Trump Administration, Week 100: Friday, 14 December – Thursday, 20 December 2018 (Days 694-700)

Cambridge, MA, January 2018

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, 14 December 2018, Day 694:

 

Texas Judge Reed O’Connor Strikes Down Obama’s Affordable Care Act as UnconstitutionalThe New York Times, Abby Goodnough and Robert Pear, Friday, 14 December 2018: “A federal judge in Texas struck down the entire Affordable Care Act on Friday on the grounds that its mandate requiring people to buy health insurance is unconstitutional and the rest of the law cannot stand without it. The ruling was over a lawsuit filed this year by a group of Republican governors and state attorneys general. A group of intervening states led by Democrats promised to appeal the decision, which will most likely not have any immediate effect. But it will almost certainly make its way to the Supreme Court, threatening the survival of the landmark health law and, with it, health coverage for millions of Americans, protections for people with pre-existing conditions and much more. In his ruling, Judge Reed O’Connor of the Federal District Court in Fort Worth said that the individual mandate requiring people to have health insurance ‘can no longer be sustained as an exercise of Congress’s tax power.’ Accordingly, Judge O’Connor, a George W. Bush appointee, said that ‘the individual mandate is unconstitutional’ and the remaining provisions of the Affordable Care Act are invalid. At issue was whether the health law’s insurance mandate still compelled people to buy coverage after Congress reduced the penalty to zero dollars as part of the tax overhaul that President Trump signed last December. When the Supreme Court upheld the mandate as constitutional in 2012, it was based on Congress’s taxing power. Congress, the court said, could legally impose a tax penalty on people who do not have health insurance. But in the new case, the 20 plaintiff states, led by Texas, argued that with the penalty zeroed out, the individual mandate had become unconstitutional — and that the rest of the law could not be severed from it.” See also, Federal judge in Texas rules entire Obama health-care law is unconstitutionalThe Washington Post, Amy Goldstein, Friday, 14 December 2018: “A federal judge in Texas threw a dagger into the Affordable Care Act on Friday night, ruling that the entire health-care law is unconstitutional because of a recent change in federal tax law. The opinion by U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor overturns all of the sprawling law nationwide. The ruling came on the eve of the deadline Saturday for Americans to sign up for coverage in the federal insurance exchange created under the law. If the ruling stands, it would create widespread disruption across the U.S. health-care system — from no-charge preventive services for older Americans on Medicare to the expansion of Medicaid in most states, to the shape of the Indian Health Service — in all, hundreds of provisions in the law that was a prized domestic achievement of President Barack Obama.”

Michael Cohen Says ‘Of Course’ Trump Knew Hush Payments Were WrongThe New York Times, Maggie Haberman and Eileen Sullivan, Friday, 14 December 2018: “Michael D. Cohen said in an interview broadcast Friday that he knew arranging payments during the 2016 campaign to quiet two women who claimed to have had affairs with President Trump was wrong. And, he said, Mr. Trump knew it was wrong at the time, too. ‘Of course,’ Mr. Cohen, the president’s former personal lawyer, said when asked by the ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos whether the president was fully aware of what he was doing when Mr. Cohen made the payments.” See also, Michael Cohen says Trump knew hush-money payments were wrong, contradicting his former bossThe Washington Post, John Wagner, Friday, 14 December 2018: “Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, said in a television interview Friday that Trump knew it was wrong to make hush-money payments to women who alleged they had affairs with him, directly contradicting claims from the president. Cohen, who has admitted facilitating payments to two women in violation of campaign finance laws, told ABC News that he knew what he was doing was wrong. Asked whether the president also knew it was wrong to make the payments, Cohen replied, ‘Of course.’ He added that the purpose was to ‘help [Trump] and his campaign. He was very concerned about how this would affect the election,’ Cohen said. His comments, in an interview on ABC’s ‘Good Morning America,’ are at odds with those of Trump on Thursday in tweets and in a television interview.” See also, Kellyanne Conway’s Inaccurate Claims About Michael Cohen’s Hush-Money PaymentsThe New York Times, Linda Qiu, Friday, 14 December 2018. See also, Trump’s claim that he didn’t violate campaign finance law is weak–and dangerousThe Washington Post, George T. Conway III, Trevor Potter, and Neal Katyal, Friday, 14 December 2018: “Last week, in their case against Michael Cohen, federal prosecutors in New York filed a sentencing brief concluding that, in committing the felony campaign-finance violations to which he pleaded guilty, Cohen had ‘acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1,’ President Trump. And this week, prosecutors revealed that they had obtained an agreement from AMI, the parent company of the National Enquirer, in which AMI admitted that it, too, had made an illegal payment to influence the election. The AMI payment was the product of a meeting in which Trump was in the room with Cohen and AMI President David Pecker. This all suggests Trump could become a target of a very serious criminal campaign finance investigation.” See also, Michael Cohen just dealt another big blow to Trump’s hush-money defenseThe Washington Post, Greg Sargent, Friday, 14 December 2018.

Trump Names Mick Mulvaney Acting Chief of StaffThe New York Times, Michael Tackett and Maggie Haberman, Friday, 14 December 2018: “President Trump announced on Friday that he had selected Mick Mulvaney, his budget director, to serve as acting White House chief of staff, putting a halt — at least for now — to his consideration of a parade of possible candidates, including several who turned him down, to take over one of the most important positions in the federal government. In Mr. Mulvaney, Mr. Trump made a safe choice for a Republican administration — a hard-line conservative and former congressman from South Carolina with a deep understanding of how Congress works and a personal chemistry with the president. Among some senior White House officials, Mr. Mulvaney had long been considered the ‘Original Plan B.'” See also, Trump names budget director Mick Mulvaney as acting White House chief of staffThe Washington Post, Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey, and Damian Paletta, Friday, 14 December 2018: “President Trump on Friday abruptly named Mick Mulvaney, currently the director of the Office of Management and Budget, as acting White House chief of staff, elevating a conservative ideologue with congressional experience to steer the administration through a treacherous phase…. The White House sent mixed messages Friday about the length of Mulvaney’s tenure and whether he would be named to the post permanently, with aides saying Trump wanted to preserve flexibility.”

Continue reading Week 100, Friday, 14 December – Thursday, 20 December 2018 (Days 694-700)

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Trump Administration, Week 99: Friday, 7 December – Thursday, 13 December 2018 (Days 687-693)

Pittsfield, MA, 30 June 2018

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, 7 December 2018, Day 687:

 

