Trump, Week 65: Friday, 13 April – Thursday, 19 April 2018 (Days 449-454)

March For Our Lives, Pittsfield, MA, Saturday, 24 March 2018

Keeping Track (of some things), Staying Outraged (it is possible), and Resisting (it’s essential)

 

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, 13 April 2018, Day 449:

 

U.S., Britain, and France Strike Syria Over Suspected Chemical Weapons Attack, The New York Times, Helene Cooper, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, and Ben Hubbard, Friday, 13 April 2018: “The United States and European allies launched airstrikes on Friday night against Syrian research, storage and military targets as President Trump sought to punish President Bashar al-Assad for a suspected chemical attack near Damascus last weekend that killed more than 40 people. Britain and France joined the United States in the strikes in a coordinated operation that was intended to show Western resolve in the face of what the leaders of the three nations called persistent violations of international law. Mr. Trump characterized it as the beginning of a sustained effort to force Mr. Assad to stop using banned weapons, but only ordered a limited, one-night operation that hit three targets.” See also, How Syria’s Death Toll Is Lost in the Fog of War, The New York Times, Megan Specia, Friday, 13 April 2018. See also, Was Trump’s Syria Strike Illegal? Explaining Presidential War Powers. The New York Times, Charlie Savage, published on 7 April 2017: “The strike raises two sets of legal issues. One involves international law and when it is lawful for any nation to attack another. The other involves domestic law and who gets to decide — the president or Congress — whether the United States should attack another country. Did Trump have clear authority under international law to attack Syria? No. The United Nations Charter, a treaty the United States has ratified, recognizes two justifications for using force on another country’s soil without its consent: the permission of the Security Council or a self-defense claim. In the case of Syria, the United Nations did not approve the strike, and the Defense Department justified it as ‘intended to deter the regime from using chemical weapons again,’ which is not self-defense.”

Trump issues pardon to ‘Scooter’ Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, The Washington Post, John Wagner, Matt Zapotosky, and Joshua Dawsey, Friday, 13 April 2018: “President Trump issued a pardon Friday to Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby, offering forgiveness to a former chief of staff to Vice President Richard B. Cheney who was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice related to the leak of a CIA officer’s identity…. Given the nature of Libby’s crimes, Trump came under fire from critics Friday after he took to Twitter to accuse former FBI director James B. Comey of leaking classified information and lying to Congress. ‘On the day the President wrongly attacks Comey for being a “leaker and liar” he [pardons] a convicted leaker and liar, Scooter Libby,’ Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) wrote on Twitter. ‘This is the President’s way of sending a message to those implicated in the Russia investigation: You have my back and I‘ll have yours.'” See also, Trump Pardons Scooter Libby in a Case That Mirrors His Own, The New York Times, Peter Baker, Friday, 13 April 2018. See also, Trump ‘Scooter’ Libby pardon sends a message to witnesses in Mueller probe, The Washington Post, James Hohmann, Friday, 13 April 2018.

Criminal investigation into Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s business dealings began months ago, The Washington Post, Philip Bump and Devlin Barrett, Friday, 13 April 2018: “President Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen has been under criminal investigation for months by federal prosecutors who empaneled a grand jury to probe his business dealings beyond his law practice, according to a new court filing. Prosecutors revealed the new details about the Cohen investigation after his lawyer appeared in court seeking to temporarily bar prosecutors from reviewing materials that FBI agents seized in a search this week of Cohen’s office, home and hotel room. After three separate hearings on the matter Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Kimba Wood indicated that she did not have enough information to issue any ruling on that request. She ordered the lawyers — including Cohen personally — to return to court Monday afternoon with more details, including a list of Cohen’s clients.” See also, Trump hires attorney Joanna Hendon to shield items seized in FBI raid on Michael Cohen’s offices, NBC News, Hannah Rappleye, Tom Winter, and Daniel Arkin, Friday, 13 April 2018: “Lawyers for President Donald Trump and his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, argued before a federal judge in New York on Friday that they believe some of the materials seized from Cohen during an FBI raid this week are protected by attorney-client privilege. A new attorney for Trump, Joanna Hendon, who said she was retained on Wednesday evening, told the judge that the president has ‘an acute interest in this matter.’ U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood did not issue a ruling on Friday and instructed Cohen’s attorney to make sure his client is present for a hearing on Monday.”

Continue reading Week 65, Friday, 13 April – Thursday, 19 April 2018 (Days 449-455)

Trump Sees Inquiry Into Michael Cohen as Greater Threat Than Special Counsel Robert Mueller, The New York Times, Matt Apuzzo, Michael S. Schmidt, Maggie Haberman, and Eileen Sullivan, Friday, 13 April 2018: “President Trump’s advisers have concluded that a wide-ranging corruption investigation into his personal lawyer poses a greater and more imminent threat to the president than even the special counsel’s investigation, according to several people close to Mr. Trump. As his lawyers went to court in New York on Friday to try to block prosecutors from reading files that were seized from the personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, this week, Mr. Trump found himself increasingly isolated in mounting a response. He continued to struggle to hire a new criminal lawyer, and some of his own aides were reluctant to advise him about a response for fear of being dragged into a criminal investigation themselves…. Mr. Trump called Mr. Cohen on Friday to “check in,” according to two people briefed on the call. Depending on what else was discussed, the call could be problematic, as lawyers typically advise their clients against discussing investigations.”

Trump’s allies worry that federal investigators may have siezed recordings made by his attorney Michael Cohen, The Washington Post, Ashley Parker, Carol D. Leonnig, Josh Dawsey, and Tom Hamburger, Friday, 13 April 2018: “President Trump’s personal attorney Michael D. Cohen sometimes taped conversations with associates, according to three people familiar with his practice, and allies of the president are worried that the recordings were seized by federal investigators in a raid of Cohen’s office and residences this week.”

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has evidence Michael Cohen was in Prague in 2016, confirming part of Steele dossier, McClatchy DC Bureau, Peter Stone and Greg Gordon, Friday, 13 April 2018: “The Justice Department special counsel has evidence that Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and confidant, Michael Cohen, secretly made a late-summer trip to Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to two sources familiar with the matter. Confirmation of the trip would lend credence to a retired British spy’s report that Cohen strategized there with a powerful Kremlin figure about Russian meddling in the U.S. election. It would also be one of the most significant developments thus far in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of whether the Trump campaign and the Kremlin worked together to help Trump win the White House. Undercutting Trump’s repeated pronouncements that ‘there is no evidence of collusion,’ it also could ratchet up the stakes if the president tries, as he has intimated he might for months, to order Mueller’s firing.” See also, Michael Cohen’s visiting Prague would be a huge development in the Russia investigation, if it’s true, The Washington Post, Philip Bump, published on Saturday, 14 April 2018.

Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen Negotiated a $1.6 Million Settlement for Top Republican Fundraiser Elliott Broidy to Pay Off a Former Playboy Model He Impregnated, The Wall Street Journal, Joe Palazzolo and Michael Rothfeld, Friday, 13 April 2018: “President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer negotiated a deal in late 2017 to pay $1.6 million to a former Playboy model who said she was impregnated by a top Republican fundraiser, according to people familiar with the matter…. The deal, which hasn’t previously been reported, prohibits the Los Angeles woman from disclosing her alleged relationship with Mr. Broidy in exchange for $1.6 million to be paid to her over two years in quarterly installments, these people said. The first payment was due Dec. 1, according to one of the people.” See also, Elliott Broidy, Republican National Committee Official Who Agreed to Pay Playboy Model $1.6 Million, Resigns. Trump’s Lawyer, Michael Cohen, Arranged the Payout. The New York Times, Rebecca R. Ruiz and Jim Rutenberg, Friday, 13 April 2018: “A major donor with close ties to the White House resigned on Friday as deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee after the revelation that he had agreed to pay $1.6 million to a former Playboy model who became pregnant during an affair. The deal was arranged in the final months of 2017 by President Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen.” See also, Elliott Broidy, Republican National Committee deputy finance chair, steps down after admitting Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, negotiated a $1.6 million settlement between him and pregnant Playboy model, The Washington Post, Tom Hamburger, Ellen Nakashima, Beth Reinhard, and Emma Brown, Friday, 13 April 2018.

