Trump, Week 83: Friday, 17 August – Thursday, 23 August 2018 (Days 575-581)

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

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, 17 August 2018, Day 575:


Bomb that killed 40 children in Yemen was supplied by the United States, CNN, Nima Elbagir, Salma Abdelaziz, Ryan Browne, Barbara Arvanitidis, and Laura Smith-Spark, Friday, 17 August 2018: “The bomb used by the [US-backed] Saudi-led coalition in a devastating attack on a school bus in Yemen was sold as part of a US State Department-sanctioned arms deal with Saudi Arabia, munitions experts told CNN. Working with local Yemeni journalists and munitions experts, CNN has established that the weapon that left dozens of children dead on August 9 was a 500-pound (227 kilogram) laser-guided MK 82 bomb made by Lockheed Martin, one of the top US defense contractors…. As the US-backed Saudi-led coalition scrambles to investigate the strike on the school bus, questions are growing from observers and rights groups about whether the US bears any moral culpability. The US says it does not make targeting decisions for the coalition, which is fighting a Houthi rebel insurgency in Yemen. But it does support its operations through billions of dollars in arms sales, the refueling of Saudi combat aircraft and some sharing of intelligence. ‘I will tell you that we do help them plan what we call, kind of targeting,’ said US Secretary of Defense James Mattis. ‘We do not do dynamic targeting for them.'”

Citing Costs, Trump Retreats From Massive Military Parade in Capital, The New York Times, Eileen Sullivan, Helene Cooper, and Michael D. Shear, Friday, 17 August 2018: “President Trump on Friday officially surrendered his order for a massive military parade in the nation’s capital, as spiraling costs rendered his vision of a Veterans Day extravaganza too expensive to justify. Mr. Trump sought to blame local government officials in Washington for inflating the price of the parade ‘so ridiculously high that I cancelled it’ — a charge they swiftly rejected. ‘Maybe we will do something next year in D.C. when the cost comes WAY DOWN,’ Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. ‘Now we can buy some more jet fighters!’ Several administration officials described a sort of sticker shock after seeing a Pentagon estimate that soared as high as $92 million to pay for the troops, fighter jets, armored vehicles and other military hardware that would be mustered to satisfy the president’s dream of displaying American might…. By Friday morning, Mr. Trump essentially accused the capital city’s government of price gouging. Local officials, he said on Twitter, ‘know a windfall when they see it.’ Responding in a tweet of her own, Washington’s mayor, Muriel E. Bowser, said she was ‘the local politician who finally got thru to the reality star in the White House’ so that he would understand the ‘realities’ of the expense of the kind of parade he wanted. She estimated it at $21.6 million in city spending alone.” See also, Trump cancels military parade he longed to hold as concern over costs grow, The Washington Post, John Wagner, Peter Jamison, Josh Dawsey, Dan Lamothe, Friday, 17 August 2018.

Trump’s Plan for Coal Emissions: Let Coal States Regulate Them, The New York Times, Lisa Friedman, Friday, 17 August 2018: “The Trump administration next week plans to formally propose a vast overhaul of climate change regulations that would allow individual states to decide how, or even whether, to curb carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants, according to a summary of the plan and details provided by three people who have seen the full proposal. The plan would also relax pollution rules for power plants that need upgrades. That, combined with allowing states to set their own rules, creates a serious risk that emissions, which had been falling, could start to rise again, according to environmentalists. The proposal, which President Trump is expected to highlight Tuesday at a rally in West Virginia, amounts to the administration’s strongest and broadest effort yet to address what the president has long described as a regulatory ‘war on coal.’ It would considerably weaken what is known as the Clean Power Plan, former President Barack Obama’s signature regulation for cutting planet-warming emissions at coal-fired plants. That rule, crafted as the United States prepared to enter into the 2015 Paris Agreement on global warming, was the first federal carbon-pollution restriction for power plants. In 2016, the Supreme Court temporarily blocked the regulation from taking effect while a federal court heard arguments from a coalition of coal states that sued to block the rule. It remains suspended. Now, the Trump administration wants to defang the Obama-era rule. The move follows a separate decision this month to freeze Obama-era fuel efficiency standards that were also aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.” See also, New Trump power plant plan would release hundreds of millions of tons of CO2 into the air, The Washington Post, Juliet Eilperin, published on Saturday, 18 August 2018: “President Trump plans this week to unveil a proposal that would empower states to establish emission standards for coal-fired power plants rather than speeding their retirement — a major overhaul of the Obama administration’s signature climate policy. The plan, which is projected to release at least 12 times the amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere compared with the Obama rule over the next decade, comes as scientists have warned that the world will experience increasingly dire climate effects absent a major cut in carbon emissions.”

Continue reading Week 83, Friday, 17 August – Thursday, 23 August 2018 (Days 575-581)

Federal appeals court orders the Trump administration to enforce an Obama-era chemical safety rule, Reuters, Timothy Gardner, Friday, 17 August 2018: “A federal appeals court on Friday ordered the Trump administration to immediately implement an Obama-era chemical safety rule introduced in response to a 2013 explosion at a fertilizer plant in Texas that killed 15 people. The D.C. Circuit Court ruling was the latest to counter efforts under President Donald Trump, a Republican, to delay environmental regulations introduced by former President Barack Obama, a Democrat. The court ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to implement the Chemical Disaster Rule, saying the agency did not have authority to delay the rule for 20 months.”

How many migrant children are still separated from their families? The Washington Post, Leslie Shapiro and Manas Sharma, Friday, 17 August 2018: “The Trump administration’s decision to criminally prosecute all adults crossing the southern border led to the separation of more than 2,500 children from their parents or other adults this spring. After President Trump halted the separations on June 20, a federal judge ordered the government to reunite all children under age 5 with their families by July 12 and all older children by July 26. The government, which did not have a reunification plan in place at the time of the judge’s order, says it is returning all children whose parents have been located and cleared through background checks. But as of Aug. 16, 565 children remain stripped from their parents or guardians and in government custody. ‘The reality is, for every parent who is not located, there will be a permanently orphaned child, and that is 100 percent the responsibility of the administration,’ U.S. District Judge Dana M. Sabraw told the federal government at an Aug. 3 hearing about reunifying separated families.”

Trump Asks the Securities and Exchange Commission (S.E.C.) to Study Changing the Schedule Under Which Public Companies Report Results to Twice a Year From Quarterly, The New York Times, Michael J. de la Merced and Matt Phillips, Friday, 17 August 2018: “President Trump asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to consider eliminating requirements that publicly traded companies post quarterly earnings reports, a move that could do away with a cornerstone of American capital markets. In a message posted on Twitter early Friday, the president wrote that he had directed the regulator to study moving corporate America to reporting earnings twice a year, saying such a move would allow greater flexibility and cost savings. The directive does not mean the imminent demise of quarterly earnings reports, which keep investors informed on the financial health of publicly traded companies. The disclosures are required under federal securities law. The commission is independent of the executive branch, although the White House nominates the chairman of the S.E.C. and the other four commissioners, who all serve staggered, five-year terms.”

13 former U.S. spy chiefs accuse Trump of trying to stifle free speech and politicize intelligence after Trump revokes the security clearance of John Brennan, Los Angeles Times, Eli Stokols, Friday, 17 August 2018: “In a remarkable rebuke to President Trump, 13 former U.S. intelligence chiefs have signed a harshly worded letter in support of former CIA Director John Brennan after Trump abruptly revoked his security clearance. ‘We feel compelled to respond in the wake of the ill-considered and unprecedented remarks and actions by the White House,’ reads the letter from the officials, who served both Democratic and Republican presidents. They called Trump’s action ‘inappropriate’ and ‘deeply regrettable.’ Signing the letter Thursday was a virtual who’s who of American spy chiefs dating back to the late 1980s, a striking show of solidarity from the top ranks of the national security establishment.”

White House drafts more security clearance cancellations as Trump seeks to punish critics and those involved in the Russia investigation, The Washington Post, Karen DeYoung and Josh Dawsey, Friday, 17 August 2018: “The White House has drafted documents revoking the security clearances of current and former officials whom President Trump has demanded be punished for criticizing him or playing a role in the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to senior administration officials. Trump wants to sign ‘most, if not all’ of them, said one senior White House official, who indicated that communications aides, including press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Bill Shine, the newly named deputy chief of staff, have discussed the optimum times to release them as a distraction during unfavorable news cycles. Some presidential aides echoed concerns raised by outside critics that the threatened revocations smack of a Nixonian enemies list, with little or no substantive national security justification. Particular worry has been expressed inside the White House about Trump’s statement Friday that he intends ‘very quickly’ to strip the clearance of current Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations…. His comments followed the release of a statement signed by 14 former CIA directors and deputy directors from Republican and Democratic administrations, as well as a former director of national intelligence, who called Trump’s revocation this week of former CIA director John Brennan’s clearance a blatant attempt to ‘stifle free speech’ and send an ‘inappropriate and deeply regrettable’ signal to other public servants. Later Friday, 60 additional former CIA officials issued a statement objecting to the Brennan action and stating their belief ‘that former government officials have the right to express their unclassified views on what they see as critical national security issues without fear of being punished for doing so.’ While he has frequently called Mueller’s inquiry a ‘rigged witch hunt,’ and did so again Friday, Trump’s move against Brennan, and threats to move against others, has brought the controversy to a new level.”

