Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

While I was browsing for interesting stories this morning, I watched Trump’s embarrassing speech at the opening of the 9/11 center at NATO headquarters. He began with a lecture on how the U.S. is paying so much for defense and other countries are failing to meet the 2% GDP requirement. How long is he going to keep beating this dead horse?

After that, he seemed to imply that NATO had spent too much money on the 9/11 memorial. He said that the U.S. would not abandon NATO, but he did not reaffirm article 5, which states that if one NATO country is attacked, all have been attacked.

Last night a reporter for The Guardian, Ben Jacobs, was assaulted by the GOP candidate for the House in Montana.

The Guardian: Republican candidate charged with assault after ‘body-slamming’ Guardian reporter.

The Republican candidate for Montana’s congressional seat has been charged with misdemeanor assault after he is alleged to have slammed a Guardian reporter to the floor on the eve of the state’s special election, breaking his glasses and shouting: “Get the hell out of here.”

Ben Jacobs, a Guardian political reporter, was asking Greg Gianforte, a tech millionaire endorsed by Donald Trump, about the Republican healthcare plan when the candidate allegedly “body-slammed” the reporter.

Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs

“He took me to the ground,” Jacobs said by phone from the back of an ambulance. “I think he whaled on me once or twice … He got on me and I think he hit me … This is the strangest thing that has ever happened to me in reporting on politics.”

Fox News reporter Alicia Acuna, field producer Faith Mangan and photographer Keith Railey witnessed the incident at Gianforte’s campaign headquarters in Montana, according to an account published on the Fox News website. After Jacobs asked Gianforte his question, Acuna wrote: “Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him.

“Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the man, as he moved on top the reporter and began yelling something to the effect of ‘I’m sick and tired of this!’ … To be clear, at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte, who left the area after giving statements to local sheriff’s deputies.”

At least 3 Montana newspapers have now unendorsed Gianforte, and the election is today.

This might explain Gianforte’s anger toward Jacobs and the Guardian. On April 28, Jacobs published this story on Gianforte, whom Trump endorsed in voice message: GOP candidate Greg Gianforte has financial ties to US-sanctioned Russian companies.

A Republican congressional candidate has financial ties to a number of Russian companies that have been sanctioned by the US, the Guardian has learned.

Greg Gianforte, who is the GOP standard bearer in the upcoming special election in Montana, owns just under $250,000 in shares in two index funds that are invested in the Russian economy to match its overall performance.

According to a financial disclosure filed with the clerk of the House of Representatives, the Montana tech mogul owns almost $150,000 worth of shares in VanEck Vectors Russia ETF and $92,400 in the IShares MSCF Russia ETF fund. Both are indexed to the Russian equities market and have significant holdings in companies such as Gazprom and Rosneft that came under US sanctions in the aftermath of the Russian invasion of the Crimea.

The Moron-In-Chief is now in trouble with two countries and the U.S. Department of Defense for his blabbing of top secret intelligence. First it was Israel, now the U.K.

Politico: Israel changes intelligence sharing with US after Trump’s revelations to Russia.

Israel has changed the way it shares intelligence with the U.S., Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Wednesday. The move comes after U.S. President Donald Trump divulged to Russia classified information reportedly obtained from Israel.

“We discussed the issue with our friends in America,” Liberman said in an interview with Army Radio. “We did our checks.” The defense chief didn’t specify what changes had been made, saying: “Not everything needs to be discussed in the media, some things need to be talked about in closed rooms.” ….

Israel has changed the way it shares intelligence with the U.S., Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Wednesday. The move comes after U.S. President Donald Trump divulged to Russia classified information reportedly obtained from Israel.

Manchester police making arrests after bombing

The Guardian: UK police stop passing Manchester bombing information to US over leaks.

British police have stopped sharing evidence from the investigation into the terror network behind the Manchester bombing with the United States after a series of leaks left investigators and the government furious.

The ban is limited to the Manchester investigation only. British police believe the leaks are unprecedented in their scope, frequency and potential damage.

Downing Street was not behind the decision by Greater Manchester police to stop sharing information with US intelligence, a No 10 source said, stressing that it was important police were allowed to take independent decisions.

Relations between the US and UK security services, normally extremely close, have been put under strain by the scale of the leaks from US officials to the American media.

After chairing a meeting of the emergency Cobra meeting Theresa May said: “I will make clear to President Trump that intelligence shared between our security agencies must remain secure.” She is due to meet the US president at a Nato summit in Brussels on Thursday.

Not Good.

As for the Defense Department’s reaction to Trump leaks, have you read the transcript of Trump’s call to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte? It’s beyond shocking. Not only did the Moron-in-Chief praise Duterte for his extra-legal murders of suspected drug dealers and addicts, but also he revealed the location of two U.S. nuclear submarines!

Trump’s good buddy Rodrico Duterte

Reuters: Trump praises Duterte for anti-drug campaign in call transcript.

Trump commended Duterte’s actions in the same call in which the U.S. president invited him to Washington, according to a transcript of their conversation published by the Washington Post and the investigative news site The Intercept. The document included a “confidential” cover sheet from the Americas division of the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs.

Almost 9,000 people, many small-time drug users and dealers, have been killed in the Philippines since Duterte took office on June 30. Police say about one-third of the victims were shot by officers in self-defense during legitimate operations. Human rights groups say official accounts are implausible.

“I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem,” Trump told Duterte, according to the transcript.

“Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that.”

Duterte thanked Trump and said “this is the scourge of my nation now and I have to do something to preserve the Filipino nation.”

“I think we had a previous president who did not understand that,” Trump replied.

And then there was this:

The attack submarine USS San Francisco (SSN 711) is escorted by two harbour tugs in this file picture. – Wikimedia Commons

Buzzfeed: The Pentagon Can’t Believe Trump Told Another President About Nuclear Subs Near North Korea.

Pentagon officials are in shock after the release of a transcript of a call between President Donald Trump and his Philippines counterpart revealed that the US military had moved two nuclear submarines towards North Korea.

“We never talk about subs!” three officials told BuzzFeed News, referring to the military’s belief that keeping submarines’ movements secret is key to their mission.

While the US military will frequently announce the deployment of aircraft carriers, it is far more careful when discussing the movement of nuclear submarines. Carriers are hard to miss, and that, in part, is a reason the US military deploys them. They are a physical show of force. Submarines are, at times, a furtive complement to the carriers, a hard-to-detect means of strategic deterrence.

According to the transcript, released Wednesday, Trump called Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte April 29, in part to discuss the rising threat from North Korea. During that call, while discussing ways to mitigate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s nuclear ambitions, Trump said: “We have two submarines — the best in the world. We have two nuclear submarines — not that we want to use them at all. I’ve never seen anything like they are but we don’t have to use this, but [Kim] could be crazy, so we will see what happens.”

It takes a madman to recognize another madman, I guess. In reading the transcript, I got the feeling that Trump would like nothing more than to use those nukes. But now, all our enemies know where they can fine our nuclear subs.

By announcing the presence of nuclear submarines, the president, some Pentagon officials privately explained, gives away the element of surprise — an irony given his repeated declarations during the campaign that the US announces far too many of its military plans when it comes to combatting ISIS.

Moreover, some countries in the region, particularly China, seek to develop their anti-sub capability. Knowing that two US submarines are in the region could allow them to test this.

Finally, it is unclear why Duterte would need to know the specific number of subs in the region. The Philippines is not a part of US military efforts to deter North Korea, so why would Duterte need to know such details?

There is so much Trump Russia news that I’ll have to give you the rest as links only.

Three big stories broke last night, and I posted them on JJ’s thread.

NYT: Top Russian Officials Discussed How to Influence Trump Aides Last Summer.

