February 2019 News Reports

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

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

 

Feb. 28

Trump Probes: Cohen

U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen and House Government Operations Chairman Elijah Cummings (Feb. 27, 2019 Fox News collage)

U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen and House Government Operations Chairman Elijah Cummings (Feb. 27, 2019 Fox News collage)

washington post logoWashington Post, Cohen drops ominous hint that Trump faces legal peril, Matt Zapotosky, Rosalind S. Helderman, Karoun Demirjian michael cohen ap file croppedand Rachael Bade, Feb. 28, 2019. In testimony to the House Oversight Committee, Michael Cohen alleged that President Trump manipulated financial records, paid to cover up extramarital affairs and reacted with glee when he learned in advance of a WikiLeaks dump of emails damaging to Hillary Clinton.

MSNBC: Rachel Maddow Show, Davis: Cohen gave 'game changing' information to House Intel, Rachel Maddow, Feb. 28, 2019 (Broadcast segment). Lanny Davis, attorney for Michael Cohen, tells Rachel Maddow that "game changing" information related to "lying and obstruction evidence" was developed with Cohen's testimony to the House Intelligence Committee today, prompting them to ask him to return on March 6th.

washington post logoWashington Post, Hearing showcased fresh faces – and significance of divided government, James Hohmann​, Feb. 28, 2019. Elections have consequences, and the seven-hour inquest never would have happened if Democrats had not won control of the House in November.

Hearing from Cohen was especially meaningful because Attorney General William Barr has not committed to publicly releasing the full report that will be submitted by special counsel Bob Mueller. Barr has cited Justice Department guidelines that limit the disclosure of information about people who are not charged with a crime. That means much of what the public learns about Trump vis-à-vis the investigations could come from House Democrats.

The Cohen hearing laid the groundwork and offered rationales for Democrats to issue subpoenas to a host of Trump world figures, including the president’s children Don Jr., Ivanka and Eric, plus several top executives in the Trump Organization. Cohen’s testimony also provided fresh fodder for Democrats to pursue Trump’s tax returns.

Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, White House Bars 4 U.S. Journalists From Trump’s Dinner With Kim in Hanoi, Michael M. Grynbaum and Katie Rogers, Feb. 28, 2019 (print edition). The White House on Wednesday barred four American journalists from covering President Trump’s dinner with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, in Hanoi, Vietnam, after two of the reporters called out questions to Mr. Trump at an earlier appearance.

It is highly unusual for a presidential administration to retaliate against reporters by restricting their access, particularly at a closely scrutinized foreign summit meeting. Given the backdrop — a United States president meeting with the totalitarian leader of a country with no independent media — the move sent a starkly different message from those delivered in such settings by Mr. Trump’s predecessors, who often sought to encourage expressions of press freedom when meeting with representatives of autocratic regimes.

Shortly before the dinner was to start, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, informed the group of journalists traveling with Mr. Trump that only photographers and television-camera operators would be allowed to attend the event, excluding reporters for several print and radio news outlets.

Ms. Sanders cited the “sensitivities” of the meeting and “shouting” by reporters at a previous appearance by Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim, during which a reporter for The Associated Press, Jonathan Lemire, asked the president to comment on the congressional testimony of Mr. Trump’s former lawyer, Michael D. Cohen.

Leads From Cohen Hearing

djt michael cohen

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Trump former "fixer" Cohen on NDAs: "Not all of them had to do with women," Wayne Madsen, Feb. 28, 2019. Donald Trump's former personal lawyer and "fixer" Michael Cohen had a rather poignant response to a focused question during his testimony before the House Government Oversight Committee on February 27.

WMR has reported on Trump's past sexual allegations involving underage girls -- involving him and convicted child sex assaulter Jeffrey Epstein -- and boys.

WMR is aware that during the 2016 campaign pressure was brought by legal representatives for Trump on two women who alleged that Trump raped them when they were 13- and 12-years old, respectively.

More On Roger Stone

Law & Crime, ‘A Criminal Proceeding Is Not a Free for All’: Stone Judge Tells Corsi and Klayman to Take a Hike, Matt Naham, Feb. 28, 2019.
The judge in Roger Stone‘s case has told right-wing author Jerome Corsi and his attorney Larry Klayman that “a criminal proceeding is not a free for all.” These were Judge Amy Berman Jackson‘s words in a Thursday minute order telling Corsi and Klayman that granting them leave to file an amicus brief did not mean permission to “inform the Court of facts that he wished to bring to the Court’s attention on an ongoing basis.”

Corsi publicly claimed as recently as Wednesday that Stone “through these or other means, continued to harass and threaten me and my family to try to intimidate and coerce me not to tell the truth if I am called by the Special Counsel at his criminal trial.” What means? Corsi claimed he spotted two unidentified individuals “lingering” in front of his and his stepson’s house “for no apparent reason.” He claimed it was as if “they were watching us and threatening us.” They also attempted to get the judge to look into this.

amy berman jacksonOn Thursday, Judge Jackson (left) told Corsi and Klayman they have no business bothering her with this, and they should take all this stuff to prosecutors if it’s “legitimate.”

“The would-be movant is not a party to this action, and the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure do not permit intervention in a criminal case, so there is no legal basis to grant him permission to file his motion,” Jackson said. “The fact that the Court previously granted the movant leave to file a submission as an amicus curiae with respect to a discrete legal issue then pending before the Court did not operate to designate the movant as an amicus curiae for all purposes thereafter, nor did it invite the movant to inform the Court of facts that he wished to bring to the Court’s attention on an ongoing basis.”

“Any legitimate reports alleging threats or tampering with witnesses, or violations by the defendant of the order that he not contact the movant, should be made promptly to the prosecution or appropriate law enforcement authorities,” she continued. “The Court’s docket is not the appropriate vehicle to bring matters to their attention.”

Law and Crime: Alabama

Legal Schnauzer, Opinion: "Luv Guv" Bentley travels to Washington, D.C., with Rebekah Caldwell Mason, planning for 2020 U.S. Senate run that apparently would violate his plea deal, Roger Shuler, Feb. 28, 2019. Bentley, who resigned in disgrace as Alabama's chief philanderer robert bentley rebekah masonalmost two years ago, attended a recent national governors meeting with his paramour (Rebekah Caldwell Mason, shown together in a file photo), according to a Facebook post by State Auditor Jim Zeigler. Both Zeigler and al.com reported that the trip likely is designed to set the stage for Bentley to make a 2020 U.S. Senate run -- even though his plea agreement on criminal charges held that he would never again hold public office.

How is Bentley planning to get around that provision in his plea agreement? The answer to that is not clear (although Zeigler has ideas), but the language in the deal Bentley struck with prosecutors is more broad than most Alabamians probably remember. Here is how al.com reported the key terms in an article dated April 10, 2017: "Bentley, as part of the deal, was expected to: Resign immediately and leave public life."

State Auditor JIm Zeigler, who had filed the initial ethics complaint that led to Bentley's departure, said: "It is unbelievable that Bentley is doing this. Bentley was a problem for Alabama as governor, and he would be a continuing problem as U.S. Senator. While I do not believe Bentley can be elected, there are still some Alabama voters who think Bentley was a good governor that got a raw deal.. I was there, and neither of those things are true. He was not a good governor, and he got off easy."

Feb. 27

Huge Trump 'Fireworks'

ny times logoNew York Times, Cohen Calls Trump a ‘Racist,’ a ‘Con Man’ and a ‘Cheat’ as Republicans Fire Back, Michael Cohen, Feb. 27, 2019. President Trump’s former lawyer, accused Mr. Trump of directing hush payments, lying about his business in Russia and inflating his wealth.

Full transcript. Michael D. Cohen, the former attorney and fixer for Donald J. Trump, provided his opening statement to Congress for his public testimony on Wednesday about the 2016 campaign and Mr. Trump’s business practices. Watch Mr. Cohen’s testimony live and see the documents he provided to Congress here. “I am no longer your ‘fixer,’ Mr. Trump,” he said. 

CNN,

, Feb 27, 2019 (8:02 mins.). Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) concluded the House Oversight Committee's questioning of President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen by delivering a call to "keep democracy in tact" and a return to normalcy in the political arena.

atlantic logoThe Atlantic, Analysis: An Interlude of Moral Clarity, Franklin Foer (right), Feb 27, 2019. Michael Cohen’s testimony was a reminder that this franklin foer Custompresidency isn’t normal. “A Racist … A Con Man … A Cheat.” Those were the words etched in the chyron as Michael Cohen testified. Yet that litany somehow fails to do justice to Cohen’s moral portrait of Donald Trump.

At the beginning of this presidency, the great fear was “normalization.” The shock of Donald Trump’s election, this theory held, would eventually dissipate. Once he sat behind the big desk, surrounded by oil paintings and heavy curtains, he would be bathed in the incantatory power of his office. The nation would absorb the shock of his misogyny, racism, venality, and dangerous vainglory, and then move on. Perhaps the fact that normalization has slipped from discourse is evidence that there was something to this fear.

atlantic logoThe Atlantic, Analysis: 9 Striking Moments From Michael Cohen’s Testimony, Madeleine Carlisle and Gabby Deutch, Feb 27, 2019. In his first public appearance before lawmakers, Donald Trump’s ex-ally took questions about the president’s conduct and his own credibility.
Below, Cohen’s most noteworthy exchanges with members of Congress:

1. Cohen explains what business as usual looks like in Trumpland.

Democratic Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York: In your 10 years of working for Donald Trump, did he control everything that went on in the Trump Organization, and did you have to get his permission in advance or report back after every meeting of any importance?

Michael Cohen: Yes. There was nothing that happened at the Trump Organization … that did not go through Mr. Trump with his approval and sign-off, as in the case of the [hush-money] payments [to women who claim to have had affairs with Trump].

ny times logoNew York Times, Testimony From Cohen Could Create New Legal Issues for Trump, Michael D. Shear, Feb. 27, 2019. Michael D. Cohen provided the committee with a copy of a $35,000 check from President Trump that Mr. Cohen said reimbursed him for hush money payments to cover up an alleged affair with a pornographic film actress.

michael cohen ap file croppedMichael D. Cohen (right) provided the committee with a copy of a $35,000 check from President Trump that Mr. Cohen said reimbursed him for hush money payments to cover up an alleged affair with a pornographic film actress.CreditCreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

The dramatic public testimony to Congress on Wednesday morning by President Trump’s former lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, could intensify the legal issues facing the president in the criminal and civil investigations that are swirling around him, legal experts said.

Mr. Cohen’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee was a remarkable personal and political rebuke to the president from a lawyer who served Mr. Trump with fierce loyalty for more than a decade.

In his prepared testimony, Mr. Cohen — who has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress and will go to prison for his crimes — blasted the president as a “racist,” a “con man” and a “cheat.”

But legal experts said that several of the specific allegations by Mr. Cohen in his opening statement could be relevant to questions about whether Mr. Trump participated in a conspiracy to affect the 2016 election, violated campaign finance laws and obstructed justice in an effort to deflect investigations.

WhoWhatWhy, Michael Cohen’s Murky Backstory Warrants More Scrutiny, Russ Baker, Feb. 27, 2019. This week, it’s wall-to-wall Michael Cohen on Capitol Hill. Cohen, testifying both behind closed doors and in public to not one, not two, but three committees, is revealing new things, some extraordinarily newsworthy, explosive, consequential, even profound. Notwithstanding that, there is no indication that Donald Trump’s former “enforcer” is telling all. Not by a long shot.

At WhoWhatWhy, we began raising questions about this almost a year and a half ago, in a lengthy investigation into Cohen’s past. The crux of the article was that Cohen and his Ukrainian in-laws had somehow become very wealthy and put a lot of that wealth into apartments in Trump properties. After that, he was brought into Trump’s team, where he handled some of Trump’s stickiest problems.

What does all this mean? And what does it suggest In terms of the potential wooing of Trump by interests associated with Vladimir Putin?

djt michael cohen

washington post logoWashington Post, Cohen to allege that Trump knew of WikiLeaks plot, Matt Zapotosky, Karoun Demirjian and Rosalind S. Helderman​, Feb. 27, 2019. Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, will tell a House panel that Trump knew that WikiLeaks planned to publish hacked Democratic National Committee emails, according to his written testimony.

The hearing grew heated early, as Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) objected to what he said was a late release of Cohen’s prepared remarks and some evidence.

More On Roger Stone

Palmer Report, Opinion: Roger Stone just blew it royally over Michael Cohen’s testimony, Bill Palmer, Feb. 27, 2019. Last night the media got its hands on an advance copy of Michael Cohen’s prepared opening statement for his public testimony to the House Oversight Committee. In the statement, Cohen claimed that he witnessed Donald Trump and Roger Stone discussing Stone’s criminal conspiracy with WikiLeaks. Palmer Report predicted that Stone wouldn’t be able to help himself and would end up violating his gag order today. Sure enough, he has.

bill palmer report logo headerRoger Stone told BuzzFeed this morning that “Mr. Cohen’s statement is not true.” That sound harmless enough, right? But Judge Amy Berman Jackson told Stone last week that he was prohibited from discussing any aspect of his criminal case, and that’s precisely what Stone just did. So now what?

Judge Jackson can revoke Roger Stone’s bail at any time, based solely on her own discretion as to whether she feels he’s violated the gag order. Robert Mueller can also ask Judge Jackson at any time to consider revoking Stone’s bail. At this point the only reason for Mueller not to do that would be if he’d rather Stone remain out there, further incriminating himself, so it can be used against him at trial. It’s a similar strategy to what ultimately sunk Paul Manafort.

In the meantime, Roger Stone appears to be rapidly losing his ability to bite his tongue. In addition to his statement to BuzzFeed this morning, Stone also went on Instagram last night and called CNN’s Don Lemon a “maggot” and a “demon” in response to Lemon’s reporting on Stone’s scandals.

Report: Migrant Children Sexually Abused

ny times logoNew York Times, Thousands of Immigrant Children Said They Were Sexually Abused in U.S. Detention Centers, Report Says, Matthew Haag, Feb. 27, 2019. A Justice Department report, released by Representative Ted Deutch, Democrat of Florida, said that there were 4,500 complaints in four years about the sexual harassment and abuse of immigrant children in United States custody.

The federal government received more than 4,500 complaints in four years about the sexual abuse of immigrant children who were being held at government-funded detention facilities, including an increase in complaints while the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant families at the border was in place, the Justice Department revealed this week.

The records, which involve children who had entered the country alone or had been separated from their parents, detailed allegations that adult staff members had harassed and assaulted children, including fondling and kissing minors, watching them as they showered, and raping them. They also included cases of suspected abuse of children by other minors.

From October 2014 to July 2018, the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a part of the Health and Human Services Department that cares for so-called unaccompanied minors, received a total of 4,556 allegations of sexual abuse or sexual harassment, 1,303 of which were referred to the Justice Department. Of those 1,303 cases deemed the most serious, 178 were accusations that adult staff members had sexually assaulted immigrant children, while the rest were allegations of minors assaulting other minors, the report said.

House Rejects Trump 'Emergency'

washington post logoWashington Post, House passes resolution to nullify Trump’s emergency declaration, Erica Werner, Seung Min Kim, Paul Kane and John Wagner​, Feb. 27, 2019 (print edition). The 245-182 tally was mostly along party lines, with 13 Republicans defecting to side with Democrats. The vote fell well short of the two-thirds majority that would be required to overcome President Trump’s threatened veto.

Roll Call, Meet the 13 Republicans who rebuked Trump over his national emergency, Bridget Bowman, Feb. 26, 2019. President wants to republican elephant logofund a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. Thirteen Republicans rebuked President Donald Trump on Tuesday, supporting a Democratic effort to stop the president from declaring a national emergency to fund a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Five lawmakers did not vote, including New York GOP Rep. John Katko, who is one of three Republicans in a district that Hillary Clinton won in 2016. Missouri GOP Rep. Ann Wagner also did not vote, along with Democratic Reps. Lois Frankel of Florida, Steve Cohen of Tennessee, and Peter DeFazio of Oregon.

More On Trump Probes

Palmer Report, Analysis: Michael Cohen may have just sent Donald Trump Jr to prison, Bill Palmer, Feb. 27, 2019. Michael Cohen is still just bill palmer report logo headergetting started with his public testimony before the House Oversight Committee. Cohen has condemned himself while condemning Donald Trump, and he’s produced documents to corroborate much of what he’s saying.

There was one moment that may get overlooked by the media and the public, but will end up proving key for prosecutors – and it’s the worst news possible for Donald Trump Jr.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Matt Gaetz begs for mercy after Nancy Pelosi drops the hammer on him, Bill Palmer, Feb. 27, 2019. It was the felony witness tampering tweet heard round the world. On Tuesday evening Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz (right), a close ally of Donald matt gaetz o CustomTrump, publicly threatened to ruin Michael Cohen’s marriage if Cohen went through with his scheduled public testimony on Wednesday about Donald Trump. Even as legal experts were debating whether Gaetz would be criminally indicted for the tweet, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi took control.

bill palmer report logo headerNancy Pelosi posted a tweet which didn’t even mention Matt Gaetz by name, yet nonetheless rather clearly called for the House Ethics Committee to investigate Gaetz’s tweet. It took Gaetz awhile to get the message, but right around midnight he signaled that he’d finally figured out how much trouble he was in, and how afraid he is of what’s about to happen to him.

Matt Gaetz posted this tweet at 11:52pm eastern time: “Speaker, I want to get the truth too. While it is important 2 create context around the testimony of liars like Michael Cohen, it was NOT my intent to threaten, as some believe I did. I’m deleting the tweet & I should have chosen words that better showed my intent. I’m sorry.”

Trump-Kim Summit

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Meets Kim Jong-un to Start Summit Talks, Edward Wong and David E. Sanger, Feb. 27, 2019. At dinner, Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, praised President Trump for a “courageous decision” to start a dialogue. The United States hopes to get Mr. Kim to agree to meaningful steps toward denuclearization.

President Trump met with Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, over dinner on Wednesday, opening the second historic summit meeting between the two to discuss steps North Korea should take to dismantle its nuclear weapons program and measures to establish a permanent peace on the divided Korean Peninsula.

“I truly believe that this successful and great meeting that we are having today is thanks to the courageous decision, political decision, that your team, Mr. President, reached,” Mr. Kim said after the men shook hands against a backdrop of North Korean and American flags in Hanoi.

Over the 261 days since the two leaders first met at a summit in Singapore, Mr. Kim said, “a lot of painstaking efforts were necessary, and also a lot of patience was needed.”

Wearing a black, Asian-style suit, he sat and smiled as Mr. Trump spoke to him. “I think your country has tremendous economic potential,” the American president said. “I think you will have a tremendous future with your country — a great leader. And I look forward to watching it happen and helping it to happen.”

Other World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Muhammadu Buhari Wins Second Term as Nigeria’s President, Dionne Searcey, Feb. 27, 2019. Mr. Buhari was re-elected despite falling short on promises to recharge the economy and defeat the Boko Haram insurgents. Officials declared early muhammadu buhari chatham houseWednesday that Muhammadu Buhari had won a second term as president of Africa’s most populous country, where voters rejected a corruption-stained candidate in favor of a leader who promised to continue a campaign to eliminate graft.

Not long after midnight, election officials finished counting the votes, making it apparent that Mr. Buhari (shown in a file photo) had defeated the leading candidate, Atiku Abubakar, by a wide margin in an election that was marred by pockets of violence. He was declared the winner shortly before 5 a.m.

On Wednesday morning, Mr. Abubakar released a statement calling the results a “sham election” and saying that he would contest the outcome in court. He cited what he called a “statistical impossibility” of the results in some states — where turnout was high despite the fact that life there has been upended by war — as well as anomalies in states that are opposition strongholds.

Indian-Pakistani Fighting

ny times logoNew York Times, Pakistani Military Says It Downed Two Indian Warplanes, Capturing Pilot, Maria Abi-Habib and Hari Kumar, Feb. 27, 2019.  Pakistan said Wednesday that it downed two Indian fighter jets and captured a pilot, escalating hostilities between the nuclear-armed neighbors a day after Indian warplanes struck inside Pakistani territory for the first time in five decades.

The rapid turn of events raised fears that the historical animosities between India and Pakistan could be steering them toward another war. Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan urged India to settle matters through talks, referring to the nuclear weapons both countries hold and the risk of further escalation.

Daily Beast, Matt Gaetz Under Investigation By Florida State Bar Over Michael Cohen Threat, Lachlan Markay, Sam Stein and Alex Wong, Feb. 27, 2019. The Florida congressman tells The Daily Beast he is unaware of the inquiry.

The Florida Bar has opened an investigation into whether Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), left, violated professional conduct rules by threatening former Trump fixer Michael Cohen ahead of Cohen’s congressional testimony on Wednesday.

matt gaetz o CustomThe organization, which licenses lawyers to practice in the state, would not disclose details of the investigation, but spokesperson Francine Walker, said the bar is “quite aware of [Gaetz’s] comments...and we have opened an investigation.”
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“If rules have been violated, The Florida Bar will vigorously pursue appropriate discipline by the Florida Supreme Court,” Walker said in a statement. “The Florida Bar takes its responsibility of regulating lawyer conduct very seriously.”

Reached by text on Wednesday, Gaetz said he had not “seen anything like that.”

Acosta Pressured On Sex Deal Plea

Miami Herald, Calls grow for Acosta to resign as Epstein’s sex abuse victims demand justice, Julie K. Brown, Feb. 26, 2019. Lawyers for victims who were sexually abused as minors by multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein have formally demanded that the government vacate Epstein’s plea deal, void his federal immunity and reopen his sex trafficking investigation, the Miami Herald has learned.

Lawyers Brad Edwards and Paul Cassell, who represent two of Epstein’s victims, sent a letter to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida making the request in the wake of a federal judge’s ruling last week that the plea deal negotiated with Epstein 11 years ago was illegal.

The judge, U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth A. Marra of Palm Beach, gave lawyers and federal prosecutors 15 days to confer on a remedy that would satisfy Epstein’s victims, who were never told about the secret non-prosecution agreement, and were misled by federal prosecutors in violation of the Crime Victims’ Rights Act.

alexander acosta o cropped CustomThe deal, brokered by then-Miami U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta, right, called for Epstein to plead guilty to lesser charges in state court rather than face federal sex trafficking charges involving more than three dozen underage girls. The victims, now in their late 20s and early 30s, challenged the legality of the agreement in 2008, days after Epstein was sentenced, but federal prosecutors defended their actions, keeping the case tied up in court for more than a decade.

Now President Donald Trump’s secretary of labor, Acosta is facing mounting pressure to resign. U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, Florida’s former Republican governor, joined the growing chorus of lawmakers who want a thorough inquiry of the case.

“We need to find out all the facts. We need to know what happened,’’ Scott told The New York Times on Monday.

Other members of Florida’s congressional delegation went further, demanding that Acosta step down. The Hill reported that Democrats Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Lois Frankel were leading the effort, circulating a petition that called Acosta “unfit to serve.” They were joined in the initiative, the Hill said, by Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, both Republicans, pressured the Department of Justice to open an inquiry into the case.

U.S. Election Fraud

ny times logoNew York Times, Operative for North Carolina Republican Arrested in Election Fraud Case, Alan Blinder, Feb. 27, 2019. L. McCrae Dowless Jr., who worked as a contractor for Mark Harris’s campaign in North Carolina’s Ninth District, was indicted on obstruction of justice charges. Four other people were also charged, a prosecutor said.

The North Carolina political operative who oversaw a fraud-ridden voter-turnout effort on behalf of a Republican congressional candidate mccrae dowlesswas arrested on Wednesday, a prosecutor said, after a grand jury’s secret indictment this week.

The campaign contractor, L. McCrae Dowless Jr., was among five people charged in Wake County, N.C., in connection with misconduct related to absentee ballots. Mr. Dowless (shown in a mug shot) faces the gravest charges, including three counts of felonious obstruction of justice.

Although Mr. Dowless has come under scrutiny for his work for Mark Harris, last year’s Republican candidate for Congress in the Ninth District, the charges that were unsealed on Wednesday are not connected to the 2018 general election, which investigators are still examining. Instead, this week’s indictment was tied to the 2016 election, when Mr. Dowless worked for a different candidate, and the 2018 primary, when he worked for Mr. Harris.

ISIS Fighters Surrender

SouthFront, In Video: Hundreds Of ISIS Fighters Surrender To US-Backed Forces In Euphrates Valley, Southfront, Staff report, Feb. 27, 2019.  More than 350 fighters and commanders of ISIS have surrendered to the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the middle Euphrates River Valley, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported on February 27.

Several local news outlets released videos of the terrorists, most of whom appeared to be old or suffering from critical injures. Some of them were identified as Iraqi, Saudi and Russian citizens. “Many are still inside [ISIS stronghold] … They want to fight … They want to die,” an injured Saudi terrorist told a local journalist in one of the videos.

Several previous reports claimed that the number of remaining ISIS fighters in the Euphrates Valley is no higher than 260. Apparently these claims were false.

Transitions: Nixon Brother Dies

Richard Nixon Foundation, Edward Nixon, Youngest and last surviving brother of President Richard Nixon, dies at 88, Staff report, Feb. 27, 2019. Edward Nixon, the youngest and last surviving brother of President Richard Nixon, died today at a skilled nursing facility in Bothell, Washington. He was 88 years old

Feb. 26

Huge Trump 'Fireworks'

Palmer Report, Expert: Robert Mueller has huge Trump-Russia fireworks coming with his final report, Bill Palmer, Feb. 26, 2019. All along, Palmer Report has been pointing out what we’ve thought was fairly obvious: Special Counsel Robert Mueller is an aggressive prosecutor who isn’t simply going to file a report about Donald Trump’s crimes and then go home, bill palmer report logo headerleaving it to chance whether Trump and his family are brought to justice. It turns out a top U.S. intel expert agrees – and he’s going into more detail about how he thinks this will really play out.

john brennan twitterFormer CIA Director John Brennan (left) is no longer on the inside of the U.S. intel community, but he knows how these things work, and he knows Robert Mueller. He expects that when Mueller files his final report, he’ll simultaneously unseal his biggest indictments for one big dramatic ending. He said this during an MSNBC interview on Monday:

“I would think that the indictments are going to probably be presented along with the final report. So far we haven’t had any indictments of, for example, members of the Trump family, as well as any indictment that’s identified Americans who are involved in a criminal conspiracy. If in fact there is evidence to that, and if the Special Counsel decides to go forward with it, I would expect it to be the final act. I think Bob Mueller and his team know that cutting that close to the bone would be the final bell for them.”

robert mueller full face fileJohn Brennan’s clear implication is that, once Robert Mueller (right) indicts and arrests Donald Trump’s family, Trump will use up whatever meager political capital he has left to try to force Mueller to be fired, regardless of how badly it might blow back on Trump. So the point for Mueller would be to take all the biggest swings at once, thus ensuring they happen. From there, Brennan expects that Mueller will hand off any remaining unfinished criminal cases to the likes of SDNY, and we’re expecting the same.

Justice Integrity: In the News

washington post logoWashington Post, This courthouse is the closest you can get to Mueller’s probe, one wall away from its secrets, Avi Selk, Feb. 26, 2019 (print edition). The line to see Roger Stone get gagged stretched from the courtroom door all the way down the marbled hall on Thursday — 100 people deep, with yet more holding placards and TV camera tripods and their respective ideological convictions on the sidewalks outside the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse, a few blocks from the Capitol.

roger stone headshotOf course, the people didn’t yet know that Stone would be gagged at the end of the hearing — barred from publicly discussing his upcoming trial on charges of lying, witness tampering and obstruction in the criminal investigation of President Trump’s inner circle. Rather, some of those in line thought Trump’s longtime friend might be sent straight to jail, his bail revoked for allegedly attacking the judge on Instagram last week. Or perhaps Stone [shown in a file photo] would make a scene, as when he flashed Nixonian victory signs at previous hearings this year.

And then there were rumors that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation was nearing its end, and so this might be the last public hearing presidential puppetry 2before Trump himself is implicated in the final report. Or exonerated. No one knew.

“For many good-government people, this is the ultimate constitutional crisis,” said Andrew Kreig, squashed into a third-row pew at Stone’s hearing Thursday, describing the hyperbole on each side.“The alternative view is it’s overthrowing the duly elected president. It’s hard to imagine a more dramatic situation.”

Kreig, who edits a website titled Justice Integrity Project and once wrote a book [right] about how “secretive elites guide our government leaders,” figured this was about the 12th hearing he had attended in the Mueller investigation, including former national security director Michael Flynn’s chaotic sentencing hearing in December and Manafort’s first trial in Virginia (during which, he recalled, another loyal spectator managed to knit an entire blanket).

Trump Probes

michael cohen abc 2018 12 14

Former Trump Personal Attorney and Deputy Republican National Committee Finance Chairman Michael Cohen (Screenshot last year from ABC News).

washington post logoWashington Post, Cohen expected to describe Trump’s ‘lies, racism and cheating,’ person familiar with congressional testimony says, Matt Zapotosky and Rosalind S. Helderman, Feb. 26, 2019. Here are 20 questions lawmakers could ask Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal lawyer, that might shed new light on probes swirling around Trump.

rnc logoWashington Post, Analysis. Michael Cohen’s three days of Capitol Hill testimony, explained, Aaron Blake, Feb. 26, 2019. Cohen is testifying privately on Tuesday and Thursday and in public on Wednesday.

Washington Post, Analysis: Lies, racism, cheating.' So begins the Michael Cohen show, Jacqueline Alemany, Feb. 26, 2019. The headlines will keep on coming.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Nancy Pelosi goes after Matt Gaetz over witness tampering, Bill Palmer, Feb. 26, 2019. Earlier this evening, when Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz used his Twitter account to try to intimidate Michael Cohen out of publicly testifying before Congress tomorrow, Palmer Report predicted that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi would quickly drop the hammer on him. Sure enough, Pelosi is already going after Gaetz.

matt gaetz o CustomFor reference, Matt Gaetz (left) posted this astounding tweet: “Hey @MichaelCohen212 – Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she’ll remain faithful when you’re in prison. She’s about to learn a lot.”

Nancy Pelosi posted this in response: “I encourage all Members to be mindful that comments made on social media or in the press can adversely affect the ability of House Committees to obtain the truthful and complete information necessary to fulfill their duties. As a result, such statements can be considered as not reflecting creditably on the House, and the committee on ethics should vigilantly monitor these types of statements, which may not be protected by the speech or debate clause.” So what is Pelosi really saying here?

nancy pelosi twitterIn short, Speaker Pelosi (right) just asked the House Ethics Committee to launch an investigation into Matt Gaetz over his witness tampering. Of course this is just what we’re seeing publicly.