Trump Is Giving Federal Contractors a ‘Religious Exemption’ for Discrimination, BuzzFeed News, Dominic Holden, Friday, 17 August 2018: “President Donald Trump offered skeptical LGBT Americans an olive branch when he took office in January 2017. The White House promised to safeguard a 2014 executive order that protects workers, announcing former President Obama’s ban on anti-LGBT discrimination by federal contractors ‘will remain intact.’ But on Aug. 10 of this year, the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) quietly issued Directive 2018-03, which broadly expanded the rights of businesses with federal contracts to raise a ‘religious exemption’ if they’re accused of discrimination. Sharon McGowan, a former lawyer in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and now the legal director of the LGBT group Lambda Legal, said the new directive attempts to ‘immunize’ federal contractors who discriminate. ‘This Administration apparently recognizes — correctly, in our view — that rescinding [Obama’s 2014] executive order outright would cause a huge public outcry,’ she told BuzzFeed News. ‘So instead, this Administration is trying to accomplish the same end through different means. The damage that could be done here cannot be overstated,’ added McGowan, who said one-fifth of the federal workforce is employed through contractors.”

Justice Department seeks to halt lawsuit involving Trump’s business, The Washington Post, Jonathan O’Connell, Friday, 17 August 2018: “The Justice Department on Friday asked a federal judge to halt proceedings in a lawsuit involving President Trump’s private business, arguing that allowing the case to go forward would ‘be a distraction to the President’s performance of his constitutional duties.’ The lawsuit, filed by Maryland and the District of Columbia, centers on whether Trump is violating the Constitution by continuing to do business with foreign and state governments while serving as president. Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte ruled that the historic case could proceed, opening the door for the plaintiffs to seek internal records from Trump’s hotel in downtown Washington. In Friday’s filing, the Justice Department sought to block the case on the grounds that Messitte was setting new precedent on complex issues involving a sitting president and asked that he put the case on hold until a higher court could review his rulings.”

Paul Manafort jury ends second day of deliberations after Trump defends his ex-campaign chair, The Washington Post, Matt Zapotosky, Lynh Bui, Tom Jackman, Devlin Barrett, Friday, 17 August 2018: “President Trump weighed in with a public defense of Paul Manafort on Friday as a jury concluded its second day of deliberations to decide whether the president’s former campaign chairman is guilty of tax and bank fraud. Jurors signaled Friday afternoon they were unlikely to reach a verdict before the day ended and asked if they could leave the courthouse at 5 p.m. U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III agreed, and the panel is scheduled to resume deliberations Monday morning. At the White House, Trump declined to answer a question about a possible pardon for Manafort, but spoke out against special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, whose office brought charges against the 69-year-old political strategist. It’s the first trial to emerge from Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, although the ­charges against Manafort center on his personal finances. ‘I think the whole Manafort trial is very sad. When you look at what’s going on, I think it’s a very sad day for our country,’ Trump said, adding that Manafort ‘happens to be a very good person, I think it’s very sad what they’ve done to Paul Manafort.'”

Mueller prosecutors seek up to six months in prison for former Trump adviser George Papadopoulos, The Washington Post, Spencer S. Hsu and Rosalind S. Helderman, Friday, 17 August 2018: “Prosecutors said Friday that a sentence of up to six months in prison would be appropriate for George Papadopoulos, a former adviser to President Trump’s 2016 campaign and the first charged defendant to cooperate in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. election. Papadopoulos pleaded guilty in October to lying to the FBI about Russian contacts during the campaign, in which he served on a volunteer national security advisory panel and tried for months, unsuccessfully, to arrange a meeting between campaign aides and Russian officials. Friday’s 10-page filing provided fresh details of how Papadopoulos’s lies impeded the FBI, according to prosecutors, who went on to say his lack of cooperation justified a prison term.” See also, Special Counsel Robert Mueller Asks for Jail Time for Former Trump Adviser George Papadopoulos, Saying He Repeatedly Lied, The New York Times, Mark Mazzetti and Michael S. Schmidt, Friday, 17 August 2018: “The special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election has told a judge that a former adviser to the Trump campaign repeatedly lied about his contacts with Russian operatives and ’caused damage’ to the government’s inquiry. In a document filed Friday evening, the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, said that the former adviser, George Papadopoulos, misled investigators about the ‘timing, extent and nature’ of the meetings. During one of them, Mr. Papadopoulos was told that Russia had damaging information about Hillary Clinton in the form of ‘thousands of emails.’ The memo said that Mr. Papadopoulos’s attempts to mislead the F.B.I. had a significant effect on the open investigation into whether President Trump or his advisers coordinated with Russia’s attempts to disrupt the 2016 presidential election. ‘The defendant lied in order to conceal his contacts with Russians and Russian intermediaries during the campaign,’ the memo said. It happened early in the investigation ‘when key investigative decisions, including who to interview and when, were being made.'”

Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy is under investigation for alleged effort to sell government influence, people familiar with the probe say, The Washington Post, Carol D. Leonnig, Devlin Barrett, Ellen Nakashima, Josh Dawsey, Friday, 17 August 2018: “The Justice Department is investigating whether longtime Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy sought to sell his influence with the Trump administration by offering to deliver U.S. government actions for foreign officials in exchange for tens of millions of dollars, according to three people familiar with the probe.”

The Trump Administration Will Not Spend $230 Million Allocated to Repair Devastated Syrian Cities, The New York Times, Gardiner Harris and Ben Hubbard, Friday, 17 August 2018: “The Trump administration announced Friday that it had decided against spending $230 million earmarked to help stabilize Syria, the United States’ latest step back from a seven-year war that has been largely won by a brutal government and its Russian and Iranian backers. Administration officials said they would alert Congress that the money, which had already been approved, would not be spent to fix water systems, clear rubble or dig up unexploded mines in Syrian cities and towns that have been devastated by the war. Those repairs were seen as vital to persuading hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees to return home — people the Trump administration has largely barred from resettling in the United States. The unspent funds are part of nearly $3 billion in foreign aid — money allocated last year by Congress with broad bipartisan support — that the administration has so far refused to spend and could rescind or send back to the Treasury. In the case of the Syria money, the administration has decided to spend it on other yet-to-be-determined priorities, not return it to the Treasury, officials said. The languishing billions are a reflection of President Trump’s belief that the rest of the world needs to be weaned off its reliance on aid from the United States. The decision on the Syria money will disappoint European and Persian Gulf allies while cheering Russia and Iran, whose dominant position in Syria will be strengthened by a reduced American commitment. Pentagon officials have quietly expressed exasperation over the decision, fearing that any failure to stabilize Syria will leave fertile ground for the Islamic State or other extremists to return.”


Saturday, 18 August 2018, Day 576:


End U.S. support for this misbegotten and unwinnable war in Yemen, The Washington Post, Editorial Board, Saturday, 18 August 2018: “On Aug. 9, an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen struck a bus packed with young boys in the northern village of Dahyan, killing at least 51 people, including 40 children, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross. As Saudi spokesmen defend this horrific massacre — one called the bus a ‘legitimate military target’ — Trump administration officials are being pressed by members of Congress and reporters to say whether the bomb that was dropped was supplied by the United States, and whether the plane that dropped it was refueled by the U.S. military under an ongoing support operation. The obvious answer is, a big one. If it assisted in an airstrike that killed innocent civilians — the boys, according to the New York Times, ranged in age from 6 to about 16 — the United States is complicit in a probable war crime.”

White House Counsel, Don McGahn, Has Cooperated Extensively in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Inquiry, The New York Times, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman, Saturday, 18 August 2018: “The White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, has cooperated extensively in the special counsel investigation, sharing detailed accounts about the episodes at the heart of the inquiry into whether President Trump obstructed justice, including some that investigators would not have learned of otherwise, according to a dozen current and former White House officials and others briefed on the matter. In at least three voluntary interviews with investigators that totaled 30 hours over the past nine months, Mr. McGahn described the president’s fury toward the Russia investigation and the ways in which he urged Mr. McGahn to respond to it. He provided the investigators examining whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice a clear view of the president’s most intimate moments with his lawyer. Among them were Mr. Trump’s comments and actions during the firing of the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, and Mr. Trump’s obsession with putting a loyalist in charge of the inquiry, including his repeated urging of Attorney General Jeff Sessions to claim oversight of it. Mr. McGahn was also centrally involved in Mr. Trump’s attempts to fire the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, which investigators might not have discovered without him…. Mr. McGahn’s cooperation began in part as a result of a decision by Mr. Trump’s first team of criminal lawyers to collaborate fully with Mr. Mueller. The president’s lawyers have explained that they believed their client had nothing to hide and that they could bring the investigation to an end quickly.”

