Trump, Week 79: Friday, 20 July – Thursday, 26 July 2018 (Days 547-553)

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, 20 July 2018 (Day 547)


Trump’s Longtime Lawyer, Michael Cohen, Secretly Taped Trump Discussing Payment to Playboy Model Karen McDougal, The New York Times, Matt Apuzzo, Maggie Haberman, and Michael S. Schmidt, Friday, 20 July 2018: “President Trump’s longtime lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, secretly recorded a conversation with Mr. Trump two months before the presidential election in which they discussed payments to a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump, according to lawyers and others familiar with the recording. The F.B.I. seized the recording this year during a raid on Mr. Cohen’s office. The Justice Department is investigating Mr. Cohen’s involvement in paying women to tamp down embarrassing news stories about Mr. Trump ahead of the 2016 election. Prosecutors want to know whether that violated federal campaign finance laws, and any conversation with Mr. Trump about those payments would be of keen interest to them. The recording’s existence appears to undercut the Trump campaign’s denial of any knowledge of payments to the model. It further draws Mr. Trump into questions about tactics he and his associates used to keep aspects of his personal and business life a secret. And it highlights the potential legal and political danger that Mr. Cohen represents to Mr. Trump. Once the keeper of many of Mr. Trump’s secrets, Mr. Cohen is now seen as increasingly willing to consider cooperating with prosecutors.” See also, In secret recording seized by FBI, Trump and Michael Cohen, his longtime lawyer, discuss buying rights to model’s account of alleged affair, The Washington Post, Carol D. Leonnig and Rosalind S. Helderman, Friday, 20 July 2018: “Two months before the 2016 election, longtime Donald Trump attorney Michael Cohen secretly taped a conversation with the then-GOP presidential nominee about whether to purchase the rights to Playboy centerfold Karen McDougal’s account of her alleged extramarital affair with Trump, according to three people familiar with the conversation…. Trump and Cohen’s discussion came a month after AMI, the parent company of the National Enquirer, bought the rights to McDougal’s story for $150,000, then shelved it…. In a statement Friday, President Trump’s attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani confirmed the recording’s existence and said no payment was ever made. He said the conversation does not pose any legal jeopardy for the president. ‘Nothing in that conversation suggests that he had any knowledge of [the AMI payment] in advance,’ Giuliani said. ‘In the big scheme of things, it’s powerful exculpatory evidence.’ However, the recording shows that Trump — whose spokeswoman denied he had any knowledge of the AMI deal with McDougal when it became public days before the election — in fact knew of her claims and efforts to keep her quiet at least two months earlier. The timing of the conversation between the GOP nominee and his longtime ‘fixer’ also provides more evidence that Cohen was trying to squash embarrassing stories about Trump before the election — a major focus of the investigation by federal prosecutors in Manhattan.”

Immigrant Shelters Drug Traumatized Teenagers Without Consent, ProPublica, Caroline Chen and Jess Ramirez, Friday, 20 July 2018: “Whether they came to the U.S. alone or were forcibly separated from their families at the border, despondent minors are often pressured into taking psychotropic drugs without approval from a parent or guardian…. At the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center, which has a program for unaccompanied immigrant teenagers, at least 70 percent of the residents were on antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications and sleep aids, often taking multiple pills, according to two former employees…. Most of the teenagers had crossed the border alone, but often had family members in the U.S. who were seeking to sponsor them. Even in cases where a child had a mother or father living in the U.S., the parent was never contacted for permission to medicate, said the former employees, who asked for anonymity for fear of affecting future employment…. While skipping consent procedures, staff also made it hard for children to say no. A federal field specialist from the Department of Homeland Security instructed staff to file a ‘significant incident report’ every time a teen refused to take medication, said one of the former employees. That report could then be used to justify delaying reunification with family. The teenagers, fearing being written up, would take their pills, the staffer said.” See also, Immigrant Parents Face a Dilemma: Will Making an Asylum Claim Make It Harder to Reunite With Their Kids? The New Yorker, Jonathan Blitzer, Friday, 20 July 2018: “In ICE detention, parents who [are] seeking asylum due to threats of violence or harm back home are being pressured to abandon their claims…. Since last summer, when the family-separation policy went into effect, activists and lawyers had worried about parents who were agreeing to voluntary departure—essentially, deportation—either because they were distraught after being separated from their kids, confused, or misled to believe that they would see their children sooner if they agreed to sign whatever forms the government put in front of them. For parents who were seeking asylum due to threats of violence or harm back home, agreeing to voluntary departure effectively ended their asylum claim. People were told, ‘You don’t have the option to seek asylum and be reunited with your children,’ Gracie Willis, an attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center, told HuffPost earlier this month. Some parents have already been deported without their kids, and many more could follow. ‘The government plan is to deport parents who have final orders of removal and then the parents will decide whether to leave their children behind,’ Lee Gelernt, of the A.C.L.U., told me.”

Bill Shine, Trump’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications, Was Questioned by Federal Prosecutors, The New York Times, Elizabeth Williamson and Emily Steel, Friday, 20 July 2018: “Bill Shine, a former co-president of Fox News hired this month as President Trump’s communications chief, brought conservative credentials and heavy baggage with him into the White House. President Trump embraced the former and ignored the latter. Mr. Shine, now struggling to limit the damage from Mr. Trump’s performance on Monday with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, was ousted from Fox News last year in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal at the network. Mr. Shine was never publicly accused of harassment, but he was accused in multiple civil lawsuits of covering up misconduct by Roger E. Ailes, the founding chairman of Fox News, and dismissing concerns from colleagues who complained. Mr. Shine’s appointment to the White House job has drawn criticism from some women who worked for him at Fox News, and has brought new scrutiny of his record there. In one previously undisclosed action, Mr. Shine was subpoenaed last year by a federal grand jury in New York as part of a criminal investigation into Fox News’s handling of sexual harassment complaints, according to a document viewed by The New York Times…. In hiring Mr. Shine, Mr. Trump ignored advisers who worried that Mr. Shine’s legal exposure in the harassment cases was not fully known, and that the hire could again draw attention to accusations from at least 19 women of sexual misconduct by Mr. Trump before he became president…. ‘Our president is telling the world he doesn’t care about creating a healthy work environment,’ said Rudi Bakhtiar, a former Fox News correspondent who was fired after she reported sexual harassment by a colleague in 2007. She ultimately reached a $675,000 settlement with Fox News. ‘It’s a boy’s club,’ she said. ‘They take care of each other.'”

Continue reading Week 79, Friday, 20 July – Thursday, 26 July 2018 (Days 547-553)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is vowing to squeeze Democrats with a vote on Brett Kavanaugh right before the midterms if they don’t back down on their demand for documents, Politico, Elana Schor and Burgess Everett, Friday, 20 July 2018: “Mitch McConnell has a warning for Democrats demanding copious documents on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh: Be careful what you wish for. The Senate majority leader privately told senior Republicans on Wednesday that if Democrats keep pushing for access to upwards of a million pages in records from President Donald Trump’s high court pick, he’s prepared to let Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote slip until just before November’s midterm elections, according to multiple sources. Delaying the vote past September would serve a dual purpose for McConnell, keeping vulnerable red-state Democrats off the campaign trail while potentially forcing anti-Kavanaugh liberals to swallow a demoralizing defeat just ahead of the midterms. Senators said McConnell believes the Democratic base will be ‘deflated’ if they raise hopes of defeating Kavanaugh only to lose just days before the election. Democrats have no intention of backing down in their call for maximum transparency about Kavanaugh’s record, but the GOP is betting that they’ll start to sweat the Supreme Court timeline as the summer wears on.”

