February 2020 News

 
 

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Editor's Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative February 2020 news and views

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

 

February

Feb. 29

Former Vice President Joe Biden visits Marshalltown, Iowa on July 4, 2019 (Gage Skidmore Photo via Wikimedia Commons)Breaking: Washington Post, Biden wins S.C. primary with near 50%: Steyer Drops Out

U.S. 2020 Election Headlines

Global Public Health Headlines

World News Headlines

Trump Power, Payback Headlines

South Carolina Primary Preview

 

U.S. 2020 Elections

barack Obama Biden New High res

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden projected to win S.C. primary, Colby Itkowitz and Amy B Wang, Feb. 29, 2020. Based on exit poll results, the former vice president has won his first primary of the 2020 race. Biden was boosted by heavy support among black voters, and those ages 45 and older. In South Carolina, those groups made up a larger share of voters than in earlier Democratic contests. Biden also had the highest favorability ratings among voters, according to early exit polls.

Tonight’s result is the first real test of whether candidates can appeal to black voters, a core part of the Democratic electorate. African Americans make up about 50 percent of the South Carolina primary voters.

[LIVE RESULTS: 2020 South Carolina Democratic presidential primary]

Many candidates spent this morning in South Carolina. Biden visited a polling station in Greenville, where he told voters he was “optimistic.” At a canvass launch in Columbia, former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg said he felt “a wind at my back.”

In the afternoon, some candidates campaigned in Super Tuesday states. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) popped over to Little Rock. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) spent Saturday in Warren’s home state of Massachusetts.

ny times logoNew York Times, How South Carolina and Super Tuesday will affect the race, Astead W. Herndon, Feb. 29, 2020. ‘We’re the Base’: Black Democrats in South Carolina Want to Send a Message. As many prepare to rally around Joe Biden in Saturday’s primary, black voters want it known that their views of electability are not shaped by predominantly white states like Iowa.

In 2008 and 2016, black voters in South Carolina’s presidential primary set the last two Democratic nominees on their way, backing Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton by huge margins. Rival candidates never managed to catch up in the race for delegates to clinch the nomination.

On Saturday, black Democrats are set to play a far different role in the state’s primary vote, coming to the aid of a candidate who is struggling, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. At the same time, it is unclear if that support will be enough to help him win in other states. Black voters are likely to split, perhaps sharply, along generational and ideological lines, and spread their votes across contenders, rather than coalesce once again behind a single candidate.

More broadly, in interviews with African-Americans across the state this past week, many said they were eager to send a message to the national Democratic Party: that their views on electability — which candidate is best suited to beat President Trump — would not be shaped by outcomes in the predominantly white states Iowa and New Hampshire, which backed former Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Bernie Sanders in contests earlier in February.

Global Public Health

washington post logoWashington Post, Coronavirus live updates: New cases of unknown origin signal spread of virus in U.S., Gerry Shih, Derek Hawkins, James McAuley cdc logo round Customand Miriam Berger, Feb. 29, 2020. More coronavirus infections were reported from South Korea to France to Qatar on Saturday after health officials in Washington, Oregon and California on Friday reported a worrying development: new cases among people who have not traveled recently to countries hit hard by the outbreak or come into contact with anyone known to have the disease, which public health officials refer to as community transmission.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump administration tries to play down coronavirus risks, Anne Gearan, Seung Min Kim and Erica Werner, Feb. 29, 2020 (print ed.). The Trump administration on Friday sought to beat back criticism of its handling of the response to the deadly coronavirus, as President Trump and his aides played down the threat it poses and said Democrats and the media were overhyping the dangers of the outbreak.

Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)Trump adopted an optimistic tone as he headed to a political rally Friday evening in South Carolina, despite another bad day for financial markets and troubling news about the virus’s spread abroad and in the United States.

He also complained that Democrats have politicized the process and that he has not received enough credit for restricting flights from China soon after the outbreak began earlier this month.

“Some of the Democrats are doing it the way it should be, but some of them are trying to gain political favor by saying a lot about this,” he told reporters. “The fact is, I made one decision that was a very important decision, and that was to close our country to a certain area of the world that was relatively heavily infected.”

ny times logoNew York Times Magazine, Piled Bodies, Overflowing Morgues: Inside America’s Autopsy Crisis, Jordan Kisner, Feb. 25, 2020 (print ed. March 1, 2020). Medical examiners provide crucial insights into public health and safety. What happens when we don’t have enough of them?

Generally, if a death is suspected to be unnatural (accident, homicide, suicide) or of special interest to the state (natural disaster, mass fatality or death in custody), the body belongs, temporarily, to the local coroner or medical examiner. Those officials evaluate and report the cause and manner of death, notify law enforcement and any federal agencies that may be involved in an investigation, like the D.E.A. or the Postal Service, and sign the death certificate (which is what declares a person finally, legally dead) before returning the body to the next of kin.

No matter whether a state or a county runs on the medical-examiner system or the coroner system, in a vast majority of cases only a forensic pathologist can perform an autopsy of a body that appears to have died of unnatural causes; coroners who aren’t forensic pathologists outsource that labor.

Eleven years ago, the National Research Council issued a warning that there were fewer than 500 forensic pathologists in the United States, a number that couldn’t cover even half the annual deaths that require autopsy. (For scale, there are more than 12,000 dermatologists.) In the years since, the opioid epidemic has increased their caseload so drastically that the system is threatening to collapse. In the last 10 years, medical examiner’s offices with a glut of cases have lost accreditation with the national supervising association. The bodies in their districts are often shipped to other offices — which then become overloaded and risk losing accreditation in turn.

There are coverage deserts, huge (mostly rural) parts of America that lack ready access to autopsies or trained death investigators. For a month in 2015, anyone who died in Montana had to be transported to South Dakota or Washington if an autopsy was needed; in Wyoming, bodies often have to cross state lines because there are no forensic pathologists nearby.

For several years, Oklahoma’s overloaded medical examiner declined to perform autopsies on people over 40 who died of unexplained causes; the office still does not perform them on anyone who seems to have died by suicide. Chief medical examiners of New Jersey, Los Angeles County and Cook County, Ill., (all offices serving millions of people) have resigned in protest over intolerable case loads and insufficient funding and resources.

washington post logoWashington Post, State officials say virus found in 3 more communities on the West Coast, Lenny Bernstein, Lena H. Sun, Josh Dawsey and Jay Greene, Feb. 29, 2020. The cases were reported in Santa Clara County, Calif., Washington County, Ore., and Snohomish Co., Wash., on Friday.

California reported its second case of community transmission of the coronavirus Friday, and Oregon and Washington announced others just hours cdc logo Customlater, providing fresh evidence that the deadly virus is circulating in the United States.

Authorities in Santa Clara County, Calif., said a 65-year-old woman had come down with the covid-19 disease without traveling to any countries hit hard by the outbreak or coming in contact with anyone known to have the infection.

In Oregon, officials said a person from Washington County, in the northwest part of the state, had tested positive under similar circumstances. The positive test was conducted by the state’s laboratory and is considered “presumptive” until it is confirmed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: For Trump, a reckoning has come, Dana Milbank, right, Feb. 28, 2020. As markets continued their dizzying downward spiral and dana milbank Customother countries took heroic measures to fight coronavirus, President Trump sat down at the White House Thursday evening with two leading public-health authorities: Diamond and Silk.

Trump told the online provocateurs and other African American supporters about his “incredible,” “very good,” “great,” “best” and “fantastic” response to the virus.

“It’s going to disappear. One day it’s like a miracle,” he told them.

The real problem, he said, is Democrats and the press, who aren’t giving him “credit,” who are trying to “build this up,” and who are demanding a bigger federal response. Amid an extended attack on Joe Biden, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, Trump said: “Politics is fine, but when it comes time to talk about pandemics you’ve got to get away from politics.”

The one playing politics is Trump, cheerleading about miracles and silencing those trying to prepare the public. It won’t work — investors obviously see through the happy talk — and by playing down the crisis, he’s causing preparedness and monitoring to lag, which will worsen the spread.

What Americans need now is massive federal mobilization. Instead, Trump has pulled out the usual tricks, contradicting experts, blaming the “fake news media” for the market plunge, condemning opponents and even some of his own appointees (at the Federal Reserve), changing the subject, and making things up.

Thursday night, the New York Times reported that the White House has ordered officials to seek approval from Vice President Pence’s office before speaking publicly about the epidemic — apparently a move to muzzle public-health officials and scientists.

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Turkey, Pressing E.U. for Help in Syria, Threatens to Open Borders to Refugees, Matina Stevis-Gridneff and Patrick Kingsley, Feb. 29, 2020 (print ed.). Turkish news outlets showed live broadcasts of migrants traveling to the border with Greece, hinting at a revival of the 2015 crisis Flag of Turkeythat shook Europe.

In an apparently coordinated effort by Turkey to raise the pressure on Europe, Turkish state news agencies on Friday showed videos of hundreds of migrants making their way to the Turkish-Greek land border, seemingly facilitated by the Turkish authorities.

The broadcasts, an apparent effort by Turkey to press European leaders into supporting its military campaign in northern Syria, came hours after Turkey suffered heavy losses in fighting in Idlib Province in Syria, prompting an extraordinary NATO ambassadors’ meeting and fears of escalation.

european union logo rectangleEuropean Union officials, fearful of a repeat of the 2015 refugee crisis, were apprehensively watching the developments in Turkey on Friday, as migrants were shown on live television making their way to Turkey’s borders with Greece.

Videos released by Anadolu, Turkey’s state-controlled news wire, showed migrants making their way through fields and roads close to the Turkish-Greek border. A migrant interviewed by a Turkish channel near the border said she had been driven there free by bus.

Syria FlagA Turkish news crew also filmed a boat of migrants as it departed for Greece, in a stunt that implied coordination among smugglers, Turkish officials and the private news media, whose owners are heavily influenced by the government.

Another group that had been driven to the coast turned back after it realized there were no more boats ready to smuggle its members to Greece. But the steady drip of footage at least initially appeared to be coordinated, rather than an organic mass movement of refugees.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. signs deal with Taliban, a turning point in Afghanistan war, Susannah George and Dan Lamothe, Feb. 29, 2020. Under the peace deal, the United States would fully withdraw its troops from Afghanistan within 14 months. The agreement comes after seven days of reduced violence in the country and sets the stage for talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

SouthFront, Unverified Video Shows Turkish Troops Torturing Syrian Captives In Greater Idlib, Staff and social media, Feb. 29, 2020. On February 29, Syrian activists shared a horrifying video allegedly showing Turkish service members torturing, beating and humiliating Syrian soldiers who were captured by Turkish-backed militants in Greater Idlib.

Several armed men who are supposedly service members of the Turkish military can be seen in the video taking turns beating up three captives, allegedly Syrian Arab Army (SAA) personnel.

The brutal beating made some Syrian militants intervene to stop the Turkish service members. Nevertheless, they were pushed to the back. Towards the end of the video, the loud screams of the captives can be clearly heard.

A day earlier, opposition sources reported the capture of several SAA soldiers in the southern Idlib countryside. These reports may have been referring to the captives seen in the torture video.

Earlier this week, southern Idlib witnessed a series of Syrian airstrikes which killed 36 Turkish service members and injured dozens other.

The Turkish Ministry of National Defense has not commented on the unverified footage, thus far. The NATO is also yet to comment on the matter.

As usual, the incident was ignored by the main stream media (MSM). Violations against Syrian troops and government supporters are always underreported in the West, likely because they don’t fit the agenda.

Social Media: #Turkish "Moderate" rebels executes #SAA soldier Suleiman Malek Ahmad after 2 days of his capture.

Trump Power, Payback

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washington post logoWashington Post, Pompeo clashes with Democratic lawmakers in testy Capitol Hill hearing, John Hudson, Feb. 29, 2020. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, repeatedly clashed Friday with Democratic lawmakers who criticized him for taking weeks to appear before Congress following the killing of mike pompeo portraitIran’s top military commander and then truncating his time on Capitol Hill to speak to a conservative political conference.

“We had to move heaven and earth to get you here for just two hours,” said Rep. Gregory W. Meeks (D-N.Y.), who noted that Pompeo used to berate the Obama administration about the need to hear testimony from former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

“It is shameful” that “you are going to talk to a special interest group,” while only giving two hours to the House Foreign Affairs U.S. House logoCommittee, said Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.). Pompeo is expected to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference’s annual meeting.

Until Friday, Pompeo had not made a public appearance on Capitol Hill for months. The shortened appearance resulted in Democrats trying to maximize their time through the use of yes or no questions, a format Pompeo refused to acquiesce to, resulting in combative, interruption-laden exchanges.

“That’s a straw-man argument,” Pompeo told Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), who tried to pin him down on a yes or no question related to the border wall and the coronavirus.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump nominates Rep. John Ratcliffe to be next director of national intelligence, Shane Harris and Ellen Nakashima, Feb. 29, 2020 (print ed.). Ratcliffe (R-Tex.) was put up for the same job last summer but withdrew amid questions about his qualifications and whether he had padded his résumé.

President Trump announced Friday that he would nominate Rep. John Ratcliffe, right, as the next director of national intelligence, turning to a vocal political ally after dismissing his previous acting intelligence director amid new questions of election interference by Russia.

john ratcliffe headshot CustomIn a tweet, Trump called Ratcliffe (R-Tex.) “an outstanding man of great talent” whom he had hoped officially to nominate last year.

“Would have completed process earlier, but John wanted to wait until after IG Report was finished,” Trump said, an apparent reference to an inspector general’s report scrutinizing the FBI investigation of Trump’s 2016 campaign and whether it was coordinating with Russians to influence the outcome of the last presidential election.

Trump sought to nominate Ratcliffe in July after his first intelligence director, Daniel Coats, left the administration. But the former U.S. attorney encountered stiff resistance in Congress, where lawmakers raised questions about his credentials and whether he had padded his résumé.

It was not clear that Ratcliffe would fare any better the second time. Not only did he face opposition from Democrats last summer, but key Senate Republicans also were not enthusiastic about his nomination and signaled that the White House should withdraw it.

ny times logoNew York Times, Court Rules Congress Cannot Sue to Force Executive Branch Officials to Testify, Charlie Savage, Feb. 29, 2020 (print ed.). An appeals court dismissed a lawsuit brought by the House Judiciary Committee against President Trump’s former White House counsel, Donald F. don mcgahn hearing croppedMcGahn II, right.

A federal appeals court ruled on Friday that Congress could not sue to enforce its subpoenas of executive branch officials, handing a major victory to President Trump and dealing a severe blow to the power of Congress to conduct oversight.

In a ruling that could have far-reaching consequences for executive branch secrecy powers long after Mr. Trump leaves office, a divided three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit dismissed a lawsuit brought by the House Judiciary Committee against Mr. Trump’s former White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II.

On Mr. Trump’s instructions, Mr. McGahn defied a House subpoena seeking to force him to testify about Mr. Trump’s efforts to obstruct the Russia investigation. The House sued him, seeking a judicial order that he show up to testify, and won in district court in November.

But two of the three appeals court judges ruled on Friday that the Constitution gave the House no standing to file any such lawsuit in what they characterized as a political dispute with the executive branch. If their decision stands, its reasoning would shut the door to judicial recourse whenever a president directs a subordinate not to cooperate with congressional oversight investigations.

“The committee now seeks to invoke this court’s jurisdiction to enforce its subpoena,” wrote Judge Thomas B. Griffith. The Justice Department, “on behalf of McGahn, responds that Article III of the Constitution forbids federal courts from resolving this kind of interbranch information dispute.”

“We agree and dismiss this case,” he wrote.

Judge Griffith said that Congress had political tools to induce presidents to negotiate and compromise in disputes over oversight demands for information about the government — like withholding appropriations or derailing the president’s legislative agenda — and that courts should not be involved.

U.S. House logo“The absence of a judicial remedy doesn’t render Congress powerless,” he wrote, adding, “Congress can wield these political weapons without dragging judges into the fray.”

But the dissenting judge, Judith W. Rogers, warned that the ruling would embolden presidents to flout legislative oversight and deprive lawmakers of a powerful tool to obtain information they sought, undermining core prerogatives of Congress enshrined in the Constitution.

"The court removes any incentive for the executive branch to engage in the negotiation process seeking accommodation, all but assures future presidential stonewalling of Congress, and further impairs the House’s ability to perform its constitutional duties,” she wrote.

The ruling deflates a primary argument used by Mr. Trump’s defense team to question the legitimacy of the impeachment process. His lawyers insisted that the House should have pursued all of its legal avenues to secure testimony rather than charging the president with obstruction of Congress. But even as the impeachment trial unfolded, the Justice Department was arguing in the McGahn case that such lawsuits were invalid and, ultimately, the court adopted that reasoning.

If it stands, the ruling could halt a growing trend of Congress resorting to lawsuits to enforce its oversight powers in a polarized era when previous norms of bipartisan cooperation have broken down. It was once vanishingly rare for Congress and the executive branch to square off in court, but it has become increasingly common — especially in the past year, after Mr. Trump vowed to stonewall “all” oversight subpoenas by House Democrats.

Brianna Herlihy, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, which was defending Mr. McGahn in court, said the Trump administration was “extremely pleased” with the ruling, calling it historic.

“Suits like this one are without precedent in our nation’s history and are inconsistent with the Constitution’s design,” she said. “The D.C. Circuit’s cogent opinion affirms this fundamental principle.”

Spokesmen for Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, had no immediate comment. But it seemed likely that the House would appeal to the full appeals court to rehear the case.

Both judges in the majority were appointed by Republican presidents — Judge Griffith was appointed by George W. Bush and Judge Karen L. Henderson, who joined him in the decision, was appointed by George Bush. Judge Rogers was appointed by President Bill Clinton, a Democrat.

The ruling was the latest in a string of developments that have eroded Congress’s power to subpoena information from the executive branch. Originally, Congress was understood to have “inherent contempt” power to arrest recalcitrant witnesses, but that is now seen as unrealistic.

Under administrations of both parties, the Justice Department has refrained from charging executive branch officials with criminal contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a subpoena when the president has invoked executive privilege, even when Congress disputes whether the invocation was valid.

Against that backdrop, the prospect of a civil lawsuit asking a judge to order an executive branch official to comply with a subpoena has been the rare remaining tool to incentivize presidents to negotiate with Congress in an information dispute and try to reach an accommodation.

The case against Mr. McGahn was only the first of several brought last year against the executive branch by House Democrats seeking to enforce their subpoenas. Others included efforts to obtain Mr. Trump’s tax returns and internal documents showing why his administration tried to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census.

Mr. Trump had instructed Mr. McGahn not to show up, declaring that his former legal aide was “absolutely immune” from being compelled to testify about his duties, meaning he had no obligation to appear.

In a twist, Judge Henderson wrote in a concurring opinion that she disagreed with that argument. Along with Judge Rogers’s rejection of it, that meant there was a shadow majority against the absolute-immunity theory. But because Judge Henderson joined Judge Griffith in asserting that Congress could not file lawsuits to enforce its subpoenas in the first place, it did not matter.

A Federal District Court judge rejected the absolute immunity theory in a 2008 case involving a congressional investigation into the Bush administration’s firings of United States attorneys, one of the first lawsuits by Congress to enforce a subpoena for executive branch information. The case was resolved, however, without any definitive appeals court ruling.

In 2012, there was another subpoena lawsuit brought by House Republicans related to the botched gun-trafficking case known as Operation Fast and Furious. That case involved documents, not testimony, and it was also resolved without any definitive appeals court ruling on whether the House had a right to bring it in the first place.

Late last year, after House Democrats sued Mr. McGahn, another lower-court judge rejected the claims that the House had no standing to sue and that a former top White House aide is absolutely immune, ordering him to comply with the subpoena.

But in throwing out the case, Judge Griffith worried that the judiciary was getting increasingly dragged into sticky political disputes. He pointed out that if Mr. McGahn did show up but Mr. Trump then invoked executive privilege to block him from answering specific questions, the same matter would end up right back in court.

Judge Rogers, however, noted that at least since the Watergate scandal nearly 50 years ago, the threat of a potential lawsuit has hung over such negotiations. Removing that threat, she argued, would thus disrupt — not reaffirm — the process for resolving information disputes.

“Future presidents may direct wide-scale noncompliance with lawful congressional inquiries, secure in the knowledge that Congress can do little to enforce a subpoena dramatically undermining its ability to fulfill its constitutional obligations now and going forward,” she warned.

South Carolina Primary Preview

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Joe Biden Needs a Win in South Carolina. Will He Get It? Nu Wexler (former executive director of the South Carolina Democratic Party), Feb. 29, 2020 (print ed.). Politics still move at a different pace there, and it’s a place where loyalty can outweigh ideology.

joe biden 2020 button CustomWhen Joe Biden was considering running for president last spring, progressive activists circulated a video clip of him delivering the eulogy at Strom Thurmond’s funeral in 2003. In spring 2019, Mr. Biden delivered another senatorial eulogy at Fritz Hollings’s funeral, and rivals pounced again (in both cases, for praising the onetime segregationist senators).

On the surface, both speeches seemed out of step with activist Democrats and a potential liability. But they were actually an asset for Mr. Biden in South Carolina, because they reminded voters of his long history in the state and personal relationships that allowed him to declare the primary his early firewall.

Cable news and Twitter have nationalized and accelerated the campaign news cycle, but South Carolina politics still move at a different pace. The state is a place where loyalty can outweigh ideology, hiring an elected official’s cousin or nephew makes a difference, and candidate visits are critically important. It’s difficult to parachute in at the last minute and introduce yourself through advertising alone, the way candidates will be forced to do in Super Tuesday states and beyond. These quirks set South Carolina apart from other early-primary states and have surprised and challenged presidential campaigns for the past 40 years.

washington post logoWashington Post, Bernie Sanders’s most passionate surrogate is helping him connect with black voters, Jenna Johnson, Feb. 29, 2020. As nina turner msnbc CustomDemocratic presidential candidates spoke at a breakfast for black ministers this week, Nina Turner — a campaign co-chair for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) who has been helping him connect with black voters — was interviewed by a television crew at the back of the room.

Turner, right, a 52-year-old former state senator from Ohio, is Sanders’s most visible and passionate surrogate. She has been trying to help him win over black voters who largely spurned Sanders the last time he ran for president.

bernie sanders 2020 button croppedShe opens for him at rallies, giving rousing, sermonlike speeches that pull together policy, tidbits of his biography and her own, lessons from the Bible and quotes from civil rights leaders. She often ends sentences with her signature call-out: “Hello, somebody!”

She goes after the senator’s rivals in ways he never would, writing that former vice president Joe Biden had “betrayed” black voters and harshly criticizing other candidates for their handling of racial issues. A major test of her efforts on Sanders’s behalf will come Saturday, when African Americans are expected to make up as much as 60 percent of South Carolina’s Democratic vote.

Feb. 28

Global Public Health

2020 U.S. Elections

 World News Headlines

Inside DC

U.S. Crime, Courts

 

Global Public Health

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Virus pummels global markets; Japanese island declares state of emergency, Adam Taylor and Rick Noack, Feb. 28, 2020. Fears that a coronavirus pandemic could tip the world economy into recession sent global stocks into a tailspin Friday, with markets on track for their worst week since the financial crisis.

European indexes fell sharply, led by losses in the travel and resources sectors, continuing the slump in Asia earlier in the day. U.S. futures pointed to further losses on Wall Street at the open.

While there were indications that the outbreak may be slowing in China, France and Germany reported upticks in infections and South Korea’s tally surpassed 2,300, as more events were canceled and airlines said they would cut flights. In Japan, officials declared a state of emergency on the northern island of Hokkaido and told residents to stay indoors as the country reported its 10th death from covid-19, as the disease caused by the virus is known.

Investors have watched the outbreak with increasing concern. U.S. oil futures slipped again Friday, raising expectations that officials from oil-exporting nations will cut output after they meet next week.

  • New York Times, Officials Rush to Respond to Drumbeat of New Virus Cases: Updates, Feb. 28, 2020. People in over 53 countries have been infected, including the first case in sub-Saharan Africa.

ny times logopaul krugmanNew York Times, Opinion: When a Pandemic Meets a Personality Cult, Paul Krugman, right, Feb. 28, 2020 (print ed.). The Trump team confirms all of our worst fears; President Trump on Wednesday addressed the evils associated with the coronavirus. Among them: the reporters asking questions.

So, here’s the response of the Trump team and its allies to the coronavirus, at least so far: It’s actually good for America. Also, it’s a hoax perpetrated by the news media and the Democrats. Besides, it’s no big deal, and people should buy stocks. Anyway, we’ll get it all under control under the leadership of a man who doesn’t believe in science.

cdc logo CustomFrom the day Donald Trump was elected, some of us worried how his administration would deal with a crisis not of its own making. Remarkably, we’ve gone three years without finding out: Until now, every serious problem facing the Trump administration, from trade wars to confrontation with Iran, has been self-created. But the coronavirus is looking as if it might be the test we’ve been fearing.

And the results aren’t looking good.

The story of the Trump pandemic response actually began several years ago. Almost as soon as he took office, Trump began cutting funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, leading in turn to an 80 percent cut in the resources the agency devotes to global disease outbreaks. Trump also shut down the entire global-health-security unit of the National Security Council.

Experts warned that these moves were exposing America to severe risks. “We’ll leave the field open to microbes,” declared Tom Frieden, a much-admired former head of the C.D.C., more than two years ago. But the Trump administration has a preconceived notion about where national security threats come from — basically, scary brown people — and is hostile to science in general. So we entered the current crisis in an already weakened condition.

And the microbes came.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump says he can bring in virus experts quickly. The experts say it’s not so simple, Beth Reinhard, Emma Brown and Neena Satija, Feb. 28, 2020 (print ed.). People in and outside the White House have warned for years that the nation is ill-prepared for a dangerous pandemic.

The White House official charged with leading the U.S. response to deadly pandemics left nearly two years ago as his global health security team was disbanded. Federal funding for preventing and mitigating the spread of infectious disease has been repeatedly threatened since President Trump’s election.

Despite the mounting threat of a coronavirus outbreak in the United States, Trump said he has no regrets about those actions and that expertise and resources can be quickly ramped up to meet the current needs.

Former federal officials and public-health experts argue that an effective response to a epidemiological crisis demands sustained planning and investment.

Palmer Report, Opinion: There’s a fire in Donald Trump’s crowded theater, Bill Palmer, Feb. 28, 2020. There are lies you can tell that will send you to prison – and not just when you’re under oath. If you mischievously decide to shout “fire” in a crowded theater when you know there’s no fire, and people get trampled to death in the resulting stampede, you’re looking at potential felony charges. Similarly, if you’re a store owner and you know the building is on fire, but you want customers to keep shopping so you lie to them when they start asking why they smell smoke, and they die as a result, you’re looking at the same criminal scenario.

This brings us to how Donald Trump is handling the coronavirus crisis. He’s handling it in highly incompetent fashion, but that’s not a crime. It’s made all the worse because he slashed the CDC budget, which should be a crime, but apparently isn’t. Nor is it illegal to try to spin a negative situation in the most positive light that the facts could ever possibly allow. But here’s where you get into a criminal element.

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney gave a speech today and called the coronavirus threat in the United States a “hoax.” He used that word in semi-incoherent fashion; we think he was trying to assert that the U.S. coronavirus outbreak is no more real than Donald Trump’s Ukraine scandal. But the bottom line is that he used the word. Then Trump held a rally tonight and used the word “hoax” in reference to the virus outbreak as well.

When you’re the President of the United States or a top White House official, and you’re talking about a worldwide pandemic underway that’s now spreading in the United States, you don’t get to tell people that it’s some kind of “hoax.” You don’t get to use that word. Trump and Mulvaney know darn well that by making this false statement, they’re steering Americans toward writing the whole thing off, instead of taking the basic precautions that could save their lives. At what point are these kinds of lies an actual felony? Its worth keeping in mind, because if Trump loses this election, people like Mulvaney are going to face a whole host of criminal charges.

ny times logoNew York Times, Health officials will now have to clear all statements about the virus with Vice President Mike Pence, Michael D. Shear and Maggie Haberman, Feb. 28, 2020 (print ed.). Government health officials and scientists will have to clear statements with the vice president’s office, one of three people designated as the administration’s primary coronavirus official.

The White House moved on Thursday to tighten control of coronavirus messaging by government health officials and scientists, directing them to clear all statements and public appearance with the office of Vice President Mike Pence, according to several officials familiar with the new approach.

President Donald Trump officialPresident Trump announced Wednesday evening that Mr. Pence would coordinate the government’s response to the public health threat even as he played down the immediate danger from the virus that is spreading rapidly across the globe. Mr. Pence was scheduled to lead a meeting of the government’s coronavirus task force on Thursday.

Officials insist the goal is not to control the content of what subject-matter experts and other officials are saying, but to make sure their efforts are being coordinated, after days of confusion with various administration officials showing up on television.

Mr. Pence, right, said Thursday that he had selected Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the director of the United States effort to combat H.I.V. and AIDS, to serve as the Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House, enlisting an experienced scientist and physician to manage the response to the potential spread of the virus.

The announcements from the White House were intended to show that Mr. Trump and those around him are taking the potential threat to the health of Americans seriously. Aides said the president wanted governors and members of Congress to have a single point-person to communicate with, eliminating any jockeying for power in a decentralized situation.

But with Mr. Pence’s announcement, Dr. Birx becomes the third person to be designated as the administration’s primary coronavirus official.

Mr. Trump said that “Mike is going to be in charge, and Mike will report back to me.” Mr. Pence said it will be Dr. Birx. Meanwhile, Alex M. Azar II, the health and human services secretary, remains the chairman of the government’s coronavirus task force.

washington post logoWashington Post, HHS whistleblower says workers without protective gear or proper training met coronavirus evacuees, Lena H. Sun and Yasmeen Abutaleb​, Feb. 28, 2020 (print ed.). The whistleblower alleges she was improperly reassigned after raising concerns with HHS Secretary Alex Azar's office.

Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services sent more than a dozen workers to receive the first Americans evacuated from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, without proper training for infection control or appropriate protective gear, according to a whistleblower complaint.

The workers did not show symptoms of infection and were not tested for the virus, according to lawyers for the whistleblower, who is a senior HHS official based in Washington who oversees workers at the Administration for Children and Families, a unit within HHS.

The whistleblower is seeking federal protection because she alleges she was unfairly and improperly reassigned after raising concerns about the safety of these workers to HHS officials, including those within the office of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. She was told Feb. 19 that if she does not accept the new position in 15 days, which is March 5, she would be terminated.

washington post logoWashington Post, Mike Pence was criticized for his handling of Indiana’s HIV outbreak. He will lead the U.S. coronavirus response, Meryl Kornfield, Feb. 28, 2020 (print ed.). When President Trump announced that Vice President Pence would lead federal efforts against the spread of the coronavirus, he said mike pence oPence, right, was the right person for the task because of his experience.

“He’s got a certain talent for this,” Trump said at a White House briefing about the virus, which has infected nearly five dozen people in the United States so far.

The announcement has cast light on Pence’s record as a lawmaker and his handling of a major public health crisis during his time as governor of Indiana. The worst HIV outbreak in the state’s history happened on his watch in 2015, which critics blamed on Pence’s belated response and his opposition to authorizing a needle-exchange program.

In 2011, as a member of Congress, he voted to cut funding for Planned Parenthood. Two years later, a Planned Parenthood clinic that had been the only HIV-testing center in Scott County, Ind., closed after public health spending cuts, HuffPost reported.

2020 U.S. Elections

ny times logoNew York Times, Democratic Leaders Willing to Risk Party Damage to Stop Sanders, Lisa Lerer and Reid J. Epstein, Feb. 28, 2020 (print ed.). Interviews with dozens of party officials found broad opposition to handing Bernie Sanders the nomination if he fell short of a delegate majority.

Dozens of interviews with Democratic establishment leaders this week show that they are not just worried about Mr. Sanders’s candidacy, but are also willing to risk intraparty damage to stop his nomination at the national convention in July if they get the chance. Since Mr. Sanders’s victory in Nevada’s U.S. House logocaucuses on Saturday, The Times has interviewed 93 party officials — all of them superdelegates, who could have a say on the nominee at the convention — and found overwhelming opposition to handing the Vermont senator the nomination if he arrived with the most delegates but fell short of a majority.

Such a situation may result in a brokered convention, a messy political battle the likes of which Democrats have not seen since 1952, when the nominee was Adlai Stevenson.

“We’re way, way, way past the day where party leaders can determine an outcome here, but I think there’s a vibrant conversation about whether there is anything that can be done,” said Jim Himes, a Connecticut congressman and superdelegate, who believed the nominee should have a majority of delegates.

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia denies responsibility for attack in northern Syria that killed 33 Turkish soldiers, Robyn Dixon, Feb. 28, 2020. Russian military officials denied responsibility for an airstrike in northern Syria that killed dozens of Turkish troops, as the risk of a major military confrontation between Russia and Turkey in the region escalated sharply.

Russia’s Ministry of Defense issued a statement Friday stating that no Russian jets had been operating in the area of the strike in Idlib province Thursday.

“Aircraft of the Russian Air Force did not engage in combat in the Behun vicinity,” the ministry said.

Gov. Rahmi Dogan of Hatay province in Turkey, announced that 33 soldiers were killed. Dozens more were wounded.

The Russian statement said it had warned Syria to cease the attacks on anti-regime fighters in the Behun region when it became aware of the Turkish casualties.

“As soon as the information about Turkish casualties was received, the Russian side took comprehensive measures to fully stop the firing by the Syrian forces and to ensure safe evacuation of the dead and injured Turkish servicemen to the Turkish territory,” the ministry said.

The Defense Ministry statement added that Turkey’s military had not provided Russia with the geolocation of its forces in Behun.

“At the same time, according to the coordinates provided by the Turkish side to the Russian Center for Reconciliation, there were no — and should not have been any — units of the Turkish armed forces in the area of Behun,” the Russian Defense Ministry statement said.

Turkey convened an emergency meeting of NATO ambassadors on Friday morning, stopping short of an attempt to invoke the alliance’s all-for-one, one-for-all mutual defense pact but still drawing the group into the increasingly tense situation.

Under NATO’s founding treaty, any member can request consultations if it believes its security is under threat. It is only the sixth time in NATO’s 71-year history that a member has done so.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg spoke Thursday night to Turkish Foreign Minister Mehmet Cavusoglu. NATO said in a statement that “Stoltenberg condemned the continued indiscriminate air strikes by the Syrian regime and its backer Russia in Idlib province.”

Turkey has deployed thousands of troops in Syria to prevent the forces of President Bashar al-Assad from defeating anti-regime militias in Idlib. In recent days, Russian officials have repeatedly accused Turkey of breaching a 2018 cease-fire deal and accused it of using artillery strikes and attack drones to defend anti-regime militias, whom it designates as terrorists. Idlib province is largely controlled by an extremist group that once had ties with al-Qaeda.

A senior Turkish official announced Friday that Turkey would open its borders to allow Syrian refugees to freely spill into Europe, Reuters reported Friday, without naming the official.  “All refugees, including Syrians, are now welcome to cross into the European Union,” the official said.

Russian State Duma Defense Committee deputy chairman Yury Shvytkin accused Turkey of aggression against Syria and flagrant support for terrorists.

U.S. Crime, Courts

catherine pugh screenshot

washington post logoWashington Post, Former Baltimore mayor sentenced to 3 years in ‘Healthy Holly’ children’s book scandal, Paul Schwartzman​, Feb. 27, 2020. Catherine Pugh, above, had pleaded guilty to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to illegally hide profits from the sale of her self-published books to boost her political and personal fortunes.

democratic donkey logoIn her three years as mayor, a seat she often described as her "dream job," Catherine E. Pugh sought to burnish the image of her adoptive hometown, a city battered by rioting, a soaring murder rate, and a history of corruption at City Hall and in the police department.

Yet, as she was sentenced Thursday to three years in prison after pleading guilty to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy, Pugh [a Democrat] personified the dysfunction that has long permeated Maryland’s largest city and sown distrust among its 600,000 residents.

“This became a very large fraud,” U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow said before punishing Pugh for using her self-published “Healthy Holly” children’s books to generate more than $800,000 in income while failing to deliver tens of thousands of the books to youngsters.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Former U.S. prosecutors in Washington call on new head Tim Shea to assert independence from Barr, Trump, Spencer S. Hsu, Letter adds to signs of Justice Department turmoil over attorney general’s handling of Roger Stone, other Trump-related prosecutions.

More than 60 former prosecutors urged the acting U.S. attorney for Washington, Timothy Shea, left, to take a public stance against political interference by the Trump administration in a letter sent Wednesday.

timothy shea o CustomThe letter signed by former prosecutors in the office Shea now leads signals continued alarm over Attorney General William P. Barr’s intervention in the case of President Trump’s longtime friend Roger Stone and other high-profile cases the office handles.

Four prosecutors in the office quit the Stone case this month after Barr and other Justice Department leaders pushed for a softer prison recommendation for Stone, who was sentenced Feb. 20 to three years and four months prison for lying to Congress and obstruction.

Trump has publicly attacked the prosecutors, judge and even jurors in Stone’s November trial as biased. In the ensuing controversy, former Justice Department officials have sharply criticized the attorney general, and more than 2,600 former employees have urged Barr to resign.

“Mr. Barr’s actions in doing the President’s personal bidding unfortunately speak louder than his words,” the Justice Department alumni wrote in a separate letter Feb. 16. “Those actions, and the damage they have done to the Department of Justice’s reputation for integrity and the rule of law, require Mr. Barr to resign.”

The most recent letter was drafted independently by assistants to former U.S. attorneys Earl J. Silbert — an appointee of Richard Nixon who oversaw the initial stages of the investigation of the Watergate break-in that led to Nixon’s resignation — and Thomas A. Flannery, another Nixon appointee whom Silbert succeeded when Flannery was named a federal judge by the president.

jessie liu oIt took a different tack, calling for Shea — formerly counselor to Barr — not to step down but to create some distance between himself and the attorney general, who tapped Shea to take over Feb. 3 from then-U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu, right, a Trump appointee whom the president dumped after being angered at her handling of cases.

Cases that drew the president’s ire include that of Stone; former national security adviser Michael Flynn, charged in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election; and former FBI acting director Andrew McCabe, whom the Justice Department decided this month not to charge with lying to investigators about a media disclosure.

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge voids nearly 1 million acres of oil and gas leases, saying Trump policy undercut public input, Juliet Eilperin, Feb. 28, 2020 (print ed.). The ruling was a win for environmentalists, who challenged the policy as part of an effort to block drilling in habitat for the imperiled greater sage-grouse.

A federal judge in Idaho ruled Thursday that a Trump administration policy limiting public input on oil and gas leasing decisions was “arbitrary and capricious,” overturning the 2018 directive and voiding nearly 1 million acres of leases out West as a result.

The ruling by U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge Ronald E. Bush represented a win for environmentalists, who challenged the leasing policy as part of a broader effort to block drilling in habitat for the imperiled greater sage-grouse. The contested area spans 67 million acres across 11 Western states.

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management issued an instruction memorandum in January 2018 aimed at accelerating energy leasing by streamlining environmental reviews and reducing the amount of time the public could comment on, and later protest, any leases.

Feb. 27

Breaking War News Headlines

Global Public Health

2020 U.S. Elections

World News

Inside DC

Media News

 

Global Public Health

djt mcconnell ryan pence

Vice President Michael Pence, right, with Donald Trump and Senate leaders Mitch McConnell, left, and House Speaker Paul Ryan in a White House file photo.

washington post logoWashington Post, Dow plunges more than 1,100 points, extending losses in brutal week, Rachel Siegel and Thomas Heath, Feb. 27, 2020.  he Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq have all fallen at least 10 percent from their recent highs amid fears the outbreak will bring the economy to a grinding halt.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. markets having worst week since ’08 financial crisis, enter correction territory, Rachel Siegel and Thomas Heath, Feb. 27, 2020. The Dow Jones industrial average started the day with a plunge of hundreds of points, and all three major indexes were down more than 10 percent from their most recent highs.

ny times logoNew York Times, Coronavirus Patient in California Was Not Tested for Days, Roni Caryn Rabin and Sheri Fink, Feb. 27, 2020. Restrictive federal criteria meant there was a delay of several days, despite doctors’ suggestions. The patient may be the first person to be infected in the United States china flag Smallwithout a known source.

