Trump, Week 78: Friday, 13 July – Thursday, 19 July 2018 (Days 540-546)

Families Belong Together and Free: rally in Pittsfield, MA, Saturday, 30 June 2018

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


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


Friday, 13 July 2018, Day 540:


12 Russian Agents Indicted in Mueller Investigation, The New York Times, Mark Mazzetti and Katie Benner, Friday, 13 July 2018: “The special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election issued an indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers on Friday in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton presidential campaign. The indictment came only three days before President Trump was planning to meet with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in Helsinki, Finland. The 29-page indictment is the most detailed accusation by the American government to date of the Russian government’s interference in the 2016 election, and it includes a litany of brazen Russian subterfuge operations meant to foment chaos in the months before Election Day. From phishing attacks to gain access to Democratic operatives, to money laundering, to attempts to break into state elections boards, the indictment details a vigorous and complex effort by Russia’s top military intelligence service to sabotage the campaign of Mr. Trump’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. The timing of the indictment, by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, added a jolt of tension to the already freighted atmosphere surrounding Mr. Trump’s meeting with Mr. Putin. It is all but certain to feed into the conspiratorial views held by the president and some of his allies that Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors are determined to undermine Mr. Trump’s designs for a rapprochement with Russia. The president has long expressed doubt that Russia was behind the 2016 attacks, and the 11-count indictment illustrates even more the distance between his skepticism and the nearly unanimous views of the intelligence and law enforcement agencies he leads.” See also, Mueller probe indicts 12 Russians with hacking of Democrats in 2016, The Washington Post, Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky, Friday, 13 July 2018: “A dozen Russian military intelligence officers were indicted Friday on charges they hacked Democrats’ computers, stole their data and published those files to disrupt the 2016 election — the clearest connection to the Kremlin established so far by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of interference in the presidential campaign. The indictment against members of the Russian military agency known as the GRU marks the first time Mueller has taken direct aim at the Russian government, accusing specific military units and their named officers of a sophisticated, sustained effort to hack the computer networks of Democratic organizations and the Hillary Clinton campaign.” See also, Read Mueller probe indictment of 12 Russians for hacking Democrats, The Washington Post, Friday, 13 July 2018. See also, 12 Russians Charged: Major Highlights of the Indictment and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s Statement, The New York Times, Friday, 13 July 2018. See also, Timeline: How Russian agents allegedly hacked the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s campaign, The Washington Post, Philip Bump, Friday, 13 July 2018. See also, Over 100 Charges, 32 People, and 3 Companies: The Mueller Inquiry, Explained, The New York Times, Emily Cochrane and Alicia Parlapiano, published on Friday, 23 February 2018 and updated when necessary. See also, Who has been charged in the Russia probe and why, The Washington Post, Jukie Vitkovskaya, Samuel Granados, and Aaron Williams, updated on Friday, 13 July 2018. See also, How the Russians hacked the DNC and passed its emails to WikiLeaks, The Washington Post, Ellen Nakashima and Shane Harris, Friday, 13 July 2018. See also, How Russian Intelligence Officers Hid Behind Bitcoin in Hacking Campaign, The New York Times, Nathaniel Popper and Matthew Rosenberg, Friday, 13 July 2018: “In early 2016, Russian intelligence officers obtained a new pool of the virtual currency Bitcoin. They quickly put the digital money to work. The Russian spies used some of the Bitcoins to pay for the registration of a website,, where they would later post emails that had been stolen from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. When the operatives needed a computer server to host the dcleaks site, they paid for that with Bitcoins as well. The transactions were detailed in an indictment on Friday from the Justice Department, in which prosecutors accused 12 Russian operatives of interfering in the 2016 presidential campaign through a sophisticated hacking scheme. The indictment provided one of the clearest illustrations to date of the inner workings of the Russian operation that carried out the hacking of the Democratic Party and other targets. It also showed how cryptocurrencies — and the anonymity they provide — have become both a tool and a challenge for intelligence agencies in the battles between nation states.”

On 27 July 2016 Trump Invited the Russians to Hack Hillary Clinton’s Emails and to Make Them Public. On the Same Day Trump Encouraged Russians to Hack Clinton’s Emails, Russians Started Targeting Clinton’s Personal Servers for the First Time. Were They Listening? The New York Times, Michael S. Schmidt, Friday, 13 July 2018: “It was one of the more outlandish statements in a campaign replete with them: In a news conference in July 2016, Donald J. Trump made a direct appeal to Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails and make them public. ‘Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,’ Mr. Trump said, referring to emails Mrs. Clinton had deleted from the private account she had used when she was secretary of state. ‘I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.’ As it turns out, that same day, the Russians — whether they had tuned in or not — made their first effort to break into the servers used by Mrs. Clinton’s personal office, according to a sweeping 29-page indictment unsealed Friday by the special counsel’s office that charged 12 Russians with election hacking. The indictment did not address the question of whether the Russians’ actions were actually in response to Mr. Trump. It said nothing at all about Mr. Trump’s request for help from Russia — a remark that had unnerved American intelligence and law enforcement officials who were closely monitoring Russia’s efforts to influence the election. But the indictment did offer some clues about what happened, implying that the hacking had occurred later on the day Mr. Trump issued his invitation. He made the statement around 10:30 a.m. July 27 at his golf course in Doral, Fla. It was late afternoon in Russia.” See also, On 27 July 2016 Trump publicly asked Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s emails. They acted within hours. Vox, Dylan Scott, Friday, 13 July 2018: “On the very same day in 2016 that Donald Trump urged Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s missing emails, Russian intelligence officers launched a new attack to hack his opponent’s personal emails, according to the latest indictments from special counsel Robert Mueller. It is maybe the most eyebrow-raising detail in an indictment filled with them.” See also, Why You Should Read the Latest Mueller Indictment Yourself, The New Yorker, Eric Lach, Friday, 13 July 2018: “The latest indictment produced by the special counsel Robert Mueller is a brisk read. ‘You can see, in detail, how the Russian spies operated,’ The New Yorker’s Adam Entous told me on Friday, a few hours after the document was made public. ‘You learn a ton.’ The indictment accuses twelve Russian military-intelligence officers of interfering in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election by hacking the computers of people working for the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party, releasing material stolen from those computers to the public, and then trying to cover their tracks. It details how the Russians used various means, including the hacker persona Guccifer 2.0, to communicate with journalists and other people in the U.S. And, in one notable paragraph, the document says that the Russians tried to hack e-mail accounts used by Clinton’s personal office on July 27, 2016—the same day that Donald Trump, at a rally, publicly asked Russia to try to find Clinton’s ‘missing’ e-mails. But in other ways the indictment is a limited document…. [T]hough, as Entous says, the indictment offers a ‘damning’ amount of detail about the methods the Russian officers used—computer programs, cryptocurrencies, aliases, and so on—it is completely silent on who ordered the Russian operation.”

Top Democrats call on Trump to cancel Putin meeting following indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers for engaging in a ‘sustained effort’ to hack Democrats’ emails and computer networks, CNN Politics, Lauren Fox, Manu Raju, and Jeremy Herb, Friday, 13 July 2018: “The top Democrats in Congress on Friday called for President Donald Trump to cancel his upcoming summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin after the Justice Department announced indictments against 12 Russian nationals, that accused them of engaging in a ‘sustained effort’ to hack Democrats’ emails and computer networks. ‘President Trump should cancel his meeting with Vladimir Putin until Russia takes demonstrable and transparent steps to prove that they won’t interfere in future elections. Glad-handing with Vladimir Putin on the heels of these indictments would be an insult to our democracy,’ Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement. The top Democrat in the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, tweeted, ‘@realDonaldTrump must immediately cancel his meeting with Putin.'”

Continue reading Week 78, Friday, 13 July – Thursday, 19 July 2018 (Days 540-546)

G.R.U., the Russian Spy Agency Cited by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Casts a Long Shadow, The New York Times, Andrew E. Kramer, Friday, 13 July 2018: “The Russian intelligence officers indicted on Friday by the United States special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, served in a branch of the Russian military formerly known as the G.R.U., which has been linked in recent years to a number of increasingly bold, even reckless operations abroad. The organization is Russia’s largest military intelligence agency and is one of several groups authorized to spy for the Russian government, alongside successor agencies to the K.G.B. Though the G.R.U. has been the target of sanctions by the United States government numerous times, including in connection with hacking in the 2016 presidential election, the indictments filed by Mr. Mueller’s office are the first criminal charges leveled against Russian government officials for election meddling…. Though still commonly referred to as the G.R.U., or Main Intelligence Directorate, the agency in 2010 changed its name to the Main Directorate, or G.U. As before, it is subordinate to the Russian military command. From the shooting down of a civilian airliner over Ukraine to operations in Syria and the United States electoral hacking, the organization’s recent history has been entangled with some of Russia’s most contentious actions, analysts and security researchers say.”

Charges against Russian intelligence officers intensify spotlight on Trump adviser Roger Stone, The Washington Post, Rosalind S. Helderman and Manuel Roig-Franzia, Friday, 13 July 2018: “A federal indictment filed Friday accusing a dozen Russian military intelligence officers of conspiring to hack Democrats during the 2016 campaign spotlights communications between Roger Stone, a longtime adviser to President Trump, and an online persona allegedly operated by the Russians. Stone has previously acknowledged exchanging direct messages on Twitter in August and September 2016 with Guccifer 2.0, who claimed to be a Romanian hacker. Stone has said there is no proof the account was connected to the Russians. But according to criminal charges filed Friday by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, Guccifer 2.0 was actually operated by a group of Russian military intelligence officers based in Moscow. The Russians used Guccifer 2.0’s Twitter account to send multiple messages to ‘a person who was in regular contact with senior members’ of Trump’s campaign, Mueller wrote in the indictment. The messages quoted in court papers match exchanges that Stone had with the account, according to an image he posted on his personal website. A person familiar with the investigation also confirmed that the Trump campaign associate referred to in the indictment is Stone.”

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Indictment of Russian Intelligence Operatives Should Quell Harebrained Conspiracy Theories on DNC Hack, The Intercept, James Risen, Friday, 13 July 2018: “With his latest indictments on Friday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller drove a particularly sharp nail into the coffin of the conspiracy theories surrounding the cyber-attack on the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign during the 2016 election…. Mueller’s prosecutors charged 12 Russian intelligence officials, listed by name, rank, and job title, with engineering the hack of the Democrats during the election. In damning detail, the indictment makes the case that the hack of the Democratic Party was a highly-structured, officially sanctioned covert action operation conducted by Russian intelligence, namely the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence arm. If the allegations hold up, there can no longer be any question as to whether the cyberattack was ordered and approved by the Putin government. The indictment also adds heft to the longstanding intelligence community consensus that the target of the covert action was Clinton and her presidential campaign, and that Moscow’s objective was to damage her campaign and help Donald Trump win. After stealing thousands of emails and other documents, the Russian intelligence officers then set up cyber fronts – DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 – to disseminate the material through WikiLeaks and the American press to try to influence the presidential election. The American media eagerly lapped it up without asking many questions about where the leaks were coming from.”

