Lazy Saturday Reads: Students March for Their Lives (and other news)

By 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time, a large crowd had already gathered for the March for Our Lives event in Washington on Saturday. Credit Erin Schaff for The New York Times

Happy Saturday!!

Today is the “March For Our Lives” in Washington DC to demand serious legislation to deal with the scourge of gun violence. There will be hundreds of other marches around the country and around the world. A couple of basic articles:

The Washington Post: March for Our Lives: The nation’s capital has been preparing for weeks. Today, the voices will rise.

Students, teachers, parents and survivors of mass shootings streamed into Washington Saturday for the March for Our Lives, a demonstration against gun violence that could draw hundreds of thousands of protesters to the nation’s capital.

The march is part of a surge of political activism that has transformed America’s entrenched debate over gun violence. It was organized by students who survived the mass shooting last month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., who hope to succeed where many adults have failed: By forcing Congress and the president to pass a comprehensive gun-control bill that will improve school safety.

Hundreds of sister protests are taking place in cities across the U.S., including New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. The main demonstration in Washington is scheduled to run from noon to 3 p.m. on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Marchers gather in Boston

The New York Times: March for Our Lives: Students Protesting Guns Say ‘We Just Have Our Lives to Lose’

Tens of thousands of people, outraged by a recent massacre at a South Florida school and energized by the students who survived, prepared to spill out in public protest in Washington and communities across the world on Saturday as they call for an end to gun violence.

The student activists, many of them sharp-tongued and defiant in the face of politicians and gun lobbyists, have kept attention on the issue in a time of renewed political activism on the left, as they helped lead a national school walkout and pushed state officials in Floridato enact gun legislation.

On Friday, the Justice Department proposed banning so-called bump stocks, but President Trump signed a spending bill that included only some background check and school safety measures. The effectiveness of the students’ efforts will be measured, in part, on the success of Saturday’s events — their most ambitious show of force yet.

Here’s what we’re watching as protests unfurl around the globe:

• More than 800 protests are planned in every American state and on every continent except for Antarctica, according to a website set up by organizersHere’s a map of planned protests.

• The National Park Service has approved a permit for the Washington march, which estimates 500,000 people could attend. Called March for Our Lives, the main event there kicks off around midday, and some of the most prominent student activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where a shooting left 17 dead last month, will speak.

Heather Egeland Martin, 36, and Ashley Egeland, 34

In the buildup to the march, there have been a number of good stories about survivors of previous school shootings. The best one I’ve read was in Glamour Magazine: Two Columbine Survivors on Life After a Mass Shooting, and Being at the Lead of ‘The Columbine Generation’.

“We call B.S.,” Emma Gonzales shouted, mesmerizing the crowd—and the nation—just one day after a shooter killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. “They say tougher guns laws do not decrease gun violence. We call B.S.!”

The student walkouts that took place across the country today were a breathtaking display of activism for González, her fellow survivors, and other student crusaders. They have accomplished much since Nikolas Cruz turned their Valentine’s Day to carnage: They’ve faced down politicians from Florida’s capitol to Washington, D.C., mobilized the upcoming national March for Our Lives, (complete with merch and Oprah donations), and helped pass a law that raises the age for buying firearms in Florida from 18 to 21—NRA lawsuits be damned.

But after the march on the 24th, will the country fade back to apathy as it has after so many mass other shootings? And what will life really be like for students of Parkland after the media lights fade?

We asked sisters Heather Egeland Martin, 36, and Ashley Egeland, 34, who were both students at Columbine High School when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold showed up with guns under their trench coats and left 15 people dead. At that time, Columbine was one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history; it was also the first to happen in the digital age, with real-time cell phone calls from inside the schools. Since that day in 1999, U.S. students—the Columbine Generation—have never known school to be safe from terror.

It’s been nearly 19 years since Columbine, and both Ashley and Heather are still recovering. They know it can be a long road ahead.

Heather and Ashley talk about their long journeys after major trauma–through eating disorders and drug addiction to recovery. But the trauma itself never goes away. As a survivor of early childhood trauma, I really identified with these women’s stories. The article brought me to tears. I hope you’ll read it.

A few more to check out:

Virginia Tech massacre survivor Lisa Hamp (Photo by Rod Lamkey Jr.)

The Atlantic: My Life Since the 2007 Virginia Tech Shooting: Lisa Hamp’s Story.

Vox: They survived Columbine. Then came Sandy Hook. And Parkland.

Vox: “I hope you know that it’s not that we didn’t try”: a Columbine and Parkland survivor talk.

NPR: 20 Years Later, Jonesboro Shooting Survivors Conflicted Over Parkland.

