Week 87: Friday, 14 September – Thursday, 20 September 2018 (Days 603-609)

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, 14 September 2018, Day 603:


A Sexual-Misconduct Allegation Against the Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh Stirs Tension Among Democrats in Congress, The New Yorker, Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer, Friday, 14 September 2018: “On Thursday, Senate Democrats disclosed that they had referred a complaint regarding President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, to the F.B.I. for investigation. The complaint came from a woman who accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct when they were both in high school, more than thirty years ago. The woman, who has asked not to be identified, first approached Democratic lawmakers in July, shortly after Trump nominated Kavanaugh. The allegation dates back to the early nineteen-eighties, when Kavanaugh was a high-school student at Georgetown Preparatory School, in Bethesda, Maryland, and the woman attended a nearby high school. In the letter, the woman alleged that, during an encounter at a party, Kavanaugh held her down, and that he attempted to force himself on her. She claimed in the letter that Kavanaugh and a classmate of his, both of whom had been drinking, turned up music that was playing in the room to conceal the sound of her protests, and that Kavanaugh covered her mouth with his hand. She was able to free herself. Although the alleged incident took place decades ago and the three individuals involved were minors, the woman said that the memory had been a source of ongoing distress for her, and that she had sought psychological treatment as a result…. In recent months, the woman had told friends that Kavanaugh’s nomination had revived the pain of the memory, and that she was grappling with whether to go public with her story. She contacted her congresswoman, Anna Eshoo, a Democrat, sending her a letter describing her allegation…. The letter was also sent to the office of Senator Dianne Feinstein. As the ranking minority member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Feinstein was preparing to lead Democratic questioning of Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing weeks later. The woman contacted Feinstein’s office directly, according to multiple sources…. Feinstein’s decision to handle the matter in her own office, without notifying other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, stirred concern among her Democratic colleagues. For several days, Feinstein declined requests from other Democrats on the Judiciary Committee to share the woman’s letter and other relevant communications. A source familiar with the committee’s activities said that Feinstein’s staff initially conveyed to other Democratic members’ offices that the incident was too distant in the past to merit public discussion, and that Feinstein had ‘taken care of it.’ On Wednesday, after media inquiries to the Democratic members multiplied, and concern among congressional colleagues increased, Feinstein agreed to brief the other Democrats on the committee, with no staff present.” See also, Letter Claims Attempted Sexual Assault by a Teenage Brett KavanaughThe New York Times, Nicholas Fandos and Michael S. Schmidt, Friday, 14 September 2018.

Paul Manafort Agrees to Cooperate With Special Counsel Robert Mueller and Pleads Guilty to Reduced Charges, The New York Times, Sharon LaFraniere and Kenneth P. Vogel, Friday, 14 September 2018: “Paul Manafort agreed on Friday to tell all he knows to the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, as part of a plea deal that could shape the final stages of the inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The deal was a surrender by Mr. Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, who had vowed for months to prove his innocence in a case stemming from his work as a political consultant in Ukraine. And it was a decisive triumph for Mr. Mueller, who now has a cooperating witness who was at the center of the Trump campaign during a crucial period in 2016 and has detailed insight into another target of federal prosecutors, the network of lobbyists and influence brokers seeking to help foreign interests in Washington. Mr. Manafort’s decision, announced at a federal court hearing in Washington in which he pleaded guilty to two conspiracy charges, was likely to unsettle Mr. Trump, who had praised Mr. Manafort for standing up to prosecutors’ pressure and had hinted that he might pardon him. [Read the court documents.] It is not clear what information Mr. Manafort offered prosecutors in three days of negotiations that led to the plea deal. But in court on Friday, Mr. Manafort agreed to an open-ended arrangement that requires him to answer ‘fully, truthfully, completely and forthrightly’ questions about ‘any and all matters’ the government wants to ask about.” See also, Paul Manafort will cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller as part of guilty plea, prosecutor says, The Washington Post, Spencer S. Hsu, Devlin Barrett, and Justin Jouvenal, Friday, 14 September 2018: “President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort agreed Friday to provide testimony to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III as part of a plea deal that could answer some of the most critical questions about whether any Americans conspired with Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election. The decision to cooperate with Mueller in hopes of a lesser prison sentence is a stunning development, signaling Manafort’s surrender to criminal charges that he cheated the Internal Revenue Service, violated foreign lobbying laws and tried to obstruct justice while opening a new potential legal vulnerability for Trump.” See also, Parsing Paul Manafort’s Plea Agreement for How Much Dirt He Has on Trump, The New Yorker, Adam Davidson, Friday, 14 September 2018: “On Friday morning, Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign manager, pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice. As part of the plea, he agreed to coöperate with the special counsel, Robert Mueller. Manafort will lose several properties, the money in several bank accounts, and a life-insurance policy, which appear to have value well in excess of ten million dollars. In exchange, Manafort was assured that he will spend no more than a decade in prison for the two charges, so long as he fully coöperates with Mueller. We don’t know much more.” See also, Paul Manafort becomes the fifth Trump campaign team member to plead guilty to criminal charges, The Washington Post, Philip Bump, Friday, 14 September 2018.

U.S. Is Ending Final Source of Aid for Palestinian Civilians, The New York Times, Edward Wong, Friday, 14 September 2018: “As part of its policy to end all aid for Palestinian civilians, the United States is blocking millions of dollars to programs that build relationships between Israelis and Palestinians, according to current and former American officials briefed on the change. The move to prevent Palestinians — including, in many cases, children — from benefiting from the funds squeezes shut the last remaining channel of American aid to Palestinian civilians. The money had already been budgeted by Congress for allocation in fiscal year 2017, which ends this month. In the past, these designated funds went mostly to programs that organized people-to-people exchanges between Palestinians and Israelis, often for youth. Some went to programs for Israeli Jews and Arabs. Advocates had hoped this last $10 million pot of money would remain available to projects with Palestinians, even as the Trump administration cut all other aid.”

