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


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

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


Friday, 1 December 2017, Day 316:


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

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

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

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

Who has been charged in the Russia probe and why, The Washington Post, Samuel Granados and Aaron Williams, updated on Friday, 1 December 2017: “Four former Trump campaign officials, including former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, have been charged by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III in an ongoing probe of possible Russian influence in last year’s election.”

The Pentagon Will Allow the U.S. Military to Arm Itself With Older Cluster Munitions, a Weapon Banned by 102 Countries, The New York Times, John Ismay, Friday, 1 December 2017: “The Pentagon will allow the United States military to once again arm itself with older cluster munitions, a type of weapon that has been banned by 102 countries largely because of concerns that they disproportionately harm civilians. The change, detailed in a memo released on Friday, reverses a prohibition issued under President George W. Bush, and appears to be a concession by the United States that finding safer variants of the weapons has so far failed. Most American cluster munitions held abroad appear to be positioned for a possible war with North Korea. Under a 2008 agreement, the Pentagon maintains a stockpile of more than 1.5 million cluster munitions, containing over 90 million bomblets, in South Korea…. Though the United States is not a signatory to the international treaty banning the weapons, it pledged in June 2008 to sharply restrict their use and reduce risks to civilians. Arguments against the use of cluster munitions are twofold. Because of their wide dispersal pattern, submunitions may strike civilians who are not even close to intended targets. Additionally, many types of submunitions fail to properly detonate at a higher rate than other weapons, resulting in bomblet “duds” that can explode even years later and kill civilians.”

Trump Says Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Is Staying, and Tillerson Calls Reports of His Ouster ‘Laughable,’ The New York Times, Gardiner Harris, Friday, 1 December 2017: “President Trump on Friday rejected reports that he would soon fire Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson as ‘fake news,’ but declared that ‘I call the final shots’ as he acknowledged his disagreements with his top diplomat. The president’s tweet was posted a few hours after Mr. Tillerson described reports this week that the White House wanted him to resign as ‘laughable.’ ‘He’s not leaving and while we disagree on certain subjects, (I call the final shots) we work well together and America is highly respected again!” Mr. Trump wrote in a midafternoon tweet defending Mr. Tillerson. It marked an operatic turn in Mr. Tillerson’s tenure after months of reports that he would soon leave the Trump administration. The latest round was fueled by a plan to force out Mr. Tillerson that was conceived by John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, and unveiled by senior administration officials on Thursday.”

Trump to Keep Embassy in Tel Aviv but Recognize Jerusalem as Capital, The New York Times, Mark Landler and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Friday, 1 December 2017: “President Trump plans to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital but not to move the American Embassy there for now, people briefed on the deliberations said on Friday, a halfway gesture intended to fulfill a campaign pledge while not derailing his peace initiative. Mr. Trump is expected to announce the decision in a speech next Wednesday, these people said, though they cautioned that the president had not yet formally signed off on it and that the details of the plan could shift. Those details, experts warned, are fiendishly complicated. The diplomatic status of Jerusalem is one of the world’s most contested issues, with Israel and the Palestinians claiming it as their capital. Its holy sites are sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, and any change in its status would have vast repercussions across the Middle East and other Islamic-majority countries worldwide. Mr. Trump promised to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv as one of his first acts as president — a pledge that was popular with his evangelical supporters as well as with powerful Jewish donors, like the casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. American presidents must sign a national security waiver every six months to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv. In June, Mr. Trump deferred a decision to move it to Jerusalem, under pressure from Arab leaders, who warned that it would ignite protests, and from advisers, including his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who worried that it could strangle the administration’s attempt to foster peace in the generations-long dispute. With another deadline looming next Monday, Mr. Trump is expected to sign an order keeping the embassy in Tel Aviv. But he will couple that with a statement that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as the capital — something that no president, Republican or Democrat, has done since the state of Israel was established in 1948. Given the extreme sensitivities surrounding Jerusalem, Middle East experts said Mr. Trump’s plan was fraught with risk. Even after extensive consultations with Arab leaders, which the White House has not done, such a move could provoke volatile reactions.”


Saturday, 2 December 2017, Day 317:


The Passage of the Senate Republican Tax Bill Was a Travesty of the Legislative Process, The New Yorker, John Cassidy, Saturday, 2 December 2017: “When historians write about the broader atrophy of the American system of governance, the passage of the 2017 tax-reform bill will be an illuminating event to dwell upon…. Four G.O.P. senators who had been mentioned as possible holdouts—Susan Collins, of Maine; Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska; and John McCain and Jeff Flake, of Arizona—all voted for a proposal that is unnecessary, unfair, and still largely unexamined…. When a Republican Administration last conducted a thorough overhaul of the tax code, in 1986, there were more than a dozen hearings in Congress, and the process took more than six months. This time, there have been no public hearings, and the measure is being rushed through in a few weeks, with virtually no transparency. This isn’t ‘regular order’—the term McCain used when he voted no in the health-care vote. It is brazen power politics carried out by a Republican Party desperate for a legislative victory…. On Friday, at lunchtime, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, announced that he had the votes to pass a bill, but what bill? A final version, which ran to more than five hundred pages, didn’t emerge until about 6 P.M. , and some of the pages had inserts scrawled in ink. ‘Trying to review the #GOPTaxScam,’ Senator Dick Durbin, the Illinois Democrat, tweeted, ‘but they are making hand-written changes to brand new text as we speak – can anyone else read this?’ The last-minute haggling and rewriting resulted in a bill even more skewed toward the rich.” See also, Winners and Losers Of the Senate Tax Bill, Forbes, Tony Nitti, Saturday, 2 December 2017. See also, A Historic Tax Heist, The New York Times, The Editorial Board, Saturday, 2 December 2017: “With barely a vote to spare early Saturday morning, the Senate passed a tax bill confirming that the Republican leaders’ primary goal is to enrich the country’s elite at the expense of everybody else, including future generations who will end up bearing the cost. The approval of this looting of the public purse by corporations and the wealthy makes it a near certainty that President Trump will sign this or a similar bill into law in the coming days.”

Heading Toward Tax Victory, Republicans Eye Next Step: Cut Spending on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, The New York Times, Kate Zernike and Alan Rappeport, Saturday, 2 December 2017: “As the tax cut legislation passed by the Senate early Saturday hurtles toward final approval, Republicans are preparing to use the swelling deficits made worse by the package as a rationale to pursue their long-held vision: undoing the entitlements of the New Deal and Great Society, leaving government leaner and the safety net skimpier for millions of Americans. Speaker Paul D. Ryan and other Republicans are beginning to express their big dreams publicly, vowing that next year they will move on to changes in Medicare and Social Security. President Trump told a Missouri rally last week, ‘We’re going to go into welfare reform.'”

Emails Among Top Trump Transition Officials Dispute White House Claims That Flynn Acted Independently on Russia, The New York Times, Michael S. Schmidt, Sharon LaFraniere, and Scott Shane, Saturday, 2 December 2017: “When President Trump fired his national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in February, White House officials portrayed him as a renegade who had acted independently in his discussions with a Russian official during the presidential transition and then lied to his colleagues about the interactions. But emails among top transition officials, provided or described to The New York Times, suggest that Mr. Flynn was far from a rogue actor. In fact, the emails, coupled with interviews and court documents filed on Friday, showed that Mr. Flynn was in close touch with other senior members of the Trump transition team both before and after he spoke with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, about American sanctions against Russia. While Mr. Trump has disparaged as a Democratic ‘hoax’ any claims that he or his aides had unusual interactions with Russian officials, the records suggest that the Trump transition team was intensely focused on improving relations with Moscow and was willing to intervene to pursue that goal despite a request from the Obama administration that it not sow confusion about official American policy before Mr. Trump took office.”

