May 2018 News Reports

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

May 31

Trump Probes

andrew mccabe c span may 11 2017

washington post logoWashington Post, Prosecutors speak to Comey as they mull charges against his former deputy, Matt Zapotosky, May 31, 2018. The move is an indication that the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office is seriously considering whether Andrew McCabe (shown above testifying to Congress) should be charged with a crime. He’s accused of lying to federal agents about whether he told his boss about a media disclosure.

Trump's U.S. Department of Injustice?

washington post logoWashington Post, Inauguration Day rioting charges dropped against 7 defendants, Keith L. Alexander, May 31, 2018. A D.C. judge determined that the government intentionally misrepresented information and withheld evidence from the defense. Federal prosecutors Thursday dropped their cases against seven people charged with rioting during President Trump’s inauguration after a D.C. judge determined that the government intentionally misrepresented information and withheld evidence from the defense.

Justice Department log circularAssistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff had repeatedly told the court and defense attorneys that her office possessed a single video of a protest-planning meeting, secretly recorded by a conservative group that had infiltrated the meeting. But on Wednesday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office acknowledged in an email to defense attorneys that 69 such undercover videos or audio recordings existed. Prosecutors wrote that they had turned over evidence they deemed relevant to the cases.

During a hearing Thursday in D.C. Superior Court, Judge Robert E. Morin pressed prosecutors about the omission.

“It was intentional. Your office represented there was only one video,” Morin said. “The government has not offered any explanation as to why they did not inform the court of these additional videos.”

Legally, prosecutors must provide their evidence to the defense at the earliest possible time, even if that evidence weakens their case. Failure to do so can be considered misconduct and a violation of a 1963 rule based on the U.S. Supreme Court case Brady v. Maryland.

In all, 234 people were charged in connection with the Inauguration Day disturbances. Twenty of those people have pleaded guilty, and prosecutors dropped cases against 20 in early reviews.

The first trial, late last year, resulted in acquittals for all six defendants after jurors said they found no evidence that the six were personally involved in the destruction. The acquittals forced prosecutors to reexamine the remaining cases. In January, the government dropped its cases against 129 people. The cases of 52 defendants are pending.

Trade Wars

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ny times logoNew York Times, White House to Impose Tariffs on E.U., Mexico and Canada, Ana Swanson, May 31, 2018. The Trump administration announced on Thursday that it would impose tariffs of up to 25 percent on steel and aluminum imported from its closest allies. The tariffs are meant to make good on President Trump’s promises to protect American industry, but they’ve prompted a fierce response from allies and domestic businesses.

The Hill,Trump to impose total ban on luxury German cars: report, Morgan Gstalter, May 31, 2018. President Trump wants to impose a total ban on the imports of German luxury cars, according to a new report from CNBC and German magazine WirtschaftsWoche.

german flagSeveral U.S. and European diplomats told the news outlets that Trump told French President Emmanuel Macron about his plans last month during a state visit. Trump reportedly told Macron that he would maintain the ban until no Mercedes-Benz cars are seen on Fifth Avenue in New York.
Shares of Daimler, Porsche and Volkswagen were lower on Thursday, shortly after the weekly German business magazine published the report.

The Hill has reached out to the White House for comment. The report comes a week after Trump ordered Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to investigate auto tariffs and probe whether car imports are a danger to national security. A similar national security argument was used when Trump placed steep tariffs on aluminum and steel imports in March.

Trump and congressional Republicans are preparing to clash over the proposed tariffs, which could be as high as 25 percent. A number of German automakers have plants in the U.S., including Mercedes-Benz in Alabama and BMW in South Carolina.

washington post logoWashington Post, Canada’s Trudeau says NAFTA talks broke down after Pence made ultimatum, Damian Paletta, May 31, 2018. Months of intense trade negotiations imploded when Vice President Pence demanded that any deal expire automatically in five years, the Canadian prime minister said.Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said months of intense negotiations between his country, the United States and Mexico imploded Tuesday when Vice President Pence (right) demanded that any deal expire automatically in five years.

mike pence oTrudeau said he was prepared to travel to Washington this week to try to finalize a rework of the North American Free Trade Agreement, but Pence, in the phone call, said a meeting would occur only if the “sunset” provision was agreed to in advance.

“I had to highlight that there was no possibility of any Canadian prime minister signing a NAFTA deal that included a five-year sunset clause, and obviously the visit didn’t happen,” Trudeau said Thursday.

canadian flagTrudeau’s comments came after President Trump enacted the most severe economic penalties he has imposed to date against U.S. allies, establishing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, Mexico and the European Union. The trade partners are expected to retaliate in what is becoming a fast-developing global trade war.

In March, Trump told a group during a St. Louis fundraiser that he didn’t have the facts in front of him and simply made up trade information during private discussions with Trudeau.

And on Tuesday, Trump said during a rally that he was going to make Mexico pay for a wall along the U.S. border. That immediately elicited a terse response from Mexico’s president.

U.S. Courts: Supreme Court Celebrity

ruth bader ginsberg rbg posterSCOTUS for law students, Supreme Court celebrity, Stephen Wermiel, May 31, 2018. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg may be the most “notorious” Supreme Court justice, but she is not the first to achieve some media celebrity while a sitting justice.

To be sure, no other justice has been the focus of a box office hit the way Ginsburg is featured in the documentary “RBG.” According to film industry reports, the movie was recently showing at more than 400 theaters nationwide and topped $5 million in gross sales. “RBG, a Documentary about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Has Become an Unlikely Box-Office Hit,” Vanity Fair recently declared.

Who came before Ginsburg? The first answer is Justice William O. Douglas. During his Supreme Court tenure from 1939 to 1975, still the longest in history, Douglas wrote more than 30 books. Among his “firsts” was what most identify as the first television interview of a sitting justice. Aired on ABC on May 11, 1958, “The Mike Wallace Interview” featured a 30-minute discussion with Douglas, primarily focused on a book the justice had just published, “The Right of the People.” The interview focused on threats to American freedom and liberty and was not about the Supreme Court or Douglas as a justice.

antonin scalia wAlthough no other justice has been the focal point of a first-run film (The movie “Marshall” focuses on Thurgood Marshall more than two decades before he joined the Supreme Court.), Scalia (shown at left) was the topic of a well-reviewed play, “The Originalist,” which debuted in Washington in 2015, a year before Scalia died. The one-man Broadway production of “Thurgood” in 2008 focused on Marshall’s life but premiered some 15 years after his death.

Ginsburg’s celebrity was also marked by the creation of an opera, “Scalia/Ginsburg,” which debuted in 2015 and celebrated the friendship of the two justices, who had different ideological viewpoints.

Despite this history of growing visibility and even occasional celebrity for Supreme Court justices, there is little doubt that Ginsburg sits atop the pop chart – an opera, a movie, a fan-created website, t-shirts. No other Supreme Court justice in history has had a box-office hit to show as part of her celebrity, and it seems unlikely that movie theaters will suddenly fill with sequels telling the life stories of other justices. At the moment, and for whatever reason, there is only one Notorious RBG.

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

May 30

U.S. Politics

bo ben rhodes terry szuplat 2 18 15

President Obama with speechwriters Ben Rhodes, left, and Terry Szuplat, center, in February 2015 (White House photo)

ny times logoNew York Times, How Trump’s Win Shook Obama: ‘What if We Were Wrong?’ Peter Baker, May 30, 2018. In a new book, Barack Obama’s longtime adviser Benjamin J. Rhodes recounts the former president’s reaction to the 2016 election.

Set to be published next week by Random House, Mr. Rhodes’s memoir, The World as It Is, offers a peek into Mr. Obama’s tightly sealed inner sanctum from the perspective of one of the few people who saw him up close through all eight years of his presidency. Few moments shook Mr. Obama more than the decision by voters to replace him with a candidate who had questioned his very birth.

ny times logorudy giuliani recentNew York Times, For Giuliani (Boo!), Yankee Stadium Is No Longer a Safe Space, J. David Goodman, May 30, 2018. The boos cascaded from the stands, wafting over Monument Park, turning a moment of between-inning indifference at Yankee Stadium into a visceral spirit cleansing. That it was directed toward a former mayor was no surprise; sports fans excel at heaping opprobrium on political leaders when they intrude into their temples.

But that it occurred to Rudolph W. Giuliani, on the occasion of his 74th birthday on Memorial Day, in a stadium that has long been a safe space, was different — a reflection, perhaps, of how Mr. Giuliani and the city he once led have drifted apart.

Proud Pedo Running For Congress?

huff post logonathan larson va house candidateHuffPost, Congressional Candidate In Virginia Admits He’s A Pedophile, Jesselyn Cook and Andy Campbell, May 31, 2018. Nathan Larson (right) also ran online forums for pedophiles and misogynists. Nathan Larson, a 37-year-old accountant from Charlottesville, Virginia, is running for Congress as an independent candidate in his native state. He is also a pedophile, as he admitted to HuffPost on Thursday, who has bragged in website posts about raping his late ex-wife.

In a phone call, Larson confirmed that he created the now-defunct websites suiped.org and incelocalypse.today ― chat rooms that served as gathering places for pedophiles and violence-minded misogynists like himself. HuffPost contacted Larson after confirming that his campaign website shared an IP address with these forums, among others. His sites were terminated by their domain host on Tuesday.

On the phone, he was open about his pedophilia and seemingly unfazed about his long odds of attaining government office.

Crass Comic Sorry For Ivanka Slur

huff post logoHuffPost, Samantha Bee Apologizes For Her Ivanka Trump Comments After Widespread Backlash, Jenna Amatulli, May 31, 2018. Samantha Bee has apologized for calling Ivanka Trump a “feckless c**t” on her show “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee” on Wednesday night.

Ivanka TrumpIn a statement to HuffPost, Bee said: “I would like to sincerely apologize to Ivanka Trump (right) and to my viewers for using an expletive on my show to describe her last night. It was inappropriate and inexcusable. I crossed a line, and I deeply regret it.” The apology comes after White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders singled Bee out for criticism and called the host’s language “vile and vicious.”

Sex Sells?

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ny times logoNew York Times, N.F.L.’s Alternate ‘Cheerleaders’ Don’t Cheer or Dance, Juliet Macur, May 31, 2018. Several N.F.L. teams determined cheerleading programs had a scarcity problem on game days. If cheerleaders were on the sideline dancing, none were available to serve as scantily clad hostesses who could mingle with fans high up in the cheap seats or in the luxury suites, where teams catered to big-money customers.

To address that shortcoming, some teams created a different kind of cheerleading team — one whose members did not do any cheering or require any dance training. They were hired mainly for their appearance. Their visits with male fans, the teams believed, produced a better game-day experience, akin to the approach of the Hooters restaurant chain.

In interviews with a dozen women who have worked for N.F.L. teams as noncheering cheerleaders and six others who had direct knowledge of the noncheering squads, they described minimum-wage jobs in which harassment and groping were common, particularly because the women were required to be on the front lines of partying fans. The fans had no reason to believe these women were not actual cheerleaders because the women often dressed exactly like the cheerleaders dancing on the field or nearly the same.

“It’s a really big secret, and now you know about it,” said Jackie Chambers, 33, a model with more than a decade of experience who worked as a Houston Texans noncheering cheerleader last season. “But teams don’t want fans to know about it. All of the cheerleaders are supposed to blend in with each other.”

JFK Assassination and Honest Expert Commentary

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Analysis: Scientist Neutralizes JFK’s ‘Back and to the Left’ — Or Does He? Milicent Cranor, May 31, 2018. Should we necessarily trust “experts” writing in “peer reviewed” journals who seek to advance interpretations of events preferred by the very establishment whose approval is necessary for career advancement? Is this about National Security — the usual reason given when it comes to hiding the truth in the Kennedy assassination — or is it about job security?

See if the following makes you wonder as well. In any case, if you like puzzles, you should find this report engaging.

To those who support the lone gunman theory, the shot came from behind — the supposed lair of Lee Harvey Oswald. But Kennedy was knocked backward, suggesting he was hit from the front. Which would mean Oswald did not fire that bullet.

This image — combined with the discrepancies in the government’s reporting of the most fundamental facts in the case — perpetuate the well-earned distrust of official sources. (For details on discrepancies in the medical-ballistic evidence, please go here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

Lone-gunman theory advocates have sought to explain away this anomaly, utilizing a long string of purported experts. The establishment media, showing little interest in exploring other possibilities, has long promoted these counterintuitive explanations.

The latest comes from Nicholas R. Nalli, a PhD in atmospheric and oceanic sciences and senior research scientist with I.M. Systems Group, Inc. at STAR. He performs research at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and is said to have expertise in geophysics, optics, and remote sensing.

RFK Assassination

rfk head portrait 1964Boston Globe, RFK's children divided over calls for a fresh investigation of his assassination, Michael Levenson, May 31, 2018. Two of Robert F. Kennedy’s children are calling for a new investigation into their father’s assassination, opening a rift in the famous family as it prepares to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his death next Wednesday. Kennedy, often known as "RFK," is shown in a file photo.

kathleen kennedy townsendKathleen Kennedy Townsend (shown at left), the former lieutenant governor of Maryland, told the Globe this week that she supports a new investigation, joining her brother Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who revealed last weekend that he visited convicted assassin Sirhan Sirhan in prison and believes someone else killed RFK. “I think Bobby makes a compelling case,” Townsend wrote in an e-mail.

But two other children of Robert F. Kennedy said this week that they would not support a re-investigation, underscoring how divisive the second-gunman theory continues to be, a half-century after the presidential candidate, former attorney general, and senator from New York was killed in the pantry of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

joe kennedy ii rfk child former rep“As we approach the 50th anniversary of my father’s passing, I think what is most important is that our country and my family reflect on what my father stood for and fought for — a legacy promoting global peace, social justice, and civil rights,” Joseph P. Kennedy II (shown at right), the former congressman from Massachusetts, said in a statement.

Kerry Kennedy, the president of a human rights organization named for her father, also indicated that she opposes a fresh examination of the evidence that, critics say, shows Sirhan could not have acted alone.

“The reason that people are interested in the circumstances of my father’s death is because of what he did with his life,” she said. “And I think we should focus on his life and not so much on his death — his moral imagination, his capacity for empathy, his quest to heal divisions, and his belief that one person can make a difference.”

bill newman gayle newman dealey plaza 1963 aftermath

Bill and Gayle Newman are shown on the ground on the grassy knoll in Dallas following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963. They may have been the closest bystanders to the motorcade on Elm Street in the foreground. A waist-high picket fence is in the background.

Conservative Stanford Prof Targeted Liberal Student

niall ferguson screenshot Custom

Ousted conservative Historian Niall Ferguson is shown in a screenshot from CNBC.

Stanford Daily, Leaked emails show Hoover academic conspiring with College Republicans to conduct ‘opposition research’ on student, Brian Contreras, Ada Statler and Courtney Douglas, May 31, 2018. Emails between the Hoover Institution’s Niall Ferguson and well-known Republican student activists John Rice-Cameron ’20 and Max Minshull ’20 reveal coordination on “opposition research” against progressive activist Michael Ocon ’20 — referenced as “Mr. O” — and efforts to shore up support among members of the Cardinal Conversations steering committee.

Ferguson resigned from his leadership role in the Cardinal Conversations program on April 16, after Provost Persis Drell became aware of the email chain.

“I very much regret the publication of these emails. I also regret having written them,” Ferguson wrote in a statement to The Daily.

Drell said that Ferguson “offered to resign,” and that she accepted the resignation.

Ferguson himself is well-known for his conservative views. He made headlines in March for organizing a conference of 30 white male historians. The emails use harsh and at times war-like language to describe liberals and “social justice warriors” (SJWs).

“Slowly, we will continue to crush the Left’s will to resist, as they will crack under pressure,” Rice-Cameron wrote. “[The original Cardinal Conversations steering committee] should all be allies against O. Whatever your past differences, bury them. Unite against the SJWs. [Christos] Makridis [a fellow at Vox Clara, a Christian student publication] is especially good and will intimidate them,” Ferguson wrote.

“Now we turn to the more subtle game of grinding them down on the committee. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance,” Ferguson wrote.

The previous messages were interspersed with greater discussion of the Cardinal Conversations committee and planning process, as well as a discussion appearing to be about student government.

In the email chain, Ferguson wrote, “Some opposition research on Mr. O might also be worthwhile,” referring to Ocon.

Minshull wrote in response that he would “get on the opposition research for Mr. O.”

Trump Probes

fbi logony times logoNew York Times, F.B.I. Official Was Suspicious of Reason for Comey Firing, Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman and Michael S. Schmidt, May 31, 2018 (print edition). The former acting F.B.I. director, Andrew G. McCabe, wrote a confidential memo last spring recounting a conversation that offered significant behind-the-scenes details on the firing of Mr. McCabe’s predecessor, James B. Comey, according to several people familiar with the discussion.

In a secret memo, Andrew McCabe documented a meeting that left him concerned that the deputy attorney general may have helped President Trump create a cover story to justify the dismissal.

washington post logoWashington Post, Gowdy criticizes Sessions and debunks Trump’s ‘spy’ claim, Editorial board, May 31, 2018 (print edition). There is at least one senior Republican with enough decency to admit the obvious. trey gowdy better oOn Fox News on Tuesday, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, forcefully rebuked President Trump’s baseless and dangerous claim that the Obama administration improperly implanted a “spy” into his 2016 campaign.

In so doing, Mr. Gowdy (right) underscored the cowardice of the many other Republicans who stand by while the president shreds the FBI’s reputation for political gain.

Mr. Gowdy is one of a few people who would know. He received a classified Justice Department briefing last week on an informant who contacted members of Mr. Trump’s campaign in 2016, as the FBI investigated Russian election meddling.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Wants His Own Apology After ‘Roseanne’ Uproar, Katie Rogers and Emily Cochrane, May 31, 2018. It was not the racist comment that made the president angry. It was the apology from ABC.

Wading into a public outcry over remarks by the comedian Roseanne Barr, President Trump did not condemn the Twitter post about a black former aide to President Barack Obama that led to the swift cancellation of Ms. Barr’s ABC sitcom. Instead, he expressed his own grievances on Wednesday and Thursday with what the network’s on-air personalities have said about him, and insisted he was the one who deserved an apology.

#MeToo Abuse Claims

washington post logopaige patterson sw baptist theological seminary CustomWashington Post, Southern Baptist leader Paige Patterson fired over handling of sex abuse allegation, Michelle Boorstein and Sarah Pulliam Bailey, May 31, 2018 (print edition). Patterson (shown at right) had been demoted last week from his post as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He was terminated after new information came to light regarding his handling of a sexual abuse allegation.

Health: Expanded Medicaid In Virginia

washington post logoralph northam CustomWashington Post, After years of GOP resistance, Virginia to expand Medicaid coverage, Laura Vozzella and Gregory S. Schneider, May 31, 2018 (print edition). The decision to make government health insurance available to 400,000 low-income residents marks a big win for Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam (right), who ran on expanding access to health care.

Antiwar Concerns At Defense Contractor

ny times logoNew York Times, How a Pentagon Contract Became an Identity Crisis for Google, Scott Shane, Cade Metz and Daisuke Wakabayashi
May 31, 2018 (print edition). Fei-Fei Li is among the brightest stars in the burgeoning field of artificial intelligence, somehow managing to hold down two demanding jobs simultaneously: head of Stanford University’s A.I. lab and chief scientist for A.I. at Google Cloud, one of the search giant’s most promising enterprises.

google logo customYet last September, when nervous company officials discussed how to speak publicly about Google’s first major A.I. contract with the Pentagon, Dr. Li strongly advised shunning those two potent letters.

“Avoid at ALL COSTS any mention or implication of AI,” she wrote in an email to colleagues reviewed by The New York Times. “Weaponized AI is probably one of the most sensitized topics of AI — if not THE most. This is red meat to the media to find all ways to damage Google.”

Dr. Li’s concern about the implications of military contracts for Google has proved prescient. The company’s relationship with the Defense Department since it won a share of the contract for the Maven program, which uses artificial intelligence to interpret video images and could be used to improve the targeting of drone strikes, has touched off an existential crisis, according to emails and documents reviewed by The Times as well as interviews with about a dozen current and former Google employees.

Education: Charter Setback In Math?

washington post logobetsy devos oWashington Post, Students in the only federally funded voucher program perform worse in math, study says, Perry Stein, May 31, 2018 (print edition). D.C. students who use the vouchers to attend private schools scored significantly worse in math than their public-school peers, according to federal findings that could cast a cloud over Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s quest to expand voucher programs across the country. She is shown at right.

May 30

washington post logoWashington Post, Missouri governor says he will resign amid misconduct allegations, Sean Sullivan, May 30, 2018 (print edition). Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens announced Tuesday that he will resign amid explosive personal and political scandals that marred his once-promising career in public office and threatened to drag down the Republican Party in the midterm elections.

eric greitens oIn a brief and defiant statement at the governor’s office, Greitens (shown at right) said his resignation would be effective on Friday at 5 p.m. “I am not perfect, but I have not broken any laws,” he said.

Under state law, Lt. Gov. Mike Parson, also a Republican, will take over as governor and serve out the remainder of the term. He would face voters in 2020 if he decided to seek a full term.

Missouri Republicans looked to quickly turn the page on an embarrassing saga that loomed over their campaign efforts ahead of the November midterms. The U.S. Senate race in Missouri is a key contest in the fight for the Senate majority.

Democrats have been seeking to use Greitens’s troubles to undermine the Republican front-runner for Senate, state Attorney General Josh Hawley. They signaled Tuesday that they would not let up, even after Greitens steps aside.

Trump Probes

washington post logorudy giuliani recentWashington Post, Giuliani says Trump won’t sit for Mueller interview unless all FBI informant documents reviewed, Josh Dawsey and John Wagner, May 30, 2018 (print edition). Rudolph W. Giuliani’s latest demand further ratcheted up the pressure that President Trump and his lawyers are trying to place on special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team as his investigation into alleged coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russia reaches a key juncture. Giuliani is shown at right.

ny times logojeff sessions ag oNew York Times, Trump Told Sessions to Reverse Recusal on Russia Inquiry, Michael S. Schmidt and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, May 30, 2018 (print edition).  By the time Attorney General Jeff Sessions arrived at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort for dinner one Saturday evening in March 2017, he had been receiving the presidential silent treatment for two days. Mr. Sessions (shown at right) had flown to Florida because Mr. Trump was refusing to take his calls about a pressing decision on his travel ban.

When they met, Mr. Trump was ready to talk — but not about the travel ban. His grievance was with Mr. Sessions: The president objected to his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Mr. Trump, who had told aides that he needed a loyalist overseeing the inquiry, berated Mr. Sessions and told him he should reverse his decision, an unusual and potentially inappropriate request.

Mr. Sessions refused.

Justice Department log circularThe confrontation, which has not been previously reported, is being investigated by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, as are the president’s public and private attacks on Mr. Sessions and efforts to get him to resign. Mr. Trump dwelled on the recusal for months, according to confidants and current and former administration officials who described his behavior toward the attorney general.

The special counsel’s interest demonstrates Mr. Sessions’s overlooked role as a key witness in the investigation into whether Mr. Trump tried to obstruct the inquiry itself. It also suggests that the obstruction investigation is broader than it is widely understood to be — encompassing not only the president’s interactions with and firing of the former F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, but also his relationship with Mr. Sessions.

Italy's Political Crisis

ny times logoitalian flag wavingNew York Times, Italy Pushes Euro to the Fore, the Last Place Europe Wants It, Steven Erlanger, May 30, 2018 (print edition). Italy’s president has laid the groundwork for a new election that may amount to a referendum on the euro. However unlikely an Italian withdrawal from the eurozone may be, the mere prospect is more dangerous to the future of the European Union than the bailout of Greece.May 29

Phony Fed Death Toll Exposed

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 4,645 people died in Puerto Rico due to Hurricane Maria, study says, Arelis R. Hernández and Laurie McGinley​, May 30, 2018 (print edition). The government death toll of 64 after the September storm was a “substantial underestimate,” according to a new Harvard study. The study found that health-care disruption for the elderly and the loss of basic utility services for the chronically ill had significant impacts across the territory.

New Investigation For RFK Death?

Future of Freedom Foundation, Opinion: A Conspiracy Contradiction at the Washington Times, Jacob G. Hornberger, May 30, 2018. I wonder if noted conservative writer R. Emmett Tyrell Jr. realizes that he has just contradicted himself in an op-ed in the Washington Times entitled, “Re-examining the RFK Assassination.” Based on a new book by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Tyrell is calling for a new investigation into the assassination of Bobby Kennedy to determine if he was killed as part of a … conspiracy.

But according to the two opening paragraphs of Tyrell’s article, he has “never believed in conspiracy theories” because, he feels, it would be impossible for conspirators to keep the conspiracy secret.

But if that’s the case, then why is Tyrell calling for a new investigation into the Bobby Kennedy assassination? If there really was a conspiracy in that assassination, the conspirators, according to Tyrell’s opening paragraphs, would have talked. Since no such talk has ever emerged, that would mean, under Tyrell’s reasoning, that there could be no conspiracy and, therefore, no need to have a new investigation.

But the fact is that Tyrell is wrong. There are conspiracies, especially those involving assassination (i.e., murder), in which the conspirators don’t talk. After all, let’s not forget that a criminal conviction for murder can involve the death penalty or life in prison without parole. Oftentimes that is enough incentive to keep murder conspirators, especially professional ones, silent about what they have done.

In 1953, the CIA published an in-house manual on assassination, which the CIA was successful in keep secret for more than 40 years. The manual reflects that, early on, the CIA was specializing not only in the art of political assassination but, equally important, also in the art of covering up CIA involvement in the assassination.

As previously stated, in the early 1960s, the CIA and the Mafia entered into a top-secret assassination partnership. Thus, here you had two entities, both of whom specialized in murder and cover-up, getting together to jointly perform a political assassination.

Therefore, why shouldn’t people raise their eyebrows at least a little bit with respect to the political assassinations that took place in the 1960s, especially those in which the victims were sworn enemies of the Mafia or the CIA or both, such as President Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, and especially where the facts in the case are bit too pat?

Trade Wars

CNBC, China reportedly lining up countries against US in pending trade war, Kate Rooney, May 30, 2018. China is reportedly looking to line up other countries against the U.S. in a pending trade war, after the White House announced an unexpected move forward on trade tariffs, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

The countries in question are mostly in Europe and Asia, where companies could benefit from China's plans to give foreign companies more open access to its markets. A day earlier, the White House said it would have a final list of $50 billion in imports that would be subject to 25 percent tariffs by June 15.

New York Times Sunday Magazine, The ‘Sex Cult’ That Preached Empowerment, Vanessa Grigoriadis, May 30, 2018. Why did female members of Nxivm follow a guru named Keith Raniere, who now stands accused of sex trafficking? He made them feel like they were in control.

One winter morning in a conventional suburb outside Albany, N.Y., Nancy Salzman, the 63-year-old president of a self-improvement company named Nxivm, sat on a mahogany-colored stool in her kitchen. Her tasteful home was surrounded by other Nxivm members’ modest townhouses or capacious stone mansions that seemed to spring up out of nowhere, like mushrooms, on the suburban streets. In Salzman’s den, a photo of her with her two adult daughters hung on a wall, the three of them wearing smiles as wide as ancient Greek masks of comedy; the same happy photo served as the wallpaper on Salzman’s laptop. A hairless Sphynx cat prowled the lovely buffet of croissants and fruit on her kitchen island.

Salzman, an extremely fit woman wearing the type of thin athleisure sweatshirt that’s all the rage with the middle-aged bourgeoisie these days, turned her attention to a woman sitting at the island: Jacqueline, a 27-year-old with long dark hair, who was a psychology student in college, told me that she hadn’t experienced anything as effective as Nxivm (pronounced “nexium,” like the heartburn medication). Like Scientology’s L. Ron Hubbard, whose 1950 handbook “Dianetics” was billed as the “modern science of mental health” and whose pseudoscientific methods were, in his view, world-changing, Keith Raniere, Nxivm’s 57-year-old founder, believed his organization could heal individuals and transform the world. The way Nxivm did this was through techniques, or “technology,” meant to rewire your emotional self.

The scene in Salzman’s home was intense but mostly cheery. Yet last October, The New York Times published an article reporting alarming practices by Nxivm. The article explained that some female members of the group, who called themselves “masters,” had initiated other women, calling themselves “slaves,” into a ritual of sisterhood at homes in and around Clifton Park, near Albany.

First, they stripped naked. One by one, they lay on a massage table while a female osteopath, also a Nxivm member, used a cauterizing pen to brand the flesh near their pelvic bone. She carved a symbol that some women thought represented the four elements or the seven chakras or a horizontal bar with the Greek letters “alpha” and “mu,” but if you squinted and looked again, contained within them a different talisman: a K and an R — Raniere’s initials. Not all the women were told that these initials were present in the symbol.

Hundreds of members fled Nxivm after they learned about the branding, but much of the inner circle remained. Citing the fact that Raniere had a cast of girlfriends, the media declared that Nxivm was not a self-improvement company at all but rather a “sex-slave cult.” A federal investigation was opened, culminating in Mexican police officers plucking Raniere from a pricey villa; he is now in a federal jail on the Brooklyn waterfront after being denied bail as a flight risk.

Another Nxivm member, Allison Mack, a blond actress who played Clark Kent’s friend on the long-running “Smallville,” was arrested and later released on $5 million bail. Raniere and Mack were charged with sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and forced labor. Federal agents also raided Salzman’s home, seizing $523,000 in cash, some of it in shoe boxes. (She has not been charged with a crime to date.)

The group found itself under a microscope, its secrets exposed. Some members came from the highest reaches of society, forming a kind of heiress Illuminati. There were two daughters of Edgar Bronfman Sr., the former head of the Seagram Company; Pamela Cafritz, who died in 2016, the daughter of political donors Bill and Buffy Cafritz; a number of well-to-do Mexicans, including Emiliano Salinas, the son of the former Mexican president Carlos Salinas de Gortari, who has since publicly disavowed Raniere but remains affiliated with the group, and Rosa Laura Junco, the daughter of the president and chief executive of the newspaper publisher Grupo Reforma; as well as prominent TV genre actresses who discovered Nxivm on location in Vancouver, including Nicki Clyne from “Battlestar Galactica” and, of course, Mack.

May 29

ABC Fires Roseanne After Racist Tweetstorm

washington post logoroseanne barr w Hard RockWashington Post, ABC cancels Roseanne Barr’s show after TV star goes on vitriolic Twitter rant, Emily Heil, May 29, 2018. Barr’s Twitter rant spewed false conspiracy theories, attacked former first daughter Chelsea Clinton and went after a former adviser to President Barack Obama with what many perceived to be a racist insult. “Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values,” the network later said in a statement.

ABC announced Tuesday that it canceled “Roseanne” after the show’s star, Roseanne Barr (shown in a file photo), went on a vitriolic and racist Twitter rant.

Barr appeared to take aim late Monday at Valerie Jarrett, a former adviser to President Obama, in a tweet that identified the administration official by her initials: “muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj.” Though she later claimed it was “a joke,” she issued a fuller apology Tuesday after more intense criticism was directed toward her and ABC. “I apologize to Valerie Jarrett and to all Americans,” she wrote. “I am truly sorry for making a bad joke about her politics and her looks. I should have known better. Forgive me-my joke was in bad taste.”

But Channing Dungey, the president of ABC Entertainment, did not consider the tweet a joking matter.

“Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show,” she said in a statement released just hours after the comedian’s offensive social media rant.

Barr was also dropped by her talent agency, ICM Partners, who announced in a statement that her “disgraceful and unacceptable tweet” was “antithetical to our core values, both as individuals and as an agency. Consequently, we have notified her that we will not represent her.”

The news capped a day of online furor over a tweetstorm that also included false conspiracy theories, as well as attacks on former first daughter Chelsea Clinton. But even by her own standards, the tweets were particularly vitriolic. She started by spreading the false rumor that Chelsea Clinton is married to the nephew of billionaire liberal Democratic donor George Soros, who is a lightning rod for false conservative theories.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Roseanne Barr’s racist Twitter remark undercuts the Americans she tried to lift up on her show, Eugene Scott, May 29, 2018. A Twitter rant Tuesday is the most recent example of how her efforts to provide a more nuanced portrayal of Trump supporters may be doing more harm than good.

Trump Probes

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: How Trump Uses Conspiracy Theories Like ‘Spygate,’ Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Maggie Haberman, May 29, 2018 (print edition). As a candidate, Donald J. Trump claimed that the United States government had known in advance about the Sept. 11 attacks. He hinted that Antonin Scalia, a Supreme Court justice who died in his sleep two years ago, had been murdered. And for years, Mr. Trump pushed the notion that President Barack Obama had been born in Kenya rather than Honolulu, making him ineligible for the presidency.

None of that was true. Last week, President Trump promoted new, unconfirmed accusations to suit his political narrative: that a “criminal deep state” element within Mr. Obama’s government planted a spy deep inside his presidential campaign to help his rival, Hillary Clinton, win — a scheme he branded “Spygate.” It was the latest indication that a president who has for decades trafficked in conspiracy theories has brought them from the fringes of public discourse to the Oval Office.

Now that he is president, Mr. Trump’s baseless stories of secret plots by powerful interests appear to be having a distinct effect. Among critics, they have fanned fears that he is eroding public trust in institutions, undermining the idea of objective truth and sowing widespread suspicions about the government and news media that mirror his own.

#MeToo Scandals

ny times logoNew York Times, Equestrian Coach Minted Olympians, and Left a Trail of Child Molestation, Sarah Maslin Nir, May 29, 2018. For decades, Jimmy A. Williams cultivated the best horses and Olympic champion riders. Now the sport is finally reckoning with his past.

There’s no trace of Jimmy A. Williams, the Show Jumping Hall of Fame trainer, at the equestrian club where he was an instructor for nearly four decades, cultivating young riders, some of whom went on to Olympic fame.

The pictures and paintings of Mr. Williams, who died in 1993, and the sterling trophies he won all vanished without a word recently from the clubhouse where he had spent many afternoons tipping back Champagne with some of Los Angeles County’s biggest and richest names: the parents of his young charges. Last month, the club removed his name from the grand show jumping stadium at the heart of the sprawling property at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains, once the Jimmy A. Williams Oval. Today it is just Ring 1.

But his former riders cannot forget Mr. Williams. Across the country, in her New Jersey barn adorned with her Olympic medals, Anne Kursinski, one of the country’s most decorated show jumpers, remembered her former coach.

How he tasted of alcohol whenever he pinned her in a horse stall and crammed his tongue into her mouth. And far more. “He penetrated me when I was 11,” Ms. Kursinski said, revealing publicly for the first time the details of what she said became six years of continual rape and molestation. “I was a little kid,” she said. “And he was God.”

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, With new West Wing cast, Trump calls the shots and aides follow, Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey and Philip Rucker, May 29, 2018 (print edition). Largely gone are the warring factions that dominated life at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in the first year of President Trump’s term, replaced by solo players — many with personal connections to the president and their own miniature fiefdoms — laboring to do their jobs and survive.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s approach to national, economic security is leaving his allies baffled, David J. Lynch and Damian Paletta, May 29, 2018 (print edition). The president is merging his national security and trade goals in a blur of tactical improvisation that risks alienating U.S. allies and opening American businesses to costly retaliation, several GOP lawmakers, business executives and former U.S. officials say.

washington post logoWashington Post, Rep. Thomas Garrett (R-Va.) announces he is an alcoholic and will not seek reelection, Laura Vozzella and Jenna Portnoy, May 29, 2018 (print edition).  A member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, he said that he is struggling with alcoholism and will devote time to focusing on recovery and his family. He becomes the 48th Republican expected to leave the House.

Garrett, a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, is the 48th Republican to retire or announce they will not seek reelection to the House this year, according to a list maintained by the House Press Gallery.

Many are leaving in anticipation of a strong Democratic performance in congressional races this fall and out of frustration with partisan politics in Washington.

Garrett, 46, was facing a robust challenge from his Democratic opponent, journalist and author Leslie Cockburn, who had raised more money and had more cash on hand than he had. In recent days, unnamed former staffers had accused him and his wife of mistreating staff who worked in his congressional office.

Changing Media

Unz Review, Opinion: Why The American Conservative Purged Its Own Publisher, Ron Unz, May 29, 2018. Ron Unz, a software developer and publisher of the Unz Review online magazine, was publisher and majority owner of The American Conservative Magazine until he was fired in 2013.

Some may be aware that when I originally established The Unz Review over four years ago one of my main motives was to have a convenient venue for my own writing, a situation necessitated by my removal as Publisher of The American Conservative. However, other matters intervened, and all but a few months of my time since then have been preoccupied with software development issues and politics, but now at very long last I do hope to return to that original purpose.

Shortly after my departure from TAC in Fall 2013, I had written an article recounting the unfortunate circumstances, and this had attracted some interest from editors at The Atlantic.

But they not unreasonably balked at the length, and soon afterward I was drawn into a major campaign to implement my proposal of a huge hike in the American Minimum Wage, an effort that eventually helped establish it as a central economic pillar of the Democratic Party; this was soon followed by other endeavors, mostly on software matters.

Over the years, various people have expressed curiosity about my TAC story, which remained unpublished, and with the fifth anniversary of my defenestration now upon us, I’ve decided I might as well release it in its original form, changing scarcely a single word though updating some of the links. Five years represents an eternity in political journalism, and various events and personalities have surely lapsed into obscurity, but such is the price paid for historical authenticity.

Given hindsight, I’d consider myself satisfied with the ultimate outcome. The Review currently operates on an absolute shoestring while the editorial budget of TAC these days is an order-of-magnitude larger, covering the costs of a full-time staff of seven or eight. But according to Alexa.com our readership passed theirs six months ago, and has been substantially higher every week since.

Possibly for these sorts of reasons, TAC recently named yet another new top editor, with Benjamin Schwarz becoming the third in eighteen months. And aside from providing some of the background to the creation of The Review and helping to explain its eclectic ideological focus, I think my story also serves as an example of why so many small publications tend to blur their editorial line over time, lured by mainstream respectability and resources, a process that seems to have recently claimed the late Alex Cockburn’s once fiercely-independent Counterpunch.

May 28

ICE logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump falsely blames Democrats for splitting up families, refueling immigration uproar, Seung Min Kim, May 28, 2018.  President Trump’s attempt to blame Democrats for separating migrant families at the border is renewing a political uproar over immigration, an issue that has challenged Trump throughout his presidency and threatens to grow more heated as he imposes more restrictions to stem the flow of illegal immigration.

In one of several misleading tweets during the holiday weekend, Trump pushed Democrats to change a “horrible law” that the president said mandated separating children from parents who enter the country illegally. But there is no law specifically requiring the government to take such action, and it’s also the policies of his own administration that have caused the family separation that advocacy groups and Democrats say is a crisis.

washington post logoICE logoWashington Post, The U.S. lost track of 1,475 immigrant children last year. Here’s why people are outraged now, Amy B Wang, May 28, 2018. In the past few days, #WhereAreTheChildren and #MissingChildren have trended with calls to action. But Health and Human Services officials have said it is not the department’s legal responsibility to track the children after they are released from the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Global News: Italy

italian flag wavingDW, Italy's Giuseppe Conte gives up trying to form government, Staff report, May 28, 2018. Italy's prime ministerial candidate, Giuseppe Conte, said Sunday he would not be leading the next Italian government. "Giuseppe Conte has given up the mandate to form a government, given to him on May 23," an official from the presidential palace said.

Initial reports suggest right-wing League party leader Matteo Salvini had refused to accept a presidential veto on his choice for economy minister, the 81-year-old euroskeptic economist Paolo Savona. Talking to reporters after he informed President Sergio Mattarella of his decision, Conte said he "gave the maximum effort, attention, to carry out this task with the full collaboration" of would-be coalition partners — the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and far-right League.

The 5-Star leader Luigi Di Maio suggested that Mattarella could be impeached. "I hope that we can give the floor to Italians as soon as possible, but first we need to clear things up. First the impeachment of Mattarella... then to the polls," Di Maio said on Italian television. Related story below:

washington post logoitalian flag wavingWashington Post, Italy in political chaos as effort to form Western Europe’s first populist government collapses, Stefano Pitrelli and Chico Harlan, May 28, 2018. The president refused to approve as finance minister a skeptic who described Italy’s adoption of the euro as a “historic error.” Italy fell into political chaos Sunday after the presidential veto of a euroskeptical finance minister caused the apparent collapse of an attempt to form Western Europe’s first fully populist government.

President Sergio Mattarella — given referee-like powers to oversee the formation of governments — refused to approve as finance minister 81-year-old Paolo Savona. In a new book, Savona described Italy’s adoption of the euro as a “historic error,” according to media accounts. Mattarella is more pro-European than the two populist parties asking for his mandate, analysts say. His veto of Savona infuriated the leaders of those parties.

More on Trump Probes

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump is now begging Hope Hicks not to testify against him, Bill Palmer, May 28, 2018. Last week we learned that the Republican National Committee, almost surely at the direction of Donald Trump, had funneled as much as half a million dollars to a law firm representing Hope Hicks in the Trump-Russia scandal. It may not have been illegal, but it was certainly hush money aimed at convincing her not to cut a plea deal or testify against him. Now Trump is hinting that Hicks (shown in a file photo) is facing her moment of truth.

Donald Trump has posted this tweet: “Who’s going to give back the young and beautiful lives (and others) that have been devastated and destroyed by the phony Russia Collusion Witch Hunt? They journeyed down to Washington, D.C., with stars in their eyes and wanting to help our nation…They went back home in tatters!” It reads like an attempt at bad poetry, and it’s something he clearly didn’t write himself. But he certainly signed off on it.

Based on the tenor and word choice of the tweet in question, Trump is clearly referring to Hope Hicks. Based on the way she’s being described, it sounds like she’s at her breaking point. Trump is incapable of feeling empathy, so his only possible interest in posting a tweet like this would be to try to convince her not to give up and cut a deal with Robert Mueller. So why Hicks specifically?

Twitter Crackdown On Political Dissent?

Palmer Report, Opinion: Twitter reinstates Palmer Report and apologizes, Bill Palmer, May 28, 2018. Early on Sunday morning, Twitter informed us that twitter bird Customvarious users had reported our tweet in which we asserted that Donald Trump would spend the rest of his life in prison. In this same notice, Twitter informed us that our tweet was not in violation of any rules. However, an hour later, we received a second notice informing us that we had been suspended from using our official @PalmerReport account for a week because we had engaged in “targeted harassment” against Trump. This naturally set off some fireworks and confusion across the social network. Today, Twitter officially backed down and apologized to us.

This backdoor suspension – which left our account fully visible but left us unable to use it – created the false impression that we had chosen to stop tweeting. Our followers on Twitter were asking us if we had gone out of business or if something bad had happened to me, and there was no proper way for us to even respond to their concerns.

We don’t expect to ever get a satisfactory response as to what truly transpired here. However, we’re relieved that this disturbing matter appears to be at its conclusion, and we’re pleased that Twitter acknowledged in writing that it was in the wrong for having suspended us. We’re aware of other Trump critics who have been improperly suspended in the wake of the judge’s ruling that Donald Trump must unblock his critics, and we will continue fighting on behalf of those individuals. The notion that anyone can be silenced for “targeted harassment” without violating any Twitter policies – simply for tweeting something negative about the President of the United States – is a chilling one. Palmer Report is more committed than ever to exposing his criminal scandals and abuses.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Fact check: did Melania Trump change her Twitter location to New York City? Bill Palmer, May 28, 2018.  Melania Trump has not been seen nor heard from by anyone among the media or the public in two weeks, leading to endless questions about why she’s in hiding. Over the past twenty-four hours, a large number of social media users have noted that her official @MelaniaTrump account on Twitter now lists her location as “New York City.” Many have interpreted this as a sign that Melania has moved back to New York.

twitter bird CustomWe’re aware that some political pundits are claiming to have inside sourcing confirming that Melania Trump has indeed moved to New York City. We can’t fact check other people’s inside sources without knowing the identity of those sources.

In any case, the “Melania in New York” narrative has no connection to Palmer Report one way or the other. We have not reported any such thing. We can only factually state two things: 1) the @MelaniaTrump account on Twitter has always listed her location as New York City, meaning she did not recently change her location to New York City, and 2) no one among the media or the public has seen or heard from Melania in the past two weeks.

Palmer Report, Commentary, Ten questions Twitter must answer about its suspension of Palmer Report – and Donald Trump’s involvement, Bill Palmer, May 28, 2018.  Last night, Twitter privately notified us that we were being suspended from being able to use our official @PalmerReport account for a week, due to a violation of Twitter policy. None of what we were told about the supposed violation made sense, and the timing seemed suspiciously tied to a federal judge’s new ruling against Donald Trump with regard to his behavior on Twitter.

twitter bird CustomOver the past sixteen hours we’ve gathered more information about our suspension and the suspicious circumstances around it, but we’ve been left with even more questions than answers. Now we’re calling on Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and the rest of the company’s leadership to promptly answer these questions for the public good:

1) Earlier this week a federal judge ruled that Donald Trump must unblock all of his critics on Twitter. Immediately afterward, various Trump critics – some of whom are blocked by Trump – began privately informing us that their accounts had just been suspended. Why did you begin aggressively suspending Trump’s critics after the judge’s ruling? What communication have you had with the Trump administration about the judge’s ruling? Are you trying to appease Trump into unblocking his critics, by suspending them instead?

2) Our @PalmerReport account is not blocked by Donald Trump. However, when you suspended our @PalmerReport account last night, we were working on a story exposing your sudden and aggressive suspensions of Trump critics. Were you aware of our impending news story when you decided to abruptly suspend our account as well? Were you attempting to prevent us from being able to post that story for our 169,000 Twitter followers?

3) At approximately 1:00am EST on Sunday, you sent us an email informing us that one of our tweets had been reported for a possible policy violation. The tweet in question made the prediction that Donald Trump would spend the rest of his life in prison, and included a curse word in Trump’s direction. In this email, you confirmed that this tweet was not in violation of any Twitter policy. In so doing, you specifically confirmed that it is allowable to curse at Trump, and to make predictions about his prison sentence. However, just one hour later, at approximately 2:00am EST, you informed us that we had been suspended for a different (and non-profane) tweet which also predicted that Trump would spend the rest of his life in prison. How do you explain this contradiction? What is your actual policy, and which of the two communications you sent us wildly misstated your policy?

May 27

New Doubts About Sirhan's Guilt In RFK Murder

Robert F Kennedy Jr (2017 portrait by Gage Skidmore)

Robert F Kennedy Jr (2017 portrait by Gage Skidmore)

washington post logoWashington Post, Retropolis: Who killed Bobby Kennedy? His son RFK Jr. doesn’t believe it was Sirhan Sirhan, Tom Jackman, May 27, 2018 (print edition). Just before Christmas, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. pulled up to the massive Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility, a California state prison complex in the desert outside San Diego that holds nearly 4,000 inmates. Kennedy was there to visit Sirhan B. Sirhan, the man convicted of killing his father, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, nearly 50 years ago.

rfk head portrait 1964While his wife, the actress Cheryl Hines, waited in the car, Kennedy met with Sirhan for three hours, he revealed to The Washington Post last week. It was the culmination of months of research by Kennedy into the assassination, including speaking with witnesses and reading the autopsy and police reports.

sirhan sirhan 2016“I got to a place where I had to see Sirhan,” Kennedy said. He would not discuss the specifics of their conversation. But when it was over, Kennedy had joined those who believe there was a second gunman, and that it was not Sirhan (shown in a 2016 prison photo) who killed his father, shown at right.

“I went there because I was curious and disturbed by what I had seen in the evidence,” said Kennedy, an environmental lawyer and the third oldest of his father’s 11 children. “I was disturbed that the wrong person might have been convicted of killing my father. My father was the chief law enforcement officer in this country. I think it would have disturbed him if somebody was put in jail for a crime they didn’t commit.”

School Shootings

washington post logoWashington Post, One roadblock to arming teachers: Insurance, Todd C. Frankel, May 27, 2018 (print edition). by Todd C. Frankel May 26 at As proposals to arm teachers sweep across the nation, insurance companies are being forced to weigh the risks of these controversial plans. Some insurers are balking. Some are agreeing to provide policies but lamenting the lack of evidence about whether it makes schools safer — or increases the chances of people getting shot. Others are raising rates.

Twitter Ramping Up Political Censorship?

djt official SmallPalmer Report, Opinion: Twitter has begun inappropriately suspending several Donald Trump critics – including Palmer Report, Bill Palmer, May 27, 2018.  Earlier this week, a federal judge ruled that it’s illegal for Donald Trump to block anyone on Twitter, because he uses his account to make presidential announcements to the public. Trump still has yet to abide by this court order. Instead, immediately after this ruling, Twitter began temporarily suspending the accounts of various prominent critics of Donald Trump. Just now, we were informed that Palmer Report has also been temporarily suspended from Twitter.

twitter bird CustomWe’ve been informed that we can’t tweet, retweet, comment, reply, or in any way communicate with our 169,000 followers until the suspension ends. This is a particularly egregious move on Twitter’s part, as it may give our Twitter followers the false impression that we’ve ceased functioning as a news publication altogether, or that we’ve vanished, which is injurious to both us and our audience.

For the record, the tweet we’ve been suspended for is clearly not in violation of any Twitter rules or policies. In the several past instances in which Trump supporters have mass-reported our tweets in a coordinated effort at getting us suspended, Twitter has notified us each time that we were not in violation of any rules. The only thing that’s changed here is the judge’s ruling against Trump in a Twitter related matter. It’s clear that as a result of the judge’s ruling, Twitter is now taking steps to protect Trump and silence his critics. This comes even as Twitter continues to refuse to suspend Trump for his numerous blatant violations of its policies. Again, Trump is still refusing to abide by the judge’s ruling, even as Twitter is now inexplicably racing to protect Trump from the judge’s ruling.

We’ve appealed this suspension, and if Twitter fails to promptly remedy the situation, we’ll obtain legal counsel in order to protect our rights in this matter. As Twitter has begun simultaneously targeting a number of prominent Trump critics in similar fashion, in a clear attempt a undermining a federal judge’s ruling, we’re also exploring the possibility of class action. For now we want to make you aware of why we’ve been forced to go dark on our official @PalmerReport account on Twitter for what may be a full week before it’s restored.

Inside DC: Leakers Leak

Axios, An extraordinary Oval Office leak, Jonathan Swan, May 27, 2018. Shortly after word leaked that Kelly Sadler had taken a nasty shot at John McCain, President Trump convened a meeting in the Oval Office for a tiny group of communications staffers, according to sources familiar with the gathering. Sadler, Mercedes Schlapp, Raj Shah, and John Kelly all gathered in front of the Resolute Desk for a conversation with Trump about the leaking problem. They were the only people in the room, though the door to the outer Oval was open.

The president told Sadler she wouldn’t be fired for her remark. He added, separately in the conversation, that he’s no fan of McCain. Then Trump, who had grown obsessed with the leaking problem, told Sadler he wanted to know who the leakers were.

Sadler then stunned the room: To be completely honest, she said, she thought one of the worst leakers was Schlapp, her boss. Schlapp pushed back aggressively and defended herself in the room. And in follow up conversations after the meeting, some of Schlapp’s colleagues also came to her defense. Sadler went on to name other people she also suspected of being leakers.

The allegation — like a previous internal meeting to deal with leaking — ultimately got leaked to us.

Inside DC: New Lie From Trump?

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump falsely accuses the New York Times of making up a source. It was an official who briefed reporters, Seung Min Kim, May 27, 2018 (print edition). President Trump on Saturday falsely accused the New York Times of using an unnamed source “who doesn’t exist” in a story on negotiations between the United States and North Korea, but the official cited spoke to reporters Thursday in a briefing arranged by the White House.

“The Failing @nytimes quotes ‘a senior White House official,’ who doesn’t exist, as saying ‘even if the meeting were reinstated, holding it on June 12 would be impossible, given the lack of time and the amount of planning needed,’” Trump tweeted Saturday morning. “WRONG AGAIN! Use real people, not phony sources.”

The senior White House official cited by the Times spoke to dozens of reporters Thursday at the White House and on a conference call to brief them on Trump’s decision earlier that day to cancel his June 12 summit in Singapore with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The Washington Post, which participated in the briefing, agreed to the rules as laid out by White House press officials at the time, which were to refer to the briefer as a senior White House official. The Post also used information from that briefing in subsequent stories and continues to abide by the agreed upon ground rules.

More Korea Planning

Moon Jae-In and Kim Jong-un (May 26, 2018, AFP via Getty Images)

South Korean President Moon Jae-In, left, and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un meet in the Demilitarized Zone between the nations on Saturday (U.S. date May 26, 2018 / AFP via Getty Images)

washington post logoAmerican FlagWashington Post, U.S. officials cross into North Korea for summit preparation despite uncertainty, Anna Fifield​, May 26, 2018. Both sides are pressing ahead with arrangements for a historic meeting between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which Trump canceled last week, then suggested could be back on again.May 26

Korean Summit Revived?

ny times logoNew York Times, North and South Korea Meet in Bid to Salvage U.S. Talks, Choe Sang-Hun, May 26, 2018. North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, met unexpectedly with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea on Saturday to discuss salvaging a canceled summit meeting between Mr. Kim and President Trump, Mr. Moon’s office said, a new twist in the whirlwind of diplomacy over the fate of the North’s nuclear arsenal.

north korea flagThe two leaders met for two hours on the North Korean side of Panmunjom, a “truce village” inside the Demilitarized Zone that separates the two Koreas, said Yoon Young-chan, Mr. Moon’s spokesman.

south korea flag SmallMr. Moon and Mr. Kim held their first summit meeting on the South Korean side of Panmunjom on April 27. Their second meeting, held in secret and announced only after it took place, came amid doubts about the future of Mr. Kim’s planned summit meeting with President Trump.

Mr. Trump announced Thursday that he was canceling the planned meeting with Mr. Kim, which had been slated for June 12 in Singapore. But he said on Friday that he was reconsidering and that it may still take place as scheduled.

ny times logodjt official SmallNew York Times, Trump Says Summit With North Korea May Be Back On, Peter Baker, May 26, 2018 (print edition). President Trump said on Friday that his administration was back in touch with North Korea and the two sides may reschedule his summit meeting with Kim Jong-un, perhaps even on the original June 12 date, a stunning reversal just a day after the president canceled the get-together.

“We’ll see what happens,” Mr. Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House before departing for Annapolis, where he planned to address the commencement of the United States Naval Academy.

Freedom of Choice

irish flag

Guardian, Ireland votes by landslide to legalise abortion, Henry McDonald, Emma Graham-Harrison and Lisa O'Carroll, May 26, 2018. Ireland has voted by a landslide to legalise abortion in a stunning outcome that marks a dramatic defeat for the Catholic church’s one-time domination of the Republic.

The Irish electorate voted by 1,429,981 votes to 723,632 in favour of abolishing a controversial constitutional amendment that gave equal legal status to the lives of a foetus and the woman carrying it. The result was a two-thirds majority: 66.4% yes to 33.6% no.

By voting yes in unexpectedly large numbers to abolish the eighth amendment to the Irish constitution, the country has enabled the government in Dublin to introduce abortion in Ireland’s health service up to 12 weeks into pregnancy.

Inside DC

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Removes Job Protections for Federal Workers, Noam Scheiber, May 26, 2018 (print edition). President Trump on Friday signed a series of executive orders making it easier to fire federal government workers and rolling back the prerogatives of unions that represent them.

Andrew Bremberg, the head of the White House Domestic Policy Council, said the president was “fulfilling his promise to promote more efficient government by reforming our Civil Service rules.”

But the push also reflects conservatives’ long-running suspicion of the federal bureaucracy, one that the president’s advisers have been outspoken in channeling. Shortly after Mr. Trump took office, Stephen K. Bannon, then his chief strategist, called for “the deconstruction of the administrative state.”

U.S. Politics: California

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats Go All-Out to Avoid Disaster in California House Races, Jonathan Martin, May 26, 2018. National Democrats, confronting mushrooming political chaos across Southern California, are pouring millions of dollars into congressional races to avert a self-inflicted disaster that could undermine their chances at taking control of the House.

democratic donkey logoAfter months of optimism that the state’s June 5 primary would position them to pick off seven Republican-held districts in November — a substantial down payment on reclaiming the House — Democrats are now trying to ensure that they do not hurt themselves because of their unusually crowded slates of candidates.

With so many Democrats running, the party’s fear is that the vote will be splintered, allowing Republicans — who have fewer candidates — to dominate some primaries. The party and allied groups are spending more than $4 million on just three campaigns, intervening in one contest to prop up a favored candidate; attacking a Republican from the right in another; and even reminding people not to waste their votes on “ghost candidates” who have dropped out yet remain on the ballot.

As any progressive activist will explain through gnashed teeth, the head-snapping scramble is because of the state’s “top two” open primary system, which allows the two leading vote-getters — regardless of political parties — to advance to the general election.

Syrian Situation Report

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Syria -- U.S. Moves To Protect Al-Qaeda And ISIS in Daraa, B, May 26, 2018. The Syrian government and its Russian ally plan to clean up the southwest region of Syria around the city of Daraa. The move should open the M5 highway, Syria's lifeline, between Damascus and Jordan and secure the border with Jordan as well as the demarcation line with the Israel occupied Golan Heights.

The operation was supposed to start in a day or two, but the U.S. has now threatened to intervene. As the southwest Daraa governorate is infested with a large Islamic State (ISIS) group as well as al-Qaeda and associated groups the U.S.move must be interpreted as protection for these terrorists.

On July 7 2017 The U.S, Russia and Jordan agreed to set up a de-escalation zone in southwest Syria. The parameters were not publicized and the implementation lagged. Russia had offered to let its military police supervise the zone but the U.S. rejected that. The opening of the important M5 highway to Jordan which was originally part of the plan did likewise not happen. The ceasefire in the region was broken several times. There was also infighting between ISIS and al-Qaeda.

In November 2017 the presidents of the United States and Russia met and agreed to a Memorandum of Principals which covered southwest Syria. The memorandum was not published.

The neo-conservatives at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) disliked the agreement. It headlined "Southern Syria Deal Fails to Constrain Iran, al Qaeda." Israel had demanded that no groups associated with Iran should come near the zone, but no such rule was agreed upon. ISW also noted: "Al Qaeda has exploited the ‘de-escalation zone’ to develop a new durable safe haven along the Syrian-Jordanian border."

Neither al-Qaeda nor the Islamic State are covered by the de-escalation and ceasefire agreement. UN Security Council resolutions 2249 and 2254 demand that all UN members fight Al Qaeda, ISIS and individuals and groups associate with them. It calls upon UN member states "to eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Syria."

Trump Probes

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump proves he’ll throw any of his own people under the bus, J.H. Norton, May 26, 2018. Sociopaths have little or no conscience. They ignore societal norms that restrain questionable behavior or cause regrets afterwards. Donald Trump is a textbook case of this psychological disorder. He aggressively skirts ethical, moral and legal boundaries because in his mind the ends always, unquestionably, justify the means.

As Special Counsel Robert Mueller continues his investigation, a pattern has emerged. Trump has quickly distanced himself from anyone who gets in trouble. George Papadopoulos was dismissed as a coffee boy. Paul Manafort only worked on the Trump campaign for fleeting moment. Michael Cohen is a bit legal player with separate business interests. Roger Stone and Jared Kushner will surely get thrown under the bus once they are indicted. Just look at how Trump’s past treatment of his lawyer Roy Cohn and second wife Marla Maple,s if you hold any illusions about this not being a lifelong pattern.

roy cohnRoy Cohn (shown in a file photo) worked for Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-Wisc.) during his 1950s communist-baiting crusade. Afterwards Cohn became a New York City powerbroker. While Fred Trump’s money, connections and know-how are the foundation behind his son’s rise in real estate; Cohn did the critical dirty work for the younger Trump during the 1970s into the 1980s. However, when Cohn was dying of AIDS in the mid-1980s, the future “President” essentially abandoned his mentor. In fact, at Cohn’s funeral, not only did the Trump refuse to be one of the speakers, but he stood at the back of the service.

Marla Maples was Trump’s second wife. Before marrying her in 1993, Trump had Maples sign a prenup. Nothing especially surprising about that development in and of it self. However, as In Touch Weekly recounts, “When the Don broke up with Marla in 1997, he did so just weeks before the four-year anniversary that would have upped her divorce settlement. Therefore, she only got $2 million — as well as undisclosed child support payments for their daughter — when their lengthy court battle ended in 1999.” In other words, Trump bailed on his marriage before exposing himself to more potential financial liability, fought a protracted battle in court and won.

If Donald Trump can be remorseless in mistreating the lawyer who facilitated many of his early deals and the mother of his fourth child, then people like Cohen and Kushner have no chance of loyalty being extended their way when the law comes knocking.

May 25

Inside TrumpWorld

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Trump Deal-Making Playbook’s Biggest Test: North Korea, David E. Sanger, May 25, 2018. President Trump had sought to deal with Kim Jong-un the same way he had handled real estate negotiations — with threats and flattery. It didn’t work.

kirstjen nielsen world economic forumwashington post logoWashington Post, We’re closed!’: Trump vents his anger over immigration at homeland security secretary, Josh Dawsey and Nick Miroff, May 25, 2018. The strains in the relationship between President Trump and Kirstjen Nielsen illustrate the difficulty faced by his subordinates who are tasked with delivering policy solutions to match his most soaring promises.

President Trump began berating Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in the Oval Office earlier this spring, according to administration officials, griping about her performance and blaming her for a surge in illegal border crossings.