Federal Prosecutors Say Trump Directed Illegal Payments to Ward Off a Potential Sex Scandal During the 2016 Presidential CampaignThe New York Times, Sharon LaFraniere, Benjamin Weiser, and Maggie Haberman, Friday, 7 December 2018: “Federal prosecutors said on Friday that President Trump directed illegal payments to ward off a potential sex scandal that threatened his chances of winning the White House in 2016, putting the weight of the Justice Department behind accusations previously made by his former lawyer. The lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, had said that as the election neared, Mr. Trump directed payments to two women who claimed they had affairs with Mr. Trump. But in a new memo arguing for a prison term for Mr. Cohen, prosecutors in Manhattan said he ‘acted in coordination and at the direction of’ an unnamed individual, clearly referring to Mr. Trump. In another filing, prosecutors for the special counsel investigating Russia’s 2016 election interference said an unnamed Russian offered Mr. Cohen ‘government level’ synergy between Russia and Mr. Trump’s campaign in November 2015. That was months earlier than other approaches detailed in indictments secured by prosecutors.” See also, Court filings directly implicate Trump in efforts to buy women’s silence and reveal new contact between his inner circle and RussianThe Washington Post, Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky, Friday, 7 December 2018: “Federal prosecutors filed new court papers Friday directly implicating President Trump in plans to buy women’s silence as far back as 2014 and offering new evidence of Russian efforts to forge a political alliance with Trump before he became president — disclosures that show the deepening political and legal morass enveloping the administration. The separate filings came from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and federal prosecutors in New York ahead of Wednesday’s sentencing of Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. Taken together, the documents suggest that the president’s legal woes are far from over and reveal a previously unreported contact from a Russian to Trump’s inner circle during the campaign. But the documents do not answer the central question at the heart of Mueller’s work — whether the president or those around him conspired with the Kremlin. The documents offer a scathing portrait of his former lawyer as a criminal who deserves little sympathy or mercy because he held back from telling the FBI everything he knew. For that reason, prosecutors said, he should be sentenced to “substantial” prison time, suggesting possibly 3½ years.” See also, New Mueller filing says Trump’s ex-lawyer Michael Cohen was in touch with a Russian seeking ‘political synergy’ with Trump’s presidential campaignThe Washington Post, Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger, Friday, 7 December 2018: “A Russian national who claimed ties to the Kremlin told President Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, as early as November 2015 that he could use his Russian government connections to help Trump’s business and political prospects. The new Russia contact was revealed Friday by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, as he outlined cooperation that Cohen has provided the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The interaction between a top Trump lieutenant and a Russian citizen who claimed government ties is the latest of dozens of similar interactions that have emerged since the November 2016 election. Days after Trump’s victory, his spokeswoman Hope Hicks asserted that there had been no contacts of any kind between Trump associates and Russia. The new information about Cohen is particularly significant because the contact came in the campaign’s early months and because prosecutors said the Russian national claimed to have interest in helping Trump’s campaign as well as his business.” See also, The government implicates Trump and the Trump campaign in federal campaign finance violationsThe Washington Post, Philip Bump, Friday, 7 December 2018: “Late Friday, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York filed a document arguing that Michael Cohen, until last year President Trump’s personal attorney, should receive a substantial prison sentence for violations of federal law to which Cohen admitted guilt in August. The document went further than simply articulating the punishment the government believes Cohen should receive. It also fleshed out two of those charges in particular, related to violations of campaign finance laws in 2016. For the first time, government prosecutors themselves directly implicated Trump in those violations — and added new alleged evidence to bolster Cohen’s culpability.” See also, The Michael Cohen Sentencing Memos Are Damning for TrumpThe New Yorker, Adam Davidson, Friday, 7 December 2018: “On Friday, federal prosecutors released two memorandums on Michael Cohen, one from Department of Justice prosecutors with the Southern District of New York, the other from the office of the special counsel Robert Mueller. While they are ostensibly designed to guide Cohen’s sentencing, they carry far greater weight. These documents make clearer than ever before the case against President Trump. The special counsel’s seven-page memorandum, along with court documents from Cohen’s guilty plea last week, lay out a straightforward time line.” See also, 5 big takeaways from the new Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort filingsThe Washington Post,  Aaron Blake, Friday, 7 December 2018: “Federal prosecutors drew some more important lines between Russia and those connected to President Trump on Friday, in a trio of filings in the Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort cases. Beginning late Friday afternoon, we saw Cohen sentencing recommendations filed by both the Southern District of New York and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation, and a document from Mueller’s team laying out Paul Manafort’s alleged lies to it. In all three, the plot thickened for Trump just a little bit. [Some of] the big takeaways [are covered in this article].” See also, Is There Anything Trump, Michael Cohen, and Paul Manafort Didn’t Lie About? The Intercept, James Risen, Friday, 9 December 2018.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller Says Paul Manafort, Trump’s Former Campaign Chairman, Lied About Contacts With Trump Officials and His Interactions With a Russian Linked to Moscow’s Intelligence ServicesThe New York Times, Adam Goldman and Sharon LaFraniere, Friday, 7 December 2018: “Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, lied to federal investigators about his contacts with Trump administration officials and his interactions with a Russian linked to Moscow’s intelligence services, the special counsel’s office said on Friday. He also lied about a $125,000 payment made through a political action committee to cover a debt he owed, prosecutors working for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, said in a partly redacted court filing explaining why they withdrew last week from a plea agreement they had reached with Mr. Manafort in September. They also claimed he misled investigators pursuing a case unrelated to Mr. Mueller’s investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential race and whether the Trump campaign conspired with the Kremlin’s operations. ‘Manafort told multiple discernible lies — these were not instances of mere memory lapses,’ the prosecutors wrote in a memo to Judge Amy Berman Jackson of United States District Court for the District of Columbia.” See also, Special Counsel Robert Mueller says Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, told ‘discernible lies,’ including about contacts with an employee alleged to have Russian intelligence tiesThe Washington Post, Rosalind S. Helderman, Rachel Weiner, and Spencer S. Hsu, Friday, 7 December 2018: “Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III said Friday that Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, told ‘multiple dis­cern­ible lies’ during interviews with prosecutors, including about his contacts with an employee who is alleged to have ties to Russian intelligence. In a document filed in federal court Friday, Mueller also said Manafort lied about his contacts with Trump administration officials after Trump took office. Manafort had told investigators that he had had no direct or indirect contact with White House officials since Trump’s inauguration, but Manafort had been in touch with officials as recently as the spring, according to the filing.”

Trump Says He Will Nominate William Barr as Attorney General and Heather Nauert as Ambassador to the United NationsThe New York Times, Charlie Savage and Maggie Haberman, Friday, 7 December 2018: “President Trump on Friday said he intended to nominate William P. Barr, who served as attorney general during the first Bush administration from 1991 to 1993, to return as head of the Justice Department…. Mr. Trump’s focus on Mr. Barr, who supports a strong vision of executive powers, had emerged over the past week following the ouster last month of Jeff Sessions as attorney general and the turbulent reception that greeted his installation of Matthew G. Whitaker as the acting attorney general. Mr. Trump also announced that Heather Nauert, the chief State Department spokeswoman, is his pick to be the next ambassador to the United Nations, replacing Nikki R. Haley, as the president began announcing some of the personnel changes he was expected to make after the midterm elections. Ms. Nauert was a Fox TV anchor before being picked in 2017 to be the State Department’s spokeswoman, and she will probably face skepticism from Senate Democrats for her lack of extensive political or diplomatic experience, which could delay her confirmation until 2019.” See also, Heather Nauert cited D-Day as the height of U.S.-German relations. Now she’s headed to the U.N. The Washington Post, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Friday, 7 December 2018: “The United Nations came into existence to vanquish Germany, as 26 nations jointly pledged in 1942 not to surrender to ‘savage and brutal forces seeking to subjugate the world.’ Three-quarters of a century later, the woman who would soon become President Trump’s pick to represent the United States at the United Nations cited the D-Day landings — a cornerstone of this unwavering Allied pledge and the basis of the Nazi defeat on the Western Front — to showcase the strength of German-American relations.” See also, Trump Will Nominate William Barr, a Skeptic of the Russia Investigation, as Attorney GeneralThe New York Times, Charlie Savage, Friday, 7 December 2018: “President Trump said on Friday that he would nominate William P. Barr, a skeptic of the Russia investigation who served as attorney general in the first Bush administration a quarter century ago, to return as head of the Justice Department. Mr. Barr, 68, would become the nation’s top law enforcement official as Mr. Trump and his associates are under investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, for whether they conspired with the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election and help elect Mr. Trump. Mr. Barr would oversee the inquiry as key aspects of it are coming to a close. Known for his expansive vision of executive power, Mr. Barr has criticized Mr. Mueller for hiring too many prosecutors who donated to Democrats and has cast doubt on whether Trump campaign associates conspired with Russians. Mr. Barr has also defended Mr. Trump’s calls for a new criminal investigation into his defeated 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, including over a uranium mining deal the Obama administration approved when she was secretary of state.”

