States and confirms our government’s willingness to begin discussions regarding the cooperation that has been offered.”

Trump Watch

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump suddenly has a Chris Wray problem, Bill Palmer, May 13, 2019. Each time Donald Trump nominates someone to a key position in his administration, he does so with the expectation that the person in question will corruptly do his bidding and protect him from investigation. Sometimes that’s worked out for Trump, and sometimes it hasn’t.

bill palmer report logo headerConsidering that Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey specifically to try to stop the Trump-Russia investigation, it’s a given that when Trump subsequently appointed Chris Wray to replace Comey, he thought he was picking someone who would be personally loyal to him. But from the start, Wray has said all the appropriate things in public, and there’s no evidence that Wray is trying to rig things for Trump behind the scenes. Now that’s coming to a head.

After Donald Trump’s cartoonishly corrupt Attorney General William Barr publicly and falsely claimed that the FBI had been “spying” on the Trump campaign, Chris Wray, below at right, publicly shot down this nonsense.

christopher wray officialWe’ve all been waiting for Trump to finally turn his ire toward Wray, and last night it happened. Trump tweeted this quote from Fox News stooge Lou Dobbs: “Even Director James Clapper admits that the FBI actions against the Trump Presidential Campaign do in fact meet the definition of spying, perhaps FBI Director Christopher Wray will be the next to do so.” To be clear, that’s not what Clapper actually said. Then Trump added a quote from another of his puppets: “The FBI has no leadership. The Director is protecting the same gang that tried to overthrow the President through an illegal coup.”

The important thing here is that Donald Trump is finally attacking Christopher Wray in public, over Wray’s refusal to go along with Trump’s phony “spying” narrative. Trump is clearly upset, but what’s he going to do? If he were to fire another FBI Director, particularly right now as his scandals are exploding, it would only make things worse for him. But things are clearly coming to a head between Trump and Wray – and that may not end well for either of them.

amit mehta CustomPalmer Report, Opinion: Federal judge is just hours away from blowing up Donald Trump’s financial scandals, Bill Palmer, May 13, 2019. Various banks and financial institutions are in the process of turning Donald Trump’s financial records over to House Democrats. Trump recently filed for a series of injunctions in the hope of stopping this process, for fear that his lifetime of financial crimes and financial ineptitude will be publicly exposed.

bill palmer report logo headerTrump’s suit against his own accounting firm, Mazars, is being handled by Federal Judge Amit Mehta, right. Last week Mehta stated that he plans to fast track the process, and the language he used strongly hinted that he’s planning to rule against Trump at the hearing tomorrow. In such case, it’ll be unlikely that any subsequent appeal effort would succeed for Trump, or take very long.

The real upshot of tomorrow’s ruling is that it would establish precedent for the various other legal maneuvers that Donald Trump is using to try to stop the likes of Deutsche mazars logo croppedBank, JP Morgan Chase, and Capital One.

Trump is now begging the judge in the Mazars case to move more slowly, but there’s no indication that the judge has any interest in that. This should go south for Trump fast.

Jimmy Carter, 94, Hurt In Fall

washington post logoWashington Post, Former president Jimmy Carter undergoes surgery to repair broken hip after fall at his home, Felicia Sonmez​, May 13, 2019. Former president Jimmy Carter jimmy carter at desk carter centeris recovering from surgery after a fall Monday morning in which he broke his hip. The Carter Center said in a statement that Carter, 94 (shown in a file photo at his desk at the center), was leaving his home in Plains, Ga., to go turkey hunting when he fell. The former president is recovering at Phoebe Sumter Medical Center in Americus, Ga., after surgery that his surgeon said was successful. His wife, Rosalynn, is with him.

“President Carter said his main concern is that turkey season ends this week, and he has not reached his limit,” the Carter Center said in its statement. “He hopes the state of Georgia will allow him to roll over the unused limit to next year.”

U.S. Supreme Court

washington post logoWashington Post, Abortion extremists make fools of Kavanaugh defenders, Jennifer Rubin, right, May 13, 2019. During the confirmation fight for Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, abortion jennifer rubin new headshotrights activists warned that with his ascension to the Supreme Court, abortions would be criminalized, putting at risk the health and lives of thousands of women who, like their grandmothers’ generation, would be forced to resort to back-alley abortions if they did not have the means to travel hundreds or thousands of miles to a state where abortion was legal.

Kavanaugh’s defenders called such claims hysterical and disingenuous. Although Kavanaugh was put on a list blessed by pro-life groups and had questioned the jurisprudence behind Roe v. Wade, his defenders argued that he wouldn’t approve state laws that went so far as to ban abortion. On the other side, women’s susan collins official Smallgroups pointed to pro-lifers’ decades-long commitment to ending legal abortions based on equating any abortion with murder.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), left, risked her decades-long reputation as a pro-choice Republican and her prospects for reelection in 2020 by voting to confirm Kavanaugh and spouting the pro-lifers’ line that legal abortion wasn’t really at risk.

We now are seeing the full impact of confirming a justice who could eviscerate Roe. The very type of legislation Kavanaugh defenders claimed were not in the cards was passed in Georgia and is poised to pass in Alabama. State lawmakers are now emboldened to pass laws effectively outlawing abortion with the hope that this Supreme Court will now uphold them.

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court rules against Apple, allowing lawsuit targeting App Store to proceed, Tony Romm and Robert Barnes, May 13, 2019. Apple suffered a significant defeat at the Supreme Court on Monday, when the justices ruled that consumers could forge ahead with a lawsuit against the tech giant over the way it manages its App Store.

apple logo rainbowThe 5-4 decision allows device owners to proceed with a case that alleges Apple has acted as a monopoly by requiring iPhone and iPad users to download apps only from its portal while taking a cut of some sales made through the store.

The ruling could have serious repercussions for one of Apple’s most lucrative lines of business, while opening the door for similar legal action targeting other tech giants in Silicon Valley. But the court’s opinion — led by conservative Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, who joined its liberal justices in the majority — did not rule on the merits of the lawsuit itself.

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court’s conservative justices overturn 41-year-old precedent, Robert Barnes​, May 13, 2019. The Supreme Court’s conservative majority overturned a 41-year-old precedent Monday, prompting a pointed warning from liberal justices about “which cases the court will overrule next.”

clarence thomas w new officialThe issue in Monday’s 5 to 4 ruling was one of limited impact: whether states have sovereign immunity from private lawsuits in the courts of other states. In 1979, the Supreme Court ruled that there is no constitutional right to such immunity, although states are free to extend it to one another and often do.

But the court’s conservative majority overruled that decision, saying there was an implied right in the Constitution that means states “could not be haled involuntarily before each other’s courts,” in the words of Justice Clarence Thomas, right, who wrote Monday’s decision.

Thomas acknowledged the departure from the legal doctrine of stare decisis, in which courts are to abide by settled law without a compelling reason to overrule the decision.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Justices, With Much in Common, Take Different Paths, Adam Liptak, May 13, 2019 (print ed.). Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, below left, and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, right, President Trump’s Supreme Court appointees, were widely expected to be jurisprudential twins. Both justices lean right, but brett kavanaughthey are revealing themselves to be different kinds of conservatives in both style and substance.

President Trump’s two Supreme Court appointees went to the same Jesuit high school in the Washington suburbs — at the same time. After attending Ivy neil gorsuch headshotLeague colleges and law schools, they worked as law clerks on the Supreme Court — for the same justice, in the same term.

They served as appeals court judges for more than a decade, turning out opinions that captured the attention of conservative legal groups like the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation. They were confirmed by tight votes, mostly along party lines.

On the Supreme Court, they were widely expected to be jurisprudential twins. But it turns out that there is more than a little daylight between Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, who joined the court in 2017, and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, who started in October after facing accusations of sexual assault, which he denied, at his confirmation hearings.

ny times logoNew York Times, Accused of ‘Terrorism’ for Putting Legal Materials Online, Adam Liptak, May 13, 2019. After Carl Malamud posted Georgia’s annotated laws, the state sued for copyright infringement. Both sides have asked the Supreme Court to step in. 

Carl Malamud believes in open access to government records, and he has spent more than a decade putting them online. You might think states would welcome the help.But when Mr. Malamud’s group posted the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, the state sued for copyright infringement. Providing public access to the state’s laws and related legal materials, Georgia’s lawyers said, was part of a “strategy of terrorism.”

A federal appeals court ruled against the state, which has asked the Supreme Court to step in. On Friday, in an unusual move, Mr. Malamud’s group, Public.Resource.Org, also urged the court to hear the dispute, saying that the question of who owns the law is an urgent one, as about 20 other states have claimed that parts of similar annotated codes are copyrighted.

The issue, the group said, is whether citizens can have access to “the raw materials of our democracy.”

The state, through a legal publisher, makes the statutes themselves available online, and it has said it does not object to Mr. Malamud doing the same thing. But people who want to see other materials in the books, the state says, must pay the publisher.

This is part of a disturbing trend, according to a new law review article, “Who Owns the Law? Why We Must Restore Public Ownership of Legal Publishing,” by Leslie Street, a law professor and librarian at Mercer University in Macon, Ga., and David Hansen, a librarian at Duke. It will be published in The Journal of Intellectual Property Law.

States have struck deals with legal publishers, the article said, that have effectively privatized the law.

U.S. Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, The Presidential Election Calendar, Sarah Almukhtar, Jonathan Martin and Matt Stevens, May 13, 2019. The election may still be hundreds of days in the future, but the primary process is already underway. Here’s a calendar of events. Some dates are still fluid, though, so check back often.

Officials Ramp Up WikiLeaks Crackdown

Consortium News, Sweden Reopens 9-Year Old Rape Investigation Against Julian Assange; Seeks His Extradition, Joe Lauria, May 13, 2019. Sweden’s deputy director of public prosecution, Eva-Marie Persson, said Monday that Sweden would seek the extradition of Julian Assange to face a nearly ten-year old allegation of rape.

julian assange head bookAssange (shown in a file photo) is serving a 50-week sentence at Belmarsh prison in London for skipping bail in the rape case in 2012. Assange had lived inside the Ecuadorian embassy from June 2012 to April 11 this year, when Ecuador lifted his asylum and allowed British police to enter the embassy and arrest him.

eva marie persson deputy public proecutorOn the same day the United States unveiled a sealed indictment accusing Assange of intrusion into a government computer. The U.S. also filed an extradition request for Assange.

Persson (shown at left) told a press conference in Stockholm on Monday that it would be up to British authorities to determine which extradition request — to Sweden or to the U.S. — would take precedence. She also said she wouldn’t speculate on an extradition request from the U.S. to Sweden since one had not yet been made. The BBC reported that “the decision as to which of the two requests take precedence will be made by UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid. He would make his decision primarily on the basis of which alleged offence was considered to be more serious. Rape is likely to be considered more serious than conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. That would mean ordering Assange’s extradition to Sweden.”

Britain may take the opportunity to wash its hands of the politically thorny case of extraditing a publisher to the United States by sending him to Sweden instead, though Persson said Assange could not then be extradited to the U.S. from Sweden without Britain’s consent.

julian assange screenshot arrest (Ruptly)

London police arresting the bearded WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (screenshot from Ruptly video).

RT, Ecuador will give US all documents & devices Assange left in London embassy – report, Staff and wire reporting, May 13, 2019.Ecuador's attorney general has informed Julian Assange's lawyer that the WikiLeaks co-founder's files, computer, mobile phones and other electronic devices will be seized during a search of the London embassy and sent to the US.

sweden flagWikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson tried unsuccessfully to retrieve Assange's personal belongings from Ecuador's UK embassy, where he had been holed up for almost seven years before his arrest and incarceration last month. However, the Ecuadorian government has reportedly greenlighted a US request to provide it with access to the documents and electronic devices left behind by the jailed WikiLeaks editor after he was hauled out of the embassy by the British police on April 11.

ecuador flagAlso on rt.com WikiLeaks editor denied entry to Ecuadorian Embassy to retrieve Assange’s belongings

The searches are set to be conducted by police on May 20, El Pais reported, citing a notice sent to Assange's Ecuadorian lawyer Carlos Poveda.

Personal files, Assange's computer, mobile phones, memory sticks, CDs and any other electronic devices uncovered during the searches will then be seized and sent to the US as a part of Ecuador's response to the Department of Justice's judicial request. The US is currently building a case to extradite Assange on hacking charges.

The files contain troves of sensitive information, include communication with lawyers and other legal documents – which, the lawyers argue, deprive him of the right to a proper defense. Having this data will potentially allow the US to "build and create new charges" to extradite Assange in violation of Ecuador's own asylum policies.

julian assange indicter imageNews of the looming handover came as a bolt out of the blue for Assange's defense team, Poveda told RT Spanish, adding that it's impossible to be sure that his things in the embassy haven't been tampered with already.

"Since Mr Assange left the embassy, we cannot know for sure what has been happening inside these rooms," he said. Lawyers have requested CCTV records for the period since Assange's arrest, Poveda said.

wikileaks logo2The US has until June 12 to build a case for extradition. Last week, Assange, who has been serving a 50-week sentence in a maximum-security Guantanamo Bay-style prison for skipping bail, faced an extradition judge for the first time. The WikiLeaks co-founder said he would not surrender himself to extradition for simply "doing journalism" that has earned his site many international awards.

Ecuador's attorney general has informed Julian Assange's lawyer that the WikiLeaks co-founder's files, computer, mobile phones and other electronic devices will be seized during a search of the London embassy and sent to the US.

WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson tried unsuccessfully to retrieve Assange's personal belongings from Ecuador's UK embassy, where he had been holed up for almost seven years before his arrest and incarceration last month. However, the Ecuadorian government has reportedly greenlighted a US request to provide it with access to the documents and electronic devices left behind by the jailed WikiLeaks editor after he was hauled out of the embassy by the British police on April 11.

Palm Beach Judge Suppresses Sex Tape Of Pats Owner

robert kraft djt

CNN, Judge grants Robert Kraft's request to exclude spa surveillance video from his trial, Emanuella Grinberg, May 13, 2019. A Florida judged ruled Monday that prosecutors cannot use surveillance video and other evidence in the prostitution solicitation case against NFL team owner Robert Kraft (shown in a file photo with the president). The ruling is a major win for Kraft, one of dozens of spa patrons allegedly caught on camera receiving illicit massages at a day spa in January.

Kraft, owner of the New England Pariots, and other defendants pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor charges stemming from the footage and other surveillance methods.

Kraft's lawyers challenged the validity of the search warrant that let authorities install hidden cameras in the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter.

The lawyers argued that the search warrant violated Kraft's Fourth Amendment rights and Florida law. The surveillance was "unnecessary and inappropriate," they claimed, because the offense Kraft was accused of was "not legally serious enough to justify such a maximally invasive investigatory technique."
In his order, Palm Beach County Judge Leonard Hanser suppressed all evidence against Kraft that was obtained through and in connection with the search warrant.

Hanser said the Jupiter Police Department and the judge who issued the search warrant did not do enough to minimize the invasion of privacy of customers who received legal massages.

"The fact that some totally innocent women and men had their entire lawful time spent in a massage room fully recorded and viewed intermittently by a detective-monitor is unacceptable," Hanser wrote.

Law enforcement did not identify Kraft until he left the spa and an officer pulled over his car to verify who he was. Hanser suppressed all information obtained through the stop as "fruit of an unlawful search."

Syrian Army Gains Against Rebels

syrian flag wavingAl Masdar News (AMN), Syrian Army keeps rolling in southern Idlib, seizes 2 more towns, Staff report, The situation for the jihadist rebels in northwestern Hama and southwestern Idlib is progressively getting worse as they have lost a total of five towns on Monday. Led by the Tiger Forces, the Syrian Arab Army seized two more towns this afternoon following an intense battle with the jihadist rebels.

As a result of this advance, the Syrian Arab Army will likely shift their attention to the key hilltop of Tal Sakher and the nearby town of Al-Hobeit as they work to fully seucure the northwestern axis of the Hama Governorate.If they are successful, the Syrian Arab Army will only have a few sites left to capture in Hama before the entire governorate is under their control.

Assad 2018 Chemical Attack Was Faked: Report

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Syria -- OPCW Engineering Assessment: The Douma 'Chemical Weapon Attack' Was Staged, b, May 13, 2019. On April 7 2018 Syrian 'rebels' claimed that the Syrian government used chlorine gas and Sarin in an attack on the besieged Douma suburb near the Syrian capital Damascus. They published a series of videos which showed dead bodies of mainly women and children.

The claim of the 'chemical attack' was made shortly after U.S. President Trump had announced that he wanted U.S. troops to leave Syria. It was designed to "pull him back in" which it indeed did. In an illegal 'retaliation' the U.S., Britain and France launched a number of cruise missiles against Syria. Most of them failed to reach their targets.

Moon of Alabama published a number of pieces on the issue which are listed below.

It seemed obvious from the very first claims of the 'gas attack' that it did not happen at all. The Syrian government had no motive to use any chemical weapon or an irritant like chlorine in Douma. It had already won the battle. The incident was obviously staged, like others before it, to drag the U.S. into a new attack on Syria.

Shortly after the incident the NATO aligned propaganda group Bellingcat asserted that the cylinders were dropped from helicopters. In June 2018 the New York Times published a rather laughable virtual crime scene analysis of the Douma incident. Neither included an engineering assessment of the impact forces and the related damages on the cylinders and roofs. Neither had visited the scene. From observing superficial visual markings both falsely concluded that the gas cylinders were dropped from helicopters.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which sent a Fact Finding Mission to the scene to investigate the case, made a detailed engineering analysis of the impact and damage. But the results of the engineering assessment were left out of its mealy-mouthed and inconclusive final report (pdf).

Now the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media obtained a copy of the 15 pages long OPCW Engineering assessment of two cylinders observed at the Douma incident.

The engineering assessment confirms our earlier conclusion. The whole scene as depicted by 'rebels' and propaganda organs was staged. The more than 34 dead on the scene were murdered elsewhere under unknown circumstances.

In its discussion of the OPCW engineering assessment and its suppression by the OPCW management, the Working Group states:

The cover-up of evidence that the Douma incident was staged is not merely misconduct. As the staging of the Douma incident entailed mass murder of civilians, those in OPCW who have suppressed the evidence of staging are, unwittingly or otherwise, colluding with mass murder.

Earlier coverage of the Douma incident published by Moon of Alabama:

April 8 - Syria - Timelines Of 'Gas Attacks' Follow A Similar Scheme (Update II)
April 9 - Syria - Any U.S. Strike Will Lead to Escalation
April 11 - Syria - A U.S. Attack Would Be Futile - But Serve A Purpose - by M. K. Bhadrakumar
April 11 - Trump Asks Russia To Roll Over - It Won't
April 12 - Syria - Threat Of Large War Recedes But May Come Back
April 13 - Syria - Manipulated Videos Fail To Launch World War III - Updated
April 14 - F.U.K.U.S. Strikes Syria - Who Won?
April 16 - Syria - Pentagon Hides Attack Failure - 70+ Cruise Missiles Shot Down
April 19 - Syria - Who Is Stalling The OPCW Investigation In Douma?
April 20 - Syria Sitrep - Cleanup Around Damascus - WMD Rumors Prepare For New U.S. Attack
July 6 - Syria - OPCW Issues First Report Of 'Chemical Weapon Attack' in Douma
July 7 - Syria - Mainstream Media Lie About Watchdog Report On The 'Chemical Attack' In Douma

U.S. Media

Reporters Without Borders, Media Weekly Roundup: Connecticut reporter detained while covering protest, Staff and wire reports, May 13, 2019.  Police detained reporter Tara O’Neill on May 9 while she covered a demonstration. O’Neill, who works for Hearst Connecticut Media, was covering a protest in Bridgeport, Connecticut, marking the second anniversary of a police shooting that killed a 15-year-old boy.

When officers ordered everyone off the street during the protest, O’Neill identified herself as a journalist, but was still handcuffed and taken to police headquarters. She was detained for about 30 minutes and eventually released without charge. “The fact that a local journalist was arrested for doing her job and reporting on the actions of police and protesters is extremely troubling,” said Matt DeRienzo, vice president of news and digital content for Hearst Connecticut Media. “The public deserves a full explanation of how it happened and what steps will be taken to make sure that the freedom of the press and the public’s right to know is not infringed upon like this in the future.” There was no comment from the police department.

See also: FOIA restrictions would shield DC officials who use email for personal business: Lawmakers in Washington, DC, are proposing a change in the city’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) law that grant any person the right to request access to federal agency records or information. The proposed changes would restrict records requests for government emails to matters relating only to official business, excluding personal emails and conversations. The proposal would also allow DC government agencies to reject requests that don’t include specific details about the documents being requested. There are concerns that these proposals could prevent the general public and reporters from exposing ethical breaches in which government officials mix public and private business. The DC Council chairman, who proposed the legislation, said the change is aimed at lowering the number of FOIA requests received, which have put “an increasing burden on our general counsel.”

U.S. College Admissions Scandal

felicity huffman twitterny times logoNew York Times, Felicity Huffman’s Guilty Plea Could Bring 4 Months in Jail, Kate Taylor and Julie Bosman, May 13, 2019. The actress Felicity Huffman (shown on a recent Twitter photo) pleaded guilty to a felony on Monday, acknowledging that she paid $15,000 to arrange for cheating on her daughter’s SAT test.

Ms. Huffman, one of the best known faces among the 50 celebrities, business executives, sports coaches and others who have been charged in the nation’s largest-ever college admissions prosecution, pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.

May 12

Trump Watch

washington post logoWashington Post, To fight House probes, Trump and his allies employ a block-everything strategy, Rachael Bade and Seung Min Kim, May 12, 2019. President Trump’s Donald Trumpnoncooperation strategy has shifted from partial resistance to all-out war as he faces more than 20 separate investigations from the Democratic-controlled House — a move that many legal and congressional experts fear could undermine the institutional power of Congress for years to come. (Trump is shown on a 2016 cover of the Weekly Standard magazine.).

• Washington Post, A guide to 20 inquiries Trump and his allies are working to impede, May 12, 2019 (print ed.).

U.S. Social Justice

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Who’s going to take care of these people?’ A rural hospital fights for its life, Eli Saslow, Photos by Michael S. Williamson, May 12, 2019 (print ed.). More than 100 of the country’s remote hospitals have gone broke and then closed in the past decade, turning some of the most impoverished parts of the United States into what experts now call “health-hazard zones.”

U.S. Politicsbernie sanders npc may 1 2016 jip hands IMG 2008 Small

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, shown in a 2016 photo by the Justice Integrity Project at the National Press Club during his presidential campaign

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s entry into the Democratic race provides a jolt to the Sanders candidacy, Dan Balz, May 12, 2019 (print ed.). The senator from Vermont’s poll numbers have dipped, and he now finds himself challenged from several directions.

barack obama joe biden new high res

President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, shown in a file photo via Wikimedia

washington post logoWashington Post, They worked for Obama. They’re not supporting Biden — yet, Michael Scherer, Dan Balz and Matt Viser, May 12, 2019 (print ed.). Only one of the 21 Democrats running for president wants voters to see him as the establishment choice best able to fulfill the promise of President Barack Obama’s third term. But former vice president Joe Biden has yet to become a consensus pick of the White House and campaign advisers who made Obama’s two terms possible.

With some exceptions, the generation that brought to Washington an insurgent message they called “hope and change” is once again resisting pressure to get in line, as they scan the field for a possible heir to Obama’s transformational 2008 candidacy and worry about a repeat of the disastrous 2016 election.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosThis account is based on interviews with 53 former Obama advisers, senior White House and Cabinet staff, and campaign professionals, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not ready to take a public position on Biden’s campaign.
The former aides split broadly into three groups. Only eight had committed or were leaning toward Biden. A second group of 11 have committed to other candidates. A group of 34 say they are still waiting to decide.

Among those who had not yet picked a favorite, there was remarkable unanimity of preferences: Almost all said they had limited their consideration to five candidates now in the sprawling field: Biden, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and former congressman Beto O’Rourke of Texas.

U.S. Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, John Paul Stevens looks back on nearly a century of life and law, but worries about the future, Robert Barnes, May 12, 2019 (print ed.). The long-serving john paul stevens scotus photo portraitSupreme Court justice, 99 (shown in a photo before retirement), has written a memoir and says he is concerned about the court’s direction on issues he thought were already settled. He retired from the court in 2010, and in a recent interview he expressed generalized distress at the state of the world and the nation’s politics.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: ‘Executive privilege’ is a new concept built on a shaky legal foundation, Aziz Huq, May 12, 2019 (print ed.). It’s not mentioned in the Constitution, and the Supreme Court only recognized it in 1974.

President Trump says “executive privilege” prevents the House from seeing the unredacted Mueller report and investigating a number of other subjects. The White House’s letter rebuffing Congress doesn’t spell out exactly why it thinks the requested material is privileged; rather, it asserts a “protective” power of the president, as a matter of constitutional right, to decide what to share. In response, Democratic House leaders complain that Trump is sparking a “constitutional crisis” by blocking their authority to investigate wrongdoing by officials (including, thanks to the impeachment clause, the president).

But few pause to ask where a president’s supposed executive privilege comes from. What if the oversight pileup we’re witnessing flows not from Trump’s norm-busting tendencies but rather from the hazardously open-ended concept of executive privilege itself?

Conservative jurists have ferociously criticized the idea of “unenumerated” constitutional rights (such as a right to abortion), describing them as licenses for partisan entrepreneurship. Yet the right to executive privilege is not mentioned in the Constitution’s text, either, and its historical pedigree is dubious: In the early republic, presidents did not consistently claim a constitutional right to withhold information from Congress. When the privilege has been invoked, it’s been in situations laced with obvious self-interest and partisan motives. Strikingly, its formal judicial recognition came almost 200 years after the founding. Its tenuous foundations ought to shape how we evaluate Trump’s invocation of executive privilege.

aziz huqThe late Raoul Berger, a leading originalist scholar on executive privilege, called the presidential perquisite a “constitutional myth.” He noted, too, that the president’s Article II obligation “to from time to time give to the Congress information on the State of the Union” has no stated limit. For Berger, it was clear that the president had a primary obligation of disclosure to lawmakers, not a license for reticence.

Aziz Huq, right, teaches law at the University of Chicago, and is co-author of "How to Save a Constitutional Democracy."

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Congress isn’t just a co-equal branch. We’re first among equals, U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (right, D-MD), May 12, 2019 (print ed.). There’s a reason the House and Senate were set out right after the words “We the People.” Oversight isn’t the only area where the president thinks he can supersede and supplant Congress. He believes he can declare a national security emergency when lawmakers reject funding for his border wall — and then jamin raskin american university Custom 2reprogram money Congress has appropriated for other purposes to build the wall behind our backs.

And despite the fact that his main job is to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,” as the Constitution’s Article II provides, he routinely sabotages the effective administration of the Affordable Care Act (by starving recruitment efforts and promoting “junk” plans) and encourages government officials at the border to violate the law on asylum seekers. All this falls outside of his constitutional power.

Jamie Raskin, a Democrat, represents Maryland’s 8th District in the U.S. House of Representatives and serves on the Judiciary and Oversight Committees. He is an emeritus professor of constitutional law at American University’s Washington College of Law.

Global Affairs

washington post logoNew York Times, Russia Is Targeting Europe’s Elections. So Are Far-Right Copycats, Matt Apuzzo and Adam Satariano, May 12, 2019). Digital fingerprints link pro-Russian and anti-European websites that are spreading disinformation and amplifying distrust. The online ecosystem is sowing discord before pivotal elections for the European Parliament this month.

washington post logoNew York Times, News Analysis: Trump Said He Would Tame Rogue Nations. Now They Are Challenging Him, David E. Sanger and Edward Wong, May 12, 2019 (print ed.). Three nations that have long defined themselves as bitter adversaries of the United States — North Korea, Iran and Venezuela — decided this week they could take on President Trump.

venezuela flag waving customEach one is betting that Mr. Trump is neither as savvy a negotiator nor as ready to use military force as he claims. Each also poses a drastically different challenge to a president who has little experience in handling international crises, has struggled to find the right balance of diplomacy and coercion and has not always been consistent in defining his foreign policy.

The rising tensions with all three serve as reminders that Mr. Trump’s constant talk about taking care of problems that he has accused his predecessors of aggravating, or failing to confront, is difficult to convert into real-world solutions — as events of recent days have shown.

The confrontation with Iran appears to be the most volatile at the moment, with tensions escalating by the day. On Friday, the Pentagon said it was sending another naval ship and Patriot missile interceptor battery to the Middle East, in addition to an earlier dispatch of a carrier group and bombers, because of potential threats from Iran or allied Arab militias.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: I led a platoon in Iraq. Trump is wrong to pardon war criminals, Waitman Wade Beorn, May 12, 2019. Soldiers pay attention to example. Murderous leaders command murderous units.

In early 2003, as a cavalry officer, I stood in front of my scout platoon at dusk after a long day preparing to deploy to Iraq. I spoke with them about the law of war and how they should treat civilians when we got into theater. It wasn’t a long conversation, but I felt that giving clear guidance about what was acceptable — and not acceptable — was important. They should treat the civilians as they would neighbors, I told them. Soldiers take most seriously the things their leadership makes most serious.

michael behenna djtOn Monday, President Trump pardoned the convicted war criminal Michael Behenna, who had murdered Ali Mansur, an unarmed, naked Iraqi, by shooting him in the head and chest. Making a specious claim of self-defense, Behenna (shown with Trump in separate file photos) argued that Mansur threw a piece of concrete at him and “ stood up like he’s coming at me.”

And so he neutralized this threat, a naked man, already released by the Army. Behenna was supposed to be returning Mansur home to his village. A military court convicted Behenna of unpremeditated murder. American soldiers testified against him. The military court of appeals and a review panel upheld that conviction, though he was paroled early, in 2014.

Waitman Wade Beorn, a combat veteran of Iraq, is a Holocaust and genocide studies historian, a lecturer at the University of Virginia, and the author of “Marching Into Darkness: The Wehrmacht and the Holocaust in Belarus.” He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump admits Robert Mueller has him over a barrel, Bill Palmer, May 12, 2019. We still don’t know precisely when Robert Mueller will testify for the House Judiciary Committee – but we do know there’s nothing Donald Trump can do to stop it. Trump appears to know that as well, as his “efforts” at stopping Mueller’s testimony have thus far consisted of nothing more than whining on Twitter. Now Trump is admitting that Mueller’s testimony is going to be devastating for him.

bill palmer report logo headerDonald Trump is “dreading” Robert Mueller’s upcoming testimony, and he’s been stewing about the “media coverage that would be given to Mueller,” donald trump apprentice black and whiteaccording to the Associated Press. For all of Trump’s cognitive failings, one thing the reality show fraudster understands full well is the power of television and its impact on public opinion. After all, The Apprentice (with a publicity photo at right) convinced millions of Americans that the world’s most comically inept broke loser was somehow a billionaire.

