Trump Administration, Week 98: Friday, 30 November – Thursday, 6 December 2018 (Days 680-686)

Pittsfield, MA, 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, 30 November 2018, Day 680:


House Democratic leaders unveiled political reform legislation as ‘H.R. 1,’ The Washington Post, Mike DeBonis, Friday, 30 November 2018: “House Democratic leaders on Friday unveiled the outline of a broad political overhaul bill that will include provisions for public financing of elections, voting rights reforms and new ethics strictures for federal officials. The bill has been in the works for months as part of Democrats’ ‘For the People’ campaign platform, a framework that helped them win the House majority in this month’s midterm elections. Numerous outside groups aligned with Democrats have pushed the party’s House leaders to schedule a reform bill as their first order of business, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced before the election that the bill would be designated ‘H.R. 1’ — a symbolic title meant to emphasize its importance, even if it is unlikely to be the first piece of legislation to get a House vote in the new Congress…. Elements of the legislation include new donor disclosure requirements for political organizations, a system to multiply small donations to political campaigns, a mandatory new ethical code for the Supreme Court, an end to most first-class travel for federal officeholders, and a broad effort to expand voting access and reduce partisan gerrymandering.” See also, House Democrats unveil their first bill in the majority: a sweeping anti-corruption proposalVox, Ella Nilsen, Friday, 30 November 2018: “House Democrats unveiled details of their first bill in the new Congress on Friday — a sweeping anti-corruption bill aimed at stamping out the influence of money in politics and expanding voting rights. This is House Resolution 1 — the first thing House Democrats will tackle after the speaker’s vote in early January. To be clear, this legislation has little-to-no chance of passing the Republican-controlled Senate or being signed by President Donald Trump. But by making anti-corruption their No. 1 priority, House Democrats are throwing down the gauntlet for Republicans. A vast majority of Americans want to get the influence of money out of politics, and want Congress to pass laws to do so, according to a 2018 Pew Research survey. Given Trump’s multitude of scandals, it looks bad for Republicans to be the party opposing campaign finance reform — especially going into 2020.”

Special Counsel Robert Mueller Bores Into Trump Adviser Roger Stone’s Ties to WikiLeaksThe Wall Street Journal, Shelby Holliday and Rebecca Ballhaus, Friday, 30 November 2018: “Recent court documents provide the clearest indication yet that special counsel Robert Mueller is zeroing in on the ties between WikiLeaks and Roger Stone, a former Trump campaign adviser whose relationship with the president dates back nearly four decades. According to the documents and more than a half-dozen people who have testified in the probe, Mr. Mueller’s office in recent months has focused on Mr. Stone’s role as a potential conduit between the Trump presidential campaign and WikiLeaks, which during the 2016 election published thousands of emails related to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton that U.S. intelligence agencies have determined were stolen by Russian hackers. Prosecutors have evidence that Mr. Stone may have had advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plans to publish those emails, according to the documents, which also suggest Mr. Mueller’s team continues to investigate possible witness intimidation by Mr. Stone.” See also, Special Counsel Robert Mueller and His Prosecutors: Who They Are and What They’ve DoneThe New York Times, Noah Weiland, Emily Cochrane, and Troy Griggs, Friday, 30 November 2018. See also, The lies that special counsel Robert Mueller has already documentedThe Washington Post, Philip Bump, Friday, 30 November 2018. See also, Senate Intelligence Committee has referred cases of suspected lying to special counsel Robert MuellerThe Washington Post, Ellen Nakashima and Shane Harris, Friday, 30 November 2018: “The Senate Intelligence Committee has referred cases to the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election after witnesses questioned in the panel’s own Russia probe were suspected of lying, the committee chairman said Friday. ‘We have made referrals from our committee to the special counsel for prosecution,’ Chairman Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said at a national security conference in Austin. ‘In a lot of those cases, those might be tied to lying to us.'” See also, As Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Investigation Heats Up, Donald Trump’s Lies Are Giving Way to the TruthThe Intercept, James Risen, Friday, 30 November 2018: “Special Counsel Robert Mueller is closing in on Donald Trump, and as one shoe after another drops in the Trump-Russia investigation, the pressure sometimes prompts the president to inadvertently blurt out the truth. Or at least as close to the truth as a serial liar like Trump can get. On Thursday, Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer, pleaded guilty in federal court to lying to Congress about a deal to build a Trump-branded skyscraper in Moscow. Most notably, he admitted that he had misled lawmakers when he told them that discussions about the project had ended by January 2016 when, in fact, the project was still under active consideration by Trump and his business organization just as the Republican Party was about to nominate Trump as its presidential candidate in the summer of 2016.”

Trump administration approves seismic tests that could harm thousands of Atlantic dolphins and whalesThe Washington Post, Darryl Fears, Friday, 30 November 2018: “The Trump administration is preparing to take an important step toward future oil and natural gas drilling off the Atlantic shore, approving five requests from companies to conduct deafening seismic tests that could kill tens of thousands of dolphins, whales and other marine animals. The planned Friday announcement by the National Marine Fisheries Service, a division of the Commerce Department, to issue “incidental take” permits allowing companies to harm wildlife is likely to further antagonize a dozen governors in states along the Eastern Seaboard who strongly oppose the administration’s proposal to expand federal oil and gas leases to the Atlantic. Federal leases could lead to exploratory drilling for the first time in more than a half-century. In addition to harming sea life, acoustic tests — in which boats tugging rods pressurized for sound emit jet engine-like booms 10 to 12 seconds apart for days and sometimes months — can disrupt thriving commercial fisheries. Governors, state lawmakers and attorneys general along the Atlantic coast say drilling threatens beach tourism that has flourished on the coast in the absence of oil production.”

Continue reading Week 98, Friday, 30 November – Thursday, 6 December 2018 (Days 680-686)

Trump administration seeks to block legal briefs from Democrats in Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments caseThe Washington Post, Dino Grandoni, Friday, 30 November 2018: “The Justice Department attempted to block Democratic members of Congress and other groups from weighing in on a lawsuit concerning one of President Trump’s most controversial conservation decisions so far. More than 100 Democrats from both chambers filed a legal brief in support of environmental and tribal groups suing the Trump administration for trying to shrink the size of two protected areas in Utah called Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. Almost immediately after Trump announced the decision late last year, various groups filed lawsuits claiming Trump lacked the legal authority to reduce the size of national monuments. But in an unusual if not unprecedented legal maneuver, a Justice Department lawyer submitted a motion on Tuesday to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia asking it to ‘exercise its discretion to deny’ the so-called amicus briefs from the congressional delegation and other groups. Amici curiae, or friend-of-the-court briefs, are arguments filed by individuals or organizations not formally involved in a case but that nevertheless believe they have a strong interest in its outcome.”

The Trump Administration Has Listed Fewer Species as Threatened or Endangered Than Any President Since Ronald ReaganBloomberg Environment, Friday, 30 November 2018: “The Trump administration has listed fewer species as threatened or endangered in its first 22 months than any other president since Ronald Reagan over the same period, according to data reviewed by Bloomberg Environment. The candy darter, a small freshwater fish native to West Virginia, on Nov. 21 became the 15th domestic species listed by the Trump team as either threatened or endangered. The Clinton administration listed 166 new species as endangered during the same 22-month time period at the start of his first term; the Obama administration listed 56. Among Republican presidents, George H. W. Bush listed 70 species, and George W. Bush 22 in the same period, while Ronald Reagan had listed 12 by the midterms. Reagan’s predecessor, Democrat Jimmy Carter, had listed 61.”

Trump Signs New Trade Deal With Canada and Mexico After Bitter NegotiationsThe New York Times, Peter Baker, Friday, 30 November 2018: “President Trump and his Mexican and Canadian counterparts sought to put the acrimony of the past two years behind them on Friday as they signed a new agreement governing hundreds of billions of dollars in trade among the neighbors that underpins their economies. Meeting for the first time since the revised North American Free Trade Agreement was sealed, Mr. Trump, President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hailed the results as a boon for workers, businesses and the environment, even as they alluded to the harsh talks that had preceded this day.”

Department of Homeland Security asks the Pentagon to extend the military’s Mexico border deployment through at least JanuaryThe Washington Post, Nick Miroff, Friday, 30 November 2018: “The Department of Homeland Security asked the Pentagon on Friday for a 45-day extension of the U.S. military presence at the Mexico border, a request that would stretch the deployment until at least the end of January. The Defense Department is expected to agree to the extension in the coming days, well ahead of the mission’s current expiration date, which is Dec. 15. Pentagon officials have said some of the 6,000 active-duty personnel stationed along the border in Texas, Arizona and California would be brought home and replaced by other units.” See also, Homeland Security Department Request Would Keep Troops on Mexico Border Through JanuaryThe New York Times, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Friday, 30 November 2018.

