Trump Administration, Week 114: Friday, 22 March – Thursday, 28 March 2019 (Days 792-798)

 

Passages in bold in the body of the texts below are my emphasis. This is an ongoing project, and I update the site frequently. Because I try to stay focused on what has actually happened, I usually let the news ‘settle’ for a day or so before posting. I hope readers will peruse the articles in full for a better understanding of the issues and their context; our democracy and our future depend on citizens who can distinguish between facts and falsehoods and who are engaged in the political process.

 

Friday, 22 March 2019, Day 792:

 

Special Counsel Robert Mueller Delivers Report on Trump-Russia Investigation to Attorney General William BarrThe New York Times, Sharon LaFraniere and Katie Benner, Friday, 22 March 2019: “The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, on Friday delivered a report on his inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election to Attorney General William P. Barr, bringing to a close an investigation that has consumed the nation and cast a shadow over President Trump for nearly two years. Mr. Barr told congressional leaders in a letter that he may brief them on the special counsel’s ‘principal conclusions’ as early as this weekend, a surprisingly fast turnaround for a report anticipated for months. The attorney general said he ‘remained committed to as much transparency as possible.’ In an apparent endorsement of an investigation that Mr. Trump has relentlessly attacked as a ‘witch hunt,’ Mr. Barr said Justice Department officials never had to intervene to keep Mr. Mueller from taking an inappropriate or unwarranted step. The department’s regulations would have required Mr. Barr to inform the leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary committees about any such interventions in his letter. A senior Justice Department official said that Mr. Mueller would not recommend new indictments, a statement aimed at ending speculation that Mr. Trump or other key figures might be charged down the line. With department officials emphasizing that Mr. Mueller’s inquiry was over and his office closing, the question for both Mr. Trump’s critics and defenders was whether the prosecutors condemned the president’s behavior in their report, exonerated him — or neither. The president’s lawyers were already girding for a possible fight over whether they could assert executive privilege to keep parts of the report secret.” See also, Read Attorney General William Barr’s Letter to Congress on the Mueller ReportThe New York Times, Friday, 22 March 2019. See also, Mueller report sent to Attorney General William Barr, signaling his Russia investigation has endedThe Washington Post, Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky, and Josh Dawsey, Friday, 22 March 2019: “Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III submitted a long-awaited report to Attorney General William P. Barr on Friday, marking the end of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible obstruction of justice by President Trump. The submission of Mueller’s report ends his closely watched inquiry — a case that has engulfed the Trump administration since its inception, leading to criminal charges against 34 people, including six former Trump associates and advisers. A senior Justice Department official said the special counsel has not recommended any further indictments — a revelation that buoyed Trump’s supporters, even as other Trump-related investigations continue in other parts of the Justice Department. It is also unclear whether a Mueller report that does not result in additional charges could still hurt the president politically.” See also, Attorney General William Barr’s letter about the Mueller report, annotatedThe Washington Post, Aaron Blake, Friday, 22 March 2019. See also, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation is officially completePolitico, Darren Samuelsohn and Josh Gerstein, Friday, 22 March 2019. See also, Robert Mueller’s Report on Trump-Russia Investigation Is Delivered to Attorney General William BarrThe Wall Street Journal, Aruna Viswanatha, Sadie Gurman, and Byron Tau, Friday, 22 March 2019: “Special counsel Robert Mueller presented his long-awaited report to the Justice Department on Friday, ending his nearly two-year investigation that has loomed over the Trump presidency and likely setting up a political battle over what he has found. In a letter to the majority and minority leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, Attorney General William Barr said Mr. Mueller had concluded his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and related matters, and he said he would be able to alert Congress to Mr. Mueller’s ‘principal conclusions’ as soon as this weekend. Those conclusions are expected to be made public, though it remains unclear whether Mr. Barr will at some point release the full report, which President Trump and lawmakers from both parties have called for. If he doesn’t, he could face a tussle with Congress.” See also, Who Is William Barr: He Will Decide What Happens With Mueller’s ReportThe New York Times, Eileen Sullivan, Friday, 22 March 2019. See also, 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidates Demand Full and Immediate Release of the Mueller ReportThe New York Times, Richaed Fausset and Maggie Astor, Friday, 22 March 2019: “Democratic presidential candidates wasted no time Friday evening demanding the immediate public release of the long-awaited report from Robert S. Mueller III, with several saying that Americans deserved to know any findings about President Trump, Russia and the 2016 election in order to form judgments about Mr. Trump and the 2020 race.” See also, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has submitted his report. Now Attorney General William Barr must share it with the rest of us. The Washington Post, Editorial Board, Friday, 22 March 2019: “It was the announcement that Washington has awaited for nearly two long, tweet-filled years: Attorney General William P. Barr told Congress on Friday that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has completed his report on Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election. The report is now on Mr. Barr’s desk. The question is how much of it will move from there into the hands of Congress and the public…. As Mr. Barr considers what to release publicly, he must keep in mind that the Mueller inquiry is no ordinary investigation. Typically, the Justice Department is wary of revealing investigative information that did not lead to an indictment. This is the right instinct: It guards against law enforcement dragging people through the mud when prosecutors do not have enough evidence to charge them formally. But an attack on the country’s democracy — and senior officials’ response — is a national concern with unusual importance to the country’s politics and policy. Part of the point is to educate the public and reform the law to better prepare for further foreign intrusions. Mr. Mueller’s conclusions and supporting evidence must be released.” See also, I wrote the special counsel rules. The attorney general can–and should–release the Mueller report. The Washington Post, Neal Kumar Katyal, Friday, 22 March 2019. See also, Will the Mueller Report Be Made Public? Answers to 6 Key Questions. The New York Times, Eileen Sullivan, Friday, 22 March 2019.

‘If you took it all in in one day, it would kill you’: What Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation has already revealedThe Washington Post, Matt Zapotosky and Rosalind S. Helderman, Friday, 22 March 2019: “He pulled back the curtain on a sophisticated Kremlin hacking operation — identifying by name the 12 Russian military officers who he said sought to sway a U.S. election. He exposed a Russian online influence campaign — bringing criminal charges against the 13 members of a Russian troll farm now accused of trying to manipulate U.S. voters and sow division through fake social media personae. And he revealed how those closest to President Trump defrauded banks, cheated on their taxes and, time and time again, lied to deflect inquiries into their ties with Russia. After 22 months of meticulous investigation, charges against 34 people — including six former Trump aides or confidants — and countless hours of all-consuming news coverage, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III on Friday submitted the long-anticipated report on his findings to Attorney General William P. Barr.” See also, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Team Has Told Its Story of an Aggressive Russian Campaign to Upend the 2016 Presidential Election in a Series of Indictments and Court DocumentsThe Wall Street Journal, Aruna Viswanatha and WSJ Graphics, Friday, 22 March 2019: “Even before the release of any final report on his investigation, [court] documents detail allegations of a highly coordinated Russian effort and outline Moscow’s intersection with several figures in then-candidate Donald Trump’s orbit. Moscow denies interference, and Mr. Trump denies any collusion with Russia. Here is a timeline of alleged events, according to documents from the Mueller probe.” See also, Mueller Has Delivered His Report. Here’s What We Already Know. The New York Times, Larry Buchanan and Karen Yourish, published on Wednesday, 20 March 2019. See also, Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort, and Roger Stone: The Mueller IndictmentsThe New York Times, Scott Dodd, Friday, 22 March 2019: “The investigation of Robert S. Mueller III, who submitted his report to the Justice Department on Friday, has already revealed a range of events related to Russian interference in the 2016 election and produced a series of high-profile indictments. Six people connected to President Trump have been charged by the special counsel with an array of crimes, including financial fraud and lying to Congress and investigators. Five have been convicted or pleaded guilty. Twenty-eight others, including 26 Russians, also face charges.” See also, For Trump and the System, Mueller’s Report Is a Turning Point and a TestThe New York Times, Peter Baker, Friday, 22 March 2019: “[W]hatever the final conclusions, the Mueller investigation has already cast a cloud over Mr. Trump and his presidency. The special counsel has demonstrated that Russia intervened in the 2016 election with the goal of helping Mr. Trump, that the Trump campaign welcomed Russians promising incriminating information on behalf of their government about Hillary Clinton and that his advisers knew about stolen Democratic emails in advance. The investigation has demonstrated as well that Mr. Trump was seeking to do business in Russia even as a presidential candidate longer than he had previously disclosed and that he surrounded himself with crooks and liars in the form of advisers who repeatedly dissembled to investigators. That includes his campaign chairman, who is going to prison for that and a variety of financial crimes.” See also, Russia, Trump, and Mueller: The Major Moments in the CaseThe New York Times, Michael S. Schmidt and Scott Shane, Friday, 22 March 2019.

Democrats will direct the FBI and White House counsel to preserve records shared with Special Counsel Robert MuellerThe Washington Post, Ellen Nakashima and Rachael Bade, Friday, 22 March 2019: “The Democratic chairs of the six House committees investigating potential abuse of power by President Trump and his campaign’s business and alleged foreign ties will ask several executive branch agencies to preserve information they provided to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III as he investigated Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, according to congressional aides familiar with the plan. The six House leaders and their Senate Democratic counterparts have signed a letter that will be sent to the Department of Justice, FBI and White House Counsel’s Office, among other agencies, shortly after Mueller submits his report to Attorney General William P. Barr, signaling the investigation’s conclusion. It is an effort to ensure the agencies retain correspondence, memos, reports and other material should the committees request it, the aides said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss lawmakers’ planning.”

Continue reading Week 114, Friday, 22 March – Thursday, 28 March 2019 (Days 792-798)

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Trump Administration, Week 113: Friday, 15 March – Thursday, 21 March 2019 (Days 785-791)

 

Passages in bold in the body of the texts below are my emphasis. This is an ongoing project, and I update the site frequently. Because I try to stay focused on what has actually happened, I usually let the news ‘settle’ for a day or so before posting. I hope readers will peruse the articles in full for a better understanding of the issues and their context; our democracy and our future depend on citizens who can distinguish between facts and falsehoods and who are engaged in the political process.

