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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Week 47: Friday, 8 December – Thursday, 14 December 2017 (Days 323-329)

 

 

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, 8 December 2017, Day 323:

 

Roy Moore, Republican Senate candidate from Alabama, says America was great in the era of slavery but is now the ‘focus of evil in the world,’ The Washington Post, Philip Bump, Friday, 8 December 2017: “In September, Moore held a rally in Florence, Ala. One of the members of the audience, an African American, asked Moore when he thought America was last great. ‘I think it was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery — they cared for one another,’ Moore replied, according to the Los Angeles Times. ‘Our families were strong, our country had a direction.’… In August of this year, Moore was interviewed by the Guardian. CNN excerpted part of the discussion. The interviewer noted that Ronald Reagan once said that the Soviet Union was the focus of evil in the modern world. ‘You could say that very well about America, couldn’t you?’ Moore replied…. In 1997, as a circuit court judge, Moore spoke out against evolution — and linked it to crime. CNN’s KFILE team uncovered the video. ‘We have kids driving by, shooting each other, that they don’t even know each other,’ Moore said. ‘They’re acting like animals because we’ve taught them they come from animals. They’re treating their fellow men with prejudice because we taught them they come from animals.’ In 2005, Moore was interviewed by journalist Bill Press. During that interview, he argued that homosexuality should be illegal…. In 2006, writing for the conservative site WorldNetDaily, he argued that Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) should not be allowed to serve in the House because he is Muslim and would be sworn in on the Koran…. A year ago, after Donald Trump’s election, Moore was asked at an event whether he believed that Obama was born in the United States. ‘My personal belief is that he wasn’t,’ Moore replied, ‘but that’s probably over and done in a few days, unless we get something else to come along.'”

Trump offers second endorsement of Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore days before the Alabama election, Politico, Louis Nelson, Friday, 8 December 2017: “President Donald Trump offered another full-throated pitch on Friday for Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, imploring Alabama voters to keep the seat under GOP control and away from a ‘Pelosi/Schumer puppet,’ Democrat Doug Jones. ‘LAST thing the Make America Great Again Agenda needs is a Liberal Democrat in Senate where we have so little margin for victory already,’ the president wrote on Twitter. ‘The Pelosi/Schumer Puppet Jones would vote against us 100% of the time. He’s bad on Crime, Life, Border, Vets, Guns & Military. VOTE ROY MOORE!’ Moore, a controversial former chief judge of the Alabama Supreme Court, has been accused by multiple woman of sexual misconduct, including one who alleged she was molested by Moore when she was 14 and he was in his 30s. Moore has denied the charges.” See also, In Florida, Trump defended U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama by attacking the credibility of a woman who has accused Moore of sexually assaulting her when she was 16, Los Angeles Times, Michael Finnegan, Friday, 8 December 2017: “President Trump defended embattled U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama on Friday by trying to undercut the credibility of a woman who has accused him of sexually assaulting her when she was 16. At a campaign rally just over the Alabama state line in Pensacola, Fla., Trump tried to buttress Moore’s argument that Beverly Young Nelson forged his signature on her high school yearbook. Nelson and her attorney, Gloria Allred, cite the yearbook as evidence that Moore pursued Nelson sexually when he was in his 30s. Nelson told ABC News on Friday that she had written notes beneath the inscription that she says Moore wrote in her yearbook, but stood by her statement that he wrote the inscription, signed it and later sexually assaulted her. ‘So did you see what happened today, you know, the yearbook?’ Trump asked the cheering crowd. ‘Did you see that? There was a little mistake made. She started writing things in the yearbook. Gloria Allred, any time you see her, you know something’s going wrong,’ Trump continued. Allred represents Summer Zervos, a former contestant on Trump’s television show, ‘The Apprentice,’ who is suing the president for allegedly groping and kissing her against her will in 2007, then defaming her by calling her a liar after she spoke out about it last year. Allred said Friday that a handwriting expert had confirmed that Moore signed Nelson’s yearbook.”

Representative Trent Franks (Republican-Arizona), Accused of Offering $5 Million to an Employee in His Office to Be a Surrogate Mother for His Children, Resigns, The New York Times, Katie Rogers, Friday, 8 December 2017: “Representative Trent Franks announced Friday that he would resign from Congress immediately after accusations emerged that he had offered $5 million to a female employee to be a surrogate mother for his children, and that she and another female employee worried that the lawmaker wanted to have sex as a means of impregnating them. Mr. Franks, Republican of Arizona and one of the House’s most ardent social conservatives, had said Thursday that he would leave the House in January, and he admitted that he had discussed surrogate pregnancies with two employees. The House Ethics Committee had opened an investigation into his behavior, and the office of Speaker Paul D. Ryan said in a statement that Mr. Ryan had made it clear that Mr. Franks’s actions were intolerable. ‘After discussing options with my family,’ he said in a statement, ‘we came to the conclusion that the best thing for our family now would be for me to tender my previous resignation effective today.’ But revelations about Mr. Franks’s conduct made it clearer why the speaker had taken quick action. A House leadership aide confirmed that two aides in Mr. Franks’s office believed the congressman was suggesting that he impregnate them sexually. Andrea Lafferty, the executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition, said that one of the women approached by Mr. Franks told her about the encounter last year, and said that Mr. Franks entreated her repeatedly to be a surrogate mother, at one point offering $5 million.” See also, Representative Trent Franks (Republican-Arizona) offered $5 million to an aide in his office to bear his child. He resigned today amid inquiry. The Washington Post, Mike DeBonis, Friday, 8 December 2017.

