Trump, Week 66: Friday, 20 April – Thursday, 26 April 2018 (Days 456-462)

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

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

 

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

 

Friday, 20 April 2018, Day 456:

 

North Korea says it will suspend nuclear and missile tests and shut down test siteThe New York Times, Anna Fifield, Friday, 20 April 2018: “North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has declared that he will suspend nuclear and missile tests starting Saturday and that he will shut down the site where the previous six nuclear tests were conducted. The surprising announcement comes just six days before Kim is set to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in, a precursor to a historic summit between Kim and President Trump. The U.S. president is set to meet Kim at the end of May or beginning of June, although a location has not yet been set. Both Moon and Trump have been saying that North Korea is now willing to ‘denuclearize,’ a term that means different things to the two sides.”

How the C.I.A. Is Waging an Influence Campaign to Get Its Next Director, Gina Haspel, ConfirmedThe New York Times, Adam Goldman and Matthew Rosenberg, Friday, 20 April 2018: “Central Intelligence Agency operatives have long run covert influence campaigns overseas. Now, the agency is mounting an unusually active, not very secret campaign in Washington. The C.I.A. is trying to ensure its deputy director, Gina Haspel, a career spy, is confirmed as its next director. Almost every detail of her life and work is classified; what little is known stems from her role overseeing the brutal interrogation of a terrorism suspect at a secret prison in Thailand and conveying orders to destroy videos documenting torture. To promote a more positive view of Ms. Haspel, the agency has declassified secrets about her life as a globe-trotting spy and encouraged former clandestine officers — typically expected to remain quiet even in retirement — to grant interviews. It sought to generate favorable news coverage by providing selective biographical details about Ms. Haspel to reporters, then sent a news release to highlight the resulting stories. The campaign to secure Ms. Haspel’s confirmation reflects the view of many officials inside the C.I.A., who see her as the agency’s best chance to keep a political partisan from being installed as director. But C.I.A. officials have failed to declassify any meaningful information about Ms. Haspel’s career, according to Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, who complained to the agency that they have asked five times for more details but have yet to receive a response.” See also, CIA declassifies memo clearing Haspel of responsibility for destroying evidenceThe Washington Post, Karoun Demirjian, Friday, 20 April 2018: “The Central Intelligence Agency took the unusual step Friday of declassifying and releasing a memo clearing Gina Haspel of any wrongdoing in drafting an order to destroy videotaped evidence of brutal interrogation techniques, a move that comes as part of a greater campaign to rehabilitate her image and shore up congressional support for her bid to become the agency’s director. The memo, which former CIA deputy director Michael Morell wrote in 2011, is the result of a disciplinary review in which he ‘found no fault with the performance of Ms. Haspel’ — primarily because she drafted the cable ‘on the direct orders’ of her superior and did not release it herself. ‘It was not her decision to destroy the tapes,’ Morell wrote in the declassified document, which the CIA released Friday in response to requests from members of the Senate Intelligence Committee. But senators clamoring for the CIA to declassify documents related to Haspel’s record on techniques often referred to as torture and the order to destroy evidence were angered by what they saw as a ‘selective’ response to their demands.”

Democratic National Committee Alleges Trump-Russia Conspiracy in New LawsuitThe New York Times, Alexander Burns and Michael D. Shear, Friday, 20 April 2018: “The Democratic National Committee opened a surprise legal assault on President Trump on Friday, filing a lawsuit in federal court alleging that the organization was the victim of a conspiracy by Russian officials, the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks to damage Hillary Clinton’s presidential run. The 66-page complaint, filed in federal court in New York, uses the publicly known facts of the investigation into Russia’s election meddling to accuse Mr. Trump’s associates of illegally working with Russian intelligence agents to interfere with the outcome of the election. In the document, the committee accuses Republicans and the Russians of ‘an act of previously unimaginable treachery.’ The sweeping lawsuit startled Republicans in Washington as well as Democratic leaders, who were only briefed at the last minute about the D.N.C.’s plans to pursue civil litigation. Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic Party, said the committee had alerted Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrats in Congress, ‘when we were about to file.’ Mr. Trump, in a tweet Friday evening, chided ‘obstructionist Democrats’ for filing the complaint and suggested it could backfire if Republicans got access in court to the D.N.C.’s hacked email servers.” See also, Democratic Party sues Russia, the Trump campaign, and WikiLeaks alleging 2016 campaign conspiracyThe Washington Post, Tom Hamburger, Rosalind S. Helderman, and Ellen Nakashima, Friday, 20 April 2018.