The House can also refer Matt Gaetz for criminal investigation. Prosecutors such as Robert Mueller or SDNY can also indict Gaetz and put him on trial. Members of Congress are not immune from criminal indictment and arrest, as evidenced by the recent indictments of GOP Congressman Chris Collins and Duncan Hunter.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, House prepares to vote on overturning Trump’s emergency declaration, Erica Werner, Feb. 26, 2019 (print edition). Congress has never sought to cancel a U.S. House logonational emergency declared by the president. The House is expected to pass the resolution, but Republicans want to ensure the margin isn’t veto-proof.

Raw Story, Trump has brought US credibility worldwide down to the level of ‘a carjacker’: Ex-ambassador, Brendan Skwire, Feb. 26, 2019. Career ambassador Thomas Pickering, who served under six presidents, and a signatory to a letter rebuking President Donald Trump for declaring a national emergency over the border wall Congress refuses to fund, told MSNBC on Tuesday that the president was destroying American credibility around the world and in our own hemisphere, saying the U.S. leader was viewed as little more than a carjacker.

thomas pickeringPickering, shown in a screenshot, slammed the president for “break[ing] the separation of powers,” predicting the party would come to regret it. “Anything can become a national emergency,” he said and added that Trump’s recklessness endangered “the future stability of our constitution, our country, and the separation of powers.”

Piggybacking on that, host Ali Velshi asked if the president’s obsession with a wall, which his own intelligence services are “in consensus is not actually a national emergency”, was taking away from other national security issues that he ignores, like Russia’s interference with U.S. elections.

“Certainly our relations with Mexico are very badly tested,” Pickering replied. “While paying for the wall is gone here, it’s not forgotten in Mexico.”

“Our role in the hemisphere is in many ways injured , particularly when the president wants to lead on Venezuela,” he continued. “U.S. credibility all around the world is at stake. Would you buy a used car from a carjacker?”

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate blocks bill on medical care for children born alive after attempted abortion, Mike DeBonis and Felicia Sonmez, Feb. 26, 2019 (print edition). All but three Democrats voted against a procedural motion on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. Opponents argued it represented an unjustified attack on abortion rights.

World News

ny times logoUnited Kingdom flagNew York Times, Theresa May Promises U.K. Parliament a Vote to Delay Brexit, Stephen Castle, Feb. 26, 2019. Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday bowed to overwhelming pressure to reduce the risk of a disorderly departure from the European Union, accepting that Parliament should have the chance to delay Britain’s exit if it rejects her withdrawal plans next month.

ny times logoChina FlagNew York Times, 2019 Is a Sensitive Year for China, and Xi Is Nervous, Chris Buckley, Feb. 26, 2019 (print edition). President Xi Jinping is seeking security in a year that includes the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen bloodshed.

washington post logoNorth Korean flagWashington Post, In Hanoi, Kim Jong Un and a culture clash with the White House press corps, David Nakamura and John Hudson, Feb. 26, 2019. American reporters were forced to vacate a hotel work space after the authoritarian ruler of North Korea checked in ahead of his summit with President Trump.

washington post logomohammed bin salman al saudWashington Post, Analysis: The week’s other summit: Kushner to meet Saudi crown prince, Ishaan Tharoor, Feb. 26, 2019. For the Saudi crown prince (Mohammed bin Salman, right), Kushner's arrival is evidence of his global rehabilitation.

Southfront, Commentary: Is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi hiding in Baghuz? Where does ISIS go now? Elijah J. Magnier, Feb. 26, 2019. Donald Trump will not be able to declare victory over ISIS in the next days because there are still between 1000 to 1500 militants and Emirs in Baghuz, a city bordering the Euphrates river.

It is obvious these militants are not ready to surrender but most likely will fight to death, unless a deal is made – as happened before in Jarablus, Raqqah and Dabiq – to transfer them to another location. There are strong indications suggesting the presence of top leadership individuals in Baghuz, including Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (below).

abu bakr al baghdadi 2014Baghdadi’s demise in Baghuz will give Trump a victory he and his propaganda machine around him are expected to capitalise on even if he doesn’t deserve it.

ISIS held territory in the south of Syria, in Suweida, in Yarmouk, on the Lebanese-Syrian borders, in al-Qalamoun, in rural Hama, in Palmyra, in al-Badiya, in Deir-ezzour, al-bu Kamal, and along the west bank of the Euphrates. In all these areas, it was removed and defeated by the Syrian Army and its allies.

East of the Euphrates, ISIS was given a safe haven for years under the watchful eyes of US-coalition forces and with the consent of Abu Ivanka al-Amriki (also known as Donald Trump). To the east of the Euphrates, the Kurds offered thousands of martyrs to clear the area of ISIS fighters. The victory over ISIS cannot be said to belong to the US establishment that played only a small role in fighting ISIS in Syria.

But is ISIS defeated? ISIS women coming out of Baghuz are now speaking publicly; it is striking to notice how proud these women are, emerging from ISIS last stronghold more defiant than ever, publicly using the same language they would use within the Caliphate. The ISIS slogan “Baqiya” (remaining) is present at their lips and their faith in the eventual victory of their men is robust. They still uphold the ideology of ISIS, an ideology that won’t die with Baghdadi but can be expected to persist for years to come.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Cardinal George Pell, most senior Catholic to be charged with sex abuse, is convicted, A. Odysseus Patrick and Chico Harlan, Feb. 26, 2019. Pell was convicted in Australia of molesting two choirboys in the 1990s, a decision suppressed by a gag order until now. The Vatican called the news “painful” and indicated Pell will appeal.

U.S. Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. blocked Russian troll factory’s Internet access on day of midterms, Ellen Nakashima, Feb. 26, 2019. The U.S. military blocked Internet access to an infamous Russian entity seeking to sow discord among Americans during the 2018 midterms, several U.S. officials said, a warning that the Kremlin’s operations against the United States are not cost-free.

The strike on the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg, a company underwritten by an oligarch close to President Vladi­mir Putin, was part of the first offensive cyber campaign against Russia designed to thwart attempts to interfere with a U.S. election, the officials said.

“They basically took the IRA offline,” according to one individual familiar with the matter who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified information. “They shut them down.”

The operation marked the first muscle-flexing by U.S. Cyber Command, with intelligence from the National Security Agency, under new authorities it was granted by President Trump and Congress last year to bolster offensive capabilities. The president approved of the general operation to prevent Russian interference in the midterms, but was not required to sign off on individual elements of the campaign, officials said.

U.S. Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump ally launches effort to blunt Md. governor’s potential 2020 challenge, Jenna Johnson, Robert Costa and Arelis R. Hernández, Feb. 26, 2019 (print edition). David M. Bossie, the president’s former deputy campaign manager, is trying to pressure Larry Hogan by lining up endorsements of Trump by prominent Republicans in the state.

mark harris north carolina congressRoll Call, Mark Harris will not run in North Carolina’s 9th District special election, Simone Pathé, Feb. 26,2019. The 2018.GOP nominee cites health reasons for decision. Less than a week after his surprise call for a new election in North Carolina’s 9th District, Republican Mark Harris announced he will not be a candidate in that contest.

Harris, the 2018 GOP nominee for the seat, cited health reasons and noticeably didn’t mention the election fraud scandal that was the subject of last week’s dramatic evidentiary hearing before the North Carolina State Board of Elections. He led Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes after last fall’s election, but the board refused to certify the result because of allegations that a contractor for the Harris campaign had tampered with absentee ballots.

U.S. Justice Department

Legal Schnauzer, Opinion: Jeff Sessions provides more evidence that his mental faculties are failing, Roger Shuler, Feb. 26, 2019. Former Trump attorney general Jeff Sessions provided more evidence over the weekend that his mental faculties are eroding. Meanwhile, a candidate for Sessions' old U.S. Senate seat sounds like his brain wattage is not so hot, either.

jeff sessions ag oSessions' most recent tussle with the language came Saturday when he addressed the Alabama Republican Party Executive Committee at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex. From an article at Alabama Political Reporter (APR):

Sessions (shown in an official photo as attorney general) said that he was very proud of what he accomplished while he was Attorney General.

“No cabinet department did more to advance the Trump agenda than the Justice Department,” Sessions said. Sessions said that he worked to make the DOJ less political. “It was time to end the politicization of the Department of Justice.”

Let's break that down into two parts:

(1) Sessions says the Department of Justice (DOJ), on his watch, did more to advance the Trump agenda than any other cabinet andrew mccabe the threat detailsdepartment -- even though long-standing rules hold the DOJ is to operate independently of the White House.

(2) Sessions claims he made the DOJ less political.

Statement No. 2 came mere seconds after Sessions admitted having worked to advance a political agenda in the nation's chief law-enforcement agency. The notion that Sessions might be "out of it" mentally arose recently with the release of The Threat, a book by former FBI Director Andrew McCabe (shown at right).

  bo greg craig oval june 11 2009 wh souza

President Obama and White House Counsel Gregory Craig in Oval Office, June 11, 2009. (White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Consortium News, Opinion: Washington Insider Taken Down a Peg, John Kiriakou (right), Feb. 26, 2019. Federal prosecutors last month stepped up their investigation of Washington john kiriakousuper-lawyer Greg Craig in what they called an “off-shoot” of the Paul Manafort investigation. The accusation against Craig was that he failed to register as a lobbyist for work he did on behalf of the Ukrainian government in 2012. His former firm, the internationally-renowned Skadden Arps, reached a $4.6 million settlement with prosecutors, but Craig may still face charges.

The accusation that Craig violated FARA, or the Foreign Agent Registration Act, is not a big deal in the greater scheme of things. It means that he did some work for a foreign government and didn’t fill out the necessary Justice Department paperwork for it. He also is accused of making false and misleading statements to the department’s FARA unit.

More importantly, it points to the impunity with which Washington big-shots normally operate. Manafort thought he was untouchable because he was the great Republican strategist, the legendary co-founder of Black, Manafort, and Stone, the most important Republican political operatives of the 1980s and 1990s.

Craig is the same. He was Barack Obama’s White House Counsel. And he’s former Secretary of State John Kerry’s best friend. Like Manafort (and the Podestas and Hillary Clinton and John Edwards and a whole host of other big muckety mucks) he thought he was above the law.

John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act — a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration’s torture program.

Sexuals Assaults Of Native Americans

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, The Sexual Assault Crisis Facing Native American Women, Elyse Notarianni, Feb. 26, 2019. In the US, one in six women will become a victim of sexual assault in her lifetime. For women in Native American communities, that likelihood doubles.

When she was a senior in high school, Kerry Hawk Lessard invited some friends to her home, like many seniors do. They drank all night. Before everyone left, one of the men unlocked the back door and taped the lock open. Later that night he returned and sexually assaulted her. She was 19 years old.

Sex Crimes By U.S. Child 'Protectors?'

Axios, Thousands of migrant youth allegedly suffered sexual abuse in U.S. custody, Caitlin Owens, Stef W. Kight, Harry Stevens, Feb. 26, 2019. Thousands of allegations of sexual abuse against unaccompanied minors (UAC) in the custody of the U.S. government have been reported over the past 4 years, according to Department of Health and Human Services documents given to Axios by Rep. Ted Deutch's office.

Allegations against staff members reported to the DOJ included everything from rumors of relationships with UACs to showing pornographic videos to minors to forcibly touching minors’ genitals.

ted deutch fl dem oBy the numbers: From October 2014 to July 2018, the HHS' Office of Refugee Resettlement received 4,556 complaints, and the Department of Justice received 1,303 complaints. This includes 178 allegations of sexual abuse by adult staff.

What they're saying: Deutch (D-FL) said these documents were included in HHS' response to a House Judiciary Committee request for information made in January.

"This behavior — it's despicable, it's disgusting, and this is just the start of questions that HHS is going to have to answer about how they handle these and what's happening in these facilities," Deutch told Axios.

CNN, HHS docs show thousands of alleged incidents of sexual abuse against unaccompanied minors in custody, Sophie Tatum, Feb. 26, 2019. The Department of Health and Human Services received more than 4,500 complaints of sexual abuse against unaccompanied minors from 2014-2018, according to internal agency documents released Tuesday by Florida Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch.

alex azar o cropped CustomIn addition, 1,303 complaints were reported to the Justice Department during that same time frame, according to the documents. HHS Secretary Alex Azar is shown at left in an official photo. A chart showed that most of the abuses occurred during the Trump Administration.

Deutch addressed the documents during a high-profile House hearing Tuesday on the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy that resulted in thousands of immigrant children being separated from their parents.

hhs seal CustomHe said that the documents "demonstrate over the past three years, there have been 154 staff on unaccompanied minor, let me repeat that, staff on unaccompanied minor allegations of sexual assault."

"This works out on average to one sexual assault by HHS staff on unaccompanied minor per week," he added. Axios first reported the documents. "I am deeply concerned with documents that have been turned over by HHS that record a high number of sexual assaults on unaccompanied children in the custody of the Office of Refugee and Resettlement," Deutch said. "Together, these documents detail an environment of systemic sexual assaults by staff on unaccompanied children."

More On Trump Probes

paul manafort mug

washington post logoWashington Post, Paul Manafort should receive less than 10 years in prison, his attorneys tell judge, Spencer S. Hsu and Rachel Weiner, Feb. 26, 2019 (print edition). Their sentencing recommendation came Monday in the D.C. federal case of Trump’s former campaign chairman (shown at right in a mug shot).

ny times logoNew York Times, In Mueller’s Investigation, Andrew Goldstein Is Right Behind Him, Noah Weiland and Michael S. Schmidt, Feb. 26, 2019 (print edition). Robert S. Mueller III has a reputation as the all-knowing investigator, but Mr. Goldstein has a day-to-day role in one of the central lines of inquiry.

robert mueller full face fileThe routine was always the same. President Trump’s lawyers would drive to heavily secured offices near the National Mall, surrender their cellphones, head into a windowless conference room and resume tense negotiations over whether the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III (right), would interview Mr. Trump.

Justice Department log circularBut Mr. Mueller was not always there. Instead, the lawyers tangled with a team of prosecutors, including a little known but formidable adversary: Andrew D. Goldstein, 44, a former Time magazine reporter who is now a lead prosecutor for Mr. Mueller in the investigation into whether the president obstructed justice.

Mr. Mueller is often portrayed as the omnipotent fact-gatherer, but it is Mr. Goldstein who has a much more involved, day-to-day role in one of the central lines of investigation.

Mr. Goldstein, the lone prosecutor in Mr. Mueller’s office who came directly from a corruption unit at the Justice Department, has conducted every major interview of the president’s advisers. He questioned Donald F. McGahn II, Mr. Trump’s former White House counsel, and Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former fixer and lawyer, for dozens of hours. He signed Mr. Cohen’s plea agreement. He conducted grand jury questioning of associates of Roger J. Stone Jr., the former adviser to Mr. Trump who was indicted last month.

washington post logodjt handwave fileWashington Post, Trump Organization asks House committee to cease investigations, citing an alleged conflict of interest, John Wagner and Tom Hamburger, Feb. 26, 2019 (print edition). In a letter, a lawyer for the president’s company objected to the committee’s hiring of an outside lawyer whose firm has represented the Trump Organization.

U.S. Courts and Crime

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court’s Elena Kagan may play big role in battle over separating church and state, Robert Barnes, Feb. 26, 2019 (print edition). As a government lawyer, Kagan fought to preserve a cross memorial. On the bench, she has vigorously backed prohibitions on government establishment of religion.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Federal appeals court upholds AT&T’s Time Warner merger, handing defeat to Justice Department, Brian Fung​, Feb. 26, 2019. The att logooutcome is a major defeat for the Justice Department’s top antitrust chief, Makan Delrahim, who legal analysts say took a major risk in suing AT&T and who has now lost twice at court.

washington post logoWashington Post, Bump-stock ban enacted by Trump administration can stand, federal judge rules, Meagan Flynn, Feb. 26, 2019. The judge rejected all the legal arguments put forth by gun-rights groups.

Feb. 25

Call For New Brexit Vote

 ny times logoNew York Times, Britain’s Opposition Party Leader Backs a New Brexit Vote, Stephen Castle, Feb. 25, 2019. Britain’s opposition Labour Party said on Monday that it was prepared to support a second referendum on withdrawal from the European Union, a shift that could have significant ramifications for the fate of Brexit and for the country’s future.

jeremy corbynAfter the resignations of nine Labour Party members last week, and amid the prospect of more, the party’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn (right), dropped his United Kingdom flaglongstanding resistance to a second vote on leaving the bloc.

Mr. Corbyn’s support for a new vote is certainly no guarantee a new vote will happen. Still, it will cheer pro-European Britons, who have been fighting to reverse the outcome of the 2016 referendum decision.

Global Strife

ny times logoNew York Times, With Aid Blocked, What’s Next for Venezuela’s Opposition? Nicholas Casey and Albinson Linares, Feb. 25, 2019 (print edition). As the humanitarian aid at the heart of a Venezuelan border standoff remained shut in warehouses on Sunday, and with President Nicolás Maduro’s blockade still intact, it became clear that the opposition leaders trying to oust him had little in the way of a Plan B.

American FlagJuan Guaidó, the top opposition official, and his allies had hoped that forcing the badly needed food and medicine inside Venezuela would represent a moment of irreversible collapse in Mr. Maduro’s authority. Instead, just one aid truck made it through on Saturday, the deadline set by the opposition to end the impasse, and Mr. Maduro easily fended off the biggest challenge to his power since Mr. Guaidó swore himself in as the country’s rightful leader last month.

venezuela flag waving customClashes between opposition protesters and forces loyal to Mr. Maduro, which have left four dead since Friday, continued into Sunday, threatening the image of Mr. Guaidó’s nonviolent movement.

Columbia flagThe military officials crucial to keeping Mr. Maduro in power largely resisted Mr. Guaidó’s call for mass defections, with only about 150 deserting. And even Mr. Guaidó’s own fate remained unclear: After he slipped over the border into Colombia on Friday, disobeying a travel ban, it was anyone’s guess if Mr. Maduro would allow him to return.

ny times logoNew York Times, Israeli Prime Minister Sparks Outrage Over Pact With Racist Party, David M. Halbfinger, Feb. 25, 2019 (print edition). Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, imperiled on all sides and grasping for every vote, allied himself with a racist anti-Arab party. Mr. Netanyahu (right), his future imperiled by prosecutors and political challengers alike, benjamin netanyahu frownhas enraged Jewish leaders in Israel and the United States by striking a bargain with a racist anti-Arab party whose ideology was likened by one influential rabbi to Nazism. Even pro-Israel groups in the United States that prefer to air their disagreements quietly have issued public condemnations.

The furor has aggravated already fraught relations between Israel and Jews in the diaspora, undercutting American and European Jewry’s efforts to fight anti-Semitism at a time when it is on the rise on both continents.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Delays a Tariff Deadline, Citing Progress in China Trade Talks, Ana Swanson and Alan Rappeport, Feb. 25, 2019 (print edition). President Trump delayed his own deadline to increase tariffs on Chinese goods on Sunday as his administration continues a monthslong effort to persuade Beijing to make significant structural changes to its economy that have so far proved elusive.

Donald Trump Logo Make America Great AgainMr. Trump, in a tweet on Sunday, said he would delay a Friday deadline to increase tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports, citing “substantial progress” during a week of trade talks in Washington between American and Chinese officials.

The president, who has been eager to cut a deal with Beijing, said the negotiators had forged a compromise on key issues, including China’s requirement that American companies hand over valuable intellectual property and technology as a condition of doing business in China, as well as more purchases of American agriculture and energy China Flagproducts, like liquid natural gas.

But in a hint of how fluid the talks remain, the two sides did not sign an official agreement and the White House did not release details on any agreements. Mr. Trump said he hoped to sign a final deal in person in a meeting with President Xi Jinping of China, most likely in March at Mar-a-Lago, the president’s Palm Beach resort, but no new deadline was set.

Big Money, Politics

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Duped Middle Class — Will Voters Fight Back? (Part 2), Martin Lobel, Feb. 25, 2019. Eliminating tax subsidies that primarily benefit the plutocrats is urgently needed if we are to preserve the middle class and our economy.

U.S. Voter Suppression

The Guardian, Commentary: 'We should be outraged’: Alabama congresswoman tackles voter suppression, Ed Pilkington, Feb. 25, 2019. Terri Sewell’s bill, the Voting Rights Advancement Act, is a first step to defending minority voters from attempts to block the ballot box. The Democratic party this week launches a major push to repair America’s broken electoral system and counter a wave of voter suppression that has swept the country, depriving hundreds of thousands of citizens of the right to vote.

terri sewellTerri Sewell (right), an Alabama congresswoman from the civil rights crucible of Selma, is sponsoring the Voting Rights Advancement Act that will be introduced to the House of Representatives on Tuesday. She told the Guardian it was time to restore and advance American democracy: “We don’t want just to shatter the glass ceiling, we want to break down the door.”

She added: “We should be making it easier for people to vote. We should be strong enough as a nation that everybody can have a voice.”

Sewell’s bill, known as HR4, is being treated as a priority by the Democratic leadership that has regained control of the House. The party sees restoring and modernizing the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the signature reform of the civil rights era, as a crucial first step towards defending black and other minority voters from widespread Republican attempts to block access to the ballot box.

U.S. House logo“People should be outraged that ordinary Americans who just want to exercise the right to vote are finding it harder, as state legislatures put up modern-day barriers,” said Sewell from her congressional office in Washington. The legislation is intended to fill the gaping hole that was punched into the Voting Rights Act in 2013 when the US supreme court effectively gutted the protections afforded by Lyndon Johnson’s most celebrated reform. In a ruling called Shelby County v Holder the five conservative justices on the court ended almost half a century of federal oversight of states and counties, most in the Deep South, that had a track record of discriminating against black and other minority voters.

In the wake of that ruling, the removal of federal controls has unleashed a rush of voter suppression directed primarily against African American, poor, elderly and young voters. A Brennan Center database shows that 22 states have introduced restrictive voting measures since the floodgates opened six years ago.

brian kempThe flurry of suppression has been so intense, the center found, that last year’s midterm election cycle saw voter suppression that was “more widespread and brazen than in any other since the modern-day assault on voting began.”.

Such flagrant attacks on basic suffrage have incensed Sewell. She pointed to Georgia, where 53,000 voters were purged from the voting rolls in the 2018 elections because their names didn’t exactly match their ID cards.

In the case of Georgia, the voter purge was masterminded by Brian Kemp (left), then secretary of state, who also happened to be running for governor. Kemp defeated the Democratic candidate, Stacey Abrams, by just 54,000 votes – a margin almost identical to the size of the purge.

washington post logoWashington Post, The popular vote could decide the 2020 presidential election, if these states get their way, Deanna Paul, Colorado is set to join 11 other states and the District in a compact to bypass the electoral college system. Colorado is set to become the latest member of a group of states banding together to bypass the electoral college system.

The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact — which already has 11 states and the District of Columbia on board — would hand the 2020 presidential election to whoever wins the popular vote. But it would only take effect if states representing at least 270 electoral college votes pass the law.

Under the Constitution, states have the power to determine how they award their electoral votes in national elections. Today, many states have winner-take-all laws, which award all of its electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes within the state.

Most states swing either Democrat or Republican, making the winner of a given election in the majority of jurisdictions a foregone conclusion. Candidates don’t need to focus on issues concerning those voters and, as a result, winner-take-all statutes have created a handful of “battleground” states that candidates focus their attention and policies on.

Currently, the compact has 172 electoral votes from the 12 states that have enacted the legislation: Rhode Island, Vermont, Hawaii, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Washington, New Jersey, New York, Illinois, California and the District of Columbia.

Colorado’s House and Senate passed the bill, which is ready for Gov. Jared Polis (D) to sign, bringing the count to 181. New Mexico, whose House has passed the bill, too, is viewed as the next state to join on.

“The problem with the compact is getting another dozen states to sign on,” said Reed Hundt, chairman and co-founder of Making Every Vote Count. The remaining states where it may pass are smaller and left-leaning. “Republican states haven’t embraced it yet.”

According to Hundt, who previously served as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, for the first time in American history, in reasonably close, non-landslide elections, 1 in every 3 presidential candidates who wins the popular vote will lose the Electoral College.

Sex Trafficking Crackdown

wayne madsenWayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary: More VIP heads to roll in Chinese massage parlor sting, Wayne Madsen (right), Feb. 25, 2019 (Subscription required; excerpted with permission).  Is the massage parlor prostitution ring a tale of "Spas and Spies?"

Expect more VIP heads to roll in Florida's statewide crackdown on a chain of "day spas" that provided their male clientele with sexual gratification instead of body massages.

Bloomberg, John Childs Retires From Namesake Firm in Wake of Prostitution Sting, Hema Parmar, Feb. 25, 2019.  John Childs, the buyout veteran who co-founded J.W. Childs Associates, retired just days after being charged with soliciting prostitution. Childs, who started the private-equity firm in 1995, stepped down as chairman, Boston-based J.W. Childs said in a statement Monday. The firm has invested about $3.7 billion of equity capital in more than 50 businesses, according to its website.

john childsChilds (right), 77, isn’t currently active in the management of the firm, according to the statement. The firm will continue to be led by Adam Suttin, managing partner, and partners David Fiorentino, Jeff Teschke and Bill Watts.

Childs was one of 165 people charged by the Vero Beach Police Department in Florida as part of a multijurisdiction criminal investigation into massage parlors in Florida. A probe by the Jupiter Police Department ensnared New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who could face as long as a year in jail, and former Citigroup Inc. executive John Havens.

Childs couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. But in a telephone interview on Friday, he said he was innocent and hadn’t been contacted by the republican elephant logopolice department about the charge. “The accusation of solicitation of prostitution is totally false,” he said. “I have retained a lawyer.”

Childs has owned a home in Vero Beach for more than a decade, according to public records. Related story: Washington Post, Here’s who pays the bills for Ted Cruz’s crusade, Jia Lynn Yang, Oct. 11, 2013. 

ny times logoNew York Times, Robert Kraft Facing First Degree Misdemeanors in Prostitution Case, Ken Belson, Victor Mather and Patricia Mazzei, Feb. 25, 2019. New England Patriots owner Robert K. Kraft has been charged as part of a prostitution sting in Florida. Three weeks and a day after he watched his team win its sixth Super Bowl championship, Robert K. Kraft was formally charged with two counts of soliciting prostitution.

robert kraft twitterMr. Kraft (shown in a file photo), who lives in Massachusetts but has owned property in Palm Beach, Fla., for a number of years, was one of 25 men caught in a sting operation at a spa called Orchids of Asia, a small storefront business in a strip mall in Jupiter, Fla.

On Friday, Jupiter police filed two second-degree charges against Mr. Kraft, but State Attorney Dave Aronberg of Palm Beach County increased the severity of the charges to two first-degree misdemeanors. If convicted, Mr. Kraft could face up to a year in jail, a $5,000 fine and 100 hours of community service, Mr. Aronberg said. He added that it was unlikely a first-time offender would spend time in jail.

“Human trafficking is evil in our midst,” Mr. Aronberg said. “It is fueled on the demand side.”

The charges are the latest crisis for the Patriots and Mr. Kraft, who is one of the N.F.L.’s most powerful owners, a trustee emeritus and longtime benefactor of Columbia University and a friend of President Trump’s. Mr. Aronberg made it clear that Mr. Kraft would not receive special treatment because of his prominence.

Vatican Anti-Abuse 'Battle' Call

pope francis uncropped 3 13ny times logoNew York Times, Pope Francis Calls for ‘All-Out Battle’ to Fight Scourge of Sexual Abuse, Jason Horowitz and Elizabeth Dias, Feb. 25, 2019 (print edition). Pope Francis ended a landmark Vatican meeting on clerical sexual abuse with an appeal “for an all-out battle against the abuse of minors,” which he compared to human sacrifice, but his speech did not offer concrete policy remedies demanded by many of the faithful.

In the speech at the end of a Mass in the Apostolic Palace’s frescoed Sala Reggia hall, Francis (shown at right in a file photo) argued that “even a single case of abuse” in the Roman Catholic Church — which he said was the work of the devil — must be met “with the utmost seriousness.” He said that eradicating the scourge required more than legal processes and “disciplinary measures.”

Francis argued that more was required than legal processes and “disciplinary measures” from the Roman Catholic Church.
But his speech ending a landmark meeting offered no policy remedies.

UN Court Rules For Islanders Against UK, US

bo soorooj phokeer mauritius

The ambassador of the Republic of Mauritius, H.E. Soorooj Phokeer, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the USA, is shown after presenting his credentials to then U.S. President Obama in 2016 at the White House Oval Office (White House photo).

The Guardian, UN court rejects UK's claim of sovereignty over Chagos Islands, Owen Bowcott, Feb. 25, 2019. Judges advise Britain that mauritius map flag Customseparating archipelago from Mauritius in 1960s was wrong. The UK has been ordered to hand back the Chagos Islands to Mauritius “as rapidly as possible” after the United Nations’ highest court ruled that continued British occupation of the remote Indian Ocean archipelago is illegal.

UN logoAlthough the majority decision by the international court of justice in The Hague is only advisory, the unambiguous clarity of the judges’ pronouncement is a humiliating blow to Britain’s prestige on the world stage.

Delivering judgment, the president of the ICJ, Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, said the detachment of the Chagos archipelago in 1965 from Mauritius had not been based on a “free and genuine expression of the people concerned”.

Judge Yusuf, who is a Somali, said the process of separating the Chagos Islands from Mauritius during decolonisation in the 1960s constituted an “unlawful detachment” and was a “wrongful act”.

United Kingdom flagThe UK retained possession of the Chagos archipelago, which includes the strategic US airbase of Diego Garcia, after Mauritius gained its independence in 1968, effectively paying Mauritius more than £4m for the islands.

The government refers to it as British Indian Ocean Territory or BIOT. About 1,500 native islanders were deported so the largest island could be leased to the US for the airbase in 1971. They have never been allowed to return home. U.S. B-1 Bombers are shown in an Air Force photo at right.

diego garcia b 1 bombers CustomIn its submission to the ICJ last year, Mauritius argued it was coerced into giving up the Chagos Islands. That separation was in breach of UN resolution 1514, passed in 1960, which specifically banned the breakup of colonies before independence, lawyers for Mauritius said.

The UK government argued that the court it did not have jurisdiction to hear the case. The ruling will be referred back to the UN general assembly, where it will be debated.

The judgment represents a significant defeat for the UK on virtually every point it contested in the hearing last September. By a majority of 13 to one, the court found that the decolonisation of Mauritius had not been lawfully completed and that it must be completed “as rapidly as possible.” The only judge dissenting from the main opinion was an American.

The court’s recommendations are expressed in remarkably forthright terms and represent a fresh challenge to the UK’s standing in the UN. Namira Negm, legal counsel of the African Union, which played an important role in the proceedings, said: “It is unthinkable that today, in the 21st century, there is a part of Africa that still remains subject to European colonial rule.

