March 2019 News Reports


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

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

March 31

Covert Politics At U.S. Supreme Court

geoffrey stonewashington post logoWashington Post, Book Review: Chief Justice Roberts’s delicate seat at the center of a divided Supreme Court, Geoffrey R. Stone (right, distinguished professor of law and former provost at the University of Chicago), March 31, 2019 (print ed.). The Supreme Court sits at the center of fundamental disagreements about various crucial issues — campaign finance, affirmative action, abortion, gun control, voting rights and the constitutionality of some of President Trump’s most controversial actions — and the stakes are as high as they have ever been. At the center of it all is conservative Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

As Joan Biskupic observes in her book The Chief: The Life and Turbulent Times of Chief Justice John Roberts, after Republicans’ refusal to confirm President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court choice, Merrick Garland, and Trump’s appointment of two fiercely conservative justices, Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court is “now Roberts’s in name and reality.”

joan biskupic john roberts the chiefAlthough Roberts consistently maintains that the court is not a political body, and although he insists publicly that “the justices do not advance political positions,” Biskupic concludes that, in his decision-making in the most important and ideological cases, Roberts has all too often “engaged in the partisanship he claimed to abhor.” Moreover, although Roberts’s public persona seems very easygoing and congenial, Biskupic reveals that his top-down style has often “rankled” his colleagues on the court.

Like Biskupic’s previous books about Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia and Sonia Sotomayor, The Chief offers an extraordinarily insightful, thoughtful and accessible analysis of Roberts’s personal life, professional career, judicial experience and approach to constitutional interpretation. It is essential reading for anyone who truly wants to understand this pivotal moment in Supreme Court history.

Biskupic, who has known Roberts for more than 20 years, sat down with him for seven interviews totaling 20 hours for her book. She was therefore well-positioned to offer often stunning insight into Roberts’s life and thinking both on and off the court.

joan biskupic pbsRoberts leads the Supreme Court at a critical moment. For the first time in history, the court is divided 5 to 4 not only along ideological lines, but along partisan lines as well. That is, all five justices in the highly conservative majority were appointed by Republican presidents, and all four justices in the more liberal minority were appointed by Democratic presidents. Thus, there is a serious danger that on all the issues that have bitterly divided the justices over the past half a century, the court will divide sharply along partisan lines.

Such a state of affairs will seriously undermine the fundamental integrity of the court itself. The whole point of relying on judges and justices to decide fundamental questions of law is that they are doing their best to apply the law in a neutral and fair-minded manner. Although they may disagree sharply about questions of constitutional interpretation, their disagreements should be on intellectual rather than partisan lines.

As Biskupic observes, Roberts “now sits at the exact center, the determinative center, of the law in America.” He is in a position to lead the court “in his own image,” she says, adding: “The law will likely be what he says it is.” Let us hope that he understands the stakes and does not destroy the credibility of the Supreme Court and his own place in history.

Inside GOP: Health Care Void

washington post logoWashington Post, For Trump’s ‘Party of Healthcare,’ there is no health-care plan, Seung Min Kim and Josh Dawsey, March 31, 2019 (print ed.). Not only is there no such health-health and human services logocare overhaul in the works on Capitol Hill — there are no plans to make such a plan, and most Republicans hope the president will drop the idea of trying to come up with a replacement for the Affordable Care Act.

Senate Republicans, who were caught off guard by Trump’s rapid shift to focus on health care last week, said the White House would need to make the first move by putting forward its own proposal. But administration officials said nothing firm is in the works.

 Migrant / Foreign Aid Policies

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump plans to cut U.S. aid to 3 Central American countries, Mary Beth Sheridan and Kevin Sieff​, March 31, 2019 (print ed.). The move against El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras deepens White House confrontations with Latin America over a surge in irregular migrations, including asylum seekers and others. Critics say the move is counterproductive and might increase migration.

More On Supreme Court

djt brett kavanaugh amy coney barrett

Axios Sneak Peek, Scoop — Trump "saving" Judge Barrett for Ginsburg seat, Jonathan Swan, March 31, 2019. As he was deliberating last year over replacing Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, President Trump told confidants he had big plans for Judge Amy Coney Barrett (shown above in a graphic from last summer).

"I'm saving her for Ginsburg," Trump said of Barrett, according to three sources familiar with the president's private comments. Trump used that exact line with a number of people, including in a private conversation with an adviser two days before announcing Brett Kavanaugh's nomination.

Barrett is a favorite among conservative activists, many of whom wanted her to take Kennedy’s spot.

• She's young and proudly embraces her Catholic faith.
• Her past academic writings suggest an openness to overturning Roe v. Wade.
• Her nomination would throw gas on the culture-war fires, which Trump relishes.

But Trump chose to wait. Yes, but: There's no guarantee Trump will get another Supreme Court pick. It's very unlikely Ginsburg will retire while he’s in office. And though she's 86 and has had 3 bouts with cancer, she's on the bench now and appears healthy.

Why it matters: Trump has already pulled the court well to the right. If he gets to replace Ginsburg, especially with Barrett, he would cement a young, reliably conservative majority that could last for decades.

Rights Pressure On Saudis

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Pressure on Saudi Arabia might finally be starting to work. Keep it up, Editorial Board, March 31, 2019 (print ed.). Saudi Arabia may be conceding, slightly, to the growing international outrage over human rights crimes committed by security forces linked to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. On Thursday, three of more than a dozen women arrested in the past year were freed. A Saudi human rights group says it is believed that eight other women on trial with them in Riyadh could also be released in the coming days. If so, that would be a step toward ending the enormous suffering inflicted on these peaceful activists. But it falls far short of the accountability necessary to ensure that the runaway abuses by the crown prince and his thugs will cease.

U.S. Politics

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s aides strangely begin laying the groundwork for him to be a one-term president, Bill Palmer, March 31, 2019. Now that Donald Trump has managed to buy himself a proverbial five minute head start before the Mueller report eventually surfaces and dooms him, we’ve all been looking for signs of what he might do with the brief opportunity. We’ve seen him try to make horribly destructive moves this past week, ranging from health care to the Special Olympics. But that’s just his short term vindictive rage. What’s his longer term plan?

bill palmer report logo headerThat answer may have just arrived in the oddly-placed very last paragraph of an otherwise routine New York Times article. After laying out quote after meaningless quote from unnamed Trump 2020 campaign advisers, we finally end up with the only quote that matters: “After two years in office, Mr. Trump, 72, is tired, aides said. The unstoppable campaigner, so far, will commit to participating in only one campaign event a day, and recently balked at a possible rally out West during a fund-raising swing.” Wait, what?

william barr doj announcement Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: The Trump-Barr coverup of the Mueller report is set to come unglued within the next 48 hours, Bill Palmer, March 31, 2019. Forty-eight hours. That’s how much longer Donald Trump and William Barr (above) have left before their attempted coverup of the Mueller report completely unravels.

bill palmer report logo headerThat’s because House Democrats have handed Barr a Tuesday deadline to come clean about the coverup, and even as he’s tried to drag it out longer, they’ve remained clear that they’re not budging. So now what?

Barr will no doubt try something on Monday or Tuesday, in the hope of convincing House Democrats to wait longer. But at this point, don’t look for the Democrats to budge unless Barr suddenly caves on everything, which is unlikely.

9/11 Victim Fund Dwindles

Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC), 'Generation-long epidemic': Compensation funds running out as 9/11-related illnesses rise, Ellen Mauro, March 31, 2019. As thousands diagnosed with 9/11-related illnesses, a federal fund set up to help is running out of cash.

Thomas Wilson rarely left Ground Zero in the dizzying month following the attacks of September 11, 2001.A New York City police sergeant at the time, Wilson spent his days sifting through the tangled, charred rubble of the World Trade Centre. When night came, he slept for a few hours in one of the makeshift dormitories that sprung up around the site — a fierce sense of duty prevented him from being anywhere else.

"A job had to be done," he said. "It was the right thing to do."

Wilson counted himself lucky for escaping that day when so many others didn't. But seven years later, 9/11 caught up with him. He was diagnosed with a rare tongue, and later, skin cancer — both of which doctors said were linked to his time spent at Ground Zero. Wilson, a father of five, was shocked but not entirely surprised. He remembered the lack of proper protective gear and the metallic odour of the toxic brew of carcinogens that hovered over what he, and other first responders, dubbed "The Pile."

"It just perforated everything," he said.

Wilson is one of more than 11,000 first responders and survivors who've been diagnosed with a 9/11-related cancer, according to the World Trade Centre Health program, part of the U.S. government's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In 2011, about 60,000 people were registered as having 9/11-related illnesses. By December 2018, that number was higher than 93,000, according to WTC Health Program.

The growing number has put crippling pressure on the September 11 Victim Compensation fund, set up by the U.S. government to provide financial aid for the sick and the families of those who've died from their illnesses. The fund is running out of money faster than expected and, to ration what's left, future payments are set to be cut by up to 70 per cent — a decrease that could mean undue financial stress, in addition to life-changing health challenges, for people impacted by that awful day.

Transition: Homeless Vet Dies

washington post logoWashington Post, Danny Brumfield, Vietnam vet who led a homeless life on the streets, dies at 67, Bart Barnes, March 31, 2019 (print ed.). Danny Brumfield, a Marine Corps veteran of the war in Vietnam, an office assistant and security guard who had been homeless, unemployed and living on the streets since 1992, died Feb. 27 at an Alexandria, Va., hospital. He was 67.

For 21 years after Mr. Brumfield left home in Gaithersburg, Md., his wife and two children had no idea of his whereabouts. They hired private detectives. No results.

In 2013, unbeknown to Mr. Brumfield’s family, the city of Alexandria was doing a count of its homeless population. A social worker persuaded Mr. Brumfield to reveal his name, and an online search yielded the information that someone had been looking for a man of that name. That someone was Mary Elizabeth Brumfield. The social worker in Alexandria called and told her that her father had been found.

Saudi Torture?

The Guardian, Leaked reports reveal severe abuse of Saudi political prisoners, Nick Hopkins, Stephanie Kirchgaessner and Kareem Shaheen, March 31, 2019. Exclusive: cuts, burns and bruising documented, despite government denials of torture

March 30

Barr, Mueller Reports

washington post logoWashington Post, Redacted Mueller report will reach Congress within weeks, Barr says, Devlin Barrett and Karoun Demirjian​, March 30, 2019 (print ed.). Special counsel Robert S. william barr new oMueller III’s report, with parts redacted, will be sent to Congress by “mid-April, if not sooner,” Attorney General William P. Barr (right) wrote to lawmakers. It will not be shared with the White House before its release, he wrote.

• Read Barr’s letter detailing plans to deliver Mueller report. 

Ukrainians Vote Sunday

ny times logoNew York Times, In Europe’s Only Country at War, Ukrainians Set to Vote on Sunday, Andrew E. Kramer, Photographs by Brendan Hoffman, March 30, 2019. Five years after a revolution, Ukrainians are less thankful for their new leaders than for the freedom to vote them out of power.

petro poroshenko 2010Under a campaign billboard for President Petro O. Poroshenko, left, declaring “there are many candidates but one president,” Ukrainians picked through the meager selection — instant coffee, canned milk, bananas — on sale at a makeshift sidewalk stand in Kiev, emblematic of the country’s economic hardship.

Ukraine plans to hold an election on Sunday that will be the first genuinely contested presidential vote since street protests five years ago evolved into a revolution that deposed a widely despised, Russian-aligned leader.

Ukrainians will vote in a country divided between east and west, between corruption and a desire for honest government, between struggling, ordinary people and an ultra-wealthy business oligarchy.

Artic Drilling

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge blocks Trump’s push to open Arctic, Atlantic oceans to drilling, Juliet Eilperin, March 30, 2019. The decision by a federal judge in Alaska puts 128 million acres of federal waters off limits to energy exploration.

Death Penalty / Religion

washington post logobrett kavanaugh.judgeLWashington Post, Brett Kavanaugh pivots as Supreme Court allows one execution, stops another, Robert Barnes, March 30, 2019. The court took different stances in cases involving Muslim and Buddhist death-row inmates. It’s difficult to say with certainty why the Supreme Court on Thursday night stopped the execution of a Buddhist inmate in Texas because he was not allowed a spiritual adviser by his side, when last month it approved the execution of a Muslim inmate in Alabama under the almost exact circumstances.

But the obvious place to start is new Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, right, who seemed to have a change of heart. Ilya Somin, a law professor at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University and a sharp critic of the court’s decision in Dunn v. Ray, said the most logical explanation is the court was stung by the barrage of criticism it received from the left and the right.

The justices “belatedly realized they had made a mistake; and not just any mistake, but one that inflicted real damage on their and the court’s reputations,” Somin wrote on the Volokh Conspiracy blog.

UK's Brexit Woes

ny times logoUnited Kingdom flagNew York Times, Democracy Itself Is on Trial in Brexit, Britons Say, Ellen Barry and Benjamin Mueller, March 30, 2019. Many Britons expressed despair over the inability of the system to produce a compromise. No one feels that the government has represented their interests. No one is satisfied. No one is hopeful.

More On Mueller Report

craig unger djt cover

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s businesses are full of dirty Russian money. The scandal is that it’s legal, Craig Unger (shown above, author of House of Trump, House of Putin and a former contributing editor of Vanity Fair), March 30, 2019 (print edition). Shell companies put figures from Putin’s Mafia into Trump Tower. Should that be worrying?

Collusion or not, President Trump and the Russians are thick as thieves.

djt sergey lavrov sergey kislyak wh may 10 2017 tassWhat I mean is that for more than three decades, at least 13 people with known or alleged links to the Russian Mafia held the deeds to, lived in or ran criminal operations out of Trump Tower in New York or other Trump properties. I mean that many of them used Trump-branded real estate to launder vast amounts of money by buying multimillion-dollar condos through anonymous shell companies. I mean that the Bayrock Group, a real estate development company that was based in Trump Tower and had ties to the Kremlin, came up with a new business model to franchise Trump condos after he lost billions of dollars in his Atlantic City casino developments, and helped make him rich again.

Yet Trump’s relationship with the Russian underworld, a de facto state actor, has barely surfaced in the uproar surrounding Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign. That oversight may be explained in part by journalist Michael Kinsley’s long-held maxim: The real scandal isn’t what’s illegal; it’s what is legal.

Robert S. Mueller III, of course, is a prosecutor. His job as special counsel, now complete, was to decide whether to indict. But what if some of the most egregious and corrupt offenses are not illegal? Russian President Vladimir Putin has long insisted that American democracy itself is corrupt. Under his aegis, the Russians have methodically studied various components of the American body politic — campaign finance, our legal system, social media and perhaps especially the real estate industry — and exploited every loophole they could find.

Justice Department log circularAs Oleg Kalugin, a former head of counterintelligence for the KGB, told me in an interview for my book House of Trump, House of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia, the Mafia amounts to “one of the branches of the Russian government today.” Where Americans cracked down on the Italian American Mafia, Putin dealt with the Russian mob very differently. He co-opted it. He made it an integral part of his Mafia state. Russian gangsters became, in effect, Putin’s enforcers. They had long and deep relationships. According to a tape recording made by former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko a year before he was fatally poisoned in London, Putin had close ties to Semion Mogilevich, a top mobster, that dated to the early 1990s.

That criminals with ties to Russia bought Trump condos, partnered with Trump and were based at Trump Tower — his home, his place of work, the crown jewel of his empire — should be deeply concerning. It’s not hard to conclude that, as a result, the president, wittingly or not, has long been compromised by a hostile foreign power, even if Mueller did not conclude that Trump colluded or conspired with the Russians.

russian flag wavingLet’s go back to 1984, when David Bogatin, an alleged Russian gangster who arrived in the United States a few years earlier with $3 in his pocket, sat down with Trump and bought not one but five condos, for a total of $6 million — about $15 million in today’s dollars. What was most striking about the transaction was that at the time, according to David Cay Johnston’s The Making of Donald Trump, Trump Tower was one of only two major buildings in New York City that sold condos to buyers who used shell companies that allowed them to purchase real estate while concealing their identities. Thus, according to the New York state attorney general’s office, when Trump closed the deal with Bogatin, whether he knew it or not, he had just helped launder money for the Russian Mafia.

And so began a 35-year relationship between Trump and Russian organized crime. Mind you, this was a period during which the disintegration of the Soviet Union had opened a fire-hose-like torrent of hundreds of billions of dollars in flight capital from oligarchs, wealthy apparatchiks and mobsters in Russia and its satellites. And who better to launder so much money for the Russians than Trump — selling them multimillion-dollar condos at top dollar, with little or no apparent scrutiny of who was buying them.

washington post logosally yates oWashington Post, Opinion: Sally Yates: William Barr should release the full Mueller report as soon as possible, Sally Yates (right, a Georgetown Law Center professor who served as deputy attorney general from January 2015 to January 2017), March 30, 2019 (print edition).

America’s justice system is built upon one thing — truth. When witnesses give testimony, they are sworn to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” The word “verdict” derives from the Latin term “veredictum,” meaning “to say the truth.” Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, a public servant with impeccable integrity, was entrusted to find the truth regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election and has spoken through a comprehensive report that details the facts that he uncovered.

Justice Department log circularYet a week after Mueller issued his report, we don’t know those facts and have only been provided with Attorney General William P. Barr’s four-page summary of Mueller’s estimated 400-page report. It is time for the American people to hear the whole truth. We need to see the report itself.

First, as the attorney general’s letter to Congress notes, the Mueller report “outlines the Russian effort to influence the election and documents crimes committed by persons associated with the Russian government in connection with those efforts.” Congress has a solemn responsibility to protect our democracy. Without access to the full factual record of what the special counsel uncovered, it cannot fulfill that mandate. As you read this, the Russian government is undoubtedly hard at work to undermine our next election. Each day that passes without Congress having access to the full Mueller report is a day that Congress is prevented from doing its job of keeping our elections free from Russian espionage efforts.

robert mueller full face fileSecond, Barr’s letter leaves important questions unanswered concerning what then-candidate Donald Trump and his associates knew about Russian interference, and how they responded to Russian overtures to assist the campaign. While Barr’s letter states that the investigation did not establish that the campaign reached an agreement with the Russian government to take actions to impact the election in Trump’s favor, it reveals that the campaign did field “multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.” Yet President Trump and others have repeatedly claimed that they had no contact with Russians, or knowledge that Russians were acting to assist his campaign. Moreover, the Trump campaign did not bring the Russian outreach to the attention of law enforcement but secretly allowed a foreign adversary’s assistance. Remarkably, after the release of the Barr letter — which makes it undeniable that the Russians were seeking to help the Trump campaign — the president still denies it. Why?

Third, until the Mueller report is released by the attorney general, Congress and the American people will not be able to evaluate the president’s conduct with respect to obstruction of justice. Existing Justice Department policy prevents the criminal prosecution of a sitting president. The department’s institutional view is that a congressional hearing room, not a federal courtroom, is the proper forum for the evaluation of presidential misconduct. According to Barr’s letter, the Mueller report details evidence of potentially obstructive conduct, but it does not reveal what that evidence comprises. Until Congress is provided the full report, it cannot evaluate the seriousness of the evidence. And we, the American people, cannot make our own evaluation.

Mother Jones via OpEdNews, Opinion: Here's the Real Trump-Russia Hoax, David Corn (co-authior of Russian Roulette), March 30, 2019. It's Trump defenders and lefty Russia-gate skeptics claiming there is no scandal.

There has been much crowing from Trumpsters on the right and Russia-gate skeptics on the left about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report. That is, the three-and-a-half-page letter Attorney General Bill Barr sent to Congress summarizing Mueller's work. (The report itself remains secret and is reportedly over 300 pages.) Pointing to Barr's citation of a single, partial sentence from the report ("[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities"), Trump and his partisans, as well as the small number of lefty Russia-gate deniers, have declared that because Mueller found no direct collaboration, the Trump-Russia scandal is kaput. Some have even declared it was a hoax -- and a gargantuan media con job -- from the start.

These critics are wrong. And here's an easy way to tell whether they are engaging in honest discourse.

djt robert mueller headshotsTwo fundamental facts were established long before Mueller completed his investigation. First, the Russians attacked an American election in order to sow chaos, hurt Hillary Clinton, and help Donald Trump. Second, Trump and his top advisers during the campaign repeatedly denied this attack was underway, echoing and amplifying Moscow disinformation (the false claim that Russia was not attacking). Whether or not the Trumpsters were directly in cahoots with the Russian government, they ran interference for Vladimir Putin's assault on the United States, and they even did so after the intelligence community had briefed Trump on Russia's culpability.

So to determine if the Barr triumphalists are acting in good faith, you need only ask them a simple question: do you accept these basic facts and acknowledge the profound seriousness of each one?

The Russian attack on the 2016 election was an attempt to subvert the foundation of American society: the democratic process. How can Americans have faith in their government, if elections are undermined by secret schemers, including a foreign government? It is certainly arguable that the Russian intervention -- particularly the stealing and drip-drip-drip dumping of the John Podesta emails across the final four weeks of the election -- was one of several decisive factors in a contest that had a narrow and tight finish. Consequently, there is a strong case that Moscow helped shift the course of US history by contributing to the election of Trump. (And recognizing this is not the same as defending Hillary Clinton or concocting an excuse for the Democrats' embarrassing loss to Trump.)

During the campaign and afterward, some Trump backers and some critics on the left, including columnist and media scold Glenn Greenwald, questioned whether the Russians indeed engaged in such skulduggery.

For many of these scandal skeptics, it hasn't seemed to matter that the charge against Moscow has been publicly confirmed by the Obama administration, the US intelligence community (which concluded that Putin's operation intended to help Trump), both Republicans and Democrats on the congressional intelligence committees, and Robert Mueller, who indicted a mess of Russians for participating in this covert operation. True, there often is cause to question officialdom and government sources.

Yet anyone citing the Mueller report, as it is narrowly capsulized by Barr, must also accept his key finding: Russia attacked the United States and intervened in the election. (They must also accept that, as the Barr letter disclosed, Mueller found evidence suggesting Trump obstructed justice but did not reach a final judgment on this question.)

Moscow's intervention was an outrageous action, and concern about this should unite right and left and anyone in between. There is nothing more important in this whole affair than the attack itself.

Trump Reverse On Syria?

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Troops Leaving Syria, but Some May Stay Longer Than Expected, Eric Schmitt, March 29, 2019. Now that the Islamic State has been driven from its last sliver of territory in Syria, hundreds of American troops — not just their equipment — are leaving the war zone, just as President Trump ordered in December. But in the latest twist to the on-again, off-again American withdrawal, the Pentagon plans to cut its combat force in northeastern Syria roughly in half by early May, or to about 1,000 troops, and then pause, American officials said on Friday.

Syria Flag

The military will then assess conditions on the ground and reduce the number of forces every six months or so, until it reaches the 400 troops in Syria that Mr. Trump approved in February. They will include 200 in a multinational force in the northeast and another 200 at a small outpost in southeastern Syria, where they will seek to counter Iran’s influence throughout the country.

The pause is another important shift from Mr. Trump’s initial order to pull out all 2,000 American troops from Syria immediately, and has not been previously reported.

Trump Pick For Fed

stephen moore twitterThe Guardian, Trump Fed pick was held in contempt for failing to pay ex-wife over $300,000, Jon Swaine and David Smith, March 30, 2019. Records obtained by Guardian show Stephen Moore, right, reprimanded by judge for not paying alimony, child support and other debts; Stephen Moore owes $75,000 in taxes, IRS alleges.

Stephen Moore, the economics commentator chosen by Donald Trump for a seat on the Federal Reserve board, was found in contempt of court after failing to pay his ex-wife hundreds of thousands of dollars in alimony, child support and other debts.

Court records in Virginia obtained by the Guardian show Moore, 59, was reprimanded by a judge in November 2012 for failing to pay Allison Moore more than $300,000 in spousal support, child support and money owed under their divorce settlement.

Moore continued failing to pay, according to the court filings, prompting the judge to order the sale of his house to satisfy the debt in 2013. But this process was halted by his ex-wife after Moore paid her about two-thirds of what he owed, the filings say.

Moore said in a court filing signed in April 2011 he admitted all the allegations in Allison Moore’s divorce complaint. He declined to comment for this article.

Allison Moore declined to comment during a brief telephone discussion this week. A person close to the Moores said they now had a better relationship and that Allison Moore had a more favourable view of their marriage.

Trump has been criticised for selecting Moore for an influential job at the world’s most powerful central bank. A former economics writer for the Wall Street Journal who has held positions at several conservative thinktanks, Moore was an adviser to Trump’s 2016 campaign and has championed the president on cable television.

Media: Fake News & Sandy Hook

ny times logoNew York Times, How Alex Jones and Infowars Helped a Florida Man Stalk Sandy Hook Families, Elizabeth Williamson, March 29, 2019. Mr. Jones and Infowars gave Wolfgang Halbig airtime, a camera crew and help raising money to harass Sandy Hook shooting victims’ parents. In the world of conspiracy theorists, Alex Jones and Wolfgang Halbig fueled each other’s darkest tendencies.

alex jones headshotSoon after the Dec. 14, 2012, mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Mr. Jones, right, the right-wing provocateur, began spreading outlandish theories that the killing of 20 first graders and six educators was staged by the government and victims’ families as part of an elaborate plot to confiscate Americans’ firearms.

Many of the most noxious claims originated in the mind of Mr. Halbig, a retired Florida public school official who became fixated on what he called “this supposed tragedy” at Sandy Hook. Court records and a previously unreleased deposition given by Mr. Jones in one of a set of defamation lawsuits brought against him by the families of 10 Sandy Hook victims show how he and Mr. Halbig used each other to pursue their obsession and promote it across the internet.

wolfgang halbigOver several years, Mr. Jones gave Mr. Halbig’s views an audience by inviting him to be a guest on Infowars, his radio and online show. Infowars gave Mr. Halbig a camera crew and a platform for fund-raising, even as Mr. Halbig (shown in his photo on Twitter in an account the service has disabled because of his abuses of the service) repeatedly visited Newtown, demanding thousands of pages of public records, including photos of the murder scene, the children’s bodies and receipts for the cleanup of “bodily fluids, brain matter, skull fragments and around 45 to 60 gallons of blood.”

Given practical support and visibility by Mr. Jones, Mr. Halbig hounded families of the victims and other residents of Newtown, and promoted a baseless tale that Avielle Richman, a first grader killed at Sandy Hook, was still alive.

The deposition and its details about Mr. Jones’s operation and his interactions with Mr. Halbig were made public on Friday, days after Avielle Richman’s father, Jeremy Richman, killed himself in Newtown’s Edmond Town Hall, where Avielle Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to brain science that the family established in their daughter’s name, had an office.

Affirmative Action: U.S. Colleges

ny times logoNew York Times, 50 Years of Affirmative Action: What Went Right, and What It Got Wrong, Anemona Hartocollis, March 30, 2019. A look back through the decades shows the successes and challenges in the early years of affirmative action in college admissions.Columbia University was a revelatory setting, with a record number of black students admitted in 1969. The Times tracked some of them down to hear their stories.

columbia logoThose who were able, through luck or experience or hard work, to adapt to the culture of institutions that had long been pillars of the white establishment succeeded by most conventional measures. Others could not break through because of personal trauma, family troubles, financial issues, culture shock — the kind of problems felt by many white students as well, but compounded by being in such a tiny minority. And universities at the time, they said, did not have the will or the knowledge to help.

Columbia — an Ivy League campus right next to Harlem — was a particularly revelatory setting. Perhaps nowhere else were the divisions more striking between the privilege inside university gates and the troubles and demands of black people outside them.

New York Times, The Supreme Court has weighed in on affirmative action several times, Margaret Kramer, March 30, 2019.  Here are some key cases.

Covert Bulk Records Collection

ny times logocharlie savageew York Times, D.E.A. Secretly Collected Bulk Records of Money-Counter Purchases, Charlie Savage, right, March 30, 2019. A redaction error in an inspector general report brought to light another bulk-collection program ended in the aftermath of Edward Snowden’s leaks. The Drug Enforcement Administration secretly collected data in bulk about Americans’ purchases of money-counting machines — and took steps to hide the effort from defendants and courts — before quietly shuttering the program in 2013 amid the uproar over the disclosures by the National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, an inspector general report found.

dea sealSeeking leads about who might be a drug trafficker, the D.E.A. started in 2008 to issue blanket administrative subpoenas to vendors to learn who was buying money counters. The subpoenas involved no court oversight and were not pegged to any particular investigation. The agency collected tens of thousands of records showing the names and addresses of people who bought the devices.

The public version of the report, which portrayed the program as legally questionable, blacked out the device whose purchase the D.E.A. had tracked. But in a slip-up, the report contained one uncensored reference in a section about how D.E.A. policy called for withholding from official case files the fact that agents first learned the names of suspects from its database of its money-counter purchases.

Transport Future and Safety

White House Chronicle, Opinion: Boeing Casts a Shadow Over the Future of Automated Systems, Llewellyn King, March 30, 2019. A shadow has fallen across the future of autonomous transportation, one of the key aspects of the city of the future and of the widespread use of artificial intelligence. It comes from Boeing in the form of the computer problem that has grounded the world’s fleet of 737 Max 8 aircraft.

No definitive cause of the crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 in the Java Sea, which killed 189 people, and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 en route from Nairobi to Addis Ababa, which killed 157 people, has been established yet. But everything points to the computerized stall-avoidance system.

In terms of computing in aircraft, this is no more than an embarrassment. In terms of loss of life, it is ghastly. In terms of the public confidence in the growing role of computing in everything, it is grave.

A whole array of high-tech companies is hoping to bring autonomous transportation to the streets within a decade or not much longer. These include Uber, Lyft and Google. Tesla would like to see autonomous electric trucks handling intercity deliveries.

This push to the driverless has huge energy and resources behind it. It is a part of what has come to be known as the smart city revolution. It also is part of what has been described as the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Early autonomous cars have depended on sensors to guide them. The car in front slows and the car behind picks this up from its sensors. When autonomous vehicles are fully developed, these cars and all the others on the road will be in constant communication with each other. Car A will tell Car B, “I am breaking” and so on down through a line of traffic. It is coming.

The message from Boeing’s catastrophe is: Get it right or you will scare the public off, as happened with Three Mile Island. Some willing propagandists scared the public off nuclear — our best way of making a lot of electricity without carbon.

March 29

washington post logoDonald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)Washington Post, How Trump dodged a special counsel interview — and a subpoena fight, Philip Rucker, Carol D. Leonnig, Josh Dawsey and Matt Zapotosky, March 29, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump’s legal team, fearful he would perjure himself, conducted an extensive pressure campaign to keep him from coming face-to-face with investigators.

• Washington Post, Democrats: It’s a ‘coverup’ if attorney general redacts grand jury information in Mueller report, March 28, 2019.
• Washington Post, Pelosi urges Democrats to take a ‘deep breath’ — and takes charge of her party, March 28, 2019.

Trump Finances

 allen weisselberg djt carolyn kepcher

Donald Trump, flanked by Trump Organization executives Allen Weisselberg and Carolyn Kepcher in a publicit photo, has reportedly pretended during his "reality" show "The Apprentice" and more currently to have vast wealth far beyond the reality, according to a new financial analysis by the Washington Post.

washington post logoWashington Post, How Trump inflated his net worth to lenders and investors, David A. Fahrenthold and Jonathan O'Connell, March 29, 2019 (print ed.). As a businessman, Donald Trump used unusual financial statements to exaggerate his wealth and hide his debts, documents reviewed by the Post show. These documents are now central to investigations looking at his business.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump says he won’t cut Special Olympics budget, Laura Meckler, March 29, 2019. President Trump's education secretary, Betsy DeVos, right, had proposed betsy devos oeliminating all of the $17.6 million in federal funding for the organization, which gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to compete in athletic contests.

President Trump said Thursday he wants the federal government to continue funding the Special Olympics, an abrupt reversal from his own budget proposal that eliminated federal money for the charity and sparked bipartisan condemnation.

His statement on the South Lawn of the White House came after his education secretary, Betsy DeVos, spent three days defending the proposal, most recently at a contentious Senate hearing Thursday morning.

Trump Sent Nuclear Secrets To Saudis?

djt saudi orb abdel al sissi salman

President Trump with the rulers of Saudi Arabia and Egypt on his 2017 trip to the feudal kingdom of the Saudis.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump administration authorized nuclear energy companies to share sensitive information with Saudi Arabia, Steven Mufson, March 29, 2019. The Trump administration has kept secret seven authorizations it has issued since November 2017 allowing U.S. nuclear energy companies to share sensitive technological information with Saudi Arabia, even though the kingdom has not yet agreed to anti-proliferation terms required to construct a pair of U.S.-designed civilian nuclear power plants.

Saudi Arabian flagThe Energy Department and State Department have not only kept the authorizations from the public but also refused to share information about them with congressional committees that have jurisdiction over nuclear proliferation and safety.

The authorizations, issued to at least six companies, cover “Part 810” information, named for a regulatory clause that allows U.S. companies to divulge some design information to compete for contracts with foreign buyers. The regulations for Part 810 technology-sharing provide a list of “generally authorized destinations.” Saudi Arabia is not on the list.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Saudi, U.S. insiders describe intelligence deals frozen and an alliance rocked by Khashoggi’s killing, David Ignatius, March 29, 2019. Until Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman provides real answers about the killing of Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, the U.S.-Saudi military and intelligence partnership is likely to remain in limbo.

U.S. Health Care

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal judge rejects Trump’s health-care strategy to go around Obamacare, Timothy Bella, March 29, 2019. It marks the second significant legal defeat in as many days on the issue for President Trump, who has recently revived his administration’s efforts to undo the Affordable Care Act. A federal judge in Washington ruled late Thursday that the Trump administration’s push to make health insurance plans available outside the Affordable Care Act that avoid the requirements of the health-care law was illegal, calling the efforts “clearly an end-run around the ACA.”

The 43-page ruling, submitted by U.S. District Judge John D. Bates of the District of Columbia, blocks new rules from the Trump administration overseeing “association health plans,” which would allow small businesses to combine their forces to offer plans outside the ACA that would be both less expensive and provide fewer health protections.

“The final rule is clearly an end-run around the ACA,” Bates, an appointee of President George W. Bush, wrote in the Thursday ruling. “Indeed, as the president directed, and the secretary of labor confirmed, the final rule was designed to expand access to AHPs to avoid the most stringent requirements of the ACA.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: G.O.P. Cruelty Is a Pre-existing Condition, Paul Krugman, March 29, 2019 (print ed.). Republicans just won’t stop trying to take away health care. On Monday, the Trump administration adopted a new position on a lawsuit over the Affordable Care Act, telling a federal appeals court that it now supported the complete elimination of the law, which has made health insurance available to many Americans who wouldn’t have it otherwise.

Donald Trump and Mike Pence logoWe have a very good idea what would happen if this lawsuit were to succeed. Around 20 million Americans would lose health coverage.

While Donald Trump reportedly thinks that attacking the A.C.A. will please his base, the greatest devastation would actually come in states that strongly supported Trump in 2016, believing his promises that he would defend health care. In West Virginia, for example, 160,000 people — 11 percent of nonelderly adults — would see their health insurance snatched away.

ny times logoNew York Times, An Outbreak Spreads Fear: Of Measles, of Ultra-Orthodox Jews, of Anti-Semitism, Sarah Maslin Nir and Michael Gold, March 29, 2019. A measles outbreak in a New York suburb has sickened scores of people. Authorities have traced it to ultra-Orthodox families whose children have not been vaccinated. The outbreak is intensifying tensions between the rapidly expanding Orthodox community and secular society.

Erica Wingate was working at a clothing store in town this week when a male customer, with the black hat and sidelocks typically worn by ultra-Orthodox Jews, started coughing.

Another shopper standing next to him suddenly dropped the item she had been holding and clutched her child. “She was buying something, and she just threw it down,” Ms. Wingate recalled. “She said, ‘Let’s go, let’s go! Jews don’t have shots!’”

A measles outbreak in this suburban New York county has sickened scores of people and alarmed public health experts who fear it may be a harbinger of the growing influence of the anti-vaccine movement. But it has also intensified long-smoldering tensions between the rapidly expanding and insular ultra-Orthodox Jewish community and secular society.

Media / Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Constitution and the President’s Tweets, Editorial Board, March 29, 2019. Should the First Amendment prohibit officials from retaliating against constituents on social media? Some courts are saying yes. A three-judge panel from a federal appeals court in Manhattan heard arguments on Tuesday in a case that might sound like little more than an odd souvenir of these strange times, but that in fact raises a novel First Amendment question.

twitter bird CustomAt issue is whether President Trump can block people from seeing the messages he posts on his personal Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump — something he has done a fair number of times, while also using the platform to conduct presidential business, like dismissing his secretary of state and barring transgender troops from serving in the military.

A few months into his presidency, Mr. Trump and his social media director, Dan Scavino, were sued by seven plaintiffs — all active Twitter users and ardent critics of the president — who had been blocked from seeing the president’s Twitter posts. That meant they also couldn’t reply or see other people’s responses to his tweets.

Brexit Vote Fails Again

ny times logoNew York Times, Parliament Rejects May’s Brexit Plan for 3rd Time as Deadline Nears, Staff report, March 29, 2019. British lawmakers voted against Prime Minister Theresa United Kingdom flagMay’s plan for withdrawing from the European Union once more, leaving her policy in ruins. The nation has been cast into further confusion, with the scheduled departure date looming two weeks away.

• With Britain in political crisis and a new deadline to leave the European Union two weeks away, Parliament on Friday rejected, by a vote of 334 to 286, Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan for a third time.

• Lawmakers voted down the 585-page withdrawal agreement, which details Britain’s relationship to the European Union through the end of 2020.

• The vote means that Britain is moving closer to a withdrawal on April 12 without an agreement — the “no-deal” scenario that many economists and officials have warned would do serious economic damage. The only alternative may be a long delay, a move opposed by pro-Brexit lawmakers.

Hoping to win over Brexit hard-liners in her Conservative Party, Mrs. May promised lawmakers this week that she would step down if her plan were approved, giving the party a chance to choose a leader more to their liking to oversee the next round of negotiations. That got her some votes, but not enough.

Trump Watch: Immigration

ny times logoNew York Times, Former Trump Family Driver Has Been in ICE Custody for 8 Months, Miriam Jordan, March 29, 2019. When Donald Trump’s children and campaign staff arrived in South Florida during the 2016 presidential campaign, they were often greeted at the airport by Zoltan Tamas in a black Cadillac Escalade. As a senior security guard at Trump National Golf Club in the town of Jupiter, Mr. Tamas was licensed to carry a gun. He bought a home, paid taxes and never ran afoul of the law since immigrating legally to the United States from Romania in 2011.

But for eight months, Mr. Tamas, 38, has been locked in a correctional facility six hours’ drive from his family as he fights a protracted legal battle to remain in the United States. During that time, he has not once seen his wife, 11-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter, who suffers from congenital heart disease.

Mr. Tamas has fallen prey to the crackdown on immigration that is at the top of the president’s national agenda — and letters of support from high-profile businesspeople and his former bosses have so far not helped him win leniency.

Mr. Tamas, a green-card holder, was arrested by immigration authorities after he applied for United States citizenship in 2016 and a background check revealed that he had been convicted in absentia of committing insurance fraud in Romania.

His lawyer is appealing an immigration judge’s decision to deport him and asking Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release Mr. Tamas while the case winds through the court. But the agency has said that he must remain detained because of his crime.

“Zoltan wasn’t caught crossing the border,” said Mario Urizar, Mr. Tamas’s lawyer, adding that his client was not a flight risk. “He was in the country legally, paying taxes and has no criminal record in the United States. Why would you keep him detained? They should use their discretionary power to release him.”

#MeToo Scandal Claims

washington post logoWashington Post, College student accuses former Virginia governor L. Douglas Wilder of sexual harassment, Jenna Portnoy, March 29, 2019 (print ed.). A student who worked with L. Douglas Wilder at the Virginia Commonwealth University school named for the former governor reported to the university and police that Wilder sexually harassed her by kissing her without consent.

douglas wilder memoir coverThe woman, Sydney Black, 22, said Wilder, shown right on the cover of his memoir, 88, also suggested she could live at his house and offered to take her on foreign trips and pay for her law school in 2017, while she still worked as an office assistant at the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs.

VCU officials cited privacy concerns and declined to answer a series of detailed questions.

“VCU seeks to protect the privacy of students and employees, in accordance with state and federal law,” university spokesman Mike Porter said in a statement. “Likewise, VCU does not disclose information about university investigations including whether or not an investigation is underway.”

But VCU sent Black a letter formally notifying her that the school’s Title IX office intended to investigate.

Associated Press via San Diego Union-Tribune, Oklahoma ex-senator David Boren accused of sexual misconduct, Sean Murphy, March 29, 2019. A former University of Oklahoma ap logostudent alleges he was touched and kissed inappropriately by former university President David Boren on several occasions almost a decade ago when the man worked as a teaching aide for the onetime governor and senator.

The allegations by Jess Eddy, now 29, appear to be at the center of an investigation being conducted for the university by Jones Day, one of the world’s largest law firms, into david borenwhether Boren sexually harassed male subordinates. The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation has also opened an investigation.

Boren, right, now 77, has denied any inappropriate conduct in statements released by his attorneys, who have confirmed the Jones Day investigation. Boren was a Democratic governor in the 1970s before serving in the U.S. Senate for more than 15 years. He was OU president from 1994 until stepping down last year and has been married to his second wife for more than 40 years. He has denied requests to be interviewed, citing poor health.

Boren’s attorney, Clark Brewster, said Eddy’s newest account of his encounter with Boren, which he detailed in an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press, contradicts previous statements he gave to Jones Day investigators and to Brewster. In those earlier statements, he said he was not aware of any inappropriate behavior.

Eddy acknowledged the discrepancy with his initial accounts and said he was untruthful in an effort to protect Boren.

joe biden headshotNew York Magazine, Personal Essay: An Awkward Kiss Changed How I Saw Joe Biden, Lucy Flores, March 29, 2019.In 2014, I was the 35-year-old Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in Nevada. The landscape wasn’t looking good for my party that year. There were no high-profile national races to help boost turnout, and after the top candidate bowed out of the governor’s race, “None of the Above” ended up winning the Democratic primary.

So when my campaign heard from Vice-President Joe Biden’s office that he was looking to help me and other Democrats in the state, I was grateful and flattered. His team offered to bring him to a campaign rally in an effort to help boost voter turnout. We set the date for November 1, just three days before election day.

I felt him get closer to me from behind. He leaned further in and inhaled my hair. I was mortified. I thought to myself, “I didn’t wash my hair today and the vice-president of the United States is smelling it. And also, what in the actual fuck? Why is the vice-president of the United States smelling my hair?” He proceeded to plant a big slow kiss on the back of my head. My brain couldn’t process what was happening. I was embarrassed. I was shocked. I was confused. There is a Spanish saying, “tragame tierra,” it means, “earth, swallow me whole.” I couldn’t move and I couldn’t say anything. I wanted nothing more than to get Biden away from me. My name was called and I was never happier to get on stage in front of an audience.

Trump Trade Deal At Risk

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s North American trade deal at risk of stalling in Congress, Erica Werner, David J. Lynch and Emily Rauhala​, March 29, 2019. President Trump’s effort to rework a major trade deal with Canada and Mexico is showing signs of faltering on Capitol Hill, straining under a variety of angry complaints from lawmakers of both parties who won’t commit to backing the plan.

Trump reached agreement with Canada and Mexico last year to update the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement. But Congress must approve the deal, and the White House has been unable to mollify the growing complaints.

U.S. Global Strategies

Strategic Culture Foundation, Opinion: Trump Threatens Nuclear War If Russia Protects Venezuela, Eric Zuesse, March 29, 2019. Russia has sent troops and weapons to Venezuela russian flag wavingto protect Venezuela from a possible US invasion. Trump and Pence are telling Russia they won’t accept this. They demand that their coup-attempt succeed. Russia is no more-likely to accept that in Venezuela than in Syria, where the US invasion-via-proxies continues. So, the US is now committed, in at least those two places, to regime-change, where Russia is less publicly and explicitly, but perhaps even more, committed to halt America’s aggressions.

donald trump twitterThe idea of the United States as a ‘policeman of the world’ has now become an insult to the United Nations and makes clear what John Bolton had meant when he said: "It is a big mistake for us to grant any validity to international law even when it may seem in our short-term interest to do so — because over the long term, the goal of those who think that international law really means anything are those who want to constrain the United States.”

Anyone today who supports the United States Government opposes the United Nations, and despises democracy — not only domestically, but especially internationally.

Mueller, Barr Reports

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Commentary: Barr may have been a subject of Mueller's investigation, Wayne Madsen, March 29, 2019 (subscription required).  Attorney General William Barr may have been a subject of Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian involvement in the 2016 Donald Trump campaign.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Everything hits the fan, Bill Palmer, March 29, 2019. Now that Donald Trump has placed most or all of his remaining chips down on the bet that he and William Barr can keep the Mueller report from becoming public, Trump should be worried. It’s a hand he can’t win – at least not for long. In the meantime, with mounting polling data showing that most Americans think Trump committed crimes, and that most Americans want to see the report, the question is this: why don’t the House Democrats do something?

bill palmer report logo headerThe short answer is that they simply don’t have a magic wand for making the Mueller report immediately appear before our eyes. They can subpoena the report, but Barr and his DOJ would fight that subpoena in court, and then we’d be left with some judge trying to decide how much of this report should become public. That process could take a long time. So this leaves House Democrats with two other options.

The first option is to subpoena Robert Mueller himself, so he can go before the cameras and testify about his investigation. But Barr and his DOJ would also fight this in court. Even if Mueller wants to come in and share every word of his report in front of the television cameras, it would still be up to a judge to decide how much Mueller is allowed to reveal. The second option is to subpoena Barr to testify, and use the hearing to try to trip up Barr into admitting the real reason he’s trying to suppress the report, as the entire nation looks on.