Stephen Wynn, casino magnate accused of sexual misconduct, gave $500,000 to pro-Trump super PAC, The Washington Post, Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Anu Narayanswamy, Friday, 13 April 2018: “Three days before a blistering investigative report detailed decades of alleged sexual misconduct by Stephen Wynn, he made the largest publicly known donation this cycle to the main super PAC supporting President Trump, according to a new federal filing. America First Action said Friday it plans to keep the $500,000 donation the casino magnate made in January. The sum made up one-tenth of the group’s total fundraising so far this year, according to the group’s first-quarter ­2018 fundraising and spending records, filed Thursday night with the Federal Election Commission.”

Trump Calls James Comey an ‘Untruthful Slime Ball’ as Details of Comey’s Memoir Are Released, The New York Times, Michael D. Shear and Alexander Burns, Friday, 13 April 2018: “James B. Comey’s searing tell-all book was met with an aggressive counterattack on his character by President Trump and his allies on Friday, even as many Democrats struggled with conflicted feelings about the man they blame for Hillary Clinton’s loss in the 2016 election. In the book, Mr. Comey, whom Mr. Trump fired as F.B.I. director in May, describes the president as ‘unethical, and untethered to truth,’ and writes that he often wondered about Mr. Trump’s refusal to acknowledge Russia’s attempt to influence the election…. He also compares the president to a Mafia boss…. In two early-morning tweets, the president called the former F.B.I. director an ‘untruthful slime ball’ and a ‘proven LEAKER & LIAR.’ Mr. Trump said that it was his ‘great honor to fire’ Mr. Comey.”  See also, James Comey and Donald Trump Go to War, The New Yorker, John Cassidy, Friday, 13 April 2018: “It has come to this: James Comey, the former head of the F.B.I., says that the President of the United States operates like a mob boss—lying, scheming, and demanding loyalty oaths from his subalterns, with no regard for morality. In response, the President has called the former G-man a ‘weak and untruthful slime ball.’… Insulting people is one of the few things for which Trump possesses a genuine talent. But in this case he is facing a mighty challenge.”

Former F.B.I. Deputy Director Andrew McCabe Is Faulted in Scathing Inspector General Report, The New York Times, Adam Goldman and Nicholas Fandos, Friday, 13 April 2018: “The Justice Department inspector general delivered to Congress on Friday a scathing report that accused Andrew G. McCabe, the former F.B.I. deputy director, of violating the federal law enforcement agency’s media policy and then repeatedly misleading investigators about his actions. The inspector general found that Mr. McCabe, 50, had lacked candor on four occasions when questioned by investigators and faulted his decision to authorize the disclosure of information to a reporter with The Wall Street Journal in October 2016 as self-serving. In a point-by-point rebuttal of the report, Mr. McCabe said that he had full authorization to share this information with the news media as deputy director and that he did not intentionally mislead investigators. He also argued that his decision to release information about an investigation into the financial dealings of the Clinton Foundation was justified and in the public’s interest.”

The Trump administration has officially clipped the wings of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, The Washington Post, Darryl Fears and Dino Grandoni, Friday, 13 April 2018: “The Trump administration made it clear this week that it is sapping the strength of a century-old law to protect birds, issuing guidance that the law would not be used as it has been to hold people or companies accountable for killing the animals. In an opinion issued Wednesday to federal wildlife police who enforce the rule, the Interior Department said ‘the take [killing] of birds resulting from an activity is not prohibited by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act when the underlying purpose of that activity is not to take birds.’ For example, the guidance said, a person who destroys a structure such as a barn knowing that it is full of baby owls in nests is not liable for killing them. ‘All that is relevant is that the landowner undertook an action that did not have the killing of barn owls as its purpose,’ the opinion said. The MBTA will no longer apply even after a catastrophic event such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that destroyed or injured up to a million birds.”

Representative Trey Gowdy, the Republican chairman of the House oversight committee, seeks more documents as well as interviews with Scott Pruitt aides at the Environmental Protection Agency, The Washington Post, Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin, Friday, 13 April 2018: “The Republican head of the House oversight committee has requested interviews with aides to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, as well as a wave of new documents from the EPA, a day after a whistleblower publicly alleged numerous spending excesses and ethical lapses on the part of the embattled administrator. In a letter Friday, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), said his committee ‘recently became aware of new information’ related to Pruitt’s travel practices, security arrangements, and a $50-a-night condo rental last year from a Washington lobbyist. As a result, Gowdy requested a long list of additional records from Pruitt, including details of itineraries and travel receipts for trips last year to Italy and Morocco, memos related to the decision to provide a 24/7 security detail for the EPA chief and travel records for the head of Pruitt’s protective detail, Pasquale ‘Nino’ Perrotta.”

The shipping industry is finally going to lower emissions from container ships, oil tankers, bulk carriers, and other vessels by at least 50 percent by the year 2050 versus where they stood in 2008, The Washington Post, Chris Mooney, Friday, 13 April 2018: “Member nations of the United Nations body charged with regulating shipping on the high seas adopted a first-ever strategy Friday to blunt the sector’s large contribution to climate change — bringing another major constituency on board in the international quest to cap the planet’s warming well below an increase of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit)…. Shipping in recent years has been responsible for about 800 million tons annually of carbon dioxide emissions, according to Dan Rutherford, the marine and aviation program director of the International Council on Clean Transportation, who was in attendance for the deliberations in London this week. That means shipping’s emissions are 2.3 percent of the global total. ‘If you counted it as a country, it would be the sixth-largest source of CO2 emissions,’ said Rutherford, noting that 800 million tons of annual emissions is comparable to emissions from Germany.”

Ximena Barreto, Health and Human Services official, shared a post saying ‘forefathers’ would have ‘hung’ Obama and Clinton for treason, CNN Politics, Andrew Kaczynski, Chris Massie, and Nathan McDermott, Friday, 13 April 2018: “A political appointee at the Department of Health and Human Services shared an image in 2017 that said “our forefathers would have hung” Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for treason, a CNN KFile review has found. Ximena Barreto is a far-right political pundit who in December 2017 joined the Trump administration as deputy director of communications at the department. Barreto was placed on leave by the department on Monday after the liberal watchdog Media Matters reported that Barreto called Islam ‘a cult’ and pushed the false Pizzagate conspiracy theory, which alleged that Clinton was part of a child-sex ring based in part at a Washington, DC, pizza restaurant.”

The 446 People, Places, and Things Donald Trump Has Insulted on Twitter: A Complete List, The New York Times, Jasmine C. Lee and Kevin Quealy, Friday, 13 April 2018: “This list covers tweets since Mr. Trump declared his candidacy.”