Republicans in Congress Bow to Trump on Chinese Telecom Firm ZTE, The New York Times, Ana Swanson, Friday, 20 July 2018: “Republican lawmakers backed away from a plan to reinstate stiff penalties on Chinese telecom firm ZTE, handing a win to President Trump, who had personally intervened to save the Beijing company. Congressional leaders removed a provision, tucked into a military policy bill, that would have stopped the Trump administration from lifting penalties on ZTE. Rather than prevent the company from buying American technology, the bill will simply limit federal purchases of ZTE products, such as handsets. The move drew swift criticism from lawmakers who had pushed for a tougher approach to ZTE, which was found guilty in 2016 of violating American sanctions on Iran and North Korea.”


Saturday, 21 July 2018, Day 548:


Carter Page FISA Documents Are Released by the Justice Department, The New York Times, Charlie Savage, Saturday, 21 July 2018: “The Trump administration disclosed on Saturday a previously top-secret set of documents related to the wiretapping of Carter Page, the onetime Trump campaign adviser who was at the center of highly contentious accusations by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee that the F.B.I. had abused its surveillance powers. [Read the documents here.] Democrats in February rejected the Republican claims that law enforcement officials had improperly obtained a warrant to monitor Mr. Page, accusing them of putting out misinformation to defend President Trump and sow doubts about the origin of the Russia investigation. But even as Republicans and Democrats issued dueling memos characterizing the materials underlying the surveillance of Mr. Page, the public had no access to the records. On Saturday evening, those materials — an October 2016 application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to wiretap Mr. Page, along with several renewal applications — were released to The New York Times and other news organizations that had filed Freedom of Information Act lawsuits to obtain them. Mr. Trump had declassified their existence earlier this year. ‘This application targets Carter Page,’ the document said. ‘The F.B.I. believes Page has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government.’ A line was then redacted, and then it picked up with ‘undermine and influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election in violation of U.S. criminal law. Mr. Page is a former foreign policy adviser to a candidate for U.S. president.'” See also, Administration releases application to wiretap former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, The Washington Post, Shane Harris, published on Sunday, 22 July 2018: “The Justice Department on Saturday released a previously classified application to wiretap former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, who was under suspicion by the FBI of being a Russian agent. The government had monitored Page under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and the heavily redacted documents were made public after media organizations sued for their release under the Freedom of Information Act.”

Trump Signals Consequences for His Longtime Lawyer, Michael Cohen, Over Secret Recording, The New York Times, Katie Rogers and Maggie Haberman, Saturday, 21 July 2018: “President Trump lashed out at his longtime lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, on Saturday, suggesting that there could be legal consequences for Mr. Cohen’s decision to record a discussion they had two months before the 2016 election about paying a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump. ‘Inconceivable that the government would break into a lawyer’s office (early in the morning) — almost unheard of,’ Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. ‘Even more inconceivable that a lawyer would tape a client — totally unheard of & perhaps illegal. The good news is that your favorite President did nothing wrong!’ With his tweet, the latest in a week of dizzying statements by a president whose advisers say has become more unwilling than ever to listen to advice, Mr. Trump signaled open warfare on Mr. Cohen, a longtime fixer he had until now tried to keep by his side. The Justice Department is investigating Mr. Cohen’s involvement in paying women to quash potentially damaging news coverage about Mr. Trump during the campaign.”

Trump’s Putin fallout: Inside the White House’s tumultuous week of walk-backs, The Washington Post, Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey, and Carol D. Leonnig, Saturday, 21 July 2018: “For Trump and his White House, the days that followed the Helsinki summit amounted to an unofficial Walk Back Week — a daily scramble of corrections and clarifications from the West Wing. Each announcement, intended to blunt the global fallout from the president’s Russophilic performance in Helsinki, was followed by another mishap that fueled more consternation.”

The Indictment of Maria Butina Isn’t About the Sex Life of an Accused Spy. It’s About Following Russian Money in U.S. Politics. The Intercept, James Risen, Saturday, 21 July 2018: “The federal indictment of Maria Butina, the 29-year-old gun rights activist charged with being a Russian agent, has attracted plenty of media attention this week — but mostly for the wrong reasons. Many stories about her case have been filled with salacious allegations about her sex life and have been rife with superficial comparisons to the television show ‘The Americans.’ What has been missing in the media narrative is the indictment’s ominous significance. The Butina case is almost certainly the opening move in a brand new front in the Trump-Russia investigation. Butina is just a minor figure in what appears to be a broader ongoing inquiry into the relationships between Russia, conservative American organizations like the National Rifle Association, and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. For months, federal investigators have been looking into whether the NRA or other conservative organizations were used by the Russian government or Russian oligarchs to funnel money to the Trump campaign during the 2016 election.”

Meet the Teenagers Leading a Climate Change Movement, The New York Times, Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks, Saturday, 21 July 2018: “Some of them met on Instagram. Others coordinated during lunchtime phone conferences. Most of them haven’t even graduated from high school.The teenagers behind Zero Hour — an environmentally focused, creatively minded and technologically savvy nationwide coalition — are trying to build a youth-led movement to sound the alarm and call for action on climate change and environmental justice. For the last year, a tight-knit group spanning both coasts has been organizing on social media. The teenagers kicked off their campaign with a protest on Saturday at the National Mall in Washington, along with sister marches across the country. As sea levels rise, ice caps melt and erratic weather affects communities across the globe, they say time is running out to address climate change. The core organizing group of about 20 met with almost 40 federal lawmakers about their platforms on Thursday, and hope to inspire other teenagers to step up and demand change.”


Sunday, 22 July 2018, Day 549:


Without Evidence, Trump Claims Vindication From Release of Carter Page Documents, The New York Times, Katie Rogers and Emily Cochrane, Sunday, 22 July 2018: “President Trump claimed without evidence on Sunday that his administration’s release of top-secret documents related to the surveillance of a former campaign aide had confirmed that the Justice Department and the F.B.I. ‘misled the courts’ in the early stages of the Russia investigation. ‘Looking more & more like the Trump Campaign for President was illegally being spied upon (surveillance) for the political gain of Crooked Hillary Clinton and the DNC,’ Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter, referring to the Democratic National Committee. In a series of early-morning tweets, Mr. Trump left unmentioned how the documents laid out in stark detail why the F.B.I. was interested in the former campaign adviser, Carter Page: ‘The F.B.I. believes Page has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government.’ The documents also said Mr. Page had ‘established relationships with Russian government officials, including Russian intelligence officers,’ and had been ‘collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government.’ Those assessments were included in an October 2016 application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to wiretap Mr. Page. The New York Times and other news outlets obtained the application and several renewals through Freedom of Information Act lawsuits. The president had declassified their existence last year.” See also, With the release of new documents, Republican Representative Devin Nunes’s memo on Carter Page has gotten even less credible, The Washington Post, Philip Bump, Sunday, 22 July 2018: “Earlier this year, the political world was gripped by a stunning accusation from Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) that the government’s application for a warrant to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page was born of bias and almost entirely reliant on a dossier of information compiled on the dime of Democratic operatives. He had a memo that made that argument; eventually, and probably without much goading, President Trump was persuaded to release it publicly. Even based on what was known then, the hype surrounding Nunes’s memo seemed to oversell the point. In short order, other revelations about the warrant application made it clear that the contents of the memo were iffy. It was the second time in two years that Nunes had gone to bat in defense of one of Trump’s pet theories, and neither time worked out that well. As it turns out though, Nunes’s efforts to raise questions about the surveillance warrant, granted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, were even less robust than they seemed at the time. With the release Friday of a redacted copy of both the initial warrant application targeting Page in October 2016 and the three 90-day extensions of the warrant, we can get a better sense of just how far from the mark the Nunes memo actually was.” See also, How a Trump Decision Revealed a Republican Memo’s Shaky Foundation, The New York Times, Charlie Savage, Sunday, 22 July 2018: “When President Trump declassified a memo by House Republicans in February that portrayed the surveillance of a former campaign adviser as scandalous, his motivation was clear: to give congressional allies and conservative commentators another avenue to paint the Justice Department’s investigation into Russian election interference as tainted from the start. But this past weekend, Mr. Trump’s unprecedented decision, which he made over the objections of law enforcement and intelligence officials, had a consequence that revealed his gambit’s shaky foundation. The government released the court documents in which the F.B.I. made its case for conducting the surveillance — records that plainly demonstrated that key elements of Republicans’ claims about the bureau’s actions were misleading or false.”

