Yesterday, Dakinikat highlighted this article at The Independent in which the owner of a tanker that the Trump administration claims was attacked by Iran says the Trump folks are lying.
The ship operator said “flying objects” that may have been bullets were the cause of damage to the vessel, rather than mines used by Iranian forces, as the US has suggested.
Yutaka Katada, chief executive of the Japanese company operating the ship called Kokuka Courageous, one of two vessels attacked near the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday, said the damage could not have been caused by mines or torpedos that are shot underwater, since the damage was reportedly above the ship’s waterline.
Now Germany has chimed in. Newsweek: Germany Joins Chorus Casting Doubt on Trump Administration Claim that Iran was Behind Attack on Oil Tankers.
Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Friday cast doubt on evidence that the U.S. government claims is proof that Iran was behind an attack this week on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.
The attack on the two vessels, one Japanese and one Norwegian, took place as Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was visiting Iran to try to calm tensions between Tehran and Washington.
The U.S. Navy later released a video that purported to show members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard sneaking over to the ship in the middle of the night to remove an unexploded mine. U.S. officials claimed this is evidence of Iran’s culpability, but Maas argued that the video was insufficient proof to pin the attack on Iran.
“The video is not enough. We can understand what is being shown, sure, but to make a final assessment, this is not enough for me,” Maas told reporters during a press conference on Friday. The boat’s Japanese owner also cast doubt on the theory that a mine had been used to attack the ship, telling journalists that members of his crew had witnessed a flying object.
Iran has denied any role in the event, and some observers have raised questions about whether the intelligence was being used as a pretext for the U.S. to escalate conflict with the country.
Peter Baker writes at The New York Times: As Trump Accuses Iran, He Has One Problem: His Own Credibility.
For any president, accusing another country of an act of war presents an enormous challenge to overcome skepticism at home and abroad. But for a president known for falsehoods and crisis-churning bombast, the test of credibility appears far more daunting.
For two and a half years in office, Mr. Trump has spun out so many misleading or untrue statements about himself, his enemies, his policies, his politics, his family, his personal story, his finances and his interactions with staff that even his own former communications director once said “he’s a liar” and many Americans long ago concluded that he cannot be trusted.
Fact-checking Mr. Trump is a full-time occupation in Washington, and in no other circumstance is faith in a president’s word as vital as in matters of war and peace. The public grew cynical about presidents and intelligence after George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq based on false accusations of weapons of mass destruction, and the doubt spilled over to Barack Obama when he accused Syria of gassing its own people. As Mr. Trump confronts Iran, he carries the burden of their history and his own….
The task is all the more formidable for Mr. Trump, who himself has assailed the reliability of America’s intelligence agencies and even the intelligence chiefs he appointed, suggesting they could not be believed when their conclusions have not fit his worldview.
That’s an important point. Trump has been attacking the findings of the U.S. intelligence community since he was a candidate. He has repeatedly said he believes Vladimir Putin over his own FBI and CIA.
Again following up on Dakinikat’s post yesterday, here’s a brilliant essay by Virginia Heffernan at The Los Angeles Times: All the president’s lying ladies — Hicks, Sanders and Conway — make news.
The Trump White House is a bit like Shakespeare summer camp: not enough substantial parts for the girls. The female roles at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. are for craven ladies-in-waiting who are allotted very little moral agency, let alone opportunities for heroics. They subvert their ambitions to their overlord’s; they lie, in short.
Yes, there’s a Lady Macbeth, portrayed in Trumpworld as a waxen blonde sleepwalker, a ghostly daughter-wife whose veins are certifiably free of the milk of human kindness. (Ivanka’s understudy, the creepy Melania, has skipped so many rehearsals she’s been written off.)
A shrewd, unholy trinity has settled for lesser roles: the liar-handmaidens Hope Hicks, Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Kellyanne Conway. The president, according to Michael Wolff’s latest book, “Siege,” likes to see these three in a “cat fight,” in which each undermines the others as she competes to lie most robustly on his behalf.
The melancholic former White House Communications Director Hicks, choleric counselor Conway and splenetic Press Secretary Sanders aren’t just complicit in the president’s depravity. They have managed to advance it.
But the advantage this trio has over Lady Ivanka is that they can leave.
To further tempt you to read the whole thing, here is Heffernan’s characterization of Sarah Huckabee Sanders:
Sanders is known for her never-ending mendacity and her near-religious devotion to Trump, who, according to Wolff, calls her the “Huckabee Girl.”
Indeed, Trump has often treated Sanders as if she were the possession of her father, Mike Huckabee, on loan to him as a scullery maid. Scullery for Trump includes, above all, mendacity. Sanders is featured in the Mueller report for her “slip of the tongue” — the claim that “countless” FBI agents disliked former FBI Director James Comey.