 

Saturday, 14 April 2018, Day 450:

 

Trump declares victory as Pentagon details U.S.-led strikes in Syria, The Washington Post, Carol Morello, Anne Gearan, and Missy Ryan, Saturday, 14 April 2018: “President Trump declared victory Saturday in the largest application of military force he has ordered, as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations vowed that the United States is ready to launch another strike if the Syrian government uses chemical weapons in the future. ‘Mission Accomplished!’ Trump tweeted a day after the allied assault on Syrian facilities that the United States, Britain and France say are part of a large chemical weapons program. The phrase was the same one the last Republican president, George W. Bush, employed to his regret in 2003, when the Iraq War was far from over. ‘I spoke to the president this morning, and he said [that] if the Syrian regime uses this poisonous gas again, the United States is locked and loaded,’ U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said at an emergency Security Council meeting called by Russia, the Syrian government’s most powerful ally.” See also, Pentagon Says Syria Strikes Hit ‘Heart’ of Chemical Weapons Program, The New York Times, Helene Cooper and Ben Hubbard, Saturday, 14 April 2018. See also, A Hard Lesson in Syria: Assad Can Still Gas His Own People, The New York Times, David E. Sanger and Ben Hubbard, Saturday, 14 April 2018: “After Saturday’s predawn strike in Syria on three suspected chemical weapons sites, government officials and outside experts agreed that the attack, while double the size of last year’s, was unlikely to eliminate Mr. Assad’s ability to gas his own people yet again…. While it is easy to blow up Mr. Assad’s chemical facilities, it is also relatively simple for him to reconstitute them elsewhere, or just turn to a commercially available substance like chlorine to make a crude poison that any nation is allowed to possess.” See also, The Hypocrisy of Trump’s ‘Mission Accomplished’ Boast About Syria, The New Yorker, Robin Wright, Saturday, 14 April 2018: “Trump’s strike was a tactical response that lacks a long-term strategy to help restore stability to turbulent Syria. A country that is the geostrategic center of the Middle East, Syria has been ravaged by seven years of a war that has killed an estimated half million people and displaced more than half of its twenty-three million citizens. The U.S.-led military operation did nothing to change those realities—or even challenge Assad’s brutal rule or his growing military grip on the country.”

245 former Department of Justice officials say Congress should ‘forcefully respond’ if Trump fires Special Counsel Robert Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, The Washington Post, Kristine Phillips, Saturday, 14 April 2018: “More than 200 former Justice Department employees are urging Congress to “swiftly and forcefully respond” should President Trump fire Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, or Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who is overseeing the federal probe. ‘It is up to the rest of us, and especially our elected representatives, to come to their defense and oppose any attempt by the President or others to improperly interfere in the Department’s work,’ according to a statement signed by 245 former officials who worked under current and previous administrations, some as far back as that of President Richard M. Nixon. The former officials, many of whom said they served with Mueller and Rosenstein at the Justice Department, decried the recent attacks against the agency.”

Ryan Zinke’s Great American Fire Sale: The Interior Secretary, one of Trump’s most loyal allies, sees public lands as the key to an ‘energy-dominant’ future, The New Yorker, Carolyn Kormann, Saturday, 14 April 2018: “Not long ago, the Bureau of Land Management, an agency within the U.S. Department of the Interior, began distributing ‘vision cards’ to its employees. The front of each card features the B.L.M. logo (a river winding into green foothills); short descriptions of the Bureau’s ‘vision,’ ‘mission,’ and ‘values’; and an oil rig. On the flip side is a list of ‘guiding principles,’ accompanied by an image of two cowboys riding across a golden plain…. Barely three weeks after Zinke took office [in 2017], President Trump issued an executive order aimed at ‘promoting energy independence and economic growth,’ in which he directed the Interior Secretary to ‘suspend, revise, or rescind’ any guidelines that imposed ‘regulatory burdens’ on the oil, natural-gas, and mining industries…. In a speech to the National Petroleum Council last September [2017], Zinke claimed that a third of the career civil servants under his command were ‘not loyal to the flag,’ by which he meant Trump. He compared his department to a group of pirates who capture ‘a prized ship at sea and only the captain and the first mate row over’ to get the job done. The vision cards, it appears, were meant to remind B.L.M. employees that their main responsibility is not to keep the prized ship afloat but to plunder it for all the fossil fuels, ore, and grazing rights it’s worth.

 

Sunday, 15 April 2018, Day 451:

 

The President is Not Above the Law, The New York Times, The Editorial Board, Sunday, 15 April 2018: “‘This great nation can tolerate a president who makes mistakes,’ declared Senator Orrin Hatch, the Utah Republican. ‘But it cannot tolerate one who makes a mistake and then breaks the law to cover it up.’ No, Mr. Hatch wasn’t talking about Donald Trump. It was 1999, and he was talking about Bill Clinton…. News reports point to a growing possibility that President Trump may act to cripple or shut down an investigation by the nation’s top law-enforcement agencies into his campaign and administration. Lawmakers need to be preparing now for that possibility because if and when it comes to pass, they will suddenly find themselves on the edge of an abyss, with the Constitution in their hands. Make no mistake: If Mr. Trump takes such drastic action, he will be striking at the foundation of the American government, attempting to set a precedent that a president, alone among American citizens, is above the law. What can seem now like a political sideshow will instantly become a constitutional crisis, and history will come calling for Mr. Hatch and his colleagues…. [I]f the president does move against the investigators, it will be up to Congress to affirm the rule of law, the separation of powers and the American constitutional order. The miserable polarization and partisan anger that have been rising in American life for decades will hit a new crescendo, and that will present congressional Republicans with a heavy burden indeed.”

Trump assails James Comey in a tweetstorm and suggests the ex-FBI director deserves ‘jail,’ The Washington Post, Josh Dawsey, Sunday, 15 April 2018: “President Trump sharply attacked James B. Comey in a fusillade of tweets Sunday morning, suggesting that the former FBI director deserves to be imprisoned and serving up several of his favorite theories and unsubstantiated allegations of misdeeds. Trump’s tweets are part of a wider effort by the White House and the Republican National Committee to discredit Comey, who has written a damaging tell-all book, titled ‘A Higher Loyalty,’ to be released Tuesday. A Sunday night interview on ABC will kick off his national book tour.” See also, Trump Blasts James Comey in a Barrage of Tweets, Calling Him ‘Slippery,’ The New York Times, Christina Caron, Sunday, 15 April 2018.

James Comey says Trump is ‘morally unfit to be president’ and is possibly susceptible to Russian blackmail, The Washington Post, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett, Sunday, 15 April 2018: “Former FBI director James B. Comey said in his first televised interview since being fired that he believed Donald Trump was ‘morally unfit to be president’ and that it was ‘possible’ that the Russians had material that could be used to blackmail him. In a wide-ranging conversation with George Stephanopoulos broadcast on ABC late Sunday, Comey took aim at Trump in no uncertain terms, comparing his administration to a mafia family, likening his presidency to a forest fire and asserting there was evidence that he had committed a crime. He said that he would not favor impeaching Trump to remove him from office, because that ‘would let the American people off the hook and have something happen indirectly that I believe they’re duty-bound to do directly’ — meaning through elections.” See also, James Comey, in ABC Interview, Calls Trump ‘Morally Unfit’ and a ‘Stain’ on All Around Him, The New York Times, Michael D. Shear and Peter Baker, Sunday, 15 April 2018: “If there was any chance that President Trump and James B. Comey could have avoided all-out war, it ended Sunday night. That was when ABC News aired an interview with Mr. Comey, the president’s fired F.B.I. director, as he uses a publicity blitz for his searing tell-all memoir, ‘A Higher Loyalty,’ to raise the alarm about the dangers he says Mr. Trump poses to the country. While ABC aired one hour of its conversation with Mr. Comey, it had conducted a five-hour interview with him, a transcript of which was obtained by The New York Times. In it, Mr. Comey called Mr. Trump a serial liar who treated women like ‘meat,’ and described him as a ‘stain’ on everyone who worked for him. He said a salacious allegation that Mr. Trump had cavorted with prostitutes in Moscow had left him vulnerable to blackmail by the Russian government. And he asserted that the president was incinerating the country’s crucial norms and traditions like a wildfire. He compared the president to a mafia boss.” See also, James Comey’s Interview on ABC’s ’20/20′: Annotated Excerpts, The New York Times, Michael D. Shear, Sunday, 15 April 2018. See also, Transcript: James Comey’s interview with ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos, ABC News, Sunday, 15 April 2018.

