Thursday Reads: Russia News and Natural Disasters

Goldie Hawn reading a newspaper

Good Morning!!

Naegeli court reporters investigation is getting closer and closer to Trump. Here are the stories that broke just last night, with brief excerpts:

The New York Times: Mueller Seeks White House Documents Related to Trump’s Actions as President.

In recent weeks, Mr. Mueller’s office sent a document to the White House that detailed 13 areas in which investigators are seeking information. Since then, administration lawyers have been scouring White House emails and asking officials whether they have other documents or notes that may pertain to Mr. Mueller’s requests.

One of the requests is about a meeting Mr. Trump had in May with Russian officials in the Oval Office the day after James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, was fired. That day, Mr. Trump met with the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, and the Russian ambassador to the United States at the time, Sergey I. Kislyak, along with other Russian officials. The New York Times reported that in the meeting Mr. Trump had said that firing Mr. Comey relieved “great pressure” on him.

Mr. Mueller has also requested documents about the circumstances of the firing of Michael T. Flynn, who was Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser. Additionally, the special counsel has asked for documents about how the White House responded to questions from The Times about a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower. That meeting was set up by Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son,Th to get derogatory information from Russians about Hillary Clinton.

Jane Fonda

The Washington Post: Manafort offered to give Russian billionaire ‘private briefings’ on 2016 campaign.

Less than two weeks before Donald Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination, his campaign chairman offered to provide briefings on the race to a Russian billionaire closely aligned with the Kremlin, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Paul Manafort made the offer in an email to an overseas intermediary, asking that a message be sent to Oleg Deripaska, an aluminum magnate with whom Manafort had done business in the past, these people said.

“If he needs private briefings we can accommodate,” Manafort wrote in the July 7, 2016, email, portions of which were read to The Washington Post along with other Manafort correspondence from that time.

Interesting Twitter posts on this subject:

Isn’t that fascinating? Trump and Putin are obviously still collaborating.

One more from the NYT last night: Manafort Working on Kurdish Referendum Opposed by U.S.

Paul J. Manafort, the former campaign chairman for President Trump who is at the center of investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, is working for allies of the leader of Iraq’s Kurdish region to help administer and promote a referendum on Kurdish independence from Iraq.

The United States opposes the referendum, but Mr. Manafort has carved out a long and lucrative career advising foreign clients whose interests have occasionally diverged from American foreign policy. And he has continued soliciting international business even as his past international work has become a focus of the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, into ties between Russia and Mr. Trump and his associates, including possible collusion between them to influence the presidential election.

In fact, the work for the Kurdish group appears to have been initiated this summer around the time that federal authorities working for Mr. Mueller raided Mr. Manafort’s home in Virginia and informed him that they planned to indict him.

Catherine Deneuve

Manafort is in serious trouble. It’s hard to believe he’s still refusing to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation. It also looks like Trump is royally f**cked at least in terms of obstruction of justice, thanks to his own loose lips in the Lester Holt interview and his chummy Oval Office meeting with the Russians.

More Russia-related stories from this morning:

Politico: Manafort used Trump campaign account to email Ukrainian operative.

Former Donald Trump aide Paul Manafort used his presidential campaign email account to correspond with a Ukrainian political operative with suspected Russian ties, according to people familiar with the correspondence.

Manafort sent emails to seek repayment for previous work he did in Ukraine and to discuss potential new opportunities in the country, even as he chaired Trump’s presidential campaign, these people said….

In the emails to Konstantin Kilimnik, a Manafort protégé who has previously been reported to have suspected ties to Russian intelligence, the longtime GOP operative made clear his significant sway in Trump’s campaign, one of the people familiar with the communications said. He and Kilimnik also met in the United States while Manafort worked for the Trump campaign, which he chaired until an August 2016 shake-up.

Mike Allen at Axios: Another potential Mueller honey pot: Spicer’s notebooks.

Now we can tell you about another potential honey pot for Mueller. Former colleagues of Sean Spicer tell Axios that he filled “notebook after notebook” during meetings at the Republican National Committee, later at the Trump campaign, and then at the White House.