As Trump lobbed racially charged insults last week, most Republicans stay silent, The Washington Post, Ashley Parker, Seung Min Kim, and Robert Costa, Saturday, 18 August 2018: “The president of the United States had just lobbed another racially charged insult — this time calling his former top African American adviser a ‘dog’ — but Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) had no interest in talking about it…. And so it went last week among Republicans: As Trump immersed the nation in a new wave of fraught battles over race, most GOP lawmakers tried to ignore the topic altogether. The studied avoidance is a reflection of the enduring reluctance of Republicans to confront Trump’s often divisive and inflammatory rhetoric, in part because the ­president remains deeply popular within a party dominated by older white voters. The Washington Post reached out to all 51 Republican senators and six House Republican leaders asking them to participate in a brief interview about Trump and race. Only three senators agreed to participate: Jeff Flake of Arizona, David Perdue of Georgia and Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only black Republican in the Senate.”

Georgia voting rights activists move to block a plan to close two-thirds of polling places in a majority black county, The Washington Post, Vanessa Williams, Saturday, 18 August 2018: “Voting rights activists in Georgia say they will launch a petition drive in an effort to collect enough signatures of registered voters to block a proposal to close more than two-thirds of polling precincts in a predominantly black county ahead of this fall’s general election. The plan to shutter the voting sites in Randolph County, a rural community about 2½ hours south of Atlanta, has drawn dozens of local residents and progressive groups to two public hearings in recent days. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a formal protest with the county’s board of elections…. Local news outlets reported heated discussions at meetings on Thursday and Friday, with residents and activists alleging the move was aimed at suppressing turnout in the county, in which more than 55 percent of the voters are black and have backed Democratic candidates in statewide elections.” Update: Georgia County Rejects Plan to Close 7 Polling Places in a Majority-Black Area, The New York Times, Richard Fausset, published on Thursday, 23 August 2018: “The consultant, a white man, came to the mainly black Randolph County in rural southern Georgia and recommended that it eliminate seven of its nine polling places. He said the move would save the county money. He said the polling places had disability compliance issues. But many people in the county assumed a more sinister motive, especially with the state in the midst of a hotly contested election for governor. It pits a Democrat who would be Georgia’s first black chief executive against a white Republican who has been called a ‘master of voter suppression’ by his political opponents. ‘I think it was an effort to suppress the vote,’ Bobby Jenkins, 66, a retired Randolph County school superintendent, said after a meeting on Wednesday where local residents complained that African-Americans in poor rural areas would be left having to drive long distances to vote. ‘This is one typical strategy in the Republican playbooks.’ The Randolph County plan was rejected Friday morning on a 2-0 vote by the county’s board of elections. The two members, a black woman and a white man, voted hastily and without comment, leaving a press statement that acknowledged the interest from the news media, residents and civil rights groups. ‘The interest and concern shown has been overwhelming, and it is an encouraging reminder that protecting the right to vote remains a fundamental American principle,’ it said.” Update: Ill-fated plan to close polling places in Georgia county recalled lingering discrimination and voter suppression against blacks, The Washington Post, Vanessa Williams, published on Friday, 24 August 2018: “Some residents of this town are old enough to remember when government officials would intimidate and punish black residents for trying to exercise the right to vote. Others, having come of age when an African American man was president of the United States, thought the days of such brazen discrimination were long past. But nearly everyone saw a recent proposal to close more than two-thirds of the polling places in Randolph County, a predominantly black community in southwestern Georgia, as a reminder of the lingering traces of the state’s history of voter suppression. After a week of ferocious pushback — including two packed town-hall meetings in which residents berated local elections officials, as well as warning letters, threats of lawsuits by civil rights groups and national media coverage — county officials fired the consultant who came up with the plan and signaled that they would vote it down at a meeting Friday. The Randolph County Board of Elections voted down the proposal to close seven of its nine polling locations, saying no changes would be made. The meeting Friday of the two-member board lasted no more than five minutes.”

Trump Has Attacked the Russia Inquiry Over 250 Times. Here Is What’s True. The New York Times, Linda Qiu, Saturday, 18 August 2018: “An analysis by The New York Times found more than 250 examples of exaggerated, misleading or flat-out false claims by Mr. Trump about the Russia investigation.”

Trump Accuses Social Media Firms of Discrimination Against Conservatives, The New York Times, Emily Cochrane, Saturday, 18 August 2018: “President Trump said on Saturday that conservative voices were being unfairly censored on social media, hinting that he might intervene if his allies’ accounts continued to be shut down. ‘Social Media is totally discriminating against Republican/Conservative voices,’ Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter, saying that ‘censorship is a very dangerous thing. Speaking loudly and clearly for the Trump Administration, we won’t let that happen,’ he added.”


Sunday, 19 August 2018, Day 577:


As the Trump Administration Dismantles Clean Air Rules, William Wehrum, an Industry Lawyer Who Worked on Behalf of Chemical Manufacturers, Refineries, Oil Drillers, and Coal-Burning Power Plants, Delivers for His Ex-Clients, The New York Times, Eric Lipton, Sunday, 19 August 2018: “As a corporate lawyer, William L. Wehrum worked for the better part of a decade to weaken air pollution rules by fighting the Environmental Protection Agency in court on behalf of chemical manufacturers, refineries, oil drillers and coal-burning power plants. Now, Mr. Wehrum is about to deliver one of the biggest victories yet for his industry clients — this time from inside the Trump administration as the government’s top air pollution official. On Tuesday, President Trump is expected to propose a vast rollback of regulations on emissions from coal plants, including many owned by members of a coal-burning trade association that had retained Mr. Wehrum and his firm as recently as last year to push for the changes. The proposal strikes at the heart of climate-change regulations adopted by the Obama administration to force change among polluting industries, and follows the relaxation of separate rules governing when power plants must upgrade air pollution equipment. Mr. Wehrum, who has led the E.P.A.’s clean air office since November, also helped deliver the changes in several of those rules.”

Trump Lawyers’ Sudden Realization: They Don’t Know What White House Counsel Don McGahn Told Mueller’s Team, The New York Times, Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt, Sunday, 19 August 2018: “President Trump’s lawyers do not know just how much the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, told the special counsel’s investigators during months of interviews, a lapse that has contributed to a growing recognition that an early strategy of full cooperation with the inquiry was a potentially damaging mistake. The president’s lawyers said on Sunday that they were confident that Mr. McGahn had said nothing injurious to the president during the 30 hours of interviews. But Mr. McGahn’s lawyer has offered only a limited accounting of what Mr. McGahn told the investigators, according to two people close to the president. That has prompted concern among Mr. Trump’s advisers that Mr. McGahn’s statements could help serve as a key component for a damning report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, which the Justice Department could send to Congress, according to two people familiar with the discussions. Mr. Trump’s lawyers realized on Saturday that they had not been provided a full accounting after The New York Times published an article describing Mr. McGahn’s extensive cooperation with Mr. Mueller’s office. After Mr. McGahn was initially interviewed by the special counsel’s office in November, Mr. Trump’s lawyers never asked for a complete description of what Mr. McGahn had said, according to a person close to the president.” See also, Trump lashes out at Russia probe and compares it to McCarthyism, The Washington Post, David Nakamura, Sunday, 19 August 2018: “President Trump reacted angrily Sunday to a new report that the White House counsel has cooperated extensively in the Russia investigation without Trump’s full knowledge, calling it a ‘Fake Story’ and comparing the probe to McCarthyism. In tweets, the president lashed out at a New York Times report that White House lawyer Donald McGahn had participated in at least three interviews with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III that spanned 30 hours. McGahn has offered detailed accounts of ‘episodes at the heart of the inquiry’ over whether Trump and his aides sought to obstruct justice, the Times reported, motivated in part by the fear the president might set him up to be held responsible.”

‘Truth isn’t truth’: Rudy Giuliani weighs risks of possible Trump interview in the Russia investigation, The Washington Post, Elise Viebeck, Sunday, 19 August 2018: “Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump’s lead attorney in the ongoing Russia probe, said Sunday that he will not allow special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to rush Trump into an interview because investigators could try to catch the president in a lie based on their version of the facts. ‘I am not going to be rushed into having him testify so that he gets trapped into perjury,’ Giuliani said on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press.’ Giuliani’s exchange with host Chuck Todd produced an odd back-and-forth on the meaning of truth in the context of the Russia investigation. ‘When you tell me that [Trump] should testify because he’s going to tell the truth and he shouldn’t worry, that’s so silly — because it’s somebody’s version of the truth. Not the truth,’ Giuliani said. Todd responded, ‘Truth is truth.’ ‘No, it isn’t truth. Truth isn’t truth,’ Giuliani said.” See also, Rudy Giuliani Says ‘Truth Isn’t Truth’ in Defense of Trump’s Legal Strategy, The New York Times, Melissa Gomez, Sunday, 19 August 2018.