Trump Probes

washington post logoWashington Post, Former campaign staffer alleges in lawsuit that Trump kissed her without her consent. The White House denies the charge, Beth Reinhard and Alice Crites​, Feb. 25, 2019. In interviews with The Post, and in the lawsuit, Alva Johnson said Donald Trump grabbed her hand and leaned in to kiss her on the lips as he exited an RV outside the rally in Tampa on Aug. 24, 2016. Johnson said she turned her head and the unwanted kiss landed on the side of her mouth, which she called “super-creepy and inappropriate.”

djt oval office hands up parent photosWhile more than a dozen other women have publicly accused Trump (shown in a file photo) of touching them in some inappropriate way, Johnson is the only accuser to come forward since he took office and the only one to allege unwanted contact during the campaign. Trump faces a defamation lawsuit in New York brought by Summer Zervos, a former “Apprentice” reality TV contestant, who claims he forcibly kissed and groped her in 2007.

She met Trump at a November 2015 rally in Birmingham, Ala., where Johnson said the candidate looked her up and down. “Oh, beautiful, beautiful, fantastic,” he said, according to the lawsuit.

She said she looked past the comment and, two months later, took a job as the campaign’s director of outreach and coalitions in Alabama. Johnson said she thought she could put her background in human resources and event planning to use on a political campaign.

david cay johnston headshotDCReport, Investigation: Commerce Secretary Flouts Government Ethics Rules, David Cay Johnston (DCReport Editor-in-Chief and author, shown at right), Feb. 25, 2019. Fake Billionaire Wilbur Ross Ignores the Law and Lies About His Stock Holdings.

Wilbur Ross, Donald Trump’s Commerce secretary, is required by federal law to report to the attorney general that he has engaged in illegal conduct that could get him five years in prison.

Ross (shown below in a file photo with President Trump) falsely reported not once, but twice that he had sold his shares of Bank United stock in May 2017. He identified the shares as sold in his September 2017 report. Then he filed his annual financial disclosure report in August 2018. His original 2017 reports are here and here.

The second false report came after he was warned in writing by the Office of Government Ethics about being accurate. The forms in question are signed under penalty of perjury. Ross’s 72-page disclosure form was rejected by the head of the ethics office, Emory Rounds, on Feb. 15.

djt wilbur rossThe Center for Public Integrity revealed in December that Ross falsely claimed he had sold the stock. He got tripped up on his two-time lie when he reported a United Bank dividend.

Ross, whom I first interviewed three decades ago, has often publicly claimed he was worth billions from his years as a “vulture capitalist.” His specialty was squeezing money out of bankrupt firms, often to the detriment of workers and vendors.

His now-rejected financial statements suggest his net worth is in the hundreds of millions, not billions.

Two years ago, we reported on how Ross had been vice chairman of the Bank of Cyprus, a favorite for Russian money laundering. A link to the full report by our investigative economics editor, Jim Henry, is in the short version of the story we ran back then.

deutsche bank logoThe other Bank of Cyprus vice chair was an appointee of Vladimir Putin.

The bank’s chief executive was the disgraced former head of Deutsche Bank, the only bank known to have loaned money directly to Trump in the last decade. Deutsche, which has paid more than $600 million in fines for laundering Russian money and an eye-popping $22 billion in fines for other improprieties. Why would Ross hire an executive with that kind of track record, especially in helping Russians launder money?

Inside DC

 ny times logoNew York Times, G.O.P. Ex-Lawmakers Urge Rejection of Trump’s Emergency Declaration, Emily Cochrane, Feb. 25, 2019. Dozens of former Republican lawmakers and former national security officials argued against President Trump’s declaration of an emergency at the border. A House vote Tuesday to block the move will force Republicans to weigh congressional control of spending against Mr. Trump’s determination to build a wall.

washington post logoWashington Post, Former senior national security officials to issue declaration on national emergency, Ellen Nakashima, Feb. 25, 2019 (print edition). A bipartisan group of 58 former senior national security officials will issue a statement Monday saying that “there is no factual basis” for President Trump’s proclamation of a national emergency to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

madeleine.albrightThe joint statement, whose signatories include former secretary of state Madeleine Albright (right) and former defense secretary Chuck Hagel (below left), will come a day before the House is expected to vote on a resolution to block Trump’s Feb. 15 declaration.

The former officials’ statement, which will be entered into the Congressional Record, is intended to support lawsuits and other actions challenging the national emergency proclamation and to force the administration to set forth the legal and factual basis for it.

chuck hagel defense o“Under no plausible assessment of the evidence is there a national emergency today that entitles the president to tap into funds appropriated for other purposes to build a wall at the southern border,” the group said.

Albright served under President Bill Clinton, and Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, served under President Barack Obama. Also signing were Eliot A. Cohen, State Department counselor under President George W. Bush; Thomas R. Pickering, President George H.W. Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations; John F. Kerry, Obama’s second secretary of state; Susan E. Rice, Obama’s national security adviser; as well as former intelligence and security officials who served under Republican and Democratic administrations.

Roll Call, Jon Stewart: advocates for 9/11 first responders are tired of visiting Congress, Niels Lesniewski, Feb. 25, 2019. Crew renews call to authorize a permanent victims compensation fund. Jon Stewart and the New York City first responders pushing to make permanent the funding for 9/11 victim compensation are tired of making the trek to Capitol Hill.

“This is theater. We’re all down here today. There’s no reason to have dragged these people down here. There’s no reason to have to have these conversations,” Stewart said at a Monday news conference. “Bullshit. You know it, and I know it.”

The bipartisan lawmakers in attendance, led by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney and almost all from the New York delegation, have set a goal of getting the compensation fund reauthorized for a full 70 years, aligning it with a companion health fund — and without a cap on the new spending.

“I want to say this very loud and clear to every senator, every member of this House: We must not force our 9/11 heroes to go through this same exhausting process again,” Gillibrand said. “We have to fully fund the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund and make it permanent, and we must do it now.”

But the special master in charge of distributing money recently announced that the Victim Compensation Fund payments would be slashed by as much as 70 percent because of a shortfall.

Media News: Spicy 'Extra'

Palmer Report, Opinion:: Sean Spicer is back and everything is horrible, Amy Fowler, Feb. 25, 2019. Do you like your entertainment to be extra spicy, and full of lies? If so, tune in to the long-standing American entertainment news program, “Extra.” It now employs former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer (shown at the White House) as a Special D.C. Correspondent. This may be the most obvious clue yet as to how the next two years are forecast to play out.

bill palmer report logo headerThe show, Extra, is known for its lighthearted entertainment news coverage, often promoting newly released films, and their stars. Time Warner must have seen an opening in crossing over to a hybrid of entertainment-political news.

sean spicerIf this is an indication of how coverage of the 2020 election cycle will go, then color me unimpressed. Trump seems to have strengthened a bridge between Hollywood and Washington, D.C.

In this age of information warfare, every news media outlet (including Palmer Report) should be extra scrutinized by the public to ensure misinformation is not being bandied about. Any legitimate news outlet should welcome this level of scrutiny, from the smallest of blogs to the largest of media monopolies. Therefore, we have to examine why Sean Spicer, formerly of the Trump administration, is has been chosen to deliver entertainment-style political misinformation heading into 2020.

Assad Visits Iran

Southfront, Assad Visits Tehran, Meets Ayatollah Khamenei For First Time Since Start Of War, Staff report, Feb. 25, 2019. On Feb. 25, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad arrived in Tehran where he met with Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei and other top officials. This was the first such visit since the start of the war.

During the meeting, Assad (at left in photo) expressed his gratitude to Iran for all that it has done for Syria during the conflict. The Syrian president added that the leaders “reviewed the fraternal bashar al assad ayatollah seyyed ali k hamenei feb 25 2019and strong relations between their two peoples, which have been the main factor in maintaining Syria and Iran in the face of plots by enemy countries.”

Khamenei told Assad that the resistance of Syrian president and people as the main reason behind the defeat of the United States and its regional mercenaries. Khamenei also praised the role of Assad in the conflict.

 “Through your steadfastness, you [Assad] turned into the hero of the Arab world and the resistance in the region has gained more power and credit through you,” he stressed noting that Iran will continue to stand by the Syrian nation “because considers this as helping the resistance front and movement.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who also met with Assad, noted that his country is ready to participate in rebuilding of Syria and restoring its stability.

Venezuela & 'Right To Protect'

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Venezuela - No, The "Responsibility To Protect" Does Not Apply, B, Feb. 25, 2019. Richard Haass (shown in his Twitter photo) is the president of the Council of Foreign Relations. richard haass twitterOn Friday, before the failed delivery of fake "humanitarian aid" to Venezuela, he opined that the rejection of the "aid" would justify an intervention based on the dubious doctrine of a Responsibility to Protect (R2P):

"What the Maduro regime is doing to the people of Venezuela is inconsistent with the obligations that come with being a sovereign state. The time has come for the UN or OAS or Lima Group to consider how to apply the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine."

Hass attached a link to a report by the Crisis Group which summarized the situation at that time. The Crisis Group report argues, quite correctly, that the Venezuelan government is legally justified to reject the "aid". Thus R2P, which presuppose that a state does not fulfill is legal obligations, cannot apply to the case:

venezuela flag waving customUnder international law, governments must give consent to the distribution of food and medical supplies when a population’s survival is threatened, but only if the aid is of an exclusively humanitarian and impartial nature. This aid operation, however, is primarily political, in that it is intended to undermine Maduro and bring about a change of government.

To recommend a legal procedure and policy by linking to a report that contradicts that reasoning is quite daft. Furthermore Haass wants "the UN or OAS or Lima Group to consider how to apply the Responsibility to Protect.

richard haas venezuela But neither the Organisation of American States nor the Lima Group, a Canadian plot together with some Central and South American states to attack Venezuela, can apply R2P beyond the already taken sanction measures:

The Responsibility to Protect provides a framework for employing measures that already exist (i.e., mediation, early warning mechanisms, economic sanctions, and chapter VII powers) to prevent atrocity crimes and to protect civilians from their occurrence. The authority to employ the use of force under the framework of the Responsibility to Protect rests solely with United Nations Security Council and is considered a measure of last resort.

The UNSC will of course reject any U.S. attempt to apply R2P with regards to Venezuela.

marco rubio venezuela maduro ghaddafiThe only and last time that the Security Council passed a chapter VII resolution based on R2P was with regards to Libya. The resolution allowed other states to protect the civilian population of Libya by force. The U.S. and others abused the resolution to overthrow the Libyan government and to completely destroyed the country. China and Russia certainly noted that. They will never again let such a resolution pass.

That Senator Marco Rubio, a driving power behind the campaign against Venezuela, explicitly posted these pictures of Muhammad Ghaddafi before and after R2P was applied, only strengthens the case against it.

Feb. 24

Trump Probespaul manafort rnc 2016 abc flickr

Former Trump Presidential Campaign Manager Paul Manafort In 2016 (file photo from ABC-TV)

washington post logoWashington Post, Paul Manafort a ‘hardened’ and ‘bold’ criminal, Mueller prosecutors tell judge, Rachel Weiner, Feb. 24, 2019 (print edition). Their sentencing memo for Trump’s former campaign chairman was unsealed Saturday and did not suggest a specific prison term. Manafort has pleaded guilty to multiple charges in D.C. and Virginia.

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort (shown in a mug shot) is a “hardened” criminal who “repeatedly and brazenly violated the law,” prosecutors told a Washington federal judge.

paul manafort mugBut in the filing submitted Friday and made partially public Saturday, they recommended no specific punishment for those crimes, saying that is the practice of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III (shown below in a file photo), whose office brought the case.

Prosecutors noted that federal guidelines call for a sentence of 17 to 22 years, although under Manafort’s guilty plea in his D.C. case, the maximum he faces behind bars is 10. The special counsel team said it may ask for Judge Amy Berman Jackson to impose a sentence that runs after any prison time Manafort is given for related crimes in Virginia federal court.

Jackson could make the sentence she imposes run during or after his Virginia prison term. In Virginia, where Manafort was found guilty of bank and tax fraud at trial, there is no upper limit to his sentence. In Alexandria, prosecutors have also asked only for a “serious” sentence. Federal guidelines in that case call for him to spend roughly 19 to 24 years in prison.

robert mueller screenshot washington post

ny times logoNew York Times, Manafort ‘Repeatedly and Brazenly’ Broke Law, Prosecutors Say in Sentencing Memo, Sharon LaFraniere, Feb. 24, 2019 (print edition). The special counsel’s team said the fact that Mr. Manafort lied to prosecutors after agreeing to cooperate “reflects a hardened adherence to committing crimes and lack of remorse.” In a new court filing unsealed on Saturday, prosecutors cited sentencing guidelines that could result in a prison term of up to 22 years for Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, for conspiracy charges to which he pleaded guilty last fall.

Justice Department logoMr. Manafort is scheduled to be sentenced next month for the conspiracy charges, as well as for eight other felonies stemming from a financial fraud prosecution in Northern Virginia.

Mr. Manafort, 69, admitted in September that he had conspired to obstruct justice by trying to persuade witnesses to lie to cover up the fact that he had failed to register as a foreign lobbyist in the United States.

russian flag wavingRegistering as a lobbyist with the Justice Department would have required him to disclose millions of dollars in hidden payments he was receiving from Russia-friendly political parties in Ukraine over a decade.

In the sentencing memo to a federal judge in Washington, prosecutors working for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, said that “for over a decade, Manafort repeatedly and brazenly violated the law” — continuing to commit crimes even after he was indicted.

washington post logoWashington Post, Commentary: Drawing to a close, Illustrated by Steve Brodner, Feb. 24, 2019 (print edition). An illustrated guide to the many, many people in the Russia investigation’s orbit.

washington post logoWashington Post, House Democrats to subpoena Mueller if report is not made public, Schiff says, Felicia Sonmez​, Feb. 24, 2018. Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) said Sunday adam schiff officialthat House Democrats will subpoena special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to testify before Congress if his report on Russian interference in the 2016 campaign is not made public.

Schiff, right, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on ABC News’s “This Week” that Democrats will also subpoena Mueller’s report and are prepared to go to court against the Trump administration.

U.S.-North Korean Summit

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump attempts to tamp down expectations ahead of summit with North Korean leader, David Nakamura, Feb. 24, 2019 (print edition). Amid evidence that Pyongyang has done little to curb its nuclear weapons production, the president has sought to create the conditions to declare the summit a success regardless of the outcome.

North Korean flagTrump is hopeful that his bilateral meetings with Kim this week in Hanoi will re-create the international media spectacle of their historic first summit in Singapore last summer — and perhaps distract from mounting domestic political turmoil.

But wide gaps remain between U.S. and North Korean negotiators, who have yet to agree on a basic definition of what “denuclearization” means to both sides, according to U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the talks.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, White House to select scientists to counter government climate findings, officials say, Juliet Eilperin, Josh Dawsey and Brady Dennis, Feb. 24, 2019. The move would be the administration’s most forceful effort to challenge the scientific consensus that greenhouse gas emissions are helping drive global warming.

Media News

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Analysis: Monopolistic Internet Market Causing America to Fall Behind, Kirsty Vitarelli, Feb. 23, 2019. One of the promises then-candidate Trump made on the fcc logocampaign trail was a big infrastructure spending package. This initiative is something he is still pursuing, but it is uncertain what it may include, and whether an extremely important infrastructure puzzle-piece — a high-speed fiber optic internet for all — will be included.

This is one area where the US is not keeping up with the rest of the world. Unless this shortfall in internet access is remedied, it could seriously impede the nation’s ability to compete in the international marketplace.

Venezuela "Aid"/Coup Riots

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Venezuela -- There Was A Riot At The Border But What Else Did The "Aid" Stunt Achieve? B, Feb. 24, 2019.  Yesterday's "humanitarian aid" stunt at the Colombian-Venezuelan border was supposed to achieve four points:

  1. to breach the border and thereby open venues that could later be used for the passage of arms and fighters,
  2. to incite large scale defections from the Venezuelan army and police forces,
  3. to demonstrate to the outside world that the Random Guyaido, who declared himself president, has a large following and is thereby legitimate enough to support him,
  4. to deliver justification for further steps against Venezuela.

Point 1 was clearly not achieved. A few hundred young men attacked the Venezuelan National Guard force that closed off the border. Attempts were made to ram "aid" trucks juan guaidóthrough. Random Guyaido ["Random Guy," Juan Guaidó, "interim president," right, and leader of the rebellion] was nowhere to be seen. The whole thing ended in a minor riot. The violent attackers received gasoline and made Molotov cocktails to attack the guards and set the "aid" trucks alight. The riots continued (vid) until about midnight but neither any rioters nor the aid passed through the border.

The New York Times headlines, and Guaido claimed, that some "aid" passed into Venezuela from Brazil: "Some Aid From Brazil Pierces Venezuela’s Blockade, but Deadly Violence Erupts."

Down in paragraph 17 of its story the NYT admits that its headline is fake: "But as of Saturday night, the trucks remained stranded on the border, according to Jesús Bobadillo, a Catholic priest in Pacaraima, the Brazilian border town."

Bloomberg's bureau chief in Venezuela confirmed that the "aid" never entered the country: "Patricia Laya @PattyLaya - 4:31 PM - 23 Feb 2019. An important note from our reporter on the Brazil border @SamyAdghirni: while the aid is technically on Venezuelan territory, it hasn't crossed security or customs checkpoints"

venezuela flag waving customThe attempt to incite defections of Venezuelan security forces largely failed. A handful of National Guard foot soldiers went over to the Colombian side. But the National Guard lines held well even under a hail of stones and fire and the units were quite disciplined in taking and holding their positions. The military of Venezuela stays firmly on the side of the state.

The "aid" nonsense did not help to brush up Guaido's legitimacy. Defying a court order Guaido left Venezuela and entered Colombia. If he ever goes back he will have to go to jail. The large mobilization inside and outside of Venezuela he had promised completely failed to appear. The melee at the border crossing only showed that his followers are a gang of brutal thugs.

Columbia flagGuaido also lost his original legal position. He claimed the presidency on January 23 under this paragraph of article 233 of the Venezuelan constitution: "When an elected President becomes permanently unavailable to serve prior to his inauguration, a new election by universal suffrage and direct ballot shall be held within 30 consecutive days. Pending election and inauguration of the new President, the President of the National Assembly shall take charge of the Presidency of the Republic."

That the "elected President becomes permanently unavailable" was never the case to begin with. But if article 233 would apply Guaido would have had 30 days to hold new elections. The 30 days are over and Guaido did not even call for elections to be held. He thereby defied the exact same paragraph of the constitution that his (false) claim to the presidency is based on.

All the above will not change the U.S. urge to "regime change" Venezuela. But it will certainly lower Guaido's support within the country as well as his international standing. It demonstrated aptly that he is nothing but an empty suit.

bernie sandersThe last aim of yesterday's stunt was to give justification for the next steps towards "regime change" -- whatever those steps may be.

The success of achieving that aim was never in question as all U.S. media and politicians were already backing Trump's plans by accepting the "humanitarian aid" nonsense in the first place:

"Bernie Sanders [shown at right] @SenSanders -- 18:47 utc - 23 Feb 2019: 'The people of Venezuela are enduring a serious humanitarian crisis. The Maduro government must put the needs of its people first, allow humanitarian aid into the country, and refrain from violence against protesters.'"

This response to the fake socialist is warranted: "Roger Waters @rogerwaters - 22:27 utc - 23 Feb 2019. Replying to @SenSanders: Bernie, are you f-ing kidding me! if you buy the Trump, Bolton, Abrams, Rubio line, “humanitarian intervention” and collude in the destruction of Venezuela, you cannot be credible candidate for President of the USA. Or, maybe you can, maybe you’re the perfect stooge for the 1 %."

marco rubio venezuela maduro ghaddafi

Palmer Report, Opinion: Marco Rubio tweets violent bloody photo, appears to call for a guy to be beaten to death, Bill Palmer, Feb. 24, 2019. Republican Senator Marco Rubio has some explaining to do. For days he’s been tweeting an increasingly aggressive and hostile narrative toward Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, which was his prerogative, until he posted a bloody and violent threat today that has caused an uproar.

marco rubio buttonMarco Rubio (shown during his most recent reelection campaign) posted a tweet this afternoon with two photos of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The first photo shows Gaddafi sitting on a gold chair and smiling. The second photo shows Gaddafi being beaten to death by his own people, his face and clothes covered in blood.

bill palmer report logo headerRubio didn’t include any words with the photos. But his previous tweet two hours earlier was a rant about Venezuela’s Maduro, so there’s no question that the Gaddafi photo is intended as a message to Maduro. Rubio may be intending to warn Maduro that his people will end up killing him if he refuses to give up power. But there’s another interpretation here: one could argue that Rubio is calling for Maduro to be beaten to death. And because Rubio is a U.S. Senator, he’s making that call on behalf of the United States.

Whatever you think of Maduro or Gaddafi, this is nonetheless a stunning tweet by Marco Rubio. We think Maduro is awful, and we’re glad a brutal dictator like Gaddafi is no longer walking the planet. But if we tweeted a violent image of Gaddafi being beaten to death, in clear reference to the possibility of Maduro also getting beaten to death, we’re pretty sure we’d get suspended from Twitter or worse.

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, Commentary: Five myths about journalism, Jeremy Littau, Feb. 24, 2019 (print edition). Jeremy Littau is an associate professor of journalism and communication at Lehigh University. These are tough times for journalism. Falling revenue for newspapers and magazines has led to layoffs since 2005, including four major announcements already this year. But the current crisis in the news business is also haunted by misconceptions about the industry and its history. Here are five of the most common.

Myth No. 1: Newspapers collapsed after they offered stories for free.

More On U.S. Sex U.S.Trafficking

 ny times logoNew York Times, 'The Monsters Are the Men’: Inside a Thriving Sex Trafficking Trade in Florida, Patricia Mazzei, Feb. 24, 2019 (print edition). Beyond the link to Robert Kraft, the Patriots owner charged with soliciting sex, lies the story of women forced to work in alarming conditions. Lured from China by false promises of new lives, they found themselves trapped in the back rooms of strip-mall brothels, investigators said.

Something was amiss at a massage parlor near one of the wealthiest barrier islands in Florida.

First, a health inspector spotted several suitcases. Then she noticed an unusual stash of clothing, food and bedding. A young woman who was supposed to be a massage therapist spoke little English and seemed unusually nervous.

The inspector reported her findings to police. They would eventually learn that her suspicions were right: The women were not just employees: They were living in the day spa, robert kraft twittersleeping on massage tables and cooking meals on hot plates in the back. Some of them had had their passports confiscated.

The inspector’s suspicions prompted a sprawling investigation across four Florida counties and two states — Florida and New York — over nearly eight months, resulting in the disruption of what authorities say was a multimillion-dollar human-trafficking and prostitution operation.

The sweep led to criminal charges last week against several rich, prominent men, including Robert K. Kraft, the billionaire owner of the New England Patriots (shown in a file photo); John Havens, former president and chief operating officer of Citigroup; and John Childs, founder of the private equity firm J.W. Childs Associates.

Virginia Legislature

washington post logoWashington Post, Amid sex assault and blackface scandals, Virginia legislature wraps up strange session, Gregory S. Schneider and Laura Vozzella​,  Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax used the final day to defend himself from the Senate dais; however, his speech was met with silence. Virginia lawmakers wrapped up the strangest General Assembly session in anyone’s memory Sunday, plowing through blackface scandals and sexual assault allegations to reach a bipartisan deal on taxes and position all 140 legislators for fall elections that could determine partisan control for years to come.

The chaos overshadowed actual legislative accomplishments, including bipartisan agreement on incentives for the massive Amazon headquarters project in Arlington County, a plan to clean up coal ash ponds around the state, a law raising the legal age to buy tobacco products to 21 from 18 and pay raises for teachers and other public employees.

Feb. 23

Trump Probes

Palmer Report, Opinion: Robert Mueller just dropped an 800-page bomb, Bill Palmer, Feb. 23, 2019. Special Counsel Robert Mueller filed his sentencing memo against Paul Manafort under seal last night, and today the judge instructed him to publicly release a redacted version. Sure enough, it’s just been released, and all told, it’s a whopping eight hundred pages long.

bill palmer report logo headerThis explains why it took more than twelve hours past the filing deadline to get the whole thing properly redacted for public release. The primary filing document is just a couple dozen pages; the attachments make up the bulk of the biblical-length tome. We’re just now starting to make our way through the filing, which has plenty of black redaction bars, but also plenty of non-redacted material. Here’s what stands out so far.

This document makes clear just how thoroughly Robert Mueller and his team went through every stage of Paul Manafort’s criminal life in order to bust him as thoroughly as President Donald Trump officialpossible. Voluminous details are included about Manafort’s illegal lobbying efforts, both foreign and domestic, dating back several years before he went to work for Donald Trump. Manafort’s crimes while running the Trump campaign are also spelled out in great detail.

fbi logoWe’ll see what details end up standing out. But for now, the upshot is that Robert Mueller has managed to penetrate every last inch of Paul Manafort’s life of crime. Why does this matter? If Mueller has done this to a secondary target like Manafort, he’s surely managed to do the same to Donald Trump. When Mueller does take his big swing at Trump, it’s going to expose – in devastating detail – every crime Trump has ever committed.

Venezuelan Border Battle

washington post logoWashington Post, Venezuelan opposition faces off against security forces as Maduro digs in, Mariana Zuñiga, Anthony Faiola and Dylan Baddour​, Feb. 23, 2019. Four people were killed and 24 injured after an attack by a pro-government militia group. A massive effort to break President Nicolás Maduro’s blockade of humanitarian aid descended into violence and chaos Saturday across the string of border flash points — showing both the growing defiance of the U.S.-backed opposition but also Maduro’s willingness to fight back.

juan guaido nicolas maduro

ny times logoNew York Times, Some Aid From Brazil Pierces Venezuela’s Blockade, but Violence Erupts Along the Colombian Border, Nicholas Casey, Albinson Linares and Anatoly Kurmanaev, Feb. 23, 2019. An ambitious plan by Venezuela’s opposition to peacefully import foreign aid in truck convoys degenerated into deadly skirmishes Saturday along the impoverished country’s borders, with a smattering of supplies getting through but most of it blocked by armed loyalists of President Nicolás Maduro (above right).

The aid deliveries, promised by the opposition leader, Juan Guaidó (above left), have been viewed as a major test of his credibility in the month since he declared himself president and promised an end to Venezuela’s economic free-fall.

As the day progressed, some of the humanitarian aid pierced Mr. Maduro’s blockade, but most of it did not. And although a few members of the security forces defected, Mr. Guaidó’s hope that the armed forces would step aside and even join his flag-waving supporters did not come to pass.

A day that was billed by the opposition as decisive in the struggle with Mr. Maduro over the country’s leadership turned chaotic and inconclusive. Mr. Maduro, furious that Colombia had helped the opposition, broke relations with its government and gave its diplomats 24 hours to get out.

There also was no guarantee that the 35-year-old opposition leader, who has emerged as the biggest political threat to Mr. Maduro, would even be allowed back into Venezuela by the authorities, who had barred him from traveling abroad.

american flagMr. Maduro, who has called Mr. Guaidó a Trump administration stooge, said the promises of emergency aid masked an American plot to invade Venezuela, and he vowed to thwart it.

As protesters clashed with security forces at various points along the border with Brazil in the south and Colombia in the west, a defiant Mr. Maduro took to a stage in the capital Caracas, dancing the salsa with his wife and addressing supporters in an event carried on national television.

djt smiling file“I am stronger than ever,” he said, before asking, “Why am I here? Because you are the ones who decide, not Donald Trump (shown in a file photo).”

He also called Mr. Guaidó a “puppet of imperialism,” and explained the break with Colombia.

“We can’t keep putting up with the Colombian territory being used for attacks against Venezuela,” Mr. Maduro said. “For that reason, I have decided to break all political and diplomatic relations with Colombia’s fascist government.”

The border showdown has become one of the most tense and unusual in the region’s history.

washington post logovenezuela flag waving customWashington Post, Skirmishes erupt on Venezuelan border as opposition, led by Guiadó, aims to defy blockade of foreign aid, Dylan Baddour, Anthony Faiola and Mariana Zuñiga, Feb. 23, 2019. Civilians in the border town of Ureña engaged in running battles with tear-gas wielding border guards. At one international bridge, border guards who had turned against President Nicolás Maduro rammed barricades, and four military men defected.

Inside DC 

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump announces nomination of Kelly Knight Craft to be ambassador to United Nations, Philip Rucker and Anne Gearan, Feb. 23, 2019 (print edition). President Trump announced Friday evening that he will nominate Kelly Knight Craft, the U.S. ambassador to Canada and a major Republican donor, to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

kelly knight craft flagsCraft (right) is set to succeed Nikki Haley, pending Senate confirmation, and is Trump’s second pick to replace Haley, who left the U.N. post at the end of last year. The president’s first candidate, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, withdrew from consideration last week.

Further details: In 2007, she was appointed by President George W. Bush as a U.S. alternate delegate to the United Nations, where her focus included U.S. engagement in Africa.

She was a delegate to the 2016 Republican National Convention from Kentucky. She headed Kelly G. Knight LLC, a business advisory firm based in Lexington, Kentucky. Craft's husband is a billionaire coal-mining executive for Alliance Resource Partners, L.P., the third-largest coal producer in the eastern United States.

Rolling Stone, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Pastry Chef Is a QAnon Believer, Peter Wade, Feb. 23, 2019.The employee’s Instagram posts reveal she believes in the 4chan conspiracy theory. A pastry chef employed at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property in Florida is a believer in the QAnon conspiracy theory that alleges Trump is secretly purging the government of “deep state” liberals and Hollywood elites who run child sex trafficking rings and the CIA, among other paranoid delusions.

Reporter Zach Everson, who runs the 1100 Pennsylvania newsletter investigating Trump’s businesses, uncovered the beliefs of pastry chef Elizabeth Alfieri on her Instagram, where she posts frequently from Mar-a-Lago and uses hashtags like #Q, #QAnon, and #QArmy to refer to the conspiracy theory.

Economic Justice

ny times logoNew York Times, Health Care and Insurance Industries Mobilize to Kill ‘Medicare for All,’ Robert Pear, Feb. 23, 2019. Even before Democrats finish drafting bills to create a single-payer health care system, the health care and insurance industries have assembled a small army of lobbyists to kill “Medicare for all,” an idea that is mocked publicly but is being greeted privately with increasing seriousness.

Doctors, hospitals, drug companies and insurers are intent on strangling Medicare for all before it advances from an aspirational slogan to a legislative agenda item. They have hired a top lieutenant in Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign to spearhead the effort. And their tactics will show Democrats what they are up against as the party drifts to the left on health care.

They also demonstrate how entrenched the Democrats’ last big health care victory, the Affordable Care Act, has become in the nation’s health care system.