Trump Threatens Iran on Twitter, Warning Rouhani of Dire ‘Consequences,’ The New York Times, Austin Ramzy, Sunday, 22 July 2018: “President Trump threatened Iran late Sunday, warning of severe ‘consequences,’ as rhetoric between the two countries’ presidents escalated dramatically. Mr. Trump, in an all-caps message on Twitter addressed to President Hassan Rouhani of Iran, wrote that the country would face ‘CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED’ if he continued to threaten the United States. Mr. Trump’s message was apparently in response to a speech on Sunday by Mr. Rouhani, who warned the United States that any conflict with Iran would be the ‘mother of all wars.’ Mr. Rouhani had earlier threatened the possible disruption of regional oil shipments if its own exports were blocked by United States sanctions.”

Trump Administration Neuters Nuclear Safety Board, ProPublica, Rebecca Moss, Santa Fe New Mexican, Sunday, 22 July 2018: “The Trump administration has quietly taken steps that may inhibit independent oversight of its most high-risk nuclear facilities, including some buildings at Los Alamos National Laboratory, a Department of Energy document shows. An order published on the department’s website in mid-May outlines new limits on the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board — including preventing the board from accessing sensitive information, imposing additional legal hurdles on board staff, and mandating that Energy Department officials speak ‘with one voice’ when communicating with the board. The board has, by statute, operated independently and has been provided largely unfettered access to the nation’s nuclear weapons complexes in order to assess accidents or safety concerns that could pose a grave risk to workers and the public. The main exception has been access to the nuclear weapons themselves.”

Lawmakers, Lobbyists, and the Administration Join Forces to Overhaul the Endangered Species Act, The New York Times, Coral Davenport and Lisa Friedman, Sunday, 22 July 2018: “The Endangered Species Act, which for 45 years has safeguarded fragile wildlife while blocking ranching, logging and oil drilling on protected habitats, is coming under attack from lawmakers, the White House and industry on a scale not seen in decades, driven partly by fears that the Republicans will lose ground in November’s midterm elections. In the past two weeks, more than two dozen pieces of legislation, policy initiatives and amendments designed to weaken the law have been either introduced or voted on in Congress or proposed by the Trump administration. The actions included a bill to strip protections from the gray wolf in Wyoming and along the western Great Lakes; a plan to keep the sage grouse, a chicken-size bird that inhabits millions of oil-rich acres in the West, from being listed as endangered for the next decade; and a measure to remove from the endangered list the American burying beetle, an orange-flecked insect that has long been the bane of oil companies that would like to drill on the land where it lives.”


Monday, 23 July 2018, Day 550:


463 migrant parents may have been deported without their children, The Washington Post, Nick Miroff, Monday, 23 July 2018: “The Trump administration said in a court filing Monday that 463 parents of migrant children are no longer present in the United States, indicating that the number of mothers and fathers potentially deported without their children during the ‘zero tolerance’ border crackdown could be far larger than previously acknowledged. The progress report to U.S. District Judge Dana M. Sabraw cautioned the 463 cases are ‘under review,’ meaning the filing was not a definitive tally of all migrant parents who have been deported while their children remain in U.S. government shelters.”

‘NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN,’ Trump tweets in warning to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, The Washington Post, Carol Morello, Monday, 23 July 2018: “President Trump, in a tweet in capital letters late Sunday, warned Iranian President Hassan Rouhani that if Iran threatened the United States again, it would face severe consequences. Trump’s message came after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States would step up broadcasts into Iran critical of the country’s theocratic rulers. ‘To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!’ Trump tweeted. Iran’s state-owned Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) replied within hours, dismissing Trump’s tweet and describing it as a ‘passive reaction’ to Rouhani’s remarks.” See also, Trump’s All-Caps Threat Against Iran: Loud but Hardly Clear, The New York Times, Mark Landler, Monday, 23 July 2018: “President Trump’s vituperative tweet against Iran late on Sunday showed his determination to use the same approach that he took to engineer a diplomatic breakthrough with North Korea. But Mr. Trump’s top advisers are far more united in their hostility to engaging with Iran, and Iran is far less likely to bend to such pressure. Mr. Trump’s threat that Iran would ‘suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before,’ delivered before midnight in all capital letters, succeeded in changing the subject after a week of bad headlines about his meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. But it only deepened questions about the long-term direction of Mr. Trump’s Iran policy. While the White House on Monday did not rule out direct talks between the president and Iran’s leaders over its nuclear program, Mr. Trump’s hawkish national security team has put the focus more on toppling the Iranian government than striking a new deal with it.” See also, Trump Threatens Iran on Twitter, Warning President Hassan Rouhani of Dire ‘Consequences,’ The New York Times, Austin Ramzy, published on Sunday, 22 July 2018.

Trump calls for end of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, saying it’s ‘discredited’ by Carter Page surveillance, The Washington Post, John Wagner, Monday, 23 July 2018: “President Trump on Monday made a fresh call to end the investigation of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, citing the release over the weekend of a previously classified application to wiretap former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, who was under suspicion by the FBI of being a Russian agent. In a series of tweets, Trump falsely claimed that Mueller’s investigation was prompted by the surveillance. Trump and other Republicans have accused the FBI of relying too heavily on a dossier compiled by a former British intelligence officer to seek the surveillance order for Page from a federal judge, arguing that Trump was the real target…. The counterintelligence investigation by the FBI into Russian election interference began months before the Obama administration sought the court surveillance order on Page in October 2016. Mueller was appointed special counsel in May 2017, after Trump fired James B. Comey as FBI director.”

Trump again reverses course on Russian interference and calls it ‘all a big hoax,’ The Washington Post, Felicia Sonmez, Monday, 23 July 2018: “After a week of tortuous statements, walk-backs and clarifications on whether he believes the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign, President Trump appeared to have come full circle on Sunday night, dismissing the issue as ‘all a big hoax.’ In an evening tweet shortly after taking off for Washington following a weekend spent at his golf club in New Jersey, Trump questioned why President Barack Obama did not inform his campaign or the public about alleged Russian interference before Election Day. ‘So President Obama knew about Russia before the Election,’ Trump said. ‘Why didn’t he do something about it? Why didn’t he tell our campaign?’ Trump then went on to answer his own questions: ‘Because it is all a big hoax, that’s why, and he thought Crooked Hillary was going to win!!!'”

Trump Again Falsely Claims Russia Investigation Started With Steele Dossier, The New York Times, Linda Qiu, Monday, 23 July 2018: “The president and his press secretary repeated the false claim that the findings of a former British spy prompted the inquiry. A congressional report found it began with a diplomat’s tip about a Trump political adviser.”

