Tuesday Reads: Happy New Year!!Posted: January 1, 2019
Welcome to 2019!!
The madman in the White House is up and tweeting nonsense in all caps, and the U.S. Strategic Command tweeted and then deleted a “joke” about dropping bombs. Welcome to 2019 everyone!
U.S. Strategic Command made an unexpected joke in a now-deleted Twitter post about American military might on Monday in its New Year’s Eve message.
Noting the “big” Times Square ball drop celebration at midnight, the unified command’s account tweeted, “if ever needed, we are #ready to drop something much, much bigger.”
The joke was followed by a slickly produced video of stealth jets with the words “stealth, ready, and lethal” flashing across the screen. The tweet encouraged followers to “watch to the end!” If you do, you’ll see two bombs released from a plane, followed by several massive explosions.
The tweet was later deleted, and a subsequent tweet from the unified command’s account said the first was “in poor taste & does not reflect our values. We apologize.”
Not funny. Who are these people?? Read more excuses at the link.
Thank goodness, we only have two more days to wait until the Democrats take over the House. The Washington Post: House Democrats ready strategy to reopen government, deny Trump wall money.
Democrats will take control of the House on Thursday with a stark challenge to President Trump, voting on legislation that would fund the federal government while denying Trump the money he has demanded to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
GOP leaders in the Senate said they would support only a proposal that has the president’s backing. And without additional wall money, the Democrats’ offer is unlikely to break the stalemate that has shuttered large parts of the federal government since Dec. 22.
But the strategy Democrats announced Monday would usher in a new era of divided government in Washington with a dare to Trump, aimed at forcing him and Senate Republicans to take their deal or prolong a partial government shutdown.
House Democrats plan to use their new majority to vote through measures that would reopen nearly all of the shuttered federal agencies through the end of September, at funding levels Senate Republicans have previously agreed to. Those spending bills contain scores of priorities and pet projects for lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
The Democratic proposal holds out one exception: The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees border security, would keep its current level of funding, with no new money for a border wall. The plan would also extend the department’s budget only through Feb. 8, allowing Democrats to revisit funding for key parts of Trump’s immigration policy in a month.
Trump has already rejected the plan. We’ll see if Republicans in the Senate want to anger their constituents by going along with him.
Meanwhile, a federal employee union is suing Trump over his government shutdown. Politico reports:
The nation’s largest union representing federal employees filed a lawsuit Monday afternoon against the government, seeking damages for the roughly 400,000 federal employees forced to work without pay during the partial government shutdown.
The two plaintiffs — Justin Tarovisky and Grayson Sharp — work for high-security prisons the Justice Department runs. The American Federation of Government Employees argues that both plaintiffs have dangerous jobs and have been forced to work overtime without pay.
AFGE represents roughly 700,000 federal employees and has challenged the Trump administration over a number of issues, including major restructuring at the Education Department.
J. David Cox, AFGE’s national president, said forcing federal employees to work without pay “is nothing short of inhumane.”
“Positions that are considered ‘essential’ during a government shutdown are some of the most dangerous jobs in the federal government,” he said in a statement. “They are front-line public safety positions, including many in law enforcement, among other critical roles. Our intent is to force the government and the administration to make all federal employees whole.”
AFGE said the federal government is still calculating pay it owes to federal workers for the 16-day shutdown in October 2013.
A GOP representative suggested that if Trump wants his wall so badly, he should pay for it himself. Roll Call: GOP Rep. Walter Jones Suggests Trump Pay for Part of His Wall.
Rep. Walter Jones is worried that President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall will add to the federal debt — so worried, in fact, that he’s proposing the president pony up some of his own money for the wall.
“If Mexico isn’t going to be made to pay for a wall, that means funds must be found internally,” the North Carolina Republican said in a statement Friday.
“As a wealthy man, the president might consider pledging some of his own funds as well [to help build the wall],” Jones said. “Whatever it takes, just so long as we don’t add to the debt that is bankrupting our great country.”
Trump may have his crazy base of around 30% of the electorate, but Americans appear to be dumping Fox News for MSNBC these days. The Washington Post’s media maven Eric Wemple: MSNBC is surging.