Continue reading Week 99, Friday, 7 December – Thursday, 13 December 2018 (Days 687-693)

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Trump Administration, Week 98: Friday, 30 November – Thursday, 6 December 2018 (Days 680-686)

Pittsfield, MA, 30 June 2018

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, 30 November 2018, Day 680:

 

House Democratic leaders unveiled political reform legislation as ‘H.R. 1,’ The Washington Post, Mike DeBonis, Friday, 30 November 2018: “House Democratic leaders on Friday unveiled the outline of a broad political overhaul bill that will include provisions for public financing of elections, voting rights reforms and new ethics strictures for federal officials. The bill has been in the works for months as part of Democrats’ ‘For the People’ campaign platform, a framework that helped them win the House majority in this month’s midterm elections. Numerous outside groups aligned with Democrats have pushed the party’s House leaders to schedule a reform bill as their first order of business, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced before the election that the bill would be designated ‘H.R. 1’ — a symbolic title meant to emphasize its importance, even if it is unlikely to be the first piece of legislation to get a House vote in the new Congress…. Elements of the legislation include new donor disclosure requirements for political organizations, a system to multiply small donations to political campaigns, a mandatory new ethical code for the Supreme Court, an end to most first-class travel for federal officeholders, and a broad effort to expand voting access and reduce partisan gerrymandering.” See also, House Democrats unveil their first bill in the majority: a sweeping anti-corruption proposalVox, Ella Nilsen, Friday, 30 November 2018: “House Democrats unveiled details of their first bill in the new Congress on Friday — a sweeping anti-corruption bill aimed at stamping out the influence of money in politics and expanding voting rights. This is House Resolution 1 — the first thing House Democrats will tackle after the speaker’s vote in early January. To be clear, this legislation has little-to-no chance of passing the Republican-controlled Senate or being signed by President Donald Trump. But by making anti-corruption their No. 1 priority, House Democrats are throwing down the gauntlet for Republicans. A vast majority of Americans want to get the influence of money out of politics, and want Congress to pass laws to do so, according to a 2018 Pew Research survey. Given Trump’s multitude of scandals, it looks bad for Republicans to be the party opposing campaign finance reform — especially going into 2020.”

Special Counsel Robert Mueller Bores Into Trump Adviser Roger Stone’s Ties to WikiLeaksThe Wall Street Journal, Shelby Holliday and Rebecca Ballhaus, Friday, 30 November 2018: “Recent court documents provide the clearest indication yet that special counsel Robert Mueller is zeroing in on the ties between WikiLeaks and Roger Stone, a former Trump campaign adviser whose relationship with the president dates back nearly four decades. According to the documents and more than a half-dozen people who have testified in the probe, Mr. Mueller’s office in recent months has focused on Mr. Stone’s role as a potential conduit between the Trump presidential campaign and WikiLeaks, which during the 2016 election published thousands of emails related to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton that U.S. intelligence agencies have determined were stolen by Russian hackers. Prosecutors have evidence that Mr. Stone may have had advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plans to publish those emails, according to the documents, which also suggest Mr. Mueller’s team continues to investigate possible witness intimidation by Mr. Stone.” See also, Special Counsel Robert Mueller and His Prosecutors: Who They Are and What They’ve DoneThe New York Times, Noah Weiland, Emily Cochrane, and Troy Griggs, Friday, 30 November 2018. See also, The lies that special counsel Robert Mueller has already documentedThe Washington Post, Philip Bump, Friday, 30 November 2018. See also, Senate Intelligence Committee has referred cases of suspected lying to special counsel Robert MuellerThe Washington Post, Ellen Nakashima and Shane Harris, Friday, 30 November 2018: “The Senate Intelligence Committee has referred cases to the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election after witnesses questioned in the panel’s own Russia probe were suspected of lying, the committee chairman said Friday. ‘We have made referrals from our committee to the special counsel for prosecution,’ Chairman Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said at a national security conference in Austin. ‘In a lot of those cases, those might be tied to lying to us.'” See also, As Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Investigation Heats Up, Donald Trump’s Lies Are Giving Way to the TruthThe Intercept, James Risen, Friday, 30 November 2018: “Special Counsel Robert Mueller is closing in on Donald Trump, and as one shoe after another drops in the Trump-Russia investigation, the pressure sometimes prompts the president to inadvertently blurt out the truth. Or at least as close to the truth as a serial liar like Trump can get. On Thursday, Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer, pleaded guilty in federal court to lying to Congress about a deal to build a Trump-branded skyscraper in Moscow. Most notably, he admitted that he had misled lawmakers when he told them that discussions about the project had ended by January 2016 when, in fact, the project was still under active consideration by Trump and his business organization just as the Republican Party was about to nominate Trump as its presidential candidate in the summer of 2016.”

Trump administration approves seismic tests that could harm thousands of Atlantic dolphins and whalesThe Washington Post, Darryl Fears, Friday, 30 November 2018: “The Trump administration is preparing to take an important step toward future oil and natural gas drilling off the Atlantic shore, approving five requests from companies to conduct deafening seismic tests that could kill tens of thousands of dolphins, whales and other marine animals. The planned Friday announcement by the National Marine Fisheries Service, a division of the Commerce Department, to issue “incidental take” permits allowing companies to harm wildlife is likely to further antagonize a dozen governors in states along the Eastern Seaboard who strongly oppose the administration’s proposal to expand federal oil and gas leases to the Atlantic. Federal leases could lead to exploratory drilling for the first time in more than a half-century. In addition to harming sea life, acoustic tests — in which boats tugging rods pressurized for sound emit jet engine-like booms 10 to 12 seconds apart for days and sometimes months — can disrupt thriving commercial fisheries. Governors, state lawmakers and attorneys general along the Atlantic coast say drilling threatens beach tourism that has flourished on the coast in the absence of oil production.”

Continue reading Week 98, Friday, 30 November – Thursday, 6 December 2018 (Days 680-686)

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Trump Administration, Week 97: Friday, 23 November – Thursday, 29 November 2018 (Days 673-679)

‘Nobody Is Above the Law-Protect Mueller’ demonstration in Pittsfield, MA, Thursday, 8 November 2018

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, 23 November 2018, Day 673:

 

U.S. Climate Report Warns of Damaged Environment and Shrinking EconomyThe New York Times, Coral Davenport and Kendra Pierre-Louis, Friday, 23 November 2018: “A major scientific report issued by 13 federal agencies on Friday presents the starkest warnings to date of the consequences of climate change for the United States, predicting that if significant steps are not taken to rein in global warming, the damage will knock as much as 10 percent off the size of the American economy by century’s end. The report, which was mandated by Congress and made public by the White House, is notable not only for the precision of its calculations and bluntness of its conclusions, but also because its findings are directly at odds with President Trump’s agenda of environmental deregulation, which he asserts will spur economic growth. Mr. Trump has taken aggressive steps to allow more planet-warming pollution from vehicle tailpipes and power plant smokestacks, and has vowed to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement, under which nearly every country in the world pledged to cut carbon emissions. Just this week, he mocked the science of climate change because of a cold snap in the Northeast, tweeting, ‘Whatever happened to Global Warming?’ But in direct language, the 1,656-page assessment lays out the devastating effects of a changing climate on the economy, health and environment, including record wildfires in California, crop failures in the Midwest and crumbling infrastructure in the South. Going forward, American exports and supply chains could be disrupted, agricultural yields could fall to 1980s levels by midcentury and fire season could spread to the Southeast, the report finds.” See also, What’s New in the Latest U.S. Climate AssessmentThe New York Times, Brad Plumer and Henry Fountain, Friday, 23 November 2018. See also, Major Trump administration climate report says damages are ‘intensifying across the country,’ The Washington Post, Brady Dennis and Chris Mooney, Friday, 23 November 2018: “The federal government on Friday released a long-awaited report with an unmistakable message: The effects of climate change, including deadly wildfires, increasingly debilitating hurricanes and heat waves, are already battering the United States, and the danger of more such catastrophes is worsening.” See also, Climate change will have dire consequences for the US, new federal government report concludesCNN, Jen Christensen, Friday, 23 November 2018.

