June 2018 News Reports

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

June 24

washington post logoWashington Post, In D.C., the Poor People’s Campaign hits 50 and looks ahead, Reis Thebault, June 24, 2018 (print edition). With the Capitol behind him, in a city fraught with partisan politics, the Rev. William Barber laid out his vision for the Poor People’s Campaign in his gravelly preacher’s voice.

“Don’t get it twisted,” he told a crowd on Saturday during a rally on the Mall. “We are not left, we are not right, we are not conservative or liberal.”

The rally followed 40 days of protest and civil disobedience across the country, but Barber wanted the crowd to know that day was not the end of anything — it was to be the beginning of a “moral uprising across America.”

And, even though the day marked 50 years since “Resurrection City,” when thousands camped out in the same place to decry the plight of the poor, Barber also made it clear that they were not there to celebrate an anniversary.

“This is not a commemoration of what happened 50 years ago,” he said. “This is a reenactment and reinauguration.”

Just as Barber and the Poor People’s Campaign co-organizers want their movement to transcend traditional political affiliation, they also want it to be inclusive, especially of people and issues that they think are marginalized.

Attendees waved signs and held banners that called for an end to voter suppression and mass incarceration, and that advocated for transgender rights and affordable health care. One group hoisted a 20-foot inflatable pipeline that read “No Fossil Fuels.”

Michael Marceau, who was carrying a Veterans for Peace flag, said he thinks veterans often go unheard. He remembers the first Poor People’s Campaign, in 1968, the year before he was drafted to fight in the Vietnam War. The side effects of combat are closely intertwined with poverty, Marceau said.

“It’s all connected,” he said.

Native American activists also said they’ve felt shut out of the conversation. “We have been neglected for 500 years,” said Chief Wendsler Nosie of Apache Stronghold, a group that has fought mining on indigenous land. “Now today, we are finally being heard.”

The crowd was spread out for about two blocks along the Mall, and attendees included the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson and actor Danny Glover. People from California to Florida traveled to the District to attend. For many, it was a family affair.

Veronica Terry brought six of her children from Durham, N.C. “We do this as a family to show unity,” Terry said. “I told them, ‘This is history in the making.’ ” One of Portia Armstrong’s grandchildren held a sign that read “Systemic Racism is Immoral.”

June 23

U.S. Immigration Firestorm

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Above, a file photo from the Department of Homeland Security. 

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Washington Post, Reversal on migrant families by Trump causes confusion and second-guessing, Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey and Nick Miroff, June 23, 2018 (print edition). President Trump told aides he wanted to sign a full immigration bill as part of an executive order, which one administration official described as an “insane idea.” Lawyers told Trump that he can’t change immigration law by fiat, said a person familiar with the discussions.

Amid continuing fallout from the Trump administration’s family separation policy, and a disjointed retreat earlier this week, senior officials met Friday to craft a plan for reuniting immigrant children with their parents or guardians, though it remained unclear how long that work will take.

The midday meeting was designed for officials to hash out exactly how they would reunite the more than 2,500 migrant children who have been separated from their parents since the practice went into effect in early May, according to officials involved in the discussions, who, like others, spoke on Justice Department log circularthe condition of anonymity to offer candid insights into internal deliberations. Roughly 500 children have already been reunited with a parent or guardian, officials have said.

The Friday meeting capped a tumultuous week in which administration officials rushed through an executive order that relieved the political pressure on President Trump but intensified friction between the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security.

New Poor People's March

washington post logoWashington Post, 50 years later, the new Poor People’s Campaign lays out a political strategy beyond its Washington rally, Marissa J. Lang, Organizers will gather in D.C. Saturday for a rally that leaders of the movement say is only the beginning.

Before the sun rose on the final morning of a 40-day protest blitz for poor people’s rights, the Rev. William Barber was wide awake. He was intently watching the television in his Washington hotel room, scanning the crawl of headlines for the latest in the Trump administration’s efforts to enforce a “zero tolerance” immigration policy that separated more than 2,500 immigrant children from their parents.

As he watched, Barber shook his head, closed his eyes, gathered his thoughts. “We need to take the risk of believing that people have not lost their humanity,” he said Thursday. “Lots of people — poor people, white people, black people, Latinos — they’ve been bamboozled into thinking we’re all on different teams. We need to love them enough to go there and show them the truth.”

This idea is at the core of the new Poor People’s Campaign, the resurrection of a movement organized by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. before his death in 1968: Meet people where they are and trust that given facts and, yes, love, they will see the intricate web of issues that connect poverty, racism and voter suppression. It is a belief that Barber and his co-organizer, the Rev. Liz Theoharis, said will guide them as they build a voting bloc of poor people who can lobby for legislation on a local and national scale.

On Saturday, the group will hold a rally on the Mall that organizers expect to draw about 2,000 people — far fewer than the number who protested and pitched tents on the same patch of grass 50 years ago in an occupation known as “Resurrection City.”

Participants who came to Washington this week from around the country seemed surprised by the estimate. They wondered, why would it be that low? When asked about Saturday’s turnout, Barber said the rally is almost beside the point. “If we had chosen to do a commemoration of Dr. King’s Poor People’s Campaign, we could have had a huge commemoration, thousands of people, a big rally on the Mall,” Barber said. “But we did not want to do that. We’re building something new.”

Since early May, thousands of activists have participated in what Barber and Theoharis call “direct actions” meant to draw attention to myriad causes that affect America’s poor. They held rallies and teach-ins around the country. In a kickoff event, more than 300 people were arrested in the District and state capitals nationwide.

The 40 days of action ended this week in the District with an attempt to “take back” the Capitol and a round of canvassing in Anacostia. Before traveling by train across the river, more than 100 longtime activists and newly minted organizers gathered underground Wednesday at the Archives Metro station, singing and handing out leaflets explaining the Poor People’s Campaign and Saturday’s rally on the Mall.

Ethics, Legal Claims About Trump

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump business dealings raise ‘serious concerns,’ ethics office says, Jonathan O'Connell, June 23, 2018. The government’s top ethics official said some of President Trump’s business dealings “raise serious concerns” but that the office lacks the authority to launch an investigation requested last month by congressional Democrats.

More than 60 Democrats, led by Rep. David N. Cicilline of Rhode Island, had written to the Office of Government Ethics in May asking that the agency investigate reported Chinese government support of an Indonesian real estate development that will include several Trump-brand properties.

David J. Apol, acting director and general counsel at the ethics office, responded this week that he thought concern was warranted. But because the president is not bound by the same conflict-of-interest laws as most federal employees, he said Congress — and ultimately voters — are responsible for holding the president in check.

“Under the Constitution, the primary authority to oversee the President’s ethics rests with Congress and ultimately, with the American people,” Apol wrote in his Monday response.

washington post logoWashington Post, The four times Trump signed tax returns for his foundation that contained incorrect information, David A. Fahrenthold, June 23, 2018. For years, President Trump personally signed the tax returns for his charitable foundation, scrawling his signature just below a stern warning from the IRS: Providing false information could lead to “penalties of perjury.”

But a lawsuit filed last week by New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood alleges that four of the tax returns Trump signed contained incorrect statements, confirming previous reports by The Washington Post.

In 2007, 2012, 2013 and 2014, the Donald J. Trump Foundation stated that none of its money had been used to benefit Trump or his businesses. But the New York attorney general found that, in each of those years, Trump had used his charity’s funds to help one of his businesses. In 2013, the attorney general alleged, Trump also failed to disclose an improper gift to a political group.

In the suit, Underwood also accuses Trump of turning his charity into a tool of his 2016 presidential campaign, despite prohibitions on political activity by nonprofit entities. She also laid out her findings in a letter to the IRS, suggesting that federal authorities investigate further.

U.S. Politics

New York Times, As Critics Assail Trump, His Supporters Dig In Deeper, Jeremy W. Peters, June 23, 2018. Gina Anders knows the feeling well by now. President Trump says or does something that triggers a spasm of outrage. She doesn’t necessarily agree with how he handled the situation. She gets why people are upset.

But Ms. Anders, 46, a Republican from suburban Loudoun County, Va., with a law degree, a business career, and not a stitch of “Make America Great Again” gear in her wardrobe, is moved to defend him anyway.

“All nuance and all complexity — and these are complex issues — are completely lost,” she said, describing “overblown” reactions from the president’s critics, some of whom equated the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant children and parents to history’s greatest atrocities.

With President Trump’s approval rating at 90 percent among Republicans, his supporters say they defend him because they feel criticism of him is constantly overblown.
Their resilience suggests a level of unity that could help mitigate Mr. Trump’s low overall approval ratings and help his party’s chances of keeping control of the House in November.

washington post logoWashington Post, Katie Arrington, GOP lawmaker who defeated Sanford, seriously injured in car accident, David Weigel, June 23, 2018. Arrington, a South Carolina legislator, suffered a fracture in her back, several broken ribs and underwent major surgery. A second surgery was likely Saturday. The driver of the other car died in the accident.

washington post logoWashington Post, The owner of the Red Hen explains why she asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave, Avi Selk, June 23, 2018. Stephanie Wilkinson sarah huckabee sanders 2017 05 05was at home Friday evening — nearly 200 miles from the White House — when the choice presented itself. Her phone rang about 8 p.m. It was the chef at the Red Hen, the tiny farm-to-table restaurant that she co-owned just off Main Street in Lexington, Va.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, shown in a file photo at the White House, had just walked in and sat down, the chef informed her.

“He said the staff is a little concerned. What should we do?” Wilkinson told The Washington Post. “I said I’d be down to see if it’s true.” It seemed unlikely to her that President Trump’s press secretary should be dining at a 26-seat restaurant in rural Virginia. But then, it was unlikely that her entire staff would have misidentified Sanders, who had arrived last to a table of eight booked under her husband’s name.

Business Insider, Opinion: This ad for a Texas woman running for Congress is a must-see, Staff report, June 23, 2018. MJ Hegar, an Air Force combat veteran who lives in Round Rock, Texas, is running for Congress.  In a now-viral ad, she used the motif of doors to explain why she is running for office on behalf of the Democratic party.

Hegar said that growing up as the daughter of a single mom in Texas, following her dream of being a pilot meant "opening, pushing, and, sometimes, kicking through every door."  After years of training, Hegar became a pilot and eventually served three tours in Afghanistan with the Air Force before getting into a crash, which earned her a Purple Heart.

Following the crash, she was injured and couldn't fly anymore. Hegar claims that she was "barred" from her next career choice because of her gender.  She sued the Pentagon over not only the job she was barred from, but also the ban on women serving in ground combat jobs — and she won. But it wasn't easy. During the lawsuit, Hegar lobbied Congress, but she said people were hesitant to hear from her because she hadn't donated money. After her Congressman John Carter, a Tea Party Republican,refused to meet with her, Hegar decided to run for office.

More on U.S. Immigration Scandal

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President Trump and his White House advisor on immigration Stephen Miller

washington post logorepublican elephant logoWashington Post, House Republican leaders delay vote on immigration bill until next week in the face of opposition, Mike DeBonis, Sean Sullivan, John Wagner, June 23, 2018. Efforts on the issue dissolved as a hard-line measure was defeated and a more moderate one was postponed and faces revision.

washington post logoWashington Post, The crying Honduran girl on the cover of Time was not separated from her mother, Samantha Schmidt, Kristine Phillips, June 22, 2018. The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol confirmed that the little girl was not separated from her mother.

African Assassination Attempt

washington post logoWashington Post, Zimbabwe’s president narrowly escapes apparent assassination attempt, Max Bearak, June 23, 2018. A crude bomb may have targeted Emmerson Mnangagwa after a campaign rally in the city of Bulawayo.

Zimbabwe’s election campaign season took a worrying turn Saturday afternoon when a crude bombing at a speech delivered by president Emmerson Mnangagwa appeared to be an attempt on his life.

Mnangagwa had just finished giving a speech in a stadium in Zimbabwe’s second-largest city, Bulawayo, when the bomb went off near him and other government officials as they shuffled offstage. Widely circulated videos on social media show a small blast knocking over people standing in the vicinity.

The president’s spokesman, George Charamba, released a statement saying that Mnangagwa was unhurt and that an investigation was underway.

Vatican Porn Scandal

washington post logoWashington Post, Vatican court sentences ex-envoy to 5 years on charges of possessing, distributing child porn, Chico Harlan, June 23, 2018. A former Holy See diplomat who had admitted to viewing and sharing child pornography was sentenced Saturday by a Vatican court to a five-year prison term and a fine of 5,000 euros.

The punishment for Monsignor Carlo Capella approached the maximum allowed by the code of this city-state, and was the first time on record that the Vatican has convicted one of its own former diplomats for such crimes. The verdict was read by a tribunal president after a two-day trial in which Capella had said he started viewing the pornography during a period of personal “crisis” that began when he was moved to a posting in Washington, D.C.

The trial came as the Catholic Church is under pressure to more forcefully address the issues of clerical abuse and enact stricter punishments for those convicted of sex crimes. The church is dealing with high-profile abuse cases around the world, and Pope Francis faces a major decision about how to handle a crisis in Chile, whose bishops have offered to resign en masse over the coverup of sex abuse crimes in their nation.

June 22

Probes of Trump

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msnbc logo CustomMSNBC, Tom Arnold Says Cohen Ready To Cooperate Against Trump, Lawrence O'Donnell, June 22, 2018. Actor Tom Arnold, currently working for ViceNews on an anti-Trump cable series, The Hunt For the Trump Tapes, debuting in September, told MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell that former Trump attoney Michael Cohen, shown at left above, will cooperateg with authorities investigating the president and also with Arnold's show.

Arnold also Tweeted a photo of him and Cohen taken in a hotel lobby. Cohen has Tweeted that the photo does not mean he is cooperating with Arnold.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Here’s the thing about this Michael Cohen and Tom Arnold story, Bill Palmer, June 22, 2018. It started when Tom Arnold tweeted a photo of him and Michael Cohen posing together, with the caption “I love New York.” NBC News then asked Arnold what was going on, and he quipped that he and Cohen are teaming up to take Donald Trump down. Apparently Arnold meant this somewhat in jest, but much of the media mistakenly took it to mean that Cohen was signing on to Arnold’s new Vice TV show about hunting for damaging Trump tapes. Arnold then clarified today that this was not the case, and Cohen – who is rarely on Twitter – sent a “Thank you” tweet to Arnold.

Whatever you think of Michael Cohen, he’s in the midst of a no-win situation where he can either sell out his mentor and go to prison for a few years, or go to trial and risk going to prison forever. By all accounts he’s stressed and exasperated. Yet in this photo, Cohen looks genuinely happy, as if meeting with Tom Arnold was the only thing he’s enjoyed all year. It evokes echoes of Melania Trump seemingly genuinely happy to be sitting with President Obama. Cohen looks pleased and relieved to be hanging with the anti-Trump side. There is something going on here.

U.S. Immigration Crisis

washington post logous dhs big eagle logo4Washington Post, Lawyers searching for migrants’ children encounter ‘a total labryinth,’ Kevin Sieff, June 22, 2018 (print edition). Even though federal officials have stopped separating illegal border crossers from their children, many youths removed from migrant parents remain in shelters and foster homes. The government has done little to help with reunions, attorneys say, prompting a frantic effort to find the youths.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Pentagon to house up to 20,000 migrant children on military bases, Dan Lamothe, Seung Min Kim and Nick Miroff, June 22, 2018 (print edition). The Defense Department will house up to 20,000 unaccompanied migrant children on military bases in coming months, a Pentagon official said Thursday, the latest twist in the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement effort.

The agreement comes after the Department of Health and Human Services made the request. Army Lt. Col. Jamie Davis, a military spokesman, said Thursday that the Pentagon will support it. In a notification to lawmakers, the Pentagon said Wednesday night that officials at HHS asked whether beds could be provided for children at military installations “for occupancy as early as July through December 31, 2018.”

  • The story behind the girl begging for aunt after separation from mother
  • ‘No one’s going to separate us again’: Guatemalan boy, mother reunited

Donald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump says Republicans should ‘stop wasting their time’ on immigration before midterms, John Wagner and Mike DeBonis​, June 22, 2018. President Trump suggested his party put off efforts to pass legislation on the issue until after November, when he predicted more Republicans would be elected. His tweet came a day after House GOP leaders delayed a vote on a broad immigration bill.

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ny times logoNew York Times, Melania Trump, Agent of Coat Chaos, Vanessa Friedman, June 21, 2018. Melania Trump’s excursion in her “I Really Don’t Care” jacket did not send a hidden message. It was there for all to see.

Melania Trump Twitter photoWhen the first lady, Melania Trump, on an unannounced humanitarian visit to a children’s shelter in Texas, strode onto her airplane in an olive green Zara army jacket with those words scrawled in faux white graffiti on the back, it sent the watching world into what might be called, with some understatement, a meltdown.

"Insensitive,” “heartless” and “unthinking” were some of the words hurled through the digisphere about the choice. “It’s a jacket,” her communications director, Stephanie Grisham, said in a statement to reporters. “There was no hidden message.”

She’s right, of course. It wasn’t hidden. It was literally written on the first lady’s back. The question is: Who was the intended audience?

The assumption implicit in the outrage is that the message was meant for those Mrs. Trump was meeting. But here’s the thing: The first lady has had some experience with the attention paid when she boards planes.

So how else to interpret the Zara jacket, a style in line with the signature self-protective aesthetic she has developed since entering the White House, except as an indication Mrs. Trump was thinking about what people might read into the clothes she chose to wear to visit children left with, effectively, nothing?

The jacket, after all, which is reportedly sold out and is not from the current season, retailed for $39. It may be the least expensive garment the first lady has worn while representing the administration.

U.S. Immigrant Gang Crime

washington post logoWashington Post, MS-13 members implicated in killings of two Virginia teens found buried in a park, Rachel Weiner and Justin Jouvenal​, June 22, 2018. Eleven people face federal charges in the 2016 slayings in Holmes Run Park in Fairfax. Over a year after Fairfax police found two teenage boys’ bodies buried in the woods of Holmes Run Park, eleven alleged members of the gang MS-13 have been implicated in the killings.

us dhs big eagle logo4Nine of the accused are in federal custody, Assistant U.S. attorney Alexander Blanchard said, and one is in custody in Fairfax County. The eleventh is believed to have fled the country. he MS-13 gang has been behind a spate of grisly violence in the D.C. area and up-and-down the East Coast in recent years. In the federal case in Virginia, the defendants range in age from 20 to 27 and are all natives of El Salvador.

Experts credit MS-13’s resurgence to a fresh push by the gang to reestablish its ranks in the United States. The violence has drawn the attention of President Trump, who has cited it as a primary reason for his crackdown on illegal immigration. Trump has maintained a singular focus on MS-13, calling its members “animals” and convening special meetings to discuss how to combat the gang.

U.S. Politics

Democratic-Republican Campaign logos

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump answers critics of border policy with families of crime victims, Anne Gearan, John Wagner and Mike DeBonis, June 22, 2018.  President Trump invited families of Americans killed by those in the country illegally to tell their stories of being “permanently separated” from their loved ones, an implicit comparison to the temporary family separations carried out under his hard-line policy.

washington post logoGeorge Will Washington Post, Opinion: Vote against the GOP this November, George F. Will (right), June 22, 2018. Amid the carnage of Republican misrule in Washington, there is this glimmer of good news: The family-shredding policy along the southern border, the most telegenic recent example of misrule, clarified something. Occurring less than 140 days before elections that can reshape Congress, the policy has given independents and temperate Republicans — these are probably expanding and contracting cohorts, respectively — fresh if redundant evidence for the principle by which they should vote.

The principle: The congressional Republican caucuses must be substantially reduced. So substantially that their remnants, reduced to minorities, will be paul ryan ostripped of the Constitution’s Article I powers that they have been too invertebrate to use against the current wielder of Article II powers. They will then have leisure time to wonder why they worked so hard to achieve membership in a legislature whose unexercised muscles have atrophied because of people like them.

Consider the melancholy example of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.), above left, who wagered his dignity on the patently false proposition that it is possible to have sustained transactions with today’s president, this Vesuvius of mendacities, without being degraded.

washington post logoirs logoWashington Post, Treasury changed a lucrative policy to benefit one county in Nevada after a GOP push, Damian Paletta​, June 22, 2018. The success of the campaign to assist an area that is home to an industrial center shows how lobbying can redirect billions of dollars in federal benefits.

washington post logoWashington Post, Watchdog group calls for investigation into Wilbur Ross’s financial dealings, Steven Mufson, June 22, 2018. A watchdog group has asked for a government investigation of whether Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross made a “false statement” to the Office of Government Ethics about his stock holdings and violated insider trading rules when he engaged in a short sale of a shipping company with links to Russia.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) sent a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein and Acting Director of the Office of Government Ethics David J. Apol to investigate whether Ross made a false statement about divesting himself of his stock in Invesco, the firm he managed before taking office in the Trump administration.

The group’s executive director Noah Bookbinder and chair Norm Eisen also asked for an investigation of Ross’s sale of his shares in Navigator Holdings, the shipping firm, in October 2017. That company did business with a Russian energy firm whose directors included a Russian oligarch who was subject to U.S. sanctions and a son-in-law of Russian President Vladi­mir Putin.

djt epstein mar a lagoWayne Madsen Report (WMR), Trump confronted with photo of him and Epstein at Duluth rally, June 22, 2018 (subscription required for full report; photo via Getty Images).

Amid the controversy of his separating more than 2300 children from their asylum seeking parents at the U.S.-Mexican border, Trump was confronted by a protester at a rally in Duluth, Minnesota with a photo of convicted child molester Jeffrey Epstein and Trump taken at Trump's Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida during the 1990s.

New York Observer, Private Prison Stocks Are Soaring Amid the Trump Administration’s Immigration Crisis, Davis Richardson, June 20, 2018. The stocks of two of the world’s biggest private prison companies are outperforming the market amid the current immigration crisis.

geo corrections and detention logoDespite a small dip in the Dow Jones Industrial Average by 0.14 percent on Wednesday, the GEO Group and CoreCivic both saw their stocks increase 1.79 percent and 3.18 percent, respectively. Both corporations work alongside Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to operate detention centers holding immigrants.

The rising stock prices follow the announcement of a Republican compromise bill on immigration that is expected to pledge the construction of family detention centers from a $7 billion budget allocation—a workaround to the White House’s “zero tolerance” policy supported by House Speaker Paul Ryan.

core civic logo flag“The proposed solution being floated to them is more family detention,” immigration attorney R. Andrew Free, who first noticed the rising stocks on Twitter, told Observer. “On their stock calls, their corporate representatives mentioned these contracts are very good and very profitable and provide a new source of revenue.”

Both the GEO Group and CoreCivic supported Trump’s presidency. The companies donated $250,000 to Trump’s Inaugural Committee, with GEO having donated $225,000 to a Trump Super PAC during the 2016 election.

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ny times logonba logoNew York Times, The Cultural Divide Between the N.F.L. and the N.B.A., John Branch, June 22, 2018.  The way teams and players are marketed and the balance of star power in each league begin to explain how the leagues got on different sides of the social justice debate.

Korean Update

ny times logoNew York Times, Is North Korea a Nuclear Threat? Trump Now Says It Is, Katie Rogers, June 22, 2018. An extension of a national emergency over the threat came days after President Trump announced that “everybody can now feel much safer” after his meeting with Kim Jong-un.

An extension of a national emergency over the threat came days after President Trump announced that “everybody can now feel much safer” after his meeting with Kim Jong-un.

Trump Probes

washington post logoWashington Post, Mueller signals outside prosecutors may eventually take over Russian trolls case, Devlin Barrett, June 22, 2018. Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has enlisted four assistant U.S. attorneys for the case against 13 Russians and three companies because any prosecutions could drag on for years.

robert mueller full face fileA handful of new federal prosecutors have joined one of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s cases — an indication that he is preparing to hand off at least one prosecution to others when his office completes its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

In a pair of court filings Friday, the special counsel (shown at right) added four assistant U.S. attorneys to the case against Russian entities and people accused of running an online influence operation targeting American voters. People familiar with the staffing decision said the new prosecutors are not joining Mueller’s team, but rather are being added to the case so that they could someday take responsibility for it when the special counsel ceases operation.

The case those prosecutors are joining could drag on for years because the indictment charges a number of Russians who will probably never see the inside of a U.S. courtroom. Russia does not extradite its citizens.

June 21

Media: National Enquirer

washington post logomichael cohen ap file croppedWashington Post, Enquirer sent stories on Trump to his lawyer before publication, say people familiar with the practice, Sarah Ellison, June 22, 2018 (print edition). The National Enquirer’s alleged sharing of material with Michael Cohen (shown at right) highlights the support the tabloid news outlet offered Trump as he ran for president in 2016.

david pecker croppedDuring the presidential campaign, National Enquirer executives sent digital copies of the tabloid’s articles and cover images related to Donald Trump and his political opponents to Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen in advance of publication, according to three people with knowledge of the matter — an unusual practice that speaks to the close relationship between Trump and David Pecker (shown at left), chief executive of American Media Inc., the Enquirer’s parent company.

Although the company strongly denies ever sharing such material before publication, these three individuals say the sharing of material continued after Trump took office.

djt official Small“Since Trump’s become president and even before, [Pecker] openly just has been willing to turn the magazine and the cover over to the Trump machine,” said one of the people with knowledge of the practice.

During the campaign, “if it was a story specifically about Trump, then it was sent over to Michael, and as long as there were no objections from him, the story could be published,” this person added.

The Enquirer’s alleged sharing of material pre-publication with Trump’s attorney during the campaign highlights the support the tabloid news outlet offered Trump as he ran for president. It also intersects with a subject that federal prosecutors have been investigating since earlier this year: Cohen’s efforts to quash negative stories about Trump during the campaign. As part of that, prosecutors are also looking into whether Cohen broke campaign finance laws, according to people familiar with the investigation.

Federal prosecutors subpoenaed American Media Inc. as part of their investigation into Cohen, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week. A Justice Department official said Pecker did not fall under the regulation that governs when and how prosecutors can obtain records of members of the news media.

Trump Administration

nikki haley aipac

washington post logoWashington Post, Nikki Haley: ‘It is patently ridiculous’ for U.N. to examine poverty in America, Jeff Stein, June 22, 2018 (print edition). A United Nations official found that the United States led the developed world in multiple measures of poverty, eliciting a rebuke from the Trump administration. U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley in shown in a file photo from an AIPAC appearance.

More On Immigration

washington post logokirstjen nielsen dhs 1 16 18 CustomWashington Post, Protesters gather outside Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s home in Virginia, Dana Hedgpeth and Patricia Sullivan​, June 22, 2018. About two dozen people gathered outside Nielsen's home this morning in response to the Trump administration’s policy on separating children from their parents at the border.

Nielsen (shown in a file photo from congressional testimony) has become the face of President Trump’s family separation policy, which he halted in an executive order Wednesday. At least 2,500 immigrant children have been separated from their families over the past six weeks at the border.

Syrian War

syria rukban refugee camp map

Red: Government control. Green: Mixed rebel/jihadi control. Grey: Islamic State control. Yellow: Kurdish control. (Wikipedia map modified by Aron Lund).

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Syria -- Damascus And Its Allies Prepare To Remove U.S. Forces From Al-Tanf, B, June 22, 2018. The U.S. sent "rebels" it trains at al-Tanf outside its self-declared 55 kilometers deconfliction zone around Tanf to attack Syrian government forces. It supported them by air strikes. U.S. special forces are said to have taken part.

Syria FlagBut Syria and its allies will not allow that. They are building up their own forces in the east. As Elijah Magnier reported yesterday: "[D]uring my visit to the city of Palmyra and its surroundings, the presence of thousands of Russian troops is striking, indicating that Moscow is sending new infantry and special forces in very large numbers. This large presence has not been announced."

The operation in the southwest around Daraa will proceed. The U.S. attempts to use the occasion to cut Syria from Iraq in the east will be prevented by the new Baghdad operations room mission.

It's high time for the U.S. to give up on its nonsense schemes in the southeast. The humanitarian situation in the Rukban camp near the U.S. positions in al-Tanf is catastrophic and the civilians there want to come back under Syrian government control (See Century Foundation, Blame Game over Syrians Stranded in the Desert, Aron Lund, June 18, 2018.) The al-Tanf position is indefensible against any larger force. The U.S. forces there can still move out without a fight. If they do not leave voluntarily, force will be used to remove them.

Civil Rights In U.S. & In Syria

washington post logous supreme court 2017Washington Post, Supreme Court rules that warrant is generally needed to access cell tower records. Robert Barnes, June 22, 2018. The case is seen as an important moment in determining the government’s ability to access to the ever-increasing amount of private information about Americans available in the digital age.

The Supreme Court on Friday put new restraints on law enforcement’s access to the ever-increasing amount of private information about Americans available in the digital age.

In the specific case before the court, the justices ruled that authorities generally must obtain a warrant to gain access to cell-tower records that can provide a virtual timeline and map of a person’s whereabouts. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote the 5 to 4 decision, in which he was joined by the court’s liberal members. Each of the dissenting conservatives wrote separate opinions.

Roberts said the decision was a narrow one and a cautious approach to providing constitutional protections against unlawful searches and seizures to evolving technology.

The justices ruled for Timothy Carpenter, who is serving a 116-year sentence for his role in armed robberies in 2010 and 2011 at RadioShack and T-Mobile stores in and around Detroit. He was accused of being the ringleader of a gang stealing smartphones. One of the men arrested said Carpenter typically organized the robberies, supplied the guns and acted as a lookout. Authorities asked his cellphone carrier for 127 days of records that would show Carpenter’s use of his phone.

Such records indicate where a cellphone establishes connections with a specific cell tower and give a fair representation of the vicinity of the user. In Carpenter’s case, the mass of information showed his phone at 12,898 locations, including close to where the robberies occurred when they took place.

Carpenter’s attorneys said that the government’s actions violated their client’s rights under the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches. Authorities should have had to convince a judge that there was probable cause to get the records, they said.

“This is a groundbreaking victory for Americans’ privacy rights in the digital age,” said ACLU attorney Nathan Freed Wessler, who argued on Carpenter’s behalf before the court in November. “The Supreme Court has given privacy law an update that it has badly needed for many years, finally bringing it in line with the realities of modern life.”

cnn logoCNN, The US wants to leave this American in Syria with $4,210 and no passport, Lisa Rose, June 22, 2018. In a federal courthouse 6,000 miles from Iraq, there's an ongoing dispute over the fate of the mysterious detainee caught in the desert with scuba gear and ISIS spreadsheets. In court Syria Flagdocuments, the prisoner is called John Doe because of the secrecy surrounding the case. Doe has yet to be charged with a crime.

The American Civil Liberties Union argues that the Department of Defense should either bring Doe to the US for prosecution or release him. It's a case straight out of TV's "Black Mirror," with ACLU lawyers encouraging the government to arrest their client.

Keeping an American citizen in military custody abroad is a violation of due process rights, according to the ACLU. The organization filed its petition for a writ of habeas corpus at the US District Court for the District of Columbia last October.

The government says the Authorization for Use of Military Force passed by Congress in 2001 gives the executive branch wide latitude to detain individuals, including American citizens, captured on the battlefield to prevent acts of terrorism.

The problem, according to the ACLU, is that there's no end point to the war on terror, so the military can imprison someone indefinitely. The government's burden of proof goes out the window if a detainee isn't permitted to challenge the factual basis for his designation as an enemy combatant. 

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Trade War Starts to Inflict Pain Across the U.S., Alan Rappeport, June 22, 2018. The effects of President Trump’s trade war are beginning to ripple through the United States economy as steel tariffs disrupt domestic supply chains and global trading partners retaliate against a wide variety of American products, such as peanut butter, whiskey and lobster. Business owners who are the targets of other nations’ retaliatory tariffs are worried that President Trump’s offensive will wind up hurting them.

Probes of Trump Team

Palmer Report, Opinion: Paul Manafort’s last stand just collapsed, Bill Palmer, June 22, 2018. Manafort’s last best shot at pulling this off was to get the treasure trove of evidence thrown out that had been seized from his storage locker. We should probably talk about how it wasn’t particularly smart to keep all the evidence against himself in a locker instead of destroying it, but that’s a story for another time and place. The upshot here is that the judge in Manafort’s case just ruled that Robert Mueller can use the evidence from the storage locker to his heart’s content during the trial, which means Manafort is now probably looking at around a 99.2% chance of being found guilty.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Stephen Miller has a whole new problem, Bill Palmer, June 22, 2018.  Who’s to blame for Donald Trump’s decision to kidnap immigrant kids and lock them in cages? Donald Trump is to blame, of course. It’s his decision. He signed off on it. He’s the (supposed) President of the United States. Kirstjen Nielsen and Jeff Sessions have also come off looking pretty terrible in the process. But we predicted that Stephen Miller would be the one to take the fall for this if anyone, because, well, he’s Stephen Miller.

Republican Senator Mike Coffman publicly called for Donald Trump to fire Stephen Miller yesterday. It’s incredibly rare for a Senator to publicly call for the President from his own party to fire a senior adviser, when that adviser isn’t caught up in a specific scandal. And while Coffman is from the GOP’s comparatively moderate flank, he wouldn’t be sticking his neck out on something like this unless he expects to get support for it.

June 21

U.S. Border Crisis

ICE logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Order Does Nothing to Address Plight of 2,300 Children, Michael D. Shear, Abby Goodnough and Maggie Haberman, June 21, 2018 (print edition). President Trump caved to enormous political pressure on Wednesday and signed an executive order meant to end the separation of families at the border by detaining parents and children together for an indefinite period.

“We’re going to have strong — very strong — borders, but we are going to keep the families together,” Mr. Trump said as he signed the order in the Oval Office. “I didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated.”

But ending the practice of separating families still faces legal and practical obstacles. A federal judge could refuse to give the Trump administration the authority it wants to hold families in custody for more than 20 days, which is the current limit because of a 1997 court order.

And the president’s order does nothing to address the plight of the more than 2,300 children who have already been separated from their parents under the president’s “zero tolerance” policy. Federal officials initially said those children would not be immediately reunited with their families while the adults remain in federal custody during their immigration proceedings.

ny times logodjt economist cover aug 19 2017New York Times, Trump Returns to Tough Talk on Immigration, After Retreat, Eileen Sullivan and Michael D. Shear, June 21, 2018. President Trump returned to his tough talk and demands for changes in immigration laws a day after he retreated from his hard-line position of separating immigrant children from their families, capitulating to intense political pressure.

The president (shown in a cover last year by the Economist magazine) tweeted demands on Thursday — change the laws, build a wall, do not hire immigration judges — as his administration scrambled to execute his latest executive order. Political pressure was amplified in recent days by images and recordings of young children crying for their parents.

washington post logous dhs big eagle logo4Washington Post, U.S. will stop prosecuting parents who cross the border illegally with children, official says, Nick Miroff​, June 21, 2018. The dramatic about-face comes just one day after President Trump signed an executive order ending his administration’s widely denounced practice of separating families apprehended at the Mexico border.

washington post logoWashington Post, As border crossings surge, a Mexican couple tests Trump’s policies, Kevin Sieff, June 21, 2018. Their first attempt to get to Florida had ended in the headlights of a Border Patrol truck on a South Texas ranch. Arrested among the 50,924 migrants in April, the released couple would make a second attempt with the same smuggler as their American jobs waited.

washington post logoWashington Post, Immigration bills appear headed for defeat in House as GOP struggles to unite on issue, Mike DeBonis and John Wagner​, June 21, 2018. Several Republican aides and lawmakers said President Trump undermined the chances of passing legislation in the House with a morning tweet in which he cast doubt on whether a bill could also pass the Senate.

paul ryan oA pair of Republican-crafted bills on immigration appeared headed for defeat Thursday in the GOP-led House, despite backing by President Trump and haunting images of migrant children separated from their parents at the border.

At a late-morning news conference, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), right, did not concede defeat but repeatedly referenced the prospect of both bills failing and characterized scheduled votes Thursday afternoon as “a legitimate exercise.”

The likelihood of defeat underscored continued congressional dysfunction, particularly in overhauling the nation’s immigration system, and the struggle to unite the conservative and more moderate wings of the GOP on the issue.

Palmer Report, Opinion: After his immigration bill fails, Donald Trump goes on demented rant about Democrats running child smuggling rings, Bill Palmer, June 21, 2018. If Donald Trump’s decision to kidnap thousands of immigrant kids from their parents and lock them in cages really was a demented attempt at getting his border wall funded, that gambit has failed.

Trump’s allies in the House crafted a bill which would fund his wall, but it was soundly rejected today, not even coming close to getting enough Republican votes to pass. So what did Trump do? He threw a tantrum that was dishonest and incoherent even by his standards.

Here’s what Trump had to say to the cameras today, while appearing sullen and defeated: “It’s a whole big con job. People are suffering because of the Democrats. So we’ve created, they’ve created, and they’ve let it happen, a massive child smuggling industry. It’s exactly what it’s become. Traffickers. You think about this. Human traffickers are making a fortune. It’s a disgrace.”

To be clear, not a single word of what Trump said was accurate or true. For that matter, not a single word of what he said was coherent. Considering his penchant for projection, we’re worried this might be a sign that he’s running a child smuggling ring.

Trump bet everything he had left on the evil notion that he could hold these immigrant kids hostage and get a few legislative accomplishments in return. That backfired when the public outrage became so fierce, he had to sign an executive order yesterday that gave away his leverage in return for nothing. Now that his bill has predictably failed as a result, the whole thing is a humiliating – and very damaging – defeat for him.

So now we’ve got Donald Trump holding a pity party for himself in front of the cameras, while he makes up fake conspiracies so whacked out, no one can even figure out what he’s talking about.

washington post logous dhs big eagle logo4Washington Post, Analysis: Trump administration changed its story no fewer than 14 times before ending the border policy, JM Rieger, June 21, 2018 (print edition). First it was a deterrent. Then it wasn’t. It was a new policy. Then it wasn’t. The administration was simply following the law. Then it said separations weren’t required. It could not be reversed by executive order. Then it was.

U.S. Politics

Donald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump airs his grievances and demands more credit — for just about everything, Philip Rucker and Jenna Johnson, June 21, 2018 (print edition). President Trump feels wronged. Standing at center stage in a hockey arena here [in Duluth, MN], delivering a rollicking speech that harked back to the glory days of his 2016 campaign,

Donald Trump Logo Make America Great AgainTrump was simmering with frustration. Trump said he felt wronged that he was not given more credit for his historic meeting last week in Singapore with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Wronged that his administration’s move to separate migrant children from their parents at the border garnered round-the-clock news coverage.....

ny times logoNew York Times, Bloomberg to Back House Democrats With $80 Million, Alexander Burns, June 21, 2018 (print edition). Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, will throw his personal fortune behind the Democratic campaign to take control of the House of Representatives.

Michael R. Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City, has decided to throw his political clout and personal fortune behind the Democratic campaign to take control of the House of Representatives this year, directing aides to spend tens of millions of dollars in an effort to expel Republicans from power.

michael bloomberg2Mr. Bloomberg (right) — a political independent who has championed left-of-center policies on gun control, immigration and the environment — has approved a plan to pour at least $80 million into the 2018 election, with the bulk of that money going to support Democratic congressional candidates, advisers to Mr. Bloomberg said.

By siding so emphatically with one party, Mr. Bloomberg has the potential to upend the financial dynamics of the midterm campaign, which have appeared to favor Republicans up to this point. Facing intense opposition to President Trump and conservative policies, Republicans have been counting on a strong economy and heavily funded outside groups to give them a political advantage in key races, especially in affluent suburbs where it is expensive to run television ads.

Mr. Bloomberg’s intervention is likely to undermine that financial advantage by bankrolling advertising on television, online and in the mail for Democratic candidates in a dozen or more congressional districts, chiefly in moderate suburban areas where Mr. Trump is unpopular. Democrats need to gain 23 congressional seats to win a majority.

steve schmidt msnbc Custom

washington post logorepublican elephant logoWashington Post, Longtime GOP strategist abandons his party, calls for the election of Democrats, Dan Balz, June 21, 2018 (print edition). Steve Schmidt, shown above in a screenshot from an MSNBC appearance, long a vocal critic of President Trump, said he came to see the Republican Party as living in fear of the president and, as such, “a threat to the American republic and to liberal democracy.”

The party, he said, “is irredeemable,” at risk of going the way of the Whig Party.

Supreme Court: Reputation At Stake In Labor Ruling?

us supreme court 2017

The 2018 U.S. Supreme Court, with Republican anti-union activist and Associate Justice Samuel Alito shown in the top row, second from the left.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: A Question of Legitimacy Looms for the Supreme Court, Linda Greenhouse, June 21, 2018. Linda Greenhouse, shown at linda greenhouse cover just a journalistright on the cover of her recent memoir, is a Yale Law School graduate who covered the Supreme Court for many years for the New York Times.

Any day now, perhaps as soon as Thursday, the Supreme Court will issue a decision that more than any other case this term will reveal to us the heart and soul of the Roberts Court at the end of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.’s 14th year.

The case is Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. It presents the question of whether the court will adhere to its 41-year-old precedent under which states can require public employees who object to joining a union to nonetheless pay their fair share of the union’s costs of the collective bargaining from which all employees benefit.

The basic argument in Janus is that the First Amendment should be interpreted to shield workers who don’t like their union from having to associate with it or lend support to its activities.

The Supreme Court rejected that argument in 1977 when it decided Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, and it has rejected analogous arguments in other compulsory-fee situations, including state bar dues for lawyers and mandatory student association fees on public campuses. The underlying argument in support of these mandatory fees is the greater common good; the specific rationale in the labor context is that the presence of free riders, who enjoy the benefits of having a union while refusing to pay for the bargaining efforts that won them, is a threat to peace in the workplace.

The path of the Janus case to the Supreme Court exemplifies the politics of the issue. The case was initially filed in 2015 in Federal District Court in Illinois not by an Illinois public employee but by the newly elected Republican governor, Bruce Rauner. He is a former private equity executive with a personal fortune of $500 million who spent millions on a campaign in which opposition to organized labor played a substantial part.

So is it possible that just as the Supreme Court is about to take a hammer to the teachers’ unions, teachers are back in favor? A Supreme Court decision, needless to say, is not a popularity contest, nor should it be. At the same time, the court necessarily skates on thin ice when it comes as close as it has here to serving an agenda that is not the public’s but its own — and by a 5-to-4 vote.

Supreme Court: Approves More Internet Sales Taxes

ny times logoNew York Times, Court Clears Way for Sales Taxes on Internet Merchants, Adam Liptak, June 21, 2018. Internet retailers can be required to collect sales taxes in states where they have no physical presence, the Supreme Court said. States have said that they were missing out on tens of billions of dollars in revenue under a 1992 ruling that helped spur the rise of internet shopping.

us supreme court 2017Internet retailers can be required to collect sales taxes in states where they have no physical presence, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday. Brick-and-mortar businesses have long complained that they are disadvantaged by having to charge sales taxes while many of their online competitors do not. States have said that they are missing out on tens of billions of dollars in annual revenue under a 1992 Supreme Court ruling that helped spur the rise of internet shopping.