By all accounts, House Democrats are still working with Robert Mueller to schedule his public testimony. It’s not going to happen this upcoming week, but it should happen soon. Mueller is still technically a DOJ employee, even though his work there has fully ended. He’ll be able to testify much more freely if he resigns first. Our expectation is that once he squares away his resignation, his testimony will take place shortly thereafter. We know Donald Trump will be watching – and so will everyone else.

Media / Human Rights History

National Press Club, RFK documentary on apartheid screened at Club, Pat Sherr, May 12, 2019. A documentary screened Friday, May 10 at the Club showed former Sen. Robert Kennedy defying apartheid in South Africa during a short visit in June 1966. Kennedy (shown in a file photo unrelated to the trip) spoke in and visited Cape Town, Durban and Soweto while the South African regime allowed only limited contact between whites and “non-whites.” An engaging speaker, he delivered in the film words of hope to mixed audiences.

rfk hsHe visited African National Congress leader Alfred Lutuli, a winner of the 1960 Nobel Peace Prize. The South African government restricted Lutuli’s contact with his followers, banishing him to the remote town of Soweto, where Kennedy visited him and others. Kennedy visits were photographed in detail. The film demonstrates that his presence energized black, browns and other non-whites and increased global awareness of apartheid.

The National Party had enacted apartheid laws in 1948 to control their economic and social system and maintain white domination by institutionalizing racial separation. Starting in the '60s, territorial separation and police repression were standard procedures. The ruling party’s leadership wanted to create fear of the Communist Party taking over if non-whites were given freedom

In addition to separating whites and non-whites, non-whites were not allowed to congregate freely.

south africa flag after 1994The film showed that newspapers were under heavy scrutiny, and photo journalists ostracized and unable to communicate with anyone. Newspapers often faced daily law changes and restrictions that lasted until 1994. At the end of the showing, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend took questions and accepted tributes to her father. The Club's International Correspondents Team sponsored the event.

Los Angeles Times, When a reporter would not betray his source, police came to his home with guns and a sledgehammer, Matt Hamilton, May 12, 2019. Police raided freelance journalist Bryan Carmody’s San Francisco home on May 10 and seized his equipment after he refused to reveal to them a confidential source. Two weeks prior, police appeared at Carmody’s house asking for the identity of a source who had shown Carmody a confidential police report following the February death of the city’s public defender.

About ten police reportedly entered Carmody’s house on Friday morning with a sledgehammer and a warrant claiming they were investigating “stolen or embezzled” property. He refused to disclose the identity of his source to the police or to FBI agents who questioned him about the case. He was then handcuffed for six hours as police ransacked his home with guns drawn and seized his electronic devices, taking at least four tablets, seven computers, 10 hard drives, a dozen phones and two cameras, as well as notebooks Carmody used while reporting.

They eventually found the police report in a safe in Carmody’s home. While San Francisco Police Department defended its actions in a statement, calling the raid “one step in the process of investigating a potential case of obstruction of justice,” press freedom advocates have raised concerns that the raid was in violation of California’s Shield Law.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Pentagon will pull money from ballistic missile and surveillance plane programs to fund border wall, Dan Lamothe, May 12, 2019. The Defense Department, under Trump, intends to reprogram $2.5 billion that was originally designated by Congress for other projects.

May 11

Trump Power GrabsDonald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)
washington post logoWashington Post, Trump takes over national Fourth of July event and may insert himself into the program, Josh Dawsey, Juliet Eilperin and Peter Jamison, May 11, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump has effectively taken charge of the nation’s premier Fourth of July celebration in Washington, moving the gargantuan fireworks display from its usual spot on the Mall to be closer to the Potomac River and making tentative plans to address the nation from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, according to top administration officials.

The president’s starring role has the potential to turn what has long been a nonpartisan celebration of the nation’s founding into another version of a Trump campaign rally. Officials said it is unclear how much the changes may cost, but the plans have already raised alarms among city officials and some lawmakers about the potential impact of such major alterations to a time-honored and well-organized summer tradition.

Fireworks on the Mall, which the National Park Service has orchestrated for more than half a century, draw hundreds of thousands of Americans annually and mark one of the highlights of the city’s tourist season. The event has been broadcast live on television since 1947 and since 1981 has been accompanied by a free concert on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol featuring high-profile musicians and a performance by the National Symphony Orchestra.

Trump Floats Biden Probe

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump says it would be ‘appropriate’ for him to talk to Barr about launching an investigation into Biden, Reis Thebault, May 11, 2019 (print ed.). President joe biden oTrump said Friday he thinks it would be “appropriate” for him to talk to Attorney General William P. Barr about opening an investigation into Joe Biden, right, the current front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination.

In an interview with Politico, Trump said he and Barr hadn’t considered an inquiry into his potential 2020 opponent — but he didn’t rule it out, either, saying “certainly it would be an appropriate thing to” discuss with Barr.

“Certainly it is a very big issue and we’ll see what happens,” he told the outlet. “I have not spoken to him about it. Would I speak to him about it? I haven’t thought of that. I mean, you’re asking me a question I just haven’t thought of.”

The suggestion that Trump would contemplate directing his Justice Department to investigate Biden drew condemnation from some legal experts, who said the idea smacked of an abuse of power.

washington post logochina flag SmallWashington Post, Trump’s tariffs, once described as negotiating tools, may be here to stay, David J. Lynch and Heather Long, May 11, 2019 (print ed.).  President Trump has wielded his tariff club over washing machines, solar panels and industrial metals in a bid for new arrangements with China, Canada, Mexico and the European Union. None of the tariffs have been removed.

Dissident View

djt putin gop american democracy Custom

Protest Graphic Shared On Internet By An Alabama Democrat

More U.S. Justice / Crime News

ny times logoNew York Times, A Half-Century of School Shootings Like Columbine, Sandy Hook and Parkland, Weiyi Cai and Jugal K. Patel, May 11, 2019. A deadly shooting at a Colorado school drew comparisons to the 1999 attack on nearby Columbine High School and the dozens of shootings like it since. A Times analysis identified hundreds of deaths and injuries across more than 100 episodes in the U.S. since 1970.

The attack was the fourth such school shooting in the Denver area and at least the 111th in the country since 1970, according to a New York Times analysis — the latest in a decades-long series of violent episodes that have shocked the nation and traumatized generations of students.

nra logo CustomThe Times examined hundreds of episodes in a database of shootings at elementary, middle and high schools to identify those cases where, like at Highlands Ranch and Columbine, the assailants planned their attacks and fired indiscriminately.

A total of 202 people were killed in these attacks and 454 were injured, including the shooters. In 16 cases, shots were fired but no one was injured. Last year was particularly violent: 29 people were killed and 48 were injured in three shootings in Parkland, Fla.; Sante Fe, Tex.; and Benton, Ky. Shootings of this type are rare relative to the larger universe of gun violence at schools, but they are common enough that lockdown drills and “run, hide, fight” exercises are part of the school experience all over the country.

washington post logoWashington Post, Could miscarriages land women in jail? Let’s clarify these Georgia and Alabama abortion bills, Deanna Paul and Emily Wax-Thibodeaux, May 11, 2019 (print ed.). Misinformation has been rampant. Here's what's really going on.

Miami Herald, Prosecutors finally want to hear from Jeffrey Epstein’s victims, Julie K. Brown, May 11, 2019 (print ed.). More than a decade after federal prosecutors gave a secret miami herald logoplea deal to a suspected child sex trafficker, the government finally wants to hear from his victims, indicating on Friday that prosecutors wish to interview an unspecified number of Jeffrey Epstein Harvard University women who were molested by Jeffrey Epstein when they were teenagers.

U.S. Attorney Byung “B.J.” Pak of the Northern District of Georgia is asking a federal judge for a 60-day period to consult with Epstein’s victims, followed by a lengthy briefing schedule that is likely to delay the civil case for months, and possibly more than a year, according to a court motion.

If Pak is successful in obtaining a delay, lawyers for the victims have proposed to use that time deposing critical stakeholders in the case, including former Miami federal prosecutor Alexander Acosta, who helped negotiate Epstein’s controversial non-prosecution agreement in 2008.

perversion of justice miami herald logoWhile the victims’ lawyers do not oppose giving Epstein’s victims a voice, they say Pak’s proposal is so open-ended and vague that it essentially obscures the fact that the government continues to propose solutions that will benefit Epstein, not his victims.

“There is no basis for continuing to delay the rights that federal law affords to Jane Doe No. 1 and and Jane Doe No. 2 because the government now wants to talk to two other victims, or 10 other victims or 80 other victims,’’ said Jack Scarola, who represents Jane Does 1 and 2 and who brought the court challenge. “Every victim’s right exists independent of the interests of other victims. And there’s no way 80 young women are going to agree on what they want under the existing circumstances.’’

Scarola said the government first needs to void Epstein’s non-prosecution agreement, which a federal judge in February ruled was illegal.

Epstein, a 66-year-old multimillionaire hedge fund manager, sexually assaulted countless underage girls at his Palm Beach mansion in the 2000s. Instead of being federally prosecuted on sex trafficking charges and sent to prison, Epstein was allowed to quietly plead guilty in state court to minor prostitution charges. He served 13 months in the Palm Beach County jail and was given liberal work release that allowed him to come and go from the jail almost daily. He was freed in 2009.

While he lists his permanent residence as his private island in the U.S. Virgin Islands, he still spends a great deal of time at his mansions in New York and Palm Beach, and recently purchased another larger island that he is developing in the Caribbean.

In February, after more than a decade of litigation, a federal judge ruled that the government, led by Acosta (shown below), violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act by giving Epstein and an unspecified number of unidentified co-conspirators immunity without informing his victims about the deal.

alexander acosta o cropped Custom

ny times logorudy giuliani recentNew York Times, Rudy Giuliani Cancels His Trip to Ukraine, Blaming Democrats’ ‘Spin,’ Kenneth P. Vogel, May 11, 2019. Facing withering attacks accusing him of seeking foreign assistance for President Trump’s re-election campaign, Rudolph W. Giuliani announced on Friday night that he had canceled a trip to Kiev in which he planned to push the incoming Ukrainian government to press ahead with investigations that he hoped would benefit Mr. Trump.

Mr. Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer, explained that he felt like he was being “set up,” and he blamed Democrats for trying to “spin” the trip. “They say I was meddling in the election — ridiculous — but that’s their spin,” he said.

Mr. Giuliani said on Thursday that he had hoped to meet in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, with the nation’s president-elect and urge him to pursue inquiries that could yield new information about two matters of intense interest to Mr. Trump. One is the origin of the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. The other is the involvement of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son in a gas company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch.

washington post logoWashington Post, Rapper Pras Michel charged alongside Malaysian financier with funneling foreign money into 2012 U.S. election, Matt Zapotosky, May 11, 2019 (print ed.). The Justice Department on Friday charged a prominent rapper and a Malaysian financier with illegally funneling foreign campaign contributions into the 2012 presidential election — the latest reverberation from a sprawling U.S. investigation of corruption in the Malaysian government.

In a four-count indictment, prosecutors alleged that Prakazrel “Pras” Michel, who rose to fame in the 1990s as a member of the hip-hop group Fugees, and Low Taek Jho, a Malaysian financier previously been charged in the investigation, conspired to defraud the U.S. government, moving more than $21 million in overseas funds and funneling a portion into the election.

The indictment alleged Michel paid about $865,000 to 20 donors so they could contribute to a presidential fundraising committee and hide the true source of the money, and further directed more than $1 million to a different, independent expenditure committee.

washington post logoWashington Post, Border detention cells in Texas are so overcrowded that the U.S. is flying migrants to different facilities, Nick Miroff​, May 11, 2019. Though ICE routinely uses aircraft to move detainees, it is very unusual for the Border Patrol to fly recent arrivals from one part of the border to another for routine booking.

U.S. Politics / Finance

washington post logojohn kelly o dhsWashington Post, Valerie Jarrett, Gen. John F. Kelly and Jeff Sessions mingled in Vegas. Their host: Anthony Scaramucci, Kevin Sullivan, May 11, 2019 (print ed.). “The Mooch,” as he became known, hosted officials from both the Obama and Trump administrations this week, including the former chief of staff, John Kelly, right, who axed him. The A-list investment conference doubled as a political healing ground.

South African Voting

cyril ramaphosa 2018 BRICS leaders Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, The party that led South Africa out of apartheid wins narrowly in election, Max Bearak, May 11, 2019. The African National Congress, led by union leader-south africa flag after 1994turned-business magnate Cyril Ramaphosa (shown above), have retained a slim majority of seats in South Africa’s parliament, giving Ramaphosa a weak mandate for a full five-year term as president.

Wednesday’s election, 25 years after the ANC led South Africa out of apartheid and into democracy for all its citizens, was seen as a referendum on the party. The previous president, Jacob Zuma, became embroiled in numerous corruption scandals while the economy lagged and unemployment and inequality deepened, clouding the legacy of the party’s liberation struggle. Zuma resigned in February 2018, and Ramaphosa was elected president by the National Assembly.

In Wednesday’s vote, the ANC continued its steady slide, falling below 60 percent in a general election for the first time in its history. Voter turnout was also the lowest in general election history. But with few upsets in regional elections, the result was mostly status quo.c

U.S. Courts Transformation

The Guardian, All the president’s judges: how Trump can flip courts at a record-setting pace, Tom McCarthy, May 11, 2019. As the Senate confirms nearly 40 circuit court nominees and counting, the third circuit has already moved rightward – which can change the US for decades.

mike pence oMike Pence’s eyes twinkled with the applause line he was about to deliver. Speaking in Washington on Wednesday at an annual conference of the Federalist Society, the conservative legal group, the vice-president had great news to share. Earlier that day, the Senate had confirmed yet another circuit court judge nominated by Donald Trump, bringing his grand total to 38, neatly doubling the 19 judges at that level that Barack Obama saw confirmed by the same stage of his presidency.

But Pence, shown at right, had an even juicier number to boast of: the week before, thanks to a flurry of activity in the Senate engineered by the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, the number of confirmed Trump appointees to federal judgeships had hit triple digits. “This president has actually appointed more than 100 men and women to our federal courts, including more circuit court judges than any president in American history,” said Pence, slowing his pace to deliver the kicker: “And they are all conservatives who are committed to the principles enshrined in the constitution of the United States!”

us senate logoPence was drowned in applause before he could finish the sentence. But watchdog groups warn that by “conservative,” Pence was referring to more than just a particular flavor of jurisprudence. He meant judges eager to see through fundamental changes in American life, from the criminalization of abortion to the gutting of LGBTQ rights and environmental protections, the reversal of healthcare reform, the sidelining of workers and the endorsement of religious discrimination.

Dissenting View: “These nominees have records of working tirelessly to undermine access to healthcare, access to reproductive rights for women, who want to undermine critical protections for workers, for clean air and clean water that consumers rely on,” said Daniel Goldberg, the legal director at the Alliance For Justice.

“The people who are going to suffer are the millions of people around the country who rely on these critical, essential legal rights and protections that for the next three or four decades are going to be seriously eroded.”

Media News

Trentonian, Trentonian reporter Isaac Avilucea sues state prosecutors for attacking his reputation, Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman, May 11, 2019. Award-winning Trentonian news reporter Isaac Avilucea is seeking damages and demanding a trial by jury in a lawsuit he filed against bigwigs from the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.

His complaint against Deputy Attorneys General John Tolleris and Erin O’Leary accuses them of being “motivated by malice” when they falsely attempted to portray Avilucea as a lawbreaking journalist.

The complaint, filed May 7 in the Mercer County Superior Court Law Division, is centered upon the harrowing tale of 2016 and 2017 when representatives of the state AG’s office tried to prevent Avilucea and The Trentonian from publishing sensitive information about a boy who twice brought drugs to school.

Avilucea lawfully obtained a child custody report about a 5-year-old boy who was found with drugs at school on two separate occasions, but Tolleris accused the journalist of stealing the documents, and O’Leary falsely painted Avilucea as an unethical reporter who would do anything to get a story, according to the allegations in his lawsuit and courtroom testimony.

The state temporarily succeeded in silencing The Trentonian for five months, but Avilucea ultimately prevailed in March 2017 when a judge vindicated him and allowed the newspaper to publish articles containing information from the child custody report.

Although he prevailed, Avilucea says he emerged from the ordeal with “serious and irreparable physical and emotional harm” as a direct result of what Tolleris and O’Leary put him through. The journalist also accuses state AG representatives of “retaliation,” saying the authorities had a prior bias against him stemming from his coverage of a police-involved shooting.

On Oct. 26, 2016, Avilucea and The Trentonian were served with a prior restraint, which prevents a media outlet from publishing a story. Avilucea lawfully obtained a child custody report about a 5-year-old boy who was found with drugs at school on two occasions.

A teacher at the former International Charter School of Trenton found the student with 30 packets of heroin in his lunchbox in September 2016. About a month later, child welfare officials were again called out to the boy’s school after a teacher found crack cocaine in his folder, according to court documents lawfully obtained by Avilucea.

A Mercer County Civil Courthouse video feed showed Tashawn Ford, the boy’s mother, had handed over those documents to Avilucea in an open and voluntary fashion. The state, however, attempted to prevent The Trentonian from publishing information contained in the child custody report. DAG Tolleris “accosted” Avilucea and “demanded” him to turn over the documents. Avilucea refused, and Tolleris therefore “ordered” sheriff’s officers to “detain” Avilucea at the courthouse on allegations he possessed stolen property, Avilucea alleges in his complaint.

May 10

New Trump Obstruction Scandal?

ny times logoNew York Times, White House Asked McGahn to Declare Trump Never Obstructed Justice, Michael S. Schmidt, May 10, 2019. White House officials asked at least twice in the dan mcgahn djtpast month for the key witness against President Trump in the Mueller report, Donald F. McGahn II, to say publicly that he never believed the president obstructed justice, according to two people briefed on the requests.

Mr. Trump asked White House officials to make the request to Mr. McGahn, who was the president’s first White House counsel, one of the people said. Mr. McGahn declined. His reluctance angered the president, who believed that Mr. McGahn (shown at far right) showed disloyalty by telling investigators for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, about Mr. Trump’s attempts to maintain control over the Russia investigation.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Don McGahn just leaked something ugly and incriminating about Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, May 10, 2019. Back in December of 2017 and January of 2018, numerous major media outlets ran stories about how Donald Trump tried to obstruct justice, and White House Counsel Don McGahn heroically tried to stop him.

It was painfully obvious at the time that McGahn was the source for all of these stories, presumably because he wanted everyone to know that he wasn’t the one conspiring to obstruct justice. Where else would all these “McGahn the hero” stories have come from?

bill palmer report logo headerThis week, Donald Trump asserted executive privilege over the documents that the House Judiciary Committee had subpoenaed from Don McGahn. This put McGahn in a bind. If he turns over the documents, the White House will say he committed a crime. If he doesn’t turn them over, the House will say he committed a crime.

Now McGahn is in danger of being held in contempt of Congress, as everyone waits for the courts to rule on whether McGahn’s documents fall under executive privilege. In the meantime, McGahn – or ahem – sources close to McGahn – just delivered a bombshell to a major newspaper.

Since the redacted Mueller report was publicly released, Donald Trump’s White House has twice asked Don McGahn to publicly state that he doesn’t think Trump is guilty of obstruction of justice. McGahn obviously refused those requests, and now he’s covering his backside by using the New York Times to make sure everyone knows the Trump regime tried. Remarkably, Trump and his unnamed White House officials may have committed obstruction – or witness tampering – by asking McGahn to do this.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary: Trump's bankrupt days were rife with drug smugglers, Wayne Madsen, May 10, 2019 (subscription required for full article; excerpted with permission). Donald Trump’s tax returns from 1985 to 1994 that show he was $1.17 billion in debt may not be a surprise to anyone who realized his risky venture into Atlantic City casinos posed a potential financial loss for the real estate businessman. The importance of the decade of tax returns are not what they in and of themselves reveal about Trump’s lack of business acumen but the doors they open into Trump’s underworld of drug dealers, mobsters, and hit men.

The 1980s and 90s were the Wild West days of Ronald Reagan’s freewheeling economy and cocaine bonanza and George H. W. Bush’s economic hangover from Reagan’s excesses. The late senior editor for the late Village Voice, Wayne Barrett, wrote extensively about Trump's criminal ties in his many articles and two books on Trump: "Trump: The Deals and the Downfall" and "Trump: The Greatest Show on Earth: The Deals, the Downfall, the Reinvention."

Two high-flying drug traffickers were in Trump’s close orbit: Trump Organization helicopter charter pilot Joseph Weichselbaum, aka Joseph Wexelbaum, and drug dealer Raoul Goldberger, aka Raoul Goldberg and Raoul Gold.

Trump vouched for the integrity of both traffickers after they were arrested. In September 1986, Trump wrote a letter to Weichselbaum’s trial judge. Trump insisted that the twice-convicted Weichselbaum was “conscientious, forthright, and diligent” and “a credit to the community.” Later, while under oath, Trump said he did not remember writing the letter.

No Deal In U.S.-China Trade Talks

china shipping line file photo

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Renews Trade War as China Talks End Without a Deal, Alan Rappeport and Ana Swanson, May 10, 2019. Trade talks between China and the United States ended on Friday without a deal, just hours after President Trump renewed his trade war with China by raising tariffs on $200 billion worth of imports and suggesting he was prepared for a long economic fight.

djt maga hatIn a series of early morning tweets, the president said tariffs on Chinese goods would bolster the United States economy and warned that he would tax nearly all Chinese imports if Beijing did not accede to America’s demands. His comments, which came just ahead of talks between the two countries, suggested Mr. Trump is willing to prolong his trade war for the foreseeable future.

The toughened stance has thrust the world’s two largest economies back into a trade war that just one week ago had seemed on the cusp of ending. Just weeks ago, Mr. Trump was talking about a signing ceremony with Xi Jinping, China’s president, for a trade deal he said would be “epic.” But talks between the United States and China broke down over the weekend, with Mr. Trump and his advisers balking at China’s attempts to renege on parts of an emerging trade agreement.

china flag SmallOn Friday, it appeared that the trade dispute was lurching in the direction of an all-out economic war. In addition to raising tariffs to 25 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, Mr. Trump said his administration is preparing to tax another $325 billion worth of China’s imports. China has threatened to retaliate with its own “countermeasures,” which include ending purchases of American farm goods and erecting other nontariff barriers for companies trying to gain access to the Chinese market.

ny times logoNew York Times, China, Defiant but Careful, Promises Aggressive Response, Raymond Zhong, May 10, 2019. A longer or worsening trade war could hurt China’s already bruised factories. Still, Beijing is signaling that it is ready for a fight. The Chinese government issued a muted response on Friday after President Trump raised tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. China’s Ministry of Commerce vowed to retaliate, although it did not say how or when. Still, global financial markets — which have been hit by trade tensions in recent days — rose in hopes of an eventual deal.

U.S. Politics

ny times logoNew York Timespaul krugman, Opinion: Trump Is Terrible for Rural America, Paul Krugman, right, May 10, 2019 (print ed.). His biggest supporters are his biggest victims. Rural America is a key part of Donald Trump’s base. In fact, rural areas are the only parts of the country in which Trump has a net positive approval rating. But they’re also the biggest losers under his policies.

What, after all, is Trumpism? In 2016 Trump pretended to be a different kind of Republican, but in practice almost all of his economic agenda has been G.O.P. standard: big tax cuts for corporations and the rich while hacking away at the social safety net. The one big break from orthodoxy has been his protectionism, his eagerness to start trade wars.

And all of these policies disproportionately hurt farm country.

More On Trump Watch

richard neal headshotRoll Call, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig subpoenaed over Trump tax returns, Doug Sword, May 10, 2019. House Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal, right, announced Friday he had issued subpoenas to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig to provide President Donald Trump’s tax returns.

Neal first asked for six years of Trump’s tax returns and six years of returns from eight of the president’s businesses in an April 3 letter to IRS Commission Charles Rettig. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who oversees the IRS, responded that he was considering the request while making arguments as to why Neal was not entitled to the documents.

Neal rejected those arguments in an April 13 letter and on May 6, Mnuchin formally rejected the Massachusetts Democrat’s request. Neal made his request under Sec. 6103 of the tax code, which states that upon “written request” from the chairman of either of the two tax-writing committees, “the Secretary shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified” in the request.

Neal and legal experts have predicted the issue could entail a lengthy court battle.

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary: Trump's bankrupt days were rife with drug smugglers, May 10, 2019 (subscription required). Donald Trump’s tax returns from 1985 to 1994 that show he was $1.17 billion in debt may not be a surprise to anyone who realized his risky venture into Atlantic City casinos posed a potential financial loss for the real estate businessman.

djt epstein mar a lagoTheHill.com, George Conway slams Trump for calling Biden 'creepy': You 'palled around with Jeffrey Epstein,' Rachel Frazin, May 10, 2019. George Conway, below left, an attorney and husband to White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, criticized President Trump Friday for calling former Vice President Joe george conway twitterBiden creepy, noting that Trump has been linked to financier Jeffrey Epstein, who has been accused of sexually abusing multiple underage girls.

The president on Friday referred to Biden as "SleepyCreepy Joe" in a tweet, referencing the multiple women who have said that Biden touched them in ways that made them feel uncomfortable. Biden is a top contender in the 2020 Democratic primary to challenge Trump, leading in polls and touting big fundraising numbers.

washington post logoWashington Post, Subpoena of Trump Jr. sets off a firefight among Republicans, Seung Min Kim and Karoun Demirjian, May 10, 2019 (print ed.). Lawmakers took sides on the propriety of a demand that the president’s eldest son testify again in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Russia probe. The Senate Intelligence Committee’s decision to subpoena Donald Trump Jr. (right) has ignited an internal Republican firefight over the fate of the committee’s Russia probe, as the panel’s GOP chairman showed no signs of backing down despite fierce criticism from many of his colleagues that it was time to move on.

donald trump jr croppedThe sudden infighting threatened to undermine support for the Senate’s Russia investigation, which is the sole bipartisan probe in Congress into Russian interference in the 2016 election and has been widely praised as operating with little public drama.

richard burr oMuch of the backlash against the decision by Chairman Richard Burr (N.C.), left, to subpoena President Trump’s eldest son came from GOP senators who are up for reelection next year and from those closely aligned with the president. The outrage was partially fueled by Trump Jr. and his own allies.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a member of the intelligence panel, said the intense criticism of Burr was in part a misunderstanding of the focus of the committee’s investigation, which Rubio said is being inaccurately conflated with the special counsel probe. “Mueller is a criminal justice investigation,” Rubio said. “Ours is an intelligence investigation about the Russia threat and about the way our agencies performed.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: The march to impeachment is working, Bill Palmer, May 10, 2019. For the past few weeks, many among the Resistance have been asking why House Democrats “aren’t doing anything” about Donald Trump. Their frustration has been understandable. But anyone paying attention to what’s really been going on has seen that we’re now several weeks into the impeachment process; the Democrats just aren’t calling it “impeachment” yet. New evidence reveals that this strategy is working.

bill palmer report logo headerIt’s fairly easy to understand why House Democrats are moving forward with impeachment while not yet fully calling it what it is. The minute they call it impeachment, Trump will begin making the argument that it’s being done for mere partisan reasons. But if the Democrats keep their distance from that word until their best witnesses testify in public, it’ll make Trump’s crimes clear as day to the American public, and it’ll result in more widespread demand for impeachment. Then the Democrats can (correctly) say that they’re only impeaching him because the evidence has taken them there.

Earlier this week we saw the first concrete evidence that the House Democrats’ strategy is working. Just before William Barr gave his embarrassing Senate testimony and refused to show up for his House testimony, a CNN poll showed that 37% of Americans favored impeachment. After the Barr hearings painted Donald Trump as being guilty, an NBC News poll showed that 49% of Americans favored impeachment.

President Donald Trump officialYesterday Reuters released a poll which showed that 45% of Americans now favor impeachment, up from 40% before William Barr’s meltdown. This means the House Democrats managed to convince an additional five percent of Americans that Donald Trump needs to be impeached, just by going after Barr in front of the television cameras. And this was with Barr trying to help Trump the whole time. When people like Robert Mueller and Don McGahn publicly testify soon, that number should go significantly higher.

House Democrats are likely no more than two weeks away from having a solid majority of Americans calling for Donald Trump’s impeachment. There’s a prevailing narrative that impeachment would help Trump’s 2020 reelection chances, though no one can explain why this would be the case. But once a majority of Americans want Trump impeached, it’ll be hard for anyone to make the argument that impeachment would somehow make Trump more popular.

Dissenting Pro-Trump Views On Mueller Probe

craig murray uk ambassadorCraigMurray.org, Opinion: The Real Muellergate Scandal, Craig Murray, right, May 9, 2019. I did not comment instantly on the Mueller Report as I was so shocked by it, I have been waiting to see if any other facts come to light in justification. Nothing has. I limit myself here to that area of which I have personal knowledge – the leak of DNC and Podesta emails to Wikileaks.

On the DNC leak, Mueller started with the prejudice that it was “the Russians” and he deliberately and systematically excluded from evidence anything that contradicted that view.

Mueller, as a matter of determined policy, omitted key steps which any honest investigator would undertake. He did not commission any forensic examination of the DNC servers. He did not interview Bill Binney. He did not interview Julian Assange. His failure to do any of those obvious things renders his report worthless.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Roger Stone asks court to toss out evidence, saying Russian hacking of Democrats in 2016 is ‘assumption,’ Spencer S. Hsu, May 10, 2019. Stone claims court-approved search warrants illegally relied on unproven assumptions. Attorneys for Trump confidant Roger Stone urged a federal judge Friday to toss out all evidence roger stone headshotgathered through search warrants in his case, saying court-approved warrants illegally relied on unproven assumptions that Russia was behind the hack of Democratic Party emails during the 2016 campaign or gave them to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.

Stone’s lawyers made the allegation in a nine-page motion to suppress evidence in his November trial on charges of lying to Congress and witness tampering connected to his efforts to gather information about the stolen Democratic emails and their release to WikiLeaks and other groups.

