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)

Roger Stone associate Jerome Corsi is in plea negotiations with special counsel Robert MuellerThe Washington Post, Rosalind S. Helderman, Josh Dawsey, and Manuel Roig-Franzia, Friday, 23 November 2018: “Conservative writer and conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi is in plea negotiations with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, according to Corsi and another person with knowledge of the talks. The talks with Corsi — an associate of GOP operative Roger Stone — could bring Mueller’s team closer to determining whether Trump or his advisers were linked to WikiLeaks’ release of hacked Democratic emails in 2016, a key part of his long-running inquiry. Corsi provided research on Democratic figures during the campaign to Stone, a longtime Trump adviser. For months, the special counsel has been scrutinizing  Stone’s activities in an effort to determine whether he coordinated with WikiLeaks. Stone and WikiLeaks have repeatedly denied any such coordination. Stone has said that Corsi also has a relationship with President Trump, built on their shared interest in the falsehood that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. Corsi confirmed the plea negotiations after they were first reported by The Washington Post on Friday. “It’s true. Your story is accurate,” he said, declining to comment further except to say there may be further developments next week.” See also, Jerome Corsi, Friend of Roger Stone, Is in Plea Talks With Special Counsel Robert MuellerThe New York Times, Sharon LaFraniere and Maggie Haberman, Friday, 23 November 2018.

Why You Should Care About the Julian Assange CaseRolling Stone, Matt Taibbi, Friday, 23 November 2018: “Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who has been inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London since the summer of 2012, is back in the news. Last week, word of a sealed federal indictment involving him leaked out…. If you hate Assange because of his role in the 2016 race, please take a deep breath and consider what a criminal charge that does not involve the 2016 election might mean. An Assange prosecution could give the Trump presidency broad new powers to put Trump’s media ‘enemies’ in jail, instead of just yanking a credential or two. The Jim Acosta business is a minor flap in comparison. Although Assange may not be a traditional journalist in terms of motive, what he does is essentially indistinguishable from what news agencies do, and what happens to him will profoundly impact journalism. Reporters regularly publish stolen, hacked and illegally-obtained material. A case that defined such behavior as criminal conspiracy would be devastating. It would have every reporter in the country ripping national security sources out of their rolodexes and tossing them in the trash. A lot of anti-Trump reporting has involved high-level leaks. Investigation of such leaks has reportedly tripled under Trump even compared to the administration of Barack Obama, who himself prosecuted a record number of leakers. Although this may seem light years from the behavior of Wikileaks, the legal issues are similar.”

 

Saturday, 24 November 2018, Day 674:

 

The World Needs to Quit Coal. Why Is It So Hard? The New York Times, Somini Sengupta, Saturday, 24 November 2018: “Coal, the fuel that powered the industrial age, has led the planet to the brink of catastrophic climate change. Scientists have repeatedly warned of its looming dangers, most recently on Friday, when a major scientific report issued by 13 United States government agencies warned that the damage from climate change could knock as much as 10 percent off the size of the American economy by century’s end if significant steps aren’t taken to rein in warming. An October report from the United Nations’ scientific panel on global warming found that avoiding the worst devastation would require a radical transformation of the world economy in just a few years. Central to that transformation: Getting out of coal, and fast…. Cheap, plentiful and the most polluting of fossil fuels, coal remains the single largest source of energy to generate electricity worldwide. This, even as renewables like solar and wind power are rapidly becoming more affordable. Soon, coal could make no financial sense for its backers. So, why is coal so hard to quit? Because coal is a powerful incumbent. It’s there by the millions of tons under the ground. Powerful companies, backed by powerful governments, often in the form of subsidies, are in a rush to grow their markets before it is too late. Banks still profit from it. Big national electricity grids were designed for it. Coal plants can be a surefire way for politicians to deliver cheap electricity — and retain their own power. In some countries, it has been a glistening source of graft.”

Mexico Mulls Allowing Migrants to Stay There Pending U.S. Asylum BidsThe New York Times, Azam Ahmed and Kirk Semple, Saturday, 24 November 2018: “Leaders of the incoming Mexican government are in talks with American officials to allow migrants applying for asylum in the United States to remain in Mexico while they await a decision — a drastic overhaul of current policy that President Trump suggested Saturday night was as good as a done deal. While Mexican officials said no decision has been made, leaders of the incoming government are under immense pressure to deal with thousands of migrants lined up along the border between the two countries. The top officials of the incoming administration plan to meet as early as Sunday to discuss the proposal, according to the new foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, who will take office on Dec. 1. A decision to allow the migrants to stay inside of Mexico while awaiting word from the United States courts would be a sharp reversal of the current policy, which allows asylum seekers to remain in the United States until their petition is resolved.” See also, Deal with Mexico paves the way for asylum overhaul at the U.S. borderThe Washington Post, Joshua Partlow and Nick Miroff, Saturday, 24 November 2018: “The Trump administration has won the support of Mexico’s incoming government for a plan to remake U.S. border policy by requiring asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their claims move through U.S. courts, according to Mexican officials and senior members of President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s transition team. President Trump briefly described the arrangement in a pair of tweets Saturday evening. ‘Migrants at the Southern Border will not be allowed into the United States until their claims are individually approved in court,’ Trump wrote. ‘No ‘Releasing’ into the U.S….All will stay in Mexico.’ The president then issued a threat. ‘If for any reason it becomes necessary, we will CLOSE our Southern Border. There is no way that the United States will, after decades of abuse, put up with this costly and dangerous situation anymore!’ Trump wrote.”

House Democrats are gearing up to scrutinize Education Secretary Betsy DeVosPolitico, Michael Stratford, Saturday, 24 November 2018: “For two years, Democrats watched with fury as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos sought to dismantle nearly every significant Obama administration education policy. Now, they’re gearing up to fight back. Lots of them. As many as five Democratic-led House committees next year could take on DeVos over a range of issues such as her rollback of regulations aimed at predatory for-profit colleges, the stalled processing of student loan forgiveness and a rewrite of campus sexual assault policies.”

New book by Trump advisers alleges that the president has embedded enemies, The Washington Post, Philip Rucker, Saturday, 24 November 2018: “Two of the president’s longest-serving advisers allege in a new book that scores of officials inside the White House, Congress, the Justice Department and intelligence agencies are embedded enemies of President Trump working to stymie his agenda and delegitimize his presidency. The authors, Corey R. Lewandowski and David N. Bossie, are both Republican operatives who do not work in the administration but are close to Trump and fashion themselves as his outside protectors. They portray the president as victim to disloyalty on his staff and ‘swamp creatures’ intent on extinguishing his political movement.”

 

Sunday, 25 November 2018, Day 675:

 

U.S. closes major crossing as caravan migrants gather at border in MexicoThe Washington Post, Sarah Kinosian and Joshua Partlow, Sunday, 25 November 2018: “U.S. authorities closed off the busiest port of entry along the U.S. border with Mexico on Sunday and fired tear gas at members of a Central American migrant caravan who had rushed the fencing that separates the countries. Although the number of people at the border was relatively small, the unrest — with migrants attempting to climb fences and run through car lanes to reach the United States, and scenes of mothers and children choking on tear gas — represented a serious escalation of the crisis. What began Sunday morning as a migrant protest of the slow pace of the U.S. asylum claims process devolved into a chaotic scramble in which hundreds made their way to the border hoping to cross onto U.S. soil. To block that from happening, and as some threw rocks and bottles, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers took the rare step of firing tear gas into Mexico as well as closing all legal vehicle and foot traffic to the San Ysidro border crossing, which U.S. officials say normally has about 100,000 visitors per day.” See also, ‘These children are barefoot. In diapers. Choking on tear gas.’ The Washington Post, Tim Elfrink and Fred Barbash, published on Monday, 26 November 2018: “A little girl from Honduras stares into the camera, her young features contorted in anguish. She’s barefoot, dusty, and clad only in a diaper and T-shirt. And she’s just had to run from clouds of choking tear gas fired across the border by U.S. agents. A second photograph, which also circulated widely and rapidly on social media, shows an equally anguished woman frantically trying to drag the same child and a second toddler away from the gas as it spreads. The three were part of a much larger group, perhaps 70 or 80 men, women and children, pictured in a wider-angle photo fleeing the tear gas. Reuters photographer Kim Kyung-Hoon shot the images, which provoked outrage and [are] at odds with President Trump’s portrayal of the caravan migrants as ‘criminals’ and ‘gang members.'” See also, Migrants in Tijuana Run to U.S. Border, but Fall Back in the Face of Tear GasThe New York Times, Maya Averbuch and Elisabeth Malkin, Sunday, 25 November 2018. See also, ‘They Started Running’: Photograph of Children in Diapers Fleeing Tear Gas at the Border Sparks AngerThe New York Times, Niraj Chokshi, published on Monday, 26 November 2018.

Trump Administration’s Strategy on Climate: Try to Bury Its Own Scientific ReportThe New York Times, Coral Davenport, Sunday, 25 November 2018: “The Trump White House, which has defined itself by a willingness to dismiss scientific findings and propose its own facts, on Friday issued a scientific report that directly contradicts its own climate-change policies. That sets the stage for a remarkable split-screen political reality in coming years. The administration is widely expected to discount or ignore the report’s detailed findings of the economic strain caused by climate change, even as it continues to cut environmental regulations, while opponents use it to mount legal attacks against the very administration that issued the report…. The 1,656-page National Climate Assessment, which is required by Congress, is the most comprehensive scientific study to date detailing the effects of global warming on the United States economy, public health, coastlines and infrastructure. It describes in precise detail how the warming planet will wreak hundreds of billions of dollars of damage in coming decades. President Trump has often questioned or mocked the basic science of human-caused climate change, and is now working aggressively to encourage the burning of coal and the increase of greenhouse gas pollution…. In light of Friday’s report, Mr. [Douglas] Brinkley [a presidential historian at Rice University] drew a parallel between Mr. Trump’s statements on climate science and President Lyndon B. Johnson’s false statements to the American public a half-century ago about the Vietnam War. ‘Johnson used to tell people everything was going well in Vietnam, and then you’d turn on the news and see the mayhem,’ he said. ‘It was this giant disconnect.'”