John KellyChief of Staff John F. Kelly (left), who installed her in the job, jumped in to defend her. The two men then sparred over Nielsen as she silently watched. At one point, Trump noted the border numbers were lower under Kelly and wondered aloud why Nielsen could not perform as well, according to these officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private meeting.

As illegal crossings are once more on the rise and Trump hears a cascade of criticism from conservative allies, Nielsen finds herself on the receiving end of the president’s visceral anger about immigration, seeing the issue as the reason he won in 2016 and a key to his politicking ahead of the midterm elections.

The president has chastised her on several occasions this spring, including a much publicized meeting earlier this month when he attacked her in front of the entire Cabinet. He has grown furious because his administration has made little progress building the border wall, and his most ardent supporters have blamed Nielsen for not doing more to halt the caravan of Central American migrants whose advance Trump saw as a personal challenge. In April, the number of illegal border crossers arrested by U.S. agents topped 50,000 for the second consecutive month. The increase has stripped the president of one of his proudest accomplishments — the sharp drop in illegal migration in the months immediately following his 2016 win.

More On Trump Probes

ny times logomichael cohen ap file croppedNew York Times, At Trump Tower, Michael Cohen and Oligarch Discussed Russian Relations, William K. Rashbaum, Ben Protess and Mike McIntire, May 25, 2018. Eleven days before the presidential inauguration last year, a billionaire Russian businessman with ties to the Kremlin visited Trump Tower in Manhattan to meet with Donald J. Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen (shown at right), according to video footage and another person who attended the meeting.

vicktor vekselberg headshotIn Mr. Cohen’s office on the 26th floor, he and the oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg (shown at left), discussed a mutual desire to strengthen Russia’s relations with the United States under President Trump, according to Andrew Intrater, an American businessman who attended the meeting and invests money for Mr. Vekselberg. The men also arranged to see one another at the inauguration, the second of their three meetings, Mr. Intrater said.

Days after the inauguration, Mr. Intrater’s private equity firm, Columbus Nova, awarded Mr. Cohen a $1 million consulting contract, a deal that has drawn the attention of federal authorities investigating Mr. Cohen, according to people briefed on the inquiry.

columbus nova logo

Mr. Intrater said in an interview that Mr. Vekselberg, his cousin and biggest client, had no role in Columbus Nova’s decision to hire Mr. Cohen as a consultant. When asked about the meeting at Trump Tower during the presidential transition, Mr. Intrater described it as a brief and impromptu discussion, and said that Mr. Vekselberg had not originally planned to attend.

The disclosure of the meeting sheds additional light on the intersection between Mr. Trump’s inner-circle and Russians with ties to the Kremlin.

Politico Magazine, George Conway’s Tweets Raise West Wing Eyebrows, Anna Karni, May 25, 2018 (print edition). The spicy Twitter feed of Kellyanne Conway’s husband has gotten noticed in the Oval Office. But friends say the real target of his ire isn’t Donald Trump.

George Conway’s Manhattan law firm sits near the corner of Sixth Avenue and 52nd Street, just three blocks from Trump Tower. During the 2016 election, when he still supported Donald Trump, the corporate litigator would sometimes walk over to the campaign HQ after work, according to former campaign aides. He’d pop in around 8 p.m. and would sit and work in his wife Kellyanne Conway’s office until she was ready to go. Then he’d drive her to New Jersey, or the couple would share a town car home.

Friends say he was proud of Kellyanne, the longtime Republican operative who was finally running the show, and the evening routine allowed him to grab some one-on-one time with his busier half. On election night, he cried, and noted to other campaign aides that as the first female campaign manager of a winning presidential bid, his wife had made history.

Over the past year, however, since Trump fired FBI Director James Comey and special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed by the Justice Department, George Conway has become a man in turmoil. A serious, conservative attorney who believes in the rule of law, he has been torn, people who know him say, between the loyalty he feels toward his wife and an assault on his profession and his ideals that he did not anticipate when he cheered on election night—delivered by her boss.

During that period, he has walked away from a powerful job running the Justice Department’s civil division, where he would have served as one of the administration’s top lawyers. And he has become a Twitter phenom—tweeting and retweeting critiques of the president and support for the Mueller probe that his wife’s employer calls a “witch hunt.” Many in the White House have noticed, including Kellyanne and, according to multiple administration officials, the president himself.

The pushback coming from inside the house of Trump’s lead cable-news defender has become one of Washington’s favorite family dramas. In “Conway versus Conway,” George attacks the president, or seems to defend the Mueller probe, while Kellyanne puts her own credibility on the line to defend Trump, who has escalated his verbal assaults on the Russia inquiry and this week even demanded an investigation of the investigation.

Conway now has nearly 50,000 followers, and his tweeting—the majority of it retweets, rather than his own commentary—has attracted the notice of everyone from conservative legal scholars to TV host Whoopi Goldberg, who gave him a shoutout on a recent episode of ABC’s "The View": “I say George, keep it up, honey. Whether your wife gets it or not, stay sane. It’s a good thing to stay sane.”

Asked to explain his public feud with his wife’s boss, Conway declined to comment or elaborate on his tweets. “If I wanted to say anything publicly,” he said in a direct message on Twitter, “I would just say it.”

But friends and professional acquaintances say Conway’s tweets are just the tip of an iceberg of frustration with Trump that has only grown over the past year. While Conway has always been known as a contrarian, however, some friends have been surprised and disappointed by the public airing of anti-Trump sentiment from a man who is known to value discretion.

New Privacy Laws Take Effect Today

european union logo rectangle

ny times logoNew York Times, New Laws Make Europe the World’s Top Tech Watchdog, Adam Satariano, May 25, 2018 (print edition). The European Union on Friday puts the world’s toughest data privacy rules into effect. The regulations are set to have an outsize impact far beyond Europe.

facebook logoThe notices are flooding people’s inboxes en masse, from large technology companies, including Facebook and Uber, and even from parent teacher associations, children’s soccer clubs and yoga instructors. “Here is an update to our privacy policy,” they say. All are acting because the European Union on Friday enacts the world’s toughest rules to protect people’s online data. And with the internet’s borderless nature, the regulations are set to have an outsize impact far beyond Europe.

twitter bird CustomIn Silicon Valley, Google, Facebook and other tech companies have been working for months to comply with the new rules, known as the General Data Protection Regulation. The law, which lets people request their online data and restricts how businesses obtain and handle the information, has set off a panic among small businesses and local organizations that have an internet presence.

Brazil, Japan and South Korea are set to follow Europe’s lead, with some having already passed similar data protection laws. European officials are encouraging copycats by tying data protection to some trade deals and arguing that a unified global approach is the only way to crimp Silicon Valley’s power.

google logo customEurope is determined to cement its role as the world’s foremost tech watchdog — and the region is only getting started. Authorities in Brussels and in the European Union’s 28 member countries are also setting the bar for stricter enforcement of antitrust laws against tech behemoths and are paving the way for tougher tax policies on the companies.

The region’s proactive stance is a sharp divergence from the United States, which has taken little action over the years in regulating the tech industry. Most recently, the Trump administration has sought to cut taxes and roll back regulation, while pursuing an increasingly protectionist tack to shield tech companies from competition from China.

Crime, Courts

ny times logomark inch o bureau of prisonsNew York Times, Prisons Chief Quit Over Kushner and Sessions Turf War, Glenn Thrush and Danielle Ivory, May 24, 2018. Some see Mark S. Inch’s departure as an opening for the Trump administration to endorse sentencing reform — one of the few issues that offer the possibility of a bipartisan deal.

When Jared Kushner hosted a high-profile summit meeting on federal prison reform at the White House last Friday, some in attendance noticed that the man who was ostensibly in charge of the federal prison system, Mark S. Inch, a retired Army major general, was nowhere in sight.

Only Mr. Kushner (shown at right) and a few others knew that Mr. Inch, a genial former military police commander appointed to oversee the Federal Bureau of Prisons and its more than 180,000 inmates just nine months ago, had two days earlier submitted his resignation as the bureau’s director to Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein.

By the time President Trump entered the East Room, Mr. Inch had already been ordered to vacate his office and had begun packing up books and memorabilia from his 35-year military career.

Mr. Inch told Mr. Rosenstein he was tired of the administration flouting “departmental norms.” And he complained that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had largely excluded him from major staffing, budget and policy decisions, according to three people with knowledge of the situation. Mr. Inch also felt marginalized by Mr. Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, in drafting prison reform legislation, the officials said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein charged in N.Y. sex assault cases, Abby Ohlheiser and Elahe Izadi​, May 25, 2018.  Weinstein surrendered to authorities and was charged with rape, criminal sex act, sex abuse and sexual misconduct for cases involving two women, according to the New York Police Department.

harvey weinsteinLaw enforcement officials did not immediately identify the two women who Weinstein (shown in a file photo) is charged with attacking. Lucia Evans, a onetime aspiring actress who has said Weinstein sexually assaulted her in 2004 at his Manhattan office, told the New Yorker on Thursday that she was pressing charges against Weinstein, saying: “At a certain point, you have to think about the greater good of humanity, of womankind.”

In November, New York police officials said the accusations made by actress Paz de la Huerta, including that Weinstein raped her twice in 2010, were “credible.”

More #MeToo Celebrity Claims

ny times logomorgan freeman kathleen tracy bio coverNew York Times, Morgan Freeman Is Accused of Sexual Harassment by Several Women, Sopan Deb and Brooks Barnes, May 25, 2018 (print edition). Morgan Freeman, one of the most celebrated actors in the film industry, has been accused of sexual harassment by several women, according to a report by CNN on Thursday. The accusations ranged from unwanted touching to sexually suggestive comments — on movie sets, in office environments and during meetings with the news media.

One production assistant told CNN that she had endured several months of harassment while working on the set of “Going in Style,” a film released last year starring Mr. Freeman, Alan Arkin and Michael Caine. She said that on one occasion Mr. Freeman (shown on the cover of a biography) “kept trying to lift up my skirt and asking if I was wearing underwear,” until Mr. Arkin told Mr. Freeman to stop. There were also suggestive comments and unwanted touching, such as putting his hand on her back.

A woman described as a senior member of the production staff of “Now You See Me,” a 2013 movie, said Mr. Freeman would routinely comment on her physical appearance and that of her assistant.

More On Trump Probes

washington post logofbi logoWashington Post, White House lawyer’s presence at briefings on FBI’s Russia source roils lawmakers, Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett, Karoun Demirjian and Seung Min Kim, May 25, 2018 (print edition). Justice Department and intelligence community leaders met twice with top lawmakers, hoping to defuse a partisan conflict over the use of a secret source to aid the investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia. But the meetings spawned fights over who was there, who wasn’t and how it all might look.

John KellyReversing its earlier position, the White House allowed top Democrats to join Republicans for two meetings Thursday. Chief of Staff John F. Kelly (shown at left) and White House lawyer Emmet T. Flood, recently made a point person for the special counsel’s investigation, also were also present for parts of the gatherings, though the White House insisted they made only “brief remarks before the meetings started to relay the President’s desire for as much openness as possible under the law.”

It was not immediately clear whether the Justice Department had provided information that would allay conservatives’ concerns, particularly those of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who has pushed vigorously for information about the FBI’s source, or President Trump.

State Department Warns On Next Syrian Battle Zone

heather nauert state departmentU.S. Department of State, Assad Regime Intentions in the Southwest De-escalation Zone, Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert (shown in a file photo), May 25, 2018. The United States is concerned by reports of an impending Assad regime operation in southwest Syria within the boundaries of the de-escalation zone negotiated between the United States, Jordan, and the Russian Federation last year and reaffirmed between Presidents Trump and Putin in Da Nang, Vietnam in November.

The United States remains committed to maintaining the stability of the southwest de-escalation zone and to the ceasefire underpinning it. We also caution the Syrian regime against any actions that risk broadening the conflict or jeopardize the ceasefire. As a guarantor of this de-escalation area with Russia and Jordan, the United States will take firm and appropriate measures in response to Assad regime violations.

The Presidents of the United States and Russia agreed in Da Nang to de-escalate the conflict. This agreement must be enforced and respected. Russia has declared to the world and to the UNSC that it will “guarantee” ceasefires in its self-declared de-escalation zones. Unfortunately, the Assad regime, with the support of Russia and Iran, has repeatedly violated these de-escalation zones, most recently in its brutal assault on East Ghouta. The Assad regime and its allies continue to prolong the conflict by ignoring their own de-escalation agreements and stonewalling the Geneva process.

Editor's Note: Syrian and Russian authorities have said that repeated rebel violations of the peace accord have voided the concept of a de-escalation zone in the region held by ISIS and other rebel groups in the Syrian region next to Israel and Jordon. It is the last non-desert rebel-held territory west of the Euphrates and south of the province of Idlib, which is partially held by rebel forces near Turkey.

Italian Government Change

Consortium News, European Earthquake as Populist Government Forms in Italy, Andrew Spannaus, May 25, 2018. After having fought off popular rejection of its neoliberal economic policies that serve its own interests, the European establishment has lost its first major election.

The revolt of voters across the Western world has reached a high point in Europe. The Five Star Movement and the League, two so-called “populist” political parties in Italy, are preparing to form a government after Wednesday’s appointment of a new prime minister following an election result that could directly challenge the foundations of the European Union.

Like other anti-system movements around Europe, the Italian parties are calling in particular for abandoning the neoliberal economic policies and speculative finance, which are hollowing out the middle class. The breakthrough comes two and a half months after the elections held on March 4, in which Italian voters sent an unequivocal message to the current political institutions, not simply of protest, but of a desire to actually give power to those willing to implement deep change.

More Crime, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, Rachel Dolezal, the white woman who posed as black, charged with welfare fraud, Allyson Chiu, May 25, 2018. Former NAACP official Rachel Dolezal, a white woman who posed as African American for years, is now facing charges of welfare fraud after investigators say she illegally received thousands of dollars in public assistance.

Dolezal, who legally changed her name to Nkechi Diallo in 2016, is accused of stealing $8,847 in food and child care assistance dating back to August 2015, according to court documents obtained by KHQ-TV. She is charged as “Nkechi Diallo also known as Rachel A. Dolezal” with first-degree theft by welfare fraud, second-degree perjury and false verification for public assistance.

Local reporters who went to her Spokane home seeking comment said she declined to say anything and closed the door.

The investigation into Dolezal began in March of last year when an investigator from the Washington Department of Social and Health Services learned she had written a book that had been published. The investigator did further research into the book’s publisher and discovered “a typical contract would include payments of $10,000 to $20,000 as advances against later royalties,” according to documents.

At this time, Dolezal had been reporting a monthly income of less than $500, which came from child support payments. She resigned from the NAACP in June 2015 when her parents revealed she was actually white, and claimed that since then she had been unemployed and unable to find work, the Spokesman-Review reported.

When asked how she was paying her living expenses, she was quoted in the documents saying, “Barely! With help from friends and gifts.”

Former U.S. Foreign Service Officer Visits Iran

michael springmannGlobal Research: Opinion: Iran: What Trump Is Not Telling You. J. Michael Springmann, May 25, 2018. J. Michael Springmann (right) is an attorney, author, and political commentator. He has written Visas for Al Qaeda: CIA Handouts That Rocked The World and a second book Goodbye, Europe? Hello, Chaos? Merkel’s Migrant Bomb.

After a week’s travel in Iran, I am able to provide a fresh, different, and unbiased perspective on the country. This is an account entirely at odds with Donald J. Trump’s worldview. It is a story diametrically opposed to the Zionist narrative that has so captivated the American government and media.

michael springmann coverFollowing a surprise invitation to attend an all-expenses paid trip to the 6th International New Horizon Conference (about al-Quds, i.e. Jerusalem), I arrived in Mashhad, Iran on May 11, 2018. Knowing little of Iran, I expected another version of Saudi Arabia, an arch-conservative society, with no mixing of the sexes, rigidly-controlled politics, and little interest in the outside world.

I found just the opposite. Iran and Iranians, despite the unforgivable and deadly U.S. sanctions, are genuinely warm and welcoming. They possess an economy that, despite American efforts to wreck it, still functions. There are airports, motorways (with toll booths!), and double-decker commuter trains. And the most god-awful traffic outside of Washington, D.C. and Moscow, even if gasoline is the equivalent of US$0.25/liter (quart) and the average salary is only US$309/week.

During the conference, at nearly every moment I wasn’t in my chair, I was being interviewed by Iranian journalists and others. There were no softball questions, they were hard and to the point. Some meetings were pre-arranged, others were “ambush” interviews , catching me as I went to change money or finished an earlier conversation with another journalist. I wasn’t alone in this. Other participants, such as Rabbi David Wise from New York City, Philip Giraldi, ex-CIA, Peter Van Buren, former American diplomat like myself, and Greta Berlin, a member of several supply voyages to Palestine NOT attacked by Israel, all noted the same thing.

Irish Vote Down Anti-Abortion Law:Polls

washington post logoWashington Post, Exit polls suggest Ireland has voted decisively to repeal its abortion ban, William Booth, May 25, 2018. Results from two exit polls suggested nearly 70 percent voted in favor of rolling back the Eighth Amendment to the Irish constitution, one of the strictest abortion laws in the developed world.

An Irish Times exit poll says Ireland has voted to repeal the constitutional provision banning abortion with a crushing majority. The poll says that 68 percent voted yes and 32 percent voted against. People on both sides had expected a yes vote over the past couple of days; few had expected that the margin would be so decisive. Of course, the exit poll may be wrong, but it is hard to imagine that it could be wrong enough to call the final result into question.

Florida School Gun Control Target Florida Grocery Chain

Miami Herald, Publix halts political contributions ahead of Parkland students' 'die-in' protest, Alex Harris, David Smiley And Martin Vassolo, May 25, 2018.  Staring down the prospect of a public relations crisis — boycott threats and "die-in" protests included — over its donations to Republican gubernatorial hopeful Adam Putnam, Publix said Friday it has halted all corporate political contributions.

david hogg rallyThe supermarket giant made the announcement moments before a "die-in" protest planned by David Hogg, a vocal Parkland school shooting survivor and gun control activist. Despite the news, Hogg (shown at left in a file photo) and dozens of protesters sprawled on the floor of a Coral Springs Publix for 12 minutes clutching sunflowers and signs that read "No NRA Money."

Hogg and other students began their influential movement for gun control in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that left 17 dead and 17 wounded. They've taken aim particularly at the National Rifle Association, and were angered at the news of the grocer's unprecedented support for Putnam, who once boasted he was a "proud NRA sellout."

At $670,000 over the last three years, it's the largest contribution the company has made in more than two decades and possibly the biggest in company history. Moments before the protest began, Publix released a statement apologizing for putting its employees and customers "in the middle of a political debate" and announcing a suspension of corporate political donations as it reevaluates its donation process.

"At Publix, we respect the students and members of the community who have chosen to express their voices on these issues. We regret that our contributions have led to a divide in our community," the statement read.

The produce aisle protesters were flanked by a smaller group of counterprotesters chanting "NRA" and "Trump," but the demonstration stayed calm.

Diego Pfeiffer, an 18-year-old Stoneman Douglas senior who helped organize the demonstration with Hogg, said Publix’s announcement proves that the die-in was successful. He and fellow supporters learned of the policy change after their protest.

Publix, Florida's largest private employer, is also one of the state's biggest political donors. This election cycle alone, Publix has donated $2.1 million to state candidates, according to the Florida Division of Elections website. In the 2016 elections, the database shows the company gave $3 million. The donations have gone to both parties.

nra logo CustomPublix is suspending corporate-funded contributions, but its executives and employees can still give money to political causes. Hoyt Barnett, a corporate board member, has donated $120,000 to Putnam's political committee, Florida Grown, over the last two years.

Putnam faces U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Palm Coast, in the Republican primary for governor on Aug. 28. DeSantis tweeted Friday that the protests were "ridiculous." "Shopping won’t be a pleasure if left-wing agitators get their way. I’ll always stand up for #2A!" he wrote.

Publix's decision to at least temporarily stop contributing money to political causes punctuates a rough week for Putnam. Florida's agricultural commissioner has been on the defensive ever since the Tampa Bay Times reported that Publix has invested an amount of money unprecedented for the company into Putnam's run for governor — reminding everyone that he declared himself a "Proud NRA Sellout" and setting off protests and calls to boycott the grocer.

washington post logoWashington Post, Forty percent of American adults lack savings to cover a $400 emergency expense, Heather Long, May 25, 2018. Two new reports reveal how unstable life remains for a large number of people. Here’s a rundown of the key findings.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump says he will spare Chinese telecom firm from collapse, defying lawmakers’ national security concerns, Damian Paletta​, May 25, 2018. President Trump said late Friday he had allowed embattled Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE Corp. to remain open despite fierce bipartisan opposition on Capitol Hill, defying lawmakers who have warned that the huge technology company should be severely punished for breaking U.S. law.

Trump said on Twitter he was allowing it to “reopen with high level security guarantees, change of management and board,” a requirement that it must purchase U.S. parts, and a $1.3 billion fine.

Sensing such a move, top Democrats and at least one Republican on Friday said the White House's decision was tantamount to a bailout of a large Chinese company with little benefit for the United States.

The requirement that ZTE purchase U.S. parts could draw criticism on Capitol Hill, as the company relies on U.S. parts to make its products. In fact, it was the Commerce Department’s April penalty that banned ZTE from buying U.S. parts that effectively put it on the brink of closure.

The Obama administration and Trump administration have repeatedly punished ZTE for violating sanctions laws by selling products to Iran and North Korea and then lying to federal investigators.

U.S. intelligence officials think ZTE poses a U.S. security threat because its products could be used for spying or cyberattacks. Earlier in May, the Pentagon ordered bases to stop selling phones made by ZTE and Huawei, another Chinese company.

And a number of Democrats and Republicans have said products from ZTE, which is partly owned by the Chinese government, could also be used to collect information on U.S. companies and steal intellectual property.

WhoWhatWhy, Baseball Ex-Commish’s Love Letter to Torturers and His One Percent Pals, Russ Baker, May 22, 2018. The other day, the Wall Street Journal published a ludicrous and tragically laughable op-ed from former Major League Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent, “Immorality Is Part of the Job.” It argues that CIA directors should lie to Congress to protect “our boys.”

Those who read it could be excused for wondering why a baseball dude is qualified to comment on such a topic. What you might not know is that there is a connection between baseball and the CIA. Here is what you missed: Most importantly, Vincent, while “professionally” a baseball guy, also traditionally hangs with “spooks.”

In his essay, Vincent expressed disgust with “moral” considerations around torture in the confirmation hearings for the CIA director nominee, Gina Haspel. He stated that CIA directors are under instruction to lie, and should do so to “protect operations,” and that since they’re under instruction, that’s “the law” — and we should be a nation of laws.

As usual, the background, context, and the “deep politics” to this convoluted thinking are entirely missing, and are just accepted without question and rushed out to the Wall Street Journal’s audience of the money-minded. Vincent does mention his “old friend” Dick Helms, the late former CIA director, who was involved with many CIA abuses. And he excoriates the late Sen. Frank Church, who was one of the few to investigate those abuses, writing: Dick Helms died in 2002. His portrait hangs in honor at CIA headquarters. There is no portrait of Frank Church.

But Vincent, a corporate lawyer before he became pro baseball’s top honcho, doesn’t say how he was friends with Helms, who was very much part of the CIA’s hard-core, old-style element of democracy’s hit men, or why he knew him. Vincent is an old friend of George H.W. “Poppy” Bush and his late wife Barbara — so old a friend, in fact, that, at age 18, he lived with the then-young couple in their house in Midland, Texas.

As has never been revealed by the establishment media — but is documented in my investigative history of the Bush clan, Family of Secrets — back in his early Texas days, the supposedly struggling neophyte oilman Poppy Bush was already a secret asset of the CIA. His father, Senator Prescott Bush, was a close friend and ally of CIA director Allen Dulles, the longest-serving CIA director, who was fired by John F. Kennedy and who shared with the Bushes an enmity for JFK.

More On North Korean Summit

djt north korean commemorative coin

Shown above is a commemorative medal that the Trump White House had announced this week in advance of the now-cancelled June 12 Summit with North Korea

washington post logoWashington Post, After Trump cancels summit, North Korea says it’s ready to talk ‘at any time,’ John Wagner, John Hudson and Anna Fifield​, May 25, 2018 (print edition). Kim regime says Trump’s decision did not match with ‘the world’s desire.’

North Korean flagAfter President Trump’s abrupt cancellation of the planned summit, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan issued a conciliatory statement, saying the regime was ready to meet with the United States “at any time.” Trump’s decision did not match with “the world’s desire,” Kim said in a statement published by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency Friday morning.

A summit is urgently needed to deal with the “grave hostilities” in the relationship between North Korea and the United States, the statement said. “Leader Kim Jong Un had focused every effort on his meeting with President Trump,” the vice foreign minister said.

Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)

Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Cancels Meeting With Kim, Citing ‘Open Hostility,’ Eileen Sullivan, May 25, 2018 (print edition), The meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong-un had been scheduled for June 12 in Singapore. Mr. Trump cited “tremendous anger” from the North Korean side.

President Trump has notified Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, that he has canceled their much-anticipated meeting, which was set for June 12.

In a letter dated Thursday to Mr. Kim, the American president said he would not attend the summit due to “tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement.” He was referring to recent comments from a North Korean official who described Vice President Mike Pence as “ignorant and stupid.”

Washington Post, White House gift shop ‘Deal of the Day’: Trump-Kim summit souvenirs, Allyson Chiu, May 25, 2018. When President Trump abruptly canceled what was to be his historic, Nobel-prize winning meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un Thursday, many expressed worry about the geostrategic fallout.

But under the radar of the foreign policy establishment, there’s another burning question: What happens to the commemorative coins and ornaments being hawked by the White House gift shop?

Crime, Courts: Pennsylvania Scandals

kathleen kane fileAssociated Press via Trib Live, Former state AG Kane loses appeal of criminal conviction, May 25, 2018. A Pennsylvania appeals court on Friday upheld the conviction of former state attorney general Kathleen Kane for leaking secret grand jury information and lying about it, saying among other things she wasn't entitled to use evidence of a pornographic email scandal in her defense.

A three-judge Superior Court panel rejected arguments made by Kane (shown in a file photo), who has remained out on $75,000 bail since her October 2016 sentencing to 10 to 23 months in jail.

The court turned down claims that all Montgomery County judges should have been prevented from handing her case, evidence against her was illegally obtained, she was the victim of selective and vindictive prosecution and jurors should have been given certain information about grand jury secrecy rules.

The judges also denied her argument she should have been able to use evidence about a pornographic email scandal that involved the office she ran, or the Jerry Sandusky child molestation case that her former office prosecuted. Kane may still appeal the conviction to the state Supreme Court.

Kane, 51, who had been the first woman and first Democrat elected attorney general in Pennsylvania, resigned in 2016 after being convicted of two counts of felony perjury and seven misdemeanor counts, including obstruction and conspiracy.

Her criticism of how the office had handled the Sandusky investigation at Penn State before she took office created resentment among some of the lawyers who had worked on it. After secret grand jury information about another case was leaked to The Philadelphia Inquirer, two former attorney general's office prosecutors contacted a Montgomery County judge, leading him to appoint a special prosecutor.

The appeals court decision concluded Kane cited “a plethora of specious reasons” in arguing she should have been able to evidence of the pornographic emails, a scandal that rocked the state's judicial community and the state prosecutor's office in particular and led to the resignation of two Supreme Court justices, or the investigation and prosecution of Sandusky, who is appealing a 45-count conviction for child sexual abuse.

May 24

usa today logoUSA Today, South Korean president calls cancellation of Trump-Kim summit 'very regrettable,' Thomas Maresca and Jane Onyanga-Omara, May 24, 2018. South Korean President Moon Jae-in called the cancellation of next month's landmark summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "very regrettable and unfortunate" and urged the two leaders to talk to each other directly.

moon jae in 2017 10 01Moon issued the statement after convening a late-night emergency meeting Thursday at the Blue House with top security aides and Cabinet members in response to Trump's abrupt cancellation of the scheduled June 12 summit in Singapore.

Moon said that establishing enduring peace and the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula are “historic tasks that cannot be abandoned or delayed.” The Trump-Kim talks would have been the first meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader.

The cancellation appeared to take the South Korean leader by surprise. In an initial response, Moon's spokesman, Kim Eui-kyeom, told reporters, "We are trying to figure out what President Trump's intention is and what it's exact meaning is."

ny times logoNew York Times, North Korea Says It Has Destroyed Nuclear Test Site, Choe Sang-Hun, May 24, 2018. North Korea said on Thursday that it had destroyed its only known nuclear test site, three weeks before its leader, Kim Jong-un, is scheduled to meet with President Trump.

North Korean flagNorth Korea allowed a select group of journalists from Britain, China, Russia, South Korea and the United States to watch its engineers destroy and close tunnels in its mountainous Punggye-ri test site, where the country has conducted all six of its nuclear tests. No independent outside nuclear monitors were invited to verify the dismantlement of the site.

Judges Slams Trump's Twitter Expulsions

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Cannot Block Users on Twitter, Judge Rules, John Herrman and Charlie Savage, May 24, 2018 (print edition). President Trump’s practice of blocking users who are critical of him from seeing his posts on the social media platform violates the First Amendment, a federal judge said.

twitter bird CustomApart from the man himself, perhaps nothing has defined President Trump’s political persona more than Twitter. But on Wednesday, one of Mr. Trump’s Twitter habits — his practice of blocking critics on the service, preventing them from engaging with his account — was declared unconstitutional by a federal judge in Manhattan.

Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald, addressing a novel issue about how the Constitution applies to social media platforms and public officials, found that the president’s Twitter feed is a public forum. As a result, she ruled that when Mr. Trump or an aide blocked seven plaintiffs from viewing and replying to his posts, he violated the First Amendment.

If the principle undergirding Wednesday’s ruling in Federal District Court stands, it is likely to have implications far beyond Mr. Trump’s feed and its 52 million followers, said Jameel Jaffer, the Knight First Amendment Institute’s executive director and the counsel for the plaintiffs. Public officials throughout the country, from local politicians to governors and members of Congress, regularly use social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook to interact with the public about government business.

Related story: Twitter Users Sound Off on Being Blocked by the President.

Most Vulnerable U.S. Natural Disaster Locales

ny times logoNew York Times, The Places in the U.S. Where Disaster Strikes Again and Again, Sahil Chinoy, May 24, 2018. In the last 16 years, parts of Louisiana have been struck by six hurricanes. Areas near San Diego were devastated by three particularly vicious wildfire seasons. And a town in eastern Kentucky has been pummeled by at least nine storms severe enough to warrant federal assistance.

Trump Probes

OpEdNews, Opinion: Deep State Swamp Monster Says There Is No Deep State, Caitlin Johnstone, May 24, 2018. Secretary of State and former CIA Director Mike Pompeo said during a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee today that he does not believe there is a deep state in the CIA, the State Department or the Department of Justice, which is the same as a mob boss saying he doesn't believe there is organized crime in the Mafia.

ted lieuCalifornia Rep. Ted Lieu (D, shown at right), himself a virulent Russiagater and aggressive defender of the US intelligence community, asked Pompeo if he believed there was a "Criminal Deep State" at the State Department in reference to a recent tweet by America's reality TV president.

"I haven't seen the comments from the president. I don't believe there is a deep state at the State Department," Pompeo said.

"You formerly served as CIA Director," Lieu continued. "Do you believe your colleagues at the CIA are part of the Criminal Deep State?"

"You know, this term 'deep state' has been thrown around -- I will say this, the employees that worked for me at the CIA, nearly uniformly, were aimed at achieving the president's objectives and America's objectives," Pompeo responded.

"And that's your experience when you interact with colleagues at the FBI and the Department of Justice as well?" Lieu asked.

"Uh, yes," Pompeo replied.

It was like watching a two-handed puppet show about two swamp monsters furiously agreeing with one another that there is no swamp.

I hardly ever use the term "deep state" anymore. For a time it was a sensible label to use within smaller, well-informed circles to refer to the unelected power structures which remain in America regardless of the shifting tides of its official elected government, but ever since it became a mainstream household term it's been rendered meaningless by partisan hackery.

Crime, Civil Rights -- And Assassination?

dovey roundtree

jacob hornberger headshotFuture of Freedom Foundation, A Remarkable Lawyer and a Fascinating Case, Jacob G. Hornberger (right), May 24, 2018. The New York Times has published a lengthy obituary of one of most remarkable lawyers in U.S. history, an African-American woman named Dovey Johnson Roundtree (shown above), who passed away last Monday at the age of 104.

mary pinchot meyer 1963 cigaretteHer most famous case was a criminal case involving the murder of Mary Pinchot Meyer, the former wife of a high CIA official who had been having an intimate affair with President John F. Kennedy in the months leading up to his assassination.

The Meyer case is detailed in Peter Janney’s excellent book Mary’s Mosaic: The CIA Conspiracy to Murder John F. Kennedy, Mary Pinchot Meyer, and Their Vision for World Peace, which I highly recommend. If you decide to read the book, be sure you get the most recent edition because it provides an exciting update on Janney’s successful search for one of the principal witnesses in the case, a military officer named Lt. William Mitchell stationed at the Pentagon.

Sports / Race

jack johnson 1908 otto sarony

Jack Johnson in 1908 (Otto Sarony Photo)

washington post logoWashington Post, Boxer Jack Johnson is posthumously pardoned by Trump, Jacob Bogage, The first black heavyweight champion was convicted in 1913 under the Mann Act, federal legislation that Jim Crow-era prosecutors often used as a type of anti-miscegenation law.

President Trump granted a posthumous pardon Thursday to boxer Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion, who was convicted in 1913 for violating a Jim Crow-era law that made it illegal to transport a white woman across state lines “for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose.”

“A truly great fighter,” Trump said in the Oval Office, where he signed the pardon in a ceremony attended by boxing legend Lennox Lewis, actor Sylvester Stallone and current heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder, among others who had advocated for Johnson’s pardon. “He had a tough life.”

Trump noted that a pardon for Johnson, whom he called “one of the greatest that ever lived,” had considerable support in Congress, including within the Congressional Black Caucus. The president said Johnson served prison time “for what many view as a racially motivated injustice.”

Johnson was charged in 1913 for violating the Mann Act, a law that Jim Crow-era prosecutors often used as an anti-miscegenation device, and ended up spending almost a year in prison. His story was the basis of the 1970 movie “The Great White Hope” starring James Earl Jones.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: It’s time to cancel the NFL and its plantation-style politics, Karen Attiah, May 24, 2018. If you want a modern example of nakedly racist authoritarianism in America, look no further than the National Football League.

nfl logoThe NFL announced Wednesday that “all team and league personnel on the field shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem” and that a “club will be fined if its personnel are on the field and do not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.” If a player wants to not stand for the anthem, he can stay in the locker room until after the anthem is done.

Make no mistake: Forcing players to go inside the locker room or face fines is a blatant attack on the free speech of black players (who make up almost 70 percent of the league). As a reminder, the black players were never protesting the flag or the anthem itself. They were making a statement about the racism, injustice and police brutality in the United States. However, the NFL, like America in so many ways, has shown that it is more interested in silencing the speech of black players than in “advancing the goals of justice and fairness in all corners of society,” as its new policy claims.

Karen Attiah is The Washington Post's Global Opinions editor. She writes on international affairs and social issues. Previously, she reported from Curacao, Ghana and Nigeria.

Media

ny times logo

alex jones headshotNew York Times, Sandy Hook Families’ Fight for Truth: Suing Conspiracy Theorist, Elizabeth Williamson, May 24, 2018 (print edition).  Cases seek a verdict on “post-truth” culture and on Alex Jones (right), a Trump ally who reaps millions peddling bogus claims about an American tragedy.

More than five years after one of the most horrific mass shootings in modern history, the families of Sandy Hook victims are still enduring daily threats and online abuse from people who believe bogus theories spread by Mr. Jones, whom President Trump has praised for his “amazing” reputation.

Clean Nose For Crown Prince?

washington post logoWashington Post, Kushner given permanent security clearance, ending uncertainty over status, Philip Rucker​, May 24, 2018 (print edition). Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, now has a permanent security clearance, and recently sat for six to seven hours of questioning by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team on a wide range of topics including Trump’s firing of FBI Director James B. Comey, according to a person briefed on the matter.

The FBI’s background check into Kushner’s financial history and foreign contacts took more than a year, becoming a source of uncertainty for the West Wing aide. But the person familiar with the process, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, said Kushner’s permanent clearance was granted after career officials completed the FBI background check process.

The special counsel’s questioning focused only on Kushner’s work with Trump and did not include such topics as Kushner’s personal finances or those of his family business, Kushner Companies, according to the person familiar with the matter.

More On #MeToo Claims Against Woody Allen

ny times logoNew York Times, Mia, Ronan and Dylan Farrow Dismiss a Son’s Defense of Woody Allen, Laura M. Holson, May 24, 2018. Moses Farrow, the adopted son of Woody Allen and Mia Farrow, posted a 4,600-word essay on Wednesday defending his father against sexual molestation allegations and claiming his mother was abusive. In the blog post, titled “A Son Speaks Out,” Mr. Farrow, 40, described repeated spankings by his mother and other abuse, and what he called “a deep and persistent darkness within the Farrow family.”

woody allen tribeca festival 2009 david shankboneHe recalled, too, his version of the events on Aug. 4, 1992, when his sister, Dylan Farrow, then 7, claimed Mr. Allen (shown in a file photo taken at a film festival), one of the most prolific directors in modern cinema, sexually molested her at their home in Bridgewater, Conn. Moses was 14.

On Thursday night, Mia Farrow said that her estranged son’s claims were “completely made up.” And Dylan Farrow, now 32, responded to the essay in a tweet, writing that her brother sought to “impugn my mother who has only ever been supportive of me and my siblings.” The journalist Ronan Farrow, 30, also defended his mother and dismissed his older brother’s essay, saying Thursday on Twitter, “I believe my sister.”

IRS Rules For States

ny times logoirs logoNew York Times, I.R.S. Warns States Not to Circumvent State and Local Tax Cap, Alan Rappeport and Jim Tankersley, May 24, 2018 (print edition).

#MeToo, Crime, Courts

washington post logoharvey weinsteinWashington Post, Harvey Weinstein expected to turn himself in to face criminal charges in NYC, reports say, Elahe Izadi​, May 24, 2018.  The exact charges against the disgraced movie mogul (right) are still unclear, but multiple reports say they will relate to accusations from at least one woman who said Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex on him in 2004, as detailed in an October story in the New Yorker.

Hartford Courant, Ex-Gov. John Rowland Scheduled To Be Released From Federal Custody, Staff Report, May 24, 2018. Former Gov. John G. Rowland is scheduled to be released from federal custody on Sunday. The twice-convicted felon has been in a halfway house and will have served about 19 months of a 30-month sentence if he is released as expected.

The former three-term governor was found guilty in September 2014 of campaign fraud, conspiracy and obstruction of justice. Rowland reported to prison in September 2016 after exhausting his appeals. Rowland tried but failed to consult for congressional candidate Mark Greenberg in 2010. Two years later, he went to work for candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley. Rowland claims he was a campaign volunteer and was being paid for business consulting under a contract with Brian Foley, the candidate's husband.

More Korea / Foreign Affairs Commentary

Truthout, Opinion: Noam Chomsky on Donald Trump and the "Me First" Doctrine, Interview by C.J. Polychroniou, May 24, 2018. President Trump's sudden cancellation of the upcoming denuclearization summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is just the latest example of Trump's wildly erratic approach to foreign policy.

While Trump's domestic policies seem to be guided by clear objectives -- increasing corporate profits, undoing every policy made by the Obama administration, and appeasing Trump's anti-immigrant base -- the imperatives driving US foreign policy under Trump remain something of a mystery.

In this exclusive interview, renowned linguist and public intellectual Noam Chomsky sheds light on the realities and dangers of foreign relations in the age of "gangster capitalism" and the decline of the US as a superpower.

C. J. Polychroniou: Noam, Donald Trump rose to power with "America First" as the key slogan of his election campaign. However, looking at what his administration has done so far on both the domestic and international front, it is hard to see how his policies are contributing to the well-being and security of the United States. With that in mind, can you decode for us what Trump's "America First" policy may be about with regard to international relations?

Noam Chomsky: It is only natural to expect that policies will be designed for the benefit of the designers and their actual -- not pretended -- constituency, and that the well-being and security of the society will be incidental. And that is what we commonly discover. We might recall, for example, the frank comments on the Monroe Doctrine by Woodrow Wilson's Secretary of State, Robert Lansing: "In its advocacy of the Monroe Doctrine the United States considers its own interests.

The integrity of other American nations is an incident, not an end. While this may seem based on selfishness alone, the author of the Doctrine had no higher or more generous motive in its declaration." The observation generalizes in international affairs, and much the same logic holds within the society.There is nothing essentially new about "America First," and "America" does not mean America, but rather the designers and their actual constituency.In Trumpian lingo, "America First" means "me first" and damn the consequences for the country or the world.A typical illustration is the policy achievement of which the Trump-Ryan-McConnell administration is most proud: the tax bill -- what Joseph Stiglitz accurately called "The US Donor Relief Act of 2017." It contributes very directly to the well-being of their actual constituency: private wealth and corporate power. It benefits the actual constituency indirectly by the standard Republican technique (since Reagan) of blowing up the deficit as a pretext for undermining social programs, which are the Republicans' next targets. The bill is thus of real benefit to its actual constituency and severely harms the general population.

Turning to international affairs, in Trumpian lingo, "America First" means "me first" and damn the consequences for the country or the world. The "me first" doctrine has an immediate corollary: it's necessary to keep the base in line with fake promises and fiery rhetoric, while not alienating the actual constituency. It also follows that it's important to do the opposite of whatever was done by Obama. Trump is often called "unpredictable," but his actions are highly predictable on these simple principles.

His most important decision, by far, was to pull out of the Paris negotiations on climate change and to tear to shreds efforts to prevent environmental catastrophe -- a threat that is extremely severe, and not remote. All completely predictable on the basic principles just mentioned.

The decision benefits the actual constituency: the energy corporations, the automotive industry (most of it), and others who pursue the imperative of short-term profit. Consider perhaps the most-respected and "moderate" member of the Trump team, former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, kicked out because he was too soft-hearted. We now know that ExxonMobil scientists were in the lead in the 1970s in recognizing the dire threat of global warming -- facts surely known to the CEO, who presided over efforts to maximize the threat and to fund denialism of what the management knew was true -- all to fill some overstuffed pockets with more dollars before we say "goodbye" to organized human life, not in the distant future. It's hard to find a word in the language to describe such behavior.

The decision also appeals to the pretended constituency: the voting base. Half of Republicans deny that global warming is taking place, and of the rest, a bare majority think that humans may have a role in it. It's doubtful that anything comparable exists elsewhere.

And, of course, the decision reverses an Obama initiative, thus keeping to high principles.

May 23

NFL Cracks Down On Civil Rights Protests

washington post logonfl logoWashington Post, NFL could fine teams for players’ sideline protests under new policy, Mark Maske, May 23, 2018. League owners approved a new national anthem policy that gives individual teams the authority to set their own anthem-related rules and permit players to remain in the locker room during the playing of the anthem.

U.S. Politics

Democratic-Republican Campaign logos

ny times logoNew York Times, Abrams Wins Georgia Primary for Governor, Making History, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns,  May 23, 2018 (print edition). Georgia Democrats selected the first black woman to be a major party nominee for governor in the United States on Tuesday, choosing Stacey Abrams, a liberal former State House leader, who will test just how much the state’s traditionally conservative politics are shifting.

stacey abrams 2012 kerry battles via flickrBy defeating Stacey Evans, also a former state legislator, Ms. Abrams (shown at right in a 2012 photo by Kerry Battles via Flickr) also became Georgia’s first black nominee for governor, a prize that has eluded earlier generations of African-American candidates in the state. The general election is sure to draw intense national attention as Georgia voters determine whether a black woman can win in the Deep South, a region that has not had an African-American governor since Reconstruction.

She will face either Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, the top Republican vote getter Tuesday, or Secretary of State Brian Kemp. Mr. Cagle and Mr. Kemp will vie for their party’s nomination in a July runoff.

Ms. Abrams’s victory came on the latest 2018 primary night to see Democratic women finding success, as voters in Kentucky, Arkansas and Texas also went to the polls. Among the winners was Amy McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot, who upset Mayor Jim Gray of Lexington in a House primary in Kentucky

washington post logodemocratic donkey logoWashington Post, Fresh faces beat out political pedigree in Democratic primaries across the South, Michael Scherer and David Weigel, May 23, 2018 (print edition). The results in Georgia, Kentucky, Texas and Arkansas marked an ongoing embrace by Democratic voters of non-politicians, women, veterans and nonwhite candidates to lead the party’s effort to take back control of the House and governors’ mansions this fall. 

Roll Call, Voters Challenge Ohio Congressional Map as Partisan Gerrymander, Todd Ruger, May 23, 2018. Supreme Court expected to rule on similar cases before term ends in June.

Trump Probes

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: There is no evidence for ‘Spygate’ — but there is a reason that Trump invented it, Philip Bump, May 23, 2018. President Trump has a new catchphrase that he is trying on for size.

djt official Small"SPYGATE could be one of the biggest political scandals in history!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 23, 2018

“Spygate” made its debut on Wednesday morning during Trump’s “executive time,” the period during which he watches “Fox and Friends” before starting his official day. The term is a shorthand meant to refer to a scandal that Trump has insisted is potentially the worst in American history, easily eclipsing Watergate. Not to dampen his enthusiasm or anything, it’s also a scandal for which there’s no public evidence.

Trump’s claim is that the FBI put a “spy” in his campaign at the behest of Barack Obama’s White House as part of an effort to undercut his candidacy by alleging collusion with the Russians.

It’s hard to square that claim with 1) Trump’s repeated insistence that the Russia investigation began only after he won as an excuse for the Democrats’ loss, and 2) the fact that America only learned about the investigation into Russian collusion after voting had already occurred. If Obama and the Democrats put a spy in his campaign to undercut his chances, they made a small strategic error by not mentioning anything publicly before votes were cast. But that’s the claim, because internal consistency is not a requirement for any conspiracy theory, much less this one.

As it stands, the evidence that there was a “spy” — or multiple “spies” — within his campaign is as follows:

sam clovis fox news Custom1. A professor based in Britain reached out to Trump campaign advisers George Papadopoulos and Carter Page before the election, apparently to evaluate any connections they might have had to Russian actors. The professor also had coffee once with senior adviser Sam Clovis, during which they discussed China.

2. A former adviser, fired in the middle of the campaign, is telling people that he knows of another spy, but hasn’t offered any evidence to that effect.

3. A “lot of people” are saying there were spies in the campaign, per Trump.

Guns / Constitution / Courts / New Research

washington post logoantonin scalia cropped group portraitWashington Post, Opinion: Antonin Scalia was wrong about the meaning of ‘bear arms,’ Dennis Baron (professor of English and linguistics at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), May 23, 2018 (print edition). The words have never worked comfortably with the language of personal self-defense, hunting or target practice. By Antonin Scalia’s logic, the natural meaning of “bear arms” is simply to carry a weapon and has nothing to do with armies.

But Scalia (shown in a portrait) was wrong. Two new databases of English writing from the founding era confirm that “bear arms” is a military term. Non-military uses of “bear arms” are not just rare — they’re almost nonexistent.

Personal Privacy v. Amazon

ny times logoamazon logo smallNew York Times, Amazon Pushes Facial Recognition to Police. Critics See Surveillance Risk, Nick Wingfield, May 23, 2018 (print edition). More than two dozen civil rights organizations asked the tech giant to stop selling its image recognition system to law enforcement agencies.

Inside Washington

paul ryan wwashington post logoWashington Post, Ryan losing grip on House GOP conference as midterms approach, Mike DeBonis, May 23, 2018 (print edition). Speaker Paul D. Ryan is losing his grip on the feuding House Republican conference just months before pivotal midterm elections, caught between dueling factions vying for power inside the party and facing scattered calls for his departure ahead of a planned year-end retirement.

republican elephant logoThe unrest comes in the wake of a humiliating defeat for Ryan and other GOP leaders last week, when conservatives sank a farm bill amid a broader dispute over immigration policy, and threatens to spark months of bitter infighting as Republican lawmakers try to make the case that they should be returned to power in Washington.

But there is no clear way out for the party. Numerous aides and lawmakers said Tuesday there is not a viable alternative to Ryan who can win enough support within the GOP for a clean transition before November — and there is little stomach at the moment for the messy battle that would ensue when Ryan departs.

“Whoever comes in is going to walk right into a buzz saw,” said Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio), a Ryan supporter. “Who better than Paul, who came in under these circumstances, to continue to calm the waters?”

#MeToo Scandals, Reactions

washington post logopaige patterson sw baptist theological seminary CustomWashington Post, Prominent Southern Baptist leader is ousted after remarks about abused women, Bobby Ross Jr., Sarah Pulliam Bailey and Michelle Boorstein​, May 23, 2018. Prominent Southern Baptist leader Paige Patterson was removed from his job as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary amid an evangelical #MeToo moment: a massive backlash from women upset over comments he made in the past that are being newly perceived as sexist and demeaning.

Seminary leaders were unspecific about why they made the dramatic move, issuing a statement that didn’t mention the controversial comments and saying they were moving “in the direction of new leadership” due to challenges related to “enrollment, financial, leadership and institutional identity.”

The brief statement released early Wednesday said Patterson (shown at right in a file photo) will be president emeritus, “for the benefit of the future mission of the Seminary.” He will receive compensation and may live on campus as “theologian-in-residence” at a brand new Baptist Heritage Center, the statement said.

A quorum of about 30 male trustees and three female trustees of the 1,200-student Texas seminary were present for a meeting that began Tuesday afternoon to discuss the fate of Patterson, a past president of the Southern Baptist Convention who has been revered as a giant for standing guard for decades against liberalizing changes.

In recent weeks, Patterson, 75, has come under fire for taped comments he made between 2000 and 2014 about women, including those remarking on a teenage girl’s figure and saying female seminarians need to work harder to look attractive. He also said women who are abused almost always should stay with their husbands.

May 23

Daily Beast, Mystery Heiress Behind NXIVM Sex Cult Exposed in Graphic Court Docs, Amy Zimmerman, May 23, 2018. r Sex slaves. Branding. Blackmail. A new cache of court documents has shed considerable light on the celebrity-riddled Upstate New York cult NXIVM.

New legal docs in the NXIVM case appear to shed further light on the cult’s alleged sex-trafficking techniques—and the continued involvement of Seagram’s heiress Clare Bronfman. Following the arrests of leader Keith Raniere and his alleged top lieutenant, former Smallville actress Allison Mack, Clare Bronfman is now rumored to be calling the shots. In April, Vice wrote that, “Heiress to Canadian liquor fortune Clare Bronfman is now in charge of an estimated dozen or more ‘slaves’ spread between New York and Toronto,” citing former NXIVM publicist-turned-whistleblower Frank Parlato. Parlato also claimed that Bronfman might be attempting to intimidate ex-NXIVM members, telling Vice, “They bought up a number of domain names to attack some of the witnesses… If Jane Doe 1 or 2 decided not to testify, that would certainly hurt the case against Raniere… I think she would do whatever it takes to see that those witnesses don’t testify.”

Parlato’s theory is in keeping with legal docs filed on the subject of Allison Mack’s bail, in which the government spoke of “evidence” that, “after its investigation was reported in the press, high-ranking members of DOS undertook efforts to undermine potential witness, including by registering domain names such as [Witness Name]exposed.com, with the intention of publishing damaging information regarding those witnesses.”

Ex “slaves” would be particularly susceptible to these sorts of threats, since a main instrument of control and retention within DOS, a secret sorority within NXIVM, was demanding “collateral” from victims.

In a Wednesday filing, U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue argued that two Halfmoon, New York, properties are liable to condemnation and forfeiture to the government, detailing the sex trafficking that allegedly took place on the NXIVM compound outside of Albany.

More Tensions With China

washington post logoWashington Post, Pentagon disinvites China from major naval exercise over South China Sea buildup, Missy Ryan, May 23, 2018. The Pentagon disinvited China from participating in a major naval exercise on Wednesday, signaling mounting U.S. anger over Beijing’s expanded military footprint in disputed areas of the South China Sea.

A Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Col. Christopher Logan, said the Defense Department reversed an earlier invitation to the Chinese navy to participate in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) drills, biennial naval exercises that involve more than two dozen nations, over Beijing’s decision to place anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles and electronic jammers on the contested Spratly Islands. China has also landed bomber aircraft at Woody Island, farther to the north in the disputed Paracel Islands, the Pentagon said.

American History and Iran

jacob hornberger headshotFuture of Freedom Foundation, Opinion: America: The Dictatress of the World, Jacob G. Hornberger (right), May 23, 2018. On July 4, 1821, John Quincy Adams (secretary of state and future president and congressman) delivered a speech that summarized America’s founding foreign policy of noninterventionism. Having gone down in history with the title “In Search of Monsters to Destroy,” Adams pointed out that one of the best things about the United States was that the U.S. government did not embroil itself or meddle in the affairs of other nations.

john quincy adamsAdams (shown at left) issued an interesting warning. He said that if America were ever to abandon her founding principle of noninterventionism, she would become “the dictatress of the world.”

One nation that can certainly attest to the reality of that phenomenon is Iran, which is currently experiencing the full force of the world’s dictatress.

In a speech on Iran delivered to the conservative Heritage Foundation, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the CIA director who recently took control over the State Department, manifested the classic attributes of a dictator. According to the New York Times, Pompeo issued orders to Iran to not engage in nuclear enrichment programs, admit that it had military purposes for its now-dead nuclear weapons program, end its support for Hezbollah, Hamas, and Yemen’s Houthis, and withdraw all its forces from Syria.

It was quite a laundry list of dictates and commands, as Pompeo himself acknowledged.

What happens if Iran doesn’t comply with Pompeo’s orders? Two things: First, the U.S. government will resume and expand on its system of brutal sanctions, which is designed to produce massive economic suffering, including death, among the Iranian populace. Second, the possibility of a U.S. military attack, especially if Iran resumes its nuclear program in the wake of President Trump’s abrogation of the agreement between the United States, Europe, and Iran by which Iran gave up its nuclear program in return for the U.S. government’s promise to lift sanctions.

What is a dictatress or a dictator? It is someone who wields omnipotent power and issues dictates and orders to people enforced by that power. Recipients of the dictates or orders are expected to comply or else suffer the forceful wrath of the dictator or dictatress.

When we think of dictatorships, don’t we also think about things like arbitrary arrests, indefinite detention, torture chambers, executions, and assassinations?

It is undeniable that Adams has been proven right.

While the Iranian regime is obviously a dictatorship within Iran, no one can reasonably deny that the U.S. government, as a result of having abandoned America’s founding foreign policy of noninterventionism, has become the dictatress of the world. The Times wrote that Iran described Pompeo’s speech as “the type of American arrogance and bullying behavior that has alienated other nations, not just the Iranians.” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani put it well. Referring to the dictatress, he asked, “Who are you to decide for Iran and the world?”

mohammad mossadeqLet’s face it: The U.S. national-security establishment has never forgiven the Iranian people for what they did in 1979, when they ousted their U.S.-installed dictator, the Shah of Iran, from power. After all, the CIA had gone to a lot of trouble to secretly initiate the 1953 coup in which Iran’s democratically elected prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh (shown at left), was ousted from power and replaced by the CIA’s dictator, the Shah of Iran.

cia logoOver the next 25 years, the CIA invested a lot of time, money, and effort into supporting, training, and fortifying the Shah’s brutal tyranny over the Iranian people. U.S. officials have hated Iranians ever since they ousted the Shah from power, which is why they have done everything they can to destroy the Iranian populace economically and even kill them with one of the most brutal systems of sanctions in history.

Torture / Assassination / Deep State

Consortium News, Opinion: The U.S. and the Fate of the World, Inder Comar, May 23, 2018, It may not be an exaggeration to say that the fate of civilization is up to Americans to sort out how they want to interact with the rest of the world, argues Inder Comar in this commentary.

Americans ought to be more honest about U.S. military interventionism. There ought to be a serious debate about it. Instead there seems to be three, entrenched foreign policy camps who never talk to each other.

But the reality of their actions, and the consequences of those actions, makes it impossible to hide an underlying imperialist thread. Thinking people cannot ignore that it was a Democrat, President Barack Obama, who increased the use of military drones in several countries, invaded Libya, maintained and increased America’s presence in Afghanistan, and even committed $1 trillion to enhancing America’s nuclear arsenal.

There has never been a more urgent time for people to really study and consider American foreign policy, and to ask fundamental questions about America’s role in the world. There are people in power today who are literally playing with fire with a nuclear-armed country (North Korea) and who are goading another country (Iran) into seeking nuclear weapons in order to defend itself from the open threat of an American invasion.

An imperial foreign policy is one that makes the whole world far less safe—including the United States. We are not so different as humans. Humans, everywhere, eventually get sick of being bullied. And they eventually start to defend themselves. Or even fight back.

There is another point, too, which needs to be made. The pedigreed leaders who pace the halls of power, their think-tank enablers, and many individual Americans, very often find a false and perverse comfort in the domination, exploitation, and suffering of people who are not Americans. This is truly a despicable thing, and it needs to be called out. It was this type of thinking that created genocide in the United States, against the First Nations and indigenous people. It is this type of thinking which has killed, and which continues to kill, tens of millions abroad.

there is a third group, who’ve I’ve come to see as of two minds. They think it possible to maintain a militant foreign policy, while also saying they are using that foreign policy to spread civilized values. They want to wallow in the false glory that comes from empire, and to feel good about it.

Current political discourse in the United States — whether it is in the media, the think-tanks, or from major politicians — largely falls in this camp. For example, most Republicans and Democrats use the language of human rights and freedom to couch their perspective.

yulia skirpal facebookReuters, Yulia Skripal: Attempted assassination turned my world upside down, Guy Faulconbridge, May 23, 2018. Yulia Skripal survived an assassination attempt that UK authorities blame on Russia. But the daughter of one of Russia’s most famous spies says she wants to return to her country “in the longer term,” despite the poisoning. Yulia (shown in a Facebook photo) and her father Sergei Skripal, a former colonel in Russian military intelligence who betrayed dozens of agents to Britain’s MI6 foreign spy service, were found unconscious on a public bench in the British city of Salisbury on March 4. Yulia Skripal, 33, was in a coma for 20 days.

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, CIA Knew Torture Was Extorting Bad Intelligence — Kept Doing It Anyway, James Henry, May 23, 2018 (excerpted). In February, we wrote about how Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged “mastermind” of the 9/11 attacks, has yet to stand trial — 17 years after the devastating attacks on the World Trade Center’s twin towers and the Pentagon.

The reason for the delay, Mohammed’s attorney David Nevin asserts, is the government’s desire to hide the details of the torture and rendition program his client and many others were subjected to in the early years of the “war on terror.”

After years of uncertainty on what to do with the alleged 9/11 conspirators, the Obama administration ultimately decided in 2011 to try Mohammed  and four others in a military tribunal at the US Naval Station Guantánamo Bay. But the process has been fraught with apparent prosecutorial shenanigans that have only added to the delay. As we wrote in February:

cia logo• Hidden microphones were found in the rooms where the defense attorneys met with their clients.
• Hundreds of thousands of the defense’s emails ended up in the possession of the prosecution, and “huge volumes” of defense files mysteriously disappeared from a Department of Defense (DOD) computer network when the DOD did a network upgrade. “Months of work” were lost, according to Navy Cmdr. Stephen C. Reyes, an attorney defending Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. Nashiri, another Guantánamo detainee, is accused of involvement in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole.
• Members of Mohammed’s defense team, including Nevin, allege they were the target of FBI spying.
• Another member of Mohammed’s defense team, Maj. Jason Wright, resigned from the Army in protest after he had been taken off the case by a reassignment that he said would have violated his duty to vigorously defend his client.
• The government seized four of the defendants’ laptops that they had used to prepare for trial and that contained much sensitive client-attorney material.
• The defense team accused the judge of secretly colluding with the prosecution to destroy evidence that would have been helpful to their client.

And the many pretrial arguments over the government’s refusal to provide the defense with details of the detainees’ treatment have also caused delays. Mohammed’s defense team was even threatened with prosecution when they tried to investigate some aspects of the torture on their own.

What’s Truth Got to Do With it?

djt gina haspel white house via youtube installation

President Trump Greets on May 22 CIA Director Gina Haspel, a torture supervisor who destroyed taped evidence, as she takes office. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, her predecessor as CIA Director, looks on as shown in the photo at right (White House photos via YouTube and WhoWhatWhy)

The CIA’s record of torture is front and center in the media again. This time because President Donald Trump’s new CIA Director, Gina Haspel, played a key role in the agency’s program of “enhanced interrogation” (i.e., torture). Haspel was head of station in at least one of the CIA’s black sites in Thailand where torture took place, and also held multiple senior roles at the CIA Counterterrorism Center, which oversaw the torture program.

She was also involved in the destruction of the video recordings of the torture sessions and was less than forthcoming recently with members of Congress who asked about her role in that action.

Nevertheless, the Senate confirmed her. The fact that Haspel, who played a key role in the CIA torture program, made it through the confirmation process fairly easily, signals, at the very least, that the agency should have no problem continuing to shield itself from any outside scrutiny of its treatment of terror suspects in the years after 9/11.

Ominously, president Trump who has said he would “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,” said Monday that “America is reasserting its strength” by putting Haspel in charge of the agency.

But besides the obvious motivation for covering up the particulars of the government’s torture program, there’s a far more ominous reality behind the sort of “evidence” obtained through that torture. Why? Because Mohammed (like others who were tortured), “simply told his interrogators what he thought they wanted to hear,” i.e., to get the torture to stop.

The above quote comes not from a human rights organization or even from one of the accused’s defense attorneys, but from the CIA itself: namely, a 2003 internal agency cable describing the interrogation of Mohammed.

The cable was included in 300 pages of documents recently obtained by Buzzfeed News. The documents were originally released to the nonprofit Property of the People, which seeks to obtain and publicize government documents through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The material includes cables, PowerPoint presentations, talking points, legal analyses, and detailed narratives.

Much of the revived discussion about torture in the media has dealt with its efficacy: whether or not reliable intel can be gained through its use. But there is another possibility which is largely ignored — that accuracy was always beside the point.

May 22

Trump Probes

ny times logoNew York Times, Michael Cohen’s Business Partner Agrees to Cooperate as Part of Plea Deal, Danny Hakim, William K. Rashbaum and Vivian Wang, May 22, 2018. A significant business partner of Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s personal lawyer, has quietly agreed to cooperate with the government as a potential witness, a development that could be used as leverage to pressure Mr. Cohen to work with the special counsel examining Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Under the agreement, the partner, Evgeny A. Freidman, a Russian immigrant who is known as the Taxi King, will avoid jail time, and will assist government prosecutors in state or federal investigations, according to a person briefed on the matter.

Mr. Cohen’s conduct was initially examined by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating the 2016 election that led to Mr. Trump’s victory, and then referred to the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan. Last month, federal agents carried out search warrants at Mr. Cohen’s home, his office and a hotel room where he was staying, seeking documents related to his business associates and accountants.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers have been resigned to the strong possibility that the investigation of Mr. Cohen’s businesses could lead him to cooperate with federal prosecutors.

Draining the DC Swamp?

washington post logoWashington Post, Who is Stefan A. Halper, the FBI source who assisted the Russia investigation? Robert Costa, Carol D. Leonnig and Shane Harris, May 22, 2018. Stefan A. Halper, the FBI source who assisted the Russia investigation and is at the center of a standoff between congressional Republicans and the Justice Department, is a well-connected veteran of past GOP administrations who convened senior intelligence officials for seminars at the University of Cambridge in England.

In the summer and fall of 2016, Halper, then an emeritus professor at Cambridge, contacted three Trump campaign advisers for brief talks and meetings that largely centered on foreign policy, The Washington Post reported last week. At some point that year, he began working as a secret informant for the FBI as it investigated Russia’s interference in the campaign, according to multiple people familiar with his activities.

The Post had previously confirmed Halper’s identity but did not report his name following warnings from U.S. intelligence officials that exposing him could endanger him or his contacts. Now that he has been identified as the FBI’s informant by multiple news organizations, including the Wall Street Journal, New York magazine and Axios, The Post has decided to publish his name.

djt the org rules them all

One year ago Trump pledged allegiance to the Wahhabi Orb. The one Orb that rules them all. His swearing of an oath to the Wahhabi death star was part of the opening of the potemkinesk "Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology" in Riyadh. The Saudis arranged the whole theater to flatter Trump into fighting Iran for them. They hope to have bought Washington's obedience.

iran world mapMoon of Alabama, Opinion: A Dive Into Washington's Swamp, B, May 22, 2018. The Saudi "anti-terrorism" effort was directed at its local rivals Qatar and Iran (shown on map at right). Trump strongly supported the Saudi anti-Qatar campaign until the Pentagon finally told him that Qatar hosts the biggest U.S. air-base in the Middle East, which can not be moved at a moments notice.

Now an interesting AP story gives some backdrop to Trump's deference to Riyadh. It is the result of many bribes and lots of shady dealings. If or rather how Trump or his family profited from these is not yet known.

AP: The princes, the president and the fortune seekers:

After a year spent carefully cultivating two princes from the Arabian Peninsula, Elliott Broidy, a top fundraiser for President Donald Trump, thought he was finally close to nailing more than $1 billion in business.

He had ingratiated himself with crown princes from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who were seeking to alter U.S. foreign policy and punish Qatar, an archrival in the Gulf that he dubbed “the snake.”
...
george nader c spanBroidy and his business partner, Lebanese-American George Nader (shown at right), pitched themselves to the crown princes as a backchannel to the White House, passing the princes’ praise — and messaging — straight to the president’s ears.
...
In return for pushing anti-Qatar policies at the highest levels of America’s government, Broidy and Nader expected huge consulting contracts from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, according to an Associated Press investigation based on interviews with more than two dozen people and hundreds of pages of leaked emails between the two men. The emails reviewed by the AP included work summaries and contracting documents and proposals.

saudi arabia flagSince the UAE and Saudi Arabia opened a feud against Qatar they have sought to win U.S. support for their position. The anti-Qatar campaign is related to the anti-Iran campaign and both have strong Israeli backing. In response to the Saudi efforts Qatar hired a company to hack the emails of the UAE ambassador in Washington DC and of other people involved in the Saudi lobbying effort. Both sides spent huge amounts for bribes, disguised as U.S. campaign donations to Congress and the White House, to influence U.S. legislation and behavior:

Summaries written by Broidy of two meetings he had with Trump — one of which has not been disclosed before — report that he was passing messages to the president from the two princes and that he told Trump he was seeking business with them.

By December of last year, the partners were riding a wave of success in their campaign to create an anti-Qatar drumbeat in Washington.

Saudi Arabia was finding a new ascendancy following Trump’s election. Broidy sought to claim credit for it, emails show, and was keen to collect the first installment of $36 million for an intelligence-gathering contract with the UAE.

robert mueller screenshot washington postIt all might have proceeded smoothly save for one factor: the appointment of Robert Mueller (left) as special counsel to look into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

There was no "Russian interference" in the U.S. election. All that Mueller found in one year of investigations was some minor old misbehavior by some Trump aids and a Russian Internet marketing company which tried to sell advertisements on its click-bait websites.

Israel FlagThe real collusion happened between the Trump family and Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Huge sums from Zionist interests and from the oil dictatorships flew into campaign funds and the relevant pockets. One of their main aims was and is to incite war against Iran. Those with access and influence over Trump, like Broidy and Nader, where hugely rewarded.

The swamp which Trump said he would drain, swallowed him whole.

erik princeThe protagonists in the AP story include Erik Prince (shown at left), the private military contractor of Blackwater fame. George Nader, a convicted pedophile, has known Prince for years. He negotiated solatia payments to families of Iraqis who Blackwater mercenaries had killed. In 2012 George Nader helped brokered a $4.3 billion arms deal between Russia and Iraq. Erik Prince continues his mercenary business selling his private armies to the UAE and whomever else is willing to pays the right price.

Broidy was involved in the fleecing of the Malaysian development fund 1MDB by the former Prime Minister of Malaysia. Up to $4.5 billion have allegedly vanished. While Broidy's was pitching the Saudi plans to Trump he also scored a big Pentagon contract.

jared kushner head shotThe question not answered in the long AP story is how Trump or his family profited from the Saudi largess. One benefit was probably through his son-in-law Jared Kushner, who needs a large amount of money to keep his investment in a New York sky-scarper afloat. In early 2017 Kushner met George Nader in New York. Privately Nader referred to Kushner (right) as 'clown prince':

elliott broidyBroidy (a deputy chairman of the Republican National Committee shown at left) met Trump once again on Dec. 2. He reported back to Nader that he’d told Trump the crown princes were “most favorably impressed by his leadership.” He offered the crown princes’ help in the Middle East peace plan being developed by Jared Kushner. He did not tell Trump that his partner had complete contempt for the plan — and for the president’s son-in-law.

“You have to hear in private my Brother what Principals think of ‘Clown prince’s’ efforts and his plan!” Nader wrote. “Nobody would even waste cup of coffee on him if it wasn’t for who he is married to.”

Days after Broidy’s meeting with Trump, the UAE awarded Broidy the intelligence contract the partners had been seeking for up to $600 million over 5 years, according to a leaked email.

qatar flagIn early 2017, Kushner's family tried to get Qatari money for the family’s distressed asset at 666 Fifth Avenue. The Qataris declined. A few weeks later Jared Kushner supported the Saudi blockade against the "funder of terrorism" Qatar. In March 2018 Qatar was finally willing to pay up to save the Kushner's real estate. Shortly thereafter Trump endorsed Qatar (whose flag is shown at left) as an ally in the fight against terrorism.

This sequence of events is, of course, pure coincidence. Trump and his family cannot be bribed. They float way above the swamp. (Just kidding.)

In related news the Psy-Group, an Israeli company which influenced social media for the Trump campaign, has now been shut down:

According to the New York Times report, Mr. Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., met with Mr. Zamel months before the elections. At the time, Psy-Group was developing a proposal for a "covert multimillion-dollar online manipulation campaign” to aid Mr. Trump to win the elections, the New York Times reported, citing four people familiar with the matter.

The campaign had been reportedly canceled after Psy-Group learned its involvement in the elections would be illegal. The New York Times reported Mr. Zamel still received a payment estimated at around $2 million from a Trump associate.

Paid by whom? And for what?

Justice Department log circularOne year after the launch of the Mueller investigation of undue foreign influence in U.S. campaigns and politics, it is finally looking at the real culprits. No one has more influence in U.S. elections and policies than the Zionists and the Gulf monarchies.

This is then the point where the Mueller investigation will likely be shut down. There are too many people benefiting from the swamp and all the slush money moving around. Neither party in Congress has an interest in publicizing their relations to Zionist campaign money and Gulf monarchies' bribes.

With Mueller gone it will be another free for all. The swamp will grow bigger.

More On Trump Probes

ap logoAssociated Press, The princes, the president and the fortune seekers, Desmond Butler and Tom LoBianco, May 22, 2018. After a year spent carefully cultivating two princes from the Arabian Peninsula, Elliott Broidy, a top fundraiser for President Donald Trump, thought he was finally close to nailing more than $1 billion in business.

He had ingratiated himself with crown princes from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who were seeking to alter U.S. foreign policy and punish Qatar, an archrival in the Gulf that he dubbed “the snake.”

elliott broidyTo do that, the California businessman (shown at left) had helped spearhead a secret campaign to influence the White House and Congress, flooding Washington with political donations.

Broidy and his business partner, Lebanese-American George Nader, pitched themselves to the crown princes as a backchannel to the White House, passing the princes’ praise — and messaging — straight to the president’s ears.

Now, in December 2017, Broidy was ready to be rewarded for all his hard work.

It was time to cash in. In many ways, the partnership between Broidy, 60, and Nader, 59, embodies the insider influence that has given contractors in D.C. the nickname “beltway bandits.”

Both of their careers were marked by high-rolling success and spectacular falls from grace — and criminal convictions. The onset of the Trump administration presented an opportunity: a return to glory.

Broidy, who made a fortune in investments, was finance chairman of the Republican National Committee from 2006 to 2008. But when a New York state pension fund decided to invest $250 million with him, investigators found that he had plied state officials with nearly $1 million in illegal gifts while collecting $18 million in management fees.

In 2009, Broidy pleaded guilty to a felony charge of rewarding official misconduct. “In seeking investments from the New York State Common Retirement Fund, I made payments for the benefit of high-ranking officials at the Office of the New York State Comptroller, who had influence and decision-making authority over investment decisions,” Broidy said in his plea and cooperation agreement.

andrew cuomoAndrew Cuomo, then-New York attorney general, called it “an old-fashioned payoff.” “This is effectively bribery of state officials, and not just one,” said Cuomo (shown at right), who is now New York’s governor. Three years later, Broidy’s conviction was knocked down to a misdemeanor after he agreed to cooperate with prosecutors and pay back the $18 million to the state.

Nader’s problem was pedophilia. As a young Lebanese immigrant to the U.S. in the 1980s, he quickly established himself as a forceful independent operator, founding a policy magazine called Middle East Insight. By the ’90s, he had risen as a behind-the-scenes player, setting up dinners for Israeli and Arab dignitaries with Washington power brokers and U.S. lawmakers.

But in May 2003, Nader was convicted in the Czech Republic of 10 counts of sexually abusing minors and sentenced to a one-year prison term, the AP revealed in March. He served his time in Prague, according to Czech authorities, then was expelled from the country.

ny times logoNew York Times, G.O.P. Leaders to Be Shown Some Details on Russia Inquiry, Michael D. Shear and Micholas Fandos, May 22, 2018 (print edition). The White House brokered an agreement on Monday with intelligence and law enforcement officials that will allow Republican congressional leaders to view some of the most highly classified information related to the Russia investigation, administration officials said.

Justice Department log circularFor months, a small group of lawmakers close to Mr. Trump have been in a pitched fight with the Justice Department over access to some of its most delicate case files, including documents detailing the scope of the Russia investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel.

republican elephant logoThey have trained their focus most recently on access to documents and information related to a secret informant used by F.B.I. agents to gather information from Trump associates who were overseas during the 2016 presidential campaign. Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California and the House Intelligence Committee chairman, has threatened to hold Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who is overseeing the Russia inquiry, in contempt of Congress or to try to impeach him if he does not hand over the material.

Until Monday, intelligence and law enforcement officials had strenuously resisted both demands, saying that the information was highly sensitive and that it was not appropriate to turn over the unredacted material to Congress, where they fear it could potentially become public or be used to undermine Mr. Mueller’s inquiry. They raised some of their concerns in a letter and then in a face-to-face meeting two weeks ago with Mr. Nunes.

Donald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump v. the Department of Justice, Editorial board, May 22, 2018 (print edition). The president and his enablers are engaged in a campaign to undermine the foundations of American justice.

ny times logoNew York Times, News Analysis: By Ordering Inquiry Into F.B.I., Trump Crosses New Line, Charlie Savage, May 22, 2018 (print edition). Mr. Trump’s latest demand — asking for a specific investigation — further undermines the independence of the Justice Department from White House interference, experts said.

cbs news logoCBS News, Richard Painter says there is more evidence against Trump than there was against Nixon, Blair Guild, May 21, 2018. In an interview with CBSN's Elaine Quijano, former White House chief ethics counsel Richard Painter said that there is "far more evidence of abuse of power and obstruction of justice" against President Trump than there ever was against President Richard Nixon.

richard painter"We're well beyond that point and yet the House and the Senate won't do anything at all," he said on Monday's "Red & Blue." Painter (shown at right) says that there appears to be "very strong evidence" that Mr. Trump violated the Emoluments Clause through his company's business dealings with foreign governments and potential violations of the First Amendment through his attempted travel ban.

republican elephant logo"Going after President Trump's abuse of power and violations of the constitution needs to be the number one priority," he said. Painter served in the Bush administration from 2005 to 2007 and is now running for U.S. Senate as a Democrat in Minnesota against Sen. Tina Smith, who replaced former Sen. Al Franken after his resignation in January. He called Mr. Trump's behavior "unprecedented even in the most conservative circles of the Republican Party" and called on congressional Democrats to be more assertive in calling out the president.

"I think this president is a great risk to our democracy and he has shown that since he was elected," he said. Painter said he personally believes that Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence should be removed from office.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The constitutional crisis is here, Eugene Robinson, May 22, 2018 (print edition). Stop waiting for the constitutional crisis that President Trump is sure to provoke. It’s here.

On Sunday, via Twitter, Trump demanded that the Justice Department concoct a transparently political investigation, with the aim of smearing veteran professionals at Justice and the FBI and also throwing mud at the previous administration. Trump’s only rational goal is casting doubt on the probe by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, which appears to be closing in.

Trump’s power play is a gross misuse of his presidential authority and a dangerous departure from long-standing norms. Strongmen such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin use their justice systems to punish enemies and deflect attention from their own crimes. Presidents of the United States do not — or did not, until Sunday’s tweet.

JFK Assassination Witnesses

Hot Springs Village Voice (Texas), Newmans remember witnessing the Kennedy assassination – Part I, Jeff Meek, May 22, 2018. Dallas residents Bill and Gayle Newman went about everyday life like thousands of others in Texas until that fateful day of Nov. 22, 1963. That afternoon they witnessed, up close, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dealey Plaza.

From that day until today, they are sought after to interview about the horrifying experience, which they did for me on May 3 in their Texas home.Bill met Gayle while working at a frozen custard shop when in high school. She and some friends stopped in and before long they began dating, then married in 1958 and raised two children, Billy and Clayton. The four of them can be seen in many photos taken in the aftermath of the assassination.

In 1963 Dallas was a conservative city, not particularly Kennedy country, but the President wanted a trip to Texas to mend some political fences. After stops in San Antonio and Fort Worth, Air Force One landed at Love Field for a parade through the city, then lunch at the Trade Mart, then on to Austin to close out Nov. 22.

Some were worried about the Dallas stop. Posters had been going around that said “JFK: Wanted for Treason” and some newspaper articles were negative as well.

I asked Bill what he thought happened on Nov. 22, 1963. He was hesitant to answer at first, saying he shares what he saw, not what he thinks. But later Bill said, “A thought that goes through my mind is when you talk conspiracy, multiple shooters, to me if Lee Harvey Oswald was the shooter and in fact he was the only shooter, there very well could have been other people in the background. That’s always been a curiosity to me.”

Later in the interview Bill added another thought. If it was just Oswald alone, why are documents still being withheld or heavily redacted 55 years later?

Immigrant Children 'Lost' By Feds?

Arizona Republic, Opinion: The feds lost – yes, lost – 1,475 migrant children, EJ Montini, May 22, 2018. Before announcing a plan to separate more children from families, shouldn't there be a plan to adequately protect the children?

The Trump administration recently announced a new, get-tough policy that will separate parents from their children if the family is caught crossing the border illegally.

It was a big news story. So big it overshadowed the fact that the federal government has lost – yes, lost – 1,475 migrant children in its custody.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told Congress that within 48 hours of being taken into custody the children are transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services, which finds places for them to stay.

“They will be separated from their parent,” said Democratic Sen Kamala Harris. “Just like we do in the United States every day,” Nielsen replied.

Except that the states, unlike the federal government, have systems in place to better screen the people who become guardians of the children and much better ways to keep track of those children. And not lose them.

That is what happened to 1,475 minors swept up at the border and taken into custody by the federal government. Gone. The Office of Refugee Resettlement reported at the end of 2017 that of the 7,000-plus children placed with sponsored individuals, the agency did not know where 1,475 of them were.

Republican Sen. Rob Portman said, “It’s just a system that has so many gaps, so many opportunities for these children to fall between the cracks, that we just don’t know what’s going on — how much trafficking or abuse or simply immigration law violations are occurring.”

Who Are Feds Protecting By Hiding 'Fat Leonard' From Fellow Prosecutors?

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Fat Leonard’ is ailing and the feds are keeping his whereabouts a secret, Craig Whitlock, May 22, 2018. Where’s Fat Leonard? Leonard Glenn Francis, the central player in the worst corruption scandal in Navy history, was scheduled to testify for the first time next week about his crooked dealings with dozens of Navy officers.

leanard fat leonard leonardThe Navy subpoenaed the 350-pound defense contractor (shown at right) as the star witness at a military trial in Norfolk, for a commander accused of graft.

In a twist that has caught the Navy officials by surprise, it now appears Francis will not come to Norfolk after all. Federal authorities who have kept him locked up — and effectively silent — since his arrest five years ago in San Diego have told the Navy Francis does not have clearance to attend. Publicly, they will not say why, or even reveal where he is.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Marshals Service, which had been in charge of Francis’s detention, said he is no longer in the agency’s custody but declined to elaborate. The U.S. attorney’s office in San Diego, which prosecuted Francis and persuaded him to turn state’s evidence, also declined to comment.

Two people familiar with the case, however, told The Washington Post Francis’s health has deteriorated since last year and that he was secretly released from federal detention in December so he could receive urgent medical care at a San Diego hospital.

They said the 53-year-old maritime tycoon was discharged from the hospital in March and since then has been allowed to live in a private apartment in San Diego while he continues to receive medical care. He is confined there and under round-the-clock surveillance; in an unusual arrangement, he is footing the bill for his own security expenses, the two people said.

Francis’s release and care plan were approved under seal by a federal judges, according to two people close to the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter has not been made public. They said Justice Department officials kept the Navy in the dark about Francis’s status and medical condition until last week.

Francis pleaded guilty in 2015 to bribery and defrauding the Navy of $35 million. Since then, he has been helping investigators in hopes of getting a lighter sentence.

Court records indicate he has shared mountains of evidence about his contacts with Navy officers since the early 1990s. In one recent filing, federal prosecutors revealed they had obtained more than 7 million records from computer servers in Singapore belonging to Glenn Defense, which held lucrative contracts to resupply and refuel Navy vessels in Asian ports.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Kim is ‘serious’ about nuclear talks, Trump says, but suggests summit could fall through, David Nakamura, May 22, 2018. “We'll see what happens,” said President Trump, who is meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the White House. Moon is expected to encourage Trump to follow through with the June meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

moon jae in 2017 10 01President Trump expressed confidence Tuesday that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is “serious” about negotiating over denuclearization, but he acknowledged a “substantial chance” that a summit planned for June 12 in Singapore could fall through.

“We’re moving along. We’ll see what happens,” Trump told reporters at the White House, after welcoming South Korean President Moon Jae-in (right) for a meeting. “If it doesn’t happen, maybe it will happen later.” Later Trump said: “It may not work out for June 12.”

washington post logoWashington Post, There’s a sinkhole on the White House lawn. And it’s growing, Marissa J. Lang​, May 22, 2018.  For all the concern over leaks at the White House, a more pressing problem might be the sinkhole on the north lawn that appears to be growing by the day.

ny times logoNew York Times, Congress Approves First Big Rollback of Dodd-Frank Law, Alan Rappeport and Emily Flitter, May 22, 2018. The bipartisan legislation will now head to President Trump, leaving fewer than 10 big banks subject to stricter post-crisis oversight.

A decade after the global financial crisis tipped the United States into a recession, Congress agreed on Tuesday to free thousands of small and medium-sized banks from strict rules that had been enacted as part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank law to prevent another meltdown.

In a rare demonstration of bipartisanship, the House voted 258-159 to approve a regulatory rollback that passed the Senate this year, handing a significant victory to President Trump, who has promised to “do a big number on Dodd-Frank.”

The bill stops far short of unwinding the toughened regulatory regime put in place to prevent the nation’s biggest banks from engaging in risky behavior, but it represents a substantial watering down of Obama-era rules governing a large swath of the banking system. The legislation will leave fewer than 10 big banks in the United States subject to stricter federal oversight, freeing thousands of banks with less than $250 billion in assets from a post-crisis crackdown that they have long complained is too onerous.

Public Access To Government Meetings

scott pruitt epa o Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, EPA keeps three reporters out of meeting; one says guard shoved her, Paul Farhi​, May 22, 2018. Reporters from CNN, the Associated Press and the environmental publication E&E News were barred from the summit on water contamination, which included about 200 representatives of regulatory and industry groups. EPA's leader Scott Pruitt is shown at right.

National Press Club, National Press Club unveils plan for media summit after reporter roughed up at EPA meeting, Kathy Kiely, May 22, 2018. The National Press Club and its Journalism Institute are renewing a call for dialogue between newsmakers and the news media following another incident in which officials of President Donald Trump’s administration manhandled a reporter in a public building.

epa general logoHours after one of its reporters was blocked from covering a summit on water contamination, along with representatives of several other news organizations, the Associated Press reported receiving an apology Tuesday from the Environmental Protection Agency. According to the AP's account, guards had barred the wire service's reporter from passing through a security checkpoint, and when the reporter asked to speak with EPA public affairs personnel, shoved her out of the building.

EPA officials insisted in public statements, including emails to the Press Club, that they were merely trying to manage an overcrowded room. But the Press Club expressed concern about the decision to limit coverage at an event featuring EPA chief Scott Pruitt to 10 invited reporters and questioned the way that limit was enforced.

"Pushing reporters around is what happens in dictatorships, not in a democracy where the press's right to represent the public is enshrined in the Constitution," said Andrea Snyder Edney, president of the National Press Club. "And why were reporters being kept out of a meeting of major news significance at which a senior official was speaking on the public record? This is unacceptable."

This is not the first time since the Trump administration came to office that reporters have been manhandled by security guards while trying to do their jobs. Last May, the Press Club protested when one of its members, CQ Roll Call reporter John Donnelly, was forcibly prevented from questioning members of the Federal Communications Commission and then kicked out of FCC headquarters.

"It should go without saying that the press must be able to cover public events convened by a taxpayer-funded government agency--but apparently it needs to be said these days," said Barbara Cochran, president of the National Press Club Journalism Institute, the club's not-for-profit arm. "It is bad enough to bar the press in this way, but to use force to enforce such a misguided dictate just compounds the mistake."

In response to earlier outbreaks of hostility towards the press, including the international headlines that erupted when a reporter was attacked by a congressional candidate, the Press Club's Journalism Institute last summer hosted "Can We Talk," a conversation between members of the press and leaders of the institutions they cover about how to lower the temperature.

Funding has since been secured for an expanded version of this event that will feature more in-depth, intimate conversations among invited participants. Plans will be underway this summer for a fall summit.

U.S. North Korea Scheduled Summit On June 12

djt north korean commemorative coin

Hill Reporter, Donald Trump Mints Commemorative Coin For ‘Supreme Leader’ Kim Jong Un, James Kosur, May 22, 2018. President Trump has released a new commemorative coin ahead of his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The coin, struck by the White House Communications Agency (WHCA), features a picture of Jong Un who the coin refers to as the “Supreme Leader” of North Korea.

The opposite side of the coin depicts Air Force One flying over the White House and the presidential seal with the title “Visit of the President.” The WHCA is known for minting commemorative coins for various foreign dignitaries and military veterans. The coins are available for purchase in the White House gift shop.

Following outcries over the “supreme leader” title, Deputy White House spokesperson Raj Shah said the administration “did not have any input into the design and manufacture of the coin.”

U.S.-Mexican Relations

vicente fox flagNational Press Club, Ex-Mexican President Fox rips Trump's border wall, trade stances, Amanda Macias, May 22, 2018. Former Mexican President Vicente Fox (shown in a file photo) slammed several of U.S. President Donald Trump's foreign policy decisions, including trade agreements and the proposed border wall, at a National Press Club Headliners Luncheon Tuesday.

Fox, the 55th president of Mexico, launched his criticism of Trump in his opening remarks, taking a shot at Trump's campaign pledge of building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. "Thank you for the invitation, Marta [his wife] and I are glad to be here, I had to jump a wall to be here with you to defend the First Amendment," Fox said.

The former president called Trump's wall a "stupid idea" and reiterated that Mexico will not pay for its construction. Fox also said that while countries have the right to protect their borders, the proposed wall along the U.S. and Mexican border will not work.

"It's proven by history," Fox said before drawing parallels between the U.S. border wall and the Great Wall of China. Fox noted that the Great Wall of China was costly and its construction was delivered on the sacrifices of many Chinese people.

JFK Assassination Relavance

jefferson morleyJFKFacts.org, Opinion: Whitewash: JFK’s assassination in African-American eyes, Jefferson Morley (shown at right), May 22, 2018. I’ve added a version of this poignant Dealey Plaza picture to the JFK Facts banner because I’d never really noticed its telling detail: a dozen African-Americans cheering the arrival of President Kennedy and First Lady Jackie in Dallas. It made me realize the obvious: black people – with engrained memories of extrajudicial lynchings – experienced JFK’s murder rather differently than most whites.

For black Americans, JFK was the first of 35 U.S. presidents to endorse full civic equality for their community and families. For many white Americans (like future Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush) Kennedy’s endorsement of the Civil Rights Act was an assault on state’s rights. Not since Lincoln had a true emancipationist lived in the White House.

For blacks, memories of assassination were fresh. In 1963 white Americans in 1963 had not recently experienced the assassination of a political leader. African-Americans had just seen Medgar Evers, field secretary of the Mississippi NAACP, get gunned down in June 1963. Needless to say, Evers was not killed by a “lone nut.”

When JFK was killed the reigning ethos of white supremacy suppressed the black experience. For example, Kennedy’s murder was witnessed by a young African-American couple, whose testimony was lost to history.

According to Marilyn Sitzman and other people who saw them, the young woman was about 18 years old, her companion about 21. They were having lunch in the area known as the “grassy knoll,” when the shots rang out. They threw down their bag lunch and fled, never to be heard from again.

Who could blame them? If you were a young black person in Dallas in 1963 and you thought (like Bill Newman and 21 police officers in the vicinity) that a gunshot had come from in front of the president’s motorcade, would you have come forward?

Would you have been eager to share your thoughts with the thoroughly racist Dallas Police Department? Or the thoroughly racist FBI? Or the thoroughly white national news media? The answer is no. And so the experience of these witnesses was whitewashed from history. That blank page is part of the JFK story too.

May 21

dovey roundtree full portrait family photoDovey Johnson Roundtree is shown outside the United States District Court in Washington, about 1985. “As a woman, and as a woman of color in an age when black lawyers had to leave the courthouse to use the bathrooms, she dared to practice before the bar of justice and was unflinching,” the co-author of her memoir said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Dovey Johnson Roundtree, Barrier-Breaking Lawyer, Dies at 104, Margalit Fox, May 21, 2018. The jurors were looking at her when they filed into court. That, Dovey Johnson Roundtree knew, could have immense significance for her client, a feebleminded day laborer accused of one of the most sensational murders of the mid-20th century.

Little had augured well for that client, Raymond Crump Jr., during his eight-day trial in United States District Court in Washington: Mr. Crump, who had been found near the crime scene, was black and poor. The victim was white, glamorous and supremely well connected. The country, in the summer of 1965, seethed with racial tension amid the surging civil rights movement.

Federal prosecutors had amassed a welter of circumstantial evidence — including 27 witnesses and more than 50 exhibits — to argue that on Oct. 12, 1964, Mr. Crump had carried out the execution-style shooting of Mary Pinchot Meyer, a Washington socialite said to have been a former lover of President John F. Kennedy.

By contrast, Ms. Roundtree, who died on Monday at 104, had chosen to present just three witnesses and a single exhibit to the jury, which comprised men and women, blacks and whites. Her closing argument was only 20 minutes long.

Now, on July 30, 1965, the jury, having deliberated, was back. The court clerk handed the verdict slip to the judge, Howard F. Corcoran. For most observers, inside the courtroom and out, conviction — and an accompanying death sentence — was a foregone conclusion.

“Members of the jury,” Judge Corcoran said. “We have your verdict, which states that you find the defendant, Ray Crump Jr., not guilty.”

Ms. Roundtree’s defense, which hinged partly on two forensic masterstrokes, made her reputation as a litigator of acuity, concision and steel who could win even the most hopeless trials. And this in a case for which she had received a fee of one dollar.

“As a woman, and as a woman of color in an age when black lawyers had to leave the courthouse to use the bathrooms, she dared to practice before the bar of justice and was unflinching,” Katie McCabe, the co-author of Ms. Roundtree’s memoir, Justice Older Than the Law, said in an interview for this obituary in 2016. “She was a one-woman Legal Aid Society before people used that term.”

Trump Probes

washington post logofbi logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. seeks inquiry into whether political motivation tainted FBI’s probe of Trump campaign, Matt Zapotosky, Robert Costa and David Nakamura, May 21, 2018 (print edition). In a tweet, President Trump demanded to know if law enforcement infiltrated his campaign for “political purposes.”

The Justice Department responded by saying it had asked its inspector general to expand its own review, a move that officials hoped would avert a larger showdown over a confidential source.

stefan halper 2010Editor's note: Background on source here: The Intercept, The FBI Informant Who Monitored the Trump Campaign, Glenn Greenwald, May 19, 2018. An extremely strange episode that has engulfed official Washington over the last two weeks came to a truly bizarre conclusion on Friday night. And it revolves around a long-time, highly sketchy CIA operative, Stefan Halper (shown at right).

Axios, Peter Navarro pushed Stefan Halper for Trump job, Jonathan Swan and Alayna Treene, May 21, 2018. President Trump's top trade adviser, Peter Navarro, recommended appointing Stefan Halper, an academic and suspected FBI informant on the Trump campaign, to a senior role in the Trump administration, Axios has learned.

Behind the scenes: During the presidential transition Navarro recommended Halper, among other people, for ambassador roles in Asia. A White House official said Halper visited the Eisenhower Executive Office Building last August for a meeting about China.

Context: During the transition everyone involved in Trump’s presidential campaign were asked to submit resumes for administration positions. Halper, who already knew Navarro in the context of being a China scholar and interviewing for his anti-China book and film, pitched himself for an ambassadorship in Asia, according to a source briefed on their interactions. Navarro says he submitted Halper’s name for the Asian ambassadorship — we have not been able to confirm the country — along with around a dozen other people for roles in the region.

The White House has not acknowledged Halper’s role as an informant.

Why it matters: This is personal for President Trump, who yesterday demanded a Justice Department probe into the FBI. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein then authorized an Inspector General probe into the FBI's use of FISA for counterintelligence operations.

Background on the FBI informant story:

-- Trump has been tweeting about an FBI "spy," bolstered by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes.
-- The Justice Department had been working with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly to ensure the identity didn't leak out.
-- The Daily Caller first reported the suspect's name as Halper in March. The Washington Post and New York Times reported on the informant last week, providing multiple identifying details, but did not name the suspect.
-- The suspected FBI informant first reached out to Trump campaign staffer George Papadopoulos in the summer of 2016, and subsequently met with Trump campaign officials Carter Page and Sam Clovis.
-- Halper, 73, is an academic and veteran of three Republican administrations. He worked at Cambridge University until 2015.

columbus nova logo

washington post logomichael cohen ap file croppedWashington Post, Michael Cohen payments put spotlight on investment firm linked to Russian billionaire, Rosalind S. Helderman, Michael Kranish and Steven Mufson, May 21, 2018 (print edition). The head of Columbus Nova, which paid President Trump’s personal lawyer $500,000 to bring in new investors, also contributed to Trump’s inaugural committee and the Republican National Committee. Trump's attorney Michael Cohen, also a deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee, is shown at right.

Supreme Court Boosts Employers' Power

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court Upholds Workplace Arbitration Contracts, Adam Liptak, May 21, 2018. The vote was 5 to 4, with the court’s more conservative justices in the majority. The decision could affect some 25 million employment contracts.

U.S. Threatens Iran With Devastation

washington post logoWashington Post, Pompeo vows U.S., Mideast allies will ‘crush’ Iranian operatives around the world, Carol Morello, May 21, 2018. In his first major foreign policy address as secretary of state, Mike Pompeo laid out a list of demands Iran must agree to before sanctions are lifted.

mike pompeo portraitSecretary of State Mike Pompeo (shown at right) on Monday launched a sweeping broadside against the Iranian government, vowing to use all U.S. economic and military might to destroy its economy and “crush” its operatives and proxies around the world.

In his first major foreign policy address as secretary of state, Pompeo listed a dozen demands, an agenda encompassing Iran’s foreign ventures as well as its nuclear and missile programs. If Iran agrees to those demands, he said, the United States would lift all sanctions, reestablish diplomatic relations with Tehran and provide it access to advanced technology.

Pompeo said he will work with the Defense Department and regional allies — a group that includes Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states — to “deter Iranian aggression” in the region, including at sea and in cyberspace.

“We will ensure freedom of navigation on the waters in the region,” he said in a speech at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, a conservative think tank whose ideas have been embraced by the Trump administration. “We will work to prevent and counteract any Iranian malign cyberactivity. We will track down Iranian operatives and their Hezbollah proxies operating around the world and crush them. Iran will never again have carte blanche to dominate the Middle East.”

State Department officials say the aim of the speech is to outline a path forward after President Trump announced he would withdraw the United States from the 2015 landmark nuclear deal with Iran and reimpose sanctions, a decision that immediately puts the United States in breach of its commitments.

Many European officials, including those who negotiated the Iran agreement alongside the United States, have chafed at the Trump administration’s positions on Iran, the Paris climate accord, moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and trade tariffs. “With friends like that, who needs enemies,” European Council President Donald Tusk groused recently.

The new secretary of state, now in his fourth week in office, made clear that the United States is prepared to square off with Europe, using secondary sanctions against companies that do business in Iran.

iran flag mapMoon of Alabama, Opinion: Trump's New Campaign Against Iran Will Not Achieve Its Aims, b, May 21, 2018. The Trump administration made it perfectly clear today that it wants regime change in Iran by whatever means it has. In a well-promoted speech at the Heritage Foundation Secretary of State Pompeo laid out twelve demands towards Iran. He threatened the "strongest sanctions in history" if those demands were not fulfilled.

But the demands do not make sense. They only demonstrate the incompetence of the Trump administration. The means the Trump administration laid out to achieve its aims are not realistic and, even if they were implementable, insufficient to achieve the desired results.

U.S. Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, hillary clinton 2016 dnc speech dmcaHillary Clinton tells students how to survive failure in commencement speech, Monica Castillo, May 21, 2018. She also shared thoughts on the 2016 election. Yale University welcomed back alumna Hillary Clinton (shown at right) to address Yale seniors. She chose to share some candid life lessons with the students in attendance.

ny times logoNew York Times, Hillary and Bill Clinton Go Separate Ways for 2018 Midterm Elections, Alexander Burns and Matt Flegenheimer, May 21, 2018. For years they dominated the party, brandishing their powerful financial network and global fame to pick favorites for primary elections and lift Democrats even in deep-red states. They were viewed as a joint entity, with a shared name that was the most powerful brand in Democratic politics: the Clintons.

democratic donkey logoBut in the 2018 election campaign, Hillary and Bill Clinton have veered in sharply different directions. Mrs. Clinton appears determined to play at least a limited role in the midterms, bolstering longtime allies and raising money for Democrats in safely liberal areas. Her husband has been all but invisible.

And both have been far less conspicuous than in past election cycles, but for different reasons: Mrs. Clinton faces distrust on the left, where she is seen as an avatar of the Democratic establishment, and raw enmity on the right. Mr. Clinton has been largely sidelined amid new scrutiny of his past misconduct with women.

Mrs. Clinton is expected to break her virtual hiatus from the campaign trail this week, when she will endorse Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York in a contested Democratic primary, her spokesman, Nick Merrill, confirmed — a move sure to enrage liberal activists seeking Mr. Cuomo’s ouster at the hands of Cynthia Nixon, the actress turned progressive insurgent. Mrs. Clinton has also recorded an automated phone call endorsing Stacey Abrams, the former Democratic leader in the Georgia House, who is competing for the party’s nomination for governor on Tuesday.

oliver north fox nra

ny times logoNew York Times, Oliver North Blames ‘Culture of Violence’ for Mass Shootings, May 21, 2018. Christopher Mele and Christina Caron, May 21, 2018. Just two days after a school shooting in Santa Fe, Tex., left 10 dead, the incoming president of the National Rifle Association appeared on television on Sunday to blame mass shootings on a “culture of violence” and the drug Ritalin, adding that “taking away the rights of law-abiding citizens” would not stop the carnage.

Oliver North, shown above in a screenshot from a previous appearance, said shootings are tied to violent television shows and movies and a dependence on medications like Ritalin.

ny times logochina flag SmallNew York Times, Trump’s Charm and Threats May Not Be Working on China, Keith Bradsher, May 21, 2018. President Trump threatened tariffs on $150 billion in goods, then tried conciliation. In response, Beijing rebuffed offers and avoided specific pledges. The latest round of negotiations showed that Mr. Trump and his advisers may find that extracting concessions from China is much harder than they expected. China has called President Trump’s bluff.

Chinese negotiators left Washington this weekend with a significant win: a willingness by the Trump administration to hold off for now on imposing tariffs on up to $150 billion in Chinese imports. China gave up little in return, spurning the administration’s nudges for a concrete commitment to buy more goods from the United States, and avoiding limits on its efforts to build new high-tech Chinese industries.

The trade fight is far from over. And large Chinese technology companies in particular could be vulnerable if the United States starts punching again, with administration officials appearing to back away from Mr. Trump’s pledges to help ZTE, a Chinese telecommunications company hit with severe American penalties.

Chinese Punishments For Dissenters Monitored By Social Media?

china flag SmallAgence France Press (AFP), China Celebrates Social Credit System Blocking People from over 11 Million Flights, Greg Baker, May 21, 2018. China’s state-run Global Times newspaper reported on Monday that over 11.14 million instances of individuals not being able to board flights – and 4.25 million similar incidents on trains – had occurred “by the end of April.” Since the same person could attempt to board a flight or train and have officials deny them more than once, it is likely that the number of individuals banned from traveling is slightly lower than the number of instances in which the government has blocked travel.

The Global Times proclaims the millions of cases of government officials using the “social credit system” to ground travelers a success of the system, which closely monitors the behavior of all individuals, assigning a numerical value to how beneficial to the Chinese communist state each person is. People considered loyal, law-abiding members of the Communist Party are assigned high social credit scores, while those who violate the law, behave in irritating ways in public, or are suspected of engaging in dissident activity are assigned lower scores.

China has not yet made clear how the numerical system works or where the cut-off score is to be prevented from flying or riding trains.

According to Hou Yunchun, former deputy director of the development research center of the State Council, who the Global Times quotes as having celebrated the system on Sunday, a social credit score is necessary because “if we don’t increase the cost of being discredited, we are encouraging discredited people to keep at it.”

Hou insisted that it was necessary for social harmony that “discredited people become bankrupt.”

Zhi Zhenfeng, a government-friendly legal analyst, also told the Global Times in the piece published Monday that he believed it was necessary for the Communist Party to pass sweeping national laws to “gauge the correct punishment” depending on the nature of the transgressions documented.

China first announced the creation of a social credit system in 2015, initially intended to be used online. The internet social credit system would monitor what each individual does when he or she goes online and assign a positive or negative score for each person determined by what websites they visit,
what they purchase, and the nature of the comments and postings they leave on social media.

China has since expanded this project to the real world, where “crimes” like jaywalking, returning library books late, possessing frowned-upon religious or political materials, or insufficient “patriotism” could result in a low score. In March, Chinese officials revealed the first known victims of the social credit system: 17 soldiers drafted into the military who “were unable to handle army life and tried to quit multiple times before being expelled.” The men were reportedly “blacklisted;” Chinese media did not specify what the punishment for blacklisting was at the time.

The Global Times subsequently revealed that those with low social credit would no longer have the ability to purchase and successfully use tickets for train or airplanes. The universal application of the credit system and the seemingly endless ways a Chinese citizen could hurt their score has led to many comparisons with the British science fiction program Black Mirror – specifically the episode “Nosedive,” in which the imposition of a national social media credit score drives the protagonist to madness.

The Global Times, often the nation’s most belligerent and forward of the many government publications, embraced the comparison in a March editorial titled “Black Mirror Comes to Life.”

“China’s introduction of a ‘social credit’ system has raised dark comparisons to George Orwell and the dystopian television series Black Mirror (2011-),”
the column read. “The social credit system is making the world more like a small town again, with everybody knowing everyone else’s business.”

“In a small town, everyone knows who is a good lover, who cheats on their spouse, who has money problems, who drinks too much and everyone’s salary. We are moving into a world where all this knowledge will be readily available to everybody,” the article claims, ultimately concluding that putting this power in the hands of the Communist Party is preferable to private corporations like Facebook having such control.

“It’s incredibly sinister,” Charlie Brooker, the creator of Black Mirror, said of China’s social credit system in 2016. “Am I right in thinking that your ranking is affected by your friends, so if you hang with the wrong crowd, your social ranking will go down? Wow. It’s completely mental.”

This month, the Global Times published a piece arguing that the system is necessary because the nature of the Chinese people is untrustworthy, and they must be disciplined into proper behavior. “In today’s Chinese society, trustworthiness is not highly honored. That’s why we see corruption, expired vaccines, commercial fraud, tax dodging and academic cheating from time to time,” the Global Times argued, adding that, in contrast, the United States suffers from far fewer traffic violations, for example, because “the cost of violating traffic laws is very high.”

The Global Times did not offer any evidence that the rate of traffic offenses in the United States is lower than that of China.

More Opinion On Asian Affairs

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Memo to Kim Jong Un: You're walking into a neocon trap in Singapore, Wayne Madsen, May 21, 2018 (subscription required).

Pioneering Civil Rights Lawyer Dies At 104

dovey roundtreeWashington, Dovey Johnson Roundtree, 1914–2018, Harrison Smith, May 21, 2018. Defense lawyer and civil rights warrior dies at 104. Ms. Roundtree played a critical early role in the desegregation of interstate bus travel and mentored several generations of black lawyers.

​Dovey Johnson Roundtree, a Washington criminal defense lawyer and courtroom warrior for civil rights who played a critical early role in the desegregation of interstate bus travel and mentored several generations of black lawyers, died May 21 at an assisted-living facility in Charlotte. She was 104.

The cause was complications from Alzheimer’s disease, said Jerry L. Hunter, her cousin and law partner.

peter janney jfk mary meyerIn a career that spanned nearly half a century, Ms. Roundtree defended predominantly poor African American clients — as well as black churches, community groups and the occasional politician. She was, former Fisk University president Walter J. Leonard once told The Washington Post, “a legal-aid clinic before there were legal-aid clinics.”

Her best-known case involved the black day laborer accused in the 1964 killing of Georgetown socialite and painter Mary Pinchot Meyer, who reportedly had an affair with President John F. Kennedy (shown together). She won him an acquittal despite what initially appeared to be damning witness testimony.

This Month's Cuban Air Crash

jacob hornberger headshotFuture of Freedom Foundation, Opinion: Celebrating the Cuban Air Crash, Jacob G. Hornberger (shown at right), May 21, 2018. U.S. sanctions bureaucrats are undoubtedly uncorking the champagne bottles over the plane crash in Cuba last week that left 110 people dead. They are undoubtedly exclaiming how the crash is proving that the decades-old U.S. economic embargo against Cuba is starting to “bite,” the term that U.S. officials are now using to celebrate the effects of U.S. sanctions against North Korea.

After all, let’s not forget: that is the purpose of U.S. embargoes and sanctions — to kill innocent people in the hopes of achieving either regime change within a foreign country or a change of attitude within a foreign regime.

In addition to producing starvation and illness, sanctions and embargoes also help bring about plane crashes. That’s because they prevent foreign regimes from buying new planes and from getting the parts to keep old planes properly serviced. Over time, it is hoped, the situation will get so bad that planes start to crash. Once that happens, the hope is that the targeted ruler will either abdicate or do whatever U.S. officials want him to do, as a way to have the embargo or sanctions lifted.

In the case of Cuba, the U.S. embargo has worked brilliantly. We are all accustomed to seeing the old 1950s cars that Cubans have repaired over the years. Less well known is that same thing applies to Cuba’s aging fleet of domestic planes, which have suffered from a high crash rate as a result of the U.S. embargo.

Reporting on the most recent crash, the New York Times wrote: "It remained unclear what caused the crash, but it came against the backdrop of Cuba’s struggle to improve commercial aviation on the island, which has long faced economic constraints from the United States embargo. A day before the crash, Cuban state newspapers reported that one of the country’s new vice presidents, Salvador Valdés Mesa, met with key officials from the island’s aviation sector to discuss challenges. The report said that Roberto Peña Samper, the president of the Cuban Aviation Corporation, bemoaned that the “embargo placed by successive American administrations prevents” the island “from acquiring the resources necessary to operate a larger fleet of planes and to enhance airport services.”

U.S. officials have had the same success with their sanctions on Iran. Last February, an Iranian airliner crashed, killing 65 people. According to an article at thinkprogress.org, "The deaths of 65 passengers and crew aboard an Iranian commercial flight that crashed on Sunday are the latest in Iran’s longstanding ordeal over the safety of its airplanes — referred to by some Iranians as 'flying coffins.'”

Whenever plane crashes occur in Cuba, U.S. officials inevitably blame them on Cuba’s socialist economic system. Socialism certainly does impoverish nations. But what is undeniable is that sanctions and embargoes make the situation infinitely worse.

And here is something important to keep in mind: While economic suffering is the result of bad economic policies in Cuba, that’s not the goal of Cuban officials. But death and suffering is the goal of U.S. officials. That’s the purpose of their embargo on Cuba.

madeleine.albrightRecall how U.S. officials targeted the Iraqi people with sanctions as a way to induce Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to abdicate or “disarm” his (supposed) WMDs. Those sanctions were killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children. That was okay with U.S. officials. As U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright (right) put it, the deaths of half-a-million children were “worth it.” By “it” she meant the effort to achieve regime change or a change in mindset within Saddam Hussein.

Radar, Kennedy Family Believes CIA Killed JFK, Robert Jr. Claims In New Tell-All, Melissa Roberto, May 21, 2018. Robert Kennedy ‘immediately suspected’ the government agency, his son says.

In his new tell-all, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. confessed [sic] that his notorious [sic] political family believed the CIA killed late president John F. Kennedy, RadarOnline.com can exclusively reveal.In the candid memoir, American Values: Lessons I learned from My Family, RFK Jr. ripped the lid off of the family’s best kept secrets. He confessed it was his father, Robert F. Kennedy, who doubted the intentions of the government’s intelligence agency.

UK Skirpal Poisoning A False Flag Like Aleppo Hoax?

sergei skripal julia skirpal pub

Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in a British restaurant several hours after their supposed poisoning with a fatal nerve agent

caitlin johnstoneMedium, Opinion: The Skripal Case Is Being Pushed Down The Memory Hole With Libya And Aleppo, Caitlin Johnstone (shown at right), May 21, 2018. On the fourth of March, in the sleepy British cathedral town of Salisbury, an ex-spy named Sergei Skripal was poisoned by an assassin with the most deadly nerve agent known to man. The Russian government was immediately blamed by a shocked and outraged world.

boris johnson july 2015Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (shown in a file photo) assured the people of Great Britain that “There’s no doubt” that Moscow was responsible. In a large and sudden leap forward in cold war escalations, Russian diplomats were thrown out of countries all around the globe, including my own Australia, in a show of solidarity with the United Kingdom. It was the largest collective ejection of Russian diplomats in history.

Two months after his earth-shattering assassination, as the world stared spellbound at the weekend’s immensely popular PR spectacle of a royal wedding, Sergei Skripal was quietly discharged from the hospital he’d been staying at. The BBC reports that he is walking and approaching complete recovery.

Wait a second. Haven’t I seen this Python skit before?

So to recap, an ex-spy who had been retired and strategically irrelevant for years was reportedly poisoned by the Kremlin with Novichok, a scary Russian-sounding word which refers to a group of extremely deadly and fast-acting nerve agents that start shutting down the body’s muscles and respiratory system within 30 seconds to two minutes. Except in the case of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia it was several hours with a leisurely stroll, a meal, and beers in between.

The poison was placed in Yulia Skripal’s suitcase. Actually no, they got that wrong, it was the air vents in their car. Wait, no, that doesn’t work either. Maybe it was administered via weaponized miniature drone! Wait, no, it was the family’s car door handle. Actually, scratch that, it was the front door of the house. Definitely the front door of the house. We’re absolutely sure. Either that or Sergei Skripal’s favorite Russian cereal. They were given 100 grams of Novichok. Wait, no, that’s ridiculous, we retract that. Okay, maybe we have no idea what happened. Oh hey, their pets were completely unaffected by the poison. Let’s incinerate them.

Oh, and Johnson’s claim that the Porton Down laboratory had assured him “There’s no doubt” that Russia was behind the poisoning? Turns out that was just a bald-faced lie; Porton Down said no such thing and it was never its job to make such an assessment. Johnson lied, and both the Foreign Office and British mainstream media attempted to cover it up; tweets were deleted, transcripts were re-written, and narratives were given a good spin of historic revisionism by asserting that the UK government’s unequivocal insistence that the Kremlin poisoned the Skripals had been merely a “suggestion”.

And now both Sergei and Yulia Skripal, alleged victims of a poisoning by highly trained assassins using the deadliest nerve agent ever created, are doing fine. But you’re still supposed to fear and hate Russia. Just don’t think too hard about it or remember too much.

Remember Aleppo? I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t; corporate media outlets hardly ever talk about it anymore. It’s almost like they want us to forget the horror stories they told us about how the city that had been occupied by good, noble freedom fighters was about to be taken by an army of depraved psychopaths who wanted to rape women, burn children alive, and shoot civilians in their homes. Back at the tail end of 2016, though, it was all you ever heard about. The “fall of Aleppo”, they called it. If the west didn’t intervene to stop Damascus and Moscow from retaking East Aleppo from the good-hearted rebels, everyone there would be raped, tortured, and butchered by the soulless army of the Syrian government.

Aleppo was pushed down the memory hole. It’s a non-thing now.

How about Libya? Remember Libya? Libya’s that country that got pushed down the memory hole the second the western empire got the regime change hillary clinton oit was after. Before Muammar Gaddafi was mutilated in the streets to the sadistic cackles of Hillary Clinton (left), we were all told with increasing urgency that humanitarian interventionism was needed because Gaddafi’s troops are doing evil things like taking Viagra to help them commit mass rapes against Libyan civilians. Now Gaddafi is dead, we know that both the case for humanitarian interventionism and the Viagra-for-rape stories were lies, and Libya is a humanitarian disaster with an open slave trade after western interventionism created a failed state.

Where are all those cries for humanitarian interventionism in Libya now? Now that the nation is infinitely worse off than it was under Gaddafi?

Doesn’t matter. Memory hole.

Time and time again, we’re fed these deceitful narratives to manufacture support for the agendas of the western war machine, and when the truth begins to surface that we were lied to once again, the news churn moves on and we’re distracted with something else as the old narrative is shuffled back beyond the reach of memory. Maybe a year or two later we wonder to ourselves “I wonder what ever happened with that major news story? I should google it,” but nothing comes up and most of us shrug and move on.

And now a very suspicious and possibly Christopher Steele-related silence has descended on the matter of the Skripals, to the point where Sergei himself can walk out of the hospital and barely cause a blip in the news, and nobody can talk to either of them but everyone pretends that’s perfectly normal. This case which points very clearly to a mountain of lies and cover-ups by the British government and its affiliates is now being shuffled out of the news cycle and replaced with vapid nonsense about Meghan’s dress and Trump’s latest obnoxious tweet.

But we won’t let them forget. We won’t let the world forget that these steadily increasing imperialist escalations against Russia and its allies were given a hefty bump by lies about what happened in Salisbury. There are plenty of people on alternative media like me who will keep pointing at that big dark hole of unanswered questions and yelling “Hey! What about all those lies you guys told us about the Skripals?”

This one isn’t going down the memory hole, guys. There are some turds that just won’t flush. This one’s staying around forever. We’ll keep reminding everyone. We won’t let anyone forget.

May 20

7 Million Americans Stripped Of Driver's Licenses?

washington post logoWashington Post, About 700,000 residents in Virginia, Maryland and D.C. may have lost driver’s licenses because of traffic debt, Justin Wm. Moyer, May 20, 2018 (print edition). The practice has been criticized by anti-poverty advocates after a federal investigation revealed that law enforcement used fines to raise revenue for state and local governments.

More than 7 million people nationwide may have had their driver’s licenses suspended for failure to pay court or administrative debt, a practice that advocates say unfairly punishes the poor, a Washington Post analysis found. About 10 percent of that total involved residents of Virginia, Maryland and the District.

The total number nationwide could be much higher based on the population of states that did not or could not provide data. At least 41 states and the District suspend or revoke driver’s licenses after drivers fail to pay traffic tickets or appear in court to respond to such tickets.

Driver’s license suspensions were criticized by anti-poverty advocates after a 2015 federal investigation, focused on Ferguson, Mo., revealed that law enforcement used fines to raise revenue for state and local governments. Suspensions can keep unsafe drivers off the road but also can prevent people who haven’t committed serious crimes from working, getting their children to school and getting out of debt, according to advocates for the poor.

And voting! (JIP editor's addition.)

More On Houston School Massacre

washington post logoWashington Post, Texas school thought it had taken necessary steps on security. Still, 10 people died, Todd C. Frankel, Brittney Martin, Tim Craig and Christian Davenport, May 20, 2018 (print edition). They believed they were a hardened target, part of what’s expected today of the American public high school in an age when school shootings occur with alarming frequency. And so a death toll of 10 at Santa Fe High School was a tragic sign of failure and needing to do more, but also a sign, to some, that it could have been much worse.

#MeToo and Crime

washington post logoWashington Post, D.C. doctor laced his ex-girlfriend’s tea with abortion pills and got three years in prison, Kristine Phillips, May 20, 2018 (print edition). A D.C.-area doctor was sentenced to three years in prison for slipping an abortion pill into his pregnant ex-girlfriend’s drink, causing her to miscarry.

Sikander Imran, a former doctor at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, was sentenced Friday after his former girlfriend, Brook Fiske, asked a judge for a more lenient punishment, ABC affiliate WJLA reported.

Imran was charged last June with premeditated killing of a fetus of another and illegally causing abortion or miscarriage. Online records show he was also charged in November with assault and altering food, drink and drugs. He pleaded guilty earlier this year to fetal homicide.

washington post logosaudi arabia flagWashington Post, In harsh Saudi crackdown, famous feminists are branded as ‘traitors,’ Kareem Fahim and Loveday Morris, May 20, 2018 (print edition). Friday’s detentions of women’s rights adovcates came just weeks before the ban on female drivers is set to be lifted.

Courts and Civil Rights

washington post logoWashington Post, Dallas County candidate admits plan to reward his children who marry white, straight Christians, Marwa Eltagouri, May 18, 2018. A former Dallas County judge facing allegations of racist behavior admits to incentivizing his children to marry within their race.

U.S. Politics & Race

ny times logoNew York Times, John Lewis and Other Black Leaders Spurn Black Challenger in Boston, Astead W. Herndon, May 19, 2018. U.S. Representative John Lewis helped change America as a passionate civil rights activist before his tenure in Congress, but Saturday afternoon, inside the brick-lined walls of Twelfth Baptist Church, the Georgia lawmaker made a rare case for traditionalism and seniority.

john lewis official“People who have been around for awhile, they know their way around,” Mr. Lewis (shown at right) said. “They know where all the bodies are buried and they know how to get things done.”

Mr. Lewis had come to Twelfth Baptist to campaign for Representative Michael E. Capuano, the liberal Democrat who faces a grueling primary challenge from Ayanna Pressley, a progressive Boston City Council member who is trying to become the state’s first nonwhite member of the House of Representatives.

On Saturday, Mr. Lewis lent his voice to the argument that Mr. Capuano’s experience and seniority were needed in the Democrats’ fight against President Trump, rather than the youthful energy of Ms. Pressley’s grass-roots campaign.

Global News: ISIS Surrenders In Damascus

isis trucks

In contrast to the ISIS propaganda photo above in the ISIS heydey, a last ISIS remnant defeated by Syria's army will reportedly leave Southern Damascus soon by bus and stripped of heavy weapons for at least temporary refuge in Syria's Homs desert.

Al-Masdar News (ADM), ISIS terrorists to begin leaving southern Damascus, Staff report, May 20, 2018. An agreement was put in place in southern Damascus, tonight, after the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) agreed to surrender their last positions in the Yarmouk Camp and Hajar Al-Aswad.

According to a military source in Damascus, dozens of buses started entering the Yarmouk Camp and Hajar Al-Aswad to transport the Islamic State terrorists to the Badiya region in eastern Syria. ISIS was forced to surrender these districts in southern Damascus after losing a large chunk of their territory to the Syrian Army this month.

With the Islamic State’s future departure, the city of Damascus will be free of any militant groups for the first time in seven years.

syrian soldiers after isis damascus defeat 5 21 182 36

Victorious Syrian Arab Army soldiers after their defeat of ISIS in the last rebel area of Damascus

Europe v. Trump?

washington post logoWashington Post, As tensions with Trump deepen, Europe wonders if America is lost for good, Griff Witte and Michael Birnbaum, May 20, 2018 (print edition). Continental leaders worry the president may be the new normal, not an aberration.

American FlagSince Jan. 20, 2017, European leaders have managed U.S. relations with one eye on the clock, anxiously counting down the hours until President Trump’s term is up and hoping the core of the Western alliance isn’t too badly damaged in the meantime.

But as Trump’s aggressive rhetoric toward America’s closest allies has evolved into hostile action this spring, a new fear has swept European capitals: Trump may not be an aberration that can be waited out, with his successor likely to push reset after four or eight years of fraught ties. Instead, the blend of unilateralism, nationalism and protectionism Trump embodies may be the new American normal.

washington post logoronan farrowWashington Post, Book Review: The dangers of devaluing diplomacy and overvaluing the military, Rosa Brooks, May 20, 2018 (print edition). Review of War on Peace, by Ronan Farrow, shown at right (W.W. Norton).

Ronan Farrow’s War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence is more an elegy than a work of journalism, more a work of journalism than a history of diplomacy, and more a history than a sustained analysis of the value and effect of U.S. diplomacy. Farrow’s overarching argument is straightforward: America needs diplomats, those “specialized experts trained in the art of hard-nosed negotiation” who can provide “thoughtful, holistic foreign policy analysis, unshackled from military contingencies.” But for decades — beginning, in Farrow’s telling, with the administration of President Bill Clinton and accelerating dramatically under President Trump — America has been overvaluing the military and undervaluing diplomacy, to its own detriment.

Although “War on Peace” doesn’t fully achieve its broadest ambitions, it offers lively writing, astute commentary and plenty of great stories, laced through with passion and outrage.

The book’s first half is mostly a wry, extended tribute to the late Richard Holbrooke, for whom Farrow worked as a junior staffer in 2009-10, while Holbrooke served as U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Famously abrasive and self-centered, on the surface, Holbrooke hardly seemed to exemplify the suave, urbane diplomats of cinematic and literary fantasy.

Rosa Brooks is a professor at Georgetown University Law Center and the author of "How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything."

Inside DC

jim jordan headshot CustomAxios, Conservative leaders to call on Jim Jordan to run for Speaker, layna Treene and Jonathan Swan, May 18, 2018. More than 40 prominent figures in the conservative movement plan to send an open letter to Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), urging the Freedom Caucus member to declare himself a candidate for Speaker “at once” to replace Paul Ryan.

ginni thomas gage skidmoreAxios has obtained a letter — circulated by Ginni Thomas (shown at left in a Gage Skidmore portrait), longtime leader in the conservative movement and spouse of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas — stating that current House Republican leadership "has utterly failed" and "proven that it’s part of the Swamp," and that Jordan (shown at right) is the solution. Richard Viguerie, Chairman of ConservativeHQ.com, and Jenny Beth Martin, Chairman of the Tea Party Patriots, are among the more th 40 people who have also signed on.

paul ryan wWhy it matters: Ryan (shown at right) has chosen to remain Speaker through the midterm elections despite announcing his retirement. But behind the scenes, the Republican conference has been restive and many members privately question whether it’s tenable for him to last out the year as a lame duck Speaker.More than 40 prominent figures in the conservative movement plan to send an open letter to Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), urging the Freedom Caucus member to declare himself a candidate for Speaker “at once” to replace Paul Ryan.

Axios, The left turns up the heat to break up Facebook, David McCabe, May 18, 2018. A collection of progressive groups will launch a six figure digital ad offensive Monday telling the Federal Trade Commission to break up Facebook’s social networking empire.

facebook logoThe big picture: Facebook’s new reality is being a political punching bag for those on the left, who want it broken up, and the right, who accuse it of systemic bias. But the company continues to do well financially.

The groups are asking for the FTC to do three things:

• Break off Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger into their own companies separate from Facebook proper.

• Make it possible for users on competing social networks to communicate with one another.

• Implement strong privacy rules.

The gritty details: The coalition will run digital ads with messages like “Facebook keeps violating your privacy. Break it up.” and “Mark Zuckerberg has a scary amount of power. We need to take it back.”

Zuckerberg’s users will see them: they’re running on Facebook and Instagram, as well as Twitter and more traditional display ad slots.Groups involved range from the anti-concentration Open Markets Institute to broader progressive groups like Demand Progress and MoveOn Civic Action.

ftc logoWhy now? The push coincides with the start of a new era at the FTC under Chairman Joe Simons, who has expressed some willingness to take on tech but also appointed a lawyer who represented Facebook to a key consumer protection position. The agency is currently investigating whether Facebook violated a previous legal agreement as a result of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal. Antitrust concerns have also been raised about Google and Amazon.

Some commissioners are likely sympathetic to taking big action on Big Tech. “FTC orders are not suggestions,” new Democratic Commissioner Rohit Chopra said earlier this month, with the questions about Facebook’s deal with the FTC looming.

Royal Wedding, Royal Psyop?

prince harry meghan markle wedding file Custom

Strategic Culture Foundation, Opinion: US Press Coverage of a Royal Wedding: ‘Reporting’ As Inane and Useless As Ever, Wayne Madsen, May 20, 2018. The imprisoned desperate people of Gaza continue to grieve over the Israeli slaughter of over 60 civilians during protests coinciding with the dedication of the illegally re-situated U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. Parents and relatives in Texas were mourning the deaths of 10 students and teachers in yet another horrific school shooting at the Santa Fe High School, near Houston.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump -- who continued to offer his “thoughts and prayers” over another snuffing out of the lives of students and educators, while he and his fellow Republicans continue to pocket millions of campaign dollars from the National Rifle Association -- threatened the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Justice’s Special Counsel, and the U.S. Postal Service in a manner befitting a La Cosa Nostra crime boss.

So, what did the U.S. corporate press decide was more important than mass murder in the Middle East and Texas or high crimes and misdemeanors in the Oval Office? The answer is the royal pomp and ceremony of the Windsor, England wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

Some apologists for the over-coverage of the Harry-Meghan wedding cited the fact that the story was important because it involved the wedding of an American, a mixed-race woman, to the sixth in line for the British throne.

aldous huxley freedoms lost quotationThe fascination of the American media with the British royal family has always been an enigma in a nation that fought a revolution against monarchical rule from Britain. Journalists and editors decided there were much more important things going on in the world than to devote blanket coverage to an arcane ceremony, with historical roots in the largely abandoned ideology of feudalism and the “divine right of kings.”

Gradually, however, the press decided that the masses should be tranquilized by entertainment and not information.

Trump, a product of the same corporate media that decided to send crews of reporters to London to fawn over a second-tier royal wedding, was not invited to the betrothal at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. However, by spending so much airtime and print space on a wedding that attracted such celebrity guests as Oprah Winfrey, George and Amal Clooney, Serena Williams, and Elton John (the original “Rocket Man,” not Trump’s appellation assigned to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un)), the corporate media lowered itself to Trump’s world of television ratings, artificial reality, and “fake news.”

Prince Harry and his wife wanted to invite former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama to the wedding, but the government of Prime Minister Theresa May, who was also not invited, urged the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to change their minds to prevent worsening of already poor relations between London and Washington.

The Fourth Estate, entrusted by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution with acting as a check on the abuses of government, has become a purveyor of inane coverage of unimportant events that cannot even be remotely construed as newsworthy. Trump and his assemblage of con artists, family grifters, embezzlers of public funds, hatemongers, and neocon war hawks have turned the corporate media into a acquiescent foil for Trump’s reality television show that is masquerading as a four-year administration.

NBC, Saturday Night Live Opening Skit, May 20, 2018 (YouTube publication). Robert Mueller (Robert De Niro) happens upon President Donald Trump's (Alec Baldwin) dinner with Rudy Giuliani (Kate McKinnon), Michael Cohen (Ben Stiller) and Eric and Donald Trump Jr. (Mikey Day, Alex Moffat).

May 19

Royals Wow Commoners

prince harry meghan markle kiss

Britain's Prince Harry, sixth in line for the British throne, and America's Meghan Markle are now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex

The cross-national Royal Wedding helps Buckingham Palace foster loyalty to the Crown in a more global era

washington post logoWashington Post, Wedding of Prince Harry, Meghan Markle delivers on pageantry, William Booth and Karla Adam, May 19, 2018. The service had a distinctive American flair, including a rousing address by Bishop Michael Curry and a choir singing “Stand by Me.” Markle wore a Givenchy gown, and Harry had a bespoke single-breasted suit featuring a medal honoring his service in Afghanistan. The Archbishop of Canterbury pronounced the couple, now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, husband and wife.

• Queen Elizabeth hosted a lunch reception at Windsor Castle for about 600 guests.• More than 100,000 people are estimated to have lined the wedding procession route.

Wikipedia: Western Spy-Influenced Propaganda?

wikipedia logo

craig murray uk ambassadorCraigMurray.com, The Philip Cross Affair, Craig Murray, May 18, 2018. The widely read commentator Craig Murray, right, is a former ambassador of the United Kingdom.Philip Cross” has not had one single day off from editing Wikipedia in almost five years. “He” has edited every single day from 29 August 2013 to 14 May 2018. Including five Christmas Days. That’s 1,721 consecutive days of editing.

133,612 edits to Wikpedia have been made in the name of “Philip Cross” over 14 years. That’s over 30 edits per day, seven days a week. And I do not use that figuratively: Wikipedia edits are timed, and if you plot them, the timecard for “Philip Cross’s” Wikipedia activity is astonishing is astonishing if it is one individual:

united kingdom flagThe operation runs like clockwork, seven days a week, every waking hour, without significant variation. If Philip Cross genuinely is an individual, there is no denying he is morbidly obsessed. I am no psychiatrist, but to my entirely inexpert eyes this looks like the behaviour of a deranged psychotic with no regular social activities outside the home, no job (or an incredibly tolerant boss), living his life through a screen.

I run what is arguably the most widely read single person political blog in the UK, and I do not spend nearly as much time on the internet as “Philip Cross.” My “timecard” would show where I watch football on Saturdays, go drinking on Fridays, go to the supermarket and for a walk or out with the family on Sundays, and generally relax much more and read books in the evenings. Cross does not have the patterns of activity of a normal and properly rounded human being.

There are three options here. “Philip Cross” is either a very strange person indeed, or is a false persona disguising a paid operation to control wikipedia content, or is a real front person for such an operation in his name.

Why does this – to take the official explanation – sad obsessive no friends nutter, matter?

Because the purpose of the “Philip Cross” operation is systematically to attack and undermine the reputations of those who are prominent in challenging the dominant corporate and state media narrative. Particularly in foreign affairs. “Philip Cross” also systematically seeks to burnish the reputations of mainstream media journalists and other figures who are particularly prominent in pushing neo-con propaganda and in promoting the interests of Israel.

john pilgerThis matters because, an ordinary reader who comes across an article questioning (say) the official narrative on the Skripals, is very likely to turn to Wikipedia to get information on the author of the article. Simply put, the purpose of the “Philip Cross” operation is to make certain that if that reader looks up an anti-war person such as John Pilger (shown at right), they will conclude they are thoroughly unreliable and untrustworthy, whereas if they look up a right wing MSM journalist, they will conclude they are a paragon of virtue and entirely to be trusted.

The “Philip Cross” treatment is meted out not just to left wingers, but to all sceptical of neo-conservatism and who oppose “wars of intervention.” A list of jeremy corbynCross’s victims includes Alex Salmond, Peter Oborne, John Pilger, Owen Jones, Jeremy Corbyn (head of the UK's Labour Party, shown at left), Tim Hayward, Diane Abbott, Neil Clark, Lindsey German, Vanessa Beeley, and George Galloway. As you would expect “Philip Cross” is particularly active in making amendments to the Wikipedia articles of alternative media, and of MSM critique sites. “Philip Cross” has made 36 edits to the Wikipedia entry of The Canary and, staggeringly, over 800 edits on Media Lens. George Galloway remains the “Philip Cross” operation’s favourite target with a quite incredible 1,800 edits.

Just as revealing are the people who “Philip Cross” seeks to protect and promote. Sarah Smith, BBC Scotland’s uber-unionist, has had “Philip Cross” kindly delete references from her Wikipedia entry to family ties that (ahem) may have helped her career. Labour Friends of Israel’s Ruth Smeeth MP has had reference to the Wikileaks-released US diplomatic cable that showed she was an informer to the US Embassy on the secrets of the Labour Party, deleted by “Philip Cross.” Right wing columnist Melanie Phillips had her embarrassing climate change denial excised by Cross. (Snip....more in Murray's blog.)

Trump Probes

djt sword dancers wh may 20 2017

President Trump Celebrating His Presidency with backers in Ritual Sword Dance (Saudi Arabia, May 2017)

ny times logodonald trump jr fileNew York Times, Trump Jr. and Other Aides Met With Gulf Emissary Offering Help to Win Election, Mark Mazzetti, Ronen Bergman and David D. Kirkpatrick, May 19, 2018. Three months before the 2016 election, a small group gathered at Trump Tower to meet with Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son (shown at right). One was an Israeli specialist in social media manipulation. Another was an emissary for two wealthy Arab princes. The third was a Republican donor with a controversial past in the Middle East as a private security contractor.

The meeting was convened primarily to offer help to the Trump team, and it forged relationships between the men and Trump insiders that would develop over the coming months — past the election and well into President Trump’s first year in office, according to several people with knowledge of their encounters.

erik princeErik Prince (left), the private security contractor and the former head of Blackwater, arranged the meeting, which took place on Aug. 3, 2016. The emissary, George Nader, told Donald Trump Jr. that the crown princes who led Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were eager to help his father win election as president. The social media specialist, Joel Zamel, extolled his company’s ability to give an edge to a political campaign; by that time, the firm had already drawn up a multimillion-dollar proposal for a social media manipulation effort to help elect Mr. Trump.

The company, which employed several Israeli former intelligence officers, specialized in collecting information and shaping opinion through social media.

george nader high res cspan Customt is unclear whether such a proposal was executed, and the details of who commissioned it remain in dispute.

But Donald Trump Jr. responded approvingly, according to a person with knowledge of the meeting, and after those initial offers of help, Mr. Nader (shown at right) was quickly embraced as a close ally by Trump campaign advisers — meeting frequently with jared kushner head shotJared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law (shown at left), and Michael T. Flynn, who became the president’s first national security adviser. At the time, Mr. Nader was also promoting a secret plan to use private contractors to destabilize Iran, the regional nemesis of Saudi Arabia and the Emirates.

More On Guns In Schools

washington post logodimitrios pagourtzis mug houston school shooterWashington Post, Suspect confesses to shooting that killed 8 students, 2 teachers at Texas school, police say, Brittney Martin, Mark Berman and Joel Achenbach, May 19, 2018. The suspected shooter, identified by police as Dimitrios Pagourtzis, 17 (shown in a mug photo), was charged with capital murder and aggravated assault on a peace officer. Police said the 17-year-old told officers he went into the school intent on killing people.

Inside DC

washington post logoamazon logo smallWashington Post, Trump pushed postmaster general to double rates on Amazon, other firms, Damian Paletta and Josh Dawsey, May 19, 2018 (print edition). The postmaster general said the rates were set by contracts and told the president that the arrangements have benefits for the financially beleaguered Postal Service.

Despite these presentations, Trump has continued to level criticism at Amazon. And last month, his critiques culminated in the signing of an executive order mandating a government review of the financially strapped Postal Service that could lead to major changes in the way it charges Amazon and others for package delivery.

Cuban Plane Disaster

washington post logocuba flag saving CustomWashington Post, More than 100 people are dead after airliner crashed shortly after takeoff in Cuba, William Branigin and Ashley Halsey III, May 19, 2018 (print edition). ​The Cuban state-run newspaper Granma reported that the plane, a Boeing 737-200 leased by the national airline, Cubana de Aviación, was carrying 105 passengers and a foreign crew.

CIA Vote Congruent With New 'Orwellian' Social Media Controls?

gina haspel screenshot

caitlin johnstoneCaitlinJohnstone.com, Opinion: The Friendly Mask Of The Orwellian Oligarchy Has Fallen Off, Caitlin Johnstone (shown at right), May 19, 2018. Gina Haspel (shown above during a Senate hearing) has been confirmed as America's new CIA Director, fulfilling her predecessor Mike Pompeo's pledge to turn the CIA into "a much more vicious agency."

"Bloody Gina" has reportedly been directly involved in both torturing people and destroying evidence of torture in her long and depraved career, which some say hurts the CIA's reputation.

Others say it just makes it more honest. The lying, torturing, propagandizing, drug trafficking, coup-staging, warmongering Central Intelligence Agency has done some of the most unspeakably horrific things to human beings that have ever happened in the history of our species.

cia logoIf you think I'm exaggerating, do your own research into some of the CIA's activities like the Phoenix Program, which used "Rape, gang rape, rape using eels, snakes, or hard objects, and rape followed by murder; electric shock ('the Bell Telephone Hour') rendered by attaching wires to the genitals or other sensitive parts of the body, like the tongue; the 'water treatment'; the 'airplane' in which the prisoner's arms were tied behind the back, and the rope looped over a hook on the ceiling, suspending the prisoner in midair, after which he or she was beaten; beatings with rubber hoses and whips; the use of police dogs to maul prisoners," and "The use of the insertion of the 6-inch dowel into the canal of one of my detainee's ears, and the tapping through the brain until dead. The starvation to death (in a cage), of a Vietnamese woman who was suspected of being part of the local political education cadre in one of the local villages...The use of electronic gear such as sealed telephones attached to...both the women's vaginas and men's testicles [to] shock them into submission."

mike pompeo portraitThis is what the CIA is. This is what the CIA has always been. This is what [the new Secretary of State] Mike Pompeo, shown at left, said he wanted to help make the CIA "much more vicious" than. Appointing Gina Haspel as head of the agency is just putting an honest face on it.

It really couldn't be more fitting that the US now has an actual, literal torturer as the head of the CIA. It also couldn't be more fitting that it djt official Smallhas a reality TV star billionaire President, an Iraq-raping Bush-era neoconservative psychopath as National Security Advisor, a former defense industry director as Secretary of Defense, a former Goldman Sachs executive as Secretary Treasurer, and a former Rothschild, Inc. executive as Secretary of Commerce. These positions have always facilitated torture, oppression, war profiteering and Wall Street greed; the only thing that has changed is that they now have a more honest face on them.

The mask of the nationless Orwellian oligarchy which dominates our world is slipping off all over the place.

Israel FlagIsrael is now openly massacring unarmed Palestinian civilians, prompting a UN investigation into possible war crimes. Only two nations voted in opposition to the investigation, and surprise surprise it was the two nations apart from Israel who most clearly owe their existence to the institutionalized slaughter and brutalization of their indigenous occupants in recent history: the US and Australia. All other members of the UN Human Rights Council either voted in support of the investigation or abstained.

Internet censorship is becoming more and more brazen as our governments become increasingly concerned that we are developing the wrong kinds of political opinions. Ever since the establishment Douma and Skripal narratives failed to take hold effectively, we've been seeing more and more frantic attempts to seize control of public discourse.

facebook logoTwo weeks after the Atlantic Council explained to us that we need to be propagandized by our governments for our own good, Facebook finally made the marriage of Silicon Valley and the western war machine official by announcing a partnership with the Atlantic Council to ensure that we are all receiving properly authorized information. (Facebook, Announcing New Election Partnership with the Atlantic Council, Katie Harbath (Global Politics and Government Outreach Director), May 17, 2018. See below for details.)

atlantic council logoThe Atlantic Council is pure corruption, funded by powerful oligarchs, NATO, the US State Department, empire-aligned Gulf states and the military-industrial complex. Many threads of the establishment anti-Russia narrative trace back to this highly influential think tank, from the DNC hack to the discredited war propaganda firm Bellingcat to imaginary Russian trolls to the notorious McCarthyite PropOrNot blacklist publicized by the Washington Post.

twitter bird CustomFacebook involving itself with this malignant warmongering psyop factory constitutes an open admission that the social media site considers it its duty to manipulate people into supporting the agendas of the western empire. We're seeing similar manipulations in Twitter, which recently announced that it will be hiding posts by more controversial accounts, and by Wikipedia, which has been brazenly editing the entries of anti-imperialist activists with a cartoonishly pro-establishment slant.

It is always a good sign when people in power become concerned that their subjects are developing the wrong kinds of political opinions, because it means that truth is winning. All this gibberish we've been hearing about "Russian disinformation" and "Russian propaganda" is just a label that has been pinned on dissenting narratives by a mass media propaganda machine that has lost control of the narrative.

george orwell on continuous war

More Gaza Massacre Follow Up

pepe escobarAsia Times, Opinion: Letter from Iran: Mr. Trump, you have been served, Pepe Escobar (shown at right), May 19, 2018. Former CIA officers, Pentagon officials, US Army officers and former diplomats demand explanation of Israeli actions.

In a letter addressed to President Donald Trump, with copies to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the UN Security Council, four top former officials at the highest level of the US government have given him legal notice about his duty to advise the US Congress, the ICC and the UNSC, among others, about Israel’s actions coinciding with the “70th anniversary of the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from their homes.”

The letter is signed, among others, by former CIA operations officer Phil Giraldi; former Pentagon official Michael Maloof; former US Army officer and State Department coordinator for counterterrorism contractor Scott Bennett; and former diplomat and author of Visas For al-Qaeda: CIA Handouts That Rocked The World, Michael Springmann.

Maloof, Bennett and Giraldi, as well as Springmann and this correspondent, were among guests at the 6th International New Horizon conference in the holy city of Mashhad, eastern Iran. The top themes of the conference’s debates were Palestine and the Trump administration’s unilateral exit from the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). As Maloof and Bennett separately confirmed to Asia Times, the letter was written by Giraldi and Maloof at an airport lounge as they were waiting for a flight from Mashhad to Tehran, where it was presented at a press conference this past Tuesday. This correspondent was on a reporting trip in Karaj. We all reunited on Thursday at Mashhad’s airport. The press conference in Tehran was virtually ignored by US corporate media.

Longtime CIA Outed As Mole In Trump Campaign?

glenn greenwald firstlookThe Intercept, The FBI Informant Who Monitored the Trump Campaign, Glenn Greenwald (shown at right), May 19, 2018. Stefan Halper, Oversaw a CIA Spying Operation in the 1980 Presidential Election

An extremely strange episode that has engulfed official Washington over the last two weeks came to a truly bizarre conclusion on Friday night. And it revolves around a long-time, highly sketchy CIA operative, Stefan Halper.

george hw bush HRFour decades ago, Halper was responsible for a long-forgotten spying scandal involving the 1980 election, in which the Reagan campaign – using CIA officials managed by Halper, reportedly under the direction of former CIA Director and then-Vice-Presidential candidate George H.W. Bush (shown in a file photo) – got caught running a spying operation from inside the Carter administration. jimmy carter portraitThe plot involved CIA operatives passing classified information about Carter’s foreign policy to Reagan campaign officials in order to ensure the Reagan campaign knew of any foreign policy decisions that Carter (shown in a portrait at right) was considering.

Over the past several weeks, House Republicans have been claiming that the FBI during the 2016 election used an operative to spy on the Trump campaign, and they triggered outrage within the FBI by trying to learn his identity. The controversy escalated when President Trump joined the fray on Friday morning. “Reports are there was indeed at least one FBI representative implanted, for political purposes, into my campaign for president,” Trump tweeted, adding: “It took place very early on, and long before the phony Russia Hoax became a “hot” Fake News story. If true – all time biggest political scandal!”

In response, the DOJ and the FBI’s various media spokespeople did not deny the core accusation, but quibbled with the language (the FBI used an “informant,” not a “spy”), and then began using increasingly strident language to warn that exposing his name would jeopardize his life and those of others, and also put American national security at grave risk. On May 8, the Washington Post described the informant as “a top-secret intelligence source” and cited DOJ officials as arguing that disclosure of his name “could risk lives by potentially exposing the source, a U.S. citizen who has provided intelligence to the CIA and FBI.”

mark warner shirtsleevesThe top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner (shown at right), who spent much of last week working to ensure confirmation of Trump’s choice to lead the CIA, Gina Haspel, actually threatened his own colleagues in Congress with criminal prosecution if they tried to obtain the identity of the informant. “Anyone who is entrusted with our nation’s highest secrets should act with the gravity and seriousness of purpose that knowledge deserves,” Warner said.

But now, as a result of some very odd choices by the nation’s largest media outlets, everyone knows the name of the FBI’s informant: Stefan Halper. And Halper’s history is quite troubling, particularly his central role in the scandal in the 1980 election. Equally troubling are the DOJ and FBI’s highly inflammatory and, at best, misleading claims that they made to try to prevent Halper’s identity from being reported.

To begin with, it’s obviously notable that the person the FBI used to monitor the Trump campaign is the same person who worked as a CIA operative running that 1980 Presidential election spying campaign.

It was not until several years after Reagan’s victory over Carter did this scandal emerge. It was leaked by right-wing officials inside the Reagan administration who wanted to undermine officials they regarded as too moderate, including then White House Chief of Staff James Baker, who was a Bush loyalist.

The NYT in 1983 said the Reagan campaign spying operation “involved a number of retired Central Intelligence Agency officials and was highly secretive.” The article, by then-NYT reporter Leslie Gelb, added that its “sources identified Stefan A. Halper, a campaign aide involved in providing 24-hour news updates and policy ideas to the traveling Reagan party, as the person in charge.” Halper, now 73, had also worked with Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and Alexander Haig as part of the Nixon administration.

cia logoWhen the scandal first broke in 1983, the UPI suggested that Halper’s handler for this operation was Reagan’s Vice Presidential candidate, George H.W. Bush, who had been the CIA Director and worked there with Halper’s father-in-law, former CIA Deputy Director Ray Cline, who worked on Bush’s 1980 presidential campaign before Bush ultimately became Reagan’s Vice President. It quoted a former Reagan campaign official as blaming the leak on “conservatives [who] are trying to manipulate the Jimmy Carter papers controversy to force the ouster of White House Chief of Staff James Baker.”

Halper, through his CIA work, has extensive ties to the Bush family. Few remember that the CIA’s perceived meddling in the 1980 election – its open support for its former Director, George H.W. Bush to become President – was a somewhat serious political controversy. And Halper was in that middle of that, too.

In 1980, the Washington Post published an article reporting on the extremely unusual and quite aggressive involvement of the CIA in the 1980 presidential campaign. “Simply put, no presidential campaign in recent memory — perhaps ever — has attracted as much support from the intelligence community as the campaign of former CIA director Bush,” the article said.

Though there was nothing illegal about ex-CIA officials uniting to put a former CIA Director in the Oval Office, the paper said “there are some rumblings of uneasiness in the intelligence network.” It specifically identified Cline as one of the most prominent CIA official working openly for Bush, noting that he “recommended his son-in-law, Stefan A. Halper, a former Nixon White House aide, be hired as Bush’s director of policy development and research.”

In 2016, top officials from the intelligence community similarly rallied around Hillary Clinton. As The Intercept has previously documented:

Former acting CIA Director Michael Morell not only endorsed Clinton in the New York Times but claimed that “Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.” George W. Bush’s CIA and NSA director, Gen. Michael Hayden, pronounced Trump a “clear and present danger” to U.S. national security and then, less than a week before the election, went to the Washington Post to warn that “Donald Trump really does sound a lot like Vladimir Putin” and said Trump is “the useful fool, some naif, manipulated by Moscow, secretly held in contempt, but whose blind support is happily accepted and exploited.”

djt official SmallSo as it turns out, the informant used by the FBI in 2016 to gather information on the Trump campaign was not some previously unknown, top-secret asset whose exposure as an operative could jeopardize lives. Quite the contrary: his decades of work for the CIA – including his role in an obviously unethical if not criminal spying operation during the 1980 presidential campaign – is quite publicly known.

And now, as a result of some baffling choices by the nation’s largest news organizations as well as their anonymous sources inside the U.S. Government, Stefan Halper’s work for the FBI during the 2016 is also publicly known

george papadopoulos linked in croppedLast night, both the Washington Post and New York Times – whose reporters, like pretty much everyone in Washington, knew exactly who the FBI informant is – published articles that, while deferring to the FBI’s demands by not naming him, provided so many details about him that it made it extremely easy to know exactly who it is. The NYT described the FBI informant as “an American academic who teaches in Britain” and who “made contact late that summer with” George Papadopoulos (shown at left) and “also met repeatedly in the ensuing months with the other aide, Carter Page.” The Post similarly called him “a retired American professor” who met with Page “at a symposium about the White House race held at a British university.”

In contrast to the picture purposely painted by the DOJ and its allies that this informant was some of sort super-secret, high-level, covert intelligence asset, the NYT described him as what he actually is: “the informant is well known in Washington circles, having served in previous Republican administrations and as a source of information for the C.I.A. in past years.”

Despite how “well known” he is in Washington, and despite publishing so many details about him that anyone with Google would be able to instantly know his name, the Post and the NYT nonetheless bizarrely refused to identity him, with the Post justifying its decision that it “is not reporting his name following warnings from U.S. intelligence officials that exposing him could endanger him or his contacts.” The NYT was less melodramatic about it, citing a general policy: the NYT “has learned the source’s identity but typically does not name informants to preserve their safety,” it said.

In other words, both the NYT and the Post chose to provide so many details about the FBI informant that everyone would know exactly who it was, while coyly pretending that they were obeying FBI demands not to name him. How does that make sense? Either these newspapers believe the FBI’s grave warnings that national security and lives would be endangered if it were known who they used as their informant (in which case those papers should not publish any details that would make his exposure likely), or they believe that the FBI (as usual) was just invoking false national security justifications to hide information it unjustly wants to keep from the public (in which case the newspapers should name him).

In any event, publication of those articles by the NYT and Post last night made it completely obvious who the FBI informant was, because the Daily Caller’s investigative reporter Chuck Ross on Thursday had published an article reporting that a long-time CIA operative who is now a professor at Cambridge repeatedly met with Papadopoulos and Page. The article, in its opening paragraph, named the professor, Stefan Halper, and described him as “a University of Cambridge professor with CIA and MI6 contacts.”

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Syria Sitrep: Liberating The M5 Highway, Syria's Economic Lifeline, B, May 19, 2018.  In this situation report (Sitrep) we look at the consolidation of the Syrian government space, discuss the upcoming operatitwelons to secure the vital M5 highway, clear up the S-300 confusion and provide a bit on the political developments.

 

Battle Map of Syria in May 2017

Over the last twelve months the Syrian Arab Army and its allies made a lot of progress. The government held area was extended to the Euphrates and the Syrian-Iraqi border. Deir Ezzor was liberated. The border to Lebanon was secured. All "rebel" enclaves within the government held areas (except the ISIS desert pocket) were consolidated.

After clearing up east-Ghouta east of the capital Damascus the Syrian government forces were concentrated around the Yarmouk camp south of the city. Yarmouk, originally a Palestinian refugee camp, is a densely build-up area which was held by Islamic State fighters as well as "rebels" paid by foreign countries. The "rebels" have since given up and were evacuated to Idleb governorate. The ISIS held area is reduced to less than a square mile of dense urban terrain. There were contradicting reports today that the ISIS fighters had given up and were ready to evacuate. Whatever they decide the area will be liberated in a week or so. The Syrian capital will then be completely secure.

Until two weeks ago a large area around al-Rastan between Homs and Hama was still held by mostly local "rebel" forces. The Syrian government sent its Tiger forces and an ultimatum - give up or die. The "rebels" decided to avoid a fight which they would surely have lost. They agreed to be evacuated and were dumped into Idleb. Al-Rastan is back in government hands. This move freed the M5 highway between Homs and Hama.

The M5 highway is the main north-south artery of Syria. It connects Gaziantep in Turkey with Amman in Jordan. The highway runs through the main Syrian cities of Aleppo, Hama, Homs and Damascus. Before the war started all transit traffic between Turkey and the rich Gulf countries as well as most of the internal Syrian commerce ran along this road. Turkey, Syria and Jordan have a common economic interest in securing and reopening this important lifeline. After clearing up east-Ghouta east of the capital Damascus the Syrian government forces were concentrated around the Yarmouk camp south of the city. Yarmouk, originally a Palestinian refugee camp, is a densely build-up area which was held by Islamic State fighters as well as "rebels" paid by foreign countries. The "rebels" have since given up and were evacuated to Idleb governorate. The ISIS held area is reduced to less than a square mile of dense urban terrain. There were contradicting reports today that the ISIS fighters had given up and were ready to evacuate. Whatever they decide the area will be liberated in a week or so. The Syrian capital will then be completely secure.

Until two weeks ago a large area around al-Rastan between Homs and Hama was still held by mostly local "rebel" forces. The Syrian government sent its Tiger forces and an ultimatum - give up or die. The "rebels" decided to avoid a fight which they would surely have lost. They agreed to be evacuated and were dumped into Idleb. Al-Rastan is back in government hands. This move freed the M5 highway between Homs and Hama.

The M5 highway is the main north-south artery of Syria. It connects Gaziantep in Turkey with Amman in Jordan. The highway runs through the main Syrian cities of Aleppo, Hama, Homs and Damascus. Before the war started all transit traffic between Turkey and the rich Gulf countries as well as most of the internal Syrian commerce ran along this road. Turkey, Syria and Jordan have a common economic interest in securing and reopening this important lifeline (emphasis in original).

1) It could move from the northern border triangle of Lebanon, Syria and the Zionist occupied Golan heights (purple) southwards along the demarcation line and down to the border of Jordan. UN observers could return to the Golan demarcation line, monitor the operation and prevent it from escalating into a war with Israel. The move would isolate the al-Qaeda and ISIS "rebels" in the area from their Israeli supplies. The Takfiris could then be pressured from the west, north and east and a general cleanup would follow. The move would be militarily and politically dicey as Israel would probably try to prevent it. But it would also solve an important political problem once and for all. The Russian command should talk with Israel and discuss this plan.

2) The politically and militarily easier move is to proceed from Daraa to the Jordan border and to thereby encircle the eastern part of the rebel held area. The eastern part can then be liberated slice by slice. This would allow for unhindered M5 traffic from Damascus towards al-Mafraq and Amman but it would leave the ISIS/al-Qaeda pocket along the occupied Golan heights as a festering problem.

May 18

Another School Shooting Massacre

washington post logoWashington Post, Ten killed in Texas high school shooting by student firing his father’s guns, governor says, Nick Anderson, Brittney Martin, Mark Berman and Susan Svrluga​​, May 18, 2018. Ten people were killed in a shooting Friday morning at a high school here in Southeast Texas by a student wielding two of his father’s guns, authorities said. Police were also investigating explosive devices found at the school and elsewhere in the community.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said that in addition to the 10 people slain, another 10 people were injured in the rampage at Santa Fe High School, about 34 miles southeast of Houston.

The shooting was the 16th so far this year at a school during school hours, according to a Washington Post analysis, the highest number at this point in any year since 1999, the year of the Columbine High massacre. The Post’s analysis found that since 1999, shootings during school hours have killed at least 139 children, educators and other people; another 277 have also been injured.

dimitrios pagourtzis mug houston school shooterThe suspected shooter has been identified as Dimitrios Pagourtzis, right, officials said. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said it was unclear whether the father knew his son had taken the weapons. Investigators were also examining multiple explosive devices found at the suspect's home and at the school.

Health News

washington post logoWashington Post, Alarm grows as Ebola is confirmed in Congo city of 1.2 million, Max Bearak, May 18, 2018 (print edition). In what is now the most serious outbreak since the epidemic that raged across West Africa between 2014 and 2016, a World Health Organization official called the first urban case “a game changer.”

planned parenthood cropped logo

ny times logoDonald TrumpNew York Times, White House to Tie Health Clinics’ Funds to Abortion Limits, Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Maggie Haberman, May 17, 2018. The change, a top priority of social conservatives, would bar reproductive health organizations from providing or mentioning abortions at any facility that receives federal family planning funds.

ny times logoNew York Times, New Drug Offers Hope to Millions With Severe Migraines, Gina Kolata, May 18, 2018 (print edition). The F.D.A. has approved the first drug designed to prevent migraines, a persistent cause of misery worldwide.

The first medicine designed to prevent migraines was approved by the Food and Drug Administration on Thursday, ushering in what many experts believe will be a new era in treatment for people who suffer the most severe form of these headaches.

novartis logoThe drug, Aimovig, made by Amgen and Novartis, is a monthly injection with a device similar to an insulin pen. The list price will be $6,900 a year, and Amgen said the drug will be available to patients within a week. Aimovig blocks a protein fragment, CGRP, that instigates and perpetuates migraines. Three other companies — Lilly, Teva and Alder — have similar medicines in the final stages of study or awaiting F.D.A. approval.

Millions of people experience severe migraines so often that they are disabled and in despair. These drugs do not prevent all migraine attacks, but can make them less severe and can reduce their frequency by 50 percent or more.One in seven people worldwide experience migraines, among them 37 million Americans — as many as 20 percent of women, and 10 percent of men.

washington post logous house logoWashington Post, In major embarrassment to GOP, House fails to pass massive Farm Bill in face of conservative Republican showdown, Erica Werner​, May 18, 2018. The sweeping measure failed as GOP leaders were unable to placate conservatives demanding commitments on immigration. Leadership put the bill on the floor gambling it would pass despite unanimous Democratic opposition. They negotiated with conservative lawmakers up to the last minutes. But their gamble failed.

A sweeping farm bill failed in the House on Friday in a major embarrassment to GOP leaders who were unable to placate conservatives demanding commitments on immigration. Leadership put the bill on the floor gambling it would pass despite unanimous Democratic opposition. They negotiated with conservative lawmakers up to the last minutes.

paul ryan wBut their gamble failed. The vote was 198-213. The outcome exposed the intractable divisions within the GOP conference that have bedeviled House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis., shown at right) and will be certain to dog both the top lieutenants trying to replace him, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.).

“Times are not good right now in the heartland. Many of our nation’s farmers and ranchers, who have been struggling under the weight of a five-year recession, are just one bad year away from being forced out of business,” Conaway said. “And in the face of these serious challenges, the last thing they need is the uncertainty of a prolonged debate over the 2018 farm bill.”

False Flag Victims Survive?

ny times logoNew York Times, Ex-Russian Spy Leaves Hospital After Poisoning, Michael Wolgelenter and Ellen Barry, May 18, 2018. Sergei V. Skripal, the former Russian spy whose poisoning in a sleepy English city touched off a diplomatic storm between Russia and the West, has been released from a hospital, British officials said on Friday.

sergei skripal julia skirpal pub Mr. Skripal, 66, and his daughter, Yulia, were both in critical condition after they were poisoned with a nerve agent known as a novichok — developed by Soviet scientists for battlefield use against Western troops — in the cathedral city of Salisbury, in southwest England, on March 4. They are shown in a photo at a seafood restaurant before they became ill.

The British authorities said that Russia was to blame for the attack, an accusation that significantly raised tensions between the two countries and led to the expulsion of hundreds of diplomats from Britain, its allies and Russia.

Shortly after the poisoning, both victims were put into induced comas, a technique that lowers metabolism and may prevent poison from damaging the organs. They were also given medication to suppress seizures and an antidote, like atropine. Early reports suggested that the Skripals were hovering between life and death, and a court order in late March suggested that one or both may have sustained severe brain damage.

The authorities have not said where the Skripals are now living, and the Metropolitan Police said in a statement on Friday that it would not provide any details about the protective and security measures they have employed.

According to the British government, Yulia Skripal rejected an offer of Russian consular assistance, although she has not been heard from or seen since her release from the hospital. Russia has insisted on being allowed access to the Skripals and said that it believes the two are being held against their will.

vladimir putin o wSpeaking at a news conference in Sochi, Russia, President Vladimir V. Putin (shown at right) welcomed the news about Mr. Skripal. “Thank God he has gotten better, been discharged from the hospital,” he said. “I hope he will be healthy, alive and unscathed.”

But he also used the occasion to dismiss accusations from Britain that Russia was behind the attempt to poison Mr. Skripal with a deadly toxin. If a military-grade nerve agent had been used, he said, “then this person would have died on the spot.”

Trump Nominates New VA Secretary

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump nominates acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie to be the agency’s permanent leader, Lisa Rein and Paul Sonne, May 18, 2018. President Trump on Friday nominated the Department of Veterans Affairs’ acting secretary, Robert Wilkie (shown right) as its permanent leader, choosing a Washington insider to restore confidence in an agency roiled by political infighting.

robert wilkie vaWilkie, 55, is an officer in the Air Force Reserve who has worked on Capitol Hill (beginning as counsel to U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms, R-NC) and in the Pentagon under two presidents. He was unaware Trump’s announcement was coming, although he was a leading contender for the job and recently flew to the president’s private Mar-a-Lago Club in South Florida to meet with Marvel Entertainment chief executive Ike Perlmutter, an unofficial adviser to Trump on veterans issues.

Trump Probes

washington post logoWashington Post, Giuliani: Trump doesn’t know ‘for sure’ that there was an FBI informant in his campaign, Jenna Johnson​, May 18, 2018. The president has repeatedly alleged that during the Obama administration, the FBI placed someone inside his campaign to improperly spy on him.

May 17

Inside DC With News Opinion Leaders

asne logo

Justice Integrity Project editor Andrew Kreig, a member of ASNE and several other major journalism groups, published two articles (excerpted below) in the spring 2018 edition of ASNE's quarterly publication Masthead. The columns reported on a two-day briefing session this month for about a dozen ASNE members at the conservative Heritage Foundation on May 5 and the following day at Trump administration's U.S. Department of State. 

asne logoAmerican Society of Newspaper Editors, Heritage panel: Conservatism supports, survives Trump, Andrew Kreig, May 17, 2018. The conservative movement’s policies largely coincide with President Donald Trump’s agenda and so will emerge intact if not stronger following his presidency.

That was the view of at least three of four conservative scholars convened on May 6 at The Heritage Foundation by the American Society of News Editors (ASNE). “We did some surveying,” said Dr. Lee Edwards, panel moderator and Heritage Distinguished Fellow in Conservative Thought, “and we found out that the Trump administration adopted 64 percent of the recommendations in our latest mandate for leadership. 64 percent. By the way, that’s almost the same percentage as that adopted by the Reagan Administration in his first year

asne logoAmerican Society of Newspaper Editors, State Dept. report: U.S. counters threats from China, North Korea, Andrew Kreig, May 17, 2018. The United States takes a stern stance against threats from China and North Korea, according to a senior U.S. Department of State official who briefed ASNE members this month at the department’s headquarters in Washington, DC.

“We’re not going to abide China’s attempts to displace the United States in Asia,” Susan Thornton, acting assistant secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said on May 7 during the department’s annual briefing for ASNE members. Thornton, acting assistant secretary since March 2017 and a career member of the U.S. Foreign Service since 1991, began her remarks by describing how the Asia-Pacific region contains one third of the world’s population and contributes one third of the world’s gross domestic product.

Trump Threatens Kim With Fate Like Libyan Leader Who Was Tortured To Death

kim jong unGuardian, Trump's warning to Kim Jong-un: make a deal or suffer same fate as Gaddafi, Staff report, May 17, 2018. Asked about ‘Libya model’, Trump says: ‘That model… was total decimation. That model would take place if we don’t make a deal.’

Donald Trump has threatened Kim Jong-un (shown at right in a file photo) with the same fate as Muammar Gaddafi if the North Korean leader “doesn’t make a deal” on his nuclear weapons programme.

The US president issued the threat at the White House when he was asked about the recent suggestion by his national security adviser, John Bolton, that the “Libyan model” be a template for dealing with North Korea at a summit between Trump and Kim planned for 12 June in Singapore.

john bolton youtube guardianThe model Bolton (shown in a file photo) was referring to was Gaddafi’s agreement in December 2003 to surrender his embryonic nuclear weapons programme, which included allowing his uranium centrifuges to be shipped out to the US.

But Trump appeared to be unaware of that agreement, and interpreted the “Libyan model” to mean the 2011 NATO intervention in Libya in support of an insurrection, which ultimately led to Gaddafi’s murder at the hands of rebels in Tripoli.

“The model, if you look at that model with Gaddafi, that was a total decimation. We went in there to beat him. Now that model would take place if we don’t make a deal, most likely. But if we make a deal, I think Kim Jong-un is going to be very, very happy,” Trump said.

Asked whether his comments meant that he disagreed with his national security adviser, the third of his administration, the president said: “I think when John Bolton made that statement, he was talking about if we are going to be having a problem, because we cannot let that country have nukes. We just can’t do it.”

American FlagThe inflammatory comments came at a time when the June summit is in doubt. The Pyongyang regime reacted strongly against statements by Bolton over the weekend, insisting that North Korea would have to dismantle its nuclear arsenal completely and immediately. A senior official said on Wednesday that Kim would not take part in a summit with such “one-sided” goals.

In his remarks on Thursday, Trump stressed that Kim would receive strong security guarantees if he agreed to disarm.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump offers reassurance that dictator Kim Jong Un would remain in power under nuclear deal, David Nakamura and Philip Rucker​, May 17, 2018. The president’s public statement appeared aimed at ensuring that Pyongyang does not follow through on threats to pull out of the summit in June.

Moon of Alabama: Opinion: Trump's Newest Threat To North Korea Makes A Deal Impossible, B, May 18, 2018. President Trump again derailed the negotiations with North Korea. It will be difficult to get them back on track. The attitude he showed makes it unlikely that any deal will be made.

north korea flagTuesday night North Korea threatened to cancel the summit with U.S. President Trump. Remarks by U.S. National Security Advisor Bolton that the "Libya model" would be applied to North Korea were taken as insult.

Libya had bought some equipment that could be used to eventually start Uranium enrichment. But it never had a coordinated program to develop nuclear weapons nor did it have the industrial and academic base to pursue such a project. To get out of sanctions Libya gave up the little material it had. All was shipped to the U.S. before the sanctions were lifted. Bolton probably referred to only that part of the "Libya model".

But there is also the other part. A few years after Libya had given up its minuscule nuclear stuff France, the United Kingdom and the U.S. (FUKUS) waged a regime change war against it. With U.S. help Muhammad Ghaddafi was murdered by radical Islamists and Hillary Clinton even joked (video here) about it. Libya has since devolved into total chaos and a multi-sided tribal war with continued foreign meddling.

North Korea naturally rejects both parts of the Libya model. It sees itself -- quite rightly -- as a full fledged nuclear state. It demands negotiations on an equal base.

sarah huckabee sanders screenshotOn Wednesday, after the North Korean threat to cancel the summit, the White House spokesperson pulled back on Bolton's "Libya model": Referring to the Libya comparison, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders (shown in a file photo) said Wednesday that she hadn't "seen that as part of any discussions so I'm not aware that that's a model that we're using.

The train to the summit seemed back on its track. Then Donald Trump derailed it again. During a press conference yesterday he was asked about the "Libya model" issue (vid) and, in a seemingly off the cuff remark, managed to push the divisive comparison to a new level:

“The model, if you look at that model with Gaddafi, that was a total decimation. We went in there to beat him. Now that model would take place if we don’t make a deal, most likely. But if we make a deal, I think Kim Jong-un is going to be very, very happy.”

One might call that the 'art of the mafia deal': "Sign here or I will kill you." In my book, a threat of "total decimation" is a quite a bit more than "a warning."

Qatar To Rescue Kushner NYC Boondogle? Why?

ny times logoNew York Times, Qatar-Linked Firm Nears Deal to Bail Out Kushner Tower, Charles V. Bagli and Jesse Drucker, May 17, 2018. The company run by Jared Kushner’s family is close to getting a bailout of its troubled flagship tower in Midtown Manhattan by a company tied to Qatar’s government.

The company controlled by the family of the White House adviser Jared Kushner is close to receiving a bailout of its troubled flagship building by a company with financial ties to the government of Qatar, according to executives briefed on the deal.

qatar flagCharles Kushner, head of the Kushner Companies, is in advanced talks with Brookfield Asset Management over a partnership to take control of the 41-story aluminum-clad tower in Midtown Manhattan, 666 Fifth Avenue, according to two real estate executives who have been briefed on the pending deal but were not authorized to discuss it. Brookfield is a publicly traded company, and its real estate arm, Brookfield Property Partners, is partly owned by the Qatari government, through the Qatar Investment Authority.

Charles Kushner and his son Jared, President Trump’s son-in-law and one of his key advisers, bought the office tower, which is between 52nd and 53rd Streets, 11 years ago for a record-setting $1.8 billion. But the building today only generates about half its annual mortgage payment, and 30 percent of the 41-story tower is vacant.

Senate Confirms CIA's Former Torture, Cover-up Enabler

gina haspel screenshot

Roll Call, Senate Confirms Gina Haspel to Lead CIA, Niels Lesniewski, May 17, 2018. Bipartisan vote does not follow partisan script. After a number of Democratic senators announced they would support President Donald Trump’s choice of Deputy CIA Director Gina Haspel (shown above in a file photo) to run the agency, she was easily confirmed Thursday afternoon.

cia logoIn what has become a bit of a regular routine, Senate leaders reached an agreement to expedite votes on a key national security nominee and prevent any threat of a weekend session. The floor vote tally was 54-45. Sen. Doug Jones, the new Democratic senator from heavily Republican Alabama, came down against Haspel.

Much of the focus had been on how Democrats from states won by Trump in 2016 would vote, but the vote ended up being somewhat more complicated than that. “There is a legal and moral responsibility that comes with operating in secrecy,” he said in a statement. “Some of Ms. Haspel’s past actions and beliefs did not meet that standard. We must choose leaders that consistently embody our highest ideals, rather than our darkest moments.”

Related story: Washington Post, Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program, Shane Harris and Karoun Demirjian, May 17, 2018. The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Gina Haspel as the next CIA director after several Democrats were persuaded to support her despite lingering concerns about the role she played in the brutal interrogation of suspected terrorists captured after 9/11.

john brennan croppedLawmakers approved Haspel’s nomination 54 to 45, with six Democrats voting yes and two Republicans voting no, after the agency launched an unprecedented public relations campaign to bolster Haspel’s chances. She appears to have been helped, too, by some last-minute arm-twisting by former CIA directors John Brennan (shown at right) and Leon Panetta, who contacted at least five of the six Democrats to endorse her bid to join President Trump’s Cabinet, according to people with knowledge of the interactions

Following a nerve-agent attack in Britain that American and British officials blamed on the Russian government, Haspel argued for a forceful response, which ultimately led to the United States expelling 60 Russian intelligence operatives and shuttering a Russian consulate in Seattle, people with knowledge of her role said. Haspel was a leading player in the multi­agency response to the attack and advised the president to make a bold demonstration to counter Russia and stand with Britain, the United States’ closest intelligence ally, these people said.

Health Care

wayne madsen reportWayne Madsen Report (WMR), Did Team Trump kill Obamacare to profit from higher health care costs? May 17, 2018 (Subscription required). Wayne Madsen (shown at right), a syndicated columnist, author and former Navy intelligence officer, edits the 5x-per-week Wayne Madsen Report. There is a growing mountain of evidence that Donald Trump and some of his closest associates moved to kill the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as "Obamacare," in order to enrich themselves and their major health industry campaign donors with resulting higher health care costs.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘The Grossest Thing’: Women Recall Exams by U.S.C. Doctor, Jennifer Medina, May 17, 2018. Dozens of women have called a university hotline amid allegations of misconduct against a campus gynecologist, George Tyndall, that date to the 1990s.

He quipped about the looseness of a woman’s vagina. He remarked on the smoothness of another woman’s skin. He surprised one patient by suddenly removing her tampon and dangling it in front of her.

Former students at the University of Southern California are coming forward by the dozens, re-examining years-old interactions with Dr. George Tyndall, the longtime gynecologist at the student health center who is now at the center of a growing scandal. What they considered inappropriate and humiliating at the time, they are now reporting to a special university hotline as signs of the doctor’s trail of abuse.

China Negotiations

ny times logoNew York Times, China Expected to Offer Trade Concessions: Up to $200 Billion, Mark Landler and Ana Swanson, May 17, 2018.  Chinese negotiators are preparing to offer the U.S. a mammoth package of promises to buy more American goods. It’s a bid to pare down the trade deficit between the two countries and to defuse President Trump’s aggressive moves. But economists are skeptical of any Chinese promises.

china flag SmallPresident Trump, facing an economic war with China and a momentous meeting with North Korea, is considering a trade deal with Beijing that would soothe tensions and clear the way for his historic encounter with Kim Jong-un. But it would risk abandoning the president’s broader goal of punishing China for years of pressuring American companies to hand over sensitive technology.

Chinese negotiators are preparing to offer the administration a deal to buy up to $200 billion worth of American goods, which would allow Mr. Trump to claim victory in his campaign to reduce the trade deficit with China and rebalance America’s trade relationship with its biggest economic rival, according to people briefed on the deliberations.

But the Chinese promises would be largely illusory, economists cautioned, given the structural hurdles in China to buying more American exports and the sheer amount of goods the United States would have to produce to meet Beijing’s demand.

ny times logochina flag SmallNew York Times, Opinion: Did China Just Bribe Trump to Undermine National Security? Paul Krugman, May 17, 2018.  The choice to punish a Chinese company came as a Chinese state-owned firm announced an investment in a project tied to the Trump Organization.

Increasing Controls Over Social Media

facebook logoFacebook, Public Relations Release: Announcing New Election Partnership with the Atlantic Council, Katie Harbath (Global Politics and Government Outreach Director), May 17, 2018. Facebook is investing heavily to prevent our service from being abused during elections. We’re doubling the number of people who work on safety and security and using technology like artificial intelligence to more effectively block fake accounts – the source of many bad ads and a lot of misinformation.

In addition, we’re more actively working with outside experts, governments and other companies because we know that we can’t solve these challenges on our own. For example, last month we announced an independent commission to help fund and organize research into the impact of social media on society — starting with elections.

atlantic council logoToday, we’re excited to launch a new partnership with the Atlantic Council, which has a stellar reputation looking at innovative solutions to hard problems. Experts from their Digital Forensic Research Lab will work closely with our security, policy and product teams to get Facebook real-time insights and updates on emerging threats and disinformation campaigns from around the world. This will help increase the number of “eyes and ears” we have working to spot potential abuse on our service — enabling us to more effectively identify gaps in our systems, preempt obstacles, and ensure that Facebook plays a positive role during elections all around the world.

Facebook will also use the Atlantic Council’s Digital Research Unit Monitoring Missions during elections and other highly sensitive moments. This will allow us to focus on a particular geographic area — monitoring for misinformation and foreign interference and also working to help educate citizens as well as civil society.

Finally, we know that tackling these problems effectively also requires the right policies and regulatory structures so that governments and companies can help prevent abuse while also ensuring people have a voice during elections. The Atlantic Council’s network of leaders is uniquely situated to help all of us think through the challenges we will face in the near and long-term.

Editor's Note: Contrary view here: CaitlinJohnstone.com, Opinion: The Friendly Mask Of The Orwellian Oligarchy Has Fallen Off, Caitlin Johnstone, May 19, 2018.

U.S. Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Defends His ‘Animals’ Remark as Referring to MS-13, Julie Hirshfeld Davis and Niraj Chokshi, May 17, 2018. One day after he prompted criticism for describing dangerous criminals crossing the border as “animals,” Trump reiterated that the term fits for gang members.

ny times logoNew York Times, Both Sides Invoke Watergate, but For Different Reasons, Peter Baker, May 17, 2018.  Forty-four years after Richard Nixon resigned, critics of President Trump see an even worse scandal. Mr. Trump says the real outrage is the investigation. President Trump and his critics actually agree on something. If a column he read in a magazine is correct, he wrote on Twitter on Thursday, “this is bigger than Watergate!”

Never mind that he was thinking of something different than his adversaries when they use the same phrase. Mr. Trump was referring to what he deems a deep-state conspiracy to get him. His detractors are referring to the various scandals swirling around Mr. Trump.

richard nixon wWatergate has long been the touchstone for modern American scandal, the mountain of misconduct against which all others are judged. In the 44 years since Richard M. Nixon (shown at left) resigned, virtually every political investigation has been likened to the one that brought down a president, the suffix “gate” applied to all sorts of public flaps, no matter how significant or trivial.

But rarely has the comparison been as intense and persistent as during the 16 months since Mr. Trump took office — a comparison deployed by both sides in hopes of shaping the narrative of wrongdoing. What started out as an inquiry into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election has mushroomed into questions of perjury, obstruction of justice, conspiracy, abuse of power, illicit spying, hush money, tax fraud, money laundering and influence peddling.

Depending on what is eventually proven, the core scandal could rival Watergate, in which a “third-rate burglary” of Democratic National Committee headquarters ultimately revealed a wide-ranging campaign of political sabotage and spying to influence the 1972 presidential election and undercut perceived rivals. In the current case, a hostile foreign power sought to sway the 2016 election and there is evidence that at least some people in Mr. Trump’s circle were willing to collaborate with it to do so.

Mr. Nixon ordered the firing of Archibald Cox, the Watergate special prosecutor, and was ultimately undone by a secret tape recording of him requesting that his aides use the C.I.A. to impede the F.B.I. investigation into the burglary. Mr. Trump fired James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director originally leading the investigation, and has repeatedly pressured the Justice Department and special counsel to shut down the inquiry and investigate his Democratic rivals instead.

“Watergate pales, really, in my view, compared to what we’re confronting now,” James R. Clapper Jr., the former director of national intelligence, has said. David Corn, an author of “Russian Roulette,” a book about the case, has described it as “much bigger than what happened in Watergate.” After Mr. Comey’s dismissal, James Fallows wrote in The Atlantic that “this scandal looks worse than Watergate.” Carl Bernstein, one of the Washington Post journalists who led the coverage of the Nixon scandal, has said this appears “worse than Watergate in many, many ways.”

Like Hillary Clinton and the “vast right wing conspiracy,” Mr. Trump and his allies are trying to focus attention on the conduct of their pursuers, arguing that the F.B.I. or the special counsel investigating Russia’s involvement in the election have themselves stepped over the line. The president’s tweet on Thursday seized on a column in a conservative magazine asserting that the F.B.I. most likely had a confidential informant inside Mr. Trump’s campaign in 2016.

Mr. Trump extrapolated that to imply that his predecessor, President Barack Obama, had planted a spy on his team. “Wow, word seems to be coming out that the Obama FBI ‘SPIED ON THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN WITH AN EMBEDDED INFORMANT,’” he wrote. “If so,” he added, “this is bigger than Watergate!”

Trump Probes

ny times logoNew York Times, Future Lawmakers, Not Mueller, May Decide Trump’s Fate, Alexander Burns and Charlie Savage, May 17, 2018. The idea of impeachment raises the stakes for control of Congress this November and potentially puts the idea front and center in the midterm elections.

washington post logorobert mueller full face fileWashington Post, Analysis: Mueller probe shows no signs of slowing down as inquiry enters second year, Matt Zapotosky, May 17, 2018.  In 365 days, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and his team have charged 19 people and three companies, securing five guilty pleas, in the wide-ranging Russia probe. Here’s a look at what comes next in the investigation — and how it could end.

washington post logoWashington Post, Probe of leaked banking records related to Michael Cohen expands after New Yorker report, Beth Reinhard and Emma Brown, May 17, 2018. The Treasury Department’s inspector general is expanding a probe into leaks of confidential reports about suspicious banking activity by Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal attorney, to include an uncorroborated allegation that some of those reports were mysteriously absent from a government database.

ny times logofbi logoNew York Times, Analysis: Code Name Crossfire Hurricane: The Secret Origins of the Trump Investigation, Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman and Nicholas Fandos, May 17, 2018 (print edition). It began with an F.B.I. mission to London and a pledge of secrecy. Crossfire Hurricane was its code name. President Trump has described the investigation as a political effort to undermine him. But agents repeatedly took steps that ultimately benefited him.

Planning On Syria

vladimir putin bashar assad kremlin photo

Reuters, World News, Syria's Assad flies to Russia for talks with Putin: Kremlin, Maxim Rodionov and Polina Devitt, May 17, 2018. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (shown at left above in a Kremlin photo) flew to Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s summer residence on the Black Sea for talks on Thursday about the Syrian conflict, the Kremlin said, a visit that underscored Moscow’s status as Assad’s chief backer.

Since fighting broke out in his country in 2011, Assad has traveled only rarely, but has made three publicly-acknowledged visits to Russia, each time for meetings with Putin. Russia’s entry into the conflict in 2015 turned the tide of the conflict in Assad’s favor, and established Russia as a powerbroker in the Middle East.

At the meeting, in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Assad congratulated Putin (shown above at right) on his new term as president, after he was re-elected in March, and thanked the Russian military for its support in Syria. “Stability is improving, and all that opens the doors to the political process, which we started a while ago,” Assad told Putin, according to a transcript of the opening remarks from the meeting posted on the Kremlin website. “I have always said, and I repeat it again, that we have always wholeheartedly supported the political process, which should proceed in parallel with the war on terrorism.”

“We know that will not be easy, since there are countries which do not want stability to return to Syria. However, together with you and our other partners and friends, we will move firmly forward with the peace process,” Assad was quoted as saying.

Russia said it intervened militarily in Syria to defeat violent Islamist extremists who had taken control over parts of the country and were launching bomb and gun attacks in other parts of the world. In remarks cited by the Kremlin, Putin congratulated the Syrian leader on what he said were significant successes on the battlefield achieved by the Syrian military.

“The terrorists have laid down their arms in key locations in Syria, which has allowed for the restoration of Syrian infra-structure,” Putin was cited as saying. “And of course now, after these military successes, additional conditions have doubtless been created for the renewal of a fully-fledged political process.”

WMD 'Gas' Attack In Syria Was False Flag: Analyst

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Syria -- Inconsistent, Incomplete And Implausible: The OPCW Report On Saraqib Is Another Disgrace, B, May 17, 2018. On February 4, two days before a UN Security Council meeting on chemical weapon issues, a Syrian army helicopter flew into Idelb governorate which is held by al-Qaeda. Escaping the quite effective air defenses of the terrorists it dropped two chlorine gas cylinders near a militarily irrelevant agricultural warehouse 40 kilometers away from the front line of the war. Eleven men of fighting age who are living in the al-Qaeda ruled territory were allegedly impacted by the released gas but none of them was seriously hurt.

The implausible story above is the base of a recent report by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. All 'evidence' for the tale comes from organizations which tightly cooperated with al-Qaeda and other militant 'rebel' groups in Syria and are paid by 'western' governments opposed to Syria. The implausible story is repeated in the 'western' press without any journalistic skepticism.

Gaza Massacre Reactions (Continued)

jacob hornberger headshotFuture of Freedom Foundation, Opinion: Time to End Foreign Aid to Israel (and Everyone Else), Jacob G. Hornberger, May 17, 2018. Given the recent shooting of unarmed Palestinian protestors at the hands of Israeli soldiers, leaving 58 people killed and 2,700 injured, isn’t it time for the American people to be asking the following question about the role of the federal government in the lives of the American people: Why should any American be forced to subsidize the salaries of the Israeli soldiers who did the shooting and the rifles and bullets they used in the massacre?

I am referring, of course, to “foreign aid,” the federal program by which American citizens are forced to fund foreign regimes that many would choose not to fund if they had a choice.

Even those who support the deadly mayhem in Gaza nonetheless would be hard-pressed to explain why anyone should be forced to fund something that violates his own conscience. In a genuinely free society (as compared to an unfree society that only purports to be free), people keep their own money and decide what they wish to do with it. Some donate to this cause, others donate to that cause, and some don’t make any donations at all.

Analysis Of Recent Russian News

dmitry medvedev vladimir putin file

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, left, a former president, and President Vladimir Putin

Unz Review, Opinion: Making Sense Of Russian Political Ambiguities, The Saker, May 17, 2018 (Column excerpted to about one-fifth original length). The past couple of weeks saw a number of truly tectonic events taking place simultaneously in the USA, in Russia, in Israel, in Syria, in Iran and in the EU. I would argue that in the past couple of weeks Russia suffered not one, but several PR disasters.

vladimir putin benjamin netanyahu cropped may 9 2018Quick summary: Putin re-appointed Dmitry Medvedev [as prime minister, a post he has held since 2012], appointed Alexei Kudrin as Chairman of the Accounts Chamber of Russia and Vitalii Mutko as Deputy Prime Minister in charge of construction,

He then hosted Bibi Netanyahu in the Kremlin (shown on May 9 together) while the latter bombed Syria right before, during and after Netanyahu’s visit. Finally, there is the disgraceful zig-zag about the S-300 for Syria: first, yes we will do it, then, no we won’t. All these events can, and should, be carefully analyzed and explained, but I don’t think that it makes sense to deny that most people feel a sense of disappointment over it all.

I would argue that even those who think that this is no big deal and that nothing terrible happened will not, if they are honest, deny that Putin must have known, without any doubt, that his decisions would be unpopular with the Russian public and that, very uncharacteristically for him, he deliberately chose to ignore his only public opinion and favor other considerations. That is something very new and, I think, something important.

There are roughly two camps vying for power inside the Kremlin: I call them the Atlantic Integrationists and the Eurasian Sovereignists. The former group is a pure product of the 1990s. We can think of them as “liberals”, IMF/Washington Consensus/WTO/WB types; folks who came to power thanks to the regime of oligarchs which ran Russia from about 1990 to 2000 and which was both deeply pro-American and which had extremely close ties to Israel and the various political Jewish and Zionist organizations in the West.

The latter group is primarily a product of the armed forces and the security services. The “bridge” between the two is, by the way, the Russian military industrial complex in which both groups are represented. Unsurprisingly, most Russian “elites” (defined simply as people who made their fortune or, at least, a good living in the 1990s and after) support the Atlantic Integrationists, while most “regular” Russian people overwhelmingly support the Eurasian Sovereignists. This is why Putin is so popular and Medvedev never was.

Objectively, the Medvedev government has done a very decent, if not good job, with the economy. True, some/many believe that mistakes were made, that there were better economic policies available, but it would be hard to argue that the government completely failed. In fact, there are some pretty strong arguments which indicate that the Medvedev government (see this article discussing this in detail and it’s machine translation here and this article and its machine translation here).

Putin’s very ambitious internal economic growth program needs the support of the interests represented by the Atlantic Integrationists. In fact, internal development and economic growth are the core of his very ambitious political program. Possibly not the best time to purge the Kremlin from those who represent the interests of Russian big business.

Much will depend on how the Russian economy will perform. If, courtesy of Trump’s megalomaniacal policies towards Iran and the EU, Russia’s economy receives a massive injection of funds (via high energy prices), then things will probably stabilize. But if the European leaders meekly cave in and join the sanctions against Iran and if the US succeeds in imposing even further sanctions on Russia, then the Medvedev government will face a serious crisis and the revival of the Russian economy promised by Putin will end up in an embarrassing failure and things could also go from bad to even worse.

There is a very high likelihood that Israel will succeed in triggering a US attack on Iran. If/when that happens, this will trigger a political crisis inside Russia because the space for the current political ambiguities will be dramatically reduced. On moral and on pragmatic grounds, Russia will have to decide whether she can afford to be a bystander or not. This will not be an easy choice as their shall be no consensus on what to do inside the ruling elites. But the stakes will be too high and the consequences of inaction prohibitive.

Media / #MeToo

washington post logofox news logo SmallWashington Post, Fox News names female CEO, but critics say she helped try to thwart harassment claims under Roger Ailes, Paul Farhi, May 17, 2018. Suzanne Scott — who has been with Fox since its inception in 1996 and most recently served as president of programming — becomes the only woman atop a major TV news organization, but her role in past harassment cases is triggering criticism.

#MeToo Claim Against Trump

washington post logoWashington Post, Appeals court denies Trump request to stay Summer Zervos defamation case, Mark Berman and Frances Stead Sellers​, May 17, 2018.  The ruling is a legal setback for President Trump and could open him to discovery in the case.

Donald TrumpA New York appeals court on Thursday rejected a request from President Trump to stay proceedings in a defamation suit filed by a former contestant on “The Apprentice” who has claimed that he sexually harassed her.

The ruling on Thursday is a legal setback for Trump, who is facing multiple lawsuits focused on allegations women have made against him as well as his public comments about those women. It could open him up to discovery in the case, although he could also file further appeals to try to delay proceedings.

summer zervosTrump’s attorneys sought a temporary halt in the case filed by Summer Zervos (shown at left) — who has accused him of groping and forcibly kissing her — while they awaited word on their appeal of a judge’s ruling this year that Zervos’s defamation lawsuit could proceed. Zervos sued Trump for defamation after he denied her accusations, along with those of other women who accused him of unwanted sexual contact before he was elected president. He called them all “liars.”

Crime, Courts Around the Nation

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘A demented social club’: Poachers slaughtered hundreds of animals in Pacific Northwest for ‘the thrill,’ police say, Kyle Swenson,
May 17, 2018. Authorities believed the mutilated animals might be the work of poachers, so in November 2016 they fixed motion-triggered cameras in the national forest near The Dalles, Ore., smack on the Washington state line.

The footage troopers caught would prove to be the first clue to uncovering what officials now say was a loosely linked poaching ring responsible for the illegal brutal slaughter of hundreds of animals in Washington and Oregon.

In the end, it was not just the camera footage from the forest that helped investigators unravel the alleged ring but pictures and videos saved on the suspects’ own cellphones. Between the two states, 17 people have been charged with more than 200 misdemeanors and felonies. None of the accused have publicly commented on the charges.

“Most people, when they kill an animal, there’s respect for everything. They take the hide, they take the meat and there’s something that’s respectful about it,” Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Captain Jeff Wickersham told Fox 12. “In this case, it’s all about the thrill. They’re going out there and killing to kill.”

Trump Probes

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Bigger than Watergate’: Trump joins push to expose an FBI source, Philip Rucker, Robert Costa, Carol D. Leonnig and Josh Dawsey, May 18, 2018 (print edition). President Trump’s allies are trying to undercut the Russia investigation by revealing the role of a top-secret source. The Justice Department and intelligence agencies have warned that publicly identifying the source would put lives in danger and imperil other operations.

President Trump’s allies are waging an increasingly aggressive campaign to undercut the Russia investigation by exposing the role of a top-secret FBI source. The effort reached new heights Thursday as Trump alleged that an informant had improperly spied on his 2016 campaign and predicted that the ensuing scandal would be “bigger than Watergate!”

The extraordinary push begun by a cadre of Trump boosters on Capitol Hill now has champions across the GOP and throughout conservative media — and, as of Thursday, the first anniversary of Robert S. Mueller III’s appointment as special counsel, bears the imprimatur of the president.

The dispute pits Trump and the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee against the Justice Department and intelligence agencies, whose leaders warn that publicly identifying the confidential source would put lives in danger and imperil other operations.

#MeToo Sexual Attack Fallout

washington post logoWashington Post, Settlement with Larry Nassar victims will have impact on Michigan State, Will Hobson and Susan Svrluga, May 17, 2018 (print edition). Michigan State University agreed to pay $500 million to settle lawsuits filed by 332 alleged victims of disgraced former sports physician Larry Nassar on Wednesday, ending the university’s involvement in litigation over the former Olympic gymnastics doctor’s rampant sexual abuse of girls and women under the guise of medical treatment.

The settlement will pay $425 million to the 332 girls and women who have come forward to date, averaging about $1.28 million per victim. Michigan State will set aside an additional $75 million in a trust fund for any victims who come forward in the future.

“This historic settlement came about through the bravery of more than 300 women and girls who had the courage to stand up and refuse to be silenced,” said John Manly, one of several attorneys representing victims, in a statement. “It is the sincere hope of all of the survivors that the legacy of this settlement will be far reaching institutional reform that will end the threat of sexual assault in sports, schools and throughout our society.”

larry nassar gymnastics pleaNassar (shown at left in a court hearing with his attorney, 54, is serving an effective life sentence in prison after pleading guilty to assaulting nine girls and women in Michigan, as well as to federal child pornography crimes. At his sentencing hearing in January, the emotional testimony of more than 150 girls, women and parents triggered national outrage about the case, prompting fallout that continues for the organizations through which Nassar accessed his victims.

The impact of the scandal on the university, which has about 39,000 undergraduate students, has been substantial, including the resignations of president Lou Anna Simon and athletic director Mark Hollis in January, and may extend beyond the financial. The settlement surpasses the more than $109 million paid by Penn State University to settle claims by at least 35 people who accused assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky of sexual abuse.

The money will have to come from some combination of insurance, state funding and student tuition revenue, said Thomas L. Harnisch, director of state relations and policy analysis for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

More On CIA Confirmation Vote

gina haspel c span screenshot

CIA Acting Director Gina Haspel shown on a screenshot from a C-SPAN video

washington post logoWashington Post, Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee, Karoun Demirjian, May 17, 2018 (print edition). The Senate Intelligence Committee moved Wednesday to recommend Gina Haspel for CIA director, setting up a floor vote that her opponents say will signal to the world whether the United States condemns or condones torture.

The committee voted 10 to 5 in favor of her nomination. In a statement announcing the outcome, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the panel’s chairman, called Haspel “the most qualified person” President Trump could have chosen for the Cabinet post. “She has acted morally, ethically, and legally, over a distinguished 30-year career,” he said, “and is the right person to lead the Agency into an uncertain and challenging future.”

With only three of 51 Republicans committed to voting against Haspel and six Democrats indicating that they will support her, she appears set to become the agency’s first female director. The full Senate is expected to vote on her confirmation in coming weeks.

It was Haspel’s reluctance to say that the CIA’s interrogation program was, in retrospect, morally wrong that sparked the Senate’s authorities on torture — namely Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who endured years of it as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who wrote the Senate’s definitive report on the CIA’s practices — to declare Haspel unconfirmable.

It has been almost three years since McCain led the charge in Congress to curtail the interrogation techniques, pushing legislation to make the Army Field Manuals’ code of conduct the government standard. The Senate adopted that rule change in 2015 as part of the annual defense authorization bill by a vote of 78 to 21.

Much of the concern about Haspel’s nomination has centered on campaign statements made by Trump, who expressed an eagerness to reinstate certain outlawed practices, including waterboarding.

Haspel said during her confirmation hearing that she would disobey any order from Trump to revive such techniques. But she also claimed to have a close relationship with the president, which discomfited those already uneasy about her record.

The controversial episodes in Haspel’s career include a stint overseeing a secret prison in Thailand where brutal interrogations were conducted and her role drafting a cable in 2005 that ordered the destruction of 92 videotapes depicting the interrogation of one detainee. Many also have criticized her for not declassifying more documents related to her mostly clandestine CIA career.

McCain’s warning resonated with several critics of the president, including Jeff Flake, his fellow Republican senator from Arizona, who announced Wednesday evening that he would oppose Haspel’s nomination.

mark warner shirtsleevesBut Haspel received a vital endorsement this week from Sen. Mark R. Warner (Va.), shown at right, the Intelligence Committee’s ranking Democrat. He said Haspel had been “more forthcoming” in private meetings in which he gave her a second chance to say more clearly and in writing that “the enhanced interrogation program is not one the CIA should have undertaken” and that “the United States must be an example to the rest of the world.”

Trump Holdings Expand At Mar-a-Lago

Daily Mail, Trump's real estate firm snaps up mansion next to Mar-a-Lago by buying waterfront Palm Beach home from president's sister for $18.5 million – after negotiating a $5.4 million discount, David Martosko, May 17, 2108.  Donald Trump's family real estate business has added a second Palm Beach mansion to its holdings, spending $18.5 million on a beachfront house owned by the president's older sister.

The manse is across the street from Mar-a-Lago – and even closer to the ocean. A source close to the Trump Organization confirmed the purchase and said the home was listed for $23.9 million: Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. got it from their aunt, Maryanne Trump Barry, at a $5.4 million discount.

The manor features eight bedrooms, 9.5 baths and nearly 200 feet of beachfront. This beachfront mansion on South Ocean Boulevard in Palm Beach, Florida is the newest jewel in the Trump Organization's real estate crown.

Consumer Protections?

ftc logoThe Intercept, An Equifax and Facebook Lawyer Will Now Run the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, David Dayen, May 17 2018. In a rare party-line vote, the Federal Trade Commission appointed a corporate lawyer who has represented Uber, Equifax, Facebook, and a jailed payday lender to run its Bureau of Consumer Protection. The appointment was one of the first moves of the new five-member panel, all of whom were confirmed by the Senate last month.

Only the appointment of Andrew Smith to the Bureau of Consumer Protection was controversial, with a 3-2 vote along party lines. Democratic appointees Rohit Chopra and Becca Kelly Slaughter opposed Smith, and each laid out their concerns in written dissents.

As the New York Times explained last week, while Smith once worked at the FTC, he was most recently a partner with the financial services practice at Covington & Burling, a leading white-collar defense firm. His clients included dozens of financial institutions, credit-reporting agencies, and tech firms, including players in some of the most notorious corporate scandals of the past several years. For example, Smith represented convicted payday lender Scott Tucker, from whom the FTC won a $1.3 billion judgment for deceiving and exploiting consumers. Tucker faces 16 years in prison.

facebook logoThree other Smith-repped companies have active investigations at the FTC: Facebook, for potentially violating a 2011 consent decree over safeguarding user privacy;  and Uber and Equifax, over separate data breaches that exposed the personal information of hundreds of millions of Americans..

New York Building Owner Bans Ranting Lawyer

Mediaite, Lawyer Who Went on Viral Xenophobic Rant Banned From His NYC Office, Jon Street, May 17, 2018. The New York City man whose xenophobic rant was captured on video at a Midtown restaurant Tuesday is no longer welcome at his office. The incident captured the man, a New York City lawyer identified as Aaron Schlossberg, at Fresh Kitchen in Midtown Manhattan berating workers because they spoke Spanish. Schlossberg said that his “guess” was that they were “undocumented,” and added that his “next step” was to call ICE.

Following the Tuesday tantrum, a GoFundMe page was set up to troll Schlossberg outside his office with a Mariachi band and taco truck. Then, on Thursday, WABC-TV’s Derick Waller reported that the band and taco truck were the least of Schlossberg’s worries. Schlossberg, according to Waller’s report, is no longer welcome inside the building where he rents office space.

May 16

U.S. /  CIA Arms Program Helped Al Qaeda

fox news logo SmallFox News, 'I gave the US trucks and ammunition to Al Qaeda': The chaotic US effort to arm Syrian rebels, Hollie McKay May 16, 2018. Two U.S. programs aimed at arming moderate forces against ISIS inadvertently put weapons, ammunition and equipment in the hands of Al Qaeda

U.S. military equipment and ammunition, sent to Syria as part of a failed Obama administration plan to find and arm moderate forces to defeat ISIS, were instead simply handed over to an Al Qaeda group, according to the man who said he himself brokered the deal.

“I communicated with Al Qaeda’s branch, Al Nusra, to protect and safely escort me and my soldiers for two hours from North Aleppo to West Aleppo,”

Maj. Anas Ibrahim Obaid, better known on the battlefield as Commander Abu Zayd, admitted to Fox News that he gave US-issued trucks and ammunition to Al Qaeda in Syria. Those trucks and ammo were issued to him by the United States in 2015, part of a $500 million Department of Defense effort to "train and equip" a new "ideologically moderate" force to battle ISIS. The program, one of at least two designed to funnel arms to so-called moderate Syrian rebels, proved to be a spectacular failure for the Obama administration.

Sources close to Zayd told Fox News his American-funded goods routinely surface on the black market, and constitute something of a lucrative business. Zayd today remains a commander for the Free Syrian Army.

A second Obama administration program, "Timber Sycamore," was started by the CIA in late 2012 with the similar aim of arming rebels. This particular operation was active along the Turkish border to Syria's north, and a Jordanian crossing in the south, referred to as the “Southern Front.”

In July 2017, citing its ineffectiveness and on recommendation from then-CIA director Mike Pompeo, President Trump ended the faltering Syrian rebel supply program. While the cost of the program and the amount of arms and aid provided remains mostly classified, it is estimated that more that $1 billion was spent on the effort. The CIA declined to comment on this story. A spokesperson for the Defense Department acknowledged that they “clearly faced challenges” with the now-discontinued train-and-equip effort.

Probes Of Team Trump

new yorker logoNew Yorker, Missing Files Motivated the Leak of Michael Cohen’s Financial Records, Ronan Farrow, May 16, 2018. Ronan Farrow, age 30 and ronan farrowshown at right in a Facebook photo, is a Pulitzer-winning New Yorker staff writer, a Rhodes Scholar and a Yale Law School graduate.  A law-enforcement official released the documents after finding that additional suspicious transactions did not appear in a government database. 

Last week, several news outlets obtained financial records showing that Michael Cohen (shown below left), President Trump’s personal attorney, had used a shell company to receive payments from various firms with business before the Trump Administration. In the days since, there has been much speculation about who leaked the confidential documents, and the Treasury Department’s inspector general has launched a probe to find the source.

michael cohen ap file croppedThat source, a law-enforcement official, is speaking publicly for the first time, to The New Yorker, to explain the motivation: the official had grown alarmed after being unable to find two important reports on Cohen’s financial activity in a government database. The official, worried that the information was being withheld from law enforcement, released the remaining documents.

novartis logoThe payments to Cohen that have emerged in the past week come primarily from a single document, a “suspicious-activity report” filed by First Republic Bank, where Cohen’s shell company, Essential Consultants, L.L.C., maintained an account. The document detailed sums in the hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to Cohen by the pharmaceutical company Novartis, the telecommunications giant A.T. & T., and an investment firm with ties to the Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.

washington post logodonald trump jr time cover croppedWashington Post, Senate releases more details on meeting between Trump Jr., Russian lawyer, Rosalind S. Helderman and Karoun Demirjian​, May 16, 2018. The documents help explain how Donald Trump’s son (shown on a Time Magazine cover) came to meet in June 2016 with the Moscow attorney who was promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. The intensity over which the Trump Tower meeting was sought has become a key point of scrutiny for congressional inquiries and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia favored Trump in 2016, Senate panel says in split with House GOP, Karoun Demirjian​, May 16, 2018.  The determination by the Senate Intelligence Committee could complicate Republican messaging surrounding the Russia investigations as the parties head into the 2018 election season.

washington post logoWashington Post, 7 big things we just learned from the Trump Tower meeting testimony, Aaron Blake, May 16, 2018.  The Senate Judiciary Committee released 2,500 pages of congressional testimony on Wednesday. The trove of information provides a new window into that ill-fated June 2016 Trump Tower meeting before which Donald Trump Jr. was promised damaging Russian government information about Hillary Clinton — from Natalia Veselnitskaya, who turned out to be a Kremlin-connected lawyer.

The episode has been a centerpiece of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's investigation of whether there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. And now we know much more about what the people who were there said under oath about it. Here are some key findings.

nbc news logoNBC News, Mueller doesn't plan to indict Trump because of DOJ rules, Giuliani says, Hallie Jackson and Kristen Welker, May 16, 2018. Special counsel Robert Mueller has told President Donald Trump's legal team that he won't indict a sitting president, according to Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump's lawyers.

rudy giuliani recent"They [the special counsel's office] acknowledge the fact that they can't indict us," Giuliani (shown at right) told NBC News on Wednesday, indicating that the information had been conveyed to Trump's lawyers. "They know they don't have that power. So their function is to write a report. We would like it to be the fairest report possible. But even if it isn't, we're prepared to rebut it in great detail, so we'd like them to do it."

He added: "It's as clear as can be that they don't have the right to indict under the Justice Department rules. And I know they're not going to indict."

djt michael cohen

washington post logoWashington Post, In new disclosure, Trump reports apparent payment through Cohen to Stormy Daniels, David A. Fahrenthold and Jonathan O'Connell​, May 16, 2018. The payment by Michael Cohen (shown at right above, the president’s personal attorney, to the porn star was made in the last weeks before the 2016 presidential election, meant to ensure Daniels would not speak about the alleged affair publicly.

In new financial disclosure documents, President Trump reported reimbursing his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, for an expenditure over $100,000 last year — an apparent reference to the $130,000 that Cohen paid to ensure the silence of an adult-film actress who claimed she’d had an affair with Trump.

“In 2016 expenses were incurred by one of Donald J. Trump’s attorneys, Michael Cohen,” Trump reported in a footnote to his official Personal Financial Disclosure report, required of top federal officials. “Mr. Cohen sought reimbursement of those expenses and Mr. Trump fully reimbursed Mr. Cohen in 2017. The category of value would be $100,001 — $250,000 and the interest rate would be zero.”

That statement was couched in a footnote on the 45th page of a 92-page disclosure. Earlier this year, Trump told reporters on Air Force One that he had not known about Cohen’s payment to Daniels.

“Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?” a reporter asked at the time.

“No,” Trump said. “I don’t know.”

novartis logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Novartis lawyer to retire over $1.2 million contract with Trump attorney Michael Cohen, Carolyn Y. Johnson​, May 16, 2018. Felix R. Ehrat, who co-signed the deal between the Swiss drugmaker and the president's personal attorney, said that while the contract was legally in order, “it was an error.”

Daily Beast, ‘Infuriated’ Jared Kushner Lost His Cool When Russians Didn’t Deliver Hillary Dirt, Adam Rawnsley, May 16, 2018. Kushner claimed he had no idea why he was in that notorious Trump Tower meeting. Newly released testimony indicates otherwise.

Jared Kushner (shown at right) became “agitated” and “infuriate[d]” at the infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting when a Kremlin-connected lawyer droned on about U.S. sanctions, instead of delivering on a promise to provide damaging information on Hillary Clinton.

That’s according to Rob Goldstone, a British music promoter and friend of the Trumps who helped set up the meeting between Natalia Veselnitskaya and Donald Trump Jr.—and who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the Trump Tower confab.

Goldstone’s testimony stands in contrast to what Kushner said in public about the meeting. In a July 2017 statement, Kushner paints himself as bored and confused by Veselnitskaya’s presentation.

European Reactions To Trumpeuropean union logo rectangle

washington post logoWashington Post, E.U. leader lights into Trump: ‘With friends like that, who needs enemies?’ Michael Birnbaum​, May 16, 2018. Even by the stressed standards of relations between Europe and the United States in the Trump era, the criticisms from the president of the European Council were unusually cutting. djt der spiegel goodbye europe cover1Even by the stressed standards of relations between Europe and the United States in the Trump era, European Council President Donald Tusk’s Wednesday criticisms were unusually cutting.

At the outset of a summit of European leaders whose agenda items, point by point, have to do with the flames of crises that many Europeans see as ignited by President Trump, Tusk ripped into what he called “the capricious assertiveness of the American administration” over issues including Iran, Gaza, trade tariffs and North Korea.

Der Spiegel, a major news magazine published in Germany, published a cover (at right) showing Trump as a middle finger.

Backgrounder: New NRA Leader Oliver North

oliver north fox nra

nra logo CustomNational Security Archive, Oliver North’s Checkered Iran-Contra Record, May 16, 2018. Incoming National Rifle Association President Oliver North’s conduct during the infamous Iran-Contra affair featured a pattern of deliberate deception, a willingness to cooperate with known drug dealers, and – according to some senior colleagues – flawed judgment, according to declassified documents and sworn testimony posted today by the National Security Archive.

Iran-Contra was the worst political scandal of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, involving a pair of covert operations – one to sell missiles to the Islamic Republic of Iran in hopes of gaining freedom for American hostages, the other to support so-called Contra rebels in Nicaragua – both of which violated legal and legislative prohibitions. Among its results was to prompt major congressional and criminal investigations and cast a pall over the Reagan administration during its final two years.

oliver north gage skidmoreNorth (shown in a photo by Gage Skidmore) himself has admitted under oath to most of the actions, decisions, and falsehoods that prompted widespread condemnation of his behavior in the wake of the scandal.

Declassified documents – a representative sampling of which the National Security Archive is reposting today – provide further, contemporaneous evidence, often written in his own words. His conduct ultimately led to criminal convictions against him, but they were overturned by an appeals court panel because his congressional testimony in the Summer of 1987, delivered under a grant of immunity, might have influenced witnesses at trial.

More disturbing for many was his apparent disdain for outside investigators and the Congress. “I will tell you right now, counsel,” he testified, “and all the members here gathered, that I misled the Congress.” He also acknowledged explicitly that he lied even to his fellow operatives, destroyed evidence while the Justice Department was investigating him, and falsified records both to hide the administration’s illicit Iran and Contra support activities and to cover up his receipt of an illegal personal “gift” in the form of a security system at his family home.

Inside Washington

Justice Department log circularPolitico, Justice Department appeals order to disclose Clinton grand jury records, Josh Gerstein, May 16, 2018. The Trump administration is again fighting for greater secrecy in a Clinton-focused investigation: this time, the independent counsel probe that explored President Bill Clinton's relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. A raft of court records from grand jury-related proceedings related to the investigation have remained secret for two decades, but last month a federal judge — acting on a request from CNN — ruled that the vast majority of the files should be made public.

But early Wednesday, the Justice Department appealed that decision to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. The move is likely to delay the release of the request information for months or longer.

The Justice Department had no immediate comment, but court filings indicate that government lawyers made the broad assertion that the court lacks authority to release grand jury records for reasons of "extreme public interest" or any other reason not specifically detailed in federal court rules.

Global Politics

ny times logonorth korea flagNew York Times, North Korea Revives an Old Tactic in Threat to Cancel Talks, Choe Sang-Hun and Jane Perlez, May 16, 2018. After presenting himself as a statesman, and changing his role from tyrant to moderate on the world stage, Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader, has revealed his bottom line: He will not give up his nuclear weapons as President Trump has demanded.

In warning on Wednesday that Mr. Kim could withdraw from his planned June 12 summit meeting with Mr. Trump in Singapore, Pyongyang demanded that Washington remove military threats against North Korea, and it suspended talks with South Korea over its joint military exercises with the United States. The abrupt change from the North, which for months had been calling for dialogue, threatened to dash hopes for a breakthrough in the tensions that pushed the Korean Peninsula to the brink of war last year.

washington post logojennifer rubin twitterWashington Post, Opinion: The gullible Trump finally finds out Kim Jong Un isn’t ‘honorable,’ Jennifer Rubin (shown right), May 16, 2018. President Trump is desperate for a flashy, big win in foreign policy after a series of less-than-successful stunts. His pullout from the Iran deal has been widely criticized; his advisers’ prediction that our European allies would follow us seems highly questionable. Moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem touched off mass protests in which approximately 60 Palestinians were killed. His concession to China on ZTE led to bipartisan scorn. In short, he has put all his eggs in the North Korea basket.

kim jong un uniformedOn Tuesday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (shown at right), taking in Trump’s concession on ZTE, no doubt saw how easily Trump can be manipulated in search of a win. Kim swiftly demonstrated how Trump’s expectations can be dashed — and how vulnerable the neophyte president is to getting played by Pyongyang. The success of very liberal candidates in primaries across four states is causing a new bout of heartburn among party strategists in Washington, who worry about unelectable activists thwarting their drive for the House majority.

maria zakharova

SouthFront, Russia Accuses U.S. Of Hiding Thousands Of Terrorists In Syria From Justice, Staff report, May 16, 2018. On May 16, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova (shown above in a file photo) accused the US of hiding thousands of terrorists in Syria from justice, according to the Russian news agency TASS.

“We have taken note of the fact the US administration is keeping quiet about the several thousand foreign terrorists, who have been detained by the US-led coalition and the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces in Transeuphratia,” she said. “The explanation that it is allegedly impossible to agree on extradition procedures and parameters of legal assistance with the countries of origin are totally far-fetched.”

“Apparently this legal vacuum is being created deliberately with the aim to conceal the real aim: to let the militants dodge responsibility. It is noteworthy that in defiance of complicity in terrorism no charges are put forward or investigative measures taken.”

Zakharova revealed that Moscow knows well the number of terrorists and the conditions in which they are being kept. “According to our sources, there are two or three thousand militants, mostly from Europe, Arab countries and the CIS,” the diplomat said. “The so-called restrictive measures are confined to limiting the freedom of movement. They enjoy three meals a day, medical assistance and the opportunities for exercise to stay in good physical shape.”

She added that such actions by the US and its allies are fraught with the re-emergence of the terrorist state in the region. “In view of President Donald Trump’s announcement of the forthcoming US pullout from Syria there emerge high risks of a Caliphate’s re-emergence in Transeuphratia under the Iraqi type scenario we saw when after the successful withdrawal of the US contingent in 2011 entailed the emergence of the group Islamic State,” she said. “By refraining from criminal prosecution of the mentioned militants the US administration in fact covers up their criminal activity.”

U.S. Politics

Gina Haspel Custom 25thEstate, Opinion: Future Senate Leaders Must Oppose CIA Torturer's Confirmation, Andrew Kreig, May 17, 2018. Bush/Cheney torturer Gina Haspel epitomises CIA criminality, depravity. U.S. Senators face career-defining confirmation votes beginning Wednesday regarding President Trump's nominee to lead the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

The nomination of current CIA Acting Director Gina Haspel (shown at right) will help define each senator's legacy. That's partly because of her own abuses at the CIA in fostering torture and destroying the evidence so that other malefactors could avoid accountability but also because of the background of decades of whitewashes by the senate in failing to excercise their oversight obligations under the Constitution over the powerful intelligence agencies like the CIA.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The far left is winning the Democratic civil war, James Hohmann​, May 16, 2018. Tuesday was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day for Democratic moderates. The success of very liberal candidates in primaries across four states is causing a new bout of heartburn among party strategists in Washington, who worry about unelectable activists thwarting their drive for the House majority. But it also reflects a broader leftward lurch among Democrats across the country since President Trump took office.

In Nebraska, a liberal social worker and political neophyte who built her campaign around “Medicare for All” scored a shocking upset in a Democratic primary to take on Rep. Don Bacon (R). Kara Eastman, 45, beat former congressman Brad Ashford, 68, in an Omaha-area district that national Democrats believed they could pick up in November.

Eastman advocated for universal background checks to buy guns, raising taxes and decriminalizing marijuana. “I’m tired of hearing Democrats don’t have a backbone, that we don’t stand for anything,” she said in a commercial that touted her support for universal health care. “That changes now!” Ashford had the full-throated support of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which must now reevaluate whether to invest in the race.

 -- In Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, where GOP Rep. Charlie Dent’s retirement created a winnable open seat for Democrats, early front-runner John Morganelli — a district attorney who has been locally prominent for decades — lost the primary to attorney Susan Wild, who ran at him from the left. Morganelli, who opposes abortion rights and “sanctuary cities,” was attacked relentlessly on the airwaves for speaking positively about Trump and tweeting that he was open to taking a job in the administration during the transition.

JFK Assassination Document Revelations

richard gibson cbs radio cia george washington u

CBS radio reporter Richard Gibson, now revealed as a CIA informant, shown in a photo via the Richard Gibson Collection at George Washington University

jefferson morleyJFKFacts.org, Opinion: What the curious case of Richard Gibson tells us about Lee Harvey Oswald, Jefferson Morley (shown at right), bbc news logo2May 16, 2018. I was on BBC 3 Radio yesterday talking about the curious case of Richard Gibson, co-founder of the leftist Fair Play for Cuba Committee and, it turns out, a longtime CIA spy.

The larger context of Gibson’s story, which I broke in Newsweek, tells us a lot about the CIA’s surveillance of Lee Oswald in 1963. The fact that CIA dumped Gibson’s file while he is still alive is striking. The agency is not careless about protecting “sources and methods.” A journo-friend who knows the CIA well, asks: “Do you think this was just a massive screwup, or some sort of revenge for something he did?”

cia logoProbably the latter. Maybe CIA found out Gibson was selling information to the KGB as well. Maybe Gibson gave them bad intelligence. There has to be a reason why CIA officials chose to burn a living source–especially after President Trump tweeted that living sources would be protected.

Its too bad Gibson cannot give his side of the story. Suspicions of Gibson have been around a long time. Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan found some of the first evidence 25 years ago and asked Gibson about it. He denied all.

The Fair Play for Cuba Committee was not a CIA operation. It was a CIA target. The Gibson story, along with a lot of other evidence, shows how agency officers sought to penetrate, manipulate, control, and disrupt Americans who sympathized with the Cuban revolution. One of those Americans was Lee Oswald.

richard gibson robert taber fpcc founders gw universityGibson (shown at left) and his CBS News colleague Robert Taber (at right in a photo from the Richard Gibson Papers at George Washington University) did not intend the FPCC to become a mass organization. They brought together about 30 intellectuals to sign an ad in the New York Times in April 1960.

They hoped to do nothing more than persuade news organizations and newspaper readers to look at the aims and accomplishments of the Cuban revolution more objectively.

At a time when Jim Crow ruled America, the racial diversity of the signatories, starting with the writer James Baldwin, is striking. The fact that black intellectuals signed on to a foreign policy manifesto, when most whites expected blacks to restrict themselves to the “Negro question” was also radical.

fair play for cuba committee ny times ad april 1960At right, the New York Times published an advertisement in April 1960 announcing the creation of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC)

Striking too was the instantly hostility of the CIA, FBI, and Senate Internal Security Committee. As college students and professors formed chapters of the Committee, the FPCC was suddenly a growing organization and perceived as a growing threat to U.S. officials.

The popularity of the idea that American should give Cuba a break forced Gibson to take on a job he never expected to have: running a national political movement. He was not a CIA source — not yet. But the U.S. government was already seeking to disrupt and destroy his organization, by any means.

june cobb parada 1962Gibson was wiretapped by the CIA while talking to June Cobb (shown in a 1962 photo), a CIA informant known as LICOOKY-1. He was served with two subpoenas by the Senate Internal Security Committee, which was determined to press criminal charges against the group in 1961.

The FBI intercepted and opened the group’s mail. When the FPCC hired an accountant to handle the flood of donations, the FBI turned him an informant.

Gibson, feeling harassed and underpaid, resigned from the FPCC and offered his services to the CIA in July 1962. By 1963, the FPCC had dozens of chapters around the country. The Senate Internal Security Committee was still seeking to demonize and disrupt the group with hostile hearings. And the CIA had the co-founder of the group as a potential source.

May 15

Charge Dropped In Missouri Governor's #MeToo Scandal

Talking Points Memo, How The Greitens Prosecution Collapsed, Allegra Kirkland, May 15, 2018. On Monday morning, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens sat in a St. Louis courtroom watching potential jurors answer questions about allegations that he attempted to blackmail his one-time lover. By late afternoon, the case had collapsed.

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner abruptly dropped the felony invasion of privacy charge she had brought against the governor in February, saying she would seek to hand the case over to a special prosecutor, who could choose to file new charges. Greitens took to the courthouse steps to declare his “great victory.”

In reality, the twice-indicted governor’s legal and political troubles are far from over. But he dodged this particular bullet thanks to a combination of prosecutorial errors, a difficult-to-prove charge, and one final, decisive ruling from Circuit Judge Rex Burlison, who oversaw the case.

North Korea Protests War Drills

kim jong un uniformedwashington post logoWashington Post, N. Korea threatens to cancel summit with Trump over joint military drills, Anna Fifield, May 15, 2018. The North has canceled talks with South Korean officials that were scheduled for Wednesday and is casting doubt on next month’s summit between leader Kim Jong Un (right) and President Trump, saying U.S.-South Korea drills are ruining the diplomatic mood.

north korea flagThe Max Thunder exercise involves about 100 warplanes, including eight F-22 radar-evading fighters and an unspecified number of B-52 bombers and F-15K jets, according to the South’s main Yonhap News Agency.

U.S. Embassy Move To Jerusalem Prompts Massive, Fatal Riots

CNN Video

ny times logoAmerican FlagNew York Times, Killings in Gaza, a New Embassy in Jerusalem and No Sign of Peace, David M. Halbfinger, May 15, 2018. Hours before a celebration of the new United States Embassy, at least 58 protesters were killed and thousands injured at the Gaza border, Palestinian officials said. The two scenes illustrated the chasm dividing Israelis and Palestinians.

benjamin netanyahu third wife sara ivanka trump jared kushner may 14 2018 Custom

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his third wife Sara, American emissaries Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner celebrate the opening of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018 as ousted Palestinians engage in massive protests, largely from their open air prison in Gaza

SouthFront, Turkey Recalls Ambassadors To US And Israel, Staff report, May 15, 2018. Turkey has recalled its ambassadors to the US and Israel for consultations following the May 14 massive protests at the Gaza border resulted in 60 Palestinians killings, Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported on May 15.

recep erdogan with flagAfter the May 14 clashes at the Gaza border, 60 Palestinian protesters were killed and over 2,771 were injured by Israeli forces. The protests were held amid the US embassy inauguration in Jerusalem, which took place on the same day.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (shown in a file photo) said that the country had declared a three-day national mourning “to stand in solidarity with our Palestinian brothers.” Having labeled Israel “a terror state” and killings on May 14 a “genocide,” Erdoğan also said a big rally would be held on May 18 in Istanbul as a sign of solidarity. “With its latest step," he said, "America has chosen to be a part of the problem, not a solution, and lost its mediator role in the Middle East peace process.”

ivanka trump ny daily news may15 18

New York Daily News front page on May 15 portraying White House advisor Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter and the wife of the president's Middle East peace czar Jared Kushner

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: A Grotesque Spectacle in Jerusalem, Michelle Goldberg, May 15, 2018 (print edition). On Monday, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and other leading lights of the Trumpist right gathered in Israel to celebrate the relocation of the American Embassy to Jerusalem, a gesture widely seen as a slap in the face to Palestinians who envision East Jerusalem as their future capital.

The event was grotesque. It was a consummation of the cynical alliance between hawkish Jews and Zionist evangelicals who believe that the return of Jews to Israel will usher in the apocalypse and the return of Christ, after which Jews who don’t convert will burn forever.

Religions like “Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism” lead people “to an eternity of separation from God in Hell,” Robert Jeffress, a Dallas megachurch pastor, once said. He was chosen to give the opening prayer at the embassy ceremony. John Hagee, one of America’s most prominent end-times preachers, once said that Hitler was sent by God to drive the Jews to their ancestral homeland. He gave the closing benediction.

This spectacle, geared toward Donald Trump’s Christian American base, coincided with a massacre about 40 miles away. Since March 30, there have been mass protests at the fence separating Gaza and Israel. Gazans, facing an escalating humanitarian crisis due in large part to an Israeli blockade, are demanding the right to return to homes in Israel that their families were forced from at Israel’s founding.

The demonstrators have been mostly but not entirely peaceful; Gazans have thrown rocks at Israeli soldiers and tried to fly flaming kites into Israel. The Israeli military has responded with live gunfire as well as rubber bullets and tear gas. In clashes on Monday, at least 58 Palestinians were killed and thousands wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

Donald TrumpTrump has empowered what’s worst in Israel, and as long as he is president, it may be that Israel can kill Palestinians, demolish their homes and appropriate their land with impunity.

But some day, Trump will be gone. With hope for a two-state solution nearly dead, current trends suggest that a Jewish minority will come to rule over a largely disenfranchised Muslim majority in all the land under Israel’s control. A rising generation of Americans may see an apartheid state with a Trump Square in its capital and wonder why it’s supposed to be our friend.

European Reaction To Trump's Iran Move

washington post logoWashington Post, Allies fume over Trump’s withdrawal from Iran deal but have few options to respond, Karen DeYoung, May 15, 2018 (print edition). The leaders of Britain, France and Germany have discussed asking for exemptions to the sanctions and looked for ways to preserve the deal by extending financing and other guarantees to European investment in Iran.

CIA News

washington post logoWashington Post, Haspel’s CIA nomination likely secure after key Democrat announces support, Karoun Demirjian and Shane Harris​, May 15, 2018. The move by Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) came after Gina Haspel’s sent him a letter saying that the agency never should have detained terrorist suspects or employed brutal interrogation techniques against them.

Roll Call, Haspel Says, In Retrospect, Enhanced Interrogations Were Mistake, Niels Lesniewski, May 15, 2018. Latest comments come in letter to Sen. Mark Warner ahead of Intelligence Committee vote.

Gina Haspel Custom 2President Donald Trump’s choice to lead the CIA is making it even more clear that the program sanctioning harsh interrogations during the George W. Bush administration should not have taken place.

Gina Haspel (shown at left), the current acting director of the agency, expanded upon her testimony in a letter dated Monday to Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee.

ny times logoNew York Times, Suspect Named in Leak of C.I.A. Hacking Documents, Scott Shane and Adam Goldman, May 15, 2018. Last year, WikiLeaks released a stolen trove of C.I.A. hacking documents, representing the largest loss of classified information in the agency’s history. The Times has learned the identity of the prime suspect in the case: a 29-year-old ex-software engineer at the agency.

In weekly online posts last year, WikiLeaks released a stolen archive of secret documents about the Central Intelligence Agency’s hacking operations, including software exploits designed to take over iPhones and turn smart television sets into surveillance devices. It was the largest loss of classified documents in the agency’s history and a huge embarrassment for C.I.A. officials.

Now, The New York Times has learned the identity of the prime suspect in the breach: a 29-year-old former C.I.A. software engineer who had designed malware used to break into the computers of terrorism suspects and other targets.

F.B.I. agents searched the Manhattan apartment of the suspect, Joshua A. Schulte, one week after WikiLeaks released the first of the C.I.A. documents in March last year, and then stopped him from flying to Mexico on vacation, taking his passport, according to court records and family members. The search warrant application said Mr. Schulte was suspected of “distribution of national defense information,” and agents told the court they had retrieved “N.S.A. and C.I.A. paperwork” in addition to a computer, tablet, phone and other electronics.

JFK Records Research Findings

newsweek logoNewsweek, CIA Reveals Name of Former Spy in JFK Files — And He's Still Alive, Jefferson Morley (shown at right), May 15, 2018. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Paris beckoned African-American intellectuals hoping to escape the racism and conformity of American life. Chief jefferson morleyamong them: Richard Wright, the acclaimed author of Native Son and Black Boy, who arrived in 1947. He was soon joined by Chester Himes, an ex-convict who mastered hard-boiled detective fiction, James Baldwin, the precocious essayist, and Richard Gibson, an editor at the Agence France-Presse.

These men became friends, colleagues and, soon, bitter rivals. Their relationship blew up after Gibson forged a letter, published in Life magazine under the name of one of Wright’s friends, attacking the French government for refusing to give up its colony in Algeria.

richard wright postage stampWright (shown on a postage stamp) was enraged, and he dramatized their falling out in a roman à clef he called Island of Hallucination, which was never published, even after his death in 1960. In 2005, Gibson published a memoir in a scholarly journal recounting the political machinations his former friend had dramatized, telling The Guardian he had obtained a copy of the manuscript and had no objections to its publication. "I turn up as Bill Hart, the 'superspy...'," Gibson said of the story.

Wright's book was apparently prescient. On April 26, when the National Archives released thousands of documents pertaining to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, they included three fat CIA files on Gibson. According to these documents, he had served U.S. intelligence from 1965 until at least 1977. The Gibson files revealed his CIA code name, QRPHONE-1, his salary — as much as $900 a month — his various missions, as well as his attitude (“energetic”) and performance (“a self-starter”).

The most curious part of the story: Gibson is still alive. He’s 87 years old and still living abroad. (Gibson “will not be able to your questions,” said a family friend who answered the phone at his residence.)

richard gibson cbs radio cia george washington uGibson (shown working for CBS radio in a photo now at George Washington University in a collection of his papers) was still an “active agent” in 1977, when Congress reopened the JFK investigation and started asking questions about the agency’s penetration of the FPCC in 1963.

The House Select Committee on Assassinations asked to see Gibson’s CIA file. The agency only showed investigators a small portion of his file, but the entirety of the still-classified material became part of the CIA’s archive of JFK records.

That designation would eventually change. In October 1992, Congress passed a law mandating release of all JFK files within 25 years. Gibson’s secret was safe for the time being. In 1985, he successfully sued a South African author who asserted he was a CIA agent. The book was withdrawn, and the publisher issued a statement declaring that “Mr. Gibson has never worked for the United States Central Intelligence Agency,” a claim that no longer seems tenable.

In 2013, Gibson sold his collected papers to George Washington University in Washington, D.C. To celebrate the acquisition, the university held a daylong symposium, “Richard Gibson: Literary Contrarian & Cold Warrior,” dedicated to “furthering our understanding of the intellectual and literary history of the Cold War.”

With the release of Gibson’s CIA files, scholars can now discern the hidden hand of the American clandestine service in writing that history. When it came to the character who inspired Bill Hart, “the superspy,” Richard Wright’s fiction was perhaps ahead of its time.

New York Times, Gov. Eric Greitens’s Charge Is Dropped, for Now, in Missouri, Alvin A. Reid, Mitch Smith and Julie Bosman, May 15, 2018 (print edition). Jury selection had been underway for three days in the case against the Missouri governor. The abrupt decision left Mr. Greitens’s legal and political fate uncertain.

eric greitens oThe trial was to be a major test for Gov. Eric Greitens of Missouri, a former Navy SEAL once lauded as a rising star in the Republican Party and, perhaps someday, a contender for president.

Prosecutors said that, in 2015, Mr. Greitens (shown at right) had taken an explicit photo of a woman with whom he was having an affair, without her consent. For months, the accusation had dogged his young governorship and upended politics across Missouri.

Then on Monday, with a trial set to begin this week and jury selection already well underway, Mr. Greitens watched from a St. Louis courtroom as the case suddenly collapsed. Prosecutors abruptly announced that they were dropping their felony invasion-of-privacy charge against him.

For Mr. Greitens, who has for weeks proclaimed his innocence and fought off demands that he resign, the announcement was a significant win. “This is a great victory, and it has been a long time coming,” Mr. Greitens, 44, said outside the courthouse, where he spoke briefly but did not answer questions. “This experience has been humbling, and I have emerged from it a changed man.”

Still, Mr. Greitens, only a year and a half into his first term in office, remains entangled in a legal and political thicket, and his future remains very much in doubt. A second felony charge, of tampering with computer data, awaits; prosecutors contend that he illegally obtained a donor list from a veterans’ charity he founded and used it for his 2016 campaign. And he faces a looming threat to his governorship from the Missouri General Assembly, which has scheduled a special session on Friday that could lead to a vote on impeachment.

In dropping the invasion-of-privacy charge, prosecutors cited the defense team’s decision to call the St. Louis circuit attorney, Kimberly Gardner, as a witness in the case. The lawyers for Mr. Greitens had accused Ms. Gardner of condoning misconduct and lying by an investigator on the case, and apparently intended to question her on those issues.

Ms. Gardner, a Democrat, filed the felony charge in February, accusing Mr. Greitens, who is married, of taking the explicit photo of his former hairdresser, with whom he has acknowledged having an affair. The woman, who has not been identified, was captured on a secretly recorded tape telling her then-husband that Mr. Greitens had blindfolded her, torn off her shirt and pants and taken a photo without her consent. Her ex-husband released the audio recording of the conversation to the news media over her objections.

Another U.S. Setback In Afhanistan?

ny times logoNew York Times, Afghan Forces Battle Taliban for Control of Western City, Farah, Jawad Sukhanyar and Rod Nordland, May 15, 2018 (print edition).  The provincial capital was on the verge of becoming the second city to fall to the insurgents since the war began. An official said the governor had fled.

Trump Probes

washington post logoWashington Post, Michael Avenatti is using Trump-like tactics to battle Trump. But that may carry risks for his client, Emma Brown and Beth Reinhard, May 15, 2018 (print edition). The lawyer representing adult-film actress Stormy Daniels taunts his opponents, using Twitter to make explosive claims. And he is omnipresent on cable news. The take-no-prisoners approach has turned Avenatti into a darling of the political left. But experts say the bold strategy may backfire. Related story: "Michael Avenatti doubles down on his threat to sue the Daily Caller.

michael avenatti sketchTen weeks ago, Michael Avenatti (shown at right) was a California lawyer known for his successes in class-action lawsuits. Then he sued President Trump on behalf of adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and — through an extraordinarily aggressive media campaign — parlayed a narrow dispute about a one-night stand into a ­news-cycle-dominating assault on the president of the United States.

The take-no-prisoners approach has turned Avenatti into a darling of the political left, which is hungry for anti-Trump heroes and gleeful at the notion that the president could be taken down by a porn star. Many of Avenatti’s fans believe he is just as likely to unearth damaging revelations about Trump as special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who is leading the probe into Russian influence in the 2016 election.

To become one of Trump’s chief adversaries, Avenatti has carved a Trumpian path. He taunts his opponents. He uses Twitter to make explosive accusations. And he is omnipresent on cable news.

Yet Avenatti’s tactics and visibility may carry risks that could undermine his ability to represent his client, who is suing longtime Trump attorney Michael Cohen and the president to be released from a non-disclosure agreement. Scrutiny of his business record and of his motives has provided grist for distracting headlines in recent days. And his publication last week of Cohen’s banking history — hard-to-get information touching on some of the most sensitive issues before the White House — could jeopardize his ability to represent Daniels in court, some experts say.

U.S. Politics

Democratic-Republican Campaign logos

ny times logomike pence oNew York Times, Pence’s Leading Role in Midterms Unsettles Trump Loyalists, Alexander Burns, Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman, May 15, 2018 (print edition). President Trump has not yet crafted a strategy for his involvement in the midterms. So Vice President Mike Pence (shown at right), his disciplined running mate, has stepped into the void.

washington post logoWashington Post, Senators, watchdog hit Social Security over closed offices and poor service, Joe Davidson, May 15, 2018. The Social Security Administration (SSA) is getting heat from inside and outside the agency stemming from scores of field-office closures and poor customer service. Bipartisan leaders of a special Senate committee want Social Security to explain why so many facilities have been shuttered, while a new internal watchdog report documents long processing times at hearing offices.

Anti-U.S, Anti-Iran Cleric Surprise Leader In Iraqi Elections

iraq afghanistan map

moqtada sadrReuters, Cleric Sadr, in surprise comeback, set to win Iraq election, Ahmed Aboulenein and Maher Chmaytelli, May 15, 2018 (print edition). Nationalist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a long-time adversary of the United States, led in Iraq’s parliamentary election with more than half the votes counted on Monday, the electoral commission said, in a surprise turn of fortune for the Shi’ite leader.

In the first election since Islamic State was defeated in the country, Shi’ite militia chief Hadi al-Amiri’s bloc, which is backed by Iran, was in second place, while Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, once seen as the front-runner, trailed in third position.

The preliminary results were based on a count of more than 95 percent of the votes cast in 10 of Iraq’s 18 provinces.

Unlike Abadi, a rare ally of both the United States and Iran, Sadr is an opponent of both of the countries which have wielded influence in Iraq since a U.S.-led invasion toppled Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003 and ushered the Shi’ite majority to power. Sadr has led two uprisings against U.S. forces in Iraq and is one of the few Shi’ite leaders to distance himself from Iran. Related story:

ny times logoNew York Times, Cleric Leads in Iraq Elections Militia Leader Who Battled U.S. During Iraq War Leads Election, Margaret Coker and Rick Gladstone, May 15, 2018 (print edition). The votes cast in national elections over the weekend are still being counted, but anti-establishment candidates were celebrating.

Moktada al-Sadr, a firebrand militia leader whose forces once battled American troops in Iraq and were implicated in widespread atrocities against civilians, has emerged as the surprise front-runner in the Iraqi national elections, according to Iraqi election officials.

Crimea / Ukraine

The Crimean Bridge – 27 months of the work shown in 3 mins. video:

SouthFront, 19km Bridge From Mainland Russia To Crimea Is Hours Away From Opening (Videos), Staff report, May 15, 218. On May 15, Russian President Vladimir Putin is opening a 19-km bridge across the Kerch Strait, which connects mainland Russia to Crimea. The bridge, which links Russia’s Republic of Crimea and Krasnodar Region, has a capacity of 40,000 cars per day. The vehicles section of the bridge will be open to traffic on May 16. The railway section of the bridge is scheduled to be opened in early 2019. Its capacity is 47 pairs of trains per day.

russian crimean bridgeSumming up numbers, the bridge will have the capacity of 14 million passengers and 13 million tons of cargo per year. The project costs 228 billion rubles ($3.69 billion). The Crimean Bridge is the longest bridge in Europe, taking over the Vasco da Gama Bridge in Lisbon, Portugal. According to initial estimates the bridge had been expected to be fully constructed by the end of 2018 but has been completed six months ahead of the schedule.

Ukrainian leadership and experts have repeatedly criticized the project:

◾ According to the initial version Russia was not capable of building such a bridge in the area.
◾ Now, the Ukrainain side is claiming that the construction has damaged the environment and that larger ships will be unable to get through to its ports on the Azov Sea.

The Crimean Bridge opens amid the developing tensions between Russian and Ukrainian coastguards in the Black and Azov seas.

Inside DC / Politics

Roll Call, Trump Call to Curb August Recess Picks Up Steam, John T. Bennett, May 15, 2018. Republican senators seem eager to keep Democrats off campaign trail. President Donald Trump did most of the talking Tuesday during a lunch-hour meeting with Senate Republicans, but lawmakers said he did not prod them to cancel their August recess. He did not have to.

That’s because the idea appears to be gaining steam for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the large number of Democratic incumbents running for re-election could find themselves off the campaign trail and in Washington at a prime time for campaigning.

May 14

Launch Of New Poor People's Campaign In America

Democracy Now! Opinion: ":It’s Time for Moral Confrontation”: New Poor People’s Campaign Stages Nationwide Civil Disobedience, Amy Goodman, May 14, 2018. On Mother’s Day 50 years ago, thousands converged on Washington, D.C., to take up the cause that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been fighting for when he was assassinated on April 4, 1968: the Poor People’s Campaign. A little more than a week after her husband’s memorial service, Coretta Scott King led a march to demand an Economic Bill of Rights that included a guaranteed basic income, full employment and more low-income housing.

william barber facebookHalf a century later, Rev. Dr. William Barber II (shown in a file photo) and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis have launched a new Poor People’s Campaign. Starting today, low-wage workers, clergy and community activists in 40 states are participating in actions and events across the country that will culminate in a mass protest in Washington, D.C., on June 23. We speak with Rev. Dr. William Barber and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.

The Rev. William Barber: Today, in more than 30 states and here in the District of Columbia, activists, clergy and, most of all, impacted people, the poor, will be organizing a nonviolent, moral, fusion direct action Mondays, a direct confrontation with what we call policy violence and the immoral policies that we see are continuing to hurt the poor. And particularly the focus today will be on women in poverty, children in poverty and the disabled. We cannot continue to have a democracy that engages in the kind of policy violence that we see happening every day.

More On Gaza Killings

washington post logoWashington Post, Israelis kill dozens of Palestinians in Gaza protesting U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem, Loveday Morris and Hazem Balousha​, May 14, 2018. The clashes between Israeli soldiers and thousands of Palestinians demonstrating along the border fence also left more than 1,600 people injured, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. It is the bloodiest day in Gaza since the 2014 war with Israel.

Israeli soldiers on Monday killed 37 Palestinians demonstrating along the border fence and wounded more than 1,600 in the bloodiest day in Gaza since the 2014 war with Israel, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

Israel Flagny times logoNew York Times, Israel Feels Pride but Senses Peril as U.S. Moves Embassy, David M. Halbringer, May 14, 2018. On Israel’s 70th anniversary, the United States Embassy will move to Jerusalem. But it comes at a moment so fraught that Israelis seem not to know what to feel.

jared kushner ivanka trump cnn may 14 2018

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Trump's Family Applauds Zionist Massacre Of Palestinians In Gaza, B, May 14, 2018. At some settler event in the capital of Palestine, Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, mentioned today's Gaza massacre in which Israeli soldiers murdered 52 and maimed 1,200 unarmed Palestinians:

"As we have seen from the protests of the last month and even today, those provoking violence are part of the problem and not part of the solution." The White House omitted that sentence in its official transcript.

chris hedgesoenearthlogoOpEdNews, Opinion: Killing Gaza, Chris Hedges (shown at right), May 14, 2018. Israel's blockade of Gaza -- where trapped Palestinians for the past seven weeks have held nonviolent protests along the border fence with Israel, resulting in more than 50 killed and 700 wounded by Israeli troops -- is one of the world's worst humanitarian disasters.

Yet the horror that is Gaza, where 2 million people live under an Israeli siege without adequate food, housing, work, water and electricity, where the Israeli military routinely uses indiscriminate and disproportionate violence to wound and murder, and where almost no one can escape, is rarely documented. Max Blumenthal and Dan Cohen's powerful new film, "Killing Gaza," offers an unflinching and moving portrait of a people largely abandoned by the outside world, struggling to endure.

max blumenthal killing gaza boulder poster"Killing Gaza" will be released Tuesday, to coincide with what Palestinians call Nakba Day -- "nakba" means catastrophe in Arabic -- commemorating the 70th anniversary of the forced removal of some 750,000 Palestinians in 1948 by the Haganah, Jewish paramilitary forces, from their homes in modern-day Israel. The release of the documentary also coincides with the Trump administration's opening of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.

Because of Nakba Day and the anger over the transfer of the embassy to Jerusalem, this week is expected to be one of the bloodiest of the seven-week-long protest that Palestinians call the "Great Return March." "Killing Gaza" illustrates why Palestinians, with little left to lose, are rising up by the thousands and risking their lives to return to their ancestral homes -- 70 percent of those in Gaza are refugees or the descendants of refugees -- and be treated like human beings.

Cohen and Blumenthal, who is the author of the book "Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel," one of the best accounts of modern Israel, began filming the documentary Aug. 15, 2014. Palestinian militias, armed with little more than light weapons, had just faced Israeli tanks, artillery, fighter jets, infantry units and missiles in a 51-day Israeli assault that left 2,314 Palestinians dead and 17,125 injured. Some 500,000 Palestinians were displaced and about 100,000 homes were destroyed.

The 2014 assault, perhaps better described as a massacre, was one of eight massacres that Israel has carried out since 2004 against the 2 million Palestinians in Gaza, over half of whom are children. Israel, which refers to these periodic military assaults as "mowing the lawn," seeks to make existence in Gaza so difficult that mere survival consumes most of the average Palestinian's time, resources and energy.

New York Times video

ny times logoNew York Times, Pastor Who Said Jews Are Going to Hell Led Prayer at Jerusalem Embassy Opening, Matthew Haag, May 14, 2018. A Dallas evangelical pastor who once said that Jewish people are going to hell and a megachurch televangelist who claimed that Hitler was part of God’s plan to return Jews to Israel both played prominent roles on Monday in the opening ceremony of the new American Embassy in Jerusalem.

Robert Jeffress, who spoke at President Trump’s private inaugural prayer service and is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, delivered a prayer at the opening ceremony on Monday, while the Rev. John C. Hagee, a televangelist who founded Christians United for Israel and leads a San Antonio megachurch, gave the closing benediction.

Despite their comments about Jewish people, the two pastors are among the leading pro-Israel voices in the evangelical Christian world. Some evangelicals believe that American foreign policy should support Israel to help fulfill biblical prophecies about the second coming of Christ.

Democracy Now! Opinion: Rev. Barber Slams Anti-Muslim, Anti-Semitic Pastors Trump Chose to Open U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, Amy Goodman, May 14, 2018 (54 mins.). While tens of thousands of Palestinians gathered near the heavily fortified border with Israel for nonviolent protests against the U.S. Embassy’s opening in Jerusalem Monday, a new Poor People’s Campaign launched in the United States.

william barber hsWe are joined by Rev. Dr. William Barber (shown in a file photo), president of Repairers of the Breach and distinguished visiting professor of public theology at Union Theological Seminary, to discuss human rights from Gaza to Washington, D.C., and the anti-gay, pro-Trump pastor from Dallas chosen by the Trump administration to lead the prayer at the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.

AMY GOODMAN: I was wondering if you can comment — as you’re there in Washington, D.C., there are mass protests in Gaza. And it looks like the deadliest day of violence, with Israeli military gunning down, it looks like, at this point, something like 37 protesters. Overall, since March 30th, thousands have been injured, I think something like 84 people killed. But the person who is opening the ceremony for the U.S. Embassy to be moved to Jerusalem is Pastor Jeffress, who has spoken out against Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, gay men and lesbians, Mormonism. Can you comment on what this Southern Baptist preacher represents, from Dallas, Texas?

REV. WILLIAM BARBER II: Well, yes, and it’s hurtful, but it’s necessary. You know, I’m thinking about that this May 10th was the end of the Birmingham campaign, 50-some years ago, 55 years ago. And remember, we saw the images of dogs attacking children and women in Birmingham. And today we see the images of drones attacking our Palestinian brothers and sisters. We see our president playing every race card he can, and connecting — he’s an extremist, and he’s connected with Netanyahu, who’s an extremist. And now they’re connected together. And he’s doing this for all the wrong reasons, splitting people, splitting people who historically are brothers and sisters.

And now he has chosen not only Jeffress, but Hagee, who once actually described — John Hagee, I understand, described Hitler as a hunter, a God-sent hunter, who was designed, ordained by God to hunt the Jewish people, to force them to come back to Israel in order to bring about the coming of Christ. Jeffress, as you remember, also said at President Trump’s inaugural sermon that God endorsed the building of walls. Now, both of these men, if you really check their theology, they are not preaching Christian theology. They are heretics, in many ways. What they’re talking about is heresy. They claim to be Christian, and they claim a certain brand of Christianity. But when you look at it theologically, it does not line up with the Scriptures’ call to love.

It does not line up with the Scriptures’ call that you treat the person or persons that are not of your particular race or your particular lineage as brothers and sisters. It does not line up with the Scriptures’ anti-violence, anti-killing. This is just a form of what—it’s nothing more than a modern-day form of what my good friend Jonathan Hargrove calls slave religion, the kind of religion that abuses the Scriptures and uses it to support political opinions that are not the politics of God or the politics of Christ. Jeffress is spewing hate and meanfulness. And by the president choosing him, that joins him to that kind of theology.

ny times logoAmerican FlagNew York Times, Israel Kills at Least 58 as Palestinians Try to Cross Border, David M. Halbringer, Isabel Kershner and Declan Walsh, May 14, 2018. A mass attempt by Palestinians to cross the border fence separating Israel from Gaza quickly turned violent, as Israeli soldiers responded with rifle fire. At least 1,000 Palestinian demonstrators were also wounded in the Gaza protests, which spread to the West Bank, in opposition to the relocation of the U.S. Embassy. See below for related stories.

U.S. Politics

The Hill, Haspel confirmation vote set for Wednesday, Katie Bo Williams, May 14, 2018. The Senate Intelligence Committee will vote Wednesday on Gina Haspel's nomination to lead the CIA, a committee aide said Monday. The vote will take place in closed session prior to a scheduled classified hearing on the intelligence community's 2017 assessment that Russia attempted to interfere in the U.S. election.

Gina Haspel Custom 2Haspel (shown at left) appears poised to pass out of committee with a favorable recommendation, teeing up a full Senate vote likely next week.

Although some of the panel's Democrats have announced their opposition, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is supporting her.

mark warner shirtsleevesOne big question mark, however, remains the committee's top Democrat, Sen. Mark Warner (Va.), who has remained conspicuously close-lipped on his position on the controversial nominee. Warner, shown at right, is a Vice Chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus and the Vice Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

A handful of Senate Republicans have announced their opposition to Haspel — including Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) and the long-absent Sen. John McCain joe donnelly(Ariz.) — but neither serves on the Intelligence panel.

Another Democrat, Sen. Joe Donnelly (Ind., shown at left), announced his support for Haspel over the weekend. Both Manchin and joe manchin oDonnelly are up for reelection in 2018 and represent states won by President Trump in 2016.

Haspel, currently deputy director of the agency, has drawn fierce opposition from some Democrats related her role in the CIA's detention and interrogation program in the years following the Sept. 11 attacks.

cia logoThe program used techniques now widely considered torture. Haspel's specific role in the program remains classified. She testified in her confirmation hearing that the program would not be restarted under her leadership, but frustrated Democrats with her answer on whether she thought the program was "immoral."

“I believe that CIA did extraordinary work to prevent another attack on this country given the legal tools that we were authorized to use,” Haspel said. “What I believe sitting here today is that I support the higher moral standard we have decided to hold ourselves to.”

Democratic-Republican Campaign logos

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats worry their midterm advantage is eroding as Trump’s approval rating ticks up, Sean Sullivan and Seung Min Kim, May 14, 2018. Democrats were confident that anti-Trump fervor would help deliver a House majority and possibly the Senate. Now they’re openly fretting about Florida and other contested states.

Inside Washington

HuffPost, Opinion: Not An Onion Story: Blake Farenthold Gets A New Job Lobbying Congress, Jennifer Bendery, May 14, 2018. It’s only been a month since he quit his House seat amid an ethics committee probe into sexual harassment allegations. Please pay back the $84,000 you owe taxpayers so I can stop writing about you, Mr. Farenthold.

blake farenthold oA month after abruptly resigning from Congress in an apparent effort to avoid more fallout from sexual harassment allegations, former Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas, shown at right) already has a new job: lobbying his former colleagues on port issues.

Farenthold announced Monday on a Corpus Christi radio show that he landed a new gig at the Calhoun Port Authority in Port Lavaca, Texas, as reported by Caller Times. He is now the port’s full-time legislative liaison, and his job responsibilities include increasing the port’s visibility with federal lawmakers and the Trump administration. Port Lavaca sits on the Texas coast some 70 miles northeast of Corpus Christi.

“I’m starting a new job today that has an hour-and-a-half commute,” Farenthold said on 1360 KKTX-AM’s “Lago in the Morning.” “You’re going to have me listening and calling in a whole lot now.”

It is generally illegal for a former member of Congress to immediately become a lobbyist, but there are exceptions for those lobbying for state or local government agencies.

Caller Times reports that Farenthold’s annual salary will be $160,000. That’s roughly double the amount he spent in taxpayer money to settle a 2014 sexual harassment lawsuit brought against him by his former aide Lauren Greene.

Greene alleged in legal documents that the Texas congressman had told another aide that Greene could “show her nipples whenever she wanted to” and that he had “wet dreams” about her. She described Farenthold as often being drunk and flirtatious at work, complaining of a sexless marriage, and telling her a story about a female lobbyist who propositioned him for “a threesome.”

Farenthold spent $84,000 in taxpayer funds to quietly settle that lawsuit. When the news broke this past December, he vowed to quickly pay the money back but never did. By April, with the House Ethics Committee close to wrapping up a probe into more office misconduct, he quit Congress.

The good news for the ex-lawmaker is that he can now repay taxpayers for the settlement and still have $76,000 left of his salary. Not bad!*

Randy Boyd, the chairman of the six-member board that oversees the Calhoun Port Authority, did not return a request for comment on why Farenthold was a good hire. Charles Hausmann, the director of the Calhoun Port Authority, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s ZTE tweet sows confusion before trade talks with China, Damian Paletta, David J. Lynch and Josh Dawsey, May 14, 2018. Senior U.S. officials struggled Monday to explain and act on President Trump’s abrupt decision to rescue Chinese telecom giant ZTE — a move that caught many of them by surprise.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s drug price retreat adds to list of abandoned populist promises, Damian Paletta, May 14, 2018. The president’s announcement that he would not force drug companies to lower prices for older Americans marked at least the fourth populist economic promise he has abandoned since taking office.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Alarming new revelations about Trump’s addiction to Fox News, Greg Sergeant, May 14, 2018. There are two Mueller probes. There’s the one that exists in the Fox News-addled mind of President Trump and his supporters, which features dark conspiracy-mongering about a “Deep State coup” against Trump; out-of-control federal agents jackbooting poor, hapless Trump allies; and, of course, the corrupt failure to prosecute Hillary Clinton.

fox news logo SmallThen there’s the one that exists in most mainstream news accounts, which features a team of investigators mostly going by the book, never leaking, methodically following the facts, albeit very aggressively, wherever they will lead.

The gaping disconnect between these two Mueller probes is driven home by two new pieces: one from New York magazine, which reports alarming new details about Trump’s addiction to Fox News and how that has shaped his perception of the Mueller investigation; and one from The Post, which paints a detailed picture of how the probe has actually been operating day in and day out.

The New York magazine piece reports that former White House advisers Sean Spicer and Reince Priebus sought to deliberately drive Trump deeper into the Fox News bubble, because he was getting overly agitated by criticism on MSNBC and CNN. They did this by talking up Fox’s high ratings and importance to Trump’s base until Trump’s television diet became, as one former official put it, “mainly a complete dosage of Fox.”

But this has created its own alarming problems, officials now say. Fox gets Trump riled up about topics that weren’t supposed to be on that day’s agenda, forcing White House staff to scramble to refocus. And Trump’s addiction to Sean Hannity — who has become a kind of walking security blanket for the president — is having a deep impression on his view of the Mueller investigation:

Regardless of the news of the day, the overarching narrative of the show is the political persecution of Trump, and by extension of Hannity and Hannity’s viewers, at the hands of the so-called deep state and the Democratic Party, and the corrupt mainstream media, a wholly owned subsidiary of both. Everything comes back to … Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election, a phony, petty diversion from what should be the real focus: prosecuting Hillary Clinton.

Now over to The Post’s new piece. The big takeaway is that the Mueller probe, as the piece puts it, is “secretive and methodical,” a “steaming locomotive” that is racking up indictments and guilty pleas — the real action in the background, even as Hannity hallucinates about the Deep State and Rudy Giuliani rails about Mueller’s “stormtroopers” while pummeling himself about the face with seemingly endless rake-stepping.

Massasschusetts Sex / Politics Scandal

harveysilverglate 136WGBH News (Boston), Opinion: The Human Face Behind The Stan Rosenberg Tragedy, Harvey Silverglate (right), May 14, 2018. Former Mass. Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, an Amherst Democrat, was elected by his colleagues to serve in the powerful position of president of the Massachusetts Senate.

Over the course of a half-century as a criminal defense and civil liberties lawyer, I have witnessed myriad human tragedies, many rooted in the soil of the human condition. Few, however, lay bare the stuff of life as dramatically as the saga of former Senate President Stanley Rosenberg.

stan rosenberg massachusettsOnce one of the most powerful men in the state, Rosenberg (shown at left) resigned his seat last week. He ultimately was felled by his loyalty to his palpably mentally-ill companion and (later) husband Bryon Hefner.

Of the long list of dramatis personae in this legal, political, and human drama, I have concluded that Rosenberg emerges as the lone sympathetic actor. The rest all appear to have deviated from the roles that they should have limited themselves to, rather than over-stepping in a veritable orgy of unseemly piety and, all too often, schadenfreude.

The outlines of the saga are well-known. The Boston Globe reported in a November 30, 2017 investigative story that Hefner sexually assaulted four men, hinting to his victims that he could be useful to them in accomplishing their legislative or lobbying agendas on Beacon Hill if they gave in to Hefner’s sexual advances.

The Globe story clearly disclosed criminal conduct on Hefner’s part, although a fair reading of the disclosures surely should have led all of the then and future actors in the saga to ask themselves whether it was not obvious that Hefner’s conduct was occasioned not by a true extortionate intent, but rather by a serious and persistent mental illness. Despite this obvious fact, the Suffolk County District Attorney and Attorney General Maura Healey secured, and then announced in April, Hefner’s indictment by a state-wide grand jury.

Federal Probe Of Trump Team

robert mueller graphic IMG 6401

Special Counsel Robert Muelller III, shown in an artists' graphic

washington post logoJustice Department log circularWashington Post, As Mueller probe enters second year, Trump and allies go on war footing, Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker, Tom Hamburger, Robert Costa and Matt Zapotosky, May 14, 2018 (print edition).  Many Trump aides and associates say they are confident the president will be exonerated in the special counsel probe. But they privately express worries that it may yet ensnare more figures in Trump’s orbit, including family members.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Looks like Michael Avenatti just confirmed a key piece of the Trump-Russia dossier, Bill Palmer, May 14, 2018. Stormy Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti published images yesterday which reveal that Michael Cohen and Michael Flynn met with Qatari businessman Ahmed Al-Rumaihi at Trump Tower in December of 2016. This is bad for Trump and his people, because Al-Rumaihi has since allegedly told an associate that he successfully bribed the Trump administration. It’s even worse because Al-Rumaihi played a key role in the Trump-Russia dossier, and this appears to confirm one of the ugliest aspects of the dossier.

michael avenatti ccn 3 23 18 CustomNo, we’re not talking about the Pee Pee Tape, though at the rate he’s going, Avenatti (shown at right) might end up finding that as well. Instead we’re talking about the deal to sell 19% of Russian oil giant Rosneft. Ahmed Al-Rumaihi was a key player at a company called QIA, which negotiated the Rosneft sale. The Trump Russia dossier alleges that an additional 0.5% was allotted for Trump, as a way of ensuring his status as a financial puppet of the Kremlin. Now we know that just a couple days after the Rosneft sale went through, Al-Rumaihi met with Trump’s top people at Trump Tower.

This seems extraordinarily unlikely to have been a coincidence. Are we really to believe that once the guy behind the Rosneft deal pulled it off, the first thing he did was meet with Trump’s top people, and it had nothing to do with the Rosneft sale? Are we further to believe that Al-Rumaihi went on to brag to his associate that he’d successfully bribed Trump’s people, and that the meeting still had nothing to do with Rosneft?

We’re now seriously talking about Donald Trump having received more than quarter billion dollar payoff from the Kremlin, arranged during the election, and finalized immediately after Russia succeeded in rigging the election for Trump. This would mean that the Trump-Russia scandal truly is every bit as ugly as the deepest of cynics have long believed.

Privacy / Consumer News

Cloudwards.net, Analysis: The USA PATRIOT Act: What You Need to Know, Fergus O'Sullivan, May 14, 2018. Here at Cloudwards.net we’re big fans of privacy and even bigger fans of people protecting it. We’ve done an article on 99 free privacy tools and we’ve reported on the U.S. Congress allowing American ISPs to spy on their customers. In this article we’re going to take a look at the grandaddy of modern privacy-breaching legislation, the USA PATRIOT Act.

The Patriot Act, to give it its common name, was passed shortly after the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks, but was not, as most people think, directly related to that. In fact, it’s passage through the houses of parliament was spurred on by the anthrax attacks of late 2001, when celebrities, politicians and plenty of others received suspicious packages of white powder in the mail.

This bit of mail-based nastiness was the perfect fuel on a fire already burning bright and on October 25, 2001, The U.S. Senate passed the, and it’s a mouthful, Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act. The Patriot Act passed both houses almost unanimously, with only 66 Representatives and a single Senator voting against this rather scary piece of legislation.

Now, ever since Edward Snowden came out and spilled the beans on PRISM, SOMALGET and all the other off-the-books programs organized by the NSA, CIA and whatever other alphabet agencies, we all have gotten used to that the government might be listening. Back in 2001, however, all this was new and many people could be forgiven for thinking that it would all blow over.

Court Enables More Sports Betting

washington post logoWashington Post, States are free to legalize sports betting, Supreme Court says, Robert Barnes​, May 14, 2018. The decision could open a rush among states to grab a share of what is now billions of dollars in illegal gambling.

Weapons Of Terror?

whowhatwhy logopeter b. collinsWhoWhatWhy, Did US Deploy Bio-weapons During Korean War? Peter B. Collins (shown at right), May 14, 2018. Peter B. Collins podcast interview of Dr. Jeffrey Kaye. A recently unearthed 1950s report by an international commission concluded the US used bioweapons on North Korea. It raises doubts about claims that captured Americans were brainwashed into confessing the use of such weapons.

In 1952, in the early stages of the Korean War, North Korea accused the United States of using biological weapons — a claim the US has always denied. Journalist and retired psychologist Jeffrey Kaye found a copy of a report by the International Scientific Commission on the issue, originally released in 1952. Its investigation concluded that the US used a number of biological weapons, including anthrax, plague, and cholera, and that the confessions of many captured American airmen provided confirmation.

Those confessions were characterized by the US as the result of torture and brainwashing, which Kaye now believes were exaggerated to discredit the biowarfare claims. He describes the events of March 25, 1952, when a swarm of fleas — later found to be infected with bubonic plague — was dropped from aircraft on the North Korean village of Kang-Sou.

Jeffrey Kaye is a retired psychologist and the author of Coverup at Guantánamo: The NCIS Investigation into the “Suicides” of Mohammed Al Hanashi and Abdul Rahman Al Amri (publisher: Jeffrey S. Kaye, PhD, 2nd edition: September 10, 2016). He has written widely about torture, asylum, and many other issues related to the US military.

First Family Update

melania trump twitterwashington post logoWashington Post, Melania Trump hospitalized following medical procedure ‘to treat a benign kidney condition,’ Jenna Johnson​, May 14, 2018. The first lady underwent an "embolization procedure" Monday morning and is expected to remain hospitalized for the rest of the week, according to her communications director.

Raw Story, Trump stole another family’s crest – and wants to trademark it to sell some furniture, Noor Al-Sibai, May 14, 2018. A company connected to Donald Trump has filed to trademark a coat of arms the president’s company allegedly plagiarized from the original owners of Mar-a-Lago. According to documents obtained by celebrity gossip site The Blast, an LLC linked to the Trump Organization filed to trademark the crest so it can be used on Trump-branded furniture. Specifically, the report noted, the filing would allow the crest Trump is barred from using in the United Kingdom to be used on shelving and storage units.

The crest features a shield emblazoned with three lions and two chevrons with a “tiny” hand clenching a spear at the top. The original belonged to the family of Joseph Edward Davies, the third husband of Mar-a-Lago builder Marjorie Merriweather Post, and featured the word “integritas,” which is Latin for “integrity.” The term was replaced with the word “Trump” after the president’s organization took over ownership of the “Winter White House.”

May 13

McCain Controversies

washington post logojohn mccain 2009 wWashington Post, Speaking out on torture and a Trump nominee, ailing John McCain roils Washington, Mike DeBonis, May 13, 2018 (print edition). The six-term senator from Arizona (shown in a file photo) showed that despite brain cancer, he remains a potent force in national politics and a polarizing figure within the Republican Party. With his remarks made from his home in Sedona, he revived the debate over torture and its effectiveness in extracting information.

ny times logoNew York Times, White House Refuses to Apologize for Aide’s McCain Joke, Peter Baker, May 13, 2018 (print edition). Friends and admirers of Senator John McCain condemned an assistant to the president who said the senator did not matter because “he’s dying anyway.”

The White House declined on Friday to renounce or apologize for an aide whose joke at a meeting that Senator John McCain was irrelevant because he would soon die went viral, outraging relatives, friends and admirers of the ailing lawmaker.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said she would not comment on a closed-door meeting where the joke was made. And she offered no words of regret over the remark or sympathy for Mr. McCain, a Republican senator and two-time presidential candidate who is battling brain cancer at his Arizona ranch.

“I’m not going to validate a leak one way or the other out of an internal staff meeting,” Ms. Sanders said. Asked why she would not simply apologize to Mr. McCain, she said, “I’m not going to get into a back and forth because, you know, people want to create issues of leaked staff meetings.”

Mr. McCain’s friends lashed out at the White House for gross insensitivity. “People have wondered when decency would hit rock bottom with this administration,” former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said in a statement. “It happened yesterday.”

Global Alliances: China-Iran

washington post logoiran flag mapWashington Post, China’s new train line to Iran sends a message to Trump: We’ll keep trading anyway, Rick Noack, May 13, 2018 (print edition). While the United States is now urging foreign companies to wind down their operations with Tehran, Beijing appears to be doing the opposite.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump pledges to help Chinese phonemaker, declaring ‘too many jobs in China lost,’ Tony Romm and Damian Paletta​, May 13, 2018. The president's conciliatory comment comes weeks after the Commerce Department penalized ZTE for violating a settlement with the U.S. government over illegal shipments to Iran and North Korea. As a result, the Trump administration barred U.S. firms for seven years from exporting parts to the company.

Pompeo Promise On Korea

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. assuring Kim that it does not seek his overthrow, Pompeo says, Carol Morello and Anne Gearan, May 13, 2018. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he has already provided the assurance to North Korea's Kim Jong Un. The U.S. position is not new, but it carries additional weight ahead of a planned summit with President Trump.

Global War, Terrorism Threats

washington post logoWashington Post, Family of suicide bombers kills at least 7 in Indonesia church attacks, Alex Horton​, May 13, 2018. Four children — one as young as 9 — were among the family of six suicide bombers targeting churches in Indonesia's second-largest city. The world’s most populous Muslim nation has struggled with terrorism and violence against its Christian minority for decades.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: We have no Iran policy, Jennifer Rubin, May 13, 2018. Veteran Middle East negotiator Dennis Ross was a critic of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran deal, and recognized the need to shore up provisions on inspections and sunset clauses. What he — like many reasoned voices (some who opposed the JCPOA and some who did not) — now sees is something arguably worse than the JCPOA.

iran flag mapRather than turning the screws on Iran to address some of the items President Trump identified, the E.U. is now looking at “financial instruments that would sit beyond the reach of Washington’s powers and an agency that would enforce European law against foreign-based companies—a tit-for-tat rejoinder to Washington’s powers over non-U.S. companies.”

In other words, we are losing, not gaining, leverage by leaving the JCPOA.

Protecting School Grifters

ny times logobetsy devos oNew York Times, Team Investigating Fraud at For-Profit Colleges Is Redirected, Daneielle Ivory, Erica L. Green and Steve Eder, May 13, 2018. Members of a special team at the Education Department that had been investigating widespread abuses by for-profit colleges have been marginalized, reassigned or instructed to focus on other matters, according to current and former employees. The unwinding of the team has effectively killed investigations into possibly fraudulent activities at several large for-profit colleges where top hires of Betsy DeVos (shown at right), the education secretary, had previously worked.

During the final months of the Obama administration, the team had expanded to include a dozen or so lawyers and investigators who were looking into advertising, recruitment practices and job placement claims at several institutions, including DeVry Education Group.

The investigation into DeVry ground to a halt early last year. Later, in the summer, Ms. DeVos named Julian Schmoke, a former dean at DeVry, as the team’s new supervisor.

The investigative team had been created in 2016 after the collapse of the for-profit Corinthian Colleges, which set off a wave of complaints from students about predatory activities at for-profit schools. The institutions had been accused of widespread fraud that involved misrepresenting enrollment benefits, job placement rates and program offerings, which could leave students with huge debts and no degrees.

May 12

Inside Washington

ny times logoiran flag mapNew York Times, News Analysis: Clashing Views on Iran Reflect White House Power Struggle, Mark Landler, May 12, 2018. John R. Bolton, the new national security adviser, is on the rise, and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis appears more isolated. The new secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, may be the man in the middle.

Mr. Bolton (shown in a file photo) is emerging as an influential figure, with a clear channel to the president and an ability to control the voices he hears. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who opposed leaving the deal but did not push the case as vocally toward the end, appears more john bolton youtube guardianisolated. And Mr. Pompeo may play a swing role, a hard-line former congressman and C.I.A. director who, in his new job, seems determined to give diplomacy a fair shot.

Beyond the bureaucratic maneuvering, analysts said, the Iran debate lays bare a deeper split on Mr. Trump’s team — between those, like Mr. Mattis, who want to change the behavior of hostile governments and those, like Mr. Bolton, who want to change the governments themselves.

llewellyn king photo logo

White House Chronicle, Opinion: War on Media: Now Trump Wants Our Credentials, Llewellyn King, May 12, 2018. The author, shown above, is a syndicated columnist and broadcaster with more than five decades experience. Oh, dear! President Trump has hinted that journalists should lose their credentials. He probably means the passes which allow journalists to enter the White House complex at the Northwest Gate and to walk to the briefing room a few hundred yards away.

Over the decades, successive administrations -- in my accounting, starting with Jimmy Carter -- have reduced the amount of freedom journalists enjoy inside the White House fence. It has been whittled away to the token that it is today. Jousting with the press secretary, Sarah Sanders, is not freedom to gather the news.

A reporter used to be able to walk around the complex without an escort and meet with White House staff in the Old Executive Office Building (now the Eisenhower Executive Office Building) without an escort.

More important, when you had an appointment in the West Wing, the nerve center of any administration, once you were through the door, you were at liberty to sit in the corridor before or after your appointment and often someone would invite you in for an unscheduled chat. At least, that was my experience and it was invaluable. You and they learned things. It was a two-way flow.

Credentials are a game subject to abuse: the very abuse Trump hints at. It has even been suggested, by the George W. Bush and other administrations, that the press should be kicked out of the White House and given a briefing room in a nearby government building. One of the major values of being inside the White House fence is to garner interviews in the driveway with important visitors -- to be able to file on the spot with authenticity and to be a constant, if thorny, reminder to the White House, any White House, that the eyes and ears of the world are feet away.

The damage that Trump has done to the media and by extension to this liberal democracy, is the ceaseless denigration. In 2017, 46 journalists were killed around the world – 26 so far this year -- for just doing their jobs. Death in the line of duty is not “fake.”

Trump’s daily assault on the media has encouraged all of those with something to hide: those who are cheating, lying, torturing, killing and suppressing the freedom of others. He is damaging the body politic here and in other countries.

Journalism maybe a feeble light but it is a light. For many it is last hope for justice, the ultimate appellate court and the hope that they will be heard.
Trump’s relentless undermining comes at the worst of times for the journalism we have known. Newspapers are gasping, television is losing advertisers and viewers. If all this were not sobering enough, many are demanding that the great new forces for disseminating journalistic output, Google and Facebook, should practice censorship. Shame.

paul craig roberts head sternOpEdNews, Opinion: Trump Is A Disaster, Paul Craig Roberts, May 12, 2018. Paul Craig Roberts, shown at right, is a conservative scholar, former Reagan assistant Treasury Secretary and former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal.

Trump has handed over to polluters oil and mineral rights in US National Monuments. Mining will now deface what was before Trump protected national monuments, and oil drilling will destroy the Arctic National Refuge. He has appointed polluters to run the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and he has waived rules in order to comply with the polluting industries' wish list.

Trump wants to cut EPA funding by 23 percent and to cut funding for restoration programs for the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay by 90 percent. He wants to pay for the upkeep of national parks by expanding oil and gas exploration on public lands. But he doesn't hesitate to send the equivalent of the annual environmental budget in war criminal missile attacks on Syria and plans for attacking Iran.

To be quite clear, Trump is privatizing national property and allowing a small handful of polluting corporations to plunder public assets while he builds a case for war against Iran. The assault on the environment started with VP Dick Cheney, but Trump has unleashed private plunder of public assets to an extreme degree.

Trump has now escalated Washington's war criminal behavior. He has unilaterally pulled out of a multi-nation agreement that ensures Iran's nuclear non-proliferation, and he has imposed more illegal unilateral economic sanctions on Iran that punish US companies such as Boeing and corporations in numerous European countries. Trump's foreign policy is under the control of Israel. Trump is unable to act in America's interest or in the interest of Washington's European, Canadian, and Australian vassals.

The silver lining in Trump's stupid decision is that it might cause Europe to become independent and to cease being a chorus praising Washington's war crimes. Will we see a rebellion of European political figures, essentially Washington's whores, that will break up the Empire and lead to an independent Europe?

djt benjamin netanyahu handshake

Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu and President Trump (file photo)

wayne madsenStrategic Culture Foundation, Opinion: The New ‘Axis of Evil’ Forms Up Against Iran, Wayne Madsen, May 12, 2018. Columnist, author and broadcaster Wayne Madsen, shown in a file photo, is a former U.S. Navy intelligence officer and National Security Agency analyst.  A quadripartite “axis of evil” that includes Israel, the United States, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates is moving its military assets, conducting softening-up military action, invading and occupying foreign territory, and waging economic warfare in preparation for a military campaign against Iran and its allies.

Weeks before Donald Trump scrapped U.S. participation in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement with Iran, false propaganda about Iran was being promulgated by Israeli intelligence. Trump illegally pulled the U.S. signature from the agreement at the urging of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, neocon National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and three wealthy Jewish Trump campaign contributors – Sheldon Adelson, Bernard Marcus, and Paul Singer.

iran flag mapIn an event reminiscent of the neocon and Israeli proffering of forged Niger government documents concerning Iraq’s acquisition of yellowcake uranium from the West African nation – an event that helped lead the U.S. into a disastrous military invasion and occupation of Iraq – Israel claimed to have stolen Iran’s entire nuclear weapons archive from a warehouse near Tehran. Israeli Mossad agents were said to have broken into the warehouse and transported 100,000 documents on Iran’s so-called “Amad Project” to the Azerbaijani border, where other Mossad agents took possession of the archive and transported it to Israel.

In recent weeks, forces of the United Arab Emirates invaded and occupied Socotra, a pristine group of islands that are claimed by Yemen and sit in the middle of the strategic Arabian Sea. Socotra’s airport and seaport are important for Israeli forces as an intermediate staging area for a military attack on Iran.

erik princeIt is believed that, along with a UAE force of armed military personnel, tanks, and armored troop carriers that seized the airport, seaport, and government buildings on April 30, were foreign mercenary forces of the private firm Reflex Reponses Management Consultancy LLC (R2), run by Blackwater founder Erik Prince (shown at left), a political associate of Trump and brother of U.S, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

R2 is based at a military base called Zayed Military City, located outside of Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital. UAE military and R2 forces also reportedly occupied Abd al Kuri, an island that lies off Socotra.

Probes of Trump

Palmer Report, Opinion: This is even uglier than I was prepared for, Bill Palmer, May 12, 2018. It’s been clear for more than a year that Donald Trump conspired with the Russian government to rig the presidential election in his favor. It’s been clear for far longer that Trump is a racist, a serial sexual assaulter, a career financial criminal, and a mentally unstable individual who is objectively dangerous. I’ve been trying to help expose his various scandals as quickly as possible, the uglier the better, because that’s the kind of jolt required to create the public sentiment needed to force a president to resign. But this is getting so ugly, I’m honestly not sure whether to be a little bit scared.

Let me be clear here: Trump is a goner. I will never, ever try to put a timeframe on his ouster, because politics and the law each have their own overly slow internal clocks. But there’s no longer any doubt that he’s going to be ousted. He won’t finish this term. He won’t come close. He’s toast. That’s not what I’m afraid of. I’m left to worry how deep and wide this is going to run once he’s been ousted. Let me try to explain.

att logoI’m a former AT&T customer, and I know from experience that they’re not an ethical company. But I never imagined they’d get into a criminal conspiracy with a “president” they know to be a traitor. Ford Motor Company, to its credit, turned Trump’s goons away. But now we know that this bribery scandal runs the gamut. Which iconic American brands did Trump manage to drag into the criminal gutter with him? Which of them will even survive this?

Maybe you’re saying right now that you don’t care about the fate of corporations who have sunk to Trump’s level – and you’ve got a point. But we’ve seen just how corrosive his corrupt nature can be. We’ve seen people go to work for him who seemed like halfway decent people, and by the end of it, they were just as hideously corrupt and hateful as he is. His malignant narcissistic sociopathy is the kind that rubs off on others like a communicable disease.

You can make the case that anyone willing to get dragged into the swamp by Donald Trump is someone who deserved to go down anyway. And maybe that’s true. But once this guy is forced to resign, just how much time and effort is going to be required to clean all of this up? Post-Trump, we can put Putin out of business with proper sanctions. But what are we supposed to do with the likes of AT&T?

Transitions: DC Media

National Press Club, Julie Schoo dies; was Executive Director of the Club's Journalism Institute, Staff report, May 12, 2018. Julia Cooper Schoo, whose keen appreciation for art and journalism helped to secure the financial future of the National Press Club and its nonprofit Journalism Institute, died Wednesday at her home in Bethesda. She was 69.

Schoo spent her professional career helping journalists, first at the Washington Press Club and then at the National Press Club, where she rose through the ranks to become executive director of the Journalism Institute, the club’s professional training and First Amendment advocacy arm.

A connoisseur of antiques, she decided one day that it was time to have a large painting that hung outside the Press Club bar reappraised. When the results came back, “I couldn’t sleep,” Schoo told colleagues.

“Norman Rockwell Visits a Country Editor,” a gift from the publisher of the iconic American artist, turned out to be so valuable that leaders of the 110-year-old club of journalists and professional communicators realized they couldn’t afford to insure it.

Schoo and Club Executive Director William McCarren helped lead the Club and Institute boards through the complex process of qualifying and auctioning the painting by Christie’s in 2015, bringing in nearly $11 million – a sum that solidified the Club’s finances and enabled the Journalism Institute to expand its work as a training center for future generations of journalists and as an advocate for freedom of the press.

May 11vladimir putin benjamin netanyahu cropped may 9 2018

Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu and Soviet President Vladimir Putin pose for a photo in Moscow as Netanyahu visited on May 9 to celebrate the Soviet Union's part in the Allied victory over Germany during World War II

ny times logoIsrael FlagNew York Times, Israel and Iran, Emboldened, Exchange Blows in Syria Face-Off, Isabel Kershner and David M. Halbfinger, May 11, 2018 (print edition). A shadow war burst into the open as Israeli warplanes struck Iranian targets in Syria. It was a furious response to what Israel called an Iranian rocket attack.

iran flag mapThe cross-border exchanges — the most serious from each side over Iran’s presence in Syria — took place a day after the Americans withdrew from the Iran nuclear accord.

Probes of Trump Team

washington post logomichael cohen ap file croppedWashington Post, AT&T paid Cohen to consult on Time Warner merger, records show, Rosalind S. Helderman, Brian Fung and Tom Hamburger, May 11, 2018 (print edition). Soon after President Trump took office, AT&T agreed to pay $600,000 to his attorney Michael Cohen (shown at right) for help on issues pending before the federal government, including the proposed Time Warner deal, according to internal documents.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Giuliani Exits, His Firm Undercuts His Statements, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman, May 11, 2018 (print edition). President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, abruptly resigned from his law firm, which then promptly undercut his recent statements defending the president.

rudy giuliani recentMr. Giuliani (shown at right) had taken a leave of absence last month from the firm, Greenberg Traurig, to represent Mr. Trump. But the firm, one of the nation’s largest, said in a statement on Thursday that he no longer worked there. Firm partners had chafed over Mr. Giuliani’s public comments about payments that another of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Michael D. Cohen, made to secure the silence of a pornographic film actress who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump. The president has denied her allegations.

Mr. Giuliani suggested that such payments were common at his firm, even without the knowledge of the clients. “That was money that was paid by his lawyer, the way I would do, out of his law firm funds,” he said on Fox News. He added, “Michael would take care of things like this like I take care of this with my clients.”

The New York Times asked Greenberg Traurig about those remarks early this week. Shortly after Mr. Giuliani’s resignation was announced, the firm responded. “We cannot speak for Mr. Giuliani with respect to what was intended by his remarks,” said a spokeswoman, Jill Perry. “Speaking for ourselves, we would not condone payments of the nature alleged to have been made or otherwise without the knowledge and direction of a client.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Robert Mueller is investigating crimes Donald Trump committed during his inauguration, Daniel Cotter, May 11, 2018. ABC News came out with an exclusive today that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is looking into potential issues with foreign entities making donations to the inauguration that took place for President Donald J. Trump in January 2017. This could spell additional legal trouble for the president and administration.

At issue is “millions of dollars in donations to President Donald Trump’s inauguration committee last year.” Russian connections are being reviewed, but also Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Those interviewed include Trump’s close adviser, Thomas Barrack. The gifts that Mueller is focused on top out at $1 million. One person also being asked about is Andrew Intrater, and another piece of the overall puzzle may just have fallen into place.

For those that have been following Michael Avenatti’s disclosure of potential funding sources of Essential Consultants LLC, the entity formed by the Michael Cohen who has been described by others and himself as “Donald Trump’s personal attorney” and by others as Trump’s “Fixer.” Essential received a large sum of money from Columbus Nova, which has ties to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg. Vekselberg is a close confidante of Russian President Vladimir Putin and chairman of asset manager Renova Group. Vekselberg is in turn is cousins with Intrater.

Renova was the target of the sanctions recently imposed by the United States Treasury Department. Viewers of the inauguration might recall seeing the cousins at the inauguration, which many questioned- why would Russian operatives be attending the inauguration of the United States president?

usa today logo 5USA Today, Trump was alerted to Eric Schneiderman's alleged abuse of women years ago, court filing suggests, Fredreka Schouten, May 11, 2018.  Donald Trump learned years ago of then-New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's alleged abuse of two women, a New York lawyer said Friday in a court filing. In a letter to the federal judge overseeing the handling of evidence seized from Trump attorney Michael Cohen, lawyer Peter Gleason said two women approached Gleason a year apart, saying they were "sexually victimized" by Schneiderman.

After talking with the one of the women in 2013, Gleason said he discussed the matter with retired tabloid newspaper and TV journalist Stephen Dunleavy who "offered to discuss the matter with Donald Trump," then a New York businessman.

"Mr. Dunleavy did indeed discuss this very matter with Mr. Trump, as evidenced by a phone call I received from attorney Michael Cohen," Gleason said in his letter to U.S. District Court Judge Kimba Wood.

Gleason said he then shared with Cohen "certain details of Schneiderman's vile attacks on these two women." Schneiderman, who has battled repeatedly with President Trump, resigned his post this week, after The New Yorker reported that four women accused him of physical abuse.

Korean Summit Set For June 12

ny times logoNew York Times, With Prisoners Home, Trump Sets Date for North Korea Meeting, Mark Landler and Katie Rogers, May 11, 2018. President Trump, exulting in the release of three Americans from North Korea, confirmed that he would meet Kim Jong-un, the North’s leader, in Singapore on June 12.

Inside DC: GOP Tensions On Immigration

ICE logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Kirstjen Nielsen, Chief of Homeland Security, Almost Resigned After Trump Tirade, Michael D. Shear and Nicole Perlroth, May 11, 2018 (print edition). Kirstjen Nielsen, the homeland security secretary, told colleagues she was close to resigning after President Trump berated her on Wednesday in front of the entire cabinet for what he said was her failure to adequately secure the nation’s borders, according to several current and former officials familiar with the episode.

Ms. Nielsen, who is a protégée of John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, has drafted a resignation letter but has not submitted it, according to two of the people. As the head of the Department of Homeland Security, Ms. Nielsen is in charge of the 20,000 employees who work for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump unloads on Homeland Security secretary in lengthy immigration tirade, Josh Dawsey and Nick Miroff, May 11, 2018 (print edition). President Trump berated Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in a dispiriting Cabinet meeting on immigration Wednesday, according to three administration officials, but her colleagues denied reports that she has threatened to quit.

kirstjen nielsen world economic forumTrump lashed out at his Cabinet, and Nielsen (shown at left) in particular, when told that the number of people arrested for illegally crossing the Mexico border topped 50,000 for the second consecutive month. The blowup lasted more than 30 minutes, according to a person with knowledge of what transpired, as Trump’s face reddened and he raised his voice, saying Nielsen needed to “close down” the border.

“Why don’t you have solutions? How is this still happening?” he said, adding later, “We need to shut it down. We’re closed.”

washington post logopaul ryan wWashington Post, Ryan aims to quash GOP-led rebellion on immigration vote, Mike DeBonis, May 11, 2018 (print edition).  House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (at right) said he wants to put immigration legislation up for a vote later this year as some lawmakers from his own party threatened to take that decision out of his hands.

Media Greed?

sean hannity gage skidmore 3

Fox News Host Sean Hannity (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

washington post logofox news logo SmallWashington Post, At Sean Hannity properties in working-class areas, an aggressive approach to rent collection, Aaron C. Davis and Shawn Boburg, May 11, 2018 (print edition). The Fox News host has described his real estate holdings in working-class neighborhoods in compassionate terms, but his property managers have sought court-ordered evictions at twice the statewide rate.

More On Probes of Trump Team

ny times logoNew York Times, Hiring Michael Cohen Was a ‘Big Mistake,’ Head of AT&T Says, Cecilia Kang and Kenneth P. Vogel, May 11, 2018. Randall L. Stephenson, AT&T’s chief executive, said in a staffwide memo that the company’s “reputation has been damaged” by hiring President Trump’s personal lawyer to advise on a deal to buy Time Warner.

att logoRandall L. Stephenson, AT&T’s chief executive, said on Friday that the company had made a “big mistake” by hiring President Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, to provide advice on federal policy, including how the government might approach the telecommunications giant’s deal to buy Time Warner.

Mr. Stephenson also said that the company’s head of lobbying and external affairs, Bob Quinn, would be leaving the company. “Our company has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons these last few days and our reputation has been damaged,” Mr. Stephenson wrote in a memo to employees. “There is no other way to say it — AT&T hiring Michael Cohen as a political consultant was a big mistake.”

Mr. Stephenson’s note followed the revelation this week that the company had paid Mr. Cohen $600,000 to advise on the $85.4 billion merger with Time Warner and other regulatory matters.

ny times logoNew York Times, Lawyer Says He Told Cohen About Victims of Schneiderman, Alan Feuer, May 11, 2018. The lawyer for two women who said they were victims of Eric T. Schneiderman, the former New York attorney general, said he had discussed the claims in 2013 with Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s longtime lawyer.

A lawyer who says he once represented two women who claimed that the former New York attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, had “sexually victimized” them several years ago, asserted on Friday that he discussed their claims in 2013 with an unlikely person: Michael D. Cohen, Donald J. Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer.

The lawyer for the women, Peter J. Gleason, offered his surprising account in a letter submitted to Kimba M. Wood, the Manhattan federal judge who is overseeing an ongoing investigation into Mr. Cohen. In the letter, Mr. Gleason asked Judge Wood for an order to protect any records that Mr. Cohen might have concerning their discussion of the women — a step he felt was needed after federal agents seized boxes of documents in a series of raids on Mr. Cohen’s office, apartment and hotel room last month.

“The extent of Mr. Cohen’s memorializing any of our communications is unknown,” Mr. Gleason wrote. “However, these two women’s confidentiality, as victims of a sexual assault, should be superior to that of any unrelated subpoena.”

In an interview shortly after his letter was filed, Mr. Gleason — without offering details or corroborating evidence of his account — said that during their conversation five years ago, Mr. Cohen told him that if Mr. Trump, who was thinking of running for New York governor at the time, were to be elected, he would help bring to light the women’s accusations against Mr. Schneiderman.

A deep animus had existed between the two men, prompted by a $40 million civil fraud lawsuit that Mr. Schneiderman filed against Mr. Trump’s for-profit educational venture, Trump University, in August 2013.

The filing of Mr. Gleason’s letter marked an extraordinary convergence of two of the moment’s most explosive news stories: the abrupt demise of Mr. Schneiderman, who quit his job on Monday amid allegations that he had physically assaulted four former girlfriends, and the case of Mr. Cohen, who is under investigation for potentially having broken the law by trying to suppress negative coverage of Mr. Trump in the run-up to the 2016 election.

The letter also shed new light on the simmering feud between Mr. Trump and Mr. Schneiderman, one that was inflamed anew this week as several of Mr. Trump’s supporters took to social media to revel in Mr. Schneiderman’s downfall. As for Mr. Gleason, he is a well-known figure in New York’s legal and political circles.

 former firefighter, he mounted a failed campaign for City Council in 2003 and last year briefly sought to challenge the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., as a write-in candidate. In his legal practice, he has shown a penchant for involving himself in salacious, tabloid-ready cases. Mr. Gleason refused to identify the officials, and noted that the women he represented were not among the four who came forward this week in an article in The New Yorker that prompted Mr. Schneiderman’s resignation.

Inside The Swamp

washington post logoWashington Post, This man runs a federal agency near Washington — from his home in Dallas, Robert O'Harrow Jr. and Andrew Ba, May 11, 2018. The unorthodox approach J. Mark McWatters takes to overseeing the National Credit Union Administration, which is based in Alexandria, Va., adds a wrinkle to the tendency among some Trump administration officials to spurn traditional government norms.

Rigged System In Michigan?

washington post logoWashington Post, Michigan GOP’s plan would shield some people from Medicaid work requirements. They’re overwhelmingly white. Jeff Stein and Andrew Van Dam, May 11, 2018. The proposal would exempt people living in counties where the unemployment rate tops 8.5 percent, a provision GOP lawmakers say is aimed at protecting those living in areas with few job opportunities.

Iran Deal European Reaction

german flagDeutsche Welle (DW, Germany's international broadcasting service), Germany to help its firms in Iran after US pullout from nuclear deal), Staff report, May 11, 2018.  Germany's economy minister says Berlin will work to avert negative fallout from the US withdrawal for companies active in Iran. But he admitted Germany had no way of protecting those firms trading in the US itself.

German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said on Friday that Germany was set to do all it could to protect businesses involved with Iran after US President Donald Trump decided to pull his country out of the 2015 Iran nuclear accord.

Altmaier's comments come after the new US ambassador to Germany — Richard Grenell — on Tuesday called on "German companies doing business in Iran" to "wind down operations immediately" after the US pullout — a comment heralding possible sanctions from the US on such companies.

Germany, with France and Britain, has said it remains committed to the nuclear deal and has no intention of breaking off business ties with Iran as long as the Islamic Republic upholds its side of the agreement.

german flag

May 10

CIA Nominee Follow-up

gina haspel screenshot

ny times logoNew York Times, Haspel, Nominee for C.I.A., Says Era of Torture Is Over, Matthew Rosenberg and Nicholas Fandos, May 10, 2018 (print edition). Gina Haspel (shown above in a TV screenshot), the career spy who once oversaw the waterboarding of a terrorism suspect, defended the agency’s past at her confirmation hearing, but said there would be no torture in its future.

C-SPAN (via viewer), Former CIA Analyst Gets Arrested while Protesting CIA Director's Nomination, May 10, 2018 (updated from May 9 hearing). Former CIA Analyst Ray McGovern is a peace activist and heads a group of former intelligence professionals which openly criticize US military and intelligence actions since 9/11. McGovern worked for CIA from 1963-1990 and used to deliver the Presidential Daily Briefing to President Ronald Reagan. McGovern's articles often appear at Consortium News. (This clip, title, and description were not created by C-SPAN.)

joe lauria head bookConsortium News, Analysis: Haspel Says CIA Won’t Torture Again as Ray McGovern is Dragged Out of Hearing, Joe Lauria, May 10, 2018. Joe Lauria (shown at right) is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Sunday Times of London and numerous other newspapers.

ray mcgovern hsAfter refusing to directly answer questions about her history as an alleged torturer, Ray McGovern (shown at left) decided to ask Gina Haspel a question or two of his own and he wound up in jail for it.

Instead of facing a judge to defend herself against prosecution for violating U.S. law prohibiting torture, 33-year CIA veteran Gina Haspel on Wednesday faced the Senate Intelligence Committee in a hearing to confirm her as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Haspel does not look like someone who would be associated with torture. Instead she would not be out of place as your next door neighbor or as a kindly grade-school teacher. “I think you will find me to be a typical middle-class American,” she said in her opening statement.

Even if she did not have a direct hand in overseeing the torture, she certainly acquiesced to it. And if that were not bad enough, Haspel urged the destruction of 92 videotaped CIA “enhanced interrogations,” conducted at the prison in Thailand, eliminating evidence in a clear-cut obstruction of justice to cover-up her own possible crimes.

Because she wasn’t giving any straight answers, Ray McGovern, a CIA veteran of 27 years and frequent contributor to Consortium News, stood up in the hearing room and began asking his own questions. Capitol police were immediately ordered by the chairman, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC, shown below at right)), to physically remove McGovern from the room.

richard burr o SmallAs he continued turning towards the committee to shout his questions, four officers hauled him [McGovern] out. They ominously accused him of resisting arrest. Once they got him into the hallway, rather than letting him go his way, four policemen wrestled him to the ground, re-injuring his dislocated right shoulder, as they attempted to cuff him.

After spending the night in jail, McGovern was to be arraigned on Thursday morning. He did not respond to a voice message left on his mobile phone.

McGovern was one of several people arrested before and during the hearing for speaking out. The spectacle of citizens of this country, and in Ray’s case a veteran CIA officer, having to resort to disrupting a travesty of a hearing to put an alleged torturer in charge of the most powerful spy agency in the world is a disturbing indicator of how far we have come.

washington post logotom cotton o CustomWashington Post, Opinion: Tom Cotton bests Ted Cruz as the most-disliked lawmaker, Dana Milbank, May 10, 2018. As I sat in the hearing room watching Gina Haspel’s confirmation hearing to be director of central intelligence, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief . . . that Tom Cotton wasn’t nominated to run the CIA.

Cotton, a 40-year-old Republican senator from Arkansas and a Trump loyalist (shown at right), had been the front-runner for the position. But President Trump instead tapped a career CIA operative, and Cotton was on the dais when Haspel testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday.

Haspel has her flaws. Her lawyerly statements about torture and her role in destroying tapes of black-site interrogators using it did not inspire confidence that she would stand up to Trump if he pressed her to, say, poison Angela Merkel’s Pilsener.

But Haspel’s flaws are nothing compared with those of Cotton, who has surpassed Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) as the most disliked member of the Senate. He used his five minutes of questioning time to “clear up” and to “take exception to” the “entirely false” things his colleagues said, peppering his remarks with gratuitous partisan swipes.

washington post logoIsrael FlagWashington Post, Israel launches massive military strike against Iranian targets in Syria, Loveday Morris, Ruth Eglash and Louisa Loveluck, May 10, 2018. The Israeli military said Thursday that it had bombed dozens of Iran-linked military facilities in Syria, as tensions between the three countries soared. The army said in a statement that its fighter jets had targeted Iranian intelligence and logistics sites around Damascus, as well as munition warehouses, observation and military posts — what a top official said were most of their facilities in the country.

An Israeli military spokesman said the rockets were fired by Iran’s Quds Force, a special forces unit affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, marking the first time Iranian forces have ever fired directly on Israeli troops.

Cohen-Trump Influence Peddling?

washington post logomichael cohen ap file croppedWashington Post, ‘I’m crushing it’: How Michael Cohen, touting his access to President Trump, convinced companies to pay millions, Michael Kranish, Rosalind S. Helderman, Carolyn Y. Johnson and Josh Dawsey, May 10, 2018 (print edition). Michael Cohen (shown at right) pitched potential clients on his close association with the president, showing photos of two together and even asking people to share news articles describing him as Trump's “fixer.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Where all that Michael Cohen bribe money really ended up going, Bill Palmer, May 10, 2018.  Michael Cohen is still broke, with the value of his assets in freefall. Yet now we’re learning that Cohen has received millions in bribe money. So where is it?

att logoVarious reports over the past twenty-four hours have revealed that since Donald Trump took office, Michael Cohen has received $500,000 dollars from a Russian oligarch, $600,000 from AT&T (up from the original report of $200,000), and $1.2 million from Novartis. These are just the payoffs that have been exposed thus far, and we’re already into the million of dollars; logically speaking, these were probably far from the only payoffs of their type. So how can a guy receive millions of dollars in a relatively short period of time, yet still be broke?

novartis logoThere are at least a couple possible explanations. One would be that Michael Cohen’s taxi company, which is losing value by the day thanks to rising competition from the likes of Uber and Lyft, has become such a sinkhole that it’s swallowed up all the cash that Cohen has had coming in from the various bribes. Another would be that these payments weren’t really to Cohen, they were really to Trump, and Cohen was only taking his cut before passing the rest along to Trump.

The bottom line is that we don’t know for sure. But if Michael Avenatti has Michael Cohen’s banking records, rest assured that Robert Mueller and the SDNY have them as well. So we’ll get our answers soon enough about where these millions of dollars went after Michael Cohen received them. For now it’s yet another head scratching aspect of what’s shaping up to be the most corrupt and complex criminal scandal in history.

ny times logoNew York Times, Cohen Got Millions for Insider Access Outside White House, Mike McIntire, Kenneth P. Vogel, Katie Thomas and Cecilia Kang, May 10, 2018 (print edition). s Through a secretive shell company, Michael Cohen, the president’s personal lawyer, was paid by major corporations and a law firm for help navigating Washington in the Trump era.

ny times logoNew York Times, Here’s How Michael Cohen’s Shell Company Is Linked to a Russian Oligarch, Troy Griggs and Karen Yourish, May 10, 2018 (print edition). (Chart)

Trump Welcomes Freed Americans From North Korea

washington post logodjt official SmallWashington Post, Trump offers a hero’s welcome to 3 Americans freed by North Korea, David Nakamura and Carol Morello​, May 10, 2018. The arrival of the men was the culmination of a whirlwind 20 hours. White House officials described their release as a “positive gesture of goodwill” from Kim Jong Un’s regime ahead of his planned summit with President Trump. Asked if the move changed how he plans to negotiate with Kim, Trump said: “No not at all.”

U.S-European Alliance

ny times logoNew York Times, Humiliated by Trump, Europe Tries to Defend Its Interests, Stephen Erlanger, May 10, 2018 (print edition). It is becoming clearer that trans-Atlantic relations are in trouble, and the options aren’t good for America’s closest European allies.

Global News: Iran

washington post logoWashington Post, Iran’s supreme leader reveals private letter Trump sent to Arab allies, Adam Taylor, May 10, 2018.  It is not clear how Ayatollah Ali Khamenei knew about the letter, which had not been publicized. Khamenei tweeted that President Trump had written a letter to leaders of Persian Gulf Arab states that demanded they do more in the region. “I spent $7 trillion and you must do something in return,” the Iranian leader claimed the letter stated.

The comments appeared to be directed at Persian Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — close allies of the Trump administration and, alongside Israel, the most vocal outside critics of the agreement that Iran reached with the United States and five other nations in 2015.

Khamenei decried Trump's April comments, calling them a “humiliation for Muslims” and saying they showed how “Muslims should stand firmly against the U.S. and other domineering powers’ bullying.”

Trump's remarks did stir discomfort among Persian Gulf allies, some of whom argued that his tone was disrespectful. Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a well-known UAE political commentator, was among those angered by the remarks. He retorted in a tweet that his country and others will survive after Trump is gone.

jon utleyFitzgerald Griffin Foundation, Opinion: Clever Lies to Promote War, Jon Basil Utley. May 11, 2018. As The American Conservative Magazine celebrates its 15th anniversary, Publisher Jon Utley (right) recounts decades of unnecessary military actions and interventions. Official Washington and those associated with it have misrepresented the facts numerous times in the service of military actions that might not otherwise have taken place. In the Middle East, these interventions have killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Arab civilians, brought chaos to Iraq and Libya, and led to the expulsion of a million Christians from communities where they have lived since biblical times. 

The most famous of these episodes, of course, was the U.S. government's assurance to the world that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, which formed the basis for the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. The government also insisted Saddam had ties to al-Qaeda, bolstering the call to war. Of course neither was true. But even before that there was the first Iraq war in 1991, justified in part by the story of Iraqi soldiers reportedly dumping babies out of incubators to die in a Kuwaiti hospital. The 15-year-old daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador cleverly lied to a set-up congressional committee. The Christian Science Monitor detailed this bizarre episode in 2002.

Most recently we had cable news inundating us with stories of a new poison gas attack in Syria. The "news" came from rebel sources. The American Conservative has published a detailed analysis by former arms inspector Scott Ritter questioning the evidence, or lack of it, that the Assad regime initiated the attack. The former British ambassador to Syria also cast doubts on the poison gas attack and its sources from rebel organizations.

It doesn't make sense that Assad would use poison gas just as Trump was saying that he wanted to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. It does make sense for the rebels to have staged a set up to get America to stay and attack Assad. This happened before in the summer of 2014 when President Obama nearly went to war over similar accusations. Only after asking Congress to vote on the matter did he decide against the attack because Congress wasn't interested. Some congressmen's mail was running 100-to-one against bombing. It was a welcome reminder of why Washington doesn't want actual votes on starting wars: because most Americans don't want more Washington wars.

robert parry headshotInvestigative journalists Seymour Hersh and Robert Parry (shown at right) expertly poked holes in the veracity of that 2013 attack. Other reports suggested that Syrian bombs unleashed poison gas the rebels had been storing in civilian areas. The New York Times finally published in December 2013 a detailed report that expressed doubts about its earlier conclusion that the 2013 "red line" gassing was carried out definitively by the Syrian military. False flag operations to goad America into war, it seems, can be successful.

After all the hundreds of thousands of innocents abroad killed by America and the human misery caused because of clever U.S. and foreign manipulations, one would think we might pause before attacking Syria and running the risk of killing Russians who are advising the Syrians. For an analysis of the risks of accidental nuclear war, see my 2017 January Publisher's Report, in which I wrote about how Osama bin Laden's ultimate aim was to get Russia and America to destroy each other. It still could happen, triggered by false atrocity stories, cable TV's 24-hour hyping of any and every threat, and Washington's propensity to believe lies -- and sometimes perpetrate them -- to promote wars.

Syria

SouthFront, 4,000 Locals Of Eastern Ghouta Joined Syrian Army, Staff report, May 10, 2018. More than 4,000 locals of the Eastern Ghouta region joined the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and several pro-government armed groups during the last few weeks, the Syrian pro-opposition news outlet Damascus Voice reported on May 9.

According to the report, the SAA has deployed some units of these groups in southern Damascus to secure the rear of SAA units, which are currently attacking the besieged fighters of ISIS in the Yarmouk refugee camp and the al-Hajar al-Aswad district. A similar situation occurred in the newly liberated region of Eastern Qalamun, where thousands of locals joined the SAA and Russian-backed forces recently, according to Syrian pro-government activists. Local observers believe that these new recruits will play a key role in the upcoming military operations of the SAA against ISIS and the former branch of al-Qaeda in Syria, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).

Inside Washington

Democratic-Republican Campaign logos

ny times logoNew York Times, Schneiderman Falls. Trump Allies Gloat. Democrats Seethe, Alexander Burns, May 10, 2018 (print edition). The White House’s exultation over liberal men who resign, like Eric Schneiderman, over sexual misconduct has grated politicians in both parties, who view President Trump as a poor messenger on women’s rights.

niger map Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Pentagon report on deadly Niger ambush finds multiple failures contributed to attack, Dan Lamothe, Missy Ryan and Alex Horton​, May 10, 2018. While a military investigation found that “individual, organizational and institutional failures and deficiencies” contributed to an operation that spiraled out of control, the Pentagon placed blame on no single person or factor. Four U.S. soldiers were killed in the ambush last October in Niger (shown in green on the map at right)..

Senior officials, unveiling public findings of their long-awaited investigation, cited lower-level officers for improper planning of operations alongside Nigerien forces but did not recommend disciplinary action. A separate, ongoing review will make that determination.

Marine Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, the chief of U.S. Africa Command, said a team of 11 Americans was inadequately trained and prepared even before it stepped off its base in western Niger on Oct. 3, 2017, heading off on the first of a series of missions that would end with a militant ambush outside the village of Tongo Tongo.

ladavid johnsonThe four Americans killed in the dramatic firefight that followed were Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39; Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 35; Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29; and Sgt. La David T. Johnson, 25 (shown at right). Black and Wright were Special Forces soldiers, while both Johnsons were conventional soldiers assigned to the same 3rd Special Forces Group team.

The report follows months of conflicting accounts about what happened that day, particularly surrounding the fate of La David Johnson, who remained missing for about 36 hours before his bullet-ridden body was recovered by villagers.

Missing from the report’s presentation was mention of the political controversy generated by the incident, which in an unusual turn pitted President Trump and his top adviser against one of the fallen men’s widows and a Democratic congresswoman, both of whom accused the president of insensitivity as he offered condolences to the family.

washington post logopaul ryan wWashington Post, Renegades in GOP challenge Ryan with move to force immigration votes, Mike DeBonis, May 10, 2018. In a bid to secure protections for young undocumented immigrants, seven Republicans filed a discharge petition Wednesday morning that, if signed by a majority of House members, would force votes under a “queen of the hill” rule. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), shown at right, opposes the measure.

washington post logogeorge f willWashington Post, Opinion: Trump is no longer the worst person in government, George Will, May 10, 2018 (print edition). Donald Trump, with his feral cunning, knew. The oleaginous Mike Pence, with his talent for toadyism and appetite for obsequiousness, could, Trump knew, become America’s most repulsive public figure.

mike pence oAnd Pence (shown at left), who has reached this pinnacle by dethroning his benefactor, is augmenting the public stock of useful knowledge. Because his is the authentic voice of today’s lickspittle Republican Party, he clarifies this year’s elections: Vote Republican to ratify groveling as governing.

Trump is what he is, a floundering, inarticulate jumble of gnawing insecurities and not-at-all compensating vanities, which is pathetic. Pence is what he has chosen to be, which is horrifying.

Pentagon Restricts Term 'Climate Change?'

washington post logoWashington Post, Pentagon revised Obama-era report to de-emphasize threats from climate change, Chris Mooney and Missy Ryan​, May 10, 2018.  The word “climate change” appeared 23 separate times in an unpublished 2016 draft of the Defense Department report, which was obtained by The Washington Post. But the final version used the phrase just once. Other references were omitted or altered to “extreme weather” or simply “climate.”

Chinese Oligarch Sentenced For Corruption

ny times logoNew York Times, Chinese Tycoon Gets 18 Years in Prison for $10 Billion Fraud, Alexandra Stevenson, May 10, 2018 (print edition). Wu Xiaohui, the founder of Anbang who purchased the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, was accused of cheating investors out of more than $10 billion.Wu Xiaohui, the Chinese tycoon who rose to international prominence to buy the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, was sentenced to 18 years in prison on Thursday after having pleaded guilty to defrauding investors.

china flag SmallMr. Wu was convicted by a court in Shanghai of using the company he founded, Anbang Insurance Group, to cheat investors out of more than $10 billion, in one of China’s biggest cases of financial crime. Facing a potential life sentence, Mr. Wu had pleaded guilty to the charges and asked the court to consider a lighter sentence.

The Shanghai No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court handed down its sentence as 50 people, including members of Mr. Wu’s family, sat in the courtroom, according to a statement from the court.

“Anbang has sufficient cash flow to fulfill its commitments to all customers and ensure that the legitimate rights of policyholders are effectively protected,” the company said in a statement.

JFK Assassination Document Archive

Black Vault, J.F.K. Assassination Records Archive – Previously Withheld JFK Assassination Documents Database, Staff archive, May 10, 2018.John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, was assassinated on Friday, November 22, 1963 at 12:30 p.m. Central Standard Time in Dallas, Texas while riding in a motorcade in Dealey Plaza.