Continue reading Week 66, Friday, 20 April – Thursday, 26 April 2018 (Days 456-462)

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

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

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

 

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

 

Friday, 13 April 2018, Day 449:

 

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

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

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

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

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Trump, Week 64: Friday, 6 April – Thursday, 12 April 2018 (Days 442-448)

 

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

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

 

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

 

Friday, 6 April 2018, Day 443:

 

U.S. District Judge William Young upholds Massachusetts assault weapons ban, The Boston Globe, Maria Cramer, Friday, 6 April 2018: “A federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit that challenged Massachusetts’ 20-year ban on assault weapons, delivering a significant victory to gun-control advocates and to Attorney General Maura Healey, who had warned sellers of ‘copycat’ firearms that they risked prosecution. In his ruling, US District Judge William Young of Massachusetts wrote that the state’s ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines does not violate the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment. ‘The AR-15 and its analogs, along with large capacity magazines, are simply not weapons within the original meaning of the individual constitutional right to bear Arms,’  Young wrote in a 47-page ruling. ‘In the absence of federal legislation, Massachusetts is free to ban these weapons and large-capacity magazines. Other states are equally free to leave them unregulated and available to their law-abiding citizens. These policy matters are simply not of constitutional moment.’ Young cited a landmark 2008 Supreme Court decision that found that ‘weapons that are most useful in military service — M-16 rifles and the like’ are not protected under the Second Amendment and ‘may be banned.'”

Trump Administration Imposes New Sanctions on Putin Cronies, The New York Times, Gardiner Harris, Friday, 6 April 2018: “The Trump administration imposed new sanctions on seven of Russia’s richest men and 17 top government officials on Friday in the latest effort to punish President Vladimir V. Putin’s inner circle for interference in the 2016 election and other Russian aggressions. The sanctions are designed to penalize some of Russia’s richest industrialists, who are seen in the West as enriching themselves from Mr. Putin’s increasingly authoritarian administration. Effectively, the action prevents the oligarchs from traveling to the United States or doing business or even opening a bank account with any major company or bank in the West. It also restricts foreign individuals from facilitating transactions on their behalf.”

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids meatpacking plant in rural Tennessee; 97 immigrants arrested, The Washington Post, Maria Sacchetti, Friday, 6 April 2018: “Federal officials arrested 97 immigrants at a meat-processing plant in rural Tennessee on Thursday in what civil rights organizations said was the largest single workplace raid in a decade and a sign that the Trump administration is carrying out its plan to aggressively ramp up enforcement this year…. The raid on Southeastern Provision in Bean Station, Tenn., follows arrests at 7-Eleven stores and other workplaces nationwide. Last year, the nation’s top immigration official said he had ordered agents to increase the number of work-site inspections and operations by ‘four or five times’ this year, to turn off the job ‘magnets’ that attract immigrants who are in the country illegally and punish employers who hire them. The National Immigration Law Center and other immigrant advocates said the Tennessee raid was the largest since the George W. Bush administration and deployed many of the tactics of that era, with a surprise blitz of the factory and streets blocked by state and local authorities. ICE officials would not say where the raid ranked in terms of size.”

Continue reading Week 64, Friday, 6 April – Thursday, 12 April 2018 (Days 442-448)

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Trump, Week 63: Friday, 30 March – Thursday, 5 April 2018 (Days 435-441)

 

Stand Out for Stephon Clark, Field Park, Williamstown, MA, 26 March 2018

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

 

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

 

Friday, 30 March 2018, Day 435:

 

Census Bureau’s Own Expert Panel Rebukes Decision to Add Citizenship Question, The New York Times, Michael Wines, Friday, 30 March 2018: “The Trump administration’s decision to add a question on citizenship to the 2020 census, already the target of lawsuits and broad criticism by statistics authorities, drew a new opponent on Friday: the experts who advise the Census Bureau itself. Those experts — prominent demographers, economists, engineers and others who make up the Census Scientific Advisory Committee — said in a statement that the decision was based on ‘flawed logic,’ could threaten the accuracy and confidentiality of the head count and likely would make it more expensive to conduct.” See also, Are You a U.S. Citizen? How a 2020 Census Question Could Affect States, The New York Times, Alicia Parlapiano, Friday, 30 March 2018.

