Tuesday Reads: Plenty of Breaking News Today

Winter Glow, Boston Common, by Julia O’Malley Keyes

Good Morning!!

As you can see from the paintings I’ve chosen, I have snow on the brain this morning; as an early winter storm is still hovering over the Boston area for the third day. It’s a lovely winter wonderland outside my window, but I’m hoping the snow will leave us sometime this afternoon.

Trump is at the NATO meeting in the UK making a fool of himself as usual. He just finished a tense meeting with French president Macron in which the two talked past each other and exchanged hostile comments. We’ll have to wait for analysis from reporters, but here are some twitter takes.

The Washington Post: Trump calls French president’s criticism of NATO ‘nasty’ and ‘disrespectful’

LONDON — President Trump on Tuesday slammed as “very, very nasty” and “very disrespectful” recent comments by his French counterpart about the diminished state of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance.

Shoveling Snow, New England, Frederick Childe Hassam

Referring to comments President Emmanuel Macron made last month in an interview with the Economist magazine — in which Macron described the “brain death” of NATO resulting from America’s failure to consult with its allies — Trump attacked Macron during his first remarks on the first day of the NATO 70th anniversary summit in London, calling the comments “very insulting.” [….]

“I would say that nobody needs NATO more than France,” Trump said. “That’s why I think when France makes a statement like they made about NATO, that’s a very dangerous statement for them to make.”

Trump’s tough talk on France came just a day after the United States threatened new tariffs of up to 100 percent on $2.4 billion in French products, including wine, cheese and yogurt — a response, Trump’s chief trade negotiator said, to a French digital services tax that the United States concluded is discriminating against American Internet companies.

More from The New York Times: In Tense Exchange, Trump and Macron Put Forth Dueling Visions for NATO.

A once-cordial relationship between President Trump and President Emmanuel Macron of France devolved in a dramatic fashion on Tuesday, as the two leaders publicly sparred over their approach to containing the threat of terrorism and a shared vision for the future of NATO, a 70-year-old alliance facing existential threats on multiple fronts.

A Hare In The Snow by Bruno Andreas Liljefors

In a lengthy appearance before reporters, the president met a cool reception from Mr. Macron, who earlier in the day Mr. Trump derided as “very insulting” for his recent remarks on the “brain death” of the alliance. When asked to address his earlier comments on the French leader, Mr. Trump, a leader averse to face-to-face confrontation, initially demurred, but Mr. Macron was direct.

“My statement created some reactions,” Mr. Macron said. “I do stand by it.”

What followed was an extended, terse back-and-forth over trade, immigration, and Mr. Trump’s relationship with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.

Mr. Trump’s interactions with the Turkish president are also sure to be closely watched. Mr. Erdogan, who has already upset NATO allies by purchasing a sophisticated Russian antiaircraft missile system, the S-400, is now threatening to oppose NATO’s plans to update the defense of Poland and the Baltic countries if the alliance does not join him in labeling some Kurdish groups as terrorists.

”Who is the enemy today?” Mr. Macron asked. “And let’s be clear and work together on that.”

More breaking news from Twitter:

CNBC: Trump loses appeal to block Deutsche Bank, Capital One from handing his financial records to Congress.

— A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that Deutsche Bank and Capital One can hand over years of President Donald Trump’s financial records in compliance with House Democrats’ subpoenas.

— The ruling offers another loss in the courts for Trump, who has fought attempts to obtain his financial records through multiple lawsuits.

— The case is likely destined for the Supreme Court, where the president has already appealed two other lower court decisions requiring the disclosure of his financial records.

Vincent van Gogh, Snow-covered field with a harrow (after Millet) (1889)

Aaron Blake has an interesting piece at The Washington Post on the timeline of Trump’s interactions with Ukraine even before Zelensky took over as president: 2 key Trump-Ukraine events we should be paying more attention to.

The first event:

In February 2017, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump and Poroshenko had spoken by phone and “discussed plans for an in-person meeting in the future.”

Even as Trump met with a procession of foreign leaders in those early months, though, a meeting with Poroshenko wasn’t scheduled. Indeed, it didn’t happen until late June. And why is that date significant? Because it was very shortly after Poroshenko’s government took action on an investigation of personal interest to Trump — and in a Trump-friendly direction.

