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)


‘I’m the Only One That Matters’ Trump Says of State Department Job Vacancies, NPR, Bill Chappell, Friday, 3 November 2017: “President Trump says: ‘I’m the only one that matters’ in setting U.S. foreign policy, thus downplaying the importance of high-level jobs such as the assistant secretary of state, which is currently vacant. ‘Let me tell you, the one that matters is me,’ Trump said in an interview that aired on Fox News on Thursday night. ‘I’m the only one that matters, because when it comes to it, that’s what the policy is going to be. You’ve seen that, you’ve seen it strongly.’ The president was responding to a question from Fox’s Laura Ingraham, who asked him, ‘Are you worried that the State Department doesn’t have enough Donald Trump nominees in there to push your vision through?’ Ingraham added, ‘other State Departments, including Reagan’s, at times, undermined his agenda. And there is a concern that the State Department currently is undermining your agenda.’ Trump said, ‘So, we don’t need all the people that they want. You know, don’t forget, I’m a businessperson. I tell my people, “Where you don’t need to fill slots, don’t fill them.” But we have some people that I’m not happy with their thinking process.'”

Carter Page, a Foreign Policy Adviser to the Trump Presidential Campaign, Met With Russian Officials in 2016, The New York Times, Mark Mazzetti and Adam Goldman, Friday, 3 November 2017: “Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser to the Trump presidential campaign, met Russian government officials during a July 2016 trip he took to Moscow, according to testimony he gave on Thursday to the House Intelligence Committee. Shortly after the trip, Mr. Page sent an email to at least one Trump campaign aide describing insights he had after conversations with government officials, legislators and business executives during his time in Moscow, according to one person familiar with the contents of the message. The email was read aloud during the closed-door testimony. The new details of the trip present a different picture than the account Mr. Page has given during numerous appearances in the news media in recent months and are yet another example of a Trump adviser meeting with Russians officials during the 2016 campaign. In multiple interviews with The New York Times, he had either denied meeting with any Russian government officials during the July 2016 visit or sidestepped the question, saying he met with ‘mostly scholars.'”

Jared Kushner’s team turned over documents to special counsel in Russia investigation, CNN, Evan Perez, Pamela Brown, and Shimon Prokupecz, Friday, 3 November 2017: “Jared Kushner has turned over documents in recent weeks to special counsel Robert Mueller as investigators have begun asking in witness interviews about Kushner’s role in the firing of FBI Director James Comey, CNN has learned. Mueller’s investigators have expressed interest in Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and a White House senior adviser, as part of its probe into Russian meddling, including potential obstruction of justice in Comey’s firing, sources familiar with the matter said. Their questions about Kushner signal that Mueller’s investigators are reaching the President’s inner circle and have extended beyond the 2016 campaign to actions taken at the White House by high-level officials. It is not clear how Kushner’s advice to the President might relate to the overall Russia investigation or potential obstruction of justice. Sources close to the White House say that based on their knowledge, Kushner is not a target of the investigation.”

U.S. frees 10-year-old undocumented immigrant with cerebral palsy, The Washington Post, Maria Sacchetti, Friday, 3 November 2017: “Federal officials on Friday released a 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy who was detained in Texas Oct. 25 after undergoing surgery because she was an undocumented immigrant traveling without her parents. Rosa Maria Hernandez was transported from a federally funded shelter in San Antonio, where she had been held for 10 days, to her family’s home 150 miles south in the border city of Laredo. She was born in Mexico, but has lived in Texas since she was three months old. ‘I am incredibly happy that she’s going to be reunited with her mother and the rest of her family,’ said Andre Segura, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, which filed a lawsuit seeking her release this week. ‘The family is obviously very excited to have her back.’ The girl’s case sparked national outcry from members of Congress, physicians and lawyers who urged the government to let her go. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) called on the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold a hearing and even celebrities got involved, such as Tony-award-winner Lin-Manuel Miranda, who tweeted #FreeRosa. On Friday, as federal employees drove her home, advocates cheered the government’s decision and called on the Trump administration to drop any plans it may still have to deport the girl.”

Protected status no longer justified for Central Americans and Haitians in U.S., State Department says, The Washington Post, Nick Miroff and Karen De Young, Friday, 3 November 2017: “More than 300,000 Central Americans and Haitians living in the United States under a form of temporary permission no longer need to be shielded from deportation, the State Department told Homeland Security officials this week, a few days ahead of a highly anticipated DHS announcement about whether to renew that protection. On Tuesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sent a letter to acting DHS secretary Elaine Duke to inform her that conditions in Central America and Haiti that had been used to justify the protection no longer necessitate a reprieve for the migrants, some of whom have been allowed to live and work in the United States for 20 years under a program known as Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Tillerson’s assessment, required by law, has not been made public, but its recommendations were confirmed by several administration officials familiar with its contents. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. DHS has until Monday to announce its plans for roughly 57,000 Hondurans and 2,500 Nicaraguans whose TPS protections will expire in early January. Although most arrived here illegally, they were exempted from deportation after Hurricane Mitch devastated Central America in 1998. Their TPS protections have been renewed routinely since then, in some cases following additional natural disasters and resulting insecurity. Congress established TPS in 1990 to protect foreign nationals from being returned to their countries amid instability and precarious conditions caused by natural disasters or armed conflict.”


Saturday, 4 November 2017, Day 289:


Donna Brazile: I considered replacing Clinton with Biden as 2016 Democratic nominee, The New York Times, Philip Rucker, Friday, 4 November 2017: “Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify the process that Donna Brazile considered initiating to have Hillary Clinton replaced as the Democratic presidential nominee. As interim chair of the Democratic National Committee, Brazile was not empowered to replace her unilaterally. Reactions from former Clinton campaign officials have also been added. Former Democratic National Committee head Donna Brazile writes in a new book that she seriously contemplated setting in motion a process to replace Hillary Clinton as the party’s 2016 presidential nominee with then-Vice President Biden in the aftermath of Clinton’s fainting spell, in part because Clinton’s campaign was ‘anemic’ and had taken on ‘the odor of failure.’ In an explosive new memoir, Brazile details widespread dysfunction and dissension throughout the Democratic Party, including secret deliberations over using her powers as interim DNC chair to initiate the process of removing Clinton and running mate Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.) from the ticket after Clinton’s Sept. 11, 2016, collapse in New York City. Brazile writes that she considered a dozen combinations to replace the nominees and settled on Biden and Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.), the duo she felt most certain would win over enough working-class voters to defeat Republican Donald Trump. But then, she writes, ‘I thought of Hillary, and all the women in the country who were so proud of and excited about her. I could not do this to them.’ Brazile paints a scathing portrait of Clinton as a well-intentioned, historic candidate whose campaign was badly mismanaged, took minority constituencies for granted and made blunders with ‘stiff’ and ‘stupid’ messages. The campaign was so lacking in passion for the candidate, she writes, that its New York headquarters felt like a sterile hospital ward where ‘someone had died.’ Brazile alleges that Clinton’s top aides routinely disrespected her and put the DNC on a ‘starvation diet,’ depriving it of funding for voter turnout operations. As one of her party’s most prominent black strategists, Brazile also recounts fiery disagreements with Clinton’s staffers — including a conference call in which she told three senior campaign officials, Charlie Baker, Marlon Marshall and Dennis Cheng, that she was being treated like a slave.”