 

Friday, 15 March 2019, Day 785:

 

Christchurch, New Zealand, mosque massacre: 49 confirmed dead in shootings; four arrested–three men and one womanNew Zealand Herald, Friday, 15 March 2019: “Forty-nine people have been killed and 48 more hurt after mass shootings at two Christchurch mosques in the worst terror attack on New Zealand soil…. [Prime Minister Jacinda] Ardern said it was an ‘unprecedented’ situation and described it as a terrorist attack. ‘It is clear that this can only be described as a terrorist attack. From what we know, it does appear to have been well planned. Two explosive devices attached to suspects’ vehicles have been found and they have been disarmed.’ Those in custody had not been on any terrorism watch list: ‘It’s not a matter of someone having slipped under the radar,’ Ardern said.” See also, Boundless racism, zero remorse: A statement of hate and 49 dead in New Zealand mosque massacreThe Washington Post, Marc Fisher and Joel Achenbach, Friday, 15 March 2019: “The alleged shooter in the New Zealand mosque massacre was a globe-trotting young Australian and avowed racist who immersed himself in an Internet subculture of extreme anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, white supremacist ideology. Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 28, was captured and arrested Friday in Christchurch, where he is alleged to have shot and killed 49 people in terrorist attacks on two mosques a few miles apart. He was charged with murder and appeared in court on Saturday. Tarrant had no criminal record and was not previously known to investigators who follow extremist groups. Australia’s prime minister said authorities are investigating a detailed, lurid guide to Tarrant’s plans, ideas and inspirations, a 74-page manifesto that was left behind after the attack and on a Twitter account Tarrant created three days before the shootings. The account had zero followers until after Tarrant’s name circulated after Friday’s assault…. The manifesto indicates that he moved to New Zealand to stage his alleged attack, which he had been planning for two years. His aim, he said, was to defend ‘our lands’ from ‘invaders,’ to ‘reduce immigration rates’ and to deepen division and start a civil war in the United States…. In the manifesto, Tarrant posed a series of questions to himself. ‘Were/are you a supporter of Donald Trump?’ the author of the manifesto wrote. The reply: ‘As a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose? Sure. As a policymaker and leader? Dear god no.’… ‘Do you feel any remorse for the attack?’ ‘No, I only wish I could have killed more invaders, and more traitors as well.'” See also, Main suspect in terrorist attack on two mosques in New Zealand that killed 49 appears in courtThe Washington Post, Emanuel Stoakes and Gerry Shih, published on Saturday, 16 March 2019.  See also, The New Zealand mosque shooter, steeped in online culture, knew how to make his massacre go viralThe Washington Post, Abby Ohlheiser, Friday, 15 March 2019. See also, Christchurch Shooting Live Updates: 49 Are Dead After 2 Mosques Are HitThe New York Times, Friday, 15 March 2019: “Forty-nine people were killed in shootings at two mosques in central Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday, in a terrorist attack that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described as ‘an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence.’ Officials said that one man in his late 20s had been charged with murder, and that two explosive devices were found attached to a vehicle that they had stopped. A Muslim leader in New Zealand said the attack was especially shocking as it took place around Friday Prayer. The police urged people to stay away from the mosques until further notice. A video and manifesto that appeared to be by a gunman involved in the shooting were posted online on the day of the attack.” See also, New Zealand Massacre Suspect Traveled the World but Lived on the InternetThe New York Times, David D. Kirkpatrick, Friday, 15 March 2019: “He announced his mass killing over social media and filmed it live on the internet. He shared a 74-page online manifesto peppered with sarcastic jokes about popular culture, repeating well-known internet memes and striving to mint new ones. He even laid out his explanation in a ‘Q. and A.’ format, as though in an interview, with asides to imagine the reactions.”

Pictures From Youth Climate Strikes Around the WorldThe New York Times, Friday, 15 March 2019: “From Sydney to Seoul, Cape Town to New York, children skipped school en masse Friday to demand action on climate change. It was a stark display of the alarm of a generation. It was also a glimpse of the anger directed at older people who have not, in the protesters’ view, taken global warming seriously enough.” See also, School climate strikes draw thousands to the streets in cities around the globeThe Washington Post, Griff Witte, Sarah Kaplan, and Brady Dennis, Friday, 15 March 2019: “A movement that began with a single teenager [Greta Thunberg] protesting outside the Swedish parliament last summer became a global phenomenon Friday, as hundreds of thousands of students worldwide skipped school and took to the streets to demand urgent action on climate change.

The Trump administration is opening millions of new acres to drilling–and that’s just the startThe Washington Post, Darryl Fears and Juliet Eilperin, Friday, 15 March 2019: “The Trump administration is aggressively pressing ahead in expanding federal oil and gas industry leases that could lead to more drilling on land and at sea, defying an assessment by government scientists that the production and use of fossil fuels is accelerating climate change. On Friday, the administration announced a final decision to lift protections for a uniquely American bird, called the greater sage grouse, on nearly 9 million acres to provide more leasing opportunities to oil, gas and mining industries. A day earlier, an Interior Department assistant secretary confirmed that he told leaders of the fossil fuel industry last month that the Atlantic coast will almost certainly be included in the administration’s plan to expand federal leasing to nearly the entire outer continental shelf. Offshore leases haven’t been granted in the Atlantic for decades, and drilling hasn’t been allowed for a half-century.” See also, Trump Administration Loosens Sage Grouse Protections, Benefiting Oil CompaniesThe New York Times, Coral Davenport, Friday, 15 March 2019: “The Trump administration on Friday finalized its plan to loosen Obama-era protections on the habitat of the sage grouse, an imperiled ground-nesting bird that roams across 10 oil-rich Western states. The plan, which would strip away protections for the bird on nearly nine million acres of land in the West — making it easier for oil and gas companies to drill on that land — was first detailed in a draft proposal published in December. The sage grouse plan is the latest step in a series of moves by the Trump administration to promote oil and gas drilling on public land, in support of what President Trump has called a policy of American ‘energy dominance.’ The architect of the plan, David Bernhardt, is a former oil lobbyist who now serves as acting head of the Interior Department. Mr. Trump has nominated Mr. Bernhardt to formally assume the position of interior secretary.”

Continue reading Week 113, Friday, 15 March – Thursday, 21 March 2019 (Days 785-791)

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Trump Administration, Week 112: Friday, 8 March – Thursday, 14 March 2019 (Days 778-785)

Image may contain: 5 people, including Jessica Dils, people smiling, tree, grass, outdoor and nature

 

Passages in bold in the body of the texts below are my emphasis. This is an ongoing project, and I update the site frequently. Because I try to stay focused on what has actually happened, I usually let the news ‘settle’ for a day or so before posting. I hope readers will peruse the articles in full for a better understanding of the issues and their context; our democracy and our future depend on citizens who can distinguish between facts and falsehoods and who are engaged in the political process.

 

Friday, 8 March 2019, Day 778:

 

House Passes Democrats’ Centerpiece Anti-Corruption and Voting Rights BillThe New York Times, Catie Edmondson, Friday, 8 March 2019: “The House passed the Democrats’ showcase anti-corruption and voting rights legislation on Friday, an expansive measure that aims to dismantle barriers to the ballot box, end big money in politics and impose stricter ethics rules on federal officials. The sweeping legislation, passed 234-193, makes good on the campaign pledge to clean up Washington that helped catapult Democrats into the majority. It also serves as a campaign platform for Democrats ahead of 2020. It has virtually no chance of passing the Senate…. The ambitious compendium, at nearly 700 pages, includes proposals designating Election Day as a federal holiday, automatically registering citizens to vote, and restoring voting rights to people who have served felony sentences. It also creates a six-to-one matching system for donations of up to $200 to congressional and presidential candidates who reject high-dollar contributions, funded by an additional fine on corporations found to have broken the law.” See also, House Democrats pass H.R. 1, their answer to draining the swampThe Washington Post, Mike DeBonis and John Wagner, Friday, 8 March 2019: “The House approved a far-reaching elections and ethics bill Friday — one that would change the way congressional elections are funded, impose new voter-access mandates on states and, in one of several provisions targeting President Trump, force disclosure of presidential candidates’ tax returns. Democrats dubbed the bill H.R. 1, a designation meant to signal its place as a centerpiece of their congressional agenda. The measure, which has more than 500 pages, contains dozens of provisions favored by liberal advocacy groups, labor unions and other Democratic allies.” See also, House Passes the Most Significant Democracy Reform Bill in a Generation, Mother Jones, Ari Berman, Friday, 8 March 2019: “The House of Representatives on Friday passed the most significant democracy reform bill introduced in Congress since the Watergate era by a vote of 234 to 193. The sweeping bill, known as HR 1: the For the People Act, would massively expand voting rights, crack down on gerrymandering, reduce the influence of big money in politics, and require sitting presidents and presidential candidates to release 10 years of tax returns.” See also, House passes sweeping election reform billPolitico, Zach Montellaro, Friday, 8 March 2019. See also, House Passes Extensive Election and Campaign Finance Overhaul BillNPR, Miles Parks, Friday, 8 March 2019.

Elizabeth Warren Proposes Breaking Up Tech Giants Like Amazon and FacebookThe New York Times, Astead W. Herndon, Friday, 8 March 2019: “Senator Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat who is bidding to be the policy pacesetter in the Democratic presidential primary, championed another expansive idea on Friday evening in front of a crowd of thousands in Queens: a regulatory plan aimed at breaking up some of America’s largest tech companies, including Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook…. Ms. Warren’s policy announcement sent reverberations from New York to Silicon Valley, as she further cemented herself as one of the Democratic candidates most willing to call for large-scale changes to the country’s structure in the name of equality.” See also, Elizabeth Warren’s new plan: Break up Amazon, Google, and FacebookCNN, MJ Lee, Lydia DePillis, and Gregory Krieg, Friday, 8 March 2019: “Sen. Elizabeth Warren released an aggressive plan on Friday to break up tech giants like Amazon, Google and Facebook, targeting the power of Silicon Valley with her populist message as sprawling Internet giants face mounting political backlash ahead of the 2020 presidential election. The far-reaching proposal would impose new rules on certain kinds of tech companies with $25 billion or more in annual revenue, forcing Amazon and Google to spin off parts of their companies and relinquish their overwhelming control over online commerce. The plan also aims to unwind some of the highest profile mergers in the industry, like the combinations of Amazon and Whole Foods, and Google and DoubleClick, as well as Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp.” See also, Elizabeth Warren Calls for the Breakup of Amazon, Google, and FacebookThe Wall Street Journal, Brent Kendall and Jacob Schlesinger, Friday, 8 March 2019: “Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat running for president, on Friday called for the breakup of Amazon.com Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google,  and Facebook Inc., taking an aggressive populist stance against some of the nation’s most powerful companies. ‘Today’s big tech companies have too much power—too much power over our economy, our society and our democracy,’ Ms. Warren said in an online post. ‘They’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit and tilted the playing field against everyone else. And in the process, they have hurt small businesses and stifled innovation. My administration will make big, structural changes to the tech sector to promote more competition—including breaking up Amazon, Facebook, and Google,’ Ms. Warren said.”