Government says it will reunite up to 200 migrant children a day with their parents, The Washington Post, Maria Sacchetti, Friday, 13 July 2018: “Federal officials said Friday they plan to return up to 200 children a day to their migrant parents to comply with a federal court order issued in a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown on the U.S.-Mexico border…. [T]he government filed the broad outlines of its reunification plan with the [U.S. District Court in San Diego], saying it intended to identify six to eight sites to process the larger group of 2,551 older children on a rolling basis starting Friday. It remains unclear whether the parents and children will be detained together or released.” See also, The Activist Effort to Find the Children the Government Took From Their Parents, The New Yorker, Jonathan Blitzer, Friday, 13 July 2018: “Last Friday, two weeks after a federal judge in San Diego ordered the U.S. government to reunite more than twenty-five hundred migrant families who had been forcibly separated at the border, lawyers from the Department of Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union arrived in court for a hearing. The judge, a George W. Bush appointee named Dana Sabraw, had set a series of deadlines for the government. One of them was for July 10th—this past Tuesday—when children under the age of five were supposed to be reunited with their parents. Sabraw wanted the government to say how many children it planned to reunite, but the D.O.J. attorney couldn’t give him a firm answer. The numbers ‘are sort of always a little bit in flux,’ the attorney said. And, meanwhile, she added, some of the parents were no longer in government custody, which made finding them difficult and reuniting them with their children impossible by the deadline. In the next hour, the extent of the government’s disorganization grew increasingly clear. Lee Gelernt, the A.C.L.U. attorney who’s led the litigation effort against the Trump Administration’s family-separation policy since the winter, left the hearing with a new sense of urgency. ‘We needed concrete information for when we walked back into court on Monday,’ he told me. ‘The government’s tracking system was not even close to acceptable.’ Later that afternoon, Gelernt got in touch with a group of immigrant-rights advocates. Together, they came up with a plan to assemble their own list of the children and parents who remained separated. It was a complex undertaking that immigration attorneys have been discussing, in mostly aspirational terms, for months. Now, in order to hold the government to the judge’s deadline, they had a single weekend to pull something together. ‘The A.C.L.U. wanted this by Sunday night,’ Michelle Brané, of the Women’s Refugee Commission, told me. ‘And it was a holiday weekend.’ The main obstacle to reuniting families has been the fact that, when the government initially separated them, there was no plan for keeping track of where the parents or children ended up. The adults were sent, first, to criminal custody and, from there, to immigration detention, which is overseen by the Department of Homeland Security; the children were transferred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services.”

U.N. Agrees on Migration Pact, but the U.S. Is Conspicuously Absent, The New York Times, Megan Specia, Friday, 13 July 2018: “The United Nations on Friday completed an agreement on improved ways to handle the global flow of migrants — a pact particularly notable because it was boycotted by a huge and influential member, the United States. The agreement — the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration — was negotiated at a time that the conversations about migration and refugees have grown increasingly divisive in much of the Western world. The United States had initially participated in the negotiations, but it abruptly withdrew last December under orders from the Trump administration, which has taken an increasingly hostile view toward cross-border migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. It argued that such multinational agreements subverted the power of individual governments to control national borders.”

Trump says immigration is ‘changing the culture’ of Europe and its leaders ‘better watch themselves,’ The Washington Post, John Wagner, Friday, 13 July 2018: “President Trump warned European leaders Friday that they ‘better watch themselves’ because a wave of immigration is ‘changing the culture’ of their countries. ‘I think it’s a very negative thing for Europe. I think it’s very negative,’ Trump said. ‘And I know it’s politically not necessarily correct to say that, but I’ll say it and I’ll say it loud.’ Trump’s comments came during a joint news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May in Ellesborough, England. Trump was asked to elaborate on comments published Thursday in the British tabloid the Sun in which he said an influx of migrants fleeing violence and seeking asylum had ‘changed the fabric of Europe.’ In his remarks Friday, Trump blamed immigration for terrorist attacks and offered Germany as an example.”

Trump denies he said something that he said on a tape many have heard, The Washington Post, Aaron Blake, Friday, 13 July 2018: “President Trump’s complaints about ‘fake news’ are often dishonest. But rarely has it been so transparent. At a news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May in Britain on Friday, Trump claimed that a newspaper interview that quoted him criticizing May’s Brexit and trade strategies was ‘fake news.’ ‘I didn’t criticize the prime minister,’ he said. He went on to suggest a recording would vindicate him. The recording exists. And it completely and utterly contradicts Trump’s claim.”

Many fact checks later, Trump is (still) botching NATO spending, The Washington Post, Meg Kelly, Friday, 13 July 2018: “The Fact Checker first reviewed a series of inaccurate statements that then-candidate Donald Trump made about the funding of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, back in March 2016. Over two and a half years and many Pinocchios later, Trump still doesn’t seem to understand how NATO works. He tweeted and commented on defense spending while browbeating NATO allies about supposed unpaid debts at the this year’s annual summit. But the numbers he used were often misleading or just plain wrong. As a reader service, we looked into six claims the president just couldn’t and hasn’t stopped repeating.”

Dispatches From the U.K. as Trump Stokes Turmoil, The Intercept, Robert Mackey, Friday, 13 July 2018: “Donald Trump’s U.K. visit was never going to be smooth, given that the American president is reviled by many Britons, including tens of thousands who plan to take to the streets in protest, but he ensured that Friday would be a day of high tension by attacking his host, Prime Minister Theresa May, in comments published as he dined with her Thursday night.” See also, 10 Falsehoods From Trump’s News Conference With Theresa May, The New York Times, Linda Qiu, Friday, 13 July 2018. See also, Donald Trump, Theresa May, and Brexit: today’s British front pages, The Guardian, Warren Murray, Friday, 13 July 2018. See also, Live Briefing: Trump, in Britain, Tells Theresa May That Ties Are at the ‘Highest Level of Special,’ The New York Times, Friday, 13 July 2018. See also, London’s ‘Trump Baby’ Balloon Flies as Protests Take Off Across the U.K., The New York Times, Ceylan Yeginsu and Iliana Magra, Friday, 13 July: “Tens of thousands of demonstrators turned out in London alone. A ‘Trump Baby’ balloon was launched into the sky above Parliament Square. Many people banged pots and pans and chanted slogans. Those were some of the ways people on Friday mounted protests at every stage of President Trump’s working visit to Britain. The main protests came a day after the president’s trip was jolted by The Sun newspaper’s publication of an interview in which Mr. Trump gave a harsh assessment of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit strategy and praised Boris Johnson, her Conservative Party rival, as a potentially great prime minister. But later, Mr. Trump tried to repair the damage, calling Mrs. May ‘tough.’ The most anticipated installment of Britain’s ‘Stop Trump’ protests — a giant orange balloon of Mr. Trump depicted as a pouting baby in a diaper and holding a smartphone — took flight in London earlier in the day.”

All the President’s Men: Republicans’ Slavish Loyalty to Trump in the Russia Investigation May Permanently Deprive Congress of Its Oversight Role, The Intercept, James Risen, Friday, 13 July 2018: “This is my fourth column for The Intercept about the Trump-Russia case. It is easy to get lost in the daily, incremental stories about Trump and Russia; these columns are my attempt to step back and look at the big picture. This piece is a companion to my previous column about whether Trump has tried to impede efforts — first by the FBI under then-Director James Comey and later by Special Counsel Robert Mueller — to investigate whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians to win the White House. I concluded that the answer is absolutely yes. The question I’m addressing in this fourth column is whether Republicans in Congress have been aiding Trump’s efforts to obstruct and impede the Russia investigation. I believe the answer to that question is yes as well. Their actions may not meet the legal definition of obstruction of justice, but they are clearly collaborating with Trump to interfere with Mueller’s investigation. They are laying the groundwork to discredit Mueller’s inquiry if Congress is eventually asked to weigh impeachment charges against Trump.”

‘Warning Lights Are Blinking Red’ Says Dan Coats (Director of National Intelligence) About Russian Cyberattacks, The New York Times, Julian E. Barnes, Friday, 13 July 2018: “The nation’s top intelligence officer said on Friday that the persistent danger of Russian cyberattacks today was akin to the warnings the United States had of stepped-up terror threats ahead of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. That note of alarm sounded by Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, came on the same day that 12 Russian agents were indicted on charges of hacking the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Mr. Coats said those indictments illustrated Moscow’s continuing strategy to undermine the United States’ democracy and erode its institutions.”


Saturday, 14 July 2018, Day 541:


Cleaning Toilets, Following Rules: A Migrant Child’s Days in Detention. A portrait of life in the shelters for the children detained after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. The New York Times, Dan Barry, Miriam Jordan, Annie Correal, and Manny Fernandez, Saturday, 14 July 2018: “Do not misbehave. Do not sit on the floor. Do not share your food. Do not use nicknames. Also, it is best not to cry. Doing so might hurt your case. Lights out by 9 p.m. and lights on at dawn, after which make your bed according to the step-by-step instructions posted on the wall. Wash and mop the bathroom, scrubbing the sinks and toilets. Then it is time to form a line for the walk to breakfast.”

Brett Kavanaugh: Influential Judge, Loyal Friend, Conservative Warrior–and D.C. Insider, The New York Times, Scott Shane, Steve Eder, Rebecca R. Ruiz, Adam Liptak, Charlie Savage, and Ben Protess, Saturday, 14 July 2018: “When Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh introduced himself to the American people on Monday, with a beaming President Trump beside him, he had a lot to say about his mother, a former high school teacher and a Maryland judge. He accorded his father strikingly less attention — just 34 words, compared with 132 about his mother — mentioning his ‘unparalleled work ethic’ while not saying exactly what work he did. Yet Ed Kavanaugh’s career may shed light on his son’s hostility to government regulation, a major reason conservatives are so enthralled by his nomination to the Supreme Court. He spent more than two decades in Washington as a top lobbyist for the cosmetics industry, courting Congress and combating regulations from the Food and Drug Administration and other agencies…. Now Brett Kavanaugh, should he be confirmed, will cement a solid pro-business majority on the nation’s highest court, advancing Mr. Trump’s aim of dismantling the regulatory state, liberating industry from what he sees as burdensome rules. With critical battles over the environment and consumer protection headed for the courts, his ascent would likely achieve for industry incomparably more than all his father’s years of lobbying…. [A]s with any nominee, Judge Kavanaugh and his supporters are carefully shaping his narrative for the diverse Senate and the broader American public: his mother the judge, not his father the lobbyist; his parents’ early struggles, not their second homes in the Florida Keys and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore; his service as a children’s sports coach and a Catholic volunteer, not his participation in some of the most bitter partisan fights in recent times. They do not let on that Judge Kavanaugh is by legacy and experience a charter member of elite Washington: His family’s government-centric social circle, his two summer jobs on Capitol Hill, his White House service, his golfing at the capital’s country clubs, his residence in one of the richest suburban enclaves in America. Nor do they note that Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination is the culmination of a 30-year conservative movement to shift the judiciary to the right.”

Colin Kaepernick’s Forced Exile From the NFL Has Lasted for 500 Days, The Intercept, Shaun King, Saturday, 14 July 2018: “Today marks 500 days that Colin Kaepernick has been effectively banned from the NFL because of his peaceful protests against police brutality and systemic racism in the United States. While he became a legend and a cult hero for millions of people, taking a knee during the national anthem appears to have completely cost him his career. He has not so much as received a single tryout from even one team, in spite of being considered by experts to be around the 15th best quarterback in the NFL…. I believe that what has happened to Kaepernick is the single biggest injustice done to an athlete in my lifetime. It is on par with Muhammad Ali being stripped of his championship belt and being banned from boxing for three years because he was a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War…. And it’s no accident that it’s happening under the Trump administration. In fact, it seems to be happening as a direct result of teams being terrified of what President Donald Trump and their ultra conservative fans might say if they signed Kaepernick.”