Kennedy was allegedly fatally shot by a former U.S Marine, Lee Harvey Oswald, while he was riding with his wife, Jacqueline, Texas Governor John Connally, and Connally’s wife, Nellie, in a presidential motorcade. A ten-month investigation by the Warren Commission from November 1963 to September 1964 concluded that Oswald acted alone in shooting Kennedy, and that Jack Ruby also acted alone when he killed Oswald before he could stand trial. Kennedy’s death marked the fourth (following Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley) and most recent assassination of an American President. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson became President upon Kennedy’s death.

May 9

Former CIA Torturer Supervisor's Senate Confirmation Hearing To Become Director

cia logo

washington post logoGina Haspel Custom 2Washington Post, CIA nominee says she would obey her moral compass, not Trump, if told to carry out questionable activities, Karoun Demirjian and Shane Harris​, May 9, 2018. CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel (shown at right) pledged during her Senate confirmation hearing that she wouldn't restart a controversial CIA interrogation program if approved to lead the agency. She resisted efforts by senators to get her to say whether she believed it was morally wrong to use techniques such as waterboarding on terrorist suspects.

Roll Call, McCain: Senate Should Reject Gina Haspel Over Torture Involvement, Niels Lesniewski, May 9, 2018. Arizona Republican made a statement following Wednesday’s hearing.

john mccain 2009 wSenate Armed Services Chairman John McCain wants the Senate to reject the nomination of Gina Haspel to lead the Central Intelligence Agency. The Arizona Republican (shown at right) who has been home in Arizona battling brain cancer and related ailments, said in a statement he was not satisfied by Haspel’s responses regarding her involvement in the agency “enhanced interrogation” effort during the George W. Bush administration.

“I believe Gina Haspel is a patriot who loves our country and has devoted her professional life to its service and defense. However, Ms. Haspel’s role in overseeing the use of torture by Americans is disturbing. Her refusal to acknowledge torture’s immorality is disqualifying,” McCain said in a statement. “I believe the Senate should exercise its duty of advice and consent and reject this nomination.”

The statement came hours after Haspel testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee in both open and closed settings.

McCain, who faced torture during his time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, said the current acting director who has been nominated by President Donald Trump to run the agency did not sufficiently confront “the mistakes the country made in torturing detainees held in U.S. custody” after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“Like many Americans, I understand the urgency that drove the decision to resort to so-called enhanced interrogation methods after our country was attacked. I know that those who used enhanced interrogation methods and those who approved them wanted to protect Americans from harm. I appreciate their dilemma and the strain of their duty,” McCain said. “But as I have argued many times, the methods we employ to keep our nation safe must be as right and just as the values we aspire to live up to and promote in the world.”

Roll Call, Manchin's Backing Likely Ends Haspel Suspense, Niels Lesniewski, May 9, 2018. But there may still be ads encouraging other 2018 Democrats to get behind the CIA nominee. Gina Haspel Performs Well but Raises More Questions During Hearing If Not Gina Haspel, Then Who? White House: No August Recess Until Appropriations, Nominations Done.

joe manchin oSen. Joe Manchin III on Wednesday probably ended any suspense about whether Gina Haspel would win confirmation to be the next CIA director. The West Virginia Democrat (shown at right) formally announced his support for Haspel’s confirmation before all of his colleagues on the Senate Intelligence Committee finished the classified part of Wednesday’s hearing with the nominee.

“I have found Gina Haspel to be a person of great character. Over her 33 year career as a CIA operations officer, she has worked in some of the most dangerous corners of our world and I have the utmost respect for the sacrifices she has made for our country. She has earned the trust of her colleagues in the intelligence community and her intellect, steady temperament, vast knowledge of threats we face, and dedication to our country are undeniable,” Manchin said in a statement. “These attributes make her supremely qualified to serve as our next CIA Director.”

Manchin’s rationale for backing Haspel alludes to the widespread support she has enjoyed from intelligence community leaders, including those with jon tester owhom she worked during the presidency of Barack Obama, like former CIA Director and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Many of the other Senate Democrats who, like Manchin, face hotly contested races in 2018, have not yet weighed in on the Haspel nomination.

But Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester (shown at left) has already signaled his opposition. Tester has found himself targeted by President Donald Trump over his role in releasing allegations against Ronny Jackson, the now-former nominee to be secretary of Veterans Affairs. “I’m not a huge fan of waterboarding,” Tester said Tuesday in stating his opposition to Haspel, according to a CNN report.

 Trump Team Probes

washington post logorobert mueller full face fileWashington Post, Mueller questioned Novartis payment to Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, Michael Kranish and Carolyn Y. Johnson​, May 9, 2018. The interest by Robert S. Mueller III indicates that the special counsel is scrutinizing clients that paid Michael Cohen while he served as Trump’s personal attorney.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. affiliate of Russian firm hired Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen, Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger and Emma Brown, May 9, 2018 (print edition). The payments from Columbus Nova point to a potential new financial tie between the president’s personal lawyer and a U.S. representative of a Russian billionaire who is close to Russian President Vladi­mir Putin and has been the target of U.S. sanctions.  Analysis: How money flowed through Michael Cohen’s multi-purpose shell company,

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Lawyer Got $500,000 From Firm Tied to Russia Mogul, Mike McIntire, Ben Protess and Jim Rutenberg, May 9, 2018 (print edition). A firm tied to a Russian oligarch gave money to a company that Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s lawyer, previously used to pay Stormy Daniels, an adult film actress. The shell company also received funds from several corporations with business before the Trump administration, according to records reviewed by The Times.

michael cohen ap file croppedA shell company that Michael D. Cohen (shown at right) used to pay hush money to a pornographic film actress received payments totaling more than $1 million from an American company linked to a Russian oligarch and several corporations with business before the Trump administration, according to documents and interviews.

Financial records reviewed by The New York Times show that Mr. Cohen, President Trump’s personal lawyer and longtime fixer, used the shell company, Essential Consultants L.L.C., for an array of business activities that went far beyond what was publicly known. Transactions adding up to at least $4.4 million flowed through Essential Consultants starting shortly before Mr. Trump was elected president and continuing to this January, the records show.

vicktor vekselberg headshotAmong the previously unreported transactions were payments last year of about $500,000 from Columbus Nova, an investment firm in New York whose biggest client is a company controlled by Viktor Vekselberg, the Russian oligarch [and chairman of Renova Group, shown at left in a file photo]. A lawyer for Columbus Nova, in a statement on Tuesday, described the money as a consulting fee that had nothing to do with Mr. Vekselberg.

Other transactions described in the financial records include hundreds of thousands of dollars Mr. Cohen received from Fortune 500 companies with business before the Trump administration, as well as smaller amounts he paid for luxury expenses like a Mercedes-Benz and private club dues.

michael avenatti ccn 3 23 18 CustomReferences to the transactions first appeared in a document posted to Twitter on Tuesday by Michael Avenatti (shown at right), the lawyer for Stephanie Clifford, the adult film star who was paid $130,000 by Essential Consultants to keep quiet about an alleged affair with Mr. Trump.

The lawyer’s seven-page document, titled “Preliminary Report of Findings,” does not explain the source of his information but describes in detail dates, dollar amounts and parties involved in various dealings by Mr. Cohen and his company. Most of the transactions involved two banks: First Republic Bank and City National Bank.

Related documents, stories:

michael avenatti sketchAvenatti & Associates Project Sunlight, Preliminary Report of Findings [On Michael Cohen activities, funders and evidence], Michael Avenatti (shown at right, is an attorney representing porn actress Stormy Daniels in a defamation suit against President Trump), May 8, 2018. Avenatti editor's note: This information is true and correct as of the date of this Preliminary Report of Findings (May 8, 2018) to the best of our knowledge. Additional information is being obtained on a neardaily basis. The below information and findings [which can be read in a seven-page report here], therefore, are subject to change.

Michael Dean Cohen (“Mr. Cohen”) is an attorney licensed in the State of New York. He is a graduate of Cooley Law School and a resident of djt official SmallManhattan, New York City, New York. Mr. Cohen served at the right hand of Mr. Donald J. Trump (“Mr. Trump”) as Mr. Trump’s attorney beginning in approximately 2007 and continuing until at least April of this year. During this same approximate time period, Mr. Cohen also occupied a senior position with the Trump Organization (although it is unclear as to when he formally left the company). Importantly, at all relevant times, Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump have consistently referred to Mr. Cohen as Mr. Trump’s attorney. In fact, in answering reporters’ questions on Air Force One on April 5, 2018, Mr. Trump, referring to Mr. Cohen, stated “Michael is my attorney” (present tense).

Essential Consultants, LLC. On or about October 17, 2016, Michael D. Cohen established a limited liability company named Essential Consultants, LLC (“Essential”) by filing the requisite paperwork with the Secretary of State in Delaware. At all material times, Essential has been exclusively owned and controlled by Mr. Cohen.

washington post logoWashington Post, Treasury inspector general launches probe into possible leak of Cohen’s banking records, Beth Reinhard and Emma Brown​, May 9, 2018. Detailed claims about Michael Cohen’s banking history were made public by Michael Avenatti, an attorney for a porn star who was paid $130,000 by Cohen to keep quiet about her alleged affair with President Trump.

The Treasury Department’s inspector general is investigating whether confidential banking information related to a company controlled by President Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen may have been leaked, a spokesman said.

Rich Delmar, counsel to the inspector general, said that in response to media reports the office is “inquiring into allegations” that Suspicious Activity Reports on Cohen’s banking transactions were “improperly disseminated.”

stormy daniels 60 minutes cbsDetailed claims about Cohen’s banking history were made public Tuesday by Michael Avenatti, an attorney for Stormy Daniels (shown in a CBS "60 Minutes" interview), the adult-film star who was paid $130,000 by Cohen shortly before the 2016 election to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Trump.

On Twitter, Avenatti circulated a dossier that purports to show that Cohen was hired last year by the U.S.-based affiliate of a Russian company owned by Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian business magnate who attended Trump’s inauguration and was recently subjected to sanctions by the U.S. government. The affiliate, New York investment firm Columbus Nova, confirmed the payment, saying it was for consulting on investments and other matters, but denied any involvement by Vekselberg.

Avenatti’s dossier also alleged that, after Trump’s inauguration, Cohen’s company Essential Consultants had received payments from several others with business considerations before the federal government, including telecommunications giant AT&T, aircraft manufacturer Korea Aerospace Industries and pharmaceutical company Novartis. All three companies subsequently confirmed the payments.

In an interview, Avenatti declined to reveal the source of his information. “The source or sources of our information is our work product, and nobody’s business,” Avenatti said. “They can investigate all they want, but what they should be doing is releasing to the American public the three Suspicious Activity Reports filed on Michael Cohen’s account. Why are they hiding this information?”

A fixture on cable television, Avenatti has been calling on the Treasury Department for weeks to release reports of unusual banking transactions by Cohen. He came up with a social media hashtag: #releasetheSAR, using the acronym for a Suspicious Activity Report.

Haaretz, Netanyahu Says He Told Putin: Israel Has a Need and Right to Defend Itself in the Face of Iranian Aggression, Noa Landau, May 9, 2018. In Moscow, Netanyahu says Israel-Russia military coordination must be ensured in light of Syria events. Netanyahu attended a parade and wreath-laying ceremony at the Red Square.

Israel FlagPrime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday morning highlighted the importance of "continued coordination" between the Israeli and Russian military against the backdrop of current events in Syria.

After the meeting, Netanyahu said that he presented to Putin "Israel's obligation and right to defend itself against Iranian aggression, from Syrian territory. The Iranians declare their intention to attack us. They are trying to transfer forces and deadly weapons there with the explicit goal of attacking the State of Israel as part of their strategy to destroy the State of Israel."

Haaretz, Israelis Named by Stormy Daniels' Attorney for Transferring Hush Money to Michael Cohen: 'Is This a Prank?' Chaim Levinson, May 9, 2018. A tale of wire transfers from Kenya, hush money, and two Michael Cohens: How these Israelis got entangled in the Trump-Stormy Daniels affair.

Foreign Affairs: Korean Prisoner Release

mike pompeo portraitRoll Call, Trump Says Pompeo Secures Release of 3 American Detainees From North Korea, Griffin Connolly, May 9, 2018. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (right) has secured the release of three American citizens detained in North Korea after meeting with that country’s president, Kim Jong-Un, this week, President Donald Trump announced Wednesday.

Pompeo’s talks with Kim were the second such meeting between the two as the new secretary of state paves the way for an historic summit between Trump and Kim that is, tentatively, planned for next month.

Foreign Affairs: Fact-Checking Trump Claims On Iran Deal

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact-checking President Trump’s reasons for leaving the Iran nuclear deal, Salvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly, May 9, 2018.  President Trump’s reasons for withdrawing the United States from the Iran nuclear deal caught our attention. The stakes are huge, so Trump’s rationale merits scrutiny.

iran flag mapThe United States was one of seven countries in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an agreement struck by President Barack Obama’s administration in 2015. Aside from Iran, the other countries are China, France, Germany, Russia and Britain. It remains to be seen whether the Iran deal will hold together without the United States.

We reviewed six of Trump’s claims from his May 8 speech announcing the decision to withdraw from the deal. As is our custom with roundups of multiple statements, we will not be offering a Pinocchio rating. But we invite readers to weigh in with comments.

Iran Deal European Reaction

Deutsche Welle (DW), Who will suffer when the US resumes Iran sanctions? Uwe Hesller, May 9, 2018. Oil prices have jumped to levels last seen in 2014, after the United States decided to re-impose sanctions on Iran, threatening to tighten global oil markets and likely to derail billions of dollars in business deals.

Donald TrumpUS President Donald Trump's announcement on Tuesday that the US will withdraw from the landmark 2015 accord has sparked worries about fresh tension in the Middle East, sending oil prices to a three and a half year high. Iran is the third-biggest producer among the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), producing about 3.8 million barrels per day (bpd), or about 4 percent of the world's oil supplies.

Under new Iran policies, US sanctions will be reinstated after "wind-down periods" of 90 or 180 days, allowing for companies from across the world to close existing deals with the Iranian Central Bank and Iran's financial sector, as well as with companies in the oil industry, shipping and other economic pressure points.

In a first step, companies must wind down holdings of Iranian sovereign debt or Iranian currency by August 6. By that date, any person or company that assists the Iranian government with acquiring or purchasing US dollar banknotes will be subject to sanctions.

Re-imposed by that date will also be sanctions targeting Iran's trade in gold and other precious metals, graphite and coal, metals such as aluminum and steel, the country's automobile sector and luxury products such as Iranian-origin carpets and caviar.

In a second phase, starting November 4, sanctions against Iran's oil industry will be reinstated, including penalties against foreign financial institutions that conduct significant transactions with the Central Bank of Iran. On top of that, the US is targeting petroleum-related transactions, punishing companies doing business with Iranian oil firms such as National Iranian Oil Company, Naftiran Intertrade Company, and National Iranian Tanker Company.

U.S. Primary Elections / Politics

washington post logojennifer rubin twitterWashington Post, Opinion; Don Blankenship tanks in W.Va., but the GOP has a new problem, Jennifer Rubin (shown at right), May 9, 2018. In two key Senate primary races — in Indiana and West Virginia — the Republican Party had the opportunity to pick a high-risk Trumpian candidate, thereby sacrificing possible pickups that might secure its Senate majority. President Trump won both red states handily, putting incumbent Democrats in a precarious spot. In one race, the GOP rejected an extreme, racist candidate (an ex-con to boot); in the other GOP primary, voters chose a candidate who embraced Trump.

don blankenship twitterThe most closely watched race was in West Virginia featuring Don Blankenship (shown at right). He’s quite a character — an ex-convict sent to prison for his role in a 2010 mine explosion that killed 29 people. He has engaged in vile race-baiting, calling Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s father a “wealthy China-person” and labeling her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), “Cocaine Mitch” in a notorious TV ad (based on recovery of a small amount of cocaine in a ship owned by Chao’s father’s company — which has nothing to do with either McConnell or his wife).

Inside Washington: Judges

Center for American Progress, Opinion: Senate Violates Protocol in Rush To Confirm Extremist Judicial Nominees, CAP’s Neera Tanden Says, Sam Hananel, May 9, 2018. The U.S. Senate is poised this week to confirm six nominees for lifetime terms on the federal appeals courts. But the Senate majority has undermined decades of history and goodwill by moving forward on extremist judicial nominees who lack the support of their home-state senators.

Michael Brennan will get a vote this week for a lifetime appointment to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals over the objection of Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). Ryan Bounds will get a hearing on his nomination to serve on the 9th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals despite the objection of both of Oregon’s senators and a paper trail of racist writings from his college newspaper that he originally failed to disclose.

In response, Neera Tanden, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, issued the following statement:

Senate Republicans have made a mockery of the judicial confirmation process as they rush to rubber stamp nominees that are less qualified and more extreme than ever. They are clearly in a race against time to pack the nation’s courts with as many far-right Trump nominees as possible. With few legislative accomplishments to speak of, majority leaders are instead working to rig the game by confirming narrow-minded, elitist judges who will rule for corporations and the wealthy from the bench. In the process, they have shown a stunning lack of respect for time-honored traditions that have led both parties to compromise.

Israel FlagMore On Nuclear Threats

Corbett Report via YouTube, Opinion: The REAL Middle East Nuclear Threat, James Corbett, May 10, 2018. (23:34 mins.).There is in fact a Middle Eastern nation that is in fact in control of a vast, undeclared stockpile of nuclear weapons. This nation does have the capability of deploying those weapons anywhere in the region. It is not a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and its arsenal has never been inspected by any international agency. But this nation is not Iran. It's Israel.

CIA-Connected Iran Deal Insiders

peter thiel npc noel st john oct 31 2016Zero Hedge, Opinion: How Peter Thiel And Palantir Became Key Players In The Iran Deal, Tyler Durden. May 8, 2018. Palantir Technologies, a big-data company that was co-founded by Peter Thiel (shown in a photo by Noel St. John) and received some of its initial financing from the CIA's venture-capital firm, has found much more impactful applications for its technology than helping electioneering firms like Cambridge Analytica gain an edge over their rivals.

To wit, the company's secretive technology -- which purportedly can analyze 400 million digital "objects" to perform "predictive analysis" that can identify terrorists and other criminals (or determine how individuals might vote in an upcoming election) -- is also being used by the International Atomic Energy Agency in a way that has countries like Brazil and others worried that the information collected by the IAEA could be shared with intelligence agencies.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Lawyer Got $500,000 From Firm Tied to Russia Mogul, Mike McIntire, Ben Protess and Jim Rutenberg, May 9, 2018 (print edition). A firm tied to a Russian oligarch gave money to a company that Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s lawyer, previously used to pay Stormy Daniels, an adult film actress. The shell company also received funds from several corporations with business before the Trump administration, according to records reviewed by The Times.

michael cohen ap file croppedA shell company that Michael D. Cohen (shown at right) used to pay hush money to a pornographic film actress received payments totaling more than $1 million from an American company linked to a Russian oligarch and several corporations with business before the Trump administration, according to documents and interviews.

Financial records reviewed by The New York Times show that Mr. Cohen, President Trump’s personal lawyer and longtime fixer, used the shell company, Essential Consultants L.L.C., for an array of business activities that went far beyond what was publicly known. Transactions adding up to at least $4.4 million flowed through Essential Consultants starting shortly before Mr. Trump was elected president and continuing to this January, the records show.

vicktor vekselberg headshotAmong the previously unreported transactions were payments last year of about $500,000 from Columbus Nova, an investment firm in New York whose biggest client is a company controlled by Viktor Vekselberg, the Russian oligarch [and chairman of Renova Group, shown at left in a file photo]. A lawyer for Columbus Nova, in a statement on Tuesday, described the money as a consulting fee that had nothing to do with Mr. Vekselberg.

Other transactions described in the financial records include hundreds of thousands of dollars Mr. Cohen received from Fortune 500 companies with business before the Trump administration, as well as smaller amounts he paid for luxury expenses like a Mercedes-Benz and private club dues.

michael avenatti ccn 3 23 18 CustomReferences to the transactions first appeared in a document posted to Twitter on Tuesday by Michael Avenatti (shown at right), the lawyer for Stephanie Clifford, the adult film star who was paid $130,000 by Essential Consultants to keep quiet about an alleged affair with Mr. Trump.

The lawyer’s seven-page document, titled “Preliminary Report of Findings,” does not explain the source of his information but describes in detail dates, dollar amounts and parties involved in various dealings by Mr. Cohen and his company. Most of the transactions involved two banks: First Republic Bank and City National Bank.

Related documents, stories:

michael avenatti sketchAvenatti & Associates Project Sunlight, Preliminary Report of Findings [On Michael Cohen activities, funders and evidence], Michael Avenatti (shown at right, is an attorney representing porn actress Stormy Daniels in a defamation suit against President Trump), May 8, 2018. Avenatti editor's note: This information is true and correct as of the date of this Preliminary Report of Findings (May 8, 2018) to the best of our knowledge. Additional information is being obtained on a neardaily basis. The below information and findings [which can be read in a seven-page report here], therefore, are subject to change.

Michael Dean Cohen (“Mr. Cohen”) is an attorney licensed in the State of New York. He is a graduate of Cooley Law School and a resident of Manhattan, New York City, New York. Mr. Cohen served at the right hand of Mr. Donald J. Trump (“Mr. Trump”) as Mr. Trump’s attorney beginning in approximately 2007 and continuing until at least April of this year. During this same approximate time period, Mr. Cohen also occupied a senior position with the Trump Organization (although it is unclear as to when he formally left the company). Importantly, at all relevant times, Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump have consistently referred to Mr. Cohen as Mr. Trump’s attorney. In fact, in answering reporters’ questions on Air Force One on April 5, 2018, Mr. Trump, referring to Mr. Cohen, stated “Michael is my attorney” (present tense).

Essential Consultants, LLC. On or about October 17, 2016, Michael D. Cohen established a limited liability company named Essential Consultants, LLC (“Essential”) by filing the requisite paperwork with the Secretary of State in Delaware. At all material times, Essential has been exclusively owned and controlled by Mr. Cohen.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. affiliate of Russian firm hired Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen, Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger and Emma Brown, May 8, 2018. The payments from Columbus Nova point to a potential new financial tie between the president’s personal lawyer and a U.S. representative of a Russian billionaire who is close to Russian President Vladi­mir Putin and has been the target of U.S. sanctions. • Analysis: How money flowed through Michael Cohen’s multi-purpose shell company,

washington post logoWashington Post, In Senate primaries, GOP avoids its worst fears, Michael Scherer, May 9, 2018. Voters nominated a slate of candidates party strategists consider electable against Democratic incumbents, bringing relief to a party that has suffered a series of setbacks in recent special elections.

President Trump and the Republican Party avoided their worst-case fears Tuesday night in Senate primaries across the country, as voters nominated a slate of Senate candidates whom party strategists see as good bets to challenge vulnerable Democratic incumbents this fall.

The results came as something of a relief for a party that has suffered a series of setbacks in recent special elections. But Tuesday’s outcome also made clear that the current mood of the GOP remains angry, defiant and not the least bit satisfied with the change that has come to Washington over the past 16 months.

The winners of Republican Senate primaries in West Virginia, Indiana and Ohio prevailed in multimillion-dollar contests to prove themselves the most willing to take on the Washington elite. Their battles did not hinge on policy, since all the candidates basically agreed with the course set by Trump. They swung on attitude, style and outsider bona fides.

Media: Gutting of Regional Newspapers

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: What happens when a local newspaper dies, David Von Drehle, May 9, 2018 (print edition). What’s lost — and gained — in the shift to online specialization?

What comes after the death of the local newspaper?

This question is suddenly urgent in Denver, of all places, a thriving metropolis that used to be one heck of a newspaper town. Long after most places had settled on a single local paper, the Mile High City sustained a swashbuckling newspaper war, pitting the broadsheet Denver Post against the tabloid Rocky Mountain News.

The Rocky finally died during the depths of the Great Recession, just shy of its 150th birthday. Now, a barrage of cuts and resignations in recent weeks may have left the Denver Post mortally wounded.

JFK Records Disclosures

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, JFK Files Reveal US Biological Warfare Plans Against Cuba, Jimmy Falls, May 9, 2018. It is well known that the US tried to kill Fidel Castro, but recently released JFK assassination-related files show that the Pentagon actually planned to use biological weapons against the entire country, killing plants and animals in order to ruin its economy and effect regime change.

In the summer of 1975, congressional staffer Loch Johnson was searching through classified papers at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas, when he came across something he couldn’t believe — a covert plan by the US military to deploy biological weapons against Cuba.

This was more than Johnson was bargaining for, even though he was at the archive looking for files related to covert actions directed against Cuba. By July 1975, the Watergate hearings had finished, and three separate, high-level investigations were underway — all aimed at revealing covert and possibly illegal activities of US intelligence agencies, including assassination.

Johnson was working as top aide to Sen. Frank Church (D-ID), chair of the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, the so-called “Church Committee.” The American public knew that their government had a tense relationship with Cuba, especially with its feisty leader, Fidel Castro. The US had unsuccessfully underwritten a Cuban-exile paramilitary invasion at the Bay of Pigs in 1961 — a disaster in every sense. And just a year later, the world came to the brink of nuclear apocalypse after a showdown with the Soviet Union over nuclear missiles it had placed in Cuba.

What the public was not aware of then, and would only discover in later decades, was that the CIA had attempted all manner of assassination plots against Castro, in addition to widespread sabotage actions — such as burning sugarcane fields and blowing up power plants — with the goal of undermining Cuba’s Communist government.

May 8

Trump Trashes Iran Nuke Deal

iran flag mapny times logoNew York Times, Trump Withdraws U.S. From ‘One-Sided’ Iran Nuclear Deal, Mark Landler, May 8, 2018. Mr. Trump’s decision, while long anticipated and widely telegraphed, plunges America’s relations with European allies into deep uncertainty.

washington post logodjt official SmallWashington Post, President’s decision follows last-ditch efforts by Britain, France and Germany to persuade him, Anne Gearan and Karen DeYoung​, May 8, 2018. President Trump, who has called the agreement weak and poorly negotiated, said he will no longer withhold U.S. sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program that were set aside under the 2015 deal, effectively taking the United States out of the agreement among Iran and six world powers.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Risky Bet That the U.S. Can ‘Break the Regime,’ David E. Sanger, May 8, 2018. Mr. Trump’s decision is based on the idea that the U.S. and its allies can force a better deal with Tehran through isolation and sanctions.

Roll Call, 7 Lawmakers Who Opposed Iran Deal And Trump’s Decision to Withdraw From It, Lindsey McPherson, May 8, 2018. Democrats and Republicans worry about message move sends to allies and even North Korea.

Israel FlagReuters via New York Times, Israel Targeted Syrian Army Position: Pro-Assad Commander, Angus McDowall, May 8, 2018. An Israeli air strike targeted a Syrian army position in the Kisweh area south of Damascus on Tuesday but caused no casualties, a commander in the regional alliance supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told Reuters. Syrian state news agency SANA had reported the sound of explosions near Kisweh and said Syrian air defenses fired at and destroyed two Israeli missiles in the Kisweh area.

Related story: Sputnik, Massive Explosions Near Military Base Close To Damascus: State Media, Wire reports, May 8, 2018. Israeli forces reportedly struck targets near Damascus on Tuesday with missiles, according to Al Masdar News, just hours after US President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran sanctions deal. Syria's SANA reports that air defense systems intercepted at least two missiles fired at the al-Kaswa area, which is proximal to southern Damascus. Syrian Army sources appear to have confirmed that the attacks were initiated by Israel, according to social media reports.

Social media reports emerged within an hour of Trump's speech announcing Washington's exit from the Iran nuclear deal that Israeli Air Force jets were striking Damascus. Trump made the announcement around 2:20 p.m. Washington time; reports of the strikes were showing up by just after 3 p.m. A source at the Beirut International Airport told Sputnik that Israeli combat aircraft were in the Lebanese airspace at the supposed time of the strike on Syria.

Trump Seeks Massive Cuts In Federal Retirement Benefits

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump thanks federal employees with $143.5 billion in proposed retirement cuts, Joe Davidson, May 8, 2018. Just as festivities geared up for Public Service Recognition Week, which began Sunday, his administration sent a letter to Congress proposing $143.5 billion in compensation cuts for federal employees.

President Trump really knows how to say thank you. Just as festivities geared up for Public Service Recognition Week, which began Sunday, his administration sent a letter to Congress proposing $143.5 billion in compensation cuts for federal employees.

In a letter to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) on Friday, Office of Personnel Management Director Jeff T.H. Pon pushed four proposals that, over 10 years, would significantly cut retirement benefits for 2.6 million federal retirees and survivors. Saying he wants “to bring Federal benefits more in line with the private sector,” Pon proposed:

• Eliminating supplements for Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) annuitants who retire before being eligible for Social Security benefits.• Reducing federal pensions by basing them on workers’ basic pay five-year averages instead of three years.• Increasing employee retirement contributions with no increase in benefits. The plan would sharply boost the 0.8 percent of basic pay most FERS employees contribute. The letter makes the impact on federal retirees clear. “Under this proposal, FERS employee deduction rates will increase by 1 percent per year until they reach 7.25 percent of basic pay. … This proposal would require FERS employees to fund a greater portion of their retirement benefit.”• Reducing or eliminating retirement cost-of-living adjustments. The administration plans “to reduce the cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) by one half of one percent and to eliminate COLAs under the Federal Employees’ Retirement System (PERS) for current and future retirees.”

U.S. Politics

mike dewine richard cordray

Ohio gubernatorial primary winners Mike DeWine, right, a Republican and Richard Cordray, a Democrat

washington post logoWashington Post, In Ohio, it’s Cordray vs. DeWine in one of the marquee gubernatorial races of 2018, David Weigel​, May 8, 2018. Democrat Richard Cordray, who ran a financial watchdog under President Barack Obama, will face off against longtime state attorney general Mike DeWine, a Republican.

With 2 percent of precincts reporting, Cordray had secured 63.4 percent of the Democratic primary vote over former Congressman Dennis Kucinich and four other candidates. DeWine had won 64.7 percent of the vote over Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, in a race that became a bitter test of which Republican was more like President Trump.

“The top candidates on our side are capable of running good races,” said Ohio Democratic Party chairman David Pepper. “The negative primary on the Republican side has really cost them.”

At one point, the Democratic race was expected to be a cakewalk for Cordray, former director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Instead, Kucinich tried to make the election a referendum on gun control, universal health care and criminal justice reform, attacking Cordray as a “Republican-lite” candidate who had once been backed by the National Rifle Association and refused to support a ban on firearms considered assault weapons.

Roll Call, Jim Renacci to Face Sherrod Brown in Ohio Senate Race, Simone Pathé, May 8, 2018.  Congressman easily wins GOP primary Tuesday night. North Carolina’s Robert Pittenger Is First Incumbent to Lose in 2018 https://www.rollcall.com/news/politics/north-carolina-robert-pittenger-loses. Patrick Morrisey Wins West Virginia GOP Senate Primary. Jim Baird Likely to be Next Congressman from Indiana’s 4th District.

Ohio Rep. James B. Renacci won the Republican nomination for Senate on Tuesday night to take on Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown in November. The Associated Press reported at about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday that Renacci had 45.1 percent of the vote, with 44 percent of the precincts reporting. Cleveland businessman Mike Gibbons, his closest challenger, had 32.5 percent of the vote. The four-term congressman had the endorsement of the GOP delegation and President Donald, who carried Ohio by 8 points in 2016. With Trump’s encouragement, Renacci switched from the gubernatorial contest to the Senate race in January after state Treasurer Josh Mandel unexpectedly dropped out.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Orrin Hatch apologizes to John McCain for funeral comment: ‘I shouldn’t have said anything,’ Sean Sullivan and Paul Kane, May 8, 2018. orrin hatch oSen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah, shown at right) has apologized to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for saying it was “ridiculous” for McCain to request that President Trump not attend his funeral, a remark that drew a swift rebuke from McCain’s daughter Meghan McCain. McCain is at home in Arizona battling a serious form of brain cancer.

Roll Call, Greg Pence, Vice President’s Brother, Likely Coming to Congress, Simone Pathé, May 8, 2018. Greg Pence, the eldest brother of Vice President Mike Pence, won the Republican nomination in Indiana’s 6th District on Tuesday night, which means he’s almost certainly coming to Congress next year. With 23 percent of precincts reporting, Pence had 67 percent of the vote, when The Associated Press called the race.

greg pence ballotpediaThe seat opened up after Republican incumbent Luke Messer decided to run for the GOP nod for Senate. Pence (shown at left) was the finance chairman — and initial public face — for Messer’s Senate campaign before launching his own congressional bid. The is Pence’s first run for office, and assuming he wins the Solid Republican race in November, he’ll hold the same seat his brother held before being elected governor.

voter suppression march 2018 ballotpedia

Voter ID Laws By State As of March 1, 2018 (Map by Ballotpedia via WhoWhatWhy

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Analysis: GOP Voter Suppression: A Bigger Problem Than Russian Meddling? Dan Engelke, May 8, 2018. While Democrats, Republicans, and the intelligence community are all warning about potential Russian meddling in the November midterm elections, ordinary citizens face even greater obstacles to exercising their vote.

republican elephant logoWhoWhatWhy spoke to voting rights and election integrity experts about the broad range of threats to voting access. They noted that there are other serious election concerns that voters should worry about this fall — challenges to the integrity of the voting process that are not getting enough attention in the mainstream media.

Trump’s Failed ‘Election Integrity’ Commission: In 2016, Donald Trump campaigned with a warning that the vote might be rigged against him. After winning the election but not the popular vote, President Trump — to prove his (completely unsubstantiated) claim that “millions voted illegally” — established a commission to address alleged voter fraud. The commission was later disbanded after many states refused to turn over sensitive voter data and allegations surfaced that its true purpose may have been voter suppression.

washington post logodon blankenship twitterWashington Post, GOP primaries gauge the anti-establishment fervor Trump helped unleash, Michael Scherer, David Weigel, John Wagner and Sean Sullivan, ​May 8, 2018 (print edition). Today’s primaries in four states could help shape the future of the GOP and the control of the Senate. In West Virginia, Don Blankenship (shown at right in a campaign photo) — who declared himself “Trumpier than Trump” — has Republicans concerned that a victory for him would spell disaster in November.

Statewide Nursing Home Eviction Scandal

usa today logo 5The (Monroe, La.) News-Star via USA Today Network, More than 30,000 nursing home eviction notices to be sent in Louisiana Thursday, Greg Hilburn, May 8, 2018 (print edition). Louisiana's Department of Health will begin sending nursing home eviction notices Thursday to more than 30,000 residents who could lose Medicaid under the budget passed by the state House of Representatives.

"The Louisiana Department of Health is beginning the process of notifying all impacted enrollees that some people may lose their Medicaid eligibility," Department of Health spokesman Bob Johannessen said. "The goal of the department is to give notice to all affected people as soon as possible in order that they begin developing their appropriate plans."

Gov. John Bel Edwards' staff has planned a press conference Wednesday for more details, a day before the notices are set to be mailed to 37,000 Medicaid recipients in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities. "(The Department of Health) told us they're sending out the letters May 10," said Mark Berger, executive director of the Louisiana Nursing Home Association, during testimony at the Senate Finance Committee meeting Monday.

Medicaid is a federal-state collaboration covering more than 70 million people, or about 1 in 5 Americans, making it the largest government health insurance program. President Obama expanded the program by allowing states to cover millions more low-income adults.

djt economist cover aug 19 2017Rolling back the expansion has been a longtime goal of the GOP. The Trump administration has encouraged states to reshape their Medicaid programs, paving the way for states like Kentucky and Michigan to include new measures like work requirements for able-bodied adults.

In Louisiana, the issue was front and center in the state Senate Finance, which was hearing public testimony on the budget sent to it by the House for most of the eight hours the panel met.

"This sounds like mass chaos," said Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, who called the letter notification "very troublesome." "What type of people are we in Louisiana if we put people out who built Louisiana?" Sen. Greg Tarver, D-Shreveport, said of the potential evictions. "This is horrible."

Next year's budget begins July 1, which is when the evictions could technically begin. The budget passed by the House and sent to the Senate contains deep cuts to healthcare because of a shortfall of between $550 million and $648 million, depending on who's doing the calculations.

Next year's shortfall was created because about $1.4 billion in temporary taxes expire June 30. The bulk of the expiring taxes, about $880 million, comes from a one-cent sales tax. Last week one of the state's safety net hospitals, Lafayette General, sent notices to 800 employees that the medical center will close and they will lose their jobs under the budget being debated now. The other safety net hospitals are expected to follow suit.

New York Magazine, Opinion: Here’s a Theory About That $1.6 Million Payout From a GOP Official to a Playboy Model, Paul Campos, May 8, 2018. On May 2, Rudy Giuliani (shown at right) revealed that the Trump administration has been lying for months about the fact that Donald Trump reimbursed his personal attorney Michael Cohen (shown below left) for the $130,000 he fronted to buy porn star Stormy Daniels’s silence about her affair with Trump.

michael cohen ap file croppedUntil then, Trump had been claiming that he didn’t know about any settlement, and that he hadn’t had a sexual liaison with Daniels. (The official White House line continues to be that Daniels is lying about having sex with Trump, but almost no one believes this.) Giuliani has claimed that Trump gave him the okay last week to contradict several months’ worth of denials, by revealing Trump’s payments to Cohen.

In journalism this is known as getting out in front of a story. After federal law-enforcement officials raided Cohen’s office on April 9, they surely had documentary evidence of these financial transactions, which meant it was inevitable the truth would eventually come out.

We should consider the strong possibility that the same tactic — i.e., shameless, baldfaced lying — may have played a role in the exposure of yet another Trump-related sex scandal. The Wall Street Journal published a story on April 13 revealing the existence of another nondisclosure agreement involving an affair between an adult entertainer and a client of Cohen’s. The NDA employed the pseudonyms David Dennison and Peggy Peterson — the same names used in the Stormy Daniels NDA — and was otherwise very similar to the Trump-Daniels agreement.

According to this newly revealed NDA, Dennison agreed to pay Peterson $1.6 million, in exchange for Peterson’s promise not to reveal the affair or her claim that Dennison had impregnated her. This NDA, like the Trump-Daniels document, was negotiated by attorneys Keith Davidson, on behalf of Peterson, and Michael Cohen, on behalf of Dennison. Payments were also delivered through Essential Consultants LLC, the same LLC created by Cohen to facilitate payments in the Stormy Daniels deal.

shera bechard 2010Whatever source revealed the existence of this NDA to the Journal also disclosed that, according to another document in Cohen’s office, the Dennison in this agreement was not Donald Trump but rather Elliott Broidy, a top Republican fundraiser, while Peterson was Shera Bechard, Playboy’s Miss November 2010 (shown at right in a photo via Wikipedia).

Apparently, Bechard had been Broidy’s mistress until he got her pregnant, at which point she hired Davidson, who contacted Cohen to demand the payment of hush money.

By a stroke of good fortune, Cohen already had a sex-scandal-with-an-adult-entertainer-hush-money-NDA template in his hard drive, since he had recently drafted at least one for Donald Trump. Indeed, Cohen didn’t even bother to change the pseudonyms. (That economical use of attorney resources explained away what otherwise could have been a very awkward detail in the narrative.)

This is the story that was leaked to the Journal — and to the New York Times, and CNN, which the Journal beat to the punch by publishing it first. It has since been repeated as fact by just about every major media outlet in the country. But there are good reasons to consider whether it might not be yet another audacious lie from Trumpworld.

elliott broidyLet me offer an alternative explanation of the affair and the payoff. It is still just a hypothesis, but, I would argue, it fits more comfortably with what we know about the various players than the reported version of events: Donald Trump, not Elliott Broidy (shown at left), had an affair with Shera Bechard.

Bechard hired Keith Davidson, who had negotiated both Playboy playmate Karen McDougal’s deal with the National Enquirer rnc logoand Stormy Daniels’s NDA with Trump. Davidson called Cohen, and the two of them negotiated a $1.6 million payment to Bechard.

Both Cohen and Briody have held high-ranking positions with the Republican National Committee during the Trump administration, illustrating how scandal penetrates politics and not just the private sector.

Trump CIA Nominee

washington post logoGina Haspel Custom 2Washington Post, Undercover to under scrutiny: Gina Haspel, nominee to head CIA, to face Senate grilling, Shane Harris, May 8, 2018 (print edition). The longtime covert officer (shown at right) is one of only a few career intelligence officers to be tapped for director, and the first woman. She also has the most secretive résumé, with much of her career classified, but interviews with 15 current and former intelligence officials paint a portrait of her cloak-and-dagger life.

ny times logocia logoNew York Times, 9/11 Planner Asks to Tell Senators About C.I.A. Nominee, Charlie Savage, May 8, 2018. President Trump’s nomination of Gina Haspel to lead the C.I.A. has revived debate over the agency’s interrogation program and her involvement. It isn’t known whether Ms. Haspel was involved in torturing Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who asked a military judge for permission to share information.

Melania's Anti-Bullying Program

melania trump twitter

ny times logoNew York Times, Melania Trump Will Focus on Children in 1st Official Initiative, Katie Rogers, May 8, 2018 (print edition). Mrs. Trump (shown in her Twitter photo) unveiled a program on Monday that she said would tackle opioid abuse, social media pressures and mental health issues among young people.

washington post logojennifer rubin twitterWashington Post, Opinion: Is Melania Trump pulling our leg? Jennifer Rubin (right), May 8, 2018. Sure, we’d like to think she’s also needling her husband, and it is hard to think she doesn’t have him in mind, just a little. That she should step forward just as her husband’s alleged infidelities are taking up most of the political oxygen is just icing on the cake.

Russian Presidency

ny times logoNew York Times, For Putin’s 4th Term, More a Coronation Than an Inauguration, Andrew E. Kramer, May 8, 2018 (print edition). Vladimir V. Putin took the oath of office on Monday for a fourth term as Russia’s president, in a ceremony staged in a gilded Kremlin hall once used to crown czars and Vladimir Putin (Il Corriere Della Sera.jpgreplete with pageantry, highlighting his vast accumulation of authority after nearly two decades in power. Mr. Putin, a former KGB agent (shown in a file photo by the Italian news organization Il Corriere Della Sera), has ruled Russia as prime minister or president for more than 18 years, and in that time has crafted an image as a steely nerved leader and the man best qualified to rebuild his country after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In a theatrical touch, a televised ceremony began on Monday with Mr. Putin sitting at his desk in the Kremlin, suit jacket looped over his chair, as if hard at work until moments before the ceremony. A phone rang, letting him know it was time for his fourth term; he donned his jacket and walked alone through the red-carpeted Kremlin corridors and into a hall packed with about 6,000 invited, cheering guests.

Trump Team Probes

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘I guess the love is gone’: Comey responds to Rudy Giuliani’s suggestion that he might have lied, Matt Zapotosky and John Wagner​, May 8, 2018. The former FBI director, who once worked for Giuliani when he was a prosecutor, responded to recent broadsides during a Washington Post Live event.

Politico, Manafort picks up new defense attorney, Josh Gerstein, May 8, 2018. Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has added a new defense attorney to his team. Jay Nanavati, a former Justice Department tax-crimes prosecutor, filed a formal appearance Tuesday in a Virginia-based case where special counsel Robert Mueller has charged Manafort with tax evasion, bank fraud and failing to report overseas bank accounts. Nanavati is a founding partner of the Washington office of Kostelanetz & Fink, a New York-based law firm.

The hiring was not a total surprise. Last February, the two attorneys leading Manafort's defense since October, Kevin Downing and Thomas Zehnle, moved into the Washington office of Nanavati's firm but did not formally join the firm.

ny times logoNew York Times, E.P.A. Emails Show Push to Shield Pruitt From Public Scrutiny, Eric Lipton and Lisa Friedman, May 8, 2018. Newly obtained documents show that Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency’s leader, tries to keep close control of his public events more from a desire to avoid tough questions rather than security concerns.

More On Trump Probes

barbara underwoodPalmer Report, Here’s who just took over the New York State investigation into Donald Trump, Daniel Cotter, May 8, 2018. On Monday, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman resigned on serious allegations of abuse of at least four women. On Tuesday, Amy Spitalnick, Press Secretary for the Office of Attorney General, tweeted the announcement that Barbara Underwood would be the Acting Attorney General for New York.

Underwood (shown at right), 73, is a former law clerk for former Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall of the Supreme Court of the United States and clerked for then-Chief Judge David L. Bazelon of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and has argued twenty cases before the Supreme Court. Underwood immediately previously served as the Solicitor General of New York, a position she has held since 2007, when New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo appointed her. Schneiderman reappointed her in 2011.

Underwood was a law professor for a decade at the Yale Law School, then moved to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office. She later worked as the Chief Assistant United States Attorney in New York and was also Counsel to the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. In 1998, she became the Principal Deputy Solicitor General for the United States. She served as Acting Solicitor General for the first half of 2001, the first woman to serve as Solicitor General.

Courts, Crime

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal judge demands officials appear in court to explain errors in inmate releases, Spencer S. Hsu and Lynh Bui​, May 8, 2018.  The releases come amid a new buildup of frustration among court and law enforcement officials over jail operations, a decade after high-profile mistakes led to lawsuits that cost taxpayers millions to settle.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ku Klux Klan leader found guilty for firing gun at Charlottesville rally, Ian Shapira​, May 8, 2018. Richard W. Preston Jr. fired a 9mm pistol at a black counterprotester during the “Unite the Right” rally in August.

U.S. Military Strikes, Capabilities

SouthFront, Analysis: Combat Debut of Joint Air-to-Surface Stand-off Missile: Did U.S. Air Force Lose High Tech Missile in Syria? Brian Kalman, May 8, 2018. Brian Kalman is a management professional in the marine transportation industry. He was an officer in the US Navy for eleven years.

Like so many others that watched the unfolding U.S.-led cruise missile strike on Syria in the early morning hours of April 14th, I was amazed by the brazen and ill-conceived nature of such an undertaking.

Not only was the attack not based on any verifiable intelligence proving a chemical attack by Syrian governmental forces, the given reason for the justification of the attack, but it was extremely ill-advised from any military or political stand point. Was it imperial hubris on the part of the “leadership” of the sole “exceptional” nation, or a simple matter of poor military decision making that resulted in the approval of the strike?

A number of failures in executing the strike have come to light after the fact, not minor faults that have been magnified by Russian or Syrian government propaganda interests, but real and fundamental failures that have showcased real weaknesses in frontline U.S., French and U.K. tactical cooperation, as well as new weapon systems and their employment.

Israel Names Jerusalem Square For Trump

Israel FlagNew York Post, Jerusalem to name square near new US embassy in honor of Trump, Tamar Lapin, May 8, 2018. A square near the controversial new US Embassy in Jerusalem will be named in honor of President Trump, the city’s mayor announced Tuesday. “We have decided that the square adjacent to the embassy in the capital will be called ‘United States Square’ — in honor of President Donald Trump,” Mayor Nir Barkat wrote in a Facebook post, titled “Jerusalem returns the love to Trump!”

djt official SmallThe city will hold a special ceremony at the tree-lined square following the opening of the new embassy in the neighborhood of Arnona on May 14 — the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence, local outlet Arutz Sheva reported. “President Trump decided to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish people,” said Barkat, “and to stand on the side of history and truth and to do the right thing. Naming this square in honor of President Trump is Jerusalem’s way of showing our appreciation of the president and the people of the United States who stand by Israel’s side.”

The square, located at the intersection of David Flusser Street and Kfar Etzion Street, was greenlit to get a formal name a year ago by the naming committee of Jerusalem, according to the Jerusalem Post. Trump announced the plan to pluck the embassy from Tel Aviv and recognize Jerusalem as the country’s capital in December, fulfilling a campaign vow that increased already fraught tensions in the region.

Israeli Killer Released Early

ny times logoNew York Times, Israeli Soldier Who Killed Wounded Palestinian Is Paroled After 9 Months, Isabel Kershner, May 8, 2018. An Israeli soldier who fatally shot a Palestinian assailant who was already severely wounded and lying on the ground was released on Tuesday after serving nine months in prison, closing a case that polarized Israelis and thrust the military, a revered institution in Israel, into the heart of an anguished public debate.

Israel FlagThe soldier, Elor Azaria, a sergeant before he was demoted, was convicted of manslaughter last year and sentenced to 18 months in prison for killing Abdel Fattah al-Sharif in March 2016 in Hebron, in the West Bank. The military reduced Mr. Azaria’s sentence to 14 months, citing compassion and consideration for his combat service; he ended up serving about two-thirds of his term before being paroled. Some right-wing ministers welcomed the homecoming of Mr. Azaria, who has expressed no remorse for his act.

Pundit View On Russian Goals For Iran, Israel

Voltaire.net, Opinion: Russia is opposed to a war between Iran and Israël, Thierry Meyssan, May 8, 2018.  Although for the most part, observers are taking sides in the Russo-US conflict and hoping for the victory of their camp, Moscow is attempting to calm the atmosphere in the Middle East. It is therefore opposed to an attack on Israël by Iran, just as it was opposed to an Israëli operation against Iran in 2008.

 #MeToo Hypocrisy On Two Sides?

washington post logoeric schneidermanWashington Post, ‘Gotcha,’ tweets Kellyanne Conway as Trump supporters revel in Schneiderman resignation, Samantha Schmidt, May 8, 2018. It took three hours for New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (shown at right) to step down Monday night after he was accused by four women of physical abuse in a New Yorker article.

Equally swift was the response from allies of President Trump, a longtime nemesis of the attorney general. Conservative commentators and vocal Trump supporters gleefully pointed out social media posts in which Schneiderman advocated for victims of sexual abuse or accusers of disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein — tweets they described as hypocritical.

kellyanne conway gage skidmoreKellyanne Conway (shown in a Gage Skidmore portrait), counselor to the president, and one of the president’s sons, Donald Trump Jr., both shared a tweet posted by Schneiderman in October of last year. “No one is above the law, and I’ll continue to remind President Trump and his administration of that fact everyday,” Schneiderman wrote in the tweet.

Meanwhile, critics of Trump fired back at those who were quick to condemn Schneiderman while defending a president accused by more than a dozen women of improper conduct or sexual assault. While Trump has chided Democrats accused of misconduct, such as former senator Al Franken (D-Minn.), he has given a pass to accused Republicans and allies, including former Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama and former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly.

More On Iran Nuke Deal

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Tells Ally U.S. Will Leave Iran Deal, Mark Landler, May 8, 2018. Risks Alienating Europe, and Stirring Uncertainty. President Trump told President Emmanuel Macron of France that he plans to announce the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal, according to a person briefed on the conversation. The U.S. is also preparing to reinstate all sanctions it had waived as part of the accord — and impose additional economic penalties.

ny times logoNew York Times, Here’s How the Nuclear Deal Slowed Iran Down, Rick Gladstone and Sahil Chinoy, May 8, 2018 (print edition). The nuclear deal reached between Iran and major powers in 2015 limited Iran’s nuclear capabilities in return for the lifting of many international sanctions that had isolated and weakened the country economically. Here’s how the deal restricted Iran, and what could happen if President Trump withdraws from the agreement.

May 7

Another #MeToo Scandal

eric schneiderman

new yorker logoNew Yorker, Four Women Accuse New York’s Attorney General of Physical Abuse, Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow, May 7, 2018. Eric Schneiderman (shown above in a file photo) has raised his profile as a voice against sexual misconduct. Now, after suing Harvey Weinstein, he faces a #MeToo reckoning of his own.

Update: Three hours after the publication of this story, Schneiderman resigned from his position. “While these allegations are unrelated to my professional conduct or the operations of the office, they will effectively prevent me from leading the office’s work at this critical time,” he said in a statement. “I therefore resign my office, effective at the close of business on May 8, 2018.”

Eric Schneiderman, New York’s attorney general, has long been a liberal Democratic champion of women’s rights, and recently he has become an outspoken figure in the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment. As New York State’s highest-ranking law-enforcement officer, Schneiderman, who is sixty-three, has used his authority to take legal action against the disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein, and to demand greater compensation for the victims of Weinstein’s alleged sexual crimes. Last month, when the Times and this magazine were awarded a joint Pulitzer Prize for coverage of sexual harassment, Schneiderman issued a congratulatory tweet, praising “the brave women and men who spoke up about the sexual harassment they had endured at the hands of powerful men.” Without these women, he noted, “there would not be the critical national reckoning under way.”

Now Schneiderman is facing a reckoning of his own. As his prominence as a voice against sexual misconduct has risen, so, too, has the distress of four women with whom he has had romantic relationships or encounters. They accuse Schneiderman of having subjected them to nonconsensual physical violence. All have been reluctant to speak out, fearing reprisal.

But two of the women, Michelle Manning Barish and Tanya Selvaratnam, have talked to The New Yorker on the record, because they feel that doing so could protect other women. They allege that he repeatedly hit them, often after drinking, frequently in bed and never with their consent. Manning Barish and Selvaratnam categorize the abuse he inflicted on them as “assault.”

They did not report their allegations to the police at the time, but both say that they eventually sought medical attention after having been slapped hard across the ear and face, and also choked. Selvaratnam says that Schneiderman warned her he could have her followed and her phones tapped, and both say that he threatened to kill them if they broke up with him. (Schneiderman’s spokesperson said that he “never made any of these threats.”)

In a statement, Schneiderman said, “In the privacy of intimate relationships, I have engaged in role-playing and other consensual sexual activity. I have not assaulted anyone. I have never engaged in nonconsensual sex, which is a line I would not cross.”

washington post logoWashington Post, New York attorney general resigns after four women accuse him of physical abuse, Marwa Eltagouri and Mark Berman, May 7, 2018. Within hours of publication of a New Yorker article  reporting the accusations, Eric Schneiderman faced calls to resign, most notably from the state’s Democratic governor. Schneiderman said he contests the allegations.

Justice Department: Harsh New Immigration Rules

washington post logojeff sessions ag oWashington Post, Sessions vows to prosecute all illegal border crossers and separate children from their parents, Sari Horwitz and Maria Sacchetti, May 7, 2018. Attorney General Jeff Sessions (shown at right) announced Monday that the Justice Department will begin prosecuting every person who illegally crosses into the United States along the Southwest border, a hard-line policy shift focusing in particular on migrants traveling with children.

Justice Department log circularIn separate speeches — one in Scottsdale, Ariz., the other in San Diego — Sessions said the Department of Homeland Security will begin referring such cases to the Justice Department for prosecution. Federal prosecutors will “take on as many of those cases as humanly possible until we get to 100 percent,” he said.

#MeToo Moment For Southern Baptist Leader

washington post logopaige patterson sw baptist theological seminary CustomWashington Post, ‘We are shocked’: Thousands of Southern Baptist women denounce leader’s ‘objectifying’ comments, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, May 7, 2018. The Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination and a major force in conservative Christianity, is encountering its own #MeToo moment: a wave of anger over repeated comments by a prominent church leader seen as demeaning to women.

In sermons he gave between 2000 and 2014 that have been made public, Paige Patterson, seminary president and former denominational president (shown at right), has encouraged women who are abused by their husbands not to divorce but to pray instead. He also commented in the sermons on female bodies, including that of a teenage girl, and women’s appearances. Now, thousands of people are calling for his removal just weeks before he is scheduled to deliver a key sermon at the huge denomination’s annual convention.

Police Shootings Down of Unarmed

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Fatal police shootings of unarmed people have significantly declined, experts say, John Sullivan, Julie Tate and Jennifer Jenkins, May 7, 2018. The number of deadly police shootings of unarmed people has generally declined since 2015 even as the tally of fatal shootings by law enforcement is on pace to hit nearly 1,000 for the fourth year in a row, according to data gathered by The Washington Post.

Fatal shootings of unarmed black men — such as the high-profile case in March of Stephon Clark in Sacramento — are among the kinds of killings that have fallen. Criminologists said the downturn in the number of cases and their analysis of the data indicate that evidence of racial bias by police who shoot and kill unarmed blacks has also declined but not disappeared.

“These trends mark significant changes,” said Geoff Alpert, a professor in the department of criminology and criminal justice at the University of South Carolina who has been reviewing and studying the data at The Post’s request. “What we don’t understand yet is what’s causing these numbers to move downward.”

In 2015, police shot and killed 94 unarmed individuals, a number that fell to 51 in 2016 before rising to 68 in 2017. This year, police have shot and killed 18 unarmed people, eight fewer than at the same time last year.

Hezbollah Gains In Major Lebanon Vote

washington post logoWashington Post, As Lebanon chooses a new parliament, Hezbollah gains power and prime minister’s fortunes fade, Louisa Loveluck, May 7, 2018.  Lebanon’s Hezbollah paramilitary movement emerged Monday as the main victor in the country’s first election in almost a decade, securing veto power in the Lebanese parliament as the prime minister’s fortunes fell.

Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk said Iran-backed Hezbollah and its parliamentary allies won more than a third of the 128 seats, which would leave them as a dominant force in the Lebanese legislature.

saad hariri sochi sept 13 2017The party of Sunni Prime Minister Saad Hariri (left), meanwhile, lost at least five seats in Beirut, once considered a stronghold, although he was expected to retain his position. Machnouk said a final breakdown of the nationwide results will be released Tuesday.

The vote — the first of its kind in nine years — had been hotly anticipated. Television stations aired extensive coverage, and billboards of the candidates’ faces loomed high above the streets of Beirut. A key political player in Lebanon, Hezbollah also has been one of the Assad government’s major allies, sending thousands of fighters to battle Syrian rebels and the Islamic State. In a televised address Monday, the movement’s leader, Hasan Nasrallah, hailed its electoral success as a “political and moral victory.”

Sunday’s vote was governed by a complex new electoral law intended to bring in new political players while preserving Lebanon’s sect-based political system.

Iran Deal

washington post logoiran flag mapWashington Post, Trump to announce Iran decision amid signs he’ll take steps to undermine pact, Karen DeYoung, Anne Gearan and David Nakamura​, May 7, 2018. President Trump said in a tweet that he will make a statement at the White House at 2 p.m. Tuesday. The announcement comes after a flurry of entreaties from allies for Trump to reconsider his opposition to the deal, but he has continued to rail against it.

More On Spy Op Against Obama White House

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: 'Black Cube' First Denies, Then Obfuscates, Then Admits Spying On Iran Deal Negotiators, B, May 7, 2018. Yesterday we published a piece about "Black Cube", an Israeli spy company with deep state relations. The piece was updated earlier today.

Black Cube used false identities to trick two former members of the Obama administration, Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl, as well as the pro-Iran lobbyist Trita Parsi, to find out if they had profited from the nuclear deal (JCPOA) with Iran.

The Observer, which broke the story without naming Black Cube, reported that people related to the Trump administration had hired the company to get information that could help Trump to dump the nuclear deal with Iran. Now the company is in panic and tries to cover its trail.

Diplomatic Gaffe By Israel?

shinzo abe benjamin netanyahu shoe desert Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Netanyahu puts wrong foot forward by serving Japan’s Abe dessert in a shoe, Ruth Eglash, May 7, 2018. There aren’t that many cultures where putting a shoe on the dining room table is acceptable behavior, but for the Japanese there is clear etiquette against allowing outdoor shoes inside.

shinzō abe oThat might explain the furor following a visit by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (shown above with and his wife, Akie Abe, and also at right), to Israel last week. After a day of high-level meetings on May 2, the Japanese leader was treated to a festive meal at the official residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara Netanyahu. It was their second time in Israel, and the visiting couple were served a top-notch meal by celebrity Israeli chef Segev Moshe. But then came dessert. A selection of delectable chocolate pralines — artistically arranged inside a shiny leather shoe.

shinzo abe israeli desert in shoe CustomIsrael’s popular daily newspaper Yediot Aharonot wrote Monday that “Japanese diplomats, Israeli Foreign Ministry officials and high-ranking Israeli diplomats who previously served in Japan were shocked by the idea.”

“This was an insensitive decision,” the article quoted one unidentified senior Israeli official as saying. “There is nothing lowlier than a shoe in Japanese culture. Not only do they not wear shoes at home, you also won’t find shoes in their offices. This is disrespect of the first order.”

Trump Probes

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump calls on Congress to pull back $15 billion in spending, including on Children’s Health Insurance Program, Damian Paletta and Erica Werner, May 7, 2018. The plan would cut previously approved spending with the goal of tempering conservative angst over ballooning deficits. An administration official said Democrats should recognize that much of the package represents untapped accounts.

ny times logorudy giuliani recentNew York Times, Trump Could Defy Subpoena From Mueller, Giuliani Says, Mark Landler and Noah Weiland, May 7, 2018 (print edition). Rudolph W. Giuliani (shown at right), President Trump’s lawyer, painted the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, as bent on trapping Mr. Trump into committing perjury. It was one of several startling admissions Mr. Giuliani made in his first extended television appearance since the president criticized him for not having his “facts straight.”

U.S. Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, California G.O.P. Faces Prospect of No Statewide Candidate, Adam Nagourney, May 7, 2018 (print edition). As they seek to elect a party member to statewide office, California Republicans fear that they will have no candidate for U.S. senator or governor on the ballot in November.

Under the California election system, candidates compete in an open, nonpartisan primary on June 5. The two candidates who get the most votes — regardless of party — advance to the November general election.

If Republicans fall short in capturing one of those two November slots next month, which members of both parties say is a strong possibility, it would apparently be the first election since 1914 where a major party had no candidate in either the race for Senator or for governor.

Another Melania Plagiarism?

