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Editor's Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative February 2020 news and views

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

 

Feb. 23

2020 Nevada Caucus Headlines

World News Headines

U.S. Justice System

U.S. Campaign Ad Controls

 

2020 Nevada Democratic Caucus Sen. Bernie Sanders (Des Moines Gage Skidmore via Flickr on Aug. 10, 2019)

Sen. Bernie Sanders (Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr on Aug. 10, 2019 in Des Moines)

washington post logoWashington Post, Sanders wins in Nevada, grows lead as race enters key stretch, Matt Viser, Feb. 23, 2020. Sen. Bernie Sanders won a resounding victory in the Nevada caucuses Saturday, providing another boost to an insurgent campaign that is challenging the Democratic establishment and stifling the plans of rivals who still hold out hope of stopping him.

Sanders’s advantage in Nevada was overwhelming, with substantial leads in nearly every demographic group, allowing him to set down a marker in the first state with a significant share of nonwhite voters. Sanders expanded the electorate by attracting relatively large numbers of first-time caucus-goers, providing momentum as the race shifts into a critical stretch over the next 10 days.

He prevailed among those with college degrees and those without; those living in union and nonunion households; and in every age group except those over 65. He won more than half of Hispanic caucus-goers — almost four times as much support as his nearest rival, former vice president Joe Biden — and even narrowly prevailed among those who identified as moderate or conservative. Despite attacks on his health proposal by the powerful Culinary Union, he won in caucus sites filled with union members.

Sanders signaled throughout his speech that he is beginning to see himself as the likely nominee, given his momentum heading toward Super Tuesday on March 3, when 14 states cast their votes. A day after saying he was fighting against the Democratic and Republican establishments, the self-described democratic socialist adopted a more unifying tone.

“We are bringing our people together — black and white and Latino, Native American, Asian American, gay and straight,” he said.

washington post logoWashington Post, As Bernie Sanders’s momentum builds, down-ballot Democrats move to distance themselves, Mike DeBonis and Michael Scherer, Feb. 23, 2020 (print ed.). Former astronaut Mark Kelly, the Democratic Party’s hope for flipping a U.S. Senate seat in Arizona, tried to do no harm this month when he was asked about Sen. Bernie Sanders. “I will ultimately support who the nominee is of the Democratic Party,” he said.

democratic donkey logoThat was enough for Kelly’s Republican rival, Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), who is trailing him in early polls, to go on the attack. The television spot she debuted days later spent nearly as much time talking about plans by the democratic socialist from Vermont to raise taxes and award new benefits to undocumented immigrants as it did about Kelly.

As Sanders builds what could eventually be an insurmountable delegate lead, many Democratic House and Senate candidates are approaching a dramatic shift in their campaigns, as they recalibrate to include praise of capitalism and distance themselves from the national party. Top campaign strategists from both parties view Sanders’s success as a potentially tectonic event, which could narrow the party’s already slim hopes of retaking the Senate majority and fuel GOP dreams of reclaiming the House, which it lost amid a Democratic romp in 2018.

“I can tell you that there are a lot of down-ballot jitters based on my conversations with my former colleagues,” said former Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), a longtime confidant of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who led congressional election efforts from 2011 to 2015.

“Donald Trump is going to offer the American people this choice: Do you want to continue building the economy or do you want to lurch toward socialism? And that is a real powerful argument in the Democratic districts that Trump won in 2016.”

With an emphatic victory in Saturday’s Nevada caucuses, Sanders has won two of the first three contests, and lost the third — the Iowa caucuses — in a squeaker. He also holds leads in polls in many of the Super Tuesday states that vote March 3 — a point by which nearly 4 in 10 delegates nationally will have been chosen.

Internal polling and analytics completed last week by former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg’s campaign projected that Sanders may be the only presidential candidate to win delegates in every state and district on March 3, delivering him a lead of 350 to 400 out of 1,357 delegates set to be awarded unless race dynamics change, according to a person familiar with the data who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Thank you Joy Reid, Bill Palmer, Feb. 23, 2020. Bernie Sanders won the Nevada caucus, prompting his supporters to mistakenly decide that this means he’s now somehow automatically going to be the Democratic nominee. This would be a tragedy, because the thoroughly unvetted Sanders would be quickly destroyed at the hands of Donald Trump and the GOP.

But if you’re a pundit, you can score some really cheap and easy points right now by simply hoping on the Bernie train and blowing smoke at his supporters. Fortunately, some high profile pundits are simply refusing to play that game.

bill palmer report logo headerThe reality is that only three states have voted thus far (out of fifty). Two of the three were nearly all white. Two of them used the gibberish caucus format. We now know that Vladimir Putin was rigging things for Bernie while all these states were voting, and yet he still only won two out of the three. The problem is that because the Democrats have four great candidates (Biden, Warren, Buttigieg, Klobuchar) and none of them has been dominating over the others, it’s created this fatalist notion that Sanders simply joy reid Customcan’t be stopped.

Enter highly respected MSNBC host Joy Reid, right. On Saturday night she sounded the alarm, pointing out that this is simply a turnout problem. The minority of Democratic voters who want Sanders are voting and campaigning in enthusiastic fashion, and so he’s in the lead, despite only getting around 30% of the vote. The smart voters need to start pushing harder on behalf of the real Democrats right now, before this gets any worse, and we get stuck with a disastrous nominee in Sanders who can’t beat Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Here is Democrats’ last chance to get this right, Jennifer Rubin, right, Feb. 23, 2020. Some candidates must leave the race; jennifer rubin new headshotsome must shift their focus. While no one should exclude the possibility that Sanders might beat President Trump, his manifest weaknesses and extreme ideology make such a victory unlikely, thereby subjecting the country to the horror of another four years of an unhinged, authoritarian president.

We should shudder at the prospect of what the country might look like after another Trump term — especially if, as is likely with Sanders at the top of the ticket, the Republicans retain their Senate majority.

What, if anything, can Democrats do in the next week or so to change the trajectory of the race? There is very little chance that they will do what is necessary; that would require selflessness and self-reflection as well as party leadership, none of which is evident in today’s Democratic Party.

Nevertheless, there are steps Democrats could take to save the party and the country.

pete buttigieg 2020 button croppedFirst, former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg has offered a model for other candidates in making Sanders the top target. Buttigieg will hang on for now, relying on his results in Iowa and New Hampshire, and what looks like a barely adequate third-place finish in Nevada.

Second, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) must step away. Coming in fifth and third in the first two races respectively, and expected to amy klobucher button croppedfinish sixth in Nevada, Klobuchar — despite her feisty demeanor and practical agenda — has no path to the nomination. The 5 percent to 7 percent or so of the electorate that has supported her certainly could be used by a more viable candidate.

Third, Tom Steyer’s vanity run should end as well. The share of the nonwhite voters he draws is desperately needed by a viable candidate, which in South Carolina is former vice president Joe Biden. Steyer has zero delegates and has placed near the bottom of tom steyer campaign cutton Customthe pack in each contest. No amount of spending will lift him into contention.

Fourth, Steyer and former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg should use their millions to go after Sanders, the candidate who threatens to sew up the race before Bloomberg, right, gets started. They would do the party a favor, frankly, by getting all the opposition research out there now so that Trump does not spring it in the final days of the general election. (If Bloomberg’s next debate performance is anything like the last, he will need to bow out as well; michael bloomberg2there are not enough ads in the world to compensate for a candidate who cannot perform live.)

Fifth, both candidates and elected leaders in the party must demand that Sanders release all medical records, as he promised. This transparency is essential both to inform the public and to inoculate Sanders against Trump’s inevitable attacks, if Sanders becomes the joe biden 2020 button Customnominee, that would portray him at death’s door.

Sixth, Biden, who kept himself in the running with a second-place finish in Nevada, needs to do something dramatic to shake things up and emerge as a Sanders alternative.

I don’t imagine much of this will come about. Nevertheless, the grown-ups in the party and the 2020 contenders who fail to act will be haunted by the possibility that they could have prevented a party crackup and a national disaster but chose not to act.

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Coronavirus outbreak edges closer to pandemic, Carolyn Y. Johnson, Lena H. Sun, William Wan and Joel Achenbach, Feb. 23, 2020 (print ed.). Amid an alarming surge in cases with no clear link to China, infectious disease experts believe the flulike illness may soon china flag Smallbe impossible to contain.

In South Korea, coronavirus cases surged 14-fold over a week, creating the largest center of infection outside of China. In Singapore, clusters of infection have been traced to two churches, a hotel business meeting, a health products shop and a construction site. In Italy, health authorities confirmed roughly 50 cases over the past two days, making it the largest outbreak in Europe. In Iran, an outbreak has seeded new cases in Lebanon and Canada — a worrisome sign the disease could be spreading more widely than realized.

There are outbreaks. There are epidemics. And there are pandemics, where epidemics become rampant in multiple countries and continents simultaneously. The novel coronavirus that causes the disease named covid-19 is on the verge of that third, globe-shaking stage.

Amid an alarming surge in cases with no clear link to China, infectious disease experts believe the flulike illness may soon be impossible to contain. The World Health Organization has not declared covid-19 a pandemic and the most devastating effects, including more than 2,200 deaths, are still in China. But the language coming from the organization’s Geneva headquarters has turned more ominous in recent days as the challenge of containment grows more daunting.

U.S. Campaign Ad Controls

washington post logoWashington Post, Political ads are flooding Hulu, Roku and other streaming services, revealing loopholes in federal election laws, Tony Romm, Feb. 23, 2020 (print ed.). With more Americans cutting the cord, watchdogs worry that voters lack a full understanding of who’s trying to influence them.

The ad that interrupted some Hulu subscribers as they watched the NBC comedy “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” this month opened with a clip of President Trump speaking.

“The ‘deep state’ is trying to inject our health system with socialist price controls,” a narrator then interjected, before a banner flashed at the bottom of the screen: “TEXT ‘SOCIALISM SUCKS’ TO 41490.”

But neither FreedomWorks, the conservative group behind the ad, nor Hulu, a television-and-movie streaming giant, is required to reveal much more to the public about the 30-second spot or whom it targeted, leaving watchdogs and regulators fearful that federal election laws aren’t fit for the digital age — and that voters remain vulnerable to manipulation.

Four years after Russian agents exploited popular online platforms to push propaganda, sow unrest and promote the Trump candidacy, the U.S. government has made virtually no progress on bringing more transparency to paid political speech. The risks remain high that voters could be duped and deceived by foreign governments, U.S. candidates and advocacy groups — particularly online, where major regulatory gaps exist.

Campaign finance experts say they are especially concerned about video-streaming services at a moment when more Americans are shifting their viewing habits from cable to the Web. Politicians have followed people online, and over the past year, their ads have appeared on popular platforms such as Roku, the maker of hardware and software that powers Internet-connected TVs, and lesser-known options like Tubi, which offers ad-supported movie streaming.

But nothing requires these fast-growing digital providers to disclose whom these ads targeted and who viewed them. The absence of federal transparency rules stands in stark contrast with traditional TV broadcasters, such as ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC, which for decades have been required to maintain limited public files about political ads.

“I’m really worried people are going to be bombarded, and not going to have the information they need to assess all of what’s coming at them,” said Meredith McGehee, the executive director of Issue One, which advocates for transparency in campaign spending.

On Hulu, which boasts more than 30 million subscribers, political ads have become so prolific that its users have complained loudly — on the company’s public-facing forums. “I have Hulu for entertainment, not so I can be tortured with political ads,” wrote one user in January.

Beyond mere nuisance, the lack of transparency has also sparked criticism in Congress, where some lawmakers say it’s long past time to update federal laws to prevent potential abuse.

“At a time when our adversaries are using disinformation campaigns to undermine our democracy, we need to be pushing for more disclosure and transparency, not less,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), a White House hopeful, said in a statement.

Critics say Facebook’s powerful ad tools may imperil democracy. But politicians love them.

For many ethics watchdogs, the lack of visibility into online advertising reflects a broader election-year challenge: Campaigns are spending more than ever to try to reach voters and influence their decisions, armed with powerful digital tools — yet federal regulations haven’t kept pace.

Political advertising could surpass $6 billion on television, search, social media and other digital platforms by November, according to the analytics firm eMarketer. Traditional television still captures the majority of these ad dollars, researchers said, but spending on myriad sites and services has grown exponentially as campaigns embrace fresh ways to target their messages based on a voter’s age, location or other personal traits.

The consequences of those new digital tactics became apparent in 2016, when “trolls” tied to the Russian government relied on narrowly targeted social media ads to inflame tensions around race, religion and other political fault lines. The prospect of foreign interference again looms over 2020 as voting begins, but digital experts say the more likely threat this cycle is homegrown — campaigns and their allies that peddle half-truths and outright falsehoods in ways people can’t easily discern.

U.S. Justice System

washington post logoWashington Post, A 42-year inmate’s choice: Exoneration fight or ‘deal with the devil’ for freedom, Richard A. Webster, Feb. 23, 2020. An emergency broadcast alert blares from Elvis Brooks’s cellphone, warning him that a tornado has been spotted in the area. “Seek shelter now,” the electronic voice urges.

Brooks shrugs off the threat, though his small, narrow house, a rental on Alexandria’s west side, seems no match for dangerous weather. The thing is, he’s been through much worse.

In October, he left the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola after serving 42 years of a life sentence for murder. He’d maintained his innocence from the start, and his departure should have been a joyous moment. Lawyers working on his case had discovered fingerprint evidence previously concealed by prosecutors that pointed to a wrongful conviction.

Yet Brooks, now 62, didn’t walk out of Angola an innocent man. To secure his freedom, he had to “make a deal with the devil.” Rather than languish even longer as he tried to clear his name, he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, forfeiting his right to sue, in exchange for immediate release.

“I cried at night in Angola,” confesses Brooks, sitting on his couch next to a pillow with “Blessed” stitched on its front. “I ain’t never thought I was going to get out. So I took the deal. It ain’t right, but that’s the way of the world. It’s a crooked world like that.”

Across the country, the number of exonerations has risen sharply since 2000, especially for homicide cases. The increase is partly attributed to a shift in attitude among some local prosecutors, who have created specialized divisions to review questionable convictions. Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner freed 12 wrongfully imprisoned people in his first two years in office. In Baltimore, the Conviction Integrity Unit of the state’s attorney’s office pursued a decades-old case that last November resulted in the exoneration of three men. Each was a teenager when he went to prison.

Other prosecutors still push back, however, even when evidence overwhelmingly supports exoneration. According to Ellen Yaroshefsky, a professor of legal ethics at Hofstra University, money is the most common reason. Wrongful convictions, especially those involving prosecutorial misconduct, often lead to multimillion-dollar lawsuits. If a prosecutor can persuade the incarcerated person to plead guilty in exchange for freedom, the risk of a costly settlement goes away.

Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro made the offer to Brooks just before a court hearing on whether his conviction should be set aside. Brooks agonized over what to do.

If he pleaded to manslaughter and three counts of armed robbery — admitting to something he denied as vehemently as ever — the district attorney’s office would not be held accountable and he could not seek any compensation for his 42 years behind bars. If he rejected the offer, the consequences were implicit: Prosecutors would fight him at every turn.

Feb. 22

Trump Power, Payback Headlines

2020 Nevada Caucus Headlines

Afghan Peace?

World News Headlines

More 2020 Election Headlines

Trump & America's Future

 

Reports On Trump Power, Payback

djt acquitted photo

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump embarks on expansive search for disloyalty as administration-wide purge escalates, Toluse Olorunnipa, Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey, Feb. 22, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump has instructed his White House to identify and force out officials across his administration who are not seen as sufficiently loyal, a post-impeachment escalation that administration officials say reflects a new phase of a campaign of retribution and restructuring ahead of the November election.

john mcentee CustomJohnny McEntee, right, Trump’s former personal aide who now leads the effort as director of presidential personnel, has begun combing through various agencies with a mandate from the president to oust or sideline political appointees who have not proved their loyalty, according to several administration officials and others familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

The push comes in the aftermath of an impeachment process in which several members of Trump’s administration provided damning testimony about his behavior with regard to Ukraine. The stream of officials publicly criticizing Trump’s actions frustrated the president and caused him to fixate on cleaning house after his acquittal this month.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump wants to block ‘traitor’ Bolton’s book entirely, claiming most conversations are classified, Josh Dawsey, Tom Hamburger and Carol D. Leonnig, Feb. 22, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump told his staff he will seek to stop the book’s publication, said people familiar with the conversations. The president’s private arguments contrast with the traditional point-by-point process used to protect sensitive secrets.

djt john bolton cnnPresident Trump has directly weighed in on the White House review of a forthcoming book by his former national security adviser, telling his staff that he views John Bolton as “a traitor,” that everything he uttered to the departed aide about national security is classified and that he will seek to block the book’s publication, according to two people familiar with the conversations.

The president’s private arguments stand in contrast to the point-by-point process used to classify and protect sensitive secrets and appears to differ from the White House’s public posture toward Bolton’s much-anticipated memoir. The National Security Council warned Bolton last month that his draft “appears to contain significant amounts of classified information,” some of it top secret, but john bolton full cropped Custompledged to help him revise the manuscript and “move forward as expeditiously as possible.”

“We will do our best to work with you to ensure your client’s ability to tell his story in a manner that protects U.S. national security,” Ellen Knight, senior director of the council’s records office, wrote in a Jan. 23 letter to Bolton’s attorney.

But the president has insisted to aides that Bolton’s account of his work in Trump’s White House, The Room Where It Happened, should not see the light of day before the November election, according to the two people familiar with the conversations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House deliberations.

Bolton’s book has promised to unveil key first-person moments between Bolton and Trump that were at the heart of the president’s handling of Ukraine, a saga that led to his impeachment by the House.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: If good men like Joe Maguire can’t speak the truth, we should be deeply afraid, William H. McRaven, Feb. 22, 2020 (print william mcraven 2012ed.). William H. McRaven, right, a retired Navy admiral, was commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014. He oversaw the 2011 Navy SEAL raid in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden.

Over the course of the past three years, I have watched good men and women, friends of mine, come and go in the Trump administration — all trying to do something — all trying to do their best. Jim Mattis, John Kelly, H.R. McMaster, Sue Gordon, Dan Coats and, now, Joe Maguire, who until this week was the acting director of national intelligence.

I have known Joe for more than 40 years. There is no better officer, no better man and no greater patriot. He served for 36 years as a Navy SEAL. In 2004, he was promoted to the rank of rear admiral and was chosen to command all of Naval Special Warfare, including the SEALs. Those were dark days for the SEALs. Our combat losses from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were the highest in our history, and Joe and his wife, Kathy, attended every SEAL funeral, providing comfort and solace to the families of the fallen.

But it didn’t stop there. Not a day went by that the Maguires didn’t reach out to some Gold Star family, some wounded SEAL, some struggling warrior. Every loss was personal, every family precious. When Joe retired in 2010, he tried the corporate world. But his passion for the Special Operations soldiers was so deep that he left a lucrative job and took the position as the president of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, a charity that pays for educating the children of fallen warriors.

In 2018, Joe was asked to be the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, a job he knew well from his last assignment as a vice admiral. He accepted, but within months of his arrival came the announcement of Coats’s departure as director of national intelligence. Maguire didn’t seek to fill the job; he was asked to do it by the president. At first he declined, suggesting that Sue Gordon, Coats’s deputy, would be better suited for the job.

joseph maguire headshotBut the president chose Maguire (left0. And, like most of these good men and women, he came in with the intent to do his very best, to follow the rules, to follow the law and to follow what was morally right.

Within a few weeks of taking the assignment, he found himself embroiled in the Ukraine whistleblower case. Joe told the White House that, if asked, he would testify, and he would tell the truth. He did. In short order, he earned the respect of the entire intelligence community. They knew a good man was at the helm. A man they could count on, a man who would back them, a man whose integrity was more important than his future employment.

But, of course, in this administration, good men and women don’t last long. Joe was dismissed for doing his job: overseeing the dissemination of intelligence to elected officials who needed that information to do their jobs.

As Americans, we should be frightened — deeply afraid for the future of the nation. When good men and women can’t speak the truth, when facts are inconvenient, when integrity and character no longer matter, when presidential ego and self-preservation are more important than national security — then there is nothing left to stop the triumph of evil.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Marie Yovanovitch is about to get her revenge against Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Feb. 22, 2020. U.S. Ambassador Marie marie yovanovitchYovanovitch, left, was so incorruptible, Donald Trump fired her and threatened her safety just to get her out of the way so that his goons could carry out their crime spree in Ukraine. Yovanovitch ended up testifying against Trump during the House impeachment proceedings, and gained a lot of respect in the process.

bill palmer report logo headerThey say that success is the best revenge, and Marie Yovanovitch is about to get precisely that. She’s signed a book deal, according to CNN, which will focus on her career as a U.S. diplomat.

The kicker is that while Yovanovitch was long regarded with a great deal of respect within the diplomatic community, no one outside of it had ever heard of her. Now she’s getting the kind of lucrative book deal that you can only really land if you’re already well known.

2020 Nevada Democratic Caucus 

ny times logoNew York Times, Sanders Has Big Lead as Nevada Slowly Reports Results, Staff report, Feb. 22, 2020. Seven Democratic candidates are competing: Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.; former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind.; Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii; Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont; the hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer; and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, is not contesting Nevada.

Mr. Sanders is widely expected to win in Nevada, where 36 delegates are up for grabs. There is a competitive race underway for second place. Here’s a look at what’s at stake for each candidate.

Some caucus sites reported a shortage of volunteers, and some precinct chairs are having problems calling in their results to the state Democratic Party.

ny times logoNew York Times, Nevada Caucus Live Updates, Staff reports, Fed. 22, 2020. The early strength of Sanders here suggests problems for the Biden claim that he’s uniquely strong with voters of color...Biden’s campaign manager said on a recent call with supporters that Dems would breathe a “sigh dnc square logoof relief when we finish second or better in Nevada.”

Something very different about Nevada: Many candidates are not sticking around in the state for the results. (And apparently for good reason.)...Depending on how poorly some candidates perform in Nevada, there could be calls for more to quit the race and keep the infighting from getting worse....Earlier today, Warren’s campaign announced it had raised $14 million between New Hampshire and Nevada, powered by her strong debate performance.

Palmer Report, Advocacy: Here’s how to stop Bernie Sanders from being the Democratic nominee, Bill Palmer, right, Feb. 22, 2020. If Bernie Sanders is the bill palmerDemocratic nominee, he’ll lose to Trump. Not happening on my watch. We’ll keep Bernie under 50% of the delegates. We’ll have a brokered convention. And we’ll pick an actual Democrat as the nominee. Bernie will whine like a baby, and some of his supporters will go completely berserk, so we’ll just have to work that much harder to beat Trump in November.

bill palmer report logo headerTo be clear, what I’m talking about is simply how the rules work. Bernie signed off on the 2020 convention rules, because he assumed he’d be in second place, and he wanted an opportunity to still take the nomination. So we’ll simply follow the rules. Once the delegates are released at the convention and we enter a brokered convention, the released delegates should line up behind whichever (actual) Democrat has the most delegates. Bernie simply does not have broad enough support to win over a majority of delegates at the convention.

If Bernie does rack up greater than 50% of the delegates before the convention, then he will be the nominee. There will be no way around that, and we’ll have to get behind him, even though he’ll almost certainly lose to Trump. The key is to make sure Bernie doesn’t get anywhere near 50% of the delegates in the upcoming states.

We don’t need to unite behind one candidate yet. For now, what matters is convincing as many people as possible in upcoming states to vote for any of the actual Democrats, to keep as many delegates away from Bernie as possible. We can’t allow a Putin-assisted eighty year old socialist, who recently had a heart attack, and who has no chance of beating Trump, to be our nominee. A brokered convention isn’t a perfect plan, but it’s literally our only chance of taking Trump down.

Afghan Peace?

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. halts offensive military operations in Afghanistan as part of Taliban deal, Susannah George​, Feb. 22, 2020. The top American commander told reporters in Kabul that “our operations are defensive at this point.” The move is aimed at reducing violence ahead of a possible peace deal.

The U.S. has ceased offensive military operations in Afghanistan against the Taliban in accordance with an agreement to reduce violence ahead of a possible peace deal, the top U.S. military commander here announced Saturday.

Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller told reporters in Kabul “our operations are defensive at this point, we stopped our offensive operations as part of our obligations, but we remain committed to defend our forces.”

Standing beside the Afghan acting minister of interior and acting minister of defense, Miller described the reduction in violence as a “trial period” during which U.S. and Afghan government forces reserve the right to defend themselves if attacked.

“This is a conditional effort. It’s a trial period, we are all looking at this to see that all sides are able to meet their obligations,” he said.

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Coronavirus outbreak edges closer to pandemic, Carolyn Y. Johnson, Lena H. Sun, William Wan and Joel Achenbach, Feb. 22, 2020. Amid an alarming surge in cases with no clear link to China, infectious disease experts believe the flulike illness may soon be impossible to contain.

In South Korea, coronavirus cases surged 14-fold over a week, creating the largest center of infection outside of China. In Singapore, clusters of infection have been traced to two churches, a hotel business meeting, a health products shop and a construction site. In Italy, health authorities confirmed roughly 50 cases over the past two days, making it the largest outbreak in Europe. In Iran, an outbreak has seeded new cases in Lebanon and Canada — a worrisome sign the disease could be spreading more widely than realized.

There are outbreaks. There are epidemics. And there are pandemics, where epidemics become rampant in multiple countries and continents simultaneously. The novel coronavirus that causes the disease named covid-19 is on the verge of that third, globe-shaking stage.

Amid an alarming surge in cases with no clear link to China, infectious disease experts believe the flulike illness may soon be impossible to contain. The World Health Organization has not declared covid-19 a pandemic and the most devastating effects, including more than 2,200 deaths, are still in China. But the language coming from the organization’s Geneva headquarters has turned more ominous in recent days as the challenge of containment grows more daunting.

washington post logoWashington Post, In China’s ‘war’ on coronavirus, hospitals turn away other patients — with dire results, Gerry Shih, Feb. 22, 2020 (print ed.). The country’s wider health system is breaking down, leading to the sacrifice of some to save others.

china flag SmallNie Mingtao arrived at Wuhan Union Hospital's tumor center on Feb. 9, hoping to continue with chemotherapy treatment for the late-stage lung cancer that left him unable to eat or sleep.

When Nie arrived, paperwork in order, a doctor apologized and turned him away: The hospital was emptying its cancer ward to make room for patients suffering from the coronavirus that was ravaging Hubei province, said his son, Nie Wenjie.

A month into its battle to contain the outbreak, China is overseeing an unprecedented triage on a national level by scaling back or suspending public health services for patients with ailments unrelated to the epidemic.

2020 U.S. Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Bernie Sanders briefed by U.S. officials that Russia is trying to help his presidential campaign, Shane Harris, Ellen Nakashima, Michael Scherer and Sean Sullivan, Feb. 22, 2020 (print ed.). U.S. officials have told Sen. Bernie Sanders that Russia is attempting to help his presidential campaign as part of an effort to interfere with the Democratic contest, according to people familiar with the matter.

bernie sanders 2020 button croppedPresident Trump and lawmakers on Capitol Hill also have been informed about the Russian assistance to the Vermont senator, those people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence.

It is not clear what form that Russian assistance has taken. U.S. prosecutors found a Russian effort in 2016 to use social media to boost Sanders’s campaign against Hillary Clinton, part of a broader effort to hurt Clinton, sow dissension in the American electorate and ultimately help elect Donald Trump.

“I don’t care, frankly, who [Russian President Vladimir] Putin wants to be president,” Sanders said in a statement. “My message to Putin is clear: Stay out of American elections, and as president I will make sure that you do.

“In 2016, Russia used Internet propaganda to sow division in our country, and my understanding is that they are doing it again in 2020. Some of the ugly stuff on the Internet attributed to our campaign may well not be coming from real supporters.”

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ny times logoNew York Times, Russia Is Said to Be Interfering to Aid Sanders in Democratic Primaries, Julian E. Barnes and Sydney Ember, Feb. 22, 2020 (print ed.). Russia has been trying to intervene in the Democratic primaries to aid Senator Bernie Sanders, according to people familiar with the matter, and intelligence officials recently briefed him about Russian interference in the election, Mr. Sanders said on Friday.

In a statement on Friday, Mr. Sanders denounced Russia, calling President Vladimir V. Putin an “autocratic thug” and warning Moscow to stay out of the election.

Russian Flag“Let’s be clear, the Russians want to undermine American democracy by dividing us up and, unlike the current president, I stand firmly against their efforts and any other foreign power that wants to interfere in our election,” Mr. Sanders said.

He also told reporters that he was briefed about a month ago.

“The intelligence community is telling us Russia is interfering in this campaign right now in 2020,” Mr. Sanders said on Friday in Bakersfield, Calif., where he was to hold a rally ahead of Saturday’s Nevada caucuses. “And what I say to Mr. Putin, ‘If I am elected president, trust me you will not be interfering in American elections.’”

Palmer Report, Editorial: Enough is enough! Bill Palmer, right, Feb. 22, 2020. When I cover Democratic politicians, I always approach it with this mindset: if bill palmerDonald Trump were saying and doing the same thing, would I call Trump out for it? If the answer is yes, then I have an editorial responsibility to call out the behavior of the Democrat in question. That I don’t often call out Democrats is a testament to the fact that they’re generally behaving like the good guys. But I’m not willing to blindly cheerlead someone just because they have a “D” next to their name. Come to think of it, this guy doesn’t even have a “D” next to his name.

Throughout the 2020 Democratic primary race, me and a whole lot of other pundits and activists have been giving Bernie Sanders the space to do his thing. Yes, he’s making false promises about magical ideas that he knows he could never get passed into law, and that are too simplistic to succeed even if they did become law. Yes, he has an embarrassingly lackluster record as a politician. Yes, he has a bizarre personal history. But he’s also managed to get a group of liberals to follow him around like the Pied Piper, thanks largely to the fact the mainstream media has been hyping him for the past five years in order to trump up ratings. So why antagonize the guy? His support is narrow enough that he’s not going to be the nominee anyway. But this week, a lot has changed.

bill palmer report logo headerFirst came the all-out war that Bernie’s top advisers declared on the rest of us. Bernie’s 2020 campaign adviser David Sirota amped up his trolling of journalists and pundits on Twitter, pointing to where he wanted Bernie’s trolls to attack. Bernie’s 2020 press secretary Briahna Joy went on CNN and falsely claimed that a competing candidate had a heart attack. Then last night we learned that Bernie has known for the past month that Vladimir Putin has been rigging the 2020 Democratic primary for him, and he’s chosen to keep that information a secret.

Yes, it was part of a classified briefing. But that just means he can’t reveal the specific details. Bernie easily could have warned us that Putin was meddling in the Democratic primary race. He chose not to. He could have used his power and influence as a United States Senator to get the details declassified. He chose not to. We know he chose not to, because when the story broke yesterday and the TV cameras cornered him, he didn’t offer any defense of his actions. Instead he dishonestly attacked the Washington Post for having broken the story. As we’ve unfortunately learned from Trump, when a politician offers no defense in a scandal and instead attacks the media, it means that politician has been doing the wrong thing all along in that scandal.

We’re now at a point where the Kremlin is trying to rig the 2020 Democratic primary race in favor of the weakest candidate, so that candidate can then lose to Donald Trump in the general election. And we’re supposed to sit back and be diplomatic about this? We’re supposed to pretend it’s not happening? Bernie Sanders didn’t think voters in these early states deserved to know that at least some of the pro-Bernie influence they were seeing online was coming from Vladimir Putin?

It’s not just that Bernie Sanders is a bumbling candidate full of laughable false promises who would spend four years ineptly getting nothing done while making nonstop excuses for his failures. It’s not even that Bernie Sanders has spent the past month accepting ongoing help from the Kremlin by refusing to let the public know it was going on. It’s that Bernie Sanders would lose to Donald Trump – and it wouldn’t even be close.

Because Bernie Sanders has never faced any real competition or scrutiny in his Vermont races, and because the media gave Bernie a free pass in 2016 while playing him up as a feel-good story, he’s never been properly vetted. If Bernie were the nominee, Trump and the GOP would immediately bust out every ugly detail from his thirty years of embarrassing political and personal history. They wouldn’t even have to dig. The dirt on Bernie is all publicly documented and most of it is not in dispute. It’s just that the media has never bothered to run with it. But once Trump starts talking about that dirt, the media will indeed run with it – and Bernie will be finished a week after he gets the nomination.

There are four very good candidates in this Democratic primary race – Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, and Amy Klobuchar, in any order you want to list them – who would all very likely beat Donald Trump. There’s also a mediocre candidate in Mike Bloomberg, who would also very likely beat Trump. If we nominate any of them, we get rid of Trump. If we nominate Bernie, we get four more years of Trump.

The Hill, Analysis: Ratings changes: House control moving further away from GOP, Nathan L. Gonzales, Feb. 22, 2020.  Factors include poor GOP recruitment and strong Democratic fundraising.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosOn paper and in theory, Republicans’ chances of winning back the House look pretty good. But a district-by-district analysis reveals much longer odds, even if the Democrats nominate Bernie Sanders for president.

Republicans need a net gain of 18 House seats for the majority. Considering 30 Democrats represent districts President Donald Trump carried in 2016, it would appear the GOP is well-positioned for a takeover.

In reality, the number of seats Republicans need to gain is closer to 21 because the party is likely to lose two seats in North Carolina under its new district lines, as well as Rep. Will Hurd’s seat in Texas. In addition, not all of those 30 Trump districts are currently hosting competitive races.

With a combination of poor GOP recruitment and strong fundraising by Democratic incumbents, Inside Elections recently downgraded Republicans’ chances of victory in nine districts, including three Trump seats held by Democrats whose reelections no longer appear on the list of competitive races at all. Those contests — Angie Craig’s in Minnesota’s 2nd, Mikie Sherrill’s in New Jersey’s 11th, and Ron Kind’s in Wisconsin’s 3rd — all moved from Likely to Solid Democratic.

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial, Florida’s Voting-Rights Fight Could Tip the 2020 Election, Editorial Board, Feb. 22, 2020. The state’s voters said 1.4 million ex-felons should be allowed to vote. It’s now up to the courts to protect their rights.

Some day, and possibly sooner than they think, Republican lawmakers will be forced to confront the reality that they cannot sustain a major American political party in the 21st century on a strict diet of voter suppression, discouragement and disenfranchisement.

That reckoning came a big step closer on Wednesday, when a federal appeals court in Florida dealt a major setback to one of the more galling G.O.P. anti-voter measures of recent years — a modern-day poll tax in Florida aimed at keeping hundreds of thousands of people with criminal records away from the ballot box.

The case, involving a lawsuit brought by 17 ex-felons, is about who gets to exercise the most fundamental constitutional right of all — the right to vote. And because Florida is the biggest battleground state in the country, the resolution of the case could well determine who becomes the next president.

Until 2018, Florida was one of three states that imposed a lifetime voting ban on former felons. Like most felon-disenfranchisement laws, Florida’s was a 19th-century relic drafted to keep newly freed black slaves from having a political voice. It continued to exert its racially biased effect into the 21st century, when more than one in five black Floridians were ineligible to vote because of a criminal conviction.

Trump & America's Future

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Strategic Culture Foundation, Opinion: 'I, Trumpius,' Wayne Madsen, Feb. 22, 2020. From what historians tell us about the Roman emperor Claudius, the strategic culture logoruler of the Roman Empire from 41 to 54 AD, he was intent on expanding the imperial borders to include the annexation of Britain, Judea, Thrace, Noricum, Lycia, and Mauretania, but was beset with problems at home and with his own rather unusual personality and quirks.

According to Seneca the Younger, Claudius had an annoying voice and small weak hands. When Claudius became excited and lost his temper, he reputedly exhibited signs of what would many centuries later be called Tourette syndrome. Claudius, known as a womanizer and who was married three times, was also fond of gladiator duels and executions. The emperor was also suffered from extreme paranoia and believed there were conspiratorial plots afoot against him. Several senators were executed after the emperor fingered them as potential plotters against his rule.

Claudius also heavily interfered with the judiciary, often involving himself in specific legal cases. He took over the role of censor, the powerful judicial authority who had control over the census, public morality, and government finances. Claudius maintained a virtual veto over all other Roman magistrates.

Claudius also issued numerous edicts, sometimes as many as twenty per day. The edicts were the “tweets” of that era.

Why is Claudius relevant today? Claudius’s excesses and abuses of power contributed to the ultimate fall of the Roman Empire, which continued to maintain some vestiges of the even greater Roman Republic.

Donald Trump exhibits many of the traits of Claudius. Trump revels in banquets at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, the abode of billionaires. Trump’s gluttony, infidelity, fits of rage and frequent inability to pronounce words, crudeness (as exhibited by his recent re-tweeting of a YouTube fart joke video), fanciful projects like the U.S.-Mexico border wall, the U.S. Space Force, ignoring the legislature and judiciary, reliance on “soothsayers” at Fox News, issuing daily “edicts” via Twitter, and interference with public finances, immigration, and the census would have all been cheered on by Claudius.

Like Claudius, Trump has become the laughingstock of the world, regardless of whether he commands a sizable military force armed with nuclear weapons. At the recent Munich Security Conference, Trump’s emissary, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, himself a clownish ideological doppelganger of the U.S. president, gave a speech that earned not one second of applause from the audience of world leaders, diplomats, and military officers.

It is one thing to steer the United States away from what President George Washington warned the young country against in his Farewell Address: “a permanent alliance with any portion of the foreign world.” Washington’s sentiment was echoed by President Thomas Jefferson in his presidential inaugural address, in which Jefferson called for “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations-entangling alliances with none.” Washington and Jefferson were students of classical history, so the idiosyncrasies of Claudius would have been well known to them. Both presidents would have been aghast at their successor, Trump, slamming down the telephones on at least two foreign leaders, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

To be sure, every foreign ministry and intelligence agency in the world have collected requisite information on Mr. Trump and the less-than-stellar members of his administration. World leaders likely peruse such information with a combination of amusement and bewilderment, just as ambassadors robert graves book coverand emissaries reported on the antics of Emperor Claudius to their kings and emperors.

Historians of the future will undoubtedly write about the scene at the 2019 NATO summit at Buckingham Palace in London, at which Johnson, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte, and British Princess Anne were caught on video laughing about Trump’s latest faux pas, a long and drawn out Trump press conference with Macron that ran late because Trump was jabbering on about meaningless drivel.

In his 1934 novel about Claudius, I, Claudius, Robert Graves depicts the emperor of Rome as someone who, upon becoming emperor, has a choice between restoring the old Republic and ruling as a benevolent leader or becoming a mad monarch. Claudius chose the latter. Trump, who is not a student of history or knowledgeable about literature, except for a book of Adolf Hitler’s speeches he once kept by his bed, has become a latter-day Claudius, “I, Trumpius,” as it were.

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, Wall Street Journal reporters protest ‘sick man’ headline in Wall Street Journal, Paul Farhi, Feb. 22, 2020. The Wall Street Journal’s China staff is urging the newspaper to apologize for a headline that prompted the Chinese government to expel three of its journalists this week.Feb. 21

Trump Power, Payback Headlines

2020 U.S. Elections

World News Headlines

Roger Stone Headlines

Inside DC

Media News Headlines

 

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump set off by intelligence assertion that Russia favors him, Ellen Nakashima, Shane Harris, Josh Dawsey and Anne Gearan, Feb. 21, 2020 (print ed.). A senior U.S. intelligence official told lawmakers last week that Russia wants to see President Trump reelected, viewing his administration as more favorable to the Kremlin’s interests, according to people who were briefed on the comments.

joseph maguire 9 26 19 testimony CustomAfter learning of that analysis, which was provided to House lawmakers in a classified hearing, Trump grew angry at his acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, in the Oval Office, seeing Maguire (shown in a file photo) and his staff as disloyal for speaking to Congress about Russia’s perceived preference. The intelligence official’s analysis and Trump’s furious response ­ruined Maguire’s chances of becoming the permanent intelligence chief, according to people familiar with the matter who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter.

It was not clear what specific steps, if any, U.S. intelligence officials think Russia may have taken to help Trump, according to the individuals.

Russian FlagIn Moscow, Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, dismissed the U.S. intelligence analysis.

“These are new paranoid reports, which, to our deep regret, will continue to grow in number as the election day approaches,” Peskov said Friday. “Naturally, they have nothing to do with the truth.”

Trump announced Wednesday that he was replacing Maguire with a vocal loyalist, Richard Grenell, who is the U.S. ambassador to Germany. The shake-up at the top of the intelligence community is the latest move in a post-impeachment purge. Trump has instructed aides to identify and remove officials across the government who aren’t defending his interests, and he wants them replaced with loyalists.

Maguire, a career official who is respected by the intelligence rank and file, was considered a leading candidate to be nominated to the post of DNI, White House aides had said. But Trump’s opinion shifted last week when he heard from a Republican ally about the official’s remarks.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: When competence is not the goal, Jennifer Rubin, Feb. 21, 2020. Since his Senate trial, President Trump has been on a rampage: firing and humiliating witnesses who testified under oath; attempting to micromanage the sentencing of convicted crony Roger Stone (while smearing the jury forewoman and trying to bully the judge); elevating the unqualified and partisan U.S. ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, to the post of acting director of national intelligence; and attempting a purge (after installing another unqualified crony, Johnny McEntee, to head the White House Presidential Personnel Office) of Republican appointees deemed insufficiently loyal to Trump.

There are several key points to keep in mind as we watch an unbowed Trump complete the transition to authoritarian cult leader.

First, the people responsible for this state of affairs, the total breakdown of democratic governance, are Senate Republicans (and Trump apologists still in office and in the media). To vote Trump out but leave the Senate in Republican hands would be a travesty; to leave Trump and keep the Senate in Republican hands would be unimaginable. Trump and Republicans are willing to turn the country into a banana republic run by partisan hacks.

Second, since loyalty to Trump is the sole condition for holding positions of authority (and one of the conditions of being a loyalist is to be no better informed or decent than Trump), the result is not only an administration of doormats but also an administration of incompetent doormats.

Third, Democratic presidential contenders advocating for a policy revolution or big, structural change are increasingly out of touch. We have no capacity, even if it were desirable, to launch major initiatives or fundamentally change entire sectors of our economy with a government that is discredited, hollowed out, incompetent and corrupt. The next president, as unsexy as it sounds, must be a competent and ethically pristine figure in order to repair our government. Candidates who have no conception of the task ahead and no interest in the hard work of running government are unsuited to the challenge we now face. Candidates whose purpose is confrontation and revolution lack the good sense and skill set to restore functional democracy.

 ny times logoNew York Times, House Alerted to Russian Election Meddling in Briefing That Angers Trump, Adam Goldman, Julian E. Barnes, Maggie Haberman and Nicholas Fandos, Feb. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Russia is aiding President Trump in the 2020 election, intelligence officials said in a secret briefing to lawmakers. Mr. Trump, complaining that Democrats might weaponize the news, berated the outgoing acting intelligence chief for allowing the briefing to happen.

Intelligence officials warned House lawmakers last week that Russia was interfering in the 2020 campaign to try to get President Trump re-elected, five people familiar with the matter said, a disclosure to Congress that angered Mr. Trump, who complained that Democrats would use it against him.

joseph maguire headshotThe day after the Feb. 13 briefing to lawmakers, Mr. Trump berated Joseph Maguire, left, the outgoing acting director of national intelligence, for allowing it to take place, people familiar with the exchange said. Mr. Trump cited the presence in the briefing of Representative Adam B. Schiff, below at right, the California Democrat who led the impeachment proceedings against him, as a particular irritant.

During the briefing to the House Intelligence Committee, Mr. Trump’s allies challenged the conclusions, arguing that he has been tough on Russia and strengthened European security. Some intelligence officials viewed the briefing as a tactical error, saying that had the official who delivered the conclusion spoken less pointedly or left it out, they would have avoided angering the Republicans.

adam schiff squareThat intelligence official, Shelby Pierson, is an aide to Mr. Maguire who has a reputation of delivering intelligence in somewhat blunt terms. The president announced on Wednesday that he was replacing Mr. Maguire with Richard Grenell, the ambassador to Germany and long an aggressively vocal Trump supporter.

Part of the president’s anger over the intelligence briefing stemmed from the administration’s reluctance to provide sensitive information to Mr. Schiff. He has been a leading critic of Mr. Trump since 2016, doggedly investigating Russian election interference and later leading the impeachment inquiry into the president’s dealings with Ukraine.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Will Richard Grenell Destroy the Intelligence Community? Jonathan Stevenson (senior fellow at the International Institute for richard grenell CustomStrategic Studies), Feb. 21, 2020. President Trump selected an unqualified loyalist as his top spy. We know what happens next.

A crazy optimist might have hoped that the impeachment trial, gutted though it was by Senate Republicans, would chasten rather than embolden President Trump, prompting a new judiciousness in his execution of his duties. Forget about that. His naming of Richard Grenell, the ambassador to Germany, as acting director of national intelligence has completely dashed any such hopes.

Mr. Grenell, shown at right on his Twitter photo, has no experience as an intelligence officer at any level, nor has he overseen a large government bureaucracy.

He has served in government only as communications director for the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. during the George W. Bush administration, and since May 2018 as ambassador to Germany. (In the interim, he founded and ran a public affairs consultancy, advising and commenting on Fox News.)

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: Grenell worst possible pick for DNI, Wayne Madsen, Feb. 21, 2020. Impeached President Donald John Trump could not have selected a worse choice as acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) than his ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, John Bolton's one-time hatchet man while Bolton served as the recess-appointed ambassador to the United Nations in the George W. Bush administration.

Trump's appointment of Grenell as acting DNI is obviously designed to ferret out remaining Trump critics and skeptics inside the U.S. Intelligence Community. In an unusual move, Grenell, who is the most unpopular member of the diplomatic corps in Berlin, will continue as ambassador in Berlin richard grenell owhile serving as acting DNI. Trump said he will be making a permanent DNI appointment sometime in the future.

Grenell, right, has no intelligence experience, but that is not a prerequisite for Trump. Grenell, who is a fundamentalist Christian and openly gay, is a Trump loyalist who also holds a coveted Gold Card for the Trump International Hotel in Washington. Grenell's Assemblies of God denomination vigorously condemns homosexuality. Fellow fundamentalist, Vice President Mike Pence, who is opposed to gay rights, had no problem swearing Grenell in as the ambassador to Germany while Grenell's partner, Matt Lashey, held the Bible.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: In one incident, a series of realities about Trump’s presidency seem to be confirmed, Philip Bump, Feb. 21, 2020. Why was Trump angry? According to sources who spoke with The Washington Post, it was at least in part because Trump thought that the information being provided to the committee could be used against him and, further, was a continuation of what Trump has constantly argued is a false narrative about Russia’s efforts to boost his candidacy in 2016.

Republicans on the committee pushed back during the hearing in a way that Trump would appreciate: Why would Russia want to aid Trump’s reelection when his administration had levied sanctions against the country?

dnc square logoStep back and think about all of the ways the preceding paragraph reveals the hollowness of key aspects of Trump’s rhetoric.

We can begin with Trump’s continued insistence that Russia didn’t assist him in 2016. It did, as established robustly in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s assessment released in April.

Hackers working for Russian intelligence agencies stole information from the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman and published it in two tranches over the course of the election — one timed to muddy the Democratic convention and the other to affect the general election. (Last week’s briefing, incidentally, included an assessment that Russia would again try to influence the Democratic primary.) While the effects of those releases are difficult to calculate, it’s hard to argue that they had no effect on how voters cast their ballots that year.

ny times logoNew York Times, A White House aide accused of writing the anonymous Op-Ed is being reassigned to the Energy Department, Michael Crowley, Feb. 21, 2020 (print ed.). The White House is transferring a senior national security aide who fell under suspicion of writing an anonymous insider account of dissent within the Trump administration, the latest of several senior personnel moves stemming from questions of loyalty to President Trump.

victoria coates CustomVictoria Coates, right, Mr. Trump’s deputy national security adviser, will move on Monday to the Department of Energy, where she will serve as a senior adviser to Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette.

Robert C. O’Brien, the national security adviser, announced on Thursday the staff shift in a statement, saying her move was intended to “ensure the close alignment of energy policy with national security objectives.” The move was first reported by Axios.

But current and former administration officials said Ms. Coates, who managed Middle East and North Africa issues on the National Security Council, had been targeted by a whisper campaign among some pro-Trump conservatives that she was Anonymous, an official who wrote a September 2018 Op-Ed essay for The New York Times that was expanded into a book that was published last year.

2020 U.S. Elections

democratic debate feb 19 2020 Custom

bill palmerPalmer Report, Opinion: If Bernie Sanders is the nominee, we will lose the general election, Bill Palmer, right, Feb. 21, 2020. Vote blue no matter who. That’s the popular slogan among those Americans who understand the importance of voting for the Democratic nominee over Donald Trump in 2020, no matter which candidate ends up being the nominee. This is good, solid advice. I’d vote for the measles over Donald Trump, and you should too.

But I’m going to tell you something: if Bernie Sanders is the nominee, we will lose the general election.

Sanders fans keep pointing to national polls which show that every Democratic candidate is currently holding a lead over Donald Trump. This is true. But poll numbers can change – and if Sanders ends up being the nominee, they will. This is a guy who (incorrectly) calls himself a “socialist.” This is a guy who spent his honeymoon in Russia. This is a guy who wrote bizarre rape fantasy fiction in his youth. He’s never been properly vetted in any bill palmer report logo headerelection he’s run in. But if he’s the nominee, Trump and the GOP will suddenly start pushing all of the above, and they’ll destroy him. But if you don’t want to take my word for it, just ask Vladimir Putin.

The Washington Post reported today that the U.S. intel community informed Bernie Sanders a month ago that the Kremlin is trying to rig the Democratic primary race in his favor. Why on earth would Putin want Bernie to be the nominee? Simple: Putin knows that Bernie can be taken down at the drop of a hat. Not only would Trump win over Bernie, Trump would likely win forty states over Bernie. It gets worse.

Bernie Sanders is a guy who recently had a heart attack. In case that’s not enough to get your attention in these increasingly chaotic times, he recently had a heart attack. He’s also refusing to release his detailed medical records, and is asking us to instead take the word of his doctor, who wrote a letter. Wait, didn’t Trump try that same trick after everyone started questioning his health?

Bernie has also put together arguably the worst campaign staff of any major presidential candidate in memory. His 2020 campaign is being run by lying idiots like professional troll David Sirota, clueless adviser Nina Turner, and press secretary Briahna Grey – who is so bad at her job, she went on TV this week and falsely claimed that a competing candidate had a heart attack. Are we supposed to believe that these nincompoops are going to be able to put together a campaign strategy smart enough to work around Donald Trump’s antics?

Bernie’s most competent 2016 adviser, Symone Sanders, has since gone on to work for one of Bernie’s opponents in 2020. She’s gotten to know Bernie better than anyone, and now she’s working full-time to try to prevent him from getting the nomination. What does that tell you?

If Bernie Sanders ends up with the Democratic nomination, I will personally go door to door campaigning for him, just to try to get Donald Trump out of office. So will a lot of other people who know Bernie is an idiot, but understand that Trump is far worse. But there’s no getting around the fact that Bernie is a disaster. If he ends up being the nominee, we’ll be stuck with four more years of Donald Trump. Just ask Vladimir Putin.

ny times logoNew York Times, Bloomberg Is Willing to Release 3 Women From N.D.A.s, He Says, Feb. 21, 2020. Michael Bloomberg reversed himself after coming under fire from his rivals over the agreements at this week’s Democratic presidential debate. Michael R. Bloomberg, who was challenged at this week’s Democratic debate over the agreements, said the women had made complaints “about comments they said I had made.”

“If any of them want to be released from their NDA so that they can talk about those allegations, they should contact the company and they’ll be given a release,” Mr. Bloomberg said in the statement. “I’ve done a lot of reflecting on this issue over the past few days and I’ve decided that for as long as I’m running the company, we won’t offer confidentiality agreements to resolve claims of sexual harassment or misconduct going forward.”

But the statement by Mr. Bloomberg did not appear to release all former employees of his media and technology company from such agreements. For instance, it did not say he would allow people to speak out if they had signed nondisclosure agreements after complaining of harassment from any person other than Mr. Bloomberg.

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump was not told coronavirus-infected Americans would be flown home from cruise ship, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Josh Dawsey, Feb. 21, 2020. The president reportedly grew furious with senior advisers after being assured that infected patients would remain in quarantine overseas.

Trump was briefed on the decision and agreed that healthy passengers should not be on the plane with sick ones, three senior administration officials said. But the State Department and a top U.S. health official ultimately decided to bring back the 14 Americans who tested positive for the virus on the planes and place them in isolation — without informing the president first.

ny times logoNew York Times, Coronavirus Updates: South Korea Reports Second Death From Virus, Staff reports, Feb. 21, 2020. The number of confirmed cases china flag Smallin the country, many connected to a single church, doubled in a day. Cases in South Korea surge as officials report a second death.

South Korea reported a surge in confirmed infections and a second death from the coronavirus on Friday.

The patient, who died on Friday, was a 54-year-old woman who had been admitted to a hospital in Cheongdo, a town in the southeastern part of the country. The first death, announced on Thursday, was of a patient at the same hospital.

Health officials confirmed 100 new cases on Friday, bringing the total to 204. Worldwide, the vast majority of cases are in China, which has more than 75,000, and Japan has more than 700, most from passengers who were aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Like an Umbrella Had Covered the Sky’: Locust Swarms Despoil Kenya, Abdi Latif Dahir, Feb. 21, 2020. At first, villagers thought the dark, dense blot in the sky was a harmless cloud. Then came the terrifying realization that the locusts had arrived. Kenya is battling its worst desert locust outbreak in 70 years, threatening the food security of millions.

Kenya is battling its worst desert locust outbreak in 70 years, and the infestation has spread through much of the eastern part of the continent and the Horn of Africa, razing pasture and croplands in Somalia and Ethiopia and sweeping into South Sudan, Djibouti, Uganda and Tanzania.

kenya flagThe highly mobile creatures can travel over 80 miles a day. Their swarms, which can contain as many as 80 million locust adults in each square kilometer, eat the same amount of food daily as about 35,000 people.

Officials say the infestation poses a risk to food security, undermines economic growth and, if not controlled soon, exacerbate communal conflict over grazing land.

In addition to the 12 million people already experiencing acute food shortages in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia, the locust crisis now poses a potential threat to the food security of over 20 million others, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, a U.N. agency.

“The magnitude of the problem is just so big,” said Cyril Ferrand, who leads the organization’s resilience team for eastern Africa. “The locusts are a moving target and we are racing against time.”

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump says he’s considering Rep. Douglas A. Collins for permanent DNI post, Ashley Parker, Feb. 21, 2020. President Trump told reporters Thursday evening that he was considering Rep. Douglas A. Collins (R-Ga.), right, as his permanent Director of National Intelligence.

doug collins o CustomThe move would not only fill a post that has not been permanently filled since Daniel Coats resigned last summer, but would help Trump and his fellow Republicans avoid what is already shaping up to be a messy intraparty fight for the Georgia Senate seat, where Collins is running against Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) in the party’s primary.

Collins is just one of several candidates he’s considering, said the president, who spoke to reporters as he flew from Colorado to Nevada as part of a four-day swing out West.

Earlier this week, Trump announced that Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, would replace Joseph Maguire as the acting intelligence director. But both Trump and Grenell have said he is not expected to become the permanent chief, a post which requires Senate confirmation.

washington post logoWashington Post, In all-caps tweet, Trump vows new farm bailouts as China purchases appear weaker than promised, Jeff Stein and Laura Reiley,  He claimed the bailout would be paid for by “MASSIVE TARIFF MONEY COMING INTO THE USA!” Critics say tariffs are paid by U.S. consumers in the form of higher prices.

The United States has already pledged or spent $28 billion in bailout payments to U.S. farmers, an amount that is twice the size of the Obama-era bailout of the auto industry. Many Republicans assailed President Barack Obama’s actions, but they have largely been supportive of Trump’s assistance to farmers. In some cases, that assistance has gone to foreign-owned firms with plants operating in the United States.

washington post logoWashington Post, We will hunt you down’: Man threatened attorney of Trump whistleblower, prosecutors say, Reis Thebault, President Trump was standing at a lectern adorned with the executive office seal, addressing an arena packed with thousands of his most strident supporters, when he paused his standard rally stump speech and reached into his suit coat.

Last year, as he harangued the “hyperpartisan impeachment witch hunt” and the whistleblower who helped launch it, Trump unfolded a printout of a just-published Fox News story and waved it at the crowd in northern Louisiana.

“Look at this character. They just handed me this story,” the president said of the article, which detailed old tweets by Mark Zaid, one of the attorneys representing the intelligence official who sounded the alarm on Trump’s involvement in pressuring Ukraine to investigate a political rival.
The day after the rally, Nov. 7, 2019, Zaid received a disquieting email.

“All traitors must die miserable deaths,” the message read. “Those that represent traitors shall meet the same fate. We will hunt you down and bleed you out like the pigs you are.”

The email came from Brittan J. Atkinson, said Michigan federal prosecutors, who was indicted on charges of making death threats against Zaid. The newly unsealed court filing was first reported by Politico and noted by Seamus Hughes, the deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University.

Atkinson sent the menacing message from Gladwin County, in northern Michigan, the indictment said. He is charged with violating federal interstate communication laws, which prohibit “any threat to injure the person of another.” The felony offense is punishable by up to five years in prison.

washington post logoWashington Post, Wells Fargo reaches $3 billion settlement with DOJ, SEC over fake-accounts scandal, Renae Merle, Feb. 21, 2020. The settlement addresses systemic consumer abuses sparked by the bank’s admission in 2016 that it had opened millions of fake accounts customers didn’t want.

wells fargo logo CustomWells Fargo agreed Friday to pay $3 billion to settle potential federal criminal and civil charges that, for more than a decade, the bank’s aggressive sales goals led to widespread consumer abuses, including millions of accounts opened without customers’ consent.

Under its settlement with the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission, Wells Fargo acknowledged that it had collected millions of dollars in fees as employees falsified records, forged signatures and misused customers’ personal information to open fake accounts in order to meet unrealistic sales goals. Bank leaders knew of the misbehavior, including “violations of federal criminal law,” as early as 2002 but didn’t stop it until 2016, according to the settlement agreement.

The $3 billion fine, which is about 15 percent of Wells Fargo’s $19.5 billion in profits last year, is among the largest corporate penalties handed down during the Trump administration but not a record.

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, How conservatives learned to wield power inside Facebook, Craig Timberg, Feb. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Facebook created “Project P” — for propaganda — in the hectic weeks after the 2016 presidential election and quickly found dozens of pages that had peddled false news reports facebook logoahead of Donald Trump’s surprise victory. Nearly all were based overseas, had financial motives and displayed a clear rightward bent.

In a world of perfect neutrality, which Facebook espouses as its goal, the political tilt of the pages shouldn’t have mattered. But in a videoconference between Facebook’s Washington office and its Silicon Valley headquarters in December 2016, the company’s most senior Republican, Joel Kaplan, voiced concerns that would become familiar to those within the company.

“We can’t remove all of it because it will disproportionately affect conservatives,” said Kaplan, a former George W. Bush White House official and now the head of Facebook’s Washington office, according to people familiar with the meeting who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect professional relationships.

When another Facebook staff member pushed for the entire list to be taken down on the grounds that the accounts fueled the “fake news” that had roiled the election, Kaplan warned of the backlash from conservatives.

“They don’t believe it to be fake news,” he said, arguing for time to develop guidelines that could be defended to the company’s critics, including on the right.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosThe debate over “Project P,” which resulted in a few of the worst pages quickly being removed while most others remained on the platform, exemplified the political dynamics that have reigned within Facebook since Trump emerged as the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee to the White House in 2016. A company led mainly by Democrats in the liberal bastion of Northern California repeatedly has tilted rightward to deliver policies, hiring decisions and public gestures sought by Republicans, according to current and former employees and others who have worked closely with the company.

Trump and other party leaders have pressured Facebook by making unproven claims of bias against conservatives amid rising signs of government action on the issue, including investigations by Congress and the Justice Department. Republicans also have leveraged Facebook’s fears of alienating conservative Americans to win concessions from a company whose most widely shared news content typically includes stories from Fox News and other right-leaning sources.

These sensitivities — in conjunction with the company’s long-standing resistance to acting as “an arbiter of truth” — have affected Facebook’s responses to a range of major issues, from how to address fake news and Russian manipulation of American voters on the platform to, more recently, the advertising policies that have set the political ground rules for the 2020 election, say people privy to internal debates.

Such factors have helped shape a platform that gives politicians license to lie and that remains awash in misinformation, vulnerable to a repeat of twitter bird Custommany of the problems that marred the 2016 presidential election.

Facebook, unlike Google and Twitter, also has refused calls to restrict politicians’ access to powerful ad-targeting tools — which Trump used with particular relish four years ago — that allow messages to be tailored to individual voters, based on characteristics Facebook has gleaned over years of tracking user behavior.

ny times logoe jean carroll headshotNew York Times, What Happened Between E. Jean Carroll and Elle Magazine? Katherine Rosman and Jessica Bennett, Feb. 21, 2020. Her contract was terminated early, but the fashion magazine maintains it wasn’t because of her allegations against President Trump.

 ny times logoNew York Times, A $1 Billion Literary Scandal and the ‘Madoff of France,’ David Segal, Feb. 21, 2020. Accused of orchestrating a literary Ponzi scheme, Gérard Lhéritier prepares his defense as his breathtaking collection is auctioned off.

A letter from Frida Kahlo, signed and twice kissed with red lipstick, fetched just over $8,800. A page of scribbled calculations by Isaac Newton sold for about $21,000. A 1953 handwritten speech by John F. Kennedy took in $10,000.

All of the items came from a now-defunct company, Aristophil, which starting in 2002 built one of the largest collections of rare books, autographs and manuscripts in history — some 136,000 pieces in all.

The buying spree turned the company’s founder and president, a stout 71-year-old named Gérard Lhéritier, into a celebrity. He opened the stately Museum of Letters and Manuscripts in a pricey neighborhood in Paris, and surrounded himself with French luminaries. They included former presidents, authors and journalists, who crowned him the “king of manuscripts.”

Six years ago, the French authorities shut down Aristophil and arrested Mr. Lhéritier, charging him with fraud and accusing him of orchestrating what amounts to a highbrow Ponzi scheme. As he bought all those rare manuscripts and letters, he had them appraised, divided their putative value into shares and sold them as if they were stock in a corporation. Those shares were bought by 18,000 people, many of them elderly and of modest means, who collectively invested about $1 billion.

The problem has nothing to do with quality. Everything in the collection is authentic, and a large part of it is highly coveted. But the authorities say that with the help of pliant experts, Mr. Lhéritier grossly inflated the value of pieces before he sold shares in them.

Roger Stone Stories

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washington post logoWashington Post, Roger Stone sentenced to 40 months for lying to Congress, witness tampering, Rachel Weiner, Matt Zapotosky and Tom Jackman​, Feb. 21, 2020 (printed.). Implementation of the sentence, which came amid turmoil between the Justice Department and President Trump over the penalty, will be delayed as the judge weighs Stone’s request for a new trial.

A federal judge on Thursday sentenced Roger Stone, President Trump’s longtime friend and political adviser, to serve three years and four months in prison for impeding a congressional investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

amy berman jacksonThe penalty from U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, right, comes after weeks of infighting over the politically charged case that threw the Justice Department into crisis, and it is likely not to be the final word. Even before the sentencing hearing began, Trump seemed to suggest on Twitter he might pardon Stone. With the proceedings ongoing, Trump questioned whether his ally was being treated fairly.

In a lengthy speech before imposing the penalty, Jackson seemed to take aim at Trump, saying Stone “was not prosecuted for standing up for the president; he was prosecuted for covering up for the president.” She also appeared to call out Attorney General William P. Barr, saying intervention to reduce career prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation was “unprecedented.” But she said the politics surrounding the case had not influenced her final decision.

“The truth still exists; the truth still matters,” Jackson said, echoing prosecutors’ closing arguments at trial. “Roger Stone’s insistence that it doesn’t, his belligerence, his pride in his own lies are a threat to our most fundamental institutions, to the foundations of our democracy. If it goes unpunished it will not be a victory for one party or another; everyone loses.”

She added, “The dismay and disgust at the defendant’s belligerence should transcend party.”

Trump, meanwhile, weighed in publicly from afar — again bucking Barr’s public and private warnings to stop talking about Justice Department criminal cases. In a tweet, the president compared Stone to former FBI director James B. Comey, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton. Trump has suggested that each of them should be charged.

“‘They say Roger Stone lied to Congress.’ @CNN,” Trump wrote during the hearing, tagging the news network. “OH, I see, but so did Comey (and he also leaked classified information, for which almost everyone, other than Crooked Hillary Clinton, goes to jail for a long time), and so did Andy McCabe, who also lied to the FBI! FAIRNESS?”

Overnight, Trump also hinted he couldpardon Stone, tweeting a video clip in which Fox News host Tucker Carlson said, “President Trump could end this travesty in an instant with a pardon, and there are indications tonight that he will do that.” Carlson noted a series of pardons and commutations the president granted this week.

Stone, 67, was convicted by a federal jury in November on seven counts of lying to Congress and tampering with a witness about his efforts to learn about hacked Democratic emails related to Clinton.

  • Washington Post, Analysis: Strange scenes at Roger Stone’s sentencing raise even more questions about William Barr

Related stories:

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ny times logoNew York Times, Roger Stone Is Sentenced to Over 3 Years in Prison, Sharon LaFraniere, Feb. 20, 2020. Mr. Stone, President Trump’s friend and former campaign adviser, was convicted of lying to investigators under oath and trying to block witness testimony.

Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime friend of President Trump’s, was sentenced Thursday to more than three years in prison for obstructing a congressional inquiry in a bid to protect the president.

The case against Mr. Stone, 67, who has known and advised Mr. Trump for years, had become a cause célèbre among the president’s supporters. Mr. Trump has attacked the prosecutors, the jury forewoman and the federal judge overseeing the trial, casting his former campaign adviser as the victim of a vendetta by law enforcement.

Hours after the sentencing, Mr. Trump lashed out again at the authorities for prosecuting Mr. Stone and claimed his trial was unfair, but he said he would not intervene using his clemency powers at this point.

“I’m not going to do anything in terms of the great powers bestowed on a president of the United States,” he said at an event in Las Vegas for former convicts easing back into society. “I want the process to play out. I think that’s the best thing to do because I’d love to see Roger exonerated — and I’d love to see it happen — because personally I think he was treated unfairly.”

Instead, he said he would wait to see how the case is ultimately resolved, leaving a clear impression that he would issue a pardon or commutation if he were unsatisfied. “We will watch the process and watch it very closely,” Mr. Trump said. “And at some point, I will make a determination. But Roger Stone and everybody has to be treated fairly. And this has not been a fair process. OK?”

Mr. Stone was convicted of lying to congressional investigators and trying to block the testimony of a witness who would have exposed his lies to the House Intelligence Committee. At the time, the panel was investigating whether Mr. Trump’s campaign conspired with the Russian government to influence the 2016 presidential election.

The case ignited a broader controversy as former and current government lawyers accused Mr. Barr of failing to protect the department from improper political influence from the White House. In an open letter, more than 2,000 former Justice Department employees have called for Mr. Barr to resign, claiming “interference in the fair administration of justice” by both the attorney general and the president.

In a television interview last Thursday, Mr. Barr said he had decided to recommend a more lenient punishment for Mr. Stone based on the merits of the case. He also asked the president to stop publicly opining about the department’s criminal cases, saying it was making his job “impossible.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: What Barr Did for Roger Stone Is Like Nothing I’ve Seen Before, Noah Bookbinder (executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington), Feb. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Has the Trump Department of Justice ever asked for a lower sentence for someone who wasn’t a presidential ally?

The sentence that Judge Amy Berman Jackson imposed on Mr. Stone, while lower than the guideline range that the career prosecutors recommended, is not unusual; in 2018, federal judges imposed sentences outside the guidelines in about a quarter of all cases nationwide. As Judge Jackson said in Thursday’s hearing, she made this decision based on her own assessment of the relevant facts, and she likely would have imposed a sentence below the guideline range irrespective of Mr. Barr’s intervention. This is exactly what the law requires.

william barr new oMr. Barr, right, and those carrying out his wishes did not really dispute the facts and the law as carefully laid out by the career prosecutors. Instead, they presented a litany of the arguments that Mr. Stone’s own lawyers had made for ignoring the guidelines and giving him lenient treatment.

So the career prosecutors made exactly the kind of recommendation prosecutors are expected to make in our system, and one that the Trump administration specifically encourages them to make. In contrast, doing what the attorney general did, calling for a sentence “far less” than that called for by the guidelines, is generally frowned upon by the Justice Department.

As a former federal corruption prosecutor and senior staffer at the United States Sentencing Commission, I can say unequivocally that what Mr. Barr and his team did was something I have never seen before. It calls into question his fitness to play a leading role in our nation’s justice system. The top prosecutor in the land must demonstrate a commitment to protecting the rule of law, not the president and his allies.

Feb. 20

2020 U.S. Elections

Trump Power, Payback Headlines

 

2020 U.S. Elections

democratic debate feb 19 2020 Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, At fiery debate, a sour welcome for Bloomberg and criticism for Sanders, Matt Viser, Annie Linskey, Chelsea Janes and Michael Scherer, Feb. 20, 2020 (print ed.). Former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg, right, suffered a punishing welcome and Sen. Bernie Sanders was bludgeoned with criticism as an animated cast of rival candidates spent Wednesday’s presidential debate scrambling to stake their michael bloomberg2claims against the two rising contenders in the Democratic race.

The result was an urgent, two-hour free-for-all that sizzled with animosity. Candidates who mostly avoided political combat in the previous debates, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg, came out swinging, each of them aiming to avoid elimination from the race. Contenders who had once respected time limits eagerly spoke over one another, posing questions directly to each other; former vice president Joe Biden, facing his own make-or-break moment, was among those who repeatedly interrupted with the phrase “Let me finish!”

Washington Post, The Nevada debate: What happened, blow by blow
• Washington Post, A guide to the most biting brawls of the night

ny times logodemocratic donkey logoNew York Times, Winners and Losers of the Democratic Debate, Our columnists and contributors give their rankings, Staff reports, Feb. 20, 2020. In this special feature, Times Opinion writers rank the candidates on a scale of 1 to 10: 1 means the candidate probably didn’t belong on the stage and should probably drop out; 10 means it’s on, President Trump. Here’s what our columnists and contributors thought about the debate.

washington post logobernie sanders 2020 button croppedWashington Post, Winners and losers from the Nevada debate analysis, Aaron Blake, Feb. 20, 2020 (print ed.). Sen. Bernie Sanders benefited from others’ fights, and Mike Bloomberg’s debate inexperience showed.

• Washington Post, Bloomberg faces attacks for refusing to release women from confidentiality agreements

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: Seven claims that caught our attention, Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo and Sarah Cahlan, Feb. 20, 2020 (print ed.). The debate didn’t have many statements that merited fact-checking — except these.

American System Radio, Democratic Candidates Fall Short In Fratricidal Las Vegas Debate, Webster G. Tarpley, right, and Daniela Wells, Feb. 20, 2022. No webster tarpley headshotSerious Discussion Of Defending Legality, Constitutional Government, And Due Process Against Gathering Trump Dictatorship; No Warnings Against Trump Attack On Medicare, Medicaid, And Obamacare.

Supine Acceptance Of Trump’s Big Lie About Fake US Economic Miracle, Despite Ample Statistical Proof; In Particular, No Measures To Nationalize Federal Reserve In Service Of Real Recovery And Foreign Priorities, Nor To Roll Back Fed’s Gift Of $7 Trillion To New York Repo Market; No Awareness Of Coronavirus Epidemic As Made Worse By Lies Of Bungling Tyrant Xi;

Breaking: US Intelligence Under Aegis Of ODNI Maguire Warned House Leaders On Feb 13 That Russia Is Intervening In 2020 Election In Favor Of Trump; Dotard Went Bonkers When He Learned That Schiff Was Present; After Long Friction, Maguire Is Ousted; Unqualified Replacement Is Ambassador To Berlin Richard Grenell, The Boorish, Belligerent, And Deeply Resented Ambassador To Berlin; Grenell Is Now Supposed To Act As ODNI, Envoy To Germany, And Special Representative To Serbia And Kosovo!

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: It’s a critical moment in the Democratic race. The debate made that clear, Dan Balz, Feb. 20, 2020. The debate was noisy and full of attacks, a sign of the urgency many candidates and the party feel.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Warren, Bloomberg and What Really Matters, Paul Krugman, right, Feb. 20, 2020. Dems should be talking about financialization paul krugmanand fraud.

Wednesday’s Democratic debate was far more informative than previous debates. What we learned, in particular, was that as a presidential candidate, Michael Bloomberg is a great businessman — and that Elizabeth Warren remains a force to be reckoned with.

Both lessons ran very much counter to the narrative that the news media has been telling in recent weeks. On one side, there has been a palpable eagerness on the part of some news organizations and many pundits to elevate Bloomberg; on the other side, complaints by Warren supporters about her “erasure” from news coverage and polling aren’t wrong.

What does all this mean for the nomination? I have no idea. But maybe the Warren-Bloomberg confrontation will help refocus discussion away from so-called Medicare for all — which isn’t going to be enacted, no matter who wins — to an issue where it matters a lot which Democrat prevails. Namely, are we going to do anything to rein in the financialization of the U.S. economy?

dnc square logoDuring the U.S. economy’s greatest generation — the era of rapid, broadly shared growth that followed World War II — Wall Street was a fairly peripheral part of the picture. When people thought about business leaders, they thought about people running companies that actually made things, not people who got rich through wheeling and dealing.

But that all changed in the 1980s, largely thanks to financial deregulation. Suddenly the big bucks came from buying and selling companies as opposed to running them.

In many cases, these financial deals saddled companies with crippling levels of debt, often ending in bankruptcy and job destruction — a process that continues to this day. There was also an epidemic of financial fraud and racketeering, exemplified by the career of Michael Milken, the junk-bond king Donald Trump just pardoned.

Financial reform, unlike health care, is an area in which it might make a big difference which Democrat becomes president. It’s true that other candidates — including Bloomberg! — have endorsed Warren-type reforms. But it is, I think, fair to ask how committed they would be in practice, and also whether they would squander their political capital on unwinnable fights, which is my big concern about Sanders.

 ny times logoelizabeth warren 2020 button croppedNew York Times, Will Warren’s Dominant Showing Boost Her Chances in Nevada and Beyond? Shane Goldmacher and Astead W. Herndon, Feb. 20, 2020. Elizabeth Warren’s performance helped her raise $2.8 million by night’s end. The question is whether it’s too late.

While Ms. Warren’s opening lines had been carefully rehearsed, the most searing exchange of the night was improvised, according to her aides. Ms. Warren pressed Mr. Bloomberg about the nondisclosure agreements that former female employees at his companies had signed, so voters could know “what’s lurking out there,” flustering the former mayor into perhaps his worst moments onstage.

By the night’s end, the gamble had seemingly paid off. In a Twitter post Thursday afternoon, she said she had raised $5 million, not just breaking but shattering her top fund-raising day in all of 2019. Even advisers to Ms. Warren’s rivals had to acknowledge her success. “Good performance,” said Jeff Weaver, a top adviser to Mr. Sanders. “Good for her.”

  •  New York Times, Last night’s debate was the most-watched Democratic primary debate ever, drawing 19.7 million viewers, Feb. 20, 2020.

ny times logoNew York Times, After Rough Debate, Bloomberg Repeats Attack on Sanders, Jeremy W. Peters, Feb. 20, 2020. Michael Bloomberg argued that nominating Bernie Sanders, a self-identified democratic socialist, would lead to defeat against President Trump.

michael bloomberg2After a poor performance in a ferocious Democratic debate, former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg faced voters and the news media at a Thursday morning event in Utah as his campaign reckoned with the fallout from the televised verbal combat, which undercut all four moderate Democrats onstage at times and left Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren looking strengthened.

Mr. Bloomberg, right, trying to move on quickly from the debate, used the Utah event to intensify his attacks on Mr. Sanders, the current polling leader in the field. He argued that nominating Mr. Sanders, a self-identified democratic socialist who has passionate support in the party’s left wing, would lead to defeat against President Trump in November.

Trump Power, Paybackjared kushner donald trump unsourced

washington post logoWashington Post, White House assembles team of advisers to guide clemency process as Trump considers more pardons, Toluse Olorunnipa, Josh Dawsey and Neena Satija, Feb. 20, 2020 (print ed.). The group, led by President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has been meeting since late last year to discuss a revamped pardon system.

The White House is moving to take more direct control over pardons and commutations, with President Trump aiming to limit the role of the Justice Department in the clemency process as he weighs a flurry of additional pardon announcements, according to people familiar with the matter.

Trump, who granted clemency Tuesday to a group of 11 people that included several political allies and supporters, has assembled a team of advisers to recommend and vet candidates for pardons, according to several people with knowledge of the matter who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

The group, essentially an informal task force of at least a half-dozen presidential allies, has been meeting since late last year to discuss a revamped pardon system in the White House. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser (shown above left), is taking a leading role in the new clemency initiative and has supported the idea of putting the White House more directly in control of the process that in past administrations has been housed in the Justice Department, officials said.

Pam Bondi, the former Florida attorney general who served on Trump’s impeachment defense team, is also playing a significant role, vetting applications for potential pardon recipients. Kushner has personally reviewed applications with White House lawyers before presenting them to Trump for final approval, according to two senior administration officials.

washington post logoWashington Post, Against wishes of Barr, Trump fires off more tweets about Justice Department, John Wagner, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett, Feb. 20, 2020 (print ed.). The tense equilibrium between the president and the attorney general may be tested again Thursday by the sentencing of longtime Trump friend Roger Stone.

Justice Department logoPresident Trump continued to test his relationship with Attorney General William P. Barr on Wednesday by amplifying conservative allies demanding he “clean house” at the Justice Department and target those involved in the Russia investigation that once threatened his presidency.

The grievances shared by Trump in a flurry of morning tweets included claims of a “seditious conspiracy” against him, and attacks on a “criminal gang” at the FBI and the Justice Department.

william barr new oA day after it was revealed that Barr, right, told people close to Trump that he had considered quitting, the president and his attorney general seemed to reach a detente of sorts. Officials inside the Justice Department said they were watching the situation closely, mindful that a new string of tweets or comments could quickly upend the situation, but there were no indications that Barr would leave imminently. The attorney general did not mention the controversy when he spoke during an event Wednesday at FBI headquarters.

• Washington Post, Attorney for Julian Assange claims that congressman offered pardon on behalf of Trump
• Washington Post, Trump freed Alice Johnson in 2018. This week, he granted clemency to three of her friends.

ny times logoNew York Times, What Drove Trump’s Clemency Orders: Friendship, Fame and Connections, Peter Baker, J. David Goodman, Michael Rothfeld and Elizabeth Williamson, Feb. 20, 2020 (print ed.). One of the pardons that President Trump issued Tuesday came together in just hours. The process was an ad hoc scramble that bypassed formal procedures.

Early Tuesday morning, Bernard B. Kerik’s telephone rang. On the line was David Safavian, a friend and fellow former government official bernard kerik portraitwho like Mr. Kerik (shown at right) was once imprisoned for misconduct. Mr. Safavian had life-changing news.

Mr. Safavian, who had ties to the White House, said that he was putting together a letter asking President Trump to pardon Mr. Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner who pleaded guilty to tax fraud and other charges. Mr. Safavian needed names of supporters to sign the letter. By noon.

Mr. Kerik hit the phones. Shortly after 10 a.m., he reached Geraldo Rivera, the Fox News correspondent and a friend of Mr. Trump’s. Mr. Rivera, who described Mr. Kerik as “an American hero,” instantly agreed to sign the one-page letter. Mr. Kerik called Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, and when Mr. Safavian reached Mr. King around 10:30, he too agreed to sign.

At 11:57 a.m., Mr. Kerik’s phone rang again. This time it was the president.

“He said, ‘As we speak, I am signing a full presidential pardon on your behalf,’” Mr. Kerik recalled in an interview on Wednesday. “Once he started talking and I realized what we were talking about, I got emotional.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Roger Stone Is Set to Be Sentenced in Case That Has Drawn Scrutiny, Sharon LaFraniere, Feb. 20, 2020 (print ed.). The sentencing is playing out amid upheaval at the Justice Department and a virtual standoff between the president and the attorney general. Roger J. Stone Jr., the Republican political consultant who for years portrayed himself as the dirty trickster of American politics, is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday morning for obstructing a congressional inquiry in a bid to protect President Trump.

roger stoneThe case against Mr. Stone, 67, right, a longtime friend of Mr. Trump’s, has become a cause célèbre among the president’s supporters. Mr. Trump has attacked the prosecutors, the jury forewoman and the federal judge overseeing the trial, casting his former campaign adviser as the victim of a vendetta by law enforcement.

Mr. Stone was convicted in November of lying to investigators under oath and trying to block the testimony of a witness who would have exposed his lies to the House Intelligence Committee. At the time, the panel was investigating whether Mr. Trump’s campaign conspired with the Russian government to influence the 2016 presidential election.

His sentencing is playing out against an extraordinary backdrop of upheaval at the Justice Department and a virtual standoff between the president and Attorney General William P. Barr over Mr. Trump’s comments about the case.

ny times logoNew York Times, Mr. Trump has attacked the Roger Stone trial and the judge as biased. She seems unlikely to be ruffled, Sharon LaFraniere
Feb. 20, 2020. Amy Berman Jackson, right, is no stranger to working under pressure.

amy berman jacksonAs a federal prosecutor three decades ago, she was in the final hours of a momentous murder trial when prospective jurors for her next trial — an armed robbery case against three defendants — showed up in the same courthouse.

Rather than delay that case, she broke away from the murder trial long enough to pick the jury for it. Then she returned to deliver her closing argument against the murder defendant. And while those jurors weighed their verdict, she delivered her opening statement about why the armed robbery defendants should be convicted.

All before lunch.

Now a federal judge in Washington, Ms. Jackson faces another high-stakes morning on Thursday when she sentences Roger J. Stone Jr., President Trump’s longtime friend and former campaign adviser, for obstructing a congressional investigation.

Justice Department Headquarters in Washington, DC (Justice Department photo)

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Imagine That Donald Trump Has Almost No Control Over Justice, Cass R. Sunstein (right, professor at Harvard Law School, author and former Obama White House official), Feb. 20, 2020 (print ed.). Congress should transform the department into an cass sunstein w 1independent agency untouched by the president’s whims.

In view of the intensifying controversy over the politicization of the Department of Justice under Attorney General William Barr and its potential weaponization at the hands of President Trump, it is worth reviving a proposal that has not been seriously discussed since the Watergate era: Congress should transform the Justice Department into an independent agency, legally immunized from the president’s day-to-day control.

The United States government has two kinds of agencies. Most of them are “executive.” They are essentially the president’s agents and subject to his will. This is true for the president’s cabinet, including the Departments of State, Defense, Agriculture, Commerce, Transportation — and Justice.

Other agencies are made “independent” by law. Their heads are appointed by the president, but it is generally agreed that he cannot direct them to do as he wishes or control their day-to-day operations. This is true for the Federal Reserve Board and the Federal Communications Commission. It is also true for the Federal Trade Commission, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Social Security Administration, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Labor Relations Board.

Many people think that under the Constitution, the executive branch is “unitary,” in the sense that the president must be in control of all those who carry out federal law. But since 1935, the Supreme Court has rejected this view, allowing Congress to ensure that these agencies, and many others, operate independently of the president.

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Coronavirus live updates: Cases surge in South Korea as first death reported, Feb. 20, 2020. Mayor tells residents to stay china flag Smallindoors. Authorities worldwide warned about the spread of the coronavirus beyond China on Thursday as Japan reported the first two deaths from the Diamond Princess cruise liner, South Korea reported its first fatality, and a major city there asked citizens to refrain from venturing outdoors.

japan flag stdA Japanese man and woman, both said to be in their 80s, were among more than 600 passengers who contracted the disease while on board the Diamond Princess. They left the ship last week and were hospitalized, but they died Thursday, Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported.

south korea flag SmallIn South Korea, cases soared by nearly two-thirds, mostly in the southern part of the peninsula, national authorities said. The mayor of Daegu, the city where 10 South Koreans contracted the disease from a church service, asked residents to stay indoors. Iran also reported two infected people, who then died.

ny times logoNew York Times, At Least 11 Dead, Including Gunman, in Far-Right Attacks in Germany, Jack Ewing and Melissa Eddy, Feb. 20, 2020 (print ed.). The suspect in shootings at two bars in the central city of Hanau, a 43-year-old German, was found dead in his apartment alongside his mother.

ny times logoNew York Times, Inside Hifter’s Libya: A Police State With an Islamist Twist, David D. Kirkpatrick, Photographs by Ivor Prickett, Feb. 20, 2020. Khalifa Hifter, the military ruler of eastern Libya, is trying to take over the country. We paid a rare visit to the part he already controls.

SouthFront, U.S. May Provide Turkey With Patriot System For Use In Syria’s Idlib: Turkish Defense Minister, Staff, wire reports, Feb. 20, 2020. The U.S. could send Patriot long-range air-defense system to Turkey to use for security in the face of the conflict in Syria’s Idlib, Turkish Defense Minister, Hulusi Akar, said on February 20.

In an interview with CNN Turk, Akar revealed that talks with U.S. on a possible purchase of Patriot systems are still ongoing.

“There is the threat of air strikes, missiles against our country … There could be Patriot support,” the Daily Sabah quoted the defense minister as saying.

Akar’s statement came a few hours after the death of two Turkish service members in an alleged Syrian airstrike that targeted their position in southern Idlib.

According to the Turkish defense minister, Turkey is now in talks with Russia over the possible use of the airspace over Syria’s Idlib. Akar stressed that his country is not seeking a confrontation with Russian forces in Syria, warning that Turkey’s S-400 system will be activated if needed.

Inside DC

John Solomon, Joseph diGenova and Victoria Toensing

John Solomon, longtime DC-based journalist, shown at left, with his lawyers and souces Joseph DiGenova and the latter's wife Victoria Toensing.

washington post logoWashington Post, John Solomon columns on Ukraine ripped in newspaper’s internal investigation for conflicts and distortions, Paul Farhi, Feb. 20, 2020 (print ed.). In a lengthy and damning review of former columnist John Solomon, the Hill newspaper ripped Solomon — and itself — for publishing misleading and poorly attributed articles last year that asserted corruption by Joe Biden in his dealings with Ukraine during his time as vice president.

The columns, published in early 2019, set in motion President Trump’s demand that Ukrainian officials announce an investigation of Biden and his son, Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company. Trump’s demand, and his withholding of military aid to Ukraine, led to the House’s impeachment of Trump and his subsequent acquittal in the Senate.

Trump and his allies, including his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and his son Donald Trump Jr., promoted Solomon’s Hill columns via Twitter, and Solomon made several appearances on Sean Hannity’s Fox News program to promote his conclusions, which were that Biden, then considered Trump’s top 2020 challenger, had ousted Ukraine’s top prosecutor to head off an investigation into the company that had hired his son.

That allegation has never been proved; indeed, the former Ukrainian prosecutor has recanted it.

In effect, the Hill said Solomon amplified an inaccurate and one-sided narrative about the Bidens and Ukraine that was fed to him by Giuliani, “facilitated” by businessman Lev Parnas, who was working with Giuliani at the time, and reinforced by Solomon’s own attorneys, who also represented clients embroiled in U.S.-Ukraine politics.

Igor Fruman, top left, and Lev Parnas, two Soviet-born associates of Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney at bottom of a Wall Street Journal graphic above by Laura Kammermann, appear to be deeply involved in the Ukraine scandal.Igor Fruman, top left, and Lev Parnas, two Soviet-born associates of Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney at bottom of a Wall Street Journal graphic above by Laura Kammermann, appear to be deeply involved in the Ukraine scandal.

But the Hill stopped short of retracting or apologizing for Solomon’s articles, nor did it say it shouldn’t have published them. It also didn’t characterize Solomon’s motives in presenting what appears to be a largely debunked conspiracy theory about Ukraine.

The columns were roundly criticized as distorted and inaccurate by U.S. diplomats during their testimony before the House’s impeachment hearings.

The Hill, in its review of 14 Solomon columns and related videos about Ukraine, found multiple flaws in his reporting and in the Hill’s own presentation of his work. It said it has attached editor’s notes to the columns to provide “context and/or disclosure that should have been included at the time of his writings” or to “highlight what has been learned” since Solomon’s columns were published.

“In certain columns, Solomon failed to identify important details about key Ukrainian sources, including the fact that they had been indicted or were under investigation,” said the internal investigation, which was overseen by the newspaper’s editor, Bob Cusack. “In other cases, the sources were [Solomon’s] own attorneys” — Victoria Toensing and Joseph DiGenova, who have also represented President Trump and Giuliani, who was also a key source for Solomon’s columns.

Solomon didn’t disclose this connection in his columns nor did he disclose to his editors that he shared drafts of his stories with Toensing, DiGenova and Parnas, the review noted.

  • facebook logoWashington Post, How the right learned to wield power inside Facebook, Craig Timberg, Feb. 20, 2020. The social media giant balked at removing misinformation after the 2016 election out of concern it would alienate conservatives.

Epstein Ally Forced Out

 washington post logoWashington Post, L Brands CEO Wexner out as private equity firm takes over Victoria’s Secret, Abha Bhattarai and Rachel Siegel, Feb. 20, 2020. Leslie Wexner, right, the billionaire who turned Victoria’s Secret into a household name but who more recently has been scrutinized for his ties to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, is stepping down as chief executive of the retail giant he founded nearly 60 years ago.

Jeffrey Epstein's friend Leslie Wexner (via cropped screenshot of remarks at American Academy of AchievementParent company L Brands is ceding control of the lingerie brand to private-equity firm Sycamore Partners, the companies announced Thursday. The roughly $1.1 billion deal comes as Victoria’s Secret battles falling sales and criticism that its provocative messaging is out of touch with today’s consumer.

5 factors that led to Victoria’s Secret’s fall

Sycamore will acquire a 55 percent stake in Victoria’s Secret for about $525 million, while L Brands will retain the remaining 45 percent. According to a news release, L Brands will use the money from the deal, along with roughly $500 million in excess balance sheet cash, to cut down on debt.

Bath & Body Works, which was responsible for the vast majority of L Brands’ 2019 operating income, will become a stand-alone public company. Wexner will remain a member of the board as chairman emeritus.

“We believe the separation of Victoria’s Secret Lingerie, Victoria’s Secret Beauty and PINK into a privately held company provides the best path to restoring these businesses to their historic levels of profitability and growth,” Wexner said in a statement. “Sycamore, which has deep experience in the retail industry and a superior track record of success, will bring a fresh perspective and greater focus to the business.”

Feb. 19

Trump Power, Payback Headlines

WikiLeaks, Pardon, Spying

U.S. 2020 Election Headlines

World News

 

Trump Power, Payback Stories

djt acquitted photo

washington post logoWashington Post, Post-impeachment, Trump declares himself ‘chief law enforcement officer’ of America, Toluse Olorunnipa and Beth Reinhard, Feb. 19, 2020 (print ed.). Through pardons and tweets, President Trump has directly intervened in an array of criminal matters.

During his Senate impeachment trial, Democrats repeatedly asserted that President Trump is “not above the law.” But since his acquittal two weeks ago, analysts say, the president has taken a series of steps aimed at showing that, essentially, he is the law.

On Tuesday, Trump granted clemency to a clutch of political allies, circumventing the usual Justice Department process. The pardons and commutations followed Trump’s moves to punish witnesses in his impeachment trial, publicly intervene in a pending legal case to urge leniency for a friend, attack a federal judge, accuse a juror of bias and threaten to sue his own government for investigating him.

Trump defended his actions, saying he has the right to shape the country’s legal systems as he sees fit.

“I’m allowed to be totally involved,” he told reporters as he left Washington on Tuesday for a trip to California, Nevada and Arizona. “I’m actually, I guess, the chief law enforcement officer of the country. But I’ve chosen not to be involved.”

 djt justice liberty truth metoo

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Takes Up Call for Barr to ‘Clean House’ at Justice Dept., Eileen Sullivan, Feb. 19, 2020. With a series of retweets, President Trump kept up attacks on his law enforcement agencies, despite pleas from the attorney general.

Ignoring appeals from his attorney general to stop tweeting about the Justice Department, President Trump renewed his attacks on the agency on Wednesday, demanding “JUSTICE” for himself and all future presidents.

There must be JUSTICE. This can never happen to a President, or our Country, again!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 19, 2020

With a series of retweets, Mr. Trump appeared to embrace the suggestion that Attorney General William P. Barr “clean shop” at the department. And the president promoted the idea of naming a special counsel to investigate what Tom Fitton, the head of the conservative nonprofit Judicial Watch, described as a “seditious conspiracy” at the department and the F.B.I.

A day earlier, Mr. Barr was, according to some of his associates, considering a different sort of shop cleaning: If his boss did not stop meddling with Justice Department investigations, he was said to be considering his own future.

For more than a week, the president has been publicly open about his view of the case against his longtime friend and adviser Roger J. Stone Jr. And the notion that Mr. Barr might leave his post over Mr. Trump’s commentary did not appear to quiet the president.

Mr. Stone was convicted in November of seven felonies for obstructing a congressional investigation into whether the Trump campaign had ties to Russia. At the time, Mr. Trump said his friend’s conviction was evidence of a double standard in the justice system.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Complete List of Trump’s Pardons and Commutations, Derrick Bryson Taylor, Heather Murphy and Mariel Padilla, Feb. 19, 2020 (print ed.). The president granted full pardons to seven people and commutations to four others on Tuesday. Here’s who they are.

Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)President Trump pardoned seven people on Tuesday, including the “junk bond king” Michael R. Milken and Bernard B. Kerik, a former New York City police commissioner. He also commuted the sentences of Rod R. Blagojevich, a former governor of Illinois, and three others.

The Constitution gives presidents what the Supreme Court has ruled is the unlimited authority to grant pardons, which excuse or forgive a federal crime. A commutation, by contrast, makes a punishment milder without wiping out the underlying conviction. Both are forms of presidential clemency.

Here are the 11 people who benefited from the executive grants of clemency that Mr. Trump signed Tuesday.

Commutations

    • Rod R. Blagojevich
    • Tynice Nichole Hall
    • Crystal Munoz
    • Judith Negron

Pardons

    • Edward DeBartolo Jr.
    • Ariel Friedler
    • Bernard B. Kerik
    • Michael R. Milken
    • Paul Pogue
    • David Safavian
    • Angela Stanton

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Grants Clemency to 3 White-Collar Criminals and Ex-Governor, Peter Baker, Maggie Haberman and Michael D. Shear, Feb. 19, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump commuted the 14-year prison sentence of former Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois (shown at left in a 2017 photo in prison), who was rod blagojevich 2017convicted of trying to essentially sell a vacated Senate seat.

The president also pardoned Bernard Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner, the financier Michael Milken and Edward DeBartolo, a former N.F.L. owner.

“Yes, we commuted the sentence of Rod Blagojevich,” Mr. Trump told reporters just before boarding Air Force One for a four-day trip to the west coast where he is scheduled to hold three campaign rallies. “He served eight years in jail, a long time. He seems like a very nice person, don’t know him.”

Mr. Kerik, right, the former New York City police commissioner, was convicted of tax fraud and lying to the government. And he said bernard kerik portraithe had also pardoned Mr. Milken, the investment banker who was known in the 1980s as the “junk bond king” and who has fought for decades to reverse his conviction for securities fraud.

Mr. Trump commuted the former governor’s sentence on Tuesday after saying for years that he was considering intervening in Mr. Blagojevich’s case. By commuting the sentence, the president would free Mr. Blagojevich from prison without wiping out the conviction. Republicans have advised the president against it, arguing that Mr. Blagojevich’s crime epitomizes the corruption that Mr. Trump had said he wanted to tackle as president.

The president’s decision came the same day that he pardoned Edward J. DeBartolo Jr., a former owner of the San Francisco 49ers who pleaded guilty in 1998 to concealing an extortion attempt and eventually surrendered control of his team.

ed debartolo jr file CustomMr. DeBartolo, the scion of a prominent real estate development family who created one of the National Football League’s greatest dynasties, was prosecuted after agreeing to pay $400,000 in brand-new $100 bills to Edwin W. Edwards, the influential former governor of Louisiana, to secure a riverboat gambling license for his gambling consortium.

Mr. DeBartolo avoided prison but was fined $1 million and suspended for a year by the N.F.L. He later handed over the 49ers to his sister Denise DeBartolo York. His nephew Jed York currently runs the team, which made it back to the Super Bowl this year only to fall to the Kansas City Chiefs.

In conversations with advisers, Mr. Trump has also raised the prospect of commuting the sentence of Roger J. Stone Jr, his longest-serving adviser, who was convicted in November of seven felony charges, including tampering with a witness and lying under oath in order to obstruct a congressional inquiry into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 election.

Asked about a pardon for Mr. Stone on Tuesday, Mr. Trump said “I haven’t given it any thought.”

Mr. DeBartolo, often called Eddie D., controlled the franchise for 23 years, presiding over the 49ers’ golden era in the 1980s and 1990s when the team won five Super Bowl championships under coach Bill Walsh with legendary players like Joe Montana, Steve Young, Ronnie Lott and Jerry Rice. Despite his felony conviction, Mr. DeBartolo was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.

Mr. Trump made no immediate comment Tuesday on his decision but left it to his deputy press secretary, Hogan Gidley, to announce the pardon to reporters. Joining Mr. Gidley at the announcement was a host of N.F.L. legends who supported Mr. DeBartolo, including Mr. Rice, Mr. Lott, Jim Brown and Charles Haley.

“Eddie was like that 12th man that was on that football field,” Mr. Rice told reporters. “You know that this guy, you know, he wanted us to win. ed debartolo 5 super bowl wins wAnd I think he’s the main reason why we won so many Super Bowls. So today is a great day for him. I’m glad to be here and be a part of that.”

Along with Mr. Brown, Mr. DeBartolo (shown at right with SuperBowl tropies in a file photo via WikiMedia) was among the hosts of a pre-inauguration party in 2017 that honored people close to Mr. Trump at the time, including Michael D. Cohen, his personal attorney who later went to prison for campaign finance violations and tax evasion, and Omarosa Manigault Newman, a former contestant on “The Apprentice” who joined the White House staff before later being fired. Mr. Trump promoted the event on Twitter at the time.

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal judges reportedly call emergency meeting in wake of Stone case intervention, Fred Barbash, Feb. 19, 2020 (print ed.). The extraordinary move follows President Trump’s tweets about the Roger Stone case and U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson.

The head of the Federal Judges Association is taking the extraordinary step of calling an emergency meeting to address the intervention in politically sensitive cases by President Trump and Attorney General William P. Barr.

U.S. District Judge Cynthia M. Rufe, the Philadelphia-based judge who heads the voluntary association of around 1,100 life-term federal judges, told USA Today that the issue “could not wait.” The association, founded in 1982, ordinarily concerns itself with matters of judicial compensation and legislation affecting the federal judiciary.

supreme court buildingOn Sunday, more than 2,000 (updated total) former Justice Department employees released a public letter calling on Barr to resign over the Stone case.

A search of news articles since the group’s creation revealed nothing like a meeting to deal with the conduct of a president or attorney general.

Rufe, below at left, appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush, could not be reached for comment late Monday.

cynthia rufeThe action follows a week of turmoil that included the president tweeting his outrage over the length of sentence recommended by career federal prosecutors for his friend Roger Stone and the decision by Barr to withdraw that recommendation.

In between, Trump singled out the judge in the Stone case, Amy Berman Jackson of the U.S. District Court in Washington, for personal attacks, accusing her of bias and spreading a falsehood about her record.

“There are plenty of issues that we are concerned about,” Rufe said to USA Today. “We’ll talk all this through.”

Trump began disparaging federal judges who have ruled against his interests before he took office, starting with U.S. District Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel. After Curiel ruled against Trump in 2016 in a pair of lawsuits detailing predatory marketing practices at Trump University in San Diego, Trump described him as “a hater of Donald Trump,” adding that he believed the Indiana-born judge was “Mexican.”

  • New York Times, Trump Expected to Name Loyalist as Head of National Intelligence, Feb. 19, 2020. The move would put Richard Grenell, the American ambassador to Germany, atop the intelligence agencies long viewed skeptically by the White House.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Commentary: Tampa mob celebrates presidential pardon, Wayne Madsen, Feb. 19, 2020. Florida's Tampa Bay wayne madesen report logomob doubtless celebrated the February 19 presidential pardon issued by impeached president Donald John Trump for Eddie DeBartolo, Jr., the heir to his father, Eddie DeBartolo, Sr.'s, Youngstown, Ohio-based DeBartolo Corporation business empire.

The empire, according to federal law enforcement, had links to mobsters Carlos Marcello, Meyer Lansky, and the Tampa-based father-son duo Santos Trafficante Sr. and Jr.

DeBartolo, Sr. was also reportedly closely tied to the Mafia families that ran the Pittsburgh and Cleveland rackets. DeBartolo, Sr. had a major presence in Florida and his banks and front companies were, according to the FBI, connected to drug money laundering.

Randy Rainbow Song Parody, No Rules For Donald, Feb. 18, 2020 (4:38 min. video). Viewer: The line between comedic satire and grim reality just disappeared. It was a lot more fun three years ago when we were laughing at comedic satire. Now, not so much.

ny times logoNew York Times, Rod Blagojevich Comes Home to Chicago, Defiant, ‘Bloody,’ Ready to Talk, Julie Bosman, Feb. 19, 2020. Mr. Blagojevich, the former Democratic governor of Illinois, spoke of having his sentence for corruption commuted by President Trump and described himself as a “freed political prisoner.”

Rod R. Blagojevich, the former governor of Illinois, emerged from his brick bungalow on Chicago’s North Side into shivering cold air on Wednesday, coatless, tieless and remorseless. Mr. Blagojevich, who had been in a Colorado prison until a day earlier, denounced a broken justice system, spoke of his “exile” behind bars, thanked President Trump for commuting his sentence and insisted that he had done nothing illegal.

“It’s been a long, long journey. I’m bruised, I’m battered and I’m bloody,” Mr. Blagojevich said, dabbing his chin with a handkerchief. He explained that he was still getting used to using a regular razor — unavailable in prison — and had nicked himself while shaving.

washington post logoWashington Post, Blagojevich declares himself ‘a freed political prisoner,’ thanks Trump, Susan Berger and John Wagner, Feb. 19, 2020. An unrepentant Rod Blagojevich expressed “everlasting gratitude” Wednesday to President Trump for commuting his 14-year prison sentence and declared himself “a freed political prisoner” as he spoke to reporters outside his home in Chicago.

“From the beginning to the end, this was persecution masquerading as prosecution,” the former Democratic governor of Illinois said of his legal ordeal, which resulted in a conviction on corruption charges in 2011 related to trying to sell President Barack Obama’s former Senate seat, among other campaign finance violations.

rod blagojevichBlagojevich, who had been serving time in a federal correctional facility in Colorado, appeared alongside his wife and two daughters at a news conference in which he frequently dabbed his chin, explaining that he was bleeding from his first “normal” shave in about eight years.

The former Illinois governor, who had served eight years on corruption charges related to trying to sell President Barack Obama’s former Senate seat, spoke to reporters after returning home to Chicago.

“We want to express our most profound and everlasting gratitude to President Trump,” Blagojevich said, suggesting that the Republican president had nothing to gain politically by granting clemency to a Democrat.

Blagojevich, who quoted scripture and Martin Luther King Jr. at various points, described himself a “Trumpocrat” and said he would vote for Trump if he can — seemingly uncertain as to whether his ex-felon status would permit that.

Blogojevich was greeted by cheers of “Welcome home, governor!” and “love you.” A banner ran below the family’s front porch, signed by neighbors, that said, “Thank you Mr. President.” Reporters and TV cameras surrounded the house, and helicopters could be overheard on a 24-degree, sunny day.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Lindsey Graham has no idea what he’s doing, Ron Leshnower, Feb. 19, 2020. Senator Lindsey Graham appeared on Fox News on Monday night, complaining, “You’re not trying to uphold the rule of law. You’re trying to take a good man down because you hate Trump.” Graham was referring to Attorney General William Barr and using a tired, twisted defense. It’s like saying you want the police to find the people who vandalized your home because you hate them–not because they engaged in wrongdoing. The silver lining is that when sycophants like Graham resort to arguing “you’re doing this because you hate Trump,” it means they’re losing bigly.

bill palmer report logo headerLate last week, Barr claimed in an interview with ABC News that he won’t be bullied and that Trump’s tweets are making it “impossible” for him to do his job. Whether or not this was an act of staged resistance, Barr’s comments backfired. Exactly what job Barr is doing has come under increasing scrutiny as a groundswell of pushback against Barr’s mockery of justice is underway. Former U.S. Attorney and DOJ official Harry Litman chillingly described the unprecedented nature of the situation in a tweet Monday night: “This is mind-blowing. I’ve never heard of anything like it. We are in full on crisis mode.”

On Sunday, DOJ alumni published an open letter, which now bears over 2,000 signatures, calling for Barr to resign after interfering in the sentencing of Roger Stone, who was convicted in November on seven counts of witness tampering and lying to Congress. Yesterday, the Federal Judges Association, an independent group of over 1,000 jurists, revealed it is calling an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis. According to an analysis by the Washington Post of news articles since the association’s founding in 1982, there has been “nothing like a meeting to deal with the conduct of a president or attorney general.”

At Barr’s confirmation hearing a mere 13 months ago, he claimed, “Nothing could be more destructive of our system of government, of the rule of law or the Department of Justice as an institution than any toleration of political interference with the enforcement of the law.” He went on to say that Americans need to be sure that there are places in government “where the rule of law, not politics, holds sway and where they will be treated fairly based solely on the facts and the evenhanded application of the law. The Department of Justice must be that place.” Through these words and his subsequent actions, Barr has crafted a convincing case for his immediate resignation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Milken, the ‘junk bond king,’ was a key character in the ‘decade of greed,’ Reis Thebault, Feb. 19, 2020 (print ed.). Michael Milken, the “junk bond king” who was charged with insider trading in the 1980s, was granted clemency by President Trump on Tuesday, making him the latest wealthy and well-connected offender bestowed such a benediction under this administration.

michael milken CustomA key character in the “decade of greed,” Milken, right, helped create the market for high-yield securities, known as junk bonds, as an executive at the now-shuttered firm Drexel Burnham Lambert. He was at one point the highest-paid man in Wall Street history, and his rapaciousness made him an inspiration for Gordon Gekko, the villain in the 1987 film “Wall Street.”

In 1990, Milken pleaded guilty to six felony counts, including securities fraud, mail fraud and aiding in the filing of a false tax return. He was fined $600 million and sentenced to 10 years in prison at a minimum-security facility but was released after serving two years and cooperating with government investigators.

Since emerging from prison, Milken has survived prostate cancer and remade himself as a major philanthropist, contributing millions to cancer research and public health organizations. He also founded the Milken Institute, a nonprofit think tank that focuses on economic policy.

Before boarding Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews on Tuesday, Trump praised Milken, saying he has “gone around and done an incredible job for the world, with all of his research on cancer.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Charges unraveled legacy of ex-N.Y. commissioner Bernard Kerik, Michael Brice-Saddler, Feb. 19, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump on Tuesday pardoned Bernard Kerik, the once-heralded New York police commissioner whose legacy was unraveled by a bevy of allegations that landed him in prison, including tax fraud and lying to White House officials.

bernard kerik today show 11 4 13Kerik, an Army veteran, joined the New York Police Department in 1986 and was named the 40th police commissioner of New York at the turn of the millennium, working closely with then-Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. He rose to prominence and was celebrated as a hero for heading the department during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He is shown at right in a screenshot from an appearance on NBC's Today Show following his release from prison.

He was one of 11 high-profile figures to whom the president granted clemency Tuesday. Others included Edward DeBartolo Jr., the former owner of the San Francisco 49ers who pleaded guilty in 2000 to failing to report a felony, and Michael Milken, the notorious “junk bond king” charged with insider trading in the 1980s.

“Bernard Kerik courageously led the New York Police Department’s heroic response to the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001, as Commissioner of the New York Police Department,” the White House wrote in its statement Tuesday announcing Kerik’s clemency. “He embodied the strength, courage, compassion, and spirit of the people of New York and this great Nation as he served alongside first responders at the World Trade Center in the aftermath of the attack.”

His leadership during one of the nation’s darkest hours resonated with many, including President George W. Bush, who in 2004 nominated Kerik to lead the Department of Homeland Security. But within days, amid media scrutiny, Kerik withdrew his acceptance of the nomination and confessed that he had not paid taxes for a nanny whose immigration status was in question.

The admission was followed by a cascade of allegations against the well-known commissioner: chief among them that he had not reported gifts he had received as a New York City official, including from a construction company suspected of involvement in organized crime. Kerik was indicted in 2007 after pleading guilty the year before to misdemeanors centered on the allegations.

In 2009, Kerik pleaded guilty to eight felonies, including two counts of tax fraud and lying to White House officials while being considered for the homeland security position, the Associated Press reported at the time. The judge in the case, Stephen C. Robinson, sentenced Kerik to four years in federal prison — exceeding federal sentencing guidelines, which recommended 27 to 33 months — asserting that Kerik had used the aftermath of 9/11 for personal gain and later made “a conscious decision to essentially lie to the President of the United States to get a cabinet position.”

On Tuesday, the White House wrote that since his conviction, Kerik had become an advocate for criminal justice, with a focus on prisoner reentry reform. In a statement posted on Twitter on Tuesday, Kerik said there are “no words to express my appreciation and gratitude to President Trump.”

“With the exception of the birth of my children, today is one of the great days in my life,” he wrote. “Going to prison is like dying with your eyes open. Its aftermath of collateral consequences and the permanent loss of many of your civil and constitutional rights are personally devastating.”

Known now as a frequent Mar-a-Lago guest and Fox News pundit, Kerik made an appearance on the network as recently as Monday night. A senior administration official told The Washington Post that a number of people lobbied the president on Kerik’s behalf, including Giuliani, now Trump’s personal attorney, and Newsmax Media chief executive Christopher Ruddy.

Background: Washington Post, Most Trump clemency grants bypass Justice Dept. and go to well-connected offenders, Beth Reinhard and Anne Gearan, Feb. 3, 2020. Most of Trump’s grants of clemency have gone to ­well-connected offenders who had not filed petitions with the pardon office or did not meet its requirements, The Post review shows.

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr has told those close to Trump he is considering quitting over the president’s tweets about Justice Dept. investigations, Feb. 19, 2020 (print ed.). Attorney General William P. Barr has told people close to President Trump — both inside and outside the White House — that he is considering quitting over Trump’s tweets about Justice Department investigations, three administration officials said, foreshadowing a possible confrontation between the president and his attorney general over the independence of the Justice Department.

So far, Trump has defied Barr’s requests, both public and private, to keep quiet on matters of federal law enforcement. It was not immediately clear Tuesday if Barr had made his posture known directly to Trump. The administration officials said Barr seemed to be sharing his position with advisers in hopes the president would get the message that he should stop weighing in publicly on the Justice Department’s ongoing criminal investigations.

“He has his limits,” said one person familiar with Barr’s thinking, speaking on the condition of anonymity, like others, to discuss internal deliberations.

Late last week, Barr publicly warned the president in a remarkable interview with ABC News that his tweets about Justice Department cases “make it impossible for me to do my job.” Trump, White House officials said, is not entirely receptive to calls to change his behavior, and he has told those around him he is not going to stop tweeting about the Justice Department. They said Trump considers highlighting what he sees as misconduct at the FBI and Justice Department as a good political message.

Over the weekend, more than 2,000 former department employees signed a public letter urging Barr to resign over his handling of the Stone case and exhorted current department employees to report any unethical conduct to the inspector general. Jan Miller, who was the U.S. attorney for Central Illinois from 2002 until 2005 under President George W. Bush, said he signed in part to remind rank-and-file Justice Department employees that “they’re not alone.”

“I’m sure it’s a very difficult time to be a line prosecutor in the department right now,” Miller said.

Trump also reprised old attacks on the Mueller investigation.

WikiLeaks, Pardon, Spying

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Trump ‘Offered Assange Pardon’ if He Covered Up Russian Hack, Nico Hines, Feb. 19, 2020. A lawyer for Julian Assange has claimed in court that President Trump offered to pardon Assange if the WikiLeaks founder agreed to help cover up Russia’s involvement in hacking emails from the Democratic National Committee.

Assange’s lawyers said on Wednesday that former Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher offered Assange the deal in 2017, a year after emails that damaged Hillary Clinton in the presidential race had been published. WikiLeaks posted the stolen DNC emails after they were hacked by Russian operatives.

The claim that Rohrabacher acted as an emissary for the White House came during a pre-extradition hearing in London. The claim that Rohrabacher acted as an emissary for the White House came during a pre-extradition hearing in London.

Julian Assange IndicterAssange, shown in a file photo, has argued that he should not be extradited to the U.S. because the American case against him is politically motivated. He spent almost seven years hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy in Central London claiming that he would be jailed in the U.S. if he wasn’t granted asylum. He was kicked out of the embassy last year.

His lawyers told the court that Trump’s alleged offer to pardon Assange proved that this was no ordinary criminal investigation.

Edward Fitzgerald, who was representing Assange in court, said he had evidence that a quid pro quo was put to Assange by Rohrabacher, who was known as Putin’s favorite congressman.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Julian Assange just dropped a bomb on Donald Trump’s head, Bill Palmer, Feb. 19, 2020. Donald Trump has been playing a dangerous game by dangling pardons at his own criminal co-conspirators but never coming through for them. Sure, Paul Manafort is still dutifully rotting away in solitary, and Roger Stone is hanging in there for now. But when Trump started pardoning criminals yesterday and he only included people who had paid him off, while ignoring his own co-conspirators, one of them decided to strike back.

bill palmer report logo headerJulian Assange, who will never taste freedom at this point and has nothing to lose, is now revealing that Donald Trump offered him a pardon in exchange for keeping quiet about Russia’s involvement in the WikiLeaks plot to hack the DNC and swing the election in Trump’s favor. We’re not inclined to take anything Assange says at face value, but his lawyers have provided specific details to the Daily Beast, including the fact that the pardon offered was relayed through Russia-loving former GOP Congressman Dana Rohrabacher. So what happens now?

By outing the fact that Donald Trump offered a pardon that never came through, Assange is giving up any hope of ever getting that pardon, because Trump pretty much can’t do it now that everything is out in the open. Perhaps Assange is looking to harm Trump’s 2020 prospects in the hope that he can cut a cooperating plea deal with the next administration. Or perhaps at this point Assange – who by all accounts is a frail and withdrawn shadow of his former self – just wants revenge.

Either way, this has to be seen as bad news for Donald Trump. There’s no possible way Julian Assange is doing this to try to secretly help Trump, because this wouldn’t be the approach he’d take at all. Trump appears to have made an enemy out of Assange by offering him a pardon and then reneging on it, and now Assange is going after him. What happens if someone like Roger Stone, who knows far more of Trump’s dirt, also concludes that no magic pardon is coming?

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump names Richard Grenell, U.S. ambassador to Germany, as acting head of intelligence, Shane Harris, Anne Gearan and Josh Dawsey, Feb. 20, 2020. President Trump on Wednesday named Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, as the next acting director of national intelligence, placing a fiercely loyal ally atop an intelligence structure he has frequently railed against.

It is unclear whether Trump intends to nominate Grenell to fill the top intelligence post on a permanent basis, which would require Senate confirmation.

The appointment took many in Washington, including on Capitol Hill, by surprise.

Grenell, a former State Department official and communications executive, has been a Trump confidant and ad hoc adviser on issues beyond his ambassadorial work in Berlin.

He is a conservative foreign policy hawk and sometime media critic, as well as a vocal supporter of Trump on social media. He has sparked controversy in his diplomatic role, but also won praise in Germany and elsewhere for taking on issues such as gay rights in Eastern Europe and the long-running tensions between Kosovo and Serbia.

U.S. 2020 Elections democratic debate feb 19 2020 Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Bernie Sanders surges into double-digit lead in new nationwide poll, Dan Balz and Scott Clement, Feb. 19, 2020. Former vice president Joe Biden, who led Sanders in a Post-ABC national poll in January, has seen a sharp drop in his support after finishing fourth in the Iowa caucuses and fifth in the New Hampshire primary.

bernie sanders 2020 button croppedThe poll underscores how quickly support for candidates can change in national polls on the strength of results from individual primaries and caucuses. The findings come on the day of a Democratic debate in Las Vegas that will include Bloomberg on the stage for the first time and represents a high-stakes gamble for all the candidates.

The poll also comes just days ahead of the third contest on the calendar, Saturday’s Nevada caucuses, with the South Carolina primary to follow on Feb. 29. After South Carolina, the campaign goes national, with 14 states holding contests on March 3, Super Tuesday, and crucial primaries in a variety of big states later in the month.

  • Daily Beast, Bernie Campaign: Asking for Health Records Is a ‘Smear,’ Jamie Ross, Feb. 19, 2020. The campaign’s national press secretary said asking for the 78-year-old’s full medical records is unacceptable and then made a false claim about Michael Bloomberg’s health history.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Michael Bloomberg Has to Debate Without a Net, Matt Flegenheimer, Feb. 19, 2020 (print ed.). The former mayor will stand on his own. For months, he has muscled into the Democratic primary with all the glossy ubiquity money can buy — the benevolent billionaire, in his ads’ telling, results-minded and liberal where it counts.

dnc horizontal logoBut as Michael R. Bloomberg prepares to make his debate-stage debut on Wednesday, in a televised forum for which his campaign does not have final editing rights, the selling of Bloomberg 2020 will be forced to confront its greatest narrative complication yet: Mr. Bloomberg in 2020, answering for the years that came before.

After a mass introduction to the Democratic electorate on his terms, powered by hundreds of millions of dollars of his own money, Mr. Bloomberg is submitting for the first time to an uncontrolled setting on a national scale. This does not necessarily play to his strengths.

Roll Call, As Democrats debate, powerful labor union questions impact of Medicare for All, Niels Lesniewski and Mary Ellen McIntire, Feb. 19, 2020. Culinary Union wields influence, even with no endorsement. How union benefits would be affected by Democratic presidential candidates’ health insurance plans will likely get national attention tonight as six of the contenders seeking to oust President Donald Trump face off.

That is true even with much of the attention expected to focus on the newcomer to the stage, billionaire former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

culinary union 226 CustomCulinary Workers Local 226 is always a big deal in Nevada politics, but the union's critique of “Medicare for All” government-run coverage has put them even more in the spotlight ahead of Saturday's Democratic caucus here.

The union last week criticized plans to establish a single-payer health care system, which would transition everyone in the United States to a government insurance plan that would cover medically-necessary services. Such a plan would effectively eliminate private insurance coverage that unions have fought to get for members in negotiations over the years.

Some Democratic presidential hopefuls are proposing a public option, which would create a government-run plan to compete with private plans on the insurance exchanges set up under the 2010 health care law.

The culinary union, combined with Bartenders Union Local 165, represent roughly 60,000 workers in Nevada, including employees at most of the Las Vegas Strip casinos. In Democratic politics, the union has had an outsized influence.

washington post logoWashington Post, State appeals court temporarily blocks GOP-authored voter ID law in N.C., Elise Viebeck, Feb. 19, 2020 (print ed.). It ruled that an intent to discriminate against African Americans was a “primary motivating factor” behind the law, passed by the Republican legislature in 2018. The injunction reduces the likelihood that the rule will be in effect in during November’s elections.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosA second court has temporarily blocked North Carolina’s new voter identification law on the argument that it discriminates against African Americans. The ruling reduces the likelihood that the rule will be in effect in a key swing state during November’s elections.

A three-judge panel of the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that intent to discriminate was a “primary motivating factor” behind the voter ID law, which passed the Republican legislature in late 2018. Triggered by a ballot measure, the law requires voters to produce an acceptable form of photo ID before casting a ballot but excludes types of identification disproportionately held by African Americans.

“Such a choice speaks more of an intention to target African American voters rather than a desire to comply with the newly created Amendment in a fair and balanced manner,” the panel wrote in its opinion. “Defendants have yet to show [the law] would have been enacted in its current form irrespective of any alleged underlying discriminatory intent.”

The ruling is a significant victory for Democrats and civil rights groups, which had hoped to derail the law before voters go to the polls Nov. 3. With its 15 electoral votes, the state will be a pivotal battleground in the presidential election; North Carolina backed President Trump in 2016 by a small margin of 173,315 votes.

The voter ID law was already under a temporary injunction because of a federal court ruling in a separate lawsuit, which found that some of its provisions violated the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law. That injunction was set to last at least through next month’s primaries, when North Carolininians vote as part of Super Tuesday on March 3.

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Barney Frank: Democratic Primary Voters Are the Problem, Sam Stein, Feb. 19, 2020. Former Rep. Barney Frank is feeling angsty about the current state of the Democratic presidential primary and he believes that the voters are a big part of the problem.

The ever-loquacious Massachusetts Democrat said in an interview Friday that he was disturbed by the degree to which the electorate seemed so easily wooed by candidates who were willing to spend gobs of money on television advertisements.

“It’s troubling,” Frank told The Daily Beast. “Both [Mike] Bloomberg and [Tom] Steyer. People always forget, the voters are really at the center of this. I’m disturbed that Steyer’s getting a lot of votes in South Carolina because people who obviously know nothing about him—what is there to know?—are influenced by the ads.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s GOP Senate stooge Martha McSally goes into a complete tailspin, James Sullivan, Feb. 19, 2020. Donald Trump entirely owes his getting off the hook to Senate Republicans who decided their own re-election was more important than the actual rule of law. The problem for them is that he’ll never, ever see it that way.

While Mitch McConnell was smart enough to dangle rewards in front of vulnerable Republicans so they’d vote to acquit, Donald Trump doesn’t care so much about helping them out. He’s got his own dim re-election prospects to think about first.

bill palmer report logo headerObviously, Trump’s money pit of a wall is a priority over defense spending. Despite McSally’s constant vows to protect military funding for Arizona, the Trump administration has managed to seize $30 million allocated for the state’s Fort Huachaca. McSally promised to get the money back, yet voted three times in 2019 to let Donald Trump take it. The funds have yet to be restored.

While she continues to rationalize her vote to acquit Trump, McSally is in a similar dilemma as other Senate Republicans: How does she prove she isn’t a complete Trump lackey and also secure funding for her state?

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Cornona Virus Updates: Death toll surpasses 2,000; Hong Kong reports a second death, Gerry Shih and Rick Noack, Feb. 19, 2020. Chinese leader Xi Jinping is striking an increasingly confident note that the country can control the coronavirus outbreak and china flag Smallmanage the economic and social fallout, as some Chinese health experts predict a peak in infections by the end of the month.

Chinese leaders, eager to kick-start economic activity, have dismantled some highway checkpoints, while businesses have begun to reopen. As of Wednesday, however, restrictions on personal mobility remained tight, suggesting wariness about rising infections.

China on Wednesday reported that the rate of new cases continues to decline, but international experts, including Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, say they are wary of declaring that the pace of worldwide infections is slowing. Here’s what we know so far:

washington post logoWashington Post, China expels three Wall Street Journal reporters over opinion article written by academic, Anna Fifield​, Feb. 19, 2020. China ordered the expulsion of three Wall Street Journal correspondents Wednesday in retaliation for a column headline that Beijing deemed racist, a dramatic escalation in the Communist Party's efforts to silence criticism abroad as well as at home.

While the Foreign Ministry linked the expulsions to a Feb. 3 opinion piece by Walter Russell Mead that referred to China as the “sick man of Asia,” the move followed a decision by the United States a day earlier to designate five major Chinese media outlets as government entities.

American officials had warned correspondents in China working for U.S. media outlets that they could be affected by the designation.

Raw Story, Julian Assange says he was promised a Trump pardon if he would lie about Russia’s DNC hacking, David Edwards, Feb. 19, 2020.  Wikileaks founder Julian Assange told a British court on Tuesday that he had been promised a pardon by people close to President Donald Trump.

Assange made the remarks while appearing at a pretrial hearing via teleconference.

Courtroom reporter James Doleman broke the news on Twitter. According to Doleman, Assange said that the pardon was conditional on him publicly announcing that Russia had nothing to do with the attack on the 2016 election.

In 2017, a The Wall Street Journal report said that Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) attempted to broker a deal for a pardon or clemency between the White House and Assange.

Assange is wanted in the United States on 18 counts of violating espionage laws and conspiring to hack government computers.

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Syria -- Turkey's Bluff Is Called - Media Opposition Sources Run By British Intelligence, b, Feb. 19, 2020. Russia has called Turkey's bluff of a wide ranging attack on Syrian government forces. The Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan will now have to find a way out of the Idleb trap he set himself in. His excellent Syria adventure is coming to an end.

Russian FlagMeanwhile we learn that the British military intelligence ran another large dis-information campaign that brought 'Syrian voices' into the 'western' press.

Erdogan continues with his wild rhetoric over Syria.

#ERDOGAN: "#Turkey cannot be confined within the 780,000 km2 border. #Misrata, #Aleppo, #Homs & #Hasaka are outside our actual borders, but they are within our emotional & physical limits, we will confront those who limit our history to only 90yrs."

Flag of TurkeyThe Turkish talks with Russia have not gone well. Russia had proposed the following points:

1- 16-km border strip in Idlib under Turkey control
2- Russia controls crossing between Idlib strip and Afrin
3- M4 and M5 opened under joint Russian-Turkish supervision
4- Retreat of observation points to border strip

Ten of Turkey's observation points are currently surrounded by the Syrian army. If Turkey starts to escalate they will be in a dire situation.

The 'Western' media is again practicing tear jerking about these refugees in Idleb. But its reports forget to mention that al-Qaeda rules Idleb and that it prevents the people from crossing the line into Syrian government held areas:

In yet another lengthy, expensive, lavishly illustrated story about Idlib, the NYT once again failed to make any mention of the politics of what is happening in that enclave of northwestern Syria – namely, the fact that well-armed jihadist/takfiri fighters from all around the world have controlled it for the past several years, while Syria’s government forces have been battling to regain control.

In that latest article, as in all of the lengthy, one-sided tearjerkers it has published about Idlib over the past year, the NYT has no actual journalists or photographers on the ground reporting the story. It is wholly reliant instead on “stories” and footage it gathers from unverifiable sources inside the enclave – sources who notably never include any mention of the jihadi armed groups that control all aspects of life there.

Today we learn [Middle East Eye (MEE), [The British government’s covert propaganda campaign in Syria] that many of these unverifiable sources have been on the British government payroll since at least 2012.

Middle East Eye (MEE), Investigation: The British government’s covert propaganda campaign in Syria, Ian Cobain and Alice Ross, Feb. 19, 2020. Documents obtained by MEE reveal how British contractors recruited Syrian citizen journalists -- often without their knowledge -- to promote 'moderate opposition.'

united kingdom flagThe British government covertly established a network of citizen journalists across Syria during the early years of the country’s civil war in an attempt to shape perceptions of the conflict, frequently recruiting people who were unaware that they were being directed from London.

A number of leaked documents seen by Middle East Eye show how the propaganda initiative began in 2012 and gathered pace the following year, shortly after the UK parliament refused to authorise British military action in Syria.

Drawing upon British, American and Canadian funding, UK government contractors set up offices in Istanbul and Amman, where they hired members of the Syrian diaspora, who in turn recruited citizen journalists inside Syria.

These journalists, many of them young, were commissioned to produce TV footage, radio programmes, social media, posters, magazines and even children’s comics.

While many Syrians turned spontaneously to media activism from the start of the war, the documents describe the way in which the British government sought to guide some of their output, seeing citizen journalism as a way of covertly influencing Syrian audiences.

The papers also make clear that those people who were recruited were often unaware that they were part of a British propaganda initiative.
Some of those who were recruited have defended their involvement, however, saying that they were reliant on western support in their efforts to counter pro-government reporting in Syrian state media, and in Iranian and Russian-backed media.

At a time when the last opposition-held enclave in Idlib province is under assault by pro-government forces, they questioned whether western countries could have contributed more material support to moderate rebels.

Some Syrian journalists complained that western support for their work was decreasing even as it was most needed after Russia's entry into the war in 2015 tipped the balance in favour of President Bashar al-Assad.

The documents were drawn up as blueprints for the initiative by an anthropologist working in counter-terrorism at the foreign office in London. They were issued in late 2014 to a small number of communications companies that were invited to bid for three contracts to deliver the work.

One says: “The objective of the project is contribute [sic] towards positive attitudinal and behavioural change.”

This was further defined as: “Reinforcement of popular rejection of the Assad regime and extremist alternatives; promotion of the moderate values of the revolution; promotion of Syrian national identity.”

'Reinforcement of popular rejection of the Assad regime and extremist alternatives; promotion of the moderate values of the revolution; promotion of Syrian national identity'

The documents show that the over-arching aim of the citizen journalism project – and a series of interlinked British propaganda initiatives – was to promote the UK’s strategic interests in Syria and the Middle East.

These are defined in the leaked papers as “a more stable and democratic Syria that better meets the needs and aspirations of its people”, support for a political solution to the conflict, the alleviation of humanitarian suffering, and enhanced UK security.

As well as developing grassroots journalism aligned with British government values, the UK and other western governments were at the same time attempting to build civil society in areas controlled by some of Assad’s opponents, financing and training police forces and civil defence teams.

The anthropologist’s blueprint makes clear that this was being done not just to help maintain law and order and provide humanitarian assistance, but “to build confidence in a future Syria free from extremist rule”.

However, the documents acknowledge the risks to the young journalists who had unwittingly been co-opted by the British government.

“Media coverage of the project will be distinctly unwelcome due to the risks to Syrian employees and to project effectiveness that it would generate,” says one.

“The implementer is not permitted to speak publicly (to the media or at academic conferences) about their work without the explicit permission of HMG [Her Majesty’s Government]. This will be enforced by a Non Disclosure Agreement.”

A number of young Syrian citizen journalists were detained and murdered by the Islamic State (IS) group after it began capturing territory in the country in 2015.

The group frequently denounced its victims as western “spies” and some Syrian citizen journalists were pursued across the border to Turkey and killed.

Whilst many of the victims were not thought to be involved in British-sponsored projects, MEE is aware of two who were.

Media, #MeToo News

  • Daily Beast, E. Jean Carroll: Elle Fired Me Over Trump’s Smear Campaign, Julia Arciga

Feb. 18

Trump Power, Payback Headlines

World News Headlines

U.S. 2020 Election Headlines

Ultra-Right Media Hoax?

 

Trump Power, Payback

djt roger stone Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: Here comes Donald Trump’s big pardon head-fake with Roger Stone, Bill Palmer, Feb. 18, 2020. Thus far today Donald Trump has pardoned former NYPD Commissioner Bernard Kerik, commuted the sentence of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, and pardoned former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo. There could end up being more names by the time the day is over.