A California coronavirus patient had to wait days to be tested because of restrictive federal criteria, despite doctors’ suggestions.

The patient, who has tested positive, may be the first person to be infected through community spread in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday.

cdc logo round CustomC.D.C. officials said it was possible the patient was exposed to a returning traveler who was infected. At the moment, however, the new case appears to be one in which the source of infection is unknown, suggesting that the virus may be transmitted within the community.

Following mounting bipartisan criticism that the administration’s response to the spread of the coronavirus had been sluggish, President Trump on Wednesday named Vice President Mike Pence to coordinate the government’s response, even as he repeatedly played down the danger to the United States of a widespread domestic outbreak.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Mike Pence just blew it royally, Bill Palmer, Feb. 27, 2020. Yesterday Donald Trump announced that he was putting Mike Pence of all people in charge of the U.S. response to the coronavirus. Palmer Report pointed out that because this was a suicide mission one way or the other, it appeared Trump was looking to set up Pence as the scapegoat when it all goes wrong. But as it turns out, Pence is wasting no time screwing things up of his own accord.

bill palmer report logo headerAs his first major move in response to the coronavirus, Mike Pence announced today that he’s adding Steven Mnuchin and Larry Kudlow to his response team, according to Marketwatch. Wait, what? Why in the name of all that is holy would the Secretary of the Treasury and a White House economic adviser be in charge of responding to a medical emergency? This would be a boneheaded move even if these two guys weren’t idiots.

Mnuchin is best known for illegally blocking Donald Trump’s tax returns from being turned over to investigators. Larry Kudlow is best known as a guy Donald Trump and Mike Pence logowho can’t put a complete sentence together, and whose economic predictions turn out to be incorrect 100% of the time. Kudlow also went on television a few days ago and falsely claimed that the coronavirus had been “contained” in the United States, on the same day the CDC was confirming the irs logoopposite. So sure, let’s put this flaming clown jackle in charge of the virus response.

It’s not difficult to see what Mike Pence is trying to do here. He’s relying on economic advisers instead of medical experts because he cares a lot less about how many Americans might end up dying, and a lot more about whether the stock market will keep plunging. And by picking two of Donald Trump’s most cartoonish loyalists, Pence is kissing up to Trump in the hope that Trump won’t scapegoat him when it all inevitably goes wrong.

washington post logoWashington Post, First person in U.S. tests positive for coronavirus with no link to foreign travel, Lenny Bernstein, Laurie McGinley and Lena H. Sun​, Feb. 27, 2020 (print ed.). Experts say that’s an indication the virus may be spreading domestically. The individual is a resident of Solano County, in Northern California, according to the state’s Department of Public Health.

2020 U.S. Elections

ny times logoNew York Times, South Carolina Primary: James Clyburn Endorses Joe Biden, Staff reports, Feb. 27, 2020 (print ed.). There are three days to go before Saturday’s South Carolina primary and six Democratic candidates are campaigning hard, mostly around Charleston and the Lowcountry.

Representative James E. Clyburn, left, the highest-ranking African-American in Congress and a political powerhouse in South Carolina, threw his support to Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Wednesday. After months of substantial leads in South Carolina polls, Mr. Biden is now in the fight of his political life there james clyburnagainst Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the rising front-runner, and Tom Steyer, the hedge fund billionaire whose heavy spending and direct appeals to black voters has made him a wild card in the state’s primary.

Appearing with Mr. Biden the morning after the Democratic debate, which was held in Charleston, Mr. Clyburn praised his longtime friend and urged South Carolina Democrats to resurrect Mr. Biden’s candidacy in the final contest before Super Tuesday.

“I’m voting for Joe Biden and South Carolinians should be voting for Joe Biden,” Mr. Clyburn said as a visibly emotional Mr. Biden looked on. “I know Joe. We know Joe. But most importantly, Joe knows us.”

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is angling for a third or fourth place finish in the state. That might not be enough to win delegates, but it would give her an edge over two rivals — Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., and Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota — heading into Super Tuesday contests.

Coming out of Tuesday night's debate, where there was no decisive winner or loser, the Super Tuesday picture felt more fluid rather than less. After being shellacked in last week’s debate, former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York, who is not competing in South Carolina, met low expectations sufficiently enough that he remains a credible contender next week, and Mr. Sanders was not so dominant that he looks like he'll run the table.

It is plausible that Mr. Sanders, Mr. Bloomberg, Mr. Biden, Mr. Buttigieg and Ms. Warren will divvy up delegates on Super Tuesday. But the most likely scenario remains Mr. Sanders amassing a delegate lead — especially if he pulls off a surprise win in South Carolina. It would be a game changer. That's what he's working toward Wednesday, and what all of his rivals are working to stop.

Bernie Sanders, speaking at the Rev. Al Sharpton’s breakfast, invoked his association with a number of civil rights leaders and made reference to his work fighting housing discrimination in Chicago, his involvement with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, his participation in the 1965 March on Washington and his endorsement in 1988 of the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s presidential bid.

bo joe biden farewell jan 12 2017

President Obama and Vice President Biden exchange a formal farewell near the end of their terms at a White House ceremony on Jan. 12, 2017.

washington post logoWashington Post, Obama demands South Carolina TV stations pull misleading ad attacking Biden, Michael Scherer and Anu Narayanswamy, Feb. 27, 2020 (print ed.). Former president Barack Obama on Wednesday called on South Carolina television stations to stop running an ad from a super PAC supporting President Trump that uses Obama’s words out of context in a misleading attack on former vice president Joe Biden.

The Committee to Defend the President, a pro-Trump group, circulated an ad that falsely suggests that words Obama spoke in the narration of his own book were meant to describe Biden.

The group, which placed a similar amount of anti-Biden advertising in Nevada earlier this month, reported to the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday spending more than $250,000 in South Carolina to oppose Biden.

“This despicable ad is straight out of the Republican disinformation playbook, and it’s clearly designed to suppress turnout among minority voters in South Carolina by taking President Obama’s voice out of context and twisting his words to mislead viewers,” Katie Hill, Obama’s communications director, said in a statement. “In the interest of truth in advertising, we are calling on TV stations to take this ad down and stop playing into the hands of bad actors who seek to sow division and confusion among the electorate.”

Hill said Obama has “several friends” in the Democratic presidential primary, “including, of course, his own esteemed Vice President.” She also said Obama has “no plans to endorse in the primary.”

In an attempt to sway black voters in the state, the ad begins with a narrator saying “Joe Biden promised to help our community. It was a lie. Here’s President Obama.”

The ad then runs audio of Obama reading an unrelated passage from his 1995 book, “Dreams from My Father,” about a conversation he had with a barber in Chicago when he was a community organizer.

The Obama passage, which describes the mistreatment of black voters by politicians, refers to complaints about “plantation politics” and the history in Chicago of Democratic politicians expecting black votes despite poor housing, poor job opportunities and police brutality.

The ad repurposes a similar attack the Committee to Defend the President ran last year in several states with many black politicians, including Georgia, Michigan and Louisiana, according to PolitiFact. Similar tactics, aimed at decreasing black turnout for Democrats, were used in a radio ad by another pro-Trump super PAC, Great America Alliance, in the 2017 special House election in Georgia.

“Donald Trump and his allies are absolutely terrified that Joe Biden will defeat him in November. Trump even got himself impeached by trying to force another country to lie about the vice president,” said Andrew Bates, a spokesman for the Biden campaign. “This latest intervention in the Democratic primary is one of the most desperate yet, a despicable torrent of misinformation by the president’s lackeys.”

Separately, Republican activists in South Carolina have boasted about a plan called Operation Chaos to encourage Trump backers to vote for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in Saturday’s primary. The South Carolina GOP has canceled the state’s Republican primary this year.

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Airstrike Hits Turkish Forces in Syria, Carlotta Gall, Feb. 27, 2020. The Turkish army suffered mass casualties in an airstrike, Turkish officials say, an attack that could dramatically shift the course of the Syrian war.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, below at left, held an emergency meeting Thursday evening in Ankara, Turkish media reported. He has been calling for Syrian government and Russia forces to cease their two-month offensive in Idlib Province and to pull back from Turkish positions, which have been encircled and cut off by Syrian government forces.

recep erdogan with flagTurkish officials said the strike had been carried out by Syrian government forces, but Russian jets have been conducting most of the airstrikes in the area in recent weeks. Russian officials could not be reached for comment late Thursday.

Turkey has lost 13 soldiers since deploying reinforcements into the province in recent weeks which has caused growing concern in Turkey. The main opposition party has questioned the wisdom of Turkey’s involvement without air support or American or NATO support.

The attack occurred on a Turkish observation post at Al Bara, south of Idlib city. The post is one of 12 Turkish positions set up over a year ago as part of a de-escalation agreement with Russia.

A Turkish military convoy traveling to resupply the post on Thursday first came under attack and then jets bombed the post itself, Abu Yahya, a senior official of the Turkish-backed Syrian fighting force in Idlib province, said in an interview.

No Syrian fighters were hurt in the bombing. The resupply convoy and the post were solely Turkish.

The Turkish-backed Syrian fighters have made significant gains in battles against Syrian government forces further east recently. They captured the town of Saraqib on the main M5 highway through the province on Wednesday and were engaged in fierce battles further south on Thursday.

Related story:

RT, 29 Turkish soldiers confirmed killed in Idlib airstrike as Erdogan chairs emergency meeting on Syria, Staff report, Feb. 27, 2020. At least 29 Turkish servicemen have been killed in an airstrike in Syria’s Idlib province, while an unspecified number of soldiers were injured. Turkish officials attributed the strike to the Syrian military.

“In Idlib, Turkey’s armed forces were targeted by the regime elements in an airstrike,” Hatay province Governor Rahmi Dogan told the media late on Thursday. While he originally said that nine soldiers had been killed, minutes later the death toll was revised to 29, the Turkish Anadolu Agency (AA) reported, citing the governor.

More Turkish servicemen have been injured in the airstrike, but their number is so far unclear. Dogan's statement comes amid a high-level Turkish security meeting, reportedly chaired by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and presumably focused on the incident.

Also on rt.com ‘War of nerves’: Turkey goes ‘all-in’ to stop Syrian advance in Idlib but will it end up in all-out war?

Russian FlagUnverified reports swirled on social media Thursday, claiming that dozens of Turkish troops were killed in a "Russian" airstrike, that dozens more were injured, and that the hospitals in Hatay were struggling to cope with the influx of the wounded. None of this has so far been confirmed by Ankara.

Speaking to Anadolu, Dogan stressed that there was no shortage of blood at the hospitals, noting that medics have been “taking all necessary interventions” to treat the wounded.

Erdogan’s press secretary Fahrettin Altun told reporters in the early hours of Friday that Turkey is “responding” to the “illegitimate regime that has pointed the gun at our soldiers,” by launching air and artillery strikes against Syrian targets. Altun even described the events in Idlib as a genocide, saying Turkey will now allow the repetition of “what happened in Rwanda and Bosnia” there. “The blood of our heroic soldiers will not be left on the ground,” Altun said, according to AA.

“Our activities on the ground in Syria will continue until the hands reaching for our flag are broken.”

Turkish officials have called the NATO secretary-general and the US national security adviser in relation to the events in Idlib, Anadolu reported.

The situation in Idlib, the last remaining rebel stronghold in Syria, has escalated dramatically in the recent weeks with Damascus ramping up its offensive against Islamist militants to reclaim strategic towns, which prompted Turkish military to send thousands of its own troops and hardware to back its allies, fighting against the forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad. Hatay is the Turkish province bordering Idlib.

Ankara ruled out its pullout from Idlib, demanding Russia withdraws its support from advancing Syrian troops. Instead, Moscow has accused Turkey of supporting militants there in violation of the previously agreed arrangement to set up a de-escalation zone.

Shortly before Turkey’s announcement, the Russian military accused the Turkish side of using “artillery fire” as well as “reconnaissance and attack drones” to target the Syrian army positions, without specifying when the strikes have taken place.

Reuters, Turkey, with more dead troops, says it won't stop Syrian refugees reaching Europe, Orhan Coskun and Ezgi Erkoyun,  Turkey, faced with a possible new wave of Syrian migrants and dozens more dead Turkish soldiers in Idlib, will no longer stop Syrian refugees from reaching Europe, a senior Turkish official said as President Tayyip Erdogan chaired an emergency meeting.

The threat to open the way for refugees to Europe would, if executed, reverse a pledge Turkey made to the European Union in 2016 and could quickly draw Western powers into the standoff over Idlib and stalled negotiations between Ankara and Moscow.

ny times logoNew York Times, Scarred and Weary, an Afghan Force Wonders: What Is Peace? Mujib Mashal, Photographs by Kiana Hayeri, Feb. 27, 2020. A truce is prompting introspection. “Who is it on the other side?” mused a veteran of intimate warfare. “They are not even from a different district.”

It is the final days before a peace deal between the United States and the Taliban insurgency is expected to be signed, and the partial cease-fire that was set as a precondition seems to be holding. The police on this remote, southern battlefield suddenly have time for questions they once hardly imagined asking: Could there really be peace? What would that be like?

ny times logoNew York Times, They Killed Their Husbands. Now in Prison, They Feel Free, Photo Essay by Kiana Hayeri, Text by May Jeong, updated Feb. 27, 2020. Violence against women is rampant in Afghanistan. For some, murder was the only way they could escape abusive marriages.

In Herat Women’s Prison, as many as 20 women have been charged with and in some cases found guilty of murdering their husbands. Many have similar stories: As teenage girls, their families forced them into marriages with much older men who were known criminals, insurgents, drug addicts or all of the above.

The girls were subjected to physical and verbal abuse with no access to money, no legal protection and no means of initiating divorce proceedings. There is little legal consequence for violence against women — in a country where nearly 90 percent of them will experience some form of domestic abuse in their lifetime, according to a 2008 study by the United States Institute of Peace.

In 2019, Kiana Hayeri, an Iranian-Canadian photographer based in Afghanistan, visited Herat Women’s Prison. The images she captured there stand in stark contrast to the essentializing portraits of the women in blue burqas common in Western news coverage of Afghanistan. Having spent years photographing women who had endured abuse but chose to stay with their husbands, Hayeri wanted to understand how far someone could be pushed before she did something to protect herself.

washington post logoWashington Post, Criticism of police grows after mob violence kills more than 30 in India’s capital, Joanna Slater, Feb. 27, 2020. Witnesses of the communal violence said police were unable or unwilling to rein in the worst riots in Delhi in decades. The violence came after months of protests over a controversial citizenship law enacted by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The law has intensified fears among India’s 200 million Muslims that Modi’s goal is to marginalize them and turn India into a Hindu nation.

india flag mapRahis Mohammed's voice shook as he described how a mob of 200 people arrived in his neighborhood intent on destruction while calls to police for help went unanswered.

Standing on a deserted road dotted with charred vehicles on Wednesday, he watched as a police car passed. “After 48 hours they have come,” Mohammed, 40, said bitterly. “They left us to die.”

As India’s capital reels from an outbreak of communal violence that has left more than 30 people dead and 200 injured, criticism of the response by law enforcement authorities is growing.

Witnesses say police were unwilling or unable to control the mobs and in some instances may have participated in the worst riots in Delhi in decades.

At least one police officer is among those killed in the violence. The Delhi Police have rejected accusations that their response was slow or inadequate and denied allegations that officers encouraged rioters and beat residents.

By Thursday, the violence in neighborhoods of northeastern Delhi had subsided.

Inside DC

ICE logo

washington post logoWashington Post, ICE runs facial-recognition searches on millions of Md. drivers, alarming immigration and privacy activists, Drew Harwell and Erin Cox, Feb. 27, 2020 (print ed.). Maryland defied federal guidelines in 2013 when it created driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants. But in recent years, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have had direct access to the records in what immigrant rights advocates say is a betrayal of trust.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have been permitted to run facial-recognition searches on millions of Maryland driver’s license photos without first seeking state or court approval, state officials said — access that goes far beyond what other states allow and that alarms immigration activists in a state that grants special driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.

More than 275,000 such licenses have been issued statewide since 2013, when the state became the first on the East Coast to defy federal guidelines and allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a license without having to provide proof of legal status. The technology now under scrutiny could let an ICE official run a photograph of an unknown person through the system and see if any potentially undocumented immigrants are returned as a match.

“It’s a betrayal of immigrants’ trust for the [state] to turn around and let ICE run warrantless searches on their faces,” said Harrison Rudolph, a senior associate at Georgetown University Law School’s Center on Privacy and Technology. “It’s a bait-and-switch. … ICE is using biometric information in the shadows, without government notice or public approval, to hunt down the most vulnerable people.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Nancy Pelosi signals she’s gearing up for a big swing at Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Feb. 27, 2020. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has impeached Donald Trump, and in the process she’s educated the voting public about his status as a corrupt criminal. The GOP Senate predictably didn’t remove him. But if anyone thinks Pelosi and the House are done with Trump, they haven’t been paying attention.

bill palmer report logo headerAwhile back, Palmer Report pointed out that Pelosi and the House still had multiple court battles brewing over additional evidence against Donald Trump. One is over the Mueller grand jury transcripts. Another is over Trump’s tax returns. These battles take time, and there’s no way to magically speed up the glacial pace at which the courts operate. But these battles are finally close to coming to a head.

Donald Trump recently began demanding on Twitter that two liberal Supreme Court Justices recuse themselves from these cases, for no good reason. djt nancy pelosiIn so doing, Trump tipped off that he fears Chief Justice John Roberts may not vote with him on these matters, and that he may lose by a 5-4 margin. Roberts likes to play both sides in order to increase his own power base, so we wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up siding with Trump in one case, and with Pelosi in the other case.

To give you an idea of how we’re getting closer to a resolution in these cases, Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats just filed a hundred page brief with the Supreme Court on the matter of Donald Trump’s financial records. The House is gearing up to take a big swing at Donald Trump with whatever they end up obtaining from these ongoing court battles. It won’t be this month or next, but it’s surely coming before the election.

Media News

Consortium News, Live Updates and Commentary: Assange extradition hearing adjourned until May 18, Staff report, Feb. 27, 2020. The judge has adjourned the hearings a day earlier than planned. It will resume in Woolwich Crown Court on May 18.

The defense this week seriously undermined the prosecutors’ case that Assange had endangered lives of informants, had “solicited” classified material from Chelsea Manning, and had helped Manning crack a password to enter a government computer. The defense showed Manning had legal access to the database and did not need a user name or password. Assange was helping her download video games and movies forbidden to U.S. soldiers.

The defense also laid out its evidence that Assange actually worked to protect informants; and that Manning had not responded to WikiLeaks‘ solicitations, a charge that ignores that asking sources for classified information is a routine journalistic practice.

The last two days of the hearings were consumed by the question of whether Assange was being accused of political offenses, and whether the British-U.S. extradition treaty or British domestic law on extraditions would apply. The question of whether Assange was being given a fair trial also arose, given that he is cut off from communication with his attorneys during the proceedings, while being locked in a glass cage behind them.

marcello ferrada de noli assange book cover Custom CustomAssange is back in his glass cage at the back of the courtroom. The court gave him headphones to help him hear what is going on, but he soon after took them off. The spectacle on Wednesday, in which Assange said he was no more a participant in his own hearing that “a spectator at Wimbledon,” underscored the pettiness and even sadism of the governor of Belmarsh prison.

What other reason to separate Assange from his attorneys in the courtroom, when murder suspects routinely sit with their lawyers, what other reason to strip search him, handcuff him 11 times, put him five different cells and take away his legal papers on Monday than to simply humiliate him and show that his life is in their abusive hands?

Before the hearing began Tuesday a court officer instructed Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief, that he had been instructed to bar the “head of WikiLeaks” from entering the public gallery, a glassed-in room with two rows of seats high above the small courtroom.

John Shipton, Assange’s father, and Assange’s brother Gabriel and Hrafnsson protested and left the cramped area where 18 people lined up to get into the gallery. A few minutes later they returned. Hrafnsson said sending out a few tweets got the court authorities to change their mind. He said no explanation for why the court wanted him barred was given.

The family sat down to hear Assange’s lawyers complaining that on Monday Assange had been intimidated by prison authorities, being strip searched, handcuffed 11 times, made to stay in five different cells and had legal documents he was studying taken away from him. Judge Vanessa Baraister told the court she had no jurisdiction over how Assange is being mistreated.

During the hearing Assange is separated from his lawyers in room at the back of the court behind bullet-proof glass. He wore a gray jumper and blazer and looked to have aged well beyond his 48 years. He appeared mostly able to focus on the proceedings, at times intensely. He sent word to the judge through one of his lawyers that he wished to sit among his attorneys in the courtroom.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The moderators let the Democratic debate spiral into chaos and crosstalk. There must be a better way, Margaret Sullivan, right, margaret sullivan 2015 photoFeb. 27, 2020 (print ed.). I can think of two possible reforms, neither of which I like very much. The first is simple enough: Moderators should have the ability to shut off the microphones of candidates whenever they refuse to respect the time limits.

There was one particularly cringe-inducing moment at the end of the Democratic debate Tuesday night that summed up all the embarrassments of the previous two hours.

“CBS Evening News” anchor Norah O’Donnell, with a palpable sense of relief, announced that the debate was over. But her co-moderator, Gayle King, immediately jumped in to correct her: “Time for one more break, Norah. Time flies when you’re having fun!”

O’Donnell looked surprised and none too happy. Then the commercial break took place and the moderators reappeared — only to say that, yes, the show really was over.

And while the two-hour debate in Charleston, S.C., had its enlightening moments, a viewer couldn’t help but feel that the whole thing had careened, more than slightly, out of control.

U.S. Crime, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, Molson Coors employee shot and killed five co-workers before turning gun on himself, police say, Dan Simmons, Hannah Knowles, Reis Thebault and Mark Berman, Feb. 27, 2020. Wisconsin’s largest city is grieving after an employee at a historic brewery shot and killed five co-workers and then turned the gun on himself.

Police say the 51-year-old assailant — who has not been publicly named by the authorities — opened fire on the sprawling Molson Coors campus Wednesday afternoon, leaving officers to recover the bodies from a complex of some 20 buildings where more than 1,000 people work. The brewery known for its big “Home of the High Life” sign remained closed Thursday.

Authorities have yet to discuss a possible motive and said Wednesday night that the victims’ names would not be released for at least 24 hours, as they work to contact family. No one is wounded, they said.

Feb. 26

Global Health Headlines

2020 U.S. Elections

U.S. Constitutional Crisis

World News Headlines

U.S. Crime, Terror Charges

Inside DC

 

Global Public Health

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Trump downplays risk, places Pence in charge of virus outbreak response, Michael Brice-Saddler, Simon Denyer, Siobhán O'Grady and James McAuley, Feb. 26, 2020. Moments after President Trump announced that Vice President Pence will take over the White House’s coronavirus task force, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that a northern California person has contracted the coronavirus without traveling outside the United States or coming in contact with another patient known to have the infection — the first sign that the disease may be spreading within a local community.

mike pence oMoments after President Trump announced that Vice President Pence, right, will take over the White House’s coronavirus task force, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that a northern California person has contracted the coronavirus without traveling outside the United States or coming in contact with another patient known to have the infection — the first sign that the disease may be spreading within a local community.

cdc logo CustomThe president said the risk to Americans is “very low” and that people are being screened coming into the country from infected areas.

Meanwhile, the Dow Jones industrial average endured its worst two-day slump in four years Tuesday. On Wednesday, it was up 300 points shortly after open, but closed down about 124 points.

On European and Asian financial markets, economic alarms continued to flash, however, with cases spreading and little sign that the epidemic was relenting after the CDC warned of the “inevitable” spread in the United States of covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

washington post logoWashington Post, Coronavirus live updates: Virus fears spook global markets as outbreak spreads, Adam Taylor, Rick Noack, James McAuley and china flag SmallSimon Denyer, Feb. 26, 2020. New cases confirmed in Greece and Germany; death toll in Italy rises to 12; Britain to begin random coronavirus tests; Japan’s Hokkaido urges some schools to close, announces first coronavirus death; Japan dismisses IOC member’s talk of canceling Olympics as unofficial, personal view.

European financial markets fell Wednesday, and U.S. futures tilted lower, as the economic costs of the coronavirus spooked investors, a world health organization logo Customday after the Dow Jones industrial average slumped to its largest two-day percentage decline in two years.

London’s FTSE 100 index fell 0.7 percent, while the benchmark Stoxx 600 index of European stocks shed 1.2 percent and U.S. crude-oil prices slid below $49.50 a barrel. Earlier, losses in Asia were milder, with Tokyo ending the day down 0.8 percent and Hong Kong closing 0.7 percent lower.

While economic alarms flashed, there was little sign that the epidemic was relenting after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned of the “inevitable” spread in the United States of covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, which has been designated as SARS-CoV-2.

washington post logoWashington Post, Health officials warn that spread of coronavirus in U.S. appears inevitable, Erica Werner, Lenny Bernstein, Lena H. Sun and Miriam Berger, Feb. 26, 2020 (print ed.). Health officials in the United States warned Tuesday that the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country appears inevitable, marking a significant change in tone as global travel disruptions continued to worsen, South Korea neared 1,000 cases and Iran reported at least 15 deaths.

cdc logo CustomChina and South Korea announced new cases of the coronavirus, raising concerns in both nations about how long it could take for normal life to return. South Korea confirmed 144 more cases, bringing its total to 977, the most outside China. President Moon Jae-in visited the city of Daegu, where more than half of the country’s confirmed cases have been found, Tuesday afternoon local time.

Travel disruptions continued to spread, with the United Arab Emirates, one of the world’s most critical aviation hubs, saying it would suspend all travel to and from Iran, where authorities confirmed that the death toll has reached at least 15. In Iran, an opposition lawmaker and the deputy health minister tested positive for the virus as the death toll there climbed.

Newsweek, How to Prepare for the Coronavirus: What to Buy Now in Case a Pandemic Is Declared, According to a Virologist, Kashmira Gander, Feb. 26, newsweek logo2020. As the deadly new coronavirus continues to spread around the world, a scientist has released a list of items to collect in case COVID-19 is declared a pandemic—but stressed that people should not panic buy or hoard.

Virologist Ian Mackay, adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Queensland, Australia, wrote in a blog post that, as COVID-19 isn't widespread in most parts of the world, "now is a great time to make a list, label up a 'Pandemic Stash' box, and begin to slowly fill it with items that won't go off and that you won't touch unless needed."

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Trump Is Furious at CDC for Spooking Stock Market With Coronavirus Updates, Says Report, Jamie Ross, Feb. 26, 2020.  As the coronavirus outbreak worsens across the world, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has carried out its job description and given Americans regular updates and advice to keep themselves safe. However, the briefings have reportedly left President Donald Trump very angry.

The Washington Post reports that, during his trip to India over the past few days, the president has become more and more agitated with the CDC and the effect its warnings have had on the U.S. stock markets.

cdc logo round CustomTrump reportedly believes the updates have spooked investors, and some White House officials are deeply unhappy with how the situation has been handled by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

Trump publicly played down the threat of coronavirus Tuesday while he was reportedly becoming increasingly furious about the stock market’s slide. U.S. markets plummeted for the second straight day Tuesday, bringing the Dow Industrial index’s total loss over the past four days to about 2267 points, or about $1.7 trillion in market value.

2020 U.S. Elections

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washington post logoWashington Post, Rivals pepper Sanders with barrage of attacks, Matt Viser, Annie Linskey, Sean Sullivan and Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Feb. 26, 2020.
Sen. Bernie Sanders came under withering and sustained criticism during Tuesday night's presidential debate, as his six rivals launched urgent attempts to stop the candidate who has the clearest path to the Democratic nomination.

democratic donkey logoStanding at center stage for the first time, a reflection of his newfound front-runner status, Sanders faced attacks from all sides on matters including his inconsistent record on gun control, his praise for leftist dictators, the cost of his signature Medicare-for-all plan and the bernie sanders 2020 button croppeddamage other candidates believe he would inflict on the Democratic Party if he were the nominee.

“I’m hearing my name mentioned a little bit tonight!” Sanders (I-Vt.) said, with a mixture of glee and sarcasm. “I wonder why?”

The 10th Democratic presidential debate came at a critical moment ahead of both South Carolina’s primary on Saturday and, three days later, Super Tuesday, when a third of the party’s delegates are up for grabs across 14 states.

Today News Africa / USA, Opinion: Vintage Joe Biden wins South Carolina debate in a striking comeback after he was declared dead, buried and forgotten, Simon Ateba (editor-in-chief, based in Washington, DC), Feb. 25, 2020. Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden who was considered dead, buried and joe biden 2020 button Customforgotten came out swinging at the South Carolina debate on Tuesday night in what many described as a striking comeback ahead of a make-or-break race on Saturday that may position him for a win on Super Tuesday in just a week.

Joe Biden appeared forceful and more believable, pummeling Senator Bernie Sanders and making him appear as a man who cannnot and should not be trusted by African Americans, who represent more than 60 percent of voters in South Carolina.

Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg peformed better intonight's debate but was not excellent, missing to strike back at Elizabeth Warren.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion, Winners and Losers of the Democratic Debate, Staff reports, Feb. 26, 2020. Times Opinion writers rank the candidates on a scale of 1 to 10: 1 means the candidate probably didn’t belong on the stage and should probably drop out; 10 means it’s on, President Trump. Here’s what our columnists and contributors thought about the debate.

ny times logo

New York Times, Sanders and Bloomberg Attacked in Explosive Debate, Combative Mood at South Carolina Forum, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, Feb. 26, 2020 (print ed.). With sharp jabs and angry crosstalk, Democratic rivals made a concerted attempt to slow Bernie Sanders’s momentum before key primaries. As in the last debate, they battered Michael Bloomberg over his extreme wealth, his record on policing and his behavior toward women.

dnc square logoThe Democratic presidential candidates delivered a barrage of criticism against their party’s emerging front-runner, Senator Bernie Sanders, at a debate on Tuesday night, casting him as a divisive figure with unrealistic ideas, even as they continued to batter Michael R. Bloomberg for his extreme wealth, his record on policing and his behavior toward women.

In a messy South Carolina forum characterized by frequent interruptions, angry cross talk and theatrical hand-waving, Mr. Sanders faced the most serious test so far of his bid to lead the Democratic Party into the general election. His rivals charged at him on multiple fronts, including his history of opposing certain forms of gun control, his plans for single-payer health care and, most of all, his odds of beating President Trump.

But the mood of combat enveloped candidates besides Mr. Sanders, with Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts again castigating Mr. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, in vivid terms about his past support for Republicans and allegations that he had pressured an employee to have an abortion, a charge Mr. Bloomberg vehemently denied. And in an explosive manifestation of a bitter rivalry for South Carolina’s voters, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. rebuked Tom Steyer, a billionaire spending heavily in the state, for having previously invested in private prison companies.

It was Mr. Sanders, however, who had the roughest night: Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., warned that nominating Mr. Sanders would not only cost Democrats their chance to capture the White House, but also jeopardize their majority in the House and their chance of taking the Senate.

Pointing to the congressional Democrats elected in 2018, Mr. Buttigieg told Mr. Sanders, “They are running away from your platform as fast as they possibly can.”

Mr. Bloomberg joined in, saying of Mr. Sanders: “Can anybody in this room imagine moderate Republicans going over and voting for him?”

Mr. Biden, fighting for survival in the state on which he has staked his candidacy, delivered perhaps the most searing critique of Mr. Sanders, invoking the 2015 massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church here in Charleston to confront Mr. Sanders for his mixed record on guns.

“Nine people shot dead by a white supremacist,” Mr. Biden said, then rebuked Mr. Sanders for his past opposition to waiting periods for gun purchasers: “I’m not saying he’s responsible for the nine deaths, but that man would not have been able to get that weapon if the waiting period had been what I suggest.”

Mr. Sanders and Mr. Bloomberg both answered their critics somewhat sparingly, choosing a handful of attacks to parry without delivering point-by-point rebuttals.

Addressing concerns about his electability, Mr. Sanders, a Vermont liberal, claimed that in the overwhelming majority of polls he came out ahead of Mr. Trump. He responded forcefully to an attack by Mr. Bloomberg claiming that the Russian government was seeking to buoy Mr. Sanders’s campaign, citing Mr. Bloomberg’s past laudatory remarks about President Xi Jinping of China.

On display, too, was Ms. Warren’s dual challenge as she fights for national momentum ahead of next week’s Super Tuesday contests: On the one hand, she is plainly eager to keep up a battle against Mr. Bloomberg that has delighted her supporters and reinvigorated her candidacy. At the same time, she must contend, perhaps more urgently, with the fast and formidable rise of Mr. Sanders on the left — a force she tried to counter by casting herself as the more accomplished progressive.

She pointed to their shared history of battling Wall Street: “In 2008, we both got our chance,” Ms. Warren said, “but I dug in, I fought the big banks, I built the coalitions and I won.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Sanders takes fire in an unruly debate that left no candidate truly enhanced, Dan Balz, Feb. 26, 2020 (print ed.). The debate became a metaphor for the Democratic nominating contest — noisy and still badly divided.

Everyone knew that Bernie Sanders would be the principal target in Tuesday's Democratic debate. But the stop-Sanders movement, as represented bernie sanders 2020 button croppedby the six other candidates on the stage, sputtered and struggled to keep the focus on the candidate who leads the race for the party's nomination.

The tone of the debate ultimately became a metaphor for the Democratic race itself, as it was marred repeatedly by candidates interrupting one another, talking over each other and constantly ignoring the moderators’ efforts to bring some order to the unruly evening. The event did little to raise the confidence level of the Democratic voters who will be selecting a nominee to go up against President Trump.

What the evening highlighted was the degree to which Sanders stands apart from the field, with the other candidates divided and sparring with one another as much as with the senator from Vermont. Sanders has his base, and it has served him well enough so far. The others are trying to find theirs. None of Sanders’s rivals rose significantly above the others. For Sanders, that was probably a satisfactory outcome.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Bernie Sanders campaign floats completely ridiculous conspiracy theory to explain his poor debate performance, Bill Palmer, Feb. 25, 2020. According to reporter Philip Wegmann of RealClearNews, Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign senior adviser Nina Turner is claiming that the people booing in the audience “were paid” to be there. This is a serious accusation, as well as a laughably false one.

bill palmer report logo headerTurner has a consistent habit of saying ridiculous false things while trying to defend Sanders. Now she’s resorting to peddling the kinds of surreal conspiracy theories that Bernie’s online base loves to spread.

Joe Biden 2020 campaign senior adviser Symone Sanders, who worked for Bernie Sanders four years ago and presumably left his campaign for good reason, responded to the absurd conspiracy theory by pointing out that Biden was only allotted thirty-five debate tickets. In other words, no, Biden couldn’t have packed the room with plants even if he’d wanted to.

This is the latest reminder that Bernie Sanders has put together one of the most inept, dishonest, and just plain awful campaign staffs of any Democratic candidate in recent history. He needs to clean house.

U.S. Constitutional Crisis

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: 70 former U.S. senators: The Senate is failing to perform its constitutional duties, Feb. 26, 2020 (print ed.). Congress is not fulfilling its constitutional duties. Much of the responsibility rests on the Senate. We are writing to encourage the creation of a bipartisan caucus of incumbent senators who would be committed to making the Senate function as the Framers of the Constitution intended.

us senate logoAs their first priority, the Framers explicitly entrusted all legislative responsibility in Article I of the Constitution: “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.” To the extent that Congress doesn’t function as the Framers intended, policymaking is left to the less democratic executive and judicial branches.

This does not have to be viewed as a judgment on today’s Senate leadership; instead, it’s a bipartisan act of shared responsibility and accountability for how we arrived at this point. We, who once held the office you now hold and who are confident that service in the U.S. Senate is as high a calling for you as it was for us, will stand up for you against any partisan opposition. We will do so publicly and repeatedly in whatever available forums. And we are convinced that many ordinary Americans will stand up for you as well, as they share our concern for the state of our government.

The following signers are all former U.S. senators:

Dean Barkley (I-Minn.), right, Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), David Boren (D-Okla.), Bill Bradley (D-N.J.), Bill dean barkleyBrock (R-Tenn.), Hank Brown (R-Colo.), Richard Bryan (D-Nev.), James Buckley (R-N.Y.), Roland Burris (D-Ill.), Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), Jean Carnahan (D-Mo.), Max Cleland (D-Ga.), William Cohen (R-Maine), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Jon Corzine (D-N.J.), Jack Danforth (R-Mo.), Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), Mark Dayton (D-Minn.), Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.), Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), David Durenberger (R-Minn.), Daniel Evans (R-Wash.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Wyche Fowler (D-Ga.), Slade Gorton (R-Wash.), Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Gary Hart (D-Colo.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Gordon Humphrey (I-N.H.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Bennett Johnston (D-La.), Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Paul Kirk (D-Mass.), Robert Krueger (D-Tex.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Carol Moseley Braun (D-Ill.), Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), Bob Packwood (R-Ore.), Larry Pressler (R-S.D.), David Pryor (D-Ark.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Donald Riegle (D-Mich.), Chuck Robb (D-Va.), Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Ken Salazar (D-Colo.), Jim Sasser (D-Tenn.), Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Bob Torricelli (D-N.J.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), John Walsh (D-Mont.), John Warner (R-Va.), Lowell Weicker (I-Conn.), and Tim Wirth (D-Colo.).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Former Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold to take new job as president of American Constitution Society, Sophie Carson and Craig Gilbert, Feb. 26, 2020. Former Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold will soon lead the American Constitution Society, a progressive group of lawyers and russ feingold o Customlegal scholars concerned with judicial nominations and justice issues.

Feingold, shown right in a Senate photo, who has been teaching at a number of leading law schools in recent years, will take over as president of the Washington, D.C.-based organization March 9.

The organization's board of directors chose Feingold after a nationwide search.

“The last few years have been very disturbing from a number of points of view, but particularly the attack on the rule of law that began before the current president and has been intensified under the current administration,” Feingold said in an interview Wednesday.

Among other things, he cited what he called President Donald Trump's interference with the courts and Justice Department, as well as the refusal of Senate Republicans to take up President Barack Obama's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016, Judge Merrick Garland.

The 2020 Census wants to cover all of its bases and count everyone living in every home

Feingold said the group will advance "progressive legal change" and work with not just progressives but moderates and conservatives in the legal world who believe this is a "crisis moment" and an "all hands on deck moment."

Feingold, a Democrat who was a U.S. senator from 1993 to 2011, sat on the Judiciary Committee for much of his time in office. He lost elections in 2010 and 2016 to current Senate Republican Ron Johnson.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pelosi faces a challenge to House majority beyond her control: Bernie Sanders, Mike DeBonis​, Feb. 26, 2020. Typically a hands-on manager, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) suddenly finds herself in the unusual role of bystander as her party’s voters choose a presidential nominee.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump has a whole new Julian Assange problem, TR Kenneth, Feb. 26, 2020. Richard Grenell, Trump’s new intelligence chief, is now becoming embroiled in the Julian Assange extradition fight. According to court filings made by Assange’s attorneys, they have recordings and richard grenell oscreenshots of Grenell’s involvement in the WikiLeaks founder’s legal troubles. Apparently, according to the attorneys, Grenell was acting on Trump’s orders.

bill palmer report logo headerWhile we wait for this latest Trumpy sh*tshow to unfold, it’s come out that Chuck Schumer is investigating Grenell, right, as well, and the CIA reportedly just had a closed door meeting with the Gang of Eight amid speculation that the briefing is concerning the fact that our top intelligence chief is nothing more than Trump’s handmaiden.

Grenell has also been seen as running interference for upper-echelon Russian mobster, Dmytro Firtash, in his fight against extradition to the US from Vienna for bribery. Firtash is the guy who wired Lev Parnas’ wife the inexplicable million dollars. Firstash is also “Ukraine corruption-fighting pals” with Rudy Giuliani. If this doesn’t smell like something rotting on the asphalt in the midday sun, we don’t know what does.