When Spicer worked at the RNC, he was said to have filled black books emblazoned with the party’s seal. Spicer was so well-known for his copious notes that underlings joked about him writing a tell-all.
  • One source familiar with the matter said that the records were just to help him do his job.
  • “Sean documented everything,” the source said.
  • That surprised some officials of previous White Houses, who said that because of past investigations, they intentionally took as few notes as possible when they worked in the West Wing.

Allen texted Spicer about this story and Spicer flipped out, telling Allen to stop contacting him or he would “report to the appropriate authorities.” What authorities? Spicer thinks it’s illegal to text another private citizen–Allen says he has been on friendly terms with Spicer for “more than a dozen years.”

Marlon Brando

Axios also has a terrific timeline of Manfort’s activities beginning in 2006: How the Russia probe closed in on Paul Manafort.

Former U.S. Attorney Harry Littman at the LA Times: Trump will fire Robert Mueller eventually. What will happen next?

Here’s predicting flat out that yes, at some point Trump will try to oust Mueller.

As the probe advances, the likelihood increases that Mueller will uncover evidence of a serious offense by Trump. With the recent search of former campaign manager Paul Manafort’s home, Mueller has shown his willingness to follow the money trail aggressively. (The latest reports suggest that Mueller’s team is planning to indict Manafort for possible tax and financial crimes.) And Mueller has begun to negotiate interviews with up to a dozen White House aides as well as former White House officials. Trump likely fears that Mueller will zero in on something sleazy or criminal whose revelation could cripple his presidency. Each turn of the screw of the Mueller investigation — and there will be many — increases the pressure on Trump to act preemptively.

The odds also seem great that the erratic, power-consumed and thin-skinned Trump, who every week launches a new Twitter attack on a real or imagined enemy, will be unable to stay his hand month after month as the Mueller investigation unfolds. Like the fabled scorpion who stings the frog even though it dooms him, Trump, being Trump, won’t be able to endure domination by Mueller over the long term. Of course, Trump likely fails to appreciate that it is not Mueller personally, but the law, that is asserting its dominance.

Let’s say Trump snaps.

Angelina Jolie

To fire Mueller, Trump would need to order Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein to remove him. But Rosenstein, a career prosecutor with a strong dedication to the values of the Department of Justice, would likely resign his office rather than comply with the order, as would the department’s third-ranking official, Rachel Brand.

Eventually Trump, moving down the hierarchy, would find someone willing to fire Mueller (as Nixon found Robert Bork, the then-solicitor general, to fire Archibald Cox).

From there, Mueller could launch a legal challenge to the ouster (potentially with the support of the Department of Justice). It’s by no means clear that Mueller, an ex-Marine of legendary rectitude, would choose to sue. Assuming he did, though, he would need to overcome a series of constitutional arguments by the president’s lawyers that any restrictions on the president’s ability to terminate him would impinge on presidential power under Article II.

Click on the link to read the rest.

The natural disasters continue as Hurricane Maria devastates Puerto Rico and moves on the fresh destruction and Mexico City struggles to recover from the recent earthquake.

NBC News: Hurricane Maria Leaves Puerto Rico Facing Months Without Power.

Millions of people across Puerto Rico woke up Thursday to a grim new reality.

Hurricane Maria, the most powerful storm to hit the U.S. territory in almost a century, ravaged the island, demolishing homes and knocking out all electricity. It could take half a year to restore power to the nearly 3.5 million people who live there.

The eye of the storm moved offshore overnight, but the danger remained Thursday: Intense flooding was reported, particularly in San Juan, where many residential streets looked like rushing rivers.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz said the devastation in the capital city was unlike any she had ever seen.

“The San Juan that we knew yesterday is no longer there,” Cruz told MSNBC. “We’re looking at 4 to 6 months without electricity.”

Elizabeth Taylor

The Washington Post: Mexico anxiously awaits the fate of a 12-year-old schoolgirl after deadly earthquake.

 A sprawling earthquake recovery effort spanning several states turned intensely personal Thursday as Mexicans were riveted by an effort to save a 12-year-old girl who was pinned in the rubble of her elementary school.