Trump Asks the Supreme Court for Fast Appeal of Transgender Military Ban Before the Lower Courts Have a Chance to RuleThe New York Times, Adam Liptak, Friday, 23 November 2018: “The Trump administration on Friday asked the Supreme Court to allow it to leapfrog federal appeals courts in several cases concerning the president’s decision to bar transgender people from serving in the military. Federal district courts have entered injunctions against the new policy, but no appeals court has yet ruled on it. The Supreme Court does not ordinarily intercede until at least one appeals court has considered an issue, and it typically awaits a disagreement among appeals courts before adding a case to its docket. The Trump administration has, however, repeatedly asked the justices to hear appeals directly from district court rulings, most recently in several cases concerning its attempt to shut down a program that shields some 700,000 young undocumented immigrants from deportation. Like the ban on transgender service in the military, that policy has been blocked by federal trial judges. In both sets of cases, Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco told the justices that prompt action was required to ensure that the Supreme Court could rule before its current term ended in June. The Supreme Court’s rules say that it will review a federal trial court’s ruling before an appeals court has spoken ‘only upon a showing that the case is of such imperative public importance as to justify deviation from normal appellate practice and to require immediate determination in this court.'” See also, Trump administration asks the Supreme Court to immediately take up Trump’s decision to ban transgender people from military serviceThe Washington Post, Robert Barnes, Friday, 23 November 2018: “The Trump administration on Friday once again asked the Supreme Court to bypass the usual legal process to take on another controversial issue: President Trump’s decision to ban transgender people from military service. Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco asked the justices to consolidate the challenges to the ban — which so far have been successful in lower courts — and rule on the issue in its current term. Civil rights groups and gay rights organizations are fighting the president’s order that would prohibit transgender men and women from enlisting, possibly subjecting current service members to discharge and denying them certain medical care.”

New York State’s Lawsuit Against the Trump Foundation Can Proceed, Judge RulesThe New York Times, J. David Goodman, Friday, 23 November 2018: “A state judge ruled on Friday that a lawsuit by the New York State attorney general could proceed against President Trump and the Trump Foundation over allegations of misused charitable assets, self-dealing and campaign finance violations during the 2016 presidential campaign. Mr. Trump’s lawyers had argued that the court did not have jurisdiction over Mr. Trump, as president, and that the statutes of limitations had expired in the case of some of the actions at issue. They also contended the attorney general’s office suffered from a ‘pervasive bias’ against Mr. Trump. In her 27-page ruling, Justice Saliann Scarpulla disagreed. ‘I find I have jurisdiction over Mr. Trump,’ she wrote.” See also, New York state judge allows suit against Trump and his personal charity to proceedThe Washington Post, Jonathan O’Connell and David A. Fahrenthold, Friday, 23 November 2018: “A New York state judge on Friday denied a request by attorneys for President Trump to throw out a lawsuit alleging that Trump and his family violated charity laws with the management of their personal foundation. Justice Saliann Scarpulla sided with New York Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood in allowing the case to continue, saying it was fair for the attorney general to argue that the president used the Donald J. Trump Foundation to advance his campaign.”

Continue reading Week 97, Friday, 23 November – Thursday, 29 November 2018 (Days 673-679)

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Trump Administration, Week 96: Friday, 16 November – Thursday, 22 November 2018 (Days 666-672)

‘Nobody Is Above the Law-Protect Mueller’ demonstration in Pittsfield, MA, Thursday, 8 November 2018

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, 16 November 2018, Day 666:

 

U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly rules in favor of CNN in its bid to restore Jim Acosta’s White House press passThe Washington Post, Paul Farhi, Friday, 16 November 2018: “A federal judge on Friday ruled in favor of CNN and reporter Jim Acosta in a dispute with President Trump, ordering the White House to temporarily restore the press credentials that the administration had taken away from Acosta last week. In a victory for the cable network and for press access generally, U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly granted CNN’s motion for a temporary restraining order that will prevent the administration from keeping Acosta off the White House grounds…. In explaining his decision, Kelly said he agreed with the government’s argument that there was no First Amendment right to come onto the White House grounds. But, he said, once the White House opened up the grounds to reporters, the First Amendment applied. Kelly’s ruling, however, primarily emphasized evidence indicating that the White House’s decision to boot Acosta had violated the Fifth Amendment, which guarantees due process in government actions…. ‘We are gratified with this result and we look forward to a full resolution in the coming days,’ CNN said in a statement. ‘Our sincere thanks to all who have supported not just CNN, but a free, strong and independent American press.'” See also, CNN’s Jim Acosta Returns to the White House After Judge’s RulingThe New York Times, Michael M. Grynbaum and Emily Baumgaertner, Friday, 16 November 2018: “A federal judge on Friday ordered the Trump administration to restore the press credentials of Jim Acosta of CNN, handing the cable network an early win in its lawsuit against the president and members of his administration. Presiding over one of the first major tests of press rights under President Trump, Judge Timothy J. Kelly of United States District Court in Washington ruled that the White House had behaved inappropriately in stripping Mr. Acosta of his press badge shortly after a testy exchange at a news conference last week…. Soon after the ruling, Mr. Trump said the White House would tighten its rules for how journalists must comport themselves at the White House. ‘People have to behave,’ the president said in the Oval Office. ‘If they don’t listen to the rules and regulations, we’ll end up back in court, and we will win.’ The ruling was a significant victory for CNN and Mr. Acosta, but Judge Kelly declined to say whether the denial of the White House press pass had amounted to a First Amendment issue. ‘I want to emphasize the very limited nature of this ruling,’ he said, saying that it was not meant to enshrine journalists’ right to access. ‘I have not determined that the First Amendment was violated here.’ The legal battle is expected to continue: Judge Kelly ruled only on the network’s emergency request for a temporary restoration of Mr. Acosta’s credentials. Hearings on other issues in the case are expected to resume next week. Some lawyers said that, CNN’s initial victory aside, journalists who cover the president had to remain vigilant. The case underscored that the entree granted to the White House press corps, which has worked out of the West Wing for decades, relies on custom rather than any legal framework.” See also, Judge orders White House to return Jim Acosta’s press passCNN, Brian Stelter, Marshall Cohen, David Shortell, and Jessica Schneider, Friday, 16 November 2018: “Friday’s ruling by federal judge Timothy J. Kelly was an initial victory for CNN in its lawsuit against Trump and several top aides. The suit alleges that CNN and Acosta’s First and Fifth Amendment rights were violated by last week’s suspension of his press pass. Kelly did not rule on the underlying case on Friday. But he granted CNN’s request for a temporary restraining order on Fifth Amendment grounds. And he said he believes that CNN and Acosta are likely to prevail in the case overall.”

CIA concludes Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal KhashoggiThe Washington Post, Shane Harris, Greg Miller, and Josh Dawsey, Friday, 16 November 2018: “The CIA has concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last month, contradicting the Saudi government’s claims that he was not involved in the killing, according to people familiar with the matter. The CIA’s assessment, in which officials have said they have high confidence, is the most definitive to date linking Mohammed to the operation and complicates the Trump administration’s efforts to preserve its relationship with a close ally. A team of 15 Saudi agents flew to Istanbul on government aircraft in October and killed Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate, where he had come to pick up documents that he needed for his planned marriage to a Turkish woman. In reaching its conclusions, the CIA examined multiple sources of intelligence, including a phone call that the prince’s brother Khalid bin Salman, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, had with Khashoggi, according to the people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the intelligence. Khalid told Khashoggi, a contributing columnist to The Washington Post, that he should go to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to retrieve the documents and gave him assurances that it would be safe to do so. It is not clear if Khalid knew that Khashoggi would be killed, but he made the call at his brother’s direction, according to the people familiar with the call, which was intercepted by U.S. intelligence.” See also, C.I.A. Concludes That Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Ordered the Assassination of Saudi Journalist Jamal KhashoggiThe New York Times, Julian E. Barnes, Friday, 16 November 2018. See also, CIA Concludes Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi Was Killed on the Orders of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin SalmanThe Wall Street Journal, Warren P. Strobel, updated on Saturday, 17 November 2018: “The Central Intelligence Agency has concluded that the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was carried out under the orders of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a close ally of President Trump, U.S. officials familiar with the matter said. The determination by the top U.S. spy agency could endanger President Trump’s efforts to protect relations with the crown prince and Saudi Arabia more generally. Mr. Trump said Saturday he expected to receive a briefing from the CIA later in the day.”