Background: ProPublica, Trump’s New Spy Chief Used to Work for a Foreign Politician the U.S. Accused of Corruption, Isaac Arnsdorf, Feb. 21, 2020. Richard Grenell did not disclose payments for advocacy work on behalf of a Moldovan politician whom the U.S. later accused of corruption. His own office’s policy says that could leave him vulnerable to blackmail.

World News

SouthFront, Syrian Army Victory In Idlib Is Impossible: Mike Pompeo, Staff report, Feb. 26, 2020. On February 25th, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the Syrian government wouldn’t achieve any military victory in Idlib, and that the offensive only increased the risk of a conflict with Turkey.

Pompeo began with “briefly” addressing the situation in Idlib, and the “Syrian regime’s brutal operation,” “cynically” backed by Moscow and Tehran. He also alleged that more than 3 million people were displaced in Idlib, which is 3 times as much as the typical Turkish claim of 1 million.

According to Pompeo, the solution in Syria is a “permanent ceasefire and UN-led negotiations under UN Security Council resolution 2254” and the Trump administration is “working together with Turkey on seeing what we can do together.”

SouthFront Commentary: "There could also potentially be another way to solve the crisis, such as Turkey not continuously supplying militants “moderate opposition” with equipment and not successively deploying troops at positions which are not observation posts under the Sochi Agreement, however, the time for that has passed and Ankara has vested too much into denying that there are terrorists in Idlib, and it is simply civilians and “pan-democrats” fighting for their human rights, by way of “humanitarian tools” such as ATGMs, armored vehicles and automatic rifles."

U.S. Author's Death

Daily Mail, Police backtrack on Obama-era DHS whistleblower's initial 'suicide' reports after his body was found by a California highway -- as they reveal the FBI is examining documents and a laptop found near the scene, Emily Crane, Feb. 26, 2020. Authorities have backtracked on initial reports that a phil haney CustomDepartment of Homeland Security whistleblower committed suicide after his body was found with a gunshot wound by a California highway.

Philip Haney, right, who spoke out against his own agency during the Obama administration, was found dead in Plymouth, about 40 miles east of Sacramento, last Friday. His body was found in a park and ride area near Highway 16 and Highway 124.

The Amador County Sheriff's Office initially said the 66-year-old was found with what appeared to be a 'self-inflicted gunshot wound.' They also said a firearm had been found next to Haney and his vehicle.

The area where Haney's body was found is less than three miles away from the RV park where he was living at the time.

Several months before his death, Haney - who formally retired from the DHS in 2015 - told the Washington Examiner that he was considering a sequel to his 2016 book that detailed his experiences within the agency. He had intended to publish it in mid-spring ahead of this year's election. Source have also said that Haney had been in contact with officials about possibly making a return to the the DHS.

U.S. Courts, Terrorism Charges

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washington post logoWashington Post Magazine, Can the Supreme Court learn to speak up for itself? David Fontana and Christopher Krewson, Feb. 26, 2020. The judiciary is under attack. Maybe it’s time the justices finally figured out how to defend the rule of law in the court of public opinion.

Attention is the currency of our contemporary political life, and two of our three branches of government are constantly printing that currency. President Trump has tens of millions of Twitter followers; Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other congressional Democrats have successfully projected their voices into the public debate. For politicians in both of these branches, doing their job means speaking out — and being heard.

The third branch of the federal government, headed by the Supreme Court, has always been different. The justices are constantly speaking, but in the dry and long language of the law, a language that is hard for anyone to hear in the age of social media. There has generally been little objection to this relative silence. The legal expertise that judges bring to judging was supposed to speak for itself.

  •  Washington Post, Opinion: Trump made a baseless attack on two Supreme Court justices. Here’s why, George T. Conway III

washington post logoWashington Post, Five arrested, accused of targeting journalists as part of neo-Nazi Atomwaffen group, Rachel Weiner and Matt Zapotosky, Feb. 26, 2020. Federal officials on Wednesday arrested several alleged members of a white-supremacist group called Atomwaffen Division, including its two leaders, accusing them of plotting to intimidate journalists by calling police to their homes and offices and dropping off threatening fliers.

John Cameron Denton, of Montgomery, Tex., is charged in U.S. District Court in Alexandria with conspiring to call in fake threats targeting a ProPublica reporter and his office. Police arrived in force at both locations, at one point briefly detaining the reporter.

FBI logoIn federal court in Seattle, prosecutors say Kaleb Cole and three others hatched a different intimidation plan: finding out where journalists live and leaving posters at their homes with messages featuring swastikas, weapons and the vague threat that they were being watched. After Atomwaffen founder Brandon Russell was arrested in Florida in 2017, according to prosecutors, Denton and Cole, of Arlington, Wash., took leadership of the group. As news organizations began to expose their members, authorities said they discussed how to strike back.

“We must simply approach them with nothing but pure aggression,” Cole said in a recorded message in 2018, according to court records. “We cannot let them think they are safe.”

Denton, according to prosecutors, directed a group of neo-Nazis who harassed ProPublica and a reporter there by calling in fake threats to law enforcement in hopes of provoking an overwhelming response — a practice known as “swatting.” While the reporter is not named in court papers, the description is of A.C. Thompson, who has written extensively about Denton and Atomwaffen.

The group called New York police to ProPublica’s office in December 2018, according to the criminal complaint, claiming that there was a pipe bomb, a hostage and a dead body inside.

A dozen officers responded and cleared the floor in question; one employee was there and “visibly shaken,” according to the complaint.

Two months later, prosecutors say the group called police to Thompson’s home in California, claiming that he was armed and had just killed his wife. He and his wife were briefly detained by police.

According to the complaint, Denton acknowledged his role in an interview with an undercover agent last month.

In Seattle, prosecutors say Cole and a high-ranking recruiter named Cameron Brandon Shea came up with “Operation Erste Saule,” a German term they used to refer to the news media. One person involved recommended using the Society of Professional Journalists website to pick targets, according to court papers.

Employees of the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish organization that tracks anti-Semitism and has investigated Atomwaffen, reported receiving threatening messages. Prosecutors say an Atomwaffen member named Johnny Roman Garza participated in the intimidation by leaving fliers at the homes of black and Jewish journalists in Arizona, while Taylor Ashley Park-Dipeppe is accused of attempting to threaten a reporter in Florida. However, prosecutors say he left the poster at the wrong address.

Related announcement: United States Department of Justice, Arrests in 4 states of racially motivated violent extremists targeting journalists and activists, Staff report, Feb. 26, 2020. Defendants Created and Coordinated Nationwide Delivery of Threatening Posters.

Four racially motivated violent extremists from across the U.S. were arrested and charged today in U.S District Court in Seattle with a conspiracy to threaten and intimidate journalists and activists, the Department of Justice announced. Today’s arrests and searches by the FBI and local law enforcement are being coordinated by the Department of Justice’s National Security Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in Seattle, Tampa, Houston, and Phoenix.

According to the criminal complaint, the defendants conspired via an encrypted online chat group to identify journalists and others they wanted to intimidate. The group focused primarily on those who are Jewish or journalists of color. Defendants Cole and Shea created the posters, which included Nazi symbols, masked figures with guns and Molotov cocktails, and threatening language. The posters were delivered to Atomwaffen members electronically and the coconspirators printed and delivered or mailed the posters to journalists or activists the group was targeting.

In the Seattle area, the posters were mailed to a TV journalist who had reported on Atomwaffen and to two individuals associated with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). In Tampa, the group targeted a journalist, but delivered the poster to the wrong address. In Phoenix, the poster was delivered to a magazine journalist.

Feb. 25

2020 U.S. Election Headlines

World News Headlines

Roger Stone Case

Trump Power, Payback

More On U.S. Justice

UK Assange Hearing Starts

Inside DC Headlines

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, South Carolina Debate, Staff Report, Feb. 25, 2020. The next meeting of Democratic presidential candidates is scheduled for Tuesday in Charleston, S.C., ahead of the state’s Feb. 29 primary. The debate is co-hosted by CBS News and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute and is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. ET. Shown above is a file photo of six candidates in a January debate.

democratic donkey logoTo make the stage, candidates must either get a national delegate from Iowa, New Hampshire or Nevada or hit a polling standard. That means getting at least 10 percent in four DNC-approved polls between Feb. 4 and Feb. 24 or 12 percent in two polls of South Carolina.

The candidates onstage look likely to be the same as the ones who debated in Las Vegas on Wednesday, plus Tom Steyer, who qualified on the basis of polling in South Carolina.

washington post logobernie sanders 2020 button croppedWashington Post, Sanders’s Cold War trips to communist countries become a problem for his campaign, Griff Witte, Feb. 25, 2020 (print ed.). Clips from the 1980s of Bernie Sanders talking about his visits to the Soviet Union, Cuba and Nicaragua are being spread online by rivals who say his views were naive — and that they make him vulnerable to GOP attacks in the general election if he is the Democratic nominee for president.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary: Russian-speaking election trolls who don't live in Russia, Wayne Madsen, Feb. 25, 2020. There exists an army of Russian-speaking Internet trolls that is targeting the U.S. 2020 election with as much ferocity as it did in 2016. These trolls also speak excellent American-style English, owing to their many trips to the United States, where they lived for extensive periods of time and worked, sometimes illegally, from New York City, Miami, and Los Angeles to smaller cities and towns across the nation.

These on-line trolls and bot programmers have two main goals in this year's election: Propel Donald Trump to a second term as president and ensure that Senator Bernie Sanders, the socialist independent from Vermont, is the Democratic candidate to ensure that Trump makes easy work of him in the November election.

ny times logoNew York Times, Divisiveness Among Democratic Hopefuls Hits New Level, Trip Gabriel, Feb. 25, 2020. As the primary race becomes a battle of all against all, and the field suddenly seems to be constricting, personal animus and negative attacks are rising.

On Monday, Joseph R. Biden Jr. launched a digital ad in South Carolina saying Bernie Sanders “can’t be trusted” after weighing a 2012 primary joe biden 2020 button Customagainst “our first African-American president,” Barack Obama.

After Pete Buttigieg attacked Mr. Sanders’s victory in Nevada, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York lectured Mr. Buttigieg on Twitter, saying “not to be so smug when you just got your ass kicked.”

And lest last week’s Democratic debate recede into history (it was just five days ago), one memorable and searing moment was a highly personal exchange in which Mr. Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar dripped contempt for each other, with Ms. Klobuchar saying, “I wish everyone was as perfect as you, Pete.”

As the primary race becomes a battle of all against all, “Hunger Games”-style, and the field suddenly seems to be constricting, the divisiveness and negative attacks are rising. Mr. Sanders’s commanding win in Nevada — he earned 24 pledged delegates as the final results were tallied Monday, with Mr. Biden taking nine and Mr. Buttigieg, three — has triggered alarm among some center-left Democratic officials and voters. His moderate challengers have sought in vain to push one another to the exits to consolidate the anti-Sanders vote.

World News

ny times logochina flag SmallNew York Times, Coronavirus Live Updates: Iran’s Deputy Health Minister Has Coronavirus, Staff reports, Feb. 25, 2020. Iraj Harirchi, who spearheaded Iran’s efforts to contain the coronavirus, tested positive. A large hotel in Tenerife, Spain, is on lockdown after a guest contracted the virus. Follow the latest here.

ny times logoNew York Times, Wall Street is (finally) waking up to the damage the coronavirus could do, Neil Irwin, Feb. 25, 2020. The financial world is realizing how different this is from a trade war or other recent economic hiccups. After reports of people infected with the virus in the major economies of South Korea and Italy, the more pessimistic view began to prevail across major world markets.

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washington post logoWashington Post, On Trump’s second day in India, violence in Delhi and support for Modi on ‘religious freedom,’ Joanna Slater, Feb. 25, 2020. At least 13 people were killed in Delhi on Monday and Tuesday when clashes broke out between Hindus and Muslims in the northeastern part of the city. india flag mapPresident Trump commended Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for “working very hard on religious freedom” and refused to discuss a controversial new citizenship law that set off protests across the country, saying that the matter was “really up to India.”

Trump’s comments came amid the worst outbreak of communal violence in India’s capital in decades. At least 13 people were killed in Delhi on Monday and Tuesday when clashes broke out between Hindus and Muslims in the northeastern part of the city.

The violence was triggered by a confrontation between Hindu supporters of the citizenship law and mostly Muslim opponents. People threw stones, set fire to buildings and attacked journalists with police unwilling or unable to intervene. Critics of the citizenship law say it is unconstitutional and discriminatory.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Reports Progress Toward India Trade Deal but No Breakthrough, Peter Baker, Feb. 25, 2020. An appearance between President Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi was long on florid language about the strength of their relationship and short on results.

ny times logoNew York Times, Why Trump and Modi’s Warmth May Not Translate Into Trade, Ana Swanson and Vindu Goel, Feb. 25, 2020. The two leaders have plenty in common, but not a desire to quickly lower trade barriers between their countries.

washington post logohosni mubarak wWashington Post, Hosni Mubarak 1928–2020: Egyptian ruler whose reign reached a bloody climax with the Arab Spring dies at 91, Will Englund and T. Rees Shapiro​, Feb. 25, 2020. ​Hosni Mubarak, right, had kept a tight grip on his country through three decades of repression, corruption and cronyism, only to be deposed by the military after massive street protests.

Moon of Alabama, Syrian War Commentary: Army Moves To Liberate M4 Highway, Turkish-Russian Standoff Continues, b, Feb. 25, 2020. The Syrian Arab Army continues its campaign to liberate Idleb governorate. The current main area of operation is in the southeast of the terrorist held area where the SAA attacks in a northern and western direction. The aim of the operation is to bring the M4 highway from Latakia to Aleppo under government control.

During the last two days more than 20 towns and villages in the southeast have been liberated. The enemy lines in the area have broken down and the remaining resistance is not strong. A fighter and 'war correspondent' on the 'rebel' side explains why the Syrian army can make such fast progress.

Since its invasion of Idleb Turkey has equipped its mercenaries and the Hayat Tahrir al Sham (HTS) terrorists with U.S. made M-113 infantry carrier vehicles and with light armored infantry tanks. They also received more anti-tank missiles.

recep erdogan with flagToday,Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov again defended the Russian standpoint in a speech to the United Nations Human Rights Council:

Turkish leader Erdogan's threat to attack with his whole army should Syria not withdraw to the previous lines by March 1 is obviously empty. The Russian airforce would pulverize the Turkish forces before they would reach the front lines.

Erdogan, above left, is in a challenging position. If he orders his army to attack in full force he will have to justify the likely very high losses in an unwinnable war. If he retreats from his harsh rhetoric and accepts the Russian points those nationalists who still support him will have further doubts about his leadership.

Roger Stone Case

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washington post logoWashington Post, Trump calls Stone juror ‘totally biased’ as prosecutors, defense debate new trial, Spencer S. Hsu and Matt Zapotosky, Feb. 25, 2020. As President Trump fumed on social media, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, right, made clear she was concerned about attacks by Trump amy berman jacksonand others on jurors.

President Trump on Tuesday injected new political drama into the legal debate over whether Roger Stone deserves a new trial, tweeting as a hearing in the matter was ongoing that the jury forewoman who voted to convict his longtime friend and confidante was “totally biased.”

Trump’s comments came just as the judge in the case had rebuked him and others over their attacks on the juror, and it seemed to put the president at odds with his own Justice Department.

As the president fumed on social media, federal prosecutors were in federal court in the District arguing against Stone’s bid for a new trial based on the alleged political bias of the jury forewoman. Trump’s attorney general, William P. Barr, has warned him publicly and privately to stop tweeting about Justice Department criminal cases and told people close to Trump he was considering quitting over the matter.

“There has rarely been a juror so tainted as the forewoman in the Roger Stone case,” Trump wrote. “Look at her background. She never revealed her hatred of ‘Trump’ and Stone. She was totally biased, as is the judge. Roger wasn’t even working on my campaign. Miscarriage of justice. Sad to watch!”

Minutes later, he seemed to add an attack on the judge, re-tweeting a link that Fox News analyst Andrew Napolitano had tweeted with the headline, “Roger Stone judge’s bias may have jeopardized entire trial: former Democratic Party lawyer.”

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ended the hearing without a ruling, saying she would take the matter under advisement. She seemed to question aggressively Stone’s defense team over the jury forewoman’s social media, and allowed questions to be posed to three jurors, including the forewoman.

roger stoneStone,right, filed his request for a new trial on February 14 — the day after Trump repeatedly attacked the forewoman of the jury, who ran for Congress as a Democrat.

Though he did not name her, his comment referred to Tomeka Hart, a former president of the Memphis City Schools Board of Commissioners and unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Congress. Hart had identified herself as the forewoman of the jury in a Facebook post, saying she couldn’t “keep quiet any longer” in the wake of the Justice Department move to reduce its sentencing recommendation for Stone from the seven to nine years recommended by front-line prosecutors.

The judge did not seem entirely receptive to the arguments of Stone’s team — in particular that the forewoman was so biased that she could have tainted the jury.

She seemed to draw a distinction between animus against Stone and commentary on other political topics, and noted that the forewoman did not hide in her questionnaire that she had views on Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: I was a juror in the Stone trial. Attacking our foreperson undermines us, Seth Cousins, Feb. 25, 2020. Lost amid the avalanche of allegations about the trial and sentencing of Roger Stone are some critical facts and a striking irony: The jury foreperson, who has been the subject recently of numerous ad hominem attacks, was actually one of the strongest advocates for the rights of the defendant and for a rigorous process. She expressed skepticism at some of the government’s claims and was one of the last people to vote to convict on the charge that took most of our deliberation time.

Stone received a fair trial. But events since his trial threaten to undermine the equal administration of justice.

In November, I joined 13 of my fellow citizens as jurors and alternates in the case of United States v. Roger Stone. After several days of testimony and argument — and eight hours of deliberation — we returned guilty verdicts on all seven charges of obstruction, witness tampering and lying to Congress. Federal prosecutors recommended on Feb. 10 that Stone be sentenced to seven to nine years in prison. Early the next day, President Trump tweeted his outrage, and soon the Justice Department announced that the sentencing recommendation would be amended. All four prosecutors handling the case withdrew in protest.

Our foreperson wrote in support of the prosecutors on her personal Facebook page, revealing that she had been on the jury and was its foreperson. Since then, she has been attacked, including by the president, as though she was personally responsible that Stone had been found guilty and that the verdict was thus unfair. The president and others have called the trial and sentencing decision a “miscarriage of justice.” Amid the onslaught of criticism of a U.S. citizen who fulfilled her civic duty as a juror and exercised her First Amendment right to free expression, Stone has used the manufactured controversy to demand a mistrial on the basis of jury misconduct and even to demand that the judge recuse herself for bias in favor of the jury.

These events raise serious concerns for me not merely as a juror in the trial but also for the threat to our bedrock principles.

Elected officials have no business attacking citizens for performing their civic duty.

Our foreperson wrote in support of the prosecutors on her personal Facebook page, revealing that she had been on the jury and was its foreperson. Since then, she has been attacked, including by the president, as though she was personally responsible that Stone had been found guilty and that the verdict was thus unfair. The president and others have called the trial and sentencing decision a “miscarriage of justice.” Amid the onslaught of criticism of a U.S. citizen who fulfilled her civic duty as a juror and exercised her First Amendment right to free expression, Stone has used the manufactured controversy to demand a mistrial on the basis of jury misconduct and even to demand that the judge recuse herself for bias in favor of the jury.

These events raise serious concerns for me not merely as a juror in the trial but also for the threat to our bedrock principles.

Elected officials have no business attacking citizens for performing their civic duty.

Trump Power, Payback

ny times logotom friedman twitterNew York Times, Dems, You Can Defeat Trump in a Landslide, Thomas L. Friedman, right, Feb. 25, 2020. You can promise voters something our narrow-minded president won’t. If this election turns out to be just between a self-proclaimed socialist and an undiagnosed sociopath, we will be in a terrible, terrible place as a country. How do we prevent that?

That’s all I am thinking about right now. My short answer is that the Democrats have to do something extraordinary — forge a national unity ticket the likes of which they have never forged before. And that’s true even if Democrats nominate someone other than Bernie Sanders.

Palmer Report, Analysis: The Purge, Daniel Cotter, Feb. 25, 2020.  Donald J. Trump is a terrible man. He and his administration have been in the process daily of dismantling our republic, if we can keep it, all the while yelling, “WITCH HUNT” at every turn, accusing everyone not with him of some grand conspiracy. Turns out, the real witch hunt taking place the last three years has been by IMPOTUS.

bill palmer report logo headerIn an explosive exclusive by Axios, Trump's "Deep State" hit list outlines the search and purge that Trump has been engaged in for the entire time as president. No previous United States administration has been this paranoid, this nefarious, not even the Nixon administration. In the article, the reporter, Jonathan Swan, right, jonathan swan twitterwrites:

"Driving the news: By the time President Trump instructed his 29-year-old former body man and new head of presidential personnel to rid his government of anti-Trump officials, he'd gathered reams of material to support his suspicions.

While Trump's distrust has only intensified since his impeachment and acquittal, he has long been on the hunt for "bad people" inside the White House and U.S. government, and fresh "pro-Trump" options. Outside advisers have been happy to oblige.

The Trump White House and its allies, over the past 18 months, assembled detailed lists of disloyal government officials to oust — and trusted pro-Trump people to replace them — according to more than a dozen sources familiar with the effort who spoke to Axios."

Swan goes on to detail a number of memos, including one about Jessie Liu, shortly before her nomination as United States Associate Attorney General was pulled. Trump’s supporters immediately jumped to defending him, asserting that this was normal for every administration. But that is not correct.

We continue to live daily in a dangerous time, and Palmer Report has been calling the alarm on the potential nominee for the Democratic presidential nomination. We must make sure that nominee is the one that can win in November, or we will continue to see the acceleration of an administration that is out of control. Even George Conway has apologized on Twitter about voting for Trump, stating:

I supported and voted for Donald Trump in 2016. I was angry at Never Trumpers for opposing him and not giving him a chance. But their predictions about him turned out to be chillingly correct—indeed, perhaps understated how bad he’d be. I apologize to them, as you should.

We must do everything in our power to remove this dangerous man from the White House come January 2021.

Daniel is a lawyer writing and teaching about SCOTUS, and is the author of the book “The Chief Justices” about the SCOTUS as seen through the center seat.

More On U.S. Justice System

washington post logosonia sotomayor in scotus robe1Washington Post, Trump criticizes Sotomayor, Ginsburg in tweets, seeks their recusal from ‘Trump-related’ cases, Meagan Flynn, Feb. 25, 2020. President Trump went after Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg in a pair of tweets late Monday night, days after Sotomayor, right, issued a dissent critical of both the Trump administration’s legal strategy and the court’s majority for enabling it.

Tweeting just before appearing in a welcome ceremony at the Indian ceremonial president’s residence in New Delhi, Trump cited a Laura Ingraham segment on Fox News titled, “Sotomayor accuses GOP-appointed justices of being biased in favor of Trump.” He then called on Sotomayor and also Ginsburg to recuse themselves in “all Trump, or Trump related, matters!”

“Trying to ‘shame’ some into voting her way?” Trump said of Sotomayor. “She never criticized Justice Ginsberg [sic] when she called me a ‘faker'. Both should recuse themselves on all Trump, or Trump related matters! While ‘elections have consequences’, I only ask for fairness, especially when it comes to decisions made by the United States Supreme Court!"

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Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump tips off how worried he is about what’s coming next, Bill Palmer, Feb. 25, 2020. Donald Trump is surely the world’s worst poker player. For all his erratic behavior, he can be consistently relied upon to give away what he’s really thinking. For instance, late last night he posted this Twitter thread which seems on the surface to be yet another aggressive abuse of power, but is instead actually a telltale sign of what he’s worried about most:

bill palmer report logo headerTo be clear, this is utterly deranged and profoundly corrupt on Donald Trump’s part. He’s trying to intimidate two Supreme Court Justices into recusing themselves, for no legitimate reason, in upcoming cases that involve him. Not only is this corrupt, it’s felony obstruction of justice. But it’s also, very obviously, not going to work. Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsberg obviously are not going to recuse themselves. And there’s no apparatus for Trump somehow magically forcing them to do so. It simply will not happen. Now ask yourself why Trump is even trying to make it happen.

If Trump thought he had five Supreme Court votes in the upcoming cases involving his tax returns, the Mueller transcripts, and his ability to pardon himself on his way out the door, he wouldn’t be worried about trying to force any of the other four Justices to recuse themselves. Trump’s rant is a dead giveaway that he’s worried he doesn’t have five votes. He’s only confident he has four. If he could magically prompt two recusals, he would win with a 4-3 ruling. But again, unfortunately for him, he doesn’t have a magic wand. Donald Trump is clearly afraid John Roberts will vote with the liberals on this matter, which Roberts does a significant minority of the time.

John Roberts can’t be trusted to do the right thing. But Trump can’t count on him to do the wrong thing either, because Roberts instead always does the opportunistic thing. We can’t count on Trump losing these Supreme Court rulings over his fate, but Trump appears to be well aware that he can’t count on winning them either.

U.S. Justice System

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump judicial nominee once called for abolishing Social Security, several federal agencies, Robert O'Harrow Jr., Feb. 25, 2020. Stephen Schwartz worked as a lawyer in controversial recent battles over voting rights for African Americans in North Carolina and bathroom rights of transgender students in Virginia.

A Trump nominee to serve on a court that hears claims against the government once argued that several federal agencies should be eliminated and that Social Security should be abolished because economic disparity “is a natural aspect of the human condition.”

Stephen Schwartz, nominated to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, spelled those ideas out 15 years ago in a student newspaper as an undergraduate at Yale. Schwartz wrote that the departments of Transportation, Agriculture and Education lack a “constitutional basis,” and that Social Security benefits were intended to prevent “outright starvation” but had become a “standard component of most retirement programs.”

In the years since, the view that federal government powers should be sharply curtailed has been central to his legal work. Schwartz, 36, has recently worked as a lawyer on controversial efforts that would have severely restricted the voting rights of African Americans in North Carolina and bathroom rights of transgender students in Virginia.

In 2015 and 2016, he sued the government multiple times while working at Cause of Action Institute, a tax-exempt group affiliated with the conservative Koch network and that seeks to curb the authority of federal agencies, according to legal and tax filings. “There are lots of circumstances today in America where agencies of the federal government exercise their discretion in ways that are terrible for personal liberty, for economic freedoms,” he said in a radio interview at the time.

Schwartz is among a growing cadre of conservative legal activists selected by President Trump to serve on the federal bench, part of the administration’s campaign to move the judiciary to the right. The Republican-controlled Senate has confirmed two Supreme Court justices, 51 Circuit Court judges and 137 United States District Court judges. In a news release last fall, the White House said it was “transforming our judiciary.”

Howe on the Court via SCOTUSblog, Opinion analysis: Justices block cross-border shooting lawsuit, Amy Howe, Feb. 25, 2020. It has been 10 years since 15-year-old Sergio Hernandez was shot and killed by a U.S. Border Patrol agent, Jesus Mesa, while Hernandez was playing on the Mexican side of the border. The Hernandez family filed a lawsuit in federal court, seeking to hold Mesa responsible for their son’s death, but today the Supreme Court, by a vote of 5-4, ruled that the lawsuit cannot go forward.

The Hernandez family’s lawsuit contended that Mesa had used excessive force against Sergio, which violated the boy’s rights under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution. The family pointed to a 1971 case, Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, in which the Supreme Court allowed a lawsuit seeking money damages from federal officials for violating the Constitution to go forward.

But in 2017, after hearing oral argument in the family’s case for the first time, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the lower courts for them to reconsider in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Ziglar v. Abbasi, holding that a Bivens remedy should not be extended to a “new context” when there are “special factors counseling hesitation” and Congress has not affirmatively authorized a suit for damages. When the case went back to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, the court concluded that the Hernandez family cannot rely on Bivens to bring their claims against Mesa. The Supreme Court upheld that ruling today.

samuel alitoIn a decision by Justice Samuel Alito that was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, the court acknowledged that the case is a “tragic” one, but it ultimately concluded that Congress, rather than the courts, should decide whether to allow plaintiffs to seek money damages from a federal official. Alito, right, began by noting that in the nearly 50 years since the decision in Bivens, the Supreme Court has only extended Bivens twice. Not only is the extension of Bivens “a disfavored judicial activity,” Alito stressed, but the justices “have gone so far as to observe that if the Court’s three Bivens cases [had] been … decided today, it is doubtful that we would have reached the same result.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented, in an opinion joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Ginsburg would have allowed the lawsuit to go forward: “Rogue U.S. officer conduct,” she argued, “falls within a familiar, not a ‘new,’ Bivens setting. Even if the setting could be characterized as ‘new,’ plaintiffs lack recourse to alternative remedies, and no ‘special factors’ counsel against a Bivens remedy.” Ginsburg also lamented that Hernandez’s death “is not an isolated incident” and warned that “it is all too apparent that to redress injuries like the one suffered here, it is Bivens or nothing.” “I resist the conclusion,” she wrote in closing, “that nothing is the answer required in this case.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Harvey Weinstein’s conviction allowed victims to have messy stories. That’s revolutionary, Monica Hesse, Feb. 25, 2020 (print ed.) The #MeToo movement began in 2017 with allegations that the movie mogul had been systemically assaulting women since the beginning of his career. Now, in 2020, we’ll bookmark the spot where a New York jury convicted him of rape in the third degree.

harvey weinsteinYes, the legal system acknowledged, he had assaulted production assistant Mimi Haleyi and former aspiring actress Jessica Mann. The jury voted to acquit on other charges related to actress Annabella Sciorra, but nonetheless: The bad man is going to prison.

Now that Weinstein, right, has been found guilty on two of his five charges, we could theoretically translate #MeToo’s success into a percentage, but I’d argue that’s the wrong measurement entirely. What the verdict means for Weinstein, who is 67 and infirm, is that he may die in a prison cell. What it means for his victims is that maybe they’ll find a modicum of peace, albeit a tardy one.

But as for what it means for #MeToo? You’ll only find a satisfying answer if you assumed the movement was solely about converting pain into prison time, about developing a rigid code of transgression and punishment.

The #MeToo movement isn’t about issuing punishment. It’s about inviting enlightenment.

How do we talk about rape? How do we talk about consent? How do we talk about sex that we didn’t want but felt we had to agree to, for our physical safety or our careers? How do we talk about the confusing aftermath of those encounters — the compulsion to avoid our attackers forever, or, conversely, the compulsion to stay in contact with our attackers because that contact allows us to take control of the narrative?

The most remarkable, lasting legacy of Harvey Weinstein’s trial is that it dealt with messy stories. It engaged with the tangled, confusing narratives that, a short while ago, we would have determined were impossible to figure out.

Jessica Mann was raped by Weinstein, but there were also times she consented to sex. Mimi Haleyi was terrified of Weinstein after he forcibly performed oral sex on her, but she still agreed to meet him for drinks several weeks later. “I was still trying to make sense of what had happened,” she said. She had still pitched Weinstein projects. She still hoped they could have a professional relationship.

UK Assange Hearing Starts

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London police arresting the bearded WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on April 11, 2019. (Ruptly/YouTube)

washington post logoWashington Post, Julian Assange’s attorneys say he won’t receive a fair trial if extradited to U.S., William Booth and Karla Adam, Feb. 25, 2020 (print ed.).  Attorneys for Julian Assange argued Monday that the Trump administration is targeting the WikiLeaks founder for political reasons and that he would be denied a fair trial if extradited to the United States.

They also cautioned that their client's mental health is "fragile" and that he is at "high risk of suicide."

The Woolwich Crown Court proceeding marked a portentous new chapter in the long-running legal drama involving Assange.

His attorney Edward Fitzgerald told a packed courtroom next to Britain’s high-security Belmarsh prison that the prosecution by the U.S. Justice Department was “not motivated by genuine concerns for criminal justice but politics.”

U.S. prosecutors want the 48-year-old Australian to stand trial in federal court in Northern Virginia on charges that he violated the Espionage Act. Prosecutors allege that the anti-secrecy activist helped obtain and disseminate hundreds of thousands of pages of secret military documents and diplomatic cables regarding U.S. action in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to prosecutors, Assange helped Chelsea Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst, hack into government computers.

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The Guardian, Julian Assange hearing: sources 'disappeared' after WikiLeaks release, Ben Quinn, Feb. 24, 2020. Lawyers for US government deliver opening arguments as extradition case begins.

Secret sources who had supplied information to the US government “disappeared” after they were put at risk from death or torture by the release of classified documents by WikiLeaks, the first day of Julian Assange’s extradition hearing has been told.

The US case for the extradition of the WikiLeaks founder was opened at Woolwich crown court by James Lewis QC, who referred to a range of sources in states including Iraq, Afghanistan and China.

“The US is aware of sources, whose redacted names and other identifying information was contained in classified documents published by WikiLeaks, who subsequently disappeared, although the US can’t prove at this point that their disappearance was the result of being outed by WikiLeaks,” he told the court in south-east London.

By disseminating material in an unredacted form, Lewis said Assange knowingly put human rights activists, dissidents, journalists and their families at risk of serious harm in states operated by oppressive regimes.

julian assange cropped with un headerAssange, 48, shown in a file photo, is wanted in the US to face 18 charges of attempted hacking and breaches of the Espionage Act. They relate to the publication a decade ago of hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables and files covering areas including US activities in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Australian, who could face a 175-year prison sentence if found guilty, is accused of working with the former US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to leak classified documents.

Sitting at the back of the court and dressed in a grey blazer, grey sweater and white shirt with reading glasses perched on his head, Assange listened impassively as the US case was laid out while the sound of chants from hundreds of his supporters outside could be clearly heard throughout the first morning of evidence.

Earlier, Lewis said that reporting for journalism was not an excuse for breaking laws, lawyers acting for the US government have said on the first day of a legal battle over whether the WikiLeaks founder can be extradited from the UK.

“The defence seek to suggest that the risk to these individuals who, by having the individuals revealed as informants, is somehow overstated. I would remind the court that these were individuals who were passing on information on regimes such as Iran and organisations such as al-Qaida.”

He took the court through a number of details about documents relating to sources which the US alleges were put at risk. They included one who had supplied information about an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attack in Iraq and who had been mentioned in a report classified as “secret.”

Earlier, Lewis said he wanted to emphasise that Assange essentially faced two areas relating to his conduct in the indictment – theft and computer hacking of the information published and identifying informants in Iraq and Afghanistan knowing that they would be at risk of harm.

“He is not charged with disclosure of embarrassing or awkward information that the government would rather not have have disclosed,” he added. “The disclosures charges are solely where there was a risk of risk.”

Earlier, Lewis referred to a report in the Guardian from September 2011, which reported that WikiLeaks had published its full archive of 251,000 secret US diplomatic cables, without redactions, potentially exposing thousands of individuals named in the documents to detention, harm or putting their lives in danger.

He went on to describe how the move had been strongly condemned by WikiLeaks’ five previous media partners – the Guardian, New York Times, El País, Der Spiegel and Le Monde – who have worked with the site publishing carefully selected and redacted documents.

“We deplore the decision of WikiLeaks to publish the unredacted state department cables, which may put sources at risk,” the organisations said in a joint statement, which Lewis read out.

Assange’s case has drawn widespread support, including from the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, who said last week that he should not be extradited because of the potential impact on press freedom and concerns about “the real risk of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment.”

chelsea manning screenshot media convention berlin Custom

Whistleblower Chelsea Manning, now imprisoned for declining to speak before a federal grand jury, speaking previously in Berlin at a conference.

Shadowproof, Assange Extradition Hearing: Chelsea Manning’s Grand Jury Resistance A Major Hurdle For Prosecutors, Kevin Gosztola, Feb. 25, 2020. Months before trial in 2013, United States Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning read a statement in military court, where she outlined her role in disclosing over a half million documents to WikiLeaks. She described her motivations for releasing each set of information and meticulously informed the court about how she downloaded, prepared, and electronically made the disclosures.

The defense for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange heavily relied on this statement during the second day of a week-long extradition hearing in London. What unfolded showed how crucial her grand jury resistance is to the ability of Assange to defend himself in court.

A contrived theory forms the basis of the U.S. government’s entire case against Assange. Prosecutors maintain Manning worked for Assange as some kind of insider or spy that WikiLeaks turned against the U.S. government and recruited to steal documents. But that theory sharply conflicts with the timeline in Manning’s statement.

It is one of the main reasons why the government has abused the grand jury process. Prosecutors hoped they could break her and force her to provide testimony that could be used to impeach herself or show the statement she made was unreliable.

James Lewis is the lead prosecutor pursuing the extradition of Assange from the United Kingdom on the U.S. government’s behalf. He said Manning’s statement to the military court was a “self-serving statement.”

“You can’t rely on a self-serving statement without any qualification whatsoever,” Lewis declared. “It’s the self serving statement of a co-conspirator.”

He insisted the statement was indicative of someone, who has consistently tried to help out Assange.

The expressed frustration was a reaction to a thorough argument that included what the defense said are examples of “Zakrzewski abuse.”

Essentially, if prosecutors rely upon factually incorrect descriptions of alleged offenses to make their case, that constitutes an abuse of process and may be reason to stay the request for an extradition.

Mark Sommers, who is part of Assange’s legal team, asserted, “The case has lies, lies, and more lies,” and spent multiple hours outlining key details in Manning’s statement for Judge Vanessa Baraitser.

At one point, Sommers described Manning’s statement as the “best place to look for a chronology.”

WikiLeaks promoted a collaborative list in 2009 that was a kind of wish list compiled by journalists, human rights groups, lawyers, historians, and activists, called the “Most Wanted Leaks.” This is the centerpiece for the U.S. government’s claims that Assange “solicited” Manning.

The superseding indictment [PDF] against Assange specifically alleges, “Between in or around January 2010 and May 2010, consistent with WikiLeaks’s ‘Most Wanted Leaks’ solicitation of bulk databases and military and intelligence categories. Manning downloaded four nearly complete databases from departments and agencies of the United States.”

“These databases contained approximately 90,000 Afghanistan war-related significant activity reports, 400,000 Iraq war-related significant activities reports, 800 Guantanamo Bay detainee assessment briefs, and 250,000 U.S. Department of State cables.”

 Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, In Case You Missed It: Katherine Johnson, ‘hidden figure’ at NASA during 1960s space race, dies at 101, Harrison Smith, Feb. 25, 2020 (print ed.). Long overlooked, she became the subject of a book and hit movie in her 90s.

When Katherine Johnson ­began working at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics in 1953, she was classified as “subprofessional,” not far outranking a secretary or janitor.

Hers was a labor not of scheduling or cleaning but rather of mathematics: using a slide rule or mechanical calculator in complex calculations to check the work of her superiors — engineers who, unlike her, were white and male.

Mrs. Johnson, who died Feb. 24 at 101, went on to develop equations that helped the NACA and its successor, NASA, send astronauts into orbit and, later, to the moon. In 26 signed reports for the space agency, and in many more papers that bore others’ signatures on her work, she codified mathematical principles that remain at the core of human space travel.

Feb. 24

World News Headlines

2020 U.S. Democratic Elections

U.S. Justice System

Trump Team

 

World News Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Coronavirus Live Updates: Cases spike outside China; Italy confirms 5th death, Adam Taylor, Rick Noack, Katie Mettler, Derek Hawkins and Siobhán O'Grady, Feb. 24, 2020. An additional 18 people in the United States have tested positive for the coronavirus, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said Monday, bringing the total number of confirmed U.S. cases to 53.

china flag SmallEven as cases tick upward globally, the World Health Organization declined to declare the outbreak a pandemic Monday, saying the rapidly spreading disease has “pandemic potential” but does not yet require that designation.

China’s leaders also postponed the biggest event on their political calendar, the National People’s Congress, as the country’s battle against the virus disrupts the ruling Communist Party’s agenda and hammers the domestic economy.

In a speech to party officials Sunday, President Xi Jinping warned that the outbreak was a “crisis” that would inevitably jolt the country’s economic development, but he pledged that the disruption would be temporary and manageable.