Trump Weighs Stripping Security Clearances From Officials Who Criticized Him, The New York Times, Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Julian E. Barnes, Monday, 23 July 2018: “President Trump threatened on Monday to strip the security clearances of top former officials who criticized his refusal to confront Russia over its election interference, signaling a willingness to use the powers of the presidency to retaliate against some of his most outspoken detractors. Among those who could lose access are John O. Brennan, the former C.I.A. director; Susan E. Rice, the former national security adviser; and James R. Clapper Jr., the former director of national intelligence, said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary. The suggestion marked an unusual politicization of the security clearance process by a president who has routinely questioned the loyalties of national security and law enforcement officials and dismissed some of their findings — particularly the conclusion that Moscow intervened in the 2016 election — as attacks against him. Mr. Trump’s plan to review their clearances appeared to be an off-the-cuff idea — announced just after Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, suggested it to him — rather than a carefully considered proposal. Two of the targets Ms. Sanders cited, James B. Comey, who was fired by Mr. Trump as F.B.I. director last year, and Andrew G. McCabe, who was dismissed in March as deputy director of the F.B.I., no longer have security clearances. Former high-ranking officials in defense, intelligence, diplomacy and law enforcement usually maintain their clearances to advise those still in government, former officials said. A clearance also serves a more personally profitable function: helping departing officials get jobs at security contractors or similar firms.” See also, White House says Trump wants to revoke security clearances for former officials critical of him over Russia, The Washington Post, Shane Harris, John Wagner, and Felicia Sonmez, Monday, 23 July 2018.

12 tapes seized in Michael Cohen raid handed over to prosecutors, Politico, Laura Nahmias, Monday, 23 July 2018: “Twelve audio recordings seized from President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen in an April FBI raid were handed over to federal prosecutors on Friday, according to a court filing made public Monday. The tapes were handed over on the same day that Trump’s attorneys confirmed the existence of a September 2016 recording in which Trump and Cohen discussed a possible payment to former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who has said she and Trump had a 10-month affair that ended in 2007.”

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s remarks on Nixon case open new front in confirmation fight, The Washington Post, Seung Min Kim and Robert Barnes, Monday, 23 July 2018: “Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh’s years-old remarks questioning the landmark ruling that forced President Richard M. Nixon to turn over the Watergate tapes opened a new front in the battle over his confirmation, ensuring his views on executive power will square prominently in Senate hearings. Included in the thousands of pages turned over to the Senate Judiciary Committee this past weekend is a 1999 transcript of a panel discussion in which the future Supreme Court nominee opined whether the ‘tensions of the time led to an erroneous decision’ in the case United States v. Nixon. Although Kavanaugh has defended the 1974 ruling in other remarks, Democrats have seized on his skepticism from nearly two decades ago to build a key argument against the nominee: That he won’t be a sufficient check on the president who appointed him. ‘If Kavanaugh would’ve let Nixon off the hook, what is he willing to do for President Trump?’ Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) asked Monday. Democrats have also focused on Kavanaugh’s rulings in favor of broad presidential power and his criticism of the independent counsel law to suggest that he would protect Trump from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe. The judge has been outspoken in saying, for instance, that he would ‘put the final nail in’ the now-defunct independent counsel law.”

Trump administration officials dismissed benefits of national monuments, The Washington Post, Juliet Eilperin, Monday, 23 July 2018: “In a quest to shrink national monuments last year, senior Interior Department officials dismissed evidence that these public sites boosted tourism and spurred archaeological discoveries, according to documents the department released this month and retracted a day later. The thousands of pages of email correspondence chart how Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his aides instead tailored their survey of protected sites to emphasize the value of logging, ranching and energy development that would be unlocked if they were not designated national monuments. Comments the department’s Freedom of Information Act officers made in the documents show that they sought to keep some of the references out of the public eye because they were ‘revealing [the] strategy’ behind the review.”

Drive Against Gerrymandering Finds New Life In Ballot Initiatives, The New York Times, Michael Wines, Monday, 23 July 2018: “The movement to take politics out of setting legislative district boundaries seemed to suffer a grievous, and perhaps even mortal, blow this spring when the Supreme Court passed up three chances to declare partisan gerrymandering unconstitutional. But it turns out that reports of its death are exaggerated. As federal courts dither over how to resolve the issue, activists have begun tackling it state by state at the grass roots.”

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Has Conducted Hundreds of Raids in New York Since Trump Came to Power. Here’s What Those Operations Look Like. The Intercept, Ryan Devereaux, Monday, 23 July 2018: “Dubbed ICEwatch, the interactive project, released Monday, is the culmination of years of work by the Immigrant Defense Project and the Center for Constitutional Rights, two of New York City’s leading legal advocacy organizations. The project reflects some 665 reported ICE operations, from apartment raids to curbside snatch and grabs, from 2013 to the present. While a handful of examples are logged from as far west as California, the vast majority of the incidents were said to occur in the New York metropolitan area. With more than half of the incidents — a total of 462 events — reported after Trump’s inauguration, the legal organizations behind the project say it shows an increase in several aggressive and coercive tactics under the new administration…. ICEwatch comes at a critical time for U.S. immigration enforcement. During his first week in office, Trump signed an executive order that tore up previous guidance on who ICE should prioritize in its operations, making virtually every undocumented immigrant in the country equally fair game for arrest and deportation. Nationally, ICE arrests have surged under Trump, with the greatest growth seen among individuals with no criminal record. An analysis by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office in May found arrests in the region ICE considers part of New York City increased by more than 65 percent in 2017, compared with the same period the previous year, while ICE arrests of people with no criminal conviction shot up 225 percent in the eight months following Trump’s inauguration.”


Tuesday, 24 July 2018, Day 551:


New Emails Show Push by Trump Officials to Add Citizenship Question to Census, The New York Times, Michael Wines, Tuesday, 24 July 2018: “Government emails disclosed in a federal lawsuit show that within months of taking office, the Trump administration began discussing the need to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, contradicting initial accounts of how officials made the controversial decision. In May 2017, the emails show, President Trump’s chief strategist at the time, Steve Bannon, requested that Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross ‘talk to someone about the census.’ A month later, Mr. Ross began demanding that the question be added, and a top aide pledged to press Justice Department officials to say they needed better citizenship data for law enforcement. The emails, which were disclosed late Monday, cast further doubt on the administration’s initial explanation that the citizenship question was added at the request of the Justice Department, which officials said needed the data to enforce the 1965 Voting Rights Act. That account has steadily crumbled as more evidence has been unearthed in a lawsuit by 17 states and others challenging the citizenship question. The question is the focus of a furious battle between the administration and an array of critics who fear asking it would render the 2020 tally so inaccurate as to be unreliable. Those critics, which include civil liberties groups, local governments and business interests, say that large numbers of both legal and undocumented immigrants will refuse to fill out census forms that demand that they disclose their citizenship status. A lower head count in areas with large numbers of immigrants could reduce Democratic representation when new state and congressional districts are drawn in 2021.” See also, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross actively pushed to add citizenship question to 2020 Census, documents show, The Washington Post, Tara Bahrampour, Tuesday, 24 July 2018: “A cache of documents released by the Commerce Department late Monday night provides further evidence that Secretary Wilbur Ross was pushing to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census far more actively, and much earlier, than his later sworn testimony indicated.”

Trump administration to freeze fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks and challenge the right of California and other states to set their own tailpipe standards, The Washington Post, Juliet Eilperin, Brady Dennis, and Michael Laris, Friday, 24 July 2018: “Trump administration officials are preparing to issue a proposal within days to freeze fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks for six years and challenge the right of California and other states to set their own tailpipe standards, according to four current and former federal officials. The move would amount to one of the biggest regulatory rollbacks of the Trump presidency.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Laughs and Echoes ‘Lock Her Up’ Chant With Conservative High Schoolers, The New York Times, Julia Jacobs, Tuesday, 24 July 2018: “Attorney General Jeff Sessions repeated the phrase ‘lock her up’ during a speech to conservative high school students on Tuesday, chuckling as the crowd began a chant that Trump supporters used during the 2016 campaign to call for jailing Hillary Clinton. Mr. Sessions, the country’s top law enforcement official, was speaking at a four-day conference hosted by the conservative organization Turning Point USA and attended by several hundred right-leaning high school students in Washington. In his speech, he sharply criticized American universities, saying they were coddling students and creating a ‘generation of sanctimonious, sensitive, supercilious snowflakes.'”