So what’s Trump doing? He’s creating pardon hysteria, of course, because he’s trying to convince Roger Stone (above at left) that a pardon is magically coming for him as well.

Here’s the thing, though. Donald Trump does this same thing every time one of his co-conspirators is about to be arrested, or about go to prison. Trump knows that if he pardons some random unrelated people at just the right time, he can count on the media to opportunistically start putting the ratings-friendly narrative that pardons are magic wands and that Trump is about to pardon his co-conspirator as well.

bill palmer report logo headerThe media has spent three years trying to keep you glued to your television by inaccurately painting pardons as magic wands, and then convincing you that Trump is about to pardon everyone at any moment. The pundits always tell you that the irrelevant pardons are a “trial balloon” and that he’s “laying the groundwork” or “creating cover” for pardoning his co-conspirator. But it never, ever, ever happens – because pardons of co-conspirators are complicated and they don’t work the way they’re portrayed on cable news.

Trump played this same game with Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, and Michael Cohen when they were going down. Manafort took the bait. Cohen didn’t. Flynn still can’t make up his mind what to believe. But the bottom line is that he’s never once ever pardoned one of his co-conspirators. There’s a chance Trump could pardon Stone, who surely has even worse dirt on Trump than the others do, and could seek ugly revenge. But if it does happen, it’ll be the first time the pundits have ever been right about a Trump pardon in three years – and then only by coincidence.

If Trump pardons a co-conspirator, it’ll trigger a legal battle over the scope of pardon power, which could result in Trump being blocked from trying to pardon himself and his kids on his way out the door. Is Trump so afraid of Stone’s dirt, he’s willing to risk going to prison himself? Trump can also only pardon federal charges. Stone has a secondary residence in NYC, which was raided when he was arrested. If Stone is pardoned, New York can bring state charges against him, even if Florida won’t. So Stone’s pardon might not even keep him out of prison.

djt impeachment graphic

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Attacks Stone Prosecutors and Judge, Ignoring Barr’s Admonishment, Sharon LaFraniere, Feb. 18, 2020. President Mr. Trump continued his attacks as a judge said Roger Stone’s sentencing would go on as scheduled. The case has prompted turmoil within the Justice Department. Roger Stone’s sentencing will go on as scheduled, a judge said as she vowed to hear out concerns from the defense. The case has prompted turmoil within the Justice Department.

Mr. Trump renewed his attacks on law enforcement on Tuesday, denouncing the prosecutors and judge in the case of his longtime friend Roger J. Stone Jr. just days after Attorney General William P. Barr warned that the president’s criticisms were making it “impossible” to do his job.

Undeterred, Mr. Trump kept up his barrage on Twitter. He directly quoted a “Fox & Friends” legal analyst, Andrew Napolitano, who has insisted that the president “has every right to speak to” the attorney general about the Stone case. Mr. amy berman jacksonTrump has alleged bias by the jury forewoman and echoed calls for the judge in the case, Amy Berman Jackson, right, to reconsider it.

“Judge Jackson now has a request for a new trial based on the unambiguous & self outed bias of the foreperson,” Mr. Trump wrote, quoting Mr. Napolitano.

But Mr. Stone’s sentencing will go on as planned on Thursday despite last-ditch motions by his defense lawyers for a new trial, Judge Jackson said hours later on Tuesday. She said she would allow the defense to file an amended motion for a new trial, give the government a chance to respond and schedule a hearing if warranted. Defense lawyers are trying to argue that juror misconduct led to an Justice Department log circularunfair trial.

The handling of Mr. Stone’s case has generated tumult in the Justice Department after Attorney General William P. Barr scrapped the prosecution team’s sentencing recommendation in favor of a much lighter one, leading four government lawyers to withdraw from the case. Mr. Trump also attacked the initial sentencing request.

The president also again assailed the lawyers, saying that if he were not president, he would sue them. Two of the four worked for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, whose investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election led to the indictments of Mr. Stone and five other former Trump aides.

Mr. Stone, 67, was convicted in November of seven felony charges, including tampering with a witness and lying under oath in order to obstruct a congressional inquiry into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 election. Mr. Mueller’s inquiry ultimately found insufficient evidence to charge anyone associated with the campaign of conspiring with the Russians.

roger stone hands waving no credit from stone cold Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump raises possibility of suing those involved in prosecuting Roger Stone, John Wagner, Feb. 18, 2020. President Trump on Tuesday raised the possibility of suing those involved in prosecuting the Roger Stone case after sharing the opinion of a Fox News commentator who said it is “pretty obvious” that Stone, Trump’s longtime political confidant, should get a new trial.

Trump’s morning tweets marked his latest efforts to intervene in the case of Stone, who faces sentencing this week on charges of witness tampering and lying to Congress.

roger stoneDefense lawyers for Stone, right, demanded a new trial Friday, one day after Trump suggested that the forewoman in the federal case had “significant bias.”

Trump was referring to Tomeka Hart, a former president of the Memphis City Schools Board of Commissioners and an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Congress. Hart has identified herself as the forewoman of the jury in a Facebook post, saying she “can’t keep quiet any longer” in the wake of a Justice Department move to reduce its sentencing recommendation for Stone from the seven to nine years recommended by front-line prosecutors.

In his tweets on Tuesday, Trump quoted at length Andrew Napolitano, a former New Jersey Superior Court judge and Fox News commentator, who argued that Stone should receive a trial based on “the unambiguous & self outed bias of the foreperson of the jury.”

“Pretty obvious he should (get a new trial),” Trump quoted Napolitano as saying. “I think almost any judge in the Country would order a new trial, I’m not so sure about Judge Jackson, I don’t know.”

Napolitano was referring to U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is presiding over Stone’s case and who has drawn Trump’s ire on Twitter for her treatment of another ally of his, Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman.

In his latest tweets — which began about an hour after Napolitano appeared on “Fox & Friends” — Trump also derided prosecutors in the Stone case as “Mueller prosecutors,” a reference to those who worked for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who investigated possible coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russian in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump called that investigation “fraudulent,” adding: “If I wasn’t President, I’d be suing everyone all over the place. BUT MAYBE I STILL WILL.”

All four career prosecutors handling the case against Stone withdrew from the legal proceedings last week — and one quit his job entirely — after the Justice Department signaled it planned to undercut their sentencing recommendation. Two of those prosecutors had worked for Mueller.

Stone has been a friend and adviser to Trump since the 1980s and was a key figure in his 2016 campaign, working to discover damaging information on Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.

More than 2,000 former department employees signed a public letter over the weekend urging Attorney General William P. Barr to resign over his handling of the case and exhorted current department employees to report any unethical conduct. At Barr’s urging, the Justice Department filed an updated sentencing memo suggesting that Stone should receive less prison time.

 djt feb 7 2020 william moon white house photo

Donald Trump, with tanning make-up revealed, returns to White House from Trump white nationalist rally in North Carolina on Feb. 7, 2020 (Photo by William Moon).

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: We knew what Barr would do. Now it’s too late to stop him. Annie L. Owens, Feb. 18, 2020 (print ed.). The attorney general’s radical view of the executive branch was apparent during his Senate confirmation.

Last week, Attorney General William P. Barr overruled the Justice Department’s sentencing recommendation for President Trump’s ally Roger Stone, who was convicted of lying to Congress, after the president tweeted that the original recommendation was “horrible” and “very unfair.” Barr also ordered a review of former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s prosecution — which, like Stone’s, was initiated by former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and conducted by career Justice Department attorneys.

djt william barr doj photo march 2019These developments are the latest evidence that Barr’s loyalty to Trump threatens the Justice Department’s independence, and they have shaken the public’s faith in the rule of law.

But Barr’s attempts to politicize the Justice Department could have been stopped before they began: during his Senate confirmation. Even then, it was clear that Barr’s radical pro-executive branch worldview was contrary to Congress’s institutional interests and made Barr a dangerous pick for a president who, as Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) warned, “views the Justice Department as an extension of his political power.”

A little over a year ago, I was serving as a senior counsel on the minority staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee, helping Democrats sound the alarm about Barr’s troubling record. A former head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (an office in which I also later served), Barr had espoused an extreme view of executive power that exalted the presidency to a position of inviolability rather than treating Congress as a coequal branch.

This theory, which the Supreme Court has never endorsed, grants the president virtually unchecked authority while seriously hamstringing annie owensCongress’s ability to hold the president accountable, including its ability to guard against political interference in law enforcement.

Annie L. Owens, right, is a Litigator with the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown University Law Center. She was previously a Senior Counsel for the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and an Attorney-Adviser in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept., in wrestling with how to handle Giuliani, tightens rules for Ukraine-related probes, Matt Zapotosky, Feb. 18, 2020. The deputy attorney general and U.S. attorney in Brooklyn must now sign off before any investigations are expanded.

The Justice Department revealed Tuesday that law enforcement officials running Ukraine-related investigations must seek approval before expanding their inquiries — a move that could have implications for Rudolph W. Giuliani, as President Trump’s personal attorney pushes for scrutiny of the president’s political foes while facing a federal probe into his own conduct.

The directive from Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen was disclosed in a response to Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) after the House Judiciary Committee chairman demanded clarity on how the Justice Department is reviewing information from Giuliani, who has urged law enforcement to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son for their dealings in Ukraine.

Assistant Attorney General Stephen E. Boyd wrote to Nadler that the department had tapped two U.S. attorneys to assist in the process — Scott Brady in Pittsburgh to receive and assess new information, and Richard Donoghue in Brooklyn to help coordinate personnel throughout the Justice Department involved in Giuliani’s case and others with a focus on Ukraine. An accompanying internal memo, circulated by Rosen in January, says that he and Donoghue must approve expansions of any inquiries.

Such a move could be viewed as putting another layer of approval in place if prosecutors wanted to widen their Giuliani probe, although Rosen wrote in his memo that the aim was to “avoid duplication of efforts.”

Taking information from Giuliani is particularly fraught for the department because the president’s personal lawyer is under investigation by federal prosecutors in Manhattan in a case that has led to campaign finance charges against two of Giuliani’s associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. The pair helped Giuliani try to conduct investigations in Ukraine and lobbied for the ouster of Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Prosecutors have in recent weeks contacted witnesses and sought to collect additional documents in that case.

Politico, Top intel office lawyer who handled Ukraine whistleblower complaint resigning, Kyle Cheney, Feb. 18, 2020. Jason Klitenic, the general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, will depart early next month.

The top lawyer for the intelligence community, whose decision to block a whistleblower's complaint about President Donald Trump and Ukraine from reaching Congress helped jumpstart the impeachment inquiry, is resigning from his post, officials confirmed.

Jason Klitenic, the general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, will depart early next month, according to an agency spokeswoman. His exit comes as the acting DNI, Joseph Maguire, nears a March 11 deadline to depart as well. Federal law prevents Maguire from serving in an acting capacity beyond that date, meaning a new director must be nominated and confirmed by then, or Trump must pick a new acting official.

Klitenic made a personal decision to return to private practice, the spokeswoman said. He became the subject of scrutiny in September when he consulted with the Justice Department and determined that a whistleblower complaint deemed "urgent" by an internal watchdog would not be provided to Congress. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) demanded access to the complaint after learning it had been blocked — and that it likely pertained to Trump or his senior advisers — and the furor that ensued led to a cascade of support for impeachment in the House.

The Trump administration's initial refusal to provide the complaint, as well as a string of media reports suggesting the complaint described wrongdoing by Trump in his posture toward Ukraine, ultimately led Speaker Nancy Pelosi to open an impeachment inquiry in late September. Within days of her decision, Maguire testified to Congress and the whistleblower complaint was released publicly. Trump also decided to release the readout of a July 25 call with Ukraine's president that became a central piece of evidence in the impeachment inquiry.

Schiff first asked the DNI for the whistleblower complaint after the agency's inspected general characterized it as an "urgent" and credible matter. Typically federal laws trigger a requirement that such complaints are forwarded to Congress. But in a Sept. 13 letter, Klitenic replied that rather than honor the inspector general's assessment, DNI consulted with the Justice Department, which overruled the inspector general and determined the complaint did not meet the threshold required to share it with lawmakers.

"Based on those consultations, we determined that the allegations did not fall within the statutory definition of an 'urgent concern' and that the statute did not require the complaint to be transmitted to the intelligence committees," Klitenic wrote on Sept. 13.

He also argued that the whistleblower had no legal right to approach Congress directly with his concerns. "We believe that it is important to apply the statute as it was written, because reading it to give a complainant a unilateral right to forward a complaint to the congressional intelligence committees would raise serious constitutional questions," Klitenic argued.

Klitenic's letter also hinted at Trump's role in the complaint, noting that it involved "confidential and potentially privileged communications by persons outside the Intelligence Community." Schiff said at the time that such a description could only apply to Trump or his top aides.

World News Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Coronavirus Live updates: Director of Wuhan hospital dies of coronavirus as infections mount in China, Anna Fifield and
Rick Noack, Feb. 18, 2020. Thieves in Japan steal 6,000 face masks as number of cases double; First domestic helper in Hong Kong china flag Smallinfected with coronavirus, raising concerns over new cases.

A respected neurologist who was also director of Wuchang Hospital in Wuhan died Tuesday after contracting the novel coronavirus. Liu Zhiming, who was 51, passed away despite a “full effort rescue,” according to a statement from Wuhan’s municipal health commission.

His death is the most high-profile since whistleblower Li Wenliang died, sparking an outpouring of public anger and grief, and follows that last week of a nurse, Liu Fan, from the same hospital. A total of eight front line health workers have died, while as many as 3,000 have been infected with the coronavirus.

The number of coronavirus infections across China continues to rise, although at a slower rate outside the epicenter of Hubei province.

Officials have been sounding a more upbeat note in recent days about the prospects for containing the virus. But a renowned Chinese pulmonologist who predicted a peak this month has since clarified his remarks to say that the peak may be followed by a plateau, rather than an outright fall in cases. Here is what we know so far:

● China reported 1,886 new coronavirus cases and 98 more deaths in its daily update on the outbreak Tuesday, bringing the death toll in mainland China to 1,868, with 72,436 confirmed cases. The overwhelming majority have been in Hubei province.

● A neurologist and a retired nurse who returned to work have died after becoming infected while treating coronavirus patients in Wuhan, the outbreak’s epicenter. Their deaths bring the total number of medical workers to have succumbed to the virus to eight.

● A Chinese pulmonologist predicted the number of infections will plateau, rather than fall, after hitting a peak later this month.

ny times logoNew York Times, After 5-Month Delay, Ashraf Ghani Is Named Winner of Afghan Election, Mujib Mashal, Feb. 18, 2020. The result was contested by opposition candidates, threatening another crisis ahead of a potential U.S.-Taliban peace deal.

ashraf ghani 2018 croppedPresident Ashraf Ghani, right, on Tuesday was declared the winner of Afghanistan’s presidential vote after months of delayed results and bitter dispute. Opposition politicians have protested the result, threatening a full-blown political crisis on the cusp of a U.S. peace deal with the Taliban.

Supporters of Mr. Ghani’s leading challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, accuse Afghanistan’s election commission of favoring Mr. Ghani and have threatened to form a parallel government if the commission announced results that did not satisfy their grievances.

The vote, held in September amid a record number of Taliban attacks intended to destabilize the election, had itself been repeatedly delayed and marred by uncertainty as a peace deal between the U.S. and the Taliban over the future of Afghanistan was nearing finalization. But President Trump snubbed the talks just weeks before the election was expected, opening the way for the vote to proceed.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Afghan Soldier Kills 2 Americans, Peace Talks Forge Ahead, Mujib Mashal, Katie Rogers, Zabihullah Ghazi and Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Feb. 18, 2020 (print ed.). Should the recent killing of two U.S. soldiers by an Afghan ally derail a peace deal with the Taliban? Or is a deal the only way to stop such killings?

President Trump stood in a misty drizzle at Dover Air Force Base as the remains of America’s latest two casualties in the long war in Afghanistan arrived home.

The somber silence was shattered by anguished cries from the young widow of Sgt. First Class Javier J. Gutierrez, who sprinted toward the plane as the metal cases holding her husband’s body and that of Sgt. First Class Antonio R. Rodriguez were being pulled out. “No!” she screamed, calling out his name over and over.

Just hours before that brief ceremony on Feb. 10, President Trump had made a momentous decision, giving his diplomats a green light for a peace deal with the Taliban that would lead to an American troop withdrawal and, possibly, the beginning of the end of the United States’ longest war.

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Washington Post, The war in Afghanistan shattered Joe Biden’s faith in American military power, Greg Jaffe, Feb. 18, 2020.  "I am not sending my boy back there to risk his life on behalf of women’s rights!" the vice president shouted during a private meeting in 2010 with Richard Holbrooke, President Obama’s special envoy to Afghanistan.

Vice President Joe Biden decided to make one more last-minute push to convince President Obama that the advice his generals were giving him was disastrously wrong. It was Thanksgiving weekend 2009, and Obama was on the verge of committing 30,000 new troops to Afghanistan.

Biden was in Nantucket, Mass., with his family for the holiday. He pulled out a legal pad and began writing a memo for Obama in longhand that he hoped might limit the damage from the president’s decision.

The memo summarized the arguments he had been airing for months to the growing irritation of the military’s top brass. The Pentagon’s strategy was too broad, too expensive, and too focused on the Taliban insurgency, instead of al-Qaeda.

washington post logoWashington Post, MBS learns he can persecute Americans with no pushback from Trump, Editorial Board, Feb. 18, 2020. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Saudi Arabia beginning Wednesday probably will focus on the administration’s continuing campaign against Iran. But also on the agenda, a briefer said, are “human rights and consular issues related to Saudi Arabia.” We hope that means Mr. Pompeo is going to stop accepting Saudi stonewalling on the continued persecution of several U.S. citizens.

mohammad bin salman cropped fileFor months, the Saudi regime has been stiffing the administration on a promise to end its groundless prosecution of Walid Fitaihi, a physician who frequently provided care to U.S. diplomatic personnel stationed at the Jiddah Consulate. Dr. Fitaihi was arrested and tortured in November 2017, during one of the sweeping domestic crackdowns launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He was held for 21 months without charge, and when his sham trial finally began he and seven members of his family — all U.S. citizens — were banned from leaving the country.

U.S. officials were promised that Dr. Fitaihi would finally be cleared at a hearing on Dec. 9, according to Mohamed Soltan, who leads the Washington-based Freedom Initiative. Instead, the proceedings were delayed for two months — and then delayed again on Feb. 2. Such gross disrespect for an American interest might seem remarkable, considering that President Trump has recently deployed thousands more troops and U.S. assets to the Persian Gulf to defend Saudi Arabia against Iranian attacks. But then, Mohammed bin Salman no doubt has concluded that he can persecute journalists, dissidents and even American citizens without consequences to his relationship with Washington — because there have been none to speak of.

U.S. 2020 Elections

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washington post logoWashington Post, Bloomberg qualifies for Wednesday’s Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas, Michael Scherer​, Feb. 18, 2020. Mike Bloomberg’s Democratic rivals, who have been publicly critical of the former New York mayor, are eager for a chance to counter hundreds of millions in television advertising he has already aired.

Former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg (shown above in a file photo by Gage Skidmore) qualified for Wednesday’s Democratic debate in Las Vegas on Tuesday, setting the stage for a clash that will test the staying power of a campaign that has so far been defined by its astronomical advertising spending.

democratic donkey logoMany leading contenders in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination have made clear that they hope to turn the debate into a showdown over Bloomberg’s record on race, his enormous spending on the contest and the history of confidentiality agreements he has struck with women who accused him of making inappropriate comments in the workplace.

Bloomberg campaign manager Kevin Sheekey confirmed in a statement Tuesday morning that Bloomberg would attend the debate.

“Mike is looking forward to joining the other Democratic candidates onstage and making the case for why he’s the best candidate to defeat Donald Trump and unite the country,” Sheekey said. “The opportunity to discuss his workable and achievable plans for the challenges facing this country is an important part of the campaign process.”

• Washington Post, Campaign turns to black and Latino voters, and that’s a problem for some candidates

Palmer Report, Opinion: Mike Bloomberg shouldn’t be the nominee – but he’s exposed the roadmap for taking Donald Trump down, Bill Palmer, right, bill palmerFeb. 18, 2020.  Give me Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, or Pete Buttigieg – in any order – as the 2020 Democratic nominee for president, and I’ll be plenty happy. They’re varying degrees of liberal, but they’re all smart, noble, and politically competent, meaning they’d each be able to move the nation forward and to the left.

bill palmer report logo headerMike Bloomberg is liberal on issues like gun control, but he’s not a liberal overall – and there are things about his personal and professional past that are red flags. So Bloomberg is, at best, my fifth choice.

I spell all of this out so it’s clear that I’m not endorsing Mike Bloomberg on any level when I speak positively of how he’s running his campaign. But we really need to be paying attention to his approach against Donald Trump, because it’s really resonating with voters. Bloomberg has the unfair advantage of being able to run an essentially limitless number of TV ads, because he has limitless money in his bank account. But all those ads wouldn’t be helping him any, if they were the wrong kinds of ads.

The other Democratic candidates are largely focusing on important political and social issues, and I applaud them for their willingness to do this. But because they each have their own variation of how best to move things forward on matters like health care and the economy, what the average nonpartisan voter takes away from it all is that the Democrats are endlessly arguing with each other over policy. Our whole country is on fire thanks to Donald Trump, who is still running around with a blowtorch and setting more things on fire, and the firefighters are busy arguing with each other about which kind of equipment to use.

democratic donkey logoThat’s not what’s really going on, of course. None of the Democrats running for president can do anything to stop Trump’s arson today, because none of them can get into power any sooner than January. So they’re all talking about their plans for how to fix things once Trump is gone. But Mike Bloomberg is doing something very different. He’s using his TV ads to take a blowtorch directly to Donald Trump.

Can Bloomberg’s ads do anything to stop Trump’s arson before January? No, not really. But it signals to the public that he understands that Trump is the 2020 issue. Hillary Clinton spelled out in 2016 why Trump would be a disaster, and not enough people believed her at the time, but now many of them can see it for themselves. The media rarely covered Hillary when she was talking about the issues. Instead, they only covered her when she was talking about Trump, and then they bashed her for not talking about the issues. Spoiler alert: whoever the 2020 Democratic nominee is, they’ll get that same unfair treatment from the media no matter what they talk about, so they might as well just go right at Trump.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Mark Sanford, Why Do My Fellow Republicans Make Excuses for Trump’s Deficits, Mark Sanford (right, a former South mark sanford oCarolina governor and former candidate for the 2020 Republican presidential nomination), Feb. 18, 2020. He is driving the country to financial ruin. And his own party is letting it happen.

People have a tragic flaw: Sometimes we want others to do the thinking for us. And across the ages promoters and con men have been more than willing to oblige. They invite us to indulge in the fantasy that a newfound father figure will fix it all, though it never works out that way.

This is the premise of a prescient book from 1841, “Extraordinary Delusions and the Madness of Crowds,” by the Scottish journalist Charles MacKay, which documents in extensive detail the moments when entire societies have set aside their own good judgment under the spell of a charlatan.

We are in one of those moments today.

#MeToo Scandals

washington post logoWashington Post, Boy Scouts of America files for bankruptcy amid wave of sexual abuse allegations, Samantha Schmidt, Feb. 18, 2020. Facing a wave of lawsuits over allegations of sexual abuse, the Boy Scouts of America has filed for bankruptcy.

boy scouts logo customThe long-anticipated Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing will allow the Boy Scouts to keep operating as it reorganizes its finances and handles claims from hundreds of potential victims. It will also give alleged victims a limited amount of time to come forward before being barred indefinitely from seeking compensation.

“The BSA cares deeply about all victims of abuse and sincerely apologizes to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting. We are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programs to harm innocent children,” Roger Mosby, the president and CEO of the Boy Scouts of America, said in a statement released around 1 a.m. Tuesday. “While we know nothing can undo the tragic abuse that victims suffered, we believe the Chapter 11 process — with the proposed Trust structure — will provide equitable compensation to all victims while maintaining the BSA’s important mission.”
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The filing early Tuesday punctuates a tumultuous time for the 110-year-old organization, which continues to be one of the largest youth groups in the United States.

Youth membership has declined more than 26 percent in the past decade. This dramatic drop in numbers, coupled with the loss of a key partnership with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has left the Boy Scouts struggling to find ways to remain relevant. Last year, it began accepting girls into its namesake program, setting off a recruitment war with the Girl Scouts.

washington post logoWashington Post, Special Report: Cardinal McCarrick secretly gave nearly $1 million to group led by cleric accused of sexual misconduct, Shawn Boburg and Robert O'Harrow Jr., Feb. 18, 2020 (print ed.). He also supported leniency for its founder after the Vatican punished him for sexual wrongdoing, internal church documents show.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Harvey Weinstein is on trial. But #MeToo is in danger, Alyssa Rosenberg, Feb. 18, 2020. The exposure of Harvey Weinstein’s behavior kicked off the #MeToo movement. Now, a jury is deliberating whether to find the disgraced movie mogul guilty of rape and predatory sexual assault.

But even before the jury renders its verdict — and no matter what the jurors decide — events over the past month have left me feeling as though the movement has fallen sadly short of the sweeping societal change so many of us envisioned a little more than two years ago.

Ultra-Right Media Hoax?

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Right-Wing Activists Discussed Wiretapping Seth Rich’s Family, Three People in the Room Say, Will Sommer, Updated Feb. 18, 2020. Involved in the talks about murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich: a Fox reporter, a former intelligence contractor, and a pair of provocateurs looking to sow “targeted chaos” online.

A strange set of characters from some of the highest and lowest positions in the American right gathered one morning in September 2017 at an affluent neighborhood outside of Dallas.

One of their topics was responding to online critics of wealthy Texas businessman Ed Butowsky, who had recently been outed as a driving seth richforce behind a retracted Fox News story about murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, right.

The group that gathered at Butowsky’s home included a conspiracy theorist, a Fox reporter fighting for her career, a former private intelligence contractor married to star journalist Lara Logan, and a Democratic PR operative who lost his business in the face of sexual assault allegations. The group also included Thomas Schoenberger and Manuel “Defango” Chavez, two notorious internet provocateurs who had recently launched a self-proclaimed “elite” company that promised to use bots and sow “targeted chaos” to defend its clients online.

According to some attendees, the solutions discussed at the September get-together went to extremes. Three people who attended the gathering said the group even discussed the possibility of wiretapping and surveilling Rich’s grieving parents.

In a sworn deposition last year, Schoenberger claims Butowsky wanted to “hear a pin drop” in the Rich’s Omaha, Nebraska, kitchen.

“They wanted it to the point where they can listen to every room and hear discussions,” Schoenberger said in a sworn deposition last year about the gathering. “They literally wanted ears in every room.”

Butowsky strongly disputes Schoenberger’s wiretapping claims and The Daily Beast could find no evidence that anyone in the group actually carried out surveillance on Rich’s family. Butowsky points to Schoenberger’s criminal history — a 2011 felony stalking charge and a 2014 misdemeanor DUI — to argue that his allegations about what occurred at Butowsky’s house can’t be trusted.

“Nobody wiretapped anybody, nobody attempted to wiretap anybody, nobody discussed wiretapping anybody, and quite frankly, I don’t know what wiretapping is,” Butowsky said.

In an interview with The Daily Beast, Butowsky confirmed the list of guests at his house, although he disputed the characterization of it as a “meeting.”

“It was just like a sit-down and chat,” said Butowsky. “Nothing happened. There wasn’t like some meeting where we left with plans. It was a bunch of people explaining how reputation management worked on Twitter.”

The varied group, according to Butowsky, included Schoenberger, Chavez, outspoken Rich conspiracy theorist Matt Couch and an associate, Logan’s husband Joe Burkett, as well as Fox News reporter Malia Zimmerman, who was the author of the retracted Fox story.

“Nobody wiretapped anybody, nobody attempted to wiretap anybody, nobody discussed wiretapping anybody, and quite frankly, I don’t know what wiretapping is.”

— Ed Butowsky

They were joined by Trevor FitzGibbon, a former Democratic PR bigwig whose firm once worked with groups like MoveOn and NARAL, but collapsed in 2015 in the face of sexual harassment and assault allegations against him (FitzGibbon denied those allegations and never faced criminal charges). According to Schoenberger and Chavez, FitzGibbon teamed up with them in August 2017 to launch “Shadowbox,” their “elite” online reputation firm. Butowsky was their first client.

Media, Privacy

washington post logoWashington Post, How Ring and Nest helped normalize American surveillance — and turned us into a nation of voyeurs, Drew Harwell, Feb. 18, 2020. People who own Web-connected cameras say they’ve reshaped their awareness around what’s going on at home. But all that added vigilance has come at a surprising cost.

Margaret Cudia thought her Ring doorbell camera was “the best thing since sliced bread.” She loved watching the world pass by through her suburban New Jersey neighborhood, guarding vigilantly for suspicious strangers and porch pirates from the comfort of her phone.

She hadn’t expected the camera also might capture awkward moments closer to home, like the time it caught her daughter grabbing a beer and talking about how controlling her mother was. “I never told her about that one,” she said with a laugh.

Amazon’s Ring, Google’s Nest and other Internet-connected cameras — some selling for as little as $59 — have given Americans the tools they need to become a personal security force, and millions of people now seeing what’s happening around their home every second — what Ring calls the “new neighborhood watch.” (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

But the allure of monitoring people silently from afar has also proved more tempting than many expected. Customers who bought the cameras in hopes of not becoming victims joke that instead they’ve become voyeurs.

The Washington Post surveyed more than 50 owners of in-home and outdoor camera systems across the United States about how the recording devices had reshaped their daily lives. Most of those who responded to online solicitations about their camera use said they had bought the cameras to check on package deliveries and their pets, and many talked glowingly about what they got in return: security, entertainment, peace of mind. Some said they worried about hackers, snoops or spies.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. designates 5 major Chinese media outlets as government entities, Anna Fifield, Carol Morello and Emily Rauhala, Feb. 18, 2020. The designation means they will be treated as though they are diplomatic outposts of the Chinese government and subject to the same constraints. The move is the latest in a series of U.S. efforts to tackle China’s influence in the United States.

The State Department on Tuesday designated five Chinese media outlets as official government entities under the Foreign Missions Act, meaning they will treated as though they are diplomatic outposts of the Chinese government and subject to the same constraints.

The move is the latest in a series of U.S. efforts to tackle China’s influence in the United States. It will be sure to anger Beijing, which generally views U.S. government’s actions — from the trade war and the accusations against Huawei to criticism of its human rights record — as an effort to thwart China’s global rise.

The media outlets are the official Xinhua News Agency; China Global Television Network, known as CGTN, the international arm of state broadcaster CCTV; China Radio International; the China Daily newspaper; and Hai Tian Development, a U.S. company linked to the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China.

U.S. Jobs, Economy

washington post logoWashington Post, Walmart employees brace for job cuts as retailer rolls out ‘Great Workplace’ program, Abha Bhattarai, Feb. 18, 2020. The company is rethinking roles at 1,100 U.S. stores. “Terminations are part of the plan,” workers’ rights groups say.

Walmart last spring said it was testing a sweeping overhaul that would make its stores better run and create more opportunities for employees to “do meaningful work.” The “Great Workplace” initiative, the retailer said, would be “the key to winning the future of retail.”

But nearly a year in, workers say the effort, which will reach 1,100 of the company’s 5,300 U.S. stores by year end, has led to widespread confusion. Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, is telling employees that it is doing away with certain positions — including hourly supervisors and assistant store managers — and replacing them with a smaller set of roles that carry more responsibilities, often for the same pay, according to interviews with current and former store employees, and internal documents obtained by The Washington Post.

Feb. 17

Coronavirus Headlines

Trump Power, Payback Headlines

Investigations

2020 U.S. Politics

'Big Brother' Spying

Climate Change / Media

U.S. Media

More World News

 

Cornonavirus Updates

ny times logoNew York Times, Slowed by the Coronavirus, China Struggles to Reopen for Business, Keith Bradsher, Feb. 17, 2020. Some factories are china flag Smallfiring up again, but with many workers quarantined and parts in short supply, production is limited. The country’s leaders are trying to strike a balance between keeping people safe and getting vital industries back on track.

Airbus is slowly restarting its assembly line in China. General Motors began limited production on Saturday. Toyota followed on Monday morning. Fitfully and painfully — and with some worried prodding from Beijing — China is trying to reopen for business.

The world’s second-largest economy practically shut down three weeks ago as a viral outbreak sickened tens of thousands of people, unexpectedly lengthening a Chinese holiday. The freeze set off warnings that the global economy could be in jeopardy if the world’s pre-eminent manufacturing powerhouse stayed shut for long.

ny times logoNew York Times, China Detains Activist Who Accused Xi of Coronavirus Cover-Up, Javier C. Hernández, Feb. 17, 2020. He portrayed China’s leader, Xi Jinping, as hungry for power. He accused Mr. Xi of trying to cover up the coronavirus outbreak in central China. In one of his most daring writings, he urged Mr. Xi to resign, saying, “You’re just not smart enough.”

Then, over the weekend, Xu Zhiyong, a prominent Chinese legal activist, went silent. The authorities in the southern city of Guangzhou xu zhiyongdetained him on Saturday, according to Mr. Xu’s friends, after he spent nearly two months in hiding. His girlfriend, Li Qiaochu, a social activist, went missing on Sunday, Mr. Xu’s friends said. Dr. Xu, formerly affiliated with Beijing University and Yale Law School's China Center, is show in a file photo at right.

The activist is the latest critic to be caught up in Mr. Xi’s far-reaching efforts to limit dissent in China. The crackdown, which has ensnared scores of activists, lawyers, journalists and intellectuals, is likely to intensify as the ruling Communist Party comes under broad attack for its handling of the coronavirus outbreak, one of its biggest political challenges in years.

ny times logoNew York Times, Coronavirus updates: Fourteen Americans evacuated from another cruise ship in Japan have tested positive for the virus. Here’s the latest, Staff reports, Feb. 17, 2020. The passengers were among more than 300 Americans aboard a cruise ship that was been quarantined in Yokohama for more than 10 days. United States officials initially said they would not allow infected people to board the evacuation flights, but appeared to reverse that decision early Monday.

“During the evacuation process, after passengers had disembarked the ship and initiated transport to the airport, U.S. officials received notice that 14 passengers, who had been tested 2-3 days earlier, had tested positive for COVID-19,” the State Department and Department of Health and Human Services said in a joint statement, referring to the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

The 14 infected passengers were moved into a specialized containment area on the evacuation aircraft, where they were to be isolated and monitored. They had been found to be asymptomatic and “fit to fly” before the evacuation, according to the statement.

At least one flight landed on Monday morning at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, Calif. All passengers on that flight will undergo a 14-day quarantine. Those that develop symptoms or test positive will be sent to “an appropriate location for continued isolation and care,” the statement added.

Trump Power, Payback Stories

john bolton light suit Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Bolton says his account of Trump foreign policy risks being ‘suppressed’ by the White House, Karen DeYoung and Kirk Ross, Feb. 17, 2020. Former White House national security adviser John Bolton on Monday questioned whether it was “fair” that President Trump has called him a liar on the subject of Ukraine, but “I can’t talk about it.”

In his first public remarks since Trump was impeached by the House and acquitted by the Senate, Bolton said his own views of national security policies, and descriptions of interactions with Trump on Ukraine and other issues, risk being “suppressed” and censored by the administration.

His ability to speak was restrained, he said, because of the White House “prepublication review” of his forthcoming book “and threats of possible legal action.”

In a 90-minute question-and-answer session before students, faculty and members of the public at Duke University, Bolton voiced familiar hard-line views on North Korea, Iran and other issues. He said he viewed Ukraine and the impeachment “as sprinkles on the ice cream sundae” compared with other subjects he deals with in the book.

Asked whether he agreed with the president’s assessment that Trump’s July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was “perfect,” Bolton said “You’ll love Chapter 14.”

djt john bolton cnnBolton left the administration in September, after 17 months as Trump’s third national security adviser, following policy rifts with the president. Trump announced via Twitter that he had fired Bolton, although Bolton, also via Twitter, said he had resigned. Bolton’s book about his time at the White House, titled The Room Where It Happened, is scheduled to be published on March 17.

Portions of the book were leaked to the New York Times, including Bolton’s firsthand account of what he said were discussions with Trump about the president’s withholding of aid to Ukraine unless its government investigated his Democratic political rivals. Those allegations became the basis of Trump’s impeachment in December.

washington post logoWashington Post, More than 1,100 ex-Justice Department officials call for Barr’s resignation, Devlin Barrett, Feb. 17, 2020 (print ed.). More than 1,100 former Justice Department employees signed a public letter Sunday urging Attorney General William P. Barr to resign over his handling of the william barr new ocase of President Trump’s longtime friend Roger Stone — and exhorted current department employees to report any unethical conduct.

Update: More than 2,000 signatures for letter.

The letter is the latest sign of a crisis of confidence inside the department. Four prosecutors quit the Stone case last week after Barr, right, and other Justice Department leaders pushed for a softer prison recommendation for Stone, who is due to be sentenced this week.

The four prosecutors had originally recommended a prison sentence of seven to nineyears for Stone after he was convicted of lying to Congress and obstruction. The president publicly attacked that recommendation, and at Barr’s urging the Justice Department filed an updated sentencing memo suggesting Stone should receive less prison time.

Medium, DOJ Alumni Statement on the Events Surrounding the Sentencing of Roger Stone, Feb. 16, 2020. Statement: We, the undersigned, are alumni of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) who have collectively served both Republican and Democratic administrations. Each of us strongly condemns President Trump’s and Attorney General Barr’s interference in the fair administration of justice.

As former DOJ officials, we each proudly took an oath to support and defend our Constitution and faithfully execute the duties of our offices. The very first of these duties is to apply the law equally to all Americans. This obligation flows directly from the Constitution, and it is embedded in countless rules and laws governing the conduct of DOJ lawyers. The Justice Manual — the DOJ’s rulebook for its lawyers — states that “the rule of law depends on the evenhanded administration of justice”; that the Department’s legal decisions “must be impartial and insulated from political influence”; and that the Department’s prosecutorial powers, in particular, must be “exercised free from partisan consideration.”

All DOJ lawyers are well-versed in these rules, regulations, and constitutional commands. They stand for the proposition that political interference in the conduct of a criminal prosecution is anathema to the Department’s core mission and to its sacred obligation to ensure equal justice under the law.

And yet, President Trump and Attorney General Barr have openly and repeatedly flouted this fundamental principle, most recently in connection with the sentencing of President Trump’s close associate, Roger Stone, who was convicted of serious crimes. The Department has a long-standing practice in which political appointees set broad policies that line prosecutors apply to individual cases. That practice exists to animate the constitutional principles regarding the even-handed application of the law. Although there are times when political leadership appropriately weighs in on individual prosecutions, it is unheard of for the Department’s top leaders to overrule line prosecutors, who are following established policies, in order to give preferential treatment to a close associate of the President, as Attorney General Barr did in the Stone case. It is even more outrageous for the Attorney General to intervene as he did here — after the President publicly condemned the sentencing recommendation that line prosecutors had already filed in court.

President Donald Trump officialSuch behavior is a grave threat to the fair administration of justice. In this nation, we are all equal before the law. A person should not be given special treatment in a criminal prosecution because they are a close political ally of the President. Governments that use the enormous power of law enforcement to punish their enemies and reward their allies are not constitutional republics; they are autocracies.

We welcome Attorney General Barr’s belated acknowledgment that the DOJ’s law enforcement decisions must be independent of politics; that it is wrong for the President to interfere in specific enforcement matters, either to punish his opponents or to help his friends; and that the President’s public comments on DOJ matters have gravely damaged the Department’s credibility. But Mr. Barr’s actions in doing the President’s personal bidding unfortunately speak louder than his words. Those actions, and the damage they have done to the Department of Justice’s reputation for integrity and the rule of law, require Mr. Barr to resign. But because we have little expectation he will do so, it falls to the Department’s career officials to take appropriate action to uphold their oaths of office and defend nonpartisan, apolitical justice.

For these reasons, we support and commend the four career prosecutors who upheld their oaths and stood up for the Department’s independence by withdrawing from the Stone case and/or resigning from the Department. Our simple message to them is that we — and millions of other Americans — stand with them. And we call on every DOJ employee to follow their heroic example and be prepared to report future abuses to the Inspector General, the Office of Professional Responsibility, and Congress; to refuse to carry out directives that are inconsistent with their oaths of office; to withdraw from cases that involve such directives or other misconduct; and, if necessary, to resign and report publicly — in a manner consistent with professional ethics — to the American people the reasons for their resignation. We likewise call on the other branches of government to protect from retaliation those employees who uphold their oaths in the face of unlawful directives. The rule of law and the survival of our Republic demand nothing less.

If you are a former DOJ employee and would like to add your name below, click here. Protect Democracy will update this list daily with new signatories.

djt acquitted photo

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s quest to rewrite history of the Russia probe, Philip Rucker, Feb. 17, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump is actively seeking to rewrite the narrative that had been meticulously documented by federal law enforcement and intelligence officials, both for immediate political gain and for history.

The U.S. intelligence community long ago produced evidence of Russia’s illegal interference in the 2016 presidential election to try to boost Donald Trump’s candidacy. Then the special counsel investigating the matter detailed myriad ways President Trump sought to stymie the probe. And then Robert S. Mueller III testified to Congress about Trump’s conduct — and warned of Russia’s continued interest in thwarting U.S. elections.

But it is Trump who is trying to have the last word.

Seven months after Mueller’s marathon testimony brought finality to the Russia investigation, Trump is actively seeking to rewrite the narrative that had been meticulously documented by federal law enforcement and intelligence officials, both for immediate political gain and for history.

Turbocharged by his acquittal in the Senate’s impeachment trial and confident that he has acquired the fealty of nearly every Republican in Congress, Trump is claiming vindication and exoneration not only over his conduct with Ukraine — for which the House voted to impeach him — but also from the other investigations that have dogged his presidency.

American System Radio, Opinion: American Society Rejects Trump’s Dictatorship And The Politics Of Revenge: Over 2,000 Department Of Justice Veterans Call On AG Barr To Resign, Webster G. Tarpley and Daniella Wells, Feb. 17, 2020.  Former Deputy AG Donald Ayers, Barr’s Colleague In Bush 41’s DOJ, Calls Him “Un-American.”

On Sunday Shows, Dem Candidates Spout Usual Platitudes, Not Grasping That Coordinated Emergency Actions Are Needed At Once To Ward Off Police State Rule Before November!; After Vile Attacks On Leaders Of Nevada’s Culinary Workers, Sanders Goons Are Becoming An Issue Among Dems;

Skyrocketing Death Toll From Coronavirus Is A Political Crisis For Emperor Xi And His Bankrupt Communist Party: World Doubts Statistics From Beijing; The New Mao Is Realizing That Total Command Brings Total Responsibility When Things Go Wrong; Scapegoats Are Eagerly Sought; Xi Has Failed To Break Opposition Movement In Hong Kong, Is Farther Than Ever From Luring Taiwan Back To Mainland, And Is Widely Hated As The Corrupt Buck Passer Who Silenced The Heroic Dr. Lee And Inflicted A New Pandemic On His People!

Investigations

washington post logoWashington Post, TV Review: Investigating Amazon, ‘Frontline’ opens the smiling cardboard box and finds George Orwell, Hank Stuever, Feb. 17, 2020. A two-hour report looks at how Jeff Bezos’s empire grew largely unchecked in the e-commerce revolution.

What’s to become of a planet in Amazon’s grip?

jeffrey bezos washington postThe well-reported, rather alarming special by PBS’s “Frontline” airing Tuesday night, titled “Amazon Empire — The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos,” unpacks the smiling cardboard box and finds a lot that should worry us.

It’s not chock full of new information, but it smartly and effectively builds toward a disturbing conclusion — that Amazon is in sore need of some corrective regulation from a government that seems, at best, indifferent to intervening and, at worst, amazon logo smallsubmissively technocratic.

The story begins with the online bookstore’s wildly optimistic beginnings way back in the dial-up Internet era 25 years ago and charts the company’s inexorable growth in recent years, becoming a somewhat Orwellian presence in retail competition, warehousing, large-scale (and lower-wage) labor practices, delivery systems, grocery shopping, surveillance techniques, Web security and, arguably, the economy itself.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Eric Trump said the Secret Service stays free at Trump clubs. Doesn’t look like it, Editorial Board, Feb. 17, 2020 (print ed.). No one disputes that Secret Service protection is essential and expensive. But revelations about exorbitant rates that the Secret Service has been charged to protect President Trump at his private properties raise the question of what interest is being furthered. Is it the safety of the president or the bottom line of his private holdings?

secret service logoAn investigation by The Post’s David A. Fahrenthold, Jonathan O’Connell, Carol D. Leonnig and Josh Dawsey found 103 payments from January 2017 to April 2018 from the Secret Service to Trump companies, totaling more than $471,000. Among the charges were $650 per night for agents to use rooms “dozens” of times in 2017 at Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida and $17,000 a month to rent a three-bedroom cottage at Trump National Golf Club Bedminister in New Jersey for three months in 2017.

The full extent of what the Trump Organization is charging the government is not known because the Secret Service has not listed them in public databases, even though it is typically required for charges in excess of $10,000. Nor has the agency filed the required twice-yearly reports on its spending to Congress. Since 2016, it has filed just two reports and those were not complete; the lines for Bedminster and Mar-a-Lago were both left blank. Post reporters were able to provide a glimpse into the arrangements by compiling documents that came out piecemeal from public records requests of other news organizations and watchdog groups and by talking to people who have seen some receipts.

2020 U.S. Politics

washington post logodnc square logoWashington Post, Activists, campaigns warn of chaos ahead of Nevada caucuses, Holly Bailey, Feb. 17, 2020 (print ed.).  Campaign officials say they haven't received even a basic explanation of how key parts of the process will work.

With the Nevada caucuses days away, campaign officials and Democratic activists are increasingly alarmed that they might prove a debacle as damaging as the vote in Iowa, further setting back the party in its urgent effort to coalesce around a nominee to take on President Trump.

culinary union 226 Custom

ny times logobernie sanders 2020 button croppedNew York Times, Next Hurdle for Sanders: Nevada’s Top Union Dislikes ‘Medicare for All,’ Jennifer Medina and Jonathan Martin, Feb. 17, 2020 (print ed.). Senator Bernie Sanders’s signature policy is a liability with the largest labor union in the state. His rivals are trying to capitalize.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Did Biden Scare Off Our Next President? David Leonhardt, Feb. 17, 2020. Imagine the race if other Democrats had not overreacted.

More than four years ago, in the run-up to the 2016 presidential campaign, many progressives were hoping Elizabeth Warren would run. Only after she passed on the race — evidently deciding that Hillary Clinton was too strong to be beaten — did a less prominent progressive enter: Bernie Sanders.

democratic donkey logoLast year, a different version of this scenario happened, this time in the moderate wing of the Democratic Party. Mitch Landrieu, Deval Patrick and Michael Bloomberg, among others, skipped the race, at least initially. Much as Clinton had scared off potential candidates in 2016, Joe Biden did so in 2020.

By now, the lesson from this history should be plain. If you want to be president of the United States and have an opportunity to run, you should not let another candidate keep you from running in the primaries.

Campaigns are too long and uncertain. And the odds of winning the presidency are never particularly good. Every Democrat to be elected president in the past half century — Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter — started as a long shot, as did a couple of Republicans (Donald Trump and Ronald Reagan).

Palmer Report, How-To Advocacy: One sure way to take Donald Trump down in 2020, Bill Palmer, right, Feb. 17, 2020. If you’re passionate about bill palmerpolitics but you’re not quite sure how best to focus your energies: here’s a way to help your own cause: only focus on things that can move the needle. If Donald Trump has ten scandals, but only three of them have a chance of getting anyone to change how they’ll vote, only focus on those three. If you’re trying to win an election by talking about the other seven, you’re essentially talking to yourself.

If you’re not sure which of Trump’s scandals is going to move the needle, it’s fine to cover your bases by talking about several of them. But if you know for sure that a certain anti-Trump talking point is only going to resonate with those who are already 100% voting against him, you’re wasting time. Do you want to just spend your time reassuring yourself about how much Trump sucks, or do you want to focus on things that can help you defeat him? At this point the only way to defeat him is to change the minds of the voters whose minds are changeable in 2020.

You’re wasting your time if you’re fighting with Trump’s most rabid supporters. They’re not changing their vote. Sparring with them all day might allow you to “defeat” them on the internet, but it won’t defeat Trump in the election.

bill palmer report logo headerThere are groups of people you should focus on: 1) Those you can shift from a Trump vote, to not voting. 2) Those you can shift from not voting, to voting for the Democratic nominee. 3) Those you can shift from casting a third party / protest vote, to voting for the Democratic nominee.

There’s also an argument for trying to get a single Trump fan to switch to our side, because that person may then be in position to go back and convince other Trump fans to do the same. But you’ll only have a chance at flipping Trump’s most tepid supporters to voting Democrat – and even this is rare. Most elections are won by getting some people to vote for your guy instead of staying home, and getting some other Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)people to stay home instead of voting for the other guy.

If you’re reading this and saying “but I don’t know anyone whose vote can be changed,” that’s a red flag. It means you’re only talking to rabid anti-Trump and/or rabid pro-Trump people. Broaden your approach. Talk to people outside the two bases. They vote too, if you properly influence them.

It’s all a different story if you’re simply trying to raise awareness on a crucial issue because you want to create enough public pressure to force an immediate change on that issue. The Trump regime routinely does quietly back off (or partially back off) on some things due to public pressure. But keep in mind we get to shut down all of Trump’s crap if we vote him out. So let’s focus on his specific scandals that’ll actually change votes, and use them to get him out of office – at which point we’ll win in every one of his scandals.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Have Zombies Eaten Bloomberg’s and Buttigieg’s Brains? Paul Krugman, Feb. 17, 2020. Beware the Democrats of the living dead.

Sometimes zombie ideas manage to eat centrists’ brains. Sure enough, some of the most destructive zombies of the past dozen years have shambled their way into the Democratic primary fight, where a couple of centrists are repeating ideas that were thoroughly debunked years ago.

Let’s start with the origins of the 2008 financial crisis, a topic that remains relevant if we want to avoid repeating past mistakes.

Big Brother Spying

washington post logoWashington Post, Compromised encryption machines gave CIA window into major human rights abuses, Greg Miller and Peter F. Mueller, Feb. 17, 2020. South American military dictatorships combined forces in the late 1970s on a continent-wide crackdown they called Operation Condor against perceived threats to their rule. It was part of a broader wave of violence in which nuns and priests were imprisoned, CIA Logodissidents were tossed out of airplanes and thousands of victims were “disappeared.”

To coordinate this brutal campaign, Argentina, Chile and other countries established a secret communications network using encryption machines from a Swiss company called Crypto AG.

Crypto was secretly owned by the CIA as part of a decades-long operation with West German intelligence. The U.S. spy agency was, in effect, supplying rigged communications gear to some of South America’s most brutal regimes and, as a result, in unique position to know the extent of their atrocities.

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Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Trump mega-donor Larry Ellison has been a techno-fascist for decades, Wayne Madsen, Feb. 17, 2020.
Oracle Corporation founder and current executive chairman and chief technology officer Larry Ellison is no stranger to supporting fascist causes.

Ellison, the nation's fifth richest person and owner of 98 percent of the island of Lanai, Hawaii's sixth-largest island, is hosting a "Golf Outing and Reception" for Donald Trump at his massive estate in Rancho Mirage in California's Coachella Valley on February 19.

Ellison displayed his fascist plumage in the aftermath of 9/11, when he publicly endorsed the concept of a national identification card that, of course, would be linked to government agencies using Oracle relational databases.

Climate Change / Media

washington post logoWashington Post, Jeff Bezos commits $10 billion to fight climate change, Kimberly Kindy, Feb. 17, 2020. The Amazon founder and chief executive, who has been criticized for his company’s large carbon footprint, announced the formation of the Bezos Earth Fund.

jeffrey bezos washington postJeff Bezos (shown in a Washington Post file photo) announced the formation of the Bezos Earth Fund on Monday, saying it will provide $10 billion in grants to scientists and activists to fund their efforts to fight climate change.

“Climate change is the biggest threat to our planet,” Bezos said in the announcement on Instagram. “I want to work alongside others both to amplify known ways and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change on this planet we all share.”

amazon logo smallThe Amazon founder and CEO said the grants, which will be issued this summer, will go to individuals and organizations from around the globe, adding that the effort will “take collective action from big companies, small companies, nation states, global organizations, and individuals.”

The fund builds off prior commitments that Bezos has made in recent years to reduce Amazon’s impact on the environment, including signing a “climate pledge” last year that commits the company to operate on 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030.

U.S. Media

ae hotchner paul newman paul and me

washington post logoWashington Post, A.E. Hotchner, author with a gift for famous friendships, dies at 102, Matt Schudel, Feb. 17, 2020 (print ed.). In December 1980, writer A.E. Hotchner mixed up a batch of salad dressing with his Connecticut neighbor — actor Paul Newman — to give away to friends at Christmas. When it proved to be a hit, they decided almost as a lark to go into business, offering the salad dressing as the first product from a company they called Newman’s Own.

They designated all of the profits for charitable causes, an amount that has surpassed $500 million since they launched the company in 1982 (and portrayed in his book Paul and Me, shown at right with the two on the cover).

“The friendship was the whole key,” Mr. Hotchner told the New York Times about his connection with Newman. “It would have never happened without it. He’s as good a friend as I’ve got.”

A gift for friendship may have been the defining characteristic of Mr. Hotchner, who had a long and eclectic career as a lawyer, magazine editor, playwright and the author of more than 20 books. He was 102 when he died Feb. 15 at his home in Westport, Conn.

In addition to Newman and the actor’s wife, Joanne Woodward, Mr. Hotchner had enduring friendships with writers Dorothy Parker and George Plimpton and actress-singer Doris Day. But he was perhaps best known for his long association with author Ernest Hemingway, which he chronicled in a best-selling 1966 memoir, “Papa Hemingway.”

He met Hemingway in 1948 while working as an editor for Cosmopolitan, which was a general-interest publication before it became known as a women’s lifestyle magazine. Cosmopolitan dispatched Mr. Hotchner to Cuba, where Hemingway was living, to persuade him to write an essay on “the future of literature.”

Hemingway, then 48, was known for leading a life of action and was the beau ideal for countless young men of a literary bent, including Mr. Hotchner.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The future of local newspapers just got bleaker. Here’s why we can’t let them die, Margaret Sullivan, right, Feb. 17, margaret sullivan 2015 photo2020 (print ed.). With McClatchy filing for bankruptcy, the business is gasping for air. But, against the odds, local newsrooms keep doing vital work.

It’s been a particularly rough couple of months for those who care about local journalism — which should be every American citizen.

Warren Buffett sold his 31 newspapers in January, a powerful vote of no confidence in their financial future. A rapacious hedge fund got its claws deeper into the Chicago Tribune chain in December, which includes the New York Daily News and the Baltimore Sun. Gannett and GateHouse, the two biggest newspaper chains, continued merging — a development almost certain to mean more staff cutbacks in already shrunken newsrooms.

And then on Thursday came more devastating news.

Media / Propaganda

jimmy wales facing tomorrow conference israel 2009 AP photo 09102109924 1 Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales speaks at the ‘Facing Tomorrow’ conference in Israel in 2009 (Tara Todras-Whitehill | Associated Press)

Wired, Opinion: Wikipedia Is the Last Best Place on the Internet, Richard Cooke, Feb. 17, 2020. People used to think the crowdsourced encyclopedia represented all that was wrong with the web. Now it's a beacon of so much that's right.

In its first decade of life, the website appeared in as many punch lines as headlines. The Office's Michael Scott called it “the best thing ever,” because “anyone in the world can write anything they want about any subject — so you know you are getting the best possible information.” Praising Wikipedia, by restating its mission, meant self-identifying as an idiot.

wikipedia logoThat was in 2007. Today, Wikipedia is the eighth-most-visited site in the world. The English-language version recently surpassed 6 million articles and 3.5 billion words; edits materialize at a rate of 1.8 per second. But perhaps more remarkable than Wikipedia's success is how little its reputation has changed. It was criticized as it rose, and now makes its final ascent to … muted criticism. To confess that you've just repeated a fact you learned on Wikipedia is still to admit something mildly shameful. It's as though all those questions that used to pepper think pieces in the mid-2000s — Will it work? Can it be trusted? Is it better than Encyclopedia Britannica? — are still rhetorical, when they have already been answered, time and again, in the affirmative.

Of course, muted criticism is far better than what the other giants at the top of the internet are getting these days. Pick any inflection point you like from the past several years — the Trump election, Brexit, any one of a number of data breaches, alt-right feeding frenzies, or standoffish statements to Congress — and you'll see the malign hand of platform monopolies.

Not too long ago, techno-utopianism was the ambient vibe of the elite ideas industry; now it has become the ethos that dare not speak its name. Hardly anyone can talk abstractly about freedom and connection and collaboration, the blithe watchwords of the mid-2000s, without making a mental list of the internet's more concrete negative externalities.

Yet in an era when Silicon Valley's promises look less gilded than before, Wikipedia shines by comparison. It is the only not-for-profit site in the top 10, and one of only a handful in the top 100. It does not plaster itself with advertising, intrude on privacy, or provide a breeding ground for neo-Nazi trolling. Like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, it broadcasts user-generated content. Unlike them, it makes its product de-personified, collaborative, and for the general good. More than an encyclopedia, Wikipedia has become a community, a library, a constitution, an experiment, a political manifesto—the closest thing there is to an online public square. It is one of the few remaining places that retains the faintly utopian glow of the early World Wide Web. A free encyclopedia encompassing the whole of human knowledge, written almost entirely by unpaid volunteers: Can you believe that was the one that worked?

Wikipedia is not perfect. The problems that it does have—and there are plenty of them—are discussed in great detail on Wikipedia itself, often in dedicated forums for self-critique with titles like “Why Wikipedia is not so great.” One contributor observes that “many of the articles are of poor quality.” Another worries that “consensus on Wikipedia may be a problematic form of knowledge production.” A third notes that “someone can just come and edit this very page and put in ‘pens are for cats only.’” Like the rest of the tech world, the site suffers from a gender imbalance; by recent estimates, 90 percent of its volunteer editors are men. Women and nonbinary contributors report frequent harassment from their fellow Wikipedians—trolling, doxing, hacking, death threats. The site's parent organization has repeatedly owned up to the situation and taken halting steps to redress it; several years ago, it allocated hundreds of thousands of dollars to a “community health initiative.” But in a way, the means to fix Wikipedia's shortcomings, in terms of both culture and coverage, are already in place: Witness the rise of feminist edit-athons.

More World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Asylum-seeker María Reynoso was sent back to Guatemala. Her 9-year-old daughter is in Florida, Kevin Sieff, Feb. 17, 2020. Theirs is a hidden separation — older, longer, unreported to Congress.

SouthFront, Idlib Militants Use Turkish Uniforms In Attempt To Terrify Syrian Troops. Spoiler: They Failed, Staff and social media reports, Feb. 17, 2020. Members of Idlib militant groups are using Turkish uniforms in an attempt to terrify Syrian troops and prevent Syrian Army attacks on their positions, according to a video released by journalist Lindsey Snell.

The journalist claimed that the video was filmed on February 10 in western Aleppo. Nonetheless, by February 17, Syrian government forces had liberated the entire western Aleppo countryside. Furthermore, the Syrian Army advance is developing.The filmed militants are now reportedly dead. So, apparently, this trick did not help.

Feb. 16

Trump Power, Payback Headlines

2020 U.S. Political Headlines

 World News

 

Syrians in Aleppo celebrate their government's victories against militants.

 

Trump Power, Payback Stories

djt impeachment graphic

washington post logoWashington Post, In tweetstorm, Trump likens himself to a king, shares mayor bathroom audio, Colby Itkowitz, Feb. 16, 2020 (print ed.). Amid a presidential tweetstorm Saturday morning, President Trump shared a passage from a two-week-old news article likening him to a vengeful king. Trump on impeachment: ‘It’s been a very unfair situation.’

Trump tweeted a section of a Feb. 1 New York Times story about his impeachment in which reporter Peter Baker wrote, “Ralph Waldo Emerson seemed to foresee the lesson of the Senate Impeachment Trial of President Trump. ‘When you strike at the King, Emerson famously said, “you must kill him.’ Mr. Trump’s foes struck at him but did not take him down. A triumphant Mr.Trump emerges from the biggest test of his presidency emboldened, ready to claim exoneration, and take his case of grievance, persecution and resentment to the campaign trail.”

donald trump twitterThe actual quote from Baker’s story says “a king,” which Trump changed to “the King.” He also added his own commentary, appending “The Greatest Witch Hunt In American History!” to the end of the tweet.

The president’s tweet was part of an assortment of unrelated commentary and videos he shared before he headed to his private golf course in West Palm Beach, Fla.

He credited Fox News’s Laura Ingraham with a gripe over the Justice Department’s decision not to prosecute Andrew McCabe, the former FBI deputy director who Trump views as a political enemy for authorizing an investigation into the president’s possible obstruction of justice.

He retweeted a video of an alleged antifa member threatening physical harm to San Francisco Republican John Dennis, who is running against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

And the president shared a five-year-old video of the Republican mayor of Georgetown, Tex., accidentally leaving his microphone on when he left a public meeting to use the bathroom.

In the last example, Trump retweeted Paul Samuel, or @PaulSam27131285, of Biggleswade, England, who shared the old clip on Friday with the comment, “THIS IS HILARIOUS.”

It’s unclear whether Trump was aware that the majority of Samuel’s other tweets are dedicated to mocking the U.S. president.

“I have no doubt that @realDonaldTrump will be recorded as the most corrupt POTUS in US history,” Samuel tweeted Saturday morning with an altered image of Trump with a pig’s snout.

The original video, which went viral in 2015, showed Georgetown Mayor Dale Ross excusing himself to use the bathroom. But he forgot to turn off his microphone, broadcasting his bodily functions to the meeting. The video shows a council member in the midst of discussing infectious diseases breaking into laughter.

Trump, who has long used Twitter to communicate his thoughts and grievances, has been on a retweeting spree of late, sharing commentary from a California sex therapist, a clip from the HBO show “Curb Your Enthusiasm” parodying Trump supporters — which the president seemed to interpret as genuinely positive — and a video of jaguars lying in the sun.

2020 U.S. Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Democrats are wasting time fighting over policies the Senate will not pass, Julia Ioffe (correspondent for GQ magazine and at work on a book about Russia), Feb. 16, 2020 (print ed.). In other words, Democratic primary candidates and their supporters can fight all they want about pie-in-the-sky policy proposals, but they’ll sooner get some roast unicorn than see Medicare-for-all enacted next year.

democratic donkey logoThe policy stakes are lower than voters believe, but the focus on them is much higher. In a 2016 study that examined the impact of divisive primaries, political scientists Alexander Fouirnaies and Andrew B. Hall found that the longer and more contentious a nominating process, the worse the party performs in November.
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It was a sight to behold: a former vice president, two senators and a former mayor on a stage in New Hampshire a week ago, arguing over the impossible. Would Sen. Bernie Sanders deliver Medicare-for-all immediately, as he promised to do? Would doing so double the federal budget, as former vice president Joe Biden countered? Should they maybe go with Medicare-for-all-who-want-it, as former mayor Pete Buttigieg suggested? It didn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but he has said it would put the United States on a “glide path” to something he called “a Medicare-for-all environment.” And what of the fact, raised by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, that Buttigieg tweeted a pledge two years ago to “indubitably” support Medicare-for-all?

Given what actually happens in the nation’s capital these days, the men and women on the stage may as well have been arguing over the price of unicorn at the local market and how they’d cook it. Set against the current political backdrop, the elaborate policy debates among the candidates seeking the Democratic nomination (Will college be free for everyone, or for everyone but the rich kids? Would a tax on wealth us senate logoover $50 million be a flat tax or a progressive tax?) feel increasingly delusional.

It’s not just because President Trump, an incumbent in a strong economy, stands a good chance of winning a second term. Even if one of the Democratic candidates were to beat him in November, they would become president, not emperor. As such, they’d have to deal with the Senate, an institution where fast and sweeping legislation is difficult to pass in any scenario, to say nothing of one dominated by Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Using tactics that push the limits of what’s acceptable, he has transformed the chamber from the “cooling saucer” the framers envisioned to a Sub-Zero freezer, a place where 300 bills passed by House Democrats don’t even merit debate, let alone votes, even with the insurance policy of Trump’s veto.

It’s healthy to debate policy, but Democrats aren’t doing it in a vacuum. Research shows that contentious primaries hamper a party’s performance in the general election. Candidates are bickering about blue-sky proposals — with Sanders supporters destroying backsliders, Biden invoking segregationists to insist that legislative compromise works and Buttigieg going after Biden for his vote to invade Iraq 17 years ago — but they’re having a semantic argument. The stalemate moots their differences. The next Democratic president will be lucky to seat a Supreme Court nominee. In a climate of such vicious and total partisan obstruction, the only real issue is electability.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The trouble with Bernie Sanders, Robert Harrington, Feb. 16, 2020.  Bernie Sanders and I share 99% of the same political DNA, but it’s not unlike the way chimpanzees and I share 99% of actual DNA. That is, I like him okay and would prefer him to Donald Trump, much the same way I might like a chimpanzee okay and prefer him to Donald Trump.

bill palmer report logo headerI do know this: Bernie Sanders and any of the other current Democratic candidates will be a million times better than Donald Trump. Anyone who says any of them “are just as bad as Trump” is an idiot.