Supreme Court will hear arguments concerning Census citizenship questionThe Washington Post, Deanna Paul and Robert Barnes, Friday, 16 November 2018: “The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear arguments over whether Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and others can be compelled to explain their actions in a case challenging the Trump administration’s addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 decennial census. The addition of the question, which opponents say is a political move that will make the census less accurate and more costly, has been targeted in six lawsuits around the country. The legal issue the Supreme Court is asked to decide is whether the challengers must rely on the administrative record regarding the department’s decision, or whether the motivations of the officials should also be considered. The court’s timing is curious, because one trial, in New York, already is underway.”

Continue reading Week 96, Friday, 16 November – Thursday, 22 November 2018 (Days 666-672)

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Trump Administration, Week 95: Friday, 9 November – Thursday, 15 November 2018 ( Days 659-665)

‘Nobody Is Above the Law-Protect Mueller’ demonstration in Pittsfield, MA, Thursday, 8 November 2018

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, 9 November 2018, Day 659:

 

Judge Blocks the Disputed Keystone XL Pipeline in a Setback for Trump’s Energy AgendaThe New York Times, Lisa Friedman, Friday, 9 November 2018: “A federal judge late Thursday blocked construction of the disputed Keystone XL oil pipeline, saying the Trump administration ‘simply discarded’ the effect the project would have on climate change. The ruling by Judge Brian Morris of the United States District Court for Montana repudiates one of Donald J. Trump’s first acts as president. Two days after taking office, Mr. Trump signed an executive order approving the Keystone pipeline that had been blocked by former President Barack Obama because of environmental concerns. In saying that no work can go forward until the government more fully reviews the pipeline’s environmental impact, the ruling tees up another potentially contentious legal battle over climate change with a president who dismisses mainstream science and whose administration is also seeking to block a landmark lawsuit on behalf of children asking the government to stop the rise of planet-warming gases…. Environmental groups hailed the decision as a major victory in the long-running battle over Keystone, which has spanned more than a decade and become a symbol of the political battle over climate change. The nearly 1,200-mile pipeline from TransCanada Corp. would carry about 800,000 barrels of petroleum a day from the Canadian oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries.” See also, Federal judge blocks Keystone XL pipeline, saying Trump administration review ignored ‘inconvenient’ climate change factsThe Washington Post, Fred Barbash and Allyson Chiu, Friday, 9 November 2018: “A federal judge temporarily blocked construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, ruling late Thursday that the Trump administration had failed to justify its decision granting a permit for the 1,200-mile long project designed to connect Canada’s tar sands crude oil with refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. The judge, Brian Morris of the U.S. District Court in Montana, said President Trump’s State Department ignored crucial issues of climate change in order to further the president’s goal of letting the pipeline be built. In doing so, the administration ran afoul of the Administrative Procedure Act, which requires ‘reasoned’ explanations for government decisions, particularly when they represent reversals of well-studied actions. It was a major defeat for Trump, who attacked the Obama administration for stopping the project in the face of protests and an environmental impact study.”

Trump Suspends Some Asylum Rights, Calling Illegal Immigration ‘a Crisis,’ The New York Times, Michael D. Shear and Eileen Sullivan, Friday, 9 November 2018: “President Trump proclaimed on Friday that the illegal entry of immigrants across the southern border of the United States was detrimental to the national interest, spurring tough changes that will deny asylum to all migrants who do not enter through official border crossings. The proclamation, issued just moments before Mr. Trump left the White House for a weekend trip to Paris, suspends asylum rights for all immigrants who try to cross into the United States illegally, though officials said it was aimed primarily at several thousand migrants traveling north through Mexico in caravans…. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on Friday within hours of the president’s proclamation, urging a federal judge to prohibit Mr. Trump from moving ahead with his plans to deny asylum to thousands of migrants who may cross the border. In a legal filing in United States District Court in San Francisco, the A.C.L.U. said that the president’s move was ‘in direct violation of Congress’s clear command that manner of entry cannot constitute a categorical asylum bar.’ The lawsuit also alleges that the administration enacted the rule ‘without the required procedural steps and without good cause for immediately putting the rule into effect.'” See also, Trump issues decree limiting asylum protection for migrants crossing illegally into the U.S.The Washington Post, Nick Miroff, Friday, 9 November 2018: “President Trump issued a decree Friday to set in motion his administration’s new restrictions on access to asylum protections for those who enter the United States illegally, asserting broad executive authorities that will take effect after midnight but could be challenged in federal court before then. Under the new measures, announced by administration officials Thursday, Trump will rely on the same emergency authority invoked during his ‘travel ban’ of early 2017 to bar anyone crossing the Mexico border illegally from qualifying for asylum. Those protections will remain available to those who apply at official border crossings, or U.S. ports of entry, and the restrictions would not apply to underage asylum seekers who arrive without a parent or guardian.” See also, Lawsuit seeks to block Trump from restricting asylum for migrants who enter the U.S. illegallyThe Washington Post, Nick Miroff, Friday, 9 November 2018: “Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union and other immigrant advocacy groups filed suit Friday in the Northern District of California to block the Trump administration’s plan to deny asylum protections to migrants who cross the Mexico border illegally. The suit accuses the administration of attempting to violate the Immigration and Nationality Act and the Administrative Procedure Act, alleging that Trump administration officials have improperly rushed to implement the new restrictions while also asserting executive powers that lie beyond the scope of what the Supreme Court upheld in its ‘travel ban’ decision this year.” See also, Read Trump’s Proclamation Targeting the Caravan and Asylum SeekersThe New York Times, Friday, 9 November 2018.

Donald Trump Played a Central Role in Hush Payoffs to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougalThe Wall Street Journal, Joe Palazzolo, Nicole Hong, Michael Rothfeld, Rebecca Davis O’Brien, and Rebecca Ballhaus, Friday, 9 November 2018: “As a presidential candidate in August 2015, Donald Trump huddled with a longtime friend, media executive David Pecker, in his cluttered 26th floor Trump Tower office and made a request. What can you do to help my campaign? he asked, according to people familiar with the meeting. Mr. Pecker, chief executive of American Media Inc., offered to use his National Enquirer tabloid to buy the silence of women if they tried to publicize alleged sexual encounters with Mr. Trump. Less than a year later, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Pecker to quash the story of a former Playboy model who said they’d had an affair. Mr. Pecker’s company soon paid $150,000 to the model, Karen McDougal, to keep her from speaking publicly about it. Mr. Trump later thanked Mr. Pecker for the assistance. The Trump Tower meeting and its aftermath are among several previously unreported instances in which Mr. Trump intervened directly to suppress stories about his alleged sexual encounters with women, according to interviews with three dozen people who have direct knowledge of the events or who have been briefed on them, as well as court papers, corporate records and other documents. Taken together, the accounts refute a two-year pattern of denials by Mr. Trump, his legal team and his advisers that he was involved in payoffs to Ms. McDougal and a former adult-film star. They also raise the possibility that the president of the United States violated federal campaign-finance laws. The Wall Street Journal found that Mr. Trump was involved in or briefed on nearly every step of the agreements. He directed deals in phone calls and meetings with his self-described fixer, Michael Cohen, and others. The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan has gathered evidence of Mr. Trump’s participation in the transactions.” See also, The increasing evidence suggesting Trump violated campaign-finance lawThe Washington Post, Philip Bump, Friday, 9 November 2018: “President Trump has long argued that he did not engage in extramarital affairs with adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal and, further, that he knew nothing about payments intended to keep the two women quiet before the 2016 campaign. His insistence on those fronts, already crumbling in the wake of admissions under oath from his former personal attorney Michael Cohen, eroded almost entirely Friday following the release of a lengthy new report by the Wall Street Journal.”