Continue reading Week 87, Friday, 14 September – Thursday, 20 September 2018 (Days 603-609-602)

Federal Advisory Panel Is Alarmed as Thousands Are Dropped From Medicaid in Arkansas, The New York Times, Robert Pear, Friday, 14 September 2019: “Members of a federal advisory panel expressed alarm this week that 4,350 low-income people in Arkansas had lost Medicaid coverage because they failed to show they were complying with new work requirements held up by the Trump administration as a model for the nation. ‘I hope these data scare the pants off people in Arkansas,’ said Dr. Christopher Gorton, a member of the panel, called the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission. The chairwoman of the panel, Penny Thompson, said the data — the first for any state enforcing a work requirement — were ‘very concerning’ and ‘very worrisome.’ The Trump administration approved Arkansas’s request to impose work requirements on certain Medicaid beneficiaries in March, one of the first of a wave of applications from Republican-run states. The administration has been encouraging work requirements for a variety of federal support programs, from food stamps to housing subsidies, and because Congress has balked, administration officials have turned to state governments to push ahead.”


Saturday, 15 September 2018, Day 604:


Former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort Forfeits $22 Million in New York Real Estate in Plea Deal With Federal Prosecutors, The New York Times, Julia Jacobs, Saturday, 15 September 2018: “Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, is forfeiting an estimated $22 million worth of real estate in New York — including three Manhattan apartments, a Brooklyn townhouse and a home in the Hamptons — as part of a plea deal with federal prosecutors announced on Friday. Under the terms of the deal, Mr. Manafort agreed to tell all he knows to the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. Mr. Manafort, 69, said he would turn over to the government the five properties in New York, including an apartment in Trump Tower, as well as the contents of three bank accounts and his life insurance policy.”

California Had Its Own Climate Summit. Now What? The New York Times, Brad Plumer, Saturday, 15 September 2018: “For years, presidents and prime ministers have been the public face of the fight against climate change, gathering at United Nations summit meetings and pressuring each other to reduce emissions. The results have often been lackluster. A climate conference in California this week tried something different. The meeting, organized by the state’s governor, Jerry Brown, had far fewer national leaders present. Instead, an array of governors, mayors and business executives from around the globe met to promote their successes in cutting greenhouse gas emissions locally and to encourage one another to do more. A key premise of the conference was that if a handful of leading-edge states, cities and businesses can demonstrate that it’s feasible — and even lucrative — to go green in their own backyards, they might inspire others to follow suit. That, in turn, could make it easier for national leaders to act more forcefully…. There was no shortage of announcements at the meeting. Cities like Tokyo, Rotterdam and West Hollywood signed joint pledges to only buy zero-emissions buses after 2025. Companies like Walmart and Unilever rolled out new programs to limit deforestation in their huge supply chains. Dozens of philanthropic groups committed $4 billion over the next five years to fight climate change. But it will take time to tell whether these local actions can scale up quickly enough to make a significant dent in global emissions. And scientists are warning that time is short if we want to avoid the worst effects of climate change.”


Sunday, 16 September 2018, Day 605:


California professor Christine Blasey Ford, the writer of confidential Brett Kavanaugh letter, speaks out about her allegation of sexual assault, The Washington Post, Emma Brown, Sunday, 16 September 2018: “Earlier this summer, Christine Blasey Ford wrote a confidential letter to a senior Democratic lawmaker alleging that Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her more than three decades ago, when they were high school students in suburban Maryland. Since Wednesday, she has watched as that bare-bones version of her story became public without her name or her consent, drawing a blanket denial from Kavanaugh and roiling a nomination that just days ago seemed all but certain to succeed. Now, Ford has decided that if her story is going to be told, she wants to be the one to tell it. Speaking publicly for the first time, Ford said that one summer in the early 1980s, Kavanaugh and a friend — both ‘stumbling drunk,’ Ford alleges — corralled her into a bedroom during a gathering of teenagers at a house in Montgomery County. While his friend watched, she said, Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth. ‘I thought he might inadvertently kill me,’ said Ford, now a 51-year-old research psychologist in northern California. ‘He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.’ Ford said she was able to escape when Kavanaugh’s friend and classmate at Georgetown Preparatory School, Mark Judge, jumped on top of them, sending all three tumbling. She said she ran from the room, briefly locked herself in a bathroom and then fled the house.” See also, Brett Kavanaugh’s Nomination to the Supreme Court Is in Turmoil as Accuser Christine Blasey Ford Says He Sexually Assaulted Her Decades Ago, The New York Times, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Sunday, 16 September 2018. See also, Read the letter Christine Blasey Ford sent accusing Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, CNN, Sunday, 16 September 2018.


Monday, 17 September 2018, Day 606:


Brett Kavanaugh and His Accuser Christine Blasey Ford Say They’re Willing to Testify, The New York Times, Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Monday, 17 September 2018: “President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, and the woman who has accused him of sexual assault said on Monday they are willing to talk to the Senate Judiciary Committee about the accusations, setting up a potentially explosive public showdown just weeks before the midterm elections. Mr. Trump vigorously defended his nominee, calling him an ‘outstanding’ judge with an unblemished record, and dismissing as ‘ridiculous’ the prospect that Judge Kavanaugh might withdraw his nomination. Nevertheless, he told reporters that he was willing to accept a delay in the judge’s path to confirmation in order to air the new information…. The willingness of accuser and accused to testify publicly carried the potential for a high-profile hearing over the charge, with a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court at stake. Judge Kavanaugh’s accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, has said Judge Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a social gathering in the 1980s when they were both teenagers. In a letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, made public by CNN on Sunday, Dr. Blasey, a research psychologist, wrote, ‘Brett Kavanaugh physically and sexually assaulted me during high school in the early 1980s.'” See also, Senate Judiciary Committee to hold public hearing with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her, The Washington Post, John Wagner, Seung Min Kim, and Felicia Sonmez, Monday, 17 September 2018: “Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh and the woman who has accused him of sexually assaulting her decades ago will testify publicly before the Senate next Monday, setting up a potentially dramatic and politically perilous hearing that could determine the fate of his nomination. Republicans, including President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), remained defiant as they scrambled to protect Kavanaugh’s nomination in the wake of the allegation by Christine Blasey Ford, who told The Washington Post in an interview published Sunday that Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back, groped her and put his hand over her mouth at a house party in the early 1980s. But by the end of the day, Senate Republicans had delayed a committee vote planned for Thursday and abandoned tentative plans for the matter to be handled behind closed doors amid growing calls by members of both parties for Kavanaugh and Ford to testify publicly under oath, injecting uncertainty into the nomination.” See also, Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing Is Set for Monday to Hear Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh and His Accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, The New York Times, Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Monday, 17 September 2018: “The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, under mounting pressure from senators of his own party, will call President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, and the woman who has accused him of sexual assault before the committee on Monday for extraordinary public hearings only weeks before the midterm elections. In setting the hearing, Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, backed down from a committee vote on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination, planned for this Thursday, and pushed a confirmation once seen as inevitable into limbo. The hearing with Judge Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, a research psychologist in Northern California, sets up a potentially explosive public showdown that carries unmistakable echoes of the 1991 testimony of Anita Hill, who accused the future Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment in an episode that riveted the nation and ushered a slew of women into public office. It will play out against the backdrop of the #MeToo movement, which has energized Democratic women across the nation, in an institution, the Senate, that is more than three-quarters male.” See also, Alumnae of Holton-Arms, Christine Blasey Ford’s High School, Circulate a Letter of Support, Huffington Post, Amanda Terkel and Arthur Delaney, Monday, 17 September 2018: “A group of women who went to Christine Blasey Ford’s high school are circulating a letter to show support for the woman who has alleged that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh tried to sexually assault her while they were in high school. ‘We believe Dr. Blasey Ford and are grateful that she came forward to tell her story,’ says a draft letter from alumnae of Holton-Arms, a private girls school in Bethesda, Maryland. ‘It demands a thorough and independent investigation before the Senate can reasonably vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to a lifetime seat on the nation’s highest court.’ The women also say that what Ford is alleging ‘is all too consistent with stories we heard and lived while attending Holton. Many of us are survivors ourselves.’ The letter is a boost of support for Ford, who has been thrust into the political spotlight and had her credibility questioned by going up against Kavanaugh and the White House. The signatories span decades at the school ― before, during and after Ford attended. More than 200 women had signed the letter as of late Monday morning, said Sarah Burgess, a member of the class of 2005. (One notable signature: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, class of 1979, who said Monday afternoon that she had added her name to the letter.) Burgess said she and some of her schoolmates wrote the letter because hearing Ford’s story felt ‘personal.’ Susanna Jones, the Holton-Arms head of school, put out a statement Sunday night in support of Ford. ‘In these cases, it is imperative that all voices are heard,’ Jones said. ‘As a school that empowers women to use their voices, we are proud of this alumna for using hers.'”

Attorney Cyrus Sanai Sent a Letter to Chuck Grassley and Dianne Feinstein in July Claiming Federal Court Employees Were Willing to Speak About Brett Kavanaugh, The Intercept, Ryan Grim, Monday, 17 September 2018: “The top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee were both approached in July by an attorney claiming to have information relevant to the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. The attorney claimed in his letter that multiple employees of the federal judiciary would be willing to speak to investigators, but received no reply to multiple attempts to make contact, he told The Intercept. Cyrus Sanai made his first attempt to reach out to Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in a letter dated July 24. Sanai told the committee leadership that ‘there are persons who work for, or who have worked for, the federal judiciary who have important stories to tell about disgraced former Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, and his mentee, current United States Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. I know that there are people who wish to speak out but fear retaliation because I have been contacted by more than a half-dozen such persons since Judge Kozinski resigned in disgrace.'”

U.S. slashes the number of refugees it will allow into the country, The Washington Post, Carol Morello, Monday, 17 September 2018: “The United States will admit no more than 30,000 refugees in the coming fiscal year, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday, the lowest number in decades and a steep cut from the 45,000 allowed in this year. The new number is a small fraction of one percentage point of the almost 69 million displaced people in the world today. But Pompeo said the United States remains the most generous nation when other U.S. aid to refugees is taken into account, including funds to shelter and feed refugees in camps closer to their home countries…. In raw numbers, the United States accepts more refugees than other countries. In per capita terms, however, the United States lags far behind several less populated countries such as Canada, Australia and Norway…. The new number is the lowest level of annual refugee admissions allowed since the Refugee Act was enacted in 1980.” See also, Trump to Cap Refugees Allowed Into the U.S. at 30,000, a Record Low, The New York Times, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Monday, 17 September 2018: “President Trump plans to cap the number of refugees that can be resettled in the United States next year at 30,000, his administration announced on Monday, further cutting an already drastically scaled-back program that offers protection to foreigners fleeing violence and persecution.”

Trump orders the Justice Department to declassify significant materials from the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, The Washington Post, Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett, and Karoun Demirjian, Monday, 17 September 2018: “President Trump on Monday ordered the Justice Department to declassify significant materials from the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, threatening to spur a showdown with federal law enforcement officials resistant to publicizing information from an ongoing probe. In a statement, the White House said Trump was ordering the department to immediately declassify portions of the secret court order to monitor former campaign adviser Carter Page, along with all interviews conducted as officials applied for that authority. Trump also instructed the department to publicly release the unredacted text messages of several former high-level Justice Department and FBI officials, including former FBI director James B. Comey and deputy director Andrew McCabe. For months, conservative lawmakers have been calling on the department to release Russia-related and other materials, many of them accusing law enforcement of hiding information that might discredit the investigation now led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Trump was sympathetic — though he had shied from using his formal declassification power to force Justice Department officials to hand over documents they otherwise would not have. His doing so Monday significantly raises the stakes.” See also, Trump Ordered the Declassification of Documents Related to the Russia Investigation and to Bruce G. Ohr, a Justice Department Official, The New York Times, Adam Goldman, Monday, 17 September 2018: “President Trump ordered law enforcement and intelligence officials to declassify documents related to the Russia investigation and other inquiries, White House officials said on Monday, the latest instance of the president siding with Republican allies on Capitol Hill over federal law enforcement. Mr. Trump decided to declassify text messages about the Russia inquiry from a handful of law enforcement officials, summaries of interviews in the case and documents related to the surveillance of a former Trump campaign aide investigated for his links to Russia. For months, Mr. Trump and some of his most fervent congressional supporters have clamored for the material’s release against the protests of the intelligence and law enforcement communities. The move is all but certain to further deteriorate Mr. Trump’s relationship with law enforcement officials.”