Donald Trump isn’t just the worst president in history, he’s worse than the worst human being you ever met personally in your entire life. He isn’t just a bad guy, he’s a monster, a psychopath, a rapist, a thief, a liar, an amoral, narcissistic gangster who would betray his own mother for money. He’s also prepared to risk your life, my life, the lives of your children and the lives of every man, woman, child and animal on the face of this earth for the sake of his vanity. Don’t you dare say the “corporate Democrats” are just as bad. Don’t you dare. No one is worse than Trump. No one.

The human race may not survive another four years of Trump. It’s just that simple. Global warming cannot be ignored any more, and Donald Trump not only ignores it, he’s making it worse. He isn’t just your garden variety climate science denialist either, oh no. Trump is so stupid he doesn’t even understand what global warming is. He thinks it has something to do with clean air and clean water. Like I said, Trump is a monster. He’s also a moron.

Meanwhile I’m hearing some very alarming things on social media. I’m reading a lot of comments from people who are saying that if Bernie Sanders doesn’t get the nomination they are going to vote for Trump. They are saying, in effect, that this will be their punishment to the DNC and the Democrats for not nominating Bernie. They are, in effect, holding the future of the planet hostage if they don’t get their way. The adolescent impulse that makes them say this staggers the imagination.

I’m also hearing a lot of people say that if Bernie gets the nomination they won’t vote for him. Again, this is stupidity in its purest form. We simply cannot hand the presidency back to Trump. We simply can’t. The identity of the next president is incidental, trivial really, next to the fact that it simply must not be Donald Trump.

My personal favorite for the nomination is Elizabeth Warren. If she doesn’t get it then I will be 100% behind whoever does. That’s how all of us should be, because we are facing a monolith of unity in the Republican Party. None of them are confused about who they are voting for.

Right now Donald Trump is historically unpopular. The only way he can win is to win a plurality, and the only way that will happen is if we are anything less than monolithic ourselves and we split the party.

The Guardian, Why Joe Biden needs ‘a political miracle’ to stay in the race to face Trump, David Smith, Feb. 16, 2020. Barack Obama’s vice-president is floundering in the Democratic primary, losing key support as vital votes loom.

Larry Sabato is an analyst, author and director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. His students are currently embedded in various presidential campaigns. Two were working for Joe Biden in Iowa. Before caucus day, they texted Sabato to say they expected to lose badly.

Sabato asked why. The answer: “No energy at all.”

And so it proved. Biden, who was Barack Obama’s righthand man for eight years and long the Democrats’ national frontrunner to take on Donald Trump, trailed in fourth. A week later, he fled New Hampshire before the votes were even counted, to escape the public humiliation of finishing fifth.

joe biden oNow, in the words of one commentator, Biden, right, “needs a miracle” to stay in the race. A man whose candidacy a year ago seemed to be predicated on his appeal to the white working class is depending on African American voters to rescue him from the oft-quoted maxim that all political lives end in failure. What went wrong?

“I’ve watched Joe Biden since he was first elected [to the Senate] in 1972,” Sabato said. “He was full of energy and joking around and had a big personality but I don’t think anyone has associated the word ‘vision’ with Joe Biden. Democrats are looking for a vision; Biden’s vision is to go back to Obama’s policies. I understand it, but it doesn’t get you standing up and cheering.”

The 77-year-old’s debate performances have failed to inspire and his rallies have drawn small crowds. Sabato added: “People are charged up and incensed about Trump. But if you’re standing there talking and they go to sleep, it doesn’t suggest you’re the best one to beat Trump. People keep saying he’s lost a step or two but this is the same Joe Biden I remember from the 1970s. He’s a meanderer. Some speakers get you fired up but Joe’s not that.”

The 2020 effort was meant to be different story with Biden, who served with distinction as Obama’s vice-president, cast as the antidote to Trump and restorer of normalcy. But he was poleaxed by Senator Kamala Harris of California in the first Democratic debate in June, when she challenged his past views on desegregated school busing.

He fared little better in a debate in September when, asked about what responsibility Americans have to repair the legacy of slavery, he gave a rambling answer that included “make sure you have the record player on at night, make sure that kids hear words, a kid coming from a very poor school, a very poor background, will hear 4 million words fewer spoken by the time we get there.”

Debates came and went. Trump’s attacks on Biden’s son, Hunter, over his business dealings in Ukraine generated media scrutiny, both fair and unfair, that in some minds may have planted seeds of doubt. In Iowa it was clear the Obama magic, which swept the caucuses in 2008, had not rubbed off on his running mate. The blame seemed to lie with both an underwhelming candidate and a poorly organised campaign.

washington post logoWashington Post, How the Iowa caucuses came ‘crashing down,’ under the watchful eye of the DNC, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Feb. 16, 2020 (print ed.). Six hours before Iowa's first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses were set to begin, an engineer for the Democratic National Committee offered a frank appraisal of the software that would be used to verify the results collected by hundreds of volunteer precinct leaders across the state.

“I’ve tested this as well as I can without real data but no guarantees it . . . won’t all come crashing down once real data comes in,” he wrote in a private channel on Slack, the online messaging platform, according to records viewed by The Washington Post.

dnc square logoThe warning was prescient.

About seven hours later, leaders of the national party’s tech team burst through the doors of a conference room in the Iowa Events Center, where Troy Price, the chairman of the state party, was gathered with his staff to oversee the operation.

There was a bug in the software, they told him, according to multiple people present.

That’s when it all came crashing down.

No results were published until the following afternoon. When the numbers trickled out, they were riddled with obvious inaccuracies.

By the end of the week, an effort was underway to place blame squarely on the state party, which critics portrayed as ill-equipped and unprepared for its moment in the spotlight. The chairman of the DNC, Tom Perez, went on prime-time television to call the caucuses a “major league failure,” saying of the Iowa chairman, “he owned up to it.” Perez called on the state party to begin a hand audit, tweeting: “Enough is enough.”

Six days later, Price, 39, once a rising star in Iowa politics, announced his intention to step down, declaring that he was “deeply sorry for what happened.”

But a detailed review by The Post found that the chaotic events of Feb. 3 were years in the making, and that the responsibility extends beyond the local party leaders who have borne the brunt of the criticism.

Rather, the turmoil in Iowa reflected a systemic failure in which Democratic officials eager to avoid repeating the disastrous campaign of 2016 — marred by Russian hacks of party emails and allegations that the nominating process had been tilted against Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — oversaw changes that triggered a whole new crisis.

djt nancy pelosi

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats Plan to Highlight Health Care and Jobs Over Investigating Trump, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Feb. 16, 2020. With impeachment behind them and an eye on November, Democrats appear to have decided that focusing on President Trump elevates him.

House Democrats, recovering from their failed push to remove President Trump from office, are making a sharp pivot to talking about health care and economic issues, turning away from their investigations of the president as they focus on preserving their majority.

democratic donkey logoTop Democrats say that oversight of the president — in particular his effort to compromise the independence of the Justice Department — will continue. But for now, at least, they have shelved the idea of subpoenaing Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, who was a central figure in the president’s impeachment trial.

In a series of private meetings over the past week, and in written instructions she distributed to lawmakers Thursday before a one-week recess, Speaker Nancy Pelosi made clear that the emphasis must shift.

“Health care, health care, health care,” the speaker said, describing the party’s message during a recent closed-door meeting, according to a person in the room who insisted on anonymity to reveal private conversations. She said they had to be laser-focused on getting re-elected: “When you make a decision to win, then you have to make every decision in favor of winning.”

The move is particularly striking given how aggressively Mr. Trump, emboldened by his acquittal by the Senate, has moved to take revenge on his perceived enemies and push the limits of his power. But just as they did before the 2018 midterm elections, Democrats appear to have decided that focusing on Mr. Trump’s near-daily stream of norm-shattering words and deeds only elevates him, while alienating the swing voters they need to maintain their hold on the House and have a chance at winning the Senate.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Rudy Giuliani suffers bizarre late night Twitter malfunction, Bill Palmer, Feb. 16, 2020. Rudy Giuliani is in need of rudy giuliani recentprofessional help. That’s been increasingly obvious for awhile. We like to poke fun at his fumbling, but only because he’s committing serious crimes against the United States, and words are the only tools we have for fighting back against him until his arrest finally comes. The thing is, though, his condition is getting really bad.

bill palmer report logo headerOn Friday night, Rudy, right, tried to do a Google search, but instead he ended up tweeting his Google search query. Okay, fine, so he’s bad with technology. There’s nothing unique about that.

But on Saturday night, he did something far more strange. He has a new website called rudygiulianics.com where he posts his largely incoherent podcast episodes. Rudy doesn’t seem to know his own website, though, because he tweeted a link to watchrudygiulianics.com, which redirects to a drug and alcohol rehab website.

rudy giuliani drug rehab.com CustomNo, really. This is the site that Rudy linked to:

This isn’t funny, of course. It’s not even clear what’s happening here. WHOIS records don’t say who owns watchrudygiulianics.com but they do reveal that it’s been registered since 2016 (long before he registered his actual website rudygiulianics.com). So it’s not as if someone else ran out and registered this site as a prank after Rudy made his typo.

When you put this within the context of Rudy’s recent media interviews, which have seen him drooling and walking into walls, the guy seriously needs professional help. Then again, he also needs to be arrested.

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Officials Fear Coronavirus ‘Turning Point’ After Cruise Passengers Disperse, Richard C. Paddock, Sui-Lee Wee and Roni Caryn Rabin, Feb. 16, 2020. Amid assurances that a ship was coronavirus free, hundreds of people disembarked in Cambodia and headed for airports. One was later found to be infected.

china flag SmallWith passengers already headed for destinations on at least three continents, health officials were scrambling to determine the scope of the problem.

The cruise ship had been shunned at port after port for fear it might carry the coronavirus, but when the Westerdam arrived in Cambodia on Thursday, the prime minister greeted its passengers with flowers.

Amid assurances that the ship was disease free, hundreds of elated passengers disembarked. Some went sightseeing, visiting beaches and restaurants and getting massages. Others traveled on to destinations around the world.

One, however, did not make it much farther than the thermal scanners at the Kuala Lumpur airport in Malaysia. The passenger, an American, was stopped on Saturday, and later tested positive for the coronavirus.

On Sunday, with passengers already headed for destinations on at least three continents, health officials were scrambling to determine how a big a problem they now have — and how to stop it from getting bigger.

“We anticipated glitches, but I have to tell you I didn’t anticipate one of this magnitude,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

With more than a thousand passengers from the Westerdam headed for home, Dr. Schaffner said, it may be harder than ever to keep the coronavirus outbreak contained to China.

It is unclear how well the passengers were screened before they were allowed off the ship. But the best approach to containing a broader spread of the virus from the Westerdam would be to track down all of the passengers and quarantine them for two weeks, experts said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: ‘I Cannot Remain Silent,’ Nicholas Kristof, Feb. 15, 2020. A brave voice in China cries out about the regime’s mishandling of the coronavirus.

China’s mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak has imperiled itself and the world because it is a land of 21st-century science and 19th-century politics.

Scholars in China predicteda year ago in an article in the journal Viruses that it was “highly likely” that there would be coronavirus outbreaks, calling it an “urgent issue.” Once the outbreak occurred, other Chinese scientists rapidly identified the virus and sequenced its DNA, posting it on Jan. 10 on a virology website for all to see. That was extraordinarily good and fast work.

Meanwhile, the Communist Party instinctively organized a cover-up, ordering the police to crack down on eight doctors accused of trying to alert others to the risks. National television programs repeatedly denounced the doctors as rumormongers.

 li wenliang doctor

One of those eight doctors, Li Wenliang (shown above working and at right, ailing), caught the virus and died — causing public outrage. Some Chinese make the point that if Li had been in charge of China, rather than President Xi Jinping, many lives might have been saved.

“The coronavirus epidemic has revealed the rotten core of Chinese governance,” a law professor in Beijing, Xu Zhangrun, wrote this month in an online essay that was immediately banned. “The level of popular fury is volcanic, and a people thus enraged may, in the end, also cast aside their fear.”

Xu certainly cast aside his own fear, predicting that he would face new punishments but adding, “I cannot remain silent.”

He called on his fellow Chinese citizens to demand free speech and free elections and urged: “Rage against injustice; let your lives burn with a flame of decency; break through stultifying darkness and welcome the dawn.”

Xu is now incommunicado, but it is remarkable to see the groundswell of anger online toward the dictatorship. Citizens can’t denounce Xi by name, but they are skilled in evading censors — such as by substituting President Trump’s name for Xi’s.

It’s difficult to know where this goes, but this incongruity between 21st-century science and 19th-century politics is what a Marxist might call a contradiction.
This creates long-term challenges that are growing with a swelling middle class (now larger than America’s) that is impatient with the corrupt, thuggish and narcissistic leadership.

Ordinary Chinese see through government propaganda and realize that the mishandling of the coronavirus is only one example of the regime’s ineptitude. Xi’s government also mishandled as wine fever outbreak that began in 2018 and has now killed almost one-quarter of the world’s pigs.

SouthFront, Northern, Northwestern Aleppo Completely Secured By Syrian Army, Staff and wire reports, Feb. 16, 2020. The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies have secured the entire northern and northwestern outskirts of Aleppo’s city center.

Pro-governments sources said late on February 16 that the army and its allies are now combing the newlly-liberated areas. The army imposed control of several key towns there like Anadan, Haritan, Kafr Hamra, Yaqiz al-Adas and Kafr Bassin.

syrian flag wavingThe few remaining militants in northern and northwestern Aleppo are now fleeing the region to the nearby governorate of Idlib.

In the morning, al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and Turkish-backed factions launched a large-scale counter-attack against the SAA in western Aleppo in a last ditch effort to hold onto the region. However, the attack was repelled with the militants sustaining catastrophic losses.

The failure of the attack has apparently led to a state of chaos within the militants. This resulted in a full collapse once the army began advancing from several directions.

A major celebration is now taking place in Aleppo city. The locals, who have been targeted by rockets and mortars from the city’s northern and northwestern outskirts for years, are taking to the streets to cheer for the Syrian military and its allies.

Media Newselise stefanik hearing

Glens Falls Post-Star, Opinion: Stefanik letter does nothing to address the threats, Ken Tingley (Editor of The Post-Star in Glens Falls, N.Y.), Feb. 16, 2020. On Oct. 10, I sent a message to Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY, shown above in a screenshot from December's House impeachment hearings). It wasn’t a formal letter, but it was a direct message to her after she showed support for a local man who shouted threats against the newspaper at a public rally in Glens Falls.

I explained to her in the message that the threats against the newspaper had made many of the men and women who work at our newspaper – from the receptionist and obituary clerks to those in our advertising department – nervous about their safety.

I asked her to denounce the actions of this man, who was a vocal supporter of hers, and I urged her to visit the newspaper to explain to the regular workers with families why she had put them in danger.

republican elephant logoShe held a town hall meeting in Kingsbury that day, but she did not stop by the newspaper.

She did not respond to my message at all.

Until Friday of this week – Valentine’s Day—when I opened my mailbox to find a letter personally addressed to me from Elise.

“Dear Mr. Tingley” it started, but “Mr. Tingley” was crossed out and “Kenneth” was written in what appeared to be blue sharpie.

We were back on a first-name basis.

I wanted to yell out, “Call me Ken.”

Finally, Elise – I can assume I can her Elise now, right? — had seen the light. I hoped she was responding to my concerns about the safety of our newspaper staff and her ill-advised support of people who threaten us.

Those hopes were quickly dashed.

Elise wanted me to help her fight back against the radical left. She wanted me to help her save the country from Adam Schiff. And she wanted to me to pledge $50, $100, $250, $500, or even $1,000. Didn’t she just finish raising $3 million in the last three months of the year?

She wrote about taking on Nancy Pelosi and Jerry Nadler for citizens in the 21st Congressional District. I don’t recall seeing either of them at the Civic Center or walking around Lake George, but Elise says they are our enemies in upstate New York.

As I continued to read the letter, I wondered if the congresswoman was a little star struck after all the attention she had gotten from President Trump.

She explained that the Democrats fear “dedicated, articulate Republican leaders like me.”

Sounded like, she was a little full of herself.

I was hoping she might mention something about bringing us together, condemning violence and telling the truth.

At the very least, some of her most important accomplishments as our representative.

Instead, Elise sounded like she was going to war.

Then – after hitting me up for a donation to her campaign – she said this:

“Of course, we cannot count on the biased media to expose the Democrats’ horrible abuses of power, their flawed accusations, or their partisan motivations. The smug media elitists have become little more than the PR division of the Democratic Party.”

Feb. 15

Trump Power, Payback Headlines

World News

2020 U.S. Politics

U.S. Media

U.S. Corruption, Courts

 

Trump Power, Payback Stories

Donald Trump, shown in a 2020 campaign hat.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump thinks the Justice Department is his personal grudge squad, Sally Yates (served as deputy attorney Sally Yatesgeneral from January 2015 to January 2017), Feb. 15, 2020 (print ed.). The imperative of Justice Department independence from political influence has deep roots.

After the Watergate scandal, Attorney General Griffin Bell sought to reestablish Justice’s independence and ensure that the department would be “recognized by all citizens as a neutral zone, in which neither favor nor pressure nor politics is permitted to influence the administration of the law.” The nation had lost faith in the Justice Department and the rule of law, so during the Carter administration Bell instituted strict limits on communications between the White House and Justice to prevent any “outside interference in reaching professional judgment on legal matters.”

Since Bell’s tenure, attorneys general in Democratic and Republican administrations alike have issued largely similar policies to adhere to the course Bell mapped for the department to live up to its promise of impartial justice.

Until now.

While the policy is ostensibly still in effect, it is a hollow ode to bygone days. From virtually the moment he took office, President Trump has attempted to use the Justice Department as a cudgel against his enemies and as a shield for himself and his allies. He ran off Jeff Sessions after Sessions’s recusal in the Russia investigation rendered Sessions useless to protect him. The president has attempted to order up investigations of his perceived political enemies and enlist the department to protect his friends. With every blow, the wall of Justice independence has wobbled a bit more. This week, it teetered on the verge of collapse.

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr-Trump relationship facing its gravest threat yet, Matt Zapotosky, Josh Dawsey, Devlin Barrett and Spencer S. Hsu, william barr new oFeb. 15, 2020 (print ed.). Officials watched warily as the president defied the attorney general’s entreaty about tweeting and the Justice Department said it would not charge former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe.

  • Washington Post, Analysis: Another case Trump meddled in. Another unorthodox intervention from Barr
  • Washington Post, Opinion: Winter is coming for Bill Barr, Dana Milbank, Feb. 15, 2020.
  • Washington Post, Opinion How democracy dies: In full view of a public that couldn’t care less, Max Boot, Feb. 15, 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: There is no one to stop Trump now, George Conway, Feb. 15, 2020. When the subject of Attorney General William P. Barr comes up these days, it’s hard not to think of John S. McCain. Not the late senator, mind you, but the USS John S. McCain, the naval destroyer named after his father and grandfather.

It was an incident involving this ship that, as much as anything else, captures how the Trump administration — and its attorney general — operates. It explains Barr’s intervention into the criminal sentencing of Trump’s longtime friend and adviser, felon Roger Stone, and much, much more.

The McCain was docked at the Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan in May 2019, when the 7th Fleet issued a directive that had originated from conversations with the White House Military Office. The president was coming to Yokosuka on Memorial Day, and so, accordingly: “USS John McCain needs to be of sight.” So sailors were ordered to hang a tarp over the vessel’s name, and they removed any coverings that bore the words “John S. McCain."

Palmer Report, Opinion: 'Banana Republic,' Bill Palmer, right, Feb. 15, 2020. Considering how overwhelmingly corrupt Donald Trump and Bill Barr are, it’s a good thing they’re not particularly skilled at it. Sure, they’ve each been committing crimes left and bill palmerright since taking their respective offices. But Trump is limping along with a near-fatally low approval rating, and Barr just keeps finding new ways to strike out. Now they’ve succeeded in severely pissing off a judge.

By September of last year, Palmer Report and others were already pointing out that the supposed indictment of former FBI official Andrew McCabe didn’t appear to actually exist, and that Bill Barr had simply leaked a phony story to the media just to make Trump’s socks roll up and down. By November of last year it was pretty clear that this was eventually going to blow up in Barr’s face. Now that day has arrived.

bill palmer report logo headerWhen Barr’s DOJ admitted to a federal judge yesterday that there wasn’t going to be any indictment or prosecution of McCabe, the judge promptly lambasted Barr and his people over the matter. Judge Reggie Walton, a conservative by any measure, went so far as to blast them for running a “banana republic” because it was clear that Barr had been taking his marching orders in the case from Trump.

Therein lies the problem for both these guys. Donald Trump is so narcissistic, or impulsive, or just plain deranged, he can’t simply sit back and let Bill Barr do his corrupt dirty work for him. Trump has to tweet insults and threats and complaints in the direction of Barr’s targets, leaving Barr without even a sliver of deniability. Meanwhile Barr is so middling at this, the best he could come up with was to pretend McCabe had been indicted. Trump and Barr won’t stop trying their bumbling yet corrupt antics. As always, vigilance is the key to containing the damage they can do, until we can throw them out in the election.

washington post logorudy giuliani recentWashington Post, Federal prosecutors took new steps in probe related to Giuliani, say people familiar with case, Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger, Feb. 15, 2020 (print ed.). The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan contacted witnesses, even as the Justice Department vets the Trump attorney’s claims about Joe Biden.

washington post logoWashington Post, William Taylor Jr., a key impeachment witness, quietly returns home to Trump’s Washington, Greg Jaffe, Feb. 15, 2020 (print ed.). Those who testified against the president are trying to figure out their place in the Washington left behind following his acquittal.

World News

washington post logochina flag SmallWashington Post, Americans to leave cruise ship but are outraged by new rule: A two-week quarantine at home, Simon Denyer, Feb. 15, 2020. "If they wanted to keep us under quarantine for an additional period, they should have picked us up 10 days ago," said a passenger on the Diamond Princess, which is docked in Yokohama, Japan.

washington post logoWashington Post, Storm Dennis, one of Atlantic’s most powerful bomb cyclones, churns up 100-foot waves and slams U.K., Andrew Freedman, Feb. 15, 2020. According to one list, Dennis now ranks as the second-strongest storm on record for the North Atlantic.

Storm Dennis has become one of the most powerful nontropical cyclones on record in the North Atlantic, packing hurricane-force winds and turning a vast swath of seas into a churning, ship-sinking cauldron, with individual waves topping 100 feet. The storm slammed into the United Kingdom just one week after deadly Storm Ciara hit with high winds and heavy precipitation, prompting flooding fears.

The Associated Press reported that two people had died in separate incidents Saturday from rough seas off the coast of southeast England. Military personnel were called in to help build flood barriers as several inches of rain fell on waterlogged soil, and winds caused significant disruptions in air and rail service.

2020 U.S. Politics

World Crisis Radio, Opinion: New Illegal Quid Pro Quo: Trump Demands New York State Halt All Legal Actions and Investigations Against Him as webster tarpley 2007the Price of Restoring Trusted Traveler/Global Entry at New York Airports, Webster G. Tarpley, right, Feb. 15, 2020. Blatant Extortion in Broad Daylight Threatens Slide into Dictatorship! Growing Support Among Democrats for Declaring the Prevention of One-Man Rule as the Overarching Theme of the Next Presidential Debate on February 19 in Las Vegas.

No Time Left for Business as Usual with Trick Questions from Corporate Anchors and Endless Regurgitation of Stump Speeches; Field Must Focus on Saving Democracy and the Rule of Law as the Business at Hand.

Democrats Must Also Dial Back Cutthroat Competition Among Leaderless Group of Candidates with Online Goons Blending with Russian Bots, and Set Up Criteria for Policies That Are Unacceptable: No More Reckless Talk of Stripping 150 Million Health Insurance Policies or Wiping Out Whole Industries in Next Decade; Historic Party Leaders Should Convene A Steering Committee to Provide Standards and Guidance.

Democrats Must Apply Class-Based Test: No Regressive Taxation and No Increase in Financial Burdens on Middle Class and Working Class; Make Wall Street Pay!

washington post logoWashington Post, Mike Bloomberg for years has battled women’s allegations of profane, sexist comments, Michael Kranish, Feb. 15, 2020. A review by The Post of thousands of pages of court documents, depositions obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and interviews with witnesses underscores how Bloomberg and his company, Bloomberg LP, have fought the claims.

michael bloomberg2As Mike Bloomberg, right, celebrated his 48th birthday in 1990, a top aide at the company he founded presented him with a booklet of profane, sexist quotes she attributed to him.

A good salesperson is like a man who tries to pick up women at a bar by saying, “Do you want to f---? He gets turned down a lot — but he gets f----- a lot, too!” Bloomberg was quoted in the booklet as saying. Bloomberg also allegedly said that his company’s financial information computers “will do everything, including give you [oral sex]. I guess that puts a lot of you girls out of business.”

At the time, some Bloomberg staffers said, they laughed off the comments in the 32-page booklet, “The Wit and Wisdom of Michael Bloomberg,” as a macho side of one of the nerdiest men on Wall Street.

washington post logoWashington Post, Bernie Sanders is powered by a loyal base, but results in Iowa and New Hampshire show the movement has limits, Sean Sullivan, Feb. 15, 2020 (print ed.). The first two contests of the Democratic presidential race have demonstrated the power — and the limits — of the movement that Bernie Sanders has built since he began running for the White House nearly five years ago, obscuring the future of his ascendant candidacy.

djt john bolton CustomA core base of young, liberal and working-class voters inspired by the Vermont senator's calls for a political revolution powered the self-described democratic socialist to an effective tie atop the Iowa caucuses and an outright win in this week's New Hampshire primary.

Yet the early returns show that Sanders's loyal army represents a limited slice of the party, accounting for just over a quarter of the vote in each of the first two states. And one of the central premises of his campaign — that it is built to activate legions of new voters and spur record turnout among young people — has not been realized.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump mocks the faith of others. His own religious practices remain opaque, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Julie Zauzmer and Josh Dawsey, Feb. 15, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump does not regularly talk about religion with many of his advisers, who said they knew little about how he views God. But evangelical pastors have described him as a “baby Christian” and said he had a moment of conversion.

ny times logoNew York Times, Pete Buttigieg’s Dash for Cash: 10 Fund-Raisers in Two Weeks, Shane Goldmacher, Feb. 15, 2020. In the compressed and pete buttigieg 2020 button croppedcrucial weeks between the New Hampshire primary and Super Tuesday, Pete Buttigieg is moving aggressively to replenish his campaign coffers with an ambitious schedule of 10 fund-raisers held across six states in a 14-day period.

He leads in the delegate race after Iowa and New Hampshire. But the map is expanding ahead of Super Tuesday and so are the costs of campaigning.

U.S. Media

mcclatchy logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Hedge fund behind McClatchy bankruptcy set to take over, Jonathan O'Connell, Feb. 15, 2020 (print ed.). Chatham Asset Management will take over newspaper chain if court approves reorganization plan. Bankruptcy may have been inevitable for the newspaper chain McClatchy ever since its ill-fated decision to borrow heavily in 2006 to buy another chain, Knight Ridder, for $4.5 billion.

Shortly afterward both the national economy and the print news industry collapsed, and the latter has never recovered.

A decade of cost-cutting and efforts at growing new digital revenue wasn’t enough to change the company’s fortunes. More recent, behind-the-scenes transactions on Wall Street shaped a new path for the 163-year-old owner of the Miami Herald, the Charlotte Observer and 28 other newspapers across the country.

McClatchy’s announcement does not name who its new controlling owner would be, the hedge fund Chatham Asset Management, referring instead to Chatham as its largest secured creditor.

But details in hundreds of pages of documents associated with the filing show how Chatham used several financial transactions to exert increasing control over the company, to the point where it partnered with McClatchy on a bankruptcy plan that, if finalized and approved by the court, would hand control of the company to the hedge fund.

In a sign of possible complications to come, the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. raised concerns in a bankruptcy filing Friday about a 2018 financial transaction between Chatham and McClatchy and asked the court to investigate. The filing was first reported by McClatchy’s Washington bureau.

Chatham, which reported $4.4 billion in assets in 2019, isn’t a stranger to the news business but its reputation has not won accolades among McClatchy supporters and employees.

Chatham founder Anthony Melchiorre has been referred to as a “bare-knuckled fighter in business dealings” who “has waded deeper into contrarian bets over the years and stuck by them,” according to industry publication Pensions & Investments.

Chatham is also the controlling owner of American Media Inc., parent of the racy tabloid the National Enquirer. AMI’s chairman, David Pecker, worked with President Trump’s attorney, Michael Cohen, to bury allegations of Trump’s extramarital affairs, and the publication threatened to publish intimate photos of Amazon founder and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos.

U.S. Corruption, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, Former State Department employee gets seven years for taking bribes, Rachel Weiner, Feb. 15, 2020 (print ed.).  A former State Department employee who handled sensitive overseas contracts was sentenced Friday in Alexandria federal court to more than seven years in prison for taking bribes.

From 2012 to 2016, according to prosecutors, Zaldy N. Sabino took at least $521,863 in bribes from a Turkish construction magnate named Deniz Turkkan, who in return won multimillion-dollar contracts in Iraq, Turkey, Yemen.

“What were you thinking? How do you justify doing that?” U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady said Friday in sentencing Sabino to 87 months. “This is a tragedy for you, for your family, for the government.”

Sabino denied culpability at his trial last year, and prosecutors were unable to directly trace his mysterious influxes of cash to Turkkan. Defense attorneys argued that Turkkan was likely spending his cash on strippers or prostitutes, not bribes, and that Sabino was not the only one involved in these contracts.

“Those things that were said ... they were not true,” a tearful Sabino said in court Friday.

ny times logoNew York Times, Tessa Majors Killing: 14-Year-Old Boy Charged With Murder, Feb. 15, 2020. A 14-year-old boy has been charged with murder in the killing of Tessa Majors, a Barnard College student, during a park robbery near her school in December.

The boy was charged with two counts of second-degree murder and several counts of robbery. The authorities said he would be tried as an adult.

Investigators had long believed that the teenager wielded the knife that killed Ms. Majors after she bit the hand of one of her three attackers during a violent struggle. Ms. Majors, 18, was found severely wounded on steps outside Morningside Park the night of Dec. 11.

The arrest brought a sense of relief to the authorities, who were under pressure to solve the first high-profile case under the new police commissioner, Dermot F. Shea.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. prosecutors seek nearly 5-year sentence for former Baltimore mayor Pugh, Justin Fenton and Kevin Rector, Feb. 15, 2020 (print ed.). Federal prosecutors laid out an array of new details from their investigation into former Baltimore mayor Catherine E. Pugh in documents filed Thursday as they argued she should receive nearly five years in prison for conspiracy and tax evasion.

The 37-page sentencing memorandum, accompanied by financial records and copies of checks, for the first time pinpointed the number of “Healthy Holly” children’s books Pugh sold — and resold. It outlined her efforts to conceal her dealings, including lying to FBI agents who came to her house to seize her cellphone.

It also raised further questions regarding the roles of Baltimore City Comptroller Joan Pratt, who co-owned a business with Pugh that prosecutors say was used to launder an illegal campaign contribution and which filed a false tax return, and of a major city contractor who wrote out a check to that business in addition to buying Pugh’s books.

#MeToo: Maxwell Served ghislaine maxwell new york post aug 2019 in and out burger la2

New York Post, Judge takes rare step to help serve elusive Ghislaine Maxwell with lawsuit, Gabrielle Fonrouge, Feb. 14, 2020. Jeffrey Epstein crony Ghislaine Maxwell (shown above) is so impossible to find that a Manhattan judge has taken the rare step of allowing her to be served with a new lawsuit — by email, according to a federal court filing Friday.

Lawyers for Epstein sex-assault-accuser Annie Farmer had griped to federal Judge Debra Freeman that they’ve been trying to find the disgraced British socialite to serve her with the complaint, filed in November, but that she’s done such a good job of hiding that they haven’t been able to get to her, court documents show.

“Plaintiff has attempted to locate and personally serve Maxwell to no avail. Her counsel has conducted extensive public records searches and located various addresses for Maxwell,” Farmer’s lawyers wrote in a Jan. 27 motion imploring Freeman to allow them to serve Maxwell using “alternate” means.

On Wednesday, Freeman granted the motion, acknowledging that Farmer has “adequately demonstrated that personal service would be impracticable” and ordered Maxwell to be served by email and through her lawyers representing her in a lawsuit involving another key Epstein accuser, Virginia Giuffre.

Farmer’s lawyers promptly emailed a copy of the summons and complaint to Maxwell’s email, as well as to the attorneys representing her in the Giuffre case.

“Ms. Maxwell, Please see the below text order granting our motion to approve alternate service on you in Farmer v. Indyke,” reads the email, which was filed to the court as evidence.

If Maxwell’s camp doesn’t respond to the suit by March 6, a default judgment will be placed against her, Freeman ruled.

Farmer’s lawyers have said they know she’s out there because she’s been “actively participating” in the defamation suit involving Giuffre, which was filed against her in the same court, and is “vigorously fighting” the release of documents in that case, the records state.

Farmer’s lawyers told The Post that they are elated to finally serve the elusive alleged abuser.

“We just don’t think she should be able to dodge the law,” said one of the lawyers, who asked not to be named.

Farmer’s suit alleges she met Maxwell and Epstein through her older sister, Maria, who’d been hired by the billionaire to purchase art for him.

Epstein began taking an interest in Annie when she was around 16 and eventually invited her to his remote New Mexico ranch, where Maxwell pressured her to get naked and then “touched intimate parts” of Farmer’s body and “groped her” under the guise of a massage, court documents allege.

Maria was also allegedly abused later on by both Epstein and Maxwell, but she is not named as a plaintiff in this suit.

Epstein died in federal lock-up in August.

Feb. 14

Trump Powers, Payback

U.S. Politics

World News

More On Crime, Courts

Media News

#MeToo Rape Claim

 

Trump Powers, Payback

Justice Department Headquarters in Washington, DC (Justice Department photo)

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump declares ‘legal right’ to seek intervention in criminal cases, Matt Zapotosky and John Wagner, Feb. 14, 2020. President Trump bucked Attorney General William P. Barr’s public request for the president “to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases.”

donald trump twitterA day after Attorney General William P. Barr publicly warned President Trump not to tweet about the Justice Department [whose headquarters is shown above], Trump did just that, declaring that he has the “legal right” to ask his top law enforcement official to get involved in a criminal case.

In his tweet, Trump quoted Barr from a television interview Thursday in which he asserted that the president had never asked him to do anything related to a criminal case.

“This doesn’t mean that I do not have, as President, the legal right to do so, I do, but I have so far chosen not to!” Trump added in his own voice.

The public rebuke of the president by a sitting member of his Cabinet arose from a crisis of confidence at the Justice Department, which had been accused this week of buckling to an angry tweet the president issued after learning of prosecutors’ initial prison recommendation for his longtime friend, Roger Stone.

Trump has publicly and privately raged in recent months about wanting investigations of those he sees as enemies, including former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, former FBI director James B. Comey and former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe.

washington post logoWashington Post, As tensions escalate between Trump and Barr, Justice makes moves in Flynn, McCabe cases, Matt Zapotosky, John President Trump on Time Magazine's cover Feb. 27, 2017Wagner, Devlin Barrett and Spencer S. Hsu, Feb. 14, 2020. President Trump bucked Attorney General William P. Barr’s request to stop tweeting about criminal cases.

Hours later, the Justice Department revealed former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe would not be charged. In another development, people familiar with the matter said Barr ordered an outside review of the handling of Michael T. Flynn’s case.

washington post logoWashington Post, Roger Stone asks for new trial in sealed motion, one day after Trump accused jury forewoman of bias, Spencer S. Hsu and John Wagner​, The legal motion could delay Stone’s Feb. 20 sentencing date on charges of witness tampering and lying to Congress.

Defense attorneys for Roger Stone demanded a new trial Friday, one day after President Trump suggested that the forewoman in his friend’s case had “significant bias.” The legal motion could delay Stone’s Feb. 20 sentencing date on charges of witness tampering and lying to Congress.

The basis for the request and supporting records were filed under seal Friday, the filing's existence was disclosed in a court order by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson that gave U.S. prosecutors until Tuesday to respond.

“Now it looks like the fore person in the jury, in the Roger Stone case, had significant bias,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Thursday, in a week in which his public comments have set off a crisis of confidence in the Justice Department. “Add that to everything else, and this is not looking good for the ‘Justice’ Department.”

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ny times logoNew York Times, Barr Installs Outside Prosecutor to Review Case Against Michael Flynn, Charlie Savage, Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo, Feb. 14, 2020. The scrutiny into the case against Mr. Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser (shown above at left), could trigger more claims of interference. Attorney General William Barr has also assigned prosecutors to broadly review the handling of other politically sensitive national-security cases.

william barr new oAttorney General William P. Barr, right, has assigned an outside prosecutor to scrutinize the criminal case against President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, according to people familiar with the matter.

The review is highly unusual and could trigger more accusations of political interference by top Justice Department officials into the work of career prosecutors.

Mr. Barr has also installed a handful of outside prosecutors to broadly review the handling of other politically sensitive national-security cases in the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, the people said. The team includes at least one prosecutor from the office of the United States attorney in St. Louis, Jeff Jensen, who is handling the Flynn matter, as well as prosecutors from the office of the deputy attorney general, Justice Department log circularJeffrey A. Rosen.

Over the past two weeks, the outside prosecutors have begun grilling line prosecutors in the Washington office about various cases — some public, some not — including investigative steps, prosecutorial actions and why they took them, according to the people. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive internal deliberations.

The intervention has contributed a turbulent period for the prosecutors’ office that oversees the seat of the federal government and some of the most politically sensitive investigations and cases — some involving President Trump’s friends and allies, and some his critics and adversaries.

ny times logoNew York Times, Andrew McCabe, Ex-F.B.I. Official, Will Not Be Charged in Lying Case, Adam Goldman, Feb. 14, 2020. The decision to decline to charge Mr. McCabe with lying to investigators appears to be a move to distance the Justice Department from the president.

Andrew G. McCabe, the former deputy F.B.I. director and a frequent target of President Trump, will not face charges in an investigation into whether he lied to investigators about a media leak, his defense team said on Friday.

Andrew McCabeThe decision by prosecutors in Washington ends a case that had left Mr. McCabe (shown at right in a file photo) in legal limbo for nearly two years. It also appears to be a sign that Attorney General William P. Barr wants to show that the Justice Department is independent from Mr. Trump: The notification came a day after Mr. Barr publicly challenged the president to stop attacking law enforcement officials on Twitter and said the criticisms were making his job more difficult.

The prosecutors informed Mr. McCabe’s lawyers of their decision by phone on Friday morning, the lawyers, Michael R. Bromwich and David Schertler, said in a statement.

“We said at the outset of the criminal investigation, almost two years ago, that if the facts and the law determined the result, no charges would be brought,” they said. “We are pleased that Andrew McCabe and his family can go on with their lives without this cloud hanging over them.”

The president’s relentless criticism of the Justice Department likely complicated the prosecution of Mr. McCabe. His supporters viewed the FBI logoinvestigation as politically motivated and inextricably tainted by Mr. Trump’s relentless attacks.

The lack of charges is likely to anger Mr. Trump, who has long believed he was targeted illegally by Mr. McCabe and other former senior F.B.I. officials who opened the investigation in 2016 into whether his campaign conspired with Russia’s election interference operation.djt andrew mccabe Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: Andrew McCabe just defeated Donald Trump and Bill Barr, Bill Palmer, Feb. 14, 2020. A few months ago Bill Barr’s Department of Justice leaked a story to the media aimed at creating the appearance that former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, shown above at right, had been criminally indicted for his role in exposing the Trump-Russia scandal. The thing was, the tricky wording of the leak appeared to give away that there was no actual indictment, and of course no grand jury would have ever indicted McCabe on such laughably and obviously false charges anyway.

bill palmer report logo headerThis prompted McCabe to fight back by going to court and getting a judge to order the DOJ to either show proof of an indictment, or drop the case. Today, the DOJ announced that it’s dropped the case. This means McCabe has defeated Trump and Barr in this matter. The curious timing would also seem to point to something else.

Right now Bill Barr is actively and illegally trying to meddle in the Roger Stone criminal case. Barr won’t actually be able to get Stone a shorter sentence, as sentencing is ultimately at the sole discretion of the judge, and Judge Amy Berman Jackson is a straight shooter. But then Barr was never going to be able to get Trump’s nemesis McCabe indicted either, because nothing works that way.

Now, even as Bill Barr is going on television and essentially whining about how Donald Trump’s tweets are making it harder for Barr to get away with meddling in cases, we’ve got Barr suddenly giving up on the ruse that he was criminally pursuing McCabe. This will be the last thing Trump wants to hear, as he was surely under the illusion all this time that McCabe would somehow end up going to prison. This is a reminder that for all of the brazen villainy on the part of Trump and Barr, they don’t have magic wands and they can’t just get away with whatever they want. They’re just two desperate con artists, each playing their own shell game, and hoping no one catches on that there’s nothing underneath.

The Guardian, Roger Stone case: chief justice urged to step in as Trump's 'abuse of power' condemned, David Smith, Feb. 14, 2020. The scandal embroiling the White House and US justice department in the case of Donald Trump’s former confidant Roger Stone deepened on Thursday as senior Democrats condemned an “abuse of power” by the president and called for the chief justice of the supreme court to intervene to protect the judge in the case.

And a senior law enforcement official quit after her oversight of the prosecution of Stone cost her a top job at the treasury, CNN reported on Thursday. The abrupt resignation of Jessie Liu, who previously led the US attorney’s office in Washington, poured fresh fuel on a political fire lit by the president’s perceived interference at the justice department.

While Trump continued to deny wrongdoing, Democrats urged the chief justice, John Roberts, to defend the independence of the judicial branch from the president’s continued attacks.

roger stone cnn breitbart

ny times logomichelle goldberg thumbNew York Times, Opinion: The Right’s Big Lie About Roger Stone, Michelle Goldberg, right, Feb. 14, 2020. Trump allies are saying Stone (shown in a 2016 CNN screenshot) didn’t really threaten a witness. They’re wrong.

Randy Credico (below at left in a screenshot from an appearance on MSNBC) is the witness from Robert Mueller’s investigation who Roger Stone, Donald Trump’s longtime adviser, has been convicted of threatening.

A few months ago, Credico texted me, “If Stone goes to jail I’m a walking dead man.” On Thursday, after the president’s intervention to get Stone a lighter sentence convulsed the Justice Department, I spoke to Credico, a left-wing comedian and activist, and he elaborated on what randy credico ari melber screenshot Customhe’d meant. “The guy goes to prison and I’m to blame, and you’re being called a rat, you’re worried about somebody with a red hat, a MAGA hat, doing a Jack Ruby on you,” he said.

His fear has national implications, because a central question in the Stone sentencing is whether Credico truly felt endangered when Stone promised to cause him harm. Despite what the administration’s defenders say, the answer is yes.

I’ve known Credico since 2002, although not terribly well. We met when I was reporting on New York’s monstrous Rockefeller drug laws, which put people in prison for 15 years or more for low-level drug offenses. Credico introduced me to people whose lives had been destroyed by these sentences. (The campaign against the Rockefeller laws is also how Credico got to know Stone, a libertarian on drug laws.) Credico told me his father was incarcerated for a decade for cracking safes and came out a badly damaged man, sparking Credico’s lifelong hatred of prison as an institution. He texted me on Wednesday, “I would ask for leniency for Hannibal Lecter.”

All this represents a terrifying new nadir in the Trump presidency. Under Barr, the Justice Department is becoming a tool of presidential vendettas, protecting people who commit crimes on Trump’s behalf while launching investigations into his enemies, including an inquiry into years-old leaks that appears to be focused on James Comey. Barr has even set up an intake system for Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to feed dirt gathered from Ukraine to the Justice Department, all while Giuliani is himself reportedly under criminal investigation for his shady foreign activities.

It was out of a combination of anxiety and idealism that, following Stone’s conviction, Credico wrote to the judge in the case, asking that she show Stone mercy.

“I don’t want to see a guy go to prison because of me, it’s going to be on my conscience, plus it’s going to anger a lot of people out there who called me a rat,” he told me. Now, because of that letter, Credico finds himself near the center of the unfolding scandal over Donald Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr’s intervention in Stone’s sentencing. His words are being used by Trump allies to argue that the prosecutors in the Stone case went overboard. “Unfortunately, they’re exploiting it for their own agenda,” he said of his letter.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Barr says Trump’s tweets make it ‘impossible for me to do my job,’ Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky, Feb. 14, 2020 (print ed.). Attorney General William P. Barr (shown above in a file photo) has been under siege since an internal dispute over the prosecution of President Trump’s friend Roger Stone spilled into public view.

Attorney General William P. Barr pushed back hard Thursday against President Trump’s criticism of the Justice Department, saying, “I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody.”

In an interview with ABC News, Barr said presidential statements and tweets “about the department, about people in the department, our men and women here, about cases pending here, and about judges before whom we have cases, make it impossible for me to do my job and to assure the courts and the prosecutors and the department that we’re doing our work with integrity.”

The attorney general’s comments are almost certain to anger the president, who has heaped criticism on some current and former Justice Department officials over prosecutions and investigations involving the president’s former associates and alleged leaking by government officials. Barr said he was prepared to accept the consequences of speaking out against the president.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump’s Policy on New York’s ‘Trusted Travelers’ Is Unconstitutional, Laurence H. Tribe (right, professor of constitutional laurence tribelaw at Harvard Law School), Feb. 14, 2020. People should never be punished for things they haven’t done.

The Department of Homeland Security recently decided to bar New York residents from federal programs that allow “trusted travelers” expedited transit through airports and border checkpoints. The Trump administration is defending the decision as a rational response to New York’s enactment of a law denying federal immigration authorities free access to the state’s motor vehicle records.

In truth, the department’s decision is spiteful retaliation against people who reside in a state that declines to bend to the administration’s immigration priorities. Whatever its other virtues or vices, the decision offends constitutional norms that are neither liberal nor conservative but simply American.

New York wasted no time in filing a federal suit to block the Department of Homeland Security’s move. The state’s lawsuit raises a number of plausible process-based objections and seeks to take advantage of legal doctrines usually associated with right-leaning judges. But it misses an opportunity to frame the case more fundamentally, in terms of principles grounded in personal responsibility and a refusal to punish people for the sins of others.

New York argues that the department’s move was hasty and arbitrary and imposes unjustified and even irrational pressure on the state to cooperate with federal authorities by sharing data they say they need to protect the nation while facilitating travel.

The state’s arguments have some force, but their premises might have limited appeal to judges deferential to executive power in matters involving immigration and allegedly implicating national security. Moreover, federal courts across the ideological spectrum might well sympathize with the administration’s claim that it cannot safely administer the expedited transit programs without access to personal information uniquely available through state motor vehicle records.

ny times logoNew York Times via MSN News, Justice Dept. Is Investigating CIA Resistance to Sharing Russia Secrets, Charlie Savage, Adam Goldman and Julian E. Barnes, Feb. 14, 2020 (print ed.). The Trump administration officials investigating the government’s response to Russia’s election interference in 2016 appear to be hunting for a basis to accuse Obama-era intelligence officials of hiding evidence or manipulating analysis about Moscow’s covert operation, according to people familiar with aspects of the inquiry.

john durhamSince his election, President Trump has attacked the intelligence agencies that concluded that Russia secretly tried to help him win, fostering a narrative that they sought to delegitimize his victory. He has long promoted the investigation by John H. Durham, right, the prosecutor examining their actions, as a potential pathway to proving that a deep-state cabal conspired against him.

Questions asked by Mr. Durham, who was assigned by Attorney General William P. Barr to scrutinize the early actions of law enforcement and intelligence officials struggling to understand the scope of Russia’s scheme, suggest that Mr. Durham may have come to view with suspicion several clashes between analysts at different intelligence agencies over who could see each other’s highly sensitive secrets, the people said.

CIA LogoMr. Durham appears to be pursuing a theory that the C.I.A., under its former director John O. Brennan, had a preconceived notion about Russia or was trying to get to a particular result — and was nefariously trying to keep other agencies from seeing the full picture lest they interfere with that goal, the people said.

But officials from the F.B.I. and the National Security Agency have told Mr. Durham and his investigators that such an interpretation is wrong and based on a misunderstanding of how the intelligence community functions, the people said. National security officials are typically cautious about sharing their most delicate information, like source identities, even with other agencies inside the executive branch.

Mr. Durham’s questioning is certain to add to accusations that Mr. Trump is using the Justice Department to go after his perceived enemies, Justice Department log circularlike Mr. Brennan, who has been an outspoken critic of the president. Mr. Barr, who is overseeing the investigation, has come under attack in recent days over senior Justice Department officials’ intervention to lighten a prison sentencing recommendation by lower-level prosecutors for Mr. Trump’s longtime friend Roger J. Stone Jr.

Appearing on MSNBC’s “Hardball” on Thursday evening, Mr. Brennan was asked to respond to this article. He both dismissed Mr. Durham’s apparent line of inquiry and portrayed it as dangerous.

“It’s kind of silly,” Mr. Brennan said. “Is there a criminal investigation now on analytic judgments and the activities of C.I.A. in terms of trying to protect our national security? I’m certainly willing to talk to Mr. Durham or anybody else who has any questions about what we did during this period of 2016.”

But, Mr. Brennan added, “It clearly, I think, is another indication that Donald Trump is using the Department of Justice to go after his enemies any way he can.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: What the heck did Rudy Giuliani just do? Bill Palmer, Feb. 14, 2020. Yesterday we saw some serious developments in the Ukraine extortion scandal. Donald Trump, who is growing more recklessly stupid by the day, flat out admitted that he sent Rudy Giuliani to Ukraine to stir up trouble. Rudy then went on Fox News and insisted that he hadn’t been in Ukraine for years, before immediately turning around and admitting that he’d just been there three weeks ago.

bill palmer report logo headerEven as all of these serious developments were playing out, there was also the reality that Rudy Giuliani is really far gone at this point. How far gone? Sometime after midnight last night, he tried to do a Google search for images of Steve Bannon, but instead he accidentally tweeted his Google search.

rudy giuliani recentNot surprisingly, he ended up deleting it. If you’re wondering, Rudy did end up finding an image of Steve Bannon, and he tweeted it about twenty minutes later. The trouble: he picked a photo of Bannon sitting in front of a television turned to CNN, and the crawler across the bottom of the screen was quoting someone who had called Donald Trump “idiotic.” So good job, Rudy! Keep in mind that Trump is still relying on witless buffoons like this guy to try to carry out his schemes. It’s possible to be dangerously corrupt while also being absurdly inept at that corruption.

U.S. Politics

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washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump’s authoritarian style is remaking America, Ishaan Tharoor, Feb. 14, 2020. An unleashed Trump is testing the rule of law and foundations of U.S. democracy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump allies take aim at Buttigieg’s sexuality, a possible sign of things to come, Amy B Wang and Chelsea Janes, Feb. 14, 2020 (print ed.). Rush Limbaugh’s suggestion that “America’s still not ready to elect a gay guy” could be a taste of what Pete Buttigieg will face if he is the Democratic presidential nominee.

• Washington Post, Trump fundraiser costs $580,600 per couple, the most expensive of his reelection bid

New York Magazine, Commentary: Amy Klobuchar Is the Ultimate #GirlBoss, Sarah Jones, Feb. 14, 2020. Elizabeth Warren owes her dismal fourth-place finish in New Hampshire at least in part to the other woman in the primary’s top tier. College-educated voters broke off for Amy amy klobucher button croppedKlobuchar, who managed to distinguish herself during the last debate. Klobuchar not only led voters with college degrees; she “drew 3 in 10 white college-educated women, the most of any candidate in the field,” CNN reported on Tuesday. Voters who once seemed like Warren’s natural constituency are exploring other, aggressively midwestern options.

Klobuchar’s creeping momentum doesn’t just threaten Warren. The Minnesota senator also siphoned some support from Pete Buttigieg, the upstart challenger to the Pragmatic Heartland throne.

There probably isn’t a single unifying theory to explain Klobuchar’s recent strength with college-educated women. Several entries in Klobuchar’s professional record should be obvious detractors. As a prosecutor, Klobuchar jailed a teenager for life despite obvious flaws in the case; the Associated Press described the senator as an especially zealous proponent of harsher sentencing for juveniles.

us senate logoOnce in office, Klobuchar developed a vicious reputation for the consistent and extreme abuse of her staff. Her rages “regularly left employees in tears,” BuzzFeed News reported last February. Former staffers say she screamed at them, demeaned them, threw objects at them. Before she revised it, her parental-leave policy forced new parents to “remain with the office for three times as many weeks as they had been gone,” sources told the New York Times. Rumors of her mistreatment had proliferated for so long, and were so well-sourced, that some people initially declined to work for her presidential campaign.

But since Klobuchar’s workplace abuses originally became public, the details have almost entirely disappeared from coverage of her campaign. No moderator has asked her about the reports at any of the Democratic debates, a silence that may help explain why some voters consider her a worthy alternative to Warren. But there’s another, even more pernicious possibility. For some college-educated women, Klobuchar’s alleged brutality might actually be part of her appeal. Not only is it proof that she can take on a brawler like Donald Trump, it affirms a pervasive vision of female achievement. Klobuchar is the ultimate #GirlBoss.

If Klobuchar continues to perform well with college-educated women, it’s because she represents their interests. She does so better than Warren, and far better than Bernie Sanders, who is beloved by lower-income voters with less higher education.

Klobuchar wastes no time railing about billionaires or rigged systems, and why should she? The system worked for her, and it worked, mostly, for the professional-class women who are curious about her candidacy. They want Trump gone, they agree that things, defined as loosely as possible, could be better — but radical change is unnecessary. The case for Klobuchar is a defense of comfort.

World News

washington post logochina flag SmallWashington Post, Economic fallout from virus mounts around the world, David J. Lynch, Feb. 14, 2020 (print ed.). Asian and European auto plants are running short of parts, free-spending Chinese tourists are staying home, and American companies are bracing for unpredictable turbulence.

washington post logoWashington Post, Temperature in Antarctica soars to near 70 degrees, appearing to topple continental record set days earlier, Andrew Freedman, Feb. 14, 2020. The World Meteorological Organization is reviewing the reading to see if it qualifies as the continent’s hottest temperature on record.

More On Crime, Courts

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washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: This latest trick from the Trump administration is one of the most despicable yet, Catherine Rampell, Feb. 14, 2020. Over the past few months, the Trump administration has quietly been rolling out a Kafkaesque new processing policy for select categories of visas: If any fields on a form are left blank, it will automatically be rejected. Even if it makes no sense for the applicant to fill out that field.

For example, if “Apt. Number” is left blank because the immigrant lives in a house: rejected. Or if the field for a middle name is left blank because no middle name exists: rejected, too.

nbc news logoNBC News, Michael Avenatti guilty on all counts in Nike extortion case, Elisha Fieldstadt, Tom Winter and Sarah Fitzpatrick, Feb. 14, 2020. Avenatti, right, was arrested in March,about 15 minutes after tweeting that he had scheduled a press conference to “disclose a major high michael avenatti twitterschool/college basketball scandal perpetrated by @Nike.” 

Lawyer Michael Avenatti has been found guilty on all counts of trying to extort up to $25 million from Nike. The verdict was confirmed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, which brought the case.

Avenatti faces a statutory maximum of 20 years in prison. A judge set sentencing for June. The jury's decision in U.S. District Court in Manhattan came Friday after a three-week trial for the California lawyer who gained fame representing porn star star Stormy Daniels in lawsuits against President Donald Trump. Jurors began deliberating Wednesday.

“Today a unanimous jury found Michael Avenatti guilty of misusing his client’s information in an effort to extort tens of millions of dollars from the athletic apparel company Nike," U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement. "While the defendant may have tried to hide behind legal terms and a suit and tie, the jury clearly saw the defendant’s scheme for what it was — an old-fashioned shakedown.”

Avenatti glared at the jurors as the verdict was being announced, but didn't say anything. Afterward, he shook hands with his lawyers and told them, “great job."

One of his lawyers, Scott Srebnick, declined to comment but said he would appeal the conviction.

Avenatti was arrested in March after he and an uncharged conspirator threatened to hold a news conference to ruin Nike’s reputation and crater its stock price unless it agreed to pay him and his client millions of dollars, the court papers said.

The next day, the FBI captured him on a recorded call hurling expletives as he pressured Nike reps to pay up, court papers said.

“I’m not f---ing around with this, and I’m not continuing to play games,” Avenatti told Nike reps, according to court papers. “You guys know enough now to know you’ve got a serious problem. And it’s worth more in exposure to me to just blow the lid on this thing. A few million dollars doesn’t move the needle for me.”

“This is what extortion sounds like,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Podolsky said after repeatedly playing Avenatti's recorded demands.

Avenatti still faces other legal hurdles, including federal charges in California for defrauding clients and absconding with payments to them that he was able to obtain, including theft from a quadriplegic man. He also faces a separate federal case in New York tied to allegations that stormy daniels 2010 83 whe kept $300,000 in money from a book publisher that was supposed to be paid to Stormy Daniels, left.

He rose to fame almost two years ago when he brought a lawsuit on behalf of Stormy Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, saying her ‘hush agreement’ with President Trump was invalid because he never personally signed it. Daniels has said that she had an extramarital affair with the Trump prior to his candidacy, an affair the president has strenuously denied.

In the Nike case, prosecutors said Avenatti demanded that the sportswear behemoth pay a client of his $1.5 million and compensate him and his co-conspirator $15 million to $25 million to conduct an "internal investigation" for the company.

The lawyer allegedly had debt of over $11 million at the time of his extortion scheme.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. will not allow FBI to testify in Fairfax investigation of Bijan Ghaisar killing, Tom Jackman, Feb. 14, 2020. Says that may pose conflict if Justice represents Park Police officers in civil suit.

The FBI agents who investigated the fatal shooting of unarmed motorist Bijan Ghaisar in 2017 will not be allowed to testify in front of a Fairfax bijan ghaisar headCounty grand jury if Fairfax prosecutors decide to pursue charges against the two Park Police officers who killed Ghaisar, left.

The head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division informed Fairfax prosecutors that the department was considering defending the officers in a civil suit filed by Ghaisar’s family, and if it did it would create a conflict of interest, according to letters released Friday.

Assistant Attorney General Eric S. Dreiband added that the Justice Department believes that “a federal officer may not be prosecuted by a State for actions undertaken in the course of performing the officer’s official duties,” when the officer’s actions are “objectively reasonable,” according to legal precedents.

The decision tosses another obstacle in the path of the Ghaisar family’s arduous pursuit of justice, which has seen a two-year wait for a decision on federal criminal charges, and a civil suit that has languished in federal court in Alexandria for 18 months.

eric dreibandAssistant Attorney General Eric S. Dreiband, the head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, will not allow FBI agents to testify in a potential criminal case against U.S. Park Police officers who killed an unarmed man in 2017. (Department of Justice/Department of Justice)

Roy L. Austin Jr., one of the Ghaisar family’s lawyers, said Dreiband’s letter “is clearly meant as a warning to Fairfax County and all other local prosecutors to not prosecute federal officers, no matter how egregious the conduct. Hopefully, Fairfax County is steadfast in its apparent desire to conduct a fair and thorough investigation, and where appropriate, seek justice for those impacted by unlawful police violence.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s Fed nominee could be in trouble as key GOP senators express concerns about her ‘outlier’ views, Heather Long, Feb. 14, 2020 (print ed.). Shelton was accused of flip-flopping on her past views during a heated confirmation hearing Thursday.

Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) said he was “not sure” if Judy Shelton would uphold Fed independence, a key tenet for the central bank, and one that she was asked about during her heated confirmation hearing Thursday.

U.S. Justice System

washington post logoWashington Post, 39 prosecutors blast Attorney General Barr for ‘dangerous and failed’ approach to criminal justice, Michael Brice-Saddler, Feb. 14, 2020 (print ed.). Thirty-nine elected prosecutors in a joint statement condemned Attorney General William P. Barr for his recent rhetoric that attacked progressive policies, arguing that his “dangerous and failed” approach to criminal justice disproportionately punished william barr new opoor people and racial minorities while diverting resources away from more serious crimes.

“Sadly, we are perceived as a threat by some who are wedded to the status quo or, even worse, failed policies of past decades,” the 39 state, county and city prosecutors wrote. “Critics such as Attorney General William P. Barr seek to bring us back to a time when crime was high, success was measured by how harsh the punishment was, and a fear-driven narrative prevailed.”

In their letter, the signatories warned against returning to a “‘tough on crime’ era” that ignored facts and encouraged mass incarceration. Instead, they argued, evidence shows that a data-based approach is not only more effective, but also strengthens community trust.

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, Crimea, Kashmir, Korea: Google redraws borders on maps depending on who’s looking, Greg Bensinger​, Feb. 14, 2020. ​ Google alters maps under political pressure and the whims of tech executives. Contract employees say a “disputed region team” addresses more prickly matters.

google logo customFor more than 70 years, India and Pakistan have waged sporadic and deadly skirmishes over control of the mountainous region of Kashmir. Tens of thousands have died in the conflict, including three just this month.

Both sides claim the Himalayan outpost as their own, but web surfers in India could be forgiven for thinking the dispute is all but settled: The borders on Google’s online maps there display Kashmir as fully under Indian control. Elsewhere, users see the region’s snaking outlines as a dotted line, acknowledging the dispute.

Google’s corporate mission is “to organize the world’s information,” but it also bends it to its will. From Argentina to the U.K. to Iran, the world’s borders look different depending on where you’re viewing them from. That’s because Google — and other online mapmakers — simply change them.

#MeToo Rape Claim

Ottawa Citizen, Canadian fashion mogul accused of rape, sexual trafficking in class-action lawsuit, Devika Desai, Feb. 14, 2020. Peter Nygard has been accused of luring underaged women to his Bahamas mansion under the pretence of job opportunities, only to drug and rape them

peter nygard 2017 wikimedia cropped with modelTen unidentified women have filed a class-action lawsuit accusing Canadian fashion mogul Peter Nygard, shown in a 2017 file photo via WikiMedia, of rape and sexual trafficking.

In a press release on the lawsuit released Thursday, the women state that “Nygard lured and enticed young, impressionable, and often impoverished children and women with cash payments and false promises of lucrative modelling opportunities in order to assault, rape, and sodomize them. When the victims were not swayed by promises, many were drugged to force compliance with Nygard’s sexual desires.”

Many of the women were younger than 18 at the time of the alleged assaults.

Nygard, 77, is the fashion executive, founder and chairman of Winnipeg-based Nygård International, known for making and selling women wear.

According to the press release, Nygard would instruct his employees to “procure” the children and then take them to lavish “pamper parties”, where they were “plied with drugs and alcohol” and then violently assaulted. In one of the cases, Nygard is alleged to have brought a 15-year-old girl to his mansion in the Bahamas, where he attempted to sodomize her, raped her and then asked her to defecate in his mouth before offering her cash.

Many of the alleged incidents occurred at Nygard’s luxury Mayan-style mansion at Lyford Cay in the Bahamas, according to the release.

“After hearing these tragic stories, we were compelled to act and bring a voice to those who have been hurt for so long,” said Greg Gutzler, one of the lawyers who filed the suit. “We know many others were afraid to come forward initially and hope that this lawsuit will pave the way for them to also seek justice.

“The facts in this case represent the tip of the iceberg of an international sex trafficking ring that ends today.”

Ken Frydman, a spokesperson for Nygard, said the accusations in the class action suit were false. He added that the lawsuit was “just the latest in a 10-plus year string of attempts to try to destroy the reputation of a man through false statements” and that it stems from a dispute between Nygard and his neighbour in the Bahamas, hedge fund billionaire Louis Bacon.

“The allegations are completely false, without foundation and are vigorously denied,” Frydman told the National Post.

“Peter Nygard looks forward to fully exposing this scam and once and for all clearing his name.”

The lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, also mentions several of Nygard’s New York-based corporate entities for their role in “financing, facilitating and covering up the abuse.”

This hasn’t been the first time Nygard has been accused of sexual assault. In the 1990s, he paid to settle three sexual harassment complaints filed by former employees in Manitoba. Last November, Tribune 242, a Bahamas newspaper, published that the police were investigating six allegations of rape made against Nygard. “The complaint alleges that for years, it has been no secret that Nygard bribes Bahamian government and police officials and uses intimidation tactics to coerce silence,” reads the press release.

Feb. 13

Trump Powers, Payback

MSNBC Rachel Maddow Show, Opinion: With the rule of law failing under Trump, just diagnosing the problem isn't enough, Feb. 13, 2020 (27:52 msnbc logo Custommin. video).  Rachel Maddow looks at the importance of institutions in preserving democracy when the rule of law starts to fail, and asks what citizens should do when sounding the alarm about those failures isn't enough to stop them.

 Washington Post, Trump attacks federal judge, prosecutors in Twitter tirade defending Roger Stone

Inside DC

World News

U.S. 2020 Elections

Media News

Ohio State Sex Scandal

 

Trump Powers, Payback

washington post logoamy berman jacksonWashington Post, Trump attacks federal judge, prosecutors in Twitter tirade defending Roger Stone, Allyson Chiu, Feb. 13, 2020 (print ed.). The timing of the online attack prompted many to accuse President Trump of attempting to intimidate U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, right, and secure a more lenient sentence for his longtime confidant Roger Stone.

ny times logoNew York Times, After Stone Case, Prosecutors Say They Fear Pressure From Trump, Katie Benner, Charlie Savage, Sharon LaFraniere and Ben Protess, updated Feb. 13, 2020. Attorney General William Barr’s move to lessen a sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone, right, showed a marked change at the Justice Department. To career prosecutors, the case raised fresh fears of what is to come as the agency executes dramatic shifts in response to President Trump’s demands.

roger stoneTo career prosecutors around the country, the Stone case raised new fears of what is to come. Until now, according to conversations with more than a dozen career lawyers in some of the 93 U.S. attorney’s offices, they had watched other divisions in the Justice Department execute significant shifts in response to Mr. Trump while the work of prosecuting crimes was largely unaffected by the politics of the moment. Now career prosecutors said they worried they might face more pressure.

