Week 86: Friday, 7 September – Thursday, 13 September 2018 (Days 596-602)

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, 7 September 2018, Day 596:


As Trump Raged This Week, the Republicans Moved Toward an Ideological Shift That Will Last for Decades, The New York Times, Nicholas Fandos, Friday, 7 September 2018: “On one end of Pennsylvania Avenue this week, President Trump and his closest advisers labored to beat back perceptions, fueled by an anonymous essay in The New York Times and a bruising new book by Bob Woodward, that he had all but lost control of the presidency from within. He lashed out anew at his attorney general, shouted ‘TREASON’ and demanded investigations of his detractors. But as he raged, Republicans in the Senate were pressing steadily through angry liberal protests and Democratic perjury traps toward perhaps the most lasting impact of the Trump era: a conservative shift in the balance of the Supreme Court capable of shaping the country for a generation. The dueling images of a president on the edge and a conservative Congress soldiering forward explain succinctly why almost all elected Republicans here have quietly supported Mr. Trump through his travails — or at least not chastised him too loudly. The payoffs for what Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, called the party’s ‘Faustian bargain’ have been rich and long awaited: deep cuts in corporate and personal tax rates, confirmation of a wave of conservative judges for the lower courts, and soon an ideological shift in the highest court of the land.”

Trump Wants Attorney General Jeff Sessions to Investigate Source of Anonymous Times Op-Ed, The New York Times, Mark Landler, Friday, 7 September 2018: “President Trump said on Friday that he wanted Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate the source of an anonymous Op-Ed essay published in The New York Times, intensifying his attack on an article he has characterized as an act of treason. Speaking to reporters on Air Force One as he traveled to Fargo, N.D., Mr. Trump said, ‘I would say Jeff should be investigating who the author of that piece was because I really believe it’s national security.’ Mr. Trump said he was also considering action against The Times, though he did not elaborate.” See also, Trump says Justice Department should investigate anonymous op-ed author, The Washington Post, Josh Dawsey, David Nakamura, and Philip Rucker, Friday, 7 September 2018.

As Confirmation Hearings End, Democrats Accuse Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh of Dissembling, The New York Times, Charlie Savage and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Friday, 7 September 2018: “Senate Democrats and their allies accused Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh on Friday of misleading the Judiciary Committee, saying he dissembled in testimony about crucial issues ranging from his views on abortion rights to his involvement in several Bush-era controversies. But Republicans expressed confidence that none of the punches Democrats had thrown at the Supreme Court nominee had landed with sufficient force to jeopardize his confirmation. Four days of Supreme Court confirmation hearings ended on Friday the way they began, with sharply partisan charges and tension remarkable for normally staid proceedings. In one of the strongest statements on Friday, Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, accused Judge Kavanaugh on Twitter of lying about whether he had used ‘stolen documents’ pilfered from Democrats on the Judiciary Committee when he was a White House lawyer under President George W. Bush. ‘What else is he lying about?’ Mr. Wyden wrote. ‘His views on overturning #RoevWade? Whether he was involved in Bush-era torture programs? Whether he believes Trump can pardon himself?'” See also, Senator Patrick Leahy says Kavanaugh was ‘not truthful’ when he denied knowing he had received stolen Democratic documents, The Washington Post, Michael Kranish, Friday, 7 September 2018: “Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) said Friday that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was ‘not truthful’ when he denied knowing that he had received documents that Leahy said had been ‘stolen’ from him and other Democrats. Leahy said that emails disclosed during Kavanaugh’s nomination hearing this week buttress his case that Kavanaugh knew, or should have known, that he had received documents that Republican staffers took from a computer jointly shared with Democrats. ‘There were numerous emails sent to him that made it very clear this was stolen information, including a draft letter from me,’ Leahy said in an interview.” See also, Confirmed: Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh Can’t Be Trusted, The New York Times, Editorial Board, Friday, 7 September 2018: “In a more virtuous world, Judge Brett Kavanaugh would be deeply embarrassed by the manner in which he has arrived at the doorstep of a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. He was nominated by a president who undermines daily the nation’s democratic order and mocks the constitutional values that Judge Kavanaugh purports to hold dear. Now he’s being rammed through his confirmation process with an unprecedented degree of secrecy and partisan maneuvering by Republican senators who, despite their overflowing praise for his legal acumen and sterling credentials, appear terrified for the American people to find out much of anything about him beyond his penchant for coaching girls’ basketball.”

Continue reading Week 86, Friday, 7 September – Thursday, 13 September 2018 (Days 596-602)

George Papadopoulos, Ex-Trump Campaign Adviser, Is Sentenced to 14 Days in Jail, The New York Times, Mark Mazzetti and Sharon LaFraniere, Friday, 7 September 2018: “George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign adviser, was sentenced on Friday to 14 days in prison for lying to the F.B.I. about his contacts with Russian intermediaries during the 2016 presidential race, becoming the first Trump adviser to be sentenced in the special counsel investigation. Though most first-time offenders convicted of lying to federal authorities escape with probation, Judge Randolph D. Moss said that Mr. Papadopoulos deserved a stiffer sentence because he had impeded an investigation of ‘grave national importance.’ Prosecutors argued that Mr. Papadopoulos’s repeated lies during a January 2017 interview with investigators hampered the Russia investigation at a critical moment.” See also, Excerpts From the New York Times Interview With George Papadopoulos, The New York Times, Friday, 7 September 2018: “Mr. Papadopoulos said he lied to federal investigators because he wanted to protect himself and the Trump campaign from ‘what was probably an illegal action or dangerous information.'” See also, Former Trump adviser George Papadopoulos is sentenced to 14 days in plea deal with Mueller probe, The Washington Post, Spencer S. Hsu and Rosalind S. Helderman, Friday, 7 September 2018.