Here’s a quick timeline:

June 8, 2017: Trump ally Rudolph W. Giuliani meets with Poroshenko and then-Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko.
June 9, 2017: Lutsenko’s office joins an existing investigation into the “black ledger,” which implicated former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. The investigation had previously been handled only by Ukraine’s independent National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU), and critics alleged the new move was meant to bury the scandal.
June 14, 2017: Reports in Europe indicate Poroshenko will meet with Trump.
June 19, 2017: Spicer says Poroshenko will meet with Vice President Pence, but doesn’t confirm a meeting with Trump.
June 20, 2017: Poroshenko gets a brief “drop-in” visit with Trump.

Marurice de Vlaminck, French 1876-1958

The second event:

In December 2017, the Trump administration made a key decision to provide Ukraine with lethal aid — specifically antitank missiles called Javelins. This is the same weaponry Trump and Zelensky would later talk about on their fateful July 25, 2019, phone call.

Republicans have hailed Trump’s decision to provide such weaponry as evidence of his support for Ukraine and as a counterpoint to the idea that he has been leveraging it. But what if the Javelins were also used as leverage?

What we can say is that they weren’t delivered until after another significant investigatory decision from Ukraine in Trump’s favor — one that was even more narrowly beneficial to Trump.

In early April 2018, according to the New York Times, Ukraine halted its investigations of Manafort and also its cooperation with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation. In addition, it reportedly allowed a potential witness in Mueller’s collusion investigation to leave the country for Russia, where they couldn’t be interviewed.

Later that month, the Javelins arrived. Poroshenko posted as much on Facebook on April 30, and U.S. officials soon confirmed it.

These don’t look like coincidences to me, and they probably didn’t look that way to Zelensky either.

Paul Gauguin, Breton Village in the Snow (1894)

At The Atlantic, Professor Kim Wehle of the University of Baltimore School of Law argues that House Democrats should be tougher on witnesses who refuse to testify in the impeachment inquiry: The House Is Making This Fight Too Easy for Trump.

Last week marked a low point in Donald Trump’s quest for presidential superpowers. On Monday, a federal judge in the District of Columbia ruled that former White House Counsel Don McGahn does not have absolute immunity from having to testify before the House Judiciary Committee regarding misconduct by Trump and his associates in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election. “Presidents are not kings,” Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson wrote. “They do not have subjects, bound by loyalty or blood, whose destiny they are entitled to control.”

In practical terms, the court declared that Trump cannot lawfully forbid anyone and everyone he’s ever worked with from heeding legislative requests for information. This isn’t even a close question, as the stark language of Jackson’s 120-page ruling made clear. Notwithstanding White House Counsel Pat Cipollone’s October 8 letter—in which he deemed the impeachment inquiry unconstitutional and announced that the administration would not cooperate in any way—the president cannot prohibit current or former government employees from testifying when called before Congress.

Which is why House Democrats’ milquetoast response to widespread defiance of congressional subpoenas is both perplexing and disturbing. When faced with credible evidence of serious misconduct, Congress has a constitutional duty to hold the president accountable on behalf of the people. Yet House leaders have psyched themselves out of fully exercising that duty.

Read the rest at The Atlantic link.

Caspar David Friedrich, Winterlandschaft (1811)

Bill Barr is working hard to be Trump’s personal defense attorney. The Washington Post reports: Barr disputes key inspector general finding about FBI’s Russia investigation.

Attorney General William P. Barr has told associates he disagrees with the Justice Department’s inspector general on one of the key findings in an upcoming report — that the FBI had enough information in July 2016 to justify launching an investigation into members of the Trump campaign, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horo­witz, is due to release his long-awaited findings in a week, but behind the scenes at the Justice Department, disagreement has surfaced about one of Horowitz’s central conclusions on the origins of the Russia investigation. The discord could be the prelude to a major fissure within federal law enforcement on the controversial question of investigating a presidential campaign.