Trump touts coronavirus response as markets tumble and new cases surge.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. stock markets drop more than 3.5 percent amid coronavirus fears, David J. Lynch, Rachel Siegel and Thomas Heath​, Feb. 24, 2020. The Dow at one point plunged more than 1,000 points as markets sounded the alarm about the relentless spread and widening economic impact of the virus.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s first day in India: A massive rally with Modi and a tour of the ‘truly incredible’ Taj Mahal, Joanna Slater, Feb. 24, 2020.  President Trump arrived in India for his first official visit to the world’s largest democracy, kicking off a whirlwind 36-hour tour Monday with a mega-rally india flag mapthat drew about 100,000 people and a visit to India’s iconic Taj Mahal.

The Taj Mahal, built in the 17th century by an Indian emperor as a tomb for his beloved wife, was buffed and scrubbed before Trump and the first lady took a private sunset tour. Trump, who was visiting the monument for the first time, told reporters that it was “incredible, truly incredible.”

  • Washington Post, U.S., India to sign $3 billion defense deal, Trump says, Staff report, Feb. 24, 2020.

 

2020 Democratic Elections

Sen. Bernie Sanders (Des Moines Gage Skidmore via Flickr on Aug. 10, 2019)

Sen. Bernie Sanders (Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr on Aug. 10, 2019 in Des Moines)

ny times logoNew York Times, Sanders Says He’ll Attract a Wave of New Voters. It Hasn’t Happened, Sydney Ember and Nate Cohn, Feb. 24, 2020. Bernie Sanders has so far prevailed by expanding his appeal among traditional Democratic voters, not by driving record turnout.

It is the most politically provocative part of Senator Bernie Sanders’s campaign pitch: that his progressive movement will bring millions of nonvoters into the November election, driving record turnout especially among disaffected working-class Americans and young people.

And yet despite a virtual tie in Iowa, a narrow victory in New Hampshire and a big triumph in Nevada, the first three nominating contests reveal a fundamental challenge for Mr. Sanders’s political revolution: He may be winning, but not because of his longstanding pledge to expand the Democratic base.

The results so far show that Mr. Sanders has prevailed by broadening his appeal among traditional Democratic voters, not by fundamentally transforming the electorate.

In Iowa, for instance, turnout for the caucuses was lower than expected, up 3 percent compared with 2016, and the increase was concentrated in more well-educated areas where Mr. Sanders struggled, according to a New York Times analysis; in the Iowa precincts where Mr. Sanders won, turnout increased by only 1 percentage point.

There was no sign of a Sanders voter surge in New Hampshire either, nor on Saturday in Nevada, where the nearly final results indicated that turnout would finish above 2016 but well short of 2008 levels, despite a decade of population growth and a new early voting option that attracted some 75,000 voters. The low numbers are all the more striking given the huge turnout in the 2018 midterm elections, which was the highest in a century.

There was also no clear evidence across the early states of much greater participation by young people, a typically low-turnout group that makes up a core part of Mr. Sanders’s base and that he has long said he can motivate to get out to the polls. And Mr. Sanders has struggled to overcome his longstanding weakness in affluent, well-educated suburbs, where Democrats excelled in the midterm elections and where many traditionally Republican voters are skeptical about President Trump’s performance, meaning they could be up for grabs in November.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sanders, powered by a diverse liberal coalition, forces a reckoning for Democrats, Robert Costa and Philip Rucker, Feb. 24, 2020. Bernie Sanders has seized a commanding position in the Democratic presidential race, building a diverse coalition that is driving his liberal movement toward the cusp of a takeover of a major political party.

bernie sanders 2020 button croppedThe senator’s ascendancy, though years in the making, is forcing a sudden reckoning in the Democratic Party’s hierarchy, as centrist politicians and their wealthy benefactors grapple with the upheaval brought by an electorate not only hungry to defeat President Trump, but also clamoring for radical change.

Following Sanders’s resounding victory in Saturday’s Nevada caucuses, and with polls showing him on the rise, Democrats are entering a season of open warfare over whether Sanders (I-Vt.) is equipped to beat Trump in what could be a brutal general election. The senator and his allies insist he could, but his detractors say he is too polarizing to win in November — and could severely cost Democrats in congressional or state races if Republicans use Sanders’s self-description as a democratic socialist to paint all Democrats as extreme.

The Sanders insurgency is the culmination of grievances that have simmered for the past decade among liberals who say Washington has all but ignored the problems of income inequality, health-care access and climate change.

A headstrong, 78-year-old senator, Sanders has galvanized his supporters with an unwavering commitment to their shared cause and forceful critiques of the “billionaire class.” They in turn see him, despite his unorthodox persona, as a weapon against a governing class that has failed them.

On the campaign trail, there is an unusual intensity to Sanders’s performances, reminiscent of the energy that built around Trump on the right during his 2016 rise. Sanders has emerged as a movement candidate, with his rallies coast to coast drawing thousands of people who wait for hours to see him.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Republican Cynicism May Win Trump Re-election, Paul Krugman, right, Feb. 24, 2020. Fiscal hypocrisy is his biggest advantage. paul krugmanIt may have slipped by you, but last week Donald Trump suggested that he may be about to give U.S. farmers — who have yet to see any benefits from his much-touted trade deal with China — another round of government aid. This would be on top of the billions in farm aid that Trump has already delivered, costing taxpayers several times as much as Barack Obama’s auto bailout — a bailout Republicans fiercely denounced as “welfare” and “crony capitalism” at the time.

If this sounds to you like a double standard — Democratic bailouts bad, Republican bailouts good — that’s because it is. But it should be seen as part of a broader pattern of breathtaking fiscal hypocrisy, in which the G.O.P. went from insisting that federal debt posed an existential threat under Obama to complete indifference to budget deficits under Trump. This 180-degree turn is, as far as I can tell, the most cynical policy reversal of modern times.

And this cynicism may win Trump the election.

If Trump does win, there will be many recriminations among Democrats, especially about the vanity candidates who continue to fragment the field despite having no realistic chance of becoming the nominee. But while these recriminations will have much truth to them, the biggest factor working in Trump’s favor is a strong economy — not as strong as he claims, but good enough to provide a significant political lift (unless growth is derailed by the coronavirus).

washington post logodemocratic donkey logoWashington Post, In a historically old presidential field, candidates refuse to release health records, Matt Viser and Lenny Bernstein, Feb. 24, 2020. Four candidates are 70 or older, and the top contender recently suffered a heart attack. Yet they are not releasing detailed medical records, as candidates have for decades.

washington post logoWashington Post, In South Carolina, an anti-poverty program is recast as reparations, Tracy Jan, Feb. 24, 2020. This is what one of the most powerful African Americans in Congress and some presidential candidates are calling a form of reparations: $315,000 in recent federal investments in a rural, predominantly black town where more than a third of the 3,000 residents live in poverty.

james clyburnThe school received new buses. An emergency medical center got an ultrasound machine and lifesaving equipment. And the mayor is expecting more federal dollars to overhaul the aging water system.

House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), left, whose district encompasses eight of the state’s poorest counties, has long opposed cash payments to African Americans whose ancestors were enslaved. He believes it would be too difficult to determine who deserves to be compensated. But a race-neutral anti-poverty program he conceived a decade ago is now catching fire among candidates for the Democratic nomination as a way to provide practical restitution for slavery.

Several of the leading presidential hopefuls, including Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar, have sought to rebrand Clyburn’s program as a vehicle for reparations, which remain politically contentious. Clyburn’s idea, with strong bipartisan support, was originally adopted in 2009 by just one federal agency.

But framing the program, which targets federal spending on certain high-poverty areas, as reparations has drawn criticism from African Americans living in poor urban neighborhoods — some in Clyburn’s own district — that do not qualify for the funding, as well as longtime advocates for reparations. The critique underlines the difficulty of finding a solution that would satisfy those demanding redress and be politically viable.

  • Washington Post, Analysis: 5 big questions after the Nevada caucuses, Staff report, Feb. 24, 2020.

U.S. Justice System

washington post logoWashington Post, Weinstein guilty on two charges in sexual assault case, acquitted on others, Shayna Jacobs​, Feb. 24, 2020. The jury in the New harvey weinsteinYork trial determined that Harvey Weinstein, right, forced a sex act on a former production assistant in 2006 and raped a former aspiring actress in 2013. He was found not guilty of the most severe charge, predatory sexual assault.

• Washington Post, Advocates for victims of sexual assault hail Weinstein’s conviction as a breakthrough.
• Washington Post, Perspective: Weinstein’s conviction allowed victims to have messy stories. That’s revolutionary.

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: The Lessons of #MeToo’s Monster, Editorial Board, Feb. 24, 2020. After decades of abuse allegations, Harvey Weinstein is found guilty. What does the hard-won, long-overdue conviction of Harvey Weinstein demonstrate?

It shows how difficult it can be to bring abusers to justice, particularly when they are wealthy and powerful. It shows how much the #MeToo movement has changed American life. And it shows how far society still has to go.

Mr. Weinstein was convicted on Monday of a felony sex crime and rape in the third degree but was acquitted of the most serious counts against him, predatory sexual assault. He is headed for at least five years in prison. That’s a victory for Mr. Weinstein’s victims.

But the Weinstein case shows the obstacles presented by the American legal system to successfully prosecuting abusers. The case, tried in a Manhattan courtroom, rested on testimony from just six women out of the more than 90 who have accused Mr. Weinstein of sexual misconduct. (He also faces charges in Los Angeles of raping one woman and groping and masturbating in front of another.)

It took decades of persistence by survivors, advocates, journalists and law enforcement to call Mr. Weinstein to account before the law. In 2015, Cyrus Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, declined to prosecute credible allegations against Mr. Weinstein. Mr. Vance acted years later only after dozens of women went public with their allegations.

Law & Crime, Forensic Psychologist Who Testified for Prosecution at Harvey Weinstein Trial Was Hit by a Car, Matt Naham, Feb. 24, 2020. Forensic psychologist Dr. Barbara Ziv leaves at New York City Criminal Court for the continuation of this trial on January 24, 2020 in New York City.

A forensic psychologist who testified for the prosecution at the Harvey Weinstein trial about “rape myths” was hit by a car while crossing a street and has multiple broken bones, Law&Crime has learned.

Dr. Barbara Ziv is currently hospitalized.

Law&Crime attempted to learn more about when and where the incident occurred. We received confirmation by phone that Ziv is in the hospital, but no more information than that was forthcoming. Ziv is based in the Philadelphia area, so we reached out to Philadelphia Police. We have not heard back.

Though there is no evidence to suggest that Ziv being hit by a car is in any way related to the Weinstein trial, this may be seen as suspicious by some given the timing of the incident. Weinstein’s history of having people followed is well-documented; so are alleged threats against those who have spoken out against him.

Investigative reporter Ronan Farrow, for instance, once said he feared for his safety when working on a story about Weinstein.

“I don’t make light of the fact that it was frightening to be in the crosshairs of that,” he said. “I mean, there were times when I feared for my safety and, you know, my sources were telling me to get a gun and I moved out of my apartment.”

Ziv’s expert witness testimony at the Weinstein trial last month largely focused on sexual assault and victim behavior after attacks. That included discussion about why victims would reach out to and communicate with a perpetrator after the fact, why they would wait years to report an assault, or why they would never tell anyone.

The testimony was directly relevant to allegations made by Jessica Mann and Miriam “Mimi” Haleyi against a powerful man in Hollywood like Weinstein years after the alleged crimes. The former accused Weinstein of rape and the latter alleged Weinstein of forcibly performing oral sex on her.

A New York jury on Monday found Weinstein’s guilty on two counts: rape and criminal sexual act in the first degree.

Annabella Sciorra and more than 80 other women have accused Weinstein of sexual harassment and sexual abuse, including rape. Sciorra said that Weinstein raped her in the early 1990s.

“As devastating as sexual assault is, most individuals think, ‘Ok, I can put it behind me. I can move on with my life. I don’t want it to get worse. I don’t want this person who sexually assaulted me to ruin my friendships or put my job in jeopardy. I am just going to put it in a box and forget what happened. I don’t want it to get worse,’” Ziv said in court. “But they can’t.”

“Sometimes women will have subsequent contact with the perpetrator because they can’t really believe that this happened to them,” she added. “They’re hoping that this is just an aberration. You hear that all the time.” Ziv said that it’s a myth that “one can determine whether somebody has been raped by their behavior.”‘

Ziv also testified as an expert witness for the prosecution at the Bill Cosby trial.

Another criminal case awaits Weinstein in Los Angeles.

 roger stone hands waving no credit from stone cold Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge rejects Roger Stone’s bid to disqualify her, sets Tuesday hearing for motion for new trial, Spencer S. Hsu and Rachel Weiner, Feb. 24, 2020. The federal judge who oversaw Roger Stone’s trial and sentenced him last week to 40 months in prison has scheduled a closed-door hearing for Tuesday afternoon regarding his request for a new trial based on allegations of juror misconduct, preceded by a public hearing about his motion to make the matter public.

The one-sentence scheduling order filed Monday morning by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the District of Columbia indicates that she is moving swiftly to address the motion, filed days before Stone’s sentencing.

The order came one day after Jackson dismissed Stone’s demand that she be taken off the case as a baseless smear.

Stone’s motion regarding the juror remains sealed, but the record indicates that it is his second attempt to argue for a new trial on grounds that jurors were biased against him. Jackson denied his first such motion, saying there was no evidence that a juror was biased merely because she was a lawyer with the Internal Revenue Service.

The second motion, Jackson said, specifically “raised questions about a juror’s written questionnaire and sworn answers during individual voir dire.”

Trump has repeatedly attacked the forewoman of the jury, who ran for Congress as a Democrat. Although the forewoman was not named at the trial, she disclosed her background, including her bid for Congress, in public pretrial jury selection. Supporters of Stone have argued that the juror did not disclose a history of social media posts criticizing the president.

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge swats down Roger Stone’s effort to remove her from his case, Rachel Weiner, Feb. 24, 2020. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who sentenced Stone (shown in a file photo) last week to 40 months in prison, said his claims of bias were baseless.

The federal judge who oversaw Roger Stone’s trial and sentenced him last week to 40 months in prison dismissed his demand that she be taken off the case as a baseless smear on Sunday.

“Given the absence of any factual or legal support for the motion for disqualification, the pleading appears to be nothing more than an attempt to use amy berman jacksonthe Court’s docket to disseminate a statement for public consumption that has the words ‘judge’ and ‘biased’ in it,” wrote U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson,right, of the District of Columbia. Here decision is here.

Stone’s motion sought to disqualify Berman Jackson for referring during Thursday’s sentencing to “the jurors who served with integrity under difficult circumstances.” He is still challenging one juror as biased.

Berman Jackson rebutted any claim that she has not treated Stone fairly. On the contrary, she wrote, she “took each issue raised by [him] seriously … ruled with care and impartiality … granted important evidentiary motions in his favor … and … repeatedly resolved bond issues in his favor, even after he took to social media to intimidate the Court, after he violated conditions imposed by the Court, after he was convicted at trial, and after he was sentenced to a term of incarceration.”

That term, she noted, was significantly less than called for under sentencing guidelines.

She also dismissed Stone’s technical argument, saying that a judge’s comments could be disqualifying only if they were made outside of or based on information from outside of court. “Judges cannot be ‘biased’ and need not be disqualified if the views they express are based on what they learned while doing the job they were appointed to do,” she wrote.

She said her comment was “very general” but added that it would not be disqualifying even if she had spoken specifically of the pending motion, saying: “If parties could move to disqualify every judge who furrows his brow at one side or the other before ruling, the entire court system would come to a standstill.”

Legal experts took an equally dim view of the motion before Berman Jackson’s ruling, saying it was probably designed to appeal to the president rather than the courts.

Stone’s motion regarding the juror remains sealed, but the record indicates it is his second attempt to argue for a new trial on grounds that jurors were biased against him. Berman Jackson already has denied his first such motion, saying there was no evidence a juror was biased merely because she was a lawyer with the Internal Revenue Service. President Trump has repeatedly attacked the forewoman of the jury, who ran for Congress as a Democrat. The second motion, Berman Jackson said, specifically “raised questions about a juror’s written questionnaire and sworn answers during individual voir dire.”

Although the forewoman was not named at the trial, she disclosed her background, including her bid for Congress, in public pretrial jury selection. Supporters of Stone have argued that the juror did not disclose a history of social media posts criticizing the president.

Trump Team

washington post logoWashington Post, Acting intelligence chief’s paid consulting included work for U.S. nonprofit group funded mostly by Hungary, Emma Brown, Beth Reinhard and Dalton Bennett​, Feb. 24, 2020. Richard Grenell made his voice heard globally in the years before he became acting director of national richard grenell Customintelligence.

Two years before President Trump nominated him to become ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell wrote an op-ed about Nigeria’s highly charged 2015 presidential race, a move that drew notice from Nigerian media. A year later, Grenell (shown on his Twitter photo) defended the government of Moldova against corruption allegations from a whistleblower who, Grenell argued, was a Russian operative bent on destabilizing an Eastern European country trying to move toward the West.

And Grenell’s public relations firm was paid to do work for a U.S. nonprofit funded almost entirely by the Hungarian government led by far-right Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Grenell’s public relations consulting and foreign policy commentary, as well as his reputation as a vocal loyalist of Trump’s, are part of an unusual résumé for a leader of the U.S. intelligence community, a job Grenell assumed last week when Trump named him acting director of national intelligence. Individuals who have served in that position typically have been nonpartisan national security professionals whose experience has included leading intelligence agencies or service in the military.

Feb. 23

2020 Democratic Election Headlines

Trump Power, Payback Headlines

World News Headines

U.S. Justice System

U.S. Campaign Ads Lack Control

 

2020 Democratic Contests Sen. Bernie Sanders (Des Moines Gage Skidmore via Flickr on Aug. 10, 2019)

Sen. Bernie Sanders (Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr on Aug. 10, 2019 in Des Moines)

washington post logoWashington Post, Sanders wins in Nevada, grows lead as race enters key stretch, Matt Viser, Feb. 23, 2020. Sen. Bernie Sanders won a resounding victory in the Nevada caucuses Saturday, providing another boost to an insurgent campaign that is challenging the Democratic establishment and stifling the plans of rivals who still hold out hope of stopping him.

Sanders’s advantage in Nevada was overwhelming, with substantial leads in nearly every demographic group, allowing him to set down a marker in the first state with a significant share of nonwhite voters. Sanders expanded the electorate by attracting relatively large numbers of first-time caucus-goers, providing momentum as the race shifts into a critical stretch over the next 10 days.

He prevailed among those with college degrees and those without; those living in union and nonunion households; and in every age group except those over 65. He won more than half of Hispanic caucus-goers — almost four times as much support as his nearest rival, former vice president Joe Biden — and even narrowly prevailed among those who identified as moderate or conservative. Despite attacks on his health proposal by the powerful Culinary Union, he won in caucus sites filled with union members.

Sanders signaled throughout his speech that he is beginning to see himself as the likely nominee, given his momentum heading toward Super Tuesday on March 3, when 14 states cast their votes. A day after saying he was fighting against the Democratic and Republican establishments, the self-described democratic socialist adopted a more unifying tone.

“We are bringing our people together — black and white and Latino, Native American, Asian American, gay and straight,” he said.

mark kelly senate

washington post logoWashington Post, As Bernie Sanders’s momentum builds, down-ballot Democrats move to distance themselves, Mike DeBonis and Michael Scherer, Feb. 23, 2020 (print ed.). Former astronaut Mark Kelly, the Democratic Party’s hope for flipping a U.S. Senate seat in Arizona, tried to do no harm this month when he was asked about Sen. Bernie Sanders. “I will ultimately support who the nominee is of the Democratic Party,” he said.

democratic donkey logoThat was enough for Kelly’s Republican rival, Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), who is trailing him in early polls, to go on the attack. The television spot she debuted days later spent nearly as much time talking about plans by the democratic socialist from Vermont to raise taxes and award new benefits to undocumented immigrants as it did about Kelly.

As Sanders builds what could eventually be an insurmountable delegate lead, many Democratic House and Senate candidates are approaching a dramatic shift in their campaigns, as they recalibrate to include praise of capitalism and distance themselves from the national party. Top campaign strategists from both parties view Sanders’s success as a potentially tectonic event, which could narrow the party’s already slim hopes of retaking the Senate majority and fuel GOP dreams of reclaiming the House, which it lost amid a Democratic romp in 2018.

“I can tell you that there are a lot of down-ballot jitters based on my conversations with my former colleagues,” said former Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), a longtime confidant of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who led congressional election efforts from 2011 to 2015.

“Donald Trump is going to offer the American people this choice: Do you want to continue building the economy or do you want to lurch toward socialism? And that is a real powerful argument in the Democratic districts that Trump won in 2016.”

With an emphatic victory in Saturday’s Nevada caucuses, Sanders has won two of the first three contests, and lost the third — the Iowa caucuses — in a squeaker. He also holds leads in polls in many of the Super Tuesday states that vote March 3 — a point by which nearly 4 in 10 delegates nationally will have been chosen.

Internal polling and analytics completed last week by former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg’s campaign projected that Sanders may be the only presidential candidate to win delegates in every state and district on March 3, delivering him a lead of 350 to 400 out of 1,357 delegates set to be awarded unless race dynamics change, according to a person familiar with the data who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Joe Biden just got some big news that could shake up the entire race, Bill Palmer, Feb. 23, 2020. In the social media era, what are fjoe biden 2020 button Customormal endorsements still worth in general? That’s a topic that’s ripe for debate. But every once in awhile, we see an endorsement that we know carries major weight. For instance, if President Obama endorsed someone in the Democratic primary right now, it would shake up the entire race nationwide. That’s not likely to happen any time soon.

bill palmer report logo headerBut Joe Biden just picked up an endorsement that has roughly that much influence in a specific state, and could end up tilting the balance of the remainder of the primary race.

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn is about to endorse Joe Biden in the South Carolina 2020 Democratic primary race, according to Politico. It’s widely agreed that Clyburn, below left, has significant influence over African American voters across the nation, and huge influence in his home state of South Carolina. Why is this so important?

james clyburnThe latest polling averages suggest that Biden is set to win South Carolina by three to five points. This would help him greatly. The media would start talking about him suddenly having “momentum” (even though he was always favored to win the state), and it would send a signal to Biden fans in upcoming Super Tuesday states that he’s still in contention. So if Clyburn’s endorsement seals South Carolina for Biden, it’s a big deal. Now imagine if Clyburn’s endorsement hands Biden a more definitive win in South Carolina than expected, by something like five to ten points. Then the national narrative shifts significantly in his direction heading into Super Tuesday.

Joe Biden was never going to do well in nearly all-white states like Iowa and New Hampshire. Nor was he ever going to do well in states that use a caucus format like Iowa and Nevada. He’s always been counting on performing well in South Carolina, as a springboard for Super Tuesday. If Jim Clyburn’s endorsement is worth what we think it’s worth in South Carolina, this could change the entire trajectory of the primary race going forward.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Here is Democrats’ last chance to get this right, Jennifer Rubin, right, Feb. 23, 2020. Some candidates must leave the race; jennifer rubin new headshotsome must shift their focus. While no one should exclude the possibility that Sanders might beat President Trump, his manifest weaknesses and extreme ideology make such a victory unlikely, thereby subjecting the country to the horror of another four years of an unhinged, authoritarian president.

We should shudder at the prospect of what the country might look like after another Trump term — especially if, as is likely with Sanders at the top of the ticket, the Republicans retain their Senate majority.

What, if anything, can Democrats do in the next week or so to change the trajectory of the race? There is very little chance that they will do what is necessary; that would require selflessness and self-reflection as well as party leadership, none of which is evident in today’s Democratic Party.

Nevertheless, there are steps Democrats could take to save the party and the country.

pete buttigieg 2020 button croppedFirst, former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg has offered a model for other candidates in making Sanders the top target. Buttigieg will hang on for now, relying on his results in Iowa and New Hampshire, and what looks like a barely adequate third-place finish in Nevada.

Second, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) must step away. Coming in fifth and third in the first two races respectively, and expected to amy klobucher button croppedfinish sixth in Nevada, Klobuchar — despite her feisty demeanor and practical agenda — has no path to the nomination. The 5 percent to 7 percent or so of the electorate that has supported her certainly could be used by a more viable candidate.

Third, Tom Steyer’s vanity run should end as well. The share of the nonwhite voters he draws is desperately needed by a viable candidate, which in South Carolina is former vice president Joe Biden. Steyer has zero delegates and has placed near the bottom of tom steyer campaign cutton Customthe pack in each contest. No amount of spending will lift him into contention.

Fourth, Steyer and former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg should use their millions to go after Sanders, the candidate who threatens to sew up the race before Bloomberg, right, gets started. They would do the party a favor, frankly, by getting all the opposition research out there now so that Trump does not spring it in the final days of the general election. (If Bloomberg’s next debate performance is anything like the last, he will need to bow out as well; michael bloomberg2there are not enough ads in the world to compensate for a candidate who cannot perform live.)

Fifth, both candidates and elected leaders in the party must demand that Sanders release all medical records, as he promised. This transparency is essential both to inform the public and to inoculate Sanders against Trump’s inevitable attacks, if Sanders becomes the joe biden 2020 button Customnominee, that would portray him at death’s door.

Sixth, Biden, who kept himself in the running with a second-place finish in Nevada, needs to do something dramatic to shake things up and emerge as a Sanders alternative.

I don’t imagine much of this will come about. Nevertheless, the grown-ups in the party and the 2020 contenders who fail to act will be haunted by the possibility that they could have prevented a party crackup and a national disaster but chose not to act.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Thank you Joy Reid, Bill Palmer, Feb. 23, 2020. Bernie Sanders won the Nevada caucus, prompting his supporters to mistakenly decide that this means he’s now somehow automatically going to be the Democratic nominee. This would be a tragedy, because the thoroughly unvetted Sanders would be quickly destroyed at the hands of Donald Trump and the GOP.

But if you’re a pundit, you can score some really cheap and easy points right now by simply hoping on the Bernie train and blowing smoke at his supporters. Fortunately, some high profile pundits are simply refusing to play that game.

bill palmer report logo headerThe reality is that only three states have voted thus far (out of fifty). Two of the three were nearly all white. Two of them used the gibberish caucus format. We now know that Vladimir Putin was rigging things for Bernie while all these states were voting, and yet he still only won two out of the three. The problem is that because the Democrats have four great candidates (Biden, Warren, Buttigieg, Klobuchar) and none of them has been dominating over the others, it’s created this fatalist notion that Sanders simply joy reid Customcan’t be stopped.

Enter highly respected MSNBC host Joy Reid, right. On Saturday night she sounded the alarm, pointing out that this is simply a turnout problem. The minority of Democratic voters who want Sanders are voting and campaigning in enthusiastic fashion, and so he’s in the lead, despite only getting around 30% of the vote. The smart voters need to start pushing harder on behalf of the real Democrats right now, before this gets any worse, and we get stuck with a disastrous nominee in Sanders who can’t beat Trump.

Trump Power, Payback

Axios, Exclusive: Trump's "Deep State" hit list, Jonathan Swan, right, Feb 23, 2020. The Trump White House and its allies, over the past 18 months, assembled detailed lists of disloyal government officials to oust — and trusted pro-Trump people to replace them — according to more than a dozen jonathan swan twittersources familiar with the effort who spoke to Axios.

Driving the news: By the time President Trump instructed his 29-year-old former body man and new head of presidential personnel to rid his government of anti-Trump officials, he'd gathered reams of material to support his suspicions.

While Trump's distrust has only intensified since his impeachment and acquittal, he has long been on the hunt for "bad people" inside the White House and U.S. government, and fresh "pro-Trump" options. Outside advisers have been happy to oblige.

In reporting this story, I have been briefed on, or reviewed, memos and lists the president received since 2018 suggesting whom he should hire and fire. Most of these details have never been published.

A well-connected network of conservative activists with close ties to Trump and top administration officials is quietly helping develop these "Never Trump"/pro-Trump lists, and some sent memos to Trump to shape his views, per sources with direct knowledge.

ginni thomas gage skidmore CustomMembers of this network include Ginni Thomas (shown in a Gage Skidmore photo), the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and Republican Senate staffer Barbara Ledeen.

The big picture: Since Trump's Senate acquittal, aides say the president has crossed a psychological line regarding what he calls the "Deep State." He feels his government — from Justice to State to Defense to Homeland Security — is filled with "snakes." He wants them fired and replaced ASAP.

"I think it's a very positive development," said Rich Higgins, who served on Trump's National Security Council in 2017. H.R. McMaster removed Higgins after he wrote a memo speculating that Trump's presidency faced threats from Marxists, the "Deep State," so-called globalists, bankers, Islamists, and establishment Republicans. (This was long before the full scope of the FBI's Russia investigation was known to Trump and his aides.)

Higgins told me on Sunday he stands by everything he wrote in his memo, but "I would probably remove 'bankers' if I had to do it over and I would play up the intel community role — which I neglected."

Let's get to the memos.

1. The Jessie Liu memo: Shortly before withdrawing the nomination of the former D.C. U.S. attorney for a top Treasury role, the president reviewed a memo on Liu's alleged misdeeds, according to a source with direct knowledge.

Ledeen wrote the memo, and its findings left a striking impression on Trump, per sources with direct knowledge. Ledeen declined to comment.

A source with direct knowledge of the memo's contents said it contained 14 sections building a case for why Liu was unfit for the job for which Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin selected her, including:

  • Not acting on criminal referrals of some of Justice Brett Kavanaugh's accusers.
  • Signing "the sentencing filing asking for jail time" for Gen. Michael Flynn (a friend of Ledeen's).
  • Holding a leadership role in a women's lawyers networking group that Ledeen criticized as "pro-choice and anti-Alito."
  • Not indicting former deputy director of the FBI Andrew McCabe.
  • Dismissing charges against "violent inauguration protesters who plotted to disrupt the inauguration."

Neither Liu nor the White House responded to requests for comment.

Between the lines: The Liu memo is not the first such memo to reach the president's desk — and there's a common thread in Groundswell, a conservative activist network that's headed by Thomas and whose members include Ledeen.

Sources leaked me details of two other memos from people associated with the Groundswell network that also caused a stir inside the White House over the past year.

Thomas has spent a significant amount of time and energy urging Trump administration officials to change the personnel inside his government. This came to a head early last year.

Members of Groundswell, whose members earlier led the successful campaign to remove McMaster as national security adviser, meet on Wednesdays in the D.C. offices of Judicial Watch, a conservative legal group that has led the fight against the Mueller probe.

Judicial Watch's president is Tom Fitton. He's a regular on Fox News, and Trump regularly retweets his commentary on the "Deep State."
Conservative activists who attend Groundswell meetings funneled names to Thomas, and she compiled those recommendations and passed them along to the president, according to a source close to her.

She handed a memo of names directly to the president in early 2019. (The New York Times reported on her group's meeting with Trump at the time.)

2. The Groundswell memo: The presidential personnel office reviewed Thomas' memo and determined that some names she passed along for jobs were not appropriate candidates. Trump may revisit some given his current mood.

Potential hires she offered to Trump, per sources with direct knowledge:

  • Sheriff David Clarke for a senior Homeland Security role.
  • Fox News regular and former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino for a Homeland Security or counterterrorism adviser role.
  • Devin Nunes aide Derek Harvey for the National Security Council (where he served before McMaster pushed him out).
  • Radio talk show host Chris Plante for press secretary.
  • Federalist contributor Ben Weingarten for the National Security Council.

What we're hearing: These memos created tension inside the White House, as people close to the president constantly told him his own staff, especially those running personnel, were undermining him — and White House staff countered they were being smeared.

john mcentee Custom3. The State Department memo: In one extraordinary incident last year, President Trump passed along another action memo to his then-head of presidential personnel, Sean Doocey (since pushed to State and replaced with former body man John McEntee, right). People familiar with the January 2019 memo say it came from conservatives associated with Groundswell. Though nobody I’ve spoken to has claimed credit for it.

According to sources briefed on the incident, the memo was, in large part, an attack against Doocey. The memo accused him and a colleague in the State Department of obstructionism and named several State Department officials who needed to be fired.

This list named former deputy secretary John Sullivan, deputy undersecretary for management Bill Todd, and undersecretary for political affairs David Hale, who later testified in the impeachment hearings. (Todd and Hale are career foreign service officers, serving in positions typically reserved for career officials.) Sullivan is now the U.S. Ambassador to Russia.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump makes veiled threat toward Schiff over classified briefing on Russian 2020 election interference, Felicia Sonmez, Feb. 23, 2020. President Trump on Sunday made a veiled threat toward House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff, claiming without evidence that the California Democrat had leaked information from a classified briefing in which a senior U.S. intelligence official told lawmakers that Russia wants to see Trump reelected.

“Somebody please tell incompetent (thanks for my high poll numbers) & corrupt politician Adam ‘Shifty’ Schiff to stop leaking Classified information or, even worse, made up information, to the Fake News Media,” Trump tweeted. “Someday he will be caught, & that will be a very unpleasant experience!”

Trump’s tweet comes more than a week after the intelligence official, Shelby Pierson, told members of Schiff’s committee during a bipartisan briefing that Russia has “developed a preference” for Trump and views his administration as more favorable to its interests, according to people who were briefed on the comments and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter.

washington post logoWashington Post, Responding to news of Russian interference, Trump sends chilling message to U.S. intelligence, Shane Harris, Ellen Nakashima and Josh Dawsey, Feb. 23, 2020 (print ed.). Intelligence officers pride themselves as apolitical fact-finders who follow the rule of “speak truth to power.” But President Trump has tacked on a new coda: “Do so at your peril.”

In ousting his acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, last week after a revealing briefing on foreign election interference, Trump has reminded members of the intelligence community that he views the information they bring him through a deeply personal lens.

Trump upbraided Maguire in the Oval Office on Feb. 14, saying that the intelligence community had handed Democrats political ammunition during a bipartisan briefing a day earlier about efforts to secure the 2020 election. A senior career intelligence officer who worked for Maguire told lawmakers that Russia had “developed a preference” for Trump. She also described other steps Russia is taking, including assistance to the presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Feb. 22

Trump Power, Payback Headlines

Syrian War, Afghan Peace?

2020 U.S. Elections

 

Reports On Trump Power, Payback

djt acquitted photo

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump embarks on expansive search for disloyalty as administration-wide purge escalates, Toluse Olorunnipa, Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey, Feb. 22, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump has instructed his White House to identify and force out officials across his administration who are not seen as sufficiently loyal, a post-impeachment escalation that administration officials say reflects a new phase of a campaign of retribution and restructuring ahead of the November election.

john mcentee CustomJohnny McEntee, right, Trump’s former personal aide who now leads the effort as director of presidential personnel, has begun combing through various agencies with a mandate from the president to oust or sideline political appointees who have not proved their loyalty, according to several administration officials and others familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

The push comes in the aftermath of an impeachment process in which several members of Trump’s administration provided damning testimony about his behavior with regard to Ukraine. The stream of officials publicly criticizing Trump’s actions frustrated the president and caused him to fixate on cleaning house after his acquittal this month.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump wants to block ‘traitor’ Bolton’s book entirely, claiming most conversations are classified, Josh Dawsey, Tom Hamburger and Carol D. Leonnig, Feb. 22, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump told his staff he will seek to stop the book’s publication, said people familiar with the conversations. The president’s private arguments contrast with the traditional point-by-point process used to protect sensitive secrets.

President Trump has directly weighed in on the White House review of a forthcoming book by his former national security adviser, telling his staff that he views John Bolton as “a traitor,” that everything he uttered to the departed aide about national security is classified and that he will seek to block the book’s publication, according to two people familiar with the conversations.

djt john bolton CustomThe president’s private arguments stand in contrast to the point-by-point process used to classify and protect sensitive secrets and appears to differ from the White House’s public posture toward Bolton’s much-anticipated memoir. The National Security Council warned Bolton last month that his draft “appears to contain significant amounts of classified information,” some of it top secret, but john bolton full cropped Custompledged to help him revise the manuscript and “move forward as expeditiously as possible.”

“We will do our best to work with you to ensure your client’s ability to tell his story in a manner that protects U.S. national security,” Ellen Knight, senior director of the council’s records office, wrote in a Jan. 23 letter to Bolton’s attorney.

But the president has insisted to aides that Bolton’s account of his work in Trump’s White House, The Room Where It Happened, should not see the light of day before the November election, according to the two people familiar with the conversations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House deliberations.

Bolton’s book has promised to unveil key first-person moments between Bolton and Trump that were at the heart of the president’s handling of Ukraine, a saga that led to his impeachment by the House.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: If good men like Joe Maguire can’t speak the truth, we should be deeply afraid, William H. McRaven, Feb. 22, 2020 (print william mcraven 2012ed.). William H. McRaven, right, a retired Navy admiral, was commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014. He oversaw the 2011 Navy SEAL raid in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden.

Over the course of the past three years, I have watched good men and women, friends of mine, come and go in the Trump administration — all trying to do something — all trying to do their best. Jim Mattis, John Kelly, H.R. McMaster, Sue Gordon, Dan Coats and, now, Joe Maguire, who until this week was the acting director of national intelligence.

I have known Joe for more than 40 years. There is no better officer, no better man and no greater patriot. He served for 36 years as a Navy SEAL. In 2004, he was promoted to the rank of rear admiral and was chosen to command all of Naval Special Warfare, including the SEALs. Those were dark days for the SEALs. Our combat losses from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were the highest in our history, and Joe and his wife, Kathy, attended every SEAL funeral, providing comfort and solace to the families of the fallen.

But it didn’t stop there. Not a day went by that the Maguires didn’t reach out to some Gold Star family, some wounded SEAL, some struggling warrior. Every loss was personal, every family precious. When Joe retired in 2010, he tried the corporate world. But his passion for the Special Operations soldiers was so deep that he left a lucrative job and took the position as the president of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, a charity that pays for educating the children of fallen warriors.

In 2018, Joe was asked to be the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, a job he knew well from his last assignment as a vice admiral. He accepted, but within months of his arrival came the announcement of Coats’s departure as director of national intelligence. Maguire didn’t seek to fill the job; he was asked to do it by the president. At first he declined, suggesting that Sue Gordon, Coats’s deputy, would be better suited for the job.

joseph maguire headshotBut the president chose Maguire (left0. And, like most of these good men and women, he came in with the intent to do his very best, to follow the rules, to follow the law and to follow what was morally right.

Within a few weeks of taking the assignment, he found himself embroiled in the Ukraine whistleblower case. Joe told the White House that, if asked, he would testify, and he would tell the truth. He did. In short order, he earned the respect of the entire intelligence community. They knew a good man was at the helm. A man they could count on, a man who would back them, a man whose integrity was more important than his future employment.

But, of course, in this administration, good men and women don’t last long. Joe was dismissed for doing his job: overseeing the dissemination of intelligence to elected officials who needed that information to do their jobs.

As Americans, we should be frightened — deeply afraid for the future of the nation. When good men and women can’t speak the truth, when facts are inconvenient, when integrity and character no longer matter, when presidential ego and self-preservation are more important than national security — then there is nothing left to stop the triumph of evil.

washington post logoWashington Post, Bernie Sanders briefed by U.S. officials that Russia is trying to help his presidential campaign, Shane Harris, Ellen Nakashima, Michael Scherer and Sean Sullivan, Feb. 22, 2020 (print ed.). U.S. officials have told Sen. Bernie Sanders that Russia is attempting to help his presidential campaign as part of an effort to interfere with the Democratic contest, according to people familiar with the matter.

President Trump and lawmakers on Capitol Hill also have been informed about the Russian assistance to the Vermont senator, those people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence.

It is not clear what form that Russian assistance has taken. U.S. prosecutors found a Russian effort in 2016 to use social media to boost Sanders’s campaign against Hillary Clinton, part of a broader effort to hurt Clinton, sow dissension in the American electorate and ultimately help elect Donald Trump.

“I don’t care, frankly, who [Russian President Vladimir] Putin wants to be president,” Sanders said in a statement. “My message to Putin is clear: Stay out of American elections, and as president I will make sure that you do.

“In 2016, Russia used Internet propaganda to sow division in our country, and my understanding is that they are doing it again in 2020. Some of the ugly stuff on the Internet attributed to our campaign may well not be coming from real supporters.”

Syrian War

Asia Times, Opinion: Putin keen to cool Turkish hawk down, Pepe Escobar, Feb. 22, 2020. Idlib is Erdogan's last stand, but the fighting goes way beyond Syria: it’s shaping as another NATO-Russia proxy war.