Matthew Whitaker’s Ascent at the Justice Department Surprised Federal Trade Commission Lawyers Who Were Investigating World Patent Marketing, a Firm Accused of Defrauding Thousands of Customers. Mr. Whitaker Sat On Its Advisory Board. The New York Times, Charlie Savage, Adam Goldman, and Katie Benner, Friday, 30 November 2018: “As Federal Trade Commission lawyers investigated a Miami company accused of defrauding thousands of customers last year, they were stunned to learn about a new job for a figure in their inquiry, Matthew G. Whitaker: He had been named chief of staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.’You’re not going to believe this… Matt Whitaker is now chief of staff to the Attorney General. Of the United States,’ James Evans, an F.T.C. lawyer, wrote to colleagues in an email on Oct. 24, 2017. The emails were part of a trove of files the trade commission made public on Friday in response to Freedom of Information Act requests for documents about its investigation into the company, World Patent Marketing. Mr. Whitaker sat on its advisory board.” See also, Matthew Whitaker fielded early fraud complaints from customers at World Patent Marketing even as he championed it, records showThe Washington Post, Carol D. Leonnig, Rosalind S. Helderman, and Tom Hamburger, Friday, 30 November 2018: “Months after joining the advisory board of a Miami-based patent company in 2014, Matthew G. Whitaker began fielding angry complaints from customers that they were being defrauded, including from a client who showed up at his Iowa office to appeal to him personally for help, records show. Yet Whitaker, now the acting attorney general, remained an active champion of World Patent Marketing for three years — even expressing willingness to star in national television ads promoting the firm, the records show. Internal Federal Trade Commission documents released Friday in response to a public records request reveal the extent of Whitaker’s support for World Patent Marketing, even amid a barrage of warnings about the company’s behavior.” See also, Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker Was Alerted to a Series of Customer Complaints About World Patent Marketing, a Miami Company Where He Was on the Advisory BoardBloomberg, Greg Farrell, Andrew Martin, and David Voreacos, Friday, 30 November 2018. 

Matthew Whitaker, Trump’s acting attorney general, once referred to Trump’s behavior as ‘a little dangerous’ and ‘a little outlandish,’ The Washington Post, Aaron C. Davis and Ilana Marcus, Friday, 30 November 2018: “A review of hundreds of public comments by acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker shows that while he has primarily functioned as a defender of President Trump, he has also criticized the president on numerous occasions, sometimes harshly, while working as a commentator on radio and television. Whitaker has repeatedly suggested that Trump plays with the truth. He has said Trump should release his tax returns and was ‘self-serving’ in the way he fired FBI director James B. Comey. Whitaker said during the run-up to the 2016 election that neither Trump nor Hillary Clinton were very good options for the presidency. ‘I mean, both these candidates are unlikable,’ he said…. But a Washington Post review of his body of candid and disapproving comments stand out in an administration that demands strict loyalty, with televised Cabinet meetings in which aides take turn glorifying Trump. Whitaker’s assessments were more cutting than anything uttered publicly by former attorney general Jeff Sessions, whom Trump chased from the job after repeatedly criticizing Sessions for recusing himself from oversight of the special counsel investigation.”

Elliott Broidy, a Onetime Top Fund-Raiser to Trump, Received Laundered Foreign Money, Prosecutors SayThe New York Times, Kenneth P. Vogel, Friday, 30 November 2018: “Federal prosecutors cited the involvement of a onetime top fund-raiser to President Trump on Friday in a scheme to launder millions of dollars into the country to help a flamboyant Malaysian financier end a Justice Department investigation. Elliott Broidy, a Los Angeles-based businessman who was a finance vice chairman of Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign and inauguration committees, was paid to lobby the Trump administration to try to end an investigation related to the embezzlement of billions of dollars from a Malaysian state-owned fund, according to court filings made public on Friday.”

Six White House officials reprimanded for violating the Hatch ActThe Washington Post, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Friday, 30 November 2018: “Six White House officials violated a federal law that prohibits public employees from conducting political activity in their official roles when they used their official Twitter accounts to send or display political messages supporting President Trump, according to the federal agency that enforces the law. The six employees — which included members of the press office — deleted their social media posts once they were told they had violated the Hatch Act, the Office of Special Counsel said Friday. As a result, federal investigators issued warning letters rather than taking disciplinary action and advised that similar social media activity in the future will be considered willful violations of the law that could result in further action, according to Erica S. Hamrick, deputy chief of the Hatch Act unit.”


Saturday, 1 December 2018, Day 681:


CIA Intercepts Underpin Assessment That Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Targeted Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi for KillingThe Wall Street Journal, Warren P. Strobel, Saturday, 1 December 2018: “Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent at least 11 messages to his closest adviser, who oversaw the team that killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi, in the hours before and after the journalist’s death in October, according to a highly classified CIA assessment. The Saudi leader also in August 2017 had told associates that if his efforts to persuade Mr. Khashoggi to return to Saudi Arabia weren’t successful, ‘we could possibly lure him outside Saudi Arabia and make arrangements,’ according to the assessment, a communication that it states ‘seems to foreshadow the Saudi operation launched against Khashoggi.’ Mr. Khashoggi, a critic of the kingdom’s leadership who lived in Virginia and wrote columns for the Washington Post, was killed by Saudi operatives on Oct. 2 shortly after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where he sought papers needed to marry his Turkish fiancée.” See also, Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman exchanged messages with aide alleged to have overseen the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, The Washington Post, Shane Harris and Souad Mekhennet, published on Sunday, 2 December 2018: “In the hours before and after journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and a senior aide who allegedly oversaw the assassination exchanged multiple messages, according to people familiar with the matter. The communications between the two men are another piece of evidence tying the crown prince to the killing of Khashoggi, a former palace insider turned prominent critic, who also was a contributing columnist to The Washington Post. The CIA included the existence of the messages in its classified assessment that Mohammed is likely to have ordered Khashoggi’s death, a view that agency officials have shared with members of Congress and the White House. Mohammed exchanged the messages on Oct. 2 with Saud al-Qahtani, one of his closest aides and a fierce public supporter who has kept a blacklist of those he deems disloyal to the kingdom. The content of the messages, and what form the messages took, was not known, according to people familiar with the matter. Citing portions of the CIA’s written assessment, the Wall Street Journal first reported on Saturday that Mohammed had sent at least 11 messages to Qahtani before and after the killing.  The CIA has rated its assessment that Mohammed was involved in the killing at ‘medium-to-high confidence,’ and privately, officials have said it is inconceivable that the prince, who exercises total authority over the government, could not have known about such an audacious operation. The Post had previously described officials as saying that the CIA had high confidence in its assessment.” See also, Intercepts Solidify C.I.A. Assessment That Saudi Prince Ordered Killing of Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi, The New York Times, Julian E. Barnes and Eric Schmitt, published on Sunday, 2 December 2018: “The C.I.A. has evidence that Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince, communicated repeatedly with a key aide around the time that a team believed to have been under the aide’s command assassinated Jamal Khashoggi, according to former officials familiar with the intelligence. The adviser, Saud al-Qahtani, topped the list of Saudis who were targeted by American sanctions last month over their suspected involvement in the killing of Mr. Khashoggi. American intelligence agencies have evidence that Prince Salman and Mr. Qahtani had 11 exchanges that roughly coincided with the hit team’s advance into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, where Mr. Khashoggi was murdered. The exchanges are a key piece of information that helped solidify the C.I.A.’s assessment that the crown prince ordered the killing of Mr. Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and Virginia resident who had been critical of the Saudi government…. The existence of the intercepts was first reported by The Wall Street Journal, which reviewed a highly classified document on the C.I.A. assessment of Mr. Khashoggi’s killing. The leak of the secret report, according to officials, infuriated Gina Haspel, the C.I.A. director. It has also intensified calls by members of Congress to have Ms. Haspel go to Capitol Hill to brief them.”

Special Counsel Robert Mueller Exposes the Culture of Lying That Surrounds Trump, The New York Times, Sharon LaFraniere, Saturday, 1 December 2018: “When Michael D. Cohen admitted this past week to lying to Congress about a Russian business deal, he said he had testified falsely out of loyalty to President Trump. When he admitted this summer to lying on campaign finance records about payments to cover up a sex scandal during the campaign, he said it was at Mr. Trump’s direction. Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, former senior Trump campaign officials, lied to cover up financial fraud. George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign aide, lied in hopes of landing an administration job. And Michael T. Flynn, another adviser, lied about his interactions with a Russian official and about other matters for reasons that remain unclear. If the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has proved anything in his 18-month-long investigation — besides how intensely Russia meddled in an American presidential election — it is that Mr. Trump surrounded himself throughout 2016 and early 2017 with people to whom lying seemed to be second nature.” See also, Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation has produced a rogues’ gallery of liars, The Washington Post, Dan Balz, Saturday, 1 December 2018: “As special counsel Robert S. Mueller III moves toward the summation of his investigation — and whatever his eventual report produces — there is no escaping the sleaze factor that existed around President Trump before and during his campaign for the White House in 2016.”