WaPo: How a dubious Russian document influenced the FBI’s handling of the Clinton probe.

CNN: AG Sessions did not disclose Russia meetings in security clearance form, DOJ says.

More Trump Russia stories:

Politico: Manafort advised Trump team on Russia scandal.

Daily Beast: Reince Priebus Sweating Secret Comey Memos, White House Sources Say.

The Atlantic: The Known Unknowns of the Russia Investigation.

Politico: White House tries to avoid ‘paralysis’ amid investigation.

Other News:

NBC News: Trump Failing to Track Foreign Cash at His Hotels.

Axios: Trump’s “street fighters.”

NBC News: Ben Carson Says ‘Poverty Is a State of Mind.’

The Atlantic: Pope Francis, Trump Whisperer?

Bloomberg: Obama Feted in Berlin as He Praises Merkel Before Trump Summits.

What else is happening? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread below, and I hope you enjoy your day.


Tuesday Reads: Another Overwhelming News Day

The Morning News, William Merritt Chase

Good Afternoon!!

I’m having another one of those days where I just can’t get going on a post. The news is just so overwhelming.

As has been happening almost daily for the past couple of weeks, The Washington Post broke a huge new story on the Trump Russia investigation: Trump asked intelligence chiefs to push back against FBI collusion probe after Comey revealed its existence.

Trump made separate appeals to the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and to Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election.

Coats and Rogers refused to comply with the requests, which they both deemed to be inappropriate, according to two current and two former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private communications with the president….

Trump’s conversation with Rogers was documented contemporaneously in an internal memo written by a senior NSA official, according to the officials. It is unclear if a similar memo was prepared by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to document Trump’s conversation with Coats. Officials said such memos could be made available to both the special counsel now overseeing the Russia investigation and congressional investigators, who might explore whether Trump sought to impede the FBI’s work.

Coats is refusing to comment on the story, but he isn’t denying it.

End of the Story, Marcus Stone

Of course that breaking news story was quickly pushed to the media back burner after the terror attack in Manchester, England.

NBC News: Manchester Arena Suicide Bombing: Victims Include 8-Year-Old Girl, Young Student.

The first victims identified in the suicide bombing after an Ariana Grande concert in Britain were an 8-year-old remembered as a “beautiful little girl” and an 18-year-old college student who had previously met her pop idol.

They were among the 22 killed Monday night at the Manchester Arena in the deadliest terror attack in Britain since 2005. Another 59 people were also injured as the suspect detonated a bomb near one of the venue’s exits, sending the mostly younger concertgoers fleeing in panic, authorities said.

Grande’s fans are predominantly teens and young girls, and many had gone to the venue with their parents for a night of carefree fun that in a flash turned into a scene of carnage. Hours after the bloodshed, desperate parents said they were still trying unsuccessfully to reconnect with children.

The Washington Post: Manchester bombing suspect identified, U.S. officials say; Islamic State claims responsibility.

The Islamic State claimed Tuesday that one of its “soldiers” carried out an apparent suicide blast in Manchester that killed at least 22 people, including teenagers and others streaming out of a pop concert.

U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, identified the assailant as Salman Abedi. They did not provide information about his age or nationality, and British officials declined to comment on the suspect’s identity.

Islamic State’s claim came as British investigators intensified their search for possible accomplices and police teams fanned out across the northern city after the worst terrorist strike in Britain in more than a decade.

The Islamic State did not give any details about the attacker or how the blast was carried out late Monday. Its statement was posted on the online messaging service Telegram and later noted by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors militant websites.

The Islamic State often quickly proclaims links to attacks, but some previous claims have not been proven.

Morning News, Lillian Westcott Hale

This morning DNI Dan Coats testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee and discussed the attack. NBC News:

The bloody mayhem in Manchester could be a taste of the ISIS terror to come.

That was the dire warning from Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats on Tuesday in his appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee and a report by the agency.

“They claim responsibility for virtually every attack,” Coats told the panel after ISIS declared it was behind the suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, that left 22 dead and dozens more injured. “We have not verified yet the connection.”

The attack came straight from the ISIS playbook that Coats warned lawmakers about.

“We anticipate that ISIS will be in transition over the coming year, shifting toward more traditional terrorist operations rather than conventional military engagement in Iraq and Syria,” Coats warned. “ISIS will continue to lead, enable and inspire terrorist attacks, both unilaterally and with the assistance of its formal branches and networks.”

Why? Because ISIS is losing on the battlefield and it has lost much of the territory it held in Iraq and Syria.

There also was a hearing this morning in the House Intelligence Committee on the Trump-Russia connection. I watched some of it. It’s hard to believe, but Republicans are still trying to absolve Trump and are more concerned about leaks to the media than the fact that Russia interfered in U.S. elections.

Some headlines coming out of the testimony of former CIA Director John Brennan:

Sunday Johanna Harmon

NPR: Former CIA Director Tells Lawmakers About ‘Very Aggressive’ Russian Election Meddling.

Former CIA Director John Brennan told the House Intelligence Committee Tuesday that Russia “brazenly interfered in the 2016 election process,” despite U.S. efforts to warn them off. Brennan testified in an open session of the committee, one of a handful of congressional committee now investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Brennan said he told his Russian counterpart, the head of Russia’s FSB, last August that if Russia pursued its efforts to interfere, “it would destroy any near-term prospect for improvement in relations” between the two countries. He said Russia denied any attempts to interfere.

In his opening statement, Brennan also recounted how he had briefed congressional leaders in August of last year, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees about the “full details” of what he knew of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Brennan said he became convinced last summer that Russia was trying to interfere in the campaign, saying “they were very aggressive.”

So both Ryan and McConnell knew how serious this was back in August 2016, and they did nothing in response but continue enabling/supporting Trump.

Brennan said he is “aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign.” Brennan said that concerned him, “because of known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals,” and that it raised questions about whether or not the Russians “were able to gain the cooperation of those individuals.” Brennan added he didn’t know if “collusion existed” between the Russians and those he identified as involved in the Trump campaign.

While Brennan would not specifically identify any individuals associated with the Trump campaign who had contacts with Russian officials and would not opine as to whether there was any collusion or collaboration, he did tell lawmakers why he was concerned about the contacts occurring against the general background of Russian efforts to meddle in the election. Brennan said he’s studied Russian intelligence activities over the years, and how they’ve been able to get people to betray their country. “Frequently, individuals on a treasonous path do not even realize they’re on that path until it gets to be too late,” he said.

Woman reading the newspaper, Carl Vilhelm Holsoe

Business Insider: Former CIA director: I was concerned about ‘interactions’ between Russians and the Trump campaign.

Former CIA Director John Brennan, in testimony Tuesday before the House Intelligence Committee, said that he was concerned by some of the “interactions” between Russian officials and members of the Trump campaign that took place during the election last year.

Brennan’s testimony on Russian interference in the election came two months after he was originally scheduled to testify in an open hearing that was unexpectedly canceled by the committee’s chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes. He told the committee that he warned his Russian counterpart, FSB chief Alexander Bortnikov, in an August 2016 phone call against interfering in the presidential election.

“It should be clear to everyone that Russia brazenly interfered in our 2016 presidential election process,” Brennan said in his opening statement, “and that they undertook these activities despite our strong protests and explicit warning that they do not do so.”

Republican Rep. Tom Rooney asked Brennan if he ever found “any direct evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Putin in Moscow” while he was the CIA director.

Brennan replied that “there was intelligence that the Russian intelligence services were actively involved in this effort … to try to get individuals to act on their behalf either wittingly or unwittingly.” He added that he was “was worried by the contacts that the Russians were having with US persons” and “had unresolved questions” by the time he left office about whether” the Russians had succeeded in getting Americans to do their bidding.