Continue reading Week 47, Friday, 8 December – Thursday, 14 December 2017 (Days 316-322)

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Harvey Weinstein’s Complicity Machine

Megan Twohey, Jodi Kantor, Susan Dominus, Jim Rutenberg, and Steve Eder, Harvey Weinstein’s Complicity Machine. The New York Times, 5 December 2017. “Harvey Weinstein built his complicity machine out of the witting, the unwitting and those in between. He commanded enablers, silencers and spies, warning others who discovered his secrets to say nothing. He courted those who could provide the money or prestige to enhance his reputation as well as his power to intimidate. In the weeks and months before allegations of his methodical abuse of women were exposed in October, Mr. Weinstein, the Hollywood producer, pulled on all the levers of his carefully constructed apparatus.”

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Week 46: Friday, 1 December – Thursday, 7 December 2017 (Days 316-322)

 

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, 1 December 2017, Day 316:

 

Senate Passes Sweeping Republican Tax Overhaul Bill, The New York Times, Jim Tankersley, Thomas Kaplan, and Alan Rappeport, Friday, 1 December 2017: “The Senate passed the most sweeping tax rewrite in decades early Saturday, with Republicans lining up to approve an overhaul that will touch almost every corner of the United States economy, affecting families, small business owners and multinational corporations, with the biggest benefits flowing to the highest-earning Americans. Senators voted 51-49, as Republicans approved the nearly 500-page bill in the early morning hours after lawmakers received a rewritten version, which contained significant changes from the original bill that passed two Senate panels last month along party lines. The last-minute revisions prompted an outcry from Democrats, who said it was impossible — and irresponsible — for lawmakers to read and digest a significant piece of legislation in such a short period of time. Speaking on the Senate floor ahead of the vote, Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, called the Republican approach ‘a process and a product that no one can be proud of and everyone should be ashamed of.’ He went on to warn that changes made to the bill ‘under the cover of darkness’ would ‘stuff even more money into the pockets of the wealthy and the biggest corporations while raising taxes on millions in the middle class.'” See also, A Hasty, Hand-Scribbled Tax Bill Sets Off an Outcry, The New York Times,
Jim Tankersley and Alan Rappeport, Friday, 1 December 2017: “By midafternoon on Friday, Republicans had the votes to pass their tax bill in the Senate. What they did not have was a bill. The legislation, covering nearly 500 pages, finally surfaced well after the sun had set. It appeared first in the lobbying shops of K Street, which sent back copies to some Democrats in the Senate, who took to social media to protest being asked to vote in a matter of hours on a bill that had yet to be shared with them directly. The drafts that leaked to journalists included changes scrawled in looping handwriting in the margins. Democrats posted screenshots and accompanying complaints. Senator Jon Tester, Democrat of Montana, called it ‘Washington D.C. at its worst’ in a video in which he held up a page of the bill with the changes…. With Republicans intent on passing a bill along party lines, public protests have been Democrats’ only weapon throughout the lightning-fast progression of the bill over the last month. The minority party has no ability to stop the bill, because Republicans are employing a Senate tactic that allows them to bypass a Democratic filibuster. The first version of the tax plan was introduced in the House on Nov. 1 and approved two weeks later; the Senate is on course to match that pace. That would be a compressed schedule in any event, but it was particularly so on Friday, as Republicans inserted several last-second amendments to secure majority support for their bill. Democrats could only scold and work up a frenzy on social media. In a separate video, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, held up a stack of legislative text and tried to read the changes that the Republicans had made. She struggled to make sense of the garbled language and lamented that she could not possibly read the bill in the hour or so before the expected vote. ‘I just want to give you an idea of how the Republican leadership thinks we’re supposed to make laws in the United States Senate,’ Ms. Warren said. ‘Don’t let anybody read it. Just cram through what you want to cram through.’ See also, A report from the Joint Committee on Taxation obliterates the claim that the Senate tax bill will pay for itself, The New Yorker, John Cassidy, Friday, 1 December 2017: “For weeks now, White House officials, Treasury Department officials, and G.O.P. leaders on Capitol Hill have been blithely asserting that their big tax plan—which features huge giveaways for corporations and wealthy investors in private partnerships—would pay for itself. The argument is that the plan, by sparking a wave of business investment and hiring, would generate enough extra tax revenues over time to offset the initial fall…. Yet there was never much credible evidence to support these claims. The Republicans’ own budget, which the House of Representatives passed in October, assumed that the G.O.P. tax proposals would cost about $1.5 trillion over ten years, and a number of unofficial but independent analyses of the plan concluded that its price tag was in that range…. On Thursday afternoon, just hours before McConnell was due to ask the full Senate to vote on a final version of the Republican bill, the Joint Committee issued its official analysis of the plan…. [T]he Joint Committee estimated that, over the next ten years, the bill would boost the level of G.D.P. by about 0.9 per cent, expand the capital stock by 1.1 per cent, and increase the budget deficit by about a trillion dollars ($1,006,700,000,000.00, to be precise). In brief, the Joint Committee said that the tax cuts contained in the Senate bill would have a very modest impact on growth, and it eviscerated the claim that the bill would pay for itself.” See also, Senate Republican tax bill passes in major victory for Trump and the Republicans, The Washington Post, Erica Werner and Damian Paletta, published on Saturday, 2 December 2017.

Republicans eye changes to welfare, Medicare, and Social Security, The Washington Post, Jeff Stein, Friday, 1 December 2017: “High-ranking Republicans are hinting that, after their tax overhaul, the party intends to look at cutting spending on welfare, entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, and other parts of the social safety net. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said recently that he wants Republicans to focus in 2018 on reducing spending on government programs. Last month, President Trump said welfare reform will ‘take place right after taxes, very soon, very shortly after taxes.'”

Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleads guilty to lying to the FBI about contacts with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, The Washington Post, Carol D. Leonnig, Adam Entous, Devlin Barrett, and Matt Zapotosky, Friday, 1 December 2017: “Former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty Friday to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and, in an ominous sign for the White House, said he is cooperating in the ongoing probe of possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin to influence the 2016 election. When Flynn was forced out of the White House in February, officials said he had misled the administration, including Vice President Pence, about his contacts with Kislyak. But court records and people familiar with the contacts indicated he was acting in consultation with senior Trump transition officials, including President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in his dealings with the diplomat. Flynn’s plea revealed that he was in touch with senior Trump transition officials before and after his communications with the ambassador. The pre-inauguration communications with Kislyak involved efforts to blunt Obama administration policy decisions — on sanctions on Russia and a U.N. resolution on Israel — potential violations of a rarely enforced law…. Flynn admitted in his plea that he lied to the FBI about several December conversations with Kislyak. In one, on Dec. 22, he contacted the Russian ambassador about the incoming administration’s opposition to a U.N. resolution condemning Israeli settlements as illegal and requested that Russia vote against or delay it, court records say. The ambassador later called back and indicated Russia would not vote against it, the records say. In another conversation, on Dec. 29, Flynn called the ambassador to ask Russia not to escalate an ongoing feud over sanctions imposed by the Obama administration, court records say. The ambassador later called back and said Russia had chosen not to retaliate, the records say. Flynn admitted as a part of his plea that when the FBI asked him on Jan. 24 — four days after Trump was inaugurated — about his dealings with the Russians, he did not truthfully describe the interactions. But perhaps more interestingly, he said others in the transition knew he was in contact with Kislyak. Flynn admitted that before speaking with the ambassador, he called a senior transition official at the Mar-a-Lago resort on Dec. 29 ‘to discuss what, if anything, to communicate to the Russian ambassador about the U.S. Sanctions’ and learned that transition members did not want Russia to escalate the situation. And when the ambassador later informed him Russia would not retaliate, Flynn told senior members of the transition team, court records say. The senior transition official is not identified in records, but people familiar with the matter said it is K.T. McFarland, who is now nominated to be the U.S. ambassador to Singapore. The records say that a ‘very senior member of the Presidential Transition Team’ directed Flynn to contact officials from foreign governments, including Russia, about the U.N. resolution on Israel. That official is also not named, but people familiar with the matter said it refers to Kushner. According to one transition team official, Kushner told Flynn that blocking the resolution was a top priority of the president-elect.” See also, Trump’s Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn Pleads Guilty to Lying to the F.B.I. and Will Cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia Inquiry, The New York Times, Michael D. Shear and Adam Goldman, Friday, 1 December 2017: “Mr. Flynn’s discussions with Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, were part of a coordinated effort by Mr. Trump’s aides to create foreign policy before they were in power, documents released as part of Mr. Flynn’s plea agreement show. Their efforts undermined the existing policy of President Barack Obama and flouted a warning from a senior Obama administration official to stop meddling in foreign affairs before the inauguration. The documents do not disclose what Mr. Trump knew about Mr. Flynn’s discussions. But in at least one instance, prosecutors say, Mr. Flynn was directed by a ‘very senior member’ of the presidential transition team to discuss a United Nations resolution. Mr. Trump’s lawyers believe that unnamed aide was Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser, Jared Kushner, according to a lawyer briefed on the matter. The transition team was led by Vice President Mike Pence. Its top members included Mr. Kushner; Reince Priebus, Mr. Trump’s first chief of staff; and K.T. McFarland, who was Mr. Flynn’s deputy and was later appointed to be the ambassador to Singapore. Mr. Flynn spoke to Ms. McFarland about another of his conversations with Mr. Kislyak, according to the lawyer.” See also, Read Michael Flynn’s Statement of the Offense, The New York Times, Friday, 1 December 2017 and also  See the Charges: U.S. v. Michael T. Flynn, The New York Times, Friday, 1 December 2017. See also, Read the charges against and the plea deal from Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, The Washington Post, Friday, 1 December 2017. See also, What Michael Flynn’s Guilty Plea Means in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia Inquiry, The New York Times, Charlie Savage, Friday, 1 December 2017. See also, Documents Reveal New Details on What Trump Team Knew About Flynn’s Calls With Russia’s Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, The New York Times, Michael S. Schmidt, Friday, 1 December 2017.

Continue reading Week 46, Friday, 1 December – Thursday, 7 December 2017 (Days 316-322)

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Trump, Week 45: Friday, 24 November – Thursday, 30 November 2017 (Days 309-315)

 

 

Photo by Robert DelTredici

 

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, 24 November 2017, Day 309:

 

Dueling Appointments Lead to Clash at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, The New York Times, Tara Aiegel Bernard, Friday, 24 November 2017: “President Trump on Friday named his budget director as the acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, moving to take control of the agency hours after its departing leader had taken steps to install his own choice for acting chief. By the end of the night, an agency born of the financial meltdown — and one Republicans have tried to kill from the start — had dueling directors, and there was little sense of who actually would be in charge Monday morning. The bureaucratic standoff began Friday afternoon when Richard Cordray, the Obama-appointed leader of the bureau, abruptly announced he would leave the job at the close of business, a week earlier than anticipated. He followed up with a letter naming his chief of staff, Leandra English, as the agency’s deputy director. The announcement came with a twist. Under the law, he said, that appointment would make the new deputy director the agency’s acting director. The move was seen as an effort to delay Mr. Trump from appointing his own director, whose confirmation could take months. The White House retaliated, saying that the budget director, Mick Mulvaney, who once characterized the consumer protection bureau as a ‘sad, sick joke,’ would be running the agency. He would also keep his current job as head of the Office of Management and Budget. Mr. Mulvaney said he would assume the additional role until a permanent successor was found…. In a letter to the consumer protection agency’s staff, Mr. Cordray named Ms. English as deputy director. Under the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, which established the regulatory agency, the deputy director is to serve as acting director in the absence of a permanent leader, Mr. Cordray said. The conflicting appointments were a fitting development for an agency under constant attack from Republican leaders, and it leaves supporters wondering about the agency’s future with Mr. Trump in the White House and Republicans in control of both houses of Congress.”