Justice Department logo“In essence, the leadership of the Justice Department has commandeered the sentencing in a politically sensitive criminal matter, reversing the position uniformly accepted and promoted by the career prosecutors,” said David Laufman, a partner at Wiggin and Dana and a former chief of the Justice Department’s counterintelligence and export control section.

The withdrawal of the prosecutors sent a clear signal, said Greg Brower, a former prosecutor who once headed the F.B.I.’s congressional affairs office. “They all disagreed” with how top Justice Department officials intervened, he said.

“Beyond that,” Mr. Brower said, “they likely also believed there are ethical considerations that forced their decision.”

Prosecutors across the United States, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid reprisals, said this week that they had already been wary of working on any case that might catch Mr. Trump’s attention and that the Stone episode only deepened their concern. They also said that they were worried that Mr. Barr might not support them in politically charged cases.

ny times logoNew York Times, As a Post-Impeachment Trump Pushes the Limits, Republicans Say Little, Nicholas Fandos and Catie Edmondson, Feb. 13, 2020 (print ed.). After expressing confidence that Mr. Trump might be chastened by impeachment, Republican senators appear unwilling to grapple with the man who emerged.

alexander vindman cropped oct 29 2019In the week since the Republican-controlled Senate acquitted Mr. Trump of two impeachment charges, lawmakers in his party have watched as he has purged key players in the case against him, including the ambassador to the European Union and two White House National Security Council aides, and put in motion plans to banish others he considers insufficiently loyal. They have listened as he has called for one of those officials, Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, right, to republican elephant logobe investigated by the Pentagon.

They have read his tweets and heard his comments heaping scorching criticism on the Justice Department for “a horrible and very unfair” attempt to put Mr. Stone in prison for seven to nine years based on a conviction for lying to Congress and trying to block witness testimony. Mr. Trump cheered on William P. Barr, the attorney general, for intervening, while castigating the federal judge overseeing the case.

And they have been forced to reckon with the fact that, far from obscuring his actions or offering innocent explanations, Mr. Trump has been open and unapologetic about his efforts to take revenge on his perceived enemies and assist those he considers loyal.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: The degradation of William Barr’s Justice Department is nearly complete, Editorial Board, Feb. 13, 2020.
Mark this as another big step in the erosion of standards at Attorney General William P. Barr’s Justice Department.

The department on Tuesday suggested a light sentence for President Trump’s old friend Roger Stone, by overturning a previously filed and tougher proposal. It did so over the strong objections of four career line prosecutors, all of whom resigned from the case; one left the department entirely.

This extraordinary intervention played out publicly after Mr. Trump tweeted his displeasure over the initial recommendation that Mr. Stone spend seven to nine years in prison for obstructing Congress and witness tampering, which was in line with the department’s sentencing guidelines.

      • Washington Post, Opinion: This is a revolting assault on the fragile rule of law, Chuck Rosenberg, Feb. 13, 2020 (print ed.).

washington post logoWashington Post, House Democrats ask Secret Service for details about its payments to Trump’s company, David A. Fahrenthold and Jonathan O'Connell, Feb. 13, 2020 (print ed.). The House Oversight committee letter follows a Washington Post report that the Secret Service had been charged up to $650 per night at Mar-a-Lago.

U.S. House logoThe House Oversight Committee on Wednesday asked the Secret Service to provide a full accounting of its payments to President Trump’s private company after The Washington Post revealed that the Secret Service had been charged as much as $650 per night for rooms at Trump clubs.

secret service logoIn a letter to the Secret Service, signed by Chair Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) and member Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), the committee asked for records of payments to Trump properties, and copies of contracts between the Secret Service and Trump clubs.

Last week, The Post reported that the Secret Service had been charged nearly $400 and as much as $650 per night for rooms at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida, and charged $17,000 a month for a cottage that agents used at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey. President Trump still owns his companies. These payments show he has an unprecedented — and largely hidden — business relationship with his own government.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s rhetoric has changed the way hundreds of kids are bullied, Hannah Natanson, John Woodrow Cox and Perry Stein, Feb. 13, 2020. President Trump’s words, those chanted by his followers at campaign rallies and even his last name have been wielded by students and school staff members to harass children more than 300 times since the start of 2016, a Washington Post review found.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-White House chief of staff John Kelly takes issue with Trump for ousting Vindman, John Wagner and Josh Dawsey, Feb. 13, 2020. Former White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, right, laid bare an array of misgivings Wednesday night about President Trump’s John Kellypolicies and actions, including his ouster of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the former National Security Council aide and impeachment witness.

Vindman, who raised concerns about a July phone call in which Trump pressed Ukraine's leader for investigations that could benefit him politically, “did exactly what we teach them to do,” Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, told an audience at the Drew University Forum lecture series in Morristown, N.J.

Over the course of 75 minutes of remarks and questions and answers, Kelly, who left the White House early last year, also defended the news media, questioned Trump’s handling of North Korea, criticized Trump for intervening in a military justice case and took issue with his descriptions of immigrants, according to accounts in the Atlantic and local news media that were confirmed by a person with knowledge of the event.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: John Kelly just validated the argument that got Trump impeached, Greg Sargent, Feb. 13, 2020. President Trump unloaded on his former chief of staff John Kelly on Thursday, claiming he couldn’t fire Kelly "fast enough” and that he was “in over his head” in the White House. Curiously, Trump also blasted Kelly by claiming that “he just can’t keep his mouth shut, which he has a legal and military obligation to do.”

It’s not clear what, precisely, Trump was referencing in bringing up Kelly’s supposed tendency to spill secrets. But it is clear that Trump was enraged because of this piece in the Atlantic, which reported on a talk that Kelly gave, in which he vividly demonstrated why Trump is unfit for the presidency.

In that talk, Kelly criticized Trump’s hate-rhetoric about immigrants and his handling of North Korea. Most importantly, he defended Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the former National Security Council official who powerfully testified against Trump’s corrupt call pressuring Ukraine to do his political bidding, as part of his extortion scheme. Trump has since ousted Vindman as punishment.

There’s been a lot of chatter about this Kelly episode, yet it seems to have largely avoided the most important point: Trump’s former chief of staff fully validated the case against Trump that got him impeached, in a way that has real significance, coming from someone who worked alongside Trump inside the White House for nearly two years.

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate passes measure limiting Trump’s actions against Iran without Congress’s approval, Karoun Demirjian​, Feb. 13, 2020. A bipartisan Senate majority voted to pass a resolution Thursday limiting President Trump from ordering future strikes against Iran without first seeking Congress’s explicit permission, in a pointed rebuke of his administration’s resistance to involving the legislative branch in foreign policy decisions many fear could lead to all-out war.

us senate logoEight Republicans joined all Democrats in voting 55 to 45 for the measure from Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), which invokes the War Powers Act to block Trump from engaging in hostilities without consulting Congress except in cases where self-defense is required against a clear, imminent attack.

Trump is expected to veto the measure, which he warned Wednesday on Twitter would “show weakness” and “sends a very bad signal.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: New York Attorney General Tish James just slam dunked Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Feb. 13, 2020. This morning Donald Trump flat out admitted on Twitter that he was meeting with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo today, in an attempt at forcing the state to back off its pursuit of him in his various criminal scandals. As the day went on, multiple major media outlets reported that Trump offered to let New York remain in the Global Entry program if it dropped its legal cases against him.

bill palmer report logo headerNot only is this an outrage, it’s a felony. It’s precisely the kind of quid pro quo that Donald Trump attempted in his Ukraine scandal. This kind of corrupt behavior is nothing new from Trump, but he’s no longer trying to even give himself any cover or deniability. Of course Trump is as stupid and clueless about these things as ever, because he was ringing the wrong bell.

letitia james public advocateNew York Attorney General Tish James, right, tweeted this in response: “When you stop violating the rights and liberties of all New Yorkers, we will stand down. Until then, we have a duty and responsibility to defend the Constitution and the rule of law. BTW, I file the lawsuits, not the Governor.” That’s right, because Donald Trump doesn’t bother to do his homework, he doesn’t even know that the New York Attorney General is elected independently of the Governor, and that she’s not in any way under the Governor’s influence when it comes to these kinds of legal pursuits.

Donald Trump is also surely worried about the widely documented New York grand jury that’s spent the past several months targeting Donald Trump for indictment on state level charges. This grand jury has subpoenaed Trump’s financial records and is a confirmed plaintiff in the court battles over those records. Trump will be indicted in New York at some point, and if he loses in November, he will be arrested and placed on criminal trial. No wonder he’s panicked about what the state is doing to him.

washington post logoWashington Post, Court orders Pentagon to halt work on Microsoft’s JEDI cloud contract after Amazon protests, Aaron Gregg​, Feb. 13, 2020. Defense Department lawyers had planned to "go live" with the long-awaited cloud computing network on Friday. But the court order will force it to halt work.

amazon logo smallA federal judge has ordered the Pentagon to halt work on the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud computing network, known as JEDI, as it considers allegations that President Trump improperly interfered in the bidding process. The order comes just one day before the Defense Department had planned to “go live” with JEDI.

The JEDI contract, worth up to $10 billion over 10 years, was awarded to Microsoft in late October after a last-minute intervention from the White House prompted Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper to reexamine the department’s approach. The contract is meant to create a powerful, centralized computing system for U.S. military agencies.

microsoft logo CustomAmazon’s market-leading cloud computing division is suing the Defense Department in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, arguing the president’s involvement skewed the playing field in its rival’s favor. The company alleges the Defense Department made numerous errors as it weighed bids from Amazon and Microsoft. And it accused Trump of launching “repeated public and behind-the-scenes attacks” against Amazon to act on a grudge against the company’s founder, Jeff Bezos. (Bezos also owns The Washington Post.)

U.S. 2020 Elections culinary union 226 Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: A union strikes back — at Bernie Sanders, Jennifer Rubin, right, Feb. 13, 2020. Culinary Union 226 just gained a lot of friends and admirers in Democratic circles, though it has nothing to do with its work on behalf of hospitality workers in Nevada. The Nevada Independent reports:

Culinary Union Secretary-Treasurer Geoconda Arguello-Kline said in a statement Wednesday that Sanders supporters have “viciously attacked” the union since it began distributing a one-pager to union members that takes specific aim at the Vermont senator over his Medicare-for-all policy. The Culinary Union, which provides insurance to 130,000 of its members and their families through a special kind of union health trust, strongly opposes the creation of a single-payer, government-run health insurance system on the grounds that it would eliminate their health plan.

bernie sanders 2020 button croppedIn distributing the flyer, the union was trying to provide “facts on what certain healthcare proposals might do to take away the system of care we have built over 8 decades,” Arguello-Kline said. “We have always stood up for what we believe in and will continue to do so.” . . . .

Since news of the flyer broke on Tuesday night, the Culinary Union has faced attacks in the form of tweets, phone calls and emails, a union spokeswoman said.

In booing other candidates, swarming on critics online and threatening to stay home if Sanders does not win, so-called Bernie Bros have been making enemies throughout the primary process. Their attitude only reinforces critics’ fear that Sanders will burn down the party if he does not get the nomination.

At issue here is not simply Sanders’s insistence on forcing his fantastical Medicare-for-all on those who prefer to keep their own plan, but also the ethos of his campaign, which attracts the left-wing version of MAGA bullies. No other campaign’s supporters boo other contenders or swarm reporters and pundits who they feel have been less than reverential to their candidate.

Sanders generically rebukes antagonistic behavior but claims he is powerless to stop it (though he could have come out at the final Democratic gathering in New Hampshire and personally scolded his supporters for booing other contenders). Instead, Sanders gives off the vibe that there will be hell to pay if he gets only a plurality of nominees but ultimately loses at the convention.

washington post logopete buttigieg 2020 button croppedWashington Post, Trump allies take aim at Buttigieg’s sexuality, a possible sign of things to come, Amy B Wang and Chelsea Janes, Feb. 14, 2020 (print ed.). Rush Limbaugh’s suggestion that “America’s still not ready to elect a gay guy” could be a taste of what Pete Buttigieg will face if he is the Democratic presidential nominee.

• Washington Post, Trump fundraiser costs $580,600 per couple, the most expensive of his reelection bid

ny times logoNew York Times, Centrist Democrats Want to Stop Sanders. They’re Not Sure Who Can, Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin, Feb. 13, 2020 (print ed.). Unless a moderate favorite soon emerges, party leaders may increasingly look to Michael R. Bloomberg as a potential savior.

dnc square logoThe Democratic presidential primary is entering an intensely tumultuous phase, after two early contests that have left former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. reeling and elevated Senator Bernie Sanders but failed to make any candidate a dominant force in the battle for the party’s nomination.

Within the Democratic establishment, the results have deepened a mood of anxiety and frustration: The collapse of Mr. Biden’s support in the first two states, and the fragmentation of moderate voters among several other candidates, allowed Mr. Sanders, a Vermont progressive, to claim a victory in New Hampshire and a split decision in Iowa with former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind.

bernie sanders dem debate msnbcpng

Strategic Culture Foundation, Analysis: Fringe Candidates Are Integral to Election Manipulation, Wayne Madsen, left, Feb. 13, 2020. Fringe political candidates were once considered subjects for political humor by journalists. Their candidacies were never taken very seriously because their votes were inconsequential.

However, in an era of social media manipulation, political “dark money” infusion into fringe campaigns, and computerized voting with razor-thin outcomes, fringe candidates can mean the difference between victory or defeat on election nights. This phenomenon materialized in the 2000 American presidential election, when the Green Party candidacy of Ralph Nader, right, tipped the election to Republican George W. Bush and against Democrat Al Gore in two critical states that Gore needed for victory: Florida and New Hampshire. Bush carried Florida by a mere 537 votes. Had Nader not run, 47 percent of his voters would have opted for Gore and only 21 percent for Bush.

nader r 0 11The 2000 election ushered into existence the era of the externally-manipulated election. No longer was the franchise based on merely “one person, one vote,” but an entire panoply of other factors, including the relatively new impact of social media and its impact on raising the visibility of fringe candidates to the point where they could mean a difference in the election. Extremely close elections were once a rarity. Since 2000, close elections have become so numerous, their occurrence appears to be almost statistically impossible. However, for the fringe candidates, the opportunity to mean a difference has become a bonus.

Fringe candidates continue to play a role in close elections. In the recent Iowa Democratic Caucus, for example, former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg edged out Vermont Independent Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders, himself a one-time perennial Trotskyist Social Workers’ Party and Liberty Union Party fringe candidate in Vermont, by .1 percent of the vote. California high-tech businessman Andrew Yang’s 1 percent and billionaire investor Tom Steyer’s .3 percent, while fringe and infinitesimal, may have tipped the razor-thin margin to Buttigieg.

The Vermont Liberty Union Party, founded by Sanders, Vermont US Representative William Meyer, and Peter Diamondstone in 1970, became a significant factor in Vermont politics, one that helped propel Sanders into national politics. The party was a hodgepodge of Marxist-Leninist Communists, democratic socialists, and anarcho-Communists.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Bernie Sanders Isn’t a Socialist, Paul Krugman, Feb. 13, 2020. But he plays one on TV. That’s a problem. Republicans have a long, disreputable history of conflating any attempt to improve American lives with the evils of “socialism.” When Medicare was first paul krugmanproposed, Ronald Reagan called it “socialized medicine,” and he declared that it would destroy our freedom. These days, if you call for something like universal child care, conservatives accuse you of wanting to turn America into the Soviet Union.

It’s a smarmy, dishonest political strategy, but it’s hard to deny that it has sometimes been effective. And now the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination — not an overwhelming front-runner, but clearly the person most likely at the moment to come out on top — is someone who plays right into that strategy, by declaring that he is indeed a socialist.

The thing is, Bernie Sanders isn’t actually a socialist in any normal sense of the term. He doesn’t want to nationalize our major industries and replace markets with central planning; he has expressed admiration, not for Venezuela, but for Denmark. He’s basically what Europeans would call a social democrat — and social democracies like Denmark are, in fact, quite nice places to live, with societies that are, if anything, freer than our own.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosSo why does Sanders call himself a socialist? I’d say that it’s mainly about personal branding, with a dash of glee at shocking the bourgeoisie. And this self-indulgence did no harm as long as he was just a senator from a very liberal state.

But if Sanders becomes the Democratic presidential nominee, his misleading self-description will be a gift to the Trump campaign. So will his policy proposals. Single-payer health care is (a) a good idea in principle and (b) very unlikely to happen in practice, but by making Medicare for All the centerpiece of his campaign, Sanders would take the focus off the Trump administration’s determination to take away the social safety net we already have.

Inside DC

Roll Call, White House to tap $3.8B Pentagon funds for border wall project, John M. Donnelly, Paul M. Krawzak, and Jennifer Shutt, Feb. 13, 2020. White House would shift funds from aircraft and other DOC programs that have widespread support on the Hill.

Department of Defense SealThe Trump administration informed lawmakers Thursday that it plans to shift $3.8 billion in previously appropriated Pentagon funds — including for F-35 fighter jets, V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, a replacement amphibious assault ship, and National Guard and Reserve equipment — to southern border wall construction, according to a document obtained by CQ Roll Call.

Plans to use so-called transfer authority would usually require signoff from the leadership of the the Defense Appropriations subcommittees and Armed Services committees on both sides of the Capitol. Given widespread support for many of the targeted programs, it was not immediately clear whether congressional support would materialize. However, the White House could decide to move ahead without securing approval from lawmakers.

roger stone hands waving no credit from stone cold Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason Donald Trump is willing to die on the Roger Stone hill, Bill Palmer, Feb. 13, 2020. Despite the narratives that we keep hearing, Donald Trump’s decision to illegally meddle in the Roger Stone criminal case is nothing new for him at all. He criminally conspired with Paul Manafort after Manafort cut a disingenuous plea deal. He made criminal threats against Michael Cohen. The only thing that’s different this time: the fact that it’s Stone.

Stone (shown above in a file photo) surely knows the kinds of dirty secrets that Trump fears even more than the prospect of prison.

bill palmer report logo headerAs Roger Stone’s court appearances have gone on, he’s appeared more physically and psychologically frail. At one point during his trial he reportedly refused to leave the bathroom for an extended period of time. Our guess is he isn’t interested in sitting quietly in solitary until after Trump loses the election in November. Stone surely wants a pardon now.

The trouble is, pardons aren’t the magic wands that MSNBC and CNN often portray them as being. Trump has to worry that if he pardons President Donald Trump officialStone, it could set off a series of legal rulings on pardon power that could end up preventing Trump from being able to try to pardon himself and his kids on his way out the door. And in terms of political impact, Trump pardoning Stone would probably cut Trump’s already-weak 2020 odds in half. It could hand the Democrats a huge argument to use in swaying undecided voters.

So instead Donald Trump has been trying this highly corrupt yet still very silly idea of having Bill Barr reduce the Roger Stone sentencing recommendation, even though the judge in this case is invariably going to still give Stone the exact same prison sentence that she was always planning to give him. This has turned into a scandal and it’ll hurt Trump, without helping Stone one bit. But Trump seems to hope that Stone is naive enough to think he’s being helped, so he won’t seek revenge.Olorunnipa, Feb. 13, 2020. President Trump brought two loyalists closer and fiercely lashed out against his perceived enemies on Thursday as he escalated his campaign of threats, attacks and insults in the wake of his House impeachment and Senate acquittal.

Trump rehired Hope Hicks, one of his longest-serving aides and closest confidants, and put his former body man John McEntee in charge of presidential personnel, as part of a broader effort to surround himself with people he trusts and punish those deemed insufficiently loyal.

“DRAIN THE SWAMP! We want bad people out of our government!” Trump wrote on Twitter on Thursday morning.

Trump also denigrated his former chief of staff, called for retribution against federal prosecutors, ridiculed New York’s governor and New York City’s former mayor and appeared to leverage the power of the federal government to threaten the nation’s fourth most populous state not to investigate him.

The stream of schoolyard taunts and thinly veiled threats showed how the third impeachment in American history has done little to rein in a president who has spent the week since his Senate acquittal pursuing vendettas against perceived enemies. Attorney General William P. Barr added to the sense of drama by publicly criticizing the president’s attacks on the Justice Department, saying Trump’s comments made it hard for him to do his job.

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Coronavirus Cases Seemed to Be Leveling Off. Not Anymore, Roni Caryn Rabin, Updated Feb. 13, 2020. On Thursday, health officials in China reported more than 14,000 new cases in Hubei Province alone. A change in diagnostic criteria may be the reason.

The news seemed to be positive: The number of new coronavirus cases reported in China over the past week suggested that the outbreak might be slowing — that containment efforts were working.

china flag SmallBut on Thursday, officials added more than 14,840 new cases to the tally of the infected in Hubei Province alone, bringing the total number to 48,206, the largest one-day increase so far recorded. The death toll in the province rose to 1,310, including 242 new deaths.

The sharp rise in reported cases illustrates how hard it has been for scientists to grasp the extent and severity of the coronavirus outbreak in China, particularly inside the epicenter, where thousands of sick people remain untested for the illness.

Confronted by so many people with symptoms and no easy way to test them, authorities appear to have changed the way the illness is identified.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live updates: China’s leaders shake up political ranks as coronavirus cases near 60,000, Gerry Shih, Feb. 13, 2020. Japan announces second virus fatality outside China.

China's Communist Party removed senior officials in the virus-stricken province of Hubei, as the country's leadership looks to tighten control over its epidemic response and assuage public outrage over authorities' handling of the coronavirus crisis. The ruling party said Thursday that it fired Jiang Chaoliang, a former banker who had been party secretary of Hubei province since 2016.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. charges China’s Huawei with conspiracy to steal U.S. trade secrets in new indictment, Jeanne Whalen​, Feb. 13, 2020. The U.S government on Thursday issued new charges against China’s Huawei, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment huawei square logomanufacturer, alleging that it violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act by, among other actions, offering its employees bonuses for obtaining confidential information from competitors.

The new indictment represents an escalation of a case that began last year, adding to charges that Huawei allegedly stole U.S. corporations’ intellectual property. It comes as the Trump administration appears to have stumbled in its campaign to persuade foreign government’s not to allow Huawei to provide equipment in their roll-out of 5G.

SouthFront, Russian Drone Footage Shows Turkish Military Convoy Moving In Idlib De-escalation Zone, Staff report, Feb. 13, 2020. On February 12, the Russian Defense Ministry released a video of a large Turkish military convoy deploying in Syria’s Idlib.

syrian flag wavingThe video, which was filmed by a Russian unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), shows dozens of Turkish military vehicles moving in Idlib’s de-escalation zone.

The Russian MoD held Turkey responsible for the current crisis in Idlib. In an official statement, the ministry said that Ankara didn’t fulfil its commitments within the 2018 Sochi agreement. The ministry added that deployment of more weapons and personnel in Idlib could only escalate the situation.

Hundreds of battle tanks, armored vehicles, rocket launchers and artillery pieces of the Turkish Armed Forces were deployed in Greater Idlib over the last few weeks. The Turkish military also established several new positions in the Syrian region, apparently without coordination with Russia or Damascus.

Turkey had committed to stabilize the situation in Greater Idlib, reopen strategic highways and expel terrorist elements from the region. However, the exact opposite happened. Turkish President even threatened the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) with military action if it doesn’t withdraw from recently-liberated areas in the region.

If Ankara moves to implement its military threats against Syria, a direct confrontation between the Turkish military and the Syrian Army could take place in Greater Idlib in the coming weeks.

washington post logoWashington Post, House Democrats ask Secret Service for details about its payments to Trump’s company, David A. Fahrenthold and Jonathan O'Connell, Feb. 13, 2020 (print ed.). The House Oversight committee letter follows a Washington Post report that the Secret Service had been charged up to $650 per night at Mar-a-Lago.

The House Oversight Committee on Wednesday asked the Secret Service to provide a full accounting of its payments to President Trump’s President Donald Trump officialprivate company after The Washington Post revealed that the Secret Service had been charged as much as $650 per night for rooms at Trump clubs.

In a letter to the Secret Service, signed by Chair Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) and member Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), the committee asked for records of payments to Trump properties, and copies of contracts between the Secret Service and Trump clubs.

Last week, The Post reported that the Secret Service had been charged nearly $400 and as much as $650 per night for rooms at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida, and charged $17,000 a month for a cottage that agents used at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey. President Trump still owns his companies. These payments show he has an unprecedented — and largely hidden — business relationship with his own government.

Daily Beast, Canadian Fashion Exec Peter Nygard Accused of Raping Young Girls in Lawsuit, Julia Arciga, Feb. 13, 2020. Ten women filed a daily beast logoclass-action lawsuit against Canadian fashion executive Peter Nygard, claiming he drugged and raped girls as young as 15 years old over the course of decades.

According to The Globe and Mail, Nygard — the 77-year-old owner of the eponymous women's clothing chain — is accused of luring women into his Bahamas compound and other homes under the pretense of modeling contract interviews or fashion industry events, known as “pamper parties.” Once the women were on his property, Nygard would allegedly use “alcohol, drugs, force, fraud” and other coercive peter nygard 2017 wikimedia cropped with modelforms to have the women do sex acts — which included sodomy and women defecating or urinating on him, according to the lawsuit.

If women resisted his advances, he would allegedly have the bartenders spike their drinks with Rohypnol, or the “date-rape drug.” Many of the women claimed they were subsequently offered money.

One woman — who was 15-years-old at the time — said she was drugged and then raped anally and vaginally. The suit alleges that Nygard offered her $5,000 before raping her, then $10,000 to defecate in his mouth. The women, now between the ages of 18 and 36, consist of nine Bahamians and one American.

The lawsuit claims that Nygard moving the women to one of his various homes in the U.S. and the Bahamas, often via private jet, violated the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. It also alleges that Nygard bribed Bahamian politicians and police to cover up his actions. Nygard's lawyer said the accusations were “completely false,” and described them as part of a decade-long fight between Nygard and his neighbor in the Bahamas — hedge fund billionaire Louis Bacon. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, and asks for damages to be determined in court.

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, McClatchy, one of the nation’s largest newspaper publishers, files for bankruptcy, Taylor Telford and Thomas Heath, Feb. 13, 2020. McClatchy Co., one of the nation’s largest newspaper publishers, filed for bankruptcy protection Thursday, another harbinger of America’s deepening local news crisis.

The Chapter 11 filing will allow the Sacramento-based company to keep its 30 newspapers afloat while it reorganizes more than $700 million in debt, 60 percent of which would be eliminated under the plan. If the court approves, it would also hand control of the 163-year-old family publisher to a hedge fund, Chatham Asset Management, its largest creditor.

The filing foreshadows further cost-cutting and retrenchment for one of the biggest players in local journalism at a time when most American newsrooms already are straining to cover their communities. About 20 percent of all U.S. newspapers have closed since 2004, according to a recent report from PEN America, and the sector has shed 47 percent of its jobs.

miami herald logoThe publisher of the Miami Herald, Kansas City Star and other regional dailies has been saddled with debt since its $4.5 billion takeover of a much bigger rival, Knight Ridder, in 2006. The combination coincided with a digital boom that disrupted the prevailing business model and changed the way news is consumed.

“In 2010, the total revenue for print ads fell below 1950 levels, and it has continued to decrease,” said Penny Abernathy, Knight chair of journalism and digital media economics at the University of North Carolina. “Everyone assumed if you could just make the transition over to digital that things would be okay. But the problem is that as of 2015, Google and Facebook make up about 75 percent of the digital ad dollar in U.S. markets. That’s not enough to sustain the newsrooms McClatchy inherited from Knight Ridder.”

Rolling Stone, Profile: Matt Gaetz Is Having a Bad Hair Day, Ryan Bort, Feb. 13, 2020. The 37-year-old Florida representative and MAGA mouthpiece has used an aggressive media strategy to become one of the most high-profile Republicans in Congress. But at what cost?

Matt Gaetz doesn’t want to shake my hand when I walk into his office.

matt gaetz o CustomGaetz, a 37-year-old Republican congressman from Florida, is in a rush. It’s mid-January and a House procedural vote related to President Trump’s impeachment had run long. Now he’s due in a neighboring House office building for a Fox Business appearance. Before the vote, he’d done a hit for Fox News Radio and another for War Room, a podcast hosted by former Trump guru Steve Bannon, former Trump campaign staffer Jason Miller, and former Breitbart London editor Raheem Kassam. That evening, he’ll head to a studio to appear live on Hannity, the premier platform for any Trump-loving lawmaker. Gaetz is a regular guest.

Outside of maybe President Trump, there isn’t a politician in Washington who exerts as much care over his media presence as Gaetz, who since 2017 has represented Florida’s ultra–conservative 1st District, a swath of Panhandle known for its large military presence. He plasters his face across Fox News; he feuds with his enemies on Twitter; he orchestrates controversial publicity stunts like inviting Holocaust denier Charles Johnson to the State of the Union in 2018 (Gaetz later claimed he didn’t know about Johnson’s anti-Semitism), or introduces dead-in-the-water legislation to disband the Environmental Protection Agency. Following this year’s State of the Union, he announced plans to file a bogus ethics complaint against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for ripping up a copy of Trump’s speech.

The result has been headlines, which are worth their weight in committee assignments in the reality-TV fun house Trump has fashioned out of Washington. Gaetz can’t seem to go more than a week or two without manufacturing a clickbait-ready piece of chum to throw to the press, which has largely obliged him.

“Look, after 10 months I figured out that you only really matter if you can move substantial sums of money, or substantial blocs of votes,” he says. “If you couldn’t do one of those things you are an extra in the movie in the United States Congress. I had no interest in that. I started to realize that to serve my constituents, I had to bring forces to bear outside of that traditional paradigm that they teach you in orientation.”

Gaetz has claimed it’s all done in the service of delivering “outcomes,” but what happens if what he’s trying to accomplish for his district doesn’t jibe with the president’s agenda? Trump’s haphazard carnival barking may have put him in the White House, but where will it lead Gaetz and others aiming to capitalize on the disoriented media landscape? Isn’t it inevitable that the endorphin-fueled drive to rack up engagement stats, to cater to the outrage-chasers, to get headlines at any cost, to own the libs, will hinder a lawmaker’s ability to make life better for the people they’re supposed to represent?

I ask Gaetz about this, but he doesn’t particularly care for the question, visibly taking offense at the suggestion that an agenda predicated on clicks should be carried out with caution. “It’s a hell of a note from a Rolling Stone reporter to tell me I’m too entertaining,” he snaps. “I guess I’ll take it as a compliment.”

Harvey Weinstein Defense Argument

washington post logoWashington Post, Weinstein lawyer’s closing statement argues that prosecution’s case ‘strips adult women of common sense,’ Shayna Jacobs, Feb. 13, 2020. “You don’t have to like Mr. Weinstein. This is not a popularity contest,” lawyer Donna Rotunno said during the producer’s New York trial on Thursday.

harvey weinsteinThe criminal case against Harvey Weinstein for rape and sexual assault "strips adult women of common sense, autonomy and responsibility," the producer's lawyer Donna Rotunno argued in a closing statement Thursday.

Rotunno said the prosecutors’ narrative ignores that the main accusers — Jessica Mann and Mimi Haleyi — sought favors and jobs from Weinstein, right, and willingly met him in hotel rooms. Both admitted to having consensual sex with him.

“In their universe, women are not responsible for the parties they attend, the men they flirt with, the choices they make to further their own careers,” Rotunno said in front of a packed courtroom of more than 100 spectators.

She said prosecutors are falsely pushing the narrative that Weinstein “is so unattractive and large that no woman would want to sleep with him voluntarily.”

Emails and other evidence point to Weinstein, 67, carrying on affairs with Mann, 34, and Haleyi, 42, she argued.

The Miramax founder and Academy Award-winning producer, who has been accused by dozens of women of sexual assault and misconduct, is charged in this case with raping Mann in 2013 at the DoubleTree Hotel on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan and with forcing oral sex on Haleyi at his Crosby Street apartment in 2006.

Weinstein’s team says he denies having sex with any of his accusers without consent.

Ohio State Sex Scandal

nbc news logoNBC News, Former OSU Wrestler: Jim Jordan 'Called Me Crying' After Strauss Abuse , Feb. 13, 2020 (1:40 min. video). The brother of the Ohio State University whistleblower is claiming that Rep. Jim Jordan asked him to "go against" his brother after being accused of overlooking the sexual abuse of male wrestlers by the team doctor, Richard Strauss.

jim jordan cuomo cnn

washington post logoWashington Post, Jim Jordan accused of ‘begging’ former Ohio State wrestler not to support reports of sexual abuse, Colby Itkowitz. Feb. 14, 2020 (print ed.). A former Ohio State wrestler accused Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), above, of repeatedly “crying” and “begging” him not to corroborate accounts of sexual abuse against the university’s wrestling team doctor that occurred when Jordan was a coach.

richard strauss osu lantern screenshotAdam DiSabato — the brother of Mike DiSabato, the whistleblower who exposed the abuse by Richard Strauss (shown at right in a photo by the Ohio State "Lantern" newspaper — testified Wednesday during a public hearing in the state legislature that when the story came out in July 2018, he received a phone call from a tearful Jordan.

“Jim Jordan called me crying, crying, groveling, on the Fourth of July, begging me to go against my brother, begging me, crying for half an hour,” Adam DiSabato said, according to video of his testimony. “That’s the kind of coverups going on here.”

Jordan’s spokesman said DiSabato’s account was untrue.

ohio state buckeyes logo“Another lie,” said Ian Fury, Jordan’s communications director. “Congressman Jordan never saw or heard of any abuse, and if he had, he would have dealt with it.”

Jordan, a key congressional ally to President Trump who was recently named the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, has denied knowing about the abuse when he was an assistant coach of the Ohio State team, but some wrestlers have accused him of knowing and turning a blind eye to it.

That was DiSabato’s allegation during the legislative hearing on a bill that would allow victims to sue the school in the event of sexual abuse by a university-employed doctor.

“He’s throwing us under the bus, all of us,” DiSabato said. “He’s a coward. He’s not a leader; he’s a coward.”

Backgrounder:

Now This News, Opinion: Who Is Jim Jordan? Narrated by Sean Patton, Dec. 11, 2019 (8:02 min. video).  Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) allegedly turned a blind eye to sexual abuse, tried to overturn same-sex marriage, and never passed the bar exam. How did this former assistant wrestling coach become a loudmouth anti-impeachment darling?

Now This News focuses on Representative Jim Jordan (who represents a narrow, winding 4th District that maximizes rural and small town voters who live in a gerrymandered district stretching from the outskirts of the State Capital of Columbus west nearly to the Indiana border and north to the shores of Lake Erie).

Jordan has been accused of turning a blind eye on sexual abuse against wrestlers by team doctor Richard Strauss while working at Ohio State University. Other career highlights: Jordan attended the Capital University Law School, invited Kim Davis to the State of the Union, and lost a bid to be House Speaker.

ny times logoNew York Times, Former Clerk Alleges Sexual Harassment by Appellate Judge, Catie Edmondson, Feb. 13, 2020. The former clerk told a House committee that Judge Stephen R. Reinhardt, a prominent liberal judge who died in 2018, routinely sexually harassed her and other women who worked for him.

stephen reinhardtA former clerk to Stephen R. Reinhardt, left, a prominent liberal appellate court judge who died in 2018, told a congressional committee on Thursday that he “routinely and frequently” sexually harassed her and other female clerks and raged against the #MeToo movement, contending that women lodging allegations of rape and abuse against men should not be believed.

Detailing her experience working for Judge Reinhardt in 2017 and 2018, Olivia Warren, the former clerk, testified before a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee that Judge Reinhardt openly commented on his female clerks’ physical appearances and on her sexual relationship with her spouse.

In one instance, Ms. Warren testified, Judge Reinhardt instructed her to analyze which of the two female candidates competing for a clerkship “had nicer or longer legs” and was more attractive.

More frequently, Ms. Warren said, he would disparage her physical appearance and speculate — sometimes in front of other employees — that her husband “must either lack a penis, or not be able to get an erection” in her presence because she was so unattractive.

“There may have been a day in which I was not harassed,” Ms. Warren said. “But I cannot remember one after searching my memory.”

U.S. Courts / Judge Weinstein

ap logoAssociated Press, Longest-serving federal judge, named by LBJ, retires at 98 today, Staff report, Feb. 13, 2020. A federal judge in New York City who was nominated by President Lyndon Johnson and who contributed to the landmark case that struck down racial segregation in public schools is retiring at age 98.

jack b weinsteinU.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein, right, was known for favoring lenient sentences and rehabilitation. He retired this week after moving his remaining cases to his fellow jurists in the federal court based in Brooklyn, The New York Daily News reported Wednesday.

He was the longest-serving incumbent federal judge, the newspaper reported. He spent nearly 53 years on the bench.

Weinstein, who was appointed in 1967, was the last federal judge named by Johnson. Weinstein said he often pushed for the shortest prison sentences possible so people could try to build a better life.

“We need to rule from a place of love, not hate,” he told the Daily News.

Weinstein moved to Brooklyn with his family when he was 5. He enlisted in the Navy after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and served on a submarine where he helped sink a Japanese cruiser.

He graduated from Brooklyn College and enrolled at Columbia Law School after World War II. He contributed research and briefs to aid future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall’s argument in the the landmark Brown v. Topeka Board of Education ruling.

In his retirement, Weinstein said he plans to spend more time with his wife, Susan Berk, and work with one of his three sons on a book about Jim Crow laws.

 Feb. 12

Trump Powers, Payback

U.S. 2020 Election Headlines

World News

Media News

 

Trump Powers, Payback

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump escalates campaign of retribution as Republican senators shrug, Philip Rucker and Paul Kane, Feb. 12, 2020 (print ed.). On Tuesday, he railed about decorated combat veteran Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who testified about the president’s conduct with   Ukraine, and suggested the Defense Department should consider disciplining him.

Trump provided fresh evidence that he feels emboldened and will say and do as he pleases after the Republican-controlled Senate voted last week to acquit him in the impeachment trial.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Commentary: Trump seeks judicial powers for DHS, Wayne Madsen, left, Feb. 12, 2020 (subscription required). As an increasingly dictatorial Donald John Trump moves to politicize the Department of Justice by interfering in criminal cases, us dhs big eagle logo4not many eyes in Washington are trained on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf and Christopher Krebs, the director of the relatively new Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), are pushing for judicial authority for CISA to issue subpoenas to Internet Service Providers (ISPs), forcing them to turn over to CISA the true identities of anonymized customers.

ICE logo

Politico, Opinion: A Conservative Judge Draws a Line in the Sand With the Trump Administration, Kimberly Wehle, Feb. 12, 2020. Outraged the attorney general had ignored a court order, he authors a blistering opinion rebuking William Barr for overstepping his constitutional authority.

frank easterbrook fullPresident Donald Trump has defanged Congress’ oversight authority. That became clear when the Senate acquitted the president of obstruction. But one conservative judge isn’t willing to let the executive branch steal power from his branch of government.

In a jaw-dropping opinion issued by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago on January 23, Judge Frank Easterbrook, right — a longtime speaker for the conservative Federalist Society and someone whom the late Justice Antonin Scalia favored to replace him on the U.S. Supreme Court — rebuked Attorney General William Barr for declaring in a letter that the court’s decision in an immigration case was “incorrect” and thus dispensable.

Barr’s letter was used as justification by the Board of Immigration Appeals (the federal agency that applies immigration laws) to ignore the court’s ruling not to deport a man who had applied for a visa to remain in the country.

As Washington reels from the surprise withdrawals of Roger Stone‘s prosecutors, apparently triggered by Trump’s intervention in the upcoming sentencing of his long-time adviser, the Easterbrook broadside offers another window into the way the Trump administration is violating the division of power between the executive and judicial branches.

The 7th Circuit case involved an undocumented immigrant, Jorge Baez-Sanchez, who was subject to removal from the United States after being convicted of a crime.

Baez-Sanchez applied for a special visa allowing him to remain in the U.S. if he was also a victim of a crime. An immigration judge twice granted Baez-Sanchez a waiver. But the Board of Immigration Appeals reversed the immigration judge’s decision, claiming that only the attorney general personally could grant waivers — not immigration judges. Baez-Sanchez appealed to the 7th Circuit, which disagreed and remanded the case with a directive that the Department of Homeland Security comply with the immigration judge’s waiver. When it refused, Easterbrook, a 35-year veteran of the court, had had enough of the willful disregard for judicial authority.

Kimberly Wehle is a law professor, former assistant United States Attorney and author of the book, "How to Read the Constitution — And Why." JIP editor's note: Judge Easterbrook was this editor's law professor teaching antitrust at the University of Chicago School of Law, where Easterbrook has long taught law following his work as an assistant attorney general at during the 1980s in the Bush Justice Department.

 U.S. 2020 Election Stories

bernie sanders pete buttigieg Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Sanders wins N.H., staking claim to Democrats’ left wing, Matt Viser and Sean Sullivan, Feb. 12, 2020. Buttigieg, Klobuchar are top moderate candidates. The night brought devastating returns for former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), both of whom were not on course to earn any delegates.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) claimed unchallenged control of the Democratic Party's left wing with a victory in the New Hampshire presidential primary Tuesday as two moderates, Pete Butti­gieg and a newly surging Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), vied for the opposition mantle in a campaign that has been remade over the past eight days.

dnc square logoSanders and Buttigieg, a former mayor of South Bend, Ind., marked their second straight strong showings — they essentially tied in last week's Iowa caucuses, with Sanders carrying the popular vote and Buttigieg winning a slight edge in delegates.

"Let me say tonight that this victory here is the beginning of the end for Donald Trump," Sanders told his supporters. He praised his opponents, including Buttigieg, but soon alluded to criticisms of the former mayor and his wealthy donors. "At this point in the campaign, we are taking on billionaires, and we are taking on candidates funded by billionaires," he said.

Klobuchar's third-place finish was powered by a strong debate performance that persuaded late-deciding voters to look her way. It represented a remarkable turnabout for a candidate, left, who placed fifth in the caucuses in the state next door to her own. In joyous remarks before a crowd in Concord, she made clear that without Tuesday's results, she would have found it difficult to continue to the next contests, on Feb. 22 in Nevada and one week later in South Carolina.

joe biden oWarren, Sanders’s main competitor on the party’s left, finished in a crushing fourth place in a state that neighbors her home in Massachusetts. Biden, right, trailed badly in fifth, with early inklings so dire that he left the state before polls closed in an attempt to rally support in South Carolina. “It ain’t over, man,” Biden told a crowd in Columbia, S.C. “We’re just getting started.”

Biden’s collapse over the past few weeks has created a vacuum for candidates fighting to become the chief moderate in the race and counter the fervent populism of Sanders.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (Des Moines Gage Skidmore via Flickr on Aug. 10, 2019)

Sen. Bernie Sanders (Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr on Aug. 10, 2019 in Des Moines)

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Sanders won, but he’s not the big story coming out of New Hampshire, Jennifer Rubin, Feb. 12, 2020. The New Hampshire primary may very well be remembered for the third- through fifth-place finishers and for how surprisingly close the race between jennifer rubin new headshotSen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — the overwhelming favorite who won with 60 percent in 2016 — and former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg was.

Sanders was projected as the winner, but the margin of his victory was modest (less than 2 percent).

As in Iowa, he did not juice the turnout with an influx of new voters as he promised. The youngest voters made up 12 percent on Tuesday compared with 19 percent in 2016.

The Democratic amy klobucher button croppedestablishment has panicked at the prospect of a Sanders win, but he now looks like a vulnerable front-runner, with well over half of his support coming from voters 18 to 29 and more than half coming from “very liberal” voters. If he was looking to expand beyond his traditional base, he did not do it. He actually got a larger share of repeat voters than first-time voters.

With the electorate heavily skewed in favor of electability (60 percent) rather than agreement on the issues, and about half the voters finding Sanders too liberal, there is reason to believe voters have become wary of Sanders as the standard bearer in a must-win election. His base of support seems not to have grown significantly from the start of the race.

ny times logoNew York Times, For Joe Biden, Two Bad Losses and a Precarious Path Forward, Katie Glueck and Thomas Kaplan, Feb. 12, 2020/
Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s fifth-place finish in the New Hampshire Democratic primary on Tuesday plunged his campaign further into peril and uncertainty, jeopardizing his fund-raising efforts and potentially upending his path to the nomination.

It is a devastating outcome for a former vice president with widespread name recognition, deep relationships across the party and a lengthy roster of endorsements both in New Hampshire and around the country. After his fourth-place finish in Iowa last week, Tuesday’s poor showing threatens to read as another rejection of Mr. Biden’s central campaign argument: that he is the strongest candidate to defeat President Trump.

Mr. Biden’s fifth-place finish in the New Hampshire Democratic primary plunged his campaign further into jeopardy. It is a devastating outcome for a former vice president with widespread recognition, deep relationships across the party and a lengthy roster of endorsements.

Mr. Biden, 77, long the front-runner, has fallen behind two younger Democrats looking to seize the moderate mantle, and his candidacy is fragile.

Fivethirtyeight.com, Analysis: What’s Behind Amy Klobuchar’s Surge — And Can It Go National? Geoffrey Skelley and Laura Bronner, Feb. 12, amy klobucher button cropped2020. It’s not often that a third-place finish grabs more headlines than first place, but there’s nothing the media loves more than an underdog, and they got one in spades with Sen. Amy Klobuchar on Tuesday night.

While there was evidence that Klobuchar was on the uptick going into election night (she gained a little more than 2 points in our polling average after the debate on Friday), she still handily outperformed her polls in New Hampshire. Klobuchar had been at about 10 percent, but she doubled her support on Tuesday, finishing third with 20 percent of the vote — just 6 points behind Sen. Bernie Sanders (the winner) and 4 points behind former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who came in second.

It’s unclear what this will mean for Klobuchar moving forward, as like Buttigieg, the next two states — Nevada and South Carolina — could be tough for her. But here’s a look at what we know about her last-minute surge in New Hampshire, and what that might mean for Klobuchar’s chances of capitalizing on her strong showing.

washington post logogeorge f willWashington Post, Opinion: It’s looking like Democrats might have a chance to beat Trump after all, George F. Will, right, Feb. 12, 2020. The success of Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who finished third but much closer to first than to fourth, demonstrated Democrats’ realism about how to defeat Trump at a time when 70 percent of voters self-identify as moderate or conservative.

After Tuesday, it is somewhat less likely that the Trump-Mike Pence ticket will repeat its Midwest victories or add Minnesota to them.

Power Grab At Justice Dept.

washington post logoWashington Post, Prosecutors quit Stone case, raising questions about politicization at Justice Dept., Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett, Ann E. Marimow and Spencer S. Hsu, Feb. 12, 2020 (print ed.). The requests by all four prosecutors came after the department said it would reduce its sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone, a confidant of President Trump.

All four career prosecutors handling the case against Roger Stone withdrew from the legal proceedings Tuesday — and one quit his job entirely — after the Justice Department signaled it planned to undercut their sentencing recommendation for President Trump’s longtime friend and confidant.

Justice Department log circularThe sudden and dramatic moves came after prosecutors and their superiors had argued for days over the appropriate penalty for Stone, and exposed what some career Justice Department employees say is a continuing pattern of the historically independent law enforcement institution being bent to Trump’s political will.

Almost simultaneously, Trump decided to revoke the nomination to a top Treasury Department post of his former U.S. attorney in the District of Columbia, who had supervised the Stone case when it went to trial.

The cascade of controversy began Monday, when career prosecutors handling the case recommended that a judge sentence Stone — convicted in November of obstructing Congress and witness tampering — to between seven and nine years in federal prison.

Stone has been a friend and adviser to Trump since the 1980s and was a key figure in his 2016 campaign, working to discover damaging information on Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. His was the last conviction secured by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III as part of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The president suggested angrily on Twitter that Stone deserved more-lenient treatment.

donald trump twitter“This is a horrible and very unfair situation,” Trump wrote early Tuesday. “The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them. Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!”

Hours later, a senior Justice Department official told reporters that the agency’s leadership was “shocked” by the recommendation of a seven-to-nine-year sentence and would soon revise it.

“That recommendation is not what had been briefed to the department,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive case. “The department finds the recommendation extreme and excessive and disproportionate to Stone’s offenses.”

One by one, the career prosecutors, two of whom had worked on Mueller’s investigation, filed notices in court of their intention to leave the case. Though none of the prosecutors gave a reason, their asking to do so was highly unusual and suggested they could not ethically affix their names to the government’s revised position.

As the drama unfolded Tuesday afternoon, Trump also decided to withdraw his nomination of the District’s former U.S. attorney, Jessie K. Liu, to serve as Treasury Department undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes, people familiar with the matter said. The withdrawal was first reported by Axios.

Former Justice Department officials and others characterized the department’s abrupt shift on the Stone case as an egregious example of the president and his attorney general manipulating federal law enforcement to serve their political interests.

djt nancy pelosiPalmer Report, Nancy Pelosi just pounced on Donald Trump’s Roger Stone mistake, Bill Palmer, Feb. 12, 2020. When Donald Trump had Bill Barr corruptly and blatantly meddle in the Roger Stone prison sentence guidelines yesterday, Palmer Report explained why it was a huge mistake on Trump’s part. Judge Jackson is still going to give Stone whatever sentence she was always planning on giving him. And Trump just handed the Democrats an opening for using this new scandal to their 2020 advantage.

bill palmer report logo headerIt turns out the Democrats are already doing just that. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi posted this tweet: “By tweet Donald Trump engaged in political interference in the sentencing of Roger Stone. It is outrageous that DOJ has deeply damaged the rule of law by withdrawing its recommendation. Stepping down of prosecutors should be commended & actions of DOJ should be investigated.”

There are two key takeaways here. First, by default Pelosi is in charge of what the House investigates. So since Pelosi wants a House investigation into the Stone scandal, it obviously means there will be one. Second, Pelosi could be keeping her hands off it, and allowing her underlings like Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler to publicly lead the charge. Instead, Pelosi is making a point of being the one to publicly call for the investigation, meaning she wants to be seen as leading the way. In other words, she sees this investigation as being not only the morally correct thing to do, but also as a political winner.

So now we’ll see precisely where this leads. There will be televised hearings, subpoenas, you name it. The federal prosecutors who quit the Stone case in protest will surely be called to publicly testify about it, and if they really want to testify, Trump can’t realistically stop them. We’re going to see impeachment all over again, with a new scandal, whether it’s called “impeachment” this time or not – and it well could end up being yet another official impeachment. This is just getting started.

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Dept. to Seek Shorter Sentence for Roger Stone, Overruling Its Prosecutors, Katie Benner, Feb. 12, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump had complained that the recommendation of seven to nine years in prison for his former adviser and longtime friend was a “miscarriage of justice.”

roger stoneThe Justice Department will back off its sentencing recommendation for Roger J. Stone Jr., right, President Trump’s former campaign adviser and longtime friend, a senior department official said Tuesday, with senior department officials intervening to overrule front-line prosecutors who tried the case.

The move is highly unusual and is certain to generate allegations of political interference. It came after federal prosecutors in Washington asked a judge late Monday evening to sentence Mr. Stone to seven to nine years in prison on seven felony convictions for trying to sabotage a congressional investigation that threatened Mr. Trump. Early on Tuesday, Mr. Trump declared the sentencing recommendation “horrible and very unfair," as he described here and below:

"This is a horrible and very unfair situation. The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them. Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!"

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 11, 2020"

Both the sentencing recommendation and the president’s tweet took officials at Justice Department headquarters by surprise, according to a Justice Department log circulardepartment official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the Stone case was ongoing.

The recommendation was higher than what the United States attorney’s office had told Justice Department officials it would suggest, according to the official, and the department decided soon after the filing to override the prosecutors’ decision.

The department had not discussed the recommendation with the White House or Mr. Trump, the official said.

“The department finds the recommendation extreme and excessive and disproportionate to Stone’s offenses,” the official said.

ny times logoNew York Times, These are the four prosecutors who quit the Roger Stone case, Neil Vigdor, updated Feb. 12, 2020. The team of assistant U.S. attorneys withdrew from the case after the Justice Department overruled their sentencing recommendation and pushed for a more lenient punishment for President Trump’s former campaign adviser..

They’ve clerked for Supreme Court justices, served at the State Department and orbited Robert S. Mueller III.

On Tuesday, the four main federal prosecutors working on the obstruction and perjury case of Roger J. Stone Jr. shared another distinction: they quit the case. The abrupt withdrawals came after the Justice Department overruled their recommendation for a stiffer sentence for Mr. Stone, a longtime friend and informal adviser of President Trump. One of the prosecutors resigned outright.

The prosecutors had asked a U.S. District Court judge in Washington, D.C., to sentence Mr. Stone to up to nine years in prison for obstructing a congressional investigation, witness tampering and making false statements during the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Late Monday, Mr. Trump took a swipe at the prosecutors on Twitter, saying they were beholden to Mr. Mueller and had recommended an unduly harsh sentence in Mr. Stone’s case.

      • Washington Post, In 2016, Trump constantly alleged that the Clintons improperly influenced the attorney general, Feb. 12, 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge dismisses lawsuit to compel White House to archive records of Trump calls, meetings with Putin, other foreign leaders, Spencer S. Hsu, Feb. 12, 2020 (print ed.). A federal judge Monday dismissed a lawsuit brought by historians and watchdog groups to compel the White House to preserve records of President Trump’s calls and meetings with foreign leaders, saying that Congress would have to change presidential archiving laws to allow the courts to do so.

Federal courts have ruled that the Presidential Records Act is one of the rare statutes that judges cannot review, and that another law, the amy berman jacksonFederal Records Act, does not specify exactly how agency heads should preserve records, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, right, said in a 22-page opinion.

“The Court is bound by Circuit precedent to find that it lacks authority to oversee the President’s day-to-day compliance with the statutory provisions involved in this case,” Jackson wrote of the U.S. Court of the Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

However, the judge added pointedly, “This opinion will not address, and should not be interpreted to endorse, the challenged practices; nor does it include any finding that the Executive Office is in compliance with its obligations.”

Trump has concealed details of his face-to-face encounters with Putin from senior officials in administration

Jackson said that though those who brought the lawsuit allege Congress expressed “grave concerns” about the practices at issue, it is Congress that has the power to “revisit its decision to accord the executive such unfettered control or to clarify its intentions.”

The lawsuit was filed in May by three organizations — government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), the National Security Archive at George Washington University, and the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR). The groups alleged that the White House was failing to create and save records as required of Trump’s meetings and communications with foreign leaders, including Russian President Vladi­mir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The lawsuit preceded Congress’s impeachment inquiry into the White House — which ended last week in a Senate acquittal — that was triggered by a July 25 phone call in which Trump asked his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate unsubstantiated corruption allegations against former vice president Joe Biden, a leading Democratic presidential candidate, and his son Hunter Biden.

The groups suing had asked unsuccessfully for an emergency ruling, citing allegations that the episode exposed record-keeping practices “specifically designed to conceal the president’s abuse of his power,” CREW said in a statement. The groups sought a court order to ensure records are not destroyed, misfiled or never created.

In a statement, CREW spokesman Jordan Libowitz said the watchdog was “disappointed to see today’s ruling” but is reviewing an appeal.

Trump Budget Plan

washington post logodana milbank CustomWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s budget reveals a tremendous fraud, Dana Milbank, right, Feb. 12, 2020 (print ed.). Remember when he said he would eliminate the federal debt, or at least halve it, during his presidency?

His new budget proposes to add another $3.4 trillion by 2024 to the debt on top of the $3 trillion Trump has already added, by piling on $1-trillion-a-year budget deficits during a peacetime expansion. Under Trump’s latest plans, the debt would keep mushrooming until at least 2035 — by his administration’s own rosy projections.

In 2015, he promised not to touch Medicaid, either. Now he wants to cut it by $920 billion.

He was going to give Americans health care “much better” than Obamacare. But he has proposed no such thing and now his budget calls for cutting spending on the program by $844 billion.

Oh, and remember his vows that his tax cuts would grow the economy by 4 percent, 5 percent or even 6 percent? Last year it grew at 2.3 percent, and his new budget, even with the rosiest of assumptions, projects 2.8 percent for this year. Yet the budget would also devote another $1.4 trillion to extending those tax cuts, primarily for the rich.

      • Washington Post, Trump again asking Congress to slash Amtrak funding

World News

washington post logopope francis 2013 SmallWashington Post, Pope backs away from creating exception to celibacy rules for priests in the Amazon, Chico Harlan, Feb. 12, 2020. Latin American bishops requested the move as a way to address clerical shortages in remote areas of the Amazon. Francis, right, declined to take up the divisive issue after “praying and reflecting.”

SouthFront, Syrian Army Succeed In Establishing Safe-Zone In Idlib, Turkey Failed: Russian MoD, Staff report, Feb. 12, 2020.  The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) successful operations in Idlib have helped establish a safe-zone under the 2018 Sochi agreement, the commander of the Russian Reconciliation Center in Syria announced on February 12.

In his daily statement, Maj. Gen. Yuri Borenkov confirmed that the army has completely secured the M5 highway, which links the Syrian capital, Damascus, with the northern city of Aleppo. The Russian commander stressed that the SAA’s large-scale operation in Greater Idlib against al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and its allies was necessary, saying that Turkey had failed to implement its commitment within the Sochi agreement.

"Government forces operations ended terrorist attacks and put an end to civilian losses as a result of militants’ attacks and shelling,” Borenkov said.

syrian flag wavingEarlier, the Ministry of Defense of Russia (MOD) released a video showing Turkish troops moving within Idlib’s de-escalation zone and held Ankara responsible for the current escalation in the region.

Under Sochi agreement, Turkey committed to establish a safe-zone in Idlib, reopen all highways and expel terrorist elements from the Syrian region. However, Ankara didn’t implement any of these commitments and even worked against some of them.

Global News via YouTube, Video shows U.S. troops under fire at checkpoint in Syria during clash with locals, Feb. 12, 2020 (3:13 min. video).  Syrian TV showed footage of what it said were residents responding to U.S. troops with machine guns as well as a man facing American soldiers asking them to leave the village of Kherbat Amo.

National Public Radio, Major Smartphone Trade Show Canceled In Barcelona Amid Coronavirus Concerns, Shannon Bond, Feb. 12, 2020.  Organziers of the Mobile World Congress had resisted calls to cancel the event, but reversed course after major companies pulled out over coronavirus fears.

One of the world's biggest trade shows has been cancelled as mounting concerns over the coronavirus outbreak ripple across the business world.

Organizers called off the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, after big-name participants pulled out.

The annual conference, scheduled to kick off on Feb. 24, is a marquee event for the city of Barcelona and for the mobile phone industry. It typically attracts more than 100,000 attendees each year who come to check out the latest in smartphone technology.

facebook logoBut in recent days, companies from Sony and Intel to Amazon and Facebook said they would stay away because of worries about the safety of their employees.

The conference organizer, GSMA, initially resisted calls to cancel. It said it would put in place health precautions including scanning body temperatures, and advised attendees against shaking hands.

Still, companies kept pulling out, and on Wednesday, GSMA reversed course. "The global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event," the group's CEO, John Hoffman, said in a statement.

Other trade shows and business events have also been affected by the outbreak. More than two dozen industry conferences in Asia have been postponed, Reuters reported. Watchmaker Swatch canceled an event in Zurich planned for late February.

Media News

WKRN-TV (ABC affiliate in Nashville), TN lawmakers introduce joint resolution to recognize CNN and Washington Post as “fake news,” Staff report, Feb. 11, 2020. An amendment to a house joint resolution was announced Tuesday at the Tennessee State Capitol, announcing that the state of Tennessee recognizes CNN and The Washington Post “as fake news and part of the media wing of the Democratic party.”

cnn logoAccording to the resolution, lawmakers say that an editor of The Washington Post wrote on October 3, 2019 that President Trump “cast a spell on the Republican Party and suggested that Trumpism is cult-like.” The resolution also says that a CNN host suggested that Trump supporters “belong to a cult and that our president is using mind control” on November 24, 2019.

“We recognize that fake news outlets suggest ideas without directly making accusations so that they can claim innocence from their ivory towers,” the resolution reads.

The joint resolution introduced in the state House with the Senate reportedly concurring says that CNN and The Washington Post are condemned “for denigrating our citizens and implying that they are weak-minded followers instead of people exercising their rights that our veterans paid for with their blood.”

Read the full resolution here.

Feb. 12

gabriel matzneff infographic

ny times logoNew York Times, Gabriel Matzneff, Who Wrote for Years About Pedophilia, Is Charged, Norimitsu Onishi, Feb. 12, 2020. Gabriel Matzneff  (shown above), the French writer who talked openly for decades about engaging in pedophilia, was charged on Wednesday in a Paris court with promoting the sexual abuse of children.

Mr. Matzneff, who has been in hiding in the Italian Riviera and did not appear in court, was accused of defending and justifying pedophilia through his many books and public appearances, according to the case filed by l’Ange Bleu, an anti-pedophilia organization.

The court set September 2021 as the start of the trial, which will scrutinize not only the author’s actions but also those of the French elite who published his books, promoted his career and even helped him evade justice.

“Everyone will have to take responsibility,” l’Ange Bleu’s lawyer, Méhana Mouhou, said after the hearing.

L’Ange Bleu is using a special legal procedure to force Mr. Matzneff to stand trial, arguing that its interests as an organization devoted to fighting pedophilia were damaged by Mr. Matzneff’s longstanding promotion of pedophilia. If convicted in that case, Mr. Matzneff, 83, could face up to five years in prison.

Although Mr. Matzneff is not scheduled to appear in court until next year in the case brought by the anti-pedophilia organization, he could face legal challenges sooner if prosecutors decide to charge him in specific cases of abuse.

Prosecutors, who have been criticized in recent weeks for their long inaction despite Mr. Matzneff’s avowed pedophilia, are moving on a separate track that could lead to more criminal charges.

They said on Tuesday that they would actively seek other victims of the author, and on Wednesday they raided for the second time the headquarters of Gallimard, one of Mr. Matzneff’s publishers, to seize more of his books and manuscripts, according to the French news media.

Mr. Matzneff openly talked and wrote about pedophilia, but the dynamic changed after the publication last month of Le Consentement (“Consent”) by Vanessa Springora, the first testimony by one of the writer’s underage victims.

Fueling an abrupt cultural shift in France, the book touched off the sudden downfall of Mr. Matzneff, who was dropped by his three publishers, stripped of a rare benefit from the French government and abandoned by longtime supporters.

Until just a few weeks ago, Mr. Matzneff was recognized as a celebrated writer.

In many books, Mr. Matzneff writes about his relations with teenage girls in France and sex tourism in the Philippines with boys as young as 8. His breakthrough book as an author, from 1974, had the title Les Moins de Seize Ans (“Under 16 Years Old”).

U.S. Crime, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, Kill my wife, he told his girlfriend: Ex-Army soldier sentenced to 35 years in love triangle murder, Reis Thebault, Feb. 12, 2020. Michael Walker came home to a grisly scene. His wife was dead in their bed, killed overnight while Walker worked at a nearby Army medical center in Honolulu. The intruder had walked through the back door, grabbed a long knife from the kitchen and stabbed Walker’s wife, Catherine, as she slept.

Walker called 911. It was just as he had planned.

That evening, in November 2014, was the denouement of a feverish plan, plotted out in text messages, emails and secret meetings between Walker and Ailsa Jackson, a woman he met online two months earlier and began an affair with soon after.

Their brief relationship began a years-long criminal case that revealed a deadly love triangle in lurid detail and resulted in charges of child pornography, abuse and murder. In federal court in the Hawaiian capital on Monday, Jackson was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the fatal stabbing, while Walker was sentenced to 35 years for aiding and abetting — a longer term, the judge said, because he had orchestrated the killing.

washington post logoWashington Post, He moved into his daughter’s dorm and targeted her roommates for sex trafficking, prosecutors say, Paulina Firozi, Feb. 12, 2020. Lawrence Ray was arrested 10 months after a New York magazine story detailed the disquieting saga.

It was a story of a group of young college students at a liberal arts college and their unusual roommate — a then-50-year-old father.

In late 2010, Lawrence Ray moved in with his daughter and her roommates at Sarah Lawrence College when he needed a place to crash after his recent release from prison. Soon enough, he seemingly became a father figure, a confidant, a philosopher, a life coach and therapist — a constant fixture whose presence slowly became alarming, according to an April 2019 New York magazine cover story.

Ten months after the story detailed the disquieting saga, federal prosecutors announced that they arrested Ray and charged the now-60-year-old with nine counts that include sex trafficking, extortion and forced labor, among numerous other charges.

Ray “allegedly used his proximity to his victims to lay the groundwork for psychological conditioning, eventually leading several young adults to become unwitting victims of sexual exploitation, verbal and physical abuse, extortion, forced labor, and an egregious case of prostitution,” FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said in the announcement of the federal indictment.

When he was arrested Tuesday, authorities said, Ray was with one of the female victims identified in the indictment as well as one of his daughter’s college roommates.