More articles of interest about Brennan’s testimony:

USA Today: Ex-CIA director John Brennan: ‘Unresolved questions’ about Trump campaign ties to Russia.

CNN: Ex-CIA chief John Brennan: Russians contacted Trump campaign.

Think Progress: Trey Gowdy’s effort to throw cold water on Trump-Russia collusion backfires spectacularly.

Another big story this morning was the release of Trump’s ridiculous proposed budget. I’ll let you check that out at the links below:

The Washington Post: Trump proposes dramatic changes to federal government, slashing safety net programs that affect up to a fifth of Americans.

BBC News: Trump’s $4.1tr budget takes hatchet to safety net

The Washington Post: Larry Summers: Trump’s budget is simply ludicrous,

FiveThirtyEight: Trump’s Budget Is Built On A Fantasy.

NBC News: Trump’s Own Voters Would Be Among Hardest Hit By His Budget.

Business Insider: Trump’s budget only works ‘if you believe in tooth fairies.’

So . . .what stories are you following today?

 

 


Lazy Saturday Reads: Trump’s Presidency Is Unraveling

Ann Telnaes at the WaPo: “Trump’s presidency is coming undone….and he has only himself to blame.”

Good Morning!!

Here we are only a little more than 100 days into the Trump presidency and it looks like impeachment is on the horizon. Trump has tried to interfere with the Russia investigation and has even fired the FBI director. He gave top secret intelligence to the Russians. He’s using his office to make money hand over fist. He’s considered a laughingstock around the world. If only someone could have warned us what a disastrous president he would turn out to be. Oh wait…

Think Progress: The little known woman who predicted exactly what kind of president Donald Trump would be.

It is appropriate to be appalled at the current state of our government. But none of us should be particularly shocked. We were warned, time and time again, by people who know Trump well and who know the role of the presidency well, that the former was in no way fit to fill the latter.

And nobody warned us about the danger Trump posed to our nation more forcefully or with more prescience than Hillary Clinton.

“[A]s Michelle Obama has said, the presidency doesn’t change who you are, it reveals who you are,” she said in Raleigh, North Carolina days before the election. “And I think it’s fair to say that my opponent has already revealed who he is.”

Clinton knew then that Trump’s allegiance to Putin and Russia was not only problematic, but dangerous.

“It is pretty clear you won’t admit that the Russians have engaged in cyber attacks against the United States of America. That you encouraged espionage against our people. That you are willing to spout the Putin line, sign up for his wish list, break up NATO, do whatever he wants to do,” she said during the third presidential debate.

“[Trump] would rather believe Vladimir Putin than the military and civilian intelligence professionals who are sworn to protect us.”

Click on the link to read much more of the wisdom that Hillary shared during the 2016 campaign while the media obsessed over emails hacked and released by Russia to help Trump.

Even the people who work for Trump are getting disgusted with him. After new broke yesterday that Trump called James Comey “crazy, a real nut job” in a meeting with Russian officials and then went on to say that he had fired Comey because of pressure from the Russia investigation, they vented to reporters.

The Daily Beast: Trump Officials: ‘He Looks More and More Like a Complete Moron.’

The administration officials and West Wing aides who were left grounded stateside on Friday late afternoon couldn’t do much more than dodge questions and vent inflamed frustrations at their boss. (Senior staffers who escaped aboard Air Force One included Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, Director of Strategic Communications Hope Hicks, press secretary Sean Spicer, and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.)

“I’m glad I’m not on the plane so I could be here to answer your Russia questions,” a senior Trump administration official said, sarcastically, before abruptly hanging up.

Trump’s remarks quickly elicited groans, and some harsh words, from senior officials who did speak with The Daily Beast.

“If Donald Trump gets impeached, he will have one person to blame: Donald Trump,” one of those administration officials said.

The official noted a pattern among leaks that have dominated headlines this week: In virtually every case—the president’s request that Comey pledge fealty to him, a subsequent ask that Comey ease an investigation into his former top national security aide, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, and revelations that he hopes to rehire Flynn when the FBI wraps up its probe—leaked Trump statements have revealed flippance or hostility toward a federal investigation into alleged Russian meddling in 2016’s presidential election.

The resulting clamor of calls for an independent probe into that meddling—the Justice Department appointed a special counsel to lead such a probe this week—and allegations of criminal obstruction and calls for impeachment were entirely avoidable, the official suggested.

And it gets worse.

Trump’s repeated media missteps have frustrated even longtime supporters. “Every day he looks more and more like a complete moron,” said one senior administration official who also worked on Trump’s campaign. “I can’t see Trump resigning or even being impeached, but at this point I wish he’d grow a brain and be the man that he sold himself as on the campaign.”

Asked whether an administration staff change-up would ameliorate this latest crisis, a Republican source formerly involved with a pro-Trump political group told The Daily Beast, “yes, if it comes with a frontal lobotomy for Trump.”

Marshall Ramsey / Creators Syndicate

Trump aides also are confused by Trump’s continued praise of and efforts to reach out to fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Politico: Trump told aides firing Flynn was a mistake.

Two days after firing Michael Flynn as his national security adviser in February, President Donald Trump told several aides and friends he should have kept him instead….

“I was kind of stunned,” one person said. “I asked him. You fired him already. What are you going to do?”

Trump has grown obsessed with defending the tough-talking 58-year old general, repeatedly telling aides and associates in private that Flynn was a “good man.” One adviser close to Trump said he’s heard Trump defend the general using the exact words described in reports of memos written by former FBI director James Comey recording his conversations with the president — and that Trump has told people inside the White House he wished the investigation would go away.

It has left White House officials and outside advisers perplexed: Why is Trump so determined to defend a man at the center of a federal investigation that is damaging his administration, and a man he has accused of lying to his vice president?

Officials say Trump has remained resolute in defending Flynn even though aides, including White House Counsel Don McGahn, have reminded Trump of the Russia investigation and other problems. News reports about Flynn, including his lobbying for foreign governments, haven’t bothered Trump nearly as much as they’ve bothered his aides, senior officials said. News of subpoenas haven’t caused him to lose faith, even privately, associates said.

“A lot of people in the White House don’t want anything to do with Flynn,” one White House official said. ”But Trump loves him. He thinks everyone is out to get him.”

Ann Telnaees at the WaPo

So now Trump is in Saudi Arabia, and he’s going to give a speech on Islam to 50 Middle-Eastern leaders. The speech was written by notorious alt-right islamophobe Stephen Miller.

The author of President Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban, which targeted people from six-majority Muslim countries, is the principal speechwriter for the President’s speech on Islam in Saudi Arabia on Sunday.

Stephen Miller, Trump’s senior adviser for policy and speechwriter, is the principal aide in charge of writing both the speech on Islam and Trump’s later speech on the future of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a White House official told CNN.

Both are topics Miller has spoken out against throughout his career on Capitol Hill and in the White House.

The official said the speech has been put together through a collaborative process inside the White House, but that Miller was the primary author.

The speech, which will be given in front of about 50 Muslim leaders, could be a flashpoint in Trump’s eight-day, five country trip. Trump has long derided Islam, proposed banning all Muslim immigration into the United States during the campaign and is expected to use the term “radical Islamic terrorism” throughout the speech in Saudi Arabia, the cradle of the 1.6 billion-member religion.

What could possibly go wrong?

It will be current National Security Adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster’s job to keep Trump on a short leash on his foreign trip. I’m not so sure how capable McMaster is at controlling his boss, considering that McMaster was present at the meet where Trump handed Israeli intelligence secrets to the Russians and admitted that he fired the FBI director be cause he’s “a nutjob” for investigating connections between Trump and Russia.

Jake Tapper at CNN: Between Trump and his national security adviser lie ‘ferocious’ internal politics.

As President Donald Trump heads overseas for his first international trip as President, many in the international community will be watching his national security adviser, Gen. H.R. McMaster, who has just experienced one of the most politically challenging weeks of his career.

The trip — to Saudi Arabia, Israel, the Vatican, a NATO summit in Brussels and a G7 summit in Sicily — will be fraught with international risks, and much of it is riding on the ability of McMaster to steer the President in the right directions.

“It can be difficult to advise the President effectively given his seemingly short attention span and propensity to be easily distracted,” a source knowledgeable about McMaster’s day-to-day challenges told CNN.

The source added that McMaster’s task — being an honest broker of various national security options for the President — is further complicated by fears on the National Security Council that Trump can be reckless with sensitive information.

“You can’t say what not to say,” the source said of Trump, “because that will then be one of the first things he’ll say.”

When the president is “a moron,” it can be difficult to work for him. If only the media hadn’t ignored Hillary’s warnings.

McMaster increasingly finds himself in a situation where rivals in the White House “try to undermine him or leak information to the media that undermines the national security of the United States.”

Bannon is said to be “the biggest obstruction” to McMaster doing his job.

In one recent situation, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and McMaster had agreed that they would provide a range of options for the President in terms of how to proceed in Afghanistan, including a modest increase in the number of US troops in Afghanistan.

But before McMaster could make the recommendation, the option of a troop buildup was leaked to the media, with part of the leak including that Bannon opposed such a move. The blowback from conservatives and others cleaused the recommendations to be delayed, and others who supported the move to get “skittish.” The leak was perceived within the NSC as Bannon or his allies trying to stamp McMaster’s name onto the proposal and to push back against it through the media.

Read more at CNN.

Trump will also be going to Israel, where Intel officials were “horrified” by his leaks to Russian officials. Recall that McMaster said these leaks were “wholly appropriate.”

The Times of Israel: ‘Horrified’ Israeli intel officials ‘were shouting at US counterparts’ over Trump leak.

US President Donald Trump’s reported sharing of a highly classified Israeli tip with Russia led to incredibly tense meetings between Israeli and American intelligence officials, Foreign Policy Magazine reported Friday.

The Israelis reportedly shouted at their US counterparts, demanding an explanation for Trump’s actions, according to the magazine, which quoted a US defense official….

Though Washington and Jerusalem have publicly brushed aside reports of the incident, behind the scenes top Israeli defense officials are said to be angry and concerned by the president’s actions.

Beyond the possible danger to the source, FP reported that Israelis feared they had lost any further access to the spy’s intel.

Though the magazine noted that IS is not currently a major concern for the Jewish state, the spy was also reportedly a major asset in gaining information on the actions of Iran in Syria — through its Revolutionary Guards Corps and Lebanese proxy Hezbollah, both of which have been fighting for Syrian President Bashar Assad.

One more story about the moron-in-chief, before I wrap this up. Business Insider: Trump’s aides hosted an ‘intervention’ to try to tone down his Twitter use.

President Donald Trump’s aides grew so alarmed by the barrage of inflammatory tweets coming from Trump that they organized an “intervention,” one official said to The Wall Street Journal.

Hosted several weeks ago, the discussion was reportedly meant to encourage Trump to exercise more restraint on the social media platform, which has gotten Trump into trouble in the past — more recently when he openly accused former President Barack Obama of wiretapping his campaign.

Aides warned Trump his tweets could “paint him into a corner” potentially compromising him both politically and legally.

Of course it didn’t work . . .

I know I’ve just scratched the surface of all the fast-breaking news. What are you hearing and reading? Let us know in the comment thread below. Have a nice weekend and keep plenty of popcorn on hand.


Thursday Reads: News Breaks by the Hour These Days

At Breakfast, by Laurits Andersen Ring

Good Morning!!

Where to begin? A special counsel has been appointed. Trump tweets; exhausted White House staff has another mess to clean up. Roger Ailes is dead.  The current occupant of the White House can’t spell. Lawrence O’Donnell’s show may yet survive. And so much more.

The tweet below has been deleted and replaced now:

Special Counsel appointed by DOJ

Philip Shenon at Politico: Trump’s Worst Nightmare Comes True. President Trump fired James Comey. He got his old pal, Robert Mueller, instead—and years of trouble.

The most daunting assignment in Robert Mueller’s career in law-enforcement and public service might seem to have arrived on Wednesday night, with his appointment as the special prosecutor in the investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 president campaign, including possible collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign.

But it’s hard to imagine that this new job is any more intimidating than the one Mueller confronted on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, when the newly arrived FBI director was forced to deal with the aftermath of terrorist attacks that left more than 3,000 people dead in New York and Washington and put the FBI’s very survival in doubt because of what would be shown to be its well-documented bungling before the attacks. On 9/11, Mueller had been on the job at the FBI for exactly one week.

The fact that the FBI survived in one piece after multiple government investigations of 9/11, and that Mueller went on to serve another dozen years at the bureau and left with his reputation for independence and honesty largely unscathed, suggests to his friends and admirers that the blue-blooded 72-year-old former Marine is the right man for his new job – and that President Trump and his campaign advisers have much to fear from his investigation.

Under terms of his appointment by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Mueller will have wide powers to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump” and—beyond that—“any matters” that arise from the investigation, including perjury and obstruction of justice.

Just a few of the stories that broke last night after we learned about the special counsel in the afternoon.

Morning Coffee, Malcolm Liepke

The New York Times: Trump Team Knew Flynn Was Under Investigation Before He Came to White House.

Michael T. Flynn told President Trump’s transition team weeks before the inauguration that he was under federal investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign, according to two people familiar with the case.

Despite this warning, which came about a month after the Justice Department notified Mr. Flynn of the inquiry, Mr. Trump made Mr. Flynn his national security adviser. The job gave Mr. Flynn access to the president and nearly every secret held by American intelligence agencies.

Mr. Flynn’s disclosure, on Jan. 4, was first made to the transition team’s chief lawyer, Donald F. McGahn II, who is now the White House counsel. That conversation, and another one two days later between Mr. Flynn’s lawyer and transition lawyers, shows that the Trump team knew about the investigation of Mr. Flynn far earlier than has been previously reported.

And of course we knew that Rep. Elijah Cummings had informed the Trump transition team in November that Flynn had been paid to lobby for Turkey. Will Mike Pence still try to claim he didn’t know anything?

McClatchy: Flynn stopped military plan Turkey opposed – after being paid as its agent.

One of the Trump administration’s first decisions about the fight against the Islamic State was made by Michael Flynn weeks before he was fired – and it conformed to the wishes of Turkey, whose interests, unbeknownst to anyone in Washington, he’d been paid more than $500,000 to represent.

The decision came 10 days before Donald Trump had been sworn in as president, in a conversation with President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, who had explained the Pentagon’s plan to retake the Islamic State’s de facto capital of Raqqa with Syrian Kurdish forces whom the Pentagon considered the U.S.’s most effective military partners. Obama’s national security team had decided to ask for Trump’s sign-off, since the plan would all but certainly be executed after Trump had become president.

Flynn didn’t hesitate. According to timelines distributed by members of Congress in the weeks since, Flynn told Rice to hold off, a move that would delay the military operation for months….

Now members of Congress, musing about the tangle of legal difficulties Flynn faces, cite that exchange with Rice as perhaps the most serious: acting on behalf of a foreign nation – from which he had received considerable cash – when making a military decision. Some members of Congress, in private conversations, have even used the word “treason” to describe Flynn’s intervention, though experts doubt that his actions qualify.

Reading the News, by Steve Prenner

The Washington Post: House majority leader to colleagues in 2016: ‘I think Putin pays’ Trump.

A month before Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination, one of his closest allies in Congress — House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — made a politically explosive assertion in a private conversation on Capitol Hill with his fellow GOP leaders: that Trump could be the beneficiary of payments from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, according to a recording of the June 15, 2016, exchange, which was listened to and verified by The Washington Post. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is a Californian Republican known in Congress as a fervent defender of Putin and Russia.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) immediately interjected, stopping the conversation from further exploring McCarthy’s assertion, and swore the Republicans present to secrecy.

Before the conversation, McCarthy and Ryan had emerged from separate talks at the Capitol with Ukrainian Prime Minister Vladi­mir Groysman, who had described a Kremlin tactic of financing populist politicians to undercut Eastern European democratic institutions.

Breaking this morning:

Reuters exclusive: Exclusive: Trump campaign had at least 18 undisclosed contacts with Russians: sources.

Michael Flynn and other advisers to Donald Trump’s campaign were in contact with Russian officials and others with Kremlin ties in at least 18 calls and emails during the last seven months of the 2016 presidential race, current and former U.S. officials familiar with the exchanges told Reuters.

The previously undisclosed interactions form part of the record now being reviewed by FBI and congressional investigators probing Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election and contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

Six of the previously undisclosed contacts described to Reuters were phone calls between Sergei Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, and Trump advisers, including Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, three current and former officials said.

Conversations between Flynn and Kislyak accelerated after the Nov. 8 vote as the two discussed establishing a back channel for communication between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin that could bypass the U.S. national security bureaucracy, which both sides considered hostile to improved relations, four current U.S. officials said.

Read the rest at the link.

Madame Monet Reading le Figaro, by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

The Washington Post: Roger Ailes, architect of conservative TV juggernaut Fox News, is dead at 77.

Roger Ailes, who mastered the art of selling political candidates like Hollywood celebrities and was the architect of conservative-oriented TV news, died Thursday at 77. He was the longtime chairman and chief executive of the Fox News Channel, building it over two decades into an politically influential juggernaut until his abrupt ouster last year amid sexual harassment allegations.

His family confirmed the death in a statement. No cause or location was reported.

I don’t like being rude, but in this case I say good riddance. Read more at the WaPo.

 

The “beleaguered” White House staff is freaking out

The Washington Post: The worst job in Washington right now: Working for Trump.

As Donald Trump has grown increasingly angry and frustrated with his White House staff, the beleaguered targets of his ire have a quietly roiling gripe of their own — their boss, the president himself.

Since he fired FBI Director James B. Comey, Trump has lurched through crises of his own making — from the explosive report Monday that he had revealed highly classified intelligence to Russian officials to the bombshell Tuesday thathe had urged Comey to end the federal investigation into Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser.

In his wake remain his exhausted aides and deputies, the frequent targets of Trump’s wrath as they struggle to control an uncontrollable chief executive and labor to explain away his stumbles.

Wednesday evening brought yet another challenging development for the White House, as the Justice Department announced a special counsel to investigate possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.

Some White House staffers have turned to impeachment gallows humor. Other mid-level aides have started contacting consultants, shopping their résumés. And at least one senior staffer has begun privately talking to friends about what a post-White House job would look like, according to two people close the staffer.

Break out the popcorn and the tiny violin. Why did they link themselves to a carnival barker in the first place? I have no sympathy for them. None.

Michael Kranish on Trump’s dysfunctional coping methods: 

Woman reading news, by James Jacques Joseph

The Washington Post: As president, Trump’s legacy of lawsuits and minimal briefings isn’t helping.

As President Trump manages his latest crises, he is turning to strategies from his tumultuous business career: rely on family and a few trusted advisers, demand absolute loyalty from those beyond the inner circle, threaten opponents with legal action, and insist on bare-bones briefings.

But the tactics that Trump believed served him so well in business may be adding to his self-inflicted wounds as a special counsel prepares to launch an investigation into allegations that Russia sought to influence the 2016 election.

Trump’s family has no government background, and most of his most trusted advisers never worked in a White House. His demands to government officials for personal loyalty are superseded by their loyalty to the Constitution. His threats — such as tweeting that fired FBI Director James B. Comey “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” — have often backfired. Comey’s associates provided quotes from a memo about the conversation that appear to support Comey’s version of events.

And Trump’s famous aversion to in-depth analysis — he once wrote that “The day I realized it can be smart to be shallow was, for me, a deep experience” — has led to concerns that he doesn’t absorb complicated briefing material from intelligence agencies and other sources.

Barbara Res, former executive vice president of the Trump Organization, said that Trump would often come up with business proposals that needed someone to tell him “that’s not a good idea, Donald. It seems to me that people are not doing that” at the White House.

Some good news that I missed yesterday:

Showbiz 411: MSNBC-Lawrence O’Donnell: “The Last Word” is Not Over as HUGE Fan Response Comes to Rescue of Show.

We may not have heard “The Last Word,” as it turns out.

I’m told that late yesterday afternoon, MSNBC finally contacted Lawrence O’Donnell‘s agency, WME, to have some talks about renewing his contract.

The contract runs out in less than four weeks. The network, some posit, was stalling as a “tactic.” It didn’t work.

Fan response to the news that O’Donnell might be gone has been HUGE. From Twitter and Facebook to old fashioned calls to MSNBC‘s Phil Griffith and NBC’s Andy Lack, it’s been actually shocking. Not that I’m surprised.

But it turns out MSNBC’s viewers have made “The Last Word” a hit not just because of Rachel Maddow and hatred for Donald Trump, but because they actually enjoy O’Donnell’s reasoned and impassioned approach to the events of the day.

So there may be a happy ending to this bizarre situation.

What wild breaking news is coming today? There’s sure to be plenty of it. Please share the stories you’re following in the comment thread below.

 


Tuesday Reads: Trump Is U.S.’s Top National Security Risk

Good Morning!!

Can we get through one day without a major national security crisis triggered by Trump’s stupidity and incompetence? Apparently not.

Yesterday we got perhaps the worst news yet–that Trump had shared highly classified information with the Russian foreign minister and the Russian ambassador who is at the heart of the Russia investigation. The Washington Post broke the news:

The information the president relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said.

The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia, and officials said Trump’s decision to do so endangers cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State. After Trump’s meeting, senior White House officials took steps to contain the damage, placing calls to the CIA and the National Security Agency.

“This is code-word information,” said a U.S. official familiar with the matter, using terminology that refers to one of the highest classification levels used by American spy agencies. Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.”

This morning Trump defended himself on Twitter:

So now he has publicly admitted it. And he doesn’t seem to understand that the Russians have no interest in helping us fight ISIS, and they will use the information that Trump blabbed to find out the source and pass what they learn on to Assad and Iran. There is a child running the country and we’re all in grave danger.

Stephen Tankel at the Washington Post: This is why Trump’s loose tongue has compromised U.S. security.

National security adviser H.R. McMaster said, “At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly.” However, this narrow denial does not discount the possibility that information was disclosed that could enable Russia to infer the sources and methods through which information was acquired. By revealing the city where the information was collected, he also may have enabled Moscow to determine the ally that provided it.

The most direct and immediate impact may be to jeopardize a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State, thereby making it more difficult to detect and thwart terrorist plots. It is also possible that Moscow could use the information to its advantage in various ways that harm the United States or its allies.

As bad as the exposure of sources and methods would be on its own terms, the long-term consequences for counterterrorism are even worse. This is because Trump divulged information collected by a U.S. ally, without its permission. This was a breach of trust that is likely to damage not only the intelligence relationship with the country in question, but also with other countries.

Why that’s so important:

Counterterrorism intelligence….requires identifying and thwarting threats before they happen. Analysis and operations go together in preventing an attack or neutralizing a threat. The United States cannot do this by itself — this effort relies heavily on intelligence cooperation from other countries.

Intelligence cooperation on counterterrorism takes various forms. Simple cooperation involves the exchange of single pieces of intelligence, often regarding a common target such as the Islamic State.

There are also more complex forms of cooperation. For example, the United States has often bartered technical information gathered from satellites and other sources gleaned through technical means, for human source reporting that is more difficult to acquire. Sometimes, partners provide intelligence as part of a broader effort to maintain positive relations with the United States. Intelligence cooperation sometimes extends beyond the exchange of information to include the conduct of joint operations.

Much more at the link.

There’s likely to be another crisis soon, because Trump is going to receive Turkey’s dictatorial leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the White House today. CNN: Erdogan meets Trump: 3 key issues topping the agenda. The main points

1. US arming Kurdish fighters.
Turkey lashed out last week after the Pentagon announced plans to arm members of the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG) fighting ISIS in Syria. Erdogan called for the plan to be “reversed immediately” and promised his supporters he’d discuss the issue with Trump at the White House meeting on Tuesday.
The YPG fights in a coalition of rebel groups that the US considers its main ally in the Syrian conflict, but Turkish officials see the unit as a terrorist organization linked to an insurgency movement in the south of Turkey.

2. Turkey’s relationship with Russia over Syria

Turkey, along with Russia and Iran, is brokering ceasefire talks aimed at ending Syria’s six-year war.
The ceasefire talks — held in Astana, Kazakhstan — were spearheaded by Russia and were widely seen as a way to sideline the United States from the process. While that move rattled the Obama administration, the Astana talks now seem to have been accepted by Trump and other Western leaders.

US based cleric Fethullah Gulen

3. Extradition of Erdogan’s rival Gulen

Erdogan and Turkish officials have long pressed the United States to extradite Fetullah Gulen, a friend-turned-foe of Erdogan’s, who has been in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999.
Erdogan believes Gulen was behind a failed military coup in July last year, but the US has said there is not enough evidence to send the 76-year-old Muslim cleric back to Turkey.
Gulen has repeatedly denied involvement in the coup attempt.

I shudder to think what Trump will do in this meeting. I can only hope someone sane is prepared to short circuit him.

Another stunning White House meeting was downplayed in the press yesterday because of all the fuss over Trump’s traitorous leaking to Russia. Rachel Maddow covered it in detail last night. The child president met with the guy who helped arrange the secret meeting in the Seychelles where Erik Prince met with a high-level Putin ally shortly before the inauguration.

Washington Post on April 3, 2017: Blackwater founder held secret Seychelles meeting to establish Trump-Putin back channel.

Though Prince had no formal role with the Trump campaign or transition team, he presented himself as an unofficial envoy for Trump to high-ranking Emiratis involved in setting up his meeting with the Putin confidant, according to the officials, who did not identify the Russian….

The Seychelles encounter, which one official said spanned two days, adds to an expanding web of connections between Russia and Americans with ties to Trump — contacts that the White House has been reluctant to acknowledge or explain until they have been exposed by news organizations….

The Seychelles meeting came after separate private discussions in New York involving high-ranking representatives of Trump with both Moscow and the Emirates.

The crown prince’s role:

The White House has acknowledged that Michael T. Flynn, Trump’s original national security adviser, and Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner met with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, in late November or early December in New York.

Flynn and Kushner were joined by Bannon for a separate meeting with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who made an undisclosed visit to New York later in December, according to the U.S., European and Arab officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.

In an unusual breach of protocol, the UAE did not notify the Obama administration in advance of the visit, though officials found out because Zayed’s name appeared on a flight manifest.

Officials said Zayed and his brother, the UAE’s national security adviser, coordinated the Seychelles meeting with Russian government officials with the goal of establishing an unofficial back channel between Trump and Putin.

 

USA Today yesterday: Trump meets with crown prince of Abu Dhabi as he looks to Muslim world.

President Trump greeted the crown prince of Abu Dhabi at the White House Monday, beginning a week that will mark a dramatic overture to the Muslim world.

Trump meets with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday, and he departs Friday for Saudi Arabia as the first foreign destination of his four-month-old presidency. By going first to the Saudi capital to meet with leaders of predominately Muslim Persian Gulf countries, the White House hopes will emphasize their unified resolve against common adversaries, including the Islamic State and Iran.

Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayid Al Nuhayyan is a “very special person, highly respected,” Trump said during a brief photo opportunity in the Oval Office. “And loves his country, I can tell you that, loves his country. And I think loves the United States, which to us is very important.”

USA Today didn’t mention the Seychelles connection. Can you believe this shit?!

One more story. Yesterday Anderson Cooper interviewed Sally Yates. The interview will be shown tonight during the 8:00 hour.

CNN: Sally Yates: Russians had ‘real leverage’ over Michael Flynn.

Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates said former national security adviser Michael Flynn was in a “serious compromise situation, that the Russians had real leverage” in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

In an exclusive one-on-one interview — her first on television since being fired by President Donald Trump — Yates said Flynn lied to Vice President Mike Pence and there was “certainly a criminal statute that was implicated by his conduct.” [….]
Yates told Cooper that she expected the White House to act urgently on information that she had given the administration that Flynn had been compromised by his contact with Russian officials prior to Trump’s inauguration.
“We expected the White House to act,” she said.
When asked by Cooper if she expected the administration to act quickly, Yates replied, “Yes.”
“There was an urgency to the information?” Cooper clarified.
“Yes,” Yates said.
Flynn remained in his position for 18 days after Yates had informed the administration about her concerns over his conduct.
What else is happening? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread below.

Friday Reads: A Steady Stream of Leaks Emanating from the FBI

Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer on the streets of NYC

Good Afternoon!!

I’m filling in for Dakinikat, who is trying to wrap up her grades today. There was so much news yesterday, but today is Friday and there is likely to be more coming out based on what’s happened the past few Fridays.

Already this morning, Trump has threatened former FBI director James Comey on Twitter and claimed the Russia investigation is a story made up by Democrats. In addition, Trump basically incriminated himself in a strange-but-true interview with NBC’s Lester Holt yesterday.

The Washington Post: The Daily 202: Trump’s warning to Comey deepens doubts about his respect for the rule of law.

The biggest news out of Donald Trump’s Thursday interview with NBC was his confession that the Russia investigation was on his mind when he fired FBI director James Comey. Undercutting 48 hours of denials by his aides, the president said: “In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.’”

But what may ultimately get Trump into bigger trouble is his story about Comey assuring him he was not under investigation during a one-on-one dinner at the White House. Lester Holt asked the president to elaborate on his claim, made in the letter firing Comey, that he’d been told three times he was not under federal investigation. “He wanted to stay at the FBI, and I said I’ll, you know, consider and see what happens,” Trump said. “But we had a very nice dinner, and at that time he told me, ‘You are not under investigation.’” (Watch a 13-minute video of Holt’s sit-down here.)

It would be a big dang deal if the FBI director was discussing an ongoing investigation with the president — generally prohibited by Justice Department policy — at the same time he was also asking to keep his job.

Naturally, the leaks are coming thick and fast out of the FBI.

The New York Times: In a Private Dinner, Trump Demanded Loyalty. Comey Demurred.

Only seven days after Donald J. Trump was sworn in as president, James B. Comey has told associates, the F.B.I. director was summoned to the White House for a one-on-one dinner with the new commander in chief.

The conversation that night in January, Mr. Comey now believes, was a harbinger of his downfall this week as head of the F.B.I., according to two people who have heard his account of the dinner.

As they ate, the president and Mr. Comey made small talk about the election and the crowd sizes at Mr. Trump’s rallies. The president then turned the conversation to whether Mr. Comey would pledge his loyalty to him.

Mr. Comey declined to make that pledge. Instead, Mr. Comey has recounted to others, he told Mr. Trump that he would always be honest with him, but that he was not “reliable” in the conventional political sense.

Unreal.

By Mr. Comey’s account, his answer to Mr. Trump’s initial question apparently did not satisfy the president, the associates said. Later in the dinner, Mr. Trump again said to Mr. Comey that he needed his loyalty.

Mr. Comey again replied that he would give him “honesty” and did not pledge his loyalty, according to the account of the conversation.

But Mr. Trump pressed him on whether it would be “honest loyalty.”

“You will have that,” Mr. Comey told his associates he responded.

NBC News: My Dinner With Comey: Current and Former FBI Officials Dispute Trump Account of Meeting With FBI Director.

One day after the acting attorney general warned the White House that its national security adviser was subject to blackmail, the president summoned the FBI director to dinner at the White House, sources close to James Comey told NBC News….

It’s not known whether the men talked about national security adviser Michael Flynn. Flynn had been interviewed by the FBI a few days before, on Jan. 24 — grilled about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak….

Trump suggested, in an exclusive interview Thursday with NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt, that he had the FBI’s Russia collusion investigation on his mind when he decided to remove Comey.

“When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won,'” Trump said.

Trump gave Holt an entirely different account of the dinner, saying that Comey requested it to seek job security, and told the president he was not under investigation.

None of that is true, Comey’s associates insist.

A former senior FBI official said Comey would never have told the president he was not under investigation — contradicting what Trump said.

“He tried to stay away from it [the Russian-ties investigation],” said the former official, who worked closely with Comey and keeps in touch with him. “He would say, ‘Look sir, I really can’t get into it, and you don’t want me to.'”

 

CBS News reports on another leak: Source: There is “whole lot of interfering” in Russia investigation.

Although President Trump has now stated and written that fired FBI Director James Comey told him on three separate occasions that he was not the subject of an investigation, sources cast doubt on that claim.

It would be out of character for Comey to have made that statement even once, much less three times, to the president, one law enforcement source told CBS News. Along with his firing, the source noted a high level of “interfering” in the Russia probe.

As for the White House assertions that “countless” FBI rank-and-file employees wanted Comey out, the source said that was a “load of cr*p” to think that agents wanted to see him ousted. That sentiment is shared by acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe in less colorful language. He told a congressional panel Thursday, “Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day. We are a large organization. We are 36,500 people across this country, across this globe. we have a diversity of opinions about many things, but I can confidently tell you that the majority, the vast majority of employees enjoyed a deep and positive connection to Director Comey.”

This was the case in spite of the divided opinion within the agency over Comey’s July 2016 announcement that he would not recommend Hillary Clinton be charged for mishandling classified information, in the investigation into her use of a private server for her email.

Within the FBI, the Russia investigation is considered to be “a crisis,” the source said, and “there is a whole lot of interfering.” The succession of events surrounding Comey’s firing is not considered to be a coincidence by the agency. In the week before he was terminated, Comey asked Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein for additional resources to pursue the Russia investigation.

I cannot wait until Comey testifies again in public.

At Lawfare, Benjamin Wittes writes that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein must resign.

“He made—he made a recommendation,” Donald Trump said yesterday of his Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein in an interview with NBC News. “He’s highly respected, very good guy, very smart guy. The Democrats like him; the Republicans like him. He made a recommendation, but regardless of the recommendation, I was going to fire Comey.

”There it is, directly from the presidential mouth: Trump happily traded the reputation of Rosenstein, who began the week as a well-respected career prosecutor, for barely 24 hours of laughably transparent talking points in the news cycle. The White House sent out person after person—including the Vice President—to insist that Rosenstein’s memo constituted the basis for the President’s action against the FBI director. The White House described a bottoms-up dissatisfaction with Comey’s leadership, which Rosenstein’s memo encapsulated and to which the President acceded. And then, just as casually as Trump and his people set Rosenstein up as the bad guy for what was obviously a presidential decision into whose service Rosenstein had been enlisted, Trump revealed that Rosenstein was, after all, nothing more than a set piece…. [read the full excerpt from the interview at the link.]

Note that Trump did not merely reveal Rosenstein as a set piece here; he revealed him as a set piece in Trump’s own effort to frustrate the Russia investigation. The story as told by the president to NBC now is that Trump decided to fire Comey in connection with saying to himself that the Russia investigation was a made up story, and that it was in that context that he got Rosenstein to write a pretextual memo….

Trump’s idea of correcting the record was to say publicly exactly the thing about a law enforcement officer that makes his continued service in office impossible: That Trump had used his deputy attorney general as window dressing on a pre-cooked political decision to shut down an investigation involving himself, a decision for which he needed the patina of a high-minded rationale.

Once the President has said this about you—a law enforcement officer who works for him and who promised the Senate in confirmation hearings you would show independence—you have nothing left. These are the costs of working for Trump, and it took Rosenstein only two weeks to pay them.

The only decent course now is to name a special prosecutor and then resign.

I have no doubt that more news will be breaking all day long and into tonight. I’m already exhausted. What stories are you following today?


Tuesday Reads: Comey Strikes Again

Good Morning!!

I woke up around 3AM and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I turned on my computer and opened Twitter. I wasn’t expecting breaking news, but I found it anyway. You’ve probably heard by now that James Comey was caught lying to Congress about Hillary’s emails.

ProPublica: Comey’s Testimony on Huma Abedin Forwarding Emails Was Inaccurate.

FBI director James Comey generated national headlines last week with his dramatic testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, explaining his “incredibly painful” decision to go public about the Hillary Clinton emails found on Anthony Weiner’s laptop.

Perhaps Comey’s most surprising revelation was that Huma Abedin — Weiner’s wife and a top Clinton deputy — had made “a regular practice” of forwarding “hundreds and thousands” of Clinton messages to her husband, “some of which contain classified information.” Comey testified that Abedin had done this so that the disgraced former congressman could print them out for her boss….

Much of what Comey said about this was inaccurate. Now the FBI is trying to figure out what to do about it.

FBI officials have privately acknowledged that Comey misstated what Abedin did and what the FBI investigators found. On Monday, the FBI was said to be preparing to correct the record by sending a letter to Congress later this week. But that plan now appears on hold, with the bureau undecided about what to do.

So how much did Comey exaggerate?

According to two sources familiar with the matter — including one in law enforcement — Abedin forwarded only a handful of Clinton emails to her husband for printing — not the “hundreds and thousands” cited by Comey. It does not appear Abedin made “a regular practice” of doing so. Other officials said it was likely that most of the emails got onto the computer as a result of backups of her Blackberry.

It was not clear how many, if any, of the forwarded emails were among the 12 “classified” emails Comey said had been found on Weiner’s laptop. None of the messages carried classified markings at the time they were sent.

WTF?! Has everyone in the federal government gone insane? How can we rely on Comey to properly investigate Trump and Russia after this? And why are we just learning about this?

More insanity, this time emanating from tRump.

Bloomberg: Washington Loves General McMaster, But Trump Doesn’t.

For the Washington establishment, President Donald Trump’s decision to make General H.R. McMaster his national security adviser in February was a masterstroke. Here is a well-respected defense intellectual, praised by both parties, lending a steady hand to a chaotic White House. The grown-ups are back.

But inside the White House, the McMaster pick has not gone over well with the one man who matters most. White House officials tell me Trump himself has clashed with McMaster in front of his staff….

…White House officials…tell me this is not the sentiment the president has expressed recently in private. Trump was livid, according to three White House officials, after reading in the Wall Street Journal that McMaster had called his South Korean counterpart to assure him that the president’s threat to make that country pay for a new missile defense system was not official policy. These officials say Trump screamed at McMaster on a phone call, accusing him of undercutting efforts to get South Korea to pay its fair share.

This was not an isolated incident. Trump has complained in front of McMaster in intelligence briefings about “the general undermining my policy,” according to two White House officials. The president has given McMaster less face time. McMaster’s requests to brief the president before some press interviews have been declined. Over the weekend, McMaster did not accompany Trump to meet with Australia’s prime minister; the outgoing deputy national security adviser, K.T. McFarland, attended instead.

I have no doubt that tRump would like to have Russian spy Mike Flynn back as National Security Adviser.

National Post: White House advisors called Ottawa to urge Trudeau to help talk Trump down from scrapping NAFTA.

White House staff called the Prime Minister’s Office last month to urge Justin Trudeau to persuade President Donald Trump not to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement, according to multiple Canadian government sources.

The unconventional diplomatic manoeuvre — approaching the head of a foreign government to influence your own boss — proved decisive, as Trump thereafter abandoned his threat to pull out of NAFTA unilaterally, citing the arguments made by Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto as pivotal.

But the incident highlights the difficulties faced by governments all over the world when it comes to dealing with a president as volatile as Trump.

tRump is an embarrassment to the once-great United States of America. Read the whole pathetic story at the link.

Huffington Post: Trump Administration Cites Segregation-Era Ruling To Defend Its Travel Ban.

In a brief defending its ban on citizens from six Muslim-majority countries, President Donald Trump’s Justice Department approvingly cited a segregation-era Supreme Court decision that allowed Jackson, Mississippi, to close public pools rather than integrate them.

In the early 1960s, courts ordered Jackson to desegregate its public parks, which included five swimming pools. Instead, the city decided to close the pools. Black residents of Jackson sued. But in 1971, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, decided that closing the pools rather than integrating them was just fine.

The dissents, even at the time, were furious. “May a State in order to avoid integration of the races abolish all of its public schools?” Justice William O. Douglas asked in his dissent.

“I had thought official policies forbidding or discouraging joint use of public facilities by Negroes and whites were at war with the Equal Protection Clause” of the Fourteenth Amendment, Justice Byron White wrote in another dissent.

 

How did the tRump lawyers use this case? The ruling argued that courts should not consider the motives for a government decision.

It is difficult or impossible for any court to determine the ‘sole’ or ‘dominant’ motivation behind the choices of a group of legislators,” the majority opinion said. “Furthermore, there is an element of futility in a judicial attempt to invalidate a law because of the bad motives of its supporters.”

The Trump administration emphasizes this in its citation of the case, arguing that looking into “governmental purpose outside the operative terms of governmental action and official pronouncements” is “fraught with practical ‘pitfalls’ and ‘hazards’ that would make courts’ task ‘extremely difficult.’”

The tRump Justice Department is now an embarrassment too.

Other Insane News

I’m still not sure if this is a joke or not, but knowing the New York Times, it could very well be for real.

The suggestion was made in a column by Michael Kinsley, who used to be relatively sane: The Upside to the Presidential Twitter Feed.

Surely, if there is a “party line” among the establishment media in the United States, it is anti-Trump, not pro. That doesn’t make it wrong. In fact, it’s largely right. But the venom, the obsession, the knife-twisting are hard to understand.

It must be partly a matter of bad timing. Mr. Trump came along just as the mainstream media, especially newspapers, were trying to come to terms with the internet. Hoary concepts like “objectivity” and “balance” were giving way. This was a good thing, believe it or not. Reporters no longer had to pretend that after spending weeks or months on a story, they had emerged with no opinion about it. The word “I” could now be used to refer to oneself, rather than “a reporter.” Mr. Trump, already dislikable, became the first test case of the new mind-set.

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, though, and even Donald Trump can’t be wrong all the time.

With that in mind, we’re looking for a few positive words about the president, and we’re asking for your help. This is not about Trump the family man. It’s not another forum for debating the issues. It is a place to point out positive things Mr. Trump has said or done from the viewpoint of The New York Times and its readers. (And don’t tell me Times readers are too diverse to classify. You know who you are.)

I’m pretty sure this is meant to be humorous, but it’s really not funny. I like this NYT column by David Leonhardt a little better: A French Lesson for the American Media.

The hacked emails from Emmanuel Macron’s French campaign appear to be spectacularly mundane, according to people who have read them. They include briefings on issues, personal exchanges and discussions of the weather. No doubt they also include some embarrassing thoughts, but so far they are notably lacking in scandal.

Does this description remind you of anything?

Ah, yes. Last year, Russian agents stole thousands of emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign and published them via WikiLeaks. The dominant feature of the emails was their ordinariness.

They contained no evidence of lawbreaking, major hypocrisy or tawdry scandal. Even the worst revelation — a Democratic official and CNN contributor fed a town hall question to the campaign in advance — qualified as small beer. Ronald Reagan’s 1980 campaign engaged in much more consequential debate skulduggery. The Clinton emails were instead full of staff members jockeying for position, agonizing over strategy, complaining about their bosses and offering advice to those same bosses….

The overhyped coverage of the hacked emails was the media’s worst mistake in 2016 — one sure to be repeated if not properly understood. Television was the biggest offender, but print media was hardly blameless. The sensationalism exacerbated a second problem with the coverage: the obsession with Clinton’s private email server.

Apparently, there are sane people in the French media.

Late Friday, two days before the election, hackers released the Macron campaign emails. French media laws are stricter than American laws, and government officials argued against publication of the hacked information. But only the campaigns themselves were legally barred from making statements during the final weekend. Publications could have reported on the substance of the emails.

They largely did not. “It was a manipulation attempt — people trying to manipulate our voting process,” Gilles van Kote, deputy chief editor of Le Monde, told me.

French journalists rightly did not focus on what seemed like big news, because the emails surely did. They evaluated what truly was major news. Material released by a hostile foreign government, with the aim of confusing voters and evidently without significant new information, failed to qualify. Van Kote said reporters are continuing to read the emails to see if they warrant future stories.

NBC News has a story on how Bernie Sanders, who is not a Democrat, has thrown the Democratic Party into chaos: Democrats Stumble Into Abortion Rift. I’ll let you read that at the link if you’re interested. Here’s one more Sanders story, because Karma is so satisfying. Jane’s problems are now national news.

The Hill: FBI investigating Jane Sanders for alleged bank fraud: report.

Federal investigators are looking into allegations that Sen. Bernie Sanders‘s (I-Vt.) wife, Jane Sanders, falsified loan documents while she served as the president of Burlington College, according to multiple reports.

The small Vermont liberal arts school closed down in May 2016, after going bankrupt and failing to meet accreditation standards.

The college began to face financial difficulties during Sanders’s tenure from 2004 to 2011, falling $10 million into debt when the school purchased a new campus in 2010.

Sanders has been accused of falsifying the information on the loan documents in order to expand the college grounds.

The VTdigger.org reported that some of the donors Sanders appealed to for help with loans are now in contact with the FBI and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).

Sanders left her leadership role in 2011 for undisclosed reasons.

She claimed the college could count on $2.6 million in donations to pay for the purchased land, according to a 2010 loan application. But she ultimately raised only a fourth of that, making $676,000 in donations over the next four years, putting the college into bankruptcy in May 2016.

What else is happening? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a terrific Tuesday!