That pesky “Assad regime” simply won’t go away. The new Western narrative on Syria is that the regime is about to “massacre” over 900,000 people fleeing the not really de-escalated zones across the countryside in Idlib and Aleppo provinces.

Context, as always, is absent. The fleeing masses – essentially conservative Sunnis – had been living in these areas under the yoke of myriad incarnations of al-Qaeda in Syria. Either they supported them, did their best to basically survive, or now know for sure the offensive by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) is for real, and all jihadi holes, protected or not by human shields, will be bombed.

The most relevant story, once again, is what Sultan Erdogan wants. Ankara and Moscow – partners in the Astana Process that theoretically would pave the way for peace in Syria – are at a crossroads.

Afghan Peace?

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. halts offensive military operations in Afghanistan as part of Taliban deal, Susannah George​, Feb. 22, 2020. The top American commander told reporters in Kabul that “our operations are defensive at this point.” The move is aimed at reducing violence ahead of a possible peace deal.

The U.S. has ceased offensive military operations in Afghanistan against the Taliban in accordance with an agreement to reduce violence ahead of a possible peace deal, the top U.S. military commander here announced Saturday.

Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller told reporters in Kabul “our operations are defensive at this point, we stopped our offensive operations as part of our obligations, but we remain committed to defend our forces.”

Standing beside the Afghan acting minister of interior and acting minister of defense, Miller described the reduction in violence as a “trial period” during which U.S. and Afghan government forces reserve the right to defend themselves if attacked.

“This is a conditional effort. It’s a trial period, we are all looking at this to see that all sides are able to meet their obligations,” he said.

2020 U.S. Elections

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia Is Said to Be Interfering to Aid Sanders in Democratic Primaries, Julian E. Barnes and Sydney Ember, Feb. 22, 2020 (print ed.). Russia has been trying to intervene in the Democratic primaries to aid Senator Bernie Sanders, according to people familiar with the matter, and intelligence officials recently briefed him about Russian interference in the election, Mr. Sanders said on Friday.

In a statement on Friday, Mr. Sanders denounced Russia, calling President Vladimir V. Putin an “autocratic thug” and warning Moscow to stay out of the election.

bernie sanders 2020 button cropped“Let’s be clear, the Russians want to undermine American democracy by dividing us up and, unlike the current president, I stand firmly against their efforts and any other foreign power that wants to interfere in our election,” Mr. Sanders said.

He also told reporters that he was briefed about a month ago.

“The intelligence community is telling us Russia is interfering in this campaign right now in 2020,” Mr. Sanders said on Friday in Bakersfield, Calif., where he was to hold a rally ahead of Saturday’s Nevada caucuses. “And what I say to Mr. Putin, ‘If I am elected president, trust me you will not be interfering in American elections.’”

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, Wall Street Journal reporters protest ‘sick man’ headline in Wall Street Journal, Paul Farhi, Feb. 22, 2020. The Wall Street Journal’s China staff is urging the newspaper to apologize for a headline that prompted the Chinese government to expel three of its journalists this week.

Feb. 21

Trump Power, Payback Headlines

World News Headlines

Roger Stone Headlines

 

Reports On Trump Power, Payback

djt acquitted photo

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump set off by intelligence assertion that Russia favors him, Ellen Nakashima, Shane Harris, Josh Dawsey and Anne Gearan, Feb. 21, 2020 (print ed.). A senior U.S. intelligence official told lawmakers last week that Russia wants to see President Trump reelected, viewing his administration as more favorable to the Kremlin’s interests, according to people who were briefed on the comments.

joseph maguire 9 26 19 testimony CustomAfter learning of that analysis, which was provided to House lawmakers in a classified hearing, Trump grew angry at his acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, in the Oval Office, seeing Maguire (shown in a file photo) and his staff as disloyal for speaking to Congress about Russia’s perceived preference. The intelligence official’s analysis and Trump’s furious response ­ruined Maguire’s chances of becoming the permanent intelligence chief, according to people familiar with the matter who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter.

It was not clear what specific steps, if any, U.S. intelligence officials think Russia may have taken to help Trump, according to the individuals.

Russian FlagIn Moscow, Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, dismissed the U.S. intelligence analysis.

“These are new paranoid reports, which, to our deep regret, will continue to grow in number as the election day approaches,” Peskov said Friday. “Naturally, they have nothing to do with the truth.”

Trump announced Wednesday that he was replacing Maguire with a vocal loyalist, Richard Grenell, who is the U.S. ambassador to Germany. The shake-up at the top of the intelligence community is the latest move in a post-impeachment purge. Trump has instructed aides to identify and remove officials across the government who aren’t defending his interests, and he wants them replaced with loyalists.

Maguire, a career official who is respected by the intelligence rank and file, was considered a leading candidate to be nominated to the post of DNI, White House aides had said. But Trump’s opinion shifted last week when he heard from a Republican ally about the official’s remarks.

 ny times logoNew York Times, House Alerted to Russian Election Meddling in Briefing That Angers Trump, Adam Goldman, Julian E. Barnes, Maggie Haberman and Nicholas Fandos, Feb. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Russia is aiding President Trump in the 2020 election, intelligence officials said in a secret briefing to lawmakers. Mr. Trump, complaining that Democrats might weaponize the news, berated the outgoing acting intelligence chief for allowing the briefing to happen.

Intelligence officials warned House lawmakers last week that Russia was interfering in the 2020 campaign to try to get President Trump re-elected, five people familiar with the matter said, a disclosure to Congress that angered Mr. Trump, who complained that Democrats would use it against him.

joseph maguire headshotThe day after the Feb. 13 briefing to lawmakers, Mr. Trump berated Joseph Maguire, left, the outgoing acting director of national intelligence, for allowing it to take place, people familiar with the exchange said. Mr. Trump cited the presence in the briefing of Representative Adam B. Schiff, the California Democrat who led the impeachment proceedings against him, as a particular irritant.

During the briefing to the House Intelligence Committee, Mr. Trump’s allies challenged the conclusions, arguing that he has been tough on Russia and strengthened European security. Some intelligence officials viewed the briefing as a tactical error, saying that had the official who delivered the conclusion spoken less pointedly or left it out, they would have avoided angering the Republicans.

That intelligence official, Shelby Pierson, is an aide to Mr. Maguire who has a reputation of delivering intelligence in somewhat blunt terms. The president announced on Wednesday that he was replacing Mr. Maguire with Richard Grenell, the ambassador to Germany and long an aggressively vocal Trump supporter.

Part of the president’s anger over the intelligence briefing stemmed from the administration’s reluctance to provide sensitive information to Mr. Schiff. He has been a leading critic of Mr. Trump since 2016, doggedly investigating Russian election interference and later leading the impeachment inquiry into the president’s dealings with Ukraine.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump says he’s considering Rep. Douglas A. Collins for permanent DNI post, Ashley Parker, Feb. 21, 2020. President Trump told reporters Thursday evening that he was considering Rep. Douglas A. Collins (R-Ga.), right, as his permanent Director of National Intelligence.

doug collins o CustomThe move would not only fill a post that has not been permanently filled since Daniel Coats resigned last summer, but would help Trump and his fellow Republicans avoid what is already shaping up to be a messy intraparty fight for the Georgia Senate seat, where Collins is running against Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) in the party’s primary.

Collins is just one of several candidates he’s considering, said the president, who spoke to reporters as he flew from Colorado to Nevada as part of a four-day swing out West.

Earlier this week, Trump announced that Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, would replace Joseph Maguire as the acting intelligence director. But both Trump and Grenell have said he is not expected to become the permanent chief, a post which requires Senate confirmation.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Will Richard Grenell Destroy the Intelligence Community? Jonathan Stevenson (senior fellow at the International Institute for richard grenell CustomStrategic Studies), Feb. 21, 2020. President Trump selected an unqualified loyalist as his top spy. We know what happens next.

A crazy optimist might have hoped that the impeachment trial, gutted though it was by Senate Republicans, would chasten rather than embolden President Trump, prompting a new judiciousness in his execution of his duties. Forget about that. His naming of Richard Grenell, the ambassador to Germany, as acting director of national intelligence has completely dashed any such hopes.

Mr. Grenell, shown at right on his Twitter photo, has no experience as an intelligence officer at any level, nor has he overseen a large government bureaucracy.

He has served in government only as communications director for the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. during the George W. Bush administration, and since May 2018 as ambassador to Germany. (In the interim, he founded and ran a public affairs consultancy, advising and commenting on Fox News.)

Feb. 21

Truth Continuum, REVIEW: Ark Media and Malcolm X: Bad Acting and Half-Truths, Karl Evanzz, Feb. 21, 2020. If the truth will set us free, a lie will keep us in bondage. If you know the whole truth about something but deliberately withhold part of it, you are no better than a person who creates events out of whole cloth. An old adage is that “a half-truth is the same as a whole lie.”

Having watched the six-part Netflix series, “Who Killed Malcolm X,” I can say emphatically that the makers of this series are peddling a half-truth even though the whole truth was available to them. As such, the series is more propaganda than inquiry, more deception than honesty.

Why do I call it a half-truth? Because Ark Media had access to the complete film footage of the scene outside the Audubon Ballroom moments after three members of the Nation of Islam assassinated Malcolm X, a charismatic revolutionary who inspired tens of thousands before his death on February 21, 1965, and who inspires millions across the globe today.

They had access to the complete footage, but they only revealed half of it. They show the footage of two of the assassins––Talmadge Hayer and William Bradley––fighting with police and spectators, but they deliberately suppressed footage of the third assassin––Norman 3X Butler––wrestling his way through the crowd as the body of Malcolm X is wheeled from the Audubon to the Columbia Presbyterian Hospital across the street.

There are a host of problems with the series, but the major offenses and omissions are these:

malcolm x stamp black heritageThey minimize the role of the intelligence agencies in orchestrating the assassination. There is, for example, only one reference to the State Department’s hostility toward Malcolm X, but they don’t show a single document to substantiate it.

They fail to make a single reference to the CIA’s spying on Malcolm X while he was in Africa, and they make no mention of Benjamin H. Read, a White House official, telling CIA Director Richard Helms in the spring of 1964 that Malcolm was damaging America’s foreign policy in the Third World and should be “dealt with” the way the CIA dealt with other foreign leaders who cause problems for America. This information is in the declassified CIA documents on Malcolm X and is readily available.

Instead, the entire series is aimed at convincing viewers that Malcolm X was killed by a group of five Black Muslims from the Newark mosque who were acting independently of any leaders of the sect.

To buttress this argument, nearly all of the NOI members interviewed are from Newark. There were no interviews with members from Philadelphia, Chicago, or even Harlem, an inexcusable omission.

While there is a brief mention of a mandatory meeting of officers in the NOI’s Fruit of Islam group called by Elijah Muhammad Jr., during which he ordered them to kill Malcolm X, there is no mention that Junior added an extra incentive of $10,000 to the person who killed Malcolm.

The central premise of the series is that two of the three men convicted for murdering Malcolm X were innocent. While it succeeds in establishing the innocence of Johnson through eyewitness accounts and FBI documents, they fail to show any reliable evidence whatsoever to support Butler’s claim of innocence.

They give the false impression that Abdur-Rahman Muhammad is this brave, defiant soldier hell-bent on confronting William Bradley, the shotgun assassin of Malcolm X, but Bradley died before he could do so. This is, of course, utterly ridiculous. Rahman wrote on his blog on April 22, 2010, that he had discovered Bradley’s whereabouts.

Bradley didn’t pass until October 2018. By then, Ark Media was a full ten months into the project. If Rahman had eight years to confront Bradley, to give the impression that he didn’t locate Bradley until shortly before the latter’s death is dishonest, one of many half-truths in the series.
The Bradley confrontation hoax is one of many. Another half-truth is Rahman’s account of how he discovered Bradley’s whereabouts. He claims now that he was visiting a mosque and asked about Bradley when someone gave him Bradley’s new name, Al-Mustafa Shabazz.
This is at odds with what Rahman told me and other researchers in 2010, when he said that he was the Howard University classmate of the nephew of a prominent NOI official whose name has surfaced repeatedly in relation to the assassination. The nephew was the person who led him to Bradley.
Here are some of the key problems with the series, episode by episode. I refer to them as “acts” because the series is more theater than documentary.

Karl Evanzz is the author of several books about the Nation of Islam, including "The Judas Factor: The Plot to Kill Malcolm X" (1992) and "The Messenger: The Rise and Fall of Elijah Muhammad" (1999). He was the ghostwriter for Mark Curry’s bestseller, "Dancing with the Devil: How Puff Burned the Bad Boys of Hip Hop" (2009), and author of "The Wilma Chestnut Story" (2011).

ProPublica, Trump’s New Spy Chief Used to Work for a Foreign Politician the U.S. Accused of Corruption, Isaac Arnsdorf, Feb. 21, 2020. Richard Grenell did not disclose payments for advocacy work on behalf of a Moldovan politician whom the U.S. later accused of corruption. His own office’s policy says that could leave him vulnerable to blackmail.

President Donald Trump’s new acting intelligence director, Richard Grenell, used to do consulting work on behalf of an Eastern European oligarch who is now a fugitive and was recently barred from entering the U.S. under anti-corruption sanctions imposed last month by the State Department.

In 2016, Grenell wrote several articles defending the oligarch, a Moldovan politician named Vladimir Plahotniuc, but did not disclose that he was being paid, according to records and interviews. Grenell also did not register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which generally requires people to disclose work in the U.S. on behalf of foreign politicians.

FARA is the same law that Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and former deputy campaign manager Rick Gates were convicted of violating. (Manafort went to trial. Gates pleaded guilty.)

It’s not clear whether the articles were directly part of Grenell’s paid consulting work for Plahotniuc. Unpaid work could still require disclosures under FARA if it was directed by or primarily benefited a foreign politician, according to Matthew Sanderson, a lawyer at Caplin & Drysdale who advises people on complying with FARA. FARA contains several exemptions, such as for lawyers and businesses, Sanderson said, but none appear to apply to Grenell’s op-eds about Plahotniuc.

“There is real reason to believe that Mr. Grenell should have registered here,” Sanderson said after ProPublica described the circumstances to him. “This is exactly the type of circumstances I’d expect the Department of Justice to investigate further.”

Craig Engle, an attorney with the law firm Arent Fox, said he was responding to ProPublica’s questions on Grenell’s behalf. Engle declined to say what Grenell’s paid consulting work involved but said he did not have to register under FARA “because he was not working at the direction of a foreign power.”

“Ric was not paid to write these stories, in fact he has written hundreds of stories on his own time to express his own views,” Engle said. “But to be clear: he was not working for any individual, he was working for himself and was advocating the ideal of a pro-western political party that was emerging.”

Undisclosed work for a foreign politician would ordinarily pose a problem for anyone applying for a security clearance or a job in a U.S. intelligence agency because it could make the person susceptible to foreign influence or blackmail, according to the official policy from the office that Trump tapped Grenell to lead.

The policy specifies that among the “conditions that could raise a security concern and may be disqualifying” are:

“Failure to report or fully disclose, when required, association with a foreign person, group, government or country.”

“Substantial business, financial, or property interests in a foreign country … that could subject the individual to a heightened risk of foreign influence or exploitation or personal conflict of interest.”

“Acting to serve the interest of a foreign person, group, organization or government in any way that conflicts with U.S. national security interests.”

“That’s really easy, he should not have a clearance,” said Kel McClanahan, a Washington-area lawyer specializing in security clearances. “If he were one of my clients and just a normal [federal employee], he would almost assuredly not have a clearance.”

McClanahan said it’s unclear how Grenell could have already gotten a clearance as an ambassador. The House Oversight Committee is investigating whether the Trump administration has overruled career officials in granting security clearances to political appointees.

As Trump’s pick for acting director of national intelligence, Grenell will have access to the country’s most sensitive secrets. Grenell isn’t subject to Senate confirmation because Trump appointed him on a temporary basis.

The White House, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Grenell, who is also continuing in his current posts as ambassador to Germany and special envoy for negotiations between Kosovo and Serbia, has gained Trump’s favor with his unwavering loyalty and combative tweets. (In one instance, he attacked ProPublica in response to reporting that Vice President Mike Pence’s office had intervened in foreign aid decisions.) He raised hackles in Berlin by injecting himself into the country’s domestic politics, a departure from usual diplomatic protocol.

Grenell does not have prior experience in intelligence. He was the U.S. spokesman at the United Nations during the George W. Bush administration.

In between his turns in government, Grenell had a public affairs consulting firm called Capitol Media Partners. One of the firm’s clients, according to the financial disclosure that Grenell filed when he became an ambassador, was Arthur J. Finkelstein, the late Republican political consultant whose international clients included Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary. Grenell’s financial disclosure indicates that he received more than $5,000 from Finkelstein’s firm but does not specify how much.

According to a person familiar with the relationship, Grenell worked for Finkelstein as a media consultant for clients in Eastern Europe. That person and another individual said the client in Moldova was Plahotniuc, the country’s richest man and then a top official in its ruling political party.

ny times logoNew York Times, A White House aide accused of writing the anonymous Op-Ed is being reassigned to the Energy Department, Michael Crowley, Feb. 21, 2020 (print ed.). The White House is transferring a senior national security aide who fell under suspicion of writing an anonymous insider account of dissent within the Trump administration, the latest of several senior personnel moves stemming from questions of loyalty to President Trump.

Victoria Coates, Mr. Trump’s deputy national security adviser, will move on Monday to the Department of Energy, where she will serve as a senior adviser to Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette.

Robert C. O’Brien, the national security adviser, announced on Thursday the staff shift in a statement, saying her move was intended to “ensure the close alignment of energy policy with national security objectives.” The move was first reported by Axios.

But current and former administration officials said Ms. Coates, who managed Middle East and North Africa issues on the National Security Council, had been targeted by a whisper campaign among some pro-Trump conservatives that she was Anonymous, an official who wrote a September 2018 Op-Ed essay for The New York Times that was expanded into a book that was published last year.

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Coronavirus Updates: South Korea Reports Second Death From Virus, Staff reports, Feb. 21, 2020. The number of confirmed cases china flag Smallin the country, many connected to a single church, doubled in a day. Cases in South Korea surge as officials report a second death.

South Korea reported a surge in confirmed infections and a second death from the coronavirus on Friday.

The patient, who died on Friday, was a 54-year-old woman who had been admitted to a hospital in Cheongdo, a town in the southeastern part of the country. The first death, announced on Thursday, was of a patient at the same hospital.

Health officials confirmed 100 new cases on Friday, bringing the total to 204. Worldwide, the vast majority of cases are in China, which has more than 75,000, and Japan has more than 700, most from passengers who were aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Like an Umbrella Had Covered the Sky’: Locust Swarms Despoil Kenya, Abdi Latif Dahir, Feb. 21, 2020. At first, villagers thought the dark, dense blot in the sky was a harmless cloud. Then came the terrifying realization that the locusts had arrived. Kenya is battling its worst desert locust outbreak in 70 years, threatening the food security of millions.

Kenya is battling its worst desert locust outbreak in 70 years, and the infestation has spread through much of the eastern part of the continent and the Horn of Africa, razing pasture and croplands in Somalia and Ethiopia and sweeping into South Sudan, Djibouti, Uganda and Tanzania.

The highly mobile creatures can travel over 80 miles a day. Their swarms, which can contain as many as 80 million locust adults in each square kilometer, eat the same amount of food daily as about 35,000 people.

Officials say the infestation poses a risk to food security, undermines economic growth and, if not controlled soon, exacerbate communal conflict over grazing land.

In addition to the 12 million people already experiencing acute food shortages in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia, the locust crisis now poses a potential threat to the food security of over 20 million others, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, a U.N. agency.

“The magnitude of the problem is just so big,” said Cyril Ferrand, who leads the organization’s resilience team for eastern Africa. “The locusts are a moving target and we are racing against time.”

Roger Stone Stories

roger stone hands waving no credit from stone cold Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Roger Stone sentenced to 40 months for lying to Congress, witness tampering, Rachel Weiner, Matt Zapotosky and Tom Jackman​, Feb. 21, 2020 (printed.). Implementation of the sentence, which came amid turmoil between the Justice Department and President Trump over the penalty, will be delayed as the judge weighs Stone’s request for a new trial.

A federal judge on Thursday sentenced Roger Stone, President Trump’s longtime friend and political adviser, to serve three years and four months in prison for impeding a congressional investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

amy berman jacksonThe penalty from U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, right, comes after weeks of infighting over the politically charged case that threw the Justice Department into crisis, and it is likely not to be the final word. Even before the sentencing hearing began, Trump seemed to suggest on Twitter he might pardon Stone. With the proceedings ongoing, Trump questioned whether his ally was being treated fairly.

In a lengthy speech before imposing the penalty, Jackson seemed to take aim at Trump, saying Stone “was not prosecuted for standing up for the president; he was prosecuted for covering up for the president.” She also appeared to call out Attorney General William P. Barr, saying intervention to reduce career prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation was “unprecedented.” But she said the politics surrounding the case had not influenced her final decision.

“The truth still exists; the truth still matters,” Jackson said, echoing prosecutors’ closing arguments at trial. “Roger Stone’s insistence that it doesn’t, his belligerence, his pride in his own lies are a threat to our most fundamental institutions, to the foundations of our democracy. If it goes unpunished it will not be a victory for one party or another; everyone loses.”

She added, “The dismay and disgust at the defendant’s belligerence should transcend party.”

Trump, meanwhile, weighed in publicly from afar — again bucking Barr’s public and private warnings to stop talking about Justice Department criminal cases. In a tweet, the president compared Stone to former FBI director James B. Comey, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton. Trump has suggested that each of them should be charged.

“‘They say Roger Stone lied to Congress.’ @CNN,” Trump wrote during the hearing, tagging the news network. “OH, I see, but so did Comey (and he also leaked classified information, for which almost everyone, other than Crooked Hillary Clinton, goes to jail for a long time), and so did Andy McCabe, who also lied to the FBI! FAIRNESS?”

Overnight, Trump also hinted he couldpardon Stone, tweeting a video clip in which Fox News host Tucker Carlson said, “President Trump could end this travesty in an instant with a pardon, and there are indications tonight that he will do that.” Carlson noted a series of pardons and commutations the president granted this week.

Stone, 67, was convicted by a federal jury in November on seven counts of lying to Congress and tampering with a witness about his efforts to learn about hacked Democratic emails related to Clinton.

  • Washington Post, Analysis: Strange scenes at Roger Stone’s sentencing raise even more questions about William Barr

Related stories:

djt roger stone Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Roger Stone Is Sentenced to Over 3 Years in Prison, Sharon LaFraniere, Feb. 20, 2020. Mr. Stone, President Trump’s friend and former campaign adviser, was convicted of lying to investigators under oath and trying to block witness testimony.

Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime friend of President Trump’s, was sentenced Thursday to more than three years in prison for obstructing a congressional inquiry in a bid to protect the president.

The case against Mr. Stone, 67, who has known and advised Mr. Trump for years, had become a cause célèbre among the president’s supporters. Mr. Trump has attacked the prosecutors, the jury forewoman and the federal judge overseeing the trial, casting his former campaign adviser as the victim of a vendetta by law enforcement.

Hours after the sentencing, Mr. Trump lashed out again at the authorities for prosecuting Mr. Stone and claimed his trial was unfair, but he said he would not intervene using his clemency powers at this point.

“I’m not going to do anything in terms of the great powers bestowed on a president of the United States,” he said at an event in Las Vegas for former convicts easing back into society. “I want the process to play out. I think that’s the best thing to do because I’d love to see Roger exonerated — and I’d love to see it happen — because personally I think he was treated unfairly.”

Instead, he said he would wait to see how the case is ultimately resolved, leaving a clear impression that he would issue a pardon or commutation if he were unsatisfied. “We will watch the process and watch it very closely,” Mr. Trump said. “And at some point, I will make a determination. But Roger Stone and everybody has to be treated fairly. And this has not been a fair process. OK?”

Mr. Stone was convicted of lying to congressional investigators and trying to block the testimony of a witness who would have exposed his lies to the House Intelligence Committee. At the time, the panel was investigating whether Mr. Trump’s campaign conspired with the Russian government to influence the 2016 presidential election.

The case ignited a broader controversy as former and current government lawyers accused Mr. Barr of failing to protect the department from improper political influence from the White House. In an open letter, more than 2,000 former Justice Department employees have called for Mr. Barr to resign, claiming “interference in the fair administration of justice” by both the attorney general and the president.

In a television interview last Thursday, Mr. Barr said he had decided to recommend a more lenient punishment for Mr. Stone based on the merits of the case. He also asked the president to stop publicly opining about the department’s criminal cases, saying it was making his job “impossible.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: What Barr Did for Roger Stone Is Like Nothing I’ve Seen Before, Noah Bookbinder (executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington), Feb. 20, 2020. Has the Trump Department of Justice ever asked for a lower sentence for someone who wasn’t a presidential ally?

The sentence that Judge Amy Berman Jackson imposed on Mr. Stone, while lower than the guideline range that the career prosecutors recommended, is not unusual; in 2018, federal judges imposed sentences outside the guidelines in about a quarter of all cases nationwide. As Judge Jackson said in Thursday’s hearing, she made this decision based on her own assessment of the relevant facts, and she likely would have imposed a sentence below the guideline range irrespective of Mr. Barr’s intervention. This is exactly what the law requires.

william barr new oMr. Barr, right, and those carrying out his wishes did not really dispute the facts and the law as carefully laid out by the career prosecutors. Instead, they presented a litany of the arguments that Mr. Stone’s own lawyers had made for ignoring the guidelines and giving him lenient treatment.

So the career prosecutors made exactly the kind of recommendation prosecutors are expected to make in our system, and one that the Trump administration specifically encourages them to make. In contrast, doing what the attorney general did, calling for a sentence “far less” than that called for by the guidelines, is generally frowned upon by the Justice Department.

As a former federal corruption prosecutor and senior staffer at the United States Sentencing Commission, I can say unequivocally that what Mr. Barr and his team did was something I have never seen before. It calls into question his fitness to play a leading role in our nation’s justice system. The top prosecutor in the land must demonstrate a commitment to protecting the rule of law, not the president and his allies.

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, How conservatives learned to wield power inside Facebook, Craig Timberg, Feb. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Facebook created “Project P” — for propaganda — in the hectic weeks after the 2016 presidential election and quickly found dozens of pages that had peddled false news reports facebook logoahead of Donald Trump’s surprise victory. Nearly all were based overseas, had financial motives and displayed a clear rightward bent.

In a world of perfect neutrality, which Facebook espouses as its goal, the political tilt of the pages shouldn’t have mattered. But in a videoconference between Facebook’s Washington office and its Silicon Valley headquarters in December 2016, the company’s most senior Republican, Joel Kaplan, voiced concerns that would become familiar to those within the company.

“We can’t remove all of it because it will disproportionately affect conservatives,” said Kaplan, a former George W. Bush White House official and now the head of Facebook’s Washington office, according to people familiar with the meeting who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect professional relationships.

When another Facebook staff member pushed for the entire list to be taken down on the grounds that the accounts fueled the “fake news” that had roiled the election, Kaplan warned of the backlash from conservatives.

“They don’t believe it to be fake news,” he said, arguing for time to develop guidelines that could be defended to the company’s critics, including on the right.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosThe debate over “Project P,” which resulted in a few of the worst pages quickly being removed while most others remained on the platform, exemplified the political dynamics that have reigned within Facebook since Trump emerged as the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee to the White House in 2016. A company led mainly by Democrats in the liberal bastion of Northern California repeatedly has tilted rightward to deliver policies, hiring decisions and public gestures sought by Republicans, according to current and former employees and others who have worked closely with the company.

Trump and other party leaders have pressured Facebook by making unproven claims of bias against conservatives amid rising signs of government action on the issue, including investigations by Congress and the Justice Department. Republicans also have leveraged Facebook’s fears of alienating conservative Americans to win concessions from a company whose most widely shared news content typically includes stories from Fox News and other right-leaning sources.

These sensitivities — in conjunction with the company’s long-standing resistance to acting as “an arbiter of truth” — have affected Facebook’s responses to a range of major issues, from how to address fake news and Russian manipulation of American voters on the platform to, more recently, the advertising policies that have set the political ground rules for the 2020 election, say people privy to internal debates.

Such factors have helped shape a platform that gives politicians license to lie and that remains awash in misinformation, vulnerable to a repeat of twitter bird Custommany of the problems that marred the 2016 presidential election.

Facebook, unlike Google and Twitter, also has refused calls to restrict politicians’ access to powerful ad-targeting tools — which Trump used with particular relish four years ago — that allow messages to be tailored to individual voters, based on characteristics Facebook has gleaned over years of tracking user behavior.

ny times logoNew York Times, A $1 Billion Literary Scandal and the ‘Madoff of France,’ David Segal, Feb. 21, 2020. Accused of orchestrating a literary Ponzi scheme, Gérard Lhéritier prepares his defense as his breathtaking collection is auctioned off.

A letter from Frida Kahlo, signed and twice kissed with red lipstick, fetched just over $8,800. A page of scribbled calculations by Isaac Newton sold for about $21,000. A 1953 handwritten speech by John F. Kennedy took in $10,000.

All of the items came from a now-defunct company, Aristophil, which starting in 2002 built one of the largest collections of rare books, autographs and manuscripts in history — some 136,000 pieces in all.

The buying spree turned the company’s founder and president, a stout 71-year-old named Gérard Lhéritier, into a celebrity. He opened the stately Museum of Letters and Manuscripts in a pricey neighborhood in Paris, and surrounded himself with French luminaries. They included former presidents, authors and journalists, who crowned him the “king of manuscripts.”

Six years ago, the French authorities shut down Aristophil and arrested Mr. Lhéritier, charging him with fraud and accusing him of orchestrating what amounts to a highbrow Ponzi scheme. As he bought all those rare manuscripts and letters, he had them appraised, divided their putative value into shares and sold them as if they were stock in a corporation. Those shares were bought by 18,000 people, many of them elderly and of modest means, who collectively invested about $1 billion.

The problem has nothing to do with quality. Everything in the collection is authentic, and a large part of it is highly coveted. But the authorities say that with the help of pliant experts, Mr. Lhéritier grossly inflated the value of pieces before he sold shares in them.

#MeToo News

ny times logoe jean carroll headshotNew York Times, What Happened Between E. Jean Carroll and Elle Magazine? Katherine Rosman and Jessica Bennett, Feb. 21, 2020. Her contract was terminated early, but the fashion magazine maintains it wasn’t because of her allegations against President Trump.

Feb. 20

Trump Power, Payback

jared kushner donald trump unsourced

washington post logoWashington Post, White House assembles team of advisers to guide clemency process as Trump considers more pardons, Toluse Olorunnipa, Josh Dawsey and Neena Satija, Feb. 20, 2020 (print ed.). The group, led by President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has been meeting since late last year to discuss a revamped pardon system.

The White House is moving to take more direct control over pardons and commutations, with President Trump aiming to limit the role of the Justice Department in the clemency process as he weighs a flurry of additional pardon announcements, according to people familiar with the matter.

Trump, who granted clemency Tuesday to a group of 11 people that included several political allies and supporters, has assembled a team of advisers to recommend and vet candidates for pardons, according to several people with knowledge of the matter who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

The group, essentially an informal task force of at least a half-dozen presidential allies, has been meeting since late last year to discuss a revamped pardon system in the White House. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser (shown above left), is taking a leading role in the new clemency initiative and has supported the idea of putting the White House more directly in control of the process that in past administrations has been housed in the Justice Department, officials said.

Pam Bondi, the former Florida attorney general who served on Trump’s impeachment defense team, is also playing a significant role, vetting applications for potential pardon recipients. Kushner has personally reviewed applications with White House lawyers before presenting them to Trump for final approval, according to two senior administration officials.

washington post logoWashington Post, Against wishes of Barr, Trump fires off more tweets about Justice Department, John Wagner, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett, Feb. 20, 2020 (print ed.). The tense equilibrium between the president and the attorney general may be tested again Thursday by the sentencing of longtime Trump friend Roger Stone.

Justice Department logoPresident Trump continued to test his relationship with Attorney General William P. Barr on Wednesday by amplifying conservative allies demanding he “clean house” at the Justice Department and target those involved in the Russia investigation that once threatened his presidency.

The grievances shared by Trump in a flurry of morning tweets included claims of a “seditious conspiracy” against him, and attacks on a “criminal gang” at the FBI and the Justice Department.

william barr new oA day after it was revealed that Barr, right, told people close to Trump that he had considered quitting, the president and his attorney general seemed to reach a detente of sorts. Officials inside the Justice Department said they were watching the situation closely, mindful that a new string of tweets or comments could quickly upend the situation, but there were no indications that Barr would leave imminently. The attorney general did not mention the controversy when he spoke during an event Wednesday at FBI headquarters.

• Washington Post, Attorney for Julian Assange claims that congressman offered pardon on behalf of Trump
• Washington Post, Trump freed Alice Johnson in 2018. This week, he granted clemency to three of her friends.

ny times logoNew York Times, What Drove Trump’s Clemency Orders: Friendship, Fame and Connections, Peter Baker, J. David Goodman, Michael Rothfeld and Elizabeth Williamson, Feb. 20, 2020 (print ed.). One of the pardons that President Trump issued Tuesday came together in just hours. The process was an ad hoc scramble that bypassed formal procedures.

Early Tuesday morning, Bernard B. Kerik’s telephone rang. On the line was David Safavian, a friend and fellow former government official bernard kerik portraitwho like Mr. Kerik (shown at right) was once imprisoned for misconduct. Mr. Safavian had life-changing news.

Mr. Safavian, who had ties to the White House, said that he was putting together a letter asking President Trump to pardon Mr. Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner who pleaded guilty to tax fraud and other charges. Mr. Safavian needed names of supporters to sign the letter. By noon.

Mr. Kerik hit the phones. Shortly after 10 a.m., he reached Geraldo Rivera, the Fox News correspondent and a friend of Mr. Trump’s. Mr. Rivera, who described Mr. Kerik as “an American hero,” instantly agreed to sign the one-page letter. Mr. Kerik called Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, and when Mr. Safavian reached Mr. King around 10:30, he too agreed to sign.

At 11:57 a.m., Mr. Kerik’s phone rang again. This time it was the president.

“He said, ‘As we speak, I am signing a full presidential pardon on your behalf,’” Mr. Kerik recalled in an interview on Wednesday. “Once he started talking and I realized what we were talking about, I got emotional.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Roger Stone Is Set to Be Sentenced in Case That Has Drawn Scrutiny, Sharon LaFraniere, Feb. 20, 2020 (print ed.). The sentencing is playing out amid upheaval at the Justice Department and a virtual standoff between the president and the attorney general. Roger J. Stone Jr., the Republican political consultant who for years portrayed himself as the dirty trickster of American politics, is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday morning for obstructing a congressional inquiry in a bid to protect President Trump.

roger stoneThe case against Mr. Stone, 67, right, a longtime friend of Mr. Trump’s, has become a cause célèbre among the president’s supporters. Mr. Trump has attacked the prosecutors, the jury forewoman and the federal judge overseeing the trial, casting his former campaign adviser as the victim of a vendetta by law enforcement.

Mr. Stone was convicted in November of lying to investigators under oath and trying to block the testimony of a witness who would have exposed his lies to the House Intelligence Committee. At the time, the panel was investigating whether Mr. Trump’s campaign conspired with the Russian government to influence the 2016 presidential election.

His sentencing is playing out against an extraordinary backdrop of upheaval at the Justice Department and a virtual standoff between the president and Attorney General William P. Barr over Mr. Trump’s comments about the case.

ny times logoNew York Times, Mr. Trump has attacked the Roger Stone trial and the judge as biased. She seems unlikely to be ruffled, Sharon LaFraniere
Feb. 20, 2020. Amy Berman Jackson, right, is no stranger to working under pressure.

amy berman jacksonAs a federal prosecutor three decades ago, she was in the final hours of a momentous murder trial when prospective jurors for her next trial — an armed robbery case against three defendants — showed up in the same courthouse.

Rather than delay that case, she broke away from the murder trial long enough to pick the jury for it. Then she returned to deliver her closing argument against the murder defendant. And while those jurors weighed their verdict, she delivered her opening statement about why the armed robbery defendants should be convicted.

All before lunch.

Now a federal judge in Washington, Ms. Jackson faces another high-stakes morning on Thursday when she sentences Roger J. Stone Jr., President Trump’s longtime friend and former campaign adviser, for obstructing a congressional investigation.

Justice Department Headquarters in Washington, DC (Justice Department photo)

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Imagine That Donald Trump Has Almost No Control Over Justice, Cass R. Sunstein (professor at Harvard Law School, author and former Obama White House official), Feb. 20, 2020 (print ed.). Congress should transform the department into an independent agency untouched by the president’s whims.

In view of the intensifying controversy over the politicization of the Department of Justice under Attorney General William Barr and its potential weaponization at the hands of President Trump, it is worth reviving a proposal that has not been seriously discussed since the Watergate era: Congress should transform the Justice Department into an independent agency, legally immunized from the president’s day-to-day control.

The United States government has two kinds of agencies. Most of them are “executive.” They are essentially the president’s agents and subject to his will. This is true for the president’s cabinet, including the Departments of State, Defense, Agriculture, Commerce, Transportation — and Justice.

Other agencies are made “independent” by law. Their heads are appointed by the president, but it is generally agreed that he cannot direct them to do as he wishes or control their day-to-day operations. This is true for the Federal Reserve Board and the Federal Communications Commission. It is also true for the Federal Trade Commission, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Social Security Administration, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Labor Relations Board.

Many people think that under the Constitution, the executive branch is “unitary,” in the sense that the president must be in control of all those who carry out federal law. But since 1935, the Supreme Court has rejected this view, allowing Congress to ensure that these agencies, and many others, operate independently of the president.

Media News: Inside DC

John Solomon, Joseph diGenova and Victoria Toensing

John Solomon, longtime DC-based journalist, shown at left, with his lawyers and souces Joseph DiGenova and the latter's wife Victoria Toensing.

washington post logoWashington Post, John Solomon columns on Ukraine ripped in newspaper’s internal investigation for conflicts and distortions, Paul Farhi, Feb. 20, 2020 (print ed.). In a lengthy and damning review of former columnist John Solomon, the Hill newspaper ripped Solomon — and itself — for publishing misleading and poorly attributed articles last year that asserted corruption by Joe Biden in his dealings with Ukraine during his time as vice president.

The columns, published in early 2019, set in motion President Trump’s demand that Ukrainian officials announce an investigation of Biden and his son, Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company. Trump’s demand, and his withholding of military aid to Ukraine, led to the House’s impeachment of Trump and his subsequent acquittal in the Senate.

Trump and his allies, including his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and his son Donald Trump Jr., promoted Solomon’s Hill columns via Twitter, and Solomon made several appearances on Sean Hannity’s Fox News program to promote his conclusions, which were that Biden, then considered Trump’s top 2020 challenger, had ousted Ukraine’s top prosecutor to head off an investigation into the company that had hired his son.

That allegation has never been proved; indeed, the former Ukrainian prosecutor has recanted it.

In effect, the Hill said Solomon amplified an inaccurate and one-sided narrative about the Bidens and Ukraine that was fed to him by Giuliani, “facilitated” by businessman Lev Parnas, who was working with Giuliani at the time, and reinforced by Solomon’s own attorneys, who also represented clients embroiled in U.S.-Ukraine politics.

Igor Fruman, top left, and Lev Parnas, two Soviet-born associates of Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney at bottom of a Wall Street Journal graphic above by Laura Kammermann, appear to be deeply involved in the Ukraine scandal.Igor Fruman, top left, and Lev Parnas, two Soviet-born associates of Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney at bottom of a Wall Street Journal graphic above by Laura Kammermann, appear to be deeply involved in the Ukraine scandal.

But the Hill stopped short of retracting or apologizing for Solomon’s articles, nor did it say it shouldn’t have published them. It also didn’t characterize Solomon’s motives in presenting what appears to be a largely debunked conspiracy theory about Ukraine.