Continue reading Week 95, Friday, 9 November – Thursday, 15 November 2018 (Days 659-665)

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Trump Administration, Week 94: Friday, 2 November – Thursday, 8 November 2018 (Days 652-658)

Cambridge, MA, 20 January 2018

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, 2 November 2018, Day 652:

 

Supreme Court allows trial on census citizenship question to go forwardThe Washington Post, Robert Barnes, Friday, 2 November 2018: “The Supreme Court refused Friday to delay an upcoming trial in which a number of states and civil rights organizations allege there was an improper political motive in Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. The trial is scheduled to begin Monday in New York. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch said they would have granted the Trump administration’s request to delay the trial. It is unclear how the other six voted — including new Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh — because justices are not required to publish their votes in such procedures. But at least five of the six were unwilling to block the trial. The administration has been to the high court several times in an attempt to keep the challengers from questioning Ross and other administration officials about their motivations in adding the question. Department of Justice lawyers finally asked the court to delay the proceedings. Challengers to the citizenship question cheered the court’s refusal to do so.” See also, Supreme Court Allows Trial on Census Citizenship Question to Go ForwardThe New York Times, Adam Liptak, Friday, 2 November 2018: “Rejecting a request from the Trump administration, the Supreme Court declined on Friday to halt a trial in a lawsuit challenging the addition of a question concerning citizenship to the 2020 census. The court’s brief order, which gave no reasons, came a little over a week after it granted the administration a partial victory in the case by temporarily blocking the deposition of Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, who oversees the Census Bureau. The lawsuit, filed by New York, other states, localities and advocacy groups, said that asking the citizenship question was a calculated effort by the administration to discriminate against immigrants. The advocacy groups said that Mr. Ross’s ‘shifting and inaccurate explanations’ for the addition of the question pointed to a political motive.”

Supreme Court Lets Youths’ Case Demanding Climate Action ProceedThe New York Times, Adam Liptak, Friday, 2 November 2018: “The Supreme Court on Friday refused to halt the trial in a lawsuit brought by 21 young people seeking to force the federal government to take action to address climate change. The court’s unsigned order said the Trump administration had raised substantial questions about the plaintiffs’ legal theories and the sweeping relief they sought. But the court said it would not intercede, instructing the plaintiffs to take the case back to an appeals court. Julia Olson, the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, said in a statement, ‘The youth of our nation won an important decision today from the Supreme Court that shows even the most powerful government in the world must follow the rules and process of litigation in our democracy.’ Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil M. Gorsuch said they would have granted the administration’s request to block the trial until the Supreme Court had an opportunity to consider the case.” See also, Supreme Court refuses to block young people’s climate lawsuit against U.S. governmentThe Washington Post, Robert Barnes and Brady Dennis, Friday, 2 November 2018: “The Supreme Court on Friday night refused to halt a novel lawsuit filed by young Americans that attempts to force the federal government to take action on climate change, turning down a request from the Trump administration to stop it before trial. The suit, filed in 2015 by 21 young people who argue that the failure of government leaders to combat climate change violates their constitutional right to a clean environment, is before a federal judge in Oregon. It had been delayed while the Supreme Court considered the emergency request from the government.”

Judge Orders Evidence to Be Gathered in Emoluments Case Against TrumpThe New York Times, Sharon LaFraniere, Friday, 2 November 2018: “A federal judge in Maryland on Friday ordered evidence-gathering to begin in a lawsuit accusing President Trump of violating the Constitution by maintaining a financial interest in his company’s Washington hotel. The plaintiffs are seeking records that could illuminate potential conflicts of interest involving Mr. Trump and foreign and state officials. The Justice Department, which sought to delay the lawsuit, failed to show a compelling reason to hold up the case and allow its lawyers to appeal the lower court’s rulings to a higher court, said the judge, Peter J. Messitte of the United States District Court in Greenbelt, Md. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, the District of Columbia and the State of Maryland, have accused Mr. Trump of violating constitutional bans against influence-peddling by accepting profits from the Trump International Hotel, a five-star hotel just blocks from the White House where many foreign and state officials stay while conducting business with the administration. Judge Messitte found earlier that the jurisdictions had legal standing to sue the president, and that the Constitution’s language restricting the president’s acceptance of financial benefits, or emoluments, should be broadly interpreted as protections against corruption. The emoluments clauses had never before been interpreted by a court.” See also, Judge denies Trump’s request for stay in emoluments caseThe Washington Post, Jonathan O’Connell and David A. Fahrenthold, Friday, 2 November 2018: “A federal judge on Friday denied President Trump’s request to stay a lawsuit alleging he is violating the Constitution by doing business with foreign governments, a decision that paves the way for plaintiffs to seek information about customers at his D.C. hotel. U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte in Greenbelt, Md., denied the Justice Department’s request that he pause the case to allow a higher court to intervene. And Messitte sharply questioned the president’s position that his business does not improperly accept gifts or payments — called emoluments — as defined by the Constitution.”

Continue reading Week 94, Friday, 2 November – Thursday, 8 November 2018 (Days 652-658)

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Trump Administration, Week 93: Friday, 26 October – Thursday, 1 November 2018 (Days 645-651)

Cambridge, MA, 20 January 2018

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, 26 October 2018, Day 645:

 