The lobbyists’ message is simple: The Affordable Care Act is working reasonably well and should be improved, not repealed by Republicans or replaced by Democrats with a big new public program. More than 155 million Americans have employer-sponsored health coverage. They like it, by and large, and should be allowed to keep it.

More On Trump Probes

Washington Post, Justice Department, Democrats brace for fight over access to Mueller report, Devlin Barrett and Karoun Demirjian, Feb. 23, 2019 (print edition). Justice Department officials have worried that they will have a weak argument for withholding materials, given how much information was turned over to Congress after the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.

robert mueller full face fileThe Justice Department and Democratic lawmakers are bracing for a fight over access to the evidence uncovered by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III (right) during his nearly two-year investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether President Trump obstructed justice.

Mueller’s investigation is winding down, according to people familiar with the matter, and Justice Department officials expect to receive a report from him in March. Democrats on Friday demanded that the report be made public.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Spy or Operative? The Enigmatic Figure at the Heart of Mueller’s Inquiry, Kenneth P. Vogel and Andrew E. Kramer, Feb. 23, 2019. Konstantin V. Kilimnik is central to two of the most tantalizing elements in the special counsel’s investigation of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Mr. Kilimnik attracted intense interest from prosecutors for his interactions with his longtime boss and mentor, Paul Manafort.

konstantin klimnikIn the nearly two years that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has been investigating whether there was collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, few figures seem to have offered more tantalizing leads than Konstantin V. Kilimnik (shown at left in a file photo).

A diminutive, multilingual political operative who was born in Ukraine while it was still part of the Soviet Union, Mr. Kilimnik has continued to attract intense interest from prosecutors for his interactions with his longtime boss and mentor, Paul Manafort, and his suspected ties to Russian intelligence, even as Mr. Mueller prepares to wrap up his investigation.

The full story of what Mr. Mueller has found about cooperation between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential election is not known. But Mr. Kilimnik pops up repeatedly as a possible connection, with ties to both sides that are as enigmatic as they are deep.

And his dealings with Mr. Manafort, who in 2016 served as Donald J. Trump’s campaign chairman, encompass two of the most intriguing elements of the special counsel’s inquiry to surface publicly: the sharing of polling data with Mr. Kilimnik, and the work he and Mr. Manafort did on behalf of Kremlin-aligned Ukrainian interests that were pushing plans that could have eased economic sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States and its allies.

djt don jr ivanka pecker eric

Palmer Report,Opinion: New York District Attorney just cornered Donald Trump into checkmate, Bill Palmer, Feb. 23, 2019. Yesterday we all learned that Manhattan District Attorney cyrus vance jrCyrus Vance (right) has prepared a state-level criminal case against Paul Manafort. The clear implication was that if Donald Trump tried to pardon Manafort, New York would simply lock Manafort right back up.

But last night we learned that New York is preparing to file criminal charges against Manafort even if Trump doesn’t try to pardon him. So what’s going on?

bill palmer report logo headerNew York truly is willing and able to bring state-level criminal cases that he can’t do anything to sabotage – not just against a dead man walking like Paul Manafort, but also against Trump’s kids. And while New York State might have a hard time putting Trump on trial while he’s still in office, it can arrest his kids at any time.

That’s checkmate. Even if Donald Trump doesn’t care about the fate of his kids, the criminal cases against them can be used to rip apart the Trump Organization, seize the Trump family’s assets, and build a bulletproof state level case against Trump which can be brought against him the minute he leaves office.

atlantic logoThe Atlantic, Analysis: The Loud Silence of Mueller’s Manafort Memos, Franklin Foer (right), Feb 23, 2019. A court filing by the special counsel franklin foer Customis filled with elegant omissions — but that doesn’t mean nothing is there.

Actual revelations come in the strangest form, and many of them from the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson. She has presided over the Paul Manafort case that never went to trial, the one where he pleaded guilty before it ever began. But since Manafort’s cooperation seems to have consisted of rank and unceasing mendacity, the lawyers in the case have kept returning to court.

Unsealed transcripts of hearings have permitted eavesdropping on Robert Mueller’s lawyers. Along the way, prosecutors have dropped some fairly unambiguous hints about what’s ahead.

Trump Pardon Protection

ny times logoNew York Times, New York Prosecutors Expected to Charge Manafort, Guarding Against Trump Pardon, William K. Rashbaum, Feb. 23, 2019 (print edition). The Manhattan district attorney’s office is preparing state criminal charges against Paul J. Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, in an effort to ensure he will still face prison time even if the president pardons him for his federal crimes, according to several people with knowledge of the matter.

Mr. Manafort is scheduled to be sentenced next month for convictions in two federal cases brought by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III. He faces up to 25 years in prison for tax and bank fraud and additional time for conspiracy counts in a related case. It could effectively be a life sentence for Mr. Manafort, who turns 70 in April.

cyrus vance jrThe president has broad power to issue pardons for federal crimes, but no such authority in state cases. And while there has been no clear indication that Mr. Trump intends to pardon Mr. Manafort, the president has spoken repeatedly of his pardon power and defended his former campaign chairman on a number of occasions, calling him a “brave man.”

The office of the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr. (right), first began investigating Mr. Manafort in 2017 in connection with loans he received from two banks. Those loans were also the subject of some of the counts in the federal indictment that led to his conviction last year. But the state prosecutors deferred their inquiry in order not to interfere with Mr. Mueller’s investigation.

 JFK & Today: Secrets Around Us?

lee marina oswald archives

Lee Harvey Oswald is shown returning to the United States in 1962 with his Soviet-born wife Marina after announcing in 1959 a defection to the Soviet Union. Oswald was later accused of the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. This column argues that he was a secret U.S. intelligence asset but leaves open the issue of whether he was complicit in the JFK assassination or a patsy, as Oswald claimed before he was murdered in a Dallas police station on Nov. 24, 1963.)

jacob hornberger headshotFuture of Freedom Foundation, Commentary: ISIS and Oswald, Jacob G. Hornberger (right), Feb. 22, 2019. How ironic that the U.S. government’s war on ISIS, the group brought into existence by the U.S. national-security establishment’s war of aggression on Iraq, would provide insight into the U.S. national-security’s establishment’s relationship with Lee Harvey Oswald, the accused assassin of President John F. Kennedy some 55 years ago.

As I emphasized in my 29-part video series on the JFK assassination and as I am emphasizing in my multipart series on the same subject in FFF’s monthly journal Future of Freedom, circumstantial evidence is just as valid as direct evidence. Equally important, sometimes we can glean just as much from what government officials fail to do as from what they do.

Consider the case of Hoda Muthana, a 23-year-old American citizen who traveled to Syria four years ago and became the wife of a member of ISIS. She had a baby and now wants to return to the United States.

It’s not going to happen if President Trump gets his way. He is steadfastly refusing to permit Muthana to return to the United States. As far as he is concerned, she is a traitor for having left the United States to join up with ISIS, which became an official enemy of the U.S. Empire after the U.S. conquest of Iraq.

lee harvey oswald marine corbis via getty imagesWhich brings us to Lee Harvey Oswald (left), the former U.S. Marine who U.S. officials have always said was a “lone nut” communist who killed President Kennedy.

How does Oswald’s case relate to those of the Americans who joined up with ISIS? The U.S. government’s treatment of Oswald, whose conduct was arguably as bad if not worse than that of the ISIS Americans, was exactly the opposite of how they are treating the ISIS Americans.

In fact, as I have note in my two series, there are but two reasonable possibilities: Either Oswald was a Cold War miracle story or he was what many assassination researchers have long contended: a U.S. intelligence agent whose official cover was a communist.

Don’t forget the official narrative. It begins with a supposed communist joining the U.S. Marine Corps. How many communists have you ever heard of who have joined the U.S. Marines? Why would a genuine communist join the Marines? The Marines hate communists. They kill communists.

Oswald learned fluent Russian while he was in the Marines. How did he do that without help, especially since his study would presumably be limited to evenings and weekends? He was also studying Marxism, even to the point that his military colleagues were calling him “Osvaldovitch.”

Then Oswald walked into the U.S. embassy in Russia and loudly announced that he is renouncing his U.S. citizenship — loud enough to ensure that Russian monitoring devices could pick up what he was saying. He handed over his passport to a U.S. official in the embassy and loudly declared that he intends to divulge all the secrets he learned in the U.S. military to the Russians. It was not an idle threat because the U.S. military had stationed this ostensible communist at Atsugi Air Base in Japan, which was where the CIA’s top-secret U-2 spy plane was based.

lee harvey oswald cuba posterWhile in Russia, Oswald married a communist woman, one whose uncle had close ties to Soviet intelligence.

After a couple of years, Oswald suddenly had a change of heart, just like those ISIS wives. He decided that he now wanted to come home, along with his Red wife.

Now, how do you think that request would be handled by U.S. officials? Before you answer, remember: This was the height of the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

In fact, in what can only be described as a Cold War miracle story, Oswald was given a red-carpet treatment during a period of time in which the U.S. national-security establishment was doing everything it could to ferret out, smear, and destroy any American who suspected to be a communist.

A U.S. group called Traveler’s Aid even advanced Oswald the money to return with his Red wife. Upon his return, he wasn’t arrested, investigated, harangued, abused, or interrogated. Why, he wasn’t even summoned to appear before a federal grand jury, much less criminally indicted. And no handcuffs.

lee harvey oswald new orleans leaflets rafael cruz wdsuInstead, he found himself being mentored in Dallas by a right-wing elderly man who had U.S. intelligence stamped all over him. He also somehow secured a job with a photography company that did top-secret work for the U.S. government.

After he moved to New Orleans, Oswald somehow had the good fortune of securing a job with a coffee company whose owner was a fiercely right-wing anti-communist.

Moreover, while Oswald (shown in the white shirt at left forefront) was distributing pamphlets for the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, which the U.S. national-security establishment was trying to destroy, he was associating with a former FBI agent whose office was located squarely within the U.S. intelligence establishment in New Orleans. Why, even some of Oswald’s FPCC pamphlets (shown above) had the FBI’s agent’s address stamped on the pamphlets as the return address.

The attitude and treatment of Americans who joined ISIS by President Trump and the national-security establishment is precisely what we would expect. The U.S national-security establishment’s treatment of Lee Harvey Oswald is also how we would expect they would treat a U.S intelligence operative trained to pose as a communist.

Feb. 22

Epstein / Acosta / Trump Scandal

alexander acosta o cropped Custom


President Trump's Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, now under fire for his sweetheart plea deal in 2007 for the billionaire accused pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

Miami Herald, Federal prosecutors broke law in Jeffrey Epstein case, judge rules, Julie K. Brown, Feb. 22, 2019 (print edition). A judge ruled Thursday that federal prosecutors — kenneth marra open jurist croppedamong them, U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta — broke federal law when they signed a plea agreement with a wealthy, politically connected sex trafficker and concealed it from more than 30 of his underage victims.

jeffrey epstein at harvard universityU.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra (right), in a 33-page opinion, said that the evidence he reviewed showed that Jeffrey Epstein (right) had been operating an international sex operation in which he and others recruited underage girls — not only in Florida — but from overseas, in violation of federal law.

“Epstein used paid employees to find and bring minor girls to him.,’’ wrote Marra, who is based in Palm Beach County. “Epstein worked in concert with others to obtain minors not only for his own sexual gratification, but also for the sexual gratification of others.’’

Instead of prosecuting Epstein under federal sex trafficking laws, Acosta (right), then the U.S. attorney in Miami, helped negotiate a non-prosecution agreement that gave Epstein and his co-conspirators immunity from federal prosecution. Epstein, who lived in a Palm Beach mansion, was allowed to quietly plead guilty in state court to two prostitution charges and served just 13 months in the county jail. His accomplices, some of whom have never been identified, were never charged.

Justice Integrity Project Editor's Notes: President George W. Bush nominated Marra to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida on Jan. 23, 2002. Marra was confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 82-0. He assumed senior status on Aug. 1, 2017.

The Justice Integrity Project and the Wayne Madsen Report reported extensively on how Acosta's actions helped protect such accused fellow pursuers of underage girls as his friend Donald Trump, who has been accused in withdrawn lawsuits of together raping two underage girls in New York City. Senate and House investigators have threatened to demand answers from Acosta in separate oversight hearings. See extensive coverage on our updated subsite: #MeToo News, which repors on allegations of such abuses and related crimes including blackmail and other threats that sometimes involve Deep State intrigues.

Trump's 'Contra War'?

elliot abrams

U.S. Special Envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams, a former convicted and then pardoned felon in the Iran-Contra Scandal (file photo).

Strategic Culture Foundation, Opinion: Trump’s Contra War Redux in Latin America, Wayne Madsen (syndicated columnist, author of 16 books, former Navy intelligence officer), Feb. 22, 2019. A largely ignored story reported by the Lebanese magazine “Ash Shiraa” on November 3, 1986, soon blossomed into a major scandal involving the covert sale of US weapons to the government of Iran and the illegal supply of weapons to right-wing Nicaraguan rebels.

nicols maduro wToday, in a period of déjà vu, the Donald Trump administration has embarked on a Reaganesque policy of covertly shipping arms to Venezuelan rebels, based in Colombia and Brazil, readying for an insurrection against the government of President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela. At the same time, US covert operators have been caught in the act of mounting operations directed at the governments of Haiti and Nicaragua, both members of the increasingly-shrinking Latin American camp of Maduro allies.

Reprising the role of Reagan, Trump, on February 18 during a speech at Florida International University in Miami, urged Venezuelan military officers to rise up, in a coup d'état, and oust Maduro, who Trump called a "Cuban puppet."

Making Trump’s call seem like a repetition of history, the White House recently appointed Elliott Abrams (right) as Trump’s “special envoy” for the forced transition of government in Venezuela from Maduro to Juan Guaido, a “Trump puppet.”

In 1991, Abrams, after agreeing to cooperate with Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh, was convicted on two criminal counts of withholding information from Congress. Abrams denied being involved in the illegal solicitation of funds for the Contras. On December 24, 1992, George H. W. Bush issued presidential pardons to Abrams and five of his co-conspirators in the Iran-Contra scandal. Bush had been identified as an “unindicted co-conspirator” in Walsh’s final report.

New Israeli Alliance

ny times logoNew York Times, 2 Israel Centrists, Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, Join Forces Against Netanyahu, David M. Halbfinger, Feb. 22, 2019. The alliance is seen as posing a credible threat to Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, as he tries to maintain his grip on power. Israel’s two leading centrist candidates for prime minister, Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, joined forces on Thursday to try to defeat Benjamin Netanyahu, right, the right-wing leader who has led the country for a decade, in a move that instantly makes the April 9 elections far more competitive.

benjamin netanyahu frownMr. Gantz, a retired military chief of staff who entered politics only weeks ago, and Mr. Lapid, a former finance minister who founded the Yesh Atid (There Is a Future) party in 2012, agreed to take turns as prime minister if elected, with Mr. Gantz holding that job and Mr. Lapid serving as foreign minister for the first two and a half years before switching roles.

“A winning team needs to be led,” Mr. Lapid said at a rollout of their combined slate of candidates in Tel Aviv. “I wouldn’t be standing here today if I didn’t believe that Benny Gantz could lead us to victory and then lead the country. He’ll be an excellent prime minister. I believe in him.”

Saying that “Israel has lost its way” under Mr. Netanyahu’s “government of divide and conquer,” Mr. Gantz promised a restoration of national unity. “From this moment forward, we work together, as a team, to lead Israel toward repair,” he told the crowd, who chanted “history,” as if it were being made.

R&B Star Charged

ny times logoNew York Times, R. Kelly Charged With Sexual Abuse in Chicago, Elizabeth A. Harris, Feb. 22, 2019. Chicago prosecutors charged the R&B singer with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, according to local news reports. Mr. Kelly, who has been trailed by accusations of sexual misconduct for two decades, will have his first court date on March 8.

r kelly twitterMr. Kelly (shown on his Twitter feed), who has been trailed by accusations of sexual misconduct for two decades, has been under renewed scrutiny since the documentary “Surviving R. Kelly” was broadcast on Lifetime in January.

The celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti said last week that he had obtained a video showing Mr. Kelly having sex with a 14-year-old girl, and given it to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office in Chicago. He has said that Mr. Kelly and the girl refer to her age multiple times in the video, which is more than 40 minutes long.

Coup Attempt Proceeds

ny times logoNew York Times, Deadly Violence Erupts on Brazil Border in Venezuela Aid Showdown, Ana Vanessa Herrero and Ernesto Londoño, Feb. 22, 2019. Venezuelan security forces fired on those protesting the government’s determination to block aid. The political showdown convulsing Venezuela escalated into deadly violence near the border with Brazil on Friday, as security forces fired on a group of indigenous Venezuelans protesting the government’s determination to block aid deliveries from outside the country.

venezuela flag waving customWitnesses and local officials reported the confrontation a day after President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela, facing the biggest challenge of his political career, ordered all crossings at the Brazil border closed.

At least two civilians were killed and more than a dozen wounded in the confrontation with security forces in the Gran Sabana area, along Venezuela’s southeast border with Brazil, according to Américo de Grazia, an opposition lawmaker from the state of Bolívar. The Gran Sabana area is inhabited by the Pemón, an indigenous community.

Judge Gags Stone With 'Last Chance'

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge bars Roger Stone from speaking about criminal case, Rachel Weiner and Manuel Roig-Franzia, Feb. 22, 2019 (print edition). A federal judge on Thursday ordered that longtime Republican operative and Trump confidant Roger Stone may not speak publicly about the investigation or case against him.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington said it would be “foolhardy” to wait for Stone to transgress again in the wake of an Instagram post that appeared to show her photo near crosshairs. The post suggested both she and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, whose office brought the case against Stone, were biased.

Roger Stone and “I’m not giving you another chance,” Jackson told Stone (shown with the cover his book on Trump). “I have serious doubts whether you’ve learned any lesson at all.”

If he violates the order in any way, Jackson warned that she would order him to jail.

The judge, who sounded flabbergasted by Stone’s explanations, rejected his claim that the image was not meant to be threatening.

“Roger Stone knows full well the power of words and the power of symbols. “There is nothing ambiguous about crosshairs,” she said. “If the judge’s appearance alone was important to convey some message . . . a perfectly neutral photograph can be found on the court’s website.”

U.S. Politics

 washington post logoWashington Post, Hogan blasts RNC for ‘unprecedented’ steps to shield Trump from a primary, Ovetta Wiggins, Feb. 22, 2019. “It’s not the way we should be going about our politics,” said the two-term Maryland governor, who is being courted by GOP dissidents seeking an alternative for the party in 2020.

mark harris north carolina district nine mapmark harris north carolina congress

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘It Was Certainly a Tainted Election’: North Carolina Calls for New Vote, Alan Blinder, Feb. 22, 2019 (print edition).  North Carolina officials on Thursday ordered a new contest in the Ninth Congressional District after the Republican candidate, confronted by evidence that his campaign had financed an illegal voter-turnout effort, called for a new election.

The unanimous ruling by the five-member Board of Elections was a startling — and, for Republicans, embarrassing — conclusion to a case that has convulsed North Carolina since November.

And it followed testimony that outlined how a political operative had orchestrated an absentee ballot scheme to try to sway the race in favor of Mark Harris (right), the Republican candidate. It is now the single undecided House contest in last year’s midterms.

Robert Cordle, the state board’s chairman, cited “the corruption, the absolute mess with the absentee ballots” when he called for a new election. “It was certainly a tainted election,” he said. Mr. Harris had a 905-vote lead over his Democratic opponent, Dan McCready, but his success in Bladen County — where he won 61 percent of absentee ballots even though Republicans there accounted for just 19 percent of them — alarmed regulators.

CBS News, Patriots owner Robert Kraft charged with soliciting prostitution, Staff report, Feb. 22, 2019. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is being charged in Palm Beach County after being caught in a sex sting, according to police. Jupiter police said Friday he's being charged with the solicitation of a prostitute, CBS Miami reported. It stems from a months-long investigation into the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, where two women were arrested earlier this week, according to police. The spa was among 10 shut down in Orlando, Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast after a several-month investigation revealed women there were in "sexual servitude," according to arrest records.

robert kraft djt"We're as equally stunned as anyone else," Jupiter Police Chief Daniel Kerr said during a Friday morning news conference. Police also confirmed they have video evidence capturing the sex act.

Kraft's name is on a list of 25 people who will face charges in connection to a crackdown on human trafficking and spa sex acts. He is facing two counts, meaning police have evidence of him inside the spa on two separate occasions, CBS Miami reported.

Police said Kraft (a Mar-a-Lago member shown in a meme with his friend Donald Trump) was driven to the spa by a chauffeur. The average cost per visit for services is $59 or $79 per hour, according to police. He has four sons. His wife Myra died in 2011.

"We categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity," a spokesperson for Kraft said Friday in a statement. "Because it is a judicial matter, we will not be commenting further." Kraft, 77, has owned the Patriots for 25 years. The Patriots have won six Super Bowls during that time, most recently Super Bowl LIII earlier this month in Atlanta.

#TimesUp Chief Resigns

BuzzFeed News, The President Of The Time's Up Movement Resigned Over Allegations Of Sexual Assault Made Against Her Son, Mary Ann Georgantopoulos, Feb. 22, 2019. Lisa Borders served as the organization's first-ever president and CEO. The president of Time's Up, the legal defense fund created more than a year ago to fight systemic sexual harassment in workplaces across the country, has resigned after her son was accused of sexual assault.

Lisa Borders announced she was leaving her post on Monday after four months on the job "to address family concerns that require my singular focus." She did not provide further details at the time.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashingtgon Post, Ex-Montgomery official gets 4 years in federal prison for embezzling $6.7 million, Jennifer Barrios, Feb. 22, 2019. Byung Il “Peter” Bang pleaded guilty last November to federal charges of wire fraud and fraud and false statements. He still faces sentencing on state charges of a theft scheme over $100,000 and misconduct in office.

Palmer Report, Commentary: Yet another top Donald Trump adviser is in trouble, James Sullivan, Feb. 22, 2019. There is another unlikely character who may want to tread carefully: Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, who became a household name in 2017 after moving to repeal net neutrality protections.

bill palmer report logo headerShortly before the FCC announced it would roll back protections that treat all transmission of data equally, the FCC received a litany of suspicious user comments supporting Pai’s controversial decision, which caused the system to crash. Rather than the usual dissent you would find on an online forum, many of the comments repeated key phrases, and had email addresses that were fraudulent, thought to be obtained through identity theft.

ajit pai headshot customPai (right) blamed the attack on fans of comedian John Oliver, one of the few media personalities to talk about net neutrality at length, and said that the public comments were not credible. At about the same time, an anonymous robocall campaign targeted seniors – warning that cell phone rates would climb if net neutrality rules were not repealed.

Poring over the data, Dell Cameron at Gizmodo found connections to an anti-net neutrality campaign called Free Our Internet, run by Christie-Lee McNally, who ran Trump’s campaign in Maine, and was promoted by Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi. The New York Attorney General’s office identified more than two million fraudulent comments on the page, and pushed to delay the vote to repeal.

Since then, more than twenty states have joined a lawsuit against the FCC, and The New York Times sued the FCC last fall demanding that they turn over evidence that could indicate interference from Russian trolls during the comment period.

washington post logoWashington Post, Va. Republicans plan public hearings into sex assault allegations against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, Laura Vozzella, Feb. 22, 2019. Republicans plan to invite two women who say they were sexually assaulted by Fairfax to publicly testify, despite Democrats’ objections that it would turn into a “political, partisan show.”

More On Acosta/Epstein/Trump

The Hill, Dems call on Trump to fire Acosta, Juliegrace Brufke, Feb. 22, 2019. Three House Democrats are collecting signatures for a letter calling on President Trump to demand the resignation of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta. The push comes a day after a federal judge ruled that Acosta and other federal prosecutors acted illegally in making a plea deal with accused child sexual abuser and billionaire Jeffrey Epstein before speaking with his victims.

alexander acosta“Despite abundant evidence and multiple witnesses still willing to come forward, then-U.S. Attorney Acosta (left) failed to charge Epstein under federal trafficking laws, which could have put Epstein away for life,” the letter states. “Instead, he pleaded guilty to far lesser prostitution-related charges and served only 13 months in a private wing of a county jail but was able to leave 6 days a week for 12 hours at a time.”

The letter is being organized by Democratic Reps. Jackie Speier (Calif.), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) and Lois Frankel (Fla.).

“This despicable unjust plea deal that was arranged by Acosta showed no respect for the suffering of the victims and credible accounts of human trafficking and was a clear abuse of power for political gain,” the lawmakers write.

The letter says Acosta’s mishandling of the situation shows he's unfit to serve in the administration, arguing he “succumbed to the pressure” from Epstein’s legal team while disregarding the law.

Politico, White House 'looking into' Alexander Acosta's prosecution in billionaire pedophile case, Rebecca Morin, Feb. 22, 2019. The White House is "looking into" a decade-old Florida case in which Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, then a federal prosecutor, potentially violated the law by keeping underage female victims of billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein in the dark about his plea deal to avoid federal prosecution.

"We’re looking into the matter, I’m not aware of any changes on that front," press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters when asked whether President Donald Trump's confidence in Acosta (shown at left) has changed. "My understanding is that’s a very complicated case ... but that they made the best possible decision and deal they could have gotten at that time."

In addition, the Justice Department’s internal watchdog for attorney misconduct, the Office of Professional Responsibility, earlier this month announced it had opened an investigation into the government's conduct in the case.

Despite key details of the case being known when Acosta was confirmed as labor secretary, an extensive report by the Miami Herald with new interviews with Epstein's victims brought fresh attention to the case and prompted Democratic lawmakers to demand an investigation.

Feb. 21

Neo-Nazi Mass Murder Threatchristopher hasson faceboook us attorney

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘I am dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on earth’: A self-proclaimed white nationalist planned a mass terrorist attack, the government says, Lynh Bui, Feb. 21, 2019 (print edition). A U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant and self-identified white nationalist was arrested after federal investigators uncovered a cache of weapons and ammunition in his Maryland home that authorities say he stockpiled to launch a widespread domestic terrorist attack targeting politicians and journalists.

Christopher Paul Hasson called for “focused violence” to “establish a white homeland” and dreamed of ways to “kill almost every last person on earth,” according to court records filed in U.S. District Court in Maryland.

nancy pelosi twitterThough court documents do not detail a specific planned date for an attack, the government said he had been amassing supplies and weapons since at least 2017, developed a spreadsheet of targets that included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and searched the Internet using phrases such as “best place in dc to see congress people” and “are supreme court justices protected.”

Justice Department log circular“The defendant intends to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country,” the government said in court documents filed this week, arguing that Hasson should stay in jail awaiting trial.

Hasson, 49, of Silver Spring, is expected to appear before a judge for a detention hearing in federal court in Greenbelt at 1 p.m. Thursday.

Hasson was arrested on illegal weapons and drug charges on Friday, but the government says those charges are the “proverbial tip of the iceberg.” Officials with the U.S. attorney’s office in Maryland outlined Hasson’s alleged plans to spark chaos and destruction in court documents, describing a man obsessed with neo-fascist and neo-Nazi views.

“Please send me your violence that I may unleash it onto their heads,” Hasson wrote in a letter that prosecutors say was found in his email drafts. “Guide my hate to make a lasting impression on this world.”

Mueller Report Prediction 

robert mueller screenshot washington post

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Mueller Report Is Coming. Here’s What to Expect, Neal K. Katyal (right, acting solicitor general under President Barack Obama). Feb. 21, 2019. It will probably act as neal katyal oa “road map” to investigation for the Democratic House — and to the work of other prosecutors. The report is unlikely to be a dictionary-thick tome, which will disappoint some observers. But such brevity is not necessarily good news for the president. In fact, quite the opposite.

For months, the president’s lawyers have tried to discredit Mr. Mueller (shown above in a file photo) and this report, but their efforts may have backfired. A concise Mueller report might act as a “road map” to investigation for the Democratic House of Representatives — and it might also lead to further criminal investigation by other prosecutors. A short Mueller report would mark the end of the beginning, not the beginning of the end.

The report is unlikely to be lengthy by design: The special counsel regulations, which I had the privilege of drafting in 1999, envision a report that is concise, “a summary” of what he found. And Mr. Mueller’s mandate is limited: to look into criminal activity and counterintelligence matters surrounding Russia and the 2016 election, as well as any obstruction of justice relating to those investigations.

Donald TrumpThe report is unlikely to be lengthy by design: The special counsel regulations, which I had the privilege of drafting in 1999, envision a report that is concise, “a summary” of what he found. And Mr. Mueller’s mandate is limited: to look into criminal activity and counterintelligence matters surrounding Russia and the 2016 election, as well as any obstruction of justice relating to those investigations.

The regulations require the attorney general to give Congress a report, too. The regulations speak of the need for public confidence in the administration of justice and even have a provision for public release of the attorney general’s report. In a world where Mr. Mueller was the only investigator, the pressure for a comprehensive report to the public would be overwhelming.

This is where the “witch hunt” attacks on Mr. Mueller may have backfired. For 19 months, Mr. Trump and his team have had one target to shoot at, and that target has had limited jurisdiction. But now the investigation resembles the architecture of the internet, with many different nodes, and some of those nodes possess potentially unlimited jurisdiction.

U.S-Syria

washington post logoWashington Post, Allies decline request to stay in Syria after U.S. troops withdraw, Karen DeYoung and Missy Ryan, Feb. 21, 2019 (print edition). As the deadline approaches for the withdrawal of U.S. forces fighting the Islamic State in Syria, America’s closest European allies have turned down a Trump administration request to fill the gap with their own troops, according to U.S. and foreign officials.

Allies have “unanimously” told the United States that they “won’t stay if you pull out,” a senior administration official said. France and Britain are the only other countries with troops on the ground in the U.S.-led coalition battling the Islamic State.

Along with the United States, they have provided training, supplies, logistics and intelligence for the Syrian Democratic Forces, the Kurdish-dominated group that has done most of the fighting. U.S., French and British ­forces also operate heavy artillery and conduct the airstrikes that have been decisive against the militants.

U.S. Border Deaths / Arrests

jacob hornberger headshotFuture of Freedom Foundation, Opinion: The Banality of Evil in Immigration Prosecutions, Jacob G. Hornberger (right), Feb. 21, 2019. While President Donald “America First” Trump and his merry band of foreign interventionists try to convince people how concerned they are with the plight of Venezuelans, four American women, Natalie Hoffman, Oona Holcomb, Madeline Huse and Zaachila Orozco-McCormick, might have doubts about this new-found Republican/conservative love for the poor, needy, and disadvantaged.

That’s because the Trump administration has just prosecuted them in federal court for leaving jugs of water and food for immigrants illegally entering the United States by crossing the Arizona desert.

Last month in a non-jury trial, a U.S. magistrate, Bernardo Velasco, convicted all four women of misdemeanor offenses. They now face a possible jail sentence of six months and a possible $250 fine — and, of course, a federal criminal conviction on their record.