Stone, 66, shown in a file photo, has pleaded not guilty, and his latest court filing in Washington sought a hearing to force U.S. authorities to prove in court the role of Russian operatives in hacks on the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton presidential campaign chairman John Podesta.

In doing so, Stone’s defense took up a theory backed by some Trump supporters that denies a central finding of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election: Moscow’s primary role in the “sweeping and systemic” cyber effort.

The Mueller probe in July 2018 publicly indicted members of the Russian military intelligence agency GRU in the hack on Democratic organizations and the Clinton campaign, accusing specific military units and 12 named officers of a sustained, sophisticated effort to steal and publish data to influence U.S. voting.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Chelsea Manning released from jail, where she had been held for refusing to testify in WikiLeaks case, Rachel Weiner, May 10, 2019 (print ed.). Former Army chelsea manning twitterintelligence officer Chelsea Manning (shown on her Twitter photo) has been released from the Alexandria, Va., jail where she was held after refusing to testify in the grand jury investigation of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, her lawyers said.

She was released because that grand jury has expired. She has been subpoenaed to appear before a new grand jury on May 16 and may be returned to jail if she again refuses to testify, her support team said in a statement.

“Chelsea will continue to refuse to answer questions, and will use every available legal defense to prove . . . that she has just cause for her refusal to give testimony,” the statement read.

Manning shared hundreds of thousands of classified government documents with WikiLeaks in 2010, while serving as an Army intelligence analyst in Iraq. ­Assange, currently jailed in London after seven years in asylum at Ecuador’s British embassy, is accused of conspiring to help Manning break a password that would allow anonymous access to a Defense Department computer.

Courts, Crime: Germany

ny times logoNew York Times, Hundreds of Bodies, One Nurse: German Serial Killer Leaves as Many Questions as Victims, Melissa Eddy, May 10, 2019. A nurse, Niels Högel, admitted to dozens of murders but might have killed as many as 300 patients. So what prevented colleagues from stopping one of the world’s deadliest serial killers? The new nurse arrived at the intensive-care unit of Delmenhorst hospital with a solid letter of reference, describing him as someone who worked “independently and conscientiously.” In a crisis, it said, he reacted “with consideration” and was “technically correct.”

german flagIt gave no indication that officials at his former hospital in Oldenburg, Germany, had grown deeply suspicious about the number of deaths while the nurse, Niels Högel, was on duty. Or that they had barred him from contact with patients and effectively pushed him out.

Before long, similar suspicions arose at Delmenhorst. A nurse, Niels Högel, admitted to dozens of murders but might have killed as many as 300 patients. So what prevented colleagues from stopping one of the world’s deadliest serial killers?Mr. Högel is serving a life sentence for murdering two patients and playing a role in the killing of four others. The current trial is his third since 2006.

Rudy Lobbies Ukraine For U.S. Dem Probes

ny times logoNew York Times, Rudy Giuliani Plans Ukraine Trip to Push for Inquiries That Could Help Trump, Kenneth P. Vogel, May 10, 2019 (print ed.). Rudolph W. Giuliani, President rudy giuliani recentTrump’s personal lawyer, is encouraging Ukraine to wade further into sensitive political issues in the United States, seeking to push the incoming government in Kiev to press ahead with investigations that he hopes will benefit Mr. Trump.

Mr. Giuliani, right, said he plans to travel to Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, in the coming days and wants to meet with the nation’s president-elect to urge him to pursue inquiries that allies of the White House contend could yield new information about two matters of intense interest to Mr. Trump.

One is the origin of the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. The other is the involvement of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son in a gas company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch.

ukraine flagMr. Giuliani’s plans create the remarkable scene of a lawyer for the president of the United States pressing a foreign government to pursue investigations that Mr. Trump’s allies hope could help him in his re-election campaign. And it comes after Mr. Trump spent more than half of his term facing questions about whether his 2016 campaign conspired with a foreign power.

Mr. Giuliani’s planned trip, which has not been previously reported, is part of a monthslong effort by the former New York mayor and a small group of Trump allies working to build interest in the Ukrainian inquiries. Their motivation is to try to discredit the special counsel’s investigation; undermine the case against Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s imprisoned former campaign chairman; and potentially to damage Mr. Biden, the early front-runner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

Pope Issues Abuse Reporting Rules

ny times logoNew York Times, Pope Issues First Rules for Catholic Church Worldwide to Report Sex Abuse, Jason Horowitz, May 10, 2019 (print ed.). Pope Francis on Thursday issued the pope francis W croppedfirst law obligating officials in the Roman Catholic Church worldwide to report cases of clergy sexual abuse — and attempts to cover it up — to their superiors. The decree was Francis’ long-anticipated concrete response to address a crisis that has devastated the church and clouded his legacy.

Vatican officials said the pope was trying to enshrine accountability for bishops into church law. Until now, responses to accusations of sexual abuse have differed widely from country to country, and even from diocese to diocese. In some countries where church officials have denied the existence of abuse, there have often been no procedures at all.

The new law does not universally require church officials to report abuse accusations to the police and prosecutors, a decision that was immediately criticized by abuse survivors and their advocates. Vatican officials have argued that a global requirement to report to civil authorities would, in some places, result in victims being ostracized or priests being persecuted. However, the new rules say that church officials should not interfere with investigations by civil authorities.

U.S. Crime, Courts

michael patrick manning

washington post logoWashington Post, A child abuser faked a Golden Gate Bridge suicide. The three-year manhunt ended in Key West, Kyle Swenson, May 10, 2019. Three years after his disappearance in California (as shown on left above), Michael Patrick Manning was discovered this month in Florida.

9/11 Truth Advocacy

Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth, Advocacy: Project Due Diligence One Year In: Educating Engineers Across the U.S. About 9/11, Laurie Sihvonen, May 10, 2019. The relentless ae 911 truth logo horizontalpush by Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth for a new investigation into the destruction of the three World Trade Center towers has opened a promising new front over the past year thanks to the volunteer efforts of more than 40 engineers.

In May of 2018, AE911Truth launched a bold initiative called Project Due Diligence (PDD) aimed at engaging and educating the nation's civil and structural engineers. The project is spearheaded by AE911Truth board member Roland Angle, CE, who has made it his mission to galvanize America's engineering community to restore the professional and scientific credibility it lost after 9/11.

Civil engineer Roland Angle speaks at the first presentation of Project Due Diligence in April 2018 at the Marines’ Memorial Association in San Francisco.Angle is a civil engineer who was trained in the use of explosives while in the U.S. Army Special Forces (see his bio with those of other key volunteers below). He has joined other AE911Truth members to create a PowerPoint presentation called, “A Critique of the NIST WTC Building Failure Reports and the Progressive Collapse Theory.” The presentation outlines the many errors, omissions, and false premises contained in the official reports, which were published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and endorsed by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

The PDD presentation also cites major errors in Zdeněk Bažant's “Progressive Collapse Theory,” which he submitted to the ASCE just two days after 9/11 and was published in their Journal of Engineering Mechanics just a few months later. AE911Truth takes the position that the ASCE leadership performed unethically from the start of the official investigations. In addition to failing to protest the illegal removal of debris (i.e., physical evidence) from the WTC crime scene, the ASCE continues to suppress scientific challenges to the data and methodology used by both the Bažant and NIST analyses, which misrepresent the building collapse mechanisms.

Angle and his team maintain that it is the professional duty of engineers to become familiar with the official reports endorsed by the profession’s most publicly visible organization (ASCE) and to assess the merit of any challenges to those reports. It is incumbent upon engineers, they argue, to carefully review all discourse on these catastrophic building failures in order to ensure public safety and uphold U.S. engineering standards.

PDD's outreach constitutes a novel attempt to build a self-expanding contact network. The program currently has 42 volunteers (who are civil, structural or mechanical engineers recruited from among AE911Truth petition signers). Their immediate goal is to reach out to the 160 local branches of the ASCE. They have already begun to expand the effort to include other engineering organizations and the general public.

May 9

'Constitutional Crisis,' Pelosi Warns

ny times logoNew York Times, Pelosi Declares Nation Is in a ‘Constitutional Crisis,’ Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Nicholas Fandos, May 9, 2019. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that the United States was in a “constitutional crisis” and warned that House Democrats might move to hold more Trump administration officials in contempt of Congress if they continued their refusals to comply with committee subpoenas.

nancy pelosi oSpeaking to reporters in the Capitol, Ms. Pelosi (shown in a file photo) said she agreed with Representative Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, who said Wednesday that the nation was in a constitutional crisis after his committee recommended the House hold Attorney General William P. Barr in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over an unredacted version of the special counsel’s report, along with the report’s underlying evidence.

“The administration has decided they are not going to honor their oath of office,” she said.

Ms. Pelosi said Democrats would bring the contempt citation to the floor for a vote of the full House “when we are ready.”

democratic donkey logoDemocrats have not settled on a precise date for the vote to hold Mr. Barr in contempt of Congress, though Mr. Nadler said after Wednesday’s vote that he wanted it scheduled “rapidly.”

Democratic leaders may wait to pair the Judiciary Committee’s contempt recommendations with another, most likely from the Intelligence Committee should its conflict with the Justice Department get to that point.

The committee’s chairman, Representative Adam B. Schiff, issued a subpoena on Thursday for Mr. Barr to hand over the full Mueller report and evidence, as well as all counterintelligence and foreign intelligence generated by the special counsel’s investigations. He gave the Justice Department until May 15 to comply. If Mr. Barr ignores that deadline, the Intelligence Committee would probably hold its own contempt proceedings and send another recommendation to the House floor.

There are other possible contempt citations in the wings as well, including for Donald F. McGahn II, the former White House counsel who is under subpoena by the Judiciary Committee, and witnesses in unrelated Oversight and Reform Committee investigations.

Ms. Pelosi has been urging caution since the release of the report by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel; she believes that Democrats campaigned on addressing issues like health care and the high cost of prescription drugs and must keep their focus on priorities for voters.

ny times logoelijah cummings headshotNew York Times, Trump Is Pushing Democrats to the Brink. Look at Elijah Cummings, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, May 9, 2019.  The chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform wanted to move slowly on impeachment. He has lost his patience. Mr. Cummings, right, called the White House effort to block multiple lines of inquiry “far worse than Watergate.”

He sees a “constitutional crisis” that even the founding fathers did not envision when they created the system of checks and balances that has kept American democracy intact.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Adam Schiff lays out plan to put Donald Trump’s obstructors on trial, Bill Palmer, May 9, 2019. House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff, below right, appeared on the Rachel Maddow show tonight and revealed his plan to use the House’s inherent power of contempt in order to put Donald Trump’s obstructors on trial in the House, setting up what he called a “mini trial.” These proceedings, which would surely be televised, and would draw a large audience, would allow Americans to learn about the severity of the crimes that Trump’s people are currently committing. It would presumably build momentum for Donald Trump’s inevitable impeachment. Of course that’s only half the equation.

adam schiff officialSchiff made a passing reference to the fact that Congress used to simply arrest people and throw them in the basement jail when they were held in contempt. He didn’t explicitly advocate for this. But if he’s talking about putting Trump’s people on trial in the House, these people would need to be there for it. If they refuse to show up for their own trial, the House would ostensibly have to arrest them and bring them in for the trial.

bill palmer report logo headerWhen you put together what Nancy Pelosi laid out this morning, and what Adam Schiff laid out this evening, it appears House Democrats are planning to hold all of Donald Trump’s obstructors in contempt in one big hearing, and then start putting them on trial for it in the House, and hauling them in for those trials if they’re not willing to show up. Last night House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler stated on MSNBC that he expected the full House contempt vote to take place within a couple weeks. How many more of Trump’s people will be included in this alongside William Burr? Stay tuned.

Dissenting Pro-Trump Views On Mueller Probe

craig murray uk ambassadorCraigMurray.org, Opinion: The Real Muellergate Scandal, Craig Murray, right, May 9, 2019. I did not comment instantly on the Mueller Report as I was so shocked by it, I have been waiting to see if any other facts come to light in justification. Nothing has. I limit myself here to that area of which I have personal knowledge – the leak of DNC and Podesta emails to Wikileaks.

On the DNC leak, Mueller started with the prejudice that it was “the Russians” and he deliberately and systematically excluded from evidence anything that contradicted that view.

Mueller, as a matter of determined policy, omitted key steps which any honest investigator would undertake. He did not commission any forensic examination of the DNC servers. He did not interview Bill Binney. He did not interview Julian Assange. His failure to do any of those obvious things renders his report worthless.

U.S.-China Deal

ny times logoNew York Times, China ‘Broke the Deal’ on Trade, and Trump’s Retaliation Starts Friday, Alan Rappeport, May 9, 2019. A pivotal round of trade talks between the United States and China gets underway on Thursday but American businesses are bracing for higher tariffs on Chinese imports as a quick resolution to resolve a yearlong trade war becomes increasingly unlikely.

china flag SmallJust a week ago, Wall Street and the nation’s largest industry lobbying groups were hopeful that the world’s two largest economies were on the cusp of securing a historic trade treaty. But President Trump’s anger at China for backtracking on big parts of an emerging deal has raised fears that the fragile negotiations are on the verge of collapse.

At a rally in Florida on Wednesday night, Mr. Trump vented that China reneged on its commitments. “They broke the deal,” he said, adding that he was just as happy to punish China with tariffs.

Most business groups agree with Mr. Trump that China treats the United States unfairly on trade. They think that intellectual property protections need to be bolstered and that China’s subsidies of state-owned enterprises must be curbed. Yet they also believe that the economic pain of tariffs makes them a poor negotiating tool.

Barr Cited For Contempt

 ny times logoNew York Times, House Panel Votes to Recommend Contempt for Barr, Nicholas Fandos, May 9, 2019 (print ed.). The vote by the House Judiciary Committee against Attorney General William P. Barr came after he failed to turn over the unredacted Mueller report. Hours earlier, President Trump asserted executive privilege to shield the full report. Both moves escalate the drama in an increasingly tense battle. 

william barr new oThe House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to recommend the House hold Attorney General William P. Barr, right, in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over Robert S. Mueller III’s unredacted report, hours after President Trump asserted executive privilege to shield the full report and underlying evidence from public view.

The committee’s 24-16 contempt vote, taken after hours of debate that featured apocalyptic language about the future of American democracy, marked the first time that the House has taken official action to punish a government official or witness amid a standoff between the legislative and executive branch. The Justice Department decried it as an unnecessary and overwrought reaction designed to stoke a fight.

The drama raised the stakes yet again in an increasingly tense battle over evidence and witnesses as Democrats investigate Mr. Trump and his administration. By the day’s end, it seemed all but inevitable that the competing claims would have to be settled in the nation’s courts rather than on Capitol Hill, as Democrats had initially hoped after the initial delivery of Mr. Mueller’s report.

“Our fight is not just about the Mueller Report — although we must have access to the Mueller report. Our fight is about defending the rights of Congress, as an independent branch, to hold the president, any president, accountable,” said Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the Judiciary Committee chairman, during a grueling debate that ended with a vote along party lines.

The executive privilege assertion was Mr. Trump’s first use of the secrecy powers as president. The Justice Department described it as “protective” to allow Mr. Trump time to fully review the materials to make a final privilege determination. But the timing of the assertion signaled that the White House is eager for a fight, and the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, indicated that no change of heart was coming.

Media / Privacy / Elections

ny times logochris hughes wNew York Times, Opinion: It’s Time to Break Up Facebook, Chris Hughes (co-founder of Facebook, age 36, shown at right) May 9, 2019. Mark Zuckerberg (below at left) is a good guy. But the company I helped him build is a threat to our economy and democracy. The last time I saw Mark Zuckerberg was in the summer of 2017, several months before the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke. We met at Facebook’s Menlo Park, Calif., office and drove to his house, in a quiet, leafy neighborhood. We spent an hour or two together while his toddler daughter cruised around. We talked politics mostly, a little about Facebook, a bit about our families. When the shadows grew long, I had to head out. I hugged his wife, Priscilla, and said goodbye to Mark.

mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wSince then, Mark’s personal reputation and the reputation of Facebook have taken a nose-dive. The company’s mistakes — the sloppy privacy practices that dropped tens of millions of users’ data into a political consulting firm’s lap; the slow response to Russian agents, violent rhetoric and fake news; and the unbounded drive to capture ever more of our time and attention — dominate the headlines. It’s been 15 years since I co-founded Facebook at Harvard, and I haven’t worked at the company in a decade. But I feel a sense of anger and responsibility.

Mark’s influence is staggering, far beyond that of anyone else in the private sector or in government. He controls three core communications platforms — Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp — that billions of people use every day. Facebook’s board works more like an advisory committee than an overseer, facebook logobecause Mark controls around 60 percent of voting shares. Mark alone can decide how to configure Facebook’s algorithms to determine what people see in their News Feeds, what privacy settings they can use and even which messages get delivered. He sets the rules for how to distinguish violent and incendiary speech from the merely offensive, and he can choose to shut down a competitor by acquiring, blocking or copying it.

Mark is a good, kind person. But I’m angry that his focus on growth led him to sacrifice security and civility for clicks. I’m disappointed in myself and the early Facebook team for not thinking more about how the News Feed algorithm could change our culture, influence elections and empower nationalist leaders. And I’m worried that Mark has surrounded himself with a team that reinforces his beliefs instead of challenging them.

Bank Whistleblower Accuses Costner

bradley birkenfeld cover mug

wsj logoWall Street Journal, Whistleblower Alleges Actor, Cosmetics-Empire Heir Evaded Taxes, James V. Grimaldi, May 9, 2019. A convicted banker accuses actor Kevin Costner and an heir to the Estée Lauder cosmetics empire of evading taxes; both deny it. The charges were made by whistleblower and former UBS banker Bradley Birkenfeld, author of the book "Lucifer's  Banker," shown above with the author.

Media News: Crime Charged

daniel hale jeremy schahill 2013 cropped screenshot

Author Jeremy Scahill, left, with former intelligence analyst Daniel E. Hale in 2013 at Scahill's book lecture at the Busboys and Poets store in Washington, DC (screengrab).

Reuters via MSN, U.S. charges ex-intelligence analyst with leaking classified documents, Sarah N. Lynch and Susan Heavey, May 9, 2019. A former intelligence analyst was arrested on Thursday over allegations he illegally obtained and disclosed classified national defense information to a journalist, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

nsa official logoThe analyst, Daniel Everette Hale, 31, of Nashville, Tennessee, had worked at the National Security Agency (NSA) and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), and began communicating with the reporter starting in 2013, the department said.

Classified documents were later published by the reporter's online news outlet, the government alleged, without naming the publication or the journalist.

Reuters could not immediately determine the lawyer representing Hale.

The charges unsealed against Hale on Thursday marked the latest in a broad crackdown on media leaks by the Justice Department that started when Jeff Sessions was Attorney General.

During the Trump administration, the government has filed several criminal cases against leakers, including former intelligence analyst Reality Winner who divulged a report about Russian interference in the 2016 election to the Intercept news website.

Hale, who had served in the U.S. Air Force, is charged with five criminal counts, each carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, the Justice Department said.

According to the indictment, Hale was assigned to work at the NSA while serving on Air Force active duty from December 2011 to May 2013, and later that year also worked as a defense contractor assigned to the NGA.

In April 2013 while he was still at the NSA, prosecutors say Hale met a reporter at a book tour event in Washington.

The next month, Hale confided to a friend that the reporter wanted him to "tell my story about working with drones at the opening screening of (the reporter's) documentary about the war and the use of drones," according to the indictment.

The next month, Hale confided to a friend that the reporter wanted him to "tell my story about working with drones ... and the use of drones," according to the indictment.

After multiple meetings with the reporter, the government said, in February 2014 Hale printed six documents from his classified computer related to his work at NGA and then texted the reporter to see if they could meet in Washington.

The documents were later published by the reporter's online news outlet, the indictment says. Hale is accused of printing a total of 36 top secret documents from his computer, nine of which were related to his NGA work. Of those, he allegedly provided 17 to the reporter or to the reporter's news outlet.

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Whom Not To Trust - U.S. Government Indicts Another Intercept Source, b, May 9, 2019. Another source that provided government secrets to The Intercept has been uncovered and indicted by the U.S. government. The Intercept was created to privatize the National Security Agency documents leaked by NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The online magazine is financed by Pierre Omidyar, the founder of Ebay, who's is known for many shady connection to Obama administration and for promoting various regime change efforts.

In June 2017 we wrote about the first case in which an Intercept source got burned:

Yesterday The Intercept published a leaked five page NSA analysis about alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. Its reporting outed the leaker of the NSA documents. That person, R.L. Winner, has now been arrested and is likely to be jailed for years if not for the rest of her life.

FBI search (pdf) and arrest warrant (pdf) applications unveil irresponsible behavior by the Intercept's reporters and editors which neglected all operational security trade-craft that might have prevented the revealing of the source. It leaves one scratching one's head if this was intentional or just sheer incompetence. Either way - the incident confirms what skeptics had long determined: The Intercept is not a trustworthy outlet for leaking state secrets of public interests.

Our mistrust towards The Intercept get reinforced by the arrest of another of The Intercept's sources.

daniel hale 2013 cropped screenshot busboys poets dcToday the Justice Department arrested and charged a former U.S. Airforce soldier, Daniel Everette Hale, 31, right, of Nashville, Tennessee, who had worked at the National Security Agency (NSA), as an intelligence analyst in Afghanistan, and at the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGIA). The Justice Department alleges that Hale leaked several secret and top secret powerpoint presentations and papers to an online outlet:

According to allegations in the indictment, beginning in April 2013, while enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and assigned to the NSA, Hale began communicating with a reporter. Hale met with the reporter in person on multiple occasions, and, at times, communicated with the reporter via an encrypted messaging platform. Then, in February 2014, while working as a cleared defense contractor at NGA, Hale printed six classified documents unrelated to his work at NGA and soon after exchanged a series of messages with the reporter. Each of the six documents printed were later published by the reporter’s news outlet.

According to allegations in the indictment, while employed as a cleared defense contractor for NGA, Hale printed from his Top Secret computer 36 documents, including 23 jeremy scahilldocuments unrelated to his work at NGA. Of the 23 documents unrelated to his work at NGA, Hale provided at least 17 to the reporter and/or the reporter’s online news outlet, which published the documents in whole or in part. Eleven of the published documents were classified as Top Secret or Secret and marked as such.

The indictment, filed on March 7 under seal, includes a list of the meetings and communications that Hale had with the reporter. The first one took place during the reporter's book tour in April 2013 in Washington DC. During that time frame Jeremy Scahill, left, one of the Intercept's founding editors, was on a national book tour promoting his book about Blackwater.

Several stories written by Scalhill based on secret documents were published in the time frames given in the indictment. There are more documents that Scahill published about that fit the time frame and the descriptions in the indictment. In July 23 2014 The Intercept published Blacklisted - The Secret Government Rulebook For Labeling You a Terrorist.

Consortium News, Opinion: The Revelations of WikiLeaks: No. 2 —The Leak That ‘Exposed the True Afghan War,’ Elizabeth Vos, May 9, 2019. The Afghan Diaries set off a firestorm when it julian assange head bookrevealed the suppression of civilian casualty figures, the existence of an elite U.S.-led death squad, and the covert role of Pakistan in the conflict.

This is the second article in a series that is looking back on the major works of the publication that has altered the world since its founding in 2006. The series is an effort to counter mainstream media coverage, which is ignoring WikiLeaks’ work, and is instead focusing on Julian Assange’s personality. It is WikiLeaks’ uncovering of governments’ crimes and corruption that set the U.S. after Assange, shown in a file photo, and which ultimately led to his arrest on April 11.

The Diaries revealed the suppression of civilian casualty figures, the existence of an elite U.S.-led death squad & the covert role of Pakistan & Iran in the conflict, and set off a firestorm.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump picks former Boeing executive Patrick Shanahan for defense secretary, Missy Ryan and Paul Sonne, May 9, 2019. ​Shanahan’s nomination had been patrick shanahan oheld up by an inspector general probe into whether he acted improperly in favor of Boeing, a major Pentagon contractor. He was recently cleared of wrongdoing. President Trump intends to nominate acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan to remain in the top Pentagon job, the White House said Thursday, a pointed reversal from an era when the president relied primarily on generals to craft military and foreign policy.

Shanahan “has proven over the last several months that he is beyond qualified to lead the Department of Defense, and he will continue to do an excellent job,” boeing logosaid White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.

The longtime Boeing executive has served as acting defense secretary since his predecessor, Jim Mattis, resigned late last year over differences with the president. Shanahan was recently cleared by the Defense Department Inspector General of allegations that he was partial to his former employer while serving in the Pentagon’s No. 2 job under Mattis.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Dianne Feinstein’s written questions for Robert Mueller tell us a lot about the Trump-Russia investigation, Bill Palmer, May 9, 2019. Democratic Senator dianne feinsteinDianne Feinstein, right, the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has published a list of sixty questions she wants to ask Special Counsel Robert Mueller about his Trump-Russia investigation. These questions give away a lot about how the Democrats are approaching the Mueller probe, and their own investigation into the Trump-Russia scandal.

bill palmer report logo headerFeinstein’s most important questions largely focus not on what’s in the redacted Mueller report, but instead on what’s not in there. Numerous widely reported aspects of the Trump-Russia election conspiracy are either insufficiently documented in the redacted Mueller report or not mentioned at all. It’s not clear how many of these topics are covered in the still-redacted portion of the report, and how many of these topics Mueller either decided not to investigate, or wasn’t allowed to investigate.

For instance, Feinstein wants to ask Mueller who else in the Trump campaign, beyond Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, knew that the campaign’s internal polling was being given to alleged Russian spy Konstantin Kilimnik. Gates cut a fully cooperative plea deal, so Mueller should have this information. She also wants answers on Kushner’s proposed backchannel with the Kremlin. She wants to know why Trump campaign firm Cambridge Analytica, widely suspected of coordinating its efforts with Russian hackers, doesn’t even appear in the redacted Mueller report.

Though Senator Feinstein’s questions for Robert Mueller are largely about why his investigation and report don’t appear to have covered various aspects of the Trump-Russia scandal, they don’t come across as accusatory. Instead, the questions appear designed to give Mueller the opportunity to explain what Donald Trump’s DOJ may have blocked him from accessing and investigating. Again, even if Feinstein doesn’t get the chance to ask Mueller these questions, her Democratic House counterparts will. You can read her full list of questions here.

U.S. Seizes N. Korean Ship

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. seizes North Korean coal ship, accuses Pyongyang of violating sanctions, Devlin Barrett, May 9, 2019. U.S. authorities have seized a North Korean ship used to sell coal allegedly in violation of international sanctions, the first such move by Justice Department officials as they ratchet up enforcement efforts against the regime in Pyongyang.

north korea flagJustice Department officials on Thursday confirmed the vessel, the Wise Honest, is approaching U.S. territorial waters in American Samoa, in coordination with the U.S. Marshals and the Coast Guard.

“This sanctions-busting ship is now out of service,” Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers said in announcing the seizure.

The 17,601-ton, single-hull bulk carrier ship is one of North Korea’s largest, and U.S. authorities said it was part of a network of North Korean vessels illicitly shipping coal from that country and bringing back heavy machinery in violation of United Nations and U.S. sanctions.

The announcement came just hours after North Korea launched a pair of short-range missiles, the regime’s second such test in the past week, and marked an escalation of U.S. government pressure on Pyongyang — even as President Trump has spoken glowingly about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Venezuela Arrests Alleged Coup Co-Leader

Natonal Public Radio, Senior Opposition Leader Allied With Guaidó Is Arrested In Venezuela, Laurel Wamsley, May 9, 2019. The vice president of Venezuela's opposition-controlled National Assembly was arrested by intelligence agents Wednesday night in Caracas. The U.S. government warns that there will be consequences if he isn't released.

edgar zambrano twitterEdgar Zambrano (shown in his Twitter photo) was in his car when he was surrounded by SEBIN intelligence agents. When he refused to leave the car, agents towed it with Zambrano inside to the SEBIN headquarters. The incident was tweeted by Zambrano as it happened.

Zambrano's detention is the first arrest of a lawmaker since the unsuccessful attempt last week by opposition leader Juan Guaidó to stage an uprising against Maduro's government. The government accuses Zambrano of being involved in that attempted uprising, NPR's Philip Reeves reports.

On state television, Diosdado Cabello, the head of the pro-Maduro Constituent Assembly, said that "one of the principal conspirators of the coup" had just been arrested. "They will have to pay before the courts for the failed coup that they attempted," he said, according to Reuters. A day earlier, the Constituent Assembly stripped Zambrano and six others of their parliamentary immunity – a move the opposition doesn't recognize, Reuters reports.

U.S. Rights, Crime, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, Alabama Senate passes nation’s strictest abortion bill, making performing the procedure a felony with few exceptions, Staff report, May 9, 2019. The bill needs Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s (R) approval before it becomes law. Conservative governors and legislators are using new highly restrictive abortion laws to get abortion back in front of what they believe is the friendliest U.S. Supreme Court in decades.

washington post logoWashington Post, Acting as his own attorney, Philly man is acquitted of murder after nearly 13 years in prison, Meagan Flynn, May 9, 2019. Hassan Bennett was put on trial for murder four times. This time, he called a homicide detective to the stand to accuse him of coercing witnesses. Achieving an exceedingly rare feat, the pro se defendant with no law degree was acquitted of murder.

The jury deliberated for just 81 minutes. For Bennett, it was 76 minutes too long. “I was sitting in the holding cell thinking, after five minutes, what’s taking so long?” he said. “When the jury came in and they called me up, I already knew it was a not-guilty verdict.”

Media News

Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake Tribune seeks to become a nonprofit ‘community asset,’ a first for a legacy newspaper, Tony Semerad, May 9, 2019. After years of heavy financial losses, The Salt Lake Tribune is pursuing federal approval to become a nonprofit operation sustained by donations large and small.

Owner Paul Huntsman, who bought Utah’s largest newspaper in 2016, confirmed his lawyers have approached the IRS about changing The Tribune from a privately owned business to a community asset.

The wealthy businessman said he sees the transformation as the best way to sustain the Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper and maintain its independence.
Though in its early stages, the move by the 148-year-old publication would mark the first attempt by a legacy U.S. daily to switch to nonprofit status and comes as hundreds of print outlets across the country are strained due to plunging advertising revenues.

In a twofold strategy, attorneys have already sought IRS approval to create an endowed nonprofit foundation to support independent journalism in Utah, with The Tribune as a major recipient of its largesse. The newspaper will also pursue its own nonprofit status as a 501(c)(3), in effect transferring its ownership from Huntsman to a public board. The newspaper currently cannot legally accept tax-deductible donations.