      • Washington Post, Actor Jussie Smollett indicted on new charges of filing false hate crime reports last year

Feb. 11

U.S. 2020 Election Headlines

Inside DC

CIA Surveillance

World News

More Politics Headlines

U.S. 2020 Election Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Sanders Is Leading in New Hampshire Primary, Lisa Lerer and Shane Goldmacher, Feb. 11, 2020. Buttigieg and Klobuchar Close Behind; Warren and Biden Struggle. Bernie Sanders, above left, is ahead of Pete Buttigieg, above right, with Amy Klobuchar mounting a strong challenge. Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden remain far behind.

In primary night speech, Ms. Warren sought to move beyond her performance and criticized her rivals for “harsh tactics.”

• With about half of precincts reporting, Senator Bernie Sanders is ahead in New Hampshire, with a comfortable lead over former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota was firmly in third place, several percentage points behind Mr. Buttigieg, surpassing expectations for her performance in the state.

• Senator Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. were well behind. Both tried to minimize the impact of their performance: Mr. Biden left the state this afternoon for a campaign event in South Carolina, while Ms. Warren addressed her supporters early in the evening.

andrew yang twitterTwo of the lowest-polling candidates ended their bids, winnowing the Democratic field to nine candidates. The entrepreneur Andrew Yang, right, and Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado dropped out Tuesday night.

• There was also a Republican primary, which President Trump won handily, The Associated Press reported.

• There are 24 delegates up for grabs for the Democrats, a relatively tiny number given that a candidate needs 1,991 delegates to win the party’s presidential nomination.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: This Amy Klobuchar could beat Trump. Where has she been all year? Megan McArdle, Feb. 11, 2020. Amy Klobuchar is glowing — on fire, really. And a rapt victory party is basking in it. They laugh at her jokes. They boo her mentions of President Trump. They hush into perfect stillness when she tells the sad story of getting kicked out of the hospital too soon after giving birth, and leaving behind her critically ill newborn daughter.

Where the heck has this Amy Klobuchar been for the last year? I’ve had my eye on her ever since that electric moment when Brett M. Kavanaugh snapped at her during the brutal last phase of his confirmation hearing, asking her if she’d ever blacked out, after she’d asked the same of him. Klobuchar responded, not with the scenery-chewing histrionics her colleagues had resorted to when challenged, but with a amy klobucher button croppedgimlet eye and a chilly smile. Kavanaugh later apologized.

There, I thought. There is a lady who could stand up to Trump’s abuse in a debate without blinking or getting rattled.

But in the intervening year, that Amy Klobuchar seemed to vanish; the stand-in she sent out was a moderate too restrained to keep the other Democratic candidates from talking over her on stage. That’s who I saw on the stump in Iowa: A senator whose platform was eminently sensible, and far more likely to actually pass than the radical promises of Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). A woman whose vision was far more practical than the bafflegab former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg offered about ushering in a vague — but golden! — new era in Washington. But also, in some voters’ eyes, a nice lady who wasn’t going to be president.

All that changed in a single debate last Friday night, when the old Amy, with the courage born of desperation, stormed out on stage and made her case forcefully for pragmatic moderation rather than glittering impracticalities. And darned if it doesn’t seem to have worked, at least on New Hampshire voters, many of whom told exit pollsters that they made up their minds in the final days before the primary. As of this writing, there are still many votes to be counted, but it’s nonetheless clear that Amy Klobuchar has come in third in New Hampshire — and tantalizingly close to Buttigieg and Sanders.

The question is whether she has enough time left to get this done. Klobuchar has been running a shoestring campaign, and though it seems likely she’ll get a boost in polls and fundraising, she now has to build up her organization almost overnight in order to take on the later states. She also needs to knock out Buttigieg and run a gantlet constructed of the Bloomberg billions. All on the strength of an unexpected third-place finish.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sanders may be on verge of another N.H. win. Democrats aren’t ready to get behind him, David Weigel, Feb. 11, 2020. Rival candidates and skeptical voters are still asking whether Sen. Bernie Sanders and his movement could be trusted to win a general election.

ny times logoNew York Times, New Hampshire Usually Winnows the Field. This Year May Be Different, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, Feb. 11, 2020 (print ed.). With the possibility of five leading candidates surviving beyond New Hampshire, the prospect of a long contest looms large.

Many Democrats were hoping that New Hampshire’s famously independent voters would provide clarity when they cast their ballots on Tuesday. But with recent polls here showing Mr. Sanders and Mr. Buttigieg ahead of the field and their three leading rivals jostling for third dnc square logoplace with a still-undecided electorate, the top candidates each began to make plans for two more diverse states, Nevada and South Carolina, as well as next month’s Super Tuesday, believing their rivals to be fatally flawed.

Mr. Sanders is planning on visiting Super Tuesday states this week. Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. dispatched one of his most prominent black supporters to host a “launch party” in South Carolina on Tuesday night, an effort to deflect attention from his anticipated struggles in heavily white New Hampshire.

And Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota scrambled to send staff and get television ads up in Nevada, which is next on the primary calendar.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump proposes $4.8 trillion election-year budget with big domestic cuts, Jeff Stein and Erica Werner​, Feb. 11, 2020 (print ed.). An overview of the proposal, obtained by The Post, calls for eliminating the deficit in 15 years instead of 10, a longtime GOP fiscal target. Three years of spending increases and tax cuts have pushed that goal out of reach.

washington post logodana milbank CustomWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s budget reveals a tremendous fraud, Dana Milbank, right, Feb. 11, 2020. Remember when he said he would eliminate the federal debt, or at least halve it, during his presidency?

His new budget proposes to add another $3.4 trillion by 2024 to the debt on top of the $3 trillion Trump has already added, by piling on $1-trillion-a-year budget deficits during a peacetime expansion. Under Trump’s latest plans, the debt would keep mushrooming until at least 2035 — by his administration’s own rosy projections.

In 2015, he promised not to touch Medicaid, either. Now he wants to cut it by $920 billion.

He was going to give Americans health care “much better” than Obamacare. But he has proposed no such thing and now his budget calls for cutting spending on the program by $844 billion.

Oh, and remember his vows that his tax cuts would grow the economy by 4 percent, 5 percent or even 6 percent? Last year it grew at 2.3 percent, and his new budget, even with the rosiest of assumptions, projects 2.8 percent for this year. Yet the budget would also devote another $1.4 trillion to extending those tax cuts, primarily for the rich.

Politico, Two prosecutors exit Roger Stone case after DOJ shifts to lighter sentence, Josh Gerstein and Daniel Lippman, Feb. 12, 2020 (print ed.). The moves come as Trump has tweeted his displeasure with the proposed 7-to-9 year prison term for his longtime adviser.

The Justice Department’s retreat from a recommendation for a lengthy prison term for President Donald Trump’s longtime adviser Roger Stone appears to have triggered one federal prosecutor to exit the case and another to quit the government altogether.

Jonathan Kravis, the deputy chief of the fraud and public corruption section in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, said in a court filing Tuesday that he has resigned his post. The move came a short time after a former prosecutor for special counsel Robert Mueller, Aaron Zelinsky, notified the court that he was leaving his special assignment on the Stone case.

Justice Department logoThe Justice Department is stepping back from a recommendation that Roger Stone, a longtime adviser to President Donald Trump, serve a stiff prison sentence following his conviction on charges of impeding congressional and FBI investigations into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

In an early-morning tweet Tuesday, Trump blasted federal prosecutors for urging such a long prison sentence of about seven to nine years for Stone, the veteran GOP political consultant and provocateur found guilty by a jury last year on seven felony counts brought by former special counsel Robert Mueller.

"This is a horrible and very unfair situation," Trump tweeted. "The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them. Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!"

A short time after word of the shift emerged Tuesday, one of the prosecutors who submitted the recommendation of a seven-to-nine year sentence for Stone, Aaron Zelinsky, formally withdrew from the case.

Zelinsky, a Maryland-based federal prosecutor who had worked on the case while on Mueller's staff and then continued on under special assignment for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington, said in a brief court filing he'd "resigned" the special appointment related to the case.

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Dept. to Seek Shorter Sentence for Roger Stone, Overruling Its Prosecutors, Katie Benner, Feb. 11, 2020. President Trump had complained that the recommendation of seven to nine years in prison for his former adviser and longtime friend was a “miscarriage of justice.”

roger stoneThe Justice Department will back off its sentencing recommendation for Roger J. Stone Jr., right, President Trump’s former campaign adviser and longtime friend, a senior department official said Tuesday, with senior department officials intervening to overrule front-line prosecutors who tried the case.

The move is highly unusual and is certain to generate allegations of political interference. It came after federal prosecutors in Washington asked a judge late Monday evening to sentence Mr. Stone to seven to nine years in prison on seven felony convictions for trying to sabotage a congressional investigation that threatened Mr. Trump. Early on Tuesday, Mr. Trump declared the sentencing recommendation “horrible and very unfair," as he described here and below:

"This is a horrible and very unfair situation. The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them. Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!"

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 11, 2020"

Both the sentencing recommendation and the president’s tweet took officials at Justice Department headquarters by surprise, according to a Justice Department log circulardepartment official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the Stone case was ongoing.

The recommendation was higher than what the United States attorney’s office had told Justice Department officials it would suggest, according to the official, and the department decided soon after the filing to override the prosecutors’ decision.

The department had not discussed the recommendation with the White House or Mr. Trump, the official said.

“The department finds the recommendation extreme and excessive and disproportionate to Stone’s offenses,” the official said.

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigation On Trump, Kellyanne Conway, and The Mafia: Trump's mob talk comes from his time in Atlantic City, Wayne Madsen, left, Feb. 11, 2020 (Subscription required, excerpted with permission). Impeached President Donald John Trump’s legacy in Atlantic City as the proprietor of three casinos -- the Trump Plaza Casino and Hotel, the Trump Marina Hotel Casino, and the Trump Taj Mahal – is one of the mob.

The skim, the transfer of a small percentage of a casino’s pre-tax profits to organized crime syndicates, was pioneered by Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky in Las Vegas. The skim arrived in Atlantic City at the same time as did the first casino opening. And controlling the Atlantic City skim was the boss of the Atlantic City, Philadelphia, and South Jersey rackets, Nicodemo “Little Nicky” Scarfo, and his nephew, lieutenant, and mob underboss, Philip “Crazy Phil” Leonetti.

Scarfo hid the money from the skim by plowing it into newly-incorporated legitimate businesses and the buying of property through Scarfo’s primary business, Scarf, Inc. It was a business practice that Trump also knew very well in the method of creating thousands of limited liability corporations and other corporate shells all interwoven with the Trump Organization.

One way by which Scarfo used Scarf, Inc. to exact “tribute” was to shake down businesses for extortion payments....

The mob had a deep impact on the method by which Trump operates, for example, vowing vengeance on all those who crossed him in supporting his impeachment in the House, sworn testimony against him by government employees and military and intelligence personnel, and guilty votes in the Senate....

Another Trump affectation is to apply nicknames to his enemies and friends, alike. That is standard operating procedure for the mob....

washington post logojerome powellWashington Post, Fed Chair Powell warns Congress that $1 trillion budget deficits are unsustainable, Heather Long​, Feb. 11, 2020. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell is telling Congress Tuesday that now would be a good time to reduce the federal budget deficit, which is expected to top $1 trillion this year.

“Putting the federal budget on a sustainable path when the economy is strong would help ensure that policymakers have the space to use fiscal policy to assist in stabilizing the economy during a downturn,” Powell said in prepared remarks to the House Committee on Financial Services.

Consumer Safety

washington post logoWashington Post, Lax FAA oversight let Southwest put millions of passengers at risk, IG says, Lori Aratani, Michael Laris and Ian Duncan, Feb. 11, 2020. The FAA promised fixes, and Southwest said “any implication that we would tolerate a relaxing of our standards is absolutely unfounded.”

The Federal Aviation Administration allowed Southwest Airlines to put millions of passengers at risk by letting the airline operate planes that did not meet U.S. aviation standards and by failing to provide its own inspectors with the training needed to ensure the highest degree of safety, according to a report released Tuesday by the Department of Transportation’s inspector general.

The strongly worded report called the FAA’s oversight of Southwest’s safety management system “ineffective” and said the agency improperly relied on Southwest’s own conclusion that repeated problems represented a “low risk, rather than requiring the airline to comply with its regulatory requirements.”

The inspector general said the “FAA cannot provide assurances that the carrier operates at the highest degree of safety in the public’s interest as required by law.”

CIA Surveillance

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: For decades, CIA read encrypted communications of allies and adversaries, Greg Miller, Feb. 11, 2020. For decades, the CIA read the encrypted communications of allies and adversaries. The CIA in partnership with West German intelligence was the secret owner of a Swiss company that supplied more than 120 countries from Iran to the Vatican with encryption machines.

cia logoFor more than half a century, governments all over the world trusted a single company to keep the communications of their spies, soldiers and diplomats secret.

The company, Crypto AG, got its first break with a contract to build code-making machines for U.S. troops during World War II. Flush with cash, it became a dominant maker of encryption devices for decades, navigating waves of technology from mechanical gears to electronic circuits and, finally, silicon chips and software.

The Swiss firm made millions of dollars selling equipment to more than 120 countries well into the 21st century. Its clients included Iran, military juntas in Latin America, nuclear rivals India and Pakistan, and even the Vatican.

But what none of its customers ever knew was that Crypto AG was secretly owned by the CIA in a highly classified partnership with West German intelligence. These spy agencies rigged the company’s devices so they could easily break the codes that countries used to send encrypted messages.

The decades-long arrangement, among the most closely guarded secrets of the Cold War, is laid bare in a classified, comprehensive CIA history of the operation obtained by The Washington Post and ZDF, a German public broadcaster, in a joint reporting project.

The account identifies the CIA officers who ran the program and the company executives entrusted to execute it. It traces the origin of the venture as well as the internal conflicts that nearly derailed it. It describes how the United States and its allies exploited other nations’ gullibility for years, taking their money and stealing their secrets.

The operation, known first by the code name “Thesaurus” and later “Rubicon,” ranks among the most audacious in CIA history.

“It was the intelligence coup of the century,” the CIA report concludes. “Foreign governments were paying good money to the U.S. and West Germany for the privilege of having their most secret communications read by at least two (and possibly as many as five or six) foreign countries.”

From 1970 on, the CIA and its code-breaking sibling, the National Security Agency, controlled nearly every aspect of Crypto’s operations — presiding with their German partners over hiring decisions, designing its technology, sabotaging its algorithms and directing its sales targets.

More On U.S. Economy

washington post logoWashington Post, Americans are increasingly optimistic about the state of the economy, Heather Long, Feb. 11, 2020 (print ed.). Confidence has soared even though the economy looks a lot like it did at the end of the Obama administration. Several more years of growth and job gains under President Trump have convinced many that the positive news will continue.

sprint tmobile logos

washington post logoWashington Post, Sprint, T-Mobile deal wins judicial approval, ushering in new era of telecom behemoths, Taylor Telford, Feb. 11, 2020. The $26 billion merger creates the nation’s third-largest wireless carrier as the industry hurtles toward the new frontier of ultrafast 5G service.

A federal judge has ruled in favor of Sprint and T-Mobile’s $26 billion merger, dismissing anti-competitive concerns and clearing the way for a deal which would create the nation’s third-largest wireless carrier as the industry hurtles toward the new frontier of ultrafast 5G service.

T-Mobile and Sprint, the Nos. 3 and 4 carriers by size, have long argued that the deal would shield them from the industry’s brutal pricing wars and expedite their ability to deliver 5G to the masses. Last year, they promised Washington they would build out a 5G wireless network to 97 percent of the country in three years, including much of rural America, while offering “same or better rate plans at the same or better prices.” The combined company, which will retain the T-Mobile name, is expected to serve more than 100 million subscribers, rivaling the even larger footprints of AT&T and Verizon.

U.S. District Court Judge Victor Marrero said the merger was unlikely to “substantially lessen competition,” rejecting arguments from California, New York and 11 other states that sued to block it.

“T-Mobile has redefined itself over the past decade as a maverick that has spurred the two largest players in its industry to make numerous pro-consumer changes. The proposed merger would allow the merged company to continue T-Mobile’s undeniably successful business strategy for the foreseeable future,” he wrote in his decision. “While Sprint has made valiant attempts to stay competitive in a rapidly developing and capital-intensive market, the overwhelming view both within Sprint and in the wider industry is that Sprint is falling farther and farther short of the targets it must hit to remain relevant as a significant competitor.”

Sprint shares spiked more than 72 percent on the news, trading at $8.25 by midday. T-Mobile surged 11.1 percent, to $93.90.

The deal could be complete as soon as April 1, the companies said in a news release, though it still requires approval from the California Public Utilities Commission. And though the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department approved the deal last year, it’s possible the legal battle isn’t over yet. New York Attorney General Letitia James, who spearheaded the lawsuit, said that the states “wholeheartedly” disagreed with the ruling and are considering an appeal.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Budget Math Grapples With Economic Reality, Jim Tankersley, Feb. 11, 2020 (print ed.). The budget predicts the economy will grow significantly faster than most economists anticipate. President Trump’s budget proposals have been defined by a belief that the economy will grow significantly faster than most economists anticipate. The latest version, released on Monday, is a brief departure: It concedes, for the first time, that the administration’s past projections were too optimistic.

Then it goes right back to forecasting 3 percent growth, for the better part of a decade.

Mr. Trump’s $4.8 trillion budget proposal is slightly larger than last year’s $4.75 trillion request and calls for increased spending on the military, the border wall, infrastructure and other priorities, including extending the president’s 2017 tax cuts. It also includes trillions of dollars of cuts to safety-net programs like Medicaid and discretionary spending programs outside of the military, like education and the environment.

The White House makes the case that this is affordable and that the deficit will start to fall, dropping below $1 trillion in the 2021 fiscal year, and that the budget will be balanced by 2035. That projection relies on rosy assumptions about growth and the accumulation of new federal debt — both areas where the administration’s past predictions have proved to be overconfident.

The new budget forecasts a growth rate for the United States economy of 2.8 percent this year — or, by the metric the administration prefers to cite, a 3.1 percent rate. That is more than a half percentage point higher than forecasters at the Federal Reserve and the Congressional Budget Office predict.

It then predicts growth above 3 percent annually for the next several years if the administration’s economic policies are enacted. The Fed, the budget office and others all see growth falling below 2 percent annually in that time. By 2030, the administration predicts the economy will be more than 15 percent larger than forecasters at the budget office do.

Past administrations have also dressed up their budget forecasts with economic projections that proved far too good to be true. In its fiscal year 2011 budget, for example, the Obama administration predicted several years of growth topping 4 percent in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis — a number it never came close to reaching even once.

World News

Strategic Culture Foundation, Opinion: Kushner’s Stamp of Zionist Racism on Peace Plan, Wayne Madsen, Feb. 11, 2020. There was never much doubt strategic culture logothat Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, was going to roll out as his much-ballyhooed “Middle East Peace Plan” an 80-page contrivance that would hand large portions of the West Bank to the Israelis and relegate the Palestinians to a powerless “state” composed of enclaves totally surrounded by heavily-militarized Israeli territory.

Kushner, who claimed he became a Middle East expert after reading twenty-five books since his pro-Israel father-in-law named him America’s Middle East peace agreement special “envoy” three years ago, never invited the people most impacted by his “dead-on-arrival” plan – the Palestinian people – to the negotiating table.

jared kushner Custom CustomNeither Kushner, right, nor Trump felt it was necessary to have invited Palestinians to the January 28, 2020 White House ceremony unveiling the “peace plan.” Only Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who has been criminally charged in Israel for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust, was invited to the White House ceremony. Netanyahu is so close to the Kushner family that he once slept in Jared Kushner’s bed when visiting the Kushner family in New Jersey.

Also present at the White House ceremony was major Trump campaign donor and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, an individual whose hatred for the Palestinians knows no bounds. Another key player in Trump’s lavish giveaway of the West Bank to the Israelis is David Friedman, Trump’s one-time bankruptcy lawyer and his ambassador to Israel. Friedman is on record advocating Israel’s annexation of the West Bank, which he and other expansionists call “Judea and Samaria,” place names drawn from a set of Biblical books of Hebrew mythology and folklore. Yet Kushner referred to previous serious Middle East peace plans, including the 1991 Madrid Conference and 1993 Oslo Accords as “fairy tales” and “tired old ideas.” In fact, ancient texts justifying slavery, misogyny, and fratricide – otherwise known as the Old Testament – represents true fairy tales and tired old ideas having no place in the 21st century.

Jared Kushner’s ex-federal convict father, Charles Kushner, has been a lifelong friend of Netanyahu and a key officer in Israel’s political influence machine in the United States. It was therefore not surprising that Jared Kushner’s plan advocates a Palestinian non-contiguous entity on the West Bank subservient to Israel and connected to the open-air ghetto of Gaza by an underground tunnel.

It was Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist dogma to equate Jews to rats and mice. Apparently, some of those, like Kushner and Netanyahu, who bemoan the loss of members of their families during the Holocaust, would relegate the Palestinians to human rodents scurrying underground beneath the ground between Gaza and the West Bank “reservations” allotted to the Palestinians.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Coronavirus Updates: Quarantine Ordered as Cases Are Linked to Shopping Center, Staff reports, Feb. 11, 2020.  Thousands were ordered into quarantine after cluster of cases linked to department store.

china flag SmallNearly a third of the confirmed coronavirus cases in Tianjin, a city of more than 15 million about 70 miles southeast of Beijing, have been linked to one department store, adding to fears about rapid transmission in tightly clustered communities.

Of 102 confirmed cases in the city, at least 33 patients worked or shopped at a department store in the Baodi district, or had close contact with employees or customers, according to the Tianjin health authorities. Many of them had no history of travel to Wuhan, the city where the outbreak emerged.

Officials estimated that 11,700 customers had visited the shopping complex during a period in late January. The authorities said that those customers would be quarantined, and that the store itself, which they did not identify, had been sealed and disinfected.

Nearly a third of the patients in the city of Tianjin were tied to a single mall. Officials estimated that nearly 12,000 people had been there in late January.

Here’s what else you need to know:

• Thousands were ordered into quarantine after cluster of cases linked to department store.
• Infections in a Hong Kong building raise fears about how the virus spreads.
• Virus could spread as migrant workers return to their jobs, official warns.
• Briton at heart of ski chalet outbreak goes public.
• W.H.O. leader says the virus poses ‘a very great threat.’

Thousands were ordered into quarantine after cluster of cases linked to department store.

Nearly a third of the confirmed coronavirus cases in Tianjin, a city of more than 15 million about 70 miles southeast of Beijing, have been linked to one department store, adding to fears about rapid transmission in tightly clustered communities.

Of 102 confirmed cases in the city, at least 33 patients worked or shopped at a department store in the Baodi district, or had close contact with employees or customers, according to the Tianjin health authorities. Many of them had no history of travel to Wuhan, the city where the outbreak emerged.

Officials estimated that 11,700 customers had visited the shopping complex during a period in late January. The authorities said that those customers would be quarantined, and that the store itself, which they did not identify, had been sealed and disinfected.

More 2020 Politics

Associated Press via Washington Post, Trump wins GOP primary, Weld nabs 9% of vote, Staff report,  Feb. 11, 2020. President Donald Trump overwhelmingly won New Hampshire’s GOP primary, but more than 12,000 votes went to a long-shot challenger, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld.

With most of the vote in, Trump already had amassed more votes in the New Hampshire primary than any incumbent president in history.

Trump’s vote share was approaching the modern historical high for an incumbent president, 86.43% set by Ronald Reagan in 1984. Weld received about 9% of the vote of New Hampshire Republicans.

The outcome was a reflection of Trump’s strong support among Republicans and his campaign’s nearly 18-month effort to diminish any significant threats to his renomination.

Trump appeared in the state on Monday evening ahead of the vote to energize Republicans and to inject some chaos into the Democratic race.

ny times logoNew York Times, Michael Bennet Drops Out of the Race, Julie Turkewitz and Maggie Astor, Feb. 11, 2020. Mr. Bennet, a senator from Colorado, took a middle path in the race for the Democratic nomination. He failed to make gains in the polls and with donors.

ny times logoNew York Times, Andrew Yang Ends His Presidential Campaign, Matt Stevens, Feb. 11, 2020. Mr. Yang, an entrepreneur and political outsider, mounted a long-shot campaign that promoted a universal basic income and lasted beyond expectations.

andrew yang twitterSpeaking to supporters inside a ballroom as New Hampshire’s primary results were coming in, Mr. Yang, right, said “endings are hard” and that he had intended to stay in the race until the end.

“I am the math guy, and it’s clear from the numbers we’re not going to win this campaign,” he said. “So tonight I’m announcing that I am suspending my campaign.”

Mr. Yang had spent considerable time and resources in the state and was banking on the support of its many independent voters. He had signaled in recent interviews and emails to supporters that he would need to vastly outperform expectations in the Granite State for his campaign to continue.

djt headshot Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: There’s nothing left of this guy, Bill Palmer, Feb. 11, 2020. You’re Donald Trump. You’re ten months away from an election that’ll send you to prison if you don’t win, and your poll numbers are in the gutter. Your corrupt Senate allies have just handed you a sham acquittal, in the last piece of major good news you’re likely to get before election day. So how do you go about seizing the moment?

bill palmer report logo headerNow we have our answer. If you’re Trump, you spend a prayer breakfast speech vowing revenge on your political opponents. You hold a White House press conference and start cursing and saying incoherent things. You sign off on the firing of multiple impeachment witnesses, even though they were of no further threat to you. Then you release a budget proposal so absurd it’ll probably cost you votes in November. Then, after new poll numbers reveal that you’re in just as bad of 2020 shape as ever, you tweet an f-word filled Larry David video because you don’t realize you’re the punchline in said video.

Can we stop pretending Donald Trump has a plan for 2020? This isn’t an effective strategy. It’s not a strategy, period. This guy doesn’t even have a functioning brain. He can’t speak, can’t think things through, can’t figure out what will make him look good or bad, can’t figure out that he’s the butt of the joke he’s promoting.

Donald Trump is as dangerous as ever. But it’s not because he’s “emboldened” – a buzzword that the media has already begun ditching, as we predicted. He’s dangerous because he’s cornered, at a time when he’s struggling to function on even a basic level. Trump is a ship adrift with no one at the wheel.

The Militant (Socialist newspaper), As Trump touts jobs and peace, Democrats face mounting crisis, Terry Evans, Feb.17, 2020 (print ed.). President Donald Trump used his State of the Union address to Congress Feb. 4 as a reelection rally, boasting “jobs are booming, incomes are soaring, poverty is plummeting, crime is falling, confidence is surging, and our country is thriving and highly respected again.” And he claimed he was “working to end America’s wars in the Middle East.”

The next day he got a boost when the Democrats’ impeachment drive to oust him before the 2020 elections went down to defeat. This deepened the crisis wracking the Democrats, who along with the Republicans have been the main parties of the capitalist rulers. The president’s poll numbers are now at the highest level since he was elected.

In 2016 Trump won the votes of millions of working people fed up with the disdain of successive administrations towards their deteriorating conditions of life. His Democratic opponents — from Hillary Clinton in 2016 to the dozens of rival candidates they’ve fielded this year — are desperately looking for a way to prevent those “deplorables” from electing him again.

The president told Congress and the others invited to the State of the Union speech that his administration was “relentlessly pro-worker” and had engineered a “blue-collar boom.” He pointed in particular to the drop in unemployment, including for African Americans, women, youth and veterans.

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Analysis: Iowa Caucus Mess Bad for Democrats, Good for Democracy? Gabriella Novello, Feb. 11, 2020. People rank their top three choices for a lot of things: which place has better coffee, which road has the least traffic. What if we did that for congressional races too?

Iowa Democrats wanted to modernize their caucuses and expand access. Instead, problems with a mobile app and many other issues forced the party to delay announcing the winner.

But what is an embarrassment for state Democrats might be a win for democracy. For some election integrity advocates, the mess in Iowa was the perfect example of why caucuses no longer work and need to be replaced.

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, First Person Opinion: Is Bernie Just George McGovern Déjà Vu or Déjà New? Harvey A. Schwartz, Feb. 11, 2020. George McGovern led bleeding-heart liberals down the same path of hope as Bernie Sanders. Will these bleeding hearts become broken hearts as they did in 1972?

McGovern promised to end the Vietnam War. To grant amnesty to draft evaders. Cut defense spending by 37 percent. He proposed an Andrew Yang-like “demogrant” program to give $1,000 to every citizen. (McGovern offered $1,000 per year. Yang proposes $1,000 per month. Is there a more stark example of inflation?)

We didn’t “feel the Bern” but we jumped on the McGovern train. Thousands of young people knocked on doors, travelled the country enrolling young voters. It was a joyous children’s crusade. We fought against Nixon, the personification of everything wrong with America. We were the future, empowered by years of street marches. We’d fought the system and we thought we’d won.

Of course, McGovern let us down. Nixon carried 49 states in the election, losing only in Massachusetts and the District of Columbia. We’d been blinded by our dreams. The political nirvana we hoped possible was a bridge too far, but we didn’t know that then. We were ready for what McGovern promised. The rest of America was not.

Right up to election day our eyes were blinded by hope-dust. The fear is that it could be happening again with Bernie.

Harvey A. Schwartz is a retired Boston civil-rights attorney. He has argued two civil-rights cases before the United States Supreme Court. His novel Never Again describes a frightening scenario in which something similar to the Nazi Holocaust happens in the near future in the US.

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Opinion: Not Feeling the Bern, Bill Shubart, Feb. 11, 2020. While Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) has assembled a broad coalition of supporters nationally, interactions with residents of his home state Vermont has people there questioning his fitness to be president.

To his great credit, the Bernie of 2020 is asking the tough questions, putting forward solutions, and calling out endemic corruption. The Vermont senator has shifted the dialogue in the election to give voice to many Americans whose voices are not heard in mainstream media.

But I’m haunted by his all-too-apparent lack of emotional empathy and humility, both of which I believe are vital characteristics of true leadership. Effective leadership listens and considers at least as much as it speaks. Too often, Bernie doesn’t respond to a question or a challenge but rather blurts out what he’s been anxious to say.

U.S. Crime / Trafficking

U.S. Department of Justice, United States Attorney Announces Money Laundering Charges Against Operators Of Multimillion-Dollar Nationwide High-End Prostitution Enterprise, Staff Report, Feb. 11, 2020. Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Peter C. Fitzhugh, Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Homeland Security’s (“DHS”) Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) in New York, and Dermot Shea, the Commissioner of the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”), announced today the arrest of Tracy Reynolds, a/k/a “Sara,” and Izhak Cohen, for money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering in connection with their ownership and operation of VIP Escorts, a nationwide multimillion-dollar business offering high end prostitution services, as well as the seizure of bank accounts and 391 websites related to the VIP Escorts business.

Reynolds was arrested this morning at Tampa International Airport while boarding a flight to Mexico and was presented today in Tampa federal court. Cohen was arrested by Israeli authorities in Hadera, Israel. The United States Attorney’s Office will seek Cohen’s extradition to stand trial in the United States.

According to the allegations in the Complaint sworn out in Manhattan federal court:[1]

From at least 2012 to the present, Reynolds and Cohen have operated an online high-end prostitution business through their company and its affiliates known as “VIP Escorts.” VIP Escorts maintains a website, http://wvvw.vipescorts.com (the “VIP Escorts Website”), which it used to promote its prostitution services and was registered to Cohen. VIP Escorts also operates an array of affiliated escort websites, which also advertised its prostitution services, with names such as “Prestige Escorts,” “American Escorts,” “Russian Escorts,” and “Manhattan Exotics,” all of which are registered to Cohen.

As part of their prostitution business, Reynolds and Cohen arranged for escorts to meet clients in Manhattan and in numerous other locations for prostitution services, charging them thousands of dollars. Reynolds and Cohen required escorts to deposit the proceeds of their commercial sex acts into a large number of bank accounts that they controlled, many of them in the name of fake entities. Reynolds and Cohen then laundered the money through thousands of domestic and international financial transactions. In total, over $10 million passed through various personal and business accounts controlled by Reynolds during the course of this conspiracy, and over $1 million was sent from Reynolds in the United States to Cohen in Israel in thousands of small transactions designed to conceal the nature, location, source, ownership, and control of the proceeds.

Reynolds and Cohen then used the proceeds of the prostitution scheme for personal gain and to further their illegal prostitution business. They paid, for example, over $295,000 from bank accounts under their control to advertise the VIP Escorts business on a known advertising platform for the prostitution industry.

Feb. 10

Crime, Courts, Privacy Headlines

U.S. 2020 Election Headlines

New Hampshire Polls

Inside DC

World News

Trump Watch

Media News

 

U.S. 2020 Election Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Top Democrats beset by infighting, threatening chances against Trump, Michael Scherer and Sean Sullivan, Feb. 10, 2020 (print ed.). Democratic leaders have edged toward the brink of open war with one another in recent days after a series of jarring setbacks that could jeopardize the party's chances against President Trump, who continues to solidify his iron-fisted control over the Republican election apparatus.

democratic donkey logoThe infighting focuses largely on the failed caucus process in Iowa, with state and national Democratic leaders at odds over who deserves blame, as well as an increasingly bitter dispute over the rules governing who gets into future nationally televised candidate debates — a process that could allow billionaire Mike Bloomberg to make the stage later this month.

In a particularly stark sign, supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have returned to bashing the Democratic National Committee, reviving grievances from the divisive 2016 primary race. In that campaign, Sanders backers said that the system had been stacked against the democratic socialist — a view later affirmed when WikiLeaks released hacked internal emails — and supporters of nominee Hillary Clinton blamed Sanders for failing to sufficiently rally his base on Clinton’s behalf in the general election.

washington post logoWashington Post, A major hurdle for Warren, Biden in New Hampshire, Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Matt Viser and Felicia Sonmez, Feb. 10, 2020 (print ed.). The grim question facing the two candidates is not whether they can win the state’s primary, strategists say, but how low they will finish — and what that would mean for their candidacies.

ny times logoNew York Times, How the Iowa Caucuses Became an Epic Fiasco for Democrats, Reid J. Epstein, Sydney Ember, Trip Gabriel and Mike Baker, Feb. 10, 2020 (print ed.). The problems that beset the Democratic Party’s first state caucus of the presidential race ran far deeper and wider than one bad app. The total system breakdown casts doubt on how a critical contest on the American political calendar has been managed for years.

Until now, the main public villain in the Iowa caucus fiasco has been the reporting app, created by a company called Shadow Inc., along with a “coding issue” in a back-end results reporting system that state party officials blamed for the chaos. But the crackup resulted from cascading failures going back months.

The fragile edifice of the caucuses, which demoralized Democrats in search of a strong nominee to take on President Trump, crumbled under the weight of technology flops, lapses in planning, failed oversight by party officials, poor training, and a breakdown in communication dnc square logobetween paid party leaders and volunteers out in the field, who had devoted themselves for months to the nation’s first nominating contest.

The wider scope of the malfunctions came to light partly because of a new set of reporting requirements, mandated by the Democratic National Committee after allies of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont pushed the national party to demand more transparency following his narrow loss to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Iowa caucuses.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Mike Bloomberg drops the hammer on Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Feb. 10, 2020. Mike Bloomberg has been running one of the more surreal presidential candidacies of the modern era. He’s spending the Democratic 2020 primary race running pervasive television ads that attack Donald Trump, while not even bothering to try to meet the qualifications for participating in the Democratic debates.

michael bloomberg2Bloomberg has also bill palmer report logo headervowed to spend the general election running ads aimed at helping whoever the Democratic nominee ends up being.

That brings us to Mike Bloomberg’s latest television ad, which consists entirely of great lines delivered by past presidents from both parties, interspersed with the embarrassing and un-presidential things that Donald Trump keeps saying. The ad is highly effective. You can watch it here (via Twitter).

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Question All Democrats Need to Ask Themselves, David Leonhardt, right, Feb. 10, 2020 (print ed.). If your david leonhardt thumbpreferred candidate doesn’t win the nomination, will you still do everything you can to deny Trump a second term?

My message to panicking Democrats is: Take a deep breath, and don’t make your job harder. Neither side of the party can ensure that its preferred candidate will win the nomination. But both can help avoid the outcome they fear most — Trump’s re-election.

The current moment, when everybody is wearing a veil of ignorance about the nomination, is a good time for Democrats to ask themselves a question: If the primaries don’t turn out as you hope, will you still do everything in your power to deny Trump a second term?

Or will you instead exaggerate your differences with the nominee — say, complain about Sanders or Warren as a Trump-style radical; or buy into the caricature of Buttigieg as a corporate tool; or retweet, with outrage added, the least enlightened things Biden or Bloomberg has ever said?

New Hampshire Polls

538.com, Election Update: Our First Big National Poll Shows Just How Unsettled The Race Is, Nathaniel Rakich and Geoffrey Skelley, Feb. 10, 2020. But Sanders still leads in New Hampshire.

It’s been a week since Iowa voted, and we have few national polls to help us understand just how much the caucus results — messy though they were — have affected the attitudes of potential Democratic primary voters around the country. But today Quinnipiac University released a national survey conducted entirely after Iowa voted, and it found a new polling front-runner: Sen. Bernie Sanders, who led the field with 25 percent support.

We also got two new non-tracking polls of New Hampshire:

These polls suggest there is still a chance that Warren, Biden or Klobuchar could catch Buttigieg for second place. However, at the same time, they confirmed the findings of almost every other poll we’ve seen in New Hampshire this week: Sanders has a modest lead.
Filed under 2020 Election

Talking Points Memo, Opinion: New Polls Suggest Dems Should Chill the F Out, Josh Marshall, Feb. 10, 2020. Two important new polls have come out this afternoon. They’re clarifying on a number of grounds.

The first is that President Trump’s rise in the polls is at best overstated. Quinnipiac puts him at 43% approval, on the high side for that poll but the same as their previous three polls back into December. Monmouth has him at 44%. Their previous three polls had him at 43%. Just moments ago Yougov released a new batch of polls which put Trump at 41%, basically where he’s been since forever. (I put more stock in Quinnipiac and Monmouth but it’s another important data point.)

Take this all together and they suggest Trump is in a relatively strong position based on where he’s been over the last three years. But there’s little evidence here of some game-changing move. Certainly nothing like the 49% Gallup found last week, which remains a distant outlier.

Quinnipiac has head to head match ups with Democrats. All the top candidates beat Trump by significant margins. Bloomberg 51-42, Sanders 51-43, Biden 50-43. There’s a lot of information that tells us that President Trump can definitely win reelection. But these numbers all point to an incumbent who has an uphill climb at best. And at least for now there’s little evidence suggesting a really different situation than we’ve had to date.

Trump Watch

washington post logolindsey graham judiciary chairmanWashington Post, Lindsey Graham says DOJ is handling information from Giuliani on Bidens, Paul Kane, Feb. 10, 2020 (print ed.). The Senate Judiciary Committee chairman said a “process” is in place to verify such data from Ukraine, warning “it could be Russian propaganda.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr acknowledges Justice Dept. has created ‘intake process’ to vet Giuliani’s information on Bidens, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett, Feb. 10, 2020. Attorney General William P. Barr acknowledged Monday that the Justice Department would evaluate material that Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney, had gathered from Ukrainian sources claiming to have damaging information about former vice president Joe Biden and his family — though Barr and other officials suggested Giuliani was being treated no differently than any tipster.

At a news conference on an unrelated case, Barr confirmed an assertion made Sunday by Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) that the Justice Department had “created a process that Rudy could give information and they would see if it’s verified.”

william barr new oBarr said he had established an “intake process in the field” so that the Justice Department and intelligence agencies could scrutinize information they were given.

“That is true for all information that comes to the department relating to the Ukraine, including anything Mr. Giuliani might provide,” Barr said. He did not provide any other specifics.

A Justice Department official said Giuliani had “recently” shared information with federal law enforcement officials through the process described by Barr. Two people familiar with the matter said the information is being routed to the U.S. attorney’s office in Pittsburgh.

Barr’s announcement angered Democrats, who questioned whether Giuliani was getting special treatment from Trump’s Justice Department.

The House Judiciary Committee chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), wrote to Barr on Monday saying that “any official relationship between Mr. Giuliani and the Department raises serious questions about conflicts of interest — both for the Department, generally, and for you, specifically.”

Former Justice Department counterintelligence official David Laufman tweeted: “There is nothing normal about the Attorney General creating a special ‘intake process in the field’ for info relating to claims advancing a White House political narrative — particularly for someone reportedly under criminal investigation.”

washington post logogeorge conway post half faceWashington Post, Opinion: Trump is right. We might have to impeach him again, George T. Conway III, right, Feb. 10, 2020. George T. Conway III is a lawyer and is also an adviser to the Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump super PAC.

With essentially no pretense about why he was doing it, the president brazenly retaliated Friday against two witnesses who gave truthful testimony in the House’s impeachment inquiry. He fired Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. And he also fired a third man, Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, merely for being the brother of the first. Trump essentially admitted his retaliatory motive on Saturday, when he tweeted that he sacked Vindman in part for having “reported contents of my ‘perfect’ calls incorrectly.”

If this were a criminal investigation, and Alexander Vindman and Sondland had given their testimony to a grand jury, this Friday Night Massacre could have been a crime. At the very least, it ought to be impeachable: If Richard M. Nixon was to be impeached for authorizing hush money for witnesses, and Trump himself was actually impeached for directing defiance of House subpoenas, then there should be no doubt that punishing witnesses for complying with subpoenas and giving truthful testimony about presidential misconduct should make for a high crime or misdemeanor as well.

But it’s really not about this one day, or this one egregious act. It’s about who Trump is, who he always was and who he always will be. It’s about the complete mismatch between the man and the office he holds.

It’s about the fact that the presidency is a fiduciary position, the ultimate public trust. And that Trump’s narcissism won’t allow him to put anyone else’s interests above his own, including the nation’s. Indeed, he can’t even distinguish between his interests and the nation’s — and doesn’t need to, according to his lawyers and now the judgment of the Senate. For Trump, it’s always L’état, c’est Trump, as many observers have trenchantly put it.

So America beware: The state is Trump, and he’s very, very angry. We might, indeed, have to do it again.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion Columnist, How Trump Got Trickled Down, Paul Krugman, right, Feb. 10, 2020. He pretended to be different. He paul krugmanwas lying,

One thing many people forget about the 2016 election is that as a candidate, Donald Trump promised to be a different kind of Republican. Unlike the mainstream of his party, he declared, he would raise taxes on the rich and wouldn’t cut programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid that ordinary Americans rely on. At the same time, he would invest large sums in rebuilding America’s infrastructure.

He was lying.

Trump’s only major legislative achievement, the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act, was absolutely standard modern Republicanism: huge tax cuts for corporations, plus tax breaks that overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy. The only unconventional aspect of the legislation was the variety of new tax scams it made possible, like the benefits for investors in “opportunity zones,” which were supposed to help poor communities but have actually enriched billionaire real estate developers.

irs logoTrump also came very close to passing a health care “reform” that would have imposed savage cuts on Medicaid, eliminated protections for those with pre-existing conditions and taken away health insurance from more than 30 million Americans.

And there has, of course, been no infrastructure bill; in fact, the Trump administration’s repeated proclamations of “Infrastructure Week” have become a running joke.

Policy wonks are still poring over the latest Trump budget, released on Monday, but there was no hiding the same reverse Robin-Hoodism as in previous budgets: taking from the poor and middle class while giving to the rich.

In other words, Trump in practice, as opposed to Trump in pretense, has turned out to be every bit as committed to trickle-down economics as Republicans in Congress have been for decades.

People often say that Trump has captured the G.O.P., which is true as far as things like rule of law and support for democracy are concerned. But it’s equally true that the G.O.P. has captured Trump when it comes to domestic policy.

And as I wrote last week, the economic good news of recent years — not as good as Trump claims, but the economy has indeed been strong — largely reflects the reality that after hobbling the economy with fiscal austerity under Barack Obama, Republicans have embraced runaway deficit spending under Trump.

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Xi Tours Beijing After Virus Kills 97 in Single Day in China, Staff and wire reports, Feb. 10, 2020. Xi Jinping, China’s powerful but recently aloof leader, toured several public places in Beijing on Monday afternoon to oversee efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak, according to a flurry of reports in the state media.

Mr. Xi, whose most recent public appearance came during a meeting with Cambodia’s prime minister last week, traveled first to a neighborhood roughly five miles north of his residence near the Forbidden City and toured a local government office.

He later visited a city hospital, where he took part in a video conference with officials and workers at a hospital in Wuhan, the city at the center of the outbreak more than 600 miles to the south.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: 65 new coronavirus cases detected on quarantined cruise ship in Japan, Simon Denyer, Feb. 10, 2020. China tentatively returned to work on Monday after an extended Lunar New Year shutdown precipitated by the coronavirus outbreak, but with deaths from the epidemic continuing to rise, much of the country remained at a standstill, and many were working from home. Meanwhile, china flag Smallanother 60 people on board a quarantined cruise ship have tested positive for the virus.

Here’s what we know:

      • An additional 65 people on board the Diamond Princess have tested positive for the new coronavirus, Japan’s Health Minisry says, bringing to 135 the number of people who are known to have been infected. Pressure is mounting to test everyone on the ship.
      • China now reports 908 deaths and about 40,000 cases of coronavirus. On Sunday alone, 97 people died, the highest daily death toll since the outbreak began. Almost 6,500 of the affected patients were in critical condition, authorities said Monday.

ny times logoNew York Times, Cruise Ship’s Coronavirus Outbreak Leaves Crew Nowhere to Hide, Ben Dooley and Motoko Rich, Feb. 10, 2020. Cases of the new virus on the quarantined Diamond Princess reached 135 on Monday. Among them are at least 10 workers, and conditions below decks have raised fears of further spread.

As coronavirus cases rapidly multiply on the quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess, the more than 2,500 passengers on board live in effective isolation. They receive meals in their cabins. They keep an officially mandated distance of six feet from each other for the few minutes each day when they are allowed on deck for walks.

Below decks, the situation is different. There, hundreds of crew members are eating, living and working elbow to elbow as they try to keep life as comfortable as possible for those above. They line up for simple buffet meals and then sit down together to eat. Bathrooms are shared by up to four people, and cabins often by two.

SouthFront, Fierce Clashes Between Hayat Tahrir al-Sham And Syrian Army Erupt West Of Saraqib. Turkish Artillery Strikes Reported, Staff report, Feb. 10, 2020.

syrian flag wavingOn February 10, fierce clashes erupted between the Syrian Army and forces led by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) near Nayrab, San and Afis in the province of Idlib. These villages are located just west of the town of Saraqib recently liberated by the Syrian Army from terrorists.

Pro-militant sources report that the attack is a part of the large operation to capture Saraqib from the army. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and other groups involved are actively employing military equipment and weapons supplied by Turkey.

Turkish troops were already spotted near the frontline, while pro-militant sources report that Turkish artillery strikes supported the militant attack.

      • brazil flag wavingWashington Post, In agricultural giant Brazil, a new and growing hazard: The illegal trade in pesticides, Terrence McCoy, Irresponsible pesticide use worldwide poisons millions of people, kills hundreds of thousands and damages soil, water and ecosystems. The illegal, unregulated trade, estimated at $2 billion in Brazil, makes everything worse.
      • Washington Post, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s would-be successor resign, Loveday Morris and Luisa Beck​, Loveday Morris and Luisa Beck​, The move follows uproar after a local party branch backed the same candidate as the far-right Alternative for Germany party in a vote for state premier last week.
      • Washington Post, Ireland’s Sinn Fein party surges in historic but inconclusive vote, Amanda Ferguson and Rick Noack, Exit polls and early tallies showed the left-wing nationalist party tied with or ahead of the two center-right parties that have dominated Irish politics for nearly a century.

Telegraph, Syria and Turkey on collision course in Idlib after regime fire kills Turkish troops, Josie Ensor, Feb. 10, 2020.  Deadly clashes threatens to draw neighbours into a direct confrontation they have so far managed to avoid in the nine-year war.

SouthFront, Saudi-led Coalition in Yemen to Lose Even More Of Its Sudanese Backbone, Staff report, Feb. 10, 2020. Sudan is reconsidering its involvement in the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, and is drawing down its forces, Information Minister Faisal Mohamed Salih said.

“Currently, there is a revision of the whole war in Yemen, even among the coalition’s principal countries, and there is an opinion that military activities will not solve the problem, and will likely to compound it,” he claimed.
Before December 2019, Sudan had approximately 15,000 troops fighting against the Houthis as part of the Saudi-led coalition.

According to reports, up to 40,000 Sudanese troops were deployed in the country during the peak of the conflict in 2016-2017. There were also reports of child soldiers from Sudan fighting in the Yemen intervention, and they’ve even been quoted that without them, the Houthis would have reached Riyadh in a counter-offensive.

A security company in the UAE, Black Shields, was accused of recruiting Sudanese nationals with a promise of high salaries for being security guards in the country, but instead was sending them to fight in Yemen.

This is not welcome news for the Saudi-led coalition, who even with Sudanese support have been on the backfoot of the intervention. Time and again it has been proven that neither the Saudi armed forces, nor the UAE armed forces wish to take part in the ground offensive in Yemen and sacrifice their lives. That is why the they primarily carry out airstrikes with varied success.

Crime, Courts, Privacy Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Charges Chinese Military Officers in 2017 Equifax Hacking, Katie Benner, Feb. 10, 2020. The breach was particularly china flag Smallsevere because Social Security numbers and other sensitive data were stolen from nearly 145 million Americans.

The Justice Department announced charges on Monday against four members of China’s military on suspicion of hacking into Equifax, one of the nation’s largest credit reporting agencies, in 2017 and stealing trade secrets and the personal data of about 145 million Americans.

william barr at doj“This was a deliberate and sweeping intrusion into the private information of the American people,” Attorney General William P. Barr, left, said in a statement.

The charges underscored China’s quest to obtain the personal data of Americans — which Beijing can use to propel advances in artificial intelligence and espionage — and its willingness to flout a 2015 agreement with the United States to refrain from hacking and cyberattacks, all in an effort to expand economic power and influence.

Though not as large as other major breaches, the attack on Atlanta-based Equifax was far more severe. Hackers stole names, birth dates and Social Security numbers of millions of Americans — data that can be used to access information like medical histories and bank accounts.

“This kind of attack on American industry is of a piece with other Chinese illegal acquisitions of sensitive personal data,” Mr. Barr said in announcing the charges on Monday at the Justice Department, citing China’s theft of records in recent years from the government’s Office of Personnel Management, Marriott International and the insurance company Anthem.

The indictment suggests the hack was part of a series of major thefts organized by the People’s Liberation Army and Chinese intelligence Justice Department log circularagencies. Mr. Barr said that China can use caches of personal information to better target American intelligence officers and other officials.

The biggest of those breaches was the theft in 2015 of roughly 22 million security clearance files from the government personnel office, which keeps track of federal employees and contractors.

It quickly became clear that that data was of significant value to the Chinese government: American officials with security clearances, including some of the most senior members of the government, had to reveal foreign contacts, relationships including extramarital affairs, their health history and information about their children and other family members.

The breach was so severe that the C.I.A. had to cancel assignments for undercover officers planning to go to China; even though the C.I.A. did not submit its employees’ information to the personnel office, those officials were often undercover as State Department or other American officials.

washington post logoroger stoneWashington Post, Roger Stone deserves 7 to 9 years in prison for lying to Congress in Russia probe, U.S. prosecutors say, Spencer S. Hsu, Ann E. Marimow and Devlin Barrett, Feb. 10, 2020. The longtime confidant of President Trump faces sentencing Feb. 20 for impeding an investigation into hacked Democratic emails during the 2016 presidential election.

Roger Stone, shown in a file photo, deserves 7 to 9 years in prison for lying to Congress in Russia probe, U.S. prosecutors say.

The longtime confidant of President Trump faces sentencing Feb. 20 for impeding an investigation into hacked Democratic emails during the 2016 presidential election.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Holy crap is Roger Stone ever screwed, Bill Palmer, Feb. 10, 2020. When Roger Stone was convicted on seven felony counts, Palmer Report said this meant that he would likely spend the rest of his life in prison. Considering his advanced age, and the rate at which bill palmer report logo headerprison ages people, and the fact that he’ll have to do his time in solitary confinement, even a sentence of a couple years would effectively be a life sentence. Now prosecutors have made their sentencing recommendation, and it’s a doozy.

In new court filings today, federal prosecutors are calling for Roger Stone to get seven to nine years in prison. If Judge Amy Berman Jackson agrees with them and gives him a sentence this long, then Stone will never taste freedom again. Even if she only gives him half that long in prison, it’s very likely a life sentence.

Rolling Stone, QAnon Believers Are Now Running for Congress, Peter Wade, Feb. 10, 2020. “I do believe there is a group in Brussels, Belgium, that do eat aborted babies,” one candidate told the New York Times. Welcome to our modern dystopia where believers in QAnon, a conspiracy theory, are running for elected office.

One such follower is congressional candidate Matthew Lusk, who is running unopposed for the Republican nomination in Florida’s fifth district, which is currently represented by Democrat Alfred Lawson. Speaking with the New York Times, Lusk said that he believes Q “brings what the fake news will not touch without slanting.” He even has a page on his website dedicated to the theory. The page, labeled Q, simply reads, “who is Q,” with the letter Q in large font.

Believers in QAnon subscribe to a collection of conspiracy theories about the “deep state” and believe that a person who goes by Q is a highly-ranked government official who posts clues about government corruption on online message boards. Followers often believe in Pizzagate — a theory that claims prominent Democrats were running a pedophile ring out of a D.C. pizza shop that led to a believer entering the business armed with an AR-15. And, they think that Trump was recruited to run for president by the military to break up a pedophile ring run by government officials. Believers also thought that Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation was merely a cover and that he was really going to arrest top Democrats in the pedophile ring and hold them at Guantanamo Bay. Some also think that John F. Kennedy Jr. is not actually dead but is alive and a Trump supporter. The FBI has labeled the group a domestic terrorism threat.

American System Radio, Opinion: In Tuesday’s New Hampshire Primary, Get A Democratic Ballot And Vote For The Candidate Who Will Be Most Effective In Beating Trump, Webster G. Tarpley and Daniela Walls, Feb. 10, 2020. This Is No Time For Childish Fantasies Of Utopia As Hell Gapes Before Us.

Hideous Reality Of Blue Collar Boom: Trump’s FY 2021 Budget Is Massive Betrayal Of His 2016 Campaign Promises: Proposal Calls For Killer Cuts In Food Stamps (SNAP), Housing Assistance, and Support For Education; Demand For Slave Labor, Including By The Disabled To Get Food Stamps, Will Throw 700,000 Needy American Off The Rolls.

Rental Assistance From Ben Carson’s Department Of Housing And Urban Development Will Be Slashed By More Than 15%, Increasing Homelessness; Welfare Payments (Temporary Assistance For Needy Families, TANF) To Be Lowered By 10%; Social Security Disability Insurance Set To Be Devastated By $75 Billion In Cuts, Weakening Social Security Itself; And Don’t Forget Trump’s Davos Plan For Savage Cuts To Medicare To Speed Program’s 2024 Insolvency!; Dem Candidates Must Pound These Points, Exploiting Monumental Stupidity Of White House In Announcing Them!

New Austerity Program Follows GOP Tax Scam Of 2 Years Ago, Which Helped Rich Plutocrats And Large Corporations But Left $1 Trillion Deficit; Just Another GOP Austerity Ghoul: Trump Falls Back On Classic GOP Litany Of Waste, Fraud, and Abuse To Camouflage His Genocidal Austerity Policy!

World Crisis Radio, Opinion: No Blue Collar Boom, But A Bubble Close To Bursting, Webster G. Tarpley, Feb. 8, 2020. Wall Street’s Demands For Subsidized 14-Day Repo Money Exceed Offerings From New York Fed On Tuesday And Thursday; Suspicions Grow That a Zombie Bank May Be Approaching Insolvency; Total Cash Injections To Ward Off Liquidity Crunch Now At $6.7 Trillion;

Democrats Must Stop Squawking And Show Voters That Under Trump, It Will Be Medicare For None 2024;

Carville “Scared To Death” Of Democratic Primary Outcome: Defeat Of Trump Is Only Issue -- Everything Else Depends On His Ouster; House Takeover In 2018 Based On Moderate Left Candidates With Stress On Saving Obamacare; Then Press Went Crazy For AOC; Urban Core Of Party Not Enough; Bernie Set To Duplicate December’s Tragic Failure Of Jeremy Corbin Of British Labor Party; Open Borders Not Practical; Warren Mysteriously Decided To Tail After Bernie On Medicare For All; Dems Must Choose Between Ideological Cult And Majority Party Capable Of Taking Power!

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Amazon seeks to depose Trump, Esper in JEDI bid protest, Aaron Gregg and Jay Greene, Feb. 10, 2020. Amazon is protesting the award of a Defense Department cloud computing contract worth up to $10 billion. The contract was awarded to Microsoft after President Trump expressed concerns that it would be awarded to Amazon.

amazon logo smallAmazon Web Services is seeking to depose President Trump and Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper in a high-stakes protest over the Pentagon’s handling of a $10 billion cloud computing contract, court records show.

The motion filed Monday in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims significantly raises the stakes in a bitter procurement dispute over a long-awaited defense contract to create the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, known as JEDI. The contract would create a powerful, centralized computing system for use by the military and operated by a single commercial technology company.

The contract was awarded to Microsoft in late October after Esper announced he would “reexamine” the Pentagon’s approach to JEDI. Just before Esper’s review, the president said in televised remarks that he had received “tremendous complaints” from Amazon’s competitors, citing Microsoft, Oracle and IBM.

Amazon alleges the surprise award to Microsoft was tainted by “repeated public and behind-the-scenes attacks” from Trump.

Amazon seeks to force Pentagon to halt work on JEDI cloud computing contract

“President Trump has repeatedly demonstrated his willingness to use his position as President and Commander in Chief to interfere with government functions — including federal procurements — to advance his personal agenda,” Amazon Web Services spokesman Drew Herdener said in a statement Monday.

More U.S. Politics

Palmer Report, Everything hits the fan at once, Shirley Kennedy, Feb. 10, 2020. Experts predicted that once “president” Donald Trump was “acquitted” in the sham senate trial, he would be worse. In our hearts, we already knew this. We likely could have guessed some of his initial actions, such as going after Mitt Romney and those who testified against him in the House investigation: Gordon Sondlon and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman.

bill palmer report logo headerHis justification for Vindman, according to the Independent and his own Tweet, was that Vindman was “very insubordinate, reported contents of my ‘perfect’ calls incorrectly.” Let’s say for the sake of fantasy that this is true. Then, what infraction did Vindman’s twin brother Yevgeny commit? He too was fired from the National Security Council. Trump is an evil liar, and his base continues to eat it up, and they appear oblivious to everything else he does, including Trump’s continued robbery of taxpayers.

President Donald Trump officialThe Atlantic published a piece questioning the cost of Secret Service rooms when traveling with Trump. They’re not on vacation, nor are these luxury trips. Still, they (we) were charged anywhere from $400 to $650 per night to stay at Mar-a-Lago. David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) has been keeping tabs on Trump’s robbery and recently revealed not only the charges at Mar-a-Lago but that the Secret Service (again, we) were charged $17,000 per month for a small cottage at Trump’s Bedminster, NJ golf course, regardless of Trump’s presence. So, if Trump wasn’t there, we can assume that neither were the Secret Service, yet taxpayers are paying rent for this cottage.

The Atlantic reveals that just last year, Trump’s son Eric was asked about charges for the Secret Service when traveling with Trump, and just like his miscreant father, Eric blatantly lied: “If my father travels, they stay at our properties for free.” He went on to say that his father is saving the government tons of money by allowing the Secret Service to stay free or for “$50 per night.” Wow. The lying apples don’t fall far from the tree in this criminal family. It is painfully clear why Trump wanted the presidency and why he fights to keep it, even though he has no interest in doing what’s best for this country. The most puzzling thing in this equation, however, is his supporters.

Other than the wealthy 1% who like Trump because he protects their millions and the Evangelicals who don’t like abortion, it is hard to honestly fathom the attraction of this man to people who barely have a pot to piss in or window to throw it out of. He cares nothing about them. He does, however, care about something very important to them: Racism and hate. As the Independent also reports, the KKK has issued a front-page endorsement of Trump. What a shock. When this same organization endorsed Ronald Regan years ago, he immediately denounced them, their organization, and their endorsement. Don’t expect Trump to do the same. He needs those votes.

Everything surrounding or even remotely related to Trump is coming to a head. His white supremacist followers are getting bolder by the day, and the rest of the world isn’t going to sit back and allow them to do what they wish they could. The ultimate fallout from Trump is not going to be pretty.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Who’s Really Shredding Standards on Capitol Hill? Joanne Freeman (historian at Yale), Feb. 10, 2020 (print ed.). Naming the alleged whistle-blower is much worse than tearing up a speech.

Congressmen have pulled guns on each other. They’ve shoved and punched each other, and smacked at foes with fireplace tongs. They’ve engaged in mass brawls, toppling desks, tossing spittoons and, in one case, yanking off a toupee. The most famous violence in congressional history is the caning of the abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts by Representative Preston Brooks of South Carolina on the Senate floor in 1856, but it was not an anomaly.

Rand Paul oBy far, the most skilled practitioners of this showy statecraft were Southern slaveholders in the decades leading up to the Civil War. Threatened by even the hint of opposition to slavery, they used bold public threats during debate to frighten their foes into compliance or silence, tossing off insults or dangling duel challenges to set an example. Faced with the choice of a fistfight or a duel — or the humiliation of avoiding one — most men backed down or held back. For Southerners, transgressing rules was part of the point; it was a show of power.

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, right, used the same form of showmanship when he exposed the alleged whistle-blower’s name during impeachment proceedings last Tuesday. Days after Chief Justice John Roberts refused to read a question from Mr. Paul that revealed the name, Mr. Paul did the deed himself.

Although not strictly speaking illegal, Mr. Paul’s actions were wrong, and some Republican colleagues said as much, privately admitting that they “probably” wouldn’t have done it. But for Mr. Paul, violating norms was the point. By exposing the name — and getting away with it — he was warning off potential whistle-blowers-to-be.

Did he succeed? We don’t yet know, though the bar of success is low; prevent one potential informant from stepping forward, or even give one pause, and Mr. Paul has scored a victory. President Trump’s public name-calling and bullying have done much the same, frightening people into compliance for fear of vengeance in Washington or back home.

Mr. Paul’s stunt shows us the real power of such transgressions. Incivility is one thing; bullying people into silence is quite another.

Media News

washington post logonancy pelosi twitterWashington Post, Democrats call for Facebook, Twitter to take down edited Nancy Pelosi video, Cat Zakrzewski, Feb. 10, 2020 (print ed.). It’s likely just the start of an ongoing battle between social media companies and politicians about altered media.

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), who represents Silicon Valley, Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who helms the House antitrust investigation of Big Tech, and a longtime Pelosi staffer were among the prominent voices who called for Twitter and Facebook to twitter bird Customtake action against the Pelosi clip.

facebook logoThe video was edited to make it look like the House speaker was ripping up a copy of Trump’s State of the Union speech right after he paid tribute to various special guests --- including a Tuskegee airman and a military family being reunited. (Pelosi did tear up the speech, but at the conclusion of the president’s remarks, not in response to any individual guest.)

ny times logoNew York Times, He Combs the Web for Russian Bots. That Makes Him a Target, Adam Satariano, Feb. 10, 2020 (print ed.). Ben Nimmo, shown below right, in an Atlantic Council photo, helped pioneer disinformation investigations. His work is now more urgent as misleading internet tactics spread.

ben nimmo atlantic councilIn August 2017, Ben Nimmo was declared dead by 13,000 Russian bots on Twitter.

“Our beloved friend and colleague Ben Nimmo passed away this morning,” read the epitaph, which was manipulated to look as if it were from a co-worker’s Twitter account. “Ben, we will never forget you.”

The message was immediately shared thousands of times by the network of automated accounts. Notes began pouring in from worried friends and colleagues — even though Mr. Nimmo was very much alive.

It didn’t take long for Mr. Nimmo, who helped pioneer investigations into online disinformation, to figure out what was going on: He had been targeted by a shadowy group after reporting, along with others, that American far-right groups had adopted pro-Kremlin messages on social media about Ukraine. His fake death notice was a sinister attempt at disinformation, which is the spreading of falsehoods with the deliberate intent to mislead.

“That made it personal,” said Mr. Nimmo, 47, whose home address in a town near Edinburgh and other personal data, like bank details, have also been posted online.

For the last five years, Mr. Nimmo, a founder of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, has been a leader of a small but growing community of online sleuths. These researchers serve as an informal internet police force that combats malicious attempts to use false information to sway public opinion, sow political discord and foment distrust in traditional institutions like the news media and the government.

Mr. Nimmo’s work came to the fore after the 2016 American presidential election, when intelligence agencies concluded that Russia had facebook logoused Facebook and other internet platforms to influence voters. His research has since caused Facebook and other companies to ban thousands of disinformation-related accounts; he has also been tapped as an expert by governments studying foreign interference.

Now his skills are needed more than ever, as the 2020 presidential election approaches and the tactics of internet trickery have been adopted by governments, activist groups and clickbait farms in at least 70 countries. In tandem, a disinformation-for-hire industry has emerged. And domestic disinformation efforts in the United States are also on the rise.

“It doesn’t matter how much money you throw at the problem, or how many technological advances you have,” said Jenni Sargent, managing director of First Draft, a London group that tracks disinformation and trains journalists. “Without the human layer of someone like Ben dissecting the way that people use the internet, then we wouldn’t be as far ahead as we are in terms of understanding the problem and the scale.”