While eyes are on Russia, Attorney General Jeff Sessions dramatically reshapes the Justice Department, The Washington Post, Matt Zapotosky and Sari Horwitz, Friday, 24 November 2017: “For more than five hours, Attorney General Jeff Sessions sat in a hearing room on Capitol Hill this month, fending off inquiries on Washington’s two favorite topics: President Trump and Russia. But legislators spent little time asking Sessions about the dramatic and controversial changes in policy he has made since taking over the top law enforcement job in the United States nine months ago. From his crackdown on illegal immigration to his reversal of Obama administration policies on criminal justice and policing, Sessions is methodically reshaping the Justice Department to reflect his nationalist ideology and hard-line views — moves drawing comparatively less public scrutiny than the ongoing investigations into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Kremlin. Sessions has implemented a new charging and sentencing policy that calls for prosecutors to pursue the most serious charges possible, even if that might mean minority defendants face stiff, mandatory minimum penalties. He has defended the president’s travel ban and tried to strip funding from cities with policies he considers too friendly toward undocumented immigrants. Sessions has even adjusted the department’s legal stances in cases involving voting rights and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues in a way that advocates warn might disenfranchise poor minorities and give certain religious people a license to discriminate.”

State Department Diplomats Sound the Alarm as They Are Pushed Out in Droves, The New York Times, Gardiner Harris, Friday, 24 November 2017: “Of all the State Department employees who might have been vulnerable in the staff reductions that Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson has initiated as he reshapes the department, the one person who seemed least likely to be a target was the chief of security, Bill A. Miller. Republicans pilloried Hillary Clinton for what they claimed was her inadequate attention to security as secretary of state in the months before the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya. Congress even passed legislation mandating that the department’s top security official have unrestricted access to the secretary of state. But in his first nine months in office, Mr. Tillerson turned down repeated and sometimes urgent requests from the department’s security staff to brief him, according to several former top officials in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Finally, Mr. Miller, the acting assistant secretary for diplomatic security, was forced to cite the law’s requirement that he be allowed to speak to Mr. Tillerson. Mr. Miller got just five minutes with the secretary of state, the former officials said. Afterward, Mr. Miller, a career Foreign Service officer, was pushed out, joining a parade of dismissals and early retirements that has decimated the State Department’s senior ranks. Mr. Miller declined to comment. The departures mark a new stage in the broken and increasingly contentious relationship between Mr. Tillerson and much of his department’s work force. By last spring, interviews at the time suggested, the guarded optimism that greeted his arrival had given way to concern among diplomats about his aloofness and lack of communication. By the summer, the secretary’s focus on efficiency and reorganization over policy provoked off-the-record anger. Now the estrangement is in the open, as diplomats going out the door make their feelings known and members of Congress raise questions about the impact of their leaving. In a letter to Mr. Tillerson last week, Democratic members of the House Foreign Relations Committee, citing what they said was ‘the exodus of more than 100 senior Foreign Service officers from the State Department since January,’ expressed concern about ‘what appears to be the intentional hollowing-out of our senior diplomatic ranks.'”

Continue reading Week 45, Friday, 24 November – Thursday, 30 November 2017 (Days 309-315)

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Trump, Week 44: Friday, 17 November – Thursday, 23 November 2017 (Days 302-308)

 

 

Photo by Robert DelTredici

 

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, 17 November 2017, Day 302:

 

This remarkable, angry exchange between Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) over who would benefit from the Senate’s version of the tax bill unmasks the Republicans’ tax-cut lies, The Washington Post, Greg Sargent, Friday, 17 November 2017: “Late last night, just before the Finance Committee passed the Senate’s version of the tax bill slashing taxes on corporations and the rich, a remarkable moment unfolded that perfectly captured the GOP’s whole handling of the tax debate — in all its dishonesty, misdirection and bottomless bad faith. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) engaged in extended sparring with committee chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) over who would benefit from the Senate bill, with Brown insisting that it fundamentally represents a tax cut for the rich and not the middle class. This drew an enraged response from Hatch, even though Brown’s argument was 100 percent correct.”

For Now, Trump to Keep Ban on Importing Elephant Trophies, The New York Times, Emily Cochrane, Friday, 17 November 2017: “President Trump on Friday reversed the government’s decision to start allowing hunters to import trophies of elephants that were killed in two African countries, pending a further review. His evening Twitter message reversed a decision by his own administration over Zimbabwe that was announced this week and promoted as recently as Friday afternoon by the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. ‘Put big game trophy decision on hold until such time as I review all conservation facts,’ Mr. Trump tweeted. ‘Under study for years. Will update soon with Secretary Zinke. Thank you!’ Ryan Zinke, the interior secretary, said in a statement later Friday night that the decision applied to two African countries, though it did not name them.”