May 8

Senate Subpoenas Trump Jr.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason the Senate Intelligence Committee just subpoenaed Donald Trump Jr., Bill Palmer, May 8, 2019.  Even as the House Judiciary Committee donald trump jr croppedwas voting to hold Donald Trump’s Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress, the surprising news leaked that the Senate Intelligence Committee is subpoenaing Donald Trump Jr to testify about his role in the Trump-Russia scandal. So what’s really going on here?

bill palmer report logo headerDonald Trump Jr already testified about the Trump-Russia scandal for the Senate once, and his testimony has since proven to be – how can we say this politely – factually false. Because this committee is controlled by Donald Trump’s Republican Party, some observers are assuming on first blush that the GOP is coordinating with Trump Jr to bring him back in, so he can clean up his testimony and thus insulate himself from potential perjury charges.

But if that were the case, Junior would be coming in voluntarily, and the subpoena wouldn’t be needed. In fact NBC News is now reporting that Jr did refuse to voluntarily appear.

This raises some other possibilities. Notably, the redacted Mueller report recently revealed that in 2017, Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr conspired with the Trump White House behind the scenes to try to give Trump’s people the upper hand. Now suddenly Burr is forcing Trump Jr to come back in and answer for his previous possible perjury.

Is this a matter of Burr trying to protect himself?

Trump Taxes Revealed Huge Losses

ny times logoNew York Times, Times Investigation: Decade in the Red: Trump Tax Figures, Russ Buettner and Susanne Craig, May 8, 2019 (print ed.). Show Over $1 Billion in Business Losses; Newly obtained tax information reveals that from 1985 to 1994, Donald J. Trump’s businesses were in far bleaker condition than was previously known. By the time his master-of-the-universe memoir “Trump: The Art of the Deal” hit bookstores in 1987, Donald J. Trump was already in deep financial distress, losing tens of millions of dollars on troubled business deals, according to previously unrevealed figures from his federal income tax returns.

ny times logoMr. Trump was propelled to the presidency, in part, by a self-spun narrative of business success and of setbacks triumphantly overcome. He has attributed his first run of reversals and bankruptcies to the recession that took hold in 1990. But 10 years of tax information obtained by The New York Times paints a different, and far bleaker, picture of his deal-making abilities and financial condition.

The data — printouts from Mr. Trump’s official Internal Revenue Service tax transcripts, with the figures from his federal tax form, the 1040, for the years 1985 to 1994 — represents the fullest and most detailed look to date at the president’s taxes, information he has kept from public view. Though the information does not cover the tax years at the center of an escalating battle between the Trump administration and Congress, it traces the most tumultuous chapter in a long business career — an era of fevered acquisition and spectacular collapse.

donald trump cover art of the dealThe numbers show that in 1985, Mr. Trump reported losses of $46.1 million from his core businesses — largely casinos, hotels and retail space in apartment buildings. They continued to lose money every year, totaling $1.17 billion in losses for the decade.

ny times logoNew York Times, 5 Takeaways From 10 Years of Trump Tax Figures, Susanne Craig and Russ Buettner, May 8, 2019 (print ed.). Since the 2016 presidential campaign, journalists at The New York Times and elsewhere have been trying to piece together Donald J. Trump’s complex and concealed finances. Now The Times has obtained 10 years of previously unrevealed figures from the president’s federal income tax returns. The tax numbers, for the years 1985 through 1994, paint a far bleaker picture of Mr. Trump’s deal-making abilities and financial condition than the one he has long put forth.

Here are some key takeaways.

  1. Mr. Trump was deep in the red even as he peddled deal-making advice. Trump: The Art of the Deal came out in 1987. It became a best seller — and a powerful vehicle for the self-spun myth of the self-made billionaire that would ultimately help propel him to the presidency.
  2. In multiple years, he appears to have lost more money than nearly any other individual taxpayer
  3. He paid no federal income taxes for eight of the 10 years
  4. He made millions posing as a corporate raider — until investors realized he never followed through
  5. His interest income spiked in 1989 at $52.9 million, but the source is a mystery

The newly revealed tax information covers an earlier period of Mr. Trump’s business career. And The Times did not obtain Mr. Trump’s actual tax returns. But it obtained printouts from his official Internal Revenue Service tax transcripts, with the figures from his federal tax form, the 1040, from someone who had legal access to them. They represent the fullest and most detailed look to date at the president’s taxes. And they show that during a tumultuous decade of fevered acquisition and spectacular collapse, Mr. Trump’s core businesses — largely casinos, hotels and retail space in apartment buildings — ran up $1.17 billion in losses.

washington post logoWashington Post, N.Y. legislature advances bill that would allow Congress to access Trump’s state tax returns, Jeff Stein, May 8, 2019. Republicans in New York have ridiculed the move as an attempt to embarrass the president.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s tax returns point to some kind of huge hidden bank account, Bill Palmer, May 8, 2019. Donald Trump’s newly unearthed tax return transcripts from 1984 to 1995 reveal that he lost more than a billion dollars during that decade, thanks to the ineptitude of nearly all of his business ventures. But the documents also point to something else, and perhaps something more sinister.

bill palmer report logo headerThe New York Times, which published the tax return transcripts, noted that Donald Trump reported $52 million in income from interest. This is quite a small amount of money compared to the billion dollars in losses he racked up during that time. But interest always comes from somewhere, and there is nothing anywhere in this decade of records that points to anything that could have produced that kind of interest. This points to Trump having had some kind massive hidden bank account that he was keeping hidden from his tax returns, and he screwed up by reporting the interest from that account.

Just how much hidden money are we talking about? That depends on the interest rate he was getting. For instance, if Trump was making a 5% annual interest rate on that bank account, and that netted $52.9 million in interest in one year, that would mean the account had just over a billion dollars in it. If Trump was making an annual interest rate of 2%, then the account would have had $2.5 billion in it. The point is that this is a lot of money unaccounted for.

Even more strangely, if Donald Trump was sitting on this hidden pot of gold somewhere, why did he only report the interest on it for one year out of the ten? Did that bank account somehow only exist for one year? Even if the size of the bank account fluctuated, the interest he made each year would have merely fluctuated accordingly, and he would have reported some level of interest income on it each year. It wouldn’t have suddenly came into existence one year and then vanished the next, unless Trump somehow managed to open a bank account and promptly put a billion dollars into it, only to liquidate the entire thing before year’s end.

Or did Trump indeed make interest on that account every year during that decade, and he only made the mistake of reporting the interest during the one year?

This also raises other questions. If Donald Trump had a billion dollars or more sitting in a secret bank account that he tried to keep off the books, the money had to come from somewhere. This came in the same timeframe in which he claimed to have lost a billion dollars thanks to nearly all of his business ventures being failures. Are we talking about the same billion dollars here? Did Trump funnel his business profits into one big secret account, and then falsely claim they all lost money? This will all be investigated and exposed – but it’s already looking rather ugly for Trump.

Trump Watch / Oversight 

donald trump gage skidmore portrait

Donald J. Trump (Gage Skidmore file photo). When asked if the Mueller probe was "a witch hunt" on March 25, President Trump said some people did "treasonous things" and it should never happen again.

 washington post logosteven mnuchin wWashington Post, A day after blocking House demand for Trump’s tax returns, Mnuchin addressed gathering of his top fundraisers, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Josh Dawsey and Damian Paletta, May 8, 2019 (print ed.). Treasury secretaries in recent years have avoided fundraiser events with people they could be tasked with regulating, in part because of their role in overseeing a broad swath of companies in the financial system.

Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin, right, spoke to top Trump administration campaign "bundlers," some from the financial sector directly regulated by him and his staff, at an event at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. to ask Trump to invoke executive privilege over redacted Mueller materials, Rachael Bade and Matt Zapotosky, May 8, 2019 (print ed.). The move would all but assure that the attorney general will be held in contempt of Congress.

U.S. Constitutional Crisis Ramps Up

ny times logoadam liptakNew York Times, News Analysis: Clash Between Trump and House Democrats Poses Threat to Constitutional Order, Adam Liptak, May 8, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump’s wholesale refusal to provide information to Congress threatens to upend the delicate balance that is the separation of powers outlined in the Constitution.

Earlier administrations fought isolated skirmishes over congressional subpoenas. Mr. Trump, by contrast, has declared an all-out war on efforts by House Democrats to look into his official conduct and business dealings. And that has legal experts across the ideological spectrum warning that the president’s categorical opposition to what he sees as partisan meddling could create a constitutional crisis — an impasse that the allocation of interlocking powers and responsibilities by the framers cannot solve.

“A president who refuses to respond to congressional oversight is taking the presidency to new levels of danger,” said William P. Marshall, a law professor at the University of North Carolina. “We’re supposed to be in a system of checks and balances, and one of the biggest checks that Congress has over the executive is the power of congressional oversight.”

“Not responding to that is to literally say that you’re above the law and you’re above the Constitution,” he said. “There’s nothing in history that comes even close to that.”

John Yoo, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and a former official in the George W. Bush administration, said Mr. Trump’s approach was novel and dangerous.

“The thing that’s unusual is the blanket refusal,” Professor Yoo said. “It would be extraordinary if the president actually were to try to stop all congressional testimony on subpoenaed issues. That would actually be unprecedented if it were a complete ban.”

“He’s treating Congress like they’re the Chinese or a local labor union working on a Trump building,” he said.

Alliance for Justice, Opinion: The Pros Agree: Trump Would Be in Handcuffs but for OLC, Bill Yeomans, May 8, 2019. This week, I joined some 700 former federal prosecutors (the bill yeomans afj cropped Customnumber is still growing) in signing a letter attesting to Trump’s obstruction of justice. The signatories span Democratic and Republican administrations. Many worked at the Department of Justice for decades. The letter stated: “Each of us believes that the conduct of President Trump described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice.”

The letter discussed areas in which the evidence establishes violations of the obstruction of justice statutes, including, “[t]he President’s efforts to fire Mueller and to falsify evidence about that effort; [t]he President’s efforts to limit the scope of Mueller’s investigation to exclude his conduct; and [t]he President’s efforts to prevent witnesses from cooperating with investigators probing him and his campaign.”

alliance for justice logoThe letter said: “We emphasize that these are not matters of close professional judgment.” It concluded that “to look at these facts and say that a prosecutor could not probably sustain a conviction for obstruction of justice — the standard set out in Principles of Federal Prosecution — runs counter to logic and our experience.”

So, the opinion of the professionals is in: the President of the United States committed serious crimes while in office, crimes that cut to the core integrity of our system of justice. The letter directly rejects Attorney General Barr’s conclusion that Trump did not obstruct justice.

The letter was necessary only because Barr flagrantly misrepresented the contents of the report, giving Trump and uncritical journalists an easy talking point: no collusion, no obstruction. We know that the report explicitly rejected making findings about collusion, concluding instead that the available evidence did not support finding a criminal conspiracy. Indeed, the report contains substantial evidence of a symbiotic relationship between Russia and the Trump campaign that looks undeniably like collusion.

And now, we know that Attorney General Barr’s determination that the report did not support a finding of obstruction runs dramatically against the overwhelming weight of experienced professional opinion. Sadly, Robert Mueller appears to have underestimated the hurdles the essential findings of his investigation would have to surmount to reach Congress and the public. Mueller prepared summaries for public release that are very damaging for Trump and would have launched a very different public discussion had Barr not suppressed them in favor of his own distorted summary. As has happened too often in our recent political life, the play-by-the-rules straight shooter was run over by a ruthless, shortsighted partisan.

Another U.S. School Shooting

washington post logokendrick castillo rachel short via associated pressWashington Post, Colorado School Shooting Victim Died Trying to Stop Gunman, Julie Turkewitz and Jack Healy, May 8, 2019. A teenager’s choice to lunge at the gunman cost his life but gave others precious seconds. The student, Kendrick Castillo, is shown at right in a Rachel Short photo via the Associated Press.

Two students carried out the attack, the authorities said. It was the latest act of self-sacrifice by students who are now on the front lines of fighting off gunmen in America’s schools.

washington post logoWashington Post, Student dies, eight classmates hurt in shooting at suburban Denver school, Susan Svrluga, Perry Stein and Nick Anderson, May 8, 2019 (print ed.). One student died, and eight classmates were injured Tuesday in a shooting at a suburban Denver school, law enforcement authorities said, less than a month after the region marked the 20th anniversary of the Columbine massacre.

Two suspects, both students at the school, are in custody, according to Douglas County officials. The adult suspect was named late Tuesday as 18-year-old Devon Erickson. The other suspect is a juvenile female, officials said.

The Denver region has been on edge as the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre was memorialized, and deadly threats were called in to other Denver-area schools. The Columbine attack, in which two teenagers killed 13 people, marked the beginning of a new era in the United States — a time when the threat of school shootings has taught a generation of children how to flee, hide and even fight back when faced with a gunman.

It had been only days since another school shooting. At the University of North Carolina in Charlotte last week, a student tackled a gunman who opened fire on a classroom, police said, killing two and injuring four others.

Palmer Report, Opinion: New York State just delivered a one-two punch against Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, May 8, 2019. Donald Trump is now in a position where he’ll be indicted on federal criminal charges the minute he’s no longer in office. The Feds at the SDNY are clearly already headed in that direction based on its “Individual-1” filings, and the Mueller report specifically states that Trump can be charged with obstruction once he’s out of office. But what happens if Trump tries to pardon himself, and perhaps his family and friends, on his way out the door?

bill palmer report logo headerNew York is dealing with that question in a big way. The New York State Senate just passed a bill which makes clear that it’s not considered double jeopardy if a person is charged with the same crimes on a state and federal level. Because the Democrats control the entire New York State government, this bill is going to be signed into law. This means two things with regard to Donald Trump.

donald trump o smileFirst, it means New York prosecutors can bring state charges against Donald Trump and/or his allies without fear of screwing up the ability of the Feds to bring the same charges in the future. For instance, if the New York Attorney General concludes that it’s constitutional to indict Trump now, she can do it. And if any federal cases against Trump’s family are on hold until he’s out of office, for fear he’ll pardon them, New York State can go ahead and indict them now. But this is only half of what New York did to Trump today.

The New York State Senate also passed a bill today which ensures that Donald Trump’s state tax returns will be given to any House committee that requests them. This means that once this bill finishes becoming law, people like House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler and House Financial Services Committee Chair Maxine Waters will gain access to Trump’s New York State tax returns.

Vanity Fair, John Kelly Is Still Fuming Over Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, Tina Nguyen, May 8, 2019. White House jobs are temporary, but blood feuds are john kelly o dhsforever. Former White House chief of staff John Kelly is finally free from the task of babysitting Donald Trump and the barrel of monkeys known as his administration.

And though he holds no ill will toward the president himself, as he recently affirmed at Anthony Scaramucci’s annual SALT conference in Las Vegas, that doesn’t jared ivanka kushner may 20 2017 9 day djt trip facebook Smallmean he’s forgiven the rest of the Trump crew.

“They were an influence that has to be dealt with,” he told Bloomberg Television’s David Rubenstein on Tuesday, quickly adding: “By no means do I mean Mrs. [Melania] Trump  — the First Lady’s a wonderful person.”

Less wonderful in Kelly’s book? Presidential favorite Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner (shown at a left), who not only serve as official advisers to the president, but also hold enormous sway over his decisions. Anyone tuned into the West Wing soap opera is familiar with the enmity that sprung up between Kelly and Javanka.

Though the first daughter and her husband were initially enthusiastic at the idea of Kelly as chief of staff, counting on him to professionalize an operation that had run amok under the leadership of Reince Priebus, things went south after Kelly downgraded Kushner’s security clearance, and Trump reportedly asked Kelly to figure out how to get his kids back to New York, far away from the bloodthirsty media. (“Ivanka’s still his little girl,” one source told The Washington Post of Trump’s desire to protect his senior adviser.)

British Royal Baby Named

queen elizabeth prince philip prince harry doria ragland meghan markle baby sussex archie palace photo Custom 2

Queen Elizabeth, at center, with from left, Prince Philip, Prince Harry (Duke of Sussex), Doria Ragland, her daughter Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, and the Sussex baby, Archie (Royal photo by Chris Allerton)

ny times logoNew York Times, Harry and Meghan Introduce Their Son, Ellen Barry, May 8, 2019. The baby, named Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, slept through his first interview. His other business of the day was meeting the queen, his great-grandmother.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, also known as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, presented their 2-day-old son to the world on Wednesday afternoon. The baby, wrapped in a delicate, cream-colored blanket and wearing a white knit cap, slept through his first interview in his father’s arms.

His name, the subject of avid speculation and a substantial betting market, was announced later in the day: Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. Interest in the child has been far more breathless than his position in the royal line of succession — he is seventh, after his father — would suggest.

As the first multiracial, half-American child born in the top echelons of the royal family, he has come to signify, for many, the monarchy’s progression into a more modern, inclusive era. On his father’s side, his ancestry can be traced to the German ducal house of Saxe-Coburg, which Anglicized its name during World War I. Some of his ancestors on his mother’s side were born into slavery in the American south, migrating north and west to build new lives as free men and women.

U.S. Tariffs, Jobs, Consumers

washington post logoWashington Post, China threatens to respond ‘in kind’ if Trump imposes higher tariffs on Friday, Anna Fifield​, May 8, 2019. The warning comes as the country's vice premier arrives in Washington for another round of trade talks.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump administration wants to allow debt collectors to call 7 times a week and text, email as much as they want, Renae Merle, May 8, 2019 (print ed.).Consumer advocates say the proposal appears designed to shield debt collectors from lawsuits rather than help consumers

 washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s steel tariffs cost U.S. consumers $900,000 for every job created, experts say, Heather Long, May 8, 2019 (print ed.). Pressure is growing on Trump to remove steel and aluminum tariffs.

Airline Safety

USA Today, Opinion: Were lives lost at the cost of carry-ons in Aeroflot plane crash that killed 41? Bill McGee, May 8, 2019. We’ve all heard it’s illegal to shout fire in a crowded theater. But what are the legal and moral implications of blocking exits on a crowded airplane that’s on fire? It’s a quandary that airlines and regulators can no longer ignore.

The tragic Aeroflot Flight 1492 accident in Moscow earlier this week claimed 41 lives. But even more tragic is that multiple media reports indicate some of those lives may have been saved if those evacuating hadn’t stopped to retrieve carry-on baggage, as photos from the crash scene illustrate.

For years these incidents have occurred with alarming frequency on airlines all over the world. And other factors have hindered quicker evacuations: checked baggage fees have caused more carry-ons to clog cabins, tighter airline seats, record-high passenger load factors and the distraction of ubiquitous electronic devices. But human behavior has become the greatest obstacle of all.

The Association of Flight Attendants admonished against taking carry-ons in an emergency landing as the group paid tribute on Monday to Aeroflot’s Maxim Moiseyev, a flight attendant who died in the line of duty while saving lives.

“Reports from people on the plane indicate the evacuation may have been slowed by passengers grabbing their bags. Videos show passengers taking their carry-on bags with them as they exited the plane," the AFA said in a statement. "We will never know if more lives could have been saved if the bags were left behind.”

The Aeroflot tragedy may bring a new focus to this issue and generate new solutions. It will be up to investigators in Russia to determine how many of the 41 lives lost Sunday may have been saved had everyone onboard followed evacuation instructions.

Media News / Venezuela

juan guaido puppet Custom

Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) via Salon, Failed Venezuela coup was fake news — designed to fool people in two nations, Dave Lindorff, May 8, 2019. CNN and the New York Times made major reporting errors in covering the failed coup. Was it laziness or propaganda?

After days of breathless reporting in the U.S. media about public and military support for Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro collapsing, and about an April 30 coup by presidential poseur Juan Guaidó (shown above in a graphic), we now know the truth: The whole thing was a fraud, staged at the instigation of Washington in hopes that the Venezuelan people andrank-and-file troops would fall for the trick and think an actual coup was underway.

We also know, from an excellent May 2 report by Michael Fox in the Nation, that the U.S. mainstream media and its reporters in country were promoting that dangerous fraud.

CNN ran Juan Guaido’s video, in which he falsely claimed to be “in the La Carlota air force base.”

Take CNN. In its reporting on the “uprising” announced by Guaidó on Tuesday, April 30, it ran a video from social media depicting Guaidó, accompanied by opposition leader Leopoldo López, along with some armed men in uniform, said to be military defectors, standing behind them. The video claimed they were on the La Carlota military airfield in eastern Caracas, which Guaidó said had been “liberated.” According to CNN, he was addressing “thousands of supporters” on the scene, urging the rest of the Venezuelan military to join the coup and oust the “usurper” Maduro.

But as Michael Fox and other observers noted, CNN didn’t show those “thousands” of supporters — because there were none. Nor did the cable network explain in its report that Guaidó and López were not actually at the airbase, but rather were standing on a highway overpass outside the base — which was, in fact, never in rebel hands at all.
00:00

Guaidó and his “deserting” soldiers quickly left the scene as government troops headed their way, with López later that day holing up in the Chilean and eventually the Spanish embassy, seeking asylum for himself and his family, and with some two dozen soldiers who had deserted in support of Guaidó asking for asylum in the Brazilian embassy.

There are two possibilities here: Either CNN’s U.S.-based editors were lied to by their reporters in Caracas, or they were well aware that their story of the takeover of a military airfield, along with reports of thousands of protesters on the scene in support of Guaidó, was a hoax. It’s not hard to imagine the latter being the truth, because CNN earlier was caught fraudulently reporting that Venezuelan troops had set aid trucks stopped at the Colombian border afire, when in fact the fires had been started by anti-Maduro protesters. Though this truth was proven by other reports and video, CNN never corrected its false story in that case, nor did it discipline its on-the-scene reporters.

Global News

cyril ramaphosa 2018 BRICS leaders Custom

ny times logosouth africa flag after 1994New York Times, South Africa’s President Faces Verdict From Disillusioned Voters, Norimitsu Onishi, May 8, 2019. Millions cast ballots today, voting for the first time since President Cyril Ramaphosa (shown above in a 2018 meeting) assumed power last year. Many question whether he can outflank rivals and root out the corruption that has come to define the African National Congress, the party of Nelson Mandela.

washington post logoWashington Post, Iran to pull back on landmark nuclear pact, Tamer El-Ghobashy and Kareem Fahim​, May 8, 2019. The announcement by President Hassan Rouhani appeared certain to aggravate tensions with the United States.

ny times logoiran flag mapNew York Times, The European Union finds itself trapped between the U.S. and Iran, with no easy way to respond, Steven Erlanger, May 8, 2019.  As the divide widens between the United States and Iran over the 2015 nuclear deal, the European Union finds itself trapped between them, with no easy or quick way to respond to its dilemma.

President Trump pulled out of the deal, which the European Union championed and which three key European allies of the United States — Britain, Germany and France — all continue to support. The United States has reinstated punishing sanctions intended to disrupt Iranian oil exports and trade.

SouthFront, Wayne Madsen: “Trump’s Encircling of Venezuela: A Fool’s Errand,” Wayne Madsen, May 8, 2019. Relying on the advice of neo-conservative war hawk John Bolton, pompous Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Iran-Contra scandal felon Elliott Abrams, Donald Trump has embarked on the containment encircling of Venezuela.

Trump is engaged in a fool’s errand of relying on the support of fascist leaders of Venezuela’s neighbors to pressure Venezuela’s president Nicolas Maduro to turn over power to a motley collection of Wall Street puppets who want to reverse the Bolivarian socialist policies of Maduro and his late predecessor, Hugo Chavez.

White Nationalism, Sexism

washington post logoWashington Post, Chicago Cubs investigating fan who appeared to flash white power sign on air, Tim Elfrink, May 8, 2019. The Cubs are investigating after a fan appeared to flash a racist hand gesture on a live broadcast on Tuesday.

On a chilly Tuesday night at Wrigley Field, the cameras cut to former outfielder Doug Glanville, now an analyst for NBC Sports Chicago. As Glanville praised Chicago’s resurgent offense, a bearded fan in the background mugged for the camera. Then, the fan in a Cubs hoodie formed his hand into an upside-down “okay” sign, holding it next to Glanville’s head until the camera cut to a graphic.

Associated Press via Washington Post, Tennessee speaker calls lewd texts ‘locker room talk,’ Kimberlee Kruesi, May 8, 2019. Tennessee’s House speaker on Tuesday said he was wrong to participate in lewd conversations about women with his former chief of staff and described the language as “locker room talk” between adult men.

House Speaker Glen Casada made the remarks while talking to Nashville radio station WTN-FM, a day after his top aide, Cade Cothren, 32, resigned amid allegations he sent racist and sexually explicit text messages. Cothren also acknowledged using cocaine in his legislative office years before.

djt maga hatCasada said Tuesday the Tennessee House Republican caucus still “overwhelmingly” supports him, and he has no plans to resign despite recently released text messages showing Cothren bragging to Casada about having sex in a Nashville restaurant. A separate sexually explicit discussion between the two men included Cothren sending a photo of a woman next to a pole and Casada asking if he could “just touch” her after Cothren joked “Hands to yourself.”

“Three years ago, I participated in base locker room talk, if you will, among two adult men,” said Casada, a Republican from Franklin. “I’m not proud of that. I’m embarrassed about that.”

The “locker room talk” defense also was invoked by Donald Trump during his presidential campaign, in response to an “Access Hollywood” tape that captured him saying fame enabled him to grope women.

At least four other Tennessee lawmakers also have faced high-profile sexual misconduct allegations and Casada has been criticized for repeatedly defending at least one of them and also briefly appointing the lawmaker to a leadership position before reversing course.

U.S. Politics

Tampa Bay Times, Further investigation into Matt Gaetz is needed for tweet at Michael Cohen, Florida Bar determines, Steve Contorno, May 8, 2019.The Panhandle Republican faces discipline for a message he posted the day before Trump’s former lawyer testified to Congress.

matt gaetz o CustomAn investigation into U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, right, will proceed, the Florida Bar said Wednesday, meaning the Panhandle Republican could face discipline for allegedly intimidating President Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen.

A grand jury-like panel called the Grievance Committee will next decide whether there is probable cause that Gaetz’s tweet violated Florida rules for lawyers. Gaetz is licensed to practice law in Florida.

If the Florida Bar had determined in its initial review that discipline was not warranted, then the case would have stopped. But it has not, meaning the Bar has decided that further investigation is needed.

In moving the case against Gaetz to this step, the Florida Bar is also signaling that its initial review determined that the allegations against Gaetz would, if proven true, be a violation of the state’s rules for lawyers.

Media / Press Freedom

washington post logodana milbank CustomWashington Post, Opinion, The White House revoked my press pass. It’s not just me — it’s curtailing access for all journalists, Dana Milbank, right, May 8, 2019. For the past 21 years, I have had the high privilege of holding a White House press pass, a magical ticket that gives the bearer a front-row seat to history.

I was in the White House the night Bill Clinton admitted his affair with Monica Lewinsky, and the day he was impeached. I was there on Sept. 11, 2001, and the fearful days thereafter, when we were trained to use escape hoods. I watched George W. Bush make the case for the Iraq War and Barack Obama pitch his remedies for the market crash. There, too, I have witnessed the carnival-like briefings and high histrionics of Donald Trump’s presidency.

But no more. The White House eliminated most briefings and severely restricted access to official events. And this week came the coup de grace: After covering four presidents, I received an email informing me that Trump’s press office had revoked my White House credential.

I’m not the only one. It was part of a mass purge of “hard pass” holders after the White House implemented a new standard that designated as unqualified almost the entire White House press corps, including all six of The Post’s White House correspondents. White House officials then chose which journalists would be granted “exceptions.” It did this over objections from news organizations and the White House Correspondents’ Association.

The Post requested exceptions for its six White House reporters and for me, saying that this access is essential to our work (in my case, I often write “sketches” describing the White House scene). The White House press office granted exceptions to the other six, but not to me. I strongly suspect it’s because I’m a Trump critic. The move is perfectly in line with Trump’s banning of certain news organizations, including The Post, from his campaign events, and his threats to revoke White House credentials of journalists he doesn’t like.

White House officials provided me no comment for the record.

I’m not looking for pity. Trump’s elimination of briefings and other changes have devalued White House coverage anyway. But there’s something wrong with a president having the power to decide which journalists can cover him.

Now, virtually the entire White House press corps is credentialed under “exceptions,” which means, in a sense, that they all serve at the pleasure of press secretary Sarah Sanders because they all fail to meet credentialing requirements — and therefore, in theory, can have their credentials revoked any time they annoy Trump or his aides, like CNN’s Jim Acosta did.

In response, it seems, the White House established a clear — if nearly impossible — standard: no credentials to any journalist who is not in the building on at least 90 out of the previous 180 days — in other words, seven of every 10 workdays. The White House wouldn’t provide numbers, but it appears most of the White House press corps didn’t qualify for credentials under the new standard, including regulars for The Post and the Associated Press. (Trump, who has spent more than 200 days at Trump properties and many more on travel, is barely in the White House this much himself.)

More important is that the White House is drastically curtailing access for all journalists. Briefings have been abolished in favor of unscheduled “gaggles” ( on the record, but impromptu and haphazard) in the White House driveway. The Pentagon and State Department have done similarly.

The White House has also restricted access by allowing only one journalist from a news organization at most events, and by admitting journalists to events only if they register days in advance. This has sharply reduced journalists’ attendance at the White House — just in time for the 90-day attendance purge.

donald trump jesus us navy john singleton copley

President Donald J. Trump.Photo credit: US Navy and John Singleton Copley / Wikimedia.

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Analysis: Did Trump Find Religion? Don’t Hold Your Breath, WhoWhatWhy Staff, May 8, 2019. President Donald Trump last week claimed that leaning on God has helped him make it through the “witch hunts” he has been subjected to. It makes sense for the president to pander to Christian conservatives, who are among his most ardent supporters. But is his claim of being religious credible?

In 2016, before Trump had even secured the Republican nomination, WhoWhatWhy investigated his assertion that, because he is a “strong Christian,” he was being audited by the IRS — and therefore could not release his tax returns.

Back then, we went through all of his books to find evidence of this strong faith. We discover very little apart from claims he made when he was already running for president.

Since then, nothing has changed that would convince us that Trump has actually found religion. On Sundays, the president usually worships golf, and he has set records when it comes to bearing false witness.