Republican Ted Cruz’s Re-election Campaign Marked a Fund-Raising Letter an Official ‘Summons.’ It Wasn’t Against the Rules. The New York Times, Liam Stack, Monday, 17 September 2018: “Ted Cruz’s Senate re-election campaign has been sending voters in Texas a fund-raising letter in an envelope labeled ‘summons enclosed,’ drawing criticism from some who called it misleading and raising questions about whether such a practice was legal. It is. That is according to Myles Martin, a spokesman for the Federal Election Commission, who said the salient question was whether a mailing contains a disclaimer saying that it came from a political campaign. And this one did.”

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long’s Woes Mount as House Republicans Launch Travel Inquiry, The New York Times, Nicholas Fandos and Ron Nixon, Monday, 17 September 2018: “House Republicans will investigate reports that Brock Long, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, repeatedly misused government vehicles to commute from Washington to North Carolina, where his family resides. Representative Trey Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina and the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote to Mr. Long on Monday requesting documentation and other information related to his use of government vehicles and about the agency personnel who may have accompanied him on the trips. Mr. Gowdy learned of the potential misuse last week from press reports, but he delayed launching an inquiry as FEMA girded for what was then Hurricane Florence, which was bearing down on the Carolina coast. For Mr. Long, who is already under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, news of another federal investigation will only complicate an already precarious balancing act as he marshals an ongoing rescue effort and what will be a sprawling recovery program, even as he tries to convince investigators he did not knowingly violate agency rules. ‘I would never intentionally run a program incorrectly,’ Mr. Long told reporters during a call last Thursday. ‘Doing something unethical is not in my DNA.'”


Tuesday, 18 September 2018, Day 607:


Christine Blasey Ford Wants the F.B.I. to Investigate Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh Before She Testifies, The New York Times, Peter Baker, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, and Nicholas Fandos, Tuesday, 18 September 2018: “The woman who has accused President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee of sexual assault all but ruled out appearing at an extraordinary Senate hearing scheduled for next week to hear her allegations, insisting on Tuesday that the F.B.I. investigate first. Speaking through lawyers, Christine Blasey Ford said she would cooperate with the Senate Judiciary Committee and left open the possibility of testifying later about her allegations against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh. But echoing Senate Democrats, she said an investigation should be ‘the first step’ before she is put ‘on national television to relive this traumatic and harrowing incident.’ Republicans signaled Tuesday night that they would not negotiate an alternative date and would go ahead with the hearing without her or declare it unnecessary if she refuses to appear, then possibly move to a vote. They have repeatedly stressed that Monday would be Dr. Blasey’s opportunity to testify, either privately or publicly, and that they planned to move forward with the confirmation process afterward.” See also, Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, wants the FBI to investigate the incident before she testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee, The Washington Post, Seung Min Kim, Robert Costa, and John Wagner, Tuesday, 18 September 2018. See also, Christine Blasey Ford wants FBI investigation before testifying, CNN, Sophie Tatum, Tuesday, 18 September 2018: “In a letter addressed to Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and obtained by CNN’s ‘Anderson Cooper 360,’ Christine Blasey Ford’s attorneys argue that ‘a full investigation by law enforcement officials will ensure that the crucial facts and witnesses in this matter are assessed in a non-partisan manner, and that the Committee is fully informed before conducting any hearing or making any decisions.’ The letter from Ford’s lawyers notes that despite receiving a ‘stunning amount of support from her community,’ Ford has also ‘been the target of vicious harassment and even death threats’ and has been forced to leave her home…. Ford’s attorney Lisa Banks told Cooper that Ford will talk with the committee but added, ‘She is not prepared to talk with them at a hearing on Monday. She will talk with the committee,’ Banks said. ‘She is not prepared to talk with them at a hearing on Monday. This just came out 48 hours ago. Asking her to come forward in four or five days and sit before the Judiciary Committee on national TV is not a fair process. If they care about doing the right thing here and treating this seriously as they have said, then they will do the right thing and they will properly investigate this, and she will work with them in that investigation and also to share her story with the committee,’ Banks said Tuesday night.” See also, Trump Sides With Kavanaugh, Accusing Democrats of Timing Sex Assault Charge to Delay Confirmation, The New York Times, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Tuesday, 18 September 2018: “President Trump falsely charged on Tuesday that Democrats had sought to time a sexual assault allegation against his Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, to obstruct his confirmation, siding with the judge as he called for a swift process for airing the accusation on Capitol Hill. ‘I feel so badly for him that he’s going through this,’ Mr. Trump said of Judge Kavanaugh, who has been accused by Christine Blasey Ford, a research psychiatrist, of attempted rape at a party in Washington in the 1980s, when both were teenagers. ‘This is not a man that deserves this.'” See also, What Trump Has Said About Men Accused of Sexual Abuse, The New York Times, Chris Cirillo and Natalie Reneau, Tuesday, 18 September 2018. See also, Why Women Can Take Years to Come Forward With Sexual Assault Allegations, The New York Times, Shaila Dewan, Tuesday, 18 September 2018: “She can’t remember exactly what happened. She sent friendly text messages afterward. She didn’t fight back. And, of course, she took decades to come forward. Of the many reasons that women’s accounts of sexual misconduct, from unwanted advances to forced sex acts, are questioned, that last one has come up yet again after a research psychologist named Christine Blasey Ford said that the nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, sexually assaulted her when they were in high school. He has denied the accusations. But experts say that some of the most commonly raised causes for doubt, like a long delay in reporting or a foggy recall of events, are the very hallmarks of sexual assault.”