Michael Cohen, Trump’s Ex-Lawyer and Fixer, Is Investigated for Bank Fraud in Excess of $20 Million, The New York Times, William K. Rashbaum, Ben Protess, and Maggie Haberman, Sunday, 19 August 2018: “Federal authorities investigating whether President Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, committed bank and tax fraud have zeroed in on well over $20 million in loans obtained by taxi businesses that he and his family own, according to people familiar with the matter. Investigators are also examining whether Mr. Cohen violated campaign finance or other laws by helping to arrange financial deals to secure the silence of women who said they had affairs with Mr. Trump. The inquiry has entered the final stage and prosecutors are considering filing charges by the end of August, two of the people said. Any criminal charges against Mr. Cohen would deal a significant blow to the president. Mr. Cohen, 52, worked for the president’s company, the Trump Organization, for more than a decade. He was one of Mr. Trump’s most loyal and visible aides and called himself the president’s personal lawyer after Mr. Trump took office.”

Trump speechwriter Darren Beattie is fired amid scrutiny of appearance with white nationalists, The Washington Post, Robert Costa, Sunday, 19 August 2018: “A White House speechwriter for President Trump was terminated last week after revelations that he had spoken at a conference attended by well-known white nationalists, according to three people familiar with the decision who were not authorized to speak publicly. Darren Beattie, who was a visiting instructor at Duke University before he joined the White House speechwriting team, was fired Friday after a media inquiry about his appearance at the 2016 H.L. Mencken Club conference, where Beattie spoke on a panel alongside Peter Brimelow. Brimelow, founder of the anti-immigrant website, is a ‘white nationalist’ and ‘regularly publishes works by white supremacists, anti-Semites, and others on the radical right,’ according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, an advocacy group that tracks extremists. Earlier this year, Brimelow described himself as a believer in ‘racial nationalism’ who sees the future of the United States ‘precipitating out on racial lines.'”

Former CIA director John Brennan says he’s willing to take Trump to court over revoking security clearances, The Washington Post, Felicia Sonmez and Carol Morello, Sunday, 19 August 2018: “Former CIA director John O. Brennan said Sunday that he is willing to take President Trump to court to prevent other current and former officials from having their security clearances revoked, escalating a battle over whether the president is misusing the power of his office to retaliate against opponents. ‘I am going to do whatever I can personally to try to prevent these abuses in the future, and if it means going to court, I will do that,’ Brennan said in an appearance on NBC News’s ‘Meet the Press.’ Brennan voiced his eagerness to challenge Trump on the same day that national security adviser John Bolton floated the idea of a sweeping review of all security clearances held by those both inside and outside the government. Such a review could affect more than 4 million Americans.”


Monday, 20 August 2018, Day 578:


New E.P.A. Rollback of Coal Pollution Regulations Takes a Major Step Forward, The New York Times, Lisa Friedman and Coral Davenport, Monday, 20 August 2018: “Andrew Wheeler, the acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, on Monday signed a plan to weaken regulation of coal-fired power plants, advancing a proposal that the coal industry has hailed as an end to burdensome regulation and environmentalists have criticized as a retreat in the battle to address climate change. Mr. Wheeler’s signature officially sets in motion one of the Trump Administration’s most significant rollbacks yet of former President Barack Obama’s climate change legacy, alongside an earlier decision to let automobiles pollute more. A senior E.P.A. official confirmed the signing late Monday. The agency is expected on Tuesday to discuss the details of its proposal, which it is calling the Affordable Clean Energy rule, to replace the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which was designed to curtail greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The long-anticipated Trump administration overhaul of those rules is likely to set the stage for years of legal clashes.”

Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee, Urged Graphic Questions in Bill Clinton Inquiry, The New York Times, Adam Liptak, Monday, 20 August 2018: “Brett M. Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, urged prosecutors investigating President Bill Clinton to question him in graphic detail about his sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern, according to a memorandum released on Monday by the National Archives. Mr. Kavanaugh spent more than three years working for Ken Starr, the independent counsel who investigated a series of scandals during Mr. Clinton’s presidency, and he worked on the report that led the House of Representatives to impeach Mr. Clinton. Mr. Kavanaugh drew up the memo as other members of Mr. Starr’s team were preparing to question Mr. Clinton. The memo, dated Aug. 15, 1998, was shot through with disgust for Mr. Clinton’s behavior and seemed animated by the deep animosity that had developed between the White House and Mr. Starr’s team. The document betrayed deep hostility to Mr. Clinton, and it included 10 proposed questions about matters like oral sex and masturbation.” See also, Brett Kavanaugh memo proposed explicit questions for President Bill Clinton, The Washington Post, Michael Kranish, Monday, 20 August 2018.

Trump  Says Hispanic-American Border Patrol Agent ‘Speaks Perfect English,’ The New York Times, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Monday, 20 August 2018: “It was supposed to be a White House salute to the heroism of immigration agents who put their lives on the line to protect Americans. But on Monday, President Trump appeared to have something else on his mind: the ethnicity of one of the men he was honoring. ‘Speaks perfect English,’ Mr. Trump blurted out as he encouraged Adrian Anzaldua, a Hispanic-American Border Patrol agent and dog handler from Texas, to join him onstage in the East Room…. The episode was the latest example of the president making a racially tinged remark in public, this time during an event devised to spotlight his tough immigration agenda. It came only days after a former aide, Omarosa Manigault Newman, claimed in a tell-all book that Mr. Trump had been caught on tape using a racial slur to refer to African-Americans, a charge that he has denied but that his press secretary did not flatly rule out. Mr. Trump kicked off his presidential campaign by denouncing Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists, and, as he did at Monday’s gathering, he routinely raises the specter of the brutal transnational gang MS-13, whose members he calls ‘animals,’ when speaking about the need for tighter immigration laws.”

White House counsel Donald McGahn does not believe he implicated Trump in legal wrongdoing in interviews with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, his attorney tells Trump’s legal team, The Washington Post, Carol D Leonnig, Rosalind S. Helderman, and Josh Dawsey, Monday, 20 August 2018: “White House counsel Donald McGahn does not believe that he implicated President Trump in any legal wrongdoing in extensive interviews he has given the special counsel, McGahn’s attorney told Trump’s legal team in recent days. The assurances from McGahn’s attorney came as the president and his lawyers pushed back against the suggestion in a New York Times report that Trump’s attorneys have little insight into what McGahn told special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Mueller is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 campaign and whether Trump has sought to obstruct that probe.”

Trump revoked former CIA director John Brennan’s security clearance: Here’s who has spoken out, The Washington Post, Youjin Shin, Monday, 20 August 2018: “On Aug. 15, President Trump revoked former CIA director John Brennan’s security clearance. Brennan led the CIA during most of President Barack Obama’s second term and had become a vocal Trump critic. A bipartisan group of more than a dozen former intelligence directors, plus retired Adm. William H. McRaven, spoke out against the president’s move. On Aug. 17, they were joined by another 60 officials, and over 170 added their names on Aug. 20.”

Trump calls Mueller lawyers ‘thugs’ and ‘a National Disgrace!’ The Washington Post, John Wagner, Monday, 20 August 2018: “President Trump on Monday referred to lawyers working for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III as ‘thugs’ and accused them of trying to affect this year’s elections, further ramping up his rhetoric against prosecutors probing Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. In morning tweets, Trump called Mueller ‘disgraced and discredited’ and said his team of prosecutors is ‘a National Disgrace!'”

Omarosa Manigault Newman Plans to Present Case for Resisting Trump During the Midterm-Election Season, The Wall Street Journal, Peter Nicholas, Monday, 20 August 2018: “Former White House official Omarosa Manigault Newman portrayed herself Monday as part of the anti-Trump ‘resistance’ movement and will spend the midterm-election season laying out her case against supporting the president. Ms. Manigault Newman, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, said she isn’t intimidated by legal actions taken by the president’s campaign as she promotes a new tell-all book about her White House stint: ‘Unhinged.’ Last week, Mr. Trump’s campaign filed an arbitration action against the onetime contestant on his reality-TV show, alleging that she violated a confidentiality agreement she signed during the 2016 campaign.”


Tuesday, 21 August 2018, Day 579:


Michael Cohen Says He Arranged Payments to Women at Trump’s Direction and That the Payments Were ‘For the Principal Purpose of Influencing the Election,’ The New York Times, William K. Rashbaum, Maggie Haberman, Ben Protess, and Jim Rutenberg, Tuesday, 21 August 2018: “Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, made the extraordinary admission in court on Tuesday that Mr. Trump had directed him to arrange payments to two women during the 2016 campaign to keep them from speaking publicly about affairs they said they had with Mr. Trump. Mr. Cohen acknowledged the illegal payments while pleading guilty to breaking campaign finance laws and other charges, a litany of crimes that revealed both his shadowy involvement in Mr. Trump’s circle and his own corrupt business dealings. He told a judge in United States District Court in Manhattan that the payments to the women were made ‘in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office,’ implicating the president in a federal crime. ‘I participated in this conduct, which on my part took place in Manhattan, for the principal purpose of influencing the election’ for president in 2016, Mr. Cohen said.” See also, Michael Cohen says he worked to silence two women ‘in coordination’ with Trump to influence the 2016 election, The Washington Post, Devlin Barrett, Carol D. Leonnig, Philip Bump, and Renae Merle. See also, Michael Cohen Implicates President Trump in a Criminal Conspiracy. What Do Prosecutors Do Now? The New York Times, Adam Liptak and Jim Rutenberg, Tuesday, 21 August 2018: “When a lawyer tells prosecutors that his client directed him to commit a crime and pleads guilty to related crimes himself, an indictment of the client is very likely to follow. The nation is about to find out whether there is an exception to that general rule when the client is the president of the United States. Although there is no explicit prohibition in the Constitution against indicting a president, the Justice Department has long taken the position that sitting presidents are not subject to criminal prosecution. That would suggest that the extraordinary admissions and accusations from Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, will not result in criminal charges against Mr. Trump while he is in office. Mr. Cohen admitted to arranging payments to women to buy their silence about what they said were affairs with Mr. Trump, and he said Mr. Trump instructed him to pay the money to influence the election.” See also, With Michael Cohen’s Guilty Plea, President Trump Has Been Implicated in a Criminal Conspiracy, The New Yorker, Adam Davidson, Tuesday, 21 August 2018: “The President of the United States is now, formally, implicated in a criminal conspiracy to mislead the American public in order to influence an election. Were he not President, Donald Trump himself would almost certainly be facing charges. This news came in what must be considered the most damaging single hour of a deeply troubled Presidency. On Tuesday morning, it was still possible to believe that Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort might be exonerated and that his longtime attorney Michael Cohen would only face charges for crimes stemming from his taxicab business. Such events would have supported Trump’s effort to portray the Mueller investigation as a ‘witch hunt’ perpetrated by overzealous partisan prosecutors. By late afternoon, though, Cohen, the President’s longtime adviser, fixer, and, until recently, personal attorney, told a judge that Trump explicitly instructed him to break campaign-finance laws by paying two women not to publicly disclose the affairs they had with Trump. At … the same moment, Manafort was learning of his fate: guilty on eight counts of bank and tax fraud, with the jury undecided on ten other counts. The question can no longer be whether the President and those closest to him broke the law. That is settled. Three of the people closest to Trump as he ran for and won the Presidency have now pleaded guilty or have been convicted of significant federal crimes: Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort, and Michael Flynn. The question now becomes far narrower and, for Trump, more troubling: What is the political impact of a President’s criminal liability being established in a federal court? How will Congress respond? And if Congress does not act, how will voters respond in the midterm elections?”

Paul Manafort, Trump’s Former Campaign Chairman, Found Guilty of 8 Charges in Fraud Trial, The New York Times, Sharon LaFraniere, Tuesday, 21 August 2018: “Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, was convicted on Tuesday in his financial fraud trial, bringing a dramatic end to a politically charged case that riveted the capital. The verdict was a victory for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, whose prosecutors introduced extensive evidence that Mr. Manafort hid millions of dollars in foreign accounts to evade taxes and lied to banks repeatedly to obtain millions of dollars in loans. Mr. Manafort was convicted of five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud and one count of failure to disclose a foreign bank account. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on the remaining 10 counts, and the judge declared a mistrial on those charges.” See also, Paul Manafort is convicted on 8 counts; mistrial is declared on 10 others, The Washington Post, Matt Zapotosky, Lynh Bui, Tom Jackman, and Devlin Barrett, Tuesday, 21 August 2018.

After two convictions, pressure mounts on Trump, The Washington Post, Dan Balz, Tuesday, 21 August 2018: “This was a day when truth overran tweets, when facts overwhelmed bald assertions. Presidential tweets, however provocative, eventually disappear into the ether. Tuesday’s convictions could send two people who have had close relationships with Trump to prison for several years, while one of them brought the investigation to the doorstep of the White House. What took place Tuesday will ratchet up the pressure on the president, will embolden his critics, and will no doubt inflame and rally his supporters.” See also, All the President’s Crooks. One of them, Mr. Trump’s own lawyer, Michael Cohen, has now implicated Trump in a crime. The New York Times, The Editorial Board, Tuesday, 21 August 2018: “From the start of the Russia investigation, President Trump has been working to discredit the work and the integrity of the special counsel, Robert Mueller; praising men who are blatant grifters, cons and crooks; insisting that he’s personally done nothing wrong; and reminding us that he hires only the best people. On Tuesday afternoon, the American public was treated to an astonishing split-screen momentinvolving two of those people, as Mr. Trump’s former campaign chief was convicted by a federal jury in Virginia of multiple crimes carrying years in prison at the same time that his longtime personal lawyer pleaded guilty in federal court in New York to his own lengthy trail of criminality, and confessed that he had committed at least some of the crimes ‘at the direction of’ Mr. Trump himself. Let that sink in: Mr. Trump’s own lawyer has now accused him, under oath, of committing a felony.” See also, Twin convictions are a stunning rebuke of Trump. Legislators cannot in good conscience ignore an alleged co-conspirator in the White House. The Washington Post, Editorial Board, Tuesday, 21 August 2018. See also, Everyone Who Has Been Charged as a Result of the Mueller Investigation, The New York Times, Tuesday, 21 August 2018.

Larry Kudlow, Trump’s chief economic adviser, hosted Peter Brimelow, a publisher of white nationalists, at his home last weekend, The Washington Post, Robert Costa, Tuesday, 21 August 2018: “The publisher of a website that serves as a platform for white nationalism was a guest last weekend at the home of President Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow. Peter Brimelow attended the gathering, a birthday bash for Kudlow, one day after a White House speechwriter was dismissed in the wake of revelations that he had spoken alongside Brimelow on a 2016 panel. Brimelow, 70, was once a well-connected figure in mainstream conservative circles, writing for Dow Jones and National Review. But over the past two decades, he has become a zealous promoter of white-identity politics on, the anti-immigration website that he founded in 1999.”

Cost of New Environmental Protection Agency Coal Rules; Up to 1,400 More Deaths a Year, The New York Times, Lisa Friedman, Tuesday, 21 August 2018: “The Trump administration has hailed its overhaul of federal pollution restrictions on coal-burning power plants as creating new jobs, eliminating burdensome government regulations and ending what President Trump has long described as a ‘war on coal.’ The administration’s own analysis, however, revealed on Tuesday that the new rules could also lead to as many as 1,400 premature deaths annually by 2030 from an increase in the extremely fine particulate matter that is linked to heart and lung disease, up to 15,000 new cases of upper respiratory problems, a rise in bronchitis, and tens of thousands of missed school days…. Tuesday’s release of the rule along with hundreds of pages of technical analysis for the first time acknowledged that the rollback of the pollution controls would also reverse the expected health gains from the tougher regulations. A similar analysis by the E.P.A. of the existing rules, which were adopted by the Obama administration, calculated that they would prevent between 1,500 and 3,600 premature deaths per year by 2030, and would reduce the number of school days missed by 180,000 annually.” See also, Trump administration proposes rule to relax carbon limits on power plants, The Washington Post, Juliet Eilperin, Tuesday, 21 August 2018: “The Trump administration on Tuesday proposed relaxing pollution standards for power plants nationwide, a move that could slow the decline of U.S. carbon emissions and lead to hundreds more premature deaths and thousands of asthma attacks and missed school days.” See also, Trump’s August Assault on Climate Policy, The New Yorker, Carolyn Kormann, Tuesday, 21 August 2018: “This summer has brought record-breaking heat around the world, and no slowdown in the Trump Administration’s systematic undoing of climate regulations. On August 2nd, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration jointly proposed freezing the fuel-economy standards for cars and light trucks that were adopted under President Obama. On Tuesday, the E.P.A. unveiled the Affordable Clean Energy (A.C.E.) rule, a proposal to neuter Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which was designed to decrease carbon emissions from coal-powered electric plants. Together, these policies are as abominable as they are unsurprising: they represent the fossil-fuel industry’s warmest fantasies, and a fulfillment, more or less, of various Trump promises.”