Bill Shine Resigns as White House Communications DirectorThe New York Times, Maggie Haberman and Peter Baker, Friday, 8 March 2019: “Bill Shine, the former Fox News executive who joined the White House staff last summer to manage President Trump’s communications operation, has resigned and will move to the president’s re-election campaign, the White House announced Friday…. Mr. Shine’s presence in the White House was seen as emblematic of how closely Mr. Trump has aligned himself with Fox, a symbiotic relationship that drew a critical appraisal in a much-read New Yorker article published this week. Mr. Trump has given the network about 45 interviews as president, using it to communicate with his most fervent supporters even as he embraces lines of argument that its hosts advance…. Mr. Shine had spent more than a year searching for another job after he was ousted from Fox [in May 2017] amid the scandal surrounding Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly and the accusations of sexual harassment that were made against them. Mr. Shine was not himself accused of improper behavior, but was faulted for a culture that sought to cover it up. The White House became his road to redemption.” See also, Bill Shine abruptly resigns as White House communications chiefThe Washington Post, Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey, and David Nakamura, Friday, 8 March 2019.

Continue reading Week 112, Friday, 8 March – Thursday, 14 March 2019 (Days 778-784)

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Trump Administration, Week 111: Friday, 1 March – Thursday, 7 March 2019 (Days 771-777)

Image may contain: 2 people, crowd and outdoor

Passages in bold in the body of the texts below are my emphasis. This is an ongoing project, and I update the site frequently. Because I try to stay focused on what has actually happened, I usually let the news ‘settle’ for a day or so before posting. I hope readers will peruse the articles in full for a better understanding of the issues and their context; our democracy and our future depend on citizens who can distinguish between facts and falsehoods and who are engaged in the political process.

 

Friday, 1 March 2019, Day 771:

 

House Democrats Demand Information From the White House About Security ClearancesThe New York Times, Nicholas Fandos, Friday, 1 March 2019: “A powerful Democratic House committee chairman investigating possible abuses of the government’s security clearance process stepped up demands on Friday to see key documents and interview potential witnesses from the White House in light of a new report that President Trump personally intervened to grant his son-in-law a top-secret clearance despite legal and national security concerns. The chairman, Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, who leads the House Oversight and Reform Committee, accused the White House in a new letter of stonewalling his requests for information and implied that if it did not comply voluntarily, he would issue a subpoena to compel its cooperation. He said the report, published by The New York Times, added new concerns that Mr. Trump was lying to the public about his role in the clearance process to existing and broader questions about irregularities surrounding who should have access to sensitive government secrets. ‘If true, these new reports raise grave questions about what derogatory information career officials obtained about Mr. Kushner to recommend denying him access to our nation’s most sensitive secrets,’ Mr. Cummings wrote in a letter to Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel. The letter went on to ask about ‘why President Trump concealed his role in overruling that recommendation, why General Kelly and Mr. McGahn both felt compelled to document these actions, and why your office is continuing to withhold key documents and witnesses from this Committee.'” See also, House investigators demand ‘immediate’ compliance from the White House on turning over documents related to security clearance of Jared KushnerThe Washington Post, Rachael Bade, John Wagner, and Shane Harris, Friday, 1 March 2019: “House investigators are demanding that the White House turn over documents related to the security clearances of top officials by Monday, an escalation of a fight between congressional Democrats and the Trump administration that could lead to subpoenas in the coming days. The move follows the revelation that President Trump interceded to give his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a top-secret security clearance despite concerns from intelligence and White House officials about Kushner’s contacts with foreign individuals and his failure to disclose them on his clearance application. Both of those factors ordinarily would all but guarantee that an applicant not be given access to government secrets. Overriding those concerns, the president in May 2018 directed his then-chief of staff, John F. Kelly, to approve the clearance application. Kelly, who had already stripped Kushner of an interim, temporary clearance, documented the president’s intervention in a memo.”

Jay Inslee, Washington Governor and Environmentalist, Enters the 2020 Democratic RaceThe New York Times, Kirk Johnson, Friday, 1 March 2019: “Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington and former member of Congress who has made climate change and the environment his signature issues, jumped into the crowded field of 2020 Democratic contenders for president on Friday. Mr. Inslee, 68, has led the state during a powerful economic expansion since taking office as governor in 2013, especially in the Seattle area. Amazon and other tech companies have hired tens of thousands of workers, and export-driven manufacturers like Boeing have boomed. But he has had mixed success in getting some of his ideas put into practice, especially those on renewable, low-carbon energy. He failed twice with voters, and once in the Legislature, to enact the nation’s first carbon tax, aimed at reducing planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions. Many residents, elected officials and business leaders balked, concerned that energy costs would rise.” See also, Jay Inslee on the IssuesThe New York Times, Maggie Astor, Friday, 1 March 2019. See also, Washington Governor Jay Inslee joins the 2020 Democratic presidential fieldThe Washington Post, David Weigel, Chelsea Janes, and John Wagner, Friday, 1 March 2019: “Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday became the latest Democrat to launch a 2020 presidential bid, asserting that he is the only candidate who will make combating climate change the nation’s top priority. ‘Whether we shrink to this challenge or rise to it is the vital question of our time,’ Inslee said at an event staged at a solar installation company in Seattle. ‘We have one chance to defeat climate change, and it is right now. It is my belief when you have one chance in life, you take it.'” See also, Washington Governor Jay Inslee launches presidential campaignPolitico, Daniel Strauss, Friday, 1 March 2019: “Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced Friday morning that he is running for president, pledging to put the environment at the heart of his campaign for the Democratic nomination. ‘I am the only candidate who will make defeating climate change our nation’s number one priority,’ Inslee said in a video launching his campaign.”

U.S. Issues New Penalties Against Venezuelan Officials, Vowing ‘Maduro Must Go,’ The New York Times, Katie Rogers, Friday, 1 March 2019: “The Trump administration issued a new round of visa restrictions and economic sanctions on Friday against the government of President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela, who has given little indication that he will cede control despite a prediction by a top American envoy that his ‘dictatorship’ would come to an end, ‘quickly and peacefully.’ The envoy, Elliott Abrams, also noted the possibility of American military intervention, as requested by Juan Guaidó, the Venezuelan opposition leader. But he described it as a distant line of action behind other moves meant to ratchet up diplomatic and economic pressure against Mr. Maduro.”

Continue reading Week 111, Friday, 1 March – Thursday, 7 March 2019 (Days 771-777)

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Trump Administration, Week 110: Friday, 22 February – Thursday, 28 February 2019 (Days 764-770)

 

Passages in bold in the body of the texts below are my emphasis. This is an ongoing project, and I update the site frequently. Because I try to stay focused on what has actually happened, I usually let the news ‘settle’ for a day or so before posting. I hope readers will peruse the articles in full for a better understanding of the issues and their context; our democracy and our future depend on citizens who can distinguish between facts and falsehoods and who are engaged in the political process.

 

Friday, 22 February 2019, Day 764:

 

Trump Administration Blocks Funds for Planned Parenthood and Others Over Abortion ReferralsThe New York Times, Pam Belluck, Friday, 22 February 2019: “The Trump administration announced on Friday that it will bar organizations that provide abortion referrals from receiving federal family planning money, a step that could strip millions of dollars from Planned Parenthood and direct it toward religiously-based, anti-abortion groups. The new federal rule is almost certain to be challenged in court. Clinics will be able to talk to patients about abortion, but not where they can get one. And clinics will no longer have to counsel women on all reproductive options, including abortion, a change that will make anti-abortion providers eligible for funding. The rule, which has been expected for months, is the most recent step by the Trump administration to shift the direction of federal health programs in a conservative direction. The administration has expanded the ability of employers to claim religious or moral objections to the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that they offer employees insurance coverage for contraception. It has channeled funding for teen pregnancy prevention programs and family planning grants into programs that emphasize sexual abstinence over contraception.” See also, Trump administration bars clinics that provide abortions or abortion referrals from federal fundingThe Washington Post, Ariana Eunjung Cha, Friday, 22 February 2019: “The Trump administration took aim at Planned Parenthood Friday, issuing a rule barring groups that provide abortions or abortion referrals from participating in the $286 million federal family planning program — a move expected to redirect tens of millions of dollars from the women’s health provider to faith-based groups. The change means federally funded family planning clinics can no longer refer a patient for abortion and must maintain a “clear physical and financial separation” between services funded by the government and any organization that provides abortions or abortion referrals. Groups receiving money under the Title X program, which serves an estimated 4 million low-income women, were already prohibited from performing abortions with those funds.” See also, Trump administration issues rule to strip millions from Planned ParenthoodPolitico, Alice Miranda Ollstein, Friday, 22 February 2019: “The Trump administration issued a final rule on Friday that could effectively cut off tens of millions of federal family planning dollars to Planned Parenthood and steer some of that funding towards anti-abortion, faith-based care providers. While the revamp of the Title X program does not accomplish the full defunding of Planned Parenthood that Republicans have called for, it is a major step in that direction, and marks another major policy win for social conservatives looking to prohibit access to abortion. Under the rule, clinics would still have to provide an array of contraceptive services but could partner or subcontract with groups that stress abstinence only or natural family planning. It would also bar Planned Parenthood and other health care providers that accept the funding from making any abortion referrals or performing abortions — regardless of the funding source — at the same facilities where they provide Title X services like birth control, mammograms and cancer screenings. If not put on hold by a court injunction, the rule will go into effect 60 days after it is published in the federal register in the coming days. Planned Parenthood executives said they will fight in court to block or overturn the rule, and indicated they won’t apply for Title X funding if it does go into effect.”