Trump Administration Peppers Inboxes With Plugs for Private Medicare Plans, The New York Times, Robert Pear, Saturday, 1 December 2018: “Older Americans have been flocking to Medicare’s private plans, which promise predictable costs and extra benefits. But the private Medicare Advantage plans have also been getting an unpublicized boost from the Trump administration, which has in the last few weeks extolled the virtues of the private plans in emails sent to millions of beneficiaries. Medicare’s annual open enrollment period closes on Friday. Administration officials predict that almost 37 percent of the 60 million Medicare beneficiaries will be in Medicare Advantage plans next year, up from 28 percent five years ago. The officials deny that they are steering patients to private plans, but the subject lines of recent emails read almost like advertisements. ‘Get more benefits for your money,’ says a message dated Oct. 25. ‘See if you can save money with Medicare Advantage,’ said another sent a week later.”

U.S. and China Call Truce in Trade War, The New York Times, Mark Landler, Saturday, 1 December 2018: “The United States and China called a truce in their trade war on Saturday after President Trump agreed to hold off on new tariffs and President Xi Jinping pledged to increase Chinese purchases of American products. The two also set the stage for more painstaking negotiations to resolve deeply rooted differences over trade. The compromise, struck over a steak dinner at the Group of 20 meeting here and announced in a White House statement, was less a breakthrough than a breakdown averted. The two leaders remain far apart on basic issues of market access and trade policy, and there was no sign that either planned to back down on those.”


Sunday, 2 December 2018, Day 682:


Allegations of Republican Election Fraud Shake North Carolina’s Ninth DistrictThe New Yorker, Doug Bock Clark, Sunday, 2 December 2018: “In October, during the final stretch of the congressional election in North Carolina’s Ninth District—one of the most tightly contested House races in the nation—Datesha Montgomery opened her door, in Bladen County, to find a young woman who explained that she was collecting absentee ballots. ‘I filled out two names on the ballot—Hakeem Brown for Sheriff and Vince Rozier for board of education,’ Montgomery wrote in an affidavit. Under North Carolina law, only voters themselves are allowed to handle or turn in their ballots, but the woman at Montgomery’s door ‘stated the [other races] were not important.’ Montgomery added, ‘I gave her the ballot and she said she would finish it herself. I signed the ballot and she left. It was not sealed up at any time.’ Earlier this week, Montgomery’s complaint, along with four other sworn statements, and a sixth which was not notarized, were submitted to the North Carolina election board by a lawyer for the state’s Democratic Party. These affidavits, which were first reported by the Charlotte TV station WSOC, contain the following allegations: a woman going door to door saying ‘she was assigned to the district to collect absentee ballots’; one instance of an unrequested absentee ballot arriving at a voter’s house; ‘improper’ election monitoring at a polling site; unusual ‘coding’ on absentee ballots; and two men separately saying that they overheard people talking about payments to a local political operative working for the Republican candidate, Mark Harris. As of now, these anecdotes are, of course, purely allegations. But state officials have begun to explore whether these testimonies could help explain statistical irregularities in the absentee-vote count for the Ninth District, which had previously been called for Harris over his Democratic opponent, Dan McCready, by a margin of nine hundred and five votes (out of around two hundred and eighty thousand cast).”

Trump Says He Plans to Withdraw From Nafta, The New York Times, Glenn Thrush, Sunday, 2 December 2018: “President Trump announced his intention late Saturday to quickly withdraw the United States from the North American Free Trade Agreement, a move intended to force House Democrats to enact a revised version of the pact despite concerns that it fails to protect American workers. ‘I will be formally terminating Nafta shortly,’ Mr. Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One en route from the Group of 20 conference in Buenos Aires, a day after appearing at a ceremonial signing of the new deal with Canada and Mexico. If the president follows through on his threat, congressional leaders will have six months to pass the measure. The agreement has been losing support in recent days as Democratic lawmakers, ready to take control of the House in January, reckon with fallout from the announcement last week that General Motors was planning to idle five plants in North America. If no deal can be reached, both versions of the treaty would be void, which would result in far more restrictive trade that could have a severe impact on industry and agriculture in all three nations, economists have warned.”

‘Just a lot of alarmism’: Trump’s skepticism of climate science is echoed across the Republican party, The Washington Post, Matt Viser, Sunday, 2 December 2018: “Sen.-elect Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee said falsely in the lead-up to her campaign that the Earth has started to cool, and argued inaccurately that scientists have not reached a consensus on climate change. In Florida, which has been pummeled by hurricanes, Sen.-elect Rick Scott has acknowledged rising and warmer seas could be harmful to his state but won’t attribute it to human activity. And Sen. John Neely Kennedy, who is expected to announce Monday whether he will run for Louisiana governor, told reporters last week that while the Earth may be getting hotter, ‘I’ve seen many persuasive arguments that it’s just a continuation of the warming up from the Little Ice Age.’ As President Trump’s rejection of climate science isolates the United States on the world stage, illustrated by the small U.S. delegation dispatched to this week’s United Nations climate summit in Poland, he has also presided over a transformation in the Republican Party — placing climate change skepticism squarely in the GOP’s ideological mainstream. Where the last Republican president, George W. Bush, acknowledged that the Earth was warming and that ‘an increase in greenhouse gases caused by humans is contributing to the problem,’ the prevailing GOP view expressed on the campaign trail this year and espoused by many members of Congress is built on the false premise that climate science is an open question.”

James Comey, Former Director of the F.B.I., Reaches Agreement With Republicans to Testify Behind Closed Doors Before the House Judiciary and House Oversight CommitteesThe New York Times, Sandra E. Gracia, Sunday, 2 December 2018: “The former director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey, has reached an agreement with Republican lawmakers to testify behind closed doors about investigations into Hillary Clinton’s email server and whether President Trump’s campaign advisers colluded with the Russian government to steer the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. Republican lawmakers agreed to release a transcript of his testimony in 24 hours and to allow Mr. Comey to speak about the meeting publicly, he said on Twitter…. Mr. Comey had been subpoenaed to testify privately on Monday before the House Judiciary and House Oversight Committees. He asked a federal judge to quash the subpoena and allow him to testify publicly.”

In Democrats’ First Bill, There’s a Quiet Push to Make Public Campaign Finance a RealityThe Intercept, Akela Lacy, Sunday, 2 December 2018: “The first bill Democrats plan to move in January when they take control of the House will mark a major step forward on a longstanding progressive goal: public financing of congressional campaigns. The provision is a largely overlooked part of a sweeping anti-corruption bill Democrats plan to start the year with and will be bestowed with the symbolic designation of HR1. The program, based on Maryland Rep. John Sarbanes’s ‘Government By the People Act of 2017,’ would offer subsidies for individuals who want to make small contributions to political candidates. And eligible candidates would qualify for matching contributions that vary based on a candidate’s agreement to restrictions on how they finance their campaigns. Combined with the broad surge of small-dollar contributions — Democrats alone raised more than $1 billion that way in 2018 — the public financing system would dramatically reshape the political economy of federal politics. Of course, it stands no chance of being passed by a Senate controlled by Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, but it sets the stage for potential passage in 2021 if Democrats retake control of Congress and the White House.”


Monday, 3 December 2018, Day 683:


Trump says his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, deserves a ‘full and complete’ sentence. He also praised his longtime associate Roger Stone. The Washington Post, John Wagner and Matt Zapotosky, Monday, 3 December 2018: “President Trump called Monday for his former attorney Michael Cohen to serve a ‘full and complete’ sentence, weighing in on the fate of a onetime loyalist who is arguing that he does not deserve prison time for the criminal charges to which he has pleaded guilty. ‘You mean he can do all of the TERRIBLE, unrelated to Trump, things having to do with fraud, big loans, Taxis, etc., and not serve a long prison term?’ Trump said in morning tweets. ‘He makes up stories to get a GREAT & ALREADY reduced deal for himself. . . . He lied for this outcome and should, in my opinion, serve a full and complete sentence.’… In another tweet Monday, Trump praised another longtime associate, Roger Stone, who also has drawn Mueller’s scrutiny, for having said he would never testify against Trump. ‘This statement was recently made by Roger Stone, essentially stating that he will not be forced by a rogue and out of control prosecutor to make up lies and stories about President Trump,’ Trump wrote. ‘Nice to know that some people still have guts!’ The tweet about Stone drew immediate criticism from several lawyers, who said it amounted to witness tampering. Among those who chided Trump was George Conway, the husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and a frequent Trump critic. On Twitter, he referenced Trump’s tweet and wrote: ‘File under 18 U.S.C. §§ 1503, 1512,’ citing sections of the federal code that deal with obstruction of justice and witness tampering.” See also, Trump Urges Maximum Sentence for Michael Cohen, Lawyer Who Implicated HimThe New York Times, Maggie Haberman, Monday, 3 December 2018: “President Trump used his Twitter feed on Monday to accuse his former personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, of lying under oath and said he should receive the maximum jail sentence as he praised another former adviser, Roger J. Stone Jr., for saying he would never testify against the president. Mr. Trump’s latest Twitter fusillade came after Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the duration of his work for the Trump Organization on a proposed, but never completed, Trump Tower project in Moscow.” See also, Trump’s latest tweets cross clear lines, experts say: Obstruction of justice and witness tamperingThe Washington Post, Deanna Paul, Monday, 3 December 2018: “President Trump took to Twitter Monday morning, haranguing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and witnesses to his ongoing Russia investigation. His tweets have become a common morning occurrence, particularly in recent weeks. But legal experts are calling Monday’s missives a newsworthy development that amounts to evidence of obstructing justice.”