Trump Says He Fired Michael Flynn, His First National Security Adviser, ‘Because He Lied’ to the F.B.I., The New York Times, Maggie Haberman, Michael S. Schmidt, and Michael D. Shear, Saturday, 2 December 2017: “President Trump said on Saturday that he had fired Michael T. Flynn, his first national security adviser, because he lied not just to the vice president but also to the F.B.I. The president has long asserted that he fired Mr. Flynn in February, less than a month after he took office, because Mr. Flynn had lied to Vice President Mike Pence over whether he talked with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, about sanctions imposed on Russia by President Barack Obama. By saying on Twitter on Saturday that Mr. Flynn’s lies to the F.B.I. had also contributed to his firing, some took that to mean that Mr. Trump was acknowledging that he had known in February that Mr. Flynn was untruthful with the bureau’s agents. Any such admission would be important in light of Mr. Trump’s effort that month to persuade the bureau’s director at the time, James B. Comey, to drop the investigation into Mr. Flynn. But White House officials said that Mr. Trump was merely acknowledging what had happened the day before: Mr. Flynn’s guilty plea for lying to the F.B.I. about his conversations with Mr. Kislyak. While Mr. Trump’s tweet on Saturday raised questions about what he knew, he did not actually write it, according to two people briefed on the matter. It was composed by his top personal lawyer, John Dowd, who was in contact with Mr. Trump on Friday and Saturday, trying to calm him after Mr. Flynn’s guilty plea. Mr. Dowd apologized to White House officials for the tweet, saying he should have been more careful with his language in trying to parrot a statement released on Friday by another Trump lawyer, Ty Cobb.” See also, Trump on Michael Flynn’s guilty plea: It’s a ‘shame’ because he had ‘nothing to hide,’ The Washington Post, Kristine Phillips and Aaron Blake, Saturday, 2 December 2017.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller Removed a Top F.B.I. Agent in Russia Inquiry Over Possible Anti-Trump Texts, The New York Times, Michael S. Schmidt, Matt Apuzzo, and Adam Goldman, Saturday, 2 December 2017: “The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, removed a top F.B.I. agent this summer from his investigation into Russian election meddling after the Justice Department’s inspector general began examining whether the agent had sent text messages that expressed anti-Trump political views, according to three people briefed on the matter. The agent, Peter Strzok, is considered one of the most experienced and trusted F.B.I. counterintelligence investigators. He helped lead the investigation into whether Hillary Clinton had mishandled classified information on her private email account, and then played a major role in the investigation into links between President Trump’s campaign and Russia. But Mr. Strzok was reassigned this summer from Mr. Mueller’s investigation to the F.B.I.’s human resources department, where he has been stationed since. The people briefed on the case said the transfer followed the discovery of text messages in which Mr. Strzok and a colleague reacted to news events, like presidential debates, in ways that could appear critical of Mr. Trump. ‘Immediately upon learning of the allegations, the special counsel’s office removed Peter Strzok from the investigation,’ said a spokesman for the special counsel’s office, Peter Carr…. A lawyer for Mr. Strzok did not return several messages seeking comment. A spokeswoman for the Justice Department said that ‘we are aware of the allegation and are taking any and all appropriate steps.’ ABC News reported in August that Mr. Strzok had left the investigation, but the reason for the move was unclear at the time. Mr. Strzok’s reassignment shows that Mr. Mueller moved swiftly in the face of what could be perceived as bias by one of his agents amid a politically charged inquiry into Mr. Trump’s campaign and administration. But the existence of the text messages is likely to fuel claims by Mr. Trump that he is the target of a witch hunt.” See also, Top FBI official assigned to Mueller’s Russia probe said to have been removed last summer after sending anti-Trump texts, The Washington Post, Karoun Demirjian and Devlin Barrett, Saturday, 2 December 2017.

Trump Boycotts a U.N. Global Conference in Mexico Where Negotiators Are Working on a Pact to Ensure a More Humane Approach to the Migration Crises, Foreign Policy, Colum Lynch, Saturday, 2 December 2017: “President Donald Trump has decided to boycott a global conference on migration scheduled to begin Monday in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, sending a blunt signal that the United States is no longer interested in forging a concerted response to the world’s burgeoning migration crises. Trump made the decision on Friday — a day dominated by Senate negotiations on a landmark tax bill — and just days before the Mexican government is scheduled Monday to host a three-day meeting to take stock of negotiations on a pact to ensure a more humane approach to the more than 60 million people who have been forcibly displaced as a result of conflict, poverty or climate change. On Saturday, the U.S. mission to the United Nations informed Secretary General Antonio Guterres that it was ‘ending its participation in the Global Compact on Migration.’ The U.S. president’s decision to pull out of the negotiations highlighted the enduring influence of Stephen Miller, the 32-year-old senior White House policy advisor who has championed the Trump administration’s effort to sharply restrict immigration to the United States. In recent weeks, Miller led effofts to pull out of the migration talks. The administration’s top national security advisers met early last week to determine whether the United States would participate in the talks. White House chief of staff John Kelly, who previously led the Department of Homeland Security’s crackdown on illegal immigrants, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions strongly backed a pullout, according to diplomatic sources familiar with the deliberations. The State Department initially opposed the withdrawal, but its policy planning chief, Brian Hook, who represented Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the principals’ meeting, reversed course and recommended ditching the negotiations. The meeting ended in deadlock, with Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, expressing the lone dissent. Haley had argued that the United States would have a better shot at influencing the outcome of the negotiations if it participated in the process. She was ultimately overruled by the president, according to diplomatic sources.”

Sunday, 3 December 2017, Day 318:


Trump, Defending Himself After Michael Flynn’s Guilty Plea, Says F.B.I. Is in ‘Tatters,’ The New York Times, Michael D. Shear, Sunday, 3 December 2017: “As the F.B.I.’s Russia investigation draws closer to him, President Trump on Sunday unleashed an extraordinary assault on the nation’s premier law enforcement agency, calling it a biased institution whose reputation for fairness was ‘in tatters.’ In a series of early-morning tweets, Mr. Trump said the F.B.I.’s standing was now the ‘worst in history.’ The attack was one of the harshest in a generation on an independent agency that two days earlier had helped secure a guilty plea and a pledge of cooperation from the president’s first national security adviser. Current and former F.B.I. officials, historians and lawmakers rebuked the president over his efforts to undermine the F.B.I.’s credibility as it investigates whether his campaign colluded with Russian officials to sway the 2016 election…. Thomas O’Connor, the president of the association representing F.B.I. agents, defended their integrity in a statement. ‘F.B.I. agents are dedicated to their mission,’ he said, asserting that they demonstrated ‘unwavering integrity and professionalism’ on the job. ‘Suggesting otherwise is simply false,’ he added. On Friday, Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser, admitted that he had lied to the F.B.I. about his conversations with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition. As part of the bureau’s inquiry, the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is believed to be examining whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice by firing James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, who was overseeing the inquiry. Mr. Comey has said Mr. Trump asked him to drop the investigation into Mr. Flynn. But on Sunday, the president condemned Mr. Comey as a liar, saying that ‘I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn’ and that Mr. Comey had harmed the bureau and its employees. He also accused the bureau’s agents of spending years pursuing a ‘phony and dishonest’ investigation into the email server of his 2016 rival, Hillary Clinton…. Eric H. Holder Jr., who was President Barack Obama’s first attorney general, responded to the president’s tweets with one of his own defending the bureau. ‘You’ll find integrity and honesty at FBI headquarters and not at 1600 Penn Ave right now,’ Mr. Holder wrote.” See also, ‘I never asked James Comey to stop investigating Flynn’: Trump goes on tweetstorm about the FBI, The Washington Post, John Wagner, Sunday, 3 December 2017.

John Dowd, Trump’s personal lawyer, says Trump knew Michael Flynn had given the FBI the same account he gave to vice president Mike Pence, The Washington Post, Carol D. Leonnig, John Wagner, and Ellen Nakashima, Sunday, 3 December 2017: “President Trump’s personal lawyer said Sunday that the president knew in late January that then-national security adviser Michael Flynn had probably given FBI agents the same inaccurate account he provided to Vice President Pence about a call with the Russian ambassador. Trump lawyer John Dowd said the information was passed to Trump by White House counsel Donald McGahn, who had been warned about Flynn’s statement to the vice president by a senior Justice Department official. The vice president said publicly at the time that Flynn had told him he had not discussed sanctions with the Russian diplomat — a statement disproved by a U.S. intelligence intercept of a phone call between Flynn and then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Trump was aware of the issue a couple of weeks before a conversation with then-FBI Director James B. Comey in which Comey said the president asked him if he could be lenient while investigating Flynn, whom Trump had just fired for misleading Pence about the nature of his conversations with the Russian. According to notes kept by Comey, Trump asked if he could see ‘his way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.’ Trump fired Comey in May.”

Conservative Operative Trumpeting His Close Ties to the National Rifle Association and to Russia Offered the Trump Campaign a Back-Channel ‘Kremlin Connection’ in a May 2016 Email, The New York Times, Nicholas Fandos, Sunday, 3 December 2017: “A conservative operative trumpeting his close ties to the National Rifle Association and Russia told a Trump campaign adviser last year that he could arrange a back-channel meeting between Donald J. Trump and Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian president, according to an email sent to the Trump campaign. A May 2016 email to the campaign adviser, Rick Dearborn, bore the subject line ‘Kremlin Connection.’ In it, the N.R.A. member said he wanted the advice of Mr. Dearborn and Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, then a foreign policy adviser to Mr. Trump and Mr. Dearborn’s longtime boss, about how to proceed in connecting the two leaders. Russia, he wrote, was ‘quietly but actively seeking a dialogue with the U.S.’ and would attempt to use the N.R.A.’s annual convention in Louisville, Ky., to make ‘first contact.’ The email, which was among a trove of campaign-related documents turned over to investigators on Capitol Hill, was described in detail to The New York Times…. The emailed outreach from the conservative operative to Mr. Dearborn came … around the same time that Russians were trying to make other connections to the Trump campaign. Another contact came through an American advocate for Christian and veterans causes, and together, the outreach shows how, as Mr. Trump closed in on the nomination, Russians were using three foundational pillars of the Republican Party — guns, veterans and Christian conservatives — to try to make contact with his unorthodox campaign.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Says He’ll Let Alabama Voters ‘Make the Call’ on Alabama Senate Candidate Roy Moore, The New York Times, Yamiche Alcindor, Sunday, 3 December 2017: “Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, who has argued for weeks that Roy S. Moore, the Alabama Senate candidate, should leave the race, said on Sunday that he was ‘going to let the people of Alabama make the call.’ Asked during an appearance on ABC News’s ‘This Week’ whether he thought Mr. Moore, who has been accused of preying on teenage girls, should be in the Senate, Mr. Connell said the decision should be left to the Dec. 12 special election. ‘This election has been going on a long time,’ Mr. McConnell said. ‘There has been a lot of discussion about it. They are going to make the decision a week from Tuesday.’ In the past, Mr. McConnell had said that he was looking at drafting a write-in candidate for the election, and that if Mr. Moore, a Republican, won the race, he would support a Senate Ethics Committee investigation into the allegations against him…. Mr. McConnell told ABC News that he still believed that the Ethics Committee should investigate the allegations against Mr. Moore.”