In a Tense Exchange, Dianne Feinstein Lectures Children Who Want Green New Deal, Portraying It as UntenableThe New York Times, Lisa Friedman, Friday, 22 February 2019: “Senator Dianne Feinstein found herself in a standoff Friday with a group of schoolchildren who confronted her about her refusal to support the Green New Deal. In a video posted by the Sunrise Movement, which encourages young people to combat climate change, an exchange quickly became tense once Ms. Feinstein started to explain her opposition to the Green New Deal, an ambitious Democratic-led proposal that calls for a radical transformation of the United States’ energy sector…. Varshini Prakash, executive director of the Sunrise Movement, in a statement called Ms. Feinstein ‘out of touch’ and said the interaction shows that the Democratic Party needs ‘fundamental change.'” See also, Video of Dianne Feinstein dismissively rebuffing young climate activists’ calling for Green New DealThe Guardian, published on Saturday, 23 February 2019: “The California senator has been criticised for her response to a group of children and teenagers asking her to support the Green New Deal. Video footage shows Feinstein flatly rejecting the activists’ request, telling them: ‘I’ve been doing this for 30 years. I know what I’m doing.'” See also, Video Shows Dianne Feinstein Dismissing a Group of Children Asking About Green New DealHuffPost, Carla Herreria, Friday, 22 February 2019: “A climate advocacy group is calling a foul against Sen. Dianne Feinstein after the California Democrat appeared to lecture and dismiss a group of kids who were urging for her to vote yes on the Green New Deal. Sunrise Movement, a budding environmental organization that urges lawmakers to take action on climate change, tweeted footage of a group of children with some adults at the senator’s office in San Francisco urging her to address the issue. Stephen O’Hanlon, a spokesman for the group, identified the protesters in the video as Sunrise Movement ‘supporters and family members’ in the Bay Area. The children present were between the ages of 7 and 16, according to the organization. In the Twitter video, Feinstein seems to rebuff the kids while boasting about her experience in the Senate. A full version of the encounter was posted to Facebook.” See also, School children debate Dianne Feinstein on ‘Green New Deal.’ Her reply? ‘I know what I’m doing.’ The Washington Post, Michael Brice-Saddler, Saturday, 23 February 2019.

Michael Cohen, Trump’s Former Lawyer and Fixer, Gave Prosecutors New Information on the Trump Family BusinessThe New York Times, Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum, and Maggie Haberman, Friday, 22 February 2019: “Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, met last month with federal prosecutors in Manhattan, offering information about possible irregularities within the president’s family business and about a donor to the inaugural committee, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Cohen, who worked at the Trump Organization for a decade, spoke with the prosecutors about insurance claims the company had filed over the years, said the people, who did not elaborate on the nature of the possible irregularities. While it was not clear whether the prosecutors found Mr. Cohen’s information credible and whether they intended to pursue it, the meeting suggests that they are interested in broader aspects of the Trump Organization, beyond their investigation into the company’s role in the hush money payments made before the 2016 election to women claiming to have had affairs with Mr. Trump. Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty last summer to arranging those payments.”

Continue reading Week 110, Friday, 22 February – Thursday, 28 February 2019 (Days 764-770)

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Trump Administration, Week 109: Friday, 15 February – Thursday, 21 February 2019 (Days 757-763)

 

Passages in bold in the body of the texts below are my emphasis. This is an ongoing project, and I update the site frequently. Because I try to stay focused on what has actually happened, I usually let the news ‘settle’ for a day or so before posting. I hope readers will peruse the articles in full for a better understanding of the issues and their context; our democracy and our future depend on citizens who can distinguish between facts and falsehoods and who are engaged in the political process.

 

Friday, 15 February 2019, Day 757:

 

Trump Declares a National Emergency on the Border With Mexico and Provokes a Constitutional ClashThe New York Times, Peter Baker, Friday, 15 February 2019: “President Trump declared a national emergency on the border with Mexico on Friday in order to access billions of dollars that Congress refused to give him to build a wall there, transforming a highly charged policy dispute into a confrontation over the separation of powers outlined in the Constitution. Trying to regain momentum after losing a grinding two-month battle with lawmakers over funding the wall, Mr. Trump asserted that the flow of drugs, criminals and illegal immigrants from Mexico constituted a profound threat to national security that justified unilateral action. ‘We’re going to confront the national security crisis on our southern border, and we’re going to do it one way or the other,’ he said in a televised statement in the Rose Garden barely 13 hours after Congress passed a spending measure without the money he had sought. ‘It’s an invasion,’ he added. ‘We have an invasion of drugs and criminals coming into our country.’ But with illegal border crossings already down and critics accusing him of manufacturing a crisis, he may have undercut his own argument that the border situation was so urgent that it required emergency action. ‘I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster,’ he said. ‘I just want to get it done faster, that’s all.’ The president’s decision incited instant condemnation from Democrats, who called it an unconstitutional abuse of his authority and vowed to try to overturn it with the support of Republicans who also objected to the move. ‘This is plainly a power grab by a disappointed president, who has gone outside the bounds of the law to try to get what he failed to achieve in the constitutional legislative process,’ Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said in a joint statement.” See also, Trump’s Rationale for a National Emergency Is Based on False or Misleading ClaimsThe New York Times, Linda Qiu, Friday, 15 February 2019: “As President Trump declared a national emergency on Friday to bypass Congress and build his long-promised wall, he again painted a portrait of a lawless, chaotic border and cited arguments about the effectiveness of the kind of barrier he has in mind that were not rooted in facts. Illegal border crossings have been declining for decades. While families are overwhelming an immigration system devised to handle single men, a border wall would not prevent them from seeking asylum, which is legal. Research does not show that immigrants commit more crimes than native-born Americans. And a wall would do little to prevent drugs and human trafficking at the border, as official ports of entry are the main route into the United States for both. Cumulatively, Mr. Trump’s unsupported or misleading statements undercut his rationale for declaring an emergency, a step that is widely viewed as testing both constitutional and political norms and is sure to draw legal challenges.” See also, Presidents Have Declared Dozens of National Emergencies, but None Like Trump’sThe New York Times, Charlie Savage, Friday, 15 February 2019: “President Trump on Friday pointed to nearly five dozen previous instances in which presidents of both parties have declared emergencies as justification for his invocation of extraordinary powers to build his border wall. But there is no precedent for what he has just done. None of the times emergency powers have been invoked since 1976, the year Congress enacted the National Emergencies Act, involved a president making an end run around lawmakers to spend money on a project they had decided against funding. Mr. Trump, by contrast, is challenging the bedrock principle that the legislative branch controls the government’s purse.” See also, Trump Sings the Praises of Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Tucker Carlson, and Laura Ingraham in a Rose Garden News ConferenceThe New York Times, Edmund Lee, Friday, 15 February 2019: “President Trump reeled off a list of his favorite media personalities on Friday when asked who might have influenced his decision to declare a national emergency after Congress refused to give him money for a border wall. Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham — a powerful bloc of conservative voices who have railed against any budget compromise on wall funding — all received shout-outs in a Rose Garden news conference.” See also, At a News Conference in the Rose Garden, Trump Follows Familiar Playbook When Confronted by a Loss: Distract and DigressThe New York Times, Annie Karni, Friday, 15 February 2019. See also, In a Divided Washington, Congress Averted a Government Shutdown–but at a PriceThe New York Times, Glenn Thrush, Friday, 15 February 2019. See also, Key Takeaways From Trump’s Decision to Use a National Emergency to Build a Border WallThe New York Times, Michael Tackett, Friday, 15 February 2019. See also, Trump declares a national emergency on southern border in bid to build wallThe Washington Post, Damian Paletta, Mike DeBonis, and John Wagner, Friday, 15 February 2019: “President Trump on Friday declared the situation on the southern border of the United States to be a national emergency, catapulting the country into uncertain legal and political battles as he seeks to fulfill a campaign promise that eluded him for two years. He made the designation in an attempt to redirect taxpayer money from other accounts and use it to erect more than 230 miles of barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border. But Trump anticipates a flurry of legal challenges that will eventually be decided by the Supreme Court. Democrats are trying to paint the action as evidence of a rogue president who has finally gone too far, and they vowed to stop him.” See also, Trump’s bewildering national emergency press conference, annotatedThe Washington Post, Aaron Blake and Transcript courtesy of Bloomberg Government, Friday, 15 February 2019: “President Trump declared a national emergency at the southern border on Friday — but not without making a scene full of false claims, offbeat comments and tense exchanges.” See also, Fact-checking Trump’s announcement of a national emergencyThe Washington Post, Glenn Kessler and Meg Kelly, Friday, 15 February 2019: “Where to begin with President Trump’s rambling news conference to announce he was invoking a national emergency to build a border wall? It was chock-full of false and misleading claims, many of which we’ve previously highlighted, either in our database of Trump claims or our list of Bottomless Pinocchios. Here’s a summary of 14 of the most noteworthy claims, starting with immigration ones first.” See also, ‘I didn’t need to do this’: Trump just kneecapped his own case for a ‘national emergency,’ The Washington Post, Aaron Blake, Friday, 15 February 2019: “The idea that the situation at the border is truly a “national emergency” already strained credulity. And at Friday’s news conference, President Trump might have just erased any doubt about his true motivation. In the Rose Garden, Trump issued the national emergency declaration he has been threatening for more than a month. In the process, he basically admitted he doesn’t even really see the situation at the border as an emergency. The key quote came when the Q&A portion started. Trump was challenged by NBC’s Peter Alexander on why he couldn’t bend Congress to his will — as he previously said a president should be able to do — rather than take unilateral action. ‘I didn’t need to do this,’ Trump said. ‘But I’d rather do it much faster.’… If it’s truly an emergency, how can you say you didn’t need to declare an emergency? Trump basically admitted that this was a choice for him — a matter of expediency, quite literally — and not something required by events on the ground.” See also, ‘A tremendous job’: Trump uses national emergency announcement to defend his presidency in a Rose Garden news conferenceThe Washington Post, Jenna Jonson and Toluse Olorunnipa, Friday, 15 February 2019. See also, What exactly is a national emergency? Here’s what that means and what happens next. The Washington Post, Deanna Paul and Colby Itkowitz, Friday, 15 February 2019. See also, Trump declares national emergency to build US-Mexico border wallThe Guardian, David Smith, Friday, 15 February 2019. See also, Frustrated Trump lashes out after border wall defeatPolitico, Anita Kumar and Caitlin Oprysko, Friday, 15 February 2019: “President Donald Trump met his day of defeat with a list of grievances. He lashed out at Congress for denying him the money to build a border wall. He called his Democratic rivals liars. He blasted former Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan for inaction when the GOP controlled Congress. And, of course, he criticized the media for alleged bias and indifference to a ‘crisis’ on the U.S.-Mexico border. In short, Trump blamed almost everyone but himself as he formally announced he was going around Congress to direct more than $6 billion to construct or repair as many as 234 miles of a border barrier.” See also, Trump’s Bizarre, Rambling Announcement of a National EmergencyThe Atlantic, David A. Graham, Friday, 15 February 2019: “After failing for two years to persuade Congress to fund a wall on the southern border, President Donald Trump on Friday said he will declare a national emergency and reallocate some $8 billion to build the wall through executive fiat. Trump announced the move in a rambling, free-associative appearance in the White House Rose Garden that was more MAGA rally than presidential announcement. Even by the standards of this president, his remarks were confusing, untruthful, and often off topic, with strange ad-hominem attacks on other politicians and sharp exchanges with reporters. Despite claiming that the nation faces an acute crisis that requires immediate attention, the president meandered through a long preamble about trade deals and North Korea. When he finally got to the point, he struggled to stay focused.” See also, Read Trump’s Speech Declaring a National EmergencyThe Atlantic, Olivia Paschal, Friday, 15 February 2019. See also, National Emergency Powers and Trump’s Border Wall, ExplainedThe New York Times, Charlie Savage, published on Monday, 7 January 2019 and updated on Thursday, 14 February 2019. See also, Trump Declares National Emergency Over Wall, Inviting Likely court FightThe Wall Street Journal, Rebecca Ballhaus, Friday, 15 February 2019: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said he would support the declaration, but the move was met with opposition from other lawmakers in both parties, who called it unconstitutional or unnecessary…. Previous presidents have signed dozens of emergency declarations, including those related to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and sanctions, but not for initiatives that Congress declined to fund. In early signs of a broad legal fight ahead, California and New York state officials said they were planning legal challenges. The American Civil Liberties Union and advocacy group Public Citizen also announced that they had filed lawsuits against the emergency declaration.”