The drama played out live late Wednesday and early Thursday on the major news channels here, with television cameras tracking every movement of the Mexican marines and others who sought to rescue the girl now known as “Frida Sofia.” Under a soft rain, the work was delicate and painstaking, relying on thermal cameras and other technology to try to locate and remove young children trapped for more than 30 hours after their school collapsed on Tuesday afternoon.

At one dramatic point in Wednesday night’s broadcast, Televisa reporter Danielle Dithurbide learned from the marine admiral leading the recovery effort that Frida Sofia — which may not be her real name — was able to tell rescuers that five other students were possibly trapped with her. It was unclear whether they were alive.

I’ll end with this from Grist, via Mother Jones: This Is the Hurricane Season Scientists Tried to Warn Us About.

There is evidence that we are emerging from an era of messy meteorological data, where we were blind to warming seas strengthening hurricanes because the really damaging ones were rare. If that’s true, weather historians may look to this year as the beginning of a frightening new phase of superstorms.

About 85 percent of all damage done by hurricanes is attributable to “major” storms—those stronger than Category 3, so roughly one-quarter of all storms. While relatively infrequent, they are by far the most destructive—a Category-5 cyclone has 500 times the power of a Category 1. Globally, major hurricanes have become slightly more common in recent decades, even as overall numbers have held steady.

Haley Mills

Further, there’s nothing in recorded history that resembles what Irma and Maria have inflicted on Caribbean islands in recent days. Since Sept. 6, the two hurricanes have made six separate landfalls at Category-5 strength. Before this month, just 18 such landfalls had happened in the previous 165 years (and never more than three in a single year). Clearly there’s something happening here—and there’s a developing consensus among scientists about what factors are responsible.

There have been only 33 Category 5 storms in the Atlantic since hurricane records began in 1851. Twenty-three of them have formed since 1961; 11 in only the last 14 years. Part of that uptick comes from better weather monitoring equipment, like satellites that help us spot hurricanes before they make landfall. But even since we developed satellite technology, there’s been a measurable increase in major storms.

The strongest hurricanes require an exceptionally warm ocean to intensify, and with water temperatures currently near record highs in the Caribbean, it’s providing conditions ripe for Category 5s. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, since 1970, the oceans have retained more than 90 percent of the excess energy generated from global warming. That’s a lot of extra fuel for stronger storms.

Read the rest at Mother Jones.

So . . . what else is happening? What stories are you following today?


Friday Reads: Ready the Pitchforks

Morning Sky Dancers!

It’s a sad state of affairs when the President of the United States of America is so wrapped up with money laundering and conspiring with Russians that he has to check into his constitutional powers to pardon six months into his first term.  The particular features of a presidential pardon of interest are the ability to pardon family, staff, and self. If Trump removes Mueller or seriously starts pardoning any of the Trump Family Crime syndicate, there should be a mad rush to local hardware stores for tar, feathers, and pitchforks. I’m sure France will come to our aid with Les Guillotines.

We could’ve had Taco Trucks on every corner. But no, we have one Constitutional Crisis after another and a President who is a Fanboy of the autocratic, murderous, thieving KGB-trained Vladimir Putin.  What does  he have on our President?  The deed to Trump Towers and a claim on Ivanka’s sexy time? We continue to discover Trump’s inability to leave Vlad alone during the recent G-20 summit. How creepy is that?

President Donald Trump may have held more meetings with Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit earlier this month, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday — but he shrugged off the importance of the encounters.

“They might have met even much more than just three times,” he told NBC News’ Keir Simmons in an exclusive interview, dismissing speculation about the leaders’ meetings.

“Maybe they went to the toilet together,” he joked.

Asked whether the two presidents had other conversations or met in the corridors of the G-20 meeting, Lavrov used the analogy of children mingling at a kindergarten.

“When you are bought by your parents to a kindergarten do you mix with the people who are waiting in the same room to start going to a classroom?” he asked.

He added: “I remember when I was in that position I did spend five or ten minutes in the kindergarten before they brought us to the classroom.”

Lavrov echoed the White House account of a third meeting between Trump and Putin during a social-dinner at the summit in Hamburg.