The columns were roundly criticized as distorted and inaccurate by U.S. diplomats during their testimony before the House’s impeachment hearings.

The Hill, in its review of 14 Solomon columns and related videos about Ukraine, found multiple flaws in his reporting and in the Hill’s own presentation of his work. It said it has attached editor’s notes to the columns to provide “context and/or disclosure that should have been included at the time of his writings” or to “highlight what has been learned” since Solomon’s columns were published.

“In certain columns, Solomon failed to identify important details about key Ukrainian sources, including the fact that they had been indicted or were under investigation,” said the internal investigation, which was overseen by the newspaper’s editor, Bob Cusack. “In other cases, the sources were [Solomon’s] own attorneys” — Victoria Toensing and Joseph DiGenova, who have also represented President Trump and Giuliani, who was also a key source for Solomon’s columns.

Solomon didn’t disclose this connection in his columns nor did he disclose to his editors that he shared drafts of his stories with Toensing, DiGenova and Parnas, the review noted. \

  • facebook logoWashington Post, How the right learned to wield power inside Facebook, Craig Timberg, Feb. 20, 2020. The social media giant balked at removing misinformation after the 2016 election out of concern it would alienate conservatives.

USA Today, Intelligence employee pleads guilty to leaking classified info to journalists, Savannah Behrmann, Feb. 20, 2020. Henry Kyle Frese pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court to illegally transmitting national defense information to journalists.

Frese, 31, was employed as a counterterrorism analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency from February 2018 to October 2019, and held a top-secret clearance.

“Frese violated the trust placed in him by the American people when he disclosed sensitive national security information for personal gain,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers in a statement. “He alerted our country’s adversaries to sensitive national defense information, putting the nation’s security at risk."

Federal prosecutors say he researched multiple classified intelligence reports – some of which were unrelated to his job duties – and leaked information about a foreign country's weapons systems to two journalists.

Prosecutors said that Frese, who worked as both a contractor and a full-time employee for DIA, was in a relationship with one of the journalists and sought to advance the reporter's career.

The journalist linked romantically to Frese published at least eight articles containing classified information provided by the analyst, authorities say. Prosecutors asserted that Frese compromised the contents of at least five intelligence reports.

The unauthorized disclosures happened in 2018 and 2019. Prior to that, from August 2017 to August 2018, Frese and the reporter lived together, authorities say.

#MeToo News

washington post logoWashington Post, L Brands CEO Wexner out as private equity firm takes over Victoria’s Secret, Abha Bhattarai and Rachel Siegel, Feb. 20, 2020. Leslie Wexner, right, the billionaire who turned Victoria’s Secret into a household name but who more recently has been scrutinized for his ties to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, is stepping down as chief executive of the retail giant he founded nearly 60 years ago.

Jeffrey Epstein's friend Leslie Wexner (via cropped screenshot of remarks at American Academy of AchievementParent company L Brands is ceding control of the lingerie brand to private-equity firm Sycamore Partners, the companies announced Thursday. The roughly $1.1 billion deal comes as Victoria’s Secret battles falling sales and criticism that its provocative messaging is out of touch with today’s consumer.

5 factors that led to Victoria’s Secret’s fall

Sycamore will acquire a 55 percent stake in Victoria’s Secret for about $525 million, while L Brands will retain the remaining 45 percent. According to a news release, L Brands will use the money from the deal, along with roughly $500 million in excess balance sheet cash, to cut down on debt.

Bath & Body Works, which was responsible for the vast majority of L Brands’ 2019 operating income, will become a stand-alone public company. Wexner will remain a member of the board as chairman emeritus.

“We believe the separation of Victoria’s Secret Lingerie, Victoria’s Secret Beauty and PINK into a privately held company provides the best path to restoring these businesses to their historic levels of profitability and growth,” Wexner said in a statement. “Sycamore, which has deep experience in the retail industry and a superior track record of success, will bring a fresh perspective and greater focus to the business.”

 

Feb. 19

Trump Power, Payback Headlines

WikiLeaks, Pardon, Russian Hacking

U.S. 2020 Election Headlines

World News

 

Trump Power, Payback Stories

djt acquitted photo

washington post logoWashington Post, Post-impeachment, Trump declares himself ‘chief law enforcement officer’ of America, Toluse Olorunnipa and Beth Reinhard, Feb. 19, 2020 (print ed.). Through pardons and tweets, President Trump has directly intervened in an array of criminal matters.

During his Senate impeachment trial, Democrats repeatedly asserted that President Trump is “not above the law.” But since his acquittal two weeks ago, analysts say, the president has taken a series of steps aimed at showing that, essentially, he is the law.

On Tuesday, Trump granted clemency to a clutch of political allies, circumventing the usual Justice Department process. The pardons and commutations followed Trump’s moves to punish witnesses in his impeachment trial, publicly intervene in a pending legal case to urge leniency for a friend, attack a federal judge, accuse a juror of bias and threaten to sue his own government for investigating him.

Trump defended his actions, saying he has the right to shape the country’s legal systems as he sees fit.

“I’m allowed to be totally involved,” he told reporters as he left Washington on Tuesday for a trip to California, Nevada and Arizona. “I’m actually, I guess, the chief law enforcement officer of the country. But I’ve chosen not to be involved.”

 djt justice liberty truth metoo

ny times logoNew York Times, A Complete List of Trump’s Pardons and Commutations, Derrick Bryson Taylor, Heather Murphy and Mariel Padilla, Feb. 19, 2020 (print ed.). The president granted full pardons to seven people and commutations to four others on Tuesday. Here’s who they are.

Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)President Trump pardoned seven people on Tuesday, including the “junk bond king” Michael R. Milken and Bernard B. Kerik, a former New York City police commissioner. He also commuted the sentences of Rod R. Blagojevich, a former governor of Illinois, and three others.

The Constitution gives presidents what the Supreme Court has ruled is the unlimited authority to grant pardons, which excuse or forgive a federal crime. A commutation, by contrast, makes a punishment milder without wiping out the underlying conviction. Both are forms of presidential clemency.

Here are the 11 people who benefited from the executive grants of clemency that Mr. Trump signed Tuesday.

Commutations

    • Rod R. Blagojevich
    • Tynice Nichole Hall
    • Crystal Munoz
    • Judith Negron

Pardons

    • Edward DeBartolo Jr.
    • Ariel Friedler
    • Bernard B. Kerik
    • Michael R. Milken
    • Paul Pogue
    • David Safavian
    • Angela Stanton

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Grants Clemency to 3 White-Collar Criminals and Ex-Governor, Peter Baker, Maggie Haberman and Michael D. Shear, Feb. 19, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump commuted the 14-year prison sentence of former Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois (shown at left in a 2017 photo in prison), who was rod blagojevich 2017convicted of trying to essentially sell a vacated Senate seat.

The president also pardoned Bernard Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner, the financier Michael Milken and Edward DeBartolo, a former N.F.L. owner.

“Yes, we commuted the sentence of Rod Blagojevich,” Mr. Trump told reporters just before boarding Air Force One for a four-day trip to the west coast where he is scheduled to hold three campaign rallies. “He served eight years in jail, a long time. He seems like a very nice person, don’t know him.”

Mr. Kerik, right, the former New York City police commissioner, was convicted of tax fraud and lying to the government. And he said bernard kerik portraithe had also pardoned Mr. Milken, the investment banker who was known in the 1980s as the “junk bond king” and who has fought for decades to reverse his conviction for securities fraud.

Mr. Trump commuted the former governor’s sentence on Tuesday after saying for years that he was considering intervening in Mr. Blagojevich’s case. By commuting the sentence, the president would free Mr. Blagojevich from prison without wiping out the conviction. Republicans have advised the president against it, arguing that Mr. Blagojevich’s crime epitomizes the corruption that Mr. Trump had said he wanted to tackle as president.

The president’s decision came the same day that he pardoned Edward J. DeBartolo Jr., a former owner of the San Francisco 49ers who pleaded guilty in 1998 to concealing an extortion attempt and eventually surrendered control of his team.

ed debartolo jr file CustomMr. DeBartolo, the scion of a prominent real estate development family who created one of the National Football League’s greatest dynasties, was prosecuted after agreeing to pay $400,000 in brand-new $100 bills to Edwin W. Edwards, the influential former governor of Louisiana, to secure a riverboat gambling license for his gambling consortium.

Mr. DeBartolo avoided prison but was fined $1 million and suspended for a year by the N.F.L. He later handed over the 49ers to his sister Denise DeBartolo York. His nephew Jed York currently runs the team, which made it back to the Super Bowl this year only to fall to the Kansas City Chiefs.

In conversations with advisers, Mr. Trump has also raised the prospect of commuting the sentence of Roger J. Stone Jr, his longest-serving adviser, who was convicted in November of seven felony charges, including tampering with a witness and lying under oath in order to obstruct a congressional inquiry into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 election.

Asked about a pardon for Mr. Stone on Tuesday, Mr. Trump said “I haven’t given it any thought.”

Mr. DeBartolo, often called Eddie D., controlled the franchise for 23 years, presiding over the 49ers’ golden era in the 1980s and 1990s when the team won five Super Bowl championships under coach Bill Walsh with legendary players like Joe Montana, Steve Young, Ronnie Lott and Jerry Rice. Despite his felony conviction, Mr. DeBartolo was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.

Mr. Trump made no immediate comment Tuesday on his decision but left it to his deputy press secretary, Hogan Gidley, to announce the pardon to reporters. Joining Mr. Gidley at the announcement was a host of N.F.L. legends who supported Mr. DeBartolo, including Mr. Rice, Mr. Lott, Jim Brown and Charles Haley.

“Eddie was like that 12th man that was on that football field,” Mr. Rice told reporters. “You know that this guy, you know, he wanted us to win. ed debartolo 5 super bowl wins wAnd I think he’s the main reason why we won so many Super Bowls. So today is a great day for him. I’m glad to be here and be a part of that.”

Along with Mr. Brown, Mr. DeBartolo (shown at right with SuperBowl tropies in a file photo via WikiMedia) was among the hosts of a pre-inauguration party in 2017 that honored people close to Mr. Trump at the time, including Michael D. Cohen, his personal attorney who later went to prison for campaign finance violations and tax evasion, and Omarosa Manigault Newman, a former contestant on “The Apprentice” who joined the White House staff before later being fired. Mr. Trump promoted the event on Twitter at the time.

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal judges reportedly call emergency meeting in wake of Stone case intervention, Fred Barbash, Feb. 19, 2020 (print ed.). The extraordinary move follows President Trump’s tweets about the Roger Stone case and U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson.

The head of the Federal Judges Association is taking the extraordinary step of calling an emergency meeting to address the intervention in politically sensitive cases by President Trump and Attorney General William P. Barr.

U.S. District Judge Cynthia M. Rufe, the Philadelphia-based judge who heads the voluntary association of around 1,100 life-term federal judges, told USA Today that the issue “could not wait.” The association, founded in 1982, ordinarily concerns itself with matters of judicial compensation and legislation affecting the federal judiciary.

supreme court buildingOn Sunday, more than 2,000 (updated total) former Justice Department employees released a public letter calling on Barr to resign over the Stone case.

A search of news articles since the group’s creation revealed nothing like a meeting to deal with the conduct of a president or attorney general.

Rufe, appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush, could not be reached for comment late Monday.

The action follows a week of turmoil that included the president tweeting his outrage over the length of sentence recommended by career federal prosecutors for his friend Roger Stone and the decision by Barr to withdraw that recommendation.

In between, Trump singled out the judge in the Stone case, Amy Berman Jackson of the U.S. District Court in Washington, for personal attacks, accusing her of bias and spreading a falsehood about her record.

“There are plenty of issues that we are concerned about,” Rufe said to USA Today. “We’ll talk all this through.”

Trump began disparaging federal judges who have ruled against his interests before he took office, starting with U.S. District Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel. After Curiel ruled against Trump in 2016 in a pair of lawsuits detailing predatory marketing practices at Trump University in San Diego, Trump described him as “a hater of Donald Trump,” adding that he believed the Indiana-born judge was “Mexican.”

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Commentary: Tampa mob celebrates presidential pardon, Wayne Madsen, Feb. 19, 2020. Florida's Tampa Bay wayne madesen report logomob doubtless celebrated the February 19 presidential pardon issued by impeached president Donald John Trump for Eddie DeBartolo, Jr., the heir to his father, Eddie DeBartolo, Sr.'s, Youngstown, Ohio-based DeBartolo Corporation business empire.

The empire, according to federal law enforcement, had links to mobsters Carlos Marcello, Meyer Lansky, and the Tampa-based father-son duo Santos Trafficante Sr. and Jr.

DeBartolo, Sr. was also reportedly closely tied to the Mafia families that ran the Pittsburgh and Cleveland rackets. DeBartolo, Sr. had a major presence in Florida and his banks and front companies were, according to the FBI, connected to drug money laundering.

Randy Rainbow Song Parody,

.be" target="_blank" rel="noopener">No Rules For Donald, Feb. 18, 2020 (4:38 min. video). Viewer: The line between comedic satire and grim reality just disappeared. It was a lot more fun three years ago when we were laughing at comedic satire. Now, not so much.

washington post logoWashington Post, Blagojevich declares himself ‘a freed political prisoner,’ thanks Trump, Susan Berger and John Wagner, Feb. 19, 2020. An unrepentant Rod Blagojevich expressed “everlasting gratitude” Wednesday to President Trump for commuting his 14-year prison sentence and declared himself “a freed political prisoner” as he spoke to reporters outside his home in Chicago.

“From the beginning to the end, this was persecution masquerading as prosecution,” the former Democratic governor of Illinois said of his legal ordeal, which resulted in a conviction on corruption charges in 2011 related to trying to sell President Barack Obama’s former Senate seat, among other campaign finance violations.

Blagojevich, who had been serving time in a federal correctional facility in Colorado, appeared alongside his wife and two daughters at a news conference in which he frequently dabbed his chin, explaining that he was bleeding from his first “normal” shave in about eight years.

The former Illinois governor, who had served eight years on corruption charges related to trying to sell President Barack Obama’s former Senate seat, spoke to reporters after returning home to Chicago.

“We want to express our most profound and everlasting gratitude to President Trump,” Blagojevich said, suggesting that the Republican president had nothing to gain politically by granting clemency to a Democrat.

Blagojevich, who quoted scripture and Martin Luther King Jr. at various points, described himself a “Trumpocrat” and said he would vote for Trump if he can — seemingly uncertain as to whether his ex-felon status would permit that.

Blogojevich was greeted by cheers of “Welcome home, governor!” and “love you.” A banner ran below the family’s front porch, signed by neighbors, that said, “Thank you Mr. President.” Reporters and TV cameras surrounded the house, and helicopters could be overheard on a 24-degree, sunny day.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Lindsey Graham has no idea what he’s doing, Ron Leshnower, Feb. 19, 2020. Senator Lindsey Graham appeared on Fox News on Monday night, complaining, “You’re not trying to uphold the rule of law. You’re trying to take a good man down because you hate Trump.” Graham was referring to Attorney General William Barr and using a tired, twisted defense. It’s like saying you want the police to find the people who vandalized your home because you hate them–not because they engaged in wrongdoing. The silver lining is that when sycophants like Graham resort to arguing “you’re doing this because you hate Trump,” it means they’re losing bigly.

bill palmer report logo headerLate last week, Barr claimed in an interview with ABC News that he won’t be bullied and that Trump’s tweets are making it “impossible” for him to do his job. Whether or not this was an act of staged resistance, Barr’s comments backfired. Exactly what job Barr is doing has come under increasing scrutiny as a groundswell of pushback against Barr’s mockery of justice is underway. Former U.S. Attorney and DOJ official Harry Litman chillingly described the unprecedented nature of the situation in a tweet Monday night: “This is mind-blowing. I’ve never heard of anything like it. We are in full on crisis mode.”

On Sunday, DOJ alumni published an open letter, which now bears over 2,000 signatures, calling for Barr to resign after interfering in the sentencing of Roger Stone, who was convicted in November on seven counts of witness tampering and lying to Congress. Yesterday, the Federal Judges Association, an independent group of over 1,000 jurists, revealed it is calling an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis. According to an analysis by the Washington Post of news articles since the association’s founding in 1982, there has been “nothing like a meeting to deal with the conduct of a president or attorney general.”

At Barr’s confirmation hearing a mere 13 months ago, he claimed, “Nothing could be more destructive of our system of government, of the rule of law or the Department of Justice as an institution than any toleration of political interference with the enforcement of the law.” He went on to say that Americans need to be sure that there are places in government “where the rule of law, not politics, holds sway and where they will be treated fairly based solely on the facts and the evenhanded application of the law. The Department of Justice must be that place.” Through these words and his subsequent actions, Barr has crafted a convincing case for his immediate resignation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Milken, the ‘junk bond king,’ was a key character in the ‘decade of greed,’ Reis Thebault, Feb. 19, 2020 (print ed.). Michael Milken, the “junk bond king” who was charged with insider trading in the 1980s, was granted clemency by President Trump on Tuesday, making him the latest wealthy and well-connected offender bestowed such a benediction under this administration.

michael milken CustomA key character in the “decade of greed,” Milken, right, helped create the market for high-yield securities, known as junk bonds, as an executive at the now-shuttered firm Drexel Burnham Lambert. He was at one point the highest-paid man in Wall Street history, and his rapaciousness made him an inspiration for Gordon Gekko, the villain in the 1987 film “Wall Street.”

In 1990, Milken pleaded guilty to six felony counts, including securities fraud, mail fraud and aiding in the filing of a false tax return. He was fined $600 million and sentenced to 10 years in prison at a minimum-security facility but was released after serving two years and cooperating with government investigators.

Since emerging from prison, Milken has survived prostate cancer and remade himself as a major philanthropist, contributing millions to cancer research and public health organizations. He also founded the Milken Institute, a nonprofit think tank that focuses on economic policy.

Before boarding Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews on Tuesday, Trump praised Milken, saying he has “gone around and done an incredible job for the world, with all of his research on cancer.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Charges unraveled legacy of ex-N.Y. commissioner Bernard Kerik, Michael Brice-Saddler, Feb. 19, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump on Tuesday pardoned Bernard Kerik, the once-heralded New York police commissioner whose legacy was unraveled by a bevy of allegations that landed him in prison, including tax fraud and lying to White House officials.

bernard kerik today show 11 4 13Kerik, an Army veteran, joined the New York Police Department in 1986 and was named the 40th police commissioner of New York at the turn of the millennium, working closely with then-Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. He rose to prominence and was celebrated as a hero for heading the department during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He is shown at right in a screenshot from an appearance on NBC's Today Show following his release from prison.

He was one of 11 high-profile figures to whom the president granted clemency Tuesday. Others included Edward DeBartolo Jr., the former owner of the San Francisco 49ers who pleaded guilty in 2000 to failing to report a felony, and Michael Milken, the notorious “junk bond king” charged with insider trading in the 1980s.

“Bernard Kerik courageously led the New York Police Department’s heroic response to the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001, as Commissioner of the New York Police Department,” the White House wrote in its statement Tuesday announcing Kerik’s clemency. “He embodied the strength, courage, compassion, and spirit of the people of New York and this great Nation as he served alongside first responders at the World Trade Center in the aftermath of the attack.”

His leadership during one of the nation’s darkest hours resonated with many, including President George W. Bush, who in 2004 nominated Kerik to lead the Department of Homeland Security. But within days, amid media scrutiny, Kerik withdrew his acceptance of the nomination and confessed that he had not paid taxes for a nanny whose immigration status was in question.

The admission was followed by a cascade of allegations against the well-known commissioner: chief among them that he had not reported gifts he had received as a New York City official, including from a construction company suspected of involvement in organized crime. Kerik was indicted in 2007 after pleading guilty the year before to misdemeanors centered on the allegations.

In 2009, Kerik pleaded guilty to eight felonies, including two counts of tax fraud and lying to White House officials while being considered for the homeland security position, the Associated Press reported at the time. The judge in the case, Stephen C. Robinson, sentenced Kerik to four years in federal prison — exceeding federal sentencing guidelines, which recommended 27 to 33 months — asserting that Kerik had used the aftermath of 9/11 for personal gain and later made “a conscious decision to essentially lie to the President of the United States to get a cabinet position.”

On Tuesday, the White House wrote that since his conviction, Kerik had become an advocate for criminal justice, with a focus on prisoner reentry reform. In a statement posted on Twitter on Tuesday, Kerik said there are “no words to express my appreciation and gratitude to President Trump.”

“With the exception of the birth of my children, today is one of the great days in my life,” he wrote. “Going to prison is like dying with your eyes open. Its aftermath of collateral consequences and the permanent loss of many of your civil and constitutional rights are personally devastating.”

Known now as a frequent Mar-a-Lago guest and Fox News pundit, Kerik made an appearance on the network as recently as Monday night. A senior administration official told The Washington Post that a number of people lobbied the president on Kerik’s behalf, including Giuliani, now Trump’s personal attorney, and Newsmax Media chief executive Christopher Ruddy.

Background: Washington Post, Most Trump clemency grants bypass Justice Dept. and go to well-connected offenders, Beth Reinhard and Anne Gearan, Feb. 3, 2020. Most of Trump’s grants of clemency have gone to ­well-connected offenders who had not filed petitions with the pardon office or did not meet its requirements, The Post review shows.

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr has told those close to Trump he is considering quitting over the president’s tweets about Justice Dept. investigations, Feb. 19, 2020 (print ed.). Attorney General William P. Barr has told people close to President Trump — both inside and outside the White House — that he is considering quitting over Trump’s tweets about Justice Department investigations, three administration officials said, foreshadowing a possible confrontation between the president and his attorney general over the independence of the Justice Department.

So far, Trump has defied Barr’s requests, both public and private, to keep quiet on matters of federal law enforcement. It was not immediately clear Tuesday if Barr had made his posture known directly to Trump. The administration officials said Barr seemed to be sharing his position with advisers in hopes the president would get the message that he should stop weighing in publicly on the Justice Department’s ongoing criminal investigations.

“He has his limits,” said one person familiar with Barr’s thinking, speaking on the condition of anonymity, like others, to discuss internal deliberations.

Late last week, Barr publicly warned the president in a remarkable interview with ABC News that his tweets about Justice Department cases “make it impossible for me to do my job.” Trump, White House officials said, is not entirely receptive to calls to change his behavior, and he has told those around him he is not going to stop tweeting about the Justice Department. They said Trump considers highlighting what he sees as misconduct at the FBI and Justice Department as a good political message.

Over the weekend, more than 2,000 former department employees signed a public letter urging Barr to resign over his handling of the Stone case and exhorted current department employees to report any unethical conduct to the inspector general. Jan Miller, who was the U.S. attorney for Central Illinois from 2002 until 2005 under President George W. Bush, said he signed in part to remind rank-and-file Justice Department employees that “they’re not alone.”

“I’m sure it’s a very difficult time to be a line prosecutor in the department right now,” Miller said.

Trump also reprised old attacks on the Mueller investigation.

WikiLeaks, Pardon, Russian Hacking

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Trump ‘Offered Assange Pardon’ if He Covered Up Russian Hack, Nico Hines, Feb. 19, 2020. A lawyer for Julian Assange has claimed in court that President Trump offered to pardon Assange if the WikiLeaks founder agreed to help cover up Russia’s involvement in hacking emails from the Democratic National Committee.

Assange’s lawyers said on Wednesday that former Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher offered Assange the deal in 2017, a year after emails that damaged Hillary Clinton in the presidential race had been published. WikiLeaks posted the stolen DNC emails after they were hacked by Russian operatives.

The claim that Rohrabacher acted as an emissary for the White House came during a pre-extradition hearing in London. The claim that Rohrabacher acted as an emissary for the White House came during a pre-extradition hearing in London.

Assange has argued that he should not be extradited to the U.S. because the American case against him is politically motivated. He spent almost seven years hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy in Central London claiming that he would be jailed in the U.S. if he wasn’t granted asylum. He was kicked out of the embassy last year.

His lawyers told the court that Trump’s alleged offer to pardon Assange proved that this was no ordinary criminal investigation.

Edward Fitzgerald, who was representing Assange in court, said he had evidence that a quid pro quo was put to Assange by Rohrabacher, who was known as Putin’s favorite congressman.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Julian Assange just dropped a bomb on Donald Trump’s head, Bill Palmer, Feb. 19, 2020. Donald Trump has been playing a dangerous game by dangling pardons at his own criminal co-conspirators but never coming through for them. Sure, Paul Manafort is still dutifully rotting away in solitary, and Roger Stone is hanging in there for now. But when Trump started pardoning criminals yesterday and he only included people who had paid him off, while ignoring his own co-conspirators, one of them decided to strike back.

Julian Assange, who will never taste freedom at this point and has nothing to lose, is now revealing that Donald Trump offered him a pardon in exchange for keeping quiet about Russia’s involvement in the WikiLeaks plot to hack the DNC and swing the election in Trump’s favor. We’re not inclined to take anything Assange says at face value, but his lawyers have provided specific details to the Daily Beast, including the fact that the pardon offered was relayed through Russia-loving former GOP Congressman Dana Rohrabacher. So what happens now?

By outing the fact that Donald Trump offered a pardon that never came through, Assange is giving up any hope of ever getting that pardon, because Trump pretty much can’t do it now that everything is out in the open. Perhaps Assange is looking to harm Trump’s 2020 prospects in the hope that he can cut a cooperating plea deal with the next administration. Or perhaps at this point Assange – who by all accounts is a frail and withdrawn shadow of his former self – just wants revenge.

Either way, this has to be seen as bad news for Donald Trump. There’s no possible way Julian Assange is doing this to try to secretly help Trump, because this wouldn’t be the approach he’d take at all. Trump appears to have made an enemy out of Assange by offering him a pardon and then reneging on it, and now Assange is going after him. What happens if someone like Roger Stone, who knows far more of Trump’s dirt, also concludes that no magic pardon is coming?

Media News

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Syria - Turkey's Bluff Is Called - Media Opposition Sources Run By British Intelligence, b, Feb. 19, 2020. Russia has called Turkey's bluff of a wide ranging attack on Syrian government forces. The Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan will now have to find a way out of the Idleb trap he set himself in. His excellent Syria adventure is coming to an end.

Russian FlagMeanwhile we learn that the British military intelligence ran another large dis-information campaign that brought 'Syrian voices' into the 'western' press.

Erdogan continues with his wild rhetoric over Syria.

The 'Western' media is again practicing tear jerking about these refugees in Idleb. But its reports forget to mention that al-Qaeda rules Idleb and that it prevents the people from crossing the line into Syrian government held areas:

In yet another lengthy, expensive, lavishly illustrated story about Idlib, the NYT once again failed to make any mention of the politics of what is happening in that enclave of northwestern Syria – namely, the fact that well-armed jihadist/takfiri fighters from all around the world have controlled it for the past several years, while Syria’s government forces have been battling to regain control.

In that latest article, as in all of the lengthy, one-sided tearjerkers it has published about Idlib over the past year, the NYT has no actual journalists or photographers on the ground reporting the story. It is wholly reliant instead on “stories” and footage it gathers from unverifiable sources inside the enclave – sources who notably never include any mention of the jihadi armed groups that control all aspects of life there.

Today we learn [Middle East Eye (MEE), [The British government’s covert propaganda campaign in Syria] that many of these unverifiable sources have been on the British government payroll since at least 2012.

Middle East Eye (MEE), Investigation: The British government’s covert propaganda campaign in Syria, Ian Cobain and Alice Ross, Feb. 19, 2020. Documents obtained by MEE reveal how British contractors recruited Syrian citizen journalists -- often without their knowledge -- to promote 'moderate opposition.'

united kingdom flagThe British government covertly established a network of citizen journalists across Syria during the early years of the country’s civil war in an attempt to shape perceptions of the conflict, frequently recruiting people who were unaware that they were being directed from London.

A number of leaked documents seen by Middle East Eye show how the propaganda initiative began in 2012 and gathered pace the following year, shortly after the UK parliament refused to authorise British military action in Syria.

Drawing upon British, American and Canadian funding, UK government contractors set up offices in Istanbul and Amman, where they hired members of the Syrian diaspora, who in turn recruited citizen journalists inside Syria.

These journalists, many of them young, were commissioned to produce TV footage, radio programmes, social media, posters, magazines and even children’s comics.

While many Syrians turned spontaneously to media activism from the start of the war, the documents describe the way in which the British government sought to guide some of their output, seeing citizen journalism as a way of covertly influencing Syrian audiences.

The papers also make clear that those people who were recruited were often unaware that they were part of a British propaganda initiative.
Some of those who were recruited have defended their involvement, however, saying that they were reliant on western support in their efforts to counter pro-government reporting in Syrian state media, and in Iranian and Russian-backed media.

At a time when the last opposition-held enclave in Idlib province is under assault by pro-government forces, they questioned whether western countries could have contributed more material support to moderate rebels.

Some Syrian journalists complained that western support for their work was decreasing even as it was most needed after Russia's entry into the war in 2015 tipped the balance in favour of President Bashar al-Assad.

The documents were drawn up as blueprints for the initiative by an anthropologist working in counter-terrorism at the foreign office in London. They were issued in late 2014 to a small number of communications companies that were invited to bid for three contracts to deliver the work.

One says: “The objective of the project is contribute [sic] towards positive attitudinal and behavioural change.”

This was further defined as: “Reinforcement of popular rejection of the Assad regime and extremist alternatives; promotion of the moderate values of the revolution; promotion of Syrian national identity.”

'Reinforcement of popular rejection of the Assad regime and extremist alternatives; promotion of the moderate values of the revolution; promotion of Syrian national identity'

The documents show that the over-arching aim of the citizen journalism project – and a series of interlinked British propaganda initiatives – was to promote the UK’s strategic interests in Syria and the Middle East.

These are defined in the leaked papers as “a more stable and democratic Syria that better meets the needs and aspirations of its people”, support for a political solution to the conflict, the alleviation of humanitarian suffering, and enhanced UK security.

As well as developing grassroots journalism aligned with British government values, the UK and other western governments were at the same time attempting to build civil society in areas controlled by some of Assad’s opponents, financing and training police forces and civil defence teams.

The anthropologist’s blueprint makes clear that this was being done not just to help maintain law and order and provide humanitarian assistance, but “to build confidence in a future Syria free from extremist rule”.

However, the documents acknowledge the risks to the young journalists who had unwittingly been co-opted by the British government.

“Media coverage of the project will be distinctly unwelcome due to the risks to Syrian employees and to project effectiveness that it would generate,” says one.

“The implementer is not permitted to speak publicly (to the media or at academic conferences) about their work without the explicit permission of HMG [Her Majesty’s Government]. This will be enforced by a Non Disclosure Agreement.”

A number of young Syrian citizen journalists were detained and murdered by the Islamic State (IS) group after it began capturing territory in the country in 2015.

The group frequently denounced its victims as western “spies” and some Syrian citizen journalists were pursued across the border to Turkey and killed.

Whilst many of the victims were not thought to be involved in British-sponsored projects, MEE is aware of two who were.

Feb. 18

Trump Power, Payback Headlines

Trump Power, Payback

djt roger stone Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: Here comes Donald Trump’s big pardon head-fake with Roger Stone, Bill Palmer, Feb. 18, 2020. Thus far today Donald Trump has pardoned former NYPD Commissioner Bernard Kerik, commuted the sentence of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, and pardoned former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo. There could end up being more names by the time the day is over.

So what’s Trump doing? He’s creating pardon hysteria, of course, because he’s trying to convince Roger Stone (above at left) that a pardon is magically coming for him as well.

Here’s the thing, though. Donald Trump does this same thing every time one of his co-conspirators is about to be arrested, or about go to prison. Trump knows that if he pardons some random unrelated people at just the right time, he can count on the media to opportunistically start putting the ratings-friendly narrative that pardons are magic wands and that Trump is about to pardon his co-conspirator as well.

bill palmer report logo headerThe media has spent three years trying to keep you glued to your television by inaccurately painting pardons as magic wands, and then convincing you that Trump is about to pardon everyone at any moment. The pundits always tell you that the irrelevant pardons are a “trial balloon” and that he’s “laying the groundwork” or “creating cover” for pardoning his co-conspirator. But it never, ever, ever happens – because pardons of co-conspirators are complicated and they don’t work the way they’re portrayed on cable news.

Trump played this same game with Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, and Michael Cohen when they were going down. Manafort took the bait. Cohen didn’t. Flynn still can’t make up his mind what to believe. But the bottom line is that he’s never once ever pardoned one of his co-conspirators. There’s a chance Trump could pardon Stone, who surely has even worse dirt on Trump than the others do, and could seek ugly revenge. But if it does happen, it’ll be the first time the pundits have ever been right about a Trump pardon in three years – and then only by coincidence.

If Trump pardons a co-conspirator, it’ll trigger a legal battle over the scope of pardon power, which could result in Trump being blocked from trying to pardon himself and his kids on his way out the door. Is Trump so afraid of Stone’s dirt, he’s willing to risk going to prison himself? Trump can also only pardon federal charges. Stone has a secondary residence in NYC, which was raided when he was arrested. If Stone is pardoned, New York can bring state charges against him, even if Florida won’t. So Stone’s pardon might not even keep him out of prison.

djt impeachment graphic

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Attacks Stone Prosecutors and Judge, Ignoring Barr’s Admonishment, Sharon LaFraniere, Feb. 18, 2020. President Mr. Trump continued his attacks as a judge said Roger Stone’s sentencing would go on as scheduled. The case has prompted turmoil within the Justice Department. Roger Stone’s sentencing will go on as scheduled, a judge said as she vowed to hear out concerns from the defense. The case has prompted turmoil within the Justice Department.

Mr. Trump renewed his attacks on law enforcement on Tuesday, denouncing the prosecutors and judge in the case of his longtime friend Roger J. Stone Jr. just days after Attorney General William P. Barr warned that the president’s criticisms were making it “impossible” to do his job.

Justice Department log circularUndeterred, Mr. Trump kept up his barrage on Twitter. He directly quoted a “Fox & Friends” legal analyst, Andrew Napolitano, who has insisted that the president “has every right to speak to” the attorney general about the Stone case. Mr. Trump has alleged bias by the jury forewoman and echoed calls for the judge in the case, Amy Berman Jackson, to reconsider it.

“Judge Jackson now has a request for a new trial based on the unambiguous & self outed bias of the foreperson,” Mr. Trump wrote, quoting Mr. Napolitano.

But Mr. Stone’s sentencing will go on as planned on Thursday despite last-ditch motions by his defense lawyers for a new trial, Judge Jackson said hours later on Tuesday. She said she would allow the defense to file an amended motion for a new trial, give the government a chance to respond and schedule a hearing if warranted. Defense lawyers are trying to argue that juror misconduct led to an unfair trial.

The handling of Mr. Stone’s case has generated tumult in the Justice Department after Attorney General William P. Barr scrapped the prosecution team’s sentencing recommendation in favor of a much lighter one, leading four government lawyers to withdraw from the case. Mr. Trump also attacked the initial sentencing request.

The president also again assailed the lawyers, saying that if he were not president, he would sue them. Two of the four worked for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, whose investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election led to the indictments of Mr. Stone and five other former Trump aides.

Mr. Stone, 67, was convicted in November of seven felony charges, including tampering with a witness and lying under oath in order to obstruct a congressional inquiry into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 election. Mr. Mueller’s inquiry ultimately found insufficient evidence to charge anyone associated with the campaign of conspiring with the Russians.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump raises possibility of suing those involved in prosecuting Roger Stone, John Wagner, Feb. 18, 2020. President Trump on Tuesday raised the possibility of suing those involved in prosecuting the Roger Stone case after sharing the opinion of a Fox News commentator who said it is “pretty obvious” that Stone, Trump’s longtime political confidant, should get a new trial.

Trump’s morning tweets marked his latest efforts to intervene in the case of Stone, who faces sentencing this week on charges of witness tampering and lying to Congress.

roger stoneDefense lawyers for Stone, right, demanded a new trial Friday, one day after Trump suggested that the forewoman in the federal case had “significant bias.”

Trump was referring to Tomeka Hart, a former president of the Memphis City Schools Board of Commissioners and an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Congress. Hart has identified herself as the forewoman of the jury in a Facebook post, saying she “can’t keep quiet any longer” in the wake of a Justice Department move to reduce its sentencing recommendation for Stone from the seven to nine years recommended by front-line prosecutors.

In his tweets on Tuesday, Trump quoted at length Andrew Napolitano, a former New Jersey Superior Court judge and Fox News commentator, who argued that Stone should receive a trial based on “the unambiguous & self outed bias of the foreperson of the jury.”

“Pretty obvious he should (get a new trial),” Trump quoted Napolitano as saying. “I think almost any judge in the Country would order a new trial, I’m not so sure about Judge Jackson, I don’t know.”

Napolitano was referring to U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is presiding over Stone’s case and who has drawn Trump’s ire on Twitter for her treatment of another ally of his, Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman.

In his latest tweets — which began about an hour after Napolitano appeared on “Fox & Friends” — Trump also derided prosecutors in the Stone case as “Mueller prosecutors,” a reference to those who worked for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who investigated possible coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russian in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump called that investigation “fraudulent,” adding: “If I wasn’t President, I’d be suing everyone all over the place. BUT MAYBE I STILL WILL.”

All four career prosecutors handling the case against Stone withdrew from the legal proceedings last week — and one quit his job entirely — after the Justice Department signaled it planned to undercut their sentencing recommendation. Two of those prosecutors had worked for Mueller.

Stone has been a friend and adviser to Trump since the 1980s and was a key figure in his 2016 campaign, working to discover damaging information on Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.

More than 2,000 former department employees signed a public letter over the weekend urging Attorney General William P. Barr to resign over his handling of the case and exhorted current department employees to report any unethical conduct. At Barr’s urging, the Justice Department filed an updated sentencing memo suggesting that Stone should receive less prison time.

 djt feb 7 2020 william moon white house photo

Donald Trump, with tanning make-up revealed, returns to White House from Trump white nationalist rally in North Carolina on Feb. 7, 2020 (Photo by William Moon).

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: We knew what Barr would do. Now it’s too late to stop him. Annie L. Owens, Feb. 18, 2020 (print ed.). The attorney general’s radical view of the executive branch was apparent during his Senate confirmation.

Last week, Attorney General William P. Barr overruled the Justice Department’s sentencing recommendation for President Trump’s ally Roger Stone, who was convicted of lying to Congress, after the president tweeted that the original recommendation was “horrible” and “very unfair.” Barr also ordered a review of former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s prosecution — which, like Stone’s, was initiated by former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and conducted by career Justice Department attorneys.

djt william barr doj photo march 2019These developments are the latest evidence that Barr’s loyalty to Trump threatens the Justice Department’s independence, and they have shaken the public’s faith in the rule of law.

But Barr’s attempts to politicize the Justice Department could have been stopped before they began: during his Senate confirmation. Even then, it was clear that Barr’s radical pro-executive branch worldview was contrary to Congress’s institutional interests and made Barr a dangerous pick for a president who, as Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) warned, “views the Justice Department as an extension of his political power.”

A little over a year ago, I was serving as a senior counsel on the minority staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee, helping Democrats sound the alarm about Barr’s troubling record. A former head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (an office in which I also later served), Barr had espoused an extreme view of executive power that exalted the presidency to a position of inviolability rather than treating Congress as a coequal branch.

This theory, which the Supreme Court has never endorsed, grants the president virtually unchecked authority while seriously hamstringing Congress’s ability to hold the president accountable, including its ability to guard against political interference in law enforcement.

Annie L. Owens is a Litigator with the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown University Law Center. She was previously a Senior Counsel for the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and an Attorney-Adviser in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept., in wrestling with how to handle Giuliani, tightens rules for Ukraine-related probes, Matt Zapotosky, Feb. 18, 2020. The deputy attorney general and U.S. attorney in Brooklyn must now sign off before any investigations are expanded.

The Justice Department revealed Tuesday that law enforcement officials running Ukraine-related investigations must seek approval before expanding their inquiries — a move that could have implications for Rudolph W. Giuliani, as President Trump’s personal attorney pushes for scrutiny of the president’s political foes while facing a federal probe into his own conduct.