Cesar Altieri Sayoc Jr., an Outspoken Trump Supporter in Florida, Is Charged in Attempted Bombing SpreeThe New York Times, William K. Rashbaum, Alan Feuer, and Adam Goldman, Friday, 26 October 2018: “An outspoken supporter of President Trump from South Florida was charged on Friday with sending explosive packages to at least a dozen of the president’s critics, apparently bringing to a close an attempted bombing spree that has gripped the country just ahead of the midterm elections. The suspect, Cesar Altieri Sayoc Jr., 56, was arrested outside an auto parts store near Fort Lauderdale after a fast-moving investigation in which the authorities said they were able to pull a fingerprint from one of the bomb packages and collect Mr. Sayoc’s DNA from two others. Mr. Sayoc, who seemed to be living out of a van in Aventura, Fla., was taken into custody on a day when four more explosive packages were found, including two intended for United States senators, both Democrats. A federal criminal complaint spells out his contempt for this week’s many bomb targets, noting that Mr. Sayoc’s van was slathered with images and slogans often found on fringe right-wing social media accounts…. Mr. Sayoc posted frequently on right-wing social media groups, the authorities said. On Facebook, Mr. Sayoc published photos of a Trump rally he attended during the 2016 presidential campaign. He was wearing a red ‘Make America Great Again’ hat. See also, Man in Florida is arrested and charged in connection with mail bombs sent to prominent liberal figures and Democratic politiciansThe Washington Post, Devlin Barrett, Mark Berman, and Matt Zapotosky, Friday, 26 October 2018: “A lone fingerprint and a set of misspellings helped point FBI agents to a Florida man with a long criminal record now charged with mailing homemade bombs to prominent critics of President Trump — a politically charged case that has roiled the run-up to next month’s congressional elections. Cesar Sayoc, 56, a former pizza deliveryman, strip-club worker and virulently partisan supporter of the president, was arrested Friday and charged with a string of crimes in connection with the homemade pipe bombs sent this week to former president Barack Obama, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and others. He was formally charged with sending 13 such devices, and a law enforcement official said he is likely to be charged with sending a 14th device to Tom Steyer, a major Democratic donor. That package was intercepted in California, officials said.” See also, Living in a Van Plastered With Hate, Bombing Suspect Was Filled With Right-Wing RageThe New York Times, Patricia Mazzei, Nick Madigan, and Frances Robles, Friday, 26 October 2018: “On Twitter, Cesar Sayoc Jr. lashed out at immigrants, gun control advocates, and prominent Democratic politicians. On Facebook, he misspelled a racial epithet, directing it at the likes of Oprah Winfrey and former President Barack Obama. With fury in his fingers, he shared inflammatory news stories from Breitbart, hard-edge videos from Fox News, and angry posts from pages like ‘Handcuffs for Hillary.’ He tweeted a threat to former Vice President Joe Biden. And he posted photographs of himself wearing a red ‘Make America Great Again’ hat at one of President Trump’s campaign rallies. After a frenzied nationwide search for the person who sent 13 makeshift bombs to some of Mr. Trump’s most prominent critics, Mr. Sayoc, 56, was arrested Friday morning in Plantation, Fla., at an AutoZone car parts shop. Authorities released a photograph of a man with a buzz cut and a mouth that drooped toward a frown. They hauled away a white van plastered with bombastic stickers expressing support for Mr. Trump and animosity toward those who clashed with him. ‘Dishonest Media,’ read one on the van’s back right window. ‘CNN Sucks.’ Cross hairs appeared on a photograph of one of the liberal commentators at the network, which received more than one package from Mr. Sayoc at its offices in New York.” See also, Who is Cesar Sayoc? What we know about the suspected mail bomber arrested in Florida. The Washington Post, Matt Zapotosky, Annie Gowen, Sari Horwitz, and Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Friday, 26 October 2018: “On the Internet and in real life, Cesar Sayoc was not shy about broadcasting his support for Donald Trump and his contempt for those the president might consider enemies. He plastered stickers across his white van — supportive of Trump — alongside images of the president’s critics with red targets over their faces and a large decal that read ‘CNN sucks.’ On Twitter, the 56-year-old trafficked conspiracy theories and ranted about liberal billionaire George Soros, former president Barack Obama, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and others whose politics were out of line with his.”

Trump questions ‘this bomb stuff’ and suggests the attempted attacks have hurt Republican momentum in the pollsThe Guardian, Sabrina Siddiqui, Friday, 26 October 2018: “Donald Trump on Friday appeared to question the series of explosive devices sent to current and former Democratic officials this week, while suggesting the attempted attacks were halting Republican momentum before next month’s midterm elections. ‘Republicans are doing so well in early voting, and at the polls, and now this “Bomb” stuff happens and the momentum greatly slows – news not talking politics. Very unfortunate, what is going on. Republicans, go out and vote!’ the president tweeted. Trump’s comments came shortly after the discovery 0f two more suspicious packages, addressed to the New Jersey senator Cory Booker and former intelligence chief James Clapper, pushing the total number of devices intercepted by authorities to 12.” See also, Trump, at Charlotte Rally, Tries to Rebuild Political ‘Momentum’ by Reviving Old AttacksThe New York Times, Katie Rogers, Friday, 26 October 2018: “For two days, the president toyed with a bipartisan message and watched as the news cycle focused not on him, and not on the midterm elections, but on at least 14 explosive devices delivered to prominent Democratic figures. By Friday, he had had enough. As he left Washington for his latest campaign rally here, President Trump made it clear that he was no longer going to sit through another news cycle without President Trump at the center. ‘The Republicans had tremendous momentum, and then, of course, this happened, where all that you people talked about was that,’ Mr. Trump said to reporters about the bomb scares. ‘But now we have to start the momentum again.'” See also, Trump is mad that the mail bombs are distracting people from his campaign rhetoricThe Washington Post, Philip Bump, Friday, 26 October 2018.

Trump Is Considering Executive Actions to Stop Asylum Seekers From Central AmericaThe New York Times, Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Gardiner Harris, Friday, 26 October 2018: “President Trump is considering a major speech on Tuesday to announce a broad crackdown on the southern border, administration officials said Friday, making a significant play to energize his anti-immigrant base one week before midterm congressional elections where Republican control of Congress is at stake. Mr. Trump is expected to use the remarks to outline his plans for the deployment of hundreds of Army troops and to fortify the border, including executive actions he is considering to deny entry to Central American migrants and asylum seekers. A bid to freeze or cut financial aid to Central American countries whose citizens are making their way north toward the United States is also under discussion, with proposals coming from both the National Security Council and the Office of Management and Budget, according to two Trump administration officials, who said a final decision would be reached by Tuesday. Even as the president’s advisers met on Friday to nail down the details of the multipronged border operation, human rights groups raised concerns about Mr. Trump’s plans, calling them politically motivated and potentially in violation of United States and international law. And Democrats condemned what they called a blatant political ploy to distract voters before Election Day.”

Continue reading Week 93, Friday, 26 October – Thursday, 1 November 2018 (Days 645-651)

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Trump Administration, Week 92: Friday, 19 October – Thursday, 25 October 2018 (Days 638-644)

Cambridge, MA, 20 January 2018

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, 19 October 2018, Day 638:

 

Saudi Arabia Says Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi Was Killed During a Fistfight Inside the Saudi Consulate in IstanbulThe New York Times, Ben Hubbard, Friday, 19 October 2018: “After two weeks of shifting stories, Saudi Arabia said Saturday that its agents strangled Jamal Khashoggi, a dissident journalist, during a fistfight inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul and that 18 men had been arrested in the case. Those arrested included 15 men who were sent to confront Mr. Khashoggi, plus one driver and two consular staff members, a Saudi official said. Saudi state media reported that Saud al-Qahtani, a close aide to the crown prince, had been dismissed, along with Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, the deputy director of Saudi intelligence, and other high-ranking intelligence officials. The Saudi official said General Assiri had organized the operation and that Mr. Qahtani had known about it and contributed to an aggressive environment that allowed it to escalate. President Trump on Friday night said that Saudi Arabia’s statements were credible and that, along with its announcement of arrests, amounted to ‘good first steps.’ Mr. Trump, who has built strong ties with the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, said that he would consider ‘some form of sanction’ in response, but that he ‘would prefer we don’t use as retribution’ the cancellation of $110 billion worth of arms sales to the Saudis. But Representative Adam Schiff of California was not buying the Saudi explanation. Mr. Schiff, the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in an interview Friday night that ‘if Khashoggi was fighting inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, he was fighting for his life with people sent to capture or kill him. ‘Mr. Schiff, who said he had received a detailed, classified briefing earlier in the day on what American spy services believe were the circumstances, said that the Saudi version ‘was not credible.’ He said he could not disclose what the intelligence agency briefers told him. Since Mr. Khashoggi disappeared after entering the consulate on Oct. 2, Saudi Arabia has offered various, changing explanations for his disappearance, all of which seemed to distance top leadership from responsibility.” See also, In Break With U.S. Intelligence, Trump Says Saudi Explanation of Jamal Khashoggi’s Death Is CredibleThe New York Times, Mark Landler and Eric Schmitt, Friday, 19 October 2018: “President Trump broke with his own intelligence agencies on Friday, appearing to accept Saudi Arabia’s explanation that the journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed by accident during a fistfight, while the United States’ spy agencies are increasingly convinced that he was assassinated on high-level orders from the Saudi royal court. Mr. Trump, who has cultivated Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and made Saudi Arabia the linchpin of his Middle East strategy, has been deeply reluctant to point a finger at the prince, despite evidence linking him to Saudi operatives who entered the country’s consulate in Istanbul the same day that Mr. Khashoggi disappeared there.”