Mr. Nimmo works from his home atop a hill and next to a grain farm in the small Scottish town of Haddington. To ferret out disinformation networks, he relies on open-source digital tools: the Wayback Machine to find internet pages that have been deleted; Amnesty International’s Citizen Evidence Lab, which provides information about YouTube videos; and Sysomos for spotting social media trends.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ransomware Attacks Grow, Crippling Cities and Businesses, Nathaniel Popper, Feb. 10, 2020 (print ed.). Hackers are locking people out of their networks and demanding big payments to get back in. New data shows just how common and damaging the attacks have become.

The frequency of ransomware attacks — among the scariest and most costly online assaults — has been hard to pinpoint because many victims quietly pay off their attackers without notifying the authorities.

Now, an array of new data provides perhaps the best available picture of the problem. In 2019, 205,280 organizations submitted files that had been hacked in a ransomware attack — a 41 percent increase from the year before, according to information provided to The New York Times by Emsisoft, a security firm that helps companies hit by ransomware.

ny times logoNew York Times, Amazon Is Quietly Removing Books That Promote Nazis, David Streitfeld, Feb. 10, 2020 (print ed.). The retailer once said it would sell “the good, the bad and the ugly.” Now it is getting pulled into the free speech debates that have roiled social media sites.

george lincoln rockwellOver the past 18 months, the retailer has removed two books by David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, as well as several titles by George Lincoln Rockwell, left, the founder of the American Nazi Party. Amazon has also prohibited volumes like The Ruling Elite: The Zionist Seizure of World Power and A History of Central Banking and the Enslavement of Mankind.

While few may lament the disappearance of these hate-filled books, the increasing number of banished titles has set off concern among some of the third-party booksellers who stock Amazon’s vast virtual shelves. Amazon, they said, seems to operate under vague or nonexistent rules.

amazon logo small“Amazon reserves the right to determine whether content provides an acceptable experience,” said one recent removal notice that the company sent to a bookseller.

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have been roiled in recent years by controversies that pit freedom of speech against offensive content. Amazon has largely escaped this debate. But with millions of third-party merchants supplying much of what Amazon sells to tens of millions of customers, that ability to maintain a low profile may be reaching its end.

Amazon began as a bookstore and, even as it has moved on to many more lucrative projects, now controls at least two-thirds of the market for new, used and digital volumes in the United States. With its profusion of reader reviews, ability to cut prices without worrying about profitability and its control of the electronic book landscape, to name only three advantages, Amazon has immense power to shape what information people are consuming.

Yet the retailer declines to provide a list of prohibited books, say how they were chosen or even discuss the topic. “Booksellers make decisions every day about what selection of books they choose to offer,” it said in a statement.

Gregory Delzer is a Tennessee bookseller whose Amazon listings account for about a third of his sales. “They don’t tell us the rules and don’t let us have a say,” he said. “But they squeeze us for every penny.”

Nazi-themed items regularly crop up on Amazon, where they are removed under its policy on “offensive and controversial materials.” Those rules pointedly do not apply to books. Amazon merely says that books for sale on its site “should provide a positive customer experience.”

Now Amazon is becoming increasingly proactive in removing Nazi material. It even allowed its own Nazi-themed show, “The Man in the High Castle,” to be cleaned up for a tribute book. The series, which began in 2015 and concluded in November, is set in a parallel United States where the Germans and the Japanese won World War II.

OpEdNews, Opinion: What Is Happening to Assange Will Happen to the Rest of Us, Chris Hedges, Feb. 10, 2020. David Morales, the indicted owner of the Spanish private security firm Undercover Global, is being investigated by Spain's high court for allegedly providing the CIA with audio and video recordings of the meetings WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had with his attorneys and other visitors when the publisher was in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

The security firm also reportedly photographed the passports of all of Assange's visitors. It is accused of taking visitors' phones, which were not permitted in the embassy, and opening them, presumably in an effort to intercept calls. It reportedly stole data from laptops, electronic tablets and USB sticks, all required to be left at the embassy reception area. It allegedly compiled detailed reports on all of Assange's meetings and conversations with visitors. The firm even is said to have planned to steal the diaper of a baby brought to visit Assange to perform a DNA test to establish whether the infant was a secret son of Assange. UC Global, apparently at the behest of the CIA, also allegedly spied on Ecuadorian diplomats who worked in the London embassy.

The probe by the court, the Audiencia Nacional, into the activities of UC Global, along with leaked videos, statements, documents and reports published by the Spanish newspaper El País as well as the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, offers a window into the new global security state. Here the rule of law is irrelevant. Here privacy and attorney-client privilege do not exist. Here people live under 24-hour-a-day surveillance. Here all who attempt to expose the crimes of tyrannical power will be hunted down, kidnapped, imprisoned and broken. This global security state is a terrifying melding of the corporate and the public. And what it has done to Assange it will soon do to the rest of us.

The publication of classified documents is not yet a crime in the United States. If Assange is extradited and convicted, it will become one. Assange is not an American citizen. WikiLeaks, which he founded, is not a U.S.-based publication. The extradition of Assange would mean the end of journalistic investigations into the inner workings of power. It would cement into place a terrifying global, corporate tyranny under which borders, nationality and law mean nothing. Once such a legal precedent is set, any publication that publishes classified material, from The New York Times to an alternative website, will be prosecuted and silenced.

The flagrant defiance of law and international protocols in the persecution of Assange is legion. In April 2019, Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno capriciously terminated Assange's right of asylum at the London embassy, where he spent seven years, despite Assange's status as a political refugee. Moreno authorized British police to enter the embassy diplomatically sanctioned sovereign territory to arrest a naturalized citizen of Ecuador. (Assange retains his Australian citizenship.) The British police seized Assange, who has never committed a crime, and the British government keeps him imprisoned, ostensibly for a bail violation.

Assange is being held in the notorious high-security HM Prison Belmarsh. He has spent much of his time in isolation, is often heavily sedated and has been denied medical treatment for a variety of physical ailments. His lawyers say they are routinely denied access to their client. Nils Melzer, the United Nations' special rapporteur on torture who examined Assange with two physicians, said Assange has undergone prolonged psychological torture. Melzer has criticized what he calls the "judicial persecution" of Assange by Britain, the United States, Ecuador and Sweden, which prolonged an investigation into a sexual assault case in an effort to extradite Assange to Sweden. Assange said the case was a pretext to extradite him to the United States. Once Assange was arrested by British police the sexual assault case was dropped.

Melzer says Assange would face a politicized show trial in the United States if he were extradited to face 17 charges under the Espionage Act for his role in publishing classified military and diplomatic cables, documents and videos that exposed U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Each of the counts carries a potential sentence of 10 years, and an additional charge that Assange conspired to hack into a government computer has a maximum sentence of five years. A hearing to determine whether he will be extradited to the United States starts Feb. 24 at London's Woolwich Crown Court. It is scheduled to last about a week and then resume May 18, for three weeks more.

WikiLeaks released U.S. military war logs from Afghanistan and Iraq, a cache of 250,000 diplomatic cables and 800 Guantanamo Bay detainee assessment briefs along with the 2007 "Collateral Murder" video, in which U.S. helicopter pilots banter as they gun down civilians, including children and two Reuters journalists, in a Baghdad street. The material was given to WikiLeaks in 2010 by Chelsea Manning, then Bradley Manning, a low-ranking intelligence specialist in the U.S. Army. Assange has been accused by an enraged U.S. intelligence community of causing "one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States." Manning was convicted of espionage charges in August 2013 and sentenced to 35 years in a military prison. She was granted clemency in January 2017 by President Barack Obama. Manning was ordered back to prison last year after refusing to testify before a grand jury in the WikiLeaks case, and she remains behind bars. No one was ever charged for the war crimes WikiLeaks documented.

Assange earned the enmity of the Democratic Party establishment by publishing 70,000 hacked emails belonging to the Democratic National Committee and senior Democratic officials. The emails were copied from the accounts of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman. The Podesta emails exposed the donation of millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two of the major funders of Islamic State. It exposed the $657,000 that Goldman Sachs paid to Hillary Clinton to give talks, a sum so large it can only be considered a bribe. It exposed Clinton's repeated mendacity. She was caught in the emails, for example, telling the financial elites that she wanted "open trade and open borders" and believed Wall Street executives were best positioned to manage the economy, a statement that contradicted her campaign statements. It exposed the Clinton campaign's efforts to influence the Republican primaries to ensure that Donald Trump was the Republican nominee. It exposed Clinton's advance knowledge of questions in a primary debate. It exposed Clinton as the principal architect of the war in Libya, a war she believed would burnish her credentials as a presidential candidate.

Journalists can argue that this information, like the war logs, should have remained hidden, but they can't then call themselves journalists.

The Democratic and Republican leaders are united in their crusade to extradite and sentence Assange. The Democratic Party, which has attempted to blame Russia for its election loss to Trump, charges that the Podesta emails were obtained by Russian government hackers. However, James Comey, the former FBI director, has conceded that the emails were probably delivered to WikiLeaks by an intermediary, and Assange has said the emails were not provided by "state actors."

WikiLeaks has done more than any other news organization to expose the abuses of power and crimes of the American empire. In addition to the war logs and the Podesta emails, it made public the hacking tools used by the CIA and the National Security Agency and their interference in foreign elections, including French elections. It disclosed the internal conspiracy against British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn by Labour members of Parliament. It intervened to save Edward Snowden, who made public the wholesale surveillance of the American public by our intelligence agencies, from extradition to the United States by helping him flee from Hong Kong to Moscow. (The Snowden leaks also revealed that Assange was on a U.S. "manhunt target list.")

The inquiry by the Spanish court is the result of a criminal complaint filed by Assange, who accuses Morales and UC Global of violating his privacy and client-attorney confidentiality rights. The WikiLeaks founder also says the firm is guilty of misappropriation, bribery and money laundering.

Child Star Decries Hollywood Abuse

Studio 10, Cory Feldman Breaks His Silence, featuring hosts Sarah Harris, Joe Hildebrand, Angela Bishop, Kerri-Anne Kennerley, Denise Drysdale and Narelda Jacobs, Feb. 10, 2020 (11:37 min video).  For years, Corey Feldman has been speaking out about the abuse of children in Hollywood and other institutions. He hopes his new documentary, 'Truth: The Rape Of 2 Coreys,' will expose the details he's been talking about for so long and joins us from LA.

Feb. 9

2020 U.S. Election Headlines

World News Headlines

Media News

 

2020 U.S. Election Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Buttigieg fights back against attacks in N.H. as Biden tries to build momentum, Chelsea Janes, Matt Viser and Annie Linskey, Feb. 9, 2020 (print ed.). Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s sudden rise in the polls made him the target of his rivals in pete buttigieg 2020 button croppedNew Hampshire ahead of Tuesday’s primary.

Pete Buttigieg fought back against attacks from three of his rivals while former vice president Joe Biden tried to salvage his campaign with a retooled underdog message Saturday as Democratic presidential contenders careened toward a primary in New Hampshire that could narrow the path forward for several candidates.

Biden, reprising an argument he made in Friday night’s brawling presidential debate, said the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., would put the Democratic Party “at risk” were he to become the nominee.

ny times logoNew York Times, Why the Turnout in Iowa Has Some Democrats Worried, Lisa Lerer and Astead W. Herndon, Feb. 9, 2020. A lower-than-expected turnout for the caucuses has raised concerns that the grass-roots activism in the party may be waning after three years of battles with Washington. After the first test of the 2020 presidential nominating season, the Iowa caucuses, Democrats are awakening to a troubling possibility: Their #Resistance energy may be flickering.

democratic donkey logoTurnout for the Iowa caucuses fell far short of expectations. The leading campaigns were prepared for as many as 300,000 people to show up — 60,000 more than the record set in 2008. Instead just 176,000 showed up, less than 3 percent more than in 2016.

While that’s higher than 2016, it’s a striking change from just a few years ago, when turnout in the midterm elections reached the highest level in a century and Democrats took control of the House of Representatives. Last November, Democrats gloated about their success winning governors seats in two red states — Kentucky and Louisiana — with help from a historic surge of voters.

dnc horizontal logoNow, at the moment when they need their ground troops the most, there are signs that the past three years may have depleted some of their reserves for organizing, activism and fund-raising.

I“I’m a bit nervous, to be honest,” said Dan Sena, the Democratic strategist who helped oversee the party’s campaign to take control of the House in 2018. “This is a very different pattern than we’ve seen. The candidates have to be part of the concern.”

Republicans were quick to seize on the Iowa turnout, claiming it reflected a “significant lack of enthusiasm among Democrat voters.” More than 30,000 Republicans turned out for the Iowa caucuses, despite the fact that Mr. Trump was running largely unopposed. And last week, Gallup reported that Mr. Trump’s approval rating had climbed to 49 percent, its highest in that survey since his presidency began.

bernie sanders pete buttigieg Custom

Palmer Report, Analysis: The New Hampshire primary takes an even stranger turn, Bill Palmer, Feb. 9, 2020. Yesterday we tried to sort out the confusing and conflicting headlines we’ve been seeing about who’s really leading in the Democratic 2020 New Hampshire primary. This all centers around the concept of an outlier poll. Let’s say you do ten polls, and nine of them all say the same thing, while one of them says the opposite. That one poll is the outlier, because its results are way off from the rest of the results.

bill palmer report logo headerStatistically, this means that there’s a small chance that the one outlier poll is correct and all the other polls are wrong. There’s a far larger chance that the one outlier poll is wrong, and all the other polls are right. This all seems pretty obvious, right? And if you want the most meaningful look at what’s going on, you’ll take all these polls and average them together, either with a straight-up average like RealClearPolitics uses, or a weighted average based on each poll’s past accuracy like FiveThirtyEight uses.

The trouble comes when the media sees one outlier poll with a surprising result, and only reports that poll, for shock value. If you’re a TV pundit and you see nine new polls all saying the same thing, and one poll saying the opposite, and you report that one poll while pretending the other nine don’t exist, then you’re basically lying to your audience, right? Or maybe you’re just that clueless about how numbers work. Yet we see this from pundits all the time.

So the public routinely hears the most suspicious and absurd poll numbers stated as if they were fact, and then when the results end up being something different, the public presumes the polls can’t be trusted. In reality, the polling averages usually tend to have been correct the entire time – but TV viewers never know it.

This brings us back to New Hampshire. As of yesterday there was one poll, from the Boston Globe, which showed that Pete Buttigieg had taken the lead by one point. But all the other new polls conducted in New Hampshire this week show Bernie Sanders still in the lead. Guess what’s happened now? Take a look at the latest numbers, screen capped from RealClearPolitics today:

You can see that the Boston Globe poll has been updated again, and it now shows Bernie being back in the lead. This isn’t surprising. Not only do outlier polls tend to be wrong, they often tend to quickly correct themselves. So now every poll says Bernie will win New Hampshire. Could they be wrong? Sure, but they’re probably correct. Any pundit who ran around yesterday touting the one poll showing Pete in the lead, while pretending the other polls didn’t exist, is looking pretty foolish right now. We see this happen on a national scale as well.

The latest averages show that Biden is ahead of Bernie by five points nationally, and that Biden is ahead of Pete by twenty points nationally. Again, polls can change, and polls can be wrong to begin with. But if these numbers are correct and don’t change, Biden will be the nominee. If Biden’s national poll numbers finally drop from their months-long perch in the high twenties, or if someone surpasses him while his numbers remain the same, then he’ll be in trouble – and not until then.

Of course that doesn’t make for a ratings-friendly narrative, which is why the media is instead insisting that Biden is in deep trouble, and that Pete is on the verge of being the frontrunner. And because outlier polls always make for great ratings, some pundits are running with the one WSJ poll showing Bernie in the lead nationally, when every other new polls says it’s Biden. Bernie isn’t ahead nationally, just like Pete isn’t ahead in New Hampshire. Again, the polls aren’t the problem here. Stick to the averages and you’re fine. The problem is how the media reports, or more often misreports, the polls.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s resilience causes Democrats to sound the alarm, Robert Costa and Philip Rucker, Feb. 9, 2020 (print ed.). Anxiety is coursing through the Democratic Party as President Trump emerges from his impeachment proceedings as a potent threat for djt staff nypost cover july 29 17reelection, with party leaders and activists uncertain about how to beat the incumbent and worried about a nominating race that remains crowded and is growing more acrimonious.

While Democrats see Trump as a corrosive figure and a threat to the nation, they also see the president and his well-funded campaign tailoring a reelection bid around the strong economy and visceral appeals to his ardent supporters.

Trump’s robust political standing came into view this past week, as he claimed vindication from his acquittal in his Senate trial despite damaging House testimony about his conduct with Ukraine — and set off on a path of retribution by ousting some officials who were witnesses. At the same time, his Gallup approval rating ticked up to 49 percent, its highest point yet.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Joe Manchin fires back at Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Feb. 9, 2020. Joe Manchin might be a red state Democrat who joe manchin cropped Customlikes to vote with the Republicans when it’s not going to affect the outcome, but Manchin did his patriotic duty by voting to convict and remove Donald Trump when it counted. Now Trump has decided that Manchin, right, is his enemy, and he wants revenge. The thing is, Manchin isn’t hesitating to fire back.

Trump unleashed on Joe Manchin on Saturday:

“Can’t say I mind the fact that the great people of West Virginia are furious at their puppet Democrat Senator, Joe Manchin. They will never forget his phony vote on the Impeachment Hoax. bill palmer report logo headerAll he had to do is read the Transcripts, sadly, which he wouldn’t understand anyway. But, just like the people of West Virginia will no longer look at weak & pathetic Joe Manchin the same (I got the Pension Bill approved, Manchin couldn’t do it), the wonderful people of Utah will never look at “grandstander” Mitt Romney with anything but contempt & disgust!”

To be clear, there’s no evidence that any of this is actually happening, outside of Trump’s imagination.

But Manchin isn’t taking it lying down. He fired back at Trump: “Pres. Trump – no Democrat has worked harder in a bipartisan way in the hopes that you would succeed. The people of WV know exactly who has worked day & night for the last 5 years to secure their healthcare & pensions & it wasn’t you. I’ve read the transcripts thoroughly & listened to the witnesses under oath. Where I come from a person accused defends themselves with witnesses and evidence.”

OpEdNews, Opinion: The Trump & Sanders cults: Similar tactics, same idol worship, Wayne Madsen, Feb. 9, 2020. While there are significant policy differences between the presidential campaigns of Donald John Trump and Bernie Sanders, they share in common political cult followings that idolize their political heroes.

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Coronavirus deaths climb as China corrals sick in quarantine facilities, Gerry Shih, Feb. 9, 2020. Although Wuhan and Hubei province remain ravaged by the disease, officials say the number of new cases outside Hubei is declining, in a reflection of strict quarantine measures taking effect nationwide.

china flag SmallThe number of infected and killed by the novel coronavirus continues to climb worldwide but the vast majority — and the battle against the virus — is still concentrated in the original outbreak zone of Wuhan, central China. Authorities are struggling to build enough health facilities there in effort to treat the thousands of affected, many of whom have been stuck at home with the virus. Here’s what we know so far:

The global death toll from the novel coronavirus reached more than 810 on Sunday, surpassing the 774 fatalities attributed to the outbreak of the SARS coronavirus in 2002 and 2003. Among the dead was the first American, a 60-year-old citizen who died Thursday in Wuhan.

Although Wuhan and Hubei province remain ravaged by the disease, Chinese officials say the number of new cases outside Hubei is declining, in a reflection of strict quarantine measures.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump administration considers suspending humanitarian assistance to Yemen amid new rebel restrictions, Missy Ryan and John Hudson, Donors and aid groups say the rebels’ regulations are impairing aid delivery and exacerbating the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

washington post logoAmerican FlagWashington Post, Apparent insider attack leaves two U.S. soldiers dead in Afghanistan, Susannah George and Sharif Hassan, Feb. 9, 2020. The attack on American forces comes as peace talks between U.S. and Taliban negotiators remain stalled.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Do Not Make Any Loud Noises’: A Thai Soldier’s 18-Hour Shooting Rampage, Muktita Suhartono and Damien Cave, Feb. 9, 2020. The authorities said the mass shooting, a rarity in the country, started over a real estate dispute. The authorities killed the gunman near the cold storage refrigerators of the Foodland supermarket in the mall he terrorized during Thailand’s deadliest mass shooting.

It was just before 9 local time on Sunday morning — 18 hours after he fired the first shots in a relentless spree that left at least 29 people dead and 58 injured in the city of Korat, north of Bangkok.

Thailand’s prime minister said the rampage started with a real estate dispute. The gunman was bitter and lugging weapons stolen from a military base. It ended with hundreds of shoppers fleeing for their lives, their shoes slapping on the mall’s white tile floors as gunshots cracked, leading to a failed police raid, a follow-up — and finally, the lifeless body of the 32-year-old gunman, dressed in military gear and surrounded by red plastic grocery bins.

“My two children are at home with their grandma now,” said Viparat Wansaboiy, who was watching a movie at the mall with her husband when the shooting broke out. “Luckily they didn’t come today.”

The mix of bloodshed and the banal has become all too common in the United States, even as it bursts into lands less accustomed to violence like New Zealand and Norway. In a sign of what some psychologists call a contagion, the gunman mimicked other perpetrators of mass shootings by posting messages and video to Facebook, which shut down his account within minutes.

But in a nation where mass killings are still rare despite high levels of gun ownership, the sudden appearance of such grisly horror in a seven-story complex of consumerism has already prompted deeper questions about what happened, the government’s response and the underlying forces that led a young man to kill so many who were so innocent.

“This will be seen as not just an individual case, but as a sign of underlying tensions,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division. “It’s about the fact that people are really getting desperate — the economic situation is really not going well. A lot of people are very unhappy.”

Inside DC

washington post logoPresident Donald Trump officialWashington Post, Trump’s budget expected to show how far he has cast aside some 2016 promises, Jeff Stein and Erica Werner, Feb. 9, 2020 (print ed.). It will look much different from his 2016 platform, as he abandons promises to balance the budget, protect Medicaid from cuts and make Mexico pay for the wall.

djt maga hatThe budget proposal President Trump will release Monday is expected to lay bare how much he has adjusted to the political and practical limits of Washington, with some of his biggest campaign promises from 2016 cast aside and replaced with more limited policy ambitions.

On immigration, health care, infrastructure and the deficit, the final budget pitch of Trump’s first term will look much different from the campaign platform he offered four years ago.

The border wall that he promised would be paid for by Mexico is instead being financed by billions in U.S. taxpayer dollars, and the administration’s budget request to Congress is expected to seek even more.

washington post logorobert wilkie vaWashington Post, VA chief Wilkie sought to dig up dirt on woman who complained of sexual assault, agency insiders say, Lisa Rein, Feb. 9, 2020 (print ed.). The inspector general is reviewing a request from a House leader to investigate allegations that Secretary Robert Wilkie, right, sought information on one of the congressman’s aides.

washington post logoWashington Post, Vindman’s ouster leaves chill among witnesses, career federal workers, David Nakamura and Greg Miller, Feb. 9, 2020.  Officials and political appointees who testified in President Trump's impeachment hearings remained worried about their future.

He had been publicly vilified by President Trump, marched out of his national security office across from the White House, so Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, left, wanted only to get his mind off politics as he settled in to watch a television show with his grade-school-age daughter Friday evening.

alexander vindman cropped oct 29 2019Then his wife returned home with some news: Much of the country had just watched as former vice president Joe Biden implored the audience to give a standing ovation in Vindman’s honor at the nationally televised Democratic presidential debate in Manchester, N.H.

“Stand up and clap for Vindman. That’s not who we are! We’re not what Trump is!” Biden thundered in the name of the Army officer whom Trump had hours earlier ousted from the White House National Security Council in retaliation for his testimony in the House Democrats’ impeachment probe.

To Vindman, the gesture was appreciated, but it felt “surreal” that he has become a lightning rod for the nation’s sharp political polarization in the Trump era, according to a person familiar with the events surrounding his ouster, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. After all, as a military officer, Vindman had been trained to avoid overt displays of partisanship or politics.

      • Washington Post, Opinion: Trump’s quest for revenge could mean the end of whistleblowing, Walter M. Shaub Jr., Feb. 9, 2020.

More On U.S. Politics

djt roy cohn wheres my roy cohn

OpEdNews, Film Review: "Where's My Roy Cohn?": A U.S. Coup by Nihilists, Mobsters, Pedophiles and Blackmailers, Mike Rivage-Seul, Feb. 9, 2020. Recently, I spent two weeks in Tijuana working with Al Otro Lado (AOL). I've written about that experience here, here, and here.

AOL is a legal defense service for refugees seeking asylum mostly from gang-rule in Mexico and Central America. The emigrants want escape from countries whose police forces and allied power holders are controlled by ruthless drug rings whose only goal is accumulation of money and social dominance.

roy cohn wheres my row cohn poster sony picturesAs I did my work helping clients fill out endless forms concocted by those who would illegally exclude them, everything seemed so hopeless. I wondered how those gangs achieved such power? Isn't it a shame, I thought, that entire countries are now controlled by criminal mobs with names like "MS 13," "Nueva Generacion," and "18?" How sad for these people!

Then, during my flight home to Connecticut, I happened to watch the documentary "Where's My Roy Cohn?" (WMRC). It introduced viewers to the dark and criminal mentor of Donald Trump.

On its face, the film illustrated the absolute corruption of the U.S. government as the unwavering servant of the elite as the only people who count.

But in the light of my experience in Tijuana, it made me realize that our country too is literally controlled by shadowy gangs to an extent even worse than what's happening south of our border. I mean, the United States of America now has the most prominent protege of Roy Cohn, right, an unabashed mafioso, actually sitting in the Oval Office!

Both Cohn and, of course, his disciple turn out to be absolute nihilists without principle or any regard for truth.

The film made clear how both men tapped into a similar nihilist strain within huge numbers of Americans who identify with the Republican Party and ironically with the Catholic faith and Christian fundamentalism. Nonetheless, WMRC wasn't explicit enough in probing either Cohn's corruption, that of Donald Trump or of our reigning system's complex of government, education, church and mainstream media.

It failed to show how the phenomena of Roy Cohn and Donald Trump represent mere surface indications of a profoundly anti-democratic coup d'e'tat that has gradually unfolded in our country over the last 40 years. The actuality of this takeover was revealed most clearly in the recent impeachment proceedings. They provided a kind of last straw undeniably exhibiting how nihilist "Christians" have seized power in perhaps irreversible ways.

To see what I mean, begin by watching "Where's my Roy Cohn?" for yourself. It not only details Cohn's life as an infamous New York mafia consigliere. It also shows how he started his career in crime as the 23-year-old advisor of the equally villainous Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin. (McCarthy, of course was the force behind the nation-wide communist scare of the early 1950s.)

However, most importantly WMRC describes the film's subject as the mentor of Donald Trump. By both their admissions, each recognized in the other a kindred spirit. Each used mafia and friends in high places (from Ronald Reagan to New York's Cardinal Spellman) to enrich himself in terms of power and money. In the end, the alliance brought Trump to "the highest office in the land."

washington post logoWashington Post, Girl chosen by Trump to symbolize failing schools attends a popular charter program, Laura Meckler, Feb. 9, 2020. The Philadelphia fourth-grader whom President Trump singled out during his State of the Union address as one of thousands of students “trapped in failing government schools” actually attends a sought-after charter school.

Janiyah Davis and her mother, Stephanie Davis, were seated in the House chamber for the president’s prime-time address last week. Trump said Janiyah was one of thousands of students on a waiting list for private school scholarships, and he urged Congress to pass a federal tax break that would reward donations to these scholarship programs.

In one of several made-for-TV moments, Trump then surprised Janiyah and her mother by announcing that a scholarship had become available. “Your long wait is over,” he said. “You will soon be headed to the school of your choice.”

The next day, officials said the scholarship was being personally funded by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a strong backer of what she and other Republicans call “school choice.” But administration officials would not answer any questions about where Janiyah attends school or where she hoped to go.

As it turns out, she attends the popular Math, Science and Technology Community Charter School III, known as MaST III, according to John F. Swoyer III, chief executive of the network that runs the school. The information was first reported in an account Stephanie Davis gave to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Charter schools are taxpayer funded but independently run and are one of the options that school-choice proponents typically tout. MaST III received 6,500 applications for 100 spots next year, with slots distributed via lottery, Swoyer said. The school enrolls about 900 students.

For grades first through third, Janiyah attended Olney Christian School, which charges $5,200 a year in tuition, the Inquirer reported. Janiyah received a partial scholarship, but it was still a financial struggle to attend. So Janiyah applied to MaST III in northeast Philadelphia, was accepted over the summer and decided to enroll.

washington post logoWashington Post, Meet the 71-year-old staging a one-man protest in his Trump-loving retirement community, Brittany Shammas, Feb. 9, 2020 (print ed.). For most of his life, Ed McGinty kept his political beliefs to himself.

Raised Irish Catholic in Philadelphia, the 71-year-old retired real estate broker has always been a Democrat, just like his parents before him. But the last time he remembers being especially politically motivated was when Hubert Humphrey ran against Richard Nixon in 1968. After that, he’d wake up the morning after Election Day, find out George W. Bush or another Republican had won and say, “Okay, well, back to work.”

Then Donald Trump was elected.

Donald Trump and Mike Pence logo“When Trump won, it changed the whole ballgame for me,” McGinty told The Washington Post. “I thought to myself, ‘This was supposed to be a joke. What’s wrong with these people?’ ”

In the three years since then, the once-quiet political observer has transformed into the best-known Trump protester in The Villages, a sprawling, meticulously planned and maintained retirement community that lies about 45 miles northwest of Orlando. McGinty’s daily vigil with signs blasting the president as a “SEXUAL PREDATOR” (among other things) has drawn ire in the Trump-loving Florida town he has called home since 2016. It has also brought viral fame.

For his one-man protest against the president, McGinty has been berated as a baby killer and a “dumb a--,” decried in letters to the editor of a local news site and hit with an anonymous, handwritten threat — a sign that even a town that is described as Disney World for retirees and markets itself as “Florida’s Friendliest Hometown” is not immune to the divisiveness of this political era.

washington post logoej dionne w open neckWashington Post, Opinion: Political idolatry is the enemy of religious faith, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, Feb. 9, 2020. If you wonder why young people are leaving organized religion in droves, look no further than last week’s National Prayer Breakfast.

Many who care about religion and its fate have condemned President Trump’s vindictive, self-involved, God-as-an-afterthought speech at the annual gathering. By contrast, his backers were happy to say “Amen” as they prepared to exploit religion in one more election.

My Post colleague Michael Gerson, a beacon of moral clarity in the conservative evangelical world, noted that Trump’s address was a tribute to his “remarkable ability to corrupt, distort and discredit every institution he touches.”

Gerson is right, but I confess that there has always been something troubling about the prayer breakfast. The gatherings encourage the suspicion that many politicians are there not because of God but because of their own political imperatives. They want to tell the world how religious they are and check the faith box on the advice of their political advisers. You worry that this is as much about preening as praying.

In his always crude but always revealing way, Trump has exposed the underside of long-standing political habits and practices. He is not the first politician to exploit religion. He just does it in a way so at odds with the core tenets of the Christian faith he claims to uphold that he pushes the hypocritical aspects of public religion to a breaking point.

Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, What Happens When QAnon Seeps From the Web to the Offline World, Mike McIntire and Kevin Roose, Feb. 9, 2020. A city council member in California took the dais and quoted from QAnon, a pro-Trump conspiracy theory about “deep state” traitors plotting against the president, concluding her remarks, “God bless Q.”

What began online more than two years ago as an intricate, if baseless, conspiracy theory that quickly attracted thousands of followers has since found footholds in the offline world. QAnon has surfaced in political campaigns, criminal cases, merchandising and at least one college class.

Last month, hundreds of QAnon enthusiasts gathered in a Tampa, Fla., park to listen to speakers and pick up literature, and in England, a supporter of President Trump and the Brexit leader Nigel Farage raised a “Q” flag over a Cornish castle.

The seepage of conspiracy theorizing from the digital fever swamps into life offline is one of the more unsettling developments of the Trump era, in which the president has relentlessly pushed groundless conspiracies to reshape political narratives to his liking.

In promoting fringe ideas about deep state schemes, Mr. Trump has at times elevated and encouraged QAnon followers — recirculating their posts on Twitter, posing with one for a photograph in the Oval Office, inviting some to a White House “social media summit.” Recently, during a daylong Twitter binge, Mr. Trump retweeted more than 20 posts from accounts that had trafficked in QAnon material.

QAnon began in October 2017, when a pseudonymous user of the online message board 4chan started writing cryptic posts under the name Q Clearance Patriot. The person claimed to be a high-ranking official privy to top-secret information from Mr. Trump’s inner circle. Over two years and more than 3,500 posts, Q — whose identity has never been determined — has unspooled a sprawling conspiracy narrative that claims, among other things, that Mr. Trump was recruited by the military to run for office in order to break up a global cabal of pedophiles, and that Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation would end with prominent Democrats’ being imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay.

The anonymous posts subsequently moved to 8chan, where they remained until August, when that site was taken offline after the El Paso mass shooting. They now live on 8kun, a new website built by 8chan’s owner.

Most recently, the botched Iowa Democratic caucuses and the coronavirus outbreak have provided fodder for conspiracy mongering: QAnon fans shared groundless theories online linking the liberal billionaire George Soros to technological problems that hobbled the caucuses, and passed around bogus and potentially dangerous “treatments” for the virus.

About a dozen candidates for public office in the United States have promoted or dabbled in QAnon, and its adherents have been arrested in at least seven episodes, including a murder in New York and an armed standoff with the police near the Hoover Dam. The F.B.I. cited QAnon in an intelligence bulletin last May about the potential for violence motivated by “fringe political conspiracy theories.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Joan Cusack and other performance pros weigh in on the Democratic debate, James Warren, Feb. 9, 2020. James james warren CustomWarren, right, a former managing editor of the Chicago Tribune, is executive editor of NewsGuard, which rates the credibility of news and information sites.

What did professional observers of performance think of Friday night’s debate in New Hampshire, an impressively sober, 2½-hour exchange?

It’s not an academic question. Just a few days before in his State of the Union address, President Trump demonstrated just how much of politics is theater — and how powerful it can sometimes be.

So it seemed like a good moment to change the lens and assess the Democrats as performers.

We asked a handful of experts who perform, teach performance or judge performers professionally, to give us their reactions. Our group included: Joan Cusack, two-time Academy Award-nominee; Chris Jones, theater critic of the Chicago Tribune; Kelly Leonard, executive vice president of the Second City improvisational comedy troupe; Anne Libera, director of comedy studies at Chicago’s Columbia College; Jon Maas, a Hollywood writer-producer; and Harvey Young, dean of the college of fine arts at Boston University.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. radio’s top player blames AI for layoffs. DJs say that’s spin, Drew Harwell, Feb. 9, 2020 (print ed.).The company that owns iHeartRadio and more than 850 local stations across the country has called AI the muscle it needs to fend off rivals.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Harvey Weinstein accuser Jessica Mann’s dramatic testimony is a new kind of test in sex-crime trials, Shayna Jacobs, Feb. 9, 2020. The actress's admitted consensual sexual relationship with Weinstein, both before and after the alleged assaults, makes her a traditionally imperfect witness.

Feb. 8

U.S. 2020 Election Headlines

Post-Impeachment Headlines

djt impeachment graphic

World News

 

U.S. 2020 Election Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Candidates try to stand out as New Hampshire vote nears, Steve Hendrix and Sufian Taha, Feb. 8, 2020 (print ed.). During the debate, presidential hopefuls covered electability, war, drugs and racism and ended with childhood poverty.

Seven candidates were on stage in New Hampshire for the first debate since Americans started voting for the Democratic presidential bernie sanders 2020 button croppednominee. Candidates covered electability, health care, war, drugs and racism and ended with childhood poverty.

On stage were Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), right; former vice president Joe Biden; former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg; Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.); Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.); entrepreneur Andrew Yang; and investor Tom Steyer.

• Winners and losers from the New Hampshire debate
• Biden lowers N.H. expectations
• Buttigieg takes on Biden over Iraq
• Buttigieg is pressed on record on race
• The world has changed’: Sanders defends records on guns

ny times logoNew York Times, 7 Takeaways From the Democratic Debate in New Hampshire, Reid J. Epstein and Shane Goldmacher Feb. 8, 2020 (print ed.). In the first presidential primary debate after the messy Iowa caucuses, Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg were tested repeatedly.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Former Tea Party leader vows to support any Democratic Party nominee over Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Feb. 8, 2020.  This week, former Congressman Joe Walsh ended his 2020 Republican primary challenge against Donald Trump. This came after Trump made a significant effort to cancel Republican primary contests in some states. Walsh isn’t done, though, because he just announced that he’ll throw his support behind any 2020 Democratic nominee over Trump.

bill palmer report logo headerThis is crucial because Joe Walsh isn’t some moderate. He’s a former Tea Party leader with a number of far-right views. But he’s putting country over party and ideology, because in his words, Trump is “a dictator.” You can watch part of Walsh’s explanation below:

This kind of thing is crucial. Even if someone like Joe Walsh can’t reach Donald Trump’s base, his voice does carry weight among conservative voters who neither love nor hate Trump. If he can convince even a small fraction of them to join him in voting for the Democratic nominee in 2020, Walsh can help make a meaningful difference if the race ends up being close.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump has a whole new Fox News problem, James Sullivan, Feb. 8, 2020. While we like to think of Fox as just one big echo chamber for Donald Trump and his draconian ideas to spread and further intoxicate his base, this isn’t exactly true.

Sometimes it’s the other way around – that what Trump thinks is real is actually just some overblown feature story that he saw on Fox and the producers are well aware that he’s listening and they’ll push it in hopes that he goes their way on national policy. When the Ukraine scandal was still developing, Fox pundits worked to promote a number of conspiracies in an effort to muddy the water around impeachment. That they did this isn’t so surprising.

bill palmer report logo headerAs the news broke, they were regularly in touch with John Solomon, an op-ed writer for The Hill who used his position to come up with stories about crimes Joe Biden supposedly committed. Sean Hannity regularly regurgitated his lies and hailed him as a brave investigative reporter. What’s surprising is that Fox News knew that Solomon was a liar who failed to disclose that he was working on a disinformation campaign alongside Rudy Giuliani, that he was in fact a crucial part of the campaign, and an internal report called them out, according to new reporting by the Daily Beast. They not only knew Solomon and Giuliani were liars, the company was warned against having them on the network due to the nature of their involvement in the Ukraine scandal.

They created a list of liars with Giuliani at the top, underlining that he was doing pretty much what we knew he was doing all along. Also on the list were Victoria Toensing and Joe DiGenova, who are both hired as legal experts by the network and on the payroll of an exiled Ukrainian oligarch, Dmytro Firtash. Of course, the network did nothing to keep them off the air. Trump may be having his victory lap, but it was a pyrrhic victory for Fox who helped him along the way and they may be looking at problems of their own.

ny times logoNew York Times, Winners and Losers of the Democratic Debate, Our columnists and contributors give their rankings, Staff report, Feb. 8, 2020. Times Opinion writers rank the candidates on a scale of 1 to 10: 1 means the candidate probably didn’t belong on the stage and should probably drop out; 10 means it’s on, President Trump. Here’s what our columnists and contributors thought about the debate.

Palmer Report, Pete Buttigieg’s big moment has finally arrived, Bill Palmer, right, Feb. 8, 2020. I still stand by my premise that Iowa and New bill palmerHampshire tell us very little about how the more diverse states are going to vote in any given primary race. Forty years of history shows that I’m correct about this.

The national polls tell us far more about who’s likely to dominate on Super Tuesday, and the diverse state of South Carolina is the first true hint at what we’re looking at. That said, Pete Buttigieg’s shocking victory (or near-victory) in Iowa has given him his big moment. The question was what he’d do with it.

bill palmer report logo headerIf last night’s debate was any indication, Pete Buttigieg is seizing his moment. The debate questions were largely set up to pit the other candidates against him, which generally happens whenever the media perceives one candidate as having momentum. But Pete was too smart to take the bait. When he was asked an absurd loaded question about whether Joe Biden was a liability because Donald Trump made up a fake scandal about Biden’s son, Pete immediately responded “no” and then pointed out that it was a fake scandal.

pete buttigieg 2020 button croppedA lesser candidate, or a less smart candidate, would have walked right into that trap by offering an answer that was aimed at casting at least some doubt on Biden’s viability. But real leaders don’t use fake scandals to sabotage their opponents, and Buttigieg just wasn’t going to do it.

Pete Buttigieg is still facing severe hurdles. He’s a close second in the polls in New Hampshire, and considering how he outperformed his polls in Iowa, he just might win New Hampshire too. But no Democratic candidate gets anywhere near the nomination without the support of black voters, and Pete’s poll numbers in South Carolina are dreadful. His answer about race last night was probably his weakest answer of the night. But for the most part he’s seizing the moment. We’ll see where it leads him.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Slashes Into Buttigieg: ‘This Guy’s Not a Barack Obama!’ Jonathan Martin and Katie Glueck, Feb. 8, 2020. The former vice president and his campaign, under pressure after his poor performance in Iowa, mounted unusually personal attacks on Mr. Buttigieg ahead of the New Hampshire primary.

joe biden oTensions in the Democratic presidential primary reached new heights on Saturday as former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg clashed over experience in their most pointed confrontation to date, while Senator Bernie Sanders lashed both Mr. Buttigieg and another opponent, Michael R. Bloomberg, on the final weekend before the New Hampshire primary.

With Mr. Sanders and Mr. Buttigieg vying for the lead in polls of New Hampshire voters, and Mr. Biden, right, under growing pressure to revive his campaign after his fourth-place finish in Iowa, the crossfire signaled that the Democratic contest had reached a new, more contentious phase after the candidates spent much of the last year aiming their criticism at President Trump.

The attacks by Mr. Biden and his campaign on Mr. Buttigieg were the most revealing moment of the day: Mr. Biden, whose collegiality and warmth are among his trademarks, has rarely denigrated rivals in such personal terms as he did with Mr. Buttigieg on Saturday, questioning his experience as a small-city mayor and unfavorably comparing him to President Barack Obama.

“I do not believe we’re a party at risk if they nominate me, and I do believe we’re a party at risk if we nominate someone who’s never held a higher office than mayor of South Bend, Ind.,” Mr. Biden said at a midday rally in Manchester.

Speaking with reporters Saturday afternoon, he repeatedly suggested that Mr. Buttigieg’s calls for change implied criticism of the Obama era. When pressed on whether his jabs at Mr. Buttigieg’s mayoral resume were comparable to Hillary Clinton’s swipes at then-Senator Obama during the 2008 primary — and if the remarks were an “act of desperation” — he bristled.

“Oh, come on, man!” he said. “This guy’s not a Barack Obama!”

The stakes in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary are immense for all three candidates. Should Mr. Buttigieg erase Mr. Sanders’s weekslong polling lead in the state, as he did in Iowa, he will cement himself as the leading candidate among the moderate contenders, who include Mr. Biden and Senator Amy Klobuchar.

If Mr. Sanders hangs on and prevails on Tuesday, he will increase his edge over the other liberal in the race, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and bolster his chances of winning the Nevada caucuses on Feb. 22 — a turn of events that could make him difficult to stop in the fight for the Democratic presidential nomination.

As for Mr. Biden, his campaign and career are on the line: If he is humiliated on Tuesday for the second time in two weeks, his political advantages in Nevada and South Carolina, which holds its primary on Feb. 29, could crumble.

Daily Beast, Opinion: King Donald to GOP: And Now, You Are My Servants, Rick Wilson (editor at large and Republican political strategist), Feb. 8, 2020. Trump’s performances Thursday told the world that corruption had triumphed. He learned exactly the opposite lesson of the one Republicans imagined.

In two speeches today, the recently acquitted and utterly guilty president of the United States, King Donald the Malevolent, let his rage, manias, and petty vengeances out to play, bellowing like a third-world warlord in a display of political performance art that was almost unbearably grotesque in its affront to American values, the law, and our collective sanity.

Like me, your first thought was likely that after today, only Americans fed on a daily drip of IV agitporn from Fox and Facebook believe Trump is morally or mentally fit for the task at hand.

Post-Impeachment Stories

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washington post logoWashington Post, Trump fires Gordon Sondland, the second impeachment witness to be removed from his post Friday, John Wagner and Reis Thebault, Feb. 8, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump fired two of the most prominent witnesses in the impeachment inquiry within hours of each other Friday evening, moves that amounted to retribution against those he holds responsible for his attempted removal.

gordon sondland oGordon Sondland, left, the ambassador to the European Union, said he was informed of Trump’s intention to recall him on Friday. Earlier in the day, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and his twin brother were both removed from their posts at the National Security Council.

Earlier Friday, Trump said his impeachment by the House should be “expunged” because it was a “total political hoax.” Trump continued to target House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah), the only Republican who voted to convict him in the Senate trial that ended Wednesday with his acquittal.

The crux of the case against Trump was the allegation that he withheld military aid and a White House meeting to pressure Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son. Hunter Biden served on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, while his father was vice president.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Col. Vindman and the Trumpification of the National Security Council, John Gans (Dr. Gans is the author of White House Warriors: How the National Security Council Transformed the American Way of War), Feb. 8, 2020 (print ed.). His removal is petty and vindictive. It’s also part of a bigger plan.

The dismissal is just one part of a campaign by the national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, to trumpify one of the most powerful and important institutions in government.

Over the last six months, while impeachment dominated the news, Mr. O’Brien undertook the first restructuring of the council in a generation. He cut 60 to 70 positions, about a third of the staff, many of them career professionals. He also directed that the National Security Council focus less on transnational issues like global economics and nonproliferation, and more on bilateral and geographic priorities. In all, Mr. O’Brien’s trumpification of the staff will hamper the United States’ ability to meet the world’s challenges, and hamstring the next president.

washington post logojared kushner ivanka trump july 4 2017 facebookWashington Post, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump made at least $82 million in outside income last year, filings show, Amy Brittain, Ashley Parker and Anu Narayanswamy, Documents reveal that the couple earned immense income from other enterprises while working in the Trump administration.

 donald trump money palmer report Custom

Donald Trump (graphic by Palmer Report)

washington post logoWashington Post, Secret Service has paid rates as high as $650 a night for rooms at Trump’s properties, David A. Fahrenthold​, Feb. 8, 2020 (print ed.). Since Trump took office, he has visited his own properties on 342 days, always accompanied by Secret Service agents. Trump’s company has charged the Secret Service $650 per night for rooms at Mar-a-Lago, and $17,000 a month for a cottage in Bedminster. Taxpayers foot the bill.

secret service logoPresident Trump’s company charges the Secret Service for the rooms agents use while protecting him at his luxury properties — billing U.S. taxpayers at rates as high as $650 per night, according to federal records and people who have seen receipts.

Those charges, compiled here for the first time, show that Trump has an unprecedented — and largely hidden — business relationship with his own government. When Trump visits his clubs in Palm Beach, Fla., and Bedminster, N.J., the service needs space to post guards and store equipment.

Trump’s company says it charges only minimal fees. But Secret Service records do not show that.

At Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club, the Secret Service was charged the $650 rate dozens of times in 2017, and a different rate, $396.15, dozens more times in 2018, according to documents from Trump’s visits.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Fallout from Trump’s impeachment reaches Senate races, Paul Kane, Feb. 8, 2020. Democrats are targeting GOP senators in Maine, Arizona and North Carolina who voted to acquit Trump. Republicans are emerging from the trial with their own level of confidence.

      • Washington Post, Opinion: What the New Hampshire debate tells us and what it doesn’t, Jennifer Rubin, Feb. 8, 2020.
      • Washington Post, Opinion: Think Iowa was a mess? Black voters deal with similar chaos all the time, Andrew Gillum, Feb. 8, 2020.
      • Washington Post, Opinion: This vulgar man has squandered our decency, Dana Milbank, Feb. 8, 2020.
      • Washington Post, Opinion: McConnell and the GOP Senate are accomplices to Trump’s wrongdoing, Nancy Pelosi, Feb. 8, 2020.

Inside DC djt feb 7 2020 william moon white house photo

Donald Trump, with tanning make-up revealed, returns to White House from Trump white nationalist rally in North Carolina on Feb. 7, 2020 (Photo by William Moon).

New York Magazine, Trump Insists Real Photo Revealing His Fake Tan Is Fake, Jonathan Chait, Feb. 8, 2020. Last night, an especially grotesque photo of President Trump began to circulate online. The image, taken by photographer and apparent Trump enthusiast William Moon, showed the sunset-lit president with the wind sweeping his hair back, revealing an especially striking contrast between whatever fake tan or coloration he uses and the ghostly pallor of the skin bordering his hair:

White House Photos @photowhitehouse: ⁦@realDonaldTrump⁩ returns to the White House from Charlotte, North Carolina. Photo by William Moon at the South Lawn of the White House on February 7, 2020

Moon also posted an even more disturbing black-and-white version.

The photo became an instant meme, and so irked Trump that he insisted it was “fake news,” and complained that his opponents would do “anything to demean” him.

Some suspect the images were altered, but Moon posted other photos from the scene, and after comparing his with press-pool shots of the moment, it seems apparent that the wind did indeed expose the fault line in Trump’s orange coloring:

It is of course hilarious that Trump would complain that he is being demeaned on the basis of his appearance. He has spent his entire career as a celebrity put-down artist, sexual harasser, and politician who relentlessly demeans his targets based on their bodies. He is especially cruel to women, having called his former lover Stormy Daniels “Horseface,” mocked Carly Fiorina as ugly (“Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?”

Trump likewise has mocked Jerry Nadler as fat; sundry opponents, like Marco Rubio, Adam Schiff, and Michael Bloomberg, as short; and had a period of fixating on the allegedly narrow size of Schiff’s neck.

Trump himself places more importance on appearance than any president in history, and perhaps any powerful person who does not work in modeling, television, or film. He staffs his administration in large part based on their appearance. He blocked a second term for Janet Yellen in part because she was too short, initially hesitated to hire John Bolton due to his mustache, and constantly praises the officials surrounding him because they look like they come from “central casting” — the job criteria he most values.

Yet Trump himself is not a central-casting pick for his job. Despite being a tall, white male — the traditional American cultural norm for his position — his appearance is nonetheless anything but “presidential.”

He has to avoid wind, or guard against it by wearing a hat, lest it turn his combover into comic, flapping yellow wings:

As for his orange color, Trump is clearly aware that it creates a strange look, but he oddly blames it on newfangled light bulbs, and seems to believe that rolling back bulb efficiency standards will make his skin look normal again.

Trump’s superficiality is the main problem. That a president would bully others based on their appearance, and select his aides on their looks, is one of his many utterly disqualifying character traits. But as bad as it may be that the president does this, what tips it from the infuriating to the absurd is the fact that the body-shamer-in-chief is also quite possibly the most ridiculous-looking president in American history.

World News

washington post logochina flag SmallWashington Post, U.S. citizen in China becomes first American to die from coronavirus, Anna Fifield and Gerry Shih​, Feb. 8, 2020. The  death toll from the coronavirus recorded its largest daily jump with 86 deaths, taking the toll on the mainland to 723, as the first deaths of an American and a Japanese citizen were recorded in Wuhan. The 60-year old American died Thursday, the U.S. Embassy said.

li wenliang doctor

ny times logoNew York Times, Rare Online Revolt in China Emerges Over Death of Coronavirus Whistle-Blower, Li Yuan, Feb. 8, 2020 (print ed.). The doctor, Li Wenliang (shown above working and then ailing), had been silenced by the police after warning about the new coronavirus that has killed hundreds in China and sickened thousands. Since late Thursday, people from different backgrounds have posted numerous messages expressing their grief at the doctor’s death.

It has prompted a nationwide soul-searching under an authoritarian government that allows for little dissent.

washington post logoWashington Post, Thai soldier kills at least 17 people in shooting rampage, Paritta Wangkiat, Shibani Mahtani, Alex Horton and Katie Mettler, Feb. 8, 2020. A Thai soldier killed at least 17 people Saturday in a shooting rampage that began with the gunman killing his commander at an Army camp.

Authorities are trying to establish negotiations with the gunman, who is holed up at a shopping mall.

The alleged shooter, identified by authorities as 32-year-old Jakrapanth Thomma, is a sergeant in the Thai military. The attack began around 3:30 p.m., when Thomma fatally shot his commanding officer and then attacked the Terminal 21 mall in the city of Nakhon Ratchasima, also known as Korat, a major city in the northeastern Isan province of Thailand that is about three and a half hours from Bangkok.

Thomma stole his weapons from a military camp, a defense spokesman told BBC Thai.

washington post logoWashington Post, Buried in Trump’s peace plan, a proposal that could strip thousands of Israeli Arabs of their citizenship, Staff report, Feb. 8, 2020.

Feb. 7

Post-Impeachment Headlines

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U.S. 2020 Elections

World News


Post-Impeachment Excerpts

djt acquitted photo

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump rips critics and considers ways to target his perceived enemies, Josh Dawsey​, Feb. 7, 2020 (print ed.). Some of the president’s aides are discussing whether to remove or reassign administration officials who testified during the impeachment inquiry.

• Washington Post, Analysis: Trump marks end of trial with raw, angry rant

djt feb 7 2020 william moon white house photo

Donald Trump, with tanning make-up revealed, returns to White House from Trump white nationalist rally in North Carolina on Feb. 7, 2020 (Photo by William Moon).

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump preparing to push out national security official who testified in House inquiry, Josh Dawsey, Robert Costa and Greg Miller, Feb. 7, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump is preparing to push out a national security official who testified against him during the impeachment inquiry after he expressed deep anger on Thursday over the attempt to remove him from office because of his actions toward Ukraine.

alexander vindman cropped oct 29 2019Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, right, — a National Security Council aide who testified during House Democrats’ impeachment hearings — will be informed in the coming days, likely on Friday, by administration officials that he is being reassigned to a position at the Defense Department, taking a key figure from the investigation out of the White House, according to two people familiar with the move who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss personnel decisions.

Vindman had already informed senior officials at the NSC that he intended to take an early exit from his assignment and leave his post by the end of the month, according to people familiar with his decision, but Trump is eager to make a symbol of the Army officer soon after the Senate acquitted him of the impeachment charges approved by House Democrats.

• Washington Post, With trial over, Trump fires at political foes
• Washington Post, Analysis: Trump marks end of trial with raw, angry rant

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: You From New York? You’re First on Trump’s Revenge List, Editorial Board, Feb. 7, 2020. If you live in the state, you won’t be able to enroll in Trusted Traveler Programs. Fresh from his impeachment acquittal by Senate Republicans, President Trump has shifted into payback mode.

In his combative State of the Union address Tuesday, Mr. Trump launched a broadside against one of his favorite targets: “sanctuary cities,” those jurisdictions that limit cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration officials.

He singled out New York and California for particular contempt, spinning nightmarish tales of violent crimes he attributed to those states’ liberal immigration laws. And he touted legislation that would allow the victims of crimes committed by certain foreign nationals to sue sanctuary cities and states.

For those familiar with the president’s anti-immigrant musings, it was a familiar refrain. But this time, he was not content merely to engage in fearmongering. Mr. Trump was in the mood to punish those who would defy him.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: President to head to North Carolina as fallout continues from his Senate trial, John Wagner, Feb. 7, 2020. Sen. Paul draws ethics complaint for naming alleged whistleblower. President Trump is scheduled to head to North Carolina on Friday on his first trip out of Washington since being acquitted in a Senate trial on impeachment charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress that centered on his conduct toward Ukraine.

An economic event will offer a glimpse of how much Trump plans to continue to focus on his impeachment while fallout from the trial continues, including reports that he is preparing to push out a national security official who testified against him. At events Thursday, Trump railed against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah), the only Republican who voted to convict him.

The crux of the case against Trump was the allegation that he withheld military aid and a White House meeting to pressure Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son. Hunter Biden served on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, while his father was vice president. 9:15 AM: Gingrich says Trump should not pay any attention to Pelosi, his ‘mortal enemy’

Newt Gingrich, a former House speaker, offered some advice Friday to Trump on how to handle the current occupant of that job in the wake of his acquittal.

“My advice to the president would be really simple,” Gingrich said. “Don’t pay any attention to Pelosi, because she’s your mortal enemy. . . . There’s not much point in the president wasting time with her.”

During an appearance on Fox News, Gingrich also chided Pelosi for cutting short Trump’s introduction at the State of the Union, noting that he introduced President Bill Clinton four times during his tenure as speaker, saying each time that it was “my distinct honor and personal privilege” to do so. Cutting those words “was almost like a declaration of war,” Gingrich said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s quest for revenge could mean the end of whistleblowing, Walter M. Shaub Jr. ( former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics and a senior adviser to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington), Feb. 7, 2020. He and his allies are killing a crucial tool of democracy.

President Trump and some of his allies in the Senate are kicking off the post-impeachment era with vengeance on their minds. In a speech on Thursday, Trump condemned “leakers and liars” and declared that “this should never, ever happen to another president, ever.” On Capitol Hill, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Republicans plan to launch an investigation of the whistleblower who disclosed President Trump’s effort to coerce Ukraine to investigate a political rival. Graham threatened that they are “going to get to the bottom of all of this to make sure this never happens again.”

If they carry out this threat of state-sponsored retaliation, whistleblowing as we know it may be over. That would be a disastrous blow to government integrity.

Do not doubt that the eyes of our nation are watching this situation unfold. Federal officials will now think twice before reporting any wrongdoing they witness. Their reticence will only be magnified if Republicans exact a price by grilling the Ukraine whistleblower in a Senate hearing “to make sure this never happens again.” The same will be true if Congress lets executive branch officials fire or otherwise punish the whistleblower — as the Trump administration did to Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine.
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Congress has not always been so hostile to whistleblowers. Over the years, its members have enacted laws that provide limited employment protection for certain federal officials who blow the whistle on bad actors. During the Obama administration, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) announced that he and other lawmakers had filed a Supreme Court brief in support of whistleblower protections, explaining that “whistleblower laws were enacted to protect workers who do the right thing and report wrong-doing” and emphasizing that whistleblowers are “vital to Congress’ constitutional oversight responsibility.”

The law doesn’t care about whistleblowers’ grudges

These laws serve several other important purposes as well. They deter wrongdoing by encouraging federal officials to expose waste, fraud, abuse and other misconduct. They provide secure channels for officials with access to classified information to report wrongdoing, which protects national security by reducing the temptation to instead leak that information. They also safeguard the public by enabling the government to detect critical vulnerabilities in public health and national security systems.

But these laws, which have significant limitations, were never designed to withstand focused congressional retaliation. During the impeachment trial, Chief Justice John Roberts refused to read a question from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) containing the name of an individual rumored by agents of retaliation to be the whistleblower. Undeterred, Paul spoke the individual’s name on the Senate floor Tuesday, committing it into the record while standing next to a poster bearing the name. He boasted that the Constitution, which affords special privileges to members on the Senate floor, guarantees his right to engage in such conduct. But nothing guarantees the safety of the individual he named, whom Paul acknowledged may not even be the whistleblower.

U.S. 2020 Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Candidates try to stand out as New Hampshire vote nears, Staff report, Feb. 7, 2020. During the debate, presidential hopefuls covered electability, war, drugs and racism and ended with childhood poverty.

Seven candidates were on stage in New Hampshire for the first debate since Americans started voting for the Democratic presidential nominee. Candidates covered electability, health care, war, drugs and racism and ended with childhood poverty.

On stage were Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.); former vice president Joe Biden; former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg; Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.); Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.); entrepreneur Andrew Yang; and investor Tom Steyer.

• Winners and losers from the New Hampshire debate
• Biden lowers N.H. expectations
• Buttigieg takes on Biden over Iraq
• Buttigieg is pressed on record on race
• The world has changed’: Sanders defends records on guns

The Grayzone, Media darling Pete Buttigieg was in unit that worked with the CIA in Afghanistan, Alex Rubinstein, Feb. 7, 2020. While Buttigieg’s campaign denies allegations he was a CIA asset, military records reveal Mayor Pete was in a unit that worked with the spy agency in Afghanistan. The Grayzone published an article about Pete Buttigieg’s roster of endorsements from CIA veterans and coup plotters, and another about his mysterious trip to Somaliland alongside a friend who now works for a US government regime-change agency, Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign issued a public statement denying that he ever worked for the CIA.

“We hate to break the news to Twitter, but no, Pete was not in the CIA,” Buttigieg’s national press secretary Chris Meagher derisively told The Daily Beast, which directly referenced both Grayzone reports. “As for the Somaliland trip, it was not related to his work anywhere.”

The Daily Beast article appeared in response not only to factual reporting by The Grayzone, but to a wave of allegations spread online through hashtags like #CIAPete which accused Buttigieg of being a CIA asset.

Following the fiasco in Iowa, in which voting results were blocked thanks to faulty technology produced by a dark money outfit linked to Buttigieg – and Mayor Pete inexplicably took to himself the victor – the hashtag trended nationally.

ny times logoNew York Times, Tonight’s Democratic Debate: Familiar Faces, New Dynamics, Staff report, Feb. 7, 2020. Despite messy results, the Iowa caucuses scrambled the campaign. How will this affect the dynamics onstage?

washington post logoWashington Post, Sanders goes after Buttigieg for billionaire backers as the two vie for early-state dominance, Matt Viser and Isaac Stanley-Becker, Feb. 7, 2020. The criticism came as the Vermont senator and the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., both claimed victory in Iowa and barreled toward Tuesday’s primary in New Hampshire.

“I like Pete Buttigieg,” Bernie Sanders said. “Nice guy.” But that is where the warm words ended.

bernie sanders 2020 button croppedThe Vermont senator, speaking Friday morning at the “Politics and Eggs” breakfast at Saint Anselm College, went after the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., in newly sharp terms as the rival candidates each claimed victory in the Iowa caucuses, with Buttigieg ahead in delegates to the state convention and Sanders leading in the popular vote.

The muddle in the first-in-the-nation contest, where results were delayed by a technological breakdown, gave added salience to Tuesday’s primary in New Hampshire.

In introductory remarks before he took questions, Sanders read aloud a series of headlines about the 38-year-old former mayor. Depicting his rival as too cozy with big-money donors, Sanders telegraphed his line of attack against Buttigieg as the two compete to replicate their Iowa success in other early states.

“How do we feel when we have candidates in the Democratic Party right now — I’m reading some headlines from newspapers about Pete Buttigieg,” he said.

One described how Buttigieg “has most exclusive billionaire donors of any Democrat.” Another characterized the former mayor and management consultant as the party’s “big business candidate.” The Washington Post reported this week that the candidate, who began the race with next to no national name recognition, is “getting an even closer look from big-money donors following what some described as a surprising performance in the Iowa caucuses.”

A spokesman for Buttigieg did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The headlines speak to the growing divide among Democrats — who lament the role of money in politics — over how to finance their own campaigns. Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts have sworn off high-dollar fundraisers, though each has transferred funds from previous bids, when their self-imposed restrictions were less strict. Sanders also draws backing from Our Revolution, a nonprofit founded by the senator that takes large donations without fully disclosing their source.

ny times logomichelle goldberg thumbNew York Times, Opinion: The Harrowing Chaos of the Democratic Primary, Michelle Goldberg, right, Feb. 7, 2020. Is it really going to be Bernie or bust for American democracy? How did it come to this? Mostly, I blame Joe Biden and those in the Democratic establishment who pushed his campaign.

It’s been obvious for some time now that Biden is not nearly as vigorous as he once was. While he’s always been gaffe-prone, his speech has grown tentative and meandering in a way that engenders sympathy but also profound anxiety. In Iowa, where voters had a chance to see him up close, the most recent results show him with a distant fourth-place finish. Even if he somehow limps to the nomination, the general election will be a grim slog, like racing on a wounded horse.

Yet with his unmatched biography and name recognition, he deprived younger center-left candidates like Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Michael Bennet of oxygen even as he failed to consolidate centrists himself. That’s left the erstwhile novelty candidate Pete Buttigieg as Biden’s strongest competitor for moderate votes. But while he’s shooting up the polls in New Hampshire, he has virtually no support among voters of color.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Pete Buttigieg is emerging as a unity candidate in New Hampshire — with a bounce from Iowa, James Hohmann, Feb. 7, 2020. An Air Force veteran asked Pete Buttigieg at the American Legion hall here whether he learned any special lessons during his deployment to Afghanistan as a Naval reservist.

“Being in charge is not about being exalted,” answered the 38-year-old Democratic presidential candidate. “I was a pretty junior officer. I was just a lieutenant. But I recognized that the most important thing I could do was to do right by the enlisted people who were calling me ‘sir.’ It’s that basic principle that officers eat last when you’re at chow. And I wish that we had a president who understood that the position at the top of the org chart should also be the position of greatest humility about your need to do right by everybody around you.”

pete buttigieg 2020 button croppedButtigieg’s nod to the virtue of modesty was the single biggest applause line during his Thursday afternoon town hall meeting, which filled the venue to capacity. It offered a stark contrast to the anything-but-humble victory lap that President Trump took at the White House earlier in the afternoon to celebrate being acquitted by the Senate.

A dozen different voters I interviewed after Buttigieg’s event brought up the moment – including people who are torn between him and Joe Biden, him and Bernie Sanders, him and Elizabeth Warren, as well as him and Amy Klobuchar. These conversations offered a window into Buttigieg’s emergence, ahead of next Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, as the kind of unity candidate who defies the conventional lanes that pundits try to force candidates into.

Polling shows that Buttigieg has been surging here since his better-than-expected finish in the Iowa caucuses, where he’s neck-and-neck with Sanders and an official winner has not been declared.

A nightly tracking poll of likely Democratic voters in New Hampshire by Suffolk University, in partnership with the Boston Globe and WBZ-TV, has shown the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., gaining ground here every night since Monday. Sanders led last night with 24 percent, followed by Buttigieg with 23 percent (up four points from the night before). The pollsters say Buttigieg’s gains are coming from Biden and Warren. Warren garnered 13 percent and Biden got 11 percent in the latest poll. Everyone else was in single digits. The margin of error is 4.4 percent.

