Sunday Cartoons: Cornholio Airlines…Now Boarding

Good morning. I had a crummy night yesterday so just cartoons for today:

This is an open thread…if I don’t comment later, stay safe and have a good day.

Lazy Caturday Reads

Psyche, after John William Waterhouse (see original painting here). By Susan Herbert. Courtesy of Thames & Hudson.

Psyche, after John William Waterhouse, by Susan Herbert. Courtesy of Thames & Hudson.

Happy Caturday!!

After a packed news day yesterday, it looks like this weekend will be even busier for the media. As I’m sure you’ve heard, Trump is trying to incite violence in advance of his possible arrest by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office in the Stormy Daniels payoff case. Trump is predicting he will be arrested on Tuesday.

Trump can’t possibly know what the New York grand jury is going to do on Monday, but he wants to get his cult followers worked up to cause trouble if it happens. It’s another iteration of his “stand back and stand by” message to the Proud Boys in a 2020 presidential debate. In his statement on Truth Social, Trump called for protests, and notably didn’t specify that they be peaceful. Sadly, much of the media is spreading his insane posts far and wide without adding any context.

Liz Johnstone at NBC News: Trump says ‘illegal leaks’ indicate he will be arrested Tuesday in N.Y. hush money probe.

Former President Donald Trump said Saturday that “illegal leaks” have indicated that he will be arrested Tuesday and called on supporters to protest.

Trump, in posts on his social media platform Truth Social, referenced reports that he could soon face possible criminal charges in New York relating to a hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels.

Trump did not say whether he had been informed by law enforcement of a coming indictment. A spokesperson for Trump later clarified in a statement that there “has been no notification, other than illegal leaks from the Justice Dept. and the DA’s office, to NBC” and other news outlets.

The spokesperson added, “President Trump is rightfully highlighting his innocence and the weaponization of our injustice system. He will be in Texas next weekend for a giant rally. Make America Great Again!”

NBC News reported Friday that law enforcement agencies are prepping for a possible Trump indictment as early as next week.

Trump, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, decried “illegal leaks” that “indicate” he would be arrested on Tuesday.


No one in the media is reporting “leaks” from the Manhattan DA’s office. It’s possible Trump’s attorneys were warned to be prepared if the grand jury does vote on an indictment on Monday. It’s Trump who is spreading rumors.

Musica (Melody), after Kate Elizabeth Bunce (see original painting here). Image credit By Susan Herbert. Courtesy of Thames & Hudson.

Musica (Melody), after Kate Elizabeth Bunce, by Susan Herbert. Courtesy of Thames & Hudson.

This is from The New York Times with multiple by-lines: Trump Claims His Arrest Is Imminent and Calls for Protests, Echoing Jan. 6. His indictment by a Manhattan grand jury is expected, but its timing is unclear.

With former President Donald J. Trump facing indictment by a Manhattan grand jury but the timing of the charges uncertain, he declared on his social media site that he would be arrested on Tuesday and demanded that his supporters protest on his behalf.


Two hours later, a spokesman issued a statement clarifying that Mr. Trump had not written his post with direct knowledge of the timing of any arrest.

“President Trump is rightfully highlighting his innocence and the weaponization of our injustice system,” the statement said.

A lawyer for Mr. Trump, Susan R. Necheles, said that his post had been based on news reports, and accused the Manhattan district attorney’s office of conducting a “political prosecution.”

A spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney’s office declined to comment.

Prosecutors working for the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, have signaled that an indictment of Mr. Trump could be imminent. But they have not told Mr. Trump’s lawyers when the charges — expected to stem from a 2016 hush money payment to a porn star — would be sought or when an arrest would be made, people with knowledge of the matter said. At least one more witness is expected to testify in front of the grand jury, which could delay an indictment, the people said.

One of the people said that even if the grand jury were to vote to indict the former president on Monday, a Tuesday surrender was unlikely given the need to arrange timing, travel and other logistics.

The statement from Mr. Trump’s spokesman did not explain how he landed on Tuesday as an arrest date. One person with knowledge of the matter said that Mr. Trump’s advisers had guessed that it could happen around then, and that someone might have relayed that to the former president.

So Trump is just trying to rile up his supporters in advance. At least he didn’t add “will be wild.”

The  Washington Post has an article that explores how the hush money case was revived after it appeared to be dead: The prosecutor, the ex-president and the ‘zombie’ case that came back to life.

It was just weeks into Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s time in office, and he was being assailed on multiple fronts.

A memo he had released outlining his strategy for prosecuting crimes in New York City was being vilified by critics, including the mayor and police commissioner. Bragg became a punching bag across cable news and on tabloid covers. Then two prosecutors from his office quit in protest over what they called Bragg’s decision not to prosecute former president Donald Trump. People who know Bragg say he was deeply stung by the criticism.