Political nonprofits must now name many of their donors under federal court ruling after the Supreme Court declines to intervene, The Washington Post, Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Robert Barnes, Tuesday, 18 September 2018: “Advocacy groups pouring money into independent campaigns to impact this fall’s midterm races must disclose many of their political donors beginning this week after the Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to intervene in a long-running case. The high court did not grant an emergency request to stay a ruling by a federal judge in Washington who had thrown out a decades-old Federal Election Commission regulation allowing nonprofit groups to keep their donors secret unless they had earmarked their money for certain purposes. With less than 50 days before this fall’s congressional elections, the ruling has far-reaching consequences that could curtail the ability of major political players to raise money and force the disclosure of some of the country’s wealthiest donors. In an interview, FEC Chairwoman Caroline Hunter said that the names of certain contributors who give money to nonprofit groups to use in political campaigns beginning Wednesday will have to be publicly reported.”

Congress Passes Measure to Protect the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board that Monitors Nuclear Safety, ProPublica, Rebecca Moss, Santa Fe New Mexican, Tuesday, 18 September 2018: “Congress has moved to block an effort to weaken a federal board that oversees worker and public safety at nuclear facilities, adding language to an appropriations bill to prevent the agency from altering the board’s structure. The bill also requires the Energy Department to answer questions from Congress about its recent attempts to limit the board’s access to information and change how the panel conducts its work. The language protecting the board was introduced by New Mexico Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, Democrats who have decried the Energy Department’s push to impose staff cuts and other changes on the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. Established in 1988, the board reviews incidents and near-misses at the nation’s nuclear complexes, as well as providing safety recommendations and advice to the energy secretary.”

Trump Officials Urge End of Time Limits on Detaining Migrant Children, The New York Times, Ron Nixon, Tuesday, 18 September: “Trump administration officials told a Senate panel on Tuesday that a decades-old court ruling that limits the length of time migrant children can be detained hampers the government’s ability to stem illegal immigration, and needs to be amended by Congress. The officials, from the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department, said the 1997 consent decree known as the Flores agreement had encouraged hundreds of thousands of migrants to illegally cross the southwestern border with their children, knowing that they will not be detained if they are traveling with minors. Under the court agreement, migrant children cannot be detained for more than 20 days…. The proposed regulation has drawn fire from immigration advocates and Democrats, who said it defied decades of rules governing the treatment of migrant children. ‘Why are you here recommending a set of changes that would allow the detention of children?’ said Senator Maggie Hassan, Democrat of New Hampshire. She said she would oppose any changes that would allow children to be detained for long periods of time. ‘It’s absolutely unacceptable to detain children,’ she said. ‘This is not who we are.’ Other Democrats on the panel expressed similar reservations about allowing the federal government to indefinitely hold children in detention centers. Several Republicans, however, said they supported amending the court settlement to allow children to be detained with their parents.”

New Documents Undercut Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s Claims About Origins of Census Citizenship Question, Mother Jones, Are Berman, Tuesday, 18 September 2018: “In March, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the Census Bureau, approved a controversial question about US citizenship on the 2020 census, claiming that the Justice Department needed it for ‘more effective enforcement’ of the Voting Rights Act. Ross said at the time and in subsequent testimony before Congress that he approved the question after the Justice Department requested in December 2017 that it be added. However, new documents released as part of a lawsuit by New York state against the Trump administration directly contradict Ross’s public comments, showing that the commerce secretary repeatedly lobbied the Justice Department to add the citizenship question after consulting with anti-immigration hardliners.”


Wednesday, 19 September 2018, Day 608:


Senate Republicans signal they will forge ahead on embattled Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, The Washington Post, Seung Min Kim, Josh Dawsey, and John Wagner, Wednesday, 19 September 2018: “Senate Republicans strongly signaled on Wednesday that they will forge ahead with embattled Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh’s confirmation as his accuser called the rush for a public hearing next week unfair. GOP senators who fretted earlier this week about the prospects for President Trump’s pick are now largely pushing for a vote on Kavanaugh, who is accused of sexually assaulting now-professor Christine Blasey Ford when they were teenagers, amid signs that she may decline to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. And Trump is more convinced he should stand by Kavanaugh than he was two days ago, people close to the White House say. Publicly, Trump has become more vocal in defending Kavanaugh, telling reporters on Wednesday that it was ‘very hard for me to imagine anything happened’ with Ford, who detailed her allegation extensively with The Washington Post in a report published Sunday. Ford, through her lawyers, has requested that the FBI conduct an investigation into the alleged incident before she speaks to the committee, and Senate Democrats have lined up behind her. But Republicans have not budged from their view that the FBI does not need to intervene, or from their plan to hear testimony from Kavanaugh and Ford on Monday. Ford’s attorneys have not officially declined the committee’s invitation. But they reiterated Wednesday that while Ford is willing to cooperate with the Judiciary Committee, there needs to be a ‘full, nonpartisan investigation.’ Her lawyers also said that having just two witnesses — Kavanaugh and Ford — was neither fair nor in good faith when, they said, there are multiple witnesses who should testify.” See also, Anita Hill urges senators to ‘push the pause button’ on Senate hearing for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. She says the FBI should investigate first. The Washington Post, John Wagner, Wednesday, 19 September 2018: “Anita Hill urged senators Wednesday to ‘push the pause button’ on plans to hold a hearing next week on allegations against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh of sexual assault decades ago. She said the FBI should be allowed to investigate, as his accuser has requested. Hill, who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991 that now-Justice Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her, said senators should avoid a ‘sham’ proceeding.” See also, Kavanaugh’s Supporters and His Accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, Are at an Impasse Over Her Testimony, The New York Times, Peter Baker and Nicholas Fandos, Wednesday, 19 September 2018. See also, Senator Mazie Hirono’s blunt message to men: ‘Just shut up and step up. Do the right thing, for a change.’ The Washington Post, Eli Rosenberg and Lindsey Bever, Wednesday, 19 September 2018. See also, Christine Blasey Ford’s Life Has Taken a Drastic Turn From a Quiet Life in Academia, The New York Times, Elizabeth Williamson, Rebecca R. Ruiz, Emily Steel, Grace Ashford, and Steve Eder, Wednesday, 19 September 2018. See also, Representative Anna Eshoo describes meeting with Brett Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford in July: ‘I told her that I believe her,’ The Washington Post, Mike DeBonis, Wednesday, 19 September 2018: “The California lawmaker who first heard Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh said Wednesday that she became convinced of Ford’s credibility during a lengthy in-person meeting in July and that Ford seemed ‘terrified’ that she might be exposed as an accuser. Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.) met July 20 for roughly 90 minutes with Ford, who lives in her Bay Area district and is a professor of psychology at Palo Alto University, after Ford contacted Eshoo’s office about Kavanaugh. ‘It was more than obvious to me that she bore the scars of what she had been subjected to,’ Eshoo said in an interview with The Washington Post on Wednesday.” See also, Debunking 5 Viral Rumors About Christine Blasey Ford, Brett Kavanaugh’s Accuser, The New York Times, Kevin Roose, Wednesday, 19 September 2018. See also, Everyone Deserves Better Than This Senate Spectacle: Forget the political finger pointing. Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation against Brett Kavanaugh needs to be seriously investigated. The New York Times, The Editorial Board, Wednesday, 19 September 2018.