In the J20 Trials, the Federal Government Said It Went After ‘Bad Protesters.’ That Just Means Another Crackdown on Dissent. The Intercept, Natasha Lennard, Saturday, 14 July 2018: “The last remaining defendants in the J20 trials, who faced a raft of charges related to a mass arrest on Inauguration Day, can breathe a sigh of relief. Last week, federal prosecutors decided to drop all remaining felony charges against the protesters, who faced decades in prison for rioting and conspiring to do the same. To defenders of First Amendment rights, the government’s failure to win convictions was a victory: The prosecutors’ novel theory of collective liability — that mere presence at a demonstration in which property damage occurred constituted a planned criminal offense — fell apart…. Yet the J20 narrative is more complex than a simple victory for protected speech over government repression. It was a troubling example of how the government will use the idea of the ‘bad protester’ to shut down dissent. Aaron Cantú, a journalist and J20 defendant who was among the last to have his charges dropped, tweeted, ‘The state shamelessly weaponized the “good protester/bad protester” narrative in this case. It’s time to put it to rest.'”


Sunday, 15 July 2018, Day 542:


Trump, on Eve of Putin Meeting, Calls the European Union a Trade ‘Foe’ and Says He ‘Hadn’t Thought’ About Asking Putin to Extradite 12 Indicted Russians, The New York Times, Julie Hirshfeld Davis and Katie Rogers, Sunday, 15 July 2018: “President Trump on Sunday spent the eve of his first summit meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia finding fault with allies, Barack Obama and the news media while refraining from condemning Moscow for its meddling in the 2016 presidential election. His comments raised the stakes for the meeting, a closely scrutinized encounter that the White House said would include a 90-minute session in which the two presidents will speak one-on-one, with only their interpreters present. The meeting is taking place just days after 12 Russian intelligence agents were indicted by the Justice Department on charges that they sought to thwart American democracy during the election campaign. And Mr. Trump’s remarks came after a week in which he sowed new doubts about his support for NATO and berated European allies for treating the United States unfairly on trade. That has raised concerns that he might offer concessions behind closed doors to a Russian president who is ready to exploit any hint of fissure within the Western alliance. As Mr. Trump made his way to Helsinki, Finland’s capital, he said he was looking forward to the meeting, which he has said he hopes will lead to warmer relations with Mr. Putin. He indicated that he did not plan to use his time with the Russian president to press him on the election interference. Mr. Trump also said it had not occurred to him to demand the extradition of the indicted agents to the United States to face charges. ‘I hadn’t thought of that,’ Mr. Trump said in an interview with CBS, broadcast on Sunday, when asked about the possibility.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May says Trump told Britain to ‘sue’ European Union to speed Brexit, The Washington Post, Josh Dawsey and Seung Min Kim, Sunday, 15 July 2018: “President Trump told British Prime Minister Theresa May that she should ‘sue’ the European Union for a quicker Brexit, May said Sunday. ‘He told me I should sue the E.U. — not go into negotiations. Sue them. Actually, no, we’re going into negotiations with them,’ May told the BBC in an interview that published Sunday. It is unclear how such a lawsuit would work for Britain, a member of the European Union, but Trump has often threatened lawsuits in dealmaking.”

Tracing Guccifer 2.0’s Many Tentacles in the 2016 Election, The New York Times, David E. Sanger, Jim Rutenberg, and Eric Lipton, Sunday, 15 July 2018: “The message from WikiLeaks in July 2016 to a group of Russian intelligence officers who prosecutors say were posing as a Romanian hacker named Guccifer 2.0 urged swift action before the opening of the Democratic National Convention that month. ‘If you have anything hillary related we want it in the next tweo days prefable because the DNC is approaching,’ the error-ridden message read. ‘and she will solidify bernie supporters behind her after.’ WikiLeaks had begun seeking stolen files from Guccifer 2.0 weeks earlier, after revelations that the Democratic National Committee’s server had been hacked, according to private messages cited in an indictment filed Friday by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. The organization had told Guccifer that publishing the stolen material on the WikiLeaks site will ‘have a much higher impact than what you are doing.’ But WikiLeaks’ administrators, including Julian Assange, its founder, did not know what was in the trove — they were simply seeking anything that would widen the divisions inside the party between supporters of Hillary Clinton and those of Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator who had also sought the nomination. The exchange offers a new look at the central role of Guccifer 2.0, the digital persona alleged to have been set up by Russian military intelligence, which passed the stolen Democratic documents and misinformation to WikiLeaks and some Americans, who then spread it through social media and news organizations. The indictment provides never-before-seen detail of how the Russian cyberspies operated, based on intercepts that had to have come from American, British or Dutch intelligence, interviews in recent months show. All three eventually got into the Russian networks, but it was the British who had first warned the National Security Agency that they were seeing the D.N.C.’s messages running through communications lines controlled by the Russian military intelligence service, called the G.R.U.”

Trump Finds a New Weapon for His War on Journalism–Leak Indictments Aimed at Smearing Reporters, The Intercept, Peter Maass, Sunday, 15 July 2018: “Last month, James Wolfe was indicted for lying to the FBI about his contacts with four reporters while he worked for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. His indictment, and the media coverage of it, focused to a lopsided extent on just one of the reporters: Ali Watkins, who the indictment revealed to have been Wolfe’s girlfriend for several years…. The Watkins case appears to reveal a new tactic in the Trump administration’s war on journalism. In addition to the president describing journalists as an ‘enemy of the people’ and ‘the most dishonest people,’ his Justice Department is using indictments of alleged leakers to peddle incidental information that is legally beside the point but smears the standing and credibility of reporters who publish stories that criticize or annoy the White House (especially stories about Russian interference in the U.S. election system).”

Kevin de León Stuns Senator Dianne Feinstein by Winning the California Democratic Party Endorsement in a Landslide, The Intercept, David Dayen, Sunday, 15 July 2018: “Dianne Feinstein lost the California Democratic Party’s endorsement in a stunning vote Saturday night at the party’s executive board meeting in Oakland. Though the vote was expected to be close, state Senator Kevin de León rather easily crossed the 60 percent threshold necessary for endorsement. De León secured 65 percent of the vote among the 333 executive board members present. Feinstein garnered 7 percent, and ‘no endorsement’ took 28 percent…. ‘The nation’s most accomplished Democratic Party is leading the call for a new generation of leadership who will fight to advance a bold agenda,’ de León said in a statement. ‘We have presented Californians with the first real alternative to the worn-out Washington playbook in a quarter-century.'” See also, Senator Dianne Feinstein Has Advantages in the California Race. Kevin de León Now Has the Democratic Party Leaders. The New York Times, Adam Nagourney, Sunday, 15 July 2018: “The first rebuke to Senator Dianne Feinstein came in February, when the California Democratic Party delivered 54 percent of its convention vote to her opponent, Kevin de León, a state senator — just short of the 60 percent he needed for the party’s endorsement. Then, in the California Senate primary last month, Ms. Feinstein crushed Mr. de León in her bid for a sixth term, drawing 2.9 million votes compared to 804,000 votes for him. But on Saturday night, the executive committee of the Democratic Party struck again at Ms. Feinstein, embarrassing her by voting to endorse Mr. de León in spite of the primary result. He received 217 votes from the committee of party leaders and elected delegates, or 65 percent of the 333 votes cast. The result is the latest sign of impatience by liberal Democratic activists across the nation with the kind of moderation Ms. Feinstein represents in Washington, D.C. — and in the state that has become viewed as the vanguard of Democratic resistance to President Trump.”

Tainted by Fox News scandals, Bill Shine now works for us all. No big dear, right? The Washington Post, Margaret Sullivan, Sunday, 15 July 2018: “All the elements for a big-time Washington dust-up were there. The former head of a cable-news giant — damaged by his association with a sexual-harassment scandal — named as a high-ranking White House adviser. His wife’s social media posts, full of ugly commentary and crackpot theories, surreptitiously deleted. A president already accused many times of sexual misconduct himself. But most of the nation — along with most of the news media — shrugged it off. The elimination of Starbucks’s plastic straws got people more riled up than Bill Shine’s being named as President Trump’s communications chief…. ‘The press picks up the cues about what will resonate,’ and in this case, the judgment seemed to be that it didn’t matter much, said Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of American Press Institute…. Trump’s hunger for constant attention keeps the craziness flowing all day every day, leaving journalists and the public overwhelmed and not always able to distinguish what is a real controversy and what is a manufactured one. In Trump World, there is no weekend, there is no evening. The news cycle is perpetual. As journalists, Rosenstiel said, ‘we’ve lost our own sense of proportion.’ That’s worrisome. It means that important developments don’t get the attention they deserve, that norms can be shredded with impunity.”

$88 Million and Counting: Trump Amasses Huge Head Start for 2020 Presidential Campaign, The New York Times, Kenneth P. Vogel and Rachel Shorey, Sunday, 15 July 2018: “President Trump has raised more than $88 million for his re-election campaign over the last year and a half, giving him a dramatic head start on prospective Democratic challengers in the 2020 race. Mr. Trump’s campaign committee, combined with two joint committees formed with the Republican Party, ended last month with nearly $53.6 million in the bank — almost $10 million more than their previous largest balance — according to finance reports filed Sunday evening with the Federal Election Commission. The totals reflect a brisk and continued fund-raising effort by Mr. Trump’s campaign operation that, in a departure from usual presidential practice, started even before he took office. Most new presidents shift their political operations to their national party committee until launching their re-election campaign after the first midterm election of their tenure.”

White House Orders Direct Taliban Talks to Jump-Start Afghan Negotiations, The New York Times, Mujib Mashal and Eric Schmitt, Sunday, 15 July 2018: “The Trump administration has told its top diplomats to seek direct talks with the Taliban, a significant shift in American policy in Afghanistan, done in the hope of jump-starting negotiations to end the 17-year war. The Taliban have long said they will first discuss peace only with the Americans, who toppled their regime in Afghanistan in 2001. But the United States has mostly insisted that the Afghan government must take part. The recent strategy shift, which was confirmed by several senior American and Afghan officials, is intended to bring those two positions closer and lead to broader, formal negotiations to end the long war.”