House Democrats have firmly established this Tuesday as Barr’s deadline for handing over the full Mueller report. Barr has already made clear that it’s not going to happen. So on Tuesday we’ll find out which strategy the Democrats are going to invoke in the name of forcing Barr’s hand. Based on the fierce words from the likes of Nancy Pelosi this week, expect the Democrats to move as aggressively as possible. Just keep in mind that while they have the upper hand, this is not a simple process.

March 28

Media Self-Censorship On 9-11

9 11 courthouse news suppresses court filing march 27 2019, Opinion: Courthouse News yanks article for its woefully fair and accurate coverage of 9/11 lawsuit, Ted Walter, March 28, 2019. If you had to pick one example to best encapsulate the mainstream media bias and censorship that have contributed significantly to suppressing the truth about 9/11 for nearly two decades, it would have to be the extraordinary actions of Courthouse News Service earlier this week.

The first extraordinary action came on March 26, 2019, when Courthouse News published the article “FBI Accused of Omitting Evidence From 9/11 Report,” which — to the astonishment of many — offered fair coverage of the lawsuit filed one day earlier by the Lawyers’ Committee for 9/11 Inquiry, Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth, and 9/11 family member Bob McIlvaine.

Barr Report / Mueller Report

william barr image by donkehotey dmca

Attorney General William P. Barr (image by Donkehotey via DCMA)

Palmer Report, Opinion: People who know Robert Mueller say they’re confused about what’s happening, Cheryl Kelley, March 28, 2019. James Comey, and just about everyone else who has worked with Robert Mueller, has been speaking out this week on the four-page Barr report. They all have the same reaction, utter confusion. So many things about the four-robert mueller full face filepage report are out of character for the way Mueller normally closes investigations.

First, no one can understand how or why Mueller (right) would shirk his prosecutorial responsibility to make a decision about obstruction of justice charges against Trump. Many people have pointed out that the point of having a Special Counsel is to take difficult decisions about an investigation out of the hands of political appointees. The Barr report implies that Mueller passed off this critical decision back to the very political appointees he was hired to keep out of the process.

bill palmer report logo headerAlso, too much was left undone, and it is specifically the heaviest lifts that Mueller seems to have passed along to others. Mueller’s team brought charges like perjury against multiple people. However, evidence in the public domain indicates there is enough evidence to bring similar charges against Don Jr, and Jared Kushner. To pass these cases to unknown prosecutors inside the DOJ, or to abandon them entirely, is surprising.

Mueller’s fine reputation, strength of character, and public attention provided him some level of protection against the enormous pressure that comes with filing charges against the children of the President of the United States. An unknown prosecutor deep inside DOJ could be admonished, reprimanded or fired without much media attention. As Special counsel, Robert Mueller had far more power to withstand the pressure than any prosecutor he would hand off his cases to.

nra logo CustomFinally, there still appear to be active cases involving Russian collusion. Maria Butina has not been sentenced because she is still cooperating. Presumably, her testimony is related to alleged Russian money that was given to the NRA and then to the RNC. Rick Gates is likewise still cooperating and presumably has information about the same financial transactions. There is also a second case against Roger Stone that was referenced in a court filing. This presumably has to do with his contacts with Wikileaks. This brings us to the accidentally leaked information about Julian Assange (shown in an image by The Indicter website) and the active criminal case against him. This julian assange indicter imagecase should involve Russian collusion.

Yet, because of the Barr memo, pundits everywhere are saying that Trump-Russia collusion is done and over. This just doesn’t make sense. None of it makes sense, and this week everyone who has worked with Robert Mueller is saying so. So, where is Mueller? If he has been misrepresented, why isn’t he speaking out yet? Something doesn’t add up, and sooner or later we are going to find out about it.

ny times logoNew York Times, Mueller Report Exceeds 300 Pages, Raising Questions About Four-Page Summary, Nicholas Fandos and Adam Goldman, March 28, 2019.  Attorney General William Barr shared his “principal conclusions” with Congress on Sunday, but had declined to disclose the report’s length.

The total of 300-plus pages suggests that Mr. Mueller went well beyond the kind of bare-bones summary required by the Justice Department regulation governing his appointment and detailed his conclusions at length. And it raises questions about what Mr. Barr might have left out of the four dense pages he sent Congress.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Belligerence, shamelessness and partisanship can take you far, Jamelle Bouie, March 28, 2019. Watergate, the modern template for an impeachment-worthy scandal, has informed much of the coverage of the Russia scandal, from congressional inquiries to the special counsel’s investigation into President Trump and his campaign. Central questions — Did the president conspire to illegally influence the election? Did he obstruct justice? — have clear antecedents in Watergate. And Trump himself bears more than a slight resemblance to Richard Nixon at his most paranoid and intransigent.

But while Trump’s belligerent and at times bizarre behavior may mirror that of his predecessor, he is operating in a vastly different political context than Nixon was in the 1970s. Then, the Republican Party had an influential moderate faction willing to work with Democrats. Now it’s synonymous with the right-wing. Then, fact-finding produced public consensus and eventually pushed Republicans to do the right thing. Now it heightens the partisan divide.

For this and other reasons, the Watergate example doesn’t fit the circumstances of the moment. But Iran-contra, the major scandal of the Reagan administration, does.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason the precise page count of the Robert Mueller report is so crucial, Bill Palmer, March 28, 2019. Even as Donald Trump’s handpicked Attorney General William Barr continues to try to convince us all that we only need to see his cartoonish four page “summary” of the Robert Mueller report, a free for all has broken out with regard to the Mueller report’s precise page count. Is it seven hundred pages? Is it a thousand pages? Believe it or not, the precise number of pages is going to end up mattering greatly.

bill palmer report logo headerThe back and forth began on Tuesday when Andrew Napolitano of Fox News kept referring to the Mueller report as being seven hundred pages long. This led to debate as to whether Napolitano knew something the rest of us didn’t, or if he was simply picking a number. In turn, the media ended up asking House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler if he knew how long the Mueller report was. He said that Barr did tell him the precise page length, but he wasn’t prepared to announce it yet. When a reporter asked Nadler if it was less than a thousand pages, Nadler said yes. So why does this matter?

In the broadest terms, the length of the Mueller report is important because it tells us how much dirt Mueller found. If his entire report for his two-year investigation is very short, let’s say twenty-five pages, it would suggest he didn’t find all that much. But if Mueller’s report is hundreds and hundreds of pages long, it would suggest that he found a whole lot of ugly details. But in the more narrow sense, does it matter if the report is 700 pages long vs 1000 pages long? Actually, yes.

Rights Report: U.S. Privacy

Politico, Watchdog report critiques DEA program Barr approved 27 years ago, Josh Gerstein, March 28, 2019. It's been just six weeks since Attorney General William Barr was sworn in, but the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General has already issued a report slamming a program Barr created. On Thursday, the department's main in-house watchdog publicly released a long-awaited review of the Drug Enforcement Agency's use of bulk collection of telephone-call data — a practice similar to the National Security Agency snooping program revealed in 2013 by contractor Edward Snowden.

Mentioned in passing in the 144-page report and again in a timeline at the end of the document is the identity of the official who approved creation of the DEA's first bulk-collection program back in January 1992: the attorney general at the time, Barr.

The OIG report doesn't criticize Barr directly, but says investigators found little evidence of a thorough legal review of the secretive program at its outset. Most of the report's focus is on how the program evolved and expanded over time, with other law enforcement agencies being approved in 2006 to use the telephone call metadata in connection with cases having little or nothing to do with drugs.

"There were significant legal issues raised by the DEA's use of 'exploratory subpoenas' that warranted a careful examination, and ... this did not occur," the report says.

The bulk-collection program was halted by the Obama Administration in 2013 following the Snowden revelations. The OIG report says a similar effort to identify telephone calls related to international drug trafficking is now conducted by DEA by querying data stored by private companies, rather than by putting large sets of data in government databases.

Curiously, just last Friday — hours before receiving Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report — Barr traveled to a DEA office near Dulles Airport that houses the unit which handled the telephone data collection: the Special Operations Division. The briefing was closed to reporters, but the DEA did tweet out a picture of Barr flanked by DEA Administrator Uttam Dhillon and FBI Director Christopher Wray.

In letters accompanying the report, officials at the Justice Department and the DEA said they agreed with the OIG's recommendations. But, in keeping with the secrecy surrounding the underlying program, the full text of ten of the watchdog's 16 proposals were blacked out.

Rights Report: U.S.-Controlled 'Concentration Camp?'

Mint Press via SouthFront, Analysis, Syria’s Rukban Now Little More Than a US-Controlled Concentration Camp – and the Pentagon Won’t Let Refugees Leave, Whitney Webb, MNarch 28, 2019. A concentration camp is defined as “a place where large numbers of people are kept as prisoners in extremely bad conditions, especially for political reasons.” It is undeniable that the Rukban camp fits this definition to the letter.

The unofficial Rukban camp for displaced Syrians, between the Jordan and Syria borders, Feb. 14, 2017. Raad Adayleh | AP

The United States military has rejected offers to resolve the growing humanitarian crisis in the Rukban refugee camp in Syria, which sits inside a 55 km zone occupied by the U.S. along the Syria-Jordan border. The U.S. has also refused to let any of the estimated 40,000 refugees — the majority of which are women and children — leave the camp voluntarily, even though children are dying in droves from lack of food, adequate shelter and medical care. The U.S. has also not provided humanitarian aid to the camp even though a U.S. military base is located just 20 km (12.4 miles) away.

The growing desperation inside the Rukban camp has received sparse media coverage, likely because of the U.S.’ control over the area in which the camp is located. The U.S. has been accused of refusing to let civilians leave the area — even though nearly all have expressed a desire to either return to Syrian government-held territory or seek refuge in neighboring countries such as Turkey — because the camp’s presence helps to justify the U.S.’ illegal occupation of the area.

Though the U.S. has long justified its presence in al-Tanf as necessary to defeat Daesh (ISIS), the U.S. government has also acknowledged that al-Tanf’s true strategic importance lies in U.S. efforts to “contain” Iran by blocking a connection from Iran to Syria through Iraq.

U.S. Politics

washington post logojennifer rubin new headshotWashington Post, Opinion: This is the toxic Trump for Democrats to clobber in 2020, Jennifer Rubin, right, March 28, 2019. President Trump’s rallies have always been a peek into his unhinged, angry soul — confirmation that he operates outside the bounds of civilized behavior and rationality. His Michigan performance on Thursday might have been his worst to date, but he’s certainly getting worse with time.

Trump is now consumed with vengeance and fury, convinced (without actually seeing special Robert S. Mueller III’s report) that it provides complete exoneration. The part wherein Mueller says he does not exonerate Trump of obstruction and news that Mueller compiled hundreds of pages of evidence aren’t going to slow him or his sycophantic chorus down.

“After three years of lies and smears and slander, the Russia hoax is finally dead,” Mr. Trump declared. “The collusion delusion is over.”

In his first rally since the end of the 22-month investigation, the president gleefully disregarded the old saw about revenge being a dish best served cold. He came onstage hot and served up one scorching zinger after another, taking particular delight in ridiculing Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, who oversees the House Intelligence Committee, and other Democrats who have led calls to investigate Mr. Trump. ...

Mr. Trump has always peppered his speeches with “hells” and “damns,” but on Thursday, he crossed the line into cruder language.

In vilifying his opponents, Mr. Trump was not troubled by the fact that the 300-plus-page report by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, has yet to be released, or that Attorney General William P. Barr, in his summary of Mr. Mueller’s findings, stipulated that the report did not exonerate the president, even if it did not find him guilty of conspiracy or of obstructing justice.

He mocked asylum seekers, scorned the media and insisted he was smarter and richer than his opponents. That’s odd, since he has gone to such lengths to hide his grades and his tax returns. His speech was littered with lies, about everything from the auto industry (no, car manufacturers are not pouring into the United States) to purported improvements to the Department of Veterans Affairs to his fanciful assertion he has a better health plan than Obamacare.

TrMedia / Fake News

washington post logoWashington Post, NRA officer enlisted a Sandy Hook truther to sow doubt about Parkland shooting, emails show, Isaac Stanley-Becker, March 28, 2019. In the week after a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., killing 17 students and staff members and renewing calls for gun control, the National Rifle Association fell silent.

nra logo CustomBut the day after the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting, an NRA training coordinator and range safety officer based at the group’s headquarters in Fairfax, Va., sprang into action behind the scenes. He sought information countering the official version of the grisly, and familiar, events, which involved a lone gunman and a legally purchased firearm.

For support, he turned to Wolfgang Halbig, a conspiracy theorist intent on proving that the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which left 26 students and staff members dead in Newtown, Conn., was a hoax.

“You have included me with a lot of Information since the Sandy Hook Incident and I do appreciate it very much,” the NRA coordinator, Mark Richardson, wrote on Feb. 15, 2018, according to emails published by HuffPost on Wednesday. “Concerning what happened in Florida yesterday, I have been asking the question and no one else seems to be asking it.”

He pushed the deluded idea that the gunman, a former student at the school, had not acted alone, posing questions about how he had gained entry and where he had kept his equipment.

“To pull the fire alarm, he had to already be inside. Correct?” he wrote. “When my Children were in school the only way into the school was through the front door and past the main office.”

As with Sandy Hook, Richardson observed, “There is so much more to this story. He was not alone.”

Halbig, a former Florida state trooper and school administrator, replied the following day, inviting Richardson to call him to discuss the incident.

The subject line of his emailed response included, in all caps, the name Avielle Richman, one of the 20 students killed in Newtown. For years, Halbig has accused Richman’s parents of falsifying the first-grade girl’s death, writing on his website that their intention was “to steal money from hard-working Americans.”

More Brexit Fallout

ny times logoTheresa May official photoNew York Times, Theresa May Put Her Head on the Block for Her Brexit Deal. It Might Not Be Enough, Ellen Barry, March 28, 2019. Britain paused for a moment on Wednesday evening, when word emerged from inside a committee room: Theresa May had given up. he prime minister made one final gamble, offering to resign in exchange for the votes to get her Brexit deal over the line.

Inside DC

ny times logoNew York Times, New York Sues Sackler Family Members and Drug Distributors, Roni Caryn Rabin, March 28, 2019. New York State laid out one of the most detailed legal cases yet against the owners of Purdue Pharma, the maker of the opioid OxyContin, and distributors. The lawsuit offers details on methods allegedly used to the flood the market with opioids, fueling an epidemic.

 ny times logofacebook logoNew York Times, U.S. Sues Facebook for Housing Bias, Citing Ad and Data Practices, Katie Benner, March 28, 2019. Facebook was sued by the U.S. government for engaging in discrimination by targeting housing-related ads based on race and religion. The suit also claims that the company uses its data-mining practices to determine which of its users are able to view housing-related ads.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s war on Adam Schiff goes completely off the rails, Isabel Stamm, March 28, 2019. In another one of his notorious early morning tweeting sessions, the sitting U.S. president used his personal Twitter account to call for the forced resignation of the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee: “Congressman Adam Schiff, who spent two years knowingly and unlawfully lying and leaking, should be forced to resign from Congress!”

bill palmer report logo headerLater in the day, there was a highly contentious House Intelligence Committee hearing, during which nine Republican lawmakers chose to do Donald Trump’s bidding and presented a letter asking for Chairman Adam Schiff’s resignation. GOP Congressman Mike Conaway accused Schiff of continuously promoting a “demonstrably false narrative” and stated that he and his Republican colleagues have “no faith in [Schiff’s] ability to discharge [his] duty.”

Schiff in turn countered the accusations with a fiery speech, concisely laying out various ways in which Donald Trump and his campaign were compromised by Russian government surrogates who were involved in trying to influence the U.S. presidential election. The chairman called out the Trump campaign’s activities as immoral, unethical, unpatriotic and corrupt. He warned that the day Americans accepted this conduct would be “the day we will look back and say that is the day that America lost its way.”

Trump also used his favorite propaganda network Fox News, and called into Sean Hannity’s show on Wednesday night. He called Congressman Schiff “a bad guy” and “a disgrace to our country” and accused him of knowingly promoting a lie. At one point, Trump suggested that “in one way, you could say it’s a crime what he did” and concluded that Schiff “should be forced out of office.”

Anyone with at least a basic understanding of how things work in the American government with its system of checks and balances will be well aware that the president can’t get rid of a member of Congress via Twitter, or by calling for his ouster on the Sean Hannity show. Unfortunately, we can’t be sure that hardcore fans of Donald Trump and Sean Hannity fall into this category. What Trump did here is truly unprecedented and outrageous and it is fueling fires that are already burning dangerously strong. He needs to be stopped. The sooner, the better.

March 27

U.S. Politics: Health Care

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump surprises Republicans, pleases Democrats with push for health-care battle, Toluse Olorunnipa and Seung Min Kim, March 27, 2019 (print ed.). A surprise move by the Trump administration aimed at striking down the Affordable Care Act thrust the partisan battle over health care into the middle of the 2020 campaign on Tuesday, handing Democrats a potential political gift on an issue that damaged Republicans badly in last year’s midterm elections.

republican elephant logoIn a new court filing, the Justice Department (under President Trump's new Attorney General William Barr) argued that the ACA, also known as Obamacare, should be thrown out in its entirety, including provisions protecting millions of Americans with preexisting health conditions and allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ health-care plans.

President Trump praised the move during a lunch with Senate Republicans, and suggested the GOP should embrace a new congressional battle over health-care policy ahead of the 2020 elections.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Why Trump’s New Push to Kill Obamacare Is So Alarming, Nicholas Bagley (professor of law at the University of Michigan Law School), March 27, 2019. It’s not just the potential damage to the health care system and the people who depend on it. It’s also the threat, in the administration’s legal logic, to the rule of law. Attorney General William Barr was supposed to be a voice of reason in the Trump administration.

An old Washington hand, he had the stature and the backbone to protect the Justice Department from a White House that often seems to disdain the rule of law. Turns out it isn’t so.

In a stunning two-sentence letter to a federal appeals court, the Justice Department announced on Monday that it would now seek the invalidation of the entire Affordable Care Act — every last one of its thousands of provisions.

The irresponsibility of this new legal position is hard to overstate. It’s a shocking dereliction of the Justice Department’s duty, embraced by Republican and Democratic administrations alike, to defend acts of Congress if any plausible argument can be made in their defense.

Nor is the Affordable Care Act some minor statute that can be shoved aside without disruption. It is now part of the basic plumbing of the American health care system. It guarantees protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions. It expanded Medicaid to cover 12.6 million more people, and it offers crucial protections to the 156 million Americans who get insurance through employers.

bill palmerPalmer Report, Opinion: William Barr is playing an even more dangerous game than we thought, Bill Palmer, March 27, 2019. Donald Trump’s handpicked new Attorney General William Barr showed us exactly who he is when he issued a “summary” of the Robert Mueller report that’s quickly being exposed as a fraud and a coverup. But it turns out Barr is even more dangerous, and more devious than we thought – and he appears to be playing for Team Barr even more so than Team Trump.

Immediately after William Barr offered Donald Trump a temporary reprieve from his dying presidency, Trump turned around and made the most nihilistic move he could think of: he instructed Barr’s Department of Justice to take the legal position that the Affordable Care bill palmer report logo headerAct should be struck down entirely.

If this effort succeeds, tens of millions of people will lose their health insurance, and the entire American health care system could collapse. Trump clearly wants to destroy President Obama’s legacy just that badly, or he wants revenge on America in general, or something. But it’s Barr who’s playing the most dangerous game here.

Last night, Politico reported that William Barr actually opposes the move to end Obamacare, and fought against it, but Donald Trump ordered him to do it anyway. Here’s the thing about this report: no way on earth would this information surface unless Barr wanted it out there. He has to have indirectly fed this to the media. So what’s he doing?

Barr just publicly threw Trump under the bus on the Obamacare move. Because Trump is so insulated from real news sources, he’ll probably never even hear that Barr sold him out on this. Barr – if anyone actually falls for this – gets to be seen as the guy who wished he could save everyone’s health care.

It’s a matter of time before Barr’s hand is forced on the Mueller report. Is Barr planning to feed Trump to the wolves on that too, while trying to paint himself as the hero is the matter? Is Barr trying to set himself up to be even more powerful if Trump is ousted? This keeps getting more grotesque, and more complicated.

Barr / Mueller Reports

george conway twitterwashington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump is guilty — of being unfit for office, George T. Conway III (right, a New York lawyer who is married to President Trump's senior counselor Kellyanne Conway), March 27, 2019 (print ed.). Very little was surprising about the conclusion of the special counsel’s investigation. For one thing, it wasn’t surprising that Robert S. Mueller III’s probe prompted great commotion — a federal investigation involving a sitting president is a momentous event, and concluding it, a historic moment.

And most, but not all, of the details in the attorney general’s letter of “principal conclusions” were unsurprising as well.

Let’s start with question of “collusion.” It was never precisely clear what that nonlegal concept meant. If it means what Mueller reasonably took it to mean — an “agreement,” “tacit or express,” with the Russians to interfere with the 2016 presidential election, or, in effect, a conspiracy with the Russians — then it was always virtually unimaginable that collusion, so defined, would ever be found. Russian agents didn’t need Americans to help them do what they were doing — hacking and posting disinformation. If anything, involving Americans, including some apparently blockish ones, could only have fouled up their plans. “Collusion” — or, rather, “no collusion” — was bound to become a straw man for President Trump and his supporters to knock down with glee.

Yet that hardly means that the investigation (which, thanks to Paul Manafort’s largesse, actually turned a neat profit) was either a “witch hunt” or a waste of time. After all, it was a counterintelligence investigation as well as a criminal probe. A core objective — the overarching one, really — was to find out exactly what the Russians were doing. Another was to find out whether there were “links” between the Trump campaign and Russia’s activities.

As matters turned out, and quite surprisingly, we now know from public sources that there were links aplenty. So who knows what we might learn on these subjects from Mueller’s still-unreleased report? As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Monday, “Russia’s ongoing efforts to interfere with our democracy are dangerous and disturbing.” He added that he would “welcome” the special counsel’s contributions toward understanding them.

Venezuelan Crisis

SouthFront, Analysis: Russian Special Forces And Cybersecurity Personnel Are Deployed In Venezuela: Report, Staff report, March 27, 2018. A recent visit of the Russian military delegation to Venezuela has already caused significant jitters in the mainstream media.

Now, ‘anonymous’ sources are claiming that the Russian military contingent, which is allegedly deployed in Venezuela, consists of special forces, including “cybersecurity personnel.”

Inside DC: Education

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Five Trump trips to Mar-a-Lago would cover Betsy Devos’s proposed Special Olympics cuts, Philip Bump, March 27, 2019. DeVos grilled over proposed cuts to Special Olympics: 'Why are we cutting all of these programs?'  It’s not Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s fault that her department has to cut its budget. That’s a mandate coming down from her boss, President Trump.

But DeVos is the one to make specific recommendations about where those cuts should be made. On Tuesday, she appeared on Capitol Hill to defend them — including canceling out federal funding for the Special Olympics in next year’s budget.

“We had to make some difficult decisions with this budget,” DeVos told legislators, in defense of her proposals.

It’s worth putting those difficult decisions in context.

The Education Department budgeted $17,583,000 for the Special Olympics this fiscal year, an amount that obviously exceeds the average American’s annual income. It’s also an amount that constitutes about a tenth of the Special Olympics’ total budget.

Last month, we reported on new data from the Government Accountability Office which determined that Trump’s trips to his private club in Florida cost taxpayers about $3.4 million apiece, largely as a function of transporting the president and support material to the state.

Media / Deep State

ken silversteinWashington Babylon, Investigative Commentary: Is The Intercept An Intelligence Operation? An Ongoing Inquiry, Ken Silverstein (right), March 28, 2019. Washington Babylon has been running a number of stories this week by Tim Shorrock and I which raise the possibility — mine did directly — that Pierre Omidyar’s The Intercept (TI) is an intelligence operation, working in collaboration with the U.S. and/or a foreign government. I understand why some readers might be skeptical of that charge, so let me lay out here some additional information and why I think everyone should be open-minded about the topic.

Let me also say that I don’t have 100 percent proof that TI was and is an intelligence operation, but the preponderance of evidence points that way. And I’m accumulating more evidence every day that makes the case even more compelling.

Before going further, here is a brief, lightly edited excerpt from the first story I ran on this topic. I urge all genuinely interested parties to read the entire story, before or after finishing this one.

Did Omidyar set up The Intercept on behalf of U.S. intelligence, in order to entrap, expose and prosecute whistleblowers? It’s curious: Greenwald was Omidyar’s first hire and he had pretty much exclusive access to Edward Snowden’s NSA treasure trove. When I worked at TI, the Snowden archive was locked in a safe. Omidyar and Greenwald long promised they would make it all available to the public but they never did, and last week, amid staff cuts that will inevitably lead to Omidyar killing the publication, TI announced that the Snowden archive will be sealed off from the public for an undetermined amount of time. So it looks like the most explosive leak in U.S. intelligence history will end up being buried by Omidyar and Greenwald.

I briefly noted in that story that I had previously worked at TI, being one of the first hires in 2014. I quit in disgust in early 2015 and wrote about my experience for Politico.

Back then, I didn’t suspect anything nefarious. I merely thought TI was experiencing a lot of the same problems any web start up would face. I remember joking with colleagues that by hiring so many left-leaning writers and paying them so much money to effectively not write — my two best stories for TI ended up in VICE — Omidyar had effectively decommissioned half of progressive journalism in the country. (Recall here Omidyar is a tech oligarch with rich ties to Silicon Valley, which in turn has deep links to U.S. and foreign intelligence agencies.)

But looking back, I have to wonder: was it merely incompetence and standard problems faced by start ups that kept TI from publishing much, or was it something worse?

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, ‘Tricky Dick’: Behind the Prevailing Myth, There’s Another Story, Staff Report, March 27, 2019. A new CNN four-part original series on the fall of President richard nixon portraitRichard M. Nixon — Tricky Dick — had its premiere March 17. Its makers promise “fresh insight into a riveting story of politics, power and scandal.”

Frankly, we doubt it. While we believe that most journalists do their level best to tell the truth as they understand it, major news organizations have tended to be corporations participating in the creation of a consensus narrative. It has been the case regardless of topic, and it was no different with the stories we are told about Richard Nixon and his downfall.

The story everyone heard was the one we all remember: Nixon (right) was a bad guy who committed a range of abuses, and paid the price. The heroes were the media and Congress. Russ Baker, founder of WhoWhatWhy, grew up believing that story. He believed it until his own research proved russ bakerotherwise: that Richard Nixon, for all his flaws, was not the architect of Watergate, but the victim of it.

And then Baker, left, stuck to his guns, telling a story that unsettled him deeply but was what he had uncovered. Because that is what an honest journalist does. It is what WhoWhatWhy does.

CNN will tell us a story that is entirely consistent with the prevailing myth, perhaps because its journalists only know the conventional story, but also perhaps in part because it is extremely risky — financially, professionally, in every respect — to break from the crowd.

To learn something with much more “fresh insight” than you will find in Tricky Dick, read on.

 JFK Death Aftermath

charles thomas cynthia thomas child courtesy of cynthia thomas

Charles and Cynthia Thomas with one of their children (Credit: Cynthia Thomas)

jefferson morley, Commentary: The Man Who Asked Too Many JFK Questions, Jeff Morley, March 27, 2019. The late Charles Thomas belonged to an exclusive, unhappy and forgotten club: U.S. government officials whose efforts to honestly investigate the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 cost them their jobs and reputations.

Last week the Washington Post ran an obituary of Cynthia Thomas, the widow of Charles Thomas. It was an unusual tribute. The Washington Post now acknowledges that there are good and solid reasons for perfectly sane people to reject the U.S. government’s implausible and widely disbelieved official theory that a “lone gunman” killed JFK for no discernible reason.

This is a welcome and overdue development, as the facts of Thomas’s tragic story attest.

Thomas, a Foreign Service officer, was stationed in Mexico from 1964 to 1967. In the course of his consular duties, Thomas gathered first-hand information from credible sources about the visit of accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald to Mexico City six weeks before JFK’s assassination. Thomas assumed that the CIA and FBI would be interested in his new evidence. He assumed wrong.

In fact, Thomas was punished for asking questions about JFK’s assassination. Despite glowing job recommendations, he was inexplicably dismissed from the Foreign Service in 1969. “It was nonsensical,” Cynthia Thomas told a reporter, “Charles was the best sort of American diplomat.”

Two years later, Charles Thomas put a gun to his right temple in the second-floor bathroom of the couple’s home in northwest Washington and pulled the trigger.

March 26

Barr, Mueller Reports

william barr letter mueller report

washington post logoWashington Post, Dispute erupts over Mueller’s findings, Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett, Carol D. Leonnig and John Wagner, March 26, 2019 (print ed.). The top two Justice Department officials determined that evidence was insufficient to allege President Trump had obstructed justice, sparking concerns that they rushed to a judgment no one asked them to make.

washington post logoWashington Post, With probe over, Trump and his allies switch from defense to bruising offense, Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey, March 26, 2019 (print ed.). Relief turned into defiant glee as the president and his allies realized they could wield the broad findings of the Mueller probe as a political cudgel.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: William Barr: Cover-up and pardon maestro, Wayne Madsen, March 26, 2019 (subscription lawrence walshrequired). Attorney General William Barr, holding the same job he held during the presidency of George H. W. Bush, was hired for his first term as America’s chief law enforcement official because he was known as a consummate cover-up artist and clean-up man.

Much can be determined about Barr’s commitment to transparency and full disclosure from an individual who bore some of the same responsibilities as Special Counsel Robert Mueller. That person was Lawrence Walsh, a lifelong Republican who had served as a judge on the federal bench for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York and as Deputy Attorney under President Dwight Eisenhower.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: No Coordination. Lots of Corruption, Michelle Goldberg, March 26, 2019 (print ed.). The Mueller investigation michelle goldberg thumbis over, and the only people close to Donald Trump who have been criminally charged are his former campaign chairman, former deputy campaign chairman, former personal lawyer, former national security adviser, former campaign foreign policy adviser and Roger Stone, the president’s longtime friend and strategist.

The report written by the special counsel Robert Mueller (shown below), according to a quotation in a brief summary issued by Attorney General William Barr, says that “while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” Naturally, the president and his allies are claiming, as one of Trump’s tweets said, “Complete and Total EXONERATION.”

robert mueller full face fileI won’t pretend that the weekend’s news was not very good for Trump and dispiriting for those of us who despise him. Whatever else is in the Mueller report, it says, according to Barr, that the investigation “did not establish” that anyone from the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its 2016 election interference. The overtures we all know about — the Trump Tower meeting, Trump’s public call for Russia to obtain Hillary Clinton’s emails, which Russian hackers tried to do that very day — were not part of a crime, or at least not part of a crime that the special counsel could prove.

Until the Mueller report is publicly released, however, it’s impossible to tell how much of Trump’s victory is substantive and how much is spin. The report, evidently, leaves open the question of whether Trump obstructed justice.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump is off to the races, Bill Palmer, March 26, 2019. Now that Donald Trump’s newly handpicked Attorney General William Barr has falsely spun the still-secret Robert Mueller report in pro-Trump fashion, and a number of major news outlets have played along by falsely reporting Barr’s words as if they were Mueller’s words, Donald Trump has decided that he’s been fully exonerated. More to the point, he clearly feels emboldened – and he’s moving in a dangerously ugly direction at rapid speed.

bill palmer report logo headerIn the day and a half since Donald Trump falsely announced that he’s been exonerated, his Department of Justice has suddenly announced that it’ll go into court to try to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. Trump’s Pentagon has suddenly announced that it’s found $1 billion for Trump to begin building his border wall. Trump’s campaign has given TV news networks a list of people who are supposed to be banned from the air. His flunky Lindsey Graham just announced that he’ll seek a new Special Counsel to investigate Hillary Clinton. And Trump tweeted last night about his desire to have President Obama investigated for some gibberish or other.

Many or even most of these moves will either fall flat of their own accord, be defeated in court, or end up backfiring. But this is where Donald Trump’s head is at now. He’s been falsely, temporarily given a reprieve. Instead of using this window of opportunity to try to make something of his failed presidency, he’s decided to use it to pander to his base and seek petty revenge on those who have dared to expose his corruption. It’s as if Trump has decided to try to prove to mainstream Americans that he’s every bit as awful as they’ve always believed.

What’s not clear is if Donald Trump truly thinks that William Barr’s cartoonish stunt has actually gotten him off the hook for his endless list of criminal scandals, or if Trump understands that Mueller’s report will surface and destroy him eventually. If it’s the latter, Trump may be trying to finish off America with the finite window of time he has left. House Democrats will have their hands on the Mueller report before much longer, because they’ve never had a larger priority. These next weeks may be among the most important – and perilous – in American history.

OpEdNews, Opinion: Has "Cover-Up General" William Barr Struck Again? Thom Hartmann, March 26, 2019. Barr's history of helping Republican presidents in legal crises may explain why Trump brought him back in to head the Justice Department

Back in 1992, the last time Bill Barr was U.S. attorney general, iconic New York Times writer William Safire referred to him as "Coverup-General Barr" because of his role in burying evidence of then-President George H.W. Bush's involvement in "Iraqgate" and "Iron-Contra."

General Barr has struck again -- this time, in similar fashion, burying Mueller's report and cherry-picking fragments of sentences from it to justify Trump's behavior. In his letter, he notes that Robert Mueller "leaves it to the attorney general to decide whether the conduct described in the report constitutes a crime."

As attorney general, Barr -- without showing us even a single complete sentence from the Mueller report -- decided there are no crimes here. Just keep moving along.

Barr's history of doing just this sort of thing to help Republican presidents in legal crises explains why Trump brought him back in to head the Justice Department.

Christmas day of 1992, the New York Times featured a screaming all-caps headline across the top of its front page: Attorney General Bill Barr had covered up evidence of crimes by Reagan and Bush in the Iran-Contra scandal.
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Earlier that week of Christmas, 1992, George H.W. Bush was on his way out of office. Bill Clinton had won the White House the month before, and in a few weeks would be sworn in as president.

But Bush's biggest concern wasn't that he'd have to leave the White House to retire back to Connecticut, Maine, or Texas (where he had homes) but, rather, that he may end up embroiled even deeper in Iran-Contra and that his colleagues may face time in a federal prison after he left office.

Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh was closing in fast on him, and Bush's private records, subpoenaed by the independent counsel's office, were the key to it all.

Walsh had been appointed independent counsel in 1986 to investigate the Iran-Contra activities of the Reagan administration and determine if crimes had been committed.

Was the Iran-Contra criminal conspiracy limited, as Reagan and Bush insisted (and Reagan confessed on TV), to later years in the Reagan presidency, in response to a hostage-taking in Lebanon? Or had it started in the 1980 campaign with collusion with the Iranians, as the then-president of Iran asserted? Who knew what, and when? And what was George H.W. Bush's role in it all?

Walsh had zeroed in on documents that were in the possession of Reagan's former defense secretary, Caspar Weinberger, who all the evidence showed was definitely in on the deal, and President Bush's diary that could corroborate it. Elliott Abrams had already been convicted of withholding evidence from Congress, and he may have even more information, too, if it could be pried out of him before he went to prison. But Abrams was keeping mum, apparently anticipating a pardon.

GOP Fails To Support House Budget Power

Roll Call, House fails to override Trump’s veto of border emergency resolution, Lindsey McPherson, March 26, 2019. The House on Tuesday failed to override President Donald Trump’s veto of a resolution that would have terminated his declaration of a national emergency at the southern U.S. border, leaving the matter to federal courts where several lawsuits challenging the decision have been filed.

A veto override requires two-thirds support, and the House vote fell short, 248-181. Only 14 Republicans voted with their Democratic counterparts to override the veto.

Trump plans to use the national emergency as justification to transfer $3.6 billion in military construction funds to projects expanding physical barriers along the southern U.S. border. Most Republicans, despite concerns about the separate powers of the legislative and executive branches, supported the president’s emergency declaration.

U.S. Courts, Politics, Crime

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court Set to Again Weigh Voting Maps Warped by Politics, Adam Liptak, March 26, 2019. The justices will consider whether drawing election maps to help the party in power can violate the Constitution. It is the second time in two years the issue of partisan gerrymandering is being considered. It was left undecided last term.

ny times logomichael avenatti twitterNew York Times, Michael Avenatti Is Accused in Nike Extortion Attempt, Marc Tracy, Kevin Draper and Rebecca R. Ruiz, March 26, 2019 (print ed.). Michael Avenatti (shown in his Twitter photo), the lawyer known for representing Stormy Daniels, was accused of trying to extort millions from Nike.

washington post logoWashington Post, Obama cautions freshman House Democrats about the price tag of liberal policies, Rachael Bade, March 26, 2019. Former president Barack Obama gently warned a group of freshman House Democrats Monday evening about the costs associated with some liberal ideas popular in their ranks, encouraging members to look at price tags, according to people in the room.

Obama didn’t name specific policies. And to be sure, he encouraged the lawmakers — about half-dozen of whom worked in his own administration — to continue to pursue “bold” ideas as they shaped legislation during their first year in the House.

But some people in the room took his words as a cautionary note about Medicare-for-all and the Green New Deal, two liberal ideas popularized by a few of the more famous House freshmen, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

jussie smollett mugshotwashington post logoWashington Post, Charges dropped against Jussie Smollett, who says he has ‘been truthful and consistent,’ Bethonie Butler and Elahe Izadi, March 26, 2019. The “Empire” actor (shown at right) made an emergency court appearance Tuesday. He was indicted earlier this month for allegedly lying to Chicago police about a hate-crime attack.

Flight Safety

ny times logoNew York Times, In Boeing Jet Test, Pilots Had 40 Seconds to Avert Crash, Jack Nicas, James Glanz and David Gelles, boeing logoMarch 26, 2019 (print ed.). Pilots’ simulations of the doomed Lion Air flight revealed that a Boeing system left little room for error. Investigators are trying to determine what went wrong in the Lion Air disaster in October and the Ethiopian Airlines crash this month.

U.S. Health Care

washington post logohealth and human services logoWashington Post, Justice Department tells court it backs a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act, Isaac Stanley-Becker, March 26, 2019 (print ed.). The Trump administration said in a legal filing that it now supports a federal judge’s ruling that the entire Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional and should be invalidated.

washington post logoWashington Post, Women who say they were sickened by breast implants demand FDA action, Laurie McGinley, March 26, 2019 (print ed.). Telling stories about poor health, disrupted families and lost careers, women urged an advisory panel to recommend long-term research, bans or restrictions on certain products.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump complains to senators that Puerto Rico is getting too much hurricane relief funding, Seung Min Kim, Josh Dawsey and Paul Kane​, March 26, 2019. President Trump has asked advisers how to reduce money for the island and signaled that he won’t support any more aid beyond food stamp funds.

Related story: Washington Post, HUD inspector general to look into whether White House interfered with Puerto Rico disaster aid.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Maxine Waters reveals she has Donald Trump’s Deutsche Bank records, Bill Palmer, March 26, 2019. Even as deutsche bank logoDonald Trump and his newly handpicked Attorney General William Barr continue to try to cover up what’s really in the Robert Mueller report, we don’t know what is or is not in the report when it comes to Trump’s suspicious financial relationship with Deutsche Bank. Now it turns out we won’t have to wait until the Mueller report finally surfaces to get answers on that particular topic.

bill palmer report logo headerHouse Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters publicly hinted in recent weeks that Deutsche Bank has begun cooperating with her demands for Donald Trump’s banking records. Today, Waters told reporters that the bank has in fact begun giving her Trump’s records. It’s not difficult to figure out why Deutsche Bank has begun cooperating: Waters has subpoena power, thanks to the new Democratic House majority, and she can force their hand anyway.

Global News: Syria

washington post logosyrian flag wavingWashington Post, Assad loyalists are turning on Syria’s government as living standards deteriorate, Liz Sly, March 26, 2019 (print ed.). For the first time, those living in the pro-government areas that were spared the worst are experiencing some of the harshest deprivations, including in the capital, Damascus.

Israel's Rise

Consortium News, Opinion: How the Israel Lobby Got its Start, Walter Hixon, March 26, 2019. As the annual AIPAC conference wraps up in Washington on Tuesday, historian Walter Hixon looked back on the Israel Lobby’s origins in this speech last Friday to the “Israel Lobby & American Policy Conference” at the National Press Club.

This conference speaks truth to power. We gather here because we support truth and justice in Palestine. We also insist on a free and open discussion of the Israel lobby and its impact on American democracy and world politics.

Global News: Venezuela

washington post logoWashington Post, Pompeo warns Russia about its military presence in Venezuela, Karen DeYoung, March 26, 2019 (print ed.). mike pompeo portraitSecretary of State Mike Pompeo (right) told his Russian counterpart Monday that the United States “will not stand idly by” if Russia continues to send military personnel to Venezuela to prop up President Nicolás Maduro, the State Department said.

Pompeo’s telephone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov followed weekend reports that at least two Russian air force planes carrying a senior defense official and about 100 troops landed at Venezuela’s main airport Saturday.

venezuela flag waving customThe United States and dozens of other countries in January recognized Juan Guaidó, the head of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly, as interim president, but Maduro has managed to hold on to power.

U.S. frustration with the situation has grown as efforts to persuade the Venezuelan military to switch sides and support Guaidó have produced few results, even as thousands of anti-Maduro protesters have taken to the streets amid severe shortages of food, water and medical care.

March 25

Barr-Mueller Reports

 william barr letter mueller report

washington post logoWashington Post, Attorney general: Mueller does not find that Trump campaign conspired with Russia, Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky​, March 25, 2019 (print ed.). Special counsel ‘did not draw a conclusion . . . as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction,’ william barr new oBarr says.

A summary of Robert S. Mueller III’s findings was sent to lawmakers. On the question of whether the president might have sought to obstruct the high-profile investigation, “the Special Counsel states that ‘while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him’,” the attorney general (right) said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Read: Attorney general’s principal conclusions of the Mueller report, March 25, 2019 (print ed.). Photos: Mueller in Washington after delivering his report.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Declares Victory and Attacks Rivals, March 25, 2019 (print ed.). Mr. Trump, who learned about the findings on Sunday, falsely said that the report exonerated him.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats ‘absolutely’ willing to head to Supreme Court to release full report, Nadler says, Felicia Sonmez, Rachael Bade, Paul Kane and Paul Sonne, March 25, 2019 (print ed.). Lawmakers say it is too early to raise the specter of impeachment but suggested they are keeping their options open.

 rachel maddow lawrence odonnell

Palmer Report, Opinion: Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell just provided a roadmap for defeating the Trump-Barr coverup, Bill Palmer, March 25, 2019. Just what is it in the Mueller report that Donald Trump and his newly handpicked Attorney General William Barr are conspiring to hide? Whatever it is, they’re doing a fairly amateur job of trying to cover it up, thanks to Barr’s almost comically glowing “summary” of the report. The real question is what we, as a nation, do next to help justice prevail. Fortunately, we just got it handed to us.

bill palmer report logo headerIn the thirty hours since William Barr released his faux-summary, large chunks of the media have been repeating Barr’s words as if they were reliable, with many headlines even going so far as to falsely claim that Barr’s words were Mueller’s words. This has been nothing short of journalistic malpractice on a stunning level. Fortunately, on Monday night, cooler and smarter heads began to prevail. That’s when, after a painfully inept stretch for the media in general, Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell (shown above) returned to the air.

Maddow started off by using her Monday night show to lay out fifteen questions about what’s really going on here. She used these questions to spell out in detail why Barr’s “summary” and his actions are extraordinarily suspicious, and what Robert Mueller might have really been trying to do when Barr hijacked things from him. If you haven’t yet watched it, you should. For that matter, so should every political journalist and analyst out there who has been botching this so badly.

Then came Lawrence O’Donnell, who opened his show by pointedly calling out the media for pretending that the Barr summary is the Mueller report, and other journalistic sins. One can only hope that the points he raised tonight might prompt others in his profession to start doing their jobs correctly. If America handles this situation correctly, the Barr stunt won’t get Donald Trump very far – but we’ve all got to collectively pull ourselves together.

 washington post logorepublican elephant logoWashington Post, ‘Nobody I wanted to see in trouble seems as if they’re in trouble’: Some Democratic voters are disappointed, David Weigel and Colby Itkowitz, March 25, 2019 (print ed.). The special counsel’s findings have not yet been made public, but the fact that the investigation ended without any further indictments has Republicans declaring victory.

9-11 Researchers-Family Suit Against DoJ

9 11 lawyers committee logo

Crowdsource the Truth,

.be" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth Join Lawyers' Committee for 9/11 Inquiry for FBI Lawsuit, Jason Goodman, March 25, 2019 (99:38 mins). History unfolds before our eyes as the Lawyers' Committee for 9/11 Inquiry joins with Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth to bring a lawsuit against the FBI in an effort to compel the embattled Bureau to conduct a proper investigation into the events of September 11, 2001.

Support the Lawyers' Committee. Support Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth.

Search For Nazi Ties

CNN, Krispy Kreme owners admit to family history of Nazi ties, Chris Isidore, March 25, 2019. The family that owns well-known consumer brands like Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Keurig Dr. Pepper and Panera Bread say their Nazi ancestors used slave labor during World War II.

The Reimann family, which owns the controlling stake in JAB Holdings and is reportedly one of the richest families in Germany, will donate €10 million, or $11 million, to a yet-undisclosed charity after a three-year investigation that it commissioned discovered details of their ancestors' behavior.

A family spokesperson said Albert Reimann Sr., who died in 1954, and Albert Reimann Jr., who died in 1984, used Russian civilian prisoners and French prisoners of war as forced labor in their factories during the war, and that they were anti-Semites and avowed supporters of Adolf Hitler.