Supreme Court takes up the Trump administration’s plan to ask about citizenship in censusThe Washington Post, Robert Barnes, Friday, 15 February 2019: “The Supreme Court added a politically explosive case to its docket Friday, agreeing to decide by the end of June whether the Trump administration can add a question about citizenship to the 2020 Census form sent to every American household. The census hasn’t asked the question of each household since 1950, and a federal judge last month stopped the Commerce Department from adding it to the upcoming count. He questioned the motives of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and said the secretary broke a ‘veritable smorgasbord’ of federal rules by overriding the advice of career officials. Ross has maintained that the information is important for several reasons, including enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, and that he carefully considered the advantages and disadvantages of adding the question before making his decision. Those opposed to the question argue the census response rate will likely fall if households are asked whether undocumented immigrants are present and make less accurate the once-a-decade ‘actual Enumeration’ of the population required by the Constitution. That could mean fewer members of Congress for states with large immigrant populations and less money from federal programs.” See also, Supreme Court to Hear Case on Census Citizenship QuestionThe New York Times, Adam Liptak, Friday, 15 February 2019: “The Supreme Court agreed on Friday to decide whether the Trump administration may add a question about citizenship to the 2020 census questionnaire that will be sent to every household in the nation. The court’s move added a highly charged and consequential blockbuster to what had been a fairly sleepy term. The justices have mostly avoided controversy while they adjusted to the new conservative majority created by the arrival in the fall of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh. The federal government has long gathered information about citizenship, but since 1950, it has not included a question on it in the forms sent once a decade to each household. Last month, a federal trial judge blocked the Commerce Department from adding the question, saying that the process that led to the decision was deeply flawed. The Supreme Court stepped in before any appeals court had ruled on the matter, and it put the case on an unusually fast track. The Supreme Court’s speed was almost certainly a result of a looming deadline — the census forms are set to be printed in June.” See also, The Supreme Court Will Decide if Census Citizenship Question Is Legal. Democrats Should Also Work to Block It. The Intercept, Sam Adler-Bell, Friday, 15 February 2019: “In a closed-door meeting Friday morning, the Supreme Court voted to fast-track review a lower court ruling that would have prevented the Trump administration from asking about citizenship on the 2020 census. Arguments in the case, the outcome of which could affect the balance of political and economic power in this country for years to come, are scheduled for the week of April 22. The last time the high court granted such a petition for expedited review, which bypasses the appeals court, was in 2004.”

In the face of climate change, young people across Europe are protesting for their futureThe Washington Post, Luisa Beck, Friday, 15 February 2019: “Tens of thousands of teenagers across Europe skipped school again Friday. They’ve been congregating weekly in streets, plazas and parks, but not for a concert or weekend adventure. They’ve gathered to show the grown-ups that they will no longer play by their rules, and to demand that adults protect their future from climate-change disasters. These teens are part of a movement that has spread across the European Union and is expanding globally.” See also, ‘The beginning of great change’: Greta Thunberg hails school climate strikesThe Guardian, Jonathan Watts, Friday, 15 February 2019: “Greta Thunberg is hopeful the student climate strike on Friday can bring about positive change, as young people in more and more countries join the protest movement she started last summer as a lone campaigner outside the Swedish parliament. The 16-year-old welcomed the huge mobilisation planned in the UK, which follows demonstrations by tens of thousands of school and university students in Australia, Belgium, Germany, the United States, Japan and more than a dozen other countries…. Thunberg has risen rapidly in prominence and influence. In December, she spoke at the United Nations climate conference, berating world leaders for behaving like irresponsible children. Last month, she had similarly harsh words for the global business elite at Davos. She said: ‘Some people, some companies, some decision-makers in particular, have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money. And I think many of you here today belong to that group of people.’ The movement she started has morphed and grown around the world, and, at times, linked up with older groups, including Extinction Rebellion, 350.org and Greenpeace. Next week she will take the train – having decided not to fly due to the high carbon emissions of aviation – to speak at an event alongside Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European commission, in Brussels, and then on to Paris to join the school strikes now expanding in France.”

Continue reading Week 109, Friday, 15 February – Thursday, 21 February 2019 (Days 757-763)

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Trump Administration, Week 108: Friday, 8 February – Thursday, 14 February 2019 (Days 750-756)

 

Passages in bold in the body of the texts below are my emphasis. This is an ongoing project, and I update the site daily. Because I try to stay focused on what has actually happened, I usually let the news ‘settle’ a day or so before posting. I hope readers will peruse the articles in full for a better understanding of the issues and their context; our democracy and our future depend on citizens who can distinguish between facts and falsehoods and who are engaged in the political process.

 

Friday, 8 February 2019, Day 750:

 

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker Says He Has Not Interfered in the Mueller InvestigationThe New York Times, Charlie Savage, Nicholas Fandos, and Katie Benner, Friday, 8 February 2019: “Matthew G. Whitaker, the acting attorney general, told Congress on Friday that he had ‘not interfered in any way with the special counsel’s investigation’ into Russia’s 2016 election-manipulation operation since President Trump installed him atop the Justice Department. During an often contentious oversight hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, Mr. Whitaker also testified that he had provided no inside information about that inquiry, or related ones in the Southern District of New York, to Mr. Trump or his lawyers and White House aides…. While Mr. Whitaker provided those bottom-line claims up front, he refused to discuss many other things — like his conversations with Mr. Trump, or why he recently said the special counsel inquiry would soon wrap up — as questions about the Russia investigation dominated the hearing. The committee chairman, Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York, told Mr. Whitaker that he would seek to force him to submit to further questioning in a later deposition…. [T]he hearing focused mainly on the Russia investigation. It quickly became contentious, as Mr. Nadler used his opening statement to blast Mr. Whitaker for refusing to recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation despite the recommendation of Justice Department ethics officials that he step aside because of his past public comments criticizing it…. And when Mr. Nadler began questioning Mr. Whitaker, the acting attorney general refused to provide details about when and how many times he had been briefed about the Russia investigation, which is led by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. Then, when Mr. Nadler asked Mr. Whitaker if he had ever been asked to approve any request for action to be taken by Mr. Mueller, Mr. Whitaker audaciously replied: ‘Mr. Chairman, I see that your five minutes is up.’ The room broke into laughter as Mr. Nadler looked up in apparent disbelief at the breach of decorum, but then grinned himself and let it slide, noting that he did not enforce the five-minute rule during Mr. Whitaker’s opening statement. Mr. Nadler then directed Mr. Whitaker to ‘answer the question, please.'” See also, In combative hearing, acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker says he did not discuss Mueller investigation with Trump, but he dodges other inquiriesThe Washington Post, Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky, Friday, 8 February 2019: “In a series of chippy exchanges with Democrats who questioned his credentials, judgment and integrity, Whitaker adopted a confrontational tone that often left lawmakers exasperated. Over and over, he refused to detail his conversations with the president — prompting the committee’s chairman to end the hearing by threatening a subpoena if follow-up questions weren’t answered. Whitaker carefully watched the clock, at one point noting the chairman’s five-minute window to ask questions had expired. More substantively, Whitaker refused to disagree with the president’s characterization of Mueller’s probe as a ‘witch hunt’ — something other top law enforcement officials and Trump nominees have not hesitated to do.” See also, ‘Mr. Chairman, I see that your five minutes is up’: Acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker’s very shaky performance before the House Judiciary CommitteeThe Washington Post, Aaron Blake, Friday, 8 February 2019. See also, Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker Says He Hasn’t Interfered in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s InvestigationThe Wall Street Journal, Sadie Gurman and Byron Tau, Friday, 8 February 2019: “Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker testified that he hasn’t interfered in the special counsel’s Russia investigation and hasn’t shared information about it with the president or top White House officials, in a heated congressional hearing on Friday. Mr. Whitaker traded barbs with lawmakers and avoided answering questions as he squared off with House Judiciary Committee Democrats, who have voiced concerns that President Trump tapped the former federal prosecutor for the role three months ago in order to undercut special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. Mr. Whitaker had been a public critic of the Mueller probe, which has ensnared several close Trump allies, before getting the job.” See also, Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker Tries to Stop House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler From Asking About the Mueller Investigation: ‘Your Five Minutes Is Up,’ Daily Beast, Betsy Woodruff, Friday, 8 February 2019. See also, Acting attorney general says he never interfered in Mueller investigationPolitico, Andrew Desiderio and Darren Samuelsohn, Friday, 8 February 2019.

Trump Defies Congressional Deadline for Report Determining Who Killed Journalist Jamal KhashoggiThe New York Times, Peter Baker and Eric Schmitt, Friday, 8 February 2019: “President Trump refused to provide Congress a report on Friday determining who killed the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, defying a demand by lawmakers intent on establishing whether the crown prince of Saudi Arabia was behind the grisly assassination. Mr. Trump effectively bypassed a deadline set by law as his administration argued that Congress could not impose its will on the president. Critics charged that he was seeking to cover up Saudi complicity in the death of Mr. Khashoggi, an American resident and a columnist for The Washington Post. ‘Consistent with the previous administration’s position and the constitutional separation of powers, the president maintains his discretion to decline to act on congressional committee requests when appropriate,’ the Trump administration said in a statement. The statement said the administration had taken action against the killers and would consult with Congress. But Democrats said Mr. Trump was violating a law known as the Magnitsky Act. It required him to respond 120 days after a request submitted in the fall by committee leaders — including Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee and then the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — a period that expired Friday.” See also, White House declines to submit report to Congress determining whether Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman is personally responsible for the killing of journalist Jamal KhashoggiThe Washington Post, Anne Gearan, Karen DeYoung, and Karoun Demirjian, Friday, 8 February 2019: “The Trump administration declined Friday to submit a report to Congress determining whether Saudi Arabia’s crown prince is personally responsible for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Senators had asked for the finding by Friday, with an eye to imposing new human rights sanctions on Saudi Arabia over the journalist’s Oct. 2 killing inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Under the Magnitsky Act, the president has 120 days to respond to a direct request from Congress about possible violations. The request, made Oct. 10 in a letter signed by 11 Democratic and 11 Republican senators, required the administration to make a determination of responsibility for the killing, particularly including involvement by the Saudi royal family, and to act on it by imposing sanctions on responsible individuals.” See also, White House refuses to meet Congress’ deadline on killing of journalist Jamal KhashoggiCNN Politics, Nicole Gaouette and Kevin Liptak, Friday, 8 February 2019. See also, White House refuses to meet Senate deadline on killing of journalist Jamal KhashoggiPolitico, Rebecca Morin, Friday, 8 February 2019.