Hundreds of ex-Department of Justice officials are now urging Congress to ‘forcefully respond’ if Trump fires Special Counsel Robert Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, The Washington Post, Kristine Phillips, Sunday, 15 April 2018: “Hundreds of former Justice Department employees are now urging Congress to “swiftly and forcefully respond” should President Trump fire Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, or Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who is overseeing the federal probe. ‘It is up to the rest of us, and especially our elected representatives, to come to their defense and oppose any attempt by the President or others to improperly interfere in the Department’s work,’ according to a statement signed by former officials who worked under current and previous administrations, some as far back as that of President Richard M. Nixon. The number of signatories has grown to more than 400 as of Sunday afternoon.”

Republican Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin apologizes for comments suggesting children were sexually assaulted while teachers protested, The Washington Post, Alex Horton, Sunday, 15 April 2018: “Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) apologized Sunday for saying protesting educators exposed some of the ‘hundreds of thousands’ of children to sexual assault and drug use by walking out of class. ‘I guarantee you somewhere in Kentucky today, a child was sexually assaulted that was left at home because there was nobody there to watch them,’ Bevin told reporters Friday evening after teachers swarmed the Capitol by the thousands over a battle to raise education funding in the state. Amid backlash from state lawmakers and teacher groups, Bevin said his comments were misunderstood by some but were damaging to others. ‘The words that people say can have unintended consequences,’ Bevin says in the video. ‘I apologize for those who have been hurt by the things that were said … it was not my intent.’ ‘I hurt a lot of people. Many people have been confused or hurt, or just misunderstand what I was trying to communicate,’ he added. The response comes a day after the state’s Republican-led House of Representatives approved a pair of resolutions condemning Bevin’s comments — an act on the final day of the legislative session the Associated Press described as ‘an extraordinary rebuke.'”

 

Monday, 16 April 2018, Day 452:

 

In a Blow to Trump, a Judge Rejected a Request by Him and His Lawyer to Review Files Seized in F.B.I. Raids Before Prosecutors Do, The New York Times, Benjamin Weiser and Alan Feuer, Monday, 16 April 2018: “A federal judge in Manhattan indicated on Monday that she was not prepared to grant President Trump exclusive first access to documents seized in F.B.I. raids on the office of his personal lawyer, and said that she was considering appointing an independent lawyer to assist in reviewing the seized materials. Feeling her way toward a resolution of the high-stakes clash involving Mr. Trump and the federal prosecutors investigating the lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, the judge, Kimba M. Wood, did not grant Mr. Trump’s request to review the trove of materials ahead of prosecutors. But she also decided that prosecutors would not immediately have access to the materials and that Mr. Trump would ultimately receive copies of the documents that pertain to him. The courtroom battle over what to do with the seized material came one week after federal agents, in an extraordinary move, descended on Mr. Cohen’s properties and walked away with 10 boxes of documents and as many as a dozen electronic devices, including cellphones and computer hard drives. Lawyers for Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen, and prosecutors with the United States attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, had asked Judge Wood for the right to look at the documents in order to determine which among them might be protected by attorney-client privilege. That step is important because it could affect which documents prosecutors can ultimately use in the investigation.” See also, Federal judge weighs special master to review Trump-Cohen records seized by the FBI, The Washington Post, Philip Bump and Devlin Barrett, Monday, 16 April 2018. See also, What to make of the dramatic court fight over Michael Cohen’s documents, The Washington Post, Philip Bump, Monday, 16 April 2018.

Sean Hannity Is Named as Client of Michael Cohen, Trump’s Lawyer, The New York Times, Alan Feuer, Michael M. Grynbaum, and John Koblin, Monday, 16 April 2018: “From his Fox News pulpit, Sean Hannity has been one of the most ardent supporters of President Trump, cheering his agenda and excoriating his enemies. He has gone from giving advice on messaging and strategy to Mr. Trump and his advisers during the 2016 campaign to dining with him at the White House and Mar-a-Lago. Now, Mr. Hannity finds himself aligned even more closely with the president. During a hearing at a packed courtroom in Lower Manhattan on Monday, he was named as a client of Mr. Trump’s longtime personal lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen.” See also, Fox News host Sean Hannity revealed as Michael Cohen’s mystery client, NBC News, Tom Winter and Adam Edelman, Monday, 16 April 2018: “Ethics experts immediately questioned why [Sean Hannity], or Fox News, hadn’t previously revealed the tie. ‘Why doesn’t @FoxNews have a conflict of interest policy requiring Hannity to disclose his personal interest in the Cohen search when commenting on it?’ tweeted Walter Shaub, the former director of the independent Office of Government Ethics.”

WSJ: Michael Cohen used the same company (Essential Consultants LLC) for payment deals for two women, CNN Politics, Aileen Graef and Caroline Kelly, Monday, 16 April 2018: “President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen used the same Delaware limited liability company to facilitate payments to two women, according to a report Sunday in The Wall Street Journal. Essential Consultants LLC was used for the partial payment of a $250,000 fee paid to Cohen for negotiating a non-disclosure agreement with a former Playboy model who claimed she was impregnated by Elliott Broidy, a venture capitalist and former deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee…. Essential Consultants was also used to pay $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, to prevent her from speaking publicly about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump.”

James Comey’s ABC Interview: Five Highlights, The New York Times, Noah Weiland, Monday, 16 April 2018: “By the time ABC aired an hourlong interview with James B. Comey on Sunday night, his feelings on President Trump were clear: that he was volatile, immoral, fixated on allegations made against him, akin to a mob boss…. Here are five notable moments from Sunday’s program. 1. Mr. Comey thinks a meeting he had with Mr. Trump could be evidence of obstruction of justice….  2. He thought his firing was a ‘crazy’ move by Mr. Trump…. 3. He said firing Robert Mueller would be ‘the most serious attack yet on the rule of law.’… 4. He stands by his handling of the F.B.I.’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server…. 5. He said Mr. Trump was ‘morally unfit’ to be president.”

Trump Declines to Add Sanctions Against Russians, Contradicting Nikki Haley, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, The New York Times, Peter Baker, Monday, 16 April 2018: “President Trump rejected, for now at least, a fresh round of sanctions set to be imposed against Russia on Monday, a course change that underscored the schism between the president and his national security team.The president’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, had announced on Sunday that the administration would place sanctions on Russian companies found to be assisting Syria’s chemical weapons program. The sanctions were listed on a menu of further government options after an American-led airstrike on Syria, retaliating against a suspected gas attack that killed dozens a week earlier. But the White House contradicted her on Monday, saying that Mr. Trump had not approved additional measures.” See also, Trump puts the brakes on new Russian sanctions, reversing Haley’s announcement, The Washington Post, Philip Rucker, Carol D. Leonnig, Anton Troianovski, and Greg Jaffe, Monday, 16 April 2018. See also, Russia Sanctions Flap Erupts Into Open Conflict Between U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and the White House, The New York Times, Peter Baker, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, and Maggie Haberman, published on Tuesday, 17 April 2018: “President Trump was watching television on Sunday when he saw Nikki R. Haley, his ambassador to the United Nations, announce that he would impose fresh sanctions on Russia. The president grew angry, according to an official informed about the moment. As far as he was concerned, he had decided no such thing. It was not the first time Mr. Trump has yelled at the television over something he saw Ms. Haley saying. This time, however, the divergence has spilled into public in a remarkable display of discord that stems not just from competing views of Russia but from larger questions of political ambition, jealousy, resentment and loyalty. The rift erupted into open conflict on Tuesday when a White House official blamed Ms. Haley’s statement about sanctions on ‘momentary confusion.’ That prompted her to fire back, saying that she did not ‘get confused.’ The public disagreement embarrassed Ms. Haley and reinforced questions about Mr. Trump’s foreign policy — and who speaks for his administration…. According to several officials, the White House did not inform Ms. Haley that it had changed course on sanctions, leaving her to hang out alone.” See also, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley says ‘I don’t get confused’ after White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow suggests she misunderstood Russia sanctions, The Washington Post, Anne Gearan, published on Tuesday, 17 April 2018.

U.S. and U.K. Issue a First-Of-Its-Kind Warning About Cybersecurity Threat From Russia, Including Private Homes, The New York Times, David D. Kirkpatrick and Ron Nixon, Monday, 16 April 2018: “The United States and Britain on Monday issued a first-of-its-kind joint warning about Russian cyberattacks against government and private organizations as well as individual homes and offices in both countries, a milestone in the escalating use of cyberweaponry between major powers. Although Washington and London have known for decades that the Kremlin was trying to penetrate their computer networks, the joint warning appeared to represent an effort to deter future attacks by calling attention to existing vulnerabilities, prodding individuals to mitigate them and threatening retaliation against Moscow if damage was done.”

Travel Ban Case Is Shadowed by Korematsu v. United States, One of the Supreme Court’s Darkest Moments, The New York Times, Adam Liptak, Monday, 16 April 2018: “‘I’m calling, very simply, for a shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,’ Donald J. Trump said on Dec. 8, 2015. It was early in his presidential campaign, and he was saying that sort of thing all the time. On this occasion, though, he also cited a historical precedent. ‘Take a look at what F.D.R. did many years ago,’ Mr. Trump said. ‘He did the same thing.’ President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a 1942 executive order that sent more than 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry to internment camps. ‘This is a president who was highly respected by all,’ Mr. Trump said of Roosevelt. ‘They named highways after him.’ Next week, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a challenge to Mr. Trump’s own executive order, one that restricted travel from eight nations, six of them predominantly Muslim. It is the last scheduled argument of a busy term, and it is very likely to yield a major statement on presidential power. The justices will consider how much weight to give to Mr. Trump’s campaign statements. And they will act in the shadow of their own decision in Korematsu v. United States, which endorsed Roosevelt’s 1942 order and is almost universally viewed as a shameful mistake.”

Scott Pruitt’s $43,000 soundproof phone booth violated spending laws, the Government Accountability Office finds, The Washington Post, Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin, Monday, 16 April 2018: “The nearly $43,000 soundproof phone booth Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt had installed in his office last year violated federal spending laws, the Government Accountability Office said Monday. In an eight-page letter to lawmakers, GAO general counsel Thomas H. Armstrong said the agency failed to notify lawmakers that it was exceeding the $5,000 limit for agency heads to furnish, redecorate or otherwise make improvements to their offices. In addition, Armstrong wrote, the agency also violated the federal Antideficiency Act, ‘because EPA obligated appropriated funds in a manner specifically prohibited by law.'”

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke Is Opening Up Public Lands to Development, Just Not in His Home State of Montana, The New York Times, Julie Turkewitz, Monday, 16 April 2018: “In the last year, Mr. Zinke has torn up Obama-era rules related to oil, gas and mineral extraction and overseen the largest reduction of federal land protection in the nation’s history, including an effort to slash the size of Bears Ears National Monument. But … in Montana, where support for drilling in certain beloved areas can be a career killer, Mr. Zinke has struck a different note. And as he faces allegations that he has violated travel and ethics rules, an examination of his Interior Department record shows that his pro-development bent has not always applied to his home state, where he is viewed as a fiercely ambitious candidate for future office.”

Senate Bill to Curtail Labor Rights on Tribal Land Falls Short, The New York Times, Noam Scheiber, Monday, 16 April 2018: “Organized labor managed an increasingly rare feat on Monday — a political victory — when its allies turned back a Senate measure aimed at rolling back labor rights on tribal lands. The legislation, called the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act, would have exempted enterprises owned and operated by Native American tribes from federal labor standards, even for employees who were not tribal citizens. The A.F.L.-C.I.O. said passage of the measure, the subject of several years of tribal lobbying, would have amounted to the most aggressive erosion of labor protections since 1940s. A package of bills containing the measure fell five votes short of the 60 needed to break a filibuster.”

A Voyage Along Trump’s Wall: A border wall with Mexico would be devastating to life on both sides of the Rio Grande, an already threatened river, The New Yorker, Nick Paumgarten, Monday, 16 April 2018. Published in the print edition of 23 April 2018 with the headline ‘Water and the Wall.’ “[N]o one is proposing that a wall be built in the middle of the [Rio Grande], or for that matter on Mexican soil…. So the wall would go on the American side, some distance from its banks—miles into U.S. territory, at times. It would cut people off from their own property and wildlife from the main (and sometimes the only) water source in a vast upland desert. The Center for Biological Diversity has determined that ninety-three listed or proposed endangered species would be adversely affected. The wall could disrupt the flow of what meagre water there is, upon which an ecosystem precariously depends. And it would essentially seal the United States off from the river and cede it to Mexico: lopping off our nose to spite their face. It would shrink the size of Texas.”

 

Tuesday, 17 April 2018, Day 453:

 

Mike Pompeo, C.I.A. Director, Met With Kim Jong-un in North Korea, The New York Times, Mark Landler and Matthew Rosenberg, Tuesday, 17 April 2018: “President Trump dispatched the C.I.A. director Mike Pompeo to North Korea to meet with its leader, Kim Jong-un, in recent weeks to lay the groundwork for a summit meeting between Mr. Kim and Mr. Trump, two people briefed on the secret trip said on Tuesday. Mr. Trump alluded to Mr. Pompeo’s mission when he said on Tuesday afternoon that the United States was in direct talks with North Korea at ‘extremely high levels,’ and that the White House was looking at five sites for a potential meeting of the two leaders. The White House has used intelligence, rather than diplomatic channels, to communicate with North Korea, ever since last month, when Mr. Trump unexpectedly accepted Mr. Kim’s invitation to meet…. The Washington Post first reported Mr. Pompeo’s trip, which took place over Easter.” See also, CIA Director Pompeo met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over Easter weekend, The Washington Post, Shane Harris, Carol D. Leonnig, Greg Jaffe, and David Nakamura, published on Wednesday, 18 April 2018.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appears to kill bill giving special counsels recourse if they are fired without cause, The Washington Post, Karoun Demirjian and Sean Sullivan, Tuesday, 17 April 2018: “The Senate’s top Republican appeared Tuesday to quash new momentum behind a bill giving special counsels such as Robert S. Mueller III legal recourse if they are fired, telling Fox News that he would refuse to put it to a floor vote. ‘I’m the one who decides what we take to the floor. That is my responsibility as the majority leader. And we’ll not be having this on the floor of the Senate,’ Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday. McConnell’s statement comes barely a week after Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said the panel would take up and vote on the measure during a business meeting April 26. For months, Grassley had refused to weigh in on legislation to protect a special counsel from being fired without cause, insisting that the committee would consider only one such bill, if it took up any at all.”

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis Wanted Congressional Approval Before Striking Syria. He Was Overruled. The New York Times, Helene Cooper, Tuesday, 17 April 2018: “Defense Secretary Jim Mattis urged President Trump to get congressional approval before the United States launched airstrikes against Syria last week, but was overruled by Mr. Trump, who wanted a rapid and dramatic response, military and administration officials said. Mr. Trump, the officials said, wanted to be seen as backing up a series of bellicose tweets with action, but was warned that an overly aggressive response risked igniting a wider war with Russia. Friday night’s limited strikes on three targets, which lasted under two minutes, were the compromise. The debate reflects a divide between Mr. Trump and the defense secretary, who, like no other member of the cabinet, has managed to maintain a cordial relationship with the president even while reining him in.”

Comey pushes back against Trump’s suggestion he be jailed: ‘This is not some tin-pot dictatorship,’ The Washington Post, John Wagner, Tuesday, 17 April 2018: “Former FBI director James B. Comey is pushing back against President Trump’s suggestion that he should be jailed, saying in a new interview that Trump’s pronouncements on Twitter pose a ‘great danger.’ ‘This is not some tin-pot dictatorship where the leader of the country gets to say, “The people I don’t like go to jail.” [Our Lady Justice wears a blindfold,’] Comey told NPR in the latest in a series of interviews to promote his new book. In tweets Sunday and Monday, Trump alleged, without citing evidence, that Comey had committed ‘many crimes’ and deserves to be jailed for leaking classified information and lying to Congress — allegations Comey denies.” See also, Transcript: James Comey’s Full Interview With Steve Inskeep and Carrie Johnson, NPR, Carrie Johnson and Steve Inskeep, Tuesday, 17 April 2018.

Sean Hannity’s rising role in Trump’s world: ‘He basically has a desk in the place.’ Hannity mentioned Michael Cohen a lot on Fox News. He forgot to mention Cohen was his lawyer. The Washington Post, Robert Costa, Sarah Ellison, and Josh Dawsey, Tuesday, 17 April 2018: “The phone calls between President Trump and Sean Hannity come early in the morning or late at night, after the Fox News host goes off the air. They discuss ideas for Hannity’s show, Trump’s frustration with the ongoing special counsel probe and even, at times, what the president should tweet, according to people familiar with the conversations. When he’s off the phone, Trump is known to cite Hannity when he talks with White House advisers. The revelation this week that the two men share an attorney is just the latest sign of how Hannity is intertwined with Trump’s world — an increasingly powerful confidant who offers the ­media-driven president a sympathetic ear and shared grievances. The conservative commentator is so close to Trump that some White House aides have dubbed him the unofficial chief of staff. This portrait of the interactions between the president and the talk-show host is based on interviews with more than a dozen friends, advisers and associates of the two men, some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations. For a president who feels, intensely, that he is under siege, Hannity offers what he prizes: loyalty and a mass audience. And Trump, in turn, has directed his supporters to Hannity’s show — urging people on Twitter last week to watch the commentator attack special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who heads the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. Their bond intensified during the 2016 campaign and has grown stronger during Trump’s time in office.”

Fox News is ‘surprised’ by Sean Hannity’s relationship with Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen, but the network stands by himCNN Media, Brian Stelter, Tuesday, 17 April 2018: “Something isn’t adding up in the case of Michael Cohen and Sean Hannity. But Hannity’s employer, Fox News, says it fully supports him. ‘While Fox News was unaware of Sean Hannity’s informal relationship with Michael Cohen and was surprised by the announcement in court yesterday, we have reviewed the matter and spoken to Sean and he continues to have our full support,’ the network said Tuesday afternoon. The statement puts an end to questions about whether the network knew about Hannity and Cohen’s legal relationship. But it will likely trigger new questions about the lack of accountability for Fox’s highly rated, highly opinionated talk show hosts. Hannity is Fox’s biggest prime time star and one of President Trump’s chief defenders. Cohen is Trump’s personal lawyer whose office and residences were raided by federal investigators last week. Critics immediately pounced on the potential conflicts of interest.” See also, What Sean Hannity Has Been Saying About Michael Cohen, The New York Times, Michael Gold, Tuesday, 17 April 2018. See also, Yes, Sean Hannity was a legal client of Michael Cohen’s, The Washington Post, Philip Bump, Tuesday, 17 April 2018. See also, Fox News must take tough action on Sean Hannity’s ethical failure, Don’t hold your breath. The Washington Post, Margaret Sullivan, Tuesday, 17 April 2018. See also, No Disclosure? No Problem. Sean Hannity Gets a Pass at Fox News. The New York Times, Michael M. Grynbaum and John Koblin, Tuesday, 17 April 2018.

Justice Neil Gorsuch Joins Supreme Court’s Liberals to Strike Down Deportation Law, The New York Times, Adam Liptak, Tuesday, 17 April 2018: “The Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down a law that allowed the government to deport some immigrants who commit serious crimes, saying it was unconstitutionally vague. The decision will limit the Trump administration’s efforts to deport people convicted of some kinds of crimes. The vote was 5 to 4, with Justice Neil M. Gorsuch joining the court’s four more liberal members to form a bare majority, which was a first. Justice Gorsuch wrote that the law crossed a constitutional line.” See also, Supreme Court says part of immigration law used for deportation is too vague, The Washington Post, Robert Barnes, Tuesday, 17 April 2018.

U.S. Immigration Vetting System Was Already Robust Before Trump’s Travel Ban, Report Finds, The New York Times, Ron Nixon, Tuesday, 17 April 2018: “President Trump took office promising to enact an ‘extreme vetting’ immigration system with a travel ban that he said would keep terrorists from exploiting the visa system and getting into the United States. But a report released on Tuesday by the Cato Institute concluded that the United States already had a robust vetting system that had largely been successful because of a series of intelligence and security reforms implemented after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The report found that just 13 of 531 people convicted of or killed in carrying out terrorism-related crimes since Sept. 11 had entered the United States despite the security screening improvements. That compares with 52 people in the 15 years before the 2001 homeland security reforms, the report found. Only one of those 13 participated in a deadly attack in the United States, the report found — a rate of one for every 379 million visa or status approvals from 2002 through 2016.”

Arming the world: Inside Trump’s ‘Buy American’ drive to expand weapons exports, Reuters, Matt Spetalnick and Mike Stone, Tuesday, 17 April 2018: “In a telephone call with the emir of Kuwait in January [2017], U.S. President Donald Trump pressed the Gulf monarch to move forward on a $10 billion fighter jet deal that had been stalled for more than a year. Trump was acting on behalf of Boeing Co. (BA.N), America’s second-largest defense contractor, which had become frustrated that a long-delayed sale critical to its military aircraft division was going nowhere, several people familiar with the matter said. With this Oval Office intervention, the details of which have not been previously reported, Trump did something unusual for a U.S. president – he personally helped to close a major arms deal. In private phone calls and public appearances with world leaders, Trump has gone further than any of his predecessors to act as a salesman for the U.S. defense industry, analysts said.” See also, America’s #1 Weapons Salesman: Trump Promotes U.S. Arms Manufacturers & Weakens Export Rules, Democracy Now!, published on Wednesday, 18 April 2018: “A new exposé by Reuters reveals how the Trump administration plans to make the U.S. an even larger weapons exporter by loosening restrictions on the sale of equipment ranging from fighter jets and drones to warships and artillery.”

John Barrasso (Republican-Wyoming), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, now seeks answers on Scott Pruitt’s email practices at the Environmental Protection AgencyThe Washington Post, Juliet Eilperin, Tuesday, 17 April 2018: “Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) is now scrutinizing whether Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt is fully complying with public records requests, given the fact that he has multiple government email addresses. The Washington Post reported Thursday that Pruitt has four different addresses, three of which do not follow EPA’s conventional format. Agency lawyers have raised concerns that not all of them are being searched during Freedom of Information Act requests. Democratic Sens. Jeff Merkley (Ore.) and Thomas R. Carper (Del.) have demanded that Pruitt provide greater disclosure on the matter. On Friday, Barrasso joined that call. Until this week, Barrasso has refrained from criticizing any of Pruitt’s actions while in office, instead praising the EPA administrator’s deregulatory agenda. On Monday, however, Barrasso raised concern about the Government Accountability Office’s report that EPA had violated federal spending laws by failing to notify Congress before installing a private phone booth in Pruitt’s office last year at a cost of $43,000.”

Missouri’s Republican Governor, Eric Greitens, Was Already in Trouble. A New Felony Claim Adds to That. The New York Times, Julie Bosman, Tuesday, 17 April 2018: “In January, Gov. Eric Greitens of Missouri admitted to an extramarital affair with his former hairdresser. In February, he was indicted on a felony invasion-of-privacy charge. On Tuesday, the state attorney general plunged the governor even more deeply into political and legal jeopardy, saying Mr. Greitens may have committed a felony in using a charity’s donor list for political fund-raising.” See also, Missouri’s Republican Governor Eric Greitens, still defiant amid calls for his resignation, faces new accusations, The Washington Post, Kurt Shillinger, Tuesday, 17 April 2018.

‘Being LGBTQ is not an illness’: Record number of states are banning conversion therapyUSA Today, Susan Miller, Tuesday, 17 April 2018:A record number of jurisdictions this year are taking aim at conversion therapy for minors: an attempt to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity through tactics as obvious as hypnosis or as subtle as inducing shame. Almost 50 bills have been introduced in 24 states targeting conversion therapy, which has been discredited by dozens of medical associations and child-welfare institutions. On Tuesday, 11 of them — including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Counseling Association — released a letter urging states to make such bills a priority.”

 

Wednesday, 18 April 2018, Day 454:

 

Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein is under fire from Trump and RepublicansThe Washington Post, Robert Costa and Ellen Nakashima, Wednesday, 18 April 2018: “Two of President Trump’s top legislative allies met with Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein this week to press him for more documents about the conduct of law enforcement officials involved in the Russia probe and the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server, according to three people who were not authorized to speak publicly about the discussion. Rosenstein’s meeting at his office Monday with Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) came days after Meadows, an influential Trump confidant, warned Rosenstein that he could soon face impeachment proceedings or an effort to hold him in contempt of Congress if he did not satisfy GOP demands for documents. Trump and Meadows spoke at some point after the meeting, the three people said, but they declined to share details of the exchange. The visit by Meadows and Jordan — leading members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus — is the latest sign of the rising tensions between Trump’s inner circle and the Justice Department. Rosenstein, a veteran prosecutor, is confronting a torrent of criticism from Republicans and an uncertain future that puts special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia probe at risk.”

Treaty to Formally End Korean War Is Being Discussed, South Korea ConfirmsThe New York Times, Choe Sang-Hun and Jane Perlez, Wednesday, 18 April 2018: “South Korea confirmed on Wednesday that it had been in talks with American and North Korean officials about negotiating a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War after more than 60 years, as the United States and its ally try to establish a basis for persuading the North to give up its nuclear weapons.”

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney says office will open probe into Scott Pruitt’s spendingABC News, Stephanie Ebbs, Wednesday, 18 April 2018: “Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said the office is opening a probe into Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt‘s spending since he took over the helm of the agency. Mulvaney said that OMB will look into the violation of federal spending laws on a ‘secure phone booth’ for Pruitt’s office at EPA headquarters.” See also, 170 lawmakers sign resolution calling for Scott Pruitt’s resignationThe Hill, Miranda Green, Wednesday, 18 April 2018. See also, NAACP joins environmental groups in calling for Scott Pruitt’s ousterThe Washington Post, Dino Grandoni, Wednesday, 18 April 2018.

Senate Votes to Ease Restrictions on Auto Lending DiscriminationThe New York Times, Alan Rappeport, Wednesday, 18 April 2018: “The Senate voted on Wednesday to overturn an Obama-era rule that restricted automobile lenders from discriminating against minorities by charging them higher fees for car loans, in the latest attempt by Republican lawmakers to roll back financial regulations. Republican lawmakers, along with one Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, seized on the Congressional Review Act to overturn guidance issued in 2013 by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The 1996 law gives Congress the power to nullify rules formulated by government agencies but has primarily been used to void recently enacted rules.”

Senate votes to allow babies on the floor after Senator Tammy Duckworth’s deliveryThe Washington Post, Paul Kane, Wednesday, 18 April 2018: “The Senate passed without dissent Wednesday a new rule that will allow senators to be on the chamber floor with children under the age of 1, a change that followed Sen. Tammy Duckworth’s giving birth to a girl this month. Duckworth (D-Ill.), 50, became the first senator to give birth while serving in the Senate, sparking a debate about rules forbidding children from being on the floor while the chamber is in session. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) adopted children while serving in the Senate, but the issue did not resonate in the late 1990s or early 2000s. With 23 women now serving in the Senate, the issue quickly was resolved. Duckworth has been home since giving birth, and her colleagues realized that it might be easier for her to work if they changed the rules.”

The Republican plan to tighten food stamp work requirements is advancing–without a single Democrat’s voteThe Washington Post, Caitlin Dewey, Wednesday, 18 April 2018: “House Republicans pushed forward Wednesday with a plan to strengthen work requirements for food stamps, even as Democrats excoriated the proposal as an ‘ideological crusade’ that would hurt the poor, burden state governments and endanger the passage of major food and farming legislation. The plan, introduced last week as part of the 2018 Farm Bill, would dramatically expand mandatory state workfare programs in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), better known as food stamps, and require that most adults between 18 and 59 enroll or work at least part time to receive benefits.”

Kris Kobach, Face of Trump’s Voter Fraud Panel, Is Held in Contempt by Federal District JudgeThe New York Times, Julie Bosman, Wednesday, 18 April 2018: “Kris W. Kobach, the secretary of state of Kansas and face of the Trump administration’s efforts to clamp down on supposed voter fraud, was found by a federal judge on Wednesday to have disobeyed orders to notify thousands of Kansans in 2016 that they were registered to vote. Mr. Kobach, who served last year as the vice chairman of the Trump administration’s short-lived presidential commission on voter fraud, was reprimanded in a 25-page ruling by Federal District Judge Julie A. Robinson of Kansas, who held him in contempt of court. Mr. Kobach has championed restrictive laws on voting around the country, warning that voting fraud is rampant and unchecked, despite widespread agreement from election experts that it is extremely rare. But voting rights advocates pointed to the judge’s findings as a counter to Mr. Kobach’s efforts to position himself as a protector of the voting process.”

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman Seeks Power to Bypass Presidential PardonsThe New York Times, Danny Hakim and William K. Rashbaum, Wednesday, 18 April 2018: “Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman of New York is moving to change New York state law so that he and other local prosecutors would have the power to bring criminal charges against aides to President Trump who have been pardoned, according to a letter Mr. Schneiderman sent to the governor and state lawmakers on Wednesday. The move, if approved by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Legislature, would serve notice that the legal troubles of the president and his aides may continue without the efforts of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Under the plan, Mr. Schneiderman, a Democrat, seeks to exempt New York’s double jeopardy law from cases involving presidential pardons, according to the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times. The current law and the concept of double jeopardy in general mean that a person cannot be tried for the same crime twice. Right now, New York state law prevents people from being prosecuted more than once for crimes related to the same act, even if the original prosecution was in federal court. There are already a number of exceptions to the law, and the letter says that Mr. Schneiderman is proposing to add a new one that could be used if federal pardons are issued.”

Trump’s tweet denying Russia investigation was behind his firing of  Comey is thoroughly debunked by Donald Trump himselfThe Washington Post, Philip Bump, Wednesday, 18 April 2018: “President Trump was up early on Wednesday morning and, as is customary even when he’s not staying at Mar-a-Lago, seems to have turned on Fox News. As is also customary, he then tweeted a string of thoughts that tracked with what was airing on ‘Fox and Friends.’ At one point, a guest argued that former FBI director James B. Comey had deserved to be fired last May given his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. A short time later, Trump tweeted. ‘Slippery James Comey, the worst FBI Director in history, was not fired because of the phony Russia investigation where, by the way, there was NO COLLUSION (except by the Dems)!’ It’s important for Trump to highlight that Comey wasn’t fired because of the Russia investigation because there are rumblings that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III — appointed in the wake of that firing — is considering whether Trump was actively seeking to derail the Russia investigation by letting Comey go…. There’s just one problem with Trump’s tweet: A prominent Washington insider has already provided solid evidence that the Russia investigation was exactly why Comey was fired. That insider was a guy named Donald J. Trump…. Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt shortly after Comey was fired that the Russia investigation was central to his decision. Rosenstein ‘made a recommendation,’ Trump said, ‘but regardless of recommendation I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact, when I decided to just do it I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.’ That’s pretty clear-cut. And, it turns out, it wasn’t the first time he’d made that point to an interlocutor.”

Ex-Playboy Model Karen McDougal Is Freed From Her Contract With American Media Inc. and Can Discuss Alleged Affair With TrumpThe New York Times, Jim Rutenberg, Wednesday, 18 April 2018: “The tabloid news company American Media Inc. agreed to let a former Playboy model out of a contract that had kept her from talking freely about an alleged affair with Donald J. Trump. The settlement agreement, reached on Wednesday, ends a lawsuit brought by the model, Karen McDougal, and protects the president from being drawn into a legal case involving efforts to buy the silence of women who had stories to tell about him during the 2016 campaign. He still faces another lawsuit from Stephanie Clifford, the pornographic film actress known as Stormy Daniels. Ms. Clifford is suing to get out of a deal that Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, arranged in 2016 for her silence about an alleged affair. Mr. Trump’s representatives have denied both women’s stories.”

 

Thursday, 19 April 2018, Day 455:

 

North Korea Drops Troop Demand, but U.S. Reacts WarilyThe New York Times, Mark Landler and Choe Sang-Hun, Thursday, 19 April 2018: “North Korea has dropped its demand that American troops be removed from South Korea as a condition for giving up its nuclear weapons, South Korea’s president said Thursday in presenting the idea to the United States. President Moon Jae-in portrayed the proposal as a concession on the eve of talks involving the two Koreas and the United States. The North has long demanded that the 28,500 American troops be withdrawn, citing their presence as a pretext to justify its pursuit of nuclear weapons. But in Washington, the Trump administration privately dismissed the idea that it was a capitulation by the North because an American withdrawal from the South was never on the table. Mike Pompeo, the C.I.A. director whom President Trump secretly sent to Pyongyang two weeks ago to meet Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, did not ask him to take such a step, senior officials said.”

Comey memos offer new details on his interactions with Trump as the FBI’s Russia probe intensifiedThe Washington Post, Ellen Nakashima and Devlin Barrett, Thursday, 19 April 2018: “President Trump expressed concerns about the judgment of his national security adviser Michael Flynn weeks before forcing him to resign, according to memos kept by former FBI director James B. Comey that recount in detail efforts by Trump to influence the bureau’s expanding investigation of Russia. The memos also reveal the extent of Trump’s preoccupation with unproven allegations that he had consorted with prostitutes while in Moscow in 2013. Trump, according to the memos, repeatedly denied the allegations and prodded Comey to help disprove them, while also recalling being told by Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russia has the most beautiful prostitutes. The details were disclosed Thursday as the Justice Department released redacted versions of memos — some of which contained previously classified material — that Comey composed in the immediate aftermath of his interactions with Trump, a step he says he took because he was troubled by their conversations and worried that the president might one day lie about them.” See also, Comey Memos Provide an Intimate Look Into the Trump PresidencyThe New York Times, Nicholas Fandos, Thursday, 19 April 2018: “President Trump spoke in intimate and candid terms to the former F.B.I. director James Comey about some of the most sensitive matters before the agency, including the salacious dossier detailing Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia and the investigation into Michael T. Flynn, the president’s first national security adviser, according to Mr. Comey’s closely guarded memos. The redacted and declassified memos — running 15 pages in total, and sent to Congress from the Justice Department on Thursday night — detail a series of phone calls and encounters between the two men in the months leading up to Mr. Comey’s firing. They offer an extraordinary look at the private interactions among leaders at the highest levels of government.”

Push for Special Counsel Bill Shows Rising Fear Among Republicans That Trump Might Fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, The New York Times, Carl Hulae, Thursday, 19 April 2018: “Senator Mitch McConnell’s unilateral declaration this week that he would not allow a vote on legislation to protect the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, provoked outrage from Democrats who said Mr. McConnell was giving President Trump carte blanche to oust the leader of the investigation into Russian election interference and the president’s inner circle. In reality, the bipartisan bill would stand little chance of passage even if Mr. McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and majority leader, relented and allowed it to be debated and approved by the Senate. House Republicans are adamantly opposed. And if the bill somehow cleared Congress, Mr. Trump would have no incentive to sign a measure limiting his power. On top of that, the legislation might not be constitutional. But supporters of the bill are pressing ahead anyway, intensifying a dispute that underscores both rising concern among Republicans that Mr. Trump might fire Mr. Mueller and uncertainty about just how they would react if he did. Mr. McConnell’s stance has serious consequences. Backers of the legislation believe that a strong Senate show of support for Mr. Mueller and his inquiry would send an unmistakable signal to Mr. Trump that dismissing Mr. Mueller would present serious complications for his presidency.”

Michael Cohen drops libel suits against BuzzFeed and Fusion GPSPolitico, Josh Gerstein, Thursday, 19 April 2018: “Embattled attorney Michael Cohen has dropped a pair of much-touted libel suits against BuzzFeed and the private investigation firm Fusion GPS over publication of the so-called dossier detailing alleged ties between President Donald Trump and Russia. Cohen abandoned the suits late Wednesday as he continues to fight to recover documents and electronic files seized from his home, office and hotel room last week by federal authorities as part of what appears to be a broad criminal investigation into his conduct.”

Trump hires Rudolph Giuliani and two other attorneys amid mounting legal turmoil over RussiaThe Washington Post, Robert Costa, Josh Dawsey, and Rosalind S. Helderman, Thursday, 19 April 2018: “Former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and two other former federal prosecutors joined President Trump’s legal team Thursday following weeks of turbulence and struggles to find attorneys who would agree to represent the president in the ongoing federal probe into Russian election interference. The reshuffling comes at a particularly tense juncture for Trump, who aides said is increasingly frustrated by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation and with the senior officials at the Justice Department. The entry of Giuliani, an experienced attorney with a combative reputation, immediately raises questions about how Trump will engage with Mueller and the leadership at Justice. Some Trump advisers are concerned that the president could use his ­executive authority to close or diminish the special counsel probe, which has spawned a parallel investigation in New York targeting his personal attorney.”

Paul Manafort Is Suspected of Serving as ‘Back Channel’ to Russia, Department of Justice SaysBloomberg Politics, David Voreacos, Thursday, 19 April 2018: “Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s interest in former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort stemmed in part from his suspected role as a ‘back channel’ between the campaign and Russians intent on meddling in the election, a Justice Department lawyer told a judge. The disclosure by U.S. prosecutors came Thursday during a hearing on whether Mueller exceeded his authority in indicting Manafort on charges of laundering millions of dollars while acting as an unregistered agent of the Ukrainian government. Manafort’s lawyers say those alleged crimes have nothing to do with Mueller’s central mission — to determine whether anyone in the Trump campaign had links to the Russian government.”

Trump just took the first step of an aggressive effort to drill in the ArcticThe Washington Post, Darryl Fears, Thursday, 19 April 2018: “The Trump administration took the first step Thursday toward an aggressive effort to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, one of the country’s most pristine and environmentally sensitive areas. The Bureau of Land Management, a division of the Interior Department, issued a notice of intent to begin an environmental impact analysis of how oil exploration and the heavy infrastructure required to support it would alter a landscape where plants and animals thrive.”