Barr has not been swayed by Horowitz’s rationale for concluding that the FBI had sufficient basis to open an investigation on July 31, 2016, these people said.

Barr’s public defenses of President Trump, including his assertion that intelligence agents spied on the Trump campaign, have led Democrats to accuse him of acting like the president’s personal attorney and eroding the independence of the Justice Department. But Trump and his Republican allies have cheered Barr’s skepticism of the Russia investigation.

Claude Monet, The Magpie

Finally, The Daily Beast is running a series of three articles by Patricia Ravalgi about how officials who previously worked together for the benefit of U.S. national security are now on opposite sides because of Trump. Here are the first two installments and introductory paragraphs:

Mueller, Barr, Giuliani, Comey and Kallstrom Once Fought Terror Together—Now Trump Has Them Fight Each Other.

The constellation of federal investigators, attorneys, prosecutors and judges orbiting Donald Trump in the last three years have a unique, shared history.

Relatively unknown to the American public is the fact that before many of them became household names, cast as either the heroes or villains of the Trump saga (depending on where you stand on Trump), they were colleagues in the trenches of some of America’s biggest terrorism cases.

They crossed paths numerous times in courtrooms and at crime scenes, often united by a single case. From my perch working for the House Intelligence Committee, at the FBI as a congressional liaison, and then on the 9/11 Joint Inquiry, I observed what in many respects were their finest achievements, how those played out politically, how they fought their turf battles at home and with foreign governments, how they learned to communicate with the American public after each tragedy—and ultimately, fundamentally how they changed America’s approach to national security.

Once-Heroic Agents Have Helped Trump’s Effort to Divide and Conquer the FBI.

On July 17, 1996, TWA Flight 800, a Boeing 747 carrying 230 summer vacationers, would-be tourists, and crew members took off from New York’s JFK airport en route to Rome. Ten minutes into the flight, the plane’s captain reported unusual readings on the Fuel Quantity Indication System (FQIS). Two minutes after that, a catastrophic explosion occurred.

TWA 800 broke apart mid-air into three huge sections that came crashing into the sea. People on the South Shore of Long Island would report seeing the fireball in the night. Others reported seeing lights streaking across the sky around the same time as the explosion.

Alongside the work of the National Transportation Safety Board, the FBI launched an investigation led by the assistant director for the New York field office, James Kallstrom. Until recently, he was defined in history as the man who headed that $20 million, 16-month investigation into the explosion—and who kept conspiracy theories from spinning out of control. And that was no easy task. Pierre Salinger, President John F. Kennedy’s former press secretary, was reporting from France that he had secret information that the plane had been brought down by the friendly fire of a U.S. Navy missile, and that theory has never been completely exorcised from the popular imagination.

These are long reads, with one more installment to come.

It looks like we’ll continue to have a busy news day today and a busy week of news to come. What stories are you following today?

73 Comments on “Tuesday Reads: Plenty of Breaking News Today”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    NBC News: Newly released documents shed light on Mueller-Trump meeting.

    Former special counsel Robert Mueller had taken himself out of the running to be FBI director by the time he met with President Donald Trump about the job, former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told federal investigators.

    Notes from Rosenstein’s May 23, 2017 interview were made public on Monday as the result of a court ruling in BuzzFeed News’ Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Justice Department.

    The document sheds new light on the circumstances of Trump’s May 16, 2017 meeting with Mueller in the Oval Office. Trump has claimed that Mueller applied for the suddenly vacant job of FBI director in that meeting and turned him down. The next day, Mueller was named special counsel investigating links between the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 election.

    • bostonboomer says:

      CNN: Highlights from the newly released FBI Mueller investigation notes.

      In a June 29, 2017, meeting with Hicks, Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump and the President, Hicks advocated for getting in front of the emails about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting. Hicks wanted Donald Trump Jr. to do an interview with “softball questions” to get the emails out. Kushner didn’t believe the story was a big deal.

      Hicks told the President “this is going to be a massive story.” According to the document, “The President did not want to talk about it and did not want the details.”

      On July 8, 2017, at the G-20 summit, Hicks told Trump about the upcoming New York Times story about the Trump Tower meeting: “The President asked what the meeting was about. Hicks told him Kushner and Junior had told her the meeting was about Russian adoption. The President said words to the effect of, ‘then just say that’ and dictated what she should say.”