On Thursday, the court overruled that ruling, Quill Corporation v. North Dakota, which had said that the Constitution bars states from requiring businesses to collect sales taxes unless they have a substantial connection to the state.

amazon logo smallShares in Amazon were down just 1 percent in morning trading after the ruling, at $1,731.59. But other e-commerce companies suffered far tougher blows: Shares in Etsy, the marketplace for artisanal crafts, fell 4.5 percent, to $42.21, while those in Wayfair, a popular home goods seller, were down 3.2 percent, at $112.42.

More On Trump Immigration Scandals

ny times logoNew York Times, Inside the Lucrative Business of Migrant Shelters, Manny Fernandez and Katie Benner, June 21, 2018. Private contractors, some of them ex-military, have received millions in federal contracts for detention centers and tent cities.

The business of housing, transporting and watching over migrant children detained along the southwest border is not a multimillion-dollar business. It’s a billion-dollar one.

The nonprofit Southwest Key Programs has won at least $955 million in federal contracts since 2015 to run shelters and provide other services to immigrant children in federal custody. Its shelter for migrant boys at a former Walmart Supercenter in South Texas has been the focus of nationwide scrutiny, but Southwest Key is but one player in the lucrative, secretive world of the migrant-shelter business. About a dozen contractors operate more than 30 facilities in Texas alone, with numerous others contracted for about 100 shelters in 16 other states.

If there is a migrant-shelter hub in America, then it is perhaps in the four-county Rio Grande Valley region of South Texas, where about a dozen shelters occupy former stores, schools and medical centers. They are some of the region’s biggest employers, though what happens inside is often highly confidential: One group has employees sign nondisclosure agreements, more a fixture of the high-stakes corporate world than of nonprofit child-care centers.

The recent separation of some 2,300 migrant children from their families under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy on illegal border crossers has thrust this invisible industry into the spotlight in recent weeks, as images of toddlers and teenagers taken from their parents and detained behind locked doors have set off a political firestorm. President Trump’s order on Wednesday calling for migrant families to be detained together likely means millions more in contracts for private shelter operators, construction companies and defense contractors.

A small network of private prison companies already is operating family detention centers in Texas and Pennsylvania, and those facilities are likely to expand under the new presidential directive, should it stand up to legal review, analysts said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Hundreds of Children Quietly Sent to New York, Liz Robbins, June 21, 2018. The federal government would not tell city officials exactly how many children there were or where they were being housed.

Trump Sex Perversion Charges, Evidence

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigation: Trump's trafficking of young migrant girls taking place blocks north of where child sex slaves were housed in 1994, Wayne Madsen, June 21, 2018 (subscription required).

djt Karen McDougal Donald Trump youtube

The New Yorker reports that Karen McDougal, shown in a photo drawn from YouTube with President Trump, was paid $150,000 by American Media, Inc., for her story about an affair with the married future president Trump in 2006

ny times logomichael cohen ap file croppedNew York Times, National Enquirer Executives Said to Be Subpoenaed in Cohen Investigation, Jim Rutenberg, June 21, 2018 (print edition). The investigation into President Trump’s former lawyer and “fixer” Michael D. Cohen (right) has ensnared the publisher of The National Enquirer, further thrusting the media company into a federal inquiry involving a onetime top lieutenant to a sitting president.

Prosecutors with the Southern District of New York subpoenaed executives at the publisher, American Media, this spring, according to people who have been briefed about the move but agreed to share the details about it only on the condition of anonymity.

david pecker croppedThe prosecutors had already asked for communications between Mr. Cohen and American Media’s chairman, David J. Pecker (left), and its chief content officer, Dylan Howard. That request was part of a search warrant they secured for Mr. Cohen’s home, office, hotel room and electronic devices in April. The people familiar with the investigation said prosecutors sought similar communications from Mr. Howard and Mr. Pecker.

karen mcdougal playboyDuring the presidential campaign, American Media had arranged to effectively silence Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who claimed to have had an affair with Mr. Trump years earlier, with a $150,000 payout.

The payment caught the attention of investigators conducting a broad investigation into Mr. Cohen’s efforts on behalf of Mr. Trump during the campaign, as well as his own business dealings. It is also the subject of a complaint at the Federal Election Commission.

washington post logoWashington Post, How Melania Trump’s jacket choice overtook her visit to the Texas border shelters, Emily Heil, June 21, 2018. Melania Trump took a surprise trip to Texas to speak to children and officials at a shelter for migrant children. But her message and the carefully crafted visuals showing a first lady rushing to the scene of a crisis touching the lives of children were soon obliterated by other words and images.

“I’m here to learn about your facility,” Trump said Thursday afternoon, telling the people who run the facility that she wanted to know how she could “help these children to reunite with their families as quickly as possible.”

Moments after her tour began, photos started circulating online of the first lady boarding the plane for takeoff at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. Although the back of the coat was partly obscured in the photos, people online quickly identified it as a $39 Zara jacket emblazoned on back with the phrase: “I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?”

The outrage was immediate. The first lady did not explain the meaning of the message, though President Trump said it was directed at the news media. Following the uproar over the coat, he tweeted: “ ‘I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?’ written on the back of Melania’s jacket, refers to the Fake News Media. Melania has learned how dishonest they are, and she truly no longer cares!”

The president’s statement seemed at odds with a statement that Melania Trump’s spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, gave earlier in the day. “It’s a jacket,” Grisham said in an email. “There was no hidden message. After today’s important visit to Texas, I hope the media isn’t going to choose to focus on her wardrobe.”

Global News: Israel

sara netanyahu benjamin netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara in file photo. She was indicted on June 21 on fraud charges.

Matzav.com (Israel), INDICTED: Sara Netanyahu Charged with Fraud, Staff and wire reports, June 21, 2018. Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, was indicted this morning for in the so-called “residence affair.” Ynet reports that Sara is suspected of ordering private meals worth some NIS 350,000 (roughly $96,600) from high-end restaurants with the state footing the bill, although a cook had been hired to prepare the meals at the residence. She was charged with fraudulently obtaining benefits under aggravated circumstances, fraud and breach of trust.

According to the indictment, from the beginning of September 2010 at the latest and until March 2013, Sara Netanyahu acted in conjunction with former deputy director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office Ezra Saidoff to create a false impression according to which no cook was employed at the prime minister’s official residence in Yerushalayim.

The pair supposedly sought to obtain state financing both for employing the cooks working at the residence and for ordering ready-made meals and chefs to cook at the residence. Funding for hundreds of meals from chefs and restaurants was thus allegedly obtained, costing the public NIS 359,000.

Related story: washington post logoWashington Post, Sara Netanyahu, wife of Israeli prime minister, charged with fraud, Staff report, June 21, 2018. She is accused of misusing $100,000 in state funds for catering services at their Jerusalem residence. The charge represents the latest development in corruption scandals dogging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The prime minister was not named in the case.

qatar map

washington post logoWashington Post, Saudi media says kingdom could turn Qatar — its neighbor and rival — into an island, Adam Taylor, June 21, 2018. For more than a year, a Saudi-led bloc has staged a boycott of Qatar, accusing the Persian Gulf state of sponsoring terrorism and committing other misdeeds. As the months have dragged on, however, Qatar has proved surprisingly resistant to those punitive economic measures.

Saudi Arabia may now be seeking to change the nature of its relationship with Qatar in an even more dramatic way. If local news reports are to be believed, Saudi Arabia plans to cut a canal along its 38-mile border with Qatar — and transform the tiny emirate from a peninsula into an island.

It is an ambitious idea that would turn one of the Middle East's symbolic divides into a geographic reality. However, it remains unclear whether such a canal will ever be dug — or whether this is mere propaganda designed to unsettle Qatar's 2.6 million residents.

Syrian War

sergey lavrovSyrian Arab News Agency (SANA), Lavrov: We do not trust information included in UN reports on situation in Syria, June 21، 2018. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said that the information included in UN reports on the situation in Syria depends on committees that have not conducted investigations on the ground.

”We do not trust any information from the UN reports on the situation in Syria because they rely on committees that have not conducted investigations on the ground,” Lavrov (shown in a file photo) told a joint press conference with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in Moscow Thursday.

Inside DC

washington post logous labor department logoWashington Post, White House to propose merging Labor and Education departments as centerpiece of government overhaul, Lisa Rein and Damian Paletta, June 21, 2018 (print edition). The plan would allow the Trump administration to focus its efforts at training students in vocational skills in one place.  Analysis: Why Republicans have long wanted to shut the Education Department. See related story below:

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Takes Aim at Social Programs in Reorganization Plan, Glenn Thrush and Erica L. Green, June 21, 2018. Many aid programs would be shunted into a giant new department, where they would be easier to cut or contain, and the Education and Labor Departments could merge.

President Trump plans to propose a reorganization of the federal government as early as Thursday that includes a possible merger of the Education and Labor Departments, coupled with a reshuffling of other domestic agencies to make them easier to cut or revamp, according to administration officials briefed on the proposal.

The plan, which will most likely face significant opposition in Congress from Democrats and some Republicans, includes relocating many social safety net programs into a new megadepartment, which would replace the Department of Health and Human Services and possibly include the word “welfare” in its title.

Mr. Trump and his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, the architect of the plan, have sought to redefine as welfare subsistence benefit programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and housing aid. It is part of a rebranding effort, championed by conservative think tanks and House Republicans, to link them to unpopular direct-cash assistance programs that have traditionally been called welfare.

“They have been using the word welfare because it is pejorative,” said Elaine Waxman, a senior fellow in the Income and Benefits Policy Center at the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan Washington think tank. “The programs you can call welfare are actually very small in comparison to SNAP, which is an income support necessary to help families, workers and millions of kids.”

At the heart of the plan is expected to be an attempt to shift SNAP, which serves more than 42 million poor and working-class Americans, to the new agency from the Agriculture Department. Conservative think tanks, including the Heritage Foundation and Koch-related entities, have long sought to de-link food aid from agriculture in hopes of cutting costs.

Senate Republicans, who have already rejected a more modest Trump administration attempt to increase work requirements for SNAP recipients, are unlikely to sign off on the shift, which was first reported by Politico.

As recently as earlier this month, Mr. Mulvaney was also considering merging the Labor and Education Departments, either in the new welfare agency or in a new stand-alone department, according to a person with knowledge of his plans.

U.S. Presidential Politics

The Hill, Rhode Island bill would keep Trump off 2020 ballot unless he releases his tax, Morgan Gstalter, June 21, 2018. Rhode Island's state Senate passed a bill this week that would keep candidates off the presidential ballot in their state if they don't release five years' worth of tax returns, according to the Providence Journal.

irs logoSen. Gayle Goldin (D), who sponsored the bill, noted that every presidential candidate since Richard Nixon released their tax returns voluntarily until President Trump ran for office. Trump has repeatedly claimed that he cannot release his tax returns because he is under audit, but the IRS said an audit does not prevent a candidate from releasing their personal tax information.

Goldin argued that "tax returns provide essential information about candidates' conflicts of interest." Tax returns, she continued, are vital information a voter needs to know about a candidate at the ballot box. The bill passed the Democratic-led majority Senate on a 34-3 vote. It now moves to the Rhode Island state House.

#MeToo Resignation

washington post logoWashington Post, Intel CEO resigns over past consensual relationship with an employee that violated company rules, Miranda Moore, June 21, 2018. Intel's chief executive Brian Krzanich resigned after an investigation found that he had violated the company's non-fraternization rules that apply "to all managers,” the company said in a statement Thursday. Intel’s chief financial officer, Robert Swan, will be the interim chief executive.

June 20

Child Separation Firestorm  

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump, in reversal, signs executive order to end family separations at border, John Wagner, Nick Miroff and Mike DeBonis​, June 20, 2018. For days, President Trump and his top administration officials were unwilling to unilaterally reverse the separation policy. But images of young children housed in metal cages set off an international outcry that reached the White House.

us dhs big eagle logo4President Trump abruptly reversed course Wednesday, signing an executive order ending family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border after a public uproar over the impact of his administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy.

The plan would keep families together in federal custody while awaiting prosecution for illegal border crossings, potentially violating a 1997 court settlement limiting the duration of child detentions.

“So we're going to have strong, very strong borders, but we’re going to keep the families together,” Trump said as he signed the order in the Oval Office. “I didn't like the sight or the feeling of families being separated.”

Trump had repeatedly defended his immigration crackdown, including forcibly separating migrant children from their parents after they crossed the border. But images of young children in tears, housed in metal cages, set off an international outcry.

ny times logoNew York Times, G.O.P. Dislikes Separation, but Likes ‘Zero Tolerance’ More, Simon Romero and Jonathan Martin, June 20, 2018. In border states, Republican voters say that whatever sympathy they feel for children taken from their parents is complicated by frustration over the flow of people from Mexico. This view illustrates the bind Republican lawmakers find themselves in: They need to retain support from these voters but also win over moderates horrified by the policy.

washington post logopaul ryan oWashington Post, Immigration compromise on thin ice after Ryan, Meadows clash on House floor, Mike DeBonis, June 20, 2018. An unusually heated confrontation between House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), right, and a top conservative leader is the latest wrinkle in a tumultuous, weeks-long fight over immigration among Republicans.

A House immigration bill meticulously negotiated by Republicans appeared to be on the brink of failure ahead of a planned Thursday vote after House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and a top conservative leader engaged in an unusually heated floor confrontation Wednesday.

mark meadows SmallRep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) argued with Ryan in plain view of lawmakers, aides and reporters during a Wednesday afternoon vote — a dispute that Meadows later confirmed surrounded the immigration votes scheduled for Thursday. The typically mild-mannered Meadows (shown at left) could be seen repeating “it doesn’t matter” as Ryan spoke to him, and he walked away from Ryan at one point only to return and continue arguing.

Speaking to reporters afterward, Meadows accused Ryan and other House leaders of a bait-and-switch — agreeing to a deal on what would be contained in the compromise legislation only to leave key provisions out of the final text.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump and Kirstjen Nielsen’s embarrassing surrender on separating families, Aaron Blake, June 20, 2018. Make no mistake: The administration just admitted its arguments were bogus and that it overplayed its hand. The Trump administration insisted it didn't have a policy of separating children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. It said that it was merely following the law. And it said “Congress alone can fix” the mess.

It just admitted that all that was nonsense — and that it badly overplayed its hand.

kirstjen nielsenHomeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen (shown at right), who on Sunday and Monday insisted that this wasn't an actual policy and that the administration's hands are tied, will now have to untie them as the White House will reverse the supposedly nonexistent policy. Amid an outcry from Senate Republicans and an emerging promise to fix the problem themselves — just as the White House had demanded — the Trump administration has drafted an executive action to change the policy and keep families united.

Earlier story: Roll Call, Trump Will Sign Executive Action Ending Family Separation, John T. Bennett, June 20, 2018.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump defiant as crisis grows over family separation at the border, Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey and Seung Min Kim, June 19, 2018 (print edition). President Trump continued to falsely blame congressional Democrats for what he decried as a “horrible and tough” situation. But Trump is empowered to immediately order border agents to stop separating families as a result of his “zero tolerance” enforcement policy.

Potential Congressional Solutions?

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washington post logoWashington Post, What happened in Trump’s immigration meeting with GOP lawmakers? James Hohmann with Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve, June 20, 2018. President Trump said during a private meeting with House Republicans last night that his daughter, Ivanka (right), told him the images from the border of kids being taken from their parents are terrible. “Can we do anything to stop this?” she asked her dad, according to a lawmaker who recounted Trump’s account of the conversation.

Nonpartisan factcheckers and experts agree that the president could stop the separations, a result of his administration’s new “zero tolerance” policy, with a simple phone call. Even a tweet would probably do the trick.

Instead, Trump continues to falsely blame Democrats for his unpopular decision and has punted what he describes as “a tough issue” and “sad situation” to Congress. A source in the room said he told lawmakers that the politics are not good and that’s a reason to act as soon as possible. White House officials have also said privately that the president sees the children who have become wards of his government as bargaining chips that give him leverage in negotiations for a bigger deal.

republican elephant logoTrump’s refusal to unilaterally reverse his own policy leaves Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell holding the bag. Both likely recognize, in a way Trump apparently does not, that the family separation policy threatens to imperil GOP control of Congress in the midterm elections. And each is trying to fashion a solution that can unite their respective conferences.

Donald Trump Logo Make America Great AgainIt’s harder than it sounds, and there is no guarantee a bill will pass either chamber. Overhauling the immigration system, one of the defining issues of our time, has proved to be an intractable problem. Trump continues to show no appetite for making such an effort.

Hill insiders in both parties understand that if Congress tries and fails to pass legislation to end the separations, Trump will have more ammunition to blame the legislative branch for the problem. Republicans know, however unfair that argument might be, it will resonate with their base.

Inside Washington

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Washington Post, Hackers stole federal workers’ information four years ago. Now we know what criminals did with it, Rachel Weiner and Derek Hawkins, June 20, 2018 (print edition). Two people have admitted in Newport News federal court that they used the stolen identities to take out fake loans through a federal credit union. The case appears to be the first involving Office of Personnel Management data to be publicly revealed by the Justice Department.

dovey roundtree full portrait family photoDovey Roundtree, who died last month at age 104 following a pioneering career in the military, law and ministry (Roundtree family photo)

whowhatwhy logopeter janney coverWhoWhatWhy, Murder Investigation: The Brilliant Black Woman Who Defended the Accused Killer of JFK’s Mistress, Part 1, Peter Janney (author of Mary's Mosaic about the 1964 murder of Mary Pinchot Murder), June 20, 2018. After Dovey Johnson Roundtree’s early life in the Jim Crow South, she was more than ready to face the white power establishment determined to convict her client for the usual reasons (he was black), as well as for mysterious reasons.

Cohen Resigns As Deputy GOP National Chairman

Palmer Report, Opinion: The Michael Cohen just resigned from the RNC in protest of Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, June 20, 2018. Here’s what’s really going on.

michael cohen ap file croppedDonald Trump’s longtime fixer Michael Cohen, left, has just resigned from his position as Deputy Finance Chair of the Republican National Committee. In his resignation letter, Cohen cited his opposition to Donald Trump’s policy of separating immigrant children from their parents and locking them in cages. Of course there’s a whole lot more going on here with Cohen’s resignation.

To be clear, we’re not doubting Michael Cohen’s sincerity when he says that, as the son of a Holocaust survivor, he can’t stand to watch what Trump is doing to these families. That doesn’t sound like the kind of thing he’d say if he didn’t truly believe it. But take a look at what else is going on today. Even as ABC News is reporting Cohen’s resignation from the RNC in protest of Trump, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that Cohen is furious at Trump for not paying his legal bills.

rnc logoThis comes even as ABC and CNN are reporting that Cohen is looking to cut a plea deal, and as NBC reports that the Feds have told Cohen that he’s just days away from arrest if he doesn’t cut a deal. There are a lot of moving parts here. It’s somewhat surprising that the RNC hasn’t yet fired Cohen, considering the legal trouble he’s facing. Perhaps Trump told the RNC to keep Cohen on board, for fear of alienating him.

In any case, Donald Trump is out on a limb with his child concentration camps, and it’s made him more politically vulnerable than ever. Michael Cohen is making a point of publicly stabbing at Trump on this issue, and that can be taken as a sign that Cohen has decided to definitively distance himself from Trump in the eyes of all observers. Maybe he’s siding with the kids because he’s trying to gain sympathy from an eventual jury trial. But we think this is yet another sign that Cohen has made up his mind to cut a deal against Trump, and he’s closing one door at a time.

More U.S. Scandal In High Places

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigation / Commentary: Trump is a serial child abuser; efforts to force him to stop are ineffective, Wayne Madsen (shown at left), June wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small20, 2018 (subscription required). Wayne Madsen is an investigative reporter, syndicated columnist, author and former Navy intelligence officer once temporarily deputized by the FBI to help investigate pedophilia by a fellow Navy officer.

Court filings and witness accounts show that Donald Trump is nothing more than a serial child abuser. This antipathy toward children has taken on many forms over the decades and it includes mental, physical, and, in some cases, sexual abuse.

The Hill, Religious leaders, former judges asks DC to revoke Trump Hotel's liquor license due to president's 'lack of good character,' Luis Sanchez, June 20, 2018. Religious leaders and former judges filed a complaint on Wednesday asking the Washington D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to revoke the Trump International Hotel’s liquor license because of President Trump’s character. The hotel is shown at right in a Justice Integrity Project photo as it was under renovation.

djt tump int hotelThe complaint argues that a D.C. liquor license can be suspended or revoked if the “true and actual owner" of an establishment is not a person of "good character."

“Donald Trump, the true and actual owner of the Trump International Hotel, is not a person of good character. The Trump International Hotel nonetheless currently holds a Class C/H license issued by the Board,” the complaint reads.

The complainants, who are D.C. residents, are asking the board to investigate Trump's "lack of good character."

They also want the hotel's licensee, Trump Old Post Office LLC, to appear before the board to show cause why its license to sell and serve alcoholic beverages should not be revoked.

The complaint notes that “good character” investigations are typically done when someone applies for a license or for renewal, but argues that the board should investigate Trump’s “lack of good character now” because of recent events.

The group lists lies the president has told, sexual assault accusations against Trump and alleged racist acts. They also call out Trump for his “failure to abide by the law and to repudiate associations with known criminals.”

ap logotheodore mccarrickAssociated Press via MSN, Cardinal McCarrick, ex-archbishop, hit with abuse claim, Staff report, June 20, 2018. The retired archbishop of Washington, D.C., has been removed from public ministry over allegations he sexually abused a teenager in New York more than 40 years ago. The Roman Catholic church said Wednesday that the allegations against 87-year-old Cardinal Theodore McCarrick (shown at right) were found to be "credible" and that Pope Francis ordered his removal.

McCarrick said in a statement released through the church that he accepted the decision but is innocent and has no recollection of abusing anyone. He was archbishop in Washington from 2000 to 2006 and a priest in New York from 1958 to 1981.

allen loughry croppedap logoAssociated Press via WHSV-TV, West Virginia Supreme Court justice indicted on 22 federal charges, wire and staff reports, June 20, 2018. FBI agents have arrested West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry and taken him to the federal courthouse in Charleston to face a 22-count federal indictment.

U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart, from the Southern District of West Virginia, said Wednesday that Loughry is charged with 16 counts of mail fraud, two counts of wire fraud, one count of witness tampering and three counts of making false statements to a federal agent.

Loughry was suspended over allegations he repeatedly lied about using his office for personal gain. Loughry was previously suspended from the bench without pay after being accused of violating the Code of Judicial Conduct. The investigation stems from $363,000 worth of renovations to Loughry's Supreme Court office at the W.Va. State Capitol.

The state Judicial Investigation Commission filed a 32-count complaint alleging he "made false statements" and tried to deceive others about his office renovation, a federal subpoena, the moving of furniture from his Capitol office to his home and his improper personal use of state vehicles.

BBC Global Media: World Cup Race Slur

alan sugar senegal oxford union screenbrag twitter

Alan Sugar, "Baron Sugar," is portrayed above in an Oxford Union screegraba matched with Sugar's since-deleted Tweet showing Senegal's World Cup team, photoshopped to include trinkets. Sugar, child of Jewish immigrants to Britain, is a business magnate, media personality on the Trump-inspired BBC show "The Apprentice," politician in Parliament, political adviser and baron. According to the Sunday Times Rich List, Sugar became a billionaire in 2015.

Guardian, Alan Sugar under fire over 'racist' Senegal World Cup team tweet, Martin Belam, June 20, 2018. Peer apologises after comparing players to people selling bags and sunglasses on beaches in tweet BBC calls ‘seriously misjudged.’

Alan Sugar has been criticised for posting a tweet about the Senegal World Cup squad that compared the players to people selling sunglasses and handbags on beaches.

bbc news logo2The tweet featured a photoshopped picture of the team looking as though they were selling counterfeit goods. “I recognise some of these guys from the beach in Marbella. Multitasking, resourceful chaps,” Lord Sugar said.

After people criticised the tweet as being racist, Sugar responded by tweeting: “Why not it is meant to be funny … for god sake” and “I cant see what I have to apologise for … you are OTT … its a bloody joke.”

fifa 2018 logoThe BBC’s press office responded by posting to social media “Lord Sugar has acknowledged this was a seriously misjudged tweet, and he’s in no doubt about our view on this. It’s right he’s apologised unreservedly.”

As well as Sugar’s role at the BBC, the tweet may also have repercussions for him in his parliamentary position. Labour MP Dawn Butler wrote on social media that she was “very troubled” by the tweet, saying that “Racism has no place in Parliament or society” and demanding that “swift action must be taken”. She promised to write to the House of Lords Commissioner for Standards about it.

The incident comes at an awkward time for the BBC, for whom Sugar is the high-profile presenter of The Apprentice. On Wednesday, the corporation launched launched new diversity guidelines that introduce a rule to ensure black and minority ethnic candidates appear on shortlists for senior roles.

Inside DC: More Trump Team Scandal?

ny times logowilbur rossNew York Times, As Negative Story Loomed, Commerce Chief Shorted Stock, Mike McIntire, June 20, 2018 (print edition). Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross Jr. shorted stock in a shipping firm — an investment tactic for profiting if share prices fall — days after learning that reporters were preparing a potentially negative story about his dealings with the Kremlin-linked company.

The transaction, valued between $100,000 and $250,000, took place last fall after Mr. Ross (shown at right) became aware that journalists investigating offshore finances were looking at his investments in the shipper Navigator Holdings, whose major clients included a Russian energy company. The New York Times emailed a list of questions about Navigator to Mr. Ross on Oct. 26.

Three business days later, Mr. Ross, a wealthy investor, opened a short position in Navigator, according to filings released on Monday by the Office of Government Ethics. The company’s stock price slid about 4 percent before Mr. Ross closed his position on Nov. 16, eleven days after the articles were published by The Times and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists as part of the “Paradise Papers” project.

The transaction was first reported on Monday by Forbes. In interviews, ethics watchdogs raised alarms, saying the short sale created the appearance that Mr. Ross was acting on nonpublic information to potentially profit, which federal officer-holders are prohibited from doing. Mr. Ross’s office denied any impropriety, saying he disclosed the sale to the government ethics office, which “certified that the transactions documented are in compliance with federal ethics requirements.”

Donald Trump Logo Make America Great AgainOn Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Ross issued a statement pushing back against the notion that he had nonpublic information about Navigator before he shorted its stock. He said the reporter who contacted him was writing “about my personal financial holdings and not about Navigator Holdings or its prospects,” and therefore it was not “market-moving information.”

However, the Oct. 26 letter from The Times clearly explained, in the first paragraph, that “the story focuses mostly on your involvement with Navigator Holdings.” It went on to include 10 questions related to Navigator, Mr. Ross’s relationship with the firm and its ties to Russia.

Trump Hotel and Illinois EPA

Chicago Tribune, Trump Hotel’s Water Mismanagement, Michael Hawthorne, June 20, 2018. Fish Out of Water: The Trump International Hotel & Tower draws nearly 20 million gallons of water a day from the Chicago River and returns it to the river 35 degrees hotter. Hotel management has never submitted required reports to the Illinois EPA on the impact of this activity on local fish populations.

June 19

Child Separation Firestorm

washington post logojeh johnson oWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s ‘zero-tolerance’ border policy is immoral, un-American — and ineffective, Jeh Charles Johnson, June 19, 2018 (print edition). Jeh Johnson, right, served as secretary of homeland security from 2013 to 2017. The current “zero tolerance” deterrent policy, resulting in the separation of 2,000 innocent migrant children from their parents, is immoral and un-American. Beyond that, the policy will in the long run prove to be ineffective.

U.S. House logowashington post logoWashington Post, Trump urges House Republicans to fix immigration system, Mike DeBonis, Philip Rucker, Seung Min Kim and John Wagner​, June 19, 2018. Amid the growing uproar over family separations, the president told GOP members of Congress in the closed-door session that building a border wall and finding a solution for the hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants would poll "very, very highly,” but he provided anxious Republicans with no clear path forward two days ahead of votes on competing GOP bills.

Inside Trump Administration

nikki haley aipac

U.S. United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks to the annual convention of the American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC) (file photo)

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. quits U.N. Human Rights Council over perceived bias against Israel, Carol Morello​, June 19, 2018. U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley had repeatedly urged changes to remove what the U.S. has called a disproportionate amount of criticism toward Israel and to boot human rights abusers.

Trump Team Gutting Health Care Law?

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Rule Would Let Small Businesses Skirt Health Law, Robert Pear, June 18, 2018. The Trump administration is poised to issue a sweeping rule that makes it easier for small businesses to band together to create health insurance plans that skirt many requirements of the Affordable Care Act, offering lower costs but also fewer benefits.

The final rule is to be unveiled Tuesday, administration officials and congressional aides said.

President Trump has said millions of people could get cheaper coverage from the new “association health plans.” But consumer groups and many state officials are opposed, saying the new plans will siphon healthy people out of the Affordable Care Act marketplace, driving up costs for those who need comprehensive insurance.

alexander-acosta-fiu.jpgThe new entities would be exempt from many of the consumer protections mandated by the Affordable Care Act. They may, for example, not have to provide certain “essential health benefits” like mental health care, emergency services, maternity and newborn care and prescription drugs.

As many as 11 million Americans could find coverage under the new health plans, the Labor Department said in drafting the rule, which carries out an executive order signed by Mr. Trump on Oct. 12. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta is shown at right.

Trump Ramps Up Trade Threat Against China

washington post logochina flagWashington Post, Trump escalates China trade war, announces plan for tariffs on $200 billion in products, David J. Lynch, June 19, 2018 (print edition). The president’s action doubled his April threat to respond to any Chinese retaliation for his trade action with $100 billion in additional tariffs, and he promised to levy tariffs on a further $200 billion in goods if Beijing responds to today’s action. Such a step would be virtually unprecedented in U.S. history and would put nearly all of the $505 billion in products that the U.S. imports from China under trade restrictions.

The president’s action doubled his April threat to respond to any Chinese retaliation for his trade action with $100 billion in additional tariffs. And Trump promised to levy tariffs on a further $200 billion in Chinese goods if Beijing responds to today’s action.

Koch Attacks On Nation's Mass Transit

kochtopus charlie dave listen

Artist Dave Listen's image of "Kochtopus" showing reach of billionaires David and Charles Koch, two of the world's richest people

ny times logoNew York Times, How the Koch Brothers Are Killing Public Transit Projects in the U.S., Hiroko Tabuchi, June 19, 2018. A team of political activists huddled at a Hardee’s one rainy Saturday, wolfing down a breakfast of biscuits and gravy. Then they descended on Antioch, a quiet Nashville suburb, armed with iPads full of voter data and a fiery script.

The group, the local chapter for Americans for Prosperity, which is financed by the oil billionaires Charles G. and David H. Koch to advance conservative causes, fanned out and began strategically knocking on doors. Their targets: voters most likely to oppose a local plan to build light-rail trains, a traffic-easing tunnel and new bus routes.

“Do you agree that raising the sales tax to the highest rate in the nation must be stopped?” Samuel Nienow, one of the organizers, asked a startled man who answered the door at his ranch-style home in March. “Can we count on you to vote ‘no’ on the transit plan?”

In cities and counties across the country — including Little Rock, Ark.; Phoenix, Ariz.; southeast Michigan; central Utah; and here in Tennessee — the Koch brothers are fueling a fight against public transit, an offshoot of their longstanding national crusade for lower taxes and smaller government.

Inside Washington

washington post logomichael horwitz headshotWashington Post, House lawmakers to press Justice Dept. inspector general on Clinton probe report, Karoun Demirjian, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett, June 19, 2018 (print edition). Republicans plan to grill Michael E. Horowitz (shown at right) about missteps by former FBI director James B. Comey and other bureau officials during the 2016 investigation of Hillary Clinton. It will be Horowitz’s second day of testimony on the Hill.

washington post logocia logoWashington Post, Ex-CIA employee charged in major leak of agency hacking tools, Matt Zapotosky, June 19, 2018 (print edition). Joshua Adam Schulte was charged under the Espionage Act in connection with the leak last year of a collection of tools that the agency used for spy operations overseas. The 13-count superseding indictment is considered to be one of the most significant leaks in CIA history.

Center for American Progress, How Systematic Inequality Keeps America Separate and Unequal, Staff report, June 19, 2018. It’s been 50 years since the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy; the release of the Kerner Commission report; and the creation of the Poor People’s Campaign.

The Kerner Commission warned that America was moving toward two separate and unequal societies — one black and one white. Has that prediction borne out? What has changed? What has stayed the same? Wealth continues to be the best indicator of an individual or family’s financial net worth — and it is still highly unequal. Today, for every $1 a black family owns in wealth, a white family owns $10. Moreover, broad labor market and mortgage market discrimination; housing segregation; pay inequity; and other barriers to closing the wealth gap persist.

More On Trump Kid-Caging

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: When Did Caging Kids Become the Art of the Deal? Editorial board, June 19, 2018 (print edition).Trump is choosing to torment the families of undocumented immigrants. Will his party go along?

Watching President Trump blame Democrats for his administration’s inhumane practice of snatching immigrant children from their parents at the border evokes nothing so much as an abusive husband blaming his wife for the beatings he delivers:

Why do you make me do this? I hate doing this! If you’d only be reasonable and listen to me, things wouldn’t have to be this way.

As anyone paying even minimal attention to politics knows, this immoral policy is not “the Democrats fault for being weak and ineffective with Boarder Security and Crime,” to quote one randomly spelled and capitalized tweet out of three to that effect in a little over 12 hours. It’s not really Republicans’ fault, either — at least not yet.

Both the Obama and George W. Bush administrations began efforts to curtail the flow of people across the southern border, but neither went so far as to pursue a “zero tolerance” approach that tore apart families en masse. Congress has not passed any bills requiring the practice since then. This bit of nastiness belongs entirely to Mr. Trump — he has made a choice to torment undocumented families — and his attempt to pass the buck is dishonest and gutless.

stephen miller white house screenshot

ny times logoNew York Times, The Hard-Liners Whose Fringe Views Became U.S. Policy, Michael D. Shear and Katie Benner, June 18, 2018. Jeff Sessions and Stephen Miller (shown above) spent years on the political fringe in the nation’s capital as high-decibel immigration hard-liners, always warning about the dangers of open borders but rarely in a position to affect law or policy.

Now, Mr. Sessions, the attorney general and former senator from Alabama, and Mr. Miller, the president’s top policy adviser and former Senate aide to Mr. Sessions, have moved from the edges of the immigration debate to its red-hot center. Powerful like never before, the two are the driving force behind President Trump’s policy that has led thousands of children to be separated from their parents at the nation’s southern border.

washington post logoWashington Post, Agent who said ‘we’ll stop’ Trump escorted from FBI building, Matt Zapotosky​, June 19, 2018. ​Peter Strzok, who had been reassigned to the FBI’s Human Resources Division after he was taken off the special counsel investigation for anti-Trump texts, technically remains an FBI agent, his lawyer said.

Peter Strzok already had been reassigned to the FBI’s Human Resources Division after he was taken off special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team, though the move last week effectively took him off even that assignment. The move put Strzok on notice that the bureau intends to fire him, though he has rights to appeal that are likely to delay that action.

fbi logoHis lawyer, Aitan Goelman, said in a statement, that Strzok was “being put through a highly questionable process” and that the public should be concerned about how politics had “been allowed to undermine due process and the legal protections owed to someone who has served his country for so long.”

“Pete has steadfastly played by the rules and respected the process, and yet he continues to be the target of unfounded personal attacks, political games and inappropriate information leaks,” Goelman said. “All of this seriously calls into question the impartiality of the disciplinary process, which now appears tainted by political influence.”

Strzok was a particular focus of a recent Justice Department inspector general report that uncovered an August 2016 text message in which Strzok told an FBI lawyer, Lisa Page, that “we’ll stop” Trump from making it to the White House. The two are shown below in file photos.

peter strozk lisa page

Media: Zero Hedge Debunked

The 5th Estate Asia, Opinion: Anti-American website a matrix of propaganda, disinformation, bogus "financial advice," Robert S. Finnegan, June 19, 2018. With every passing day the fake news purveyors and manipulators become more and more sophisticated, metastasising across the lines of print, broadcast and internet platforms. Some are transparently easy to spot and isolate, others mutate daily in order to confuse, disorient and bedevil consumers in their disorienting search for factual and credible news reporting.

One graphic example of this insidious malignancy is the internet website Zero Hedge, a portal for "doom porn" that has now become a huge moneymaker in the digital world, along with "financial advice" that has led to the monetary evisceration of many investors that mistakenly took their slick "reports" on finance and Wall Street as the real thing.

Zero Hedge is a classic representation of the sophistry and propagandist modus operandi combining sourced news with totally contrived refuse in order to mask it's origins and intent, which is ultimately to confound, befuddle and misinform the reader.

Posts on Zero Hedge are written under the pseudonym "Tyler Durdin," Hollywood actor Brad Pitt’s character from “Fight Club.” If nothing else the term "Buyer Beware" or "Caveat Emptor" applies in spades to Zero Hedge for both financial investors and news consumers alike.

Durden is actually two men: wealthy financial analysts Daniel Ivandjiiski and Tim Backshall. The Sydney Morning Herald provides background: Ivandjiiski worked for a hedge fund before being barred by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority in 2008 for insider trading. He didn't admit or deny wrongdoing, the agency said. Backshall is a familiar face on financial news networks who has been quoted by media outlets, including Bloomberg.

Inside the U.S. Capitol

New York Post, Congressional intern shouts ‘Mr. President, F–k you!’ at Trump, Joe Tacopino, June 19, 2018. A Congressional intern allegedly yelled “Mr. President, F–k You” as President Trump walked through the Capital rotunda on his way Tuesday night for a talk with legislators about immigration.

The F-bomb incident was captured on video as the president walked through the Capital rotunda on his way to the meeting with GOP congressmen. The shouting takes place amid high tensions concerning Trump’s new “zero-tolerance” policy on immigration.

A reporter from Politico said that Capitol Police were on the lookout for a “young white woman” who had been wearing an intern badge.It wasn’t clear Tuesday night if the police were looking to criminally charge the woman for her outburst.

June 18

Immigration / Prison Issues

djt ice child detention nydn 6 18 18Above, a New York Daily News fron- page editorial denounces Trump on June 16, 2018

ProPublica, Listen to Children Who’ve Just Been Separated From Their Parents at the Border, Ginger Thompson, June 18, 2018. ProPublica has obtained audio from inside a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility, in which children can be heard wailing as an agent jokes, “We have an orchestra here.”

The desperate sobbing of 10 Central American children, separated from their parents one day last week by immigration authorities at the border, makes for excruciating listening. Many of them sound like they’re crying so hard, they can barely breathe. They scream “Mami” and “Papá” over and over again, as if those are the only words they know.

us immigration customs enforcement image Custom

Above, a file photo from the Department of Homeland Security. 

washington post logoWashington Post, As Republicans flee Trump border policy, Democrats see a November benefit, Michael Scherer and Sean Sullivan​, June 18, 2018. Trump used the immigration issue to his benefit in 2016, but Republican candidates hoping to attract moderate voters this fall are scrambling to distance themselves from a policy the president sees as central to accomplishing his political goals.

A Quinnipiac poll released Monday found that American voters oppose the policy of separating children from parents by more than 3 to 1, with opposition from 91 percent of Democrats, 68 percent of independents and 35 percent of Republicans. The same poll showed 58 percent of American voters oppose building a southern border wall — which Trump has demanded as part of any immigration measure — and 79 percent support a path to citizenship for dreamers.

kirstjen nielsenNPR, Defiant Homeland Security Secretary Defends Family Separations, Bill Chappell and Jessica Taylor, June 18, 2018. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is continuing to defend the Trump administration's controversial "zero tolerance" policy that results in separating children from their parents who enter the U.S. illegally.

Nielsen (shown in a file photo) appeared at the White House press briefing on Monday, falsely blaming Democrats for the current crisis and arguing that the impetus is on Congress to pass a law to close legal loopholes.

ny times logoNew York Times, Both Parties Push Trump to Halt Family Separations, Peter Baker, June 18, 2018 (print edition). The former first lady Laura Bush and former President Bill Clinton, among others, condemned the Trump administration’s practice of separating families at the border. The bipartisan push came as Melania Trump (shown below in her Twitter photo) made a rare public intervention, echoing the president’s false claim that a political stalemate was to blame.

Melania Trump Twitter photoLeading figures of both parties demanded on Sunday that President Trump halt his administration’s practice of separating children from their parents when apprehended at the border, as the issue further polarized the already divisive immigration debate in Washington.

Republican lawmakers, the former first lady Laura Bush (shown at right in her Twitter photo), a conservative newspaper and a onetime adviser to Mr. Trump joined Democrats in condemning family separations that have removed nearly 2,000 children from their parents in just six weeks. laura bush twitterThe administration argued that it was just enforcing the law, a false assertion that Mr. Trump has made repeatedly.

The issue took on special resonance on Father’s Day as Democratic lawmakers visited detention facilities in Texas and New Jersey to protest the separations and the House prepared to take up immigration legislation this week. Pictures of children warehoused without their parents in facilities, including a converted Walmart store, have inflamed passions and put the administration on the defensive.

us bureau of prisons 2017 map

U.S. Bureau of Prisons locations (2017)

ny times logoNew York Times, Safety Worries Grow as Prison Cuts Lead to Substitute Guards, Danielle Ivory and Caitlin Dickerson, June 18, 2018 (print edition).
Trump administration cutbacks have left some prisons short on correctional officers, requiring support workers like teachers and secretaries to step in.

On a recent rainy day, more than 400 sex offenders, gang members and other inmates at the federal prison in this West Texas town weathered the storm by crowding into a three-story building.

us bureau of prisons seal CustomTwo guards were on duty. One was a uniformed correctional officer, the other a health worker in civilian clothes pitching in because there were not enough regular officers.

Outside, along the security fences surrounding the sprawling prison campus, a worker who normally offers counseling to inmates patrolled in a vehicle, armed with three weapons. And in a unit reserved for the most dangerous inmates, a clerk from the commissary policed the corridors

New Alarms Over Video Game 'Addiction'

ny times logoNew York Times, Video Game Addiction Tries to Move From Basement to Doctor’s Office, Tiffany Hsu, June 18, 2018 (print edition). Video games work hard to hook players. Designers use predictive algorithms and principles of behavioral economics to keep fans engaged. When new games are reviewed, the most flattering accolade might be “I can’t put it down.”

Now, the World Health Organization is saying players can actually become addicted. On Monday, “gaming disorder” will appear in a new draft of the organization’s International Classification of Diseases, the highly regarded compendium of medical conditions.

Concerns about the influence of video games are dovetailing with increasing scrutiny over the harmful aspects of technology, as consumers look for ways to scale back consumption of social media and online entertainment.

The W.H.O. designation may help legitimize worries about video game fans who neglect other parts of their lives. It could also make gamers more willing to seek treatment, encourage more therapists to provide it and increase the chances that insurance companies would cover it.

See related story, excerpted below: Washington Post, Rebel developers are trying to cure our smartphone addiction — with an app, William Wan, June 18, 2018 (print edition).

washington post logosupreme court buildingWashington Post, Supreme Court sidesteps decision on partisan gerrymandering, Robert Barnes, June 18, 2018. ​The rulings in the Wisconsin and Maryland cases again postpone a decision on the larger issue of when courts can find that efforts to keep parties in power are unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court on Monday sidestepped a decision on when partisan gerrymandering goes too far, ruling against the challengers of a Republican-drawn map in Wisconsin and a Democratic redistricting in Maryland. The decisions in the separate cases once again puts off a decision on when courts can find that partisan efforts to keep parties in power goes so far as to be unconstitutional.