The other two meetings — one a scheduled bilateral meeting and another when the pair shared a handshake — had already been widely reported.

“After the dinner was over…I was not there…President Trump apparently went to pick up his wife and spent some minutes with President Putin…so what?” he said.

Lavrov also said the U.S. presence in Syria was illegitimate and accused C.I.A director Mike Pompeo of having “double standards” regarding the establishment of military bases in the country.

He said Pompeo’s comments criticizing Russia’s presence in Syria and the establishment of military bases on the Mediterranean coast, at the Aspen Security Forum Thursday, showed that “something was wrong with double standards.”

Lavrov cited reports of ten U.S. bases built in Syria, “not to mention hundreds of of military bases of the United States all over the world and all around Russia.”

I have no doubt that part of Trump’s cozying up to the autocrat has a lot to do with the breaking news on US Support of Syrian Rebels.

President Trump’s decision to cut off aid to anti-government rebels in Syria marks a victory for President Bashar Assad in his six-year civil war — as well as allies Russia and Iran — and a defeat for U.S. efforts to remove the Syrian dictator.

Trump has decided to end a covert CIA program under President Barack Obama to train moderate rebels to fight Assad, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

The report comes two weeks after Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Germany and after the United States and Russia announced a limited cease-fire in southeastern Syria that promised to end Syrian airstrikes on rebel-held areas there.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said at the time that while the U.S. hopes to extend the truce to other parts of the country, U.S. policy remains that Assad and his family have “no long-term role” as rulers in Syria.

The CIA training program was approved by Obama, who called for Assad to step down because of brutal oppression by his regime.

Talking heads appear baffled that Trump is no policy wonk and his only goal is to win at whatever. I argue that his goals are obvious and don’t include US.  His goals are to:

1) Enrich his family

2) Appease Putin and the Russian oligarchs

3) Get as much attention as possible

4)  Avoid jail for the numerous criminal activities he commits through blustery threats

5) Get rid of everything associated with Barrack Obama

The entire West Wing appears to be in attack mode.  Taxpayer resources are going to Kremlin Caligula’s assaults on the Special Investigation and to Mueller.

Some of President Trump’s lawyers are exploring ways to limit or undercut special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation, building a case against what they allege are his conflicts of interest and discussing the president’s authority to grant pardons, according to people familiar with the effort.

Trump has asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the probe, according to one of those people. A second person said Trump’s lawyers have been discussing the president’s pardoning powers among themselves.

One adviser said the president has simply expressed a curiosity in understanding the reach of his pardoning authority, as well as the limits of Mueller’s investigation.

“This is not in the context of, ‘I can’t wait to pardon myself,’ ” a close adviser said.

With the Russia investigation continuing to widen, Trump’s lawyers are working to corral the probe and question the propriety of the special counsel’s work. They are actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work, according to several of Trump’s legal advisers.

What President talks about pardons six months into his first term?  What President specifically asks about pardoning his family? His associates?  Himself?  What Fresh HELL IS THIS?

It’s only six months into Donald Trump’s presidency — and he’s already looking into his powers to pardon his top aides and family members for unspecified crimes, according to a report from the Washington Post published Thursday night.

One source told the paper that presidential pardon powers were under discussion among Trump’s lawyers. But another source went further, telling the Post that “Trump has asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the probe.” And a Trump adviser seemingly confirmed the report to the paper, saying that the president was simply curious.

Jay Sekulow, a lawyer for Trump, told CBS News Friday morning that “[p]ardons are not being discussed and are not on the table.” But if this report is true, Trump is apparently worried enough about his, his family members’ and his top aides’ legal exposure in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation that he’s already looking into pardons before anyone’s been convicted or even charged with any crimes.

To be clear: It would be utterly shocking, and seemingly without any real precedent in US history, for a sitting president to pardon close aides or family members facing investigation.

And it would also seemingly be within the president’s powers. The pardon power is incredibly wide-ranging. A president can pardon essentially all federal crimes at any point after they’ve been committed — even if they haven’t yet been charged or convicted.

What’s prevented past presidents, including Richard Nixon at the height of Watergate, from doing something like this has been the fear of political backlash. And that may yet restrain Trump too — this, for the moment, seems to fall into the category of brainstorming rather than concrete planning.