Obama Takes on Trump in Debut Speech of 2018 Campaign Role, The New York Times, Peter Baker, Friday, 7 September 2018: “Former President Barack Obama assailed President Trump on Friday as a ‘threat to democracy’ as he emerged from a period of political silence to kick off a campaign blitz intended to help Democrats take control of Congress in the November midterm elections. In a speech meant to frame his message on the campaign trail over the next two months, Mr. Obama offered a stinging indictment of his successor, sometimes by name, sometimes by inference, accusing him and his Republican supporters of practicing a ‘politics of fear and resentment,’ cozying up to Russia, emboldening white supremacists and politicizing law enforcement agencies…. ‘It did not start with Donald Trump,’ he told the college students on Friday. ‘He is a symptom, not the cause. He’s just capitalizing on resentments that politicians have been fanning for years, a fear and anger that’s rooted in our past, but it’s also born out of the enormous upheavals that have taken place in your brief lifetimes.'” See also, ‘It sure isn’t normal; it’s radical’: Former president Barack Obama says Trump and Republicans are knowingly dividing America, The Washington Post, Michael Scherer, Friday, 7 September 2018: “Ending months of self-imposed restraint, former president Barack Obama delivered a blistering critique of President Trump and Republican politics Friday, one that prompted a back-handed dismissal by the man who now occupies the Oval Office. Over the course of an hour-long address, Obama left little doubt about the severity of his concerns over Trump’s approach, which he referred to obliquely as ‘this political darkness.’ He compared Trump to foreign demagogues who exploit ‘a politics of fear and resentment and retrenchment,’ appeal to racial nationalism and then plunder their countries while promising to fight corruption.” See also, In Illinois, Obama Hits the Midterm Campaign Trail–and Trump, The New Yorker, Jelani Cobb, Friday, 7 September 2018: “‘Demagogues promise simple fixes to complex problems,’ he said. ‘They promise to fight for the little guy even as they cater to the wealthiest and the most powerful. They promise to clean up corruption, then plunder away. They start undermining the norms that insure accountability, try to change the rules to entrench their power further. And they appeal to racial nationalism that’s barely veiled, if veiled at all.’ Obama did not say the words ‘Fascism’ or ‘authoritarianism,’ but his indictment of Trump and Trumpism was no less severe for it.”

The E.P.A.’s Review of Mercury Rules De-emphasizes Human Life and Health and Emphasizes Consideration of Financial Costs, The New York Times, Coral Davenport and Lisa Friedman, Friday, 7 September 2018: “When writing environmental rules, one of the most important calculations involves weighing the financial costs against any gains in human life and health. The formulas are complex, but the bottom line is that reducing the emphasis on health makes it tougher to justify a rule. Last week the Trump administration took a crucial step toward de-emphasizing the life and health benefits in this calculus when the Environmental Protection Agency said it would rethink a major regulation that restricts mercury emissions by coal-burning power plants. The 2011 mercury rule — based on decades of research showing that mercury damages the brain, lungs and fetal health — is among the costliest but most effective clean-air policies put forth by the Environmental Protection Agency. Utilities estimate they have spent $18 billion installing clean-air technology, and mercury pollution has fallen by nearly 70 percent. Modifying the rule could have an impact far beyond any immediate concerns about the release of toxic mercury into the air and water. In fact, the re-evaluation fits into a far-reaching administration strategy to loosen environmental rules affecting countless other industries for years to come by adjusting the factors used to judge the benefits to human health that the rule has brought.”

The Justice Department Demand for North Carolina Voting Records Is Extended to the D.M.V. (Department of Motor Vehicles), The New York Times, Richard Fausset, Alan Blinder, and Michael Wines, Friday, 7 September 2018: “In a further sign of the sprawling nature of the Justice Department’s effort to collect voting records in North Carolina, prosecutors demanded eight years of information from the state’s Division of Motor Vehicles, according to a copy of the subpoena obtained by The New York Times. The newly disclosed order, along with subpoenas sent to the state’s elections board and counties, appears linked to a federal inquiry into illegal voting by noncitizens. Under federal law, residents seeking to obtain or renew a driver’s license must be offered a chance to register to vote. The demand from the government seeks voter-registration forms submitted to the North Carolina D.M.V. by an array of applicants since 2010. The applicants include those who are foreign-born, said they were not citizens, did not produce a driver’s license as proof of identification, or displayed nonimmigrant visas or other documents ‘that reflect the applicant was not a United States citizen.’… The new subpoena surfaced as the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement voted unanimously on Friday to resist the sweeping federal subpoena it received, calling the demand overly broad, a potential intrusion into voters’ privacy and, so far, unexplained.”

In Immigration Courts, It Is Judges vs. the Justice Department, The New York Times, Liz Robbins, Friday, 7 September 2018: “As the Trump administration pursues a hard-line policy on immigration, it is facing resistance from an unexpected quarter — judges who rule on whether immigrants will be deported or be allowed to stay in the country. Immigration judges are objecting to a series of policy and personnel changes that their bosses at the Justice Department say are aimed at speeding up the immigration courts, which as of the end of June had a backlog of 732,730 cases, 94,871 of them in New York, according to the department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review. Some judges, including those in the New York courts, interpret the new policies, which include quotas on how many cases they must hear, as an attempt to control their decision-making. ‘There’s been so much focus on efficiency and speeding up the process,’ said New York Judge Amiena Khan, speaking as the executive vice president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, the judges’ union. To the union, she said, the changes seem like an attempt to turn judges from neutral arbiters into law enforcement agents enacting Trump administration policies.”

House passes bill that could make deportations of immigrant criminals easier, The Washington Post, Mike DeBonis, Friday, 7 September 2018: “The House on Friday passed a bill that would restore the federal government’s ability to deport immigrants for a wide variety of violent criminal offenses in a vote that won quick praise from President Trump. The Community Safety and Security Act aims to address an April Supreme Court ruling that found that the federal definition of a ‘crime of violence,’ which under immigration law prompts the mandatory deportation of a noncitizen, is impermissibly vague. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Karen Handel (R-Ga.), specifically enumerates more than a dozen crimes that would qualify. The bill passed 247-152, largely along party lines…. The American Civil Liberties Union and several immigrant-rights groups opposed the bill, and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, warned its hasty consideration could create unforeseen consequences…. The bill’s prospects in the Senate are uncertain. The Senate Judiciary Committee has not taken up any legislation to address the ‘crime of violence’ definition, and Senate leaders have not announced any plans to bring a stand-alone bill, like the House measure, to the floor before the current Congress ends in December.”