It was a technical resolution of what has seemed to hold the promise of being a landmark decision about extreme efforts to give one party advantage over another.

While the court routinely polices the drawing of electoral maps to combat racial gerrymandering, it has never found that partisan efforts went too far. It has never settled on a test that judges could use to determine how much politics was too much.

The practical impact of the case is that legislation elections in Wisconsin this year will be conducted using the map challengers said overwhelmingly favor Republicans. The Maryland congressional districts will also remain the same, including the district that challengers said was drawn to elect a Democrat. The incumbent is not running for election.

U.S. Politics

kris kobach kansas SmallPolitico, Judge slams Kobach for flouting court rules, Josh Gerstein, June 18, 2018. As a federal judge on Monday permanently blocked a Kansas law requiring voters to prove their citizenship before registering to vote, she also delivered a rebuke to the law's main proponent: Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (a Republican who had headed a Trump-appointed voting commission)..

U.S. District Court Judge Julie Robinson's ruling against the law was widely expected, but she coupled it with pointed complaints that Kobach (shown at right) had failed to comply with court rules requiring disclosure of evidence to the law's opponents in advance of the trial.

Robinson, an appointee of President George W. Bush, ordered Kobach to do an additional six hours of continuing legal education in the 2018-19 year, above and beyond the ordinary state requirements.

Kobach is currently locked in a tight race challenging incumbent Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer, who is running for re-election.

Kobach found himself in hot water on several prior occasions during the proof-of-citizenship case. Last June, a federal magistrate fined Kobach $1,000 for presenting misleading arguments in the suit. And in April, Robinson held him in contempt for failing to send standard registration postcards to voters covered by a court order she issued.

Robinson's new ruling on the law itself found that Kansas had failed to demonstrate that voting by noncitizens was a significant problem and failed to show that the law was necessary to remedy whatever issues existed with such voting. "The Court finds that the burden imposed on Kansans by this law outweighs the state's interest in preventing noncitizen voter fraud, keeping accurate voter rolls, and maintaining confidence in elections," she wrote.

Scandal, Crime Around the U.S.

washington post logomichael cohen ap file croppedWashington Post, Korean firm tied to Cohen got U.S. contract despite corruption probe, Shawn Boburg and Aaron C. Davis​, June 18, 2018. Korea Aerospace Industries paid Michael Cohen (shown at right) $150,000 for advice on contracting rules.

The payment to Cohen’s firm could draw new attention to the aviation company’s ethics disclosures and to a much larger contract it is considered a front-runner to win with Lockheed Martin to provide the U.S. military with more than 300 supersonic training jets — a deal worth an estimated $18 billion.

washington post logoWashington Post, 5 killed in Texas crash after SUV packed with immigrants flees Border Patrol, authorities say, Samantha Schmidt, June 18, 2018. At least five people died and several others were injured Sunday after an SUV packed with a dozen undocumented immigrants flipped on a South Texas highway while fleeing Border Patrol agents.

Authorities say they believe the driver and one passenger were U.S. citizens trying to smuggle immigrants into the country. The driver was not ejected in the crash, and was sitting upright in his seat when a deputy took him into custody. Officials have not released the names of the driver or any of the 13 passengers.

washington post logojose nunez sheriff deptWashington Post, Deputy accused of sexually assaulting girl, 4, threatening to have mother deported if she spoke up, Samantha Schmidt, June 18, 2018.  A sheriff’s deputy in Texas has been accused of sexually assaulting a 4-year-old girl and threatening to deport her undocumented mother if she reported the crime, authorities say.

Authorities arrested detention officer Jose Nunez (shown at right in a sheriff's department photo), a 10-year veteran of the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, early Sunday while he was off duty. He faces a felony charge of “super aggravated sexual assault of a child,” which carries a minimum prison sentence of 25 years, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said at a news conference.

washington post logoWashington Post, Armed civilian kills gunman, stops shooting spree at Walmart in Washington state, Fred Barbash, June 18, 2018.  A gunman who opened fire inside a Walmart in Washington state and injured at least two people during carjacking attempts was fatally shot by one of two armed civilians on Sunday evening, according to police.

Reaction To Justice Department Internal Probe

peter strozk lisa page

FBI special agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page

washington post logoWashington Post, FBI agent removed from Russia probe for anti-Trump texts says he would testify before Congress, Matt Zapotosky​, June 18, 2018 (print edition). Peter Strzok would testify without immunity and not invoke his Fifth Amendment rights, his attorney said. President Trump has used Strzok’s texts to question the Russia investigation.

FBI logoThe FBI agent who was removed from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election for sending anti-Trump texts intends to testify before the House Judiciary Committee and any other congressional committee that asks, his attorney said in a letter made public Sunday.

Peter Strzok, who was singled out in a recent Justice Department inspector general report for the politically charged messages, would be willing to testify without immunity, and he would not invoke his Fifth Amendment rights in response to any question, his attorney, Aitan Goelman, said in an interview Sunday. Strzok has become a special target of President Trump, who has used the texts to question the Russia investigation.

Goelman said that if asked to testify, Strzok “intends to answer any question put to him, and he intends to defend the integrity of the Clinton email investigation, the Russia collusion investigation to the extent that that’s a topic, and his own integrity.”

Justice Department log circularHe said there was “no question” that Strzok regrets sending anti-Trump messages, but added: “I think what he was doing is expressing his political opinions in what he thought was a private text conversation, and he regrets that this has been weaponized by people with political motivations to try to discredit the Mueller investigation.”

Goelman said that Strzok was not willing to use his official position to affect Trump’s chances of being elected and that “his political conviction that a Trump presidency would be disastrous for American national security is not based on his bias, it was based on information that was available to him, and his perspective on American national security.”

He also disputed that Strzok took steps to protect Clinton, noting that the inspector general found that his client pushed for more aggressive steps in that case and tasked two other FBI agents with following up on the Weiner laptop lead. He said Strzok did not do the one thing that might have helped Clinton and hurt Trump: leak word of the investigation of the Trump campaign.

U.S. Media News

Reporters Without Borders, Journalist arrested while covering protest in Missouri: Round-up of week's news, Staff report, June 18, 2018.
Below are the most notable incidents regarding threats to press freedom in the US during the week of June 11-17:

michael nigro jefferson city mo

Journalist arrested while covering protest in Missouri: On June 11, photojournalist for Truthdig Michael Nigro (shown above) was arrested in Jefferson City, Missouri, while reporting on acts of civil disobedience taking place during an economic justice protest, where participants had linked arms and were blocking the street in front of the city’s Chamber of Commerce. Nigro was wearing press credentials and recording the incident when a police officer told him to get off the road and stand on the sidewalk. After approaching a different officer who also told him to return to the sidewalk, Nigro backed up but was still arrested and charged with “failure to obey.”

Press access limited at North Korea-United States summit: The White House restricted press access at the June 12 summit between the United States and North Korea. Only seven American journalists were included in the press pool during President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s first meeting, an event of the type that would normally consist of a pool of about a dozen reporters from various news outlets including major wire services like The Associated Press (AP) and Reuters. For this meeting, such wire services were not permitted to attend. Later that day, Singaporean press was permitted to attend the lunch between Trump and Kim, but American press were excluded.

Trump tweets “the fake news” is biggest threat to US and an enemy of the people: In a June 13 tweet, President Trump claimed “the fake news” is the country’s “biggest enemy.” That this tweet came just a day after he “lavished praise” on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was not lost on the American press. This inflammatory anti-press rhetoric has become commonplace for the president, who has tweeted about “fake news” 9 times in the past week, including a tweet referring to major news organizations as the “enemy of the people Fake News.” Trump team members say reporters asking questions are “insulting”

Assange Prosecution?

julian assange indictor collage resized Small

Julian Assange, shown inside Ecuador's embassy in London, in a collage assembed by The Indicter online magazine

WBAI-FM (New York City), Opinion: MCM on the plight of Julian Assange, the moral failure of the US "left," and more, "Law and Disorder" host Michael Smith interviews New York University professor Mark Crispin Miller ("MCM"), June 18, 2018. The WikiLeaks founder and truth-telling publisher Julian Assange is in escalating danger of being sent from England to America where he would likely be tried for espionage, a crime that carries the death penalty.

Assange and WikiLeaks have revealed American war crimes in the Middle East, CIA global machinations , and the work of Clinton Democrats in preventing the popular Bernie Sanders from heading up the party ticket. Assange is presently holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he was granted political asylum six years ago by past leftist president Rafael Correa. But now, with the change of presidents in Ecuador, Assange has been cut off from the outside world. He has no phone, no computer, and no visitors.

The fresh offensive against him occurred the day after American General Joseph DiSalvo, the head of the US Southern Command, the Pentagon’s arm in Latin America, visited the new right wing Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno. Moreno has said that Assange is “an inherited problem” and is seeking s better relationship with the United States government, to whom he has already granted a military base.

mark crispin millerMark Crispin Miller is a professor of media studies at New York University. Miller has frequently spoken about media propaganda, the engineering of consent for empire, fake news, and the destruction of the independent press. He has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for the humanities and is a vigorous defender of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.

More on Electronic Addictions

washington post logoWashington Post, Rebel developers are trying to cure our smartphone addiction — with an app, William Wan, June 18, 2018 (print edition). In the modern economy of tablets and apps, our attention has become the most valuable commodity. Tech companies have armies of behavioral researchers whose sole job is to apply principles like Skinner’s variable rewards to grab and hold our focus as often and long as possible.

To understand why it’s so hard to pry yourself free from your phone, Facebook account and Twitter, you need to know about B.F. Skinner’s pigeons.

In the 1950s, Skinner began putting the birds in a box and training them to peck on a piece of plastic whenever they wanted food. Then the Harvard psychology researcher rigged the system so that not every peck would yield a tasty treat. It became random — a reward every three pecks, then five pecks, then two pecks.

The pigeons went crazy and began pecking compulsively for hours on end.

Fast forward six decades. We have become the pigeons pecking at our iPhones, scrolling through news feeds, swiping left/right on Tinder for hours, the uncertainty of what we might find keeping us obsessed by design.

#MeToo Claim Against Trump: Beverly Hills Hotel Records Sought 

summer zervos

washington post logoWashington Post, It was a Trump favorite. Now lawyers want the famously discreet Beverly Hills Hotel to share its secrets, Frances Stead Sellers, June 18, 2018. Records of Donald Trump’s stays at the hotel's exclusive bungalows have been subpoenaed in a defamation lawsuit brought by former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos (shown above in a show screenshot) — the first legal action to open the president’s private life to discovery.

Details of Trump’s hotel stays have been a closely held secret among employees known for impeccable service and discretion in handling billionaires, visiting royalty and superstars. But now, the records of his visits could become critical evidence in what is evolving into a serious legal threat, brought by a woman accusing him of improper sexual advances. The New York case is being closely followed by constitutional lawyers because of the role it could play in determining whether state lawsuits may proceed against a sitting president.

Israel Expands Syrian War To Iraq Border

Israel FlagCNN, Israel behind airstrike in Syria, US official says, Barbara Starr, Ryan Browne and Oren Liebermann, June 18, 2018. An airstrike close to the Iraq-Syria border Sunday was carried out by Israel, and not by the US or the coalition fighting ISIS, a US official tells CNN.

Syrian state TV blamed the strike that targeted pro-regime forces and caused multiple casualties on the US-led coalition combating the terrorist group, but a spokesman for the coalition said there were no coalition strikes in the area near Abu Kamal.

Sunday's strike was very different from those normally attributed to Israel. Generally, strikes by Israel occur in the western region of Syria, principally in the area around Damascus and Homs. This attack in Eastern Syria is hundreds of miles away from that area, and the target -- pro-regime forces -- differs from what would be Israel's usual mark, namely Iranian military positions.

Syrian War Refugees

syria rukban refugee camp mapRed: Government control. Green/white: Mixed rebel/jihadi control. Grey: Islamic State control. Yellow: Kurdish control. (Wikipedia map modified by author).

Century Foundation, Blame Game over Syrians Stranded in the Desert, Aron Lund, June 18, 2018. The desperate plight of Rukban’s inhabitants has emerged as a stark example of problems that beset aid work across much of Syria, where tangled lines of control encourage the politicization of what should be straightforward humanitarian missions.

Looking at a map, nothing would seem easier than to drive a convoy of food and medical supplies to Rukban, a camp for refugees and displaced civilians on the Syrian–Jordanian border some 260 kilometers east of Damascus. Though the terrain is rough, the camp is located in an area of relative calm and stability, and it could be reached from Amman, Damascus, or both. But Syria’s seven-year civil war says otherwise.

All sides now blame each other for preventing aid deliveries to the tens of thousands of Syrians trapped in this desolate desert region, and Rukban has emerged as a cruel illustration of how civilians are snared in the tangled threads of sovereignty and proxy control that constitute current-day Syria.

For half a year, aid convoys to Rukban have been held up by disagreements among a dizzying array of actors, including: President Bashar al-Assad’s government, which uses its status as Syria’s internationally recognized sovereign to twist the rules guiding international humanitarian missions; the kingdom of Jordan, which bans UN cross-border assistance to the camp; the U.S. military, which controls the area but won’t guarantee the safety of aid workers seeking access to the camp; armed fighters inside Rukban, who tangle with humanitarians and with each other for control; and the jihadi extremists of the so-called Islamic State, whose infiltration of the camp has cemented its isolation.

This report, which seeks to shine a light on the deadlock in Rukban and on the broader problem of Syria’s fragmentation, has been supported in part by a research grant from The Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation and by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. It draws on more than a dozen interviews with government officials, experts, and humanitarians interviewed remotely and in Jordan, on unpublished UN and humanitarian reporting, and on a survey of Arabic and English press coverage, social media, and think tank research, including a previous TCF study of the Tanf–Rukban problem.

Inside Washington: Special Report On Drug War

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Counterdrug Programs Come With Increased Drug Production -- Where Does The Money Go? B, June 18, 2018. Two reports published today point to some curious phenomenon. Immensely expensive U.S. counter-narcotics efforts go along with massive increases in drug production.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction report Counternarcotics: Lessons from the U.S. Experience in Afghanistan finds:

From fiscal year (FY) 2002 through FY 2017, the U.S. government spent roughly $8.62 billion on counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan...From 2002 to 2017, Afghan opium poppy cultivation soared. In 2002, cultivation estimates ranged from 31,000 to 74,000 hectares, compared to 328,000 hectares in 2017. Opium production also rose to historic levels, from approximately 3,400 metric tons in 2002 to roughly 9,000 metric tons in 2017. No counterdrug program undertaken by the United States, its coalition partners, or the Afghan government resulted in lasting reductions in poppy cultivation or opium production.

cia logoSince its creation the CIA was involved in drug production and trafficking. In many cases this appears to have been a 'side effect' of other operations like running the rightwing 'Contras' against a leftish government in Nicaragua. The contras needed money, which drug smuggling provided. The CIA helped along to achieve the 'higher purpose': The overthrow of the Nicaraguan government. I am not aware of any sound evidence that shows that the CIA reaped financial profits from drug dealing.

There is no such excuse for counternarcotics programs. There is no 'higher purpose' to be achieved. But the sums spent on these programs are so big now, and their effect so counterproductive, that one must assume that the money is not used as intended. Layers of contractors will be involved in crop eradication programs in Afghanistan and elsewhere. These may cost a few millions per year. But the effects are so minor that one can not imagine how several billions of dollars get spent on them.

I find no accounting for these programs. Where does all that money go? Who is profiting from these?

June 17

roger stone fox news

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump associate Roger Stone reveals new contact with Russian national during 2016 campaign, Manuel Roig-Franzia and Rosalind S. Helderman, June 17, 2018. Roger Stone, a close Trump ally (shown above in a screenshot), met with a Russian man in May 2016 claiming to have “dirt” that could help Trump be elected.

One day in late May 2016, Roger Stone — the political dark sorcerer and longtime confidant of Donald Trump — slipped into his Jaguar and headed out to meet a man with a “Make America Great Again” hat and a viscous Russian accent.

The man, who called himself Henry Greenberg, offered damaging information about Hillary Clinton, Trump’s presumptive Democratic opponent in the upcoming presidential election, according to Stone, who spoke about the previously unreported incident in interviews with The Washington Post. Greenberg, who did not reveal the information he claimed to possess, wanted Trump to pay $2 million for the political dirt, Stone said.

“You don’t understand Donald Trump,” Stone recalled saying before rejecting the offer at a restaurant in the Russian-expat magnet of Sunny Isles, Fla. “He doesn’t pay for anything.”

Later, Stone got a text message from Michael Caputo, a Trump campaign communications official who’d arranged the meeting after Greenberg had approached Caputo’s Russian-immigrant business partner.

Two years later, the brief sit-down in Florida has resurfaced as part of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s sprawling investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, according to Caputo. Caputo said he was asked about the meeting by prosecutors during a sometimes-heated questioning session last month.

Stone and Caputo, who did not previously disclose the meeting to congressional investigators, now say they believe they were the targets of a setup by U.S. law enforcement officials hostile to Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Don’t wait for Trump to testify, Mr. Mueller, Philip Allen Lacovara, June 17, 2018. Philip Lacovara is a former president of the D.C. Bar. He served as counsel to the Watergate special prosecutor.

Justice Department log circularLast week’s lengthy report by the Justice Department’s inspector general on former FBI director James B. Comey’s actions during the Hillary Clinton email investigation illustrates the grave risks of making law enforcement announcements on the eve of an election. It also offers a lesson to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III: It’s time to act on the remaining pieces of his investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

There is little time for delay. To ensure that the investigation does not tilt the scales in the November midterm elections, Mueller should promptly return any indictments that the evidence warrants. Any hurdles preventing this from happening soon — such as sparring with the president and his legal team over obtaining his testimony — should be eliminated from the calculus.

I strongly support both the need for a vigorous, independent investigation and the professionalism of Mueller, and I have no interest in encouraging him to abandon his investigation prematurely. But it seems that the special counsel should have enough information now to decide whether there is a basis for filing any more Russia-related charges than already have been filed.

Warehoused Immigrant Children

washington post logous dhs big eagle logo4Washington Post, ‘America is better than this’: A doctor raises concerns after visiting shelter for migrant children, Kristine Phillips, June 17, 2018 (print edition). The pediatrician said workers were doing their best to meet the children’s basic needs. But they could not pick up or touch the children, or get their parents. “The really basic, foundational needs of having trust in adults as a young child was not being met. That contradicts everything we know that the kids need to build their health,” she said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: A new majority against cruelty, Jennifer Rubin June 17, 2018. The Post reports: President Trump has calculated that he will gain political leverage in congressional negotiations by continuing to enforce a policy he claims to hate — separating immigrant parents from their young children at the southern border, according to White House officials.

On Friday, Trump suggested he would not change the policy unless Democrats agreed to his other immigration demands, which include funding a border wall, tightening the rules for border enforcement and curbing legal entry. He also is intent on pushing members of his party to vote for a compromise measure that would achieve those long-standing priorities.

To snatch kids from parents, inducing trauma and long-term mental hardship, is monstrous, the conduct of brutal totalitarians. There is no policy “get” or advantage that can justify this. We falter in attempting to describe it — cruel, horrible, barbaric. Those who oppose this policy, regardless of political identification or other differences, should make common cause — a coalition for decency, if you will.

New Jersey Mass Shooting

ny times logoNew York Times, One Dead, 17 Shot at New Jersey Arts Festival, Mihir Zaveri, June 17, 2018, One person was killed and at least 17 people were shot early Sunday morning at a cherished all-night arts festival in Trenton in what may have been a neighborhood dispute unrelated to the event, the authorities said.

The person who was killed, a 33-year-old man, was believed to have been shot dead by the police and was one of multiple gunmen, according to the Mercer County prosecutor’s office. Officials said a second gunman had been arrested, and that it was possible there were others.

Media: Former Denver Post Staff Launches Competitor

ny times logoNew York Times, Goodbye, Denver Post. Hello, Blockchain, Jaclyn Peiser, June 17, 2018. They left The Denver Post amid newsroom layoffs and interference in the editorial process by the newspaper’s hedge-fund owners. And now those reporters and editors are creating their own news outlet, The Colorado Sun.

They will be partnering with the Civil Media Company, an ambitious New York start-up that aims to use blockchain technology and crypto economics to start 1,000 publications nationwide by the end of the year.

“It is absolutely exciting,” said Larry Ryckman, a former senior editor at the beleaguered Denver daily, who will serve as the editor of The Colorado Sun. “We have been so eager to get moving.”

The editor has assembled a team of former Post employees, including five reporters — Kevin Simpson, John Ingold, Tamara Chuang, Jennifer Brown and Jason Blevins — and two senior editors, Eric Lubbers and Dana Coffield.

OMB Budget-Slasher's Aide Picked To Protect U.S. Consumers

ny times logoNew York Times, Mulvaney Deputy Is Chosen to Lead Consumer Bureau, Glenn Thrush, June 17, 2018 (print edition). Administration officials played down the fact that Mick Mulvaney’s choice, Kathy Kraninger, has never held a job as a regulator or worked in the financial services industry.

mick mulvaney omb SmallMick Mulvaney, the White House budget director and acting head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has picked a deputy at the budget office, Kathy Kraninger, to succeed him at the consumer watchdog agency, a White House spokeswoman confirmed on Saturday.

The choice of Ms. Kraninger, who oversees the preparation of the budgets for cabinet departments, generated immediate opposition, with critics pointing to her inexperience in consumer and financial services issues and her association with Mr. Mulvaney. She was selected over the objection of some White House officials, who argued that her nomination could founder.

kathleen kraninger headshot dhsThe appointment of Ms. Kraninger (left), 43, a Pittsburgh native and graduate of Marquette University and Georgetown Law School, prompted strong resistance from consumer advocates. Mr. Mulvaney has sought to drastically scale back the bureau’s investigations and enforcement actions against lenders, especially in the payday industry.

On Saturday, White House officials played down the fact that she has never held a job as a regulator or worked in the financial services industry. “She will bring a fresh perspective and much-needed management experience” to the agency, Ms. Walters said, “which has been plagued by excessive spending, dysfunctional operations, and politicized agendas.” The Trump administration has criticized the consumer bureau’s aggressive regulatory posture under its Obama-appointed director, Richard Cordray.

June 16

Cover-Up Alleged In DOJ Report On Comey

michael horwitz headshot

webster tarpley podium2World Crisis Radio, Opinion: Justice Dept. Inspector General's report on Comey was huge cover-up, whitewash, Webster G. Tarpley (shown at right), June 16, 2018 (radio broadcast: 74:01 mins.). Dr. Webster Tarpley, an  author and commentator, described as a "whitewash" Inspector Gen. Michael Horowitz's much-touted 538-page report on former FBI Director James Comey's performance during the 2016 presidential campaign and its aftermath.

fbi logorudy giuliani recentTarpley said Horowitz failed to probe leaks from the FBI's New York City office by rogue agents who were assisting their former boss Rudy Giuliani supporting GOP nominee Donald Trump, thereby helping Trump's campaign immeasurably.

By contrast, Tarpley argued, Horowitz fed the current GOP spin machine by highlighting private anti-Trump conversation between two other agents, neither of whom were shown to have undertaken any serious anti-Trump action.

Tarpley said the agents could have easily disclosed to the media during the campaign (albeit in violation of law and FBI rules) that the FBI had undertaken a national security investigation of the Trump campaign beginning in the summer of 2016, but that story never surfaced until long after Trump's election, Tarpley noted.  

U.S-Supported Yemen Disaster

The Intercept, Analysis: The U.S. is Exacerbating the World’s Worst Humanitarian Crisis by Outsourcing Its Yemen Policy, Alex Emmons, June 16 2018.  Three years of civil war in Yemen have created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with the United Nations estimating that 22 million people — three-quarters of the country’s population — urgently need humanitarian aid.

But aid groups have seen their worst fears realized this week, as U.S.-backed forces organized by the United Arab Emirates launched an assault on the rebel-held port of Hodeidah — the entry point for 70 to 80 percent of the food, medicine, and aid supplies entering Yemen.

uae embassy sealOxfam has warned that a prolonged battle or siege would “massively escalate this humanitarian crisis while millions already are on the brink of famine,” and the U.N. has said it would damage the prospects for long-term peace negotiations. Martin Griffiths, the U.N. peace envoy for Yemen, warned the U.N. Security Council that the assault “would, in a single stroke, take peace off the table.”

The Intercept interviewed more than a dozen former White House and State Department officials, humanitarian leaders, and Yemen experts, many of whom characterized the offensive as a major failure by the U.S. to restrain its coalition partners, who are largely dependent on American weapons, intelligence, and logistical support. Those sources said the attack was a sign that the U.S. is allowing allies like Saudi Arabia and the UAE to drive American policy decisions in Yemen.

“The UAE’s assault on Hodeidah is just another example of the Trump administration outsourcing U.S. policy in Yemen — and really the region writ large — to the Gulf states,” said Kate Kizer, policy director at the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group Win Without War.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE began bombing Yemen in March 2015, with the aim of restoring the former Saudi-backed president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi to power. Hadi was deposed after a rebel group commonly known as the Houthis stormed the capital in 2014; he eventually fled the country.

The Obama administration wholeheartedly backed the Saudi- and Emirati-led intervention and blockade, and provided the coalition with intelligence and tens of billions of dollars in weapons. Under Obama, the Pentagon also helped refuel coalition aircraft, continuing even after they bombed civilian targets like schools and hospitals.

But even as Obama administration officials watched a growing humanitarian crisis unfold in Yemen, the White House firmly opposed a coalition attack on Hodeidah. In a country as dependent on foreign goods as Yemen, ports are extremely lucrative for whoever controls them. Experts have estimated that the Houthis collect tens of millions of dollars a month in customs and import fees on cargo coming in through Hodeidah.

paul manafort face nation

Former Trump 2016 Presidential Campaign Manager Paul Manafort (screenshot from a Face the Nation appearance during the campaign )

washington post logoWashington Post, Manafort ordered to jail after charges of witness tampering, Spencer S. Hsu, Ellen Nakashima and Devlin Barrett​, June 16, 2018 (print edition). The order to imprison President Trump’s former campaign manager came in a federal court hearing after Paul Manafort had been asking to post a $10 million bond and end seven months of home detention. He has been awaiting trial on federal conspiracy and money-laundering charges brought by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

A federal judge ordered Paul Manafort to jail Friday over charges he tampered with witnesses while out on bail — a major blow for President Trump’s former campaign chairman as he awaits trial on federal conspiracy and money-laundering charges next month.

“You have abused the trust placed in you six months ago,’’ U.S. District Court judge Amy Berman Jackson told Manafort. “The government motion will be granted and the defendant will be detained.”

The judge said sending Manafort to a cell was “an extraordinarily difficult decision,” but added his conduct left her little choice, because he had allegedly contacted witnesses in the case in an effort to get them to lie to investigators.

“This hearing is not about politics. It is not about the conduct of the office of special counsel. It is about the defendant’s conduct,” Jackson said. “I’m concerned you seem to treat these proceedings as another marketing exercise.”

Manafort, 69 (shown below in file video at a previous courthouse appearance), has pleaded not guilty to all charges in what prosecutors say was a broader conspiracy to launder more than $30 million over a decade of undisclosed lobbying for a former pro-Russian politician and party in Ukraine.

nbc news logoNBC News, Paul Manafort sent to Virginia jail after judge revokes bail, Charlie Gile and Tracy Connor, Updated June 16. 2018. 6 Paul Manafort was locked up in a Virginia jail Friday night after a federal judge revoked his bail amid allegations of witness tampering. An inmate database showed that President Donald Trump's former campaign chief was booked into the Northern Neck Regional Jail in Warsaw, Va., at 8:22 p.m. Jail records listed his housing unit as "VIP-1."

He was taken to the 500-bed facility hours after prosecutors working for Special Counsel Robert Mueller convinced Judge Amy Berman Jackson that Manafort couldn't be trusted on house arrest any longer. Manafort, 69, did not appear to react to Jackson's ruling beyond a nod to his attorney. He gave a quick wave to his wife as he was taken into custody and led out of the courtroom.

The move drastically ratchets up pressure on Manafort as Mueller continues to investigate whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. Manafort's ex-business partner, Rick Gates, who was indicted with him in October, has already pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate.

After Jackson's ruling, Trump tweeted that Manafort got a "tough sentence" — though he hasn't actually been sentenced for anything — and tried to downplay his involvement with the campaign."Like Manafort has nothing to do with our campaign," the president told reporters at the White House before the hearing.

"You know, Paul Manafort worked for me for a very short period of time. He worked for Ronald Reagan. He worked for Bob Dole. He worked for John McCain, or his firm did. He worked for many other Republicans. He worked for me, what, 49 days or something. Very short period of time."

In fact, Manafort worked for the Trump campaign for 144 days. He joined the campaign in March 2016, became chair in May and resigned in August 2016.

washington post logoWashington Post, From ‘the Count’ to inmate: The fall of former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, Tom Hamburger, June 16, 2018 (print edition). He owned at least five properties from Manhattan to Palm Beach and purchased three Range Rovers and a Mercedes-Benz. He spent millions of dollars on oriental rugs and tailored suits. And he reached new heights of power in 2016 when he gained a top position in Donald Trump’s campaign.

But on Friday, ordered by a federal judge to await trial in jail, Paul Manafort’s once high-flying life sank to a new low.

The image of the grim-faced Manafort, led out of a D.C. courtroom by a U.S. marshal, offered a vivid reminder of the precipitous fall of a man who has been counselor to presidents, an architect of the modern-day influence industry and, for a time, a key engineer of Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party.

Inside DC: Manafort 'VIP?'

Palmer Report, Opinion: Has Paul Manafort really been classified as a “VIP” in jail? Bill Palmer, June 16, 2018. Yesterday Paul Manafort’s house arrest was revoked, and he was booked into the Northern Neck Regional Jail in Virginia, where he’ll remain through his trial. Some eyebrows were raised when his booking listed him as having “VIP” status in jail. Did this mean that he was getting some kind of preferential treatment? Had Donald Trump pulled some strings? Was Manafort living it up at a palace of a prison? Palmer Report did some digging.

Manafort, like any other high profile prisoner who is regularly talked about on national television, can’t be kept in the general population in jail. It would be a violation of his legal rights, because too many other inmates would be looking to make a name for themselves by beating up or killing a famous inmate like Manafort. Even if you’d personally like to see Manafort get beaten up, that’s not how our system of law works, and the last thing you want is someone killing him before he has a chance to cut a plea deal against Trump. Hence, Manafort had to be taken to a jail that had room to house a prisoner who cannot be held in the general population.

That’s how Manafort ended up at a jail an hour and a half away from Washington DC, instead of one that was closer. He has in fact been listed as “VIP” on his booking, according to several major news outlets. But this appears to be some kind of inside joke when it comes to referencing high profile inmates, because the conditions Manafort is facing are anything but VIP level. We know this because former NFL quarterback Michael Vick was also incarcerated at Northern Neck Regional Jail awhile back.

Inside DC: Media

Palmer Report, Opinion: Melania Trump pulls a fast one, Bill Palmer, June 16, 2018. When Melania Trump vanished under suspicious and dishonest circumstances, it took the mainstream media a couple of weeks to finally call it out for what it was: a Donald Trump administration scandal and an attempted coverup. Once the media finally began properly focusing on it, Melania suddenly surfaced at a pair of public events. At the time, I wrote this: “The jarring part is that most of the mainstream media will oblige by dropping the Melania disappearance story entirely.”

Melania Trump Twitter photoSure enough, most of the media did indeed act like Melania’s reappearance was perfectly normal. Nevermind that she initially surfaced at a Gold Star event that was conveniently closed to the press, and then at a FEMA briefing where she was obviously out of place. Her “return” was even more dishonestly staged than the lies that Donald Trump and his White House told during her disappearance. Here’s the lame part: two weeks later, the media is indeed writing about Melania, but with a very different motivation.

I’m not going to single anyone out because there are too many of them, but if you type “Melania Trump” into Google News right now, you’ll find a slew of new puff pieces about her from major media outlets. These stories don’t appear to be based on anything; these are simply rather blatant attempts at getting on Melania’s good side. Perhaps these news outlets came to worry that when they belatedly began properly covering her vanishing act, they damaged their relationships with her office, and now they want to repair things.

So instead of continuing to ask questions about why the “First Lady” spent a month in hiding while her husband and the White House spent the entire time lying about it, or trying to figure out why she disappeared to begin with, the media is now doing what it can to make Melania Trump look good. She’s managed to pull a fast one.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-Trump lawyer looks to force Michael Avenatti to stop talking about Stormy Daniels case, June 15, 2018. Michael Cohen said in court papers that the adult-film actress’s lawyer is hurting his chances of a fair trial.

Daniels filed suit in early March to free herself from a hush agreement she signed to prevent her from speaking about an alleged affair with Donald Trump. Avenatti responded quickly — on social media. “The motion for a gag order is a complete joke and baseless,” he tweeted. “Mr. Cohen . . . can’t deal with the truth, the facts, and the law, so they have to resort to unethical, meritless motions.”

If Judge S. James Otero agrees to the motion, it would change the nature of a case that has played out on television as much as it has in the courtroom for the past three months.

Trade Wars Ramp Up

ny times logoChina FlagNew York Times, U.S. Imposes China Tariffs, Escalating Trade Fight, Ana Swanson, June 15, 2018. The step by the Trump administration threatened to shift what had primarily been a war of words between Washington and Beijing into a full-blown trade war. Beijing has said it would retaliate by imposing its own tariffs on a list of roughly $50 billion in American exports.

The Trump administration said on Friday that it would move ahead with imposing tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese products, prompting vows of retaliation from Beijing and turning a spat into a full-blown trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

President Trump’s decision to move forward with the penalties is the latest twist by a White House that has vacillated between taking a tough stance on Chinese trade practices and declaring that the trade war was “on hold.” It comes after the president ignited trade spats on numerous fronts, including levying tariffs on metal imported from allies and adversaries around the globe and sparring with Canada and Mexico over the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The penalties against imports from China will come in two tranches. Tariffs on roughly $34 billion of Chinese products — drawn from a list that the administration published in April and vetted through a series of hearings in mid-May — will go into effect on July 6, the office of the United States Trade Representative said. The administration is also proposing a new list of tariffs on roughly $16 billion of products, which it said would undergo further review, including public hearings

ap logoAssociated Press via Washington Post, China hikes tariffs on US soybeans, electric cars, fish, Joe McDonald, June 16, 2018. China fired back Saturday in a spiraling trade dispute with President Donald Trump by raising import duties on a $34 billion list of American goods including soybeans, electric cars and whiskey.

China FlagThe government said it was responding in “equal scale” to Trump’s tariff hike on Chinese goods in a conflict over Beijing’s trade surplus and technology policy that companies worry could quickly escalate and chill global economic growth. China “doesn’t want a trade war” but has to “fight back strongly,” said a Commerce Ministry statement. It said Beijing also was scrapping agreements to narrow its multibillion-dollar trade surplus with the United States by purchasing more American farm goods, natural gas and other products.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Dictator envy’: Trump’s praise of Kim Jong Un widens his embrace of totalitarian leaders, Philip Rucker, June 16, 2018 (print edition).  President Trump’s praise Friday for Kim Jong Un’s authoritarian rule in North Korea — and his apparent envy that people there “sit up at attention” when the 35-year-old dictator speaks — marked an escalation of the American president’s open embrace of totalitarian leaders around the world.

djt kim jong un djt wave singapore 6 12 18 CustomReflecting on his impressions of Kim following their Singapore summit, Trump told Fox News: “He’s the head of a country, and I mean he’s the strong head. Don’t let anyone think anything different. He speaks, and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.”

It was unclear whether Trump was referring to Americans generally or only to his staff. His interview took place along the West Wing driveway, and as the president talked about “my people,” he gestured toward the White House.

washington post logous dhs big eagle logo4Washington Post, In Trump’s view, separating kids from parents gives him leverage in immigration talks, Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey, June 16, 2018 (print edition). The president suggested his administration would keep separating immigrant youths from their parents at the southern border unless Democrats agree to his demands, such as funding a border wall and curbing legal entry.

Consumer News

washington post logoWashington Post, Hands off my data! 15 more default privacy settings you should change now on your TV, cellphone plan and more, Geoffrey A. Fowler, June 16, 2018 (print edition). The Post’s tech columnist is back with Round 2 of his clickable guide to improving your privacy on all sorts of devices and online services.

Media Freedoms / Disputes

rob rogers pittsburgh post gazette facebook

Rob Rogers, a 1999 Pulitzer finalist, fired as editorial cartoonist from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after beginning there in 1992 (Facebook photo)

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: I Was Fired for Making Fun of Trump, Rob Rogers, June 16, 2018 (print edition). After 25 years as the editorial cartoonist for The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, I was fired on Thursday.

I blame Donald Trump. Well, sort of. I should’ve seen it coming. When I had lunch with my new boss a few months ago, he informed me that the paper’s publisher believed that the editorial cartoonist was akin to an editorial writer, and that his views should reflect the philosophy of the newspaper.

That was a new one to me. I was trained in a tradition in which editorial cartoonists are the live wires of a publication — as one former colleague put it, the “constant irritant.” Our job is to provoke readers in a way words alone can’t. Cartoonists are not illustrators for a publisher’s politics.

pittsburgh post gazette logoWhen I was hired in 1993, The Post-Gazette was the liberal newspaper in town, but it always prided itself on being a forum for a lot of divergent ideas. The change in the paper did not happen overnight. From what I remember, it started in 2011, with the endorsement of the Republican candidate for Pennsylvania governor, which shocked a majority of our readership.

The next big moment happened in late 2015, when my longtime boss, the editorial page editor, took a buyout after the publisher indicated that the paper might endorse Mr. Trump. Then, early this year, we published openly racist editorials.

Media Transitions

ny times logodavid pecker croppedNew York Times, A.M.I., Tabloid Giant and Trump Ally, Expands Its Reach, Daniel Victor and Jim Rutenberg, June 16, 2018 (print edition). American Media Inc., the country’s largest tabloid publisher whose chairman is a close ally of President Trump, controls almost the entire supermarket checkout rack after new acquisitions announced on Friday.

A.M.I. said it had bought In Touch, Life & Style, Closer and 10 other titles from Bauer Media, expanding a celebrity-news portfolio that already included The National Enquirer, Us Weekly, Globe, OK!, Star and Radar Online.

att logoThe move gives the company, led by David J. Pecker (shown at right in a file photo), almost full ownership of the print gossip market, leaving People magazine, owned by the Meredith Corporation, as one of the only major glossy gossip titles not under Mr. Pecker’s umbrella. (TMZ, the dominant gossip player online, has come under the ownership of AT&T with its purchase of Time Warner.)

Mr. Pecker is a Bronx native and a longtime Trump friend. A former top executive of Mr. Trump’s casino business sits on A.M.I.’s four-member board of directors. During the 2016 campaign, its flagship National Enquirer devoted glowing covers to Mr. Trump’s triumphs, aggressively attacked his rivals and made its first-ever presidential endorsement.

History Recalled: Watergate Guard

washington post logoWashington Post, This security guard discovered the Watergate break-in, but few remember him, Michael S. Rosenwald, June 16, 2018 (print edition) (podcast: 3:14 min.). The man who called the police on the Watergate burglars never received the credit he deserved.

June 15

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The key takeaways from the Justice Department inspector general’s report, Editorial Board, June 15, 2018 (print edition). michael horwitz headshotThe Justice released Thursday a highly anticipated report [by Inspector General Michael Horwitz, right] on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Trump wanted. But there is enough in it for him and his allies to twist and cherry-pick that its actual findings are likely to be lost in partisan noise.

Given Mr. Trump’s allegations about the FBI conspiring against him, the first thing to note is that the report provides no support for the theory of a broad anti-Trump plot. True, the inspector general uncovered private messages between FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, including one saying “we’ll stop” Mr. Trump from becoming president. “The conduct by these employees cast a cloud over the entire FBI investigation,” the report reads.

fbi logoBut examining the actions the FBI took, the inspector general concluded that Mr. Strzok “was not the sole decisionmaker” and, in fact, “advocated for more aggressive investigative measures” against Ms. Clinton. “We did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that improper considerations, including political bias, directly affected the specific investigative actions we reviewed.” The inspector general also concluded that the decisions made on how to conduct the Clinton investigation were reasonable.

ny times logoirs logoNew York Times, How the I.R.S. Could Punish Trump and His Foundation, Jesse Drucker, June 15, 2018 (print edition). New York’s attorney general, who sued the Trump Foundation for engaging in political activities, also referred the matter to the Internal Revenue Service.

The New York attorney general sued President Trump and his foundation on Thursday. But his bigger problem might be with the Internal Revenue Service.

djt official SmallThe lawsuit accused Mr. Trump and three of his children of using the Donald J. Trump Foundation, a nonprofit charity, for political and business purposes, even though he signed federal tax returns swearing that wasn’t happening. Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood referred her findings to the I.R.S. for further investigation.

Any involvement of the I.R.S. puts in play a range of possibilities. The agency has the power to bring civil penalties, and its investigation could lead to federal criminal charges. Similar behavior has prompted federal prosecutions, according to lawyers who have worked on such cases.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Why the I.R.S. Should Go After Trump, Philip T. Hackney, June 15, 2018. From 2006 to 2011, Mr. Hackney was an attorney for the chief counsel of the I.R.S. specializing in nonprofit organizations.

The New York State attorney general yesterday filed a lawsuit against the Donald J. Trump Foundation and its directors, accusing the charity and the Trump family of violating campaign finance laws, self-dealing and illegal coordination with the presidential campaign. It asks that Mr. Trump pay restitution and be prohibited from leading a nonprofit in New York for 10 years.

irs logoAs a former attorney for the chief counsel of the I.R.S. who specialized in nonprofit organizations, I believe Mr. Trump is also criminally liable for his actions. If I were still at the I.R.S., based on the lawsuit, I would make a criminal referral, on charges of tax evasion or false statements on a tax return, or both.

On the tax evasion charge, the government must demonstrate that the defendant willfully failed to pay a tax he owed and acted to disguise or attempted to disguise that evasion. For a false statement charge, the government must show the defendant willingly signed a return under penalties of perjury, making a materially false statement that he knew was false.

These are not easy charges to prove, but the Trump Foundation is a nonprofit organization that is entrusted with money to be used exclusively for public charitable purposes. Any use of foundation money to benefit himself is akin to theft.

Reactions To Justice Department Campaign Report

ny times logofbi logoNew York Times, Trump Calls Justice Dept. Report ‘Total Disaster’ for F.B.I., Eileen Sullivan, June 15, 2018. “Doesn’t get any lower than that!” Mr. Trump wrote of the findings in a Justice Department report that detailed texts between F.B.I. agents who opposed his presidential bid.

ny times logoHillary Clinton ButtonNew York Times, Democrats Find Vindication, and New Agony, in Report, Alexander Burns, June 15, 2018 (print edition). Hillary Clinton supporters saw the report on James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, as proof that she was wronged in 2016. “It’s disappointing and infuriating,” one ally said. On Thursday, Clinton supporters won a powerful kind of validation from the unlikeliest source: President Trump’s Department of Justice.