Billy Bush: Yes, Donald Trump, You Said ‘Grab ’em by the pussy,’ The New York Times, Billy Bush, Sunday, 3 December 2017: “He said it. ‘Grab ’em by the pussy.’…  Recently I sat down and read an article dating from October of 2016; it was published days after my departure from NBC, a time when I wasn’t processing anything productively. In it, the author reviewed the various firsthand accounts about Mr. Trump that, at that point, had come from 20 women. Some of what Natasha Stoynoff, Rachel Crooks, Jessica Leeds and Jill Harth alleged involved forceful kissing. Ms. Harth said he pushed her up against a wall, with his hands all over her, trying to kiss her. ‘He was relentless,’ she said. ‘I didn’t know how to handle it.’ Her story makes the whole ‘better use some Tic Tacs’ and ‘just start kissing them’ routine real. I believe her. Kristin Anderson said that Mr. Trump reached under her skirt and ‘touched her vagina through her underwear’ while they were at a New York nightclub in the 1990s. That makes the ‘grab ’em by the pussy’ routine real. I believe her. President Trump is currently indulging in some revisionist history, reportedly telling allies, including at least one United States senator, that the voice on the tape is not his. This has hit a raw nerve in me. I can only imagine how it has reopened the wounds of the women who came forward with their stories about him, and did not receive enough attention. This country is currently trying to reconcile itself to years of power abuse and sexual misconduct. Its leader is wantonly poking the bear.”

Monday, 4 December 2017, Day 319:


Roy Moore, the Republican Senate Candidate From Alabama Who Is Accused of Sexual Misconduct With Minors, Gets Trump Endorsement and Republican National Committee (R.N.C.) Funding for His Senate Race, The New York Times, Richard Fausset, Alan Blinder, and Jonathan Martin, Monday, 4 December 2017: “President Trump on Monday strongly endorsed Roy S. Moore, the Republican nominee for a United States Senate seat here, prompting the Republican National Committee to restore its support for a candidate accused of sexual misconduct against teenage girls. Mr. Trump’s endorsement strengthened what had been his subdued, if symbolically significant, embrace of Mr. Moore’s campaign. At Mr. Trump’s direct urging, and to the surprise of some Republican Party officials, the national committee, which severed ties to Mr. Moore weeks ago, opened a financial spigot that could help Mr. Moore with voter turnout in the contest’s closing days. ‘Democrats refusal to give even one vote for massive Tax Cuts is why we need Republican Roy Moore to win in Alabama,’ Mr. Trump posted on Twitter on Monday, before he formally endorsed Mr. Moore during a telephone call. ‘We need his vote on stopping crime, illegal immigration, Border Wall, Military, Pro Life, V.A., Judges 2nd Amendment and more.’ [Daniel Dale tweet in response to Trump’s tweet: ‘In order to stop crime, the president urges people to vote for man accused of sexually assaulting teen girls.’] Mr. Trump’s endorsement and the party’s reversal hours later came a day after Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, had stepped back from his earlier criticism of Mr. Moore, saying Alabama voters should ‘make the call’ on whether to send Mr. Moore to the Senate. Taken together, the week’s developments suggested that Republicans were increasingly confident that Mr. Moore is well positioned to defeat Doug Jones, the Democratic nominee, in next week’s special election.” See also, Trump: ‘We need Republican Roy Moore to win in Alabama.’ Trump explicitly endorses Senate candidate accused of making unwanted sexual advances on teenage girls. The Washington Post, Philip Rucker, Monday, 4 December 2017.

Supreme Court Allows Trump Travel Ban to Take Effect While Legal Challenges Against It Continue, The New York Times, Adam Liptak, Monday, 4 December 2017: “The Supreme Court on Monday allowed the third version of the Trump administration’s travel ban to go into effect while legal challenges against it continue. The decision was a victory for the administration after its mixed success before the court over the summer, when justices considered and eventually dismissed disputes over the second version. The court’s brief, unsigned orders on Monday urged appeals courts to move swiftly to determine whether the latest ban was lawful. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor said they would have denied the administration’s request to allow the latest ban to go into effect. The court’s orders mean that the administration can fully enforce its new restrictions on travel from eight nations, six of them predominantly Muslim. For now, most citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea will be barred from entering the United States, along with some groups of people from Venezuela. The restrictions vary in their details, but in most cases, citizens of the countries will be unable to emigrate to the United States permanently and many will be barred from working, studying or vacationing here.” See also, Supreme Court allows full enforcement of Trump travel ban while legal challenges continue, The Washington Post, Robert Barnes, Monday, 4 December 2017.

During a speech in Salt Lake City Trump announces he will shrink Bears Ears National Monument by about 85 percent and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by nearly 46 percentThe Washington Post, Josh Dawsey and Juliet Eilperin, Monday, 4 December 2017: “President Trump on Monday drastically scaled back two national monuments established in Utah by his Democratic predecessors, the largest reduction of public-lands protection in U.S. history. Trump’s move to shrink the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments by more than 1.1 million acres and more than 800,000 acres, respectively, immediately sparked an outpouring of praise from conservative lawmakers as well as protests by activists outside the White House and in Utah. The changes plunge the Trump administration into uncharted legal territory, as no president has sought to modify monuments established under the 1906 Antiquities Act in more than half a century. His decision removes about 85 percent of the designation of Bears Ears and nearly 46 percent of that for Grand Staircase-Escalante, land that potentially could now be leased for energy exploration or opened for specific activities such as motorized vehicle use…. The two proclamations are the first in a series of major changes Trump intends to make to numerous monuments, which range from a forested patch of the Pacific Northwest to a stretch of the Atlantic Ocean off New England.” See also, Trump Slashes Size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Monuments, The New York Times, Julie Turkewitz, Monday, 4 December 2017: “The decision to reduce Bears Ears is expected to set off a legal battle that could alter the course of American land conservation, putting dozens of other monuments at risk and possibly opening millions of preserved public acres to oil and gas extraction, mining, logging and other commercial activities.”

John Dowd, Trump’s outside lawyer, claims that a president cannot be guilty of obstruction of justice, Axios, Mike Allen, Monday, 4 December 2017: “John Dowd, President Trump’s outside lawyer, outlined to me a new and highly controversial defense/theory in the Russia probe: A president cannot be guilty of obstruction of justice. The ‘President cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under [the Constitution’s Article II] and has every right to express his view of any case,’ Dowd claims.” See also, Can Presidents Obstruct Justice? The Latest Trump Fight, Explained. The New York Times, Charlie Savage, Monday, 4 December 2017: “This is an updated version of an article published in June that explains what we know about obstruction of justice and how it relates to President Trump’s actions. President Trump’s assertion that he fired his former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in part because he knew that Mr. Flynn had lied to the F.B.I. about his conversations with the Russian ambassador — for which Mr. Flynn pleaded guilty on Friday — has intensified accusations that the president committed obstruction of justice. Critics of Mr. Trump have portrayed the statement as a confession that he knew Mr. Flynn had committed a crime — not just that Mr. Flynn had misled Vice President Mike Pence, the initial justification the White House gave for his firing — when he pressured James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director at the time, to drop the investigation into Mr. Flynn, according to Mr. Comey’s testimony before Congress. Mr. Trump later fired Mr. Comey. Mr. Trump has denied that he pressured Mr. Comey to drop the investigation. And one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, John Dowd, has since said that he, not the president, drafted the tweet about firing Mr. Flynn because he lied to the F.B.I. Mr. Dowd has also claimed that the president, as a matter of constitutional law, cannot violate obstruction of justice statutes anyway. [This article addresses the following questions:] What is obstruction of justice?… Does Trump have authority to supervise law enforcement decisions and fire subordinates?… What is the argument that a president cannot commit obstruction of justice?… What is the argument that a president can commit obstruction of justice?… Does Mr. Trump’s tweet strengthen a hypothetical obstruction case?… What about impeachment?” See also, Attorney General Jeff Sessions argued in Clinton impeachment that presidents can obstruct justice, Politico, Kyle Cheney, Monday, 4 December 2017: “Donald Trump’s personal lawyer argued Monday that, as the nominal head of federal law enforcement, the president is legally unable to obstruct justice. But the exact opposite view was once argued by another senior Trump lawyer: Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In 1999, Sessions – then an Alabama senator – laid out an impassioned case for President Bill Clinton to be removed from office based on the argument that Clinton obstructed justice amid the investigation into his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. ‘The facts are disturbing and compelling on the President’s intent to obstruct justice,’ he said, according to remarks in the congressional record. Sessions isn’t alone. More than 40 current GOP members of Congress voted for the impeachment or removal of Clinton from office for obstruction of justice. They include Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – who mounted his own passionate appeal to remove Clinton from office for obstruction of justice – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, who was a House member at the time. In all, 17 sitting senators supported the obstruction of justice charge against Clinton in 1998 and 1999.”

The Testimony of K.T. McFarland About Russia to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in July Is Questioned by Senator Cory Booker, The New York Times, Michael S. Schmidt and Sharon LaFraniere, Monday, 4 December 2017: “A leading Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee questioned on Monday whether a high-ranking official in Donald J. Trump’s transition team had been deceptive over the summer about her knowledge of discussions between Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser, and a former Russian ambassador. K. T. McFarland served on the presidential transition team before becoming the White House deputy national security adviser. In July, she was questioned in writing by Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, on whether she had ever spoken to Mr. Flynn about his contacts with Sergey I. Kislyak, who was then the Russian ambassador to Washington, before Mr. Trump took office. ‘I am not aware of any of the issues or events described above,’ Ms. McFarland wrote in response, sidestepping a direct answer to the question. An email exchange obtained by The New York Times indicates that Ms. McFarland was aware at the time of a crucial Dec. 29 phone call between Mr. Flynn and Mr. Kislyak that was intercepted by American intelligence. During that call, Mr. Flynn urged Moscow to respond cautiously to sanctions just imposed by the Obama administration for Russia’s interference in the presidential election…. If senators on the Foreign Relations Committee find that Ms. McFarland was evasive in her testimony, it could complicate her nomination to become ambassador to Singapore. Repeated attempts to reach Ms. McFarland, who left her post as deputy national security adviser in May, were unsuccessful.”

According to a Court Document Paul Manafort, Trump’s Former Campaign Manager, Is Accused of Writing an Op-ed With Someone Believed ‘To Have Ties to a Russian Intelligence Service,’ The New York Times, Kenneth P. Vogel, Monday, 4 December 2017: “President Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and an associate with ties to Russian intelligence drafted an op-ed article last week about Mr. Manafort’s work for Russia-aligned interests in Ukraine, according to a court document filed Monday by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. The filing seeks tougher bail restrictions against Mr. Manafort, arguing that writing the op-ed flouts a judge’s admonition against trying to use the news media to influence the case against Mr. Manafort and Rick Gates, another former campaign official. Mr. Manafort and Mr. Gates have pleaded not guilty to charges of money laundering and lobbying violations that were related to their work for Viktor F. Yanukovych, the former Ukrainian president. Monday’s motion does not name the associate with whom Mr. Manafort is believed to have worked on the op-ed. It identified the person only as ‘a longtime Russian colleague of Manafort’s, who is currently based in Russia and assessed to have ties to a Russian intelligence service.’ A person close to Mr. Manafort identified the associate as Konstantin V. Kilimnik, who worked for years as Mr. Manafort’s right-hand man in Ukraine and continued communicating with him throughout the 2016 presidential campaign.” See also, Prosecutors say longtime colleague of Paul Manafort has ‘ties’ to Russian intelligence, The Washington Post, Rosalind S. Helderman and Spencer S. Hsu, Monday, 4 December 2017: “Federal prosecutors asserted Monday that a longtime associate of Paul Manafort, the former chairman of President Trump’s campaign, has been ‘assessed to have ties’ to Russian intelligence — the first time the special counsel has alleged a Trump official had such contacts. The statement came as prosecutors working for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III withdrew their support for a joint bail deal filed last week that would have released Manafort from home detention and GPS monitoring while he awaits trial on charges including money laundering and fraud.”

Trump White House Is Weighing Plans For a Global, Private Spy Network to Counter ‘Deep State’ Enemies in the Intelligence Community Seeking to Undermine Donald Trump’s Presidency. This Spy Network Would Report Directly to Pompeo and Trump. The Intercept, Matthew Cole and Jeremy Scahill, Monday, 4 December 2017: “The Trump administration is considering a set of proposals developed by Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a retired CIA officer — with assistance from Oliver North, a key figure in the Iran-Contra scandal — to provide CIA Director Mike Pompeo and the White House with a global, private spy network that would circumvent official U.S. intelligence agencies, according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials and others familiar with the proposals. The sources say the plans have been pitched to the White House as a means of countering ‘deep state’ enemies in the intelligence community seeking to undermine Donald Trump’s presidency. The creation of such a program raises the possibility that the effort would be used to create an intelligence apparatus to justify the Trump administration’s political agenda. ‘Pompeo can’t trust the CIA bureaucracy, so we need to create this thing that reports just directly to him,’ said a former senior U.S. intelligence official with firsthand knowledge of the proposals, in describing White House discussions. ‘It is a direct-action arm, totally off the books,’ this person said, meaning the intelligence collected would not be shared with the rest of the CIA or the larger intelligence community. ‘The whole point is this is supposed to report to the president and Pompeo directly.'” Update: White House Press Secretary Issues Bizarre Non-Denial of Private Spy Network Plans, While White House Official Confirms It, The Intercept, Lee Fang, published on Tuesday, 5 December 2017. See also, US official confirms Erik Prince proposed private spy network to the Trump administration, CNN, Jim Sciutto and Zachary Cohen, published on Tuesday, 5 December 2017.

Maybe you aren’t paying the estate tax because you bought 311,000 bottles of whisky. Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) says ‘I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.’  The Washington Post, Philip Bump, Monday, 4 December 2017: “There have been a number of exotic rationales introduced in defense of the Republican tax bill that passed the Senate in the early hours of Saturday. None, however, sparked quite the same reaction as one introduced by Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa). Talking to the Des Moines Register, Grassley argued fervently for a repeal of the estate tax, a tax that applies to a small percentage of high-value estates each year. ‘I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing,’ Grassley told the newspaper, ‘as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.’ The argument, then: If, instead of blowing your money on booze and ‘women,’ you were to invest it, you too could have an estate large enough to qualify.”

The ‘gay wedding cake’ case the Supreme Court will hear this week isn’t about religious freedom or free speech. It is about whether there is a constitutional right to discriminate. Los Angeles Times, Louise Melling, Monday, 4 December 2017: “This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case of David Mullins and Charlie Craig, a couple turned away by Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo., when they tried to buy a wedding cake. The two weren’t turned away because they couldn’t afford the cake. They weren’t turned away because they were rude. They were turned away because they are gay. The Colorado courts and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission found that the bakery’s actions violated the state’s law barring discrimination. In the high court, the bakery argues that the lower courts’ findings violate its rights to both religious freedom and free speech. The bakery’s argument is among the most radical to come before the Supreme Court in recent years. When you scratch below the surface, the case poses the following question: Is there a constitutional right to discriminate? The bakery argues that there is, and that the Constitution should exempt it from state laws requiring that businesses not discriminate when serving their customers. In an Orwellian twist, the Department of Justice — the very body charged with enforcing the country’s anti-discrimination laws — agreed with the bakery in a friend-of-the-court brief. Specifically, the bakery argues that it should be allowed to refuse service to people if doing so runs contrary to the religious beliefs of its owners. That should give us pause…. If the Supreme Court … accepts the cake shop’s religion argument, the decision would have far-reaching consequences. Religious liberty could become a way out of anti-discrimination law.”


Tuesday, 5 December 2017, Day 320:


U.S. to Recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital, Trump Says, Alarming Middle East Leaders, The New York Times, Mark Landler and David M. Halbfinger, Tuesday, 5 December 2017: “President Trump plans to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the American Embassy there, upending nearly seven decades of American foreign policy and potentially destroying his efforts to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Mr. Trump’s decision, a high-risk foray into the thicket of the Middle East, was driven not by diplomatic calculations but by a campaign promise. He appealed to evangelicals and ardently pro-Israel American Jews in 2016 by vowing to move the embassy, and advisers said on Tuesday he was determined to make good on his word. But the president, faced with a deadline of this past Monday to make that decision, still plans to sign a national security waiver to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv for an additional six months, even as he set in motion a plan to move it to Jerusalem. Officials said the process would take several years. More significantly, Mr. Trump is set to announce his formal recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital in a formal speech at the White House on Wednesday, when he will become the first American president to take that step since the founding of Israel in 1948…. Mr. Trump spent Tuesday morning explaining the policy change in telephone calls with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel; Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president; and to Arab leaders who warned him that it would disrupt the peace process, perhaps fatally, and could unleash a new wave of violence across the region.” See also, Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in policy shift that could spark unrest, The Washington Post, David Nakamura, Loveday Morris, and Anne Gearan, Tuesday, 5 December 2017.