Ted Osius Resigned as U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam After Falling Out With the Trump Administration Over its Effort to Deport Thousands of Refugees From the Former South Vietnam Who Had Fled to the United States After the Vietnam War, The New York Times, Mike Ives, Friday, 7 September 2018: “As President-elect Donald J. Trump prepared for his inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017, Ted Osius assumed he was about to lose his dream job as the American ambassador to Vietnam. ‘I thought I would be put out with the trash on Jan. 21,’ said Mr. Osius, 57, a career diplomat for nearly three decades who had once worked for former Vice President Al Gore. He wasn’t, but he soon fell out with the Trump administration over its effort to deport thousands of refugees from the former South Vietnam who had fled to the United States after the Vietnam War. Last fall, he was abruptly ordered to leave Vietnam, a few days before President Trump arrived to give a speech at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. Mr. Osius later resigned from the State Department and moved to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s commercial capital, as a private citizen. He is one of many senior career diplomats who have worked for presidents of both parties, but whose objections to the Trump administration’s policies have led them to leave.”


Saturday, 8 September 2018, Day 597:


With a shrinking EPA, Trump delivers on his promise to cut government, The Washington Post, Brady Dennis, Juliet Eilperin, and Andrew Ba Tran, Saturday, 8 September 2018: “During the first 18 months of the Trump administration, records show, nearly 1,600 workers left the EPA, while fewer than 400 were hired. The exodus has shrunk the agency’s workforce by 8 percent, to levels not seen since the Reagan administration. The trend has continued even after a major round of buyouts last year and despite the fact that the EPA’s budget has remained stable. Those who have resigned or retired include some of the agency’s most experienced veterans, as well as young environmental experts who traditionally would have replaced them — stirring fears about brain drain at the EPA. The sheer number of departures also has prompted concerns over what sort of work is falling by the wayside, from enforcement investigations to environmental research. According to data released under the Freedom of Information Act and analyzed by The Washington Post, at least 260 scientists, 185 ‘environmental protection specialists’ and 106 engineers are gone.”

Thousands march in Rise for Climate, Jobs, and Justice demonstration in San Francisco, SFGate/San Francisco Chronicle, Lauren Hernández, Saturday, 8 September 2018: “Thousands of climate justice advocates, community organizers and Bay Area residents took to the streets Saturday in a 2-mile march from Embarcadero Plaza to the Civic Center as part of a worldwide demonstration known as the Rise for Climate, Jobs and Justice. The march mirrored more than 800 demonstrations in roughly 90 countries around the world, with protesters demanding that political leaders shift away from using fossil fuels and make the transition to renewable energy.” See also, Rise for Climate, Jobs, and Justice: thousands march across US to protest environment crisis, The Guardian, Oliver Milman, Saturday, 8 September 2018.

Trump Administration Discussed Coup Plans With Rebel Venezuelan Officers, The New York Times, Ernesto Londoño and Nicholas Casey, Saturday, 8 September 2018: “The Trump administration held secret meetings with rebellious military officers from Venezuela over the last year to discuss their plans to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro, according to American officials and a former Venezuelan military commander who participated in the talks. Establishing a clandestine channel with coup plotters in Venezuela was a big gamble for Washington, given its long history of covert intervention across Latin America. Many in the region still deeply resent the United States for backing previous rebellions, coups and plots in countries like Cuba, Nicaragua, Brazil and Chile, and for turning a blind eye to the abuses military regimes committed during the Cold War…. Venezuelan military officials sought direct access to the American government during Barack Obama’s presidency, only to be rebuffed, officials said.”


Sunday, 9 September 2018, Day 598:


Ron DeSantis, Republican candidate for Florida governor, spoke at racially charged events, The Washington Post, Beth Reinhard and Emma Brown, Sunday, 9 September 2018: “Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), a gubernatorial nominee who recently was accused of using racially tinged language, spoke four times at conferences organized by a conservative activist who has said that African Americans owe their freedom to white people and that the country’s ‘only serious race war’ is against whites.”

George Papadopoulos, Trump’s Former Campaign Adviser, Says the Trump Campaign Was Fully Aware That He ‘Actively’ Pursued a Trump-Putin Meeting, The Daily Beast, Andrew Desiderio, Sunday, 9 September 2018: “Convicted former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos said on Sunday that the president’s team was ‘fully aware’ he was ‘actively’ seeking to set up a meeting between then-candidate Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. ‘I actively sought to leverage my contacts with the professor to host this meeting. The campaign was fully aware of what I was doing, including Corey Lewandowski and Sam Clovis,’ Papadopoulos, who was a foreign policy adviser, said on ABC’s This Week, naming senior members of the Trump campaign. Papadopoulos added that Clovis in particular noted that he was doing ‘excellent work’ after telling a group of campaign staffers he was speaking with a Maltese professor who could potentially organize a Trump-Putin meeting during the campaign. That professor, Joseph Mifsud, is suspected of having ties to Russian intelligence. Papadopoulos says Mifsud told him that the Russians had obtained ‘thousands of Hillary Clinton’s emails.'”

Trump to provide written answers under oath in Summer Zervos defamation lawsuit, The Washington Post, Elise Viebeck, Sunday, 9 September 2018: “President Trump will provide written answers under oath in the defamation lawsuit brought by former ‘Apprentice’ contestant Summer Zervos, who claims Trump sexually assaulted her in 2007, a new court filing stated. Lawyers for Trump and Zervos agreed this week to exchange ‘written answers and objections’ to formal written questions by Sept. 28, according to a document filed Friday with the New York State Supreme Court. Rules in New York state require interrogatories to be sworn or verified, according to a source familiar with the system, meaning that false answers could open Trump to charges of perjury. The stipulation agreement represents a step forward in the case, which lawyers for Trump have tried to block multiple times this year without success. Zervos sued Trump for defamation in early 2017 after he called her a liar for claiming he had groped and forcibly kissed her 10 years prior. Trump denies wrongdoing in the case.”