The inspector general’s report criticizing Mr. Comey for his flamboyant handling of the Clinton investigation sent an angry thrill through the ranks of Democrats and Mrs. Clinton’s allies. Michael E. Horowitz, an investigator not appointed by Mr. Trump, concluded that Mr. Comey had twice breached the bureau’s traditional discretion: first by holding a July news conference to announce he would not charge Mrs. Clinton with mishandling classified information, and then later sending a letter to Congress disclosing that the agents were scrutinizing new evidence in the matter

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘You have a great day, you’re a piece of trash’: Scandal-ridden EPA’s press office gets aggressive, Paul Farhi, June 15, 2018 (print edition). The Environmental Protection Agency's public-affairs staff has flouted polite Washington norms with tough rebuttals to news reports about Administrator Scott Pruitt.

kim jong podium un

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump praises Kim’s authoritarian rule, says, ‘I want my people to do the same,’ Philip Rucker​, June 15, 2018. President Trump later said he was “kidding” when he said he wanted his people to “sit up at attention” when he speaks, just as the North Koreans do for Kim Jong Un (shown above in a file photo).

President Trump on Friday complimented Kim Jong Un’s authoritarian rule in North Korea, observing with apparent envy that when the 35-year-old dictator speaks, “his people sit up at attention.”

“He’s the head of a country, and I mean he’s the strong head,” Trump told Fox News Channel. “Don’t let anyone think anything different. He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.”

It was unclear whether Trump was referring to the American people or only to his staff. His interview with “Fox & Friends” co-host Steve Doocy took place along the West Wing driveway, and as the president talked about “my people” he gestured toward the White House.

Later, when pressed by a CNN reporter about the comment, Trump claimed it had been a joke. “I’m kidding,” he said. Admonishing the journalist, the president added, “You don’t understand sarcasm.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Officials say Trump backs GOP immigration bills, despite comments opposing them. One says Trump misunderstood Fox News’ question, Seung Min Kim and Mike DeBonis​, June 15, 2018. Officials say Trump backs GOP immigration bills, despite comments opposing them. One says Trump misunderstood Fox News’ question. The White House said Friday that President Trump supports House legislation that closely tracks his priorities on border security and limiting legal immigration, walking back comments he made on national television rejecting the GOP bill.

The reversal came after hours of confusion on Capitol Hill, where Trump’s words roiled an already fragile internal debate between conservative and moderate Republicans in the House who have beeen trying to find an immigration compromise after months of false starts.

Trump’s words created widespread confusion among Republicans on Capitol Hill and dealt a significant blow to GOP leaders who signaled they may abandon plans to vote on the legislation next week.

A new Trump administration policy that refers everyone who has crossed the border illegally for prosecution has forced the separation of many migrant families, since children can’t be detained in criminal jails alongside their parents.

marc short white house file Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: Something’s up: four key Donald Trump officials have all decided to quit in the past 48 hours, Bill Palmer, June 15, 2018. There is no more sure sign that things are about to turn catastrophically ugly for an administration than when its top officials suddenly start deciding to quit in rapid fashion – particularly when they’re not connected to each other, and not all of them are even connected to the scandals in play. Something is clearly in play in the Donald Trump administration, because four of his key officials have all decided to quit in the past two days – and we think we see a clear pattern.

raj shah white house foxIt all began on Wednesday evening, when CBS News reported that White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her deputy Raj Shah were both preparing to resign. She denied the report, but her calamitous press briefing yesterday made pretty clear that she’s a goner. Then on Thursday afternoon, the Wall Street Journal reported that White House legislative liaison Marc Short (shown above) was planning to quit. Now the Daily Beast is reporting that Trump’s assistant spokeswoman Kelly Love is also leaving the White House. Why?

Each of these departures has its own individual drama. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ entire staff appears to be revolting against her. Marc Short is frustrated that Trump has given up trying to pass legislation. But when this many key people all start heading for the exits at once, it means something helped to trigger it all. There is no escaping the fact that this mass exodus began just hours after it was reported that Michael Cohen was planning to cut a plea deal against Donald Trump.

Education / Consumer News

ny times logoNew York Times, Harvard Rated Asian- Americans Lower on Personality, Suit Says, Anemona Hartocollis, June 15, 2018. Harvard consistently rated Asian-American applicants lower than others on traits like “positive personality,” likability, courage, kindness and being “widely respected,” according to an analysis of more than 160,000 student records filed Friday by a group representing Asian-American students in a lawsuit against the university.

Harvard, one of the most sought-after and selective universities in the country, admitted only 4.6 percent of its applicants this year. That has led to intense interest in the university’s closely guarded admissions process. Harvard had fought furiously over the last few months to keep secret the documents that were unsealed Friday.

#MeToo Lawsuit On Shared Porn Photos

ny times logoNew York Times, Ex-Girlfriend Sues Florida College Student and Fraternity in Revenge Porn Case, Daniel Victor, June 14, 2018. A student at the University of Central Florida shared videos of sexual encounters he had with his girlfriend in a secret Facebook group for his fraternity brothers without her permission, the woman alleges in a lawsuit filed on Thursday.

Kathryn Novak, a student in Arizona, said she learned in March that her intimate photos and videos had been shared in a secret Facebook group when she saw someone’s text message to her long-distance boyfriend that mentioned a sexual video. Her boyfriend, Brandon Simpson, did not deny sharing the video in the Facebook group named “Dog Pound” in October, according to the lawsuit.

michael avenatti sketchMs. Novak’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti (shown at right) — who is best known for representing Stephanie Clifford, the porn actress professionally known as Stormy Daniels, in her lawsuit against President Trump — said in an interview on Thursday that the sharing of Ms. Novak’s images had been “devastating to her.”

“The fact that you had a basically frat-boy atmosphere, both literally and figuratively, that was centered on the exploitation of women without their knowledge or consent is outrageous,” he said.

alex jones roger stone 4 9 18 JIP img 2678 Custom

Radfio host Alex Jones, left, with his colleague and fellow Trump supporter Roger Stone at a news conference April 9, 2018 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC (Photo by Justice Integrity Project)

newsweek logoNewsweek, Alex Jones’s Ex-wife Wants Michael Avenatti to Represent Her in Custody Battle With 'InfoWars' Host, Benjamin Fearnow, June 15, 2018. Alex Jones’s ex-wife, Kelly Jones, said the recent Los Angeles International Airport run-in between her former husband and Bernie Sanders was just a fraction of the “irresponsible and endangering” behavior her “hypocritical” ex-spouse inflicts on her and their three children.

The former wife of the InfoWars host and conspiracy theorist told Newsweek she was seeking the help of high-powered attorneys, including Michael Avenatti and Gloria Allred, in an attempt to finally gain sole managing conservatorship of the Joneses’ two young daughters and teenage son. Kelly Jones and her lone attorney said her continuing legal battle has been "daunting," with Travis County, Texas, appellate court documents showing the rambunctious radio host represented by eight lawyers, including Wallace B. Jefferson, a former chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court.

Inside DC

ny times logopaul krugmanNew York Times, G.O.P. to Americans With Health Problems: Drop Dead, Paul Krugman, June 15, 2018. Polls suggest that the public considers health care the most important issue in the midterm elections. This immediately raises the question: Do voters understand what’s at stake?

In particular, do they realize that if Republicans hold Congress, they will strip away protections for the 52 million Americans — more than a quarter of nonelderly adults — who have pre-existing conditions that, before passage of the Affordable Care Act, could have led insurers to deny them coverage?

In fact, the Trump administration is already trying to take away those protections via the courts. It probably won’t succeed. But it might, in which case an estimated 17 million Americans would lose their health coverage.

And even if the lawsuit fails, the administration’s support for an incredibly flimsy legal challenge — one so indefensible that three career Justice Department lawyers withdrew from the case — is a clear signal of Republican priorities: G.O.P. to Americans with health problems: Drop dead.

washington post logoWashington Post, NIH cancels $100 million study of moderate drinking as irrevocably compromised, William Wan and Lenny Bernstein, June 15, 2018. The National Institutes of Health on Friday canceled a mammoth study of moderate drinking, after determining that officials had irrevocably compromised the research by soliciting $66 million from beer and liquor companies to underwrite the effort.

NIH Director Francis S. Collins said the results of the 10-year, $100 million study would not be trusted because of the secretive way in which staff at an institute under NIH met with major liquor companies, talked to them about the trial’s design and convinced them to pick up most of the tab for it.

Collins ordered the examination of what was originally planned as a study of more than 7,800 people around the globe after the New York Times reported in March that officials had aggressively sought the industry funding and routed their donations through the institutes’ nongovernmental foundation. In May, NIH suspended enrollment of participants in the research, which was already underway when the newspaper published its story.

djt salute korean general

ny times logodjt official SmallNew York Times, White House Defends Trump’s Salute in North Korea, Katie Rogers, June 15, 2018 (print edition). The White House described a salute by President Trump to a North Korean officer as “a common courtesy,” but critics said it was an inappropriate gesture that was meant to symbolize respect.

At the direction of the young dictator Kim Jong-un, officers in the North Korean military have carried out the executions of more than 340 of the country’s own citizens, including other military officials, using methods that are often as morbidly theatrical as they are inhumane and barbaric.

President Trump saluted one of those officers this week. Mr. Trump’s salute — captured in a lengthy documentary on the Singapore summit meeting produced by North Korean state media — put the White House on the defensive Thursday and drew questions about whether a high-ranking officer of a militaristic dictatorship deserved to be on the receiving end of a gesture meant to symbolize respect, camaraderie and reverence.

“It’s a common courtesy when a military official from another government salutes that you return that,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said during a briefing with reporters.

In the documentary, the president was shown saluting the officer — Gen. No Kwang-chol, the North Korean defense chief — after first trying to shake the general’s hand. Mr. Kim is shown standing nearby.

But the practice of modern presidents returning salutes is thought to go back only as far as the 1980s, when President Ronald Reagan began exchanging salutes with troops. The practice has since been adopted by his successors, who occasionally land in hot water over their technique. An American president saluting a North Korean military officer in the presence of a smiling dictator is a new test case.

Courts, Crime

washington post logoelizabeth holmes twitter photoWashington Post, Elizabeth Holmes, founder of blood-testing company Theranos, indicted on wire fraud, federal authorities announce, Carolyn Y. Johnson, June 15, 2018. Elizabeth Holmes (shown at right in her Twitter photo), founder of the blood-testing start-up Theranos, and her former chief operating officer, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, were indicted by a federal grand jury on nine counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, the Department of Justice announced Friday.

The indictment alleges that the pair used marketing, press interviews and financial statements to defraud potential investors on behalf of their company. The start-up promised to disrupt medicine by selling, quick, cheap blood tests directly to consumers.

fbi logoHolmes stepped down as chief executive of Theranos on Friday. “This conspiracy misled doctors and patients about the reliability of medical tests that endangered health and lives,” Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett said in a statement.

Holmes had already settled federal fraud charges by the Securities and Exchange Commission, agreeing to a $500,000 penalty and a 10-year ban on working as an officer or director of a public company. Balwani faces those charges in court.

ny times logorand paul hs oNew York Times, Rand Paul’s Neighbor Is Sentenced to 30 Days in Prison After Attack, Julia Jacobs, June 15, 2018, A neighbor of Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky (right) was sentenced Friday to 30 days in prison after pleading guilty to felony assault for tackling the lawmaker last year, a spokesman for federal prosecutors said. The attack was fueled by irritation over a pile of debris.

The neighbor, Rene A. Boucher, 60, of Bowling Green, Ky., was also sentenced to one year of probation and a $10,000 fine, said Tim Horty, a spokesman for the United States attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, in a phone interview.

In a statement, Mr. Paul said that he believed a conviction with prison time was “appropriate,” and he hoped it would deter Mr. Boucher from any future violence. “No one deserves to be violently assaulted,” Mr. Paul said. “I commend the F.B.I. and Department of Justice for treating this violent, premeditated assault with the seriousness it deserves.”

June 14

New York State Seeks To Dissolve Trump Foundation For Lawbreaking

barbara underwoodThe Hill, New York attorney general sues to dissolve Trump Foundation, Jacqueline Thomsen, June 14, 2018. As reported above, New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood (D), right,  filed a lawsuit against President Trump, the Donald J. Trump Foundation and members of the Trump family on Thursday, alleging that the charity has violated federal and state law.

The lawsuit, filed in the New York State Supreme Court, calls for the foundation to be dissolved. “For more than a decade, the Donald J. Trump Foundation has operated in persistent violation of state and federal law governing New York State charities,” the complaint states. “This pattern of illegal conduct by the Foundation and its board members includes improper and extensive political activity, repeated and willful self-dealing transactions, and failure to follow basic fiduciary obligations or to implement event elementary corporate formalities required by law.”

The complaint alleges that the charity provided illegal support to Trump’s 2016 presidential bid by using public funding to promote his campaign, and that the foundation raised more than $2.8 million to support Trump’s campaign.

See below for details and President Trump's denials of wrongdoing and accusations of law enforcement bias.

Justice Department Report Rebukes Former FBI Director Comey

washington post logoWashington Post, IG report criticizes Comey’s handling of Clinton probe, includes anti-Trump exchanges among FBI personnel, John Wagner, Devlin Barrett and Karoun Demirjian, June 14, 2018. A highly anticipated report from the Justice Department’s inspector general criticizes James B. Comey for his actions as FBI director during the Hillary Clinton email investigation and includes new text messages from FBI personnel conveying political opposition to Donald Trump.

Justice Department logoTrump was set to receive a briefing Thursday on the 500-page report, which the president is widely expected to use to launch fresh attacks against not only Clinton but also the law enforcement officials behind special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia probe, which Trump has repeatedly referred to as a “witch hunt.”

Perhaps the most damaging new revelation in the report, according to multiple people familiar with it, is a previously unreported text message in which Peter Strzok, a key investigator on both the Clinton email case and the investigation of Russia and the Trump campaign, assured an FBI lawyer in August 2016 that “we’ll stop” Trump from making it to the White House.

“[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” the lawyer, Lisa Page, wrote to Strzok.

peter strozk lisa page

FBI special agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page

JIP Editor's Note: The article above is based on contents of the report leaked by Republicans. A story later will report on the full report.

Comey Responds To DOJ Report

Former FBI Director James Comey testifies before U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee on June 8, 2017

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: This Report Says I Was Wrong. But That’s Good for the F.B.I., James Comey (President Trump's first FBI director, shown above in a file photo), June 14, 2018. An inspector general report faulting me also found no evidence of bias or improper motivation in the F.B.I. investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails.

The Department of Justice’s independent watchdog, the inspector general, has released a report that is critical of my decisions as F.B.I. director during the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email account. The report concludes that I was wrong to announce the F.B.I.’s completion of the investigation without coordinating with the attorney general and that I was wrong to inform Congress in late October that we had reopened the investigation.

fbi logoIn both situations, the inspector general’s team concludes, I should have adhered to established norms, which they see as mandating both deference to the attorney general on the public announcement and silence about an investigation so close to an election.

I do not agree with all of the inspector general’s conclusions, but I respect the work of his office and salute its professionalism. All of our leaders need to understand that accountability and transparency are essential to the functioning of our democracy, even when it involves criticism. This is how the process is supposed to work.

This report is important for two reasons.

First, the inspector general’s team went through the F.B.I.’s work with a microscope and found no evidence that bias or improper motivation affected the investigation, which I know was done competently, honestly and independently.

The report also resoundingly demonstrates that there was no prosecutable case against Mrs. Clinton, as we had concluded. Although that probably will not stop some from continuing to claim the opposite is true, this independent assessment will be useful to thoughtful people and an important contribution to the historical record.

Second, this report is vital in shedding light for future leaders on the nature and quality of our investigation and the decisions we made. In 2016, my team faced an extraordinary situation — something I thought of as a 500-year flood — offering no good choices and presenting some of the hardest decisions I ever had to make. We knew that reasonable people might choose to do things differently and that a future independent reviewer might not see things the way we did. Yet I always believed that an inspector general report would be crucial to understanding and evaluating our actions.

Human Rights Crisis In Yemen

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: 8 million teeter on the brink of famine. America is complicit, Editorial board, June 14, 2018 (print edition). The latest attack on Yemen could result in human suffering on a massive scale. Congress, which has long been uneasy with U.S. support for the Yemen war, must now act. All funding for U.S. support for the intervention should be halted and further arms sales put on hold until the offensive ends, humanitarian assistance flows freely and peace talks are underway.

washington post logouae embassy sealWashington Post, U.S. turns down UAE request for aid in offensive against rebel-held Yemeni port, Karen DeYoung and Kareem Fahim, June 14, 2018. The U.S. military continues to provide intelligence and aerial refueling for the coalition, but the Trump administration is under pressure from Congress to limit additional help.

Economic/Legal Injustice

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: San Francisco’s justice system gets a little more just, Joanna Weiss and Lisa Foster, June 14, 2018 (print edition). Joanna Weiss and Lisa Foster are co-directors of the Fines and Fees Justice Center. San Francisco has made history by becoming the first jurisdiction in the country to stop charging people fees for “using” — or being subjected to — the criminal-justice system. An ordinance unanimously adopted by the Board of Supervisors eliminates fees including for probation, electronic monitoring and jail booking.

“These fines, fees, and penalties can trap people in a cycle of debt, and low- ­income people and people of color are often hit the hardest,” the ordinance, which takes effect July 1, acknowledged. “Under this system, government becomes a driver of inequality.”

California, like virtually every other state in the country, fines people who are convicted of felonies, misdemeanors and traffic violations as punishment for violating the law. But on top of those fines, states also charge often exorbitant fees. Some fees underwrite the costs of the justice system, such as incarceration or court construction. Others go directly into a state or municipality’s general fund.

Since 2010, 48 states have increased their justice system fees, and the amounts are staggering. California, for example, adds $390 in fees to the $100 fine it imposes for running a red light.

U.S. Politics

Democratic-Republican Campaign logos

washington post logoWashington Post, Ignoring warning signs, GOP continues rebranding itself as the party of Trump, David Weigel, Robert Costa and Seung Min Kim, June 14, 2018 (print edition). The Republican Party appears united now not by fealty to ideas or policies but to a man, and ambitious GOP candidates agree: Success in the primaries demands the full support of the president. But many experts and some GOP politicians see peril in the general elections this November.

ny times logoWashington Post, In latest show of independence, Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity to sit out Virginia Senate race, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, June 14, 2018. Americans for Prosperity, the main political arm of the influential Koch network, said it will not endorse either party’s candidate or put any money into the U.S. Senate race in Virginia after immigration hard-liner Corey A. Stewart’s victory in the Republican primary Tuesday.

republican elephant logoThe group typically spends heavily and deploys activists across the country to support key GOP candidates. Its backing, particularly in a swing state such as Virginia, could make a big difference in a crucial midterm year when Republicans are fighting to hold on to their majority in both chambers of Congress.

But its decision to withhold that support is the latest sign that the powerful network of wealthy donors and well-connected conservative activists is seeking to strike a more independent tone this election, after years of being closely intertwined with Republican campaigns and causes.

ny times logoNew York Times, 3 Takeaways From Tuesday’s Primaries, Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin, June 14, 2018 (print edition). Virginia Republicans voted for Corey Stewart. South Carolina decided it was done with Mark Sanford. And Democrats spurned insurgents from the activist left.

Donald Trump Logo Make America Great AgainVirginia: For many years, Republican voters in Virginia’s affluent and highly educated Washington suburbs tended to reward mainstream candidates who could be competitive in the general election. But on Tuesday, it was Fairfax County, the population hub of the region, that delivered victory for Corey Stewart, the flame-throwing Trump acolyte who has won national attention with his paeans to Confederate emblems.

republican elephant logoMr. Stewart narrowly defeated Nick Freitas, a state lawmaker, thanks to a decisive win in Fairfax County. And a third candidate who has also made his name as a provocateur, E.W. Jackson, carried 14 percent in the county with the third-highest median income in America.

So what is happening in Fairfax?

As the county has, like other high-income suburbs around the country, become more Democratic-leaning, the Republican Party has thinned out. The moderate wing of the party has dissipated, leaving a smaller and firmly conservative activist bedrock. And such voters care little about appeals to pragmatism — they are drawn to candidates who echo the president they embrace.

New York State Suite Against Trump Foundation (Continued)

barbara underwoodThe Hill, New York attorney general sues to dissolve Trump Foundation, Jacqueline Thomsen, June 14, 2018. as reported above, New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood (D), right, filed a lawsuit against President Trump, the Donald J. Trump Foundation and members of the Trump family on Thursday, alleging that the charity has violated federal and state law.

In addition to the claims above:

The lawsuit also states that Trump used the foundation to cover legal fees and to promote his properties and businesses. The lawsuit alleges that Trump’s campaign “extensively directed and coordinated the Foundation’s activities in connection with an event for veterans in Iowa that Trump held in 2016 instead of participating in a presidential debate.

The document alleges that the foundation assisted the campaign in organizing the event and that the foundation was widely utilized in promoting it, but that the charity was used “to satisfy the campaign’s requirements.”

The attorney general cited emails showing that the campaign “played the lead in role in determining the disposition” of the fundraiser proceeds, including ones showing then-Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski communicating with foundation staffers about the disbursement of the funds, according to the document.

The lawsuit also alleges that Trump requested that foundation staff use $100,000 from the foundation in 2007 to settle a lawsuit between the city of Palm Beach, Fla., and his Mar-a-Lago estate. The document features a handwritten note by Trump requesting the transaction.“As our investigation reveals, the Trump Foundation was little more than a checkbook for payments from Mr. Trump or his businesses to nonprofits, regardless of their purpose or legality,” Underwood said in a statement. “This is not how private foundations should function and my office intends to hold the Foundation and its directors accountable for its misuse of charitable assets.”

Trump responded to the lawsuit in a pair of tweets Thursday, saying he "won't settle the case."

The sleazy New York Democrats, and their now disgraced (and run out of town) A.G. Eric Schneiderman, are doing everything they can to sue me on a foundation that took in $18,800,000 and gave out to charity more money than it took in, $19,200,000. I won’t settle this case!...

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 11:09 AM - Jun 14, 2018

....Schneiderman, who ran the Clinton campaign in New York, never had the guts to bring this ridiculous case, which lingered in their office for almost 2 years. Now he resigned his office in disgrace, and his disciples brought it when we would not settle.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 11:09 AM - Jun 14, 2018

Inside TrumpWorld

washington post logojennifer rubin new headshotWashington Post, Opinion: Departing Republicans confess: They have been part of a ‘cult,’ Jennifer Rubin (right), June 14, 2018. Frustrated by his Republican colleagues’ refusal to vote on his amendment to roll back President Trump’s tariffs, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) fessed up on Wednesday: “We’re in a strange place. It’s becoming a cultish thing, isn’t it? It’s not a good place for any party to have a cult-like situation as it relates to a President that happens to be purportedly of the same party.” It’s even worse when the cult leader is dishonest, irrational and erratic; those who follow him quickly appear dishonest, irrational and erratic.

bob corkerCorker (left) continued: “To have an administration that wakes up every day on an ad hoc basis just making stuff up as they go along with no coherency to it — I think us having to weigh in on that would actually cause them to have to think about what they’re doing versus, ‘Well, I’m upset with X today so I’ll do this.’ ”

There is something refreshing about having the Republican Party’s cowardice out in the open, acknowledged by its own members. The pretense that they were upholding their oaths and/or their constituents was too much to bear.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The surest sign yet that Sarah Huckabee Sanders is a goner, Bill Palmer, June 14, 2018. News outlets that participate in White House press briefings always end up facing the same conundrum: they need a functional working relationship with White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, which puts them in a bind when she becomes the story by telling blatant lies from the podium. Some major news outlets have been far better at calling her out than others. But now they’re unloading on her, to her face, after realizing she’s a goner.

Everyone now knows that she’s on her way out, meaning they no longer need to worry about maintaining a working relationship with her. Accordingly, at today’s briefing, they began unloading on her.

washington post logogary cohn headshotWashington Post, Trade war could wipe out gains of GOP tax law, former top Trump economic adviser says, Jeff Stein​, June 14, 2018. Gary Cohn (right) said that retaliatory tariffs between countries could drive up inflation and prompt American consumers to take on more debt, possibly pushing the country into another economic downturn.

washington post logoWashington Post, Inside Casa Padre, the converted Walmart where the U.S. is holding nearly 1,500 immigrant children, Michael E. Miller, Emma Brown and Aaron C. Davis, June 14, 2018.  For more than a year, the building along the Mexican border has been a mystery. Behind the sliding doors is the nation's largest shelter for immigrant children, including dozens forcibly separated from their parents at the border by a new “zero-tolerance” policy from the Trump administration.

summer zervos

ABC News, Appeals Court denies Trump bid to get Summer Zervos defamation suit tossed, Aaron Katersky and James Hill, June 14, 2018. New York State’s highest court on Thursday rejected an appeal from President Trump in a defamation case brought by Summer Zervos, a former contestant on “The Apprentice” who alleges that Trump groped and kissed her without her consent in 2007. This is the third time Trump’s attempt to halt discovery in the case and a possible deposition of the president has failed. She is shown above in a screenshot from the show.

In a brief order, the New York Court of Appeals, on procedural grounds, rejected the president’s attempt to dismiss the case or delay it until after he leaves office. The court ruled that Trump’s appeal is premature because there has not been a final determination of his motions in the lower courts.

But the president’s legal team was undaunted. “The Court of Appeals did not address the merits of the issue at stake here (an issue first raised by the U.S. Supreme Court in Clinton v. Jones) —- namely, that, under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, state courts do not have jurisdiction over a sitting President," a spokesperson for the president’s attorney, Marc Kasowitz, said in a statement.

Kasowitz has claimed that the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution bars a state court lawsuit against a sitting president and has said “this issue will likely reach the Supreme Court of the United States.” The president has denied he sexually assaulted or harassed women, including Zervos, before he took office.

washington post logomichael cohen ap file croppedWashington Post, Why Michael Cohen is possibly the biggest threat to Trump, Philip Bump, June 14, 2018 (print edition). On Wednesday, multiple outlets reported that Cohen was considering cooperating with prosecutors, having parted ways with the legal team that had been representing him in an ongoing legal dispute over the material seized in that April raid.

Cohen (shown at right) is reportedly in a difficult position. He reportedly needs new attorneys, per the New York Times, in part because he has unpaid bills with his representation — the sort of thing that might disincline a law firm to take him on as a client. Or he can reach an agreement with prosecutors to tell them what he knows in exchange for quickly wrapping up the investigation into him.

There are others who could provide a sweeping overview of Trump’s activity before, during and after the campaign, certainly. But the combination of dealing with Trump in all three of those phases, being involved with Trump to the extent that Cohen was and facing possible criminal charges that might inspire someone to flip? Only Cohen fits that bill.

sarah huckabee sandersDaily Beast, Report: Sarah Sanders, Raj Shah Planning Their White House Exits, Staff report, June 14, 2018. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders and her deputy, Raj Shah, are reportedly “heading for the exits.” CBS News reports that Sanders told confidants that she plans to leave the White House at the end of the year. Shah has reportedly not decided on when to leave.

cbs news logoSanders (shown in her Twitter photo) responded to the CBS report on Twitter, writing: Does @CBSNews know something I don’t about my plans and my future? I was at my daughter’s year-end Kindergarten event and they ran a story about my “plans to leave the WH” without even talking to me. I love my job and am honored to work for @POTUS.”

Reviewing Korean Summit

djt kim il jong seated smiling 6 12 18

ny times logoNew York Times, Unprecedented Summit, but No Guarantees, Mark Landler, June 14, 2018 (print edition). Intense Negotiations Yield Few Details on Denuclearization. President Trump used flattery, cajolery and a slick film in his quest to persuade Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader (shown above), to give up nuclear arms. But a joint statement signed by the two after their meeting was as skimpy as the summit was extravagant.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump-Kim Summit Creates New Anxieties for Asian Allies, Motoko Rich, June 14, 2018 (print edition). President Trump’s concessions to North Korea exacerbated fears about America’s commitment and the reliability of its security guarantees.

South Korea flagFor America’s allies in Asia, the outcome of President Trump’s summit meeting with Kim Jong-un has been decidedly mixed. On the good side, they no longer have to be on alert for the imminent outbreak of war on the Korean Peninsula.

JapanBut the widely anticipated Trump-Kim meeting on Tuesday left them with new anxieties. Mr. Trump’s concessions to North Korea exacerbated their fears about the United States’ long-term commitment to safeguarding the region.

Mr. Trump’s surprise declaration during a news conference after the summit that he would suspend military drills between the United States and South Korea — and that he hoped eventually to pull some 28,000 American troops off the peninsula — blindsided American allies, including South Korea itself.

Global News: Syria

ny times logoNew York Times, The Militia That’s Threatening American Troops in Syria, David Botti and Christiaan Triebert, June 14, 2018 (Video report).There are roughly 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria. Recently, a statement went out calling for direct attacks against them. Who sent it, and why?

Strategic Culture Foundation via SouthFront, Big War in Syria and World Cup in Russia Start This Week, Arkady Savitsky, June 14, 2018. Syria’s forces are ready to launch an offensive in the South aimed at liberating the Daraa-as-Suwayda-Quneitra area. Leaflets calling on militants to lay down their arms have already been air-dropped. The deadline has been set for June 14 — the day the World Cup kicks off in Moscow. Syria’s armed forces are going to defend their homeland and kick out the invading terrorist gangs.

The security concerns expressed by Israel and Jordan have been taken into consideration. The Syrian government has promised that no Iranian or pro-Iranian forces will take positions close to Israeli or Jordanian borders. All other issues can be addressed and negotiated. If need be, Moscow can act as a mediator as it has successfully done before.

It had been a long time since the Islamic State (IS) had been portrayed in the media as a force to be reckoned with. It had been reduced to insignificance and held only small areas. There were other jihadist gangs that posed a bigger threat. Just a few days ago, it seemed clear that the terrorist-held land in the South was the only relatively large area still outside of the government’s control and that the final victory over the jihadists was close at hand. Now the situation has drastically altered. Watching the ever-changing map (Syria Live Map), one wonders how such developments could occur. No doubt there is a plan to direct the situation as it evolves and nothing is being done without a purpose.

All of a sudden the IS forces, evidently reinforced and well supplied, reappeared to attack Sukriah and Al Hamdan.

On June 11, the Russian Defense Ministry warned that the FSA fighters assisted by US special operation forces are preparing to stage a provocation in the form of a chlorine attack, in order to provide a pretext for US air strikes against Syrian government forces. We are in for a big war in Syria that will start at almost the same time the World Cup in Russia kicks off. It’s important to know in advance who started the whole thing and who should be held responsible for the consequences.

syrian white helmetsSouthFront, US Resumes Financial Aid To White Helmets, Staff report, June 14, 2018. On June 14, US President Donald Trump authorized the United States Agency for International Development and the U.S. Department of State to allocate approximately $6.6 million to fund the Syrian Civil Defense, that is known as the “White Helmets,” and the UN’s Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM)

In an official press release, the U.S. Department of State stressed the US support for the controversial Syrian organization and described its acts as “heroic.”

“The United States Government strongly supports the White Helmets who have saved more than 100,000 lives since the conflict began, including victims of Assad’s chemical weapons attacks. These heroic first responders have one of the most dangerous jobs in the world and continue to be deliberately targeted by the Syrian regime and Russian airstrikes,” the U.S. Department of State said in its press release.

The U.S. Department of State suspended its financial support for the White Helmets on May 3. Back then, the US TV channel CBS reported that the Department of State was reviewing its support for the Syrian organization.

The U.S is not the only supporter of the White Helmets, radical groups such as Hay’at Tahrir al-Sahm (HTS), which is labeled by the U.S. as a terrorist organization, also back the organization to facilitate its work. Former leader of HTS Abu Jaber Shaykh and radical Saudi cleric Abdullah al-Muhaysini even stressed their support for the White Helmets in a public video, which was released last year.

The Syrian organization was also accused by Russia and the Damascus government of covering up militants’ crimes and of staging fake chemical attacks to provoke a U.S. military action against the Syrian Arab Army (SAA). The most notable case was the alleged chemical attack in the district of Duma earlier this year.

Most of the US funds will likely find its way to the White Helmets centers in areas controlled by the former branch of al-Qaeda in Syria HTS and other al-Qaeda-affiliated groups. This poses a serious threat, especially that the U.S has no real mechanism to track these founds once they are delivered to the organization.

Torture/Civil Rights

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Internal CIA Docs: ‘Enhanced Interrogation’ Is Torture, James Henry, June 14, 2018. A recently released CIA report from 1956 shows the agency once condemned the torture techniques of communist regimes as immoral. Only the agency would later end up using many of those same methods and worse in the War on Terror.

A New Media Merger

asne logoAmerican Society of Newspaper Editors, ASNE, APME agree to pursue merger plan, Staff report, June 14, 2018.The American Society of News Editors and the Associated Press Media Editors are advancing a merger plan aimed at creating a new journalism leadership organization. The executive teams of ASNE and APME met Sunday in New York City and agreed to proceed with merger recommendations developed over months of talks between the groups.

"The new organization will support current news leaders, help develop emerging leaders and represent a stronger, more unified voice that defends a free and independent press."

Justice Integrity Project Editor Andrew Kreig is a member of ASNE and authored two columns last month for its quarterly newsletter..

June 13

Trump Counsel To Take Plea Deal?

michael cohen 7 14 2015 cnn custom

abc news logoThe Hill, Cohen likely to cooperate with federal prosecutors: report, Julia Manchester, June 13, 2018. President Trump's longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen (shown above in a screenshot from the 2016 presidential campaign) is likely to cooperate with federal prosecutors in New York, ABC News reported Wednesday, citing sources.

A source told the network that the law firm that has been representing Cohen is not expected to work with him going forward. Replacements for the lawyers have not been named. Attorneys Stephen Ryan and Todd Harrison from New York firm McDermott, Will & Emery LLP had previously been representing Cohen [who was also an executive with the Republican National Committee because of his fundraising].

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York is investigating Cohen for various possible crimes, including potential bank fraud and campaign finance violations.

stormy daniels djt insight 1 19 2018 CustomThe FBI raided Cohen's home, office and hotel room in April as part of the probe. Some of the materials taken in the raid were reportedly connected to the $130,000 payment Cohen made to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, who alleges she had an affair with Trump in 2006. Cohen paid Daniels (shown on a magazine cover this year), whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, shortly before the 2016 presidential election in an effort to keep her silent about the alleged affair.

Trump has acknowledged that he reimbursed Cohen for the payment, but he has denied that the affair with Daniels took place.

A federal judge ruled on Friday that Cohen's legal team must publicly file any challenge they make against a special master's decision on evidence seized from Cohen during the raid. Only 162 of the hundreds of thousands of materials seized in the raid have been declared to have attorney-client protection. Cohen has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged with a crime.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason Michael Cohen has decided to flip on Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, June 13, 2018. Michael Cohen has parted ways with his criminal defense attorneys who had been coordinating with Donald Trump’s legal team, even as ABC News reports that Cohen is preparing to cut a plea deal against Trump. But why now?

The first clue came when Vanity Fair reported yesterday that Michael Cohen has been telling his associates that he expects to be arrested any day now. Sure enough, Katy Tur just now announced on MSNBC that Cohen has in fact been informed by prosecutors that his arrest is imminent. But there’s more to this.

Cutting a plea deal won’t save Michael Cohen from being arrested. Paul Manafort has a new arraignment hearing this Friday on charges that he tried to tamper with the witnesses against him, and it’ll almost surely result in his immediate imprisonment. This may motivate Manafort to cut a plea deal. In addition, Roger Stone appears to be days away from arrest based on grand jury proceedings, and he could also be looking to cut a plea deal. In other words, Michael Cohen suddenly has competition when it comes to getting the best plea deal possible. He may simply be trying to beat Manafort and Stone to the punch.

Reviewing Korean Summit

ny times logoNew York Times, North Korea Says It Won Major Concessions From Trump in Singapore, Choe Sang-Hun, June 13, 2018. Pyongyang claims President Trump agreed to a “step-by-step” denuclearization process, rather than an immediate dismantling of its nuclear program.

North Korean flagA day after its leader’s historic talks with President Trump, North Korea wasted no time on Wednesday spinning the results in its favor, claiming it had won major concessions from the United States. The authoritarian country’s state-controlled news media said that Mr. Trump had promised to eventually lift sanctions against the North and to end joint military drills with South Korea. It also said the United States had agreed to a phased, “step-by-step” denuclearization process for the North, rather than the immediate dismantling of its nuclear capability.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump says N. Korea ‘no longer’ a nuclear threat amid questions over summit, John Wagner, June 13, 2018. President Trump’s rosy assessment of the meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un came despite questions from allies, lawmakers and analysts over the substance of what was achieved in the push to rid Pyongyang of nuclear weapons.

washington post logoWashington Post, Reporters thought this video was North Korea propaganda. It came from the White House, Avi Selk, June 13, 2018 (print edition). Before the news conference President Trump held at the end of his June 12 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a propaganda-style film was played. Golden sunrises. Gleaming skylines and high-speed trains. Children skipping through Kim Il Sung square in Pyongyang, North Korean flags waving between images of Egyptian pyramids, the Taj Mahal and the Lincoln Memorial.

djt kim jong un djt wave singapore 6 12 18 CustomIn a split-screen shot, Kim Jong Un waved to an adoring crowd while President Trump stood beside him with his thumb in the air. The pair appeared over and over again, like running mates in a campaign video.

Some journalists, unable to understand the Korean-language narration, assumed they were watching one of Pyongyang's infamous propaganda films. “What country are we in?” asked a reporter from the filing center. But then the video looped, playing this time in English. And then Trump walked onto the stage and explained that the film was not North Korean propaganda.

jacob hornberger headshotFuture of Freedom Foundation, Opinion: Trump Got Played in Singapore, But That’s a Good Thing, Jacob G. Hornberger (shown at right), June 13, 2018. Today, we have President Trump and his conservative acolytes telling us that North Korea’s unelected communist tyrant is an honorable man and a man who can be trusted to keep his word. Never mind that he is an assassin, murderer, torturer, censor, enslaver, and destroyer of liberty. Everything has now changed. You can trust the communist tyrants to be honorable people, people of their word.

otto warmbier press conferenceAmong the weirdest parts of this entire episode is that relating to Otto Warmbier, the University of Virginia student who was returned by North Korean officials in a coma and then later died. Warmbier (shown in a North Korean video making a coerced apology) had been convicted of trying to steal a North Korean propaganda poster and sentenced to serve many years in jail at hard labor in a North Korean prison camp.

As recently as the 2018 Korean Olympics a few months ago, Trump was claiming that Warmbier’s coma was caused by brutal torture at the hands of North Korean officials. He was essentially accusing the North Korean communists of murdering Warmbier.

Today? Trump is saying that Warmbier’s death helped contribute to the Singapore summit between Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jung Un.

What? How in the world did the supposed murder of an American citizen by a brutal communist regime bring about a summit between Trump and the presumed murderer of Warmbier? Moreover, how did it lead to Trump’s remarkable conclusion that the supposed murderer is now an honorable man, one who tells the truth and can be trusted?

U.S. Politics

Purges of Civil Service

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Trump Sets Stage for Federal Worker Purges, Celia Wexler, June 13, 2018. Over the first 500 days of the new administration, there has not been a dramatic increase in whistleblower complaints. But new Trump policies, and a drive to cut federal budgets, may make all federal employees — especially

Democratic-Republican Campaign logos

Roll Call, South Carolina’s Mark Sanford Falls in GOP Primary, Simone Pathé, June 13, 2018. South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford (shown at republican elephant logoright) on Tuesday became the second incumbent of the year to fall in a Republican primary, losing to a challenger who questioned his loyalty to President Donald Trump. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, state Rep. Katie Arrington was leading Sanford 51 percent to 47 percent when The Associated Press called the race.

For the incumbent, it was his first electoral loss over a career that began with his first election to the House in 1994.

U.S. House logoTrump took aim at Sanford on Twitter just hours before the polls closed Tuesday in South Carolina. “Mark Sanford has been very unhelpful to me in my campaign to MAGA. He is MIA and nothing but trouble. He is better off in Argentina,” the president said, hinting at an earlier episode from the congressman’s time as South Carolina governor. Trump then told voters to support Arrington.

Donald Trump Logo Make America Great AgainShe also tried to tap into longtime uneasiness with the incumbent, who’s been a familiar name to Lowcountry voters. After serving three terms in the House, he later served as governor for eight years, but his tenure was marred by his disappearance for several days in 2009. His office said he was hiking the Appalachian Trail but he was actually visiting his mistress in Argentina.

 The Hill, Brothel owner wins GOP primary in Nevada, Reid Wilson,June 13, 2018. The owner of some of the country's few remaining legal brothels is a step away from claiming a seat in Nevada's state legislature after he won a Republican primary in a rural district outside Las Vegas on Tuesday.

Dennis Hof, the owner of the Moonlite Bunny Ranch and a handful of other legal brothels and the star of the HBO series "Cathouse," took 43 percent of the vote on Tuesday. He beat out Assemblyman James Oscarson (R), who claimed 36 percent of the vote, and a third candidate who took 21 percent.

republican elephant logoHof mounted his second bid for public office after state officials proposed banning brothels from operating in two of the seven counties in which they are still legal. In April, he campaigned alongside Roger Stone, President Trump's longtime political adviser. Hof is highly likely to win the seat in November's midterm elections, when he will face Democrat Lesia Romanov. The district, mainly centered in Nye County, gave Trump more than a two-to-one edge over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Inside DC

scott pruitt epa o Customwashington post logoWashington Post, Pruitt tapped aide, donors to help wife land job at conservative group, Juliet Eilperin, Josh Dawsey, Brady Dennis and Shawn Boburg, June 13, 2018. The search and Marlyn Pruitt’s eventual hiring at the Judicial Crisis Network — as a temporary independent contractor — raises more ethics questions for Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt, shown at right.

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ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: AT&T Ruling Shows Need to Reboot Antitrust Laws, James B. Stewart, June 13, 2018. Antitrust experts say the enforcement of laws governing mergers should be updated to reflect major changes to the economy over the past 40 years. Related story: After Merger Approval, Focus Shifts to Comcast and Disney.

ny times logoNew York Times, Cable Giant Comcast Offers $65 Billion for 21st Century Fox, Edmund Lee and Brooks Barnes, June 13, 2018. The cash offer for the bulk of 21st Century Fox’s businesses sets the stage for a bidding war with Disney, which has already struck a deal for $52.4 billion for Rupert Murdoch’s empire.

ICE logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Scanning immigrants’ old fingerprints, U.S. threatens to strip thousands of citizenship, Nick Miroff​, June 13, 2018. The new policy is an unprecedented push to target foreigners who entered false or fraudulent application forms years ago. The Trump administration is analyzing decades-old fingerprints in an unprecedented effort to rescind American citizenship from immigrants who may have lied or falsified information on their naturalization forms.

Revoking citizenship, a process known as denaturalization, has long been treated as a rare and relatively drastic measure by immigration authorities, reserved for foreigners who commit egregious crimes or acts of fraud, or pose a threat to national security.

But under a new policy memo issued by L. Francis Cissna, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency is investigating thousands of old fingerprint records and files to determine whether foreigners made false or fraudulent statements in their attempts to obtain legal residency in the United States.