Monday, 16 July 2018, Day 543:


Trump, at Putin’s Side at Press Conference in Helsinki, Questions U.S. Intelligence on Russia’s interference in the 2016 Election, The New York Times, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Monday, 16 July 2018: “President Trump stood next to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Monday and publicly challenged the conclusion of his own intelligence agencies that Moscow interfered in the 2016 presidential election, wrapping up what he called a ‘deeply productive’ summit meeting with an extraordinary show of trust for a leader accused of attacking American democracy. In a remarkable news conference, Mr. Trump did not name a single action for which Mr. Putin should be held accountable. Instead, he saved his sharpest criticism for the United States and the special counsel investigation into the election interference, calling it a ‘ridiculous’ probe and a ‘witch hunt’ that has kept the two countries apart. Mr. Trump even questioned the determinations by his intelligence officials that Russia had meddled in the election. ‘They said they think it’s Russia,’ Mr. Trump said. ‘I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia,’ the president continued, only moments after Mr. Putin conceded that he had wanted Mr. Trump to win the election because of his promises of warmer relations with Moscow. ‘I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be’ Russia that was responsible for the election hacking, Mr. Trump added. ‘President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.'” See also, Trump repudiates U.S. intelligence community by according equal weight to Putin, The Washington Post, Greg Miller and Shane Harris, Monday, 16 July 2018: “U.S. officials had only days earlier released some of the most detailed intelligence on Russia that America’s spies have ever allowed the public to see: information on bitcoin deposits, names of cyber-operatives even a description of a keyboard used to hack the 2016 U.S. election campaign. Then the nation’s top intelligence official warned that Russia’s cyber-intrusions were not only real but have continued unabated. None of it has been enough to persuade President Trump to believe his government over the claims of the Kremlin. In an astonishing repudiation of U.S. intelligence services and the American system of justice, Trump used a stage he shared with Russian President Vladimir Putin — in a Finnish palace packed with international journalists — to voice breathtaking doubts about the case against Moscow and renew his attacks on special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.” See also, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats stands by findings on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, The Washington Post, Felicia Sonmez, Monday, 16 July 2018: “Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats said Monday that the U.S. intelligence community has been ‘clear’ in its findings on Russian interference in the 2016 election, rebutting an attack by President Trump during a joint appearance with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin in Helsinki. ‘The role of the Intelligence Community is to provide the best information and fact-based assessments possible for the President and policymakers,’ Coats said in a statement. ‘We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security.’ Coats’s statement came not long after a news conference at which Trump prompted an outcry from both sides of the aisle with his unquestioning acceptance of Putin’s denial of Russian interference as well as his assertion that the ongoing Russia probe is ‘a disaster for our country.'” See also, Trump Trusts Putin’s Denial, but Seven U.S. Intelligence Groups Blame Russia for Election Meddling, The New York Times, Karen Yourish and Troy Griggs, Monday, 16 July 2018. See also, U.S. Intelligence Community Reacts With Fury to Trump’s Rebuke, The New York Times, Matthew Rosenberg, Monday, 16 July 2018: “President Trump, in the words of a former C.I.A. director, Michael V. Hayden, appeared ‘raw, naked and unfiltered.’ John O. Brennan, another former spy chief, called the president’s performance ‘treasonous.’ And Mark M. Lowenthal, a former C.I.A. assistant director and congressional intelligence official, said it was ‘just beyond the pale.’ Mr. Trump has frequently questioned the conclusions of his own spies that Russia attempted to influence the 2016 presidential election and has tried to do the same regarding potential Russian meddling in this year’s midterms. But this time he did it standing next to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who has repeatedly denied that Russia made any effort to interfere in the vote — a denial that American intelligence officials say is nothing more than a hollow lie. But not Mr. Trump. Asked Monday at his news conference in Helsinki whether he believed his own people or Mr. Putin, the American president appeared to come down on the side of the Russian leader. Mr. Putin was ‘extremely strong and powerful in his denial today,’ Mr. Trump said.” See also, Trump-Putin Summit Is Over. The Head-Scratching? Not So Much. The New York Times, Monday, 16 July, and into Tuesday, 17 July 2018. See also, Trump hands Putin a diplomatic triumph by casting doubt on U.S. intelligence agencies, The Washington Post, Philip Rucker, Anton Troianovski, and Seung Min Kim, Monday, 16 July 2018. See also, Trump’s news conference in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin, annotated, The Washington Post, Aaron Blake, Transcript courtesy of Bloomberg Government, Monday, 16 July 2018. See also, Trump and Putin Met in Helsinki’s Hall of Mirrors. Here Are the Highlights. The Intercept, Robert Mackey, Monday, 16 July 2018. See also, Standing beside Trump, Putin makes a clear reference to the subject of the 2016 Trump Tower meeting, The Washington Post, Philip Bump, Monday, 16 July 2018. See also, Trump sides with Russia against the FBI at Helsinki summit, BBC News, Monday, 16 July 2018.  See also, 8 Suspect Claims From the Trump-Putin News Conference in Helsinki, The New York Times, Linda Qiu, Monday, 16 July 2018. See also, Confronted With Evidence of Russian Hacking, Trump Reverts to Conspiracy, The New York Times, David E. Sanger, Monday, 16 July 2018.

Trump just colluded with Russia. Openly. The Washington Post, Editorial Board, Monday, 16 July 2018: “The enduring image of the U.S.-Russia summit in Helsinki on Monday will be that of President Trump standing next to Vladi­mir Putin and suggesting he found Mr. Putin’s ‘powerful’ denial at least as persuasive as the U.S. intelligence community’s unanimous finding that Russia intervened in the 2016 election. Coupled with another groundless attack on the FBI and an apparent endorsement of a patently disingenuous offer by Mr. Putin to collaborate with the investigation of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, Mr. Trump appeared to align himself with the Kremlin against American law enforcement before the Russian ruler and a global audience.” See also, Why Won’t Donald Trump Speak for America? Trump lays himself at Vladimir Putin’s feet. The New York Times, The Editorial Board, Monday, 16 July 2018: “The last time President Trump claimed that ‘both sides’ were responsible for bad behavior, it didn’t go well. That was nearly a year ago, after a march of neo-Nazis descended into violence and a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of peaceful protesters, killing a woman. On Monday, Mr. Trump again engaged in immoral equivalence, this time during a gobsmacking news conference after his meeting in Helsinki, Finland, with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. A reporter referred to last week’s indictments of 12 Russian military officials for a coordinated cyberattack on the 2016 election and asked Mr. Trump if he held Russia responsible. ‘I hold both countries responsible,’ Mr. Trump said. Even in a presidency replete with self-defeating moments for the United States, Mr. Trump’s comments on Monday, which were broadcast live around the world, stand out. The spectacle was hard to fathom: Mr. Trump, standing just inches from an autocratic thug who steals territory and has his adversaries murdered, undermined the unanimous conclusion of his own intelligence and law enforcement agencies that the Russian government interfered with the 2016 election with the goal of helping Mr. Trump win. ‘My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me, and some others, they said they think it’s Russia,’ Mr. Trump said at one point, speaking of his director of national intelligence. ‘I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.’ (In a statement on Monday afternoon, Mr. Coats reiterated that, in fact, it was.)” See also, This Is the Moment of Truth for Republicans, The Atlantic, James Fallows, Monday, 16 July 2018: “[N]ever before have I seen an American president consistently, repeatedly, publicly, and shockingly advance the interests of another country over those of his own government and people.” See also, Trump’s news conference with Putin was everything Putin could have dreamed, The Washington Post, Aaron Blake, Monday, 16 July 2018. See also, After a stunning news conference, there’s a newly crucial job for the press in the US, The Washington Post, Margaret Sullivan, Monday, 16 July 2018: “It was press conference as national nightmare, summed up succinctly by the BBC on its home page minutes later with this headline: ‘Trump Sides With Russia Against FBI.’ And though Monday’s joint Trump-Putin post-summit appearance in Helsinki was a news conference — with some admirably tough questions from two experienced wire-service reporters — it also was a moment in which no media interpretation was really necessary. Everything was right out there in the open. Believe your eyes and ears…. Almost superfluous in the moment, the news media’s job became crucially important in the immediate aftermath. What happened on that stage needs to be made undeniably clear to every American citizen who isn’t hopelessly lost in denial. (And clearly, many are.) That job will fall, in part at least, to the American press, which will find itself in the uncomfortable position of calling a spade a spade, with none of the usual recourse to false equivalence or ‘both sides with equal weight’ coverage…. [F]or the reality-based press, the job will require clarity and moral force, in ways we’re not always all that comfortable with. Just as it took months to come to terms with referring to Trump’s endless falsehoods (when they are clearly intentional) as ‘lies,’ we need to get out of our ingrained habits in order to tell this story clearly…. Clarity of purpose and moral force are called for.” See also, The CIA Had a Rule Against Meeting the KGB Alone, Trump Was Reckless to Ignore It With Putin. The Intercept, James Risen, Monday, 16 July 2018: “Trump … insisted on meeting Putin without any of his aides present. At a time when there is a federal investigation underway into whether his campaign colluded with the Russians to win the 2016 election, Trump’s decision to meet Putin alone was at best reckless. His many critics will take it as further evidence that he really is a KGB agent. Both leaders’ comments to reporters after the meeting only reinforced the growing belief among many Americans that Trump is in Putin’s pocket.”

Some Republicans Rebuke Trump for Siding With Putin as Democrats Demand Action, The New York Times, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Nicholas Fandos, and Thomas Kaplan, Monday, 16 July 2018: “For nearly two years, Republicans have watched uncomfortably, and often in silence, as President Trump has swatted away accusations that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential race, attacked his own intelligence agencies and flattered President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. On Monday, even for members of his own party, Mr. Trump apparently went too far. The president’s extraordinary news conference with Mr. Putin in Helsinki, Finland, stunned Republicans across the ideological spectrum and the party’s political apparatus, leaving them struggling to respond after the president undermined his national intelligence director, blamed both the United States and Russia for poor relations between the two countries and seemingly agreed to Mr. Putin’s suggestion that Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, cooperate with Russia. Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, declared, ‘No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant.’ Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker and Trump adviser, declared the news conference ‘the most serious mistake of his presidency.’ Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee and current Senate candidate from Utah, called it ‘disgraceful and detrimental to our democratic principles.’… Yet no Republican in Congress pledged any particular action to punish Mr. Trump, such as holding up his nominees or delaying legislation, nor did any Republican promise hearings or increased oversight. It was left to Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, to demand actual action. He called for increased sanctions on Russia; for Mr. Trump’s national security team to testify before Congress; for defense of the Department of Justice and other intelligence agencies; and for Mr. Trump to press Mr. Putin to extradite the 12 Russian intelligence agents who were indicted Friday. ‘In the entire history of our country, Americans have never seen a president of the United States support an adversary the way President Trump has supported President Putin,’ Mr. Schumer said.” See also, How Some Republican Senators and Representatives Responded to Trump’s Denial of Russian Meddling in the 2016 Presidential Election, The New York Times, Monday, 16 July 2018. See also, Trump’s defense of Russia prompts outrage from some Republicans, The Washington Post, Felicia Sonmez and Mike DeBonis, Monday, 16 July 2018. See also, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer say Trump’s news conference in Helsinki suggests Putin has damaging information on him, The Washington Post, John Wagner, Monday, 16 July 2018: “The top two Democrats in Congress suggested Monday that President Trump’s performance during a joint news conference with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin signaled that Russia has damaging information on the U.S. leader. ‘President Trump’s weakness in front of Putin was embarrassing, and proves that the Russians have something on the president, personally, financially or politically,’ House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement. ‘This is a sad day for America, and for all Western democracies that Putin continues to target.’ Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) was less direct but raised the same prospect in a statement issued shortly after Trump and Putin concluded a remarkable news conference in Helsinki at the end of a summit that both said included discussion of Russian interference in the U.S. 2016 presidential election. ‘A single, ominous question now hangs over the White House: What could possibly cause President Trump to put the interests of Russia over those of the United States?’ Schumer said in a statement. ‘Millions of Americans will continue to wonder if the only possible explanation for this dangerous behavior is the possibility that President Putin holds damaging information over President Trump.'” See also, Senator Jeff Merkley says it’s ‘likely’ that Russians have dirt on Trump, CBS News, Blair Guild, Monday, 16 July 2018: “Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, said Monday that he believes that the Russian government may have ‘something close’ to the long-rumored video of President Trump engaging in a sexual act with two prostitutes. When asked if footage of the alleged act exists on BuzzFeed’s ‘AM to DM,’ Merkley responded that it is possible. ‘Something close to that. Something close to that,’ Merkley said with a smirk. A dossier financed by Mr. Trump’s opponents before the election and written by former British spy Christopher Steele asserted that such a video exists, although there is no known evidence that it does. Mr. Trump has also denied the existence of such a video. If a blackmail tape of the specific sexual encounter does not exist, Merkley believes that the Russian government may still have some form of compromising content or information involving Mr. Trump. ‘I think it’s likely,’ Merkley responded when asked if Russian President Vladimir Putin has anything on Mr. Trump. ‘It’s the standard strategy of Russia when people visit there who are important, to try to get compromising information on them, to set them up with hookers, to tape everything that goes on in their room. So it’s likely that they have that,’ he said.”