The district attorney soon issued an unusual public statement — emphasizing that the investigation into Trump and his business was far from over and that a team of investigators was “exploring evidence not previously explored.”

The message he wanted conveyed, it seemed, was simple: I’m still on this.

Susan Herbert, after Evelyn de Morgan's Flora

Susan Herbert, after Evelyn de Morgan’s Flora

Almost a year later, Bragg’s investigation into one particular issue involving Trump — a payment made before the 2016 presidential election to an adult-film actressto keep her from publicly discussing an affair she said she had with Trumpyears earlier — appears to be nearing its conclusion.

A grand jury in Manhattan looking at the case could be on the precipice of charging Trump with a crime, though no decision has been announced and it remains unclear whether the group will issue an indictment or when that could happen.

Trump has lumped this case in with others, including the ongoing investigations into his handling of highly classified material and his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, denying wrongdoing and denouncingtheprobes as part of a system that’s out to get him.

For Bragg, meanwhile, the case is a high-wire balancing act for an official who has navigated controversies before but could find himself both being praised and pilloriedif he becomes the first prosecutor to criminally charge a former president.

Bragg has been circumspect in his public remarks about the Trump probe, sayingmainlythat investigators were continuing their work. After his office won a conviction of Trump’s namesake business for tax crimes last year, Bragg noted in one interview: “We’re going to do our talking in the courtroom.”

Meanwhile, back in Washington DC, there were developments in the Special Counsel’s investigation of Trump’s theft of government documents.

CNN: Trump attorney ordered to testify before grand jury investigating former president.

In a monumental ruling Friday, a federal judge ordered Donald Trump attorney Evan Corcoran to provide additional testimony as part of an investigation into the former president’s handling of classified documents, a source familiar with the matter told CNN.

Corcoran has the potential to become one of the most crucial witnesses in special counsel Jack Smith’s criminal investigation into possible mishandling of classified records after the Trump presidency and obstruction of justice.

District Judge Beryl Howell said in an order under seal that Justice Department prosecutors have met the threshold for the crime-fraud exception for Corcoran, the source said.

The scope of what DOJ will be allowed to ask, however, was not immediately clear. Trump’s team is expected to appeal and ask for the judge’s order to be stayed while legal proceedings play out.

The decision hands Trump yet another loss under seal in court as his team and allies have tried to hold off Smith’s investigators from learning about direct conversations the former president had with some of his closest advisers.

The development is particularly notable because of accusations prosecutors would have made about Trump as they argued to the judge for the grand jury testimony….

Corcoran, an attorney-turned-witness, had previously testified to the grand jury but declined to answer some questions, citing attorney-client privilege. The department argued to the judge he should not be able to avoid answering, because his discussions with the former president may have been part of an attempt to plan a crime.

Susan Herbert, Princes in the Tower, After after Sir John Everett Millais (see original painting here). Image credit By Susan Herbert. Courtesy of Thames & Hudson.

Susan Herbert, Princes in the Tower, After after Sir John Everett Millais, by Susan Herbert. Courtesy of Thames & Hudson.

And from Jose Pagliery at The Daily Beast: Federal Judge Hands Over Trump’s Lawyer’s Notes to DOJ.

On her final day as the top judge in the District of Columbia on Friday afternoon—in her final act—Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell did more than grant the Justice Department permission to question former President Donald Trump’s personal attorney. She actually took the rare step of handing over the lawyer’s notes to federal prosecutors, according to a person familiar with the arrangement.

In doing so, Howell may have planted the seeds for a future constitutional challenge. But in the immediate term, she’s handed Justice Department Special Prosecutor Jack Smith a parting gift: what she deemed evidence of a crime involving the former president improperly hoarding classified documents after he left office.

M. Evan Corcoran, a former federal prosecutor, has represented Trump in that classified documents scandal. And while Corcoran already has his hands full as Trump’s lawyer, the probe now appears to have put Corcoran in legal jeopardy himself.

According to a source, Corcoran’s professional notes about private communications with his client were turned over to Judge Howell, who was conducting an “in camera review”—a carefully controlled screening of confidential records that typically takes place in a judge’s chambers.

Judges who come to the conclusion that some legally protected and sensitive material must be turned over to an opposing side normally issue an order directing one side to do it, along with a deadline. Doing so gives the losing side the ability to appeal to a higher court—and prevent irreversible damage that could forever taint a case, according to two lawyers not involved in the case who spoke to The Daily Beast but asked not to be identified.

But Howell appears to have skipped that careful yet tedious approach—and just handed Smith a batch of documents that may show Trump and one of his lawyers planning a crime.

Either way, Trump’s legal team is left without recourse, and federal prosecutors have more evidence to bolster the next steps in their ballooning investigation.