May 7

Global News: Moscow Airline Disaster

SouthFront, Commentary: Fatal Incompetence And Social Irresponsibility: Superjet-100 Tragedy In Moscow, Staff and wire reports, May 7, 2019. On May 5, a Russian Superjet-100 plane with 73 passengers and 5 members of the crew onboard crash-landed in the Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport. 41 people died as a result of the firie, which was caused by the crash-landing. (See full story below)

Press Freedom / Human Rights

kyaw soe ooo left wa lone jorge silva reuters photo

ny times logoNew York Times, Myanmar Releases Reuters Journalists Jailed for Reporting on Rohingya Crackdown, Russell Goldman and Mike Ives, May 7, 2019 (print ed.). Two prizewinning Reuters journalists were released from prison in Myanmar on Tuesday after more than a year in detention for covering the country’s deadly crackdown on the Rohingya minority group, ending a drama that had brought global scrutiny upon the country’s de facto civilian leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

The two reporters, U Wa Lone, 33 (above rigth), and U Kyaw Soe Oo, 29 (above left, shown in file photos), were arrested in December 2017. They were sentenced in September to seven years in prison under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act for receiving documents from a police officer as part of their investigation into a 2017 massacre of 10 Rohingya villagers.

myanmar mapThe men, along with their Reuters colleagues, were awarded in April the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting, one of journalism’s most coveted and prestigious honors.

On Tuesday morning, they were mobbed by reporters as they emerged from Insein Prison in Yangon, the country’s largest city. They were both smiling as they walked away from the prison’s gates in the sunshine.

Mr. Wa Lone flashed a thumbs-up sign. “I’m really happy and excited to see my family and my colleagues,” he told reporters. “I can’t wait to go to my newsroom.”

Trump Watch / Legal News

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump would’ve been charged if he weren’t president, 375 700 ex-prosecutors assert, Matt Zapotosky​, May 7, 2019 (print ed.). The group’s statement offers a rebuttal to the attorney general’s determination that the evidence uncovered by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III was “not sufficient” to establish that the president committed obstruction of justice.

Justice Department log circularMore than 370 700 former federal prosecutors who worked in Republican and Democratic administrations have signed on to a statement asserting special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s findings would have produced obstruction charges against President Trump — if not for the office he held.

Mueller had declined to say one way or the other whether Trump should have been charged, citing a Justice Department legal opinion that sitting presidents cannot be indicted, as well as concerns about the fairness of accusing someone for whom there can be no court proceeding.

ny times logoNew York Times, White House Guards Tax Returns as House Threatens to Hold Barr in Contempt, Nicholas Fandos and Alan Rappeport, May 7, 2019 (print ed.). A showdown between the executive and legislative branches ratcheted up as the Trump administration resisted Democrats’ efforts on multiple fronts.

irs logoThe Treasury defied a request for President Trump’s tax returns as House Democrats planned a vote to hold Attorney General William P. Barr in contempt of Congress.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Taxes: N.Y. Lawmakers Move Closer to Allowing Release of His State Returns, Jesse McKinley, May 7, 2019. As the standoff over President Trump’s federal tax returns deepens in Washington, New York State lawmakers say they intend to advance a bill on Wednesday to allow congressional committees to see Mr. Trump’s New York State returns.

State Senator Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat, confirmed on Tuesday that the State Senate has enough votes to ensure passage of a bill allowing the commissioner of the New York Department of Taxation and Finance to release any state tax return requested by a leader of one of three congressional committees for any “specific and legitimate legislative purpose.”

A tax return from New York — where the president has the headquarters of his business empire and a home in Trump Tower — could contain much of the same financial information as a federal return, which Mr. Trump has steadfastly refused to release.

washington post logoWashington Post, Two more years? Trump’s retweet sets off a furor over the idea of bonus time, Ashley Parker, May 7, 2019 (print ed.). His backers say the president was just joking, but detractors point to his history of casting doubt on the legitimacy of elections and constitutional norms as reason for concern. President Donald Trump officialPresident Trump for months has griped, complained and tweeted about what he says is the unfair Russia “witch hunt” investigation that has consumed nearly half of his presidency.

Now, the president has floated a possible solution: two bonus years.

Trump over the weekend shared a tweet by Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, in which Falwell complimented Trump for “no obstruction, no collusion” and a soaring economy, before adding, “Trump should have 2 yrs added to his 1st term as pay back for time stolen by this corrupt failed coup.”

White House officials and others close to the president said he was joking and is not serious about trying to increase his first four-year term by 50 percent — an extension that would violate the Constitution and has no historical precedent.

Reuters, Exclusive: Trump fixer Cohen says he helped Falwell handle racy photos, Aram Roston, May 7, 2019. Months before evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr.’s game-changing presidential endorsement of Donald Trump in 2016, Falwell asked Trump fixer Michael Cohen for a personal favor, Cohen said in a recorded conversation reviewed by Reuters.

michael cohen ap file croppedFalwell, president of Liberty University, one of the world’s largest Christian universities, said someone had come into possession of what Cohen described as racy “personal” photographs — the sort that would typically be kept “between husband and wife,” Cohen (shown at right) said in the taped conversation.

According to a source familiar with Cohen’s thinking, the person who possessed the photos destroyed them after Cohen intervened on the Falwells’ behalf.

The Falwells, through a lawyer, declined to comment for this article.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Michael Cohen throws Jerry Falwell Jr under the bus, Bill Palmer, May 7, 2019. Michael Cohen is now in prison, and yet he’s still finding ways to cause problems for Donald Trump and his allies. It turns out Cohen wasn’t just working as a fixer for Trump’s scandals, he was also working as a fixer for Trump’s close ally Jerry Falwell Jr during the 2016 election cycle.

Michael Cohen has been recorded stating that during the election, Jerry Falwell Jr asked Donald Trump to help him out with some embarrassing private photos that had fallen bill palmer report logo headerinto the hands of an unnamed person who was demanding money. Trump then had Cohen negotiate with that person to have the photos destroyed. Shortly thereafter, Falwell endorsed Trump for president. This is all according to Reuters. Here’s where it gets dicey for Falwell.

Cohen said these photos involve Falwell and his wife, and that they’re “terrible.” But that doesn’t mean that there’s anything illegal going on in these photos. For that matter, Falwell’s far-right supporters, who are about as far removed from “Christian” morals as possible, wouldn’t turn against him even if these photos were plastered on billboards in every city in America. But the key here is in the “fixing” of the scandal, because the only way Cohen could have convinced the person holding the photos to jerry falwell jr wdestroy them is through money or threats.

As you recall, it would have been legal for Donald Trump to pay Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about their affair, if not for the campaign finance aspects of the payoff. Jerry Falwell Jr. (left) isn’t a political candidate, so those laws won’t apply to any payoff that he might have made through Cohen. But these kinds of payoffs have a tendency to cross various legal lines, so Falwell had better hope he didn’t break any laws in this coverup. Cohen says he kept one of the photos, presumably as an insurance policy – and he’s surely spilled his guts about it to prosecutors.

This also means that Michael Cohen was fixing scandals for a larger circle of Donald Trump’s friends than we previously knew. Up to now, the known list had been rather short. Are there even more names coming? Keep in mind that if prosecutors are pursuing potential criminal cases against additional people in Trump’s circle, they would have instructed Cohen not to go public about it until the investigations make their way into public view.

ny times logoNew York Times, A leading planner of Mr. Trump’s inaugural festivities said she was “thrown under the bus,” Maggie Haberman and Ben Protess, May 7, 2019 (print ed.). Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a leading contractor for President Trump’s inaugural committee and a former adviser to the first lady, Melania Trump, has publicly disputed accounts of her departure from the White House last year, rejecting claims from officials that she was dismissed.

stephanie winston wolkoff twitterMs. Winston Wolkoff (shown on her Twitter photo) specifically took issue with suggestions by White House officials that she had been forced out because of reports that she had profited excessively from her role in helping organize inaugural events. She gave her account of what happened in a statement to The New York Times more than a year after she parted ways with the White House, where she had served as an unpaid adviser to Mrs. Trump after the inauguration.

“Was I fired? No,” Ms. Winston Wolkoff said in the statement. “Did I personally receive $26 million or $1.6 million? No. Was I thrown under the bus? Yes.”

It was the first time Ms. Winston Wolkoff has provided extensive public comments about the events around her split from the White House, including characterizations at the time by White House officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, that she had been forced out because of reports about lavish spending on the inauguration.

dan mcgahn djtPalmer Report, Opinion: Don McGahn is a few hours from spilling the beans on Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, May 6, 2019.  Last week Donald Trump stated on Fox News that he might not allow former White House Counsel Don McGahn to testify about the Mueller report before the House Judiciary Committee. This was unintentional comedy, as Trump has no ability whatsoever to stop a former employee from appearing before Congress. Even as we await McGahn’s scheduled testimony on May 21st, we’re actually just a few hours from McGahn seriously spilling the beans on Trump in an equally important way.

Don McGahn (shown at right with Trump in file photos) has until 10am eastern time tomorrow morning to turn over a dump truck’s worth of documents to the House Judiciary Committee. As laid out by Rachel Maddow during her show this evening, the requested documents appear to go well beyond what Robert Mueller focused on in his probe.

bill palmer report logo headerDon McGahn fully and eagerly cooperated with Mueller, so it stands to reason that he’ll do the same with this material subpoenaed by Congress. He’s also shown that he’s very careful about protecting himself, so if he were planning to miss the deadline, he’d surely have said as much by now, and laid out a legal reason. So unless Trump tries something first thing tomorrow morning, House Democrats are about to obtain a treasure trove of documents and notes exposing Trump’s various improprieties while inside the White House.

Donald Trump has never had attorney-client privilege with Mcgahn (White House Counsel is the White House’s lawyer, not the president’s lawyer), and Trump waived any executive privilege with McGahn a long time ago. That said, Donald Trump can still make a frivolous last minute court filing in the hope of slowing McGahn down a little bit. But he’s just about out of time for that, and no, a pre-dawn Twitter rant about McGahn tomorrow morning won’t count for anything under the law.

So we’ll see what happens. If Donald Trump can’t find a last minute way to intervene, and Don McGahn forks over all this evidence as expected, it’ll take the House Judiciary Committee some time to sort through it all and find the most incriminating parts. That’s why his testimony is set for two weeks after tomorrow’s deadline. But you can expect the Democrats on the committee to start letting out some of the secrets before McGahn’s testimony, if only to ensure that a large television audience tunes in for it.

Global News: Moscow Airline Disaster

SouthFront, Commentary: Fatal Incompetence And Social Irresponsibility: Superjet-100 Tragedy In Moscow, Staff and wire reports, May 7, 2019. On May 5, a Russian Superjet-100 plane with 73 passengers and 5 members of the crew onboard crash-landed in the Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport. 41 people died as a result of the firie, which was caused by the crash-landing.

Following the tragedy, SouthFront covered available details (May 5 Tragedy with Superjet-100 in Moscow (Possible Reasons, Consequences of Passengers’ Behavior).

The May 5 incident differs from other such situations. There are lots of video and photo evidence (including ones from inside the aircraft during the landing) showing the moment of the catastrophe. Accounts of eyewitness, passengers and even one pilot are available online. Details and visual evidence (for example via RT here) lead to hard-hitting conclusions about the supposed reason of the tragedy.

The chain of events:

  • The Superjet-100 took-off from Moscow on 18:02 (local time). The SU1492 is the flight between Moscow and Murmansk. The aircraft [RA-89098] was delivered to Aeroflot in 2017 and made a first flight in June of the same year. It was fully operational when it left the Sheremetyevo Airport on May 6.
  • Shortly after the take-off, the captain decided to return to the departure airport. The supposed reason is failure in one of the power supply systems. This, according to the existing data, caused loss of communication with the ground flight service. The rest of on-board systems worked properly.
  • By some unclear reason [according to the existing data], the captain decided to land the aircraft with an overweight instead of spending fuel employing air corridors provided for this purpose around the landing zone. By that moment, the plane was in air less than a half hour and had over a half of the fuel in the tankers. This decision is strange. The Superjet-100 was not burning in the air. It can be supposed that the pilots started panicing because of the loss of communication with the control tower.
  • The aircraft came in for landing in a high speed. However, the first try appeared to be unsuccessful and the plane made a circle for another landing attempt. According to the existing data, there was no fire on the plane in the air. The plane was controlled properly at that monent.
  • During the second landing attempt on a high speed [significant overspeeding], the aircraft flew over a part of the strip and crash-landed. The Superjet-100 bounced serveral times (up to 3) after the initial touchdown. The gear in the tail end of the jet collapsed as a result of the hard touchdown [under pressure of dynamical force]. The integrity of the engines and fuel tankers were lost. The leaked fuel ignited because of friction between the plane and the strip. The fire engulfed the tail end of the jet. This was the moment when the fire started.

It should be noted that previously Superjet-100 planes faced some issues with the gear. However, in such a situation [under heavy dynamical pressure], the gear of any aircraft would collapse.

U.S. Politics

ny times logodemocratic donkey logoNew York Times, Ethics Cloud Hangs Over de Blasio as He Weighs 2020 Bid, William Neuman, May 7, 2019. As Mayor Bill de Blasio nears a decision on the presidential race, questions have arisen over his efforts to raise money from donors who do business with the city.

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, A Presidential Candidate Is Speaking Out About Voter Suppression, Klaus Marre, May 7, 2019. Presidential hopeful Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) forcefully made the case for better election laws and highlighted the devastating impact of voter suppression on democracy. Will her primary rivals follow her example? Election integrity experts are encouraged.

Global News: South Africa

cyril ramaphosa 2018 BRICS leaders Custom

ny times logosouth africa flag after 1994New York Times, South Africa’s Middle Class Sours on Mandela’s Party, Tainted by Corruption, Norimitsu Onishi, May 7, 2019. President Cyril Ramaphosa, who leads the long-governing African National Congress party (and who is shown above at a 2018 conference of BRICS nations), is pushing to win back black middle-class voters in Wednesday’s election. But many are outraged over endemic corruption.

The A.N.C., the party that was led by Nelson Mandela and helped free black South Africans, is all but certain to garner the most votes nationally in the election, ensuring that Mr. Ramaphosa will win a five-year term as South Africa’s president.

May 6

washington post logorobert mueller full face fileWashington Post, In reversal, Trump says Mueller ‘should not testify’ before Congress, Felicia Sonmez, May 6, 2019 (print ed.). “Bob Mueller should not testify,” President Trump tweeted. “No redos for the Dems!” The comment came hours after a key member of the House Judiciary Committee said the panel has proposed a date of May 15 for Robert S. Mueller III to testify but that no deal has been reached.

Roll Call, Mnuchin rejects Neal’s request for Trump tax returns, Doug Sword, May 6, 2019. Department ‘not authorized’ to disclose information, Treasury secretary. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told House Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal Monday that the IRS will not hand over President Donald Trump’s tax returns and associated information.

steven mnuchin w“In reliance on the advice of the Department of Justice, I have determined that the Committee’s request lacks a legitimate legislative purpose, and … the Department is therefore not authorized to disclose the requested returns and return information,” Mnuchin, left, wrote in a letter to Neal.

The Massachusetts Democrat has a number of options. Hecould make another request — his third since April 3 — and set a new deadline, file a lawsuit in federal court, or issue a subpoena. If a subpoena is issued and Mnuchin continues to refuse to turn over the records, Neal could appeal to a court to enforce the subpoena or seek a contempt of Congress vote on the House floor.

richard neal oNeal’s request has been made under Sec. 6103 of the tax code, which states that upon “written request” from the chairman of either of the two tax-writing committees, “the Secretary shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified” in the request.

Experts tend to side with Neal, right, since the plain language of the 1924 statute appears clear. Not only is there “no wiggle room” in the statue’s “shall furnish” and “any return” language, the legislative history of the law appears to be on Neal’s side as well, said George K. Yin, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law and former chief of staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Michael Cohen reports to prison for 3-year sentence. Suggests once again he has more secrets to spill, Devlin Barrett​​, May 6, 2019. The president’s former lawyer unsuccessfully tried recently to get his sentence delayed or reduced by dangling the prospect of new incriminating information against others.

U.S. Ramps Up Threats To Iran

ny times logoiran flag mapNew York Times, Officials Cite Iranian Threat to U.S. Troops in Iraq, Edward Wong and Eric Schmitt, May 6, 2019. The Pentagon said it deployed an aircraft carrier strike group to the region after seeing intelligence that showed new activity on the part of Iranian forces.

NBC News, Officials: U.S. carrier group, bombers going to Mideast due to multiple Iran threats, Courtney Kube and Dan De Luce, May 6, 2019. The U.S. military nbc news logodecision to surge a carrier strike group and Air Force bombers to the Middle East was based on Iranian threats to U.S. military forces and civilians at multiple locations in the region, according to U.S. officials and a defense official.

Recent intelligence showed Iran and its proxies are re-positioning forces and may be planning for attacks, both at land and at sea, the officials said.

The troubling new intelligence caused the commander of U.S. Central Command, Gen. Frank McKenzie, to request more assets to his area of responsibility. Acting Secretary of Defense approved the request to re-direct the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group to the Persian Gulf and to move a bomber task force to the region.

Shanahan tweeted Monday afternoon that he approved the deployment Sunday afternoon, calling it "a prudent repositioning of assets in response to indications of a credible threat by Iranian regime forces." Shanahan called on the Iranians to "cease all provocation," warning that the U.S. "will hold the Iranian regime accountable for any attack on U.S. forces or our interests."

The officials warned Iran has proxy forces operating in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and other parts of the region who could rise up and target Americans. "We are taking this threat reporting very seriously," one U.S. official said.

China Trade War or Deal?

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Tariff Threat Stemmed From Concerns U.S. Is Losing in Trade Deal, Ana Swanson and Keith Bradsher, May 6, 2019. President Trump’s threat to impose more tariffs on China before this week’s final round of trade talks stemmed from his concerns that the United States was about to be on the losing end of a historic trade deal.china flag Small

Mr. Trump, whose Sunday threat could derail efforts to end a monthslong trade war, was angered by China’s attempt to reverse commitments to essentially codify an agreement to provide American companies with more equal treatment, according to people familiar with the negotiations. The president was also irked by China’s insistence that the United States quickly lift all of the tariffs Mr. Trump had placed on $250 billion worth of imports.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Trade War Threat Poses Problems for China and Investors, Eric Schmitt, Helene Cooper, Edward Wong and Charlie Savage, Keith Bradsher and Ana Swanson, May 6, 2019. President Trump upended what appeared to be progress toward reaching a trade pact when he threatened to impose still more tariffs on Chinese goods. The threats pose a major problem for President Xi Jinping, who had been counting on a trade deal to maintain China’s growth.

Population Growth, Climate Change

ny times logoNew York Times, Civilization Is Accelerating Extinction, Altering the World at an ‘Unprecedented’ Pace, Brad Plumer, May 6, 2019. As many as one million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction because of human activity and global warming, a United Nations report found. The report is not the first of its kind, but does go further in detailing how closely human well-being is tied to that of other species.

More On Trump

washington post logowilliam barr new oWashington Post, House Democrats to hold contempt vote Wednesday after Barr misses deadline to provide complete Mueller report, Felicia Sonmez and Rachael Bade, May 6, 2019. Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee said they will vote Wednesday on whether to hold Attorney General William P. Barr, right, in contempt of Congress after Barr missed a deadline to produce a complete version of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report.

The panel had set a deadline of 9 a.m. Monday for Barr to provide the unredacted version of Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. The committee has argued lawmakers need access to the full report to protect the rule of law, ensure Trump has not abused his power and even to consider whether to move to impeach him.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: What Nancy Pelosi gets right, Jennifer Rubin, right, May 6, 2019. Pelosi has it right: Democrats must find the best center-left candidate to deliver an jennifer rubin new headshotindisputable victory over Trump. Keep the heat on Trump without necessarily pursuing impeachment.

Once he is out of office, encourage his prosecution to the full extent possible under the law and the facts of his case(s). In the meantime, a contempt order or finding of financial wrongdoing (by Congress or the Southern District of New York) may change both Trump’s calculation and Congress’s.

Inside DC: Border Jobs

ny times logomark morgan cropNew York Times, Trump Names Mark Morgan, Former Head of Border Patrol, to Lead ICE, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Michael Tackett, May 6, 2019 (print ed.). Mr. Morgan, right, led the Border Patrol during the last months of the Obama administration. But he has expressed agreement with many of President Trump’s hard-line views.

Mr. Morgan served as the Border Patrol chief at the end of the Obama administration, and was also previously an F.B.I. agent. He will lead the agency that arrests, detains and deports people who are in the United States illegally, after Mr. Trump last month withdrew his previous nominee, Ronald D. Vitiello, saying he wanted the agency to go in a “tougher direction.”

Global News

washington post logoWashington Post, Turkish election board orders new vote for Istanbul mayor after ruling party suffers stinging defeat, Kareem Fahim​, May 6, 2019. The decision came after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party appealed the March 31 vote because of what it said were irregularities.

The AKP’s extraordinary appeal to redo the Istanbul election immediately drew criticism that Erdogan and his party were willing to undermine confidence in Turkey’s democracy to serve a narrow goal: retaining control of Turkey’s largest city, along with the financial and patronage networks that has benefited the party over decades.

ny times logoNew York Times, On Muslim Brotherhood, Trump Risks Inflaming Region, Eric Schmitt, Helene Cooper, Edward Wong and Charlie Savage, May 6, 2019. Backed by American and Mideast hard-liners, President Trump is considering a terrorist designation for the Islamist movement that other allies consider a legitimate political force.

ny times logoisrael flagNew York Times, Fragile Cease-Fire Takes Hold Between Israel and Gaza After Weekend Attacks, Isabel Kershner, May 6, 2019. A tentative agreement brought a short but deadly bout of cross-border fighting to an end. Two days of rocket attacks and airstrikes left 22 Palestinians and four Israelis dead, in the worst violence between the two sides since 2014.

Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, CBS Signals New Era, Naming Norah O’Donnell as Lead Anchor, John Koblin and Michael M. Grynbaum, May 6, 2019.  Ms. O’Donnell will become only the third woman ever to assume weekday solo anchoring duties for a network evening newscast.

cbs news logoVeterans like Bob Schieffer looked on as the news division’s first female president, Susan Zirinsky, stepped onto a makeshift stage for an announcement that would signal a new era for the network. Gayle King would be the centerpiece of “CBS This Morning.” Norah O’Donnell was the next anchor of the “CBS Evening News,” only the second woman to hold that role.

Ms. Zirinsky pitched the changes as a fresh start after a painful period for the House of Cronkite, whose hidebound culture had been rocked by declining ratings and workplace misconduct scandals involving Jeff Fager, the longtime leader of “60 Minutes,” and Charlie Rose, the former co-anchor of “CBS This Morning.”

Poynter, UnNews: An index of unreliable news websites, Barrett Golding, Barbara Allen and Daniel Funke (Undated). Misinformation is a thriving industry on the internet, supported by social media shares, advertising dollars and political donations. In the United States, scores of research reports try to measure how falsehoods spread online. These studies often require lists of untrustworthy “news” sources, but many of these lists have grown out-of-date and incomplete.

Better data means better results for researchers, reporters and readers. So the International Fact-Checking Network built a more complete dataset: UnNews, an index of unreliable news sites.

To create the index, we combined five major lists (see below), then eliminated the sites that were no longer active. We only used lists that were public and curated by established journalists or academics, contained original data (rather than information from other lists), stated their criteria for inclusion and defined how they graded different sites (see our methodology for more).

The index’s initial release relies on the five major lists’ determinations and definitions of “unreliable.” Our next release will include more sites and our the criteria we used for inclusion.

But for now, here are the databases of unreliable news sites that we pulled from to create our index:

  • FactCheck.org’s Misinformation Directory (FC), created by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Fake News Codex (FN), widely quoted by Snopes and others, maintained by web developer and data designer Chris Herbert.
  • OpenSources (OS), run by Merrimack University media studies professor Melissa Zimdars.
  • PolitiFact’s Fake News Almanac (PF), by PolitiFact, a joint project of the Tampa Bay Times and Poynter.
  • Snopes’ Field Guide to Fake News Sites and Hoax Purveyors (SN), created by Snopes, the oldest and largest online fact-checking organization.

U,.S. Politics & Trump

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary: Running for president is a cash bonanza, Wayne Madsen, WMR editor, syndicated columnist and author, May 6, 2019 (subscription required). Running for president of the United States has turned into a cash cow for several politicians. The reason is that the Federal Election Commission (FEC), which was created in 1974 to disclose campaign finance information; to enforce the provisions of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, including the limits and prohibitions on contributions; and to oversee the public funding of Presidential elections is all but out of business.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Joe Biden suddenly has a problem – and it’s not what you think, Bill Palmer, May 6, 2019. Various pundits have pointed to various controversies and joe biden ovulnerabilities that could end up causing trouble for Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign. We’ll see which of those things end up being a factor as this plays out over the next year and a half. But for now it’s clear that none of them are negatively impacting Biden at all, as he’s exploding upward in the polls – and that’s actually a problem for him.

bill palmer report logo headerThe last four major national polls show that Joe Biden is pulling ahead in the 2020 Democratic primary race by a huge margin. Biden isn’t just in first place in every poll; he’s about three times as popular as any other candidate. It’s a long race, there are a lot of strong candidates, and a lot of things will change. But at the moment, Biden is the overwhelming frontrunner – and that’s not a place you necessarily want to be this early on. All you have to do is look back at the 2016 race to understand why.

Here are the indisputable facts about the 2016 Democratic primary race, whether anyone wants them to be true or not: Hillary Clinton was ahead by fifteen to twenty points nationally the entire time. It was a blowout. If you were under some other impression, you can go look up the numbers yourself. At no point was it a remotely close or competitive primary race. But this kind of blowout made for terrible ratings, so the mainstream media – particularly cable news – did what they always do in these situations.

But if Joe Biden keeps climbing in the polls in the coming weeks, and he becomes too dominant of a frontrunner, you can bet your last dollar that the media will to do Biden during the 2020 Democratic primary what it did to Hillary Clinton during the 2016 Democratic primary. The widespread fictional coverage of the 2016 primary ended up having a negative impact on everyone involved, and it’s the unspoken main reason that Donald Trump is in the White House. If the media pulls the same crap against Biden that it pulled against Hillary, the entire Democratic Party will be in trouble in 2020.

Palmer Report, Opinion: William Barr just threw Donald Trump under the bus, Bill Palmer, May 6, 2019. Last month the Washington Post published an article that cited an unnamed source “familiar with the thinking” of Attorney General William Barr – and everyone quickly figured out that the source was Barr himself. It’s a commonly used method for getting your side of the story out through the media, without having to attach your own name to it. Now Barr has done it again, and this time he’s thrown Donald Trump under the bus in the process.

bill palmer report logo headerLast night, after it was revealed that Special Counsel Robert Mueller will likely testify before the House Judiciary Committee next week, Donald Trump went on a tirade about how Mueller shouldn’t be allowed to testify. As Palmer Report has since explained, Trump couldn’t stop Mueller from testifying even if he tried. But if Trump is going down that road, suffice it to say that Barr has decided not to go with him – and to instead make it known that he disagrees with Trump.

Palmer Report, Opinion: House Democrats just tipped off how severely they’re going to destroy William Barr and Steve Mnuchin, Bill Palmer, May 6, 2019. Today, the House Judiciary Committee laid out the contempt of Congress case against Donald Trump’s Attorney General William Barr. The contempt process is a complex one and it’ll have to be voted on twice before Barr is officially held in contempt, but it’s now fully underway. In the meantime, a separate move on the part of House Democrats just tipped off how far they’re going to take things, and how ugly it’ll be for Trump’s people.

bill palmer report logo headerNumerous House Democrats just made a legal move to try to invalidate Donald Trump’s pardon of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio. What does this have to do with holding Trump’s current officials in contempt? Everything. The move isn’t aimed at putting the eighty-six year old Arpaio in prison for contempt of court. Instead it’s about establishing the legal precedent that Trump can’t pardon people for contempt.

There’s a solid legal case laid out about pardons and contempt in Roll Call. But here’s the part we’re more interested in: if House Democrats were merely planning to hold people like Barr and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin for contempt of Congress and then slap them on the wrist, with punishment such as a small monetary fine or a concerned scowl, there would obviously be no need for Trump to pardon them.

Harvard Law Today, Book Review: A Precarious State -- A new book warns that institutional corruption is corroding our nation, Lewis Rice, May 6, 2019. Think of an honest used car salesperson. The very idea might seem like an oxymoron. That’s not because no honest people ever sell cars. It’s because the profession as a whole is not considered trustworthy by the public.

What if that sense of mistrust were not limited to the used car lot but had spread to institutions the public relies on every day?

larry lessigIt has, according to Harvard Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig, left, and he sounds the alarm about the damage it is doing to the nation in his new book, “America, Compromised.”

Lessig has previously written on what he calls the “institutional corruption” of Congress, whereby members are most responsive to the needs of a small cadre of funders rather than their constituents. In this book, he contends that corruption also pervades finance, the media, the academy and the law.

“Those institutions fail to the extent that people have a deep mistrust of [them],” Lessig said in an interview. “This dimension of public trust is an essential part of what I set out as the problem of institutional corruption.”

The book came out of Lessig’s experience directing Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, where he launched a related project, and is based on a lecture series he gave about the results. As he makes clear, his labeling an institution as corrupt does not mean that he believes the people within it are evil. In fact, he argues that the problem of evil people doing bad deeds is dwarfed by the problem of good people who are compromised, typically by a financial influence that skews the intended purpose of the institution.

That could mean prosecutors who make deals with corporations rather than prosecuting them in order to be considered for a much higher-paying job in the future with a white-collar defense firm; academic researchers who publish more favorable results when funded by an industry that would benefit from that conclusion; journalists whose coverage is driven by what would be most profitable rather than what would inform the citizenry; or financial rating agencies that offer favorable ratings instead of objective analyses in order to secure business.

These kinds of compromises weaken the effectiveness of the institutions and contribute to a national decline, Lessig contends. He offers potential remedies to the problem, ranging from increased regulation of finance to establishing a general pooled fund for academic researchers so they would not know who was funding their work.

Lessig has long called for public financing of political campaigns, and he explored a presidential run in the last election to make that his central plank (he dropped out when the Democratic National Committee wouldn’t allow him to participate in the candidates’ debate). He hasn’t decided whether he will pursue a run in 2020 but doesn’t see any other candidate who would prioritize campaign finance reform.