Trump has fled to Palm Beach, where he’ll hole up and try to ignore the protesters and the 60 Minutes interview with Stormy Daniels tomorrow night. Once again, Melania refused to ride with her husband on the helicopter to Air Force One. CNN:

The day after a CNN interview with a former Playboy model who claims to have had a 10-month affair with her husband, first lady Melania Trump opted to leave President Donald Trump alone for the ride from the White House to Andrews Air Force Base.

The official White House schedule, released Thursday evening, stated the first couple would depart the White House together aboard Marine One en route to Joint Base Andrews, but Mrs. Trump did not appear beside her husband. CNN reached out to the first lady’s communications office for an explanation or comment on the change in plan but did not receive a response.
According to CNN, Melania plans to stay in Palm Beach for the entire week with her son Barron, who is on spring break.

As he flew out of town, Trump left the government of our once-great nation in turmoil.

The New York Times: After Another Week of Chaos, Trump Repairs to Palm Beach. No One Knows What Comes Next.

PALM BEACH, Fla. — President Trump decamped to his oceanfront estate here on Friday after a head-spinning series of presidential decisions on national securitytrade and the budget that left the capital reeling and his advisers nervous about what comes next.

The decisions attested to a president riled up by cable news and unbound. Mr. Trump appeared heedless of his staff, unconcerned about Washington decorum, or the latest stock market dive, and confident of his instincts. He seemed determined to set the agenda himself, even if that agenda looked like a White House in disarray.

Inside the West Wing, aides described an atmosphere of bewildered resignation as they grappled with the all-too-familiar task of predicting and reacting in real time to Mr. Trump’s shifting moods.

Aides said there was no grand strategy to the president’s actions, and that he got up each morning this week not knowing what he would do. Much as he did as a New York businessman at Trump Tower, Mr. Trump watched television, reacted to what he saw on television and then reacted to the reaction.

Aides said he was still testing his limits as president while also feeling embattled by incoming fire — from Congress, the Russia investigation, foreign entanglements, a potential trade war and a pornographic film actress and a Playboy model who said they had affairs with Mr. Trump and were paid to keep quiet.

Read the rest at the NYT.

Yesterday morning Trump threatened on Twitter that he was thinking about vetoing the just-passed omnibus spending bill, which the White House staff had worked out with both Republicans and Democrats. Then he called a “press conference” at which he whined about the spending bill that he had finally agreed to sign and then refused to answer any questions from the press. It was a pathetic, disgusting display of temper.

David A. Graham writes at The Atlantic: Trump Can’t Get What He Wants and Doesn’t Know Why.

“I’ve signed this omnibus budget bill. There are a lot of things I’m unhappy about in this bill,” Trump said. “But I say to Congress, I will never sign another bill like this again. I’m not going to do it again.” [….]

Over and over again, he talked about defense spending, including reading through a litany of what would be allocated for specific craft in the bill. (“The tanker aircraft is very important based on everything.”) Though there’s little evidence that large swaths of the population are concerned about a dearth of military spending, Trump sounded like a garbled John F. Kennedy, with everything but missile gaps popping up.

The reason became apparent at the very end of the press statement. Secretary of Defense James Mattis was present and spoke briefly, and it seems he convinced the president to sign the bill despite his reservations. As Trump left, reporters shouted out questions, and the president said, “I looked very seriously at the veto. I was thinking about doing the veto. But because of the incredible gains we’ve been able to make for the military, that overrode any of our thinking.”

Trump also demanded that the Senate eliminate the filibuster, and called for the return of the line-item veto, the presidential tool ruled unconstitutional in 1998.

Graham writes that Trump simply doesn’t understand how legislation works and he isn’t interested in learning.

Trump’s grandiose, semi-authoritarian claim, “I alone can fix it,” in his speech accepting the 2016 Republican nomination was a subject of intense criticism, but in retrospect it seems to have represented not so much a vision of how Trump could transform the presidency but a mistaken impression of how the presidency already worked. Though political scientists and some journalists have explained clearly how the power of the bully pulpit is badly overrated, this was yet another case in which Trump had not carefully studied the realities of politics.

He seems to have subscribed, and may still subscribe, to an extreme version of what Matt Yglesias termed the “Green Lantern Theory of the Presidency,” in which presidents are superheroes who get what they want through sheer force of will. This is not, however, the way Washington really works, and while Trump has experienced that, he doesn’t seem to have quite come to understand it, thus his fury and threat on the spending bill Friday.