Those are just the technical violations of the law. What they are really being targeted for is helping illegal immigrants to survive their journey across the Arizona desert. The prosecutions are intended to send a message: Don’t help these people. If they die of thirst, starvation, illness, or exposure to the elements, so be it. It will be their fault for trying to enter the United States illegally.

More U.S. Political Scandal

Law and Crime, Fmr GOP Candidate to Plead Guilty After Allegedly Spending $1M in Donations on Strip Clubs, ‘Escort Services,’ and More, Ronn Blitzer, Feb. 21, 2019. A former Rhode Island Republican congressional candidate is facing charges of wire fraud and violating federal election law, and is expected to plead guilty. Federal prosecutors said in court documents that they reached a plea agreement with H. Russell Taub, who unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2016.

 Feb. 20

Strange Report On Mueller

robert mueller full face fileReuters, Justice Department preparing to receive Mueller report: CNN, Tim Ahmann and Susan Heavey, Feb. 20, 2019. The U.S. Department of Justice may announce as early as next week that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has given the attorney general his report on the federal Russia investigation, CNN said on Wednesday, citing unnamed sources.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Department preparing for Mueller report in coming days, Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey and Matt Zapotosky​, Feb. 20, 2019. Justice Department officials are preparing for the end of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and believe a confidential report could be issued in coming days, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The special counsel’s investigation has consumed Washington since it began in May 2017, and it increasingly appears to be nearing its end, which would send fresh shock waves through the political system. Mueller could deliver his report to Attorney General William P. Barr next week, according to a person familiar with the matter who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive deliberations.

Regulations call for Mueller to submit to the attorney general a confidential explanation as to why he decided to charge certain individuals, as well as who else he investigated and why he decided not to charge those people. The regulations then call for the attorney general to report to Congress about the investigation.

Stone Faces Sanction

amy berman jackson roger stone

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Commentary: Stone's threatening federal judge no laughing matter, Wayne Madsen (WMR editor, author of 16 books and former Navy intellience wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallofficer, shown in a Justice Integrity Project photo during a 2015 panel discussion), Feb. 20, 2019 (subscription required; excerpted with permission). Longtime Donald Trump adviser and political dirty trickster Roger Stone may have finally pulled off his last stunt.

After Stone's U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia trial judge, Amy Berman-Jackson, imposed a limited gag order on Stone -- ordering him not to discuss around the court house the case brought against him by Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller -- Stone posted a social media message widely construed as a threat against Jackson.

Although Stone deleted the threatening message and issued a formal apology to the judge through his attorneys, the federal judiciary and the U.S. Marshals Service, responsible for protecting judges, do not take kindly to threats. Since 1979, four federal judges have been assassinated and the disabled husband and mother of another judge were murdered in an unsuccessful targeted assassination of the judge.

The Justice Integrity Report plans to cover a hearing on the matter before Jackson on Thursday afternoon in Washington, DC.

New Trump Scandal

ny times logojamal khashoggi entering consulateNew York Times, House Opens Inquiry Into Proposed U.S. Nuclear Venture in Saudi Arabia, Nicholas Fandos and Mark Mazzetti, Feb. 20, 2019 (print edition). White House officials pushed the venture over repeated legal and ethical warnings, a report from House Democrats said.

The inquiry comes amid lawmakers’ anger over the Trump administration’s reluctance to punish the Saudis for the journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing. The former Washington Post columnist, U.S. resident and Saudi critic was hacked to death after he entered the Saudi embassy in Turkey (with the scene at right) as his finance waited for him on the street outside.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s nuclear scandal with Saudi Arabia is his most horrifying yet, TR Kenneth, Feb. 19, 2019. Today we’ve gotten more details on the Michael Flynn connection to selling the Saudis our nuclear energy secrets, thanks to the New York Times. We also found out that Lara Trump, Eric Trump’s wife, has a brother that has been put to work advising the Department of Energy despite having no energy background or experience. To remind you, the Department of Energy is the agency that controls our nuclear arsenal, power plants and technology.

bill palmer report logo headerWhy should this bother the National Nuclear Security Administration? Well, if we play the "Who’s Compromised?" game, we come up with a lot of people in the Trump circle trying to put together a nuclear power plant deal for the Saudis. This is in and of itself inexplicable. Why sell coal to Newcastle? Don’t the Saudis have enough oil to fuel their power needs and most of the world? Huh? None of this makes sense.

Except when you realize that weapons-grade plutonium is made in nuclear reactors, i.e. nuclear power plants.

Walls Closing On Trump?

Palmer Report, Opinion: The last gasps of Donald Trump’s dead presidency, Bill Palmer, Feb. 20, 2019. We just learned that, in his latest “evil genius” plan to save himself from geoffrey berman sdnyouster and prison, Donald Trump tried to convince Matt Whitaker to reinstate long-ago-recused U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman to oversee the SDNY [Southern District of New York] case against Trump. Of course this went nowhere, because nothing works that way. Not only does it mean that Trump went to the trouble of appointing Whitaker for nothing, it also means Trump has reached such a point of self-defeating stupidity, even Matt Whitaker can figure out that Trump’s scheming is too stupid to work.

devin nunes grimacingBack when this illegitimate presidency started, Donald Trump seemed frustrated by the fact that the only people he could find to carry out his criminal scheming were incompetent idiots like Devin Nunes (a California Republican, shown at left), who kept predictably screwing it up. But now that Trump is approaching his end, he’s sunk to the point that the idiots are looking at him funny.

Does anyone really think that Donald Trump’s upcoming evil scheme of installing William Barr as Attorney General is somehow going to save him? Of course not. If Barr is smart, he’ll keep his nose clean. And if he’s stupid enough to do Trump’s criminal bidding, then he’s stupid enough to screw it up.

Trump Retribution v. Californians?

 ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Administration Wants California to Pay Back $2.5 Billion for High-Speed Rail, Annie Karni and Jennifer Medina, Feb. 20, 2019 (print edition). The demand comes a day after California filed a lawsuit challenging President Trump’s emergency declaration over a border wall. Gov. Gavin Newsom said last week that he was scaling back the project, which officials said would cost $77 billion. We examined the opposition to the project, and the questions about how to pay for it, in July.

Supreme Court: Asset Seizures

ny times logoadam liptakNew York Times, Supreme Court Puts Limits on Police Power to Seize Private Property, Adam Liptak (right), Feb. 20, 2019. Civil forfeiture is a popular way to raise revenue, and its use has been the subject of widespread criticism across the political spectrum. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that excessive fines have played a dark role in this nation’s history.

Siding with a small time drug offender in Indiana whose $42,000 Land Rover was seized by law enforcement officials, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled ruth bader ginsburg portraitthat the Constitution places limits on civil forfeiture laws that allow states and localities to take and keep private property used to commit crimes.

Civil forfeiture is a popular way to raise revenue, and its use has been the subject of widespread criticism across the political spectrum.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the Eighth Amendment, which bars “excessive fines,” limits the ability of the federal government to seize property. On Wednesday, the court ruled that the clause also applies to the states.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (left), writing for eight justices, said the question was an easy one. “The historical and logical case for concluding that the 14th Amendment incorporates the Excessive Fines Clause is overwhelming,” she wrote.

 Crime Around U.S.

washington post logoWashington Post, Candidate’s son says he repeatedly warned father of N.C. political operative’s tactics, Amy Gardner​, Feb. 20, 2019. Dramatic testimony from John Harris undercut claims by Mark Harris and his campaign strategist that they had not been aware of any red flags.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Empire’ actor Jussie Smollett charged with disorderly conduct after allegedly filing false police report, Bethonie Butler and Sonia Rao​, Feb. 20, 2019. Smollett had told police he was attacked in Chicago last month by two people who yelled racial and homophobic slurs. “Detectives will make contact with his legal team to negotiate a reasonable surrender for his arrest,” police said.

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, The Washington Post sued by family of Covington Catholic teenager, Paul Farhi, Feb. 20, 2019. The family of the Kentucky teen who was involved in an encounter with a Native American advocate at the Lincoln Memorial last month filed a defamation lawsuit against The Washington Post on Tuesday, seeking $250 million in damages for its coverage of the incident.

The suit alleges that The Post “targeted and bullied” 16-year-old Nicholas Sandmann in order to embarrass President Trump. Sandmann was one of a number of students from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky who were wearing red “Make America Great Again” hats during a trip to the Mall when they encountered Nathan Phillips, a Native American activist.

News accounts, including in The Post, and videos of their encounter sparked a heated national debate over the behavior of the participants.

ny times logoNew York Times, Alabama Woman Who Joined ISIS Can’t Return Home, U.S. Says, Rukmini Callimachi, Feb. 20, 2019. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that a woman born in the United States who joined the Islamic State more than four years ago did not qualify for citizenship and had no legal basis to return to the country.

In 2014, Hoda Muthana, then a 20-year-old student in Alabama, traveled to Turkey, hiding her plans from her family. She told them she was heading to a university event, but in fact she was smuggled into Syria, where she met up with the Islamic State and began urging attacks in the West. Now, with the militant group driven out of Syria, Ms. Muthana says she is deeply sorry and wants to return home.

But on Wednesday, Mr. Pompeo and President Trump closed the door on her return. Mr. Trump said in a post on Twitter that he had directed the secretary of state “not to allow Hoda Muthana back into the Country!”

Mr. Pompeo’s statement did not offer a rationale for why the State Department does not consider Ms. Muthana a citizen. But American officials seem to be hinging their argument against allowing her back in on an exception in the law.

Ms. Muthana’s father was a Yemeni diplomat, and children born in the United States to active diplomats are not bestowed birthright citizenship, since diplomats are under the jurisdiction of their home countries.Ms. Muthana is one of at least 13 people identified as Americans — almost all of them women and children — who are being held in detention camps by Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria. Many of them are facing similar issues as Ms. Muthana does, with their citizenship being challenged on technical grounds. A majority of American men caught on the battlefield were the subject of sealed indictments and have been repatriated to face charges

David Leopold, a former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said that if Ms. Muthana was carrying a valid American passport, she had an “irrebuttable presumption of citizenship in this country.”

Justice For ISIS Members

CraigMurray.com, Opinion: When is a British Person Not British? Feb. 20, 2019. The attitude to immigrants which is betrayed by the stripping of citizenship from Shamima Begum is truly appalling. A British citizen, born in the UK, is deemed to be a citizen of another country they have never seen, because their immigrant parents came from there. To claim that second generation Britons are not British, but rather citizens of where their ancestors “came from,” is racism pure and simple.

Begum is not a sympathetic figure. I do not know everything Begum has personally been doing in Syria and to what extent she has been culpable in any of the crimes of the Saudi backed jihadist group Daesh, originally launched by the CIA as a counterweight to Shia influence in Iraq.

Begum, as with other members of the ISIS community in Syria, ought initially to be subject to any legal proceedings by the Syrian authorities on behalf of the Syrian people against whom such dreadful crimes were committed. If of no interest to the Syrian justice system or once any sentence has been completed, she should be returned to the UK and then subject to investigation as to whether any UK crimes were committed. All these processes need to take into account that she arrived in Syria as a minor, has been subject to indoctrination, and may well have severe mental health issues.

 Feb. 19

Trump Probes

ny times logoNew York Times, Intimidation, Pressure and Humiliation: Inside Trump’s Two-Year War on the Investigations Encircling Him, Mark Mazzetti, Maggie Haberman, Nicholas Fandos and Michael S. Schmidt, Feb. 19, 2019. Mark Mazzetti, Maggie Haberman, Nicholas Fandos and Michael S. Schmidt, Feb. 19, 2019 Intimidation, Pressure and President Trump’s efforts have exposed him to accusations of obstruction of justice as Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, finishes his work.

As federal prosecutors in Manhattan gathered evidence late last year about President Trump’s role in silencing women with hush payments during the 2016 campaign, Mr. matthew whitaker headshot recentTrump called Matthew G. Whitaker (right), his newly installed attorney general, with a question. He asked whether Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York and a Trump ally, could be put in charge of the widening investigation, according to several American officials with direct knowledge of the call.

Mr. Whitaker, who had privately told associates that part of his role at the Justice Department was to “jump on a grenade” for the president, knew he could not put Mr. Berman in charge because Mr. Berman had already recused himself from the investigation. The president soon soured on Mr. Whitaker, as he often does with his aides, and complained about his inability to pull levers at the Justice Department that could make the president’s many legal problems go away.

ny times logoNew York Times, Takeaways From The Times’s Investigation Into Trump’s War on the Inquiries Around Him, Eileen Sullivan, Feb. 19, 2019. President Trump has called the Russia investigation a hoax, a witch hunt and fake news. But since he has been in office, Mr. Trump has tried to end the inquiry into his campaign’s possible coordination with Russia during the 2016 presidential election, opening himself up to questions about whether these efforts constitute attempts to obstruct justice.

robert mueller full face fileA review by The New York Times (excerpted above) found a continuous, behind-the-scenes effort by Mr. Trump to undermine multiple investigations that have touched his presidency. His efforts included seeking to derail federal law enforcement through targeted political appointments and a public campaign to discredit the Russia investigation, which is led by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III (shown at right).

1) Mr. Trump wanted to put a perceived loyalist in charge of a federal inquiry in New York related to hush money payments made by his former personal lawyer. After subjecting his first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, to protracted humiliation over Mr. Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation and then firing him, Mr. Trump asked his newly installed acting attorney general, Matthew G. Whitaker, if one of the president’s perceived allies could take control of the federal investigation in New York involving him.

Mr. Whitaker, a loyalist who had told people that his job was to protect the president, said no. The person Mr. Trump wanted, Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, had already recused himself over another routine conflict of interest.

2) Mr. Trump’s public attacks on the Russia investigation have evolved from a public relations strategy to a legal strategy.

The president’s assault on investigators on Twitter and in public interviews moved beyond his typical criticism of individuals into a mosaic of efforts to undermine every facet of the investigation. That includes attacking the investigators, raising questions about the legitimacy of law enforcement investigative tools and discrediting witnesses — most of whom were close allies he once praised.

The president cheered efforts by Republican loyalists in Congress who began investigations into cases and pressed for details about confidential Justice Department investigative procedures. One loyalist, Representative Matt Gaetz, a second-term Republican from Florida, spearheaded this campaign in July 2017 while he killed time at an airport in between flights.

Trump's 'Emergency' Claim

ny times logocharlie savageNew York Times, 16 States Sue to Stop Trump’s Use of Emergency Powers to Build Border Wall, Charlie Savage (right) and Robert Pear, Feb. 19, 2019 (print edition). The lawsuit argues that President Trump does not have the power to divert funds for a border wall because Congress controls spending. It raises questions over congressional control of spending and the scope of emergency powers granted to the president.

A coalition of 16 states, including California and New York, on Monday challenged President Trump in court over his plan to use emergency powers to spend billions of dollars on his border wall.

The lawsuit is part of a constitutional confrontation that Mr. Trump set off on Friday when he declared that he would spend billions of dollars more on border barriers than Congress had granted him. The clash raises questions over congressional control of spending, the scope of emergency powers granted to the president, and how far the courts are willing to go to settle such a dispute.

Trump Probes

washington post logoWashington Post, Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein plans to leave Justice Dept. next month, Matt Zapotosky, Feb. 19, 2019 (print edition). Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein plans to leave the Justice Department in mid-March, an official familiar with the matter said Monday night, and an announcement on his successor is expected rod rosenstein cspan imminently.

Rosenstein, the No. 2 Justice Department official who has spent nearly two years in the hot seat since appointing Robert S. Mueller III to lead an investigation into whether President Trump’s campaign conspired with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election, had made it known in recent weeks that he planned to leave if and when a new attorney general was confirmed by the Senate.

With William P. Barr’s swearing in to that post last week, Rosenstein has set a more precise timeline for departure — though the official stressed his plan could shift if needed to ensure a smooth transition.

People familiar with the matter said the administration also has decided to nominate Jeffrey A. Rosen, the deputy secretary of transportation, to take over the job. He will need to be confirmed by the Senate, which probably would occur after Rosenstein leaves.

washington post logoWashington Post, Roger Stone deletes photo of judge presiding over his case, says he didn’t mean to threaten her, Reis Thebault and Manuel Roig-Franzia, Feb. 19, 2019 amy berman jackson roger stone(print edition). Days after a federal judge imposed a limited gag order on him, Roger Stone posted a photograph of that judge to his Instagram page that included her name, a close-up of her face and what appeared to be the crosshairs of a gun sight near her head.

Stone, a longtime confidant of President Trump, deleted the picture soon afterward, then reposted it without the crosshairs before deleting that second post as well.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson is presiding over Stone’s criminal trial, in which he has pleaded not guilty to charges of lying about his efforts to gather information about hacked 2016 Democratic Party emails that were published by WikiLeaks.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Roger Stone just got some bad news from the judge, Daniel Cotter, Feb. 19, 2019. Roger Stone took it upon himself to post a picture bill palmer report logo headerof his trial judge with crosshairs next to her head, then took it down and claimed he meant no harm. On Monday evening, Stone, under cover of a “Notice of Apology” by his lawyers, filed an apology with the court. As anyone could tell Stone, including what his lawyers surely did yesterday, that was not enough.

On Tuesday morning, Judge Amy Berman Jackson issued a minute order as to Roger J. Stone, Jr., stating:

Defendant is ORDERED to show cause at a hearing to be held on Thursday, February 21, 2019 at 2:30 p.m. as to why the media contact order entered in this case and/or his conditions of release should not be modified or revoked in light of the posts on his Instagram account on or about February 18, 2019.”

Posting items such as Roger Stone did is not wise, especially when it implies a potential threat against a sitting federal judge. Stone potentially faces being jailed from now until his trial ends, for his conduct on Instagram.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Buzz grows that SDNY is preparing to indict Donald Trump, Bill Palmer (right), Feb. 19, 2019. We all know that Department of Justice rules don’t allow a sitting bill palmerpresident to be indicted, right? The thing is, that’s mostly – if not entirely – wrong. It’s not a rule, or even a policy. It’s just a guideline, which means it doesn’t have to be followed. It was crafted nearly fifty years ago and was never tested, which means there is no legal precedent involved. That brings us to the growing buzz this week that SDNY is preparing to indict Donald Trump while he’s still in office.

bill palmer report logo headerThe thing about this narrative is that it’s difficult to trace precisely where it came from, but it just won’t go away. Publications as large as Politico and Newsweek are touting it, even though they all seem to be citing the same ‘growing buzz in legal circles’ as their source, and that buzz seems to be as much of a result of these articles as it is the source of them. So why are we even talking about it?

Because it very well could happen, and it could happen very soon.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Looks like Donald Trump has been sold out by Matt Whitaker, Sean Spicer, Don McGahn, Reince Priebus, and Steve Bannon, Bill Palmer, Feb. 19, 2019.  Today’s stunning New York Times expose about Donald Trump’s obstruction of justice antics spans two years and covers several stages of Trump’s revolving door of senior advisers. The one thing that stands out is that, according to the story, every one of these advisers either heroically refused to carry out Trump’s obstruction orders, or at least earnestly tried to talk Trump out of it. How convenient for them, we suppose.

bill palmer report logo headerIt’s not too difficult to parse that Matt Whitaker, Sean Spicer, and familiar face Don McGahn, who are all depicted in the NYT story as heroically standing up to Donald Trump’s crime spree, were direct or indirect sources for the story. Someone is going down for Trump’s obstruction, and they’re trying to use the media to ensure that it’s Trump, and not them, who goes down.

Wagging The Dog?juan guaido nicolas maduro

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Warns Venezuela’s Military to Stop Blocking Emergency Aid, Annie Karni, Nicholas Casey and Anatoly Kurmanaev, Feb. 19, 2019 (print edition). President Trump delivered his sharpest warning yet in an increasingly tense showdown over the country’s crisis. He said military authorities would “lose everything” by remaining loyal to Nicolás Maduro and refusing to allow in emergency aid stockpiled on the border.

President Trump on Monday delivered his sharpest warning yet to Venezuela’s military authorities in an increasingly tense showdown over that country’s crisis, proclaiming they would “lose everything” by remaining loyal to President Nicolás Maduro (shown above at right) and refusing to allow in emergency aid stockpiled on the border.

Mr. Trump gave the warning in a speech denouncing Venezuela’s brand of socialism to an enthusiastic crowd in Miami that included many Americans of Venezuelan descent who have fled Venezuela or have relatives in the country, once Latin America’s wealthiest but now facing the greatest economic collapse in generations.

He spoke five days before a deadline that his administration and the Venezuelan opposition leader, Juan Guaidó (shown above at right), have declared for getting humanitarian aid into the country — a move aimed at weakening Mr. Maduro, who is no longer recognized by the United States and roughly 50 other nations as the country’s president. Mr. Trump was the first to recognize Mr. Guaidó last month as Mr. Maduro’s replacement until new elections can be held.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: It's back to the future with Venezuelan "Contras," the neocons, and the CIA, Wayne Madsen (author, syndicated columnist and former Navy intelligence officer), Feb. 19, 2019 (Subscription required). Trump's call for a coup in Venezuela is ironic when his most loyal supporter in the U.S. Senate, Lindsey Graham (R-SC), claimed that senior Justice Department officials who were discussing legally invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office in early 2017 were trying to stage a "coup" against Trump.

Coups are unconstitutional in any form, while the removal of a president under the 25th Amendment is following the U.S. Constitution to the letter.

U.S. Politicsbernie sanders button

washington post logoWashington Post, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Democrats’ 2016 runner-up, to make another run for president, David Weigel​, Feb. 19, 2019. The Vermont senator's 2016 campaign grew from a left-wing insurgency to a force that reshaped the Democratic Party.

Raw Story, Dan Coats will get fired for telling Trump the truth as president rushes into North Korea disaster: Former CIA agent, Brendan Skwire, Feb. 19, 2019. CNN counterterrorism expert Phil Mudd said that President Donald Trump’s practice of firing people who don’t agree with him risks throwing the country into another quagmire like Iraq, as the president is rumored to be considering sacking his Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats (right).

dan coats headshot“There ain’t no learning in the second kick of the mule here,” said Mudd, reminding viewers that the CIA was still struggling with accusation that the agency didn’t do enough to rein in President George W. Bush when he had Iraq in his sights. “So we’re going again into North Korea and say we’d prefer that the intel guys support the president regardless whether they agree with his position?”

“I think the intel guys are supposed to get out there and talk about the facts,” Mudd went on. “Do we want to relive Iraq all again? Speak the truth and let the truth fall where it may. That’s what intel folks are supposed to do, that’s what they did, and Dan Coats is gonna get fired for it." Fellow panelist Jeffrey Toobin agreed, saying it was Coats’ failure to “follow the party line” that has put his job in jeopardy.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Why Can’t Trump Build Anything? Paul Krugman, Feb. 19, 2019 (print edition). Infrastructure won’t happen until the Democrats regain control. Why isn’t Trump building anything? Surely he’s exactly the kind of politician likely to suffer from an edifice complex, a desire to see his name on big projects. Furthermore, during the 2016 campaign he didn’t just promise a wall, he also promised a major rebuilding of America’s infrastructure.

But month after month of inaction followed his inauguration. A year ago he again promised “the biggest and boldest infrastructure investment in American history.” Again, nothing happened.

 

Randy Rainbow,

.be" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Song Parody, Border Lies, Randy Rainbow, Feb. 19, 2019. (4:34 min. video).

CQ Budget Podcast, Trump Ignites New Budget Fights by Targeting Pentagon Programs, David Lerman, Feb. 19, 2019. CQ defense reporter John M. Donnelly spells out how President Donald Trump's emergency action to raid Pentagon accounts to pay for a border wall could affect military facilities and programs already stretched thin.

US Media

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Clarence Thomas Calls for Reconsideration of Landmark Libel Ruling, Adam Liptak, Feb. 19, 2019. Justice Clarence Thomas on Tuesday called for the Supreme Court to reconsider New York Times v. Sullivan, the landmark 1964 ruling interpreting the First Amendment to make it hard for public officials to prevail in libel suits. He clarence thomas w new officialsaid the decision had no basis in the Constitution as it was understood by the people who drafted and ratified it.

New York Times and the court’s decisions extending it were policy-driven decisions masquerading as constitutional law,” Justice Thomas wrote.

Justice Thomas, writing only for himself, made his statement in a concurring opinion agreeing that the court had correctly turned down an appeal from Kathrine McKee, who has accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault. She sued Mr. Cosby for libel after his lawyer said she had been dishonest.

An appeals court ruled against Ms. McKee, saying that her activities had made her a public figure and that she could not prove, as required by the Sullivan decision, that the lawyer had knowingly or recklessly said something false. Ms. McKee asked the Supreme Court to review the appeals court’s determination that she was a public figure.

Vox, CNN hires GOP operative with no journalism experience to run its 2020 coverage, Aaron Rupar, Feb. 19, 2019. Sarah Isgur once referred to her new employer as the “Clinton News Network.” CNN announced on Tuesday it has hired longtime Republican operative Sarah Isgur as political editor, charged with shaping its 2020 campaign coverage.

cnn logoAccording to a CNN spokesperson, Isgur, who most recently worked as the Department of Justice’s main spokesperson under then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, will coordinate the network’s political coverage for the 2020 election cycle on TV and on CNN’s website. Isgur starts work next month, and will not be involved in coverage of DOJ. She will occasionally appear on TV.

Isgur’s LinkedIn page indicates she has no journalism experience. She has, however, worked for a variety of right-wing organizations and campaigns, including the Carly Fiorina and Mitt Romney presidential bids, the Republican National Committee, and a Ted Cruz US Senate campaign.

Coming as it does in the wake of a presidential cycle in which the mainstream media’s fixation on Hillary Clinton’s emails (among other issues) was widely criticized, news of Isgur’s hiring sparked concerns about the direction CNN is taking heading into 2020.

Global Banking Scandal

AFP: The Local, Switzerland's UBS faces €3.7-billion fine as crucial court ruling looms, Staff report, Feb. 19, 2019. UBS denies charges it helped French clients evade tax and says it will defend itself "vigorously." A Paris court will rule Wednesday on whether Swiss banking giant UBS illegally tried to convince French clients to hide billions of euros in Switzerland, charges which prompted prosecutors to seek a record €3.7-billion fine. The trial opened last autumn after seven years of investigations, launched when several former employees came forward with claims of unlawful conduct.

bradley birkenfeld cover mugThe move came as authorities across Europe cracked down on tax evasion and dubious banking practices in the wake of the global financial crisis which erupted in 2007. The pressure eventually forced Switzerland to effectively end its tradition of ironclad bank secrecy, by joining more than 90 countries which agreed to automatically share more client account information among each other.

Justice Integrity Project Editor's Note: The prominent U.S-born whistleblower and former UBS banker Brad Birkenfeld, imprisoned for three years in the United States in what we have reported as a political prosecution by the Justice Department because of his testimony against politically powerful and corrupt UBS officials, testified for 10 hours in the Swiss case, presenting documentary evidence in 2015. Also, he attended the first day of the trial, passing out copies of the French-translation of his memoir (whose cover is shown in English).

College Disses Klan Advocate

AL.com, Who is Goodloe Sutton? Alabama newspaper publisher stripped of journalism honors over KKK editorial, Leada Gore, Feb. 19, 2019. Goodloe Sutton has been removed from the University of Southern Mississippi’s School of Mass Communication and Journalism’s Hall of Fame, the school confirmed in a statement. The move comes after Sutton, publisher of the Democrat-Reporter in Linden, Alabama, called for the return of the KKK to handle matters in Washington, D.C.

The following is a statement from USM:

"Within the last few hours, the School of Communication at the University of Southern Mississippi learned of Mr. Goodloe Sutton’s call for violence and the return of the Ku Klux Klan. Mr. Sutton’s subsequent rebuttals and attempts at clarification only reaffirm the misguided and dangerous nature of his comments.

The School of Communication strongly condemns Mr. Sutton’s remarks as they are antithetical to all that we value as scholars of journalism, the media, and human communication. Our University’s values of social responsibility and citizenship, inclusion and diversity, and integrity and civility are the foundation upon which we have built our School and its programs.

Mr. Sutton was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the School of Mass Communication & Journalism, the predecessor to the School of Communication, in 2007 based on his anti-corruption articles and editorials in the 1990s that earned him and his wife Jean numerous national and international journalism awards.

Alternative Media / Wacko Theories?

ny times logoNew York Times, YouTube Unleashed a Conspiracy Theory Boom. Can It Be Contained? Kevin Roose, Feb. 19, 2019. What if stemming the tide of misinformation on YouTube means punishing some of its biggest stars? Last month, the YouTube star Shane Dawson uploaded his new project: a 104-minute documentary, “Conspiracy Theories With Shane Dawson.”

In the video, set to a spooky instrumental soundtrack, Mr. Dawson unspooled a series of far-fetched hypotheses. Among them: that iPhones secretly record their owners’ every utterance; that popular children’s TV shows contain subliminal messages urging children to commit suicide; that the recent string of deadly wildfires in California was set on purpose, either by homeowners looking to collect insurance money or by the military using a type of high-powered laser called a “directed energy weapon.”

youtube logo CustomNone of this was fact-based, of course, and some of the theories seemed more like jokey urban legends than serious accusations. Still, his fans ate it up. The video has gotten more than 30 million views, a hit even by Mr. Dawson’s standards. A follow-up has drawn more than 20 million views and started a public feud with Chuck E. Cheese’s, the restaurant chain, which was forced to deny claims that it recycles customers’ uneaten pizza slices into new pizzas.

Mr. Dawson’s conspiracy series arrived at a particularly awkward moment for YouTube, which has been reckoning with the vast troves of misinformation and extreme content on its platform.

In late January, the company announced that it was changing its recommendations algorithm to reduce the spread of “borderline content and content that could misinform users in harmful ways.” It cited, as examples, “videos promoting a phony miracle cure for a serious illness, claiming the earth is flat or making blatantly false claims about historic events like 9/11.”

Mr. Dawson, whose real name is Shane Lee Yaw, has more than 20 million subscribers and a devoted teenage fan base. He has built his lucrative career by, among other talents, understanding what kinds of content plays well on YouTube.

cbs news logoCBS, Roger Stone's FBI-raided Florida home now up for rent, Clare Hymes and Emily Tillett, Feb. 19, 2019. The Florida house where Roger Stone was arrested in a dramatic predawn raid by the FBI in January is now up for rent. The longtime associate of President Trump is moving out of the Fort Lauderdale residence he leased and into a smaller nearby apartment to save money for his legal defense, his wife wrote in an email last week. Ted Scouten from CBS Miami spotted a "for rent" sign outside the home on Tuesday.