May 5

Trump Watch / Legal News

washington post logorepublican elephant logoWashington Post, ‘Investigate the investigators’ is new Trump rallying cry to counter Mueller report, Toluse Olorunnipa, May 5, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump and his allies are seeking to amplify claims that the FBI spied on his 2016 campaign. Dismissed by critics as an outlandish conspiracy theory, so-called “spygate” is becoming a central feature of his campaign.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just guaranteed his own impeachment, Bill Palmer, May 5, 2019. Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats have been taking all the necessary first steps in the impeachment of Donald Trump, including cracking down on non-cooperative witnesses who are trying to protect Trump, and scheduling witnesses who are willing to go in front of the cameras and help take Trump down. But because this process will take perhaps a month anyway, there has been no need to call it impeachment yet – and thus no guarantee that House Democrats will actually commit to it when the time comes. That just changed this evening.

bill palmer report logo headerDonald Trump posted a tweet that’s getting a lot of attention because he claimed in illiterate fashion that the first two years have been “stollen” from him by the Mueller probe. Even as everyone makes fun of him, no one should overlook his separate retweet tonight which called for him to have two extra years tacked onto the end of his term. They weren’t Trump’s words, but he adopted them by retweeting them.

Make no mistake, this is the moment that will be looked back upon as the inflection point in Donald Trump’s downfall. He just called for his own presidency to be illegally extended. In so doing, he’s declared himself Emperor of the United States. Just yesterday, Nancy Pelosi predicted that Trump won’t leave peacefully when his term is up – but the average person out there wasn’t going to believe Trump would do something so cartoonishly treacherous unless Trump confessed to it. Now Trump just confessed to it. If and when he loses the 2020 election, he’s telling us that he’ll demand to stay in office two more years.

This retweet alone forces the impeachment issue. It will happen. We don’t know if Trump is strategically forcing impeachment as a way of coming out swinging against Robert Mueller’s upcoming testimony, or if Trump has just snapped and no longer cares what impact his treasonous words might have on him. But impeachment just went from being probable to inevitable. Welcome to the show.

Trump Revolving Door

washington post logoWashington Post, John F. Kelly joins board of contractor running shelters for migrants, Salvador Rizzo, May 5, 2019 (print ed.). Former White House chief of staff John F. Kelly john kelly o dhshas joined the board of Caliburn International, the parent organization of the company that runs the largest facility housing migrant children in the United States. Kelly, shown at right as Homeland Security secreaory, was President Trump’s chief of staff from mid-2017 through 2018, when the administration’s zero-tolerance policy was implemented at the U.S.-Mexico border. That led to thousands of Central American migrant children being separated from their parents and housed in facilities run by government contractors.

A Caliburn subsidiary, Comprehensive Health Services, runs a “temporary influx care facility” for migrant children in Homestead, Fla., under contract with the federal government. It is the only for-profit company operating such shelters. CBS first reported Kelly’s appointment to the Caliburn board.

U.S. Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s strong debut puts pressure on others vying to challenge Trump, Sean Sullivan and Matt Viser, May 5, 2019 (print ed.). The former vice president has joe biden obenefited from the dynamic of the 2020 primary season: Democrats have put forth a diverse slate of candidates, generating excitement across the party. But no standout has emerged with staying power, creating the vacuum into which Joe Biden has slipped.

U.S.-China Trade Talks

ny times logoNew York Times, Unspoken in Final Trade Talks: China’s Internment of Muslims, Alan Rappeport and Edward Wong, May 5, 2019 (print ed.). The U.S. and China are racing to clinch a deal that could drastically reshape relations between the world’s two largest economies. But the Trump administration has avoided the topic of Chinese detention of as many as one million ethnic Uighurs and other minority Muslims.

china flag SmallChina has faced growing condemnation from human rights groups in recent months for its detention of up to one million ethnic Uighurs and other minority Muslims in large internment camps in the country’s northwest region of Xinjiang.

Global News: Venezuela, Spain, Gaza, Brazil

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Want to build a far-right movement? Spain’s Vox party shows how, Anne Applebaum, May 5, 2019 (print ed.). Once on the fringes, Vox blazed across the Internet, dividing its own country while connecting with the far right in many others. Now it’s in parliament. Last Sunday, the party’s support among the electorate spain flag waving resizedwent from zero to 10 percent, which earned it 24 members in parliament. Its loud presence in the election campaign helped boost election turnout to the highest level in years, as Spaniards were eager either to support Vox — or to vote against it.

How did it happen? And what does it have to do with President Trump? The speed of Vox’s rise is, in many ways, a uniquely Spanish story, one of nationalist reaction to a regional separatist crisis, the growth of polarization and the fragmentation of what used to be a two-party system. The economic crash of 2009 undermined faith in the mainstream parties and led to a strong, far-left backlash. Vox is the counter-backlash.

washington post logoisrael flagWashington Post, Death toll rises as Gaza militants fire more than 450 rockets and Israel responds with airstrikes, Ruth Eglash, Loveday Morris and Hazem Balousha, May 5, 2019. The flare-up, the most severe in months, looked set to threaten Egyptian and international attempts to forge a long-term truce arrangement between Israel and Hamas.

venezuela flag waving custom

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Need more soldiers’: After failed uprising, Venezuela’s Guaidó says opposition overestimated military support, Anthony Faiola, May 5, 2019 (print ed.). In an interview with the Washington Post, opposition leader Juan Guaidó left open the option of considering possible U.S. military intervention alongside Venezuelan forces.

washington post logoWashington Post, After outrage ensues, Brazil’s far-right president cancels New York trip, Siobhán O'Grady, May 5, 2019 (print ed.). Jair Bolsonaro was to receive the person of brazil flag wavingthe year award from the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce. But after local politicians put up a fuss and key sponsors dropped out, he opted to stay home.

Press Freedom / Repression: Myanmar

kyaw soe ooo left wa lone jorge silva reuters photo

washington post logoWashington Post, Security-tech companies once flocked to Myanmar. One firm’s tools were used against two journalists, Timothy McLaughlin, May 5, 2019 (print ed.). Myanmar police had two Reuters journalists behind bars, but they wanted more. The reporters, Wa Lone (above right) and  Soe Oo (above at left), were lured into a meeting with police in myanmar mapDecember 2017 and arrested on claims of violating state secrecy laws as they reported on atrocities against the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority.

The journalists’ detention was quickly condemned by media-freedom groups and rights activists around the world. Myanmar authorities, meanwhile, were not swayed by international pressure. As a next step, they wanted to comb the reporters’ cellphones, according to court documents and an attorney for the journalists.

Authorities turned to a cellphone-breaching technology from an Israeli company, Cellebrite, according to the documents and a defense lawyer’s account.

Cellebrite — which has since left the Myanmar market — was one of numerous technology companies that rushed into Myanmar as the country opened to greater foreign investment in recent years.

More U.S. Politics

rachel held evans twitter

ny times logoNew York Times, Rachel Held Evans, Voice of the Wandering Evangelical, Dies at 37, Elizabeth Dias and Sam Roberts, May 5, 2019 (print ed.). Ms. Evans’s spiritual journey and writing fostered a community of believers who challenged conservative Christian groups they felt were exclusionary.

An Episcopalian, Ms. Evans (shown on her Twitter photo) left the evangelical church in 2014, she said, because she was done trying to end the church’s culture wars and wanted to focus instead on building a new community among the church’s “refugees”: women who wanted to become ministers, gay Christians and “those who refuse to choose between their intellectual integrity and their faith.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: What Nancy Pelosi just did is genius, Bill Palmer, May 5, 2019. Even as House Democrats are preparing to definitely hold William Barr in contempt tomorrow, and possibly Steve Mnuchin as well, while also scheduling public testimony from Robert Mueller, large chunks of the media are busy pushing the “Democrats aren’t going to do anything” false narrative – because those kinds of scare tactics are great for ratings. Now Nancy Pelosi has turned that narrative on its head.

bill palmer report logo headerNancy Pelosi just told the New York Times that she’s worried that if Donald Trump loses in 2020 by a small margin, he’ll try to declare himself the winner and remain in office for another term anyway. Nothing magically works that way, as the courts would affirm that Trump lost, and in that moment he’d no longer be president, meaning government agents would instantly go from protecting him to dragging him out of the White House on his ass. So why is Pelosi saying something like this?

djt smiling fileIn reality, Donald Trump could try to cause trouble on his way out the door after a loss, but the bottom line is that it would really be a matter of how much trouble he wanted to cause for himself. As things now stand, as soon as Trump is out of office, SDNY and the New York Attorney General will be fighting over who gets to arrest Trump first. If he refuses to leave after he loses, it’ll merely result in his arrest coming even sooner.

But Pelosi smartly understands because Trump could try to cause trouble after losing, the best way to prevent that from happening is to make sure that he loses big. In turn, the best way to make sure he loses big is to motivate everyone to go vote against him in the largest numbers possible.

In other words, her message to you is that if you think he’s going to lose by five points, you should spend the next year and a half helping to register voters so he’ll lose by ten points instead. That way, even if the Russians try to cheat again, or if some idiot sends a misleading last minute letter again, the Democratic candidate’s margin of victory will be large enough to absorb that.

Media News: Sinclair Grows

ap logoAssociated Press via Washington Post, Sinclair to buy regional Fox Sports networks for $9.6B, Staff report, May 5, 2019 (print ed.). Media company Sinclair Broadcasting Group is buying Fox’s regional sports networks for $9.6 billion. The Walt Disney Co. agreed to sell the networks to get regulatory approval for its $71 billion acquisition of Fox’s sinclair broadcast logo customentertainment assets, which was completed in March.

The 21 networks include exclusive local rights to 42 professional teams, including 14 Major League Baseball teams, 16 National Basketball Association teams and 12 National Hockey League teams. Hunt Valley, Maryland-based Sinclair is also buying Fox College Sports. The New York Yankees’ YES Network is being sold separately by Disney.

May 4

U.S. Justice & Constitutional Crisis william barr image by donkehotey dmca

Attorney General William P. Barr (Image by Donkehotey via dmca)

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump finds in Barr the attorney general — and shield — he long sought, Matt Zapotosky, Josh Dawsey, Tom Hamburger and Ashley Parker, May 4, 2019 (print ed.). For a time, President Trump was reluctant to select William P. Barr as his attorney general. The veteran Justice Department official from the George H.W. Bush administration was not a longtime Trump loyalist, and the president wondered whether one of his own political allies might serve better as a shield, people familiar with the matter said.

But Trump was ultimately persuaded — in part because his lawyers and advisers told him Barr was a strong supporter of presidential power and unafraid of taking on critics. This week, the president has been thrilled with his choice, particularly after Barr sparred so vigorously with Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that some were left wondering whether he viewed himself as the president’s defense attorney, according to people familiar with the matter, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

In Barr’s first three months in the job, his actions have served to protect Trump, though his motive is up for debate. Barr’s defenders note that the attorney general has long advocated strengthening the power of the executive branch, and the attorney general has told other lawyers that he is more interested in protecting the presidency than the man in the job.

jerrold nadler o SmallBut critics say that Barr has emerged as the partisan champion Trump always wanted — one willing to defend the president’s most questionable conduct, put a Trumpian spin on the results of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation and mislead Congress along the way.

“He has failed the men and women of the Department of Justice by placing the needs of the president over the fair administration of justice,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y., right) said at a congressional hearing Thursday that Barr skipped after a dispute over the terms of his appearance.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The facts make clear that Donald Trump has never been weaker or closer to ouster, Bill Palmer, May 4, 2019. Despite all the pundit buzz lately about how Donald Trump somehow now has the upper hand when it comes to 2020, the facts show the opposite. Of all the crazy, deranged, and illegal things that Trump has done over the past two years to try to boost his approval rating, and thus his 2020 prospects, literally zero of them have worked – as evidenced by the fact that his approval rating still sucks.

bill palmer report logo headerThere’s also plenty of buzz about how the events of this past week somehow mean that Donald Trump is now “winning” and “unstoppable.” Really? On what planet is this alternate reality playing out? Here are the facts: Trump’s most effective henchman, William Barr, was taken off the table this week. Barr took his big swing, missed, struck out, and now he’ll be spending the rest of his tenure playing defense in the name of trying to save himself – which means he can’t focus on saving Trump.

Then we have the buzz about how House Democrats “can’t do anything” or “aren’t willing to do anything” to stop Donald Trump. But again, those pesky facts. The Democrats are holding Barr in contempt of Congress on Monday morning, and it looks like they’re doing the same to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. House Democratic leaders have laid out the various ways in which they’re going to destroy Trump’s obstructors, ranging from massive fines to arrest. Oh, and they’re also lining up Robert Mueller to publicly testify about Trump’s crimes – which is the first step in Trump’s impeachment, whether they’re using that word yet or not.

We don’t know precisely how any of this will play out going forward. But in terms of Donald Trump and his henchmen being weakened, and the door opening for House Democrats to crush them, and the clearly stated willingness of House Democrats to indeed crush them, this has been one of the best weeks the Resistance has had in a long time. These are just the facts – no matter how many pundits try to spin this past week as the end of times.

Inside DC

washington post logorepublican elephant logoWashington Post, Republicans with price tag concerns threaten Trump’s infrastructure plan, Seung Min Kim, Josh Dawsey and Mike DeBonis, May 4, 2019. A $2 trillion infrastructure deal outlined this week by President Trump and top Democrats is already losing momentum, as the president’s own chief of staff is telling people inside and outside the administration that the effort is too expensive and unlikely to succeed.

mick mulvaney omb SmallThe tentative accord to repair the nation’s roads, revitalize mass transit and expand broadband systems was reached at a private White House meeting Tuesday between Trump and Democratic leaders in Congress, who said they were pleasantly surprised by the president’s willingness to back a large-scale spending effort.

But the initiative has run into immediate opposition from Republicans who balk at the hefty price tag and from conservative allies who are pushing lawmakers to block it. Those opposed to the deal include Trump’s top aide, Mick Mulvaney, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who is not in favor of the
spending, according to people who have spoken to him.

U.S. Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Sees Trump, Not G.O.P., as the Problem. Democrats Disagree, Shane Goldmacher, May 4, 2019. Joseph R. Biden Jr. is defending his friendliness joe biden otoward Republicans in Washington, saying President Trump doesn’t represent them. His focus on the president as the source of the nation’s ills has exposed a rift with Democrats who see a nation cleaved by partisanship.

As Joseph R. Biden Jr. made his way across Iowa on his first trip as a 2020 presidential candidate, the former vice president repeatedly returned to one term — aberration — when he referred to the Trump presidency.

“Limit it to four years,” Mr. Biden pleaded with a ballroom crowd of 600 in the eastern Iowa city of Dubuque. “History will treat this administration’s time as an aberration.”

“This is not the Republican Party,” he added, citing his relationships with “my Republican friends in the House and Senate.”

There is no disagreement among Democrats about the urgency of defeating Mr. Trump. But Mr. Biden’s singular focus on the president as the source of the nation’s ills, while extending an olive branch to Republicans, has exposed a significant fault line in the Democratic primary.

U.S. Policy: Korea, War

otto warmbier press conference

washington post logoWashington Post, Mother of Otto Warmbier calls U.S. diplomacy with North Korea a ‘charade,’ David Nakamura, May 4, 2019 (print ed.)  The mother of Otto Warmbier (an American shown in North Korean detention before his death) on Friday criticized the Trump administration’s diplomatic outreach to North Korea as a “charade” and blasted dictator Kim Jong Un’s regime as “absolute evil” in the family’s first public comments on the stalled negotiations.

During remarks in Washington, Cindy Warmbier, whose son died in 2017 just days after he was released, in a coma, from 17 months in captivity in North Korea, also compared Kim to Adolf Hitler, saying that the only difference is that Kim brutalizes “all of his people.”

“There’s a charade going on right now. It’s called diplomacy,” Warmbier said during a Hudson Institute seminar. Of Kim, she added: “How can you have diplomacy with someone who never tells the truth? I’m all for it, but I’m very skeptical. He lies, he lies, he lies — all for himself and his regime.”

Her remarks came at a sensitive moment, as there has been little communication between Washington and Pyongyang since the collapse of a leaders’ nuclear summit in Hanoi in late February, where President Trump and Kim walked away after failing to reach an agreement on denuclearization.

Global Research via SouthFront, Opinion: The Spontaneous “Military Coup” in Caracas was Meant to Fail? Michel Chossudovsky, May 4, 2019. Comparison with the Failed June 29, 1973 Coup which preceded the September 11, 1973 military coup against Salvador Allende.

mike pompeo cheated graphic

Strategic Culture Foundation via Southfront, Opinion: “Pompeo Lies, Cheats and Steals (But He’s Still a Good Christian), Philip M. Giraldi (author, conservative pundit and former CIA officer, shown at right), May 4, 2019. Secretary of State Mike philip giraldiPompeo recently recounted to an audience at Texas A&M University that when he was head of the Central Intelligence Agency he was responsible for “lying, cheating and stealing” to benefit the United States. “Like we had entire training courses. It reminds you of the glory of the American experiment.”

The Secretary made the comment with a grin, noting that when he was a cadet at West Point he subscribed to the Academy honor code, which stated that “You will not lie, cheat, or steal or tolerate those who do.” The largely student audience clearly appreciated and irony and laughed and applauded, though it is not clear what they made of the “glory of the American experiment.” The normally humorless Pompeo was suggesting ironically that yesterday’s Pompeo would be required to turn today’s Pompeo into the appropriate authorities for lying and also conniving at high crimes and misdemeanors while at the Agency.

venezuela flag waving customAnd Pompeo is not alone in his doing what would have hitherto been unthinkable as many senior figures in the Trump Administration who have sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution now find themselves conniving at starting various wars without the constitutionally required declaration of war from Congress. Pompeo has personally assured both the Venezuelans and Iranians that “all options are on the table,” while also arming the Ukrainians and warning the Russians to get out of Caracas or else face the consequences. And it is a good thing that he has now learned how to lie as he does so when he keeps insisting that the Iranians are the leading state sponsors of terrorism or that the Saudis are fighting a just war in Yemen.

juan guaido leopoldo lopezAnd then there is the ethical dimension. The United States government is already involved in economic acts of war through use of its sanctions worldwide. It is currently dedicated to starving the Iranian and Venezuelan people to force them to change their governments. U.S.-proclaimed Venezuelan President Juan Guaido is shown at left this week with his fellow rebel Leopoldo Lopez.

This week, a global boycott of Iranian oil sales to be enforced unilaterally by Washington kicks in with the objective, per Pompeo, of reducing “Iran’s oil exports to zero” to deny its government its “principal source of revenue.”

The problem with the Pompeo objective is that attacking a foreign government normally rallies the people around their leadership. Also, denying a country income ultimately hurts ordinary people much more than it does those who make the decisions. One recalls the famous Madeleine Albright line about killing 500,000 Iraqi children through malnutrition and disease brought about by sanctions as “being worth it.”

mike pence leftPompeo believes himself to be a good Christian. Indeed, a very good Christian in that he believes that the second coming of Jesus Christ is imminent and by virtue of his good deeds he will be saved and “raptured” directly to heaven.

He, like Vice President Mike Pence, (shown at left) is referred to as a Dispensationalist, and he also believes that those who are not “born again” and accept Jesus will be doomed to hell. Most Dispensationalists think that the second coming will be preceded by a world war centered in the Middle East referred to as Armageddon, which will pit good against evil. How that shapes Pompeo’s thinking vis-à-vis encouraging a major armed conflict with Iran is certainly something that war-weary Americans should be considering.

One of the really interesting things about fanatics like Pompeo and his dos amigos Vice President Mike Pence and National Security Advisor John Bolton (below at right) is how they are unable to figure out what comes next after the “lying, cheating, stealing” and shooting are over. After American air and naval power destroy Iran, what comes next? If Iraq and Afghanistan are anything to go by, “next” will be kind of figured out as one goes along. And as for an end game, fuggedaboutit.

john bolton youtube guardianNow let us suppose that with the crushing of the Mullahs all the requirements for Armageddon will be met and Jesus Christ makes his second appearance, what happens after that when the world as we know it ends?

The point of all this is that we Americans are in the hands of a group of people who are adept at self- deception and who are also quite capable of doing some very dangerous things in light of their religious and personal views. It is one thing to have a strong foreign policy defending actual American interests but it is quite another to have a propensity to go to war to satisfy a personal predilection about how one goes about enabling a biblical prophecy. Equally, having a moral compass that is flexible depending who is on the receiving end is like having no real morals at all.

We have reached a point here in the United States where bad decisions and behavior best described as evil are masked by a certain kind of expressed piety and visions of national greatness. It is time to get rid of the Pompeos and Pences to end the charade and restore genuine morality unencumbered by the book of Revelations together with a national dignity that is not linked to threats or projection of military power

ny times logoNew York Times, Inside Gang Territory In Honduras: ‘Either They Kill Us or We Kill Them,’ Azam Ahmed, Photographs by Tyler Hicks, May 4, 2019. In one of the deadliest cities in the world, an embattled group of young men had little but their tiny patch of turf — and they would die to protect it. Journalists from The New York Times spent weeks recording their struggle. From 2018 through early 2019, The New York Times followed the young men of Casa Blanca in this tiny corner of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, one of the deadliest cities in the world, as they tried to keep the gangs at bay.

Shootouts, armed raids and last-minute pleas to stop the bloodshed formed the central threads of their stories. MS-13 wanted the neighborhood to sell drugs. The other gangs wanted it to extort and steal. But the members of Casa Blanca had promised never to let their neighborhood fall prey to that again. And they would die for it, if they had to.

May 3

U.S. Justice & Constitutional Crisis

washington post logorichard nixon headshot CustomWashington Post, Barr’s no-show triggers contempt threats, Nixon comparison and more impeachment talk, Rachael Bade, Mike DeBonis and John Wagner, May 3, 2019 (print ed.). Attorney General William P. Barr’s snub of House Democrats on Thursday has triggered an all-out war between the White House and Congress, pushing the House closer to holding the nation’s top law enforcement official in contempt of Congress and prompting Speaker Nancy Pelosi, right, to liken President Trump to President Richard M. Nixon.

The almost daily confrontations between the two branches of government increase the pressure on Pelosi (D-Calif.) to initiate impeachment proceedings against Trump, a politically fraught move that she has resisted in the absence of strong public sentiment and bipartisan support. Many Democrats argue that the 2020 election is the best means to oust the president.

democratic donkey logoBut Democrats are infuriated with Barr, who refused to testify Thursday at the House Judiciary Committee’s scheduled hearing on his handling of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report, and Trump’s defiance in the face of multiple congressional requests for documents and witnesses. Democrats cast the administration’s unwillingness to cooperate as a threat to democracy with far-reaching implications.

nancy pelosi twitter“Ignoring subpoenas of Congress, not honoring subpoenas of Congress — that was Article III of the Nixon impeachment,” Pelosi (right) said of Trump in a private meeting with colleagues, according to notes taken by an individual present for the remarks. “This person has not only ignored subpoenas, he has said he’s not going to honor any subpoenas. What more do we want?”

Pelosi escalated her rhetoric this week as more Democrats press for tough steps to counter the president.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House complained to Barr about Mueller report after its release, Rosalind S. Helderman and Josh Dawsey, May 3, 2019. The letter from White House lawyer Emmet Flood emerged publicly a day after the attorney general criticized special counsel Robert S. Mueller III at a Senate hearing.

washington post logoWashington Post, Watergate had the Nixon tapes. Mueller had Annie Donaldson’s notes, Carol D. Leonnig​, May 3, 2019. Daily notes jotted down by the chief of staff to the White House counsel provided a trove of evidence cited by the special counsel.

Banking Whistleblower

 

Law & Crime Network, Brian Ross Investigates — The $100 Million Dollar Whistleblower: Bradley Birkenfeld, Brian Ross, May 3, 2019 (22:51 mins.). "Are you trying to say there are not crooked judges and lawyers???"

Concocting A Coup

ny times logoNew York Times, What Makes a Coup Succeed? Confidence, Consensus and a Sense of Inevitability, Max Fisher, May 3, 2019 (print ed.). This week in Venezuela, the opposition leader Juan Guaidó struggled to create that sense of inevitability for his plan to oust the president, Nicolás Maduro, but the military backing he called for never emerged.

His failure, alongside the success of recent movements to oust unpopular leaders in Algeria and Sudan, underscores the dynamics that typically make a coup succeed or fail. A historic lull in coups and revolutions appears to be ending, making these dynamics increasingly consequential well beyond Venezuela.

We tend to think of coups as driven by angry protesters or rogue officers. But, in practice, they are almost always brought about by the country’s dominant political, military and business elite.

Those power brokers, after all, have the final say over whether a leader stays or goes. But they can only remove a leader if they act together — making any coup what Naunihal Singh, a leading scholar of coups, called a “coordination game.”

U.S. Covert Action Projects

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Erik Prince Set Up Intel Training for Project, Staff report, May 3, 2019. Blackwater founder Erik Prince arranged for political activist James O’Keefe’s conservative group Project Veritas to receive more than one round of “training in intelligence and elicitation techniques.”

erik princeThe Intercept reports. In 2016, the self-styled “guerrilla journalist” group reportedly got lessons from a retired military intelligence operative. The training lasted several weeks and ended with the operative, Euripides Rubio Jr., reportedly quitting because the group “wasn’t capable of learning.”

In 2017, Prince next set Project Veritas up with a former British MI6 officer in hopes of turning the organization into “domestic spies,” according to report. At the time, O’Keefe posted social-media photos of the event at Prince’s Wyoming ranch, claiming he was training in “spying and self-defense” and planned to turn Project Veritas into “the next great intelligence agency.”

U.S. Politics

Palmer Report, Opinion: We told you Deutsche Bank is handing over Donald Trump’s tax returns, Bill Palmer, May 3, 2019. Earlier this week the New York Times revealed the shocking revelation – buried pretty far down in a lengthy and otherwise unremarkable article – that Deutsche Bank has multiple years of Donald Trump’s personal and business tax returns, and is turning them over to House Democrats.

bill palmer report logo headerPalmer Report made a point of highlighting this crucial information, and we pointed out that it explained why Trump had suddenly filed a belated lawsuit trying to stop Deutsche Bank’s cooperation with the House. Because so few others were talking about it, we faced the inevitable questions along the lines of “How can this be real if I’m not reading it anywhere else?” Nevermind, of course, that we had pointed right back to the New York Times paragraph we found it in. But now the story is finally getting wider coverage – and additional details are surfacing about it.

On Friday night, Rachel Maddow used her MSNBC show to highlight the fact that Deutsche Bank has Trump’s tax returns. She also added the new detail that Trump’s lawsuit is set to go before a judge on May 22nd. If the judge grant’s Trump’s request for an injunction, the bank’s cooperation with Congress will be held up while the legal process plays out in court. But if the judge denies Trump’s injunction, Deutsche Bank can immediately turn over Trump’s tax returns to House Democrats. Legal experts all seem to think that the judge will rule against Trump.

So we’re now less than three weeks away from House Democrats probably getting their hands on multiple years of Donald Trump’s tax returns, along with whatever ugly secrets they contain. In this case, we love saying that we told you so.

Ralph Nader Huffington PostNader.org, Opinion: Trump vs. Congress and Our Constitution, Ralph Nader (right), May 2, 2019. Donald Trump is the most impeachable president in American history. Many Democrats, however, are running away from the word “impeachment” for tactical political reasons. Some Democrats say they have a sworn duty under the Constitution to present articles of impeachment for a vote in the House of Representatives, regardless of the refusal by the Republican controlled Senate to hold a trial.

Interestingly, when Republicans in the House impeached President Bill Clinton in 1998, he was more popular in polls than Donald Trump is now. The Republican controlled Senate, however, failed to get the two-thirds vote needed to remove President Clinton from office. Clinton’s offenses – lying under oath and obstruction of justice pale in comparison to the many mega offenses of Trump.

The six major House Committees are investigating issues ranging from his tax returns and business dealings to the documented serial obstructions of justice documented in the Mueller Report. As these investigations move well beyond what is already on the public record and more Americans learn their contents, there will be more than enough to substantiate numerous articles of impeachment. Plus a new one of Trump’s own creation— the wholesale, broadside obstruction of all these Congressional investigations, defying subpoenas for sworn testimony and documents, amounting to a gigantic contempt of Congress – itself an impeachable offense.
Trump is trying to bar key witnesses from testifying. He is suing his own accounting firm and Deutsche Bank to shield his sordid business relationships and potential tax violations.

I’ll bet he’s never even read our Constitution – he says out loud that whatever Congress does on impeachment, the Supreme Court will rescue him. Donald, when it comes to Congressional impeachment and conviction, the decision by Congress is final.
The House Democrats can strengthen their case with the American people by connecting impeachable offenses with actions that endanger the lives, health, and economic well-being of adults and children.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: A court just dealt a blow to rigged elections. It probably won’t last, Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent, May 3, 2019. Opponents of gerrymandering — i.e., Democrats — just secured an important victory in a federal appeals court, when a three-judge panel ruled that Ohio’s congressional maps are an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.

“We are convinced by the evidence that this partisan gerrymander was intentional and effective and that no legitimate justification accounts for its extremity,” the judges wrote. “The 2012 map dilutes the votes of Democratic voters by packing and cracking them into districts that are so skewed toward one party that the electoral outcome is predetermined.”

“Packing and cracking" describes taking the other party’s voters and packing them into as few districts as possible, so they win overwhelming victories, or cracking them into minorities in districts where the party is then guaranteed to lose. These tactics are how map-drawers “waste” the opposition’s voters, rigging statewide balances of power.
But this decision will ultimately be appealed to the Supreme Court -- and with the other cases also being heard, there’s little reason to think this will be upheld.

joe biden closecrop hamilton 3 11 15

Joseph Biden, shown as U.S. vice president giving a speech at the National Press Club in a Justice Integrity Project photo.

Strategic Culture Foundation, Analysis: Joe Biden Is America’s ‘Der Alte,’ Wayne Madsen, May 3, 2019. Former Vice President Joe Biden, who has been a national political leader since 1972, decided, at the age of 76, to run for president of the United States. Biden’s videotaped announcement stressed that Donald Trump’s acquiescence of the August 2017 neo-Nazi and white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia was changing the very fabric of the United States. Biden took a commanding lead in the opinion polls, leading the over 20 other Democratic contenders. Biden also outraised his opponents in small donation fundraising during the first 24 hours of his official candidacy.

While the Democrats are fielding a several younger and more progressive candidates, including several women, Biden – who is actually a few years younger than his opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont – has adopted a center with a slight lurch to the left policy plank. Biden is taking the safe path to what he and many others believe will be a 2020 decisive victory over Trump.

german flagHistory would suggest that Biden has a decent chance of ensuring Trump is a one-term president. In times of political trauma, which usually follow wars, assassinations, and dictatorships, electorates have often turned to political or military figures from the past to ensure a return to stability.