The investigation also found that Reimann Sr. donated to Hitler's paramilitary SS force as early as 1931.

Investigators also found a letter from Reimann Jr. to a local mayor complaining that the French prisoners of war weren't working hard enough and should be in prison.

Epstein Scandal Judge Dies At 96

Politico, Judge overseeing key Jeffrey Epstein-related suit dies, Josh Gerstein, March 25, 2019. An elderly federal judge presiding over a key lawsuit relating to financier pedophile Jeffrey Epstein died Sunday, adding another twist to the drawn-out legal saga and to efforts to unseal still-secret details about the conduct of Epstein, his enablers and one of his accusers.

Manhattan-based U.S. District Court Judge Robert Sweet passed away Sunday at age 96, the court announced. Sweet was appointed by President Jimmy Carter in 1978, confirmed that same year and continued to hear and rule on cases through the last few months.

Sweet was assigned to a lawsuit that emerged from the aftermath of Epstein’s controversial plea deal a decade ago, in which he escaped federal charges by pleading guilty to two prostitution-related offenses in state court. Epstein ended up spending 13 months in jail, with daily furloughs that allowed him to work in his office.

Critics have denounced the plea deal and the government official who negotiated it: Alexander Acosta, then the top federal prosecutor in south Florida and now U.S. secretary of Labor. The sentence, critics say, was excessively lenient for a man who faced allegations of procuring dozens of teenage girls for sex acts.

The sex trafficking lawsuit that Sweet oversaw pitted one of Epstein’s alleged victims, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, against a longtime friend of Epstein and heir to a newspaper fortune, Ghislaine Maxwell.

In exchange for financial settlements, Giuffre and many other victims waived their right to sue Epstein. But those waivers did not preclude lawsuits against some others, like Maxwell, who were alleged to have facilitated Epstein’s efforts to hire teenagers to provide massages that often involved sex.

March 24

Mueller Report

nancy pelosi djt

Speaker of the House, Pelosi, Schumer Joint Statement On Attorney General Barr’s Summary Of The Mueller Report, March 24, 2019. Today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (shown above in a file photo with of President Trump) and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer released the following statement regarding Attorney General Barr’s summary of the Mueller report:

“Attorney General Barr’s letter raises as many questions as it answers.  The fact that Special Counsel Mueller’s report does not exonerate the president on a charge as serious as obstruction of justice demonstrates how urgent it is that the full report and underlying documentation be made public without any further delay.  Given Mr. Barr’s public record of bias against the Special Counsel’s inquiry, he is not a neutral observer and is not in a position to make objective determinations about the report.

“And most obviously, for the president to say he is completely exonerated directly contradicts the words of Mr. Mueller and is not to be taken with any degree of credibility.

“Congress requires the full report and the underlying documents so that the Committees can proceed with their independent work, including oversight and legislating to address any issues the Mueller report may raise.  The American people have a right to know.”

william barr at doj

Palmer Report, Opinion: Here’s proof that William Barr is taking Robert Mueller’s report out of context, Bill Palmer, March 24, 2019. When Donald Trump’s handpicked Attorney General William Barr (above) released a four page “summary” today of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, it felt wildly at odds with everything Mueller was investigating about Trump, and everything that we’ve seen play out in plain sight. Now it turns out there’s semantic proof that Barr has indeed taken Mueller’s Report out of context.

bill palmer report logo headerPalmer Report readers know that I can be critical of MSNBC during its most histrionic moments. But host Ari Melber nailed it this evening when he noticed something remarkable about Barr’s summary. Despite being four pages long, it didn’t quote a single full sentence from Mueller. Why is this important?

Imagine you’ve been given a very lengthy secret report. Your task is to summarize it for the public, in a way that’s going to give the public confidence that you’re being honest about what’s really in the secret report, and you have no limit on how long your summary can be. You’re going to make a point of quoting the secret report as directly as possible, particularly when it comes to the key points that the report makes.

Instead, William Barr did the precise opposite. Each time he quoted the Mueller report, he cherry picked sentence fragments, and never did include a complete sentence. In other words, he clearly took those fragments out of context. His only reason to chop up Mueller’s words so finely would be to try to alter their meaning. This “summary” is bogus. House Democrats will seize the real Mueller report soon enough.

william barr image by donkehotey dmca

Attorney General William P. Barr (image by Donkehotey via DCMA)

OpEdNews, Opinion: Impeach William Barr if he doesn't release the Mueller report, Michael Collins, March 24, 2019. Barr can't be Trump's oenearthlogonew Michael Cohen. United States Attorney General William Barr is acting as though he has a choice about releasing the Mueller report. He doesn't. Unless Barr wants to live in infamy as a disgraced enabler of the mad and corrupt president, He needs to fulfill his constitutional duty and release the report in its entirety. If he fails to do so, he should be impeached.

In the Department of Justice Order that initiated the investigation, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein stated that the purpose of special counsel investigation was to "ensure a full and thorough investigation of the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 election."

The question of Russian interference in the 2016 election affects all citizens. This scope amplifies the meaning of Part 600 - General Powers of the Special Counsel, Code of Federal Regulations. The Special Counsel must deliver a confidential report to the U.S. Attorney General. At that point, "The Attorney General may determine that public release of these reports would be in the public interest, to the extent that release would comply with applicable legal restrictions" 600.9 - Notification and reports by the Attorney General.
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It couldn't be more obvious. The integrity of our democratic republic is the critical subject of inquiry and, given the overriding importance of that subject, the public interest must be served.

Why would we think Bill Barr would withhold the report? Because he told us so in his confirmation hearing.

Barr tried to come off as calm and thoughtful when answering questions. Despite his demeanor, he offered everything we need to know about his intentions. He accepted the notion that a sitting president cannot be indicted in a criminal case. There is no such restriction on presidential indictments in the Constitution. That doesn't bother Barr. He bases his opinion on a 1973 Nixon Department of Justice memo that somehow rationalized this position. Barr also informed us that if confirmed, he would not report on anything other than indictments.

Professor Alan J. Lichtman of American University summarized the ugly truth behind Barr's position in the confirmation hearings:

"Here is the Catch-22. Barr won't authorize an indictment of the president, but he is opposed to commenting on investigations absent indictments." Spectator USA 01/16/2019

Without hesitation or a scintilla of embarrassment, Barr gave the public a clear message I decide what gets released and unless there's an indictment, nothing gets published. He left out the need for full transparency based on the defined mission of the Special Counsels effort: "to ensure a full and thorough investigation of the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 election" and "determine" the obvious that "the release of these reports would be in the public interest."

Impeaching a Cabinet Member

Cabinet members may be impeached on the same grounds as the president and vice president. The three broad categories of impeachable offenses are: "(1) improperly exceeding or abusing the powers of the office; (2) behavior incompatible with the function and purpose of the office; and (3) misusing the office for an improper purpose or personal gain" (Congressional Research Service, 10/29/2015).

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: A timeline of what we’ve learned so far about Russia and the Trump campaign, Philip Bump, March 24, 2019. The information relevant to the moment stretches back more than a decade.

The Washington Post has compiled timelines documenting what is known about various aspects of the investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election, interactions between President Trump’s campaign and Russian individuals, and ancillary activity that resulted in criminal charges obtained by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

As we’ve learned more, those timelines have grown and become more detailed. The sheer complexity of the intertwining stories, though, means that moments of overlap can be missed. So, with the final report from Mueller’s team still behind closed doors, we’ve gathered elements from all of our timelines into one grand timeline, providing a broader sense of what we’ve learned

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Inside the Justice Department, Attorney General Barr is viewed as ‘a lawyer’s lawyer,’ Aaron Gregg, March 24, 2019. Once again, William P. Barr is at the center of a protracted and politicized investigation that has dominated his time in office.

His latest stint at the Justice Department caps a long career of public service. Barr, a Republican, worked at the CIA for four years in the 1970s. He served as a domestic policy staffer in the Reagan White House and became deputy attorney general under President George H.W. Bush in 1990, and then serving as attorney general from 1991 to 1993.

Here are some key facts about Barr:

What he’s said on the role of special counsels: In a 2001 oral history, Barr explained that while serving as attorney general under George H.W. Bush, he generally resisted efforts to appoint independent prosecutors to probe corruption allegations. He did so a few times to try to defuse political fights over whether the Justice Department might be making politically motivated decisions.

In his first stint as attorney general, Barr appointed three special counsels — one to investigate allegations of a possible software piracy and government coverup, another to examine the House bank and a third to probe the Bush administration’s handling of a bank fraud case involving loans to Iraq.

After one such appointment, Barr noted that “a lot of people in the White House were very irritated,” but added, “I still believe it was the right thing to do.”

He thought Trump was right to fire James B. Comey as FBI director: In a 2017 op-ed in The Post, Barr expressed support for Trump’s decision to fire then-FBI Director James B. Comey, a decision that was criticized by Democrats and advocacy groups as possible obstruction of justice. In the op-ed, Barr criticized Comey’s handling of the Justice Department’s long-running investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, writing, “Comey’s basic misjudgment boxed him in, compelling him to take increasingly controversial actions giving the impression that the FBI was enmeshed in politics.”

Next Steps For DOJ Probe

ny times logoNew York Times, As Mueller Report Lands, Prosecutorial Focus Moves to New York, Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum, Benjamin robert mueller screenshot washington postWeiser and Maggie Haberman, March 24, 2019 (print ed.). The work by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III (right), may be done, but prosecutors in Manhattan and elsewhere are pursuing about a dozen other investigations. It all but ensures that a legal threat will continue to loom over the Trump presidency.

U.S. Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Awaiting Mueller’s findings, Trump allies claim victory and Democrats urge transparency, Philip Rucker, Robert Costa, Josh Dawsey and Ashley Parker, March 24, 2019 (print ed.). The political showdown over the Russia investigation began in earnest Saturday even before the special counsel’s conclusions were known to the public. Attorney General William P. Barr spent the day privately reviewing Robert S. Mueller III’s report.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats vow to pursue Trump probes no matter what Mueller finds, Rachael Bade, Karoun Demirjian and Paul Kane, March 24, 2019 (print ed.). House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for full disclosure of the special counsel’s report and said she would reject a classified briefing for a select few lawmakers.

washington post logoPresident Donald Trump officialWashington Post, After claiming ‘no collusion’ at least 231 times, Trump says nothing about the end of the Mueller investigation, JM Rieger, March 24, 2019 ((print ed. with video).

Inside DC: Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, Prosecutors no longer pursuing 188 inauguration protest cases, Keith L. Alexander, March 24, 2019. In all, 234 people were arrested and charged in Inauguration Day rioting.

More than two years after the mass arrest of protesters at President Trump’s inauguration, two federal prosecutors walked into a D.C. courtroom earlier this month in a little-noticed hearing and told a judge that their investigation had ended and they would no longer pursue any of the cases.

The cases began with one of the most sweeping arrest actions ever in the nation’s capital. Authorities said rioters caused about $100,000 in property damage across 16 blocks downtown. The government said the group used “black bloc” tactics, dressing in dark colors and wearing masks, scarves or goggles to blend in with similarly dressed demonstrators who used rocks and crowbars to shatter windows of businesses and vehicles.

In all, 234 people were arrested and charged in the Inauguration Day rioting. Of them, 21 defendants pleaded guilty before trial — the only convictions arising from the arrests. A handful of defendants went to trial, which resulted in acquittals or hung juries. Other cases were dropped gradually.

March 23

Mueller Report

Palmer Report, Opinion: Robert Mueller has farmed out Trump-related investigations to SDNY and six other federal prosecutorial entities, Bill Palmer, March 23, 2019. Anyone with a basic familiarity with Robert Mueller’s investigation knows that “no more indictments from Mueller” doesn’t mean “no more indictments.” With his own investigation ending, it turns out Mueller has farmed out investigations to at least seven federal prosecutorial entities in total.

bill palmer report logo headerRobert Mueller has farmed things out to 1) the SDNY, which handles federal cases in Manhattan, 2) the EDNY, which handles federal cases in Brooklyn, 3) the EDVA in Virginia, 4) the U.S. Attorney’s office in Los Angeles, 5) the U.S. Attorney’s office in Washington DC, 6) the DOJ National Security Division, and 7) the DOJ Criminal Division. This is all according to a new report today from the New York Times. So what does this tell us?

Some of these are outright referrals for criminal prosecution, while others are referrals of evidence and witnesses. But these are all instances of Robert Mueller giving these seven federal prosecutorial entities the tools they need to investigate and indict. Because Mueller’s investigation was into Donald Trump and his campaign, it’s a given that all of these investigations are Trump-related. But how many of them are directly focused on Trump and his people?

This sentence from the New York Times would seem to sum it up rather succinctly: “Most of the investigations focus on President Trump or his family business or a cadre of his advisers and associates.”

So now we know Mueller has equipped seven different federal prosecutorial bodies to carry out investigations and indictments, and “most” of those investigations focused specifically on Donald Trump, his family, and his people. In other words, the people on Team Trump who are celebrating right now are merely suffering from a lack of understanding about how prosecutions work.

Mueller Delivers Report To Barr

robert mueller waving hands

ny times logoNew York Times, Mueller Delivers Report on Trump-Russian Investigation to Attorney General, Sharon LaFraniere and Katie Benner, March 23, 2019 (print ed.). Special Counsel Does Not Recommend New Charges; The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III (shown above in a file photo), focused on Russian election interference and whether anyone tied to the Trump campaign cooperated with them; Mr. Mueller did not suggest additional charges as part of his investigation, a senior Justice Dept. official said.

The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, on Friday delivered a report on his inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election to Attorney General William P. Barr, the Justice Department said, bringing to a close an investigation that has consumed the nation and cast a shadow over President Trump for nearly two years.

william barr new oMr. Barr (shown at right in his new official photo) told congressional leaders in a letter that he may brief them on the special counsel’s “principal conclusions” as early as this weekend, a surprisingly fast turnaround for a report anticipated for months. The attorney general said he “remained committed to as much transparency as possible.”

In an apparent endorsement of an investigation that Mr. Trump has relentlessly attacked as a “witch hunt,” Mr. Barr said Justice Department officials never had to intervene to keep him from taking an inappropriate or unwarranted step. The department’s regulations would have required Mr. Barr to inform the leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary committees about any such interventions in his letter.

A senior Justice Department official said that Mr. Mueller would not recommend new indictments, a statement aimed at ending speculation that Mr. Trump or other key figures might be charged down the line. With department officials stressing that Mr. Mueller’s inquiry was over and his office closing, the question for both Mr. Trump’s critics and defenders was whether the prosecutors condemned the president’s behavior in their report, exonerated him — or neither. The president’s lawyers were already girding for a possible fight over whether they could assert executive privilege to keep parts of the report secret.

For Trump and the System, a Turning Point and a Test

Once released, the Mueller report will transform the political landscape.
Since Mr. Mueller’s appointment in May 2017, his team has focused on how Russian operatives sought to sway the outcome of the 2016 presidential race and whether anyone tied to the Trump campaign, wittingly or unwittingly, cooperated with them. While the inquiry, started months earlier by the F.B.I., unearthed a far-ranging Russian influence operation, no public evidence emerged that the president or his aides illegally assisted it.

washington post logoWashington Post, Attorney general won’t release Mueller conclusions today, Justice official says, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett​, March 23, 2019. Attorney General William P. Barr intends to spend the weekend reviewing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report on his investigation into President Trump and Russia’s election interference, a senior Justice Department official said Saturday, indicating it would be at least another day until the probe’s findings would be shared with Congress.

rod rosenstein head croppedBarr and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, right, were at the Justice Department Saturday morning, where they and their key advisers were assessing Mueller’s work and developing a summary of conclusions to provide lawmakers.

“They’re working basically hand in hand,” the official said on condition of anonymity to share general insights about the attorney general’s process, adding that very few people know the report’s contents.

The attorney general announced Friday that Mueller’s work had come to an end, and Barr spent the afternoon and early evening in his fifth-floor office reading the special counsel’s final report — which one Justice Department official described as a “comprehensive” document.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Three ways we know more indictments in Robert Mueller’s investigation are still coming from other prosecutors, Bill Palmer, March 23, 2019.  Yesterday afternoon I was rather hard on MSNBC for its initial coverage of the news that the Robert Mueller report had been submitted, particularly when Senator Richard Blumenthal tried to explain on-air that more indictments were likely coming from the bill palmer report logo headerlikes of SNDY, and he was cut off mid sentence, because it didn’t fit the host’s narrative. As the evening went on, other MSNBC hosts did a much better job of acknowledging that more Mueller-spawned indictments could be on the way. Still, little was laid out about how we know more indictments are coming. We can count at least three different ways.

1) Redactions: Nearly all of Robert Mueller’s lengthy court filing three months ago about Michael Flynn’s cooperation was blacked out, which means that it involved ongoing criminal cases.

2) Grand juries: Yesterday, Roger Stone associate Andrew Miller informed the Atlantic that Mueller’s office still wants him to testify about Stone before a grand jury. Grand juries only have one purpose, which is to deliver indictments.

3) New hires: The SDNY, which would be in jurisdictional position to bring many of the additional Trump-related federal indictments, just hired a heavy hitter yesterday to serve as its new number two.

U.S. Politics

nancy pelosi djt

Palmer Report, Opinion: Nancy Pelosi’s grandmaster chess game against Donald Trump, Robert Harrington, March 23, 2019. Robert Mueller is releasing his report without further indictments. He doesn’t have to. Mueller has referred out numerous cases to other US Attorneys’ offices for indictments. Expect many more prosecutions.

bill palmer report logo headerOnce the Mueller Report is published, complete with expected redactions for national security purposes, it is almost certainly going to be thoroughly devastating for Donald Trump. The report will prove to be, effectively, Donald Trump’s political and personal epitaph. It will establish beyond question Trump’s criminal collusion with a foreign power to steal the 2016 election.

Nancy Pelosi (shown above with Trump in file photos) knows all this already, and that is why she has taken impeachment of Donald Trump off the table for now. Democratic candidates for president in 2020 will use the Mueller report to destroy Donald Trump.

If Trump remains the only Republican candidate in 2020 then the Mueller Report will become the handbook, the Bible, that every Democratic candidate running against him can and will use — in debates, in advertisements, in interviews, and that will be a Bible that Donald Trump can’t sign. In effect, Democrats need Donald Trump to remain exactly, precisely where he is until November of 2020, so they can use the Mueller Report to destroy and defeat him utterly.

If the Republicans have any sense, and there is nothing to suggest that they have any, they would be drafting articles of impeachment against Donald Trump even as we speak. A lone Republican Trump candidacy, that is almost predestined to lose in 2020, may very well spell the end of the Republican Party as a separate autonomous entity, at least the party as we recognize it today.

Should the GOP mount a 2020 challenger against Trump, then Trump will probably remain true to his narcissistic roots, refuse to resign, and further splinter his own party, sowing seeds of destruction from within so devastating that the GOP may never recover from it. The only option open to them is to impeach Trump and mount a new candidate.

washington post logoWashington Post, Chris Christie praises Gov. Larry Hogan but says a GOP primary run against Trump is impractical, Rachel Chason, March 24, 2019 (print ed.). Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie says his friend Larry Hogan, Maryland’s governor, has a “very bright” future in national politics but is not joining the effort by some centrist Republicans to draft Hogan to challenge President Trump in a 2020 GOP primary.

chris christie cover let me finishChristie offered his thoughts Thursday during an early-evening appearance with Hogan at Government House, the governor’s official residence. Christie was in Annapolis as part of a tour to promote a book [shown at right] about his unsuccessful run for the GOP nomination in 2016 and his subsequent stint with the Trump campaign. From the mansion, the men headed to the Annapolis Yacht Club, where Hogan introduced Christie at an event that included a discussion and book signing.

Christie said he sees no current path for a successful primary challenge, noting Trump’s strong support among Republican voters. Hogan has repeatedly said the same. But Christie and Hogan, Republicans who won reelection in blue states, said the political landscape could change quickly.
Christie, a longtime friend to Trump who was pushed out as chair of his transition team, said he still speaks with the president regularly and supports many of his policies.

But Christie nonetheless heaped praise on Trump’s possible rival, saying it was “love at first sight” in 2014 when he met Hogan, then a businessman running an underdog campaign for governor. Christie described Hogan as a practical leader who is capable of bringing people together.

washington post logodemocratic donkey logoWashington Post, ‘We will fight’: Democrats prepare to battle for Mueller’s complete findings, Ellen Nakashima, Karoun Demirjian and Rachael Bade​, ​March 23, 2019 (print ed.). Lawmakers are looking to the special counsel’s findings to inform their investigations — and insist they will be satisfied with nothing short of a complete account of the results and the evidence that informed them.

washington post logoWashington Post, After lashing out for months, a combative Trump awaits Mueller’s findings, Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey, March 23, 2019 (print ed.). The president’s actions in office, including his firing of the FBI director, were scrutinized as possible obstructions of justice.

#MeToo: Michael Jackson Scandal

ap logoAssociated Press via Newsmax, Barbra Streisand Under Fire for Michael Jackson Remarks, Staff report, March 23, 2019. Barbra Streisand apologized Saturday for her remarks about Michael Jackson (shown in a file photo) and two men who have accused him of sexual abuse, saying that she should have chosen her words more carefully and that she admires the accusers for "speaking their truth."

michael jacksonStreisand had received bitter criticism online after she was quoted in The Times of London as saying that Jackson's accusers were "thrilled to be there" during the alleged abuse, which "didn't kill them."

After an initial statement Saturday to the Associated Press in which she sought to clarify her remarks, the superstar of song, stage and screen posted an apology online that went further.

"I am profoundly sorry for any pain or misunderstanding I caused by not choosing my words more carefully about Michael Jackson and his victims," she wrote.

"I didn't mean to dismiss the trauma these boys experienced in any way," she wrote. "Like all survivors of sexual assault, they will have to carry this for the rest of their lives. I feel deep remorse and I hope that James and Wade know that I truly respect and admire them for speaking their truth."

The apology went far beyond the earlier statement to the AP, in which she elaborated on her published remarks, saying she felt "nothing but sympathy" for the men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who accuse the late star of molesting them as children.

She wrote in that earlier statement: "To be crystal clear, there is no situation or circumstance where it is OK for the innocence of children to be taken advantage of by anyone."

The remarks in question came deep into a wide-ranging interview with The Times. Asked about Jackson, Streisand was quoted as saying she "absolutely" believed Robson and Safechuck, who make their allegations in the recent HBO documentary "Leaving Neverland."

Jackson's estate has condemned the HBO documentary. Jackson, who died in 2009, was found not guilty in 2005 of charges he molested a 13-year-old boy.

Streisand was asked about the documentary, which she called "too painful."

She then said that Jackson, when she met him, was "very sweet, very childlike." Asked how she reconciled that man with the one portrayed in the documentary, she replied: "His sexual needs were his sexual needs, coming from whatever childhood he has or whatever DNA he has. You can say 'molested,' but those children, as you heard say, they were thrilled to be there. They both married and they both have children, so it didn't kill them."

Inside DC

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion Stephen Moore Would Be a Loyalist, not an Expert, at the Fed, Binyamin Appelbaum (a member of the editorial board), March 23, 2019. President Trump has tried to get the Federal Reserve to share his love of low interest rates. Now he’s ratcheting up the pressure.

President Trump, who craves low interest rates, has tried to bend the Federal Reserve to his will by tweeting insults and offering unsolicited advice. He threatened to fire Chairman Jerome H. Powell. He invited Mr. Powell to dinner. None of it worked as well as he would like. In the president’s view, high interest rates still are smothering economic growth.

stephen moore twitterSo on Friday, Mr. Trump tried something new. He said that he planned to nominate one of his economic advisers, Stephen Moore, to an open seat on the Fed’s board of governors.

Notwithstanding his public outbursts, Mr. Trump previously has nominated six people to the Fed’s board, and all were well-qualified candidates who might have been chosen by any Republican president. With the choice of Mr. Moore, however, Mr. Trump crossed a line.

Mr. Moore has repeatedly staked out public positions on questions of monetary policy over the last decade. His record is best characterized as inconsistent with any particular set of economic principles, but reliably faithful to the short-term interest of the Republican Party.

During the Obama administration, he warned that the Fed was sowing the seeds of hyperinflation. “Zero interest rates haven’t helped the economy,” Mr. Moore told The Washington Post in 2015. Following Mr. Trump’s election, Mr. Moore executed a quick U-turn. He began to insist that lower interest rates were just what the economy needed. Mr. Trump reportedly settled on Mr. Moore after he was shown an article Mr. Moore co-wrote earlier this month making that case.

Mr. Moore has not argued that he changed his mind because he realized he was wrong, or because the facts changed. Indeed, on another question of public policy, he has maintained a politically convenient position despite the accumulation of facts to the contrary. He is a stalwart evangelist for the unsupported belief that tax cuts cure slow growth.

March 22

Mueller Report

Palmer Report, Opinion: Robert Mueller just pulled off a victory in plain sight and almost everyone missed it, Bill Palmer, March 22, 2019.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller submitted his final report tonight, bringing an end to his role in the criminal investigation into Donald Trump. This is being widely spun by pundits as some kind of defeat, because Mueller isn’t (directly) indicting anyone else. But in actuality, Mueller just pulled off a victory in plain sight and no one noticed.

bill palmer report logo headerFor the past year we’ve been hearing from these same pundits about how Donald Trump was going to find a way to fire Robert Mueller before he could complete his work and file his report. Guess what? That didn’t happen. Instead, Mueller managed to make it all the way to the finish line. He got to finish the job and file his report, after so much hype about how he would never get to this point.

Now these same pundits are spinning a doomsday tale about how the Attorney General is going to run it through a shredder and then everyone is just going to give up and move on. But that’s not remotely realistic at this point. The public has an overwhelming appetite to see the report, and House Democrats have a number of ways to force it to become public if the AG does try to play any games.

peter baker twitterny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Once released, the Mueller report will transform the political landscape, our correspondent writes in an analysis, Peter Baker (shown in Twitter photo at right), March 22, 2019. After nearly three years of investigation, after hundreds of interviews and thousands upon thousands of pages of documents, after scores of indictments and court hearings and guilty pleas, after endless hours of cable-television and dinner-table speculation, the moment of reckoning has arrived.

It will be a reckoning for President Trump, to be sure, but also for Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, for Congress, for Democrats, for Republicans, for the news media and, yes, for the system as a whole. The delivery of Mr. Mueller’s report to the Justice Department on Friday marked a turning point that will shape the remainder of Mr. Trump’s presidency and test the viability of American governance.

Washington has been waiting for Mr. Mueller’s findings for so long and invested in them so much that it may be hard for what he has delivered to live up to the breathless anticipation. But once released, the Mueller report will transform the political landscape, fueling calls for the president’s impeachment or providing him fodder to claim vindication — or possibly, in this live-in-your-own-reality moment, both at the same time.

Democrats on Friday played down the notion that the report would be the final word, fearing that anything less than a bombshell would undercut their own drive to investigate Mr. Trump not only on Russia’s election interference but on the myriad other subjects that have drawn their attention. Mr. Trump, for his part, had engaged in a particularly manic Twitter spree lately, assailing the “witch hunt” and the “hoax” and everyone he blames for them, like his fellow Republicans John McCain and Jeff Sessions, in what some had interpreted as a sign of his own anxiety before the special counsel’s verdict. But he was reported to appear relieved with early reports on Friday.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s legal troubles are far from over even as Mueller probe ends, David A. Fahrenthold and Rosalind S. Helderman, March 22, 2019. Nearly every organization Trump has run in the last decade remains under investigation by state or federal authorities.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘If you took it all in in one day, it would kill you’: What Mueller’s investigation has already revealed, Matt Zapotosky and Rosalind S. Helderman, March 22, 2019. He pulled back the curtain on a sophisticated Kremlin hacking operation — identifying by name the 12 Russian military officers who he said sought to sway a U.S. election.

Justice Department log circularHe exposed a Russian online influence campaign — bringing criminal charges against the 13 members of a Russian troll farm now accused of trying to manipulate U.S. voters and sow division through fake social media personae.

And he revealed how those closest to President Trump defrauded banks, cheated on their taxes and, time and time again, lied to deflect inquiries into their ties with Russia.

After 22 months of meticulous investigation, charges against 34 people — including six former Trump aides or confidants — and countless hours of all-consuming news coverage, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III on Friday submitted the long-anticipated report on his findings to Attorney General William P. Barr.

Barr said in a letter to lawmakers that he may be able to inform Congress of Mueller’s “principal conclusions” as early as this weekend.

It’s not clear whether or when Mueller’s full report will become public — or how his conclusions might impact Trump’s presidency.

Barr said he plans to consult with Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein to determine “what other information from the report” could be made public.

But through legal documents and court hearings, Mueller has already revealed rich details about the Russian attack on U.S. democracy in 2016 — and his investigation has triggered unpredictable ripple effects.

Brief Brexit Delay

 ny times logoUnited Kingdom flagNew York Times, E.U. Approves Brexit Extension, but Chaotic Departure Still Looms, Stephen Castle and Steven Erlanger, March 22, 2019 (print ed.). If Prime Minister Theresa May can persuade lawmakers in Parliament to accept her plan, which they have rejected twice, the exit date will be pushed back to May 22. But the growing sense of alarm over a “no deal” Brexit is real, as Mrs. May refused to exclude the possibility.

ny times logoNew York Times, More than 3 million Britons signed a petition to remain in the European Union. It’s unlikely to change Brexit’s course,
Palko Karasz, March 22, 2019. Britain’s exit from the European Union, which entered uncharted territory weeks ago, is still straining the government in unexpected ways, even setting a record.

Theresa May official photoAs Prime Minister Theresa May, right, limped home from Brussels on Thursday with an agreement that seemed to raise the odds of a chaotic no-deal Brexit, ordinary Britons were scrambling to add their names to a largely futile petition to cancel the whole deal — crashing a parliamentary website.

More On Mueller Report

ny times logoNew York Times, Glimpses of the Mystery That Is the Mueller Investigation, Scott Shane, Photos by Gabriella Demczuk, March 22, 2019. In 2016, the F.B.I. began its investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, and journalists attempted to track it. We have seen pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. The full picture is missing.

ny times logoNew York Times, For Trump and the System, Mueller’s Report Is a Turning Point and a Test, Peter Baker (shown in his Twitter photo), March 22, 2019. After nearly peter baker twitterthree years of investigation, after hundreds of interviews and thousands upon thousands of pages of documents, after scores of indictments and court hearings and guilty pleas, after endless hours of cable-television and dinner-table speculation, the moment of reckoning has arrived.

It will be a reckoning for President Trump, to be sure, but also for Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, for Congress, for Democrats, for Republicans, for the news media and, yes, for the system as a whole. The delivery of Mr. Mueller’s report to the Justice Department on Friday marked a turning point that will shape the remainder of Mr. Trump’s presidency and test the viability of American governance.

President Donald Trump officialWashington has been waiting for Mr. Mueller’s findings for so long and invested in them so much that it may be hard for what he has delivered to live up to the breathless anticipation. But once released, the Mueller report will transform the political landscape, fueling calls for the president’s impeachment or providing him fodder to claim vindication — or possibly, in this live-in-your-own-reality moment, both at the same time.

Democrats on Friday played down the notion that the report would be the final word, fearing that anything less than a bombshell would undercut their own drive to investigate Mr. Trump not only on Russia’s election interference but on the myriad other subjects that have drawn their attention. Mr. Trump, for his part, had engaged in a particularly manic Twitter spree lately, assailing the “witch hunt” and the “hoax” and everyone he blames for them, like his fellow Republicans John McCain and Jeff Sessions, in what some had interpreted as a sign of his own anxiety before the special counsel’s verdict. But he was reported to appear relieved with early reports on Friday.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: I wrote the special counsel rules. The attorney general can — and should — release the Mueller report, Neal Kumar Katyal, March 22, 2019. Neal Kumar Katyal, right, is the Saunders Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center. He was neal katyal oacting solicitor general of the United States from 2010 to 2011.

The public has every right to see Robert S. Mueller III's conclusions. Absolutely nothing in the law or the regulations prevents the report from becoming public. Indeed, the relevant sources of law give Attorney General P. William Barr all the latitude in the world to make it public.

Those regulations, which I had the privilege of drafting in 1998 and 1999 as a young Justice Department lawyer, require three types of reports. First, the special counsel must give the attorney general “Urgent Reports” during the course of an investigation regarding things such as proposed indictments. Second, the special counsel must provide a report to the attorney general at the end of the investigation, which Mueller delivered on Friday. And third, the attorney general must furnish Congress with a report containing “an explanation for each action … upon conclusion of the Special Counsel’s investigation.”

Palmer Report, Analysis: Senator Richard Blumenthal says that, after Robert Mueller report, “high likelihood” Donald Trump will be indicted, Bill Palmer, March 22, 2019. The TV pundits really, really, really want you to buy into the narrative tonight that the submission of Robert Mueller’s report somehow means that Mueller didn’t find enough evidence to build a criminal case against Donald Trump. What’s this based on? Literally nothing, of course. Meanwhile, the people in position to know better are expecting Mueller’s report to set off additional indictments.

bill palmer report logo headerFirst, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, adam schiff officialright, appeared on MSNBC and stated that he thinks it’s “likely” there are more indictments coming; they’ll just come from the U.S. Attorneys’ offices that Mueller handed off the cases to. But this didn’t seem to fit with the doomsday narrative, so MSNBC kept pushing the notion that it’s all over, and everyone who hasn’t yet been arrested is somehow magically off the hook. That’s when Richard Blumenthal stepped to the plate.

Richard Blumenthal, below left, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, appeared on MSNBC and stated that there is a “high likelihood that there are indictments in this president’s future.” He explained that these indictments are likely to come from SDNY and/or richard blumenthal portraitother federal prosecutors. But again, this didn’t fit the prevailing MSNBC narrative, so the host cut off Blumenthal, and began asking leading questions which were aimed at painting the picture that no more indictments are coming.

We don’t know why the TV pundits are so eager tonight to push the notion that they somehow know that no one else will be indicted, beyond the obvious fact that scaring viewers is a good way to paralyze them into staying tuned in. But back in the real world, people who have been involved with the overall Trump-Russia investigation, such as Adam Schiff and Richard Blumenthal, are very loudly saying that they’re expecting more indictments. Blumenthal even thinks Trump is going to be indicted.

ny times logojames comeyNew York Times, Opinion: What I Want From the Mueller Report, James Comey (a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, shown in an official photo before his dismissal in 2017), March 22, 2019 (print ed.). I am rooting for a demonstration to the world that the United States justice system works.

The country is eagerly awaiting the special counsel Robert Mueller’s report. Many people know what they want it to say — what they feel it simply must say — namely, that Donald Trump is a criminal who should be removed from office. Or that he is completely innocent of all wrongdoing.

But not everyone knows what it “must” say. Even though I believe Mr. Trump is morally unfit to be president of the United States, I’m not rooting for Mr. Mueller to demonstrate that he is a criminal. I’m also not rooting for Mr. Mueller to “clear” the president. I’m not rooting for anything at all, except that the special counsel be permitted to finish his work, charge whatever cases warrant charging and report on his work.

Flight Safety

ny times logoboeing logoNew York Times, Indonesia’s National Airline Seeks to Cancel Order of Boeing Max 8s, Muktita Suhartono and Amie Tsang,  March 22, 2019. Garuda Indonesia said it was seeking to cancel its $4.9 billion order of 49 planes, of which just one had been delivered so far. Over all, more than 4,000 of the 737 Max planes are on order by airlines around the world.

Interpol Abuses?

ny times logoNew York Times, How Strongmen Turned Interpol Into Their Personal Weapon, Matt Apuzzo, March 22, 2019. Records and interviews show that top Interpol officials ignored urgent warnings from within that it was vulnerable to political meddling. But time and time again, the world’s largest international police organization prioritized expansion over safeguards.

Hakeem al-Araibi thought he had escaped the reach of the Bahraini government when he fled to Australia years ago as a political refugee. But immediately after landing in Thailand for a belated honeymoon last year, Mr. al-Araibi was arrested and scheduled to be sent back to his native country.

interpol logo CustomBahrain, which has been accused of torture and other abuses, had used what is known as an Interpol red notice to reach across the world and grab him, despite rules meant to protect refugees.

It was an embarrassing moment for Interpol. Years of cases like this had provoked accusations that the world’s largest international police organization had become a tool of repressive governments. Interpol promised to improve. Mr. al-Araibi’s arrest was a stark reminder that despite its reforms, Interpol was still vulnerable to manipulation by strongmen, despots and human rights violators.

For a time after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, world leaders hoped that the sleepy agency on the banks of the Rhône in France would become a unifying force for the rule of law. Interpol’s goals of safety and security were supposed to transcend national boundaries and bring together democracies and autocracies alike.

Inside DC

fema logo Custom 2

washington post logoWashington Post, FEMA exposes personal information of 2.5 million disaster survivors, Joel Achenbach, William Wan and Tony Romm, March 22, 2019. About 1.8 million people had banking information and addresses revealed, and an additional 725,000 had just their addresses shared, a Homeland Security official said. The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it “provided more information than was necessary” while transferring data to a contractor.

Law Center Purge

richard cohen splc

washington post logoWashington Post, Top officials at Southern Poverty Law Center step down amid controversy, Michael Brice-Saddler, March 22, 2019. The group’s president, Richard Cohen, and its legal director, Rhonda Brownstein, resigned a little more than a week after the center’s co-founder and chief litigator, Morris Dees, was fired for unspecified misconduct.

Golan Status Report

OpEdNews, Opinion: Treating AIPAC Like the Right Wing Lobby Group It Is... .and The Alternative, Rob Kall, March 22, 2019. It is time that the Democratic leadership wake up and smell the coffee that AIPAC is not their friend, that it has become a tool of the right wing. Just as they do not speak at or attend CPAC, the annual conservative meeting, the Democratic leaders should not be attending, speaking or supporting AIPAC, the Jewish conservative meeting that supports the worst conservatives, such as Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu.

bernie sanders buttonIn 2016, Bernie Sanders was excoriated for not showing up at and genuflecting for AIPAC, even though he offered to speak via video.

Now, his example is being followed by a good number of the "progressive" presidential candidates running for president, including, in addition to Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke and Kamala Harris.

Just add this as another leadership example that Bernie has set. And it's a very good thing. AIPAC has proven itself to be a tool of right-wing corrupt politician Benjamin Netanyahu, Donald Trump, the new Jexodus joke and Republicans trying to peel off American Jews from their support for Democrats and lefty candidates.

Perhaps one factor contributing to the Democratic candidates' descisions to not attend AIPAC's conference is the vote by 74% of Moveon members to oppose attendance. Moveone included the following information in the poll:

The survey, which entails a single prompt, "Any progressive vying to be the Democratic nominee for president should skip the AIPAC conference," is prefaced by several facts.

It's time that AIPAC be treated as what it is, a tool of the right wing. There is an alternative to AIPAC, J-Street, which has been brutally attacked, in the past, by AIPAC and hard right Israel supporters. I would argue that progressive Democratic candidates should show their support for Jews and Israel by strengthening their connection with J-Street.

I'll add that there is an effort on the right to damage the relationship between Jews and Democrats. Trump says that "The Democrats have proven to be anti-Israel and it's a disgrace" and, "Frankly, I think they are anti-Jewish."

And Trump's Secreatry of State, Mike Pompeo, working a related theme, as Alternet reports, stokes bizarre theological belief that Trump was chosen by God to 'to help save the Jewish people'

I don't think many Jewish Democrats will buy this nonsense. But the seventy million Christian Zionists will slurp it up.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Golan Heights Was Once an Arab Rallying Cry. Not Anymore, Ben Hubbard, March 22, 2019. In 2010, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria asked President Barack Obama in a private letter to sponsor new peace talks between Syria and Israel, a diplomatic chimera for a string of American presidents.

israel flagThe major sticking point was control of the Golan Heights, a rocky, strategic plateau at the flammable juncture between the modern states of Syria, Israel, Jordan and Lebanon, which Israel had seized in the Six-Day War of 1967.

The talks never took off, and in 2011 a civil war erupted in Syria that would destroy the country and reshape the regional order to such an extent that when President Trump on Thursday called for the United States to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan, the shift was met across much of the Arab world with a shrug.

Today, the Gulf countries are more interested in partnering with Israel against Iran than in standing up for abstract notions of Arab dignity, and unrest and economic troubles have left other Arab countries more concerned with their own affairs.

As for Syria, its own war has left the country so weak and ostracized that few care what it wants. “The Golan was always seen as the carrot that Israel would cede for peace with Syria, and now peace doesn’t matter, Syria doesn’t matter and maybe Syria doesn’t exist at the table as the legitimate owner of the land,” said Kareem Sakka, editor in chief of Raseef22, an Arabic news site.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Israel Is on the Brink of Disaster. Trump Just Made Things Worse, Michael J. Koplow (Dr. Koplow is an djt benjamin netanyahu handshakeadvocate for a viable two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute), March 22, 2019. Israel’s right-wing leaders are reading signals from Washington as a green light.

On April 9, Israelis will go to the polls to choose their next government. The campaign has largely been a referendum on whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (shown with President Trump in a file photo) should remain Israel’s leader in light of his expected indictment in three corruption cases for bribery and breach of trust.

With those scandals front and center, policy disagreements have largely been ignored, leaving Israeli voters at risk of unwittingly bringing an avoidable disaster on themselves by annexing territory in the West Bank.

President Trump just raised that risk.

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Trump's Golan Move Is Designed To Guarantee Netanyahoo's Reelection, March 22, 2019. The people who paid for Trump's election campaign, foremost casino magnate and zionist Sheldon Adelson, want to keep the Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahoo in office. Netanyahoo is under investigation in several corruption cases and has a serious competitor in the upcoming general elections in Israel. Trump needs money for his re-election campaign and is willing to do anything to get it.

Trump is colluding with Netayahoo to influence the Israeli election. It is the reason why he decided yesterday to claim that Israel has sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

The Heights are Syrian lands that were occupied by Israel during its 1967 war of aggression against Egypt and Syria.

washington post logosyrian flag wavingWashington Post, Trump’s shift on Golan Heights inflames regional tensions as Syria vows to recover the occupied land, Liz Sly, March 22, 2019. Syria, Russia and Iran slammed President Trump’s call to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the area.

U.S. Politics

ny times logopaul krugmanNew York Times, Opinion: Don’t Make Health Care a Purity Test, Paul Krugman (right), March 22, 2019 (print ed.). There are multiple ways to achieve universal coverage.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pentagon plans to take $3.6 billion from military projects to build Trump’s wall. Here are the most vulnerable ones, Paul Sonne and Erica Werner, March 22, 2019 (print ed.).  A Post analysis also shows that Puerto Rico would be the most affected U.S. territory or state and that schools for the children of U.S. military personnel at home and abroad also would be affected.

Mississippi Public Broadcasting, Governor Signs Most Restrictive Abortion Bill in Nation, Desare Frazier, March 22, 2019. Mississippi now has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation. Governor Phil Bryant signed the bill into law yesterday. As MPB's Desare Frazier reports, the new law will be challenged in court.

Flanked by Republican legislators, Governor Phil Bryant signed the Heartbeat Bill into law. Abortion is now illegal in the State of Mississippi once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is about six weeks. Doctors who detect a heartbeat and perform the procedure anyway could lose their license, face a fine of $1,000 and or 6 months in jail. Governor Bryant says he's not worried about lawsuits.

The law also says abortions can be allowed when there is a heartbeat but the pregnancy endangers the woman's life.

Cassandra Welchlin is with the Mississippi Women's Economic Security Initiative. She's opposed to the law. "A woman deserves to choose. Now what I know that that is definitely going to be challenged in court. I just think it's pretty problematic that in 2019 having laws on the book around this," said Welchlin.

joe biden oAustin American-Statesman via Tribune News Service, Opinion: PRO: In a Democratic race with mostly progressive candidates, Biden clearly is the best, Wayne Madsen, (Note: The writer is answering the question: “Does Joe Biden have the best chance to beat Donald Trump?”) March 22, 2019.

Politics are getting pretty weird when The New York Times, the nation’s leading champion of liberalism, trashes former Vice President Joe Biden (right), the only progressive who stands a real chance of routing Donald Trump in a Democratic presidential field chock full of recently anointed celebrity politicians.

Yet that’s exactly what the august Times did recently when it argued that Biden was racially biased because he once was “an ardent” opponent of busing to desegregate Delaware’s racially segregated schools.

Delaware, nicknamed the First State, because it was the first of the original 13 to ratify the Constitution, did drag its feet on desegregation, but finally approved busing for racial balance in 1967.

The governor then was Charles Terry, known as the “Great Divider” because of his hardline stance against fair housing and keeping the National Guard on the streets of Wilmington long after the rioting that exploded after the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In 1968, Biden, a Democrat, supported liberal Republican Russell Peterson for governor. Peterson defeated Terry.

The case against forced busing eventually dissolved in 1974 when the Supreme Court held that students in Detroit’s 53 suburban school districts could not be bused into Detroit to offset that city’s largely black school enrollment.

Bradley v. Milliken (the state’s governor at the time) held that school districts were not compelled to desegregate unless it had been proven that they had drawn specific lines to prevent desegregation.

The Times in its recent blast against Biden argued that his stance against forced busing of school children would help him attract “the white, blue collar workers who rejected Hillary Clinton in favor Donald Trump.”

U.S. Social Change

washington post logoWashington Post, Data shows more than half of young people in U.S. don’t have a romantic partner, Lisa Bonos and Emily Guskin, March 22, 2019. There are several other trends that go along with the increase in young, single Americans.

U.S. Crime / Celebrities

ny times logoNew York Times, Anthony Pellicano, Private Eye to the Stars, Leaves Prison, Elizabeth A. Harris, March 22, 2019. The Los Angeles detective spent more than a decade in prison for illegal wiretapping and other crimes in a case that exposed Hollywood’s underbelly.