According to USCIS officials and documents reviewed by The Washington Post, Homeland Security investigators are digitizing fingerprints collected in the 1990s and comparing them with more recent prints provided by foreigners who apply for legal residency and U.S. citizenship. If decades-old fingerprints gathered during a deportation match those of someone who did not disclose that deportation on their naturalization application or used a different name, that individual could be targeted by a new Los Angeles-based investigative division.

Climate Change

washington post logoWashington Post, Antarctic ice loss has tripled in a decade, study finds, Chris Mooney, June 13, 2018. Antarctica’s melting ice sheet is now pouring more than 200 billion tons of ice into the ocean annually. If the acceleration continues, some of scientists’ worst fears about rising oceans could be realized, leaving low-lying cities and communities with less time to prepare than they had hoped.

Global War Crime, Rights Disputes

Moon of Alabama, Yemen -- The Starvation Siege Has Begun, B, June 13, 2018. Last night the Saudi coalition launched its attack on the city of Hodeidah in Yemen. Hodeidah is the only Yemeni harbor on the Red Sea coast that can take large vessels. It is ruled by the Houthi who in 2014 took over the capital Sanaa and disposed of the Saudi installed Hadi government. 90% of the food for the 18 million people living in Houthi controlled areas comes through Hodeidah.

Politico, Judge green-lights 'kill list' lawsuit, Josh Gerstein, June 13, 2018. A lawsuit challenging the U.S. government's use of a so-called kill list to target suspected terrorists for drone attack overseas can go forward in part, a federal judge ruled Wednesday,

U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer rejected the government's bid to dismiss the entirety of the the case brought last year by former Al Jazeera Islamabad bureau chief Ahmad Zaidan and freelance journalist Bilal Kareem. Both men said they were nearly killed in a series of U.S. drone strikes overseas, leading them to conclude that they have been placed on a list approved targets for deadly drone attacks carried out by American forces.

Collyer threw out the claims raised by Zaidan, a Pakistani and Syrian citizen, but said Kareem, who is U.S. citizen, can proceed with several of his claims that the so-called kill list process violates his constitutional rights.

"Due process is not merely an old and dusty procedural obligation required by Robert's Rules. Instead, it is a living, breathing concept that protects U.S. persons from overreaching government action even, perhaps, on an occasion of war," wrote Collyer, an appointee of President George W. Bush. "As a U.S. citizen, he seeks to clarify his status and profession to Defendants and, thereby, assert his right to due process and a prior opportunity to be heard. His interest in avoiding the erroneous deprivation of his life is uniquely compelling."

Collyer rejected arguments from Justice Department attorneys that the case raised political questions ill-suited for resolution by the judicial branch and intruded on military judgments left to the executive.

The lawsuit was brought by Reprieve, a London-based human rights group. Collyer dismissed Trump as a defendant for technical reasons. The case will proceed against several agencies and their leaders, including the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Department and the Justice Department.
A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the ruling.

TrumpWorld

Daily Kos, Rudy Giuliani's soon-to-be third ex-wife says he was cheating ... again. And where is Rudy? Jen Hayden, June 13, 2018. Rudy Giuliani, the current personal attorney of Donald J. Trump, is making news again, perhaps not in the way he’d hoped. It was just last week that Giuliani said Trump’s former mistress wasn’t to be believed because, “just look at her.” rudy giuliani recentHe pissed off women nationwide with his misogynistic comments, possibly including his soon-to-be ex-wife.His third ex-wife.

New York gossip website, Page Six, is reporting their impending divorce is the result of Rudy's cheating ways:

As The Post exclusively reported Tuesday, Giuliani has been cheating on wife Judith Nathan with married New Hampshire hospital administrator Maria Rosa Ryan, according to sources.

Giuliani denied the affair to The Post, although he added that the dinner and movie he shared with Ryan at a posh spa March 29 — five days before Nathan filed for divorce — occurred when he “was in effect separated.”

Nathan shot back in a statement, “My husband’s denial of the affair with the married Mrs. Ryan is as false as his claim that we were separated when he took up with her.”

Of course, Rudy Giuliani has a history of being an unfaithful ass to women. He began publicly flaunting his relationship with Judith Nathan in 2000, while he was married to Donna Hanover. And if you think breaking up with someone by text is bad, recall that Donna Hanover found out her marriage was over when Rudy held a press conference announcing he was divorcing her. It was ugly:

Then, on May 10, he held a press conference announcing that he and Hanover were separating — without informing her first. Hanover, after learning the news of her dissolved marriage along with everyone else, then held her own press conference a few hours later, accusing Giuliani of starting their troubles by carrying on a different affair with former staffer. Giuliani officially filed divorce papers in October of that year, and it continued to get uglier. Hanover even successfully obtained a temporary restraining order barring Nathan from visiting Gracie Mansion.

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ny times logoNew York Times, The Billionaire Behind Trump’s Links to Arab Princes, David D. Kirkpatrick, June 13, 2018. The connections nurtured by the financier Tom Barrack (shown above in a CBS interview) look to have paid off handsomely for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — and for his business.

The billionaire financier Tom Barrack was caught in a bind. In April 2016, his close friend Donald J. Trump was about to clinch the Republican presidential nomination. But Mr. Trump’s outspoken hostility to Muslims — epitomized by his call for a ban on Muslim immigrants — was offending the Persian Gulf princes Mr. Barrack had depended on for decades as investors and buyers.

Not deterred, Mr. Barrack, a longtime friend who had done business with the ambassador, assured him that Mr. Trump understood the Persian Gulf perspective. “He also has joint ventures in the U.A.E.!” Mr. Barrack wrote in an email on April 26.

The emails were the beginning of Mr. Trump’s improbable transformation from a candidate who campaigned against Muslims to a president celebrated in the royal courts of Riyadh and Abu Dhabi as perhaps the best friend in the White House that their rulers have ever had. It is a shift that testifies not only to Mr. Trump’s special flexibility, but also to Mr. Barrack’s unique place in the Trump world, at once a fellow tycoon and a flattering courtier, a confidant and a power broker.

Genocide Crisis?

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ny times logoNew York Times, Arab Coalition Attacks Yemeni City in Bid to Oust Rebels, Margaret Coker, June 13, 2018. United Nations officials and others said they feared an assault on the city of Hudaydah would worsen what is already the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.

uae embassy sealThe world’s worst humanitarian disaster could be about to get even worse. The main port, which millions of Yemenis rely on for food and other supplies, was invaded early Wednesday by a coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates

The attack, following several days of failed diplomacy, seemed aimed at tipping the balance in Yemen’s long-running civil war against the Houthi rebels, who control the port, Hudaydah, and armed forces loyal to the Saudis and Emiratis. But any sustained fighting could deepen what is already a catastrophic humanitarian situation.

After years of war, eight million of Yemen’s estimated 28 million people are at risk of starvation, and about a quarter of a million in Hudaydah are in danger of injury or death if urban assault intensifies, according to the United Nations and aid agencies.

Media: Newspaper Evaluates Reporter's Work

james wolf ali watkins

Former Senate Intelligence Committee staffer James Wolfe and New York Times reporter Ali Watkins (file photos)

ny times logoNew York Times, New York Times, Examines Work History of Reporter in Leak Case, Michael M. Grynbaum, June 13, 2018 (print edition). The New York Times is reviewing the work history of Ali Watkins, a Washington-based reporter at the newspaper whose email and phone records were seized by prosecutors in a leak investigation case that has prompted an outcry among press advocates.

The private communications of Ms. Watkins, 26, who joined The Times in December, were obtained by the Justice Department as part of an investigation into a former Senate Intelligence Committee aide, James A. Wolfe, who was charged last week with making false statements to the F.B.I.

Ms. Watkins and Mr. Wolfe, 57, had an extended personal relationship that ended last year. Prosecutors suspected that Mr. Wolfe had leaked classified intelligence to reporters, a claim that he denies.

2026 World Cup Bid Goes To North Americans

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S., Mexico and Canada win bid to host the 2026 World Cup, Steven Goff​, June 13, 2018. In a boost for American soccer, the United States will join forces with its neighbors to organize the wildly popular tournament, returning the competition to North America for the first time since 1994. The joint bid beat out one from Morocco. The member associations in FIFA, the sport’s governing body, favored the North American effort, known as the United Bid, in a landslide vote, 134-65.

American FlagIn an agreement announced when the bid launched last year, the United States will stage 60 of the 80 matches, including all from the quarterfinals on, while Mexico and Canada will get 10 apiece.

Wednesday’s vote, conducted during the FIFA Congress at Moscow’s expo center, provided a much-needed victory for American soccer, which is in the process of rebuilding the men’s program in the wake of last fall’s failure to qualify for this summer’s World Cup in Russia. With the Americans absent for the first time since 1986, the tournament will begin Thursday in Moscow with Russia facing Saudi Arabia.

Voting, Crime, Courts

ny times logocrystal mason mugshot CustomNew York Times, Texas Woman Sentenced to 5 Years in Prison for Voter Fraud Loses Bid for New Trial, Sandra E. Garcia, June 13, 2018. A judge who sentenced a Texas woman to five years in prison for voting illegally because she was a felon turned down on Monday the woman’s bid for a new trial.

“Prison is a lot closer for her today,” Alison Grinter, a lawyer for the woman, Crystal Mason (shown right in mug), 43, said on Tuesday, noting that her client would appeal the decision to a higher court. Ms. Mason was convicted of illegal voting in a one-day trial held March 28 before Judge Ruben Gonzalez, a state district court judge who sentenced her that day to five years in prison. She has been free on bond pending appeal.

rand paul cbs 1 10 2016

Slate, Rand Paul: We now know more about why neighbor tackled him over landscaping, Molly Olmstead, June 12, 2018. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (R, shown above in a file photo) was hospitalized in November with broken ribs and bruised lungs after his next-door neighbor tackled him on his own lawn. The bizarre, extreme nature of the violence between the two older men in an affluent Kentucky suburb sparked immediate speculation: What could have caused this neighbor to become so blinded by rage?

Now, as the neighbor, retired anesthesiologist Rene Boucher, has admitted guilt and is requesting a sentence of probation instead of prison time, more details have emerged about their feud.

In a 10-page memorandum filed Friday and obtained by the Bowling Green Daily News, Boucher’s attorney argued that the prosecution’s request of 21 months in prison was too severe, given Boucher’s reputation as a “pillar of his community” and the isolated nature of the offense.

The memorandum describes a simmering anger that started in the summer of 2017 and that, as has been previously reported, dealt with a minor lawn dispute over the pruning of some trees. In the fall, that-low simmering anger grew hotter. Boucher full-body tackled Paul. Boucher, according to his account, told Paul afterward that “he wanted this to stop.” Paul replied that Boucher would be getting a visit from the police. Boucher will be sentenced on Friday.

ny times logomichael horowitz CustomNew York Times, Watchdog of Justice Dept. to Report on F.B.I. Clinton Inquiry, Katie Benner, June 13, 2018. Michael E. Horowitz (right), the Justice Department’s inspector general, plans to issue on Thursday a highly anticipated report about the F.B.I.’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.

Celebrity Scandals

Associated Press, Man at center of Nobel Prize scandal charged with rape, Staff report, June 13, 2018. The man at the center of a sex-abuse and financial crimes scandal that is tarnishing the academy that awards the Nobel Prize in Literature was charged on Tuesday with two counts of rape of a woman in 2011. Swedish prosecutor Christina Voigt said the evidence “is robust and sufficient for prosecution.”

Jean-Claude Arnault, a well-known figure in Sweden who ran a cultural center, is married to Katarina Frostenson, a poet and member of the Swedish Academy. He has denied this and other sex abuse allegations. In April, the Swedish Academy said an internal investigation into sexual misconduct allegations found that “unacceptable behavior in the form of unwanted intimacy” has taken place within the ranks of the prestigious institution.

New York Post, Geraldo Rivera’s son charged with choking ex-girlfriend in fight, Rebecca Rosenberg, June 13, 2018. Geraldo Rivera’s son charged with choking ex-girlfriend in fight. The son of Fox News commentator Geraldo Rivera — who was busted last month for beating up his ex-girlfriend — was slapped with a new charge Wednesday for choking her in an earlier fight.

Cruz Rivera, 30, wearing a preppy sweater vest and blue tie, was arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court on the new obstruction of breathing rap for the April 28 attack in his Washington Heights pad. The former TV host’s son was collared last month for choking and biting ex-gal pal Meghan Burke during a May 1 brawl in the same apartment on West 175th Street. Prosecutors on Wednesday offered him a re-pleader deal that would cover both assaults and leave him with no record.

Show Business / Football

NBC 5 (Dallas), Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders Paid Less Than Mascot: Lawsuit, Jack Highberger and Chris Blake, June 13, 2018. "When you are on the team you are scared to speak out or stand up for yourself," A former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader is suing the team for what she claims are unfair labor practices, according to a lawsuit.

Erica Wilkins, a Cowboys cheerleader for three seasons, sued the team Tuesday under the Fair Labor Standards Act for failing to pay her time-and-a-half for overtime hours she worked during her tenure with the team.

The lawsuit alleged Wilkins, who was a cheerleader from 2014-2017 "routinely worked in excess of 40 hours per workweek while performing her cheerleading duties" for the Cowboys.

WhoWhatWhy, Trump Sets Stage for Federal Worker Purges, Celia Wexler, June 13, 2018. Over the first 500 days of the new administration, there has not been a dramatic increase in whistleblower complaints. But new Trump policies, and a drive to cut federal budgets, may make all federal employees — especially those who challenge White House policies — much more vulnerable.

June 12

Judge Approves AT&T-Warner Merger

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washington post logoWashington Post, AT&T-Time Warner approved, paving way for more mergers, Tony Romm and Brian Fung, June 12, 2018. A federal judge handed AT&T a massive win that could clip the ambitions of regulators trying to block mergers. The case has been viewed as a bellwether for other deals waiting in the wings.

Richard Leon newA federal judge, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon (shown at right), approved AT&T's $85 billion purchase of Time Warner on Tuesday, handing the telecom giant a massive victory that could clip the ambitions of U.S. regulators seeking to block big corporate tie-ups.

The case – one of the most closely watched antitrust trials in decades - is viewed as a bellwether for other deals waiting in the wings. From Comcast’s bid for 21st Century Fox to CVS’s acquisition of Aetna, massive corporations increasingly have sought to expand their reach by buying up companies in different lines of business. The judge’s decision, which is allowing AT&T to merge with Time Warner without conditions, shows the federal government may struggle to rein in such mergers.

“I think for business, in general, it’s going to be seen as a green light for mergers. I think you’ll see a lot of people using it as an opportunity to push mergers they may have been thinking about,” said Ed Black, president of the Computers and Communications Industry Association, a trade group in Washington, D.C. that represents companies like Amazon, Facebook and Google.

AT&T now gets a premier piece of the entertainment world. The decision means the telecom giant will now control highly-sought after programming – including Game of Thrones, the Harry Potter movie franchise, and CNN – as well as the infrastructure that delivers that content to tens of millions of living rooms televisions and smartphones. Beyond its wireless network and internet service, AT&T acquired DirecTV in a $67 billion deal in 2015, which also had the blessings of government regulators.

Recap of Trump-Kim Summit, Implications

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ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Sees Shared Path After Kim Meeting, Mark Landler, June 12, 2018. Expects Dismantling of Nuclear Arsenal ‘Very Quickly.’ President Trump and Kim Jong-un of North Korea had their first meeting, a big step in an improbable courtship. In a joint statement short on details, Mr. Kim endorsed “complete denuclearization.” Mr. Trump committed to “security guarantees” for the North. Sanctions against the country will remain.

President Trump shook hands with Kim Jong-un of North Korea on Tuesday and offered a major concession during the first summit meeting between their nations, a momentous step in an improbable courtship between the world’s largest nuclear power and the most reclusive one.

North Korean flagBrash, impulsive leaders who only a few months ago taunted each other across a nuclear abyss, Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim set aside their threats in a gamble that for now, at least, personal diplomacy can counteract decades of enmity and distrust.

Emerging from a day of talks in Singapore and speaking to reporters for more than an hour, Mr. Trump said that he was suspending joint military exercises with South Korean forces and that he was confident Mr. Kim would begin dismantling his nuclear arsenal “very quickly.”

But Mr. Trump said economic sanctions against the North would remain in place until the North did more.

djt kim jong un singapore table 6 12 18 Custom

ap logoAssociated Press via New York Times, U.S. to Halt Military Exercises, Staff report, June 12, 2018. Mr. Trump said the U.S. would suspend joint military exercises with South Korean forces, an apparent concession to North Korea. President Trump said Tuesday that he was suspending military exercises on the Korean Peninsula and that he expected the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, to move “very quickly” to dismantle his nuclear arsenal after a day of discussions in Singapore. But Mr. Trump said economic sanctions against North Korea would remain in place.

djt kim jong un djt wave singapore 6 12 18 Custom

Trade, Economy

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ny times logoNew York Times, The Trump Adviser Who Said Trudeau Has a ‘Place in Hell,’ Deborah B. Solomon, June 12, 2018 (print edition). Provocative statements are nothing new for Peter Navarro, a Harvard-trained economist and longtime China critic who has taken a leading role in overseeing Mr. Trump’s trade policy.

Peter Navarro, one of President Trump’s top trade advisers, leaned into Mr. Trump’s trade fight with Canada, telling “Fox News Sunday” that there was a justin trudeau twitter“special place in hell” for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada (shown at left).

Mr. Navarro, echoing Mr. Trump’s fiery language in the wake of a fractious Group of 7 summit meeting, said that “weak, dishonest Justin Trudeau” tried to “stab” the president in the back.

canadian flagMr. Trump dispensed with global economic diplomacy late Saturday when he refused to sign a joint statement with America’s allies, threatening to escalate his trade war on the country’s neighbors and blasting Mr. Trudeau as “very dishonest and weak.” Mr. Trump accused Mr. Trudeau of making false statements and threatened to retaliate against Canada with auto and other tariffs.

Mr. Navarro supported that approach on Sunday, saying that “when it comes to these trade disputes, these allies basically are robbing us blind.”

Canadian Rebukes Of Trump

The Hill, Canadian parliament condemns Trump attacks on Trudeau, Morgan Gstalter, June 12, 2018. Canada’s House of Commons on Monday unanimously condemned President Trump and his aides on for attacks targeting the country’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Lawmakers approved a motion that rejected “disparaging ad hominem statements by U.S. officials which do a disservice to bilateral relations,” Reuters reported.

The symbolic move came after Peter Navarro, the White House National Trade Council director said there is a “special place in hell” for any leader who engages in bad faith diplomacy with Trump.side him with his thumb in the air. The pair appeared over and over again, like running mates in a campaign video.

washington post logoWashington Post, Robert De Niro apologizes — to Canadians for the ‘idiotic behavior of my president,’ Allyson Chiu, June 12, 2018. When Robert De Niro stepped up to the microphone at an event in Toronto on Monday morning, he had a few more choice words to say about President Trump.

But unlike the expletive-filled rant that earned him a standing ovation at the Tony Awards less than 24 hours earlier, the Oscar-winning actor instead took a PG approach, apologizing to Canadians for Trump’s “idiotic behavior.”

“I just want to make a note of apology for the idiotic behavior of my president,” De Niro said, his comment prompting cheers from the crowd. The actor was attending a groundbreaking ceremony for a new development in downtown Toronto along with celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa, Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported. De Niro is a co-owner of the Nobu restaurant business.

TSA Airport Granny Security Video Goes Viral

washington post logoWashington Post, Watch the video of TSA officers doing a pat-down of a 96-year-old woman in a wheelchair that has people outraged, Lori Aratani, June 12, 2018. TSA officers at Dulles International Airport did an extensive pat-down of a 96-year-old woman in a wheelchair, angering her daughter and thousands of others who have watched video of the incident online.

us dhs big eagle logo4The woman’s daughter, Jeanne LaBrier Clarkson, of Anderson, Ind. posted the video on her Facebook page. It shows a female TSA officer searching a woman Clarkson identifies as her mother, who is in a wheelchair.

“My 96 year old mother being extensively searched by the TSA,” Clarkson wrote. “The 3 of us were all in wheelchairs. Only my 96 year old mother was subjected to this prolonged, repetitive search.” The post has nearly 9 million views and more than 140,000 shares.

#MeToo Cover-up Claims Against Priests In Chile

washington post logopope francis uncropped 3 13Washington Post, Pope Francis at last opens his eyes on clergy sex abuse, Editorial Board, June 12, 2018. The world has heard it again and again — heartfelt, ringing pledges by Pope Francis (shown in a file photo) and his predecessors that the Vatican, at long last, has gotten the message on the global epidemic of clerical sex abuse. These often have been followed by half-measures, equivocations, inertia and even outright contempt for accusers, who in most cases were victimized as children.

Now, five years into his papacy, there are signs, at last, that Pope Francis is starting to get it.

In an extraordinary move, he summoned all 34 of Chile’s bishops to the Vatican last month for an emergency summit and dressing-down, accusing them of collective responsibility for systematically ignoring and covering up for pedophile priests over decades. The pontiff included himself in the problem — “me first of all,” he wrote to the bishops — having in January summarily dismissed as “slander” credible accusations that a Chilean bishop, Juan Barros, whom he appointed in 2015 despite warnings by other prelates, was complicit in misdeeds by a notorious abusive priest.

Consumer News

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: How Net Neutrality Actually Ended Long Before This Week, Farhad Manjoo, June 12, 2018 (print edition). The internet was supposed to operate outside communications monopolies. Now it is run by giants — and net neutrality didn’t stand a chance, our columnist writes.

I remember the first time I ever heard about net neutrality. It was around 2004 or 2005, and when the full idea was explained to me — hey, let’s prevent phone and cable companies from influencing the content we see online — I was surprised there was even a fight about the idea.

It seemed obvious that the internet’s great promise was that it operated outside the purview of existing communications monopolies. Because phone and cable companies couldn’t easily dictate what happened online, the internet was exploding in dozens of genuinely new ideas. Among those back then were blogs, Skype, file-sharing, YouTube, Friendster, Netflix — ideas that scrambled our sense of what was possible in media and communication, and, in the process, posed existential threats to the established giants.

Probes Of Trump Team

washington post logoWashington Post, George Conway, lawyer and husband of Kellyanne, rebuts Trump on constitutionality of special counsel, Meagan Flynn, June 12, 2018. On the morning of his 500th day in office, June 4, President Trump turned his attention to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation.

On Monday evening, George Conway, a conservative lawyer, published a 3,500-word essay in which he called Trump’s tweet a “meritless legal position” rooted in an assumption from a conservative legal scholar that is “uncomplicatedly, flatly wrong.”

“The ‘constitutional’ arguments made against the special counsel … have little more rigor than the tweet that promoted them,” Conway wrote. “Such a lack of rigor, sadly, has been a disturbing trend in much of the politically charged public discourse about the law lately, and one that lawyers — regardless of their politics — owe a duty to abjure.”

Conway’s essay was notable not just for its analysis but for its venue, Lawfare, a highly regarded legal blog that has featured some of the strongest expert critiques of Trump’s conduct as president — and also for its author, a respected lawyer who happens to be married to one of Trump’s most visible advisers, Kellyanne Conway.

Vanity Fair, “The Era of Primal Trump”: Advisers worry that with Singapore in the rearview mirror, “It’s going to hit the fan pretty soon,” Gabriel Sherman, June 12, 2018. As Trump returns from Singapore after his historic, self-touted, inconclusive meeting with Kim Jong Un, people close to the president say the Mueller probe is reaching an inflection point. “It’s going to hit the fan pretty soon,” a friend of the president told me.

Within the next month, Mueller is reportedly planning to deliver his findings in the obstruction of justice investigation to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. “Donald is very worried,” said a Republican close to Trump. The difference is that Trump is now more unshackled than at any point in his presidency, meaning that firing Mueller or Rosenstein remains a possibility.

CNN, Rosenstein plans to call on House to investigate its own staff, Laura Jarrett, June 12, 2018. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's ongoing battle with House Republicans reached new heights Tuesday, as the No. 2 senior leader of the Justice Department plans to call on the House to investigate its own committee staff.

rod rosenstein us attorneyRosenstein, shown at left, has butted heads with House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes for months over a subpoena for documents related to the Russia investigation, but the battle spilled out into public view Tuesday after Fox News reported staff on the committee felt "personally attacked" at a meeting with Rosenstein in January.

Justice Department officials dispute the recounting of the closed-door meeting detailed in the story, and Rosenstein now plans to "request that the House general counsel conduct an internal investigation of these Congressional staffers' conduct" when he returns from a foreign trip this week, a Justice Department official said. "The Deputy Attorney General never threatened anyone in the room with a criminal investigation," the official said.

"The Deputy Attorney General was making the point -- after being threatened with contempt -- that as an American citizen charged with the offense of contempt of Congress, he would have the right to defend himself, including requesting production of relevant emails and text messages and calling them as witnesses to demonstrate that their allegations are false," the official added.

"That is why he put them on notice to retain relevant emails and text messages, and he hopes they did so." Another former US official, also present at the meeting, agreed that at no time did Rosenstein threaten any House staff with a criminal investigation.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Rod Rosenstein goes after Trump’s stooge Devin Nunes, Bill Palmer, June 12, 2018. As Donald Trump’s criminal scandals have grown worse, and the inevitability of his demise becomes more apparent, we’ve seen more Republicans in Congress seeking to distance themselves from him.

The most notable exception has been House Intel Committee Chair Devin Nunes, who is already so deeply caught up in Trump’s scandals, he probably has nothing more to lose by committing obstruction of justice in the name of trying to derail those scandals. But now Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has had enough, and he’s going after Nunes in clever fashion.

devin nunesFor months, Devin Nunes (shown at right) has been using his position as Chairman as an excuse to try to poke around at the evidence against him and Donald Trump in the Russia scandal. These efforts haven’t gotten him anywhere, but it’s nonetheless forced Rosenstein to play defense. Now Rosenstein has had enough and he’s playing offense.

Nunes’ staffers made the mistake of threatening to hold Rosenstein in contempt of Congress. Because they were threatening to formally accuse Rosenstein of a crime, he seized the opportunity to turn the whole thing on its head, according to a new report from CNN. He informed Nunes’ staffers that they will need to retain all emails and text messages going forward which relate in any way toward their accusations against him, because these communications are now evidence.

Here’s the part that Rod Rosenstein didn’t directly say, but he didn’t have to: if Devin Nunes’ staffers fail to retain their own texts and emails, or try to destroy them, they’ll have committed of obstruction of justice. He just took their false accusations and legal threats against him, and put them in a situation where they’ll either have to provide evidence of their own participation in the Trump-Nunes obstruction, or they’ll end up committing obstruction by not retaining that evidence. Rosenstein may have just backed Nunes’ staffers into a corner where they’ll have to flip on him.

More On Korean Summit

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump-Kim statement offers scant concrete evidence to back up North Korea’s pledge to ‘complete denuclearization,’ Dan Balz​, June 12, 2018. The joint communique stressed the historic nature of the meeting between the two leaders but included few details about the negotiations that lie ahead.

White House, Joint Statement of President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea at the Singapore Summit, June 12, 2018.

President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) held a first, historic summit in Singapore on June 12, 2018.

President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un conducted a comprehensive, in-depth, and sincere exchange of opinions on the issues related to the establishment of new U.S.–DPRK relations and the building of a lasting and robust peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK, and Chairman Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Convinced that the establishment of new U.S.–DPRK relations will contribute to the peace and prosperity of the Korean Peninsula and of the world, and recognizing that mutual confidence building can promote the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un state the following:

  • The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new U.S.–DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.
  • The United States and the DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.
  • Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
  • The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.

Having acknowledged that the U.S.–DPRK summit—the first in history—was an epochal event of great significance in overcoming decades of tensions and hostilities between the two countries and for the opening up of a new future, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un commit to implement the stipulations in this joint statement fully and expeditiously. The United States and the DPRK commit to hold follow-on negotiations, led by the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and a relevant high-level DPRK official, at the earliest possible date, to implement the outcomes of the U.S.–DPRK summit.

DONALD J. TRUMP
President of the United States of America

KIM JONG UN
Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

June 12, 2018
Sentosa Island
Singapore

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: First Thoughts On The Kim Trump Photo-Op Summit, B, June 12, 2018. This is not a deal, just a declaration. The 'denuclearization' commitment by the DPRK is aspirational. There is no equal commitment from the U.S. side. There is no time frame. As predicted the DPRK will not give up its nukes. It had good reasons to build them and the same reasons will let it keep them.

As long as talks are ongoing the DPRK will likely hold off on further nuclear and long range missile tests. The U.S. will likely stop large-scale maneuvers in and around Korea. This is the 'freeze for freeze' which North Korea long wanted and which China and Russia actively supported.

Further talks between the U.S. and North Korea will be slow walked and may not lead to significant progress in nuclear disarmament. Their main purpose is to hold off the U.S. while the real talks that between North and South Korea continue. This is what the "efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula" are really about.

moon jae in 2017 10 01The North Korean side played its cards exceptionally well. It built its capabilities under enormous pressure and used it to elevate the country to a real player on the international stage. The "maximum pressure" sanction campaign against it is now defused. China, Russia and South Korea will again trade with North Korea.

dennis rodman twitterIn pressing for an early summit Trump defused a conflict that otherwise might have ruined his presidency. The losers, for now, are the hawks in Japan, South Korea and Washington who tried their best to prevent this to happen. The winners are the people of Korea, Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump. Special prices go to President Moon Jae-in (above left) of South Korea and to Dennis Rodman (right) who did their best to make this happen.

Hastert Must Answer Civil Suit Abuse Questions

dennis hastert mugChicago Tribune, Disgraced ex-Speaker Hastert to be deposed this summer in sexual abuse lawsuit, Christy Gutowski, June 12, 2018. Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert (shown in a mug shot) is expected to answer questions under oath this summer as part of an explosive lawsuit brought by a former wrestler he coached decades ago whose sexual abuse allegations led to the disgraced politician’s dark past being brought to light.

During a brief court hearing Tuesday, Kendall County Judge Robert Pilmer urged both sides in the long-simmering litigation to complete depositions and other remaining discovery issues by the next court date. The judge said he is eager to set a trial date if lawyers do not reach a settlement by Aug. 20.

Book News: Alternative Voices

john barbour facebookCision Newswire, John Barbour Shares Behind The Scenes Tales From Decades In Hollywood, John Barbour (shown at right on his Facebook page), June 12, 2018. TrineDay Publishing is "proud and enthusiastic" to announce that John Barbour's autobiography, Your Mother's Not A Virgin!: The Bumpy Life & Times Of The Canadian Dropout Who Changed The Face Of American Television will be published in April 2019.

"It is more than a memoir; it is the most amazing, moving, inspiring, informative story I've ever read about a star in show business," says Kris Millegan, publisher at TrineDay. "The first third is about an unwanted neglected child turned thief and gambler, arrested often and deported twice from the U.S. It's right out of Angela's Ashes and Oliver Twist!"

john barbour real peopleThe remainder of the book is the inspiring penultimate American Dream. Barbour becomes the godfather of reality TV, creating and producing NBC's megahit Real People (shown as host at left). He also writes and directs two definitive documentaries on JFK's assassination. For over four years he is the personal writer to one of the most influential performers in the country, Frank Sinatra. He recounts a legendary dinner with comedic master George Burns. Barbour also performs at the historic comedy club The Hungry i. All of this happens as if predestined.

Barbour says, "Kris Millegan is that rarity in publishing today: he loves books. He's out to make a difference, publishing books by authors who have something to say – authors who tend to be overlooked by mainstream houses. I feel like I am with the Allstate of publishers, in very good hands!"

whowhatwhy logogoogle logo customWhoWhatWhy, Google’s Deep Involvement With the Pentagon, Peter B. Collins, June 12, 2018 (podcast). Google’s contract with the Pentagon for Project Maven — a controversial drone imaging program that uses artificial intelligence — prompted over 4,000 Google employees to sign a petition opposing the project, and about a dozen workers resigned in protest.

In response, Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene announced that the contract will not be extended, and that “there will be no follow-on to Maven.”

Inside DC

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washington post logoWashington Post, House to vote next week on two competing immigration bills after Republican negotiations on a compromise fall short, Mike DeBonis, June 12, 2018. The House is set to vote next week on two competing immigration bills after Republican negotiations on a compromise fall short. A dispute over immigration ­fueled by renegade GOP moderates was hijacked Tuesday by conservatives who prevented their fellow Republicans from sealing a deal that would have brought legislation to the House floor for the first time in years.

bob corkerRoll Call, Corker Unloads on Republicans for Being Afraid of Trump, Eric Garcia, June 12, 2018. Tennessee Republican (shown at right) said Republicans fear upsetting POTUS before midterms

Politico, Judge delays Manafort's first trial — again, Josh Gerstein, June 12, 2018. A federal judge in Virginia has again delayed the trial scheduled for next month for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on charges of tax evasion, bank fraud and failing to report foreign bank accounts.

June 11

ny times logoNorth Korean flagNew York Times, Trump and Kim, Who Traded Taunts, Meet Face to Face, Mark Landler, June 11, 2018. President Trump and Kim Jong-un of North Korea are having their first face-to-face meeting, a momentous step in an improbable courtship. Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim will try to resolve the crisis over North Korea’s nuclear program. It’s the first time a sitting American president and North Korean leader have met.

U.S.-Assisted Genocide Scheduled To Ramp Up June 12 In Yemen?

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U.S. military leaders show solidarity with the oil-rich absolute monarchy in a 2014 UAE National Day Celebration, a token of American support for UAE goals

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Yemen -- U.S. Grants Approval For Genocide, B, June 11, 2018. The genocide in Yemen is going to start tomorrow. Eight million uae embassy sealare already on the brink of starvation. Eighteen out of twenty-six million Yemenis live in the mountainous heartlands (green on map below) which are under control of the Houthi and their allies. They are surrounded by Saudi and U.A.E. forces and their mercenaries. There is little agriculture. The only supply line from the outside world will soon be cut off. The people will starve.

yemen map 6 11 2018

Even before the war, Yemen imported 90% of its staple food. Three years of Saudi/UAE bombing have destroyed local infrastructure and production. The ongoing war has already caused mass starvation and the outbreak of a large cholera American Flagepidemic. The Yemeni coast is under blockade by Saudi and U.S. naval forces. The only supplies coming in are UN and commercial deliveries through the Red Sea Hodeidah port (Al Hudaydah on the map).

The United Arab Emirates is leading local mercenaries and Islamist gangs against the Houthi and their allies. Tomorrow, when the media will be busy with the Kim-Trump photo-op summit, the UAE forces will launch their attack on the city.

UN logoThe UN, which oversees the aid distribution through Hodeidah, tried to negotiate between the parties. The UN is now evacuating its staff. Neither the Emirates nor the Saudis have any interest in letting humanitarian aid flow. They are absolutely ruthless.

Earlier today, they bombed a Cholera treatment center run by Doctors Without Borders. Neither the Emirates nor the Saudis have any interest in letting humanitarian aid flow.

High Court Approves GOP Purge of Voter Rolls

supreme court building

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court Upholds Ohio’s Aggressive Purge of Voting Rolls, Adam Liptak, June 11, 2018.  In a major voting rights case, the court ruled that a state may kick people off the rolls if they skip a few elections and fail to respond to a notice from state election officials. The vote was 5 to 4, with the more conservative justices in the majority.

Coping With Corporate Communications Changes

washington post logoWashington Post, So long to net neutrality, hello to bigger telecoms? The Web you know may never be the same, Tony Romm, June 11, 2018.Today marks the official end of the government’s net neutrality rules, a change that comes as a judge is expected to rule Tuesday on whether AT&T can buy Time Warner. The two developments could lead to further consolidation of wireless, cable and content giants, public-interest advocates say.

Two pivotal developments this week could dramatically expand the power and footprint of major telecom companies, altering how Americans access everything from political news to “Game of Thrones” on the Internet.

ajit pai headshot customMonday marks the official end of the U.S. government’s net neutrality rules, which had required broadband providers such as AT&T, Charter, Comcast and Verizon to treat all Web traffic equally. The repeal is part of a campaign by Ajit Pai (right), the Republican chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, to deregulate the telecom industry in a bid to boost its investments — particularly in rural areas.

“I think ultimately it’s going to mean better, faster, cheaper Internet access and more competition,” Pai said in an interview. Others disagree and will challenge Pai in court, while many states are fighting back with their own laws, further muddling the situation.

att logoOne day after the net neutrality changes, a federal judge is set to rule on Tuesday on whether AT&T can buy Time Warner. AT&T, already the country’s second-largest wireless network, stands to gain a content trove from Time Warner that includes HBO and CNN — leading the Justice Department, which filed the lawsuit, to argue that the company could harm its rivals.

ny times logoNew York Times, How You Could Be Affected Now That Net Neutrality Is Over, Keith Collins, June 11, 2018. Net Neutrality rules that required internet service providers to offer equal access to all web content are no longer in effect as of Monday.

Summit On Korea

jacob hornberger headshotFuture of Freedom Foundation, Opinion: The Bizarre Trump-Kim Summit, Jacob G. Hornberger (right), June 11, 2018. Overlooked in all of the hullabaloo over the summit in North Korea between President Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un are two bizarre things: One, the U.S. government is the root cause of the crisis that Trump is trying to resolve and, two, the fact that South Korean president Moon Jae-in is not an equal player in the summit.

Inside DC

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Trump son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump, another senior White House advisor, shown last July on one of their trips

washington post logoWashington Post, Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump made at least $82M in outside income last year while serving in the White House, Amy Brittain, Ashley Parker and Anu Narayanswamy​, June 11, 2018. New filings show how the president’s daughter and son-in-law are collecting immense sums from other enterprises while serving in the White House, an extraordinary income flow that ethics experts have warned could create potential conflicts of interests.

Consortium News, French Thought Police and the Creeping Dictatorship of Virtue, Jean Bricmont, June 11, 2018, A new French law to combat so-called “fake news” fits in all too well with the growing establishment campaign to censor dissident opinion by one means or another, argues Jean Bricmont.

The law is superfluous to start with, since the existing 1881 French press law already sanctions insults, defamation and the artificial creation of panic, such as shouting fire in a crowded theater. But Macron’s government wants to go much farther, outlawing the spread of “false information”, obscurely defined as “alleging or lending credibility to a fact lacking verifiable elements of a nature to make it believable”. (…“une allégation ou imputation d’un fait dépourvue d’éléments vérifiables de nature à la rendre vraisemblable”.)

ny times logoNew York Times, Domestic Abuse Is Not Grounds for Asylum, Sessions Says, Katie Benner, June 11, 2018. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, right,  said on Monday that fear of domestic violence is not legal grounds for asylum in a closely watched immigration case that could have a broad effect on the asylum process, women who have endured extreme violence and the independence of immigration judges.

Mr. Sessions reversed a decision by a Justice Department immigration appeals court that had given asylum to a woman from El Salvador who had been raped and abused by her husband. The appeals court decision had overruled earlier orders in similar cases.

ny times logolarry kudlow cpac 2016 gage skidmore CustomNew York Times, Trump’s Top Economic Adviser Has Heart Attack, Staff report, June 11, 2018. Larry Kudlow, President Trump’s top economic adviser, suffered a heart attack on Monday evening and was at Walter Reed Medical Center, Mr. Trump said in a tweet. Mr. Kudlow (shown in a Gage Skidmore portrait), who has referred to himself as a “happy warrior” in counseling Mr. Trump on trade and economic policy, joined Mr. Trump’s team in March as the director of the National Economic Council.

“Our Great Larry Kudlow, who has been working so hard on trade and the economy, has just suffered a heart attack. He is now in Walter Reed Medical Center,” Mr. Trump tweeted, just before a meeting with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un. A former CNBC commentator and Wall Street economist, Mr. Kudlow has increasingly defended Mr. Trump’s approach to trade, most recently appearing on the Sunday television shows to talk about the fractious meeting of the Group of 7 industrialized nations.

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President Barack Obama shown in a White House photo at his desk in 2013

Real Clear Politics, Opinion: Crisis at the National Archives, Thomas Lipscomb, June 10, 2018. Investigative reporter/editor Thomas Lipscomb is a Senior nara logoFellow at the Annenberg Center for the Digital Future (USC). He broke stories on questions about the military records of both John Kerry and George W. Bush in the 2004 election in the Chicago Sun-Times and the New York Sun. He founded Times Books at The New York Times Company.

In the middle of directing the difficult task of transferring the historically important records of the Obama administration into the National Archives, the archivist in charge, David Ferriero, ran into a serious problem: A lot of key records are missing.

david ferriero 2013 mA first-rate librarian, Ferriero (shown at right) has been driving a much-needed digital overhaul and expansion of the National Archives over the nine years of his appointment. This will greatly improve the ability of digital search locally and remotely, as well as accessing the files themselves.

To support this effort, in 2014 President Obama signed the Presidential and Federal Records Act Amendments. For the first time electronic government records were placed under the 1950 Federal Records Act.

The new law also included updates clarifying "the responsibilities of federal government officials when using non-government email systems" and empowering "the National Archives to safeguard original and classified records from unauthorized removal.” Additionally, it gives the Archivist of the United States the final authority in determining just what is a government record.

And yet the accumulation of recent congressional testimony has made it clear that the Obama administration itself engaged in the wholesale destruction and “loss” of tens of thousands of government records covered under the act as well as the intentional evasion of the government records recording system by engaging in private email exchanges.

So far, former President Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Attorney General Lynch and several EPA officials have been named as offenders. The IRS suffered record “losses” as well. Former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy called it “an unauthorized private communications system for official business for the patent purpose of defeating federal record-keeping and disclosure laws.”

Clearly, America’s National Archives is facing the first major challenge to its historic role in preserving the records of the United States. What good is the National Archives administering a presidential library, like the planned Obama library in Chicago, if it is missing critical records of interest to scholars? And what’s to prevent evasion of the entire federal records system by subsequent administrations to suit current politics rather than serve scholars for centuries to come?

ny times logolarry kudlow cpac 2016 gage skidmore CustomNew York Times, Trump Adviser Ties G-7 Pullout to North Korea Meeting, Noah Weiland, June 11, 2018 (print edition). President Trump’s top economic adviser said on Sunday that Mr. Trump had pulled out of a joint statement with allies at the Group of 7 meeting over the weekend because a “betrayal” by the Canadian prime minister had threatened to make Mr. Trump appear weak before his summit meeting on Tuesday with North Korea’s leader. The president’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow (shown in a Gage Skidmore portrait), said a “betrayal” by the Canadian prime minister had forced Mr. Trump to take action.

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President Trump is shown in a file photo sitting alone last summer at a meeting of the Group of 20 major nations

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ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Even a Deal-Making Past Can’t Prepare Trump for This, David E. Sanger and Choe Sang-Hun, June 11, 2018. The size, scope and sophistication of North Korea’s atomic program mean its dismantling would be far and away the most challenging in nuclear history.

Donald Trump The Art of the DealPresident Trump has imagined himself at the center of high-stakes nuclear negotiations since at least the mid-1980s, when he tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade the Reagan administration that it needed a New York real estate deal maker to lead arms-control talks with the Soviet Union.

Now, Mr. Trump finally has a nuclear negotiation of his own to conduct, not with the Russians, but with a North Korean leader half his age, Kim Jong-un, the country’s volatile, repressive leader.