‘My whole town practically lived there’: From Costa Rica to New Jersey, a pipeline of undocumented workers for Trump goes back yearsThe Washington Post, Joshua Partlow, Nick Miroff, and David A. Fahrenthold, Friday, 8 February 2019: “At his home on the misty slope of Costa Rica’s tallest mountain, Dario Angulo keeps a set of photographs from the years he tended the rolling fairways and clipped greens of a faraway American golf resort. Angulo learned to drive backhoes and bulldozers, carving water hazards and tee boxes out of former horse pastures in Bedminster, N.J., where a famous New Yorker was building a world-class course. Angulo earned $8 an hour, a fraction of what a state-licensed heavy equipment operator would make, with no benefits or overtime pay. But he stayed seven years on the grounds crew, saving enough for a small piece of land and some cattle back home. Now the 34-year-old lives with his wife and daughters in a sturdy house built by ‘Trump money,’ as he put it, with a porch to watch the sun go down. It’s a common story in this small town. Other former employees of President Trump’s company live nearby: men who once raked the sand traps and pushed mowers through thick heat on Trump’s prized golf property — the ‘Summer White House,’ as aides have called it — where his daughter Ivanka got married and where he wants to build a family cemetery. ‘Many of us helped him get what he has today,’ Angulo said. ‘This golf course was built by illegals.’ The Washington Post spoke with 16 men and women from Costa Rica and other Latin American countries, including six in Santa Teresa de Cajon, who said they were employed at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster. All of them said that they worked for Trump without legal status — and that their managers knew.”

Continue reading Week 108, Friday, 8 February – Thursday, 14 February 2019 (Days 750-756)

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Trump Administration, Week 107: Friday, 1 February – Thursday, 7 February 2019 (Days 743-749)

Passages in bold in the body of the texts below are my emphasis. This is an ongoing project, and I update the site frequently. Because I try to stay focused on what has actually happened, I usually let the news ‘settle’ a day or so before posting. I hope readers will peruse the articles in full for a better understanding of the issues and their context; our democracy and our future depend on citizens who can distinguish between facts and falsehoods and who are engaged in the political process.

 

Friday, 1 February 2019, Day 743:

 

U.S. Suspends Nuclear Arms Control Treaty With RussiaThe New York Times, David E. Sanger and William J. Broad, Friday, 1 February 2019: “The Trump administration said on Friday that it was suspending one of the last major nuclear arms control treaties with Russia, following five years of heated conversations over accusations by the United States that Moscow is violating the Reagan-era agreement. The decision has the potential to incite a new arms race — not only with Russia, but also with China, which was never a signatory to the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, widely known as the I.N.F. It also comes as the United States has begun building its first long-range nuclear weapons since 1991, a move that other nations are citing to justify their own nuclear modernization efforts. Taken together, the two moves appear to signal the end of more than a half-century of traditional nuclear arms control, in which the key agreements were negotiated in Washington and Moscow.” See also, U.S. to withdraw from nuclear arms control treaty with RussiaThe Washington Post, Anne Gearan, Carol Morello, and Paul Sonne, Friday, 1 February 2019: “The United States will pull out of a nuclear arms control treaty with Russia, the Trump administration announced Friday, ending a cornerstone Cold War agreement on grounds that Russian violations render it moot. The demise of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty raises fears of a new nuclear arms race, although U.S. officials discount the risk. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States is suspending participation in the agreement, starting a six-month countdown to a final U.S. withdrawal. That leaves a slim chance that Russia could end missile programs widely seen as a violation, salvaging the treaty. The United States accuses Moscow of violating the agreement since 2014.” See also, U.S. to Suspend Obligations Under 1987 Nuclear Treaty With RussiaThe Wall Street Journal, Michael R. Gordon and Courtney McBride, Friday, 1 February 2019: “The U.S. said it plans to withdraw from a 1987 nuclear treaty with Russia, setting up potential development of new missiles to counter China, current and former American officials said, and a fresh debate about Washington’s military posture in the Pacific. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday the U.S. would notify Russia on Saturday of its withdrawal from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty in six months if Moscow doesn’t destroy the 9M729 missiles, weapons that Washington asserts violate the Cold War-era accord. Most arms-control experts see almost no chance of Moscow’s eliminating the nearly 100 9M729 missiles it has produced, along with their launchers, meaning the Cold War-era pact would end later this year. But while arms-control proponents are lamenting the treaty’s potential collapse, some military experts say it would enable the U.S. to field new, conventionally armed missiles to counter China’s expanding military.”

Cory Booker Announces Presidential Bid, Joining Most Diverse Field EverThe New York Times, Nick Corasaniti and Shane Goldmacher, Friday, 1 February 2019: “Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, the former mayor of Newark who has projected an upbeat political presence at a deeply polarized time, entered the 2020 race for president on Friday, embarking on a campaign to become the nation’s second black president in a Democratic primary field that is the most diverse in American history. Mr. Booker announced his candidacy on the first day of Black History Month to the sound of snare drums and with a clarion call for unity. In an email to supporters, he drew on the spirit of the civil rights movement as he laid out his vision for a country that will ‘channel our common pain back into our common purpose.’ ‘The history of our nation is defined by collective action; by interwoven destinies of slaves and abolitionists; of those born here and those who chose America as home; of those who took up arms to defend our country, and those who linked arms to challenge and change it,’ Mr. Booker said in an accompanying video.” See also, Where Cory Booker Stands on Some of the IssuesThe New York Times, Nick Corasaniti, Friday, 1 February 2019: “In his six years in the Senate, Cory Booker has progressed from a moderate who defended private equity to a leading progressive voice on issues like criminal justice reform and marijuana legalization. As he transitions to a national presidential campaign, which he announced Friday, the candidate has been focusing on some key issues that animate the left wing of the Democratic Party.” See also, Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey joins the 2020 presidential raceThe Washington Post, Chelsea Janes and David Weigel, Friday, 1 February 2019: “Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey said Friday that he will seek the Democratic nomination for president, adding his name to a growing and increasingly diversified field of 2020 candidates intent on taking on President Trump…. Booker joined a field that already included three other senators — Kamala D. Harris of California, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York — as well as several other candidates…. Like many of his fellow Democratic candidates, Booker — who has received corporate PAC money in the past and criticism from those on the left and right for his close ties to Wall Street and Silicon Valley donors — declared he will not accept corporate PAC money for his campaign.” See also, Cory Booker’s 2020 policy agenda: ‘Baby bonds,’ criminal justice reform, and action on climate changeThe Washington Post, Jeff Stein, Friday, 1 February 2019.

Ralph Northam, the Democratic Governor of Virginia, Admits He Was in Racist Yearbook PhotoThe New York Times, Alan Blinder and Jonathan Martin, Friday, 1 February 2019: “Virginia’s governor acknowledged on Friday that he was photographed more than 30 years ago in a costume that was ‘clearly racist and offensive’ — admitting that he had dressed either as a member of the Ku Klux Klan or in blackface — but resisted a flood of calls for his resignation from national and state Democrats. ‘I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now,’ Ralph Northam, the Democratic governor, said in a statement on Friday evening. In a subsequent video, Mr. Northam said he was ‘ready to do the hard work of regaining your trust’ and was committed to staying in office ‘through the remainder of my term.’ Mr. Northam issued his statement hours after the photograph — which was included on his 1984 yearbook page from Eastern Virginia Medical School and appeared alongside other pictures of himself — became public. Neither person in the black-and-white photograph was identified, and Mr. Northam, a pediatric neurologist, did not confirm which costume he had worn. He faced intense pressure on Friday night to step down, as Democrats moved swiftly to send a zero-tolerance message to a governor whose 2017 election marked the party’s most significant victory since losing the White House.” See also, Democratic Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia admits he was in 1984 yearbook photo showing figures in blackface and KKK hoodThe Washington Post, Laura Vozzella, Jim Morrison, and Gregory S. Schneider, Friday, 1 February 2019: “Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) on Friday acknowledged appearing in a ‘clearly racist and offensive’ photograph in his 1984 medical school yearbook that shows a man in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan robe…. Calls for his resignation, which began as a trickle, turned into a torrent as the night progressed. Late Friday, even his most trusted allies called for him to step down, including his onetime partner, former governor Terry McAuliffe (D), state Senate and House Democrats, Virginia’s legislative Black Caucus and Planned Parenthood. Pressure built, too, from national Democrats, including presidential hopefuls Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.) and Julián Castro, a former mayor of San Antonio. ‘Black face in any manner is always racist and never okay,’ tweeted Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP. ‘No matter the party affiliation, we can not stand for such behavior, which is why the @NAACP is calling for the resignation of Virginia Governor @RalphNortham.'”

Continue reading Week 107, Friday, 1 February – Thursday, 7 February 2019 (Days 743-749)

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Trump Administration, Week 106: Friday, 25 January – Thursday, 31 January 2019 (Days 736-742)

Passages in bold in the body of the texts below are my emphasis. This is an ongoing project, and I update the site frequently. Because I try to stay focused on what has actually happened, I usually let the news ‘settle’ a day or so before posting. I hope readers will peruse the articles in full for a better understanding of the issues and their context; our democracy and our future depend on citizens who can distinguish between facts and falsehoods and who are engaged in the political process.