C.I.A. Drone Mission, Curtailed by Obama, Is Expanded in Africa Under Trump, The New York Times, Joe Penney, Eric Schmitt, Rukmini Callimachi, and Christoph Koettl, Sunday, 9 September 2018: “The C.I.A. is poised to conduct secret drone strikes against Qaeda and Islamic State insurgents from a newly expanded air base deep in the Sahara, making aggressive use of powers that were scaled back during the Obama administration and restored by President Trump. Late in his presidency, Barack Obama sought to put the military in charge of drone attacks after a backlash arose over a series of highly visible strikes, some of which killed civilians. The move was intended, in part, to bring greater transparency to attacks that the United States often refused to acknowledge its role in. But now the C.I.A. is broadening its drone operations, moving aircraft to northeastern Niger to hunt Islamist militants in southern Libya. The expansion adds to the agency’s limited covert missions in eastern Afghanistan for strikes in Pakistan, and in southern Saudi Arabia for attacks in Yemen.”


Monday, 10 September 2018, Day 599:


Trump Administration Wants to Make It Easier to Release Methane Into the Air, The New York Times, Coral Davenport, Monday, 10 September 2018: “The Trump administration, taking its third major step this year to roll back federal efforts to fight climate change, is preparing to make it significantly easier for energy companies to release methane into the atmosphere. Methane, which is among the most powerful greenhouse gases, routinely leaks from oil and gas wells, and energy companies have long said that the rules requiring them to test for emissions were costly and burdensome. The Environmental Protection Agency, perhaps as soon as this week, plans to make public a proposal to weaken an Obama-era requirement that companies monitor and repair methane leaks, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times. In a related move, the Interior Department is also expected in coming days to release its final version of a draft rule, proposed in February, that essentially repeals a restriction on the intentional venting and ‘flaring,’ or burning, of methane from drilling operations. The new rules follow two regulatory rollbacks this year that, taken together, represent the foundation of the United States’ effort to rein in global warming. In July, the E.P.A. proposed weakening a rule on carbon dioxide pollution from vehicle tailpipes. And in August, the agency proposed replacing the rule on carbon dioxide pollution from coal-fired power plants with a weaker one that would allow far more global-warming emissions to flow unchecked from the nation’s smokestacks.”

Palestinians slam U.S. ‘vicious blackmail’ as their Washington office is shuttered by the Trump administration, The Washington Post, Loveday Morris, Monday, 10 September 2018: “Palestinian officials on Monday vowed not to bend to what they called the Trump administration’s bullying tactics after being notified that their office in Washington would be shut down as part of an effort to block cases against Israel at the International Criminal Court. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said he was officially notified of the decision, which the State Department formally announced Monday morning, charging that the Palestine Liberation Organization ‘has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel.’ The announcement also cited U.S. ‘concerns with Palestinian attempts to prompt an investigation of Israel by the International Criminal Court.'” See also, National Security Adviser John Bolton Expands on Trump’s Views, Except on North Korea, The New York Times, Mark Landler, Monday, 10 September 2018. See also, The Trump Administration Shutters the Palestinian Diplomatic Mission–and Middle East Peace, The New Yorker, Robin Wright, Monday, 10 September 2018: “In the third blow this year to the peace process—and the one that may well doom it—the Trump Administration on Monday ordered the P.L.O. to shutter its diplomatic mission in Washington, a dark red-brick building on the edge of the trendy Georgetown neighborhood. The move will eliminate a communications channel—diplomatically and physically—that has been at the heart of the peace process under four Administrations. It’s basically a punishment.” See also, The Trump administration’s new attack on the international system, The Washington Post, Ishaan Tharoor, published on Tuesday, 11 September 2018: “In his first major policy address since joining the White House in April, national security adviser John Bolton offered a particularly aggressive demonstration of President Trump’s ‘America First’ agenda. He threatened the International Criminal Court, a U.N.-mandated body based in The Hague, with punitive measures should it pursue an investigation into alleged U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan. He warned that the United States would ban ICC judges and prosecutors from entering the country, sanction their funds in the U.S. financial system and punish any company or government that complies with an ICC investigation into Americans…. The tough rhetoric reflected Bolton’s long-standing animosity toward the ICC, an institution he lobbied against while serving in the George W. Bush administration. Bolton and some Republican allies see the organization’s powers as an illegitimate infringement of national sovereignty and a supposed violation of American constitutional rights. In truth, the ICC has little jurisdiction over the United States, which, like other major powers including India and China, never ratified the convention that established the court.”

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres Warns of a Dangerous Tipping Point on Climate Change, The New York Times, Somini Sengupta, Monday, 10 September 2018: “Warning of the risks of ‘runaway’ global warming, the United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, on Monday called on global leaders to rein in climate change faster. ‘If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change,’ Mr. Guterres said at United Nations headquarters in New York. ‘Climate change is the defining issue of our time, and we are at a defining moment,’ he said. ‘Scientists have been telling us for decades. Over and over again. Far too many leaders have refused to listen.’ His remarks came with countries around the world far short of meeting the goals they set for themselves under the 2015 Paris accord to reduce the emissions that have warmed the planet over the last century. The next round of climate negotiations is scheduled for this year in Poland.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s Lawyer Defends His Account of a Trump Campaign Meeting in March 2016, The New York Times, Katie Benner, Monday, 10 September 2018: “A lawyer for Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended on Monday his client’s congressional testimony about a Trump campaign meeting in March 2016 where an adviser proposed that the candidate meet with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. The aide, George Papadopoulos, said recently in an interview and court filings that Mr. Sessions, an early and influential adviser to Mr. Trump’s campaign, welcomed the idea. His description of the meeting contradicted accounts by Mr. Sessions and another foreign policy adviser in the room, J. D. Gordon…. The conflicting accounts pit Mr. Sessions, who has repeatedly recalibrated his recollections of any campaign contact with Russians, against Mr. Papadopoulos, who was sentenced last week to two weeks in jail for lying to investigators in the Russia inquiry. In an interview with The New York Times before he was sentenced, Mr. Papadopoulos gave his account of the meeting for the first time. He said Mr. Trump ‘wasn’t committed either way, but he nodded and deferred to Jeff Sessions, who I remember being actually quite enthusiastic about a potential meeting between then-candidate Trump and Putin.'”


Tuesday, 11 September 2018, Day 600:


California pledges carbon-free electricity by 2045, The Washington Post, Dino Grandoni, Tuesday, 11 September 2018: “By many metrics, California is way ahead of other states when it comes to renewable energy. The nation’s largest state leads in generating electricity from solar panels and geothermal stations. As of 2016, California got about two-fifths of its electricity from renewable forms of energy. But the state’s leaders just declared that is not good enough. On Monday, the state’s Democratic governor, Jerry Brown, signed into law a landmark bill committing California to getting 100 percent of its electricity from carbon-free sources by 2045. The state is giving itself a deadline of 2030 to get 60 percent of its power from renewable energy, up from 50 percent by that same year under the state’s previous requirements.  Brown signed the renewable mandate with the support of Democratic majorities in the state legislature but over the opposition of some state Republicans and electric utilities.”

Officers With the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Can Now Deny Visa and Green Card Applications Without Giving Applicants a Chance to Fix Errors, ProPublica, Kavitha Surana, Tuesday, 11 September 2018: “As President Donald Trump wages a vocal battle against illegal immigration, his administration has been working more quietly to cut down on legal pathways to immigrate to the U.S. On Tuesday, a new policy kicks in, allowing officers with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to outright deny any visa or green card application that is missing evidence or contains an error. Around 7 million people apply every year. Previously, officers were required by an Obama-era policy to send notices, giving applicants a chance to correct such problems instead of closing the process…. Without the notices, applicants won’t have the opportunity to intervene before a decision is made, potentially adding months or years of extra paperwork and thousands of dollars in fees to the already lengthy process. In the case of those trying to renew their visas while they’re still in the U.S., they could be placed in deportation proceedings the moment their visas expire…. [I]mmigration lawyers worry that there is not enough oversight or clear standards to ensure fair handling. USCIS officers will now have near-complete discretion to make complex judgments behind closed doors. ‘They can deny you on the fact that, subjectively, they feel in their mind [the application] is not approvable,’ Pierre Bonnefil, an immigration attorney in New York, said. One reason the lawyers are worried is that they’ve seen a barrage of scrutiny directed at once-standard immigration applications since Trump took office. ProPublica spoke with a dozen lawyers and reviewed documentation for several of these cases.”

Trump administration to triple size of Texas tent camp for migrant children, The Washington Post, Nick Miroff, Tuesday, 11 September 2018: “A tent camp for migrant children in the desert outside El Paso will expand to accommodate a growing number of Central American children crossing the border, the Department of Health and Human Services said Tuesday. HHS, the federal agency tasked with caring for migrant children and teenagers in U.S. custody, said it would more than triple the size of its camp at the Tornillo-Guadalupe Land Port of Entry from 1,200 beds to as many as 3,800. The Trump administration established the camp in June as a temporary shelter because its facilities elsewhere were running out of space. That occurred at the height of Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ prosecution initiative, a crackdown that separated some 2,500 migrant children from their parents. Widespread condemnation forced Trump to reverse course and stop the separations in June, but since then HHS has taken in greater numbers of underage migrants. The number of families illegally crossing the border jumped again in recent weeks, according to border agents and administration officials. U.S. Customs and Border Protection is scheduled to release its latest arrest totals Wednesday.”

‘You’ve set back the Jewish contribution’: Stephen Miller’s former rabbi issues fiery rebuke on Rosh Hashanah, The Washington Post, Eli Rosenberg, Tuesday, 11 September 2018: “The Jewish new year celebration, Rosh Hashanah, began Sunday night, and for most observant adherents it is meant to kick off a period of often personal reflection. But one religious leader took the holiday as an opportunity to send a message to a man who he said was a former congregant: presidential adviser Stephen Miller. In a fiery sermon that has now been covered by news outlets around the world, Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels of Beth Shir Shalom, a synagogue in Santa Monica, Calif., where Miller grew up, denounced Miller for his role in the proposal that resulted in the family separation crisis at the border, questioning how his values diverged so sharply from the congregation’s. ‘The actions that you now encourage President Trump to take make it obvious to me that you didn’t get my or our Jewish message,’ Comess-Daniels said. ‘That notion is completely antithetical to everything I know about Judaism, Jewish law and Jewish values.’… Comess-Daniels pointed to the long history of Jews as refugees and said that the practice violated fundamental Jewish tenets. ‘From the Jewish perspective, the parent-child relationship is sacrosanct,’ he said. ‘Disrupting it is cruel. Mr. Miller, the policy you helped to conceive and put into practice is cruel.’ His comments echoed those made by Miller’s uncle David S. Glosser, who in August penned a scathing op-ed that noted the family’s history of immigration to the United States….”


Wednesday, 12 September 2018, Day 601:


The Department of Homeland Security Transferred $10 Million From FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to Pay for Detention and Removal Operations, Document Shows, The New York Times, Ron Nixon, Wednesday, 12 September 2018: “The Department of Homeland Security transferred nearly $10 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to a budget document released by a Democratic senator late Tuesday night, diverting funds from the relief agency at the start of the hurricane season that began in June. The release of the document comes as a major storm barrels toward the East Coast. The document, which was released by the office of Senator Jeff Merkley, of Oregon, shows that the money would come from FEMA’s operations and support budget and was transferred into accounts at ICE to pay for detention and removal operations. The document also shows that the Department of Homeland Security transferred money from accounts at Customs and Border Protection that pays for border fencing and technology.” See also, The Trump administration diverted nearly $10 million from FEMA to ICE detention program, according to DHS document, The Washington Post, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Wednesday, 12 September 2018.

Detention of Migrant Children Has Skyrocketed to Highest Levels Ever, The New York Times, Caitlin Dickerson, Wednesday, 12 September 2018: “Even though hundreds of children separated from their families after crossing the border have been released under court order, the overall number of detained migrant children has exploded to the highest ever recorded — a significant counternarrative to the Trump administration’s efforts to reduce the number of undocumented families coming to the United States. Population levels at federally contracted shelters for migrant children have quietly shot up more than fivefold since last summer, according to data obtained by The New York Times, reaching a total of 12,800 this month. There were 2,400 such children in custody in May 2017. The huge increases, which have placed the federal shelter system near capacity, are due not to an influx of children entering the country, but a reduction in the number being released to live with families and other sponsors, the data collected by the Department of Health and Human Services suggests. Some of those who work in the migrant shelter network say the bottleneck is straining both the children and the system that cares for them. Most of the children crossed the border alone, without their parents. Many are teenagers from Central America, and they are housed in a system of more than 100 shelters across the United States, with the highest concentration near the southwest border. The new data was reported to members of Congress, who shared it with The Times. It shows that despite the Trump administration’s efforts to discourage Central American migrants, roughly the same number of children are crossing the border as in years past. The big difference, said those familiar with the shelter system, is that red tape and fear brought on by stricter immigration enforcement have discouraged relatives and family friends from coming forward to sponsor children.”

U.S. Plans to Pay Mexico $20 Million to Deport Unauthorized Central American Immigrants Who Are in MexicoThe New York Times, Gardiner Harris and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Wednesday, 12 September 2018: “President Trump has promised for years that Mexico would pay for a vast border wall, a demand that country has steadfastly refused. Now, in the Trump administration’s campaign to stop illegal immigration, the United States plans instead to pay Mexico. In a recent notice sent to Congress, the administration said it intended to take $20 million in foreign assistance funds and use it to help Mexico pay plane and bus fare to deport as many as 17,000 people who are in that country illegally. The money will help increase deportations of Central Americans, many of whom pass through Mexico to get to the American border. Any unauthorized immigrant in Mexico who is a known or suspected terrorist will also be deported under the program, according to the notification, although such people are few in number. Katie Waldman, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, said the program was intended to help relieve immigration flows at the United States border with Mexico.”

Trump authorizes sanctions against foreign governments that interfere in US elections, The Hill, Jacqueline Thomsen and Jordan Fabian, Wednesday, 12 September 2018: “Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday allowing sanctions on foreign companies, organizations or individuals the government determines to have interfered in U.S. elections. The order is the latest effort by the Trump administration to address fears that Russia is looking to meddle in the November midterm elections, much like it did during the 2016 presidential race. ‘This clearly is a process put in place to try and ensure we are doing every possible thing we can to prevent any interference in our election,’ Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told reporters. Trump has repeatedly cast doubt on whether Moscow interfered in the 2016 election, triggering criticism from lawmakers in both parties that his administration has not done enough to deter Russia and other state actors from running online disinformation campaigns or hacking into state voting systems. Wednesday’s order is designed to address those concerns by showing the president and his team are taking the threat seriously.” See also, Trump issues new order authorizing additional sanctions for interfering in upcoming U.S. elections, The Washington Post, Anne Gearan and Felicia Sonmez, Wednesday, 12 September 2018. See also, The Trump Administration Is Preparing a New Executive Order to Allow Sanctions on Foreigners Accused of Interfering in Elections, The New York Times, Julian E. Barnes and Katie Benner, published on Tuesday, 11 September 2018. See also, Lawmakers Dismiss White House Push to Fight Election Interference as Too Weak, The New York Times, Julian E. Barnes and Nicholas Fandos, Wednesday, 12 September 2018: “Lawmakers pushing to more aggressively counteract Russian election interference dismissed a new White House effort to punish foreign election meddling as inadequate on Wednesday, pledging to try to secure a vote on more punitive legislation. Senators from both parties have been advocating the passage of punishing new sanctions authorities for weeks, and the process appeared to be gaining some momentum. But it was unclear on Wednesday whether an executive order signed by President Trump might have derailed those efforts. At least one senior Republican, Senator John Cornyn of Texas, held out the possibility that the chamber could still advance its own alternative but said it would be difficult to do so before November’s midterm elections.”

Puerto Rico After Hurricane Maria: Residents sharply rebuke Trump, along with the federal and local governments, for last year’s response to Maria, The Washington Post, Scott Clement, Katie Zezima, and Emily Guskin; video by Whitney Leaming and Jorge Ribas,  Wednesday, 12 September 2018: “Puerto Ricans sharply rebuke President Trump, along with the federal and local governments, for last year’s response to Hurricane Maria, a devastating storm that created an enduring humanitarian crisis affecting nearly all aspects of life on the island territory, according to a new Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll. Nearly a year after Maria hit Puerto Rico, people say they are still struggling with basic necessities. Fully 83 percent reported either major damage to their homes, losing power for more than three months, employment setbacks or worsening health problems, among other effects of the storm. The power is spotty, and many are leery of drinking the water. Roads are damaged, dangerous and difficult to navigate — like ‘the surface of the moon,’ according to one resident — and in some places, the roadways remain impassible…. The Washington Post and Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a face-to-face survey of 1,500 randomly selected adult residents in Puerto Rico from July 3 to Aug. 29, 2018, all of whom lived in the U.S. territory when Hurricane Maria hit in September 2017. The margin of sampling error for overall results is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.”

Trump attacks mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, as he touts readiness for Hurricane Florence, The Washington Post, John Wagner, Wednesday, 12 September 2018: “President Trump leveled a fresh attack Wednesday against San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz as he continued to defend his administration’s response to the hurricane that hit Puerto Rico last year and asserted readiness for the one now barreling toward the Carolinas. In a morning tweet, Trump called Cruz ‘totally incompetent.’ She was the local official most vocal about the need for a stronger federal response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, where researchers have estimated that nearly 3,000 additional deaths occurred after the storm…. Cruz was among those who criticized Trump’s assertion Tuesday that the government’s response to Maria was a success, saying his comments added ‘insult to injury.’ ‘Success? Federal response according to Trump in Puerto Rico a success? If he thinks the death of 3,000 people [is] a success God help us all,’ Cruz tweeted. In another tweet, she wrote: ‘2,431 applications for funeral assistance were submitted to @fema after María. Only 75 approved. Oh yes Mr Pres another sign of success?'”

Dianne Feinstein Is Withholding Brett Kavanaugh Document From Fellow Judiciary Committee Democrats, The Intercept, Ryan Grim, Wednesday, 12 September 2018: “Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have privately requested to view a Brett Kavanaugh-related document in possession of the panel’s top Democrat, Dianne Feinstein, but the senior California senator has so far refused, according to multiple sources familiar with the situation. The specific content of the document, which is a letter from a California constituent, is unclear, but Feinstein’s refusal to share the letter has created tension on the committee, particularly after Feinstein largely took a back seat to her more junior colleagues last week, as they took over Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings with protests around access to documents. The letter took a circuitous route to Feinstein, the top-ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. It purportedly describes an incident that was relayed to someone affiliated with Stanford University, who authored the letter and sent it to Rep. Anna Eshoo, a Democrat who represents the area. Different sources provided different accounts of the contents of the letter, and some of the sources said they themselves had heard different versions, but the one consistent theme was that it describes an incident involving Kavanaugh and a woman while they were in high school. Kept hidden, the letter is beginning to take on a life of its own.”

Here’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s Memo Justifying U.S. Assistance to Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s War in Yemen, The Intercept, Samuel Oakford, Wednesday, 12 September 2018: “On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo certified that the coalition of Persian Gulf monarchies waging a war in Yemen was taking sufficient steps to protect civilians. The declaration by Pompeo — which flew in the face of years of criticisms of the coalition’s conduct in the war by international bodies and human rights groups — allowed the U.S. to continue refueling coalition jets. Pompeo’s vetting of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates was required by a bipartisan amendment to the annual defense spending bill signed into law last month by President Donald Trump. Pompeo made the announcement of his certification in a statement, saying that the two Gulf countries were ‘undertaking demonstrable actions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians.’ In a separate seven-page memo sent to Congress and obtained by The Intercept, Pompeo further justified the decision, citing U.S. training of the Saudi Royal Air Force and the formation of the Joint Incidents Assessment Team in 2016…. Humanitarian groups pilloried the decision, which came less than a month after a bomb from a coalition jet killed dozens of children in a school bus in northern Yemen. The aid group Oxfam reported that August was the deadliest month of the more than 3-year war. ‘This administration is doubling down on its failed policy of literally fueling the world’s largest humanitarian crisis,’ said Scott Paul, Oxfam America’s humanitarian policy lead.”

White House Threatens Iran With Retaliation Over Militant Attacks in Iraq, The New York Times, Mark Landler, Wednesday, 12 September 2018: “The Trump administration has signaled a new phase in its confrontation with Iran, threatening to retaliate for attacks by Iranian-backed militants in Iraq, even as it moves to avoid a potentially messy public split with allies over President Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal. Days after rocket strikes near American diplomatic facilities in Baghdad and Basra, the White House blamed Shia militia groups on Wednesday and said, ‘Iran did not act to stop these attacks by its proxies in Iraq, which it has supported with funding, training and weapons.’ The statement came two weeks before Mr. Trump and Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, are both scheduled to attend the yearly meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, and it underscores Mr. Trump’s determination to raise pressure on the Iranian leadership.”

Scott Pruitt, the Former Head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Is in Talks for His Next Job: Coal Consultant, The New York Times, Lisa Friedman, Hiroko Tabuchi, and Eric Lipton, Wednesday, 12 September 2018: “Scott Pruitt, the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency who championed deregulation of the fossil fuel industry, is in discussions to work as a consultant to the Kentucky coal mining tycoon Joseph W. Craft III. Mr. Pruitt has remained largely out of the public eye since parting ways with the Trump administration in July under a cloud of ethics investigations into matters including his ties to fossil fuel industry executives with business before the agency. Mr. Craft, the chief executive of Alliance Resource Partners and a major Republican donor, enjoyed a close relationship with the E.P.A. during Mr. Pruitt’s tenure. Mr. Craft met with Mr. Pruitt at least seven times in Mr. Pruitt’s first 14 months at the agency and in December provided him with courtside seats at a University of Kentucky basketball game, a school where Mr. Craft is a prominent supporter.”


Thursday, 13 September 2018, Day 602:


Senator Dianne Feinstein Referred a Matter Involving Supreme Court Nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh to Federal Investigators on Thursday, The New York Times, Nicholas Fandos and Catie Edmondson, Thursday, 13 September 2018: “The senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee referred information involving Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, to federal investigators on Thursday, but the senator declined to make public what the matter involved. Two officials familiar with the matter say the incident involved possible sexual misconduct between Judge Kavanaugh and a woman when they were both in high school. They spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to discuss the matter. The statement by Senator Dianne Feinstein of California came a week before the Judiciary Committee is to vote on his nomination. ‘I have received information from an individual concerning the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court,’ Ms. Feinstein said in a statement. ‘That individual strongly requested confidentiality, declined to come forward or press the matter further, and I have honored that decision. I have, however, referred the matter to federal investigative authorities.’ The information came in July in a letter, which was first sent to the office of Representative Anna Eshoo, Democrat of California, and accuses the judge of sexual misconduct toward the letter’s author, a person familiar with the letter confirmed. Ms. Feinstein, who received the letter from Ms. Eshoo’s office, informed fellow Democrats on the Judiciary Committee about its existence and its contents on Wednesday evening but did not share the letter itself. Several Democrats advised her to take its claims to the F.B.I., and others pressed for it to become public.” See also, Bitter Senate fight to confirm Kavanaugh plunges deeper into chaos over letter that describes an alleged episode of sexual misconduct involving Kavanaugh when he was in high school, The Washington Post, Seung Min Kim and Elise Viebeck, Thursday, 13 September 2018.