U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan of Washington ordered the U.S. government to allow abortion access to detained immigrant teens, The Washington Post, Ann E. Marimow, Spencer S. Hsu, and Mreia Sacchetti, Friday, 30 March 2018: “A federal judge issued a nationwide order temporarily preventing the government from blocking access to abortion services and counseling for teens detained in immigration custody, saying current administration policy and practices probably are unconstitutional. The order came in a case brought last fall on behalf of a Central American girl in a ­government-funded shelter that set off a national debate over the constitutional rights of such undocumented teens to terminate their pregnancies. The late Friday ruling, by U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan of Washington, allowed the case to proceed as a class action on behalf of any other teens who have crossed the border illegally and while in federal custody may want to seek abortion services. In filings, the U.S. government acknowledged there were at least 420 pregnant unaccompanied minors in custody in 2017, including 18 who requested abortions. The Trump administration has refused to ‘facilitate’ such procedures for pregnant teenagers traveling alone on the grounds that they had the option to voluntarily return to their home countries or to find private sponsors in the United States to assist them in obtaining procedures. The policy position marked a departure from that of the Obama administration, whose Office of Refugee Resettlement did not block immigrants in U.S. custody from having abortions at their own expense, and paid for services for teens in cases of rape, incest or a threat to the woman’s life.”

Vermont Legislature Passes Sweeping Gun Restrictions, The New York Times, Jess Bidgood, Friday, 30 March 2018: “Lawmakers in Vermont, a place long steeped in hunting culture, on Friday approved a sweeping package of new gun restrictions, making the state all but certain to join Florida in passing a raft of new gun control measures after a teenage gunman killed 17 people last month at a high school in Parkland, Fla…. The bill, which passed the Senate, 17 to 13, on Friday after clearing the House earlier in the week, would raise the minimum age to purchase a gun to 21 and ban bump stocks, which are devices that allow semiautomatic rifles to fire more rapidly. It also contains restrictions that go beyond those in the measure signed in Florida, like an expansion of background checks and a limit on the capacity of magazines that can be sold or possessed in the state.”

Continue reading Week 63, Friday, 30 March – Thursday, 5 April 2018 (Days 435-441)

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Trump, Week 62: Friday, 23 March – Thursday, 29 March 2018 (Days 428-434)

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Friday, 23 March 2018, Day 428:

 

Trump Signs Spending Bill, Reversing Veto Threat and Avoiding Government Shutdown, The New York Times, Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Michael D. Shear, Friday, 23 March 2018: “President Trump, hours after threatening to veto a $1.3 trillion spending bill and throwing the capital into turmoil, signed it into law on Friday, yielding to advisers and Republican leaders who urged him against manufacturing a government shutdown crisis. Even as he signed the bill, the president seethed about being forced to swallow legislation that broadly repudiated an agenda that once foresaw the reshaping of the federal government into his ‘America First’ image…. His stated reason was its lack of funding for his promised border wall, but that was only one disappointment for the president in a measure that blocked the hiring of thousands of new border patrol agents; stopped deep cuts to foreign aid, the diplomatic corps and environmental programs; thwarted a push to fund vouchers for private and parochial schools; and even rescued the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities.” See also, Here’s Some of What’s in the Budget Bill, Politico, Michael Grunwald, Friday, 23 March 2018: “Donald Trump’s budget proposals have taken a hatchet to President Barack Obama’s top priorities. They’ve called for deep cuts in renewable energy, medical research and nonmilitary spending in general. They’ve eliminated TIGER, a grant program for innovative transportation projects created by Obama’s stimulus bill; ARPA-E, an energy research agency launched by the stimulus; and CDBG, a community development program many Republicans consider an urban slush fund. Now the Republicans who control Congress have passed a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill, and it not only protects Obama’s priorities, it expands them. It does far less for Trump’s stated priorities, and while his administration endorsed the bill Thursday, he tweeted a veto threat and expressed some apparent buyer’s remorse Friday after it passed.”