Trump’s misleading statements about contact between his staff and Russia: A timelineThe Washington Post, Meg Kelly, Monday, 3 December 2018: “We’ve previously outlined the connections between members of Trump’s campaign and Russia. But [Michael] Cohen was technically not part of the campaign, even though he was a close adviser. Because the president’s business and political worlds are intertwined, as a reader service, the Fact Checker compiled a timeline of what happened, what the president knew and what he said publicly about contact between his staff and Russia.”

CIA Director Gina Haspel to Brief Senators Tuesday on the Killing of Saudi Journalist Jamal KhashoggiThe Wall Street Journal, Warren P. Strobel and Nancy A. Youssef, Monday, 3 December 2018: “Central Intelligence Agency Director Gina Haspel will brief Senate leaders Tuesday morning on what the spy agency knows about Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s death at the hands of Saudi operatives, people familiar with the matter said. Ms. Haspel’s planned briefing follows criticism that the Trump administration received from several lawmakers last week after she failed to join an earlier briefing on Saudi policy conducted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.” See also, CIA Director Gina Haspel to brief key senators behind closed doors about the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal KhashoggiThe Washington Post, Mitch Smith and Monica Davey, Monday, 3 December 2018: “CIA Director Gina Haspel on Tuesday will brief a key group of senators behind closed doors on the details of the agency’s assessment that the Saudi crown prince probably ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, just days before the Senate is expected to begin debating a resolution to withdraw support for the Saudi military campaign in Yemen. The briefing will be just for Senate leaders and the heads of national security committees seen as having an interest in Saudi policy regarding Yemen and the intelligence surrounding Khashoggi’s killing, according to multiple people familiar with plans. Bipartisan leaders from the Foreign Relations Committee, the Armed Services Committee, the Intelligence Committee and the Appropriations subcommittees that fund the State and Defense departments are expected to be included. The plan for the briefing was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.”

Barbara Lee Named to Key Leadership Position That Could Help Progressives Build Power in the House of RepresentativesThe Intercept, David Dayen, Monday, 3 December 2018: “Barbara Lee suffered a narrow loss to Hakeem Jeffries in the leadership race for Democratic Caucus chair last week, but the campaign to get her elected bore fruit regardless. Late last Friday, Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi made room for Lee on a key committee [Democratic Steering and Policy Committee] that has a primary role in building progressive power in the House.”

Stung by Election Losses, Republicans in Some States Seek a Way to Neutralize DemocratsThe New York Times, Mitch Smith and Monica Davey, Monday, 3 December 2018: “Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin were stung by one of the major defeats in the recent midterm elections after they saw their veteran governor ousted by a Democrat. This week, they struck back with a bold plan to slash the power of the new governor even before he takes the oath of office. Democrats reacted with fury, crowding the halls of the State Capitol in Madison on Monday and accusing the Republicans of trying to undo an election they had lost. It was only the latest such Republican effort across the country to try to use legislative action to counter blows the party suffered at the polls. For Wisconsin, a state that both parties will urgently vie to win in 2020 elections, it was one more sign of the ferocious partisan split that has rippled through the state in recent years.” See also, Republicans in Wisconsin and Michigan, defeated in November, seek payback by limiting the powers of incoming DemocratsThe Washington Post, Dan Simmons and Felicia Sonmez, Monday, 3 December 2018: “After being defeated at the ballot box last month, Republicans in Wisconsin and Michigan are seeking to deny Democrats full control of state government, prompting a public outcry against the attempted power grab by national figures who include potential 2020 candidates Tom Steyer and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).”

North Carolina’s Election Turmoil: What We Know and Don’t KnowThe New York Times, Maggie Astor, Monday, 3 December 2018: “A congressional race in North Carolina that seemed to be settled on election night was reopened last week amid allegations of absentee ballot fraud. The Republican candidate, Mark Harris, has a 905-vote lead over the Democrat, Dan McCready. [This article covers some of] what we know, and what we don’t know.” See also, North Carolina election-fraud investigation centers on Leslie McCrae Dowless, a local operative with a criminal history, who worked for Republican congressional candidate Mark HarrisThe Washington Post, Amy Gardner and Kirk Ross, Monday, 3 December 2018: “In a low-slung, aging commercial strip across the street from an online-gaming parlor [in Dublin, N.C.], a local operative named Leslie McCrae Dowless ran his command center for Republican Mark Harris in the 9th Congressional District primary this spring. Dowless sat at a desk at the back of one of the strip’s vacant storefronts, where he oversaw a crew of workers who collected absentee ballots from voters and updated the Harris campaign on the numbers, according to Jeff Smith, who is the building’s owner and a former Dowless friend. Smith provided his account about the primary campaign to state investigators, who are examining whether Dowless’s activities then and in the general election violated North Carolina’s election laws, which allow only individual voters or designated close relatives to mail a ballot. Dowless is now at the center of a burgeoning fraud investigation that has delayed the certification of Harris’s narrow victory and could prompt officials to call for a new election between him and Democrat Dan McCready, who are separated by 905 votes, according to unofficial returns.” See also, Disputed North Carolina Election Result May Hinge on L. McCrae Dowless Jr., a Shadowy Local OperativeThe New York Times, Alan Blinder, published on Tuesday, 4 December 2018.

George H. W. Bush Made Willie Horton an Issue in 1988, and the Racial Scars Are Still FreshThe New York Times, Peter Baker, Monday, 3 December 2018: “The tributes to former President George Bush in recent days have focused on his essential decency and civility, and his embrace of others, including even his onetime opponents. But the ‘last gentleman,’ as he has been called, was not always so gentle. Mr. Bush’s successful campaign for the presidency in 1988 was marked in part by the racially charged politics of crime that continues to reverberate to this day. The Willie Horton episode and the political advertising that came to epitomize it remain among the most controversial chapters in modern politics, a precursor to campaigns to come and a decisive force that influenced criminal justice policy for decades. Mr. Horton was an African-American prisoner in Massachusetts who, while released on a furlough program, raped a white Maryland woman and bound and stabbed her boyfriend. Mr. Bush’s campaign and supporters cited the case as evidence that his Democratic opponent, Gov. Michael S. Dukakis of Massachusetts, was insufficiently tough on crime. To many African-American people, the scars from that campaign attack remain fresh. Whatever Mr. Bush’s intentions, they said, the campaign encouraged more race-based politics and put Democrats on the defensive, forcing them to prove themselves on crime at the expense of a generation of African-American men and women who were locked up under tougher sentencing laws championed by President Bill Clinton, among others…. Michael Nelson, an editor of a book of essays on the Bush presidency called ’41,’ said the Horton episode led to far more overt plays to race in American politics, all the way up to President Trump. ‘In some ways, the Willie Horton ad is the 1.0 version of Trump’s relentless tweets and comments about African-Americans,’ he said.”

In the Blink of an Eye, the Trump Administrational Threatens the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in AlaskaThe New York Times, Henry Fountain and Steve Eder, Monday, 3 December 2018: “[T]he Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — a federally protected place of austere beauty that during a recent flyover was painted white by heavy snowfall — is on the cusp of major change. The biggest untapped onshore trove of oil in North America is believed to lie beneath the refuge’s coastal plain along the Beaufort Sea. For more than a generation, opposition to drilling has left the refuge largely unscathed, but now the Trump administration, working with Republicans in Congress and an influential and wealthy Alaska Native corporation, is clearing the way for oil exploration along the coast. Decades of protections are unwinding with extraordinary speed as Republicans move to lock in drilling opportunities before the 2020 presidential election, according to interviews with over three dozen people and a review of internal government deliberations and federal documents.”