In Mocking Franken Over Claims of Sexual Misconduct, Trump Joins a Debate He Started, The New York Times, Peter Baker, 17 November 2017: “Last fall, Donald J. Trump inadvertently touched off a national conversation about sexual harassment when a recording of him boasting about groping women was made public at the same time a succession of women came forward to assert that groping was something he did more than talk about. A year later, after a wave of harassment claims against powerful men in entertainment, politics, the arts and the news media, the discussion has come full circle with President Trump criticizing the latest politician exposed for sexual misconduct even as he continues to deny any of the accusations against him. In this case, Mr. Trump focused his Twitter-fueled mockery on a Democratic senator while largely avoiding a similar condemnation of a Republican Senate candidate facing far more allegations. The turn in the political dialogue threatened to transform a moment of cleansing debate about sexual harassment into another weapon in the war between the political parties, led by the president himself…. But the notion that Mr. Trump himself would weigh in given his own history of crude talk about women and the multiple allegations against him surprised many in Washington who thought he could not surprise them anymore. A typical politician with Mr. Trump’s history would stay far away from discussing someone else’s behavior lest it dredge his own back into the spotlight. But as Mr. Trump has shown repeatedly during his 10-month presidency, he is rarely deterred by conventional political wisdom even as he leaves it to his staff to fend off the cries of hypocrisy.”

Continue reading Week 44, Friday, 17 November – Thursday, 23 November 2017 (Days 302-308)

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The Uncounted: U.S.-Led Airstrikes Against ISIS Are Killing Far More Iraqi Civilians Than Previously Believed

Azmat Khan and Anand Gopal, The Uncounted: U.S.-Led Airstrikes Against ISIS Are Killing Far More Iraqi Civilians Than Previously Believed. The New York Times Magazine, 16 November 2017. “In the effort to expel ISIS from Iraq and Syria, the coalition has conducted more than 27,500 strikes to date, deploying everything from Vietnam-era B-52 bombers to modern Predator drones. That overwhelming air power has made it possible for local ground troops to overcome heavy resistance and retake cities throughout the region. ‘U.S. and coalition forces work very hard to be precise in airstrikes,’ Maj. Shane Huff, a spokesman for the Central Command, told us, and as a result ‘are conducting one of the most precise air campaigns in military history.’… American military planners go to great lengths to distinguish today’s precision strikes from the air raids of earlier wars, which were carried out with little or no regard for civilian casualties. They describe a target-selection process grounded in meticulously gathered intelligence, technological wizardry, carefully designed bureaucratic hurdles and extraordinary restraint…. The coalition usually announces an airstrike within a few days of its completion. It also publishes a monthly report assessing allegations of civilian casualties. Those it deems credible are generally explained as unavoidable accidents — a civilian vehicle drives into the target area moments after a bomb is dropped, for example. The coalition reports that since August 2014, it has killed tens of thousands of ISIS fighters and, according to our tally of its monthly summaries, 466 civilians in Iraq…. Estimates from Airwars and other nongovernmental organizations suggest that the civilian death toll is much higher, but the coalition disputes such figures, arguing that they are based not on specific intelligence but local news reports and testimony gathered from afar. When the coalition notes a mission irregularity or receives an allegation, it conducts its own inquiry and publishes a sentence-long analysis of its findings. But no one knows how many Iraqis have simply gone uncounted. Our own reporting, conducted over 18 months, shows that the air war has been significantly less precise than the coalition claims. Between April 2016 and June 2017, we visited the sites of nearly 150 airstrikes across northern Iraq, not long after ISIS was evicted from them. We toured the wreckage; we interviewed hundreds of witnesses, survivors, family members, intelligence informants and local officials; we photographed bomb fragments, scoured local news sources, identified ISIS targets in the vicinity and mapped the destruction through satellite imagery. We also visited the American air base in Qatar where the coalition directs the air campaign. There, we were given access to the main operations floor and interviewed senior commanders, intelligence officials, legal advisers and civilian-casualty assessment experts. We provided their analysts with the coordinates and date ranges of every airstrike — 103 in all — in three ISIS-controlled areas and examined their responses. The result is the first systematic, ground-based sample of airstrikes in Iraq since this latest military action began in 2014. We found that one in five of the coalition strikes we identified resulted in civilian death, a rate more than 31 times that acknowledged by the coalition. It is at such a distance from official claims that, in terms of civilian deaths, this may be the least transparent war in recent American history. Our reporting, moreover, revealed a consistent failure by the coalition to investigate claims properly or to keep records that make it possible to investigate the claims at all. While some of the civilian deaths we documented were a result of proximity to a legitimate ISIS target, many others appear to be the result simply of flawed or outdated intelligence that conflated civilians with combatants. In this system, Iraqis are considered guilty until proved innocent. Those who survive the strikes, people like Basim Razzo, remain marked as possible ISIS sympathizers, with no discernible path to clear their names.”

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Trump, Week 43: Friday, 10 November – Thursday, 16 November 2017 (Days 295-301)

 

Photo by Robert DelTredici

 

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, 10 November 2017, Day 295:

 

Special Counsel Robert Mueller Probes Former White House National Security Adviser Mike Flynn’s Role in Alleged Plan to Deliver Muslim Cleric Fethullah Gulen to the Turkish Government, The Wall Street Journal, James V. Grimaldi, Shane Harris, and Aruna Viswanatha, Friday, 10 November 2017: “Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating former White House national security adviser Mike Flynn’s alleged role in a plan to forcibly remove a Muslim cleric living in the U.S. and deliver him to Turkey in return for millions of dollars, according to people familiar with the investigation. Under the alleged proposal, Mr. Flynn and his son, Michael Flynn Jr., were to be paid as much as $15 million for delivering Fethullah Gulen to the Turkish government, according to people with knowledge of discussions Mr. Flynn had with Turkish representatives. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has pressed the U.S. to extradite him, views the cleric as a political enemy. Federal Bureau of Investigation agents have asked at least four individuals about a meeting in mid-December at the ‘21’ Club in New York City, where Mr. Flynn and representatives of the Turkish government discussed removing Mr. Gulen, according to people with knowledge of the FBI’s inquiries. The discussions allegedly involved the possibility of transporting Mr. Gulen on a private jet to the Turkish prison island of Imrali, according to one of the people who has spoken to the FBI. The Wall Street Journal previously reported on efforts by Turkish officials to get Mr. Gulen to Turkey without going through the U.S. extradition legal process, an effort that included an earlier meeting with Mr. Flynn in September 2016. The investigation is being handled by Mr. Mueller as part of his probe of Trump campaign advisers and Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to those familiar with the investigation.”

Republicans Try to Block Roy Moore’s Path as Senate Republican Candidate Denies Sexual Misconduct, The New York Times, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, Friday, 10 November 2017: “Senate Republicans scrambled on Friday to find a way to block Roy S. Moore’s path to the Senate, exploring extraordinary measures to rid themselves of their own nominee in Alabama after accusations emerged that he had made sexual advances on four teenage girls when he was in his 30s. Mr. Moore, meanwhile, remained defiant, insisting in a radio interview with Sean Hannity that he would stay in the race. He told Mr. Hannity, the Fox News host, who has endorsed Mr. Moore’s candidacy, that he “never had any contact” with Leigh Corfman, the woman who told The Washington Post that Mr. Moore touched her sexually when she was 14, though he did not deny dating some teenagers. ‘I have never known this woman, or anything,’ said Mr. Moore, who described the accusations as ‘politically motivated.’ Republican senators and their advisers, in a flurry of phone calls, emails and text messages, discussed fielding a write-in candidate, pushing Alabama’s governor to delay the Dec. 12 special election or even not seating Mr. Moore at all should he be elected. In an interview, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, declined to say whether he would agree to seat Mr. Moore should he win. Mr. McConnell deferred a question about a possible write-in campaign by Senator Luther Strange, the current occupant of the seat, to Mr. Strange. The Senate Republican campaign arm, which Mr. McConnell effectively oversees, withdrew Friday from a joint fund-raising agreement with Mr. Moore’s campaign. And Senators Mike Lee of Utah and Steve Daines of Montana rescinded their endorsements of the candidate.” See also, Roy Moore’s Republican Opponents Chased Rumors About ‘Women Issues’ for Years, but Could Never Nail Them Down, The Intercept, Jonathan Lee Krohn and Ryan Grim, Friday, 10 November 2017: “Republican strategists in Alabama have for years heard rumors that Roy Moore had ‘women issues’ — a euphemism for sexual misconduct used in the politics business — according to four sources who ran various campaigns against Moore, but they were never able to get definitive proof. ‘There’s been a rumor for a while,’ said David Mowery, an independent political consultant who first heard the allegations in his role as campaign manager for Bob Vance, Moore’s opponent in a 2012 race for chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. ‘But I don’t know if anyone knew the extent of it, if you know what I mean,’ Mowery added.  Moore is the Republican candidate in a December special election for a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama…. One Republican strategist who declined to be named said Moore’s problematic history with women was common knowledge in political circles, but the specifics — that he preyed on and molested a 14-year-old girl, as the Washington Post reported on Thursday — were unknown until this week. Part of the problem with chasing the story, the strategist added, is that rumors attach to so many men in power. ‘He’s got women issues going way back,’ the strategist said he was told. ‘I feel like you hear that about everybody.'” See also, Alabama state official invokes the Bible and Joseph and Mary to defend Roy Moore, CNN, Miranda Green, Friday, 10 November 2017: “An Alabama state official is citing the Bible to defend GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore against sexual assault allegations on a 14-year-old girl decades ago. Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler, a Republican, dismissed the charges brought forth in a Washington Post article about Moore Thursday, telling The Washington Examiner that the relationship would be akin to that of Joseph and Mary. ‘Take the Bible: Zachariah and Elizabeth for instance,’ Zeigler said. ‘Zachariah was extremely old to marry Elizabeth and they became the parents of John the Baptist. Also take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus. There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual.’ In the Bible, Jesus is conceived through the Holy Spirit, not sexual relations between Mary and Joseph. The Post report said Moore allegedly initiated the sexual encounter with a 14-year-old teenager in the late 1970s. Three other women also told The Post that Moore pursued them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18 and he was in his early 30s. None of those three women told the Post that Moore sexually harassed, or assaulted them, or forced them into a relationship. Alabama’s legal age of consent is 16.” See also, Trump casts doubt on allegations against Roy Moore, leaving Republicans an impossible choice, The Washington Post, Aaron Blake, Friday, 10 November 2017: “A day after Senate Republicans tried to buy some time amid the allegation that Alabama’s GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore had initiated sexual contact with a 14-year-old when he was 32, the last two GOP presidential nominees pulled them in opposite directions. While President Trump cast increasing doubt on the accusations, Mitt Romney issued a strong statement that puts pressure on other Republicans to denounce Moore. In a written statement delivered by press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump joined in the Senate GOP’s he-should-drop-out-if-it’s-true chorus, but also noticeably upped the doubt factor as to whether the accusations are true. ‘Like most Americans, the president believes that we cannot allow a mere allegation — in this case, one from many years ago — to destroy a person’s life,’ Sanders said. ‘However, the president also believes that if these allegations are true, Judge Moore will do the right thing and step aside.’ Two parts of that stand out: The words ‘mere allegation’ and ‘one from many years ago.’ Up front — and unlike the reactions from Senate Republicans — Trump decided he would like to stress that these accusations might not be true. This is perhaps understandable and to be expected from another politician who has been accused of sexual misconduct and strenuously denied it.” See also, Roy Moore’s shaky defense of the sexual misconduct allegations against him, annotated, The Washington Post, Amber Phillips and Eugene Scott, Friday, 10 November 2017. See also, How low will the Republican party sink? The Washington Post, Editorial Board, Friday, 10 November 2017: “In 1979, Roy Moore, then a 32-year-old assistant district attorney in Alabama, allegedly brought a 14-year-old girl to his home alone. She told The Post that Mr. Moore served her alcoholic drinks, kissed her and undressed her. Mr. Moore reportedly pursued relationships with three other teenagers between 16 and 18 during that same time period. Such predatory behavior is appalling from any quarter — particularly from a government official with great power in his community. It is especially egregious in a candidate for federal office. Yet Republican officials have yet to denounce the alleged conduct of Mr. Moore, the GOP’s nominee for senator from Alabama, as clearly beyond the pale. The four women who spoke to The Post all described similar behavior from Mr. Moore, who flattered the teenagers before asking them out on dates or taking them to his house. Only one woman, Leigh Corfman, remembered the candidate as having initiated sexual contact beyond kissing. Ms. Corfman was 14 at the time, below Alabama’s age of consent at 16 — meaning Mr. Moore’s alleged actions would have broken state law. Mr. Moore’s campaign declares that ‘this garbage is the very definition of fake news.’ ‘Innocent until proven guilty is for criminal convictions, not elections,’ former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney wrote, demanding that Mr. Moore withdraw from the race. ‘I believe Leigh Corfman.’ Unfortunately, other members of Mr. Romney’s party lack this moral clarity. With some exceptions — including Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), who likewise called for Mr. Moore to step aside — Republicans in Washington have hedged their condemnations. ‘If true, [the allegations] would disqualify anyone from serving in office,’ a statement from Vice President Pence’s office announced. ‘If these allegations are true, he must step aside,’ Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declared.”