Following Trump’s Lead, Republicans Grow Quiet on Guantánamo, The New York Times, Charlie Savage and Adam Goldman, Saturday, 4 November 2017: “For nearly a decade, a vocal faction of Republicans have insisted that America’s civilian criminal justice system is the wrong venue for handling terrorism suspects. And for a moment last week, it looked as if President Trump might vindicate their view by transferring the suspect in the New York truck attack to military custody at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Instead, the man, Sayfullo Saipov, was interrogated and charged in the civilian system. Explaining the outcome, Mr. Trump voiced a truth that Republicans have been loath to acknowledge: Civilian courts have been ruthlessly effective in bringing terrorists to justice, while the military commission system has floundered. ‘Would love to send the NYC terrorist to Guantánamo but statistically that process takes much longer than going through the Federal system,’ Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. ‘There is also something appropriate about keeping him in the home of the horrible crime he committed. Should move fast. DEATH PENALTY!’ With that, the president appeared to put to rest, for now, the question of whether he will soon fulfill his campaign vow to refill the wartime prison at Guantánamo with newly captured ‘bad dudes.’ His 10-month-old administration has yet to send any captives there, even as it has brought several foreign terrorism suspects to the United States for civilian prosecution. Those moves have been met by relative silence from many Republicans who emphatically opposed the Obama administration for taking the same steps. The reticence signaled that they may be quietly abandoning their stance now that a president who is a member of their party has to govern, thus draining partisan disagreement from an issue that was deeply politicized during the Obama years.”


Sunday, 5 November 2017, Day 290:


Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman gains power after sweeping purge of Saudi officials, The Washington Post, Kareem Fahlm, Sunday, 5 November 2017: “They seemed untouchable. The head of a huge construction conglomerate. A prince who led Saudi Arabia’s elite national guard. A billionaire investor who was one of the richest people in the world. But in one breathtaking stroke, the men were detained by the Saudi authorities in a purge that began Saturday night and swept up some of the most powerful and recognizable names in the country, including members of the Saudi royal family, cabinet ministers, titans of media and industry, and former officials. The detainees included Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a wealthy investor who owns major stakes in such companies as Twitter and Citigroup, according to an associate of his family. On Sunday, Saudi officials cast the arrests as the first shot in a battle against the country’s notorious and deeply rooted corruption, and as part of a broader effort by the country’s young and ambitious crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, to refresh the stagnating Saudi state. For others, though, the detentions seemed more like the continuation of a process that had been accelerating over the past two years: the ruthless consolidation of power by the crown prince before his father, King Salman, dies or abdicates the throne. That process — which included eliminating critics and rivals, but also elite figures who presided over independent power centers — amounted to a radical restructuring of the Saudi order, analysts said.” See also, Trump Tells Saudi King Salman That He Supports Modernization Drive, The New York Times, Mark Landler, Sunday, 5 November 2017.

Gunman Kills at Least 26 in Attack on Rural Texas Church, and Trump Calls the Shooting a ‘Mental Health Problem at the Highest Level, and Not ‘a Guns Situation,’ The New York Times, David Montgomery, Christopher Mele, and Manny Fernandez, Sunday, 5 November 2017: “A gunman clad in all black, with a ballistic vest strapped to his chest and a military-style rifle in his hands, opened fire on parishioners at a Sunday service at a small Baptist church in rural Texas, killing at least 26 people and turning this tiny town east of San Antonio into the scene of the country’s newest mass horror. The gunman was identified by the Texas Department of Public Safety as Devin Patrick Kelley, 26. Mr. Kelley, who lived in New Braunfels, Tex., died shortly after the attack. He had served in the Air Force at a base in New Mexico but was court-martialed in 2012 on charges of assaulting his wife and child. He was sentenced to 12 months’ confinement and received a ‘bad conduct’ discharge in 2014, according to Ann Stefanek, the chief of Air Force media operations…. Speaking at a news conference in Japan, the first stop on his tour of Asia, President Trump called the shooting a ‘mental health problem at the highest level’ and not ‘a guns situation,’ adding the gunman was a ‘very deranged individual.’ He also ordered flags flown at half-staff at the White House and all federal buildings through Thursday.”

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s Offshore Ties to Putin ‘Cronies,’ The New York Times, Mike McIntire, Sasha Chavkin, and Martha M. Hamilton, Sunday, 5 November 2017: “After becoming commerce secretary, Wilbur L. Ross Jr. retained investments in a shipping firm he once controlled that has significant business ties to a Russian oligarch subject to American sanctions and President Vladimir V. Putin’s son-in-law, according to newly disclosed documents. The shipper, Navigator Holdings, earns millions of dollars a year transporting gas for one of its top clients, a giant Russian energy company called Sibur, whose owners include the oligarch and Mr. Putin’s family member. Despite selling off numerous other holdings to join the Trump administration and spearhead its ‘America first’ trade policy, Mr. Ross kept an investment in Navigator, which increased its business dealings with Sibur even as the West sought to punish Russia’s energy sector over Mr. Putin’s incursions into Ukraine. Partnerships used by Mr. Ross, whose private equity firm has long been the biggest shareholder in Navigator, have a 31 percent stake in the company. Though his personal share of that stake was reduced as he took office in February, he retained an investment in the partnerships valued between $2 million and $10 million, and stood to earn a higher share of profits as a general partner, according to his government ethics disclosure and securities filings.”

Special Counsel Robert Mueller Has Enough Evidence to Bring Charges in Michael Flynn Investigation, NBC News, Julia Ainsley, Carol E. Lee, and Ken Dilanian, Sunday, 5 November 2017: “Federal investigators have gathered enough evidence to bring charges in their investigation of President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser and his son as part of the probe into Russia’s intervention in the 2016 election, according to multiple sources familiar with the investigation. Michael T. Flynn, who was fired after just 24 days on the job, was one of the first Trump associates to come under scrutiny in the federal probe now led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into possible collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign. Mueller is applying renewed pressure on Flynn following his indictment of Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, three sources familiar with the investigation told NBC News. The investigators are speaking to multiple witnesses in coming days to gain more information surrounding Flynn’s lobbying work, including whether he laundered money or lied to federal agents about his overseas contacts, according to three sources familiar with the investigation.”