Before the hacking of Sony Pictures and the Democratic National Committee, before the News of the World tabloid broke into voice-mail messages and before the first WikiLeak, there was Anthony Pellicano.

Mr. Pellicano was a private investigator in Hollywood, a man who drove around town with a baseball bat in his trunk and who was very good at uncovering people’s secrets. He ran a vast surveillance operation out of his office with a sprawling network of wiretaps. If you needed an unpleasant issue to go away, or a nasty tidbit to improve your standing in a divorce or business dispute, he was the go-to guy.

He wiretapped the actors Sylvester Stallone and Keith Carradine, and did work on behalf of Chris Rock and Courtney Love, among many others. He conducted an illegal criminal background check on Garry Shandling, threatened a journalist and, according to testimony at his trial, even offered to have a producer murdered, his body buried in the desert. He had been behind bars since 2003.

On Friday, the private eye who intimately knew Hollywood’s underbelly — and, some would say, was its leading man — walked out of a Los Angeles federal prison at the end of his sentence and was free for the first time in more than 15 years.

Venezuelan Crisis

washington post logovenezuela flag waving customWashington Post, After blackout in Venezuela, fears of agricultural collapse, famine grow, Mary Beth Sheridan and Mariana Zuñiga, March 22, 2019. The five-day power outage was probably only a curtain-raiser for a broader disaster in the coming weeks and months, said economists, diplomats and aid workers.

JFK Assassination Cover-up?

washington post logophilip shenon cover jfk cruel bookWashington Post, Cynthia Thomas, State Department widow who won presidential apology, dies at 82, Philip Shenon (author of A Cruel and Shocking Act, from which some of this obituary is drawn), March 22, 2019 (print ed). Cynthia Thomas once thought that she had solved the most confounding mystery of her life — why her late husband, a respected career diplomat, was abruptly fired by the State Department in 1969. His dismissal plunged her husband, Charles, into a severe depression and, she was certain, led him to kill himself two years later at 48.

Mrs. Thomas, who went on to her own diplomatic career and who died March 13 at 82, said the images and sounds of the suicide never left her thoughts, at least not for long.

On April 12, 1971, her husband put a gun to his right temple in the second-floor bathroom of the couple’s rented home in Washington. Mrs. Thomas, downstairs, thought at first that the boiler had exploded.

state dept map logo SmallHis firing by the State Department — he had been “selected out,” in the agency’s Orwellian language of the era — shattered Charles, his widow said.

Within weeks of her husband’s death, she mounted a one-woman lobbying campaign on Capitol Hill for an explanation of why his career had been derailed — what had put him on the path to ending his life.

With the help of outraged lawmakers, she got an answer. A State Department investigation in the mid-1970s showed he was dismissed because of a clerical mistake — the misfiling of his personnel records, including an especially flattering review from his final foreign posting at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico. That evaluation described him as “one of the most valuable officers” in the diplomatic corps.

Declassified government files released in the 1990s suggested to her and her family — and to some historians and researchers who have studied the case — that her husband’s career was ended to stop him from continuing to raise unwelcome questions inside the government about the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy: specifically, about whether the assassin Lee Harvey Oswald had accomplices in Mexico, where Charles Thomas was posted from 1964 to 1967. The misfiling of his personnel records, his family suspected, may have been intentional.

In recent years, Mrs. Thomas, who retired from the State Department in 1993, readily conceded that the idea of a connection between her husband’s dismissal and unanswered questions about Kennedy’s death might sound “crazy.” She dreaded being branded an CIA Logoassassination conspiracy theorist.

The long-classified State Department and CIA documents show that her husband alarmed his superiors in the late 1960s by pressing for a new investigation that might have pointed to a conspiracy in Kennedy’s death. It was a plot, he suspected, that had been hatched on Mexican soil and somehow involved officials of the communist government of Cuba.

March 21

New Zealand Bans Assault Guns

washington post logoWashington Post, New Zealand bans military-style firearms, prime minister says six days after 50 killed in mosque attacks, Anna Fifield​, jacinda ardern hijabMarch 21, 2019 (print ed.). New Zealand will ban military-style semiautomatics and assault rifles, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Thursday, just six days after attacks on two mosques in Christchurch that left 50 people zealand flag

“On 15 March our history changed forever. Now, our laws will, too,” said Ardern (shown in a graphic with conciliatory messages). “We are announcing action today on behalf of all New Zealanders to strengthen our gun laws and make our country a safer place.”

Trump Airs Grievances Against McCain

Roll Call, Analysis: ‘I didn’t get a thank you’ for approving John McCain’s funeral, Trump says, John T. Bennett, March 21, 2019 (print ed.). President’s economic speech in Ohio becomes political rally — with tanks. President Donald Trump went to Ohio to deliver an economic message. Instead, as always, a political rally broke out — this time, in front of military tanks.

djt smiling fileHe already was in quite a mood Wednesday afternoon as he approached reporters awaiting his departure on the White House’s South Lawn, declaring that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report is being written “out of the blue.”

“I just won one of the greatest elections of all time in the history of this country — and even you will admit that — and now I have somebody writing a report that never got a vote,” Trump (shown at left in a file photo) said before boarding Marine One in Washington. “So explain that, because my voters don’t get it and I don’t get it. … But it’s sort of interesting that a man, out of the blue, just writes a report.” (The notion that Mueller’s report is a surprise is yet another false statement by Trump.)

john mccain with flag recentAfter a quick flight and motorcade ride to Lima Army Tank Plant, the president had plenty more to say, attacking the late Republican Sen. John McCain (right) from Arizona and again declaring that the Islamic State’s self-styled caliphate will be gone by Wednesday night. (He has previously said it was already eliminated)

Here are a collection of the most eyebrow-raising quotes from the president as he addressed plant workers in front of several tanks:

“Well, you better love me. I kept this place open.”

Trump was referring to the Army’s response to shrinking defense budgets under the Obama administration. The service slowed the production level at the Lima plant to one tank per month, according to defense analyst and consultant Loren Thompson.

“McCain didn’t get the job done for our great vets and the VA — and they knew it. … A lot of people like him, and I think that’s great.

Though Trump said in Lima he hopes this is the end of his feud with a man who died seven months ago, he brought up the late Senate Armed Services chairman unprompted. His conservative base was often frustrated by McCain’s efforts to cross the aisle. Trump knows that. The feud likely will continue.

“I gave him (McCain) the kind of funeral he wanted, which as president I had to approve. And I didn’t get a thank you. But that’s OK.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Republicans begged him to stop, but Trump escalated his attacks on McCain, Josh Dawsey, Ashley Parker, Felicia Sonmez and Alex Horton, March 21, 2019 (print ed.). The president’s comments follow a longtime pattern in which he lashes out at those he sees as rivals — alive or dead.

Flight Safety

ny times logoNew York Times, Two doomed jets that crashed weren’t equipped with safety features that Boeing sold as extras, Hiroko Tabuchi and David Gelles, March 21, 2019. As the pilots of the doomed Boeing jets in Ethiopia and Indonesia fought to control their planes, they lacked two notable safety features in their cockpits.

boeing logoOne reason: Boeing charged extra for them.

For Boeing and other aircraft manufacturers, the practice of charging to upgrade a standard plane can be lucrative. Top airlines around the world must pay handsomely to have the jets they order fitted with customized add-ons.

Hypocrisy In High Places?

new yorker logoThe New Yorker, The Reckoning of Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center, Bob Moser, March 21, 2019. The firing of Morris Dees, the co-founder of the S.P.L.C., has flushed up uncomfortable questions that have surrounded the organization for years.

morris dees speaker bureauIn the days since the stunning dismissal of Morris Dees (shown in a file photo from his speaker's bureau), the co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, on March 14th, I’ve been thinking about the jokes my S.P.L.C. colleagues and I used to tell to keep ourselves sane. During my first few weeks, a friendly new co-worker couldn’t help laughing at my bewilderment. “Well, honey, welcome to the Poverty Palace,” she said. “I can guaran-damn-tee that you will never step foot in a more contradictory place as long as you live.”

“Everything feels so out of whack,” I said. “Where are the lawyers? Where’s the diversity? What in God’s name is going on here?”

“And you call yourself a journalist!” she said, laughing again. “Clearly you didn’t do your research.”

In the decade or so before I’d arrived, the center’s reputation as a beacon of justice had taken some hits from reporters who’d peered behind the façade. In 1995, the Montgomery Advertiser had been a Pulitzer finalist for a series that documented, among other things, staffers’ allegations of racial discrimination within the organization. In Harper’s, Ken Silverstein had revealed that the center had accumulated an endowment topping a hundred and twenty million dollars while paying lavish salaries to its highest-ranking staffers and spending far less than most nonprofit groups on the work that it claimed to do.

The work could be meaningful and gratifying. But it was hard, for many of us, not to feel like we’d become pawns in what was, in many respects, a highly profitable scam.

For the many former staffers who have come and gone through the center’s doors—I left in 2004—the queasy feelings came rushing back last week, when the news broke that Dees, now eighty-two, had been fired. The official statement sent by Cohen, who took control of the S.P.L.C. in 2003, didn’t specify why Dees had been dismissed, but it contained some broad hints. “We’re committed to ensuring that our workplace embodies the values we espouse—truth, justice, equity, and inclusion,” Cohen wrote. “When one of our own fails to meet those standards, no matter his or her role in the organization, we take it seriously and must take appropriate action.” Dees’s profile was immediately erased from the S.P.L.C.’s Web site—amazing, considering that he had remained, to the end, the main face and voice of the center, his signature on most of the direct-mail appeals that didn’t come from celebrity supporters, such as the author Toni Morrison.

U.S. Crime

washington post logoWashington Post, Cesar Sayoc pleads guilty to mailing explosive devices to Trump critics, Mark Berman and Edith Honan, March 21, 2019. Federal authorities accused the Florida man of committing “a domestic terrorist attack” by sending the devices to more than a dozen politicians and other critics of the president.

cesar sayoc nypost front page oct 27 2018Cesar Sayoc, right (as shown after his arrest) the Florida man accused of mailing explosive devices to more than a dozen politicians and media figures who have been critical of President Trump, pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court.

Sayoc, 57, was arrested and charged in October after a series of possible explosive devices were sent to former president Barack Obama, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and the news network CNN, among others. Officials said he sent 16 devices to 13 people across the country.

On Thursday, Sayoc appeared in a Manhattan courtroom and read from a brief statement while pleading guilty to 65 counts, including charges of using a weapon of mass destruction and illegally mailing explosives with the intent to kill or injure people. Naming recipients of the packages, Sayoc acknowledged that he had created the devices “intended to look like pipe bombs”— using materials that included powder from fireworks — and sent them in the mail.

U.S. Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats struggle to address rising border apprehensions as they seek to counter Trump on immigration, David Nakamura, March 21, 2019. The party faces a fraught choice: sound heightened alarms and risk affirming the president’s narrative of a border “crisis,” or play down the numbers and risk appearing indifferent or negligent.

washington post logoWashington Post, As a prosecutor in heavily white Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar declined to go after police involved in fatal encounters with black men, Elise Viebeck and Michelle Ye Hee Lee, March 21, 2019. Christopher Burns, a 44-year-old black man, was unarmed and at home in Minneapolis with his fiancee and three young children when the police arrived in response to a domestic violence call. The officers put him in a chokehold, and he died on the scene, according to the medical examiner.

democratic donkey logoThe 2002 incident marked the third killing of a black person by the city’s police department that year, prompting local activists to stage rallies and demand that the two officers involved in Burns’s death face charges.

The focus of the community’s anger was Amy Klobuchar, the up-and-coming attorney of Hennepin County, who had declined to prosecute police accused of using excessive force against black suspects.

Esquire, Opinion: A Joe Biden-Stacey Abrams 2020 Ticket Is a Terrible Idea for Stacey Abrams, Charles P. Pierce, March 21, 2019. A report stacey abrams campaignsays Biden is floating the idea of promising to run with Abrams, right, as his VP. That would guarantee Abrams makes one friend and 18 enemies on every debate stage.

It's early days yet, and Joe Biden already has floated the Hindenburg of trial balloons. Twice. First, his people start bruiting about the notion that he will pick Stacey Abrams, who got cheated out of the governorship of Georgia, as his running mate long before he gets the nomination. Then, word comes out that Biden will promise to serve only one term. Both of these are dumb enough to make you wonder if Biden should be allowed to cut his own meat at dinner.

The popular Georgia Democrat, who at age 45 is 31 years younger than Biden, would bring diversity and excitement to the ticket—showing voters, in the words of a close source, that Biden "isn't just another old white guy."

First of all, historically, this never works and it always looks desperate. I

"Elect Me Because Look Who I'm Running With" is an open invitation to every voter to wonder why the ticket shouldn't be reversed. In any event, it doesn't exactly demonstrate confidence on the part of the guy running for president.

More specifically, why in the name of God would Abrams do it? Right now, she's no worse than the second-hottest ticket in Democratic politics, a favorite to win whatever office for which she chooses to run in Georgia.

Mueller Report

ny times logoNew York Times, The Mueller Report Is Highly Anticipated. Here’s What We Already Know, Larry Buchanan and Karen Yourish, March 21, 2019. (print ed.) After more than two years of criminal indictments and steady revelations about contacts between associates of Donald J. Trump and Russia, we already know a lot about the work done by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Here are the main findings and lines of inquiry and the people involved in each.

The investigation has revealed a range of events related to Russian interference and the 2016 election.

  • Russian Hacking and WikiLeaks
  • Russian Social Media Manipulation
  • Trump Tower Moscow
  • Trump Tower Russia Meeting
  • Russian Contacts

U.S. House Oversight

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The White House hasn't turned over a single piece of paper to my committee, Elijah E. Cummings, March 21, 2019 (print ed.). Elijah E. Cummings, right, a Democrat, represents Maryland’s 7th Congressional District in the House, where elijah cummings headshothe is the chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform.

In November, the American people voted overwhelmingly to put Democrats in charge of the House of Representatives to start serving as a truly independent check and balance on the executive branch. Since then, President Trump and his allies have complained of “Presidential Harassment,” decrying Democrats for having the audacity to request documents and witnesses to fulfill our constitutional responsibilities.

The problem is that the White House is engaged in an unprecedented level of stonewalling, delay and obstruction.

I serve as chairman of the Oversight and Reform Committee, the primary investigative body in the House of Representatives. I have sent 12 letters to the White House on a half-dozen topics — some routine and some relating to our core national security interests. In response, the White House has refused to hand over any documents or produce any witnesses for interviews.

Media News

david pecker cnn screenshot

Trump family friend David Pecker, chairman of American Media, Inc. (AMI), parent company of the National Enquirer (screenshot from CNN)

Palmer Report, Opinion: National Enquirer sells out Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, March 21, 2019. The National Enquirer, its parent company AMI, and its boss David Pecker just keep finding their way in and out of legal trouble in relation to Donald Trump’s scandals. Now the Enquirer gang has decided to sell Trump out in the hope of keeping itself out of even more legal trouble.

bill palmer report logo headerWe already saw Pecker and the National Enquirer sell Donald Trump and Michael Cohen out to the SDNY in return for immunity. But then Pecker blew his immunity when he got caught trying to blackmail Trump’s longtime nemesis Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, and now Pecker is in real danger of facing serious criminal charges. So he’s selling Trump out yet again.

Pecker and AMI have agreed to turn over Trump-related documents to the House Judiciary Committee, according to CBS News. Based on the nature of the document request, these are ostensibly the same documents that they’ve already turned over to the SDNY. So this won’t necessarily further incriminate Trump, but it will serve to publicly incriminate Trump, as the committee will turn around and use these documents as part of its public hearings on Trump’s crimes.

twitter bird CustomConsortium News, After Pressure on Twitter, Christine Assange’s Account is Restored, Joe Lauria, March 21, 2019. The Twitter account of Julian Assange’s mother was restored on Wednesday night after her supporters sent a flood of messages to Twitter.

Global Affairs

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump endorses Israeli control of the disputed Golan Heights, Anne Gearan and Loveday Morris​, March 21, 2019.  President Trump on Thursday abruptly endorsed permanent Israeli control of the disputed Golan Heights, saying on Twitter that the area seized from Syria in the 1967 Arab war is “of critical strategic and security importance” to Israel.

djt benjamin netanyahu handshakeIsraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (shown with Trump in a file photo) has pressed the United States to formally recognize Israel’s annexation of the land, including making a public appeal for U.S. help as he welcomed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

“After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!” Trump tweeted.

Trump’s statement marks a dramatic departure in formal U.S. policy since 1967, when the Golan Heights was first seized from Syria before being effectively annexed in 1981. The endorsement also puts the U.S. administration in the position of backing a key political priority of Netanyahu’s just three weeks before Israel’s national elections and days before the Israeli leader is due in Washington for a visit.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats unveil bipartisan measure rebuking boycott movement against Israel, Rachael Bade and Mike DeBonis, March 21, 2019. Jewish House Democrats, eager to reassert party support for Israel following blowback over alleged anti-Semitic comments from colleague Rep. Ilhan Omar, unveiled a bipartisan resolution rebuking a global boycott movement against Israel.

jerrold nadler o SmallHouse Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.) and Rep. Bradley Schneider (Ill.) joined with two Republicans to introduce the resolution Thursday. It expresses opposition to any efforts to “delegitimize” Israel, including the boycott, divestment and sanctions, or “BDS,” movement.

Supporters of that movement say they’re seeking to pressure Israel to change its policies toward Palestinians, but opponents argue the movement seeks “the elimination of Israel,” as the two lawmakers wrote in a letter to colleagues Thursday.

“The Global BDS Movement, despite deceptively presenting itself as progressive and pro-peace, in reality, advances neither of these principles,” the resolution sponsors wrote. “The Global BDS Movement’s overly-simplistic and one-sided approach do a disservice to the cause of peace and stability by unfairly placing blame entirely on one side and by seeking to delegitimize one party on the world stage. This does nothing to encourage either party to resume negotiations or enhance a better understanding of each other or the complexity of the conflict.”

ny times logoNew York Times, A New Age of Warfare: How Internet Mercenaries Do Battle for Authoritarian Governments, Mark Mazzetti, Adam Goldman, Ronen Bergman and Nicole Perlroth, March 21, 2019. Sophisticated surveillance, once the domain of world powers, is increasingly available on the private market. Smaller countries are seizing on the tools — sometimes for darker purposes.

The man in charge of Saudi Arabia’s ruthless campaign to stifle dissent went searching for ways to spy on people he saw as threats to the kingdom. He knew where to go: a secretive Israeli company offering technology developed by former intelligence operatives.

It was late 2017 and Saud al-Qahtani — then a top adviser to Saudi Arabia’s powerful crown prince — was tracking Saudi dissidents around the world, part of his extensive surveillance efforts that ultimately led to the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. In messages exchanged with employees from the company, NSO Group, Mr. al-Qahtani spoke of grand plans to use its surveillance tools throughout the Middle East and Europe, like Turkey and Qatar or France and Britain.

The Saudi government’s reliance on a firm from Israel, an adversary for decades, offers a glimpse of a new age of digital warfare governed by few rules and of a growing economy, now valued at $12 billion, of spies for hire.

Today even the smallest countries can buy digital espionage services, enabling them to conduct sophisticated operations like electronic eavesdropping or influence campaigns that were once the preserve of major powers like the United States and Russia. Corporations that want to scrutinize competitors’ secrets, or a wealthy individual with a beef against a rival, can also command intelligence operations for a price, akin to purchasing off-the-shelf elements of the National Security Agency or the Mossad.

#MeToo Claims

ny times logoNew York Times, They Sought a Billionaire’s Support. He Made Sexual Requests in Response, They Say, Sharon Otterman and Hannah Dreyfus March 21, 2019. Michael Steinhardt, a leading donor to Jewish nonprofits, was accused of a pattern of sexual harassment. He denied many of the actions attributed to him.

Sheila Katz was a young executive at Hillel International, the Jewish college outreach organization, when she was sent to visit the philanthropist Michael H. Steinhardt, a New York billionaire. He had once been a major donor, and her goal was to persuade him to increase his support. But in their first encounter, he asked her repeatedly if she wanted to have sex with him, she said.

Mr. Steinhardt, 78, a retired hedge fund founder, is among an elite cadre of donors who bankroll some of the country’s most prestigious Jewish nonprofits. His foundations have given at least $127 million to charitable causes since 2003, public filings show.

But for more than two decades, that generosity has come at a price. Six women said in interviews with The New York Times and ProPublica, and one said in a lawsuit, that Mr. Steinhardt asked them to have sex with him, or made sexual requests of them, while they were relying on or seeking his support. He also regularly made comments to women about their bodies and their fertility, according to the seven women and 16 other people who said they were present when Mr. Steinhardt made such comments.

“Institutions in the Jewish world have long known about his behavior, and they have looked the other way,” said Ms. Katz, 35, a vice president at Hillel International. “No one was surprised when I shared that this happened.”

Mr. Steinhardt declined to be interviewed for this article. In a statement, he said he regretted that he had made comments in professional settings through the years “that were boorish, disrespectful, and just plain dumb.” Those comments, he said, were always meant humorously.

March 20

U.S. Restrictions On Press

Reporters Without Borders, US – State Department bars press corps from Pompeo briefing, Staff report, March 20, 2019. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is concerned that the US State Department only allowed “faith-based” media to attend a press briefing with state dept map logo Smallthe Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, excluding mainstream press and from the meeting in an unusual move. State Department activities are of immense public interest, and press corps access to those activities must not be restricted.

The State Department allowed only faith-based media to report on a March 18 press call with Pompeo, excluding the mainstream press and wire services. Ahead of Secretary Pompeo’s trip to the Middle East, the briefing call was planned to discuss international religious freedom. Only one member of the State Department’s press corps was invited to join the call, only to be uninvited after attempting to mike pompeo portraitRSVP. The State Department did not release the list of press attendees or publish a transcript of the briefing as it typically would.

“This denial of access is one of a number of moves by government officials that restrict the public’s right to know the actions of its government,” said Sabine Dolan, Interim Executive Director for RSF’s North America bureau. “Ensuring that faith-based media are present for such conversations should not come at the expense of traditional media. RSF calls on the State Department, and all government agencies, to ensure that a diverse range of media can cover their activities.”

The United States ranks 45th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

Global Opinion: West v. ISIS

isis gunmen file

Strategic Culture Foundation via SouthFront, Opinion: “Hyper-Hypocrisy of The West about ISIS,” Eric Zuesse, March 20, 2019.  During the period of 17 September to 11 December of 2016, the United States and its allies carried out a massive operation to move ISIS’s surviving jihadists (shown in a file photo) who were in the oil-producing Iraqi region of Mosul, into the Syrian oil-producing region of Deir Ezzor and Palmyra. This was done so that those oil-stealing-and-selling jihadists in Iraq would now be stealing Syria’s oil and would thereby increase the likelihood of overthrowing Syria’s long-existing non-sectarian Government.

saudi scene no photo credit CustomThe US and its allies would then replace that Government by one which would be controlled by the fundamentalist Sunni Saud family, who own Saudi Arabia, the long-time leading oil-power, and which family are America’s main foreign ally. The Sauds (with leading royals and retainers shown in a file photo crowd scene) are crucial to maintaining the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency. The US aristocracy rely upon them.

Now that ISIS is being defeated by Syria’s Government (and by its allies Russia and Iran) in Syria, the United States and its allies are trying to find other governments that will take them in as refugees. It’s part of a deal the US regime reached with ISIS.

The issue of what to do with the thousands of surviving but (temporarily) defeated ISIS members — and with their spouses and children — has raised hypocrisy to perhaps the highest level in all of history. Its background needs to be understood if one wants to understand the sources of that enormous hypocrisy. Here’s this background.

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook agrees to overhaul targeted advertising system for job, housing and loan ads after discrimination complaints, Tracy Jan and Elizabeth Dwoskin, March 20, 2019 (print ed.). Facebook on Tuesday agreed to overhaul its facebook logolucrative targeted advertising system to settle accusations that landlords, lenders and employers use the platform to discriminate, a significant shift for a company that built a business empire on selling personal data.

The settlement compels Facebook to withhold a wide array of detailed demographic information — including gender, age and Zip codes, which are often used as indicators of race — from advertisers when they market housing, credit and job opportunities.

washington post logogoogle logo customWashington Post, Google fined nearly $1.7 billion for violating European antitrust laws, Tony Romm​, March 20, 2019. The fine marks the third time in as many years that European watchdogs have penalized the U.S. tech giant for harming competition and consumers.

Consortium News, Twitter Restricts Account of Julian Assange’s Mother, Joe Lauria, March 19, 2019. The social media giant has given no reason to Christine Assange who had turned to Twitter to campaign for the liberty of her son.

twitter bird CustomThe Twitter account of Christine Assange, the mother of the arbitrarily detained founder of WikiLeaks, has been restricted, she told Consortium News on Tuesday.

In the past ten days, Ms. Assange tweeted direct replies to Hillary Clinton and John Bolton, the U.S. national security adviser. Bolton had tweeted on March 9: “US military should use #Wikileaks for cyber warfare target practice. Take down their capabilities & prevent further harm to nat’l security.”

Twitter uses algorithms unknown to the public to remove, block, suspend or restrict accounts of its users. Like other social media companies, Twitter has come under intense U.S. congressional pressure to censor accounts deemed hostile to U.S. interests.

washington post logoWashington Post, What the huge loss of old Myspace music means for Internet culture, Hamza Shaban, March 20, 2019 (print ed.). The most surprising thing people may learn about Myspace this week is that it still exists. But the old social network’s accidental purge of 12 years’ worth of its users’ music uploads — that’s an estimated 50 million songs — is probably a close second.

ny times logoNew York Times, Giant Military Contract Has a Hitch: A Little-Known Entrepreneur, Karen Weise and Thomas Kaplan, March 20, 2019. Deap Ubhi is a restless guy. At 26, he quit his job in private equity in Northern California, where he had grown up and gone to college, and then moved to India to found Burrp!, a local search site similar to Yelp. He sold the company in 2009 and along with other alums became what they called the Burrp! mafia, seeding and growing other start-ups in India.

amazon logo small

After returning to the West Coast, he joined Amazon in 2014 to encourage start-ups to adopt the company’s cloud-computing products. But in less than two years, Mr. Ubhi left to start a company that provided technology to restaurants, inspired by his family’s experience running an Indian-Jamaican-Mexican fusion joint.

He then shifted his career in a new direction, taking his Silicon Valley mentality to the heart of the Washington bureaucracy. .

But that circuitous career has landed Mr. Ubhi, now 39, in the center of a Washington drama. The question of what roles he played inside the Pentagon, and when, is holding up one of the largest federal information technology contracts in history. It is a scuffle with an unusual mixture of tech industry rivalries, national politics and the obscure world of government procurement.

dod sealThe project, a $10 billion deal to bring modern cloud computing to the Pentagon’s arsenal, drew the attention of the biggest tech companies from the moment it was announced in 2017. Amazon, Microsoft, Google, IBM and Oracle all wanted the prize.

But it had a hitch: The contract would go to only one cloud vendor, even though many big companies prefer to work with multiple cloud providers. Amazon, the runaway leader in cloud computing, appeared to be perhaps the only company capable of fulfilling the Pentagon’s huge demands. And that is where Mr. Ubhi’s connections to the company, where he now works again, have thrown a wrench into the process.

The software giant Oracle, which is widely considered ill equipped to land the deal, has aggressively criticized the one-vendor approach. As part of its opposition, the company is arguing in federal court that Mr. Ubhi’s ties to Amazon shaped the contract in the company’s favor.

Flight Safety

Roll Call, Former Delta pilot named to lead FAA as Chao seeks Max 8 audit, Herb Jackson, March 20, 2019. The agency faces faa logoquestions about its handling of the Boeing 737 Max plane, involved in two catastrophic crashes. Former Delta Air Lines executive and pilot Stephen M. Dickson was nominated Tuesday to take over as administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, an agency facing questions about its handling of the Boeing 737 Max plane involved in two catastrophic overseas crashes.

Also on Tuesday, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said she had asked the department’s inspector general to conduct a formal audit of the certification process for the 737 Max 8.

Dickson recently retired as senior vice president for flight operations at Delta, a post that made him responsible for operational performance of the airline’s fleet, pilot training and regulatory compliance, the White House said.

His career also included serving as captain of a crew flying an A320, and he flew in Boeing 727, 737 and 767 jets. An Air Force Academy graduate, Dickson was also an F-15 fighter pilot.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association President Paul Rinaldi congratulated Dickson, saying in a news release they served together on the FAA’s Management Advisory Committee.

Climate Change

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal judge halts drilling in Wyoming over climate concerns, Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis, March 20, 2019. The decision marks the first time the Trump administration has been held to account for the climate impact of its energy-dominance agenda.

U.S. Politics

Roll Call, House GOP is down to 13 women. Will North Carolina special elections boost their ranks? Simone Pathé, March 20, 2019. Of the 27 Republicans running in 3rd or 9th districts, seven are women. With two special elections in North Carolina this year, Republicans have a chance to send to Congress some company for West Virginia Rep. Carol Miller, the only female GOP lawmaker in the House freshman class.

The number of Republican women in the chamber is at a new low with just 13 in the 116th Congress, down from 23 the previous session. About 100 GOP women ran for the House in the 2018 cycle, but many of them struggled to get through primaries.

North Carolina could help Republicans increase those numbers, especially if they nominate a woman in the 3rd District that’s likely to remain in GOP hands.

Media / Politics / Defamation

washington post logodevin nunes grimacingWashington Post, Analysis: Devin Nunes is suing Twitter and a satirical cow over mean tweets. Does he have a case? Deanna Paul, March 20, 2019 (print ed.). At least one expert believes the California congressman, right, could be laying the groundwork for the Supreme Court to reconsider defamation of public officials and overturn a statute passed by Congress.

Media / Border Controls

Guardian, Alarm over leaked US database targeting journalists and immigration activists, Amanda Holpuch and Lauren Aratani, March 20, 2019.  Secret database listed 59 advocates and journalists tied to the migrant caravan, according to leaked documents.

Photojournalist Ariana Drehsler was stopped for a secondary screening three separate times in one week while crossing the US-Mexico border to cover the migrant caravan in Tijuana this winter – unaware that the journey she had taken countless times before was suddenly more complicated because her name was logged in a secret government database.

That database, part of something called Operation Secure Line, listed 59 advocates and journalists tied to the migrant caravan, according to leaked documents obtained by local news station NBC 7.

“I am an observer, I am actually kind of shy, I don’t know what I could’ve done to be put on a watchlist,” Drehsler, a freelancer based in San Diego, told the Guardian.

Drehsler was grouped in the database as “media/journalist”, alongside others identified as “instigator” and “organizer”. Her image in the database, like those of several others, is marked with a bright green X on her face to indicate an alert has been placed on her passport. NBC 7 reported that the database included a dossier on each person.

Civil rights activists and members of Congress have expressed alarm about this database, as well as the arrest of more than 37 other immigration activists by Donald Trump’s administration. They see it as a politically motivated crackdown on media and campaigners as Trump seeks to ramp up the pressure to build a border wall.

PA Rep. Quits After Scandal Charge

NBC News, Pennsylvania state Rep. Brian Ellis resigns after allegations of sexually assaulting an incapacitated woman, Farnoush Amiri, March 19, 2019. A Pennsylvania state representative resigned on Monday, days after a woman made a complaint to the state's Republican caucus alleging that he sexually assaulted her in 2015 when she was blacked out.

"It is with immense gratitude to the sacrifices made by my family, the support of my constituents, and the friendship of my colleagues that I have concluded that it is in the best interest of my family, the residents of the 11th House district, and my own health that I resign from the General Assembly," State Rep. Brian Ellis wrote in his resignation letter submitted on Monday.

Ellis' resignation came after House Republicans in January called on him to step down when the Dauphin County district attorney began to investigate allegations that Ellis had sex with a woman without her consent in October 2015, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

"It truly has been a new day for survivors," the woman's lawyer, Christine Wechsler told NBC News on Tuesday. "This is an acknowledgment of the credibility of the allegation."

She added that her client feels "vindicated" after hearing of Ellis' resignation from public office.

The woman said that she had been out "casually drinking" in a Harrisburg bar when she began to have "scant memories." The next thing she remembers is waking up "in pain, injured and naked" in bed with Ellis, according to a formal complaint she addressed to an attorney representing the state's GOP caucus and its members on the Ethics Committee on March 12.

The law firm representing Ellis, Myers, Brier & Kelly LLP, described the accusations as "just plain false," in a statement to NBC News.

Mueller Probe 

washington post logoWashington Post, Mueller team cites ‘press of other work’ in seeking delay to open Manafort records, Spencer S. Hsu and Matt Zapotosky, March 20, 2019 (print ed.). The filing comes amid signs that the special counsel’s probe is winding down and robert mueller full face filespeculation that he could any day transmit his final report to the attorney general.
Prosecutors with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team on Tuesday cited the “press of other work” in asking a judge to give them until April 1 to respond to the court about a request from The Washington Post to unseal records in Paul Manafort’s criminal case.

In a two-page filing, Deputy Solicitor General Michael R. Dreeben and prosecutor Adam C. Jed wrote, “Counsel responsible for preparing the response face the press of other work and require additional time to consult within the government.”

College Scandal

washington post logoWashington Post, A Trojan horse: USC was the most frequent target in alleged admissions scheme, Moriah Balingit, Susan Svrluga and Nick Anderson, March 20, 2019 (print ed.). Interim president Wanda M. Austin acknowledged the breadth of the university’s exposure to the scandal poses many questions. Chief among them: Why weren’t alarms raised internally years ago?

The most frequent target in the alleged admissions fraud scam: USC, the current or former employer of six of the 50 alleged perpetrators, including a renowned water polo coach, a senior athletics official and even a professor seeking to help his college-bound daughter.

March 19

NY Times Probes Trump-Troubled Bank

ny times logoNew York Times, A Mar-a-Lago Weekend and an Act of God: Trump’s History With Deutsche Bank, David Enrich, March 19, 2019 (print ed.). As a developer, Donald Trump borrowed more than $2 billion from Deutsche Bank. Once he was president, employees were told not to utter his name. Now Mr. Trump’s financial ties with the bank are the subject of investigations by two congressional committees and the New York attorney general.

Mr. Trump and Deutsche Bank were deeply entwined, their symbiotic bond born of necessity and ambition on both sides: a real estate mogul made toxic by polarizing rhetoric and a pattern of defaults, and a bank with intractable financial problems and a history of misconduct.

deutsche bank logoMr. Trump used loans from Deutsche Bank to finance skyscrapers and other high-end properties, and repeatedly cited his relationship with the bank to deflect political attacks on his business acumen. Deutsche Bank used Mr. Trump’s projects to build its investment-banking business, reaped fees from the assets he put in its custody and leveraged his celebrity to lure clients.

Over nearly two decades, Deutsche Bank’s leaders repeatedly saw red flags surrounding Mr. Trump. There was a disastrous bond sale, a promised loan that relied on a banker’s forged signature, wild exaggerations of Mr. Trump’s wealth, even a claim of an act of God.

But Deutsche Bank had a ravenous appetite for risk and limited concern about its clients’ reputations. Time after time, with the support of two different chief executives, the bank handed money — a total of well over $2 billion — to a man whom nearly all other banks had deemed untouchable.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Anthony Kennedy and his son were even more deeply involved in Donald Trump’s Russia scandal than we Anthony Kennedy official SCOTUS portraitthought, Bill Palmer, March 18, 2019. Last year, even as Donald Trump’s presidency seemed to be on its last legs, and the Republican Party seemed to be inching away from him, something happened that caused the GOP to rush back into his arms and buy him significant time.

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, right, abruptly announced he was retiring, thus allowing Trump to nominate his replacement. This was suspicious beyond words, because Kennedy’s son was an executive at Deutsche Bank, which was at the financial center of Donald Trump’s Russia scandal.

bill palmer report logo headerThis set off a million theories about how Donald Trump might have used Trump-Russia dirt on Justin Kennedy as leverage to force Anthony Kennedy into retirement. The trouble was that, while it all made sense, it was all vague and circumstantial. But that’s no longer the case. Tonight the New York Times published a verty lengthy expose about the mutually corrupt relationship between Trump and Deutsche Bank over the years – and both the older and younger Kennedy play a role in the story.

deutsche bank logoThe NY Times article confirms, once and for all, what had long been suspected: Justin Kennedy was indeed the Deutsche Bank senior executive who kept making the decision to loan large amounts of money to Donald Trump for bad real estate deals, even after every other bank in the world had sworn off lending money to Trump. Oh, and there’s this sentence: “Occasionally, Justice Kennedy stopped by Deutsche Bank’s offices to say hello to the team.”

Mueller Report

washington post logoWashington Post, Mueller team cites ‘press of other work’ in seeking delay until April 1 over Post request to open Manafort records, Spencer S. Hsu and Matt Zapotosky​, March 19, 2019. The filing comes amid several public signs that the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election is winding down and speculation that Robert S. Mueller III could any day transmit his final report to the attorney general.

Prosecutors with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team on Tuesday cited the “press of other work” in asking a judge to give them until April 1 to respond to the court about a request from The Washington Post to unseal records in Paul Manafort’s criminal case.

In a two-page filing, Deputy Solicitor General Michael R. Dreeben and prosecutor Adam C. Jed wrote, “Counsel responsible for preparing the response face the press of other work and require additional time to consult within the government.”

A response had been due March 21. The filing did not detail the nature of the consultation.

Roll Call, Rep. Nadler: White House can’t claim executive privilege on Mueller report, Griffin Connolly, March 19, 2019. Judiciary jerrold nadler o SmallCommittee chairman says administration waived that privilege ‘long ago.’ The top House Democrat in the impending fight between the executive branch and Congress over the release of special counsel Robert S. Mueller’s report to the public indicated Tuesday that he will strongly oppose White House lawyers’ efforts to redact some information.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler claimed Tuesday that the Trump administration waived any claims of executive privilege over Mueller’s eventual findings “long ago” when it agreed to cooperate with the probe.

democratic donkey logoWhite House lawyers have reportedly indicated they expect to review Mueller’s report and request redactions based on claims of executive privilege for conversations between President Donald Trump and his advisers. The administration would have to prove that those conversations needed to be withheld because of sensitive content like national security. It wouldn’t cover any aspects of the 2016 campaign.

Palmer Report, Opinion: What today’s newly released Michael Cohen search warrant documents really tell us, Bill Palmer, March 19, 2019. Partially redacted documents were released today in relation to the search warrant that was carried out against Michael Cohen’s residence and office nearly a year ago. bill palmer report logo headerThis wasn’t because prosecutors wanted to announce anything, and was instead the result of a legal victory by a number of major news outlets who sought the documents. So what do these documents tell us?

The key here is that we clearly don’t know how many cases have been referred to other prosecutors. For instance we just learned yesterday that the Feds raided the office of former Trump campaign fundraiser Elliott Broidy last summer. The bottom line: no one in Trump’s orbit is off the hook for anything, unless they’re innocent.

Consortium News, Opinion: Why the Dust Won’t Settle After Mueller’s Report, Patrick Lawrence, March 19, 2019. It won’t be “full and thorough” and Democrats will continue to look for political payoff from Russia-gate.

Last week gave us mounting indications that Robert Mueller has finished his two-year probe into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 elections and is about to issue his long-awaited report. But those who hope to read the results of the “full and thorough investigation” promised when Mueller was appointed special counsel should adjust their expectations.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Turns out the House Judiciary Committee document collection numbers are a lot higher than we thought, Bill Palmer, March 19, 2019. Earlier today, the Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee announced that just eight people and entities, out of eighty-one in total, had met yesterday’s document request deadline.

bill palmer report logo headerThis number sounded low to us, and we pointed out that based on their track record, we had no reason whatsoever to take the Republicans on this committee at their word. Now it turns out they were indeed fibbing the numbers – and we suspect we know why.

Palmer Report, Opinion: New signs emerge that William Barr isn’t playing for Donald Trump’s team, Cheryl Kelley, March 19, 2019.  geoffrey berman sdnyPreet Bharara is the former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York. He was abruptly fired by Donald Trump, after he refused to take a personal call from the President he felt was inappropriate, considering his office was investigating Trump.

Bharara appeared on Morning Joe this morning, and he discussed Geoffrey Berman, right, his replacement as the US Attorney for the SDNY. Berman was hand-picked by Donald Trump to lead the SDNY. Berman was a law partner of Rudy Giuliani, who is famously part of Donald Trump’s legal defense team.

bill palmer report logo headerThe pressure that Berman faces in the SDNY is less than the pressure on Donald Trump’s hand-picked Attorney General, William Barr. His decisions and actions will be recorded in history books and he surely knows it. While he declined to recuse himself, which probably would have gotten him fired on the spot, there are clearly signs that Barr, like Berman, is not willing to be seen as a puppet for Donald Trump.

The latest sign is today’s announcement of the continued employment of Rod Rosenstein as the Deputy Attorney General. Barr declared under oath during his confirmation hearings, that he spoke with Rosenstein and expected him to depart DOJ after a transition period, which was expected to be mid-March. Today, it was announced that Rosenstein would stay on “longer.” This will not make Donald Trump happy at all.

Global Opinion: Venezuelan Crisis

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Venezuela -- Journalists Doubt Guaidó's Legitimacy - Regime Change Plans Continue, b, March 19, 2019. On February 23 the U.S. created a 'humanitarian aid' stunt at the border between Colombia and Venezuela. The stunt ended in a riot during which the supporters of the self declared 'president' Guaidó burned the trucks that where supposed to transport the 'aid'. Even the New York Times had to admit that.

The riots also marked the day that Guaidó lost the legal argument he had used to make himself 'interim president.' The hapless coup plotters in Washington DC were finally put on notice that the issue creates a legal problem for them. During a March 15 press briefing Elliott Abrams, the U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela, was asked about the issue.

Here is a video of the exchange. (Abrams seems to be lying about the alleged National Assembly resolution.)

The legal argument Abrams produced lacks logic and clearly contradicts the wording of the constitution quoted above.

The legal subterfuge Abrams is using would not convince any serious court. It is of course well known that Abram's has little regard for the law. He was convicted for lying to Congress in two cases. But the issue will matter.

venezuela flag waving customThe U.S. seized Venezuelan assets, especially the Citgo refineries which are in financial trouble. The U.S. is trying to move all the valuable assets towards Guaidó to finance the next phased of its 'regime change' plan. Bondholders of Citgo will likely contest these impoundments and transfers of assets in court. There the argument Abrams made is not going to be a winning one.

The first round of the U.S. 'regime change' change attempt in Venezuela failed but it is far from over. The State Department alone foresees to spend $500 million more on it. The CIA and the Pentagon will have made much larger budget requests even while an invasion of Venezuela continues to be unlikely.

In preparation of the 'humanitarian aid' stunt the U.S. had asked Brazil to use military force to bring in the 'aid' into Venezuela and to allow a U.S. presence at the border. The far-right President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil supported that but the military of Brazil, which holds significant power in the cabinet, vetoed it (in Portuguese). Bosonaro is currently in Washington to meet cia logoPresident Trump. He also made an unusual visit to the CIA headquarter likely to review plans for future operations in Venezuela.

That a Brazilian President visits the CIA, the agency responsible for violent coups and brutal dictatorships in Latin American is disgusting. Many people in Brazil will dislike it. Supporting a CIA coup in a neighboring country is worse. It’s hard to sink any lower.

Massage Charges To Be Dropped?

djt li yang cindy

Florida massage parlour founder Li "Cindy" Yang and President Trump are shown in a photo signed by Trump.Yang's bio identifies her as the founder and CEO of GY US Investments. Her website said that she is a member of the “Presidential Fundraising Committee.”

Yahoo News, Report: Florida prosecutors offer Patriots' Robert Kraft deal to drop solicitation charges, Shalise Manza Young, March 19, 2019. Prosecutors in Palm Beach County, Florida, have offered New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft a chance to avoid prosecution for soliciting prostitution and having his charges dropped, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

robert kraft twitterCalled deferred prosecution, it would require that Kraft admit that he could be proved guilty at trial.

Kraft (shown in a file photo) is not the only man charged who has been presented with this offer, the WSJ reports.

It is unclear whether Kraft will accept the agreement.

The proposed deferred prosecution deal comes with caveats: completion of an education course about prostitution, 100 hours of community service, screening for sexually transmitted diseases and payment of some court costs.

But Kraft and his attorney would also review the evidence in the case and agree that if it were to go to trial, the state would be able to prove guilt.

Kraft has been charged with two counts of soliciting prostitution; he was one of several men charged after a months-long investigation by Jupiter police, who were looking into alleged human trafficking.

A statement from a Kraft spokesman at the time of the charges being announced proclaimed his innocence.

Jupiter police say they have Kraft on surveillance video entering Orchids of Asia day spa, paying for services and receiving oral sex on two occasions, including on the day of the AFC championship game.

If Kraft accepted the deal and charges are dropped, he could still be punished by the NFL under the personal conduct policy. The league has reinforced that the policy applies to all members of the league, including team owners.

Tragic Cyclone Toll In Africa

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Everything is destroyed’: Fears of a massive human toll follow cyclone in southern Africa, Max Bearak, March 19, 2019. Government and aid agency officials sounded the alarm after aerial footage showed a vast area of wreckage wrought by Cyclone Idai in Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique.

U.S. Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The Trump administration has lost in court at least 63 times. Here’s why, Fred Barbash and Deanna Paul, March 19, 2019. In case after case, judges have rebuked Trump officials for failing to follow the most basic rules of governance for shifting policy, including providing legitimate explanations supported by facts and, where required, public input.