Two very modest gun reform measures Congress just passed, and 4 measures Congress probably won’t pass anytime soon, The Washington Post, Amber Phillips, Friday, 23 March 2018: “For the first time in recent history, a Republican-controlled Washington did something to limit people’s use of guns. Two things, actually. Or you could look at it another way: The gun-related legislation attached to a spending bill that President Trump signed into law Friday is so modest that it merely reinforces existing law.” See also, Before the March For Our Lives, a Bit of Good News on Gun Reform, The New Yorker, John Cassidy, Friday, 23 March 2018: “As schoolkids and adults from all over America descend on Washington for the March for Our Lives, on Saturday, is it utopian to suggest that, finally, something may be changing on gun control? Donald Trump, after pledging to support ‘comprehensive’ legislation, in the immediate aftermath of the Parkland massacre, backed off after the National Rifle Association paid a visit to the White House. Congress’s only meaningful action since Parkland has been to attach a version of the bipartisan ‘Fix NICS’ bill, which would slightly strengthen the background-check system, to a big spending bill that passed the House and Senate this week. Things may not end there, however. On Thursday, Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, of Florida—a Republican and a Democrat—joined with Senator Jack Reed, a Democrat, of Rhode Island, to introduce a bill that would make it possible for police and family members to obtain so-called risk-protection orders from a court to confiscate the guns of individuals who are potentially dangerous. ‘I think, among the things that we could do after Parkland, one of the most effective is a gun-violence restraining order,’ Rubio said in a statement. The senators’ proposal largely mimics a so-called red-flag provision that the Florida legislature passed earlier this month, and which Florida law-enforcement authorities are already using against people they regard as potential threats, including Zachary Cruz, the younger brother of the Parkland shooter, Nikolas Cruz.” See also, Justice Department Proposes Banning Bump Stocks, Setting Aside Its Own Recommendations, The New York Times, Katie Benner, Friday, 23 March 2018: “Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Friday that the Justice Department was proposing to ban so-called bump stocks through regulations rather than wait for Congress to act, a move that defies recommendations by federal law enforcement officials and could subject the department to litigation from gun rights groups…. The Justice Department’s proposed rule ‘would define “machine gun” to include bump-stock-type devices under federal law — effectively banning them,’ Mr. Sessions said in a statement. The proposed bump stock ban would defy the conclusion of Justice Department officials who have said that they could not, under existing law, stop the sales of bump stocks, accessories that allow semiautomatic guns to mimic automatic fire, and that congressional action was needed to ban them. But Mr. Sessions said the department had worked around those concerns.”

John (‘Bomb Iran’) Bolton, the New Warmonger in the White House, The New Yorker, Robin Wright, Friday, 23 March 2018: “Hawks are closing in on the White House. John Bolton, arguably the most abrasive American diplomat of the twenty-first century, will soon assume the top foreign-policy job at the National Security Council…. A former U.N. Ambassador currently best known as a Fox News pundit, Bolton has advocated far harder positions than Trump, including bombing campaigns, wars, and regime change. The late-day news flash sent chills across Washington, even among some Republicans. With Mike Pompeo, the C.I.A. director, due to take over from the ousted Rex Tillerson at the State Department, the team deciding American actions across the globe will now be weighted by hard-liners and war advocates. Defense Secretary James Mattis, a retired marine general, is the most pragmatic policymaker left. What an irony.” See also, Yes, John Bolton Really Is That Dangerous, The New York Times, The Editorial Board, Friday, 23 March 2018: “There are few people more likely than Mr. Bolton is to lead the country into war. His selection is a decision that is as alarming as any Mr. Trump has made. His selection, along with the nomination of the hard-line C.I.A. director, Mike Pompeo, as secretary of state, shows the degree to which Mr. Trump is indulging his worst nationalistic instincts. Mr. Bolton, in particular, believes the United States can do what it wants without regard to international law, treaties or the political commitments of previous administrations…. The national security adviser is the person who makes sure the president hears the views of all the national security agencies, including the State Department and the Defense Department, and who drives policy toward a decision. It is hard to see Mr. Bolton acting as an honest broker.” See also, John Bolton’s extremism could lead the country to catastrophe, The Washington Post, Editorial Board, Friday, 23 March 2018: “The President’s national security adviser is meant to coordinate policy formation inside the administration, manage disagreements among agencies and tee up important decisions, while separately advising the president of his or her own views. John Bolton, whom President Trump has said will take over the position next month, is unsuited for that role. His record is that of a rigid, bombastic ideologue with a history of bullying colleagues and twisting intelligence. His advocacy of extreme policies, including preventive war against North Korea and Iran, could lead Mr. Trump and the country to catastrophe.” See also, John Bolton Was an Early Beneficiary of Cambridge Analytica’s Facebook Data, The New York Times, Matthew Rosenberg, Friday, 23 March 2018: “The political action committee founded by John R. Bolton, President Trump’s incoming national security adviser, was one of the earliest customers of Cambridge Analytica, which it hired specifically to develop psychological profiles of voters with data harvested from tens of millions of Facebook profiles, according to former Cambridge employees and company documents. Mr. Bolton’s political committee, known as The John Bolton Super PAC, first hired Cambridge in August 2014, months after the political data firm was founded and while it was still harvesting the Facebook data.”

Continue reading Week 62, Friday, 23 March – Thursday, 29 March 2018 (Days 428-434)

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Trump, Week 61: Friday, 16 March – Thursday, 22 March 2018 (Days 421-427)

 

 

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 March 2018, Day 421:

 

C.I.A. Takes Lead Role in Trump’s North Korea Talks, The New York Times, Mark Landler, Friday, 16 March 2018: “The Central Intelligence Agency has emerged as the primary player in President Trump’s audacious diplomatic opening to North Korea, several officials said on Friday, conducting back-channel communications and taking a major role in planning Mr. Trump’s coming meeting with Kim Jong-un, the country’s ruler. The White House’s decision to use intelligence, rather than diplomatic, channels in communicating with the North Koreans speaks to the influence of Mike Pompeo, the C.I.A. director whom Mr. Trump chose this week to replace Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson. It also reflects the State Department’s diminished role in preparing for the riskiest encounter between an American president and a foreign leader in many years. Mr. Pompeo, these officials said, has already been dealing with North Korean representatives through a channel that runs between the C.I.A. and its North Korean counterpart, the Reconnaissance General Bureau. And he has been in close touch with the director of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, Suh Hoon, who American officials said brokered Mr. Kim’s invitation to Mr. Trump. The deep involvement of Mr. Pompeo, officials said, helps explain the timing of Mr. Tillerson’s ouster. Mr. Trump, having decided to accept Mr. Kim’s invitation to a meeting, wanted to have a secretary of state who was in lock step with his views, these people said.”

Facebook suspends the Trump-affiliated data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica after learning it failed to delete data it took inappropriately from users of Facebook, The Washington Post, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Friday, 16 March 2018: “Facebook is suspending the Trump-affiliated data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica, after learning that it failed to delete data that it had taken inappropriately from users of the social network, Facebook said late Friday. Facebook said it was suspending the accounts of Strategic Communication Laboratories, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica, as well as the accounts of University of Cambridge psychologist Aleksandr Kogan and Christopher Wylie of Eunoia Technologies. Cambridge Analytica, a firm that specializes in using online data to create voter personality profiles in order to target users with political messages, ran data operations for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. The company was funded by Trump supporter and hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer, and the president’s former senior adviser Stephen K. Bannon once sat on its board. The company, which began working for the Trump campaign in June 2016, promised that its so-called ‘psychographic’ profiles could predict the personality and political leanings of every adult in the United States. The analytics firm was asked in December to turn over internal documents to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III as part of the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election.”

Andrew McCabe, Former F.B.I. Deputy Director and Target of Trump’s F.B.I. Scorn, Is Fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, The New York Times, Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, Friday, 16 March 2018: “Andrew G. McCabe, the former F.B.I. deputy director and a frequent target of President Trump’s scorn, was fired Friday after Attorney General Jeff Sessions rejected an appeal that would have let him retire this weekend. Mr. McCabe promptly declared that his firing, and Mr. Trump’s persistent needling, were intended to undermine the special counsel’s investigation in which he is a potential witness. Mr. McCabe is accused in a yet-to-be-released internal report of failing to be forthcoming about a conversation he authorized between F.B.I. officials and a journalist. In a statement released late Friday, Mr. Sessions said that Mr. McCabe had shown a lack of candor under oath on multiple occasions…. In an interview, Mr. McCabe was blunt. ‘The idea that I was dishonest is just wrong,’ he said, adding, ‘This is part of an effort to discredit me as a witness.’ F.B.I. disciplinary officials recommended his dismissal. Mr. McCabe, who stepped down in January and took a leave of absence, denied the accusation and appealed this week to senior career officials in the Justice Department. Lack of candor is a fireable offense at the F.B.I., but Mr. McCabe’s last-minute dismissal was carried out against a highly politicized backdrop.” See also, Andrew McCabe’s Firing: Here’s What We Know, The New York Times, Matt Apuzzo, published on Monday, 19 March 2018.