‘What happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep’: Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s remarks in 2015 speech get renewed scrutiny, The Washington Post, Moriah Balingit, Wednesday, 19 September 2018: “The speech at Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law was supposed to analyze whether judges should behave like umpires in a baseball game, analyzing words from Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. But Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh decided to share his personal connections with the D.C.-based university. A graduate of Georgetown Preparatory School in Bethesda, Md., he said three of his classmates and close friends graduated from the law school. ‘By coincidence, three classmates of mine at Georgetown Prep were graduates of this law school in 1990 and are really, really good friends of mine,’ the judge told the audience in the 2015 speech. ‘Fortunately, we’ve had a good saying that we’ve held firm to to this day, as the dean was reminding me before the talk, which is What happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep. That’s been a good thing for all of us, I think.’ The comments are facing scrutiny in light of accusations that the Supreme Court nominee sexually assaulted another high school student when he attended Georgetown Prep three decades ago.” See also, Sexual Assault Accusations Against Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh Draw New Attention to His Remarks About His Heavy Drinking, The New York Times, Matt Stevens, published on Tuesday, 18 September 2018.

‘I don’t have an attorney general’: Trump escalates his attacks on Jeff Sessions, The Washington Post, John Wagner and Matt Zapotosky, Wednesday, 19 September 2018: “President Trump escalated his attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday, offering a scathing assessment of his performance on the job and in his confirmation hearing. ‘I don’t have an attorney general. It’s very sad,’ Trump said in an interview with Hill.TV, in which he also said the former senator from Alabama came off as ‘mixed up and confused’ when he appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee in January 2017. Trump has long been publicly critical of Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and said that he has regretted nominating him to lead the Justice Department.” Trump Attacks Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the F.B.I., Citing Conspiracy Theories, The New York Times, Michael D. Shear and Eileen Sullivan, Wednesday, 19 September 2018: “President Trump excoriated on Wednesday his attorney general, the F.B.I., the special counsel and members of the intelligence community — citing conspiracy theories by conservatives even as he declared in a wide-ranging interview that he is ‘not a conspiratorial person.’ Mr. Trump used the Oval Office interview with The Hill newspaper to unleash some of his most deeply felt grievances against his critics, saying that one of the ‘crowning achievements’ of his presidency will be exposing what he calls corruption among the people investigating his administration.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions limits U.S. immigration judges’ ability to dismiss deportation cases, Reuters, Kristina Cooke and Reade Levinson, Wednesday, 19 September 2018: “U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced new limits on the ability of immigration judges to terminate deportation cases on Wednesday, the latest in a series of decisions to facilitate the removal of immigrants in the country illegally. Unlike the federal judiciary system, U.S. immigration courts fall under the Department of Justice and the attorney general can rewrite opinions issued by the Board of Immigration Appeals.”

Timeline: The birth of the Russia investigation, The Washington Post, Philip Bump, Wednesday, 19 September 2018: “The White House’s announcement on Monday that it would call for the declassification of material related to the launch of the Russia investigation was widely and justifiably understood as the latest iteration of a long-standing goal of President Trump: undercutting the legitimacy of the investigation by casting doubt on the motives of those involved in its launch. Trump’s argument relies on the complexity of the interactions between central figures — FBI agent Peter Strzok, Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, former spy Christopher Steele, etc. — and the implication that their interactions are evidence of an anti-Trump conspiracy. Given how much more attention will probably be paid to these allegations as new material is declassified, we decided to outline what’s known about the genesis of the Russia investigation and about those actors in particular to serve as a guide to what’s known.”

The Trump administration’s bad plan to charge for free speech on the Mall in D.C.The Washington Post, Editorial Board, Wednesday, 19 September 2018: “The National Park Service has floated the idea of whether it should charge fees to groups that hold protests on the Mall. The reason cited by officials for this possible change is the cost to the federal government of providing security and other support for these events. But there would be a serious cost to our democracy if the government takes the unprecedented step of charging citizens for their rights to free speech and political protest. Officials should not give any more thought to this bad idea. The possibility of imposing a fee, or requiring cost reimbursements from protesters, is among 14 proposed revisions to regulations governing events held on federal land in the District that have raised considerable concerns among constitutional rights advocates, who see an effort by the Trump administration to stifle protest in the nation’s capital. Under existing rules, the Park Service already has the authority to charge fees for ‘special use permit’ events such as festivals or weddings, but not for activities related to speech or expression protected by the First Amendment.”