‘Very much counter to the plan’: Trump Defies his advisers in embrace of Russian President Vladimir Putin, The Washington Post, Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey, and Carol D. Leonnig, Monday, 16 July 2018: “Administration officials had hoped that maybe, just maybe, Monday’s summit between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin would end differently — without a freewheeling 46-minute news conference in which Trump attacked his own FBI on foreign soil and warmly praised archrival Russia. Ahead of the meeting, staffers provided Trump with some 100 pages of briefing materials aimed at laying out a tough posture toward Putin, but the president ignored most of it, according to one person familiar with the discussions, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose internal deliberations. Trump’s remarks were ‘very much counter to the plan,’ the person said. ‘Everyone around Trump’ was urging him to take a firm stance with Putin, according to a second person familiar with the preparations. Before Monday’s meeting, the second person said, advisers covered matters from Russia’s annexation of Crimea to its interference in the U.S. elections, but Trump ‘made a game-time decision’ to handle the summit his way.”

Mariia Butina, Who Sought ‘Back Channel’ Meeting for Trump and Putin, Is Charged as a Russian Agent Carrying Out a Secret Effort to Influence U.S. Politics, The New York Times, Matt Apuzzo, Katie Benner, and Sharon La Franiere, Monday, 16 July 2018: “A Russian woman who tried to broker a secret meeting between Donald J. Trump and the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, during the 2016 presidential campaign was charged Monday and accused of working with Americans to carry out a secret Russian effort to influence American politics. At the behest of a senior Russian government official, the woman, Mariia Butina, made connections through the National Rifle Association, religious organizations and the National Prayer Breakfast to try to steer the Republican Party toward more pro-Russia policies, court records show. Privately comparing herself to a Soviet Cold War propagandist, she worked to infiltrate American organizations and establish ‘back channel’ lines of communication with American politicians. ‘These lines could be used by the Russian Federation to penetrate the U.S. national decision-making apparatus to advance the agenda of the Russian Federation,’ an F.B.I. agent wrote in court documents.” See also, Maria Butina Loved Guns, Trump, and Russia. It Was a Cover, Prosecutors Say. The New York Times, Sharon LaFraniere, Matthew Rosenberg, and Adam Goldman, published on Tuesday, 17 July 2018. See also, Maria Butina, Russian gun-rights advocate who sought to build ties with the NRA, is charged with acting as a covert Russian agent, The Washington Post, Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Jackman, and Devlin Barrett, Monday, 16 July 2018: “A Russian woman with ties to a senior Russian government official was charged in Washington on Monday with conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation, including by building ties to the leadership of the National Rifle Association and other conservative political organizations. Maria Butina, 29, who recently received a graduate degree from American University, was arrested Sunday in the District and made her first appearance in U.S. District Court before Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson, where she was ordered held without bond.” See also, ‘She was like a novelty’: How alleged Russian agent Maria Butina gained access to elite conservative circles, The Washington Post, Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger, Shane Harris, and Carol D. Leonnig, published on Tuesday, 17 July 2018. See also, Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, ‘Putin’s Favorite Congressman,’ Is Now Engulfed in the Maria Butina NRA Spy Case, Daily Beast, Jackie Kucinich and Spencer Ackerman, published on Tuesday, 17 July 2018.

Judge Dana M. Sabraw of the Federal District Court in San Diego Orders Temporary Halt to Migrant Family Deportations, The New York Times, Caitlin Dickerson, Monday, 16 July 2018: “Among the first migrant parents to recover their children after they were taken by immigration authorities at the southwest border were 12 Guatemalans who disembarked jubilantly from a plane last week back in their home country. Immediately, though, there were questions: Had the families given up their right to pursue an asylum claim as the price for recovering their children? In a court filing on Monday, lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union said there are growing concerns that the Trump administration’s efforts to return more than 2,000 migrant children to their parents by July 26 to comply with a court order could be accompanied by attempts to carry out ‘mass deportations’ once the families are reunited. Lawyers for the civil rights group referred in their motion to ‘persistent and increasing rumors — which defendants have refused to deny — that mass deportations may be carried out imminently and immediately upon reunification.’ In an apparent attempt to head off any such concern, Judge Dana M. Sabraw of the Federal District Court in San Diego on Monday temporarily blocked the government from deporting any families who had been separated by immigration authorities under President Trump’s ‘zero-tolerance’ policy on border enforcement. A.C.L.U. lawyers said they were concerned that deportations could happen so rapidly after reunification that migrant families might not have enough time to understand their legal rights and might give up their right to pursue a petition for asylum.”

U.S. Treasury moves to protect identities of ‘dark money’ political donors, Reuters, Monday, 16 July 2918: “The U.S. Treasury said on Monday that it will no longer require certain tax-exempt organizations including politically active nonprofit groups, such as the National Rifle Association and Planned Parenthood, to identify their financial donors to U.S. tax authorities. The policy change, heralded by conservatives as an advance for free speech, maintains donor disclosure requirements for traditional charity groups organized to receive tax-exempt donations under a section of the Internal Revenue code known as 501(c)(3), the Treasury said. But the move frees labor unions, issue advocacy organizations, veterans groups and other nonprofits that do not receive tax-exempt money from meeting confidential disclosure requirements set in place decades ago…. The change protects the privacy of wealthy donors of “dark money” donations to politically active groups. Conservatives have complained that the disclosures to the IRS, though not public, were susceptible to media leaks.” See also, I.R.S. Will No Longer Force Kochs and Other Groups to Disclose Donors, The New York Times, Patricia Cohen, Kenneth P. Vogel, and Jim Tankersley, published on Tuesday, 17 July 2018: “The Trump administration will end a longstanding requirement that certain nonprofit organizations disclose the names of large donors to the Internal Revenue Service, a move that will allow some political groups to shield their sources of funding from government scrutiny. The change, which has long been sought by conservatives and Republicans in Congress, will affect thousands of labor unions, social clubs and political groups as varied as arms of the AARP, the United States Chamber of Commerce, the National Rifle Association and Americans for Prosperity, which is funded partly by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch…. [C]ritics denounced the measure, saying it would encourage political donations from both domestic and foreign contributors who want to skirt the law or keep their influence secret.” See also, ‘Dark money’ groups don’t need to disclose donors to the IRS, Treasury Department says, The Washington Post, Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Jeff Stein, published on Tuesday, 17 July 2018: “Nonprofits that spend money to influence elections but are not required to disclose donors to the public — called ‘dark money’ groups by critics — no longer need to share their donors’ names or addresses in their tax filings under a new Treasury rule announced Monday.”

Two Freedom Caucus Leaders in the House of Representatives want Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein investigated for alleged threats, The Washington Post, Mike DeBonis, Monday, 16 July 2018: “Two leaders of the conservative House Freedom Caucus want the Justice Department’s internal watchdog to investigate whether Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein threatened congressional aides in a January meeting. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the group’s chairman, and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a co-founder and influential conservative leader, made the request of Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz on Monday, according to a letter obtained by The Washington Post. ‘This notion Mr. Rosenstein threatened to use his official investigative powers as Deputy Attorney General to retaliate against rank-and-file staff members for sending written oversight requests raises concerns he has abused his authority in the context of this investigation,’ they wrote. The call for a probe comes as President Trump’s defenders in Congress have turned up the heat on the Justice Department and the FBI over their probes into the 2016 presidential candidates — culminating last week in a fiery hearing where Republicans berated senior FBI official Peter Strzok for sending text messages during the campaign criticizing and denigrating then-candidate Trump.”


Tuesday, 17 July 2018, Day 544:


A Besieged Trump Says He Misspoke on Russian Election Meddling at the Helsinki Press Conference, The New York Times, Mark Landler and Maggie Haberman, Tuesday, 17 July 2018: “Under unrelenting pressure from congressional Republicans, his own advisers and his allies on Fox News, President Trump abruptly reversed course on Tuesday and claimed he had misspoken during a news conference with President Vladimir V. Putin about whether Russia tried to influence the 2016 presidential election. Mr. Trump, reading from a script, said he believed the assessment of the United States’ intelligence agencies that Russia had interfered in the campaign after having seemed to have accepted Mr. Putin’s assertion the day before that Russia was not involved. The misunderstanding, he said, grew out of an unsuccessful attempt to use a double negative when he answered a question about whether he believed Mr. Putin or his intelligence agencies. ‘My people came to me,’ he said Monday in Helsinki, Finland. ‘They said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.’ On Tuesday, he said that he had misspoken. ‘The sentence should have been, “I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia,” sort of a double negative,’ Mr. Trump said. ‘So you can put that in, and I think that probably clarifies things pretty good.’… Mr. Trump … did not retract or explain his withering attack on the F.B.I. and the Justice Department for investigating his campaign’s ties to Russia. He did not withdraw his assertion, standing next to Mr. Putin, that the Russian leader had offered an ‘extremely strong and powerful’ denial of involvement during their two-and-a-half-hour meeting. And he did not amend his answer to a question about whether he believed Mr. Putin or officials like Dan Coats, his director of national intelligence. Mr. Trump said there were ‘two thoughts’ on the matter, and, ‘I have confidence in both parties.'” See also, Trump Addresses Criticism of Appearance With Putin in Helsinki: Full Transcript, The New York Times, Tuesday, 17 July 2018. See also, Trump now says he accepts U.S. intelligence on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, but he denies collusion, The Washington Post, Ashley Parker, Robert Costa, and Felicia Sonmez, published on Wednesday, 18 July 2018: “President Trump on Tuesday grudgingly sought to inch back his warm remarks about Russia and its leader during a summit in Helsinki a day earlier, saying he had misspoken when he appeared to accept President Vladi­mir Putin’s denials that Russia had interfered in the 2016 presidential election. Initially crossing his arms in front of him, and reading haltingly from prepared remarks, the president said he accepts the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia sought to influence the election — but added that it ‘could be other people also,’ an assertion not backed by evidence. The strained effort at damage control came more than 24 hours after his rhetorical embrace of Putin at a joint news conference set off a global uproar, including shouts of treason from some Democrats and demands from many Republicans that he mop up the mess. Many of his usual defenders had gone dark in the wake of the summit, and neither Trump nor his aides acknowledged any error until the president took to the cameras Tuesday afternoon.” See also, Trump Retreats and Says He Accepts U.S. Finding That Russia Meddled in the 2016 Presidential Election, Bloomberg, Jennifer Jacobs and Justin Sink, Tuesday, 17 July 2018: “President Donald Trump said Tuesday he accepts the conclusion by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the U.S. presidential election, marking a rare retreat from comments just a day earlier amid a backlash from Republicans. But even with a prepared statement in hand, he introduced doubt, looking up from the text and saying that the meddling in the 2016 election ‘could be other people also.'” See also, The Unwinding of Donald Trump, The New Yorker, David Remnick, Tuesday, 17 July 2018: “In dictatorial states, a failure to applaud the Leader has often been a matter of treason. Last February, following the State of the Union address, President Trump flew to Blue Ash, Ohio, for a rally and accused the Democrats in Congress of that very crime. Their crime was a failure to stand and applaud sufficiently for the President of the United States. ‘You’re up there and you’ve got half the room going totally crazy, wild—they loved everything, they want to do something great for our country,’ Trump said. ‘And you have the other side, even on positive news . . . they were like death and un-American. Un-American. Somebody said “treasonous.” I mean, yeah, I guess, why not? Can we call that treason? Why not? I mean, they certainly didn’t seem to love our country very much.’ It’s unlikely that anyone remembers that moment in Blue Ash—a moment that would be an enduring stain on any other President—and the reason is obvious: Trump’s penchant for bald deception and incoherence is not an aberration. It is his daily practice. The vague sense of torpor and gloom that so many Americans have shouldered these past two years derives precisely from the constancy of Trump’s galling statements and actions. And yet what happened in Helsinki on Monday will not be so easily forgotten…. The President’s attempt to reverse the damage—clearly the result of a panicked White House staff—only worsened the matter. Speaking from the White House Cabinet Room on Tuesday, Trump tried to take his listeners for fools as he explained that he had merely been misunderstood by the press. This was one of the most shameless walk-back attempts in the history of the American Presidency.” See also, Trump’s attempt to clean up his press conference with Putin in Helsinki was an insult to America’s intelligence, The Washington Post, Philip Bump, Tuesday, 17 July 2018. See also, In his prepared remarks, Trump removed a line about bringing election hackers to justice, The Washington Post, Philip Bump, Tuesday, 17 July 2018. See also, The growing Trump-Putin kompromat question, The Washington Post, Aaron Blake, Tuesday, 17 July 2018.