The directive from Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen was disclosed in a response to Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) after the House Judiciary Committee chairman demanded clarity on how the Justice Department is reviewing information from Giuliani, who has urged law enforcement to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son for their dealings in Ukraine.

Assistant Attorney General Stephen E. Boyd wrote to Nadler that the department had tapped two U.S. attorneys to assist in the process — Scott Brady in Pittsburgh to receive and assess new information, and Richard Donoghue in Brooklyn to help coordinate personnel throughout the Justice Department involved in Giuliani’s case and others with a focus on Ukraine. An accompanying internal memo, circulated by Rosen in January, says that he and Donoghue must approve expansions of any inquiries.

Such a move could be viewed as putting another layer of approval in place if prosecutors wanted to widen their Giuliani probe, although Rosen wrote in his memo that the aim was to “avoid duplication of efforts.”

Taking information from Giuliani is particularly fraught for the department because the president’s personal lawyer is under investigation by federal prosecutors in Manhattan in a case that has led to campaign finance charges against two of Giuliani’s associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. The pair helped Giuliani try to conduct investigations in Ukraine and lobbied for the ouster of Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Prosecutors have in recent weeks contacted witnesses and sought to collect additional documents in that case.

Politico, Top intel office lawyer who handled Ukraine whistleblower complaint resigning, Kyle Cheney, Feb. 18, 2020. Jason Klitenic, the general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, will depart early next month.

The top lawyer for the intelligence community, whose decision to block a whistleblower's complaint about President Donald Trump and Ukraine from reaching Congress helped jumpstart the impeachment inquiry, is resigning from his post, officials confirmed.

Jason Klitenic, the general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, will depart early next month, according to an agency spokeswoman. His exit comes as the acting DNI, Joseph Maguire, nears a March 11 deadline to depart as well. Federal law prevents Maguire from serving in an acting capacity beyond that date, meaning a new director must be nominated and confirmed by then, or Trump must pick a new acting official.

Klitenic made a personal decision to return to private practice, the spokeswoman said. He became the subject of scrutiny in September when he consulted with the Justice Department and determined that a whistleblower complaint deemed "urgent" by an internal watchdog would not be provided to Congress. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) demanded access to the complaint after learning it had been blocked — and that it likely pertained to Trump or his senior advisers — and the furor that ensued led to a cascade of support for impeachment in the House.

The Trump administration's initial refusal to provide the complaint, as well as a string of media reports suggesting the complaint described wrongdoing by Trump in his posture toward Ukraine, ultimately led Speaker Nancy Pelosi to open an impeachment inquiry in late September. Within days of her decision, Maguire testified to Congress and the whistleblower complaint was released publicly. Trump also decided to release the readout of a July 25 call with Ukraine's president that became a central piece of evidence in the impeachment inquiry.

Schiff first asked the DNI for the whistleblower complaint after the agency's inspected general characterized it as an "urgent" and credible matter. Typically federal laws trigger a requirement that such complaints are forwarded to Congress. But in a Sept. 13 letter, Klitenic replied that rather than honor the inspector general's assessment, DNI consulted with the Justice Department, which overruled the inspector general and determined the complaint did not meet the threshold required to share it with lawmakers.

"Based on those consultations, we determined that the allegations did not fall within the statutory definition of an 'urgent concern' and that the statute did not require the complaint to be transmitted to the intelligence committees," Klitenic wrote on Sept. 13.

He also argued that the whistleblower had no legal right to approach Congress directly with his concerns. "We believe that it is important to apply the statute as it was written, because reading it to give a complainant a unilateral right to forward a complaint to the congressional intelligence committees would raise serious constitutional questions," Klitenic argued.

Klitenic's letter also hinted at Trump's role in the complaint, noting that it involved "confidential and potentially privileged communications by persons outside the Intelligence Community." Schiff said at the time that such a description could only apply to Trump or his top aides.

Ultra-Right Media Hoax?

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Right-Wing Activists Discussed Wiretapping Seth Rich’s Family, Three People in the Room Say, Will Sommer, Updated Feb. 18, 2020. Involved in the talks about murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich: a Fox reporter, a former intelligence contractor, and a pair of provocateurs looking to sow “targeted chaos” online.

A strange set of characters from some of the highest and lowest positions in the American right gathered one morning in September 2017 at an affluent neighborhood outside of Dallas.

One of their topics was responding to online critics of wealthy Texas businessman Ed Butowsky, who had recently been outed as a driving seth richforce behind a retracted Fox News story about murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, right.

The group that gathered at Butowsky’s home included a conspiracy theorist, a Fox reporter fighting for her career, a former private intelligence contractor married to star journalist Lara Logan, and a Democratic PR operative who lost his business in the face of sexual assault allegations. The group also included Thomas Schoenberger and Manuel “Defango” Chavez, two notorious internet provocateurs who had recently launched a self-proclaimed “elite” company that promised to use bots and sow “targeted chaos” to defend its clients online.

According to some attendees, the solutions discussed at the September get-together went to extremes. Three people who attended the gathering said the group even discussed the possibility of wiretapping and surveilling Rich’s grieving parents.

In a sworn deposition last year, Schoenberger claims Butowsky wanted to “hear a pin drop” in the Rich’s Omaha, Nebraska, kitchen.

“They wanted it to the point where they can listen to every room and hear discussions,” Schoenberger said in a sworn deposition last year about the gathering. “They literally wanted ears in every room.”

Butowsky strongly disputes Schoenberger’s wiretapping claims and The Daily Beast could find no evidence that anyone in the group actually carried out surveillance on Rich’s family. Butowsky points to Schoenberger’s criminal history—a 2011 felony stalking charge and a 2014 misdemeanor DUI—to argue that his allegations about what occurred at Butowsky’s house can’t be trusted.

“Nobody wiretapped anybody, nobody attempted to wiretap anybody, nobody discussed wiretapping anybody, and quite frankly, I don’t know what wiretapping is,” Butowsky said.

In an interview with The Daily Beast, Butowsky confirmed the list of guests at his house, although he disputed the characterization of it as a “meeting.”

“It was just like a sit-down and chat,” said Butowsky. “Nothing happened. There wasn’t like some meeting where we left with plans. It was a bunch of people explaining how reputation management worked on Twitter.”

The varied group, according to Butowsky, included Schoenberger, Chavez, outspoken Rich conspiracy theorist Matt Couch and an associate, Logan’s husband Joe Burkett, as well as Fox News reporter Malia Zimmerman, who was the author of the retracted Fox story.

“Nobody wiretapped anybody, nobody attempted to wiretap anybody, nobody discussed wiretapping anybody, and quite frankly, I don’t know what wiretapping is.”

— Ed Butowsky

They were joined by Trevor FitzGibbon, a former Democratic PR bigwig whose firm once worked with groups like MoveOn and NARAL, but collapsed in 2015 in the face of sexual harassment and assault allegations against him (FitzGibbon denied those allegations and never faced criminal charges). According to Schoenberger and Chavez, FitzGibbon teamed up with them in August 2017 to launch “Shadowbox,” their “elite” online reputation firm. Butowsky was their first client.

Media, Privacy

washington post logoWashington Post, How Ring and Nest helped normalize American surveillance — and turned us into a nation of voyeurs, Drew Harwell, Feb. 18, 2020. People who own Web-connected cameras say they’ve reshaped their awareness around what’s going on at home. But all that added vigilance has come at a surprising cost.

Margaret Cudia thought her Ring doorbell camera was “the best thing since sliced bread.” She loved watching the world pass by through her suburban New Jersey neighborhood, guarding vigilantly for suspicious strangers and porch pirates from the comfort of her phone.

She hadn’t expected the camera also might capture awkward moments closer to home, like the time it caught her daughter grabbing a beer and talking about how controlling her mother was. “I never told her about that one,” she said with a laugh.

Amazon’s Ring, Google’s Nest and other Internet-connected cameras — some selling for as little as $59 — have given Americans the tools they need to become a personal security force, and millions of people now seeing what’s happening around their home every second — what Ring calls the “new neighborhood watch.” (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

But the allure of monitoring people silently from afar has also proved more tempting than many expected. Customers who bought the cameras in hopes of not becoming victims joke that instead they’ve become voyeurs.

The Washington Post surveyed more than 50 owners of in-home and outdoor camera systems across the United States about how the recording devices had reshaped their daily lives. Most of those who responded to online solicitations about their camera use said they had bought the cameras to check on package deliveries and their pets, and many talked glowingly about what they got in return: security, entertainment, peace of mind. Some said they worried about hackers, snoops or spies.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. designates 5 major Chinese media outlets as government entities, Anna Fifield, Carol Morello and Emily Rauhala, Feb. 18, 2020. The designation means they will be treated as though they are diplomatic outposts of the Chinese government and subject to the same constraints. The move is the latest in a series of U.S. efforts to tackle China’s influence in the United States.

The State Department on Tuesday designated five Chinese media outlets as official government entities under the Foreign Missions Act, meaning they will treated as though they are diplomatic outposts of the Chinese government and subject to the same constraints.

The move is the latest in a series of U.S. efforts to tackle China’s influence in the United States. It will be sure to anger Beijing, which generally views U.S. government’s actions — from the trade war and the accusations against Huawei to criticism of its human rights record — as an effort to thwart China’s global rise.

The media outlets are the official Xinhua News Agency; China Global Television Network, known as CGTN, the international arm of state broadcaster CCTV; China Radio International; the China Daily newspaper; and Hai Tian Development, a U.S. company linked to the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China.

philip giraldiUnz Review, Opinion: Explaining Syria: It's everyone's fault except the U.S. and Israel, Philip Giraldi, right, Feb. 18, 2020. The first week in February was memorable for the failed impeachment of President Donald Trump, the “re-elect me” State of the Union address and the marketing of a new line of underwear by Kim Kardashian. Given all of the excitement, it was easy to miss a special State Department press briefing by Ambassador James Jeffrey held on February 5th regarding the current situation in Syria.

Jeffrey is the United States Special Representative for Syria Engagement and the Special Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIL. Jeffrey has had a distinguished career in government service, attaining senior level State Department positions under both Democratic and Republican presidents. He has served as U.S. Ambassador to both Turkey and Iraq. He is, generally speaking, a hardliner politically, closely aligned with Israel and regarding Iran as a hostile destabilizing force in the Middle East region. He was between 2013 and 2018 Philip Solondz distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), a think tank that is a spin-off of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). He is currently a WINEP “Outside Author” and go-to “expert.”

Professor John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt, academic dean at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, describe WINEP as “part of the core” of the Israel Lobby in the U.S. They examined the group on pages 175-6 in their groundbreaking book The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy and concluded as follows:

“Although WINEP plays down its links to Israel and claims that it provides a ‘balanced and realistic’ perspective on Middle East issues, this is not the case. In fact, WINEP is funded and run by individuals who are deeply committed to advancing Israel’s agenda … Many of its personnel are genuine scholars or experienced former officials, but they are hardly neutral observers on most Middle East issues and there is little diversity of views within WINEP’s ranks.”

In early 2018 Jeffrey co-authored a WINEP special report on Syria which urged “…the Trump administration [to] couple a no-fly/no-drive zone and a small residual ground presence in the northeast with intensified sanctions against the Assad regime’s Iranian patron. In doing so, Washington can support local efforts to stabilize the area, encourage Gulf partners to ‘put skin in the game, drive a wedge between Moscow and Tehran, and help Israel avoid all-out war.”

Note the focus on Iran and Russia as threats and the referral to Assad and his government as a “regime.” And the U.S. presence is to “help Israel.” So we have Ambassador James Jeffrey leading the charge on Syria, from an Israeli perspective that is no doubt compatible with the White House view, which explains why he has become Special Representative for Syria Engagement.

Jeffrey set the tone for his term of office shortly after being appointed by President Trump back in August 2018 when he argued that the Syrian terrorists were “. . . not terrorists, but people fighting a civil war against a brutal dictator.” Jeffrey, who must have somehow missed a lot of the head chopping and rape going on, subsequently traveled to the Middle East and stopped off in Israel to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It has been suggested that Jeffrey received his marching orders during the visit.

Two months later James Jeffrey declared that he would like to see Russia maintain a “permissive approach” to allow the Israelis to attack Iranian targets inside Syria. Regarding Iran’s possible future role in Syria he observed that “Iranians are part of the problem not part of the solution.”

What Jeffrey meant was that because Israel had been “allowed” to carry out hundreds of air attacks in Syria ostensibly directed against Iran-linked targets, the practice should be permitted to continue. Israel had suspended nearly all of its airstrikes in the wake of the shoot down of a Russian aircraft in September 2018, an incident which was caused by a deliberate Israeli maneuver that brought down the plane even though the missile that struck the aircraft was fired by Syria. Fifteen Russian servicemen were killed. Israel reportedly was deliberately using the Russian plane to mask the presence of its own attacking aircraft.

Russia responded to the incident by deploying advanced S-300 anti-aircraft systems to Syria, which can cover most of the more heavily developed areas of the country. Jeffrey was unhappy with that decision, saying “We are concerned very much about the S-300 system being deployed to Syria. The issue is at the detail level. Who will control it? what role will it play?” And he defended his own patently absurd urging that Russia, Syria’s ally, permit Israel to continue its air attacks by saying “We understand the existential interest and we support Israel” because the Israeli government has an “existential interest in blocking Iran from deploying long-range power projection systems such as surface-to-surface missiles.”

Later in November 2018 James Jeffrey was at it again, declaring that U.S. troops will not leave Syria before guaranteeing the “enduring defeated” of ISIS, but he perversely put the onus on Syria and Iran, saying that “We also think that you cannot have an enduring defeat of ISIS until you have fundamental change in the Syrian regime and fundamental change in Iran’s role in Syria, which contributed greatly to the rise of ISIS in the first place in 2013, 2014.”

As virtually no one but Jeffrey and the Israeli government actually believes that Damascus and Tehran were responsible for creating ISIS, the ambassador elaborated, blaming President Bashar al-Assad for the cycle of violence in Syria that, he claimed, allowed the development of the terrorist group in both Syria and neighboring Iraq.

He said “The Syrian regime produced ISIS. The elements of ISIS in the hundreds, probably, saw an opportunity in the total breakdown of civil society and of the upsurge of violence as the population rose up against the Assad regime, and the Assad regime, rather than try to negotiate or try to find any kind of solution, unleashed massive violence against its own population.”

Jeffrey’s formula is just another recycling of the myth that the Syrian opposition consisted of good folks who wanted to establish democracy in the country. In reality, it incorporated terrorist elements right from the beginning and groups like ISIS and the al-Qaeda affiliates rapidly assumed control of the violence. That Jeffrey should be so ignorant or blinded by his own presumptions to be unaware of that is astonishing. It is also interesting to note that he makes no mention of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, kneejerk support for Israel and the unrelenting pressure on Syria starting with the Syrian Accountability Act of 2003 and continuing with embrace of the so-called Arab Spring. Most observers believe that those actions were major contributors to the rise of ISIS.

Well, one has to conclude that James Jeffrey is possibly completely delusional. The core issue that the United States is in Syria illegally as a proxy for Israel and Saudi Arabia is not touched on, nor the criminal role in “protecting the oil fields” and stealing their production, which he mentions but does not explain. Nor the issue of the legitimate Syrian government seeking to recover its territory against groups that most everyone admits to be terrorists.

Virtually every bit of “evidence” that Jeffrey cites is either false or inflated, to include the claim of use of chemical weapons and the responsibility for the refugees. As for who actually created the terrorists, that honor goes to the United States, which accomplished that when it invaded Iraq and destroyed its government before following up by undermining Syria. And, by the way, someone should point out to Jeffrey that Russia and Iran are in Syria as allies of its legitimate government.

Ambassador James Jeffrey maintains that “Russia needs to change its policies.” That is not correct. It is the United States that must change its policies by getting out of Syria and Iraq for starters while also stopping the deference to feckless “allies” Israel and Saudi Arabia that has produced a debilitating cold war against both Iran and Russia. Another good first step to make the U.S. a “normal, decent country” would be to get rid of the advice of people like James Jeffrey.

Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., directs the Council for the National Interest, an educational foundation that seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.

Feb. 18

#MeToo Scandals

washington post logoWashington Post, Boy Scouts of America files for bankruptcy amid wave of sexual abuse allegations, Samantha Schmidt, Feb. 18, 2020. Facing a wave of lawsuits over allegations of sexual abuse, the Boy Scouts of America has filed for bankruptcy.

boy scouts logo customThe long-anticipated Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing will allow the Boy Scouts to keep operating as it reorganizes its finances and handles claims from hundreds of potential victims. It will also give alleged victims a limited amount of time to come forward before being barred indefinitely from seeking compensation.

“The BSA cares deeply about all victims of abuse and sincerely apologizes to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting. We are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programs to harm innocent children,” Roger Mosby, the president and CEO of the Boy Scouts of America, said in a statement released around 1 a.m. Tuesday. “While we know nothing can undo the tragic abuse that victims suffered, we believe the Chapter 11 process — with the proposed Trust structure — will provide equitable compensation to all victims while maintaining the BSA’s important mission.”

The filing early Tuesday punctuates a tumultuous time for the 110-year-old organization, which continues to be one of the largest youth groups in the United States.

Youth membership has declined more than 26 percent in the past decade. This dramatic drop in numbers, coupled with the loss of a key partnership with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has left the Boy Scouts struggling to find ways to remain relevant. Last year, it began accepting girls into its namesake program, setting off a recruitment war with the Girl Scouts.

Feb. 17

Trump Power, Payback Headlines

 

Trump Power, Payback Stories

djt acquitted photo

washington post logoWashington Post, More than 1,100 ex-Justice Department officials call for Barr’s resignation, Devlin Barrett, Feb. 17, 2020 (print ed.). More than 1,100 former Justice Department employees signed a public letter Sunday urging Attorney General William P. Barr to resign over his handling of the william barr new ocase of President Trump’s longtime friend Roger Stone — and exhorted current department employees to report any unethical conduct.

The letter is the latest sign of a crisis of confidence inside the department. Four prosecutors quit the Stone case last week after Barr, right, and other Justice Department leaders pushed for a softer prison recommendation for Stone, who is due to be sentenced this week.

The four prosecutors had originally recommended a prison sentence of seven to nineyears for Stone after he was convicted of lying to Congress and obstruction. The president publicly attacked that recommendation, and at Barr’s urging the Justice Department filed an updated sentencing memo suggesting Stone should receive less prison time.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s quest to rewrite history of the Russia probe, Philip Rucker, Feb. 17, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump is actively seeking to rewrite the narrative that had been meticulously documented by federal law enforcement and intelligence officials, both for immediate political gain and for history.

President Donald Trump officialThe U.S. intelligence community long ago produced evidence of Russia’s illegal interference in the 2016 presidential election to try to boost Donald Trump’s candidacy. Then the special counsel investigating the matter detailed myriad ways President Trump sought to stymie the probe. And then Robert S. Mueller III testified to Congress about Trump’s conduct — and warned of Russia’s continued interest in thwarting U.S. elections.

But it is Trump who is trying to have the last word.

Seven months after Mueller’s marathon testimony brought finality to the Russia investigation, Trump is actively seeking to rewrite the narrative that had been meticulously documented by federal law enforcement and intelligence officials, both for immediate political gain and for history.

Turbocharged by his acquittal in the Senate’s impeachment trial and confident that he has acquired the fealty of nearly every Republican in Congress, Trump is claiming vindication and exoneration not only over his conduct with Ukraine — for which the House voted to impeach him — but also from the other investigations that have dogged his presidency.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Eric Trump said the Secret Service stays free at Trump clubs. Doesn’t look like it, Editorial Board, Feb. 17, 2020 (print ed.). No one disputes that Secret Service protection is essential and expensive. But revelations about exorbitant rates that the Secret Service has been charged to protect President Trump at his private properties raise the question of what interest is being furthered. Is it the safety of the president or the bottom line of his private holdings?

secret service logoAn investigation by The Post’s David A. Fahrenthold, Jonathan O’Connell, Carol D. Leonnig and Josh Dawsey found 103 payments from January 2017 to April 2018 from the Secret Service to Trump companies, totaling more than $471,000. Among the charges were $650 per night for agents to use rooms “dozens” of times in 2017 at Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida and $17,000 a month to rent a three-bedroom cottage at Trump National Golf Club Bedminister in New Jersey for three months in 2017.

The full extent of what the Trump Organization is charging the government is not known because the Secret Service has not listed them in public databases, even though it is typically required for charges in excess of $10,000. Nor has the agency filed the required twice-yearly reports on its spending to Congress. Since 2016, it has filed just two reports and those were not complete; the lines for Bedminster and Mar-a-Lago were both left blank. Post reporters were able to provide a glimpse into the arrangements by compiling documents that came out piecemeal from public records requests of other news organizations and watchdog groups and by talking to people who have seen some receipts.

Media / Propaganda

jimmy wales facing tomorrow conference israel 2009 AP photo 09102109924 1 Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales speaks at the ‘Facing Tomorrow’ conference in Israel in 2009 (Tara Todras-Whitehill | Associated Press)

Wired, Opinion: Wikipedia Is the Last Best Place on the Internet, Richard Cooke, Feb. 17, 2020. People used to think the crowdsourced encyclopedia represented all that was wrong with the web. Now it's a beacon of so much that's right.

In its first decade of life, the website appeared in as many punch lines as headlines. The Office's Michael Scott called it “the best thing ever,” because “anyone in the world can write anything they want about any subject — so you know you are getting the best possible information.” Praising Wikipedia, by restating its mission, meant self-identifying as an idiot.

wikipedia logoThat was in 2007. Today, Wikipedia is the eighth-most-visited site in the world. The English-language version recently surpassed 6 million articles and 3.5 billion words; edits materialize at a rate of 1.8 per second. But perhaps more remarkable than Wikipedia's success is how little its reputation has changed. It was criticized as it rose, and now makes its final ascent to … muted criticism. To confess that you've just repeated a fact you learned on Wikipedia is still to admit something mildly shameful. It's as though all those questions that used to pepper think pieces in the mid-2000s — Will it work? Can it be trusted? Is it better than Encyclopedia Britannica? — are still rhetorical, when they have already been answered, time and again, in the affirmative.

Of course, muted criticism is far better than what the other giants at the top of the internet are getting these days. Pick any inflection point you like from the past several years — the Trump election, Brexit, any one of a number of data breaches, alt-right feeding frenzies, or standoffish statements to Congress — and you'll see the malign hand of platform monopolies.

Not too long ago, techno-utopianism was the ambient vibe of the elite ideas industry; now it has become the ethos that dare not speak its name. Hardly anyone can talk abstractly about freedom and connection and collaboration, the blithe watchwords of the mid-2000s, without making a mental list of the internet's more concrete negative externalities.

Yet in an era when Silicon Valley's promises look less gilded than before, Wikipedia shines by comparison. It is the only not-for-profit site in the top 10, and one of only a handful in the top 100. It does not plaster itself with advertising, intrude on privacy, or provide a breeding ground for neo-Nazi trolling. Like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, it broadcasts user-generated content. Unlike them, it makes its product de-personified, collaborative, and for the general good. More than an encyclopedia, Wikipedia has become a community, a library, a constitution, an experiment, a political manifesto—the closest thing there is to an online public square. It is one of the few remaining places that retains the faintly utopian glow of the early World Wide Web. A free encyclopedia encompassing the whole of human knowledge, written almost entirely by unpaid volunteers: Can you believe that was the one that worked?

Wikipedia is not perfect. The problems that it does have—and there are plenty of them—are discussed in great detail on Wikipedia itself, often in dedicated forums for self-critique with titles like “Why Wikipedia is not so great.” One contributor observes that “many of the articles are of poor quality.” Another worries that “consensus on Wikipedia may be a problematic form of knowledge production.” A third notes that “someone can just come and edit this very page and put in ‘pens are for cats only.’” Like the rest of the tech world, the site suffers from a gender imbalance; by recent estimates, 90 percent of its volunteer editors are men. Women and nonbinary contributors report frequent harassment from their fellow Wikipedians—trolling, doxing, hacking, death threats. The site's parent organization has repeatedly owned up to the situation and taken halting steps to redress it; several years ago, it allocated hundreds of thousands of dollars to a “community health initiative.” But in a way, the means to fix Wikipedia's shortcomings, in terms of both culture and coverage, are already in place: Witness the rise of feminist edit-athons.

Feb. 16

Trump Power, Payback Headlines

Trump Power, Payback Stories

Donald Trump, shown in a 2020 campaign hat.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s quest to rewrite history of the Russia probe, Philip Rucker, Feb. 16, 2020. President Trump is actively seeking to rewrite the narrative that had been meticulously documented by federal law enforcement and intelligence officials, both for immediate political gain and for history.

The U.S. intelligence community long ago produced evidence of Russia’s illegal interference in the 2016 presidential election to try to boost Donald Trump’s candidacy. Then the special counsel investigating the matter detailed myriad ways President Trump sought to stymie the probe. And then Robert S. Mueller III testified to Congress about Trump’s conduct — and warned of Russia’s continued interest in thwarting U.S. elections.

But it is Trump who is trying to have the last word.

Seven months after Mueller’s marathon testimony brought finality to the Russia investigation, Trump is actively seeking to rewrite the narrative that had been meticulously documented by federal law enforcement and intelligence officials, both for immediate political gain and for history.

Turbocharged by his acquittal in the Senate’s impeachment trial and confident that he has acquired the fealty of nearly every Republican in Congress, Trump is claiming vindication and exoneration not only over his conduct with Ukraine — for which the House voted to impeach him — but also from the other investigations that have dogged his presidency.

washington post logoWashington Post, Internal reviews and re-investigations feed suspicion inside Justice Dept., Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky and Josh Dawsey, Feb. 16, 2020 (print ed.). Critics are concerned that agency leaders are trying to please President Trump regarding cases in which he is personally or politically invested.

The Justice Department in the Trump era has repeatedly tasked U.S. attorneys from far-flung offices to parachute into politically explosive cases in Washington, raising concerns among current and former officials that agency leaders are trying to please the president by reviewing and reinvestigating cases in which he is personally or politically invested.

After a tumultuous week for federal law enforcement in which Attorney General William P. Barr declared he could not do his job if the president kept tweeting about criminal cases, and officials revealed they had dropped one politically charged case while adding new prosecutors to others, several current and former officials expressed alarm at what they characterized as a troubling pattern.

“The power to investigate is the power to destroy,” said Gregory A. Brower, a former U.S. attorney and former senior FBI official. The current approach to sensitive cases, he said, “gives the appearance of politics coming into play whenever the president has a perceived political enemy. . . . The ability to simply point to a pending investigation against a person can have devastating effects on that person and can have a potential political benefit to the person orchestrating the investigation.”

On Friday, prosecutors said they would no longer pursue a criminal case against Andrew McCabe, the former acting FBI director who has long been a target of Trump’s vitriol.

The decision infuriated the president, according to a senior White House official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to detail internal discussions. Trump ranted privately to associates about the announcement, telling one he’s always known McCabe was a “bad guy.”

While the president is angry over the decision not to charge McCabe with lying to investigators during a leak investigation, he is unlikely to fire Barr over the matter, people familiar with the matter said.

washington post logoWashington Post, In tweetstorm, Trump likens himself to a king, shares mayor bathroom audio, Colby Itkowitz, Feb. 16, 2020 (print ed.).  Amid a presidential tweetstorm Saturday morning, President Trump shared a passage from a two-week-old news article likening him to a vengeful king. Trump on impeachment: ‘It’s been a very unfair situation’

Trump tweeted a section of a Feb. 1 New York Times story about his impeachment in which reporter Peter Baker wrote, “Ralph Waldo Emerson seemed to foresee the lesson of the Senate Impeachment Trial of President Trump. ‘When you strike at the King, Emerson famously said, “you must kill him.’ Mr. Trump’s foes struck at him but did not take him down. A triumphant Mr.Trump emerges from the biggest test of his presidency emboldened, ready to claim exoneration, and take his case of grievance, persecution and resentment to the campaign trail.”

The actual quote from Baker’s story says “a king,” which Trump changed to “the King.” He also added his own commentary, appending “The Greatest Witch Hunt In American History!” to the end of the tweet.

The president’s tweet was part of an assortment of unrelated commentary and videos he shared before he headed to his private golf course in West Palm Beach, Fla.

He credited Fox News’s Laura Ingraham with a gripe over the Justice Department’s decision not to prosecute Andrew McCabe, the former FBI deputy director who Trump views as a political enemy for authorizing an investigation into the president’s possible obstruction of justice.

He retweeted a video of an alleged antifa member threatening physical harm to San Francisco Republican John Dennis, who is running against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

And the president shared a five-year-old video of the Republican mayor of Georgetown, Tex., accidentally leaving his microphone on when he left a public meeting to use the bathroom.

In the last example, Trump retweeted Paul Samuel, or @PaulSam27131285, of Biggleswade, England, who shared the old clip on Friday with the comment, “THIS IS HILARIOUS.”

It’s unclear whether Trump was aware that the majority of Samuel’s other tweets are dedicated to mocking the U.S. president.

“I have no doubt that @realDonaldTrump will be recorded as the most corrupt POTUS in US history,” Samuel tweeted Saturday morning with an altered image of Trump with a pig’s snout.

The original video, which went viral in 2015, showed Georgetown Mayor Dale Ross excusing himself to use the bathroom. But he forgot to turn off his microphone, broadcasting his bodily functions to the meeting. The video shows a council member in the midst of discussing infectious diseases breaking into laughter.

Trump, who has long used Twitter to communicate his thoughts and grievances, has been on a retweeting spree of late, sharing commentary from a California sex therapist, a clip from the HBO show “Curb Your Enthusiasm” parodying Trump supporters — which the president seemed to interpret as genuinely positive — and a video of jaguars lying in the sun.

Media News

elise stefanik hearing

Glens Falls Post-Star, Opinion: Stefanik letter does nothing to address the threats, Ken Tingley (Editor of The Post-Star in Glens Falls, N.Y.), Feb. 16, 2020. On Oct. 10, I sent a message to Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY, shown above in a screenshot from December's House impeachment hearings). It wasn’t a formal letter, but it was a direct message to her after she showed support for a local man who shouted threats against the newspaper at a public rally in Glens Falls.

I explained to her in the message that the threats against the newspaper had made many of the men and women who work at our newspaper – from the receptionist and obituary clerks to those in our advertising department – nervous about their safety.

I asked her to denounce the actions of this man, who was a vocal supporter of hers, and I urged her to visit the newspaper to explain to the regular workers with families why she had put them in danger.

republican elephant logoShe held a town hall meeting in Kingsbury that day, but she did not stop by the newspaper.

She did not respond to my message at all.

Until Friday of this week – Valentine’s Day—when I opened my mailbox to find a letter personally addressed to me from Elise.

“Dear Mr. Tingley” it started, but “Mr. Tingley” was crossed out and “Kenneth” was written in what appeared to be blue sharpie.

We were back on a first-name basis.

I wanted to yell out, “Call me Ken.”

Finally, Elise – I can assume I can her Elise now, right? — had seen the light. I hoped she was responding to my concerns about the safety of our newspaper staff and her ill-advised support of people who threaten us.

Those hopes were quickly dashed.

Elise wanted me to help her fight back against the radical left. She wanted me to help her save the country from Adam Schiff. And she wanted to me to pledge $50, $100, $250, $500, or even $1,000. Didn’t she just finish raising $3 million in the last three months of the year?

She wrote about taking on Nancy Pelosi and Jerry Nadler for citizens in the 21st Congressional District. I don’t recall seeing either of them at the Civic Center or walking around Lake George, but Elise says they are our enemies in upstate New York.

As I continued to read the letter, I wondered if the congresswoman was a little star struck after all the attention she had gotten from President Trump.

She explained that the Democrats fear “dedicated, articulate Republican leaders like me.”

Sounded like, she was a little full of herself.

I was hoping she might mention something about bringing us together, condemning violence and telling the truth.

At the very least, some of her most important accomplishments as our representative.

Instead, Elise sounded like she was going to war.

Then – after hitting me up for a donation to her campaign – she said this:

“Of course, we cannot count on the biased media to expose the Democrats’ horrible abuses of power, their flawed accusations, or their partisan motivations. The smug media elitists have become little more than the PR division of the Democratic Party.”

Feb. 15

Trump Power, Payback Headlines

2020 U.S. Politics

Trump Power, Payback Stories

Donald Trump, shown in a 2020 campaign hat.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump thinks the Justice Department is his personal grudge squad, Sally Yates (served as deputy attorney Sally Yatesgeneral from January 2015 to January 2017), Feb. 14, 2020. The imperative of Justice Department independence from political influence has deep roots. After the Watergate scandal, Attorney General Griffin Bell sought to reestablish Justice’s independence and ensure that the department would be “recognized by all citizens as a neutral zone, in which neither favor nor pressure nor politics is permitted to influence the administration of the law.” The nation had lost faith in the Justice Department and the rule of law, so during the Carter administration Bell instituted strict limits on communications between the White House and Justice to prevent any “outside interference in reaching professional judgment on legal matters.”

Since Bell’s tenure, attorneys general in Democratic and Republican administrations alike have issued largely similar policies to adhere to the course Bell mapped for the department to live up to its promise of impartial justice.

Until now.

While the policy is ostensibly still in effect, it is a hollow ode to bygone days. From virtually the moment he took office, President Trump has attempted to use the Justice Department as a cudgel against his enemies and as a shield for himself and his allies. He ran off Jeff Sessions after Sessions’s recusal in the Russia investigation rendered Sessions useless to protect him. The president has attempted to order up investigations of his perceived political enemies and enlist the department to protect his friends. With every blow, the wall of Justice independence has wobbled a bit more. This week, it teetered on the verge of collapse.

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr-Trump relationship facing its gravest threat yet, Matt Zapotosky, Josh Dawsey, Devlin Barrett and Spencer S. Hsu, william barr new oFeb. 15, 2020 (print ed.). Officials watched warily as the president defied the attorney general’s entreaty about tweeting and the Justice Department said it would not charge former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe.

  • Washington Post, Analysis: Another case Trump meddled in. Another unorthodox intervention from Barr
  • Washington Post, Opinion: Winter is coming for Bill Barr, Dana Milbank, Feb. 15, 2020.
  • Washington Post, Opinion How democracy dies: In full view of a public that couldn’t care less, Max Boot, Feb. 15, 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: There is no one to stop Trump now, George Conway, Feb. 15, 2020. When the subject of Attorney General William P. Barr comes up these days, it’s hard not to think of John S. McCain. Not the late senator, mind you, but the USS John S. McCain, the naval destroyer named after his father and grandfather.

It was an incident involving this ship that, as much as anything else, captures how the Trump administration — and its attorney general — operates. It explains Barr’s intervention into the criminal sentencing of Trump’s longtime friend and adviser, felon Roger Stone, and much, much more.

The McCain was docked at the Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan in May 2019, when the 7th Fleet issued a directive that had originated from conversations with the White House Military Office. The president was coming to Yokosuka on Memorial Day, and so, accordingly: “USS John McCain needs to be of sight.” So sailors were ordered to hang a tarp over the vessel’s name, and they removed any coverings that bore the words “John S. McCain."

Palmer Report, Opinion: 'Banana Republic,' Bill Palmer, right, Feb. 15, 2020. Considering how overwhelmingly corrupt Donald Trump and Bill Barr are, it’s a good thing they’re not particularly skilled at it. Sure, they’ve each been committing crimes left and bill palmerright since taking their respective offices. But Trump is limping along with a near-fatally low approval rating, and Barr just keeps finding new ways to strike out. Now they’ve succeeded in severely pissing off a judge.

By September of last year, Palmer Report and others were already pointing out that the supposed indictment of former FBI official Andrew McCabe didn’t appear to actually exist, and that Bill Barr had simply leaked a phony story to the media just to make Trump’s socks roll up and down. By November of last year it was pretty clear that this was eventually going to blow up in Barr’s face. Now that day has arrived.

bill palmer report logo headerWhen Barr’s DOJ admitted to a federal judge yesterday that there wasn’t going to be any indictment or prosecution of McCabe, the judge promptly lambasted Barr and his people over the matter. Judge Reggie Walton, a conservative by any measure, went so far as to blast them for running a “banana republic” because it was clear that Barr had been taking his marching orders in the case from Trump.

Therein lies the problem for both these guys. Donald Trump is so narcissistic, or impulsive, or just plain deranged, he can’t simply sit back and let Bill Barr do his corrupt dirty work for him. Trump has to tweet insults and threats and complaints in the direction of Barr’s targets, leaving Barr without even a sliver of deniability. Meanwhile Barr is so middling at this, the best he could come up with was to pretend McCabe had been indicted. Trump and Barr won’t stop trying their bumbling yet corrupt antics. As always, vigilance is the key to containing the damage they can do, until we can throw them out in the election.

washington post logorudy giuliani recentWashington Post, Federal prosecutors took new steps in probe related to Giuliani, say people familiar with case, Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger, Feb. 15, 2020 (print ed.). The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan contacted witnesses, even as the Justice Department vets the Trump attorney’s claims about Joe Biden.

washington post logoWashington Post, William Taylor Jr., a key impeachment witness, quietly returns home to Trump’s Washington, Greg Jaffe, Feb. 15, 2020 (print ed.). Those who testified against the president are trying to figure out their place in the Washington left behind following his acquittal.

2020 U.S. Politics

World Crisis Radio, Opinion: New Illegal Quid Pro Quo: Trump Demands New York State Halt All Legal Actions and Investigations Against Him as webster tarpley 2007the Price of Restoring Trusted Traveler/Global Entry at New York Airports, Webster G. Tarpley, right, Feb. 15, 2020. Blatant Extortion in Broad Daylight Threatens Slide into Dictatorship! Growing Support Among Democrats for Declaring the Prevention of One-Man Rule as the Overarching Theme of the Next Presidential Debate on February 19 in Las Vegas.

No Time Left for Business as Usual with Trick Questions from Corporate Anchors and Endless Regurgitation of Stump Speeches; Field Must Focus on Saving Democracy and the Rule of Law as the Business at Hand.

Democrats Must Also Dial Back Cutthroat Competition Among Leaderless Group of Candidates with Online Goons Blending with Russian Bots, and Set Up Criteria for Policies That Are Unacceptable: No More Reckless Talk of Stripping 150 Million Health Insurance Policies or Wiping Out Whole Industries in Next Decade; Historic Party Leaders Should Convene A Steering Committee to Provide Standards and Guidance.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump mocks the faith of others. His own religious practices remain opaque, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Julie Zauzmer and Josh Dawsey, Feb. 15, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump does not regularly talk about religion with many of his advisers, who said they knew little about how he views God. But evangelical pastors have described him as a “baby Christian” and said he had a moment of conversion.

Media News

mcclatchy logo

 washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The future of local newspapers just got bleaker. Here’s why we can’t let them die, Margaret Sullivan, right, Feb. 15, margaret sullivan 2015 photo2020. With McClatchy filing for bankruptcy, the business is gasping for air. But, against the odds, local newsrooms keep doing vital work.

It’s been a particularly rough couple of months for those who care about local journalism — which should be every American citizen.

Warren Buffett sold his 31 newspapers in January, a powerful vote of no confidence in their financial future. A rapacious hedge fund got its claws deeper into the Chicago Tribune chain in December, which includes the New York Daily News and the Baltimore Sun. Gannett and GateHouse, the two biggest newspaper chains, continued merging — a development almost certain to mean more staff cutbacks in already shrunken newsrooms.

And then on Thursday came more devastating news. Weighed down under enormous debt, the McClatchy newspaper chain — one of the nation’s largest newspaper publishers and owner of the Miami Herald among many others — was filing for bankruptcy protection.

washington post logoWashington Post, Hedge fund behind McClatchy bankruptcy set to take over, Jonathan O'Connell, Feb. 15, 2020 (print ed.). Chatham Asset Management will take over newspaper chain if court approves reorganization plan. Bankruptcy may have been inevitable for the newspaper chain McClatchy ever since its ill-fated decision to borrow heavily in 2006 to buy another chain, Knight Ridder, for $4.5 billion.

Shortly afterward both the national economy and the print news industry collapsed, and the latter has never recovered.