Without evidence, Trump claims Russia ‘will be pushing very hard for the Democrats’ in 2018 midterms, The Washington Post, Felicia Sonmez, Tuesday, 24 July 2018: “President Trump claimed Tuesday, without evidence, that the Kremlin will support Democrats in the November midterm election, debuting a new line on Russian interference as the uproar over his shifting stances on the issue enters its second week. Trump made the claim in a late-morning tweet eight days after he held a joint news conference in Helsinki with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, who acknowledged there that he had wanted Trump to win in 2016. ‘I’m very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming Election,’ Trump said in his Tuesday tweet. ‘Based on the fact that no President has been tougher on Russia than me, they will be pushing very hard for the Democrats. They definitely don’t want Trump!’ The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign and that the effort was specifically aimed at helping Trump win. On July 16 in Helsinki, Putin said he had wanted Trump in the White House because he thought it would benefit U.S.-Russia relations.”

Top Trump Donors Elliott Broidy and Tom Barrack Jr. Paid Rick Gates About $300 Thousand Combined to Help Them Navigate the Trump Administration Last Year, Even as Gates Was Coming Under Increasing Scrutiny From Special Counsel Robert Mueller, The New York Times, Kenneth P. Vogel, Mark Mazzetti, Maggie Haberman, and David D. Kirkpatrick, Tuesday, 24 July 2018: “Early one morning in October, Rick Gates, a Washington lobbyist who had been a top official in the Trump campaign, emailed family and friends warning them that he was about to be indicted by the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. He declared himself innocent of ‘collusion with the Russians,’ and denounced the investigation as ‘highly politicized and an assault on those who helped elect a president that was not favored by many.’ One recipient of the email, Elliott Broidy, a top fund-raiser for President Trump, responded quickly, expressing his condolences to Mr. Gates and adding that he and his family were ‘in my thoughts and prayers.’ The warm response hints at the relationship that once existed between the two men as they worked together to pursue lucrative opportunities in Mr. Trump’s Washington. Mr. Broidy was a client of Mr. Gates, and had paid him at least $125,000. For that money Mr. Gates advised Mr. Broidy on how to pursue both a contract for his business and appointments for his associates and provided insight into the new administration’s foreign policy plans, according to interviews as well as internal emails and documents obtained by The New York Times. Their financial arrangement, not previously reported, was emblematic of the way a small circle of Mr. Trump’s associates at the beginning of his presidency aggressively marketed their administration access to well-paying clients, and sheds light on the activities of Mr. Gates, who has emerged as a key figure in the investigation of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. Those activities are detailed in a batch of Mr. Broidy’s emails that was hacked and provided to The Times and other news outlets by an anonymous individual or group opposed to Mr. Broidy’s work in Washington for foreign countries, including the United Arab Emirates. The emails detailing Mr. Gates’s work with Mr. Broidy were corroborated by people familiar with the arrangement, as well as additional documents from other sources.”

Over four days, false claims dominated Trump’s Twitter feed, The Washington Post, Salvador Rizzo, Glenn Kessler, and Meg Kelly, Tuesday, 24 July 2018: “President Trump tweeted a series of false or misleading claims over four days, ranging from the Russia investigation to NATO funding to North Korea to the price of soybeans. From July 20 to July 23, accurate statements on the president’s Twitter feed were swamped by faulty claims. We rounded up 14 tweets worth fact-checking.”

What the Latest Mueller Indictment Reveals About WikiLeaks’ Ties to Russia–And What It Doesn’t, The New Yorker, Raffi Khatchadourian, Tuesday, 24 July 2018: “The over-all picture that the indictment offers of the ‘WikiLeaks connection,’ as Clapper once put it, is entirely consistent with previous intelligence assessments, which said that the G.R.U. provided Julian Assange, the editor of WikiLeaks, with the D.N.C. and Podesta archives. But, at the level of evidence, the indictment offers a strange mix: tantalizing, fragmentary new details that suggest the when and how without quite revealing everything that happened.”

Trump’s latest speech is compared to ‘1984’: ‘What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening,’ Independent, Kimberley Richards, Tuesday, 24 July 2018: “Donald Trump’s recent speech to supporters in Kansas has been compared to the totalitarian rhetoric similar to George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel, 1984. The US president addressed supporters at a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Kansas City on 24 July, requesting them to not listen to what they read or saw in the news. ‘Just stick with us, don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news,’ Mr Trump said as the crowd erupted in boos. He later added: ‘Just remember, what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening….'”

Trump Administration, in Reversal, Will Resume Risk Payments to Health Insurers, The New York Times, Robert Pear, Tuesday, 24 July 2018: “The Trump administration, in an abrupt reversal, said Tuesday that it would restart a program that pays billions of dollars to insurers to stabilize health insurance markets under the Affordable Care Act. The administration suspended the program less than three weeks ago, saying it was compelled to do so by a federal court decision in New Mexico. But the administration said Tuesday that it would restore the program because otherwise health plans could become insolvent or withdraw from the market, causing chaos for consumers. In adopting a new rule, the administration essentially accepted the arguments of critics, including consumer groups, health insurance companies and Democrats in Congress, who said that suspending the payments would cause turmoil in insurance markets. The program, known as risk adjustment, makes payments to insurers that enroll higher-risk people, such as those with chronic conditions. The money comes from insurers that enroll healthier people. The purpose of the cash transfers is to reduce incentives for insurers to avoid sicker patients.”

To Ease Pain of Trump’s Trade War, $12 Billion in Emergency Relief Will be Given to Farmers Hurt by the Trade War, The New York Times, Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Ana Swanson, Tuesday, 24 July 2018: “The Trump administration announced on Tuesday that it would provide up to $12 billion in emergency relief for farmers hurt by the president’s trade war, moving to blunt the financial damage to American agriculture and the political fallout for Republicans as the consequences of President Trump’s protectionist policies roll through the economy. Unveiled two days before the president is scheduled to visit Iowa, a politically important state that is the nation’s top soybean producer, the farm aid appeared calculated to show that Mr. Trump cares about farmers and is working to protect them from the worst consequences of his trade war. But the relief money, announced by the Department of Agriculture, was also an indication that Mr. Trump — ignoring the concerns of farmers, their representatives in Congress and even some of his own aides — plans to extend his tit-for-tat tariff wars…. The move drew swift condemnation from many farm groups and lawmakers, including several in his own party, who worry about a cascade of unintended consequences that may be just beginning. One farm-group study estimates that corn, wheat and soybean farmers in the United States have already lost more — $13 billion — than the administration is proposing to provide as a result of the trade war. The prospect of retaliation has upended global markets for soybeans, meat and other American farm exports, and farmers are warning that tariffs are costing them valuable foreign contracts that took years to win.”