Paul Manafort, Trump’s Former Campaign Chairman, Tried to Broker Deal With Ecuador to Hand WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Over to the U.S.The New York Times, Kenneth P. Vogel and Nicholas Casey, Monday, 3 December 2018: “In mid-May 2017, Paul Manafort, facing intensifying pressure to settle debts and pay mounting legal bills, flew to Ecuador to offer his services to a potentially lucrative new client — the country’s incoming president, Lenín Moreno. Mr. Manafort made the trip mainly to see if he could broker a deal under which China would invest in Ecuador’s power system, possibly yielding a fat commission for Mr. Manafort. But the talks turned to a diplomatic sticking point between the United States and Ecuador: the fate of the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. In at least two meetings with Mr. Manafort, Mr. Moreno and his aides discussed their desire to rid themselves of Mr. Assange, who has been holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since 2012, in exchange for concessions like debt relief from the United States, according to three people familiar with the talks, the details of which have not been previously reported. They said Mr. Manafort suggested he could help negotiate a deal for the handover of Mr. Assange to the United States, which has long investigated Mr. Assange for the disclosure of secret documents and which later filed charges against him that have not yet been made public. There is no evidence that Mr. Manafort was working with — or even briefing — President Trump or other administration officials on his discussions with the Ecuadoreans about Mr. Assange…. But the revelations about Mr. Manafort’s discussions in 2017 about Mr. Assange in Quito underscore how his self-styled role as an international influence broker intersected with the questions surrounding the Trump campaign. And the episode shows how after Mr. Trump’s election, Mr. Manafort sought to cash in on his brief tenure as Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman even as investigators were closing in.”


Tuesday, 4 December 2018, Day 684:


Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Is ‘Complicit’ in the Murder of Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Senators Say After Briefing With C.I.A. Director Gina HaspelThe New York Times, Eric Schmitt and Nicholas Fandos, Tuesday, 4 December 2018: “A bipartisan group of senior senators said on Tuesday that a classified briefing by the C.I.A. director had only solidified their belief that Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, ordered the killing of the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi. Prince Mohammed ‘is a wrecking ball,’ Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, told reporters after an hourlong briefing by the C.I.A. directorGina Haspel. ‘I think he’s complicit in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi to the highest level possible.’ Senator Richard C. Shelby, Republican of Alabama and the Appropriations Committee chairman, echoed that ‘all evidence points to that, that all this leads back to the crown prince.’… The clear and unusually biting assessment put Republican senators at odds with the White House, which has steadfastly refused to cast blame on Saudi Arabia’s leadership for the grisly death of Mr. Khashoggi, an American resident and Washington Post columnist. His killing prompted international outrage over the kingdom’s heavy-handed tactics and renewed attention to the Saudi-led war in Yemen.” See also, Senators accuse Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman of complicity in Khashoggi’s killingThe Washington Post, Shane Harris and Karoun Demirjian, Tuesday, 4 December 2018: “Senators emerged from an unusual closed-door briefing with the CIA director on Tuesday and accused the Saudi crown prince of complicity in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. In some of their strongest statements to date, lawmakers said evidence presented by the U.S. spy agency overwhelmingly pointed to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s involvement in the assassination. ‘There’s not a smoking gun — there’s a smoking saw,’ said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), referring to the bone saw that investigators believe was used to dismember Khashoggi after he was killed Oct. 2 by a team of Saudi agents inside the country’s consulate in Istanbul. Armed with classified details provided by President Trump’s handpicked CIA director, Gina Haspel, senators shredded the arguments put forward by senior administration officials who had earlier insisted that the evidence of Mohammed’s alleged role was inconclusive. The gulf that has emerged between Republican lawmakers and the president over how to respond to the journalist’s killing appeared to widen after Tuesday’s briefing, with Graham, one of Trump’s closest Senate allies, announcing that he was no longer willing to work with the crown prince, whom the White House regards as one of its most important allies in the Middle East.”

Special Counsel Robert Mueller Says Michael Flynn, Trump’s Former National Security Adviser, Was a Key Cooperator and Should Serve Little Prison TimeThe New York Times, Adam Goldman and Eileen Sullivan, Tuesday, 4 December 2018: “Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s first national security adviser, helped substantially with the special counsel’s investigation and should receive little to no prison time for lying to federal investigators, prosecutors said on Tuesday. Mr. Flynn was a key cooperator who helped the Justice Department with several investigations, prosecutors for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, said. He sat for 19 interviews with Mr. Mueller’s office and other prosecutors and handed over documents and communications, they said. ‘His early cooperation was particularly valuable because he was one of the few people with long-term and firsthand insight’ into the subject of Mr. Mueller’s investigation — Russia’s election interference and whether any Trump associates conspired, prosecutors wrote in a sentencing recommendation memorandum and an addendum that was heavily blacked out. In particular, they wrote, he might have prompted others to cooperate with the inquiry. ‘The defendant’s decision to plead guilty and cooperate likely affected the decisions of related firsthand witnesses to be forthcoming,’ prosecutors said. They also indicated that Mr. Flynn helped with other investigations without revealing details about them.” See also, Special counsel Robert Mueller seeks no prison time for former national security adviser Michael Flynn, citing his ‘substantial assistance,’ The Washington Post, Carol D. Leonnig, Rosalind S. Helderman, and Devlin Barrett, Tuesday, 4 December 2018: “Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III on Tuesday recommended that former national security adviser Michael Flynn serve no prison time, citing his ‘substantial assistance’ with several ongoing investigations, according to a new court filing.”

Environmental Protection Agency to Roll Back a Restriction on New Coal-Burning PlantsThe New York Times, Lisa Friedman, Tuesday, 4 December 2018: “The Trump administration is poised to roll back a significant climate change regulation on coal-fired power plants, making it easier to build new coal plants in the United States. The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to announce the plan on Thursday, according to four people familiar with the administration’s proposal who were not authorized to speak about it publicly. The proposal will eliminate Obama-era restrictions on newly built coal plants that in effect required them to include systems to capture the carbon dioxide they produced — a technology that is still not in use on a commercial scale. The replacement measure eases those constraints, sending a powerful signal to the coal industry, as well as to other countries struggling with the political difficulties of addressing climate change, that the United States is trying to pave the way for coal-burning plants. The move is not expected to lead to the immediate construction of new coal plants, which aren’t financially viable because of a combination of cheap natural gas and other environmental regulations. But the Trump administration’s proposal is the latest message that the federal government is embracing the industry.” See also, Environmental Protection Agency announces plan to ease carbon emissions rule for new coal plantsThe Washington Post, Brady Dennis and Steven Mufson, published on Thursday, 6 December 2018.

Maersk, the world’s largest container shipping group, pledges to cut carbon emissions to zero by 2050Financial Times, Richard Milne, Tuesday, 4 December 2018: “The world’s largest container shipping company has pledged to cut net carbon emissions to zero by 2050, challenging an industry that is both one of the main transporters of global trade and one of the biggest polluters to come up with radical solutions in the next decade.  AP Moller Maersk, the Danish group that transports nearly one in five seaborne containers, said it needed its entire supply chain from engine makers and shipbuilders to new technology providers to come up with carbon-free ships by 2030 to meet the goal.  ‘We will have to abandon fossil fuels. We will have to find a different type of fuel or a different way to power our assets. This is not just another cost-cutting exercise. It’s far from that. It’s an existential exercise, where we as a company need to set ourselves apart,’ Soren Toft, Maersk’s chief operating officer, told the Financial Times.  Maersk’s target, although distant, is one of the most ambitious from a global industrial group promising to end carbon emissions altogether. Container ships carry about 80 per cent of global trade and currently use bunker fuel, a residue from crude oil that is cheaper but dirtier than petrol and diesel, which means they contribute about 3 per cent of the world’s emissions.”

D.C. and Maryland begin seeking Trump financial documents in case related to his D.C. hotelThe Washington Post, Jonathan O’Connell, Ann E. Marimow, and David A. Fahrenthold, Tuesday, 4 December 2018: “The attorneys general for Maryland and the District of Columbia are issuing subpoenas for financial records and other documents from more than a dozen of President Trump’s private entities Tuesday as part of an ongoing lawsuit alleging that the president’s business violates the Constitution’s ban on gifts or payments from foreign governments. The subpoenas seek details on some of the most closely held secrets of Trump’s presidency: Which foreign governments have paid the Trump Organization money? How much? And for what? All of the documents relate to Trump’s D.C. hotel, which is at the center of the emoluments case because of events foreign governments have held there and the federal lease that allows the business to operate.” See also, Maryland and District of Columbia Seek Business Records Related to Trump HotelThe New York Times, Sharon LaFraniere, Tuesday, 4 December 2018: “The State of Maryland and the District of Columbia began issuing subpoenas on Tuesday for records related to President Trump’s hotel in Washington, seeking evidence of conflicts of interest that violate the Constitution’s anti-corruption provision. Their demands for a vast array of documents, including tax records related to the president’s business, are certain to run headlong into a legal challenge by the administration. The Justice Department is expected to contest rulings by a federal judge who allowed the litigation to go forward, and the case appears bound for the Supreme Court. The governments of Maryland and the District of Columbia are claiming that Mr. Trump is violating the emoluments clauses of the Constitution by accepting payments from foreign leaders or state officials who patronize the Trump International Hotel, which is on Pennsylvania Avenue just blocks from the White House. They are seeking documents from about a dozen entities connected to Mr. Trump’s business, including the trust in which he placed assets when he became president, as well as from numerous other entities.”