Powerful Republican lawmaker, representative Bob Bishop of Utah, wants to ‘invalidate’ the Endangered Species Act. He’s getting close. The Washington Post, Darryl Fears, Sunday, 5 November 2017: “The congressman who said he ‘would love to invalidate’ the Endangered Species Act is closing in on his goal. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) recently shepherded five bills out of the Natural Resources Committee he chairs that would dismantle the law piece by piece. Many Republicans on the panel say the proposals are necessary changes that would modernize the 1973 law. Democrats and conservationists say the bills would whittle away the law’s ability to save wildlife from extinction. One measure would force the federal government to consider the economic impact of saving a species rather than make a purely scientific call. Another would require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which administers the act along with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to defer to data collected by states as the ‘best scientific and commercial data available,’ although state funding related to the act accounts for a small fraction of that supported by the federal government.”

Trump, who urged people to ‘hire American’ secures 70 foreign workers for Mar-a-Lago, The Washington Post, Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Sunday, 5 November 2017: “As winter approaches and the days get shorter, Florida is preparing for an influx of snowbirds, the nickname given to people who’d rather winter in the Sunshine State instead of, well, anywhere the temperature isn’t 83 degrees on Thanksgiving Day. And with the tourists comes a temporary boost for the industries that serve them. Those winter employment opportunities are typically menial and by definition temporary jobs that can be hard to fill. So Florida employers turn to immigrant labor by the thousands — people who are granted a temporary visa and spend a few months working in Florida. Demand meets supply, and beefed-up businesses hum along without much controversy. Unless, of course, those businesses happen to be owned by the president of the United States — particularly one who has blasted companies for hiring immigrants over American workers. President Trump recently won permission from the Labor Department to hire 70 cooks, maids and servers to work at his ritzy Mar-a-Lago Club for the tourist season, according to the Palm Beach Post. That’s six more than Trump hired last tourist season. He’s contributing to an influx of 2,159 immigrant workers snapping up the temporary jobs in Palm Beach County.”


Monday, 6 November 2017, Day 291:


Trump says Texas shooting is a problem of mental health, not guns, The Washington Post, Ashley Parker, Monday, 6 November 2017: “President Trump declared that the shooting in Sutherland Springs, Tex., that left at least 26 people dead was not ‘a guns situation,’ saying instead he believed that ‘mental health’ was the problem. Trump’s comments came at a news conference in Tokyo, when he was asked about the shooting at a South Texas church and if stricter gun laws were the answer. ‘I think that mental health is your problem here,’ Trump said. ‘Based on preliminary reports, a very deranged individual, a lot of problems for a long period of time.’ ‘But,’ Trump added, ‘this isn’t a guns situation.’ Though the alleged shooter has been identified as Devin Kelley, 26, the full mental state of Kelley has yet to be determined. Kelley, a Texas man who enlisted in the Air Force in 2010, was court-martialed in 2012 for assaulting his wife and child, and received a bad conduct discharge from the military in 2014.”

Trump Tells Japan It Can Protect Itself by Buying U.S. Arms, The New York Times, Mark Landler and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Monday, 6 November 2017: “President Trump said on Monday that Japan could protect itself from a nuclear-armed North Korea by buying billions of dollars of American military equipment, drawing an explicit link between trade and security as he began a complex, politically charged tour of Asia. By turns generous and challenging, Mr. Trump saluted Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as among his best friends in the club of world leaders. But he railed against what he said were chronic trade imbalances with Japan. And he implicitly acknowledged his disappointment that Mr. Abe did not shoot down missiles that North Korea recently fired over Japan. ‘He will shoot them out of the sky when he completes the purchase of lots of additional military equipment from the United States,’ Mr. Trump said, standing alongside Mr. Abe at the Akasaka Palace in Tokyo. ‘The prime minister of Japan is going to be purchasing massive amounts of military equipment, as he should.’ ‘It’s a lot of jobs for us and a lot of safety for Japan,’ the president added. Mr. Trump steered clear of the inflammatory statements about North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong-un, that he has used in the past. But he defended his use of such confrontational language, suggesting that the reluctance of his predecessors to make such statements had emboldened Mr. Kim.”

Trump expresses ‘great confidence’ in Saudi regime accused of political purge, The Washington Post, David Nakamura, Monday, 6 November 2017: “President Trump on Tuesday expressed ‘great confidence in the Saudi Arabian regime that has been accused of conducting a purge of political rivals by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as he eyes an eventual ascension to the throne. Trump wrote on Twitter that the crown prince and King Salman ‘know exactly what they are doing’ and the president accused those who have been detained since Saturday night in a sweeping series arrests of ‘milking their country for years.’ Saudi authorities swept up some of the most powerful and recognizable names in the country, including members of the Saudi royal family, cabinet ministers, titans of media and industry, and former officials. The campaign has been cast as an effort to root out deep-seated corruption in the Middle East nation, but critics have called it a ruthless effort by Mohammed bin Salman to consolidate power ahead of the king’s death or abdication of power.” See also, The Saudi Royal Purge–With Trump’s Consent, The New Yorker, Robin Wright, Monday, 6 November 2017.

Leaked documents reveal financial habits of Queen Elizabeth and Trump officials, The Washington Post, Rick Noack, Monday, 6 November 2017: “A huge leak of financial documents revealed by a group of about 100 media organizations on Sunday provided deep insights into some of the mechanisms used by top politicians and celebrities to escape paying taxes. Offshore funds are often used to avoid paying high taxes, and their use is not necessarily illegal, though when they are being used by the same people who set those tax rates, it tends to raise eyebrows. The majority of the people featured in the leaks come from the United States, followed by Britain. The concealing of the wealth of billionaires, politicians and at least one head of state in offshore accounts comes as a major embarrassment to the people included in the documents. The material could also end up being used as evidence in investigations looking into links between members of the Trump administration and entities affiliated with the Russian government.”

Trump supporter and coal-mining company owner Bob Murray wins big under Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s power plan, Politico, Darius Dixon and Eric Wolff, Monday, 6 November 2017: “A proposal by Energy Secretary Rick Perry to alter the nation’s electricity markets would provide a windfall for a small group of companies — most strikingly one owned by coal magnate Bob Murray, a prominent backer of President Donald Trump. Perry’s plan would force consumers to subsidize ailing coal-fired and nuclear power plants with billions of dollars, in what he calls an effort to ensure that the nation’s power network can withstand threats like terrorist attacks or severe weather. But his narrowly written proposal would mostly affect plants in a stretch of the Midwest and Northeast where Murray’s mining company, Murray Energy, is the predominant supplier, according to a POLITICO analysis of Energy Department data.”

About 2,500 Nicaraguans to Lose Special Permission to Live in the U.S., The New York Times, Ron Nixon, Monday, 6 November 2017: “Thousands of immigrants from Nicaragua who came to the United States illegally, many of them decades ago, will lose special permission allowing them to stay in the country, the Trump administration said on Monday. However, officials from the Department of Homeland Security said the effective date of termination would be delayed one year, until Jan. 5, 2019, to give about 2,500 individuals time to leave the country or adjust their immigration status. The program allowing them to stay, Temporary Protected Status, was enacted by Congress in 1990 to protect foreigners, particularly Central Americans, fleeing war, natural disasters or catastrophes and was extended to Haitians after the 2010 earthquake. Officials said that Elaine Duke, the acting secretary of homeland security, had not made a decision on hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and Honduras who are also covered under the program. The department had until Monday to extend or terminate the program for Nicaragua and Honduras. Ms. Duke, saying she did not have enough information, said she would continue to review protections for Hondurans. The temporary protective status covering immigrants from Honduras will be extended for at least six months, through July 5.”

Law professors file brief backing suit against Trump’s Twitter blockades, The Hill, Lydia Wheeler, Monday, 6 November 2017: “Law professors are accusing President Trump of acting like a dictator by blocking critics from his Twitter account. Georgetown Law’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection (ICAP) filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of seven professors Monday in support of the Columbia Knight First Amendment Institute’s lawsuit challenging Trump’s ability to block opponents from his @realDonaldTrump Twitter feed. The group, which includes Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California Berkeley School of Law, said ‘such practices are a familiar playbook for authoritarian regimes.’ ‘False impression that political leaders are adored by the public is critical to warping the public’s understanding of how those leaders are really viewed by the public and, in turn, to quashing democratic impulses,’ they wrote. In the 26-page brief, the legal scholars argue Trump has violated the First Amendment rights of critics he has blocked from commenting on his account. ‘These efforts harm the blocked users by denying them the opportunity to participate fully in the rapid, ongoing conversations occurring on social media,’ they wrote. ‘But more fundamentally, efforts to block users based on their criticism of the government threaten the very dangers that the First Amendment’s ban on viewpoint discrimination seeks to prevent: allowing the government to silence its critics, foster warped perceptions of officials’ popularity, and chill dissenting voices who may avoid speaking out for fear of reprisal.’ The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University filed the lawsuit in July on behalf of seven people who were blocked from the president’s @realDonaldTrump account, preventing them from viewing or replying to his tweets or viewing and participating in discussions associated with his tweets.”

Trump Jr. Hinted at Review of Anti-Russia Magnitsky Law if Trump Won the Election, Moscow Lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya Says, Bloomberg Politics, Irina Reznik and Henry Meyer, Monday, 6 November 2017: “A Russian lawyer who met with President Donald Trump’s oldest son last year says he indicated that a law targeting Russia could be re-examined if his father won the election and asked her for written evidence that illegal proceeds went to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, said in a two-and-a-half-hour interview in Moscow that she would tell these and other things to the Senate Judiciary Committee on condition that her answers be made public, something it hasn’t agreed to. She has received scores of questions from the committee, which is investigating possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. Veselnitskaya said she’s also ready — if asked — to testify to Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Her June 9, 2016 encounter with Donald Trump Jr., President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and then campaign manager Paul Manafort in New York plays a key role in allegations that the campaign worked with Russia to defeat Clinton. Veselnitskaya said she went to the New York meeting to show Trump campaign officials that major Democratic donors had evaded U.S. taxes and to lobby against the so-called Magnitsky law that punishes Russian officials for the murder of a Russian tax accountant who accused the Kremlin of corruption.”


Tuesday, 7 November 2017, Day 292:


With Virginia, Voters Give Democrats First Big Win of the Trump Era, The New York Times, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, Tuesday, 7 November 2017: “Voters delivered their first forceful rebuke of President Trump and his party on Tuesday night, with Democrats exploiting Mr. Trump’s deep unpopularity to capture the governorships in Virginia and New Jersey and make significant inroads into suburban communities that once favored the Republican Party. The Democratic Party’s crowning success of the night came in Virginia, where Lt. Gov. Ralph S. Northam, an understated physician and Army veteran, won a commanding victory for governor, overcoming a racially charged campaign by his Republican opponent and cementing Virginia’s transformation into a reliably Democratic state largely immune to Trump-style appeals. Mr. Northam was propelled to victory over Ed Gillespie, the Republican nominee, by liberal and moderate voters who were eager to send a message to Mr. Trump in a state that rejected him in 2016. Mr. Northam led Mr. Gillespie by nearly nine percentage points with 99 percent of precincts reporting, the widest victory in decades for a Democratic candidate for governor of Virginia.” See also, Trump tweets that failed Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie ‘did not embrace me,’ The Washington Post, John Wagner, Tuesday, 7 November 2017: “President Trump on Tuesday quickly sought to distance himself from Republican gubernatorial hopeful Ed Gillespie in the Virginia governor’s race as Democrat Ralph Northam was projected to win by multiple news outlets. ‘Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for,’ Trump said on Twitter in the midst of his visit to South Korea, as Virginia results continued to roll in, suggesting a comfortable Northam victory. Only 15 hours earlier, Trump took to Twitter to urge Virginians to vote for Gillespie, saying he would ‘totally turn around the high crime and poor economic performance of VA.'”

Phil Murphy Is Elected Governor of New Jersey, in a Lift for Democrats, The New York Times, Nick Corasaniti, Tuesday, 7 November 2017: “New Jersey became the seventh state in the country where Democrats now control the legislative and executive branches with the election on Tuesday of Philip D. Murphy, a former Wall Street banker with no experience in office, as its 56th governor. The decisive victory by Mr. Murphy, who transformed himself from a Goldman Sachs executive into a progressive Democrat to match the direction of an anxious political party, gives Democrats a badly needed lift and a governor who has vowed to make his state a bulwark against the policies of President Trump. Mr. Murphy’s ascendancy also brings an emphatic end to the tumultuous eight-year reign of Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican who was once considered a viable contender for the White House but who leaves office as one of the country’s least popular governors.”

Trump Says Tougher Gun Laws Could Have Worsened Texas Death Toll, The New York Times, Mark Landler, Tuesday, 7 November 2017: “President Trump said on Tuesday that stricter gun laws would not have prevented the shooting in a Texas church that killed 26 people and that they could have driven the death toll into the hundreds, since the gunman was shot by an armed bystander. Mr. Trump was asked during a joint news conference with the president of South Korea whether he would support ‘extreme vetting’ of gun buyers, comparable to the vetting his administration has sought to impose on visitors from some predominantly Muslim countries. ‘If you did what you’re suggesting, there would have been no difference three days ago,’ the president replied, ‘and you might not have had that very brave person who happened to have a gun or a rifle in his truck go out and shoot him and hit him and neutralize him. If he didn’t have a gun, instead of having 26 dead, you would have had hundreds more dead,’ Mr. Trump said. Mr. Trump did not address the fact that the Air Force has said it should have entered the assailant, Devin P. Kelley, into a federal database after he was court-martialed on domestic violence charges years ago. That would have prohibited him from legally buying the military-style rifle he used to kill 26 parishioners on Sunday inside a church in Sutherland Springs, Tex.”

Syria Joins Paris Climate Accord, Leaving Only the U.S. Opposed, The New York Times, Lisa Friedman, Tuesday, 7 November 2017: “Then there was one. Syria announced during United Nations climate talks on Tuesday that it would sign the Paris agreement on climate change. The move, which comes on the heels of Nicaragua signing the accord last month, will leave the United States as the only country that has rejected the global pact. According to several people who were in a plenary session at the climate talks in Bonn, Germany, a Syrian delegate announced that the country was poised to send its ratification of the Paris agreement to the United Nations. ‘This is the very last country that actually announced, so everyone has joined and the U.S. is now so isolated,’ said Safa Al Jayoussi, executive director of IndyAct, an environmental organization based in Lebanon that works with Arab countries on climate change.”

States will be allowed to impose Medicaid work requirements says Seema Verma who heads the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, The Washington Post, Paige Winfield Cunningham, Tuesday, 7 November 2017: “The government will give states broader leeway in running their Medicaid programs and allow them to impose work requirements on enrollees, a top federal health official said Tuesday in outlining how the Trump administration plans to put its mark on the insurance program for low-income Americans. Seema Verma, who heads the Health and Human Services Department’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, did not spare criticisms of the Obama administration and called its opposition to work requirements ‘soft bigotry.’ ‘Believing that community engagement requirements do not support the objectives of Medicaid is a tragic example of the soft bigotry of low expectations consistently espoused by the prior administration,’ Verma said in a sweeping address to the National Association of Medicaid Directors. ‘Those days are over.’ The speech was Verma’s most detailed public explanation of how she plans to approach Medicaid in a highly politicized era in which Republicans still hope to roll back its expansion under the Affordable Care Act as well as enact future spending cuts through their various health-care bills.”

Maine Voters Approve Medicaid Expansion, a Rebuke of Governor Paul LePage, The New York Times, Abby Goodnough, Tuesday, 7 November 2017: “Voters in Maine approved a ballot measure on Tuesday to allow many more low-income residents to qualify for Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act, The Associated Press said. The vote was a rebuke of Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican who has repeatedly vetoed legislation to expand Medicaid. At least 80,000 additional Maine residents will become eligible for Medicaid as a result of the referendum. Maine will be the 32nd state to expand the program under the health law, but the first where voters, not governors or legislators, decided the issue. Other states whose leaders have resisted expanding the program were closely watching the campaign, particularly Utah and Idaho, where newly formed committees are working to get Medicaid expansion on next year’s ballots. Supporters, including advocacy groups that collected enough signatures to get the question on the ballot, said the measure would help financially fragile rural hospitals, create jobs and provide care for vulnerable people who have long gone without. Mr. LePage and other opponents, including several Republicans in the state Legislature, said Medicaid expansion would burden the taxpayers and the state budget, and described it as a form of welfare.”

Trump Softens Tone on North Korea and Urges Deal on Nuclear Weapons, Bloomberg Politics, Jennifer Jacobs, Kanga Kong, and Nick Wadhams, Tuesday, 7 November 2017: “President Donald Trump toned down his harsh rhetoric toward North Korea during a visit to Seoul, telling reporters the Pyongyang regime should ‘come to the table’ to make a deal and refusing to rule out direct talks. Trump’s remarks were a far cry from his comments in recent months, when he promised ‘fire and fury’ against North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and suggested negotiations with Pyongyang were a waste of time. With his remarks, Trump went further than he has before, amid the recent tensions, in saying he was open to engaging with Kim’s regime. ‘I really believe that it makes sense for North Korea to come to the table and to make a deal that’s good for the people of North Korea and the people of the world,’ Trump said at a briefing alongside South Korean President Moon Jae-in. ‘I do see certain movement, yes, but let’s see what happens.'”

CIA Director Mike Pompeo Met With William Binney, a Former National Security Agency Official-Turned-Whistleblower Who Is an Advocate of the Theory That the Hack of the Democratic National Committee’s Emails During the 2016 Presidential Campaign Was an Inside Job, Not a Hack by Russian Intelligence, The Intercept, Duncan Campbell and James Risen, Tuesday, 7 November 2017: “CIA Director Mike Pompeo met late last month with a former U.S. intelligence official who has become an advocate for a disputed theory that the theft of the Democratic National Committee’s emails during the 2016 presidential campaign was an inside job, rather than a hack by Russian intelligence. Pompeo met on October 24 with William Binney, a former National Security Agency official-turned-whistleblower who co-authored an analysis published by a group of former intelligence officials that challenges the U.S. intelligence community’s official assessment that Russian intelligence was behind last year’s theft of data from DNC computers. Binney and the other former officials argue that the DNC data was ‘leaked,’ not hacked, ‘by a person with physical access’ to the DNC’s computer system. In an interview with The Intercept, Binney said Pompeo told him that President Donald Trump had urged the CIA director to meet with Binney to discuss his assessment that the DNC data theft was an inside job. During their hour-long meeting at CIA headquarters, Pompeo said Trump told him that if Pompeo ‘want[ed] to know the facts, he should talk to me,’ Binney said.” See also, Trump’s CIA director Mike Pompeo keeps doing controversial–and suspiciously pro-Trump–things, The Washington Post, Aaron Blake, Tuesday, 7 November 2017.

Trump adviser Carter Page sent email describing ‘private conversation’ with Russian official, The Washington Post, Rosalind S. Helderman, Matt Zapotosky, and Karoun Demirjian, Tuesday, 7 November 2017: “Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser to President Trump’s campaign whose visit to Moscow during the election has drawn scrutiny, sent an email to fellow Trump aides during his trip describing ‘a private conversation’ with a senior Russian official who spoke favorably of the Republican candidate, according to records released late Monday by congressional investigators. Page also wrote that he had been provided ‘incredible insights and outreach’ by Russian lawmakers and ‘senior members’ of Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s administration during the trip. The email appeared to contradict earlier statements by Page, who had said he had only exchanged brief greetings with the senior Russian official, Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, after he delivered a speech at a Russian university. In his July 2016 note, Page wrote that Dvorkovich had ‘expressed strong support for Mr. Trump and a desire to work together toward devising better solutions in response to a vast range of current international problems.’ Page’s email was read aloud by Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) when Page met behind closed doors last week with the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The committee released the transcript of the seven-hour session late Monday.”

Robert Mercer’s offshore cash helped fund Steve Bannon’s attacks on Hillary Clinton, The Guardian, Jon Swaine, Tuesday, 7 November 2017: “Eighteen months before guiding Donald Trump to election victory, Steve Bannon delivered the opening shot in the ruthless Republican campaign to paint their Democratic opponent as corrupt. The future White House chief strategist produced a book in May 2015 accusing Hillary Clinton of trading favours for donations to her charitable foundation. Its questionable central charge, on the sale of a uranium company to Russia, recently became the subject of a House inquiry and feverish talk on conservative media. Leaked documents and newly obtained public filings show how the billionaire Mercer family built a $60m war chest for conservative causes inside their family foundation by using an offshore investment vehicle to avoid US tax. The offshore vehicle was part of a network of companies in the Atlantic tax haven of Bermuda led by Robert Mercer, the wealthy hedge-fund executive and Bannon patron whose spending helped put Trump in the White House and aided a resurgence of the Republican right. Mercer, 71, appears as a director of eight Bermuda companies in the Paradise Papers, a trove of millions of leaked documents on offshore finance reviewed by the Guardian, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and other partners. The files include a copy of Mercer’s US passport and other private data. Some of the Bermuda companies appear to have been used to legally avoid a little-known US tax of up to 39% on tens of millions of dollars in investment profits amassed by the Mercer family’s foundation, which funded Bannon’s book and a who’s who of conservative groups, along with a $475m retirement fund for the staff of Mercer’s hedge fund, Renaissance Technologies.”


Wednesday, 8 November 2017, Day 293:


Key Takeaways From Tuesday’s Elections, The New York Times, Michael Tackett and Jonathan Martin, Wednesday, 8 November 2017: “By any measure, Tuesday was a big night for Democrats, especially in Virginia, where they swept the top offices, including governor, and made strong gains in the General Assembly. [This article has] some key takeaways from the biggest election night since President Trump’s victory a year ago.” See also, Here’s a List of Historic Victories Democrats Had on Election Day, HuffPost, Philip Lewis and Willa Frej, Wednesday, 8 November 2017. See also, Transgender Heavy Metal Singer Danica Roem Defeated Republican Bob Marshall, the Author of Virginia’s Anti-Transgender Bathroom BillMediaite, Lawrence Bonk, Wednesday, 8 November 2017: “Last night was full of surprises, with Democrats winning multiple governorships and flipping 14 seats in the Virginia House, with five still too close to call. One of these newly elected lawmakers is Danica Roem, a transgender woman and former journalist. Roem, 33, ousted House of Delegates Republican Bob Marshall, nicknamed ‘Bigot Bob’ by Virginia progressives. Marshall, 73, is most famous for being the author of the state’s infamous transgender ‘bathroom bill,”’ which sought to regulate public restrooms. Incumbent Marshall has been serving in the state’s 13th district for the past 26 years, making Roem’s victory even more historic. Marshall also ran a fairly despicable campaign, consistently misgendering Roem and even refusing to debate her. He’s also referred to himself as Virginia’s ‘chief homophobe.’ ‘Why do you call Danica a female?’ he asked a local newspaper. ‘Did Danica’s DNA change?’ So, who is Danica Roem? In addition to being a working journalist, she moonlights as the singer in a heavy metal band. Yeah. A transgender heavy metal singer defeated the author of Virginia’s anti-trans bathroom bill.” See also, Democrat Danica Roem defeated incumbent Robert G. Marshall (Republican) and became Virginia’s first openly transgender elected official, The Washington Post, Antonio Olivo, Wednesday, 8 November 2017: “Virginia’s most socially conservative state lawmaker was ousted from office Tuesday by Danica Roem, a Democrat who will be one of the nation’s first openly transgender elected officials and who embodies much of what Del. Robert G. Marshall fought against in Richmond. The race focused on traffic and other local issues in suburban Prince William County but also exposed the nation’s fault lines over gender identity. It pitted a 33-year-old former journalist who began her physical gender transition four years ago against a 13-term incumbent who called himself Virginia’s ‘chief homophobe’ and earlier this year introduced a ‘bathroom bill’ that died in committee…. Marshall, 73, who refused to debate Roem and referred to her with male pronouns, declined an interview request but posted a concession message on Facebook.”

State Department senior ranks are being depleted at ‘dizzying speed’ writes Ambassador Barbara Stephenson, the President of the American Foreign Service Association Union, ABC News, Conor Finnegan, Wednesday, 8 November 2017: “The U.S.’s ranks of diplomats are losing key leaders at a ‘dizzying speed’ as the State Department struggles to recruit talent amid a hiring freeze and sinking morale in the Trump administration, according to a new essay from a top ambassador. Three of the agency’s five career ambassadors, the highest rank for diplomats, have retired or quit since January. Nearly half of career ministers — the next level down and equivalent to the military’s three-star generals — are gone too, down to 19 from 33. The next-level minister counselors have seen their numbers drop by 62 diplomats, to 369, since Labor Day ‘and are still falling,’ writes Ambassador Barbara Stephenson, the president of the American Foreign Service Association union.”

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt vows to continue rolling back the Obama-Era Clean Power Plan, a major rule aimed at combating climate change, despite alarming climate report, USA Today, Ledyard King, Wednesday, 8 November 2017: “EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said a newly released government report that lays most of the blame for the rise of global temperatures to human activity won’t deter him from continuing to roll back the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, a major rule aimed at combating climate change. ‘We’re taking the very necessary step to evaluate our authority under the Clean Air Act and we’ll take steps that are required to issue a subsequent rule. That’s our focus,’ Pruitt said in an interview with USA TODAY Tuesday. ‘Does this report have any bearing on that? No it doesn’t. It doesn’t impact the withdrawal and it doesn’t impact the replacement.'”

White House implements new Cuba policy restricting travel and trade, The Washington Post, Karen DeYoung, Wednesday, 8 November 2017: “The Trump administration announced tight new restrictions Wednesday on American travel and trade with Cuba, implementing policy changes President Trump announced five months ago to reverse Obama administration normalization with the communist-ruled island. Under the new rules, most individual visits to Cuba will no longer be allowed, and U.S. citizens will again have to travel as part of groups licensed by the Treasury Department for specific purposes, accompanied by a group representative. Americans also will be barred from staying at a long list of hotels and from patronizing restaurants, stores and other enterprises that the State Department has determined are owned by or benefit members of the Cuban government, specifically its security services. The new rules ‘are intended to steer economic activities away from the Cuban military, intelligence and security services . . . and encourage the government to move toward greater economic freedom’ for the Cuban people, said a senior administration official, one of several authorized by the White House to brief reporters on the changes on the condition of anonymity.”