A decade of cost-cutting and efforts at growing new digital revenue wasn’t enough to change the company’s fortunes. More recent, behind-the-scenes transactions on Wall Street shaped a new path for the 163-year-old owner of the Miami Herald, the Charlotte Observer and 28 other newspapers across the country.

McClatchy’s announcement does not name who its new controlling owner would be, the hedge fund Chatham Asset Management, referring instead to Chatham as its largest secured creditor.

But details in hundreds of pages of documents associated with the filing show how Chatham used several financial transactions to exert increasing control over the company, to the point where it partnered with McClatchy on a bankruptcy plan that, if finalized and approved by the court, would hand control of the company to the hedge fund.

In a sign of possible complications to come, the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. raised concerns in a bankruptcy filing Friday about a 2018 financial transaction between Chatham and McClatchy and asked the court to investigate. The filing was first reported by McClatchy’s Washington bureau.

Chatham, which reported $4.4 billion in assets in 2019, isn’t a stranger to the news business but its reputation has not won accolades among McClatchy supporters and employees.

Chatham founder Anthony Melchiorre has been referred to as a “bare-knuckled fighter in business dealings” who “has waded deeper into contrarian bets over the years and stuck by them,” according to industry publication Pensions & Investments.

Chatham is also the controlling owner of American Media Inc., parent of the racy tabloid the National Enquirer. AMI’s chairman, David Pecker, worked with President Trump’s attorney, Michael Cohen, to bury allegations of Trump’s extramarital affairs, and the publication threatened to publish intimate photos of Amazon founder and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos.

#MeToo News

ghislaine maxwell new york post aug 2019 in and out burger la2

New York Post, Judge takes rare step to help serve elusive Ghislaine Maxwell with lawsuit, Gabrielle Fonrouge, Feb. 14, 2020. Jeffrey Epstein crony Ghislaine Maxwell (shown above) is so impossible to find that a Manhattan judge has taken the rare step of allowing her to be served with a new lawsuit — by email, according to a federal court filing Friday.

Lawyers for Epstein sex-assault-accuser Annie Farmer had griped to federal Judge Debra Freeman that they’ve been trying to find the disgraced British socialite to serve her with the complaint, filed in November, but that she’s done such a good job of hiding that they haven’t been able to get to her, court documents show.

“Plaintiff has attempted to locate and personally serve Maxwell to no avail. Her counsel has conducted extensive public records searches and located various addresses for Maxwell,” Farmer’s lawyers wrote in a Jan. 27 motion imploring Freeman to allow them to serve Maxwell using “alternate” means.

On Wednesday, Freeman granted the motion, acknowledging that Farmer has “adequately demonstrated that personal service would be impracticable” and ordered Maxwell to be served by email and through her lawyers representing her in a lawsuit involving another key Epstein accuser, Virginia Giuffre.

Farmer’s lawyers promptly emailed a copy of the summons and complaint to Maxwell’s email, as well as to the attorneys representing her in the Giuffre case.

“Ms. Maxwell, Please see the below text order granting our motion to approve alternate service on you in Farmer v. Indyke,” reads the email, which was filed to the court as evidence.

If Maxwell’s camp doesn’t respond to the suit by March 6, a default judgment will be placed against her, Freeman ruled.

Farmer’s lawyers have said they know she’s out there because she’s been “actively participating” in the defamation suit involving Giuffre, which was filed against her in the same court, and is “vigorously fighting” the release of documents in that case, the records state.

Farmer’s lawyers told The Post that they are elated to finally serve the elusive alleged abuser.

“We just don’t think she should be able to dodge the law,” said one of the lawyers, who asked not to be named.

Farmer’s suit alleges she met Maxwell and Epstein through her older sister, Maria, who’d been hired by the billionaire to purchase art for him.

Epstein began taking an interest in Annie when she was around 16 and eventually invited her to his remote New Mexico ranch, where Maxwell pressured her to get naked and then “touched intimate parts” of Farmer’s body and “groped her” under the guise of a massage, court documents allege.

Maria was also allegedly abused later on by both Epstein and Maxwell, but she is not named as a plaintiff in this suit.

Epstein died in federal lock-up in August.

Feb. 14

Trump Powers, Payback

Inside DC

U.S. Politics

 

Trump Powers, Payback

Justice Department Headquarters in Washington, DC (Justice Department photo)

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump declares ‘legal right’ to seek intervention in criminal cases, Matt Zapotosky and John Wagner, Feb. 14, 2020. President Trump bucked Attorney General William P. Barr’s public request for the president “to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases.”

donald trump twitterA day after Attorney General William P. Barr publicly warned President Trump not to tweet about the Justice Department [whose headquarters is shown above], Trump did just that, declaring that he has the “legal right” to ask his top law enforcement official to get involved in a criminal case.

In his tweet, Trump quoted Barr from a television interview Thursday in which he asserted that the president had never asked him to do anything related to a criminal case.

“This doesn’t mean that I do not have, as President, the legal right to do so, I do, but I have so far chosen not to!” Trump added in his own voice.

The public rebuke of the president by a sitting member of his Cabinet arose from a crisis of confidence at the Justice Department, which had been accused this week of buckling to an angry tweet the president issued after learning of prosecutors’ initial prison recommendation for his longtime friend, Roger Stone.

Trump has publicly and privately raged in recent months about wanting investigations of those he sees as enemies, including former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, former FBI director James B. Comey and former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe.

michael flynn djt

ny times logoNew York Times, Barr Installs Outside Prosecutor to Review Case Against Michael Flynn, Charlie Savage, Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo, Feb. 14, 2020. The scrutiny into the case against Mr. Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser (shown above at left), could trigger more claims of interference. Attorney General William Barr has also assigned prosecutors to broadly review the handling of other politically sensitive national-security cases.

william barr new oAttorney General William P. Barr, right, has assigned an outside prosecutor to scrutinize the criminal case against President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, according to people familiar with the matter.

The review is highly unusual and could trigger more accusations of political interference by top Justice Department officials into the work of career prosecutors.

Mr. Barr has also installed a handful of outside prosecutors to broadly review the handling of other politically sensitive national-security cases in the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, the people said. The team includes at least one prosecutor from the office of the United States attorney in St. Louis, Jeff Jensen, who is handling the Flynn matter, as well as prosecutors from the office of the deputy attorney general, Justice Department log circularJeffrey A. Rosen.

Over the past two weeks, the outside prosecutors have begun grilling line prosecutors in the Washington office about various cases — some public, some not — including investigative steps, prosecutorial actions and why they took them, according to the people. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive internal deliberations.

The intervention has contributed a turbulent period for the prosecutors’ office that oversees the seat of the federal government and some of the most politically sensitive investigations and cases — some involving President Trump’s friends and allies, and some his critics and adversaries.

ny times logoNew York Times, Andrew McCabe, Ex-F.B.I. Official, Will Not Be Charged in Lying Case, Adam Goldman, Feb. 14, 2020. The decision to decline to charge Mr. McCabe with lying to investigators appears to be a move to distance the Justice Department from the president.

Andrew G. McCabe, the former deputy F.B.I. director and a frequent target of President Trump, will not face charges in an investigation into whether he lied to investigators about a media leak, his defense team said on Friday.

Andrew McCabeThe decision by prosecutors in Washington ends a case that had left Mr. McCabe (shown at right in a file photo) in legal limbo for nearly two years. It also appears to be a sign that Attorney General William P. Barr wants to show that the Justice Department is independent from Mr. Trump: The notification came a day after Mr. Barr publicly challenged the president to stop attacking law enforcement officials on Twitter and said the criticisms were making his job more difficult.

The prosecutors informed Mr. McCabe’s lawyers of their decision by phone on Friday morning, the lawyers, Michael R. Bromwich and David Schertler, said in a statement.

“We said at the outset of the criminal investigation, almost two years ago, that if the facts and the law determined the result, no charges would be brought,” they said. “We are pleased that Andrew McCabe and his family can go on with their lives without this cloud hanging over them.”

The president’s relentless criticism of the Justice Department likely complicated the prosecution of Mr. McCabe. His supporters viewed the investigation as politically motivated and inextricably tainted by Mr. Trump’s relentless attacks.

The lack of charges is likely to anger Mr. Trump, who has long believed he was targeted illegally by Mr. McCabe and other former senior F.B.I. officials who opened the investigation in 2016 into whether his campaign conspired with Russia’s election interference operation.

roger stone cnn breitbart

ny times logomichelle goldberg thumbNew York Times, Opinion: The Right’s Big Lie About Roger Stone, Michelle Goldberg, right, Feb. 14, 2020. Trump allies are saying Stone (shown in a 2016 CNN screenshot) didn’t really threaten a witness. They’re wrong.

Randy Credico (below at left in a screenshot from an appearance on MSNBC) is the witness from Robert Mueller’s investigation who Roger Stone, Donald Trump’s longtime adviser, has been convicted of threatening.

A few months ago, Credico texted me, “If Stone goes to jail I’m a walking dead man.” On Thursday, after the president’s intervention to get Stone a lighter sentence convulsed the Justice Department, I spoke to Credico, a left-wing comedian and activist, and he elaborated on what randy credico ari melber screenshot Customhe’d meant. “The guy goes to prison and I’m to blame, and you’re being called a rat, you’re worried about somebody with a red hat, a MAGA hat, doing a Jack Ruby on you,” he said.

His fear has national implications, because a central question in the Stone sentencing is whether Credico truly felt endangered when Stone promised to cause him harm. Despite what the administration’s defenders say, the answer is yes.

I’ve known Credico since 2002, although not terribly well. We met when I was reporting on New York’s monstrous Rockefeller drug laws, which put people in prison for 15 years or more for low-level drug offenses. Credico introduced me to people whose lives had been destroyed by these sentences. (The campaign against the Rockefeller laws is also how Credico got to know Stone, a libertarian on drug laws.) Credico told me his father was incarcerated for a decade for cracking safes and came out a badly damaged man, sparking Credico’s lifelong hatred of prison as an institution. He texted me on Wednesday, “I would ask for leniency for Hannibal Lecter.”

All this represents a terrifying new nadir in the Trump presidency. Under Barr, the Justice Department is becoming a tool of presidential vendettas, protecting people who commit crimes on Trump’s behalf while launching investigations into his enemies, including an inquiry into years-old leaks that appears to be focused on James Comey. Barr has even set up an intake system for Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to feed dirt gathered from Ukraine to the Justice Department, all while Giuliani is himself reportedly under criminal investigation for his shady foreign activities.

It was out of a combination of anxiety and idealism that, following Stone’s conviction, Credico wrote to the judge in the case, asking that she show Stone mercy.

“I don’t want to see a guy go to prison because of me, it’s going to be on my conscience, plus it’s going to anger a lot of people out there who called me a rat,” he told me. Now, because of that letter, Credico finds himself near the center of the unfolding scandal over Donald Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr’s intervention in Stone’s sentencing. His words are being used by Trump allies to argue that the prosecutors in the Stone case went overboard. “Unfortunately, they’re exploiting it for their own agenda,” he said of his letter.

william barr hand out

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr says Trump’s tweets make it ‘impossible for me to do my job,’ Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky, Feb. 14, 2020 (print ed.). Attorney General William P. Barr (shown above in a file photo) has been under siege since an internal dispute over the prosecution of President Trump’s friend Roger Stone spilled into public view.

Attorney General William P. Barr pushed back hard Thursday against President Trump’s criticism of the Justice Department, saying, “I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody.”

In an interview with ABC News, Barr said presidential statements and tweets “about the department, about people in the department, our men and women here, about cases pending here, and about judges before whom we have cases, make it impossible for me to do my job and to assure the courts and the prosecutors and the department that we’re doing our work with integrity.”

The attorney general’s comments are almost certain to anger the president, who has heaped criticism on some current and former Justice Department officials over prosecutions and investigations involving the president’s former associates and alleged leaking by government officials. Barr said he was prepared to accept the consequences of speaking out against the president.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump’s Policy on New York’s ‘Trusted Travelers’ Is Unconstitutional, Laurence H. Tribe (right, professor of constitutional laurence tribelaw at Harvard Law School), Feb. 14, 2020. People should never be punished for things they haven’t done.

The Department of Homeland Security recently decided to bar New York residents from federal programs that allow “trusted travelers” expedited transit through airports and border checkpoints. The Trump administration is defending the decision as a rational response to New York’s enactment of a law denying federal immigration authorities free access to the state’s motor vehicle records.

In truth, the department’s decision is spiteful retaliation against people who reside in a state that declines to bend to the administration’s immigration priorities. Whatever its other virtues or vices, the decision offends constitutional norms that are neither liberal nor conservative but simply American.

New York wasted no time in filing a federal suit to block the Department of Homeland Security’s move. The state’s lawsuit raises a number of plausible process-based objections and seeks to take advantage of legal doctrines usually associated with right-leaning judges. But it misses an opportunity to frame the case more fundamentally, in terms of principles grounded in personal responsibility and a refusal to punish people for the sins of others.

New York argues that the department’s move was hasty and arbitrary and imposes unjustified and even irrational pressure on the state to cooperate with federal authorities by sharing data they say they need to protect the nation while facilitating travel.

The state’s arguments have some force, but their premises might have limited appeal to judges deferential to executive power in matters involving immigration and allegedly implicating national security. Moreover, federal courts across the ideological spectrum might well sympathize with the administration’s claim that it cannot safely administer the expedited transit programs without access to personal information uniquely available through state motor vehicle records.

ny times logoNew York Times via MSN News, Justice Dept. Is Investigating CIA Resistance to Sharing Russia Secrets, Charlie Savage, Adam Goldman and Julian E. Barnes, Feb. 14, 2020 (print ed.). The Trump administration officials investigating the government’s response to Russia’s election interference in 2016 appear to be hunting for a basis to accuse Obama-era intelligence officials of hiding evidence or manipulating analysis about Moscow’s covert operation, according to people familiar with aspects of the inquiry.

john durhamSince his election, President Trump has attacked the intelligence agencies that concluded that Russia secretly tried to help him win, fostering a narrative that they sought to delegitimize his victory. He has long promoted the investigation by John H. Durham, right, the prosecutor examining their actions, as a potential pathway to proving that a deep-state cabal conspired against him.

Questions asked by Mr. Durham, who was assigned by Attorney General William P. Barr to scrutinize the early actions of law enforcement and intelligence officials struggling to understand the scope of Russia’s scheme, suggest that Mr. Durham may have come to view with suspicion several clashes between analysts at different intelligence agencies over who could see each other’s highly sensitive secrets, the people said.

CIA LogoMr. Durham appears to be pursuing a theory that the C.I.A., under its former director John O. Brennan, had a preconceived notion about Russia or was trying to get to a particular result — and was nefariously trying to keep other agencies from seeing the full picture lest they interfere with that goal, the people said.

But officials from the F.B.I. and the National Security Agency have told Mr. Durham and his investigators that such an interpretation is wrong and based on a misunderstanding of how the intelligence community functions, the people said. National security officials are typically cautious about sharing their most delicate information, like source identities, even with other agencies inside the executive branch.

Mr. Durham’s questioning is certain to add to accusations that Mr. Trump is using the Justice Department to go after his perceived enemies, Justice Department log circularlike Mr. Brennan, who has been an outspoken critic of the president. Mr. Barr, who is overseeing the investigation, has come under attack in recent days over senior Justice Department officials’ intervention to lighten a prison sentencing recommendation by lower-level prosecutors for Mr. Trump’s longtime friend Roger J. Stone Jr.

Appearing on MSNBC’s “Hardball” on Thursday evening, Mr. Brennan was asked to respond to this article. He both dismissed Mr. Durham’s apparent line of inquiry and portrayed it as dangerous.

“It’s kind of silly,” Mr. Brennan said. “Is there a criminal investigation now on analytic judgments and the activities of C.I.A. in terms of trying to protect our national security? I’m certainly willing to talk to Mr. Durham or anybody else who has any questions about what we did during this period of 2016.”

But, Mr. Brennan added, “It clearly, I think, is another indication that Donald Trump is using the Department of Justice to go after his enemies any way he can.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: What the heck did Rudy Giuliani just do? Bill Palmer, Feb. 14, 2020. Yesterday we saw some serious developments in the Ukraine extortion scandal. Donald Trump, who is growing more recklessly stupid by the day, flat out admitted that he sent Rudy Giuliani to Ukraine to stir up trouble. Rudy then went on Fox News and insisted that he hadn’t been in Ukraine for years, before immediately turning around and admitting that he’d just been there three weeks ago.

bill palmer report logo headerEven as all of these serious developments were playing out, there was also the reality that Rudy Giuliani is really far gone at this point. How far gone? Sometime after midnight last night, he tried to do a Google search for images of Steve Bannon, but instead he accidentally tweeted his Google search.

rudy giuliani recentNot surprisingly, he ended up deleting it. If you’re wondering, Rudy did end up finding an image of Steve Bannon, and he tweeted it about twenty minutes later. The trouble: he picked a photo of Bannon sitting in front of a television turned to CNN, and the crawler across the bottom of the screen was quoting someone who had called Donald Trump “idiotic.” So good job, Rudy! Keep in mind that Trump is still relying on witless buffoons like this guy to try to carry out his schemes. It’s possible to be dangerously corrupt while also being absurdly inept at that corruption.

U.S. Politics

djt acquitted photo

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump’s authoritarian style is remaking America, Ishaan Tharoor, Feb. 14, 2020. An unleashed Trump is testing the rule of law and foundations of U.S. democracy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump allies take aim at Buttigieg’s sexuality, a possible sign of things to come, Amy B Wang and Chelsea Janes, Feb. 14, 2020 (print ed.). Rush Limbaugh’s suggestion that “America’s still not ready to elect a gay guy” could be a taste of what Pete Buttigieg will face if he is the Democratic presidential nominee.

• Washington Post, Trump fundraiser costs $580,600 per couple, the most expensive of his reelection bid

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, Crimea, Kashmir, Korea: Google redraws borders on maps depending on who’s looking, Greg Bensinger​, Feb. 14, 2020. ​ Google alters maps under political pressure and the whims of tech executives. Contract employees say a “disputed region team” addresses more prickly matters.

For more than 70 years, India and Pakistan have waged sporadic and deadly skirmishes over control of the mountainous region of Kashmir. Tens of thousands have died in the conflict, including three just this month.

google logo customBoth sides claim the Himalayan outpost as their own, but web surfers in India could be forgiven for thinking the dispute is all but settled: The borders on Google’s online maps there display Kashmir as fully under Indian control. Elsewhere, users see the region’s snaking outlines as a dotted line, acknowledging the dispute.

Google’s corporate mission is “to organize the world’s information,” but it also bends it to its will. From Argentina to the U.K. to Iran, the world’s borders look different depending on where you’re viewing them from. That’s because Google — and other online mapmakers — simply change them.

Unz Review, Investigative Commentary: NYC Taxpayers Spending Millions on Cyber Center with Controversial Ties to Israeli Intelligence, Whitney Webb, Feb. 14, 2020. Early last week, the city of New York launched — with little media scrutiny — one of two new massive cybersecurity centers that will be run by private Israeli firms with close ties to Israel’s government, the so-called “Mega Group” tied to the Jeffrey Epstein scandal and prominent pro-Israel lobby organizations operating in the United States. The centers were first announced in 2018 as was the identity of the firms who would run them: Israel-based Jerusalem Venture Partners and SOSA.

As MintPress has reported on several occasions, all three of these entities have a history of aggressively spying on the U.S. federal government and/or blackmailing top American politicians, raising concerns regarding why these companies were chosen to run the new centers in the heart of Manhattan. The news also comes as Israeli cybersecurity companies tied to Israeli military intelligence Unit 8200 were revealed to have access to the U.S. government’s most classified systems and simulating the cancellation of the upcoming 2020 presidential election.

The new cybersecurity centers are part of a new New York City public-private partnership called “CyberNYC” that is valued at over $100 million and officially aims to “spur the creation of 10,000 cybersecurity jobs and make New York City a global leader in cyber innovation.” CyberNYC is an initiative of New York City’s Economic Development Corporation.

However, the companies that will be responsible for creating those cybersecurity jobs will benefit foreign companies, namely Israeli and most of the jobs to be created will go to foreigners as well, as media reports on the partnership have quietly noted. Those reports also stated that, while the stated purpose of the centers is to create new jobs, the Israeli firms chosen to run them — Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP) and SOSA — view it as an opportunity to provide Israeli cybersecurity companies with a foothold into the American market and to see Israeli cybersecurity products adopted by both small and medium-sized American businesses, not just large corporations and government agencies.

For example, the founder of JVP and former Knesset member, Erel Margalit, told the Jerusalem Post that “the center we are setting up [in New York] will assist Israeli hi-tech companies in collaborating with customers and companies in the US and around the world.” More recently, ahead of the opening of the cybersecurity center that Margalit’s firm will manage, he told the Times of Israel that “New York is about something else, it’s about the drama of taking investors from Israel and Spain or Paris and other places and taking them to the next business level.” In other words, the companies set to benefit from these new centers will be foreign and mainly Israeli, as JVP invests the vast majority of its funds in Israeli start-ups.

#MeToo News

Ottawa Citizen, Canadian fashion mogul accused of rape, sexual trafficking in class-action lawsuit, Devika Desai, Feb. 14, 2020. Peter Nygard has been accused of luring underaged women to his Bahamas mansion under the pretence of job opportunities, only to drug and rape them

peter nygard 2017 wikimedia cropped with modelTen unidentified women have filed a class-action lawsuit accusing Canadian fashion mogul Peter Nygard, shown in a 2017 file photo via WikiMedia, of rape and sexual trafficking.

In a press release on the lawsuit released Thursday, the women state that “Nygard lured and enticed young, impressionable, and often impoverished children and women with cash payments and false promises of lucrative modelling opportunities in order to assault, rape, and sodomize them. When the victims were not swayed by promises, many were drugged to force compliance with Nygard’s sexual desires.”

Many of the women were younger than 18 at the time of the alleged assaults.

Nygard, 77, is the fashion executive, founder and chairman of Winnipeg-based Nygård International, known for making and selling women wear.

Many of the alleged incidents occurred at Nygard’s luxury Mayan-style mansion at Lyford Cay in the Bahamas, according to the release.

“After hearing these tragic stories, we were compelled to act and bring a voice to those who have been hurt for so long,” said Greg Gutzler, one of the lawyers who filed the suit. “We know many others were afraid to come forward initially and hope that this lawsuit will pave the way for them to also seek justice.

“The facts in this case represent the tip of the iceberg of an international sex trafficking ring that ends today.”

Ken Frydman, a spokesperson for Nygard, said the accusations in the class action suit were false. He added that the lawsuit was “just the latest in a 10-plus year string of attempts to try to destroy the reputation of a man through false statements” and that it stems from a dispute between Nygard and his neighbour in the Bahamas, hedge fund billionaire Louis Bacon.

“The allegations are completely false, without foundation and are vigorously denied,” Frydman told the National Post.

“Peter Nygard looks forward to fully exposing this scam and once and for all clearing his name.”

The lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, also mentions several of Nygard’s New York-based corporate entities for their role in “financing, facilitating and covering up the abuse.”

This hasn’t been the first time Nygard has been accused of sexual assault. In the 1990s, he paid to settle three sexual harassment complaints filed by former employees in Manitoba. Last November, Tribune 242, a Bahamas newspaper, published that the police were investigating six allegations of rape made against Nygard. “The complaint alleges that for years, it has been no secret that Nygard bribes Bahamian government and police officials and uses intimidation tactics to coerce silence,” reads the press release.

Feb. 13

Trump Powers, Payback

MSNBC Rachel Maddow Show, Opinion: With the rule of law failing under Trump, just diagnosing the problem isn't enough, Feb. 13, 2020 (27:52 msnbc logo Custommin. video).  Rachel Maddow looks at the importance of institutions in preserving democracy when the rule of law starts to fail, and asks what citizens should do when sounding the alarm about those failures isn't enough to stop them.

 Washington Post, Trump attacks federal judge, prosecutors in Twitter tirade defending Roger Stone

Inside DC

World News

U.S. 2020 Elections

Media News

Ohio State Sex Scandal

 

Trump Powers, Payback

washington post logoamy berman jacksonWashington Post, Trump attacks federal judge, prosecutors in Twitter tirade defending Roger Stone, Allyson Chiu, Feb. 13, 2020 (print ed.). The timing of the online attack prompted many to accuse President Trump of attempting to intimidate U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, right, and secure a more lenient sentence for his longtime confidant Roger Stone.

ny times logoNew York Times, After Stone Case, Prosecutors Say They Fear Pressure From Trump, Katie Benner, Charlie Savage, Sharon LaFraniere and Ben Protess, updated Feb. 13, 2020. Attorney General William Barr’s move to lessen a sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone, right, showed a marked change at the Justice Department. To career prosecutors, the case raised fresh fears of what is to come as the agency executes dramatic shifts in response to President Trump’s demands.

roger stoneTo career prosecutors around the country, the Stone case raised new fears of what is to come. Until now, according to conversations with more than a dozen career lawyers in some of the 93 U.S. attorney’s offices, they had watched other divisions in the Justice Department execute significant shifts in response to Mr. Trump while the work of prosecuting crimes was largely unaffected by the politics of the moment. Now career prosecutors said they worried they might face more pressure.

Justice Department logo“In essence, the leadership of the Justice Department has commandeered the sentencing in a politically sensitive criminal matter, reversing the position uniformly accepted and promoted by the career prosecutors,” said David Laufman, a partner at Wiggin and Dana and a former chief of the Justice Department’s counterintelligence and export control section.

The withdrawal of the prosecutors sent a clear signal, said Greg Brower, a former prosecutor who once headed the F.B.I.’s congressional affairs office. “They all disagreed” with how top Justice Department officials intervened, he said.

“Beyond that,” Mr. Brower said, “they likely also believed there are ethical considerations that forced their decision.”

Prosecutors across the United States, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid reprisals, said this week that they had already been wary of working on any case that might catch Mr. Trump’s attention and that the Stone episode only deepened their concern. They also said that they were worried that Mr. Barr might not support them in politically charged cases.

william barr hand out

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr says Trump’s tweets make it ‘impossible for me to do my job,’ Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky,  Attorney General William P. Barr (shown above in a file photo) has been under siege since an internal dispute over the prosecution of President Trump’s friend Roger Stone spilled into public view.

Attorney General William P. Barr pushed back hard Thursday against President Trump’s criticism of the Justice Department, saying, “I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody.”

In an interview with ABC News, Barr said presidential statements and tweets “about the department, about people in the department, our men and women here, about cases pending here, and about judges before whom we have cases, make it impossible for me to do my job and to assure the courts and the prosecutors and the department that we’re doing our work with integrity.”

The attorney general’s comments are almost certain to anger the president, who has heaped criticism on some current and former Justice Department officials over prosecutions and investigations involving the president’s former associates and alleged leaking by government officials. Barr said he was prepared to accept the consequences of speaking out against the president.

djt acquitted photo

ny times logoNew York Times, As a Post-Impeachment Trump Pushes the Limits, Republicans Say Little, Nicholas Fandos and Catie Edmondson, Feb. 13, 2020 (print ed.). After expressing confidence that Mr. Trump might be chastened by impeachment, Republican senators appear unwilling to grapple with the man who emerged.

In the week since the Republican-controlled Senate acquitted Mr. Trump of two impeachment charges, lawmakers in his party have watched as he has purged key players in the case against him, including the ambassador to the European Union and two White House National Security Council aides, and put in motion plans to banish others he considers insufficiently loyal. They have listened as he has called for one of those officials, Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, to be investigated by the Pentagon.

They have read his tweets and heard his comments heaping scorching criticism on the Justice Department for “a horrible and very unfair” attempt to put Mr. Stone in prison for seven to nine years based on a conviction for lying to Congress and trying to block witness testimony. Mr. Trump cheered on William P. Barr, the attorney general, for intervening, while castigating the federal judge overseeing the case.

And they have been forced to reckon with the fact that, far from obscuring his actions or offering innocent explanations, Mr. Trump has been open and unapologetic about his efforts to take revenge on his perceived enemies and assist those he considers loyal.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: The degradation of William Barr’s Justice Department is nearly complete, Editorial Board, Feb. 13, 2020.
Mark this as another big step in the erosion of standards at Attorney General William P. Barr’s Justice Department.

The department on Tuesday suggested a light sentence for President Trump’s old friend Roger Stone, by overturning a previously filed and tougher proposal. It did so over the strong objections of four career line prosecutors, all of whom resigned from the case; one left the department entirely.

This extraordinary intervention played out publicly after Mr. Trump tweeted his displeasure over the initial recommendation that Mr. Stone spend seven to nine years in prison for obstructing Congress and witness tampering, which was in line with the department’s sentencing guidelines.

  • Washington Post, Opinion: This is a revolting assault on the fragile rule of law, Chuck Rosenberg, Feb. 13, 2020 (print ed.).

washington post logoWashington Post, House Democrats ask Secret Service for details about its payments to Trump’s company, David A. Fahrenthold and Jonathan O'Connell, Feb. 13, 2020 (print ed.). The House Oversight committee letter follows a Washington Post report that the Secret Service had been charged up to $650 per night at Mar-a-Lago.

U.S. House logoThe House Oversight Committee on Wednesday asked the Secret Service to provide a full accounting of its payments to President Trump’s private company after The Washington Post revealed that the Secret Service had been charged as much as $650 per night for rooms at Trump clubs.

secret service logoIn a letter to the Secret Service, signed by Chair Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) and member Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), the committee asked for records of payments to Trump properties, and copies of contracts between the Secret Service and Trump clubs.

Last week, The Post reported that the Secret Service had been charged nearly $400 and as much as $650 per night for rooms at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida, and charged $17,000 a month for a cottage that agents used at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey. President Trump still owns his companies. These payments show he has an unprecedented — and largely hidden — business relationship with his own government.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s rhetoric has changed the way hundreds of kids are bullied, Hannah Natanson, John Woodrow Cox and Perry Stein, Feb. 13, 2020. President Trump’s words, those chanted by his followers at campaign rallies and even his last name have been wielded by students and school staff members to harass children more than 300 times since the start of 2016, a Washington Post review found.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-White House chief of staff John Kelly takes issue with Trump for ousting Vindman, John Wagner and Josh Dawsey, Feb. 13, 2020. Former White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, right, laid bare an array of misgivings Wednesday night about President Trump’s John Kellypolicies and actions, including his ouster of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the former National Security Council aide and impeachment witness.

Vindman, who raised concerns about a July phone call in which Trump pressed Ukraine's leader for investigations that could benefit him politically, “did exactly what we teach them to do,” Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, told an audience at the Drew University Forum lecture series in Morristown, N.J.

Over the course of 75 minutes of remarks and questions and answers, Kelly, who left the White House early last year, also defended the news media, questioned Trump’s handling of North Korea, criticized Trump for intervening in a military justice case and took issue with his descriptions of immigrants, according to accounts in the Atlantic and local news media that were confirmed by a person with knowledge of the event.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: John Kelly just validated the argument that got Trump impeached, Greg Sargent, Feb. 13, 2020. President Trump unloaded on his former chief of staff John Kelly on Thursday, claiming he couldn’t fire Kelly "fast enough” and that he was “in over his head” in the White House. Curiously, Trump also blasted Kelly by claiming that “he just can’t keep his mouth shut, which he has a legal and military obligation to do.”

It’s not clear what, precisely, Trump was referencing in bringing up Kelly’s supposed tendency to spill secrets. But it is clear that Trump was enraged because of this piece in the Atlantic, which reported on a talk that Kelly gave, in which he vividly demonstrated why Trump is unfit for the presidency.

In that talk, Kelly criticized Trump’s hate-rhetoric about immigrants and his handling of North Korea. Most importantly, he defended Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the former National Security Council official who powerfully testified against Trump’s corrupt call pressuring Ukraine to do his political bidding, as part of his extortion scheme. Trump has since ousted Vindman as punishment.

There’s been a lot of chatter about this Kelly episode, yet it seems to have largely avoided the most important point: Trump’s former chief of staff fully validated the case against Trump that got him impeached, in a way that has real significance, coming from someone who worked alongside Trump inside the White House for nearly two years.

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate passes measure limiting Trump’s actions against Iran without Congress’s approval, Karoun Demirjian​, Feb. 13, 2020. A bipartisan Senate majority voted to pass a resolution Thursday limiting President Trump from ordering future strikes against Iran without first seeking Congress’s explicit permission, in a pointed rebuke of his administration’s resistance to involving the legislative branch in foreign policy decisions many fear could lead to all-out war.

us senate logoEight Republicans joined all Democrats in voting 55 to 45 for the measure from Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), which invokes the War Powers Act to block Trump from engaging in hostilities without consulting Congress except in cases where self-defense is required against a clear, imminent attack.

Trump is expected to veto the measure, which he warned Wednesday on Twitter would “show weakness” and “sends a very bad signal.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: New York Attorney General Tish James just slam dunked Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Feb. 13, 2020. This morning Donald Trump flat out admitted on Twitter that he was meeting with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo today, in an attempt at forcing the state to back off its pursuit of him in his various criminal scandals. As the day went on, multiple major media outlets reported that Trump offered to let New York remain in the Global Entry program if it dropped its legal cases against him.

bill palmer report logo headerNot only is this an outrage, it’s a felony. It’s precisely the kind of quid pro quo that Donald Trump attempted in his Ukraine scandal. This kind of corrupt behavior is nothing new from Trump, but he’s no longer trying to even give himself any cover or deniability. Of course Trump is as stupid and clueless about these things as ever, because he was ringing the wrong bell.

letitia james public advocateNew York Attorney General Tish James, right, tweeted this in response: “When you stop violating the rights and liberties of all New Yorkers, we will stand down. Until then, we have a duty and responsibility to defend the Constitution and the rule of law. BTW, I file the lawsuits, not the Governor.” That’s right, because Donald Trump doesn’t bother to do his homework, he doesn’t even know that the New York Attorney General is elected independently of the Governor, and that she’s not in any way under the Governor’s influence when it comes to these kinds of legal pursuits.

Donald Trump is also surely worried about the widely documented New York grand jury that’s spent the past several months targeting Donald Trump for indictment on state level charges. This grand jury has subpoenaed Trump’s financial records and is a confirmed plaintiff in the court battles over those records. Trump will be indicted in New York at some point, and if he loses in November, he will be arrested and placed on criminal trial. No wonder he’s panicked about what the state is doing to him.

washington post logoWashington Post, Court orders Pentagon to halt work on Microsoft’s JEDI cloud contract after Amazon protests, Aaron Gregg​, Feb. 13, 2020. Defense Department lawyers had planned to "go live" with the long-awaited cloud computing network on Friday. But the court order will force it to halt work.

amazon logo smallA federal judge has ordered the Pentagon to halt work on the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud computing network, known as JEDI, as it considers allegations that President Trump improperly interfered in the bidding process. The order comes just one day before the Defense Department had planned to “go live” with JEDI.

The JEDI contract, worth up to $10 billion over 10 years, was awarded to Microsoft in late October after a last-minute intervention from the White House prompted Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper to reexamine the department’s approach. The contract is meant to create a powerful, centralized computing system for U.S. military agencies.

microsoft logo CustomAmazon’s market-leading cloud computing division is suing the Defense Department in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, arguing the president’s involvement skewed the playing field in its rival’s favor. The company alleges the Defense Department made numerous errors as it weighed bids from Amazon and Microsoft. And it accused Trump of launching “repeated public and behind-the-scenes attacks” against Amazon to act on a grudge against the company’s founder, Jeff Bezos. (Bezos also owns The Washington Post.)

Media News

mcclatchy logo

washington post logoWashington Post, McClatchy, one of the nation’s largest newspaper publishers, files for bankruptcy, Taylor Telford and Thomas Heath, Feb. 13, 2020. McClatchy Co., one of the nation’s largest newspaper publishers, filed for bankruptcy protection Thursday, another harbinger of America’s deepening local news crisis.

The Chapter 11 filing will allow the Sacramento-based company to keep its 30 newspapers afloat while it reorganizes more than $700 million in debt, 60 percent of which would be eliminated under the plan. If the court approves, it would also hand control of the 163-year-old family publisher to a hedge fund, Chatham Asset Management, its largest creditor.

The filing foreshadows further cost-cutting and retrenchment for one of the biggest players in local journalism at a time when most American newsrooms already are straining to cover their communities. About 20 percent of all U.S. newspapers have closed since 2004, according to a recent report from PEN America, and the sector has shed 47 percent of its jobs.

miami herald logoThe publisher of the Miami Herald, Kansas City Star and other regional dailies has been saddled with debt since its $4.5 billion takeover of a much bigger rival, Knight Ridder, in 2006. The combination coincided with a digital boom that disrupted the prevailing business model and changed the way news is consumed.

“In 2010, the total revenue for print ads fell below 1950 levels, and it has continued to decrease,” said Penny Abernathy, Knight chair of journalism and digital media economics at the University of North Carolina. “Everyone assumed if you could just make the transition over to digital that things would be okay. But the problem is that as of 2015, Google and Facebook make up about 75 percent of the digital ad dollar in U.S. markets. That’s not enough to sustain the newsrooms McClatchy inherited from Knight Ridder.”

#MeToo News

Daily Beast, Canadian Fashion Exec Peter Nygard Accused of Raping Young Girls in Lawsuit, Julia Arciga, Feb. 13, 2020. Ten women filed a daily beast logoclass-action lawsuit against Canadian fashion executive Peter Nygard, claiming he drugged and raped girls as young as 15 years old over the course of decades.

According to The Globe and Mail, Nygard — the 77-year-old owner of the eponymous women's clothing chain — is accused of luring women into his Bahamas compound and other homes under the pretense of modeling contract interviews or fashion industry events, known as “pamper parties.” Once the women were on his property, Nygard would allegedly use “alcohol, drugs, force, fraud” and other coercive peter nygard 2017 wikimedia cropped with modelforms to have the women do sex acts — which included sodomy and women defecating or urinating on him, according to the lawsuit.

If women resisted his advances, he would allegedly have the bartenders spike their drinks with Rohypnol, or the “date-rape drug.” Many of the women claimed they were subsequently offered money.

One woman — who was 15-years-old at the time — said she was drugged and then raped anally and vaginally. The suit alleges that Nygard offered her $5,000 before raping her, then $10,000 to defecate in his mouth. The women, now between the ages of 18 and 36, consist of nine Bahamians and one American.

The lawsuit claims that Nygard moving the women to one of his various homes in the U.S. and the Bahamas, often via private jet, violated the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. It also alleges that Nygard bribed Bahamian politicians and police to cover up his actions. Nygard's lawyer said the accusations were “completely false,” and described them as part of a decade-long fight between Nygard and his neighbor in the Bahamas — hedge fund billionaire Louis Bacon. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, and asks for damages to be determined in court.

Weinstein Defense Argument

washington post logoWashington Post, Weinstein lawyer’s closing statement argues that prosecution’s case ‘strips adult women of common sense,’ Shayna Jacobs, Feb. 13, 2020. “You don’t have to like Mr. Weinstein. This is not a popularity contest,” lawyer Donna Rotunno said during the producer’s New York trial on Thursday.

harvey weinsteinThe criminal case against Harvey Weinstein for rape and sexual assault "strips adult women of common sense, autonomy and responsibility," the producer's lawyer Donna Rotunno argued in a closing statement Thursday.

Rotunno said the prosecutors’ narrative ignores that the main accusers — Jessica Mann and Mimi Haleyi — sought favors and jobs from Weinstein, right, and willingly met him in hotel rooms. Both admitted to having consensual sex with him.

“In their universe, women are not responsible for the parties they attend, the men they flirt with, the choices they make to further their own careers,” Rotunno said in front of a packed courtroom of more than 100 spectators.

She said prosecutors are falsely pushing the narrative that Weinstein “is so unattractive and large that no woman would want to sleep with him voluntarily.”

Emails and other evidence point to Weinstein, 67, carrying on affairs with Mann, 34, and Haleyi, 42, she argued.

The Miramax founder and Academy Award-winning producer, who has been accused by dozens of women of sexual assault and misconduct, is charged in this case with raping Mann in 2013 at the DoubleTree Hotel on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan and with forcing oral sex on Haleyi at his Crosby Street apartment in 2006.

Weinstein’s team says he denies having sex with any of his accusers without consent.

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