Ben Raffensperger, a Republican State Lawmaker, Won a Runoff on Tuesday for Georgia’s Secretary of StateThe New York Times, Richard Fausset, Tuesday, 4 December 2018: “Widespread anger in Georgia over a voting system that Democrats believed to be rigged against them was not enough to prevent a Republican candidate from winning a runoff on Tuesday for secretary of state, the chief overseer of the state’s elections. Brad Raffensperger, an engineer from the Atlanta suburbs and a member of the State House, defeated John Barrow, a Democrat who supported overhauling the election system that some in his party said had helped Republicans ‘steal’ the closely fought Georgia governor’s race last month…. Mr. Raffensperger, 63, largely supported the status quo in Georgia’s election system, and said during the campaign that he was running for secretary of state ‘to make sure that only American citizens are voting in our elections.'” See also, Republican Brad Raffensperger wins runoff election for Georgia secretary of stateThe Washington Post, Matt Viser, Tuesday, 4 December 2018: “Republican state Rep. Brad Raffensperger defeated former Democratic congressman John Barrow on Tuesday in a runoff election for Georgia secretary of state that took place amid lingering concerns about voter disenfranchisement in a state likely to remain a battleground in 2020. Raffensperger’s election continues a losing streak for Georgia Democrats, who have not won a statewide election since 2010, and ensures that stricter election laws pushed by state Republicans remain in place barring successful legal challenges.”

Adam Schiff (Democrat-California) says Trump’s tweets are ‘evidence’ of obstruction of justiceThe Washington Post, Colby Itkowitz, Tuesday, 4 December 2018: “Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), who will have the power to set the agenda for intelligence investigations next year, [said] in a statement that Trump’s tweets add to ‘a growing body of evidence that the President is attempting to obstruct justice.’… On the other side of the Capitol, Sen. Mark R. Warner (Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, also pointed to the tweets as a possible federal crime. ‘This is serious. The President of the United States should not be using his platform to influence potential witnesses in a federal investigation involving his campaign,’ Warner tweeted Monday. Then Tuesday, Warner circled back to the issue, sharing on Twitter a LawFare article titled: ‘Is Donald Trump’s Tweet About Roger Stone Witness Tampering?’ and tweeting with it: ‘Imagine if it were revealed that the President was calling Roger Stone or Michael Cohen and pressuring them not to testify. Are we really to believe it’s somehow ok that he’s pressuring them via Twitter?'”

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has gotten smaller, quieter, and less active under the Trump AdministrationThe Washington Post, Kate Rabinowitz, Tuesday, 4 December 2018: “Under the Trump administration, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has seen its role diminished. Established in the wake of the 2008 recession by then-law professor Elizabeth Warren, the agency serves as a regulatory watchdog of consumer finance interest. It has taken enforcement actions against individuals and financial institutions on behalf of 31.1 million consumers and has provided $12.4 billion back to those consumers. Earlier this year, it imposed a $1 billion dollar fine on Wells Fargo for improperly charging consumers on mortgage and auto loans. There have been partisan fights over the agency from the start, however. Republicans waited over two years to confirm the first CFPB director, Richard Cordray, who served until acting director Mike Mulvaney’s appointment in November 2017. They’ve presented numerous bills to curb the agency’s power and even suggested abolishing it in their 2016 party platform. ‘People wondered when I got — when I took the job if I was going to try and shut the place down, and I told them no, because I can’t,’ Mulvaney said at the American Bankers Association (ABA) summit earlier this year. While not shut down, the CFPB has curbed its actions on all fronts.” See also, How Trump appointees curbed the Consumer Financial Protection Board (CFPB), an agency loathed by RepublicansThe Washington Post, Robert O’Harrow Jr., Shawn Boburg, and Renae Merle, Tuesday, 4 December 2018: “One year after [Mick Mulvaney became acting director of the CFPB], he and his political aides have constrained the agency from within, achieving what conservatives on Capitol Hill had for years been unable to do, according to agency data and interviews with career officials. Publicly announced enforcement actions by the bureau have dropped about 75 percent from average in recent years, while consumer complaints have risen to new highs, according to a Washington Post analysis of bureau data. Over the past year, the agency’s workforce has dropped by at least 129 employees amid the largest exodus since its creation in 2010, agency data shows.”

Trump administration threatens future of HIV research hubThe Washington Post, Amy Goldstein, Tuesday, 4 December 2018: “The Trump administration has thrown into doubt a multimillion-dollar research contract to test new treatments for HIV that relies on fetal tissue — work targeted by antiabortion lawmakers and social conservatives aligned with the president. The turmoil over the National Institutes of Health contract with the University of California at San Francisco is part of a building battle between conservatives opposed to research using fetal tissue and scientists who say the material is vital to developing new therapies for diseases from AIDS to Parkinson’s. The UCSF research laboratory and an affiliated institute have been instrumental in testing virtually all HIV therapies subsequently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration since the 1990s, and NIH provides all the support for this work.

Troops to Remain at the Southwest Border Through the New YearThe New York Times, Helene Cooper, Tuesday, 4 December 2018: “Defense Secretary Jim Mattis extended the deployment of active-duty troops on the southwestern border into January, Defense Department officials said Tuesday. The military’s border mission was slated to end Dec. 15, but the White House and the Department of Homeland Security had requested to continue using the troops as an additional bulwark against migrants from Central America entering the United States…. The extended deployment would include aviation, medical, engineering and military police support, a Defense Department official said on Tuesday. That includes military planes to transport Border Patrol staff and setting up additional concertina wire. While a small number of the 5,900 American troops deployed to Arizona, California and Texas have begun to return home, most will remain over the Christmas holiday, officials said.”


Wednesday, 5 December 2018, Day 685:


‘We are in trouble.’ Global carbon emissions reached a record high in 2018. The Washington Post, Brady Dennis and Chris Mooney, Wednesday, 5 December 2018: “Global emissions of carbon dioxide are reaching the highest levels on record, scientists projected Wednesday, in the latest evidence of the chasm between international goals for combating climate change and what countries are doing. Between 2014 and 2016, emissions remained largely flat, leading to hopes that the world was beginning to turn a corner. Those hopes appear to have been dashed. In 2017, global emissions grew 1.6 percent. The rise in 2018 is projected to be 2.7 percent. The expected increase, which would bring fossil fuel and industrial emissions to a record high of 37.1 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year, is being driven by a nearly 5 percent growth of emissions in China and more than 6 percent in India, researchers estimated, along with growth in many other nations. Emissions by the United States grew 2.5 percent, while those of the European Union declined by just under 1 percent. As nations continue climate talks in Poland, the message of Wednesday’s report was unambiguous: When it comes to promises to begin cutting the greenhouse gas emissions that fuel climate change, the world is well off target.” See also, Greenhouse Gas Emissions Accelerate Like a ‘Speeding Freight Train’ in 2018The New York Times, Kendra Pierre-Louis, Wednesday, 5 December 2018: “Greenhouse gas emissions worldwide are growing at an accelerating pace this year, researchers said Wednesday, putting the world on track to face some of the most severe consequences of global warming sooner than expected. Scientists described the quickening rate of carbon dioxide emissions in stark terms, comparing it to a ‘speeding freight train’ and laying part of the blame on an unexpected surge in the appetite for oil as people around the world not only buy more cars but also drive them farther than in the past — more than offsetting any gains from the spread of electric vehicles…. The new report comes as delegates from nearly 200 countries are meeting in Poland to debate their next steps under the Paris climate agreement. Many nations haven’t been meeting their self-imposed targets. The new assessment is the third major scientific report in recent months to send a message that the world is failing to make sufficient progress to avoid the worst effects of climate change.”

Greenland Ice Sheet Is Melting at Fastest Rate in 350 YearsYale Environment 360, Wednesday, 5 December 2018: “The Greenland ice sheet is melting faster today than at any point in the last 350 years, according to a new study published in the journal Nature. The research is the first continuous, multi-century analysis of melting and runoff on the ice sheet, one of the largest drivers of sea level rise globally. Led by glaciologist and climate scientist Luke Trusel of Rowan University, a team of U.S. and European researchers analyzed more than three centuries of melt patterns in ice cores from western Greenland. They then linked this historical data to modern observations of melting and runoff across the entire ice sheet, creating a timeline dating back to 1650. ‘From a historical perspective, today’s melt rates are off the charts,’ Sarah Das, a glaciologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and co-author of the new study, said in a statement. ‘We found a 50 percent increase in total ice sheet meltwater runoff versus the start of the industrial era, and a 30 percent increase since the 20th century alone.'”