 

Friday, 25 January 2019, Day 736:

 

Indicting Roger Stone, Special Counsel Robert Mueller Shows Link Between the Trump Campaign and WikiLeaksThe New York Times, Mark Mazzetti, Eileen Sullivan, and Maggie Haberman, Friday, 25 January 2019: “The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, revealed on Friday the most direct link yet between parallel efforts by the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks to damage Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election using Democratic Party material stolen by Russians. A top Trump campaign official dispatched Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime adviser to President Trump, to get information from WikiLeaks about the thousands of hacked Democratic emails, according to an indictment. The effort began weeks after Democratic officials publicly accused Russian intelligence operatives of the theft, which was part of Moscow’s broad campaign to sabotage the 2016 presidential race. The indictment made no mention of whether Mr. Trump played a role in the coordination, though Mr. Mueller did leave a curious clue about how high in the campaign the effort reached: A senior campaign official ‘was directed’ by an unnamed person to contact Mr. Stone about additional WikiLeaks releases that might damage the Clinton campaign, according to the court document. In an indictment filled with colorful details about clandestine meetings, angry texts — even a reference to “The Godfather: Part II” — Mr. Stone was charged with seven counts, including obstruction, making false statements and witness tampering. Mr. Mueller did not say that Mr. Stone’s interactions with WikiLeaks were illegal, nor that the Trump campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy with the organization.” See also, Here’s What We Learned From Roger Stone’s IndictmentThe New York Times, Eileen Sullivan and Sharon LaFraniere, Friday, 25 January 2019: “In Friday’s indictment of Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime informal adviser to President Trump, the special counsel for the first time revealed evidence of efforts by senior Trump campaign officials to learn how emails and other information that had been hacked by Russia and given to WikiLeaks could damage Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. The evidence appeared to contradict Mr. Stone’s assertions that he was acting on his own in his attempts to communicate with WikiLeaks. Senior campaign officials asked Mr. Stone to look into WikiLeaks’ plans, and he kept the campaign abreast of what he found out, the indictment said. The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, disclosed new details about his investigation into Russia’s 2016 election interference and possible ties to the Trump campaign: The campaign sought to learn how WikiLeaks’ releases might damage Mrs. Clinton;… Someone ‘directed’ a senior Trump campaign aide to contact Mr. Stone;… Mr. Stone is not charged with conspiracy;… Mr. Stone is the latest Trump associate charged with lying.” See also, Roger Stone’s Statement Responding to His Arrest: Full TranscriptThe New York Times, Friday, 25 January 2019.  See also, Everyone Who Has Been Charged in Investigations Related to the 2016 Presidential ElectionThe New York Times, updated on Friday, 25 January 2019. See also, Roger Stone Lied. What Was He Hiding? The New York Times, The Editorial Board, Friday, 25 January 2018: “In his indictment of the Trump torpedo Roger Stone, the special counsel Robert Mueller noted that on June 14, 2016, the Democratic National Committee announced ‘that it had been hacked by Russian government actors.’ According to the indictment, unsealed Friday, Mr. Stone participated in and helped conceal an effort by the Trump campaign to cooperate with WikiLeaks in publicizing thousands of emails stolen from the Clinton campaign, which was done to devastating political effect. Mr. Stone stands accused of obstructing an official proceeding, making multiple false statements to Congress and tampering with a witness.” See also, Longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller in Russia investigationThe Washington Post, Devlin Barrett, Rosalind S. Helderman, Lori Rozsa, and Manuel Roig-Franzia, Friday, 25 January 2019: “Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III unveiled criminal charges Friday against Roger Stone, a longtime friend of President Trump’s, accusing him of lying, obstruction and witness tampering in one of the longest legal sagas of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. In charging Stone, Mueller has struck deep inside Trump’s inner circle. The indictment charges that Stone, a seasoned Republican political operative, sought to gather information about hacked Democratic Party emails at the direction of an unidentified senior Trump campaign official and engaged in extensive efforts to keep secret the details of those actions. The 24-page document goes further than Mueller ever has toward answering the core question of his probe: Did Trump or those close to him try to conspire with the Kremlin? The indictment notes that before Stone’s alleged actions in the summer of 2016, the Democratic National Committee announced it had been hacked by Russian government operatives, implying that Stone must have known that. It does not allege Stone conspired with anyone but suggests his mission was to find out how the stolen material would be made public — something that, on its own, would not necessarily constitute a crime.” See also, Timeline: The Roger Stone indictment fills in new details about WikiLeaks and the Trump campaignThe Washington Post, Philip Bump, Friday, 25 January 2019. See also, 4 takeaways from the Roger Stone indictmentThe Washington Post, Aaron Blake, Friday, 25 January 2019. See also, With a Godfather reference and a Nixon quotation, special counsel Robert Mueller accuses Roger Stone of witness tamperingThe Washington Post, James Hohmann, Friday, 25 January 2019.  See also, A list of the alleged and admitted crimes undertaken by people associated with the Trump campaignThe Washington Post, Philip Bump, Friday, 25 January 2019. See also, After being indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller, Roger Stone, longtime adviser to Donald Trump, says he won’t testify against TrumpThe Guardian, Jon Swaine, Sabrina Siddiqui, and Paul Owen, Friday, 25 January 2019: “Roger Stone, a longtime adviser to Donald Trump, has said he will not testify against the president after he was arrested by the FBI on Friday morning and indicted on seven criminal charges. Stone, a veteran Republican operative, appeared in federal court in Fort Lauderdale charged by special counsel Robert Mueller with obstruction, lying to Congress and witness tampering. He was released on $250,000 bail and denies wrongdoing.” See also, A Conspiracy or Not? Here’s What We Know About the Mueller Investigation. The New York Times, Sharon LaFraniere and Michael S. Schmidt, Saturday, 26 January 2019. See also, Special Counsel Robert Mueller Got Roger StoneThe New Yorker, Adam Davidson, Friday, 25 January 2019: “Perhaps the most surprising detail of the indictment is that Stone, a famous braggart, often downplayed the significance of his role as a conduit between the Trump campaign and Assange. He was not, as he has previously said, simply guessing and making vague predictions about the actions WikiLeaks was likely to take; he was an active participant in its attempts to cause chaos in the 2016 Presidential election…. The most significant person in the Stone indictment appears in a single line, in the passive voice, and seems to have had more authority than almost anyone on the Trump campaign. According to the indictment, ‘a senior Trump Campaign official was directed to contact Stone about any additional releases and what other damaging information Organization 1 [WikiLeaks] had regarding the Clinton Campaign.’ Who did this directing? Why did Mueller avoid naming the person? Could it possibly have been Trump? Or—as one must still allow—was Trump, somehow, an innocent dupe surrounded by scheming scoundrels?” See also, ‘Get Me Roger Stone’: What to Make of the ‘Dirty Trickster’s’ Indictment by Special Counsel Robert MuellerLawfare, Susan Hennessey, Quinta Jurecic, Matthew Kahn, Lev Sugarman, Benjamin Wittes, Friday, 25 January 2019: “Today, the special counsel … [alleged] that Roger Stone, longtime gadfly political operative, had acted as a kind of back channel between the [Trump] campaign and WikiLeaks—funneling information between Julian Assange and senior officials of the Trump campaign about forthcoming releases of purloined emails. No, this is not the smoking gun many have been waiting for. A lot of the information contained in the indictment has been in the press for a while—and in any event, the relationship it alleges between the campaign and the Russian government is a complicated, and somewhat attenuated, one. But if the Roger Stone indictment doesn’t quite allege ‘collusion’ between the Trump campaign and the Russians, it unambiguously alleges—in the language of Robert Mueller’s appointment letter—’links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.’ Specifically, the indictment alleges that Stone and WikiLeaks were together coordinating between the Russian government and the Trump campaign over the release of information that, by then, had been publicly reported by Crowdstrike and many press outlets to have been stolen by the Russian government.”

Trump signs bill to open the government, ending the longest shutdown in historyThe Washington Post, Erica Werner, Mike DeBonis, and John Wagner, Friday, 25 January 2019: “President Trump on Friday agreed to temporarily reopen the federal government without getting any new money for his U.S.-Mexico border wall, retreating from the central promise of his presidency, for now, in the face of intense public anger. The president’s humbling concession to the new realities of divided government brought the nation’s longest government shutdown to an end on its 35th day. It was a major victory for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who took charge of a new House Democratic majority just three weeks ago and kept her large caucus unified throughout the standoff. ‘Our diversity is our strength,’ Pelosi told reporters after the agreement was reached. ‘But our unity is our power. And that is what maybe the president underestimated.’ Trump announced the deal in an early afternoon speech in the Rose Garden. By evening the Senate, and then the House, had passed the plan by voice vote, and both chambers adjourned. Trump signed the plan into law later Friday night, bringing an end to weeks of anxiety for 800,000 federal workers who will soon receive back pay after missing two consecutive paychecks. The shutdown had also threatened important government functions, impeding Food and Drug Administration safety inspections and the ability of the Internal Revenue Service to process tax refunds, and — in a final sign that it could continue no longer — causing delays Friday at major East Coast airports as unpaid air traffic controllers failed to report to work. The deal reopens the government through Feb. 15, while also creating a bipartisan, bicameral committee charged with negotiating an agreement on border security as part of a new spending bill for the Homeland Security Department.” See also, Trump Signs Bill Reopening Government for 3 Weeks in Surprise Retreat From WallThe New York Times, Nicholas Fandos, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, and Peter Baker, Friday, 25 January 2019: “President Trump agreed on Friday to reopen the federal government for three weeks while negotiations continued over how to secure the nation’s southwestern border, backing down after a monthlong standoff failed to force Democrats to give him billions of dollars for his long-promised wall. The president’s concession paved the way for the House and the Senate to both pass a stopgap spending bill by voice vote. Mr. Trump signed it on Friday night, restoring normal operations at a series of federal agencies until Feb. 15 and opening the way to paying the 800,000 federal workers who have been furloughed or forced to work without pay for 35 days. The plan includes none of the money for the wall that Mr. Trump had demanded and was essentially the same approach that he rejected at the end of December and that Democrats have advocated since, meaning he won nothing concrete during the impasse. Mr. Trump presented the agreement with congressional leaders as a victory anyway, and indicated in a speech in the Rose Garden that his cease-fire may only be temporary: If Republicans and Democrats cannot reach agreement on wall money by the February deadline, he said that he was ready to renew the confrontation or declare a national emergency to bypass Congress altogether. ‘We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier,’ Mr. Trump said. ‘If we don’t get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down on Feb. 15, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and Constitution of the United States to address this emergency.'” Trump’s Government Shutdown Was a Cruel JokeThe New York Times, The Editorial Board, Friday, 25 January 2019: “What a debacle President Trump’s shutdown proved to be — what a toddler’s pageant of foot-stomping and incompetence, of vainglory and self-defeat. Mr. Trump tormented public servants and citizens and wounded the country, and, in conceding on Friday after holding the government hostage for 35 days, could claim to have achieved nothing. He succeeded only in exposing the emptiness of his bully’s bravado, of his ‘I alone can fix it’ posturing. Once upon a time, Mr. Trump promised that Mexico would pay for a wall. He instead made all Americans pay for a partisan fantasy.” See also, Longest government shutdown in history ends after Trump relents on border wallPolitico, Andrew Restuccia, Burgess Everett, and Heather Caygle, Friday, 25 January 2019: “The longest government shutdown in U.S. history came to an end Friday after President Donald Trump and Congress agreed to temporarily reopen shuttered federal agencies without providing any money for the president’s border wall…. The move marks a major reversal for the president, who had insisted for weeks that he wouldn’t reopen the government until lawmakers agreed to fork over more than $5 billion for the border wall.” See also, Trump Repeats Unfounded Arguments in New Appeal for a Border WallThe New York Times, Linda Qiu and Michael Tackett, Friday, 25 January 2019: “President Trump has addressed the nation in prime time from the Oval Officedelivered remarks from the Rose Gardenmet with Democrats in the Situation Room and traveled to the border with Mexico to make his case that the government would not reopen unless he got funding for a border wall. Thirty-five days into the shutdown, the president announced on Friday from the Rose Garden that the government would reopen until at least Feb. 15, giving Congress time to work out a deal on border security. He did not get any funding for a wall. And on Friday, he did not advance any new arguments for building one. In fact, many of the claims he made were recycled heavily from previous comments and contained many of the same misstatements and exaggerations. Also notable was something Mr. Trump did not say, namely that Mexico would pay for the wall, one of the most often repeated, and unsupported, claims he has made on the border funding dispute.” See also, Trump Said a Border Wall Is Needed to Block Illegal Guns, Drugs, and Cash Coming From Mexico. But Much of the Contraband He Pointed to Came Through Legal Ports of Entry. The New York Times, Mitchell Ferman, Friday, 25 January 2019: “President Trump traveled to the Rio Grande Valley earlier this month and made his case for building a wall on the Southern border — needed, he said, to keep America safe from a variety of dangers that are continuing to make their way across the frontier from Mexico. To help make his point, the evidence was laid out on tables: a big bag of cash, bundles of drugs, high-powered firearms, all confiscated by law enforcement agents working the borderlands in South Texas…. But the display at the president’s Jan. 10 round table, it turns out, had little to do with what happens along unfortified reaches of the border. An examination of the seized items suggests that a border wall would not have stopped most of the items from entering the United States, or, in the case of several weapons displayed in front of the president, from leaving the United States for Mexico. Many of the items on display were seized on international bridges on the Texas border, detected by canines and Customs and Border Protection officers. Some of them were found during traffic stops or, in one case, inside a South Texas home, and it’s hard to know how they entered the country.”