Representative John Conyers Jr. resigns over sexual harassment allegations after a half-century in Congress, The Washington Post, Elise Viebeck and David Weigel, Tuesday, 5 December 2017: “Facing multiple allegations of sexual harassment, Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) resigned as Congress’s longest-serving member Tuesday, becoming the first lawmaker to step down as Capitol Hill grapples with allegations of inappropriate behavior by lawmakers. Conyers, who represented the Detroit area for 52 years, yielded to mounting pressure from Democratic leaders to step aside as a growing number of female former aides accused him of unwanted advances and mistreatment. He has denied wrongdoing. From a hospital in Detroit, the 88-year-old congressman said he was ‘putting his retirement plans together’ and endorsed his son John Conyers III to replace him. Another Conyers family member has already declared his intention to run for the seat, raising the specter of an intrafamily contest.” See also, John Conyers to Leave Congress Amid Harassment Claims, The New York Times, Yamiche Alcindor, Tuesday, 5 December 2017.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke backs shrinking more national monuments and shifting management of 10, The Washington Post, Juliet Eilperin, Tuesday, 5 December 2017: “Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Tuesday called on President Trump to shrink a total of four national monuments and change the way six other land and marine sites are managed, a sweeping overhaul of how protected areas are maintained in the United States. Zinke’s final report comes a day after Trump signed proclamations in Utah that downsized two massive national monuments there — Bears Ears by 85 percent and Grand Staircase-Escalante by nearly 46 percent. The president had directed Zinke in April to review 27 national monuments established since 1996 under the Antiquities Act, which gives the president broad authority to safeguard federal lands and waters under threat. In addition to the Utah sites, Zinke supports cutting Nevada’s Gold Butte and Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou, though the exact reductions are still being determined. He also would revise the proclamations for those and the others to clarify that certain activities are allowed. The additional monuments affected include Northeast Canyons and Seamounts in the Atlantic Ocean; both Rose Atoll and the Pacific Remote Islands in the Pacific Ocean; New Mexico’s Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Rio Grande Del Norte, and Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters.” See also, Patagonia, REI and Other Outdoor Retailers Protest Trump’s Decision to Shrink Utah Monuments, The New York Times, Tuesday, 5 December 2017: “Patagonia, REI and other outdoor clothing and equipment retailers are speaking out against President Trump’s plan to slash the size of two national monuments in Utah by some two million acres. Mr. Trump on Monday announced that his administration would shrink Bears Ears National Monument, a region of red rock canyons, by 85 percent, and cut another monument, Grand Staircase-Escalante, to about half its current size. ‘The president stole your land,’ Patagonia said in a pop-up message on its website. ‘In an illegal move, the president just reduced the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. This is the largest elimination of protected land in American history.’ Patagonia has been at the forefront of the outdoor recreation industry as the sector becomes increasingly politicized by the actions of Mr. Trump this year. On Tuesday, the company’s general counsel, Hilary Dessouky, said through a spokeswoman that the company planned to file a lawsuit on Wednesday challenging the president’s shrinking of the national monument. ‘The administration’s unlawful actions betray our shared responsibility to protect iconic places for future generations,’ Ms. Dessouky said. ‘We worked to establish Bears Ears National Monument and will now fight to protect it.'” See also, I’m not going to ‘let evil win’: Patagonia’s billionaire owner says he plans to sue Trump, The Washington Post, Abha Bhattarai, Tuesday, 5 December 2017.

Sixteen Republican senators are on the record as saying that a president can obstruct justice, The Washington Post, Philip Bump, Tuesday, 5 December 2017: “In May, we noted that more than 100 members of Congress were around during the Clinton impeachment hearings and cast votes on whether he should face impeachment for his actions. Among those 101 people were 16 currently sitting Republican senators who supported the idea that Clinton should be held accountable for obstructing justice. Eight of those Republican senators were then in the House.”

Trump’s voter fraud commission plans to create a massive voter database. Former national security officials say it could be hacked. The Washington Post, Hamza Sahban, Tuesday, 5 December 2017: “More than a half-dozen technology experts and former national security officials filed an amicus brief Tuesday urging a federal court to halt the collection of voter information for a planned government database. Former national intelligence director James R. Clapper Jr., one of the co-signatories of the brief, warned that a White House plan to create a centralized database containing sensitive information on millions of American voters will become an attractive target for nation states and criminal hackers. This summer, the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity issued a sweeping request to state officials to submit voter data to ‘analyze vulnerabilities and issues related to voter registration and voting.’ The commission, which is chaired by Vice President Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), was established after President Trump claimed that he would have won the popular vote if not for as many as 5 million illegally cast ballots. State officials haven’t found any indication that there was widespread voter fraud. State officials and civil rights advocates have questioned the commission’s stated mission and broad data collection, arguing that it could restrict voting.”

Mick Mulvaney, acting leader of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, ordered a review of active investigations and lawsuits soon after he took over, The New York Times, Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Stacy Cowley, Tuesday, 5 December 2017: “The defanging of a federal consumer watchdog agency began last week in a federal courthouse in San Francisco. After a nearly three-year legal skirmish, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau appeared to have been victorious. A judge agreed in September with the bureau that a financial company had misled more than 100,000 mortgage customers. As punishment, the judge ordered the Ohio company, Nationwide Biweekly Administration, to pay nearly $8 million in penalties. All that was left was to collect the cash. Last week, lawyers from the consumer bureau filed an 11-page brief asking the judge to force Nationwide to post an $8 million bond while the proceedings wrapped up. Then Mick Mulvaney was named the consumer bureau’s acting director. Barely 48 hours later, the same lawyers filed a new two-sentence brief. Their request: to withdraw their earlier submission and no longer take a position on whether Nationwide should put up the cash. It was a subtle but unmistakable sign that the consumer bureau under Mr. Mulvaney is headed in a new direction — one that takes a lighter touch to regulating the financial industry. The reversal is part of a broad push by the Trump administration to unfetter companies from Obama-era regulations…. Some employees, including a few of the bureau’s top officials, have welcomed their new leader. Others, pointing to Mr. Mulvaney’s earlier hostility toward the agency and its mission, are quietly resisting.”

Democrats place hold on the nomination of KT McFarland to be ambassador to Singapore, CNN, Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb, Tuesday, 5 December 2017: “Democrats have placed a hold on the nomination of KT McFarland to be ambassador to Singapore until she answers their questions about her knowledge of communications between former national security adviser Michael Flynn and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, a Democratic source told CNN. McFarland told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in written comments that she ‘was not aware’ of any communications between Flynn and the Russian ambassador — an assertion that appears to be contradicted by court documents unsealed Friday after Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. The Democratic hold on McFarland’s nomination means that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would have to take procedural steps in order to overcome the hold and confirm her nomination, which would eat up valuable floor time. Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told CNN he thinks McFarland’s nomination is imperiled. ‘I think there should be no action on this nomination until we get the information,’ Cardin said.”


Wednesday, 6 December 2017, Day 321:


Trump Recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital and Announces That He Will Begin Preparations to Move the U.S. Embassy From Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, The New York Times, Mark Landler, Wednesday, 6 December 2017: “President Trump on Wednesday formally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, reversing nearly seven decades of American foreign policy and setting in motion a plan to move the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to the fiercely contested Holy City…. Mr. Trump’s remarks were the most closely scrutinized of his presidency on the Middle East, where he has vowed to broker the ‘ultimate deal’ between Israelis and Palestinians but has yet to find a breakthrough to end the conflict. He said he remained committed to brokering an agreement ‘that is a great deal for the Israelis and a great deal for the Palestinians.’ The president said the decision to recognize Jerusalem should not be construed as the United States taking a position on whether, or how, the city might ultimately be shared. But he offered little solace to the Palestinians, making no mention of their long-held hopes for East Jerusalem to be the capital of a Palestinian state. Instead, Mr. Trump emphasized the domestic political dimension of the decision. He noted that he had promised to move the embassy during the 2016 presidential campaign, and added, ‘While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver. Today, I am delivering.’ Though he did not mention it, Mr. Trump signed the same national security waiver signed by his predecessors, from Barack Obama to George W. Bush to Bill Clinton, which will allow the administration to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv for an additional six months. White House officials said that was unavoidable because it would take several years to move the embassy staff to a new facility in Jerusalem.” See also, With Jerusalem Move, Trump Sabotages His Own Mideast Peace Process, The New Yorker, Robin Wright, Wednesday, 6 December 2017: “President Trump threw a diplomatic bomb into the Middle East peace process with his twin decisions to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv. The decision broke with seven decades of U.S. policy by both Republican and Democratic Administrations. It defied every ally, save Israel, and disregarded a last-ditch global campaign that included key figures from the world’s three monotheistic religions—Pope Francis, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and American Jewish groups. Trump’s decision fulfilled a campaign promise, but it threatened to unravel one of his top foreign-policy pledges: to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians, who have already called for ‘three days of rage’ in response.” See also, U.N., European Union and Pope Criticize Trump’s Jerusalem Announcement, The New York Times, Jason Horowitz, Wednesday, 6 December 2017: “Pope Francis said, ‘I cannot remain silent.’ The United Nations secretary general spoke of his ‘great anxiety.’ The European Union expressed ‘serious concern.’ American allies like Britain, France, Germany and Italy all declared it a mistake. A chorus of international leaders criticized the Trump administration’s decision on Wednesday to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, calling it a dangerous disruption that contravenes United Nations resolutions and could inflame one of the world’s thorniest conflicts. Secretary General António Guterres and Pope Francis both expressed alarm that the announcement would provoke new tensions in the Holy City, which is revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims. Within minutes of Mr. Trump’s speech, in which he said the American Embassy would be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Mr. Guterres delivered what amounted to a diplomatic rebuke. Reading a statement outside the Security Council chambers at United Nations headquarters in New York, Mr. Guterres criticized ‘any unilateral measures that would jeopardize the prospect of peace for Israelis and Palestinians,’ underscoring the administration’s departure from decades of American policy. ‘Jerusalem is a final-status issue that must be resolved through direct negotiations between the two parties on the basis of the relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, taking into account the legitimate concerns of both the Palestinian and the Israeli sides,’ Mr. Guterres said.”

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) says Republicans will target welfare, Medicare, and Medicaid spending in 2018, The Washington Post, Jeff Stein, Wednesday, 6 December 2017: “House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said Wednesday that congressional Republicans will aim next year to reduce spending on both federal health care and anti-poverty programs, citing the need to reduce America’s deficit. ‘We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit,’ Ryan said during an appearance on Ross Kaminsky’s talk radio show. ‘… Frankly, it’s the health care entitlements that are the big drivers of our debt, so we spend more time on the health care entitlements — because that’s really where the problem lies, fiscally speaking.’ Ryan said that he believes he has begun convincing President Trump in their private conversations about the need to rein in Medicare, the federal health program that primarily insures the elderly. As a candidate, Trump vowed not to cut spending on Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid. (Ryan also suggested congressional Republicans were unlikely to try changing Social Security, because the rules of the Senate forbid changes to the program through reconciliation — the procedure the Senate can use to pass legislation with only 50 votes.)”

‘The Silence Breakers’ Named Time’s Person of the Year for 2017, The New York Times, Jonah Engel Bromwich, Wednesday, 6 December 2017: “First it was a story. Then a moment. Now, two months after women began to come forward in droves to accuse powerful men of sexual harassment and assault, it is a movement. Time magazine has named ‘the silence breakers’ its person of the year for 2017, referring to those women, and the global conversation they have started. The magazine’s editor in chief, Edward Felsenthal, said in an interview on the ‘Today’ show on Wednesday that the #MeToo movement represented the ‘fastest-moving social change we’ve seen in decades, and it began with individual acts of courage by women and some men too.’ Investigations published in October by The New York Times and The New Yorker, both of them detailing multiple allegations of sexual harassment and assault against the movie producer Harvey Weinstein, sparked the sudden rush of women coming forward. In a joint interview after the choice was announced, Tarana Burke, who created the Me Too mantra years ago, and the actress Alyssa Milano, who helped promote it more recently, focused on what was still left to do. ‘I’ve been saying from the beginning that it’s not just a moment, it’s a movement,’ Ms. Burke said. ‘I think now the work really begins. The hashtag is a declaration. But now we’re poised to really stand up and do the work.'” See also, The Silence Breakers, Time, Stephanie Zacharek, Eliana Dockterman, and Haley Sweetland Edwards, published online on Wednesday, 6 December 2017.

Whistle-Blower Says Michael Flynn Said Economic Sanctions Against Russia Would Be ‘Ripped Up’ as One of the Trump Administration’s First Acts, The New York Times, Mark Mazzetti and Michael S. Schmidt, Wednesday, 6 December 2017: “Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, told a former business associate that economic sanctions against Russia would be ‘ripped up’ as one of the Trump administration’s first acts, according to an account by a whistle-blower made public on Wednesday. Mr. Flynn believed that ending the sanctions could allow a business project he had once participated in to move forward, according to the whistle-blower. The account is the strongest evidence to date that the Trump administration wanted to end the sanctions immediately, and suggests that Mr. Flynn had a possible economic incentive for the United States to forge a closer relationship with Russia. Mr. Flynn had worked on a business venture to partner with Russia to build nuclear power plants in the Middle East until June 2016, but remained close with the people involved afterward. On Inauguration Day, as he sat behind the president listening to the inaugural address, Mr. Flynn, according to the whistle-blower, texted the former business associate to say that the project was ‘good to go.’ The account is detailed in a letter written by Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee. In the letter, Mr. Cummings said that the whistle-blower contacted his office in June and has authorized him to go public with the details. He did not name the whistle-blower.” See also, According to a congressional witness, Michael Flynn told a former business associate that economic sanctions against Russia would be ‘ripped up’ by the Trump administrationThe Washington Post, Tom Hamburger, Wednesday, 6 December 2017.

Donald Trump Jr. Refused to Provide the House Intelligence Committee With Details of a 10 July 2017 Telephone Conversation He Had With His Father About Russian Contacts, The New York Times, Sharon LaFraniere and Nicholas Fandos, Wednesday, 6 December 2017: “Donald Trump Jr. refused on Wednesday to provide a congressional committee details of a July telephone conversation with his father about a meeting last year at which Trump campaign officials had expected to receive damaging information from the Russian government about Hillary Clinton. Testifying in a closed session before the House Intelligence Committee, Mr. Trump claimed that his conversation over the summer with his father, two days after The New York Times disclosed the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan, was protected under attorney-client privilege because lawyers for both men were on the call. What, if anything, Donald J. Trump knew about the Trump Tower meeting as a presidential candidate — and his role in drafting a misleading statement about it once he was president and it became public — are key questions for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who is investigating Russian interference in the election. Donald Trump Jr. had agreed to the meeting after receiving an email stating that a Russian government lawyer would provide incriminating facts about Mrs. Clinton as ‘part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.’ He has said that no damaging information was delivered. Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the top ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, said after Wednesday’s session that Donald Trump Jr. acknowledged that he had discussed the Trump Tower meeting by telephone with his father on July 10. The congressman said that Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Alan S. Futerfas, asked the committee for more time to answer questions about that conversation because both he and a lawyer for the president were privy to it. Mr. Schiff said that he believed the contents of the phone call should not be kept secret simply because lawyers participated in it. ‘The presence of counsel does not make communications between father and son a privilege,’ he said. He added that he would follow up with Mr. Futerfas about the legal basis for refusing to disclose what was discussed.” See also, Donald Trump Jr. grilled about Russian contacts by House intelligence committee, The Washington Post, Karoun Demirjian and Rosalind S. Helderman, Wednesday, 6 December 2017.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller Jumps Onto the Trump Money Trail With Subpoena to Deutsche Bank, The New Yorker, John Cassidy, Wednesday, 6 December 2017: “Do the Russians have something on Donald Trump? The question has been asked since the early days of Trump’s Presidential campaign, in an attempt to make sense of his vocal admiration for Vladimir Putin, and his advocacy for improved relations with the Kremlin. It’s possible, of course, that the answer is no. Trump is an instinctive authoritarian, and he may simply, genuinely admire Putin, and see in him a potential ally for the United States’s global efforts against Islamic extremism. Yet the question has lingered into Trump’s Presidency…. On Tuesday [5 December], the German newspaper Handelsblatt and other media outlets reported that Mueller’s office has demanded financial records from Deutsche Bank, a large German bank that is one of the biggest lenders to companies associated with Trump, and that has also had controversial ties to Russia. The news reports said that Mueller’s office issued a subpoena to the bank earlier this fall; the impression was that the bank, despite its public refusal to confirm any details, was willingly coöperating with the investigation. As the day wore on, the details of the story got somewhat muddied. Some of the early reports said that Mueller had asked Deutsche for information about accounts held by the President and members of his family. In statements to reporters, Trump’s lawyers—Ty Cobb, John Dowd, and Jay Sekulow—insisted that these reports were inaccurate. They claimed that no subpoena had been issued to Deutsche. Late Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal issued a partial correction of its initial story, dropping the claim that Mueller’s subpoena directly concerned Trump and his family members. But the Journal stood by the substance of its report, saying that the subpoena ‘concerns people or entities close to Mr. Trump.’ On Wednesday, Handelsblatt also reaffirmed its story. ‘Yes, Deutsche did get a subpoena from Mueller,’ the paper stated in a headline.” See also, Republicans hammer Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the FBI as the Russia investigation intensifies, The Washington Post, Devlin Barrett and Sean Sullivan, Wednesday, 6 December 2017: “Republican activists and lawmakers are engaged in a multi-front attack on special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe of possible connections between associates of President Trump and Russian agents, trying to stop or curtail the investigation as it moves further into Trump’s inner circle. For months, the president and his allies have been seizing on any whiff of possible impropriety by Mueller’s team or the FBI to argue that the Russia probe is stacked against Trump — potentially building the political support needed to dismiss the special counsel. Several law enforcement officials said they are concerned that the constant drumbeat of conservative criticism seems designed to erode Mueller’s credibility, making it more politically palatable to remove, restrict or simply ignore his recommendations as his investigation progresses. Fox News Channel personality Sean Hannity, one of the president’s informal advisers as well as one of his most vociferous defenders, on Tuesday night called Mueller ‘a disgrace to the American justice system’ and said his team is ‘corrupt, abusively biased and political.’”