A Monmouth University poll released Thursday puts Sanders in the lead with 24 percent among likely primary voters, followed by Buttigieg at 20 percent, Biden at 17 percent, Warren at 13 percent and Klobuchar at 9 percent. Half of all respondents said they’re not firmly decided and could still change their minds. The margin of error is also 4.4 percent.

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Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: The Trump & Sanders cults: similar tactics, same idol worship, Wayne Madsen, below at left, Feb. 7, 2020. While there are significant wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallpolicy differences between the presidential campaigns of Donald John Trump and Bernie Sanders, they share in common political cult followings that idolize their political heroes.

The two cult followings also develop and disseminate their own conspiracy theories that are nothing more than grievances about how their candidates are treated. For Trump fans, it's the "Deep State" and "Never Trumpers" and for Sanders's followers, it's the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Hillary and Bill Clinton, DNC Chair Tom Perez, and, since the Iowa Caucus, the Iowa Democratic Party. Joining Sanders's supporters in claiming that the DNC is rigging the campaign against Sanders is Trump, who sees Sanders as easy pickings in the general election.

The two cults have their own violent-prone "bomb throwers." One of Sanders's cult followers, James Hodgkinson, shot up a congressional Republican baseball practice game in 2017 in Alexandria, Virginia, severely wounding House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana. The incident made an instant right-wing hero out of Scalise, a one-time unabashed supporter of the Ku Klux Klan in Louisiana.

Trump, who grew up in Queens, and Sanders, who grew up not far away in Brooklyn, also share in common rude behavior. Trump's rudeness is on display every day. Sanders has been known to treat people rudely, including some restaurant staff who have described the Vermont senator as "rude and cranky."

Trump has his own far-right terrorist supporters, including Cesar Sayoc, who, in 2018, sent several mail bombs to CNN and prominent Democrats, including Joe Biden, Hillary and Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and several others. Interestingly, Sanders was not on Sayoc's mailing list.

 

CNN, GOP Trump challenger ends bid and calls party a ‘cult,’ Host: John Berman, Feb. 7, 2020.  presidential candidate Joe Walsh announced he is dropping out of the 2020 presidential race, telling CNN's John Berman that President Trump is a "dictator" and saying he plans to speak with other Republicans to get them to support the Democratic presidential candidate.

Daily Beast, Opinion: King Donald to GOP: And Now, You Are My Servants, Rick Wilson (editor at large and Republican political strategist), Feb. 7, 2020. Trump’s performances Thursday told the world that corruption had triumphed. He learned exactly the opposite lesson of the one Republicans imagined.

In two speeches today, the recently acquitted and utterly guilty president of the United States, King Donald the Malevolent, let his rage, manias, and petty vengeances out to play, bellowing like a third-world warlord in a display of political performance art that was almost unbearably grotesque in its affront to American values, the law, and our collective sanity.

Like me, your first thought was likely that after today, only Americans fed on a daily drip of IV agitporn from Fox and Facebook believe Trump is morally or mentally fit for the task at hand.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Nancy Pelosi drops the hammer, Robert Harrington, Feb. 7, 2020. I don’t know about you but I’m getting a little tired of nancy pelosi twitterthe do-nothing Republicans. There is no sane reason for Liddle’ (whatever that means) Mitch McConnell to sit on HR3 (the House bill to lower the cost of prescription drugs), particularly after Cryin’ Donald Trump boasted during the farce known as his State of the Union Address that he would sign any such bill that crossed his desk.

The previous paragraph was brought to you by what Republicans must mean when they refer to a “dignified response.” It is the spirit of this dignified response that has been violated by Nancy Pelosi, so they claim, when she tore her copy of the SOTU in half.

Pelosi herself was asked if she thought that she stepped on her own message to her fellow House Democrats to take the high road when she tore up the speech. “No I did not,” Pelosi responded, “I tore up a manifesto of mistruths.”

bill palmer report logo headerWhat is more, she didn’t tear it up because Trump refused to shake her hand after handing her a copy of the speech, as is the time-honored tradition in this solemn occasion.

She tore it up because of “HR3, infrastructure and the rest, he misrepresented all of that. [So] it was necessary to get the attention of the American people and say, ‘This is not true. This is how it affects you.’ And I don’t need any lessons from anybody – especially the president of the United States – about dignity.”

And so she does not. Long in advance of the speech, bookies gave Trump’s State of the Union good odds that it would be full of lies. The only question was how many. The average turned out to be one lie every two minutes, that is, about forty.

Pelosi’s response, to quietly tear the speech in half, was a gesture of magnificent defiance. It was Alexander’s sword cutting the Gordian knot. It was a Boston Tea Party of gestures. It was Rosa Parks refusing to relinquish her seat at the front of the bus. And it was exactly what Donald Trump and the Republicans deserve after their long and shameful legacy of deceit and hypocrisy.

Let’s never forget that Donald Trump is a sexual predator, a child rapist and a child jailer, he steals money from charities devoted to helping children who are dying of cancer, he recently bullied a 17 year old girl on Twitter. Donald Trump is human scum, and not all the ceremony, pomp or solemn occasion draped in American flags will ever change that.

washington post logoWashington Post, With all precincts finally reported, Iowa results show tight race between Buttigieg, Sanders, Amy B Wang​, Feb. 7, 2020 pete buttigieg 2020 button face Custom(print ed.). Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Bernie Sanders have 26.2 percent and 26.1 in state delegate equivalents. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden remained third and fourth.

Three days after the Iowa caucuses, the state Democratic Party at last released all of the results, showing the tightest of races between Pete bernie sanders 2020 button croppedButtigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Ind., and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Buttigieg held a narrow lead of 26.2 percent in state delegate equivalents, the traditional metric by which an Iowa winner has been determined. Sanders had 26.1 percent.

The results followed a chaotic count marred by technical issues, and an official winner has not been declared. Sanders, however, held a lead in the popular vote, and he claimed victory earlier in the day, noting that he had an advantage of roughly 6,000 votes in elizabeth warren 2020 button croppedthe first round of the caucuses and about 2,500 in the second round.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) finished third, with 18 percent of state delegate equivalents. Former vice president Joe Biden earned 15.8 percent, a disappointing fourth-place finish that he described as a “gut punch.”

      •  Washington Post, Joe Walsh, Republican who called Trump ‘unfit’ for office, ends presidential bid, Feb. 7, 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, Joe Biden elevates adviser Anita Dunn in staff shake-up, Feb. 7, 2020. Matt Viser, Michael Scherer and Cleve Wootson Jr., Former vice president Joe Biden's campaign is shaking up its top staff echelon, giving greater responsibility to adviser Anita Dunn as it seeks to signal a new phase of the campaign following a disappointing fourth-place finish in Iowa that has rattled donors and supporters.

The shift was announced in an email sent out by campaign manager Greg Schultz and longtime Biden adviser Steve Ricchetti. It described Dunn as taking on “an expanded role.”

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Airliner carrying 172 passengers nearly shot down over Syria, Russia says, Robyn Dixon and Liz Sly​, Feb. 7, 2020. Russia accused the Israeli air force of using the passenger plane as a shield from Syrian air defenses.

An Airbus A320 jet carrying 172 passengers was nearly shot down on its approach to the Syrian capital, Damascus, shortly after 2 a.m. Thursday after Syria fired antiaircraft missiles in response to an attack, according to a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Russian news agencies reported Friday.

Russia accused the Israeli air force of using the passenger plane as a shield from Syrian air defenses, mirroring an incident in 2018 in which Syrian forces accidentally shot down a Russian reconnaissance plane, killing 15 Russian service members.

Thursday’s incident underlined the continued danger that Israel’s regular airstrikes in Syria, targeting what Israeli officials claim are Iranian assets, could spiral into a major international confrontation.

The plane was diverted to Russia’s nearby Hmeimim air base and landed safely, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Coronavirus on Ship Worsens as Deaths in China Pass 600: Latest Updates, Staff reports, Feb. 7, 2020. The number of cases on the quarantined Diamond Princess off Japan tripled as the death toll from the virus in China rose.

china flag SmallAfter speaking by telephone with China’s leader, Xi Jinping, President Trump said on Twitter that “he will be successful.” Hospital workers in Hong Kong ended their five-day strike, hours before a new rule tightening quarantine rules on visitors was due to take effect.

Bowing to pressure, China announces an investigation after a doctor’s death. China’s ruling Communist Party, bending to public pressure, said on Friday that it would send a team from its powerful anticorruption committee to investigate the issues surrounding a whistle-blower doctor who had died hours earlier in Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.

The doctor, Li Wenliang, who was among the first to warn about the outbreak, only to be silenced by the police, died on Friday after himself becoming infected with the virus, the hospital treating him reported.

Common Dreams, 'Bombshell': Iraqi Officials Say ISIS—Not Iran—Likely Behind Rocket Attack Trump Used to Justify Soleimani Assassination, Jake Johnson, "Al-Qaeda attacked the U.S. on 9/11 and we went to war with Iraq. If this report is true, ISIS attacked the U.S. and we nearly went to war with Iran."

In a "bombshell" revelation that calls into question one of the Trump administration's stated justificiations for assassinating Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani—a move that nearly sparked a region-wide military conflict—Iraqi intelligence officials told the New York Times that they believe ISIS, not an Iran-linked militia, was likely responsible for the Dec. 27 rocket attack that killed an American contractor at an air base near Kirkuk, Iraq.

The Times reported Thursday that "Iraqi military and intelligence officials have raised doubts about who fired the rockets... saying they believe it is unlikely that the militia the United States blamed for the attack" was responsible.

"All the indications are that it was Daesh," Brigadier General Ahmed Adnan, the Iraqi chief of intelligence for the federal police at the K-1 air base, told the Times, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS. "We know Daesh's movements."

The Trump administration has not released a single piece of evidence showing that the Iraqi militia Khataib Hezbollah, which has ties to Iran, was responsible for the attack on K-1. The group has denied carrying out the attack.

The U.S. responded to the rocket attack days later with deadly airstrikes on Khataib Hezbollah targets in Iraq and Syria, setting off a dangerous escalatory spiral that brought Iran and the U.S. to the brink of war.

On Jan. 2, the U.S. assassinated Soleimani with a drone strike in Baghdad ordered by President Donald Trump. Following the assassination, which was widely condemned as an act of war, the U.S. Department of Defense issued a statement claiming without evidence that Soleimani "orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the last several months — including the attack on December 27th — culminating in the death and wounding of additional American and Iraqi personnel."

SouthFront, Syrian Army Eliminated Elite Ansar al-Tawhid Unit While Repelling Recent Southern Idlib Attack, Staff report, Feb. 7, 2020. The syrian flag wavingSyrian Arab Army (SAA) eliminated an elite unit of al-Qaeda-affiliated Ansar al-Tawhid, while the SAA was repelling a large-scale attack on its positions in southern Idlib on February 6.

According to opposition activists, the unit consisted of eight militants led by a prominent field commander known as Obada Abu Jafar. None of them survived the clashes with the Syrian military.

SANA (Syrian Arab news Agency), Lavrov: Anti-terror operations in Idleb carried out legally, Gh. A. Hassoun, Feb. 7, 2020. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reiterated that any agreements or understandings regarding the de-escalation zone in Idleb do not include terrorist organizations, stressing that anti-terror operations being carried out in the province are “completely legal.”

Lavrov said in a press conference after his talks with his Mexican counterpart Ebrard Casaubon in Mexico on Friday that all what is being done to fight the terrorists is carried out legally.

sergey lavrovEarlier, the Russian diplomat, left, said that fighting terrorism in Syria is a sovereign right of the state and its duty to eradicate its danger, noting that “the Syrian army is fighting on its sovereign territory against terrorists designated as terrorist entities on the UN Security Council’s list.

Lavrov explained that the Turkish regime had not fulfilled its obligations under the Sochi understandings on the de-escalation zone in Idleb and said that the terrorists are still positioned in Idleb, so the Turks should fulfill their obligations.

On Thursday, Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that the ongoing terrorist attacks which target the Syrian army and Russian forces are waged by terrorist organizations from the Turkish-controlled areas.

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Donald Trump and Juan Guaido in the Oval Office

DW (Germany), Venezuela rounds up US oil bosses after Guaido meets Trump, Staff report, Feb. 6, 2020. The six executives from US refiner Citgo have been under house arrest since 2017 and are considered by many to be political prisoners. They snatched after opposition leader Juan Guaido visited the White House.

Six US oil executives were abruptly taken by police in Caracas on Wednesday, just hours after opposition leader Juan Guaido met with President Donald Trump, their attorneys and families said. The six men are executives of US refiner Citgo and were under house arrest.

They were awaiting trial on corruption charges. Prosecutors have accused them of engaging in corruption by benefiting from a proposed, though never executed, plan to refinance Citgo bonds through offering a 50% stake in the company as collateral.

But many believe the six executives, five of whom are naturalized US citizens, are being used political bargaining chips by Nicolas Maduro's regime, as relations between the US and Venezuela have soured.

They were arrested in 2017, after being lured to Caracas by officials of Venezuelan state oil firm PDVSA, Citgo's parent company, to attend a work meeting. The men spent two years in a prison of Venezuela's intelligence agency Sebin until later last year, they were transferred to house arrest.

Hours before the men were taken, Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido was in Washington, where he attended Trump's State of the Union address and later visited the Oval Office.

While the executives were in prison, Juan Guaido entered into a political clash with Nicolas Maduro, leading months-long protests and garnering the support of 50 nations for his unsuccessful bid to dislodge Maduro from power.

More 2020 Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: We need a nomination process that leads to plausible presidents, George F. Will, Feb. 6, 2020.  In 1964, an optimistic theory was slain, as such theories often are, by reality. Bernie Sanders’s supporters should take note. So should all who are interested in rethinking how the parties choose presidential nominees.

The “conservatives in the woodwork” theory was: Millions of conservatives, bored by centrist presidential candidates, skipped elections but would pour out of the woodwork and into polling places if offered “a choice, not an echo.” So, conservative Republicans achieved the nomination of Barry Goldwater, who then lost 44 states, partly because those swarms of nonvoting conservatives were mostly fictitious. A conservative majority had to be patiently made, which took 16 years.

Goldwater understood that after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, a distraught nation would not choose to have a third president in 14 months. But he also thought that his candidacy could make his party markedly more conservative. If Sanders has a “socialists in the woodwork” theory, he is daft. But some Sanders supporters might think a second Donald Trump term is an acceptable price to pay for a Sanders nomination that moves his party as dramatically leftward as Goldwater’s nomination moved his party rightward.

The nation, however, needs a nominating process that minimizes the probability of kamikaze candidacies and maximizes the probability of selecting plausible presidents. Hence it needs a retreat from the populist idea that the voice of the people is easy to ascertain and should be translated, unmediated and unrefined, directly into nominee selection. Populism has been embraced by both parties since 1968, when Hubert Humphrey won the Democrats’ nomination without entering any primaries. (Although a switch of about 300,000 November votes spread over four states would have made him president.)

In 1972, Democrats made their process more plebiscitary — more primaries, less influence for political professionals — to elicit and echo the vox populi. This, however, produced a nominee favored by the party’s most intense minority, the anti-Vietnam War cohort: South Dakota Sen. George McGovern lost 49 states. Twelve presidential election cycles later, both parties are still uncomfortably holding the populist wolf by the ears.

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ny times logoNew York Times, Iowa Caucus Results Riddled With Errors and Inconsistencies, Nate Cohn, Josh Katz, Denise Lu, Charlie Smart, Ben Smithgall and Andrew Fischer, Feb. 7, 2020 (print ed.). A New York Times analysis found more than 100 precincts with results that were internally inconsistent, missing data or impossible under the complex rules.

Results from the Iowa Democratic caucuses were delayed by “quality control checks” on Monday night. Days later, quality control issues have not been resolved.

dnc square logoThe results released by the Iowa Democratic Party on Wednesday were riddled with inconsistencies and other flaws. According to a New York Times analysis, more than 100 precincts reported results that were internally inconsistent, that were missing data or that were not possible under the complex rules of the Iowa caucuses.

In some cases, vote tallies do not add up. In others, precincts are shown allotting the wrong number of delegates to certain candidates. And in at least a few cases, the Iowa Democratic Party’s reported results do not match those reported by the precincts.

pete buttigieg mayor south bend inSome of these inconsistencies may prove to be innocuous, and they do not indicate an intentional effort to compromise or rig the result. There is no apparent bias in favor of the leaders Pete Buttigieg, right, or Bernie Sanders, meaning the overall effect on the winner’s margin may be small.

But not all of the errors are minor, and they raise questions about whether the public will ever get a completely precise account of the Iowa results. With Mr. Sanders closing to within 0.1 percentage points with 97 percent of 1,765 precincts reporting, the race could easily grow close enough for even the most minor errors to delay a final projection or raise doubts about a declared winner.

The errors suggest that many Iowa caucus leaders struggled to follow the rules of their party’s caucuses, or to adopt the additional reporting requirements introduced since 2016. They show that the Iowa Democratic Party, despite the long delays, failed to validate all of the results fully before releasing them to the public.

amy klobucher button croppedMandy McClure, a spokeswoman for the Iowa Democratic Party (I.D.P.), said the party reported the data as provided to it by the precinct caucuses.

“The caucus math work sheet is the official report on caucus night to the I.D.P., and the I.D.P. reports the results as delivered by the precinct chair,” she said. “This form must be signed by the caucus chair, the caucus secretary and representatives from each campaign in the room who attest to its accuracy. Under the rules of the delegate selection process, delegates are awarded based off the record of results as provided by each precinct caucus chair.”

Just about every election night includes reporting errors. They can be difficult to identify, but can often be corrected during a recount or a postelection canvass. This year’s Iowa caucuses are the reverse: Errors are now easy to identify, and hard to correct.

HuffPost, Trump’s Acquittal Shows The GOP Senate Acts Like A Cult, Angelina Chapin, Feb. 7, 2020.  Republican senators blocked evidence and used lies, conspiracy theories and convoluted arguments to defend their leader.

President Donald Trump stood in front of a microphone Thursday, gloating about his impeachment trial acquittal and showering his biggest advocates with praise. After entering the White House East Room to the tune of “Hail to the Chief,” he called Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) an “incredible guy,” told Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) he did a “great job” and led a standing ovation for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

Trump had good reason to dole out the back slaps. Since he was charged in December with pressuring Ukraine to help sabotage his political rivals and blocking the House’s attempt to investigate the issue, Republican senators have rallied around him like a fortress wall.

They blocked witnesses from testifying at the Senate trial and used lies, conspiracy theories and acrobatic logic to try to prove his innocence. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), the only Republican in the Senate to vote for Trump’s removal from office, has been skewered by the president and some members of the GOP over the past few days. On Friday, Trump dismissed two House impeachment witnesses, saying he was “not happy” with them.

And though this behavior might seem like dirty politics as usual, psychologists and professors say the extreme measures Republicans took to defend Trump resemble a more sinister phenomenon: the mentality of cult members.

“They’ve just refused to entertain any ideas that go against their leader,” said Janja Lalich, a sociology professor at California State University, Chico, who studies cults and extremist groups. “That kind of closed-mindedness is just so typical of cult members.”

Many experts and politicians have made the comparison between Trumpism and cults. Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, said there was a “cult-like” atmosphere around the president, as did Anthony Scaramucci, Trump’s former communications director. Joe Walsh, the former Illinois congressman who launched a failed bid to challenge Trump’s nomination, said point-blank: “My Republican Party isn’t a party. It’s a cult.”

Though some professors who study groups think this description is overly simplistic, psychology experts say Trump’s narcissistic qualities, us-vs.-them mentality and lead-by-fear approach is straight from the textbook of history’s most notorious cults. Republican senators were scared that if they voted to convict Trump of the impeachment charges, he would attack them with nasty nicknames and launch campaigns to discredit them, according to Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who wrote an op-ed for The New York Times.

And they have good reason to worry. In his speech Thursday, Trump referred to the Democrats who tried to remove him from office as “dirty cops,” “leakers” and “liars.” He insulted Romney, saying the senator failed “so badly when running for president,” and he tweeted a video that called him a “Democrat secret asset.”

“They’re afraid to get on his bad side,” said Lalich of Republican senators. “That very much parallels what we see in cults where people are terrified of, you know, being caught out in any kind of expression of doubt or mistrust of the leader.”

Media / Trafficking News

ny times logoNew York Times, Data Reveals Which Platforms Reported Surge in Child Pornography, Gabriel J.X. Dance and Michael H. Keller, Feb. 7, 2020. In a first, videos outnumbered photos in reports to the authorities last year. Facebook found the most imagery, the bulk of it on its Messenger app.Facebook found the bulk on its Messenger app, but while companies are getting better at finding such content, predators remain adept at exploiting their services.

facebook logoThe number of online photos and videos of child sexual abuse reported to the authorities grew by more than 50 percent last year, an indication that many of the world’s biggest technology platforms remain infested with the illegal material.

Nearly 70 million of the images and videos were reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a federally designated clearinghouse for the imagery that works with law enforcement agencies.

The record number was driven by a surge in illegal videos, which have always been popular among sexual predators but are now more readily detected by some companies. Over 41 million videos were reported; the number five years ago was under 350,000. The companies flagged many of the same images and videos multiple times as they were shared among users.

U.S. Crime, Courts

ny times logoNew York Times, Former Pimco C.E.O. Gets 9 Months in Prison in College Admissions Case, Kate Taylor, Feb. 7, 2020. Douglas Hodge was accused of pushing to get at least four of his children into elite schools. His punishment is the heaviest of any parent who has been sentenced in the scandal to date.

Of all the wealthy parents charged in the sprawling college admissions scandal, prosecutors have described Douglas Hodge, the retired chief executive of the bond giant Pimco, as one of the most active and prolific people involved.

Most of the parents accused of paying to cheat on college admissions exams and bribing college coaches to designate students as athletic recruits were pushing, prosecutors say, to get one or perhaps two children into college.

But prosecutors have said that Mr. Hodge, one of the most prominent business executives involved in the scandal, went further, paying bribes to get no fewer than four of his seven children into elite schools, and attempting to do so with a fifth child.

On Friday, a federal judge sentenced Mr. Hodge, who pleaded guilty to two counts — money laundering conspiracy and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest services mail and wire fraud — to nine months in prison, the heaviest punishment of any parent who has been sentenced in the admissions scandal to date.

“I have in my heart the deepest remorse for my actions,” Mr. Hodge told the judge. But he added: “I do not believe that ego or desire for higher social status drove my decision-making. Rather, I was driven by my own transformative educational experiences and my deep parental love.”

Mr. Hodge’s sentencing comes at a critical moment in the case that has drawn in dozens of parents and coaches and was announced last March.

Twenty parents have pleaded guilty, and now 14 have been sentenced, with punishments for the other parents ranging from no prison time to six months behind bars. Several parents, including the actress Felicity Huffman, who was sentenced to two weeks in prison for paying a consultant to cheat on her daughter’s SAT exam, have already completed their prison sentences.

Another 15 parents, including the actress Lori Loughlin, have pleaded not guilty and appear headed to trial, possibly this year.

U.S. Courts

Daily Mail, Pennsylvania judge is suspended after 'repeatedly calling a black female juror 'Aunt Jemima' while talking to lawyers' as bar association calls for state conduct investigation, Associated Press and Matthew Wright, Feb. 7, 2020. Judge Mark Tranquilli was suspended after being accused of referring to a black female juror as 'Aunt Jemima' repeatedly in comments he made in his chambers following the acquittal of a drug suspect on Jan. 24.

mark tranquilli pennsylvaniaA Pennsylvania judge accused of making racist comments about a juror was barred from hearing any cases, according to a court order issued Thursday.

Judge Mark Tranquilli was suspended after being accused of referring to a black female juror as 'Aunt Jemima' repeatedly in comments he made in his chambers following the acquittal of a drug suspect on Jan. 24.

Tranquilli was temporarily reassigned to summary appeals on Tuesday following an interview of the judge by court administration staff. He will be forbidden from hearing any case and will be restricted to 'administrative duties only, effective immediately.'

Feb. 6

Post-Impeachment Headlines

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U.S. 2020 Elections

World News

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malcolm x finger at headU.S. Political History

Transitions

Impeachment Trial Excerpts

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ny times logoNew York Times, TRUMP ACQUITTED IN IMPEACHMENT TRIAL: Romney Breaks Ranks in Senate Vote Largely on Party Lines, Nicholas Fandos, Feb. 6, 2020 (print ed.). After a three-week trial, senators voted against charges that President Trump abused his power and obstructed Congress to aid his own re-election. Mr. Trump faced a symbolic rebuke from within his party as Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, below left, voted to convict the president for abuse of power.

mitt romney wAfter five months of hearings, investigations and cascading revelations about President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, a divided United States Senate acquitted him on Wednesday of charges that he abused his power and obstructed Congress to aid his own re-election, bringing an acrimonious impeachment trial to its expected end.

us senate logoIn a pair of nearly party-line votes whose outcome was never in doubt, the Senate fell well short of the two-thirds margin that would have been needed to remove Mr. Trump (shown above in a file photo by Gage Skidmore), formally concluding the three-week-long trial of the 45th president that has roiled Washington and threatened the presidency.

It was the third impeachment trial of a president and the third acquittal in American history, and it ended the way it began, with Republicans and Democrats at odds over Mr. Trump’s conduct and his fitness for office, even as some members of his own party conceded the basic allegations that undergirded the charges, that he sought to pressure Ukraine to smear his political rivals.

But in a sign of the widening partisan divide testing the country and its institutions, the verdict did not promise finality. Democratic leaders immediately insisted the result was illegitimate, the product of a self-interested cover-up by Republicans, and promised to continue their investigations of Mr. Trump.

The president, vindicated in what he has long called a politically motivated hoax to take him down, prepared to campaign as an exonerated executive. And both parties conceded that voters, not the Senate, would deliver the final judgment on Mr. Trump when they cast ballots in just nine months.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Trump celebrates acquittal at White House (video), John Wagner, Felicia Sonmez and Colby Itkowitz, Feb. 6, 2020. President expresses no contrition, calls Democratic leaders ‘vicious and mean;’ Moderate Democrats confront Pelosi over speech-tearing; For Clinton, reaction to acquittal was very different from Trump’s; House swiftly kills GOP resolution of disapproval against Pelosi; Trump thanks family, departs East Room with first lady.

djt impeached nydailynews cover dec.19 2019 CustomPresident Trump celebrated his Senate acquittal Thursday at a White House event that stretched more than an hour, expressing no contrition and calling Democratic leaders “vicious and mean” while portraying his impeachment as the continuation of scrutiny he has faced since he announced his run for the presidency in 2015.

“We've been going through this now for almost three years. It was evil, it was corrupt,” he told a packed East Room crowd. Trump expressed no remorse related to the allegation that he inappropriately pressured the leader of Ukraine to investigate his political rivals, despite some Republican senators calling his actions wrong.

“This is a day of celebration because we went through hell,” he said.

Shortly before he spoke, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) chided Trump for his comments lashing out at Democrats and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) at the bipartisan, multi-faith National Prayer Breakfast. Romney was the only Republican to vote for Trump’s conviction.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Pelosi laces into Trump, defends tearing up his State of the Union speech, Mike DeBonis​, Feb. 6, 2020. An indignant Nancy Pelosi signaled Thursday she was in no mood to reconcile with President Trump and his congressional Republican allies a day after the Senate voted to acquit him of impeachment charges.

Instead, the House speaker launched into a fierce attack on Trump’s State of the Union address, his record on the economy and health care, his response to the months-long impeachment process and the swipes he leveled Thursday morning at the National Prayer Breakfast targeting the faith of his political enemies.

And the California Democrat defended her decision to publicly tear up a copy of Trump’s speech Tuesday night in the moments after he concluded his speech, saying she did not “need any lessons from anybody, especially the president of the United States, about dignity.”

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Utah Sen. Mitt Romney (shown via the Senate camera via Associated Press)

Palmer Report, Opinion: Mitt Romney’s real gift to the Resistance may be bigger than Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Feb. 6, 2020.  When Mitt Romney voted to convict and remove Donald Trump, he was doing the morally correct thing. There’s also a strong argument to be made that Romney did more to help than hurt his own political ambitions.

bill palmer report logo headerYou can decide for yourself how pure you think his motives were. But the bottom line is that it was a clear win for the Resistance. It cost Trump what could have been the rare positive news cycle for him. It took away his argument that impeachment was partisan. And it handed the Democrats the 2020 narrative that Senators from both parties agree he’s a crook. But there may be an even bigger angle.

The fatalists out there don’t want to hear this, but Donald Trump is very likely to lose in 2020. His biggest swings, such trying to secretly conspire with Ukraine to rig the election, are hurting him instead of helping him. Acquittal won’t make him a smarter criminal, so the odds of success of his eternally dimwitted schemes aren’t likely to go up. In fact Romney just bet big on the premise that his conviction vote will help finish off Trump’s weak 2020 chances. But there’s a far more difficult battle at play here.

us senate logoIt’ll be very difficult for Donald Trump to win in 2020. It’ll be even more difficult for the Republicans to take the House. But the one thing the Republicans still have going for them is that they have pretty strong odds of hanging onto the Senate. Just because of the math involved, the Resistance will have a far harder time taking the Senate than it will in finishing Trump off. But Romney just made that at least incrementally easier.

Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, and a few other Republican Senators from purple states are up for reelection this year. Their math told them that voting to acquit Trump gave them better 2020 odds than voting to convict him. But they were also counting on being able to argue that impeachment was a partisan farce. Now that Mitt Romney has very loudly voted to convict, other Republicans like Collins will spend 2020 being asked why they refused to see what Romney saw. That’s a huge landmine for them. This gives the Democrats an opening to take the Senate in November – and that may be Romney’s real gift to the Resistance.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats at a crossroads after Trump’s acquittal, torn between investigations and sole focus on policy, Rachael Bade and Paul Kane, Feb. 6, 2020 (print ed). One of the first decisions they face is whether to subpoena John Bolton as the party faces a muddled presidential field with no obvious front-runner to take on a president who has emerged seemingly unscathed.

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial, What Will Finally Defeat Donald Trump? Editorial Board, Feb. 6, 2020 (print ed.). He can do whatever it takes to win re-election, and the Republican Party will have his back.

On Tuesday night, President Trump delivered the most harshly partisan State of the Union speech in memory.

He was not wrong about everything, as when he boasted about the overall strength of the economy or praised the selflessness of American troops. But when he was wrong, as he often was, he was poisonously wrong. He grotesquely caricatured the criminality of undocumented immigrants, rewrote the history of his assaults on Americans’ health care and drastically inflated the number of jobs expected to be created by the new trade bill.

Worse than the distortions and deceptions, which Americans have come to expect from this president, Mr. Trump hijacked the House chamber, turning what should be a unifying moment, or at least an attempt at a unifying moment, into a campaign rally, corrupting the role presidents have played there as representing the whole nation.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: In Private, Republicans Admit They Acquitted Trump Out of Fear, Sherrod Brown (right, Democratic senator from Ohio), sherrod brown o 2009Feb. 6, 2020 (print ed.). One journalist remarked to me, “How in the world can these senators walk around here upright when they have no backbone?”

History has indeed taught us that when it comes to the instincts that drive us, fear has no rival. As the lead House impeachment manager, Representative Adam Schiff, has noted, Robert Kennedy spoke of how “moral courage is a rarer republican elephant logocommodity than bravery in battle.”

Playing on that fear, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, sought a quick impeachment trial for President Trump with as little attention to it as possible. Reporters, who usually roam the Capitol freely, have been cordoned off like cattle in select areas. Mr. McConnell ordered limited camera views in the Senate chamber so only presenters — not absent senators — could be spotted.

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ny times logoNew York Times, At National Prayer Breakfast, Trump Lashes Out at Impeachment Foes, Peter Baker, Feb. 6, 2020. A day after his acquittal, President Trump used an appearance at the national prayer breakfast to lash out at his “dishonest and corrupt” political rivals. Mr. Trump’s speech was an overtly political talk at what is traditionally a bipartisan affair, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi sitting nearby. He will make a formal statement at the White House at noon Eastern.

djt maga hatPresident Trump, a day after being acquitted in a Senate impeachment trial, used a national prayer breakfast on Thursday to lash out at his political opponents, accusing them of being “very dishonest and corrupt people” who are trying to destroy him and the country.

Explicitly rejecting the message of tolerance offered at the National Prayer Breakfast just moments before he took the lectern, Mr. Trump — without naming them — singled out Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was sitting just a few feet away at the head table, and Senator Mitt Romney, the Republican from Utah who voted to convict him, accusing them of hypocrisy for citing their faith while supporting his impeachment.

“As everybody knows, my family, our great country and your president have been put through a terrible ordeal by some very dishonest and corrupt people. They have done everything possible to destroy us and by so doing very badly hurt our nation,” Mr. Trump told an audience of religious leaders and followers. “They know what they are doing is wrong, but they put themselves far ahead of our great country.”

He praised “courageous Republican politicians and leaders” who “had the wisdom, fortitude and strength” to vote against the two articles of impeachment charging him with abuse of office and obstruction of Congress. He then seemed to target Mr. Romney, who cited his faith in announcing his decision to vote for conviction.

“I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong,” Mr. Trump said. Then, in a clear reference to Ms. Pelosi, who has said she prays for Mr. Trump, the president said, “Nor do I like people who say, ‘I pray for you,’ when they know that’s not so.”

Mr. Trump’s speech was as overtly a political talk as any president has made at the National Prayer Breakfast, traditionally a bipartisan affair where members of both parties put aside their disagreements for an hour or two to focus on their shared beliefs. When he arrived, he held up two newspapers with banner headlines that said, “Acquitted” and “Trump Acquitted.” In addition to his outburst on impeachment, Mr. Trump cited rising stock markets, boasted about his approval rating in the latest Gallup poll and urged the audience to vote in the fall.

The Republican identification with Trump is total. Again and again, histrionic Republican congressmen equated hatred of the president with hatred of themselves and hatred of the sacred 63 million. They spoke of Trump with an awe and a maudlin devotion bordering on religious; Barry Loudermilk, a Georgia Republican, declared that Trump had been given less due process than Jesus Christ himself.

If Trump is a martyr, who are his persecutors? You could watch the debate with the sound off and understand. All day, Republican speeches delivered by old white men alternated with Democratic speeches from women, people of color and young people. White men make up 90 percent of the Republican caucus and 38 percent of the Democratic one, and the day dramatized the representational gulf in the starkest visual terms.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Team Celebrates Acquittal at (Where Else?) His Washington Hotel, Katie Rogers, Feb. 6, 2020. Several current and former Trump advisers gathered to mingle and toast the president’s acquittal in the Senate.

Well, where else were they going to go?

One mile from the scene of President Trump’s acquittal in his impeachment trial, members of his defense team, family and administration gathered Wednesday evening at the Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington. They turned its marbled lobby into something of a hive bursting with “Keep America Great” hats, well-done steaks and bottles of red wine.

“I think it’s clearly a validation of the fact that the president never committed a crime,” Corey Lewandowski, the president’s former campaign manager, said as he flashed a blue piece of paper from his wallet. It was a Senate gallery ticket; he had watched the vote as it happened.

“We’ve had a very good week,” Mr. Lewandowski said, “between the debacle in Iowa” — referring to assorted fumbles that left the Democratic results in the 2020 caucuses in a state of suspended uncertainty — “the State of the Union speech and then the acquittal of the impeachment proceedings.”

Everyone else seemed to have gotten the message. Mr. Lewandowski was only one of several current and former Trump advisers who had gathered at the hotel to mingle and drink. On Tuesday, a photograph of an airplane full of Trump campaign surrogates returning from Iowa sailed around the internet. By Wednesday, roughly half them appeared to have passed through the hotel at some point to celebrate the verdict with plenty of booze and slightly bitter undertones.

Donald Trump, shown in a 2020 campaign hat.

Donald Trump, shown in a 2020 campaign hat.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: This Will Come Back to Haunt Trump and His Enablers, Neal K. Katyal, right, and Joshua A. Geltzer (law professors at neal katyal oGeorgetown), Feb. 6, 2020. The president was acquitted by the Senate, but the American people are smarter.

The vote to acquit President Trump was a dark day for the Senate. Uninterested in hearing from witnesses (and likely scared by what they would say), uncritical of outrageous legal arguments made by the president’s lawyers and apparently unconcerned about the damage Mr. Trump has done to the integrity of America’s elections, a majority of senators insisted on looking the other way and letting him off the hook for a classic impeachable offense: abuse of public office for private gain.

But while the Senate got it wrong, the American people learned what’s right. This impeachment was about much more than the final vote of 100 senators. It was a process, and that process yielded a public education of extraordinary value. While the Senate may emerge from the process weakened, the American people, on the whole, emerge from it strengthened by a sharpened sense of what’s right and what’s wrong for an American president; of what it means for a political party to show moral courage; of what it looks like when dedicated public servants speak truth no matter the consequences; and of the importance of whistle-blowers for ensuring accountability.

The past few months have shown Americans a president who abused the public trust for his personal benefit. Before this process, we suspect, few Americans had dwelled on the question of when it crosses the line for a president to exploit for private political gain the tools of national power placed in his or her hands.

But impeachment has forced Americans to confront it — a question, it turns out, that was central to the framers’ decision to include impeachment in our Constitution. And Americans overwhelmingly reject what Mr. Trump did, with 75 percent saying in December that his Ukraine extortion scheme was wrong (a view that even some Republican senators have endorsed). That’s huge: For all that divides Americans today, this is a dominant consensus on what it means to abuse public office and distort American democracy.

U.S. 2020 Elections

Common Dreams, 'Because I Got 6,000 More Votes': Bernie Sanders Declares Victory in Iowa Caucus, Jake Johnson and Jon Queally, Feb. 6, 2020. "From where I come, when you get 6,000 more votes that's generally regarded to be the winner."

Touting his 6,000-vote lead over Pete Buttigieg with 97% of Iowa Democratic caucus precincts reporting, Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday declared victory in the first-in-the-nation presidential contest and slammed the state Democratic Party's handling of the process as "extremely unfair to the people of Iowa" and the entire 2020 Democratic presidential field.

bernie sanders 2020 button cropped"What I want to do today, three days late, is to thank the people of Iowa for the very strong victory they gave us at the Iowa caucuses on Monday night," Sanders said during a press conference in Manchester, New Hampshire. "Even though the vote tabulations have been extremely slow, we are now at a point with some 97% of the precincts reporting where our campaign is winning the popular initial vote by some 6,000 votes."

"In other words, some 6,000 more Iowans came out on caucus night to support our candidacy than the candidacy of anyone else," the Vermont senator added. "And when 6,000 more people come out for you in an election than your nearest opponent, we here in northern New England call that a victory."

The latest batch of caucus results released by the Iowa Democratic Party early Thursday morning show Sanders ahead of Buttigieg in the first alignment popular vote 42,672 to 36,718—a lead of 5,954 votes. In the final alignment popular vote, as Common Dreams reported ealier, Sanders is leading Buttigieg by more than 2,500 votes—44,753 to 42,235.

Sanders' declaration of victory came just hours after Buttigieg, in a conference call with supporters Wednesday night, claimed victory in the Iowa caucus and called himself "the momentum candidate."

iowa map

ny times logoNew York Times, Near Tie Between Buttigieg and Sanders in Iowa, Staff reports, Feb. 6, 2020 (print ed.). A new batch of results has almost eliminated Pete Buttigieg’s narrow lead over Bernie Sanders in the state’s caucuses.

• Pete Buttigieg’s slim lead in the Iowa caucus results evaporated overnight. The Iowa Democratic Party released another batch of results late Wednesday night, and with 97 percent of precincts reported, Mr. Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders were in a near tie.

• The position of the other top contenders — Elizabeth Warren in third and Joseph R. Biden Jr. in fourth — has not changed.

• It’s not clear when the rest of the results will be known, and with the margin so narrow, it’s also hard to tell when a winner will be able to be declared. Follow the latest results here.

• Meanwhile, the New Hampshire primary campaign is in full swing. Four of the Democratic candidates appeared on CNN on Wednesday night for town-hall-style programs broadcast from Manchester.

Candidate: Total S.D.E.s*

Buttigieg, right, 550 26.2%

Sanders 547 26.1

Warren 381 18.2

Biden 331 15.8

      • New York Times, Mr. Sanders disclosed a huge January fund-raising haul, at a time when his rivals are showing signs of financial strain.World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden calls Iowa caucuses standing a ‘gut punch,’ Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Feb. 6, 2020 (print ed.). The former vice president sought to reinvigorate his campaign with new attacks on Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg.

Former vice president Joe Biden acknowledged Wednesday that his presidential campaign received a "gut punch" in the Democratic caucuses in Iowa, but then sought to reinvigorate his campaign with new attacks on those beating him there.

joe biden o“I am not going to sugarcoat it,” he told a standing-room-only crowd at a VFW hall. “We took a gut punch in Iowa. The whole process took a gut punch. But look, this isn’t the first time in my life I’ve been knocked down.”

With 86 percent of the Iowa precincts in, a figure updated Wednesday afternoon, Pete Buttigieg, a former mayor of South Bend, Ind., was leading with 26.7 percent of the state delegate equivalents, followed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) with 25.4 percent. Sanders had a slight lead in the vote total, with 39,954 to Buttigieg’s 39,006

elizabeth warren cfpbSen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), left, was third in Iowa, with 18.3 percent of the delegates, and Biden, in his third bid for president, had 15.9 percent.

It is a disappointing result for the former vice president, who is the most experienced person on the ballot and whose central argument in this primary has been that he’s best equipped to defeat President Trump in the November election.

In Somersworth, he dedicated a significant chunk of his speech to attacking two of the men ahead of him in Iowa.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Joe Biden’s campaign has a problem, and it begins with him, Dan Balz, Feb. 6, 2020. Biden is well-liked — even loved — by many Democrats, but as a candidate something has been missing. That cost him in Iowa, and he now must turn things around.

Joe Biden has a problem, and it’s not just that no Democrat has finished a weak fourth in the Iowa caucuses and gone on to become the party’s presidential nominee. The problem is Joe Biden the candidate.

Biden has been a lackluster advocate for his own candidacy, and the weakness of that advocacy was an unwelcome element of his campaign. In Iowa, it came crashing in on him. If he truly wants to be president, he doesn’t have to look far for answers as to what happened. His organization certainly failed him, but he contributed significantly to what happened there.

Biden was vice president to Barack Obama, the most popular Democrat in the party. He is a veteran of four decades in the United States Senate. He is liked — even loved — and respected by many people in the party. But Iowa suggests that that’s not enough. His candidacy has lacked a spark of enthusiasm, whether that’s defined as vision or energy or fight.

He talks about the existential threat to democracy posed by President Trump, his desire to “restore the soul of the nation” and to rebuild the “spine of the middle class,” of wanting to help unite a divided county. But his calling card is electability. His advisers point to polls showing him running better against Trump than other Democratic candidates. He tells audiences that the president is scared to run against him. He says he will beat Trump “like a drum.”

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Enough is enough.’ DNC chair calls for recanvass in Iowa, Isaac Stanley-Becker​, Feb. 6, 2020. Tom Perez said on Twitter tom perezthat the move is necessary to ensure “public confidence” in the results after three days of confusion.

Tom Perez, right, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, called Thursday for a recanvass in Iowa, after three days of confusion and delayed results from the state’s first-in-the-nation caucuses.

“Enough is enough,” he wrote on Twitter. “In light of the problems that have emerged in the implementation of the delegate selection plan and in order to assure public confidence in the results, I am calling on the Iowa Democratic Party to immediately begin a recanvass.”

The state party, in reforms for 2020, introduced an opportunity for campaigns to request a recanvass and, if necessary, a recount of the results if they are able to show that new figures could alter the allocation of delegates to the national convention in the summer.

The state’s rules do not explain how exactly a recanvass differs from a full recount, though both are more significant than a simple precinct review, which involves checking caucus-level anomalies.

washington post logoWashington Post, Bloomberg seizes on chaos in Democratic presidential race to escalate his campaign, Paul Schwartzman, Feb. 6, 2020 michael bloomberg2(print ed.). The billionaire former New York mayor, right, is financing a massive political machinery across the country and has rolled out multiple endorsements in preparation for Super Tuesday in early March.

While the rest of the Democratic field tries to recover from Iowa and pivot to New Hampshire, Bloomberg is seizing the moment to gain an advantage — doubling his television spending in key states, expanding his staff to more than 2,000, and traveling the country to introduce himself as a competent and accomplished manager.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: These are turbulent times. But we will persist and prevail, Marie L. Yovanovitch (right, served most recently as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine), Feb. 6, 2020. After nearly 34 years working for the State Department, I said goodbye to a career that I loved. It is a strange feeling to transition from decades of communicating in the careful words of a diplomat to a person free to speak exclusively for myself.

marie yovanovitchWhat I’d like to share with you is an answer to a question so many have asked me: What do the events of the past year mean for our country’s future?

It was an honor for me to represent the United States abroad because, like many immigrants, I have a keen understanding of what our country represents.

In a leap of optimism and faith, my parents made their way from the wreckage of post-World War II Europe to America, knowing in their hearts that this country would give me a better life. They rested their hope, not in the possibility of prosperity, but in a strong democracy: a country with resilient institutions, a government that sought to advance the interests of its people, and a society in which freedom was cherished and dissent protected. These are treasures that must be carefully guarded by all who call themselves Americans.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The contrast between Romney and Rubio shows how low the GOP has sunk, Max Boot, right, Feb. 6, 2020. If you want to understand the recent history of the Republican Party, you could do worse than to look at the differing trajectories of two past max boot screen shotpresidential candidates — Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. I was an unpaid foreign policy adviser to both men: for Romney in 2012 and Rubio in 2016.

After their votes on impeachment — Romney was the lone Republican to vote for conviction (on the abuse-of-power charge), while Rubio joined the rest of his party in acquitting President Trump despite overwhelming evidence of his guilt — I felt prouder than ever of my work for Romney and more ashamed than ever of my work for Rubio.

This is not an outcome I could have predicted, any more than I could have predicted that a former reality TV star with scant knowledge of government and even fewer morals would take over the party of Lincoln — and indeed the whole country.

When I labored on the Romney campaign, I, like many “movement conservatives,” was lukewarm about a candidate I viewed as being insufficiently ideological. Romney had pivoted from being a moderate governor of Massachusetts to a “severely conservative” presidential candidate, but his transformation always appeared a bit insincere.

He seemed like the second coming of Michael Dukakis: competent but uninspiring. Rubio, by contrast, set conservative hearts aflutter because he seemed to be a true believer with a preternatural gift of communication. Some saw him as the second coming of Ronald Reagan.

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Virus Death Toll Soars in China as Wuhan Plans Roundup of Infected, Staff reports, Feb. 6, 2020. The rise in the death toll and number of new cases came as Chinese leaders told Wuhan to set up mass quarantine centers for people with the china flag Smallcoronavirus. The increase in deaths and new cases came as Chinese leaders told Wuhan to set up mass quarantine centers for people with the coronavirus.

Here’s what you need to know:

• Death toll in China rises to 563 as lockdown enters third week.
• Wuhan is told to round up infected residents for mass quarantine camps.
• In the quiet streets of Wuhan, the party tries to be heard.
• Day 2 of a cruise ship quarantine: permission to breathe.
• Virus’s spread raises fears about Tokyo Olympics.

li wenliang doctor

washington post logoWashington Post, Doctor who tried to raise alarm on coronavirus in Wuhan dies of disease, Gerry Shih, Feb. 6, 2020. Li Wenliang (shown above working and then ailing) was hailed as a hero for trying to call attention to the coronavirus before state authorities disclosed its full threat.

A Chinese doctor who was silenced by police for trying to share news about the new coronavirus long before Chinese health authorities disclosed its full threat died Thursday from the disease, his friends and colleagues said.

Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist at Wuhan Central Hospital, became a national hero and symbol of the Chinese government’s systemic failings last month. Li, 34, had tried to warn his medical school classmates Dec. 30 about the existence of a contagious new virus that resembled the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

Word began to spread in China thanks to Li, but his posts were censored, and he was detained Jan. 1 for “rumor-mongering.”

The full outlines of his story, which came to light in recent weeks as the Wuhan outbreak exploded into an international emergency, set off a swell of outrage in China, where citizens have long chafed at the government’s penchant for relentlessly snuffing out any speech deemed threatening to social stability.

SouthFront, Turkish Military Establishes New “Observation Post” In Eastern Idlib Air Base (Video), Staff and wire reports, Feb. 6, 2020. On Feb. 6 morning, the Turkish military established a new observation post in the Taftanaz Air Base in the eastern Idlib countryside. The al-Moharar News, an outlet affiliated with the Turkish-backed Sahm Corps, released video showing dozens of battle tanks, armored vehicles and engineer vehicles of the Turkish Armed Forces to the air base.

glenn greenwald ap photo leo correa

In this July 10, 2019 file photo, U.S. journalist Glenn Greenwald checks his news website at his home in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A judge in Brasilia dismissed accusations that Glenn Greenwald was involved in hacking phones of Brazilian officials, following weeks of criticism that his prosecution would infringe on constitutional protections for journalists. (AP Photo / Leo Correa, File)

Associated Press, Brazil judge rejects hacking accusation against Greenwald, Mauricio Savarese and David Biller, Feb. 6, 2020. A judge in ap logoBrazil’s capital on Thursday dismissed accusations that journalist Glenn Greenwald was involved in hacking phones of officials, following weeks of criticism that his prosecution would infringe on constitutional protections for the press.

Prosecutors last month leveled accusations that Greenwald helped a group of six people hack into phones of hundreds of local authorities, saying his actions amounted to criminal association and illegal interception of communications.

Since last year, Greenwald’s online media outlet The Intercept Brasil has published a series of excerpts from private conversations on a messaging app involving current Justice Minister Sérgio Moro.

The attempt by prosecutors to criminalize Greenwald’s work had prompted swift backlash from national and foreign journalist associations, freedom of expression advocates and Brazil’s national bar association.

brazil flag wavingThose groups said prosecutors were abusing their power to persecute Greenwald, an attorney-turned-journalist who lives with his husband and children in Rio de Janeiro. Greenwald’s lawyers called the allegations “bizarre” and said they challenged a previous ruling in the case by the Brazilian Supreme Court protecting freedom of the press.

Thursday’s decision by the Brasilia-based judge, Ricardo Leite, invoked that earlier ruling by Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes, who barred investigations of Greenwald and The Intercept Brasil in relation to the alleged hacking.

“My feeling is that the decision of Justice Gilmar Mendes adopted a wide and extensive sense and it does include the interpretation of blocking any action of investigation by the state, both in the investigation phase and in the judicial one,” Leite wrote in his decision.

While rejecting the claims regarding Greenwald, Leite accepted those against the six alleged hackers, who will now face charges as defendants.

The journalist said in a statement that he welcomes “the fact that this investigation will not move forward,” but adds that he believes “this decision is insufficient to guarantee the rights of a free press.”

“We seek a decisive rejection from the Supreme Court of this abusive prosecution on the grounds that it is a clear and grave assault on core press freedoms. Anything less would leave open the possibility of further erosion of the fundamental freedom of the press against other journalists,” Greenwald said.

He said his news outlet would continue to publish reports based on material obtained from the source.

The Intercept also welcomed the ruling, with reservations.

“As federal police investigators affirmed last year, he did nothing wrong,” said Betsy Reed, The Intercept’s editor-in-chief. “However, the ruling is narrow and procedural, based on the injunction issued by a Supreme Court minister last year.”

The leaked excerpts published by The Intercept Brasil purport to show that Moro, then a judge, was improperly coordinating with prosecutors he was overseeing in a vast corruption investigation.

U.S. Political History

ny times logoNew York Times, Who Really Killed Malcolm X? John Leland, Feb. 6, 2020. Fifty-five years later, the case may be reopened. Malcom X was assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom on Feb. 21, 1965. For more than half a century, scholars have maintained that prosecutors convicted malcolm x finger at headthe wrong men in the assassination of Malcolm X, right.

Now, 55 years after that bloody afternoon in February 1965, the Manhattan district attorney’s office is reviewing whether to reinvestigate the murder.

Some new evidence comes from a six-part documentary called “Who Killed Malcolm X?,” streaming on Netflix Feb. 7, which posits that two of the men convicted could not have been at the scene that day.

Instead it points the finger at four members of a Nation of Islam mosque in Newark, N.J., depicting their involvement as an open secret in their city. One even appeared in a 2010 campaign ad for then-Newark mayor Cory Booker.

ny times logoNew York Times, Deborah A. Batts, First Openly Gay Federal Judge, Dies at 72, Katharine Q. Seelye and Benjamin Weiser, Feb. 5, 2020. Deborah A. Batts, the first openly gay judge to sit on the federal bench, who presided over prominent cases involving political corruption, terrorism and the Central Park Five civil case, died on Monday at her home in Manhattan. She was 72.

deborah batts fordham law CustomHer wife, Dr. Gwen Zornberg, said she died unexpectedly of complications after knee replacement surgery.

Judge Batts, shown at left in a Fordham photo, served for a quarter-century on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. After her nomination in 1994 by President Bill Clinton, it took 17 years before a second openly gay judge, J. Paul Oetken, was appointed to the federal bench.

She was also the first African-American faculty member at Fordham Law School, where she continued to teach even after she became a judge.

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Historical Commentary: Pelosi and Romney: the last vestiges of constitutional governance, Wayne Madsen, left, Feb. wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small6, 2020. In the era of Donald Trump, the U.S. Constitution is merely an arcane encumbrance to be ignored by a dictatorial chief executive bent on amassing all political power into his own hands while threatening dissidents with criminal prosecution amid the rage of his cult following and chicanery of his political operatives and propagandists.

Pelosi and Romney grew up in political households, Pelosi's father being Baltimore's Democratic machine Mayor Thomas D'Alessandro and Romney's Michigan Republican Governor George Romney. N

either would recognize their respective political parties today, with the front-running Democratic presidential candidate not even a member of the party, but a Trotskyist Socialist former member of the Socialist Workers Party, and the Republican incumbent president being an accused rapist, money launderer, racist, misogynist, and fraudster.

Transitions

kirk douglas michael douglas Custom

Hollywood stars Kirk Douglas, left, and his son Michael Douglas. Kirk Douglas is shown also in a 1955 photo below right.

washington post logoWashington Post, Kirk Douglas 1916–2020; Actor whose masculine energy powered scores of film roles dies at 103, Louie Estrada, Feb. 6, kirk douglas 1955 Custom2020 (print ed.). As Spartacus, Vincent Van Gogh or “Doc” Holliday, Kirk Douglas lent strength and intelligence to his portrayals.

Mr. Douglas, who amassed nearly 90 screen credits, entered Hollywood in 1946 as a product of the studio system and later made the risky transition to being an independent producer and star performer as the system crumbled.

Beyond his screen work, Mr. Douglas produced and directed films; helped put an end to the Hollywood blacklist in the 1950s; wrote memoirs, novels and children’s books; and with his second wife, Anne Douglas, ran a project to improve school playgrounds in underprivileged neighborhoods.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Obama team’s response to Russian election interference fell short, Senate report says, Karoun Demirjian and Devlin Barrett, Feb. 6, 2020. The Senate Intelligence Committee published its findings detailing why the previous administration did not respond more forcefully in 2016.

ny times logoNew York Times, Navy Secretary Pushed Out by Trump Says He’ll Endorse Bloomberg, Helene Cooper, Feb. 6, 2020. richard spencer navyThe Navy secretary ousted by President Trump said Thursday that he would endorse Michael R. Bloomberg for president, a high-profile defection that Mr. Bloomberg’s allies hope will convince Democratic voters that their best chance of defeating Mr. Trump is the former mayor of New York.

Richard V. Spencer, right, who was ousted as Navy secretary in November after he publicly disagreed with Mr. Trump’s intervention in an extraordinary war crimes case involving a member of the Navy SEALs, is a lifelong Republican.

In a telephone interview, he said he had never before voted for a Democrat, but was ready to do so now. His support could help the argument by Mr. Bloomberg that, as a successful businessman himself, he is uniquely qualified to take on Mr. Trump and become the next commander in chief.

william barr senate hearing cnn screengrab jan 15 2019

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigations Into 2020 Candidates Must Be Cleared by Justice Dept., Katie Benner, Feb. 6, 2020 (print ed.). The move is intended to help avoid upending the election as the F.B.I. inadvertently did in 2016 when its campaign inquiries shaped the outcome of the race.

Attorney General William P. Barr, shown above in a file photo, issued new restrictions on Wednesday over the opening of politically sensitive investigations, an effort meant to avoid upending the presidential election as the F.B.I. inadvertently did in 2016 when its campaign inquiries shaped the outcome of the race.

Justice Department log circularThe order by Mr. Barr, announced in a memo reviewed by The New York Times, comes after a scathing report by the inspector general that showed how F.B.I. agents did not follow protocols and falsified information in their bid to investigate Carter Page, a former Trump campaign associate.

The memo, which said the Justice Department had a duty to ensure that elections are “free from improper activity or influences,” was issued on the same day that President Trump was acquitted on charges that he had abused his office to push a foreign power to publicly announce investigations into his political rivals. The memo said that the F.B.I. and all other divisions under the department’s purview must get Mr. Barr’s approval before investigating any of the 2020 presidential candidates.

The attorney general has long expressed skepticism about the F.B.I.’s decision to investigate the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia in 2016, and he has tapped a top prosecutor to begin a criminal investigation into the origins of that inquiry. He has also criticized the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey for publicly discussing the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server without approval from Justice Department officials.

Environment / Energy

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump administration to allow drilling and mining in areas once protected as national monuments, Sarah Kaplan and Juliet Eilperin​, Feb. 6, 2020. The decision comes more than two years after the president dramatically cut the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in southern Utah.

U.S. Crime, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, Ponzi scheme king Bernie Madoff, who bilked investors out of billions, seeks medical release from prison, Justin George, Feb. 6, 2020. The man convicted of the greatest Ponzi scheme in modern American history, guilty of bilking thousands of investors in 49 bernard madoff mug Customstates and more than 120 countries, is asking a judge to release him from a life sentence so he can die outside prison walls.

Bernie Madoff, shown in a 2009 mug shot, said he is in the end stages of kidney disease, must use a wheelchair and is in need of round-the-clock help. At 81, he is too old for a transplant, and he has been moved to palliative care within the Federal Medical Center prison in Butner, N.C. He is asking for compassionate release so he can die at home.

In phone interviews with The Washington Post, Madoff expressed remorse for his massive fraud, in which he swindled investors out of billions, and said his dying wish is to salvage relationships with his grandchildren.

Feb. 5

Impeachment Headlines

djt impeachment graphic

U.S. 2020 Elections

Trump 'State of Union' Speech

Iowa Democratic Results

World News

 

U.S. 2020 Elections

Roll Call, Trump’s speech rolled out Republicans’ blueprint for general election, Nathan L. Gonzales, Feb. 5, 2020. Democrats must present contrast to Trump without looking out of touch on humming economy.

For an hour-and-a-half, President Donald Trump used his third State of the Union speech to remind Republicans why they supported him in the past and why they will stand with him in November.

republican elephant logo“From the instant I took office, I moved rapidly to revive the U.S. economy — slashing a record number of job killing-regulations, enacting historic and record-setting tax cuts, and fighting for fair and reciprocal trade agreements,” boasted Trump. “Our agenda is relentlessly pro-worker, pro-family, pro-growth, and, most of all, pro-American.”

This is the message Republicans want the president to focus on over the next seven months as they cling to their Senate majority and dream of retaking the House. This is the president vulnerable GOP members and upstart GOP challengers want to appear with on the campaign trail.

washington post logoWashington Post, Diana Taylor doesn’t have a name for her relationship with Mike Bloomberg. She just wants him to win, Robin Givhan, Feb. 5, 2020. They’re a couple but not married — and so during the campaign, and even if he becomes president, the usual cultural assumptions do not apply.

When campaigning for Mike Bloomberg, Diana Taylor is usually introduced as simply: Diana Taylor. This is a testament to her personal stature, her formidable résumé and her independence. It's also a reflection of a peculiar cultural conundrum.

“I’m a unicorn in a unicorn campaign,” Taylor says.

She is unfettered by the sobriquets typically attached to the women who pound the hustings to rally support on behalf of a man who is running for president. She is not a “secret weapon,” “his better half,” “the closer,” “his lovely and talented wife” or even “the future first lady,” though a Bloomberg victory could force a reassessment of what that title even means. This is because Taylor and Bloomberg are a couple but they are not married, and so the familiar spousal nicknames and assumptions about East Wing duties do not apply.

Trump 'State of Union' Speech

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump touts economy, policies as he seeks to move on from trial, David Nakamura, Feb. 5, 2020. President faces lawmakers amid tense political atmosphere. In his final State of the Union before the election, President Trump radiated a sense of vindication.

washington post logoWashington Post, With chants, walkouts and a ripped-up speech, bitter partisanship dominates address, Ashley Parker, Feb. 5, 2020. The speech, largely delivered as written, struck tones reminiscent of the president’s rallies.

He didn’t hurl insults, lead “Lock her up!” chants or stride onto the dais to the opening thrums of “God Bless the U.S.A.” blaring from speakers. But President Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday night amounted to a more subdued version of one of his raucous campaign rallies.

He boasted that his accomplishments were like nothing ever seen before, promoted divisive policies — even prompting audible boos at points — and added reality-show flourishes to the speech he delivered in the historic House chamber.

He goaded the Democrats, began the evening with an apparent snub of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and offered a boastful accounting of the previous three years that could easily double as the campaign promises he plans to deploy in the coming one.

nancy pelosi djt handshake refused feb 4 2020 screenshot Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Pelosi shreds Trump’s speech, reflecting a tumultuous year, Mike DeBonis​, Feb. 5, 2020. Explaining the decision behind her gesture, the House speaker said, “It was the courteous thing to do."

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: Trump persists in using claims that have been fact-checked repeatedly, Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo and Sarah Cahlan, Feb. 5, 2020. Here's a roundup of 31 dubious statements by the president. President Trump’s State of the Union speech once again was chock-full of stretched facts and dubious figures. Many of these claims have been fact-checked repeatedly, yet the president persists in using them. Here, in the order in which he made them, are 31 statements by the president.

As is our practice with live events, we do not award Pinocchio ratings, which are reserved for complete columns.

“I am thrilled to report to you tonight that our economy is the best it has ever been.”

The president can certainly brag about the state of the economy, but he runs into trouble when he repeatedly makes a play for the history books. Our database of Trump claims shows he has made a variation of this claim some 260 times. There are several metrics one could look at, but the current economy falls short, according to experts we consulted. The unemployment rate reached a low of 3.5 percent under Trump, but it was as low as 2.5 percent in 1953. Trump has never achieved an annual growth rate above 3 percent, but in 1997, 1998 and 1999, the gross domestic product grew 4.5 percent, 4.5 percent and 4.7 percent, respectively.

But even that period paled against the 1950s and 1960s. Growth between 1962 and 1966 ranged from 4.4 percent to 6.6 percent. In 1950 and 1951, it was 8.7 percent and 8 percent, respectively.

      • Washington Post, Rush Limbaugh awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom
      • Washington Post, Critic’s Notebook: Congressional Democrats wore their white hot fury
      • Washington Post, Opinion: Gretchen Whitmer proves normal and decent can pay off, Jennifer Rubin

Palmer Report, Opinion: This is the leadership we need right now, Wendy Luxenburg, Feb. 5, 2020. At the end of Donald Trump’s State of the Union address last night, Speaker Nancy Pelosi was seen slowly and deliberately tearing up her copy of his speech. When asked why she did so, the Speaker responded: “Because it was the courteous thing to do,” adding that it was “the courteous thing to do considering the alternative.” I can only assume the alternative would have been wadding it up and throwing it at him.

bill palmer report logo headerBefore his speech on Tuesday, Trump (acting like a petulant child) ignored Pelosi’s outstretched hand, refusing even the simplest gesture of civility. I’m certain Pelosi had little desire to shake the hand of the man she impeached for betraying his oath of office, but (unlike Trump), Nancy Pelosi upholds the dignity of her office.

In his speech Tuesday night, Trump did what he always does – he made things up, he twisted facts to suit his needs and he flat out lied. Pelosi could have abandoned all sense of decorum like Representative Joe Wilson (R-SC) did during President Obama’s 2009 joint address to the house and senate and yelled out, “You lie!”, but she would never disgrace her office or this country by doing so. Instead, without words or drama, she simply tore it up.

Trump’s supporters are (of course) outraged with Pelosi for committing what they see as another attack on their beloved ruler (the first being his justifiable impeachment). They echo Trump’s mantra that no other president has ever been subjected to such disrespect (their memories as short as a list of Trump’s actual accomplishments). Some of Pelosi’s detractors on the left have called it a fruitless gesture.

While it’s true that Pelosi’s actions will not change the Senate vote to acquit, nor will it convince the GOP to hold Trump more accountable for his actions, quiet acts of defiance rarely have instantaneous measurable results. Nancy Pelosi wasn’t trying to do that; rather she was conveying simply and with a great deal of class and restraint that she will never sit idly by while Trump lies to congress and the American people. She will continue to challenge him, she will continue to hold him accountable for his actions. That is what a leader does, and make no mistake, Nancy Pelosi is a great leader.

Iowa Democratic Results

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Iowa Still Unresolved, 2020 Candidates Move On to New Hampshire, Staff reports, Feb. 5, 2020. The leading Democrats are shifting their focus to New Hampshire, which holds its primary next Tuesday, even as they keep an eye on Iowa caucus results.