U.S. plans to ‘showcase ways to use fossil fuels’ at the U.N. climate conference in PolandThe Washington Post, Dino Grandoni, Wednesday, 5 December 2018: “The world’s nations are gathering this week for the second time since President Trump took office to discuss how they will try to stop runaway climate change. Despite a vow from Trump to pull out of the Paris climate agreement, the United States is again sending a delegation to the U.N. conference, which is being held in Poland. But the Trump administration is not attending the two-week meeting without making its policy preferences known. The U.S. government is planning to hold a side event promoting fossil fuels as part of the solution to global warming.”

Wisconsin Republicans Defiantly Move to Limit the Power of Incoming DemocratsThe New York Times, Mitch Smith and Monica Davey, Wednesday, 5 December 2018: “After hours of mysterious closed-door meetings that went past midnight, the Wisconsin Senate convened at 4:30 on Wednesday morning and passed by one vote a package of bills devised to curb the powers of the incoming Democratic leaders. The State Assembly followed suit by a much larger margin later in the morning. The legislation was aimed at undermining Democrats. There would be a new limit on early voting, which tends to benefit Democratic candidates, after an election that saw record-breaking turnout. Lawmakers, not the governor, would control the majority of appointments on an economic development board. The legislation would also prevent Mr. Evers from banning guns in the Wisconsin Capitol without permission from legislators. The bills would also require Mr. Evers to get permission from lawmakers to seek adjustments on programs run jointly by federal and state governments, such as public benefit programs. The legislation would block Mr. Evers’s ability to withdraw the state from a lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act, a major campaign promise.” See also, Wisconsin Republicans, Limiting Incoming Democratic Governor, Borrow a Page From North Carolina’s BookThe New York Times, Maggie Astor, Wednesday, 5 December 2018: “By passing legislation to strip power from the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general, Wisconsin Republicans followed the lead of their counterparts in North Carolina — and, as in North Carolina, they are likely to face major legal challenges.” See also, Wisconsin Republicans shield their voters from the horrors of democratic electionsThe Washington Post, Philip Bump, Wednesday, 5 December 2018: “If you’re curious how Republican legislators in Wisconsin rationalize passing last-minute legislation aimed at hobbling the state’s governor-elect, Tony Evers (D), allow them to explain. ‘Listen. I’m concerned,’ Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said at a news conference on Tuesday. ‘I think that Governor-elect Evers is going to bring a liberal agenda to Wisconsin.’ If the legislation isn’t passed, Wisconsin State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) warned on Tuesday night, ‘we are going to have a very liberal governor who is going to enact policies that are in direct contrast to what many of us believe in.’… Well, yeah. That’s how elections work. The person who wins more support from the state’s voters gets to run the state.”

House Democrat Gerald Connolly calls for emergency hearing into alleged election fraud in North CarolinaThe Washington Post, Beth Reinhard, Wednesday, 5 December 2018: “A Democratic member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is calling for an emergency hearing to examine allegations of election fraud in North Carolina’s 9th District race, in which Republican Mark Harris leads by 905 votes. State election officials are investigating charges that a political operative working for the Harris campaign oversaw a crew of workers who illegally collected mail-in absentee ballots from voters. The operative, Leslie McCrae Dowless, worked primarily in Bladen County. ‘Real election fraud is playing out right before us,’ said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), a senior oversight committee member. ‘Votes have been stolen by preying on senior and minority voters, and now a cloud of doubt and suspicion hangs over this election result.'”

Saudi-funded lobbyists paid for 500 rooms at Trump’s hotel in D.C. after the 2016 electionThe Washington Post, David A. Fahrenthold and Jonathan O’Connell, Wednesday, 5 December 2018: “Lobbyists representing the Saudi government reserved blocks of rooms at President Trump’s Washington, D.C., hotel within a month of Trump’s election in 2016 — paying for an estimated 500 nights at the luxury hotel in just three months, according to organizers of the trips and documents obtained by The Washington Post. At the time, these lobbyists were reserving large numbers of D.C.-area hotel rooms as part of an unorthodox campaign that offered U.S. military veterans a free trip to Washington — then sent them to Capitol Hill to lobby against a law the Saudis opposed, according to veterans and organizers. At first, lobbyists for the Saudis put the veterans up in Northern Virginia. Then, in December 2016, they switched most of their business to the Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington. In all, the lobbyists spent more than $270,000 to house six groups of visiting veterans at the Trump hotel, which Trump still owns. Those bookings have fueled a pair of federal lawsuits alleging Trump violated the Constitution by taking improper payments from foreign governments.”

Senator Chris Murphy says Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were ‘misleading’ in their Senate briefing on the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal KhashoggiPolitico, Caitlin Oprysko, Wednesday, 5 December 2018: “Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo misled senators last week in a Senate-only briefing on the murder of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Sen. Chris Murphy asserted on Wednesday, the result of having to tiptoe around President Donald Trump’s refusal to pin blame for the killing on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Murphy, who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee but was kept out of Tuesday’s classified briefing with CIA Director Gina Haspel, argued senators coming out of that briefing with Haspel undercut the administration’s claim that restricting access to the intelligence was necessary.”

Bipartisan Senate group wants to formally blame Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman for the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal KhashoggiThe Washington Post, Karoun Demirjian, Wednesday, 5 December 2018: “A bipartisan group of senators filed a resolution Wednesday to condemn Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as responsible for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, directly challenging President Trump to do the same. ‘This resolution — without equivocation — definitively states that the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia was complicit in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi and has been a wrecking ball to the region jeopardizing our national security interests on multiple fronts,’ Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said in a statement accompanying the release of the resolution. ‘It will be up to Saudi Arabia as to how to deal with this matter. But it is up to the United States to firmly stand for who we are and what we believe.’ The resolution put forward by Graham and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who are expected to lead the Judiciary Committee together next year, comes just one day after CIA Director Gina Haspel briefed leading senators about the details of the agency’s assessment that Mohammed ordered and monitored the killing and dismemberment of Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Senators emerged from that closed-door briefing furious not only with Saudi Arabia, but Trump as well, for dismissing the heft of the CIA’s findings. ‘You have to be willfully blind not to come to the conclusion that this was orchestrated and organized by people under the command of MBS and that he was intricately involved in the demise of Mr. Khashoggi,’ Graham said following the briefing, referring to Mohammed by his initials. He added that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who briefed senators last week, were at best being ‘good soldiers’ and at worst were ‘in the pocket of Saudi Arabia’ for presenting the evidence of Mohammed’s involvement as inconclusive.”

Trump on Coming Debt Crisis: ‘I Won’t Be Here’ When It Blows UpThe Daily Beast, Asawin Suebsaeng and Lachlan Markay, Wednesday, 5 December 2018: “Since the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump’s aides and advisers have tried to convince him of the importance of tackling the national debt. Sources close to the president say he has repeatedly shrugged it off, implying that he doesn’t have to worry about the money owed to America’s creditors—currently about $21 trillion—because he won’t be around to shoulder the blame when it becomes even more untenable. The friction came to a head in early 2017 when senior officials offered Trump charts and graphics laying out the numbers and showing a ‘hockey stick’ spike in the national debt in the not-too-distant future. In response, Trump noted that the data suggested the debt would reach a critical mass only after his possible second term in office. ‘Yeah, but I won’t be here,’ the president bluntly said, according to a source who was in the room when Trump made this comment during discussions on the debt.”

Veterans Affairs’ diversity chief was told not to condemn white nationalists after Charlottesville, emails showThe Washington Post, Lisa Rein, Wednesday, 5 December 2018: “A top White House appointee at the Department of Veterans Affairs sought to silence the agency’s chief diversity officer, who — in the aftermath of last year’s racially charged violence in Charlottesville — pushed for a forceful condemnation that was at odds with President Trump’s response, newly disclosed emails show. The tense exchange between Georgia Coffey, a nationally recognized expert in workplace diversity and race relations, and John Ullyot, who remains VA’s chief communications official, occurred during a low point in Trump’s presidency: when he blamed “many sides” for the deadly clash in Charlottesville without singling out the white nationalists and neo-Nazis who rallied there.”