MSNBC host Rachel Maddow can speak at length on many topics. The whims and demographics of her cable-news audience, however, are not among them. “I think I may just be lucky that we’re at a time in the news cycle where there is an appetite for that kind of explanatory work,” Maddow told the Erik Wemple Blog back in the early months of the Trump administration, when her eponymous nightly program was posing a ratings threat to the top dogs over at Fox News.
That threat has turned into a full-time menace. Whereas “The Rachel Maddow Show” several years ago finished in the double digits in annual rankings of cable-news programs, it’s now in the tastemaking vanguard. Over the first three quarters of 2018, Maddow sat in between No. 1 Sean Hannity and No. 3 Tucker Carlson in the cable-news elite. Her show finished fourth for all of 2017.
MSNBC bragged that they were number 1 for the week of December 17.
And indeed: Fox News pointed out that MSNBC’s historic win for the “week of Dec. 17” included only Monday-through-Friday numbers — and excluded the weekend, which put Fox News in its normal place: No. 1. Another consideration: Hannity was on vacation that week.
Caveats noted. Still, MSNBC has something to crow about. Its news programming is sharp, energetic and relentless. Its anchors are prepared. Its correspondents are on the scene.
Read more Wemple caveats at the WaPo, but still Rachel is pulling viewers with her intelligent analysis of the news and her focus on the Russia investigation.
Speaking of that investigation, Robert Mueller hasn’t been slowed down by the government shutdown or the holiday season. Yesterday federal prosecutors filed a sealed status update on cooperating witness Sam Patten, an associate of Konstantin Kilimnik and Paul Manafort: Lobbyist who got Trump Inaugural tickets for Ukrainian still having secret dealings with prosecutors.
Washington lobbyist W. Samuel Patten, who has been one of the most low-profile but potentially significant cooperators in the special counsel’s office investigation, appears to still be involved with sensitive aspects of Robert Mueller and the Justice Department’s work.
In a court filing Monday meant to update a judge on his case and whether he should proceed to sentencing, prosecutors revealed nothing. Instead, they filed the entire status update under seal, giving no public reason for keeping details of his case private.
The secret court filing Monday comes in contrast to several disclosures prosecutors previously made about Patten’s admitted crimes — especially related to him procuring Trump inauguration tickets for a Ukrainian client — and the related lobbying work for Ukrainians done by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Patten previously admitted to procuring Trump inauguration tickets illegally for a Ukrainian oligarch and a Russian closely associated with Paul Manafort. Patten was a corporate lobbyist in business with the former Trump campaign chairman’s longtime Russian associate Konstantin Kilimnik, whom the Mueller team has asked about in recent months and accused of having ties to the Russian intelligence group that allegedly hacked the Democrats in 2016.
Patten agreed to cooperate with the Mueller investigation and other Justice Department actions before Manafort pleaded guilty to criminal charges in September.
Here’s a little background on Patten from CNN in August:
Patten, 47, reached a plea deal with the Justice Department. He faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the felony charge and has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
Patten’s personal website describes him as a “strategic advisor” who has worked in politics on four continents. He has taken on numerous roles for campaigns and organizations over the last two decades, including as Eurasia director for the pro-democracy organization Freedom House in Washington, as well as a consultant for politicians in Ukraine, Georgia, Iraq and Nigeria, among other countries.
In the early to mid-2000s, Patten worked in Moscow for another pro-democracy organization, the International Republican Institute, along with Konstantin Kilimnik, who has been charged by Mueller’s office with obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
Business records list Patten as an executive of the company Begemot Ventures International with Kilimnik in 2015, which is touted as “a strategic and political advisory firm that helps its clients win elections, strengthen political parties … and achieve better results” on its website, which does not list any clients.
Prosecutors have said in separate court filings that Kilimnik has ties to Russian intelligence. Kilimnik is also a close business associate of President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who also did political work in Ukraine and has been found guilty on eight counts of financial crimes.
Patten performed various services for Cambridge Analytica, the company that became embroiled in controversy earlier this year due to its sweeping collection of Facebook data, as well as its parent company SCL Group.
Brittany Kaiser, a former director at Cambridge Analytica, described Patten in testimony before the British Parliament as a “trusted senior consultant” to SCL Group. She said Patten did work for SCL in Nigeria and that he helped to organize an event on Capitol Hill in Washington.
That’s all I have for you today; believe it or not, it has been kind of a slow news day so far. What stories are you following?