As Trump attacks the Russia investigation, these House Republicans keep attacking Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, The Washington Post, Amber Phillips, Tuesday, 17 July 2018: “On the very same day that President Trump sided with Russia over election interference and called the special counsel investigation back home ‘a disaster for our country,’ a group of House conservatives escalated its campaign against the person overseeing that investigation, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein. That’s no small thing, given that Rosenstein is the final authority on special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Getting rid of Rosenstein is perhaps the most efficient way to end Mueller’s probe, a strategy that Trump has been reported to have considered. Rosenstein appointed Mueller. While Trump can’t fire Mueller, he can constitutionally fire Rosenstein for any reason, then replace him with someone more willing to blunt Mueller’s work. In that context, any effort in Congress to get rid of Rosenstein is worth watching carefully.”

‘Morally repugnant’: Homeland Security advisory council members resign over immigration policies, The Washington Post, David Nakamura, Tuesday, 17 July 2018: “Four members of a Homeland Security advisory council have resigned in protest over the Trump administration’s immigration policies, citing the ‘morally repugnant’ practice of separating immigrant families at the border. Richard Danzig, former secretary of the Navy in the Clinton administration, and Elizabeth Holtzman, a former Democratic congresswoman, were among the group that announced their resignation Monday in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. The group noted that the Department of Homeland Security did not consult its advisory council before implementing the policy, which separated more than 2,500 children until President Trump reversed his endorsement of the practice amid an international outcry and signed an order instructing the agency to stop doing so.”

Environmental Protection Agency eases rules on how coal ash waste is stored across the U.S., The Washington Post, Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis, Tuesday, 17 July 2018: “The Environmental Protection Agency finalized a rule Tuesday to overhaul requirements for handling the toxic waste produced by burning coal, providing more flexibility to state and industry officials who had sought a rollback of restrictions put in place in 2015. The far-reaching rule will dictate how coal ash, which has contaminated waterways in two high-profile spills in Tennessee and North Carolina in the past decade, is stored at more than 400 coal-fired power plants around the country. The new standards — the first major rule signed by EPA acting administrator Andrew Wheeler — will extend the life of some existing ash ponds from April 2019 until October 2020, empower states to suspend groundwater monitoring in certain cases and allow state officials to certify whether utilities’ facilities meet adequate standards. EPA officials estimate that the rule change will save the industry between $28 million and $31 million a year in compliance costs.”

Obama issues a new warning against ‘strongman politics,’ Politico, Louis Nelson, Tuesday, 17 July 2018: “Former President Barack Obama warned on Tuesday of ‘a politics of fear and resentment and retrenchment,’ delivering a rebuke of the nationalist, right-wing brand of politics for which President Donald Trump has become the standard-bearer. Obama, delivering remarks in South Africa to mark the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth, said he offered his perspective in light of ‘the strange and uncertain times we are in,’ with ‘each day’s news cycle bringing more head-spinning and disturbing headlines.’ He made no direct mention of Trump but addressed head-on the type of politics that the current president has come to embody.” See also, Obama Warns of ‘Strongman Politics’ After Trump’s Meeting With Putin, The New York Times, Matthew Haag, Tuesday, 17 July 2018: “Without mentioning President Trump by name, former President Barack Obama delivered a pointed rebuke of ‘strongman politics’ on Tuesday, warning about growing nationalism, xenophobia and bigotry in the United States and around the world, while offering a full-throated defense of democracy, diversity and the liberal international order.” See also, Transcript of Obama’s Speech Defending Democracy, The New York Times, Tuesday, 17 July 2018.


Wednesday, 18 July 2018, Day 545:


From the Start, Trump Has Muddied a Clear Message: Putin Interfered in the 2016 Presidential Election, The New York Times, David E. Sanger and Matthew Rosenberg, Wednesday, 18 July 2018: “Two weeks before his inauguration, Donald J. Trump was shown highly classified intelligence indicating that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had personally ordered complex cyberattacks to sway the 2016 American election. The evidence included texts and emails from Russian military officers and information gleaned from a top-secret source close to Mr. Putin, who had described to the C.I.A. how the Kremlin decided to execute its campaign of hacking and disinformation. Mr. Trump sounded grudgingly convinced, according to several people who attended the intelligence briefing. But ever since, Mr. Trump has tried to cloud the very clear findings that he received on Jan. 6, 2017, which his own intelligence leaders have unanimously endorsed. The shifting narrative underscores the degree to which Mr. Trump regularly picks and chooses intelligence to suit his political purposes. That has never been more clear than this week.” See also, As explosive new Russia revelations hit Trump, Republicans throw him a lifeline, The Washington Post, Greg Sargent, published on Thursday, 19 July 2018: “For many months, leading Republicans have practically pleaded with President Trump in public to avail himself of a simple escape hatch on the Russia scandal: If you just acknowledge that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, and take seriously the prospect that Russia will do it again next time, there won’t be a scandal anymore. You have an easy way out, Mr. President. Why not just take it?… The Times reports that in January 2017, two weeks before his inauguration, senior intelligence officials privately presented Trump with extensive evidence that Vladimir Putin had personally ordered the campaign of cyber-subterfuge and information warfare that worked to tilt the 2016 election to Trump. If true, as many were quick to point out, then all of Trump’s subsequent dismissals of the Russian sabotage effort amounted to a much more active coverup on behalf of Putin than we knew.”

Trump said ‘no’ when asked if he thought Russia was still targeting the U.S. The White House says Trump was rejecting the question, not answering it. The Washington Post, John Wagner and Felicia Sonmez, Wednesday, 18 July 2018: “For the third straight day, President Trump cast doubt on whether he views Russia as a threat, despite warnings from his own government that Moscow continues to target the United States with hostile actions. Trump triggered a new uproar Wednesday morning when he appeared to suggest that Russia is no longer seeking to interfere in U.S. elections — prompting the White House to assert hours later that his words had been misconstrued. At the start of a Cabinet meeting at the White House, a reporter asked Trump, ‘Is Russia still targeting the U.S., Mr. President?’ ‘Thank you very much. No,’ Trump responded, shaking his head. ‘No? You don’t believe that to be the case?’ the reporter said. ‘No,’ Trump repeated.” See also, Trump Sowed Even More Confusion on Wednesday Over His Recent Meeting With Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, The New York Times, Mark Landler and Eileen Sullivan, Wednesday, 18 July 2018: “President Trump sowed even more confusion on Wednesday over his recent meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin, insisting after a day of conflicting statements about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election that he had actually laid down the law with Mr. Putin. ‘I let him know we can’t have this,’ Mr. Trump said in an interview with ‘CBS Evening News.’ ‘We’re not going to have it, and that’s the way it’s going to be.’ But that statement was almost completely at odds with how the president has characterized the meeting with Mr. Putin on Monday in Helsinki, Finland, and it contradicted an answer he appeared to give when asked earlier in the day if he believed Russia was still interfering in American elections and he said, ‘No.’ The White House claimed Mr. Trump had yet again been misunderstood. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the press secretary, said the president had said ‘no’ only to whether he would take questions during a cabinet meeting, not to whether Russia was still interfering…. It was the second day of reversals and semantic hairsplitting in Mr. Trump’s statements about Russia…. Democrats demanded that Mr. Trump’s State Department interpreter be summoned to Capitol Hill to testify about what the president said, a prospect that seemed unlikely, given the lack of Republican support.” See also, Trump says that ‘people at the higher ends of intelligence loved [his] press conference performance’ with Russian President Valdimir Putin in Helsinki, The Hill, Kyle Balluck, Wednesday, 18 July 2018: “President Trump said in an early morning tweet on Wednesday that ‘people at the higher ends of intelligence loved [his] press conference performance’ alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin in Finland, which was widely condemned. ‘So many people at the higher ends of intelligence loved my press conference performance in Helsinki,’ he said. ‘Putin and I discussed many important subjects at our earlier meeting. We got along well which truly bothered many haters who wanted to see a boxing match. Big results will come!'” See also, Putin’s push to interrogate U.S. officials Russia accuses of crimes, explained, The Washington Post,Philip Bump, Wednesday, 18 July 2018. See also, Putin Says He Misspoke Too, Withdrawing His Claim That Hillary Clinton Got Millions Stolen From Russia, The Intercept, Robert Mackey, Wednesday, 18 July 2018: “The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, dashed the hopes of conspiracy theorists across America on Tuesday by withdrawing the startling claim he made the day before in Helsinki, that Hillary Clinton’s campaign had received $400 million in donations from investors accused of tax evasion in Russia. What he had intended to say, according to a Russian government spokesperson, was that business associates of the U.S.-born investor William Browder had donated $400,000 to Clinton’s campaign. (According to public campaign finance records, that figure also appears to be inflated.)”

What Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Latest Indictment Reveals About Russian and U.S. Spycraft, The Intercept, Micah Lee, Wednesday, 18 July 2018: “On Friday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller, as part of his investigation into interference with the 2016 presidential election, charged 12 Russian military intelligence officers with conducting ‘large-scale cyber operations to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.’ The indictment contains a surprising amount of technical information about alleged Russian cyberattacks against a range of U.S. political targets, including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic National Committee, members of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, the Illinois (probably) State Board of Elections, and an American election vendor, apparently VR Systems, and its government customers. While the indictment only describes the U.S. government’s charges in this case, the specific technical evidence presented is compelling and paints by far the most detailed and plausible picture yet of what exactly occurred in 2016. It also sheds light on what the U.S. government is capable of doing when it investigates cyberattacks, as well as how Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff, or GRU, allegedly conducted the attacks — which it denies — and what operational security mistakes they made.”