Thursday, 6 December 2018, Day 686:


Making Trump’s Bed: A Housekeeper Without PapersThe New York Times, Miriam Jordan, Thursday, 6 December 2018: “During more than five years as a housekeeper at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., Victorina Morales has made Donald J. Trump’s bed, cleaned his toilet and dusted his crystal golf trophies. When he visited as president, she was directed to wear a pin in the shape of the American flag adorned with a Secret Service logo. Because of the ‘outstanding’ support she has provided during Mr. Trump’s visits, Ms. Morales in July was given a certificate from the White House Communications Agency inscribed with her name. Quite an achievement for an undocumented immigrant housekeeper…. She said she was not the only worker at the club who was in the country illegally…. Mr. Trump has made border security and the fight to protect jobs for Americans a cornerstone of his presidency, from the border wall he has pledged to build to the workplace raids and payroll audits that his administration has carried out…. Ms. Morales said she has been hurt by Mr. Trump’s public comments since he became president, including equating Latin American immigrants with violent criminals. It was that, she said, along with abusive comments from a supervisor at work about her intelligence and immigration status, that made her feel that she could no longer keep silent. ‘We are tired of the abuse, the insults, the way he talks about us when he knows that we are here helping him make money,’ she said. ‘We sweat it out to attend to his every need and have to put up with his humiliation.'” See also, Housekeeper who worked illegally at Trump golf resort in New Jersey alleges mistreatmentThe Washington Post, Nick Miroff, Tracy Jan, and David A. Fahrenthold, Thursday, 6 December 2018: “A woman working as a housekeeper at President Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, N.J. — trusted to make Trump’s bed and iron the president’s clothes — revealed that she is an unauthorized immigrant in an interview with the New York Times. The woman, 45-year-old Victorina Morales, said she came to the United States from Guatemala and has worked at the golf club for the past five years…. Morales said she was scheduled to report to work Friday but did not plan to go, and said she made the decision to come forward because of mistreatment by her direct supervisor at the golf resort, including what she described as ‘physical abuse’ on three occasions. ‘I’m tired of being humiliated and treated like a stupid person,’ she said in Spanish during a brief interview. ‘We’re just immigrants who don’t have papers.'”

Trump Plans Major Rollback of Sage Grouse Protections to Spur Oil Exploration in Oil-Rich Western StatesThe New York Times, Coral Davenport, Thursday, 6 December 2018: “The Trump administration on Thursday published documents detailing its plan to roll back Obama-era protections for the vast habitat of the greater sage grouse, a chickenlike bird that roams across nearly 11 million acres in 10 oil-rich Western states. The earlier proposal to protect the bird, whose waning numbers have brought it close to endangerment, was put forth under the Interior Department in 2015 and set out to ban or sharply reduce oil and gas drilling in 10.7 million acres of its habitat. The Trump plan, by contrast, would limit the grouse’s protected habitat to just 1.8 million acres, essentially opening up nine million acres of land to drilling, mining and other development. According to several environmental policy experts, the legal plan to roll back the sage grouse protections would open up more land to drilling via one policy change than other Trump administration moves to date. The plan, which is expected to be made final in 2019, is one in a series of actions, most performed by the Interior Department, designed to spur more oil and gas drilling across the nation’s public lands and waters.”

Documents Point to Illegal Campaign Coordination Between Trump and the National Rifle Association During the 2016 Presidential ElectionThe Trace, Mike Spies, Thursday, 6 December 2018: “Reporting by The Trace shows that the NRA and the Trump campaign employed the same operation — at times, the exact same people — to craft and execute their advertising strategies for the 2016 presidential election. The investigation, which involved a review of more than 1,000 pages of Federal Communications Commission and Federal Election Commission documents, found multiple instances in which National Media, through its affiliates Red Eagle and AMAG, executed ad buys for Trump and the NRA that seemed coordinated to enhance each other. Individuals working for National Media or its affiliated companies either signed or were named in FCC documents, demonstrating that they had knowledge of both the NRA and the Trump campaign’s advertising plans. Experts say the arrangement appears to violate campaign finance laws…. The Trace and Mother Jones have teamed up to further investigate the NRA’s finances and political activity.”

Democrat Dan McCready withdraws his concession in North Carolina congressional race roiled by accusations of fraudThe Washington Post, John Wagner, Thursday, 6 December 2018: “Democrat Dan McCready withdrew his concession Thursday in a North Carolina congressional race that has been roiled by accusations of fraud. In an interview with Charlotte-area TV station WSOC, McCready also called on Republican rival Mark Harris ‘to tell the American people exactly what he knew and when he knew it. Over the last week, we have seen the criminal activity come to light, and we have seen that my opponent, Mark Harris, has bankrolled this criminal activity,’ McCready said. ‘And so, as of today, I am withdrawing my concession to Mark Harris.'”

Michigan Republicans Start Limiting Power of incoming Democratic LeadersThe New York Times, Astead W. Herndon, Thursday, 6 December 2018: “Michigan Republicans, following the tactics of conservative lawmakers in Wisconsin, moved on Thursday to start limiting the power of the incoming Democratic secretary of state and set the stage for additional curbs on the Democrats who will take over as governor and attorney general in January. The G.O.P.-led State Senate in Michigan, voting largely along party lines, passed a bill that strips the incoming secretary of state of the authority to oversee campaign finance issues and hands it to a new bipartisan commission. Other bills, which are likely to be approved next week, include proposals that would weaken the ability of the governor and attorney general to control the state’s position in court cases. Using a similar political playbook as their counterparts in Wisconsin this week, Michigan Republicans are responding to their Election Day chastening in top statewide races by trying to curb the power of leaders from the opposing party. The move has alarmed ethics watchdogs, who have called it a power grab, and has fueled protests among Democrats. But it is unclear if Republicans would pay a political price, given that many are in safe districts.”

Buried in Wisconsin Republicans’ Lame-Duck Legislation: Drug Testing Requirements for Food Stamp ApplicantsThe Intercept, H. Claire Brown, Thursday, 6 December 2018: “On Wednesday morning, after a closed-door meeting that lasted much of the night, both houses of Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled state legislature passed a comprehensive set of measures limiting the incoming Democratic administration’s power. The consequences of the many provisions are still coming into focus. Buried under controversial moves to curtail early voting and strip authority from Gov.-elect Tony Evers is a sweeping codification of welfare restrictions that Republicans across the country have long sought. The new legislation enshrines in state law outgoing Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial policy of forcing many food stamp applicants to submit to drug testing. It also limits the incoming administration’s ability to walk back the state’s strict new work requirements for aid recipients. After Walker’s approval, Wisconsin will be the only state that requires drug testing for non-felon food stamp applicants. The bill appears to defy federal policy regarding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, as the food stamps program is now known. The U.S. Department of Agriculture does not allow states to impose certain eligibility limits, like drug testing, on SNAP applicants without explicit permission.”

Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, Faces Liberal Opposition in His Bid to Be the Top Democrat on the Energy and Natural Resources CommitteeThe New York Times, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Thursday, 6 December 2018: “During his first run for the Senate in 2010, Joe Manchin III, the Democrat from West Virginia, took aim — literally — at a climate change bill, shooting a bullet through it in a television ad. Now some Democrats are taking aim at Mr. Manchin, declaring him unfit to be the top Democrat on the committee that handles climate change. As the Senate undergoes the customary postelection reshuffling of committees, Mr. Manchin, whose state is a major coal producer, has become a leading contender to become the senior Democrat on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. But his pro-coal views and past campaign contributions from coal companies are causing a stir on his party’s left. Over the past several days, two potential Democratic White House aspirants — Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington and Tom Steyer, the billionaire philanthropist who has made fighting climate change his signature issue — have joined environmental advocates in calling on Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, to keep Mr. Manchin out of the ranking spot.”

Senate approves Trump nominee Kathy Kraninger to be the director of the Consumer Financial Protection BureauThe Washington Post, Renae Merle, Thursday, 6 December 2018: “The Senate on Thursday confirmed President Trump’s nominee to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, ushering in business-friendly leadership for a polarizing watchdog agency long detested by Republicans and the banking industry. The chamber voted 50 to 49, along party lines, in favor of Kathy Kraninger’s nomination. Kraninger will replace the bureau’s acting director, Mick Mulvaney, who is also the White House budget chief and Kraninger’s current boss. Her nomination took much of Washington by surprise. Kraninger, the associate director of general government at the Office of Management and Budget, has no experience in consumer finance but now will become one of the country’s most powerful banking regulators.”

Trump administration swaps academics for business executives on National Park Service advisory panelThe Washington Post, Dino Grandoni and Juliet Eilperin, Thursday, 6 December 2018: “Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has resurrected a federally chartered board that advises the National Park Service with his own appointees, nearly a year after most of its former members resigned in frustration. The newly reconstituted National Park System Advisory Board — [is] composed largely of current or retired business executives…. The new panel includes a California winemaker, a beer distributor in Texas and three veterans of the real estate and home-building industry. All of the 11 new members appear to be white, and nine of them are men. Public records show all of the new board members are either registered Republicans or have voted repeatedly in GOP primaries. The current committee poses a stark contrast to the 12-member panel picked under President Barack Obama. Two-thirds of those members were women, and the group included African American members and members of Latino and Asian descent.”