Continue reading Week 61, Friday, 16 March – Thursday, 22 March 2018 (Days 421-427)

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Trump, Week 60: Friday, 9 March – Thursday, 15 March 2018 (Days 414-420)

 

 

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 March 2018, Day 413:

 

Florida Governor Rick Scott Signs Gun Limits Into Law, Breaking With the National Rifle Association, The New York Times, Patricia Mazzei, Friday, 9 March 2018: “Florida’s nickname has long been the ‘Gunshine State’ because of its plethora of firearms and loose gun restrictions. Then a troubled teenager stormed into a South Florida high school and shot 17 people dead. On Friday, in a dramatic turnaround in one of the most gun-friendly states in America, Gov. Rick Scott signed into law an array of gun limits that included raising the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21 and extending the waiting period to three days. It was the most aggressive action on gun control taken in the state in decades and the first time Mr. Scott, who had an A-plus rating from the National Rifle Association, had broken so significantly from the group. The sweeping and bipartisan law is named after Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where a former student, Nikolas Cruz, was charged with launching the massacre on Feb. 14. The law imposes new restrictions on firearm purchases and the possession of “bump stocks,” funds more school police officers and mental health services, broadens law enforcement’s power to seize weapons, and allows certain staff members to carry guns in schools…. Outside of Tallahassee, the law might not look that groundbreaking: It does not go as far as laws enacted by other more Democratic-leaning states after deadly shootings. Connecticut expanded a ban on assault weapons, prohibited the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines and imposed stricter background checks on gun purchases after 20 children and six educators were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown in 2012. Colorado required background checks for private gun sales and limited magazines after 12 people were killed at a movie theater in 2012.” See also, Florida Governor Rick Scott breaks with the NRA to sign new gun regulations, The Washington Post, Michael Scherer, Friday, 9 March 2018.

Planning Begins for Trump’s Meeting with North Korea’s Leader Kim Jong-un, a Meeting Some Trump Aides Believe Will Never Happen, The New York Times, Mark Landler, Friday, 9 March 2018: “A day after President Trump accepted an invitation to meet Kim Jong-un of North Korea, the White House began planning on Friday a high-level diplomatic encounter so risky and seemingly far-fetched that some of Mr. Trump’s aides believe it will never happen…. [S]everal officials said Friday that the United States still needed to establish direct contact with North Korea to verify the message from Mr. Kim that was conveyed by South Korean envoys to Mr. Trump on Thursday. They warned that Mr. Kim could change his mind or break the promises he made about halting nuclear and missile tests during talks. ‘The United States has made zero concessions, but North Korea has made some promises,’ said the press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. ‘This meeting won’t take place without concrete actions that match the promises that have been made by North Korea.’ The White House later clarified that Ms. Sanders was not adding new preconditions to the meeting, but merely emphasizing the consequences if Mr. Kim conducted tests or interfered with joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea that are scheduled to begin at the end of March.” See also, White House says Trump-Kim meeting is contingent on ‘concrete, verifiable actions’ by North KoreaThe Washington Post, Anne Gearan, Friday, 9 March 2018.

Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen used his Trump Organization email when arranging to transfer money into an account at a Manhattan bank before he wired $130,000 to adult film star Stormy Daniels to buy her silence, NBC News, Sarah Fitzpatrick and Tracy Connor, Friday, 9 March 2018: “President Donald Trump’s personal attorney used his Trump Organization email while arranging to transfer money into an account at a Manhattan bank before he wired $130,000 to adult film star Stormy Daniels to buy her silence. The lawyer, Michael Cohen, also regularly used the same email account during 2016 negotiations with the actress — whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford — before she signed a nondisclosure agreement, a source familiar with the discussions told NBC News. And Clifford’s attorney at the time addressed correspondence to Cohen in his capacity at the Trump Organization and as ‘Special Counsel to Donald J. Trump,’ the source said. Cohen has tried to put distance between the president and the payout — which has been the subject of campaign finance complaints and an inquiry on Friday afternoon from congressional Democrats, who said in a letter to Cohen that the situation may put Trump at risk of blackmail attempts…. But an email uncovered in the last 24 hours and provided to NBC News by Clifford’s current attorney, Michael Avenatti, shows First Republic Bank and Cohen communicated about the money using his Trump company email address, not his personal gmail account.” See also, New evidence the Stormy Daniels payment may have violated federal election law, The Washington Post, Philip Bump, Friday, 9 March 2018. See also, Trump’s outside legal team adds New York attorney Lawrence S. Rosen to fight porn star Stormy Daniels, ABC News, Matthew Mosk and Katherine Faulders, published on Thursday, 8 March 2018: “President Donald Trump has added yet another lawyer in his outside legal team -– New York attorney Lawrence S. Rosen, multiple sources tell ABC News. Rosen has been brought in by Trump’s longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, to handle the legal issues surrounding the so-called ‘hush’ agreement that Cohen negotiated with the adult film actress known as Stormy Daniels, according to three people familiar with the arrangement. Rosen, a partner in the firm LaRocca, Hornick, Rosen, Greenberg & Blaha, is a ‘pit bull’ who will ‘aggressively fight and use his rhetorical and writing skills to get you a win,’ according to the firm’s website. The firm is based out of The Trump Building on Wall Street in Manhattan’s financial district.” See also, The President and the Porn Star: A Story’s Slow Rise Above the Din, The New York Times, Matt Flegenheimer, Friday, 9 March 2018: “If a porn-tinged hush payment falls in a news din already torqued to maximum volume, does it make a sound? It seems to be getting there, despite North Korean intervention. And this much is becoming clear: There is no hiding from the tale of the president and the porn star…. Comeuppance is a complicated subject in this presidency. Here is a leader who crowds out scandal with more scandal, who tends to insist that the buck stops elsewhere, who boasted of sexual assault on tape and got to the White House anyway. It is not quite that nothing sticks to Mr. Trump; it is that so much sticks that nothing stays visible for very long.”