Wednesday, 25 July 2018, Day 552:


Exclusive: CNN obtains secret Trump-Michael Cohen tape, CNN Politics, Chris Cuomo, Kara Scannell, and Eli Watkins, Wednesday, 25 July 2018: “Presidential candidate Donald Trump is heard on tape discussing with his attorney Michael Cohen how they would buy the rights to a Playboy model’s story about an alleged affair Trump had with her years earlier, according to the audio recording of the conversation aired exclusively on CNN’s ‘Cuomo Prime Time.'”  See also, Michael Cohen, Trump’s Former Personal Lawyer, Releases Tape of Trump Discussing Hush Money for Former Playboy Model Karen McDougal, The New York Times, Michael S. Schmidt, Maggie Haberman, and Jim Rutenberg, Wednesday, 25 July 2018: “President Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, escalated his dispute with the president on Tuesday by releasing a secret recording of a conversation in which Mr. Trump appears to have knowledge about hush money payments to a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump. The recording, which was broadcast by CNN, is sometimes muddled but provides details on payments to the former model, Karen McDougal. However, it does not definitively answer the question about whether Mr. Trump directed Mr. Cohen to make them in cash or by check just two months before the 2016 presidential election. Mr. Cohen is heard telling Mr. Trump that he will need to set up a company to arrange the payments.” See also, How Michael Cohen’s Audio Clip Unraveled Trump’s False Statements, The New York Times, Matt Apuzzo and Maggie Haberman, Wednesday, 25 July 2018: “Just before Election Day, when The Wall Street Journal uncovered a secret deal by The National Enquirer to buy the silence of a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Donald J. Trump, his campaign issued a flat denial. ‘We have no knowledge of any of this,’ Mr. Trump’s spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, told the newspaper. She said the claim of an affair was ‘totally untrue.’ Then last week, when The New York Times revealed the existence of a recorded conversation about the very payment Mr. Trump denied knowing about, Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, described the recording as ‘exculpatory’ — suggesting it would actually help Mr. Trump if it became public. Finally, the tape has become public. And it revealed the statements by Ms. Hicks and Mr. Giuliani to be false. The recording, which was broadcast by CNN late Tuesday night, shows Mr. Trump was directly involved in talks about whether to pay The Enquirer for the rights to the woman’s story. The recording, and the repeated statements it contradicts, is a stark example of how Mr. Trump and his aides have used falsehoods as a shield against tough questions and unflattering coverage. Building upon his repeated cry of ‘fake news,’ he told supporters this week not to believe the news. ‘What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening,’ the president added.” See also, Transcript of Cohen tape suggests Trump knew about model’s deal to sell story of alleged affair, The Washington Post, Carol D. Leonnig and Robert Costa, Wednesday, 25 July 2018: “Donald Trump appeared familiar with a deal that a Playboy model made to sell the rights to her story of an alleged affair with him when Trump discussed the matter in September 2016 with his attorney Michael Cohen, according to a transcript of their conversation. The transcript, which was provided by President Trump’s legal team, shows that the then-GOP presidential nominee does not register confusion or surprise when Cohen refers to a plan to purchase the rights to model Karen McDougal’s story from American Media Inc., the parent company of the National Enquirer.” See also, The Trump-Michael Cohen tape transcript, annotated, The Washington Post, Aaron Blake, published on Tuesday, 24 July 2018. See also, The Really Bad News for Donald Trump on the Michael Cohen Tape, The New Yorker, John Cassidy, Wednesday, 25 July 2018. See also, ‘I’m not going to be a punching bag anymore’: Inside Michael Cohen’s break with Trump, The Washington Post, Philip Rucker, Carol D. Leonnig, Tom Hamburger, and Ashley Parker, Wednesday, 25 July 2018 : “For the past decade, Michael Cohen worked as Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer. He was an eager supplicant, executing the wishes of his celebrity boss and forever seeking his attaboy affection. He said he would take a bullet for Trump, and, even after the president passed him over for a White House job, Cohen still professed his eternal loyalty. But in Trump’s world, eternity has limits. By releasing audio of his covertly recorded conversation with Trump about purchasing the rights to a Playboy centerfold’s story of an extramarital affair, Cohen made a decisive break from his longtime client. The move punctuates the steady deterioration of a relationship between Cohen and Trump and raises concerns in the White House that the former could spill secrets about the latter to the FBI.”

National Enquirer’s Yearslong Dealings With Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen Fall Under Federal Scrutiny, The Wall Street Journal, Michael Rothfeld, Joe Palazzolo, Lukas I. Alpert, and Rebecca Davis O’Brien, Wednesday, 25 July 2018: “Michael Cohen and the publisher of the National Enquirer forged an alliance over the years, looking out for the interests of Donald Trump and each other. Now, federal investigators are examining those ties as part of a wide-ranging probe into Mr. Cohen’s personal business dealings and his self-described role as Mr. Trump’s fixer. In previously unreported interactions, some of which are memorialized in emails now under review, Mr. Cohen mediated a dispute between Omarosa Manigault-Newman, who had been a star on Mr. Trump’s ‘Apprentice’ reality TV show, and the Enquirer over a story about her brother’s murder. He intervened in a separate legal case on behalf of David Pecker, chief executive of Enquirer parent American Media Inc. And when American Media paid a doorman who alleged that Mr. Trump fathered a child with one of his employees, a company executive ordered reporters to stop investigating after speaking with Mr. Cohen. The revelations show a relationship characterized by mutual benefit and favor-trading on a greater scale than was previously known. The shared history could expose American Media, Mr. Cohen and by extension, Mr. Trump, to criminal campaign-finance charges. For example, federal agents and prosecutors in New York are investigating whether Mr. Cohen, acting as Mr. Trump’s representative, improperly coordinated with American Media to keep an ex-Playboy model’s account of an affair with Mr. Trump under wraps in the months before the 2016 presidential election, people familiar with the matter said.”

Federal judge allows emoluments case against Trump to proceed, The Washington Post, Ann E. Marimow, Jonathan O’Connell, and David A. Fahrenthold, Wednesday, 25 July 2018: “A federal judge on Wednesday rejected President Trump’s latest effort to stop a lawsuit that alleges Trump is violating the Constitution by continuing to do business with foreign governments. The ruling, from U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte in Greenbelt, Md., will allow the plaintiffs — the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia — to proceed with their case, which says Trump has violated little-used anti-corruption clauses in the Constitution known as emoluments clauses. This ruling appeared to mark the first time a federal judge had interpreted those constitutional provisions and applied their restrictions to a sitting president. If the ruling stands, it could bring unprecedented scrutiny to Trump’s businesses — which have sought to keep their transactions with foreign states private, even as their owner sits in the Oval Office. Messitte’s 52-page opinion said that, in the modern context, the Constitution’s ban on emoluments could apply to Trump — and that it could cover any business transactions with foreign governments where Trump derived a ‘profit, gain or advantage.'” See also, In Ruling Against Trump, Judge Defines Anticorruption Clauses in Constitution for the First Time, The New York Times, Sharon LaFraniere, Wednesday, 25 July 2018: “A lawsuit accusing President Trump of violating the Constitution by maintaining a financial interest in his company’s Washington hotel cleared a critical hurdle on Wednesday when a federal judge allowed the case to move forward. In the first judicial opinion to define how the meaning of the Constitution’s anticorruption clauses should apply to a president, Judge Peter J. Messitte of the United States District Court in Greenbelt, Md., said the framers’ language should be broadly construed as an effort to protect against influence-peddling by state and foreign governments.”

House Republicans Mount a Long-Shot Bid to Impeach Rod Rosenstein, The New York Times, Katie Benner, Wednesday, 25 July 2018: “A group of House Republicans escalated their feud with the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, on Wednesday, introducing articles of impeachment in a long-shot bid to oust the official overseeing the special counsel inquiry into Russian election interference. The move was seen as much as a political maneuver as an act of congressional oversight. The group of 11, led by Representatives Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Jim Jordan of Ohio, would need the support of a majority of the House and two-thirds of the Senate to convict Mr. Rosenstein. The resolution they filed does not require the entire House to vote before Congress adjourns for its summer recess on Friday. But it could provide President Trump with more ammunition to attack Mr. Rosenstein, who has been in Mr. Trump’s cross hairs since he appointed the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, to investigate Russia’s plot to manipulate the 2016 presidential election and whether any Trump associates were complicit.” See also, House conservatives move to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Politico, Kyle Cheney, Wednesday, 25 July 2018.