Will the Republican Party Fail Another Roy Moore Test? The New Yorker, Amy Davidson Sorkin, Friday, 10 November 2017: “The report, in the Washington Post, that Roy Moore, the Alabama Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate, engaged in predatory behavior with teen-age girls when he was in his thirties, poses a test for Republicans, but it would be farcical to say that it is the first difficult problem that he has posed for them. Roy Moore tests have been administered regularly, and with few exceptions the G.O.P.’s leaders have failed them spectacularly. On October 26th, for example, Senator Jeff Flake, of Arizona, said that he could not endorse Moore because ‘a guy who says a Muslim member of Congress shouldn’t be able to serve—that’s not right.’ This is, indeed, something that Moore said, in 2006, in an opinion piece for WorldNetDaily, in which he argued that Representative Keith Ellison, a Democrat from Minnesota, should not be seated; when questioned about it in October, he said that the article was an accurate expression of his views. But, two days before Flake’s remarks, the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee had entered into a joint fund-raising agreement with Moore, one of a number of ways that the institutional Party has put its weight behind his campaign. (On Friday afternoon, the N.S.R.C. withdrew.) Neither Flake’s warning nor a speech that he gave on the Senate floor pointing out that Moore, who talks a good deal about religious freedom, was trampling on that tradition caused anyone in the Republican leadership to budge. This was true even though, in the Alabama primary, the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, had endorsed Moore’s opponent Luther Strange. But Moore’s victory seemed to wash all that away. The Majority Whip, Senator John Cornyn, of Texas, endorsed him, and so did Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. Others dodged questions about him. One of the only other Republican senators to join Flake—who is, perhaps not incidentally, retiring after this term—in openly refusing to endorse Moore was Ben Sasse, of Nebraska, who said, ‘The Constitution is pretty dang clear about not having a religious litmus test.’ What litmus tests does the Republican Party have these days? Islamophobia evidently wasn’t enough to end its support of Moore, but neither, apparently, were his imprecations that homosexuality should be criminally punished and that the Supreme Court’s marriage-equality ruling was worse than the Dred Scott decision; or his record of being twice removed from the Alabama bench for defying, and ordering other judges to defy, federal courts, once regarding a Ten Commandments monument outside his courthouse, and once for his attempt to deny marriage equality to Alabama couples; or that the foundation he formed has hosted ‘Secession Day’ events; or his brandishing of a gun on a stage at a political rally; or his comments about the Bible superseding American law; or his belief in birtherism—though that one, actually, loops back to Islamophobia, and to President Trump. The President, who first backed Strange, later said that Moore ‘sounds like a really great guy.’ If all that really weren’t enough, the Republican Party now has the alleged abuse of teen-age girls to consider.”