No, Trump, Montenegro Is Not Going to Start the Third World War, The New Yorker, Robin Wright, Wednesday, 18 July 2018: “During his interview with Trump, Carlson phrased his question correctly in terms of what joining NATO means. ‘Membership in NATO obligates the members to defend any other member that’s attacked,’ Carlson told Trump. The President then showed his ignorance about NATO’s mission—and the difference between defense and offense—by suggesting that the United States would have to back Montenegro if it launched a military offensive. ‘NATO is a defensive alliance. It always has been,’ Douglas Lute, a former three-star general, Ambassador to NATO, and National Security Council staffer in both the George W. Bush and Obama Administrations, told me. ‘If one of the member states is the target of an armed attack, then the others are obliged to come to its assistance. There’s no obligation to support offensive operations.'”

Alleged Russian agent Maria Butina is ordered to remain in custody after prosecutors argue she has ties to Russian intelligence, The Washington Post, Tom Jackman and Rosalind S. Helderman, Wednesday, 18 July 2018: “The Russian woman arrested this week on charges of being a foreign agent has ties to Russian intelligence operatives and was in contact with them while in the United States, federal prosecutors said Wednesday. Maria Butina, 29, also cultivated a ‘personal relationship’ with an American Republican consultant as part of her cover and offered sex to at least one other person ‘in exchange for a position within a special interest organization,’ according to a court filing. After a hearing on Wednesday afternoon, U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson denied Butina’s request to be released on bail, finding that no combination of conditions would ensure her return to court…. The new allegations laid out Wednesday explicitly link Butina to Russia’s intelligence services for the first time, painting the portrait of a covert agent backed by powerful patrons who created a pretext for her presence in the United States. The details about her alleged activities injected even more drama into the case of the Russian gun rights activist, who in recent years cozied up to top U.S. conservatives, including the leadership of the National Rifle Association.” See also, Maria Butina, Suspected Secret Agent, Used Sex in Covert Plan, Prosecutors Say, The New York Times, Sharon LaFraniere and Adam Goldman, Wednesday, 18 July 2018.

In Celebrating Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama Indicts Trumpism, The New Yorker, Jelani Cobb, Wednesday, 18 July 2018: “Like a mad experiment proving the elasticity of time, the Trump era has confounded our temporal sensibilities. The past seven days have witnessed the hostile questioning of an F.B.I. agent by Republican members of the House of Representatives intent on exonerating the Trump campaign from the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation; Mueller’s indictment of twelve Russian intelligence officials on charges of interfering in the 2016 election; a bizarre set of exchanges between Donald Trump and NATO; a visit to the United Kingdom, during which the President insulted Prime Minister Theresa May; a press conference in Helsinki, in which he all but offered President Vladimir Putin a foot massage; and the arrest of a Russian woman with ties to the National Rifle Association on charges of espionage. This level of intrigue would be overwrought for a season of ‘Homeland’; as a moment in our national affairs it is vertigo-inducing. Thus, on Tuesday, when Barack Obama walked onto a stage in Johannesburg to deliver the 2018 Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture, commemorating the centenary of the former South African President’s birth, he offered the sharpest possible contrast between himself and his successor—between statesman and demagogue—and, crucially, the distinction between a man who grasps history as the living context of our lives and one unburdened by the knowledge of how we arrived at the present and what that means for the future.”

Two Lawsuits Against Ohio State Keep Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, in the Cross Hairs of a Sexual Misconduct Scandal, The New York Times, Catie Edmondson, Wednesday, 18 July 2018: “In a sign that Representative Jim Jordan is unlikely to shake a sexual misconduct scandal anytime soon, five former wrestlers sued Ohio State University this week, accusing university officials of knowing that a team doctor was abusing student athletes and doing nothing to stop him. One of the lawsuits specifically mentions Mr. Jordan, Republican of Ohio, who served as the wrestling team’s assistant coach in the late 1980s and early 1990s, citing news reports that wrestlers had informed him of the abuse. Lawyers pursuing both cases say they expect to call the influential conservative as a witness.”

Minnesota Republican congressman Jason Lewis once lamented not being able to call women ‘sluts’ anymore, CNN Politics, Andrew Kaczynski, Chris Massie, and Nathan McDermott, Wednesday, 18 July 2018: “A Republican congressman from Minnesota has a long history of making deeply misogynistic comments on the radio, including lamenting that women can no longer be called ‘sluts.’ CNN’s KFile reviewed several months of audio from Rep. Jason Lewis on the ‘Jason Lewis Show,’ a syndicated radio program Lewis hosted from 2009 until 2014 with the tagline ‘America’s Mr. Right.’ In one instance, while arguing that ‘young single women’ vote based on coverage of birth control pills, Lewis said those women were not human beings and were without brains. Lewis, who was narrowly elected to represent Minnesota’s 2nd District in 2016, is considered one of the most endangered House Republicans in the midterm election. CNN rates the race as a ‘toss up,’ the most competitive designation.” See also, ‘You can’t call her a slut?’: Minnesota Republican congressman Jason Lewis complains about political correctness in a newly unearthed audio, The Washington Post, Eli Rosenberg, Wednesday, 18 July 2018.


Thursday, 19 July 2018, Day 546:


Outrage erupts over Trump-Putin ‘conversation’ about letting Russia interrogate ex-U.S. diplomat Michael McFaul, The Washington Post, Samantha Schmidt, Thursday, 19 July 2018: “Follow Thursday’s updates here: White House: Trump opposes Putin’s request to interview current and former American officials.  At this week’s summit in Helsinki, Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed what President Trump described as an “incredible offer” — the Kremlin would give special counsel Robert S. Mueller III access to interviews with Russians who were indicted after they allegedly hacked Democrats in 2016. In return, Russia would be allowed to question certain U.S. officials it suspects of interfering in Russian affairs. One of those U.S. officials is a former U.S. ambassador to Moscow, Michael McFaul, a nemesis of the Kremlin because of his criticisms of Russia’s human rights record. On Wednesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to rule out the Kremlin’s request to question McFaul and other Americans. Asked during the daily press briefing whether Trump is open to the idea of having McFaul questioned by Russia, Sanders said President Trump is ‘going to meet with his team’ to discuss the offer.” See also, White House says Trump now opposes Putin’s request to interview current and former U.S. officials, The Washington Post, Karoun Demirjian and John Wagner, Thursday, 19 July 2018: “The White House says President Trump opposes a proposal floated by Russian President Vladi­mir Putin that would allow Russia to interview American officials in exchange for making Russian authorities indicted in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe available for questioning. The White House announced Trump’s opposition Thursday moments before the Senate voted 98 to 0 to approve a resolution telling the president not to honor Putin’s request, which would have exposed former U.S. ambassador Michael McFaul, among others, to Russian questioning.” See also, Michael McFaul and the Astonishment of Life in the U.S. Under Trump, The New Yorker, David Remnick, Thursday, 19 July 2018.

Senate Republicans Block Anti-Putin Resolutions Before Approving One Rebuke, The New York Times, Nicholas Fandos and Sheryl Gay Stolbeerg, Thursday, 19 July 2018: “Republicans in Congress on Thursday blocked a series of measures put forward by lawmakers — largely Democratic — desperate to isolate Republican leaders and publicly rebuke President Trump over his summit meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia this week. In the Senate, Republicans objected to two nonbinding measures that would have put the body on record as being in support of intelligence agency conclusions that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, called on Mr. Trump to fully impose sanctions against Russia and pressed for oversight of the summit meeting, including the production of any notes taken by Americans. ‘If ever there was a moment to think not of just your party but for the country, this is it,’ Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, implored his colleagues before his bipartisan resolution was shot down. After the White House press secretary said that Mr. Trump was not considering a Putin proposal to make a former American ambassador available to the Russian authorities for questioning, senators voted 98 to 0 in favor of a third nonbinding resolution expressing opposition to the Russian leader’s suggestion.”

Who Heard What Trump Said to Putin? Only One Other American. The New York Times, Thursday, 19 July 2018: “Marina Gross, the only other American in the room during President Trump’s meeting on Monday with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, was the interpreter for Laura Bush at the Russian resort of Sochi in 2008 and interpreted for former Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson in Moscow in 2017. She appears to live in an apartment in Arlington, Va., is an employee of the State Department and is, unsurprisingly, fluent in Russian. Little else is known publicly about Ms. Gross, who has been thrust into the spotlight as potential corroboration for what transpired between the two leaders during their two-hour meeting in Helsinki, Finland. As furor over the meeting grows, she faces increasing calls from Congress to testify about what she heard. Her fellow interpreters, who pride themselves on their discretion and invisibility, are outraged about those demands. Ms. Gross’s white pad of notes, visible in photographs from the summit meeting, are probably useless, experienced government interpreters said, dictated in her personal shorthand that would be illegible to anyone else. And if she were to say what, exactly, transpired, she would violate an ethics code of confidentiality similar to lawyer-client privilege or the silence of a priest during confession. Only Mr. Trump, who has alternately contradicted his own narrative of what was said and complained about a lack of fair coverage from a meeting only four people witnessed, could permit Ms. Gross to tell anyone about what she heard. The White House has not said whether Mr. Trump has asked her to do that.”

‘That’s going to be special’ says Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats upon hearing from NBC’s Andrea Mitchell that Putin has been invited to visit Trump at the White House in the fall, The Washington Post, Shane Harris, Felicia Sonmez, and John Wagner, Thursday, 19 July 2018: “The White House announced Thursday that Vladimir Putin has been invited to Washington this fall, even as leaders in Washington tried to fully understand what happened when President Trump and the Russian leader met earlier this week in Helsinki. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced the planned visit in a tweet, saying that national security adviser John Bolton extended the invitation and that ‘discussions are already underway.’ As the late afternoon tweet landed, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats was on stage at the Aspen Security Forum in the middle of an interview with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, who broke the news to him. Coats, clearly surprised, took a deep breath. ‘Say that again,’ he said. ‘Did I hear you?’ She repeated the news. ‘Okaaaay,’ Coats said. ‘That’s going to be special.'” See also, Trump to Invite Putin to Washington, Blindsiding Dan Coats, His Director of National Intelligence, The New York Times, Mark Landler, Thursday, 19 July 2018. See also, Dan Coats, the top intelligence official in the U.S., says he wishes Trump hadn’t met alone with PutinNBC News, Ken Dilanian, Thursday, 19 July 2018: “Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, said Thursday he wished President Donald Trump had not met alone with Vladimir Putin of Russia. In an extraordinary acknowledgement, the nation’s spy chief said he had no idea what was said in the Helsinki summit Monday between Trump and the Russian president. ‘If he had asked me how that ought to be conducted, I would have suggested a different way,’ Coats, a former Republican senator from Indiana, told NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell at the Aspen Security Forum. ‘But that’s not my role, that’s not my job…it is what it is.'”

A Theory of Trump Kompromat, The New Yorker, Adam Davidson, Thursday, 19 July 2018: “There is no need to assume that Trump [is] a formal agent of Russian intelligence to make sense of Trump’s solicitousness toward Putin. Keith Darden, an international-relations professor at American University, has studied the Russian use of kompromat—compromising material—and told me that he thinks it is likely that the President believes the Russians have something on him. ‘He has never said a bad word about Putin,’ Darden said. ‘He has exercised a degree of self-control with respect to Russia that he doesn’t with anything else.’ Darden said that this is evidence that Trump isn’t uniformly reckless in his words: ‘He is capable of being strategic. He knows there are limits, there are bounds on what he can say and do with respect to Russia.'”