House passes bill to let gun owners carry concealed weapons across state lines, The Washington Post, Katie Zezima, Wednesday, 6 December 2017: “The House on Wednesday passed a bill that allows gun owners to carry concealed weapons across state lines. The bill, which the National Rifle Association has called its ‘highest legislative priority,’ passed 231 to 198. But the fate of the bill remains uncertain. It was linked this week with legislation to improve the national background-check system for gun purchases, a measure that has rare bipartisan consensus. House Democrats accused Republicans of ‘trickery’ and ‘sabotage’ in tying the two bills together. In the Senate, Democrats have said the combination bill is a non-starter, and senior Republicans have said that pairing the bills could torpedo them both. Proponents of the bill said it will make it easier for gun owners to exercise their rights, because state concealed-carry permits are currently not valid across state lines. Opponents said it will imperil public safety and a state’s right to determine who is allowed to carry a concealed weapon.” See also, House Votes to Sharply Expand Concealed-Carry Gun Rights, The New York Times, Nicholas Fandos, Wednesday, 6 December 2017.

New Numbers Released by the Department of Homeland Security on 5 December Show Trump Is Deporting Longtime U.S. Residents and Ripping Families Apart. The Numbers Confirm the Human Rights Watch Review Also Published on 5 December, The Intercept, Alice Speri, Wednesday, 6 December 2017: “A review of this year’s deportations published by Human Rights Watch on Tuesday … reveal that many of those removed had long-established lives and deep family connections in the U.S. Some lived and worked here for decades. Many are married to American citizens and have American-born children. Human Rights Watch found that the number of people detained inside the U.S. rather than at the border — meaning that they were not new arrivals — increased by 42 percent over last year, while immigration arrests of people with no criminal convictions nearly tripled. As The Intercept reported earlier this year, the Trump administration has gone out of its way to portray its immigration crackdown as a matter of public safety. Former Secretary of Homeland Security and current White House Chief of Staff John Kelly at one point directed Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials across the country to highlight to the media the ‘most egregious cases’ of criminal apprehensions. From Donald Trump’s Inauguration Day to the end of this fiscal year, 110,568 people were arrested inside the U.S., compared to 77,806 during the same time period in 2016. Among those, 31,888 had no criminal convictions, compared with 11,500 during the same period in 2016. The Human Rights Watch review, confirmed by the figures released by the DHS on Tuesday, shows that the arrest and deportation of immigrants with deep ties to the U.S. and minor or no criminal history was not an exception — or a matter of ‘collateral apprehensions,’ as ICE has sometimes dubbed arrests of immigrants who are not targets of enforcement actions — but the norm. ‘The recently released numbers by DHS confirm what we know from interviewing dozens of people who were recently deported: that these are mothers, fathers, spouses of U.S. citizens, long-term immigrants who have been ripped from the interior of the country under a system that takes very little count of their ties to the U.S.,’ Grace Meng, a Human Rights Watch senior researcher, told The Intercept. ‘We see this as a serious human rights issue and one that’s been exacerbated by this administration.'”

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt Says E.P.A. Scientists Are Free to Discuss Their Work, The New York Times, Lisa Friedman, Wednesday, 6 December 2017: “Scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency will be free to publicly discuss their work from now on, Scott Pruitt, the agency’s administrator, has assured lawmakers who criticized the E.P.A. for preventing employees from presenting findings about climate change. In a letter Monday to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, Mr. Pruitt did not explain why the agency had canceled the presentations of two E.P.A. scientists and one consultant who were scheduled to speak in Providence in October about the health of the Narragansett Bay, nor did he address whether the agency had acted improperly. ‘Procedures have been put in place to prevent such an occurrence in the future,’ Mr. Pruitt wrote. He said he had assured staff members within the E.P.A.’s offices of research and development throughout the country that they had the authority to make decisions about participation in events.”

NAACP says Trump should skip the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, calling his plans to attend ‘an insult,’ The Washington Post, Eli Rosenberg, Wednesday, 6 December 2017: “The NAACP is urging President Trump to skip the opening celebration for a civil rights museum in Mississippi, which he plans to attend, with the organization’s leader sharply criticizing the president’s record on civil rights. The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, a project of the state’s Department of Archives and History, is set to open with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday in Jackson, the state capital. The event will feature speeches from civil rights leaders and elected officials, including Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R), who extended the invitation to the president. But NAACP President Derrick Johnson said in a sharply worded statement that Trump’s attendance would be an ‘affront’ to the movement commemorated by the museum. ‘President Trump’s statements and policies regarding the protection and enforcement of civil rights have been abysmal, and his attendance is an affront to the veterans of the civil rights movement,’ Johnson said. ‘He has created a commission to reinforce voter suppression, refused to denounce white supremacists, and overall, has created a racially hostile climate in this nation.'”

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit heard arguments on the third iteration of the Trump travel ban, The Washington Post, Matt Zapotosky, Wednesday, 6 December 2017: “A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit heard arguments Wednesday on the latest iteration of President Trump’s travel ban, pressing the government and those challenging the directive on the limits of the president’s power to implement the measure and their own authority to review his decisions. The Supreme Court this week allowed the ban to fully take effect while the challenges to it make their way through the legal process. A final decision almost certainly will run through the [Supreme Court] justices.”

House Votes to Table Representative Al Green’s Resolution to Impeach Trump, The New York Times, Associated Press, Wednesday, 6 December 2017: “The House overwhelmingly voted Wednesday to kill a resolution from a liberal Democratic lawmaker to impeach President Donald Trump as most Democrats joined Republicans in opposing the move. Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, said Trump had associated his presidency with causes rooted in bigotry and racism. To back his claim accusing Trump of high misdemeanors, Green cited incidents such as Trump’s blaming both sides for violence at a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and his recent sharing of hateful, anti-Muslim videos posted online by a fringe British extremist group. After his resolution was read aloud, the House voted 364-58 to table the resolution. All the no votes came from Democrats, and four Democratic lawmakers voted present. In all, 126 Democrats joined Republicans in voting to table Green’s effort in the GOP-led House. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said in a statement shortly before the vote that while ‘legitimate questions have been raised about his fitness to lead this nation,’ they argued ‘now is not the time to consider articles of impeachment.’ Several Democratic lawmakers said they agreed that it’s premature to act before special counsel Robert Mueller’s team completes its investigation into Russian election meddling.”

Trump administration asks the Supreme Court to overrule precedent helping unions, The Washington Post, Robert Barnes, Wednesday, 6 December 2017: “The Trump administration on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to overrule a 40-year-old precedent that allows compelling public employees to pay some fees to unions that represent them, an important tool for the U.S. labor movement. It was another dramatic reversal in a high-profile case before the high court, and at least the third time since President Trump’s inauguration that the Justice Department has renounced its past positions, some held for decades. It puts the administration squarely on the side of conservative legal activists, who have complained for years that the requirement violates the free-speech rights of those who don’t want to join the union or pay fees to it. The Supreme Court precedent the administration wants to overturn says that unions may charge all employees for the cost of collective bargaining, but not for the union’s political activities. About 20 states allow that practice. The Obama administration supported the unions in previous challenges, and when the issue was last before the court in January 2016. It appeared from oral arguments that challenge would be successful, but Justice Antonin Scalia died a month later, and the court announced that it had split, 4 to 4, on the issue. With Justice Neil M. Gorsuch taking Scalia’s place, the court announced in September it was taking a new challenge on the issue.”