U.S. and Europe Outline Deal to Ease Trade Feud, The New York Times, Mark Landler and Ana Swanson, Wednesday, 25 July 2018: “The United States and the European Union stepped back from the brink of a trade war on Wednesday, after President Trump said the Europeans agreed to work toward lower tariffs and other trade barriers, and to buy billions of dollars of American soybeans and natural gas. The surprise announcement, made by Mr. Trump and the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, defused, for the moment, a trade battle that began with Mr. Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum exports and threatened to escalate to automobiles.” See also, Trump and the European Union announce deal to avert escalation of trade tensions, The Washington Post, Damian Paletta and Jeanne Whalen, Wednesday, 25 July 2018.

Trump Wants to Delay Putin Meeting Until ‘After the Russia Witch Hunt,’ The New York Times, Mark Landler, Wednesday, 25 July 2018: “The White House said on Wednesday that President Trump wants to delay a planned follow-up meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia until after the investigation of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is concluded — which the White House predicted would be next year. ‘The president believes that the next bilateral meeting with President Putin should take place after the Russia witch hunt is over, so we’ve agreed that it will be after the first of the year,’ Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, John R. Bolton, said in a statement. Last week, Mr. Trump unexpectedly said he would invite Mr. Putin to Washington in the fall — a move that some interpreted as a show of defiance by Mr. Trump after a storm of criticism over his meeting with Mr. Putin in Helsinki, Finland.”

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Proposes to Curtail Debt Relief for Defrauded Students, The New York Times, Erica L. Green, Wednesday, 25 July 2018: “Education Secretary Betsy DeVos proposed on Wednesday to curtail Obama administration loan forgiveness rules for students defrauded by for-profit colleges, requiring that student borrowers show they have fallen into hopeless financial straits or prove that their colleges knowingly deceived them. The DeVos proposal, set to go in force a year from now, would replace Obama-era policies that sought to ease access to loan forgiveness for students who were left saddled with debt after two for-profit college chains, Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute, imploded in 2015 and 2016. The schools were found to have misled their students with false advertisements and misleading claims for years.”

White House readies plan for $12 billion in emergency aid to farmers caught in Trump’s escalating trade war, The Washington Post, Damian Paletta and Caitlin Dewey, Wednesday, 25 July 2018: “The Trump administration on Tuesday announced up to $12 billion in emergency aid to farmers caught in an escalating trade war, seeking to temper growing Republican dissent over President Trump’s trade policies. The aid is designed to help farmers facing tariffs in China, Mexico and other countries that imposed the levies on U.S. products in response to Trump’s new tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. It is the latest sign that growing trade tensions between the United States and other countries are unlikely to end soon. White House officials say farmers will begin seeing payments by September, and they hope the payments will quiet protests by farm groups and lawmakers — many of them Republicans — who contend that Trump’s confrontational trade policy is harming American farmers months before the 2018 midterm elections. Trump defended his approach Tuesday during a speech in Missouri, pleading with the public to ‘be a little patient’ and arguing that farmers would eventually be ‘the biggest beneficiary’ of his policies. But many Republicans criticized the administration’s aid package, saying the president should back off his trade war and help farmers regain more access to foreign markets, rather than offering them government payments.”

A new peak in Trump’s efforts to foster misinformation, The Washington Post, Philip Bump, Wednesday, 25 July 2018: “Few quotes encapsulate the administration of President Trump as neatly as one he offered during a speech to veterans Tuesday in Missouri. ‘Just remember,’ he said, ‘what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.’ What Trump is doing is asking listeners to join him in his carefully crafted bubble, a space where information that conflicts with what Trump asserts or with what Trump believes is untrustworthy, intentionally false or simply doesn’t exist. It’s as clear an articulation of Trump’s approach to his role as chief executive as we’ll find, and one for which evidence abounds of Trump’s deployment of it as a tool.”

New Emails Show Michigan Republicans Plotting to Gerrymander Maps, The New York Times, Michael Wines, Wednesday, 25 July 2018: “Newly disclosed emails show Michigan Republicans angling to give their party a dominant position through gerrymandered maps and celebrating the plight of their Democratic rivals. Republicans in the state have denied that they sought partisan gain when they drew new legislative boundaries in 2011. But a federal lawsuit, which argues the maps are unconstitutional, has unearthed records showing Republicans intent on drawing boundaries that would help their party. The emails, disclosed in a filing on Monday, boast of concentrating ‘Dem garbage’ into four of the five southeast Michigan districts that Democrats now control, and of packing African-Americans into a metropolitan Detroit House district. One email likened a fingerlike extension they created in one Democratic district map to an obscene gesture toward its congressman, Representative Sander M. Levin. ‘Perfect. It’s giving the finger to Sandy Levin,’ the author of the message wrote. ‘I love it.’ Excerpts from the emails were filed in United States District Court in Detroit this week as part of a battle between the plaintiffs and the defendant — formally, Michigan’s secretary of state — over how much evidence the sides must disclose before a trial begins. The emails were first reported by Bridge Magazine, run by the Center for Michigan, a public policy think tank.”

CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins barred from White House event, drawing protests from journalists, The Washington Post, Paul Farhi and Felicia Sonmez, Wednesday, 25 July 2018: “A CNN reporter said she was blocked from an open media event at the White House on Wednesday after officials objected to questions she asked President Trump at an event earlier in the day. Reporter Kaitlan Collins said press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and communications director Bill Shine told her she was banned from a late-afternoon announcement in the Rose Garden involving Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker a few hours after she sought to question Trump during a press-pool ‘spray’ in the Oval Office. Blocking a credentialed White House reporter from an event open to all members of the media is highly unusual and possibly unprecedented, and it marks another low point in the Trump White House’s highly strained relationship with the news media.” See also, White House Bars CNN Reporter Kaitlan Collins From Presidential Event, The New York Times, Michael M. Grynbaum, Wednesday, 25 July 2018.


Thursday, 26 July 2018, Day 553:


Trump Organization Finance Chief Allen Weisselberg Called to Testify Before Federal Grand Jury, Wall Street Journal, Rebecca Davis O’Brien, Rebecca Ballhaus, Michael Rothfeld, and Alexandra Berzon, Thursday, 26 July 2018: “Allen Weisselberg, a longtime financial gatekeeper for President Donald Trump, has been subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury in the criminal probe of Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, according to people familiar with the investigation. Mr. Weisselberg is considered a witness in the investigation, the people said. It isn’t known whether he has already appeared before the grand jury or what questions prosecutors of New York’s Southern District have had for him. The date of the subpoena couldn’t be determined. For decades, Mr. Weisselberg has served as executive vice president and chief financial officer at the Trump Organization, and was once described by a person close to the company as ‘the most senior person in the organization that’s not a Trump.’ After Mr. Trump was elected, he handed control of his financial assets and business interests to his two adult sons and Mr. Weisselberg.” See also, Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg may be the biggest shoe to drop from the Trump-Michael Cohen tape, The Washington Post, Aaron Blake, Thursday, 26 July 2018: “Longtime Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg has been subpoenaed, the Wall Street Journal reports. That should come as little surprise; he was invoked twice in Michael Cohen’s taped conversation with President Trump about buying the rights to former Playboy model Karen McDougal’s story. ‘I’ve spoken to Allen about how to set the whole thing up,’ Cohen says on the September 2016 recording. He adds: ‘I spoke to Allen about it, when it comes time for the financing. …’ But that doesn’t mean it’s not a potentially huge moment. More than anything — more than whether Trump proposed paying cash for McDougal’s story or warned against it — this could be what matters on that tape. Bloomberg’s Timothy O’Brien spotlighted the potential significance of Weisselberg’s implication in the whole thing shortly after the Cohen-Trump tape came out Tuesday evening. Cohen, O’Brien has argued previously, is a small fish in Trumpworld; Weisselberg, by contrast, is deeply involved in Trump’s business and finances….”