There’s more at the link.

So Trump could be indicted soon, and he will use that to inflame his followers in hopes of winning back into the White House in 2024. Even though he expects to be indicted soon, Trump is planning to hold a campaign rally in a very provocative place–Waco, Texas. He’s claiming this is his first official rally, even though he held a rally in Iowa recently.

The Texas Tribune: Former President Donald Trump’s first 2024 campaign rally will be in Waco.

Texas is the first stop on the 2024 presidential campaign trail for Donald Trump, the former president’s team announced Friday. In this third consecutive bid for the White House, Trump will hold a rally March 25 at the Waco Regional Airport.

The Light of the Worlds, after William Holman Hunt (see original painting here). Photo credit By Susan Herbert. Courtesy of Thames & Hudson.

The Light of the Worlds, after William Holman Hunt, by Susan Herbert. Courtesy of Thames & Hudson.

Why not Oklahoma City next? That would be another signal that he wants his followers to be violent.

More stories to check out today:

Raw Story: ‘Disgraceful’ Kevin McCarthy buried for new plan to tamper with Trump investigations.

The Guardian: Are Texas’s abortion laws being used for state-sponsored spouse harassment?

NBC News: New Covid origins data suggests pandemic linked to raccoon dogs at Wuhan market.

Slate: Wait, What’s a Raccoon Dog? Meet the mischievous—and mistreated—creatures that may have started the pandemic.

HuffPost: Michigan Is Becoming The Anti-Florida On LGBTQ Rights ― And A Lot More.

The New York Times: Wyoming Becomes First State to Outlaw the Use of Pills for Abortion.

NBC News: 9 Republicans pull support from South Carolina bill allowing the death penalty for abortion.

Have a great weekend, Sky Dancers!!

Finally Friday Reads: Resplendent with Breaking News Edition

John Constable,
Seascape Study with Rain Cloud (c.1824-1828)

Good Day Sky Dancers!

Wow, is it hard to keep up with the headlines this week!  Just this morning, we learned that the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin. This is from NBC News. “International Criminal Court issues arrest warrant for Putin over alleged Ukraine war crimes. The court said Friday that the Russian leader is responsible for overseeing the forced deportation of children. The Kremlin has previously denied the accusation.”  It’s reported by Henry Austin.

The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant Friday for Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing him of being responsible for war crimes in Ukraine.

Putin committed the “war crime” of overseeing the unlawful abduction and deportation of childrenfrom Ukraine to Russia, the court said in a news release.

“There are reasonable grounds to believe that Putin bears individual criminal responsibility for the aforementioned crimes,” the court, based in The Hague, Netherlands, said its pre-trial judges had assessed.

It added that Putin had failed to “exercise control properly over civilian and military subordinates who committed the acts, or allowed for their commission, and who were under his effective authority and control.”

Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, Putin’s presidential commissioner for children’s rights, is also alleged to have committed similar crimes, the ICC said.

While warrants are often issued in secret “to protect victims and witnesses and also to safeguard the investigation,” the release said that the court was “mindful that the conduct addressed in the present situation is allegedly ongoing, and that the public awareness of the warrants may contribute to the prevention of the further commission of crimes.”

From the early days of the invasion last February, Kyiv has accused Russia of forcibly transferring children and adults.

Franz Marc-In the Rain(Im Regen) (1912)

Turkey is backing Finland’s entrance into NATO.  The NATO expansion may also give the Russian people some reason to feel less safe with Putin in charge. Hungary has also agreed to the deal. This is from Bloomberg News.

Turkey and Hungary both signaled they plan to ratify Finland’s entry into NATO, bringing the military alliance a step closer to welcoming its 31st member as the ripples from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine spread across the European security landscape.

“We’ve decided to start the process for the approval of Finland’s membership in our parliament,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at a news conference Friday together with his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto in Ankara. He added he hoped to complete the approval process for Finland by May 14 elections due in Turkey.

Meanwhile, Hungary plans to approve the Finnish entry March 27, Fidesz parliamentary leader Mate Kocsis said in a Facebook post. Prime Minister Viktor Orban has continually delayed a parliamentary vote in contrast with his statements of support for NATO’s enlargement.

The stance taken by Turkey and Hungary decouples the Nordic countries’ bids to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, filed in May to deter any Russian aggression following its invasion of Ukraine. The comments cast further doubt on the timeline for Sweden’s accession.

“Progress on Sweden’s bid depends on steps it will take,” Erdogan said. Hungary also said it will decide on Sweden’s membership at a later date.

In The Rain, 1882, Vincent van Gogh

I vividly remember someone trying to leave with the Abraham Lincoln bust during Trump’s removal from the White House. It seems more stuff went missing.  This is from the Washington Post. “Two gifts to Trump family from foreign nations are missing, report says. More than 100 gifts worth nearly $300,000 were not properly reported to the government, a new report finds.”

Federal officials cannot find two gifts received by President Donald Trump and his family from foreign nations, including a life-size painting of Trump from the president of El Salvador and golf clubs from the Japanese prime minister, according to a new report from House Democrats.

The gifts are among more than 100 foreign gifts — with a total value of nearly $300,000 — that Trump and his family failed to report to the State Department in violation of federal law, according to the report, which cites government records and emails.

The 15-page report, a result of ayear-long investigation by the House Oversight Committeeinto Trump’s failure to disclose gifts from foreign government officials while in office, revealed that the Trump family did not disclose dozens of gifts from countries that are not U.S. allies or have a complicated relationship with Washington. That includes 16 gifts from Saudi Arabia worth more than $48,000, 17 gifts from India worth over $17,000, and at least 5 gifts from China. Trump reported zero gifts entirely the final year of his presidency, according to the report, while he reported some of the gifts received in previous years.

Trump repeatedly told advisers that gifts given to him during the presidency were hisand did not belong to the federal government, former chief of staff John F. Kelly and other aides have previously told The Washington Post.

Investigators are continuing to search for the large portrait of Trump gifted to him ahead of the 2020 election by Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele and the golf clubs worth more than $7,000 thatTrump received from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during visits to the Trump International Golf Club and Kasumigaeski Country Club in 2017 and 2018, the report says.

Vasily Kandinsky Landscape with rain Guggenheim, c 1944

Count the silverware before and after anywhere this family travels.  They’ll take anything!  Meanwhile, court watch continues, and bets on Trump’s indictment are that both Manhattan and Georgia will come for him next week.  Lock him up!

I’m beginning to wonder if Charlie Sykes reads us.  Who besides me penned Orange Caligula?  This is from the Bulwark.  “Trump Picks an Enemy: Us. The Orange Caligula sides with Russia.”  Of course, he does.  I bet he heads there if those indictments come through too.

Because on Earth 2.0, this would be the stuff of endless news cycles and nightmares.

Here is Donald Trump channeling Kremlin propaganda, siding with Russia, even as he declares that our real enemy is . . . other Americans.

Despite the wishcasting punditry, the magical thinking of his rivals, and the fervent hopes of the Hollow Men of the GOP, this man is the presumptive nominee of the Republican party, and therefore possibly the next president of the United States. (The DeSantis bubble hasn’t burst. But it’s leaking.)

I don’t mean to alarm you. You should be alarmed.

Let’s break this down:

*The Purge

TRUMP: The State Department, the defense bureaucracy, the intelligence services, and all of the rest need to be completely overhauled and reconstituted to fire the Deep Staters and put America first.

We have to put America first.

At a time of growing international tension, the former president is threatening a massive purge of the nation’s defense infrastructure. He proposes dismantling — and completely overhauling — the Defense Department, the nation’s intelligence agencies (our eyes and ears), and the country’s foreign policy capabilities.

Mass firings, the loss of centuries of experience. A purge of independent, adult voices, and anyone else who might tell the new president “no.”

More important though, after the purge of the “Deep Staters,” he would “reconstitute” the country’s destroyed defenses, presumably by stacking the agencies with his own loyalists.

All while Russia advances, China rattles sabers, and the Middle East boils.

You can read the rundown that includes dumping NATO.  We just found out Hungary and Turkey aren’t even up for that.

Nixen (Silberfische). Nymphs, Gustav Klimt, cc 1899,

We all know Trump is just full of shit.  This Washington Post article on the report of his commission on election fraud just shows how much he knew and chose to ignore. “Trump-commissioned report undercut his claims of dead and double voters. A report commissioned by the former president’s campaign and obtained by The Post did not back up his claims of fraud and did not provide evidence to overturn the 2020 election.”

When Donald Trump called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Jan. 2, 2021, in a now-infamous bid to overturn the 2020 election, he alleged that thousands of dead people had voted in the state.

“So dead people voted, and I think the number is close to 5,000 people. And they went to obituaries. They went to all sorts of methods to come up with an accurate number, and a minimum is close to about 5,000 voters,” he said, without citing his study.

But a report commissioned by his own campaign dated one day prior told a different story: Researchers paid by Trump’s team had “high confidence” of only nine dead voters in Fulton County, defined as ballots that may have been cast by someone else in the name of a deceased person. They believed there was a “potential statewide exposure” of 23 such votes across the Peach State — or 4,977 fewer than the “minimum” Trump claimed.

In a separate failed bid to overturn the results in Nevada, Trump’s lawyers said in a court filing that 1,506 ballots were cast in the names of dead people and 42,284 voted twice. Trump lost the Silver State by about 33,000 votes.

The researchers paid by Trump’s team had “high confidence” that 12 ballots were cast in the names of deceased people in Clark County, Nev., and believed the “high end potential exposure” was 20 voters statewide — some 1,486 fewer than Trump’s lawyers said.

According to their research, the “low end potential exposure” of double voters was 45, while the “high end potential exposure” was 9,063. The judge tossed the Nevada case even as Trump continued to claim he won the state.

The “Project 2020” report conducted by the Berkeley Research Group has now been obtained by prosecutors investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. A copy was reviewed by The Washington Post, and it shows that Trump’s own campaign paid more than $600,000 for research that undercut many of his most explosive claims. The research was never made public.

The Justice Department has sought and obtained multiple reports, emails and interviews from witnesses that show campaign officials analyzing, and often discrediting, claims that Trump was making publicly, according to several people involved in the investigation, who like some others spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose internal details. The Berkeley report was provided to the Justice Department earlier this month, one of the people said, after some people involved in its crafting received a subpoena.

Why do people believe this idiot?  Nothing he says is true.

Anyway, I’m cold and achy. It’s raining like crazy and has gone into the 40s. It’s the second coming of Winter. I have to dig out clothes I just boxed up, and I’m ready to sleep for some time.  Between this and the time change, I feel like a slug.

Have a good weekend!  Indictments are coming!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Thursday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

Reader with a yellow book, Henri Manguin

Reader with a yellow book, Henri Manguin

There’s still no word on the crazy judge in Texas who could block access to the abortion pill mifepristone nationwide. Reuters has a good article summarizing the yesterday’s hearing.

Gabriella Borter and Brendan Pierson at Reuters: Judge mulls banning abortion pill in US, questions regulatory approval.

AMARILLO, Texas, March 15 (Reuters) – A U.S. judge on Wednesday questioned lawyers for President Joe Biden’s administration on whether the federal regulatory approval given to the abortion pill mifepristone 22 years ago was proper as he considered a request by anti-abortion groups to ban sales of the drug nationwide.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk during a hearing in Amarillo also pressed the groups, led by the Texas-based Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, to explain how he could reverse approval of a long-established drug.

The judge raised the possibility of a more limited ruling, keeping the drug on the market but re-imposing some restrictions lifted by Biden’s administration, including requiring it to be dispensed in person rather than by mail. Kacsmaryk, appointed to the bench by former President Donald Trump, said he would rule “as soon as possible.”

It is shaping up as the most consequential abortion case since the U.S. Supreme Court, powered by its conservative majority, last year overturned its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that had recognized a constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.

The anti-abortion groups sued the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in November, contending the agency used an improper process when it approved mifepristone in 2000 and did not adequately consider the drug’s safety when used by girls under age 18.

The plaintiffs are asking Kacsmaryk for a preliminary order halting sales of mifepristone nationwide – even in states where abortion is legal – while their lawsuit proceeds.

On yesterday’s arguments:

Erik Baptist, a lawyer with the conservative legal group Alliance Defending Freedom representing the plaintiffs, said the scope of the judge’s ruling should be “universal and nationwide.”

Woman Reading, by Albert Reuss

Woman Reading, Albert Reuss, 1889-1975

The judge questioned lawyers for Biden’s administration on how the FDA accelerated its approval for mifepristone under a process typically used for drugs to treat HIV infection and other life-threatening illnesses. The administration has said that the drug’s approval was well supported by science, and that the challenge comes much too late.

Lawyers for the U.S. Justice Department and an attorney for mifepristone’s manufacturer, Danco Laboratories, argued that the plaintiffs had no standing to bring the case, and said mifepristone has an impressive safety and efficacy record.

“An injunction here would upend the status quo. An injunction would cause significant public harm,” Justice Department attorney Julie Straus Harris told the judge.

Harris also argued that a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs would undercut trust in the FDA, the agency charged with signing off on the safety of food products and drugs in the United States. Harris said such a ruling would also increase the burden on surgical abortion clinics, already overcrowded as they admit patients from states where clinics have closed in the wake of last year’s Supreme Court decision.

Read the rest at Reuters

Some breaking news on that U.S. drone that collided with a Russian fighter plane:

NPR: The U.S. military releases footage of Black Sea drone crash with Russian jet.

The U.S. European Command has declassified footage showing the moments when two Russian fighter jets flew very close to a U.S. drone over the Black Sea, dumping fuel on it — and, the Pentagon says, eventually flying into the drone. The video footage appears to show the U.S. craft was damaged by a collision.

The release of the video comes two days after the Pentagon said a Russian Su-27 fighter clipped the propeller of an uncrewed MQ-9 Reaper drone that was operating in international airspace, forcing it down into the water. The Kremlin says its jets did not make contact with the drone.

The footage gives brief glimpses of the encounter, which U.S. officials say lasted for at least a half hour. The Pentagon says the video depicts events in the order they happened, although it was edited to condense the action.

In the 42-second video, a Russian Su-27 aircraft is seen approaching from the drone’s rear quarter, releasing a plume of fuel as it pulls upward and over the drone, causing the footage to partially pixelate. The camera recovers as the fighter jet pulls away, showing the drone’s rear-mounted propeller in normal working condition.

The footage then shows what the Pentagon says is an “even closer” pass from a Russian jet.

Approaching from what looks to be a lower angle, the Su-27 releases more fuel and its fuselage is seen coming extremely close to the drone before the video cuts out entirely. The Pentagon says the camera feed was lost for around 60 seconds.

When the feed returns, the camera, which is mounted beneath the MQ-9, pivots to show the drone’s propeller has been partially mangled.

Shortly afterward, the aircraft crashed into the Black Sea off the southern coast of Ukraine — a country that the U.S. and dozens of other countries are supporting in its war against Russia. The U.S. has been monitoring movements by Russian troops and warships in the area.

The U.S. European Command described the encounter as “an unsafe and unprofessional intercept.”

There’s more at the link.

More from Courtney Cube and Carol Lee at NBC News: Russian leadership approved aggressive actions of jets that damaged U.S. drone, U.S. officials say.

Three U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence said the highest levels of the Kremlin approved the aggressive actions of Russian military fighter jets against a U.S. military drone over the Black Sea on Tuesday.

The Russian jets dropped jet fuel on the MQ-9 Reaper, an unprecedented action, and two of the officials said the intelligence suggests the intent seemed to be to throw the drone off course or disable its surveillance capabilities.

Lucie Belin Smiling (1915). by Jean-Édouard Vuillard (French, 1868-1940).

Lucie Belin Smiling (1915). by Jean-Édouard Vuillard (French, 1868-1940).

It was “Russian leadership’s intention to be aggressive in the intercept,” said one of the officials.

One official said he had not gotten indications that the signoff went all the way up to Putin. Other officials declined to provide specifics beyond “highest levels.”

The Russian jet actually clipping the propeller of the drone — which the U.S. says occurred and Russia denies — was likely not intentional, said the officials, who believe it was pilot error, based on U.S. video of the incident.

Three defense officials and one Biden administration official also said the Russians have already reached the area where the MQ-9 Reaper crashed. The Russians are actively looking for the debris with ships and aircraft, but the U.S. hasn’t seen any indication that they’ve been able to recover any of it, officials said. One official said much of the debris sank into the Black Sea.

The U.S. is unlikely to try to recover the remnants of the crashed drone, according to the three U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence.

Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a news conference on Wednesday that there’s probably not a lot of debris to recover and noted the part of the Black Sea where the drone landed is as much as 5,000-feet deep.

News on the Georgia election interference case:

If you watched TV last night, you probably heard about this story by Tamar Hallerman and Bill Rankin at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, but it’s well worth reading the whole article; I can only excerpt a small part of it. The article is a detailed description of what happened in the grand jury, based on interviews with several jurors: EXCLUSIVE: Behind the scenes of Trump grand jury; jurors hear 3rd leaked Trump call.

A number of the jurors criticized Emily Khors, the jury foreperson, who previously spoke to media outlets.

Several jurors said they decided to speak out for the first time in responseto criticism leveled at the probe after Kohrs spoke to multiple media outlets last month. Some detractors, including Trump’s Georgia-based legal team, said that Kohrs’ remarks showcased an unprofessional, politically tainted criminal investigation.

The jurors, who stressed their aim was not to drag down Kohrs, underscored that they understood the gravity of their assignment and took care to be active participants and attend as many sessions as possible. They said the investigation was somber and thorough.

“I just felt like we, as a group, were portrayed as not serious,” one of the jurors said. “That really bothered me because that’s not how I felt. I took it very seriously. I showed up, did what I was supposed to do, did not do what I was asked not to do, you know?” [….]

They also divulged details from the investigation that had yet to become public.

Piero di Cosimo, 1462-1522; Magdalen Reading

Piero di Cosimo, 1462-1522, Magdalen Reading

One was that they had heard a recording of a phone call Trump placed to late Georgia House Speaker David Ralstonin which the president asked the fellow Republican to convene a special session of the Legislature to overturn Democrat JoeBiden’s narrow victory in Georgia.

One juror said Ralston proved to be “an amazing politician.”

The speaker “basically cut the president off. He said, ‘I will do everything in my power that I think is appropriate.’ … He just basically took the wind out of the sails,” the juror said. “‘Well, thank you,’ you know, is all the president could say.”