      Is there anyone with worse political instincts than Jared Kushner?

  2. dakinikat says:

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  5. dakinikat says:

    Barr needs to be removed. He’s not the least bit interested in the Constitution or democracy. They’re talking about that article you posted today on the news channels.

  6. Pat Johnson says:

    Grabbed my morning coffee, turned on the tv and there was Trump and Macron sitting for a joint news conference.

    Watching the POTUS sitting there sulking like a 3 year old denied another cookie was totally embarrassing from a global point of view. How is it that this slug represents us? A hulking, sulking moron bickering back and forth with another global leader who walked all over him in response to the bullshit and nonsense coming from Trump. Amazing.

    Is there any longer a question regarding Trump’s loyalty to Russia? Any longer any hesitancy in suggesting he works on behalf of Erdogan? That his “friendship” with MBS is more than it appears? It even comes through his incoherence in answering questions where his loyalty resides. And it isn’t the US.

    Has America had enough of this circus? We are going on 4 years of seeping corruption that is shared by his family and staff. Everybody is under investigation for one thing or another. Some have been convicted and awaiting sentencing. Others are already serving their time and we keep hearing of more indictments to come.

    There is not one member of this administration that we can trust. We have been enveloped by a multitude of lies. One after the other since the day this moron was sworn into office. Few seem to know the difference between right and wrong.

    It is not enough to point at his incompetency. Not enough to tear open his lack of knowledge surrounding even the basics. Not enough to question his mental fitness. Not enough to dismiss his vulgarity and amorality, Not enough to suggest he is a Putin puppet. This man must go.

    He is an affront to decency. His behavior is more than outrageous. His vindictiveness is leading us into chaos. He is a monumental failure on every level and it is imperative that he must go.

    • Enheduanna says:

      It’s hard to even talk about him now with sympathetic friends and family – there’s just too many outrages. Where do you even start?

      I’m sure the Pentagon hates him now, don’t you think?

      I just hope he has a stroke and has to sit down, STFU and leave office. It scares me that I have those feelings for any human being, but there it is. If it was just mental illness I’d have some sympathy – but he’s evil. He thinks decapitating a child is OK and not a war crime. He thinks ripping babies from their parents and losing them is OK. Sorry – can’t help it – wish he were incapacitated by his horrible lifestyle habits – hope for it every day.

      • bostonboomer says:

        He may be already having small strokes. We still have no idea why he was rushed to the hospital and he seems to be having problems with his left arm.

        • Enheduanna says:

          I have seen that mentioned as well although I can’t stand to watch videos of him. One person mentioned his left leg seemed to be dragging?

          If he had a mini-stroke would they have let him out of hospital after a couple of hours? Maybe he insisted and they set him up at the White House. He did not make appearances for a couple of days.

          • bostonboomer says:

            I don’t know what’s happening for sure. I just know he has rapidly worsening dementia and that can affect body movements too.

          • Enheduanna says:

            Now he’s over in Britain bad-mouthing the NHS. Be a shame if he needed emergency treatment…

    • bostonboomer says:

      Thanks! I’ll go read it now.

    • quixote says:

      Interesting article, JJ!

      One problem I had with it is that I suspect language emergence among people embedded in a language-using society could be, or almost certainly is, a very different process from actually inventing it without any such structure.

      It’s kind of similar to the same problem in biology. DNA provides the instructions for life, but the system is so complex and requires so many helper molecules that it can’t be the way things started off. The theory now is that a simplified form of RNA began the whole self-replicating principle, but there’s lots of problems with it. Error correction is minimal or non-existent (don’t remember), so any complex cells are out of the question.

      Plus, as usual, women are invisible. There’s some indication that language may well have gotten it’s start among women to talk to infants and also each other about the complexities of delivery and child care. There’s certainly a lot more need for task-oriented communication in day-to-day living than the big favorite, hunting. Silence is best when hunting.

  7. dakinikat says:

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  9. bostonboomer says:

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  11. bostonboomer says:

    The Intel Committee report is out.