Trump Ramped Up Drone Strikes in America’s Shadow WarsThe Daily Beast, Spencer Ackerman, Sunday, 25 November 2018: “In 2009 and 2010, Obama launched 186 drone strikes on Yemen, Somalia, and especially Pakistan. Donald Trump’s drone strikes during his own first two years on the three pivotal undeclared battlefields, however, eclipse Obama’s—but without a corresponding reputation for robot-delivered bloodshed, or even anyone taking much notice. In 2017 and 2018 to date, Trump has launched 238 drone strikes there, according to data provided to The Daily Beast by U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and the drone-watchers at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London. Those numbers come with a slew of asterisks. The number of drone strikes on the full-fledged acknowledged battlefields of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria have, ironically, proven far more difficult to track than those in shadow war zones—and knowledgeable observers like Chris Woods of the UK’s Airwars organization believe that the true center of the drone strikes is found there. Additionally, the death toll from those strikes in shadow war zones, especially of civilians, is at best a rough estimate.”

In the United States, right-wing violence is on the riseThe Washington Post, Wesley Lowery, Kimberly Kindy, and Andrew Ba Tran, Sunday, 25 November 2018: “Over the past decade, attackers motivated by right-wing political ideologies have committed dozens of shootings, bombings and other acts of violence, far more than any other category of domestic extremist, according to a Washington Post analysis of data on global terrorism. While the data show a decades-long drop-off in violence by left-wing groups, violence by white supremacists and other far-right attackers has been on the rise since Barack Obama’s presidency — and has surged since President Trump took office.”

 

Monday, 26 November 2018, Day 676:

 

How Extreme Weather Is Shrinking the Planet. With wildfires, heat waves, and rising sea levels, large tracts of the earth are at risk of becoming uninhabitable. But the fossil-fuel industry continues its assault on the facts. The New Yorker, Bill McKibben, Monday, 26 November 2018: “Thirty years ago, this magazine published ‘The End of Nature,’ a long article about what we then called the greenhouse effect. I was in my twenties when I wrote it, and out on an intellectual limb: climate science was still young. But the data were persuasive, and freighted with sadness. We were spewing so much carbon into the atmosphere that nature was no longer a force beyond our influence—and humanity, with its capacity for industry and heedlessness, had come to affect every cubic metre of the planet’s air, every inch of its surface, every drop of its water. Scientists underlined this notion a decade later when they began referring to our era as the Anthropocene, the world made by man…. Human beings have always experienced wars and truces, crashes and recoveries, famines and terrorism. We’ve endured tyrants and outlasted perverse ideologies. Climate change is different. As a team of scientists recently pointed out in the journal Nature Climate Change, the physical shifts we’re inflicting on the planet will ‘extend longer than the entire history of human civilization thus far.’ The poorest and most vulnerable will pay the highest price. But already, even in the most affluent areas, many of us hesitate to walk across a grassy meadow because of the proliferation of ticks bearing Lyme disease which have come with the hot weather; we have found ourselves unable to swim off beaches, because jellyfish, which thrive as warming seas kill off other marine life, have taken over the water. The planet’s diameter will remain eight thousand miles, and its surface will still cover two hundred million square miles. But the earth, for humans, has begun to shrink, under our feet and in our minds…. Humans share the planet with many other creatures, of course. We have already managed to kill off sixty per cent of the world’s wildlife since 1970 by destroying their habitats, and now higher temperatures are starting to take their toll. A new study found that peak-dwelling birds were going extinct; as temperatures climb, the birds can no longer find relief on higher terrain. Coral reefs, rich in biodiversity, may soon be a tenth of their current size.”

How Trump Is Ensuring That Greenhouse Gas Emissions Will RiseThe New York Times, Coral Davenport and Lisa Friedman, Monday, 26 November 2018: “President Trump had a clear message Monday when asked about the core conclusion of a scientific report issued by his own administration: that climate change will batter the nation’s economy. ‘I don’t believe it,’ he said. Mr. Trump then laid responsibility for cleaning the atmosphere on other countries like China and Japan…. The remarks fit a pattern, and not just for their bluntness. In almost two years since taking office, Mr. Trump has denied the scientific reality of climate change and taken aggressive steps that will increase emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases — despite unequivocal scientific evidence that those pollutants are warming the planet to dangerous levels.” See also, Trump responds to his administration’s report indicating a huge cost from climate change: ‘I don’t believe it,’ The Washington Post, Philip Bump, Monday, 26 November 2018: “Two wildfires that burned this month in California, including the Camp Fire that leveled the town of Paradise, are expected to cost at least $19 billion to the state, homeowners and insurance companies. Last year′s Hurricane Harvey was estimated to cost six times as much, with the government putting that figure at $125 billion. These are simply the bigger-ticket items on the list of weather- or environment-related disasters in recent years, but they also serve to reinforce a central point in a comprehensive new assessment of the risk posed by climate change released by the government last week. That central point? Climate change will be expensive to the economy. While no single weather event can be said to be solely a function of climate change, Harvey and the Camp Fire are the sorts of weather events that climate change is expected to make more common. Harvey’s one-day rainfall record is what we would expect of a warmer atmosphere holding more moisture. Rapidly moving fires devouring parched terrain will become more common, too.”

‘The situation keeps getting worse’: Unrest at the U.S.-Mexico border creates new tension over migrant caravanThe Washington Post, Sarah Kinosian and Joshua Partlow, Monday, 26 November 2018: “For the past two weeks, Central Americans with dreams of living safely in the United States have camped out at the Little Padres baseball field, with its dirt infield and clear view of the U.S. border fence. As the days ticked by, thousands of them have waited in lines for servings of donated beans and rice. They have showered under cold water spilling from pipes along the outfield wall and hung their underwear to dry on the chain-link backstop. They’ve slept shoulder to shoulder on slabs of cardboard and tended to the fevers and hacking coughs of their children. But the dreams of reaching the United States have begun to fade for some here after a chaotic day at the border, where hundreds of migrants rushed the fence and U.S. authorities fired tear gas to repel them. The unrest Sunday prompted more than 500 Mexican federal police officers to take up positions around the sports complex where more than 5,600 migrants are staying.” See also, Trump suggests without evidence that some tear-gassed migrants were ‘grabbers’ who took others’ childrenThe Washington Post, Philip Rucker and Felicia Sonmez, Monday, 26 November 2018: “President Trump on Monday suggested without evidence that some of the migrants who were tear-gassed at the U.S.-Mexico border on Sunday were ‘grabbers’ who took others’ children to protect themselves. In an exchange with reporters here before heading to Biloxi, Miss., to headline a rally for Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R), Trump also threatened to close the border ‘for a long time.’  Trump’s remarks came hours after he defended the use of tear gas by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents against a crowd of migrants at the San Ysidro border crossing on Sunday.”

Special Counsel Robert Mueller says Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, lied after pleading guilty and should be sentenced immediatelyThe Washington Post, Spencer S. Hsu, Rachel Weiner, and Devlin Barrett, Monday, 26 November 2018: “Prosecutors with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III said Monday that Paul Manafort breached his plea agreement, accusing President Trump’s former campaign chairman of lying repeatedly to them in their investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Manafort denied doing so intentionally, but both sides agreed in a court filing that U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the District should set sentencing immediately. The apparent collapse of Manafort’s cooperation agreement is the latest stunning turnaround in his case, exposing the longtime Republican consultant to at least a decade behind bars after he pleaded guilty in September to charges of cheating the Internal Revenue Service, violating foreign-lobbying laws and attempting to obstruct justice. The filing also indicated that Mueller’s team may have lost its potentially most valuable witness in Manafort, a top campaign official present at discussions at the heart of the special counsel’s mission to determine if any Americans conspired with Russia’s efforts to sway the U.S. election. Still, prosecutors may know more about Manafort’s interactions than he realized, allowing them to catch him in alleged lies.” See also, Paul Manafort, Trump’s Former Campaign Chairman, Breached Plea Deal by Repeatedly Lying, Special Counsel Robert Mueller SaysThe New York Times, Sharon LaFraniere, Monday, 26 November 2018: “Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, repeatedly lied to federal investigators in breach of a plea agreement he signed two months ago, the special counsel’s office said in a court filing late on Monday. Prosecutors working for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, said Mr. Manafort’s ‘crimes and lies’ about ‘a variety of subject matters’ relieve them of all promises they made to him in the plea agreement. But under the terms of the agreement, Mr. Manafort cannot withdraw his guilty plea.”

Trump attacks looming Mueller report after an ally predicts it will be ‘devastating,’ The Washington Post, Avi Selk, Monday, 26 November 2018: “President Trump on Monday launched what some interpreted as a preemptive PR attack against special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s final report — a day after one of Mueller’s most prominent critics said he expects the investigation’s conclusion will be politically ‘devastating to the president.’ Alan Dershowitz, an emeritus professor at Harvard Law School, has spent much of the past year arguing that Mueller’s search for criminal activity in Trump’s 2016 campaign is so aggressive that it ‘endangers democracy,’ as his book on the subject is titled. Speaking to George Stephanopoulos on ABCs ‘This Week’ on Sunday, Dershowitz maintained his long-held view that the president is immune from the potential crimes Mueller is focused on. He said the special counsel’s report — due imminently, per CNN — will pose little legal threat to Trump. Politically, though, it is another matter.”

Conservative author and Roger Stone associate Jerome Corsi says he is rejecting plea deal from special counsel Robert MuellerThe Washington Post, Rosalind S. Helderman, Carol D. Leonnig, and Manuel Roig-Franzia, Monday, 26 November 2018: “Conservative author Jerome Corsi said Monday that he has rejected a deal offered by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to plead guilty to one count of perjury, saying he would have been forced to say untruthfully that he intentionally lied to investigators. In fact, Corsi said he was merely forgetful in his initial answers to Mueller’s team about his interest in the activities of WikiLeaks, which released hacked Democratic emails during the 2016 campaign…. Corsi provided research during the 2016 White House race to Roger Stone, a longtime adviser to Donald Trump. For months, the special counsel has been scrutinizing Stone’s activities to determine whether he coordinated with WikiLeaks or its founder, Julian Assange, in the release of Democratic emails. Stone and WikiLeaks have repeatedly denied any such coordination.”

Trump, in Mississippi, Seeks to Shore Up Senate Candidate Cindy Hyde-Smith. She Has Embraced Mississippi’s Segregationist History. The New York Times, Emily Cochrane and Alan Blinder, Monday, 26 November 2018: “President Trump returned to the campaign trail in Mississippi on Monday to offer an unabashed endorsement of a Republican candidate under fire for comments that critics said embraced the state’s segregationist history…. His presence in Mississippi was intended to boost Ms. Hyde-Smith, who has struggled to unite her party and move beyond a series of controversial statements, including one in which she said if a particular supporter invited her ‘to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.’ The comments have prompted a firestorm in a state steeped in an ugly history of racial violence. Ms. Hyde-Smith and her Democratic opponent, Mike Espy, a former United States representative and the first African-American elected to Congress in Mississippi since Reconstruction, have sparred over what she meant. And major corporate donors — including Ernst & Young, Google, Major League Baseball and Walmart — have requested refunds of their contributions to Ms. Hyde-Smith, despite her assertions that her comments reflected ‘no ill will.'”

Trump Moves to Lower Medicare Drug Costs by Relaxing Some Patient ProtectionsThe New York Times, Robert Pear, Monday, 26 November 2018: “The Trump administration proposed on Monday to cut costs for Medicare by reducing the number of prescription drugs that must be made available to people with cancer, AIDS, depression, schizophrenia and certain other conditions. Under the proposal, health insurance plans that provide drug coverage to Medicare beneficiaries would no longer have to cover all of the drugs in six ‘protected classes.'”

Someone hung nooses at the Mississippi Capitol on the eve of racially charged U.S. Senate runoffThe Washington Post, Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Monday, 26 November 2018: “Authorities removed two nooses and six hate signs found on the grounds of the Mississippi State Capitol on the eve of a U.S. Senate runoff election featuring a black Democrat — and a white incumbent criticized for pro-Confederacy stances and remarks about a ‘public hanging.’ State Capitol police took down the nooses and the signs and said they are investigating, according to Jackson, Miss., NBC affiliate WLBT. Authorities have not released images of the signs or surveillance video, which they are reviewing to determine who is responsible. They also haven’t released details about any suspect.”

 

Tuesday, 27 November 2018, Day 677:

 

Paul Manafort’s Lawyer Is Said to Have Briefed Trump Attorneys on What Manafort Told Special Counsel Robert MuellerThe New York Times, Michael S. Schmidt, Sharon LaFraniere, and Maggie Haberman, Tuesday, 27 November 2018: “A lawyer for Paul Manafort, the president’s onetime campaign chairman, repeatedly briefed President Trump’s lawyers on his client’s discussions with federal investigators after Mr. Manafort agreed to cooperate with the special counsel, according to one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers and two other people familiar with the conversations. The arrangement was highly unusual and inflamed tensions with the special counsel’s office when prosecutors discovered it after Mr. Manafort began cooperating two months ago, the people said. Some legal experts speculated that it was a bid by Mr. Manafort for a presidential pardon even as he worked with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, in hopes of a lighter sentence. Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of the president’s personal lawyers, acknowledged the arrangement on Tuesday and defended it as a source of valuable insights into the special counsel’s inquiry and where it was headed. Such information could help shape a legal defense strategy, and it also appeared to give Mr. Trump and his legal advisers ammunition in their public relations campaign against Mr. Mueller’s office.” See also, Giuliani’s bizarre bragging about the Manafort-Trump alliance highlights new obstruction questionsThe Washington Post, Aaron Blake, published on Wednesday, 28 November 2018.

Trump Lobs Insults at Special Counsel Robert Mueller One Day After Prosecutors Say Paul Manafort LiedThe New York Times, Eileen Sullivan, Tuesday, 27 November 2018: “President Trump on Tuesday lobbed familiar insults and accusations at the special counsel investigation, a day after prosecutors said his former campaign chairman repeatedly lied to investigators in breach of a previous plea agreement. The continuing investigation is a ‘Phony Witch Hunt,’ carried out by a ‘conflicted’ prosecutor and a staff of ‘Angry Democrats,’ the president said in three morning Twitter posts. There was nothing new in the president’s accusations, but they are his first public comments about the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, since the disclosure on Monday that his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, lied multiple times to prosecutors in violation of a plea agreement he struck months ago. Mr. Trump also suggested that he has heard the accounts of witnesses who have been interviewed by the Mueller team. ‘Wait until it comes out how horribly & viciously they are treating people, ruining lives for them refusing to lie,’ the president wrote.” See also, Trump calls special counsel Robert Mueller a ‘conflicted prosecutor gone rogue,’ The Washington Post, John Wagner, Tuesday, 27 November 2018.

Paul Manafort held secret talks with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in Ecuadorian embassy months before emails hacked by Russia were published, sources sayThe Guardian, Luke Harding and Dan Collyns, Tuesday, 27 November 2018: “Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort held secret talks with Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and visited around the time he joined Trump’s campaign, the Guardian has been told. Sources have said Manafort went to see Assange in 2013, 2015 and in spring 2016 – during the period when he was made a key figure in Trump’s push for the White House. In a statement, Manafort denied meeting Assange. He said: ‘I have never met Julian Assange or anyone connected to him. I have never been contacted by anyone connected to WikiLeaks, either directly or indirectly. I have never reached out to Assange or WikiLeaks on any matter.’ It is unclear why Manafort would have wanted to see Assange and what was discussed. But the last apparent meeting is likely to come under scrutiny and could interest Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor who is investigating alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. A well-placed source has told the Guardian that Manafort went to see Assange around March 2016. Months later WikiLeaks released a stash of Democratic emails stolen by Russian intelligence officers.” See also, It Is Possible Paul Manafort Visited Julian Assange. If True, There Should Be Ample Video and Other Evidence Showing This. The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald, Tuesday, 27 November 2018: “The Guardian today published a blockbuster, instantly viral story claiming that anonymous sources told the newspaper that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort visited Julian Assange at least three times in the Ecuadorian Embassy, ‘in 2013, 2015 and in spring 2016.’ The article – from lead reporter Luke Harding, who has a long-standing and vicious personal feud with WikiLeaks and is still promoting his book titled ‘Collusion: How Russia Helped Trump Win the White House’ – presents no evidence, documents or other tangible proof to substantiate its claim, and it is deliberately vague on a key point: whether any of these alleged visits happened once Manafort was managing Trump’s campaign…. While certain MSNBC and CNN personalities instantly and mindlessly treated the story as true and shocking, other more sober and journalistic voices urged caution and skepticism. The story, wrote WikiLeaks critic Jeet Heer of the New Republic, ‘is based on anonymous sources, some of whom are connected with Ecuadorian intelligence. The logs of the embassy show no such meetings. The information about the most newsworthy meeting (in the spring of 2016) is vaguely worded, suggesting a lack of certitude.'”

Two months before WikiLeaks released emails stolen from the Clinton campaign, Jerome Corsi sent an email to longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone alerting him to the document dumpNBC News, Anna Schecter, Tuesday, 27 November 2018: “Two months before WikiLeaks released emails stolen from the Clinton campaign, right-wing conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi sent an email to former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone anticipating the document dump, according to draft court papers obtained by NBC News. ‘Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps,’ Corsi wrote on Aug. 2, 2016, referring to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, according to the draft court papers. ‘One shortly after I’m back. 2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging.’ The email was revealed in a draft court document, known as a statement of the offense, sent to Corsi by special counsel Robert Mueller’s office. Mueller also sent Corsi a draft plea agreement stipulating that the special counsel would not oppose Corsi requesting a sentence of probation if he agreed to plead guilty to one count of lying to federal investigators. As NBC News reported on Monday, Corsi said he has rejected the deal. He has described Mueller’s team as ‘thugs’ and insisted that he did not ‘intentionally lie’ about his communications related to WikiLeaks.” See also, Jerome Corsi provided early alert to longtime Trump Adviser Roger Stone about WikiLeaks release, according to draft special counsel documentThe Washington Post, Carol D. Leonnig, Rosalind S. Helderman, and Manuel Roig-Franzia, Tuesday, 27 November 2018: “Conservative author Jerome Corsi alerted longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone in early August 2016 that WikiLeaks planned to release material damaging to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, including documents related to her campaign chairman John Podesta, according to a draft court filing. Corsi emailed Stone about WikiLeaks’s plans nearly 10 weeks before the group published Podesta’s hacked emails in October, according to the document, which was prepared by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team as part of plea negotiations with Corsi that have collapsed. ‘Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps. One shortly after I’m back. 2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging,’ Corsi wrote in the email quoted in the draft document, referring to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been living in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London since 2012. The email was sent while Corsi was traveling with his wife in Italy.” See also, Longtime Trump Campaign Adviser Roger Stone Sought WikiLeaks’ Plans Amid 2016 Presidential Campaign, Jerome Corsi SaysThe New York Times, Tuesday, 27 November 2018: “An associate of the former Trump campaign adviser Roger J. Stone Jr. released documents on Tuesday showing that as the presidential campaign heated up in the summer of 2016, Mr. Stone tried to dispatch him to find out what information WikiLeaks had that could prove damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The associate, Jerome Corsi, said in an interview that he might be indicted on a charge of lying to federal investigators because he told them that he refused Mr. Stone’s request when in fact he passed it on to an intermediary. He said he had refused a plea deal offered by the office of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, because he did not intentionally lie, but merely forgot events of more than two years ago. Mr. Corsi’s dealings with Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors have caused alarm among the president’s legal team, who were informed of developments by Mr. Corsi’s lawyer. President Trump’s lawyers were especially troubled by a draft statement of offense against Mr. Corsi that was passed on to them, according to people familiar with the situation. In it, prosecutors claimed that Mr. Corsi understood that Mr. Stone was ‘in regular contact with senior members of the Trump campaign, including with then-candidate Donald J. Trump’ when he asked Mr. Corsi in late July 2016 to ‘get to’ Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks.”

Trump slams Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, questions climate change, and threatens to cancel Putin meeting in a wide-ranging interview with The Washington PostThe Washington Post, Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey, and Damian Paletta, Tuesday, 27 November 2018: “President Trump placed responsibility for recent stock market declines and this week’s announcement of General Motors plant closures and layoffs on the Federal Reserve during an interview Tuesday, shirking any personal blame for cracks in the economy and declaring that he is “not even a little bit happy” with his hand-selected central bank chairman. In a wide-ranging and sometimes discordant 20-minute interview with The Washington Post, Trump complained at length about Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. ‘Jay’ Powell, whom he nominated last year. When asked about declines on Wall Street and GM’s announcement that it was laying off 15 percent of its workforce, Trump responded by criticizing higher interest rates and other Fed policies, though he insisted that he is not worried about a recession. ‘I’m doing deals, and I’m not being accommodated by the Fed,’ Trump said. ‘They’re making a mistake because I have a gut, and my gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else’s brain can ever tell me.’… Trump also dismissed the federal government’s landmark report released last week finding that damage from global warming is intensifying around the country. The president said that ‘I don’t see’ climate change as man-made and that he does not believe the scientific consensus. ‘One of the problems that a lot of people like myself, we have very high levels of intelligence but we’re not necessarily such believers,’ Trump said. ‘You look at our air and our water, and it’s right now at a record clean.’ The president added of climate change, ‘As to whether or not it’s man-made and whether or not the effects that you’re talking about are there, I don’t see it.'” See also, Trump’s full Washington Post interview transcript, annotatedThe Washington Post, Aaron Blake, Tuesday, 27 November 2018. See also, Fact-checking Trump’s interview with The Washington PostThe Washington Post, Glenn Kessler and Salvador Rizzo, published on Wednesday, 28 November 2018. See also, Trump on climate change: ‘People like myself, we have very high levels of intelligence, but we’re not necessarily such believers.’ The Washington Post, Josh Dawsey, Philip Rucker, Brady Dennis, and Chris Mooney, Tuesday, 27 November 2018.

Mississippi Senate runoff: Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith wins racially charged election over Democrat Mike EspyThe Washington Post, Matt Viser and David Weigel, Tuesday, 27 November 2018: “Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) was projected to win a racially charged runoff election here Tuesday night, overcoming a surprisingly strong challenge by Democratic opponent Mike Espy to become the state’s first elected female U.S. senator. Hyde-Smith’s victory, coming after her comments about being willing to join a supporter on the front row of a public hanging, bolsters the Republican majority in the Senate and illustrates President Trump’s ability to rally his supporters behind a struggling campaign…. Her comments had also drawn attention to a photo of her in a Confederate uniform cap to promote tourism at Jefferson Davis’s homestead and her attendance at a segregation academy.” See also, Cindy Hyde-Smith and the True Winner in Mississippi’s Senate RaceThe New Yorker, Jelani Cobb, published on Wednesday, 28 November 2018: “By 11:50 Eastern Time on Tuesday night, as the results rolled in from laggard precincts, it was clear that Cindy Hyde-Smith had defeated Mike Espy in the U.S. Senate race in Mississippi, but in a larger sense it was history that prevailed. That history—a notably unsightly one for which people ought to be ashamed but which some prefer to burnish into a facsimile of glory—has everything to do with why an inflammatory white Republican in Mississippi never really faced a serious political threat from a black establishment Democrat in the runoff election for the Senate seat. A series of outrageous statements, regardless of whether they were calculated or clueless, was not sufficient to alienate enough white Republicans from Hyde-Smith. She blithely stated that she would be willing to sit in the front row of a public hanging, in a state whose history is marred by the spectacle murders of black people at the hands of racist white mobs. She ‘joked’ that she was in favor of making it more difficult for certain people to vote in the state where, in 1966, the N.A.A.C.P. activist Vernon Dahmer was killed—his home was firebombed—for the crime of registering black people to vote. Earlier, she had praised Beauvoir, the home of Jefferson Davis, as ‘Mississippi history at its best!’ (It was also reported last week that she had graduated from a ‘segregation academy,’ created to sidestep the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision, and sent her daughter to a school that had had the same origins.)… Hyde-Smith’s victory means that, this month, three Southern white Republicans used cavalierly racist rhetoric in successful attempts to defeat three black Democrats in statewide races. In Florida, Ron DeSantis warned Floridians not to ‘monkey this up‘ by electing his rival. In Georgia, Brian Kemp billed himself as a Trump-like conservative who drove a large pickup truck so as to have room for the ‘criminal illegals‘ he might round up as he went about his day. The pre-Trump Republican Party certainly relied on the support of whites who held racially bigoted views, but it struggled for plausible deniability in such matters. With Trump, the racism is out in the open, and so, in some cases, is the willingness of the electorate to tolerate it. The Mississippi race reinforced something that has been impossible to avoid but difficult to accept: Trump’s imprimatur actually helped some Republicans win elections. Nina Simone titled her racial-justice protest song ‘Mississippi Goddam.’ The shame isn’t just that the song remains resonant fifty-four years after it was released but that, looking at the landscape of 2018, there are still so many other places she could sing about.”

Andrew Gillum and Stacey Abrams speak out against controversial judicial nominee Thomas Farr from North CarolinaThe Washington Post, John Wagner, Tuesday, 27 November 2018: “Andrew Gillum and Stacey Abrams, two black candidates who fell short in high-profile gubernatorial races this month, spoke out Tuesday against President Trump’s nominee for a North Carolina judgeship who previously worked to defend state laws ruled to have been discriminatory against African Americans. The involvement of Gillum and Abrams — who ran in Florida and Georgia, respectively — underscored the national fight over the nomination of Thomas Farr to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.” See also, Democrats Try to Derail Judicial Nominee Thomas Farr Who They Say Is a Vote SuppressorThe New York Times, Catie Edmondson, Tuesday, 27 November 2018: “A judicial nominee nearing a showdown vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee could be the test for Senator Jeff Flake’s vow to block judges until the Senate is allowed to vote on legislation to protect the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.Democrats have united behind a bid to derail the district court nomination of a judge who defended a racially gerrymandered House map in North Carolina and helped draft the state’s voter ID law, efforts that federal courts found were specifically designed to disenfranchise African-American voters, in one case, ‘with almost surgical precision.’ With Mr. Flake pledging to stay true to his word, opponents need to find one more Republican to block him, a victory that would momentarily pause the stream of conservative judges Senate Republicans are sending to the federal bench. Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, the lone black Republican in the Senate, helped sink a judicial nominee in July over his writings in college, which railed against ‘race-focused groups’ on campus and ‘race-think. A vote is expected this week.” See also, Trump judicial nominee Thomas Farr advances in Senate amid racially charged controversyThe Washington Post, Sean Sullivan, published on Wednesday, 28 November 2018: “President Trump’s nominee to be a federal judge in North Carolina cleared a key hurdle Wednesday when the Senate voted narrowly to advance him toward confirmation amid a racially charged controversy over his record as a lawyer. Vice President Pence cast a tie-breaking vote to help Senate Republicans move Thomas Farr, who defended voting laws that a court ruled were designed to disenfranchise minority voters, to a final roll call expected later this week. The vote was 51 to 50. After a nearly hour-long wait, Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.), the chamber’s only African American Republican, voted to move ahead with Farr’s nomination, dashing Democratic hopes that he would join them to defeat it. Scott did not reveal his intentions publicly until he cast his vote Wednesday afternoon.”

House Democrats demand Trump records for expected investigation into hate crimesThe Washington Post, Karoun Demirjian, Tuesday, 27 November 2018: “The expected incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to top Trump administration officials Tuesday warning that when Democrats take over the chamber, they will investigate the rise in hate crimes — and how President Trump’s policies and rhetoric may be enabling it. ‘There appears to be a politically driven effort to diminish programs that empower communities to counter the influence of extremist ideology,’ Rep. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), the panel’s ranking Democrat, wrote to Acting Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. ‘Reporting also suggests that the Administration remains focused on targeting specific racial and ethnic minorities as the suspected main sources of domestic terrorism.'”

A new report from the U.S. Geological Survey found oil drilling and coal mining on federally owned lands made up nearly a quarter of all carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. between 2005 and 2014The Washington Post, Dino Grandoni, Tuesday, 27 November 2018: “At the beginning of 2016, Obama’s Interior Secretary Sally Jewell ordered the USGS, a research agency within the Interior Department, to tabulate the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the extraction and use of fossil fuels from public lands. In a first-of-its-kind report, the agency found that the consumption of coal, oil and gas from federal onshore and offshore holdings represented 23.7 percent of carbon dioxide emissions nationwide on average over the 10-year period studied.  Fossil fuels from federally controlled areas account for much smaller portions — 7.3 percent and 1.5 percent — of methane and nitrous oxide emissions, respectively…. The findings suggest the U.S. government has the potential to curb the nation’s contribution to the buildup of atmosphere-warming gases by resetting public-land policy. Some environmental groups renewed calls to stop oil drilling and coal mining on public lands.   ‘One of the first and best ways to respond is to end new fossil-fuel leasing on public lands,’ said Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity.”

Energy Speculators Jump on Chance to Lease Public Land at Bargain RatesThe New York Times, Eric Lipton and Hiroko Tabuchi, Tuesday, 27 November 2018: “The Trump administration’s policy of encouraging more oil and gas drilling combined with a loophole in federal rules has been a boon for investors with a taste for gambling–and has drawn criticism that it is a bad deal for taxpayers.”

Countries vowed to cut carbon emissions. A U.N. report finds they aren’t even close to their goals. The Washington Post, Chris Mooney, Tuesday, 27 November 2018: “On the eve of the most important global climate meeting in years, a definitive United Nations report has found that the world is well off course on its promises to cut greenhouse gas emissions — and may have even further to go than previously thought. Seven major countries, including the United States, are well behind achieving the pledges they made in Paris three years ago, the report finds, with little time left to adopt much more ambitious policy measures to curb their emissions. ‘We have new evidence that countries are not doing enough,’ said Philip Drost, head of the steering committee for the U.N. Environment Program’s (UNEP) annual ’emissions gap’ report, released in Paris on Tuesday. That verdict is likely to weigh heavily during a U.N. climate meeting that begins in Poland next week, where countries are scheduled to discuss how well they are, or are not, living up to the goals set in the landmark 2015 Paris climate agreement. The UNEP report finds that, with global emissions still increasing as of 2017, it is unlikely they will reach a peak by 2020. Yet such a peak, required before any decline can occur, is a near mandatory outcome if the world is to have a chance of achieving the Paris agreement’s most important goal: limiting the planet’s warming to ‘well below’ 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels.”

The Environmental Protection Agency Plans to Roll Back Water Protections Despite Climate Change WarningsThe Intercept, Sharon Lerner, Tuesday, 27 November 2018: “While one branch of the U.S. government issued a report last week outlining the grave threats posed by climate change, another branch was preparing a rollback of water protections that will further exacerbate some of the climate-related problems laid out in the report…. The report details the role that climate change, including increasing temperatures and more variable precipitation, has played in water quality crises across the country, such as outbreaks of harmful algae in Lake Erie, the reductions of the Pacific salmon population in the Northwest, and droughts in California. In many parts of the country, particularly the Southwest, groundwater has been seriously depleted, causing some rivers and streams to run dry for part of the year. Yet the Trump administration is poised to issue a regulatory rollback that will make this already alarming situation much worse. The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to release a rule replacing water protections for many waterways across the U.S. The new rule, based on an executive order Donald Trump issued in February 2017, will likely take federal protections away from these tributary rivers, streams, and wetlands that are seasonal and rain-dependent.”

The Baseless Claim That Climate Scientists Are ‘Driven’ by MoneyThe New York Times, Linda Qiu, Tuesday, 27 November 2018: “The federal government’s most recent climate change report, released last week, warned that global warming could cause substantial damage to the American economy, human health and the environment. The report has prompted some critics to dismiss climate scientists as corrupted by money, a common but baseless attack. ‘We were paid zero dollars to produce the national assessment,’ Katharine Hayhoe, an author of the report, said in an interview…. Researchers working in climate change do not receive atypically large paychecks, nor do they strike it rich from grants. The claim also ignores that internal research from oil companies affirms the scientific consensus on climate change. Professors at public universities who teach earth sciences and environmental studies generally earn more than their peers in humanities and social sciences, but less than faculty in the economics, business and law departments, according to data from the Association of American Universities.”

Trump’s Wall Street Journal interview on China shows he is not well-versed on tradeThe Washington Post, Aaron Blake, Tuesday, 27 November 2018: “Last week, President Trump assured us he was well-versed on trade ahead of his upcoming meeting with Chinese President Xi Jingping…. Trump said … ‘I know every detail. I know every stat. I know it better than anyone who’s ever known it.’ Then came his interview with the Wall Street Journal. In the course of a conversation with the Journal’s Bob Davis, Trump fumbled a number of different trade-related terms, repeatedly failed to specify what he’s asking for to end his trade war with China, and otherwise gave unspecific and generic answers. It wasn’t shocking from a president who has struggled to enunciate a clear trade strategy and agenda, but that struggle was magnified in this … interview solely about trade with China.”

Trump Threatens to Cut Subsidies to General MotorsThe Wall Street Journal, Rebecca Ballhaus and Mike Colias, Tuesday, 27 November 2018: “President Donald Trump threatened to cut electric-vehicle and other subsidies that have benefited General Motors Co., escalating tensions with the Detroit auto maker a day after it released plans to close several U.S. factories next year. The president’s comments Tuesday hit at GM’s strong position in the electric-car market in the U.S., where along with Tesla Inc. the auto giant has benefited from tax incentives implemented during the Obama administration to spur sales of battery-powered vehicles.”

 

Wednesday, 28 November 2018, Day 678:

 

Senators, Furious over the Killing of Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Spurn Trump on the War in YemenThe New York Times, Gardiner Harris, Eric Schmitt, Helene Cooper, and Nicholas Fandos, Wednesday, 28 November 2018: “Furious over being denied a C.I.A. briefing on the killing of a Saudi journalist, senators from both parties spurned the Trump administration on Wednesday with a stinging vote to consider ending American military support for the Saudi-backed war in Yemen. The Senate voted 63 to 37 to bring to the floor a measure to limit presidential war powers in Yemen. It was the strongest signal yet that Republican and Democratic senators alike remain vehemently skeptical of the administration’s insistence that the Saudi crown prince cannot, with certainty, be blamed for the death of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. While the vote showed widespread disapproval of the administration’s stance, it did not necessarily indicate that the measure would ultimately be approved. It took place hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis briefed senators about the Yemen conflict in a classified discussion, which the administration had hoped would persuade lawmakers that Saudi Arabia must remain a vital American ally. But many senators had insisted that Gina Haspel, the C.I.A. director, also be there to answer questions about Mr. Khashoggi’s death. American officials have said the C.I.A., which Mr. Pompeo led until the spring, has concluded that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, ordered the killing in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last month. Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and a stalwart supporter of President Trump in recent months, vowed to freeze the administration’s legislative priorities until Ms. Haspel spoke to the Senate.” See also, Rebuking Trump, senators back effort to suspend U.S. support for Saudi-led war in YemenThe Washington Post, Karoun Demirjian, Carol Morello, and John Hudson, Wednesday, 28 November 2018: “The Senate on Wednesday delivered a historic rebuke of Saudi Arabia and President Trump’s handling of the fallout over journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing last month, as a decisive majority voted to advance a measure to end U.S. military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. The 63-to-37 vote is only an initial procedural step, but it nonetheless represents an unprecedented challenge to the security relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia. The vote was prompted by lawmakers’ growing frustration with Trump for defending Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s denials of culpability in Khashoggi’s death, despite the CIA’s finding that he had almost certainly ordered the killing.”

Study Warns of Cascading Health Risks From the Changing ClimateThe New York Times, Somini Sengupta and Kendra Pierre-Louis, Wednesday, 28 November 2018: “Crop yields are declining. Tropical diseases like dengue fever are showing up in unfamiliar places, including in the United States. Tens of millions of people are exposed to extreme heat. These are the stark findings of a wide-ranging scientific report that lays out the growing risks of climate change for human health and predicts that cascading hazards could soon face millions more people in rich and poor countries around the world. The report, published Wednesday in the public health journal The Lancet, incorporates the work of 24 academic institutions and United Nations agencies and follows a major climate assessment issued last week by the United States government. The two studies represent the most serious warnings to date that climate change is posing a series of interconnected health risks for the global population.”

Brazil Backs Out of Hosting 2019 Climate Change MeetingThe New York Times, Ernesto Londoño and Lisa Friedman, Wednesday, 28 November 2018: “Brazil this week pulled out of hosting next year’s United Nations global summit on climate change, the latest signal that Latin America’s largest nation no longer aspires to be an influential player in efforts to mitigate the effects of a warming planet. The decision leaves the United Nations scrambling to find a new venue for the summit, which was scheduled to take place next November. It comes about a month before the inauguration of president-elect Jair Bolsonaro, who has vowed to empower commercial ventures in the Amazon and other Brazilian biomes while weakening enforcement of environmental laws.”

Democrats Resoundingly Nominate Pelosi as Speaker of the House, but Defections Signal Fight AheadThe New York Times, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Wednesday, 28 November 2018: “Representative Nancy Pelosi overwhelmingly won the Democratic nomination on Wednesday to be speaker when the new Congress convenes in January, but the defection of 32 Democrats signaled that she could still face a divisive fight to lead the House just as the party assumes control. The result kept alive the threat of a messy intraparty feud and touched off what promises to be an intense period of internal arm-twisting and cajoling by a leader renowned for both. At the same time, it confirmed that despite a drumbeat of calls within her caucus for new leadership, most Democrats support returning the 78-year-old Californian, the first woman to be speaker, to the post.” See also, Democrats nominate Representative Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House, a show of strength that will be tested when the full House votes in JanuaryThe Washington Post, Felicia Sonmez, John Wagner, and Mike DeBonis, Wednesday, 28 November 2018. See also, The Democratic Caucus Nominated Its Leadership. Here Are Some of the Takeaways From the Caucus’s Votes. The New York Times, Emily Cochrane, Wednesday, 28 November 2018.

Two key answers from Trump to Special Counsel Robert MuellerCNN, Dana Bash, Kara Scannell, and Evan Perez, Wednesday, 28 November 2018: “President Donald Trump told special counsel Robert Mueller in writing that Roger Stone did not tell him about WikiLeaks, nor was he told about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between his son, campaign officials and a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton, according to two sources familiar with the matter. One source described the President’s answers without providing any direct quotes and said the President made clear he was answering to the best of his recollection. This is the first insight into how the President responded to the Mueller team’s written questions — a key unknown as Mueller aims to wrap up his investigation and prepare his final report. These two points — WikiLeaks and the Trump Tower meeting — are critical to Mueller’s central mission: investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russians during the 2016 campaign. The President’s lawyers previously told CNN the answers would match his public statements. Still, these written answers could be subject to criminal charges if false. A spokesman for the special counsel declined to comment. CNN did not get a full readout of all of the President’s answers to Mueller’s questions. According to many lawyers who have experience in cases such as this, adding the caveat that he has no recollection, as the President apparently did with these written answers to Mueller, is standard procedure as a way to try to shield a client should their recollections be challenged.”

Trump’s night-owl calls to Roger Stone in 2016 draw scrutiny in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigationThe Washington Post, Manuel Roig-Franzia, Carol D. Leonnig, Rosalind S. Helderman, and Josh Dawsey, Wednesday, 28 November 2018: “The calls almost always came deep into the night. Caller ID labeled them ‘unknown,’ but Roger Stone said he knew to pick up quickly during those harried months of the 2016 presidential campaign. There would be a good chance that the voice on the other end of the line would belong to his decades-long friend — the restless, insomniac candidate Donald Trump — dialing from a blocked phone number. Those nocturnal chats and other contacts between the man who now occupies the Oval Office and an infamous political trickster have come under intensifying scrutiny as special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation bores into whether Stone served as a bridge between Trump and WikiLeaks as the group was publishing hacked Democratic emails. Mueller’s keen interest in their relationship was laid out in a draft court document revealed this week in which prosecutors drew a direct line between the two men — referring to Stone as someone understood to be in regular contact with senior Trump campaign officials, ‘including with then-candidate Donald J. Trump.'” See also, A visual guide to the Roger Stone-WikiLeaks side of the Russia investigationThe Washington Post, Philip Bump, Wednesday, 28 November 2018.

Trump Talks of Pardon for His Former Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort and Escalates Attacks on Russia InquiryThe New York Times, Sharon LaFraniere and Nicholas Fandos, Wednesday, 28 November 2018: “Escalating his attacks on the special counsel investigation, President Trump said on Wednesday that a presidential pardon for his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort is ‘not off the table,’ casting him and other subjects of the inquiry as victims of prosecutorial abuse. Although Mr. Trump had not discussed a pardon for Mr. Manafort, ‘I wouldn’t take it off the table,’ he said in an Oval Office interview with The New York Post. ‘Why would I take it off the table?'”

Trump compares Mueller prosecutions to the McCarthy eraThe Washington Post, John Wagner, Wednesday, 28 November 2018: “President Trump compared the prosecutions of Robert S. Mueller III to those in the McCarthy era on Wednesday, continuing his relentless attacks on the special counsel investigating possible coordination between Russia and Trump’s 2016 campaign. In a morning tweet, Trump also claimed that three ‘major players’ under investigation have ‘intimated’ that Mueller’s team ‘is viciously telling witnesses to lie about facts & they will get relief.’ ‘This is our Joseph McCarthy Era!’ Trump said, referring to the period during the 1950s named for Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis.) in which hundreds of Americans were accused of being communists or communist sympathizers. The tweet marked the third straight day in which Trump has taken to Twitter in an attempt to discredit Mueller, who is also examining whether the president has tried to obstruct the investigation.”

Separated by the Trump administration’s travel ban, Iranian families reunite at the Haskell Free Library and Opera House which straddles the U.S.-Canada border in Stanstead, Quebec and in Derby Line, VermontReuters, Yeganeh Torbati, Wednesday, 28 November 2018: “This year, as migrant families from Latin America were separated at the U.S. southern border, a more nuanced reality has been playing out on the northern frontier with Canada. Here, dozens of Iranian families have reunited at the Haskell library. Drawn by word-of-mouth and a smattering of social media posts, they have come to the geopolitical gray zone at the rural frontier library, located at once in Derby Line, Vermont, and Stanstead, Quebec. The Iranian families have undertaken fraught, costly journeys for the chance of a few hours together on the library’s grounds. Although several Iranians said they hadn’t faced any obstacles from immigration authorities, others said U.S. border officers have at times detained them for several hours, tried to bar them from entering the library, told them they shouldn’t be visiting each other there or said they should limit their visits to just a few minutes. American and Canadian officials have threatened to shut the library over the visits, one library staff member said.”

An Immigration Journalist Faces Deportation as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Cracks Down on Its CriticsThe Intercept, Alice Speri and Maryam Saleh, Wednesday, 28 November 2018: “A Tennessee-based journalist who was turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement after being arrested while covering a protest won temporary relief from deportation through the end of the month. But Manuel Duran, who was arrested in April and remains in ICE custody while a court reviews an appeal in his case, believes he was targeted because of his coverage of law enforcement’s collaboration with ICE in Memphis’s Latino community. He and his supporters say his case is emblematic of a nationwide trend of officials cracking down on journalists and activists who are critical of immigration enforcement policies.”

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee delays vote on Ronald Vitiello, Trump’s choice to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)The Washington Post, Seung Min Kim, Wednesday, 28 November 2018: “A key Senate committee on Wednesday postponed a vote on President Trump’s pick to lead the main agency handling immigration enforcement, as a coalition of unions raised ‘serious concern’ about Ronald D. Vitiello’s ability to effectively oversee the agency…. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), the committee’s chairman, said the vote on Vitiello was being delayed so that senators could practice ‘due diligence’ regarding the concerns raised by unions representing Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel.”

 

Thursday, 29 November 2018, Day 679:

 

Michael Cohen, Trump’s Former Lawyer, Pleads Guilty to Lying to Congress About Plans to Build a Tower for Trump in Russia and Details Trump’s Involvement in Moscow Tower ProjectThe New York Times, Mark Mazzetti, Benjamin Weiser, Ben Protess, and Maggie Haberman, Thursday, 29 November 2018: “Donald J. Trump was more involved in discussions over a potential Russian business deal during the presidential campaign than previously known, his former lawyer Michael D. Cohen said Thursday in pleading guilty to lying to Congress. Mr. Trump’s associates pursued the project as the Kremlin was escalating its election sabotage effort meant to help him win the presidency. Mr. Trump’s participation in discussions about building a grand skyscraper in Moscow showed how the interests of his business empire were enmeshed with his political ambitions as he was closing in on the Republican nomination for president. During the early months of 2016, when the business discussions were taking place, he was publicly pressing for warmer relations between the United States and Russia and an end to economic sanctions imposed by the Obama administration, policy positions that might have benefited his family business. Court documents made public by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, detailed new accusations against Mr. Cohen, the president’s former fixer, who already pleaded guilty this year to committing campaign finance violations and financial crimes. Mr. Cohen was the point person at the Trump Organization for negotiating a deal for the Moscow project, and on Thursday he admitted lying to congressional investigators about the duration of the negotiations and the extent of the involvement of Mr. Trump — who is identified in the court documents as ‘Individual 1.’ After pleading guilty in a Manhattan courtroom on Thursday morning, Mr. Cohen said that he made the false statements to Congress out of loyalty to the president and to align with Mr. Trump’s ‘political messaging.’ Mr. Cohen’s cooperation with the special counsel’s investigation raises the possibility that he might have information about the central focus of the inquiry: whether President Trump or any of his associates conspired with Russia’s efforts to disrupt the 2016 election. And it was the second time that Mr. Cohen has imperiled the presidency; he said in court in New York in August that Mr. Trump directed hush money payments during the 2016 campaign to conceal potential sex scandals.” See also, Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, pleads guilty to lying to Congress about Trump’s Moscow real estate projectThe Washington Post, Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky, and Rosalind S. Helderman, Thursday, 29 November 2018: “President Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty Thursday in New York to lying to Congress about a Moscow real estate project that Trump and his company pursued at the same time he was securing the GOP nomination in 2016. In a nine-page filing, prosecutors laid out a litany of lies that Cohen admitted he told lawmakers in Congress about the Moscow project — an attempt, Cohen said, to minimize links between the proposed development and Trump as his presidential bid was gaining steam.” See also, ‘Individual 1’: Trump emerges as a central subject of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigationThe Washington Post, Carol D. Leonnig and Josh Dawsey, Thursday, 29 November 2018: “In two major developments this week, President Trump has been labeled in the parlance of criminal investigations as a major subject of interest, complete with an opaque legal code name: ‘Individual 1.’ New evidence from two separate fronts of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation casts fresh doubts on Trump’s version of key events involving Russia, signaling potential political and legal peril for the president. Investigators have now publicly cast Trump as a central figure of their probe into whether Trump’s campaign conspired with the Russian government during the 2016 campaign. Together, the documents show investigators have evidence that Trump was in close contact with his lieutenants as they made outreach to both Russia and WikiLeaks — and that they tried to conceal the extent of their activities. On Thursday, Trump’s longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress when he insisted that Trump was not pursuing plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow after January 2016, casting Trump’s repeated claims that he had no business interests in Russia in a new light. A draft special counsel document revealed Tuesday also indicates that prosecutors are closely scrutinizing Trump’s interactions with a longtime adviser, Roger Stone, as Stone was allegedly seeking information about WikiLeaks’ plans to release hacked Democratic emails. Legal experts said it’s still unclear how much peril the president might face as a result of the new evidence Mueller has gathered about the Moscow project and WikiLeaks, but his prominence in the prosecutors’ papers puts the president in an awkward starring role.” See also, How a Trump Lawyer (Michael Cohen), a Convicted Felon (Felix Sater), and a Former General in Russian Military Intelligence (Evgeny Shmykov) Chased a Moscow Trump Tower DealThe New York Times, Mike McIntire, Megan Twohey, and Mark Mazzetti, Thursday, 29 November 2018: “When Donald J. Trump took a run at building a tower in Moscow in the middle of his 2016 presidential campaign, it was the high point of a decades-long effort to plant the ‘Trump’ flag there. The role his former lawyer Michael D. Cohen played in the endeavor entered the spotlight again on Thursday after he pleaded guilty to misleading Congress. But the effort was led in large part by Felix Sater, a convicted felon and longtime business associate with deep ties to Russia. To get the project off the ground, Mr. Sater dug into his address book and its more than 100 Russian contacts — including entries for President Vladimir V. Putin and a former general in Russian military intelligence. Mr. Sater tapped the general, Evgeny Shmykov, to help arrange visas for Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump to visit Russia, according to emails and interviews with several people knowledgeable about the events. For months, the felon, the former Russian intelligence officer and Mr. Trump’s lawyer worked to land the deal, speaking with a Putin aide, Russian bankers and real estate developers. But by July 2016, with Mr. Trump having secured the Republican presidential nomination and accusations of Russian election interference heating up, the project was abandoned, and neither Mr. Cohen nor Mr. Trump traveled to Moscow.” See also, Trump Denies He Had Any Business Dealings With Russia  During the 2016 Presidential Election. His Former Lawyer, Michael Cohen, Contradicts Him. The New York Times, Linda Qiu, Thursday, 29 November 2018: “On Thursday, after Michael D. Cohen revealed new information about the Trump Organization’s business dealings with Russia, President Trump called his former personal lawyer a liar. ‘He is a weak person,’ Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House. He added: ‘Very simply, Michael Cohen is lying.’ He was referring to Mr. Cohen pleading guilty to lying to Congress about a real estate deal to build a tower in Moscow. But Mr. Trump, who is identified as ‘Individual 1’ in court documents that accompanied Mr. Cohen’s admission, was himself less than forthcoming about the prospective real estate project during the 2016 campaign. At no time did Mr. Trump disclose that the Trump Organization had entered negotiations for the property, known as the Moscow Project. And evidence presented in the documents filed on Thursday contradicts Mr. Trump’s repeated denials of his financial interests in Russia and his playing down of campaign contacts with Russian officials.” See also, Trump’s Recall of Moscow Deal Matches Michael Cohen’s, Trump’s Lawyers SayThe New York Times, Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt, Thursday, 29 November 2018: “President Trump’s recollection of discussions about building a Trump Tower in Moscow aligned with those of his longtime fixer Michael D. Cohen, the president’s lawyers said on Thursday after Mr. Cohen admitted in court that he had pursued the project as Mr. Trump secured the Republican nomination for president. The president knew about the deal and discussed it with Mr. Cohen before it fell apart, Mr. Trump’s lawyers said. Mr. Trump detailed those conversations last week in written responses to investigators for the special counsel investigating Russia’s 2016 election interference, Robert S. Mueller III. Prosecutors had sought to question Mr. Trump for months and eventually agreed to accept written answers for some queries.” See also, The events that led to Trump’s abandoned Moscow deal and Michael Cohen’s latest plea agreementThe Washington Post, Philip Bump, Thursday, 29 November 2018: “The unexpected appearance in a Manhattan courtroom Thursday of Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal attorney, added a new layer of understanding to the interplay of Trump, his business and efforts to build a Trump-branded property in Moscow. Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the duration of an effort to develop a property in the Russian capital which, as The Washington Post reported last year, continued well into Trump’s campaign for president. The interaction of Trump, Cohen and the businessman with whom Cohen was working on a deal stretches back more than a decade. [U]sing the criminal information document filed by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team and a detailed report on the development negotiations compiled by BuzzFeed News earlier this year, [this article presents] a timeline of the deal that led to Cohen’s most recent admissions of criminal guilt.” See also, 4 key takeaways from Michael Cohen’s new plea dealThe Washington Post, Aaron Blake, Thursday, 29 November 2018. See also, ‘We will be in Moscow’: The story of Trump’s 30-year quest to expand his brand to RussiaThe Washington Post, Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger, Thursday, 29 November 2018. See also, Michael Cohen’s Disclosures Raise Serious Questions About Donald Trump and His Business InterestsThe New Yorker, Adam Davidson, Thursday, 29 November 2018. See also, The Trump Organization Planned to Give Vladimir Putin the $50 Million Penthouse in Trump Tower MoscowBuzzFeed News, Anthony Cormier and Jason Leopold, Thursday, 29 November 2018: “President Donald Trump’s company planned to give a $50 million penthouse at Trump Tower Moscow to Russian President Vladimir Putin as the company negotiated the luxury real estate development during the 2016 campaign, according to four people, one of them the originator of the plan. Two US law enforcement officials told BuzzFeed News that Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer at the time, discussed the idea with a representative of Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press secretary. The Trump Tower Moscow plan is at the heart of a new plea agreement by Cohen, who led the negotiations to bring a gleaming, 100-story building to the Russian capital. Cohen acknowledged in court that he had lied to Congress about the plan in order to protect Trump and his presidential campaign. The revelation that representatives of the Trump Organization planned to forge direct financial links with the leader of a hostile nation at the height of the campaign raises fresh questions about President Trump’s relationship with the Kremlin. The plan never went anywhere because the tower deal ultimately fizzled, and it is not clear whether Trump knew of the intention to give away the penthouse. But Cohen said in court documents that he regularly briefed Trump and his family on the Moscow negotiations.” See also, The House Intelligence Committee Will Investigate Trump’s Company’s Plan to Give Putin a $50 Million PenthouseBuzzFeed News, Emma Loop, Thursday, 29 November 2018: “A plan by Donald Trump’s company to give Russian President Vladimir Putin a $50 million penthouse will be in the crosshairs of the House Intelligence Committee when Democrats take control of it in the new year, several members said. The plan, hatched during the 2016 election and involving the proposed but never realized Trump Tower Moscow, was reported Thursday by BuzzFeed News. ‘If true, this story further underscores the need to finish the Committee’s counterintelligence investigation to determine what, if any, financial leverage the Russians may hold over President Trump and the Trump Organization, and what Trump may have hoped to gain by any financial offer to Putin,’ Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee, said in a statement to BuzzFeed News Thursday evening.”

Donald Trump Claims Everyone Knew About Secret Russian Deal That Very Few Knew AboutThe Intercept, Robert Mackey, Thursday, 29 November 2017: “Asked to comment on his former lawyer’s confession in federal court on Thursday that the Trump Organization had secretly negotiated with the Russian government during the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump attempted to sell the American people an outrageous lie. Michael Cohen’s secret negotiations with Russian officials and their proxies to arrange financing and permits for a Trump Tower in Moscow — conducted as Trump was publicly heaping lavish praise on President Vladimir Putin — had never been secret at all, the president told reporters outside the White House. ‘Everybody knew about it, it was written about in newspapers, it was a well-known project,’ Trump claimed, falsely, about his company’s covert effort, ‘during the early part of ’16 and I guess even before that,’ to develop a luxury skyscraper with help from Putin’s office and a former general in Russia’s military intelligence service. In fact, the existence of such a project, which was being negotiated in secret during the entire span of the Republican primary campaign — from at least October 2015, when Trump signed a letter of intent with a Russian developer, through January 2016, when Cohen called an aide to Putin’s spokesperson, until some time after Trump secured the nomination in June — was not known about or reported at the time.”

Everyone Who Has Been Charged as a Result of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s InvestigationThe New York Times, updated on Thursday, 29 November 2018: “Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating possible links between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, has issued more than 100 criminal counts against 33 people and three companies. On Thursday, Michael D. Cohen, a former lawyer of Donald J. Trump, pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about his efforts to pursue a Trump Tower deal in Moscow during the 2016 presidential campaign.”

Did a Trump Real Estate Project in Moscow Influence His View of U.S.-Led Sanctions on Russia for Putin’s Annexation of Crimea? The New York Times, David E. Sanger, Thursday, 29 November 2018: “In late March 2016, steaming toward the Republican nomination and with his aides still secretly in talks for a real estate deal in Russia, Donald J. Trump made a lengthy case for giving President Vladimir V. Putin what he wanted most: relief from American-led sanctions for his annexation of Crimea.’It didn’t seem to me like anyone else cared, other than us,’ Mr. Trump said in an interview then with The New York Times, his first lengthy description of what his foreign policy would look like if he was elected. The United States, he said, was ‘the least affected by what happens with Ukraine because we’re the farthest away.’ And countries that were closer — Germany, for example — did not seem to care much. His argument took on a new relevance on Thursday, after his former lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the state of the negotiations over the real estate project’s fate. If Mr. Cohen’s latest version of events is proved true, Mr. Trump was publicly offering a conciliatory and possibly self-interested policy gesture to Moscow as he continued to seek a business deal that would require the Kremlin’s blessing.”

Trump Cancels Meeting With Putin, Citing Naval Clash Between Russia and UkraineThe New York Times, Peter Baker, Thursday, 29 November 2018: “President Trump on Thursday abruptly canceled his planned meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, citing the unresolved naval standoff between Russia and Ukraine and upending his hopes of further cementing the relationship between the two leaders. The president’s decision, announced on Twitter barely an hour after he told reporters he still expected to go through with the meeting, came shortly after new revelations that Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer had negotiated to build a tower in Moscow much later during the 2016 presidential election than previously acknowledged.”

What’s Stronger Than a Blue Wave? Gerrymandered Districts. The New York Times, Maggie Astor and K.K. Rebecca Lai, Thursday, 29 November 2018: “When the blue wave came to North Carolina, the red levees held. In a year in which Democrats picked up as many as 41 House seats, including in places as conservative as Oklahoma and Utah, they lost all three of their targets for pickups in one of the nation’s most closely divided states. Democrats in North Carolina earned 48.3 percent of the total vote cast in House races but won only three seats; Republicans had 50.4 percent of the vote and won 10 seats. The results, which left the partisan makeup of the state’s House delegation unchanged, were as much a triumph of mapmaking as campaigning. The election was held using gerrymandered district lines that federal judges had deemed unconstitutional; those lines were drawn because previous ones had also been deemed unconstitutional. That only hints at the depth and ferocity of the battles over gerrymandering and voting regulations in North Carolina, where a Republican takeover of the General Assembly in 2010 set off a barrage of conservative legislation and rule changes that are still being fought in the courts…. North Carolina and Ohio are two of the most gerrymandered states, said Michael Li, senior counsel in the Brennan Center for Justice’s Democracy Program. And in both of those states, Democrats failed to pick up a single House seat despite winning close to half of the popular vote. They hold only four of 16 seats in Ohio — and in the Ohio House, Republicans maintained a veto-proof supermajority with a bare majority of the popular vote.”

Senator Tim Scott (Republican-South Carolina) Sinks Thomas Farr’s Judicial Nomination Amid Racial ControversyThe New York Times, Catie Edmondson, Thursday, 29 November 2018: “Tim Scott of South Carolina, the lone black Republican senator, said on Thursday that he would oppose the judicial nomination of Thomas A. Farr, a lawyer who defended a North Carolina voter identification law and a partisan gerrymander that a federal court said was drafted to suppress black votes ‘with surgical precision.’ Mr. Scott will join Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, who has vowed to oppose every White House nominee unless the Senate votes on legislation to protect the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. With Democrats united against Mr. Farr, his nomination to a United States District Court appears doomed.” See also, Senator Tim Scott (Republican-South Carolina) says he will oppose Thomas Farr, Trump’s nominee for North Carolina judgeshipThe Washington Post, Seung Min Kim and John Wagner, Thursday, 29 November 2018: “Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) announced Thursday that he would oppose the confirmation of Thomas A. Farr, President Trump’s nominee for a U.S. district court seat, ending a bitter confirmation fight centered on questions about how much Farr knew about a decades-old effort to disenfranchise black voters in North Carolina. The decision from Scott, the Senate’s sole black Republican, came after the publication of a Justice Department memo in The Washington Post that Scott said raised concerns about Farr’s involvement in a controversial ‘ballot security’ campaign. Farr was a lawyer for the campaign of Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) in 1984 and in 1990, when it mailed postcards that the department later said were sent to intimidate black voters from going to the polls.”

Federal Employees Are Warned Not to Discuss Trump ‘Resistance’ at WorkThe New York Times, Charlie Savage, Thursday, 29 November 2018: “At workplaces across the United States, it is routine for Americans’ conversations to turn to President Trump — whether his policies are good, whether he should be impeached, what to think about the ‘resistance.’ Some drink from MAGA mugs; others tape cartoons to their cubicle walls portraying Mr. Trump as a Russian quisling. But roughly two million people who work for the federal government have now been told that it may be illegal for them to participate in such discussions at work — a pronouncement that legal specialists say breaks new ground, and that some criticized as going too far. Generally, federal employees have been free to express opinions about policies and legislative activity at work as long as they do not advocate voting for or against particular candidates in partisan elections. But in a guidance document distributed on Wednesday, the independent agency that enforces the Hatch Act, a law that bars federal employees from taking part in partisan political campaigns at work or in an official capacity, warned that making or displaying statements at work about impeaching or resisting Mr. Trump is likely to amount to illegal political activity…. Several legal specialists raised concerns about the new guidance, warning that it would intimidate people into avoiding even casual discussions with colleagues that should not be deemed banned by the statute…. Daniel Jacobson, who fielded Hatch Act questions as a White House lawyer in the Obama administration, called the new interpretation ‘overly broad,’ collapsing expressions of opposition or support for Mr. Trump’s actions into campaign activity, even when the speaker is not thinking about the 2020 campaign.” See also, No talk of ‘the Resistance’ or opinions about impeachment at work, federal employees are warnedThe Washington Post, Eli Rosenberg, published on Friday, 30 November 2018: “In a move that some ethics advocates say could be an opening to limit dissent, the federal government has issued new guidance for the political activity of federal government workers, warning that weighing in on impeachment or talking about ‘the Resistance’ may constitute prohibited activity. The Office of Special Counsel is charged with enforcing the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activity in the course of their work. The office, not to be confused with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation, is run by Henry Kerner, whom President Trump nominated to the post…. [S]ome government watchdogs said they feared the guidelines could have wide-ranging effects on the nearly 3 million federal employees in the United States, as well as state and local government employees who work with federally funded programs. The ethics nonprofit American Oversight said the guidance raised ‘significant concerns’ in a letter it sent to the office on Thursday, urging it to withdraw the memo. ‘OSC’s position on impeachment advocacy or opinions goes too far,’ the group’s executive director, Austin Evers, wrote in the letter, adding that ‘certainly there is a difference between advocating that an official should (or should not) be elected and advocating that an official did (or did not) commit treason or high crimes and misdemeanors under the Constitution.’ In particular, Evers expressed concern that the guidelines could constrain whistle-blowers. ‘As OSC knows well, it is critically important to ensure public employees are comfortable raising concerns about waste, fraud, or abuse in the government,’ he wrote. ‘Impeachment is primarily a remedy for severe misconduct. If public employees are aware of conduct that could be impeachable but fear civil or criminal liability under the Hatch Act for saying so, they may be reluctant to approach OSA, inspectors general, or Congress.'”

Federal Subsidies Could Expand to Health Insurance Programs That Violate ObamacareThe New York Times, Robert Pear and Abby Goodnough, Thursday, 29 November 2018: “The Trump administration said Thursday that states could bypass major requirements of the Affordable Care Act by using federal funds for a wide range of health insurance programs that do not comply with the law. Federal officials encouraged states to seek waivers from provisions of the law that specify who is eligible for premium subsidies, how much they get and what medical benefits they receive…. The new policy outlined by the administration on Thursday upends a premise of the Affordable Care Act: that federal subsidies can be used only for insurance that meets federal standards and is purchased through public marketplaces, also known as insurance exchanges. Under the new policy, states could use federal subsidies to help people pay for employer-sponsored insurance. Consumers could combine federal funds with employer contributions to buy other types of insurance.” See also, New insurance guidelines would undermine rules of the Affordable Care ActThe Washington Post, Amy Goldstein, Thursday, 29 November 2018. See also, Trump administration offers states four ways to circumvent Obamacare rulesThe Washington Post, Paulina Firozi, published on Friday, 30 November 2018.

Researchers at Georgetown University find that 276,000 more children were uninsured in Trump’s first year in office than were uninsured in 2016ABC News, Anne Flaherty, Thursday, 29 November 2018: “The number of children who are uninsured in the U.S. is on the rise for the first time in nearly a decade, with 276,000 more children going without insurance in President Donald Trump’s first year in office than in 2016, according to findings released Thursday by Georgetown University. Researchers and anti-poverty advocates say it’s an unsettling uptick after years of progress, and they blame GOP-led efforts that have kept some states from expanding Medicaid. They also point to Trump’s aggressive focus on curbing immigration and say many families are too worried that signing their children up for government-backed insurance would complicate ongoing immigration proceedings.”

In Foreign Policy Speech, Elizabeth Warren Takes Aim at Global CorruptionThe Intercept, Alex Emmons, Thursday, 29 November 2018: “In a 35-minute speech on Thursday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., laid out a foreign policy vision, linking corruption to the global rise in authoritarianism and calling for U.S. engagement that aggressively fights climate change and corporate power. Warren, a leading expert on bankruptcy law whose work led to the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau before being elected senator in 2012, is a favorite of many progressives. In 2016, she joined the Senate Armed Services Committee and last year traveled to Afghanistan — signs to many that she was burnishing her foreign policy credentials in preparation for a presidential run. Speaking at American University in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Warren called for the U.S. to take a ‘sharp knife’ to defense spending, invest in diplomacy, and aggressively fight climate change. Pointing out the connections between wealth and political power in authoritarian states like Russia and China, Warren argued that the U.S. should take aim at corruption, internationally and at home.” See also, Elizabeth Warren, Eyeing 2020, Decries Military OverreachThe New York Times, Astead W. Herndon, Thursday, 29 November 2018: “Senator Elizabeth Warren inched closer to a likely presidential run Thursday, making a major foreign policy speech that cited the need to rein in ‘unsustainable and ill-advised military commitments’ across the world. The speech had several policy proposals that are sure to reverberate among other 2020 presidential hopefuls. Ms. Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, called for an end to the war in Afghanistan, a rethinking of American troop deployment abroad, a commitment to a new nuclear posture including increased arms control and a no-first-use policy.”

CNN Submits to Right-Wing Outrage Mob and Fires Marc Lamont Hill Due to His ‘Offensive’ Defense of Palestinians at the United NationsThe Intercept, Glenn Greenwald, Thursday, 29 November 2018: “CNN on Thursday afternoon fired its commentator, Temple University Professor Marc Lamont Hill, after right-wing defenders of Israel objected to a speech Professor Hill gave at the U.N. on Wednesday in defense of Palestinian rights. CNN announced the firing just twenty-four hours after Hill delivered his speech. Hill’s firing from CNN is a major victory for the growing so-called ‘online call-out culture’ in which people who express controversial political views are not merely critiqued but demonized online and then formally and institutionally punished after a mob consolidates in outrage, often targeting their employees with demands that they be terminated. Hill’s firing, conversely, is a major defeat for the right to advocate for Palestinian rights, to freely critique the Israeli government, and for the ability of journalism and public discourse in the U.S. generally to accommodate dissent.” See also, CNN fires Marc Lamont Hill in the wake of remarks criticizing Israel and calling for a ‘free Palestine,’ The Washington Post, Eli Rosenberg, Thursday, 29 November 2018.

Charles Koch Ramps Up Investment in ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) as the Lobbying Group Loses Corporate Funders Over Its Far-Right TiesThe Intercept, Lee Fang and Nick Surgey, Thursday, 29 November 2018: “The American Legislative Exchange Council is holding a conference in Washington, D.C., this week, providing a venue for lobbyists to meet behind closed doors with newly elected state legislators. The group, which is celebrating its 45th year, has long shaped state law, designing bills that imposed three-strikes mandatory sentencing, restricting the minimum wage, curbing municipal broadband, and other shared goals in areas of interest to corporate America and the GOP. Earlier this year, the group put on a corporate-sponsored anniversary celebration at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, which featured White House adviser Kellyanne Conway and other administration officials. Many of the major donors to the conservative bill-writing organization, however, have decided to quit their membership, expressing fear that the group has become too associated with the toxic politics of the far right…. Another, more reliably right-wing funder appears to have stepped up as ALEC has faced increasing scrutiny. Tax disclosures show that the Charles Koch Foundation and Charles Koch Institute increased annual giving to the group, providing $779,068 to ALEC in 2017, a contribution level nearly $200,000 higher than the previous year. The groups tied to the billionaire donor did not respond to a request for comment.”

Trump administration waived FBI fingerprint background checks for staff at a migrant detention camp for teensAssociated Press, Garance Burke and Martha Mendoza, Thursday, 29 November 2018: “The Trump administration has put the safety of thousands of teens at a migrant detention camp at risk by waiving FBI fingerprint checks for their caregivers and short-staffing mental health workers, according to an Associated Press investigation and a new federal watchdog report. None of the 2,100 staffers at a tent city holding more than 2,300 teens in the remote Texas desert are going through rigorous FBI fingerprint background checks, according to a Health and Human Services inspector general memo published Tuesday. ‘Instead, Tornillo is using checks conducted by a private contractor that has access to less comprehensive data, thereby heightening the risk that an individual with a criminal history could have direct access to children,’ the memo says. In addition, the federal government is allowing the nonprofit running the facility — BCFS Health and Human Services — to sidestep mental health care requirements. Under federal policy, migrant youth shelters generally must have one mental health clinician for every 12 kids, but the federal agency’s contract with BCFS allows it to staff Tornillo with just one clinician for every 100 children. That’s not enough to provide adequate mental health care, the inspector general office said in the memo.”