Week 57: Friday, 16 February – Thursday, 22 February 2018 (Days 393-399)

 

 

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

 

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

 

Friday, 16 February 2018, Day 393:

 

13 Russians Indicted as Mueller Reveals Effort to Aid Trump Campaign, The New York Times, Matt Apuzzo and Sharon LaFraniere, Friday, 16 February 2018: “The Justice Department charged 13 Russians and three companies on Friday in a sprawling indictment that unveiled a sophisticated network designed to subvert the 2016 election and to support the Trump campaign. It stretched from an office in St. Petersburg, Russia, into the social feeds of Americans and ultimately reached the streets of election battleground states. The Russians stole the identities of American citizens, posed as political activists and used the flash points of immigration, religion and race to manipulate a campaign in which those issues were already particularly divisive, prosecutors said. Some of the Russians were also in contact with ‘unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign,’ according to court papers. Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel leading the investigation, made no accusation that President Trump or his associates were knowingly part of the conspiracy. ‘The indictment alleges that the Russian conspirators want to promote discord in the United States and undermine public confidence in democracy,’ Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general overseeing the inquiry, said in a brief news conference. ‘We must not allow them to succeed.’ The 37-page indictment — handed up by a federal grand jury in Washington — amounted to a detailed rebuttal of Mr. Trump, who has sowed doubts that Russia interfered in the election and dismissed questions about its meddling as ‘fake news.’ The Justice Department said Mr. Mueller’s work was not complete. The indictment does not address the hacking of Democratic email systems or whether Mr. Trump tried to obstruct the F.B.I. investigation into Russian interference. Mr. Mueller is negotiating with the president’s lawyers over the terms of a possible interview.” See also, As part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein announces the indictment of 13 Russians linked to a troll farm, The Washington Post, Devlin Barrett, Sari Horwitz, and Rosalind S Helderman, Friday, 16 February 2018. See also, Timeline: How Russian trolls allegedly tried to throw the 2016 election to Trump, The Washington Post, Philip Bump, Friday, 16 February 2018: “In a 37-page indictment issued by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team on Friday, we got our first detailed look at how Russian trolls working for an organization called the Internet Research Agency allegedly tried to throw the 2016 election to Donald Trump….  While the document is one of the first full articulations of that effort, it isn’t comprehensive. It’s an indictment focused on a specific set of charges targeting a specific group of people — 13 in total. It doesn’t include, for example, any discussion of how Russia might have hacked the Democratic National Committee or the Hillary Clinton campaign. It doesn’t include evidence that senior Trump campaign officials colluded with Russia deliberately to affect the outcome of the race. It doesn’t show Russian President Vladimir Putin’s hand directly in the meddling. What it does include, though, is significant. It shows a concerted years-long effort by a group dedicated to undermining the American political system. It shows the scale of that effort, eventually involving 80 staff in St. Petersburg, a budget of more than a million dollars a month, hundreds of social media accounts, stolen identities of American citizens — and even visits into the United States by Russians traveling under visas obtained through misrepresentation. [This article includes] a timeline of what the indictment lays out. [It includes] other noteworthy events, as well; they’re shaded in gray.” See also, The Indictment of 13 Russians for Orchestrating a Vast, Well-Funded Operation to Tip the Electoral Scales Toward Trump in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election Makes Trump’s Hoax Claim Harder to Sell, The New York Times, Mark Landler and Michael D. Shear, Friday, 16 February 2018: “He brushed it off as a hoax. He mused that it might be China, or a guy from New Jersey, or ‘somebody sitting on their bed who weighs 400 pounds.’ He said President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had assured him it wasn’t true. And, he added, ‘I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it.’ President Trump has never stopped belittling the charge that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election. But on Friday, with the indictment of 13 Russians for orchestrating a vast, well-funded operation to interfere in the election, those denials collided with a mountain of evidence arrayed by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. For Mr. Trump, who has tried to discredit Mr. Mueller’s investigation as a politically motivated witch hunt, it was a direct assault on the version of reality that he has sought tirelessly to create. By laying out a meticulous case for how Russia tried to tip the electoral scales toward Mr. Trump in 2016, Mr. Mueller has made it much harder for the president to dismiss the investigation as mere politics. He may also have made it harder for Mr. Trump to fire Mr. Mueller himself, since, as some Democratic lawmakers argued, that would look like an attempt to help Russia further undermine American democracy. Before the charges were announced, the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, briefed Mr. Trump and Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, and handed over a copy of the indictment, according to a person briefed on the matter. Mr. Mueller was not present at the briefing.” See also, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Indictment Ends Trump’s Myth of the Russia ‘Hoax,’ The New Yorker, David Remnick, Friday, 16 February 2018. See also, The White House’s extremely dishonest statement on the Russia indictments, The Washington Post, Aaron Blake, Friday, 16 February 2018. See also, The Propaganda Tools Used by Russians to Influence the 2016 Election, The New York Times, Alicia Parlapiano and Jasmine C. Lee, Friday, 16 February 2018. See also, Reading the Mueller Indictment: A Russia-American Fraud, The New Yorker, Evan Osnos, Friday, 16 February 2018: “In its particulars, the indictment, which charged thirteen Russian nationals and three organizations with multiple conspiracies and frauds, fills in the details of an ‘active measures’ campaign that had been described in general terms by analysts and journalists over the past year. It offers a playbook for manipulating American democracy using a mix of classic espionage, private-sector social-media tools, and partisan ideology. The operation, centered on the now infamous troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency, extended to scores of undercover staff and associates in multiple countries, including the United States, and deployed a range of political gambits. Among the details in the document, I was struck, in particular, by three themes—political weapons, in effect—that pose questions for technology companies, the intelligence community, and voters: The power of anonymity…. The power of voter suppression…. The power of news illiteracy.” See also, What Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Indictment Reveals About Russia’s Internet Research Agency, The New Yorker, Adrian Chen, Friday, 16 February 2018. See also, The Internet Research Agency, The New York Times Magazine, Adrian Chen, Tuesday, 2 June 2015. “From a nondescript office building in St. Petersburg, Russia, an army of well-paid ‘trolls’ has tried to wreak havoc all around the Internet–and in real-life American communities.”

Another Mass Shooting. Another Case in Which Signs of White Violence Didn’t Raise Alarms. The Intercept, Shaun King, Friday, 16 February 2018: “It was true for Dylann Roof in Charleston. It was true about for any number of violent white men in Charlottesville. And it was true for Nikolas Cruz in Parkland, Florida. Like these other young men who turned violent, lots of people who interacted with Cruz saw the day coming when he would do something drastic, maybe even one day shoot up a school. He had long since been expelled from his high school. One student who had served with him in the Junior ROTC called him ‘a psycho.’ Another student said he was a weapons enthusiast who tried to sell weapons at school. Yet another student said he had been banned from bringing a backpack to school as a student after bullet casings were found in it. Classmates reported that he stalked someone in the school. Another student said he was physically abusive to his ex-girlfriend. His social media profiles were full of guns, ammo, bigotry, and threats. A teacher said he was a known threat. Neighbors knew something was up; Cruz talked constantly about killing animals. Local law enforcement say they have not verified alleged ties to a white supremacist group, but it seems Cruz displayed a white supremacist ideology: A classmate said he talked about how white people were better than black and Latino people. Last year, he had been reported to the FBI for making violent threats online, and it happened again this year. Someone warned the FBI about Cruz on January 5, 2018, according to the bureau, but the feds never investigated it. Local police reportedly came to his house 39 times over a period of seven years, although it’s not yet clear if the incidents all involved Cruz. Yet none of this prevented Cruz from building what he openly admitted was an ‘arsenal’ of weapons that he repeatedly said online that he hoped to use – even at a school. Imagine if Nikolas Cruz was a young Muslim. Imagine he had, however fleetingly, been tied to a group of radical Muslims operating elsewhere in Florida — whether it was true or not, that just the suggestion had been made. I can tell you this much: If Cruz was a young Muslim, this would’ve never been allowed to go this far. Do you really think the FBI would have failed to investigate a young Muslim with this history?” See also, F.B.I. Was Warned of Florida Suspect’s Desire to Kill but Did Not Act, The New York Times, Katie Benner, Patricia Mazzei, and Adam Goldman, Friday, 16 February 2018: “The F.B.I. received a tip last month from someone close to Nikolas Cruz that he owned a gun and had talked of committing a school shooting, the bureau revealed Friday, but it acknowledged that it had failed to investigate. The tipster, who called an F.B.I. hotline on Jan. 5, told the bureau that Mr. Cruz had a ‘desire to kill people, erratic behavior and disturbing social media posts,’ the F.B.I. said. The information should have been assessed and forwarded to the Miami F.B.I. field office, the bureau said. But that never happened. On Wednesday, Mr. Cruz, 19, killed 17 students and teachers at his former high school in Parkland, Fla., law enforcement officials said. The tip about Mr. Cruz appeared to be the second in four months, after another person told the bureau about online comments from Mr. Cruz that he wanted to become ‘a professional school shooter.'”

Donald Trump, Karen McDougal (a Playboy Model), and a System for Concealing Infidelity, The New Yorker, Ronan Farrow, Friday, 16 February 2018: “In June, 2006, Donald Trump taped an episode of his reality-television show, ‘The Apprentice,’ at the Playboy Mansion, in Los Angeles. Hugh Hefner, Playboy’s publisher, threw a pool party for the show’s contestants with dozens of current and former Playmates, including Karen McDougal, a slim brunette who had been named Playmate of the Year, eight years earlier. In 2001, the magazine’s readers voted her runner-up for ‘Playmate of the ’90s,’ behind Pamela Anderson. At the time of the party, Trump had been married to the Slovenian model Melania Knauss for less than two years; their son, Barron, was a few months old. Trump seemed uninhibited by his new family obligations. McDougal later wrote that Trump ‘immediately took a liking to me, kept talking to me – telling me how beautiful I was, etc…. Trump and McDougal began an affair, which McDougal later memorialized in an eight-page, handwritten document provided to The New Yorker by John Crawford, a friend of McDougal’s. When I showed McDougal the document, she expressed surprise that I had obtained it but confirmed that the handwriting was her own. The interactions that McDougal outlines in the document share striking similarities with the stories of other women who claim to have had sexual relationships with Trump, or who have accused him of propositioning them for sex or sexually harassing them. McDougal describes their affair as entirely consensual. But her account provides a detailed look at how Trump and his allies used clandestine hotel-room meetings, payoffs, and complex legal agreements to keep affairs—sometimes multiple affairs he carried out simultaneously—out of the press.” See also, Karen McDougal Describes Alleged Affair With Trump in New Yorker Article, The New York Times, Niraj Chokshi, Friday, 16 February 2018: “A woman who says that she and President Trump had an affair over a decade ago offered new details about the alleged relationship and an effort to buy her public silence. A Friday report published by The New Yorker describes how a tabloid publisher may have moved to ‘catch and kill’ the story and pay off the woman, Karen McDougal, as Mr. Trump’s candidacy gained momentum. Ms. McDougal, a former Playboy model, wrote an eight-page note, obtained by The New Yorker, describing the relationship, which allegedly began in 2006, while Mr. Trump was married to his current wife, Melania Trump, and lasted about nine months. Ms. McDougal said she regretted signing a contract with American Media Inc., the publisher of The National Enquirer, for the rights to her story. ‘I feel let down,’ Ms. McDougal told The New Yorker. ‘I’m the one who took it, so it’s my fault, too. But I didn’t understand the full parameters of it.’ The publisher’s $150,000 payment to Ms. McDougal was reported by The Wall Street Journal just days before the 2016 election, but the Friday report sheds new light on the deal-making process, which Ms. McDougal and those close to her described as exploitative. Former American Media employees told The New Yorker that the company’s chairman and chief executive, David Pecker, who is close with Mr. Trump, routinely bought stories with no intention of running them, sometimes using the pieces as leverage.”

Continue reading Week 57, Friday, 16 February – Thursday, 22 February 2018 (Days 393-399)

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Week 56: Friday, 9 February – Thursday, 15 February 2018 (Days 386-392)

 

 

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

 

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

 

Friday, 9 February 2018, Day 386:

 

Trump Praises Rob Porter, Top White House Adviser Accused of Abusing His Ex-Wives, and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly Says He’s Willing to Resign as Abuse Scandal Roils the White House, The New York Times, Maggie Haberman, Julie Hirschfeld, and Michael S. Schmidt, Friday, 9 February 2018: “John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, told officials in the West Wing on Friday that he was willing to step down over his handling of allegations of spousal abuse against Rob Porter, the staff secretary who resigned in disgrace this week over the accusations, according to two officials aware of the discussions. The officials emphasized that they did not consider a resignation imminent, and that Mr. Kelly — a retired four-star Marine general who early in his tenure often used a threat of quitting as a way to temper President Trump’s behavior — had made no formal offer. In comments to reporters at the White House on Friday, Mr. Kelly said he had not offered to resign…. [M]any, including the president himself, have turned their ire on Mr. Kelly for vouching for Mr. Porter’s character and falsely asserting that he had moved aggressively to oust him once his misdeeds were discovered. For all the turmoil, Mr. Trump on Friday warmly praised Mr. Porter, saying it was a ‘tough time’ for his former aide and noting that Mr. Porter had denied the accusations. ‘We wish him well,’ Mr. Trump said of his former aide, who was accused of physical and emotional abuse by two ex-wives. The president added, ‘He also, as you probably know, says he is innocent, and I think you have to remember that.’ ‘He worked very hard,’ Mr. Trump told reporters in the Oval Office when asked for a comment about Mr. Porter. The president said he had only ‘recently’ learned of the allegations against his former aide and was surprised. ‘He did a very good job when he was in the White House, and we hope he has a wonderful career, and he will have a great career ahead of him,’ Mr. Trump said. ‘But it was very sad when we heard about it, and certainly he’s also very sad now.’ The glowing praise of a staff member accused of serial violence against women was in line with the president’s own denials of sexual impropriety despite accusations from more than a dozen women and his habit of accepting claims of innocence from men facing similar allegations. Among them was Roy S. Moore, the former Republican Senate candidate in Alabama, who is accused of molesting teenage girls.” See also, Trump lavishes praise on Rob Porter, former top aide accused of domestic violence, The Washington Post, Jenna Johnson, Friday, 9 February 2018. See also, Trump’s full comments essentially defending Rob Porter, annotated, The Washington Post, Aaron Blake, Friday, 9 February 2018. See also, Who knew what and when about the abuse allegations against Rob Porter, The Washington Post, Philip Bump, Friday, 9 February 2018.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly offers account of Rob Porter exit that some White House aides consider untrue, The Washington Post, Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey, Friday, 9 February 2018: “White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly on Friday morning instructed senior staff to communicate a version of events about the departure of staff secretary Rob Porter that contradicts the Trump administration’s previous accounts, according to two senior officials. During a staff meeting, Kelly told those in attendance to say he took action to remove Porter within 40 minutes of learning that abuse allegations from two ex-wives were credible, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because discussions in such meetings are supposed to be confidential. ‘He told the staff he took immediate and direct action,’ one of the officials said, adding that people after the meeting expressed disbelief with one another and felt his latest account was not true. That version of events contradicts both the public record and accounts from numerous other White House officials in recent days as the Porter drama unfolded. Kelly — who first learned of the domestic violence allegations against Porter months ago — issued a glowing statement of support for Porter’s personal character after the allegations first surfaced publicly Tuesday and privately urged him to remain on the job until the next day when his resignation was announced. At Friday’s meeting, Kelly also told subordinates to convey to other White House aides that he cares about domestic violence, according to the officials.” See also, What Does John Kelly, Trump’s Chief of Staff, See When He Looks at the People Around Him? The New Yorker, Amy Davidson Sorkin, Friday, 9 February 2018.

David Sorensen, a White House Speechwriter, Resigned After a News Report Detailed Accusations From a Former Wife Who Said He Had Abused Her During Their Marriage, The New York Times, Katie Rogers, Friday, 9 February 2018: “David Sorensen, a White House speechwriter, resigned on Friday after a news report detailed accusations from a former wife who said he had abused her during their marriage. His resignation came two days after Rob Porter, the White House staff secretary, submitted his own resignation after his two former wives publicly accused him of being abusive to them when they were married. In an interview in The Washington Post, Mr. Sorensen’s former wife, Jessica Corbett, detailed a volatile two-and-a-half-year marriage in which Mr. Sorensen ran over her foot while driving a car and put out a lit cigarette on her hand. Their divorce became final last fall. Ms. Corbett said she described those episodes to the F.B.I. last fall as it was conducting a background check of Mr. Sorensen, according to The Post. Mr. Sorensen denied Ms. Corbett’s account, and insisted that she was the abuser.”

Continue reading Week 56, Friday, 9 February – Thursday, 15 February 2018 (Days 386-392)

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Week 55: Friday, 2 February – Thursday, 8 February 2018 (Days 379-385)

 

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

 

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

 

Friday, 2 February 2018, Day 379:

 

House Republicans Release Secret Memo Accusing Russia Investigators of Bias, The New York Times, Nicholas Fandos, Adam Goldman, and Charlie Savage, Friday, 2 February 2018: “House Republicans released a politically charged memo on Friday that accused F.B.I. and Justice Department leaders of abusing their surveillance powers to spy on a former Trump campaign adviser suspected of being an agent of Russia. The memo alarmed national security officials and outraged Democrats, who accused the Republicans of misrepresenting sensitive government information through omissions and inaccuracies. President Trump declassified it over the objections of the F.B.I., which had expressed ‘grave concerns’ over its accuracy in a rare public break from the White House. The three-and-a-half-page memo, written by Republican congressional aides, criticized information used by law enforcement officials in their application for a warrant to wiretap the former campaign adviser, Carter Page, and named the senior F.B.I. and Justice Department officials who approved the highly classified application. But it fell well short of making the case promised by some Republicans: that the evidence it contained would cast doubt on the origins of the Russia investigation and possibly undermine the inquiry, which has been taken over by a special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. The Page warrant is just one aspect of the broader investigation. Instead, the document confirmed that contacts between a former Trump foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos, and Russian intermediaries were a primary factor in the opening of the investigation in July 2016…. [A] 10-page Democratic memo written to rebut the Republican document says that the F.B.I. was more forthcoming with the surveillance court than the Republicans say. The F.B.I. told the court that the information it received from Mr. Steele was politically motivated, though the agency did not say it was financed by Democrats, according to two people familiar with the Democratic memo. Notably, the Republican memo does not assert that Mr. Steele’s information was the fountainhead of the broader Russia investigation as many Republicans and conservative media commentators have insinuated.” See also, Read the Nunes Memo, Annotated, The New York Times, Annotations by Charlie Savage, Friday, 2 February 2018. See also, Release of disputed Republican memo on FBI surveillance unleashes waves of recrimination, The Washington Post, Devlin Barrett, Karoun Demirjian, and Philip Rucker, Friday, 2 February 2018. See also, Justice Department told court of source’s political motivation in request to wiretap ex-Trump campaign aide, officials say, The Washington Post, Ellen Nakashima, Friday, 2 February 2018: “The court that approved surveillance of a former campaign adviser to President Trump was aware that some of the information underpinning the warrant request was paid for by a political entity, although the application did not specifically name the Democratic National Committee or the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the matter. A now-declassified Republican memo alleged that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was duped into approving the wiretap request by a politicized FBI and Justice Department. The memo was written by House Intelligence Committee Republicans and alleged a ‘troubling breakdown of legal processes’ flowing from the government’s wiretapping of former Trump aide Carter Page. But its central allegation — that the government failed to disclose a source’s political bias — is baseless, the officials said. The Justice Department made ‘ample disclosure of relevant, material facts’ to the court that revealed ‘the research was being paid for by a political entity,’ said one official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.” See also, Republican Memo Escalates Clash Over Russia Probe. Release comes after the FBI expressed ‘grave concerns’ over the accuracy of the document. The Wall Street Journal, Byron Tau and Rebecca Ballhaus, Friday, 2 February 2018: “[T]he document’s claims are difficult to evaluate without access to the underlying, highly classified law-enforcement material that it was based on. It also doesn’t address or dispute the research collected by Mr. Steele that was included in the warrant application, and it recommends no changes to U.S. intelligence programs…. Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the intelligence committee, disputed the memo’s contention that the FBI didn’t disclose the political motive behind Mr. Steele’s research, saying that the memo is a political document full of omissions and cherry-picked facts designed to muddy the waters of the Russia investigation, which has already ensnared several top Trump advisers…. Democrats on the committee have compiled their own memo on the matter, which addresses the information that prosecutors used beyond Mr. Steele’s research, but the GOP-controlled committee has so far blocked its release.” See also, A complete timeline of the events behind the memo that threatens to rip D.C. in two, The Washington Post, Philip Bump, Friday, 2 February 2018. See also, The Nunes Memo Undermines the Right’s Trump-Russia Conspiracy Theory, The New Yorker, John Cassidy, Friday, 2 February 2018.

‘Never any hesitation’: Trump was quickly persuaded to support the release of the classified Republican memo, The Washington Post, Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker, and Josh Dawsey, Friday, 2 February 2018: “President Trump was only vaguely aware of a controversial, classified memo about the FBI’s Russia investigation when two House conservatives brought it to his attention in a Jan. 18 phone call. The conversation piqued Trump’s interest. Over the next two weeks, according to interviews with eight senior administration officials and other advisers to the president, he tuned in to cable television segments about the memo. He talked to friends and advisers about it. And, before he had even read it, Trump became absolutely convinced of one thing: The memo needed to come out…. The president did not actually see the memo — written by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Nunes’s staff — until Wednesday afternoon, following the committee’s Monday vote to initiate its release, officials said…. Trump told aides and confidants he believed the memo would vindicate his claim early last year that the expansive Russia investigation overseen by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III was a ‘witch hunt.’ He had long expressed frustration, both publicly and privately, with his Department of Justice and, specifically, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who is supervising Mueller’s work. The president said he thought the release of the memo would help build a public argument against Rosenstein’s handling of the case, according to people familiar with the discussions. Trump suggested to aides and confidants that the memo might give him the justification to fire Rosenstein — something about which Trump has privately mused — or make other changes at the Justice Department, which he had complained was not sufficiently loyal to him. Inside the narrow corridors and cramped offices of the West Wing, aides knew that trying to persuade their boss to keep the memo private would likely be a fruitless endeavor.” See also, Did Trump just reveal the real reason the Republican memo was written? The Washington Post, Amber Phillips, Friday, 2 February 2018.

Trump Calls Justice Department and F.B.I. Conduct ‘a Disgrace,’ The New York Times, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Friday, 2 February 2018: “President Trump on Friday intensified his attacks on his own Justice Department and F.B.I. for their handling of the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections, hinting that senior leaders there should face consequences for conduct he called ‘a disgrace.’ Mr. Trump, who has become increasingly outspoken in his suggestions of wrongdoing by law enforcement officials as the inquiry has reached deeper inside the White House, made his comments as he announced that he had declassified a secret memo prepared by House Republicans that insinuates that the Russia investigation has been tainted by Democratic bias…. The release of the memo raised fresh questions about whether Mr. Trump — who last year fired James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director overseeing the Russia inquiry, and then sought to remove Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel named to take it over — might seek next to oust Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, who named Mr. Mueller. The president, who first considered getting rid of Mr. Rosenstein last summer, pointedly refused to say on Friday whether he was more likely to do so now, cocking his head and telling reporters who pressed him on the matter: ‘You figure that out.’ But the release of the memo underscored how Mr. Trump has transformed his own suspicions and unsubstantiated theories about an inquiry he has repeatedly called a ‘hoax’ and a ‘witch hunt’ into a set of official accusations of corruption against the very people investigating him. The president has called for months for the compilation of such evidence, often taking to Twitter to demand that the Justice Department and the F.B.I. release information that could show political bias on the part of those investigating whether his campaign colluded with Russia.” See also, Trump escalates his attacks on FBI leadership. This time he claims the agency favored Democrats over Republicans. The Washington Post, John Wagner, Friday, 2 February 2018.

Continue reading Week 55, Friday, 2 February – Thursday, 8 February 2018 (Days 379-385)

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Week 54: Friday, 26 January – Thursday, 1 February 2018 (Days 372-378)

 

 

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

 

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

 

Friday, 26 January 2018, Day 372:

 

8 times since June the White House denied Trump was considering firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller, CNN, Marshall Cohen and Aileen Graef, Friday, 26 January 2018: “President Donald Trump considered firing special counsel Robert Mueller last June, but backed down after White House counsel Don McGahn threatened to quit, a person familiar with the matter told CNN. Since then, Trump and his allies have repeatedly denied that the President had ever considered firing Mueller, who is tasked with investigating Russian interference in the 2016 US elections and any possible collusion with Trump’s campaign. The President has repeatedly denied any collusion.” See also, Shall we protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller now, Mr. MCConnell? The Washington Post, Editorial Board, Friday, 26 January 2018: “‘I don’t hear much pressure to pass anything,’ Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in November when asked about bills that would protect special counsel Robert S. Mueller III should President Trump try to fire him. ‘There’s been no indication that the president or the White House are not cooperating with the special counsel,’ Mr. McConnell explained. Now there is an indication, and a pretty strong one. The New York Times reported and The Post quickly confirmed Thursday that the president moved to fire Mr. Mueller in June, shortly after the special counsel’s appointment. Mr. Trump pulled back only after White House Counsel Donald F. McGahn threatened to resign…. Meanwhile, all the members of the president’s staff who baldly lied to reporters about whether Mr. Trump contemplated firing Mr. Mueller have surrendered even more dignity — and once again made clear that official White House assertions, from the president down, cannot be taken at face value. For his part, Mr. Trump flicked away the reports as ‘fake news,’ despite several news organizations’ independent confirmation of the story. With Mr. Trump’s desire to fire Mr. Mueller now more than speculative, Congress must finally take action. Senators already have two bipartisan bills before them that would insulate the special counsel from the president’s pique…. Congressional leaders’ excuses for inaction have evaporated. It is time for them to choose: party or country?”

New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut plan lawsuit challenging constitutionality of the 2017 tax law, The Washington Post, Renae Merle, Friday, 26 January 2018: “The governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut said Friday they are forming a multistate coalition to sue the Trump administration over the 2017 tax bill, challenging the constitutionality of a provision that limits Americans’ ability to deduct their state and local taxes from their federal bill. The law sets a new cap of $10,000 on the amount of state and local property and income taxes that can be deducted from federal taxable income. That will disproportionately harm their residents, the governors said in a conference call, and is motivated by politics rather than sound fiscal policy. All three governors, Andrew Cuomo of New York, Dannel Malloy of Connecticut, and Phil Murphy of New Jersey, are Democrats. ‘The new federal tax law destroyed a century-old tax structure between the federal government and the states,’ Cuomo said on Twitter. ‘New York will sue.’… The lawsuit will be filed in federal court in the coming weeks, the governors said. They also said they are talking to other states about potentially joining the coalition.” See also, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Typically a Lone Wolf, Shifts Toward Coalition Building, The New York Times, Vivian Wang and Nick Corasaniti, Friday, 26 January 2018.

Dozens of People Recount Pattern of Sexual Misconduct by Steve Wynn, Las Vegas Mogul and ‘Great Friend’ of Trump, The Wall Street Journal, Alexandra Berzon, Chris Kirkham, Elizabeth Bernstein, and Kate O’Keeffe, Friday, 26 January 2018: “Not long after the billionaire casino mogul Steve Wynn opened his flagship Wynn Las Vegas in 2005, a manicurist who worked there arrived at the on-site salon visibly distressed following an appointment in Mr. Wynn’s office. Sobbing, she told a colleague Mr. Wynn had forced her to have sex, and she repeated that to others later. After she gave Mr. Wynn a manicure, she said, he pressured her to take her clothes off and told her to lie on the massage table he kept in his office suite, according to people she gave the account to. The manicurist said she told Mr. Wynn she didn’t want to have sex and was married, but he persisted in his demands that she do so, and ultimately she did disrobe and they had sex, the people remember her saying. After being told of the allegations, the woman’s supervisor said she filed a detailed report to the casino’s human-resources department recounting the episode. Mr. Wynn later paid the manicurist a $7.5 million settlement, according to people familiar with the matter…. Beyond this incident, dozens of people The Wall Street Journal interviewed who have worked at Mr. Wynn’s casinos told of behavior that cumulatively would amount to a decades-long pattern of sexual misconduct by Mr. Wynn. Some described him pressuring employees to perform sex acts…. [Mr. Wynn] is a former casino-business rival of President Donald Trump, who said in 2016 that Mr. Wynn was a ‘great friend’ whose advice he valued. After Mr. Trump’s election, Mr. Wynn became the Republican National Committee’s finance chairman.… The contrast between Mr. Wynn’s position and that of the salon and spa employees is stark. Former employees said their awareness of Mr. Wynn’s power in Las Vegas, combined with the knowledge that the jobs they held were among the best-paying available there, added up to a feeling of dependence and intimidation when Mr. Wynn made requests of them. Some said that feeling was heightened at times by the presence in a confined office space of one or more of his German shepherds, trained to respond to commands in German. The Journal contacted more than 150 people who work or had worked for Mr. Wynn; none reached out to the Journal on their own. Most of those who spoke to the Journal about Mr. Wynn said they worried that doing so could hurt their ability to work elsewhere because of his influence in the casino industry and the state.” See also, Stephen Wynn, Casino Mogul, Friend of Trump, and Chairman of the Republican National Committee’s Finance Committee, Is Accused of Decades of Sexual Misconduct, The New York Times, Matthew Goldstein, Tiffany Hsu, and Kenneth P. Vogel, Friday, 26 January 2018: “A detailed investigative report in The Wall Street Journal portrayed Mr. Wynn, a billionaire casino magnate and prominent political donor, as a man who frequently demanded naked massages from female employees, sometimes pressuring them for sex and to masturbate him. The newspaper said that the activity had gone on for decades and that some female employees had complained to supervisors about Mr. Wynn’s behavior…. The fallout from the story mounted during the day. Investors fled shares of Wynn Resorts, Mr. Wynn’s casino company, driving the stock price down 10 percent…. The allegations could also have political impact as well. Mr. Wynn was named chairman of the Republican National Committee’s finance committee shortly after the election of President Trump in November 2016. Mr. Trump has described Mr. Wynn as a friend.” See also, Steve Wynn, Republican National Committee finance chairman, faces allegations of sexual misconduct, The Washington Post, Ed O’Keefe, Friday, 26 January 2018.

Continue reading Week 54, Friday, 26 January – Thursday, 1 February 2018 (Days 372-378)

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Week 53: Friday, 19 January – Thursday, 25 January 2018 (Days 365-371)

 

 

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

 

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

 

Friday, 19 January 2018, Day 365:

 

Government Shutdown Begins as Budget Talks Falter in the Senate, The New York Times, Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Thomas Kaplan, Friday, 19 January 2018: “Much of the federal government officially shut down early Saturday morning after Senate Democrats, showing remarkable solidarity in the face of a clear political danger, blocked consideration of a stopgap spending measure to keep the government operating. The shutdown, coming one year to the day after President Trump took office, set off a new round of partisan recriminations and posed risks for both parties. It came after a fruitless last-minute negotiating session at the White House between Mr. Trump and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader. With just 50 senators voting in favor, Senate Republican leaders fell well short of the 60 votes necessary to proceed on the spending measure, which had passed the House on Thursday. Five conservative state Democrats voted for the spending measure. Five Republicans voted against it, although one of those, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, did so for procedural reasons.” See also, How Washington Reached the Brink of a Shutdown, The New York Times, Michael D. Shear, Friday, 19 January 2018: “Here’s a look back, over the course of one year, at the events that led to the brink of a government shutdown, with immigration and spending as the main drivers.” See also, How Every Senator Voted on the Government Shutdown, The New York Times, Jasmine C. Lee and Sara Simon, Friday, 19 January 2018.

Supreme Court to Consider Challenge to Trump’s Latest Travel Ban, The New York Times, Adam Liptak, Friday, 19 January 2018: “The Supreme Court announced on Friday that it would consider a challenge to President Trump’s latest effort to limit travel from countries said to pose a threat to the nation’s security, adding a major test of presidential power to a docket already crowded with blockbusters. The case concerns Mr. Trump’s third and most considered bid to make good on a campaign promise to secure the nation’s borders. But challengers to the latest ban, issued as a presidential proclamation in September, said it was tainted by religious animus and not adequately justified by national security concerns. The decision to hear the case, Trump v. Hawaii, No. 17-965, came almost a year after the first travel ban, issued a week after Mr. Trump took office, caused chaos at the nation’s airports and was promptly blocked by courts around the nation. A second version of the ban, issued in March, fared little better, though the Supreme Court allowed part of it go into effect in June when it agreed to hear the Trump administration’s appeals in two cases. But the Supreme Court dismissed those appeals in October after the second ban expired. There is no reason to think the latest appeal will fizzle out, as the September order, unlike the earlier ones, is meant to last indefinitely. The justices are likely to hear arguments in the latest case in the spring and to issue a decision in late June. The ban restricts travel from eight nations, six of them predominantly Muslim. For now, most citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea will be barred from entering the United States, along with some groups of people from Venezuela. The restrictions vary in their details, but for the most part, citizens of the countries are forbidden from emigrating to the United States and many of them are barred from working, studying or vacationing here. In December, in a sign that the Supreme Court may be more receptive to upholding the September order, the court allowed it to go into effect as the case moved forward. The move effectively overturned a compromise in place since June, when the court said travelers with connections to the United States could continue to travel here notwithstanding restrictions in an earlier version of the ban. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented from the December ruling.”

After Scoring Huge Tax Cuts, Billionaire Charles Koch Floods House Speaker Paul Ryan With Cash, International Business Times, Alex Kotch, Friday, 19 January 2018: “In the months leading up to the passage of the Republican Party’s long-awaited tax bill last year, the powerful political operation run by the billionaire Koch brothers was one of the strongest forces pressuring lawmakers to pass massive tax cuts for wealthy individuals and corporations. ‘Republicans never hid the fact that this tax bill was about pleasing their big donors,’ Adam Smith, communications director at campaign finance reform nonprofit Every Voice, told International Business Times. ‘And it looks like House Speaker [Paul] Ryan is quickly being rewarded for passing this legislation that overwhelmingly benefits the Kochs and billionaires like them.’ Thirteen days after the U.S. House passed its version of the tax legislation, Charles Koch and his wife, Elizabeth, combined to donate nearly $500,000 to House Speaker Paul Ryan’s joint fundraising committee, according to a new campaign finance report released Thursday. These two donations were by far the largest sums added to Ryan’s coffers in the fourth quarter of 2017, but they were by no means the only major contributions: Marlene Ricketts, the wife of billionaire TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, donated $100,000, as did five other individuals.”

Continue reading Week 53, Friday, 19 January – Thursday, 25 January 2018 (Days 365-371)

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Week 52: Friday, 12 January – Thursday, 18 January 2018 (Days 358-365)

 

 

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

 

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

 

Friday, 12 January 2018 (Day 358)

 

A Racist in the Oval Office, The New Yorker, John Cassidy, Friday, 12 January 2018: “During the 2016 Presidential campaign, Trump described Mexican immigrants as ‘in many cases criminals, rapists, drug dealers, etc.’; questioned the fitness of a U.S.-born federal judge by referring to him as ‘Mexican’; mocked the mother of a Pakistani-American war hero; and, for a time, refused to condemn David Duke, the former Klansman. Since taking office, Trump hasn’t changed much, if at all. He has embarked on a public crusade against black football players who kneel during the national anthem, suggested that some of the neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, were ‘good people,’ and boasted about calling Don Lemon, the African-American CNN host, ‘the dumbest man on television.’ While some might try (lamely) to argue that Trump took some of these steps to rile up his disaffected white voting base, no such reasoning can be applied to his statements in internal meetings, where, according to a report in the Times, he has said that recent immigrants from Haiti ‘all have AIDS’ and that immigrants from Nigeria, once they had seen the United States, would never ‘go back to their huts.’… His latest awful utterance—the ‘shithole’ comment [it was reported on Thursday that he referred to Haiti, El Salvador, and certain nations in Africa as ‘shithole countries’ during a meeting with lawmakers in the Oval Office]—came during a meeting with Republican and Democratic lawmakers who are trying to reach a deal to extend legal protections for Dreamers, undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children…. Rather than denying that Trump had made these remarks, the White House press office dispatched Raj Shah, the principal deputy press secretary, who is Indian-American, to try to rationalize them. ‘The president will only accept an immigration deal that adequately addresses the visa lottery system and chain migration—two programs that hurt our economy and allow terrorists into our country,’ Shah’s statement said. ‘Like other nations that have merit-based immigration, President Trump is fighting for permanent solutions that make our country stronger by welcoming those who can contribute to our society, grow our economy and assimilate into our great nation.’ In appearing to suggest that immigrants from places like El Salvador, Haiti, Liberia, and Sierra Leone couldn’t become productive and assimilated American citizens, the press-office statement demonstrated that deep racial prejudices extend beyond the Oval Office to other parts of the White House…. [On Friday morning], Senator Durbin told reporters that Trump said ‘things which were hate-filled, vile, and racist . . . You’ve seen the comments in the press; I’ve not read one of them that’s inaccurate.’ For the past year, Republicans, senior Democrats, and many media commentators have held back from applying the R-word to Trump… After this latest outburst, however, the arguments for being reticent seem absurd. The obvious truth can no longer be avoided or sugarcoated: we have a racist in the Oval Office.” See also, The ‘Shithole Countries’–and the Rest of the World–Respond to TrumpThe New Yorker, Robin Wright, Friday, 12 January 2018: “Trump’s credibility as a world leader has been, to borrow his vulgarity, shot to shit. With one word—just the latest in a string of slurs about other nations and peoples—he has demolished his ability to be taken seriously on the global stage. ‘There is no other word one can use but racist,’ the spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights, Rupert Colville, said at a briefing in Geneva. ‘You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as “shitholes,” whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome.’… As I’ve found (to an embarrassing degree) over the past two years, many senior officials in foreign capitals and in embassies across Washington believe that he is simply articulating his intolerant and prejudiced world view. The White House signalled as much in its damage-control statement, on Thursday, explaining that the President wants to ‘make our country stronger by welcoming those who can contribute to our society, grow our economy and assimilate into our great nation.'” See also, Donald Trump Flushes Away the Reputation of the United States, The New York Times, The Editorial Board, Friday, 12 January 2018: “Where to begin? How about with a simple observation: The president of the United States is a racist. And another: The United States has a long and ugly history of excluding immigrants based on race or national origin. Mr. Trump seems determined to undo efforts taken by presidents of both parties in recent decades to overcome that history.”  See also, ‘Don’t Feed the Troll’: Much of the World Reacts in Anger at Trump’s Comment About ‘Shithole Countries,’ The New York Times, Jina Moore and Catherine Porter, Friday, 12 January 2018: “Governments and citizens across the world recoiled on Friday with disgust, outrage and sadness at reports that President Trump had described Haiti and unspecified African nations as ‘shithole countries’ during a meeting with members of Congress on Thursday about immigration, asking why the American government would want to admit their citizens as immigrants. The Haitian government called the remarks racist. The president of Senegal tweeted that he was shocked. South Africa’s governing party said the comments were ‘extremely offensive.’ The African Union said it was ‘frankly alarmed.’ In Haiti, particularly, the words were greeted with pain, as the country marked the eighth anniversary of the deadly 2010 earthquake — known as the worst natural disaster of modern history, killing between 230,000 and 316,000 people and leaving 1.5 million homeless…. ‘The Haitian government condemns in the strongest terms these abhorrent and obnoxious remarks which, if proven, reflect a totally erroneous and racist view of the Haitian community and its contribution to the United States,’ the government said, while summoning the top American diplomat in the country for clarification, and possibly an apology. The fury was not limited to those countries directly mentioned, however.” See also, Trump’s Fixation on Haiti, and the Abiding Fear of Black Self-Determination, The New Yorker, Doreen St. Félix, Friday, 12 January 2018: “Haiti declared its independence from France on January 1, 1804. The American government refused to recognize the country until 1862. Thomas Jefferson, in 1799, referred to the leaders of Haiti’s violent overthrow of French colonial order as ‘cannibals of the terrible republic.’ Haitian sovereignty, and the nationalist insurrections it inspired in the global South, was seen as an aberration from the Enlightenment’s racial ideal, a framing that has persisted for two centuries. The peculiar nineteenth-century physician Samuel Adolphus Cartwright, in his description of ‘drapetomania’—which he defined as ‘the disease causing Negroes to flee’—used the ‘insensibility’ of Haitian free black society as an example of why America’s enslaved population had to be psychologically broken down. Haiti’s sin was black self-determination, and its people the sinners. A day after the 2010 earthquake, the evangelist Pat Robertson said on his TV show, ‘The 700 Club,’ that the natural catastrophe was the result of Haiti’s ‘pact to the devil’: “You know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But, ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other.’ Considering his incuriosity and general historical illiteracy, one doubts that Trump is consciously aware of this grotesque propaganda. But he has nevertheless absorbed this bigotry whole—has become one with it.” See also, From conspiracy theories to ‘shithole’ countries: Trump’s thoroughly absurd Thursday, The Washington Post, Aaron Blake, Friday, 12 January 2018: “President Trump is no stranger to controversy. But even by his standards, Thursday was without precedent. Trump started the day by tweeting against his administration’s policy on surveillance. By the afternoon, he went further than he has ever gone when it comes to accusing federal law enforcement of a conspiracy against him. And then it was reported that he had tossed a blanket over one-sixth of the world’s population and labeled it full of ‘shithole countries.’ Any of the three would have constituted a crazy day for the Trump White House; the combination of the three of them struggles to find an equal during Trump’s nearly one year in office. The mix of internal chaos, conspiracy-mongering and offensive comments provided a veritable Trump trifecta.”

How Republican Lawmakers Responded to Trump’s Vulgar Comments About ‘Shithole Countries,’ The New York Times, Thomas Kaplan, Emily Baumgaertner, and Alicia Parlapiano, Friday, 12 January 2018: “Reports that President Trump referred to African nations as ‘shithole countries’ and disparaged Haitians during an immigration meeting on Thursday prompted outcry from some lawmakers, but his comments were followed by notable silence from others. [This article addresses] how Republicans in the House leadership, the Senate and other lawmakers who attended the meeting have responded.” See also, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina Admonishes Trump: ‘America Is an Idea, Not a Race,’ The New York Times, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Friday, 12 January 2018: “It was just after President Trump had finished railing in the Oval Office against African immigrants he said came from ‘shithole countries’ when a senior Republican senator, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who was there to negotiate a deal on immigration, spoke up. ‘America is an idea, not a race,’ Mr. Graham said, according to three people familiar with the exchange on Thursday. Diversity was a strength, he said, not a weakness. And by the way, the senator added, he himself was a descendant of immigrants who came to the United States from ‘shithole countries with no skills.’ Mr. Trump’s racially charged comments in front of more than half a dozen lawmakers, which also extended to immigrants from Haiti — followed by a day in which members of Congress denounced the president, defended him or stayed silent — now threaten what had been an emerging agreement to protect undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children. Several people with knowledge of the conversation said the president had also demanded to know whether Haitian immigrants could be left out of any deal. The White House has not disputed the account of the exchange…. To try to steer the political narrative, the president took to Twitter on Friday with a vague account of the meeting, saying his remarks at the meeting were ‘tough, but this was not the language used.'”

What did the men with Donald Trump do when he spoke of ‘shithole countries’? The Washington Post, Philip Kennicott, Friday, 12 January 2018: “Over the past year, as our political culture has grown more coarse and corrupt, I’ve felt different things: sometimes, anger; often, bitter resignation; and occasionally, a bemused sense of pure absurdity. But the past two nights I have actually wept. Why now? Why in response to these particular prompts? A confused and ailing woman in a thin medical gown was tossed to the roadside in freezing weather by security guards from the University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus in Baltimore. Who orders such a thing, and why would anyone carry out that order? Then, the president of the United States calls Haiti, El Salvador and African nations ‘shithole’ countries. Who says that kind of thing? Who thinks it? Who listens to it without reflexive outrage?… His defenders seemed to say that if the president says things that we would be ashamed even to think, he is somehow speaking a kind of truth. But while there may be countries that are poor and suffer from civil discord, there are no ‘shithole’ countries, not one, anywhere on Earth. The very idea of ‘shithole’ countries is designed to short-circuit our capacity for empathy on a global scale…. When Trump called disfavored countries ‘shitholes,’ he was indulging the most lethal and persistent tribalism of all: pure, unabashed racism. After a candidacy and now a presidency marked by implications of racism, the president has grown more comfortable with speaking in overtly racist terms, condemning whole countries and their people for not being more like ‘Norway,’ one of the whitest countries on Earth…. What I want to know is how the men in the room with him reacted.” See also, Trump’s Immigration Remarks Outrage Many but Others Quietly Agree, The New York Times, Patrick Kingsley, Friday, 12 January 2018: “The Czech president has called Muslim immigrants criminals. The head of Poland’s governing party has said refugees are riddled with disease. The leader of Hungary has described migrants as a poison. This week, Austria’s new far-right interior minister suggested ‘concentrating’ migrants in asylum centers — with all its obvious and odious echoes of World War II. So when President Trump said he did not want immigrants from ‘shithole’ countries, there was ringing silence across broad parts of the European Union, especially in the east, and certainly no chorus of condemnation. In fact, some analysts saw the remarks as fitting a pattern of crude, dehumanizing and racist language to describe migrants and asylum seekers that has steadily edged its way into the mainstream. Coming from the White House, such words may be taken by some as a broader signal that racism is now an acceptable part of political discourse.” See also, How racism shaped centuries of U.S. immigration policy, The Washington Post, William S. Cossen, Friday, 12 January 2018.

Continue reading Week 52, Friday, 12 January – Thursday, 18 January 2018 (Days 358-364)

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Week 51: Friday, 5 January – Thursday, 11 January 2018 (Days 351-357)

 

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

 

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

 

Friday, 5 January 2018, Day 351:

 

Republican Senators Charles E. Grassley of Iowa (Chairman of the Judiciary Committee) and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina Raise Possible Charges Against Christopher Steele, the Author of the Trump Dossier, The New York Times, Nicholas Fandos and Matthew Rosenberg, Friday, 5 January 2018: “More than a year after Republican leaders promised to investigate Russian interference in the presidential election, two influential Republicans on Friday made the first known congressional criminal referral in connection with the meddling — against one of the people who sought to expose it. Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a senior committee member, told the Justice Department that they had reason to believe that a former British spy, Christopher Steele, lied to federal authorities about his contacts with reporters regarding information in a dossier, and they urged the department to investigate. The committee is running one of three congressional investigations into Russian election meddling, and its inquiry has come to focus on, in part, Mr. Steele’s explosive dossier that purported to detail Russia’s interference and the Trump campaign’s complicity. The decision by Mr. Grassley and Mr. Graham to single out the former intelligence officer behind the dossier infuriated Democrats and raised the stakes in the growing partisan battle over the investigations into Mr. Trump, his campaign team and Russia. The Senate Judiciary Committee effort played into a far broader campaign waged by conservatives to cast doubt on the Trump-Russia investigations, and instead turn the veracity of the dossier and the credibility of its promulgators into the central issue. At the same time, President Trump and his allies have demanded that the Justice Department reopen its investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email server and the Clinton Foundation. F.B.I. agents have begun interviewing people connected to the foundation about whether any donations were made in exchange for political favors while Mrs. Clinton was secretary of state. Beyond the Senate Judiciary Committee, Representative Devin Nunes of California, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has also been pressing to train focus of its Russia investigation on the dossier. This week, he appeared to finally secure access to F.B.I. documents and witnesses that he views as crucial to unraveling what the bureau did with the dossier. And he has aggressively pursued Fusion GPS, the research firm that hired Mr. Steele — the committee, for instance, has issued only a single subpoena in its investigation for bank records, those of Fusion GPS.” See also, Senior Republican Senators Charles E. Grassley of Iowa and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina refer Trump-Russia dossier author Christopher Steele for possible criminal charges, The Washington Post, Devlin Barrett and Tom Hamburger, Friday, 5 January 2018.

Amid Calls from Trump and Top Republicans, F.B.I. Renews Questions Over Clinton Foundation, The New York Times, Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo, Friday, 5 January 2018: “F.B.I. agents have renewed questions about the dealings of the Clinton Foundation amid calls from President Trump and top Republicans for the Justice Department to take a fresh look at politically charged accusations of corruption, people familiar with the investigation said on Friday. They said that agents have interviewed people connected to the foundation about whether any donations were made in exchange for political favors while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013. Career prosecutors had shut down the investigation in 2016 for lack of evidence. During the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump branded his rival ‘Crooked Hillary’ and promised to send her to jail if he won. He briefly struck a more magnanimous tone after the election and said he had no interest in pushing for a prosecution. But as his legal problems have mounted, Mr. Trump has returned to his attacks on his favorite target. With four former aides facing federal charges and the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, investigating him and his campaign, Mr. Trump has openly called for Mrs. Clinton to be investigated and one of her top aides to be imprisoned. It is unclear exactly when the F.B.I. renewed its interest in the Clinton Foundation, or whether agents were instructed by anyone in Washington to start investigating again. But the F.B.I.’s decision to take additional investigative steps is sure to outrage Democrats who will see the inquiry as an attempt by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to placate the president.” See also, FBI has been investigating the Clinton Foundation for months, The Washington Post, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett, Friday, 5 January 2018: “The FBI has been investigating the Clinton Foundation for months, reviving a probe that was dialed back during the 2016 campaign amid tensions between Justice Department prosecutors and FBI agents about the politically charged case, according to people familiar with the matter. The inquiry resumed about a year ago. Agents are now trying to determine if any donations made to the foundation were linked to official acts when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013, these people said. The people did not identify what specific donations or interactions agents are scrutinizing.”

Trump’s Immigration Demands, Including an $18 Billion Request to Build a Wall on the Mexican Border, Imperil Bipartisan Talks, The New York Times, Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Michael Tackett, Friday, 5 January 2018: “The White House on Friday presented Congress with an expansive list of hard-line immigration measures, including an $18 billion request to build a wall at the Mexican border, that President Trump is demanding in exchange for protecting young undocumented immigrants. The request, which totals $33 billion over a period of 10 years for border security measures including the wall, could jeopardize bipartisan talks aimed at getting an immigration deal. Among the items on Mr. Trump’s immigration wish-list: money to hire 10,000 additional immigration officers, tougher laws for those seeking asylum, and denial of federal grants to so-called ‘sanctuary cities.’ The list, delivered to Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, who has been leading the talks related to young immigrants without documentation, is identical to one Democrats declared a nonstarter when the White House issued it in October.”

Continue reading Week 51, Friday, 5 January – Thursday, 11 January 2018 (Days 351-357)

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Week 50: Friday, 29 December 2017 – Thursday, 4 January 2018 (Days 344-350)

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

 

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

 

Friday, 29 December 2017, Day 344:

 

Three Months After Hurricane Maria, Roughly Half of Puerto Ricans Are Still Without Power, The New York Times, Frnaces Robles and Jess Bidgood, Friday, 29 December 2017: “For the first time in the 100 days since Hurricane Maria slammed Puerto Rico, the government finally knows how many people still don’t have power: about half. The figure released Friday by the island’s governor and power utility company indicates that more than 1.5 million people on the island are still in the dark. Experts say some parts of the island are not expected to get power back until next spring…. Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm on Sept. 20, flooding neighborhoods and villages and cutting the power to 3.4 million people. The darkness has left enormous swaths of the island living without hot meals, electric fans or nighttime lights. It has hobbled business in an already-weak economy and left people’s lives at risk in hospitals or senior complexes without power. A New York Times analysis found the death rate rose considerably on the island after the hurricane passed and the outages became part of life. The power utility has been heavily criticized for its response to the outage. In mid-November, the chief executive of Prepa stepped down after a public outcry over its decision to award a $300 million restoration contract to a tiny Montana firm. The government has since canceled that contract.”

Judge P. Kevin Brobson Says Pennsylvania Election Districts Were Drawn to Give Republicans an Advantage, but They Are Not Illegal Under the Pennsylvania State Constitution, The New York Times, Trip Gabriel and Alexander Burns, Friday, 29 December 2017: “A Pennsylvania judge said Friday the state’s Congressional districts were drawn to give Republicans an advantage, but they did not violate the state Constitution, ruling in a high-profile gerrymandering case with the potential to have major consequences on the 2018 midterm elections. Judge P. Kevin Brobson of Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg noted that Republicans hold 13 out of 18 Congressional seats in Pennsylvania, a perennial swing state that has one of the most extensively gerrymandered maps in the country. Nonetheless, the judge said that Democrats who brought suit had failed to articulate a legal ‘standard’ for creating nonpartisan maps. The case now goes to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which has agreed to fast-track it. If the court rejects Judge Brobson’s conclusion, it could order new maps drawn in time for the 2018 midterm elections. Pennsylvania is expected to be fiercely fought terrain next year in elections turning on President Trump’s popularity. Mr. Trump’s 2016 victory in the state was the first for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988, but Republicans are already worried about losing Congressional seats even without new maps. In practical terms, Judge Brobson’s determination — in the form of a finding ordered by the State Supreme Court — is a recommendation, which the high court may affirm or reject. Five of the court’s seven justices are Democrats.  Should the State Supreme Court overturn the map, drawn by the Republican-led Legislature in 2011, and mandate new districts be redrawn on a nonpartisan or bipartisan basis, it could put perhaps half a dozen additional House seats up for grabs in November and even tip one or two seats squarely into Democratic hands. The district lines outside Philadelphia were especially drawn to favor Republicans, including the 7th District, nicknamed ‘Goofy Kicking Donald Duck’ for its tortured shape.”

Trump administration fires all members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, The Washington Post, Ben Guarino, Friday, 29 December 2017: “The remaining members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS were fired en masse this week. Months after a half-dozen members resigned in protest of the Trump administration’s position on health policies, the White House dismissed the rest through a form letter. The notice ‘thanked me for my past service and said that my appointment was terminated, effective immediately,’ said Patrick Sullivan, an epidemiologist at Emory University who works on HIV testing programs. He was appointed to a four-year term in May 2016. The council, known by the acronym PACHA, has advised the White House on HIV/AIDS policies since its founding in 1995. Members, who are not paid, offer recommendations on the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, a five-year plan responding to the epidemic.”

Continue reading Week 50, Friday, 29 December 2017 – Thursday, 4 January 2018 (Days 344-350)

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Week 49: Friday, 22 December – Thursday, 28 December 2017 (Days 337-343)

 

 

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

 

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

 

Friday, 22 December 2017, Day 337:

 

Trump signs sweeping tax bill into law, The Washington Post, John Wagner, Friday, 22 December 2017: “President Trump on Friday signed the most significant overhaul of the U.S. tax code in 30 years, delivering on a pledge to finish work on the long-standing Republican priority by Christmas. Trump signed the $1.5 trillion measure in the Oval Office shortly before he was scheduled to head to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for the holidays.” See also, In Signing Sweeping Tax Bill, Trump Questions Whether He Is Getting Enough Credit, The New York Times, Eileen Sullivan and Michael Tackett, Friday, 22 December 2017: “President Trump signed the most consequential tax legislation in three decades on Friday, even as he complained that he has not been given credit for his administration’s accomplishments during a turbulent first year. Mr. Trump decided against doing a formal signing ceremony early next year because television news networks questioned whether he would keep his promise to sign the legislation before Christmas. Mr. Trump said he saw the coverage Friday morning and hastily called his staff to say that the legislation needed to be signed ‘now,’ prompting a last-minute Oval Office ceremony for the president’s greatest achievement in his first year in office. ‘We did a rush job today,’ Mr. Trump said at the bill signing. ‘It’s not fancy, but it’s the Oval Office. It’s the great Oval Office.’ It marked another improvisational moment in a presidency already known for abandoning the norms of the office.” See also, Trump Could Save More Than $11 Million Under the New Republican Tax Plan, The New York Times, Jesse Drucker and Audrey Carlsen, Friday, 22 December 2017: “President Trump would save about $11 million on his taxes, if the new Republican tax overhaul were applied to his 2005 tax return, a New York Times analysis has found. The savings would be a roughly 30 percent cut. He would also save another $4.4 million on his eventual estate tax bill. On Friday, President Trump signed the sweeping tax overhaul approved earlier this week by Congress, a package of cuts that would overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy. The analysis is based in part on information from his 2005 federal tax return, the most recent available, publicly released in March by David Cay Johnston on the website DCReport.org. Breaking with decades of tradition by previous presidents, Mr. Trump has refused to make any of his tax returns public. The analysis compares what his tax burden would be under current law with what it would be under the new legislation. On Tuesday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said: ‘In some ways, particularly on the personal side, the president will likely take a big hit.’ Last month, Mr. Trump said he would be a ‘big loser’ under the tax bill. In fact, high-income earners like Mr. Trump are likely to benefit disproportionately from the new law. Nearly 43 percent of the tax overhaul’s total benefits will flow to the top 5 percent of taxpayers, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.”

Environmental Protection Agency Officials, Disheartened by the Agency’s Direction, Are Leaving in Droves, The New York Times, Lisa Friedman, Marina Affo, and Derek Kravitz, Friday, 22 December 2017:  This article was written through collaboration between The New York Times and ProPublica, the independent, nonprofit investigative journalism organization. “More than 700 people have left the Environmental Protection Agency since President Trump took office, a wave of departures that puts the administration nearly a quarter of the way toward its goal of shrinking the agency to levels last seen during the Reagan administration. Of the employees who have quit, retired or taken a buyout package since the beginning of the year, more than 200 are scientists. An additional 96 are environmental protection specialists, a broad category that includes scientists as well as others experienced in investigating and analyzing pollution levels. Nine department directors have departed the agency as well as dozens of attorneys and program managers. Most of the employees who have left are not being replaced….Within the agency, science in particular is taking a hard hit. More than 27 percent of those who left this year were scientists, including 34 biologists and microbiologists; 19 chemists; 81 environmental engineers and environmental scientists; and more than a dozen toxicologists, life scientists and geologists. Employees say the exodus has left the agency depleted of decades of knowledge about protecting the nation’s air and water. Many also said they saw the departures as part of a more worrisome trend of muting government scientists, cutting research budgets and making it more difficult for academic scientists to serve on advisory boards.”

Appeals court rules that Trump’s latest entry ban violates the law, The Washington Post, Matt Zapotosky, Friday, 22 December 2017: “A federal appeals court panel on Friday ruled that President Trump’s third entry ban violates the law — although the judges put their own decision on hold until the Supreme Court can weigh in. In a 77-page decision, the three-judge panel with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that Trump had again exceeded his lawful authority in issuing the latest ban and that he had not made a legally sufficient finding that entry of those blocked would be ‘detrimental to the interests of the United States.’ The ruling, however, is of little immediate consequence, as the judges said they would put it on hold pending consideration by the Supreme Court, which has allowed the ban to take effect.”

Continue reading Week 49, Friday, 22 December – Thursday, 28 December 2017 (Days 337-343)

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Week 48: Friday, 15 December – Thursday, 21 December 2017 (Days 330-336)

 

 

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

 

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

 

Friday, 15 December 2017, Day 330:

 

What’s in the Tax Bill, and How It will Affect You, The New York Times, Ron Lieber and Tara Siegel Bernard, Friday, 15 December 2017: “Republican lawmakers released the details of their tax code rewrite on Friday, which reconciles differences between the House and Senate bills. Several of the most anticipated changes — such as a significant increase in the standard deduction and the curtailing of state and local income tax breaks — made the final cut. Some of the most controversial proposals, like eliminating the medical deduction, were wiped away. Many of these provisions are temporary, however, and are set to expire after seven years.” See also, The final Republican tax bill is complete. Here’s what is in it. The Washington Post, Heather Long, Friday, 15 December 2017. See also, Donald Trump and Republican Leaders Could Be Enriched by Last Minute Tax Break Inserted Into Final Bill, International Business Times, David Sirota and Josh Keefe, Friday, 15 December 2017: “Republican congressional leaders and real estate moguls could be personally enriched by a real-estate-related provision GOP lawmakers slipped into the final tax bill released Friday evening, according to experts interviewed by International Business Times. The legislative language was not part of previous versions of the bill and was added despite ongoing conflict-of-interest questions about the intertwining real estate interests and governmental responsibilities of President Donald Trump — the bill’s chief proponent. The Trump organization and the Kushners (the family of Ivanka’s husband, Jared) have overseen vast real estate empires, and top GOP lawmakers writing the tax bill collectively have tens of millions of dollars of ownership stakes in real-estate-related LLCs. The new tax provision would specifically allow owners of large real estate holdings through LLCs to deduct a percentage of their ‘pass through’ income from their taxes, according to experts. Although Trump, who became famous for his real estate holdings, has transitioned into branding in recent years, federal records show Trump has ownership stakes in myriad LLCs. The new provision was not in the bill passed by the House or the Senate. Instead, it was inserted into the final bill during reconciliation negotiations between Republicans from both chambers. The provision, said experts, would offer a special tax cut to LLCs with few employees and large amounts of depreciable property assets, namely buildings: rent generating apartment and office buildings…. Sen. Bob Corker, who was considered a potential ‘no’ vote on the bill, abruptly switched his position upon the release of the final legislation. Federal records reviewed by IBT show that Corker has millions of dollars of ownership stakes in real-estate related LLCs that could also benefit.”

Trump has undone a lot of rules, policies, and tools that were put into place by his predecessors, The Washington Post, Philip Bump, Friday, 15 December 2017: “President Trump has repeatedly argued that he’s done more than any other recent president. That’s not true, as measured by the amount of legislation he’s been able to sign. It is true, though, that Trump has undone a lot of things that were put into place by his predecessors. Since Jan. 20, Trump’s administration has enthusiastically and systematically undone or uprooted rules, policies and tools that predated his time in office. [This article lists some of] those changes, roughly organized by subject area.”

Trump’s push to fill courts with conservative judges hits first speed bump, The Washington Post, John Wagner, Robert O’Harrow Jr., and Karoun Demirjian, Friday, 15 December 2017: “President Trump’s aggressive push to fill scores of federal court vacancies with conservative judges hit severe turbulence this week, as he was forced to withdraw two nominees and an embarrassing video went viral showing a third struggling to answer rudimentary questions about the law. The White House said Friday that it is standing by the nomination of Matthew Petersen, a nominee for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, despite a clip from his confirmation hearing posted on Twitter in which Petersen was unable to answer questions about legal and courtroom terms posed by a Republican senator. The episode offered more ammunition to Democrats, who have accused Trump of tapping inexperienced nominees in a rush to reshape the federal judiciary. Even some Republicans have suggested they’ve felt pressured by the White House to move forward with his picks.” See also, Trump Judicial Nominee Matthew S. Peterson Attracts Scorn After Flopping in Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing for His Nomination to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, The New York Times, Jonah Engel Bromwich and Niraj Chokshi, Friday, 15 December 2017: “It was one of the more painful Senate hearings in recent memory. Matthew S. Petersen, a member of the Federal Election Commission, was one of five of President Trump’s judicial nominees being questioned by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday when Senator John N. Kennedy, Republican of Louisiana, singled him out for an interrogation. Thus commenced what appeared to be an excruciating five minutes of ignorance on Mr. Petersen’s part, as he answered most of Senator Kennedy’s questions in the negative. No, he had not ever handled a jury trial, or even a bench trial. In fact, he had not handled any civil or criminal trials at all, in either state or federal court. No, he had never argued a motion in state court. No, he could not define the Daubert standard, a well-known standard (among lawyers, anyway) for admitting expert testimony. Nor could he explain a motion in limine, a formal request to exclude certain kinds of evidence.”

 

Continue reading Week 48, Friday, 15 December – Thursday, 21 December 2017 (Days 330-336)

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