  12. bostonboomer says:

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    • dakinikat says:

      Definitely. The one big thing that women still have to learn and communities of color–if they can–is to write checks or bundle or volunteer or all of the above. Candidates that don’t get money the corporate way need every single dollar they can get. Even little donations matter. It’s why Emily’s list was created. It’s to remind women that women and others will start with a lack of funds and that kills a lot of really exceptional candidates because they can’t get their message out and the media isn’t going to play either.

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  17. Susan Lloyd says:

    I just sent fifty bucks to Warren; I don’t want to lose another woman candidate.

  18. bostonboomer says:

  19. bostonboomer says:

    I really couldn’t care less for all these “explanations” for why Harris quit. It’s all ragtime. Racism and Sexism are alive and well.

  20. bostonboomer says:

  21. bostonboomer says:

    This is the outfit that Mayor Pete worked for.

  22. dakinikat says:

  23. dakinikat says:

    This is explosive. George Nader named in a new indictment charging a large number of persons with conspiring to move Middle Eastern money (UAE and Saudi would be my suspicion) into the coffers of the Trump campaign and other GOP political campaigns.


    • dakinikat says:

      Earlier today, an indictment was unsealed against the CEO of an online payment processing company, and seven others, charging them with conspiring to make and conceal conduit and excessive campaign contributions, and related offenses, during the U.S. presidential election in 2016 and thereafter.

      Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Assistant Director in Charge Timothy R. Slater of the FBI’s Washington Field Office made the announcement.

      A federal grand jury in the District of Columbia indicted Ahmad “Andy” Khawaja, 48, of Los Angeles, California, on Nov. 7, 2019, along with George Nader, Roy Boulos, Rudy Dekermenjian, Mohammad “Moe” Diab, Rani El-Saadi, Stevan Hill and Thayne Whipple. The 53 count indictment charges Khawaja with two counts of conspiracy, three counts of making conduit contributions, three counts of causing excessive contributions, 13 counts of making false statements, 13 counts of causing false records to be filed, and one count of obstruction of a federal grand jury investigation. Nader is charged with conspiring with Khawaja to make conduit campaign contributions, and related offenses. Boulos, Dekermenjian, Diab, El-Saadi, Hill, and Whipple are charged with conspiring with Khawaja and each other to make conduit campaign contributions and conceal excessive contributions, and related offenses.

      According to the indictment, from March 2016 through January 2017, Khawaja conspired with Nader to conceal the source of more than $3.5 million in campaign contributions, directed to political committees associated with a candidate for President of the United States in the 2016 election. By design, these contributions appeared to be in the names of Khawaja, his wife, and his company. In reality, they allegedly were funded by Nader. Khawaja and Nader allegedly made these contributions in an effort to gain influence with high-level political figures, including the candidate. As Khawaja and Nader arranged these payments, Nader allegedly reported to an official from a foreign government about his efforts to gain influence.

      The indictment also alleges that, from March 2016 through 2018, Khawaja conspired with Boulos, Dekermenjian, Diab, El-Saadi, Hill, and Whipple to conceal Khawaja’s excessive contributions, which totaled more than $1.8 million, to various political committees. Among other things, these contributions allegedly allowed Khawaja to host a private fundraiser for a presidential candidate in 2016 and a private fundraising dinner for an elected official in 2018.

      The indictment further alleges that, from June 2019 through July 2019, Khawaja obstructed a grand jury investigation of this matter in the District of Columbia. Knowing that a witness had been called to testify before the grand jury, Khawaja allegedly provided that witness with false information about Nader and his connection to Khawaja’s company. Boulos, Diab, Hill, and Whipple also are charged with obstructing the grand jury’s investigation by lying to the FBI.

      Currently, Nader is in federal custody on other charges.

  24. NW Luna says:

    Take the Cat Faces Quiz exam linked in the article. I got 100% on the first one, and 80% on the second, so I’m officially a “cat whisperer.” LOL. It’s not that hard; you just need to pay close attention.

    Cat Faces Quiz: https://uoguelph.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_cBGMqIIYSsurKW9

  25. NW Luna says: