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)

Trump judge nominee Brett J. Talley, 36, who has never tried a case, wins approval of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Los Angeles Times,  David G. Savage, Friday, 10 November 2017: “Brett J. Talley, President Trump’s nominee to be a federal judge in Alabama, has never tried a case, was unanimously rated ‘not qualified’ by the American Bar Assn.’s judicial rating committee, has practiced law for only three years and, as a blogger last year, displayed a degree of partisanship unusual for a judicial nominee, denouncing ‘Hillary Rotten Clinton’ and pledging support for the National Rifle Assn. On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee, on a party-line vote, approved him for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench. Talley, 36, is part of what Trump has called the ‘untold story’ of his success in filling the courts with young conservatives. ‘The judge story is an untold story. Nobody wants to talk about it,’ Trump said last month, standing alongside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in the White House Rose Garden. ‘But when you think of it, Mitch and I were saying, that has consequences 40 years out, depending on the age of the judge — but 40 years out.’ Civil rights groups and liberal advocates see the matter differently. They denounced Thursday’s vote, calling it ‘laughable’ that none of the committee Republicans objected to confirming a lawyer with as little experience as Talley to preside over federal trials.” See also, Brett Talley, Trump Nominee for Federal Judgeship, Has Never Tried a Case, Vivian Wang, Saturday, 11 November 2017.

Ahead of Trump Visit, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte Boasts He Once Stabbed a Man to Death, The Intercept, Robert Mackey, Friday, 10 November 2017: “Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, whose bloody war on drugs has led to the deaths of more than 12,000 Filipinos, boasted on Thursday that he is no more concerned with killing now than he was at the age of 16, when he said he stabbed a man to death just because he looked at him the wrong way. Duterte, who is preparing to make President Donald Trump feel at home in Manila this weekend, made the remarks in an address to Filipinos living in Vietnam, where he was attending an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.”

New York Times photographer Doug Mills tweets ‘photo’ of black box to protest White House coverage blackout, The Washington Post, David Nakamura, Friday, 10 November 2017: “News photographers and reporters traveling with President Trump are protesting a lack of access provided by the White House to his events here at a regional economic conference. On Saturday, New York Times photographer Doug Mills, a member of the White House Correspondents’ Association board, tweeted a ‘photo’ of a black box, framed with a decorative border, to illustrate the group’s frustration. In the tweet, Mills said the 13-member travel “pool” of reporters, photographers and camera operators that provides reports for the rest of the news media would have no access at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. The pool, which on Saturday included a reporter from The Washington Post, joined Trump in several vans in his motorcade, as is customary when a U.S. president travels domestically or internationally. But the group was kept waiting in the vans — and then, later, a fitness room away from the summit — as Trump participated in meetings and an official group portrait. At an APEC welcome dinner Friday night that Trump participated in, the travel pool also had been mostly shut out.”

Too Rich for Conflicts? Trump Appointees May Have Many, Seen and Unseen, The New York Times, Nicholas Confessore, Friday, 10 November 2017: “As President Trump faced a barrage of criticism last summer over the former Wall Street executives and other ultra-wealthy people serving in his administration, he offered a characteristic rationale: The appointees, he suggested, were too rich to have financial conflicts of interest…. But a cascade of revelations surrounding his advisers’ business holdings — including news this week that the commerce secretary, Wilbur L. Ross Jr., retained business ties to a Russian oligarch subject to sanctions — has thrust into view an inescapable contradiction between the financial transparency expected in public service and the realities of the modern global rich. Mr. Trump has assembled the wealthiest cabinet in American history, and also a deeply conflicted one, despite federal rules requiring appointees to relinquish or distance themselves from assets that would conflict with their government responsibilities. Even now, the Trump team has holdings that are spread across myriad industries and hidden from the public behind layers of trusts and shell companies. Some of that secrecy has been washed away in recent months by press reports and by the leak of millions of documents from Appleby, one of the world’s leading offshore law firms. Mr. Trump’s informal kitchen cabinet likewise includes wealthy investors whose business intersects with the president’s domestic and foreign policy agendas. They include an executive at the private equity giant Blackstone, Stephen A. Schwarzman, whose White House connection helped the company win a $20 billion deal from Saudi Arabia, and Carl C. Icahn, a special adviser on deregulation who resigned in August after pressuring officials on a biofuels rule worth hundreds of millions of dollars to one of his companies. Mr. Icahn’s conflicting roles are now the subject of an inquiry by federal prosecutors in New York, according to regulatory disclosures filed in recent days by one of Mr. Icahn’s main investment companies.”

As the Education Department Under Betsy DeVos Strips Away Civil Rights Protections, New Coalition Aims to Fight for Students, The Intercept, Rachel M. Cohen, Friday, 10 November 2017: “The Department of Education has become a civil rights nightmare. During her Senate confirmation hearing, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos admitted she didn’t know that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was federal law and suggested perhaps states should decide how to educate students with disabilities. A month later, the Trump administration rescinded protections that allowed transgender students to use whichever bathroom they felt most comfortable in; while DeVos reportedly objected at first, she ultimately green-lit the move. By June, the Education Department had announced it would be scaling back on civil rights investigations and proposed cutting more than 40 positions from its Office for Civil Rights.  Since then, the Education Department has decided to postpone protections for student loan borrowers and withdraw Obama-era protections for survivors of campus sexual assault. When a reporter explicitly asked DeVos if she would support increasing federal funding for IDEA, she wouldn’t say yes. All this and more has prompted the start of a new coalition – the Education Civil Rights Alliance – to pool time, skills, and resources to defend students’ civil rights. It launched last week, and members say they’re aiming to fill a void the Trump administration has helped create. ECRA is comprised of national legal and education groups, including the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Disability Rights Network, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and the American Civil Liberties Union. ECRA members emphasize they have never seen an Education Department disregard civil rights in this way. Speaking on a panel last week at the National Press Club, NEA President Lily Eskelsen García said even when her union has had disagreements with Republican and Democratic administrations, they’ve ‘always been able to count on the Education Department’s Civil Rights Office.'”

State Department to Offer Buyouts in Effort to Cut Staff, The New York Times, Gardiner Harris, Friday, 10 November 2017: “The State Department will soon offer a $25,000 buyout to diplomats and staff members who quit or take early retirements by April, officials confirmed on Friday. The decision is part of Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson’s continuing effort to cut the ranks of diplomats and Civil Service officers despite bipartisan resistance in Congress. Mr. Tillerson’s goal is to reduce a department of nearly 25,000 full-time American employees by 8 percent, which amounts to 1,982 people. To reach that number, he has already frozen hiring, reduced promotions, asked some senior employees to perform clerical duties that are normally relegated to lower-level staff members, refused to fill many ambassadorships and senior leadership jobs, and fired top diplomats from coveted posts while offering low-level assignments in their place. Those efforts have crippled morale worldwide. Still, State Department accountants have told Mr. Tillerson that only about 1,341 people are expected to retire or quit by the end of September 2018, the date by which Mr. Tillerson has promised to complete the first round of cuts.”

Thousands of immigrants are losing their DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) protections already, Vox, Dara Lind, Friday, 10 November 2017: “Republican leaders in Congress are in no hurry to pass a bill to address the fate of the 690,000 unauthorized immigrants who were protected from deportation and allowed to work in the US under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which the Trump administration announced in September it was bringing to an end. Their reasoning is simple. The Trump administration named March 5 as the end date for DACA — meaning Congress still has four more months to work something out. ‘I don’t think we should put artificial deadlines inside the one we already have,’ Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) told reporters Thursday. One problem. The March 5 deadline really is artificial — it doesn’t actually mark the date when immigrants will start losing their DACA protections. That is, as far as anyone can tell, already happening. And it’s only going to accelerate over the next several months. By March 5, 22,000 immigrants will have lost DACA protections because their applications for one last renewal weren’t received at government offices by October 5, a deadline that the Trump administration set only a month in advance, and didn’t notify immigrants about. Many of those immigrants simply missed the application deadline. But others, it’s now becoming clear, submitted their applications before the deadline — sometimes weeks before — and were the victim of a mysterious mail screw-up.”

Gene Hamilton, a Trump Official Behind the End of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), Explains Himself, The New Yorker, Jonathan Blitzer, Friday, 10 November 2017: “A handful of officials in the White House, the Justice Department, and the Department of Homeland Security have spent the past year attempting to realize President Trump’s vision of an America that is less welcoming of foreigners. John Kelly, the White House chief of staff; Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General; and Stephen Miller, Trump’s senior adviser, have led this effort. A crucial role has also been played by a lesser-known figure: Gene Hamilton, a lawyer in his mid-thirties who works as a top aide to Sessions at the Justice Department. Federal officials, congressional staffers, advocacy groups, and think-tank researchers know that Hamilton has helped shape Trump’s various travel bans, changes to refugee policies, and the implementation of an aggressive new approach to immigration enforcement. And yet, as one immigration lawyer told me of Hamilton, ‘he’s had such a light footprint.’ Hamilton has rarely spoken to the press, and his relatively short career means that few can claim to know the exact nature of his beliefs or goals. Last week, I obtained a two-hundred-and-thirty-five-page transcript of a deposition that Hamilton was compelled to give, in late October, as part of a federal lawsuit over the Administration’s handling of DACA, the Obama-era program that protected from deportation some eight hundred thousand undocumented immigrants who had been brought to the U.S. as children. The lawsuit was brought by Make the Road New York, the National Immigration Law Center, and the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic at Yale Law School. The groups’ argument is that, while the government may have been within its power to cancel DACA, the manner in which it did so—suddenly, and without warning—violated the rights of the people who relied on DACA for work permits, student loans, and other benefits. During the proceeding, Hamilton was pushed to describe the part he’d played in various Administration decisions. Over four hours, he detailed his interactions with senior officials such as Kelly and Miller, shared his personal views on immigration policy, and acknowledged, notably, that he’d been the author of the September 5th D.H.S. memo that formally terminated DACA. And, while Hamilton was careful not to answer more than he had to, the transcript offers a rare glimpse of an Administration official candidly discussing the development of a major area of policy.”

California Looks at Republican Tax Measures and Sees Payback for Portraying Itself as the Center of Resistance to Trump, The New York Times, Conor Dougherty and Adam Nagourney, Friday, 10 November 2017: “The tax plan hurtling through Congress is a fast-moving blur of cuts and increases designed to keep Republicans on track to pass a bill without Democratic votes. But here in California, where several prized deductions are at risk of being eliminated, people suspect there is a greater design at play. ‘It really does feel like they said, “What can we do to California?”‘ said Sam Moss, executive director of Mission Housing, an affordable-housing developer in San Francisco. Mr. Moss is worried about the threat to an array of tax credits and tax-exempt bonds that are widely used to build low-cost housing in a state with a severe housing shortage. And it’s not only the housing incentives. The tax bills are filled with measures that Democrats, and some Republicans, say would have a disproportionate and damaging impact on an overwhelmingly Democratic state that has portrayed itself as the center of resistance to President Trump. In the sharpest example, state officials estimated that over six million California taxpayers — one of every three — take a deduction for state and local taxes. That is one of the main deductions Republicans are moving to eliminate or severely restrict. The bills would also put a ceiling on a deduction for mortgage interest used by more than four million California taxpayers, according to the State Department of Finance.”

The Environmental Protection Agency just got Bill Wehrum, the second most important person after EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, The Washington Post, Dino Grandoni, Friday, 10 November 2017: “For more than a year, first as a candidate and then as president, Donald Trump has promised to dismantle the Clean Power Plan, the previous administration’s far-reaching effort to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. In March, the president kick-started the withdrawal with an executive order. Then in October, the Environmental Protection Agency followed through and officially repealed it. That was the easy part. The EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation now has to rewrite the regulation in a way that stands up to inevitable lawsuits from environmentalists. That job will fall to Bill Wehrum, an experienced but controversial former agency official whom the Senate confirmed Thursday to be the assistant administrator of air and radiation, one of the most consequential positions in the EPA. While many other mid-tier Trump nominees remain in legislative limbo  — having passed committee hearings but still waiting on a full Senate vote — Wehrum had to wait only 15 days between when the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee advanced his nomination in late October and when the Senate confirmed him. ‘It’s a pretty good indication of the importance of this position that they moved it ahead of a few others,’ said Jeffrey Holmstead, who headed EPA’s air and radiation office under President George W. Bush.”

Key Takeaways From Steve Bannon’s Interview With The Times, The New York Times, Jeremy W. Peters, Friday, 10 November 2017: “In an exclusive interview with The New York Times, Stephen K. Bannon talked about Senate Republicans, white nationalism, and the day President Trump was elected.”

Special Counsel Robert Mueller Is Probing Pre-Election Meeting That Former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn Had With Pro-Russia Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, NBC News, Julia Ainsley, Friday, 10 November 2017: “Investigators for Special Counsel Robert Mueller are questioning witnesses about an alleged September 2016 meeting between Mike Flynn, who later briefly served as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a staunch advocate of policies that would help Russia, two sources with knowledge of the investigation told NBC News. The meeting allegedly took place in Washington the evening of Sept. 20, while Flynn was working as an adviser to Trump’s presidential campaign. It was arranged by his lobbying firm, the Flynn Intel Group. Also in attendance were Flynn’s business partners, Bijan Kian and Brian McCauley, and Flynn’s son, Michael G. Flynn, who worked closely with his father, the sources said. Mueller is reviewing emails sent from Flynn Intel Group to Rohrabacher’s congressional staff thanking them for the meeting, according to one of the sources, as part of his probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.”

How Trump Is Quietly Dismantling the Architecture of Global Governance, The New Yorker, Adam Davidson, Friday, 10 November 2017: “E.I.T.I. [Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative], formed in 2003, is an international organization through which governments, private citizens, and corporations seek to reduce the rampant pilfering of wealth in the oil, gas, mineral, and other extractive industries. To join, nations have to reveal a great deal of information about who is getting money from such industries and insure that there is a robust enough civil society to maintain that transparency. The membership roll has been growing rapidly and now includes dozens of nations, including some, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Myanmar, for which E.I.T.I. membership has marked a big step away from the worst excesses of their corrupt pasts…. As of last spring, the Trump Administration seemed to be moving away from years of enthusiastic, bipartisan American support of E.I.T.I….. Now we learn that the Trump Administration is abandoning the global pact. The argument for withdrawal, according to the formal letter from the Department of the Interior to the chair of the E.I.T.I. board, is that U.S. law simply doesn’t allow for the kind of transparency that E.I.T.I. requires. This argument is hard to accept, since the U.S. played a central role in crafting the rules of E.I.T.I. (The Trump Administration did say that, while the U.S. itself won’t follow the rules, it will continue to encourage other countries to follow them.) A far more convincing thesis has been laid out by one of E.I.T.I.’s founding voices, Daniel Kaufmann, who points out, in the Financial Times, that ExxonMobil, Chevron, and other American oil firms do not want to be compelled to disclose how much they pay in taxes, and that many corporations do not like E.I.T.I.’s requirement of disclosing the real names behind extractive-industry-related shell companies…. Abandoning E.I.T.I. is not for show; it is a move toward dismantling the architecture of global governance.”


Saturday, 11 November 2017, Day 296:


Trump Says Russian President Vladimir Putin ‘Means It’ About Not Meddling in the 2016 U.S. Elections, The New York Times, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Saturday, 11 November 2017: “President Trump said on Saturday that he believed President Vladimir V. Putin was sincere in his denials of interference in the 2016 presidential elections, calling questions about Moscow’s meddling a politically motivated ‘hit job’ that was hindering cooperation with Russia on life-or-death issues. Speaking after meeting privately with Mr. Putin on the sideline of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit meeting in Danang, Vietnam, Mr. Trump said that he had again asked whether Russia had meddled in the contest, but that the continued focus on the issue was insulting to Mr. Putin. Mr. Trump said it was time to move past the issue so that the United States and Russia could cooperate on confronting the nuclear threat from North Korea, solving the Syrian civil war and working together on Ukraine…. Mr. Trump did not answer a direct question about whether he believed Mr. Putin’s denials, but his account of the conversation indicated he was far more inclined to accept the Russian president’s assertions than those of his own intelligence agencies, which have concluded that Mr. Putin directed an elaborate effort to interfere in the vote. The C.I.A., the National Security Agency, the F.B.I. and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence all determined that Russia meddled in the election.… His remarks came as the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia deepened, with disclosures over the past two weeks showing that there were more contacts between Trump campaign advisers and Russians than were previously known, and that senior campaign officials were aware of them. On Sunday, Mr. Trump seemed to walk his comments back a bit, saying that he did not dispute the assessment of the nation’s key intelligence agencies that Russia had intervened in the 2016 presidential election…. Mr. Trump’s earlier comments inspired immediate ridicule from Democratic lawmakers, including Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian interference in the election. ‘You know who else is insulted by it, Mr. President? The American people,’ Mr. Schiff said on Twitter. ‘You believe a foreign adversary over your own intelligence agencies.'” See also, ‘He said he didn’t meddle’: Trump talks with Putin about U.S. elections and Syria in brief interactions, The Washington Post, Ashley Parker, David Nakamura, and Karen DeYoung, Saturday, 11 November 2017. See also, Full Transcript of Trump’s Remarks on Russia Where He Defended Vladimir Putin’s Denials of Russian Election Meddling, The New York Times, Saturday, 11 November 2017.

Maryland Republican Governor Larry Hogan says Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore is ‘unfit for office.’ He also criticizes Moore’s defenders. The Baltimore Sun, Andrea K. McDaniels, Saturday, 11 November 2017: “Gov. Larry Hogan called Alabama GOP Senate nominee Roy Moore ‘unfit for office’ on Saturday following sexual misconduct allegations made against Moore by four women. Moore was the subject of a Washington Post article in which the women said he initiated relationships with them when they were teenagers in the 1970s and 1980s. ‘Roy Moore’s defenders should ask themselves if they would be so quick to excuse him if the victim was their daughter or if the offender was a Democrat,’ Hogan, a Republican, said in a statement, which he then tweeted. ‘He is unfit for office and should step aside. Americans are better than this.’ Hogan’s statements were stronger than those of some Republican figures who couched their denouncements with questions about whether the allegations against Moore were true.”

Trump is Rapidly Reshaping the Judiciary. Here’s How. The New York Times, Charlie Savage, Saturday, 11 November 2017: “In the weeks before Donald J. Trump took office, lawyers joining his administration gathered at a law firm near the Capitol, where Donald F. McGahn II, the soon-to-be White House counsel, filled a white board with a secret battle plan to fill the federal appeals courts with young and deeply conservative judges. Mr. McGahn, instructed by Mr. Trump to maximize the opportunity to reshape the judiciary, mapped out potential nominees and a strategy, according to two people familiar with the effort: Start by filling vacancies on appeals courts with multiple openings and where Democratic senators up for re-election next year in states won by Mr. Trump — like Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania — could be pressured not to block his nominees. And to speed them through confirmation, avoid clogging the Senate with too many nominees for the district courts, where legal philosophy is less crucial. Nearly a year later, that plan is coming to fruition. Mr. Trump has already appointed eight appellate judges, the most this early in a presidency since Richard M. Nixon, and on Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to send a ninth appellate nominee — Mr. Trump’s deputy White House counsel, Gregory Katsas — to the floor. Republicans are systematically filling appellate seats they held open during President Barack Obama’s final two years in office with a particularly conservative group of judges with life tenure. Democrats — who in late 2013 abolished the ability of 41 lawmakers to block such nominees with a filibuster, then quickly lost control of the Senate — have scant power to stop them.”

A Shadow Delegation Stalks the Official U.S. Team at the Climate Talks in Bonn, Germany, The New York Times, Lisa Friedman, Saturday, 11 November 2017: “The office of the official American delegation at the international climate talks here is almost always closed. A sign taped to the door informs the curious that entry is for authorized staff members only. But there’s another group of Americans who are happy to be found. They are gathered in a nearly 27,000-square-foot inflatable tent adorned with American flags and red, white and blue signs proclaiming that states, cities and businesses are ‘still in’ the Paris agreement, despite President Trump’s vow to leave it. The alternate American pavilion, with its free espresso truck, tins of themed M&M’s and wireless internet that tells new users ‘the U.S. has not gone dark on climate action,’ has rapidly become a hub of activity at the United Nations global warming negotiations taking place this week. On Saturday, a line of people waited in the rain to hear Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, Gov. Jerry Brown of California and a handful of United States senators, all Democrats, declare that much of America remains committed to reducing planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions.”

Libertarian billionaire Charles Koch is making a big bet on foreign policy, The Washington Post, Greg Jaffe, Saturday, 11 November 2017: “A foundation overseen by billionaire industrialist Charles Koch is making major investments in foreign policy programs at elite American universities, including a soon-to-be-announced $3.7 million grant to Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The latest grant, which is expected to be made public early next week, is part of a larger effort to broaden the debate about an American foreign policy Koch and others at his foundation argue has become too militaristic, interventionist and expensive. It follows about $10 million in similar grants the Charles Koch Foundation has given in recent months to Notre Dame, Tufts University, Catholic University and the University of California at San Diego. ‘This is the beginning of a much bigger project to ask questions about America’s proper role in the world and how we move forward,’ said Will Ruger, vice president for research at the Charles Koch Foundation. Charles and his brother David Koch have stirred controversy in recent years as symbols of big money run amok in American politics. They typically support Republican candidates who advocate for smaller government, less regulation, free trade and are skeptical about humans’ role in contributing to climate change. The money the Charles Koch Foundation is spending on foreign policy amounts to only a fraction of the $300 million to $400 million the brothers are expected to pay out over the next two years on policy and political campaigns — up from $250 million during the 2016 elections.”


Sunday, 12 November 2017, Day 297:


Trump Officials Urge Caution on Judging Roy Moore as Senators Pull Support, The New York Times, Nicholas Fandos, Sunday, 12 November 2017: “Top Trump administration officials cautioned Sunday that Roy S. Moore, the Republican Senate nominee in Alabama, should be allowed to defend himself against allegations that he pursued sexual and romantic relationships with teenage girls, even as Senate Republicans appeared to have largely abandoned his candidacy. And Marc Short, the White House’s legislative director, said he expected that President Trump would give the matter more attention when he returns from an extended trip through Asia later this week.” See also, Republican Senate Candidate Roy Moore of Alabama seeks to refocus his campaign on conservative religious values amid firestorm, The Washington Post, Elise Viebeck, Dino Grandoni, and John Wagner, published on Monday, 13 November 2017: “Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama sought to refocus his campaign on the conservative religious ideals most likely to motivate his base voters, dismissing the national firestorm over allegations that he pursued teenage girls when he was in his 30s. Addressing a gathering at the Huntsville Christian Academy in Huntsville, Ala., on Sunday night, the former judge suggested that he was investigating his accusers, threatened to sue The Washington Post and called on the United States to restore its culture by going ‘back to God.’… Moore’s remarks Sunday night in northern Alabama received a standing ovation. But in Washington, support for his campaign to fill the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions continued to flag throughout the weekend. Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) on Sunday called on Moore to exit the race and said that Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.), who lost to Moore in the GOP primary, would be a strong candidate for a write-in bid…. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a frequent Republican critic of President Trump and his wing of the GOP, said the party ‘ought not to be for’ Moore’s candidacy and also raised the possibility of a write-in candidacy…. Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, said that Moore needs time to defend himself against the allegations and that Trump will look more closely at the issue after he returns from a trip to Asia.”

James Clapper and John Brennan, two former US intelligence chiefs, say that Trump is being played by Putin and is putting the US in ‘peril,’ The Guardian, Oliver Laughland, Sunday, 12 November 2017: “Two former US intelligence chiefs have said Donald Trump poses ‘a peril’ to the US because he is vulnerable to being ‘played’ by Russia, after the president said on Saturday he believed Vladimir Putin’s denials of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Former director of national intelligence James Clapper and former CIA director John Brennan issued a stern rebuke to Trump after the president called both men ‘political hacks’ for their support of an intelligence agency consensus that Russia meddled with the US election. ‘First of all, he was referring to us as political hacks because he was trying to delegitimize the intelligence assessment that was done,’ Brennan told CNN’s State of the Union. He added: ‘By not confronting the issue directly and not acknowledging to Putin: “We know that you’re responsible for this,” I think he’s giving Putin a pass. And I think it demonstrates to Mr Putin that Donald Trump can be played by foreign leaders who are going to appeal to his ego and try to play upon his insecurities, which is very, very worrisome from a national security standpoint.'”

After a Disciplined Week in Asia, Trump Unloads on Critics, The New York Times, Mark Landler, Sunday, 12 November 2017: “For the last week on the road, President Trump had been measured, disciplined and studiously scripted as he picked his way through the geopolitical minefields of Asia. Then came the weekend. In a stream of tweets on Sunday, the president said those who wanted to investigate his ties to Russia were ‘haters and fools,’ ridiculed ‘crooked’ Hillary Clinton’s ill-fated effort to reset relations with Russia and fired back at North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, for calling him old, saying that he could call Mr. Kim ‘short and fat’ — but had restrained himself. That followed a freewheeling session with reporters on Air Force One on Saturday, in which Mr. Trump dismissed the Russia investigation as a Democratic ‘hit job’ and derided as ‘political hacks’ three former chiefs of the nation’s intelligence agencies, all three of which concluded that Russia had meddled in the 2016 presidential election.”

More than 400 millionaires tell Congress: Don’t cut our taxes, The Washington Post, Heather Long, Sunday, 12 November 2017: “More than 400 American millionaires and billionaires are sending a letter to Congress this week urging Republican lawmakers not to cut their taxes. The wealthy Americans — including doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs and chief executives — say the GOP is making a mistake by reducing taxes on the richest families at a time when the nation’s debt is high and inequality is back at the worst level since the 1920s. The letter calls on Congress not to pass any tax bill that ‘further exacerbates inequality’ and adds to the debt. Instead of petitioning tax cuts for the wealthy, the letter tells Congress to raise taxes on rich people like them. It is being released publicly this week, as Republicans debate legislation that would add $1.5 trillion to the debt to pay for widespread tax cuts for businesses and individuals. The letter was put together by Responsible Wealth, a group that advocates progressive causes. Signers include Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, fashion designer Eileen Fisher, billionaire hedge fund manager George Soros, and philanthropist Steven Rockefeller, as well as many individuals and couples who aren’t household names but are part of the top 5 percent ($1.5 million in assets or earning $250,000 or more a year).”


Monday, 13 November 2017, Day 298:


Thousands of scientists issue bleak ‘second notice’ to humanity, The Washington Post, Sarah Kaplan, Monday, 13 November 2017: “In late 1992, 1,700 scientists from around the world issued a dire ‘warning to humanity.’ They said humans had pushed Earth’s ecosystems to their breaking point and were well on the way to ruining the planet. The letter listed environmental impacts like they were biblical plagues — stratospheric ozone depletion, air and water pollution, the collapse of fisheries and loss of soil productivity, deforestation, species loss and  catastrophic global climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels. ‘If not checked,’ wrote the scientists, led by particle physicist and Union of Concerned Scientists co-founder Henry Kendall, ‘many of our current practices put at serious risk the future that we wish for human society and the plant and animal kingdoms, and may so alter the living world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know.’ But things were only going to get worse. To mark the letter’s 25th anniversary, researchers have issued a bracing follow-up. In a communique published Monday in the journal BioScience, more than 15,000 scientists from 184 countries assess the world’s latest responses to various environmental threats. Once again, they find us sorely wanting. ‘Humanity has failed to make sufficient progress in generally solving these foreseen environmental challenges, and alarmingly, most of them are getting far worse,’ they write. This letter, spearheaded by Oregon State University ecologist William Ripple, serves as a ‘second notice,’ the authors say: ‘Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory.'”

Protesters Jeer as Trump Team Promotes Coal at the U.N. Climate Talks in Bonn, Germany, The New York Times, Lisa Friedman and Brad Plumer, Monday, 13 November 2017: “The Trump administration made its debut at a United Nations conference on climate change on Monday by giving a full-throated defense of fossil fuels and nuclear energy as answers to driving down global greenhouse gas emissions. The forum — the only official appearance by the United States delegation during the annual two-week climate gathering of nearly 200 nations — illustrated how sharply the administration’s views are at odds with those of many key participants in the climate negotiations. George D. Banks, special adviser to President Trump on international energy issues, led a panel with top American energy executives. ‘Without question, fossil fuels will continue to be used, and we would argue that it’s in the global interest to make sure when fossil fuels are used that they be as clean and efficient as possible,’ Mr. Banks said. ‘This panel is controversial only if we chose to bury our heads in the sand.’ But even before the Trump team could make its case, the panel was disrupted for more than 10 minutes by scores of chanting and singing demonstrators. The protesters then walked out, leaving the room half empty. Throughout the remainder of the presentation, audience members shouted down and mocked White House officials who attempted to explain away President Trump’s stated view that global warming is a hoax. It was a rude reception for the Trump administration at the first major United Nations climate conference since President Trump took office and declared that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate accord signed by more than 195 nations in 2015. Mr. Trump has filled top environmental posts with officials who have expressed doubt about established climate science, including studies published by numerous federal agencies.”

Why California Governor Jerry Brown Was Booed at the Bonn Climate Summit, The New Yorker, Bill McKibben, Monday, 13 November 2017: “Spare a little pity for Jerry Brown. The California governor has been standing up admirably to Donald Trump on many issues, but especially on climate change—even threatening to launch scientific satellites to replace the ones that Washington wants to ground. This week, he’s in Bonn, Germany, at the global climate talks, spearheading the drive to show that America’s states and cities have not forsaken the promises made last year in Paris. On Saturday, barely a minute into his big prime-time talk, Brown was rewarded for his pains with booing. He was visibly startled when demonstrators interrupted his speech and began chanting, ‘Keep it in the ground!’ Pity him, then, but not too much. For one thing, Brown responded to the challenge Trumpishly–‘let’s put you in the ground,’ he told the protesters, who were led by indigenous and climate-justice activists. And, for another, they were absolutely right; their slogans illustrated the contradiction at the heart of the planet’s climate policy, one that Brown, if he wanted to, could play a key role in solving. There are two halves to the climate dilemma: demand and supply. We use too much coal and gas and oil, and we’ve begun to address that through the rapid adoption of renewable energy, the spread of conservation measures, and ideas such as a price on carbon. Brown’s California has been a leader in much of this work. But we also produce too much fossil fuel, and that endless production makes it harder to drive down demand. In fact, it will make it impossible to meet even the modest goals of the Paris accords. A remarkable study, published last year by Oil Change International, found that the world’s developed oil and gas fields—the ones we’re already pumping—contain enough carbon to carry us past the 1.5-degree-Celsius temperature increase agreed to in Paris. (Add coal to the mix and we go way past two degrees, without ever discovering another seam or field.) That’s why campaigners from around the world, meeting in Lofoten, Norway, this summer, signed a declaration calling on governments to begin the ‘managed decline’ of the world’s fossil-fuel-production zones. Five hundred N.G.O.s—including, which I helped found—have signed that declaration, but not many political leaders.”

The Secret Correspondence Between Donald Trump Jr. and WikiLeaks, The Atlantic, Julia Ioffe, Monday, 13 November 2017: “Just before the stroke of midnight on September 20, 2016, at the height of last year’s presidential election, the WikiLeaks Twitter account sent a private direct message to Donald Trump Jr., the Republican nominee’s oldest son and campaign surrogate. ‘A PAC run anti-Trump site is about to launch,’ WikiLeaks wrote. ‘The PAC is a recycled pro-Iraq war PAC. We have guessed the password. It is “putintrump.” See “About” for who is behind it. Any comments?’ (The site, which has since become a joint project with Mother Jones, was founded by Rob Glaser, a tech entrepreneur, and was funded by Progress for USA Political Action Committee.) The next morning, about 12 hours later, Trump Jr. responded to WikiLeaks. ‘Off the record I don’t know who that is, but I’ll ask around,’ he wrote on September 21, 2016. ‘Thanks.’ The messages, obtained by The Atlantic, were also turned over by Trump Jr.’s lawyers to congressional investigators. They are part of a long—and largely one-sided—correspondence between WikiLeaks and the president’s son that continued until at least July 2017. The messages show WikiLeaks, a radical transparency organization that the American intelligence community believes was chosen by the Russian government to disseminate the information it had hacked, actively soliciting Trump Jr.’s cooperation. WikiLeaks made a series of increasingly bold requests, including asking for Trump’s tax returns, urging the Trump campaign on Election Day to reject the results of the election as rigged, and requesting that the president-elect tell Australia to appoint Julian Assange ambassador to the United States.” See also, Donald Trump Jr. Communicated With WikiLeaks During the 2016 Presidential Campaign, The New York Times, Michael S. Schmidt and Nicholas Fandos, Monday, 13 November 2017. See also, The Don Jr – WikiLeaks Emails Are Underwhelming, Emptywheel, Marcy Wheeler, Monday, 13 November 2017.

All the known times members of the Trump campaign met with Russians, The Washington Post, Meg Kelly, Monday, 13 November 2017: “Since the information about members of the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russians has come out in dribs and drabs, as a public service, we compiled a comprehensive timeline of what we now know from media reports and court documents detailing which members of the campaign met with Russians during the campaign as well as internal discussions about those meetings. We will update this timeline as necessary.”

Roy Moore Is Accused of Sexual Misconduct by a Fifth Woman, Beverly Young Nelson, The New York Times, Jonathan Martin and Sheryl Stolberg, Monday, 13 November 2017: “An Alabama woman accused Roy S. Moore on Monday of sexually assaulting her when she was 16, the fifth and most brutal charge leveled against the Republican Senate candidate. Senate Republicans are now openly discussing not seating him or expelling him if he wins the Dec. 12 special election. The new accuser, Beverly Young Nelson, told a packed news conference in New York that Mr. Moore attacked her when she was a teenager and he was a prosecutor in Etowah County, Ala. Ms. Nelson was represented at the news conference by Gloria Allred, a lawyer who has championed victims of sexual harassment. ‘I tried fighting him off, while yelling at him to stop, but instead of stopping, he began squeezing my neck, attempting to force my head onto his crotch,’ Ms. Nelson said, growing emotional as she described the assault, which she said happened one night after her shift ended at a local restaurant, where she was a waitress. She said that Mr. Moore warned her that ‘no one will believe you’ if she told anyone about the encounter in his car. Ms. Allred displayed a yearbook that Ms. Nelson said had been signed by Mr. Moore, and the writing mirrored other examples of Mr. Moore’s signature. Even before the news conference, Mr. Moore’s campaign described Ms. Allred as ‘a sensationalist leading a witch hunt, and she is only around to create a spectacle.’ The statement denied again ‘any sexual misconduct with anyone’ by Mr. Moore. But in Washington, those denials were increasingly dismissed. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, declared, ‘I believe the women.’ Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, the head of the Senate Republican campaign arm, said that the Senate should vote to expel Mr. Moore, a former State Supreme Court judge, if he won ‘because he does not meet the ethical and moral requirements of the United States Senate.'” See also, Text of Beverly Young Nelson’s Accusation Against Roy Moore, The New York Times, Monday, 13 November 2017. See also, Locals Were Troubled by Roy Moore’s Interactions With Teen Girls at the Gadsden Mall in Alabama, The New Yorker, Charles Bethea, Monday, 13 November 2017: “Roy Moore, the Republican Senate candidate and former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, was born in Gadsden, a small city flanked by Interstate 59 and the Coosa River, an hour northeast of Birmingham. Gadsden is hilly, woodsy, blue-collar, and religious. ‘LEGAL OR NOT, SIN IS SIN,’ a sign in front of a church announced yesterday. I saw it as I drove around, crisscrossing George Wallace Drive. I also saw Trump posters, Confederate flags, and dozens of signs for Doug Jones, the Democrat tied with Moore in recent Senate-race polls. Gadsden is the seat of Etowah County, which is a conservative place; Donald Trump received three times as many votes in the county as Hillary Clinton did. (Statewide, he received twice as many.) But I didn’t, in all my driving, see a single yard sign for Moore, the home-town son. Even the parking lot of the one mall in town had more bumper stickers for Luther Strange (four), Moore’s opponent in the Republican primary, than for Moore himself (one). The Gadsden Mall opened in 1974…. This past weekend, I spoke or messaged with more than a dozen people—including a major political figure in the state—who told me that they had heard, over the years, that Moore had been banned from the mall because he repeatedly badgered teen-age girls. Some say that they heard this at the time, others in the years since. These people include five members of the local legal community, two cops who worked in the town, several people who hung out at the mall in the early eighties, and a number of former mall employees. (A request for comment from the Moore campaign was not answered.) Several of them asked that I leave their names out of this piece. The stories that they say they’ve heard for years have been swirling online in the days since the Post published its report. ‘Sources tell me Moore was actually banned from the Gadsden Mall and the YMCA for his inappropriate behavior of soliciting sex from young girls,’ the independent Alabama journalist Glynn Wilson wrote on his Web site on Sunday. (Wilson declined to divulge his sources.) Teresa Jones, a deputy district attorney for Etowah County in the early eighties, told CNN last week that ‘it was common knowledge that Roy dated high-school girls.’ Jones told me that she couldn’t confirm the alleged mall banning, but said, ‘It’s a rumor I’ve heard for years.'” See also, The ugly echo chamber of Hannity and Breitbart is one reason women wait so long to report abuse, The Washington Post, Margaret Sullivan, Monday, 13 November 2017. See also, Trump’s war on the media helps keep Republican Roy Moore’s candidacy for the Senate in play. Two years of attacks on ‘fake news’ media give the Alabama candidate a strategy for countering abuse allegations, Politico, Jason Schwartz, Monday, 13 November 2017: “Donald Trump is trying to keep his options open on Roy Moore, but the president has already helped him in one significant way: His two-year campaign against the mainstream media — in this case The Washington Post — appears to be the key to Moore’s survival strategy. Not too long ago, a story that quoted four women by name and at length, with some friends and family members corroborating aspects of their accounts, would have been taken at face value. But now, in Moore’s telling, the Post, which published the allegations on Thursday, is engaging in its own crusade to drive him out of the race. The portrayal of a mainstream media outlet as a political actor — not just reflecting a liberal bias in choosing stories but actually promoting ‘fake news’ — draws heavily on Trump, according to journalism observers. ‘It does seem it’s a strategy out of the Trump playbook, both in terms of attacking the media and responding forcefully to allegations that have been made,’ said Tim Franklin, a senior associate dean and professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. ‘They’re even using the same language in a lot of ways. In his speech on Saturday, Roy Moore called it “fake news,” which is one of the president’s familiar refrains.'”

Alex M. Azar II, Former Executive of Eli Lilly Pharmaceutical Company, Is Trump’s Choice To Be Secretary of Health and Human ServicesThe New York Times, Michael D. Shear, Monday, 13 November 2017: “President Trump, who has repeatedly assailed pharmaceutical companies for the high cost of prescription medications in the United States, nominated on Monday a former executive of one of the nation’s largest drug companies to be secretary of health and human services, which has responsibility for regulating the pharmaceutical industry. Mr. Trump announced his choice of Alex M. Azar II, a former president of the American division of Eli Lilly and a health official in the George W. Bush administration, on Twitter while traveling in Asia. If confirmed, Mr. Azar would succeed Tom Price, who resigned from the post after revelations that he repeatedly used chartered jets for routine government travel. In contrast to Mr. Price, an orthopedic surgeon and former Republican congressman, Mr. Azar is a lawyer and health care expert who allies predicted would use his deep knowledge of the federal bureaucracy to advance Mr. Trump’s agenda of undermining President Barack Obama’s health care law. Mr. Azar recently called the Affordable Care Act a ‘fundamentally broken system.’ ‘Much of the focus will likely be changing the ideology under which the existing law will be administered,’ said Mike Leavitt, a former secretary of health and human services who was Mr. Azar’s boss during the Bush administration. ‘I’m confident that he would like to see the way the law works change.'” See also, Trump picks former pharmaceutical executive Alex Azar to be Secretary of Health and Human Services, The Washington Post, Juliet Eilperin and Amy Goldstein, Monday, 13 November 2017.

Brett Talley, Trump Nominee to Become a Federal District Judge in Alabama, Did Not Disclose He Is Married to Ann Donaldson, a Senior Lawyer and Chief of Staff to the White House Counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, The New York Times, Matt Apuzzo and Michael S. Schmidt, Monday, 13 November 2017: “One of President Trump’s most controversial judicial nominees did not disclose on publicly available congressional documents that he is married to a senior lawyer in the White House Counsel’s Office. The nominee, Brett J. Talley, is awaiting a Senate confirmation vote that could come as early as Monday to become a federal district judge in Alabama. He is married to Ann Donaldson, the chief of staff to the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II. Mr. Talley was asked on his publicly released Senate questionnaire to identify family members and others who are ‘likely to present potential conflicts of interest.’ He did not mention his wife. District judges often provide the first ruling when laws are called into question, decisions that can put them at odds with the White House and its lawyers. Last month, for example, judges in Hawaii and Maryland temporarily blocked Mr. Trump’s travel ban. Mr. Talley also did not mention his wife when he described his frequent contact with White House lawyers during the nomination process. Democrats have strongly criticized the nomination of Mr. Talley, a 36-year-old who has never tried a case and who received a rare ‘not qualified’ rating from the American Bar Association. His nomination advanced through the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday on a party-line vote.”

Trump is choosing white men as judges at the highest rate in decades, Associated Press, Catherine Lucey and Meghan Hoyer, Monday, 13 November 2017: “President Donald Trump is nominating white men to America’s federal courts at a rate not seen in nearly 30 years, threatening to reverse a slow transformation toward a judiciary that reflects the nation’s diversity. So far, 91 percent of Trump’s nominees are white, and 81 percent are male, an Associated Press analysis has found. Three of every four are white men, with few African-Americans and Hispanics in the mix. The last president to nominate a similarly homogenous group was George H.W. Bush. The shift could prove to be one of Trump’s most enduring legacies. These are lifetime appointments, and Trump has inherited both an unusually high number of vacancies and an aging population of judges. That puts him in position to significantly reshape the courts that decide thousands of civil rights, environmental, criminal justice and other disputes across the country. The White House has been upfront about its plans to quickly fill the seats with conservatives, and has made clear that judicial philosophy tops any concerns about shrinking racial or gender diversity. Trump is anything but shy about his plans, calling his imprint on the courts an ‘untold story’ of his presidency. ‘Nobody wants to talk about it,’ he says. ‘But when you think of it … that has consequences 40 years out.’ He predicted at a recent Cabinet meeting, ‘A big percentage of the court will be changed by this administration over a very short period of time.'”

A Wide-Open Door for Pesticide Lobbyists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, ProPublica, Robert Faturechi, Monday, 13 November 2017. This story was co-published with The New York Times, with the title An Open Door for Pesticide Lobbyists at the U.S.D.A., Danielle Ivory, 13 November 2017. “At a private meeting in September, congressional aides asked Rebeckah Adcock, a top official at the Department of Agriculture, to reveal the identities of the people serving on the deregulation team she leads at the agency. Teams like Adcock’s, created under an executive order by President Trump, had been taking heat from Democratic lawmakers over their secrecy. What little was publicly known suggested that some of the groups’ members had deep ties to the industries being regulated. Adcock, a former pesticide industry executive, brushed off the request, according to House aides familiar with the exchange, who asked for anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly. Making the names public, they recalled her saying, would trigger a deluge of lobbyists. In fact, interviews and visitor logs at the Agriculture Department showed that Adcock had already been meeting with lobbyists, including those from her former employer, the pesticide industry’s main trade group, CropLife America, and its members. CropLife pushes the agenda of pesticide makers in Washington, including easing rules related to safety standards and clean water. Adcock, who left the trade group in April, maintained contact with her former industry allies despite a signed ethics agreement promising to avoid for one year issues involving CropLife as well as matters that she had lobbied about in the two years before joining the government.” Update: House Democrat Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey Demands That Rebeckah Adcock, Who Leads the Deregulation Team at the Department of Agriculture, Release All Emails She Has Exchanged With Lobbyists or Other Representatives From Her Former Pesticide Industry, The New York Times, Danielle Ivory and Robert Faturechi, published on  Tuesday, 14 November 2017: “A House Democrat demanded on Tuesday that a former pesticide lobbyist who was appointed to the Department of Agriculture by the Trump administration release all emails she has exchanged with lobbyists or other representatives from her former industry. Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey made the demand in a letter to the official, Rebeckah Adcock, after an investigation by The New York Times and ProPublica revealed that Ms. Adcock had met with her former industry allies despite a signed ethics agreement that limited such interactions.”

U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit allows Trump’s third travel ban to partially take effect, The Washington Post, Matt Zapotosky, Monday, 13 November 2017: “A federal appeals court panel on Monday allowed President Trump’s third travel ban to partially take effect, deciding that the government — at least for now — can keep out people targeted by the measure who have no bona fide ties to the United States. In a brief order, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit temporarily put on hold part of a lower judge’s ruling that had nearly completely blocked the government from enforcing its ban. The judges said the government could implement the ban, except on ‘foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.’ They said such people include grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins of people in the United States.”

Dazzled by a Red Carpet, Trump Gives Philippine Strongman Rodrigo Duterte a Pass on His Extrajudicial Killing of Suspected Drug Users and Dealers, The Intercept, Robert Mackey, Monday, 13 November 2017: “In Rodrigo Duterte’s Philippines, the extrajudicial killing of suspected drug users and dealers — gunned down by police officers or death squads, with bystanders as young as 4 years old caught in the crossfire — has become a part of daily life, with the death toll running into the thousands in the 16 months since he was sworn in as president. Duterte’s appalling human rights record, however, is apparently not a subject of much concern to President Donald Trump, who met with the Philippine leader in Manila on Monday, on the sidelines of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit. ‘Human rights briefly came up,’ Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, told reporters after the two leaders met for 40 minutes. That claim was quickly contradicted by Duterte’s spokesperson, Harry Roque. ‘There was no mention of human rights, there was no mention of extralegal killings,’ Roque said. ‘There was only a rather lengthy discussion of the Philippine war on drugs with President Duterte doing most of the explaining.’ ‘The U.S. president did not comment on the war against drugs,’ Roque added. ‘There were instances when he was nodding his head as the Philippine president was explaining.’ Trump’s failure to criticize the widespread executions in the Philippines was not a surprise, given that a leaked transcript of a phone call between the two men in April showed that the American president said that he was calling his counterpart ‘to congratulate you, because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem.'” See also, Trump Lauds ‘Great Relationship’ With Duterte in Manila, The New York Times, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Monday, 13 November 2017: “President Trump said on Monday that he had a ‘great relationship’ with President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, making little mention of human rights at his first face-to-face meeting with an authoritarian leader accused of carrying out a campaign of extrajudicial killings in his nation’s war on drugs. In a stark break from past practice by American presidents, who have pressed foreign leaders publicly and privately about allegations of human rights abuses, Mr. Trump instead pursued his own transactional style of diplomacy, dwelling mostly on areas of common ground during his meeting with Mr. Duterte. On the sideline of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit meeting, Mr. Trump focused on combating the Islamic State and illegal drugs as well as on trade issues, the White House said.”


Tuesday, 14 November 2017, Day 299:


Senate Republicans change tax bill to add repeal of the Obamacare individual mandate and to make temporary the individual tax cuts in the plan, The Washington Post, Mike DeBonis and Damian Paletta, Tuesday, 14 November 2017: “Senate Republican leaders moved Tuesday to include a repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate in their tax bill, a major change of strategy as they try to accomplish two of their top domestic priorities in a single piece of legislation. They also announced that the individual tax cuts in the plan would be made temporary, expiring at the end of 2025 to comply with Senate rules limiting the impact of legislation on the long-term deficit. A corporate tax cut, reducing the rate from 35 to 20 percent, would be left permanent…. Repealing the mandate, which compels most Americans to buy health insurance or pay a fine, would free up more than $300 billion in government funding over the next decade that Republicans could use to finance their proposed tax cuts, but it would result in 13 million fewer people having health insurance, according to projections from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The CBO has also projected that repealing the individual mandate would drive up insurance premiums for many Americans by roughly 10 percent. Eliminating the individual mandate and having far fewer people signed up for insurance saves money because many of those people receive federal subsidies to buy coverage. Senate leaders are using those savings to address the concerns of anxious members from across their caucus who complained that the tax plan’s benefits for the middle class were too modest compared with benefits received by the wealthy and corporations.” See also, Senate Republicans Plan to End Obamacare Mandate in Revised Tax Proposal, The New York Times, Thomas Kaplan and Jim Tankersley, Tuesday, 14 November 2017.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee looks at the president’s authority to use nuclear weapons: Trump’s nuclear authority divides senators alarmed by his ‘volatile’ behavior, The Washington Post, Karoun Demirjian, Tuesday, 14 November 2017: “Senators trying to prevent President Trump from launching an unprovoked nuclear attack were stymied Tuesday, after a panel of experts warned them against rewriting laws to restrain a commander in chief many worry is impulsive and unpredictable enough to start a devastating international crisis. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who has said Trump’s threats to global rivals could put the country ‘on the path to World War III,’ began Tuesday’s session warning of the inherent danger in a system where the president has ‘sole authority’ to give launch orders there are ‘no way to revoke.’ By the time Corker emerged from the hearing — the first to address the president’s nuclear authority in over four decades — he was at a loss for what to do next. ‘I do not see a legislative solution today,’ Corker told reporters. ‘That doesn’t mean, over the course of the next several months, one might not develop, but I don’t see it today.’ Trump’s shifting posture on how to address nuclear threats has made lawmakers in both parties uneasy, particularly as the crisis over North Korea’s ambitions escalates…. ‘We are concerned that the president of the United States is so unstable, is so volatile, has a decision-making process that is so quixotic, that he might order a nuclear strike that is wildly out of step with U.S. interests,’ said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), one of several senators exploring how to prevent the president from launching a first nuclear strike without the permission of Congress. Former government officials warned Tuesday that changing the law to prevent the current administration from doing something rash could dramatically backfire.”

‘Lock Her Up’ Becomes More Than a Slogan: Trump Thinks the Justice Department Should Investigate Hillary Clinton, The New York Times, Peter Baker, Tuesday, 14 November 2017: “President Trump did not need to send a memo or telephone his attorney general to make his desires known. He broadcast them for all the world to see on Twitter. The instruction was clear: The Justice Department should investigate his defeated opponent from last year’s campaign. However they were delivered, Mr. Trump’s demands have ricocheted through the halls of the Justice Department, where Attorney General Jeff Sessions has now ordered senior prosecutors to evaluate various accusations against Hillary Clinton and report back on whether a special counsel should be appointed. Mr. Sessions has made no decision, and in soliciting the assessment of department lawyers, he may be seeking a way out of the bind his boss has put him in. At a congressional hearing on Tuesday, he pushed back against Republicans impatient for a special counsel. But if he or his deputy ultimately does authorize a new investigation of Mrs. Clinton, it would shatter post-Watergate norms intended to prevent presidents from using law enforcement agencies against political rivals. The request alone was enough to incite a political backlash, as critics of Mr. Trump quickly denounced what they called ‘banana republic’ politics of retribution, akin to autocratic nations where election losers are jailed by winners. Democrats vividly recall Mr. Trump on the campaign trail vowing to prosecute Mrs. Clinton if he won. ‘It was alarming enough to chant “lock her up” at a campaign rally,’ said Brian Fallon, who was Mrs. Clinton’s campaign spokesman. ‘It is another thing entirely to try to weaponize the Justice Department in order to actually carry it out.'” See also, There are no grounds for a special counsel to investigate Hillary Clinton, The Washington Post, Editorial Board, Tuesday, 14 November 2017: “President Trump has made his position clear: He would like to see Hillary Clinton investigated. After leading chants of ‘Lock her up!’ during his presidential campaign, Mr. Trump has moved on to tweeting his disappointment over the Justice Department’s failure to look ‘into all of the dishonesty going on with Crooked Hillary.’ These demands for the politically motivated prosecution of Mr. Trump’s former political opponent are profoundly inappropriate and degrading to democracy. The good news is that, so far, the Justice Department appears to be holding firm against the president. But as events this week show, it remains under pressure. Twice, in July and September, Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee have requested that the Justice Department appoint a special counsel to investigate a host of matters related to Ms. Clinton and former FBI director James B. Comey. On Monday, the department notified committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) that ‘senior federal prosecutors’ will determine whether the majority’s concerns merit an investigation by the Justice Department or an additional special counsel.”

National Republican move against Roy Moore grows, but key Alabama Republicans are not joining in, The Washington Post, Sean Sullivan, Michael Scherer, and Paul Kane, Tuesday, 14 November 2017: “The chorus of national Republican leaders speaking out against Alabama GOP nominee Roy Moore after allegations of sexual misconduct grew louder Tuesday, with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan joining the effort to oust him from the Senate race and Attorney General Jeff Sessions voicing confidence in Moore’s accusers. But this growing criticism has yet to sweep over key Republicans in Alabama, many of whom are standing by the former judge or staying silent on the controversy. The sharply contrasting reactions coming out of Washington and Alabama underscore the challenge Republican leaders face as they try to force Moore out of the race and enlist a candidate who can defeat his Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, so neither of the current candidates winds up joining the Senate. The division only appears to be hardening Moore’s resolve to push forward with his candidacy as he portrays his critics as the establishment figures he has made the villains of his campaign from the beginning…. The Republican National Committee on Tuesday pulled out of a joint fundraising committee with Moore’s campaign, according to a document filed with the Federal Election Commission. The decision by the national party follows a similar move Friday by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which ended its financial relationship with Moore. Now, the Alabama Republican Party is the only other GOP entity that is participating in Moore’s fundraising efforts.” See also, Roy Moore, Long Divisive in His Hometown, and Even More So Now, The New York Times, Jess Bidgood and Richard Fausset, Tuesday, 14 November 2017.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Denies Lying to Congress about Contacts With Russia, The New York Times, Matt Apuzzo and Nicholas Fandos, Tuesday, 14 November 2017: “Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday denied, again, lying to Congress about the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. He said he had forgotten about a campaign round-table in which an aide played up his Russian connections and suggested arranging a meeting for Donald J. Trump in Moscow. But even as Mr. Sessions remained hazy on the details, he was adamant that he had swiftly rejected the aide’s suggestion. ‘I have always told the truth,’ Mr. Sessions told the House Judiciary Committee, adding that he stood by his previous testimony because ‘I had no recollection of this meeting until I saw these news reports.’… In October, Mr. Sessions testified that he knew of nobody in the Trump campaign who had contacts with Russians. ‘And I don’t believe it happened,’ he said then. Court documents in the special counsel investigation have since shown that Mr. Sessions led a round-table last year in which a campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, discussed his Russian ties and suggested setting up a meeting between Mr. Trump and Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian president. Mr. Sessions said he now remembered the round-table discussion and that Mr. Papadopoulos attended, but, he said, ‘I have no clear recollection of the details of what he said.’ Mr. Sessions seemed more certain about his own response to Mr. Papadopoulos: ‘I pushed back against his suggestion.’… Democrats criticized Mr. Sessions for what they said was repeatedly making inaccurate statements. During his confirmation hearings in January, Mr. Sessions told the Senate that he had not had any contact with Russians. He has since acknowledged meeting privately with the Russian ambassador.” See also, Attorney General Jeff Sessions Displays Unsteady Recall on Trump-Russia Matters When Testifying Before the House Judiciary CommitteeThe New York Times, Nicholas Fandos, Matt Apuzzo, and Charlie Savage, Tuesday, 14 November 2017. See also, Four key takeaways from Jeff Sessions’s memory-lapse-filled congressional hearing, The Washington Post, Amber Phillips, Tuesday, 14 November 2017.

The clear timeline suggesting Donald Trump Jr. coordinated with WikiLeaks, The Washington Post, Aaron Blake, Tuesday, 14 November 2017: “On Oct. 14, 2016, Mike Pence took to Fox News and flat-out denied that the Trump campaign was ‘in cahoots’ with WikiLeaks. ‘Nothing could be further from the truth,’ the Republican vice-presidential nominee said. Turns out Pence’s answer was pretty far from the truth. We’ve just learned that Donald Trump Jr. exchanged Twitter messages with WikiLeaks around the same time Pence denied the campaign was ‘in cahoots’ with WikiLeaks. And communications Trump Jr. had with WikiLeaks appeared to lead to at least one concrete action. In fact, the same morning Pence lodged his denial — and two days after a request from WikiLeaks — Trump Jr. did exactly as WikiLeaks had recommended and tweeted a specific link. In response to the Atlantic breaking this story on Monday, Trump Jr. shared what he says were all of his messages with WikiLeaks on Monday night.”

After female legislators recount harassment stories at a House Administration Committee hearing, House Speaker Paul Ryan announces the House will make anti-harassment training mandatory for all members and staff, The Washington Post, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Tuesday, 14 November 2017: “House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) announced Tuesday the House will adopt a policy change to make anti-harassment training mandatory for all members and staff. After a stunning hearing Tuesday morning where lawmakers acknowledged sexual harassment is a pervasive problem on Capitol Hill, Ryan released a statement saying that the hearing was ‘another important step in our efforts to combat sexual harassment and ensure a safe workplace. Going forward, the House will adopt a policy of mandatory anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training for all Members and staff. Our goal is not only to raise awareness, but also make abundantly clear that harassment in any form has no place in this institution,’ Ryan said in the statement. Ryan’s office has not yet provided details on what the policy change will be. While there are several bills that have been introduced or are in the works to require training in the House, none of them have yet moved forward. The House Administration Committee, which oversees daily operations in the House, acknowledged in the Tuesday morning hearing that anti-harassment training is a necessary ‘first step’ to fixing the sexual-harassment problem on Capitol Hill.”

Senator Chris Murphy (Dem-Connecticut) Accuses the U.S. of Complicity in War Crimes in Yemen From the Floor of the Senate, The Intercept, Alex Emmons, Tuesday, 14 November 2017: “Members of Congress have largely avoided speaking out about the famine and cholera epidemic in Yemen, even as aid organizations, celebrities, and late-night TV hosts sounded the alarm this past week. But one U.S. Senator is breaking the Senate silence — and even going further, explaining how U.S. support for the war has enabled the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy spoke out about the crisis on the Senate floor Tuesday, while showing pictures of starving Yemeni children. His remarks went much further than those of most public officials, not shying away from the reality that the cholera epidemic could never have taken place without U.S. support. For U.S. officials, the difficulty in publicly addressing the crisis is caught up in U.S. complicity, given that the disease and starvation in Yemen is not the result of a random hurricane or an earthquake, but the expected result of deliberate actions taken by the United States and its allies in the Gulf. His speech, delivered on the Senate floor Tuesday, had been viewed later that day by fewer than 200 people.” See also, Congress Votes to Say It Hasn’t Authorized War in Yemen, Yet War in Yemen Goes On With U.S. Participation, The Intercept, Zaid Jilani, Tuesday, 14 November 2017: “The House of Representatives on Monday voted 366-30 to declare what has long been known — that it has not authorized U.S. action in support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, but other than urging the parties to come to a negotiated solution, the resolution did not actually do anything to end American participation in the conflict. Since the Saudi bombing of Yemen started in the spring of 2015 — when Saudi forces intervened on the side of ousted President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi — the U.S. has played a close support role. It has aided Saudi bombers with targeting and assisted with refueling. It has also sold tens of billions of dollars in munitions to the Saudis since the war began, while the kingdom has used U.S.-produced aircraft, laser-guided bombs, and internationally banned cluster bombs to target and destroy schools, markets, power plants, and a hospital, resulting in thousands of civilian deaths. Following a deadly strike on a Yemeni funeral in 2016, the U.S. actually doubled fuel support for Saudi airplanes. The war has led to an ongoing humanitarian catastrophe of historic proportions. Which is why a bipartisan group of lawmakers last month pushed for an actual vote on United States support for the Saudi-led war. California Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna, North Carolina Republican Rep. Walter Jones, and others sought to invoke a clause in the War Powers Act to bring a resolution to the floor that would force an up or down vote on war authorization. But congressional leadership in both parties pushed back, doing everything they could to prevent a vote. Eventually, a compromise was struck, the result of which was the toothless resolution that passed Monday night.”

44 state attorneys general want repeal of the law passed in 2016 that curbed the powers of the Drug Enforcement Administration, The Washington Post, Lenny Bernstein and Scott Higham, Tuesday, 14 November 2017: “Forty-four state attorneys general asked Congress on Tuesday to repeal a law that effectively strips the Drug Enforcement Administration of potent weapons against large drug companies that have allowed hundreds of millions of pain pills to spill onto the black market. The state law enforcement officials, many from places hit hard by the opioid epidemic, signed a letter from the National Association of Attorneys General to Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate. Congress approved the law by unanimous consent, without a vote in either chamber, in 2016. The Washington Post and ’60 Minutes’ revealed in a joint investigation last month that an early version of the legislation had been written by a drug industry lawyer and shepherded through the House by Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) for two years. Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) negotiated the final version of the bill with the DEA. Two days after the media reports, Marino withdrew his nomination to be the nation’s next drug czar. ‘The Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act neither safeguards patient access to medication nor allows for effective drug enforcement efforts,’ the bipartisan group of attorneys general wrote.’We urge you to repeal the act so that the public is protected and drug manufacturers and distributors may be held accountable for their actions.'”

Jane Goodall urges the U.S. Senate to oppose a push to allow oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Reuters, Timothy Gardner, Tuesday, 14 November 2017: “British primatologist Jane Goodall sent a letter to every U.S. senator on Tuesday urging them to oppose a push in the U.S. Congress to allow oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a region environmentalists say is one of the world’s last paradises. The Republican-led Senate is trying to open up the 1002 region on the coastal plain of the ANWR, a region inhabited by Gwich‘in natives, caribou herds, polar bears and millions of birds that migrate to six of the world’s seven continents. ‘If we violate the Arctic Refuge by extracting the oil beneath the land, this will have devastating impact for the Gwich‘in people for they depend on the caribou herds to sustain their traditional way of life,’ Goodall said in the letter, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.”

The Department of Justice says Trump’s tweets are official presidential statements, ABA Journal, Lorelei Laird, Tuesday, 14 November 2017: “The Department of Justice on Monday told a federal district court judge In Washington, D.C. that Donald Trump’s tweets are ‘official statements of the President of the United States.’ As the National Law Journal reports, the assertion that the tweets are official government statements was made in James Madison Project v. Department of Justice, a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that seeks the release of documents related to a dossier of allegations regarding Trump’s ties to Russia and written by former British spy Christopher Steele.”

Trump has made 1,628 false or misleading claims over 298 days, The Washington Post, Glenn Kessler, Meg Kelly, and Nicole Lewis, Tuesday, 14 November 2017: “For some reason, our year-long project analyzing, categorizing and tracking every false or misleading claim by President Trump seemed like quite a burden in the past month. Well, the numbers are in and now we know why: In the past 35 days, Trump has averaged an astonishing nine [false or misleading] claims a day.”


Wednesday, 15 November 2017, Day 300:


Tax Bill Thrown Into Uncertainty as First Republican Senator (Ron Johnson of Wisconsin) Comes Out Against It As It Is Now Written, The New York Times, Alan Rappeport and Thomas Kaplan, Wednesday, 15 November 2017: “Uncertainty gripped the Senate on Wednesday over efforts to pass a sweeping $1.5 trillion tax cut after a Wisconsin Republican became the first senator in his party to declare that he could not vote for the tax bill as written, and other senators expressed serious misgivings over the cost and effect on the middle class. The House is set on Thursday to pass its own version of the tax bill, which would cut taxes by more than $1.4 trillion over 10 years and broadly rewrite the business tax code. But as with the health care debate earlier this year, the Senate emerged as the inconstant ally in President Trump’s pursuit of a major legislative accomplishment in his first year. Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, came out against both chambers’ tax plans on Wednesday, saying that the bills favored corporations over small businesses and other so-called pass-through entities, whose owners pay taxes on profits through the tax code for individuals.” See also, Republican tax plan in trouble after Republican senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin says he won’t back it as it is now written, The Washington Post, Damian Paletta and Mike DeBonis, Wednesday, 15 November 2017. See also, How Republicans Aim to Combine the Destruction of Obamacare With a Tax Cut for the Rich, The New Yorker, Adam Davidson, Wednesday, 15 November 2017: “The new Republican proposal suffers from one major problem: it is terrible. The nation doesn’t need a repeal of Obamacare or a big tax cut for the rich. There is no solidly grounded theory that argues in favor of huge tax cuts for the wealthy during a period of solid economic growth, in which most benefits have already gone to the rich. This proposal, though, is a particularly awful way to give tax cuts or to eliminate Obamacare. The individual mandate is essential for the success of Obamacare or, for that matter, any successful national insurance policy. When people can choose whether or not to be insured, those who are older or sicker tend to be the first to sign up. Since they cost more money to care for, their premiums are higher, making insurance less attractive to the younger and healthier. This is no minor problem. If the individual mandate is repealed, it could quickly lead to the dreaded health-insurance death spiral, in which ever-rising rates scare off all but the sickest, making rates rise still higher.”

Boston College janitor who put five children through college is among those who would suffer under the Republican tax plan, The Boston Globe, Erica L. Green (The New York Times), Wednesday, 15 November 2017: “The moment the last of Fred Vautour’s five children walked across the stage as a Boston College graduate was priceless. Not only did he have the rare distinction of handing each of them their diplomas, but he was also able to pay for their nearly 18 years of schooling by collecting trash, scrubbing toilets, and mopping floors while the campus slept. ‘As much as I struggled, it was incredible to be able to do that for them,’ said Vautour, 64, who has worked the graveyard shift as a custodian at Boston College for 17 years. ‘I took this job for benefits, but never imagined this would be one of them.’ It may not be one for long — or at least could be severely curtailed. The sprawling House tax bill, set for a vote on Thursday, would tax the value of college tuition benefits conferred on thousands of university employees like Vautour, one of several provisions that would hit colleges, universities, and their students, hard.”

At Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, Trump’s Answer to Global Warming? Drill, Baby, Drill! The New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert, Wednesday, 15 November 2017: “Every year around this time, negotiators from across the globe meet in one city or another—Montreal, Marrakech, Copenhagen, Paris—to resolve that the world really ought come up with a plan to do something about climate change. This year’s Conference of the Parties, the twenty-third such gathering, is taking place in Bonn, and in addition to the usual impediments to progress—mistrust, inequality, bad faith—there’s now the Trump Administration to contend with. On Monday, the U.S. delegation used its sole official appearance at COP23 to tout fossil fuels. ‘Promoting coal at a climate summit is like promoting tobacco at a cancer summit,’ the former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was in Bonn for the COP, observed. Protesters at the event sang songs and then walked out, leaving the hall half empty…. One way to interpret what the Trump Administration is up to with its absurd denials of climate science is as a play for time. Someday, the world will have to get serious about climate change, and at that point fossil-fuel use will have to decline dramatically. Whatever the Administration can do to put off that day will benefit American producers of fossil fuels. In a world where energy demand is continuing to rise, many tens of billions of dollars stand to be made…. What’s key about all [the Trump administration’s] moves is that they will lead to more investment in fossil-fuel infrastructure. Once a new offshore oil platform or natural-gas well is completed, it’s likely to live out its useful life. (Call it establishing facts in the ground.) At events like COP23, this is known as ‘lock in’; the more fossil-fuel infrastructure that gets built, the more carbon emissions get ‘locked in.’ Whatever happens (or doesn’t) this week in Bonn, the Trump Administration and its cronies in the fossil-fuel industry—the two groups are, admittedly, often interchangeable—are making it that much harder to curtail emissions. The future that’s being ‘locked in’ looks increasingly grim.”

Trophies from elephant hunts in Zimbabwe were banned in the U.S. Trump just reversed that. The Washington Post, Darryl Fears and Juliet Eilperin, Wednesday, 15 November 2017: “The Trump administration announced Wednesday that the remains of elephants legally hunted in Zimbabwe and Zambia can now be imported to the United States as trophies, reversing a ban under President Barack Obama. African elephants are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that large sums paid for permits to hunt the animals could actually help them ‘by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation,’ according to an agency statement. Under the Obama administration, elephant-hunting trophies were allowed in countries such as South Africa but not in Zimbabwe because Fish and Wildlife decided in 2015 that the nation had failed to prove that its management of elephants enhanced the population. Zimbabwe could not confirm its elephant population in a way that was acceptable to U.S. officials, and did not demonstrate an ability to implement laws to protect it. The Service’s new statement did not specify what had changed in that country — where the African elephant population has declined 6 percent in recent years, according to the Great Elephant Census project — to allow hunting trophies. A spokeswoman said an explanation will be published in the Federal Register on Friday. The shift in U.S. policy comes just days after Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke established an ‘International Wildlife Conservation Council’ to advise him on how to increase Americans’ public awareness of conservation, wildlife enforcement and the ‘economic benefits that result from U.S. citizens traveling abroad to hunt.'” See also, Trump Administration to Lift Ban on ‘Trophy’ Elephant Imports, The New York Times, Niraj Chokshi, published on Thursday, 16 November 2017.

In Roy Moore’s Senate race, Alabamians are receiving anonymous threats, deceptive texts, and disinformation, The Washington Post, Marc Fisher, Wednesday, 15 November 2017: “A minister in south Alabama gets a phone call from a man who says he is a Washington Post reporter offering cash for dirt about Senate candidate Roy Moore. A man who told an Alabama newspaper about Moore’s alleged approaches to teenage girls when he was in his 30s receives texts falsely telling him he is being sued for defamation. On Twitter and Facebook, in texts and in phone calls, Alabamians say they are on the receiving end of a muddy river of threats, dirty tricks and angry attacks, all aimed at undermining allegations that Moore, the Republican candidate in next month’s special election to fill a U.S. Senate seat, made sexual advances to teenagers decades ago…. An Alabama pastor named Al Moore — no relation to the candidate — received a voice mail Tuesday from ‘Bernie Bernstein,’ who identified himself as a Post reporter and said he was looking for women ‘between the ages of 54 to 57 years old willing to make damaging remarks about candidate Roy Moore for a reward of between $5,000 and $7,000.’ The voice mail, which showed up on caller ID as a ‘private number,’ concluded with a phony email address purportedly at The Post. Al Moore said he could tell right away that the call was fake. He let a local TV station know about the call because ‘it’s important that we let the public know how ugly this thing has gotten.’… The Post’s executive editor, Martin Baron, said the call was bogus. ‘The response to our meticulously reported story about Roy Moore has been a stunning level of deceit, deception and dirty tricks,’ Baron said. ‘The Moore campaign and others have lied about our motives and lied about our methods. And at least one individual — we’re still not sure who — has also pretended to be a Post journalist so as to falsely portray our journalistic practices.'” See also, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell proposes Attorney General Jeff Sessions as a write-in to replace Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race, CNN, Maegan Vazquez, Wednesday, 15 November 2017: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell floated Attorney General Jeff Sessions as a replacement for Roy Moore, the Alabama Senate candidate accused of sexual misconduct and assault of teenagers when he was in his 30s. McConnell brought up the idea Tuesday night at the Wall Street Journal CEO Council’s annual meeting in Washington, proposing Sessions as a write-in candidate to take back his old Senate seat. He cited Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, as a successful example of a write-in campaign.” See also, It’s All Connected: Jeff Sessions, Roy Moore, and a New Russia Investigation, The New Yorker, Amy Davidson Sorkin, Wednesday, 15 November 2017: “On Monday, the [Justice] department sent a letter to certain members of the House Judiciary Committee, in response to inquiries [about Hillary Clinton], saying that, while it wouldn’t want to confirm the existence of any investigation, it had begun to ‘evaluate certain issues’ that the representatives had raised, ‘including the sale of Uranium One, alleged unlawful dealings related to the Clinton Foundation, and other matters.’ The department would also see whether any such matters ‘merit the appointment of a Special Counsel.’ In other words, the Administration of Donald Trump might be trying to make good on his campaign promise, with regard to Hillary Clinton, to ‘lock her up.’ Whether the motive is retribution or distraction from Trump’s own Russia troubles, this would be a blatantly political use of the executive branch’s investigative powers. Trump isn’t particularly shy about that: indeed he has, as President, asked on Twitter why Sessions isn’t ‘looking into crooked Hillary crimes and Russia relations.'” See also, Roy Moore’s attorney Trenton Garmon offers bizarre defense of Roy Moore, The Washington Post, Aaron Blake, Wednesday, 15 November 2017.

The Trump administration rejected 4,000 ‘late’ DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) renewals. Some were sitting in its mailbox at the deadline.  Vox, Dara Lind, published on Tuesday, 15 November 2017 and updated on Wednesday, 16 November 2017: “But now, the administration is letting those immigrants–and others affected by mail slowdowns–reapply. Update: On the night of Wednesday, November 15, in the wake of reporting from Vox and other publications, the Trump administration announced it would allow immigrants whose applications for DACA renewal were sent before the deadline, but were left in USCIS mailboxes overnight on October 5 or were affected by the United States Postal Service slowdown, to reapply. More information on the reversal can be found here. This article has been updated where appropriate to reflect the policy change.” See also, Hundreds of immigrants will get to resubmit Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) renewals originally rejected as ‘late,’ Vox, Dara Lind, published on Thursday, 16 November 2017.

A federal judge in Philadelphia ruled that the Department of Justice can’t withhold money from Philadelphia because it refuses full cooperation with federal authorities on immigration, The Hill, Rafael Bernal, Wednesday, 15 November 2017: “A federal judge in Philadelphia ruled Wednesday against the Trump administration’s policy of withholding law enforcement grants from so-called sanctuary cities, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. In a 128-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson said Department of Justice (DOJ) law enforcement grants can’t be withheld from Philadelphia because it refuses full cooperation with federal authorities on immigration, the news outlet reported. At issue is Attorney General Jeff Sessions‘s stated policy of withholding federal law enforcement aid to sanctuary cities. Sessions said he’ll use the power of the purse to compel cities to help federal agents detain and pursue undocumented immigrants, setting off a slew of lawsuits between DOJ and local governments. In his ruling, Baylson said Philadelphia proved that withholding the grant money would cause irreparable damage, as part of it is used by first responders who provide life-saving naloxone to victims of opioid overdose, according to Inquirer reporter Jeremy Roebuck.”

Affordable Care Act federal enrollment surges by at least 47 percent this year according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, The Washington Post, Juliet Eilperin, Wednesday, 15 November 2017: “Enrollment under the Affordable Care Act in 39 states has surged at least 47 percent compared to the same period last year, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Nearly 1.5 million Americans signed up for coverage during the first 11 days of enrollment, CMS said Tuesday, including 876,788 during the second week. That compares to just over 1 million Americans who signed up though during the first 12 days of open enrollment in 2016. The portion of new consumers enrolling in ACA plans is slightly down this year, according to the latest federal report. Those Americans accounted for 23 percent of enrollees between Nov. 1 and Nov. 11, as opposed to 24 percent in the early days of 2016. The new report does not include the dozen or so states, and the District of Columbia, that run their own health-care exchanges. But the vast majority of these states have also seen an uptick in sign-ups as well as call center demand.”

Richard Cordray is stepping down as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, The Washington Post, Renae Merle, Wednesday, 15 November 2017: “Richard Cordray, one of the few remaining Obama-era banking regulators, said on Wednesday that he plans to step down as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by the end of the month, clearing the way for President Trump to remake a watchdog agency loathed by Republicans and Wall Street. Cordray’s turbulent six-year tenure at the 1,600-person agency was marked by aggressive efforts to rein in banks, payday lenders and debt collectors that often drew protests from the business community. His frequent clashes with conservatives turned Cordray, an otherwise ordinary Washington bureaucrat from Ohio, into a favorite of Democrats and consumer groups and a villain to Republicans and the financial industry. A federal judge once said that Cordray had ‘more unilateral authority than any other officer in any of the three branches of the U.S. government, other than the president.’… With Cordray’s departure, the regulatory structure put in place by the Obama administration in the wake of the global financial crisis has been nearly entirely replaced. The head of the Securities and Exchange Commission has been replaced by a former Wall Street lawyer and the Senate is moving to approve Trump’s pick to lead the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, another important banking regulator. Trump is also remaking the Federal Reserve. He has nominated Republican Jerome H. Powell, a current governor on the Fed board, to replace Janet L. Yellen as chair of the Federal Reserve. His pick for vice chairman of supervision, Randal Quarles, a former private equity investor, is expected to be much friendlier to the banking industry than his predecessor in the role.” See also, Richard Cordray’s Exit From the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Gives Trump an Opening, The New York Times, Stacy Cowley and Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Wednesday, 15 November 2017.

Under Trump, Banking Watchdog (the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency) Trades Its Bite for a Tamer Stance, The New York Times, Ben Protess and Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Wednesday, 15 November 2017: “After the financial crisis in 2008, the Obama administration turned one of the banking industry’s friendliest regulators into one of its toughest. But that agency is now starting to look like its old self — and becoming a vital player in the Trump administration’s campaign to roll back regulations. The regulator, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which oversees the nation’s biggest banks, has made it easier for Wall Street to offer high-interest, payday-style loans. It has softened a policy for punishing banks suspected of discriminatory lending. And it has clashed with another federal regulator that pushed to give consumers greater power to sue financial institutions. The shift, detailed in government memos and interviews with current and former regulators, is unfolding without congressional action or a rule-making process. It is happening instead through directives issued at the stroke of a pen by the agency’s interim leader, Keith A. Noreika, who — like the nominee to fill the post going forward — has deep connections to the industry…. The shift could help revive some of the policies and practices that arose on the agency’s watch amid the financial crisis and banking scandals of a decade ago — and that led congressional investigators to accuse it of ‘systemic failures.'”

David Zatezalo, Former Coal Executive With a Shoddy Safety Record, Will Lead Mine Safety Agency (MHSA–Mine Health and Safety Administration), New York Magazine, Adam K. Raymond, Wednesday, 15 November 2017: “The Senate Wednesday confirmed a former coal executive with a dismal safety record to lead the government’s top agency regulating mine safety. President Trump’s nomination of David Zatezalo, former CEO of Kentucky-based Rhino Resources, was approved by a party-line vote of 52-48. Zatezalo will bring an unconventional perspective to the Mine Health and Safety Administration (MSHA) after serving as a top executive at a company hit with two ‘pattern of violations’ citations by the agency. That specific sanction is a rarely used tool that former MSHA head Joe Main began wielding in 2010 after the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster killed 29 people. Rhino Resources was cited for two ‘pattern of violations’ between November of 2010 and August of 2011, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail. In the time between those two citations, tragedy struck at one of the company’s mines.”

The campaign to impeach President Trump: A user’s guide, The Washington Post, David Weigel, Wednesday, 15 November 2017: “On Wednesday morning, four House Democrats solemnly faced a half-full room of reporters and announced that they would try to impeach the president. Yes, again. The campaign to remove Donald Trump from the White House, elevated by liberal donor Tom Steyer’s $20 million ‘Vote to Impeach’ ad buys, remains an off-on distraction in Congress. Supporters of impeachment point out that there were similar long-shot efforts to impeach Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. They argue that all of it helped drive the conversation in a city that preferred not to have one at all. ‘I said three months ago that I would be introducing articles of impeachment,’ said Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), the sponsor of the newest impeachment articles. ‘I don’t expect the House Judiciary Committee, which is operated like a branch of the administration, to have hearings.’ Previous impeachment efforts, despite some initial fanfare, have mostly faded. At a roundtable meeting with reporters last week, Steyer said that the Vote to Impeach campaign did not back any particular effort going through — or, more accurately, going nowhere in — the House…. Of the three impeachment efforts underway this year, just one has been given a legislative number.” [All three efforts are covered in this article.]


Thursday, 16 November 2017, Day 301:


House passes Republican tax bill, upping pressure on struggling Senate effort, The Washington Post, Mike DeBonis and Damian Paletta, Thursday, 16 November 2017: “House Republicans on Thursday passed legislation that would overhaul the U.S. tax code, a crucial step forward in their effort to enact the centerpiece of President Trump’s economic agenda. The bill passed with 227 votes in favor and 205 against, a comfortable margin in the divided chamber. Thirteen Republicans voted against the bill, while no Democrats voted for it. Trump and Republican leaders in Congress are aiming to pass legislation by year’s end that would simplify the code and deliver $1.5 trillion in tax cuts over a decade. Both the House and Senate bills deliver the majority of the cuts to corporations and wealthy Americans, but there are significant differences between the bills that would have to be resolved.” See also, With 227 Republican Votes, the House Passes Tax Bill, and the Senate Finance Committee Votes 14 to 12 Along Party Lines to Approve the Senate Version of the Tax Bill, The New York Times, Thomas Kaplan and Alan Rappeport, Thursday, 16 November 2017: “With 227 Republican votes, the House passed the most sweeping tax overhaul in three decades on Thursday, taking a significant leap forward as lawmakers seek to enact $1.5 trillion in tax cuts for businesses and individuals and deliver the first major legislative achievement of President Trump’s tenure. The swift approval came two weeks after the bill was unveiled, without a single hearing on the 400-plus-page legislation and over the objections of Democrats and 13 Republicans. The focus now shifts to the Senate, where Republicans are quickly moving ahead with their own tax overhaul, which differs in substantial ways from the House bill. After four days of debate, members of the Senate Finance Committee voted 14 to 12 along party lines to approve their version of the tax package late Thursday night. The approval helps clear the way for the full Senate to consider the bill after Thanksgiving, although it remains to be seen whether it has the support to pass the chamber.” See also, Senate tax bill would cut taxes of the wealthy and increase taxes on families earning less than $75,000 by 2027, The Washington Post, Heather Long, Thursday, 16 November 2017: “The tax bill Senate Republicans are championing would give large tax cuts to the rich while raising taxes on American families earning $10,000 to $75,000 over the next decade, according to a report released Thursday by the Joint Committee on Taxation, Congress’s official nonpartisan analysts. President Trump and Republican lawmakers have been heralding their bill as a win for hard-working Americans, but the JCT report casts doubt on that claim. Tax increases for households earning $10,000 to $30,000 would start in 2021 and grow sharply from there, JCT found. By 2027, most Americans earning $75,000 a year or less would be forced to pay more in taxes, while people earning more than $100,000 a year would continue to pay less. The report generated intense debate on Capitol Hill. Most of the hit to poor and working-class Americans would come from the Senate Republicans’ push to insert a major health care change into the tax bill. Republicans are repealing the requirement that all Americans buy health insurance or face a penalty, a move that would lead to 13 million more uninsured Americans, the Congressional Budget Office has said. Many of those people earn modest incomes and currently receive tax credits and subsidies from the government to help them afford insurance. If the Senate GOP bill becomes law, premiums are expected to rise and millions would likely opt not to buy insurance anymore, meaning their tax breaks would go away, explained Thomas Barthold, head of the JCT.” See also, The Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation Says the Senate Tax Bill Would Raise Taxes on the Poor, The New York Times, im Tankersley and Alan Rappeport, Thursday, 16 November 2017. See also, Republican Tax Bills in the House and the Senate Signal the Top Tax Priority of the Republican Party Is to Help Corporations, The New York Times, Jim Tankersley, Thursday, 16 November 2017: “There are tough choices at the heart of the Republican tax bills speeding through Congress, and they make clear what the party values most in economic policy right now: deep and lasting tax cuts for corporations. The bill that sailed through the House on Thursday chooses to take from high-tax Democratic states, particularly California and New York, and give to lower-tax Republican states that President Trump carried in 2016, particularly Florida and Texas. It allows for tax increases on millions of families several years from now, if a future Congress does not intervene, but not for similar increases on corporations.” See also, The House and Senate Still Have Very Different Tax Bills. Here’s How They Compare. The New York Times, Alan Rappeport, Thursday, 16 November 2017.

The House of Representatives Just Voted to Bankrupt Graduate Students, The New York Times, Erin Rousseau, Thursday, 16 November 2017: “Republicans in the House of Representatives have just passed a tax bill that would devastate graduate research in the United States. Hidden in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is a repeal of Section 117(d)(5) of the current tax code, a provision that is vital to all students who pursue master’s degrees or doctorates and are not independently wealthy. I’m a graduate student at M.I.T., where I study the neurological basis of mental health disorders. My peers and I work between 40 and 80 hours a week as classroom teachers and laboratory researchers, and in return, our universities provide us with a tuition waiver for school. For M.I.T. students, this waiver keeps us from having to pay a tuition bill of about $50,000 every year — a staggering amount, but one that is similar to the fees at many other colleges and universities. No money from the tuition waivers actually ends up in our pockets, so under Section 117(d)(5), it isn’t counted as taxable income. But under the House’s tax bill, our waivers will be taxed. This means that M.I.T. graduate students would be responsible for paying taxes on an $80,000 annual salary, when we actually earn $33,000 a year. That’s an increase of our tax burden by at least $10,000 annually. It would make meeting living expenses nearly impossible, barring all but the wealthiest students from pursuing a Ph.D. The students who will be hit hardest — many of whom will almost certainly have to leave academia entirely — are those from communities that are already underrepresented in higher education.”

Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, Issues Apology After Accusation of Forcible Kissing and Groping, The New York Times, Nicholas Fandos, Thursday, 16 November 2017: “A growing national outcry over sexual harassment reached the Senate on Thursday, when a radio newscaster accused Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, of kissing and groping her without consent during a 2006 U.S.O. tour of the Middle East before he took public office. Mr. Franken, who has been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate, almost immediately released an apology to the newscaster, Leeann Tweeden, who said that Mr. Franken forcibly kissed her during a rehearsal and groped her for a photo as she slept. After initially apologizing without fully acknowledging all of her accusations, he then released another lengthier, more contrite statement that contested nothing…. President Trump, who has himself been accused of sexual harassment by multiple women and has refrained from weighing in on the accusations against Mr. Moore, wrote on Twitter late Thursday that ‘The Al Frankenstien picture is really bad, speaks a thousand words.’ He continued the tweet in a cruder manner: ‘Where do his hands go in pictures 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 while she sleeps?’ Earlier, response from Republicans and Democrats alike was swift and unsparing. Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, the Senate leaders, wasted no time before forwarding the matter to the Senate Ethics Committee — a move supported by Democrats, including Mr. Franken. Lawmakers did stop short of meting out a punishment on a fellow senator, and it appeared that Mr. Franken would be able to weather the disclosure.” See also, Trump, a Veteran of Sexual Harassment Accusations, Scolds Franken, The New York Times, Michael D. Shear, Thursday, 16 November 2017: “President Trump lashed out at Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, in two suggestive Twitter posts late Thursday night after the senator was accused by a Los Angeles radio newscaster of kissing and groping her more than a decade ago…. The president’s decision to tweet about Mr. Franken’s case immediately drew comparisons to his own behavior as revealed by an ‘Access Hollywood’ tape. Released by The Washington Post in early October 2016, just weeks before the presidential election, it revealed Mr. Trump talking in vulgar terms about women. Mr. Trump later apologized for his language on the tape, saying that ‘these words don’t reflect who I am.’ But since then, he has described his comments as ‘locker-room talk.’ Before the election, several women told The New York Times that Mr. Trump assaulted them, touching them inappropriately. Several others told the newspaper that Mr. Trump behaved improperly around them.”

Alabama Republican Senate Candidate Roy Moore’s Disingenuous Defense, The New Yorker, Charles Bethea, Thursday, 16 November 2017: “‘You must immediately and fully come up with a satisfactory explanation for your inconsistencies that I just showed,’ Hannity said on his Fox News show. Hannity seemed particularly concerned about Moore’s fifth accuser, Beverly Young Nelson…. On Wednesday evening, Moore released an open letter in response to Hannity. It began by seeking sympathy. ‘I am suffering,’ he wrote. Moore then attempted to cast doubt on the ‘false allegations’ against him in a few different ways. Regarding Nelson, Moore referenced the accuser’s divorce, for which he was the presiding judge. Nelson, Moore wrote, ‘was party to a divorce action before me in Etowah County Circuit Court in 1999. No motion was made for me to recuse.’ Moore went on to wonder at the notion that this ‘apparently caused her no distress at a time that was 18 years closer to the alleged assault,’ while now, ‘talking before the cameras about the supposed assault, she seemingly could not contain her emotions. This morning, I corresponded with a prominent Alabama attorney who reviewed the filings in Nelson’s 1999 divorce case. Based on those filings, the attorney insisted, Moore’s claims in the open letter are ‘completely disingenuous.’ Nelson, this attorney told me, ‘was never before Moore,’ since the divorce was not litigated. Rather, as court documents show, the divorce was filed, continued, and then dismissed.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s Justice Department: From Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch during Obama’s administration to zero black senior staff members, The Washington Post, Eugene Scott, Thursday, 16 November 2017: “When President Trump nominated Jeff Sessions to be the attorney general, Democratic lawmakers argued that the then-senator from Alabama becoming the nation’s top prosecutor would be a step backward in advancing the relationship between the Justice Department and people of color. ‘I think he’s a racist, I think he’s a throwback and I don’t mind saying it, any day of the week,’ Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) told The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart in May. Other lawmakers expressed concern about Sessions’s commitment to diversity during his nomination hearing, where Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) attempted to read excerpts of a letter written more than 30 years ago by Coretta Scott King, the wife of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., to Congress to block Sessions’s appointment to a federal bench out of concern that it would ‘irreparably damage the work of my husband.’ We can recall how that went: Warren was rebuked by Senate Republicans, and Sessions went on to become attorney general. Now, some Democratic lawmakers appear to be just as concerned — if not more — that Session’s Justice Department is more detrimental than beneficial to the progress of blacks in the United States. The department went from being headed by the first black female attorney general, Loretta Lynch, to not having any black Americans in senior positions, something Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric L. Richmond (D-La.) probed during a House hearing with Sessions this week.”

The Federal Communications Commission just repealed a 42-year-old rule blocking broadcast media mergers, The Washington Post, Brian Fung, Thursday, 16 November 2017: “Federal regulators rolled back decades-old rules on Thursday, making it far easier for media outlets to be bought and sold — potentially leading to more newspapers, radio stations and television broadcasters being owned by a handful of companies. The regulations, eliminated in a 3-to-2 vote by the Federal Communications Commission, were first put in place in the 1970s to ensure that a diversity of voices and opinions could be heard on the air or in print. But now those rules represent a threat to small outlets that are struggling to survive in a vastly different media world, according to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. With the rise of blogs, websites and podcasts, Pai said, traditional media outlets now face more competition than ever — and rules that once enforced a diversity of viewpoints are no longer needed…. Critics of the FCC repeal effort say that the decision will lead to the concentration of power in the hands of a dwindling number of media titans. ‘Instead of engaging in thoughtful reform,’ said Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, ‘this agency sets its most basic values on fire. As a result of this decision, wherever you live, the FCC is giving the green light for a single company to own the newspaper and multiple television and radio stations in your community. I am hard pressed to see any commitment to diversity, localism, or competition in that result.’”

Rev. Jamie Johnson, Director of the Department of Homeland Security’s community outreach Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnership, once said blacks turned cities to ‘slums’ with ‘laziness, drug use, and sexual promiscuity,’ CNN, Andrew Kaczynski, Chris Massie, and Nathan McDermott, Thursday, 16 November 2018: “The head of faith-based and neighborhood partnerships at the Department of Homeland Security has said in the past that the black community is responsible for turning cities into ‘slum’ and argued that Islam’s only contribution to society was ‘oil and dead bodies,’ a CNN KFile review of his time as a radio host reveals. Rev. Jamie Johnson was appointed in April by then-Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly to lead the Center for Faith-Based & Neighborhood Partnerships at the department. In radio appearances from 2008 to as recently as 2016, Johnson was critical of the black community and painted Islam as a violent, illegitimate religion. The Center for Faith-Based & Neighborhood Partnerships, according to its official website, was created in 2006 after Hurricanes Katrina, Wilma and Rita to ‘engage a broader cross-section of faith and community-based organizations in all stages of the disaster sequence and provide resources for faith and community leaders to help them prepare for emergency situations.’ The center is also involved in the DHS’s effort to fight human trafficking.” See also, Rev. Jamie Johnson, director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Faith-Based & Neighborhood Partnerships, resigns after comments linking blacks to ‘laziness’ and ‘promiscuity’ come to lightThe Washington Post, Eli Rosenberg, published on Friday, 17 November 2017: “A political appointee in the Department of Homeland Security abruptly resigned after the disclosure Thursday he previously made derogatory remarks about black people and Muslims on conservative talk radio. Rev. Jamie Johnson, who was appointed the head of the DHS’s Center for Faith-Based & Neighborhood Partnerships in April, appeared on the program in 2008. The comments resurfaced Thursday after CNN published a report about them with audio snippets.”

Keystone pipeline spills 210,000 gallons of oil on the eve of a permitting decision in Nebraska for TransCanada, The Washington Post,  Steven Mufson and Chris Mooney, Thursday, 16 November 2017: “The Keystone pipeline running from Canada across the Great Plains leaked Thursday morning, spilling about 5,000 barrels of oil — or 210,000 gallons — southeast of the small town of Amherst in northeast South Dakota. The spill comes just days before a crucial decision next Monday by the Public Service Commission in Nebraska over whether to grant a permit for a new, long-delayed sister pipeline called Keystone XL, which has been mired in controversy for several years. Both are owned by Calgary-based TransCanada. The spill on the first Keystone pipeline is the latest in a series of leaks that critics of the new pipeline say shows that TransCanada should not receive another permit.”

Deal to Bolster Gun Background Checks Is Reached by Senators, The New York Times, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Thursday, 16 November 2017: “A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation on Thursday that would improve background checks for gun buyers — a milestone, albeit a narrow one, in the divisive national debate over gun control. The measure — inspired by a tragic lapse that allowed the gunman in Sutherland Springs, Texas, to purchase his weapons, despite a domestic violence conviction — would require federal agencies and states to do a better job of reporting criminal offenses and other information into the national instant background check system. The group of eight senators, led by Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate and a staunch foe of gun control, includes four Republicans and four Democrats, among them Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Senate’s longest-standing gun safety advocate. Senator Richard Blumenthal, the Democrat of Connecticut, called the measure “a modest breakthrough” but said he hoped it could lead to other bipartisan work on gun safety.”

Democrats Just Lost One of the Only Ways They Could Block Trump’s Judicial NomineesBuzzFeed News, Zoe Tillman, Thursday, 16 November 2017: “Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley announced Thursday that Democrats will not be able to block President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees through an unofficial senatorial courtesy system known as the ‘blue slip process,’ saying he will hold hearings on some nominees even if both home state senators haven’t given their approval. Grassley’s move will get rid of one of the few obstacles the Trump administration has faced in getting judges confirmed. Trump nominees who have made it out of committee have all been confirmed so far by the Republican-controlled Senate, and with 145 vacancies pending and more opening up soon, Trump is poised to leave his mark on the judiciary early on in his first term. Under the blue slip process, some, but not all, chairmen of the Senate Judiciary Committee would not schedule hearings unless both home state senators returned forms — historically on blue sheets of paper — signaling their approval. At the start of the year, Grassley indicated he was still following this practice, delaying hearings for some nominees until Democrats returned their blue slips. But on Thursday Grassley announced on the Senate floor that he would schedule a hearing for Nov. 29 for Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras, nominated for the US Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit. Minnesota Sen. Al Franken had announced in September that he would not return his blue slip for Stras, saying in a statement that he was concerned that Stras ‘would be a deeply conservative jurist in the mold of Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia.'”

Trump’s ‘Extreme-Vetting’ Software Will Discriminate Against Immigrants ‘Under a Veneer of Objectivity,’ Say ExpertsThe Intercept, Sam Biddle, 16 November 2017: “This past August, technology firms lined up to find out how they could help build a computerized reality of President Donald Trump’s vague, hateful vision of ‘extreme vetting’ for immigrants. At a Department of Homeland Security event, and via related DHS documents, both first reported by The Intercept, companies like IBM, Booz Allen Hamilton, and Red Hat learned what sort of software the government needed to support its ‘Extreme Vetting Initiative.’ Today, a coalition of more than 100 civil rights and technology groups, as well as prominent individuals in those fields, has formed to say that it is technically impossible to build software that meets DHS’s vetting requirements — and that code that attempts to do so will end up promoting discrimination and undermining civil liberties. The new opposition effort, organized by legal scholars Alvaro Bedoya, executive director of Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy & Technology, and Rachel Levinson-Waldman, senior counsel at NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice, includes two letters, one on the technical futility of trying to implement extreme-vetting software and another on the likely disturbing social fallout of any such attempt.”

The Uncounted: U.S.-Led Airstrikes Against ISIS Are Killing Far More Iraqi Civilians Than Previously Believed, The New York Times, Azmat Khan and Anand Gopal, Thursday, 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.”

Jared Kushner, Trump’s Son-In-Law and Senior Adviser, Failed to Provide Russia Documents, The Senate Judiciary Committee Found, The New York Times, Michael S. Schmidt, Thursday, 16 November 2017: “The Senate Judiciary Committee has uncovered evidence that Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, was forwarded a document about a ‘Russian backdoor overture’ that Mr. Kushner failed to hand over to the panel’s investigators, according to a letter that the committee released on Thursday. The Senate letter did not say what type of back channel communication the Russians were trying to set up. But it noted that ‘other parties have produced documents concerning the matter.’ Mr. Kushner also failed to provide investigators with a September 2016 email he was sent about WikiLeaks, nor did he hand over other communications with a Russian-born businessman that were forwarded him, according to the letter. The businessman, Sergei Millian, a former head of the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce, has long claimed to have ties to Mr. Trump and his associates — ties that Mr. Trump’s advisers have said are overstated. WikiLeaks has been identified by American intelligence agencies as acting as a conduit for information that Russian intelligence operatives had stolen from Democrats during the 2016 presidential campaign. Earlier this week, it was revealed that Donald Trump Jr., the president’s oldest son, had repeated communications with the anti-secrecy group on Twitter. The Senate panel said that Mr. Kushner has also not produced phone records that investigators believe exist, although the letter gave no specifics about the records. The letter was signed by Senators Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa and Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, the two senior members of the Judiciary Committee.”

Special Counsel Mueller Issued Subpoena for Russia-Related Documents From Trump Campaign Officials, The Wall Street Journal, Rebecca Ballhaus and Peter Nicholas, Thursday, 16 November 2017: “Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team in mid-October issued a subpoena to President Donald Trump’s campaign requesting Russia-related documents from more than a dozen top officials, according to a person familiar with the matter. The subpoena, which requested documents and emails from the listed campaign officials that reference a set of Russia-related keywords, marked Mr. Mueller’s first official order for information from the campaign, according to the person. The subpoena didn’t compel any officials to testify before Mr. Mueller’s grand jury, the person said. The subpoena caught the campaign by surprise, the person said. The campaign had previously been voluntarily complying with the special counsel’s requests for information, and had been sharing with Mr. Mueller’s team the documents it provided to congressional committees as part of their probes of Russian interference into the 2016 presidential election.”

The ‘Boil the Frog’ Strategy to Save Trump, The New Yorker, Ryan Lizza, Thursday, 16 November 2017: “In foreign-policy circles, people sometimes talk about ‘boiling the frog’: when an enormously consequential outcome is achieved slowly, through tiny steps rather than one giant leap. North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is a classic example. The regime gradually improved its nuclear and rocket technology to the point that it is now on the cusp of becoming what the last five American Presidents said they would never allow: a rogue state with the capability of reaching the U.S. mainland with nuclear missiles. No isolated development along the way—despite the country’s steady nuclear tests and missile launches—seemed, by itself, to warrant entering a military confrontation. Boiling the frog works in politics, too. On Monday, Julia Ioffe reported, in The Atlantic, that WikiLeaks, which the American intelligence community says collaborated with the Russian government to distribute Democratic Party e-mails and try to help elect Donald Trump, regularly sent private messages from its verified Twitter account to Donald Trump, Jr., from September, 2016, until July, 2017. Last October, in the heat of the Presidential campaign, when top Trump campaign officials indignantly denied having any communication with WikiLeaks, such a disclosure would have been politically earth-shattering. But, after a year of incremental Trump-Russia revelations, the press and public’s capacity to be shocked by the details of the Russia scandal may be diminishing. According to a recent accounting by the Washington Post, ‘the Trump campaign interacted with Russians at least thirty-one times throughout the campaign’ and there were at ‘at least 19 known meetings.’ If the full scope of the Trump-Russia story had been known all at once—Paul Manafort’s work for a pro-Putin party in Ukraine, Michael Flynn and Jared Kushner’s back channels to Russian officials, Carter Page and George Papadopoulos’s machinations, Donald Trump, Jr.,’s eager embrace of a Russian lawyer with alleged dirt on Hillary Clinton, the F.B.I.’s investigation, the intelligence community’s warnings—it would have been akin to North Korea going nuclear overnight. The audacity of the Trump campaign’s lies would have been shocking. It helps to take a step back and remember how politically explosive it would have been, a year ago, to know that the Trump campaign was colluding with WikiLeaks.”