Ralston and other legislative leaders did not call a special session. A former Ralston aide declined to comment for this story, and a Trump campaign spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

There was a tidbit about Lindsey Graham’s testimony:

One grand juror recalled U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s testimony about Trump’s state of mind in the months after the 2020 election.

“He said that during that time, if somebody had told Trump that aliens came down and stole Trump ballots, that Trump would’ve believed it,” the juror said.

Just one more excerpt:

The group said they had no idea what Willis planned to do in response to their recommendations. But many described an increased regard for the elections system and the people who run it.

“I can honestly give a damn of whoever goes to jail, you know, like personally,” one juror said. “I care more about there being more respect in the system for the work that people do to make sure elections are free and fair.”

Said another juror: “I tell my wife if every person in America knew every single word of information we knew, this country would not be divided as it is right now.”

The grand jurors said they understand why the public release of their full final report needs to wait until Willis makes indictment decisions.

“A lot’s gonna come out sooner or later,” one of the jurors said. “And it’s gonna be massive. It’s gonna be massive.”

Read much more at the link if you’re interested.

January 6 investigation news:

Zoe Tillman at Bloomberg News: DOJ Told Court to Expect a Deluge of New Jan. 6 Prosecutions.

More than 1,000 additional people could still face charges in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol, according to a letter to the DC federal court from the US attorney in Washington.

The one-page letter, which was reviewed by Bloomberg News, was sent late last year to the chief judge and hasn’t been previously reported. It offers details on what Attorney General Merrick Garland has called “one of the largest, most complex, and most resource-intensive investigations in our history.”


berthe Morisot, Reading, 1873

The Oct. 28 letter from US Attorney Matthew Graves to Chief Judge Beryl Howell, which came as the department neared its 900th arrest, estimated an additional 700 to 1,200 defendants. That could roughly double the number of cases filed so far – with this month marking the 1,000th arrest, according to statistics from the US attorney’s office.

The more than 1,000 people already charged have clogged the court’s docket over the past two years. And prosecutors continue to bring new cases as Special Counsel Jack Smith pursues a separate probe into efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to undermine the 2020 election results.

Graves warned Howell in the letter that it was “incredibly difficult” to predict future cases given the “nature and the complexity of the investigation.” He wrote that he didn’t know how many of the new cases would involve misdemeanor versus felony charges, but he expected a higher percentage of felonies.

“We expect the pace of bringing new cases will increase, in an orderly fashion, over the course of the next few months,” Graves wrote.

Judge Beryl Howell is stepping down as the top judge in DC. At CNN, Katelyn Polantz and Courtney Sneed report on her replacement: There’s a new chief judge in DC who could help determine the fate of Donald Trump.

A new chief judge in the federal courthouse in Washington, DC, is poised to take over as that position has become one of the most influential in the nation’s capital, playing a key role in deciding issues that could factor into whether former President Donald Trump is indicted.

Chief Judge Beryl Howell, who has served in that role since 2016, has repeatedly green-lit Justice Department requests to pursue information about Trump’s actions, from his top advisers and lawyers and even inside the White House. She’ll be succeeded by James “Jeb” Boasberg, a fellow Barack Obama appointee and one-time Brett Kavanaugh law school roommate who’s well-known in Washington.

While presiding over the highly secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in 2020 and 2021, Boasberg encouraged the declassification of information so that the public could read proceedings related to the FBI’s probe into possible collusion between Trump and Russia.

If the Justice Department were to indict Trump, the case would be randomly assigned to one of the district court’s judges, meaning the chief could handle the case but may not. Still, the chief judge has unusual sway over the pace and scope of investigations as the Justice Department attempts to enforce its grand jury subpoenas, obtain warrants and access evidence it has collected by arguing to the chief judge in sealed proceedings.

“This court would be ready,” Howell said in a recent interview with CNN, when asked about the historic possibility of a Trump indictment. She added any judge on that court “would do it justice.”

Howell, who steps down from the position on Friday, may conclude her tenure by issuing decisions in sealed cases related to special counsel Jack Smith’s investigations into Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election and his handling of classified material at Mar-a-Lago. Already, she granted Kash Patel – a former administration official – immunity for testimony he provided the grand jury investigation. She also held off a Justice Department request to place Trump in contempt for his alleged failure to turn over subpoenaed classified documents.

Read more at CNN.

Ron DeSantis is getting plenty of media attention as he builds up to a presidential run.

Axios fired a reporter after attacks from the DeSantis administration. The Washington Post: Fla. reporter fired after calling news release on DeSantis event ‘propaganda’

An Axios reporter in Tampasaid he was fired this week after he responded to a Florida Department of Education email about an event featuring Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), calling the news release “propaganda.”

Ben Montgomery said he received a call on Monday evening from Jamie Stockwell, executive editor of Axios Local, who asked Montgomery to confirm he sent the email before saying the reporter’s “reputation in the Tampa Bay area” had been “irreparably tarnished.”

Leer para vivir, by Lucy McGowan Diecks (1907-1998)

Leer para vivir, by Lucy McGowan Diecks (1907-1998)

The news release sent Monday afternoon said DeSantis, a potential 2024 GOP presidential candidate, had hosted a roundtable “exposing the diversity equity and inclusion scam in higher education.” It also called for prohibiting state funds from being used to support DEI efforts.

“We will expose the scams they are trying to push onto students across the country,” DeSantis said in the statement.

Montgomery, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, replied to the email three minutes after getting it. “This is propaganda, not a press release,” he wrote to the Department of Education press office.

About an hour after that, the Education Department’s communication officer, Alex Lanfranconi, shared Montgomery’s reply on Twitter, where it has since been viewed more than 1 million times.

Montgomery said the news release had “no substance,” adding that he “read the whole thing and it was just a series of quotes about how bad DEI was.”

Axios editor in chief Sara Kehaulani Goo confirmed Montgomery is no longer employed by Axios, but declined to comment further.

Just one more reason to dislike Axios beside their ridiculous bullet-point story style.

Sarah Mervosh at The New York Times: Florida Scoured Math Textbooks for ‘Prohibited Topics.’ Next Up: Social Studies.

…[I]n Florida, textbooks have become hot politics, part of Gov. Ron DeSantis’s campaign against what he describes as “woke indoctrination” in public schools, particularly when it comes to race and gender. Last year, his administration made a splash when it rejected dozens of math textbooks, citing “prohibited topics.”

Now, the state is reviewing curriculum in what is perhaps the most contentious subject in education: social studies.

In the last few months, as part of the review process, a small army of state experts, teachers, parents and political activists have combed thousands of pages of text — not only evaluating academic content, but also flagging anything that could hint, for instance, at critical race theory.

A prominent conservative education group, whose members volunteered to review textbooks, objected to a slew of them, accusing publishers of “promoting their bias.” At least two publishers declined to participate altogether.

And in a sign of how fraught the political landscape has become, one publisher created multiple versions of its social studies material, softening or eliminating references to race — even in the story of Rosa Parks — as it sought to gain approval in Florida….

It is unclear which social studies textbooks will be approved in Florida, or how the chosen materials might address issues of race in history. The state is expected to announce its textbook decisions in the coming weeks.

Emphasis added.

Lex Veen (Netherlands)One more from The Daily Beast: The GOP Campaign Trail Is Already Getting DeSantis-Proofed.

At any given fundraiser or VIP room where he’s present, Ron DeSantis is usually easy to find—in the corner, keeping to himself.

Despite having a job that entails exchanging small talk and pleasantries on a daily basis, the Florida governor tends to brush off those obligations and struggles with basic social skills, according to a source close to DeSantis, several of his former staffers, and other GOP operatives who have worked with him and his team.

As DeSantis gears up for a potential White House run in 2024, his aloof public persona is being thought of by his rivals—namely, former President Donald Trump—as his Achilles heel in the retail politics-heavy early primary states.

And even though he hasn’t announced a bid yet, DeSantis’ apparent desire to test the waters of a presidential campaign—while barely dipping a toe into the aspects he recoils from—is already being put to the test.

During his donor retreat in Palm Beach in late February, an attendee stood up and called him “DeSatan,” according to Republicans familiar with the outburst.

At his recent book tour stop in Davenport, Iowa, a volunteer English teacher and seasoned caucus enthusiast posed for a photo alongside the governor with the term “fascist” carved out within her design of a paper snowflake.

The governor’s aversion to pressing the flesh, and his concern over the risk of unexpected interactions with the public, is already so well-known that early primary state players are working to DeSantis-proof their events in order to attract the flinty would-be candidate and his tight-knit team.

The problem is, hosts often have no idea what the DeSantis team wants.

“Easily the least responsive campaign I’ve ever dealt with,” one veteran event host in an early primary state told The Daily Beast, requesting anonymity to avoid alienating the Florida governor.

There has been a lot of reporting on DeSantis’ nasty personality and lack of charisma. I hope it will keep him from the nomination.

That’s it for me today. I’m really late because I had quite a struggle with WordPress. I ended up having to completely redo the formatting–had to hunt down all the article links and redo the indentations. I hope I did it right.

Wednesday Cartoons: Judge Krapsmaryk

Good morning…hitting the cartoons first, via Cagle:

Later…sometime today:

I will put any updates on this Judge’s decision in the comments.

This was the best moment of the Oscar’s:

Watch till the end…

And on that note…have a safe day, this is an open thread.