 

Continue reading Week 43, Friday, 10 November – Thursday, 16 November 2017 (Days 295-301)

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Trump, Week 42: Friday, 3 November – Thursday, 9 November 2017 (Days 288-294)

 

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, 3 November 2017, Day 288:

 

‘Very Frustrated’ Trump Becomes Top Critic of Law Enforcement and Says Justice Department and F.B.I. Must ‘Do What Is Right’ and Investigate Democrats, The New York Times, Peter Baker, Friday, 3 November 2017: “One of President Trump’s biggest disappointments in office, by his own account, was discovering that he is not supposed to personally direct law enforcement decisions by the Justice Department and the F.B.I. So, instead, he has made himself into perhaps the most vocal critic of America’s system of justice ever to occupy the Oval Office. Just this week, he denounced the criminal justice system as ‘a joke’ and ‘a laughingstock.’ He demanded that the suspect in the New York terrorist attack be executed. He spent Friday berating the Justice Department and F.B.I. for not investigating his political opponents. He then turned to the military justice system and called a court-martial decision ‘a complete and total disgrace.’ The repeated assaults on law enforcement cross lines that presidents have largely observed since the Watergate era, raising questions about the separation of politics and the law. But as extraordinary as Mr. Trump’s broadsides are, perhaps more striking is that investigators and prosecutors are so far ignoring the head of the executive branch in which they serve while military judges and juries are for the most part disregarding the opinions of their commander in chief. ‘You know, the saddest thing is that because I’m the president of the United States, I am not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department,’ Mr. Trump said in a radio interview on Thursday on the ‘Larry O’Connor Show.’ ‘I am not supposed to be involved with the F.B.I. I’m not supposed to be doing the kind of things that I would love to be doing. And I’m very frustrated by it.’ That frustration has been fueled particularly by Mr. Trump’s inability to control the special counsel investigation into whether his campaign coordinated with Russia during last year’s election, an investigation that unveiled its first criminal charges this week against Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman and two other advisers. Mr. Trump has made clear that he sees the attorney general and the F.B.I. director as his personal agents rather than independent figures, lashing out at both for not protecting him from the Russia investigation.” See also, Trump pressures Justice Department to investigate ‘Crooked Hillary,’ The Washington Post, Philip Rucker, Friday, 3 November 2017: “President Trump on Friday pressured the Department of Justice — and specifically the FBI — to investigate Hillary Clinton, ticking through a slew of issues involving the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee and her party, and urging law enforcement to ‘do what is right and proper.’ Trump’s advocacy for criminal probe of his political opponent marked a significant breach of the traditional boundaries within the executive branch designed to prevent investigations from being politicized.”

Commercial Real Estate, Which Fueled Trump’s Fortune, Fares Well in Tax Plan, The New York Times, Alan Rappeport, Friday, 3 November 2017: “An industry familiar to President Trump appears to have emerged from the Republican tax rewrite relatively unscathed: commercial real estate. For months, commercial real estate developers had been concerned that the tax plan in the works would make it more difficult or expensive for them to take out huge bank loans or would damage demand in the property market. But if the plan unveiled this week by House Republicans comes to pass, developers like Mr. Trump, who made much of his fortune building skyscrapers, hotels and resorts, will have little to worry about. ‘The industry was left whole,’ said Thomas J. Bisacquino, president of NAIOP, a commercial real estate development trade group. ‘The provisions we feel are working will still work.'”

13 Federal Agencies Unveiled an Exhaustive Scientific Report That Says Humans Are the Dominant Cause of Climate Change, Contradicting Top Officials in the Trump Administration, The New York Times, Lisa Friedman and Glenn Thrush, Friday, 3 November 2017: “Directly contradicting much of the Trump administration’s position on climate change, 13 federal agencies unveiled an exhaustive scientific report on Friday that says humans are the dominant cause of the global temperature rise that has created the warmest period in the history of civilization. Over the past 115 years global average temperatures have increased 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, leading to record-breaking weather events and temperature extremes, the report says. The global, long-term warming trend is ‘unambiguous,’ it says, and there is ‘no convincing alternative explanation’ that anything other than humans — the cars we drive, the power plants we operate, the forests we destroy — are to blame. The report was approved for release by the White House, but the findings come as the Trump administration is defending its climate change policies. The United Nations convenes its annual climate change conference next week in Bonn, Germany, and the American delegation is expected to face harsh criticism over President Trump’s decision to walk away from the 195-nation Paris climate accord and top administration officials’ stated doubts about the causes and impacts of a warming planet. ‘This report has some very powerful, hard-hitting statements that are totally at odds with senior administration folks and at odds with their policies,’ said Philip B. Duffy, president of the Woods Hole Research Center. ‘It begs the question, where are members of the administration getting their information from? They’re obviously not getting it from their own scientists.’ While there were pockets of resistance to the report in the Trump administration, according to climate scientists involved in drafting the report, there was little appetite for a knockdown fight over climate change among Mr. Trump’s top advisers, who are intensely focused on passing a tax reform bill — an effort they think could determine the fate of his presidency.” See also, What the Climate Report Says About the Impact of Global Warming, The New York Times, Henry Fountain and Bard Plumer, Friday, 3 November 2017: “The same, only worse. Global warming is affecting the United States more than ever, and the impacts — on communities, regions, infrastructure and sectors of the economy — are expected to increase. That’s the gist of Volume II of the National Climate Assessment, a draft report made public on Friday that focuses on the current and future impacts of climate change. The draft will eventually accompany a report on the science of climate change that was unveiled by 13 federal agencies in its final form on the same day. In addition to comments by members of the public, Volume II is being reviewed by an expert committee of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. After revisions by the agencies involved it is expected to be published in December 2018. Like the scientific report, the draft of Volume II contains many of the same findings cited in the previous National Climate Assessment, published in 2014. But reflecting some of the impacts that have been felt across the country in the past three years, some of the emphasis has changed.” See also, Trump administration releases scientific report finding ‘no convincing alternative explanation’ for climate change, The Washington Post, Chris Mooney, Juliet Eilperin, and Brady Dennis, Friday, 3 November 2017.

 

Continue reading Week 42, Friday, 3 November – Thursday, 9 November 2017 (Days 288-294)

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