Palmer Report, Opinion: Melania Trump caught plagiarizing material from the Obamas yet again, Bill Palmer, May 7, 2018. Earlier today, Palmer Report wrote that Melania Trump’s rollout of her “Be Best” campaign couldn’t have gone much worse. Many people mocked the bizarre and grammatically challenged name, while many others pointed out that her call for social media decency was hypocritical in the face of her husband’s behavior on Twitter. Guess what? Things have in fact found a way to get even worse for Melania’s “Be Best” rollout.

We all recall Melania Trump’s Republican National Convention speech having plagiarized portions of an old speech given by Michelle Obama. The Trump team then blamed the plagiarism on a woman named Meredith McIver, whom literally no one has ever seen or met before or since, and who may or may not exist. We’re wondering if “Meredith” is about to get blamed yet again, because it turns out Melania just got caught stealing material from the Obamas again.

We’re not even talking about the fact that Michelle Obama had “Be Better” and now Melania Trump has “Be Best.” That’s bad enough. The real trouble here is that Melania simply stole most of the material for her Be Best campaign from sold pamphlets that the Obama White House had created in 2014. BuzzFeed caught Melania in the act. This came after the Trump White House strangely made a point of insisting that Melania wrote it herself. So now we’re looking at what basically amounts to Melania Trump even more thoroughly plagiarizing the Obamas.

It’s difficult to say to what extent this is being done on purpose, and to what extent it’s mere incompetence. In any case, this just keeps finding ways to get more ridiculous. If Michelle Obama had ever been caught plagiarizing anything from the Bush White House, there would have been immediate calls for President Obama to resign. But Donald Trump is so overwhelmingly scandal ridden, we doubt Melania Trump’s latest theft from Obamas is going to be a story for more than a day or two.

Buzzfeed, Melania Trump Reused An Obama-Era Pamphlet For Her New Anti-Cyberbullying Campaign, Blake Montgomery, Ryan Mac, and Leticia Miranda, May 7, 2018. The Federal Trade Commission says it worked with Trump to update and redistribute the earlier edition, which she launched as part of her "Be Best" initiative. 

First lady Melania Trump’s anti-cyberbullying campaign brochure was largely recycled from an Obama-era publication in 2014, with most of the material copied over verbatim.

melania trump twitterOn Monday, Trump (shown in her Twitter photo) aunched her “Be Best” initiative to promote children’s health, focusing on well-being, social media and online activity, and opioid addiction. As part of that, she and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a 27-page document outlining her plan to help parents talk with their children about being safe online.

But the document copies sections almost word-for-word from a FTC pamphlet published in January 2014 as part of the agency’s “Net Cetera” campaign, which began under President Barack Obama in 2009. After tweaking some language and graphics and adding an introduction from the first lady, the White House uploaded the new document, “Talking With Kids About Being Online,” to its website as the only external resource for Trump’s new Be Best website.

“As it is clearly related to the social media portion of Mrs. Trump’s initiatives, it is a good resource to include with some of our Be Best materials,” first lady spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham told BuzzFeed News. “It was updated and edited to reflect today’s event and we were happy to be able to provide the children in attendance with such a resource.”

But the updates appeared to be minimal, stoking concerns from online observers that Trump, who copied from Michelle Obama for her speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention, was again plagiarizing for her newest initiative. On the cover page, a graphic for a mobile phone was slightly altered to show a more modern device, while certain headlines were changed with no additions to the underlying content. The 2014 headline for discussion on “Sexting,” for example, was updated to read “Sexting: Don’t Do It” in the current version. The paragraph explainer that followed was exactly the same.

After BuzzFeed News inquired about the content of the booklet, Be Best's website changed the language describing it from "a booklet by First Lady Melania Trump and the FTC" to "a FTC booklet, promoted by first lady Melania Trump" (emphasis added). Grisham and Wood did not immediately respond to request for comment on the change. Wood pointed to changes in the 2018 guide that included new guidelines on how to combat cyberbullying, disable in-app purchases, handle passwords and personally identifiable information, back up files, and use public Wi-Fi, along with a letter from the first lady. Trump's brochure stripped out the name of the prior initiative, "Net Cetera," while also including an introduction from Trump with her photo, signature, and Be Best's logo.

ty cobb hogan lovalisPalmer Report, Opinion: Here’s who’s really in charge of Donald Trump’s disastrous legal team, Bill Palmer, May 7, 2018. Over the past week we’ve watched Donald Trump’s legal defense team morph from a quiet disaster into a very loud one. Ty Cobb (shown at right), who rarely interacted with the media except when he was speaking too loudly in restaurants, resigned. Rudy Giuliani became the new public face of Trump’s legal team, even as Emmet Flood quietly signed on in the background. The question ever since has been who’s really in charge of this sinking ship. Now we have our answer.

When Trump went silent on Twitter over the weekend, plenty of people began asking if perhaps he was reluctantly following the advice of Flood, a serious attorney with specific experience in impeachment cases. But that never quite made sense. If Flood had that kind of control over Trump, a train wreck like Giuliani wouldn’t be on the team at all. Yesterday Giuliani told the media that he was the one who convinced Trump to go silent on Twitter, so Rudy’s voice could be heard more loudly. This morning Trump defied that by resuming his frantic tweets about the criminal investigation into his scandals.

So let’s try to parse this.....

May 6

ny times logoNew York Times, Israel and Iran Issue Warnings as Nuclear Deal Deadline Nears, Isabel Kershner and Thomas Erdbrink, May 6, 2018. Days before Mr. Trump’s decision on the Iran nuclear deal, Israel’s prime minister called the pact “fatally flawed,” while Iran’s president warned of “historic regret” if the United States rips it up

 Analysis: How Trump Built His Companies

washington post logoWashington Post, As the ‘King of Debt,’ Trump borrowed to build his empire, then spent hundreds of millions in cash, Jonathan O'Connell, David A. Fahrenthold and Jack Gillum, May 6, 2018 (print edition). Donald Trump’s vast outlay of cash, tracked through public records and totaled publicly here for the first time, provides a new window into the president’s private company, which discloses few details about its finances.

Politics / Entertainment

washington post logoWashington Post, SNL brings in Ben Stiller, Scarlett Johansson, Stormy Daniels and more for star-studded cold open, Travis M. Andrews, May 6, 2018 (7:27 mins.). Now, that was a cold open. Ben Stiller, Martin Short, Jimmy Fallon, Scarlett Johansson, Alec Baldwin and Stormy Daniels herself all showed up for one of the more star-studded cold opens in the history of “Saturday Night Live,” just as the sketch show enters the final stretch of its 43rd season.

And they were all there to do one thing: skewer the Trump administration after (yet another) week of shocking revelations through a series of comedic phone calls and crossed lines.

The sketch tackled an overwhelming amount of news in short fashion, straddling a fine line between being clever and convoluted. It opens with a black screen with white lettering in a font that calls to mind “Law and Order.” It says: “The following is based on real events.”

Then the action begins. Stiller, reprising his role as President Trump’s embattled attorney Michael Cohen, shiftily sidles up to a phone booth and calls Trump, who is sitting in the Oval Office reading Par 4 magazine.

“How you are holding up in prison?” Baldwin’s Trump asks.

“I’m not in prison!” Stiller’s Cohen replies.

“Well, give it a couple of weeks,” SNL’s Trump shoots back.

Investigations

benjamin netanyahu frown

Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu (file photo)

The Observer/Guardian, Revealed: Trump team hired spy firm for ‘dirty ops’ on Iran arms deal, Mark Townsend and Julian Borger, May 6, 2018 (print edition). Israeli agency told to find incriminating material on Obama diplomats who negotiated deal with Tehran.

Aides to Donald Trump, the US president, hired an Israeli private intelligence agency to orchestrate a “dirty ops” campaign against key individuals from the Obama administration who helped negotiate the Iran nuclear deal, the Observer can reveal.

benjamin rhodes oPeople in the Trump camp contacted private investigators in May last year to “get dirt” on Ben Rhodes (right), who had been one of Barack Obama’s top national security advisers, and Colin Kahl, deputy assistant to Obama, as part of an elaborate attempt to discredit the deal.

The extraordinary revelations come days before Trump’s 12 May deadline to either scrap or continue to abide by the international deal limiting Iran’s nuclear programme.

Trump’s dirty ops attack on Obama legacy shows pure hatred for Iran deal

Jack Straw, who as foreign secretary was involved in earlier efforts to restrict Iranian weapons, said: “These are extraordinary and appalling allegations but which also illustrate a high level of desperation by Trump and the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, not so much to discredit the deal but to undermine those around it.”

bo ben rhodes terry szuplat 2 18 15

According to incendiary documents seen by the Observer, investigators contracted by the private intelligence agency were told to dig into the personal lives and political careers of Rhodes, a former deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, and Kahl, a national security adviser to the former vice-president Joe Biden. Among other things they were looking at personal relationships, any involvement with Iran-friendly lobbyists, and if they had benefited personally or politically from the peace deal. President Obama, Rhodes, left, and foreign policy speechwriter Terry Szuplat, center, are shown in a White House file photo on Feb. 18, 2015.

Investigators were also apparently told to contact prominent Iranian Americans as well as pro-deal journalists – from the New York Times, MSNBC television, the Atlantic, Vox website and Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper among others – who had frequent contact with Rhodes and Kahl in an attempt to establish whether they had violated any protocols by sharing sensitive intelligence. They are believed to have looked at comments made by Rhodes in a 2016 New York Times profile in which he admitted relying on inexperienced reporters to create an “echo chamber” that helped sway public opinion to secure the deal. It is also understood that the smear campaign wanted to establish if Rhodes was among those who backed a request by Susan Rice, Obama’s final national security adviser, to unmask the identities of Trump transition officials caught up in the surveillance of foreign targets.

Although sources have confirmed that contact and an initial plan of attack was provided to private investigators by representatives of Trump, it is not clear how much work was actually undertaken, for how long or what became of any material unearthed.

Puerto Rico's Flawed Disaster Recovery

ny times logoNew York Times, Storms, Missteps and an Ailing Grid Left Puerto Rico in the Dark, James Glanz and Frances Robles, May 6, 2018. It took months to restore electricity in Puerto Rico after hurricanes dealt a one-two punch. Many homes are still without power, and the system’s future is far from certain.

May 5

McCain Disses Trump

john mccain 2009 wNew York Post, McCain doesn’t want Trump at his funeral, Mary Kay Linge, May 5, 2018. Sen. John McCain loathes President Trump so much that he plans to diss him from beyond the grave. The ailing Arizona Republican, who has brain cancer, is organizing his funeral – and close associates have told the White House that Trump will not be invited. Instead, Vice President Mike Pence, who served with McCain in Congress, will be asked to attend the service, the New York Times reported Saturday.

The ceremony will be held at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. A stream of politicians, including former Vice President Joe Biden and former Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, have been visiting McCain at his Arizona ranch and a nearby hospital in recent weeks.

Trump’s long-running feud with McCain has roots in the early days of the 2016 presidential race. The senator criticized Trump for disparaging Mexican immigrants in the June 2015 speech in which he declared his candidacy. Three weeks later, Trump called McCain “incompetent” and dismissed his experience as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. “He’s not a war hero,” Trump told an Iowa crowd. “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”

Probes Of Trump Team

washington post logorudy giuliani recentWashington Post, Giuliani: Payment to porn star made to protect Trump family, John Wagner, Devlin Barrett and Josh Dawsey, May 4, 2018. President Trump’s new lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani (shown right) sought to clean up a series of comments made during a whirlwind media tour meant to bolster the president’s standing regarding a payment to a porn star but that instead created new problems for his client.

djt stormy daniels screengrab

ny times logomichael cohen ap file croppedNew York Times, Trump Is Said to Know of Hush Money Months Before Denial, Michael D. Shear, Maggie Haberman, Tim Rutenberg and Matt Apuzzo, May 5, 2018 (print edition). Two people familiar with the arrangement said President Trump knew about the $130,000 that Michael D. Cohen (right), his personal lawyer, paid to Stormy Daniels (shown above in file photos with the president). How much the president knew about the payment and who else was aware of it have been at the center of a swirling controversy.

ny times logoNew York Times, Russian Billionaire Was Questioned by Mueller Investigation, Adam Goldman, Ben Protess and William K. Rashbaum, May 5, 2018 (print edition). Viktor Vekselberg is one of seven Russian oligarchs who were targeted by American sanctions as punishment for Moscow’s election interference.

Economy, Finance

ny times logoNew York Times, Berkshire Meeting: Buffett Approves of Apple’s Buyback Plan, Andrew Ross Sorkin, May 5, 2018. At the annual Berkshire Hathaway meeting in Omaha, Warren Buffett said he is “delighted” with Apple’s plan to repurchase $100 billion of its shares.

Inside Washington

washington post logomike pence oWashington Post, Opinion: Mike Pence dishonors himself. Again, Editorial board, May 5, 2018 (print edition). When Vice President Mike Pence (right) appeared at an event in Arizona the other day and lauded former sheriff Joe Arpaio as a “tireless champion of . . . the rule of law,” his comment wasn’t just a risible fiction about a man who made racial profiling his political calling card, thumbed his nose at a federal judge’s order and was convicted of criminal contempt of court.

joe arpaioIn kowtowing to Mr. Arpaio, a hero to alt-right racists, the vice president also announced his own contempt for principles higher than reflexive genuflection to anything and anyone favored by President Trump.

U.S. Politics

Democratic-Republican Campaign logos

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump turns Ohio’s political landscape upside down, Dan Balz​, ​May 5, 2018. The president’s visit to Cleveland today comes ahead of Tuesday’s primary elections, in which he is more than a bit player. If his appearance at the NRA on Friday is any indication, Donald Trump has only hardened the support among his base.

Trump has turned the state’s Republican Party upside down, which has left Republican Gov. John Kasich almost a man without a party in his own state. Kasich, of course, lost the GOP nomination to Trump in 2016, boycotted the arena at the GOP convention in Cleveland and ever since has been a critic of the president — and a possible 2020 challenger.

The contours of Ohio’s new politics will be on national display over the coming days, beginning with the president’s Saturday visit to Cleveland. The trip comes at the end of a week of controversy for the president that, if his appearance at the National Rifle Association on Friday is any indication, has only hardened the support among his base.

His visit comes on the eve of Tuesday’s primary elections, in which the president is more than a bit player. The ultimate answer as to how Trump has changed the politics of the state will come in 2020, if he is on the ballot. But some clues will emerge from this year’s midterm elections, with Tuesday’s primaries providing the first indicators.

The Republican primary pits Mike DeWine, the current state attorney general and former U.S. senator, against Mary Taylor, the state’s lieutenant governor. Notably, neither has sought the Kasich mantle in their campaigns. DeWine doesn’t particularly need it, given strong statewide identification and a record of his own. But it is more telling that Taylor, who was elected lieutenant governor on a ticket with Kasich, has also run away from him — sometimes quite awkwardly.

#MeToo Sex Scandals Hit Sweden's Nobel Committee

Swedish flagNew York Post, Photographer at center of alleged sex scandal plaguing the Nobel Prize for Literature, Emily Smith, May 4, 2018  Even the Nobel Prize in Literature has been hit by a sex scandal. For the first time since 1949, the award will not be handed out, the Swedish Academy, which bestows the prestigious prize, announced.

The 2018 award will be postponed until next year as the academy reels from a #MeToo scandal. Swedish reports allege 18 women were sexually harassed by Jean-Claude Arnault, a fotog married to academy member, poet Katarina Frostenson, and whose cultural center got academy funding. Arnault is said to have used his academy connections to lure women and victim complaints to the body were ignored. Arnault has denied the claims.

More #MeToo / Male Dominance Claims

nancy pelosiRoll Call, Pelosi Seeks Ethics Investigation of Cárdenas Over Child Sex Abuse Allegations, Lindsey McPherson, May 5, 2018. Minority leader tony cárdenassaid she spoke with fellow California Democrat about accusations.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is asking the House Ethics Committee to investigate allegations of child sex abuse against California Rep. Tony Cárdenas. A civil lawsuit has been filed against Cárdenas in Los Angeles County alleging that in 2007, when he was a member of the city council, he groped a 16-year-old girl. Cárdenas, who holds a junior position in Democratic leadership, denies the allegations.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Diaz accused of sexual misconduct, misogynistic behavior, Kristine Phillips, May 5, 2018. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Diaz has withdrawn from a writers festival amid allegations that he had forcefully kissed a woman and showed aggressive behavior toward others.

Writer Zinzi Clemmons said the incident happened when she was a 26-year-old graduate student. She had invited Diaz to speak at a workshop, but Diaz “used it as an opportunity to corner and forcibly kiss me,” Clemmons wrote on Twitter. Other female writers have since come forward, accusing Diaz of mistreatment and misogynistic verbal abuse. Diaz won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

May 4

JFK Assassination Analysis

jacob hornberger headshotFuture of Freedom Foundation, Opinion: JFK and the Inconceivable Doctrine, Part 2, Jacob G. Hornberger (shown right), May 4, 2018. Three years ago, I wrote an article entitled “JFK and the Inconceivable Doctrine,” in which I pointed how many lone-nut theorists in the JFK assassination have reached their conclusion based not on an examination of the circumstantial evidence in the case but instead simply on the notion that it is inconceivable that the U.S. national-security establishment would have carried out a domestic regime-change operation by assassinating an American president.

cia logoThe purpose of this article is to elaborate on this theme....The Pentagon and the CIA considered Kennedy to be a naïve, incompetent, treasonous president who was placing America in much greater danger than foreign leaders like Arbenz, Castro, and Lumumba were doing and like Allende would later do. For his part, Kennedy considered people with that type of mindset to be nut-balls. That’s why after seeing an advertisement accusing him of treason in the Dallas Morning News on the morning of the assassination, he turned to his wife Jackie and remarked, “We are headed into nut country today.”

Notwithstanding the overwhelming amount of circumstantial evidence pointing toward a national-security domestic-regime change operation carried out on November 22, 1963, many lone-nut theorists continue to hew to the notion that it is just inconceivable that the U.S. national-security establishment would act to protect America from a president whose policies were perceived to constitute a grave threat to “national security.” To actually explore the evidence in the case is still just too frightening for them.

Inside Washington

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal judge says special counsel wants Manafort to ‘sing’ about Trump, Rachel Weiner, May 4, 2018. The former Trump campaign manager was seeking to have bank and fraud charges against him dismissed, with his lawyers arguing that the alleged crimes have nothing to do with the work he did during the election.

Paul ManafortA federal judge in Virginia on Friday sharply questioned the motivations of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s fraud prosecution of President Trump’s former campaign manager, saying it was aimed at getting him to provide evidence against the president.

Judge Thomas S. Ellis III’s comments came during a hearing in Alexandria federal court, where attorneys for Paul Manafort (shown above left) argued that bank- and tax-fraud charges against him are outside the scope of the special counsel’s authority. thomas s ellis iii federal judgeWhile the judge (shown at right) has yet to rule and indicated that he may well decide in favor of prosecutors, his scrutiny of their approach quickly became a rallying cry for supporters of the president.

Ellis suggested that if he ruled in Manafort’s favor, the case could simply be returned to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia.

It is precisely because the probe into Manafort’s financial dealings began years ago with federal prosecutors in that office, Manafort’s defense attorneys argued, that the special counsel should not be involved.

Ellis was appointed by President Ronald Reagan and took the bench in 1987. He presided over the plea and sentencing of American Taliban supporter John Walker Lindh as well as a case involving government secrets leaked to a pro-Israel lobbying group and Israeli official. Born in Bogota, Colombia, he served as an aviator in the U.S. Navy and has an undergraduate degree from Princeton and law degrees from Harvard and Oxford.

washington post logosarah huckabee sanders screenshotWashington Post, As a willing warrior for Trump, Sarah Sanders struggles to maintain credibility, Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey and Philip Rucker, May 4, 2018. The White House press secretary plays a precarious role representing a president who traffics in mistruths and obfuscations. In the past week she was put in the harsh limelight as she was forced to explain the seemingly inconsistent accounts from her, President Trump and Rudolph W. Giuliani about the hush money paid to an adult-film actress.

fox news logo SmallPhilly.com (Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News), Fox News host Neil Cavuto blasts Trump for 4 straight minutes, Rob Tornoe, May 4, 2018. There is a growing divide at Fox News between opinion hosts like Sean Hannity, who have tended to be ardent supporters of President Trump, and straight-news hosts like Shepard Smith, who have increasingly offered tough reporting on the president and his administration.

It looks like we now know which side Neil Cavuto is leaning toward. Cavuto, the host of Your World With Neil Cavuto, is something of a hybrid at Fox News. Though he readily offers opinions on his show, he’s also a veteran business journalist and tends to play things down the middle. But on Thursday, Cavuto blasted Trump over his habit of spreading falsehoods, the latest being the $130,000 hush payment to porn star Stormy Daniels.

“Let me be clear, Mr. President. How can you drain the swamp if you’re the one that keeps muddying the waters? You didn’t know about the $130,000 payment to a porn star until you did,” Cavuto said. “You insist that money from the campaign or campaign contributions played no role in this transaction. Of that you’re sure. The thing is, not 24 hours ago, sir, you couldn’t recall any of this. And you seemed very sure.”

Cavuto spent four minutes outlining falsehoods Trump has pushed during his time in office, including claiming there was no Russian interference in the election (there was), and stating his tax cuts were the largest in U.S. history (they weren’t) and that his tax bill would personally cost him a fortune (it will likely make him much wealthier).

Despite the lengthy list of falsehoods, Cavuto stopped short of calling the president a liar and denied being a “Never Trumper,” a term used by conservatives who don’t support Trump or his administration.

#MeToo Claims / Male Dominance

washington post logocharlie rose 2014Washington Post, Three women file suit against Charlie Rose and CBS News over sexual harassment allegations, Amy Brittain​, May 4, 2018. The suit follows two Washington Post reports about the TV host’s alleged inappropriate behavior toward many female colleagues. Rose is shown in a file photo at right.

washington post logoWashington Post, How the music industry turned a blind eye to decades of allegations that R. Kelly abused young women, Story by Geoff r kelly twitterEdgers, Video by Sarah Hashemi and Whitney Leaming May 4, 2018. Record executives, low-paid assistants and other players in the music industry allowed R. Kelly (shown on his Twitter feed) to thrive even as allegations of abuse began to grow, a Washington Post investigation found. Six women once connected with Kelly spoke to The Post about what they say were abusive relationships. Two, who reached settlements with Kelly, have never publicly spoken about him.

May 4

washington post logoWashington Post, Southern Baptist leader’s advice to abused women sends leaders scrambling to respond, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, May 4, 2018 (print edition). Southern Baptist leader who advised abused women not to divorce doubles down, says he has nothing wrong. Controversial comments about women, abuse and divorce made by a highly respected leader in the Southern Baptist Convention have put many of its leaders in a deeply uncomfortable position as some scramble to respond under pressure from Southern Baptists and other evangelicals.

paige patterson sw baptist theological seminary CustomAn audio recording recently surfaced on which Southern Baptist leader Paige Patterson (shown at right) says that abused women should focus on praying and “be submissive in every way that you can” and not seek divorce. Those comments, which were made 18 years ago, have set off a wave of criticism within Southern Baptist circles over the message it could send to women.

The backlash has some wondering whether Patterson, who is not known for backing down from controversies about women, will resign from his presidency at Fort Worth-based Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The firestorm comes weeks before the SBC, which has thrived on giving churches autonomy while still claiming a strong network of 15 million members, will have its annual meeting in Dallas. Patterson, who is 75 and once served as president of the convention, is scheduled to give the one sermon at that meeting, which is considered an important honor.

Immigration News

ICE logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump administration ends protections for 50,000 Hondurans living in U.S. since 1999, Nick Miroff, May 4, 2018. The Hondurans, who were granted temporary protected status after Hurricane Mitch slammed their country and left 10,000 dead across Central America, will have until January 2020 to leave the country or face deportation.

Courts, Crime Around the Nation

ap logoAssociated Press via Washington Post, Court vacates Kennedy cousin Skakel’s murder conviction, Dave Collins, May 4, 2018. In a stunning reversal, the Connecticut Supreme Court on Friday vacated Skakel’s murder conviction and ordered a new trial in connection with a 1975 killing in wealthy Greenwich, Conn. The high court issued a 4-3 ruling that Skakel’s trial attorney failed to present evidence of an alibi. The same court in December 2016 had reinstated Skakel’s conviction after a lower court ordered a new trial, citing mistakes by the trial attorney, Mickey Sherman.

It wasn’t immediately clear if prosecutors will subject Skakel to a new trial. A spokesman for Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane said prosecutors were reviewing the new ruling. He declined further comment.

martha moxleySkakel, a nephew of Robert F. Kennedy’s widow, Ethel Kennedy, was convicted of murder in 2002 in the death of Martha Moxley (right) in 1975 when they were teenagers. He was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison, but was freed on $1.2 million bail after serving 11 years behind bars when the lower court overturned his murder conviction in 2013.

The high court’s reversal of a previous ruling is highly unusual, legal observers said. Writing for the majority Friday, Justice Richard Palmer said Skakel was prejudiced in the case by Sherman’s failure to obtain alibi testimony from witness Denis Ossorio.

michael skakel framed rfk jr coverThe case has drawn international attention because of the Kennedy name, Skakel’s rich family, numerous theories about who killed Moxley and the brutal way in which she died. Several other people, including Skakel’s brother Tommy Skakel, have been mentioned as possible killers. (Robert F. Kennedy Jr. wrote a book, Framed, whose cover is shown, about the case. Skakel is shown at left on the cover.)

The slaying took place in the exclusive Bell Haven section of Greenwich where Martha and Skakel were neighbors. At trial, prosecutors said Skakel was angry with Martha because she had spurned his advances while having a sexual liaison with his brother Tommy.

ny times logomike pence oNew York Times, Inside the White House, Pence’s Doctor Leaves  Abruptly From White House Medical Unit, Julie Hirshfeld Davis, May 4, 2018. The medical unit for the vice president (shown at right) came under scrutiny after misconduct allegations against Ronny L. Jackson, the president’s primary physician. One source of the accusations was Jennifer Pena, the vice president’s doctor.

May 3

Probes Of Trump Team

washington post logojennifer rubin twitterWashington Post, Opinion: Stormy Daniels already had a defamation claim against Trump. Now she has a splendid case. Jennifer Rubin (shown at right), May 3, 2018. Stormy Daniels already has a defamation claim against President Trump based in part on his accusation that her story that she was threatened in a parking lot was false. (Trump says the claim of an affair was “false and extortionist.”) Now she has a splendid case.

michael avenatti sketchNo wonder Michael Avenatti, Daniels’s lawyer (shown at right), is dancing a jig. He has long said he has evidence of the affair in addition to his client’s compelling story. Accusing someone of a crime is defamation per se, meaning no damages need to be proved. Avenatti will be entitled to depose Trump under oath to ask such nettlesome questions as:

• Did you have sexual relations with my client?

• Did you publicly deny knowledge of a settlement payment on national TV?

• Did you reimburse Michael Cohen for fronting the money?

• Did you break up the payments in monthly installments? Why?

• Have you made other payments to remain silent about adulterous affairs? How many? Did they all extort money from you, in your view? What are their names? How much did you pay out?

In addition, Cohen becomes a key witness in the defamation case. According to Daniels, Cohen strong-armed her into making a settlement. She, in other words, was the victim of a pressure campaign, not its instigator. Cohen would therefore need to answer questions that parallel inquiries for Trump. One or both might take the 5th — which many Americans would interpret as evidence one or both violated criminal campaign laws.

cbs news logoCBS News, U.S. freezes funding for Syria's "White Helmets," Kylie Atwood, May 3, 2018. Less than two months ago the State Department hosted members of the White Helmets at Foggy Bottom. At the time, the humanitarian group was showered with praise for saving lives in Syria.

syrian white helmets"Our meetings in March were very positive. There were even remarks from senior officials about long-term commitments even into 2020. There were no suggestions whatsoever about stopping support," Raed Saleh, the group's leader, told CBS News. Now they are not getting any U.S funding as the State Department says the support is "under active review." The U.S had accounted for about a third of the group's overall funding.'

Trump Pedophila Scandal

djt michael cohenLegal Schnauzer, Seizure of documents from Michael Cohen's office could yield evidence of Donald Trump's sex crimes -- including assaults on minors, both male and female, Roger Shuler, May 3, 2018. The recent search and seizure involving Donald Trump attorney Michael Cohen is likely to yield evidence of Trump's past sex crimes -- plus cash payments to buy silence from victims of sexual assault -- according to a report from a Washington, D.C.-based investigative journalist. Wayne Madsen reports that victims of Trump assaults likely includes minors -- both female and male. In short, Madsen writes, the raid on Cohen's office, residence, and hotel could provide evidence that the president of the United States is a pedophile. (See Wayne Madsen Report .)

Madsen and fellow journalist Andrew Kreig have written extensively about the case of Katie Johnson, who alleges in two federal lawsuits -- filed in California and New York -- that Trump and his wealthy friend, investment banker Jeffrey Epstein, raped her in 1994, when she was 13 years old. (See here, here, and here.) Johnson's complaint also alleges that Trump and Epstein raped a 12-year-old girl known only as Maria, who was abducted from Waterbury, CT, in March 1993, when she was 11.

Inside Washington

paul ryan wRoll Call, Ryan Accepts Conroy Letter Rescinding His Resignation, Allows Him to Remain House Chaplain, Lindsey McPherson, May 3, 2018. Speaker Paul D. Ryan (shown at right) is letting House Chaplain Patrick J. Conroy remain in his position, accepting the Jesuit priest’s Thursday letter rescinding his resignation that he submitted last month at the speaker’s request.

U.S. House logo“I have accepted Father Conroy’s letter and decided that he will remain in his position as Chaplain of the House,” Ryan said in a statement. “My original decision was made in what I believed to be the best interest of this institution.”

Conroy said in his letter that the reasoning Ryan’s chief of staff Jonathan Burks provided when requesting his resignation on behalf of the speaker did not align with Ryan’s own public remarks that his decision was based on member complaints about inadequate pastoral services.

Specifically, Conroy said Burks mentioned a prayer he gave in November during the tax overhaul debate wishing its benefits be balanced and shared by all Americans and a January interview he gave to the National Journal regarding sexual misconduct on the Hill in which he said suggested calls for accused members to resign might be too hasty.

“Mr. Burks mentioned dismissively something like ‘maybe it’s time that we had a Chaplain that wasn’t Catholic,’” Conroy said in his letter. Burks said in a statement that he strongly disagrees with Conroy’s recollection of their conversation but did not elaborate. “I am disappointed by the misunderstanding, but wish him the best as he continues to serve the House,” he said. Ryan allowing Conroy to remain chaplain should help cool some of the frustration and religious tensions that had erupted over his initial decision.

U.S. Elections

gwen graham fl 2Politico, Do Democrats Want an Anti-Trump, or Their Own Trump? Michael Grunwald, May 3, 2018. Gwen Graham could be Florida’s first female governor and a national leader in her party — but only if earnestness hasn’t gone out of style. If scientists engineered the polar opposite of Donald Trump, a bizarro-world version of the rage-tweeting, fancy-living, drama-stirring mogul-turned-president, their lab might produce Gwen Graham. The former stay-at-home mom (shown as a member of Congress representing Florida's second district for one term) who hopes to become Florida’s first woman governor is almost everything Trump is not.

Graham shares the president’s love of Diet Coke, and as the daughter of former Florida governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham, she too grew up in a powerful family and followed her father into the family business. Otherwise, she’s basically the living embodiment of the anti-Trump.

That could be a convenient thing to be in 2018, because a majority of the public is in an anti-Trump mood, and a Democrat who flipped America’s largest swing state after two decades of Republican rule could instantly become a leading figure in the anti-Trump opposition. Florida helped carry Trump to the presidency, yet not only is Graham running on an anti-Trump agenda of fighting for-profit schools, addressing climate change, protecting abortion rights and expanding Medicaid, she’s also basically running against Trump, calling him out as “an embarrassment” in her first digital ad, framing a race for state office as a referendum on who will protect Florida from the president.

“If you want to dub me the anti-Trump—caring, policy-oriented, honest, bringing people together — I’m fine with that,” Graham said when I started following her around earlier this year. Graham unseated a Republican congressman in a Republican district during the Republican wave year of 2014, so she’s in many ways perfectly situated to win an open seat in a purple state during the potential Democratic wave year of 2018.

Her dad is still a revered good-government icon for Floridians of a certain age, surviving 30 years in four elected offices with a reputation for decency, civility, seriousness and moderation — and she is in many ways a taller, warmer, touchy-feelier version of her dad.

But first she would have to win a primary, and it’s not clear whether Democratic primary voters want Graham-style civility and moderation in the Trump era. They might prefer more fire and fury. They might look for liberal crusaders who can use Trump-style theater and Trump-style tactics to fight Trump’s policies, rather than empathetic consensus-builders who pledge to reach across the aisle to get things done. Trump won because he knew how to put on a show, stir up a crowd and fuel the anger of his base, and some Democrats are looking for candidates who know how to do those things from the left.

Interview Discovered Of Last U.S. Slave Ship Arrivee

 cudjo lewis u of south alabama Custom

Cudjo Lewis, the last surviving captive of the last slave ship to bring Africans to the U.S. (Credit: Erik Overbey Collection, The Doy Leale McCall Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of South Alabama).

History.com, The Last Slave Ship Survivor Gave an Interview in the 1930s. It Just Surfaced, Becky Little, May 3, 2018. Roughly 60 years after the abolition of slavery, anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston made an incredible connection: She located the last surviving captive of the last slave ship to bring Africans to the United States.

Hurston, a known figure of the Harlem Renaissance who would later write the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, conducted interviews with the survivor but struggled to publish them as a book in the early 1930s. In fact, they are only now being released to the public in a book called Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” published May 8, 2018. Hurston’s book tells the story of Cudjo Lewis, who was born in what is now the West African country of Benin. Originally named Kossula, he was only 19 years old when members of the neighboring Dahomian tribe captured him and took him to the coast. There, he and about 120 others were sold into slavery and crammed onto the Clotilda, the last slave ship to reach the continental United States.

The Clotilda brought its captives to Alabama in 1860, just a year before the outbreak of the Civil War. Even though slavery was legal at that time in the U.S., the international slave trade was not, and hadn’t been for over 50 years. Along with many European nations, the U.S. had outlawed the practice in 1807, but Lewis’ journey is an example of how slave traders went around the law to continue bringing over human cargo.

To avoid detection, Lewis’ captors snuck him and the other survivors into Alabama at night and made them hide in a swamp for several days. To hide the evidence of their crime, the 86-foot sailboat was then set ablaze on the banks of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta (its remains may have been uncovered in January 2018).

Most poignantly, Lewis’ narrative provides a first-hand account of the disorienting trauma of slavery. After being abducted from his home, Lewis was forced onto a ship with strangers. The abductees spent several months together during the treacherous passage to the United States, but were then separated in Alabama to go to different plantations.

“We very sorry to be parted from one ’nother,” Lewis told Hurston. “We seventy days cross de water from de Affica soil, and now dey part us from one ’nother. Derefore we cry. Our grief so heavy look lak we cain stand it. I think maybe I die in my sleep when I dream about my mama.”

Lewis also describes what it was like to arrive on a plantation where no one spoke his language, and could explain to him where he was or what was going on. “We doan know why we be bring ’way from our country to work lak dis,” he told Hurston. “Everybody lookee at us strange. We want to talk wid de udder colored folkses but dey doan know whut we say.”

As for the Civil War, Lewis said he wasn’t aware of it when it first started. But part-way through, he began to hear that the North had started a war to free enslaved people like him. A few days after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered in April 1865, Lewis says that a group of Union soldiers stopped by a boat on which he and other enslaved people were working and told them they were free.

Lewis expected to receive compensation for being kidnapped and forced into slavery, and was angry to discover that emancipation didn’t come with the promise of “forty acres and a mule,” or any other kind of reparations. Frustrated by the refusal of the government to provide him with land to live on after stealing him away from his homeland, he and a group of 31 other freepeople saved up money to buy land near the state capital of Mobile, which they called Africatown.

Hurston’s use of vernacular dialogue in both her novels and her anthropological interviews was often controversial, as some black American thinkers at the time argued that this played to black caricatures in the minds of white people. Hurston disagreed, and refused to change Lewis’ dialect—which was one of the reasons a publisher turned her manuscript down back in the 1930s. Many decades later, her principled stance means that modern readers will get to hear Lewis’ story the way that he told it.

May 3

JFK Assassination Analysis

JFKcountercoup, Opinion: The Truth in Our Lifetime: Some Positive Attributes of the Extension of the JFK Act, Bill Kelly, May 3, 2018. The Truth in Our Lifetime: Some positive attributes of the Extension of the JFK Act.

It is very disturbing that the JFK Act — the law of the land is not being enforced today, a fact that should make it relevant to everyone.

earl warrenWhen Warren Commission chairman Earl Warren (shown at left) was asked if the secret records on the assassination would be released to the public he replied, "Yes, but not in your lifetime."

And now it may not be in ours, as a lot of people, many of whom are not alive today, worked very hard to get the JFK Act passed by Congress and reluctantly signed by President George Herbert Walker Bush on October 26, 1992.

The law prescribed that all of the government records on the assassination of President Kennedy be released in full to the public by October 26, 2017, twenty-five years to the day Bush signed it into law. When he signed it however, Bush added a rider to the law that provided the President — and only the President, with the authority to continue withholding certain records beyond the October 26, 2017 date on the grounds of national security, where their release would harm American interests.

There are also a number of assassination records that fall into specific categories that are exempt from the JFK Act provisions — over 500 records are being withheld in full under sections 10 and 11, special "deeds of gift" and grand jury records, as well as IRS tax records.

nara logoThe "deeds of gift" records are those that have been donated to the National Archives and stored in the JFK collection but are restricted by the donor, and these records include William Manchester's notes and papers he used to write his book The Death of the President, and individual oral history recordings and transcripts such as Jackie Kennedy's memories and beliefs, that are restricted by the Kennedy family.

The IRS laws take precedence over the JFK Act, so individual tax records are totally exempt, though Marina Oswald reportedly agreed to allow her family's tax records be released, and the very first document I read from among those recently released in the October 2018 batch is a good example.

In reading the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) report on an interview with former Louisiana State policeman Francis Fruge, a single social security number was redacted, and one that is not important. The rest of the document is extremely significant however, as it confirms most of the facts concerning Rose Cheramie, the women whose story is told in the opening scenes of Oliver Stone's film JFK.

rose cheramieFound unconscious on the side of the road outside the Silver Slipper saloon in rural Louisiana, Cheramie (shown at left) told officer Fruge, who drove her to the hospital, that she was with two Cubans on their way to Dallas to kill Kennedy and do a drug deal when she was thrown out of the car.

After JFK was killed a few days later, Fruge re-interviewed her, got the details of the drug deal, all of which he confirmed, and showed her mug shots of some Cubans and she picked out Sergio Aracha Smith, a New Orleans Cuban who came into play in the Garrison investigation.

rose cherami michael marcadesThe owner of the Silver Slipper saloon, a roadhouse bar, also confirmed that Sergio Aracha Smith was a customer who was in the night Cheramie was there. Cheramie was later found dead, on the side of the road, run over by a car, another suspicious death. (Her only son, Dr. Michael Marcados, co-authored in 2016 a well-reviewed ebook biography "Rose Cherami: Gathering Fallen Petals").

While I had seen a redacted version of the same HSCA report, this one was only missing the social security number.

And as I perused other documents in this 2018 batch — what the Archives calls "The Final Release," though more are expected by October 2021, I found that every document I reviewed was significant, and I will be going over them in detail in a later report.

May 2

robert mueller full face filewashington post logoWashington Post, Mueller warned of a possible presidential subpoena in meeting with Trump lawyers, Carol D. Leonnig and Robert Costa​, May 2, 2018 (print edition). In a tense meeting in early March with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, President Trump’s lawyers insisted he had no obligation to talk with federal investigators probing Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

But Mueller responded that he had another option if Trump declined: He could issue a subpoena for the president to appear before a grand jury, according to four people familiar with the encounter.

Justice Department logoMueller’s warning — the first time he is known to have mentioned a possible subpoena to Trump’s legal team — spurred a sharp retort from John Dowd, then the president’s lead lawyer.

“This isn’t some game,” Dowd said, according to two people with knowledge of his comments. “You are screwing with the work of the president of the United States.”

The flare-up set in motion weeks of turmoil among Trump’s attorneys as they debated how to deal with the special counsel’s request for an interview, a d

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Robert Mueller and Co. are playing hardball, Aaron Blake, May 2, 2018. President Trump and his allies in the House have done just about anything they can to undermine Robert S. Mueller III's investigation and intimidate its leaders. They've questioned the Mueller team's neutrality. They've wrongly suggested the investigation was launched based on the Steele dossier or the leaking of classified information. They've attacked the FISA court process. James B. Comey was fired. Andrew McCabe was targeted and later fired. And there have been threats to get rid of basically everyone else in charge of it, including most recently Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein.

djt staff nypost cover july 29 17Mueller, it seems, isn't cowed. Neither, for that matter, is Rosenstein. The Washington Post's Carol D. Leonnig and Robert Costa broke a big story Tuesday night, reporting that Mueller at one point threatened to subpoena Trump if he wouldn't voluntarily sit for an interview. Here's the scene:

... Mueller responded that he had another option if Trump declined: He could issue a subpoena for the president to appear before a grand jury, according to four people familiar with the encounter. Mueller’s warning — the first time he is known to have mentioned a possible subpoena to Trump’s legal team — spurred a sharp retort from John Dowd, then the president’s lead lawyer.

“This isn’t some game,” Dowd said, according to two people with knowledge of his comments. “You are screwing with the work of the president of the United States.”

robert mueller screenshot washington postThe flare-up set in motion weeks of turmoil among Trump’s attorneys as they debated how to deal with the special counsel’s request for an interview, a dispute that ultimately led to Dowd’s resignation. Presidents have faced subpoenas before, but the mere threat of one ratchets up the confrontation between Mueller's and Trump's teams. Trump could also fight the subpoena or even plead the Fifth Amendment, though that may come with political costs.

JFK Assassination Analysis

jacob hornberger headshotFuture of Freedom Foundation, Opinion: Did Trump and the CIA Strike a Deal on the JFK Records? Jacob G. Hornberger (shown right), May 2, 2018. Did President Trump grant the CIA an additional 3 1/2 years of secrecy on its JFK assassination-related records because he truly believed that “national security” was at stake? Or did Trump grant the CIA’s request for continued secrecy as part of a negotiated bargain that Trump reached with the CIA?

Consider the following tweets that Trump sent out the week before October 26, 2017, when the 25-year deadline set by the JFK Records Act was set to expire:

October 21: “Subject to the receipt of further information, I will be allowing, as President, the long blocked and classified JFK FILES to be opened.”

October 25: “The long anticipated release of the #JFKFiles will take place tomorrow. So interesting!

cia logoNotice something important here: Trump makes no mention of any request by the CIA for continued secrecy. How likely is it that the CIA had not made such a request prior to that week? Not likely at all. It is inconceivable that the CIA would wait until October 26, rush into Trump’s office and declare, “Mr. President, we totally forgot about the deadline set 25 years ago and we need an additional time to review the records.” (As an interesting aside, notice that neither Trump, the CIA, nor the National Archives has disclosed to the public any written request by the CIA or any other federal agency for continued secrecy of the JFK assassination-related records.)

There is another possible explanation for what was going on during the week of October 26. As I pointed out my October 27, 2017, article “The JFK Cover-Up Continues,” the possibility exists that Trump was negotiating with the CIA and taking the matter to the brink with his two tweets — that is, that Trump knew that continued secrecy was critically important to the CIA but that he wanted something in return. You know, The Art of the Deal.

If that is what was happening, then Trump was likely communicating to the CIA with his tweets, “Give me what I want or I release the records.” That would mean that at the last minute the CIA caved and gave Trump what he wanted, which would explain why Trump suddenly changed his mind on October 26 and granted another six months of secrecy, contrary to what his two tweets indicated he would do immediately prior to that October 26 deadline.

What was something that would have been important to Trump that the CIA could have given him? As I indicated in my October 27 article, what would have been important to Trump would have been an exoneration in the Russia investigation, at the very least with respect to Congress and maybe, hopefully, even with respect to the investigation being conducted by the special counsel and former FBI Director Robert Mueller. As part of the deal, Trump would have demanded that the CIA exercise its considerable power and influence to bring one and hopefully both investigations to a satisfactory conclusion.

Why only six months of secrecy back in October? Because as I indicated in my October 27 article, Trump would have wanted a guarantee that the CIA would live up to its end of the bargain. If the CIA didn’t deliver at its end, Trump could still order a release of the records in April. If the CIA delivered, Trump could grant its request for additional secrecy when the April deadline came.

On April 26, the day that the six-month extension expired, Trump granted the CIA another 2 1/2 years of secrecy. Maybe it’s just a coincidence but one day later, April 27, the House Intelligence Committee released its final report exonerating Trump in its investigation into the Russia brouhaha.

scott pruitt epa

washington post logoWashington Post, Lobbyist helped arrange Scott Pruitt’s $100,000 trip to Morocco, Kevin Sullivan, Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis​, May 2, 2018 (print edition). The controversial trip last December by the Environmental Protection Agency administrator (shown above) was partly arranged by a longtime friend and lobbyist who later won a $40,000-a-month contract to promote Morocco’s cultural and economic interests.

washington post logoWashington Post, White supremacist found guilty in Charlottesville parking garage beating of black man, Ian Shapira​, May 2, 2018 (print edition). A jury found Jacob Scott Goodwin, who wore a military helmet and brandished a shield, guilty of malicious wounding in the beating of DeAndre Harris during last August's “Unite the Right” rally.

May 1

ny times logorobert mueller full face fileNew York Times, Mueller Has List of Questions for Trump: Most Relate to Possible Obstruction in Russia Inquiry, Michael S. Schmidt, May 1, 2018 (updated from April 30 electronic edition). Robert S. Mueller III (right), the special counsel investigating Russia’s election interference, has at least four dozen questions on an exhaustive array of subjects he wants to ask President Trump. The Times has obtained the list. It provides the most detailed look yet inside Mr. Mueller’s investigation, which has been shrouded in secrecy since he was appointed nearly a year ago.

[Read the questions here.]

jeff sessions ag oThe open-ended queries appear to be an attempt to penetrate the president’s thinking, to get at the motivation behind some of his most combative Twitter posts and to examine his relationships with his family and his closest advisers. They deal chiefly with the president’s high-profile firings of the F.B.I. director and his first national security adviser, his treatment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions (right) and a 2016 Trump Tower meeting between campaign officials and Russians offering dirt on Hillary Clinton.

But they also touch on the president’s businesses; any discussions with his longtime personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, about a Moscow real estate deal; whether the president knew of any attempt by Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to set up a back channel to Russia during the transition; any contacts he had with Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime adviser who claimed to have inside information about Democratic email hackings; and what happened during Mr. Trump’s 2013 trip to Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant.

washington post logodjt official SmallWashington Post, ‘So disgraceful’: Trump lashes out at publication of questions in Mueller probe, John Wagner​, May 1, 2018. The list of nearly 50 questions that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III seeks to ask President Trump were provided to Trump’s lawyers as part of negotiations for an interview for the Russia probe, according to a report in the New York Times.

Report: Trump Bodyguard Raided Doctor's Office To Seize Records

djt harold bornstein

Donald Trump, left, and his personal physician Harold Bornstein in a photo that used to hang on his office wall. Bornstein said he was asked to take the photo down (Bornstein photo via NBC News).

nbc logoNBC News, Trump doctor Harold Bornstein says bodyguard, lawyer 'raided' his office, took medical files, Anna R. Schecter, May 1, 2018. Bornstein said he felt "raped" after White House aide Keith Schiller and lawyer Alan Garten showed up unannounced and took Trump's files. In February 2017, a top White House aide who was Trump's longtime personal bodyguard, along with the top lawyer at the Trump Organization and a third man, showed up at the office of Trump's New York doctor without notice and took all the president's medical records.

harold bornstein nbc CustomThe incident, which Dr. Harold Bornstein (shown at left in a screenshot from NBC) described as a "raid," took place two days after Bornstein told a newspaper that he had prescribed a hair growth medicine for the president for years. In an exclusive interview in his Park Avenue office, Bornstein told NBC News that he felt "raped, frightened and sad" when Keith Schiller and another "large man" came to his office to collect the president's records on the morning of Feb. 3, 2017. At the time, Schiller, who had long worked as Trump's bodyguard, was serving as director of Oval Office operations at the White House.

"They must have been here for 25 or 30 minutes. It created a lot of chaos," Bornstein said, who described the incident as frightening. A framed 8x10 photo of Bornstein and Trump that had been hanging on the wall in the waiting room now lies flat under a stack of papers on the top shelf of Bornstein's bookshelf. Bornstein said the men asked him to take it off the wall.

Bornstein said he was not given a form authorizing the release of the records and signed by the president —known as a HIPAA release — which is a violation of patient privacy law. A person familiar with the matter said there was a letter to Bornstein from then-White House doctor Ronny Jackson, but didn't know if there was a release form attached.

Bornstein said the original and only copy of Trump's charts, including lab reports under Trump's name as well as under the pseudonyms his office used for Trump, were taken. Another man, Trump Organization Chief Legal Officer Alan Garten, joined Schiller's team at Bornstein's office, and Bornstein's wife Melissa photocopied his business card.

Newspaper Updates Detailed Chart Of Trump Falsities

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump has made 3,001 false or misleading claims as president, Glenn Kessler, Meg Kelly, Salvador Rizzo and Michelle Ye Hee Lee, May 1, 2018.  The Fact Checker’s ongoing database of the false or misleading claims made by President Trump since assuming office. Updated April 30, 2018.

djt official SmallIn the 466 days since he took the oath of office, President Trump is now averaging nearly 6.5 false or misleading claims a day — a number that keeps creeping up. He also has a proclivity to repeat, over and over, many of his false or misleading statements, according to a Post analysis.

U.S. Politics

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigation: Acting Veterans Affairs Secretary a neo-Confederate, Wayne Madsen, May 1, 2018 (Subscription required). At stake, control over veterans' graveyards.

washington post logoWashington Post, For GOP hopefuls, crimes are no longer a disqualification for office, Michael Scherer, May 1, 2018. In the era of President Trump, even time spent in prison can be turned into a positive talking point, demonstrating a candidate’s battle scars in a broader fight against what he perceives as liberal corruption.

michael grimm michael scottoFormer New York congressman Michael Grimm is a felon who has admitted to hiring undocumented workers, hiding $900,000 from tax authorities and making false statements under oath. To hear him tell it, that’s a reason Staten Island Republicans should vote him back into office. (Grimm is shown at right in a file still shot when the congressman threatened on air to throw the smaller Michael Scotti, a news reporter, off the House Cannon Building balcony adjoining them.)

“It’s almost identical to what the president has been going through,” Grimm says of the federal investigation that led to his imprisonment. “It’s not an accident that under the Obama administration the Justice Department was used politically. And that is all starting to come out.”

republican elephant logoGrimm has uncovered a new reality in the constantly changing world of Republican politics: Criminal convictions, once seen as career-enders, are no longer disqualifying. In the era of President Trump, even time spent in prison can be turned into a positive talking point, demonstrating a candidate’s battle scars in a broader fight against what he perceives as liberal corruption.

Israeli Intrigues

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Benjamin Netanyahu’s Nuclear Nothingburger, Steven Simon, May 1, 2018. Mr. Simon is a co-author of “Our Separate Ways: The Struggle for the Future of the U.S.-Israel Alliance.”

The Israeli prime minister promised to reveal Iranian cheating. But it was old news. So what was he up to?

The United States has threatened to withdraw from the nuclear deal, claiming it was a “political agreement” whose validity expired along with the Obama administration that negotiated it. The diplomatic novelty of this approach is matched only by a related Trump doctrine that Iran is in violation of the “spirit” of the agreement, even if it is abiding by the letter of the law.

A withdrawal decision, one way or another, is to be announced on May 12. Since the members of Congress will have a say on whether to reimpose sanctions on Iran, Mr. Netanyahu’s pitch must surely have been directed to them.

Americans might distrust the C.I.A. and wince when recalling its verdict that Hussein’s nuclear, chemical and biological capacity was a “slam dunk,” but even Democrats might be seduced by Mossad’s reputation and susceptible to Mr. Netanyahu’s mishmash of stale reporting, truisms and outright hucksterism, especially given the credibility the current Israeli government enjoys in key constituencies. In 2015, Mr. Netanyahu deployed this stratagem before a joint session of Congress; this time, he deployed it from an auditorium in Israel’s Ministry of Defense.

That the Trump administration has evidently colluded with Israel to influence Americans’ understanding of a major strategic issue fits an established, dispiriting pattern. If the president can convince us that the Iran nuclear deal damages our national interest, which encompasses the security of our allies, very well. But if he can’t, then I’d prefer not to hear it from a foreign leader.

Justice Official Fights Back At House GOP

HuffPost, Rosenstein To Republicans: DOJ ‘Will Not Be Extorted,’ Ryan J. Reilly, May 1, 2018. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who has come under withering criticism from President Donald Trump, said Tuesday he doesn’t believe there’s “any threat to the rule of law in America today” and praised Trump for issuing a proclamation commemorating Law Day and the separation of powers.

GOP House members drafted articles of impeachment against him the day before. Rosenstein, at an event at the Newseum in Washington on Tuesday, said the Department of Justice is independent of “inappropriate political considerations” but not independent of the executive branch. He said decisions about individual prosecutions “have to be made without regard to politics."

He said there is “no doubt” that the Justice Department is both complying with the rule of law and following the administration’s priorities. He declined to discuss his private interactions with Trump, who has regularly criticized Rosenstein publicly.

“I do not talk publicly about my communications with the president,” Rosenstein said, noting that there are DOJ rules about what is inappropriate to discuss with the White House. “I can assure you that we are faithful for those rules.”

Crime Solvers

joseph deangelo mug sketch

Joseph DeAngelo shown in a mug shot this week and in a police sktech four decades ago

washington post logoWashington Post, To find Golden State Killer suspect, investigators first found his great-great-great-grandparents, Justin Jouvenal, May 1, 2018 (print edition).Using a genealogy site and crime-scene evidence, investigators painstakingly built about 25 family trees containing thousands of relatives from the early 1800s to present day.

Megyn Kelly's #MeToo View

tom brokaw msnbc

washington post logoWashington Post, Megyn Kelly warns Brokaw defenders: ‘You don’t know what you don’t know,’ Kyle Swenson, May 1, 2018.  In her rocky passage from Fox News to the lighter touch of NBC’s “Today” show, Megyn Kelly has been at her best channeling her own experiences. Some of her most compelling recent television has tackled the “Me Too” movement.

megyn kelly fox newsOn Monday, the host (shown in a file photo) dove headfirst into the controversy swamping her current network when Kelly addressed the allegations aimed at former NBC “Nightly News” anchor Tom Brokaw. The subject — the intersection between network insider politics and personalities — is one Kelly knows well.

“I just came from Fox where we just went through this,” she said on Monday. As reported in The Washington Post and Variety, a former NBC correspondent named Linda Vester has come forward to allege Brokaw sexually harassed her on two occasions in the 1990s. The former news anchor has since vigorously denied the allegations, saying Vester was a “character assassin.”

nbc logoSitting with NBC correspondents Stephanie Gosk and Kate Snow, Kelly discussed the network’s response to the allegations. The panel also noted that a petition is circulating among dozens of current and former female co-workers pledging their support for the anchor, whom they described as “a man of tremendous decency and integrity.” Among those signing were Rachel Maddow, Andrea Mitchell and Maria Shriver.

Kelly, however, offered such a letter is “basically a character reference” but can also be “dicey.”

“I understand that because when you love the person under attack you want to say, ‘This has been my experience,’ ” Kelly said. “I will say that the same thing did happen at Fox. And the truth is, you don’t know what you don’t know. And that’s not in any way to impugn Tom, who I love and who has been so good to me. I’m just saying, you don’t know what you don’t know.”

JFK Records Disclosures

McClatchy DC, Former Miami Herald editor's ties to CIA confirmed, but still unclear, in latest JFK docs, Kevin G. Hall, May 2, 2018. The roughly 5 million documents that make up the (mostly) released JFK assassination files revealed many secrets. But some of the material tantalizes without providing full answers.

don bohningThat includes documents mentioning legendary Miami Herald reporter and editor Don Bohning, a longtime Latin America expert whose colorful career was punctuated by coups, expulsions and a close relationship with CIA sources. How close? That's the vexing question.

One declassified document shows the CIA had granted Provisional Security Approval to Bohning on Aug. 21, 1967, and Covert Security Approval on Nov. 14 of the same year. Dated June 14, 1968, the document says Bohning had the agency approvals so he could be used “as a confidential informant with natural access to information about news companies and personalities.”

It’s unclear, however, whether that reflected a deep relationship, or whether Bohning even knew about it. Bohning's widow, Geraldine, declined to comment. The document also said Bohning was given the cryptonym AMCARBON-3, and elsewhere noted that Bohning “was not to be used operationally nor given clandestine training or assignments.” The AM was code for Cuba and CARBON appears to be a designation for journalists.

Another JFK assassination document, dating to June 1964, also revealed that the person who went by the cryptonym AMCARBON-1 was Bohning’s colleague at the Herald, Alvin Burt. The documents, declassified further over the past year to reveal more detail, show Burt actively passing information to the CIA about exile-group infiltration plans in Cuba.

None of this would have come to light but for New Orleans District Attorney James Garrison, who in 1966 began investigating alleged links to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Garrison’s probe ended with the 1969 arrest and trial of local businessman Clay Shaw, who was quickly acquitted by a jury.

Guantánamo Prisoner Release

Miami Herald, U.S. releases Guantánamo convict to Saudi Arabia in first transfer of Trump era, Carol Rosenberg, May 2, 2018. The U.S. military on Wednesday sent home to detention in Saudi Arabia an al-Qaida terrorist who has admitted to war crimes and testified against other al-Qaida fighters, the first transfer in or out of the Guantánamo detention center in the Trump administration.

Pentagon officials confirmed the airlift of Ahmed al Darbi, 43. His release drops the population at the prison to 40 inmates. The last release was in the final hours of the Obama administration, when the Pentagon sent four detainees, none of whom had been convicted, to resettlement in Persian Gulf nations. President Barack Obama had wanted to close the detention center, but failed to achieve that aim. In contrast, President Donald Trump campaigned on a pledge to keep it open and "load it up with some bad dudes."

U.S. Politics / Tax Dodging

New York Post, Congressmen are sleeping in their offices to save money: 'I can't afford an apartment,' Marisa Schultz, May 1, 2018. These Congress members are sleeping on the job — and defending their right to do it. Crying poverty amid decade-long stagnant salaries and Washington’s steep cost of living, an increasing number of House lawmakers have turned into professional squatters at night, hitting the sack in their Capitol Hill offices — on everything from cots in closets to futons stashed behind constituent couches — to save a few bucks during the work week.

“Washington is too expensive,” said Rep. Dan Donovan (R-SI), who credits the cot that he sleeps on in a tiny alcove in his office as the reason he is able to serve in Congress while still paying his New York City housing costs.

“If we go to the point where you have to rent or have to buy [in DC], then only millionaires would be members of Congress,’’ he said. “I don’t think that was the intent of our Founding Fathers.”

But some of the penny-pinching pols’ colleagues are disgusted by what they call an unsanitary, undignified practice and want it banned.

Proposed legislation set to be introduced in the House as soon as this month would prohibit politicians from turning their offices into makeshift sleeping quarters, arguing that the move is violating IRS and congressional ethics rules.

“Look, it’s unhealthy. It’s nasty. I wouldn’t want to be entertained in somebody’s bedroom,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who is among those spearheading the bill.

“Sleeping in your office is not proper’’ ethically, either, Thompson said. “You get free cable. Free electricity. Free janitorial. Free security. No rent. It’s a heck of a deal. It probably comes out to $25,000 to $30,000’’ a year that isn’t claimed at tax time.

While there is no official tally of the number of House hobos who turn their offices into makeshift bedrooms, interviews with members and several Post stakeouts of the congressional gym — where the live-in lawmakers shower — put the estimate at around 100 representatives, or more than one-fifth of the governing body.

paul ryan wPublicly, about 50 members have ‘fessed up to it.Their ranks include everyone from House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc., shown at right) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to New York Reps. Donovan, Gregory Meeks (D-Queens/LI), Lee Zeldin (R-LI), John Katko (R-Syracuse) and Brian Higgins (D-Buffalo).

For the slumber-party pols who catch their nightly zzz’s on office cots after daylong lawmaking discussions and fund-raising dinners, the issue is simple: money.

Many of them previously got extra compensation, or a per diem, when they served in their home-state legislatures to cover their living expenses while at the state capitol. New York state lawmakers in Albany, for example, get $175 for each day they are in town. In other large cities such as Sacramento, Calif., the daily stipend rises to $183, and in Austin, Texas, it is $190.

But as members of the House, U.S. reps receive a salary of $174,000 a year — a figure that hasn’t increased in nearly a decade — and no housing allowance, while working in a city where a sparse one-bedroom pad can start at $2,000 a month. Meanwhile, they also have to pay to maintain a residence in their home state. Members of the Senate seem to fare better, if only because they rake in nearly $20,000 more a year, or $193,400. There are few if any known examples of senators bunking down in their offices overnight.