Migrant Parents Separated From Their Children Will Get New Asylum Interviews If Court Approves, The New York Times, Caitlin Dickerson, Thursday, 13 September 2018: “Acknowledging that the separation of migrant families along the southwest border may have compromised their right to seek asylum, the federal government has agreed to allow a second chance for up to 1,000 migrants who had been facing deportation. In a settlement announced Thursday, lawyers for the government said that parents whose children were taken from them under the administration’s ‘zero-tolerance’ border enforcement policy will again be able to make a case for asylum. They can also remain in the United States while their children pursue their own asylum cases. Lawyers for immigrants challenging the thousands of family separations carried out along the border this spring had argued that losing their children had left parents too distraught to adequately make a case for asylum status. The asylum process can be grueling, often requiring lengthy interviews and documentary evidence. As a result, the lawyers said, many of the parents’ claims had been speedily denied.” See also, Settlement reached in family separation cases: More than 1,000 rejected asylum seekers to get second chance if court approves, The Washington Post, Fred Barbash and Allyson Chiu, Thursday, 13 September 2018.

Trump Rejects Puerto Rico Death Toll From Hurricane Maria Last Year, Falsely Accusing Democrats of Inflating It, The New York Times, Eileen Sullivan, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, and Nicholas Fandos, Thursday, 13 September 2018: “President Trump on Thursday falsely accused Democrats of inflating the death toll from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year, rejecting that government’s assessment that the storm had claimed nearly 3,000 lives. Mr. Trump stated that the toll was only six to 18 dead after his visit following the storm and said Democrats padded the death toll by including, for example, a person who died of old age ‘in order to make me look as bad as possible.’… ‘There is evidence, truthful facts that there have been these number of deaths. No one is distorting the truth,’ Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a retiring Miami Republican, said on Thursday. ‘It might be a new low,’ Ms. Ros-Lehtinen said of the president’s false claim about the Puerto Rican death toll, adding that only a ‘warped mind that would turn this statistic into fake news’ about himself.” See also, Trump creates political storm with false claim on Puerto Rico hurricane death toll, The Washington Post, Philip Rucker, Robert Costa, and Josh Dawsey, Thursday, 13 September 2018.

Trump’s ‘Enemy of the People’ Rhetoric Is Endangering Journalists’ Lives, Mother Jones, Mark Follman, Thursday, 13 September 2018: “Ever since he campaigned for the White House, Donald Trump has attacked news outlets for negative reporting, singled out individual journalists for scorn, and turned his battle cry against ‘fake news’—a.k.a. reporting he dislikes—virtually into a personal brand. His hostility has only escalated with scrutiny of his presidency. Whipping up crowds as he points at the press gallery has been a set piece of his political rallies. He describes journalists as ‘dishonest,’ ‘corrupt,’ and ‘sick.’ And Trump has repeatedly echoed the language of 20th century despots, demonizing the American media as ‘the enemy of the people.’ Presidential disdain for the press is nothing new. Still, political and media experts have long worried that Trump’s uniquely broad and bitter war of words wouldn’t just corrode public trust in reported facts, but could also produce other dangerous effects. Now there is strong evidence it has. According to half a dozen law enforcement and security leaders I spoke with in recent weeks, the targeting of journalists has steadily intensified in the Trump era, from organized campaigns of personal harassment to bomb threats and vows of assault, rape, and mass shootings. Two sources told me they’ve repeatedly seen explicit evidence of threats directly channeling the president’s rhetoric.”

Brock Long, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator, is under investigation over his use of government vehicles, Politico, Daniel Lippman and Eliana Johnson, Thursday, 13 September 2018: “Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long is the target of an ongoing Department of Homeland Security inspector general investigation into whether he misused government vehicles during his commutes to North Carolina from Washington, according to three people familiar with the matter, including current and former administration officials. The actions by Long, the U.S. government’s lead disaster official as the country braces for Hurricane Florence, have been called into question by the inspector general over whether taxpayers have inappropriately footed the bill for his travel, an issue that has tripped up a number of current and former top Trump administration officials. Long’s travel habits triggered a clash between him and his boss, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, in recent weeks, clouding their relationship just as senior aides close to President Donald Trump prepared for hurricane season — a task that’s attracted extra scrutiny in the wake of the disaster that befell Puerto Rico in the aftermath of last year’s Hurricane Maria.” See also, Brock Long, the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Is Under Investigation for Unethical Conduct at the Agency, The New York Times, Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Ron Nixon, Thursday, 13 September 2018: “Brock Long, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, who is overseeing the federal response to a potentially catastrophic hurricane beginning to lash the East Coast, acknowledged on Thursday that he is under investigation for unethical conduct at the agency, but denied any intentional wrongdoing. The inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security is investigating whether Mr. Long improperly used agency vehicles to commute from Washington to North Carolina, where his family resides, according to a report by Politico. The revelation forced Mr. Long to undertake a measure of personal damage control just as he is leading a high-stakes emergency effort.”

U.S. Recovery Eludes Many Living Below the Poverty Level, Census Suggests, The New York Times, Glenn Thrush, Thursday, 13 September 2018: “In July, President Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers declared that the country’s five-decade war on poverty was largely over and called it a success. On Wednesday, the Census Bureau released its 2017 annual report on the poor that offered a stark counterpoint, suggesting that the national recovery has bypassed many of the 40 million to 45 million Americans estimated to be living below the federal poverty level. While median household income rose 1.8 percent last year, the national poverty rate remained stubbornly high at 12.3 percent. That was just a slight decrease from the previous year’s level of 12.7 percent, according to the federal government’s most comprehensive annual gauge of economic hardship. The supplemental poverty measure for 2017, widely regarded by economists as more accurate, was even higher, 13.9 percent in 2017, essentially unchanged from the year before. That is an improvement from the recent high of 16 percent recorded in 2013. But economists and advocates for poor people say the relatively modest gains over the last few years are fragile, endangered by the Trump administration’s policies and vulnerable to a long-overdue economic downturn.”