After the U.S. Civil War, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and an unsuccessful congressional impeachment of Lincoln’s successor, Andrew Johnson, the U.S. electorate was ready for someone who represented what they considered to be firm but fair. In 1868, campaigning with the slogan, “Let us have peace,” the victorious general of the Civil War, Republican Ulysses S. Grant, was elected president in a landslide over Democratic former New York Governor Horatio Seymour.

konrad adenauer 1952Following Germany’s defeat in World War II, Konrad Adenauer, right, shown in 1952, an elder statesman of the interwar period’s center-right party, was elected as the first chancellor of the newly-constituted Federal Republic of Germany. As the first president of the Federal Republic, Free Democratic Party elder statesman, Theodor Heuss, was elected. Both Adenauer, who was 76 when sworn in and nicknamed “Der Alte” (the elder), and Heuss, who was 65 when elected, had troublesome baggage from the Nazi era. In 1949, with other looming problems for Germany, the electorate and the Allied occupation powers of the United States, Britain, and France felt that Adenauer’s and Heuss’s past decisions, which they later regretted, should not serve as an impediment to taking the reins of political control of West Germany.

There are, of course, lessons here for Biden, who has collected some of his own unfortunate baggage over the decades.

Joe Biden, for many Democrats, independents, and anti-Trump Republicans, is America’s “Der Alte.” Like Adenauer, Biden is 76, but his age is, in fact, an asset for the former vice president amid a field of younger candidates who lack the “gravitas” to take on the mercurial and bombastic Trump.

U.S. Economy

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. added 263,000 jobs in April, beating expectations as record hiring streak continues, Heather Long, May 3, 2019. The unemployment rate fell to 3.6 percent, the lowest since 1969. Hiring was strong across most sectors with especially large gains in business services (76,000 jobs added), construction (33,000 jobs added) and health care (27,000 jobs added). Economists were watching government employment closely since the U.S. Census is beginning to ramp up hiring ahead of the 2020 Census. The federal government added 12,500 jobs in April, which likely included some boost from the Census.

Syrian War

syria flagVoice of America, Military Escalation Continues in Northwest Syria, Sirwan Kajjo, May 3, 2019. Russia has increased its airstrike campaign on the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib in the past few days, which rights group warn could lead to a new humanitarian crisis in the war-torn country. More than 100 Russian airstrikes have targeted Idlib and parts of the neighboring province of Hama in recent days, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told VOA.

Media / #MeToo

ny times logowoody allen tribeca festival 2009 david shankboneNew York Times, Woody Allen Pitched a Memoir. Publishers Weren’t Interested, Alexandra Alter and Cara Buckley, May 3, 2019 (print ed.). Woody Allen has been largely shunned by Hollywood. Celebrities who once vied for roles in his films now say they regret working with him. Amazon has backed out of a multimovie distribution deal with him.

Now, Allen (shown at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival) appears to be losing stature in another quarter of the entertainment industry: publishing.

In the last year, Allen quietly tried to sell a memoir, according to executives at four major publishing houses, only to be met with indifference or hard passes. Before the #MeToo movement roared to life, Allen’s memoir would probably have set off a bidding war and commanded six or seven figures, given his cultural status. But with his career all but derailed by resurfaced allegations that he molested his daughter Dylan Farrow nearly three decades ago — allegations that Allen denies and that have left Americans unsure whom to believe — the prospect of publishing his memoir seems to hold little appeal.

Executives at multiple publishing houses said that an agent representing Allen approached their companies about the memoir late last year, but that they made no offers, largely because of the negative publicity that working with Allen may have generated.

Media News

Vice News, “We’re drinking now”: The oldest newspaper in New Orleans just fired its entire staff, David Uberti, May 3, 2019. One of the nation’s last local newspaper wars is officially over. Owners of the New Orleans Advocate announced Thursday that they had bought The Times-Picayune, ending a six-year battle for media turf in a cultural capital grappling with inequality and the long-term fallout from Hurricane Katrina.

In the end, the upstart Advocate, a Baton Rouge-based organization that launched its New Orleans edition in late 2012, overtook the 182-year-old Times-Picayune, which wilted in recent years under wayward ownership of the national chain Advance Publications. The purchase announced Thursday promised to create a unified daily newspaper and website — publishing under both organizations’ flags — held in local hands.
Advertisement

“This is a trophy,” John Georges, the New Orleans grocery wholesaler who now owns both publications, told VICE News. “We've been competing with the Times-Picayune for the past six years, and we were very successful. But despite that success, there is overlap.”

In an industry where companies are frantically consolidating to cut budgets and stay afloat, that’s code for job losses. “I bought the assets yesterday,” Georges added, as opposed to the newsroom.

World Press Freedom Day

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Why The Times Is Taking Down Its Paywall for 3 Days, Michael Slackman, May 3, 2019 (print ed.). As we mark World Press Freedom Day, our international editor asks each of us to imagine what would happen around the world if journalists, and the public, were not watching.

I am now The New York Times’s international editor, overseeing correspondents covering the world. When I was asked to write about World Press Freedom Day — a United Nations invention that once seemed like a nice acknowledgment and now feels more important than ever — my thoughts returned to [an] afternoon when the gunfire broke out.

After the shooting was over, grieving families pulled me into a morgue. They wanted a witness. Three bodies riddled with buckshot were laid out on cold metal tables, and one young man, very much alive, was leaning over his dead brother, gently caressing his face, kissing his cheeks, crying.

ny times logoThe government tried to do what governments always try to do: change the narrative. It said its forces had been fighting terrorists. But I was there. I saw the police shooting at peaceful protesters. And I worked for a news organization that had sent me there to report what I saw.

We are living at a moment in history when democratic values are under threat by authoritarian leaders. The internet, which holds such promise as a democratizing force, has been co-opted by people peddling divisive, hateful ideologies. Citizens around the world who want to speak out are under siege from their own governments.

Every day, journalists at The Times and other mission-driven, independent news organizations around the world work hard to hold the powerful to account. To celebrate their work and press freedom, The Times is taking down its paywall from May 3 to 5 so everyone who registers can browse as many articles as they like.

As you read today’s news, or some of the remarkable stories I mention here, consider: What if no one were watching?

#MeToo Allegations

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Mormon Church Accused of Shielding Itself From Sex-Abuse Claims With Victims Hotline: Report, Staff report, May 3, 2019. Court documents have revealed that calls from the Mormon Church’s 24-hour helpline, used by church officials to report suspected abuse, are being transferred to a law firm that defends the church in abuse-related lawsuits, VICE News reports. Helpline calls are first answered inside the Salt Lake City offices of a Mormon Church-sponsored agency known as LDS Family Services, where staffers are then instructed to transfer callers to the law firm Kirton McConkie.

The law firm is technically independent from the church, but has legally advised and defended them for decades. The Mormon Church is Kirton McConkie’s largest client. Directing abuse-related calls to church lawyers allows the church to classify them as “attorney-client” communications, protecting them from disclosure in lawsuits and other forums, according to legal experts. Mormon leaders have long insisted that the helpline’s sole purpose is to advise church officials about compliance with local abuse-reporting laws; but court documents reviewed by VICE News, suggests that in reality, the system serves to shield the church from potential lawsuits.

U.S. Foreign Policy: China

ChasFreeman.net, Opinion: On Hostile Coexistence with China, Chas Freeman (former U.S. ambassador), May 3, 2019. President Trump’s trade war with China has quickly metastasized into every other domain of Sino-American relations. Washington is now trying to dismantle China’s interdependence with the American economy, curb its role in global governance, counter its foreign investments, cripple its companies, block its technological advance, punish its many deviations from liberal ideology, contest its borders, map its defenses, and sustain the ability to penetrate those defenses at will.

The message of hostility to China these efforts send is consistent and apparently comprehensive. Most Chinese believe it reflects an integrated U.S. view or strategy. It does not.

There is no longer an orderly policy process in Washington to coordinate, moderate, or control policy formulation or implementation. Instead, a populist president has effectively declared open season on China. This permits everyone in his administration to go after China as they wish. Every internationally engaged department and agency – the U.S. Special Trade Representative, the Departments of State, Treasury, Justice, Commerce, Defense, and Homeland Security – is doing its own thing about China. The president has unleashed an undisciplined onslaught. Evidently, he calculates that this will increase pressure on China to capitulate to his protectionist and mercantilist demands. That would give him something to boast about as he seeks reelection in 2020.

Trump’s presidency has been built on lower middle-class fears of displacement by immigrants and outsourcing of jobs to foreigners. His campaign found a footing in the anger of ordinary Americans – especially religious Americans – at the apparent contempt for them and indifference to their welfare of the country’s managerial and political elites. For many, the trade imbalance with China and Chinese rip-offs of U.S. technology became the explanations of choice for increasingly unfair income distribution, declining equality of opportunity, the deindustrialization of the job market, and the erosion of optimism in the United States.

In their views of China, many Americans now appear subconsciously to have combined images of the insidious Dr. Fu Manchu, Japan’s unnerving 1980s challenge to U.S. industrial and financial primacy, and a sense of existential threat analogous to the Sinophobia that inspired the Anti-Coolie and Chinese Exclusion Acts.As Ambassador Chas Freeman lays out at length, Trump's (anti-)China policy has no strategy. It is one of chaos and will have echos in many other fields.

May 2

School Shooting Hero Praised

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘His sacrifice saved lives’: UNC-Charlotte shooting victim tackled the gunman, Jodie Valade, Susan Svrluga and Nick Anderson, May 2, 2019 (print ed.). Student Riley Howell was described as a hero in an incident that left him and student Ellis Parlier dead. Police said Wednesday that the 21-year-old student at the University of riley howellNorth Carolina’s campus here knocked the assailant off his feet at a pivotal moment in Tuesday’s shooting, saving the lives of others even as Howell himself received a mortal wound.

Kerr Putney, chief of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, described Howell as “the first and foremost hero” in an incident that left two dead and four injured but could have turned out far worse.

“But for his work, the assailant may not have been disarmed,” Putney said of Howell in a televised news conference. “Unfortunately, he gave his life in the process. But his sacrifice saved lives.”

Putney said Howell, of Waynesville, N.C., was probably the second UNC-Charlotte student to die in the shooting that occurred in the Kennedy Building shortly after a class began at 5:30 p.m. The other fatality, officials said, was Ellis “Reed” Parlier, 19, of Midland, N.C.

Media News: WaPo Caught In Fake News?

Moon of Alabama, Fact Checker Commentary: Venezuela - Coup Failure Necessitates A New Policy, b, May 2, 2019. U.S. media, especially cable TV, is clearly working in favor of venezuela flag waving custom'regime change' in Venezuela. They even avoid to call the intended coup a coup.

Many U.S. journalists who regularly write on South America are extremely biased and have no qualms to lie. Consider this by Anthony Faiola and Mariana Zuñiga in today's Washington Post: "A pro-government rally on Wednesday next to Miraflores, the presidential palace, drew about 500 people, far fewer than the multiple rallies of thousands of people supporting Guaidó."

Now watch this drone clip of the described rally:

One can also compare the WaPo take to the (similar biased) NYT account which at least gets some facts straight: "Across town in central Caracas, thousands of Mr. Maduro’s supporters dressed in red marched along the main highway toward the presidential palace. Most appeared to be retirees or public sector workers. Many were brought in from across the country by public buses that stretched for miles on the side of the highway....It was one of the biggest pro-government demonstrations in Caracas in months, underlining the government’s desire to portray strength and tenacity after the failed uprising."

washington post logoTo get a good picture of the situation in Venezuela and the upcoming new policies one has to combine many sources. Some media and reporters are simply much better than others. A few point how embarrassingly Tuesday's coup attempt and the crazy White House plans failed.

The Associated Press' Matt Lee and Ben Fox have a similar fair take: "For the third time this year, the big moment in Venezuela has turned into a bust. Trump administration officials had expected that Wednesday might turn out to be the beginning of the end for President Nicolas Maduro with senior government figures withdrawing support and the opposition launching a mass uprising with military backing."

The administration is somewhat split about which direction to take. The neoconservative hawks -- Bolton, Pompeo, Abrams and Rubio -- are looking for war, while their boss and the Pentagon are against launching one. Trump wants the votes of the millions of Cuba hawks in Florida, but he has no interest in launching a long war. The Pentagon knows that an invasion of Venezuela would lead to another decades long struggle.

U.S. Justice & Constitutional Crisis

Attorney General William P. Barr, shown from a CNN still from his Senate confirmation testimony on Jan. 15, 2019.

Attorney General William P. Barr, shown from a CNN still from his Senate confirmation testimony on Jan. 15, 2019.

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats Threaten Barr With Contempt After He Skips House Hearing, Nicholas Fandos, May 2, 2019. House Democrats, decrying what they called an erosion of American democracy, threatened on Thursday to hold Attorney General William P. Barr in contempt of Congress after he failed to appear at a hearing of the Judiciary Committee and ignored a subpoena deadline to hand over Robert S. Mueller III’s full report and evidence.

democratic donkey logoThey seized on a letter from Mr. Mueller to the attorney general in which he took Mr. Barr to task for the way he had characterized the special counsel’s conclusions on whether President Trump had obstructed justice. At two hearings, before the House and Senate, Mr. Barr indicated he had been unaware of such discontent.

“What is deadly serious about it is the attorney general of the United States of America was not telling the truth to the Congress of the United States,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters on Thursday, referring to a House hearing in which he said he was unaware that the special counsel had protested his portrayal of his conclusions. “That’s a crime.”

Kerri Kupec, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, fired back, “Speaker Pelosi’s baseless attack on the attorney general is reckless, irresponsible and false.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Nancy Pelosi drops the hammer on William Barr,  Bill Palmer, May 2, 2019. The House Judiciary Committee went ahead and held its Mueller report hearing nancy pelosi twittertoday without Attorney General William Barr, who was too afraid to show up after his appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday went disastrously for him. In the end, the point of today’s hearing was to establish that Barr is a criminal with something to hide. Now that it’s out of the way, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is making clear that Barr is toast.

bill palmer report logo headerCommittee Chairman Jerry Nadler has announced that he’s holding a vote to hold Barr in contempt of Congress. But that’s just the start. Nancy Pelosi said this to reporters today: “Not honoring subpoenas is obstruction of justice … He lied to congress which is a crime.” She then tweeted this: “Attorney General Barr’s decision to mislead the public in his testimony to Congress was not a technicality — it was a crime.”

Pelosi is rather clearly telegraphing what’s going to happen next. Most cable news pundits are incorrectly implying that there is nothing House Democrats can do to Barr under the law. Various online pundits are incorrectly insisting that House Democrats are unwilling to do anything to Barr. Back in the real world, the Democrats have a number of aggressive options available to them, including massive fines, impeachment, and – yes – having the Sergeant-at-Arms arrest him.

House Democrats have to go through specific steps while going down this path, in order justify their moves both in a legal sense and in the court of public opinion. But Pelosi’s words make clear that they’re taking that path against William Barr. Once the Democrats make their move, the pundits will shift from the current doomsday narrative about how nothing can be done to Barr, to a new doomsday narrative about how the Democrats are somehow helping Trump by taking down Barr. But that’s irrelevant. The public wants action, and justice demands action. It’s happening.

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr recasts McGahn’s account of Trump’s efforts to push out Mueller, Carol D. Leonnig, May 2, 2019 (print ed.). William P. Barr’s view of the episode with the former White House counsel provided the most revealing look yet at his rationale for determining there was not sufficient evidene to charge President Trump with trying to thwart the probe.

don mcgahn cato screengrabIt was one of the most dramatic cases of potential obstruction of justice laid out by federal investigators: President Trump directing the top White House lawyer (shown at right) to seek the removal of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III — and then later pushing him to deny the episode.

But Attorney General William P. Barr on Wednesday played down evidence that Trump sought to fire the head of the investigation bearing down on him, emphasizing in testimony before a Senate committee that the president may have had valid reasons for his actions.

It was a surprise recasting of the account of then-White House counsel Donald McGahn, who told investigators that Trump called him twice in June 2017 at home, pressuring him to intervene with the Justice Department to try to get Mueller removed. McGahn told federal investigators that he planned to resign rather than comply. And he said he later refused a demand by Trump that he write a letter denying news accounts of the episode.

• Washington Post, Barr spars with Democrats over ‘snitty’ Mueller letter, Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky, Karoun Demirjian and Rosalind S. Helderman

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: How Trump Co-opts Leaders Like Bill Barr, James Comey (former F.B.I. director, shown in an official photo), May 2, 2019 (print ed.). Accomplished people lacking inner strength can’t james comeyresist the compromises necessary to survive this president. Accomplished people lacking inner strength can’t resist the compromises necessary to survive this president.

How could Mr. Barr, a bright and accomplished lawyer, start channeling the president in using words like “no collusion” and F.B.I. “spying”? And downplaying acts of obstruction of justice as products of the president’s being “frustrated and angry,” something he would never say to justify the thousands of crimes prosecuted every day that are the product of frustration and anger?

How could he write and say things about the report by Robert Mueller, the special counsel, that were apparently so misleading that they prompted written protest?

robert mueller screenshot washington post

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Mueller’s silence enables Trump, allies to dominate the debate over the probe’s findings, Greg Miller, May 2, 2019 (print ed.). Before the Senate, William P. Barr seemed more like a defense lawyer than the top U.S. law enforcement official.

william barr new oBarr became the latest Trump ally to take advantage of that void, and of Mueller’s constrained conception of his role, by speaking to his description of the work of the special counsel and his interpretation of the Mueller report’s conclusions — all to the advantage of the president. Barr pursued that role so aggressively Wednesday that at times he came across as much a defense lawyer for the president as attorney general of the United States.

• Washington Post, Analysis: With ‘snitty’ slip-up, Barr undercuts his argument, Aaron Blake,

wayne madesen report logo

donald trump o smileWayne Madsen Report (WMR), Commentary: Fascism by lawsuit -- Trumplican "Justice," Wayne Madsen (syndicated columnist, author), May 2, 2019 (subscription required, excerpted by permission). Donald Trump has turned the White House and the “Trumplican Party,” formerly known as the Republican Party, into an extension of the Trump Organization’s litigation department.

Palmer Report, Opinion: It’s Mueller Time, Bill Palmer, May 2, 2019. In the days leading up to William Barr’s congressional testimony, Palmer Report pointed out that the only goal for the Democrats was to find a way to catch Barr in an ugly lie or get him to admit an ugly truth. Once it was established in public view that Barr handled the Mueller report dishonestly in an attempt at covering up Donald Trump’s crimes, it would set the stage for the real witnesses.

bill palmer report logo headerAs it turned out, when Robert Mueller’s letter surfaced accusing William Barr of lying about the Mueller report, it alone was enough to demonstrate that Barr had indeed led a coverup of Trump’s crimes. Barr’s subsequent idiocy during his televised Senate Judiciary Committee testimony was merely icing on the cake. By that time, the Democrats’ mission was accomplished.

 

william barr rod rosenstein ocallaghan cspan

The Atlantic, Opinion: The Catastrophic Performance of Bill Barr, The attorney general misled the public in seven key ways, Benjamin Wittes (editor-in-chief of Lawfare), right, May 2, ben wittes brookings2019. atlantic logoI was willing to give Bill Barr a chance. Consider me burned.

When Barr was nominated, I wrote a cautious piece for this magazine declining to give him “a character reference” and acknowledging “legitimate reasons to be concerned about [his] nomination,” but nonetheless concluding that “I suspect that he is likely as good as we’re going to get. And he might well be good enough. Because most of all, what the department needs right now is honest leadership that will insulate it from the predations of the president.”

Barr has now acted, and we can now evaluate his actual, rather than his hypothesized, performance. It has been catastrophic. Not in my memory has a sitting attorney general more diminished the credibility of his department on any subject. It is a kind of trope of political opposition in every administration that the attorney general — whoever he or she is — is politicizing the Justice Department and acting as a defense lawyer for the president. In this case it is true.

Barr has consistently sought to spin his department’s work in a highly political fashion, and he has done so to cast the president’s conduct in the most favorable possible light. Trump serially complained that Jeff Sessions didn’t act to “protect” him. Matthew Whitaker never had the stature or internal clout to do so effectively. In Barr, Trump has found his man.

Ironically, the redactions on the report — the matter on which I urged giving Barr the benefit of the doubt — are the one major area where his performance has been respectable. On this matter, he laid out a time frame for the release of the report. He met it. His redactions, as best as I can tell, were not unreasonable, though they were aggressive in some specific areas. To whatever extent he went overboard, Congress has a far-less-redacted version. The public, in any event, has access to a detailed account of Mueller’s conclusions. On this point, Barr did as he said he would.

Where Barr has utterly failed, by contrast, is in providing “honest leadership that insulates [the department] from the predations of the president.” I confess I am surprised by this. I have never known Barr well, but I thought better of him than that.

The core of the problem is not that Barr moved, as many people worried he would, to suppress the report; it is what he has said about it. I have spent a great deal of time with the Mueller report, about which Barr’s public statements are simply indefensible. The mischaracterizations began in his first letter. They got worse during his press conference the morning he released the document. And they grew worse still yesterday in his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Crime, Courts

washington post logojerry leeWashington Post, Former CIA officer Jerry Lee admits conspiracy to spy for China, Rachel Weiner and Shane Harris, May 2, 2019. A former CIA case officer long suspected in the intelligence community of being a devastating mole for the Chinese government admitted Wednesday he conspired to commit espionage in that country.

cia logoBut no evidence was produced that Jerry Chun Shing Lee, right, shared any information.

Lee, a 54-year-old Hong Kong native and U.S. Army veteran who served in the CIA for 13 years, faces up to life in prison.

But because the guilty plea he entered in federal court in Alexandria describes the information involved as “secret” rather than “top secret,” his recommended sentence will be significantly lower. He had been set to go to trial this week before Judge T.S. Ellis III.

ny times logoNew York Times, Top Executives of Opioid Company Found Guilty of Racketeering, Gabrielle Emanuel and Katie Thomas, May 2, 2019.  The defendants, from Insys Therapeutics, were accused of conspiring to bribe doctors to prescribe a fentanyl-based painkiller. The arguments presented were relevant to cases nationwide, as prosecutors work to hold major drug makers accountable for the opioid epidemic.

insys therapeutics logoA federal jury on Thursday found the top executives of Insys Therapeutics, a company that sold a fentanyl-based painkiller, guilty of racketeering charges in a rare criminal prosecution that blamed corporate officials for contributing to the nation’s opioid epidemic.

The jury, after deliberating for 15 days, issued guilty verdicts against the company’s founder, the onetime billionaire John Kapoor, and four former executives, finding they had conspired to fuel sales of its highly potent drug, Subsys, by not only bribing doctors to prescribe their product but also by misleading insurers about patients’ need for the drug.

The verdict against Insys executives is a sign of the accelerating effort to hold pharmaceutical and drug distribution companies and their executives and owners accountable in ways commensurate with the devastation wrought by the prescription opioid crisis. More than 200,000 people have overdosed on such drugs in the past two decades.

Federal authorities last month for the first time filed felony drug trafficking charges against a major pharmaceutical distributor, Rochester Drug Cooperative, and two former executives, accusing them of shipping tens of millions of oxycodone pills and fentanyl products to pharmacies that were distributing drugs illegally.

More Media News

alex jones radio logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook bans far-right leaders including Louis Farrakhan, Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos for being “dangerous,” Elizabeth Dwoskin, May 2, 2019. The bans are a sign that the social network is more aggressively enforcing its hate speech policies under pressure from civil rights groups.

facebook logoFacebook said on Thursday it has permanently banned several far-right figures and organizations including Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, Infowars host Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos, and Laura Loomer, for being “dangerous,” a sign that the social network is more aggressively enforcing its hate speech policies under pressure from civil rights groups.

Facebook had removed the accounts, fan pages, and groups affiliated with these individuals after it reevaluated the content that they had posted previously, or had reexamined their activities outside of Facebook, the company said. The removal also pertains to at least one of the organizations run by these people, Jones’ Infowars.

milo yiannopoulos breitbartJones, for example, recently hosted Gavin McInnes, the leader of the Proud Boys, which Facebook designated as a hate figure in December. Yiannopoulos, right, another alt-right social media star, publicly praised McInnes this year, and Loomer appeared with him at a rally. Jones has been temporarily banned before by Facebook as well as other social media platforms including Twitter.

But Facebook and its counterparts have largely resisted permanent bans, holding that objectionable speech is permissible, so long as it doesn’t bleed into hate. Facebook has also been wary of offending conservatives, who have become vocal about allegations that the company unfairly censors their speech.

The move is likely to be welcomed by civil rights activists, who have long argued that these individuals espouse violent and hateful views and that Silicon Valley companies should not allow their platforms to become a vehicle for spreading them.

Synogogue Suspect Was Evangelical

john earnest

washington post logoWashington Post, Alleged synagogue shooter espoused Christian theology, raising tough questions for evangelical pastors, Julie Zauzmer, May 2, 2019. Some Christian leaders say the suspect’s background in the church has nothing to do with his alleged crime, and the church shouldn’t have to answer for him. But others called for a moment of reckoning.

Before he allegedly walked into a synagogue in Poway, Calif., and opened fire, John Earnest (shown above in custody) appears to have written a seven-page letter spelling out his core beliefs: that Jewish people, guilty in his view of faults ranging from killing Jesus to controlling the media, deserved to die. That his intention to kill Jews would glorify God.

Days later, the Rev. Mika Edmondson read those words and was stunned. “It certainly calls for a good amount of soul-searching,” said Edmondson, a pastor in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, a small evangelical denomination founded to counter liberalism in mainline Presbyterianism. Earnest, 19, was a member of an OPC congregation. His father was an elder. He attended regularly. And in the manifesto, the writer spewed not only invective against Jews and racial minorities but also cogent Christian theology he heard in the pews.

djt maga hatSo the pastor read those seven pages, trying to understand. “We can’t pretend as though we didn’t have some responsibility for him — he was radicalized into white nationalism from within the very midst of our church,” Edmondson said.

Earnest’s actions on Saturday in Poway — where he allegedly killed one Jewish worshiper and injured a rabbi, a child and another synagogue-goer — have spurred debate among evangelical pastors about the role of a certain stream of Christian theology in shaping the young man’s worldview, which allegedly turned deadly on the last day of the Passover holiday.

Inside DC

washington post logostephen moore twitterWashington Post, Stephen Moore abandons bid for Federal Reserve seat, Trump says, Felicia Sonmez​, May 2, 2019. Moore, right, had faced Republican opposition in the Senate as he faced criticism over writings from the 2000s, in which he made derogatory statements about women.

yemen war death graphic cnn

A CNN file graphic links estimated civilian casualties for a recent period to U.S. companies making money by helping the Saudi-led coalition fight to install its preferred government over neighboring Yemen.

washington post logoyemen msnbc war death graphic summer 2018Washington Post, Senate fails to override Trump’s veto of resolution demanding end to U.S. involvement in Yemen, Karoun Demirjian​, May 2, 2019. The measure represented a bipartisan rebuke of the president’s continued embrace of Saudi Arabia, which leads the coalition targeting Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen.

The Senate on Thursday fell short of the votes needed to override President Trump’s veto of legislation demanding an end U.S. support for the Saudi-led mohammad bin salman cropped file smallmilitary coalition operating in Yemen, a country plagued by more than four years of a devastating civil war.

The measure, sponsored by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), passed both the Senate and the House earlier this year, with the support of all Democrats, seven Republican senators, and 18 House Republicans. It sought to use Congress’ war powers to curtail U.S. logistical and intelligence support for the coalition, which backs Yemen’s exiled government and its fight against the Houthi rebels, who are backed by Iran.

The measure gained support among lawmakers after the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi last fall, which American intelligence officials believe was ordered by the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, shown at left.

But Trump — who has been criticized for his continued embrace of Saudi leaders in the wake of Khashoggi’s death — used the second veto of his presidency to block it.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Reports of sexual assaults in the military spiked nearly 38 percent last year, Pentagon says, Frances Stead Sellers and Dan Lamothe​, May 2, 2019. The statistics show about 20,500 instances of “unwanted sexual contact,” a category that includes rape, forcible sodomy, groping and other offenses.

U.S. Political Corruption

washington post logocatherine pugh screenshotWashington Post, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh resigns amid book scandal, health problems, Paul Schwartzman and Peter Hermann​, May 2, 2019. Pugh, a Democrat (shown in a file photo), reportedly was paid nearly $800,000 by entities connected to the city and state government for her self-published “Healthy Holly” book series. She is Baltimore’s second mayor to quit in a decade.

U.S. Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Hillary Clinton mocks president: ‘China, if you’re listening, why don’t you get Trump’s tax returns?’ John Wagner, May 2, 2019.  At a news conference in July hillary clinton twitter2016, then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump famously called for Russia’s assistance in finding Hillary Clinton’s missing emails.

On Wednesday night, Clinton turned the tables, suggesting a plea that one of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates could make: “China, if you’re listening, why don’t you get Trump’s tax returns?”

“I’m sure our media would richly reward you,” Clinton added during an appearance on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show.”

Clinton offered the hypothetical as part of an argument that Republicans are letting Russia get away with having aided Trump in the 2016 election.

ny times logopaul krugmanNew York Times, Opinion: The Trouble With Joe and Bernie, Paul Krugman (right), May 2, 2019. Neither man seems ready for harsh political reality. It’s still very early, but Joe Biden ) has emerged as the clear front-runner for the Democratic nomination. Bernie Sanders is in second place, although he appears to be fairly far behind, and one poll shows him in a statistical tie with Elizabeth Warren. So what should we think about the men currently leading the field?

Well, I have concerns. Not about electability, a topic about which nobody knows anything. Never mind what today’s general election polls say: What will polling look like after the inevitable Republican smear campaign? The answer to this question depends, in turn, on whether news organizations will cooperate with those smears as gleefully as they did in 2016.

No, my concerns are about what will happen if either man wins. Are they ready for the political trench warfare that would inevitably follow a Democratic victory?

joe biden oThe trouble with both Biden (right) and Sanders is that each, in his own way, seems to believe that he has unique powers of persuasion that will let him defy the harsh reality of today’s tribal politics. And this lack of realism could set either of them up for failure.

Start with Biden, a convivial guy who has maintained good personal relations with Republicans. All indications are that he believes that these good personal relations will translate into an ability to make bipartisan deals on policy.