Not only was this fabrication part of Sanders’ tireless effort to make it seem as though Trump is a normal law-and-order Republican (and not a carnie thug with well-documented contempt for the whole FBI), it was also an effort to obfuscate Trump’s reason for firing Comey. We all know it: to kill the Russia investigation.
Go read the rest. You won’t be sorry.
At Rolling Stone, Tim Dickinson explains how the trial of a border patrol agent could expose the “toxic culture” of his agency: ‘Guats,’ ‘Tonks’ and ‘Subhuman Shit’: The Shocking Texts of a Border Patrol Agent.
In the days before he allegedly struck a 23-year-old undocumented Guatemalan man with a government-issued Ford F-150, Border Patrol agent Matthew Bowen sent a text to a fellow agent. In the exchange, which federal prosecutors now claim offers “insight into his view of the aliens he apprehends,” Bowen railed against unauthorized migrants who’d thrown rocks at a colleague as “mindless murdering savages” and “disgusting subhuman shit unworthy of being kindling for a fire.” The text message also includes a plea to the president: “PLEASE let us take the gloves off trump!”
Two weeks later, on December 3rd, 2017, Bowen was on patrol near Nogales, Arizona, when he spotted a suspected unauthorized border crosser. Identified as Antolin Rolando Lopez-Aguilar in a federal affidavit, the man had been hiding but took off running back toward the Nogales point of entry, “in an apparent effort to avoid apprehension,” the affidavit states.
Instead of pursuing Lopez-Aguilar on foot, Bowen chased after him in his federal vehicle, known as a “Kilo Unit” in Border Patrol lingo. As caught on camera, Bowen maneuvered “the front grille of the truck directly behind Lopez-Aguilar,” according to the affidavit. With the F-150 bearing down on him, Lopez-Aguilar reached back “to ‘push off’ of the hood” before Bowen “accelerated the… Kilo Unit directly into the back of Lopez-Aguilar’s body, knocking Lopez-Aguilar to the ground,” the document states. The Ford’s tires came to a full stop “within inches of running Lopez-Aguilar over where he lay on the ground.”
Bowen, now 39, was indicted in May 2018, on two counts — one, a civil rights crime, for what prosecutors call Bowen’s choice to use “deadly force against a person who was running away from him and posed no threat,” and the other, an obstruction charge, for his alleged effort to “cover up his crime.” Bowen has pleaded not guilty to both counts. (Lopez-Aguilar was scraped up, but not seriously injured according to court documents, and reportedly sentenced to 30 days for the misdemeanor offense of illegal entry into the United States.)
Bowen’s trial is due to begin in August. But the case is already shining a spotlight on a troubled culture at Border Patrol, the law enforcement arm of Customs and Border Protection, at a moment when both agencies have been grappling with a surge in migrants, and faced allegations of widespread wrongdoing, ranging from physical and sexual abuse of minors to housing migrants in substandard shelters, including one likened to “a human dog pound.”
Read the rest at Rolling Stone.
At The Washington Post, David Von Drehle examines the differential treatment given to rich men in the U.S. justice system: Jeffrey Epstein’s scandal of secrecy points to a creeping rot in the American justice system.
When rich people are credibly accused of crimes, does the public have a right to know? Should multimillionaires be allowed to silence their accusers with cash?
According to superlawyer David Boies, “dozens” of women who could give testimony about being sexually assaulted as girls by mysterious financier Jeffrey Epstein are silenced by settlements they reached with their alleged assailant. The exact number is yet another secret in this least transparent of criminal cases. “Three dozen or eight dozen, I don’t know, but there are dozens,” Boies told me recently. He himself represents two alleged Epstein victims bound by “non-disclosure agreements” (NDAs).
Because Epstein can afford to buy silence, he may succeed in shuttering the window of accountability pried open in a South Florida court back in February. U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra ruled that federal prosecutors — led by the current labor secretary, Alexander Acosta — broke the law by entering a secret sweetheart deal to allow Epstein to serve a cushy sentence without facing evidence that he assaulted more than 30 underage girls in Palm Beach.
That ruling may prove hollow, however, if the alleged victims are now gagged by their settlements with Epstein. What a galling next chapter that would be in this appalling story.
Epstein, whose enormous and unexplained wealth attracted a circle of friends that included Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, actor Kevin Spacey and Britain’s Prince Andrew, travels from mansion to mansion while poor men accused of lesser crimes rot in prison.
This scandal of secrecy points to a creeping rot in the American justice system. Too many cases involving potential felonies are resolved through civil settlements that include ironclad NDAs. Once the money changes hands, witnesses can no longer testify to crimes; indeed, penalties for telling the truth after a settlement often run to the millions of dollars — ruinous for most crime victims. It’s a short step removed from silencing witnesses with cement shoes.
What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a nice weekend!
Monday: The Double Edged Sword of Comedy’s Double Standard or Why Can’t she just be a nice funny lady?Posted: April 30, 2018
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
Comedienne Michelle Wolf has managed to do what other Lady Comediennes have done before her. She scored a triple hit on Politics, Comedy, and Journalism. She’s ripped apart another old boy’s club (or three) by letting us know it’s not funny when a woman does it to another woman. We’re only allowed “cat fights” when there’s the chance they get to see our lacy underwear.
So, the nerd prom exposed the pearl clutching double standards of DudeBros of Comedy, Journalism, and Politics. I’m actually counting Andrea Mitchell in the DudeBro ranks for this. C’mon Imus? He took deeply personal pot shots at the Clintons that made Trump’s Nasty woman comment look like a compliment! Wolf pointed to the obvious amount of lying behavior rampant in any one speaking for this White House including its sycophant women.
I recognize laughter in the age of Trump as though it were a cousin of anti-totalitarian laughter. It is the reaction to seeing act-based reality, as when “Saturday Night Live” essentially reënacts White House press conferences, or when late-night comedians offer up what amounts to straightforward reportage and analysis. The hunger for a reflection of reality is so desperate that, I have discovered repeatedly over the last year and a half, one can reliably get laughs simply by quoting Trump during a public talk.
Last month, Hillary Clinton got laughs and applause during her Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture, which concluded pen America’s annual World Voices Festival, by merely referring to Trump’s lie about the size of the crowd at his Inauguration (around the twenty-three-minute mark here). There was nothing funny about any of it: not about the President’s lies, nor about the grief that this had not been Clinton’s Inauguration, nor about the fact that, speaking a year and a half after her electoral loss, addressing the friendliest of all possible audiences, Clinton was as stilted, scripted, and unapproachable as ever. She was still campaigning, still losing, and there was no reason to laugh.
Political satire in less troubled times exaggerates existing facts, pointing out the absurdities inherent in all ideologies, or playing up smaller disagreements and failures for bigger laughs. But Trump is hard to exaggerate—it is enough, it seems, merely to mirror him. But why does faithful portrayal of fact-based reality elicit laughter in a country that has a free press and a healthy public sphere in which, it seems, reality is robustly represented? What do late-night comedians reclaim from the Times?
Wolf’s performance at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner suggests an answer. She called the President a racist, a truth as self-evident as it has proved difficult for mainstream journalists to state. Her humor was obscene: she joked about the President’s affair with a porn star; about his “pulling out,” as promised (of the Paris agreement); and about the G.O.P.’s former deputy finance chair Elliott Broidy’s $1.6 million payoff to a former mistress. She also made minced meat of White House staff, House and Senate Republican leaders, the Democrats, and journalists on the right and left, in their presence or in that of their colleagues,
I often skewer Campaign Mommy (Kellywise Conway) and Sisterwife Huckabuck (Sarah “Aunt Lydia”Huckabee). They’re easy prey for any woke woman because they’ve so obviously sold out everything modern women hold dear and at what cost and benefit? From Emily Stewart writing for Vox:
Wolf, a former Daily Show correspondent and host of an upcoming Netflix late-night show, skewered Sanders as the press secretary sat just a few seats away from her onstage. Wolf compared Sanders to Aunt Lydia — a fearsome character from the dystopian Hulu series The Handmaid’s Tale who reeducates women into subjugation and enforces strict punishmenton them — and drew attention to the press secretary’s lying, saying she was an “Uncle Tom for white women.”
Here’s what Wolf said:
We are graced with Sarah’s presence tonight. I have to say I’m a little star-struck. I love you as Aunt Lydia in The Handmaid’s Tale. Mike Pence, if you haven’t seen it, you would love it.
Every time Sarah steps up to the podium, I get excited, because I’m not really sure what we’re going to get — you know, a press briefing, a bunch of lies or divided into softball teams. “It’s shirts and skins, and this time don’t be such a little bitch, Jim Acosta!”
I actually really like Sarah. I think she’s very resourceful. She burns facts, and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Like maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.
And I’m never really sure what to call Sarah Huckabee Sanders, you know? Is it Sarah Sanders, is it Sarah Huckabee Sanders, is it Cousin Huckabee, is it Auntie Huckabee Sanders? Like, what’s Uncle Tom but for white women who disappoint other white women? Oh, I know. Aunt Coulter.
I’ve seen less flattering and meaner portraits of her and Conway in print media by political cartoonists. Could it be Wolf’s sex or is it just that TV journalists are more self-absorbed with their own images and appearances? Come on! Every one know’s they both lie like rugs. Wolf just pointed that out in a comedic satirical frame. Is it just the guilty conscience of an enabling set of TV journos? Trump and his minions are out to destroy a free press and y’all want to demonize the ones shouting that the building is on fire?
From Eric Wemple at WAPO: ‘The president is seeking to destroy journalism. Now let’s debate dinner entertainment!’
And for a bit of historical enlightenment, who can forget the time that two WHCA titans used a USA Today essay to establish rough equivalence between the Trump and Clinton campaigns vis-a-vis their approach to the media?
Extreme caution. Bland statements. Neutrality above all else. Those are the pillars of the WHCA’s approach to the Trump White House. For more on this dynamic, check out New York University professor Jay Rosen’s new piece, “What savvy journalists say when they are minimizing Trump’s hate movement against journalists.” The gist: White House correspondents preoccupy themselves with matters of access and protocol while the president’s “fake news” campaign hacks away at their profession’s very core. “It’s just theater,” said New York Times White House correspondent Peter Baker at a WHCA event.
Now consider this incongruity: It was this conciliatory and deferential organization that hired comedian Michelle Wolf to provide the entertainment at Saturday night’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. She killed it, in every way possible. Her jokes were original and nasty, as she roasted Sanders herself, who was seated nearby at the head table at the invitation of the WHCA itself; she did stuff about vaginas, stuff about President Trump and hookers, stuff about the day’s news; she advanced her own career by offending scores of longtime Washington types who used Twitter to express their consternation over her raunch-filled riffs.
Also from WAPO and Molly Roberts: ‘Michelle Wolf got it just right’.
That’s how comedian Michelle Wolf answered Sean Spicer’s declaration that her headliningstand-up set at the the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner was “a disgrace.” Her response is instructive: To Wolf, an insult from Spicer is an accolade – and accolades, surely, would be an insult. She’s right.
Wolf managed Saturday night to scandalize the majority of Washington’s tuxedo-clad intelligentsia with a barrage of bon mots that, in the eyes of much of the press and political establishment, weren’t really so bon at all. The speech, these pundits have argued, wasn’t amusing; it was lewd, and worse than that, it was mean.
Wolf faced particular criticism for (besides all that sex stuff) her satire of Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who apparently was a profile in courage for sitting still with pursed lips while someone told jokes about her — “to her face!” These commentators spun the strange narrative that Wolf went after Sanders for her appearance, when in reality Wolf’s barbs centered on the press secretary’s falsehood-filled performance on the White House podium.
“She burns facts, and then she uses the ash to create a perfect smoky eye,” Wolf said of Sanders. Correct, on both counts — and many would rejoice at such an endorsement of their eye makeup. Callous attacks on women for their looks, even after Saturday night, still belong to the president who refused to attend Saturday night’s event — not to the comedian who skewered his cohorts.
All the same, countless journalists rallied behind Sanders, the same woman who spends her days lying to them. And that says a lot more about them than it does about Wolf’s routine. Everyone who told Wolf to read the room is missing the point: The room, and the misplaced notion of a “special” night to celebrate the “special” relationship between the press and the presidency that brought everyone to it on Saturday, is precisely the problem.
Wolf, according to the commentariat, violated a sacred standard of decency that defines the correspondents’ dinner every year. The comedian should roast people, yes, but she should do it at a suitably low temperature for this town’s all-too-tender egos. Wolf broke protocol by turning on the broiler. Yet the figures she scorched have shattered norms that are far more important than an unspoken prohibition on vagina jokes.
The correspondents’ dinner supposedly celebrates the rapport that journalists have with the people they cover. This three-course fete of access journalism has always made some skeptics queasy, but after the Trump administration’s active attempts to undermine every organization in the room Saturday that doesn’t treat the president as an unassailable dear leader, it’s hard to pretend that the fourth estate and its subjects can carry on a relationship that’s adversarial and respectful all at once.
Yup, That is it. Exactly.
And who doesn’t remember all the examples of shooting women messengers? Kathie Griffin any one?
Comedian Kathy Griffin has claimed President Donald Trump ordered federal agents to investigate her and make her life miserable in the wake of her ill-considered bloody severed head online post featuring him.
Griffin, who apologized in the wake of the post when she received a barrage of outrage from both sides of the aisle – but later said she wasn’t sorry – was speaking on the ABCStart Here podcast with host Brad Mielke. She is also attending tonight’s White House Correspondents Dinner as a guest in what was anticipated to be a showdown with the president. Instead, Trump opted to hold a rally in Michigan.
Mielke asked Griffin about the aftermath of the photo incident. “You were cleared of any wrongdoing by the Secret Service. But you did say the investigation dragged on for months, and you have said this goes all the way to the White House. Are you saying that the president personally directed federal agents to investigate you?”
Griffin replied, “Of course.”
A woman’s place in journalism, politics, and comedy appears to be safe when you’re the bearer of patriarchy propaganda. Otherwise, no white knight rescue for you princess! Just a burning stake waiting for you baby!
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Today is International Women’s Day; and to demonstrate how far women have advanced in American society (NOT!), the sitting “president” is being sued by a porn star.
In honor of the day supposedly dedicated to women’s progress, The New York Times offers an “interactive feature” entitled “Overlooked” that examines the lives of 15 historically important women whose deaths were ignored by the New York Times obituaries. The fifteen overlooked women are: Ida B. Wells, Qui Jin, Mary Ewing Outerbridge, Diane Arbus, Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Plath, Henrietta Lacks, Madhubala, Emily Warren Roebling, Nella Larsen, Ada Lovelace, Margaret Abbott, Belkis Ayón, Charlotte Brontë, Lillias Campbell Davidson. Read their newly written obituaries at the NYT.
Two more pieces to check out:
Brookings: Happy (not so) International Women’s Day.
We’ve heard it all before. Women are sexually harassed and assaulted. Women are discriminated against in the workplace. Women are excluded from political decision-making. Even women who “have it all” can’t seem to get it right. Working mothers are reprimanded for not being present enough for their children or at work.
International Women’s Day comes and goes every year. But it fails to account for the diverse grievances, needs, and expectations of women in varied contexts. According to Dr. Andres Bustillo, plenty of women go for plastic surgery as a means to cope with emotional stress (and aesthetics is just secondary). Some criticize it as an occasion that turns the recognition of women and their achievements into an exceptional circumstance, a day-long celebration on the 8th of March. After that, normality resumes – a normality in which the patriarchy dismisses issues affecting women, and in which women are discriminated against, harassed, and marginalized on a daily basis.
Read the rest at the link.
Jeff Green Bloomberg: Women Must Wait a Century For Equal Pay.
The United Nations first recognized International Women’s Day in 1975, sparking 38 years of annual demonstrations, private and public proclamations and a general recognition that even in the modern era, gender equality has a long way to go.More recently, the day has been an opportunity to consider how much has changed, which is especially apt in 2018 as the #MeToo movement continues to expose sexual harassment and misconduct. That’s why Sexual Trauma rehab was made to help women. Nevertheless, this year’s slew of reports are sobering as they suggest backsliding for women’s economic empowerment and for women in business.
The World Economic Forum now estimates global pay parity is a century away, an increase from about 80 years in 2016 — in part because the path for women to the most highly paid jobs is less clear. Executive teams globally slipped to being just 24 percent women from 25 percent in the most recent year, according to Grant Thornton. And among new CEO hires globally, less than 4 percent went to women in 2016, professional services firm PwC said.
In the U.S. and in the U.K., there’s even more bad news. The number of women CEOs at the largest U.S. companies will slip to 24 from 27, according to Catalyst, which tracks diversity in companies. Among the 92 largest companies in the U.K., 6.5 percent had women CEOs, a dip from 7.8 percent in 2016, according to executive recruiter Egon Zehnder.
Read more at Bloomberg.
This week there have been several major stories every day about the Russia investigation. It’s difficult to keep up, even if you have as much time to follow news as I do. On top of that, the porn star scandal has broken out of the tabloids and into big-time news outlets.
I won’t recap all the Russia and Stormy Daniels news that broke yesterday, but here are some headlines to check out in case you missed them:
The New York Times: Trump Spoke to Witnesses About Matters They Discussed With Special Counsel.
More news on these stories broke this morning. At the top of the heap is a long excerpt at Yahoo News–part 1 of 2–from the new book by Michael Isakoff and David Corn: Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump.
It was late in the afternoon of Nov. 9, 2013, in Moscow, and Donald Trump was getting anxious.
This was his second day in the Russian capital, and the brash businessman and reality TV star was running through a whirlwind schedule to promote that evening’s extravaganza at Moscow’s Crocus City Hall: the Miss Universe pageant, in which women from 86 countries would be judged before a worldwide television audience estimated at 1 billion.
Trump had purchased the pageant 17 years earlier, partnering with NBC. It was one of his most-prized properties, bringing in millions of dollars a year in revenue and, perhaps as important, burnishing his image as an international playboy celebrity. While in the Russian capital, Trump was also scouting for new and grand business opportunities, having spent decades trying — but failing — to develop high-end projects in Moscow. Miss Universe staffers considered it an open secret that Trump’s true agenda in Moscow was not the show but his desire to do business there.
Yet to those around him that afternoon, Trump seemed gripped by one question: Where was Vladimir Putin?
Trump was already obsessed with Putin in 2013 and had dreamed of building a Trump tower in Moscow for decades. Putin never showed up, but he did have his “right hand man and press spokesman” Dmitry Peskov speak to Trump on the phone.
In the lead-up to making the deal that would take the Miss Universe pageant to Russia, Trump went with his entourage and his Russian guest Emin Agalarov to a Las Vegas nightclub called the Act.
Shortly after midnight, the entourage arrived at the club. The group included Trump, Emin, Goldstone, Culpo, and Nana Meriwether, the outgoing Miss USA. Trump and Culpo were photographed in the lobby by a local paparazzi. The club’s management had heard that Trump might be there that night and had arranged to have plenty of Diet Coke on hand for the teetotaling Trump. (The owners had also discussed whether they should prepare a special performance for the developer, perhaps a dominatrix who would tie him up on stage or a little-person transvestite Trump impersonator. They nixed that idea.) [….]
The Act was no ordinary nightclub. Since March, it had been the target of undercover surveillance by the Nevada Gaming Control Board and investigators for the club’s landlord — the Palazzo, which was owned by GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson — after complaints about its performances. The club featured seminude women performing simulated sex acts of bestiality and grotesque sadomasochism — skits that a few months later would prompt a Nevada state judge to issue an injunction barring any more of its “lewd” and “offensive” performances. Among the club’s regular acts cited by the judge was one called “Hot for Teacher,” in which naked college girls simulate urinating on a professor. In another act, two women disrobe and then “one female stands over the other female and simulates urinating while the other female catches the urine in two wine glasses.” (The Act shut down after the judge’s ruling. There is no public record of which skits were performed the night Trump was present.)
As the Act’s scantily clad dancers gyrated in front of them late that night, Emin, Goldstone, Culpo and the rest toasted Trump’s birthday. (He had turned 67 the day before.)
Hmm . . . Do you supposed that performance gave Trump ideas?
More news breaking this morning:
Blackwater founder Erik Prince will host a fundraiser this month for Russia-friendly Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, as Prince faces new questions over a 2017 meeting currently being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Prince and Rohrabacher have been friends and mutual supporters for years: Prince interned for the California congressman on Capitol Hill in 1990, and Rohrabacher vigorously defended Prince when Blackwater faced congressional scrutiny during President George W. Bush’s administration.
The fundraising event, slated for March 18 at Prince’s Middleburg, Virginia residence, is expected to be attended by GOP Reps. Tom Garrett Jr. and Dave Brat, and Lt. Colonel Oliver North, according to an invitation obtained by CNN. Tickets start at $1,000 for the general reception, although donors paying $2,700 will also be invited to attend a VIP event beforehand.
But the fundraiser comes at an uneasy moment for the longtime allies.
Prince, an associate of President Donald Trump, is confronting renewed questions regarding a January 2017 trip to the Seychelles islands, where he met with a Russian banker, Kirill Dmitriev and Emirati officials. Also in attendance was George Nader, a Middle East specialist with ties to Emirati leaders. Nader is now cooperating with Mueller’s investigation, CNN has learned.
The Washington Post: Republicans flee the storm over Stormy Daniels and President Trump.
Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.), whose pithy comments have made him a favorite among congressional reporters, was tight-lipped Wednesday when asked how Republicans would have reacted if President Barack Obama was accused of having had an affair with a porn star.
“I don’t know,” Kennedy said before offering up a blanket condemnation of sexual harassment. “That’s the way I feel about it. This is no country for creepy old men.”
After starting to walk away, Kennedy quickly turned back to a reporter with an urgent clarification: His comments were not intended to reflect poorly on President Trump.
And so it went Wednesday in the wake of the latest development in the Stormy Daniels saga — a lawsuit from the adult film star arguing that her hush-money arrangement not to talk about an alleged affair was null and void because Trump never signed it.
Most Republicans on Capitol Hill sought to avoid the topic altogether, while those who were willing to talk about it were careful not to criticize Trump for allegations that would have sent previous White Houses into a tailspin.
President Donald Trump is upset with White House press secretary Sarah Sanders over her responses Wednesday regarding his alleged affair with porn star Stormy Daniels, a source close to the White House tells CNN….
On Wednesday, Sanders told reporters that the arbitration was won “in the President’s favor.” The statement is an admission that the nondisclosure agreement exists, and that it directly involves the President. It is the first time the White House has admitted the President was involved in any way with Daniels.“POTUS is very unhappy,” the source said. “Sarah gave the Stormy Daniels storyline steroids yesterday.”
President Donald Trump’s demand that new tariffs be slapped on steel and aluminum imports has spooked markets, prompted his chief economist’s resignation, rattled major US allies and widened a rift with establishment Republicans.
But he nevertheless signaled on Thursday he was intent on moving forward, despite the lingering legal questions and steep resistance from opponents.
The move was widely expected to set off a trade battle that Trump insists the US can win — but which even some of his closest advisers worry could seriously damage a growing American economy.
“Looking forward to 3:30 P.M. meeting today at the White House,” Trump wrote in a morning tweet. “We have to protect & build our Steel and Aluminum Industries while at the same time showing great flexibility and cooperation toward those that are real friends and treat us fairly on both trade and the military.”
Will today be as overwhelming news-wise as Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were? State tuned. What stories have you been following?
Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Shumer had dinner with Trump last night and some kind of “deal” was worked out, but no one can figure out what it was. Trump has been sending conflicting tweets about it and saying confusing things about it in Florida this morning.
The Washington Post: Trump, top A Democrats agree to work on deal to save ‘dreamers’ from deportation.
Democratic leaders announced late Wednesday that they agreed with President Trump to pursue a legislative deal that would protect hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants from deportation and enact border security measures that don’t include building a physical wall.
The president discussed options during a dinner at the White House with Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that also included talks on tax reform, infrastructure and trade. Trump has showed signs of shifting strategy to cross the aisle and work with Democrats in the wake of the high-profile failures by Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
We’re working on a plan for DACA,” Trump said as he left the White House on Thursday for a trip to survey hurricane damage in Florida.
Trump said that he and Congress are “fairly close” to a deal and that Republican leaders Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (Ky.) are “very much on board” with a deal that would address DACA. The agreement must include “massive border security,” Trump said in response to shouted questions about whether he had reached a deal on the terms Schumer and Pelosi had described.
“The wall will come later” [link to Axios added] he said, apparently confirming a central element of the Democrats’ account.
There was instant backlash from Trump’s Cro-Magnon supporters, and the White House quickly tried to walk back whatever Trump agreed to when his handlers weren’t around.
Earlier Thursday, amid backlash from conservative supporters, Trump had sought Thursday to reach out to his GOP base with messages claiming his agenda would remain intact on signature issues such as the border wall.
In a series of tweets, Trump wrote that “no deal” was made on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, an Obama-era program that has allowed 690,000 dreamers to work and go to school without fear of deportation. He further wrote that agreements on “massive border security” would have to accompany any new DACA provisions, and insisted that “the WALL will continue to be built.”
I guess we’ll find out what’s going on eventually. It would certainly be a good thing if Congress can get its act together and do something to keep the Dreamers in the U.S.
Manu Raju of CNN had a great scoop last night that makes Devin Nunes look like even more of an idiot than ever before: Exclusive: Rice told House investigators why she unmasked senior Trump officials.
Former national security adviser Susan Rice privately told House investigators that she unmasked the identities of senior Trump officials to understand why the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates was in New York late last year, multiple sources told CNN.
The New York meeting preceded a separate effort by the UAE to facilitate a back-channel communication between Russia and the incoming Trump White House.
The crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, arrived in New York last December in the transition period before Trump was sworn into office for a meeting with several top Trump officials, including Michael Flynn, the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his top strategist Steve Bannon, sources said.
The Obama administration felt misled by the United Arab Emirates, which had failed to mention that Zayed was coming to the United States even though it’s customary for foreign dignitaries to notify the US government about their travels, according to several sources familiar with the matter. Rice, who served as then-President Obama’s national security adviser in his second term, told the House Intelligence Committee last week that she requested the names of the Americans mentioned in the classified report be revealed internally, a practice officials in both parties say is common.
Rice’s previously undisclosed revelation in a classified setting shines new light on a practice that had come under sharp criticism from the committee chairman, California Rep. Devin Nunes, and President Donald Trump, who previously accused Rice of committing a crime.Ja
Once again, Trump people were caught trying to communicate secretly with Putin, because of course foreign visitors are routinely monitored by the intelligence community.
In other Russia news, Michael Flynn’s son is now a subject in the investigation. NBC News reports:
Michael G. Flynn, the son of President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, is a subject of the federal investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential election and possible collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign, according to four current and former government officials.
The inquiry into Flynn is focused at least in part on his work with his father’s lobbying firm, Flynn Intel Group, three of the officials said. It’s unclear when the focus on Flynn began.
Barry Coburn, who said he is serving as the younger Flynn’s legal counsel, said he couldn’t comment on the matter.
Flynn’s status as a subject of the Russia investigation widens the publicly known scope of the probe. NBC News has reported that those under investigation have included the elder Flynn and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. Others under scrutiny by special counsel Robert Mueller include Carter Page, a Trump campaign ally; Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser; and the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr.
Yesterday White House spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that James Comey committed a crime when he leaked his personal memos about interactions with Trump to The New York Times, and called on the Justice Department to investigate him. She also called on ESPN to fire a reporter who tweeted that Trump is a white supremacist. In any other White House, Sanders herself would be fired by now. The White House is not supposed to get involved in decisions by the DOJ and the White House calling for the firing of a journalist for dissing POTUS is wildly inappropriate.
From Politico, a response to the recent attacks on Comey by the Trump crowd: The Hapless Smear Campaign Against Jim Comey.
From the moment Steve Bannon stated in his 60 Minutes interview that President Donald Trump’s decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey was the biggest political mistake in modern presidential history, there simply was no chance that this week would proceed without a fair amount of political insanity. The fact that the president’s former chief strategist would publicly and brazenly disparage that decision was bound to result in a fierce White House pushback. And so it has. But over the past three days, the White House has repeatedly advanced flawed and in some instances preposterous legal arguments that don’t stand up to informed scrutiny.
The hijinks began on Monday, when White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed that information divulged after Comey was fired served as retroactive justification for the president’s decision. She alleged, among other things, that Comey had given “false testimony” and leaked “privileged information to journalists.” On Tuesday, Sanders did not repeat the “false testimony” claim, but she did reiterate the assertion that Comey had “leaked privileged government information” and speculated that his actions “could have been illegal.”
In Wednesday’s news briefing, reading from what appeared to be prepared notes, Sanders explained what she meant by “illegal”:
“The memos that Comey leaked were created on an FBI computer while he was the director,” she said. “He claims they were private property, but they clearly followed the protocol of an official FBI document, leaking FBI memos on a sensitive case regardless of classification violates federal laws including the Privacy Act, standard FBI employment agreement and nondisclosure agreement all personnel must sign.”
These talking points were presumably provided to Sanders by the White House Counsel’s Office, but as a litigator with considerable experience representing government officials and contractors (including whistleblowers) of all ideological persuasions, trust me: They are nonsense.
Click on the link to read the explanation.
Have you heard the latest outrage from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and his trophy wife Louise Linton? The Washington Post reports: ‘The moochin’ Mnuchins’: Treasury secretary again is fodder for rich humor.
Just based on a quick Google search, the August exchange between Louise Linton, the wife of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and a critic of Linton’s fashion-bragging, mean-girl Instagram post seemed to be fading, along with memories of the eclipse, which the couple was lucky enough to have observed at Fort Knox.
But it all came rushing back when ABC News reported Wednesday evening that the Treasury Department had in fact requested a government jet for Mnuchin’s European honeymoon in Scotland, France and Italy. If the request had been granted, the plane would have cost the taxpayers roughly $25,000 per hour to operate.
A Treasury Department spokesman said in a statement that the request was made so that Mnuchin, who is a member of the National Security Council, would have access to secure communications as he traveled abroad.
Remember Linton’s attack on the woman who criticized her Instagram post after the Mnuchins used a government plane to fly to Fort Knox so they could watch the solar eclipse from the rooftop?
As the news rushed across social media, so did the memory of the Instagram episode, with one line in particular standing out among the now-regretted post by Linton:
“Adorable! Do you think the U.S. govt paid for our honeymoon or personal travel?! Lololol.”
Now for a change of pace, I thought you might like this archaeology story. The AP via The Toronto Sun: Well-preserved Viking sword found in Norwegian mountains.
COPENHAGEN — A Norwegian archaeologist says a well-preserved, if rusty, iron sword dating to the Viking erahas been found in southern Norway.
Lars Holger Piloe says the nearly one-metre-long sword was found slid down between rocks with the blade sticking out, and may have been left by a person who got lost in a blizzard and died on the mountain from exposure.
Piloe said Thursday the sword, dating from about 850-950 A.D., was found in Lesja, some 275 kilometres north of Oslo.
Piloe said the sword’s preservation was likely due to the quality of the iron, as well as the cold, dry conditions. It was found in late August by two men who were on a reindeer hunt some 1,640 metres above sea level.
What else is happening? What stories are you following today?