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross ‘lied’ about his wealth to make richest Americans list, says Forbes magazine, The Washington Post, Fred Barbash, Wednesday, 8 November 2017: “Forbes magazine says that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross ‘lied to us’ about his net worth, exaggerating it by billions of dollars to make the widely cited ‘Forbes 400’ list of richest people in America. Ross was dropped from the list for 2017 after being a presence for 13 years. In an article Dan Alexander posted Tuesday, Forbes said it discovered a discrepancy after examining Ross’s government financial disclosure forms, on which Ross, a Wall Street investor before President Trump put him in his Cabinet, listed his assets at $700 million. That’s not even close to qualifying for what the magazine calls ‘the country’s most exclusive club’ in which the richest person, Bill Gates, is worth $89 billion and the poorest a mere $2 billion. Nor was it close to what Ross had told the magazine he was worth in 2016, about $3.7 billion or to what he told Forbes recently, that his net worth was about $2.7 billion. When Forbes asked Ross about the wide gap between the worth he claims and the assets on his government disclosure forms, he said that he had put ‘more than $2 billion’ into trusts for his family just between the election and his nomination as commerce secretary that did not have to be disclosed in the federal filings. Added to the $700 million, that would place his worth at about $2.7 billion. He insisted to Forbes that he still qualified for the widely cited rich list. But he declined to provide documentation of the $2 billion transfer of money into trusts, citing ‘privacy issues,’ Forbes said. Forbes reported that it consulted ethics and tax experts who raised questions about Ross’s assertion.”

Inside Education Secretary Betsy De Vos’s efforts to shrink the Education Department, The Washington Post, Moriah Balingit and Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, Wednesday, 8 November 2017: “The seventh floor of the Education Department’s headquarters near the Mall used to bustle. Now, nearly a dozen offices sit empty and quiet. The department’s workforce has shrunk under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who has said she wants to decrease the federal government’s role in education, including investigations and enforcement of civil rights in schools. In all, the department has shed about 350 workers since December — nearly 8 percent of its staff — including political appointees. With buyouts offered to 255 employees in recent days, DeVos hopes to show even more staff the door.”

The New Washington Drama: Treasury Secretary Versus Treasury Secretary, The New York Times, Alan Rappeport, Wednesday, 8 November 2017: “It is an unwritten rule that if a former Treasury secretary has nothing nice to say about one of his successors he does not say anything at all. But in the nation’s capital these days, the rules of political comity are meant to be broken. Raising eyebrows in economic circles, Lawrence H. Summers, the mercurial Treasury secretary for President Bill Clinton, has leveled a barrage of increasingly personal criticism at the current Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin. In podcasts, blog posts, op-eds and on Twitter, Mr. Summers, the former president of Harvard and a top economic adviser to President Barack Obama, has accused Mr. Mnuchin of damaging the credibility of Treasury by making ‘irresponsible’ economic assessments of the administration’s tax plan and acting as a ‘sycophant’ to President Trump.”

Democrats Assail Environmental Nominees Andrew R. Wheeler and Kathleen Hartnett White Over Climate Change, The New York Times, Lisa Friedman, Wednesday, 8 November 2017: “A Senate hearing on nominees for two top environmental posts on Wednesday quickly turned testy over the Trump administration’s ambivalence on climate change science. Andrew R. Wheeler, a lobbyist for Murray Energy, which is owned by Robert E. Murray, an Appalachian coal mining magnate and prominent backer of President Trump, has been nominated to be the deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Kathleen Hartnett White, a former Texas environmental regulator who has described belief in global warming as ‘a kind of paganism,’ has been tapped to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Democratic members of the Environment and Public Works Committee focused much of their hostility on Mrs. White, a fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation and the former chairwoman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Democrats assailed her past writings on climate change, including articles in which she called carbon dioxide ‘the gas of life’ and described renewable energy as parasitic.”

Justice Department Says Not So Fast to At&T’s Time Warner Bid, The New York Times, Michael J. de la Merced, Emily Steel, Andrew Ross Sorkin, and Cecilia Kang, Wednesday, 8 November 2017: “It seemed like a match made in media heaven. AT&T is a telecommunications giant whose reach stretches to millions of people all over the country, and Time Warner, the owner of CNN, HBO and Warner Bros., has content galore. Together, the two companies would create a colossus straddling the worlds of internet access, news and entertainment. Until last week, AT&T’s pending $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner seemed destined to close by the end of the year. On Wednesday, however, tensions between the Justice Department and executives at the two companies spilled out into the open. Now it seems possible that the Justice Department and AT&T will end up battling each other in court. The ongoing negotiations have also demonstrated how the Trump administration may regulate big-ticket mergers and acquisitions, representing the first major test for the government’s antitrust strategy. A central component of the dispute, according to people from both companies and the Justice Department, is CNN — the network that Mr. Trump has frequently attacked as a purveyor of ‘fake news.'”


Thursday, 9 November 2017, Day 294:


Woman says Roy Moore, the Republican nominee in Alabama for a U.S. Senate seat, initiated sexual encounter when she was 14, and he was 32, The Washington Post, Stephanie McCrummen, Beth Reinhard, and Alice Crites, Thursday, 9 November 2017: “Leigh Corfman says she was 14 years old when an older man approached her outside a courtroom in Etowah County, Ala. She was sitting on a wooden bench with her mother, they both recall, when the man introduced himself as Roy Moore. It was early 1979 and Moore — now the Republican nominee in Alabama for a U.S. Senate seat — was a 32-year-old assistant district attorney. He struck up a conversation, Corfman and her mother say, and offered to watch the girl while her mother went inside for a child custody hearing. ‘He said, “Oh, you don’t want her to go in there and hear all that. I’ll stay out here with her,”‘ says Corfman’s mother, Nancy Wells, 71. ‘I thought, how nice for him to want to take care of my little girl.’ Alone with Corfman, Moore chatted with her and asked for her phone number, she says. Days later, she says, he picked her up around the corner from her house in Gadsden, drove her about 30 minutes to his home in the woods, told her how pretty she was and kissed her. On a second visit, she says, he took off her shirt and pants and removed his clothes. He touched her over her bra and underpants, she says, and guided her hand to touch him over his underwear. ‘I wanted it over with — I wanted out,’ she remembers thinking. ‘Please just get this over with. Whatever this is, just get it over.’ Corfman says she asked Moore to take her home, and he did. Two of Corfman’s childhood friends say she told them at the time that she was seeing an older man, and one says Corfman identified the man as Moore. Wells says her daughter told her about the encounter more than a decade later, as Moore was becoming more prominent as a local judge. Aside from Corfman, three other women interviewed by The Washington Post in recent weeks say Moore pursued them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18 and he was in his early 30s, episodes they say they found flattering at the time, but troubling as they got older. None of the three women say that Moore forced them into any sort of relationship or sexual contact…. In a written statement, Moore denied the allegations. ‘These allegations are completely false and are a desperate political attack by the National Democrat Party and the Washington Post on this campaign,’ Moore, now 70, said.” See also, Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Says Roy Moore, Republican Nominee in Alabama for a U.S. Senate Seat, Should Exit Senate Race ‘If These Sex Allegations Are True,’ The New York Times, Richard Fausset, Jonathan Martin, and Campbell Robertson, Thursday, 9 November 2017: “Republicans in Washington seemed near panic Thursday in the light of a news report in which four women said Roy S. Moore, the Republican nominee for a United States Senate seat in Alabama and an evangelical Christian, had made sexual or romantic overtures to them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican majority leader, said Mr. Moore should step aside ahead of the Dec. 12 special election if the allegations were true. But in Alabama, the fallout was uncertain for a candidate who is considered a hero in some circles for his conservative cultural stances. Mr. Moore, the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, was twice removed from that office for his positions on gay marriage and a Ten Commandments display. On Thursday, he strenuously denied the allegations the women made about him in on-the-record interviews included in the report, published by The Washington Post. And it was clear that many in his conservative base were in no mood to desert him in a race for a Senate seat Republicans consider crucial to maintaining their majority in the upper chamber.” See also, Roy Moore, the Republican nominee for Senate in Alabama, was removed from 1990s divorce case after he barred lesbian from seeing her children unsupervised, CNN, Andrew Kaczynski and Chris Massie, Thursday, 9 November 2017: “Roy Moore, the Republican nominee for Senate in Alabama, ruled in a 1990s divorce case that a woman who had a lesbian affair couldn’t visit her children unsupervised or with her partner, writing that the ‘minor children will be detrimentally affected by the present lifestyle’ of the mother. Moore, then a circuit judge, was ultimately removed from the case by an Alabama appeals court after the woman and her attorneys argued that he couldn’t be impartial because of his views on homosexuality, according to public court documents reviewed by CNN’s KFile. The case took place years before Moore garnered national attention for his public battle over a Ten Commandments statue and his more recent refusal to enforce the Supreme Court’s ruling allowing same-sex marriage nationwide, both of which resulted in Moore’s removal from the Alabama Supreme Court. It offers an early glimpse of how Moore’s interpretation of the Bible and morality would inform his decisions as a public official.”