Ann Marie Buerkle, Trump Pick to Head the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Is Seen as Too Close to Industry Groups to Lead the Commission, The New York Times, Sheila Kaplan, Wednesday, 6 December 2017: “Ann Marie Buerkle, a commissioner at the federal agency charged with protecting consumers from hazardous toys and products, has seldom voted for a mandatory recall, a maximum fine or a tougher safety standard. In more than four years on the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Ms. Buerkle has opposed limiting dangerous carbon monoxide emissions in portable generators; resisted requiring safety technology on table saws; and disagreed with the other Republican commissioner on the five-member board by rejecting fines against companies that delayed reporting hazards to the agency, as required by law. As President Trump’s nominee to head the agency, she is drawing criticism for her positions…. A 66-year-old former nurse, lawyer and member of Congress, Ms. Buerkle is very likely to be confirmed soon by the Republican-controlled Senate, but her record has spurred opposition from Democrats and some consumer advocates. The Senate will also vote on another Trump nominee for the agency, Dana Baiocco, who has long worked as a lawyer defending companies against liability claims. The emergence of Ms. Buerkle, Ms. Baiocco, and the newly appointed general counsel, Patricia Hanz, in leadership roles represents a major shift in the tiny agency, which had in recent years taken a tougher stance against companies manufacturing toxic toys, flammable pajamas, exploding batteries and other household hazards.” See also, The Trump Administration Is Scuttling a Rule That Would Save People From Dying of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning, ProPublica, Jesse Eisinger, published on Friday, 8 December 2017: “It took 16 years and more than 1,000 deaths for the Consumer Products Safety Commission to crack down on deadly portable generators. Trump’s appointees could undo that in a matter of months.”


Thursday, 7 December 2017, Day 322:


The 19 Women Who Accused President Trump of Sexual Misconduct, The Atlantic, Matt Ford, Thursday, 7 December 2017: “It’s been two months since the reckoning began. In early October, The New York Times and The New Yorker first published the alarming accounts of women who said they’d been assaulted by Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. Rare is the day since then that women, and some men, haven’t come forward with accounts of sexual misconduct from famous and not-so-famous men alike. Lurking in the background of the roiling debate about harassment and assault in American society are the allegations made against President Trump by at least 19 women, many of whom came forward after the release of the Access Hollywood tape in October 2016. Trump vociferously denies any wrongdoing. ‘Is the official White House position that all of these women are lying?’ a reporter asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, in late October. ‘Yeah, we’ve been clear on that from the beginning, and the president’s spoken on it,’ Sanders replied. Some of the women’s stories date back to the 1980s when Trump’s personal relationships were fixtures of the New York City tabloids; others begin after he returned to the public eye with his NBC series The Apprentice. Their accounts describe a wide range of alleged behavior, including lewd remarks, overt harassment, groping, and sexual assault. One woman, Summer Zervos, is currently suing the president for defamation after he repeatedly called her and the others liars. [This article covers] details from each accuser—listed alphabetically—and the president’s corresponding defense.”

Al Franken to Resign From the Senate Amid Harassment Allegations, The New York Times, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Yamiche Alcindor, and Nicholas Fandos, Thursday, 7 December 2017: “Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, in an emotional speech on the Senate floor, announced on Thursday that he would resign from Congress, the most prominent figure in a growing list of lawmakers felled by charges of sexual harassment or indiscretions. At turns defiant and mournful but hardly contrite, Mr. Franken called it ‘the worst day of my political life,’ as he denied allegations of groping and improper advances from at least six women. Instead, as his Democratic colleagues looked on, he took a parting shot at President Trump and Roy S. Moore, the Republican candidate for Senate in Alabama; both have also been accused of sexual misconduct. ‘I, of all people, am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office, and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party,’ Mr. Franken said…. Democrats and their leaders forced Mr. Conyers and Mr. Franken out in a succession of seemingly coordinated statements that made clear that their continued presence would be untenable. Mr. Franken stepped down one day after nearly all the Senate’s Democratic women — and most Democratic men, including the top two leaders — called for him to resign. Democrats appear determined to grab the moral high ground in an environment in which they hope sexual harassment becomes a wedge issue in the 2018 midterm elections — even if it costs them popular colleagues and political icons.”

Renewable Energy Is Surging. The Republican Tax Bill Could Curtail That. The New York Times, Brad Plumer and Jim Tankersley, Thursday, 7 December 2017: “The Republican tax bills moving through Congress could significantly hobble the United States’ renewable energy industry because of a series of provisions that scale back incentives for wind and solar power while bolstering older energy sources like oil and gas production. The possibility highlights the degree to which the nation’s recent surge in renewable electricity generation is still sustained by favorable tax treatment, which has lowered the cost of solar and wind production while provoking the ire of fossil-fuel competitors seeking to weaken those tax preferences. Whether lawmakers choose to protect or jettison various renewable tax breaks in the final bill being negotiated on Capitol Hill could have major ramifications for the United States energy landscape, including the prices consumers pay for electricity. Wind and solar are two of the fastest-growing sources of power in the country, providing 7 percent of electricity last year. Sharp declines in the cost of wind turbines and photovoltaic panels, coupled with generous tax credits that can offset at least 30 percent of project costs, have made new wind and solar even cheaper than running existing fossil-fuel plants in parts of the country.”

Trump will suspend a rule to limit methane leaks from oil and gas operations on federal land. Methane is a pollutant far worse than carbon dioxide. The Washington Post, Darryl Fears, Thursday, 7 December 2017: “The Trump administration will suspend a rule to limit methane leaks from oil and gas operations on federal land, but its true aim may be to kill the Obama-era requirement. A notice slated to be published Friday in the Federal Register by the Bureau of Land Management said the agency ‘has concerns regarding the statutory authority, cost, complexity, feasibility, and other implications’ of the 2016 rule, which is set to go fully into effect next month. Methane is a colorless and odorless gas that is up to 36 times as potent as carbon dioxide in terms of contributing to global warming. As development of oil and gas has increased through hydraulic drilling, or fracking, in shale formations, so have methane emissions.”

Futures in Jeopardy, ‘Dreamers’ Get Backing of Big Names and Businesses, The New York Times, Miriam Jordan, Thursday, 7 December 2017: “Years of protests and lobbying by immigrants persuaded President Barack Obama in 2012 to create Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, the program that has let 800,000 young undocumented immigrants, who are known as Dreamers, legally stay and work in the United States. With their future now in jeopardy, a wide range of well-organized, well-financed supporters are lining up behind the Dreamers, including celebrities, philanthropists, religious groups and pillars of corporate America.”

Allies and adversaries of the U.S. denounce Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate the U.S. Embassy there, The Washington Post, Erin Cunningham and Tamer El-Ghobashy, Thursday, 7 December 2017: “Allies and adversaries of the United States found common ground Thursday in rejecting President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, calling the move reckless and likely to reignite violence in the region. Criticism of the move, which breaks with decades of U.S. policy, was particularly sharp across the Middle East, with officials, religious leaders and activists of many political persuasions issuing statements of condemnation. Turkey’s president said it would plunge the region into a ‘ring of fire,’ and Lebanon’s Hezbollah called it ‘malicious aggression.’ Late Wednesday, Egypt said the decision would inflame anger in the Arab and Muslim worlds. The grand imam of Egypt’s al-Azhar, the premier seat of Sunni learning, also rejected the move, accusing Trump of denying Palestinians their right to Jerusalem.”

Palestinians clash with Israeli troops ahead of ‘day of rage’ at Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate the U.S. Embassy there, The Washington Post, Loveday Morris and Ruth Eglash, Thursday, 7 December 2017: “Palestinian protesters and Israeli soldiers clashed Thursday in Jerusalem, Ramallah and other places in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with some demonstrators burning American flags and posters of President Trump a day after he sided with Israel by announcing U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as its capital. But at nightfall, after the skirmishes died down, the region was bracing for worse. More than 100 people were injured Thursday, according to the Palestine Red Crescent, despite the deployment of several extra battalions of Israeli troops. The critical test comes Friday, when larger demonstrations are expected as crowds leave mosques after the weekly noon prayers. In Gaza, the Islamist movement Hamas urged its followers to ignite a third intifada, or uprising, against Israel. The Palestinian Authority called for a general strike. Shops were shuttered in Jerusalem’s Old City.”

Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort says he edited Ukraine op-ed, but he is silent on his colleague’s alleged ties to Russian intelligence, The Washington Post, Spencer S. Hsu, Thursday, 7 December 2017: “Attorneys for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Man­afort acknowledged Thursday that he edited an opinion piece for a Ukraine newspaper but did not publicly address allegations by special counsel prosecutors that he drafted it with a former colleague with ties to Russian intelligence. Manafort’s defense argued in a court filing to a federal judge in Washington that Manafort’s work on the op-ed piece for an English-language newspaper in Kiev defending himself did not violate a court gag order because it would not likely bias potential jurors in any U.S. trial…. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson had ordered Manafort to respond by Thursday to Monday’s allegation that he had violated the gag order. Prosecutors cited the purported violation as a reason for pulling out of a proposed joint bail deal that would release Manafort from home detention and GPS monitoring as he awaits trial on charges of money laundering, fraud and failing to register as a foreign agent when he worked as a consultant to a Ukrainian political party.”