Justice Department plans to alert the public to foreign operations targeting U.S. democracy, The Washington Post, Ellen Nakashima, Thursday, 19 July 2018: “The Justice Department plans to alert the public to foreign operations targeting U.S. democracy under a new policy designed to counter hacking and disinformation campaigns such as the one Russia undertook in 2016 to disrupt the presidential election. The government will inform American companies, private organizations and individuals that they are being covertly attacked by foreign actors attempting to affect elections or the political process. ‘Exposing schemes to the public is an important way to neutralize them,’ said Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who announced the policy at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado. Rosenstein, who has drawn President Trump’s ire for appointing a special counsel to probe Russian election interference, got a standing ovation. ‘The American people have a right to know if foreign governments are targeting them with propaganda,’ he said.”

White House Withdraws the Nomination of Appeals Court Nominee Ryan Bounds Who Deplored Multiculturalism, The New York Times, Thomas Kaplan, Thursday, 19 July 2018: “The sprint by President Trump and Senate Republicans to install conservative judges to the nation’s courts hit an unexpected speed bump on Thursday after a nominee for a key federal appeals court was pulled to avoid an embarrassing defeat on the Senate floor. The nomination of Ryan W. Bounds to serve on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit faced opposition over his writings in college, which included a column in which he railed against ‘race-focused groups’ on campus and ‘race-think.’ The Senate’s only black Republican, Tim Scott of South Carolina, had concerns about those writings and Mr. Bounds’s inability to clarify how his thinking had changed since then, according to a Senate Republican aide.” See also, White House withdraws judicial nominee Ryan Bounds after Republicans realize he didn’t have votes for confirmation, The Washington Post, Karoun Demirjian, Thursday, 19 July 2018. See also, Democrats seize on failure of judicial nominee Ryan Bounds for Appeals Court to demand all of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s past documents, The Washington Post, Seung Min Kim, Thursday, 19 July 2018: “The forced withdrawal Thursday of a Trump judicial nominee over his college writings inflamed the battle over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, with Democrats escalating their demands to see all of his past documents, even though that could top 1 million pages.  The failure of Ryan Bounds’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit was a major blow to the Trump administration and Senate Republicans, whose ambition to remake the federal judiciary had been proceeding at a rapid clip. Bounds would have been the 24th of President Trump’s picks to be confirmed to the powerful appellate courts.”

Ten Questions Brett Kavanaugh Must Answer, New York Review of Books, David Cole, Thursday, 19 June 2018: “With his selection of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill Justice Anthony Kennedy’s seat on the United States Supreme Court, President Donald Trump has the opportunity to alter the makeup of the Court for generations—and to place it far to the right of the American public. Justice Kennedy, himself a conservative appointed by President Ronald Reagan, proved to have an open mind in his more than thirty years on the bench, and, as a result, kept the Court within the mainstream of American society…. In light of that fact, and that Trump expressly vowed as a candidate to appoint justices who would overrule Roe v. Wade, it is incumbent upon the Senate to pose probing questions to Kavanaugh—and to require him to provide meaningful answers, not artful dodges. Nominees all too often avoid answering questions about their views by simply describing existing Supreme Court doctrine and then insisting they cannot say how they would vote on any particular matter that might come before them. But in speeches and writings while a judge, Kavanaugh has repeatedly expressed his own views on many matters that might come before him, including whether presidents should be subject to civil and criminal lawsuits; if he could express his views there, he should not be permitted to avoid expressing them on other topics in the Senate confirmation hearing.”

Urgent FBI Investigation Into Russian Interference Delayed Clinton Email Revelations Until Days Before the 2016 Presidential Election, The Intercept, Eric Lichtblau, Thursday, 19 July 2018: “It has been one of the lingering mysteries of the 2016 campaign: Why did the FBI wait until 11 days before the election to announce a new batch of Hillary Clinton’s emails in an “October surprise” that might have tilted the election to Donald Trump? Top FBI officials had learned weeks earlier that the laptop of disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner appeared to hold a huge cache of Clinton’s emails, yet they didn’t do anything about it until the eve of the election — a baffling delay that Clinton and her supporters, to this day, claim cost her the election. For the first time, a full accounting of the game-changing episode has emerged. Deep in the 568-page report released last month by the Justice Department Inspector General on the FBI and the 2016 campaign lies a series of explanations from senior FBI officials — excuses, in the view of the Inspector General — for the damaging delay and inaction. The most startling explanation from the FBI: It was all about Russia, or more precisely, the bureau’s urgent and then-secret investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia that fall. At least three senior FBI officials suggested in interviews with the Inspector General that the bureau was so overwhelmed that fall with frantically investigating the suspected Trump-Russia ties that the new Clinton emails simply took a backseat. Ironically, the urgency of chasing Trump’s possible ties to the Kremlin may have helped topple his opponent.”

Facing deadline, the Trump administration has reunified 364 of 2,500-plus migrant children separated from their parents at the U.S. southern border. NBC News, Julia Ainsley and Jacob Soboroff, Thursday, 19 July 2018: “The Trump administration said in a court filing late Thursday that it has reunified 364 of more than 2,500 migrant children separated from their parents at the U.S. southern border, just one week out from a court-ordered deadline. Of 1,607 parents eligible to be reunited with their children, the filing said, 719 have final orders of deportation, meaning they could be removed from the country as soon as they are reunited. Those parents may have to choose between taking their child back to a violent country or leaving them behind in the care of the government, nonprofits, foster families or relatives in order to seek asylum in the United States.”

A census citizenship question looked suspect from the start. Now a judge agrees. The Washington Post, Editorial Board, Thursday, 19 July 2018: “The Trump administration’s decision to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 Census from the start has looked suspiciously like an underhanded way to depress Democratic representation in Washington. Now a federal judge is saying so, remarking in court this month that there is a strong appearance of ‘bad faith’ and that the Trump administration’s rationale for adding the question appears to be nothing more than pretext. Eighteen state attorneys general, as well as D.C. and other smaller jurisdictions, are suing to stop the Census Bureau from inquiring about people’s citizenship status, and U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman presides over the case. The suit is young, but Mr. Furman has already said that the challengers made a ‘strong showing’ that the administration’s reasons for adding the question are suspicious. Mr. Furman authorized the challengers to collect records and take depositions.”

The Law That Saved the Bald Eagle Could Be Vastly Reworked: Interior Department Proposes a Vast Reworking of the Endangered Species Act, The New York Times, Lisa Friedman, Kendra Pierre-Louis, and Livia Albeck-Ripka, Thursday, 19 July 2018: “The Interior Department on Thursday proposed the most sweeping set of changes in decades to the Endangered Species Act, the law that brought the bald eagle and the Yellowstone grizzly bear back from the edge of extinction but which Republicans say is cumbersome and restricts economic development. The proposed revisions have far-reaching implications, potentially making it easier for roads, pipelines and other construction projects to gain approvals than under current rules. One change, for instance, would eliminate longstanding language that prohibits considering economic factors when deciding whether or not a species should be protected. The agency also intends to make it more difficult to shield species like the Atlantic sturgeon that are considered ‘threatened,’ which is the category one level beneath the most serious one, ‘endangered.’ Battles over endangered species have consumed vast swaths of the West for decades, and confrontations over protections for the spotted owl, the sage grouse and the gray wolf have shaped politics and public debate. While the changes proposed Thursday by the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service wouldn’t be retroactive, they could set the stage for new clashes over offshore drilling and also could help smooth the path for projects like oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.”

Drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to get fast review, The Washington Post, Juliet Eilperin and Steven Mufson, Thursday, 19 July 2018: “The Interior Department has commissioned an expedited environmental review of the impact of leasing part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas drilling, according to a document released under the Freedom of Information Act. The nearly $1.7 million contract that Interior signed April 8 with Colorado-based Environmental Management and Planning Solutions, obtained by the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, shows how rapidly the Trump administration is moving ahead with its plans to open up the refuge’s coastal plain to energy exploration.”

Fossil fuel industry spent nearly $2 billion to kill U.S. climate action, new study by Drexel University environmental sociologist Robert J. Brulle finds. The industry has out-lobbied environmentalists 10-to-1 on climate since 2000. Think Progress, Joe Romm, Thursday, 19 July 2018: “Legislation to address climate change has repeatedly died in Congress. But a major new study says the policy deaths were not from natural causes — they were caused by humans, just like climate change itself is. Climate action has been repeatedly drowned by a devastating surge and flood of money from the fossil fuel industry — nearly $2 billion in lobbying since 2000 alone. This is according to stunning new analysis in the journal Climatic Change on ‘The climate lobby’ by Drexel University environmental sociologist Robert J. Brulle. The most important conclusion of Brulle’s is that spending by those in favor of climate action was dramatically overwhelmed by the big fossil fuel suppliers and users: ‘Environmental organizations and the renewable energy sector lobbying expenditures were dwarfed by a ratio of 10:1 by the spending of the sectors engaged in the supply and use of fossil fuels.'”

Kathy Kraninger, Trump Nominee to Run the CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau), Admits in Senate Banking Committee Hearing That She Has No Background in Consumer Protection or Financial Regulation, The Intercept, David Dayen, Thursday, 19 July 2018: “On Thursday, the Senate Banking Committee heard from Kathy Kraninger, an official at the Office of Management and Budget with no background in financial regulation or consumer protection. Naturally, she has been nominated to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau…. At OMB, Kraninger happened to be tied to the two biggest humanitarian catastrophes of the Trump administration: the inadequate response to natural disasters in Puerto Rico, and the ‘zero tolerance’ policy at the border that led to separating children from their families and locking them in cages. She has responsibility over the budgets of the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Housing and Urban Development, which have primary responsibility over those matters. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., the force behind the creation of the CFPB, focused on the ‘zero tolerance’ policy…. After trying (and failing) to get Kraninger’s opinion on whether ripping children away from parents was immoral, Warren wrapped up. ‘It’s fundamentally immoral and you were part of it, Miss Kraninger,’ she said. ‘It’s a moral stain that will follow you for the rest of your life. If the Senate votes to give you a big promotion after this, then it is a stain on the senators who do so.'”

Staff at the Environmental Protection Agency worried about toxic chemical exposure from formaldehyde from an office desk–for then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt–just months before his top political aides blocked the release of a report on health dangers from the same chemical, Politico, Annie Snider, Thursday, 19 July 2018: “Then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s staff sought to protect him from exposure to toxic formaldehyde from an office desk last year, emails show — just months before his top political aides blocked the release of a report on health dangers from the same chemical…. The email exchange about the desk last spring took place just months before top aides to Pruitt took steps to block a health assessment produced by another division within the agency that found the levels of formaldehyde that many Americans breathe in daily are linked with leukemia, nose-and-throat cancer and other ailments. The chemicals industry has fought the assessment, which could prompt federal and state regulators to issue new restrictions on the chemical, and could lead to class-action lawsuits.”

Michele Obama and some of her famous friends launch a new voter initiative, The Washington Post, Helena Andrews-Dyer, Thursday, 19 July 2018: “Here’s a remix to one of the most famous quotes from former first lady Michelle Obama that Democrats will appreciate this November: When they go low, we go to the polls. Obama, along with a growing cast of her famous friends, announced a new nonpartisan voter registration organization Thursday called When We All Vote. The national nonprofit group ‘will start a conversation on the responsibilities that we all have in shaping our country’s future through the ballot box,’ according to the official press release. The goal is to recruit and train individuals and institutions to increase both registration and participation.”