North Korean flagBut at Tuesday’s summit meeting, Mr. Trump seems certain not to follow his own advice on how to handle the talks, which involve a nuclear arsenal that is much smaller but in some ways scarier, because of North Korea’s unpredictability, than what threatened the United States during the Cold War.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fox News host apologizes for calling Trump and Kim ‘two dictators,’ Allyson Chiu, June 11, 2018. Everything appeared to be going smoothly for “Fox & Friends” host Abby Huntsman during a live segment Sunday morning as the network provided coverage of President Trump’s arrival in Singapore for his coming summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

fox-news-logo Small.pngThen, as she chatted with former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, Huntsman referred to the leaders as “two dictators,” which threw the Internet into a frenzy. “Regardless of what happens in that meeting between the two dictators, what we are seeing right now, this is history,” she said as footage of Trump exiting Air Force One at Paya Lebar Air Base in Singapore played.

Scaramucci, unlike viewers, seemed unfazed by Hunstman’s gaffe and continued to talk about the significance of the summit. His non-reaction prompted even more mirth on social media. “That moment when a Fox & Friends host accidentally calls Trump a dictator and no one even bats an eye,” a user wrote.

Later on the show, Huntsman apologized, acknowledging she had made a mistake.

jacob hornberger headshotFuture of Freedom Foundation, Opinion: The Bizarre Trump-Kim Summit, Jacob G. Hornberger (right), June 11, 2018. Overlooked in all of the hullabaloo over the summit in North Korea between President Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un are two bizarre things: One, the U.S. government is the root cause of the crisis that Trump is trying to resolve and, two, the fact that South Korean president Moon Jae-in is not an equal player in the summit.

Trump Meets New Italian PM At G7 Summit

djt guiseppi conti italian pm g7 june 2018 wh Custom

President Trump poses with Italy's new prime minister, Guiseppi Conte, above, at the G7 Summit in Canada

More On Chef's Death, Rose McGowan, Harvey Weinstein

rose mcgowanPeople Magazine, Rose McGowan Says Anthony Bourdain and Asia Argento Had a 'Free Relationship' 'Without Borders, Maria Pasquini, June 11, 2018.  Rose McGowan (shown in a photo on her Facebook page) has spoken out again on Anthony Bourdain‘s death, claiming that the late chef and his girlfriend Asia Argento had a “free relationship.”

“Dear Fellow Humans,” she wrote in an open letter. “Sitting across from me is the remarkable human and brave survivor, Asia Argento, who has been through more than most could stand, and yet stand she does. She stood up to her monster rapist and now she has to stand up to yet another monster, suicide. The suicide of her beloved lover and ally, Anthony Bourdain.”

“I write these truths because I have been asked to. I know so many around the world thought of Anthony Bourdain as a friend and when a friend dies, it hurts. Many of these people who lost their ‘friend’ are wanting to lash out and blame. You must not sink to that level. Suicide is a horrible choice, but it is that person’s choice,” she added.

usa today logoUSA Today, Rose McGowan indicted by Va. grand jury on felony cocaine possession, Jayme Deerwester, June 11, 2018. Actress Rose McGowan was indicted on a felony charge of possession of a controlled substance Monday by a Virginia grand jury, court documents confirm. WTOP reported that McGowan, who last appeared at a probable-cause hearing in May, was not present in the courtroom in Loudon County, located about an hour northwest of Washington, and will not be there Tuesday when her trial date is set .

harvey weinsteinIn November, the actress-turned-activist pled not guilty after cocaine was found in a wallet belonging to her that was left behind on her January 2017 flight to Washington for the Women's March. However, her arrest warrant didn't come to light for another nine months — and not until after the publication of two bombshell reports detailing decades of sexual misconduct by disgraced movie Harvey Weinstein, whom McGowan has accused of raping her.

The timing led McGowan's lawyers to suggest the drugs may have been planted by agents hired by Weinstein to discredit her for making sexual assault accusations against him. Days before her Nov. 14 arraignment in Loudon County, Va., The New Yorker published a story by Ronan Farrow detailing how Weinstein employed former Israeli intelligence officers to keep tabs on his accusers and the journalists who might be talking to them.

Weinstein, who was charged last month with rape and a criminal sex act against two other women, has consistently denied he had non-consensual relations with any of his accusers. However, he settled a lawsuit with McGowan in 1997.

June 10

Western Powers Unity In Peril?

djt angela merkel g7 summit june 8 2018 german info min

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other world leaders speak with President Trump at the Group of 7 summit Friday in Canada. (Steffen Seibert/German Information Ministry)

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump blasts Trudeau for ‘false statements,’ says U.S. won’t endorse G-7 communique, Damian Paletta and Anne Gearan​, June 10, 2018 (print edition). President Trump said Saturday in a tweet that he has instructed U.S. officials not to sign off on the joint statement of the Group of Seven industrial nations and blasted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for what the president termed “false statements.” Trudeau earlier Saturday harshly criticized new U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum from Canada, Mexico and the European Union.

canadian flagPresident Trump feuded with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and threatened to impose penalties on foreign automobile imports Saturday, capping an acrimonious meeting of the Group of Seven industrial nations that further frayed ties between the United States and its closest allies.

justin trudeau twitterTrump said Saturday evening that he had instructed U.S. officials to withdraw support for a joint statement with other member nations he had backed just hours earlier, saying the United States would not join after Trudeau (shown at left) publicly criticized Trump’s trade policy.

“Based on Justin’s false statements at his news conference, and the fact that Canada is charging massive Tariffs to our U.S. farmers, workers and companies, I have instructed our U.S. Reps not to endorse the Communique as we look at Tariffs on automobiles flooding the U.S. Market!,” Trump wrote on Twitter after leaving the summit.

Trudeau criticized Trump’s recent decision to place tariffs on steel and aluminum from the European Union, Canada and Mexico, saying it was “insulting” that Trump cited U.S. national security as his reason for doing so. “Canadians, we’re polite, we’re reasonable, but we also will not be pushed around,” Trudeau said at his own, separate news conference at the meeting’s end.

Saturday’s clashes ended a summit that was marked by repeated disagreements between the United States and its closest allies. The G-7, in its current form, consists of the United States, Canada, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Japan. Now, leaders from the G-7 and elsewhere face a string of trade decisions that will either preserve the existing global economic system or reshape it, with millions of jobs and trillions of dollars hanging in the balance.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Warns Nations Over Tariffs at G-7 Gathering, Michael D. Shear, June 10, 2018 (print edition). President Trump said on Saturday that he had brought up with America’s closest allies the dramatic prospect of completely eliminating tariffs on goods and services, even as he threatened to end all trade with his counterparts if they didn’t stop what he said were unfair trade practices.

“It’s going to stop. Or we’ll stop trading with them,” Mr. Trump said. “We’re like the piggy bank that everybody’s robbing and that ends.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Debacle in Quebec, Paul Krugman (shown at right), June 10, 2018). There has never been a disaster like the G7 [Group of Seven] meeting that just took place. paul krugmanIt could herald the beginning of a trade war, maybe even the collapse of the Western alliance. At the very least it will damage America’s reputation as a reliable ally for decades to come; even if Trump eventually departs the scene in disgrace, the fact that someone like him could come to power in the first place will always be in the back of everyone’s mind.

He didn’t demand drastic policy changes from our allies; he demanded that they stop doing bad things they aren’t doing. This wasn’t a tough stance on behalf of American interests, it was a declaration of ignorance and policy insanity.

Trump Summitry With North Korea

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Roll Call, Trump: Kim Gets ‘One-Time Shot,’ Allies on Notice Over Trade, John T. Bennett, June 10, 2018 (print edition). ‘My touch, my feel’ will guide North Korea talks, president says. North Korean flagPresident Donald Trump on Saturday said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (shown above in a file photo) has a “one-time shot” at a denuclearization deal and downplayed tensions with some of America’s closest allies even as he threatened to sever all trade ties with them.

Trump predicted he will know if Kim is serious within 60 seconds of their scheduled meeting Tuesday in Singapore, and reiterated his stance that Russia should rejoin what is now known as the G-7 group of wealthy countries. He also left open the possibility of a one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin later this year, even as he and his associates remain under federal scrutiny for possible improper campaign coordination with Russians.

The president addressed the media on his way out — earlier than initially planned — of the G-7 summit in Canada, saying of his coming summit with Kim, “We have to get denuclearization.”

washington post logoWashington Post, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un arrives in Singapore for historic summit with Trump, Anna Fifield, June 10, 2018.  Kim’s 3,000-mile journey was full of intrigue, starting with three planes departing from Pyongyang on Sunday morning and ending with Kim's arrival at a five-star hotel where the presidential suite costs about $8,000 per night.

Washington Decision-Making Impact

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washington post logoWashington Post, ‘They just took them?’: Frantic parents separated from their kids fill courts on the border, Michael E. Miller, June 10, 2018.  Federal courtrooms across the Southwest are being flooded with distraught mothers and fathers charged with misdemeanor illegal entry and separated from their children — a shift in policy touted by the Trump administration as a way to stop families from trying to reach the United States but decried by critics as traumatizing and inhumane.

Justice Department logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Justice Department abandons the ACA — and with it, the law, Ruth Marcus, June 10, 2018 (print edition). It refuses to defend the constitutionality of key parts of the health-care law.

A continuing challenge of covering the three-ring circus that is the Trump administration is not letting the outrageous antics and statements of the president and his allies distract attention from the outrageous policies being implemented on his watch.

One example, unfolding right now in the midst of the president’s various rhetorical wars — with our Group of Seven partners, with the special counsel, with his own attorney general — is the administration’s remarkable move not to defend the constitutionality of key parts of the Affordable Care Act.

This is a huge deal. First, if the administration’s position prevails, millions of Americans will lose the protections they thought they had against being denied coverage if they suffer from preexisting conditions. Second, and perhaps even scarier, the administration’s behavior sets a dangerous precedent about the obligation of this and future presidents to follow their constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws enacted by Congress.

Trump DOJ Ramps Up Fight Against Press, Leaks

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Former Senate Intelligence Committee staffer James Wolfe and New York Times reporter Ali Watkins (file photos)

washington post logoWashington Post, Government’s attempts to stop leaks grow more aggressive with actions in Wolfe case, Matt Zapotosky, Shane Harris, Lynh Bui and Karoun Demirjian, June 10, 2018 (print edition). Critics worry that the indictment of a former Senate Intelligence Committee staff member and the seizure of a reporter’s notes will have a chilling effect on newsgathering.

U.S. Economy, Markets and 'Bubble?'

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Beware the ‘mother of all credit bubbles,’ Steven Pearlstein, June 10, 2018 (print edition). Mortgage debt fueled the last bubble. Corporate debt is fueling this one. Welcome to the Buyback Economy. Today’s economic boom is driven not by any great burst of innovation or growth in productivity. Rather, it is driven by another round of financial engineering that converts equity into debt. It sacrifices future growth for present consumption. And it redistributes even more of the nation’s wealth to corporate executives, wealthy investors and Wall Street financiers.

Trump Probes

washington post logomichael mcconnellWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s not wrong about pardoning himself, Michael W. McConnell, June 10, 2018 (print edition). Michael W. McConnell (shown at right) is the Richard and Frances Mallery professor of law and director of the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. He formerly served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

When President Trump tweeted that he has the constitutional authority to pardon himself, he likely weakened his case in the minds of most ordinary people. Why would he talk about pardons if he hasn’t done anything for which he might need one? But as a legal and constitutional matter, Trump is not wrong. Presidents do have the constitutional authority to pardon themselves, albeit at the considerable risk of impeachment if they do so.

george washington gilbert stuart portraitThe president’s pardon power was intentionally made broad, even though the framers of the Constitution were well aware that it could be abused. They understood the pardon as an essential final check against miscarriages of justice and overly harsh applications of the letter of the law — and more importantly, as a device for national reconciliation after episodes of political unrest. George Washington (shown at right in a Gilbert Stuart portrait) used the power this way after the Whiskey Rebellion, Abraham Lincoln after the Civil War, and Jimmy Carter after Vietnam.

Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution says the president “shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.” The exception for impeachment shows that the clause extends to presidential misconduct, and suggests the ultimate remedy is impeachment by the House and conviction by the Senate, rather than criminal prosecution.

But we do not have to guess. Two days before the Constitutional Convention voted in 1787 to approve the final draft, Edmund Randolph of Virginia moved to narrow the president’s pardon power on the ground that it “was too great a trust. The President himself may be guilty.” His point was supported by none other than James Madison. But James Wilson of Pennsylvania, the finest lawyer among the delegates and later a justice on the first Supreme Court, stressed the importance of the pardon power and argued that if the president “be himself a party to the guilt, he can be impeached and prosecuted.” (“Prosecuted” meant prosecuted before the Senate.) Randolph’s motion was defeated eight states to two, with one state divided.

The framers of the Constitution thus specifically contemplated and debated the prospect that a president might be guilty of an offense and use the pardon power to clear himself. They concluded that the remedy of impeachment by the House and conviction by the Senate was a sufficient check on the possibility of abuse.

June 9

Fallout From Trump Cutbacks On Healthcare?

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘You’ve handed us an issue’: Democrats pounce on Trump administration’s health-care move, Erica Werner and Amy Goldstein, June 9, 2018 (print edition). Republicans were caught off guard by the administration’s decision to abandon a popular element of the Affordable Care Act — protections for people with preexisting medical conditions.

The Trump administration’s startling decision to abandon one of the Affordable Care Act’s most popular provisions — protections for people with preexisting medical conditions — put Republicans on the defensive Friday and handed Democrats a potentially potent political message.

democratic donkey logoDemocrats had already made health care a major focus in their campaigns heading into November’s midterm elections, with polls consistently showing it as a top issue among voters. Now, the Justice Department’s stance in a federal-court case in Texas will allow Democrats to argue that Republicans want to deny affordable health coverage to some of the people who need it most.

Late Thursday, the department said the health law’s requirement that most Americans carry insurance will become unconstitutional next year and so will consumer protections forbidding insurers to deny coverage to sick customers or charge them more.

Republicans on Capitol Hill had no advance warning that the administration was going to assert that protections for people with preexisting conditions is unconstitutional — a position that defies President Trump’s promises to maintain those protections.

Most Republicans on Friday insisted they continued to support coverage for people with preexisting conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer. The policy, unlike some elements of the Affordable Care Act, has widespread support, affecting approximately 52 million Americans under the age of 65, according to a 2016 analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

webster tarpley podium2World Crisis Radio, Opinion: The Real Deep State, Webster G. Tarpley (author and commentator shown at right), June 9, 2018 (74:02 mins.). Dr. Tarpley's decades of research helped document how a "deep" or unelected government controls much of presidential and other governmental action.

"We're in the middle of a collapse of the United States position in the world," he began. "We've got a collapse of the U.S. alliance sytem in Europe and we've got a very threatening situation inside the country in terms of basic freeddoms: the First Amendment under grave attack and the news that the Trump regime will no longer defend the Affordable Care Act against a lawsuit brought by 20 reactionary Republican states to try to strip you of your health care and leave you with nothing but your eyes to cry with."

"They'll give you with nothing! And that, of course, means 40 to 50 thousand needless deaths in this country. That's the essence of Republican policy, an attack on the lives, and the health and the well-being of America."

"They'll sell you junk insurance so that when you get sick they'll tell you that you're not covered."

Trump DOJ Ramps Up Fight Against Press, Leaks

pogo logo squareProject On Government Oversight (POGO), Opinion: A Dangerous Escalation in "The War on Leaks," Andrea Peterson, June 9, 2018.
A Dangerous Escalation in "The War on Leaks"

Last night, The New York Times reported that a former Senate Intelligence Committee staffer, James Wolfe, was arrested Thursday after a grand jury indicted him on charges of lying to the FBI about his contacts with Times reporter Ali Watkins and other journalists. Watkins, a rising star in national security reporting, and Wolfe, who led the Committee’s efforts to safeguard the classified and sensitive information shared with Members, had a three-year romantic relationship.

During that time, Watkins broke a number of high-profile scoops about the Committee’s operations. While Watkins told the Times Wolfe was not a source of classified information for her reporting during their relationship, the optics are concerning. But beyond the journalism ethics questions about the relationship, there’s a major threat to First Amendment rights. During the investigation into Wolfe and leaks from the Committee, the Justice Department went after Watkins’ data—seizing years of records related to her email accounts and phone number, according to a letter the agency sent to Watkins.

News media advocacy groups warn that the move sets a dangerous legal precedent for journalists’ ability to protect their sources. “Efforts by government that undermine this ability therefore represent a fundamental threat to press freedom,” the Committee to Protect Journalists’ North America Program Coordinator Alexandra Ellerbeck said in a statement Friday.

The Justice Department’s statement to the Times about the data grab also suggests the agency is potentially widening the scope of leak investigations beyond exposure of classified information by taking the unprecedented step of looking into the “unauthorized disclosure of controlled information" (emphasis added). That’s a much broader standard that could apply to leaking that is in no way criminal conduct, and which could have a chilling effect on whistleblowers who already face potential professional repercussions — such as being fired — for taking their concerns to the media.

Russia: ISIS Based in U.S.-Controlled Spots In Syria

ISIS forces in Syria (file photo)

Russian FlagSouthFront, Russian MoD: ISIS Strongholds In Syria Are Located In Areas Controlled By US-led Coalition, Staff report, June 9, 2018. On June 9, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov (shown below at leftO said that the remaining strongholds of ISIS in Syria are located in areas controlled by the US-led coalition, according to the Russian news outlet Sputnik.

igor konashenkov cropped“As for the current situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, we recommend the Pentagon chief to examine the map showing the situation in this country. All remaining pockets of resistance of Daesh [ISIS] terrorists in Syria are located only in areas controlled by the United States,” Konashenkov said in an official statement.

Maj. Gen. Konashenkov statement is likely a response to remarks by US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, who said earlier that Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad had triggered a “disaster” “upon his people in Syria” with the help of Russia and Iran.

james mattis oIn his statement, Maj. Gen. Konashenkov said that the Russian MoD was bewildered by “verbal manipulations” of Mattis (shown at right) and noted that the “real disaster” of the Syrian people is in the areas of al-Tanaf and Raqqa , where the US-led coalition and its proxies are illegally deployed.

“The vast majority of US-supplied arms and ammunition fell into the hands of the Syrian al-Qaeda branch – Nusra Front [currently known as Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham] and Daesh, who sought, like Washington, to overthrow the legitimate Syrian government,” Konashenkov said.

This month, ISIS launched two major attacks from areas besieged by the US-led coalition on strategic positions of the SAA and its allies in southern Deir Ezzor. Local observers believe that the coalition is not only ignoring these hostile acts, but also facilitating them.

More Charges Against Former Trump Campaign Chief Manafort

Paul Manafort

washington post logorobert mueller full face fileWashington Post, Special counsel Mueller indicts Paul Manafort, Russian associate on obstruction charges, Devlin Barrett, Spencer S. Hsu and Rosalind S. Helderman, June 9, 2018 (print edition). The indictment of former Trump Campaign Manage Paul Manafort, shown above in a file photo, marks the first such charges for Manafort’s associate, Konstantin Kilimnik. Prosecutors have previously said Kilimnik has ties to Russian intelligence, which he denies. Special Counsel Robert Mueller III is shown at right.

The Atlantic, One of the most shocking revelations from the special counsel’s investigation is the suggestion that Paul Manafort’s longtime aide is a pawn of Russian intelligence, Franklin Foer, June 6, 2018. In the early years of the century, as Paul Manafort made his way across Moscow and Kiev, he was followed by a diminutive man. With a generous slackening of the tape, the man measured just above 5 feet. This made for a striking contrast in physical frames, because Manafort and his expansive shoulders crowd a room. It also made the pair an almost slapstick spectacle.

But over time, Manafort and the smaller man, his aide-de-camp, began to converge in appearance. The aide started to dress like his boss, buying expensive suits cut in a similar style. He would mimic his mentor’s habits, using the same car service to shuttle through the cobblestone streets of the Ukrainian capital in the same model BMW. He would come to earn the title “Manafort’s Manafort."

When Manafort first began to contemplate doing business on a grand scale in Russia and Ukraine, he faced a basic logistic challenge. He intended to operate in countries where mastery of English was not a prerequisite for the acquisition of wealth and power. Manafort hardly understood a word of his prospective clients’ languages. “Paul is the smartest political guy I know, but he couldn’t order a glass of water,” one of his former staffers told me. So he grew reliant on Konstantin Kilimnik, a Soviet-born native who could render idiomatic English and translate the cultural nuances of the region that might elude outsiders. Manafort would describe him to others in his office as “my Russian brain.” For a decade, Kilimnik was a fixture in Manafort’s meetings with the region’s leading politicians and oligarchs.

After so much time spent in close quarters, the relationship between the two became trusting and deep. By 2011, Kilimnik had taken over Manafort’s office in Kiev. This made Kilimnik the primary interface for Manafort’s lone client, a corrupt clique of former gangsters that ruled Ukraine under the banner of their political organization, the Party of Regions. When they weren’t in each other’s presence, the mentor and protégé exchanged “millions of emails”—at least in Kilimnik’s estimate. “We discussed a lot of issues, from Putin to women,” he once texted a reporter.

Soros Pushback On Defeats, Critics

george soros uncredited

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘I must be doing something right’: Billionaire George Soros faces renewed attacks with defiance, Michael Kranish, June 9, 2018. Under attack, billionaire George Soros (shown above) plans to redouble his efforts. The 87-year-old Holocaust survivor, who has poured much of his fortune into promoting liberal values around the globe, is now confronting a wave of nationalist sentiment washing against issues he has championed. In a rare interview, he shares his insights.

George Soros, the billionaire investor and liberal donor, sat in his hotel suite by Lake Zurich this week, lamenting the turn much of the world has taken in recent years: “Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong.”

His favored presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, lost to President Trump, whose “America First” platform runs counter to the globalism Soros embraces. Trump, he said, “is willing to destroy the world.” The European Union, which Soros once hoped would be so successful that he could end his charitable work in the region, is contending with the impending loss of Britain and a rise of anti-immigrant sentiment. And Soros himself has emerged as a political target in elections from Hungary to California, where his donations have been used as a cudgel against the causes he supports.

China Alleged To Target U.S. Warfare Data

washington post logoFlag of TurkeyWashington Post, China hacked a Navy contractor and secured a trove of highly sensitive data on submarine warfare, Ellen Nakashima and Paul Sonne, June 9, 2018 (print edition).  Chinese government hackers have compromised the computers of a Navy contractor, stealing massive amounts of highly sensitive data related to undersea warfare — including secret plans to develop a supersonic anti-ship missile for use on U.S. submarines by 2020, according to American officials.

The breaches occurred in January and February, the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation. The hackers targeted a contractor who works for the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, a military organization headquartered in Newport, R.I., that conducts research and development for submarines and underwater weaponry.

Trade Wars / 'National Security'

washington post logoRussian FlagWashington Post, Trump calls for reinstating Russia to G-7, threatens allies on trade, Damian Paletta, Anne Gearan and John Wagner, June 9, 2018 (print edition). President Trump said Russia should be readmitted to the Group of Seven leading economies, breaking with other world leaders who have insisted Moscow remain ostracized following its involvement in the 2014 Crimean crisis.

Consumer News

White House Chronicle, Customer Frustration Drove Many to Vote for Trump, Llewellyn King, June 9, 2018. Trump is the product of a frustrated electorate sick of elites in Washington who pay no heed to the people who pay the taxes and have little interest in them. Thus runs the popular narrative of how we got President Donald Trump and why his base, despite everything, is firmly committed to him.

Half right, I say.

donald trump mike pence logo SmallThere was a great national dissatisfaction at the time of the election and there is so today. But was that really the result of unhappiness with elites in Washington? I’d suggest that it is the daily frustration we all face in simply going about our business. Elites are to blame, but not the elites named in the political narrative that has become the conventional view of the Trump phenomenon.

The elites who frustrate us are the large corporate ones that we cannot live without and have difficulty living with. Substitute corporations for elites.

In no particular order, they are the insurance companies, the banks, the credit card companies, the airlines, the hospitals, the telephone companies, the cable TV providers, Amtrak, Amazon and other corporations that hide behind a battery of devices programmed to avoid any direct human contact with the customer.

These suppliers of our needs are hidden in a thicket of automatic phone systems that seem to require that you spend half an hour in a maze of prompts before, maybe, you reach a person who will also behave as though he or she is a recording; a person who is reading from a script and diverting your pleadings.

Death and Legacy

new yorker logoNew Yorker, Anthony Bourdain and the Power of Telling the Truth, Helen Rosner, June 9, 2018. I have long maintained a theory that Anthony Bourdain — who died on Friday, at the age of sixty-one, of an apparent suicide — was the best-known celebrity in America.

There are, I realize, actual ways to measure this sort of thing, but the intimacy that Bourdain (shown below at right) cultivated with his fans was of a sort that transcended Q scores and approval polls. His show brought in millions of viewers, his books found millions of readers, and — especially for people outside of the food world, and to his own great irritation — he seemed to be everyone’s first idea of the “celebrity chef,” even though he hadn’t worked in a restaurant kitchen in years. (At best, he said, he could be described as a “cook.”)

anthony bourdain 2014Bourdain’s fame wasn’t the distant, lacquered type of an actor or a musician, bundled and sold with a life-style newsletter. Bourdain felt like your brother, your rad uncle, your impossibly cool dad — your realest, smartest friend, who wandered outside after beers at the local one night and ended up in front of some TV cameras and decided to stay there.

As a writer himself, he was always looking out for other writers, always saying yes, always available for interviews and comments. You had to fight through a wall of skeptical P.R. to get to someone like Guy Fieri, but Bourdain was right there, for everyone, in equal measure. He remembered names. He took every question seriously. He was twenty minutes early to every appointment, to the minute. Every newspaper, every magazine, every Web site that asked got its Bourdain quotes—and good ones, too! Not pre-scripted pablum but potent missiles of cultural commentary — bombastic wisdom, grand pronouncements, eviscerations of celebrities, flagrantly named names.

Daily Beast, Opinion: When Anthony Bourdain Called Out Putin and Trump — in Russia, Marlow Stern, June 9, 2018. It’s difficult to imagine a world without Anthony Bourdain, its most trusted and noble traveler; a tender curmudgeon whose raison d’être was, simply put, to convince Americans that beyond their borders lay a world filled with unspeakable beauty.

Even if you never had the distinct pleasure of meeting Bourdain — or Tony, as he was known to his family, friends and colleagues — his felt like a familiar face, one that strangers across the globe opened their homes to knowing that they would be seen.

While many delighted in his books, which showcased his sardonic Jersey-bred wit, nowhere were his talents more in evidence than on the television programs No Reservations and Parts Unknown. He was the consummate (best?) travel guide—empathetic, audacious, devoid of pretense, and prone to introspection.

Part of what made Bourdain such an effective traveler was his first-rate bullshit detector. He called it like he saw it, and his vision was rarely clouded. On the Season 5 episode of Parts Unknown titled “New Jersey,” he traveled to Atlantic City and admonished Donald Trump for bleeding it dry. The episode aired on May 31, 2015; 16 days later, Trump declared his candidacy for president. When I brought up how prophetic it was to Bourdain, he offered, “It’ll be really prophetic if he does with the presidency what he did with Atlantic City, which is pretty much declare victory and then retreat. If you remember, when he left his casinos behind broken and in shambles, he was quick to point out how well it worked out for him. He made his money, but his investors and Atlantic City were left with a gigantic, hideous white elephant.” “He strikes me as a businessman — a businessman with an ego. OK, so he’s like Donald Trump — but shorter.”

But hands-down the most prescient episode of Parts Unknown was “Russia.” Airing May 11, 2014, it opens with a montage of anti-Putin protests followed by Bourdain’s portentous voiceover: “No matter how transparently autocratic, vengeful, oblivious to even a thin veneer of democracy, Russians love [Putin]. They seem to feel about him like New Yorkers used to feel about Giuliani: he may be a sonofabitch, but he’s our sonofabitch.”

ap logoAssociated Press via New York Post, Anthony Bourdain used the belt from his bathrobe to kill himself, Staff report, June 9, 2018. The prosecutor of Colmar in France’s Alsace region says that writer and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain hanged himself in the bathroom of his French hotel room.

Prosecutor Christian de Rocquigny told The Associated Press on Saturday that the famed chef and host of the CNN series “Parts Unknown” used the belt of his hotel bath robe to commit suicide on Friday.

Of the 61-year-old American’s death, Rocquigny said “there is no element that makes us suspect that someone came into the room at any moment.” He also said a medical expert had concluded there were no signs of violence on Bourdain’s body. The prosecutor said toxicology tests were being carried out, including urine tests, to see if Bourdain took any medications, to try to help his family understand if anything led him to kill himself.

Opposition Rallies In Turkey

turkey flagny times logoNew York Times, Turkish Opposition Hopes 4 Parties Are Mightier Than One, Carlotta Gall, June 9, 2018. Four parties have banded together, hoping to force President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to a second round of voting, where they have pledged to unite behind his opponent. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s abrupt decision to call elections more than a year ahead of schedule, hoping to catch the opposition off guard, may backfire.

Turkish opposition parties have come together in a rare alliance that could pose a serious challenge to Mr. Erdogan in his attempt to be re-elected in the June 24 vote to a presidency with vastly expanded powers.

Assange Continued Confinement

julian assange head bookConsortium News, The Eerie Silence Surrounding the Assange Case, Dennis J Bernstein, June 9, 2018. Julian Assange (shown at right) remains cut off from the world in Ecuador’s London embassy, shut off from friends, relatives and thousands of supporters, leaving him unable to do his crucial work, as John Pilger discusses with Dennis J. Bernstein.

In a recent communication between Randy Credico, an Assange supporter, comic and radio producer, and Adam Schiff, the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, Assange’s fear of arrest and extradition to the US was confirmed by the leader of the Russia-gate frenzy. Credico received the following response from Schiff after meeting the the Congressman’s staff, in which Credico was trying to connect Assange with Schiff: “Our committee would be willing to interview Assange when he is in U.S. Custody and not before.”

Dennis Bernstein spoke with John Pilger, a close friend and supporter of Assange on May 29. The interview began with the statement Bernstein delivered for Pilger at the Left Forum last weekend in New York on a panel devoted to Assange entitled, “Russia-gate and WikiLeaks”.

Pilger’s Statement

“There is a silence among many who call themselves left. The silence is Julian Assange. As every false accusation has fallen away, every bogus smear shown to be the work of political enemies, Julian stands vindicated as one who has exposed a system that threatens humanity. The Collateral Damage video, the war logs of Afghanistan and Iraq, the Cablegate revelations, the Venezuela revelations, the Podesta email revelations … these are just a few of the storms of raw truth that have blown through the capitals of rapacious power.

The fakery of Russia-gate, the collusion of a corrupt media and the shame of a legal system that pursues truth-tellers have not been able to hold back the raw truth of WikiLeaks revelations. They have not won, not yet, and they have not destroyed the man. Only the silence of good people will allow them to win. Julian Assange has never been more isolated. He needs your support and your voice. Now more than ever is the time to demand justice and free speech for Julian.”

June 8

Trump Justice Department Won't Defend Affordable Care Act

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump administration won’t defend Affordable Care Act against GOP states’ lawsuits, Amy Goldstein, June 8, 2018 (print edition). The Trump administration said Thursday night that it will not defend the Affordable Care Act against the latest legal challenge to its constitutionality — a dramatic break from the executive branch’s tradition of arguing to uphold existing statutes and a land mine for health insurance changes the ACA brought about.

In a brief filed in a Texas federal court and an accompanying letter to the House and Senate leaders of both parties, the Justice Department agrees in large part with the 20 Republican-led states that brought the suit. They contend that the ACA provision requiring most Americans to carry health insurance soon will no longer be constitutional and that, as a result, consumer insurance protections under the law will not be valid, either.

The three-page letter from Attorney General Jeff Sessions (left) begins by saying that Justice adopted its position “with the approval of the President of the United States.” The letter acknowledges that the decision not to defend an existing law deviates from history but contends that it is not unprecedented.

Trump Guts Environmental Protects Against Chemical Dangers

ny times logoNew York Times, The Chemical Industry Scores a Big Win at the E.P.A., Eric Lipton, June 8, 2018 (print edition). After heavy lobbying by the chemical industry, the Environmental Protection Agency decided that it will not look at air, water or ground contaminants when determining the health and safety risks of potentially toxic chemicals.

Under a law passed by Congress during the final year of the Obama administration, the E.P.A. was required for the first time to evaluate hundreds of potentially toxic chemicals and determine if they should face new restrictions, or even be removed from the market. The chemicals include many in everyday use, such as dry-cleaning solvents, paint strippers and substances used in health and beauty products like shampoos and cosmetics.

G7 Summit On Trade

washington post logoWashington Post, In Trump, some fear the end of the world order, Karen DeYoung, June 8, 2018. As each day brings new punches and counterpunches between President Trump and longtime U.S. partners, questions arise about the lasting effect of trade wars and antagonism.

Celebrity Chef's Life and Death

anthony bourdain 2014

washington post logoWashington Post, Anthony Bourdain, chef and TV host, dies at 61 of an apparent suicide, CNN says, Abby Ohlheiser​,June 8, 2018. The Emmy-winning television host of “Parts Unknown” (shown above in a 2014 photo) was best known for his travel shows, in which he told the stories of people and cultures from around the world through the food they ate. Anthony Bourdain was found unresponsive in his France hotel room, CNN said.

Editor's note: The article below launched his career as a writer in 1999.

new yorker logoNew Yorker, Don’€™t Eat Before Reading This, Anthony Bourdain, April 19, 1999. A New York chef spills some trade secrets. Good food, good eating, is all about blood and organs, cruelty and decay. It’s about sodium-loaded pork fat, stinky triple-cream cheeses, the tender thymus glands and distended livers of young animals.

It’s about danger — risking the dark, bacterial forces of beef, chicken, cheese, and shellfish. Your first two hundred and seven Wellfleet oysters may transport you to a state of rapture, but your two hundred and eighth may send you to bed with the sweats, chills, and vomits.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: A note to readers, Charles Krauthammer, June 8, 2018. Charles Krauthammer, M.D., is a longtime syndicated columnist and Fox News commentator. I have been uncharacteristically silent these past ten months. I had thought that silence would soon be coming to an end, but I’m afraid I must tell you now that fate has decided on a different course for me.June 7

Trump Prosecutors Seized Reporter's Records

james wolf ali watkins

Former Senate Intelligence Committee staffer James Wolfe and New York Times reporter Ali Watkins (file photos)

ny times logoNew York Times, Times Reporter’s Records Are Seized in Justice Dept. Inquiry, Adam Goldman, Nicholas Fandos and Katie Benner, June 8, 2017 (print edition). Prosecutors seized phone and email records as part of an investigation into leaks by a former Senate aide. It was the first known use of such an aggressive tactic under President Trump.

Justice Department log circularFederal law enforcement officials secretly seized years’ worth of a New York Times reporter’s phone and email records this year in an investigation of classified information leaks. It was the first known instance of the Justice Department going after a reporter’s data under President Trump.

The seizure — disclosed in a letter to the reporter, Ali Watkins — suggested that prosecutors under the Trump administration will continue the aggressive tactics employed under President Barack Obama.

Mr. Trump has complained bitterly about leaks and demanded that law enforcement officials seek criminal charges against government officials involved in illegal and sometimes embarrassing disclosures of national security secrets.

Investigators sought Ms. Watkins’s information as part of an inquiry into whether James A. Wolfe, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s former director of security, disclosed classified secrets to reporters. F.B.I. agents approached Ms. Watkins about a previous three-year romantic relationship she had with Mr. Wolfe, saying they were investigating unauthorized leaks. The two are shown above in file photos.

News media advocates consider the idea of mining a journalist’s records for sources to be an intrusion on First Amendment freedoms, and prosecutors acknowledge it is one of the most delicate steps the Justice Department can take. “Freedom of the press is a cornerstone of democracy, and communications between journalists and their sources demand protection,” said Eileen Murphy, a Times spokeswoman.

washington post logoWashington Post, Young reporter in leak investigation enjoyed meteoric rise in Washington journalism, Sarah Ellison and Paul Farhi, June 8, 2018. The first known leak investigation of the Trump administration has put under scrutiny a 20-something New York Times reporter, who enjoyed a meteoric rise through Washington’s journalism ranks that began while she was still in college.

james wolfe cspanTimes reporter Ali Watkins hasn’t been charged in the Justice Department’s investigation of the leak of classified information from the Senate Intelligence Committee. But the revelation late Thursday that the FBI had secretly seized years’ worth of Watkins’ phone and email records, dating back to when she was a student at Temple University, raised questions about her relationship with the man at the center of the investigation.

Watkins’ romantic involvement with former intelligence committee aide James A. Wolfe (shown during a C-SPAN appearance) — who was indicted on Thursday — focused attention on her reporting for such news organizations as McClatchy’s Washington bureau, BuzzFeed and Politico.

Missouri Drops Charges Against Former GOP Governor Accused In #MeToo Scandal

eric greitens oSt. Louis Post-Dispatch, No further charges against ex-Gov. Greitens, prosecutor says, Kurt Erickson, June 8, 2018. A special prosecutor will not file charges against former Gov. Eric Greitens. In a sometimes emotional news conference Friday, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said her office did not have sufficient evidence to consider filing new charges against the former governor, who left office under a cloud of scandal last week.

Baker said her team exhausted potential leads in examining evidence. She also employed the Missouri Highway Patrol to investigate issues in the case. And she suggested that Greitens’ defense team may have erased a key piece of evidence from a phone that they examined.

As of Friday, with a statute of limitations set to expire this weekend, Baker said corroborating evidence for an invasion of privacy case stemming from an extramarital affair with his hairdresser was still missing.

“We have exhausted every potential lead we could follow,” Baker said. The Republican governor resigned effective June 1. He was indicted by a St. Louis grand jury for allegedly taking an unauthorized photo of the partially nude woman in the basement of his former home in St. Louis. Prosecutors dropped the charge last month and Baker was appointed to consider whether it should be refiled.

In exchange for Greitens’ resignation, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner dropped a second felony charge that accused him of using a charity donor list to raise money for his political campaign.

In comments to reporters, Baker left no doubt she believes the woman at the heart of the case but said without further evidence, the entire case would rest on the woman’s testimony. “She would get beat up again,” Baker said. “She did not wish to go it alone. She alone would carry the burden of these charges.

“I find this victim extremely credible. I believe her statements about there being photographs are true,” Baker said.

Inside DC

ny times logoFlag of TurkeyNew York Times, $1 Billion U.S. Fine Will End Sanctions on Chinese Telecom Firm, Ana Swanson, June 8, 2018 (print edition). A deal announced by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross ends tough sanctions on the telecom giant, at the center of a complex trade dispute between Washington and Beijing.

djt official SmallPresident Trump handed the Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE a lifeline on Thursday, agreeing to lift tough American sanctions over the objections of Republican lawmakers, his defense advisers and some of his own economic officials.

The deal will help defuse tensions with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, who personally asked Mr. Trump to intervene to save ZTE and whom the president has relied on to help pave the way for next week’s summit meeting with the North Korean leader.

The Commerce Department said that ZTE had agreed to pay a $1 billion fine, replace its board and senior leadership, and allow the United States to more closely inspect the company by effectively having a handpicked compliance team embedded inside the firm. The United States would then lift a seven-year ban that prevented the company from buying American products and was quickly driving it out of business.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Powerful Conservative Donors You Haven’t Heard Of, Stephanie Saul and Danny Hakim, June 8, 2018 (print edition). Few political donors are as influential, yet little known, as Liz and Dick Uihlein. The Midwestern couple has joined the upper pantheon of Republican donors alongside names like Koch, Mercer and Adelson. They have spent roughly $26 million on the current election cycle, supporting more than 60 congressional candidates, working outside the party establishment to advance a combative, hard-right conservatism, from Washington to the smallest town.

9/11 Attack Research

wayne costeOpEd News, Opinion: Answering the 9/11 Consensus Panel Challenge: "Explanation of the Evidence at the Pentagon on 9/11," Wayne Coste (shown at right), June 8, 2018. On December 16, 2017, the co-founders of the 9/11 Consensus Panel, authors Dr. David Ray Griffin and Elizabeth Woodworth, issued a challenge to the 9/11 research community regarding disputed evidence about the events at the Pentagon. They noted that "unfortunately, there are areas of disagreement, especially with regard to the Pentagon, that threaten to undermine good will and mutual trust."

They then continued setting the background for a challenge by stating, "... odd phenomena and anomalies continue to cause speculation and disagreement. Some scholars can justifiably take one set of data as most important, while playing down the importance of another set, while other scholars can justifiably take the second set of data as most important. These differences of opinion can be justifiable until there is a theory that can take account of all the indisputable evidence."

With this as the background, the 9/11 Consensus Panel then issued a challenge by saying, "Contributions seeking to solve contentious issues can only be made by assembling reliable evidence and by applying critical thinking and peer review according to the standard scientific process. This is the strength of science and the way it has progressed over centuries. In conclusion, we offer the 'agree to differ' approach: to end an argument amicably while maintaining differences of opinion until there is an explanation that does justice to all the various types of evidence."

In an answer to the challenge, a five-and-a-half-hour lecture consisting of over 900 slides, detailing the physical damage to the Pentagon and the environs, was submitted. As shown in the lecture, the results of combing through the evidence shows, unequivocally, that the damage at the Pentagon was done by a large plane impact that would be consistent with a Boeing 757. The lecture focuses on the issue of what mechanism caused the damage to the Pentagon on 9/11. With this as the focus, pertinent background information is reviewed to provide context about the controversy and how this challenge arose.

The purpose of this lecture is to assemble as much of the information that is known about the Pentagon damage into a single presentation that includes not only the well-trodden evidence for a large plane impact, but also new information that has been uncovered.

Sports Intrigue, Vengeance

ny times logoNew York Times, The Story of the Wife Who Defended Her Husband in a Way That Left Him Unemployed, Scott Cacciola and Victor Mather
June 8, 2018 (print edition). A wife appeared to care so much about her husband and his reputation that she went on social media to defend him. She used confidential information to disparage his current and former employees. She even went after people who made fun of his shirt collars. And she did it all anonymously.

All of this happened — perhaps a slightly misguided expression of love? — and blew up in spectacularly inglorious fashion, in full public view. The husband was a prominent sports executive. His employees were famous athletes. And the story ended with his resignation.

Bryan Colangelo stepped down from his position as the president of basketball operations for the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday in the wake of a soap opera that had gripped the N.B.A. in recent days, even as the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers continue to vie for a championship.

It was a stunning fall for Mr. Colangelo, 53, a two-time winner of the N.B.A.’s Executive of the Year Award. After tenures with the Toronto Raptors and the Phoenix Suns, Mr. Colangelo was put in charge of the 76ers in 2016 following the resignation of Sam Hinkie, a statistics wonk who had navigated the team through one of the boldest experiments in pro sports history: the so-called “Process,” which entailed purposely losing a lot of games over several seasons to collect as many top draft picks as possible and build for the future.