But of course, Trump has frequently proven himself willing to flout the norms and traditions of American politics with glee, regardless of the backlash that may ensue. And he may yet do so again, calculating that his voters will stick with him regardless.

Brian Beutler argues that  ‘We’re on the Brink of an Authoritarian Crisis’.   Trump may have hoping to chide Sessions to quitting in the hopes he can find an AG willing to fire the Special Counsel or he could be just have another trumper tantrum. Either way, Mueller is our Jedi and only hope given Republican reluctance to do anything right.

The scope of that crisis is much clearer now that the Washington Post is reporting that Trump is discussing the possibility of pardoning himself, his family, and his closest aides to short-circuit the sprawling investigation of his campaign’s complicity in Russia’s subversion of the 2016 election. Trump’s team is also, according to the Post and another Times story, digging up dirt on the special counsel investigators in an attempt to discredit them.

In light of this dizzying news, it’s worth returning to the Times interview. Trump’s juiciest comments pertained to his attorney general, uber-loyalist Jeff Sessions, whom he resents for recusing from that investigation. But these grievances were already known, as was the fact that Trump has consideredterminating Robert Mueller, the man leading the inquiry. What made the Times interview explosive was Trump’s suggestion that he would fire Mueller for delving too deeply into his finances.

SCHMIDT: Last thing, if Mueller was looking at your finances and your family finances, unrelated to Russia—is that a red line?

HABERMAN: Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?

TRUMP: I would say yeah. I would say yes.

And what lit the fuse was contemporaneous reporting, first from the Times and then from Bloomberg, that Mueller is indeed investigating Trump’s business entanglements, as it was widely expected he would. “FBI investigators and others,” Bloomberg reported, “are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008.”

The confluence of these two developments confronts Trump with a choice between backing down from his threat and making good on it, perhaps while issuing pardons promiscuously and to catastrophic effect.

The loud hum of chaos and spectacle engulfing the Trump administration is drowning out a creeping reality: We are on the brink of an authoritarian crisis that will make the firing of FBI Director James Comey seem quaint in hindsight.

Trump has long made fun of what he considers Obama’s wimpiness on red lines.  Now that he’s drawing a bunch of them on Mueller, what can we expect?

The president’s miscalculation is not about his pardon authority. Rather, it is about the extent to which the legal machinations that worked for him in private, civil litigation against ordinary individuals (or even various state attorneys general) can be applied to a wide-ranging criminal and counterintelligence investigation run by Mueller and what appears to be an All-Star cast of lawyers and investigators. The president can’t try and drag out things and hope Mueller’s investigation runs out of money; the funding is derived from a permanent congressional appropriation account. Nor can the president realistically hope that he will be able to undercut the investigation with “conflicts of interest” or “ethics” complaints. Mueller has already been vetted by the Justice Department’s ethics officers, and the petty complaints raised about the personal political donations made by some on his team reek of desperation.

The president is used to overpowering and overwhelming his legal opponents, but Mueller – who ran the FBI for 12 years and oversaw the transformation of that agency in the aftermath of the tragedy of 9/11 – is unlikely to be intimidated. Mueller’s team appears to be methodically examining the Russian government’s efforts to meddle in the 2016 election, and it borders on axiomatic that his team will uncover whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin in any way (a question that, of course, remains unresolved).

Mueller’s investigation will go where the facts lead it, but the president is doing himself no favors by providing a fresh set of bread crumbs on a regular basis. His Twitter rants and stream-of-consciousness remarks in media interviews are easy fodder for the special counsel’s team, and provide it with an unusual degree of access to the president’s state of mind and motivations. It may be cathartic for Trump to express these thoughts publicly, and it might rouse his political base, but it is doing nothing to put out the three-alarm political fires that are routinely emerging in the wake of new reports about previously undisclosed contacts with Russian operatives or inquiries into his financial dealings.