Federal Authorities Say They Have Met Deadline to Reunite Migrant Families, The New York Times, Caitlin Dickerson, Annie Correal, and Mitchell Ferman, Thursday, 26 July 2018: “The federal government reported Thursday that it would meet a court-ordered deadline to reunite the last ‘eligible’ migrant families separated at the Southwest border, but hundreds of children remained in federal custody as a result of a contentious immigration policy that has drawn international condemnation. Officials with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency reunited 1,442 of the last group of children with their families and said they expected to complete all ‘eligible’ reunifications by midnight Thursday, Pacific time…. But in a day that saw government officials and community volunteers scrambling to bring families together, multiple reports of failed reunifications raised questions about whether the deadline had in fact been met. Further confusing the issue was a change in the way the government tallied its progress, with the latest report counting children rather than parents, a reversal from prior reports…. Even if Thursday’s deadline was met, the government’s work to address the effects of the family separation policy was far from over. The parents who were deemed eligible for reunification represent only about a third of all those who were separated from their children after crossing the border, a practice that began last summer and escalated in May.” See also, Hundreds of migrant children remain in custody, though most separated families are reunited at court deadline, The Washington Post, Nick Miroff and Samantha Schmidt, Thursday, 26 July 2018. See also, The Government Has Decided That Hundreds of Immigrant Parents Are Ineligible to Be Reunited With Their Children. Who Are They? The New Yorker, Jonathan Blitzer, Thursday, 26 July 2018.

The articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, annotated, The Washington Post, Amber Phillips, Thursday, 26 July 2018: “A group of House conservatives has officially moved to impeach the person at the head of the Russia investigation, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein. There are plenty of reasons to believe this maneuver was motivated by their desire to undermine the special counsel investigation into Russian election interference and whether the Trump campaign helped.”

Special Counsel Robert Mueller Is Examining Trump’s Tweets in Wide-Ranging Obstruction Inquiry, The New York Times, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman, Thursday, 26 July 2018: “For years, President Trump has used Twitter as his go-to public relations weapon, mounting a barrage of attacks on celebrities and then political rivals even after advisers warned he could be creating legal problems for himself. Those concerns now turn out to be well founded. The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is scrutinizing tweets and negative statements from the president about Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey, according to three people briefed on the matter. Several of the remarks came as Mr. Trump was also privately pressuring the men — both key witnesses in the inquiry — about the investigation, and Mr. Mueller is examining whether the actions add up to attempts to obstruct the investigation by both intimidating witnesses and pressuring senior law enforcement officials to tamp down the inquiry.”

How Trump’s Public and Private Acts Line Up in a Possible Obstruction Case, The New York Times, Michael S. Schmidt and Jasmine C. Lee, Thursday, 26 July 2018: “The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is scrutinizing some of President Trump’s Twitter posts and public statements to determine whether he was trying to obstruct the Russia investigation. Mr. Trump’s lawyers say he was simply trying to defend himself, but several of the remarks, directed at Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey, came around the time the president was also privately pressuring the men about the inquiry.”

Republican Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, Embattled Conservative, Says He Will Run for House Speaker, The New York Times, Catie Edmondson, Thursday, 26 July 2018: “Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, a powerful hard-line conservative who has been embroiled in a sexual abuse scandal from his days as a college wrestling coach, announced on Thursday that he will run to succeed Paul D. Ryan as House speaker. Mr. Jordan’s bid is sure to roil the already shaky succession of power that Mr. Ryan set in motion when he announced that he would retire at the end of the year. Publicly, Republican leaders have backed the House majority leader, Kevin McCarthy of California. Privately, some Republicans have said Mr. McCarthy would not be able to unite the fractious party, and the No. 3 Republican in the House, Steve Scalise of Louisiana, is waiting in the wings. Now comes the divisive figure of Mr. Jordan, who has the backing of the small but important House Freedom Caucus, which he founded, and outside conservative groups that have been pushing him to run. He has divided Republicans repeatedly with his aggressive tactics, most recently this week by filing articles of impeachment against the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein. Mr. Ryan responded Thursday by saying he would not back the action, and the House left for its monthlong August recess without taking it up.”

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to Eliminate Rules Aimed at Abuses by For-Profit Colleges, The New York Times, Erica L. Green, Thursday, 26 July 2018: “Education Secretary Betsy DeVos plans to eliminate regulations that forced for-profit colleges to prove that they provide gainful employment to the students they enroll, in what would be the most drastic in a series of moves that she has made to free the for-profit sector from safeguards put in effect during the Obama era. The so-called gainful employment regulations put into force by the Obama administration cut off federally guaranteed student loans to colleges if their graduates did not earn enough money to pay them off. That sent many for-profit colleges and universities into an economic tailspin because so many of their alumni were failing to find decent jobs. The Obama regulations — years in the making and the subject of a bitter fight that pulled in heavy hitters from both parties who backed the for-profit schools — also required such schools to advertise whether or not they met federal standards for job placement in promotional materials and to prospective students. Now, a draft regulation, obtained by The New York Times, indicates that the Education Department plans to scuttle the regulations altogether, not simply modify them, as Ms. DeVos did Wednesday with new regulations that scaled back an Obama-era debt relief plan for student borrowers who felt duped by the unrealistic appeals of for-profit colleges. The move would punctuate a series of decisions to freeze, modify and now eliminate safeguards put in place after hundreds of for-profit colleges were accused of widespread fraud and subsequently collapsed, leaving their enrolled students with huge debts and no degrees. The failure of two mammoth chains, Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institutes, capped years of complaints that some career-training colleges took advantage of veterans and other nontraditional students, using deceptive marketing and illegal recruitment practices.”

The Trump Administration Takes on the Endangered Species Act, The New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert, Thursday, 26 July 2018: “Last week, the Trump Administration proposed what the Times called ‘the most sweeping set of changes in decades’ to the regulations used to enforce the [Endangered Species] Act. The changes would weaken protections for endangered species, while making it easier for companies to build roads, pipelines, or mines in crucial habitats. Under current regulations, government agencies are supposed to make decisions about what species need safeguarding ‘without reference to possible economic or other impacts.’ The Administration wants to scratch that phrase. It also wants to scale back protections for threatened species—these are one notch down on the endangerment scale—and to make it easier to delist species that have been classified as endangered…. Also in the past few weeks, congressional Republicans have introduced some two dozen measures and, perhaps more importantly, spending-bill riders aimed at weakening the Act…. Meanwhile, despite all the—forgive the pun—grousing by oil and gas interests and their friends in Congress, there’s not much hard evidence that the Act has caused economic losses.”

Russian Threat ‘Is Real,’ Trump Officials Say, Vowing to Protect U.S. Elections, The New York Times, Michael D. Shear and Michael Wines, Thursday, 2 August 2018: “Top national security officials vowed Thursday to defend American elections against what they called real threats from Russia only weeks after President Trump seemed to accept President Vladimir V. Putin’s denials of interference during a summit meeting in Finland. After the meeting, Mr. Trump said he had not meant to endorse Mr. Putin’s denial of election meddling, but insisted that the culprit behind the intrusion ‘could be other people.’ A few days later, he asserted that the idea of any meddling by Russia was ‘all a big hoax.’ But the men and women charged with detecting and defending against any threats to the American political process showed no such ambivalence. They bluntly said that Russia was behind a ‘pervasive’ campaign to weaken America’s democracy and influence the 2018 election. They also sought to reassure voters that federal, state and local governments were taking steps to guard against what Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, described as a ’24-7 365-days-a-year’ effort by Russia to sow division as Americans head to the polls in the fall. ‘Russia attempted to interfere with the last election,’ Mr. Wray told reporters in the White House briefing room, ‘and continues to engage in malign influence operations to this day. This is a threat we need to take extremely seriously and to tackle and respond to with fierce determination and focus.'” See also, How the U.S. Is Fighting Russian Election Interference, The New York Times, Michael Wines and Julian E. Barnes, Thursday, 2 August 2018.