Trump Mental Health

C-SPAN, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump Conference, March 19, 2019, cablecast on March 23. Yale University professor Bandy Lee and scholars in the fields of law, political science, history, climatology, and social psychology, discuss the mental health of President Trump. The conference was held in the ballroom of the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

Trump Hotel Constitutional Dispute

washington post logoWashington Post, Judges seem skeptical Trump is illegally profiting from his D.C. hotel, Ann E. Marimow and Jonathan O'Connell, March 19, 2019. A federal appeals court seemed skeptical Tuesday that President Trump is illegally profiting from foreign and state government visitors at his luxury hotel (shown at right) in downtown Washington or that his financial gain comes at the expense of local competitors.

donald trump old post office twitter with sign SmallThe three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit was reviewing a novel case brought by the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia involving anti-corruption provisions in the emoluments clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

The once-obscure clauses were designed to prevent undue influence on government officials but have never been applied in court to a sitting president.

One judge, Dennis W. Shedd, suggested the president may actually be driving up business at other local hotels because of people who would be drawn to Washington to protest Trump’s policies and would not choose to stay at the president’s namesake hotel.

Another, Paul V. Niemeyer, noted that the president had already stepped back from day-to-day management of Trump International Hotel. Forcing the president to give up his financial interest would not remove the Trump name from the business, the judge said, and foreign dignitaries would still book rooms and events at the venue.

The judges repeatedly pressed the lawyer representing D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D) and Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) about the specific remedy the two jurisdictions seek and about their intentions.

U.S. Politics

james stewart Mr. Smith Goes Stewart Capitol

James Stewart, portraying an idealistic new U.S. Senator in the film "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington"

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary: A veto of Beto, Wayne Madsen, March 19, 2019 (Subscription required; excerpted with permission). 2016 Democratic Primary Campaign Trail. Here we go again. Just as there were some significant issues with [Barack] Obama that the starry-eyed media failed to dig into, O'Rourke's resume is not as much Mr. Smith Goes to Washington as it is The Dead Zone, a movie based on Stephen King's novel of the same name.

democratic donkey logoThe Dead Zone is about a future presidential candidate with significant personal issues. Martin Sheen plays Greg Stillson, a U.S. Senate hopeful who harbors presidential ambitions. At a campaign rally, Stillson holds up a baby as a human shield during an assassination attempt. An iconic photograph of the incident puts an early end to Stillson's political career....

beto o rourke ted cruzWMR had the scoop on Ted Cruz's father Rafael Cruz being photographed with Oswald in New Orleans in August 1963. The story was completely mangled by Trump on the morning of the 2016 Indiana primary. Nevertheless, it helped to taint Cruz and led to Trump's winning of Indiana and the GOP nomination. It appears that O'Rourke, like Cruz (shown at right in file photos of the two), has not been completely honest about his own past.

Washington Free Beacon, Commentary: Ocasio-Cortez, Chief-of-Staff Removed as Governors of Justice Democrats PAC, Joe alexandria ocasio cortezSchoffstall, March 19, 2019. Democratic representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), right, and her chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, were removed as governors of the Justice Democrats PAC late last week amid increased scrutiny of the PAC, according to filings to Washington, D.C.'s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs verified Monday afternoon by an individual at the department.

Justice Democrats, a far-left PAC whose members helped elect Ocasio-Cortez to Congress, has come under fire in recent weeks for transfers that the PAC made to two limited liability companies started by Chakrabarti.

March 18

Terror Attack In The Netherlands?

washington post logoWashington Post, Authorities arrest suspect in shooting on Dutch tram that left 3 dead, Michael Birnbaum​, March 18, 2019. A 37-year-old Turkish-born man was held in the attack in Utrecht that left five others injured. Police attributed no clear motive but earlier had not ruled out terrorism.

After an hours-long manhunt around Utrecht, police arrested a 37-year-old Turkish-born man, Gökmen Tanis, who they said was the main suspect. They also took into custody another person they said was connected to the attack, although they offered no further details.

“Today an attack took place in Utrecht, literally in the heart of our country,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said at a news conference after the arrest. “We will not succumb to these terrible events.” He said that authorities still consider terrorism a possible motive but that they are also still trying to understand what happened.

Tanis was known to authorities, said Dutch Justice Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus, standing alongside Rutte. The attack came shortly before provincial elections scheduled for Wednesday.

New Zealand Atrocity

jacinda ardern hijab

washington post logoWashington Post, New Zealand debates semiautomatic weapons ban, changing rugby team name, Shibani Mahtani and Emanuel Stokes, March 18, 2019 (print ed.). Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (shown above) said that gun laws will be tightened but details would be discussed at Monday's cabinet meeting. Police raised the death toll to 50 after removing victims’ bodies from the crime scenes.

• The police have said that all the evidence points to Brenton Harrison Tarrant being a lone gunman. One other person picked up in the investigation faces charges of inciting racial hatred, and another faces a firearms charge, but police say neither was involved in the attacks.

• Police have shared a provisional list of victims with relatives and are rushing to release bodies to relatives to allow them to observe Muslim burial practices.

brenton harrison tarrant lifestream stillmarch 15 2019

Accused Australian-born mass killer in New Zealand Brenton Harrison Tarrant, shown in a still from his livestream video on March 15, 2019.

washington post logoWashington Post, In Brenton Harrison Tarrant’s Australian hometown, his relatives remember violent video games, trouble with women, Brett Cole, March 18, 2019 (print ed.). On the road into this small city, a sign is evidence of a community in shock: “He does not represent us,” it says, referring to the alleged killer few here will even name.

But nowhere was the shock more evident than among the relatives of 28-year-old Brenton Harrison Tarrant, who has been accused of a hate-fueled massacre that left 50 people dead in two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch on Friday.

“We’re all gobsmacked. We don’t know what to think,” Marie Fitzgerald, Tarrant’s 81-year-old grandmother, told Australia’s 9News in an interview. “The media is saying he’s planned it for a long time, so he’s obviously not of sound mind, I don’t think.”

australian flag wavingIn Australian media, a picture began to emerge of a young man who grew up with computers as his best friends, lost in a world of violent video games, uncomfortable around girls.

Tarrant’s mother and sister have been moved to a safe house by police, relatives told 9News.

His father, Rodney Tarrant, died at the age of 49 while suffering mesothelioma, a cancer of the lung, the Daily Telegraph newspaper reported.

Clarence Valley Deputy Mayor Jason Kingsley, 41, said the community is in shock.

“The individual who carried out the attacks does not represent us, nor does he represent the values and beliefs of our wider community,” Kingsley said. “This is an act of an individual, and our hearts go out to our brothers and sisters in Christchurch.”

Grafton is home to about 11,000 people and the economic epicenter of the Clarence Valley, which is less than 400 miles north of Sydney and home to about 50,000 people. The town has struggled in the past two decades after many dairy farms went bankrupt and the area’s sugar industry and cattle farms were hit hard by shrinking agricultural subsidies.

washington post logoyoutube logo CustomWashington Post, After shooting, YouTube struggled to shut down humans who outsmarted its systems, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg, March 18, 2019. New videos were uploaded to the streaming site as quickly as one per second in the hours after the attack, YouTube’s chief product officer, Neal Mohan, told The Post. That led the site to take unprecedented steps to try to stop the spread of footage.

Global Air Safety Politics

boeing logowashington post logoWashington Post, Trump cast himself as Boeing’s decider in chief on whether to ground jets, Michael Laris, Josh Dawsey, Luz Lazo and Ashley Halsey III, March 18, 2019 (print ed.). The president took the lead on matters typically left to the FAA.

House Trump Probe

Daily Beast, Trump’s Lawyers on House Judiciary Dems’ Document Request: You Get Nothing, Asawin Suebsaeng and Spencer daily beast logoAckerman, March 18, 2019. President Trump’s personal legal team is telling a crucial House committee seeking documents from dozens of Trumpworld associates that it has nothing to turn over – an early signal that both sides are gearing up for a confrontation.

djt handwave fileMonday is the deadline set by the House Judiciary committee for 81 people, government agencies and private organizations to voluntarily submit substantial amounts of written material relevant to a practically omnibus House Democratic investigation.

The Judiciary Democrats are after far more than just the ties to Russia that their Intelligence Committee members are investigating. They want material speaking to abuses of official power, public corruption, and obstruction of justice.

Late on Monday, the committee announced in a statement that it had received “tens of thousands” of documents related to the probe. “A large number” of the 81 people, agencies, and organizations from whom it sought documents had replied, it said, with “many” sending or agreeing to send material. It did not specify who did or did not comply. The only reference it made to subpoenas was to say that it was in discussions with some who had requested being subpoenaed in order to produce material.

Epstein Cover-Up Scandal

jeffrey epstein sex offender

washington post logoWashington Post, Age of victim in Jeffrey Epstein case eased his obligations to register as a sex offender, Beth Reinhard, Kimberly Kindy and Julie Tate, March 18, 2019 (print ed.). The case has been scrutinized after a judge ruled that the prosecution team led at the time by Alexander Acosta (right), who is now labor secretary, violated the rights of alleged victims.

alexander acosta o cropped CustomA federal investigation into alleged sexual misconduct by multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein (shown above) had flagged scores of potential underage victims, including the 14-year-old girl who first alerted police.

But when he pleaded guilty in state court in 2008, the only minor Epstein was convicted of soliciting was 16 years old at the time the offenses began, according to information obtained by The Washington Post.

The younger girl who initially notified police has long believed that hers was the case referenced in the guilty plea, her attorney said. Some media accounts said as much. Publicly available charging documents contained no name or age, however. Pressed to resolve the ambiguity, state prosecutors in Florida recently provided The Post with the victim’s date of birth.

The decision to charge Epstein with a crime involving an older teen — part of a plea deal that has already been criticized as overly lenient — has eased his obligations to register as a sex offender. In New Mexico, for instance, where Epstein has a 7,600-acre property called Zorro Ranch, he is not required to register because his victim was not under 16, state officials said.

U.S. Courts

joan biskupic john roberts the chiefTHE CHIEF: The Life and Turbulent Times of Chief Justice John Roberts
By Joan Biskupic
421 pp. Basic Books. $32.

ny times logoNew York Times, Book Review: The ‘Enigma’ Who Is the Chief Justice, Adam Cohen, March 18, 2019. Joan Biskupic’s “The Chief” examines John Roberts’s life and his career on the Supreme Court.

When the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act in 2012, Chief Justice John Roberts provided the critical fifth vote, enraging conservatives and delighting liberals. Ever since, questions have swirled around his vote. How could a jurist who was so carefully vetted for ideological purity have turned apostate on such a defining issue, saving Obamacare from oblivion?

In The Chief, her assiduously reported and briskly written biography, Joan Biskupic, a CNN analyst who has long covered the court, offers new behind-the-scenes details. Roberts was, she says, initially inclined to strike down a key part of the law, the individual mandate, which required people to have insurance or pay a penalty. But during the opinion-drafting process he joined the liberals in affirming it.

joan biskupic pbsWhile Biskupic (shown in a file photo) sheds light on when and how Roberts made that decision, she is less illuminating on why. She ticks off leading theories: He was wary of overturning the elected branches of government on such an important issue, or reluctant to throw the national health care system into chaos, or worried about the court’s reputation. It is not clear, however, which of these, if any, explains why he came out as he did.

The difficulty of understanding that historic vote is emblematic of something larger: just how hard it is to figure out who Roberts really is. With his square-jawed, no-hair-out-of-place looks and icy smile, he often resembles an animatronic version of a chief justice, with the dial set firmly to the right.

Who Roberts is and what he stands for are more important than ever since Anthony Kennedy retired last year and Brett Kavanaugh, who is more conservative, took his seat. Roberts is now both chief justice and the court’s swing justice — which means that, increasingly, the law is likely to be what he says it is.

Adam Cohen, a former member of The Times’s editorial board, is the author of “Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Senate Republicans are trying to hurry up and finish their dirty work before Donald Trump is ousted, Isabel Stamm, March 18, 2019. On March 12, the Senate confirmed Paul Matey as an appointee to the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a vote that came down strictly along party lines. As a consequence, this court now has a 7—6 majority of Republican appointees, with one more pending vacancy.

bill palmer report logo headerThe next day, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham conducted hearings for two Trump nominees to the Ninth Circuit against objections from the candidates‘ home state senators, Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein.

kamala harris portraitOn this occasion, Senator Harris, right, tweeted out: "Here’s what’s happening right now in the Senate Judiciary Committee: Neither @SenFeinstein nor I have returned blue slips for the two Ninth Circuit nominees from CA before us today. Republicans are disregarding this 100 year old tradition to push extreme & ideological nominees."

In the Senate, blue slips are a convention which allows the senators from the state of residence of a federal judicial nominee to give an opinion on the candidate which is then taken into account in the confirmation process.

There is no enforceable rule that obliges the Judiciary Committee to reject a nominee if one or both home state senators return a negative blue slip or fail to return blue slips altogether, but it is nevertheless a tradition that in the past both parties have had mitch mcconnell2the decency to uphold.

However, the current Senate under the leadership of Mitch McConnell, left, has chosen to ride roughshod over this tradition, as Senator Dianne Feinstein pointed out in a tweet referencing the confirmation of Paul Matey: "No Democratic majority has EVER held a hearing or confirmed a judicial nominee over the objection of a home-state Republican senator – NEVER. Matey will be the SEVENTH circuit court judge confirmed under President Trump over the objection of home-state Democratic senators."

As of March 13, the number has risen from seven to eight, since on that day the Senate Judiciary Committee also confirmed Neomi Rao as replacement for Brett Kavanaugh on the powerful D.C. Circuit Court, the second most important court in the country. Rao shares a number of characteristics with other Trump appointees in that she is controversial, young and has no experience when it comes to practicing law in a courtroom.

All these new judges who are strong on partisan ideology rather than having a proven record of impartially serving the American people now have lifetime appointments and the ability to influence the judicial system for decades to come. This will be the legacy of a presidency that never should have happened. But Republicans are obviously grimly determined to squeeze the last bit of juice out of Donald Trump’s incumbency before supporting him becomes too politically costly

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal appeals court to hear Trump hotel case as president asks for it to be thrown out, Ann E. Marimow and Jonathan O'Connell, March 18, 2019. ​The attorneys general for Maryland and the District of Columbia contend that the president is illegally profiting from the Trump International Hotel in Washington.

President Trump’s luxury hotel in downtown Washington and the foreign dignitaries who book rooms and host events there are central to a novel appeals court case Tuesday involving anti-corruption provisions of the Constitution.

The attorneys general for Maryland and the District of Columbia contend that the president is illegally profiting from the Trump International Hotel’s foreign and state government visitors and that his financial gain comes at the expense of local competitors.

U.S. Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump blames union leader for GM cuts in Ohio — jobs the president once vowed he’d save, Heather Long​, March 18, 2019. President Trump has used this tactic of lashing out at local union leaders before when blue-collar jobs that he promised to save ended up going away.

President Trump blamed a small-town union leader Sunday for not doing enough to save a General Motors factory in Lordstown, Ohio, that shuttered on March 6, causing about 5,400 job losses in a struggling part of the country.

“Democrat UAW Local 1112 President David Green ought to get his act together and produce. G.M. let our Country down, but other much better car companies are coming into the U.S. in droves,” Trump tweeted Sunday. “I want action on Lordstown fast. Stop complaining and get the job done! 3.8% Unemployment!”

The tweet came minutes after a segment on Fox News Channel suggested that Trump might have trouble with his reelection campaign in the Rust Belt. Fox News played clips from a Trump rally in Youngstown, Ohio — very close to Lordstown — where the president told the crowd in July 2017, “don’t sell your house” because the jobs are “all coming back.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Baltimore mayor resigns from board of U.-Md. Medical System after book-deal controversy, Dana Hedgpeth and Ovetta Wiggins​, March 18, 2019. Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh has resigned from the board of the University of Maryland Medical System following a controversy involving a deal with the hospital system to buy her children’s books.

catherine pugh screenshotLast week, Pugh (D) and others on the health system’s board were criticized by Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and top state lawmakers for the financial deals with the hospital system and possible conflicts of interest.

On a financial disclosure form, Pugh listed a $100,000 profit for one year from selling 20,000 copies of her self-published children’s books series “Healthy Holly” to the University of Maryland health system, which runs 13 hospitals including the state’s trauma unit in Baltimore and has connections with the state’s dental and medical schools.

democratic donkey logoHogan described the financial contracts, which are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, as “appalling” and “unseemly.” Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) called them “self-dealing” and “a huge disaster.”

The deals were first disclosed last week by the Baltimore Sun, which reported that Pugh’s deals with the hospital board totaled $500,000 over several years, and were not fully listed on disclosure forms when Pugh represented Baltimore in the state Senate.

Roll Call, Analysis: Latest fundraising numbers from Beto O’Rourke and others are ridiculous, Nathan L. Gonzales, Mar 18, 2019. beto orourke o 113th CongressTexas Democrat raised more in 24 hours than earlier top candidates did in an entire cycle. Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, right, reported raising $6.1 million within 24 hours after announcing his bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

When covering campaigns on a day-to-day basis, it can be easy to lose perspective, particularly when it comes to money. Million-dollar figures are thrown around without much thought. But the amounts of money being raised by candidates right now, particularly Democrats, are absurd.

I glanced back at competitive races nearly 20 years ago for some context, and the comparisons between a day of presidential fundraising and entire, top-tier congressional contests are staggering. In 2000, Democratic Gov. Thomas R. Carper and Republican Sen. William V. Roth Jr. combined to spend $7 million for the entire cycle in a highly competitive Senate race in Delaware that saw the five-term incumbent defeated.

Continuing to use O’Rourke as a measuring stick, his first day of raising money for the presidential race was more than what former Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles ($5.8 million) and Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski ($5.4 million) each spent on their entire Senate campaigns in Alaska in 2004. The House fundraising comparisons are even more stark to O’Rourke’s $6.1 million.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: We must apply our universal values to all nations. Only then will we achieve peace, Ilhan Omar, ilhan omar oMarch 18, 2019 (print ed.). Ilhan Omar, right, a Democrat, represents Minnesota in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Since I began my first term in Congress, I have sought to speak openly and honestly about the scale of the issues our country faces — whether it is ending the crippling burden of student debt, tackling the existential threat of climate change or making sure no one in one of the richest countries in the world dies from lack of health care. As a survivor of war and a refugee, I have also sought to have an honest conversation about U.S. foreign policy, militarism and our role in the world.

This question of how the United States engages in conflict abroad is deeply personal to me. I fled my home country of Somalia when I was 8 years old from a conflict that the United States later engaged in. I spent the next four years in a refugee camp in Kenya, where I experienced and witnessed unspeakable suffering from those who, like me, had lost everything because of war.
democratic donkey logoI believe in an inclusive foreign policy — one that centers on human rights, justice and peace as the pillars of America’s engagement in the world, one that brings our troops home and truly makes military action a last resort. This is a vision that centers on the experiences of the people directly affected by conflict, that takes into account the long-term effects of U.S. engagement in war and that is sincere about our values regardless of short-term political convenience.

This means reorienting our foreign affairs to focus on diplomacy and economic and cultural engagement. At a time when we spend more on our military than the next seven countries combined, our global armed presence is often the most immediate contact people in the developing world have with the United States. National security experts across the political spectrum agree that we don’t need nearly 800 military bases outside the United States to keep our country safe.

Media / Politics

ap logoAssociated Press, Fox News hires Donna Brazile as political contributor, David Bauder, March 18, 2019. Former Democratic National Committee chief Donna Brazile, who was fired by CNN for tipping off the Hillary Clinton campaign about debate topics in 2016, has joined Fox News Channel as a political commentator.

Brazile said Monday she knows fellow liberals will criticize her for joining Fox, but that it’s important for people not to retreat to “safe spaces” where they just talk to people who agree with them.

 Netherlands Attack: Early Report

ny times logoNew York Times, Gunman Kills 3 Aboard a Tram in Netherlands, Christopher F. Schuetze, Claire Barthelemy and Milan Schreuer, March 18, 2019. The authorities in Utrecht were looking into the possibility of terrorism in the shooting. A manhunt is underway.

Parlor Boss Probe?

djt li yang super bowlMassage parlor founder Li "Cindy" Yang, lower left, an active Republican contributor and PR specialist in linking Chinese nationals to prominent Repubicans, and a friend watch this year's Superbowl with President Trump at Mar-a-Lago (Facebook photo).

Miami Herald, Democrats call for counterintelligence investigation of massage parlor boss Cindy Yang, Alex Daugherty, March 18, 2019. Democrats in Congress are asking the FBI to investigate Florida massage parlor operator Li “Cindy” Yang after the Miami Herald and others reported on Yang’s access to President Donald Trump and work to get Chinese business executives access to political fundraisers.

In a letter sent on Friday to FBI Director Christopher Wray, National Intelligence Director Dan Coats and U.S. Secret Service Director Randolph Alles, Democrats leading the House and Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees called for criminal and counterintelligence investigations into “credible allegations of potential human trafficking, as well as unlawful foreign lobbying, campaign finance and other activities by Ms. Yang.”

Yang, who founded a string of South Florida Asian day spas linked to sexual services, arranged for a group of Chinese expats to attend a 2017 Republican fundraiser for Trump at a New York restaurant as part of her work with the National Committee of Asian American Republicans. Yang opened — but had since sold — the massage parlor that New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft allegedly visited on the day of the AFC Championship Game. The business was under surveillance, and he and several other men were charged.

Mueller Probes

Palmer Report, Analysis: Feds raided office of Donald Trump’s pal Elliott Broidy, and it’s going to get very ugly, Bill Palmer, March 18, 2019. We’re all learning today that the Feds raided the office of Donald Trump’s associate Elliott Broidy last summer. This remained a secret until just now, thanks to documents that have been obtained by ProPublica. This is a very big deal, not only for Trump, but for the Republican National Committee – and things are going to get ugly.

bill palmer report logo headerWhat immediately stands out here is that, as opposed to the highly publicized raid of Michael Cohen’s office last year, the Feds have kept the raid of Elliott Broidy’s office a secret all this time. This strongly suggests that the evidence obtained in the raid is being used in ongoing investigations into bigger fish.

elliott broidyThe reporting from ProPublica reveals that the Feds targeted Broidy, right, over allegations of money laundering and lobbying the Trump regime on behalf of Middle Eastern nations. This more or less cements that the Feds’ goal here is to use Broidy’s crimes to get to Trump and his administration.

rnc logoThis brings us to the still unresolved questions about Elliott Broidy’s personal scandals. He allegedly paid his mistress $1.6 million to have an abortion and keep quiet about it all. It’s widely suspected that it was actually Donald Trump who impregnated the woman, and that Broidy was merely acting as a middleman for the payoff and ended up taking the fall for it, but no specific evidence has surfaced in this regard.

The raid has likely either confirmed or disproven this notion, and it’ll eventually come out one way or the other.

ny times logoNew York Times, Lobbying Case Against Democrat With Ties to Manafort Reaches Key Stage, Kenneth P. Vogel and Katie Benner, March 18, 2019. A long-running federal investigation into a former White House counsel in the Obama administration is Gregory Craigreaching a critical stage, presenting the Justice Department with a decision about whether to charge a prominent Democrat as part of a more aggressive crackdown on illegal foreign lobbying.

The case involving the lawyer, Gregory B. Craig (shown in a file photo), was transferred in January from federal prosecutors in New York to those in Washington.

A decision about whether to prosecute Mr. Craig, who was White House counsel for President Barack Obama during his first year in office, is expected in the coming weeks, people familiar with the case said. The investigation centers on whether Mr. Craig should have disclosed work he did in 2012 — while he was a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom — on behalf of the Russia-aligned government of Viktor F. Yanukovych, then the president of Ukraine.

democratic donkey logoThe work was steered to Mr. Craig by Paul Manafort, who was then a political consultant collecting millions of dollars from clients in former Soviet states. Mr. Manafort, below right, who went on to become President Trump’s campaign chairman in 2016, was sentenced this month to seven and a half years in prison on charges brought by Mr. Mueller’s team related to obstruction of justice and violations of banking, tax and lobbying laws stemming from his work in Ukraine.

paul manafort mugThe Manafort case, and others developed by Mr. Mueller, marked the first high-profile criminal charges in years under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA. The 1938 law requires Americans to disclose detailed information about lobbying and public relations work for foreign governments and politicians. One of the first significant initiatives under the new attorney general, William P. Barr, was the reorganization of the unit that oversees FARA, suggesting that enforcing laws on foreign lobbying will become a priority of his tenure.

Mr. Craig, 74, would be the first Democrat to be charged in a case spinning out of the special counsel’s investigation — a distinction that could be used to rebut accusations leveled by Mr. Trump and his supporters that the investigation is a partisan witch hunt.

March 17

Air Safety Interest Conflicts

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. government’s close ties to Boeing facing fresh scrutiny, Jonathan O'Connell and Dan Lamothe, March 17, 2019 boeing logo(print ed.). The company and the country have relied upon one another for decades, together creating thousands of jobs, outfitting the U.S. with top military aircraft and supplying planes worldwide. But amid criticism following the crash of a Boeing jet in Ethiopia, the company's intermingled interests with the U.S. government are drawing new attention.

For Boeing’s 102-year history, dating to the start of the First World War, the company and the country have relied upon one another, together creating hundreds of thousands of jobs, outfitting the United States with top military aircraft and supplying planes worldwide to allow the growth of passenger air travel and to boost U.S. exports.

• Washington Post, Boeing’s CEO took home $30 million last year. Now he faces his biggest test.

Seattle Times, Flawed analysis, failed oversight: How Boeing, FAA certified the suspect 737 MAX flight control system, Dominic Gates, March 17, 2019. Federal Aviation Administration managers pushed its engineers to delegate wide responsibility for assessing the safety of the 737 MAX to Boeing itself. But safety engineers familiar with the documents shared details that show the analysis included crucial flaws.

boeing logoAs Boeing hustled in 2015 to catch up to Airbus and certify its new 737 MAX, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) managers pushed the agency’s safety engineers to delegate safety assessments to Boeing itself, and to speedily approve the resulting analysis.

But the original safety analysis that Boeing delivered to the FAA for a new flight control system on the MAX — a report used to certify the plane as safe to fly — had several crucial flaws.

That flight control system, called MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System), is now under scrutiny after two crashes of the jet in less than five months resulted in Wednesday’s FAA order to ground the plane.

Current and former engineers directly involved with the evaluations or familiar with the document shared details of Boeing’s “System Safety Analysis” of MCAS, which the Seattle Times confirmed.

Recycling Cutbacks

ny times logoNew York Times, As Costs Skyrocket, More U.S. Cities Stop Recycling, Michael Corkery, March 17, 2019 (print ed.). With China no longer accepting used plastic and paper, communities are facing steep collection bills. Hundreds of towns and cities across the United States have canceled recycling programs, which means more plastic waste is headed to landfills or incinerators.

New Zealand Massacre

washington post logoWashington Post, New Zealand attack exposes how little U.S., allies share facts on domestic terror threat, Shane new zealand flagHarris, March 17, 2019 (print ed.). Governments generally see nationalist extremists as a problem for domestic law enforcement. But increasingly, such groups are uniting via social media, transcending national borders, experts said.

• Washington Post, North Korea, Pakistan, Bulgaria: Suspect had traveled widely.
• Washington Post, Facebook says it removed 1.5 million videos of the attacks within 24 hours.

Media: Trump Boosts Fox Favorites

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump lashes out after Fox News bumps ‘Judge Jeanine’ following remarks on Muslim congresswoman, Reis Thebault​, March 17, 2019. The network publicly condemned host Jeanine Pirro’s on-air suggestion that Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) did not support the U.S. Constitution because she is Muslim and wears a hijab.

jeanine pirro twitter photoTrump accused Pirro’s critics of waging “all out campaigns” against Pirro (shown in her Twitter photo) and fellow Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who was widely rebuked after decade-old racist, misogynistic and homophobic comments resurfaced last week. Both of their comments prompted some advertisers to boycott the shows.

“Stop working soooo hard on being politically correct, which will only bring you down,” Trump said in another tweet, before issuing a curiously dire warning to “Be strong & prosper, be weak & die!”

fcc logoIn yet another post, Trump urged his 59 million followers to “Keep fighting for Tucker, and fight hard for @JudgeJeanine."

Trump mounted his defense hours after he threatened “Saturday Night Live” and other late-night comedy shows that have made the president a frequent punchline. On Twitter, he asked whether the Federal Communications Commission and, for some reason, the Federal Election Commission should “look into” the programs for “knocking the same person (me), over & over, without so much of a mention of ‘the other side.’ ”

Setback In Mass Murder Probes

ny times logoNew York Times, Philippines Officially Leaves the International Criminal Court, Jason Gutierrez, March 17, 2019. The Philippines officially withdrew from the International Criminal Court on Sunday, after the country’s highest court declined to overrule President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to pull out from the world’s only permanent war crimes tribunal.

rodrigo duterte philippines presidentManila announced it was withdrawing from the court a year ago, but under court rules, the withdrawal could not take effect for at least 12 months. The Philippines is the second country to withdraw from the Hague-based body after Burundi, which left in 2017.

In withdrawing from the court last year, Mr. Duterte, right, said that the Philippine government had enough mechanisms in place to ensure that the justice system functioned properly. He also insulted the court and threatened to arrest Fatou Bensouda, a Gambian lawyer and the court’s chief prosecutor, if she entered the Philippines.

The court has been conducting a preliminary inquiry into accusations that Mr. Duterte and other Philippine officials philippines flagcommitted mass murder and crimes against humanity in the course of the drug crackdown. That inquiry stemmed from a complaint filed by a Filipino lawyer representing two men who said they had been assassins for Mr. Duterte in Davao, the southern city where Mr. Duterte became mayor in the late 1980s.

A second complaint was filed last August by relatives of eight people killed by police officers in the drug war; they also accused Mr. Duterte of murder.

U.S. College Scandal

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Three spots’: Alleged bribery of tennis coach stings Georgetown admissions, Nick Anderson, Susan Svrluga and Moriah Balingit, March 17, 2019 (print ed.). Federal prosecutors say Gordon Ernst, who enjoyed such stature in Washington that he had coached Michelle and Malia Obama, was part of a conspiracy that infiltrated elite schools.

Those spots, a precious commodity, represented some of the admissions offers the university would allocate to recruit tennis players for the next freshman class.

gordon ernst rhode island womens coach leaveGeorgetown received nearly 20,000 applications for the class that started in fall 2016. Slightly more than 83 percent were rejected. Precisely 3,369 were admitted. Ernst had a strong say in as many as six of those offers, according to the university, up to three each for the men’s and women’s teams. Federal authorities charge that he conspired to sell at least some of them.

Ernst is shown at right in a file photo of the University of Rhode Island, which placed him on administrative leave last week after the university became aware of the federal investigation. The university said that he had no role there in admissions.

washington post logoWashington Post, Commentary: They allegedly paid bribes to get their kids into elite colleges — and then took tax breaks, irs logoMichelle Singletary,  March 17, 2019 (print ed.). The breadth of the deception is mind-boggling. Here are some dos and don’ts to keep you in the clear with the IRS and the FBI.

The parents swept up in the nationwide college admissions scam are accused of not only helping their children cheat their way into elite universities, but also of getting a tax deduction for their illicit payments.

The Justice Department last week alleged that dozens of wealthy parents — including two well-known television actresses, the author of a parenting book, a top attorney and several chief executives — participated in a $25 million scheme to help their children get accepted to such top colleges as Yale, Rick Singer The Key (bogus charity)Georgetown, Stanford and the University of Southern California.

Law enforcement officials charged ringleader William “Rick” Singer, right, of Newport Beach, Calif., with racketeering, money laundering and obstruction of justice in what the FBI dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues.” Singer has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with investigators. He owned the Edge College & Career Network, a for-profit college counseling and preparation business.

felicity huffman twitterSinger was also the chief executive of the Key Worldwide Foundation, which claimed to the Internal Revenue Service that it was a nonprofit charitable organization.

In its most recent filing with the IRS, KWF said the foundation “endeavors to provide education that would normally be lori loughlinunattainable to underprivileged students."

But wiretapped phone transcripts released by the FBI purport to show the true purpose of the charity — to be the conduit for five- and six-figure bribes paid by parents. These parents allegedly include actresses Felicity Huffman (shown above left in her Twitter photo), who starred on the TV show “Desperate Housewives,” and Lori Loughlin (right), who appeared as Aunt Becky on “Full House."

U.S. Politics / Trump Watch

Axios, Sneak Peak: Where's Rudy? Jonathan Swan, March 17, 2019. Rudy Giuliani has vanished from your television. The last time the president's once-ubiquitous attack dog did a major TV appearance was on Sunday, Jan. 20, when he went on NBC's "Meet the Press" and CNN's "State of the Union."

Between the lines: Sources familiar with Giuliani's thinking say he views a major part of his job as trying to undermine public confidence in the Mueller probe and harden the support of Republican voters for Trump to protect him against impeachment. So for Giuliani to stay off TV for an extended stretch is odd.

rudy giuliani recent• White House officials had expected Giuliani's Jan. 20 Sunday show appearances to be an easy "victory lap" after Mueller's office took the rare step of publicly disputing a BuzzFeed story accusing Trump of committing a felony.
Instead, Giuliani tripped over himself, saying the Trump Tower Moscow talks may have lasted up until November 2016. The claim was both unhelpful and, in the White House's view, incorrect.

• Giuliani walked back the comments in a statement the next day: "My recent statements about discussions during the 2016 campaign between Michael Cohen and then-candidate Donald Trump about a potential Trump Moscow 'project' were hypothetical and not based on conversations I had with the president."

Since that weekend, the president's most prominent lawyer has kept his head down. He has only made one on-camera appearance: a March 8 hit on the streaming channel of the Washington newspaper The Hill, where he said Paul Manafort's surprisingly short jail sentence was fair.

• Two sources with direct knowledge told me that both Trump and the White House lawyer handling the Russia investigation, Emmet Flood, have privately griped about some of Giuliani's TV appearances.

Giuliani's response: When I asked Giuliani about all of this, he texted that he has spent hours with Trump in the last month and hasn't heard any complaints about his TV appearances from the president.

washington post logoWashington Post, Book Review: White House missteps and clashes of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, Michael Kranish, March 17, 2019 (print ed.). Four months after President Trump named son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka as White House advisers, he was chided by a former Justice Department official named Mark Corallo. “You could start draining the swamp by removing your in-laws,” tweeted Corallo, a conservative Republican.

Yet shortly after the caustic tweet, Corallo was surprised to find himself being asked to become the White House’s communications director. vicky ward kushner bookHe turned that offer down, pleading that he needed time with his family. Then he was asked to be a communications consultant for the legal team. He agreed on the condition that he would never have to say anything negative about special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who he said “walks on water.”

As Corallo settled into his position, however, his concerns about the actions of Ivanka Trump and Kushner only increased, according to Vicky Ward’s book Kushner, Inc.: Greed. Ambition. Corruption. The Extraordinary Story of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.

The Kushners were “reckless,” Corallo is quoted as saying. He cited his concern that they were present when President Trump was discussing the Mueller probe with his lawyers. That, according to Corallo, would make them witnesses to a conversation, potentially undercutting the otherwise-privileged discussions between the president and his attorneys.

Michael Kranish is an investigative political reporter with The Washington Post and a co-author of “Trump Revealed.” He is the author of “The World’s Fastest Man: The Extraordinary Life of Cyclist Major Taylor, America’s First Black Sports Hero,” to be published in May.

Doping Epidemic

bo health ceos 11 5 13

In 2013, President Obama (at left in a middle seat) met with CEOs of U.S. health care companies (White House photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, The Fentanyl Failure: Despite mounting deaths and warnings, the Obama administration did not take extraordinary measures to confront an extraordinary crisis, experts say, Scott Higham, Sari Horwitz and Katie Zezima, March 17, 2019 (print ed.). In May 2016, a group of national health experts issued an urgent plea in a private letter to high-level officials in the Obama administration.

Thousands of people were dying from overdoses of fentanyl — the deadliest drug to ever hit U.S. streets — and the administration needed health and human services logoto take immediate action. The epidemic had been escalating for three years.

The 11 experts pressed the officials to declare fentanyl a national “public health emergency” that would put a laserlike focus on combating the emerging epidemic and warn the country about the threat, according to a copy of the letter.

democratic donkey logo“The fentanyl crisis represents an extraordinary public health challenge — and requires an extraordinary public health response,” the experts wrote to six administration officials, including the nation’s “drug czar” and the chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The administration considered the request but did not act on it.

Saudi Repression

ny times logoNew York Times, It Wasn’t Just Khashoggi: A Saudi Prince’s Brutal Drive to Crush Dissent, Mark Mazzetti and Ben Hubbard, March 17, 2019. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman created a secret team that spied on, kidnapped and tortured Saudi mohammad bin salman cropped file smallcitizens a year before Jamal Khashoggi was killed. Members of the team that killed Mr. Khashoggi, a dissident journalist, were involved in at least a dozen operations since 2017, according to officials.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, of Saudi Arabia authorized a secret campaign to silence dissenters — which included the surveillance, kidnapping, detention and torture of Saudi citizens — over a year before the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, according to American officials who have read classified intelligence reports about the campaign.

At least some of the clandestine missions were carried out by members of the same team that killed and dismembered Mr. Khashoggi in Istanbul in October, suggesting that his killing was a particularly egregious part of a wider campaign to silence Saudi dissidents, according to the officials and associates of some of the Saudi victims.

Members of the team that killed Mr. Khashoggi, which American officials called the Saudi Rapid Intervention Group, were involved in at least a dozen operations starting in 2017, the officials said.

Some of the operations involved forcibly repatriating Saudis from other Arab countries and detaining and abusing prisoners in palaces belonging to the crown prince and his father, King Salman, the officials and associates said.

March 16

Massacre In New Zealand

ny times logoNew York Times, New Zealand Shooting Live Updates: Talk of Gun Law Reform Begins as Victim Details Emerge, Staff report, March 16, 2019. New Zealand grappled with grief and horror after 49 people were killed at two mosques in the city of Christchurch.

A 28-year-old man from Australia was charged with murder and appeared in court on Saturday. The attacks vaulted New Zealand into what could be a divisive political battle over gun control.

jacinda ardern march 16 press conferenceMinutes before the shooting began on Friday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was emailed a copy of the manifesto purported to be from the gunman, her office said. Many news outlets and lawmakers also received the email.

Ms. Ardern promised that New Zealand’s “gun laws will change” and that her cabinet would discuss options for how, though she did not offer specifics. The gunman had five firearms, including two semiautomatic weapons, she said. But the issue could be a divisive one in the country where an extraordinary number of people own weapons, with few restrictions.

jacinda ardern march 16 press conference

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Gun laws will change,’ New Zealand’s leader vows after mosque attacks, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Eli Rosenberg, Alex Horton and Michael Brice-Saddler, March 16, 2019 (print ed.). Primary suspect held license for guns used in massacre. Forty-nine people were killed and dozens more injured when gunmen opened fire in two mosques. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (shown above in a CNN screenshot from a news conference) called it a well-planned terrorist attack.

washington post logoPresident Donald Trump officialWashington Post, Trump downplays risk of white nationalism: ‘It’s a small group of people,’ Colby Itkowitz and John Wagner, March 16, 2019 (print ed.). U.S. reaction to the Christchurch massacre divided heavily along party lines, as some Democrats pointed to Trump’s history of anti-Muslim remarks.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Australian Senator Hit With Egg After Blaming Immigration for Mosque Attacks, Palko Karasz, March 16, 2019. An anti-immigration lawmaker in Australia who has been criticized for blaming Muslim immigration for Friday’s New Zealand shootings struck a teenager who smashed an egg on his head in Melbourne on Saturday.

In video footage on the Facebook page of the senator [beginning about 4:40 mins. from the end], Fraser Anning, the teenager can be seen approaching him as Mr. Anning speaks to reporters in a southeastern suburb of Melbourne. The teenager raises a mobile phone in one hand and smashes the egg on the back of Mr. Anning’s head with the other.

Mr. Anning turns and swiftly strikes the young man in the face twice. A scuffle ensues in which other men tackle the teenager to the ground while swearing at him. The video shows them holding the teenager on the ground in a chokehold until police officers arrive.

ny times logoNew York Times, In New Zealand, Signs Point to a Gunman Steeped in Internet Trolling, Daniel Victor, March 16, 2019 (print ed.). A camera mounted to his head, the gunman who livestreamed part of his savage attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday began his video by casually making reference to a current internet meme.

He appeared to be steeped in the culture of the extreme-right internet. And in the terrible minutes of video that followed, he proved to be a nonchalant, unrepentant killer.

new zealand flagAs of Friday night, the gunman had not been identified by the authorities. But just before the attack began, a man who said he was a 28-year-old from Australia published a link on a right-wing forum to an 87-page manifesto, and another link on the same forum to a personal Facebook page with the video that would soon document the slaughter.

Based on the video, the manifesto and social media posts, a picture has begun to emerge of a man primarily driven by white nationalism and a desire to drive cultural, political and racial wedges between people across the globe. That, he hoped, would stoke discord and, eventually, more violence between races.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s body count just keeps rising, Bill Palmer, March 16, 2019. On Thursday, white supremacist propaganda site Breitbart published a new interview with Donald Trump. In that interview, Trump semi-coherently threatened to have bikers carry out unspecified violence against the American people if they don’t reelect him or don’t support him.

bill palmer report logo headerHalf a day later, a white supremacist murdered forty-nine Muslims in New Zealand, while specifically crediting Donald Trump.

Did Donald Trump’s latest violent threat about bikers cause the New Zealand shooting to happen? No. But it’s clear that Trump’s overall ongoing violent and racist rhetoric did at least partially contribute to motivating this monstrous shooter to do what he did. Trump’s bodycount, which already includes Heather Heyer as well as the children who have died in his immigrant concentration camps, just climbed even higher.

Trump’s response to the shooting was to tweet a late-night link to Breitbart last night, which he’s since deleted. Then at the White House on Friday, Trump told the television cameras that the shooting is one of the reasons he wants to build a wall to keep immigrants out.

The nerve of this guy. The shooter was a white racist, and he was targeting minority immigrants, and yet Trump still tried to spin it to fit his narrative of minority immigrants targeting white people.

What came next was flabbergasting, however. When various people accurately pointed out that Donald Trump’s violent racist rhetoric played some role in the New Zealand shooting, Trump’s supporters began insisting that Trump has never made any sort of violent threat, and that he’s never said anything racist.

washington post logoWashington Post, Suspect cited writer who fears ‘replacement’ by immigrants, James McAuley, March 16, 2019 (print ed.). French polemicist Renaud Camus condemned the violence but welcomed how his ideas have spread.

​Before the deadly shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, one of the suspects — a 28-year-old, self-styled “regular white man from a regular family” — posted a 74-page manifesto on Twitter.

A significant detail is that the suspect titled his manifesto “The Great Replacement,” a clear reference to the title of a 2012 book by right-wing French polemicist Renaud Camus. In that book, Camus expounds on the “theory” that Europe’s white majority is in the process of being replaced by nonwhite North African and sub-Saharan African immigrants, many of whom are Muslim.

U.S. Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Colorado signs on to popular-vote effort ahead of 2020 presidential election, Michael Brice-Saddler and Deanna Paul, March 16, 2019. Colorado has joined a list of states that plan to allocate their electoral votes to whichever candidate wins the nationwide popular vote.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosGov. Jared Polis (D) signed the measure into law Friday, uniting Colorado with 11 other states and the District of Columbia in the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, whose members pledge to use their electoral votes on whichever candidate wins the national popular vote.

The bill will only take effect, however, if the law is passed by states representing at least 270 electoral college votes, which is the amount needed to win the presidency. With the addition of Colorado, that number now sits at 181.

Other jurisdictions that have enacted the legislation include Rhode Island, Vermont, Hawaii, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Washington, New Jersey, New York, Illinois, California and the District of Columbia. New Mexico, whose senate approved the legislation earlier this week, could be the next state to join.

ny times logobeto orourke o 113th CongressNew York Times, Beto O’Rourke is 46. Bernie Sanders is 77. Does Age Matter Anymore for Democrats? Matt Flegenheimer and Jonathan Martin, March 16, 2019. Democrats have won the presidency with younger nominees like Obama, Clinton and Kennedy. But devotion to Mr. Sanders remains strong among younger voters. Beto O'Rourke, the former Texas Congressman who announced his presidential candidacy this week, is shown at right.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just made it easier for Senate Republicans to dump him, Bill Palmer, March 16, 2019. Donald Trump is clearly skilled enough at con artistry to cheat his way through an election and steal the presidency. But as good as he is at the whole fraud thing, he’s just as good at sabotaging himself by saying or doing the dumbest thing possible at the worst possible time for him. We just saw a prime example of that when Trump abruptly turned what had been a comparatively quiet news day into a flaming toxic waste dump.

bill palmer report logo headerWhen it comes to the GOP we’re talking about a bunch of corrupt wishy-washy cowards, of course. But they’ve spent the past week voting against Trump in increasing numbers, because they’re getting the sense that his criminal scandals are going to take him down, and they don’t want to go down with him.

The key number is twelve, because that’s how many GOP Senators just voted against Trump on what he considers his most crucial issue, his national emergency border wall stunt.

It was four last week, and now it’s twelve, so it could be even higher by the time this comes back for a veto override vote. If and when it does reach twenty, it’s time for Trump to panic.

#MeToo Suit Against Trump

donald trump apprentice color nbc

Donald Trump from a publicity photo for his TV show "The Apprentice" (NBC TV).

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: ‘The President … Is Not Above the Law,’ Editorial Board, March 16, 2019. A New York court rules that the Constitution does not shield President Trump from allegations of misconduct before he took office. The legal travails of President Bill Clinton may soon haunt President Trump. A New York appeals court on Thursday ruled that Mr. Trump, like Mr. Clinton before him, is not protected by the presidency from answering civil charges.

The five-judge panel in Manhattan said that the Constitution’s supremacy clause does not bar state courts from hearing claims over “alleged unofficial misconduct” — that is, claims of improper or illegal action before a president took office.

The decision expands on the precedent set in Clinton v. Jones, in which a unanimous Supreme Court in 1997 ruled that a federal court had jurisdiction over a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by Paula Jones, a former low-level Arkansas state employee, against Mr. Clinton.

Yes, the presidency is important and its occupant may have important duties to attend to other than to produce documents or sit for depositions in a civil suit alleging sexual misconduct and defamation, the court explained, but “the President is still a person, and he is not summer zervosabove the law.”

Two judges dissented, observing that the threat of contempt, should Mr. Trump resist the legal process, would put a state court in “direct control” over the president.

A former contestant on Mr. Trump’s reality TV show The Apprentice, Summer Zervos (shown at right) went public during the 2016 campaign with accusations that Mr. Trump kissed and groped her without her consent. She is suing the president for defaming her shortly after she came forward, calling her charges a “hoax.” She filed her suit days before Mr. Trump took the oath of office.

March 16

Strategic Culture Foundation via Southfront, Opinion: Rubio’s Gloating Betrays US Sabotage in Venezuela Power Blitz, Finian Cunningham, March 16, 2019. US imperialists are so desperate in their regime-change predations over Venezuela, they seem to have a problem controlling their drooling mouths. The latest orgy of American gloating was triggered by the massive power outages to have hit Venezuela. No sooner had the South American country been blacked out from its power grid collapsing, senior US officials were crowing with perverse relish.

marco rubio official.jpg SmallRepublican Senator Marco Rubio (right) – who has become a point man for the Trump administration in its regime-change campaign in Venezuela – was a little too celebratory. Within minutes of the nationwide power outage last Thursday, Rubio was having verbal orgasms about the “long-term economic damage”… “in the blink of an eye.” But it was his disclosure concerning the precise damage in the power grid that has led the Venezuelan government to accuse the US of carrying out a sabotage.

venezuela flag waving customInformation Minister Jorge Rodriguez noted how Rubio, in his tweeted comments “three minutes” after the power outage, mentioned failure of “back-up generators” in Venezuela’s main hydroelectric plant, known as the Guri Dam, located in Bolivar State. The dam supplies some 80 per cent of the Venezuelan population of 31 million with its electricity consumption.

Rodriguez mockingly ascribed “mystic skills” to Rubio because the Florida Republican senator appeared to know the precise nature of the power failure even before the Venezuelan authorities had determined it.

The Venezuelan government has since claimed that the failure in the electric grid was caused by a cyber attack on the computer system controlling the Guri Dam turbines. Caracas said it will present proof of its claims to the United Nations.

Apart from Rubio’s apparent insider information, there are several other indicators that Venezuela’s latest turmoil from power blackout was indeed caused by US sabotage, and specifically a cyber attack.

Furthermore, US officials like President Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton as well as “special envoy” on Venezuelan affairs Elliot Abrams have been warning that Washington is seeking new ways to pile pressure on Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro to stand down.

The immediate reaction by Washington officials and the US-backed political opposition in Venezuela was to blame the Maduro government for the power disorder. The failure was flagged up as a sign of “incompetence” and “mismanagement” of the oil-rich country by the socialist juan guaidóadministration.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido (right), who has declared himself the rightful president with Washington’s blessing, conveyed the logic of blackmail when he declared, “the lights will come back on when usurper Maduro is gone.”

mike pompeo portraitUS Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (left) also weighed in with repulsive gloating within hours of Venezuela’s power crisis. Pompeo tweeted: “No food. No medicine. Now, no power. Next, no Maduro.”

The delight openly displayed by Washington officials in regard to aggression against Venezuela has broken new ground in terms of the brazenness of US imperialism.

Only a few weeks ago, Bolton announced that the objective for seeking regime change in Venezuela against the elected President Nicolas Maduro was for US corporations to seize the South American state’s vast oil wealth – reckoned to be the largest known reserves on the planet, far exceeding those of Saudi Arabia.

Media News

Palmer Report, Opinion: Fox News pulls Judge Jeanine Pirro off the air after racist tirade, Bill Palmer, March 16, 2019. Last week “Judge” Jeanine Pirro launched into such a stunningly racist attack against Congresswoman Ilhan Omar in particular, and against Muslim Americans in bill palmer report logo headergeneral, it was jarring even by Fox News standards. Fox quickly released a statement distancing itself from Pirro’s tirade. Now she’s gone missing from the air altogether.

Jeanine Pirro’s show has been pulled off the air tonight, in favor of a rerun of some other Fox News program. The decision was apparently made at the last minute, as Variety managed to suss out that Fox had been running advertisements for a new Pirro episode as recently as a few days ago. So what’s really going on here?

March 15

New Zealand Massacre

ny times logoNew York Times, Terror Attacks on New Zealand Mosques Kill 49, Staff report, March 15, 2019. Forty-nine people were killed in shootings at two mosques in central Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday, in a terrorist attack that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described as “an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence.”

• Officials said that one man in his late 20s had been charged with murder, and that two explosive devices were found attached to a vehicle that they had stopped.

• A Muslim leader in New Zealand said the attack was especially shocking as it took place around Friday Prayer. The police urged people to stay away from the mosques until further notice.

new zealand flag• A gunman streamed a live video of the attack on Facebook, and he appeared to have posted a manifesto online.

The country’s police commissioner, Mike Bush, said in an evening news conference that 41 people had been killed at Al Noor Mosque and seven at Linwood Mosque, and that another victim had died at Christchurch Hospital.

David Meates, the chief executive of the Canterbury District Health Board, said that 48 people, including young children, were being treated for injuries at the hospital. He said the injuries included gunshot wounds and ranged from critical to minor.

The police said that four people, including three men and one woman, had been taken into custody. Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia said that one of them was Australian.

Mr. Bush said that a man in his late 20s had been charged with murder and would appear in Christchurch court on Saturday morning. A number of firearms were recovered from the scenes of the shootings, he said.

Of the three others who were detained, the police commissioner said that one might have had nothing to do with the attack and that the police were working to determine how the other two might have been involved.

A 17-minute video posted to Facebook shows part of the attack. [Read more here about the video, manifesto and social media posts.]

Daily Kos, Commentary: Evangelical pastor and Trump ally calls New Zealand terror attack a ‘false flag,’ Walter Einenkel, March 15, 2019. Megachurch pastor Rodney Howard-Browne came to the United States some three decades ago from South Africa, bringing his brand of evangelical Christianity, referred to as “Holy Laughter.” It’s a version of the religion in which one laughs a lot, and in doing so gets closer to God.

Howard-Browne wasn’t feeling particularly humble today. After seeing that the New Zealand mosque mass murder suspect allegedly wrote a manifesto professing his admiration and love for white supremacy, Donald Trump, and Donald Trump’s white supremacy, Howard-Browne tweeted this out.

There is no doubt that what happened in New Zealand as horrific as it is, is a false flag that will be blamed on conservatives when it’s all said and done! Only a total nutjob lunatic, insane demonized freak goes into a building and kills people, it’s unacceptable on every level!

“False flag” refers to covert operations intended to hide the true actor behind a given action, giving the appearance that a different and specific group or individual particular party is responsible for it rather than the one that actually is. In this case, a white supremacist attack on Muslims is claimed to be the responsibility of Muslims themselves as a covert attack on white supremacists themselves.

Howard-Browne’s thoughts on this matter are not his alone.

Evangelical communities across the United States have really abandoned some of the most basic Christian doctrine in order to promote a white supremacist version of Christianity. So while many evangelicals would bristle at the concept of “false flag” conspiracy theory, they seem to be fine with supporting the people that float this kind of super-charged misinformation.

Mueller Report

djt robert mueller headshots

washington post logoWashington Post, In overwhelmingly bipartisan vote, House calls for Mueller report to be made public, Karoun Demirjian​, March 15, 2019 (print ed.). Republicans joined Democrats to back a resolution calling on the Justice Department to release the special counsel’s full report to Congress and the public. It sends a message but cannot force the attorney general’s hand.

The final vote count was 420 in favor, with no one voting no. Four lawmakers voted “present.”

But the resolution by itself cannot force attorney general William P. Barr to publish more of the report than he intends to — and that is why even some of the Republicans supporting it complained that the measure was a waste of time.

Gun Control, School Shootings

washington post logoWashington Post, Court rules families of Sandy Hook shooting victims can sue gunmaker Remington over 2012 attack, Fred Barbash, March 15, 2019 (print ed.). Connecticut’s Supreme Court has ruled that Remington can be sued over how it marketed the Bushmaster rifle, which was used to kill 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, the AP reports.

College Admission Scandal

washington post logoWashington Post, Rescinded admissions, a class-action suit: Fallout from college scandal spreads, Moriah Balingit, Nick Anderson, Susan Svrluga and Devlin Barrett, March 15, 2019 (print ed.). One school rescinded the admissions of six students, and other institutions vowed to revisit their admissions processes amid a scandal that has implicated officials, coaches and rich parents.

washington post logoWashington Post, Universities race to quell outrage over bribery and cheating scandal in admissions, Nick Anderson, Perry Stein and lori loughlin felicity huffman apMoriah Balingit, March 15, 2019 (print ed.). Parents and students said the federal case (two suspects from Hollywood are shown at right) shows that those who play by the rules are losing precious seats at elite universities to unqualified students from unscrupulous families with money and clout.

washington post logoWashington Post, Commentary: Now that we see what stealing a college slot really looks like, can we stop making students of color feel like frauds? Theresa Vargas, March 15, 2019 (print ed.). By uncovering a college-entrance scheme, the FBI has prompted important conversations about affirmative action and tokenism.

Climate Change

washington post logoWashington Post, Students protesting climate change draw thousands to the streets in cities across the globe, Griff Witte, Luisa Beck, Brady Dennis and Sarah Kaplan, March 15, 2019. A movement that began with a single teenager distributing homemade fliers outside the Swedish parliament last summer became a global phenomenon on Friday, as students worldwide skipped school and took to the streets to urgently demand that adults combat the perils of climate change.

Starting in the South Pacific and moving west with the sun, the protests blanketed grand city centers and humble village squares. Organizers said they were expecting demonstrations in at least 112 countries, in more than 1,700 locations.

The coordinated demonstrations were planned as the largest manifestation to date of the Fridays for Future movement, in which students forgo classes each week in favor of something they have said is more important: pleading for action on an issue that will affect every person on the planet, but young people most of all.

Inside DC / Migrants

Roll Call, Trump issues first veto, killing resolution to block border national emergency, John T. Bennett, March 15, 2019. “VETO!” President Donald Trump vowed in a Thursday tweet about a resolution to block his southern border national emergency, a pledge he made good on Friday.

Moments before he signed the veto, he called the bipartisan resolution “dangerous” and “reckless,” and said lawmakers’ votes to pass the measure were made “against reality.”

“Today, I am vetoing this resolution. Congress has the freedom to pass this resolution and I have the duty to veto it,” Trump said during an Oval Office veto ceremony.

Probes Of Trump

jared kushner mbs ivanka trump melania saudi white house photo

Trump daughter Ivanka Trump, her husband Jared Kushner and Saudi Crfown Prince Mohammad bin Salman tour Saudi Arabia with Melania Trump in a White House photo.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Elijah Cummings drops the hammer on Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, Bill Palmer, March 15, 2019. Even as various House committees simultaneously investigate various Donald Trump scandals, the House Oversight Committee has taken up the lead on the security clearance scandal involving Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. This has left Chairman Elijah Cummings in charge of the matter. Naturally, the Trump regime is trying to stonewall him. So he’s found a way to work around that.

bill palmer report logo headerOne of the goals in the security clearance investigation is to find out precisely why former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and former White House Counsel Don McGahn felt that Ivanka and Jared were security risks against the United States. The two key pieces of evidence: the memos that Kelly and McGahn each wrote, documenting their concerns. Elijah Cummings knows the White House will fight tooth and nail to avoid having to turn over those memos, because Trump wants to protect his family.

Palmer Report pointed out earlier this month that if Kelly and McGahn felt strongly enough that they needed to write and file these memos in order to insulate themselves from what Donald Trump was doing, then they certainly would have kept copies of their own. We also pointed out that because Kelly and McGahn have both reportedly been cooperating with Robert Mueller, they’re likely to cooperate with Congress as well.

Sure enough, Elijah Cummings has taken the unorthodox step of having his staff reach out directly to John Kelly, as opposed to going through the White House. This is according to CNN, which doesn’t spell out whether Kelly turned over the memo to Cummings. But considering the apoplectic response from the Trump regime when it learned that Cummings had contacted Kelly, we’re guessing Cummings now has the memo. We told you that Cummings knows what he’s doing.

Los Angeles Times, Congress requests former Fox News reporter’s notebooks regarding Trump’s hush money, Stacy Perman, March 15, 2019 fox news logo Small(print ed.). Congress requests former Fox News reporter’s notebooks regarding Trump’s hush money.Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, chairman of the Congressional Committee on Oversight and Reform, on Wednesday requested former Fox News reporter Diana Falzone turn over all documents relating to her reporting on President Trump’s “debts and payments to silence women alleging extramarital affairs with him prior to the 2016 presidential election.”

djt stormy daniels 2006The request comes a week after the New Yorker published an investigation on Fox News that disclosed Falzone had reported an article about Trump making hush payments to porn star Stormy Daniels (shown with Trump) prior to the 2016 presidential election in order to keep her quiet about their alleged affair. According to the New Yorker, Fox killed the story because Rupert Murdoch, chairman of Twenty-First Century Fox, wanted Trump to win the election.

Ken LaCorte, Falzone’s editor at Fox, published a response in Mediate disputing her version of events, saying the piece didn’t meet journalistic standards and was not killed because of any political agenda.

Falzone, who has since left Fox, sued the company for gender and disability discrimination in May 2017. However, as part of her settlement, she signed a nondisclosure agreement and has not been able to rebut LaCorte’s claims or any matter arising out of her time at Fox.

washington post logotom barrackheadshotWashington Post, Inside the Trump inaugural dinner designed as a glittery overture to foreign diplomats, Michael Kranish, Rosalind S. Helderman, Mary Jordan and Tom Hamburger, March 15, 2019. The Chairman’s Global Dinner was the brainchild of inaugural committee chairman Thomas J. Barrack Jr., right. State, federal and congressional investigators are now looking into activities related to the committee.

washington post logoWashington Post, Roger Stone trial set for Nov. 5 as judge weighs whether his book violated gag order, Spencer S. Hsu, March 15, 2019 print ed.). A federal judge set a Nov. 5 trial date for Roger Stone on charges of lying to Congress and obstructing justice in a Thursday hearing where she also postponed any decision of whether a new book by the longtime GOP operative and Trump confidant violated a gag order in his case.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington said the trial would be expected to last at least two weeks on the accusations that Stone lied about his efforts to gather information about hacked Democratic Party emails during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Stone, 66, has pleaded not guilty and remains free pending trial with travel limitations.

Jackson said she was setting aside for now her assessment of explanations from Stone’s attorneys about delays and misrepresentations about the release date of a book by Stone with an updated introduction that criticizes special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

U.S. Crime, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Our friends are dying, so we march’: Students rally to fight gun violence, Morgan Smith, March 15, 2019 (print ed.). Hundreds of high school students, family members and people touched by gun violence marched Thursday to the U.S. Capitol. On Thursday morning, a curious scene emerged on Pennsylvania Avenue: Between the throngs of tourists snapping photos of the Washington Monument and commuters rushing to work, high school students pushed their way toward the White House.

nra logo CustomAt 9 a.m., hundreds of teenagers from the District and suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia left their classrooms and headed to the U.S. Capitol to protest gun violence.

“No more!” students chanted while holding signs that read, “I should be writing my college essay, not my will” and “Am I next?”

The demonstration came a year to the day after thousands of students in the D.C. region participated in a national walkout to protest gun violence. Student activists were spurred to action by a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 people dead.

“We are here today because we have to be, because we have been failed by every institution that didn’t protect us,” Dani Miller, co-president of the Maryland group MoCo Students for Change, told the crowd. Miller’s group organized Thursday’s demonstration. “Our friends are dying, so we march,” Miller said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fairfax County man convicted of rape in 1976 is cleared by DNA retesting, Tom Jackman, March 15, 2019. A former Fairfax County, Va., man convicted of rape in 1976 and imprisoned for 4½ years despite conflicting physical evidence and multiple alibi witnesses has had his conviction erased by the Virginia Supreme Court.

Winston L. Scott, now 63 and living in Indiana, spent 43 years as a convicted rapist. “It ruined his life,” said Shawn Armbrust of the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, which handled Scott’s appeal. “It ruined his relationship, it ruined his career plans, it ruined his job prospects. Living for 43 years as a convicted rapist is not something any of us would want to do.”

The rape occurred in July 1975, around 4:30 a.m., at an apartment in Reston, Va. A woman told police that she was awoken by a man standing next to her bed with a flashlight, and that she presumed he entered and left the apartment through an unlocked balcony door. She did not get a good look at her attacker in the dark but helped the police create a composite sketch of him.

Two months later, Fairfax County police received a tip that Scott might be the assailant. Detectives placed his photo in a lineup, and the victim picked him out. At trial, she again identified Scott in the courtroom.

Spain Break-in Linked To CIA

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: CIA Blames Its Proxy For Its Raid On North Korea's Embassy In Spain, b., March 15, 2019. The CIA is the main suspect in the military style raid on the North Korean embassy in Madrid. It now launched a somewhat hapless effort to deflect from it. The Spanish report in which Spanish government sources accuse the CIA said:

cia logoAt least two of the 10 assailants who broke into the embassy and interrogated diplomatic staff have been identified and have connections to the US intelligence agency. The CIA has denied any involvement but government sources say their response was “unconvincing.”

That the CIA is the main suspect in the assault was reported on Wednesday in the Spanish mainstream paper El Pais [CIA implicated in attack on North Korean embassy in Madrid]. The paper made the extra effort to publish an abbreviated English language version. It was widely picked up by other international outlets. Some of the assailants were Asian and spoke Korean language. They were probably from the South Korean National Intelligence Service (NIS), a subsidiary of the CIA know for its extremely hawkish politics. It often rigs elections in South Korea in support of hawkish conservatives candidates.

north korea flagAttacking a foreign embassy in a third country is far out of bounce of international law and diplomatic decency. After the El Pais report something had to be done to direct the attention away from the CIA and to find some other culprit.

A story was thought up and pushed to the favorite CIA outlet, the Washington Post. It wasn't the CIA which did it, writes the Post's national security reporter {A shadowy group trying to overthrow Kim Jong Un allegedly raided a North Korean embassy in broad daylight by John Hudson], it was a CIA controlled 'regime change' organization.

washington post logoWashington Post, A shadowy group trying to overthrow Kim Jong Un allegedly raided a North Korean embassy in broad daylight, John Hudson, March 15, 2019. Days before President Trump was set to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam, a mysterious incident in Spain threatened to derail the entire high-stakes nuclear summit.

north korea flagIn broad daylight, masked assailants infiltrated North Korea’s embassy in Madrid, tied up the staff, stole computers and mobile phones, and fled the scene in two luxury vehicles.

The group behind the late February operation is known as Cheollima Civil Defense, a secretive dissident organization committed to overthrowing the Kim dynasty, people familiar with the planning and execution of the mission told The Washington Post.

The group’s alleged role in the attack has not previously been reported, and officials from the governments of North Korea, the United States and Spain declined to comment on it.

March 14

Air Safety

ny times logoboeing logoNew York Times, Data Suggests Boeing Crash Similarities; U.S. Joins Ban, Jan Austen and Selam Gebrekidan, March 14, 2019 (print ed.). The U.S. halted flights of the 737 Max aircraft, after some 42 countries banned the jet following a second deadly crash. The Federal Aviation Administration said satellite-tracking data supported the decision to ground the planes.

washington post logoWashington Post, At tense meeting with Boeing, pilots fumed about being left in dark on plane software, Aaron Gregg, Jonathan O'Connell, Andrew Ba Tran and Faiz Siddiqui, March 14, 2019 (print ed.). The meeting last fall followed the deadly crash off Java of a Boeing 737 Max 8 operated by Indonesia’s Lion Air. Some pilots were furious that they were not told about the new software when the plane was unveiled.

faa logooeing executives sat down last November with pilots at the Allied Pilots Association’s low-slung brick headquarters in Fort Worth.

Tensions were running high. One of Boeing’s new jets — hailed by the company as an even more reliable version of Boeing’s stalwart 737 — had crashed into the ocean off Indonesia shortly after takeoff, killing all 189 people on board the flight operated by Lion Air.

Trump Team Probes

paul manafort rnc 2016 abc flickr

ny times logoNew York Times, Paul Manafort Is Sentenced to 3.5 More Years in Prison, Sharon LaFraniere, March 14, 2019 (print ed.). Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman (shown above in 2016), has been ordered to serve a total of seven and a half years in prison after a second federal judge added more time to his sentence on Wednesday, saying he “spent a significant portion of his career gaming the system.”

republican elephant logoJudge Amy Berman Jackson of Federal District Court in Washington sentenced Mr. Manafort, 69, on two conspiracy counts that encompassed a host of crimes, including money-laundering, obstruction of justice and failing to disclose lobbying work that earned him tens of millions of dollars over more than a decade.

“It is hard to overstate the number of lies and the amount of fraud and the amount of money involved,” she said, reeling off Mr. Manafort’s vari4us offenses, rapid-fire. “There is no question that this defendant knew better and he knew what he was doing.”

ny times logoNew York Times, New York Charges Manafort With 16 Crimes. If He’s Convicted, Trump Can’t Pardon Him, William K. Rashbaum, March 14, 2019 (print ed.). The charges are part of an effort to ensure he will still face prison time if President Trump pardons him for his federal crimes.

paul manafort mugPaul J. Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman (shown in a mug shot), has been charged in New York with mortgage fraud and more than a dozen other state felonies, the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., said Wednesday, an effort to ensure he will still face prison time if Mr. Trump pardons him for his federal crimes.

The president has broad power to issue pardons for federal crimes, but has no such authority in state cases.

While Mr. Trump has not said he intends to pardon his former campaign chairman, he has often spoken of his power to pardon and has defended Mr. Manafort on a number of occasions, calling him a “brave man.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Judge strongly rebukes Manafort’s — and Trump’s — ‘no collusion’ refrain, Aaron Blake, March 14, 2019 (print ed.). Judge amy berman jacksonAmy Berman Jackson, right, made several strong statements before sentencing former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on Wednesday. But one, in particular, struck at the core of President Trump’s personal defense in the Russia investigation.

She said the “no collusion” mantra is bunk.

Manafort’s legal team had suggested repeatedly in its sentencing memo that the fact that he hadn’t been found to have colluded with Russia should be a mitigating factor when it came to how much time he would serve in prison. But Jackson not only rejected that argument in sentencing him to 43 additional months in prison, she also rejected the entire argument behind it.

“The ‘no collusion’ refrain that runs through the entire defense memorandum is unrelated to matters at hand,” she said. “The ‘no collusion’ mantra is simply a non sequitur.”

Inside DC

ny times logoNew York Times, Mnuchin Faces Ethics Questions Over Ties to Film Industry, Alan Rappeport and Ana Swanson, March 14, 2019. The Treasury secretary’s push on behalf of Hollywood in China talks may be a conflict of interest. “Wonder Woman,” the 2017 film that Steven Mnuchin helped produce before becoming Treasury secretary, hauled in about $90 million at the box office in China. It was the film’s most successful international market and a roaring success for an American superhero export. But because of China’s strict laws for foreign films, Warner Bros. received just a small fraction of those revenues.

steven mnuchin wNow, as Treasury secretary and one of the lead negotiators in trade talks with China, Mr. Mnuchin has been personally pushing Beijing to give the American film industry greater access to its markets — a change that could be highly lucrative to his former industry. While Mr. Mnuchin, right, divested from his Hollywood film-financing firm after joining the Trump administration, he maintains ties to the industry through his wife, the actress and filmmaker Louise Linton.

In 2017, Mr. Mnuchin sold his interest in the film production company Stormchaser Partners to Ms. Linton, who at the time was his fiancée. In his 2018 disclosure, which was obtained from the Treasury Department through a records request by The New York Times, Stormchaser is listed as one of his wife’s assets.

Since they are now married, government ethics rules consider the asset to be owned by Mr. Mnuchin.

Palmer Report, Opinion; Donald Trump just made his clearest threat of violence against the American people yet, Bill Palmer, March 14, 2019.  What on earth is Donald Trump even talking about? That’s a daily challenge for anyone who has the misfortune to encounter his increasingly incoherent words. But now, in addition to being incomprehensible, Trump is also throwing violent threats into the mix, or at least we think they’re violent threats.

bill palmer report logo headerHere’s what Donald Trump said to white supremacist propaganda site Breitbart: “I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump. I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough, until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.” Okay, wait a minute here, because this just doesn’t sound good.

If you wanted to give Trump the benefit of the doubt, you could argue that he’s merely threatening to have the police enforce the law against anyone who breaks it. But then you get to the part about the military, which isn’t allowed to do domestic law enforcement, so what is he even talking about?

Once he throws in the part about the bikers being on our side, it seems he’s talking about having bikers beat us all up if we don’t vote for him, or something. And if he’s saying that about bikers, is he also saying he’s going to sic the police and military on us if we don’t vote for him?

Women's Rights: Kentucky

American Civil Liberties Union, Commentary: Kentucky Just Banned Abortion, Brigitte Amiri (Deputy Director, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project), March 14, 2019. The Kentucky Legislature passed two bills on this week, and unless a court blocks them, abortion will effectively be banned in the state.

One bill, passed on Thursday night, prohibits abortion after six weeks in pregnancy before most women even know that they are pregnant. The other, passed late Wednesday night, bans abortion if a woman is seeking it because of a fetal diagnosis. The ACLU is challenging both laws, asking a judge to block them immediately to ensure that the only abortion provider in Kentucky, EMW Women’s Surgical Center, does not have to turn patients away.

This is not a hard legal case. Banning abortion has been unconstitutional under more than 40 years of Supreme Court precedent, starting with Roe v. Wade. The politicians who passed these laws know that, but they are hoping that these laws will be the means the Supreme Court will use to reconsider Roe. They are emboldened by changes on the Supreme Court, where there may be enough votes to overrule or weaken the constitutional right to abortion.

This is just the most recent effort by Gov. Matt Bevin of Kentucky and other politicians to push abortion out of reach. Bevin has forced two other clinics to stop providing abortion, resulting in EMW in Louisville being the last remaining abortion facility in the state.

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, Tucker Carlson says he’s the victim of a powerful bully. Meet the 24-year-old who found the tapes, Eli Rosenberg​, March 14, 2019. In reality, credit goes to Madeline Peltz, a 20-something in her first adult job who lives in the basement of a D.C. house she rents fox news logo Smallwith five other people, a few cats and a dog named Noodles.

Madeline Peltz works the night shift at the liberal media watchdog group Media Matters for America. Given the timing of that particular shift, one of her main responsibilities is watching Tucker Carlson’s 8 p.m. show on Fox News.

And she’s watched a lot of Tucker Carlson (shown at left in file photos with President Trump).

tucker carlson djtCarlson has been in the public eye for some 20 years — first as a print journalist, then a television commentator, founder of the conservative site the Daily Caller, and now, Fox News host, with a prime-time slot and a salary in the millions. But people have been confused by Carlson’s tone on Fox since he took over for Bill O’Reilly in 2018, noting concern about diversity and demographics in his show.

After many Carlson-watching hours, the 24-year-old researcher developed a working theory, which she outlined on the nonprofit’s website: that Carlson is using his platform on Fox News to introduce white-nationalist ideas to the mainstream, making him a uniquely prominent “mouthpiece for white supremacy.”

Mafia New York Murder

washington post logoWashington Post, Frank Cali, Gambino crime boss, killed in front of Staten Island home, Timothy Bella, March 14, 2019. Cali’s death marks the first time in about 34 years that a crime family boss was fatally shot in New York City. The previous instance was in 1985, when Paul Castellano, another Gambino crime boss, was assassinated under the orders of John Gotti outside Manhattan’s Sparks Steak House. As the Daily News reported, Cali lived only a half-mile away from Castellano’s home.

Epstein-Acosta Scandal

Miami Herald, Jeffrey Epstein prosecutor was previously rebuked for handling of a child sex case, Julie K. Brown, March 14, 2019. Nine months before cutting a covert plea deal with sex trafficking suspect Jeffrey Epstein, Miami U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta was notified that the lead prosecutor in Epstein’s case had concealed victim information in another underage sex crimes case, the Miami Herald has learned.

perversion of justice miami herald logoThe prosecutor, A. Marie Villafaña, was harshly rebuked by a federal judge in January 2007 for what he called her “intentional and/or serious lapse in judgment’’ when she failed to explicitly inform him that the defendant, a Texas man who traveled to Florida to have sex with a 14-year-old girl, had a prior history of predatory behavior with minors, court records show.

Acosta, her boss at the time, not only knew about Villafaña’s breach — records show that he subsequently defended it. Acosta assigned another prosecutor in his office to write a treatise for the judge in an unsuccessful attempt to persuade him to soften the stinging language in his order.

More U.S. Crime, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, District employee charged with welfare fraud, trading cash and sex for benefits, Clarence Williams, March 14, 2019 (print ed.). A worker at the Department of Human Services allegedly received nearly $400,000 to dispense fraudulent benefits valued at more than $1.4 million, according to court documents.

Global Intrigues

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Neo-con "games" afoot at White House, State Dept., and CIA, Wayne Madsen, March 14, 2019. The Trump administration's CIA is now in the business of seizing embassies and taking hostages.

March 13

Crime Against U.S. Consumers?

ny times logofacebook logoNew York Times, Facebook’s Data Deals Are Under Criminal Investigation, Michael LaForgia, Matthew Rosenberg and Gabriel J.X. Dance, March 13, 2019. The social network had cut deals with more than 150 firms, including Amazon and Apple, giving them access to user information, sometimes without consent. Facebook has since phased out most of the partnerships over the past two years.

ny times logoNew York Times, Fallout From College Admissions Scandal: Arrests, Damage Control and a Scramble for Answers, Kate Taylor, March 13, 2019. Two of the colleges caught up in a sweeping admissions fraud investigation said on Wednesday that they were considering disciplining students who were connected to the scheme. And the fallout from the case was just beginning.

Colleges where coaches were accused of taking bribes were reeling. Wealthy and well-known parents charged in the case were preparing to make their first appearances in court or were free on bail.

And companies were distancing themselves from executives accused of paying a consultant to use bribes and deceit to raise their children’s test scores or get them admitted to their chosen schools through athletic recruiting spots, despite their not being competitive athletes.

Global News

ny times logoNew York Times, U.K. Lawmakers Reject ‘No-Deal’ Brexit, and Defy Theresa May Yet Again, Stephen Castle, March 13, 2019. Having twice United Kingdom flagthrown out Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan for Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, the fractious British Parliament defied her again on Wednesday, worsening the power vacuum atop British politics just 16 days before the exit is scheduled to take place.

Parliament voted to oppose the prospect of a disorderly “no-deal” exit from the bloc, doing it in a dramatic and unexpected fashion that undercut the already-battered Mrs. May’s dwindling authority and negotiating leverage.

And the breakdown of discipline in her own Conservative Party renewed speculation that her own cabinet could try to force her from power.

ny times logoNew York Times, A U.S. citizen locked up in Saudi Arabia for more than a year without charges was tortured, the man’s son said, David D. Kirkpatrick, March 13, 2019. Ahmed Fitaihi had waited more than a year for Saudi Arabia to release his father, a Harvard-trained doctor and a dual Saudi and American citizen who had been imprisoned without any charges or trial.

The Saudi government had stripped Mr. Fitaihi’s mother and six siblings of their American passports, barred them from leaving the kingdom and frozen their assets, he said in an interview. And during a temporary release for a son’s surgery, the father, Walid Fitaihi, told a friend and a family member that he had endured a torture session, including electrical shocks and whipping.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate GOP confirms Neomi Rao, Kavanaugh’s replacement, for powerful appeals courts, Seung Min Kim​, March 13, 2019. Rao overcame some GOP resistance over concerns she would expand abortion rights. She will serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Senate Republicans on Wednesday confirmed the 36th circuit court judge under President Trump — a rapid clip of confirmations that may slow in the coming months simply because the GOP will have filled all the existing vacancies on the powerful federal appeals courts.

The confirmation of Neomi Rao to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on a 53-to-46 vote, as well as Paul Matey earlier this week to the Philadelphia-based 3rd Circuit, now means 1 out of every 5 appeals court judge will have been nominated by Trump.

Now, just nine vacancies remain in the circuit courts, which handles the vast majority of cases that never reach the Supreme Court, and Trump has nominated candidates for six of them. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) could muscle through confirmations by midyear, leaving few openings if a Democrat wins the White House in 2020

Air Safety

washington post logocanadian flagWashington Post, Canada grounds Boeing 737 Max 8, leaving U.S. as last major user of plane, Luz Lazo and Paul Schemm, March 13, 2019. Canadian officials issued the “safety notice” after new data was reviewed Wednesday morning. ​

Mueller Report

ny times logoNew York Times, Mueller Report Has Washington Spinning (and It’s Not Even Filed), Staff report, March 12, 2019 (print ed.). The capital is jittery and full of rumor as it awaits the report of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, on Russian interference and President Trump.  It may or may not be the report of the century, it may or may not be ready soon, and it may be only a few pages. But it is definitely highly anticipated.

Education / Crime

washington post logoWashington Post, FBI accuses wealthy parents, including celebrities, in college-entrance bribery scheme, Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky,  March 13, 2019 (print ed.. The Justice Department on Tuesday charged more than 30 wealthy people — including two television stars — with being part of a long-running scheme to bribe and cheat to get their kids into big-name colleges and universities.

fbi logoThe alleged crimes included cheating on entrance exams, as well as bribing college officials to say certain students were coming to compete on athletic teams when those students were not in fact athletes.

The criminal complaint paints an ugly picture of high-powered individuals committing crimes to get their children into selective schools. Among those charged are actresses Felicity Huffman, best known for her role on the television show “Desperate lori loughlin felicity huffman apHousewives,” (shown at right) and Lori Loughlin (shown at left in the adjoining Associated Press photos), who appeared on “Full House,” according to court documents.

Authorities said the crimes date back to 2011, and the defendants used “bribery and other forms of fraud to facilitate their children’s admission” to numerous college and universities,” including Georgetown, Yale University, Stanford University, the University of Texas, the University of Southern California and UCLA, among others. One of the cooperating witnesses, according to the court documents, is a former head coach of Yale’s women’s soccer team, who pleaded guilty in the case nearly a year ago and has since been helping FBI agents gather evidence.

Some of the 32 defendants are accused of bribing college entrance exam administrators to facilitate cheating on tests — by having a smarter student take the test, providing students with answers to exams or correcting their answers after they had completed the exams, according to the criminal complaint filed in federal court.

Others allegedly bribed university athletic coaches and administrators to designate applicants as “purported athletic recruits — regardless of their athletic abilities, and in some cases, even though they did not play the sport they were purportedly recruited to play — thereby facilitating their admission to universities in place of more qualified applicants,” the complaint charges.

Critics Of Mueller, Defenders of Assange

Consortium News, Opinion: VIPS: Mueller’s Forensics-Free Findings, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), March 13, 2019. The final Mueller report should be graded “incomplete,” says VIPS, whose forensic work proves the speciousness of the story that DNC emails published by WikiLeaks came from Russian hacking.

robert mueller full face fileWe veteran intelligence professionals have done enough detailed forensic work to prove the speciousness of the prevailing story that the DNC emails published by WikiLeaks came from Russian hacking. Given the paucity of evidence to support that story, we believe Mueller (right) may choose to finesse this key issue and leave everyone hanging. That would help sustain the widespread belief that Trump owes his victory to President Vladimir Putin, and strengthen the hand of those who pay little heed to the unpredictable consequences of an increase in tensions with nuclear-armed Russia.

The centerpiece accusation of Kremlin “interference” in the 2016 presidential election was the charge that Russia hacked Democratic National Committee emails and gave them to WikiLeaks to embarrass Secretary Hillary Clinton and help Mr. Trump win.

Given the stakes involved in the Russia-gate investigation – including a possible impeachment battle and greatly increased tension between Russia and the U.S. — it is difficult to understand why Comey did not move quickly to seize the computer hardware so the FBI could perform an independent examination of what quickly became the major predicate for investigating election interference by Russia.

Fortunately, enough data remain on the forensic “trail” to arrive at evidence-anchored conclusions. The work we have done shows the prevailing narrative to be false. We have been suggesting this for over two years. Recent forensic work significantly strengthens that conclusion.

CIA Linked To Spain Break-In

El Pais, CIA implicated in attack on North Korean embassy in Madrid, Miguel González and Patricia Ortega Dolz, March 13, 2019. Investigators from the Spanish police and National Intelligence Center (CNI) have linked an attack on the North Korean embassy in Madrid on February 22 to the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

cia logoAt least two of the 10 assailants who broke into the embassy and interrogated diplomatic staff have been identified and have connections to the US intelligence agency. The CIA has denied any involvement but government sources say their response was “unconvincing.”

Investigators from the Spanish police and National Intelligence Center (CNI) have linked an attack on the North Korean embassy in Madrid on February 22 to the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Sources believe the goal of the attack embassy was to get information on the former North Korean ambassador to Spain

North Korean flagAt least two of the 10 assailants who broke into the embassy and interrogated diplomatic staff have been identified and have connections to the US intelligence agency. The CIA has denied any involvement but government sources say their response was “unconvincing.”

If it is proven that the CIA was behind the attack, it could lead to a diplomatic spat between Madrid and Washington. Government sources say that it would be “unacceptable” for an ally to take such action. Not only would it mean that the US agency had operated on Spanish soil without asking for authorization or informing the authorities, it would also be a violation of the international conventions that protect diplomatic delegations.

What’s more, unlike other intelligence activities – such as cyberattacks, which are characterized by their discretion, the attack on the North Korean embassy was especially violent.

On February 22 at 3pm, 10 masked men carrying alleged imitation weapons broke into the embassy, located north of the capital in the residential area of Aravaca. They tied up the eight people inside and put bags on their heads. The victims were beaten and interrogated. A woman managed to escape from a window on the second floor and her screams for help were heard by a neighbor, who contacted the police.

March 12

Trump Impeachment?

nancy pelosi djt sotu feb 6 2019 doug mills nytimes via ap feb 2019

Nancy Pelosi said of impeachment: ‘It divides the country.’ Photograph: Pool New / Reuters

The Guardian, Pelosi comes out against impeaching Trump: 'He's just not worth it,' Guardian staff and agencies, updated March 12, 2019. House speaker says move would be too divisive without ‘compelling and bipartisan’ rationale

Donald Trump should not be impeached unless the reasons are overwhelming and bipartisan, given how divisive it would be for the country, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has said.

“I’m not for impeachment,” Pelosi, the top US Democrat, said in a Washington Post interview published on Monday.

“Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country,” she said. “He’s just not worth it.”

It was Pelosi’s most direct comment yet on Trump’s possible impeachment, a topic she has dealt with cautiously as it carries the potential to sharply split Democrats and the public ahead of next year’s White House and congressional elections.

Palmer Report, Opinion: That’s not how any of this works, Bill Palmer (right), March 12, 2019. If you know me, then you know that I’m as liberal as they bill palmercome, and that I have great respect for liberals in general. There is, however, one thing that always confuses me about our side of the ideological fence: why are we always so quick to assume that our own liberal leaders are complete idiots, even when the evidence says otherwise?

bill palmer report logo headerSpeaker Nancy Pelosi has spent the past few months running circles around Donald Trump, in such rapid fashion it’s left his head spinning. We don’t know precisely how their ongoing battles will play out. But it’s such a mismatch, the one thing we know for sure is that Pelosi will win, and Trump will suffer at her hands accordingly. So why on earth would Pelosi stupidly decide to take impeachment off the table yesterday? She wouldn’t.

Even if you take Pelosi’s impeachment comments at face value without reading between the lines, she’s simply saying that there’s no point in impeaching Donald Trump right now, today, because it wouldn’t succeed. She’s right.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Sounds like Michael Flynn gave up everything on Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, March 12, 2019. This evening Michael Flynn took the surprise step of asking the judge for yet another ninety days to continue cooperating with prosecutors. For its part, Robert Mueller’s office stated that it had no opinion on the matter, while confirming that its cooperation with Flynn is complete. So where does this get us?

bill palmer report logo headerMueller is essentially taking the same position that he took ninety days ago, which is that Michael Flynn has been such a big help, he doesn’t even need to go to prison. Of course the judge didn’t like that idea at all last time around, asking michael flynn state department Customaloud if Flynn (shown when he was President Trump's National Security Advisor in early 2017) had committed “treason,” and encouraged Flynn to go back and find more ways to cooperate.

But there’s no looking past the underlying point here: despite his hugely serious crimes, Flynn helped Mueller so much, Mueller doesn’t think he should go to prison. There’s no way Mueller sees it this way unless Flynn gave up enough evidence to take down Donald Trump and all the other biggest of fish. We may have to wait longer to learn Flynn’s fate, but I think we just learned Trump’s fate.

#MeToo / Australian Cardinal

ny times logoNew York Times, Australian Cardinal Sentenced to 6 Years for Molesting Boys, Livia Albeck-Ripka and Damien Cave, March 12, 2019. George Pell, once an adviser to Pope Francis, was convicted in December for molesting two boys after Sunday Mass in 1996. He is the most senior Catholic official to be found guilty in a criminal court for sexually abusing minors.

Civil Rights / VA

ny times logoNew York Times, Treated Like a ‘Piece of Meat’: Female Veterans Endure Harassment at the V.A., Jennifer Steinhauer, March 12, 2019. Corey Foster spent her Army career caring for wounded troops, both as a flight medic in the Iraq war and at Walter Reed hospital, so she looked forward to one of the most celebrated benefits of military service — health care for life from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Then she walked through the door at a V.A. medical center in Temple, Tex.

“You felt like you were a piece of meat,” said Ms. Foster, 34, who retired as a sergeant. “Standing in line at the registration desk, I was getting comments from the male patients behind me, looking me up and down. It was a major source of discomfort.”

The treatment was the same at the Veterans Affairs medical center in Murfreesboro, Tenn., where Ms. Foster moved after living in Texas. At that point she gave up, and opted for her husband’s insurance outside the department. “They need to make the facilities not feel like an old soldier’s home,” Ms. Foster said.

An entrenched, sexist culture at many veterans hospitals is driving away female veterans and lags far behind the gains women have made in the military in recent years, veterans and lawmakers of both parties say. Although the Department of Veterans Affairs has scrambled to adjust to the rising population of female veterans and has made progress — including hiring more women’s health care providers, fixing basic privacy problems in the exam rooms and expanding service to women in rural areas — sexual harassment at department facilities remains a major problem.

 Brexit Crisis

ny times logoUnited Kingdom flagNew York Times, British Lawmakers Reject May’s Brexit Deal as Deadline Looms, Stephen Castle, March 12, 2019. Parliament rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposal, adding to the confusion as a deadline nears to leave the E.U. The defeat could delay or derail Brexit, and threaten Mrs. May’s hold on power.

Trump Watch

djt li yang super bowlMassage parlor founder Li "Cindy" Yang, lower left, an active Republican contributor and PR specialist in linking Chinese nationals to prominent Repubicans, and a friend watch this year's Superbowl with President Trump at Mar-a-Lago (Facebook photo).

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Trump is the "Manchurian Candidate"-turned-President, Wayne Madsen (syndicated columnist, author, former Navy Intelligence officer and NSA analyst), March 12, 2019 (Subscription required; excerpted with permission).


manchurian candidate 1962 movie poster

The Manchurian Candidate is a 1962 American suspense thriller film about the Cold War and sleeper agents.

Palm Beach: Forget Russian oligarchs for the time being. Donald Trump and his family appear to have been co-opted by a standard Chinese intelligence operation -- both mainland and Taiwanese -- that uses overseas Chinese, shady dummy corporations, prostitution and blackmail, and political influence peddling to influence foreign governments.

ny times logomichelle goldberg thumbNew York Times, Opinion: The Massage Parlor Owner and Mar-a-Lago, Michelle Goldberg, right, March 12, 2019 (print ed.). We're jaded, but this should be a big scandal.

Even if you’re an avid follower of the news, it’s hard to keep track of Donald Trump’s scandals. Revelations that would have been shocking in the world we all lived in a few years ago — for example, news that the president overruled his staff to insist on security clearances for his fashion designer daughter and her husband — now take up half a news cycle, at most.

Still, it’s worth trying to summon whatever is left of our pre-Trump sensibilities and pause to consider the epic sleaze of the unfolding story of Li Yang, also known as Cindy Yang.

Yang, in case you haven’t heard of her yet, is a Florida businesswoman whose family owns a chain of massage parlors that, as The Miami Herald put it, “have gained a reputation for offering sexual services.”

Last month, Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots and a close friend of and donor to Trump, was charged with two counts of soliciting prostitution at a spa Yang founded, Orchids of Asia. (She reportedly sold it around 2013, but online reviews indicate it was known as a place to buy sex before that.) Kraft pleaded not guilty. The authorities have said that Orchids of Asia is part of a major sex trafficking operation.