Elizabeth Warren Unveils Radical Anti-Corruption Platform, The Intercept, Ryan Grim, Tuesday, 21 August 2018: “Elizabeth Warren on Tuesday unveiled a sweeping set of reforms that would radically restrict and publicly expose corporate lobbying in Washington. In a major speech at the National Press Club, she laid out the parameters of what she is calling the ‘Anti-Corruption Act.’ If just half of it were implemented, it could transform the political economy of Washington and fundamentally upend the lawmaking process as it currently exists. Warren began her speech by noting that only 18 percent of the American people now say that they have trust in the government. ‘This is the kind of crisis that leads people to turn away from democracy,’ she said. ‘The kind of crisis that creates fertile ground for cynicism and discouragement. The kind of crisis that gives rise to authoritarians.’ In broad strokes, Warren is attempting to take the profit motive out of public service by making it extremely difficult for former lawmakers and government officials to cash in on their government experience, while simultaneously giving Congress and federal agencies the resources needed to effectively govern without the motivated assistance of K Street.” See also, Elizabeth Warren unveils anti-corruption plan and takes aim at Trump, The Washington Post, David Weigel, Tuesday, 21 August 2018: “If Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has her way, federal judges will face steep new ethics standards, high-ranking government officials will be banned from ever becoming lobbyists — and any candidate for president will have to release at least eight years of past tax returns. ‘Padlock the revolving door between big business and government,’ Warren said Tuesday at the National Press Club. ‘It’s insane that we have to beg the president of the United States to put the American people ahead of his own business interests. Insane.'”

New Hacking by Russian Military Intelligence Unit Targeted Republican Groups that Criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin, The New York Times, David E. Sanger and Sheera Frenkel, Tuesday, 21 August 2018: “The Russian military intelligence unit that sought to influence the 2016 election appears to have a new target: conservative American think tanks that have broken with President Trump and are seeking continued sanctions against Moscow, exposing oligarchs or pressing for human rights. In a report scheduled for release on Tuesday, Microsoft Corporation said that it detected and seized websites that were created in recent weeks by hackers linked to the Russian unit formerly known as the G.R.U. The sites appeared meant to trick people into thinking they were clicking through links managed by the Hudson Institute and the International Republican Institute, but were secretly redirected to web pages created by the hackers to steal passwords and other credentials.”

Trump and his security team must face claims of assault on Mexican protesters, judge says, The Washington Post, Deanna Paul, Tuesday, 21 August 2018: “A New York state judge rebuffed President Trump’s attempt to distance himself from a lawsuit against his security team Monday, forcing him to face claims that they allegedly attacked a group of peaceful Mexican protesters in 2015. Bronx Supreme Court Judge Fernando Tapia denied Trump’s motion to dismiss allegations of assault and battery and destruction of property, saying that a jury could find that Trump ‘authorized and condoned’ the guards’ conduct. The case was brought against six defendants, including then-presidential candidate Trump, the Trump Organization and Trump security director Keith Schiller, three months after Trump announced his candidacy.”

Representative Duncan Hunter, Republican of California, Is Indicted, Accused of Misusing Campaign Funds, The New York Times, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Tuesday, 21 August 2018: “Representative Duncan Hunter was indicted by a federal grand jury in San Diego on Tuesday after a monthslong criminal investigation into allegations that he spent tens of thousands of dollars in campaign funds on family trips to Hawaii and Italy, private school tuition for his children and even a $600 airline ticket for a pet rabbit. In a 48-page indictment released by the Justice Department, Mr. Hunter, Republican of California, and his wife, Margaret, are charged with converting more than $250,000 in campaign funds to pay for personal expenses and filing false campaign finance records with the Federal Election Commission.Mr. Hunter, 41, becomes the second Republican congressman to be indicted this month. Representative Chris Collins, Republican of New York, was indicted on insider trading charges, and announced days later that he had suspended his re-election campaign. The two were the earliest congressional supporters of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump.”


Wednesday, 22 August 2018, Day 580:


Not just misleading. Not merely false. A lie. Fact Checker Glenn Kessler explains why he’s labeling Trump’s claims about Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels ‘a lie.’ The Washington Post, Glenn Kessler, Wednesday, 22 August 2018: “The first denial that Donald Trump knew about hush-money payments to silence women came four days before he was elected president, when his spokeswoman Hope Hicks said, without hedging, ‘We have no knowledge of any of this.’ The second came in January of this year, when his attorney Michael Cohen said the allegations were ‘outlandish.’ By March, two of the president’s spokesmen — Raj Shah and Sarah Huckabee Sanders — said publicly that Trump denied all the allegations and any payments. Even Cohen’s attorney, David Schwartz, got in on the action, saying the president ‘was not aware of any of it.’ In April, Trump finally weighed in, answering a question about whether he knew about a payment to porn star Stephanie Clifford, who uses the stage name Stormy Daniels, with a flat ‘no.’ It’s now clear that the president’s statement was a lie — and that the people speaking for him repeated it.”

Trump Praises Paul Manafort, Saying ‘Unlike Michael Cohen’ He ‘Refused to Break,’ The New York Times, Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Eileen Sullivan, Wednesday, 22 August 2018: “President Trump on Wednesday praised his just-convicted former campaign chairman for refusing to ‘break’ and cooperate with federal prosecutors investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, expressing appreciation for the personal loyalty of a felon found guilty of defrauding the United States government. In a series of tweets the morning after an extraordinary day in which Paul Manafort, his former campaign chief, was convicted of tax and bank fraud and his longtime personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations he said were directed by Mr. Trump, the president appeared to suggest he was more concerned with the fallout for himself than with the crimes.” See also, Trump Denies Directing His Former Personal Lawyer Michael Cohen to Break Campaign-Finance Laws by Paying Off Two Women Alleging Affairs, The Wall Street Journal, Rebecca Ballhaus and Janet Hook, Wednesday, 22 August 2018: “President Trump denied playing a part in illegal hush-money payments to two women during the 2016 campaign and berated his former lawyer for swearing in court a day earlier that he had, leaving the White House and both political parties Wednesday to sort through the fallout less than three months before midterm elections. Mr. Trump and administration officials sought to discredit Michael Cohen, who said Tuesday as part of a guilty plea in federal court that the president directed him to buy the silence of the women so their allegations about affairs with Mr. Trump wouldn’t harm his presidential bid. On Twitter, Mr. Trump accused Mr. Cohen of lying and mocked his legal talents. On Fox News, Mr. Trump said he became aware of the payments to the women ‘later on,’ echoing his statement in April that he wasn’t aware of the payment to Stephanie Clifford, the former adult-film star who goes by the name Stormy Daniels, at the time it took place. Last month, a lawyer for Mr. Cohen released a tape of a September 2016 conversation between Mr. Cohen and the president in which they discussed buying from a magazine publisher the rights to the story of the second woman, a former Playboy model, about an affair with Mr. Trump.”

Lanny Davis, Michael Cohen’s lawyer, suggests Cohen has knowledge implicating Trump in ‘criminal conspiracy’ to hack Democratic emails, The Washington Post, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Wednesday, 22 August 2018: “When President Trump’s former attorney and ‘fixer’ Michael Cohen entered a guilty plea in federal court in Manhattan on Tuesday that implicated the president in some of his acts, a central consideration became whether Cohen had information to back up his claims and how he would use it. Cohen’s admission that he violated campaign finance laws by paying hush money to two women at Trump’s behest came in the form of a standard plea deal rather than a cooperation agreement requiring that he aid other investigations. That raised the question of whether Cohen would cooperate, and, crucially, what his cooperation would be worth. One possible answer came into view the very same day, as Cohen’s attorney, Lanny Davis, suggested on television — and in an interview with The Washington Post late Tuesday — that Cohen had knowledge ‘of interest’ to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and that his client was ‘more than happy to tell the special counsel all that he knows.’ Davis said Cohen’s knowledge reached beyond ‘the obvious possibility of a conspiracy to collude’ and included information on whether Trump participated in a ‘criminal conspiracy’ to hack into the emails of Democratic officials during the 2016 election.”

Cohen prosecutors allege the Trump campaign and tabloid publisher American Media Inc. (owner of the National Enquirer) hatched plan in 2015 to bury damaging stories about Trump, The Washington Post, Sarah Ellison, Beth Reinhard, and Carol D. Leonnig, Wednesday, 22 August 2018: “In August 2015, David Pecker and Michael Cohen hatched a plan to help a mutual friend in need. Donald Trump had launched his improbable presidential campaign just two months earlier. His relationship with New York tabloids had been legendary through two divorces. Embarrassing stories about the former reality-show star were a regular occurrence. But now Trump was in a crowded primary against establishment Republicans. Pecker, the chief executive of a tabloid publishing company; Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer; and at least one member of the Trump campaign came up with a system that month to bury negative stories about the candidate, according to charging documents made public in connection with Cohen’s guilty plea Tuesday. According to the documents, Pecker assured Cohen that he would help deal with rumors related to Trump’s relationships with women by essentially turning his tabloid operation into a research arm of the Trump campaign, identifying potentially damaging stories and, when necessary, buying the silence of the women who wanted to tell them. The charging documents allege that Pecker and his company, American Media Inc., owner of the National Enquirer, were more deeply and deliberately involved in the effort to help the Trump campaign than was previously known. AMI also played a key role in the effort to silence adult-film star Stormy Daniels, prosecutors allege.”

New York Investigators Subpoena Michael Cohen for Documents Linked to Trump Foundation, The New York Times, Vivian Wang, Wednesday, 22 August 2018: “Investigators in New York issued a subpoena to Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s former fixer and lawyer, for documents related to the Donald J. Trump Foundation on Wednesday, an escalation of the Cuomo administration’s investigation into whether the president’s charity violated tax laws. After receiving the subpoena, Mr. Cohen called the investigators in the state Tax Department to ask when they could talk, according to a person with knowledge of the investigation. The subpoena was issued less than a day after Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty in Federal District Court in Manhattan to charges including campaign finance violations, in the form of payments to two women who said they had affairs with Mr. Trump, for the ‘purpose of influencing the election’ for president in 2016. It also came amid a continuing war of words between Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a sharp-elbowed Democrat who is said to have presidential aspirations, and Mr. Trump, as both have lobbed personal attacks at each other over Twitter and in speeches. Mr. Cuomo — whose primary opponent, Cynthia Nixon, has accused him of only lukewarm liberalism — has presented himself as a progressive foil to Mr. Trump. The subpoena to Mr. Cohen on Wednesday, issued by the state’s Department of Taxation and Finance, seemed calculated to strike yet another blow — both legal and political — against the president and his inner circle.”

In fallout from Trump controversies, Republicans warn Democrats will seek his impeachment. Democratic candidates are avoiding the word. The Washington Post, Michael Scherer, Wednesday, 22 August 2018: “A day after President Trump’s former lawyer implicated him in directing a crime, Democratic leaders sharpened their election-year attack on the GOP as the party of corruption. But in an effort to keep the electoral focus on bread-and-butter issues, they largely steered clear of any discussion of impeachment. Party leaders encouraged candidates and elected members to talk instead about demanding protection for the ongoing Justice Department investigations of Trump and his allies, offering a clear sign that they feel confident that grass-roots energy against Trump will show up at the polls without the need for a divisive rallying cry from the stump.”

When Is an Offense Impeachable? Look to the Framers of the Constitution for the Answer. The New York Times, Adam Liptak, Wednesday, 22 August 2018: “There are more serious crimes than violating campaign finance laws. Some offenders face jail time, while others catch a break. But the campaign finance violation President Trump’s former lawyer accused him of on Tuesday — arranging to pay hush money to influence an election — may nonetheless be precisely the sort of offense that the drafters of the Constitution meant to cover in granting Congress the power to impeach and remove a president. ‘At the constitutional convention, the framers repeatedly expressed anxiety about the president seeking to obtain office through corrupt means,’ said Joshua Matz, an author of ‘To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment.’ ‘In fact,’ he said, ‘that was one of the principal reasons they included an impeachment power in the first place.'”

Senate Democrats seek delay in hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, citing Michael Cohen’s guilty plea, The Washington Post, John Wagner, Mike DeBonis, and Gabriel Pogrund, Wednesday, 22 August 2018: “Senate Democrats on Wednesday called for delaying confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh in the wake of a guilty plea by Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former attorney, on campaign-finance counts that involve the president. Democrats, who have been seeking leverage to slow down Kavanaugh’s consideration, argued that a new justice could be forced to decide questions directly relating to Trump, including whether he must comply with a subpoena from prosecutors and whether he can be indicted while in office. ‘It is unseemly for the president of the United States to be picking a Supreme Court justice who could soon be effectively a juror in a case involving the president himself,’ Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said during a floor speech. ‘The prospect of the president being implicated in some criminal case is no longer a hypothetical that can be dismissed.'”

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Considers Using Federal Funds to Arm Schools, The New York Times, Erica L. Green, Wednesday, 22 August 2018: “The Education Department is considering whether to allow states to use federal funding to purchase guns for educators, according to multiple people with knowledge of the plan. Such a move appears to be unprecedented, reversing a longstanding position taken by the federal government that it should not pay to outfit schools with weapons. And it would also undermine efforts by Congress to restrict the use of federal funding on guns. As recently as March, Congress passed a school safety bill that allocated $50 million a year to local school districts, but expressly prohibited the use of the money for firearms. But the department is eyeing a program in federal education law, the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants, that makes no mention of prohibiting weapons purchases. That omission would allow the education secretary, Betsy DeVos, to use her discretion to approve any state or district plans to use grant funding for firearms and firearm training, unless Congress clarifies the law or bans such funding through legislative action.”


Thursday, 23 August 2018, Day 582:


Trump’s National Enquirer Allies Are the Latest to Defect, Vanity Fair, Gabriel Sherman, Thursday, 23 August 2018: “… Trump’s most powerful media ally next to Fox News has broken with him. According to two sources briefed on the Cohen investigation, prosecutors granted immunity to David Pecker, chairman of The National Enquirer publisher, American Media Inc., and A.M.I.’s chief content officer, Dylan Howard, so they would describe Trump’s involvement in Cohen’s payments to porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal during the 2016 campaign. The Wall Street Journal first reported Pecker’s cooperation on Wednesday night.” See also, David Pecker, Chairman of National Enquirer’s Publisher American Media Inc., Is Said to Get Immunity in Trump Inquiry, The New York Times, Jim Rutenberg, Rebecca R. Ruiz, and Ben Protess, Thursday, 23 August 2018: “Federal prosecutors reached an immunity deal with the tabloid executive David J. Pecker, a key witness in their monthslong investigation into payments during the 2016 campaign to two women who said they had affairs with Donald J. Trump, according to two people familiar with the investigation. Mr. Pecker is the chairman of American Media Inc., the nation’s biggest tabloid news publisher, which was involved in the payments, which prosecutors have identified as illegal contributions made in violation of campaign finance law. As prosecutors in New York built a case against Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s longtime lawyer, that resulted in a guilty plea on Tuesday, Mr. Pecker emerged as an important figure. The investigation appears to be continuing, and as a longtime friend and ally of Mr. Trump, Mr. Pecker could have additional information valuable to the prosecutors. In pleading guilty to campaign finance violations, Mr. Cohen said Mr. Trump directed him to arrange the hush money payments to protect Mr. Trump from embarrassing stories during the campaign. The cooperation of Mr. Pecker is another potential blow to the president from a former loyalist. It was unclear on Thursday whether prosecutors had granted Mr. Pecker immunity for his involvement in the illegal campaign contributions, or simply agreed not to prosecute him based on the information he provided. One of the people briefed on the matter cautioned that Mr. Pecker could still face scrutiny. The agreement was disclosed on Thursday by The Hive, a Vanity Fair site.” See also, National Enquirer hid damaging Trump stories in a safe, Associated Press, Jeff Horwitz, Thursday, 23 August 2018: “The National Enquirer kept a safe containing documents on hush money payments and other damaging stories it killed as part of its cozy relationship with Donald Trump leading up to the 2016 presidential election, people familiar with the arrangement told The Associated Press. The detail came as several media outlets reported on Thursday that federal prosecutors had granted immunity to National Enquirer chief David Pecker, potentially laying bare his efforts to protect his longtime friend Trump. Five people familiar with the National Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc., who spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity because they signed non-disclosure agreements, said the safe was a great source of power for Pecker, the company’s CEO…. But after The Wall Street Journal initially published the first details of Playboy model Karen McDougal’s catch-and-kill deal shortly before the 2016 election, those assets became a liability. Fearful that the documents might be used against American Media, Pecker and the company’s chief content officer, Dylan Howard, removed them from the safe in the weeks before Trump’s inauguration, according to one person directly familiar with the events. It was unclear whether the documents were destroyed or simply were moved to a location known to fewer people.”

Trump recently sought his lawyers’ advice on possibility of pardoning Paul Manafort, Rudy Giuliani says, The Washington Post, Carol D. Leonnig and Josh Dawsey, Thursday, 23 August 2018: “President Trump recently asked his lawyers for their advice on the possibility of pardoning Paul Manafort and other aides accused of crimes, his lawyer said Thursday. The subject of pardoning Manafort came as Trump’s former campaign chairman faced multiple charges of bank fraud and tax evasion in an Alexandria criminal case, Trump attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani said in an interview. Trump’s lawyers counseled the president against the idea of pardoning anyone linked to the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, according to Giuliani, saying Trump should at least wait until special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has concluded his probe. Giuliani said the president agreed and did not push the issue further.” See also, Trump’s Lawyers Urged Him to Postpone Even Considering Pardons in Russia Inquiry, The New York Times, Michael S. Schmidt, Thursday, 23 August 2018: “Amid a series of high-profile pardons and commutations by President Trump in recent months, his personal lawyers cautioned against even considering clemency for former aides under investigation by the special counsel until the inquiry was over, one of the lawyers, Rudolph W. Giuliani, said on Thursday. Mr. Trump agreed with their advice, Mr. Giuliani said. The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is investigating possible pardon offers to former aides, and Mr. Trump’s current lawyers were privately concerned that debating clemency could open him to accusations of trying to interfere with the investigation, according to two people briefed on the matter.”