Future of Freedom Foundation, Opinion: Trump’s Perverse View of Patriotism, Jacob G. Hornberger, June 8, 2018. In an act of petty revenge against the Philadelphia Eagles, President Trump put on display the concept of patriotism that unfortunately has come to characterize America in the era of the national-security state — a concept that perverts the genuine meaning of patriotism on which America was founded and which characterized the nation throughout the 1800s.

nfl logoThe controversy began when Trump scheduled a ceremony at the White House to celebrate the Super Bowl win by the Eagles. Most of the members of the team, however, decided to boycott the event, which, not surprisingly, caused Trump to go ballistic. Rather than continue with the ceremony with the ten players who were coming, Trump disinvited the entire team and decided to hold what he considered to be a “patriotic” event at the White House.

philadelphia eagles superbowlSurrounded by military men, Trump’s event was what has come to define the word “patriotism”—militarism, nationalism, and an unconditional love of the U.S. military, the CIA, the NSA, and the FBI, whose members supposedly devote their lives protecting our rights and freedoms and keeping us “safe.”

The purpose of this type of “patriotism,” of course, is to encourage support of the government, especially through support of the troops, and to discourage criticism of the government or dissent against its policies.

thomas jefferson rembrandt Peale 1800The irony is that the type of patriotism that characterized the founding of our nation was precisely the opposite from Trump’s concept of patriotism.

Consider George Washington, Thomas Jefferson (shown in a Rembrandt Peale portrait), Patrick Henry, John Adams, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, and John Hancock. Americans have been ingrained with the notion that those men were great Americans. They weren’t. That’s because they weren’t Americans. They were British citizens. They were just as much British citizens as Americans today are American citizens.

Death and Legacy

muhammad ali dont count the dayswashington post logoWashington Post, Trump says he may pardon the late boxer Muhammad Ali, John Wagner​, June 8, 2018. Ali was convicted in 1967 for refusing to report for induction into the United States military during the Vietnam War. A pardon would be the latest act of clemency by President Trump.

hugh turley david martin thomas mertonDC Dave.com, Opinion: Parade of Whoppers about Thomas Merton’s Death, David Martin, June 8, 2018. David Martin is the co-author with Hugh Turley of Turley, Hugh and David Martin. The Martyrdom of Thomas Merton: An Investigation, published in March, which concludes that the reputed death of the famed pacifist monk Thomas Merton was an assassination.

What better measure could we find of a Deep State hit job than the lies that have been told about it? To take some prominent examples, the evidence could hardly be clearer that President John F. Kennedy was shot from the front, but the chosen patsy was behind him, so we are told that he was shot from the back. Robert Kennedy was shot from behind, but, in this case, the patsy was in front of him, so we are told that he was shot from the front. Martin Luther King, Jr., was shot by a sniper concealed in the bushes behind a rooming house, which was behind the motel in which he was staying, but the chosen patsy in this case was booked into that rooming house, so we are told that the chosen patsy perched himself precariously on the rim of a bathtub beneath a bathroom window to shoot King expertly in the neck.

These murders all took place within the United States, and still the press and the authorities got by with foisting upon the public a number of falsehoods about them that are rather easily shown to be falsehoods by anyone with the enterprise to look into the matter.

The Catholic monk and notable spiritual writer and antiwar leader, Thomas Merton, died suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 53 while attending an interfaith monastic conference at a Red Cross meeting center in Samutprakarn, Thailand, a suburb of Bangkok, on the afternoon of December 10, 1968. It was the same year in which Bobby Kennedy and King were killed and the same president was in the White House, Lyndon Baines Johnson. The press had an excuse for their initial sketchy reporting of his death; it was a long ways away. But their reporting has not improved in the ensuing half-century,

Merton was last seen entering the cottage in which he was residing on the third day of the conference from about five minutes walking distance behind him by Fr. Celestine Say of the Philippines, whose room was the only other one on the first floor of the cottage. The time was just before 2 p.m., and Merton was in the company of Fr. François de Grunne of Belgium. There is nothing available from de Grunne as to what transpired in the cottage in the intervening five minutes before Say’s arrival, although the Thai police are known to have taken a statement from him.

Question: Does U.S. Help ISIS Attack Syrian Government?

Syria FlagMoon of Alabama, Opinion: Syria: Is The ISIS Attack On Abu Kamal Part Of A U.S. Plan? b, June 8, 2018. The people in Syria and Iraq believe that the Islamic State (ISIS) is an instrument the U.S. uses for its own purposes. A new ISIS attack on Syrian government forces today will deepen these beliefs.

Since November 2017 the U.S. and its proxy forces in north-east Syria did absolutely nothing against ISIS in east Syria north of the Euphrates. U.S. air strike were stopped and ISIS's territorial hold did not change one bit. In February local tribal forces aligned with the Syrian government crossed the Euphrates from south to north in order to attack the ISIS pocket and to take control of an oilfield. The U.S. claimed that its Kurdish SDF proxy forces were attacked by the Syrian government aligned group. Curiously no one on the side of the U.S. and its proxies was hurt at all. Soon a large number of U.S. air support assets arrived and bombed the Syrian group to smithereens.

ISIS in the northeastern pocket is the justification for the continuing U.S. occupation. But when Syrian government forces attacked those ISIS forces the U.S. claimed that only its forces were there. On June 6, six months after the U.S. had stopped attacking ISIS, U.S. Secretary of Defense Mattis finally announced that U.S. proxies forces had again taken up the fight: "48 hours ago, the SDF, the coalition force and -- advising the Syrian Democratic Force, recommenced their offensive against one of the last remaining pockets of ISIS."

There have been no reports yet of these new attacks against ISIS. According to Mattis the offense re-started on June 4. Just the night before the restart of the U.S. operation several hundred well rested ISIS fighters crossed the Euphrates towards the south and attacked the Syrian government forces on the southern side.

June 7

john barbour facebookRT America: "The World According to Jesse," Operation Mockingbird & John Barbour, Jesse Ventura, June 8, 2018 (26:57 mins.). Jesse Ventura and Brigida Santos discuss Operation Mockingbird and how America’s most powerful news outlets worked with the CIA for 25 years to plant false stories and mislead the public. Documentarian John Barbour, shown at right, talks about the surveillance of journalists.

Media: Coverage of Gaza Massacres

Mondoweiss, Opinion: 'Israel has no choice’ — ‘NY Times’ columnists largely line up behind Gaza massacre, Philip Weiss, June 7, 2018. From the beginnings of the massacre in Gaza we have insisted that Israel’s actions have changed American opinion, and alienated people who were once supportive of Israel. “A frankly unconscionable use of force,” Chris Hayes said, while David Rothkopf called the slaughter the anti-Passover: “A supposedly Jewish state violating the most basic concepts of the religion in order to defend its ‘right to exist.’”

Now Eric Alterman in The Nation bluntly states that Israel used to be “a source of pride and admiration” for liberal Jews, but “today brings only shame and sadness.” The longtime liberal Zionist acknowledges the weight of this moment. The killings are “appalling,” Alterman says; and together with Israel’s 70th anniversary and the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem give “every indication of being a turning point.”

His piece is important because he points out that Israel’s defenders are hard at work: “the punditocracy remains filled with those who do not merely excuse Israel’s use of excessive force but actively praise it.”

ny times logoThis is particularly true of the New York Times op-ed page, which, aside from Michelle Goldberg’s laments for the fate of liberal Zionism, is dominated by apologists for the Netanyahu government.

Tough Tom Friedman of course is also a defender of Israel’s actions. He wrote: “I get why Israel has no choice but to defend its border with Gaza with brute force.” Friedman says Palestinian refugees need to move on.

Why should they pay with their ancestral homes for Jewish refugees who lost theirs in Germany or Iraq? The only answer is that history is full of such injustices and of refugees who have reconciled with them and moved on — not passed on their refugee status to their kids and their kids’ kids. It’s why so few Arabs, so few Europeans, so few anybody, rose to Hamas’s defense. People are fed up with it.

I may be missing some opinions, but I’m surprised. I thought Times opinion writers would seek to reflect this moment in some of its horror. But no, at a time of moral reckoning, the stable of New York Times has been strongly on Israel’s side, excepting Goldberg. That’s what you get when you hire only pro-Israel columnists, several with an ideological commitment to Zionism. Many readers are turning the page.

Trade Wars

washington post logoemmanuel macronWashington Post, France’s Macron, saying U.S. faces isolation, threatens rare rebuke of Trump at G-7 summit, Damian Paletta​, June 7, 2018. French President Emmanuel Macron (shown at right) on Thursday threatened to join with other world leaders to issue a rare rebuke of the United States at a global summit here this weekend, drawing an immediate and sharp reply from President Trump.

Macron threatened to exclude the United States from the joint statement issued every year at the end of the G7 summit, part of an international pushback against Trump efforts to change trade rules.

“The American President may not mind being isolated, but neither do we mind signing a 6 country agreement if need be,” Macron wrote on Twitter. “Because these 6 countries represent values, they represent an economic market which has the weight of history behind it and which is now a true international force.”

Trump responded by accusing Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of hurting the United States with unfair trade practices.

washington post logodjt official SmallWashington Post, Trump complains about traveling to Canada for G-7 summit ahead of Kim meeting, Josh Dawsey, Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker, June 7, 2018. President Trump has griped to several advisers that he fears attending the Group of Seven summit may not be a good use of his time because he is diametrically opposed on many key issues with his counterparts — and does not want to be lectured by them.

Inside DC: Protest At Interior Dept.

washington post logoWashington Post, Yellowstone’s top official, facing reassignment under Trump, is denied option to retire on his terms, Darryl Fears, June 7, 2018. The Trump administration issued a stern reply to Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Daniel Wenk’s offer to retire next year to avoid a reassignment to Washington: Leave your post by August or retire now.

As first reported by The Washington Post, Wenk submitted a letter to National Park Service brass announcing his retirement, offering to work until March at his office in Wyoming rather than move to the Park Service’s National Capital Region. After Monday’s reply, Wenk spoke out Thursday, saying he felt abused, according to the Mountain West News Bureau, which broke the story of the administration’s response.

Global Intrigue

washington post logoChina FlagWashington Post, As more Americans fall ill, China says it isn’t sure what is causing the mystery ailment, Simon Denyer and Carol Morello, June 7, 2018. Investigations began after a U.S. diplomat in Guangzhou reported hearing strange noises in his apartment and exhibited symptoms of brain injury. More Americans have since been evacuated from the city.

'Hollywood Madam' Reflects On Scandals, Blackmail

Hollywood Reporter, Heidi Fleiss Reflects on 25th Anniversary of Her Arrest, Ex Tom Sizemore and What Charlie Sheen Really Spent on Girls, June 7, 2018, Seth Abramovitch. The "Hollywood Madam" made millions a week running a high-class escort service to the stars; now the former sex-work mogul runs a bird sanctuary in the Nevada desert as she opens up on Harvey Weinstein.

It’s hard to believe it took until 1993 for someone to earn the nickname “The Hollywood Madam.” That honor went to Heidi Fleiss, one of six children born to Paul Fleiss, a popular Los Feliz pediatrician. In 1987 and at age 22,

Heidi was taken under the wing of Madam Alex, a procuress to the stars, to whom Fleiss was introduced by her filmmaker boyfriend. She first worked as one of Alex’s call girls but quickly absorbed the business and launched her own prostitution service in 1990.

heidi fleiss coverWith a knack for recruiting high-end talent, Fleiss by 1991 had amassed a stable of 500 girls — the look was “clean-cut and perfect, [like] she was born and raised in Beverly Hills,” she once explained — who charged clients about $1,500 a night ($2,800 today), of which Fleiss took 40 percent. Soon she was clearing $300,000 a week ($560,000 now) as she kept an A-list roster of celebrities and Hollywood executives very satisfied. Her infamous “black book,” which contained the names of her famous clients, was actually a 28-page red Gucci planner.

The party did not last long: On June 9, 1993, Fleiss was arrested and charged with five counts of pandering. “The other players like Madam Alex were all working with the LAPD, giving lists of their clients on a weekly basis,” says Nick Broomfield, director of the 1995 doc Heidi Fleiss: Hollywood Madam (shown above). “Heidi wouldn’t play the game. She broke all the rules. She kind of did it for fun, which was why she was so successful.”

The case went to trial, where Charlie Sheen testified he’d spent $53,000 a year on Fleiss’ services. A jury convicted her on three counts, for which she received a three-year sentence. That conviction was overturned in 1996, but a federal tax-evasion case the next year led to a 20-month stint in prison in Dublin, California.

Today, the 52-year-old Fleiss lives with dozens of exotic birds on the outskirts of Pahrump, Nevada. She spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about her lasting place in show business infamy.

Trump Probes

michael cohen ap file croppedPalmer Report, Opinion: Michael Cohen’s friend hints at Cohen going “nuclear” against Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, June 7, 2018. In the two months since the FBI raided the home and office of Donald Trump’s longtime fixer Michael Cohen, we’ve seen Trump spend a lot of time trying to distance himself from Cohen’s actions, while putting very little effort into defending Cohen. Now that Cohen (shown at right) is just eight days away from a major evidence deadline that could serve as a de facto decision point for whether he’s going to cut a plea deal, one of Cohen’s friends is hinting about which way Cohen is leaning.

Robert Mueller (FBI Official Photo)MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace hosted a panel today to discuss what Michael Cohen might do next. One of the participants on that panel: Cohen’s friend, radio host Donny Deutsch. The panel debated whether or not Cohen will end up cutting a plea deal. Deutsch described Cohen as being “very angry at this point.” He was then asked if Cohen is more angry at Trump or at the government. Deutsch then added “I think he’s angry with misguided loyalty … and I believe there could be some nuclear things coming.”

Deutsch didn’t specifically elaborate on what he meant by “nuclear things.” But it’s not difficult to figure out that he’s talking about Michael Cohen cutting a plea deal against Donald Trump and giving up Trump’s dirtiest secrets.

Middle Eastern Turmoil: Jordan

king abdullah ii jordan uniformMoon of Alabama, Opinion: U.S.-Saudi Pressure On Jordan Opens The Way For Iran, B, June 7, 2018. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has traditionally been in the 'western' camp. It is politically attached to the United Kingdom and the United States as well as to Saudi Arabia and other Sunni majority Gulf states. The Jordanian King Abdullah II (right) has in the past been hostile to Iran. But the new Saudi and U.S. plans for 'peace' with Israel are a threat to Jordan and to King Abdullah's personal legitimacy. He needs to change his position. Provided with the right incentives Jordan could, eventually, join the 'resistance' side with Iran, Syria and Hizbullah.

The country ruled by King Abdullah has nearly ten million inhabitants but is relatively poor. It has few natural resources. Jordan receives some $1.2 billion per year in military and economic aid from the United States. In earlier years it additionally received $1 to 2 billions from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States. That still was not enough to compensate for the burden of the war. Since 2011 Jordan's public debt increased from 70% to 95% of its GDP. Its budget deficit this year will likely top $1 billion.

This year Saudi Arabia held back. It gave no money for Jordan. With Trump ruling in Washington the U.S. payments are in doubt. Jordan took out a $723 million IMF loan but it came with strings attached. The IMF demands austerity from the Jordan state. Since the beginning of this year taxes on basic food staples increased by 50 to 100 percent. There were five increases of fuel prices. Electricity and water prices were also hiked. All that was not enough. Since last year the Prime Minister of Jordan worked on a new income tax law which would double the number of people who have to pay income tax. It would also introduce harsh measures against tax evaders.

Since May 30 Jordan has seen daily protests, seemingly over rising costs of living and the new income tax law. The protests were led by 33 trade unions who called for a general strike. The call for a strike was followed by many and the protests attracted quite large crowds.

The demonstrations continue. They now include chants against the monarchy. This is unusual. Very unusual.The economic situation and the income tax law may not be the only explanation for this civil strife. There are rumors that the Saudis, or the CIA, are behind them.

June 6

RFK Murder Anniversary / Probes

oas seal

inter american commission on human rights logo

william pepper headshotConsortium News, OAS Facing Call for New Probe into RFK Murder, Dr. William Pepper (shown at right) and Andrew Kreig, June 6, 2018. Robert Kennedy was shot on June 5 and died June 6, 1968, fifty years ago today. A new examination of evidence is forcing human rights organizations — including the OAS — to consider probing the case.

Recent news about Robert F. Kennedy’s fatal shooting sharpens the challenge for human rights organizations in how to address the shocking justice issues raised by the continued imprisonment of RFK’s convicted slayer Sirhan Sirhan. Here is a link to the filing last summer by Sirhan's attorney, Dr. William F. Pepper.

philip van praag sirhan quote 5 23 18

washington post logotom jackmanWashington Post, The Bobby Kennedy assassination tape: Were 13 shots fired or only 8? Tom Jackman (shown at right), June 6, 2018. For years after the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in June 1968, analysis of the case focused on the ballistics evidence and varying witness accounts of what happened in the pantry of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. But in 2004, delving through the archives of the police case file, CNN senior writer Brad Johnson found a recording that had been ignored for decades.

It was a tape inadvertently made by Polish journalist Stanislaw Pruszynski, who had recorded Kennedy’s victory speech with a cassette recorder. Kennedy then left the stage and walked through the pantry while Pruszynski detached his microphone from the podium, video of the event shows. As Pruszynski then moved toward the pantry, his tape was rolling. When Johnson listened 36 years later, he thought he heard shots, then a scream.

No other recording of the shooting had ever been discovered. No cameras were rolling as Kennedy shook hands with bus boys in the pantry, followed by gunfire described by many witnesses as two shots, a pause, and then a rapid-fire sequence of shots. Johnson turned the tape over to audio engineer Philip Van Praag. Using modern technology to limit ambient noise and slow down the tape, Van Praag counted 13 shot “impulses,” or wave forms resembling gunshots, and possibly more drowned out by screams.

National Enquirer, RFK Junion Confronts Dad's Killer, Sharon Churcher, June 18, 2018 (Print purchase required; sales begin June 6). Face To face after 49 years. .

Gary Null Show, An investigation into the assassination of Robert Kennedy, the case of Sirhan Sirhan, and CIA's MK Ultra mind control operations. Gary Null interviews Dr. William Pepper and Rick Allen, June 6, 2018 

rick allenRichard "Rick" Allen (right) is the current founding CEO of Snag Films -- and independent film and TV show distributor -- and View Lift, a leading digital marketing platform. He has been a producer for feature documentary films, including "Lost for Life" and "A Fighting Chance" and was the President and CEO for Sporting News, and the President and CEO for National Geographic Ventures. He also served as a Deputing Assistant during Bill Clinton's first term and was the Deputy Director of Clinton's AmeriCorps and Senior programs. A life-long admirer and scholar of Robert F. Kennedy's life, letters and speeches, he is the co-author/editor with the late Pulitzer Prize author Edwin Guthman, who served as RFK's press secretary at the Department of Justice, of the recent "RFK: His Words for Our Times" -- released for the 50th anniversary of Robert Kennedy's assassination. Their earlier "RFK Collected Speeches" has become a standard reference volume for activists and historians for RFK's position on civil rights, social justice, war poverty and creating a culture of peace. Rick received his law degree from the University of Chicago, and is a graduate of Dartmouth College. His website is RFKSpeeches.com.

william pepper headshotWilliam (Bill) Pepper, right, is an international civil and human rights attorney based in New York best best known for representing Martin Luther King’s accused assassin, James Earl Ray. In 1967, Dr. King had reached out to Dr. Pepper regarding an essay he had written for Ramparts magazine concerning Vietnamese victims of American napalm missions. He was present at Dr. King’s famous Riverside Church speech. William was the citizens chairman for Robert Kennedy’s run for the Senate in Westchester Country and also a counsel for Robert Kennedy’s assassin Sirhan Sirhan arguing for a second shooter, a trial he is now trying to reopen in an international court. William has received undergraduate and graduate degrees from Columbia, a doctorate in education from the University of Massachusetts, a Juris Doctoral degree from Boston College and also studied at the London School of Ecoomics and Political Science. His most recent book -- The Plot to Kill King: The Truth Behind the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr published by Sky Horse Publishing -- is the result of 39 years of research and gathering of documentation and sworn testimonies on new confirmed information that will revise the history behind the assassination of Dr. King.

U.S. Politics

ny times logogavin newsom oNew York Times, California Race for Governor Is Set; Focus Is Now on House, Adam Nagourney and Alexander Burns, June 6, 2018. Gavin Newsom, the Democratic lieutenant governor and former mayor of San Francisco (shown at right), took a major step Tuesday in his bid to become California’s next governor, capturing one of two spots on the November ballot, according to The Associated Press, as the state moved closer to the end of the era of Gov. Jerry Brown.

John Cox (shown below), a Republican businessman backed by President Trump, captured the other spot, setting up what is — at best — a very long-shot bid for Mr. Cox in a decidedly Democratic state where Mr. Trump lost by nearly four million votes.

john coxrepublican elephant logoMr. Cox’s showing represented a major tactical victory for national Republicans as they seek to protect seven Republican-held congressional seats in California that Democrats are targeting as they try to recapture the House. Republican leaders, including Kevin McCarthy, the House majority leader who comes from central California, had feared that having no Republicans running for a high-profile statewide office would diminish turnout among party voters in the fall.

The California results were muddled in the most-watched races here: seven congressional districts that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016 and that are now held by Republicans. Democrats are aiming to capture those seats in November, a linchpin of their strategy to take back control of the House.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logos

washington post logoWashington Post, Winners and losers from the biggest primary night of the year, Amber Phillips, June 6, 2018. Democrats survived disaster in congressional races in California, but it wasn’t a great night for senators who have been accused of corruption or Republicans who ditched President Trump in 2016.

ny times logoNew York Times, 5 Takeaways From Tuesday’s Primary Elections, Alexander Burns, Nick Corasaniti, Jonathan Martin and Matt Flegenheimer, June 6, 2018. Trump voters can have long memories. Democratic voters in New Jersey have not fully forgiven Senator Robert Menendez. And other points from the night’s primaries.

The battle for control of Congress was front and center on Tuesday night, with races taking shape in several intensely contested House seats in California and New Jersey. But there were revealing elections in the Midwest and the South, too, underscoring President Trump’s power in the Republican Party and the different ways Democrats hope to loosen his hold on red-state America.

Here are some of our takeaways:

Money matters in California: National Democrats spent over $7 million in an effort to ensure they had a candidate reach the general election in three House districts in California held by Republicans. Their decision to not take their chances in the state’s “top two” system — in which the top finishers in nonpartisan, open primaries face each other in November — appears to have been a wise investment.

Former Alabama Gov. Siegelman's Son Wins AG Primary

joseph siegelman cochranWHNT-TV (Huntsville, AL), Joseph Siegelman takes the Democratic primary for Attorney General, moving on to the general election, Staff report, June 5, 2018. The voters of Alabama have chosen Joseph Siegelman in the Democratic primary race for attorney general. Siegelman will now face off against a Republican opponent on November 6.

Siegelman is the son of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. “The first thing we need is a change in mindset. We can’t let a political agenda cloud the decisions that come out of the Attorney General’s office. Every day we need to be thinking what can we do to serve the people of Alabama and make their lives better,” explained Siegelman at a public forum on AAMU campus.

Analysts saw Siegelman’s name recognition as a strength while opponent Chris Christie had a slight edge in campaign funds.

JIP Editor's Note: Voting was 54-46 in Siegelman's favor with 99% of the vote counted. JIP has published many articles showing how Republican prosecutors and judges framed and imprisoned on corruption charges the victor's father, former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, to drive him from politics following his gubernatorial victory in 1998 and narrow re-election defeat in 2002.

Inside DC

washington post logopaul ryan oWashington Post, Ryan splits with Trump, says he sees ‘no evidence’ FBI spied on campaign, Karoun Demirjian and Mike DeBonis​, June 6, 2018. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) joined others disputing President Trump’s claim that federal law enforcement planted a spy inside his campaign. He also threw water at Trump’s assertion that he could pardon himself: “No one is above the law.”

ICE logo

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Utter chaos’: ICE arrests 114 workers in immigration raid at Ohio gardening company, Samantha Schmidt, June 6, 2018. It was one of the largest workplace immigration raids in recent years, and local activists said it left dozens of the workers' children stranded at day-care centers and with babysitters.

washington post logoWashington Post, Murder with impunity: Where killings go unsolved, Wesley Lowery, Kimbriell Kelly, Ted Mellnik and Steven Rich, June 6, 2018. The Post has mapped more than 50,000 homicides in major U.S. cities over the past decade and found that the nation’s urban areas contain pockets of impunity — places where killings routinely go unpunished. The analysis goes beyond what is known nationally about unsolved homicide, revealing block by block where police fail to make arrests. Chicago: 5,535 homicides tracked: 74% without an arrest.

washington post logokim kardashian w headshotWashington Post, Trump commutes sentence of woman whose case was championed by Kim Kardashian, John Wagner and Sari Horwitz​, June 6, 2018. President Trump on Wednesday commuted the sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, a woman serving a life term for a nonviolent crime, after meeting with reality television star and socialite Kim Kardashian West (shown at right) last week to discuss the case.

The action was the latest in a recent string of pardons and other acts of clemency from Trump, and aides haves suggested that more could soon be on the way. Johnson, 63, was convicted in Tennessee in 1996 and sentenced to life in prison on federal drug possession and money laundering charges. She was denied clemency by the Obama administration in January 2017 in one of the administration’s last batches of clemency denials. In a statement, the White House noted that Johnson was a great-grandmother who had served almost 22 years for a first-time offense.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. offers lawmakers new material on FBI’s Russia probe, Devlin Barrett​, June 7, 2018. The planned briefing follows demands from Republicans for more details about the investigation into whether Trump campaign advisers had suspicious ties to Russia. 

Consumer Issues

washington post logomick mulvaney omb SmallWashington Post, Mick Mulvaney fires all 25 members of consumer watchdog’s advisory board, Renae Merle, June 6, 2018. Mick Mulvaney, acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (shown at right), fired the agency’s 25-member advisory board Wednesday, days after some of its members criticized his leadership of the watchdog agency.

The CFPB said it will revamp the Consumer Advisory Board, known as the CAB, in the fall with all new members. The panel has traditionally played an influential role in advising the CFPB’s leadership on new regulations and policies. But some members, who include prominent consumer advocates, academics and industry executives, began to complain that Mulvaney was ignoring them and making unwise decisions about the agency’s future.

On Monday, 11 CAB members held a news conference and criticized Mulvaney for, among other things, canceling legally required meetings with the group. On Wednesday, group members were notified that they were being replaced — and that they could not reapply for spots on the new board.

washington post logoWashington Post, Debate over payday loans opens rift among black pastors, Renae Merle, June 6, 2018. Black churches have become a battleground in the debate over regulating the payday lending industry, with pastors divided over whether the high-interest loans are helpful or harmful in their communities.

Culture Wars

washington post logoWashington Post, Steve Kerr rips White House ‘military singalongs,’ pokes Trump for not knowing the lyrics, Cindy Boren, June 6, 2018. The day after the Philadelphia Eagles’ trip to the White House was called off by President Trump, Golden State Warriors Coach Steve Kerr criticized a concept of patriotism that features “these military sing-a-longs at the White House to show how patriotic we are — even though we don’t know the words.”

Kerr was asked about the Minnesota Lynx, the WNBA champions who were not invited to the White House and spent their day in Washington helping underprivileged children in a southeast D.C. school. On Tuesday, Trump had disinvited the Eagles after the size of their contingent shrank to around a dozen players, replacing it with a “Celebration of America” that featured military bands. During the playing of “God Bless America,” the president, who has demanded that NFL players stand for the national anthem instead of peacefully protest to raise awareness of social injustice and policy brutality by kneeling or raising a fist, sang only part of the song.

Kerr, like San Antonio Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich, has been outspoken in his criticism of Trump, and found it particularly ironic that the Eagles have been actively been doing “good deeds in their communities.” Malcolm Jenkins and Chris Long have been especially active. None of the Eagles players knelt during the anthem at any point last season.

Turmoil In Jordan

AMN (Al Masdar News), King Abdullah of Jordan: Balancing on an ever-tighter tightrope, James M. Dorsey, June 4, 2018. A look at a decade of failed social, economic and political reform in Jordan goes a far way to explain recent mass anti-government protests demanding the resignation of the government.

The protests, prompting concerns about the survival of the Hashemite dynasty, also bear witness to the fallout of the region’s epic power struggles and the pitfalls of government failures to respond to long-standing discontent that has been simmering across the region just below the surface.

Pent-up anger and frustration with governments that have failed to deliver public goods and services were at the core of popular Arab revolts in 2011 that initially toppled the leaders of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. The protests target corruption and a proposed tax bill that protesters say will reduce living standards in a country with double digit unemployment, 21 percent of the population living below the poverty line, and finances and services burdened by the influx of more than 2 million refugees, including 600,000 plus Syrians.

The bill would raise taxes on employees by at least five percent and on companies by between 20 and 40 percent in line with the terms of a three-year $723 million dollar loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that Jordan secured in 2016.

June 5

New Focus On Hypnosis In RFK Murder 50 Years Ago Today

Shane O'Sullivan and book RFK bookwhowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Opinion & Analysis: Was Sirhan Hypnotically Programmed to Assassinate RFK? Shane O’Sullivan, June 5, 2018. Dr. Shane O’Sullivan, shown above, wrote "Who Killed Bobby?" and directed the documentary "RFK Must Die."

Fifty years ago, Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in the kitchen pantry of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. His convicted assassin, Sirhan Sirhan, remains in prison in San Diego and claims to have no memory of the crime. Robert Kennedy Jr. visited Sirhan for three hours last December and, on the basis of new audio evidence of a second shooter, is calling for a new investigation into the case.

dan brownOver the last 11 years, Sirhan’s attorney Laurie Dusek and Dr. Daniel Brown (shown at left), a leading expert on hypnosis and coercive persuasion at Harvard Medical School, have spent over 150 hours with Sirhan, working pro bono and at great personal cost to recover his memory of the shooting.

The WhoWhatWhy piece shows 67 minutes of video footage spiked from a Netflix documentary showing  Dr. Dan Brown and Sirhan’s attorney, Laurie Dusek, discussing their groundbreaking work with Sirhan for the first time. 

washington post logotom jackmanWashington Post, Did L.A. police and prosecutors bungle the Bobby Kennedy assassination probe? Tom Jackman (shown right), June 5, 2018. For six years after he was shot and wounded while walking behind Robert F. Kennedy in the Ambassador Hotel in June 1968, Paul Schrade mourned the loss of his friend and stayed out of the public eye. But beginning with a news conference in 1974, Schrade has demanded answers to the question of whether a second gunman — and not Sirhan Sirhan — killed Kennedy.

Soon after Sirhan’s trial ended with his first-degree-murder conviction in April 1969, journalists noted that Kennedy had been shot in the back of the head at point-blank range, but witnesses all said Sirhan was standing in front of Kennedy. Bullet holes found in the doors of the crime scene indicated more shots were fired than could have come from Sirhan’s eight-shot .22-caliber pistol, some witnesses said. Sirhan’s defense team had not challenged any of the physical evidence at trial.

tim tate brad johnson rfk coverConsortium News, A just published book on the RFK murder re-examines the evidences and asks what the world might be like if the four 1960s assassinations never occurred, James DiEugenio, June 5, 2018. Authors Tim Tate and Brad Johnson begin their new book, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy: Crime, Conspiracy and Cover-Up – A New Investigation (Thistle Publishing) with this quote from RFK the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was killed: “What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? No martyr’s cause has ever been stilled by an assassin’s bullet.”

Just two months later Kennedy would become the last in a series of four assassinations of American leaders from 1963-68: President John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. The cumulative political impact of those murders is hard to overstate. Toward the end of their book the authors try to estimate what that impact was.

Though it’s impossible to say for sure, they conjecture that, at the very least, the Vietnam War would have ended much sooner and would not have expanded into Laos and Cambodia. We know for certain that President Richard Nixon’s decision to expand the war caused the collapse of the government of Cambodia’s Prince Sihanouk, the eventual takeover by the Khmer Rouge and the death of two million people.

The murder of Bobby Kennedy has always seemed to get less attention in the mainstream media than the other 1960s assassinations, perhaps because it’s been considered an “open and shut case.” There were, after all, seventy witnesses to RFK’s murder. But the Los Angeles Police Department decided very early, and quite literally, that what happened in the wee hours of June 5, 1968 would not be another Dallas, as Tate and Johnson say.

Trump Probes

paul manafort abc flickr Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Manafort Is Accused of Attempted Witness Tampering, Matta Apuzzo, June 5, 2018 (print edition). Federal prosecutors on Monday accused President Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort (shown in a file photo above), of attempting to tamper with witnesses in his federal tax and lobbying case.

In court documents, prosecutors working for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, said that Mr. Manafort tried to contact witnesses by phone and through an encrypted messaging program. Prosecutors said that was a violation of Mr. Manafort’s release while he awaits trial. They asked a federal judge to revise the terms of his release or revoke it entirely, which would send him to jail until trial.

The Atlantic, Paul Manafort Loses His Cool, Franklin Foer, June 5, 2018. Special Counsel Robert Mueller says the longtime Trump associate tried to tamper with witnesses while awaiting trial on conspiracy and money-laundering charges. At the height of his powers as a political consultant, Paul Manafort was known for his cool. In fact, the value of his counsel increased at moments of crisis. While others panicked, Manafort rarely evinced a hint of frazzle. He could still think strategically, detach himself from emotion, and issue clearheaded guidance. But he could afford to keep his head at such moments, because the problems he was called on to solve belonged to others.

Robert Mueller’s allegation that Manafort attempted to tamper with a witness permits us to peer inside Manafort’s mind as it has functioned in a very different set of circumstances. When it comes to Manafort’s own deep problems — his moment of legal peril — he seems unable to muster strategic thinking. He has shown himself capable of profoundly dunderheaded miscalculations.

It’s hard to understand how he could have attempted the scheme described by Mueller in the midst of the highest-profile, most scrutinized criminal inquiry of the century. But that alone fails to capture the depths of his blundering.

What Mueller recounted, in a new court document filed Monday night, is how Manafort attempted to contact members of the so-called Hapsburg Group earlier this year. Manafort had created the Hapsburg Group back in 2011. It comprised European politicians he’d recruited to help beautify the image of his authoritarian client Viktor Yanukovych,

robert mueller screenshot washington post

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump says he has ‘absolute right’ to pardon himself but denies wrongdoing, John Wagner​, June 5, 2018 (print edition). President Trump’s assessment echoed comments made by his attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani, who has offered an expansive view of the president’s executive powers. Trump also took aim again at special counsel Robert S. Mueller III (shown above in a file photo), calling his appointment “totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL.”

washington post logoWashington Post, The president as the persecuted: Trump’s strategy of self-victimization, Philip Rucker​, June 5, 2018 (print edition). The president has created around himself an aura of unfair persecution — by the nation’s elites, Democrats, the media and law enforcement — that inspires sympathy from and solidarity with his aggrieved supporters.

washington post logorudy giuliani recentWashington Post, Giuliani: Under constitution, Trump could shoot Comey and not be indicted, John Wagner, June 5, 2018 (print edition). President Trump’s lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani (shown in a file photo) reportedly said Sunday that Trump could shoot former FBI director James B. Comey in the Oval Office and still not be indicted for it while still serving as president.

The HuffPost reported that Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor, made the assertion on a day when he conducted a series of interviews in which he discussed the expansive powers granted to the president in the Constitution.

“In no case can he be subpoenaed or indicted,” Giuliani said, according to the HuffPost. “I don’t know how you can indict while he’s in office. No matter what it is.” Giuliani said that impeachment would be the remedy for a president’s illegal behavior, offering as an example the hypothetical case of Trump shooting Comey rather than firing him, the HuffPost reported.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump fixates on pardons, considering case championed by Kim Kardashian, Ashley Parker, Robert Costa and Josh Dawsey​, June 5, 2018. President Trump is telling aides that he is considering pardoning Alice Marie Johnson after meeting with Kardashian to discuss the 63-year-old's case. The potential pardon has caused consternation in the West Wing, with top advisers disturbed by the process, according to two people familiar with the discussions.

washington post logoWashington Post, McConnell cancels most of Senate’s August recess, forcing campaign-schedule scramble, Sean Sullivan​, June 5, 2018.  The Republican majority leader slashed the break to one week instead of four, leaving vulnerable Democrats to juggle campaign and legislative duties.

washington post logodavid h. koch wWashington Post, David Koch is leaving Koch Industries, stepping down from Americans for Prosperity, James Hohmann, June 5, 2018. David Koch (shown at right), one of the two billionaire brothers at the helm of the powerful conservative political network, is retiring from his family’s conglomerate, Koch Industries, and stepping down as chairman of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation.

His brother, Charles Koch, announced in a letter to employees of Koch Industries on Tuesday that David Koch’s health has been in decline since he was hospitalized last summer. He was not specific about the illness, though his brother is a cancer survivor.

“Unfortunately, these issues have not been resolved and his health has continued to deteriorate,” Charles Koch wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post. “As a result, he is unable to be involved in business and other organizational activities. … David has always been a fighter and is dealing with this challenge in the same way.”

David Koch’s departure will change the makeup of one of the most active and well-funded political forces in the country that has been a bulwark in not just supporting but setting the Republican agenda — although not necessarily President Trump’s.

washington post logoscott pruitt epa o CustomWashington Post, Pruitt enlisted EPA aide to help his wife inquire about opening a Chick-fil-A, Juliet Eilperin, Brady Dennis and Josh Dawsey, June 5, 2018. Marlyn Pruitt never opened a restaurant. But the revelation that Scott Pruitt used his position as EPA administrator and EPA staff to try to line up work for her appears to open a new chapter in the saga of his questionable spending and management decisions, which have spawned a dozen probes.

Commentary On Call for 9-11 Grand Jury Probe

WestView News / The Voice of the West Village, Opinion: Grand Jury Should Investigate World Trade Center Explosions On 9/11, Lawyers’ Committee for 9/11 Inquiry, June 5, 2018. According to its report, the 9/11 Commission had a “sweeping” mandate to investigate the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. It was supposed to provide the fullest possible account of the events surrounding 9/11, and to identify lessons learned.

But no matter how noble its purpose, the Commission was “set up to fail,” according to Commission Co-Chairs Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton. The Commission was woefully under-funded, working under an unreasonable deadline, denied access to sensitive information, and faced continuous opposition and resistance from the very agencies whose cooperation was needed most.

In their book, Without Precedent, Kean and Hamilton wrote, “Fog of war could explain why some people were confused on the day of 9/11, but it could not explain why all of the after-action reports, accident investigations, and public testimony by FAA and NORAD [North American Aerospace Defense Command] officials advanced an account of 9/11 that was untrue.” In the end, the 9/11 Commission Report failed to address many of the public’s questions about that day.

Case in point: despite 567 pages, the report never mentions the destruction of the Salomon Brothers Building — WTC 7 — much less explains how a 47-story building, never hit by a plane, with only a few reported fires, came down symmetrically on its own footprint at near free-fall acceleration only hours after the attacks.

According to 9/11 opinion polls, substantial numbers of Americans question the official story or believe the government failed to investigate or tell the public the truth.

Zogby International found that 43% of Americans are not aware of WTC 7’s collapse; 38% of those who are aware believe the 9/11 Commission should have investigated its destruction; 45% believe the attacks should be reinvestigated; and 42% believe that the government and the 9/11 Commission concealed or refused to investigate critical evidence that contradicts the official story.

On April 10th, 2018, the Lawyers’ Committee for 9/11 Inquiry—a nonprofit public interest organization supported by 9/11 victim families, architects, engineers, scientists and concerned citizens—filed a petition with the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey S. Berman. Pursuant to federal law, 18 U.S.C. § 3332(a), the petition demands the Department of Justice present to a special grand jury extensive evidence that pre-placed explosives detonated at the World Trade Center on 9/11 caused the destruction of the Twin Towers and WTC 7.

WestView News / The Voice of the West Village, Opinion: Does a Conspiracy Theory Hide a Conspiracy? George Capsis, June 5, 2018. Dusty won’t even look at the headlines of the Times let alone read it. She scans the alternate media on her iPhone while occasionally glancing up at the CBS six o’clock news.

So, it is not too surprising that she is deeply submerged in a theory that it was more than a handful of Muslims seeking martyrdom, in two hijacked passenger planes, that brought down all those buildings on 9/11. No, it was much bigger than that — it was a conspiracy.

Yes, well, some of us feel that if once you accept the conspiracy theory, there is no stopping — it goes all over the place, even (in this case, according to some) the White House.

June 4

washington post logotom jackmanWashington Post, The assassination of Bobby Kennedy: Was Sirhan Sirhan hypnotized to be the fall guy? Tom Jackman (shown right), June 4, 2018. Even as Sirhan Sirhan was being captured, seconds after the shooting of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in Los Angeles, he behaved oddly. A group of men had tackled him, held him down and tried to wrest the gun out of his hands.

But “in the middle of a hurricane of sound and feeling,” wrote one of those men, author George Plimpton, Sirhan “seemed peaceful.” Plimpton was struck by Sirhan’s “dark brown and enormously peaceful eyes.” A Los Angeles police officer who had rushed in recalled, “He had a blank, glassed-over look on his face — like he wasn’t in complete control of his mind.”

Sirhan SirhanAt the same time, the short, slim Sirhan (shown in a photo after arrest) — 5 feet 5 inches, about 120 pounds — exerted superhuman strength as one man held his wrist to a steam table in the Ambassador Hotel pantry, firing off five or six more shots even as he was held around the neck, body and legs by other men, witnesses said. It took a half-dozen men to wrench the .22-caliber pistol out of Sirhan’s grip.

At the police station, Sirhan was preternaturally calm, officers later said. “I was impressed by Sirhan’s composure and relaxation,” Sgt. William Jordan wrote in a report later that morning. “He appeared less upset to me than individuals arrested for a traffic violation.”

dan brownBut the hypnosis angle gained momentum in recent years after Sirhan was examined for more than 60 hours by a Harvard Medical School professor with vast expertise in forensic psychiatry and hypnosis. In a lengthy affidavit filed with Sirhan’s last appeal in 2011, Daniel P. Brown (shown at right) concluded that “Mr. Sirhan did not act under his own volition and knowledge at the time of the assassination and is not responsible for actions coerced and/or carried out by others.” He was, Brown said, a true “Manchurian Candidate,” hypno-programmed into carrying out a violent political act without knowing it.

“I have written four textbooks on hypnosis,” Brown wrote, “and have hypnotized over 6,000 individuals over a 40-year professional career. Mr. Sirhan is one of the most hypnotizable individuals I have ever met, and the magnitude of his amnesia for actions under hypnosis is extreme.” Brown said he has spent another 60 hours with Sirhan in the years since his 2011 affidavit, further confirming his conclusions.

Brown researched not only Sirhan’s background but also the details of the case, and wove together the CIA’s notorious “MKUltra” mind-control experiments of the 1950s and 1960s; the Mafia; the famed “girl in the polka-dot dress” seen with Sirhan before the shooting; and an unknown “Radio Man” who secretly directed Sirhan to write the incriminating “RFK must die!” statements in a notebook found in his bedroom.

Lawyers for Sirhan are currently using the theory that he was a hypnotized distraction for the actual killer of Kennedy in a pending appeal to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Although it would have no binding power over the case, a positive finding could be used to push California authorities to reopen the case. Sirhan attorney William Pepper said he’s convinced that someone used “both drugs and hypnosis to make him a totally compliant distraction at the time Bobby Kennedy was within range of the second shooter, who was able to get down behind him.” Kennedy’s fatal wound was fired at point-blank range from behind, while witnesses said Sirhan was in front of him.