Continue reading Week 60, Friday, 9 March – Thursday, 15 March 2018 (Days 414-420)

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Week 59: Friday, 2 March – Thursday, 8 March 2018 (Days 407-413)

 

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 March 2018, Day 407:

 

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, Threatens to Retaliate With Tariffs on Bourbon and Bluejeans if Trump Places Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum Imports, The New York Times, Melissa Eddy and Chad Bray, Friday, 2 March 2018: “The European Union will hit back at the heart of the United States, slapping tariffs on products like Harley-Davidsons, Kentucky bourbon and bluejeans, if President Trump goes ahead with a plan to place tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, the president of the bloc’s executive arm vowed on Friday. Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, made the remarks to the German news media in reaction to the proposed tariffs. He said the plans to tax the American goods, produced in the home states of key Republican leaders, had not yet been finalized, but amounted to treating them ‘the same way’ that European products would be handled if the metals tariffs go through. ‘None of this is reasonable, but reason is a sentiment that is very unevenly distributed in this world,’ Mr. Juncker declared. He said any measures taken by the bloc would conform with rules set by the World Trade Organization…. Mr. Juncker’s was not the only denunciation to flow in after Mr. Trump told industry executives on Thursday that he planned to impose penalties of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum imports from all countries. Criticism came from governments, lawmakers, metals makers and labor unions around the world.”

Trump was angry and ‘unglued’ when he started a trade war, officials say, NBC News, Stephanie Ruhle and Peter Alexander, Friday, 2 March 2018: “With global markets shaken by President Donald Trump’s surprise decision to impose strict tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, the president went into battle mode on Friday: ‘Trade wars are good, and easy to win,’ he wrote on Twitter. But the public show of confidence belies the fact that Trump’s policy maneuver, which may ultimately harm U.S. companies and American consumers, was announced without any internal review by government lawyers or his own staff, according to a review of an internal White House document. According to two officials, Trump’s decision to launch a potential trade war was born out of anger at other simmering issues and the result of a broken internal process that has failed to deliver him consensus views that represent the best advice of his team. On Wednesday evening, the president became ‘unglued,’ in the words of one official familiar with the president’s state of mind. A trifecta of events had set him off in a way that two officials said they had not seen before: Hope Hicks’ testimony to lawmakers investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, conduct by his embattled attorney general and the treatment of his son-in-law by his chief of staff. Trump, the two officials said, was angry and gunning for a fight, and he chose a trade war, spurred on by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Peter Navarro, the White House director for trade — and against longstanding advice from his economic chair Gary Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.”

White House softens tone on gun-safety measures after Trump meets with the National Rifle Association, The Washington Post, David Nakamura, Friday, 2 March 2018: “The White House appeared to soften its tone on gun-control measures Friday after President Trump met privately with officials from the National Rifle Association the night before. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the White House is still deliberating on what type of proposals it will support in the wake of the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., in which 17 people were killed. She said Trump still supports raising the age limit to buy assault rifles from 18 to 21 but added that he understands there is ‘not a lot of broad support’ for such a proposal. ‘I think he thinks it would probably have more potential in the states than it would at the federal level,’ Sanders told reporters at the White House. On background checks, she said Trump does not necessarily support universal background checks ‘but certainly improving the background check system. He wants to see what that legislation, the final piece of it looks like. “Universal” means something different to a lot of people.’ Trump tweeted Thursday evening about the meeting, which was not listed on his public schedule: ‘Good (Great) meeting in the Oval Office tonight with the NRA!'” See also, How to Buy a Gun in 15 Countries, The New York Times, Audrey Carlsen and Sahil Chinoy, Friday, 2 March 2018.

Continue reading Week 59, Friday, 2 March – Thursday, 8 March 2018 (Days 407-413)

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Week 58: Friday, 23 February – Thursday, 1 March 2018 (Days 400-406)

 

 

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, 23 February 2018, Day 400:

 

Sarah Chadwick, a survivor of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida: ‘We should call AF-15s ‘Marco Rubio’ because they’re both easy to buy,’ The Hill, Brandon Carter, Friday, 23 February 2018: “A survivor of the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School criticized Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Twitter early Friday, suggesting he is ‘easy to buy’ for accepting donations from the National Rifle Association (NRA). ‘We should change the names of AR-15s to ‘Marco Rubio’ because they are so easy to buy,’ Stoneman Douglas junior Sarah Chadwick tweeted Friday. Rubio has been criticized by survivors of the shooting for accepting donations from the NRA. On Wednesday at a CNN town hall with survivors of the shooting, junior Cameron Kasky asked Rubio if he would commit to no longer accepting donations from the gun group. ‘Senator Rubio, can you tell me right now that you will not accept a single donation from the NRA in the future?’ Kasky asked. Rubio didn’t directly answer, telling Kasky that ‘people buy into my agenda’ and saying he supports both the Second Amendment and ‘the right of you and everyone here to be able to go to school and be safe.’ The Florida senator was repeatedly confronted during the town hall event, with the father of one girl killed during the shooting  calling Rubio’s comments ‘pathetically weak.'”

An Australian Model on Guns? Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull Reject Comparisons, The New York Times, Peter Baker and Damien Cave, Friday, 23 February 2018: “One of the most powerful moments during President Trump’s meeting with survivors and relatives of the Florida school shooting this week came when a student pleaded with the president to do what Australia did after a similar tragedy. As it happened, Mr. Trump had an opportunity on Friday to get a firsthand report on Australia’s crackdown on guns when he hosted the country’s prime minister at the White House. But both men quickly discounted any comparisons, saying their nations are too different…. Australia embarked on one of the world’s most expansive efforts to rid a society of gun violence after a mass shooting in the Tasmanian town of Port Arthur on April 28, 1996, left 35 dead and many others injured. At that time, it was Australia’s 13th mass shooting in less than two decades and the deadliest such incident to date in the Western world. Even in the United States since then, only two episodes have eclipsed that death toll, the massacres in an Orlando gay nightclub in 2016 and at a Las Vegas concert last year. In response to the 1996 shooting, John Howard, then Australia’s conservative prime minister, moved quickly, introducing a federal law to officially make guns a privilege, not a right. Gun owners were forced to provide a valid reason for owning a weapon, such as farming or hunting. Licensing rules were tightened, a 28-day waiting period for gun purchases was imposed and a national gun registry was established. Semiautomatic rifles, like the one used at Port Arthur in 1996 and in Parkland last week, were severely restricted, and Australia engaged in a buyback program that took more than 650,000 firearms off the streets and generated attention around the world. Gun control advocates in the United States regularly point to Australia when the other side says that new laws would not make a difference. President Barack Obama cited Australia as a model after a shooting in Oregon in 2015 and Hillary Clinton, running to succeed him against Mr. Trump, said the Australian approach was ‘worth considering.'”

Defying the National Rifle Association, Florida Lawmakers Back Raising Age Limits on Assault Rifles, The New York Times, Patricia Mazzei and Jess Bidgood, Friday, 23 February 2018: “Gov. Rick Scott and top state lawmakers proposed on Friday the most significant move toward gun control in Florida in decades, backing new limits that defy the National Rifle Association but fall short of demands from survivors of last week’s school shooting. Faced with massive protests, the Republican governor announced a plan to raise the minimum age to buy any firearm, including semiautomatic rifles, from 18 to 21. Mr. Scott also vowed to strengthen rules to keep weapons away from people who have mental health problems or injunctions against them for stalking or domestic violence…. Student protesters who rallied at the State Capitol on Wednesday had demanded a complete ban on military-style assault rifles. On Friday, students said they were disappointed, if unsurprised, that Mr. Scott had stopped short of a ban, but vowed to keep pushing for one…. The move from Republicans demonstrated how quickly the politics around guns had shifted in Tallahassee, where the N.R.A. has wielded enormous influence for years. After mass shootings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016 and in Fort Lauderdale last year, the state’s leaders resisted demands to respond with stricter gun laws.”

Continue reading Week 58, Friday, 23 February – Thursday, 1 March 2018 (Days 400-406)

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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.” See also, Inside a 3-Year Russian Campaign to Influence U.S. Voters, The New York Times, Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti, Friday, 16 February 2018.

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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