Trump Organization Could Face Criminal Charges From Manhattan District Attorney, The New York Times, William K. Rashbaum, Thursday, 23 August 2018: “The Manhattan district attorney’s office is considering pursuing criminal charges against the Trump Organization and two senior company officials in connection with Michael D. Cohen’s hush money payment to an adult film actress, according to two officials with knowledge of the matter. A state investigation would center on how the company accounted for its reimbursement to Mr. Cohen for the $130,000 he paid to the actress, Stephanie Clifford, who has said she had an affair with President Trump, the officials said…. State charges against the company or its executives could be significant because Mr. Trump has talked about pardoning some of his current or former aides who have faced federal charges. As president, he has no power to pardon people and corporate entities convicted of state crimes.”

With a Vocabulary From ‘Goodfellas,’ Trump Evokes His Native New York, The New York Times, Mark Landler, Thursday, 23 August 2018: “For much of the 1980s and 1990s, ‘the Dapper Don’ and ‘the Donald’ vied for supremacy on the front pages of New York’s tabloids. The don, John J. Gotti, died in a federal prison in 2002, while Donald J. Trump went on to be president of the United States. Now, as Mr. Trump faces his own mushrooming legal troubles, he has taken to using a vocabulary that sounds uncannily like that of Mr. Gotti and his fellow mobsters in the waning days of organized crime, when ambitious prosecutors like Rudolph W. Giuliani tried to turn witnesses against their bosses to win racketeering convictions.”

Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions feud over the direction of the Justice Department, The Washington Post, Devlin Barrett, John Wagner, and Seung Min Kim, Thursday, 23 August 2018: “President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions engaged in a public war of words Thursday — more fallout over the Justice Department securing a guilty plea this week from Trump’s former lawyer and a guilty verdict against his former campaign chairman. The spectacle of the chief executive feuding with the nation’s top law enforcement officer marked the latest argument in the long-soured relationship between the two. Trump, speaking to Fox News Channel, said that Sessions ‘never took control of the Justice Department’ and again faulted him for recusing himself from the ongoing investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. ‘What kind of man is this?’ the president asked. Sessions pushed back hours after Trump spoke, saying the Justice Department will not be ‘improperly influenced by political considerations.'” See also, Trump Denounces the Justice Department and Attorney General Jeff Sessions as Investigations Swirl Around Him, The New York Times, Katie Benner, Nicholas Fandos, and Katie Rogers, Thursday, 23 August 2018: “President Trump blamed the Justice Department on Thursday for the investigations surrounding him, criticized the deal struck with his former lawyer Michael D. Cohen and lashed out at Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who countered with a rare public rebuke of the president. Mr. Trump also praised Paul Manafort, his former campaign manager who was convicted of financial fraud this week, for refusing to cooperate with the Justice Department and said that plea agreements, an essential tool for prosecutors, should maybe be outlawed. ‘It’s called flipping, and it almost ought to be illegal,’ Mr. Trump said in an interview that aired on Fox News…. In an implicit but pointed reply, Mr. Sessions warned the president not to intrude on federal law enforcement. ‘While I am attorney general, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations,’ he said in a statement issued shortly before he met with Mr. Trump at the White House about criminal justice overhaul.”

Trump Cites False Claims of Widespread Attacks on White Farmers in South Africa, The New York Times, Kimon de Greef and Palko Karasz, Thursday, 23 August 2018: “President Trump waded into South Africa’s proposal to seize land from white farmers, saying in a post on Twitter late Wednesday that he had asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to ‘closely study’ the ‘the large scale killing of farmers’ — a claim disputed by official figures and the country’s biggest farmer’s group. Mr. Trump’s comment came after the Fox News host Tucker Carlson presented a late-night program on South Africa, including land seizures and homicides, and described President Cyril Ramaphosa as ‘a racist.’ The tweet gives prominence to a false narrative pushed by some right-wing groups in South Africa that there have been numerous seizures of white-owned land and widespread killings of white farmers. Some of those groups have brought their claims to the United States on lobbying trips. On Thursday, the South African minister of international relations, Lindiwe Sisulu, described the tweet as ‘regrettable’ and ‘based on false information.’ The government said it would seek clarification from the United States Embassy, and Ms. Sisulu planned to ‘communicate with Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on the matter through diplomatic channels.’ The government has said expropriating farms is necessary to deal with longstanding inequities and that only unused land would be subject to seizure, suggesting that land that is being actively farmed would be safe.” See also, ‘Dangerous and poisoned’: Critics blast Trump for endorsing white-nationalist conspiracy theory on South Africa, The Washington Post, David Nakamura, John Hudson, and Isaac Stanley-Becker, Thursday, 23 August 2018: “President Trump’s promotion of a white-nationalist conspiracy theory involving South Africa prompted fierce backlash there Thursday and fresh criticism in the United States that he is compromising American foreign policy to stoke his far-right political base. Former U.S. diplomats and South African leaders denounced Trump’s declaration in a tweet late Wednesday that he had instructed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to monitor the ‘large scale killing’ of white farmers and the government’s expropriations of their land. White-nationalist groups have for years spread false claims about the murder rates, assertions that have been widely debunked. Local police data shows the number of people murdered on farms has dropped by half over the past two decades — from 140 in 2001-2002 to 74 in 2016-2017, according to the Associated Press.” See also, In the two days since he was implicated as a co-conspirator in a federal crime, Trump–with the help of his allies in the right-wing press–has fallen back on his most basic political strategy: stoking racial resentment and fear, Southern Poverty Law Center, Heidi Beirich, Thursday, 23 August 2018. See also, Trump’s Vile Ploy on South Africa, The New York Times, The Editorial Board, Thursday, 23 August 2018: “Trust President Trump, following his familiar tactic of deflecting attention from yet another scandal by issuing some outrageous tweet, to come down hard on the wrong side of an issue he knows nothing about, based on no more than a slanted Fox News program. In a late-Wednesday tweet, Mr. Trump said he had asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to look into land seizures and the ‘large-scale killing of farmers’ in South Africa. It was the first time he has mentioned Africa by name in a tweet as president. His source was a grossly one-sided report by the Fox host Tucker Carlson asserting that the South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, was seizing land from his citizens because they are the wrong ‘skin color.’ There have been no large-scale killings of white farmers, and Mr. Ramaphosa’s proposal to change the Constitution to allow expropriation of land without compensation has not yet passed. That said, the issue does deserve a close look. There can be no question that South Africa’s black people were long denied fair access to land. The Natives Land Act of 1913 essentially reserved most of the land to the white minority, and the restrictions became more onerous in the apartheid era. When that system was finally dismantled almost 25 years ago, a new Constitution did provide for land reform, but the process has moved slowly. Statistics vary, but what is clear is that whites, who are less than 10 percent of the population, continue to own more than two-thirds of the land, while black South Africans, the overwhelming majority, own a much smaller share…. Mr. Trump’s tweet, and the Fox show on which it was based, were bereft of any context, sympathy or understanding. They pounced, instead, on the false narratives of right-wing white South African groups claiming widespread seizures of white-owned land and a continuing ‘white genocide.’ In fact, the number of killings of farmers and farm workers is at a 20-year low, with 47 in the 2017-18 fiscal year, according to AgriSA, a farmers’ organization in South Africa. The numbers have been declining steadily since peaking in 1998, when 153 were killed.” See also, Trump’s false claim about murders on South African farms, The Washington Post, Salvador Rizzo, published on Friday, 24 August 2018.

Government emails reveal internal debates over ending temporary protected status (TPS) for Sudanese immigrants, The Washington Post, Nick Miroff, Thursday, 23 August 2018: “Late last summer, after the Trump administration announced its intent to terminate a form of provisional U.S. residency held by nearly 1,000 Sudanese immigrants, officials at the Pentagon and State Department sent urgent messages to the Department of Homeland Security. DHS officials had justified their decision to terminate the immigrants’ temporary protected status (TPS) on the grounds that security in Sudan had improved and that armed conflict was no longer ongoing. But neither assertion was true. ‘Insurgents conducted a significant military offensive as recently as this spring in Darfur,’ Mandi Tuttle, an Africa policy adviser at the Defense Department, pointed out to top officials at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS), the agency within DHS that administers the TPS program. Tuttle said its statements were neither ‘factually accurate’ nor ‘credible.'”