If the president truly wishes to survive the mess in which he finds himself, he needs to come to grips with the simple truth that everything he learned before Jan. 20, 2017, is irrelevant. There is no one who can just make this situation “go away.” There is no deal to be made, no financial settlement that can resolve the matter. The investigation will find what it finds, and it very well might ensnare several close associates of the president (and potentially even a family member) along the way.

Mueller is indeed hunting down the facts.

Special counsel Robert Mueller has asked the White House to preserve all documents relating to the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower that Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort had with a Russian lawyer and others, according to a source who has seen the letter.

Mueller sent a notice, called a document preservation request, asking White House staff to save “any subjects discussed in the course of the June 2016 meeting” and also “any decisions made regarding the recent disclosures about the June 2016 meeting,” according to the source, who read portions of the letter to CNN.

The letter from Mueller began: “As you are aware the Special Counsel’s office is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, including any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of Donald Trump. Information concerning the June 2016 meeting between Donald J Trump Jr and Natalia Veselnitskaya is relevant to the investigation.”

Meanwhile, there’s these other interesting developments.  Said Russian Lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya has spy agency clients.  

The Russian lawyer who met Donald Trump Jr. after his father won the Republican nomination for the 2016 U.S. presidential election counted Russia’s FSB security service among her clients for years, Russian court documents seen by Reuters show.

The documents show that the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, successfully represented the FSB’s interests in a legal wrangle over ownership of an upscale property in northwest Moscow between 2005 and 2013.

The FSB, successor to the Soviet-era KGB service, was headed by Vladimir Putin before he became Russian president.

Then, there’s some musical chairs going on with Trump’s legal team.  

There’s been a shakeup in President Trump’s legal team.

Marc Kasowitz is out as Mr. Trump’s personal attorney, CBS News chief White House correspondent Major Garrett reports. And Kasowitz’s spokesman, Mark Corallo, has resigned, Garrett says

The reasons for the moves were not immediately known.

Kasowitz has represented Mr. Trump since the early 2000s, and led his defense in the Trump University fraud case.

Kasowitz recently made headlines when he sent threatening emails to a retired public relations professional who had said Kasowitz should resign. In his first response, Kasowitz wrote “F*** you,” according to ProPublica. Kasowitz wrote a number of emails after that, including one that said, “And you don’t know me, but I will know you How dare you send me an email like that I’m on you now You are f****** with me now Let’s see who you are Watch your back, b****.”

Kasowitz later apologized.

Corallo is a longtime GOP operative who worked for the House committee that investigated President Clinton in the 1990s before going to the Justice Department under former Attorney General John Ashcroft, according to Politico. Politico reports Corallo had been handling the White House’s defense in the Russia investigation.

Keeping up with the chaos and the assaults on the US Constitution is tiring work.  It’s also stressful.  Can you believe we’re living through this?

Oh, and this was just announced:

‘W.H. press secretary Sean Spicer resigns’

White House press secretary Sean Spicer, President Donald Trump’s embattled spokesman during the first six months of his presidency, is resigning his position, according to two people with knowledge of the decision.

Spicer’s decision appears to be linked to the appointment of a new White House communications director, New York financier Anthony Scaramucci. The people with knowledge of the decision spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the personnel matter publicly.

 

 

 


Tuesday Reads: Trials of a Baby-Man

Good Morning!!

Like clockwork, the 70-year-old man-baby in the White House lets us know what he’s having a tantrum about this morning.

Apparently he was displeased with last night’s television coverage of his praise of a vicious dictator who murders journalists and political opponents and and his claim that the U.S. is no better because our military has killed people in war. It also seems he hasn’t yet figured out that the Iran deal was brokered with five other countries–including Russia!

Tomorrow we’ll likely be bombarded with tweets about whatever the judges decide in the muslim ban case, which is scheduled to be argued tonight at 6PM Eastern time. BTW, the audio of the hearing will be live-streamed. You can listen at that link.

baby-man2

NBC News reports:

In an 11-page reply to arguments filed by opponents, the Justice Department restated earlier arguments that the president has “unreviewable authority” to suspend entry of “any class of aliens to protect the national interest” and that states (in this case, Washington and Minnesota) can’t challenge federal denial of entry by third-party aliens.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson has rebutted that contention, saying on NBC’s “TODAY” that “we have a checks-and-balances system in our country, and the president doesn’t have totally unfettered discretion.”

Numerous businesses and public officials have weighed in against the baby-man’s executive order.

Almost 100 big tech companies asked the appeals court not to restore Trump’s order, arguing that the restriction “hinders the ability of American companies to attract great talent; increases costs imposed on business; makes it more difficult for American firms to compete in the international marketplace; and gives global enterprises a new, significant incentive to build operations — and hire new employees — outside the United States.”

Numerous other third-party filings — called amicus curiae briefs — were entered by pro-immigration and civil liberties groups opposing the president’s order.

And several former top federal officials — including former Secretaries of State John Kerry and Madeleine Albright, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Susan Rice, President Barack Obama’s national security adviser — filed their own statement of support for Washington and Minnesota.

TrumpChanging

Yesterday in a ridiculous “speech” at the U.S. Central Command and Special Operations Command headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, FL, the baby-man again bragged about winning and his support from the military and attacked the media, claiming that the press refused to cover terrorist attacks. From Talking Points Memo:

During his speech, Trump claimed that the media is not reporting on terrorist attacks, though he did not explain why.

“It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported. And in many cases the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it,” he said. “They have their reasons and you understand that.”

No one seem to know WTF baby-man was talking about, but that’s nothing new. Later yesterday, the White House released a list of 78 terrorist attacks that they believe the media didn’t cover adequately. The list included the Paris and Nice attacks in France, the San Bernardino attack, and the Pulse Nightclub attack, all of which received wall-to-wall coverage. The Washington Post on the list:

It was bare-bones in nature and seemed to have been hastily assembled. The document contained numerous typos and several factual inaccuracies. Some of the attacks listed were so high-profile and thoroughly reported that anyone with Google would be hard-pressed to say they didn’t receive sufficient attention. Among them were the Pulse nightclub massacre, the Bastille Day attack in Nice, France, the coordinated shootings and explosions in Paris, and the holiday party shooting in San Bernardino, Calif.

The other attacks included on the list seemed to have been picked arbitrarily. More than half involved two or fewer deaths or injuries, so it’s no surprise that they didn’t receive front-page coverage.

Many significant attacks were missing from the list, and guess what they had in common:

Some of the countries most devastated by terrorism from Islamic extremists were left out entirely. Whether that suggests that the administration thinks they received adequate coverage is anyone’s guess. But it was a glaring omission either way.

In 2015, nearly three quarters of all deaths from terrorist attacks occurred in five countries — Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria, according to the State Department. The White House chose not to include any attacks from Iraq, Nigeria and Syria on its list. The two others got a single mention each — a knife attack that wounded a U.S. citizen in Pakistan in 2015, and a suicide bombing that killed 14 Nepalese security guards in Afghanistan last year.

Similarly, between 2004 and 2013, about half of all terrorist attacks and 60 percent of fatalities from terrorist attacks took place in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, Erin Miller, of the Global Terrorism Database at the University of Maryland, told the BBC.

baby-man5

It appears the baby-man’s administration doesn’t think attacks on muslim victims are important.  I guess that’s why they ignored the recent attack on a Canadian mosque by a white supremacist tRump supporter.

Mark Follman at Mother Jones: The Terror Attacks Trump Won’t Talk About

On Monday, in a case little noticed by the national media, a man went on trial in federal court for plotting a potentially horrific terrorist attack in upstate New York. In 2015, this man allegedly planned to enlist accomplices to help him bomb a house of worship and open fire with assault rifles on any bystanders. “High casualty rates” was the goal. “If it gets down to the machete, we will cut them to shreds,” he allegedly said, according to prosecutors.

Also on Monday, the Trump White House released a list of 78 attacks carried out in the US and abroad by “radical Islamic terrorists” since 2014, which it said were mostly “underreported,” following the president’s own claim earlier in the day that the media conspired to ignore such attacks. But had the upstate New York plotter succeeded, he would not have made the White House list. The individual charged with masterminding that plan was Robert Doggart, a 65-year-old white man from Tennessee who allegedly conspired to form a militia and attack a Muslim community in Islamberg, NY, on “behalf of American patriotism.” ….

After six people were killed and many others were injured while praying at a mosque in Quebec City on January 29, the White House and Fox News quickly ran with false claims that the suspected attacker was Moroccan. (That man was in fact interviewed as a witness.) Trump has not tweeted nor made any public remarks about the white nationalist (and Trump fan) who has been charged in the case.After avowed white supremacist Dylann Roof killed nine people at Mother Emanuel Church in in Charleston in June 2015, Trump tweeted that the attack was “incomprehensible,” and expressed his “deepest condolences to all.” But Trump has said nothing publicly about the case at any point since Roof went on trial in December.

After a white man went on a deadly rampage at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado in November 2015—apparently motivated by an infamous video sting that falsely claimed Planned Parenthood was trafficking in “baby parts”—Trump described the perpetrator as a “maniac.” But after that, he went on at much greater length about Planned Parenthood’s alleged misdeeds.

More at the link.

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We’re learning more about the botched Yemen raid that the baby-man approved over dinner with his pals. NBC News reports: Yemen Raid Had Secret Target: Al Qaeda Leader Qassim Al-Rimi.

The Navy SEAL raid in Yemen last week had a secret objective — the head of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, who survived and is now taunting President Donald Trump in an audio message.

Military and intelligence officials told NBC News the goal of the massive operation was to capture or kill Qassim al-Rimi, considered the third most dangerous terrorist in the world and a master recruiter….

On Sunday, al-Rimi — who landed on the United States’ most-wanted terrorist list after taking over al Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate in 2015 — released an audio recording that military sources said is authentic.

“The fool of the White House got slapped at the beginning of his road in your lands,” he said in an apparent reference to the Jan. 29 raid.

I have to agree that the baby-man in the White House is a “fool.”

The White House is also upset about the Saturday Night Live portrayal of Sean Spicer by Melissa McCarthy, according to Politico.

More than being lampooned as a press secretary who makes up facts, it was Spicer’s portrayal by a woman that was most problematic in the president’s eyes, according to sources close to him. And the unflattering send-up by a female comedian was not considered helpful for Spicer’s longevity in the grueling, high-profile job in which he has struggled to strike the right balance between representing an administration that considers the media the “opposition party,” and developing a functional relationship with the press.

“Trump doesn’t like his people to look weak,” added a top Trump donor.

Trump’s uncharacteristic Twitter silence over the weekend about the “Saturday Night Live” sketch was seen internally as a sign of how uncomfortable it made the White House feel. Sources said the caricature of Spicer by McCarthy struck a nerve and was upsetting to the press secretary and to his allies, who immediately saw how damaging it could be in Trump world.

Could Spicer’s days as press secretary already be numbered?

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Finally, poor Melania Trump’s lawsuit against The Daily Mail has been revealed to be based on the money she was hoping to make as part of her husband’s keptocracy. The Washington Post reports: Melania Trump missed out on ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ to make millions, lawsuit says.

A lawyer for first lady Melania Trump argued in a lawsuit filed Monday that an article falsely alleging she once worked for an escort service hurt her chance to establish “multimillion dollar business relationships” during the years in which she would be “one of the most photographed women in the world.”

The suit, filed Monday in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan against Mail Media, the owner of the Daily Mail, said the article published by the Daily Mail and its online division last August caused Trump’s brand, Melania, to lose “significant value” as well as “major business opportunities that were otherwise available to her.” The suit noted that the article had damaged Trump’s “unique, once in a lifetime opportunity” to “launch a broad-based commercial brand.”

“These product categories would have included, among other things, apparel accessories, shoes, jewelry, cosmetics, hair care, skin care and fragrance,” according to the lawsuit, which was filed on Trump’s behalf by California attorney Charles Harder….

The suit filed Monday did not spell out a plan by Trump to market her products during her tenure as first lady, but mentioned that her reputation had suffered just as she was experiencing a “multi-year term” of elevated publicity. The suit says the Daily Mail article “impugned her fitness to perform her duties as First Lady of the United States.”

Wow.

So . . . what stories are you following today? Please share in the comment thread and have a terrific Tuesday.