Thursday, 20 September 2018, Day 609:


Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her, won’t testify Monday, but she is open to doing so later next week, The Washington Post, Seung Min Kim, Josh Dawsey, and Emma Brown, Thursday, 20 September 2018 and updated on Friday, 21 September 2018: “An attorney for Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers, said Thursday that her appearing at a hearing on Monday to detail her claims is ‘not possible’ but that she could testify later in the week. Debra Katz, Ford’s lawyer, relayed the response to top staffers on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, requesting to set up a call with them to ‘discuss the conditions under which [Ford] would be prepared to testify next week. As you are aware, she’s been receiving death threats which have been reported to the FBI and she and her family have been forced out of their home,’ Katz wrote to the committee. ‘She wishes to testify, provided that we can agree on terms that are fair and which ensure her safety. A hearing on Monday is not possible and the committee’s insistence that it occur then is arbitrary in any event.’… Amid the maneuvering, the nomination was roiled further late Thursday by incendiary tweets from a prominent Kavanaugh friend and supporter who publicly identified another high school classmate of Kavanaugh’s as Ford’s possible attacker. Ed Whelan, a former clerk to the late justice Antonin Scalia and president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, pointed to floor plans, online photographs and other information to suggest a location for the house party in suburban Maryland that Ford described. He also named and posted photographs of the classmate he suggested could be responsible. Ford dismissed Whelan’s theory in a statement late Thursday: ‘I knew them both, and socialized with’ the other classmate, Ford said, adding that she had once visited him in the hospital. ‘There is zero chance that I would confuse them.’… On Friday morning, Whelan said he had made an ‘inexcusable mistake’ by identifying Kavanaugh’s classmate. ‘I made an appalling and inexcusable mistake of judgment in posting the tweet thread in a way that identified Kavanaugh’s Georgetown Prep classmate,’ he said on Twitter. ‘I take full responsibility for that mistake, and I deeply apologize for it. I realize that does not undo the mistake.’ Whelan has been involved in helping to advise Kavanaugh’s confirmation effort and is close friends with both Kavanaugh and Leonard Leo, the head of the Federalist Society who has been helping to spearhead the nomination. Kavanaugh and Whelan also worked together in the Bush administration. Kavanaugh and his allies have been privately discussing a defense that would not question whether an incident involving Ford happened, but instead would raise doubts that the attacker was Kavanaugh, according to a person familiar with the discussions.” See also, Christine Blasey Ford Opens Negotiations on Testimony Before the Senate Judiciary Committee Next Week, The New York Times, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Thursday, 20 September 2018. See also, What Did Brett Kavanaugh Know About His Mentor Alex Kozinski’s Sexual Harassment? A Timeline Suggests an Awful Lot. The Intercept, Akela Lacy, Thursday, 20 September 2018: “Kavanaugh … has a record of issuing categorical denials in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, such as his claim never to have exploited documents stolen from Senate Democrats. He has issued an equally categorical denial when it comes to having any knowledge about the behavior of his longtime friend and mentor, former 9th Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski. Kozinski resigned in December 2017 after articles in the Washington Post exposed years of sexual harassment. Though Kavanaugh claims to have been ‘gut-punched’ by the revelations of Kozinski’s behavior, the outlines of it have been public in various forms for decades…. Kozinski, according to the Washington Post, for years would sexually harass colleagues, force them to view pornography in his chambers, send it to them using federal servers, and lobby the court to stop monitoring internet activity in the judiciary…. Attorney Cyrus Sanai, who first blew the whistle on Kozinski and has long tangled publicly with the judge, said earlier this week that federal court employees had information to share with the Judiciary Committee about what Kavanaugh knew about Kozinski, and would share under the right conditions. Kavanaugh’s efforts to distance himself from Kozinski appear increasingly strained when lined up against a timeline of the pair’s professional lives.” See also, Brett Kavanaugh’s unlikely story about Democrats’ stolen documents, The Washington Post, Salvador Rizzo, Thursday, 20 September 2018. See also, Trump’s FBI attacks laid the groundwork for Republicans to reject probe of the sexual assault allegations made by Christine Blasey Ford against Brett Kavanaugh, The Washington Post, James Hohmann, Thursday, 20 September 2018.

Anita Hill’s Testimony and Other Key Moments From the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court Hearings in 1991, The New York Times, Julia Jacobs, Thursday, 20 September 2018: “The sexual assault accusation against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, has prompted unavoidable flashbacks to the confirmation process of Judge Clarence Thomas in 1991. During the televised hearings, which lasted three days, Anita F. Hill, who then taught at the University of Oklahoma’s law school, detailed allegations of workplace sexual harassment by Judge Thomas, who was her supervisor at two government agencies. And Judge Thomas forcefully denied the accusations, claiming they played into stereotypes of black men. The astonishing testimony aired Ms. Hill’s accounts of crude behavior and vulgar language, the likes of which had never before been discussed in the buttoned-up hearing rooms of the United States Senate. The Senate Judiciary Committee’s dismissive treatment of Ms. Hill by the all-male, all-white Senate Judiciary Committee empowered a wave of women to run for state and national office.”

After the Allegations of Sexual Assault Against Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Republicans Offer a Shocking Defense: Sexual Assault Isn’t a Big DealThe New Yorker, Jia Tolentino, Thursday, 20 September 2018: “Ever since professor Christine Blasey Ford revealed that she was the woman who had accused the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, in a previously confidential letter, the conservative attempt to protect Kavanaugh from her story has been, to put it mildly, forceful. Ford claims that, in the early nineteen-eighties, when they were both attending prestigious private high schools in suburban Maryland, Kavanaugh attempted to rape her at a party. Republicans have framed this story as a craven act of character assassination rather than an account worth investigating before Kavanaugh receives a lifetime appointment to make pivotal decisions about the future of the nation—including decisions about, for example, the options that will be available to women if they get pregnant after being raped…. [A] startling number of conservative figures have reacted as if they believe Ford, and have thus ended up in the peculiar position of defending the right of a Supreme Court Justice to have previously attempted to commit rape—a stance that at once faithfully corresponds to and defiantly refutes the current Zeitgeist. These defenders think that the seventeen-year-old Kavanaugh could easily, as Ford alleges, have gotten wasted at a party, pushed a younger girl into a bedroom, pinned her on a bed, and tried to pull off her clothes while covering her mouth to keep her from screaming. They think this, they say, because they know that plenty of men and boys do things like this. On these points, they are in perfect agreement with the women who have defined the #MeToo movement. And yet their conclusion is so diametrically opposed to the moral lessons of the past year that it seems almost deliberately petulant. We now mostly accept that lots of men have committed sexual assault, but one part of the country is saying, ‘Yes, this is precisely the problem,’ and the other part is saying, ‘Yes, that is why it would obviously be a non-issue to have one of these men on the Supreme Court.’… What’s surfacing in [many] comments is something that has, up until now, mostly been dodged, or left unspoken: that it has traditionally been accepted for men to sexually assault women, particularly at parties, particularly when they’re young. But the fact that this behavior has been tacitly understood as permissible does not mean that people—even while young, even while drunk at parties—have understood it to be O.K…. Kavanaugh’s defenders are putting plainly a previously euphemized message: white and wealthy teen-age boys have the right to engage in criminal sexual cruelty as long as they later get a good job, start a family, and ‘settle down.'”