But to the U.S. court system, that claim simply didn’t fly. In rejecting Sirhan’s final federal appeal in 2013, U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew J. Wistrich wrote that Sirhan’s “theory that he was subject to mind control may be intriguing” but that the experts’ views “fall far short of demonstrating that [Sirhan] actually was subjected to mind control.” Wistrich added that “Brown’s retrospective opinion based upon tests assessing [Sirhan’s] mental condition forty years after the fact are of negligible weight.”

Supreme Court Rulings

supreme court building

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court throws out lower court decision that allowed immigrant teenager to obtain abortion, Robert Barnes, June 4, 2018.  The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a lower court’s decision that allowed an undocumented immigrant teenager to obtain an abortion over the protests of the Trump administration.

The action, which came in an unsigned opinion without noted dissents, throws out a precedent that might allow other teenagers in the same circumstance to obtain an abortion. But the court did not agree with a request by the president’s lawyers that American Civil Liberties Union lawyers who represented the girl be disciplined for their actions in the case.

Justice Department lawyers said they thought they had a deal with the girl’s lawyers last year that would have given them time to appeal a ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that allowed the abortion. Instead, the girl was able to have an abortion before the government lawyers filed, making their request moot and opening the administration to criticism from antiabortion groups that the Justice Department moved too slowly.

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court rules in favor of baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, Robert Barnes​, June 4, 2018. In an opinion by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy that leaves many questions unanswered, the court held that a Colorado commission had not adequately taken into account the religious beliefs of baker Jack Phillips. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.

Arizona Murder Spree Suspect Dead

washington post logoWashington Post, Suspect in Arizona killings fatally shoots himself in hotel room as officers close in, police say, Kristine Phillips, June 4, 2018. Four people, including a prominent forensic psychiatrist involved in the JonBenét Ramsey case, were shot and killed in the past few days in Scottsdale.

Fatal Volcano Eruption In Guatemala

bbc news logo2BBC, Guatemala volcano: Dozens die as Fuego volcano erupts, Staff report, June 4, 2018. Guatemala's most violent volcano eruption in more than a century has killed at least 25 people. The Fuego volcano, about 40km (25 miles) south-west of the capital Guatemala City, spewed rock, gas and ash into the sky on Sunday. Fast-moving flows hit villages, killing people inside their homes. Hundreds were injured and many are missing. The country's main airport is closed.

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 62 dead in Guatemala as volcano erupts, burying an entire village, Susan Hogan and Avi Selk, June 4, 2018. The volcano erupted with no warning, sending hot rivers of rock and gas into the surrounding villages at astonishing speed. Among the dead were two children who burned to death on a bridge as they watched the eruption.

U.S. Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Calls Off White House Visit for Philadelphia Eagles, Michael D. Shear, June 4, 2018. Nearly all of the players and coaches from the Super Bowl-winning team had said they would boycott the visit over Mr. Trump’s demands that players stand during the national anthem at games.

nfl logoPresident Trump abruptly called off the White House celebration honoring the Super Bowl-champion Philadelphia Eagles after nearly all of the players and coaches said they would boycott the visit after the president’s demands that players stand during the national anthem at games.

philadelphia eagles superbowlWhite House officials said that fewer than 10 members of the team were planning to attend the celebration on Tuesday afternoon on the South Lawn despite weeks of planning for the event, which is usually a nonpolitical celebration of a football victory.

Instead, this year’s event to honor the Eagles has become a bitter reflection of the deep divisions in the United States over race, patriotism and Mr. Trump himself. When it became clear that most of the team would not attend, Mr. Trump issued a blistering statement disinviting them.

dianne feinsteinwashington post logoWashington Post, What challenge? Feinstein romps ahead in California primary with turns to the left, David Weigel June 4, 2018 (print edition). It was supposed to be a defining battle for the Democratic Party’s future, Cali­fornia’s Sen. Dianne Feinstein against her party’s fired-up activist left. Amid predictions of a Democratic civil war, one of the state’s largest labor unions endorsed her opponent and urged voters to reject “establishment politics.”

Yet days before Tuesday’s top-two primary, Feinstein is cruising toward what even her field of opponents acknowledge will be a giant victory. Her best-known opponent, state Sen. Kevin de León (D), who charged into the race last year on a message of generational change, has found himself ­challenged by a little-known ­Republican for the second spot in the November runoff, as lesser-known liberals fracture the anti-Feinstein vote. De León, 51, has been careful not to directly discuss Feinstein’s age, but he has drawn attention to her long tenure and her “50 years” in politics.

Feinstein has quieted questions about her faculties with long editorial board interviews and short but active campaign stops.

thomas massie oRoll Call, Rep. Massie Seeks K Street Campaign Cash After Blasting Lobbyist, Kate Ackley, June 4, 2018. Kentucky GOP lawmaker (shown at right) plans cigar and bourbon bash with downtown denizens this week. 

Conservative Rep. Thomas Massie created a fuss on K Street last week in chastising an unnamed lobbyist whom he says offered to help him raise money to secure a seat on the Ways and Means Committee. But apparently, the Kentucky Republican still wants political donations from K Street — in a smoke-filled room, no less, according to an invitation obtained by Roll Call.

Massie, in a documentary series called “The Swamp,” said that a medical device industry lobbyist proposed helping him raise campaign money and would assist him in getting on the tax-writing and health-focused Ways and Means panel, according to a report in Politico. “I wanted to run out of there,” Massie said, according to a video clip provided by Politico. “After his proposal, I was trying to find a shower. I had to get the scum off.”

Given those comments and Massie’s apparent revulsion, lobbyists said they were surprised Monday to receive an invitation to a Wednesday fundraising event featuring cigars and Kentucky bourbon at the Capitol Hill townhouse of UPS.

Inside DC

washington post logoscott pruitt epa o CustomWashington Post, Pruitt had aide do numerous personal tasks, including hunting for a used Trump hotel mattress, Juliet Eilperin, Josh Dawsey and Brady Dennis, June 4, 2018. Millan Hupp, who is Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt’s director of scheduling and advance, also scouted apartments for her boss (shown at right) in Washington and helped arrange his family vacation to California over the New Year’s holiday for the Rose Bowl.

Media: Hersh Publishes Memoir

seymour hersh w 2015

ny times logoNew York Times, Even in His Memoir, Seymour Hersh Is Breaking News, Michael M. Grynbaum, June 4, 2018 (print edition). In “Reporter,” Mr. Hersh revisits his coverage of Vietnam, Nixon and bin Laden. “I will happily permit history to be the judge of my recent work,” he said.

Seymour M. Hersh (shown above delivering a lecture) didn’t even want to write a memoir. He had been on contract for a book about Dick Cheney, the former vice president. He had spent four years reporting it, amassing dozens of files of what he called explosive material, only to find that his sources had gone jittery amid a government crackdown on leakers. He went to his publishers at Alfred A. Knopf, “hat in hand,” and said he couldn’t go through with it. He offered to mortgage his Manhattan pied-à-terre to repay the advance.

“They said, ‘Write a memoir,’ and I said, ‘No way,’” Mr. Hersh, 81, recalled the other day. “I don’t write about my family, and I never do.”

Plus, the Sy Hersh story — the story of a working-class Jewish kid from the South Side of Chicago, who through serendipity and toil had exposed the horror of the My Lai massacre, revealed domestic and foreign abuses by the C.I.A. and harried Washington’s elite for a half-century — was not finished.

Not for the first time in his career, the editors prevailed. Reporter, a 355-page memoir, will be released on Tuesday. The book is by turns rollicking and reflective, sober and score-settling. It reconstructs his reporting on Vietnam, his feuds with Henry Kissinger, the foibles of former bosses like A.M. Rosenthal at The New York Times and William Shawn at The New Yorker. It also exhumes journalism’s flush, predigital heyday — when newspapers felled presidents and Mr. Hersh, as a newbie at The Times, was put up at the Hôtel de Crillon while on assignment in Paris.

Sentiment, though, is scarce, befitting the flinty style of Mr. Hersh, who has a knack for cycling through employers and exhausting his editors. (After a messy split with The New Yorker, he no longer has a regular venue for his work.) He knocks reporters for laziness and editors for timidity. He notes that major publications passed on his My Lai exposé, fearful of government denials that American soldiers had murdered dozens of Vietnamese civilians. In the end, Mr. Hersh syndicated the stories himself, and won a Pulitzer Prize for his efforts.

Mr. Hersh has found himself at odds with much of Washington’s reporting establishment since The New Yorker declined to publish his report on the death of Osama Bin Laden — a story that directly contradicted the account given by the Obama White House and much of the mainstream press. Mr. Hersh instead turned to an unlikely venue, the London Review of Books, to make his case that Pakistani intelligence had not only been aware of the Bin Laden mission, but had cooperated with it as well.

Trump Probes

Donald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Lawyers Assert Executive Power to Avoid Questioning, Michael S. Schmidt, Maggie Haberman, Charlie Savage and Matt Apuzzo, June 3, 2018 (print edition). President Trump’s lawyers have for months quietly waged a campaign to keep the special counsel from trying to force him to answer questions in the investigation into whether he obstructed justice, asserting that he cannot be compelled to testify and arguing in a confidential letter that he could not possibly have committed obstruction because he has unfettered authority over all federal investigations.

In a brash assertion of presidential power, the 20-page letter — sent to the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and obtained by The New York Times — contends that the president cannot illegally obstruct any aspect of the investigation into Russia’s election meddling because the Constitution empowers him to, “if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon.”

Jay SekulowMr. Trump’s broad interpretation of executive authority is novel and is likely to be tested if a court battle ensues over whether he could be ordered to answer questions. Hand-delivered to the special counsel’s office in January and written by two of the president’s lawyers at the time, John M. Dowd and Jay A. Sekulow (shown at right), the letter offers a rare glimpse into one side of the high-stakes negotiations over a presidential interview.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s terrible legal team has really messed up now, Jennifer Rubin, June 4, 2018. Trump did not dictate the Trump Tower response. Until he did.

In a January letter to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, two of President Trump’s lawyers asserted that the president dictated a statement concerning the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer, just as The Post reported last year. One of those Trump lawyers, Jay Sekulow, had gone on national television not once, but multiple times, in 2017 to claim his client had nothing to do with the statement. (The statement Trump dictated falsely claimed that the meeting was just about adoptions from Russia.)

So why is this a big deal? Constitutional lawyer Laurence Tribe tells me that the lawyers’ letter amounts to “a confession of conspiring to facilitate obstruction by Donald [Trump] Jr.” Moreover, Tribe says the false statement now known to be Trump’s handiwork reveals “some motives in taking steps like firing [James] Comey and pressuring [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions to un-recuse.” In other words, coming up with a false cover story reaffirms that Trump did not want the investigators to examine the Russian offer of “dirt” and the president’s son’s willingness to receive foreign help. Trump’s fury at Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia probe appears to be one more bit of evidence that he wanted to manipulate and disable the investigation.

The letter that simultaneously confesses to a possible crime and gives prosecutors the justification for interviewing their client might go down as the single worst bit of lawyering in this whole mess. And with this stable of lawyers, that’s really saying something.

djt michael cohen

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion:The Trump team’s chilling message to Mueller, Ruth Marcus, June 3, 2018 (print edition). Trump asserts the right to terminate the Russia probe altogether. Or the investigation into his lawyer Michael Cohen.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The thing that most people missed about the Donald Trump confidential memo story, Bill Palmer, June 3, 2018. If you managed to get the correct story today about Donald Trump’s confidential memo to Robert Mueller, congratulations, you’re in the minority. As I scroll through social media this evening, it’s become clear that most people – on both sides – ended up misunderstanding a key detail. As such, they fully misinterpreted the circumstances behind the memo.

Here’s the kicker: as spelled out in the New York Times story about the memo, but apparently not in big enough block letters for the speed-reading crowd, Trump sent this memo to Mueller five months ago. The memo is just now becoming news because the media has just now gotten its hands on the memo, and up until now, no one on the outside even knew it existed. But this isn’t some new threat on Trump’s part. He privately threatened to fire Mueller and pardon everyone back in January. We’re now in June. Let that sink in for a minute, because it changes everything.

Trump and his legal team made these threats five months ago, in an effort to scare Mueller into backing down. Instead, Mueller and the Feds have ramped things up. They’ve brought additional charges against Paul Manafort, convinced Rick Gates to cut a plea deal against Trump, targeted Roger Stone in a grand jury, gone after Jared Kushner’s closest friend in an effort at forcing him to flip on Kushner, indicted thirteen Russians, and raided Michael Cohen’s office, among other major moves. So what’s Trump done in response? Nothing.

Donald Trump and his legal team made those threats in January, and after Robert Mueller called their bluff, Team Trump backed down and didn’t do any of what it had threatened. As per usual, Trump is a man of big words and little meaningful action. No wonder Mueller is moving so aggressively; he gained the upper hand the minute he successfully called Trump’s bluff. If you want to know how badly Trump’s memo failed, consider that half his legal team has since resigned. Trump vs Mueller is far from over, but the Trump memo has already turned out to be a huge victory – for Mueller.

Axios, 1 revealing thing: Rudy's use of the "I" word, Jonathan Swan, June 3, 2018. Unprompted, Rudy Giuliani brought up the word "impeachment" five times in his interview with NBC's Chuck Todd on today's "Meet the Press." Giuliani repeatedly pointed out to Todd that while Trump has awesome powers as the boss of the executive branch, any move by this president to terminate the Mueller investigation or to pardon himself would likely lead to impeachment.

The money quote: "The president of the United States pardoning himself would just be unthinkable. And it would lead to probably an immediate impeachment."

Why this matters: Several Trump allies have told me they think it's politically useful to talk about impeachment as much as possible between now and November.  They believe it will motivate Republican voters to turn out in the midterm elections to save the GOP House majority. And they also believe the impulsive Trump needs to be reminded, again and again, the stakes of any rash move on his part to bring an early end to the Mueller investigation.

U.S. Economy: Farming

washington post logoWashington Post, Family farms, facing falling crop prices and a trade war, now have another worry: Rising interest rates, Heather Long, June 3, 2018 (print edition). Bob Merrill, a South Dakota farmer, barely made it through the 1980s farm crisis. He’s worried that a similar crisis is about to happen again. Farmers are currently carrying the highest level of debt since that crisis, when interest rates soared to the high double-digits and many family operations lost their farms.

RFK Assassination: 50th Anniversary

washington post logoWashington Post, Robert F. Kennedy’s final flight: The storied journey of the ride from California to New York, David Margolick, June 3, 2018. Robert F. Kennedy’s body was loaded onto the front of the Air Force jet early in the afternoon of June 6, 1968. His family, holding hands, surrounded the coffin while it was hoisted up. Meanwhile, the various Kennedy friends, relatives and aides who had assembled at Los Angeles International Airport boarded from the stairs at the rear.

At one point, D. Paul Sweeney, the Secret Service agent standing by the back door as people filed in, peeked to his right, and spotted something quite extraordinary: Midway down the aisle, America’s three most famous widows were conversing. They spoke only briefly, maybe five or 10 minutes. But they were there, together. Then, for the next 4½ hours, Ethel Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy and Coretta Scott King shared a flight over their grieving, wounded, troubled country.

Crime, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, A forensic psychiatrist was gunned down. Then police discovered more bodies, Kristine Phillips, June 3, 2018.  Steven Pitt’s death is connected to the killings of two paralegals in Scottsdale, Ariz., police said. Pitt had worked on the JonBenét Ramsey case and other high-profile crimes.

Steven Pitt, a prominent forensic psychiatrist who had consulted in high-profile murder cases, was shot outside his office in broad daylight Thursday afternoon. He would be one of four victims killed over the next two days within miles of each other in the Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale, Ariz.

Around the time Pitt was killed, witnesses heard a loud argument followed by gunfire, police said. The following day, two paralegals were shot inside the family law office where they worked, about 10 miles away. A psychologist was found shot to death in his office hours later.

The string of shootings raised questions about whether Pitt, 59, may have been killed because of his profession, a line of work that required him to study the minds of criminals, and whether the killings of victims working in related fields may have been connected.

Global Affairs: Korea

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Trump’s Pivot on North Korea Echoes Failures of the Past, Mark Landler and David E. Sanger, June 3, 2018 (print edition). President Trump has vowed not to repeat the errors of his predecessors, but his apparent softening on North Korea resembles approaches taken by Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

North Korean flagRather than sticking with the demand that North Korea disarm immediately, Mr. Trump opened the door to a prolonged freeze on the North’s existing nuclear capability, with vague declarations that disarmament will follow. That is essentially the deal Mr. Clinton embarked on with Mr. Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il-sung, in 1994.

Global Hot Spots: South China Sea and Gaza

ny times logoChina FlagNew York Times, Mattis Accuses Beijing of ‘Intimidation and Coercion’ in South China Sea, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, June 2, 2018 (print edition). Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis harshly criticized the Chinese government on Saturday for its continuing militarization of a string of islands in the South China Sea, calling the new presence of advanced military equipment and missiles there a flagrant show of military power.

james mattis o“Despite China’s claims to the contrary, the placement of these weapons systems is tied directly to military use for the purposes of intimidation and coercion,” Mr. Mattis (shown at left) said during a speech on Saturday at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue, a regional security conference.

Mr. Mattis recently disinvited the Chinese military from a large, multinational naval exercise this summer due in part to China’s positioning of those weapons, including antiship and surface-to-air missiles, on the Spratly Islands. China’s activities, Mr. Mattis said, are “in stark contrast to the openness our strategy promotes,” calling into question “China’s broader goals.”

 ny times logoIsrael FlagNew York Times, A Woman Dedicated to Saving Lives Loses Hers in Gaza, Iyad Abuheweila and Isabel Kershner, June 2, 2018. Razan al-Najjar, who was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers on Friday, wanted to prove that women could play an important role in Gaza society.

She had become a fixture at the weekly protests along the fence dividing the Gaza Strip from Israel, a young woman in a white paramedic’s uniform rushing into harm’s way to help treat the wounded. As a volunteer emergency medical worker, she said she wanted to prove that women had a role to play in the conservative Palestinian society of Gaza.

The Economy: President Tries To Pick Winners, Losers

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump increasingly steps up to pick the economy’s winners, Steven Mufson and David J. Lynch, June 3, 2018 (print edition). President Trump is increasingly intervening in the economy, making decisions about corporate winners and losers in ways that Republicans for decades have insisted should be left to free markets — not the government.

American FlagThe shift amounts to a major change in the GOP’s approach to the management of the economy, and it promises to shape the success of everything from American agriculture and manufacturing to the companies that produce the nation’s electricity.

RFK Assassination

washington post logoWashington Post Sunday Magazine, What is it like to be the brother of Robert Kennedy’s assassin? The life of the other Sirhan, Peter Gilstrap, June 3, 2018 (print edition). On a serene, leafy street in north Pasadena, Calif., a 70-year-old man has lived a quiet life in a well-preserved Craftsman house since his family bought it in 1963. He keeps the lawn mowed. Trims his fruit trees. Chats with the neighbors. Sometimes he smokes Parliament cigarettes with his tea on the front porch, gazing at the San Gabriel Mountains that rise to the north into a sky that’s almost always blue.

One spring day 50 years ago, one of his older brothers left this house and eventually drove his pink-and-white ’56 DeSoto to the Ambassador Hotel on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles to shoot Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. At the time, Kennedy was campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination. To his supporters, he represented a chance to heal the torn and reeling country. On June 6, 1968, he died of a gunshot wound to the head. Sirhan Sirhan, this man’s brother, was sentenced to the gas chamber for the assassination — a sentence that was commuted to life in prison in 1972.

In the intervening years, Munir Sirhan has cared for another brother, Adel, who lived here before dying of cancer in 2001, and looked after his mother, who passed away in 2005, blind and deaf after years of illness. His father and three other siblings have died, too. Munir, three years younger than Sirhan, was the baby of the family. Now he and Sirhan are the only ones left.

There are three shelves of books about the Kennedys that Munir bought but has never read. On the floor, vacuum trails are visible in the cream-colored carpet. When I visit on a Wednesday morning, he looks around the living room, which could not be tidier, and says, “Sorry for the mess.”

There is no wife, there is no career, never has been. Sirhan’s crime has had a 50-year ripple effect on Munir. He leads a simple existence, keeping mostly to himself while he waits for his brother — who has been denied parole 15 times. “I just want to hear his footsteps on the porch,” Munir says. “I just want to hug him and tell him, ‘Welcome home.’ ”

In 1948, the Sirhans, who were Christian Palestinians, fled their home in the newly divided Jerusalem. The family slipped away during a letup in the fighting of what became known as the Arab-Israeli War of 1948. The Sirhans were granted Jordanian citizenship, but they would come to see America as their future. "There was a program started by Eisenhower and the United Nations to help refugees," says Munir. In 1956 they left with only what they could pack in suitcases. "Sirhan didn't want to come," Munir says. "He ran away. Finally during the morning hours we found him and packed him up real quick."

A ship crowded with seasick refugees brought the family to New York City. Their sponsor lived in Pasadena, so the Sirhans took the train to this land of sunshine and roses. “It was a new haven, compared to Jordan,” says Munir.

More On Trump

paul manafort cnn

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason Donald Trump just went berserk about Paul Manafort, Bill Palmer, June 3, 2018. When it comes to his own people taking him down, Donald Trump is facing trouble on a number of fronts. So why is Trump suddenly going berserk about Paul Manafort (shown above in a file screenshot), the one guy who has made a point of not selling him out?

Two things recently transpired which failed to get the headlines they should have. The first was that, two weeks ago, Paul Manafort’s former son-in-law cut a plea deal against him. The second was that this past week, Manafort’s friends set up a legal defense fund for him, thus confirming that he’s out of money. When the people closest to you start flipping on you, and you can no longer afford your high priced lawyers, it’s usually a sign that you’re done.

We’ve been waiting to see if this was all going to add up to Paul Manafort concluding he’s screwed, and reluctantly cutting a plea deal against Donald Trump. Now suddenly Trump is pushing Manafort back into the headlines, just to distance himself from the guy. This makes no sense at all, unless Trump thinks Manafort is about to flip on him. Has Manafort tipped Trump off as a courtesy, or is Trump merely looking at the same pieces of the puzzle that we are? In any case, this means that something is about to break with Manafort.

djt hope hicksPalmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump may have just sent Hope Hicks to prison, Bill Palmer, June 3, 2018. Last summer, after we learned that Donald Trump Jr had met with the Russians at Trump Tower during the campaign, the media reported that it was Donald Trump himself who dictated his son’s public response.

Since that time, Trump has publicly insisted that this was not the case. Now we’re learning that in January, Trump sent a confidential memo to Robert Mueller, admitting that he dictated the response, while arguing that it’s legal for the president to obstruct justice. The trouble: he may have just sent Hope Hicks (shown in a file photo adjoining him) to prison in the process.

Donald Trump is not going to be able to sell the notion that it’s legal for him to obstruct justice because he’s the president. But even if he could pull that one off, his aides would still be committing a crime if they were conspiring with him to obstruct justice. In other words, in an attempt at protecting himself, Donald Trump and his memo may have just sent Hope Hicks to prison. Of course this in turn would only motivate her to cut a plea deal against Trump, so it may not exactly have been Trump’s best move.

djt melania trump file

Palmer Report, Turns out Donald Trump has been ghost-tweeting for Melania for quite some time, Bill Palmer, June 3, 2018. Earlier this week, just as Melania Trump’s vanishing act was becoming a major controversy, a new tweet appeared on her account which was obviously not written by her.

It was a rude attack on the media which sounded like it had been written by Donald Trump (shown above in a file photo with his wife). The next morning Donald gave himself away by using the exact same key phrase in one of his own tweets. It was clear that Donald was ghost-tweeting on Melania’s account, making her disappearance even more suspicious. Now it turns out he’s been ghost-tweeting for her for quite some time.

June 2

Different Puerto Rican Disaster Death Totals

ny times logoNew York Times, Why Are the Death Tolls in Puerto Rico From Hurricane Maria So Different? Sheri Fink, June 2, 2018. Widely different estimates of Hurricane Maria’s death toll in Puerto Rico have led to confusion. Here is a guide to the tallies, what accounts for their differences and how a new study aims to provide a more definitive account:

What is The New York Times’s estimate? In December, The New York Times analyzed vital statistics from the Puerto Rican government that showed that in the 42 days after Hurricane Maria made landfall on Sept. 20, 2017, 1,052 more people than usual died in Puerto Rico.

That figure was particularly striking because thousands of people had left the island, including many with chronic medical conditions. Based on the likelihood that the population there was smaller in the fall of 2017, we would have expected the number of deaths per day to decrease, not increase.

Trump Probes

ny times logoNew York Times, Advocates Say Trump May Further Hurt Pardon System, Katie Benner, June 2, 2018 (print edition). Presidential power has long been viewed as an antidote for the Justice Department’s backlog of clemency applications. But President Trump could be making the system less just, advocates warn.

webster tarpley podium2World Crisis Radio, Opinion: The Real Deep State, Webster G. Tarpley (author and commentator shown at right), June 2, 2018 (74:03 mins.). Dr. Tarpley, whose decades of research helped document how a "deep" or unelected government controls much of presidential and other governmental action, identifies President Trump's use of the term as a diversion from the hard truths.

These are, Tarpley says in this broadcast and in a parallel lecture on June 3, that a faction of "The Deep State" helped enable Trump's victory while another faction battled for Hillary Clinton). Trump is now, according to Tarpley, kow-towing to his faction's policies while abusing his powers to enrich himself, family members and cronies at great cost to the public at large and the Constitutional system.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump gives away that he’s the one who leaked his confidential memo to Robert Mueller, Bill Palmer, June 2, 2018. When Donald Trump’s confidential memo to Special Counsel Robert Mueller surfaced in the New York Times today, it wasn’t immediately clear who leaked it, or why. Then Trump himself promptly gave away that he and his team leaked it, which helps give us a better understanding of why they did it, and what’s really going through their heads at this point.

It’s long been well established that Trump suffers from a case of projection. Whenever he does something wrong, or he’s caught doing something wrong, he arbitrarily accuses his adversaries of having done the same. We could cite hundreds of other examples.

So when Donald Trump posted this tweet in response to the memo, we knew exactly what happened: “Is the Special Counsel/Justice Department leaking my lawyers letters to the Fake News Media? Should be looking at Dems corruption instead?”

Trump accused Mueller and the DOJ of having leaked it, because he’s the one who leaked it. Mueller’s side wouldn’t have leaked it anyway, because it wouldn’t have wanted to risk weakening its legal position by revealing confidential communications, which judges tend to frown on.

So why put it out there? Perhaps Trump is delusional enough to think that this memo somehow makes him look strong. It’s also worth noting that Donald Trump is currently spending the weekend at Camp David with Donald Trump Jr, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, and Tiffany Trump. We knew they were huddling up to try to devise a last ditch strategy for pushing back against the Trump-Russia investigation. Now we know that strategy included leaking this memo. If this is the best the braintrust can come up with, then the braintrust has no brains.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump remind us yet again that they’re idiots, Bill Palmer, June 2, 2018. Donald Trump Jr is headed to prison for a long time. How do we know this? Just ask Vanessa Trump, who recently filed for divorce from him, and hired a criminal defense attorney to handle the divorce. She’s betting that he’s going down, and that his assets are going to get seized in the process. Just don’t tell that to Donald Trump Jr himself, or for that matter his equally idiotic brother Eric Trump.

It seems the Doofus Brothers have decided to buy a mansion together in Palm Beach, according to a major real estate publication. They’re getting a good price on it, which probably has something to do with the fact that they’re buying it from their aunt. But if you’re Donald Trump Jr and you’re about to start trying to fend off a lengthy prison sentence and asset forfeitures, this is not what you do.

Privacy / Consumer Tips

washington post logo Washington Post, Hands off my data! 15 default privacy settings you should change right now, Say no to defaults, Geoffrey A. Fowler, June 2, 2018 (print edition). A clickable guide to fixing the complicated privacy settings from Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple.

On the Internet, the devil’s in the defaults. You’re not reading all those updated data policies flooding your inbox. You probably haven’t even looked for your privacy settings. And that’s exactly what Facebook, Google and other tech giants are counting on.

They tout we’re “in control” of our personal data, but know most of us won’t change the settings that let them grab it like cash in a game show wind machine. Call it the Rule of Defaults: 95 percent of people are too busy, or too confused, to change a darn thing.

Give me 15 minutes, and I can help you join the 5 percent who are actually in control. I dug through the privacy settings for the five biggest consumer tech companies and picked a few of the most egregious defaults you should consider changing. These links will take you directly to what to tap, click and toggle for Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Courtside View of Pruitt’s Cozy Ties With a Coal Baron, Steve Eder, Hiroko Tabuchi and Eric Lipton, June 2, 2018. It was one of the biggest games of the University of Kentucky basketball season, and Scott Pruitt had scored two of the best seats in the arena: a few feet from the action, in a section reserved for season-ticket holders who had donated at least $1 million to the university.

scott pruitt epa o CustomThe special access for Mr. Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, also included watching from the players’ entrance as the team streamed onto the court, and posing for a photo with a star player in the locker room area.

But there was more to the game last December than a superfan experience for Mr. Pruitt and his son, who joined him. They sat in seats belonging to Joseph W. Craft III, a billionaire coal executive who has engaged in an aggressive campaign to reverse the Obama administration’s environmental crackdown on the coal industry. Mr. Craft and his wife donated more than $2 million to support President Trump’s candidacy and inauguration.

Global News: Mexico

UN logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Mexican Security Forces Are Probably Involved in Border Disappearances, U.N. Says, Sandra E. Garcia, June 2, 2018 (print edition). The United Nations said this week that it had “strong indications” that Mexican security forces were involved in the disappearances of nearly two dozen people in Nuevo Laredo, a northern border city.

Twenty-three people have vanished there from February to mid-May, according to the international body’s high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein. Human rights groups have documented additional disappearances.

“Many of these people are reported to have been arbitrarily detained and disappeared while going about their daily lives,” Mr. Hussein said in a statement on Wednesday that urged the Mexican government to take action. “It is particularly horrific that at least five of the victims are minors, with three of them as young as 14. These crimes, perpetrated over four months in a single municipality, are outrageous.” Mexico’s government responded to the United Nations statement by saying that it would send its national commissioner for missing persons to Nuevo Laredo and that its attorney general’s office had opened an investigation. The Mexican Navy, whose marine units are involved in fighting drug trafficking and are at the center of some of the allegations, referred questions on Friday to the government’s latest news releases.

european union logo rectangle

ny times logoNew York Times, E.U. Faces Perils From the U.S. and Within Its Borders, Steven Erlanger, June 2, 2018 (print edition). A populist, euroskeptic government in Italy and a new minority government in Spain feed European drift in the face of a new challenge from President Trump.

Google Backs Off Military Contract

ny times logoNew York Times, Google Won’t Renew Military Contract for A.I., Daisuke Wakabayashi and Scott Shane, June 2, 2018. Diane Greene, the head of Google’s Cloud business, is said to have told employees that the company was backing away from its artificial intelligence work with the Pentagon.

Pardons / Courts/ Women's Rights

washington post logoralph northam campaign CustomWashington Post, Va. governor pardons woman convicted of disposing of stillborn fetus, Justin Jouvenal, June 2, 2018 (print edition). Gov. Ralph Northram (D), a medical doctor by previous profession, is shown a right.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam issued his first pardon Friday, striking the conviction of a woman who was convicted of a crime after disposing of her stillborn fetus.

Katherine Dellis, 26, of Rocky Mount, Va., was found guilty in 2016 of concealing a dead body for throwing the fetus in the trash after having a miscarriage. She was sentenced to five months in jail. Dellis’s conviction was decried by supporters of abortion and women’s rights and cheered by those who believe in affording greater rights to unborn children.

The treatment of fetal remains has been a major front in the abortion debate in recent years, although Dellis’s case did not involve an abortion. Ofirah Yheskel, a spokeswoman for the governor, said Northam (D) made his decision after the state’s attorney general concluded Dellis should not have been prosecuted.

More On Korea Summit

kim jong podium un

washington post logoWashington Post, The U.S. is trying to find a discreet way to pay for Kim Jong Un’s hotel bill during the summit, John Hudson, June 2, 2018. The prideful but cash-poor pariah state requires that a foreign country foot the bill at its preferred lodging: The Fullerton, a magnificent neoclassical hotel near the mouth of the Singapore River.

North Korean flagThe mundane but diplomatically fraught billing issue is just one of numerous logistical concerns being hammered out between two teams led by White House Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin and Kim’s de facto chief of staff, Kim Chang Son, as they strive toward a June 12 meeting.

During the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea set aside $2.6 million to cover travel accommodations for a North Korean cheering squad, an art troupe and other members of the visiting delegation.

At the same Games, the International Olympic Committee paid for 22 North Korean athletes to travel to the event. Any payment for North Korea’s accommodations would run afoul of Treasury Department sanctions, said Elizabeth Rosenberg, a former Treasury official.

 washington post logodjt kim yong chol envelope 6 1 18Washington Post, Pushing the envelope: Why was Kim’s letter for Trump so big, Kim Tong-Hyung, June 2, 2018. In dangling its nuclear and long-range missiles in exchange for American security and economic benefits, North Korea is pushing the diplomatic envelope like never before. And the envelope is literally huge.

President Donald Trump on Friday declared that his on-and-off summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was on again, the latest shift in a diplomatic theatrics to resolve the nuclear standoff with Pyongyang. The announcement came after Trump hosted a senior North Korean envoy at the White House, who conveyed a personal letter by Kim that was inside a white envelope nearly as large as a folded newspaper.

Trump has not yet revealed what was written in the letter, but he sure seemed happy to get it. A photo showed Trump holding up the envelope with a Cheshire cat grin alongside an also smiling Kim Yong Chol, the most senior North Korean to visit the White House in 18 years, as they posed in front of a Thomas Jefferson portrait.

June 1

Korean Summit

washington post logoNorth Korean flagWashington Post, Trump says summit with North Korean leader is back on for June 12, David Nakamura​, June 1, 2018. A top North Korean official, Kim Yong Chol, met with President Trump at the White House earlier Friday and delivered a letter from dictator Kim Jong Un, as the two sides scrambled to reinstate the nuclear summit between the leaders.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump welcomes first N. Korean official to White House in 18 years, David Nakamura, June 1, 2018. Kim Yong Chol, a former spy chief who is leading the North Korea side in pre-summit talks, was expected to deliver a personal letter from leader Kim Jong Un as the two sides scrambled to reinstate a nuclear summit.

President Trump with Kim Yong Chol at the White House on June 1, 2018

President Trump with North Korean envoy Kim Yong Chol at the White House on June 1, 2018

Palmer Report, Opinion: The lights are on in Trump’s head, but no one’s home, Bill Palmer, June 1, 2018. With all of the other various Donald Trump scandals that have been playing out and competing with each other for attention, the media and the public have at times lost track of the fact that Trump is pretty much definitely sliding down the road of senility. We’re not saying that because we don’t like him; we’re saying it because the evidence keeps making it more clear. One photo alone, taken today, helps spell that out.

Kim Jong Un has decided, for the moment, to put his summit with Donald Trump back on the table. Of course Kim has been using this process to toy with Trump all along, so there’s every reason to expect that to continue. For instance, Kim sent an envoy to the White House today with a letter for Trump. The letter was in an absurdly oversized, gag-gift level envelope. It was obviously designed to poke fun at Trump’s tiny hands. Trump didn’t get the joke. Instead he proudly posed for a photo with the idiotic envelope, oblivious to the punchline he just walked into:

Out of context, we might be tempted to just brush this off as a moment of idiocy. But when you place it within the overall pattern of Donald Trump’s ongoing cognitive slippage, it’s clear that something isn’t right here. Trump’s last doctor tried to throw us off the trail with a phony medical report. Now that he’s been scapegoated, does Trump even have a doctor? He certainly doesn’t have a clue.

Inside DC

washington post logoscott pruitt epa o CustomWashington Post, EPA’s Pruitt spent $1,560 on 12 customized fountain pens from Washington jewelry store, Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin, June 1, 2018. The silver pens, ordered from the Tiny Jewel Box and emblazoned with the seal of the Environmental Protection Agency and Scott Pruitt’s signature, were part of a $3,230 order that also included personalized journals. Pruitt is shown at right.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump breaks from decades of protocol with tweet before release of jobs report, Damian Paletta, June 1, 2018. Treasury yields moved sharply higher within seconds of President Trump tweeting that he was “looking forward to seeing the employment numbers.” Jobs reports have long been kept under tight control, and past presidents never tipped their hand about what the numbers reveal. U.S. economy added 223,000 jobs in May, beating expectations

ny times logodinesh dsouzaNew York Times, Trump Will Pardon D’Souza, and Maybe Martha Stewart, Peter Baker and Eileen Sullivan, June 1, 2018 (print edition). The pardon of Dinesh D’Souza (right) will be a victory for the conservative media. Mr. Trump also said he would look at the cases of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich of Illinois and Ms. Stewart.

President Trump on Thursday pardoned Dinesh D’Souza, a conservative author, commentator and filmmaker, and said he was strongly considering commuting the sentence of former Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois, a Democrat (shown at left).

rod blagojevich 2017Flexing his clemency power as he and his team face multiple criminal investigations of their own, Mr. Trump also said that he was thinking about the case of Martha Stewart, the lifestyle mogul (show at right) who spent five months in prison for lying to investigators about the timing of a stock sale.

martha stewartThe president was focusing on cases where he argued that the justice system had unfairly treated celebrity figures, all of whom were convicted of crimes that in some ways mirrored charges that have been made or mentioned in connection with allies of Mr. Trump in recent weeks, including campaign finance violations and lying to investigators.

All three have connections, if sometimes distant, to Mr. Trump, either through political allies or his time in the private sector. Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican who greeted Mr. Trump as he arrived for a visit to Houston on Thursday, pushed for the pardon for Mr. D’Souza. Mr. Blagojevich appeared on “Celebrity Apprentice,” Mr. Trump’s reality show, and Ms. Stewart hosted an “Apprentice” spinoff show.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s pardons show his twisted brand of mercy, Ruth Marcus, June 1, 2018 (print edition). Trump’s twisted brand of mercy is shaping up as a particularly ugly version of that lofty Hamiltonian vision, variously self-serving in its recipients, tactical in its application and willfully dismissive of the countervailing considerations that a responsible president would take into account before intervening in the ordinary criminal process.

djt official SmallThere is something particularly wrong, particularly askew, in Trump’s pardoning.

Partly it is his sloppy impulsivity, without going through the ordinary process of consideration by the Justice Department or satisfying the usual criteria (a five-year waiting period after serving a sentence; “acceptance of responsibility, remorse, and atonement” for the offense).

But even more it is the disdain in which Trump holds the legal process — a disdain whose public expression in the form of pardons helps reinforce Trump’s case of a criminal-justice system that is rigged, unfair and unworthy of respect.

Trump Team Probes

paul manafort rnc 2016 abc flickr

 Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort at the 2016 Republican National Convention. Photo: Disney | ABC Television Group / Flickr

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, To Flip Manafort: Is Mueller Gathering Plea Deals? Gina Bradbury, June 1, 2018. While many others targeted by special counsel Robert Mueller have agreed to cooperate, President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, has pleaded not guilty to various charges brought against him.

Earlier this month, Jeffrey Yohai — Manafort’s former son-in-law and business partner — accepted a sealed plea agreement in response to conspiracy charges brought in a real estate fraud case. He also pleaded guilty to another count related to a bank account overdraft. Yohai has agreed to cooperate with state and federal prosecutors in New York and California, as well as with the special counsel’s office, to answer questions regarding Trump’s and his campaign members’ ties to Russia.

In 2014, Paul Manafort developed a business partnership with his son-in-law in an effort to remedy the couple’s financial struggles. (The couple separated in March 2017, ultimately divorcing in August.) From 2014 through 2016, Manafort invested hundreds of millions of dollars, together with funds Yohai had solicited from investors, that were rolled into limited liability companies (LLCs). The funds were used to purchase land and older properties in exclusive LA neighborhoods as spec home projects to turn a profit. Manafort, his wife Kathleen, and his daughter Jessica were the primary investors in three of the four properties.

Leadership Changes: Italy, Spain

washington post logoitalian flag wavingWashington Post, Italy reaches a deal on a new government, ending a crisis that rattled global markets, Stefano Pitrelli and Griff Witte, June 1, 2018 (print edition). Italy appeared Thursday to step back from the brink of a continent-rattling political crisis, with officials agreeing to a deal that averts the threat of fresh elections and puts two populist parties in charge of the euro zone’s third-largest economy.

The agreement was the latest twist in a topsy-turvy week for Italian politics, one that on Tuesday had sent global markets tumbling amid jitters that the country was careening toward a new vote and a possible euro exit. Investors feared an even greater populist surge if a fresh election were held.

guiseppe conteBut negotiations Wednesday and Thursday yielded an unexpected breakthrough, culminating in a presidential announcement late Thursday night that the country’s new government will be sworn in Friday.

The anti-establishment Five Star Movement and the far-right League will govern together, forming the first purely populist coalition to lead a core Western European country since the creation of the European Union. And they will get their preferred prime minister, the little-known law professor Giuseppe Conte (shown above left).

washington post logoWashington Post, Washington Post, Spanish prime minister ousted amid corruption scandal, Pamela Rolfe and William Booth, June 1, 2018.  The country’s crisis comes as populist, anti-immigrant and euro-skeptical parties in Italy struggle to cobble together a government and Britain faces a decisive round of negotiations to leave the European Union.

spain flag waving resizedAfter a bitter two-day debate in parliament, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Friday lost a no-confidence vote and was ousted from office. He will be replaced by a leader of the opposition Socialist Party. The vote was 180 to 169, with one abstention.

Rajoy appeared in parliament Friday morning and in a brief speech said, “I will accept the decision.” After navigating 25 percent youth unemployment, a territorial showdown with the restive Catalan region and a financial crisis that threatened the solvency of the euro, Rajoy was brought down by the corruption scandals that have plagued his Popular Party.

Faked Journalist Assassination

ny times logoNew York Times, After the Faked Journalist Killing in Ukraine, the Murk Deepens, Neil MacFarquhar, June 1, 2018. The strange cast of characters emerging in the faked assassination of a prominent Putin critic — including a Russia-hating right-wing priest and the director of a Ukrainian arms manufacturer — set the already bizarre case on a path to a murky, up-is-down mess of the sort that Ukraine seems to specialize in.

Both the priest and the executive claimed to be working for Ukraine’s intelligence services. Ukrainian officials at first denied that but, in the case of the priest, subsequently reversed themselves and admitted he had played a role. They would not say what.

Senior Ukrainian officials have been on the defensive since Wednesday, when the head of the security services and the chief prosecutor announced that they had staged the shooting death of a dissident Russian war correspondent in order to trace his would-be killers back to Russian intelligence.

However, in the absence of solid facts and real evidence about any plot to kill the dissident, Arkady Babchenko, somewhat implausible figures have emerged from the shadows, perhaps the most unlikely being the priest, who claimed he was hired to carry out the hit.

Inside DC

washington post logous dhs big eagle logo4Washington Post, Signs of sophisticated cellphone spying found near White House, U.S. officials say, Craig Timberg, June 1, 2018. A DHS study detected signs of "IMSI catchers" near the White House, and a defense contractor also detected them near FBI headquarters, the Senate, the Pentagon and along Embassy Row.