U.S. Justice Department Accuses Russians of Interfering in Midterm ElectionsThe New York Times, Adam Goldman, Friday, 19 October 2018: “Russians working for a close ally of President Vladimir V. Putin are engaging in an elaborate campaign of ‘information warfare’ to interfere with the American midterm elections next month, federal prosecutors said on Friday in unsealing charges against a woman whom they labeled the project’s ‘chief accountant.’ The woman, Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova, 44, of St. Petersburg, managed a multimillion-dollar budget for the effort to “sow division and discord” in the American political system, according to a criminal complaint. She bought internet domain names and Facebook and Instagram ads and spent money on building out Twitter accounts and paying to promote divisive posts on social media. She worked for several entities owned by Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch sometimes known as “Putin’s chef” who was among 13 Russians indicted in February by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, on charges of interfering in the election two years ago.” See also, How closely did Russian troll rhetoric mirror Trump’s? See if you can tell the difference. The Washington Post, Philip Bump, Friday, 19 October 2018: “On Friday, the Department of Justice unveiled a new indictment targeting a Russian national for involvement in interfering with American elections. This time, though, there was a twist: The Russian was alleged to have interfered not with the 2016 election but, instead, with the current midterms. What was particularly remarkable about the indictment, though, was that it included, for the first time, an alleged walk-through of how Russian rhetoric aimed at sowing division in the electorate had shifted after President Trump’s inauguration. It included examples of social media posts, but also some blanket rhetoric offered to members of the alleged Russian troll collective in response to news stories and events.” See also, Justice Department charges Russian woman with interference in midterm electionsThe Washington Post, Matt Zapotosky, Rachel Weiner, Ellen Nakashima, and Devlin Barrett, Friday, 19 October 2018.

‘That’s My Kind of Guy,’ Trump Says of Montana Republican Representative Greg Gianforte Who Body-Slammed a ReporterThe New York Times, Emily Cochrane, Friday, 19 October 2018: “President Trump praised a Republican candidate’s assault last year on a reporter and fumed over his Democratic opponents [in Missoula, Montana] on Thursday night in a freewheeling rally meant to mobilize his base’s support in the coming midterm elections. In urging the crowd to vote for Representative Greg Gianforte, who is running for re-election and who was sentenced to anger management classes and community service for assaulting a reporter last spring, Mr. Trump jokingly warned the crowd to ‘never wrestle him.’ ‘I had heard he body-slammed a reporter,’ Mr. Trump said, noting that he was initially concerned that Mr. Gianforte would lose in a special election last May…. ‘Anybody that can do a body-slam,’ the president added, ‘that’s my kind of guy.’ Mr. Trump made no mention at the rally of Jamal Khashoggi, a dissident Saudi journalist and columnist for The Washington Post, who disappeared this month after visiting the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. United States intelligence officials say Mr. Khashoggi was most likely killed by Saudi officials.” See also, At Montana rally, Trump praises Republican congressman Greg Gianforte for assaulting a reporterThe Washington Post, Seung Min Kim and Felicia Sonmez, Friday, 19 October 2018: “President Donald Trump on Thursday openly praised Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) for assaulting a reporter in his bid for Congress last year, as the United States faced an unfolding crisis over missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who is believed to have been killed by Saudi Arabian agents. The remarks from Trump at a campaign rally — staged at an airport hangar [in Missoula, Montana] with a mountainous backdrop — drew boisterous cheers from the conservative crowd….”

Continue reading Week 92, Friday, 19 October – Thursday, 25 October 2018 (Days 638-644)

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Trump Administration, Week 91: Friday, 12 October – Thursday, 18 October 2018 (Days 631-637)

Cambridge, MA, 20 January 2018

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, 12 October 2018, Day 631:

 

Trump administration weighs new family-separation effort at the borderThe Washington Post, Nick Miroff, Josh Dawsey, and Maria Sacchetti, Friday, 12 October 2018: “The White House is actively considering plans that could again separate parents and children at the U.S.-Mexico border, hoping to reverse soaring numbers of families attempting to cross illegally into the United States, according to several administration officials with direct knowledge of the effort. One option under consideration is for the government to detain asylum-seeking families together for up to 20 days, then give parents a choice — stay in family detention with their child for months or years as their immigration case proceeds, or allow children to be taken to a government shelter so other relatives or guardians can seek custody. That option — called ‘binary choice’ — is one of several under consideration amid the president’s frustration over border security. Trump has been unable to fulfill key promises to build a border wall and end what he calls ‘catch and release,’ a process that began under past administrations in which most detained families are quickly freed to await immigration hearings. The number of migrant family members arrested and charged with illegally crossing the border jumped 38 percent in August and is now at a record level, according to Department of Homeland Security officials.”

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross Changes His Story on Discussions Of Citizenship Question for CensusThe New York Times, Glenn Thrush and Adam Liptak, Friday, 12 October 2018: “Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has shifted his explanation for adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census, saying he now recalls discussing it with Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, according to court documents filed Thursday. Mr. Ross, who faces a court order to provide a deposition to the plaintiffs in a lawsuit seeking to strip the question from the questionnaire, told a congressional committee earlier this year that he had only talked about the question with Justice Department officials to determine its legality. Mr. Ross now says Mr. Bannon suggested that he contact Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state whom Mr. Trump appointed to a commission to investigate his unsubstantiated claims that millions of illegal immigrants cast ballots for Hillary Clinton in 2016. The panel was later disbanded, and Mr. Kobach is currently the Republican candidate for governor of Kansas.” See also, New emails reveal a central political motivation for changing the censusThe Washington Post, Philip Bump, Friday, 12 October 2018: “When Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross instructed the Census Bureau earlier this year to include a question on the decennial census about the citizenship of residents, he offered a specific rationale. Having data on citizenship, he wrote, would allow the government to better enforce the Voting Rights Act, Civil-Rights-era legislation meant to protect voting from discriminatory policies. This rationale was quickly treated with skepticism. The Trump administration has not in other significant ways championed the importance of Americans to vote or seemed particularly concerned about cracking down on efforts to limit voting. In fact, President Trump convened a commission meant to study the purported issue of voter fraud, an effort that in other places has been a precursor to new laws making voting more difficult, not easier. Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, even praised a 2013 Supreme Court decision that gutted the rule. So what was the rationale? Newly released emails from the Commerce Department offer an unsurprising answer. The emails were released in response to questions Ross faced about why he’d demanded the new question in the first place. He was asked in March whether he’d spoken with anyone at the White House about the question, a pointed effort to figure out whether this was part of the Trump administration’s broad effort to crack down on immigrants in the country illegally. Ross said he hadn’t spoken with anyone at the White House — but the new emails show that, in fact, he had. Specifically, he spoke with Stephen K. Bannon, the former adviser to the president who was one of the more outspoken anti-immigration members of the president’s early team. Ross had also spoken with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, as shown in an email Kobach sent to the secretary. Kobach has long crusaded against the essentially nonexistent scourge of rampant voter fraud and served as the vice chairman of Trump’s voter fraud commission.”

Inside the Vast Tent City Housing Migrant Children in a Texas DesertThe New York Times, Manny Fernandez and Caitlin Dickerson, Friday, 12 October 2018: “The tent city that the federal government operates at the Tornillo border station about 35 miles southeast of El Paso on the Mexico border was built in June as a temporary home for a few hundred migrant children. Four months later, it has rapidly expanded and has nearly quadrupled in size. The creation and expansion of the Tornillo camp shows the degree to which the Trump administration has taken a disaster-oriented, militaristic approach to the care and housing of migrant youths. The contractor hired by the government has assisted emergency workers in natural and man-made disasters around the globe.”

Continue reading Week 91, Friday, 12 October – Thursday, 18 October 2018 (Days 631-637)

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