But we’ve already seen this movie, and it was a tragedy. Barack Obama took office with a message of unity and bipartisan outreach, and a sincere belief that he could get many Republicans to back his efforts to revive the economy, reform health care, and more. What he faced instead was total scorched-earth opposition.

bernie sandersSanders, by contrast, doesn’t do bipartisanship. He doesn’t even do unipartisanship, refusing to call himself a Democrat even as he seeks the party’s nomination. But what Sanders appears to believe is that he can convince voters not just to support progressive policies, but to support sweeping policy changes that would try to fix things most people don’t consider broken.

That, after all, is what his Medicare for All push, which would eliminate private insurance, amounts to. He is saying to the 180 million Americans who currently have private insurance, many of whom are satisfied with their coverage: “I’m going to take away the insurance you have and replace it with a government program. Also, you’re going to pay a lot more in taxes. But trust me, the program will be better than what you have now, and the new taxes will be less than you currently pay in premiums.”

Could those claims be true? Yes. Will voters believe them? Probably not.

Democratic candidates in the next tier of the current race seem to get it. Warren’s proposals are very progressive, but they’re also incremental, and even her fairly radical ideas, like her proposed wealth tax, poll well. Anyone who watched Kamala Harris at Wednesday’s Barr hearing knows that she has no illusions about the state of partisanship.

Paul Krugman has been an Opinion columnist since 2000 and is also a Distinguished Professor at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He won the 2008 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his work on international trade and economic geography.

More On Venezuelan Coup Crisis

juan guaido nicolas maduro

washington post logoWashington Post, In Venezuela, opposition tries to maintain momentum as bid to topple Maduro crumbles, Anthony Faiola and Mariana Zuñiga​, May 2, 2019. Juan Guaidó, shown above at left, called for daily protests until President Nicolás Maduro (above right) leaves. Venezuela’s opposition sought to maintain pressure Thursday on President Nicolás Maduro through further protests, as the embattled socialist leader convened a weekend of dialogue to critique his mandate and fine-tune “the revolution.”

venezuela flag waving customFollowing a failed attempt to stage a peaceful military revolt Tuesday and overthrow Maduro, the opposition was facing a limited array of options.

Opposition leader Juan Guaidó on Wednesday called on Venezuelans to stage daily protests until Maduro leaves. The campaign, opposition officials said, included an appeal to public servants to show civil disobedience by wearing blue armbands to work.

After two days of violent protests that left two people dead and dozens wounded, the opposition was banking on a resilient populace to continue the effort — though it remained unclear how exhausted, crisis-battered Venezuelans would respond. Guaidó insisted late Wednesday that political change remains within Venezuela’s grasp.

At 6 a.m. on Thursday, Maduro appeared at a military base in western Caracas alongside Vladimir Padrino López, a member of the president’s inner circle who the Trump administration has said was negotiating his ouster.

“The empire is investing in dividing us and say there’s a civil war in Venezuela,” Maduro said, referring to the United States. “They say they have to intervene, to weaken our homeland. No matter the circumstance we have to be united, and that’s what loyalty is. It has to be a collective strength.”

 washington post logoWashington Post, How many Cuban troops are there in Venezuela? The U.S. says more than 20,000. Cuba says zero, Adam Taylor, May 2, 2019. The ambiguity notwithstanding, President Trump has threatened to impose a full embargo and high-level sanctions on Cuba over the alleged Cuban troop presence.

nicoloa maduro wife may 2019

Future of Freedom Foundation, Commentary: Regime Change Failure (So Far) in Venezuela, Jacob G. Hornberger, May 2, 2019. So far, the U.S. national-security establishment’s jacob hornberger newregime-change operation in Venezuela has met with failure. Having designated Venezuelan public official Juan Guaidó as the new president of the country, U.S. officials have still not been able to deliver him the reins of power. At the very least, Guaidó isn’t collecting taxes from anyone, which is usually a good sign of who wields political power within a country.

A couple of days ago, Guaidó, perhaps acting on orders of the CIA and other U.S. officials, declared that the revolution to put him into office was on. He called on the Venezuelan people to take to the streets and rise up against the Nicholas Maduro regime and for the Venezuelan military to turn against Maduro.

The result was failure. Only few hundred people showed up and the military establishment declared its loyalty to Maduro (shown above with his wife). Guaidó’s right hand man, Leopoldo Lopez, who was aligned with Guaidó on revolution day, quickly ensconced himself in the Chilean embassy and then later in the Spanish embassy.

juan guaido cellphoneThe Los Angeles Times yesterday pointed out that there is one constituency in Venezuela that matters most — the military. Whoever gets the military on its side will win the regime-change battle. The Times’ observation says as much about Venezuela’s government as it does about the U.S. government. Both governments are what are known as “national-security states.” A national-security state is characterized by an extremely powerful and permanent large military-intelligence establishment, one that wields overwhelming power within the overall governmental structure.

In the United States, the national-security branch of the government is composed of a triumvirate consisting of the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA. In Venezuela, like in Egypt, North Korea, and other national-security states, all of the powers that are wielded by the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA are simply combined within the overall military establishment. Thus, when we refer to the Venezuelan “military,” we are referring to a combination military and intelligence establishment, one that wields such omnipotent powers as assassination, military arrests, indefinite detention in military facilities, torture, trial by military tribunal, secret surveillance, and all the other powers exercised by the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA.

In any national security-state, the military-intelligence establishment wields the real power within the government. As Michael Glennon, professor of law at Tufts University, explains in his excellent book National Security and Double Government, in the U.S. governmental system the national-security part of the federal government is the part that is actually in control but permits the other three parts — the president, the Congress, and the federal judiciary to maintain the veneer of power.

The solution to all this mayhem? Leave Venezuela to the Venezuelans, dismantle America’s national-security state apparatus, and restore America’s founding governmental structure of a limited-government republic and its founding principle of non-interventionism.

May 1

U.S. Justice & Constitutional Crisis

robert mueller screenshot washington post

ny times logoNew York Times, Mueller Pushed Twice for Barr to Release Report’s Summaries, Michael S. Schmidt, May 1, 2019 (print ed.). The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III (shown above in a file photo), pushed Attorney General William P. Barr twice to release more of his investigative findings in late March after Mr. Barr outlined the inquiry’s main conclusions in a letter to Congress, citing a gap between Mr. Barr’s interpretation and Mr. Mueller’s report, according to a letter released on Wednesday.

The letter, from Mr. Mueller, revealed deep concern about how Mr. Barr handled the initial release of the special counsel’s findings.

Mr. Mueller’s office first informed the Justice Department of their concerns on March 25, a day after Mr. Barr released his letter clearing Mr. Trump but declined to release the special counsel’s findings themselves.

“We communicated that concern to the department on the morning of March 25,” Mr. Mueller said in a second letter to Mr. Barr two days later. “There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation.”

Mr. Barr’s letter “threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the department appointed the special counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations,” Mr. Mueller wrote.

ny times logoNew York Times, Barr Defends Handling of Mueller Report Against Withering Rebukes, Peter Baker, May 1, 2019. Attorney General William P. Barr defended himself on Wednesday against withering criticism of his handling of the special counsel investigation as Democrats accused him of deceiving Congress and acting as a personal agent for President Trump rather than a steward of justice.

At a contentious hearing marked by a deep partisan divide, Mr. Barr denied misrepresenting the investigation’s conclusions despite a newly revealed letter by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, protesting the initial summary of its findings. Mr. Barr dismissed the letter as “a bit snitty” and the controversy over it as “mind-bendingly bizarre.”

But in a series of aggressive interrogations, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee expressed indignation and asserted that the attorney general had been “purposely misleading,” engaged in “masterful hairsplitting” and even “lied to Congress.” Several Democrats on the committee, elsewhere in Congress and on the presidential campaign trail called for Mr. Barr’s resignation or even impeachment.

mazie hirono william barr april 1 2019 screengrabIn just 11 weeks in office, Mr. Barr has become a lightning rod for criticism for minimizing the findings of Mr. Mueller’s report and publicly embracing the president’s explanations of his actions. Senate Democrats took the opportunity on Wednesday to excoriate him before a national television audience.

“Mr. Barr, now the American people know that you are no different from Rudy Giuliani or Kellyanne Conway or any of the other people who sacrifice their once decent reputation for the grifter and liar who sits in the Oval Office,” Senator Mazie K. Hirono, Democrat of Hawaii, told him (shown at left), likening the attorney general to the president’s personal lawyer and White House counselor.

“You put the power and authority of the office of the attorney general and the Department of Justice behind a public relations effort to help Donald Trump protect himself,” she added. “Finally, you lied to Congress.”

ny times logoNew York Times, William Barr Hearing: Live Updates and Analysis of Testimony on the Mueller Report, Staff reports, May 1, 2019. Attorney General William P. Barr will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday to testify about his decisions around the special counsel's report.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Lindsey Graham has profane meltdown during William Barr testimony, Bill Palmer, May 1, 2019. If you’ve been wondering why Donald Trump’s disgraced lindsey graham judiciary chairmanAttorney General William Barr was willing to show up and testify about his crimes to the Senate Judiciary Committee today, even as he publicly considers dodging tomorrow’s House Judiciary Committee hearing, you need look no further than the fact that the Senate Judiciary Committee is run by Trump’s corrupt lunatic lackey Lindsey Graham. Sure enough, Graham (right) wasted no time turning the whole thing into a freak show this morning.

bill palmer report logo headerGraham kicked off his opening statement by appearing to complain about the air conditioning, and that turned out to be the least strange thing he said. He then went on to falsely claim that Robert Mueller found “no collusion” – such a blatant lie that MSNBC felt compelled to mute him and quickly jump in to explain that Graham was lying. That’s almost unprecedented for a committee chairman’s opening statement, yet it set the tenor for the day.

Graham made the stunning admission that he hasn’t even read the entire Mueller report, and that alone should have caused a trap door to open up underneath him. He then wasted no time bringing up Donald Trump’s favorite phony conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton’s emails and former FBI agent Peter Strzok’s text messages. At one point Graham read aloud the Strzok quote “Donald Trump is a fucking idiot” for no good reason, and his profanity was broadcast uncensored on live national television. Graham then apologized to any children who were watching.

After Lindsey Graham was finished with his profane, lying, and incoherent meltdown in front of the cameras, Democratic ranking member Dianne Feinstein then used her opening remarks to state the facts about the Mueller report, and Robert Mueller’s letter exposing William Barr’s lies about the Mueller report. We presume Lindsey Graham is now hiding under his desk.

washington post logojennifer rubin new headshotWashington Post, Opinion: William Barr and his horrible hearing, Barr corrects testimony, says Trump campaign briefed on 2016 campaign threats, Jennifer Rubin, right, May 1, 2019. So far, Attorney General William P. Barr’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee has done himself and the administration no favors. To the contrary, former acting solicitor general Neal Katyal observes, “Barr has been evasive and misleading from the first paragraph. It’s conduct totally unbecoming of an attorney general. He’s not even very good at misleading.”

Fordham law professor Jed Shugerman were more blunt. "This is nuts . . . just bonkers, " he told me mid-morning.

Among Barr’s worst moments:

Claiming there was a difference between seeking to remove special counsel Robert S. Mueller III for “conflicts” (which never existed), or firing him; claiming, despite the language of Mueller’s letter, that he did not think Mueller found Barr’s four-page letter from March 24 misleading; claiming that he did not release Mueller’s summaries because the entire report had to be released (yet Barr released his own four-page letter, which he refused to characterize as a “summary”); and claiming that Mueller refused to reach a prosecutorial decision (despite the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) guidelines prohibiting prosecution of a sitting president) because of insufficient evidence.

washington post logoWashington Post, Emoluments case can proceed, judge says, providing potential access to information about Trump’s business deals, Jonathan O'Connell, Ann E. Marimow and Carol D. Leonnig​, May 1, 2019 (print ed.). The federal lawsuit, backed by nearly 200 Democratic lawmakers, says the president is violating the Constitution’s emoluments provision when his businesses accept payments from foreign governments.

emmet sullivan 2012Democrats in Congress can move ahead with their lawsuit against President Trump alleging that his private business violates the Constitution’s ban on gifts or payments from foreign governments, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

The decision in Washington from U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan (a Republican-nominated judge, shown at left) adopted a broad definition of the anti-corruption ban and could set the stage for Democratic lawmakers to begin seeking information from the Trump Organization. The Justice Department can try to delay or block the process by asking an appeals court to intervene.

In a 48-page opinion, the judge refused the request of the president’s legal team to dismiss the case and rejected Trump’s narrow definition of emoluments, finding it “unpersuasive and inconsistent.”

The lawsuit is one of two landmark cases against Trump relying on the once-obscure emoluments clauses of the Constitution. 

washington post logoWashington Post, Administration won’t provide details on individual clearances, Tom Hamburger and Josh Dawsey, May 1, 2019. The White House said that it will not authorize any executive branch officials to disclose to Congress information about individual security clearances.

The White House said Wednesday that it will not authorize any executive branch officials to disclose to Congress information about individual security clearances, a move that House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) called “the latest example of the president’s widespread and growing obstruction of Congress.”

The Oversight panel has been examining the administration’s handling of security clearances and allegations that officials, including presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, were granted access to sensitive information over the objections of career staff.

The investigation has led to an angry and escalating standoff between the House committee and the White House, which accused the panel in a letter Wednesday of “advancing a partisan political agenda.”

Among other things, White House Counsel Pat A. Cipollone wrote, “the committee appears to be putting public servants at risk” as it seeks information on the way in which the White House granted security clearances to Kushner and others in the top echelons of the Trump White House.

Palmer Report, Opinion: We told you William Barr forced to Robert Mueller to prematurely shut down his investigation, Bill Palmer, May 1, 2019. Shortly after William Barr first released his obviously fictional “summary” of the Mueller report several weeks ago, Palmer Report looked at the underlying circumstances and concluded that Barr had likely forced Robert Mueller to prematurely end his investigation. Since that time, more clues have gradually emerged to that end. Sure enough, a major news outlet is now reporting that this is indeed what happened.

bill palmer report logo headerDuring her MSNBC show on Monday night, Rachel Maddow revealed that NBC News is working on a story about how William Barr forced Robert Mueller to shut down his probe. She didn’t provide any details, and she said that the full story could take another day or two to make it out the door. But based on what’s already publicly known, it’s not difficult to piece together the general parameters.

The first big clue came when it was revealed in federal court hearings that Robert Mueller’s grand jury was still intact, even though Mueller and his team were off the job. This raised questions about why Mueller would quit when there were more indictments still coming, as grand juries only remain empaneled for the purpose of bringing additional indictments. The second big clue was that Mueller’s longstanding and apparently crucial Supreme Court fight against a foreign government-owned mystery company is still ongoing and near nearly complete, raising the question of why Mueller would file his “final report” without this important information, when he was so close to obtaining it.

Palmer Report was also dumbfounded last month when we found an error in the Mueller report, which stated that the Trump Tower Moscow deal ran through the summer of 2016, when Rudy Giuliani had recently confessed in public that the deal actually ran through election day in 2016. This strongly suggested that the Mueller report was finalized in haste, without time for a thorough final review by Mueller’s team, which in turn suggested that Mueller was abruptly given a short deadline for turning his report in.

From the way Maddow described it tonight, it sounds like NBC News has specific inside information about how William Barr forcibly shut Robert Mueller’s team down. We’ll have to wait for that story to be published to find out the full context. But it’s going to tell us a lot about why Mueller didn’t bring certain charges, and why he didn’t investigate certain avenues: he wasn’t done with his investigation when Barr essentially fired him. This could end up being an even bigger bombshell than Mueller’s letter exposing that Barr lied about the Mueller report with his summary.

Media / WikiLeaks

washington post logoWashington Post, Assange sentenced to nearly a year in prison for jumping bail, William Booth and Karla Adam​, May 1, 2019. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was sentenced Wednesday to 50 weeks in a British prison for jumping bail. He apologized to the court, but the judge said he had used his “privileged position” to show disdain for British law.

julian assange head bookAssange (shown in a file photo) next faces an extradition hearing in London related to separate and more serious charges in the United States of conspiring to hack a government password.

Assange, 47, appeared at London’s Southwark Crown Court wearing a black jacket and gray sweater, the bushy white beard seen during his arrest last month now neatly trimmed. He offered a letter of apology and answered the judge in a quiet voice from behind a glass wall in a bland courtroom packed with journalists taking notes.

The Australian citizen had faced up to a year in a British prison for his bail violation — the maximum penalty for such an offense. He broke his bail conditions in 2012 when he fled to the Ecuadoran Embassy in London after Sweden requested his extradition in a case involving sexual assault allegations, including rape. Assange has denied those accusations.

Venezuelan Crisis

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion; "Wag the Dunce": Trump's failed Venezuela coup, May 1, 2019 (subscription required). Donald Trump’s White House, also known as the “Gang Who Couldn’t Coup Straight,” had one shot at overthrowing Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro to divert attention away from the anticipated late April 30th release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s complaint letter about how Attorney General William Barr misled the public and Congress on the findings of his investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign.

washington post logoWashington Post, Guaidó, Maduro call for rival protests in Venezuela, Mariana Zuñiga and Anthony Faiola​, May 1, 2019. The demonstrations come a day after one person was killed and dozens others hurt in clashes around the country.

leopoldo lopez juan guaido

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Venezuela -- Guaidó Got Snookered -- White House Starts Beating War Drums, b, May 1, 2019. Yesterday's failed coup attempt in Venezuela significantly hurt the Trump administration's international standing. It delegitimized its Venezuelan clients Juan Guaidó and Leopoldo López (shown above, with López at right). After recognizing that their original 'regime change' plan failed (again) the White House starts to beat the war drums.

That wasn't the plan: "The Trump administration, which has backed Mr. Guaidó (shown in a file photo) since he first challenged Mr. Maduro’s authority more than three months ago, clearly thought the day would unfold differently."

There is no official explanation why the Trump administration believed that the comical coup attempt by Juan Guaidó and his master Leopolo López would work.

There are signs though that the government of President Nicolas Maduro set a trap. Several people in the top echelon of the Venezuelan government gave false promises that they would join the U.S. proxy side. They snookered Guaidó into launching his coup to let him fail.

A Washington Post wrap-up says that everyone expected important people to change sides. Everyone in Washington believed that significant figures in the Venezuelan government would change sides. They did not do so. Vladimir Padrino rejected the coup within an hour after Guaidó announced it. It seems that the Guaidó side got played by the Venezuelan Defense Minister and several other officials and officers. They seem to have promised to support Guaidó only to bait him into taking steps that would embarrass him.

venezuela flag waving customThe total failure of the coup is obvious when one looks at what happened to Leopoldo López, the mentor of Juan Guaidó. He was under house arrest for leading the violent demonstrations and deadly riots in 2014. Yesterday morning the guards let him go. While the circumstances are not clear, the police chief responsible for the guards has been fired. López promised his followers that he would go to the Miraflores Presidential Palace. But he wasn't even able to leave eastern Caracas. Yesterday evening López, with his wife and daughter, fled into the Chilean embassy. They seem to have disliked the accommodations. Two hours later they moved into the Spanish embassy. While the embassy food may be good, it will be a quite different life than in their own comfortable mansion. A few of the soldiers who supported Guaidó took refuge in the Brazilian embassy. Guaidó is still free.

Guaidó and his backers in the Trump administration were made to believe that some significant elements of the Maduro government and of the army would turn on Maduro. They launched a coup attempt that fell apart within a few hours as no one changed sides. All their blustering has now been deflated. Guaidó has lost his credibility. Washington may still support him but in Caracas there is likely no one left who believes in him.

john bolton youtube guardianBolton (shown at left in a screengrab from YouTube), Pompeo, Abrams and of course Donald Trump have been exposed as buffoons who, despite their powerful positions, can not even organize a simple coup. They publicly supported through dozens of tweets and interviews what turned out be a bad amateur theater play. The diplomatic corps will joke about this episode for the next decade.

It is unlikely that Trump wants to launch a war on Venezuela. He likely knows that it would not be a cake walk, and that it would be a severe risk for his reelection. But who knows what Bolton or Pompeo might tell him to get their way.

They just got snookered by the Maduro government. Why would they not snooker Trump?

venezuelan us embassy Custom Custom

 washington post logoWashington Post, 50 Americans are living in Venezuela’s D.C. embassy. Amid a standoff, Venezuelans say they want it back, Marissa J. Lang, May 1, 2019. For the first time since the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington (shown above) shut down amid an international power struggle over the future of Venezuela, an ambassador representing opposition leader Juan Guaidó on Wednesday stood on the building’s front steps.

venezuela flag waving customCarlos Vecchio spoke of the intense protests and violence gripping the troubled South American nation as the conflict played out in real time over loudspeakers and megaphones in Washington’s posh Georgetown neighborhood. The embassy itself has become the scene of a proxy standoff between supporters of Guaidó and those who say Nicolás Maduro is the rightful leader of Venezuela.

As Vecchio spoke — a microphone in his right hand, a megaphone in his left — protesters with the left-wing activist group Code Pink leaned out a second-story window of the embassy, chanting “Hands off Venezuela” and “Trump’s stooge” into a speaker of their own. The crowd below chanted “Guaidó” and “Hands off my embassy.”

On one side, a group of activists from Code Pink and other left-wing organizations have been living inside the embassy since April 10 at the invitation of the Maduro government. On Tuesday, they sat on the embassy steps and sang American protest songs, holding yellow signs that read “No to U.S. coup plots” and “Hands off Venezuela!”

On the other side of the barricades, pro-opposition demonstrators decked out in yellow, red and blue filled the streets. They chanted, “libertad,” meaning “freedom,” and sang the Venezuelan national anthem.

U.S. Crime, Courtskeith raniere nxivm

ny times logoNew York Times, Once Idolized, Guru of Nxivm ‘Sex Cult’ to Stand Trial Alone, Barry Meier, May 1, 2019. Keith Raniere, who led a group in which women were branded, is on trial in Brooklyn. Testimony is expected to be prurient, bizarre and nauseating, court filings suggest.

It seems a fitting final act to a strange saga: On Tuesday, Keith Raniere, who once led a cultlike group in which women were branded and taught to idolize him, will face trial alone, abandoned not only by the women he subjugated and abused, but by those who served him loyally for years.

For two decades, Keith Raniere, 58, was referred to as “Vanguard” by his followers in a group called Nxivm (pronounced Nex-e-um).

He ordered women to maintain near-starvation diets to achieve the type of body he found desirable and punished those who disobeyed his edict to have sex only with him, former followers said. In recent years, some women were branded on their pelvis with a symbol containing Mr. Raniere’s initials, an act he described in a text message as a “tribute” to him.

During his trial in Brooklyn federal court, which is expected to last six weeks, jurors will hear testimony that will be prurient, bizarre and nauseating, court filings suggest. Among the graphic details: Prosecutors plan to use pictures of a naked 15-year-old girl in Mr. Raniere’s bed to prove that he exploited underage women.

ny times logoNew York Times, A man who made racist death threats to Barack Obama and Maxine Waters was sentenced to 46 months in prison, Michael Gold, May 1, 2019. Stephen J. Taubert said he threatened to kill the former president and the congresswoman because he was upset about “people knocking” President Trump. First, the Syracuse man repeatedly called a senator’s office in Washington and said he planned to kill former President Barack Obama, using a racial slur in his threat, the authorities said.

A year later, the same man, Stephen J. Taubert, called the California office of Representative Maxine Waters, a Democrat, and vowed to kill her and her staff members. Once again, he spouted violent rhetoric over the phone, using racist epithets.

On Tuesday, Mr. Taubert, 61, was sentenced to 46 months in prison for the phone calls.

His sentence was handed down in the Federal District Court in Syracuse. It came six weeks after a jury found Mr. Taubert guilty of threatening to kill a former United States president, transmitting a threat in interstate commerce and making a threat to influence, impede or retaliate against a federal official.

The jury also found that Mr. Taubert chose to make threats against Mr. Obama and Ms. Waters, two black Democratic Party leaders, because of their race, a distinction that allowed prosecutors to seek an enhanced sentence.

U.S. Politics / Scandal

joe biden headshotny times logoNew York Times, Biden Faces Conflict of Interest Questions That Are Being Promoted by Trump and Allies, Kenneth P. Vogel and Iuliia Mendel, May 1, 2019. It was a foreign policy role Joseph R. Biden Jr., right, enthusiastically embraced during his vice presidency: browbeating Ukraine’s notoriously corrupt government to clean up its act. And one of his most memorable performances came on a trip to Kiev in March 2016, when he threatened to withhold $1 billion in United States loan guarantees if Ukraine’s leaders did not dismiss the country’s top prosecutor, who had been accused of turning a blind eye to corruption in his own office and among the political elite.

The pressure campaign worked. The prosecutor general, long a target of criticism from other Western nations and international lenders, was soon voted out by the Ukrainian Parliament.

hunter bidenAmong those who had a stake in the outcome was Hunter Biden, left, Mr. Biden’s younger son, who at the time was on the board of an energy company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch who had been in the sights of the fired prosecutor general.Among those who had a stake in the outcome was Hunter Biden, Mr. Biden’s younger son, who at the time was on the board of an energy company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch who had been in the sights of the fired prosecutor general. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. in 2017 in Kiev, Ukraine. ... that he had never discussed the matter with Hunter Biden and that he learned of ...

The broad outlines of how the Bidens’ roles intersected in Ukraine have been known for some time. The former vice president’s campaign said that he had always acted to carry out United States policy without regard to any activities of his son, that he had never discussed the matter with Hunter Biden and that he learned of his son’s role with the Ukrainian energy company from news reports.

ukraine flagBut new details about Hunter Biden’s involvement, and a decision this year by the current Ukrainian prosecutor general to reverse himself and reopen an investigation into Burisma, have pushed the issue back into the spotlight just as the senior Mr. Biden is beginning his 2020 presidential campaign.

They show how Hunter Biden and his American business partners were part of a broad effort by Burisma to bring in well-connected Democrats during a period when the company was facing investigations backed not just by domestic Ukrainian forces but by officials in the Obama administration. Hunter Biden’s work for Burisma prompted concerns among State Department officials at the time that the connection could complicate Vice President Biden’s diplomacy in Ukraine, former officials said.

“I have had no role whatsoever in relation to any investigation of Burisma, or any of its officers,” Hunter Biden said Wednesday in a statement. “I explicitly limited my role to focus on corporate governance best practices to facilitate Burisma’s desire to expand globally.”

Crony Politics Scandal In New Jersey

ny times logoNew York Times, The Tax Break Was $260 Million. Benefit to the State Was Tiny: $155,520, Nick Corasaniti and Matthew Haag, May 1, 2019. How a lawyer with deep connections to Democratic politicians in New Jersey helped to dole out hundreds of millions of dollars in state tax credits. It was called the Economic Opportunity Act, a measure intended to kick-start the sputtering post-recession economy in New Jersey, particularly in its struggling cities. The state would award lucrative tax breaks to businesses if they moved to New Jersey or remained in the state, creating and retaining jobs.

But before the bill was approved by the Legislature, a series of changes were made to its language in June 2013 that were intended to grant specific companies hundreds of millions of dollars in additional tax breaks, with no public disclosure, according to interviews and documents obtained by The New York Times.

Many of the last-minute changes to drafts of the bill were made by a real estate lawyer, Kevin D. Sheehan, whose influential law firm has close ties to Democratic politicians and legislative leaders in New Jersey.

Mr. Sheehan was allowed by lawmakers to edit drafts of the bill in ways that opened up sizable tax breaks to his firm’s clients, according to a marked up copy of the legislation obtained by The Times, which identifies Mr. Sheehan’s changes.

Sports Gender Ruling

ny times logoNew York Times, Caster Semenya Loses Case to Compete as a Woman in All Races, Jeré Longman and Juliet Macur, May 1, 2019. Female track athletes with naturally elevated levels of testosterone must decrease the hormone to participate in certain races at major competitions like the Olympics, the highest court in international sports said Wednesday in a landmark ruling amid the pitched debate over who can compete in women’s events.

caster semenyaThe decision was a defeat for Caster Semenya (shown in a file photo), a two-time Olympic champion at 800 meters from South Africa, who had challenged proposed limits placed on female athletes with naturally elevated levels of the muscle-building hormone testosterone.

At a time when the broader culture is moving toward an acceptance of gender fluidity, the ruling affirmed the sports world’s need for distinct gender lines, saying they were essential for the outcome of women’s events to be fair.

“The gender studies folks have spent the last 20 years deconstructing sex and all of a sudden they’re facing an institution with an entirely opposite story,” said Doriane Lambelet Coleman, a law professor at Duke and an elite 800-meter runner in the 1980s who served as an expert witness for the track and field’s world governing body. “We have to ask, ‘Is respecting gender identity more important or is seeing female bodies on the podium more important?’”

Semenya’s biology has been under scrutiny for a decade, ever since she burst on the scene at the 2009 world track and field championships and was subjected to sex tests following her victory. In South Africa, leaders complained of racism. The issue of whether a rare biological trait was causing an unfair advantage for Semenya and a small subset of women quickly morphed into a battle about privacy and human rights, and Semenya became its symbol. She has said little publicly about her specific biology other than stating that God made her the way she is.

In issuing its ruling the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport addressed the complicated, highly charged question involving fair play, gender identity, biology and human rights that track and field has been grappling with for decades: Since competition is divided into male and female categories, what is the most equitable way to decide who can compete in women’s events?

In a 2-to-1 decision, the court ruled that restrictions on permitted levels of naturally occurring testosterone were discriminatory but that such discrimination was a “necessary, reasonable and proportionate means” of achieving track and field’s goal of preserving the integrity of female competition. 

Video On Trump Hotels

Be Less Stupid, Investigative Commentary: Nothing In Trump Hotel Is Made In America, Jon Hotchkiss, May 1, 2019 (7:49 min, video). Does Donald Trump really care about American jobs and workers? Is "America First" really his priority? In an exclusive investigation, Be Less Stupid host Jon Hotchkiss checked into the Trump Tower Las Vegas Hotel to discover where the furniture, amenities, bedding, marble and glass were made.

Jon Hotchkiss is a 14 time Emmy nominee and creator, writer or producer of many shows you liked and some you didn't, including: Politically Incorrect, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Penn and Teller: Bullshit, Invasion of the Christmas Lights, Punkin Chunkin, This vs That, The Truth About Sex, Pizza With Writers, The Late Late Show, and has sold shows to NBC, FOX, Discovery, TLC, Science Channel, GSN, Comedy Central, Playboy TV, among others.

 

Subcategories