Feb. 18

Stone Puts His Judge In 'Crosshairs'

roger stone fox news

Raw Story, Roger Stone lashes out at federal judge with threatening picture of her next to crosshairs, Eric W. Dolan, Feb. 18, 2019. Trump’s longtime confidant Roger Stone (shown in a file photo) on Monday attacked the federal judge presiding over his criminal case in the special counsel’s Russia probe. In an Instagram post, Stone lashed out at U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson (shown at right).

amy berman jackson roger stone“Through legal trickery Deep State hitman Robert Mueller has guaranteed that my upcoming show trial is before Judge Amy Berman Jackson, an Obama appointed Judge who dismissed the Benghazi charges again Hillary Clinton [sic] and incarcerated Paul Manafort prior to his conviction for any crime,” he wrote. Stone then asked for donations.

The Guardian’s Jon Swaine noted that the picture Stone posted on Instagram (shown at right) placed crosshairs next to Jackson’s head.

Last week, Jackson prohibited Stone from commenting on the case near the Washington, D.C., courthouse. But he remains otherwise free to discuss his situation. However, Jackson has warned that she could amend the limited gag order in the future if necessary.

“This is completely out of bounds. The cross hairs will likely lead prosecutors to ask for revocation of his pre-trial release. At best, this is a cheap stunt designed to get the judge to recuse, at worst, an outright threat,” former U.S. attorney Joyce Vance said.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Roger Stone and Donald Trump both just went off a cliff, Feb. 18, 2019. There’s a popular and arguably overused meme on social media in which one public figure says or does something incredibly stupid, and then another public figure says “Hold my beer” before doing something even more incredibly stupid. I can’t recall an instance of that meme fitting any situation better than when it came to Donald Trump and Roger Stone today.

bill palmer report logo headerDonald Trump woke up this morning and decided that his best move was to threaten “retribution” against Alec Baldwin over his Saturday Night Live portrayals. This went over about as well as one might have expected. Trump was condemned for it from all sides, as he managed to come off as both weak and dangerously out of control. Baldwin, never one to back down, will surely respond by portraying Trump on SNL more frequently. It was a disaster for Trump. But then Roger Stone had his “Hold my beer” moment.

There has long been debate among observers as to whether Roger Stone would cut a plea deal at the first sign of real trouble, or if he would try to stick to his guns as long as possible. But we’re in a different realm now. Stone is about to go sit in solitary confinement in jail, in the same comparatively rough conditions Paul Manafort has been facing. Anyone get a good look at Manafort lately? By all accounts, he’s practically dead already. Stone is a lunatic, but even he may decide he simply can’t suffer the same fate as his pal Manafort.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The Matt Whitaker perjury case takes an even stranger turn, Bill Palmer, Feb. 18, 2019. On Thursday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler publicly informed Matt Whitaker that the committee had found proof that Whitaker had lied about his communications with Donald Trump. Nadler demanded that Whitaker come back and tell the truth. The clear implication: we have you nailed on felony perjury, and you can sell Trump out, or you can go to prison.

matthew whitaker headshot recentTellingly, the next day, the Donald Trump regime announced that Whitaker (right) – whose time as Acting Attorney General was ending – had been given a pointless new job at the Department of Justice. Trump was clearly attempting to keep Whitaker in the fold, and prevent him from cutting any sort of plea deal. But just because Whitaker (apparently) accepted the job, it doesn’t mean he’s still playing for Team Trump at his own expense.

Trump's 'Emergency' Claim

washington post logoWashington Post, White House defends Trump’s emergency declaration amid mounting challenges, Amy B Wang, Feb. 18, 2019 (print edition). Critics have seized on recent comments by President Trump as proof that he did not need to declare an emergency at the southern border. “I could do the wall over a longer period of time,” he said last week. The White House on Sunday defended President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the southern border and sought to clarify his contradictory statements about its necessity, marking the start of what’s expected to be a drawn-out fight over funding the construction of djt maga hata wall amid mounting legal challenges and objections from Congress.

Trump’s announcement last week — an attempt to circumvent Congress by redirecting taxpayer money to pay for 230 miles of barriers along the border — has led to lawsuits. On Sunday, California’s attorney general said he was working with officials from at least six other states and would be filing suit against the White House “imminently.” The national emergency declaration also triggered protests, with various groups promising to hold more throughout the country Monday.

• Washington Post, ‘Answer my question’: Fox News’ Chris Wallace grills defiant Stephen Miller on national emergency, Alex Horton.

 Priest Children Scandal

ny times logoNew York Times, The Vatican’s Secret Rules for Priests Who Have Children, Jason Horowitz and Elisabetta Povoledo, Feb. 18, 2019. Vincent Doyle, a psychotherapist in Ireland, was 28 when he learned from his mother that the Roman Catholic priest he had always known as his godfather was in truth his biological father.

The discovery led him to create a global support group to help other children of priests, like him, suffering from the internalized shame that comes with being born from church scandal. When he pressed bishops to acknowledge these children, some church leaders told him that he was the product of the rarest of transgressions.
But one archbishop finally showed him what he was looking for: a document of Vatican guidelines for how to deal with priests who father children, proof that he was hardly alone.

“Oh my God. This is the answer,” Mr. Doyle recalled having said as he held the document. He asked if he could have a copy, but the archbishop said no — it was secret.

More On U.S. Politicsbo head shot wh

ny times logoNew York Times, Obama Quietly Gives Advice to 2020 Democrats, but No Endorsement, Alexander Burns, Feb. 18, 2019. Former President Barack Obama (shown above in a White House file photo) has counseled more than a dozen candidates on how to win the White House in 2020 — but he has no plans to pick a favorite. The discreet role he has taken on reflects his longstanding ambivalence about acting as a partisan political leader.

GOP Election Fraud?

washington post logorepublican elephant logoWashington Post, N.C. officials to hear details of alleged ballot-tampering scheme in congressional race, Amy Gardner, Feb. 18, 2019 (print edition). The long-anticipated hearing launches a potentially bitter and partisan battle over how to fill the 9th Congressional District seat, which has been vacant since January.

U.S.-European Tensions

european union logo rectangle

ny times logoNew York Times, Rift Between Trump and Europe Is Now Open and Angry, Steven Erlanger and Katrin Bennhold, Feb. 18, 2019 (print edition). Europe’s leaders pushed back against the Trump administration’s unilateralism at the Munich Security Conference. The apparent rift signals a shift that risks being exploited by Russia and China, officials warned.

ISIS Propagandist Speaks

isis terrorists file

ny times logoNew York Times, The English Voice of ISIS Comes Out of the Shadows, Rukmini Callimachi, Feb. 18, 2019 (print edition). More than four years ago, the Federal Bureau of Investigation appealed to the public to help identify the narrator in one of the Islamic State’s best-known videos (with one file photo above), showing captured Syrian soldiers digging their own graves and then being shot in the head.

Speaking fluent English with a North American accent, the man would go on to narrate countless other videos and radio broadcasts by the Islamic State, serving as the terrorist group’s faceless evangelist to Americans and other English speakers seeking to learn about its toxic ideology.

Now a 35-year-old Canadian citizen, who studied at a college in Toronto and once worked in information technology at a company contracted by IBM, says he is the anonymous narrator.

That man, Mohammed Khalifa captured in Syria last month by an American-backed militia, spoke in his first interview about being the voice of the 2014 video, known as “Flames of War.” He described himself as a rank-and-file employee of the Islamic State’s Ministry of Media, the unit responsible for publicizing such brutal footage as the beheading of the American journalist James Foley and the burning of a Jordanian pilot.

U.S. Voting Reform

democratic 2020 candidates wikimedia via whowhatwhy

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Is Ranked Choice Voting the Fix for a Broken Primary System? Peter B. Collins, Feb. 18, 2019. With a horde of Democratic presidential candidates (shown above in a WhoWhatWhy graphic via Wikimedia) running, ranked choice voting could change the tone of campaigning, and provide a fairer distribution of delegates.

Libertarian Explains Defector To Iran

Future of Freedom Foundation, Opinion: Conscience Versus Blind Deep-State Allegiance, Jacob G. Hornberger (right), Feb. 18, 2019. Former U.S. Air Force counterintelligence officer jacob hornberger headshotMonica Witt (below), who has defected to Iran and who U.S. officials have charged with espionage and other crimes, has members of the U.S. national-security establishment and even the mainstream press befuddled.

As the New York Times put it, “But by mid-2013, Ms. Witt had become disillusioned with the government — why exactly remains a mystery.” They just can’t figure why any American, especially especially one who has been trained by the U.S. deep state and has served it, could engage in what U.S. officials and the Times call a “betrayal of the United States.”

monica witt militaryPermit me to offer the likely motive for Witt’s actions: conscience. After witnessing the horrifically immoral actions of the U.S. government toward the Iranian people for the last several decades, especially from within the bowels of the deep state, most likely Witt decided that she no longer could be part of this immorality and decided to help those who are being targeted for death, impoverishment, and suffering at the hands of the U.S. government.

The American people have not always lived under a national-security state or deep-state type of governmental structure. Since the time the Constitution was enacted and for the next century-and-a-half, Americans lived under a type of government structure known as a limited-government republic.

That type of governmental system was abandoned in the 1940s in favor of a national-security state, a type of governmental system that is inherent to totalitarian regimes. That’s how the federal government got the CIA, the NSA, the Pentagon, the military-industrial complex, the deep state, and the domestic and foreign empire of military bases and installations.

It’s also how the federal government got state-sponsored assassinations, torture, kidnappings, indefinite detention, military tribunals, denial of speedy trial, denial of due process of law, coups, regime-change operations, mass secret surveillance, invasions, wars of aggression, partnerships with dictatorial regimes, and sanctions and embargoes that target innocent people with death, impoverishment, and suffering.

Many Americans, including both conservatives and liberals, have come to accept these things are part of American “freedom.” In fact, they view them as necessary to preserve “our freedom.”

Lesbian Custody Pioneer Dies At 48

washington post logoWashington Post, Sharon Bottoms Mattes, who lost gay rights custody battle to her mother, dies at 48, Matt Schudel, Feb. 18, 2019 (print edition). The bitter court battle — pitting mother against daughter and involving intimate and embarrassing details of their lives — played out in courtrooms for three years in the 1990s before it was ultimately decided by the Virginia Supreme Court.

Feb. 17

Justice Probes Of Trump

andrew mccabe the threat details

washington post logoWashington Post, Book Review: Andrew McCabe’s disturbing account of working for Sessions and Trump, Greg Miller (bio below), Feb. 17, 2019 (print edition). In "The Threat," the former FBI deputy director (shown above) recounts the dysfunction at the top of the Justice Department. The memoir is the latest in a rapidly expanding collection of score-settling insider accounts of Trump-era Washington.

He didn’t read intelligence reports and mixed up classified material with what he had seen in newspaper clips. He seemed confused about the structure and purpose of jeff sessions ag oorganizations and became overwhelmed when meetings covered multiple subjects. He blamed immigrants for nearly every societal problem and uttered racist sentiments with shocking callousness.

This isn’t how President Trump is depicted in a new book by former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe. Instead, it’s McCabe’s account of what it was like to work for then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions (shown at right).

The FBI was better off when “you all only hired Irishmen,” Sessions said in one diatribe about the bureau’s workforce. “They were drunks but they could be trusted. Not like all those new people with nose rings and tattoos — who knows what they’re doing?”

Justice Department log circularIt’s a startling portrait that suggests that the Trump administration’s reputation for baseness and dysfunction has, if anything, been understated and too narrowly attributed to the president.

The description of Sessions is one of the most striking revelations in The Threat, a memoir that adds to a rapidly expanding collection of score-settling insider accounts of Trump-era Washington.

McCabe’s is an important voice because of his position at the top of the bureau during a critical series of events, including the firing of FBI chief James Comey, the appointment of special counsel Robert S. Mueller, and the ensuing scorched-earth effort by Trump and his Republican allies to discredit the Russia probe and destroy public confidence in the nation’s top law enforcement agency. The work is insightful and occasionally provocative.

The subtitle, How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump, all but equates the danger posed by al-Qaeda and the Islamic State to that of the current president.

Greg Miller is national security correspondent for The Washington Post, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the author of “The Apprentice: Trump, Russia and the Subversion of American Democracy.”

The CBS show "60 Minutes" broadcasts Miller's first interview on Feb. 17. McCabe told his CBS interviewer that he was concerned the Russia investigation would "vanish in the night without a trace."

Border PoliticsICE logo

ny times logorepublican elephant logoNew York Times, Trump’s Attempt to Circumvent Congress Leaves Uneasy G.O.P. With Hard Choice, Carl Hulse and Glenn Thrush, Feb. 17, 2019 (print edition). It remains to be seen whether Senate Republicans will act collectively to try to stop the president or how far they are willing to follow him.

ny times logoNew York Times, With Trump’s Tough Deterrents, Many Asylum Seekers on the Border are Giving Up, Jose A. Del Real, Caitlin Dickerson and Miriam Jordan, Feb. 17, 2019 (print edition). Pushed beyond their limits by prolonged waits in dangerous and squalid conditions in parts of Northern Mexico, thousands of caravan members who had been waiting to seek asylum in the United States appear to have given up, Mexican officials said, dealing President Trump an apparent win after a humbling week for his immigration agenda.

About 6,000 asylum seekers who had traveled en masse, many of them in defiance of Mr. Trump’s demands that they turn around, arrived in Northern Mexico in late November as part of a caravan that originated in Honduras. Since then, more than 1,000 have accepted an offer to be returned home by the Mexican government, the officials said. Another 1,000 have decided to stay in Mexico, accepting work permits that were offered to them last fall, at the height of international consternation over how to deal with the growing presence of migrant caravans.

Mr. Trump resorted on Friday to declaring a national emergency after he failed to secure funding from Congress for a border wall that he said would block migrants from entering the United States. But the data from Mexican officials suggested that harsh policies he has introduced to crack down on asylum seekers may already be achieving some of its intended effects.

Added this week to new policies that are bearing down on asylum seekers — which include tight limits on the number of people who can apply for the status each day and a heightened standard of proof to qualify — was the extension of a rule that certain asylum seekers must wait in Mexico for the full duration of their legal cases, which can take years.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: How to screw up an emergency declaration in 10 easy steps, Jennifer Rubin, Feb. 17, 2019. None other than Ann Coulter declared on Friday, “The only national emergency is that our president is an idiot.” She has a point. The president’s declaration, in the words of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), amounts to “a power grab by a disappointed President, who has gone outside the bounds of the law to try to get what he failed to achieve in the constitutional legislative process.”

Even the best-executed power grab would have been difficult to defend in court. There is no emergency (border crossings are down), the illegal drug problem (despite Trump’s contradicting his own administration) isn’t primarily a border problem, and the humanitarian problem that does exist (families fleeing Central America to request asylum) won’t be solved by a wall.

Nevertheless, in 10 steps, Trump irretrievably ruined whatever legal case he would have had.

The family of the Kentucky teen who was involved in an encounter with a Native American advocate at the Lincoln Memorial last month filed a defamation lawsuit against The Washington Post on Tuesday, seeking $250 million in damages for its coverage of the incident.

The suit alleges that The Post “targeted and bullied” 16-year-old Nicholas Sandmann in order to embarrass President Trump. Sandmann was one of a number of students from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky who were wearing red “Make America Great Again” hats during a trip to the Mall when they encountered Nathan Phillips, a Native American activist.

News accounts, including in The Post, and videos of their encounter sparked a heated national debate over the behavior of the participants.

Racist Convicted In FEMA Scam

NBC News, Woman who called Michelle Obama an 'ape' defrauded FEMA of $18K, Janelle Griffith, Feb. 17, 2019. The West Virginia woman who made national headlines in 2016 michelle obama owhen she was placed on leave from a county development organization over a demeaning Facebook post about then-first lady Michelle Obama (shown in an official photo) has now pleaded guilty to defrauding the Federal Emergency Management Agency out of thousands of dollars of disaster benefits.

Pamela Taylor, 57, admitted on Tuesday that she falsely registered for more than $18,000 in FEMA disaster benefits after historic flooding in Clay County, West Virginia, in June 2016, the U.S. attorney's office said in a statement. Those floods killed 23 people.

Taylor claimed that her primary residence was damaged in the flood and that she was staying in a rental property, the prosecutor's office said. Her home was not damaged, however, and she still lived there.

"The flood was a natural disaster," U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart said in the statement. "Stealing from FEMA is a manmade disaster." In her plea agreement, Taylor agreed to pay restitution of $18,149.04.

Other U.S. Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: This Trump performance is why people talk about the 25th Amendment, Dana Milbank (below right), Feb. 17, 2019 (print edition). There was no sign of alarm as administration officials and journalists assembled Friday in the Rose Garden under a perfect blue sky amid unseasonable warmth. Nor was there dana milbank Customany sense of crisis conveyed by President Trump, scheduled to fly to his Mar-a-Lago resort later Friday.

His topic demanded utmost solemnity: The situation on the border is so dire, such a crisis, that he must invoke emergency powers to circumvent Congress, testing the boundary between constitutional democracy and autocracy. But with the nation watching, Trump instead delivered a bizarre, 47-minute variant of his campaign speech.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump seeks to turn his failure to build wall into campaign rallying cry, Toluse Olorunnipa, Robert Costa and Josh Dawsey, Feb. 17, 2019 (print edition). djt maga hatPresident Trump and his political team plan to make his years-long quest for a border wall one of the primary thrusts of his reelection effort. Faced with the fact that he has yet to build an inch of the concrete or steel wall he promised, he and and his campaign have begun relying on a rhetorical sleight of hand: speaking the wall into existence.

Catholic Church

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘It Is Not a Closet. It Is a Cage.’ Gay Catholic Priests Speak Out, Elizabeth Dias and photographs by Gabriella Demczuk, Feb. 17, 2019. The crisis over sexuality in the Roman Catholic Church goes beyond abuse. It goes to the heart of the priesthood, and creates an impossible contradiction for thousands of men.

For years, church leaders have driven gay congregants away in shame and insisted that “homosexual tendencies” are “disordered.” And yet, thousands of the church’s priests are gay. The stories of gay priests are unspoken, veiled from the outside world, known only to one another, if they are known at all.

Fewer than about 10 priests in the United States have dared to come out publicly. But gay men likely make up at least 30 to 40 percent of the American Catholic clergy, according to dozens of estimates from gay priests themselves and researchers. Some priests say the number is closer to 75 percent.

Two dozen gay priests and seminarians from 13 states shared intimate details of their lives in the Catholic closet with The New York Times over the past two months. They were interviewed in their churches before Mass, from art museums on the weekend, in their apartments decorated with rainbow neon lights, and between classes at seminary. Some agreed to be photographed if their identities were concealed.

U.S. Politics / Scandal

anthony weiner nynews sentencing CustomNew York Daily News, Anthony Weiner released from prison, back in New York, Clayton Guse, Feb 17, 2019. Anthony Weiner is out of the slammer. The disgraced ex-Congressman and former mayoral candidate was released from federal prison in Massachusetts and is now in a reentry center, records show.

Weiner served 15 months at Federal Medical Center in Devins, Mass. after pleading guilty to sexting with a 15-year-old girl. He’ll finish his sentence under the watch of a federal residential reentry management office in Brooklyn. It’s unclear if he is living in a reentry center or if he is under home confinement. The newspaper's front page is shown in its report on the Democrat's sentencing.

Media Matters, Sean Hannity wants new Attorney General William Barr to prioritize investigating Trump's enemies, Matt Gertz, Feb. 15, 2019. Hannity's enemies list features a slew of Obama-era officials, including Hillary Clinton. Sean Hannity, the Fox News host with the ear of President Donald Trump, has a message for newly confirmed Attorney General William Barr: Investigate the president’s political enemies -- from former leaders of the Justice Department and FBI to Obama administration appointees to former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton -- or suffer the consequences.

Fox’s leading propagandists spent much of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ tenure denouncing him over his refusal to turn their conspiracy theories into federal investigations. Hannity apparently has reason to believe that Barr, who has spoken favorably about the notion of appointing a special counsel to look into the Uranium One pseudoscandal about Clinton, will be more pliable.

sean hannity white houseOn Thursday night, just hours after the Senate confirmed Barr, Hannity crowed, “My sources telling me tonight things are happening as we speak.” The Fox host (shown in a file photo) went on to detail numerous purported crimes he said had been committed by 10 “deep state actors,” including former FBI Director James Comey, former CIA Director John Brennan, and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

“Over the next year with a brand new attorney general, William Barr, this country -- we’ve got to decide,” Hannity concluded. “You want to save the United States? You want to be a constitutional republic? You want equal justice under the law? Do you want a dual justice system, or do you want America to be handed off to your kids and grandkids as a banana republic?”

Later in the program, Gregg Jarrett, the Fox legal analyst whose role at the network is to explain why the president and his team did not break the law but all of his critics did, claimed that “more than a dozen” Obama-era officials had committed crimes and that Barr “should haul them all in front of a federal grand jury.”

U.S. Politics / Pop Culture

alec baldwin snl feb 16 2019Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump has berserk Alec Baldwin meltdown, Bill Palmer, Feb. 17, 2019.  Alec Baldwin returned to Saturday Night Live last night to lampoon Donald Trump’s increasingly absurd behavior. No one would expect Trump to like Baldwin’s savage send-up. But Trump seems to think he can find a way to prevent Baldwin from doing it at all – namely, by accusing him of collusion. No, really.

Trump posted this bizarre tweet this morning: “Nothing funny about tired Saturday Night Live on Fake News NBC! Question is, how do the Networks get away with these total Republican hit jobs without retribution? Likewise for many other shows? Very unfair and should be looked into. This is the real Collusion!” Then he added “THE RIGGED AND CORRUPT MEDIA IS THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!”

washington post logoWashington Post, Alec Baldwin’s Trump declares a national emergency in SNL’s cold open: ‘We need wall,’ Bethonie Butler, Feb. 17, 2019. “Saturday Night Live,” not surprisingly, took on President Trump’s meandering news conference declaring a national emergency at the southern border of the United States. “Wall works, wall makes safe,” Alec Baldwin’s Trump said. “You don’t have to be smart to understand that — in fact it’s even easier to understand if you’re not that smart.”

SNL kicked off its version of the news conference with Trump embellishing the results of his recent physical: “I’m still standing 6′7, 185 pounds — shredded,” Baldwin deadpanned before making the case for a wall along the southern border.

“We need wall, okay. We have a tremendous amount of drugs flowing into this country from the southern border — or the brown line, as many people have asked me not to call it."

“You all see why I gotta fake this emergency, right? I have to because I want to,” he added. “It’s really simple. We have a problem. Drugs are coming into this country through no wall.”

“I’m basically taking military money so I can has wall,” he explained before offering a breathless vision of what might happen as the result of his national emergency declaration:

“I’ll immediately be sued and the ruling will not go in my favor and then it will end up in the Supreme Court and then I’ll call my buddy [Brett] Kavanaugh and I’ll say ‘it’s time to repay the Donny,’ and he’ll say, ‘new phone, who dis?’ And by then the Mueller report will be released, crumbling my house of cards and I can plead insanity and do a few months in the puzzle factory and my personal hell of playing president will finally be over.”

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, At least 40 newspapers cancel 'Non Sequitur' comic strip over profane message, Maria Sciullo, Feb 17, 2019. One week after artist Wiley Miller slipped in a profane message to Donald A. Trump in “Non Sequitur,” many newspapers around the country have canceled the comic strip and others are still weighing what action to take. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is one of more than 700 media outlets carrying the strip, which runs daily as a single-panel and on Sundays in multiple panels. Because the Post-Gazette prints the Sunday comics two weeks in advance at its production facility in Clinton, “Non Sequitur” was distributed in Sunday’s editions. A decision will be forthcoming from editors on whether the newspaper will keep it.

In Mr. Miller’s strip published Feb. 10, a coloring book parody featuring a character named Leonardo BearVinci included tiny scribbles of text throughout the drawings. In one corner of the middle panel was the almost illegible “We fondly say … go [expletive] yourself.”

At least 40 newspapers — first was the family-owned Butler Eagle, followed by the Atlanta Constitution, Boston Globe, Hartford Courant, Orlando Sentinel, Dallas Morning News and others — have canceled “Non Sequitur.” They took this action not because the strip was aimed at a conservative target, but said it was due to a “lack of trust” that Mr. Wiley might do something like it again.

Feb. 16

Border 'Emergency'

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion; Phony Wall, Phony Emergency, Editorial Board, Feb. 16, 2019 (print edition). The president plans to manage the border crisis from the golf course at Mar-a-Lago this weekend. “I didn’t need to do this,” President Trump insisted at a Rose Garden appearance on Friday, as he declared a national emergency aimed at shaking loose a few billion dollars in financing for his beloved border wall.

The president’s assertion was both ludicrous and self-defeating. If a declaration was unnecessary and the wall on track (the wall is “very very on its way,” the president said earlier in the week), how could he claim to be addressing an emergency? As Mr. Trump explained it, “But I’d rather do it much faster.” A presidential desire for speed does not constitute a crisis — no matter how eager a president is to camouflage his failures.

 washington post logoWashington Post, An emergency declaration by Trump will lead to lawsuits. Lots of them, Fred Barbash, Ellen Nakashima and Josh Dawsey, Feb. 16, 2019 (print edition). Opponents of a border wall are expected to sue in several jurisdictions. The Supreme Court probably will have the final say.

washington post logoWashington Post, How President Trump came to declare a national emergency to fund his border wall, Matt Zapotosky and Josh Dawsey, Feb. 16, 2019 (print edition).
President Trump knew that lawmakers were unlikely to ever give him the billions of dollars he wanted to build a wall on the southern border, so in early 2018, he gave aides a directive: Find a way to do it without Congress.

ICE logoIt was hardly an easy assignment. The White House had some flexibility to spend money the way it wanted, but could not move the necessary billions at will. Trump could declare a national emergency, but White House attorneys repeatedly warned him the risk of failure in court was high.

On Friday, Trump did it anyway. Stepping to a microphone in the Rose Garden, the president told reporters he was invoking his powers to declare a national emergency, then acknowledged what his lawyers had been warning him: He will get sued and, at least initially, will probably lose.

The remarkable moment, people familiar with the matter say, marked the culmination of months of heated internal deliberations between the White House Counsel’s Office, the Justice Department, the Office of Management and Budget, lawmakers and the president over how to fund the wall.

Catholic Church

ny times logoNew York Times, Pope Defrocks Theodore McCarrick, Ex-Cardinal Accused of Sexual Abuse, Elizabeth Dias and Jason Horowitz, Feb. 16, 2019. Pope Francis (shown at right in a file photo) expelled Pope FrancisTheodore E. McCarrick (below at left), a former cardinal and archbishop of Washington, from the priesthood, after an expedited canonical process that found him guilty of sexually abusing minors and adult seminarians over decades. It appears to be the first such penalty for a U.S. cardinal or bishop.

theodore mccarrickIt appears to be the first time that a cardinal or bishop in the United States has been defrocked, or laicized, from the Roman Catholic Church, and the first time any cardinal has been laicized for sexual abuse. Laicization, which strips a person of all priestly identity, also revokes church-sponsored resources like housing and financial benefits.

While the Vatican has laicized hundreds of priests for sexual abuse of minors, few of the church’s leaders have faced severe discipline. The move to defrock Mr. McCarrick is “almost revolutionary,” said Kurt Martens, a professor of canon law at the Catholic University of America.

Mueller Probe

Guardian, Roger Stone: Mueller Discloses Evidence Trump Adviser Communicated With WikiLeaks, Feb. 16, 2019. Stone says evidence is ‘innocuous Twitter direct messages’ that prove ‘absolutely nothing.’ The US special counsel, Robert Mueller, disclosed for the first time on Friday that his office has evidence of communications between Roger Stone and WikiLeaks related to the release of hacked Democratic party emails.

robert mueller full face fileIn a court filing on Friday, Mueller’s office said it had gathered that evidence in a separate inquiry into Russian intelligence officers who were charged by Mueller with hacking the emails during the 2016 US presidential campaign and staging their release.

In an email criticising media coverage of Mueller’s filing on Friday, Stone, a longtime associate of Donald Trump, said the evidence was “innocuous Twitter direct messages” that have already been disclosed to the House Intelligence Committee and “prove absolutely nothing”.

Also on Friday, a federal judge placed some limits on what Stone and his lawyers can say publicly about his criminal case brought by the special counsel in the Russia investigation.

amy berman jacksonBut the US district judge, Amy Berman Jackson (left), stopped short of imposing a broad ban on public comments by the outspoken political operative, issuing a limited gag order she said was necessary to ensure Stone’s right to a fair trial and “to maintain the dignity and seriousness of the courthouse and these proceedings”.

Stone was indicted last month for lying to Congress about his communications with others about the hacked emails. Mueller did not say at the time that he had evidence of communications with WikiLeaks. Stone, an ally of Trump for 40 years, has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Stone has previously acknowledged brief exchanges with WikiLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 but maintains he never had advance knowledge about the release of hacked emails.

But Friday marked the first time Mueller indicated he had obtained related evidence, although it remained unclear if the evidence is more substantial than what is publicly known.

Europeans Attack U.S. Policy

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump foreign policy under attack from all sides at European security conference, Griff Witte and Michael Birnbaum, Feb. 16, 2019. An annual security conference where Western allies have long forged united fronts erupted Saturday into a full-scale assault on the Trump administration’s foreign policy. European leaders, would-be Democratic challengers and even the president’s Republican backers took the floor to rebuke the president’s go-it-alone approach.

angela merkel flikr glyn lowe photoworksGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel — habitually cautious about provoking Trump — led the charge, unleashing a stinging, point-by-point takedown of the administration’s tendency to treat its allies as adversaries.

The speech appeared to provide much-needed catharsis. Trump’s antagonistic behavior has bred two years of accumulated grievance in much of Europe but has been met with few substantive answers on how to effectively challenge it.

Merkel (shown in a Flickr file photo) accused the United States of strengthening Iran and Russia with its plans for a speedy military pullout from Syria. She expressed shock that the Trump administration would deem BMWs made in South Carolina a threat to national security.

U.S. Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Patrick Caddell, Self-Taught Pollster Who Helped Carter to White House, Dies at 68, Sam Roberts, Feb. 16, 2019. Patrick Caddell, the political pollster who helped send an obscure peanut farmer named Jimmy Carter to the White House, later became disillusioned with fellow Democrats and finally veered to advise supporters of Donald J. Trump, died on Saturday in Charleston, S.C. He was 68.

His death, from complications of a stroke, was confirmed by a colleague, Prof. Kendra Stewart of the College of Charleston.

While Mr. Caddell was considered instrumental in Mr. Carter’s victory, he also shared the blame for limiting him to a single term. He helped persuade the president to deliver a speech that was intended to inspirit the nation during an energy crisis and economic slump, but instead tarred Mr. Carter as a weakling who was unable to lift the country out of its malaise.

Instead, in 1980 voters chose Ronald Reagan, a Republican who promised a rosier vision that he would describe during his successful re-election campaign as “morning again in America.”

Changing U.S. Media

jill abramsonNational Press Club, Former NYT editor Abramson describes effects of digital disruption to news media, Kristina Groennings, Feb. 16, 2019. Jill Abramson (right), former executive editor of The New York Times, addressed the opportunities and challenges faced by news organizations in the digital era and her book Merchants of Truth: The Business of News and the Fight for Facts, in a discussion with Press Club President Alison Fitzgerald Kodjak last Thursday.

Abramson focused on four news organizations; upstart digital companies, BuzzFeed and Vice Media, and legacy organizations, The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Feb. 15

Trump Claims 'National Emergency'

Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)

 ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: A Trump-Made Emergency, Editorial Board, Feb. 15, 2019. The president decides that fulfilling a campaign promise is more important than respecting the separation of powers.

washington post logoWashington Post, Shutdown averted as Trump signs spending bill, John Wagner, Josh Dawsey and Damian Paletta​, Feb. 15, 2019. President announces national emergency as he seeks funds to pay for wall. Many of President Trump’s Republican allies have called a national emergency ill-advised, and Democrats immediately called the move unconstitutional. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the House Armed Services Committee chairman, said that Trump’s plan was “utterly disrespectful” to members of the military.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: ‘I didn’t need to do this’: Trump just kneecapped his own case, Aaron Blake​, Feb. 15, 2019. President Trump basically admitted that this was a choice for him — a matter of expediency, quite literally — and not something required by events on the ground.

American Flag

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump’s bewildering national emergency news conference, annotated, Aaron Blake​, Feb. 15, 2019. President Trump declared a national emergency at the southern border — but not without making a scene full of false claims, offbeat comments and tense exchanges.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump’s border wall is a departure from the 31 other current emergencies, Kevin Schaul, Feb. 15, 2019. Nearly all national emergency declarations under the 1976 National Emergencies Act relate to sanctions or export restrictions.

djt time crying child 6 18Roll Call, Trump’s executive order will tap $6.6. billion in Pentagon, Treasury funds for wall, source says, John T. Bennett, Feb. 15, 2019. Money will come from DOD drug interdiction program and Treasury’s drug forfeiture funds. President Donald Trump on Friday will use his executive authorities to access more than $6.6 billion in Pentagon and Treasury Department funds for his border wall after he signs a bill that will bring the total to $8 billion, according to a source with knowledge of his plans.

The White House announced Thursday that the president would sign a massive spending measure that includes $1.375 billion for fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also confirmed what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had said moments earlier: Trump will tap his executive authorities for billions more. ABC News first reported details of the plan.

Trump Justice Dept.

william barr djt swearing in feb 14 2019 wh tia dufour

U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts, center, swears in William Barr, right as attorney general on Feb. 14 at an Oval Office ceremony as President Trump looks on (White House photo by .Tia Dufour)

Palmer Report, Opinion: Mueller reveals proof of Trump-Russia collusion, and Roger Stone’s life is over, Bill Palmer, Feb. 15, 2019. Today a federal judge hit Roger Stone with a gag order, preventing him from publicly discussing the criminal charges against him going forward. That might be just as well, as Special Counsel Robert Mueller just made a court filing which essentially nails Stone for treason, and it proves Trump-Russia election collusion in the process.

bill palmer report logo headerRobert Mueller’s new court filing this evening reveals that he’s seized communications between Roger Stone and the Russian government hacker collective known as Guccifer 2.0. This means that Stone was criminally conspiring with the Kremlin to try to alter the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. roger stoneAlthough Stone came and went as a Trump campaign adviser, he remained a personal political adviser to Donald Trump throughout the campaign. In other words, “yes collusion.” But there’s more.

All that’s left to prove now is that Donald Trump knew Roger Stone (shown in a file photo) was conspiring with the Kremlin to alter the outcome of the election, and it’ll mean that Trump is guilty of Stone’s crimes. Mueller is now one step away from nailing Donald Trump for conspiring against the United States to rig the election in his favor.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: We’re entering a new phase of the Trump-Russia investigation, David Ignatius (right), Feb. 15, 2019 (print edition). President Trump has been insisting for so long that any investigation of his personal finances would cross a “ red line ” that people may have overlooked the outrageousness of his david ignatiusclaim. But this self-declared immunity is about to change.

We’re entering a new phase of the Trump-Russia investigation, in which the president’s efforts to contain the probe are failing. Information he tried to suppress about his business and political dealings is emerging — with more to come.

adam schiff official“There are no red lines except what’s necessary to protect the country,” Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), left, said during an interview Monday. Schiff, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, told me he plans to request information, perhaps by subpoena, from Deutsche Bank, a major Trump lender, and that “our work on Trump’s finances has already begun.”

A Deutsche Bank subpoena would be especially sensitive.

deutsche bank logoThe president’s relationship with Deutsche Bank intrigues investigators for several reasons. Trump turned to the big German bank two decades ago, when U.S. banks wouldn’t extend him more large loans. The Post estimated in 2016 that Deutsche Bank had $360 million in outstanding loans to Trump’s companies. Deutsche Bank also lent $285 million to Jared Kushner’s family real estate company in October 2016.

Investigators have noted other points of interest: Deutsche Bank, unusually, managed its lending to Trump through its private-banking division rather than normal commercial lending. Finally, the bank has been implicated in Russian money laundering, paying $630 million in fines in 2017 to settle U.S. and British charges that it had improperly transferred $10 billion from Russia.

Ailing 9/11 Survivors

ny times logoWashington Post, ‘We recognize this is horribly unfair’: Sept. 11 victim fund will cut payouts by up to 70 percent as claims surge, Devlin Barrett​, Feb. 15, 2019. The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund plans to cut future payouts in half — and in some cases by as much as 70 percent — as it struggles with a surge of new claims from those who have gotten sick and the families of those who have died, officials announced Friday.

The fund was opened by the federal government in 2011 to compensate for deaths and illnesses linked to toxic exposure at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, Pa., after terrorists crashed four hijacked airliners in 2001. To date, the $7.3 billion fund has paid about $5 billion to roughly 21,000 claimants. About 700 were for deaths that occurred long after the attacks.

Now, faced with more than 19,000 additional unpaid claims, the math has become painful.

“We recognize that this is horribly unfair, particularly because we have spent the balance of this program paying claims at full value, and claimants who are coming in now are going to receive less,” said Rupa Bhattacharyya, who administers the fund. “Unfortunately, the law really leaves us no choice. This is the fairest way we could come up with to do it.”

U.S. Politics

Real Clear Politics, Ann Coulter: "The Only National Emergency Is That Our President Is An Idiot," Tim Hains, Feb. 15, 2019. Ann Coulter, the author of "In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome," responded to the president's comment that she was "off the reservation" in an interview Friday on KABC Radio in Los Angeles. President Trump mentioned Coulter in his Friday emergency declaration speech, saying he "hardly knows her," and hasn't "spoken to her in way over a year."

Coulter told KABC that she was going to change the title on the paperback version of her book to "In Trump We Trusted."

"Thank God he's released me from any responsibility for what he's been doing," she said. "That was the biggest favor anyone could do for me today. The country is over, by the way, that's why."

She said the president was "fooling the rubes with a national emergency."

Real Clear Politics, Sarah Sanders: Ann Coulter Is Not "An Influential Voice In This Country" Or In The White House, Tim Hains, Feb. 15, 2019. In an interview with [Fox News sarah huckabee sanders 2017 05 05Channel's] FNC's Dana Perino, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders (shown in a file photo) dismissed the idea that Ann Coulter had any influence in the White House. Coulter, the author of "In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome," strongly denounced the president's decision to sign a compromise border security bill and declare a national emergency on Twitter and in a radio interview on Friday.

"I don’t think Ann Coulter has any influence over this White House, or influence over much of anything, to be honest. I don’t think she did before the president became the president. I don’t think she does now. I just don’t see her as being an influential voice in this country, and certainly not one in this building," Sanders said.

Pres. Trump on Ann Coulter, right-wing commentator who has been critical of the president's actions on immigration: "I don't know her. I hardly know her...I just don't have the time to speak to her."

"I like her, but she's off the reservation." (11:35 AM - Feb 15, 2019)

Ann Coulter: "Now you know: Trump's 'national emergency' ruse was always just a way to fool the rubes in his base....He CAN'T declare a national emergency to do something a bill he signed prevents him from doing."

Daniel Horowitz: "The goal of a national emergency is to end illegal immigration and cartel smuggling. Building 100-200 miles of fencing gradually will not do it. With this new amnesty,they UACs will come anywhere including points of entry and not only get amnesty for themselves but for those here"

Ann Coulter: "No, the goal of a national emergency is for Trump to scam the stupidest people in his base for 2 more years."

washington post logobill weld campaign portraitWashington Post, Former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld says he will challenge President Trump for the Republican presidential nomination, Staff report, Feb. 15, 2019. The president remains popular with Republican voters, but Weld said he would attempt to defeat him or at a minimum hurt him with a primary challenge. Weld, who was governor of Massachusetts from 1991 until 1997, left the Republican Party in 2016 to run as the Libertarian Party’s vice-presidential nominee. He returned to the GOP this month. He is shown in a 2016 campaign photo.

washington post logoWashington Post, Conservatives can’t stop obsessing over Ocasio-Cortez. Their latest target: her boyfriend, Reis Thebault, Feb. 15, 2019. Fox News, Breitbart and others are wondering why Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s partner has a mail.house.gov email address..

Inside Trump World

ny times logoNew York Times, As Federal Debt Surpasses $22 Trillion, Little Concern in Washington, Binyamin Appelbaum, Feb. 15, 2019. The United States government now owes more than $22 trillion, a record that comes despite continued economic growth. But debt reduction no longer seems to be a top issue in Washington.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trumps Give Up on New Hotels, Blaming Political Climate, Steve Eder, Ben Protess and Eric Lipton, Feb. 15, 2019 (print edition). Plans for two hotel chains are to be shelved indefinitely, most likely for the remainder of President Trump’s term. The retrenchment comes as the Trump Organization faces growing scrutiny from federal prosecutors and congressional investigators.

Plans for the two hotel chains, Scion and American Idea, are to be shelved indefinitely, most likely for the remainder of the presidency. As a practical matter, that means calling off just one agreement, in Mississippi, though two years ago the Trump Organization said it had as many as 30 potential deals in the pipeline.

The retrenchment comes as the company faces growing scrutiny from federal prosecutors and congressional investigators, and as a former employee, Michael D. Cohen, heads to prison for multiple crimes. With Democrats now in control of the House of Representatives, any new hotel deals could have provided investigative fodder for critics of the president.

Future of Freedom Foundation, Opinion: Donald Trump, America’s Elected Dictator, Jacob G. Hornberger (right), Feb. 15, 2019. After losing his battle against Congress to secure funding jacob hornberger headshotfor his wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, President Trump is declaring that that the congressional rebuff is irrelevant anyway. The reason? Trump is declaring an “emergency” under the “National Emergencies Act,” which, he says, authorizes him to spend U.S. taxpayer money on the wall without congressional authorization. He’s going to have the U.S. military, which will dutifully follow his orders, construct his Berlin Wall.

Trump’s action is the very essence of dictatorship. Check out other dictators around the world — Maduro in Venezuela, Ortega in Nicaragua, Diaz-Canel in Cuba, Kim Jong-Un in North Korea, el-Sisi in Egypt, and Zi in China. They don’t have to jack around with congresses. They have the authority to just act or order. That’s what makes them dictators.

In their customary blind support of their great leader, Trumpistas will say that Trump can’t be a dictator because he was democratically elected. They are confused. Democracy is simply a means by which people place people into public office. Dictatorship refers to the power that the ruler wields after he is put into power.

Thus, a dictator can be democratically elected or take power without having been elected. Gen. Augusto Pinochet was a brutal dictator in Chile who was never elected. So was Cuba’s president Fidel Castro. On the other hand, the new president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, was democratically elected but wields dictatorial powers. In fact, Latin Americans have an old saying regarding their democratic systems —that they have the right to elect their dictator every four years.

Trump claims that an immigration “emergency” gives him the power to exercise his dictatorial power. Of course, he’s not the first ruler to cite “emergency” to justify dictatorship. Rulers throughout history have done so. Among the most notable was Adolf Hitler, who cited the “emergency” arising from a terrorist attack on the German Parliament building to convince the Reichstag to give him dictatorial powers. That’s what the Enabling Act was all about.

Mass Shooting In Illinois

ny times logoNew York Times, 5 People Are Killed and 6 Others Are Hurt in Aurora Shooting, Julie Bosman and Mitch Smith, Feb. 15, 2019. The gunman at the Illinois warehouse was gary martinidentified as a former employee. He might have lost his job recently, the police said. The injured included five police officers and one worker. The gunman died in an exchange of gunfire with police officers.

His sister, Tameka Martin, said Gary Martin (right) had worked at the Henry Pratt Company’s industrial warehouse for about 20 years before he was let go two weeks ago. The police said they believed that Mr. Martin had lost his job even more recently, on Friday.

#MeToo Federal Finding

ny times logoWashington Post, Mel Watt attempted to ‘coerce’ relationship with employee while FHFA director, investigation finds, Renae Merle, Feb. 15, 2019. Former congressman Mel Watt misused his position as director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency by attempting to “coerce or induce” a relationship with a female employee seeking a promotion, according to a previously unreleased inspector general’s report.

The inspector general’s investigation was completed in late November and sent to the White House, but President Trump took no action against Watt. He retired at the end of his term in January and Trump has nominated a replacement. The results of the IG investigation, released to The Washington Post after a Freedom of Information Act request, have not been previously disclosed.

Watt implied he could use his position as head of a powerful financial regulator to help Simone Grimes obtain an executive position, the report found. He was also not “candid” with investigators and attempted to explain away his conversations with Grimes, some of which were recorded, as jokes or part of an attempt to mentor her, according to the report.

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court to Hear Case on Census Citizenship Question, Adam Liptak, Feb. 15, 2019. The Supreme Court agreed to decide whether the Trump administration may add a citizenship question to the next census. Critics say that adding it would undermine the survey’s accuracy.

Critics say that adding the question would undermine the accuracy of the census, because both legal and unauthorized immigrants might refuse to fill out the form. By one government estimate, about 6.5 million people might decide not to participate.

democratic donkey logoThat could reduce Democratic representation when congressional districts are drawn in 2021 and affect the distribution of hundreds of billions of dollars in federal spending.

The Supreme Court stepped in before any appeals court had ruled on the matter, and it put the case on an unusually fast track, scheduling arguments for April so that it can issue a decision before census forms are printed in June.

Civil Rights, Football, Collusion

ny times logoNew York Times, N.F.L. and Colin Kaepernick Settle Collusion Case, Kevin Draper, Feb. 15, 2019. The N.F.L. and Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, have settled a case that accused the league of colluding to keep him off a team. Kaepernick has not played in the N.F.L. since the 2016 season, when he ignited a protest movement against racism and police brutality.

colin kaepernick nike ad CustomThe N.F.L. and Colin Kaepernick (shown in a Nike ad), the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who ignited a protest movement against racism and police brutality by kneeling on the sideline during the playing of the national anthem at games, have settled a case that accused the league of colluding to keep him off a team.

nfl logoThe league also settled a similar claim lodged by another player, Eric Reid, who knelt alongside Kaepernick and went unsigned for a period before playing last season for the Carolina Panthers. The statement by the N.F.L. said that “the parties have decided to resolve the pending grievances” and that “there will be no further comment” because the players and the league reached a confidentiality agreement.

This movement, however, seemed to lose momentum, and few players knelt during this past season. Kaepernick has said little, reserving most of his comments to his social media accounts.

Media News

National Press Club, Club criticizes Capitol Police manhandling of reporters, Rachel Oswald, Feb. 15, 2019. The National Press Club on Friday sharply criticized the Capitol Police for reportedly manhandling several reporters this week in the Senate basement and blocking the press from interviewing some senators during a vote.

The incident contravened the chamber’s long-standing bipartisan practice of supporting journalists’ access to lawmakers. During a routine Thursday afternoon floor vote, a large number of reporters were gathered in the Senate basement to interview lawmakers when, without warning, Capitol Police officers interjected themselves between senators and reporters and in some instances manhandled and shoved reporters away, according to a Roll Call news report. This reportedly happened to the surprise of several senators, who were willingly engaging in interviews.

The altercation between reporters and police did not last long, and the police eventually allowed reporters to resume their customary subway interview practices. But it was nonetheless unacceptable, Club leaders said.

“Capitol Police dramatically over-reacted on Thursday and did more harm than good when they prevented accredited reporters from doing their job and further obstructed senators from communicating with the press. There was no call for the police to shove or place their hands on the reporters,” said National Press Club President Alison Kodjak.

The Senate basement is an area where senators embark and disembark from an internal subway system on their way to-and-from floor votes. It is widely considered one of the best spots on Capitol Hill for reporters to interview lawmakers. The general public is not permitted in the Senate subway area but duly accredited reporters have long been granted access. Rules around journalists’ physical access are determined by the Senate Rules Committee and are administered by the Sergeant-at-Arms office, which traditionally has had a constructive working relationship with the self-governing press associations that determine which news outlets are accredited.

“We urge the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Rules Committee, Sens. Roy Blunt of Missouri and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, to reaffirm that accredited reporters have authorization to interact with and ask questions of senators in the Senate subway area," Kodjak said. “We call upon the Sergeant-at-Arms to continue the office’s long-standing practice of working with the standing committees in devising access protocols for those times when heightened-security is warranted.”

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Opinion: Who’s Telling the Truth About the Israel Lobby and Anti-Semitism? Jeff Schechtman, Feb. 15, 2019. Scholars Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer discuss the influence of AIPAC and “the Israel lobby.” The recent charges of “anti-Semitism” leveled against Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) have reignited the debate about the power and influence of AIPAC and the Israel lobby.

In this week’s WhoWhatWhy podcast, we talk with Stephen Walt, professor of international affairs at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and John Mearsheimer, the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago. They have been looking at this issue for years and co-authored the book The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy.

Brexit, Ireland, Venezuela

ny times logoNew York Times, How a ‘No-Deal’ Brexit Could Open a Path to Irish Unity, Benjamin Mueller, Feb. 15, 2019. On the Catholic, mainly nationalist side of the divide in Northern Ireland, many think an abrupt withdrawal — and a hard border — could lead to reunification.

ny times logoNew York Times, Humanitarian Aid Stalls, Testing Venezuela’s Opposition, Nicholas Casey and Anatoly Kurmanaev, Feb. 13, 2019. The battle over the legitimate leadership of Venezuela — which has included rallies of thousands, international diplomacy and oil sanctions — is now focused on a single heavily guarded shipment of humanitarian aid.

Venezuela’s opposition, which has relished a month of victories in its effort to challenge President Nicolás Maduro and take over as the country’s legitimate government, brought the donated supplies of food and medical kits to the country’s border with Colombia.uo, in which Mr. Maduro retains control.

Feb. 14

Border National Emergency?

washington post logoWashington Post, Congress passes budget bill; Trump is expected to sign it, then declare emergency, Erica Werner, Damian Paletta, Seung Min Kim and Rachael Bade, Feb. 14, 2019. A national emergency declaration, the White House said, would let President Trump build a border wall even though the budget deal has little funding for it.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Plans to Declare National Emergency to Build Border Wall, Peter Baker and Emily Cochrane, Feb. 14, 2019. President Trump plans to declare a national emergency so he can bypass Congress and build his long-promised wall along the border even as he signs a spending bill that does not fund it.

The move would effectively end a two-month war of attrition between the president and Congress that closed much of the federal government for 35 days and left it facing a second shutdown as early as Friday, but it could instigate a new constitutional clash over who controls the federal purse.

“President Trump will sign the government funding bill, and as he has stated before, he will also take other executive action — including a national emergency — to ensure we stop the national security and humanitarian crisis,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary.

The legislation headed for Senate passage Thursday afternoon includes the seven remaining bills to keep the remainder of the government open through the end of September. House and Senate negotiators unveiled the 1,159-page bill just before midnight Thursday, leaving little time for lawmakers to actually digest its contents. Final passage was expected Thursday night when the House was to take it up.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Off the rails’: Inside Trump’s attempt to frame a border wall defeat as a victory, Robert Costa, Rachael Bade, Josh Dawsey and Seung Min Kim​, Feb. 14, 2019. After three weeks of pained negotiations to keep the federal government open, President Trump almost blew the whole thing up again. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pleaded with him to stay the course, said people familiar with the conversations.

washington post logoWashington Post, House Democrats to challenge Trump’s emergency declaration; Republicans divided on action, Rachael Bade, Seung Min Kim, Mike DeBonis and Paul Kane, Feb. 14, 2019. House Democrats are gearing up to pass a joint resolution disapproving of President Trump’s emergency declaration to build his U.S.-Mexico border wall, a move that will force Senate Republicans to vote on a contentious issue that divides their party.

jerrold nadler o SmallHouse Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), right, said Thursday evening in an interview with The Washington Post that the House would take up the resolution in the coming days or weeks. The measure is expected to easily clear the Democratic-led House, and because it would be privileged, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would be forced to put the resolution to a vote that he could lose.

“This is a gross abuse of presidential power,” Nadler said of the news that Trump would declare a national emergency to try to move money around to fulfill one of his central campaign promises. “This is an attempt to overturn the basic constitutional doctrine of separation of powers. Congress has the power of the purse. It cannot be tolerated.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Declaring an emergency for a wall is unprecedented — and unpopular, Fred Barbash, Ellen Nakashima and Josh Dawsey, Feb. 14, 2019. An emergency declaration by Trump will lead to lawsuits. Lots of them, Opponents of a border wall are expected to sue in several jurisdictions. The Supreme Court probably will have the final say.

Trump Probes

 washington post logofbi headquarters library of congressWashington Post, McCabe says he quickly opened FBI investigation of Trump for fear of being fired, Matt Zapotosky and John Wagner​, Feb. 14, 2019. Former acting FBI andrew mcCabe odirector Andrew McCabe (left) said in an interview that aired Thursday that he authorized an investigation into President Trump’s ties to Russia a day after meeting with him in May 2017 out of fear that he could soon be fired. FBI headquarters is shown at right in a Library of Congress photo.

“I was very concerned that I was able to put the Russia case on absolutely solid ground in an indelible fashion that were I removed quickly or reassigned or fired that the case could not be closed or vanish in the night without a trace,” McCabe told CBS.

His comments were the first time McCabe has publicly addressed why he opened an investigation into Trump following the firing of former FBI director James B. Comey, whose post McCabe took over.

Andrew McCabe

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Dept. Discussed Removal of Trump From Office, Former Official Says, Adam Goldman and Matthew Haag, Feb. 14, 2019. Andrew G. McCabe (right), the former deputy F.B.I. director, said that top Justice Department officials were alarmed by President Trump’s decision in May 2017 to fire James B. Comey, the bureau’s director. Mr. McCabe said that they discussed whether to recruit cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office.

Senate Confirms Barr As Attorney General

william barr senate hearing cnn screengrab jan 15 2019

Roll Call, Senate confirms Barr amid questions about Mueller report, Todd Ruger, Feb 14, 2019. William Barr (shown above during his Senate confirmation hearing last month) takes over the Justice Department on Thursday at a pivotal moment for the nation’s legal landscape, with his tenure closely tied to how he will handle the special counsel’s Russia investigation and any political pressure from the White House. The Senate voted 54-45 to confirm Barr as the next attorney general, mostly along party lines. Senators have strong clues that he will continue the Trump administration’s conservative policies and legal arguments on immigration, civil rights enforcement and LGBT employment discrimination.

But senators lack a clear picture of exactly how much information Barr will make public when Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III submits a report on his probe into the 2016 presidential election — and that ultimately became a central focus of the confirmation debate.

Justice Department logo“As to how much he will release, we will know when he gets the report,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on the floor. “But here is what I do believe: He is going to err on the side of transparency.”

Barr, 68, pitched himself to senators as an end-of-career professional, ready to step into a job he previously held for two years during the George Bush administration, with the ability to bring a steady hand to the department he loves and do the right thing without caring about the political consequences.

fbi logoHe said the divided country needs a credible resolution of the special counsel probe, free of “partisan politics, personal interests, or any other improper consideration.” He said he would resign before firing Mueller without good cause, and inform the public and Congress of as much as possible of what Mueller reports to him.

But other Democrats, such as Judiciary Committee member Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., questioned whether Barr’s assertion of independence and transparency during the confirmation process will stand up to President Donald Trump.

Whitehouse said that Barr’s answers, taken together, left open a loophole that could mean Barr would not release any Mueller findings on Trump. Barr told the committee that Justice Department policy is to not release derogatory investigative information about people who are not charged with a crime. And there's a decades-old internal DOJ legal opinion, never tested in court, that a sitting president cannot be indicted.

Barr, a conservative lawyer at Kirkland and Ellis law firm in Washington who ran the Justice Department from 1991 to 1993, spent 14 years working at GTE, which later became Verizon, and advises major corporations. Barr replaces acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who has been in the spotlight since Jeff Sessions was forced to resign in November.

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr expected to be confirmed as attorney general and supervise Mueller’s probe, Matt Zapotosky, Feb. 14, 2019. William P. Barr is likely to be confirmed Justice Department log circularThursday as the U.S. attorney general, putting him in command of the Justice Department at one of the most politically charged moments in its history.

Barr, a Justice Department veteran who served as attorney general previously in the George H.W. Bush administration, has but one hurdle left to clear to become the country’s top law enforcement officer — full Senate confirmation. Lawmakers are expected to vote on his nomination at some point Thursday, though the precise time is unclear. The outcome is all but guaranteed, after Barr cleared a procedural hurdle by a 55-to-44 vote that was mostly along party lines.

Trump, Saudi Defender

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s friend just tried to blame America First, Dana Milbank (right), Feb. 14, 2019 (print edition). Billionaire Tom Barrack, Donald dana milbank CustomTrump’s friend, informal adviser and chairman of the president’s inaugural committee, sounded like a man without a soul.

With a bone-chilling bloodlessness, Barrack (below left) on Tuesday defended the Saudi government’s murder of Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Asked at a Milken Institute gathering in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, about the murder, Barrack replied that “whatever happened in Saudi Arabia, the atrocities in America are equal or worse than the atrocities in Saudi Arabia.” He added: “For us to dictate what we think is the moral code there . . . I think is a mistake.”

tom barrackheadshotIncredibly, that wasn’t all. “The problem with what’s happened with the Khashoggi incident is the same problems of the West misunderstanding the East” for a century, Barrack said. “The West is confused at the rule of the law, doesn’t understand what the rule of law is in the kingdom.”

I don’t know what would make Barrack take such a dim view of American values, though the New York Times reported last year that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates provided 24 percent of the $7 billion that Barrack’s business raised in the 17 months after Trump’s inauguration.

Of greater concern is that Barrack advises a president who seems to think similarly.

RFK Murder & Deep Statelisa pease rfk cover

The Washington Post published a review of A Lie Too Big to Fail: The Real History of the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Photo credit: Feral House.

whowhatwhy logoruss baker cropped david welkerWhoWhatWhy, Shocker: ‘Washington Post’ Publishes Nuanced Article About RFK Assassination, Russ Baker (right), Feb. 14, 2019. Saturday was a turning point in American history. For perhaps the first time ever, one of the biggest legacy news organizations published a fair, fact-based article about a political assassination without dismissing, out of hand, any evidence of conspiracy.

The article, about a new book on the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy and the possible role played by elements of the national security establishment, likely would not have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the New Yorker, or on NPR, PBS, CBS, NBC, and the like.

And yet here it is in the Washington Post.

washington post logoThis article would also likely never have appeared in the Post in the decades prior to Jeff Bezos’s taking over ownership. Say what you will about Bezos — and there’s plenty to say — he seems to be ushering in a new era of journalistic candor.

For many years, the Washington Post, like the Times and so many other news outlets, was a witting or unwitting participant in the CIA’s Operation Mockingbird, a program to shape public opinion by planting disinformation in the media.

One thing the national security establishment didn’t want was journalists taking a good look under the hood of our power hierarchy, or asking questions about the military-security-industrial complex that former presidents Eisenhower, Truman, and others warned against.

The powers-that-be certainly didn’t want the public knowing that US government agencies went around the world foiling democracy — including, on occasion, killing or sanctioning the killing of elected officials in other countries. (To see just a few of our eye-opening stories on this subject, please go here, here, and here.)

U.S. Politics

ny times logoPresident Donald Trump officialNew York Times, Analysis: Trump Puts Best Face on Border Deal, as Aides Try to Appease Angry Right, Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman, Feb. 14, 2019 (print edition). A single-minded drive to force Congress to finance his signature campaign promise has left President Trump right back where he started. The agreement was arguably the most punishing defeat Mr. Trump has experienced in office, and it left the White House scrounging for other ways to pay for a wall.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Lawmakers rush to resolve last-minute snags in spending bill as shutdown looms, Erica Werner, John Wagner and Robert Costa, Feb. 14, 2019 (print edition). Aides to President Trump indicate he is open to signing the legislation to keep the government open but wants to see the final package.

Growing U.S. Corruption?

The Atlantic, Commentary: Russian-Style Kleptocracy Is Infiltrating America, Franklin Foer, Feb. 14, 2019 (March 2019 print edition). When the U.S.S.R. collapsed, Washington bet on the global spread of democratic capitalist values — and lost.

For two years, in the early 1990s, Richard Palmer served as the CIA station chief in the United States’ Moscow embassy. The events unfolding around him — the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the rise of Russia — were so chaotic, so traumatic and exhilarating, that they mostly eluded clearheaded analysis. But from all the intelligence that washed over his desk, Palmer acquired a crystalline understanding of the deeper narrative of those times.

Much of the rest of the world wanted to shout for joy about the trajectory of history, and how it pointed in the direction of free markets and liberal democracy. Palmer’s account of events in Russia, however, was pure bummer. In the fall of 1999, he testified before a congressional committee to disabuse members of Congress of their optimism and to warn them of what was to come.

American officialdom, Palmer believed, had badly misjudged Russia. Washington had placed its faith in the new regime’s elites; it took them at their word when they professed their commitment to democratic capitalism.

But Palmer had seen up close how the world’s growing interconnectedness — and global finance in particular — could be deployed for ill.  In the dying days of the U.S.S.R., Palmer had watched as his old adversaries in Soviet intelligence shoveled billions from the state treasury into private accounts across Europe and the U.S. It was one of history’s greatest heists.

SCOTUS: Thomas Resignation?

Supreme court 2018 Mandel Ngan/AFP)

With another Supreme Court vacancy, or two, President Trump’s record and influence on the future of the country will look even more secure. (photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP)

jeffrey toobinNew Yorker, Analysis: Is Clarence Thomas Ready to Go? Jeffery Toobin (right), Feb. 14, 2019. No one tells a Supreme Court Justice when to retire. But there are currently two new yorker logoretirement dramas under way at the Court — one semi-public and the other semi-private — and they both have the potential to reshape the meaning of the Constitution for decades.

The public story is that of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Court’s senior liberal. Late last year, she fell and broke three ribs and, when she was being treated, doctors discovered that she had lung cancer, her third bout with cancer. She underwent surgery, apparently successfully, and the Court released word that she would need no further treatment. But, in January, she missed oral arguments for the first time in twenty-five years on the Court, and there is no guarantee that she will be there when the Justices next hear cases, on February 19th. Still, the retirement drama regarding Ginsburg is straightforward. She will hang on for as long as she can, in the hopes that a Democratic President will appoint her successor after the 2020 election.

clarence thomas HRThe more complex drama involves Clarence Thomas, who is seventy years old and the longest-tenured Associate Justice on the Court. With fifty-three Republicans now in the Senate (and no filibusters allowed on Supreme Court nominations), President Trump would have a free hand in choosing a dream candidate for his conservative base if Thomas were to retire this year. The summer of 2019 would seem an ideal time to add a third younger conservative to the Court (along with Neil Gorsuch, who is fifty-one, and Brett Kavanaugh, who is fifty-four). It’s true that Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, would likely violate his Merrick Garland rule and try to push through a nominee in 2020, an election year, but 2019 would be much easier to navigate. So, many conservatives are asking, why shouldn’t Thomas leave now?

It seems that the President may have had the same thought. Trump has shown unusual solicitude for Justice Thomas and his wife, Ginni, a hard-right political activist. The President and the First Lady had the Thomases to dinner, and then Trump welcomed Ginni and some of her movement colleagues to the White House for an hour-long discussion.

djt brett kavanaugh amy coney barrettBut will Thomas retire? Over the years, he has made little secret of the fact that he doesn’t enjoy the job very much. With a conservative future of the Court secure, why wouldn’t he call it a day after twenty-eight years? Because, according to his friends, he feels an obligation to continue doing the job for as long as he is able, regardless of the political implications of his departure. Of course, no one except Thomas knows for sure what he will do, and that leaves his decision open to speculation.

There seems little doubt, however, about what would happen if either he or Ginsburg leaves in the next year or two. The President would likely nominate as a replacement Amy Coney Barrett, a forty-seven-year-old judge on the Seventh Circuit. A former professor at Notre Dame Law School, Barrett was nominated to the appeals court by Trump, in 2017, and she has already been considered for a Supreme Court seat — the one that went to Kavanaugh. (Barrett and Kavanaugh are shown together in a graphic last summer before Kavanaugh's nomination.).

U.S.-Allied Dictatorships

ny times logoNew York Times, Egypt’s Parliament Clears Way for El-Sisi to Rule Until 2034, Declan Walsh, Feb. 14, 2019. Lawmakers approved measures that would allow President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to stay in power for 12 more years, enshrining the military’s dominance in politics.

National Press Club, Club calls for charges against journalist Maria Ressa to be dropped, Kathy Kiely, Feb. 14, 2019. The National Press Club and its nonprofit Journalism Institute are calling on the Philippine government to end its intimidation campaign against Maria Ressa, a journalist targeted for her investigations of official corruption in her home country.

Ressa, whose work has been widely honored by fellow journalists and press freedom organizations, was arrested earlier this week in the newsroom of Rappler, the online news site that she founded. The site is known for its critical coverage of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Ressa reportedly spent the night in custody before her lawyers were able to post bail Thursday.

“This represents the latest escalation of Duterte’s efforts to stifle legitimate scrutiny of his government,” said NPC President Alison Fitzgerald Kodjak. “We stand with Maria Ressa and our Philippine colleagues.”

U.S. Gun Deaths

washington post logoWashington Post, A year after Parkland shooting, school turns to surveillance software that can flag threats, Drew Harwell, Feb. 14, 2019 (print edition). The artificial-intelligence system, which would allow security officials to track students based on their appearance, has raised major questions over its accuracy, invasiveness and effectiveness.

 ny times logoNew York Times, 14 Children Died in the Parkland Shooting. Nearly 1,200 Have Died From Guns Since, Adeel Hassan, Feb. 14, 2019 (print edition). A nonprofit news organization that reports on gun violence wanted to remember the dead not as statistics, but as human beings with rich histories. For the project “Since Parkland,” teenage journalists wrote profiles for every child killed by gun violence in the year since the Florida school shooting.

Media Report: Facebook Privacy Fine

washington post logoWashington Post, The U.S. government and Facebook are negotiating a record, multi-billion dollar fine for the company’s privacy lapses, Tony Romm​, Feb. 14, 2019. The facebook logoFederal Trade Commission and Facebook are negotiating over a multi-billion dollar fine that would settle the agency’s investigation into the social media giant’s privacy practices, according to two people familiar with the probe.

The fine would be the largest the agency has ever imposed on a technology company, but the two sides have not yet agreed on an exact amount. Facebook has expressed initial concern with the FTC’s demands, one of the people said. If talks break down, the FTC could take the matter to court in what would likely be a bruising legal fight.

Virginia Scandal Update

 washington post logovanessa tyson scripps college via apWashington Post, Woman who says Fairfax sexually assaulted her to meet with law enforcement officials, Fenit Nirappil, Jenna Portnoy and Laura Vozzella​, Feb. 14, 2019 (print edition). Vanessa Tyson (right) accused Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of assault during the 2004 Democratic National Convention. The statute of limitations for sexual assault in Massachusetts is 15 years.

Air Force Leak / Media Probes

washington post logomonica witt militaryWashington Post, Ex-Air Force specialist charged with conspiring to reveal classified information to Iran, Matt Zapotosky, Feb. 14, 2019 (print edition). ​Monica Elfriede Witt, 39,(shown in an Air Force file photo) spent more than a decade working in sensitive jobs for the U.S. government. She defected to Iran in 2013.

 washington post logoWashington Post, A potential witness in Monica Witt’s defection case grew up in New Orleans. Now she defends the Iranian Revolution, Antonia Noori Farzan, Feb. 14, 2019. On Jan. 23, protesters gathered outside the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., to demand the release of Marzieh Hashemi, a longtime television anchor in Iran. The 59-year-old had been picked up by FBI agents at St. Louis Lambert International Airport and detained for 10 days without being charged with a crime. Outrage had mounted after unconfirmed reports from her employer, Press TV, alleged that she had been brutally shackled and had her hijab ripped off, and that she had been denied halal food in jail.

marzieh hashemi headshotLater that day, Hashemi (shown at left) was released from federal custody. Upon her return to Iran, she was greeted by cheering crowds who handed her flowers and held up their phones to snap photographs. But the reason for her confinement remained a mystery. Court documents indicated only that Hashemi, who was born in the United States, had been held on a rare material-witness warrant, indicating that prosecutors needed her testimony for a grand jury investigation and believed that she was likely to flee.

monica witt headscarfOne possible explanation emerged on Wednesday, when authorities revealed that a grand jury had brought espionage charges against Monica Elfriede Witt, a former Air Force counterintelligence specialist who defected to Iran in 2013. Witt, a native of Texas, had been trained in Farsi after joining the Air Force in 1997, and quickly rose to a position that gave her access to some of the military’s most tightly-guarded secrets. At some point, her loyalties shifted. The newly unsealed indictment alleges that the 39-year-old shared highly classified information with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and helped Iranian hackers to carry out spearfishing attacks that targeted her former colleagues.

The indictment details Witt’s frequent communications with Individual A, a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen who allegedly was assisting Iranian intelligence services. Prosecutors allege that in June 2012, Individual A hired Witt to work as her assistant on an anti-American propaganda film that later aired in Iran.

Officials declined to say whether Hashemi was the dual national described in the indictment as Individual A, but the two women’s stories have a strikingly similar trajectory: Both grew up in the United States, then later made the unusual choice to shift their allegiances to Iran’s repressive government.

Supreme Court / Abortion

linda greenhouse cover just a journalistny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: When Judges Defy the Supreme Court, Linda Greenhouse (shown on the cover of her memoir Just A Journalist), Feb. 14, 2019. The chief justice faces a time of great testing, both of himself and of the institution he heads, as the lower courts move rapidly even to his right. No, I wasn’t surprised last week, as most people apparently were, when Chief Justice John Roberts cast the deciding fifth vote to preserve access to abortion in Louisiana for at least a little while longer. In fact, I had predicted it (and I have witnesses).

john roberts oThe voluminous commentary on what happened at the court last week has for the most part not fully conveyed the blatant nature of the lower court’s decision, on which the Supreme Court put a temporary hold to afford the plaintiffs — an abortion clinic and its doctors — the chance to file a formal appeal.

The court is the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, based in New Orleans and covering Texas and Mississippi along with Louisiana. Not surprisingly given its territory, it has been the location of numerous legal battles over abortion. The Trump administration has been spectacularly successful in filling seats on the Fifth Circuit. Five of the 16 active judges are Trump appointees. That places the Fifth Circuit at the leading edge of the coming wave of Trump judges (sorry, Chief Justice Roberts, I’m afraid that’s what they are), so it’s important to understand what is going on there.

Alliance For Justice, Opinion: Brown, Upside-Down, Bill Yeomans (right), Feb. 14, 2019. Neomi Rao is the latest Trump judicial nominee to refuse to say whether she thinks Brown v. Board. of Education was correctly decided. She joins a growing list of Trump picks who refuse to endorse this iconic Supreme Court decision.

The stated reason is that they don’t want to start down a slippery slope of endorsing and rejecting decisions. That explanation is nonsense, since there are many sticky footholds along the descent from Brown to cases now pending in the courts. The more credible reason is that they don’t want to have to embrace or reject Roe v. Wade. Nor do they want to have to explain why they would endorse Brown, but refuse to opine on Roe, thereby consigning Roe to a less secure class of decisions.

alliance for justice logoBut, other recent, high profile Republican nominees, including Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, John Roberts, and Samuel Alito have been willing to praise Brown as an example of the Supreme Court at its best. They all faced the same concerns about Roe, yet plowed ahead on Brown. If they could do it, why not circuit court nominees Rao, Chad Readler, or Andrew Oldham, or a series of district court nominees? Is there something more that is pushing them away from Brown or that makes its embrace no longer politically necessary?

The truth is that conservatives never fully embraced Brown. The Court’s decision striking down laws requiring racial segregation of schools was met with massive resistance by people living in affected states, conservative politicians, and conservative intellectuals. President Eisenhower was no fan. Barry Goldwater opposed the decision. William F. Buckley rejected the Court’s reasoning.

Appeals to resisters of Brown lay at the core of Nixon’s southern strategy. The drive to appoint ideologically conservative judges was born, in significant part, out of reaction to Brown and Roe v. Wade.

Global Affairs: U.S. /  Europe

mike pence speech Custom

Vice President Pence addresses American allies in Munich on Feb. 14 Presidential advisors Jared Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump sit at right. (White House photo.)

washington post logomike pence oWashington Post, Pence launches combative broadside against U.S. allies, calling on them to withdraw from nuclear deal with Iran, Carol Morello and Anne Gearan, Feb. 14, 2019. Vice President Pence, right, on Thursday launched a combative broadside against some of America’s closest allies, calling on European iran flag mapcountries to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran and accusing them of attempting to break U.S. sanctions against “that vile regime” in Tehran.

Officials from Britain, France and Germany — all countries that negotiated and signed the 2015 landmark agreement that President Trump withdrew from last year — were in the audience as Pence accused them of essentially joining sides with America’s enemy. Virtually all countries in Europe support the Iran nuclear agreement as essential to their own security and oppose U.S. efforts to dismantle it.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Europe’s Middle Class Is Shrinking. Spain Bears Much of the Pain, Liz Alderman, Feb. 14, 2019. Since the recession of the late 2000s, the middle class has shrunk in over two-thirds of the European Union, echoing a similar decline in the United States and reversing two decades of expansion. While middle-class households are more prevalent in Europe than in the United States — around 60 percent, compared with just over 50 percent in America — they face unprecedented levels of vulnerability.

Inside DC: Chemicals

washington post logoepa clean water logoWashington Post, EPA vows to rein in toxic ‘forever’ chemicals detected in U.S. drinking water for millions, Brady Dennis​, Feb. 14, 2019. The Environmental Protection Agency unveiled what officials called a historic effort to rein in a class of long-lasting chemicals that scientists say pose serious health risks.

Feb. 13

Narcotics Post-Chapo

ny times logoNew York Times, El Chapo Is Behind Bars, but Drugs Still Flow From Mexico, Alan Feuer, Feb. 13, 2019. The verdict against the Mexican crime lord Joaquín Guzmán Loera may have little lasting impact on the wider effort to stem the flow of drugs into the United States. Federal agents say Mr. Guzmán’s empire remains intact and is now being run by his sons and his longtime partner, Ismael Zambada García.

joaquin el chapo guzmanThe conviction this week of the Mexican crime lord Joaquín Guzmán Loera, shown in a file photo under arrest, was one of the most visible victories for American law enforcement since the war on drugs began in the 1970s, a triumph over a cartel leader who survived — and thrived — for decades on his business skills, brutal violence and bottomless bribes to Mexican officials.

And yet on Jan. 31, the same day that the trial of Mr. Guzmán — known to the world as El Chapo — ended in a Brooklyn federal courtroom, border officials in Arizona made an announcement: They had just seized the largest load of fentanyl ever found in the United States, a haul that was hidden in a truck carrying cucumbers on its way through the Nogales port of entry, a crossing that Mr. Guzmán’s organization, the Sinaloa drug cartel, has traditionally run for years.

The fentanyl seizure — enough for 100 million lethal doses — was a clear signal that even after the hard-fought task of convicting Mr. Guzmán on drug conspiracy charges, American federal agents still have far to go in their attempts to dismantle Mexico’s infamous cartels. The verdict against the kingpin on Tuesday, may, in the end, have little lasting impact on either Mr. Guzmán’s group or the wider effort to stem the flow of drugs into the United States.

Trump Probes

paul manafort rnc 2016 abc flickr

Former Trump Presidential Campaign Manager Paul Manafort In 2016 (file photo from ABC-TV)

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal judge finds Paul Manafort lied to Mueller probe about contacts with Russian aide, Spencer S. Hsu, Feb. 13, 2019. Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort lied to prosecutors with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III about matters close to the heart of their investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

paul manafort mugThe judge’s finding that Manafort, 69 (shown in a mug shot), breached his cooperation deal with prosecutors by lying after his guilty plea could add years to his prison sentence and came after a set of sealed court hearings.

amy berman jacksonManafort’s lies, the judge found, included “his interactions and communications with [Konstantin] Kilimnik,” a longtime aide whom the FBI assessed to have ties to Russian intelligence.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the District (shown at left) said Manafort also lied to the special counsel, the FBI and the grand jury about a payment from a company to a law firm — which he previously characterized as a loan repayment — and made false statements that were material to another Justice Department investigation whose focus has not been described in public filings in Manafort’s case.

Palmer Report, Commentary: It's official -- Robert Mueller has destroyed Paul Manafort once and for all, Bill Palmer, Feb. 13, 2019. Paul Manafort gambled that he could cut a robert mueller kit fox medill flickr croppedcooperating plea deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, feed him false information, coordinate it all with Donald Trump, and not get caught. Manafort quickly lost that gamble, and as of this evening, he’s paying for it with everything he has.

Mueller (right) announced awhile back that he was ripping up Paul Manafort’s plea deal, citing Manafort’s bad faith actions. Of course this requires the approval of a judge, and so the two found themselves back in front of Federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson. She ruled this evening that Manafort intentionally lied to Mueller about multiple matters. This is a big deal for two reasons, and one of them is very bad news for Donald Trump.

bill palmer report logo headerFirst, this means that Paul Manafort’s life is effectively over. His plea deal was his one chance at possibly getting out of prison before the end of his natural lifespan. Now that he’s officially been faulted for the demise of his plea deal, he’ll be in prison forever. Donald Trump has already made clear that he’s not willing to take the risk of sticking his neck out to pardon people like Manafort. Even if he were to try, Manafort would still rot, thanks to state-level charges in New York.

Second, this further weakens Donald Trump’s “no collusion” fantasy. Robert Mueller accused Paul Manafort of lying about his interactions with Russian spy Konstantin Kilimnik, and sure enough, the judge says she agrees. That means Trump’s campaign chairman is going to prison partly for colluding with the Kremlin during the 2016 election. That’s on top of Donald Trump Jr’s emails, Roger Stone’s emails, and other hard proof of an illegal conspiracy between Russia and Team Trump to rig the 2016 election.

washington post logoWashington Post, How Manafort’s 2016 meeting with Russian goes to ‘heart’ of Mueller’s probe, Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger, Feb. 13, 2019. In a sealed court hearing last week, prosecutors revealed they are deeply focused on a dinner Paul Manafort had at the Grand Havana Club with Russian political operative Konstantin Kilimnik.

The 2016 nominating conventions had recently concluded and the presidential race was hitting a new level of intensity when Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s campaign chairman, ducked into an unusual dinner meeting at a private cigar room a few blocks away from the campaign’s Trump Tower headquarters in Manhattan.

rnc logoCourt records show that Manafort was joined at some point by his campaign deputy, Rick Gates, at the session at the Grand Havana Room, a mahogany-paneled space with floor-to-ceiling windows offering panoramic views of the city.

The two Americans met with an overseas guest, a longtime employee of their international consulting business who had flown to the United States for the gathering: a Russian political operative named Konstantin Kilimnik.

The Aug. 2, 2016, encounter between the senior Trump campaign officials and Kilimnik, who prosecutors allege has ties to Russian intelligence, has emerged in recent days as a potential fulcrum in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation.

Deep State: Russia

Medium, Inside Valerie Plame’s Spy Convention, Nina Burleigh, Feb. 13, 2019. Ex-CIA spooks clash over Russiagate while lunching on enchiladas. The conference had drawn an audience of 175 academics, historians, and espionage groupies, each of whom had paid up to $500, not including hotel rooms, for a series of presentations and panels bearing titles like “Terrorism, Intelligence, and the Paradigms of Perception” and “The Cuban Missile Crisis: A Secret Intelligence Perspective.”

One of the final panels, featuring a group of ex-spies, examined the question: “Was There Russian Interference in U.S. Elections?” Nearly all of the participants answered in the affirmative, but they disagreed, sometimes vehemently, on the effects. (This predated a report last month that the FBI had, in fact, investigated whether Trump was working for the Kremlin.)

“The Russians did what they always do and what we frankly do, too,” Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, who served for 23 years as a CIA intelligence officer in various domestic and international posts, including Russia station chief, told attendees. “They went to active measures. They wanted to hurt Hillary and help Trump. There is no question they tried to influence voters.”

While Mary Beth Long, a former CIA agent and assistant secretary of defense, defended the president as the duly elected commander-in-chief and slammed former intelligence chiefs John Brennan and James Clapper for publicly criticizing Trump, she also admitted he might well have been compromised. “I would be shocked if it was not the case that, while Trump was a businessman, he was approached by Russians,” she said, “and I have no doubt he was sexually entrapped and he had arrangements, for business purposes. But that doesn’t make him a traitor.”

Then again, it certainly might, insisted Glenn Carle, who worked for the Agency for more than two decades on four continents before retiring in 2007. “This is the greatest threat to our country since 1861,” he said. “Not even Watergate, not World War II  —  there was never any real danger Hitler would walk down Constitution Avenue. But I think there is substantive, overwhelming evidence, and that if any of us did not try to remove this man [Trump] from office, we would be derelict. It is absolutely clear that Russian intelligence manipulated him.”

“I strongly disagree,” countered Larry Johnson, former staffer at the State Department’s Office of Counterterrorism and ex-CIA agent, who now runs his own private investigation and security consulting firm. “Is there gambling at the casino?” he asked. “Yes, Russians have been intervening here for years. I harbor no illusions about that. But we do it, too.”

Johnson added that the “level of Russian hysteria” directed at the Trump election “is jeopardizing our ability to actually work with Russia, in places like the International Space Station.” “If they’re so damn bad,” he wondered, “why are we trusting our astronauts to them?”

The New Republic, Investigative Report: The Spy Who Wasn't, James Bamford, Feb. 11, 2019. The U.S. government went looking for someone to blame for Russia's interference in the 2016 election — and found Maria Butina, the perfect scapegoat. “Real-life ‘Red Sparrow’? Court Filings Allege Russian Agent Offered Sex for Access,” blared an ABC News headline. “Maria Butina, Suspected Secret Agent, Used Sex in Covert Plan, Prosecutors Say,” declared The New York Times.


maria butina with gun adSince August 17, Butina has been housed at the Alexandria Detention Center, the same fortresslike building that holds Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort. On November 10, she spent her 30th birthday in solitary confinement, in cell 2F02, a seven-by-ten-foot room with a steel door, cement bed, and two narrow windows, each three inches wide. She has been allowed outside for a total of 45 minutes. On December 13, Butina pleaded guilty to conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of the Russian Federation. She faces a possible five-year sentence in federal prison.


With anti-Russia fervor in the United States approaching levels directed at Muslims following the attacks of September 11, 2001, it was easy for prosecutors to sell the story of Butina as a spy to the public and the press. But is she really? Last February, Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading the Russia probe, indicted 13 Russian spies for interfering with the 2016 election. And in July, two days before Butina was arrested, Mueller charged twelve more Russians with hacking into email accounts and computer networks belonging to the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. It is not inconceivable that Butina is among their ranks.


Yet a close examination of Butina’s case suggests that it is not so. Butina is simply an idealistic young Russian, born in the last days of the Soviet Union, raised in the new world of capitalism, and hoping to contribute to a better understanding between two countries while pursuing a career in international relations.

James Bamford is the author of "The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America" and a documentary filmmaker for PBS.

CNN, Daughter and son-in-law of AG nominee leaving the Justice Department, David Shortell, Laura Jarrett and Pamela Brown, Feb. 13, 2019. As William Barr, President Donald Trump's attorney general nominee, awaits a Senate vote to confirm his move to the top of the Justice Department, his daughter and son-in-law, both Justice Department employees, are on their way to different jobs.

Mary Daly, Barr's oldest daughter and the director of Opioid Enforcement and Prevention Efforts in the deputy attorney general's office, is leaving for a position at the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), the Treasury Department's financial crimes unit, a Justice official said.

Tyler McGaughey, the husband of Barr's youngest daughter, has been detailed from the powerful US attorney's office in Alexandria, Virginia, to the White House counsel's office, two officials said.

It's not clear if McGaughey's switch is a result of Barr's pending new role, and the kind of work he'll be handling at the White House is not public knowledge.
Daly's husband will remain in his position in the Justice Department's National Security Division for now.

The moves were by choice and are not required under federal nepotism laws, but Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, called them "a good idea" to "avoid the bad optics that could come from the appearance of them working for him."

However, Shaub added that McGaughey's detail to the White House counsel's office was "concerning."

"That's troubling because it raises further questions about Barr's independence," Shaub said.

As attorney general, Barr will oversee the special counsel's investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 US presidential election and whether there was a conspiracy with the Trump campaign. Barr, who himself had a storied career at the Justice Department, capped off by his first stint as attorney general under George H.W. Bush, joked about his family of government lawyers at his confirmation hearing last month.

Israel Seeks 'War' v. Iran?

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Netanyahoo Asks Arabs to "Advance The Common Interest Of War With Iran," b, Feb. 13, 2019. The U.S. had called for a high level anti-Iran meeting in Poland. The purpose of the meeting was to bring with its allies and poodles into line with the U.S. agenda on Iran, to press them at least into issuing harsher sanctions. But the European rejected that.

benjamin netanyahu frownThat State Department effort to somewhat hide the real agenda was sabotaged when the Prime Minister of Israel arrived and made it clear what the meeting is all about:

"I am going to a meeting with 60 foreign ministers and envoys of countries from around the world against Iran. What is important about this meeting – and this meeting is not in secret, because there are many of those – is that this is an open meeting with representatives of leading Arab countries, that are sitting down together with Israel in order to advance the common interest of war with Iran (emphasis added)."

The statement has now been changed into "combating Iran." But that is not what Netanyahoo said in Warsaw and there is video to prove it. There were also witnesses.

iran flag mapWhy is Netanyahoo doing this? No other country, except maybe the U.S., has any interest in waging war on Iran. Certainly not the Arab countries near the Persian Gulf. In case of a war they are all extremely vulnerable to Iranian retaliation. Their oil and gas installations would be in serious danger. The desalination plants which provide their drinking water are all within easy reach of Iranian missiles.

By claiming that the conference is about waging war on Iran Netanyahoo is not only embarrassing the State Department and Secretary Mike Pompeo. He also makes it extremely difficult for other attendees to justify their presence. The Arabs will be especially furious that they are shown in such an open alliance with Israel and its hostility against Iran. Scheming with Israel in the dark is fine.

jacob hornberger headshotFuture of Freedom Foundation, Opinion: Why Iranians Bash the U.S. Government, Jacob G. Hornberger (right), Feb. 13, 2019. Two days ago, the New York Times carried an article by Times’ journalist Thomas Erdbrink entitled, “For Iran, a Grand Occasion to Bash the U.S.,” which was about Iran’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of its revolution in 1979. The article included the following sentence, “And like some evil doppelgänger, the United States was omnipresent, despite having broken all ties with Iran in 1981.”

Unfortunately, Erdbrink failed to point out two things: One, it is understandable why the Iranian people bash the U.S. government, and, two, while the U.S. government may have broken diplomatic ties with Iran, it has nonetheless continued to use economic sanctions to target the Iranian people with impoverishment and death as a way of hopefully effecting another regime change within the country.

iran flag mapFirst things first though. When the Times refers to “bashing the U.S.,” it makes a common mistake by conflating the U.S. government and our nation. Actually, they are two separate and distinct entities, a phenomenon best reflected by the Bill of Rights, which expressly protects the citizenry (i.e., our country) from the U.S. government.

The distinction is important because the Iranian people love Americans. They just hate the U.S. government. And when one considers what the U.S. government has done to Iranians and continues to do to Iranians, which, unfortunately, many Americans don’t like to think about, it is not difficult to understand the deep enmity that Iranians have toward the U.S. government.

mohammad mossadeqIn 1953, the CIA, which is one of three principal parts of the national-security branch of the federal government, secretly initiated a regime-change coup in Iran, one that not only ousted from power the democratically elected prime minister of the country, Mohammed Mossadegh (left), but also destroyed Iran’s experiment with democracy. That’s ironic, of course, given that U.S. officials are always reminding people how enamored they are with “democracy.”

Why did the CIA initiate this regime-change operation? Because the U.S. national-security establishment was convinced that there was a worldwide communist conspiracy to take over the United States and the rest of the world, a conspiracy that was supposedly based in Moscow, Russia. (Yes, that Russia!)

What did that supposed worldwide conspiracy have to do with Mossadegh? The CIA was convinced that Mossadegh was leaning left because he had nationalized British oil interests, which, needless to say, had not sat well with British oil companies. Therefore, the CIA concluded, Mossadegh could conceivably be a secret agent for this supposed worldwide communist conspiracy that was supposedly based in Russia.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, FEMA head Brock Long is resigning, Joel Achenbach, William Wan, Lisa Rein and Nick Miroff, Feb. 13, 2019. Federal Emergency Management Agency brock longAdministrator William “Brock” Long announced his resignation less than two years into a tenure marked by five major hurricanes, multiple lethal wildfires and a tense relationship with his boss, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

Long clashed with Nielsen in September, when Nielsen appeared intent on forcing Long out of his job in the middle of hurricane season. Just as Hurricane Florence began slamming into the Carolinas, the bitter feud intensified as an internal investigation became public, conducted by the inspector general from Nielsen’s department who was looking into Long’s use of government vehicles to travel between Washington and his home in North Carolina.

Last Syrian ISIS Bastion

washington post logoWashington Post, Hundreds stream out of Syrian village as the Islamic State clings to last sliver of once-sprawling territory, Louisa Loveluck, Feb. 13, 2019. l U.S.-backed forces expect to capture the only village still held by the militant group within days and gave the area’s remaining inhabitants a chance to flee or give themselves up.

VA, NJ Bishops List Accused Pedophiles

washington post logoWashington Post, Catholic bishops in Va. release names of 58 priests they say were credibly accused of sexually abusing minors, Michelle Boorstein and Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Feb. 13, 2019. Since a new Catholic clergy sexual abuse crisis exploded last year, dioceses around the country have released lists. Virginia’s two Catholic dioceses on Wednesday released lists of clergy who officials say were deemed “credibly accused” of sexually abusing youth, the latest in a slew of U.S. dioceses to make public such names amid a national crisis over clerical abuse and coverups.

The Diocese of Arlington, which covers the northeastern corner of Virginia, released a list of 16 names. It said the list was the product of two former FBI agents contracted by the diocese and given access to clergy files and information dating to its founding in 1974. It was not immediately clear whether any of the names of the accused were not previously known to Catholics of the diocese.

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge said in a letter that he ordered the list be released to help “victims and survivors of clergy abuse to find further healing and consolation.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Roman Catholic bishops in New Jersey named almost 200 priests who were accused of sexually abusing children, Rick Rojas, Feb. 14, 2019.

Global Diplomacy

washington post logoWashington Post, House passes measure to end U.S. military involvement in Yemen war, repudiating Trump’s continued backing of Saudi-led coalition, staff report, Feb. 13, 2019. The war-powers legislation now heads to the Senate, where sponsors have said they are hopeful Republicans and Democrats will vote to support it in coming weeks. Lawmakers lack the numbers, however, to overcome a promised presidential veto.

washington post logoWashington Post, A subtle snub? Key countries signal top diplomats will skip conference co-hosted by U.S., Carol Morello, Feb. 13, 2019. Several countries appear to be engaging in a diplomatic snub to protest the Trump administration’s policies toward Iran and Syria. Arriving in Poland to host an international conference on Middle East peace and security, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Tuesday that more than 30 foreign ministers would attend.

As a measure of its prospects, however, many countries have signaled that they will not be sending their top diplomats to the meeting — possibly nearly half.

As Pompeo and Vice President Pence prepare to welcome representatives of about 60 nations to Poland, co-host of the event, it is unclear what can be accomplished in a day of meetings over conflicts that have roiled the region for many years.

What Pompeo originally billed as a major conference to pressure Iran on its regional influence, missile testing and terrorism is now as likely to be defined by what it is not — and who is not coming. Several key countries appear to be engaging in a subtle diplomatic snub to protest the Trump administration’s policies toward Iran and Syria.

The muted response to an ambitious White House endeavor is partly due to concern that Pompeo and Pence would unleash a full-throttle rhetorical attack on Iran. Europeans have created a special barter-type trading system to work around U.S. sanctions reimposed on the country after Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal last year.

nigeria csis graphic what is happening 2 13 2019

Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS),