April 2019 News Reports


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

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

April 18

Mueller Report 

robert mueller waving hands

Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III (file photo)

msnbc logo CustomMSNBC, Live Coverage & Analysis, Staff reporting, April 18, 2019. Redacted Mueller Report released here. Selected MSNBC print and videos on April 18 below:

william barr image by donkehotey dmca

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

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr says he disagreed with some of Mueller’s theories on obstruction claim, Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky​, April 18, 2019. But Attorney General William P. Barr said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein accepted the special counsel’s “legal framework” as they analyzed the case. A redacted version of the report is set to be released today.

• Transcript: The attorney general’s full remarks on the Mueller report

washington post logoWashington Post, Report examines 10 instances of potential obstruction, Barr says, Staff report, April 18, 2019. The attorney general also said that he has no objection to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III testifying before Congress, which top Democratic lawmakers called for today.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: William Barr just did Trump another huge favor, Aaron Blake, April 18, 2019. When Attorney General William P. Barr announced he was going to hold a news conference before the release of the Mueller report Thursday, there was instant pushback. How can the media ask questions about a report it hasn’t seen? Would this just be a whole bunch of pre-spin from a man already accused of being too friendly to the president who appointed him?

Barr’s performance did nothing to argue against those allegations.

In a lengthy opening statement, Barr found just about every way possible to say that there was no coordination, cooperation or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia. He also said Trump was right about “no collusion,” expanding the Mueller report’s clearing of Trump to a more nebulous term with little legal significance.

But perhaps more importantly, on obstruction of justice, he seemed to go to bat for Trump personally, offering a sympathetic take on the president’s state of mind and cooperation.

ny times logoNew York Times, White House and Justice Dept. Discussed Mueller Report Before Release, Mark Mazzetti, Maggie Haberman, Nicholas Fandos and Katie Benner, April 18, 2019 (print edition). Some of President Trump’s advisers are concerned about whether he will retaliate against them if the report reveals them as sources of damaging details.

Not all of Robert S. Mueller III’s findings will be news to President Trump when they are released Thursday.

Justice Department officials have had numerous conversations with White House lawyers about the conclusions made by Mr. Mueller, the special counsel, in recent days, according to people with knowledge of the discussions. The talks have aided the president’s legal team as it prepares a rebuttal to the report and strategizes for the coming public war over its findings.

william barr new oA sense of paranoia was taking hold among some of Mr. Trump’s aides, some of whom fear his backlash more than the findings themselves, the people said. The report might make clear which of Mr. Trump’s current and former advisers spoke to the special counsel, how much they said and how much damage they did to the president — providing a kind of road map for retaliation.

The discussions between Justice Department officials and White House lawyers have also added to questions about the propriety of the decisions by Attorney General William P. Barr since he received Mr. Mueller’s findings late last month.

U.S. Media & Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, 2020 Democrats Seek Voters in an Unusual Spot: Fox News, Michael M. Grynbaum and Sydney Ember, April 17, 2019. President Trump’s favorite network, known for conservative commentary, is increasingly playing host to Democratic presidential hopefuls. The debate about whether to appear on Fox News programs reflects a larger divide in the Democratic Party as it ponders how to retake the White House.

Public Health Policy

washington post logoWashington Post, Washington state Senate narrowly passes vaccine bill in rebuke to anti-vaxxers, Lena H. Sun and Lenny Bernstein, April 18, 2019. The bill would make it harder for parents to opt their children out of vaccinations for measles in the wake of the state's worst outbreak in more than two decades.

Corrupt Motives For Ecuador's Assange Delivery?

julian assange screenshot arrest (Ruptly)

London police arresting the bearded WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (screenshot from Ruptly video).

Grayzone via Consortium News, Opinion: How Ecuador’s President Gave Up Assange, Denis Rogatyuk, April 18, 2019. Lenin Moreno was desperate to ingratiate his government with Washington and distract the public from his mounting scandals, writes the Grayzone’s Denis Rogatyuk (Russian-Australian freelance writer, journalist and researcher).

The images of six Metropolitan police officers dragging Julian Assange out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London have enraged citizens around the world. Many have warned that if he is extradited to the U.S. for trial on conspiracy charges – and possibly much more if federal prosecutors have their way – it will lead to the criminalization of many standard journalistic practices. These scenes were only possible thanks to the transformation of Ecuador’s government under the watch of President Lenin Moreno.

Since at least December 2018, Moreno has been working towards expelling the Wikileaks publisher from the embassy. The Ecuadorian president’s behavior represents a stunning reversal of the policies of his predecessor, Rafael Correa, the defiantly progressive leader who authorized Assange’s asylum back in 2012, and who now lives in exile.

While Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Jose Valencia blamed his government’s expulsion of Assange on the Australian journalist’s “rudeness,” the sellout is clearly a byproduct of Moreno’s right-leaning agenda.

Political instability has swept across Ecuador since revelations of widespread corruption in Moreno’s inner circle emerged. The scandal coincided with Moreno’s turn towards neoliberal economic reforms, from implementing a massive IMF loan package to the gradual and total embrace and support for U.S. foreign policy in the region. In his bid to satisfy Washington and deflect from his own problems, Moreno was all too eager to sacrifice Assange.

WikiLeaks’s decision to re-publish the details of Moreno’s use of off-shore bank accounts in Panama, titled “INA Papers” after the name of the shell corporation at the center of the scandal (INA Investment Corporation), appear to be the main cause for the president’s decision to expel Assange from the embassy.

Ecuadorian Communications Minister Andrés Michelena went as far as claiming that the INA Papers were a conspiracy plot between Julian Assange, the former President Rafael Correa and the current Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

The INA Papers scandal has cast a long shadow on Moreno’s regime and shattered its pledge to fight against institutional corruption. The scandal reveals that a close associate of Moreno, Xavier Macias, lobbied for the contract of the Coca Codo Sinclair hydroelectric power plant (valued at $2.8 billion) as well as the ZAMORA 3000 MW plant to be awarded Sinohydro, a Chinese state-owned construction company.

The financial trail from the Chinese corporation passed through bank accounts in Panama belonging to INA Investment Corporation — a shell company originally founded in Belize, a notable tax haven, by Edwin Moreno Garcés, the brother of the current president. The most crucial pieces of evidence indicate that the INA Investment funds were used to purchase a large apartment in Alicante, Spain, and a number of luxury items for Moreno and his family in Geneva, during his time as a special envoy on disability rights for the United Nations.

April 17

U.S. Support For Saudi Atrocities To Continue

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump vetoes resolution to end U.S. participation in Yemen’s civil war, Felicia Sonmez, Josh Dawsey and Karoun Demirjian, April 17, 2019 (print ed.). The djt handwave filepresident called the measure “an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities.” It had passed the House on a 247-to-175 vote and was approved by the Senate with the support of seven Republicans.

U.S. Immigration Policy

ny times logoNew York Times, In New Effort to Deter Migrants, Barr Withholds Bail to Asylum Seekers, Michael D. Shear and Katie Benner, April 16, 2019. The Trump administration on Tuesday took another significant step to discourage migrants from seeking asylum, issuing an order that could keep thousands of them in jail indefinitely while they wait for a resolution of their asylum requests.

william barr new oThe order issued by Attorney General William P. Barr, right, was an effort to deliver on President Trump’s promise to end the “catch and release” of migrants crossing the border in hopes of escaping persecution in their home countries.

The order — which directs immigration judges to deny some migrants a chance to post bail — will not go into effect for 90 days. It is all but certain to be challenged in federal court, but immigrant rights lawyers said it could undermine the basic rights of people seeking safety in the United States.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats face immigration divide: Will liberal platform give Trump a boost in key swing states? Michael Scherer​, April 17, 2019. At the heart of the problem is the stark divide between progressive Democratic primary voters and white working-class swing voters when it comes to the security issues around immigration.

Trump Probes

washington post logoWashington Post, Mueller report will be lightly redacted, offering detailed look at Trump’s actions, Matt Zapotosky, Carol D. Leonnig, Rosalind S. Helderman and Devlin Barrett​, April 17, 2019.  The report will show that Robert S. Mueller III decided he could not come to a conclusion on obstruction because it was difficult to determine President Trump’s intent, people familiar with the matter said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Key lawmakers will get more complete version of Mueller report than the public, Rosalind S. Helderman, April 17, 2019. Prosecutors made the revelation in a filing in the court case against President Trump’s confidant Roger Stone.

• Washington Post, On eve of report’s release, Nadler accuses Barr of protecting Trump, April 17, 2019.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative commentary: New witness steps forward revealing details of Epstein's Manhattan underage orgies, Wayne Madsen, April 17, 2019 (subscription required). A new witness has appeared in the ongoing legal drama playing out between victims of billionaire Wall Street financier and Donald Trump friend Jeffrey Epstein.

Epstein recruited Roberts while she was working as a towel girl at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, located close to Epstein's Palm Beach estate. Epstein was and may continue to be a member of Mar-a-Lago. Mar-a-Lago's membership lists are kept confidential.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Mueller Report Will Be Released on Thursday. Here’s a Guide, Sharon LaFraniere, April 17, 2019. After 23 months, the results of the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, are set to be released to the public. The nearly 400-page report is likely to tell us about Russia’s 2016 election interference and President Trump’s efforts to control federal inquiries.

After 23 months, 500 search warrants, 2,300 subpoenas and a string of indictments, the results of the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, will be public on Thursday in a nearly 400-page report. The treatise is likely to add significantly to our understanding of Russia’s 2016 election interference and President Trump’s efforts to control federal inquiries into the matter.

Attorney General William P. Barr said last month that the special counsel did not find that anyone associated with the Trump campaign worked with the Russian government to illegally influence the election. He also said there was insufficient evidence that Mr. Trump illegally obstructed justice. But Americans have been eagerly waiting to hear from Mr. Mueller’s investigators in their own words.

Whether you have followed every step of the investigation or are tuning in after months of avoiding the headlines, here is a primer for the report’s release.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump lawyers, officials plan to resist subpoenas over his policies and finances, Tom Hamburger, Karoun Demirjian, Josh Dawsey and Rachael Bade, April 17, 2019 (print ed.). Their move to defy House Democrats’ requests for information increases the likelihood of a protracted legal fight that could test the power of congressional subpoenas.

washington post logoWashington Post, On Capitol Hill, some Trump officials appear to be testifying for an audience of one, Seung Min Kim, April 17, 2019 (print ed.). Cabinet officials and other Trump appointees have upended the normally staid congressional hearings with performances that, at times, appear to be designed for the viewer in chief.

washington post logoharry litman msnbc screenshotWashington Post, Opinion: If Congress wants the unredacted Mueller report, here’s how to get it, Harry Litman (shown in a screenshot), April 17, 2019 (print ed.). The Justice Department has announced that it will deliver special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report to Congress and the public on Thursday morning, but with redactions of grand jury information (and other categories of information) that will leave innumerable gaps in our understanding of what Mueller uncovered. Many commentators have suggested that Congress’s only mechanism for securing an unredacted report is to launch a formal impeachment inquiry — a blind step forward with great political risks for congressional Democrats and the party overall.

That unpleasant choice looked to be the upshot of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit’s recent 2-to-1 decision in McKeever v. Barr, which held that the courts lack “inherent power” to order disclosure of grand jury material and instead must hew to the six exceptions describing when such material can be released — exceptions that are delineated in Rule 6(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

One of those six is disclosure “preliminary to or in connection with a judicial proceeding.” And while it may seem anomalous, several courts have held — and the D.C. Circuit in McKeever expressly affirmed — that “judicial proceeding” within the meaning of the rule encompasses an impeachment inquiry by Congress.

Justice Department log circularIt suggested that the House would be entitled to all the materials — unredacted — only if it first launched a formal impeachment inquiry. And because the Democratic leadership seems loath, for political reasons, to take that step, the prospects for proceeding under that exception — the only known avenue for procuring the unredacted report — looked stalemated.

But that’s not correct. In fact, Congress has immediate recourse to seek the unredacted report pursuant to the ”judicial proceeding” exception, without having to initiate an impeachment inquiry.

bill clintonHow do we know? Well, for starters, we need look no further than the Starr investigation of President Bill Clinton (right) and the succeeding impeachment proceedings in Congress. In September 1998, before the House had initiated an impeachment inquiry, independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr sought and received from federal district court an order to provide to Congress his report, including voluminous grand jury materials. The court’s order granting the request provided expressly that it constituted an order for purposes of the “judicial proceeding” exception in the federal rules.

It was only after digesting Starr’s report, and based upon the report, that the House decided to initiate an impeachment proceeding.

The necessary conclusion of the Starr precedent is that “preliminary to" covers circumstances in which Congress seeks a report to determine in the first place whether to launch impeachment proceedings. It follows that the House needn’t first launch a formal impeachment inquiry to get the unredacted report.

The attorney general and Rep. Douglas A. Collins (Ga.), the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, have suggested that nearly everything about Starr’s report is irrelevant to current circumstances because Starr was an independent counsel operating under a different statutory scheme than did Mueller. As, of course, he was.

But so what? The court’s express holding in response to the Starr motion was that its order applied to Rule 6(e); otherwise put, the transmission of grand jury material was proper because Congress needed it to determine whether to initiate a formal impeachment inquiry. It is difficult to see how Collins, Barr or the Justice Department could make a tenable argument to the contrary.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump has completely incoherent late night meltdown about how much he now hates Fox News, Bill Palmer, April 17, 2019. Donald Trump has suddenly become enraged about Bernie Sanders – not because he has anything bad to say about Bernie, and not necessarily because he thinks Bernie will even be the 2020 nominee, but because Bernie did a town hall on Trump’s favorite channel Fox News, and it went fairly well. That alone is enough to set off a malignant narcissist like Trump, and sure enough, he finally exploded about it on Tuesday evening.

bill palmer report logo headerFirst, Donald Trump posted this bizarre tweet, which gave away just how insecure he’s feeling about the whole thing: “Many Trump Fans & Signs were outside of the Fox News Studio last night in the now thriving (Thank you President Trump) Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, for the interview with Crazy Bernie Sanders. Big complaints about not being let in-stuffed with Bernie supporters. What’s with Fox News?” Aw, Trump got his feelings hurt because Fox isn’t kissing his butt as thoroughly as it used to.

Then Trump went on to inexplicably demand that Sanders pay more taxes. This was even as Trump continues to try to delay the Treasury Department’s inevitable release of Trump’s tax returns, because all kinds of dirty secrets are obviously lurking in there. But then Trump decided for some reason that this would be a good thing to tweet: “I believe it will be Crazy Bernie Sanders vs. Sleepy Joe Biden as the two finalists to run against maybe the best Economy in the history of our Country (and MANY other great things)! I look forward to facing whoever it may be. May God Rest Their Soul!”

The real upshot here is that Trump is very jealous that Fox News isn’t as thoroughly in his corner as it used to be. Trump is as insecure as he is incoherent.

Threats to Democracy

george soros niccolò caranti wikimedia cc by sa 3.0

George Soros was awarded the "Courage Prize at this year's annual Ridenhour Awards ceremony (Photo Niccolò Caranti / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Soros, DHS Whistleblowers Urge More Truth-Telling, Celia Wexler, April 17, 2019. For whistleblowers, it’s the Emmys, the Grammys, and the Oscars rolled into one. The Ridenhour Prizes mark the one time each year that they and their supporters are celebrated for their important and often dangerous work.

The ceremony, founded in 2003 and held in Washington at the National Press Club, also honors journalists — but is rarely covered by the media. Named after Ron Ridenhour — a Vietnam veteran who became an investigative reporter — the event honors those individuals who “persevere in acts of truth-telling that protect the public interest, promote social justice,” or advance “a more just vision of society.”

For decades, philanthropist George Soros has invested millions of dollars in his Open Society Foundations, which support democratic and human rights initiatives across the globe. After successfully encouraging democratic reforms in Europe and elsewhere, Soros now is bucking new political leaders who are preaching nationalism, assuming dictatorial powers, and silencing critics.

 N. Korea Resumes Nuclear Tests

washington post logoWashington Post, North Korea conducts first weapons test since talks on denuclearizations stalled, Simon Denyer and John Hudson​, April 17, 2019. Experts said the description appears to rule out a ballistic missile, but the action is a calibrated sign of defiance by Kim Jong Un following a stalemate in the high-stakes talks with President Trump.

U.S. Courts, Crime

CNN, Prosecutors will release pixelated video in Robert Kraft's solicitation of prostitution case, Eliott C. McLaughlin, April 17, 2019. Despite protestations from Robert Kraft's legal team, prosecutors said Wednesday they intend to release video footage that is expected to show the New England Patriots owner receiving sexual services at a Florida day spa.

Prosecutors will also release video showing 24 other men charged in the months-long, multi-jurisdictional sting that allegedly ensnared Kraft in February, according to ocuments filed by the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office. As custodian of the records, prosecutors say state law compels them to release the evidence to the media. They will "pixelate or blur depictions of obscene or pornographic images before releasing such records to the public, absent a court order." It was not clear when the video will be released.

April 16

New Accuser Of Epstein, Dershowitz

miami herald logoMiami Herald, New Jeffrey Epstein accuser goes public; defamation lawsuit targets Dershowitz, Julie K. Brown, April 16, 2019. A new victim has gone public in the Jeffrey Jeffrey Epstein Harvard University Epstein case, filing a sworn affidavit in federal court in New York Tuesday, saying that she was sexually assaulted and her then-15-year-old sister molested by Epstein and his companion, Ghislaine Maxwell, in 1996.

Maria Farmer, then 26, claims she was employed by Epstein (right), a multimillionaire financier who lived in a vast mansion on New York’s Upper East Side, and that she frequently saw “school-age girls’’ wearing uniforms come into the mansion and go upstairs. She was told that the girls were auditioning for modeling work, according to her affidavit.

perversion of justice miami herald logoThen an art student in New York, Farmer said she reported her assault to New York police and the FBI in 1996. FBI documents released April 1 make a reference to Farmer having been interviewed in 2006 or 2007. However, Farmer, now 49, said the FBI did not take any action against Epstein and Maxwell.

“To my knowledge, I was the first person to report Maxwell and Epstein to the FBI. It took a significant amount of bravery for me to make that call because I knew how incredibly Jeffrey Epstein and Alan Dershowitzpowerful and influential both Epstein and Maxwell were, particularly in the art community,’’ she wrote.

Farmer’s affidavit is one of 15 exhibits attached to a defamation complaint filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York by Virginia Roberts Giuffre, one of Epstein’s victims, against Alan Dershowitz, one of Epstein’s most vocal and powerful attorneys.

Giuffre claims in the lawsuit, as she has in past court filings, that Dershowitz, 80 (shown with Epstein in a file photo), knew about and participated in a sex-trafficking operation involving underage girls and run by Epstein and Maxwell, and that she was forced to have sex with Dershowitz and other prominent, wealthy men when she was underage.

Dershowitz has railed against the allegations for years, maintaining that he has never met Giuffre. He also says he has documents and other evidence that prove she is lying.

Alternet, Billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein has been secretly funneling cash to celebrities and universities, Brad Reed, April 16, 2019. Billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein has set up a secret charity foundation that he’s been using to funnel money to assorted celebrities and elite universities. The Daily Beast reports that Epstein has created a private foundation called Gratitude America, Ltd. that has been shelling out cash to nonprofit groups founded by Deepak Chopra, Elton John and even a doctor with connections to President Donald Trump.

Additionally, the Daily Beast’s review of the foundation’s tax filings has found that it helped fund “an all-girls school in Manhattan, a youth tennis program, cancer charities, Harvard’s famous theater troupe, posh New York arts societies at Lincoln Center and the Met, and a nonprofit linked to the wife of a former Harvard president who flew on Epstein’s private jet.”

The foundation does nothing to publicize its existence and the only traces of its activity are found through its tax filings. Epstein launched the organization in 2012, three years after he had served an 18-month prison sentence after he pleaded guilty to soliciting an underage prostitute.

Epstein received such a light sentence even though dozens of women have accused him of sexually abusing them when they were teenagers. Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra’s ruled that current Trump Labor Secretary Alex Acosta broke the law when he crafted a plea deal for Epstein that did not inform his multiple female accusers.

Notre Dame Fire -- And Rebuilding

notre dame paris

washington post logoWashington Post, Notre Dame suffers ‘colossal damage,’ but Macron promises to rebuild, James McAuley, Griff Witte and Reis Thebaul, April 16, 2019 (print ed.). The fire in Paris — during Christianity’s holiest week and apparently accidental — spared the monument’s iconic bell towers but left a smoldering stone shell. “I tell you solemnly tonight: We will rebuild this cathedral,” the French prime minister vowed.

french flagThe spine-tingling, soul-lifting spire (shown above in a BBC screenshot) and roof of Notre Dame Cathedral were reduced to ash Monday, as a catastrophic fire spread through a building that has embodied the heart of Paris for more than 800 years.

In an address to the nation just before midnight, President Emmanuel Macron said the worst had been avoided, that the exterior structure had been preserved and that the cathedral would rise again.

ny times logoNew York Times, How the Notre-Dame Cathedral Fire Spread, Staff report, April 16, 2019 (print ed.). It took less than an hour for a fire to spread from the attic of the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, race across the wooden rooftop and topple its 300-foot spire.

Around 6:30 p.m., Paris time, smoke began to pour out of the cathedral’s roof, near scaffolding that had been put up over the last few months to conduct renovations on the spire

The fire started in the cathedral’s attic, said Jean-Claude Gallet, commander of the Paris firefighters. The attic is an oddly shaped space, seldom visited, that lies above the soaring stone arches visible from the floor of old European cathedrals. Diagrams of Notre-Dame and official descriptions of the space indicate that it is crisscrossed by giant, timber trusses that add structural integrity to the cathedral.

“Once these massive timber structures start to burn, they almost never can be stopped,” said Jonathan Barnett, an international fire safety authority at Basic Expert in Australia. “We focus on their masonry walls and forget all the massive timber within.”

The blaze quickly spread across the wooden roof and engulfed the spire, a wood-frame structure covered in lead. Within minutes, the spire collapsed, toppling to the side before breaking off.

Fire safety experts said houses of worship can pose special problems for firefighters. The cathedral’s wood roof, for instance, is made of a flammable material and is difficult to reach.
“These cathedrals and houses of worship are built to burn. If they weren’t houses of worship, they’d be condemned,” said Vincent Dunn, a fire consultant and former New York City fire chief.

Notre-Dame is located directly in the center of the city on a small island called Île de la Cité, which may have been more difficult for firefighters and emergency workers to reach. As of 8:30 p.m., Paris time, all roads on the island were closed.

Trump-Polish Alliance

Bloomberg, Poland and U.S. Closing In on Deal to Build ‘Fort Trump,’ Sources Say, Jennifer Jacobs, Justin Sink, Nick Wadhams and Marek Strzelecki, April 16, 2019. Poland is nearing a deal with the U.S. to establish an American military base in the former Communist bloc country, according to people familiar with the matter -- an outpost the Poles see as a deterrent to Russian aggression and that the Kremlin would likely consider a provocation.

If a deal is reached, President Donald Trump is considering traveling to Poland in the fall, in part to commemorate the agreement. But it’s unclear whether he fully supports the idea, even after he said during a September meeting with Polish President Andrzsej Duda that the U.S. was looking “very seriously” at establishing a base. Duda, who joked that it could be named “Fort Trump,” remains committed to contribute $2 billion for its construction.

Trump Probes

ny times logodeutsche bank logoNew York Times, Deutsche Bank Is Subpoenaed for Trump Records by House Democrats, Emily Flitter and David Enrich, April 16, 2019 (print ed.). Subpoenas from the House’s Financial Services and Intelligence committees were the latest attempts by congressional Democrats to collect information about the finances of President Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post,Redacted Mueller report expected to be released Thursday, Justice Dept. says, Devlin Barrett, April 16, 2019 (print ed). The report has been the subject of heated debate since Attorney General William P. Barr notified lawmakers that the special counsel had completed his probe.

U.S. Politics

Palmer Report, Opinion: House Democrats are closing in on Donald Trump in six different ways at once, Bill Palmer, April 16, 2019. This week the Trump regime will release a dishonestly redacted version of the Mueller report, aimed at making Donald Trump look like less of a criminal than he is. And Trump’s Treasury Department will continue to illegally refuse to release Trump’s tax returns. But even as House Democrats continue fighting a prolonged battle on these two fronts, they’re rapidly closing in on Trump on four other, more easily winnable fronts.

bill palmer report logo headerVarious House committees are issuing friendly subpoenas to Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan Chase, Mazars, and Capital One, giving them legal cover to turn over Donald Trump’s financial records – specifically with regard to Trump’s financial interactions with Russia. If the point of obtaining Trump’s tax returns is to follow the money and figure out why he’s so loyal to certain foreign enemies of the United States, then his banking and accounting records can go a long way toward exposing the same.

The big advantage for House Democrats is that, while Trump’s Treasury Department will illegally hold up the release of his tax returns as long as possible, these banks and financial institutions will gladly turn over Trump’s records so they can simply move on. After all, the likes of Capital One and JP Morgan don’t answer to Vladimir Putin; they answer to their shareholders and their own bottom line. The last thing they want is to be caught up in this Trump scandal any longer than necessary.

So even as House Democrats continue to gradually close in on Donald Trump on the two key fronts of the Mueller report and his tax returns, these other four fronts are far more quickly winnable for House Democrats. Keep in mind that this is just what all we know about. It wasn’t publicly revealed until last week that Capital One had been working with House Democrats since early March. How many more financial institutions may be selling Trump out as we speak?

oliver north fox nra

ny times logoNew York Times, N.R.A. Sues Contractor Behind NRATV, Danny Hakim, April 16, 2019 (print ed.). It’s the N.R.A. versus NRATV. The National Rifle Association sued one of its largest and most enduring contractors late last week and raised concerns about the contractor’s relationship to the association’s own president, Oliver North (shown above in a screenshot), in a stunning breach within the normally buttoned-up organization.

nra logo CustomThe suit was filed late Friday by the N.R.A. in Virginia, where it is based, against Ackerman McQueen, the Oklahoma ad firm that operates NRATV, the group’s incendiary online media arm. The suit asserts that Ackerman has concealed details from the N.R.A. about how the company is spending the roughly $40 million that it and its affiliates receive annually from the association.

The suit creates uncertainty about Mr. North’s future at the organization. And it leaves the future of NRATV in doubt, given the new acrimony in the Ackerman relationship.

Since Ackerman created NRATV in 2016, it has often been “perceived by the public as the voice of the N.R.A.,” according to the rifle association’s complaint. It has also taken on an apocalyptic tone, warning of race wars, calling for a march on the Federal Bureau of Investigation and portraying the talking trains in the children’s show “Thomas & Friends” in Ku Klux Klan hoods.

The complaint details a peculiar standoff with Ackerman over Mr. North, who took over as president last year. The N.R.A. claims it was aware that Mr. North had a contract to act as the host of a web series for Ackerman, but that Ackerman has refused to provide a copy of the contract for nearly six months. Additionally, Mr. North’s counsel told the N.R.A. that “he could only disclose a copy of the contract” if Ackerman said he could, the suit says.

Subsequently, Ackerman allowed the N.R.A.’s general counsel to view the contract but not keep a copy; the viewing added to N.R.A. concerns that it had not previously received an accurate summary of the document. The association was also concerned that Mr. North’s relationship to Ackerman could “supersede his duties to the N.R.A.”

A standoff persists over additional details about the relationship, according to the complaint.

The suit culminates the fracturing of a more than three-decade relationship between Ackerman and the N.R.A., going back to the shaping of such memorable lines as Charlton Heston’s proclaiming that his gun would have to be pried “from my cold, dead hands.” Wayne LaPierre, the longtime chief executive of the N.R.A., had previously been a steadfast champion of the Ackerman relationship.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Goldman Says Trump Could Squeak a Win in 2020, Andrew Ross Sorkin, Michael J. de la Merced and Jamie Condliffe. Economists at Goldman Sachs wrote in a research note over the weekend that President Trump has a “narrow” advantage over his potential Democratic challenger next year, according to news reports.

• Prediction markets have suggested that a Democratic challenger is likely to win.

republican elephant logoBut Bloomberg reported that the Goldman economists, Alec Phillips and Blake Taylor, argue that, “The advantage of first term incumbency and the relatively strong economic performance ahead of the presidential election suggest that President Trump is more likely to win a second term than the eventual Democratic candidate is to defeat him.”

• And polls that include Howard Schultz as a potential third-party candidate show him reducing the Democratic vote share by around 2 percentage points more than the Republican vote share. The Goldman economists acknowledged that Mr. Trump will face headwinds. Among them: “Groups that most strongly supported President Trump in 2016 made up a smaller share of total voters in 2018 than they did in 2014.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump focuses on divisive messages as 2020 reelection bid takes shape, Seung Min Kim and Toluse Olorunnipa, April 16, 2019 (print ed.). The president attacked Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and called immigration laws “horrible” at an economic roundtable Monday.

President Trump escalated his attacks on a Muslim member of Congress and “Radical Left Democrats” on Monday ahead of a reelection campaign that is quickly taking shape around divisive messages centered on immigration and patriotism.

Speaking Monday at an event billed as a tax and economy roundtable, Trump told a suburban Minneapolis audience “how unfairly you’ve been treated as a state” when it comes to immigration, and he rattled off a litany of grudges against the current system: The loopholes are “horrible and foolish,” the visa lottery is “insane,” and the concept of asylum is “ridiculous.”

“People come in, they read a line from a lawyer that a lawyer hands them out online,” Trump said at the event as he mimicked an asylum seeker reading from a piece of paper. “It’s a big con job. That’s what it is.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Liberals’ frustration with Pelosi rises over reaction to Omar dispute, Rachael Bade and Paul Kane, April 16, 2019 (print ed.)..Outside groups say House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should have done more to defend the Muslim congresswoman, whom President Trump accused of playing down the 9/11 tragedy.

ilhan omar oThe far left’s frustration with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is on the rise, as liberal advocates and lawmakers fume that she hasn’t done enough to defend freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar (right) from attacks by President Trump and other Republicans and has undermined their policies and leaders, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Pelosi, eager to protect her newfound majority and looking ahead to the 2020 elections, has made it a point to put distance between her party and the policies espoused by some of her new, liberal members, including both women. Republicans have tried to use the liberal policy initiatives against all Democrats. Pelosi purposely has cast the proposals as aspirational, telling The Washington Post she was “agnostic” about Medicare-for-all compared with the 2010 Affordable Care Act, and calling Ocasio-Cortez’s environmental Green New Deal “the green dream.”

Pelosi’s allies say it’s all to protect the House majority, a rationale Pelosi cited while taking questions during a Monday appearance at the London School of Economics. Asked about her “60 Minutes” comments about Ocasio-Cortez, Pelosi called the New York liberal “wonderful” but argued that the 43 districts Democrats flipped in 2018 were “right down the middle.”

Hill.com, Poll: Roy Moore leading Alabama GOP field, Reid Wilson, April 16, 2019. Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (right) leads the field of potential Republicans roy moore cowboy hat no gun Customvying for the chance to challenge Sen. Doug Jones (D, below at left)), a year and a half after Moore lost what was supposed to be an easy election in a deep-red state.

A new poll shows Moore leading a still-evolving field of Alabama Republicans competing for the nomination. He is the top choice of 27 percent of Alabama Republican voters, according to the Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy Inc. survey.

doug jones flag wThe state’s three Republican members of Congress finish well behind Moore: Rep. Mo Brooks would take 18 percent, Rep. Bradley Byrne clocks in at 13 percent and Rep. Gary Palmer would take 11 percent. So far, Byrne is the only Republican candidate among those tested to have formally entered the race.

Moore, who captured the Republican nomination in 2017 by appealing to the state’s most conservative evangelical voters, came undone amid multiple allegations that he harassed or pursued women who were in their teens when he was in his 30s.

Jones, a former U.S. attorney, won the December special election by 1.7 percentage points, or about 22,000 votes. He became the first Democrat in more than a generation — since Sen. Richard Shelby, who has since changed his party affiliation — to represent Alabama in the U.S. Senate.

bernie sanders npc may 1 2016 jip hands IMG 2008 Small

washington post logoWashington Post, Sanders campaign escalates fight with establishment Democrats in reprise of 2016 party rifts, Sean Sullivan and Michael Scherer, April 16, 2019 (print ed.). Sen. Bernie Sanders (shown in a Justice Integrity Project 2016 photo) and his team have leveled accusations against a leading Democratic think tank even as the Vermont independent seeks the party’s nomination for president. Campaign advisers to Bernie Sanders escalated their attacks on a major Democratic-leaning think tank Monday, accusing the group of using corporate donations to mount a “consistent effort to belittle or demean” the independent Vermont senator while seeking to “kneecap” populist support for policies such as Medicare-for-all.

The onslaught, coming as Sanders sits atop national 2020 polls of declared presidential candidates, was the clearest signal yet that he plans to reprise his role as a disruptive insurgent who will run against established Democratic Party institutions even as he seeks the party’s nomination.

“I think this time around he wanted to make sure that people understood that he wasn’t just going to be a punching bag,” said Sanders’s campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, in an interview at the Mohegan Sun Pocono, where Sanders addressed members of a nurses union. “He’s comfortable having the fight within the party or outside the party, in general. That’s Bernie Sanders.”

• Washington Post, Sanders and his wife earned $1.7 million in past two years, returns show
• Washington Post, Sanders keeps distance from Omar, even as he defends her against accusations of anti-Semitism

U.S. Crime, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, Man charged with attempted homicide after allegedly throwing child from 3rd floor in Mall of America, Kayla Epstein and Katie Mettler, Aril 16, 2019. A man accused of throwing a 5-year-old boy from a balcony at the Mall of America on Friday had been “looking for someone to kill,” authorities say. Emmanuel Aranda, 24, has been charged with attempted premeditated first-degree murder and is set to make his first court appearance on Tuesday afternoon.

On Friday, the boy and his mother were standing outside the Rain Forest Cafe at the Bloomington, Minn., mall along with friends when a stranger approached them, according to charging documents. Aranda came close to the group, and the boy’s mother asked if they were in his way and should move. Instead, authorities say, Aranda grabbed the child and threw him off the third-floor balcony, a nearly 40-foot fall to the ground below.

April 15

Notre Dame Fire

BBC, Notre-Dame cathedral: Firefighters tackle blaze in Paris, Staff report, April 15, 2019. A major fire has engulfed much of one of France's most famous landmarks -- the medieval Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris (whose famed spire is shown ablaze above in a Sky News photo). Its spire has collapsed. The cause is not yet clear, but officials say that it could be linked to renovation work.

A major operation to tackle the blaze is under way at the 850-year-old Gothic building. Last year, the Catholic Church in France appealed for funds to save the building, which was crumbling.

french flagA spokesman for the Paris fire department said the next hour and a half was "crucial" in order to determine whether the fire could be contained.
Loud bangs could be heard as flames burst through the roof of the cathedral, also engulfing its left tower.

emmanuel macronThousands of people have gathered in the streets around the cathedral, observing the flames in silence. Some could be seen crying, while others sang hymns. French President Emmanuel Macron (shown at right in a file photo), who has arrived at the scene, said his thoughts were with "all Catholics and all French people."

"Like all of my countrymen, I am sad tonight to see this part of us burn." A spokesman for the cathedral said the whole structure was "burning".

"There will be nothing left," he said. "It remains to be seen whether the vault, which protects the cathedral, will be affected or not."

The blaze broke out on Monday afternoon and huge plumes of smoke could be seen wafting across the city. Historian Camille Pascal told French broadcaster BFMTV the fire was destroying "invaluable heritage."

The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, urged people to respect the boundaries set up by fire crews in order to ensure that they remain safe. "There are a lot of art works inside...it's a real tragedy," she told reporters.

U.S. Migrant Crisis

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Sees an Obstacle to Getting His Way on Immigration: His Own Officials, Eileen Sullivan and Michael D. Shear, April 15, 2019 (print ed.). Stephen Miller, the architect of President Trump’s immigration policy, is behind the purge at the Department of Homeland Security.Stephen Miller was furious — again.

stephen miller nbc screenshot whThe architect of President Trump’s immigration agenda, Mr. Miller (shown in a screenshot) was presiding last month over a meeting in the White House Situation Room when he demanded to know why the administration officials gathered there were taking so long to carry out his plans.

A regulation to deny welfare benefits to legal immigrants — a change Mr. Miller repeatedly predicted would be “transformative” — was still plodding through the approval process after more than two years, he complained. So were the new rules that would overturn court-ordered protections for migrant children. us dhs big eagle logo4They were still not finished, he added, berating Ronald D. Vitiello, the acting head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“You ought to be working on this regulation all day every day,” he shouted, as recounted by two participants at the meeting. “It should be the first thought you have when you wake up. And it should be the last thought you have before you go to bed. And sometimes you shouldn’t go to bed.”

A few weeks after that meeting, the consequences of Mr. Miller’s frustration and the president he was channeling have played out in striking fashion.

djt maga hatMr. Trump has withdrawn Mr. Vitiello’s nomination to permanently lead ICE and pushed out Kirstjen Nielsen, his homeland security secretary. The department’s acting deputy secretary, Claire Grady, and the Secret Service director, Randolph D. Alles, are departing as well. And the White House has made it clear that others, including L. Francis Cissna, the head of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, and John Mitnick, the department’s general counsel, are likely to go soon.

And behind that purge is Mr. Miller, the 33-year-old White House senior adviser. While immigration is the issue that has dominated Mr. Trump’s time in office, the president has little interest or understanding about how to turn his gut instincts into reality. So it is Mr. Miller, a fierce ideologue who was a congressional spokesman before joining the Trump campaign, who has shaped policy, infuriated civil liberties groups and provoked a bitter struggle within the administration.

Mueller Report

ny times logoNew York Times, Emboldened by His Attorney General, Trump Confronts Mueller Report Head-On, Annie Karni and Maggie Haberman, April 15, 2019 (print ed.). The case was closed for President Trump on March 24, the day Attorney General William P. Barr delivered to Congress his four-page summary of the special counsel’s 300-plus page report. donald trump o smile“No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter that day. And in the weeks that followed, the president’s message of vindication and revenge on his political antagonists has only intensified, as he has expressed no interest in reading the full report and leveled charges of treason against Democratic lawmakers.

Mr. Barr’s letter effectively emboldened Mr. Trump, aides said, even as they prepare for new details to emerge from a redacted version of the report — expected this week — that could renew questions about the president’s fitness for office, and even as some of them cringe at Mr. Trump’s choice of the word “exonerate.” (Privately, they admit, they would prefer he use the word “vindicate.”)

But Mr. Trump’s mood has been lighter since the report was filed, people close to him said, even though neither he nor his White House lawyers have seen the full document, or at this point plan to do so before it is released to Congress and to the public. People close to Mr. Trump said they have noticed an increase in his confidence after he spent months feeling weighed down by a loss of control.

Media: Assange Arrest

CaitlinJohnstone.com, Opinion: The US Government Won’t Care About Your Definition Of Journalism After The Assange Precedent Is Set, Caitlin Johnstone, April 15, 2019. 
Since I published my last article about about the idiotic “Assange isn’t a journalist” smear, this talking point has become more and more commonplace in online discourse. It’s very important to defenders of the political status quo for us all to believe that Assange is not a journalist, because otherwise that would mean they’re cheering for a dangerous precedent which would allow for the prosecution of journalists who exposed the truth about US government malfeasance. And that would mean cognitive dissonance, which all defenders of the political status quo spend most of their day-to-day mental energy running away from.

julian assange cropped with un headerAll of these definitions ultimately boil down to the argument that because Assange doesn’t publish leaks in a way that they feel journalism ought to be practiced, it isn’t journalism and therefore sets no legal precedent for journalists around the world. As though the US government is going to be consulting their feelings about what specifically constitutes journalism the next time they decide to imprison a journalist for doing what Assange did.

It doesn’t work that way, sugar tits. Assange is being prosecuted by the Trump administration for standard journalistic practices, he stands no chance of receiving a fair trial, and it is very likely that he will be hit with far more serious charges for his activities once on US soil. The next time the US government, under Trump or someone else, sees another journalist anywhere in the world doing something similar to what Assange did, there will be nothing stopping them from saying, “We need to lock that person up like we did Assange; they’re doing the same sort of thing.”

It’s just so amazingly arrogant how people imagine that the way their feelings feel will factor into this in any way. You won’t get to define how the US government will interpret what constitutes journalism in the future. Only the US government will. It’s amazing that this isn’t more obvious to more people.

In reality, journalism has always been and will always be defined as an activity. It’s not like being a doctor. If you happen to witness a car crash and you give CPR on the scene, you are not a doctor in that moment, but if you take some photos and post them online with a summary of what you saw then you are engaging in the act of journalism and all the legalities and rules of journalism apply to you.

The particular journalistic activities that the US is currently trying to extradite Assange for is encouraging a source to give him more documents and conspiracy to help Manning hide her identity so that she would not be persecuted for her heroic act of whistleblowing. In other words, Assange was attempting to make sure Manning’s leaks had enough impact to justify the risk, and also to try and make sure she wasn’t caught and tortured for it.

U.S. Sports / Culture

Washington Post, Investigative Commentary: Cheating the Boston Marathon is disrespectful to those running honestly, Derek Murphy, April 15, 2019 (print ed.). Derek Murphy operates marathoninvestigation.com. Cheating in the Boston Marathon on Monday will be much harder than it was in 1980 when an unknown runner named Rosie Ruiz slipped onto the 26.2-mile course less than a mile from the finish line and won the women’s division with a blistering time — while barely breaking a sweat.

As suspicions about Ruiz increased and the marathon’s organizers searched for evidence, witnesses emerged saying that they’d seen Ruiz run onto the course. After eight days, her victory was nullified.

But cheaters are going to cheat, and although race organizers have instituted plenty of measures since 1980 to try to catch them — or at least to make cheating less tempting — it still happens.

April 14

Immigration Justice Realities

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: I’m an immigration judge. Here’s how we can fix our courts, Dana Leigh Marks, April 14, 2019 (print ed.). Dana Leigh Marks has been a sitting immigration judge in San Francisco since 1987 and is writing this in her capacity as president emerita of the National Association of Immigration Judges.

Every day, in 60 courts throughout the country, roughly 400 immigration judges sit to decide the fates of thousands of people. Our courtrooms can be almost anywhere: in Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities, in federal courthouses or in leased commercial office spaces — like mine in the heart of the financial district in San Francisco. Walking by, you wouldn’t know what is going on inside.

What occurs in immigration courts is probably the most mysterious of all legal processes in our country. The reason: These are administrative courts, part of the Justice Department rather than the judicial branch. The rules we operate under are written by political appointees, not by judges, and often favor the government.

Our courts’ decisions are life-changing. We rule on whether a person is a U.S. citizen, whether a noncitizen can qualify for a status that allows him or her to remain in this country, or whether a person has violated our laws and must be forced to leave. Our decisions may cause the separation of parents and children or husbands and wives, because the law gives judges no discretion to allow someone to remain in our country based solely on hardship or humanitarian reasons.

And, at times, the decisions can amount to a death sentence, such as when we deny an application for asylum because the law does not protect all those who find themselves in harm’s way back home.

The volume of work can be overwhelming. Some of our judges carry caseloads of 5,000 cases or more, usually with limited support staff. Because we work for the Justice Department, we are directed how to arrange our dockets and micromanaged about how much time we spend on cases. Beginning in October of last year, judges were ordered to complete 700 cases each year or risk a less-than-satisfactory performance evaluation, which can cost a judge his or her job. This is not how a court should be run. Attorney General William P. Barr told Congress this week that he is hoping to boost the number of judges in our courtrooms from around 425 to 535 over the next few years and for a commensurate boost in lawyers and clerks. We desperately need the help.

Trump Watch

washington post logodana milbank CustomWashington Post, Opinion: For Trump, the name of the season is treason, Dana Milbank (right), April 14, 2019 (print ed.). In the Oval Office on Thursday afternoon, President Trump gave a lesson on American justice to the visiting South Korean president. Speaking about the Mueller investigation and its origins, Trump said: “This is actually treason.”

This wasn’t offhand. On Wednesday, Trump tweeted that the probe was a “Treasonous Hoax” and that “what the Democrats are doing with the Border is TREASONOUS.” That same day, boarding Marine One, he reaffirmed that what Democrats and Justice Department officials did in the Mueller probe “was treason.”

Trump has publicly invoked “treason” or “treasonous” on 26 occasions, according to the Factba.se compilation of Trump utterances. That’s in addition to various and sundry “traitor” references. He began by accusing the likes of Bowe Bergdahl, Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning, then moved on to include the executives of Univision and Macy’s, Republicans who didn’t support him, Democratic lawmakers who didn’t applaud him, the failing New York Times, the media generally, people in his administration who leak, and Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, John Podesta, Eric Holder, Loretta E. Lynch, Huma Abedin, James B. Comey, James R. Clapper Jr., Rod J. Rosenstein, Robert S. Mueller III, Andrew McCabe, Lisa Page and Peter Strzok.

The Constitution specifically says treason “shall consist only in levying war against” the United States “or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort,” and it requires two witnesses. The U.S. Criminal Code requires that those guilty of treason “shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years.”

djt tweet on brilliance 1 6 18Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump is having his most whacked out weekend yet, and he just gave something away in the process, Bill Palmer, April 14, 2019. Like every bad poker player, Donald Trump has a tell, and he’s completely unwilling or unable to hide it. When he starts ranting and raving on Twitter at all hours of the day and night, as opposed to just his usual early morning meltdowns, it means he thinks (or knows) that something rather ugly for him about to surface. This weekend has been one of Trump’s most whacked rant-fests to date – and somewhere in there, he gave away something specific.

bill palmer report logo headerDonald Trump tends to do less tweeting on Saturday than any other day. But yesterday he couldn’t stop tweeting. He started the day with a loveletter to murderous dictator Kim Jong Un, and then he went on to attack everyone from Hillary Clinton, to the FBI, to Congress, to immigrants, to the New York Times, to the Mayor of Oakland.

Trump’s ranting couldn’t have been any more maniacal. At one point he stated that the New York Times will be out of business within six years, before making up a phony story about how the newspaper apologized to him for the negative coverage it gave him during the 2016 election. At another point he characterized immigrants as being “Gang Members, Drug Dealers, Human Traffickers, and Criminals of all shapes, sizes and kinds.” But really, we think that description is more befitting of his own cabinet. (At right, illustration from 2016 campaign.)

U.S. Politics / Racism

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘The president today made America smaller’: Democrats blast Trump for attack on Rep. Omar, Colby Itkowitz, April 14, 2019 (print ed.). They said President Trump was inciting violence, perpetuating Islamophobia and politicizing the worst day in U.S. history after he tweeted a video of the Muslim congresswoman spliced with footage of the burning twin towers.

Consumer Privacy

ny times logoNew York Times, Tracking Phones, Google Is a Dragnet for the Police, Jennifer Valentino-DeVries, April 14, 2019.  The tech giant records people’s locations worldwide. Now, investigators are using it to find suspects and witnesses near crimes, running the risk of snaring the innocent.

When detectives in a Phoenix suburb arrested a warehouse worker in a murder investigation last December, they credited a new technique with breaking open the case after other leads went cold.

google logo customThe police told the suspect, Jorge Molina, they had data tracking his phone to the site where a man was shot nine months earlier. They had made the discovery after obtaining a search warrant that required Google to provide information on all devices it recorded near the killing, potentially capturing the whereabouts of anyone in the area.

But after he spent nearly a week in jail, the case against Mr. Molina fell apart as investigators learned new information and released him. Last month, the police arrested another man: his mother’s ex-boyfriend, who had sometimes used Mr. Molina’s car.

The warrants, which draw on an enormous Google database employees call Sensorvault, turn the business of tracking cellphone users’ locations into a digital dragnet for law enforcement. In an era of ubiquitous data gathering by tech companies, it is just the latest example of how personal information — where you go, who your friends are, what you read, eat and watch, and when you do it — is being used for purposes many people never expected. As privacy concerns have mounted among consumers, policymakers and regulators, tech companies have come under intensifying scrutiny over their data collection practices.

The Arizona case demonstrates the promise and perils of the new investigative technique, whose use has risen sharply in the past six months, according to Google employees familiar with the requests. It can help solve crimes. But it can also snare innocent people.

Global Elections: India

ny times logoindia flag mapNew York Times, What It Takes to Pull Off India’s Gargantuan Election, Russell Goldman, April 14, 2019. More than 900 million people — over 10 percent of the world’s population — could head to the polls over several weeks. The process requires 12 million polling officials, cutting-edge technology, and in some cases, trains, planes and elephants.

Middle Eastern / Arab News

Axios Sneak Peak, 3. Inside the room: King of Jordan in the dark on Trump's peace plan, Jonathan Swan, April 14, 2019. In a closed-door meeting with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month, King Abdullah II of Jordan said the White House had given him zero visibility into the most fraught part of their peace plan: how it proposes to divide Israeli and Palestinian territory.

• The king seemed dissatisfied with the level of consultation and was pessimistic about the plan's prospects, two sources in the room told me and Alayna Treene.
• And my colleague Barak Ravid reports that King Abdullah has privately told people he is frustrated by the fact that despite having numerous meetings with senior Trump administration officials, he's never been given any detail about the core political issues, in which Jordan has a huge interest.

Behind the scenes: Sources with direct knowledge tell Axios that only five or six people in the entire U.S. government have seen the political side of the plan, making it one of few secrets the White House has been able to keep.

Why it matters: The White House's Arab partners who will need to sell a peace deal remain in the dark about its political dimensions.

• These Arab partners — including the Saudis and Emiratis — have also complained that the Trump administration has taken steps favoring the Israelis and frustrating the Arab world, including moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

What's next: The White House peace plan isn't expected to be public before mid-June, and it's unclear if the White House will reveal the whole thing at once. Some on the team, according to sources in touch with them, hope to roll out the economic side first.

SouthFront, US and Israel Nightmare Scenario: Iraq, Syria, Iran Restart Their Strategic Cooperation Projects, Staff report, April 14, 2019. Syria, Iran and Iraq are to continue their project on connecting their railway systems into one, Syrian outlet al Watan reported. A date was set for a trilateral meeting, since the project was an important strategic point, that was stopped during the war in Syria.

syrian flag wavingThe aim of the project was to provide Iraq and Iran with access to Syrian ports. Before the outbreak of the war in 2011, Syria had completed 97% of the project, but large portions of the railway system were destroyed during the clashes.

Al Watan also reported that there were understandings with the Chinese side to be a partner in this project, which will be parallel to the Belt and Road Initiative, which is planned to be completed for the benefit of several countries, including Syria, Iraq, Iran, China, Pakistan among others.

SouthFront, Egypt Pulled Out Of U.S. Efforts To Form “Arab NATO” To Combat Iran: Reports, Staff report, April 14, 2019. Egypt pulled out of US and Saudi Arabia’s effort to form an anti-Iranian “Arab NATO,” Israeli media reported citing anonymous sources familiar with the matter.

egypt flagThe country told the US and other participants in the Middle East Security Alliance, or MESA ahead of a meeting on April 7th in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. One of the anonymous sources said Cairo did not send a delegation to the meeting, the latest gathering held to advance the U.S.-led effort to bind Sunni Muslim Arab allies into a security, political and economic pact to counter Shi’ite Iran.

The reasons behind the decision, according to the sources, is that Egypt doesn’t wish to harm its relations with Iran, as well as it doesn’t believe that US President Donald Trump would be elected for a second term. If Trump is gone that jeopardizes the entire “Arab NATO” idea since the next POTUS may decide not to follow through.

9/11 Litigation Fund-Raising Update

Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, FBI Lawsuit Fund Drive: $55,000 Raised, $5,000 to Go! Staff report, April 14, 2019. Lawsuit Seeks Answers on Five Men Arrested on 9/11 ae 911 truth logo horizontalWith two days left to go in the fundraising drive for our historic FBI Lawsuit, we are just $5,000 shy of raising the funds needed to cover the early phases of litigation. We are so grateful to those who’ve made this bold legal action possible by donating.

If you haven’t chipped in yet and you believe in this effort to force the FBI to report all of the evidence detailed in our 44-page complaint, please help us reach our goal by this Monday, April 15. Your gift will ensure that we and the Lawyers' Committee for 9/11 Inquiry have all the resources required to litigate this case.

Today, we wanted to share more about the second count that AE911Truth has joined in the lawsuit, which calls for the FBI to assess and report the evidence it gathered regarding the five men who were seen celebrating the World Trade Center attacks and arrested later that day. You can learn more about this count and read the full text of it in our just-published article “Lawsuit Seeks Answers on Five Men Arrested on 9/11."

April 13

Federal Judge Blasts Trump

carlton reeves university of virginia sanjay suchak

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves argued for federal courts’ need to defend marginalized groups at a University of Virginia School of Law event on April 11. (University of Virginia School of Law)

washington post logoWashington Post, You can hear the Klan’s lawyers’: Federal judge likens Trump’s attacks on judiciary to KKK, Reis Thebault, April 13, 2019. Federal judge compares Trump’s attacks on judiciary to KKK, segregationist attacks on black judges. President Trump has attacked the judiciary like few U.S. leaders before him, disparaging judges and their rulings as “dangerous,” “horrible” and “a complete and total disgrace.” Some of his supporters and fellow Republicans applaud and parrot him, but U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves said he hears something sinister: echoes of a time when the Ku Klux Klan and the architects of the Jim Crow South attacked the courts for chipping away at segregation and racism.

In a speech to the University of Virginia School of Law on Thursday, Reeves criticized Trump’s aggressive responses to his administration’s losses in court and the lack of diversity in his judicial appointments — an extremely rare rebuke from a sitting federal judge. Though Reeves, whose court is in Jackson, Miss., never mentioned Trump by name, he quoted the president more than a dozen times and compared him to a stridently racist Alabama governor.

“When the executive branch calls our courts and their work ‘stupid,’ ‘horrible,’ ‘ridiculous,’ ‘incompetent,’ ‘a laughingstock,’” Reeves said, drawing from Trump’s Twitter feed, “you can hear the slurs and threats of executives like George Wallace, echoing into the present.”

Take Trump’s insults of Judge Gonzalo Curiel, Reeves said. Trump said Curiel should not hear a lawsuit against Trump University because Trump’s hard-line immigration polices presented a conflict of interest for Curiel, who is of Mexican descent.

“I know what I heard when a federal judge was called ‘very biased and unfair’ because he is ‘of Mexican heritage.’ When that judge’s ethnicity was said to prevent his issuing ‘fair rulings,' when that judge was called a 'hater’ simply because he is Latino,” Reeves said, “I heard those words and I did not know if it was 1967 or 2017.”

The White House declined to comment on the speech, which was first reported by BuzzFeed News. Reeves, through his law clerk, said he wouldn’t make any further comments.

Half a century later, Reeves said, Americans are “eyewitnesses to the third great assault on our judiciary.”

“When politicians attack courts as ‘dangerous,’ ‘political,’ and guilty of ‘egregious overreach,’ you can hear the Klan’s lawyers, assailing officers of the court across the South,” he said.

carlton reevesIt’s not that courts should be exempt from criticism, Reeves (shown in a file photo) said. He maintained that debating judicial decisions ultimately improves the courts.

“But the slander and falsehoods thrown at courts today are not those of a critic seeking to improve the judiciary’s search for truth,” he said. “They are words of an attacker, seeking to distort and twist that search toward falsehood.”

Trump’s broadsides may be loud, but it’s his appointments that may end up having the most lasting effect, Reeves said. As of April 1, more than three-quarters of confirmed appellate and district court nominees were white, according to Alliance for Justice, a left-leaning advocacy group. More than 90 percent were male.

“That’s not what America looks like,” Reeves said. “That’s not even what the legal profession looks like. . . . There is no excuse for this exclusion of minority experiences from our courts.”

Judges, especially at the federal level, typically try to eschew partisan tangles, particularly with presidents.

When Trump was a candidate, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told the New York Times that she “can’t imagine what this place would be . . . with Donald Trump as our president.”

“For the country, it could be four years,” she said. “For the court, it could be — I don’t even want to contemplate that.”

Days later, Ginsburg apologized, calling her comments “ill-advised.”

Reeves, however, has drawn national attention before. In 2018, he issued a strongly worded decision striking down Mississippi’s law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, chastising the state for choosing to “pass a law it knew was unconstitutional.”

In 2015, Reeves gave another stirring speech, that time a 2,500-word address from the bench, aimed at three white men who were sentenced in the killing of a black man — a hate crime, he said, that in the past would have been written off as “acceptable racially inspired pranks.” Instead he handed down sentences between seven and 50 years.

Reeves gave his speech Thursday as he accepted the university’s Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Law, one of its highest awards. He began by addressing the third U.S. president’s complicated history — a mix of “genius,” “curiosity” and “industry,” along with well-documented racism.

“I must stand up and speak about that pairing,” he said. “How corrosive it has been since the days of Jefferson, who we all agree, was a man of his time. How often that pairing has been embraced throughout our history, by men of their times. And why we must defend against its poison when spewed today, by men of our time.”

Trump Watch

washington post logoirs logoWashington Post, House Democrats give IRS until April 23 to turn over Trump tax returns, Jeff Stein​, April 13, 2019.  Legal experts have suggested an outright denial of their request by Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin could be followed by subpoenas or a lawsuit in federal court. House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.) on Saturday sent a two-page letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig rebuffing Mnuchin’s statement earlier this week that Treasury would miss House Democrats’ initial April 10 deadline for the returns.

Mnuchin’s concerns “lack merit,” Neal wrote.

Palmer Report, Opinion: House Democrats hand Donald Trump his ten day notice, Bill Palmer, April 13, 2019. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal has now given the Treasury Department a hard deadline of April 23rd to turn over Donald Trump’s tax returns. It has to be done this way because, assuming Mnuchin and the gang continue to illegally refuse this request, it’ll result in a subpoena battle in court. House Democrats have to convince the judge that they tried every reasonable measure possible to resolve the matter before resorting to a subpoena.

bill palmer report logo headerSo now we know that ten days from now, assuming Trump’s Treasury Department continues to refuse to follow the law, House Democrats will pursue this as a legal matter. As David Cay Johnston recently spelled out, Steve Mnuchin and others can end up going to jail for refusing to comply with the law on this matter. Are they willing to go that far to try to protect Trump, or will one of them cave first? We’re ten days away from getting some answers.

washington post logoWashington Post, House Democrats to subpoena accounting firm for Trump’s financial records, Rachael Bade, April 13, 2019. Lawmakers expect the Trump administration to elijah cummings otake their fight over the president’s IRS documents to the courts — so they have sought other avenues to learn about his business practices.

A top House investigative committee plans to subpoena President Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, for Trump’s financial statements on Monday, according to a memo to committee members obtained by The Washington Post.

House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (right) on Friday notified panel members of his intention to subpoena the company after it refused to hand over Trump’s financial documents, citing laws and rules that require compulsory measures from the panel.

washington post logoICE logoWashington Post, Trump’s plan to send detainees to ‘sanctuary cities’ may be costly, illegal, Maria Sacchetti, April 13, 2019. Moving thousands of immigration detainees to Democratic strongholds would require massive transportation infrastructure. Sanctuary city mayors waved it off as a bluff.

Trump's Ethic Smear Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Assails Omar With Video of Sept. 11 Attacks, Maggie Haberman, April 13, 2019. President President Trump on Friday targeted Representative Ilhan Omar for remarks she made during a speech on civil rights and Muslims in America with a graphic video featuring the burning World Trade Center towers and other images from Sept. 11, 2001, that he tweeted to millions of his followers.

ilhan omar oThe Twitter post from the president stoked and amplified a controversy that has been a focus of conservative news outlets, which have sought to elevate Ms. Omar (right) — a Minnesota Democrat and one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress — as a political target, as Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign begins in earnest.

At issue were remarks that Ms. Omar made last month at an event hosted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations. There, she gave a speech in which she addressed lingering fear directed at Muslims, and the rights Muslims have to speak out about being viewed with suspicion.

During the speech, she said that Muslims had “lived with the discomfort of being a second-class citizen and, frankly, I’m tired of it, and every single Muslim in this country should be tired of it.” She added that the council was created after the Sept. 11 attacks “because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.” (The Council on American-Islamic Relations was actually founded in 1994.)

Prosecution Against WikiLeaks' Assange

ny times logoNew York Times, As Ecuador Harbored Assange, It Was Subjected to Threats and Leaks, Nicholas Casey and Jo Becker, April 13, 2019 (print ed.). Ecuador protected the julian assange indicter imageWikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (shown in a file photo) even as he threatened to leak damaging information about its government. But when private material of President Lenín Moreno was published, the embassy opened its doors to the police.

Related Story: New York Times, Extraditing Mr. Assange will not be quick, and it will not be easy, April 13, 2019.

The Guardian, Failure to extradite Assange to Sweden would endorse ‘rape culture’, say women’s groups, Mark Townsend, April 13, 2019. Campaigners fear rape allegations are being overlooked as US case against WikiLeaks co-founder takes centre stage,  Women’s groups have added to pressure on Sajid Javid to ensure Julian Assange is extradited to Sweden. Failure to do so would effectively endorse “rape culture,” they claim.

A coalition of campaigners representing survivors of sexual violence urged the home secretary to focus on the unresolved rape allegations emanating from Sweden against Assange. They fear that US charges – relating to WikiLeaks’ disclosures – may be given priority in the UK.

The United States has filed a provisional extradition request for Assange while Sweden continues to weigh up whether to reopen an investigation into rape and sexual assault allegations against the 47-year-old co-founder of WikiLeaks. On occasions, when there are competing extradition requests, the home secretary decides which country should take priority.

Sarah Green, co-director of End Violence Against Women, an alliance of more than 80 organisations, said Assange’s portrayal by some as a victim was an affront to rape survivors.

“He’s always benefited from his cult hero status, painting himself as a victim and being very righteous. Yet this is about rape, it’s what he is accused of. It’s extremely serious.”

Green added that there was widespread disquiet that the rape allegations were being smothered by the broader debate on Assange, who is being held in London’s Belmarsh prison after his arrest on Thursday. He had spent the previous seven years in Ecuador’s London embassy.

Background Analysis From 2010:

anna ardin sofia wilen

Sydney Morning Herald, Victims, jilted lovers or undercover agents, Serious questions are being asked about one of Julian Assange's accusers, Andrew West and Sarah Whyte, Dec. 19, 2010. Anna Ardin, the Swedish political activist who has accused WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange of rape, posted a flippant comment on her Twitter account: "CIA agent, rabid feminist/Muslim lover, a Christian fundamentalist, frigid & fatally in love with a man, can you be all that at the same time …"

It was the sort of comment designed to deflect, with irony or humour, the stories that have swirled around the woman who has levelled three charges of sexual misconduct at Assange.

But her attempt to disarm her critics - referring, perhaps jokingly, to the Central Intelligence Agency - has only provoked further questions. Could Ardin, 31, really be a spy and the charges against Assange part of a conspiracy to discredit him after he began publishing on WikiLeaks 250,000 classified documents from the US State Department? We know from Ardin's own words that, at various times, she has been infatuated and infuriated with Assange.

According to a timeline compiled by Australian journalist Guy Rundle in London, the day after Ardin's mid-August assignation with Assange - the assignation she later said involved rape - she tweeted that she wanted to take him to a ''crayfish party'', a popular summer social activity in Sweden.

Another tweet has her being with ''the world's coolest, smartest people, it's amazing!''

At the same time as Assange was enjoying her company, he became involved with another Swedish woman, Sofia Wilen, 26, a photographer whom he met at a public meeting he addressed and Ardin organised.

When Ardin learnt of Assange's encounter with Wilen - after Wilen approached her worried she may have become pregnant after unprotected sex - both women complained to the Swedish police.

Ardin alleged three counts of misconduct, while Wilen laid one charge.

The Swedish laws define rape broadly, so that pressing an erect penis against a woman's back the morning after consensual sex and not wearing a condom can count as sexual offences.

Nevertheless, any charge of rape is serious.

Australian journalist and expert on espionage Philip Knightley, who is backing Assange in his battle with the British courts, does not believe Ardin is a CIA agent.

''There's no direct evidence,'' he told The Sun-Herald. But he said that decades of dealing with spy agencies had led him to suspect that she fitted the model of someone who could be useful to intelligence agencies.

''She's someone they would consider an asset. I do not think she has been recruited for this mission but once she realised she was in this position, she might have known the right people to contact.''

The essence of Knightley's theory is that Ardin is someone whose high-level political activity inside Sweden's historically dominant party - and her ability to travel to contentious destinations such as Cuba and make connections with hostile emigre communities as part of her academic research - would make her a valuable source for Sweden's boutique spy agency.

The theory that Ardin may be an active spy - or even just a naive participant in a conspiracy involving a Swedish intelligence agency trying to get close to its American counterpart - could obscure a more simple proposition: that she is a spurned lover who has seized the chance to go after a man who has made himself the No.1 enemy of the US.

In January this year, well before WikiLeaks began dumping US diplomatic cables on the web and long before she had ever met Assange, she published a manual on how to ''systematically take revenge'' on ''someone who cheated or who dumped you.'

She wrote: ''Do a brainstorm of appropriate measures for the category of revenge you're after … You can sabotage your victim's current relationship, such as getting his new partner to be unfaithful or ensure that he gets a madman after him.''

Assange may not be the prey of a ''madman,' such as an aggrieved husband or boyfriend, but the WikiLeaks founder is certainly the target of an angry superpower.

Roger Stone Case

washington post logoWashington Post, Roger Stone asks for full copy of Mueller report and to have his indictment dismissed, Spencer S. Hsu, April 13, 2019. Roger Stone’s defense fired a volley of legal attacks at special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation Friday, asking a federal judge to dismiss Stone’s indictment for lying to Congress and obstructing justice and to order that Stone receive a full unredacted copy of Mueller’s recently completed report.

roger stone“No other person, Committee, or entity has Stone’s constitutionally based standing to demand the complete, unredacted Report,” Stone’s attorneys argued on behalf of the longtime confidant of President Trump. Only then “can he determine whether the Report contains material which could be critical to his defense,” or if he was selectively prosecuted, they wrote in a series of motions.

Stone, 66 (shown in a screenshot), has pleaded not guilty to charges that he lied about his efforts to gather information about Democratic Party emails hacked by Russian operatives during the 2016 presidential campaign and released through the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks and others.

The Roger Stone indictment is the most substantial filling in the Russia probe to date. It’s also peppered with movie references, mafia lingo and a dog.

Stone’s filing came one day after WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, was expelled from the Ecuadoran Embassy in London and arrested on an unsealed, year-old U.S. charges of conspiring to hack into a Pentagon computer network before his organization in 2010 published online a historic trove of classified U.S. documents.

Attorneys for Stone asked a judge Friday to toss out a seven-count indictment in which Mueller prosecutors alleged Stone was in frequent contact with members of Trump’s campaign about the WikiLeaks effort to release materials damaging to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton before the 2016 election.

A focus of the Mueller probe of Stone, court filings show, was whether he coordinated with Assange or WikiLeaks as it published thousands of Democratic emails that prosecutors say were hacked by Russian operatives. Barr said last month in a brief summary of Mueller’s report that the special counsel reported that its investigation did not establish that Trump campaign members “conspired or coordinated” with the Russian government’s interference activities

More U.S. Crime, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, Inside the scheme that allegedly used fake debt to steal $360 million from investors in Maryland and Virginia, Aaron Gregg, April 13, 2019 (print ed.). Cameron Jezierski was stoic but offered his attorney a brief smile as proceedings wrapped up at the federal courthouse. This wasn’t where he’d expected to land. He’d imagined that before he was 30, he’d be a millionaire.

FBI logoInstead, the 28-year-old from Texas had signed a plea agreement with federal prosecutors this month that cast him as a minor player in a sprawling $360 million Ponzi scheme that bilked hundreds of investors in Maryland and Virginia. Prosecutors said it was dreamed up by his employers. When Jezierski walked out of court, he would be an admitted felon for life.

At the courthouse, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joyce McDonald described a scheme led by two others — Kevin Merrill of Towson, Md., and Jay Ledford of Texas — in promoting “investor confidence that they could entrust their funds to what was really a criminal enterprise.”

ny times logoNew York Times, 1 in 5 Bus Riders in New York City Evades the Fare, Emma G. Fitzsimmons and Edgar Sandoval, April 13, 2019. The statistic stunned the leader of the subway and bus system, who said it was “wholly unacceptable.” He said it was at least double the rate of other cities across the world.

Over two and a half hours, the driver pressed F5 — the button that records fare evaders — at least 50 times, and there was still a half-hour left on his morning route.

“It’s getting worse,” said the driver, Luis, who declined to provide his full name because he did not have permission to discuss his job. “How many? On my bus, hundreds a day. Hundreds with an ‘s.’”

Transit officials recently announced a remarkable figure: One in five bus riders in New York City does not pay the fare. The statistic stunned even Andy Byford, the leader of the subway and bus system, who said it was “wholly unacceptable” and at least double the rate of other cities across the world.

Cities across the world are grappling with fare evasion, though it is far worse in New York. In Paris, the fare evasion rate for buses is 11 percent, while in Toronto it is 5 percent, according to the local transit agencies. The Paris transit system has 1,200 staff members dedicated to the problem and hands out about one million fines each year.

U.S. Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, The Many Reasons to Run for President When You Probably Don’t Stand a Chance, Matt Flegenheimer, April 13, 2019. There are book deals and TV contracts and maybe a cabinet position if your side wins. Recent history suggests there is almost no downside to giving it a shot.

eric swalwell o SmallThere is no discernible mass groundswell for an Eric Swalwell presidential campaign.

The case against: He is a 38-year-old California congressman of little legislative distinction. He would appear to have minimal running room in a deep and accomplished Democratic field expected to grow to 20 or so — large enough to fill two baseball starting lineups, with another contender or two left to heckle from the dugout.

The case for: Why not?

Democratic-Republican Campaign logos“We don’t have time for vanity things,” Mr. Swalwell (shown at right) insisted in an interview this past week, the morning after he announced his candidacy on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” pledging to anchor his bid in a call for greater gun control. “We’re doing big things.”

That remains to be seen. But at the very least, if recent history is a guide, a run is likely to yield better things, perpetuating the victory-in-defeat incentive structure endemic to modern presidential politics.

washington post logoWashington Post, Health-care law more popular despite Trump’s and GOP’s repeated attempts to destroy it, Paige Winfield Cunningham​, April 13, 2019. Since its passage in 2010, 25 million more Americans are insured, with millions more getting coverage that is more comprehensive because of it. Even some Republicans who won elections vowing to "repeal and replace" now speak favorably of President Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

Media / Technology

llewellyn king photo logo

White House Chronicle, Opinion: Information Technology and Democracy — a Light That Failed, Llewellyn King (shown above), April 12, 2019. When the age of communication started (pick your time, but I think it was when we started sending print by telephone in the form of a fax), it was thought that dictators would fall, and democracy would be reinvigorated.

The first big disappointment was Saudi Arabia. When the Saudis began to get uncensored news and information, it was believed that the grip of the royal family and its extreme religious allies would be loosened. It did not happen. Instead, Saudi Arabia was spurred to use its oil wealth to push conservative Islam around the globe, especially in places where it was present but could be radicalized, including Pakistan and Bangladesh. They poured their money into madrassas — religious schools — that preached the Wahhabism, a strict and puritanical interpretation of Sunni Islam.

People ask me why, when the mainstream media daily points up President Donald Trump’s failures and transgressions, his supporters are unmoved, disdaining what is being revealed in favor of what they want to believe. They believe in Trump and they believe in his courtiers at Fox News Channel and on talk radio.

People do not react to raw information but, rather, to information that sits well with them for other reasons: what they are predisposed to believe.

Rupert Murdoch, the boss of Fox News, has had a genius, a real genius, for corralling those who felt ignored by society. He did it in Britain with his hugely successful tabloid newspaper, The Sun, and he has done it here with Fox News. In Britain and in the United States, he found and exploited a nativism that both countries had forgotten they had.

Fox News did not invent Trump; instead, the shoe fit.

How we react to the news depends on our involvement with it in tertiary ways. If you were already convinced of British exceptionalism, you would move toward the hostility to Europe expressed in The Sun. If you think immigrants take jobs, speak strange languages and are usurping our Americanism, you will be gung-ho for Trump’s southern border wall.

In the 1990s you could find, and I did, from Nicaragua to Zimbabwe, old-line communists lamenting the fall of the Soviet Union. They argued that it had not been given a chance. These people really believed that all that was wanted was more of what did not work.

If you are a Trump supporter, you are genuinely amazed that the mainstream media cannot see that what he is doing is great. Democrats and renegade Republicans, like columnist George Will, can find nothing, absolutely nothing, good in the Trump presidency.

People, including AOL founder Steve Case, talked idealistically about the internet in the days when it was getting going as the great, new democratic tool; a boon to global democracy. Wrong. If anything, it stirred up a destructive nationalism.

Information, I have noticed as a journalist who has worked on three continents, does not necessarily shape political opinion.

Political opinion tends to find the media that agree with it, not the other way. But after the two have mated, media can inflame its public partner. Good for two-party rivalry, but not for elucidation.

Venezuelan Update

washington post logoWashington Post, Venezuela’s military, despite U.S. expectations, has not turned on Maduro, Karen DeYoung and Mary Beth Sheridan, April 13, 2019. Underpaid, underfed and humiliated by the autocratic turn their country had taken, the armed forces were the linchpin of the Trump administration’s strategy to get the ruling government to step aside. Some U.S. officials predicted they would flip en masse within days. That hasn’t happened.

The Grayzone, Top Trump Advisors and Latin American Officials at Private DC Meeting, Max Blumenthal, April 13, 2019. The complete list of attendees for the private CSIS event on US military options against Venezuela appears at the bottom of this article.

The Washington, DC-based think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) hosted a private roundtable on April 10 called “Assessing the Use of Military Force in Venezuela.” A list of attendees was provided to The Grayzone and two participants confirmed the meeting took place. They refused to offer any further detail, however.

Among the roughly 40 figures invited to the off-the-record event to discuss potential US military action against Caracas were some of the most influential advisors on President Donald Trump’s Venezuela policy. They included current and former State Department, National Intelligence Council, and National Security Council officials, along with Admiral Kurt Tidd, who was until recently the commander of US SOUTHCOM.

Senior officials from the Colombian and Brazilian embassies like Colombian General Juan Pablo Amaya, as well as top DC representatives from Venezuelan coup leader Juan Guaido’s shadow government, also participated in the meeting.

On January 23, following backroom maneuvers, the United States openly initiated a coup attempt against Venezuela’s elected government by recognizing National Assembly president Juan Guaido as the country’s “interim president.”

Since then, Venezuela has endured a series of provocations and the steady escalation of punishing economic sanctions. President Nicolas Maduro has accused the US of attacks on the Simon Bolivar hydroelectric plant at the Guri dam, which have led to country-wide blackouts openly celebrated by top Trump officials.

In a March 5 call with Russian pranksters posing as the president of the Swiss Federation, US special envoy for Venezuela Elliot Abrams ruled out military action against Venezuela, revealing that he had only held out the threat to “make the Venezuelan military nervous.”

Since then, however, Guaido has failed to mobilize the national protest wave the Trump administration had anticipated, and the Venezuelan military has demonstrated unwavering loyalty to Maduro. In Washington, the sense of urgency has risen with each passing day.

World Crisis Radio, 'We need a Marshall Plan for Central America,' Webster G. Tarpley, April 13, 2019 (74 mins.). 'You need to have these people on your side" (beginnning at 48:50 mark).

Israeli Elections

Unz Review, Opinion: The Israeli Elections Came to Naught, Israel Shamir, April 13, 2019. Do not regret the results of Israeli elections. They were a non-event. Practically nothing has changed. Indeed many actors had hoped for change, but those hopes had no grounding in reality.

Israel is doing well, even exceedingly well. The country prospers. Despite high taxes, Israeli highways are crowded with new cars; Israeli housewives load their supermarket wagons with food for the Passover as if they prepare to die of overeating. The Israeli shekel is high like cotton in the summer, and all planes are full to the brim with Israeli vacationers. The weather has been playing for the incumbent [Benjamin Netanyahu, shown at right] as well: glorious Palestinian spring had brought out myriads of flowers and the blossom stays over the Holy Land.

In such a situation, people do not vote for change. And anyway, no real change had been offered. The new party of generals, called Blue-and-White, after the colours of Israeli national flag (it’s like calling an American party “Stars and Stripes”, or a British party, “Union Jack”), did not propose anything new. They said they would do the same, only better benjamin netanyahu frown(or worse, for the Palestinians). The old opposition parties of the Left Zionists, Labour and Meretz, have lost their voters: they migrated to the generals. They anyway had nothing to offer, except more gender disorder and identity politics.

Israelis would be ungrateful if they’d vote against the incumbent, and they knew what was good for them. The generals, and other opponents of Bibi, tried to make something of Netanyahu’s coming indictment for corruption; but the general public was not impressed. Apparently, these charges had been used too much and too often to derail a political enemy, and people stopped paying heed.

April 12

U.S. Immigration News

ny times logoICE logoNew York Times, White House Considered Releasing Migrants in ‘Sanctuary Cities,’ Michael D. Shear and Zolan Kanno-Youngs, April 12, 2019 (print ed.). Migrants would have been sent to select cities represented by Democratic lawmakers, according to people familiar with the proposal. Proponents said the plan would send a message to politicians who didn’t support the president’s immigration policies.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Inside the Russian effort to target Sanders supporters — and help elect Trump, Michael Kranish, April 12, 2019. The effort to target Bernie Sanders supporters has been a lesser-noted part of the Russian interference story. That strategy could receive new attention with the release of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s bernie sanders buttonreport.

After Bernie Sanders lost his primary campaign for president against Hillary Clinton in 2016, a Twitter account called Red Louisiana News reached out to djt maga hathis supporters to help sway the general election. “Conscious Bernie Sanders supporters already moving towards the best candidate Trump! #Feel the Bern #Vote Trump 2016,” the account tweeted.

The tweet was not actually from Louisiana, according to an analysis by Clemson University researchers. Instead, it was one of thousands of accounts identified as based in Russia, part of a cloaked effort to persuade supporters of the Vermont senator to elect Trump. “Bernie Sanders says his message resonates with Republicans,” said another Russian tweet.

washington post logoWashington Post, W. Samuel Patten sentenced to probation after steering Ukrainian money to Trump inaugural, Spencer S. Hsu, April 12, 2019. An American political consultant whose guilty plea marked the first confirmation that illegal foreign money was used to help fund Donald Trump’s inaugural committee was sentenced to probation Friday by a federal judge who cited his cooperation with U.S. prosecutors.

sam patten file headshot guilty plea 2018W. Samuel Patten, 47 (shown in a file photo), in August admitted steering $50,000 from a pro-Russian Ukrainian politician to Trump’s committee in an investigation spun off from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. Patten acknowledged he was helped by a Russian national who is a longtime associate of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and the case was referred to prosecutors with the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington and the Justice Department’s national security division.

In sparing Patten from prison, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson (right) accepted prosecutors’ request for leniency and noted no federal sentencing guideline directly applies to his offense of failing to register as a foreign lobbyist, which is punishable by up to five years in prison. Patten’s defense sought amy berman jacksonprobation citing the substantial assistance he provided in several ongoing, undisclosed investigations.

He was sentenced to three years of probation. 500 hours of community service and fined $5,000. Patten’s offenses were “not a technicality, and not an oversight,” Jackson said in court, but serious offenses calculated to influence public policy and opinion in the United States for a foreign government “without telling the American people that it was those very Ukrainians paying you to do the talking.”

Patten “earned the trust of the government and became a reliable and valuable resource” for Mueller’s Russia investigation and prosecutors with the U.S. attorney’s office, Patten’s attorney Stuart A. Sears said in sentencing papers.

U.S. Stonewalling Thwarts War Crime Prosecution

International Criminal Court (ICC), ICC judges reject opening of an investigation regarding Afghanistan situation, Staff report, April 12, 2019.  Today, Pre-Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court (ICC) rejected unanimously the request of the Prosecutor to proceed with an investigation for alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes, on the territory of in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. The judges decided that an investigation into the situation in Afghanistan at this stage would not serve the interests of justice. The Chamber is composed of Judge Antoine Kesia-Mbe Mindua, who will be appending a concurring separate opinion, Judge Tomoko Akane and Judge Rosario Salvatore Aitala.

On 20 November 2017, the Prosecutor had requested authorisation from Pre-Trial Judges to initiate an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in relation to the armed conflict in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan since 1 May 2003, as well as regarding similar crimes related to the armed conflict in Afghanistan allegedly committed in the territory of other States Parties to the Rome Statute since 1 July 2002.

The Chamber thoroughly checked the information submitted by the Prosecutor and considered that the request establishes a reasonable basis to consider that crimes within the ICC jurisdiction have been committed in Afghanistan and that potential cases would be admissible before the Court. However, the Chamber noted the time elapsed since the opening of the preliminary examination in 2006 and the political changing scene in Afghanistan since then, the lack of cooperation that the Prosecutor has received and which is likely to go scarcer should an investigation be authorized hampering the chances of successful investigation and prosecution, as well as the need for the Court to use its resources prioritizing activities that would have better chances to succeed.

The Chamber believes that, notwithstanding the fact all the relevant requirements are met as regards both jurisdiction and admissibility, the current circumstances of the situation in Afghanistan are such as to make the prospects for a successful investigation and prosecution extremely limited. Accordingly, it is unlikely that pursuing an investigation would result in meeting the objectives listed by the victims favouring the investigation. Thus the Chamber concluded that an investigation into the situation in Afghanistan at this stage would not serve the interests of justice and rejected the Prosecutor's request for authorization to investigate.

1970s CIA Deep State Plots

National Security Archive, Trump Administration Turns Over Massive Collection of Intelligence Records on Human Rights and Argentina, Edited by Carlos Osorio and Peter Kornbluh, April 12, 2019.

  • 47,000 Pages of CIA, FBI, NSC, DOD and State Dept. Records Touted as “Largest” Government-to-Government Transfer of Declassified Documentation.
  • Documents Spotlight Buenos Aires Base for International Death Squad Operations sponsored by Condor States; Record Ruthless Repression by Argentine Security Forces during Military Dictatorship, 1976-1983
  • National Security Archive Commends Completion of U.S. Government’s Special Argentina Project as ‘Model of Declassification Diplomacy’ and Major Contribution to the Cause of Human Rights and History

cia logoRevealing CIA “intelligence information cables” on Operation Condor are part of a major collection of records released on April 12 at a government event in Washington D.C., "Declassification Diplomacy: The United States Declassification Project for Argentina."

During the diplomatic ceremony, hosted by U.S. Archivist David Ferriero at the National Archives, U.S. officials turned over some 7500 CIA, FBI, DOD, NSC and State Department records—47,000 pages in total—to Argentina’s Minister of Justice and Human Rights, German Garavano. Garavano graciously thanked the Trump administration for fulfilling a formal request for the records by the Argentine government, made on the fortieth anniversary of the military coup during a state visit to Argentina by then-President Barack Obama.

Moreover, the declassification project has produced a historical roadmap that charts what and when U.S. national security agencies and policy makers knew about the human rights abuses in Argentina—and the actions they took, or failed to take, in response to detailed intelligence on internal and international repression by the military regime.

In his closing remarks at today’s ceremony, National Security Archive analyst Carlos Osorio, who served as an advisor to the Argentina Declassification Project, commended the U.S. government for pursuing what he called “one of the most comprehensive discretionary declassifications of sensitive intelligence records in recent history.” “The Argentina Project represents a new model of declassification diplomacy, and more,” Osorio said. “The release of these documents stands as a uniquely
valuable contribution to the cause of human rights, the cause of justice and the cause of our fundamental right-to-know.”

The National Security Archive today posted a selection of 18 CIA, FBI and State Department records from the newly released documents.

In late May 1976, the secret police chieftains of six Southern Cone military regimes gathered at a clandestine summit in Santiago, Chile, to create a “new unit, which was given the code name ‘Teseo’”—a reference to Theseus, the mythical Greek King of the Athenians and heroic slayer of the Minotaur, among other enemies. The mission of “Teseo” was to “conduct physical attacks against subversive targets” abroad, particularly militant Latin American leftists in Europe, according to formerly secret CIA intelligence reports turned over today to Argentina by the U.S. government, and posted for the first time by the nongovernmental National Security Archive.

The "Teseo" program represented a new initiative under "Operation Condor"—the clandestine collaboration of Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Brazil to strike at their opposition in the Southern Cone and beyond. At the time, the CIA also managed to obtain the “text of the agreement by Condor countries regulating their operations against subversive targets”—a comprehensive planning paper on financing, staffing, logistics, training, and selection of targets that reveals both the banal and dramatic details of organizing and implementing Condor’s “Teseo” death squad operations. The “Teseo” operations base would be located “at Condor 1 (Argentina).” Each member country was expected to donate $10,000 to offset operational costs; and dues of $200 would be paid “prior to the 30th of each month” for maintenance expenses of the operations center. Expenses for agents on assassination missions abroad were estimated at $3,500 per person for ten days, “with an additional $1000 first time out for clothing allowance.”

Individuals to be eliminated, the Condor agreement stated, would be proposed by member services with “final selection…by vote and on the basis of a simple majority.” As a chilling section titled “Execution of the Target” explained: “This is the responsibility of the operational team which will (A) intercept the target, (B) Carry out the Operation, and (C) Escape. With the exception of the team leaders,” the planning paper stated, “the members of the intelligence and operational teams should not know each other for security and functional reasons.”

WikiLeaks Founder Assange Arrested

washington post logoWashington Post, Julian Assange, expelled from his embassy perch, will fight extradition from jail, William Booth and Isaac Stanley-Becker​, April 12, 2019. The legal wrangling could take years, possibly reaching the European Court of Human Rights.

 julian assange arrested april 11 2019 Copyright Ruptly

Julian Assange, at center, is dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy (Ruptly Photo)

 ny times logoNew York Times, Julian Assange Is Arrested; Faces Charge in 2010 U.S. Leak, Eileen Sullivan and Richard Pérez-Peña, April 12, 2019 (print ed.). Britain Acts on U.S. Warrant Against WikiLeaks Founder. Mr. Assange faces one count of conspiracy to hack a computer related to the downloading of U.S. secrets by Chelsea Manning in 2010. The single charge stems from what prosecutors said was his agreement to break a password to a classified United States government computer.

The United States has charged WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange of conspiring to hack a computer as part of the 2010 release of reams of secret American documents, according to an indictment unsealed Thursday, putting him just one flight away from being in American custody after years of seclusion in the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

The single charge, conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, was filed a year earlier, in March 2018, and stems from what prosecutors said was his agreement to break a password to a classified United States government computer. It carries a penalty of up to five years in prison and is significant in that it is not an espionage charge, a detail that will come as a relief to press freedom advocates. The United States government had considered until at least last year charging him with an espionage-related offense.

Mr. Assange, 47, has been living at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since 2012. British authorities arrested him on Thursday, heavily bearded and disheveled. A dramatic video showed him shackled and being carried out of the embassy and forced into a police van. He was detained partly in connection with an American extradition warrant after he was evicted by the Ecuadoreans.

Mr. Assange has been in the sights of the United States government since his organization’s 2010 disclosures. Most recently, Mr. Assange has been under attack for his organization’s release during the 2016 presidential campaign of thousands of emails stolen from the computer systems of the Democratic National Committee, leading to a series of revelations that embarrassed the party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign. United States investigators have said that the systems were hacked by Russian agents; the conspiracy charge against Mr. Assange unsealed Thursday is not related to the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s election influence.

Mr. Assange will have the right to contest the United States extradition request in British courts. Most people who fight extradition requests argue that the case is politically motivated rather than driven by legitimate legal concerns.

In 2010 WikiLeaks released American files that documented the killing of civilians and journalists and the abuse of detainees by forces of the United States and other countries, airing officials’ unvarnished, often unflattering views of allies and of American actions.

An Army private, Bradley Manning — now known as Chelsea Manning — was convicted of leaking that collection of files and was sentenced to 35 years in prison. President Barack Obama commuted the sentence after Ms. Manning had served almost seven years.

ny times logoNew York Times, Julian Assange: A Foe of Secrecy Who Inspires Admiration and Fury, Scott Shane and Steven Erlanger, April 12, 2019 (print ed.). From his beginnings as a teenage hacker in Australia to his arrest this week in London, the WikiLeaks founder has been a deeply divisive figure. He has helped empower whistle-blowers and disgruntled insiders, but has never been satisfied with the role of neutral provider of information.

The shaky video clips of Julian Assange’s arrest flashed around the world on Thursday, the white-bearded prophet of the age of leaks being hauled by unsmiling security officers to a gray van marked Police.

“We must resist!” he cried. “You can resist!” It was a scene that the very image-conscious Mr. Assange might appreciate: one man literally fighting the all-powerful state.

It was also the latest — and surely not the last — dramatic turn in a career marked by both brilliant achievement and dubious judgment. Mr. Assange has long had a knack for celebrity, and as a tech-savvy, global, almost stateless figure, he captured the new influence the internet could give to individual citizens.

His creation of WikiLeaks helped empower a generation of whistle-blowers and disgruntled insiders who could operate on an industrial scale, providing disclosures by the terabyte and enraging the powerful in many countries. WikiLeaks collaborated closely with major world publications, including The New York Times, in the release of secret records on the American-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and a quarter-million confidential State Department cables.

ny times logoNew York Times, Is Assange’s Arrest a Threat to the Free Press? Michelle Goldberg, right, April 12, 2019 (print ed.). Last michelle goldberg thumbNovember, federal prosecutors accidentally revealed, in an unrelated court document, that a sealed indictment had been filed against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Many people concerned with civil liberties, including some who despise Assange, were alarmed by the idea that he could be punished for his role in exposing American government secrets.

At the time, the public didn’t know what the actual charges were. Now that Assange has been dragged from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he’s lived for almost seven years, and is facing extradition to the United States, we do. He’s been indicted for conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, a result of his alleged attempts nearly a decade ago to help former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning crack a password to a government computer.

These charges do not pose quite the threat to a free press that some feared, because hacking is not standard journalistic practice. “The indictment does not charge Assange for the act of publishing, which would have been a serious Rubicon crossed,” Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s project on speech, privacy and technology, told me. But, as Wizner emphasizes, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be worried about what Donald Trump’s Justice Department is up to. Elements of the Assange indictment could still set a dangerous precedent.

julian assange cropped with un header“It was part of the conspiracy that Assange (shown in a file photo) and Manning took measures to conceal Manning as the source of the disclosure of classified records to WikiLeaks,” says the indictment.

Most if not all investigative journalists take such measures to protect their sources. The indictment says, “It was part of the conspiracy that Assange encouraged Manning to provide information and records from departments and agencies of the United States.” Journalists often do this when they urge whistle-blowers to come forward. “It was part of the conspiracy that Assange and Manning used a special folder on a cloud drop box of WikiLeaks” to transmit classified information, the indictment continues. Like many news organizations, The New York Times does something similar, soliciting tips through an encrypted submission system called SecureDrop.

For any of these actions to become part of a criminal conspiracy, there has to be a crime. But as Georgetown law professor David Super points out, “We have right now a criminal code that is bursting at the seams with offenses,” making it easy to break laws without realizing it.

A prosecutor, then, might be able to find a pretext for a similar conspiracy case if, for example, someone decides to leak the Mueller report, or Trump’s tax returns. “This pattern of behavior has already been turned against journalists in many parts of the world,” Super said. Journalists “get prosecuted for pretty mundane stuff, some of which they probably did, but they wouldn’t have been charged for if they didn’t make the regime unhappy.”

Money Management: Trump Style

washington post logoivanka trump twitter portraitWashington Post, ‘She’s very good with numbers’: Trump says he considered daughter Ivanka to lead the World Bank, John Wagner, April 12, 2019. President Trump considered nominating his eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, to be president of the World Bank in part because “she’s very good with numbers,” according to a new interview published Friday.

Speaking to the Atlantic, Trump lavished praise on his daughter, a 37-year-old White House adviser (shown in her Twitter photo), and suggested she would be suitable for other administration positions, including U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

“She’s a natural diplomat,” Trump said. “She would’ve been great at the United Nations, as an example.”

Asked why he didn’t nominate her, Trump replied: “If I did, they’d say nepotism, when it would’ve had nothing to do with nepotism. But she would’ve been incredible.”

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary: Trump's international financial policy: "What's yours is mine," Wayne Madsen, April 12, 2019 (subscription required; excerpted with permission). With former Bear Stearns executive David Malpass heading up the World Bank and one-time Goldman Sachs executive Steve Mnuchin as Secretary of the Treasury, Donald Trump and his coterie of grifters are in prime positions to plunder the wealth and natural resources of countries around the world.

Both Malpass and Mnuchin are hedge fund managers. Exploitation of faltering national economies and buying up state-owned resources are a major specialty of hedge funds.

Papal Criticism

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Pope Benedict shows us how the Catholic Church went so terribly off-course, David Von Drehle, April 12, 2019.There was consternation among Vatican-watchers in 2013 when Pope Benedict XVI became the first pontiff in centuries to resign the papacy rather than die on the job. Would it not be confusing to have two men residing in Roman palaces to whom the Holy Spirit had entrusted the “claves regni caelorum” — the very keys to heaven?

pope benedict XVI 2010 10 17 4Now that Benedict, born Joseph Ratzinger (shown in a file photo), has broken his six-year official silence to quibble with his successor on the topic of sex abuse in the church, confusion is no longer a hypothesis. It’s murky indeed when Pope A offers veiled criticism of Pope B in the pages of a Bavarian periodical. As anyone who has co-parented children knows, authority figures who are not on the same page will be played against one another. So it is with Roman Catholic leaders today: Conservatives who don’t like the tendencies of Pope Francis are looking to their preferred pope for the doctrinal equivalent of ice cream and a later bedtime.

But, in another respect, Benedict’s strange, self-justifying public letter is clarifying. It shows, not always intentionally, how the Catholic Church went so terribly off-course, and why this important institution is having so much trouble finding its way. When a hierarchy makes itself accountable only to God, but at the same time grants itself sole power to speak on behalf of the Almighty, and then cloisters itself amid opulence and toadies, the result is a monstrous indifference.

April 11

More On Assange Arrest

Euronews, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange arrested and dragged out of embassy, Rachael Kennedy, April 11, 2019. WikLeaks co-founder Julian Assange has been arrested at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, ending his seven-year asylum tenure there. The Metropolitan Police confirmed the arrest was based on an extradition request on behalf of the US, and for skipping bail in the UK, in a statement released on Thursday morning.

Assange is wanted in the US over an investigation into WikiLeaks' leaking of classified documents concerning the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He is wanted in the UK for breaching his conditions of bail in 2012 — it was granted amid a case that would see him extradited to Sweden to face charges of rape and sexual assault.

[Justice Integrity Project Editor's Note: Assange was never charged in Sweden and the procedures strongly suggested a political vendetta and possible entrapment and smear by intelligence agencies and their allies in the media and courts, according to our extensive reporting beginning in 2010.]

united kingdom flagTo avoid extradition, Assange took up asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy, where he had been until today.

Swedish prosecutors eventually dropped the rape charge in 2017, however, the alleged victim indicated on Thursday a wish to reopen the case, following Assange's arrest. Chief Prosecutor Ingrid Isgren said Sweden was watching the developments, but was not yet able to "take a position" with the information available.

Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno said the decision to remove Assange's asylum was made over "repeated violations" to international conventions and "daily life protocols."

The arrest came just a day after WikiLeaks held a press conference saying it found Assange had been a victim of an "extensive spying operation." Individuals in Spain had demanded a €3 million ransom for a "massive trove of documents" accumulated on him, which included video and audio recordings inside the Ecuadorian embassy, and other documents.

Wikileaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said he believed the documents were going to be handed over to US authorities to aid in an extradition case, but at the time he said he had no hard evidence to prove it.

Related stories below

 ny times logoNew York Times, Julian Assange Arrested on U.S. Extradition Warrant, London Police Say, Richard Pérez-Peña, April 11, 2019. The WikiLeaks founder was arrested at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he had lived since 2012, after Ecuador withdrew the asylum it had granted him.

lenin moreno ecuadorPresident Lenín Moreno (left) of Ecuador said on Twitter that his country had decided to stop sheltering Mr. Assange after “his repeated violations to international conventions and daily-life protocols,” a decision that cleared the way for the British authorities to detain him.

The relationship between Mr. Assange and Ecuador has been a rocky one, even as it offered him refuge and even citizenship, and WikiLeaks said last Friday that Ecuador “already has an agreement with the UK for his arrest” and predicted that Mr. Assange would be expelled from the embassy “within ‘hours to days.’”

Fox News,Watch police drag Assange out of Ecuadorian Embassy in handcuffs, Greg Palkot, April 11, 2019. British police are seen dragging the white-bearded WikiLeaks founder out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in a dramatic video after Ecuador withdraws his asylum.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump disavows past enthusiasm for WikiLeaks after Assange’s arrest, John Wagner and Felicia Sonmez, April 11, 2019. “I know nothing about WikiLeaks,” the president said. But during the 2016 campaign, he reportedly cited the organization 141 times at 56 events.

Sudan's Leader Ousted After Genocide Claims

omar al bashir african union summit 2012 us navy photo

Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir shown in 2012 at the African Union Summit (U.S. Navy photo).

ny times logoNew York Times, Omar Hassan al-Bashir Is Removed as Sudan’s President, Joseph Goldstein, Declan Walsh and Austin Ramzy, April 11, 2019. The leader was forced out after months of protests. He is accused of war crimes and genocide against his own people. The defense minister said that Mr. al-Bashir was taken into custody and that the military would be in charge during a two-year transition period.

Sudan’s military ousted President Omar al-Bashir on Thursday, the defense minister announced, ending a 30-year authoritarian rule in the face of mass street protests that have swept the country.

Defense Minister Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf said that Mr. al-Bashir had been taken into custody and that the government had been dissolved and the Constitution suspended. He said there would be a two-year transition period, with the military in charge, and announced a 10 p.m. curfew.

Mr. al-Bashir, 75, who has long been regarded as a pariah in the West and is wanted by the International Criminal Court on genocide charges in connection with atrocities in Darfur, had ruled Sudan longer than any leader since the country gained independence in 1956.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Over 30 years, Mr. al-Bashir forged a maze of security agencies and militias to bind his often ruthless rule, Declan Walsh, April 11, 2019. Even as he teetered, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir (shown in a file photo at right) loved to tell the story about his broken tooth.

omar al bashirAs a schoolboy working on a construction site, he told supporters in January, he fell and broke the tooth while carrying a heavy load. Instead of seeking treatment he rinsed his mouth with saltwater and kept working.

Later, after he joined the army, he refused a silver tooth implant because he wanted to remember his hardships. “This one,” he said, pointing to a gap in his mouth, as supporters erupted into laughter.

The story was a way for Mr. al-Bashir, who was ousted Thursday after 30 years of iron-fisted rule over Sudan, to play up his humble origins — to show that he remained a man of the people who, like him, hailed from dusty farming villages on the Nile.

Trump Probes

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigation/commentary: Is William Barr a "peripheral third party" in the Mueller report? Wayne Madsen (WMR editor, syndicated columnist, author), April 11, 2019 (subscription required; excerpted with permission). Attorney General William Barr told the House Appropriations Committee that the 400-page report by Robert Mueller william barr new oon the 2016 Trump campaign’s foreign connections is being redacted of all information dealing with grand jury hearings, information that would reveal intelligence sources or methods, information on other current investigations, and information that would “unduly infringe on the personal privacy and representational interests of peripheral third parties.”

Barr may have a major conflict-of-interest in the last category. While many pundits are viewing “peripheral third parties” as Donald Trump daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, as well as Trump’s two sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, the category of third parties might include Barr himself.

nancy pelosi djt

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump has made the mistake of awakening a monster, Bill Palmer, April 11, 2019. Here’s what someone once said about Nancy Pelosi: “She’ll cut your head off and you won’t even know you’re bleeding.” That quote came from Pelosi’s own daughter. The current Speaker of the House is so politically savvy, calm, and collected, she can do a lot of damage to her opponents while smiling the entire time. Here’s the thing. Pelosi is no longer smiling. Not even close.

bill palmer report logo headerWhen Nancy Pelosi became Speaker of the House earlier this year, she said that impeaching Donald Trump at that time wasn’t worth it, and she’d wait until the Mueller probe and/or other investigations turned up more about Trump’s crimes. It was a wise move. If she’d pushed forward with impeachment three months ago, it would have gotten through the House but certainly not the Senate, and all it would have done was make Trump more emboldened.

So Pelosi has held her fire, preferring to let the House committee chairs push forward with their probes, all while waiting for Trump to hand her an opening. He just did. Trump’s Attorney General William Barr thumbed his nose at Congress about the Mueller report yesterday, while repeating one of Trump’s most deranged phony conspiracy theories. Then Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin thumbed his nose at Congress as well when he announced that he was illegally refusing to turn over Trump’s tax returns.

These two scoundrels just declared war against American democracy, on Trump’s behalf. If Trump wants a war, and he clearly does, Nancy Pelosi is going to give him one. When she spoke before the cameras yesterday and accused Barr of having gone “off the rails,” you could clearly see from her tone and body language that Trump and his stooges had crossed her red line.

ny times logoNew York Times, Retiring as a Judge, Trump’s Sister Ends Court Inquiry Into Her Role in Tax Dodges, Russ Buettner and Susanne Craig, April 10, 2019. Maryanne Trump Barry faced complaints of judicial misconduct after a New York Times investigation found she had engaged in fraudulent tax schemes with her siblings. President Trump’s older sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, has retired as a federal appellate judge, ending an investigation into whether she violated judicial conduct rules by participating in fraudulent tax schemes with her siblings.

The court inquiry stemmed from complaints filed last October, after an investigation by The New York Times found that the Trumps had engaged in dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud, that greatly increased the inherited wealth of Mr. Trump and his siblings. Judge Barry not only benefited financially from most of those tax schemes, The Times found; she was also in a position to influence the actions taken by her family.

Judge Barry, now 82, has not heard cases in more than two years but was still listed as an inactive senior judge, one step short of full retirement. In a letter dated Feb. 1, a court official notified the four individuals who had filed the complaints that the investigation was “receiving the full attention” of a judicial conduct council. Ten days later, Judge Barry filed her retirement papers.

The status change rendered the investigation moot, since retired judges are not subject to the conduct rules. The people who filed the complaints were notified last week that the matter had been dropped without a finding on the merits of the allegations. The decision has not yet been made public, but copies were provided to The Times by two of the complainants. Both are involved in the legal profession.

Judicial council reviews can result in the censure or reprimand of federal judges, and in extremely rare cases, a referral to the House of Representatives for impeachment.

In retirement, Judge Barry is entitled to receive annually the salary she earned when she last met certain workload requirements. Though the exact figure was not immediately available, it appears to be between $184,500 and $217,600.

The Times investigation focused on how the profits and ownership of the real estate empire built by the president’s father, Fred C. Trump, were transferred to Donald J. Trump and his siblings, often in ways designed to dodge gift and estate taxes.

A lawyer for the president, Charles J. Harder, said last fall, “The New York Times’s allegations of fraud and tax evasion are 100 percent false, and highly defamatory.”

 djt smiling file

DCReport.com, Investigative commentary: The Tyranny of Donald J. Trump, David Cay Johnston, right, April 11, 2019. Two Generations of Tax Cheating, and Now He Holds Himself and david cay johnston headshotHis Family Above the Law. Donald J. Trump and his team have now openly declared that he is above the law rather than, as our Constitution provides, a public servant whose duty is to faithfully execute the law. His administration is taking numerous steps that move us in the direction of a Trumpian dictatorship by defeating the rule of law, something I’ve warned about since 2016. We’ll look at one aspect of this today: Trump family taxes.

Trump and his team insist that no one is ever going to see his tax returns, which he promised voters he would make public as every president has done back to Richard Nixon.

Now his sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, has scurried away from the investigative spotlight of her fellow federal judges, who were looking into whether she was a tax cheat in black robes. By resigning from the federal bench, Trump’s older sister ends that inquiry, the kind of legal favor our system affords those in positions of power to escape scrutiny.

As for defiance of the law, Trump, his personal lawyers and the White House acting chief of staff all declared in recent days that they will defy a 1924 anti-corruption statute that gives certain members of Congress, and one Congressional employee, the unqualified authority to examine any tax return.

No previous president has defied the statute ordering the Treasury to handover tax returns, and no document request has ever been refused.

Trump claims that “the law is 100% on my side” in refusing the turn over the documents. In fact, the law is 100% against Trump. When I asked a half dozen former top Congressional tax-writing staffers about Trump’s claim some of them laughed out loud, while others said in sober turns that there is no legal argument on Trump’s side – none.

The most direct Trump declaration that he is above the law is his directing the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service to keep his federal income tax returns locked up. No previous president has defied this statute and no document request has ever been refused, a host of people who worked for the tax-writing committees on Capitol Hill told me.

Trump’s arguments are mere political rhetoric. But it gets worse than that.

Trump lawyer William S. Consovoy in an April 5 letter asked Treasury to hold back the documents. Consovoy asserted mind-reading powers in his letter: “His request is a transparent effort by one political party to harass an official from the other party because they dislike his politics and speech.”

Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, declared on Fox News Sunday that the Trump administration will “never” comply with the law.

Trump and his team are now openly declaring that Trump is above the law, a clear step toward a dictatorship. Our David Cay Johnston explains in the first of several pieces examining official lawlessness.

Manhattan DC Role In Epstein Scandal

New York Post, DA knew Jeffrey Epstein was a dangerous pedophile when arguing for leniency, Susan Edelman and Rebecca Rosenberg, April 11, 2019. The Manhattan DA’s office had graphic and detailed evidence of pedophile billionaire Jeffrey Epstein’s depravity when a prosecutor inexplicably argued for leniency during his 2011 sex offender registry hearing, The Post has learned.

In advance of the hearing, then-deputy chief of Sex Crimes, Jennifer Gaffney, had been given a confidential state assessment that deemed Epstein to be highly dangerous and likely to keep preying on young girls, the DA’s office admitted in its own appellate brief eight months after the hearing.

The brief has been sealed since 2011, but The Post obtained it Thursday after suing to get it unsealed.

Jeffrey Epstein Harvard University It describes a state assessment’s findings that Epstein (right) should be monitored in New York as a level three offender — reserved for the most dangerous.

In making its assessment, the NY state Board of Examiners of Sex Offenders evaluated the sworn, corroborated accounts of numerous young girls who had been lured into Epstein’s Palm Beach, Fla., compound in 2005 and 2006.

Girls aged 14 to 17 years old were recruited and paid $200 to $1,000 to give Epstein erotic massages that included sexual contact, intercourse and rape, Palm Beach cops found.

Epstein pleaded guilty in Palm Beach to abusing just one of these young victims, and was required to register as a sex offender in New York since he had an Upper East Side home.

Manhattan prosecutors were aware the state board had assigned Epstein a risk assessment of 130, a number that is “solidly above the 110 qualifying number for level three,” with “absolutely no basis for downward departure,” the brief notes.

U.S. Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Pete Buttigieg Challenges Religious Right on Their Own Turf, Jeremy W. Peters, April 11, 2019 (print ed.). Mr. Buttigieg has confronted evangelicals like Vice pete buttigieg mayor south bend inPresident Mike Pence, questioning the moral authority of religious leaders who have stayed silent on President Trump’s conduct.

As a religious gay man who believes his party has ceded discussion of religion and spirituality to Republicans, Pete Buttigieg (right), a Democratic candidate for president, is talking about God and sexuality in an unconventional way: He is using the language of faith to confront the Christian right on territory they have long claimed as their own.

Mr. Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., has provoked a backlash from conservatives in the last few days after questioning the moral authority of evangelicals like Vice President Mike Pence who remain silent about President Trump’s personal conduct yet disapprove of same-sex marriages and oppose gay rights.

washington post logoWashington Post, 4 Senate Republicans signal opposition to putting Cain on Fed, all but sinking nomination, Damian Paletta, Mike DeBonis and Seung Min Kim​, April 11, 2019. Herman Cain, a 2012 presidential candidate, has not been formally nominated. But President Trump has publicly announced his intention to do so despite objections from Democrats and some Republicans.

Politician's Libel Suits

Fresno Bee, Devin Nunes’ lawsuits put spotlight on his attorney’s suspension, GOP defamation lawsuits, Kate Irby, April 11, 2019. When Rep. Devin Nunes (a California Republican shown below right) appeared on Fox News to announce his defamation lawsuit against Twitter and a parody account, “Devin Nunes’ cow,” he declared the legal filing would be the first of many.

He followed through with another lawsuit this week against McClatchy, parent company of The Fresno Bee.

devin nunes file flagBoth lawsuits were filed by an attorney based in Charlottesville, Virginia, a solo-practitioner named Steven S. Biss who is making a name for himself suing media organizations for defamation.

With the Nunes lawsuits, Biss has thrust himself into the national spotlight and, like his client, opened himself up to criticism on Twitter and elsewhere.

The attention exposed a factual error in Biss’ initial filing against McClatchy. It also drove social media discussion this week about a similar case he filed that was dismissed without a judgment and his year-long suspension from practicing law a decade ago.

Biss, a graduate of University of Richmond School of Law, did not return a call requesting comment.

Nunes announced the lawsuit seeking $150 million from McClatchy on Monday night. It accuses the publisher and Republican political strategist Liz Mair of defamation and conspiracy against Nunes, citing stories by The Fresno Bee and McClatchy. The stories detailed Nunes’ investment in a winery that had been sued over a yacht party that allegedly included underage sex workers and cocaine, and Nunes’ use of Political Action Committee money to buy tickets to Celtics games.

Less than a day after filing, the lawsuit against McClatchy appeared to be amended Tuesday due to a factual inaccuracy that Biss was lambasted for online.

In the original version of the lawsuit, Nunes and Biss accuse a Fresno Bee reporter of emphasizing the words “woman,” “Devin,” and “cocaine” with a bold font in a tweet about the story on the winery lawsuit. While a screenshot of the tweet in the original lawsuit showed the words in bold font, the original tweet has text only in plain font.

Law blogs called it an “embarrassing mistake over how Twitter works,” and Twitter users started pointing out the discrepancy, noting that when users search certain words on Twitter the resulting tweets show the words searched for in bold.

Voting Begins In India

washington post logoWashington Post, Voting begins in the race to lead India, the world’s largest democracy, Joanna Slater, April 11, 2019 (print ed.). About 1 in 8 people on the planet are eligible to vote. The contest will take six weeks, with results announced May 23. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is appealing to national pride amid economic challenges.

india flag mapWhen Narendra Modi takes the stage — right on time — he delivers a speech bristling with nationalist fervor. Together, he tells the crowd, they will create a “new India.” It is a place where the armed forces are respected, the corrupt are fearful, and terrorists are killed “in their homes.” Modi watches over the nation, he says, while his opponents undermine it.

Nearly 900 million eligible voters are set to choose the leader of the world’s largest democracy in staggered polls starting Thursday. But Modi is framing the election as a referendum on a single man: himself.

ny times logoNew York Times, Under Modi, a Hindu Nationalist Surge Has Further Divided India, Jeffrey Gettleman, Kai Schultz, Suhasini Raj and Hari Kumar, April 11, 2019. A conservative political movement that strives to make India a Hindu state has never been more enfranchised at every level of government. Now, with national elections underway, and another term likely for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, minorities are worried.

In the machine tools market in the catacombs of Old Delhi, Muslims dominate the business stalls. But at night, they say, they are increasingly afraid to walk alone. And when they talk politics, their voices drop to a whisper.

“I could be lynched right now and nobody would do anything about it,” said Abdul Adnan, a Muslim who sells drill bits. “My government doesn’t even consider me Indian. How can that be when my ancestors have lived here hundreds of years?”

“Brother, let me tell you,” Mr. Adnan added with a sigh, “I live with fear in my heart.”

When Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, was elected in 2014, it was with broad support for his sweeping promises to modernize India’s economy, fight corruption and aggressively assert India’s role in the world. Five years later, he is widely seen as having made at least some progress on those issues.

U.S. Crime, Courts

ny times logoNew York Times, Former Obama Aide Indicted on Charges of Lying to Justice Dept., Kenneth P. Vogel and Katie Benner, April 11, 2019. The charges against Gregory Craig grew out of the investigation led by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.

Gregory CraigGregory B. Craig, a White House counsel in the Obama administration, was charged on Thursday with lying to the Justice Department and concealing information about work he did in 2012 for the Russia-aligned government of Ukraine.

The indictment of Mr. Craig, 74, stemmed from an investigation initiated by the office of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.

An Ivy League-educated lawyer who held prominent positions in the administrations of President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama, Mr. Craig becomes the first person associated with the Democratic Party to be charged in a case linked to the special counsel’s investigation.

Before the indictment, Mr. Craig’s lawyers asserted that the case against their client was flimsy, pointing out that Mr. Mueller’s team referred it to federal prosecutors in Manhattan last year for potential prosecution related to foreign lobbying laws, but that they did not bring charges. Instead, the case was moved in January to Washington.

ny times logoNew York Times, Retiring as a Judge, Trump’s Sister Ends Court Inquiry Into Her Role in Tax Dodges, Russ Buettner and Susanne Craig, April 10, 2019. Maryanne Trump Barry faced complaints of judicial misconduct after a New York Times investigation found she had engaged in fraudulent tax schemes with her siblings.
 Maryanne Trump Barry, President Trump’s older sister, faced accusations of judicial misconduct over her role in the fraudulent tax schemes reported by The Times. She decided to retire, making her immune from misconduct proceedings.

President Trump’s older sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, has retired as a federal appellate judge, ending an investigation into whether she violated judicial conduct rules by participating in fraudulent tax schemes with her siblings.

The court inquiry stemmed from complaints filed last October, after an investigation by The New York Times found that the Trumps had engaged in dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud, that greatly increased the inherited wealth of Mr. Trump and his siblings. Judge Barry not only benefited financially from most of those tax schemes, The Times found; she was also in a position to influence the actions taken by her family.

washington post logoWashington Post, Michael Avenatti charged with 36 federal crimes, including tax fraud and bank fraud, Lindsey Bever, April 11, 2019. Attorney Michael Avenatti (shown below) faces 36 criminal charges after he was indicted by a grand jury in Southern California.

michael avenatti twitter photoAvenatti, known for representing Stormy Daniels in lawsuits against President Trump, was arrested last month in New York for allegedly attempting to extort millions of dollars from Nike. Separately, he was charged in a case in California for allegedly using a client’s settlement money to pay for his personal expenses.

The grand jury indictment, which was handed down late Wednesday, charges the attorney with wire fraud, bank fraud and tax fraud, among other things.

Specifically, it alleges that Avenatti stole from his clients, including from a paraplegic man, and took payroll taxes from employees at his Seattle-based coffee chain, Tully’s, according to the AP. The AP reported that the attorney is also charged with failing to pay taxes, lying in bankruptcy proceedings and committing bank fraud.

Former Lobbyist Joins Trump Cabinet

ny times logoNew York Times, The Senate confirmed David Bernhardt, a former oil lobbyist, as interior secretary, Coral Davenport, April 11, 2019. The Senate on Thursday voted to confirm David Bernhardt, a former lobbyist for the oil and agribusiness industries, as secretary of the interior. The confirmation of Mr. Bernhardt to his new post coincided with calls from more than a dozen Democrats and government watchdogs for formal investigations into his past conduct.

Senators voted 56-41, largely along party lines, in favor of Mr. Bernhardt’s confirmation. Two Democrats, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the senior Democrat on the Senate Energy Committee, and Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, crossed party lines to vote in favor of Mr. Bernhardt.

As interior secretary, Mr. Bernhardt, who has already played a central role in designing many of Mr. Trump’s policies for expanding drilling and mining, will now serve as the nation’s senior steward of its 500 million acres of public land and vast coastal waters.

Pope Emeritus Decries Gay 'Cliques'

washington post logopope benedict XVI 2010 10 17 4Washington Post, In letter on abuse crisis, Pope Benedict describes seminaries filled with ‘homosexual cliques,’ Chico Harlan and Stefano Pitrelli​, April 11, 2019. The pope emeritus (shown in a file photo) attributed the clerical sex abuse crisis to a breakdown of church and societal moral teaching, a markedly different explanation than that offered by Pope Francis.

Sports / Sexual Assault

ny times logoNew York Times, University Discouraged Reporting of Rape Allegation, Woman Says, Marc Tracy, April 11, 2019 (print ed.). A woman who accused three basketball players and sued Michigan State spoke publicly about her case for the first time.

Robin and David Kowalski barely recognized their daughter Bailey when she was visiting home in White Lake, Mich., in the spring of 2015.

Their perennially positive daughter, who was about to finish her freshman year at Michigan State, was sullen. She had suddenly decided to abandon her long-held dream of being a sports journalist, and she refused to tell her mother, in whom she typically confided everything, why.

It was not until October, after months of erratic behavior, that Ms. Kowalski told her parents that she had been raped by three Michigan State basketball players that April. The incident left her depressed and considering harming herself. She dropped out of college for a while and received counseling. She gave up sports journalism for good.

Last year, Ms. Kowalski, 22, who is speaking publicly about her case for the first time, sued Michigan State in federal court for violating her rights under Title IX, the federal law mandating gender equity in higher education, as a Jane Doe. The lawsuit asserts that Michigan State mishandles sexual misconduct complaints against athletes. One woman said two football players raped her in 2009, but she was not advised of her Title IX rights, the lawsuit said, and another woman said three basketball players raped her in 2010, after which the accusations were not reported outside the athletic department.

U.S. Immigration Planning ICE logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Vehicles are waiting as long as 10 hours to cross U.S.-Mexico border as officers handle influx of migrants, Maria Sacchetti, David J. Lynch, Nick Miroff and Roxana Popescu, April 11, 2019 (print ed.). The clogged checkpoints are frustrating business leaders, local residents and even Mexico’s foreign minister, who called the reassignment of hundreds of border officers to other parts of the nearly 2,000-mile boundary a “very bad idea.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Why is Julián Castro the only 2020 Democrat with an immigration plan? April 11, 2019 (print ed.).(podcast). Michael Scherer on why Julián Castro is the only 2020 Democrat with an immigration plan. Emily Rauhala on Yazidi refugees in Canada. And Joel Achenbach on the first picture of a black hole.

New Brexit Delay Offer

washington post logounited kingdom flagWashington Post, European leaders offer Brexit delay, averting chaotic Friday exit, Michael Birnbaum and William Booth​, April 11, 2019 (print ed.). British Prime Minister Theresa May had asked for an extension until the end of June, but E.U. leaders are tired of emergency Brexit summits and gave her until Oct. 31.

More Commentary On Assange Arrest

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason the United States chose right now to take down Julian Assange, Bill Palmer, April 11, 2019. UK authorities just hauled WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange out of the Ecuadorian Embassy, based on an extradition request from the United States. It’s a move that a lot of people have been waiting a long time for – particularly with regard to finally getting answers in the 2016 Trump-Russia election scandal. But the question must be asked: why now? There are two potentially plausible scenarios, so let’s lay them out.

bill palmer report logo headerFirst there’s the doomsday scenario: new Attorney General William Barr fired Special Counsel Robert Mueller before he could get to Assange, and now Barr is seizing Assange to try to make sure the truth never comes out. Considering that Assange is being arrested just weeks after Mueller’s investigation abruptly ended under highly suspicious circumstances, and Barr’s obviously corrupt desire to protect Trump at all costs, this does seem plausible.

julian assange indicter imageThen there’s essentially the opposite scenario: the takedown of Assange (right) is just the latest move by the non-corrupt elements in the DOJ to continue carrying out Robert Mueller’s gameplan, and Barr either wouldn’t or couldn’t stop the takedown from happening. We’ve already seen various DOJ prosecutors pushing forward with Mueller’s grand jury work against Roger Stone, and whoever’s financial records are being targeted by the subpoena of that mystery foreign government owned company.

Legal experts are saying that it could take several months (or longer) before the Assange extradition process plays out and he’s handed over to the United States. In the meantime he’ll be held in UK custody, where U.S. investigators can petition to interview him. So if and when House investigative leaders like Adam Schiff ask to travel to London to interview Assange about the Trump-Russia scandal, we’ll see if the DOJ tries to work with or against such requests – and that’ll tell us why the DOJ made this move now.

Arab Emirates & Israel

Strategic Culture Foundation, Analysis: The Dis-United Arab Emirates, Wayne Madsen, April 11, 2019. A recent Beverly Hills, California political campaign fundraiser for Donald elliott broidyTrump, co-sponsored by Republican National Committee deputy national finance chairman Elliott Broidy – whose Los Angeles office was raided in March of this year by the Federal Bureau of Investigation – is raising eyebrows in Middle Eastern capitals.

Broidy (right), a major figure in the Republican Jewish Coalition, is under law enforcement investigation for selling access to Trump and other administration officials. FBI agents seized documents in Broidy’s office related to potentially illegal “pay-to-play” operations involving Broidy’s firms and the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, in addition to a Broidy extortion attempt against Qatar.

April 10

Trump Watch

washington post logoirs logoWashington Post, Treasury says it will miss Democrats’ deadline for turning over Trump tax returns, Jeff Stein and Damian Paletta, April 10, 2019. In a letter, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also noted several criticisms of Democrats’ request, including accusations that it was politically motivated.

Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, Ron Burkle, Billionaire Investor, Is Said to Be in Talks to Buy National Enquirer, Edmund Lee and Andrew Ross Sorkin, April 11, 2019.  The owners of The National Enquirer are in talks to sell the tabloid to the California billionaire Ronald W. Burkle, according to two people with direct knowledge of the negotiations.

david pecker cnn screenshot

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

washington post logoWashington Post, National Enquirer expected to be sold imminently as parent company faces pressure, Sarah Ellison and Marc Fisher, April 10, 2019. American Media Inc. is actively seeking to sell off the National Enquirer, according to three people familiar with the process who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

The decision to sell came after the hedge fund manager whose firm controls American Media became “disgusted” with the Enquirer’s reporting tactics, according to one of these people.

American Media has been under intense pressure because of the Enquirer’s efforts to tilt the 2016 presidential election in favor of Donald Trump, who is a longtime friend of American Media’s president and CEO, David Pecker. Pecker and his supermarket tabloid have also been embroiled in recent months in an unusually public feud with Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post.

In August, just as AMI and two of its top officers were finalizing a non-prosecution agreement with federal investigators, the company’s board of directors started looking for ways to unload the tabloid business “because they didn’t want to deal with hassles like this anymore,” another person said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Personal Technology: Lifting Journalism by Knowing What Readers Are Looking For, Claudio E. Cabrera, April 10, 2019. How do New York Times journalists use technology in their jobs and in their personal lives? Claudio E. Cabrera, a deputy off-platform director tasked with driving quality traffic from search engines to The Times, discussed the tech he’s using.

What are the contours of your job, exactly?

I work on S.E.O., which stands for search engine optimization. On a daily basis, my job is not just focused on helping to optimize our stories for greater visibility and increased traffic from search engines such as Google. It’s much more.

We have a large newsroom, and we are constantly educating editors, reporters and more on the best practices when it comes to search — whether it has to do with headlines, URLs, timing or story forms. Additionally, we are teaching them how to spot how well their story is doing on search.

I usually start my day around 6 or 7 a.m. and track everything that happened overnight to get an idea of what to focus on in the morning hours. After that, I start making my rounds on competitive websites and using our trends tools to find potential ideas I can pitch to desks or optimize something correctly that we’ve already published. I then start jumping into conversations with desk editors about what they have coming for the day that they want me to keep an eye on. I’m big on getting ahead of things, as it gives much more free time to work on strategic initiatives throughout the day.

On a tools front, I use Google Trends, Kaleida, NewsWhip, Reddit and CrowdTangle. I like these tools because they incorporate search, social and the conversations around them.

Outside of that, it’s important to look at whom we consider to be our competitors and what they are doing daily around general news and trending items. It allows me to see what stories we may be missing and what angles we may not be exploring.

Israeli Elections

washington post logoisrael flagWashington Post, Netanyahu appears set to clinch fifth term in office in Israel, Loveday Morris and Ruth Eglash, April 10, 2019.  With the vast majority of votes counted, the parties of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his chief rival were both on track to win 35 seats in parliament. But Netanyahu had the best chance at forming a coalition.

ny times logoNew York Times, News Analysis: It’s Netanyahu’s Israel Now, David M. Halbfinger, April 10, 2019. Benjamin Netanyahu’s apparent re-election as prime minister of Israel attests to a starkly conservative vision of the Jewish state and its people about where they are and where they are headed.

They prize stability, as well as the military and economic security that Mr. Netanyahu has delivered.

benjamin netanyahu frownThough in many ways they have never been safer, they remain afraid — especially of Iran and its influence over their neighbors, against which Mr. Netanyahu has relentlessly crusaded. They are persuaded by his portrayal of those who challenge him, whether Arab citizens or the left, as enemies of the state. They take his resemblance to authoritarian leaders around the world as evidence that he was ahead of the curve.

They credit Mr. Netanyahu (right), whose strategic vision values power and fortitude above all, with piloting Israel to unprecedented diplomatic heights and benny grantz cropped flickr as israel defense forces chief of staffjpg Smallbelieve still more is possible. And they are loath to let anyone less experienced take the controls.

“Let’s be honest with ourselves,” said Michael B. Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to Washington. “Our economy is excellent, our foreign relations were never better, and we’re secure. We’ve got a guy in politics for 40 years: We know him, the world knows him — even our enemies know him.”

Not everyone is so enamored of him.

Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition appears to have won 65 of the 120 seats in Parliament. But his positions on the issues differed little from those of his main challenger, Benny Gantz (shown in a portrait in his previous post as head of the Israel Defense Forces), suggesting that close to half of the electorate would have simply preferred someone else in the job.

RFK Book, Speeches, Inspiration

kathleen kennedy townsend rick allen npc april 10 2019 img 6249

Media executive Rick Allen and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, eldest daughter of Robert Kennedy and former lieutenant governor of Maryland, discuss the book collection of RFK speeches that Allen co-edited with the late Edwin Guthman, RFK: His Words for Our Times, at the National Press Club on April 10. Photo: Justice Integrity Project / Andrew Kreig

National Press Club, RFK’s civility, eloquence a lesson for today’s politicians, daughter says, Chris Teale, April 10, 2019. Robert F. Kennedy’s ability to win over hostile crowds and be civil during debates would serve politicians well in the present day, his daughter Kathleen Kennedy Townsend said during a Vook Event at the National Press Club Wednesday evening.

Townsend said Kennedy’s willingness to take on difficult opponents, like mob bosses or hostile crowds calling for civil rights, showed he wanted to engage with everyone and use civility while doing so.

rfk richard allen edwin guthmanAlong with co=author and editor Rick Allen, she discussed their book, RFK: His Words For Our Times, which collates Robert Kennedy’s speeches and writings and puts them in the context of their time.

“He was able to win over people not by saying, ‘You’re selfish, you’re terrible,’ but by asking what kind of country you want to live in,” Townsend said of her father..

The book, re-released to mark the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s 1968 assassination, includes speeches he gave as attorney general, a U.S. Senator for New York and as a presidential candidate, as well as other writing. And given the current rancor surrounding the American political scene, Townsend and Allen said Kennedy’s words and actions are more important than ever.

Townsend recalled how he went to speak before pro-Communist crowds in places like Japan and Chile. In in the face of hostile crowds trying to drown out his speech, she said, he would welcome local leaders on-stage and debate issues with them. In Japan, Townsend said, his actions “rippled through Japanese society broadly and made him so popular it raised the level of respect for the United States immensely, enormously.”

As an elected official, Kennedy shed light on people in areas like Appalachia and the Mississippi Delta who lived in extreme poverty, using his high profile and the media to tell their stories.

Allen said that in Washington and elsewhere, it shocked people who were seeing “extraordinary poverty that most Americans couldn’t believe existed in our country.” Townsend said he used those trips as teaching moments for his children and younger generations.“He was always telling us how lucky we were, and how much we had to do for our country,” she said.

With campaigning for the 2020 election already underway, Townsend said the long campaign as candidates traverse the country stumping for votes will make candidates stronger and give voters a real choice. She also said it is important that they use language that doesn't inflame divisions, which Kennedy was a master of.

Townsend recalled hearing him memorizing quotes from William Shakespeare in their bathroom, or referring to other great works of literature during his time in the car on the way to his office. It is rare, she said, to see politicians so obsessed with finding the right words.

“That doesn’t happen often for politicians, and it happened because he cared so much about language, about words and how it can lift us all up,” Townsend said.

Barr's Spin?

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr says he thinks ‘spying did occur’ in probe of Trump campaign associates, Devlin Barrett and Karoun Demirjian​, April 10, 2019. Attorney General William william barr new oP. Barr (right) said Wednesday he thought “spying” on a political campaign occurred in the course of intelligence agencies’ investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election — a startling assertion by the nation’s top law enforcement official.

At a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Barr was asked about his statement a day earlier that he would review how the FBI launched its counterintelligence investigation that sought to determine whether Donald Trump’s associates were interacting with Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal. It’s a big deal,” said Barr, noting that there are long-held rules to prevent intelligence agencies from collecting information on domestic political figures.

FBI logo“I’m not suggesting that those rules were violated, but I think it’s important to look at that,” he said. “I’m not talking about the FBI necessarily but intelligence agencies more broadly.”

Current and former law enforcement officials have defended their handling of the Russia investigation, saying it was carefully handled based on available evidence, and they have firmly denied they engaged in political spying. Those current and former officials have argued they were obligated to investigate allegations that Trump associates might be conspiring with Russians to interfere in the election.

jennifer rubin new headshotwashington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: William Barr, Trump toady, Jennifer Rubin (right), April 10, 2019.The Post reports: "Attorney General William P. Barr said Wednesday he thought “spying” on a political campaign occurred in the course of intelligence agencies’ investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election — a startling assertion by the nation’s top law enforcement official. . . ."

This is the language of a PR spinner, not the attorney general of the United States. As my colleague Aaron Blake points out, “spying” is a loaded phrase and a political accusation.

Moreover, the Justice Department itself has refuted this notion, making clear that the Russia probe began before the government’s surveillance of Carter Page.

Now, if you didn’t already think Barr was failing to fulfill his oath to enforce the laws as the people’s lawyer (not Trump’s lawyer), this latest episode might do it.

Remember that Barr already substituted his own “exoneration” of Trump on obstruction of justice (something the Justice Department’s guidelines specify should be a matter for Congress and not for the department), refused to use summaries that Robert S. Mueller III’s team prepared in favor of his misleading summary (which he later claimed was not a summary), has failed to turn over the report or Mueller summaries to Congress in a timely manner and has refused to make an unredacted version of the report available to Congress. All in all, it’s a shabby record of politicizing the Justice Department in a way that his predecessors avoided.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Nancy Pelosi has had enough of Donald Trump’s crap, BD Holly, April 10, 2019. Attorney General William Barr’s self-serving and shortsighted answers to nancy pelosi twitterthe questions asked of him during his public testimony on Wednesday were predictably favorable to Donald Trump, but might have served an unintended purpose – unchaining the inner mounting wrath of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

bill palmer report logo headerPelosi (shown in her Twitter photo) said this to reporters on Wednesday: “How very, very dismaying and disappointing that the chief law enforcement officer of our country is going off the rails,” likely a response to Barr’s bizarre echoing of a Trump fantasy that the Obama administration had spied on the Trump team. As though he believed his blind monarchical loyalty insufficient in cementing his manifestly partisan stance, he admitted that he had no evidence to corroborate this claim. Now that there’s no shadow of a doubt that our Attorney General is an utter stooge, where in the system do we look for a check on his bias?

Inside DC

washington post logoGregory CraigWashington Post, Gregory Craig, ex-Obama counsel, expects to be charged in relation to work with Manafort, lawyers say, Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger, April 11, 2019 (print ed.). Craig (shown in a file photo) has been scrutinized in a foreign-lobbying investigation spun out of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.April 10

Trump's Migrant Policy

washington post logoWashington Post, Twelve days of chaos: Inside the White House’s growing panic to contain the border crisis, David Nakamura, Josh Dawsey and Seung Min Kim, April 10, 2019.  President Trump has blamed others for spiking immigration numbers, but his housecleaning at the Department of Homeland Security shows a realization that he is facing an existential political threat.

kirstjen nielsenHe had threatened to close the southern border and ordered a halt to foreign aid for three Central American nations. But as President Trump weighed his next move to respond to a mounting immigration crisis, he had another problem: His homeland security chief was in Europe on a week-long business trip.

The location of Kirstjen Nielsen (right), the embattled leader of the Department of Homeland Security, on April 1 was like a bad joke for a president who vowed to curb unauthorized immigration but was now showing signs of panic as border crossings spiked to the highest levels in more than a decade.

Nielsen, who had barely hung on to her job during previous run-ins with Trump, cut her trip short and flew back to Washington. Upon returning, she furiously tried to save her job. Nielsen convened emergency calls with White House aides and Cabinet officials to urge them to help her on immigration, White House officials said. She ordered U.S. Customs and Border Protection to deploy “emergency surge operations,” shifting up to 750 officers from other duties to help the overwhelmed Border Patrol. But by then it was too late.

washington post logoWashington Post, Stephen Miller, Jared Kushner on a potential collision course over immigration, Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey and Robert Costa​, April 10, 2019. As Kushner seeks to appeal to his father-in-law’s desire to be seen as a dealmaker, Miller represents the president’s id — reaffirming hard-line impulses on immigration policy.

“President Obama had child separation. Take a look. The press knows it, you know it, we all know it. I didn’t have — I’m the one that stopped it. President Obama had child separation. … President Obama separated children. They had child separation. I was the one that changed it, okay?”

President Trump, in remarks at the Oval Office, April 9, 2019

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker: Trump digs in on false claim that he stopped Obama’s family separation policy, Salvador Rizzo, This is a Four Pinocchio claim, yet Trump keeps repeating it when he’s pressed on family separations.

Trump Watch

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Tower Condo Sale Linked to Republic of Congo, Report Says, Jesse Drucker, April 10, 2019. A company owned by the daughter of the Republic of Congo’s president paid $7 million for an apartment in a Trump building overlooking Central Park, a nonprofit group found.

The Trump International Hotel and Tower in Manhattan, near the southwest corner of Central Park, is a 44-story building with a mix of luxury condominiums and hotel suites that go for more than $2,500 a night.

Unit 32G, a two-bedroom, 1,767-square-foot apartment with sweeping views of the park, is owned by an entity called Ecree, which bought the condo in 2014 for $7 million in cash.

Documents unearthed by the nonprofit group Global Witness show that the purchase was funded by the daughter of the Republic of Congo’s president, a longtime target of anti-corruption investigators. The funds for the all-cash purchase appear to have been siphoned from that country’s government, according to a report by Global Witness.

Pop Culture

ny times logoNew York Times, At the Friars Club, When the Laughter Stopped, Rachel Abrams, April 10, 2019. Financial ills and a federal investigation have led to discord at the 115-year-old club, whose members have included entertainment industry legends.

Judge Blocks Trump Asylum Tactic

ICE logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge blocks administration plan forcing asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for hearings, Maria Sacchetti​, April 10, 2019 (print ed.). The ruling is a major blow to a program the Trump administration hoped would curb an influx of families at the southern border. A federal judge on Monday blocked an experimental Trump administration policy that requires asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their cases make their way through the U.S. immigration court system, a major blow to President Trump’s efforts to stem the surge of crossings at the southern border.

U.S. District Judge Richard ­Seeborg in San Francisco enjoined the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) policy days after outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen pledged to expand the program. The policy began in January at the San Ysidro port of entry in California but has been extended to the Calexico, Calif., entry and to the entry in El Paso, and Seeborg wrote that the approach would have been further extended if the court had not stepped in.

Several hundred migrants have been returned to Mexico under the program after seeking asylum at the border.

Inside DC

Roll Call, Trump says he won’t release his tax returns by House deadline, hasn’t seen Mueller report, John T. Bennett, April 10, 2019. Defiant POTUS defends aide Stephens Miller, falsely claims the Mueller report ‘fully exonerated’ him.

washington post logoWashington Post, She was vilified for accusing Herman Cain of sexual harassment. Eight years later, she has no regrets, Tracy Jan and Heather Long​, April 10, 2019. The experience of Sharon Bialek offers a glimpse of an often overlooked aspect of misconduct allegations: What happens to the women who came forward once the story has moved on?

michael flynn microphonePolitico, Flynn's ex-partner wins access to lawyers' files, Josh Gerstein, April 10, 2019. A federal judge has granted Gen. Michael Flynn's former business partner access to records Flynn's attorneys prepared as they engaged with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team in negotiations that led to Flynn's guilty plea to a felony false statement charge over a year ago.

U.S. District Court Judge Anthony Trenga ruled that Flynn's ex-partner, Bijan Kian, is entitled to notes and other records produced by several lawyers working for Flynn's now-defunct consulting firm, Flynn Intelligence Group.

Kian's legal team subpoenaed the records as he prepares for a July trial in Alexandria, Virginia, on an indictment charging him with conspiring with the former national security adviser (shown at right) and a Turkish national, Karim Alptekin, to act as unregistered agents for Turkey.

Flynn, who is still awaiting sentencing, escaped charges in the Turkey-focused case and is expected to be the government's star witness at his former partner's trial.

Telesur, Venezuela's Moncada Fires Back at Pence in Heated UNSC Exchange, Staff report, April 11, 2019. "The only state representing Venezuela is the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela," he said and framed the so-called humanitarian crisis as "part of the machinary of lies spread about the government of Venezuela." mike pence o  As part of his argument against the legitimate Venezuelan government, Pence (right) also told Venezuela’s Ambassador Samuel Moncada “with all due respect, you shouldn’t be here.”

In response, Russia’s United Nations permanent representative Vasily Nebenzya questioned the real intentions behind the U.S. aid and stressed that Venezuela does not reject international cooperation when it is friendly.

"The U.S. has still not overcome the devastation of Hurricane Maria," the Russian ambassador said in response to Pence claiming the U.S. is trying to deliver aid to Venezuela, adding that the Venezuelan government "is not rejecting humanitarian assistance. Russia and other countries have provided assistance along with WHO."

During his speech, the Russian ambassador pointed out that the current situation in Venezuela is related to the U.S. geopolitical interest of controlling the region. "If you want to make America great again stop interfering in the interest of other states," Nebenzya said and, addressing the Latin American neighboring, made it clear that “Venezuela is a bargaining chip for geopolitical influence in the world."

Once the first round of statements was concluded, Venezuela’s Ambassador Samuel Moncada took the stage and strongly rejected the U.S. interpretation of what is happening in his country.

venezuela flag waving custom"To begin, I think it is called upon us to speak on the falsehoods that have been spoken about Venezuela,” he said and denounced that a new coup attempt had just happened yesterday, as “the U.S. is attempting to pillage our resources.”

Moncada also expressed his categorical denial of the U.S. statements, which has no basis in the Venezuelan constitution and laws. "The only state representing Venezuela is the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela," he said and framed the so-called humanitarian crisis as "part of the machinery of lies spread about the government of Venezuela.”

The prior Security Council meeting on Venezuela was held on Feb. 28, when Russia, China and South Africa vetoed a U.S. draft resolution in which the Venezuelan government would have been held responsible for the country's economic collapse, a political maneuver aimed at disguising the U.S. economic war against the government of Nicolas Maduro.

April 9

U.S. 'Homeland' Ouster

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Kevin McAleenan is taking over DHS. Will he be ‘tough’ enough for Trump? Nick Miroff, April 9, 2019 (print ed.). One of the most difficult jobs in Washington kevin mcaleenan o Custom 2now belongs to Kevin McAleenan, who President Trump is placing in charge of the Department of Homeland Security after the ouster of Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Sunday.

As the new acting secretary at DHS, McAleenan (right) faces the largest wave of illegal crossings at the Mexico border in more than a decade. In Washington, he’ll contend with an impatient boss who is demanding an immediate halt to the surge. And to deliver that, McAleenan will have to court Democratic lawmakers with little political incentive to help the White House ahead of the 2020 election.

McAleenan — the current commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection — presents as a natural leader of DHS, a no-nonsense law enforcement official with longtime practical immigration experience. For a president who places a premium on appearances, McAleenan, 47, also looks the part, with close-cropped hair and a stern bearing.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Kirstjen Nielsen Enforced Cruelty at the Border. Her Replacement Could Be Worse, Editorial Board, April 9, 2019 (print ed.). She will be remembered for the forced separation of thousands of migrant families. She was said to have become increasingly insecure in her job in recent weeks, as Mr. Trump repeatedly railed about the kirstjen nielsenchaos at the border and vowed to move in a “tougher” direction. The president grew impatient with Ms. Nielsen’s insistence that federal law and international obligations limited her actions.

It’s no secret that Mr. Trump had a problem with Ms. Nielsen (right), whom he considered “weak” on matters of border security. The president and Stephen Miller, his hard-line immigration adviser, have long grumbled privately about the secretary’s insufficiently brutal approach to the surge in migrant families across the border. Last May, stories surfaced about Mr. Trump publicly berating her in front of the entire cabinet for failing to stop the crossings. Ms. Nielsen was said to have drafted a resignation letter at the time.

washington post logoWashington Post, Secret Service chief to leave amid broader shake-up at Homeland Security, Toluse Olorunnipa and Carol D. Leonnig, April 9, 2019 (print ed.). U.S. Secret Service Director Randolph D. “Tex” Alles will be stepping down from his post, the latest in a string of departures from President Trump’s administration.

randolph alles o CustomAlles (right) “has done a great job at the agency over the last two years, and the President is thankful for his over 40 years of service to the country,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement. “Mr. Alles will be leaving shortly and President Trump has selected James M. Murray, a career member of the USSS, to take over as director beginning in May.”

The departure of the Secret Service chief comes amid a broader shake-up in the Department of Homeland Security. On Sunday, Trump announced that Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen would be stepping down. Last week, Trump said he was rescinding his nomination of Ronald Vitiello to be director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, saying he wanted to go in a “tougher” direction. Both Alles and Vitiello reported to Nielsen.

Security protocols around Trump have come under scrutiny in recent days after an apparent security breach at the president’s Florida resort.

Secret Service agents arrested a Chinese woman after she gained access to the reception area of the Mar-a-Lago Club late last month, saying they found she was carrying two passports and a thumb drive containing malicious software, according to court documents. Prosecutors say the woman, Yujing Zhang, first approached a Mar-a-Lago security checkpoint March 30 and told security officials she was there to go to the swimming pool.

Management at Trump’s Palm Beach property, where individuals pay a fee to obtain memberships that can provide proximity to the president, allowed the woman to bypass security, prosecutors said. Zhang was ultimately stopped after a receptionist questioned her.

The Secret Service issued a statement after the woman was caught, appearing to lay blame for the security breach on management at Trump’s club. “The Secret Service does not determine who is invited or welcome at Mar-a-Lago; this is the responsibility of the host entity,” the agency said.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) released a statement Monday calling for Alles to testify before Congress concerning Mar-a-Lago and any security issues the president’s club poses, as well as other matters.

washington post logochuck grassley oWashington Post, Grassley warns White House not to oust any more top immigration officials, Seung Min Kim, April 9, 2019. The most senior Senate Republican (shown at right) is warning the White House not to oust another top immigration official, making appeals to the administration against dismissing Lee Francis Cissna, the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, amid a purge of Homeland Security leaders.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said he was “very, very concerned” regarding reports that Cissna could be next in a series of rapid-fire DHS dismissals that began late last week when the White House suddenly pulled the nomination of Ronald Vitiello, who had been tapped as director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Media News

Columbia Journalism Review, As election season heats up, two historic magazines get new faces, Jon Allsop, April 9, 2019. In recent months, with the 2020 election approaching fast, a bevy of major news organizations have made significant changes atop their mastheads. Adam Moss, the iconic, long-time editor of New York magazine, stepped down, and was replaced by David Haskell.

This week, John Harris, the founding editor in chief of Politico, made way; Matthew Kaminski, the site’s global editor, will replace him. Bill Keller, founding editor of The Marshall Project, is passing that site’s reins to Susan Chira. The LA Times, under new-ish owner Patrick Soon-Shiong, has staffed up impressively across the board; most recently, it added Shani Hilton, a top talent at BuzzFeed, as a deputy managing editor.

cbs news logoIn the world of TV, CBS News appointed Susan Zirinsky as its new president, while the morning shows of CBS, ABC, and NBC all now have female executive producers — a first. Nancy Barnes, formerly of The Houston Chronicle, is settling into her new role as editorial director at NPR. The list goes on.

 Katrina vanden Heuvel is stepping down as editor of The Nation after 25 years in the post. (She’ll stay on as publisher and editorial director, working on strategy and with “select writers.”) During her tenure, vanden Heuvel sought to style the progressive magazine as an “early journalistic alert system” — warning against the war in Iraq, corporate oligopolies, and the “Murdochization” of US media — and oversaw significant subscription growth during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Donald Trump. D.D. Guttenplan, a long-standing presence at The Nation, will soon take over as editor.

Another new editor with 2020 on his mind is Chris Lehmann, who yesterday was named editor of The New Republic. (He comes from The Baffler, where he’ll remain an editor-at-large.) CJR’s Andrew McCormick spoke with Lehmann yesterday. “I want to approach the coming election cycle as what I think it will be: a convergence of social movements as opposed to a top-down, party-driven spectacle,” Lehmann says. “The parties are increasingly hollowed-out institutions that are unable to contain the activist energies within them in the way parties would like. That’s all good for journalism, because journalism is about conflict.”

Editors come and go for all sorts of reasons, but it’s usually best to get changes out of the way before a critical election season gets in full swing. The new crop of editors across our industry must all urgently grapple with campaign coverage that failed, in 2016, to serve readers consistent, substantive information on candidates’ ideas.

College Scammers Plead

ny times logoNew York Times, Felicity Huffman and 13 Others to Plead Guilty in Admissions Scandal, Kate Taylor, April 9, 2019 (print ed.). Felicity Huffman, the Hollywood actress, on Monday laid out a list of failings: Yes, she had paid a college counselor $15,000 to arrange for cheating on her daughter’s SAT test. And yes, it had backfired miserably, turning what Ms. Huffman said had been an effort to help her daughter into a betrayal of her.

felicity huffman twitter“I am ashamed,” Ms. Huffman said, announcing that she will plead guilty to a federal crime, part of a sweeping investigation of college admissions fraud unveiled last month by prosecutors in Boston.

In the statement issued by Ms. Huffman (shown in her Twitter photo), she said she wanted to apologize to her family, friends and colleagues, and especially, she said, “to the students who work hard every day to get into college, and to their parents who make tremendous sacrifices to support their children and do so honestly.”

Ms. Huffman was one of 50 people charged in a sweeping investigation of college admissions fraud unveiled last month by federal prosecutors in Boston. On Monday, prosecutors said that 14 people — 13 parents and one coach — would plead guilty in the case. Dates for the formal pleas in court had yet to be set.

washington post logoWashington Post, Lori Loughlin and 15 other parents face additional charges in college admissions scandal, Susan Svrluga​, April 9, 2019. The parents were charged in a second, superseding indictment with conspiring to commit fraud and money laundering in the alleged scheme, which became a symbol of the influence of money on high-stakes college admissions.

lori loughlinActress Lori Loughlin (shown in a file photo), her designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, and 14 other parents were charged Tuesday in a new indictment in the national college admissions scandal, prosecutors announced.

Sixteen parents allegedly involved in the scheme, which became a symbol of the influence of money on high-stakes college admissions, were charged in a second, superseding indictment with conspiring to commit fraud and money laundering. They had previously been charged in connection with what prosecutors have described as a scheme to fraudulently ease their children’s admission to selective colleges, using bribery to cheat on standardized exams and to falsely portray their children as athletic recruits.

The 16 defendants were arrested last month and are charged with conspiring with a college consultant, William “Rick” Singer, 58, of Newport Beach, Calif., and others, to bribe proctors of SAT and ACT college-entrance exams to allow another person to take the test in place of students, or to correct the students’ answers. The scheme also involved bribing coaches and athletic administrators to help get the children accepted at top universities as recruited athletes, prosecutors said.

Mueller Report

Roll Call, Mueller’s report could be out within a week, Barr says during hearing, Todd Ruger, April 9, 2019. The attorney general appeared in front of House Appropriations to discuss the Justice Department budget. Attorney General William Barr told lawmakers Tuesday that he will be in a position to release a version of the special counsel report “within a week,” with color-coded notes explaining why he redacted any information.

Barr, before an appropriations subcommittee, reiterated that he would withhold information from the report such as grand jury material or information that could reveal counterintelligence methods or interfere with ongoing prosecutions.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The full Mueller report could be released — if the House opens preliminary impeachment hearings, Philip Allen Lacovara and Laurence H. Tribe, laurence tribeApril 9, 2019 (print ed.). Philip Allen Lacovara was a counsel to the Watergate special prosecutor. Laurence H. Tribe (right) is a constitutional law professor at Harvard Law School.

The uncertain prospect that the House Judiciary Committee will receive the raw, unredacted report generated by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III got even less certain Friday. A decision by the federal court of appeals in Washington now confronts the House leadership and Attorney General William P. Barr with some difficult political choices.

In a 2-to-1 decision in McKeever v. Barr, the court reaffirmed the principle of grand jury secrecy and concluded that a court has no “inherent power” to release grand jury information. This decision will give Barr a plausible basis to resist the Judiciary Committee’s subpoena of the entire Mueller report, even if the committee goes to court to enforce it. But both the House and the attorney general have ways to cope with this obstacle, if they have the political will and the professional judgment to do so.

In McKeever, two Republican appointees, including President Trump’s former deputy White House counsel, concluded that grand jury information must remain confidential unless a request for disclosure falls within one of the narrow exceptions listed in the federal rules of criminal procedure. The court refused to allow the disclosure of grand jury proceedings relating to the 1957 indictment of an FBI agent suspected of conspiring with the regime of Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Trujillo to kidnap and murder an outspoken critic. Even though all the witnesses and principals died long ago, the court concluded that a historian writing a book about the incident could not get access to the grand jury proceedings.

jerrold nadler o SmallIn the face of Barr’s decision not to disclose any of the Mueller report to the public or even to the House Judiciary Committee chaired by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D- N.Y., shown at right) until Barr and his team have scrubbed the report of grand jury information (and other material), Nadler and committee Democrats have authorized a subpoena for the full report, setting the stage for a court fight over the committee’s right to see grand jury information. Although the public need underlying the request for disclosure in McKeever was much less pressing, the decision in that case undermines the position of Nadler’s committee, because the controlling federal rule contains no exception allowing congressional “oversight” committees to demand access to otherwise secret grand jury proceedings.

One of us (Tribe) has supported investigation but resisted the call for impeachment hearings as such, defending House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in that regard, while the other (Lacovara) recently argued that Pelosi was duty-bound under the Constitution to have the House Judiciary Committee open a formal investigation into whether grounds for impeachment exist.

One reason for doing so was to enhance the likelihood that the committee could see the evidence that Mueller developed through the use of his investigating grand jury. During the Watergate investigation, the special prosecutor working with a grand jury developed a report detailing the evidence tending to show that President Richard M. Nixon had committed various federal crimes, including obstruction of justice, that might constitute grounds for impeachment.

Justice Department log circularOne of the exceptions to grand jury secrecy is disclosure “preliminary to or in connection with a judicial proceeding.” To authorize disclosure of the Watergate grand jury information, the special prosecutor’s office argued that the House had authorized its Judiciary Committee to conduct a formal impeachment inquiry and that such an inquiry could be fairly analogized to a “grand jury” investigation and thus a judicial proceeding. Both the district court and the court of appeals agreed, and the Judiciary Committee obtained both the report and the underlying evidence. Significantly, the appeals court decision several days ago reaffirmed that exception. All three judges agreed that an impeachment inquiry falls within the “exception for judicial proceedings” and “coheres” with other rulings about the proper scope of grand jury secrecy.

U.S. Politics

david cay johnston headshotDCReport.com, Opinion: He Likes to Claim He’s Keeping His Campaign Promises, But Let’s Look at His Record, David Cay Johnston (right), April 9, 2019. Donald Trump’s latest flip-flops on healthcare and the Mexican border continue a pattern of promises, and reversals, that gets far too little attention. His flip-flops show that Trump ignores the interests of the party he latched onto in favor of whatever crazy idea pops into his head.

Although at his rallies Trump delights his uninformed supporters with claims that he’s followed through on his campaign promises — The Wall — he is actually delivering very little.

Israeli Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Netanyahu and his chief rival both claim victory in squeaker of Israeli election, Loveday Morris and Ruth Eglash, April 9, 2019. After a bitter, roller-coaster israel flagcampaign, Israelis went to bed Tuesday without a clear picture of whether longtime Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could hold on to power in the face of corruption allegations and a strong challenger, but partial results suggested he would.

Both Netanyahu and his challenger Benny Gantz claimed victory in speeches to raucous crowds at their neighboring campaign headquarters in Tel Aviv.

Celebrity Sex Trafficking Claim

keith raniere nxivm

ny times logoNew York Times, Allison Mack of ‘Smallville’ Pleads Guilty in Case of Nxivm ‘Sex Cult’ Where Women Were Branded, Michael Gold and Colin Moynihan, April 9, 2019 (print ed). Ms. Mack wept as she took responsibility in federal court in Brooklyn for recruiting women into the Nxivm organization.Allison Mack’s Hollywood ties boosted the case’s profile and grabbed headlines.

allison mackAllison Mack (shown in a file photo) tearfully told a judge on Monday that she first joined the cultlike group known as Nxivm to “find purpose.” She was unsatisfied with her acting career, she said, despite her role on the successful television series “Smallville.”

Led by Keith Raniere, the group, based in Albany, billed itself as a self-help organization. It offered workshops and classes that promised participants greater self-fulfillment.

Ms. Mack became so involved, federal prosecutors said, that she began recruiting other women into a secret sect within Nxivm in which women were branded with Mr. Raniere’s initials and were forced to have sex with him.

“I was lost,” Ms. Mack said on Monday, while pleading guilty to racketeering and racketeering conspiracy charges related to her role in the group.

In a lengthy, tear-filled confession at Federal District Court in Brooklyn, Ms. Mack admitted to luring women into Nxivm (pronounced NEX-ee-um), where they were extorted and coerced into following Mr. Raniere’s orders.

“I must take full responsibility for my conduct,” Ms. Mack, 36, said.

The racketeering counts were among the least lurid ones that Ms. Mack faced. When the actress was arrested last year, she was also charged with sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and forced labor.

Her arrest was part of a larger federal case against high-ranking members of Nxivm, including Mr. Raniere and four others. Federal authorities had begun investigating the organization after The New York Times published an article in late 2017 detailing the inner workings of the secret sorority within Nxivm.

Ms. Mack’s Hollywood ties boosted the case’s profile and grabbed headlines. After prosecutors announced the charges against her, other actresses said that Ms. Mack had tried to get them to join her “women’s group.” Several female journalists also shared that they had received emails from Ms. Mack trying to pitch them on joining a female empowerment organization.

Prosecutors said the secret sect’s purpose within Nxivm was to groom sexual partners for Mr. Raniere, who is 58. It was called D.O.S., an acronym for a Latin phrase that roughly translates to “Lord/Master of the Obedient Female Companions,” court papers said.

In court on Monday, Ms. Mack admitted she recruited women into the group by telling them they were going to become members of a female mentorship program.

Ms. Mack said that to become members of the secret D.O.S. group, women were required to offer up “personally damaging or ruinous” information. The group also collected explicit photos and videos from members as well as rights to their properties, she said.

Prosecutors have said that the women were warned that the damaging or embarrassing information would be made public if they revealed the existence of the group.

Ms. Mack admitted on Monday that she wielded the information to blackmail the women into performing services for her and the group. The organization was set up to make women think “they could suffer serious harm” if they did not follow orders, she said.

The D.O.S. group was organized into circles of women “slaves” that were led by “masters,” prosecutors said. When Ms. Mack was arrested last year, officials said that she had recruited women into the society as “slaves” and had required them to have sex with Mr. Raniere.

Ms. Mack sobbed so much as she gave her statement that Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis interrupted to ask if she was all right. Ms. Mack then apologized to those that she hurt through her “misguided adherence to Keith Raniere’s teachings.”

Others charged in the case include Mr. Raniere and Clare Bronfman, an heiress to the Seagram’s liquor fortune.

Ms. Mack faces up to 20 years in prison on each count to which she pleaded guilty. She is scheduled to be sentenced in September.

 washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Kick Kavanaugh off campus’: Students decry George Mason’s decision to hire Supreme Court justice, Isaac Stanley-Becker, April 9, 2019. Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh will beat the Washington heat this summer and head for Runnymede, England, a bucolic borough 20 miles from London along the River Thames. At the site where the Magna Carta was sealed 804 years ago, laying the groundwork for constitutional democracy, the judge will teach a course on the origins of the U.S. Constitution to students at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School — 3,600 miles from the Arlington, Va., campus.

brett kavanaughHe will be joined in the English countryside by Jennifer Mascott, an assistant professor of law at George Mason. One of Kavanaugh’s former clerks on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Mascott came to his defense when his nomination was threatened last year by allegations of sexual misconduct, which he vehemently denied. “He has acted with the utmost character and integrity,” she told “PBS NewsHour.”

Some students at the university’s main campus in Fairfax City see matters differently. After news of his hire surfaced at the end of March in the undergraduate newspaper, the Fourth Estate, survivors of sexual assault mobilized to demand that he be terminated.

The judge (right), who was first nominated to the federal bench by President George W. Bush and to the nation’s top court by President Trump, used to teach at Harvard Law School. But administrators in Cambridge, Mass., informed students last fall that he had decided not to return this year to teach his course, “The Supreme Court Since 2005.” The announcement followed calls on Harvard, by hundreds of its students and alumni, to revoke his status as a lecturer.

The contest over Kavanaugh’s nomination became a flash point in the #MeToo movement, as well as an illustration of the polarization and distrust poisoning American politics. Now, the dispute at George Mason has become the latest front in the campus culture wars, reflecting broader upheaval over sexual violence, political correctness, free speech and sensitivity.

Freedom and Depression

Future of Freedom Foundation, Opinion: Denying Reality on Freedom, Jacob G. Hornberger, right, April 9, 2019. 23-year-old Olympic cyclist Kelly Catlin committed suicide last month. jacob hornberger newApparently her despair stemmed from a concussion she suffered as well as from an obsessive drive for perfection that she had had since childhood.

As I read about her short life, however, I couldn’t help but think about the soaring suicide rate in America, especially among young people. According to the website of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. In 2017, 47,173 Americans died by suicide, and estimated 1,400,000 attempted suicide.

That includes young people. “7.4 percent of youth in grades 9-12 reported that they had made at least one suicide attempt in the past 12 months. Female students attempted almost twice as often as male students (9.3% vs. 5.1%). Black students reported the highest rate of attempt (9.8%) with white students at 6.1 percent.”

Obviously, suicide is an extremely complex phenomenon, with different factors playing a role in each suicide and suicide attempt. Nonetheless, every time I hear about someone committing suicide, I can’t help but wonder whether the denial of reality by the American people when it comes to the concept of freedom has played a role in the person’s death.

Non-Profit Leader Blasts Trump

The Guardian, David Miliband: the most vulnerable pay for Trump's 'manufactured crisis,' Ed Pilkington, April 9, 2019. Exclusive: IRC chief says US government ‘failing in its most basic responsibilities’ in its handling of border issues. Donald Trump is manufacturing a crisis at the US-Mexico border to justify his hardline immigration plans while failing to tackle the real crisis in Central America that is the root of the problem, the head of one of the world’s largest humanitarian aid groups has said.

david milibandDavid Miliband (right), the former British foreign secretary who now leads the International Rescue Committee (IRC), issued a scathing critique of the Trump administration’s handling of border issues. “The US government is failing in its most basic responsibilities, never mind as a global leader but as a local example of how a civilized country should behave,” he said.

In an interview with the Guardian from IRC’s headquarters in New York, Miliband said that Trump’s approach to immigration amounted to “disorder by design”. “The administration needs to create the evidence to justify its immigration policies – it is using the concept of crisis to create the justification for government by executive fiat.”

The national emergency declared by the US president in February to bolster his plans for a border wall were denounced by Miliband as “manufactured crisis”. He said: “By no standards of national or international precedent would you describe it as a crisis, even in the communities affected in the southern US.”

Meanwhile, thousands of vulnerable people are suffering because of the removal of US protections, slow processing of their asylum claims and cuts in federal aid, he said. “The people who pay the price for government policy failure are the most vulnerable and least able to cope, whether Americans who are on the edge or Central Americans who are over the edge. That is a great danger.”

Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, IRC today operates in more than 40 countries, including many war zones. Its global emergency team is currently working to control the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Inside DC

Wall Street On Parade, Wall Street Bank CEOs Head for Grilling Tomorrow on Capitol Hill, Pam Martens and Russ Martens, April 9, 2019. The Democrats are now in charge at the U.S. House of Representatives’ Financial Services Committee and they’re proving that they’re not afraid to take on the legions of Wall Street lobbyists and lawyers in order to do their job for the American people. Tomorrow, Democrats on the Committee will be grilling the CEOs of seven of the largest Wall Street banks. The Republican Committee members, if history is any guide, will be lauding the bankers based on talking points delivered by the banks’ public relations and lobbying firms.

Democrats took over the House in January and Congresswoman Maxine Waters became the Chair of the House Financial Services Committee at that time. Waters has served on this Committee for the past 28 years – a period in which she has observed unending frauds against the investing public by the mega banks on Wall Street.

Set to appear at tomorrow’s hearing are the following mega bank CEOs: Michael Corbat of Citigroup; Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase; James Gorman of Morgan Stanley; Brian Moynihan of Bank of America; Ronald O’Hanley of State Street; Charles Scharf of Bank of New York Mellon; and David Solomon of Goldman Sachs.

In preparation for the hearing tomorrow, which begins at 9:00 a.m., the Committee released one of the most impressive memorandums that we have seen in many years. One particularly notable aspect of the memorandum is the amount of fines the mega banks (called G-SIBs or Global Systemically Important Banks) have paid over the past decade. According to the Committee:

“The U.S. G-SIBs, along with the rest of the banking sector, have made record profits in recent years. In 2018, the six largest U.S. banks made more than $111 billion in profits. However, these institutions have faced a long list of compliance breakdowns since the financial crisis. According to a 2018 report, financial institutions have paid at least $243 billion in fines since the financial crisis. U.S. G-SIBs accounted for roughly $167 billion, representing more than two-thirds of all fines since the financial crisis.”

Let that sink in for a moment.

According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, as of April 4 there were 5,369 federally-insured financial institutions in the U.S.
There are only 8 U.S. G-SIBS responsible for two-thirds of all fines since the financial crisis.

American 'Fascism'?

OpEdNews, Opinion: Financial Tyranny: America Has Become a Pay-to-Play Exercise in Fascism, John Whitehead, April 9, 2019. We're not living the American Dream. We're in the grip of a financial nightmare. "We the people" have become the new, permanent underclass in America.

We get taxed on how much we earn, taxed on what we eat, taxed on what we buy, taxed on where we go, taxed on what we drive, and taxed on how much is left of our assets when we die, and yet we have no real say in how the government runs, or how our taxpayer funds are used.

Case in point: Lawmakers across the country have been acting as fronts for corporations, sponsoring more than 10,000 model laws written by corporations, industry groups and think tanks such as the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Make no mistake: this is fascism disguised as legislative expediency.

usa today logoAs a recent investigative report by USA TODAY, The Arizona Republic and the Center for Public Integrity points out, these copycat bills have been used to "override the will of local voters" and advance the agendas of the corporate state. "Disguised as the work of lawmakers, these so-called 'model' bills get copied in one state Capitol after another, quietly advancing the agenda of the people who write them."

In this way, laws that promise to protect the public "actually bolster the corporate bottom line."

For example, "The Asbestos Transparency Act didn't help people exposed to asbestos. It was written by corporations who wanted to make it harder for victims to recoup money. The 'HOPE Act,' introduced in nine states, was written by a conservative advocacy group to make it more difficult for people to get food stamps."

Talk about Orwellian. So we have no real say in how the government runs, or how our taxpayer funds are used, but that doesn't prevent the government from fleecing us at every turn.

We're being forced to pay for endless wars that do more to fund the military industrial complex than protect us, for misguided pork barrel projects that do little to enhance our lives, and for the trappings of a police state that serves only to imprison us within its walls.

All the while the government continues to do whatever it likeslevy taxes, rack up debt, spend outrageously and irresponsiblywith little thought for the plight of its citizens. If Americans managed their personal finances the way the government mismanages the nation's finances, we'd all be in debtors' prison by now. Still, the government remains unrepentant, unfazed and undeterred in its money grabs.

April 8

Palmer Report, Opinion: Total chaos: Donald Trump just shoved even more of his own people out the White House back door, Bill Palmer, April 8, 2019. One day after the “resignation” of Homeland Security Director Kirstjen Nielsen, it turns out Donald Trump is just getting started when it comes to parting ways with his own people. In fact he’s essentially gutting the leadership at DHS, as he once again tries to revive his failed presidency by scapegoating as many of his own people as possible.

secret service logobill palmer report logo headerDonald Trump is also firing Secret Service Director Randolph “Tex” Alles, according to CNN, and Deputy Homeland Security Director Claire Grady, according to NBC News. This comes after Trump withdrew his own ICE Director nominee Ron Vitiello. What do these three people have in common? They all answered directly to Kirstjen Nielsen at DHS. Not only is Trump ridding himself of Nielsen, he’s ridding himself of anyone who was aligned with her. So what’s he really up to?

Nielsen obviously had no problem with kidnapping immigrant kids from their parents and leaving them to die in cages. But in the hours since her departure, multiple major news outlets have reported that Trump was increasingly pushing her to do things that she considered illegal. She was frustrated by it, and he was frustrated by her unwillingness to do it. Nielsen already belongs in prison for negligently getting those kids killed. Whatever else Trump was pushing her to do, it must have been something even worse than killing kids.

Trump's Tax Stonewall

ny times logoNew York Times, To Get Trump’s Tax Returns, N.Y. Democrats Try a New Strategy, Jesse McKinley, April 8, 2019 (print ed.). A new bill would allow New York officials to release Mr. Trump’s state tax returns to congressional committees. In an attempt to work around the White House, Democratic lawmakers in Albany are trying to do what their federal counterparts have so far failed to accomplish: to obtain President Trump’s tax returns.

irs logoAlbany lawmakers are seeking state tax returns, not the federal ones at the heart of the current standoff in Washington. But a tax return from New York — the president’s home state, and the headquarters of his business empire — could likely contain much of the same financial information as a federal return.

Under a bill that is scheduled to be introduced this week, the commissioner of the New York Department of Taxation and Finance would be permitted to release any state tax return requested by leaders of three congressional committees for any “specific and legitimate legislative purpose.”

The bill is the most recent proposal from New York lawmakers trying to cast light on the president’s personal finances and business dealings, but it could also open the Democratic majorities in the Legislature to charges of politicizing state law to embarrass the president ahead of his expected re-election campaign.

State Senator Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat who is sponsoring the legislation, defended the bill, saying it is designed to be “a safety valve for any attempt by the White House to block the Congress from doing this at the federal level.”

mick mulvaney oThe bill’s expected introduction on Monday comes even as the I.R.S. and Treasury Department in Washington are deciding whether to comply with a request last week from the House Ways and Means Committee chairman, Representative Richard E. Neal of Massachusetts, for access under a provision of the federal tax code to six years of his federal returns by April 10.

Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer called the effort by Mr. Neal a “gross abuse of power” — an opinion that was seconded by the White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney (left), who said on Sunday that Democrats would “never” see the president’s tax returns. It remains unclear if the federal tax collecting agencies will share that view.

More On U.S. Taxes

Roll Call, Opinion: If your taxes are a complicated mess, you’re not alone, Jason J. Fichtner, Apr 8, 2019. Americans spend too much time, money and energy each year trying to understand and follow the tax code. The total economic loss (the costs of complying, lobbying and changed behavior) from the tax code may be up to a trillion dollars per year. And that was before the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 caused new confusion for many filers.

Proposals for new wealth taxes, changes to marginal tax rates, or adjusting the estate tax capture the imagination of policy wonks. But such discussions often overlook the most important aspect of these policies — how the tax code is administered.

In practice, these administrative issues could make or break any attempt at reform, as well as the tax code as a whole. In a new paper for the Bipartisan Policy Center released today, Bill Gale, Jeff Trinca and I point to three fundamental issues with our tax system.

irs logoFirst, our tax system is too costly to comply with. Americans spend too much time, money and energy each year trying to understand and follow the tax code. By my estimate, the total economic loss (the costs of complying, lobbying and changed behavior) from the tax code may be up to a trillion dollars per year. This estimate was before the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which has caused new confusion for many filers and may have made the code more complex.

Second, compliance is especially hard for filers claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit, an effective pro-work and anti-poverty program that I’ve advocated for improving. The EITC has a web of complex eligibility rules that can be hard for potential claimants to navigate and prove that they meet. How would you go about proving to the IRS, for example, that your child lived with you for at least six months last year?

Furthermore, lax oversight allows some fringe tax preparers to prey on low-income filers, which drives a significant share of improper EITC payments and can lead to penalties for the filer.

Third, it is too easy for some filers to evade their taxes. The most recent estimate, for 2008-2010, is that about $406 billion in taxes each year goes uncollected. Tax fraud crops up in cases like the recent college admissions scandal, contributing to Americans’ general sense that loopholes and offshore accounts make it too easy for some taxpayers to wriggle out of what they owe. Ultimately, this shortfall must be made up for by those of us who do pay our taxes.
Overworked and underfunded

One underlying cause of all three issues is that Congress has chronically underfunded the IRS, reducing their budget by more than 15 percent since 2010. While to some this may sound like good politics, a lack of staff and resources hinders the agency’s ability to catch tax cheats and to provide taxpayers with high levels of support, resulting in longer telephone wait times for taxpayers seeking assistance and only 0.5 percent of all returns audited in 2016.

Former IRS Commissioner John Koskinen estimates that up to 40 percent of the IRS workforce could retire this year, which will only further diminish the agency’s institutional knowledge and ability.

Trump Probes

washington post logowilliam barr new oWashington Post, Scrutiny and suspicion as Mueller report undergoes redaction, Devlin Barrett​, April 8, 2019. Experts say Attorney General William P. Barr (right) has wide discretion to determine what is revealed, meaning the fight over blacked-out boxes is likely to spawn months of legal fights.

djt robert mueller headshots

U.S. Secret Threat To Lebanon?

Southfront, Secret Document Outlines US-Israel Plan For Syria-Style War in Lebanon: Report, Staff report, April 8, 2019. Lebanese President Michael Aoun reportedly received a US-Israeli document detailing plans for creating a civil war in Lebanon, during US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Beirut, Lebanon on March 22nd.

mike pompeo portraitThe document outlines covert false flag operations and a possible Israeli invasion, Lebanese TV station, Al-Jadeed reported. According to the report, the source of the document is Israeli and it was created in partnership with the US, it is unclear who exactly presented it to President Aoun.

The document presents an alleged US plan to splinter the Lebanese Internal Security Forces (ISF), a domestic institution separated from the Lebanese Army. This would be carried out by an $200 million investment in the ISF. The money would be “disguised” as a means to keep peace, but $2.5 million would be specifically designated to create a conflict against Hezbollah.

The document states the ultimate goal is to destabilize the country by creating a civil war in Lebanon which will “help Israel on the international scene.” The United States and Israel plan to accomplish this by supporting “democratic forces.” If that sounds familiar, its because it is currently happening in Venezuela (or is rather about to possibly happen) and is actively still happening in Syria and Libya.

Separately, during his visit Mike Pompeo (shown above right) gave Michel Aoun an ultimatum: to contain Hezbollah or face consequences. The Lebanese government isn’t sure how to deliver on Pompeo’s wishes. It can neither take on Hezbollah militarily nor stop it from accessing its share of government resources. According to Aoun, Hezbollah scored two-thirds of Shiite votes in the last elections.

U.S. Claim Against Iran

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump plans to designate Iranian military unit as a terrorist group, Anne Gearan and Carol Morello, April 8, 2019. Trump called the IRGC “the Iranian government’s primary means of directing and implementing its global terrorist campaign.” U.S. officials have long said that the group’s opaque structure and responsibilities provided a mask for terrorist activities that threaten Israelis, Europeans and U.S. forces.

iran flag mapThe new State Department designation “underscores the fact that Iran’s actions are fundamentally different from those of other governments,” Trump’s statement said.

This action will significantly expand the scope and scale of our maximum pressure on the Iranian regime. It makes crystal clear the risks of conducting business with, or providing support to, the IRGC. If you are doing business with the IRGC, you will be bankrolling terrorism.”

The action has been debated for years, including a renewed consideration last year that included warnings from Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and others about the potential for backlash.

Iranian parliamentarians warned of reciprocal action if the Trump administration acted against the IRGC, Reuters reported, citing state news agency IRNA.

The IRGC is a military unit originally set up as security for Iran’s clerical rulers. It has grown to be the country’s most powerful security organization, with nearly unchecked political influence and interests in business, real estate and other areas of the economy. The United States blames the IRGC for facilitating U.S. service member deaths in Iraq and elsewhere, via financing, training and weapons support to terrorist networks.

Venezuela

Foreign Policy, Opinion: U.S. Military Wary of China’s Foothold in Venezuela, Lara Seligman, April 8, 2019. The head of U.S. Southern Command says Beijing is using disinformation and debt diplomacy to dig in as Maduro clings to power. As U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security team mulls a military intervention to oust Venezuela’s strongman president, Nicolás Maduro, the Pentagon is watching China’s commercial and financial creep in the crisis-gripped nation with growing alarm.

venezuela flag waving customIn an interview with Foreign Policy, Adm. Craig Faller, the four-star military officer who heads U.S. Southern Command, pointed to a Chinese disinformation campaign designed to blame the United States for the devastating blackouts that devastated Venezuela in recent weeks.

Maduro, whose government is backed by China, Russia, and Cuba, has himself publicly accused the U.S. Defense Department of causing the blackouts. Following the power failures, Beijing offered to help the Venezuelan government restore its grid.

“China came out publicly, a state spokesman, implying the blackouts were attributable to U.S. cyberattacks,” Faller said during a recent trip to Washington, D.C. “That is just such a blatant lie. The blackouts are attributed to Maduro’s inept leadership, corruption, inattention to his people, and lack of concern for any humanity.”

The Pentagon is worried about China in other arenas as well. In the Pacific, China is building up its military capability, intimidating its smaller neighbors, and threatening Taiwan. In Africa, Beijing is using debt diplomacy to gain control of crucial ports and other infrastructure. And in Europe, the Trump administration is pushing NATO to address potential Chinese cyberthreats and commercial threats.

“I think the biggest threat to democracy and the way of life around the world is the trend that we see in China,” Faller said.

He said China was trying to assert economic control in Venezuela by investing in infrastructure and providing hefty loans that Caracas would have difficulty paying back. Much of Beijing’s financial interest in Venezuela is tied to loans-for-oil deals struck between the two countries in 2007. By 2014, the China Development Bank had provided Venezuela with more than $30 billion in loans tied to oil production.

More On U.S. Border Policy

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Cancel Kirstjen Nielsen, Michelle Goldberg, Her role in terrorizing children should make her a permanent pariah. April 8, 2019. On Sunday evening, news broke that Kirstjen Nielsen (right) was leaving her job as head of the Department of Homeland Security. The New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman tweeted that according kirstjen nielsen oto people close to Nielsen, one reason she hung on as long as she did was because “she was aware how awful life would/will be for her on the outside,” given her role in defending Donald Trump’s policies.

Let’s make it so.

Nielsen did not create Trump’s monstrous policy of separating migrant families, but she should be known forever as the person who carried it out. She put babies in cages, traumatized children for life, and then appears to have lied to Congress about what she had done. She did this evil work with either blithe incompetence or malicious sloppiness, failing to create a system to properly track kids who were ripped from their families. On Friday, the Trump administration said it could take up to two years to identify thousands of separated migrant children.

April 7

Trump Probes

Palmer Report, Opinion: Robert Mueller’s real endgame for Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, April 7, 2019. For as long as Special Counsel Robert Mueller was investigating Donald Trump, we pointed out that Mueller surely didn’t come out of retirement and go to the trouble of spending two years investigating an illegitimate criminal president, just to hand in a book report and go home. Yet, when Mueller first turned in his report, it appeared that was precisely what he had done.

bill palmer report logo headerIn the two weeks since, a few things have become clear. For instance, Robert Mueller obviously found a metric ton of criminal dirt on Donald Trump. We know this because of what Trump and his associates have directly confessed to, what the media has dug up, and what Mueller’s team told us this week.

Also, Robert Mueller clearly wasn’t done with his investigation when he abruptly turned in his report and disbanded his team. We’re now seeing U.S. Attorneys pick up various threads of the Mueller probe, from the inevitable superseding indictment against Roger Stone, to the grand jury proceedings involving the foreign government owned mystery company. The question is whether Mueller quit voluntarily.

There’s one big thing to watch. Robert Mueller is still technically employed as Special Counsel. On Friday, Mueller’s office announced that his employment will officially be off the job within a few days. Once Mueller is no longer working for the DOJ, he should immediately have more freedom to get his message out there. Mueller follows the rules, but when you look at his past history of prosecutions, he usually goes with the most aggressive possible interpretation of the rules.

U.S. Family Separation Cruelty, Chaos

ICE logo

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Says It Could Take 2 Years to Identify Up to Thousands of Separated Immigrant Families, Julia Jacobs, April 7, 2019 (print ed.). It may take federal officials two years to identify what could be thousands of immigrant children who were separated from their families at the southern United States border, the government said in court documents filed on Friday.

A federal judge had asked for a plan to identify these children and their families after a report from government inspectors in January revealed that the Trump administration most likely separated thousands more children from their parents than was previously believed.

These families were separated before the administration unveiled its “zero-tolerance” immigration policy in the spring of 2018, when nearly all adults entering the country illegally were prosecuted and any children accompanying them were put into shelters or foster care.

To identify these families, the government said it would apply a statistical analysis to about 47,000 children who were referred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement and subsequently discharged, according to the court filing. From there, the government said it would manually review the case records of the children who appeared to have the highest probability of being part of the separated families.

kirstjen nielsen oAxios Sneak Peek, Kirstjen Nielsen out at Homeland, Jonathan Swan, April 7, 2019. Because it's Donald Trump's Washington, the news arrived via Twitter at 6:02 pm ET, broken across two tweets: "Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen (right) will be leaving her position, and I would like to thank her for her service....I am pleased to announce that Kevin McAleenan, the current U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner, will become Acting Secretary for @DHSgov. I have confidence that Kevin will do a great job!"

Between the lines: CBS' Paula Reid reported about an hour ago that Nielsen is "expected to resign" in her meeting with Trump tonight, but Trump's ambiguous wording reflects the predictably messy end to this relationship, which was formalized in a meeting in the White House residence, according to a senior White House official.

• Trump has wanted Nielsen gone for months because he believes she's "weak" on immigration, per multiple sources with direct knowledge of the president's thinking.

• "The president has been right all along about the crisis on the border," said a senior White House official, characterizing Trump's thinking. "He didn't think she was getting the job done. ... He asked for her resignation and she gave it to him."

In a letter to Trump, provided by an administration source, Nielsen wrote:

• "Despite our progress in reforming homeland security for a new age, I have determined that it is the right time for me to step aside," effective Sunday.

A source close to DHS tells Mike Allen that tonight's meeting amounted to a showdown: "Frustrations were building on both sides."

• "She was undercut at every turn," the source said. "She's done everything she can do. The White House is eating their own."

Palmer Report, Opinion: Nancy Pelosi slam dunks Donald Trump over Kirstjen Nielsen debacle, Bill Palmer, April 7, 2019. Just how deranged of an anti-immigrant extremist do you have to be for someone like Kirstjen Nielsen, who has been kidnapping immigrant children and locking them in cages, to decide that you’re too much of an extremist? That’s the question that Donald Trump is now facing in the wake of Nielsen’s departure. It turns out Speaker Nancy Pelosi has the answer.

bill palmer report logo headerKirstjen Nielsen felt that Donald Trump has become “increasingly unhinged” about immigration, according to a CNN report. This ostensibly means that Trump is now looking to do something to immigrants that’s even more evil than stealing kids and putting them in concentration camps. Now that Nielsen is out, we can surely expect House Democrats to call on her to publicly testify about why she left, and what Trump is truly planning.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi quickly released a statement after news surfaced about the details of Nielsen’s exit. Pelosi said precisely what most Americans are thinking right now: “It is deeply alarming that the Trump Administration official who put children in cages is reportedly resigning because she is not extreme enough for the White House’s liking. The President’s dangerous and cruel anti-immigrant policies have only worsened the humanitarian suffering at the border and inflicted vast suffering on the families who have been torn apart.”

Nancy Pelosi continued: “The Trump Administration’s increasingly toxic anti-immigrant policies were resoundingly rejected by the American people in the midterm election. America needs a Homeland Security Secretary who will respect the sanctity of families, honor our proud heritage as a nation of immigrants, and restore sanity to this Administration’s policies.”

Trump Border Policy Contradiction

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump administration nearly doubles H-2B guest visa program, which brings many Mexican workers, Heather Long, April 7, 2019 (print ed). As President Trump threatened to shut down the U.S.-Mexico border in recent days, his Department of Homeland Security nearly doubled the number of temporary guest worker visas available this summer.

The Homeland Security and Labor departments plan to grant an additional 30,000 H-2B visas this summer on top of the 33,000 they had already planned to give out, the agencies confirmed.

us labor department logoThe H-2B visa allows foreign workers to come to the United States legally and work for several months at companies such as landscapers, amusement parks or hotels. About 80 percent of these visas went to people from Mexico and Central America last year, government data shows.

Trump says there is a national emergency at the southern border because too many people are trying to come to the United States illegally or to seek asylum. On Friday, he implored migrants to turn around and go home.

“Can’t take you anymore,” Trump said, while standing at the border in California. “Our country is full.” But his administration is sending a different message to some short-term workers. With the additional visas, the Trump administration is on track to grant 96,000 H-2B visas this fiscal year, the most since 2007, when George W. Bush was president.

U.S. Politics

fritz hollingsAfter touring poor areas of his state, South Carolina Sen. Fritz Hollings said in the Senate, “We’ve got work to do in our own backyard, just as anybody who’s candid knows he has work in his own backyard, and I’d rather clean it up than cover it up.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Ernest Hollings, a South Carolina Senator Who Evolved, Dies at 97, Robert D. McFadden, April 7, 2019 (print ed.). Ernest F. "Fritz" Hollings, a silver-haired South Carolina Democrat who served 38 years in the United States Senate in an era of rising prosperity and often painful accommodation to racial tolerance in his state and across the South, died on Saturday at his home in Isle of Palms, S.C.

Like his colleague Strom Thurmond, South Carolina’s senior senator, Mr. Hollings became governor, ran for president and was a revered populist who took care of the military, business interests and the folks back home.

Together, they were the nation’s longest-serving Senate pair from one state. When Mr. Thurmond died in 2003 at 100, he had been the Senate’s longest-tenured member after 48 years in office. Moreover, Mr. Hollings was junior senator for 36 years, itself a record, and his tenure of 38 years and 55 days, including more than two years fulfilling the term of a senator who died in office, made him the eighth longest-serving senator.

Mr. Thurmond, a Democrat who switched to the Republican Party, never relented in his opposition to full equality for black Americans. Mr. Hollings, while remaining a fiscal conservative, evolved into a social moderate, riding winds of change that swept the South as proponents of civil rights won court cases, staged protests and endured brutalities that shocked the nation’s conscience.

U.S. Allies vs. Human Rights?

washington post logoWashington Post, Commentary: For a decades-old massacre in Guatemala, justice neared. Now it’s retreating, Maggie Jones, April 7, 2019. A few years ago, deep in Guatemala’s Highlands, where mist enshrouds the green hills, Francisco Caal Jalal told me about a long-ago massacre in his village, Pambach. It happened one June evening in 1982. Soldiers lined up about 70 blindfolded men and boys, face down, then beat, stabbed and hacked them with machetes. Caal Jalal was lying at the end of the line when a soldier brought a machete down on his head and his neck, again and again.

ap logoAssociated Press via Washington Post, Netanyahu vows to annex West Bank settlements if re-elected, Karin Laub, April 7, 2019. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged Saturday to annex Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank if re-elected, a dramatic policy shift apparently aimed at rallying his nationalist base in the final stretch of the tight race.

benjamin netanyahu frownNetanyahu (right) has promoted Jewish settlement expansion in his four terms as prime minister, but until now refrained from presenting a detailed vision for the West Bank, seen by the Palestinians as the heartland of a future state.

An Israeli annexation of large parts of the West Bank is bound to snuff out any last flicker of hope for an Israeli-Palestinian deal on the terms of a Palestinian state on lands Israel captured in 1967.

A so-called two-state solution has long been the preferred option of most of the international community. However, intermittent U.S. mediation between Israelis and Palestinians ran aground after President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital early in his term. The Palestinians, who seek Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem as their capital, suspended contact with the U.S.

U.S. Public Health

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge rules New York county can’t ban unvaccinated children from schools, parks, Frances Stead Sellers, April 7, 2019. Officials are struggling to contain a measles outbreak in Rockland County, where 167 confirmed cases had been reported as of Friday.

Media News: Murder Motive

jamal khashoggi western suit

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: In a book proposal, Khashoggi outlined a U.S.-inspired vision for a new Saudi Arabia, David B. Ottaway, April 7, 2019 (print ed.). David Ottaway is a fellow in the Middle East Program at the Wilson Center. Jamal Khashoggi (right) was working on what he described as an “eye-opener” of a book challenging Saudi Arabia to draw inspiration for its reforms from American institutions and practices when he was savagely murdered inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October. His book proposal illustrates that he was as much a visionary of a new Saudi Arabia as Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman, author of the highly ambitious “Vision 2030” and the person who the CIA concluded ordered Khashoggi’s assassination.

Khashoggi’s gruesome murder touched off the worst crisis in U.S.-Saudi relations since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, with Congress pressing President Trump to name the instigator and to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

mohammad bin salman cropped file smallThe crown prince (left) tried to convince the White House that Khashoggi was a dangerous Islamist threat to the United States, but his book project reveals just the opposite: He was a great admirer of U.S. democracy and society. He had belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood in his youth but had long since disassociated himself from what Saudi authorities have branded a terrorist organization.

Khashoggi’s book project was outlined in his application for a fellowship at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, submitted in June 2017. His daughter, Noha, recently agreed to allow me to disclose its content. His book was to be both a primer for Saudis coming to the United States, explaining how American institutions and practices function, and a plea for Saudi leaders to adopt many of them.

Its tentative title: United States for Saudis or U.S. Made Easy for Saudis.

“My plan is to explain American life to the Saudi reader and Arabs in general in a simple storytelling format,” he wrote, noting that at least 750,000 Saudis are graduates of American education institutions, and even more have come as tourists or family members of students. ”My focus will be on the schooling, educational reform [and] control of public funds,” he wrote.

Consumer Rights, Protections

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: It’s Your iPhone. Why Can’t You Fix It Yourself? Editorial Board, April 6, 2019. When the tools of modern life stop working, people should be able to shop for the best price on repairs. A giant John Deere tractor and a pocket-size Apple iPhone have something important in common: The cost of repairing either one is too high.

The two companies, and many of their peers, use a variety of aggressive tactics, including electronic locks and restrictive warranties, to push customers with broken equipment to seek help from their authorized repair facilities — or to give up and buy a replacement.

apple logo rainbowThis is unfair to consumers who might be able to obtain, or perform, lower-priced repairs. It’s unfair to independent businesses that might do the work. And it’s bad for the environment, because the high cost of repairs leads people to toss devices that might have been fixed.

Late last month, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, proposed a national right-to-repair law for farm equipment. The idea is based on a 2012 Massachusetts law that requires carmakers to provide the information necessary to perform repairs and to sell any special tools needed to do the work. The law also phased in a requirement that new cars be compatible with generic diagnostic tools.

Ms. Warren has the right idea, but she did not go far enough. The owners of consumer electronic products deserve the same protection as farmers.

The potential savings are considerable. A 2011 study found that customers who used independent auto repair shops spent about 24 percent less on repairs each year. Similarly, Apple charges $279 to fix the screen of an iPhone X, while a repair store in downtown Washington, D.C., quoted a price of $219 — although the lack of Apple support makes such repairs riskier.

“Right-to-repair” is a bit of a misnomer. The owner of a device generally has the legal right to repair it. The issue is whether the manufacturer allows people and independent businesses to obtain the necessary information, tools and parts to do the repairs.

Risky Corporate Finances?

washington post logoWashington Post, Surge in risky loans to corporations sparks fears of another financial crisis, Damian Paletta, April 7, 2019. Actions by federal regulators and Republicans in Congress over the past two years have paved the way for banks to issue more than $1 trillion in such loans.

Actions by federal regulators and Republicans in Congress over the past two years have paved the way for banks and other financial companies to issue more than $1 trillion in risky corporate loans, sparking fears that Washington and Wall Street are repeating the mistakes made before the financial crisis.

The moves undercut policies put in place by banking regulators six years ago that aimed to prevent high-risk lending from once again damaging the economy.

Now, regulators and even White House officials are struggling to comprehend the scope and potential dangers of the massive pool of credits, known as leveraged loans, they helped create.

Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America and other financial companies have originated these loans to hundreds of cash-strapped companies, many of which could be unable to repay if the economy slows or interest rates rise.

Libyan Civil War Expands

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Military Pulls Out of Libyan Capital as Rival Militias Battle, David D. Kirkpatrick, April 7, 2019. The United States military evacuated its small contingent of troops from the Libyan capital on Sunday as rival militias raced to stop the forces of an aspiring strongman, Gen. Khalifa Hifter, from taking control of the city.

Forces under the command of General Hifter made a surprise advance on the outskirts of the capital, Tripoli, on Thursday, setting up a battle with a coalition of armed factions from the region around the city — the grand prize in a chaotic eight-year fight for control after the ouster of the dictator Muammar el-Qaddafi during the Arab Spring revolts.

Tripoli is the northern African country’s financial hub, receiving the income from the sales of Libyan oil, housing the central bank, and paying the salaries of soldiers and public employees across the country.

By Sunday morning, both sides had begun attacking from the air, using the small and primitive air forces at their command, but the exact targets and extent of the damage could not be immediately determined.

April 6

Trump Defies Tax Disclosure Law

 ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Lawyer Tells Treasury Not to Give Democrats Tax Returns, Nicholas Fandos and Maggie Haberman, April 6, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump’s personal lawyer irs logoon Friday asserted Mr. Trump’s right as a citizen to keep his tax returns private and told the Treasury Department not to hand the returns over to House Democrats, foreshadowing what has the potential to be a far-reaching legal fight that could reach the Supreme Court.

The lawyer, William S. Consovoy, argued that Democrats who have demanded to see Mr. Trump’s tax information had no legitimate legislative reason to request it and that Representative Richard E. Neal’s decision this week to ask for six years of the president’s personal and business returns flouts “fundamental constitutional constraints.” He also called it a “gross abuse of power.”

Mr. Consovoy’s views have no direct bearing on the case. The little known tax code provision employed by the Democrats in demanding Mr. Trump’s returns says only that the Internal Revenue Service “shall furnish” the information, giving it and its parent agency, the Treasury Department, little leeway in deciding how to respond.

Trump's Banking Controversies

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Says Fed Should Cut Rates and Lift Economy, Jim Tankersley, April 6, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump on Friday called on the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates and take additional steps to stimulate economic growth, his latest attempt to put the traditionally independent central bank under his thumb.

Speaking to reporters before traveling to the southwestern border, the president once again criticized the Fed’s interest rate increases in 2018, saying “they really slowed us down.” Mr. Trump, who is presiding over one of the longest sustained economic expansions in United States history, also said the Fed should do more to give the economy a lift — including resuming a stimulus program that he opposed when it began under President Barack Obama.

ny times logoNew York Times, Sexual misconduct claims against Herman Cain, Mr. Trump’s pick for the Fed’s board, are causing anxiety for the G.O.P., Alan Rappeport and Kenneth P. Vogel, April 6, 2019 (print ed.). Payments to women who complained of sexual harassment.  Accusations of groping. Allegations of a 13-year extramarital affair. President Trump herman cain wmoves ahead with his plan to nominate Herman Cain, right, a 2012 Republican presidential candidate, for a seat on the Federal Reserve’s board of governors, Republican lawmakers are being forced to confront a fresh round of uncomfortable allegations of sexual misconduct against women as the 2020 campaign begins.

A day after Mr. Trump made the choice of Mr. Cain official, Senate Republicans expressed quiet anxiety over the prospect of another #MeToo minefield even as the White House exalted the decision.

“President Trump’s statement that Herman Cain is ‘a truly outstanding individual’ is a message that the president of the United States is willing to ignore the gloria allred 2012 Customallegations of a number of women who alleged that Herman Cain either sexually harassed them or had an affair with them,” said Gloria Allred, left, a lawyer who represented two of Mr. Cain’s accusers. “This message is an insult to women and should be condemned by the Republican Party and all those who care about respect and dignity for women.”

The choice of Mr. Cain comes as Mr. Trump’s other pick to fill an open seat on the seven-member Fed board, the conservative economist Stephen Moore, has been under fire for ethical and financial lapses that emerged from his divorce records. In both cases, the White House has publicly backed Mr. Trump’s selections despite criticism that he was installing loyalists with questionable credentials in two of the country’s top economic policy jobs.

Mueller Report Release

WhoWhatWhy, Decision Limits Judicial Discretion To Release Grand Jury Materials, Celia Wexler, April 6, 2019. Friday’s decision by the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit whowhatwhy logoappears to sharply limit the discretion of judges to order disclosure of any grand jury materials, which might result in a highly redacted public document. In a 2-to-1 decision in McKeever v. Barr, judges ruled that a court can reveal grand jury materials only if they meet specific exemptions in the law; those exemptions include disclosure to another grand jury, to a state prosecutor, or to the intelligence community.

As recently as 2016, another appellate court had come to a different conclusion. Three years ago, the US Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit held that the court had the authority to disclose grand jury materials, having the power to balance the need for secrecy against compelling “policy interests,” said Barbara McQuade, a University of Michigan law professor and former US Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.

McQuade and Andrew Wright, former associate counsel to President Barack Obama, participated in a webinar on the Mueller memo Friday afternoon sponsored by the American Constitution Society (ACS) and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

While Friday’s decision might make it harder for a federal court to disclose details of the Mueller investigation, McQuade noted that the DC Circuit also cited another decision that could continue to make it possible for the House Judiciary Committee to see the grand jury material in the Mueller report.

Haldeman v. Sirica was issued in 1974, at the time of the Watergate scandal. The court held that it was lawful for the House Judiciary Committee to receive grand jury material. Under legal rules governing the disclosure of grand jury information, McQuade said, grand jury materials may be shared with another grand jury, or in connection with another judicial proceeding. During Watergate, the House Judiciary Committee was “acting as a grand jury in an impeachment proceeding,” McQuade said.

She said that the same exemption should apply to the current House Judiciary Committee. Asked by WhoWhatWhy whether the committee would have to vote to impeach for that exemption to apply, McQuade said an impeachment vote would not be necessary. Since House Judiciary has the “responsibility to impeach,” it would need access to the materials before making that judgment, she said.

Israeli Election Tuesday

washington post logobenjamin netanyahu frownWashington Post, Israel’s Netanyahu, a political Houdini, is facing his toughest escape act yet, Loveday Morris and Ruth Eglash, April 6, 2019 (print ed.).Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, has escaped many a peril in the quarter-century that he has been a dominant figure in Israeli politics. But the latest corruption cases have overshadowed this year’s election campaign and left Israelis wondering whether he could be caught in that last shackle.

U.S. Immigration Nominee Out

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘We’re going in a tougher direction,’ Trump says as he drops ICE nominee, Nick Miroff, Seung Min Kim and Josh Dawsey, April 6, 2019 (print ed.).President Trump had vacillated on Ronald Vitiello after hearing complaints from senior adviser Stephen Miller and others, according to aides who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Civil Rights -- and Wrongs?

washington post logomorris dees speaker bureauWashington Post, Years of turmoil and complaints led the Southern Poverty Law Center to fire its founder, Morris Dees, Neena Satija, Wesley Lowery and Beth Reinhard, April 6, 2019 (print ed.). Dees’s ouster last month marks a stunning fall for a man (shown at right) who had built a reputation over more than a half-century as a leader in the fight for equality. He denies any wrongdoing.

U.S. Politics

daily beast logoDaily Beast, ‘No Celebrities’: Embarrassing Turnout at Trump’s Beverly Hills Fundraiser, Tarpley Hitt, April 6, 2019. Tickets for the event allegedly started at $15,000 and went as high as $150,000. Late Friday afternoon, Donald Trump landed in Los Angeles for a re-election fundraiser. The event was organized by Trump Victory, a fundraising partnership between the Republican National Convention and Trump’s campaign, and aimed to raise an estimated $5 million for the party. It was the president’s third visit to the celebrity-hub city and, by all accounts, not a star-studded one.

“Celebrities? No celebrities,” Rabbi Marvin Hier said of the event. Hier is the dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and gave the prayer at Trump’s inauguration. Multiple valets in royal blue jackets, who declined to give their names because of their job, echoed his sentiment.

The event was held in the 22,000-square-foot Beverly Hills home of health-care executive and GOP donor Lee Samson. The 15-bathroom “Italian-style limestone villa” runs about $10 million, according to Zillow, and was named Robb Report’s Ultimate Home of the Year in 2012. Tickets started at $15,000 for dinner, $50,000 for a photo op with Trump, and $150,000 to join his roundtable discussion, according to an invitation obtained by the City News Service. Fundraisers had estimated that some 90 donors would be in attendance, but did not disclose the invite list.

April 5

Flight Safety

ny times logoNew York Times, Pilots of Doomed Flight Followed Boeing Safety Procedures, Report Details, Hadra Ahmed, Hannah Beech and James Glanz, April 5, 2019 (print ed.). Pilots on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 followed procedures recommended by Boeing but were still unable to prevent a crash, investigators said. Sensor readings varied wildly and boeing logoaffected the pilots’ understanding of factors like the plane’s pitch and airspeed, according to the initial findings.

Just two minutes after takeoff, the captain of the doomed Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 said the plane was having problems. Pilots then began having trouble controlling the aircraft.

In the plane’s short and fatal flight, pilots followed safety procedures recommended by Boeing, performing actions on the emergency checklist, including cutting off electricity to an automatic system that was pushing the nose down. But they were still unable to prevent the jet from crashing, according to an initial report by Ethiopian investigators.

About six minutes after takeoff, the plane went into a fatal dive that killed all 157 people on board.

The report, released Thursday, laid out a timeline of the flight based on analysis from 18 Ethiopian and international investigators and information from the jet’s flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder. The investigators’ initial report was released several hours after a news conference held by Ethiopia’s minister of transportation.

The data showed that shortly after liftoff, a crucial sensor, called an angle of attack sensor, began fluctuating wildly on the pilot’s side, falsely indicating that the plane was close to stalling. Eventually, those false readings activated the automated system known as MCAS, intended to prevent a stall.

Global Human Rights

ny times logoNew York Times, Guantánamo Trials Grapple With How Much Evidence to Allow About Torture, Carol Rosenberg, April 5, 2019. The military tribunals originally barred public mention of what happened at C.I.A. prisons. Now a key question is what evidence terrorism suspects can use as the cases inch forward.

Seventeen-and-a-half years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, and a decade after President Barack Obama ordered the C.I.A. to dismantle any remnants of its global prison network, the military commission system is still wrestling with how to handle evidence of what the United States did to the Qaeda suspects it held at C.I.A. black sites. While the topic of torture can now be discussed in open court, there is still a dispute about how evidence of it can be gathered and used in the proceedings at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

By law, prosecutors cannot use evidence gained through torture — or any other involuntary statements — at the war court, where eight of Guantánamo’s 40 prisoners are accused of being complicit in terrorist attacks. Prosecutors have made clear that nothing the defendants said at the black sites will be used as evidence.

Mexico Curbs Migrants

washington post logoWashington Post, Threatened by Trump and exhausted by caravans, Mexico withdraws red carpet for migrants, Maya Averbuch and Mary Beth Sheridan, April 5, 2019. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has cut the budgets for his country’s migration agency and asylum program, and officials are considering a plan to effectively bottle up many migrants in southern Mexico.

• Washington Post, Trump to have dinner at his for-profit golf course near L.A. during West Coast trip.

Teen Trafficking Scandal

MSNBC, Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell (Opinion): Donald Trump's worst presidential appointment, April 5, 2019. Alex Acosta did not deny that he broke the law when he made a plea bargain deal with sex trafficker and child rapist Jeffrey Epstein, a billionaire friend of Trump's. See background below:

alexander acosta o cropped Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Acosta confronted by lawmakers over plea deal in Jeffrey Epstein sexual misconduct case, Kimberly Kindy, Felicia Sonmez and Lisa Rein, April 3, 2019. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta was confronted by Democratic lawmakers Wednesday over his decision as a federal prosecutor to sign off on a plea deal in a sex trafficking case involving multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein.

The exchange at a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing marked the first time Acosta has been questioned publicly about the case since a judge ruled in February that the 2008 arrangement he oversaw as a U.S. attorney in South Florida had broken the law because his office failed to properly notify victims.

katherine clark twitter“You chose wealthy and well-connected people, child rapists, over the victims in this case,” said Rep. Katherine M. Clark (D-Mass., shown on her Twitter photo), who noted that “the hideous truth has come out” about Acosta’s role in the case.

Clark cited the Epstein case as she questioned Acosta on his department’s decision to propose cutting the budget for one of its divisions tasked with combating human trafficking from $68 million to $18.5 million.

“This isn’t the first time you have ignored human trafficking,” Clark said. “If you as U.S. attorney could not fight for these girls, how, as secretary of labor, can you tell this panel and the American people that you can responsibly oversee this budget [and] the Department of Labor, including human trafficking?”

Acosta responded that human trafficking is “an in­cred­ibly important issue” and said the Justice Department had long defended the plea deal.

“Epstein was incarcerated,” Acosta said. “He registered as a sex offender. The world was put on notice that he was a sex offender, and the victims received restitution.”

jeffrey epstein sex offenderThe 2008 plea deal stemmed from a federal investigation of Epstein (right) focused on alleged sex trafficking and molestation of dozens of underage girls. Before the deal, prosecutors drafted a 53-page federal indictment that included sex trafficking charges, which could have placed Epstein in prison for life.

Epstein’s plea agreement allowed him to instead plead guilty to two state felony solicitation charges, casting the victims as prostitutes. The deal led to a 13-month stay in county jail during which Epstein was allowed to leave custody six days a week, 12 hours a day, for work.

Acosta, 50, has received support from his boss, President Trump, who in February called him a “fantastic labor secretary.” On Wednesday, Acosta argued that Epstein would have faced even lighter punishment had the plea deal not been struck.

“I understand the frustration,” he said. “I think it’s important for people to know he was going to get off with no jail time or restitution. It was the work of our office that resulted in him going to jail. It was the work of our office that resulted in him having to register as a sex offender.”

kenneth marra open jurist croppedThe deal has received renewed media and legal scrutiny in recent months. In February, Judge Kenneth A. Marra (left) of the Federal District Court in West Palm Beach ruled that the failure by Acosta’s office to notify victims in advance of the deal prevented the victims from being able to exercise their legal right to object before the deal took effect. Marra has set a deadline of May 10 for attorneys for two victims, who filed the lawsuit that led to the ruling, and attorneys for Epstein to propose an alternative deal.

The ruling could ultimately nullify the plea deal.

The Justice Department in February opened an investigation into its handling of the Epstein case after a bipartisan group of senators, led by Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), pressed for answers about the plea agreement.

In March, The Washington Post reported that, although Epstein’s alleged victims were as young as 14, the only minor he was convicted of soliciting was 16 when the offenses began. The decision to charge Epstein with a crime involving an older teen has eased his obligations to register as a sex offender. For example, Epstein does not have to register in New Mexico, where he owns a ranch, because his victim was not under 16.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump set to announce plans for summit with China’s Xi to reach an end to trade war, David J. Lynch​, April 5, 2019 (print ed.). Negotiators say they are getting close to a deal to end the year-long trade dispute.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump plans to nominate Herman Cain to Fed board, a move that would escalate White House pressure on the central bank, Damian Paletta and Heather Long​m, April 5, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump is planning to nominate former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain to the Federal Reserve’s board of governors, two people herman cain wfamiliar with the push said, a move that would significantly escalate the White House’s effort to exert political pressure on the U.S. central bank.

There are two empty seats on the Fed’s seven-member board. Trump is hoping to fill the other empty seat with conservative economist Stephen Moore, a pick that has led to an outcry from former White House officials in both parties because of Moore’s political background and lack of Fed-related experience.

Trump interviewed Cain, right, for the slot several weeks ago. He has signaled to aides in recent days that he wants to put Cain in the slot, but a final decision has not been made because Cain’s background check hasn’t been completed.

Cain, a restaurant industry executive, was a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City from 1992 to 1996. He was part of a group of business and community leaders who advise the head of the Kansas City Fed on how the economy is doing.

Cain has close ties to Trump. In September he launched a super PAC aimed at supporting Trump’s agenda ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.

Cain ran for president in 2012 but lost during the Republican primary to Mitt Romney. He became famous for a simplified tax plan, known as Nine-Nine-Nine. His candidacy unraveled over complaints that he sexually harassed multiple women, including an allegation that he groped a woman and tried to force her into a sexual act. (Cain has denied the accusations.)

washington post logoWashington Post, House passes resolution to end U.S. involvement in Yemen, setting up a Trump veto, Karoun Demirjian​, April 5, 2019 (print ed.). The vote was largely along party lines and comes after the Senate passed the war powers resolution last month.

Trump Probesmichael cohen plead guilty to 9 counts

Roll Call, Dems unlikely to help Cohen get reduced sentence for more information, Griffin Connolly, April 5, 2019. Senior Oversight Democrat says panel is willing to see more material from ex-Trump lawyer, but ‘without any strings attached.’ House Democrats would gladly collect and listen to new information from President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, who told lawmakers in a memo Thursday that he can provide new evidence to support his claims that the president has committed multiple crimes while in office.

But Cohen’s last-ditch plea for lawmakers to help him reduce and delay his three-year prison term to accommodate that new testimony and evidence will likely fall on deaf ears, a senior Democratic member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform told Roll Call Friday.

“I think there’d be real reluctance — at least at first blush — to interfere with the judicial process,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly, one of the longest-serving members on the Oversight panel that held a blockbuster public hearing with Cohen in February.

Palmer Report, Opinion: No way does Donald Trump survive this, Bill Palmer, April 5, 2019. What could be worse for Donald Trump than the news that House Democrats are seeking his financial records, so they can expose his financial crimes and his illicit ties to foreign governments?

bill palmer report logo headerOn Thursday afternoon it was revealed that for the past four weeks, Capital One has been secretly cooperating with House Democrats when it comes to Trump’s financial records. It’s impossible for Trump to play defense on these kinds of things when the other side has that big of a head start.

By Thursday night, Michael announced that he had indeed just found an old hard drive with fourteen million items on it that may incriminate Trump.

Trump always has his countermoves. He installed William Barr, and it bought him a little time with the Mueller report. He’ll try to make a countermove to block his tax returns from being seized. He’ll try to do something to belatedly undo what Capital One has been doing to him.

But the point is that Donald Trump’s parlor tricks only tend to work when he’s trying to kick one scandal down the road at a time. No one survives this kind of onslaught – not even someone as slippery as Trump. Even John Gotti, the original Teflon Don, ended up going to prison. When a guy is this guilty, and he’s being this aggressively pursued from this many angles, there are only so many countermoves he can make before it catches up to him.

Bezos Divorce Settlement

washington post logoWashington Post, Jeff Bezos, divorce settlement with Mackenzie Bezos, retains 75 percent of Amazon stock and all voting power, Craig Timberg and Greg Bensinger, April 5, 2019 (print ed.). MacKenzie Bezos also said that Jeff Bezos would retain his full stake in Blue Origin and the Washington Post. MacKenzie Bezos’s stake will be worth roughly $36 billion, making her one of the wealthiest women in the world.

jeffrey bezos washington postAmazon founder Jeff Bezos (shown in a file photo) and his ex-wife, MacKenzie Bezos, announced Thursday a divorce settlement that will leave him with 75 percent of their Amazon stock and all of their joint holdings in The Washington Post and a space-exploration company, Blue Origin. He will retain voting power over all of the Amazon voting shares the couple once owned together.

amazon logo smallThe announcement from the Bezoses -- coming in a tweet from MacKenzie that was retweeted by Jeff -- settled a closely watched matter of corporate governance affecting one of the world’s richest companies, with a market capitalization of $890 billion.

The divorce settlement is likely to remove uncertainty over the extent of Jeff Bezos’s continued control over a company he founded in 1994 and for which he remains chief executive and its largest shareholder. Their marriage lasted 25 years and produced four children.

U.S. Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Ignores His Own History in Taking a Jab at Biden, Annie Karni and Sydney Ember, April 5, 2019 (print ed.). P resident Trump took aim at Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Twitter, posting a video that mocked Mr. Biden for his handsy approach to politicking.

Mr. Trump’s response seemed like a typical partisan dig, except that it was issued by a man who has been accused by more than a dozen women of misconduct.

For a week, Mr. Trump’s advisers have been watching the spectacle surrounding the accusations that Mr. Biden has touched women inappropriately with something like glee.

Privately, they have admitted that the entire conversation surrounding the former vice president’s approach to politicking seems like a controversy conjured up by the progressive wing of the Democratic Party to tar a potential centrist front-runner. But they were happy to enjoy it from the sidelines.

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Porn Stars Find 2020 Democratic Candidates ‘Extremely Depressing,’ Aurora Snow, April 5, 2019. With the presidential election approaching, many constituents in the adult industry are struggling to forgive Democratic candidates’ past voting record. Less than a year ago, most of the 2020 frontrunners voted in favor of two bills: “Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act” and “Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act” (commonly known as FOSTA/SESTA), legislation that has negatively impacted sex workers more than the sex trafficking it purports to stop. The new legislation pushes responsibility, and thus legal consequences, to the online platforms that “promote or facilitate prostitution” without distinguishing consenting sex work from coerced sex trafficking.

In an attempt to excuse some of the candidates for their uneducated voting faux pas in passing FOSTA/SESTA, porn star Nina Kayy offers a rather empathetic view. “They probably signed it blindly without talking to anyone in the industry or talking to sex-trafficking victims,” she says. “Sure, a lot of sex workers are mad about it but you have to look at the bigger picture: yes, it’s part of the candidate’s job to reach out and educate themselves, but imagine if they didn’t sign a bill against sex trafficking? How would that look to the people that voted for them?”

According to Kayy, all of the congresspeople vying for the 2020 ticket — Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Corey Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, Tulsi Gabbard, etc. — are guilty of doing what the majority of voters do at the polls: voting for the header. Hence a bill even the DOJ expressed uncertainty over was passed, 97-2 in the Senate and 388-25 in the House.

Independent contractors (i.e. sex workers) use online forums to discuss clients, post reviews and warn fellow co-workers of potential dangers. Those options have now largely been removed, with sites—fearing prosecution for “sex trafficking”—hesitating to allow consenting sex workers a platform to validate the safety of clients or independently advertise and book work. It’s thus driven many consenting sex workers off-line and underground, endangering them.

Politicians frequently conflate consensual sex work and sex trafficking despite their drastic differences, whether to push moral agendas or due to ignorance. As seen in the recent massage parlor sting ensnaring New England Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft, the police have repeatedly referred to it as a “sex trafficking” operation, yet no trafficking charges were filed and even the Palm Beach District Attorney admitted "there’s no allegation that any defendant engaged in human trafficking.” Many have speculated that “trafficking” is a term loosely used by law enforcement to sanction prostitution busts.

From the prosecutor’s office to defense attorney, Judge Herb Dodell has argued both sides and calls the trumped-up Kraft sting ridiculous. Sex work and sex trafficking are separate issues, he argues. “There are criteria that have been established on what represents human trafficking versus something else—even in California. Though you don’t have to show there was a force of coercion, human trafficking is basically where you take people and you make them slaves,” explains Dodell. “Prostitution is very, very different—an example clearly represented within the brothels in Nevada.”

Another Assault Scandal

dahvie vanityHuffPost, Dahvie Vanity Raped A Child. Police Gave Him A Warning. Now 21 Women Accuse Him Of Sexual Assault, Jesselyn Cook and Sebastian Murdock, April 5, 2019. The Blood on the Dance Floor singer (shown at right in a Twitter photo) is an expert at winning teenage girls’ trust — and their silence.

One Sunday night in June 2007, 14-year-old Dianna Farrell sat alone in her bedroom in the dark, listening to a Christian radio show where teens discussed their troubles on-air. The host, a man named Dawson McAllister, seemed kind: he spoke to callers empathetically and even gave them advice. Farrell picked up the phone and dialed in. When McAllister asked her what was wrong, she took a deep breath, then told him about the man who had sexually assaulted her at her home eight days earlier. A show staffer called the police.

The next evening, a patrol car appeared outside Farrell’s house in Pinellas County, Florida. She was terrified. She hadn’t meant to cause any problems — she just wanted someone to talk to. A shy eighth grader who was bullied throughout middle school, Farrell didn’t have many friends. She spent most of her free time on the computer by herself, creating digital artwork and learning how to edit photos online. Just a few weeks earlier, she’d celebrated her acceptance to a high school with a special visual arts program.

Farrell paced as a police officer asked questions about the man she’d described on the radio. She frantically explained that she didn’t know his real name, or how old he was. He just went by “Dahvie.” She’d met him a while ago on Myspace, where he had a popular page as an Orlando-based hairstylist. Dahvie had told Farrell that he wanted to give her a new look, so he drove across the state to dye her hair at her house. The girl’s mother, a single parent with two nursing jobs, had to leave for an evening shift shortly after Dahvie arrived, several hours late. Farrell performed oral sex on him that night.

As the officer pressed for details about the encounter — Farrell’s first sexual experience — she started to cry. The 14-year-old was confused about what had happened and afraid of getting Dahvie into trouble. They’d started chatting online in the weeks leading up to her hair appointment, and he would often sign off with messages declaring his love for her. They were friends, she reminded herself, and Dahvie cared about her. What would happen to him if she told police that after finishing with her hair, he had forced himself into her mouth?

“Are you going to call him? You can’t!” Farrell pleaded through tears. “It was no big deal,” she insisted. Everything was consensual, she said.
In a police report, 14-year-old Dianna Farrell asked an officer if her sexual abuser would get in trouble.

In a police report, 14-year-old Dianna Farrell asked an officer if her sexual abuser would get in trouble.

After speaking to Farrell and her mother, Captain Kurt Romanosky, a detective from the Crimes Against Children squad of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, called 22-year-old Jesus David Torres, the man known on Myspace as “Dahvie the Elite Hair God.” Romanosky informed Torres that he was aware of the sexual contact with Farrell, and that her mother would not ask cops to arrest Torres if he cut off contact with her daughter. Torres claimed he didn’t know how young Farrell was, said he was sorry and promised not to talk to her again.

Lewd and lascivious battery — sexual penetration of a child between the ages of 12 and 15 by an adult, for which Torres was briefly investigated — is a form of statutory rape and a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Ignorance of the victim’s age is not an admissible defense under Florida law, and 14-year-olds cannot legally consent to sex with 22-year-olds in the state, but police let Torres off anyway.

Torres moved on. Later that year, he started Blood on the Dance Floor (BOTDF), an electro-pop band that quickly took off among kids and teens. Under the stage name Dahvie Vanity, the singer went on to amass close to 2 million online followers while touring all over the country. And in the 12 years since police gave him a warning for assaulting Farrell, Torres has allegedly sexually assaulted nearly two dozen women and underage girls.

U.S. Crime, Courts

bo dresnerSan Marcos Record, Former Hays County GOP official arrested for sexual assault of a child, Robin Blackburn, April 5, 2019. A precinct chair and former sergeant-at-arms for the Hays County Republican Party is in jail on a $250,000 bond after being arrested for aggravated sexual assault of a child. Bo Michael Dresner was booked into the Hays County Jail on April 3. There had been reports of sexual abuse involving Dresner (shown in a mugshot) and the same victim going back seven years.

Civil Rights Scandal?

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Something strange is going on at this civil rights institution. It must be investigated, Jim Tharpe, April 5, 2019. Jim Tharpe is a retired journalist who lives in Atlanta and a former managing editor of the Montgomery Advertiser. There’s something strange afoot at the Southern Poverty Law Center, one of the nation’s richest civil and human rights charities. In March, the center abruptly fired legendary co-founder Morris Dees. Dees’s biography was quickly scrubbed from the center’s website, and the SPLC announced this week that Karen Baynes-Dunning would serve as interim president and CEO, giving the civil rights organization its first black female leader.

morris dees speaker bureauIn confirming Dees’s departure, then-President Richard Cohen emphasized the center’s values of “truth, justice, equity, and inclusion,” and said vaguely, “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.” Subsequent news reports pointed to allegations of racial discrimination and sexual harassment inside an organization that had raised hundreds of millions of dollars from donors to fight just that type of injustice.

Dees has said little about why he was shown the door after 48 years at the organization he had come to define. But to those of us familiar with the SPLC and its inner workings, the allegations swirling around the latest drama were familiar. The question isn’t what went wrong at the SPLC; it is why it took so long for the rest of the country to learn what local reporters already knew. It will probably take a federal investigation to fully unravel this deep-South mystery and provide a credible, long-term fix.

More than two decades ago, I was managing editor of the Montgomery Advertiser, which was located one block from the SPLC in downtown Montgomery , Ala. I proposed an investigation into the organization after ongoing complaints from former SPLC staffers, who came and went with regularity but always seemed to tell the same story. Only the names and faces changed. The SPLC, they said, was not what it appeared to be. Many urged the newspaper to take a look.

We were, at the time, anything but adversaries with the center. Like other media outlets, we generally parroted SPLC press releases. We also became friends with SPLC staffers, occasionally attending the center’s parties. Some of my reporters dated staffers at the center.

That relationship, however, suddenly soured when reporters Dan Morse and Greg Jaffe (both of whom now work for The Post) began making serious inquiries about the SPLC’s finances and the treatment of black employees.

Media News

fox news team banner

New York Magazine, Commentary: What I’ve Learned From Collecting Stories of People Whose Loved Ones Were Transformed by Fox News, Luke O'Neil, April 5, 2019. I asked a bunch of people how it felt watching their family members be stolen from them by Fox News over the years and it doesn't feel great it turns out. Last week, I devoted an installment of my newsletter Welcome to Hell World to a dozen stories from people who, like me, had close relationships that had been strained or ruined by family members who’d become obsessed with Fox News.

No matter where the stories came from they all featured a few familiar beats: A loved one seemed to have changed over time. Maybe that person was already somewhat conservative to start. Maybe they were apolitical. But at one point or another, they sat down in front of Fox News, found some kind of deep, addictive comfort in the anger and paranoia, and became a different person — someone difficult, if not impossible, to spend time with.

fox news logo Small The fallout led to failed marriages and estranged parental relationships. For at least one person, it marks the final memory he’ll ever have of his father: “When I found my dad dead in his armchair, fucking Fox News was on the TV,” this reader told me. “It’s likely the last thing he saw. I hate what that channel and conservative talk radio did to my funny, compassionate dad. He spent the last years of his life increasingly angry, bigoted, and paranoid.”

Something about the piece struck a chord. It had gone viral, and wave after wave of frustrated and saddened Fox News orphans began to commiserate with me and with each other on Twitter and in my messages. Others wrote of similar phenomenon in Australia with the television channel Sky or in the U.K. with the tabloid Daily Mail. I heard from more than a hundred people who felt like they could relate to what they all seemed to think of as a kind of ideological brain poisoning. They chose Fox News over their family, people told me. They chose Fox News over me.

April 4

Trump Probes

washington post logoWashington Post, House Democrats seek six years of Trump’s tax returns, setting stage for fight, Erica Werner, Damian Paletta and Josh Dawsey, April 4, 2019 (print ed.). ​"This request is about policy, not politics,” the Ways and Means Committee chairman said. The president has said he does not plan to hand over his tax returns to Congress — and that he irs logowould fight it to the Supreme Court, according to two administration officials.

The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee asked the IRS on Wednesday for six years of President Trump’s personal and business tax richard neal oreturns, a request with which the president immediately said he was not inclined to comply.

The committee chair’s letter to the Internal Revenue Service — and Trump’s immediate and public response — set up what is likely to become an intense and drawn-out court fight as Democrats push to see tax records they think can shed light on numerous aspects of Trump’s business dealings and Trump resists their demands. The Ways and Means chairman’s request was expected but nonetheless represented a significant escalation in House Democrats’ wide-ranging probes of Trump and his administration.

The IRS was given until April 10 to respond. The panel’s chairman was able to make the request because of a 1924 law that gives the chairmen of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee broad powers to request and receive the tax returns of any American.

“Congress, as a coequal branch of government, has a duty to conduct oversight of departments and officials,” Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.), left, said in a statement. “The Ways and Means Committee in particular has a responsibility to conduct oversight of our voluntary federal tax system and determine how Americans — including those elected to our highest office — are complying with those laws.”

Barr Cover-Up / Spin Alleged

ny times logoNew York Times, Some on Mueller’s Team Say Report Was More Damaging Than Barr Revealed, Nicholas Fandos, Michael S. Schmidt and Mark Mazzetti, April 4, 2019 (print ed.). Some of Robert S. Mueller III’s investigators have told associates that Attorney General William P. Barr failed to adequately portray the findings of their inquiry and that they were more troubling for President Trump than Mr. Barr indicated, according to government officials and others familiar with their simmering frustrations.

At stake in the dispute — the first evidence of tension between Mr. Barr and the special counsel’s office — is who shapes the public’s initial understanding of one of the most consequential government investigations in American history. Some members of Mr. Mueller’s team are concerned that, because Mr. Barr created the first narrative of the special counsel’s findings, Americans’ views will have hardened before the investigation’s conclusions become public.

william barr new oMr. Barr (right) has said he will move quickly to release the nearly 400-page report but needs time to scrub out confidential information. The special counsel’s investigators had already written multiple summaries of the report, and some team members believe that Mr. Barr should have included more of their material in the four-page letter he wrote on March 24 laying out their main conclusions, according to government officials familiar with the investigation. Mr. Barr only briefly cited the special counsel’s work in his letter.

However, the special counsel’s office never asked Mr. Barr to release the summaries soon after he received the report, a person familiar with the investigation said. And the Justice Department quickly determined that the summaries contain sensitive information, like classified material, secret grand-jury testimony and information related to current federal investigations that must remain confidential, according to two government officials.

The officials and others interviewed declined to flesh out why some of the special counsel’s investigators viewed their findings as potentially more damaging for the president than Mr. Barr explained, although the report is believed to examine Mr. Trump’s efforts to thwart the investigation. It was unclear how much discussion Mr. Mueller and his investigators had with senior Justice Department officials about how their findings would be made public. It was also unclear how widespread the vexation is among the special counsel team, which included 19 lawyers, about 40 F.B.I. agents and other personnel.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Mueller team now says Barr is misleading on Trump-Russia collusion too; Barr blames his coverup on absurd excuse, Bill Palmer, April 4, 2019. Last night the New York Times and Washington Post separately reported that, according to members of Robert Mueller’s team, the Mueller report is ugly for Trump when it comes to obstruction of justice, and Attorney General William Barr is misrepresenting what’s in the report. Mueller’s team also revealed that it provided Barr with publicly releasable summaries, which he quashed in favor of his own illegitimate four page “summary.”

Now it’s gotten even uglier.

bill palmer report logo headerThis morning NBC News reported that according to Mueller’s team, the report paints a “picture of a campaign whose members were manipulated by a sophisticated Russian intelligence operation.” There are two kinds of manipulation in these circumstances: witting and unwitting. Does anyone really think Mueller concluded that when Donald Trump Jr knowingly met with a Russian government representative at Trump Tower with the promise of dirt on Hillary Clinton, he was being unwittingly manipulated? Same goes for when Paul Manafort conspired with Konstantin Kilimnik, whom everyone knows is a former Russian spy, and who is widely suspected of still being one.

So yeah, the Mueller report must have concluded that the Trump campaign knowingly allowed itself to be manipulated by the Russian government. There’s a word for that: collusion. Even if Mueller concluded that this collusion didn’t rise to the level of a criminal conspiracy – which we can no longer assume is the case, now that it’s been proven william barr new oBarr (right) is lying about the report in general – this still means “yes collusion.” It gets worse.

Now that his attempted coverup of the Mueller report is falling apart, William Barr is clearly in damage control mode. He had the Department of Justice release a statement today which claimed that every page of the Mueller report was marked with a warning that it may contain protected information that can’t be released. This is apparently Barr’s excuse for not releasing Mueller’s summaries.

House OKs Mueller Subpoenas

washington post logoWashington Post, House panel votes to authorize subpoenas to obtain full Mueller report, Rachael Bade​, April 4, 2019 (print ed.). Attorney General William P. Barr has pledged to deliver a redacted version of the special counsel's report by mid-April, but Democrats said redactions are unacceptable. The fight over the report is expected to land in the courts. A House panel voted Wednesday to authorize subpoenas to obtain special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s full report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, laying down a marker in a constitutional power struggle that could end up in the courts.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 24-17 along party lines to authorize its chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), to subpoena the report and underlying documents of Mueller’s probe from Attorney General William P. Barr.

Acosta / Epstein Scandal

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary: Another Trump Cabinet link to Jeffrey Epstein, Wayne Madsen, April 4, 2019. Donald Trump’s problems vis a vis his relationship with convicted underage sex offender Jeffrey Epstein just got a bit worse. The former U.S. Attorney for South Florida, Alex Acosta, serves as Trump’s Secretary of Labor. Part of Acosta’s responsibilities include ensuring that federal laws against sex trafficking, including those involving minors, are adequately monitored for enforcement.

Religion: Baptism Change

washington post logoWashington Post, Mormon Church to allow baptisms, blessings for children of LGBT parents, reversing 2015 policy, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, April 4, 2019. The church will also update its leader handbook removing the label of “apostasy” for same-sex marriage.

djt eating twitter.jpg

Donald J. Trump (file photo via Twitter)

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Satire: Mueller’s Problem: Trump Eats Evidence for Lunch, Milicent Cranor, April 4, 2019. I could never understand why anyone would expect President Donald Trump to leave behind evidence of collusion with Russia. After all, Trump eats evidence. Former employee Omarosa Manigault Newman witnessed him indulging in this unusual diet after a meeting with Michael Cohen. In her book, Unhinged: An Insider Account of the Trump White House, she wrote, "I saw him put a note in his mouth. Since Trump was ever the germaphobe, I was shocked he appeared to be chewing and swallowing the paper. It must have been something very, very sensitive."

Media News

St. Louis Public Radio, Missouri Student Journalists, Teachers Hope Bill Will Stop Censorship By School Admins, Andy Field, April 4, 2019. The Missouri Senate is expected to consider a bill to prevent public-university and high school administrators from censoring articles from student journalists. The Cronkite New Voices Act is part of a nationwide movement to give student journalists the same First Amendment rights as professionals. Currently, 14 states have passed New Voices laws, according to the Student Press Law Center. This year, advocates have or will be introducing versions of the bill in 11 states, including Missouri.

National Press Club, Journalists, political leaders agree on blueprint to rebuild public trust in institutions, Kathy Kiely, April 4, 2019. Journalists, elected officials and government communicators committed to concrete steps aimed at increasing trust and civility in public life during two days of intensive conversations at the National Press Club March 25-26.

Hosted by the Club’s nonprofit Journalism Institute and facilitated by the National Institute of Civil Discourse, the “Dialogue in a Divided Democracy” brought together more than 60 people — news media leaders and the people they cover — for face-to-face conversations about the challenges facing key American institutions. PEN America and the Stennis Center for Public Service Leadership partnered in the event.

April 3

Mueller Probes

Palmer Report, Opinion: Everything hits the fan at once, and Donald Trump is getting hit from all sides, Bill Palmer, April 3, 2019. For a few days there, Donald Trump thought he was winning. Much of the media was reporting William Barr’s laugh out loud “summary” of the Mueller report as if it were the Mueller report, Trump was getting away with falsely claiming he had been exonerated, and he was giddily seeking revenge against, well, everyone. But as the past week has gone on, things have gotten gradually darker for Trump – and today everything hit the fan at once.

bill palmer report logo headerDonald Trump is now getting hit from all sides. His attempt at misrepresenting and burying the Mueller report has now failed. We’re about to find out what he’s been so desperately hiding in his tax returns all this time. We’re also about to learn precisely what Trump’s top advisers and family members did to get themselves rejected for security clearances before he overruled them. This is getting uglier for Trump by the hour.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Today is going to be crucial in Donald Trump’s downfall, Bill Palmer, April 3, 2019. Donald Trump spent yesterday exhibiting some of his most frantic, deranged, and cognitively-challenged behavior yet – and for good reason. He knows what today is all about. Before the morning is over, the House Judiciary Committee will have voted to hand unilateral subpoena power to Chairman Jerry Nadler with respect to the Mueller report, and Nadler can be expected to put it to good use almost immediately.

bill palmer report logo headerAs Palmer Report has spent the past week cautioning, subpoenas aren’t magic wands; they don’t produce immediate or automatic results, which is why the House Democrats didn’t simply start firing them off willy nilly the minute the illegitimate Barr summary was published. Like any sophisticated weapon, the use of the subpoena process has to be handled smartly and strategically in order to get the intended result. For instance, simply subpoenaing the Mueller report, while taking no other action, could set up a lengthy court battle while a judge tries to decide how much of the report should be in the public purview. Nadler has to be smarter in his approach, and he will be.

jerrold nadler o SmallNadler, right, has several possible avenues for his subpoenas. He can subpoena the report itself. He can subpoena William Barr to testify about how he took a multi-hundred page report and “summarized” it into four cartoonishly pro-Trump pages. He can subpoena Robert Mueller to testify about his report, and then try to fight off Barr’s inevitable attempt at muzzling Mueller. He can try to subpoena materials from Mueller’s grand jury. The list goes on. The question is how he’ll choose to combine these tactics, and potentially others, into a cohesive strategy which will ensure that the law – and the court of public opinion – remain strongly on his side as Barr tries to fight him every step of the way.

Within hours, we’ll see what Jerry Nadler and his fellow House Democrats have up their sleeve. For now, the most telling sign we have is that Donald Trump is falling to pieces while he waits to find out what’s about to happen to him. Trump isn’t coming off like a guy who’s expecting today to go well for him. We think today will end up being a crucial day in his inevitable downfall.

Major Security Breach By Mar-A-Lago Visitor

ny times logoNew York Times, Woman From China Carrying Malware Arrested After Entering Mar-a-Lago, Frances Robles, April 3, 2019 (print ed.). A 32-year-old woman from China china flag Smallcarrying four cellphones and a thumb drive infected with malware gained access to Mar-a-Lago during President Trump’s visit to the Florida resort over the weekend, federal court records show.

The woman, identified as Yujing Zhang, had arrived at the Palm Beach resort and showed two Chinese passports when she sought to be admitted, saying she wanted to use the pool.

She was allowed to enter by Secret Service agents stationed outside the resort after the Mar-a-Lago security manager on duty verified that her last name matched the surname of a member of the club, according to a complaint filed in Federal District Court in South Florida.

wayne madsen reportWayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary: Mar-a-Lago: a center for Chinese espionage and prostitution? Wayne Madsen (right), April 3, 2019 (subscription required; excerpted with permission). WMR was the first to report the possible espionage connection between Cindy Yang, aka Li Yang -- the Mar-a-Lago club habitué and previous owner of the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Florida -- and the Chinese Ministry of State Security (Guójiā Ānquánbù) (国家安全部).

The spa / massage parlor was the scene of a law enforcement prostitution sting that nabbed New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and two other wealthy members of Mar-a-Lago, all three major political donors to the GOP and Trump campaign.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘You pay and you get in’: At Trump’s beach retreat, hundreds of customers — and growing security concerns, David A. Fahrenthold, Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey and Ellen Nakashima​, April 3, 2019. ​The FBI is looking at why a Chinese national illegally gained access to Mar-a-Lago last weekend.

washington post logojared kushner head shotWashington Post, Kushner is identified as senior White House official whose security clearance was denied, Tom Hamburger, Rachael Bade and Ashley Parker​​, April 3, 2019. The president’s son-in-law, described in a House committee document as “Official 1,” had “significant disqualifying factors,” according to a White House whistleblower.

Probing the Media

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: How Rupert Murdoch’s Empire of Influence Remade the World, Jonathan Mahler and Jim Rutenberg, April 3, 2019 (print ed.). Part 1: Imperial rupert murdoch newReach: Murdoch, 86, right, and his children have toppled governments on two continents and destabilized the most important democracy on Earth. What do they want? Over the last six months, we spoke to more than 150 people about the most powerful media family on earth.

Rupert Murdoch was lying on the floor of his cabin, unable to move. It was January 2018, and Murdoch and his fourth wife, Jerry Hall, were spending the holidays cruising the Caribbean on his elder son Lachlan’s yacht. Murdoch tripped on his way to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Few private citizens have ever been more central to the state of world affairs than the man lying in that hospital bed, awaiting his children’s arrival.

As the head of a sprawling global media empire, he commanded multiple television networks, a global news service, a major publishing house and a Hollywood movie studio. His newspapers and television networks had been instrumental in amplifying the nativist revolt that was reshaping governments not just in the United States but also across the planet.

New York Times, Here are six takeaways from The Times’s investigation.

More Investigative Reports

greg palast hsGreg Palast Investigative Journalism, Trump May Name Kris Kobach New Immigration Czar, Greg Palast (right), April 3, 2019. Their real agenda: 2020 vote suppression. When the young Kris Kobach created a computer system for the Department of Homeland Security that secretly tracked visiting Muslims, President George W. Bush was so offended that he personally ordered the racially offensive program shut down.

And now Kobach may have power over that Department and all others dealing with immigrants – including Justice and Defense, and the Census — if the AP report that President Donald Trump is considering making Kobach his “Immigration Czar” becomes reality.

kris kobach kansas SmallIt’s an especially cute move by Trump, as this newly crafted position, unlike an apointment to other cabinet level posts, will not require Senate approval, not even a hearing.

I’ve been investigating Kobach (left) for six years for Al Jazeera and Rolling Stone. Trying to get straight answers from Kobach about his racially poisoned vote-purging shenanigans has not been easy. After several refusals to speak with me about our findings, in 2016, I finally tracked him down in Wichita, with my crew pretending to be from a local TV station. (We were indeed with Channel 4 … Channel 4 of London.)

Peace Activism

david swanson head SmallLet's Try Democracy, Grassroots Activism / Opinion, NATO Interrupted, David Swanson (right), April 3, 2019. Wednesday morning an event was held in a building overlooking Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., at an organization called the Center for European Policy Analysis, which is funded by: FireEye, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Bell Helicopters, BAE systems, the U.S. State Department, the Pentagon, National Endowment for Democracy, the U.S. Mission to NATO, and NATO’s own Public Diplomacy Division.

Participating in the event were several foreign ministers from NATO nations, ambassadors to NATO, and U.S. Senator Chris Murphy. NATO is designed to david swanson no to nato sign2vigilantly protect you from numerous imaginary and NATO-provoked dangers, but its events are apparently protected by magic spells, as I just walked in and took a seat.

When I couldn’t take any more of the pro-militarism talk, I stood up and interrupted, holding up a sign reading: “Yes to Peace / NoToNATO.org.” Lots of media cameras were in the room, so there is bound to be video somewhere. (Please share it with me.) I said words to this general effect:

"NATO needs to be shut down, not enlarged. Russia spends a tiny percentage of what NATO nations do on war, and you pretend to be afraid of nato logo flags nameRussia. We’re not buying it. You’re provoking dangers. NATO makes up 3/4 of military spending in the world. Its members are also responsible for about 3/4 of foreign weapons dealing — to dictatorships and so-called democracies around the world. NATO wages aggressive wars far from the North Atlantic. The people you can hear chanting outside have had enough. We’re not believing these myths anymore."

I continued along those lines for a little while before leaving. We sang songs and spoke to people in the building’s lobby and on the sidewalk out front, and did interviews with media from every continent other than North America, before heading off to Capitol Hill where the head of NATO was being welcomed in bipartisan harmony.

NATO is encountering protest everywhere it goes in Washington on Wednesday and will on Thursday as well. Detailed plans.

washington post logoWashington Post, NATO chief rebuts Trump’s criticisms — but also offers praise — in speech to Congress, Anne Gearan and Karoun Demirjian, April 3, 2019. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg drew bipartisan applause and some 18 standing ovations Wednesday as he made a case to Congress for the survival of the transatlantic alliance that was built out of the ashes of World War II, but his most important audience was not in the room.

nato logo flags nameAddressing a joint meeting of the House and Senate to commemorate NATO’s founding in Washington 70 years ago this week, Stoltenberg aimed much of his approximately 40-minute speech at answering President Trump’s skepticism and occasional hostility toward the alliance, while throwing in some praise of the president as well.

The NATO chief thanked the United States for building and sustaining the alliance as it grew from 12 members to 29 and credited Trump with forcing a reckoning among NATO nations over how they fund their joint commitment to military defense.

More U.S. Politics

Roll Call, Senate goes nuclear again, speeding up Donald Trump’s nominations, Niels Lesniewski, April 3, 2019. Senate Republicans moved ahead with deploying the “nuclear option” again Wednesday, this time following through on an effort to cut down on debate time for most of President Donald Trump’s nominees.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosIn an exercise that had far less suspense than when then-Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, made the move back in 2013, the Senate voted, 48-51, overturning the ruling of the presiding officer and setting a new precedent declaring that the remaining debate time for Jeffrey Kessler to be an assistant secretary of Commerce was two hours. A “no” vote was to overturn the presiding officer and establish the two-hour limit.

us senate logoSenate rules had allowed for a maximum of 30 hours after cutting off debate, so the cut in deliberation time is drastic.

All Democrats voted against the effort put forward by GOP leadership. They were joined by Republicans Mike Lee of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine.

The vote to set a new precedent was just the most recent use of the “nuclear option.” It is called that because it changes the way the Senate does business by a simple majority, avoiding the need for proponents to secure the support of supermajorities of senators that filibuster rules typically require.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump leaves Washington reeling as he struggles with domestic agenda, Seung Min Kim and Erica Werner, April 3, 2019 (print ed.). Republicans are trying to Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)cope with the whiplash as the president rolls out new policies on health care and immigration.

• Washington Post, House set to rebuke Trump’s attempt to use courts to overturn Obamacare
• Washington Post, Aides warn Trump of economic peril in closing the border

 ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Takeover of the Republican Party Is Almost Complete, April 3, 2019. The Trump campaign helped install allies atop the most significant state parties, and urged them to discourage conservative criticism of the president. So far, loyalty has prevailed.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump mocks Biden over allegations of inappropriate touching, Felicia Sonmez, April 3, 2019 (print ed.). In a speech at a Republican fundraising dinner, the president took aim at his potential 2020 White House rival, who has faced growing allegations of inappropriate behavior toward women.

washington post logoWashington Post, Border surge puts pressure on Democrats to craft their own immigration solutions — not just oppose Trump, Michael Scherer, April 2, 2019.  Julián Castro, former San Antonio mayor, is the first of the party’s presidential candidates to offer a detailed immigration plan. Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro on Tuesday offered a far-reaching plan to remake the nation’s immigration policy, with a new call to end criminal penalties for migrants entering the country without permission and a plan to remove detention as a tool for most immigration enforcement.

julián castro hudCastro’s proposal, the first detailed immigration policy blueprint from any of the Democratic candidates for president, is a clear sign that the party’s leaders will be pressured to move beyond simply condemning President Trump’s policies over the coming months to offer their own detailed solutions to a surging influx of migrant families seeking asylum at the southern border.

Like other candidates, Castro, right, who is the only Latino in the race, calls for a wholesale rejection of Trump’s approach. But his plan is the first to offer specifics that would amount to a more permissive environment for undocumented immigrants than existed under the Obama administration.

Castro says his plan is premised on the idea that the southern border is more secure than it has been in decades. The former head of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and mayor of San Antonio would end border wall construction, allow deported veterans who honorably served to return to the United States, increase refu­gee quotas and make it easier for family members to be reunited with relatives who are U.S. residents. He would ask Congress to provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants living in the United States, including young people who received protections under the Obama administration and those covered by the Temporary Protected Status program.

He said he would also create a “21st-century Marshall Plan” for Central America to attack the woeful conditions there, seen as the root cause of the recent increase in asylum seekers. For those who reach the country’s interior, he would reconstitute the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE, by reassigning its interior enforcement functions to other agencies, including the Justice Department. He would also re-prioritize Customs and Border Protection efforts to focus on drug and human trafficking instead of interior law enforcement.

By repealing the criminal code that allows the Trump administration to prosecute people who enter the country, Castro would remove the mechanism that previously allowed the administration to separate asylum-seeking parents and children after detention. Trump has since stopped those prosecutions, though single adults continue to face criminal penalties. Castro said he would impose a civil legal process for sorting out refu­gee applications and deportations, with an emphasis on jailing and removing only those with criminal records.

Terrorists' Refugee Camp

washington post logoWashington Post, The Islamic State’s refugees are facing a humanitarian calamity, Erin Cunningham and Kamiran Sadoun, April 3, 2019 (print ed.). Last week, 31 people died on the way to a Syrian camp or shortly after arriving because of injuries and malnutrition, the International Rescue Committee says, bringing the total number of such deaths to 217.

More On Changing Media

ny times logoNew York Times, Media Companies Take a Big Gamble on Apple, Edmund Lee, April 3, 2019 (print ed.).  Executives have been burned by their previous dealings with big tech apple logo rainbowcompanies. But Apple’s promise of a billion devices worldwide was too good to pass up. Even for Rupert Murdoch.

The tech giant based the service on an app it acquired last year called Texture, which gave readers access to some 200 publications with a single subscription. The revamped and renamed version, introduced with much fanfare last week at the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., charges subscribers $9.99 a month ($12.99 in Canada) for content from more than 300 titles, including The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Vogue, Time, The Atlantic and People, as well as The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal. (Also included: Airbnb Magazine, Birds & Blooms, Retro Gamer and Salt Water Sportsman, befitting the app’s conceit as an omnibus newsstand.)

washington post logo

Washington Post, Inside the spectacular fall of the granddaddy of right-wing conspiracy sites, Manuel Roig-Franzia, April 3, 2019 (print ed.). In the feverish heyday of the “birther movement,” conspiracy-hungry readers swarmed to a website called WorldNetDaily for the latest on the specious yet viral theory that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.

The site’s founder, Joseph Farah — a former newspaperman with a dense, jet-black mustache and a cloak-and-dagger mystique — boasted in 2010 that he was well on the way to generating $10 million a year in revenue. His Northern Virginia-headquartered news site, known by the acronym WND, was having its moment by stoking rumors about Obama.

But Farah — a conservative Internet pioneer who’d once been labeled by the Clinton White House as part of a right-wing media conspiracy and was known to sport a pistol on his hip in the office—saw bigger things. Years earlier he’d launched one of the first large-scale digital newsgathering operations; now he wanted to be a player in Christian-themed movies and book publishing, churning out titles by big-name conservatives, such as anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly and future House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.).

He was building an empire.

A decade later, that realm is being sucked into a tornado of unpaid bills, pink-slipped employees, chaotic accounting, declining revenue and diminishing readership, according to interviews with more than 25 former employees, shareholders, company insiders and authors associated with the firm's flailing publishing units, as well as a review of hundreds of internal documents, including emails and financial statements obtained by The Washington Post.

Even though Farah claimed in WND columns and emails to supporters last year to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations —including tax-deductible contributions — some former employees and contractors have been laid off or had their deals canceled without being paid money they say they were owed. Many authors who signed on with the site’s publishing arm, including former Republican senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, are fuming about allegedly not receiving royalties owed to them.

washington post logocia logoWashington Post, CIA long relied exclusively on Amazon for its cloud computing. Now it is seeking multiple providers, Aaron Gregg, April 3, 2019. The Central Intelligence Agency is taking early steps toward procuring a massive cloud computing infrastructure to support its national security mission, according to amazon logo smalldocuments reviewed by The Washington Post, with plans to award a contract worth “tens of billions” of dollars to more than one cloud provider by 2021.

The cloud effort, known as the C2E Commercial Cloud Enterprise, builds on an earlier $600 million cloud computing contract that was awarded to Amazon’s cloud computing division in 2013. And it runs parallel to a separate, $10 billion cloud effort being pursued by the Defense Department.

Both efforts are meant to outfit U.S. national security agencies with next-generation cloud computing innovations from Silicon Valley.

Crime, Courts

Politico, Feds: Manafort ex-son-in-law used meth, cocaine in jail, Josh Gerstein, April 3, 2019. Paul Manafort's ex-son-in-law Jeffrey Yohai admitted to using methamphetamine and cocaine while being held in a federally-run jail in Los Angeles on a series of a fraud charges earlier this year, according to federal prosecutors.

Yohai pleaded guilty to one set of scams in federal court early last year, but allegedly committed more while out on bail and was arrested on state charges, then hit with another round on federal ones. A source familiar with the case told Politico Yohai made entreaties to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office, but little or nothing came of the effort.

U.S. Consumer Protection

washington post logoWashington Post, After hundreds of crashes, this BOB jogging stroller faced recall. Then Trump appointees stepped in, Todd C. Frankel, April 3, 2019 (print ed.). The untold story of the Britax case shows how changes in the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s leadership under President Trump influenced the handling of a product that the agency believed had injured consumers.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pork industry will soon have more power over meat inspections, Kimberly Kindy, April 3, 2019. The Trump administration is cutting the number of federal inspectors by about 40 percent and replacing them with plant employees.

washington post logoelizabeth warren o purpleWashington Post, Opinion: Corporate executives must face jail time for overseeing massive scams, Elizabeth Warren, April 3, 2019 (print ed.). Elizabeth Warren, right, represents Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate and is running for the Democratic presidential nomination. Opening unauthorized bank accounts. Cheating customers on mortgages and car loans. Mistreating service members.

If you can dream up a financial scam, there’s a good chance that Wells Fargo ran it on its customers in recent years. Last week, after years of pressure, the company finally parted ways with its second chief executive in three years. But that’s not nearly enough accountability. It’s time to reform our laws to make sure that corporate executives face jail time for overseeing massive scams.

ny times logoNew York Times, There Are Probably Cameras on Your Flight, but Relax, They’re Not On (Yet), Christine Negroni, April 3, 2019 (print ed.). A traveler asked Singapore Airlines if the seat back on his flight contained a camera. His question stirred attention on Twitter, and from two U.S. senators.

Vitaly Kamluk, a cybersecurity and malware expert, was returning from vacation on Singapore Airlines in February when his wife noticed a small circle that looked like a camera lens along the lower edge of the video screen in the seat back.

“It really looked like a camera to me, but you can never be sure,” Mr. Kamluk said. So he took a photo of the circle and tweeted it to the airline.

He got a quick response from Singapore, which acknowledged that it was a camera but said it had been “disabled.” He also got plenty of attention on Twitter.

washington post logoWashington Post, Disabled veteran wins $250,000 settlement after park rangers arrested him over handicapped spot, Alex Horton, April 3, 2019 (print ed.). Esquibel said rangers kicked his severely wounded leg so much, he now needs his foot amputated.

Militants in southern Afghanistan had already salted the earth with bombs when Sgt. Dominic Esquibel led his Marines through Sangin. On his final patrol, the ground ruptured under his feet in an explosion of light and blood.

The blast tore at his right arm and shattered parts of his right leg and foot. “I thank God it was me,” he told author Bing West from a hospital bed in 2011, “rather than one of my men.”

Doctors were barely able to salvage Esquibel’s foot. He wears an carbon-fiber exoskeleton brace to help him walk and run.

Congress Questions rump Limits On DC Protests

washington post logoWashington Post, Congress questions National Park Service over proposal to charge for protests, Marisa J. Lang, April 3, 2019. The National Park Service is parsing through a mountain of responses it received to a question it posed last year: Should the agency seek to recover the costs of supporting protests in Washington?

On Wednesday, members of Congress had another chance to weigh in.

With the number of demonstrations on the rise, stretching the department’s resources, Park Service acting director Dan Smith said the agency wanted to test the waters of public opinion, but he said no decision has been made as to how the Park Service might recover costs.

More than 180,000 people responded during a public comment period last year. Of those, Smith told members of the House Natural Resources Committee, more than 71,000 were “substantive,” including multi-page letters of opposition from civil rights groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union.

The Park Service should have a verdict on how to proceed in the next three months, Smith said.

Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) asked Smith about the likelihood activists would need to pay back the government for the cost of supporting protests. She noted that organizations with various political ideologies opposed the proposal.

“Yesterday, this committee received a letter from a broad coalition of stakeholders, from the Charles Koch Institute to the ACLU, condemning the administration’s attempt to limit First Amendment protests in D.C.,” Haaland said. “It isn’t often that we see such divergent groups agree.”

Global Analysis: Ukraine Election

Ukraine 2019 Presidential Elections Result as of April 1st (BBC graph).

Ukraine 2019 Presidential Elections Result as of April 1st (BBC graph), showing comedian Volodmyer Zelenskiy (shown below right in a file screenshot) as leader with 30 percent, nearly twice the total as incumbent President Petro Petroshenko, the only other candidate to make the run-off later this month.

Unz Review, Opinion: A few initial thoughts about the first round of the Ukrainian Presidential election, The Saker, April 3, 2019. The first round of the Presidential election in the Ukraine took place on April Fool’s Day and it could be tempting to dismiss it all like a big farce which, of course, it was, but, we should not overlook the fact that some very interesting volodymyr zelensky screenshotand important events have just taken place. I won’t discuss them all right now, there will be plenty of time for that in the future.

For now I will only focus on those elements of a much bigger picture which seem most critical to me. These elements are:

1) The Nazis suffered a crushing defeat in this election. By “Nazis” I primarily mean their main figurehead – Petro Poroshenko (the rest of the “minor Nazis” did so poorly that they don’t matter anymore). Think of it: in spite of his immense wealth (he outspent everybody else and even spent more that twice what the next big spender – [Iulia] Tymoshenko – doled out for each vote), in spite of his immense “administrative resource” (that is the Russian expression for the ability to use the power of the state for your personal benefit), in spite of his “victory” with the Tomos, in spite of triggering the Kerch bridge incident, in spite of breaking all the remaining treaties with Russia, in spite of his control of the media and in spite of the (now admittedly lukewarm) support of the West, Poroshenko suffered a crushing defeat.

See for yourself:

Look at the only two regions Petro Poroshenko (i.e. the Nazis) actually won (in blue) and see how nicely they overlap with the rough historical contours of the Galicia region. But Poroshenko managed to even lose part of that to Iulia Tymoshenko!

Bottom line: except for a minority of rabid hardcore Nazis in Galicia, the rest of the Ukraine hates the Poroshenko Ukronazi regime. We always knew that, but now we have the proof.

What we do see is key agencies, actors, individuals all having their own “mini foreign policies” which sometimes brings about goofy results (like when the CIA and the Pentagon support different sides in a conflict). In fact, the two main branches of Ukrainian politics – Nazis and Zionists – are both richly represented in the US government and various entities support different candidates and different agendas. The same is also true for the EU, but since the EU is almost irrelevant (Victoria Nuland was quite right about that), this does not matter.

Acosta-Epstein Scandal

alexander acosta o cropped Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Acosta confronted by lawmakers over plea deal in Jeffrey Epstein sexual misconduct case, Kimberly Kindy, Felicia Sonmez and Lisa Rein, April 3, 2019. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta was confronted by Democratic lawmakers Wednesday over his decision as a federal prosecutor to sign off on a plea deal in a sex trafficking case involving multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein.

The exchange at a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing marked the first time Acosta has been questioned publicly about the case since a judge ruled in February that the 2008 arrangement he oversaw as a U.S. attorney in South Florida had broken the law because his office failed to properly notify victims.

katherine clark twitter“You chose wealthy and well-connected people, child rapists, over the victims in this case,” said Rep. Katherine M. Clark (D-Mass., shown on her Twitter photo), who noted that “the hideous truth has come out” about Acosta’s role in the case.

Clark cited the Epstein case as she questioned Acosta on his department’s decision to propose cutting the budget for one of its divisions tasked with combating human trafficking from $68 million to $18.5 million.

“This isn’t the first time you have ignored human trafficking,” Clark said. “If you as U.S. attorney could not fight for these girls, how, as secretary of labor, can you tell this panel and the American people that you can responsibly oversee this budget [and] the Department of Labor, including human trafficking?”

Acosta responded that human trafficking is “an in­cred­ibly important issue” and said the Justice Department had long defended the plea deal.

“Epstein was incarcerated,” Acosta said. “He registered as a sex offender. The world was put on notice that he was a sex offender, and the victims received restitution.”

jeffrey epstein sex offenderThe 2008 plea deal stemmed from a federal investigation of Epstein (right) focused on alleged sex trafficking and molestation of dozens of underage girls. Before the deal, prosecutors drafted a 53-page federal indictment that included sex trafficking charges, which could have placed Epstein in prison for life.

Epstein’s plea agreement allowed him to instead plead guilty to two state felony solicitation charges, casting the victims as prostitutes. The deal led to a 13-month stay in county jail during which Epstein was allowed to leave custody six days a week, 12 hours a day, for work.

Acosta, 50, has received support from his boss, President Trump, who in February called him a “fantastic labor secretary.” On Wednesday, Acosta argued that Epstein would have faced even lighter punishment had the plea deal not been struck.

“I understand the frustration,” he said. “I think it’s important for people to know he was going to get off with no jail time or restitution. It was the work of our office that resulted in him going to jail. It was the work of our office that resulted in him having to register as a sex offender.”

kenneth marra open jurist croppedThe deal has received renewed media and legal scrutiny in recent months. In February, Judge Kenneth A. Marra (left) of the Federal District Court in West Palm Beach ruled that the failure by Acosta’s office to notify victims in advance of the deal prevented the victims from being able to exercise their legal right to object before the deal took effect. Marra has set a deadline of May 10 for attorneys for two victims, who filed the lawsuit that led to the ruling, and attorneys for Epstein to propose an alternative deal.

The ruling could ultimately nullify the plea deal.

The Justice Department in February opened an investigation into its handling of the Epstein case after a bipartisan group of senators, led by Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), pressed for answers about the plea agreement.

In March, The Washington Post reported that, although Epstein’s alleged victims were as young as 14, the only minor he was convicted of soliciting was 16 when the offenses began. The decision to charge Epstein with a crime involving an older teen has eased his obligations to register as a sex offender. For example, Epstein does not have to register in New Mexico, where he owns a ranch, because his victim was not under 16.

April 2

U.S. Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Lashes Out Again at Puerto Rico, Bewildering the island, Annie Karni and Patricia Mazzei, April 2, 2019. Mr. Trump lashed out at Puerto Rico again over federal aid after Hurricane Maria, leaving officials bewildered. President Trump on Tuesday lashed out at Puerto Rico’s local lawmakers as “grossly incompetent” and singled out one of his favorite targets, Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, as “crazed and incompetent.”

Mr. Trump’s latest invective toward the local leaders of an island devastated by a hurricane in September 2017 came in a torrent of tweets, which began on Monday night and spilled into Tuesday morning. Mr. Trump was reacting after the Senate on Monday blocked billions of dollars in disaster aid for Midwestern states, in part because Democrats said a proposed $600 million in nutritional assistance to Puerto Rico fell short of its needs.

“Puerto Rico got far more money than Texas & Florida combined, yet their government can’t do anything right, the place is a mess — nothing works,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. He also stated, incorrectly, that Puerto Rico had received $91 billion in aid from the federal government.

In fact, FEMA and other agencies have so far distributed $11.2 billion in aid to Puerto Rico, according to the Office of Management and Budget. Some $41 billion in aid has been allocated, while $91 billion is the budget office’s estimate of how much the island could receive over the next two decades.

lori lightfoot smiling

ny times logoNew York Times, Lori Lightfoot Is Elected Chicago Mayor, Becoming First Black Woman to Lead City, Julie Bosman, Mitch Smith and Monica Davey, April 2, 2019. Ms. Lightfoot, who had never held elective office, easily beat out Toni Preckwinkle, a longtime politician. When she takes office in May, Ms. Lightfoot also will be the city’s first openly gay mayor. The photo above is from her campaign biography.

philip giraldi

Unz Review, Opinion: Jewish Power Rolls Over Washington, Philip M. Giraldi (author and former CIA officer, shown at right), April 2, 2019. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has just completed its annual summit in Washington. It claims that 18,000 supporters attended the event, which concluded with a day of lobbying Congress by the attendees. Numerous American politicians addressed the gathering and it is completely reasonable to observe that the meeting constituted the most powerful gathering of people dedicated to promoting the interests of a foreign nation ever witnessed in any country in the history of the world.

There are a number of things that one should understand about the Jewish state of Israel and its powerful American domestic lobby. First of all, the charge that the actions of The Lobby (referred to with capital letters because of its uniqueness and power) inevitably involves dual or even singular allegiance based on religion or tribe to a country where the lobbyist does not actually reside is completely correct by definition of what AIPAC is and why it exists. It claims to work to “ensure that the Jewish state is safe, strong and secure” through “foreign aid, government partnerships, [and] joint anti-terrorism efforts…,” all of which involve the U.S. as the donor and Israel as the recipient.

Second, there is the claim that Israel benefits American security. That is also a lie. Washington’s relationship with Israel, which is now more subservient than it ever has been, is a major liability that is and always has been damaging to both American regional and global interests. The recent decisions to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights were ill-conceived and have been condemned by the world community, including by nearly all of America’s genuine close allies.

Trump Security Scandals

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The White House whistleblower bombshell, and what it could mean, Aaron Blake, April 2, 2019 (print ed.). Trump overrode officials' concerns to demand Kushner's security clearance. The White House has repeatedly shunned national security protocols when it comes to protecting information and clearances. And a named person stepping forward is a significant development.

It wasn’t that long ago that Donald Trump ran for president making the case that Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state represented a grave national security threat and made her unfit for office.

washington post logojared kushner head shotWashington Post, Jared Kushner dismisses concerns raised by White House whistleblower on security clearances, John Wagner​, April 2, 2019. In a rare television interview, the White House adviser and presidential son-in-law (right) said the Trump administration has faced “a lot of crazy accusations.”

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Ivanka Trump & Jared Kushner: A much more potentially damaging spy couple than Julius & Ethel Rosenberg, Wayne Madsen wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small(left, author, syndicated columnist and former Navy intelligence officer), April 2, 2019 (subscription required, excerpted with permission). Tricia Newbold, the Adjudications Manager for the White House Personnel Security Office, a career civil service position, experienced something she had not seen before in past Democratic and Republican administrations.

After denying security clearances to 25 Trump political appointees on the White House staff, including Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, Newbold was overruled by higher-level officials in the Trump administration.

jared kushner ivanka trump saudi

President Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka Trump, shown above on one of their many foreign affairs events, were reportedly awarded security clearances at the president's demand over the objections of professional security staff (White House photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, White House whistleblower says 25 security clearance denials were reversed during Trump administration, Rachael Bade, April 2, 2019 (print ed.). A White House whistleblower told lawmakers that more than two-dozen denials for security clearances have been overturned during the Trump administration, calling Congress her “last hope” donald trump o smilefor addressing what she considers improper conduct that has left the nation’s secrets exposed.

Tricia Newbold, a longtime White House security adviser, told the House Oversight and Reform Committee that she and her colleagues issued “dozens” of denials for security clearance applications that were later approved despite their concerns about blackmail, foreign influence, or other red flags, according to panel documents released Monday.

Newbold, an 18-year veteran of the security clearance process who has served under both Republican and Democratic presidents, said she warned her superiors that clearances “were not always adjudicated in the best interest of national security” — and was retaliated against for doing so.

elijah cummings o“I would not be doing a service to myself, my country, or my children if I sat back knowing that the issues that we have could impact national security,” Newbold told the committee, according to a panel document summarizing her allegations.

Newbold added: “I feel that right now this is my last hope to really bring the integrity back into our office.”

The allegation comes during an escalating fight over the issue between House Democrats and the White House. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), the committee chairman, said in a letter to the White House Counsel’s Office that his panel would vote on Tuesday to subpoena at least one individual who overruled Newbold — the committee’s first compulsory move aimed at the White House.

ny times logoNew York Times, Whistle-Blower Did the Unexpected: She Returned to Work, Katie Rogers, April 2, 2019 (print ed.).Tricia Newbold, the Trump administration’s latest whistle-blower, did something unexpected only hours after a House committee released her deposition that the White House had overruled career staff members who denied officials their security clearances: She went back to work.

tricia newbold“As you can imagine,” Ms. Newbold, left, a 39-year-old employee of the White House Personnel Security Office, wrote in an email during her commute on Monday, “I am extremely nervous for how people at work will treat me.”

But according to people close to her, she was not afraid to tell them about the things she had seen. Ms. Newbold’s decision to accuse her own office of rampant mismanagement of the security clearances of at least 25 employees came after months of what she characterized as personal discrimination and professional retaliation from Carl Kline, the office’s former director, after she spent roughly a year trying to raise issues internally.

In a White House where aggressive leak investigations are conducted in service of President Trump, who has aides sign nondisclosure agreements, Ms. Newbold’s account represents the rarest of developments: a damning on-the-record account from a current employee inside his ranks.

“She wasn’t looking for trouble,” Ms. Newbold’s lawyer, Edward Passman, said in an interview on Monday. “And she wasn’t looking to go public. But her back was to the wall and she did what she had to do.”

Described as both “no nonsense” and “intense” by people who have interacted with her during the clearance process, Ms. Newbold has served under four presidential administrations, beginning with the Clinton White House in 2000. Eventually she worked her way up to adjudications manager, a job that required her to help make determinations about the security clearances of administration employees. Her office is filled with holdovers from other administrations, and it is meant to be nonpartisan.

Mueller Probe

 ny times logojerrold nadler o SmallNew York Times, Opinion: The House Must See the Whole Mueller Report, Jerrold L. Nadler (right, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee), April 2, 2019 (print ed.). Someday, Trump will not be in office. Congress needs a full accounting of his misdeeds to ensure they don’t happen again.

washington post logoWashington Post, House committee plans vote this week to subpoena full Mueller report, John Wagner​, April 2, 2019 (print ed.). The House Judiciary Committee plans to vote Wednesday to authorize subpoenas to obtain special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's report on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, escalating a feud with the Justice Department.

U.S. Health Care

washington post logorepublican elephant logoWashington Post, Trump punts vote on health-care bill until after next year’s elections, John Wagner, April 2, 2019. President Trump has apparently heeded warnings from fellow Republicans about the perils of such a fight during campaign season.

Saudis Pay Off Murder Victim's Kin

mohammad bin salman cropped file small

washington post logoWashington Post, Khashoggi children receive payments, houses from Saudi Arabia after killing, Greg Miller, April 2, 2019 (print ed.). Slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s children have received million-dollar houses and monthly five-figure payments, and they may also receive much larger payouts as part of “blood money” negotiations expected to ensue when the trials of the accused killers end, current and former Saudi officials say.

washington post logoWashington Post, Documentary: The assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, Joyce Lee and Dalton Bennett, April 2, 2019 (print ed.). It’s been six months since agents from Saudi Arabia killed The Washington Post contributing columnist. What has been done to hold those responsible accountable?

  • Washington Post, Opinion: It’s been six months since Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, and Trump has done nothing, April 2, 2019.
  • Washington Post, Opinion: How the mysteries of Khashoggi’s murder have rocked the U.S.-Saudi partnership, April 2, 2019.

U.S. Disaster Aid Stalls

washington post logoWashington Post, Massive disaster relief bill stalls in Senate after dispute over Puerto Rico, Erica Werner and Jeff Stein, April 2, 2019 (print ed.). Democrats opposed the $13.45 billion legislation, contending the $600 million included for Puerto Rico’s food stamp program is inadequate for the territory's hurricane recovery effort.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump has complete meltdown after Democrats defeat him on Puerto Rico, Bill Palmer, April 2, 2019. Even as Donald Trump threatens to cut off all donald trump twitteraid to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras – or as Fox News calls them, the Mexican countries – it’s less clear than ever if Trump understands that Puerto Rico is part of the United States. After the Senate Democrats derailed Trump’s latest effort at screwing over Puerto Rico, Trump did what he does best: he threw an ignorant and dishonest tantrum.

What actually happened on Monday was that Donald Trump and the Republicans tried to pass legislation which broadly provided funds for disaster relief across the United States, while coming up extraordinarily short on providing disaster relief for Puerto Rico. This isn’t surprising, considering that Trump’s racist agenda has no time for the primarily nonwhite U.S. territory, as he made clear when he refused to provide anything close to adequate relief after bill palmer report logo headerHurricane Maria.

This means Trump and the GOP are going to have to revise this legislation to include more aid for Puerto Rico. But don’t tell that bit of truth to Trump, who posted this word vomit about Puerto Rico on Twitter late on Monday night: “the place is a mess – nothing works.” That’s right, not only is Donald Trump trying to cover for his political and mental incompetence by ranting on Twitter, he’s also trying to cover for it by attacking nonwhite people.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House spokesman twice calls Puerto Rico ‘that country’ in TV interview, John Wagner, April 2, 2019. White House spokesman Hogan Gidley twice referred to Puerto Rico as “that country” during a television appearance Tuesday in which he defended a series of tweets by President Trump lashing out at leaders of the U.S. territory.

In two bursts of tweets — one late Monday night and another Tuesday morning — Trump complained about the amount of federal relief money going to the island and called its politicians “incompetent or corrupt.”

republican elephant logoHe also claimed that Puerto Rico “got 91 Billion Dollars for the hurricane,” a figure that actually reflects a high-end, long-term estimate for recovery costs. Only a fraction of that has so far been budgeted, and even less has been spent.

As he pressed to defend Trump’s contentions, Gidley sought to make the case that the leaders of the territory, whose residents are U.S. citizens, have mishandled the aid they’ve received thus far. During the interview, Gidley was also asked about a tweet in which Trump said Puerto Rico’s leaders “only take from the USA.”

Trump Aid Cut

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. officials said aid to El Salvador helped slow migration. Now Trump is canceling it, Kevin Sieff, April 2, 2019 (print ed.). PresidentTrump said the Central American country and two of its neighbors “haven’t done a thing for us,” a claim that baffled development officials and Salvadorans.

U.S. Crime, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, North Carolina GOP chairman indicted in campaign finance bribery scheme, Colby Itkowitz, April 2, 2019. A federal grand jury has indicted the chairman of the Republican Party of North Carolina in an alleged bribery scheme, accusing him of helping a wealthy political donor try to bribe a state regulator whose department has oversight of the donor’s company.

robin hayes o 109th congressFederal prosecutors said Tuesday that the chairman, Robin Hayes, right, who is also a former U.S. congressman, and three other people plotted to funnel campaign contributions to Mike Causey, the commissioner of the North Carolina Department of Insurance, in exchange for him taking actions that would benefit donor Greg Lindberg’s company.

Causey is not charged in the case. By January 2018, prosecutors say, Causey became suspicious and alerted federal law enforcement, then participated in their investigation.

Lawyers for Hayes and Lindberg could not immediately be reached. Hayes’s attorney Kearns Davis told Bloomberg News that Hayes “steadfastly denies” the allegations.

Roll Call, In prelude to nuclear option, Senate rejects speeding up confirmation of nominees, Niels Lesniewski, April 2, 2019. McConnell now expected to move forward with only Republican support. The Senate inched closer Tuesday to Republicans using the “nuclear option” to slash the time for debate on the vast majority of judicial and executive nominations.

Senators blocked, 51-48, an effort by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring up a resolution that would have set a new standing order. The support of 60 senators would have been needed to advance the debate.

It came as part of the never-ending debate over delays in confirmation of nominations, particularly on lower-level executive branch nominations and district judges

washington post logonipsey hussle twitter SmallWashington Post, Police name suspect in Nipsey Hussle killing; chaos erupts at memorial, Allyson Chiu and Tim Elfrink, April 2, 2019. Late on Monday, police identified Eric Holder as a suspect in the killing of Grammy-nominated rapper Nipsey Hussle, whose death over the weekend sent shock waves across Los Angeles and the country as city officials, celebrities and fans mourned the loss of a talented musician and dedicated community organizer.

The news came shortly after a memorial for the rapper (shown at right in his Twitter photo) erupted into chaos when hundreds of mourners, fearing that a gun had been fired, stampeded out of a parking lot, leaving at least a dozen injured.

eric holder nipsey hussle slay suspectAuthorities said they are still searching for Holder, a 29-year-old Los Angeles resident who was last seen fleeing the scene of the shooting on Sunday in a 2016 white Chevy Cruze driven by an unidentified woman.

Hussle’s murder happened around 3:20 p.m. Sunday, when the rapper and two other men were standing in front of his store. Police allege Holder walked up to the men and “fired numerous shots at them.” Holder then allegedly ran through a nearby alley and hopped into a waiting car, a news release said.\

Hussle’s death came just one day before he had plans to meet with the president of the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners and the city’s chief of police to “to talk about ways he could help stop gang violence and help us help kids.”

catherine pugh screenshot

washington post logoWashington Post, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh takes leave of absence amid scandal, Rachel Chason, Erin Cox and Ovetta Wiggins, April 2, 2019 (print ed.). Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh (shown above in a screenshot) is taking an indefinite leave of absence amid growing condemnation of profits she made from selling a children’s book to businesses intertwined with the government she oversees.

brian sapp

washington post logoWashington Post, He scammed his closest friends to go tailgating in a Mercedes, Rachel Weiner,April 2, 2019 (print ed.). As the best man at a Penn State classmate’s wedding, chosen over two blood brothers, Brian Sapp (shown above in one of his marketing promos) gave a toast to the importance of friendship.

He went on to steal the life savings of several people present, including half a million dollars from the groom. Among his victims were the father of a severely disabled child, the parents of his godchildren and a man dying of pancreatic cancer — whose widow Sapp asked for $75,000 just days after the funeral.

For his four-year, $1.8 million real estate scam, Sapp, 38, was sentenced Friday to nine years in prison.

washington post logojonathan oldaleWashington Post, Md. man sentenced to 20 years after hiding tiny cameras in bathrooms to record nude children, Dan Morse, April 2, 2019. A Maryland man was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison Monday after prosecutors said he hid tiny video cameras in his bathrooms, invited neighborhood children to backyard “splash parties” and secretly recorded more than 50 of them when they were nude and changing clothes.

Jonathan Oldale, 55, (right) had been a fixture in the town of Somerset, an affluent enclave of 1,200 just outside Washington. With two children of his own, he also was involved in the lives of other kids in the neighborhood. He led a Cub Scout pack, took photos for the elementary school yearbook and volunteered as a room parent at school.

#MeToo / Politics

meredith watson cbs

washington post logoWashington Post, In first TV interview, Meredith Watson details sex assault allegation against Va. Lt. Gov. Fairfax, Fenit Nirappil, April 2, 2019. Meredith Watson (above), one of two women who have accused Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) of sexual assault, on Tuesday urged the state legislature to hold a public hearing on the allegations during her first televised interview.

“I want action from the Virginia legislature,” Watson told interviewer Gayle King on “CBS This Morning”. “There is no amount of money that could ever compensate what he did to me or what I live with every day. I want the people of Virginia to know the truth and I would like the Virginia legislature to do the right thing.”

Watson says Fairfax sexually assaulted her in 2000 when both were undergraduate students at Duke University. Her television appearance comes a day after the CBS program aired an interview with Vanessa Tyson, who accused the lieutenant governor of forcing her to perform oral sex during the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

vanessa tyson meredith watson justin fairfax

Related story: Richmond Times-Dispatch, Fairfax accuser Vanessa Tyson details allegations against lieutenant governor in TV interview, Mel Leonor, April 2, 2019 (print ed.). Vanessa Tyson, one of two women who have publicly accused Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault, tearfully described her allegations in an interview with CBS’ Gayle King, which aired Monday. Tyson, a political science professor at Scripps College in Claremont, Calif., told King that her encounter with Fairfax in a Boston hotel room in 2004 began as consensual kissing, but quickly turned violent when Fairfax restrained her by the neck.

Using her hand, Tyson mimicked being pushed down by the neck to perform oral sex.

“I couldn’t feel my neck. I couldn’t hold my head up,” Tyson told King.

In a statement, Fairfax again denied the allegations by Tyson and second accuser Meredith Watson. A news release from his office Sunday said Fairfax had submitted to a polygraph with a former FBI expert that showed he was being truthful when he said the encounters were consensual.

Tyson’s first televised interview on the alleged assault comes days before Virginia lawmakers gather in Richmond on Wednesday to consider Gov. Ralph Northam’s vetoes and proposed budget amendments.

The interview could increase pressure on lawmakers to heed Tyson’s calls for a public hearing on the matter.

Venezuelan Leadership

Associated Press via Fox News, Venezuela lawmakers strip opposition leader of his immunity, Scott Smith, April 2, 2019. Venezuelan lawmakers loyal to President Nicolas Maduro have stripped opposition leader Juan Guaido of his immunity from prosecution. The move by the government-backed National Constituent Assembly on Tuesday paves the way for Guaido's prosecution, and possibly his arrest.

venezuela flag waving customBut it is still unclear whether Maduro will actively threaten Guaido, who has embarked on an international campaign to topple the president's socialist administration. Up until now, Maduro has avoided throwing the 35-year-old lawmaker in jail — a man that the U.S. and roughly 50 other nations have recognized as Venezuela's legitimate leader.

In January, Guaido declared himself Venezuela's interim president and vowed to overthrow Maduro. Maduro blames Washington for trying to install a puppet government to seize Venezuela's vast oil reserves.

Russia-Venezuela Analyzed

Unz Review, Opinion: Venezuela, a New Syria, Israel Shamir, April 2, 2019. A few days ago, an Ilyushin IL-62M liner carried over a hundred Russian soldiers and officers to Caracas. Symbolically, they made a stopover in Syria, as if saying that Venezuela is the next country after Syria to be saved from ruin and dismemberment. The military mission was led by the Head of General Staff, General Tonkoshkurov (“Thin-Skinned”, a name that would thrill Vladimir Nabokov).

‘Don’t you dare,' exclaimed John Bolton, 'meddle in the Western Hemisphere! Hands off Venezuela! It is our back yard!’ The Russians didn’t buy it. Some time ago they tried to object to the US tanks being positioned in Estonia, a brief drive from St Petersburg, and all they’ve got was preaching that sovereignty means sovereignty, and Estonia does not have to ask for Russian permission to receive American military assistance. Now they repeated this American sermon verbatim to John Bolton and his boss. Get out of Syria first, they added.

venezuela flag waving customThis is a new level in the Russian-American relations, or should we say confrontation. For a very long time, the Russians convinced themselves that their liking for the United States was mutual, or at least would be returned one day. However, this stage is over, the scales fell off their eyes and they finally realised America’s implacable enmity.

I do not regret that Russian-American relations have gone from bad to worse. The world needs balance, and Russians do provide a counterweight to the heavy-handed Uncle Sam. The worst time in recent history was around 1990, when Russia practically ceased to exist as an important factor of international politics. Then, the US stormed over Panama and Iraq, bombed Belgrade, created al Qaeda, and destroyed its own working class. If uppity darkie bus driver Maduro would try to say ‘no’ to Washington in 1990s, he would be kidnapped, arrested, tried for, say, child abuse or drugs trafficking and jailed for thirty years. The then Russian president Yeltsin wouldn’t even notice between his drunken bouts that Venezuela had reverted to direct colonial rule.

Putin decided to support Venezuela’s Maduro. Thus a new level in the hybrid war had been broken. Venezuelans had moved the headquarters of their oil company to Moscow, and defiant Russia has accepted them.

The US immediately responded by cyber-attacking Venezuelan power stations and causing an extensive blackout.

It is probably the first large-scale cyber-attack upon the infrastructure of an enemy. The destruction of Iranian centrifuges by means of Stuxnet was still limited in scope and did not interfere with the general economy. The Venezuela electric grid had been recently updated and extensively modernised by the big international company ABB. When the upgrading was done, the company said in its press release that now Venezuela has the best and most advanced electric equipment. Apparently, the most advanced equipment is more vulnerable to cyber threats.

Every Washington-organised regime change in Latin America usually included an attack on the power grid (for instance, removal of Chile’s Allende), but until now the adversary marco rubio official.jpg Smallhad to dirty his hands physically, by sabotaging power stations and transmission lines. Now they have learned how to do it from outside, from Miami.

Venezuelans noticed that the first warning of their blackout had been made by Marco Rubio (right): “Marco Rubio announced hours before the blackout that “Venezuelans will live the most severe shortage of food and gasoline,” revealing he had knowledge that some kind of shock would happen in the next few hours.” The Moon of Alabama also accepts the cyber-attack explanation, though hedges it by reminding that ‘shit happens’, and the US has also experienced blackouts.

Inside DC

Yahoo News, Trump keeps claiming his father was born in Germany. It was the Bronx, David Knowles, April 2, 2019. Speaking to reporters in the White House Tuesday, President Trump misstated his father’s place of birth as Germany, rather than New York City.

“My father is German, right? Was German. And born in a very wonderful place in Germany, so I have a great feeling for Germany,” Trump said during a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who is from Norway.

Trump’s father, Frederick Christ Trump, was born in the Bronx on Oct. 11, 1905.

Tuesday’s misstatement was not the first time that the president has incorrectly identified his father’s birthplace. In a 2018 interview with “Fox News Sunday,” Trump did the same.

“I was there many, many years ago,” the president said of the European Union, which was not founded until 1993. “Meaning, my parents were born in the European Union. I love these countries; Germany, Scotland, they are still in there, right?”

During a visit to Scotland last July, Trump told reporters, accurately, that his mother was from Scotland, but he repeated the misinformation about his father.

“Don’t forget both of my parents were born in EU sectors — my mother was Scotland, my father was Germany.”

Trump’s grandfather Friedrich was indeed born in the German town of Kallstadt on March 14, 1869. Friedrich emigrated to the United States in 1885, at the age of 16, but did so before fulfilling his military service. In 1905 the kingdom of Bavaria wrote Friedrich a letter ordering him never to return.

Seeking to distance himself from his German heritage, Trump’s father, Fred, a prominent builder in New York, went on to claim Swedish heritage, probably for business reasons. Trump himself pushed this false narrative in The Art of the Deal, saying his father had emigrated to America “from Sweden as a child.”

Turkey's Election Surprise

ny times logoNew York Times, Erdogan’s Party Plans to Challenge Election Losses in Istanbul and Ankara, Carlotta Gall, April 2, 2019. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s party has lost control of Turkey’s two largest cities, Istanbul and Ankara, a complete tally of local election ballots showed on Tuesday, but the governing party said it would challenge the outcomes.

recep erdogan with flagThe loss of Istanbul, the country’s business capital and Mr. Erdogan’s political base, is a particularly sharp setback for a president (shown in a file photo) who has tightened his control of the government and news media, stifled dissent, and, critics contend, manipulated election results.

Results reported on Tuesday by the semiofficial Anadolu news agency showed the opposition candidate for mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem Imamoglu, at 48.79 percent, against 48.51 percent for Binali Yildrim, the candidate of Mr. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, or AKP, with 100 percent of ballots counted.

The results also confirmed the victory of the opposition Republican People’s Party, or C.H.P., in Ankara, the capital. The opposition candidate Mansur Yavas won 50.91 percent of the vote, over the AKP candidate Mehmet Ozhaseki’s 47.1 percent, with 100 percent of ballots counted.

More On Barr, Mueller

Alliance for Justice, Opinion: Barr Puts the Politics in DOJ, Bill Yeomans, right, April 2, 2019. Congress confirmed William Barr as attorney general despite his disqualifying record of bill yeomans afj cropped Customenabling presidential misconduct. Nobody should be surprised that his short tenure has already revealed his willingness to elevate the political interests of the president over the traditions of the Department of Justice and the role of Congress.

His memo spinning the conclusions of the Mueller report made him a cheerleader for Trump, while his capitulation to Trump’s demand that the Department of Justice no longer defend the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act debased the rule of law for Trump’s political gain. His behavior bodes ill for the future in which Trump, with support from Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), will clamor for revenge investigations of the Mueller investigators. It will be up to Barr to stand up to political demands for investigations that lack an evidentiary predicate.

alliance for justice logoBarr’s letter summarizing the principal conclusions of the Mueller report was an overtly political act. He should have said nothing and sent the report itself to Congress. Not only did he spin the contents of the report, but he stepped in to override Mueller’s decision not to make a prosecutorial determination regarding obstruction of justice. According to Barr, Mueller’s non-decision left it to the Attorney General to make the call. Barr – whose 19-page memo contended that the president could not commit obstruction while exercising power given to him by Article II of the Constitution – was eager to oblige.

The most likely reason for Mueller’s non-call was that he knew DOJ could not prosecute the president. He had, however, found substantial evidence of obstruction that prevented exoneration of the president. He, therefore, decided to pass the information to Congress, which is the only entity with power to hold the president accountable.

william barr new oThere was no reason for anybody at DOJ to answer the hypothetical question whether the president should be prosecuted. Barr, right, playing free safety for Team Trump, however, swooped in to intercept Mueller’s pass to Congress and ran it back for a score, which prompted Trump and his entire bench to empty into the end-zone for a round of celebratory taunting.

By answering the obstruction question, Barr gave Trump the talking point he craved -- no collusion and no obstruction – which is far better than no collusion and no decision on obstruction. Barr, by issuing his memo well before release of any part of the actual report, gave Trump and his supporters ample time to spread the message. Despite the head start, the public isn’t buying. Polling by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal shows that only 29 percent believe that Trump has been exonerated. That number will not increase once the public sees the report, which surely contains evidence harmful to Trump.

Global Research, Book Review: The CIA Takeover of America in the 1960s Is the Story of Our Times, Edward Curtin (author and sociologist Edward Curtin is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization), April 2, 2019. The Killing of the Kennedys and Today’s New Cold War. A Quasi-Review of "A Lie Too Big To Fail: The Real History of the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy" by Lisa Pease.

When Senator Robert Kennedy was assassinated on June 5, 1968, the American public fell into an hypnotic trance in which they have remained ever since. The overwhelming majority accepted what was presented by government authorities as an open and shut case that a young Palestinian American, Sirhan Sirhan, had murdered RFK because of his support for Israel, a false accusation whose ramifications echo down the years. That this was patently untrue and was contradicted by overwhelming evidence made no difference.

lisa pease rfk cover“‘We’re all puppets,’ the suspect [Sirhan Sirhan] replied, with more truth than he could have understood at that moment.”

Lisa Pease, quoting from the LAPD questioning of Sirhan'

Sirhan did not kill Robert Kennedy, yet he remains in jail to this very day. Robert Kennedy, Jr., who was 14 years old at the time of his father’s death, has visited Sirhan in prison, claims he is innocent, and believes there was another gunman. Paul Schrade, an aide to the senator and the first person shot that night, also says Sirhan didn’t do it. Both have plenty of evidence. And they are not alone.

There is a vast body of documented evidence to prove this, an indisputably logical case marshalled by serious writers and researchers. Lisa Pease is the latest. It is a reason why a group of 60 prominent Americans has recently called for a reopening of, not just this case, but those of JFK, MLK, and Malcom X. The blood of these men cries out for the revelation of the truth that the United States national security state and its media accomplices have fought so mightily to keep hidden for so many years.

That they have worked so hard at this reveals how dangerous the truth about these assassinations still is to this secret government that wages propaganda war against the American people and real wars around the world. It is a government of Democrats, Republicans, and their intelligence allies working together today to confuse the American people and provoke Russia in a most dangerous game that could lead to nuclear war, a possibility that so frightened JFK and RFK after the Cuban Missile Crisis that they devoted themselves to ending the Cold War, reconciling with the Soviet Union, abolishing nuclear weapons, reining in of the power of the CIA, and withdrawing from Vietnam. That is why they were killed.

The web of deceit surrounding the now officially debunked Democratic led Russia-gate propaganda operation that has strengthened Trump to double-down on his anti-Russia operations (a Democratic goal) is an example of the perfidious and sophisticated mutuality of this game of mass mind-control.

The killing of the Kennedys and today’s new Cold War and war against terror are two ends of a linked intelligence operation.

Moreover, more than any other assassination of the 1960s, it is the killing of Bobby Kennedy that has remained shrouded in the most ignorance.

It is one of the greatest propaganda success stories of American history.

In her exhaustive new examination of the case, A Lie Too Big To Fail, Lisa Pease puts it succinctly at the conclusion of her unravelling of the official lies that have mesmerized the public:

The assassination of the top four leaders of the political left in the five year period – President John Kennedy in 1963, Malcolm X in 1965, and Martin Luther King, Jr. and Senator Robert Kennedy in 1968 – represented nothing less than a slow-motion coup on the political scene.

If anyone wishes to understand what has happened to the United States since this coup, and thus to its countless victims at home and throughout the world, one must understand these assassinations and how the alleged assassins were manipulated by the coup organizers and how the public was hoodwinked in a mind-control operation on a vast scale. It is not ancient history, for the forces that killed these leaders rule the U.S. today, and their ruthlessness has subsequently informed the actions of almost all political leaders in the years since. A bullet to the head when you seriously talk about peace and justice is a not so gentle reminder to toe the line or else.

April 1

Mueller Report

Politico, Press group asks judge to lift grand jury secrecy in Mueller report, Josh Gerstein, April 1, 2019. A group advocating for journalists and First Amendment rights is asking a judge to clear away one of the key obstacles the Justice Department is citing as grounds for withholding portions of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's final report: the presence of information gathered through the secret actions of a grand jury.

beryl howellThe Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed a petition Monday with Chief Judge Beryl Howell, right, of the U.S. District Court in Washington, asking her to rule that officials need not withhold from the Congress — or the public — any grand jury material in Mueller's report on his probe into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

The move comes as Attorney General William Barr has pledged to prepare a version of the report for public release by mid-April. However, that pledge came with several caveats, including that the department would have to excise grand jury-related testimony and evidence.

Barr even noted in one letter that it could be a criminal offense for officials to release information covered by grand jury secrecy.
The new petition amounts to a pre-emptive step to take the grand-jury concern off the table by having Howell rule that the interests of public and Congress in seeing the Justice Department logoinformation outweigh any other concerns.

"This Court should enable the release of the Special Counsel's Report to the public to the greatest extent possible," attorney Ted Boutrous and other lawyers wrote in the new filing. "Although the Special Counsel's investigation has only recently concluded, the resulting report — and the grand jury material the Attorney General has proposed to redact therein—is of unique public and historical significance... The grand jury material at issue cuts to the core of our democracy."

A Justice Department spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the petition. (Note: This reporter serves on an oversight board for the Reporters' Committee.)

The move by the journalists' group is just the latest attempt to try to force disclosure of a broader portion or the entirety of Mueller's report, notwithstanding Barr's indication of the need for redactions.

On the same day Mueller sent his report to Barr, a Washington-based watchdog group — the Electronic Privacy Information Center — filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit demanding access to the document.

U.S. Border Issues

washington post logomick mulvaney oWashington Post, White House doubles down on threat to close U.S.-Mexico border, David J. Lynch, Maria Sacchetti and Joel Achenbach, April 1, 2019 (print ed). Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, right, said it would take “something dramatic” to persuade President Trump not to close the border. Such a move would have dramatic consequences for families seeking asylum and would seriously impede trade.

U.S. Economic Policy

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Why Moore is less, Robert J. Samuelson, April 1, 2019 (print ed). The real reason that Stephen Moore does not belong on the Federal stephen moore twitterReserve Board is not that he is unqualified for the job, though he is. Nor is it that he has been a highly partisan and divisive figure for many years, though he has been.

The real reason is that, if confirmed by the Senate, Moore, right, could become the Fed chairman — and that is a scary possibility. It could spawn a global financial calamity.

Media News

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Tucker Carlson is a white nationalist because he grew up around them, Wayne Madsen, April 1, 2019 (subscription required).  Fox News’s right-wing wunderkind Tucker Carlson draws quite a fan base. For Carlson, his fans include white supremacists, the white identity movement, and garden-variety neo-Nazis.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Most people think local journalism is financially healthy. Here’s the troubling reality, Margaret Sullivan (right), April 1, 2019 (print ed.). The business model margaret sullivan 2015 photofor local news has crumbled, but the public seems blissfully unaware. In the 1990s, 30 percent profit margins were common at regional newspapers and the chains that owned them. Then came some brutal blows. The main source of revenue — print advertising — fell off a cliff as advertisers moved to the Internet or found other ways of reaching their customers. Department stores, once a mainstay of advertising, withered away in the digital economy.

And a new generation of news consumers never developed the daily-newspaper habit that their parents and grandparents had.

Newspapers (and to a lesser extent local TV stations) were forced to cut costs. Often, they did so in a way that made them less valuable to their remaining customers: By eliminating journalists from their newsrooms.

Newspapers cut 45 percent of their newsroom employees between 2008 and 2017.

And some of them — including those owned by hedge funds — are down far more than that. (In Denver, for example, the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News boasted 600 journalists not much more than a decade ago; the latter paper has folded and the Post is down to well below 100 in its newsroom.)

But even in their shrunken state, many regional newspapers are producing important public-interest journalism. While this may seem encouraging, the ability to do so is fragile: the gutting of many local papers continues apace.

On Thursday, I will moderate a panel discussion featuring three journalists who exemplify this. (It’s one part of a morning-long event, devoted to saving local journalism, that will be live-streamed on The Washington Post’s website.)

Media News / Political Threat

hope carpenter john gray aventa gray screenshot Custom

Pastor Hope Carpenter, co-founder of a church in South Carolina, with her successors, Pastors Aventer (left) and John Gray on March 31, 2019.

The Christian Post, Hope Carpenter defends Pastor John Gray and wife Aventer, tells critics ‘I cut people,’ Leonardo Blair, April 1, 2019. Pastor Hope Carpenter, co-founder of Redemption World Outreach Center in Greenville, South Carolina, which was rebranded Relentless Church last year, defended pastors John and Aventer Gray from critics Sunday with a public threat to critics that “I cut people.”

“I love you Pastor John and Pastor Aventer. I believe in you, I’m praying for you, I’m rooting for you. I cut people. I’ve got a knife right in that pocket book,” Carpenter declared after riling up the Relentless congregation with a message she said she got from God to “hold fast.”

hope carpenter crop relentless church greenville sc march 31 2019 facebookSpeaking at the 8:30 a.m. service where she was introduced by Aventer Gray as “one of the greatest women of God that has ever graced the earth,” Carpenter (shown at right in a photo via Facebook) expressed her support for the couple, who succeeded Ron and Hope Carpenter.

The support comes in the wake of a slew of controversies concerning allegations of marital infidelity, the Relentless Church's purchase of a $1.8 million home for the Grays, and John Gray gifting his wife a $200K Lamborghini. The Christian Post, the Greenville News and other media have reported on different aspects of the controversies but on Sunday, Carpenter took aim at the local news source.

“Greenville News, come on. We done went through this. Alright. I’m still here and guess who else still gon’ be here?” she said, pointing to the Grays.

“See, if I did not know what God had brought me through back here and what God brought me through 10 years ago and what God brought me through five years ago, I would not have a deep intertwined root system that would help me to be able to hold on,” Carpenter told the congregation.
Pastor Hope Carpenter (foreground) defends Pastors John and Aventer Gray at Relentless Church in Greenville, S.C., on March 31, 2019. | Screenshot: YouTube

In the nearly 30 years that Carpenter did ministry in Greenville with her husband, the couple faced controversies. It was in 2013 that Ron Carpenter revealed to their congregation that Hope had committed adultery multiple times over the previous 10 years and was under psychiatric observation.

"For the last 10 years, I have been masking a situation that has absolutely almost destroyed me. In 2004, the date we dedicated this facility, Easter Sunday 2004, I left here to find a very different woman than I had ever met," he told his church about the woman he courted in a “sex-free” relationship for three and a half years before they got married.

Describing his wife’s behavior at the time as "erratic, reckless, nonsensical, [and] destructive," he told his flock that he "sat through two years of grueling therapy with her to no avail."

The Carpenters moved to San Jose, California, last year and were officially installed as the new pastors of the 14,000-member Jubilee Christian Center, now rebranded as Redemption. They passed on the reins of their South Carolina church, which they founded in 1991, to the Grays.

Hope Carpenter insisted in her message on Sunday at Relentless Church that she survived by “holding fast” to her confession of faith and encouraged the church to do the same.

Related story: Washington Post, ‘I cut people,’ a megachurch pastor warned as she preached. Her target? The local newspaper, Michael Brice-Saddler​, April 2, 2019. The apparent threat toward the Greenville News came after the South Carolina newspaper published stories about the pastors of Relentless Church.

U.S. Courts

Roll Call, Trump’s district court picks are languishing. That could change, Todd Ruger, April 1, 2019. Senate rules change would shift focus to lower court nominees. As much as Senate Republicans pushed to confirm President Donald Trump’s appeals court nominees, the picks for the district courts have taken a backseat when it comes to getting a final confirmation vote on the floor.

republican elephant logoThat could all change with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s move to reduce the floor time needed for those lower court confirmation votes, a rules change the Senate could vote on as early as this week.

us senate logoAnd there are plenty of district court nominees lined up and ready for votes for lifetime positions — some that have languished for more than a year.

Matthew Kacsmaryk, a nominee to be a judge for the Northern District of Texas, was first ready for a floor vote in December 2017. Howard Nielson, a nominee for the District of Utah, and Daniel Domenico, a pick for the District of Colorado, were ready for a floor vote in January 2018.

mitch mcconnell2The rules change could allow McConnell to push the trio through in one day, two hours at a time. Under current rules — if Democrats objected to holding a floor vote on them and required 30 hours of debate — that might have eaten up an entire legislative week.

McConnell’s strategy to focus on appeals court picks was clear in the first two years of Trump’s presidency and has been a point of pride for the Kentucky Republican (shown at above right). He took only 26 days on average to get a final confirmation vote on the floor once the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced those nominees, according to the Congressional Research Service.

The dozen Trump appointments to the influential appeals courts — which have the final say in all but the roughly 70 cases that the Supreme Court decides each year — set a record for a president’s first year in office, and Republicans have now confirmed 37 of those circuit court judges. There are only two awaiting a Senate floor vote.

But it’s been a different story for district court nominees. It took an average of 133 days from committee vote to final confirmation vote for those lower court picks, CRS found. And there are 37 district court nominees still awaiting a floor vote.

Opioid Crisis

ny times logoNew York Times, Lawsuits Lay Bare Sackler Family’s Role in Opioid Crisis, Danny Hakim, Roni Caryn Rabin and William K. Rashbaum, April 1, 2019. The billionaire family, which controlled Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, knew of opioid abuse risks, according to lawsuits. But as America’s addiction crisis worsened, they saw a new market: selling treatments for the very problem their company helped create.

purdue pharma logoThe Sacklers had a new plan.

It was 2014, and the company the family had controlled for two generations, Purdue Pharma, had been hit with years of investigations and lawsuits over its marketing of the highly addictive opioid painkiller OxyContin, at one point pleading guilty to a federal felony and paying more than $600 million in criminal and civil penalties.

But as the country’s addiction crisis worsened, the Sacklers spied another business opportunity. They could increase their profits by selling treatments for the very problem their company had helped to create: addiction to opioids.

U.S. Justice / Courts / Taxes

ny times logoNew York Times, A Rural County Owes $28 Million for Wrongful Convictions. It Doesn’t Want to Pay, Jack Healy, April 1, 2019. Six innocent people who were sent to prison for a murder sued and won. Now the county in eastern Nebraska that wrongfully convicted them has to raise taxes to pay them.

Kathy Gonzalez knows that many people across the cornfields and cattle ranches of eastern Nebraska believe she is a murderer. It doesn’t change the fact that they owe her American Flagmillions of dollars.

Ms. Gonzalez was one of six innocent people who collectively spent 77 years in prison in the murder of a 68-year-old woman named Helen Wilson, whose death haunted this rural county for decades. Now, years after DNA evidence exonerated the defendants, they are about to collect a $28 million civil rights judgment against Gage County, which prosecuted them based on false confessions.

Wichita Eagle / Kansas.com, Former candidate, talk radio host arrested on drug charges, Chance Swaim, April 1, 2019. A former candidate who recently launched his own talk radio jim price mugshot cropshow has been arrested and charged with multiple drug offenses.

Republican Jim Price of Wichita (shown in a mugshot) was arrested last month and charged in Sedgwick County. Prosecutors say that on May 17 he had 129.55 grams of dabs, a highly-concentrated hash oil, with intent to distribute, which is a felony in Kansas. He also faces misdemeanor charges of possession of steroids and marijuana, court records show.

He was initially arrested in May on suspicion of illegally possessing a gun and marijuana, but was not charged in court for that case until last week, court records show. The Wichita Eagle first reported that incident in September, when Price was running for a seat in the Kansas House. At that time, Price denied the arrest and charges had not been filed in the case.

Prosecutors filed charges against Price on March 25. That day, he bonded out of jail. The state is not pursuing gun-related charges, according to court filings.

republican elephant logoHis charging documents allege he had between 100 and 1,000 doses of THC dabs. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the the psychoactive compound in marijuana that makes a user feel “high.” A dab is a highly-concentrated THC-based substance that is typically made by extracting THC from marijuana plants with a solvent like alcohol or butane.

Price said in an email that he was recovering from surgery and would answer questions through email.

Between the time a warrant was issued and his arrest, Price launched his own AM talk radio show, “The Jim Price Show,” which airs Saturday nights from 7 to 8 p.m.

On March 12, Price appeared on the conservative talk show “The Voice of Reason” with host Andy Hooser, the treasurer of the Sedgwick County Republican Party. Hooser announced Price’s show as the latest local program on KQAM, a Steckline Communications station.

“It’s good stuff,” Price told Hooser. “I’m looking forward to going in and diving deep, just like you have, and make sure that we talk about the issues as they are real, not where we get this fluffed up stuff at the media level.”

Asked if he thought Price would be allowed to keep his show given the pending criminal court case, Hooser said, “the station itself really doesn’t have anything to do much with the show.”

Hooser said Price actually pays the station to have his show on the air. “It’s kind of like an infomercial of sorts, where he pays for the time on the air to broadcast the show, and there’s a disclaimer on the show as well that you know it’s not in any affiliation with KQAM or Steckline Communications,” Hooser said.

Global Affairs: Venezuela 

juan guaido nicolas maduro

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Trump, Putin and a Possible ‘Red-Line Moment’ in Venezuela, David E. Sanger, April 1, 2019. During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump often complained about how President Obama drew red lines that he never enforced. President Trump is now facing his own red-line moment, our correspondent writes in an analysis.

For the past week, the Trump administration has escalated its warnings about Russian intervention in the country, claiming that Moscow is helping to prop up President Nicolás Maduro (above right) of Venezuela and undermining the hopes of American officials that the Venezuelan military will oust him.

The United States recognizes Juan Guaidó (above left), the opposition leader, as Venezuela’s rightful president.

Algerian Leader Forced Out

washington post logoWashington Post, Algerian leader to resign from office by end of April after weeks of protests, Sudarsan Raghavan, April 1, 2019. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika would become the fifth Arab leader to be ousted by populist pressure since the 2011 Arab Spring revolts.

Elections: Ukraine, Turkeyukraine flag

ny times logoNew York Times, No Joke: Ukraine TV Comedian Wins Election’s First Round, Iuliia Mendel and Neil MacFarquhar, April 1, 2019 (print ed). Voters crowded into polling stations in a presidential race in which a leading candidate was a 41-year-old who plays a president on television.

ny times logoNew York Times, Erdogan Appears to Suffer Major Defeats in Turkey’s Two Biggest Cities, Carlotta Gall, April 1, 2019 (print ed). Amid a deepening economic turkey flagcrisis, the Turkish president’s party seemed poised to lose the capital, Ankara, and his home city, Istanbul, in mayoral elections.

U.S. Politics: Gender Issues

washington post logoWashington Post, Joe Biden’s affectionate, physical style with women comes under scrutiny, Elise Viebeck, Colby Itkowitz, Michael Scherer and Matt Viser, April 1, 2019 (print ed). The appropriateness of the former vice president’s physical behavior is being questioned after a Democratic politician wrote a viral Internet post describing an alleged 2014 encounter that left her offended and uncomfortable.