As youth anger over climate change mounts, protests spread around the globeThe Washington Post, Rick Noack, Friday, 25 January 2019: “As urban temperature records were broken in Australia on Thursday amid a years-long drought that has turned farms into wastelands across parts of the country, high school students on the opposite side of the world rallied against the driving force behind rising temperatures: climate change. Now in their third week, the Belgian protests against inaction on climate change drew more than 30,000 high school and university students to Brussels, roughly triple the number of protesters last week. ‘The planet can do without us, but we cannot do without the planet,’ one of the signs at the march read, according to the Associated Press. Many of the protests are inspired by 16-year-old climate change activist Greta Thunberg, who skipped school last year to protest in front of the Swedish parliament, demanding more decisive action on climate change. Thunberg and others have pointed out in interviews and at rallies that their generation is protesting government inaction on climate change because they are the ones who will live with the effects…. Since Thunberg’s first public appearances, tens of thousands of students in Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Australia and other countries have followed her example. Rallies earlier this month drew thousands of students in more than 50 German cities, with organizers estimating that 30,000 joined the rallies.” See also, ‘I want you to panic’: Greta Thunberg, 16-year-old Swedish climate activist issues climate warning at Davos World Economic Forum–VideoThe Guardian, Friday, 25 January 2019: “Greta Thunberg, a Swedish climate activist, has told world leaders: ‘I don’t want you to be hopeful, I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day and then I want you to act.’ In an impassioned warning to act now on climate change, Thunberg told her audience at Davos: ‘Either we choose to go on as a civilisation or we don’t.'”

Continue reading Week 106, Friday, 25 January – Thursday, 31 January 2019 (Days 736-742)

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Trump Administration, Week 105: Friday, 18 January – Thursday, 24 January 2019 (Days 729-735)

Boston, 21 January 2017

Passages in bold in the body of the texts below are my emphasis. This is an ongoing project, and I update the site frequently. Because I try to stay focused on what has actually happened, I usually let the news ‘settle’ a day or so before posting. I hope readers will peruse the articles in full for a better understanding of the issues and their context; our democracy and our future depend on citizens who can distinguish between facts and falsehoods and who are engaged in the political process.

 

Friday, 18 January 2019, Day 729:

 

In a rare move, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office denies BuzzFeed report that Trump told his lawyer, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress about Trump Tower project in MoscowThe Washington Post, Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky, and Karoun Demirjian, Friday, 18 January 2019: “Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s office on Friday denied an explosive report by BuzzFeed News that his investigators had gathered evidence showing President Trump directed his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress about a prospective business deal in Moscow. ‘BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the special counsel’s office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony are not accurate,’ said Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller. The statement was remarkable on several levels — first, the special counsel’s office speaks exceedingly rarely, and second, the statement seemed to drive a stake through a sensational allegation that Democratic lawmakers suggested earlier in the day could spell the end of the Trump presidency. As earthshaking as the claims in the story were, no other media organizations were able to match them. The story published by BuzzFeed on Thursday night attributed to two federal law enforcement officials an incendiary assertion: that Mueller had collected emails, texts and testimony indicating Trump had directed Cohen to lie to Congress about the extent of discussions surrounding a proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow. That project never came to pass, but Cohen pleaded guilty last year to lying to Congress about the matter. The BuzzFeed report strongly implied the president might have committed a crime, dramatically raising speculation of possible impeachment. Within hours, Democrats in Congress were publicly demanding answers. The potential consequences of the report were so severe — immediate congressional investigations and a possible legal showdown with the White House — that Mueller decided to take the surprising step of publicly denying his investigation had gathered any such evidence. The special counsel’s office has only rarely issued public statements since it was created in May 2017; it had never previously issued a public statement regarding evidence in its investigation into Trump and Russian interference in the 2016 election. Inside the Justice Department, the statement was viewed as a huge step, and one that would have been taken only if the special counsel’s office viewed the story as almost entirely incorrect. The special counsel’s office seemed to be disputing every aspect of the story that addressed comments or evidence given to its investigators. The explicit denial by the special counsel’s office is likely to provide further ammunition to complaints by Trump and his supporters that press coverage of him is unfair and inaccurate.” See also, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Office Releases Statement Disputing BuzzFeed News Report That Trump Directed Michael Cohen, His Longtime Lawyer and Fixer, to Lie to Congress About the Trump Tower Project in MoscowThe New York Times, Mark Mazzetti and Sharon LaFraniere, Friday, 18 January 2019: “The special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election disputed on Friday a report that said President Trump had directed Michael D. Cohen, his longtime lawyer and fixer, to lie to Congress about his role in negotiations to build a skyscraper in Moscow. The rare public statement by a spokesman for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, challenged the facts of an article published by BuzzFeed News on Thursday saying that Mr. Cohen had told prosecutors about being pressured by the president before his congressional testimony…. Before Mr. Carr’s statement, the BuzzFeed report led to a flurry of reactions by senior members of Congress who said that the allegations, if true, could be grounds for initiating impeachment proceedings against Mr. Trump…. A proven effort by Mr. Trump to pressure a witness to commit perjury would be one of the most damning revelations so far in the investigation into Russia’s attempts to sabotage the 2016 presidential election and could be the cornerstone of a case that the president obstructed justice to keep investigators at bay…. BuzzFeed News maintained that its report was accurate, its editor, Ben Smith, said after Mr. Mueller’s office disputed the account. ‘We stand by our reporting and the sources who informed it, and we urge the Special Counsel to make clear what he’s disputing,’ Mr. Smith said on Twitter.”

Report by Oil Change International says the oil boom in the U.S. could lead to a climate catastropheCNN, Ivana Kottasová, Friday, 18 January 2019: “America’s push for oil and gas supremacy could lead to a ‘climate catastrophe,’ a new report has warned. The report by Oil Change International said that the United States is set to ‘unleash the world’s largest burst’ of carbon emissions from new oil and gas development if it goes ahead with its plans to expand drilling. ‘At precisely the time in which the world must begin rapidly decarbonizing to avoid runaway climate disaster, the United States is moving further and faster than any other country to expand oil and gas extraction,’ the report said. The United States became the world’s largest oil producer last year, surpassing Russia and Saudi Arabia. America’s oil output has more than doubled over the past decade, mostly thanks to the huge shale oil boom. The International Energy Agency said Friday that US oil output soared by more than 2 million barrels per day in 2018, the biggest jump ever recorded by any country. The agency, which monitors energy markets trends for the world’s richest nations, said the growth will continue this year.” See also, Democratic Representative Henry Cuellar’s Policy Preferences Could Destroy the World: If allowed to continue with projected new fossil fuel projects, U.S. oil and gas production could account for 60 percent of all new oil and gas production through 2030, making the U.S. the world’s largest new source of oil and gasThe Intercept, Kate Aronoff, published on Saturday, 19 January 2019.

Pentagon report says military bases face climate risks, but critics say it’s short on detailsThe Washington Post, Brady Dennis, Chris Mooney, and Missy Ryan, Friday, 18 January 2019: “Dozens of military installations around the country already are experiencing the impacts of climate change, and rising seas, wildfires and other climate-fueled disasters are likely to cause increasing problems for the armed forces, the Defense Department said Thursday in a report to lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The 22-page document comes in response to a request from Congress in an annual funding bill, which required defense officials to provide a list of the 10 most vulnerable sites that each military branch faces over the next two decades, and an analysis of what could be done to protect them. The document affirms a longstanding sense that the U.S. military, with massive energy needs and bases flung around the globe – including some on low-lying islands — is well attuned to how the planet is changing due to the burning of fossil fuels. But while the report calls climate change ‘a national security issue’ and highlights individual bases that face potential impacts, it did not include such a list of the most at-risk installations — an omission that drew quick criticism on Friday.”

Continue reading Week 105, Friday, 18 January – Thursday, 24 January 2019 (Days 729-735)

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