The Plot to Subvert an Election, The New York Times, Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti, Thursday, 20 September 2018: “For two years, Americans have tried to absorb the details of the 2016 attack–hacked emails, social media fraud, suspected spies–and President Trump’s claims that it’s all a hoax. The Times explores what we know and what it means…. For many Americans, the Trump-Russia story as it has been voluminously reported over the past two years is a confusing tangle of unfamiliar names and cyberjargon, further obscured by the shout-fest of partisan politics. What Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel in charge of the investigation, may know or may yet discover is still uncertain. President Trump’s Twitter outbursts that it is all a ‘hoax’ and a ‘witch hunt,’ in the face of a mountain of evidence to the contrary, have taken a toll on public comprehension. But to travel back to 2016 and trace the major plotlines of the Russian attack is to underscore what we now know with certainty: The Russians carried out a landmark intervention that will be examined for decades to come. Acting on the personal animus of Mr. Putin, public and private instruments of Russian power moved with daring and skill to harness the currents of American politics. Well-connected Russians worked aggressively to recruit or influence people inside the Trump campaign.” See also, Collecting the Details of the Russia Investigation in One Place, The New York Times, Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane, Thursday, 20 September 2018. See also, A Timeline Showing the Full Scale of Russia’s Unprecedented Interference in the 2016 Election and Its Aftermath, The New York Times, Karen Yourish, Larry Buchanan, and Derek Watkins, Thursday, 20 September 2018.

Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer, spoke with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team for hours over the past month about Russia, possible collusion, and a pardon, ABC News, George Stephanopoulos, Eliana Larramendia, and James Hill, Thursday, 20 September 2018: “President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, has participated over the last month in multiple interview sessions lasting for hours with investigators from the office of special counsel, Robert Mueller, sources tell ABC News. The special counsel’s questioning of Cohen, one of the president’s closest associates over the past decade, has focused primarily on all aspects of Trump’s dealings with Russia — including financial and business dealings and the investigation into alleged collusion with Russia by the Trump campaign and its surrogates to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, sources familiar with the matter tell ABC News. Investigators were also interested in knowing, the sources say, whether Trump or any of his associates discussed the possibility of a pardon with Cohen.” See also, Michael Cohen, Trump’s Former Personal Lawyer, Has Spoken Repeatedly With Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Prosecutors in the Past Month, The New York Times, Maggie Haberman, Sharon LaFraniere, and Matthew Rosenberg, Thursday, 20 September 2018: “The interviews, first reported by ABC News, are a further indication of the progress by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, in gathering firsthand accounts from some of the president’s closest advisers both before he ran for president and during the campaign. Last week, Paul Manafort, the president’s former campaign chairman, agreed to cooperate with Mr. Mueller’s inquiry as part of a plea agreement to reduce criminal charges stemming from his political consulting work in Ukraine.”

Trump Loosens Secretive Restraints on Ordering Cyberattacks, The New York Times, David E. Sanger, Thursday, 20 September 2018: “President Trump has authorized new, classified orders for the Pentagon’s cyberwarriors to conduct offensive attacks against adversaries more freely and frequently, the White House said on Thursday, wiping away Obama-era restrictions that his advisers viewed as too slow and cumbersome. ‘Our hands are not as tied as they were in the Obama administration,’ John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, told reporters in announcing a new cyberstrategy. Mr. Bolton rewrote a draft of the strategy after joining the administration in April. Many of his remarks on Thursday focused on a secret order — which Mr. Trump signed in August but which has never been publicly described — that appears to give far more latitude for the newly elevated United States Cyber Command to act with minimal consultation from a number of other government agencies. The order essentially delegates more power to Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, who took over this year as the director of the National Security Agency and the commander of United States Cyber Command. During his Senate confirmation hearing in March, General Nakasone complained that America’s online adversaries attacked with little concern about retaliation.”

On Hurricane Maria Anniversary, Puerto Rico Is Still in Ruins, The New York Times, Frances Robles and Jugal K. Patel, Thursday, 20 September 2018: “A year ago, on Sept. 20, the deadliest storm to hit Puerto Rico in over 100 years slammed into the island’s southeast coast … in Punta Santiago. The tourist and fishing town of 5,000 people bore a terrible share of Maria’s initial fury. Almost 650 houses flooded with water from the sea; others were inundated by an overflowing lake, a river, and two ponds — and also raw sewage. Many homes lost walls and roofs in winds that reached 155 miles per hour when the storm made landfall…. Times journalists visited 163 homes in two neighborhoods in Punta Santiago to cover what progress had been made in the last 12 months. They found a community with signs of fresh paint and, in some of the middle-class parts of town, rebuilt rooms and new furniture. But in neighborhoods where residents live on meager pensions and disability checks, there were gutted kitchens and electrical wires running randomly along unfinished walls. Roofs were covered with plywood or plastic, many near collapse. Some houses still had no running water. A number of families lived in single rooms in unfurnished houses, sleeping on the floor…. [T]he record in Punta Santiago and elsewhere shows that the federal government failed to take into account the poverty that plagued the island even before the storm. Unlike survivors of hurricanes along the Atlantic Seaboard or the Texas Gulf Coast, many Puerto Ricans were not able to take FEMA’s small assistance grants and couple them with their own resources to make their homes habitable again — they had no savings or credit to fall back on. Up to a third of all Puerto Ricans do not have bank accounts. Only 15 percent of those who applied for FEMA help had homeowner’s insurance, and 3 percent had flood insurance. The result is that hundreds of thousands of people across the island are still living in homes in desperate need of repair.”