Safe World Travel

washington post logoWashington Post, Britain bans Boeing jet from its airspace as more nations ground the craft, Gerry Shih​, March 12, 2019. It's the first European country to ban the use of the Boeing 737 Max. Britain's civil aviation authority called the move a “precautionary measure” after a deadly weekend crash in Ethiopia.

 ny times logoboeing logoNew York Times, Which Airlines Fly the Boeing 737 Max 8. Denise Lu, Allison McCann, Jin Wu and KK Rebecca Lai, March 12, 2019. 
This model of jet typically makes more than 8,500 flights a week. These are the airlines that use it.

ny times logoNew York Times, Australia and Singapore Ban Boeing 737 Max 8 Jets, Nick Corasaniti, March 12, 2019. The countries joined China and Indonesia in suspending all use of the plane, two days after 157 people were killed on one flown by Ethiopian Airlines. At least 17 airlines were still flying the jet on Monday, including Southwest Airlines, American Airlines and Air Canada.

U.S. Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump proposes a $4.7 trillion budget with domestic cuts, billions for wall, Damian Paletta, Erica Werner and Jeff Stein, March 12, 2019 (print ed). ​President Trump’s plan — which locks in $1 trillion in deficits, boosts military spending and includes cuts to the social safety net — stands as a sharp challenge to Congress and the Democrats trying to unseat him.

President Trump proposed a $4.7 trillion budget plan Monday that stands as a sharp challenge to Congress and the Democrats trying to unseat him in 2020, the first act in a multi-front struggle over the role of government that threatens to consume Washington for the next 18 months.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosThe plan would dramatically expand spending on programs and initiatives popular with Republicans, such as $750 billion in new defense spending and $8.6 billion for barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border. At the same time, it would slash spending on Medicaid, food stamps, environmental protections and other programs that Democratic presidential candidates vowed to preserve and expand.

The budget proposal ran into an immediate buzz saw on Capitol Hill, where many Democrats flatly rejected it and even some Republicans sought to distance themselves from key details.

ny times logopaul krugmanNew York Times, Opinion: The Power of Petty Personal Rage, Paul Krugman, right, March 12, 2019 (print ed.). Today’s column is about plastic straws, hamburgers and dishwashing detergent. Also Captain Marvel.

No, I haven’t lost my mind, or at least I don’t think so. But quite a few other people have — and their rage-filled pettiness is a more important force in modern America than we like to think.

ny times logonra logo CustomNew York Times, Incendiary N.R.A. Videos Find Surprising Critics: N.R.A. Leaders, Danny Hakim, March 12, 2019 (print ed.). NRATV, the gun-rights group’s streaming service, has been a potent voice for the organization. But some leaders are questioning the site’s inflammatory rhetoric.

Venezuelan Crisis

Grayzone via Consortium News, max blumenthal screenshot rt americaUS Regime Change Blueprint Proposed Venezuelan Electricity Blackouts as ‘Watershed Event, Max Blumenthal, right, March 12, 2019. The group that trained Juan Guaidó and his allies laid out plans for galvanizing public unrest in a 2010 memo, Max Blumenthal reports for Grayzone.

A September 2010 memo by a U.S.-funded soft power organization that helped train Venezuelan coup leader Juan Guaidó and his allies identifies the potential collapse of the country’s electrical sector as “a watershed event” that “would likely have the impact of galvanizing public unrest in a way that no opposition group could ever hope to generate.”

The memo has special relevance today as Guaidó moves to exploit nationwide blackouts caused by a major failure at the Simon Bolivar Hydroelectric Plant at Guri dam – a crisis that Venezuela’s government blames on U.S. sabotage.

venezuela flag waving customIt was authored by Srdja Popovic of the Center for Applied Non-Violent Action and Strategies (CANVAS), a Belgrade-based “democracy promotion” organization funded by the U.S. that has trained thousands of U.S.-aligned youth activists in countries where the West seeks regime change.

This group reportedly hosted Guaidó (shown below at left) and the key leaders of his Popular Will party for a series of training sessions, fashioning them into a “Generation 2007” determined to foment resistance to then-President Hugo Chavez and sabotage his plans to implement “21st century socialism” in Venezuela.

In the 2010 memo, published by WikiLeaks, CANVAS’s Popovic declared, “A key to Chavez’s current weakness is the decline in the electricity sector.” Popovic explicitly identified the Simon Bolivar Hydroelectric Plant as a friction point, emphasizing that “water levels at the Guri dam are dropping, and Chavez has been unable to reduce consumption sufficiently to compensate for the deteriorating industry.”

juan guaidóSpeculating on a “grave possibility that some 70 percent of the country’s electricity grid could go dark as soon as April 2010,” the CANVAS leader stated that “an opposition group would be best served to take advantage of the situation and spin it against Chavez and towards their needs.”

Flash forward to March 2019, and the scenario outlined by Popovic is playing out almost exactly as he had imagined.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. pulling out remaining diplomats from Venezuela amid deteriorating conditions, Mary Beth Sheridan and Anthony Faiola, March 12, 2019. The United States will withdraw its remaining diplomatic personnel from Venezuela this week, authorities said Tuesday, intensifying a rupture in relations as the socialist South American country plunges further into chaos.

venezuela flag waving customThe move comes as Venezuelan society appears to be unraveling amid a nationwide blackout and critical water shortages that have worsened already dire conditions. Some fear the oil-rich country could become a failed state.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (right) said in statement late Monday that the remaining U.S. diplomatic personnel were being pulled mike pompeo portraitout. “This decision reflects the deteriorating situation in Venezuela as well as the conclusion that the presence of U.S. diplomatic staff at the embassy has become a constraint on U.S. policy,” he said.

But Venezuelan authorities said that they had informed the U.S. charge d’affaires in the country, Jimmy Story, on Monday that the government was cutting off diplomatic privileges. Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said Tuesday that the decision reflected the “risk to national peace posed by allowing the U.S. personnel to stay in Venezuelan territory.”

Fears of a Libya-style collapse in Venezuela are growing, a threat that has raised the specter of the 2012 assault on the American compound in Benghazi that resulted in the death of U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens.

Trump Probes

ny times logoNew York Times, The New York attorney general’s office issued subpoenas to two banks for records related to Trump Organization projects, William K. Rashbaum and Danny Hakim, March 12, 2019 (print ed.). The New York attorney general’s office late on Monday issued subpoenas to Deutsche Bank and Investors Bank for records relating to the financing of four major Trump Organization projects and a failed effort to buy the Buffalo Bills of the National Football League in 2014, according to a person briefed on the subpoenas.

deutsche bank logoThe inquiry opens a new front in the scrutiny of Deutsche Bank, one of the few lenders willing to do business with Donald J. Trump in recent years. The bank is already the subject of two congressional investigations and was examined last year by New York banking regulators, who took no action.

The new inquiry, by the office of the attorney general, Letitia James, was prompted by the congressional testimony last month of Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, the person briefed on the subpoenas said. Mr. Cohen testified under oath that Mr. Trump had inflated his assets in financial statements, and Mr. Cohen provided copies of statements he said had been submitted to Deutsche Bank.

Media News

ny times logofox news logo SmallNew York Times, Fox News, After Rebuking Jeanine Pirro, Faces Another Uproar Over Tucker Carlson, Michael M. Grynbaum, March 12, 2019 (print ed.). The network condemned Ms. Pirro for suggesting that a Muslim lawmaker’s religious beliefs were anti-American. Mr. Carlson, another Fox host, is also under fire after the surfacing of offensive comments.

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Deportation Looms for Mexican Journalist Seeking Asylum, Celia Wexler, March 12, 2019. Over the past 11 years, Emilio Gutierrez has been on a roller coaster — detained two times and threatened with deportation, then given reprieves.

Expanding Supreme Court?

ny times logoNew York Times, Reparations, Court-Packing: 2020 Democrats Debate Once-Fringe Issues, Sydney Ember and Astead W. Herndon, March 12, 2019. As the Democratic field moves to the left, grass-roots organizers see openings to push more niche issues like reparations, court-democratic donkey logopacking and eliminating the filibuster.

It was a made-for-social-media moment for Pete Buttigieg. In Philadelphia last month on his book tour, Mr. Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., and a Democratic candidate for president, fielded an unlikely question from the audience: “Would you support a packing of the courts to expand the Supreme Court by four members?”

supreme court graphicThe inquiry elicited titters from the politics-hungry crowd that appeared surprised by the question. But not from Mr. Buttigieg.

“I don’t think we should be laughing at it,” he said. “In some ways it’s no more a shattering of norms than what’s already been done to get the judiciary to where it is today.”

His response drew immediate praise from liberal news outlets; ThinkProgress declared him the only Democratic candidate that seemed “serious about governing.” But if Mr. Buttigieg’s remarks were off-the-cuff, the question was not: It had been posed by a person involved with Pack the Courts, a liberal activist group that favors adding judges in order to flip the ideological tilt of the high court — known as court-packing.

30th Anniversary of Iconic Garrison Column On JFK Murder

ap logoAssociated Press via Los Angeles Times, Media No Longer Laughing, Jim Garrison Says : Judge Revives View of JFK Assassination, Austin Wilson, March 12, 1989. They killed the symbol of Jim Garrison's dreams, and after 25 years, he still cannot let it go.

john_f_kennedy_smilingThat would be the practical thing to do--just let it go--but the former prosecutor-turned-judge still believes the CIA killed President John F. Kennedy, that top government officials helped to cover up the crime and that the American people need to know what really happened.

Garrison tried before and was labeled a lunatic and worse. For three years in the late 1960s, he was a topic of international debate, quizzed by Johnny Carson, grilled in network interviews, sought out by authors and cited in footnotes in all sorts of publications.

Then, disillusioned, he withdrew from public view for 18 years, except for a cameo appearance as a judge in "The Big Easy," a steamy cops-and-robbers movie set in New Orleans.

As a district attorney here in 1969, Garrison put businessman Clay Shaw on trial for conspiracy to murder the President. The prosecution was turned into a nationally publicized farce. Garrison's star witness died under mysterious circumstances, and another witness said under cross-examination that he fingerprinted his daughter each time she came home from school to make sure that a spy hadn't taken her identity.

Third Book on Subject

Garrison's first book, Heritage of Stone, attempted to do in print what he couldn't do in the courtroom. Then came a novel, The Star-Spangled Contract. His third book, On the Trail of the Assassins, is a testimony to the tenacity with which he has pursued and developed his theory as new information became available.

His interest is driven by a deep, undying affection for Kennedy as a person and as a symbol. "He had ideals. He inspired dreams," he said. Garrison still gets tears in his eyes when he reads some of Kennedy's speeches.

jim garrison fullGarrison (shown in a file photo) was recently elected to a second 10-year term as a judge on Louisiana's 4th Circuit Court of Appeal. His 68 years sit well on him. His 6-foot-7 frame is erect, and he dwarfs his massive desk when he leans forward to emphasize a point.

For the first time in 19 years, he has granted a lengthy interview on the subject of the JFK assassination and his investigation of it. He remained silent so long because his experience with news reporters soured him, he said.

"I'm not talking about the average reporter, but there are certain organs of the national media--The New York Times, The Washington Post, NBC, CBS--that, once they adopted the official fiction, there was no variation. They were like the New York Rockettes," he said.

Debunks Warren Report

The "official fiction" was the finding of the Warren Commission--that Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, killed Kennedy, he said. Garrison maintains that Oswald was one of several "false sponsors," people set up in advance to divert attention from the CIA. The mob was another "false sponsor," he said.

To Garrison a conspiracy was obvious from the start, and it stung him when reporters began to regard him as a publicity-seeking opportunist or a buffoon.

"By that time, when I was saying, 'Look, there is no mystery about this,' they would just kind of roll their eyes," he said.

"We went about as far as we could go before our wings were clipped, in reaching a point, in '69, where I couldn't say anything without being pictured as a fool or a madman.

"I continued to have my interest in the assassination investigation, but I returned the district attorney's office to its primary function, about which we had no disagreement with anybody. It was a good office. In fact, in the election of 1968, I had the biggest vote I had ever had."

In 1972, a federal grand jury accused Garrison of taking bribes to protect illegal pinball gambling. He represented himself at his trial and was found innocent, but the trouble contributed to his defeat when he ran for a fourth term. He says that vengeful federal authorities cooked up the case against him by using fraudulent tapes secretly recorded by an old Army buddy.

No Time for Campaign

"They got me," he said. "They sure got me. When they set that trial, that federal trial, for a few months before the election, they sure got me.

"I found out it's all well and good to try your own trial--I wouldn't have it any other way--but when that case is over and you've only got six weeks or whatever it is to try and raise money and do the other things, there's not enough time for a citywide election.

"So they got me. It was the best thing that ever happened to me, because I wouldn't have found my way into the 4th Circuit (bench)."

Serving as an appellate court judge is the most satisfying thing he has done, he said. "I truly love it."

The son and grandson of lawyers, Garrison went to a public high school here and entered the Army a year before Pearl Harbor. He flew light planes as an artillery spotter in Europe, and arrived at Dachau the day after troops supported by his artillery unit had liberated it.

He enrolled at Tulane University after the war and earned a law degree, and briefly tried to earn a spot on the football team. "It didn't take long to realize that was not for me," he said.

'Good' and 'Bad' Wars

Old-fashioned values shape Garrison's views. He talks of truth, duty and honor, of "good wars," such as the one against the Nazis, and "bad wars," such as the one in Vietnam.

Kennedy was planning to pull the U.S. out of Vietnam, so the cold warriors in the CIA had to have him killed, he said.

By Garrison's estimate, about 18 people were involved in the assassination--at least three riflemen, a couple of coordinators with radios, two spotters to distract a strategically placed police officer and divert a standby ambulance away from the site of the shooting, about six members of the Dallas police homicide squad and three or four others who handled the training, on-site planning and logistics.

Somebody had to authorize changing the parade route from Main Street to Elm Street, and somebody had to authorize leaving the bulletproof top off the President's car, he said. Somebody, he said, had to call off the usual security check of buildings and rooftops along the new parade route.

The orders had to come from an upper level in the CIA, he said, but he would hazard no guess about the number of people involved in that decision.

Names and Pseudonyms

He never tried to identify the trigger men and never could understand reporters' fixations on that subject, he said. "They (assassins) all have nom de plumes."

warren commission colorAfter the assassination, people as high as President Lyndon B. Johnson and Chief Justice Earl Warren lent themselves to validating the official fiction, Garrison said. (The Warren Commission is shown in a file photo presenting its report to Johnson in 1964.)

"Let's take the best-case scenario for Johnson: It was a terrible thing to happen, but it had happened, and what else could you do but put a lid on it for the good of the country?" he said.

"I think there was an awful lot of that. People will say, 'How could Chief Justice Earl Warren have let himself be dragged in?'

"Put it in the words of a forceful man like Lyndon Johnson. Put his meaty hand on your shoulder and hear him saying, 'Look, Mr. Chief Justice, this could be war. This could be misunderstood. The country has never needed you like it will now.'

"Then, coming down to: 'It could be much more involved, but we've got to put the lid on for the good of the country, for the good of the people.'

"I think that was the magic phrase from there on. A lot of people who you would not call bad people and who were not villains responded, I think, with active participation in the cover-up as a consequence."

The FBI and Secret Service became involved in the cover-up immediately, he said.

LBJ in the Dark

jim garrisonGarrison (shown in another file photo) said there is no indication that Johnson knew about the assassination beforehand. "Quite the contrary, in fact. The conspirators would have followed one of the cardinal rules of their trade and told Johnson only what he needed to know."

The proximity of Oswald's office to the New Orleans offices of some of the country's intelligence agencies started Garrison thinking, and those thoughts quickly formed themselves into his theory of a CIA conspiracy.

"I'm not particularly aggressive in seeking fights. Sometimes I wish I were more aggressive, but I just am who I am, and I can't change.

"One of the things that I happen to have in my makeup is that I am just constitutionally unable to back up, if that makes any sense to you.

"I would never cross the street to get in a fight, but if somebody comes up, I can't back up an inch.

Not a Fighter

"That, in a sense, tells you all about my role. If you were my manager and I were a professional prizefighter, after about my third fight you'd say, 'Jim, I think you've got nice hands, good footwork and everything, but you're really not a professional fighter.' "

Garrison refers to his rough treatment at the hands of the media and federal prosecutors as "that unpleasantness," but he says it has left no scars.

"Please, understand me. I'm not trying to portray myself as another Clint Eastwood. I'm not trying to portray myself as a 'make my day' fellow, but I found that I couldn't care less what other people thought about it.

"People have asked me from time to time if I felt vindicated by later developments. Watergate was a later development; Irangate was a later development--other things which showed the shadow of intelligence (agencies) around the edge of things . . . the 'off-the-shelf' activity outside the scope of regular tables of organization.

"I've had to answer that I don't feel vindicated, and have never felt the need of it.

"I still don't have ulcers. I know I gave some to people at Langley (CIA headquarters). I hope so."

Garrison's manuscript for On the Trail of the Assassins was rejected 19 times in six years before Sheridan Square Press accepted it. The first rejection came from the publisher of his novel.

"It was a very warm letter, but the essence of what he said was that 'We here do not believe the American people are interested in a murder that took place so long ago."

He was less than enthusiastic about renewing contact with the media until New Orleans television reporters covered his autograph party.

"It was quite different than it was 20 years ago," he said. "There was interest in what I said. I was not regarded as insane. They had read some of the book. Their questions were very good. That really is all I ask, and I never got that 19 years ago.

"Then, it was more along the lines, of: 'Now, you're supposed to be an intelligent man. What makes you think you're right and the United States government is wrong?' You phrase it like that, and it's a 'When did you stop beating your wife' question. So I just stopped giving interviews. Now, it's different."

Holds No Hope

Garrison said he holds out no hope that the book might inspire an investigation of the intelligence agency and the role it might have played in the assassination.

"I might have hoped that when I was younger," he said. "I do hope that it gets a wide enough readership that maybe some people will see through the false sponsorships, so they can see through the attempts to discredit John Kennedy.

"In the final analysis, I hope that it has provided information that someone--who knows? maybe even the government itself--may use to have a clearer awareness of what happened. I know that sounds awfully optimistic, but still, it is some of the truth that might otherwise have remained hidden."

March 11

washington post logoadam schiff officialWashington Post, Schiff says it’s a ‘mistake’ for Mueller not to interview Trump, Karoun Demirjian, March 11, 2019 (print ed.). House Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), right, also deferred to the special counsel on whether Blackwater founder Erik Prince lied to Congress about his involvement with the Trump campaign.

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: WMR's scoop about Trump's connection to Florida prostitution ring advances, Wayne March 11, 2019 (Subscription required; excerpted with permission). On March 11, WMR was the first to report on a possible connection between the law enforcement sting of several south Florida day spas, where Asian women were discovered to be working as virtual sex slaves, and Donald Trump's local resorts.

We reported, "The Trump Organization’s notorious business practices of hiring undocumented workers makes it even more likely that trafficked spa workers may have worked or are working at both Trump National Jupiter -- which, along with the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, serves wealthy members of his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach -- and Trump National Doral in Miami-Dade, cannot be ruled out. The Trump International Beach Resort in Sunny Isles Beach, located between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, also offers spa services."

djt li yang cindy

Florida massage parlour founder Li "Cindy" Yang and President Trump are shown in a photo signed by Trump.Yang's bio identifies her as the founder and CEO of GY US Investments. Her website said that she is a member of the “Presidential Fundraising Committee.”

U.S. Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s proposed Medicare cuts put health care at center of 2020 race, Toluse Olorunnipa and Sean Sullivan​, March 11, 2019. ​President Trump’s call for more than $845 billion in reductions for the program teed up a potential messaging battle between Democratic proposals for Medicare-for-all and a kind of Medicare-for-less approach from Republicans who are focused on cutting back on spending.

  • Washington Post, This HIV pill saves lives. So why is it so hard to get in the Deep South? March 11, 2019. ​
  • Washington Post, Trump proposes a $4.7 trillion budget with domestic cuts, billions for wall, Damian Paletta, Erica Werner and Jeff Stein, President Trump’s plan — which locks in $1 trillion in deficits, boosts military spending and includes cuts to the social safety net — stands as a sharp challenge to Congress and the Democrats trying to unseat him.

washington post logoWashington Post, Former vice president Cheney challenges Pence at private retreat, compares Trump’s foreign policy to Obama’s approach, Robert Costa and Ashley Parker, March 11, 2019. A chummy discussion between Vice President Pence and former vice dick cheney wpresident Richard B. Cheney quickly turned into a vigorous back-and-forth over President Trump’s foreign policy at a private gathering Saturday, with Cheney (shown in an official photo) comparing the president’s instincts to those of his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, according to a transcript obtained by The Washington Post.

At the closed-door retreat hosted by the American Enterprise Institute in Sea Island, Ga., Cheney respectfully but repeatedly and firmly pressed Pence on a number of the president’s foreign policy moves. Cheney expressed concerns at such actions as taking a harder line toward U.S. allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and deciding to withdraw troops from Syria during what he fretted was “the middle of a phone call.”

Cheney also worried aloud to Pence that “we’re getting into a situation when our friends and allies around the world that we depend upon are going to lack confidence in us” and then offered a blunt criticism of the current administration’s response to foreign policy challenges.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump to Request $8.6 Billion for Additional Wall Funding, Jim Tankersley and Alan Rappeport, March 11, 2019 (print ed.). President Donald Trump officialPresident Trump’s third budget request to Congress on Monday is expected to propose cuts to government programs and ask for border wall funds.

The request is certain to reignite a conflict with Democrats that led to a recent record-long government shutdown.

Global News

ny times logoNew York Times, Footage Contradicts U.S. Claim That Maduro Burned Aid Convoy, Nicholas Casey, Christoph Koettl and Deborah Acosta, March 10, 2019. Unpublished footage obtained by The Times and previously released tapes allowed for a nicolas maduro customreconstruction of the incident. It suggests that a Molotov cocktail thrown by an antigovernment protester was the most likely trigger for the blaze.

The narrative seemed to fit Venezuela’s authoritarian rule: Security forces, on the order of President Nicolás Maduro, right, had torched a convoy of humanitarian aid as millions in his country were suffering from illness and hunger.

mike pence oVice President Mike Pence, left, wrote that “the tyrant in Caracas danced” as his henchmen “burned food & medicine.” The State Department released a video saying Mr. Maduro had ordered the trucks burned. And Venezuela’s opposition held up the images of the burning aid, reproduced on dozens of news sites and television screens throughout Latin America, as evidence of Mr. Maduro’s cruelty.

But there is a problem: The opposition itself, not Mr. Maduro’s men, appears to have set the cargo alight accidentally.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Airstrikes Kill Hundreds in Somalia as Shadowy Conflict Ramps Up, Eric Schmitt and Charlie Savage, March 11, 2019 (print ed.). The American military has escalated a battle against the Shabab, an extremist group affiliated with Al Qaeda, in Somalia even as President Trump seeks to scale back operations against similar Islamist insurgencies elsewhere in the world, from Syria and Afghanistan to West Africa.

A surge in American airstrikes over the last four months of 2018 pushed the annual death toll of suspected Shabab fighters in Somalia to the third record high in three years. Last year, the strikes killed 326 people in 47 disclosed attacks, Defense Department data show.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Wonder Woman’ actress takes on Netanyahu with anti-racism post on Instagram, Ruth Eglash, March 11, 2019 (print ed.). In a series of posts on social media, Israeli celebrities spoke out against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s comments on Israel's Arab citizens.

It looks like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might have gone and upset Wonder Woman. With less than a month to go before Israelis head to the polls on April 9, the long-serving leader, who is hoping for reelection in a tight race, publicly challenged on Sunday one of the country’s most popular celebrities — model and TV presenter Rotem Sela.

israel flagIn the process, he seems to have sparked the ire of Israeli actress Gal Gadot — better known as Wonder Woman.

Sela, whose face adorns billboards across the country and who appears on Israeli television in one reality show or another almost every night, had aired concerns about the way Israel’s Arab population is being used in a derogatory manner during the campaign.

In a scathing Saturday night post on Instagram, Sela said she was angry after watching an interview with Miri Regev, a top minister for Netanyahu’s Likud party. Regev warned viewers that if Netanyahu loses the election, his main challenger, Benny Gantz, a former army chief of staff, will have to rely on Arabs to form a government.

“When the hell will someone in this government let the Israeli public know that this is a country for all its citizens and that every person is born equal. And also, that the Arabs are human beings,” Sela wrote in an Instagram story to her 830,000 followers.

Apparently, the post caught Netanyahu’s eye, and he took the unusual step of answering her directly on Facebook: “Dear Rotem Sela, I read what you wrote. First of all, an important correction: Israel is not a state for all its citizens. According to a basic law we passed, Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people — and the Jewish people only,” he wrote.

Netanyahu was referring to a law passed last year that declared Israel a national homeland for Jews and prioritized Jewish-only communities.

washington post logoWashington Post, China and Ethiopia among nations to ground Boeing model after deadly crash, Paul Schemm​, March 11, 2019. Eight Americans among the dead in Ethiopian Airlines. The Boeing 737 Max 8 jets, which came under scrutiny after a deadly crash in Indonesia last October, was involved in a devastating Ethio­pian Airlines crash Sunday that killed everyone on board just minutes after takeoff. crash.

China FlagChina’s Civil Aviation Administration said in a statement early Monday that it has asked domestic airlines to temporarily ground all Boeing 737 Max 8 jets before 6 p.m. It was the first time China has taken the lead in ordering a model grounded before other national aviation agencies.

Cayman Airways and Indonesia’s airlines also suspended the use of the Boeing 737 Max 8 plane, the latest version of the industry’s most popular passenger airline. Related story:

ny times logoNew York Times, Boeing Scrambles to Contain Fallout From Deadly Ethiopia Crash, David Gelles, Natalie Kitroeff and Hadra Ahmed, March 11, 2019. Similarities to a recent crash in Indonesia provoked concern among carriers, pilots, flight attendants and passengers. More than a dozen airlines grounded the 737 Max 8, but the F.A.A. said it did not have enough information to take action.

Underage Sex Suit

Miami Herald, Federal court moves to unseal documents in Jeffrey Epstein sex scandal, Julie K. Brown, March 11, 2019.​ A federal court of appeals in New York on Monday took the first step in unsealing documents that could reveal evidence of an international sex trafficking operation allegedly run by multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein (shown below) and his former partner, British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell.

jeffrey epstein at harvard universityThe three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit gave the parties until March 19 to establish good cause as to why they should remain sealed and, failing to do so, the summary judgment and supporting documents will be made public. The court reserved a ruling on the balance of the documents in the civil case, including discovery materials.

“We’re grateful that the court ruled the summary judgment papers are open and they are moving to expedite having them unsealed,’’ said Sanford Bohrer, the attorney representing the Miami Herald, which filed the motion last year to have the entire case file opened. The Herald’s appeal is supported by 32 other media companies, including the New York Times and Washington Post.

Ghislaine Maxwell was sued for slander after calling Virginia Roberts Giuffre (shown below at right), one of Jeffrey Epstein’s accusers, a liar. Maxwell, a close associate of Epstein, sought to have documents from the court case remain sealed.

virginia robertsThe case, which was settled in 2017, contains more than 1,000 documents, lawyers said during oral arguments in New York on Wednesday. Maxwell is the sole party fighting to keep the case sealed.

Most of the documents, including court orders and motions, were filed under seal or heavily redacted, similar to other cases in New York and Florida involving Epstein, a wealthy, politically connected money manager. Epstein, 66, was not a party to the lawsuit, which was filed against Maxwell in 2015 by Giuffre.

Giuffre claimed in the lawsuit that she was recruited by Maxwell at Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump’s resort in Palm Beach, when she was 16 years old. Giuffre had been working at the resort’s spa when Maxwell approached her and asked her whether she wanted to become a masseuse for Epstein. Giuffre claimed that the massages were a ruse for Epstein and Maxwell to sexually abuse her and other underage girls, some of whom were trafficked to other influential people, from 1999 to 2002.

During the tense court session, all three judges sounded receptive to the arguments for unsealing, which faced resistance only from Maxwell's attorneys.

alexander acosta labor o

The Epstein saga jumped back into the headlines last month when a federal judge in Florida ruled that federal prosecutors, including then-U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta, violated the rights of victims by hiding plans to foreclose a federal prosecution of Epstein in exchange for his guilty pleas to prostitution-related offenses in a state court.

Acosta, right, now labor secretary, has defended his handling of the case.

U.S. Courts and Crime

 whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, US Won’t Pursue Saudi National Wanted in Manslaughter Case, Spencer Feingold, March 11, 2019. As the Trump administration furthers its ties to Saudi Arabia, the US says it will not pursue a Saudi man who fled Oregon after killing a teenage girl in a hit-and-run.

Palmer Report, Report: Robert Mueller pursuing indictments of several Donald Trump family members, Bill Palmer, March 11, 2019. Here’s the thing about reports that come from unnamed inside sources. In order to believe it, you have to take the reporter’s word on it that the source exists to begin with, and you have to assume that the source is being truthful to the reporter. That can be the tricky part, as insiders only tend to share information with reporters to drive their own agenda, so the information typically is slathered in bias at best. But when a fairly major publication claims to have inside knowledge of something explosive, you have to at least chew on it.

bill palmer report logo headerThat brings us to this new report from British publication The Spectator that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has finished his report, and he’s going to use it to push for indictments against four members of Donald Trump’s family. That’s explosive enough, of course, before you get to the additional claim that Mueller also wants to indict Trump himself. Then there’s the kicker: new Attorney General William Barr is cool with indicting Trump’s family, but he’s pushing back on indicting Trump himself. Can any of this be real?

In a word, maybe.

ny times logoNew York Times, Top Officials Resign From Troubled Texas Charity for Migrants, Nicholas Kulish, Kim Barker and Rebecca R. Ruiz, March 11, 2019. The two leaders at Southwest Key, the largest provider of shelters for migrant children, left under pressure over alleged financial improprieties there. President Trump’s family separation policy brought scrutiny to the organization, which began an internal investigation after a 2018 Times article.

Federal Reserve / Wall Street Examined

Wall Street on Parade, A Look Back at How Reforming Wall Street Failed So Miserably Under Obama, Pam Martens: March 11, 2019. The Fed’s Fancy Footwork on Stress Tests Was About Silencing Bank Examiners; A Book on Wall Street’s Dark Underbelly Could Alter Election Outcome in 2020.

The underlying theme that Wall Street’s Federal regulators have become whores for the industry permeates most of the well-carmen segarra noncompliant coverresearched books that have been written about Wall Street over the past decade. But no book has connected the dots to the nuances and subtleties of how this whoring works as effectively as Noncompliant: A Lone Whistleblower Exposes the Giants of Wall Street.

Written by Carmen Segarra, the petite lawyer turned bank examiner turned whistleblower turned one-woman swat team, the 340-page tome takes the reader along on her gut-wrenching workdays for an entire seven months inside one of the most powerful and corrupted watchdogs of the powerful and corrupted players on Wall Street – the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. (The days were literally gut-wrenching. Segarra reports that after months of being alternately gas-lighted and bullied at the New York Fed to whip her into the ranks of the corrupted, she had to go to a gastroenterologist and learned her stomach lining was gone.)

She soldiered through her painful stomach ailments and secretly tape-recorded 46 hours of conversations between New York Fed officials and Goldman Sachs. After being fired for refusing to soften her examination opinion on Goldman Sachs, Segarra released the tapes to ProPublica and the radio program This American Life and the story went viral from there.

The book exquisitely confirms, from a Wall Street veteran educated at Harvard, Columbia and Cornell Law, what Wall Street On Parade has been telling our readers for years – the New York Fed is at the core of Wall Street’s corrupt model.

In a nutshell, the whoring works like this. There are huge financial incentives to go along, get along, and keep your mouth shut about fraud. The financial incentives encompass both the salary, pension and benefits at the New York Fed as well as the high-paying job waiting for you at a Wall Street bank or Wall Street law firm if you show you are a “team player.” Segarra calls this process FUMU – “f**k up, move up.”

Two men who had adapted very nicely to the New York Fed’s way of doing things were William (Bill) Dudley, President of the New York Fed during Segarra’s time there and Michael F. Silva, Dudley’s former Chief of Staff turned bank regulator at the New York Fed.

Silva is the man who asked Segarra to change her damaging report on Goldman Sachs and then fired her for insubordination timothy geithner sworn in 1 26 09when she refused to do so. (Segarra writes that she refused to do so because (1) it would be a lie and (2) as an attorney, she knew that she could be charged with evidence tampering.)

Michael F. Silva had also been Chief of Staff to Tim Geithner, the President of the New York Fed prior to Dudley. Geithner epitomized the FUMU model.

After presiding over the toxic buildup that led to the greatest Wall Street collapse since the Great Depression, Geithner was named Obama’s Secretary of the Treasury where he presided over the greatest taxpayer bailout of Wall Street in U.S. history. Geither is shown with President Obama and Vice President Biden in January 2009.

March 10

Trump Probes

 washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Kavanaugh said Congress should hold presidents accountable. Barr agreed, Deanna Paul, March 10, 2019 (print ed.). ​Republicans have accused House Democrats of overusing investigative powers. Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh and U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr are on record saying the House should find the truth.

djt robert mueller headshots

Palmer Report, Analysis: The calm before the storm, Bill Palmer, March 10, 2019. This upcoming week is going to play a huge role in the fate of Donald Trump, Robert Mueller (shown together above), Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, and too many other related people to list. Yet here we are on a comparatively quiet Sunday morning, with so many storylines in play, but most of them not having come all the way to fruition yet, even as we wait for the fireworks to start.

bill palmer report logo headerThis week we should get closure on the sentencing of Michael Flynn.

michael flynn microphoneRemember back when the judge asked aloud if Flynn (shown in a file photo) had committed treason, and then told Flynn to go find a way to help Robert Mueller even more? That’s back in play now. If the Flynn case really is put to bed this week, we could finally see Mueller unveil some of what he redacted in the Flynn sentencing memo. Keep in mind that for Mueller to have recommended that Flynn get off with a slap on the wrist, Flynn must have sold out Donald Trump and everyone else pretty hardcore.

But that’s just the start of what this week brings.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Next judge to sentence Manafort has already been thrust onto national stage, Spencer S. Hsu​, March 10, 2019 (print ed.). The next paul manafort abc flickr Customfederal judge to sentence former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has already been thrust onto the national stage during the year-long run of special counsel cases. Manafort is shown as campaign manager in a 2016 file photo.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, left, set to decide Wednesday whether she will add prison time for Manafort, is the same judge who was recently in the spotlight for the Roger Stone case (by being prosecuted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team).

She comes primed for her role by three decades as an attorney and judge dissecting sensitive political corruption and white-collar criminal amy berman jacksoncases in the nation’s capital.

Dolan recalled winning the first felony conviction of a Virginia sitting state judge as a special prosecutor with Jackson. It was the early 1990s, and many jurors in Norfolk had not seen a female trial lawyer, he said. “They went quite quickly from, ‘Who is this little woman’ to ‘Who is this sharp lawyer?’ ” Dolan said.

The Baltimore-born daughter of a U.S. Army-trained physician, Jackson, 64, earned bachelor’s and law degrees from Harvard University. She prosecuted violent and sex crimes at the U.S. attorney’s office in the District for six years, then in 1986 joined a law firm that became part of Venable.

U.S. Politics

washington post logodemocratic donkey logoWashington Post, Analysis: Yes, the Republican Party has changed since 2016. You think the Democratic Party hasn’t? Dan Balz, March 10, 2019 (print ed.). The transformation of the Republican Party under President Trump is a well-told story. Less noted, but no less significant, is the change in the Democratic Party during the same period. Heading into 2020, neither party is what it was when Donald Trump ran against Hillary Clinton in 2016.

washington post logoDonald Trump and Mike Pence logoWashington Post, Encapsulating his unorthodox presidency, Trump assumed 10 personas in one speech, Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker, Monica Akhtar and Danielle Kunitz, March 10, 2019 (print ed.). ​Offering a preview of the 2020 campaign, last week’s spectacle at the Conservative Political Action Conference showcased President Trump in his purest form.

 ny times logoNew York Times, For Female Candidates, the Era of Family Dynasties Fades Away, Susan Chira, March 10, 2019. For hillary clinton buttondecades in American politics, Hillary Clinton and many other women followed in the footsteps of a husband or father. None of the six women running for president do.

U.S. Media / Politics

Associated Press via, Cutbacks in local news leave some communities in the dark, March 10, 2019. With the 2018 shutdown of ap logothe Daily Guide in St. Robert, Mo., the area in central Missouri's Ozark hills joined more than 1,400 other cities across the United States to lose a newspaper over the past 15 years, according to an Associated Press analysis of data compiled by the University North Carolina.

Waynesville, Mo. — Five minutes late, Darrell Todd Maurina sweeps into a meeting room and plugs in his laptop computer. He places a Wi-Fi hotspot on the table and turns on a digital recorder. The earplug in his left ear is attached to a police scanner in his pants pocket.

He wears a tie; Maurina insists upon professionalism. He is the press — in its entirety.

Maurina, who posts his work to Facebook, is the only person who has come to the Pulaski County courthouse to tell residents what their commissioners are up to, the only one who will report on their deliberations — specifically, their discussions about how to satisfy the Federal Emergency Management Agency so it will pay to repair a road inundated during a 2013 flood.

Last September, Waynesville became a statistic. With the shutdown of its newspaper, the Daily Guide, this town of 5,200 people in central Missouri's Ozark hills joined more than 1,400 other cities and towns across the U.S. to lose a newspaper over the past 15 years, according to an Associated Press analysis of data compiled by the University of North Carolina.

Blame revenue siphoned by online competition, cost-cutting ownership, a death spiral in quality, sheer disinterest among readers or reasons peculiar to given locales for that development. While national outlets worry about a president who calls the press an enemy of the people, many Americans no longer have someone watching the city council for them, chronicling the soccer exploits of their children or reporting on the kindly neighbor who died of cancer.

Local journalism is dying in plain sight.

ny times logoNew York Times, After Week of Infighting, Democrats Wonder Where to Draw Line on Speech, Glenn Thrush and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, March 10, 2019. In an era of provocation, how should Congress respond when its members say hateful or hurtful things?

There are virtually no rules governing a House members’ right to say whatever they please outside of the parliamentary regulations covering proceedings on the floor and in committees. The first article of the official code of conduct of members, enforced by the Committee on Ethics, contains only a broad declaration, that, “A member, delegate, resident commissioner, officer or employee of the House shall behave at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House.”

Global News

washington post logoUnited Kingdom flagWashington Post, As Brexit looms, some companies stockpile, some cut jobs — and some move away, Karla Adam and William Booth, March 10, 2019 (print ed.). Britain is set to leave the European Union on March 29 — and it’s still not yet clear how it will exit, or whether its departure will be delayed, or if it will leave at all. The nail-biting final days have triggered anxiety and division, but from the board rooms to the factory floors, there is consensus: This is no way to treat the world’s fifth-largest economy..

washington post logoboeing logoWashington Post, Ethiopian Airlines flight bound for Nairobi crashes, all 157 on board killed, Paul Schemm​, March 10, 2019. ​The airline said the plane, which lost contact six minutes after takeoff, was the same Boeing model involved in the Indonesian Lion Air crash in October in which the plane plunged into the sea shortly after take off.

U.S. Political Corruption Probes

washington post logoWashington Post, Jack Evans, once a sure bet in elections, faces political uncertainty amid federal probe, Paul Schwartzman, March 10, 2019 (print ed.). ​The greatest vulnerability for the D.C. Council’s longest-serving member is a grand jury investigation whose scope appears to have widened, with subpoenas suggesting that officials are also looking into his ties with real estate developers, law firms and lobbyists.

March 9

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump budget to propose slashing domestic spending, boosting defense, Damian Paletta and Erica Werner, March 9, Democratic-Republican Campaign logos2019 (print ed.). Fierce battles over government spending are expected later this year, with the White House plan already encountering withering opposition from Democrats who control the House — as well as some Republicans.

Trump Watch

djt li yang cindy

Florida massage parlour founder Li "Cindy" Yang and President Trump in a photo signed by Trump.Yang's bio identifies her as the founder and CEO of GY US Investments and says she has been “settled in the United States for more than 20 years” and is a member of the “Presidential Fundraising Committee.”

Mother Jones, A Florida Massage Parlor Owner Has Been Selling Chinese Execs Access to Trump at Mar-a-Lago, David Corn, Dan Friedman and Daniel Schulman, March 9, 2019. The strange, swampy saga of Trump donor Li Yang. The latest Trump political donor to draw controversy is Li Yang, a 45-year-old Florida entrepreneur from China who founded a chain of spas and massage parlors that included the one where New robert kraft twitterEngland Patriots owner Bob Kraft (shown in a file photo) was recently busted for soliciting prostitution. She made the news this week when the Miami Herald reported that last month she had attended a Super Bowl viewing party at Donald Trump’s West Palm Beach golf club and had snapped a selfie with the president during the event.

Though Yang no longer owns the spa Kraft allegedly visited, the newspaper noted that other massage parlors her family runs have “gained a reputation for offering sexual services.” (She told the newspaper she has never violated the law.)

Beyond this sordid tale, there is another angle to the strange story of Yang: She runs an investment business that has offered to sell Chinese clients access to Trump and his family. And a website for the busines — which includes numerous photos of Yang and her purported clients hobnobbing at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s private club in Palm Beach — suggests she had some success in doing so.

Yang, who goes by Cindy, and her husband, Zubin Gong, started GY US Investments LLC in 2017. The company describes itself on its website, which is mostly in Chinese, as an “international business consulting firm that provides public relations services to assist businesses in America to establish and expand their brand image in the modern Chinese marketplace.”

li yang ronna romney mcdanielBut the firm notes that its services also address clients looking to make high-level connections in the United States. On a page displaying a photo of Mar-a-Lago, Yang’s company says its “activities for clients” have included providing them “the opportunity to interact with the president, the [American] Minister of Commerce and other political figures.” The company boasts it has “arranged taking photos with the President” and suggests it can set up a “White House and Capitol Hill Dinner.”

li yang rick scott jan 8 25k croppedAccording to the Miami Herald, Yang is a registered Republican, and since 2017 she and her relatives have donated more than $42,000 to a Trump political action committee and more than $16,000 to Trump’s campaign.

Her Facebook page, which was taken offline on Friday, was loaded with photos of her posing with GOP notables: Donald Trump Jr., Rep. Matt Gaetz or Florida, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel (above left), Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, among others (including then-Florida Governor and now U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, right).

washington post logoWashington Post, In another blow to Trump, judge rules in favor of ACLU in family separations case, Maria Sacchetti, March 9, 2019 (print ed.). The judge will hear arguments later this month on whether he should order the administration to track down all the separated families.

washington post logoWashington Post, Is Paul Manafort’s sentence too light? He fared worse than many fraudsters, data shows, Justin Jouvenal, Julie Tate and Rachel Weiner, March 9, 2019 (print ed.). U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III surprised many when he departed from federal sentencing paul manafort mugguidelines in Manafort’s case. But the average prison sentence in similar bank-fraud cases was about 31 months.

But a review of data for all 452 similar cases nationwide in fiscal 2018 show President Trump’s former campaign chairman received a sentence that was somewhat stiffer than other federal defendants’ prison terms.

The average prison sentence in such bank-fraud cases was about 31 months, roughly 16 months shorter than the 47 months Manafort received for convictions in federal court in Northern Virginia, according to an analysis of court data maintained by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC).

But Manafort, who was convicted by a jury in August 2018, fared much better when compared with other defendants who were also convicted by federal juries. The average sentence for those trials, 22 in all, was 98 months, according to the analysis.

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, sarah isgur graphicA controversial CNN hire has a change of heart; she’ll be an analyst, not a politics editor, Paul Farhi, March 9, 2019 (print ed.). Sarah Isgur, right, a prominent conservative with ties to the Trump administration, was all set to become one of the cable network’s political editors, a job in which she would help direct coverage of the Democratic primaries and Trump’s reelection campaign.

But CNN and Isgur appear to have had a slight change of plans. Isgur, until recently the chief spokeswoman for the Department of Justice, cnn logoannounced Friday on Twitter that she would still be joining CNN, but that she won’t be doing so as a political editor. She’ll be a political analyst only, offering commentary but having no direct role in coverage decisions.

Isgur’s hiring touched off criticism inside and outside CNN when it was announced three weeks ago. The decision was rnc logounusual for several reasons: Isgur has no journalism experience as well as none managing a TV news operation. She has instead spent much of her professional life as a Republican advocate; her résumé includes stints working on behalf of such candidates as Mitt Romney, Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina, and for the Republican National Committee.

She also reportedly pledged her loyalty to President Trump to land her job in his administration as a spokeswoman for attorney general Jeff Sessions, whom Trump forced to resign in November.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: It’s time — high time — to take Fox News’s destructive role in America seriously, Margaret Sullivan, March 9, margaret sullivan 2015 photo2019 (print ed.). Chris Wallace is an exceptional interviewer, and Shepard Smith and Bret Baier are reality-based news anchors.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about the overall problem of Fox News, which started out with bad intentions in 1996 and has swiftly devolved into what often amounts to a propaganda network for a dishonest president and his allies.

fox news logo SmallThe network, which attracts more viewers than its two major competitors, specializes in fearmongering and unrelenting alarmism. Remember “the caravan”?

At crucial times, it does not observe basic standards of journalistic practice: as with its eventually retracted, false reporting in 2017 on Seth Rich, which fueled conspiracy theories that Hillary Clinton had the former Democratic National Committee staffer killed because he was a source of campaign leaks.

ny times logoNew York Times, On CBS, R. Kelly Was Trapped in the Camera Eye, James Poniewozik, March 9, 2019 (print ed.). Gayle King’s explosive r kelly twitterinterview with the R&B singer (shown on his Twitter feed), accused of preying on women and girls, pitted fire against ice cool, our critic writes.

“Is this camera on me?” R. Kelly’s line, in the midst of his 80-minute interview with CBS’s Gayle King about his charges of sexual abuse, was the opening lyric of one of the most bizarre and unhinged performances of the R&B singer’s career.

He shrieked into the camera: “You’re killing me, man!” He smacked his fist into his palm. He beat his chest. He paced gayle king 2010 time 100 shankbone wand stabbed the air and seemed as if he might lose physical control. (Ms. King (shown in a file photo) later said that she didn’t worry that the singer would harm her, but she thought that “I might get accidentally clobbered.”)

The obvious question, after Mr. Kelly’s Tuesday meltdown replayed for days, finally becoming a CBS prime time special Friday night, was: Why would he agree to this? How could he imagine this might possibly help him?

Earlier this year, the Lifetime docu-series “Surviving R. Kelly,” which laid out an extensive case that Mr. Kelly preyed upon women and underage girls, showed how he used the intimate investment of fandom to escape consequences. (Mr. Kelly has denied all sexual abuse allegations.)

But a network-TV interview while you’re facing criminal charges is not the same as performing a tribute ballad at Whitney Houston’s funeral. (Last month in Chicago Mr. Kelly was charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse; he has pleaded not guilty.)

The raging, self-pitying R. Kelly on this stage only recalled the threatening, controlling R. Kelly described in “Surviving,” which CBS’s special drew heavily on (including an interview with its producer Dream Hampton).

Trump Probes

Palmer Report, Opinion: No wonder Matt Whitaker ran away screaming, Bill Palmer, March 9, 2019. After William Barr was confirmed as the new matthew whitaker headshot recentpermanent Attorney General, Donald Trump offered outgoing Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker (right) a cushy new fake job at the Department of Justice, presumably to keep Whitaker from cutting a perjury plea deal against him. Whitaker took the job, but then abruptly resigned after just a couple weeks.

We knew something didn’t smell right, and now it’s starting to surface.

bill palmer report logo headerLegal activist group American Oversight has obtained Department of Justice records which reveal that after Donald Trump ordered then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to launch a sham investigation into Hillary Clinton, Sessions did precisely that. In November of 2017, Sessions instructed U.S. Attorney John Huber to investigate Hillary. At the time, Matt Whitaker was the Chief of Staff for Sessions. These newly exposed records reveal that Whitaker was the one who sent Sessions’ instructions to Huber. Why is this such a big deal?

hillary clinton buttonIn the big picture, it means that Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions really did abuse their power by attempting to open what they knew was a baseless criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton for political reasons. This is impeachable, and perhaps prosecutable, and we’re going to hear a lot more about this story in the coming days. But when it comes to Matt Whitaker, he lied about this whole thing.

So now we have Matt Whitaker not only having committed perjury during his recent House Judiciary Committee testimony, but also having committed perjury in this Sessions/Clinton matter. Whitaker knew he was going down for at least one count of perjury when he abruptly resigned his brand new DOJ job.

Palmer Report, Fact Check: Why is Amazon already selling the Robert Mueller report? Bill Palmer, March 9, 2019. This month two different books amazon logo smallcalled “The Mueller Report” have become available for preorder on the website. One is being offered by the Washington Post, and the other claims to be from Robert Mueller while boasting of an introduction from Alan Dershowitz. Both books claim a release date of March 26th, 2019. Meanwhile, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has made no indication of when or how his report will be released. So what’s really going on here?

bill palmer report logo headerHere are the facts. No one, outside of Robert Mueller and his team, has any specific knowledge about when his report will be issued. These two “books” are merely empty templates that have been put up for preorder, with best guesses for release dates. They each plan to take the publicly available version of Mueller’s report that you’ll be able to get anywhere else for free, stuff it into a book, add some custom material, and charge you money.

The version being offered by the Washington Post says it’ll include “related materials” from the newspaper. Fair enough; you’re paying to get the Post’s analysis of the Mueller report, once the report surfaces. Considering the solid investigative research that the Post has done into Donald Trump’s various criminal scandals over the past few years, this analysis could prove to be useful.

alan dershowitz2The other version misleadingly lists “Robert S. Mueller III” as the author but is actually being offered by Skyhorse publishing, which has previously published pro-Trump books from Alan Dershowitz, including The Case Against Impeaching Trump. For this new book, the “introduction” from Dershowitz (right) will likely be something more akin to a rebuttal of the Mueller report. Unless you’re a Trump supporter and you want to read Dershowitz defending his ally Trump while attacking Mueller, ordering this version would be a complete waste of money.

In any case, neither of these books has any actual connection to Robert Mueller.

Huge Venezuelan Blackouts

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Venezuela - Three Total Blackouts In Three Days - Government Presumes U.S. Cyberattack, b, March 9, 2019. Venezuela currently experiences multiple total outages of its electricity network. It is quite possible or even likely that the U.S. is causing these incidents. But it is not certain.

The blackout affected 18 out of 23 states in Venezuela with some 25 million people. It took 24 hours for some power to come back. It would have taken another day or two for the network to again reach full capacity. But today another total outage happened.

washington post logoWashington Post, How Nicolas Maduro has been able to stay in power as Venezuela crumbles, Mary Beth Sheridan​, March 9, 2019. As demonstrators and security again clash in the streets, his popularity slumps, his nation's economy is collapsing, and dozens of countries no longer recognize him as president. But he has the military on his side.

First Amendment Freedoms

High Country News, South Dakota pushes bills to prosecute ‘riot-boosting’ ahead of pipeline construction, Elena Saavedra Buckley March 6, 2019. The bills would allow the state to sue protesters — and their supporters — and use the money for pipeline-related costs.

On Thursday, the South Dakota Legislature passed SB 189 and SB 190, the riot-boosting and funding bills in question. The votes were largely partisan, with Democrats making up most of the opposition. The bills are now headed to Gov. Kristi Noem’s desk to sign in the coming days. Due to the bills' emergency clauses, once signed, they will immediately become law.

Introduced by South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, R, on Monday, the bills would protect the 1,179-mile-long Keystone XL pipeline, a planned TransCanada project that would slice through the state carrying 830,000 barrels of crude oil a day. The Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association has opposed the bills, representing the leaders of 16 tribes in the region, none of whom were consulted for the legislation.

Anti-protest laws exist in other states — bills were passed in North Dakota after the 2016 #NoDAPL demonstrations — but the South Dakota package, introduced in the legislative session’s final days, casts a much larger net over who can be legally pursued by authorities.

March 8

U.S. Government Reform

Roll Call, House passes HR 1 government overhaul, sending it back to campaign trail, Kate Ackley, March 8, 2019. With Senate not planning to take it up, Democrats plan to continue fight into 2020. With passage of HR 1, House Democrats’ political money, ethics and voting overhaul, the mammoth proposal now heads exclusively to the 2020 campaign trail, where candidates in both parties say they believe their message will woo voters.

The House passed the measure 234-193 Friday morning. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the bill’s foe in chief, has assured his side he plans to officially ignore it in his chamber, refusing to bring it for a vote even as the Kentucky Republican said Wednesday that he believed his party could win elections against people who support it.

Despite its expected doom in the Senate, Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said he is planning to unroll his version of the package Wednesday and will seek Democratic and Republican co-sponsors. Even if it somehow were to pass the Senate, President Donald Trump has threatened to veto it, and business and conservative interests have mobilized against it en masse.

Manafort Sentencing

washington post logoWashington Post, Manafort gets far less prison time than sentencing guidelines call for, Rachel Weiner, Lynh Bui, Justin Jouvenal and Devlin Barrett, March 8, 2019 (print ed.). Paul Manafort, who once served as President Trump’s campaign chairman, was sentenced to nearly four years in prison Thursday for cheating on his taxes and bank fraud — a far lesser sentence than the roughly 20 years he had faced under federal sentencing guidelines.

paul manafort mugU.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III called that guidelines calculation “excessive” and sentenced the longtime lobbyist (shown in a mug shot)) instead to 47 months in prison.

Apparently aware that he might be criticized for not imposing a longer prison term, Ellis told a packed courtroom in Alexandria, Va. that anyone who didn’t think he punishment was tough enough should “go and spend a day, a week in jail or in the federal penitentiary. He has to spend 47 months.”

Wearing a green jail uniform that said “ALEXANDRIA INMATE” on the back, Manafort, 69, sat in a wheelchair for the entire hearing and did not visibly react when the sentence was read by the judge. At times while the judge spoke, Manafort closed his eyes.

 wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Judge T. S. Ellis is a veteran Iran-Contra scandal cover-up jurist, Wayne Madsen (left, syndicated columnist, author of 16 books, including two about CIA operations, and former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst), March 8, 2019 (subscription required, excerpted here with permission).

wayne madsen cia front cover SmallT.S. Ellis was nominated by Ronald Reagan on July 1, 1987. Ellis was placed on the Alexandria, Virginia bench to influence what was expected to be a number of trials involving Iran-Contra figures indicted for their involvement in the guns-for-narcotics-for-cash scandal that almost brought down the Reagan administration.

The federal court in Alexandria traditionally handles cases involving the Central Intelligence Agency and is known as a "rocket docket" for quickly shotgunning such cases, many of them embarrassing and politically-sensitive, through the legal system, with as little as possible publicity.

Ellis, who was born in Bogota, Colombia, was nominated by Reagan on July 1, 1987. He was confirmed by the Senate on August 5, 1987.... During the 1980s and concurrent with the Iran-Contra affair, Manafort's company, Black, Manafort, Stone & Kelly (BMSK), was involved in propping up dictators in countries where the CIA was also active.

Ellis can be summed up as follows: "born in Colombia and raised by the CIA."

washington post logoWashington Post, Legal community lashes out at inequity of ‘mind-boggling’ sentence, Reis Thebault and Michael Brice-Saddler, March 8, 2019. Manafort’s case was immediately perceived as a high-profile instance of the justice system working one way for a wealthy, well-connected man, while working in another, harsher, way for indigent defendants facing lesser crimes.

“Paul Manafort’s lenient 4-year sentence — far below the recommended 20 years despite extensive felonies and post-conviction obstruction — is a reminder of the blatant inequities in our justice system that we all know about, because they reoccur every week in courts across America,” said Ari Melber, a legal analyst for NBC News, in a Thursday-night tweet.

Justice Department log circularDuncan Levin, a former federal prosecutor and expert in financial crimes, said Manafort’s sentence was very light “by any stretch of the imagination.” Manafort, who once agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors but then was found to have lied to them, got a sentence that resembled someone’s who did not renege on their cooperation agreement, Levin said.

“His crimes went on for an extremely long time, at the very highest levels of our government and deeply affected our democracy,” Levin told The Washington Post. “To get away with it for such a short sentence is something that is absolutely mind-boggling.”

Scott Hechinger, a senior staff attorney at Brooklyn Defender Services, an organization that provides legal representation to defendants who cannot afford it, used one of his recent clients, who was just offered a 36-to-72-month sentence, as an example. The crime? Stealing $100-worth of quarters from a residential laundry room. Hechinger’s client may wind up doing more time than Manafort, a man who defrauded the Internal Revenue Service out of $6 million. Hechinger listed a half dozen more examples.

  • Washington Post, The Fix: Manafort’s lies become more bizarre, March 8, 2019 (print ed.).
  • Washington Post, Post asks court to unseal records in Manafort case, March 8, 2019 (print ed.).

ny times logoNew York Times, Manafort Is Sentenced to Nearly 4 Years; Punishment Falls Short of Guidelines, Sharon LaFraniere, March 8, 2019 (print ed.). Paul Manafort, the political consultant and Trump presidential campaign chairman whose lucrative work in Ukraine and ties to well-connected Russians made him a target of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, was sentenced on Thursday to nearly four years in prison in the financial fraud case that left his grand lifestyle and power-broker reputation in ruins.

The sentence in the highest-profile criminal case mounted by the special counsel’s office was far lighter than the 19- to 24-year prison term recommended under sentencing guidelines. Judge T. S. Ellis III of the United States District Court in Alexandria, Va., said that although Mr. Manafort’s crimes were “very serious,” following the guidelines would have resulted in an unduly harsh punishment.

A team of Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors sat glum-faced as Judge Ellis delivered his decision. Mr. Manafort, who has gout and came to the hearing in a wheelchair with his foot heavily bandaged, had asked the judge for compassion. “To say I feel humiliated and ashamed would be a gross understatement,” he said in a barely audible voice, reading from a prepared statement.

Spas, Sports, Massages and Trumps

Daily Mail, Founder of massage parlor where Robert Kraft was arrested is a Trump donor, frequent Mar-a-Lago partygoer and White House djt li yang super bowlguest who was seen watching the Patriots win the Super Bowl with the president, Chris Spargo, March 8, 2019. The Chinese entrepreneur who founded Orchids of Asia Day Spa & Massage was seen rooting for the New England Patriots at Mar-a-Lago alongside President Donald Trump early last month.

Li Yang (at left in photo via Facebook) shared a photo of herself and a friend sitting directly behind President Trump at the event, which took place just two weeks before Patriots owner Robert Kraft would matt gaetz li yangbe charged with two counts of misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution for incidents that allegedly transpired at that spa.

She is shown above left with U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), a "family values" hard-right Trump supporter representing Florida's Panhandle, and below with the President's sons Eric (at left) and Donald Jr. in other photos via Facebook. 

Kraft is accused of visiting the spa on two consecutive days in January, with a worker performing a manual sex act on the billionaire during his first appointment while another worker performed an oral sex act during his second sojourn.

eric trump li yang facebookHe is planning to fight those charges and denies claims he was the recipient of any sexual act at the spa, despite police claiming there is video evidence in the case.

Kraft is one of Trump's closest friends, while Yang is one with deep pockets. Records obtained by show donald trump jr li yang facebookthat she donated $8,100 to the Trump Victory Fund in 2018, listing her occupation on federal election forms as Chairman of the Women's Charity Foundation

She is also a Trump Republican, having been an inactive voter with no declared political party for the decade before the current president ran for office.

Miami Herald, Trump cheered Patriots to Super Bowl victory with founder of spa where Kraft was busted, Sarah Blaskey, Nicholas Nehamas, miami herald logoand Caitlin Ostroff, March 8, 2019. Li Yang, 45, posed with Donald Trump during the Super Bowl while rooting for the Patriots. Two weeks later, authorities would charge the team owner, Robert Kraft, with soliciting prostitution at a spa in Jupiter that Yang had founded.

Seated at a round table littered with party favors and the paper-cutout footballs that have become tradition at his annual Super Bowl Watch Party, President Donald Trump cheered the New England Patriots and his longtime friend, team owner Robert Kraft (shown in a file photo), to victory robert kraft twitterover the Los Angeles Rams on Feb. 3.

Sometime during the party at Trump’s West Palm Beach country club, the president turned in his chair to look over his right shoulder, smiling for a photo with two women at a table behind him.

The woman who snapped the blurry Super Bowl selfie with the president was Li Yang, 45, a self-made entrepreneur from China who started a chain of Asian day spas in South Florida. Over the years, these establishments — many of which operate under the name Tokyo Day Spas — have gained a reputation for offering sexual services.

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigation: Billionaires’ solicitation of H-B2 visa sex slaves tip of huge EB-5 visa swindle, Wayne Madsen, March 4, 2019 (subscription required, excerpted with permission).

Jupiter, Florida -- Across U.S. Highway 1 from the now-closed Orchids of Asia “Day Spa,” which provided owner of the New England Patriots Robert Kraft, as well as John Childs, a hedge fund owner and major GOP donor, and John Havens, a former president of Citigroup, with illegal prostitution services, is ground zero for a swindle and scandal involving EB-5 visas to wealthy Chinese investors.

President Donald Trump officialThe EB-5 visa is formally known as an “investment visa.” Foreign citizens who invest a minimum of $500,000 in the United States that create ten U.S. jobs per investor, qualify for an EB-5 visa. The EB-5 is a fast track program for obtaining a “Green Card,” which is permanent residency in the United States.

Shortly after Donald Trump was sworn in as president, Securities and Exchange Commission investigators began closely examining the activities of Jared Kushner’s sister, Nicole Kushner Meyer, who was touting her brother’s access to President Trump to convince Chinese business people in Beijing to invest $500,000 each in a Kushner-owned residential complex in New Jersey.

Ms. Meyer, who has assumed control of Kushner Companies from her brother Jared, guaranteed the investors a fast-track to permanent residency and probable citizenship through the EB-5 visa investments in the Kushner property at One Journal Square in Jersey City on the Hudson River, just opposite lower Manhattan.

Mother Jones, Founder of Spa Chain Where Robert Kraft Was Busted Has Mingled With Trump and Allies, Inae Oh, March 8, 2019. She’s posted numerous photos with the president and prominent Republicans. One day after New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was charged with soliciting prostitution at a Florida spa last month, President Donald Trump expressed shock at the news. “He’s proclaimed his innocence totally, but I was very surprised to see it,” Trump told reporters.

But newly uncovered photos suggest that the president—like a string of prominent Republicans—is more familiar with one component of the scandal than previously known: the founder of the spa chain where Kraft was busted, Cindy Yang. The Miami Herald reports that Yang has visited Trump’s White House and is a member of his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida. She has also donated tens of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates.

A Mother Jones review of Yang’s Facebook profile reveals a slew of photos taken with the president and his family, including one at a Super Bowl party this January, when the Patriots won their sixth championship. Others show Yang posing with several big-name Republicans, including Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Yang told the Miami Herald that she gave up ownership of the spas years ago. She has not been charged in the ongoing criminal investigation.

Clean Water

Guardian, Most US coal plants are contaminating groundwater with toxins, analysis finds, Oliver Milman, March 8, 2019. Almost every coal-fired power plant in the US is contaminating groundwater with unsafe levels of toxic pollution, according to the first comprehensive analysis of the consequences of coal ash waste disposal.

Of the 265 US power plants that monitor groundwater, 242 have reported unsafe levels of at least one pollutant derived from coal ash, which is the remnants of coal after it is burned for energy. More than half such facilities report unsafe levels of arsenic, a carcinogen linked to multiple types of cancer, with 60% finding elevated lithium, which is associated with neurological damage.

In all, nine out of every 10 coal plants with reportable data have tainted nearby groundwater with at least one coal ash pollutant, with a majority having unsafe levels of at least four different toxins.

Media News

Daily Beast, Bill Shine Lasted Only 8 Months as Trump’s Comms Czar, Asawin Suebsaeng, Andrew Kirell and Audrey McNamara, March 8, 2019. Despite daily beast logoamicable statements, sources told The Daily Beast that Trump was unhappy with Shine’s work; and Shine was unhappy with the stress of trying to please Trump. White House communications chief Bill Shine resigned from his position Thursday, after only eight months, and will serve as a “senior adviser” on President Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign.

bill shine“Serving President Trump and this country has been the most rewarding experience of my entire life,” Shine said in a statement. “To be a small part of all this president has done for the American people has truly been an honor. I’m looking forward to working on President Trump’s re-election campaign and spending more time with my family.” Trump echoed Shine’s comments in his own statement.

But behind the amicable statements, sources said, there lies the usual discontent between both parties.

One former Fox executive told The Daily Beast that Trump had complained in recent months about Shine’s seeming inability to get more positive press coverage for his administration. “Trump loves a yes-man,” the source said, “but he loves good press more.”

The former exec added: “He feels he was sold a bill of goods by Hannity,” referring to how Shine was introduced to the president via the Fox News primetime star who has long acted as an unofficial Trump adviser. “But Trump needs Hannity and so he will never attack him publicly.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Senator Elizabeth Warren is set to announce a regulatory plan aimed at breaking up tech giants, Astead W. Herndon, March 8, 2019. Senator Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat who is bidding to be the policy pacesetter in the Democratic presidential primary, announced elizabeth warren cfpbanother expansive idea on Friday: a regulatory plan aimed at breaking up some of America’s largest tech companies, including Amazon, Google Apple, and Facebook.

The proposal — which comes on the same day Ms. Warren (right) will hold a rally in Long Island City, the Queens neighborhood that was to be home to a major new Amazon campus — calls for the appointment of regulators who would “unwind tech mergers that illegally undermine competition,” as well as legislation that would prohibit platforms from both offering a marketplace for commerce and participating in that marketplace.

U.S. Crime / Courts

ny times logochelsea manning twitterNew York Times, Chelsea Manning Is Jailed for Refusing to Testify in WikiLeaks Case, Charlie Savage, March 8, 2019. Chelsea Manning (right), the former Army intelligence analyst who provided archives of secret military documents to WikiLeaks in 2010, was taken into custody on Friday after a federal judge found her in contempt for refusing to testify before a grand jury that is investigating the antisecrecy group.

Judge Claude H. Hilton of Federal District Court in the Eastern District of Virginia ruled that Ms. Manning must stay in civil detention until she testifies. Ms. Manning had vowed not to cooperate in the investigation even though prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia granted immunity for her testimony.

ny times logoNew York Times, Carmine J. Persico, Colombo Crime Family Boss, Is Dead at 85, Selwyn Raab March 8, 2019. Mr. Persico, nicknamed the Snake, died while serving a 139-year sentence after being convicted of leading a vast and violent criminal enterprise. Carmine J. Persico, the unpredictable leader of the New York-based Colombo crime family who the authorities believe had a strong hand in the assassinations of the mob bosses Albert Anastasia and Joey Gallo, died a prisoner on Thursday in a hospital in Durham, N.C. He was 85.

rudy giuliani recentThe extent of Mr. Persico’s influence and authority in the Mafia was exposed at a watershed federal trial in 1986 in Manhattan. He and the reputed bosses of the Genovese and Lucchese crime families were convicted of being members of the Commission, the select body that resolved major disputes and set policies for the five New York crime families: the Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese and Lucchese factions.

The case boosted the political career of Rudolph W. Giuliani, who was then the United States attorney in Manhattan, bringing him national attention for uprooting three entrenched mob emperors and helping him become mayor of New York.

Trump Watch

Mediaite, George Conway Torches Trump in Rare Public Remarks: U.S. Nearing a ‘Banana Republic’ Under This President, Julio Rosas, March 8, 2019. CNN aired video from a speech from George Conway, the fierce anti-Trump critic and who is husband to presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway, where he railed against the president at Georgetown Law.

“The president suggested that members of his own Justice Department should be locked up for investigating the president,” he said. “Now, if people were to get indicted or not indicted on the basis of whether the president likes them, we wouldn’t have a republic, we would have a banana republic.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Elijah Cummings just played Donald Trump like a fiddle, Bill Palmer, March 8, 2019. As recently as last Friday, House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings was publicly demanding that the White House turn over internal documents related to why Donald Trump ordered that Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump be given a security clearance, and why Jared and Ivanka were flagged as security risks to begin with.

bill palmer report logo headerAs Palmer Report loves to point out, smart investigators rarely ask for documents unless they already have at least some of the documents in question. It turns out Cummings is as smart as we thought.

Today we all learned that Elijah Cummings and his committee have indeed had some of the Jared-Ivanka security clearance documents since early February, because someone in the White House leaked the documents to the committee, according to Axios.

Why is this so important? For one thing, it means someone in the White House really seems to resent the Trump crime family. But more importantly, it means Cummings is playing four dimensional chess here.

U.S. Education

ny times logoNew York Times, Thousands Tripped Up as a College Chain Sinks, Stacy Cowley and Erica L. Green, March 8, 2019 (print ed.). When the Education Department approved a proposal by Dream Center, a Christian nonprofit with no experience in higher education, to buy a troubled chain of for-profit colleges, skeptics warned that the charity was unlikely to pull off the turnaround it promised. Barely a year later, dozens of campuses are nearly out of money.

U.S. Jobs, Safety Net

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. economy adds just 20,000 jobs in February, well below expectations, Heather Long​, March 8, 2019. Economists did not immediately panic as hiring has been strong in recent months, and one weak number doesn’t necessarily derail that trend. The unemployment rate was 3.8 percent.

washington post logopuerto rico flagWashington Post, Puerto Rico starts cutting food stamp benefits used by more than 1 million people amid congressional impasse, Jeff Stein, ​March 8, 2019.·​Puerto Rico is now paying $410 a month for a family of four on food stamp benefits, or about 40 percent less than that received by families in U.S. states, said a spokesman for the territory’s Department of Families.

More On Trump Probes

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats torn over scrutiny of Ivanka Trump, president’s other children, Rachael Bade, Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey, March 8, 2019.  Lawmakers are moving cautiously in probing the intersection of Ivanka Trump’s private financial interests and her White House job.

House Democrats are torn over how aggressively to investigate the intersection of Ivanka Trump’s private financial interests and her service in the White House — an area of inquiry that probably would inflame tensions with President Trump, who has warned Democrats against scrutinizing his family.

Senior Democratic investigators have discussed opening an oversight probe into whether the president’s daughter benefited personally from her position as a White House senior adviser, including through Chinese regulators’ approval of trademarks for her apparel company.

But investigating Ivanka Trump is so politically sensitive that Democrats are proceeding with caution. It is unclear even which House committee would take the lead; aides for several panels with jurisdiction suggested that other committees may be better suited to probing the president’s eldest daughter.

Shaping Legal Culture

washington post logoWashington Post, George Mason law school lands $50 million gift, the largest in university history, Sarah Larimer, March 8, 2019. The gift comes from the estate of the late Judge Allison Rouse and Dorothy Rouse, and will be used to create 13 new faculty chairs.

More On U.S. Crime

washington post logojussie smollett mugshotWashington Post, Empire’ actor Jussie Smollett indicted on 16 felony counts related to allegation that he staged a hate-crime attack, Sonia Rao, March 9, 2019 (print ed.). Prosecutors have said Smollett (shown in a mugshot) paid two men to help him stage an attack that was initially seen as a racist and homophobic hate crime. The Associated Press reported that Smollett was indicted Thursday on 16 felony counts.

washington post logoWashington Post, Is Paul Manafort’s sentence too light? He fared worse than many fraudsters, data shows, Justin Jouvenal, Julie Tate and Rachel Weiner, March 9, 2019 (print ed.). U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III surprised many when he departed from federal sentencing guidelines in Manafort’s case. But the average prison sentence in similar bank-fraud cases was about 31 months.

But a review of data for all 452 similar cases nationwide in fiscal 2018 show President Trump’s former campaign chairman received a sentence that was somewhat stiffer than other federal defendants’ prison terms.

The average prison sentence in such bank-fraud cases was about 31 months, roughly 16 months shorter than the 47 months Manafort received for convictions in federal court in Northern Virginia, according to an analysis of court data maintained by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC).

But Manafort, who was convicted by a jury in August 2018, fared much better when compared with other defendants who were also convicted by federal juries. The average sentence for those trials, 22 in all, was 98 months, according to the analysis.

March 7

Manafort Sentencing

Forbes, Commentary: The Judge Who Let Manafort Off Easy With 47 Months Is An Arch-Conservative, Charles Tiefer, March 7, 2019. It is striking that a judge just sentenced Paul Manafort, a major target of the Mueller investigation, to only 47 months in prison. The Sentencing Guidelines justified a sentence well above fifteen years. It was all-important that Manafort, who had been the head of the Trump presidential campaign, receive a strong sentence.

This was partly for the general reason in sentencing, to send the message to potential malefactors of the consequences. But, it was also needed to persuade Manafort to tell Mueller (and, eventually, in some forum, the public) the truth about President Trump and Russia.

Instead, this weak sentence sends these kind of messages of a conservative judge: it is not so bad to use Republican connections to cash in with Putin’s allies; Trump’s campaign manager is worthy of much, much more respect than in the Sentencing Guidelines; Mueller’s quest for the Russia connection deserves little help, and some messages.

Senior U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis was nominated to the bench in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan, who of course favored very conservative picks. Before then, he had worked since 1970 for Hunton and Williams, a very well known, quite conservative, Richmond firm.

President Reagan nominated Judge Ellis to the Eastern District of Virginia. Presidents have a special reason to want to stack that particular court with strong conservatives. The Pentagon and the CIA are in that district. There is a great desire among conservatives to stack that district court to handle the cases that concern national security brought in that district, including espionage cases.

Take a comparison of the Manafort case with another prosecution of a political figure, a black Democratic Congressman from a black district in Louisiana named William J. Jefferson. (I was a peripheral observer of that case. The FBI had raided Jefferson’s Congressional office and carried off his computer hard drive. The Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the violation of Congressional independence by that raid, and I was the principal witness (because I knew the established limits on prosecution tactics as a former House General Counsel and I was now a professor.))

Jefferson’s case was basically bribery. It was nationally famous because agents raiding his house found cash in the freezer.

Manafort may have gotten off easy with four years, but Ellis threw the book at Jefferson. In 2009 Ellis sentenced Jefferson to 13 years, the longest sentence of any Congressman to that date. (After further twists and turns Ellis let off Jefferson in December 2017 for five years time served.) It seems that while Judge Ellis can sympathize with Manafort, the Republican presidential campaign manager, he did not sympathize with Jefferson.

Everything now depends on the sentence Manafort receives in his other case, and whether it is consecutive or concurrent. Imagine the relief for Trump if it is a sentence no longer than 47 months and it runs concurrently. If Manafort had gotten (or still gets) a sentence of more than 15 years, Trump would face the problem of pardoning Manafort to prevent him from experiencing great pressure to cooperate with Mueller.

The press and public have been waiting for the first use of the pardon power as a major statement about Trump.

Now, Trump might just get off and not need to display the pardon weapon. Trump should say "Thank you, Judge Ellis."

The Atlantic, Commentary: The ‘Otherwise Blameless Life’ of Paul Manafort, Franklin Foer, Right, March 7, 2019. Trump’s former campaign chair atlantic logohas always acted franklin foer Customwith impunity, as if the laws never applied to him, “He has lived an otherwise blameless life,” said Judge T. S. Ellis as he sentenced Paul Manafort to just 47 months in prison on Thursday.

In an otherwise blameless life, Paul Manafort lobbied on behalf of the tobacco industry and wangled millions in tax breaks for corporations.

In an otherwise blameless life, he helped Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos bolster his image in Washington after he assassinated his primary political opponent.

In an otherwise blameless life, he worked to keep arms flowing to the Angolan generalissimo Jonas Savimbi, a monstrous leader bankrolled by the apartheid government in South Africa. While Manafort helped portray his client as an anti-communist “freedom fighter,” Savimbi’s army planted millions of land mines in peasant fields, resulting in 15,000 amputees.

In an otherwise blameless life, Manafort was kicked out of the lobbying firm he co-founded, accused of inflating his expenses and cutting his partners out of deals.

In an otherwise blameless life, he spent a decade as the chief political adviser to a clique of former gangsters in Ukraine. This clique hoped to capture control of the state so that it could enrich itself with government contracts and privatization agreements. This was a group closely allied with the Kremlin, and Manafort masterminded its rise to power—thereby enabling Ukraine’s slide into Vladimir Putin’s orbit.

Explosive Reports About Trump

djt michael cohen

ny times logoNew York Times, Cohen Offers Documents in Bid to Show Trump Lawyers Helped With False Testimony, Nicholas Fandos and Maggie Haberman, March 7, 2019 (print ed.). Michael D. Cohen gave documents to the House Intelligence Committee to back up his claim that President Trump’s lawyers made changes to a knowingly false statement that Mr. Cohen delivered to Congress in 2017. It was not clear how many changes were made by Mr. Trump’s lawyers.

Mr. Cohen, in what was expected to be his last visit to Capitol Hill, brought multiple drafts of his 2017 statement along with emails with Mr. Trump’s lawyers about its drafting, hoping to back up claims that he made last week at an open hearing before the House Oversight and Reform Committee. In that session, Mr. Cohen testified that there were “changes made, additions” to the original written statement, including about the length of negotiations over a proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow during the 2016 presidential campaign.

washington post logoWashington Post, Michael Cohen told a representative to ask Trump’s team about pardon, lawyer says, Karoun Demirjian and Robert Costa, March 7, 2019. Michael Cohen’s former legal team reached out to President Trump’s lawyers seeking a pardon, Cohen’s current attorney said late Wednesday, largely settling speculation about who initiated conversations about the matter but raising new questions about whether Cohen was honest in his public testimony to Congress last week.

Cohen’s lawyer Lanny J. Davis said in an interview that Cohen directed his former attorney, Stephen Ryan, to contact Trump’s representatives after they “dangled” the possibility of pardons “in their public statements.” Davis did not specify which public statements swayed Cohen, saying only that the outreach took place before federal law enforcement raided Cohen’s home and office in April 2018.

“They had been dangling it for a while, and it was a constant refrain,” Davis said, referring to Trump representatives’ comments on pardons. “So Michael had his attorney reach out to Rudolph W. Giuliani.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said that several people facing scrutiny have inquired about presidential pardons, Michael S. Schmidt, Ben Protess and Maggie Haberman, March 7, 2019 (print ed.).

rudy giuliani recentPresident Trump’s lead lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, said Wednesday that lawyers for several people facing scrutiny from the Justice Department in the investigations into the Trump campaign and presidency had contacted him to see whether the president would pardon their clients.

Mr. Giuliani declined to identify the lawyers who broached the subject with him or their clients. He made his statement in response to questions about Mr. Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, who has told federal prosecutors in Manhattan about pardon discussions last year that involved Mr. Giuliani and a lawyer who was expressing interest in representing Mr. Cohen, according to people briefed on the matter.

ny times logojared kushner head shotNew York Times, Questions For and About Jared Kushner, Editorial Board, March 7, 2019 (print ed.). It is apparently legal for the president’s son-in-law to serve as a top White House adviser. But that is not a grant of immunity.

Daily Beast, Conspiracists Clash as Jerome Corsi Sues Infowars’ Alex Jones, Will Sommer, March 7, 2019. Corsi used to work for Infowars. Now he’s warring with it. Jerome Corsi sued Infowars founder Alex Jones on Thursday, heating up the feud between two of the nation’s top conspiracy theorists.

Corsi and his lawyer, conservative activist Larry Klayman, are both named as plaintiffs in the case against Jones, Infowars, Jones’ father David Jones, and Infowars host Owen Shroyer. The complaint alleges the defendants defamed Corsi and Klayman by questioning their mental fitness, with Jones saying that Corsi has dementia and has become “extremely mentally degraded.”

U.S. Politics

Democratic-Republican Campaign logos

ny times logoNew York Times, The announcements that weren’t: Why did four top Democrats say no to running for president? Lisa Lerer and Astead W. Herndon, March 7, 2019 (print ed.). Over the past two days, Michael R. Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor; Eric H. Holder Jr., the former United States attorney general; and Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon officially declared … drumroll, please … that they would not be running for president in 2020. A fourth Democrat, Hillary Clinton, also said “I’m not running” to a New York City television station.

Such is the state of Democratic fervor to challenge President Trump that the party now has a subset of politicians: the almost-rans.

Mr. Bloomberg said he felt his time and personal fortune would be better used promoting immigration reform, gun control and climate change. Mr. Holder wants to continue focusing on ending gerrymandering. Mrs. Clinton, who never seriously pursued a third primary bid, said she would keep “standing up for what I believe.” And Mr. Merkley will seek a third term in the Senate in 2020, after the State Legislature rejected his request to allow him to run for both positions simultaneously.

But there are also other challenges and obstacles facing potential 2020 candidates right now.

ny times logoilhan omar oNew York Times, Democrats’ Handling of Ilhan Omar Caps Weeks of Stumbles, Glenn Thrush and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, March 7, 2019 (print ed.). House Democrats have stomped on their own messages, have fallen prey to Republican maneuvers and are battling over punishing U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), right, for an anti-Israel remark.

ny times logoNew York Times, Senator Martha McSally Says Superior Officer in the Air Force Raped Her, Emily Cochrane and Jennifer Steinhauer, March 7, 2019 (print ed.). She paused to maintain her composure as she spoke. She recalled the attacks, and how her reports of them were handled. The despair, she said, almost made her leave the military.

Senator Martha McSally, Republican of Arizona and the first woman in the Air Force to fly in combat, told a hushed Senate hearing room martha mcsally oon Wednesday that she had been raped by a superior officer, one of multiple times she was sexually assaulted while she served her country.

“I thought I was strong, but felt powerless,” Ms. McSally (left) said during a Senate Armed Services subcommittee hearing on sexual assault in the military. “The perpetrators abused their position of power in profound ways.”

In sharing her experience — pride in her historic military service, betrayal over the assault and determination to help find a solution — the junior senator from Arizona offered one of the most powerful testimonies to date in the growing and heated debate on Capitol Hill over how to adjudicate claims of sexual assault in the military.

Department of Defense SealMs. McSally, a former member of the House who lost an Arizona Senate race last year and then was appointed to the seat once held by Senator John McCain, did not offer any details about the assaults or name the senior officer.

A Pentagon report for fiscal year 2017, the most recent available, found that the Defense Department received 6,769 reports of sexual assault involving service members as either victims or subjects of criminal investigation, which was nearly a 10 percent increase over the 6,172 reports made the previous year. But according to figures gathered in 2016, annual rates of sexual assault over the past decade have decreased by half for active-duty women and by two-thirds for active-duty men.

Personal Tech / Security

ny times logoNew York Times, Product Review of Key-Maker: This Tech Makes D.I.Y. Key Duplication Easy. Maybe Too Easy, Brian X. Chen, March 7, 2019 (print ed.). You can now take key duplication into your own hands using kiosks and apps from start-ups. Our columnist explored whether the benefits of this outweighed the security risks.

World News: Palestine

Haaretz, Analysis Israel Forces Palestinian to Raze His and His Daughter’s Homes With His Own Hands, Gideon Levy and Alex Levac March 7, 2019. In East Jerusalem, the Israeli authorities require residents to demolish their ‘illegally built’ homes by themselves or to pay the city exorbitant sums for doing it.

March 6

Migrant Parents ICE logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Border at ‘Breaking Point’ as Over 76,000 Migrants Cross in a Month, Caitlin Dickerson, March 6, 2019 (print ed.). And a wall might not be able to fix that. For the fourth time in five months, the number of migrant families crossing the southwest border has broken records, the authorities said. They warned that government facilities were full and that agents were overwhelmed.

Trump Probes

abc news logoABC News, Michael Cohen shared documents on false statement to Congress with House Intelligence Committee, John Santucci, Benjamin Siegel and Sarah Kolinovsky, March 6, 2019. During a closed-door hearing with the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney and fixer to President Donald Trump, shared documents and emails with committee members showing what he said were edits to the false statement he provided to Congress in 2017, in an effort to bolster his public testimony last week, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

michael cohen ap file croppedTestifying publicly before the House Oversight Committee last week, Cohen (right) said Trump’s current personal lawyer Jay Sekulow changed the former Trump loyalist’s statement to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees regarding the duration of discussions about the Trump Tower Moscow project before he submitted it to Capitol Hill.

Last week Sekulow denied the claims in a statement to ABC News.

“Today’s testimony by Michael Cohen that attorneys for the President edited or changed his statement to Congress to alter the duration of the Trump Tower Moscow negotiations is completely false."

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigation / Commentary: Trump complains about list of 81 people and entities when there is a "bigger list" he should worry about, Wayne Madsen (left), March 6, 2019 (subscription required). Trump's branded Chinese massage parlors, spas and escort services; Studio 54 in retrospect. Trump complains about list of 81 people and entities when there is a "bigger list" he should worry about; Trump's branded Chinese massage parlors, spas and escort services; Studio 54 in retrospect.

There are a lot of slimy denizens in the swamp Trump created in Washington, New York, and elsewhere. WMR has created a list of Trump mob cartel entities and individuals that, far from the list of 81 created by the House Judiciary Committee, numbers into the thousands.

The list was developed from a massive relational chart linking the activities of the Trumps, Kushners, Manaforts, Flynns, and other entities and individuals under investigation by federal and state authorities. This is closer to the list that Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his investigators are working from.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just revealed why he absolutely must be ousted BEFORE the end of his term, Bill Palmer, March 6, 2019. Last week Michael Cohen predicted that if Donald Trump loses reelection in 2020, he may refuse to leave office, thus ending democracy as we know it. I’ve never subscribed to this particular notion, because for all his numerous psychoses, Trump always cuts a deal and walks away when he knows he’s lost (see his six bankruptcies). But Trump just made clear that he has something up his sleeve when it comes to not wanting to leave office.

bill palmer report logo headerStuffed into the tenth paragraph of a largely unrelated New York Times article last night, we find this randomly inserted sentence: “Some people close to Mr. Trump have privately predicted that he will ultimately choose to seek a second term in part because of his legal exposure if he is not president.” There it is. Trump is under the impression that as long as he’s the president, he won’t face any criminal consequences.

This means that Donald Trump will be willing to cheat as brazenly and treasonously as possible during the 2020 election, under the premise that if he doesn’t find a way to win, he’ll go straight to prison. He’s right. The very minute that Trump is no longer president, he’ll be arrested and arranged on criminal charges. In fact various state and federal prosecutorial entities will be fighting over who gets to cuff the bastard first.

For that reason, Donald Trump cannot be allowed to be a participant in the 2020 election.

Court Slams Trump Team On Census Plan

washington post logoWashington Post, Wilbur Ross broke law, violated Constitution in census decision, judge rules, Fred Barbash, March 6, 2019. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, right, acted in “bad faith,” broke several laws and violated the constitutional underpinning of representative wilbur ross headshot odemocracy when he added a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

In finding a breach of the Constitution’s enumeration clause, which requires a census every 10 years to determine each state’s representation in Congress, the 126-page ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg in San Francisco went further than a similar decision on Jan. 15 by Judge Jesse Furman in New York.

The Supreme Court has already agreed to review Furman’s narrower decision, with arguments set for April 23, but may now need to expand its inquiry to constitutional dimensions.

The Commerce Department did not respond to requests for comment.

The administration has been on the losing end of scores of court decisions involving immigration issues since President Trump took office. But the census case has taken on special significance because it strikes at the heart of the United States’ form of government and because of what Seeborg described as a “strong showing of bad faith” by a Cabinet secretary who, influenced in part by White House advisers, tried to conceal his motives.

U.S.-World Trade

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. trade deficit in goods grew to a record $891.2 billion, David J. Lynch​, March 6, 2019. The Commerce Department China Flagsaid Wednesday that -- despite more than two years of President Trump’s “America First” policies -- the United States last year posted a $891.2 billion merchandise trade deficit, the largest in the nation’s 243-year history.

The trade gap with China also hit a record $419 billion, underscoring the stakes for the president’s bid to reach a deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping as soon as this month.

Israeli Settler Attacks

washington post logoisrael flagWashington Post, Attacks by Israeli settlers surge as West Bank tensions boil, Loveday Morris and Ruth Eglash, March 6, 2019. The United Nations had recorded at least 30 incidents this year in which Israeli settlers were accused of causing casualties or damaging property, with a total of 14 Palestinians injured and one killed. Israeli monitoring groups blame emboldened settlers, lax law enforcement and anger over Arab attacks.

Facebook Shift

washington post logoWashington Post, With public trust at record lows, Facebook seeks to shift to private communications, Elizabeth Dwoskin​, March 6, facebook logo2019. The new focus on encryption could cause an upheaval in Facebook’s business model of mining people’s information to show them ads.

The firm’s focus will shift from a social network in which people broadcast information to large groups of people to one in which people communicate with smaller groups and their content disappears after a short period.

Trump Privacy / Hypocrisy

djt new york military academy

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Grab that record’: How Trump’s high school transcript was hidden, Marc Fisher, March 6, 2019 (print ed.). Former officials of the military academy that President Trump attended say that wealthy alumni directed them to retrieve, remove and hide Trump’s academic records.

The request came in 2011, they said, immediately after Trump had demanded that then-President Barack Obama release his school records.

U.S. Politics & Media

 fox news logo Smallwashington post logoWashington Post, DNC rejects Fox News for debates, cites report suggesting network is ‘propaganda’ for Trump, Paul Farhi, March 6, 2019. The Democratic National Committee said an article in the New Yorker showed an “inappropriate relationship” between President Trump and the network.

Roll Call, Among the ‘Jewish groups’ Trump cites, one with neo-Nazi ties, Emily Kopp, March 6, 2019. Two organizations calling for Rep. Ilhan Omar resign from the Foreign Affairs Committee have been described as ‘anti-Muslim hate groups.’

The New Republic, Ilhan Omar’s Victory for Political Sanity, David Dayen, March 6, 2019. The freshman congresswoman was right: The pro-Israel lobby uses financial muscle to influence Congress. That shouldn't be a controversial statement.

Would House Democrats censure one of their own for daring to suggest that the deep-pocketed fossil fuel lobby buys influence in Congress? What about a member who said the same about Big Pharma? And yet, Democratic leaders on Wednesday were on the cusp of ilhan omar oimplicitly rebuking U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar (left) for criticizing the pro-Israel lobby’s power. “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” she said a recent event.

This was destined to be another example of the impossibility in Washington of deviating from unflinching support of Israel’s policies. But then something remarkable happened. The Democrats’ resolution against anti-Semitism was tabled after an outcry from members who felt Omar, a Muslim woman of color, was being singled out and that the party should condemn the full spectrum of religious bigotry, including the Islamophobia practiced by President Trump. A powerful lobby tried to suppress criticism of its work, and rank-and-file Democrats spoke their minds.

Omar’s latest comments were not the freshman congresswoman’s first this year to draw accusations of anti-Semitism. Earlier this month, she tweeted that support in Congress for Israel was “all about the Benjamins baby,” referring to $100 bills. She later apologized for the tweet, even though it referred to a time-honored practice in Washington. Pro-Israel supporters have gained influence through hefty political spending, just as Big Oil and Big Finance and Big Tech have. There’s nothing particularly novel about that fact.

Let’s be clear about the sums we’re talking about. When considering single-issue lobbying, “pro-Israel” is the sixth-largest topic in Congress, larger than interest groups who lobby on abortion policy or gun control or women’s issues. AIPAC, by far the largest of the pro-Israel groups, spent nearly $7 million on lobbying in 2017 and 2018 combined. Outside of lobbying, AIPAC rallies its members to assist in political campaigns of like-minded candidates. Fundraising pitches are routinely made in side rooms at AIPAC’s 20,000-person strong policy conference.

Musical Political Parody

Randy Rainbow Song Parody via YouTube,