Trump Bodyguard Keith Schiller Testifies Russian Offered Women to Trump and Was Turned Down, NBC News, Ken Dilanian and Jonathan Allen, Thursday, 9 November 2017: “After a business meeting before the Miss Universe Pageant in 2013, a Russian participant offered to ‘send five women’ to Donald Trump’s hotel room in Moscow, his longtime bodyguard told Congress this week, according to three sources who were present for the interview. Two of the sources said the bodyguard, Keith Schiller, viewed the offer as a joke, and immediately responded, ‘We don’t do that type of stuff.’ The two sources said Schiller’s comments came in the context of him adamantly disputing the allegations made in the Trump dossier, written by a former British intelligence operative, which describes Trump having an encounter with prostitutes at the hotel during the pageant. Schiller described his reaction to that story as being, ‘Oh my God, that’s bull—-,’ two sources said. The conversation with the Russian about the five women took place after a morning meeting about the pageant in Moscow broke up, two sources said. That night, two sources said, Schiller said he discussed the conversation with Trump as Trump was walking back to his hotel room, and Schiller said the two men laughed about it as Trump went to bed alone. Schiller testified that he stood outside Trump’s hotel room for a time and then went to bed. One source noted that Schiller testified he eventually left Trump’s hotel room door and could not say for sure what happened during the remainder of the night.

George Papadopoulos, former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, represented the Trump campaign at various meetings with foreign officials up until inauguration day, CNN, Maegan Vazquez, Thursday, 9 November 2017: “He’s been dismissed as a ‘low-level volunteer’ and just a ‘coffee boy,’ but former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos represented the Trump campaign at various meetings with foreign officials up until Inauguration Day. In October, Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the FBI ‘about the timing, extent and nature of his relationships and interactions with certain foreign nationals whom he understood to have close connections with senior Russian government officials,’ according to court filings. The former adviser pushed to set up a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and then-candidate Donald Trump, and had a meeting in April 2016 with a professor who told him that ‘the Russians’ possessed ‘dirt’ on Hillary Clinton in the form of ‘thousands of emails,’ according to court filings. Ever since the charges were unsealed last week, Trump’s allies have dismissed the former adviser’s influence.”

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly tried to pressure acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke to expel thousands of Hondurans, officials say, The Washington Post, Nick Miroff, Thursday, 9 November 2017: “On Monday, as the Department of Homeland Security prepared to extend the residency permits of tens of thousands of Hondurans living in the United States, White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly called acting secretary Elaine Duke to pressure her to expel them, according to current and former administration officials. Duke refused to reverse her decision and was angered by what she felt was a politically driven intrusion by Kelly and Tom Bossert, the White House homeland security adviser, who also called her about the matter, according to officials with knowledge of Monday’s events. They spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.”

Trump Voter Fraud Commission Is Sued by One of Its Own Commissioners, Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, ProPublica, Jessica Huseman, Thursday, 9 November 2017: “A Democratic member of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity filed suit against the commission in federal court in Washington, D.C. on Thursday morning, alleging that its Republican leadership has intentionally excluded him from deliberations and violated federal transparency laws. The commission has been sued more times (eight, including the new filing) than it has officially convened for meetings (two times). The suit, filed by Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, accuses the commission of violating the Federal Advisory Commission Act, which, among other things, requires that advisory committees be bipartisan and sets transparency requirements for them. ‘Everything we are doing is absolutely perpendicular to that,’ Dunlap charged in an interview. ‘We aren’t inviting the public to participate. We aren’t transparent. And we aren’t even working together at all. My real fear is that this commission will offer policy recommendations that have not been properly vetted by all of the commissioners.’ The complaint contends Dunlap ‘has been, and continues to be, blocked from receiving Commission documents necessary to carry out his responsibilities’ despite repeated requests to be included. It asserts that Dunlap is moving forward with the lawsuit ‘reluctantly’ in order to prevent the commission from ‘becoming exactly the kind of one-sided, partisan undertaking the Federal Advisory Committee Act was designed to prohibit.’ The commission shouldn’t be surprised by the suit, said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight, an advocacy group that is representing Dunlap in the suit. Dunlap has written to the commission multiple times, asking them to address his grievances. ‘We think the commission is on more than enough notice they are not living up to their obligations,’ Evers said, adding that he hopes to avoid a protracted legal battle.”

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski (Republican-Alaska) released legislation that would open Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling for the first time in a generation, The Washington Post, Juliet Eilperin, Thursday, 9 November 2017: “Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowksi (R-Alaska) released legislation Wednesday that would open Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling for the first time in a generation by calling for at least two major lease sales over the next decade. The budget measure directs federal officials to auction off mineral rights in areas encompassing at least 400,000 acres each in the refuge’s coastal plain, also known as its ‘1002 area.’ The measure requires at least a 16.67 percent royalty rate and dictates that the revenue would be evenly split between the federal government and Alaska.”