If Trump wanted to affect the text of the bill, he had ways to do it. He could have gotten intensely involved in the negotiation process early. He could have presented a budget that represented something like an opening volley in a negotiation, rather than a utopian scheme that Congress was never going to take seriously. But Trump has shown no appetite or patience for rolling up his sleeves and getting into the nitty-gritty. He’d rather make threats from the White House when it’s too late to change anything.

There’s more at the link. It’s a good piece, well worth a read.

What stories are you following today? What are your thoughts on the marches? Whatever you’re up to, have a great weekend.

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Thursday Reads

An inflatable chicken meant to resemble President Trump on the Ellipse, just south of the White House, on Wednesday. Credit Mandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/10/us/politics/trump-giant-inflatable-chicken.html

Good Afternoon!!

Where to begin? We’re still seeing the fallout from the news that broke yesterday about the late July predawn raid on Paul Manafort’s Virginia home, Trump is threatening war with North Korea and feuding with Mitch McConnell, and more info is coming out about the latest frightening climate change report, and the White House is just as chaotic as ever despite John Kelly’s efforts. I have no doubt that more crazy news will break before I finish this post.

I’ll start with the Manafort raid followup. First, it was a “no-knock” raid according to Jim Sciutto of CNN.

That means that the Special Counsel convinced a judge that Manafort might destroy evidence if he knew the FBI was at his front door. I guess it also means the FBI broke down his door. That’s  huge.

From Just Security: FBI Search of Paul Manafort’s Home: What Does It Really Mean?

Mueller’s use of a search warrant tells us that he was able to establish on the basis of evidence, and to the satisfaction of a United States Magistrate-Judge, that there was probable cause to believe that evidence of a specific crime or crimes existed in the location to be searched. That standard is significantly higher than what is required to obtain a grand jury subpoena, which can be used to obtain any evidence that a grand jury (under the direction of a prosecutor) decides will be helpful to their investigation. Mueller’s resort to a search warrant shows, therefore, that his investigation has advanced, has identified specific potential crimes, and is zeroing in on key evidence. Since it was Manafort’s house that was searched, it is likely that he is implicated in the crimes, but that is not necessarily the case. Further, it should be clear that just because Mueller has now reached this stage in the investigation, it does not necessarily mean that Manafort or anybody else will be ultimately charged with crimes.

Now why did Mueller use a search warrant instead of a subpoena, particularly since Manafort’s attorney says that they have been cooperating with the investigation all along? I can think of four possible reasons for Mueller’s move (none of which are mutually exclusive).

Read the reasons at the link. Following the revelation of the raid, journalists and twitter users looked at the timeline of events and found some interesting Trump connections.

Think Progress: Trump called for acting FBI director’s firing hours after FBI agents raided Paul Manafort’s home.

In light of the news about the raid of Manafort’s home, Trump’s tweets on the day of July 26 are of renewed interest. That was the day Trump abruptly posted a string of tweets announcing “that the United States government will not accept or allow [t]ransgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.” Last Friday, Politico reported that Trump’s declaration stunned White House and Department of Defense lawyers who had warned him against such a ban.

But more directly of interest are factually inaccurate tweets Trump posted later that day asking why Attorney General Jeff Sessions hadn’t moved to replace then-acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe.

This morning, Fox News reported more evidence that Trump likely knew about the raid on the morning it happened: Trump lawyer slams special counsel for ‘gross abuse’ in Manafort raid, challenges warrant.

A top lawyer for President Trump slammed the special counsel’s office over the FBI raid of former campaign manager Paul Manafort’s Virginia home, accusing investigators of committing a “gross abuse of the judicial process” for the sake of “shock value” – and employing tactics normally seen “in Russia not America.”

Trump attorney John Dowd leveled the complaints in an email sent to a Wall Street Journal reporter who wrote about the Manafort raid. The email was obtained by Fox News.

The email reflects Trump’s legal team moving to protect the president, amid speculation that the raid could be part of a broader effort to squeeze Manafort for information on Trump.

Dowd, in his note, questioned the validity of the search warrant itself, calling it an “extraordinary invasion of privacy.” Dowd said Manafort already was looking to cooperate with congressional committees and said the special counsel never requested the materials from Manafort.

If Manafort informed Trump’s lawyers about the raid, they probably told Trump himself.

More on Mueller’s investigation of Manafort, and likely efforts to get him to flip on Trump:

Politico: Feds sought cooperation from Manafort’s son-in-law.

Federal investigators sought cooperation from Paul Manafort’s son-in-law in an effort to increase pressure on President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, according to three people familiar with the probe.

Investigators approached Jeffrey Yohai, who has partnered in business deals with Manafort, earlier this summer, setting off “real waves” in Manafort’s orbit, one of these people said. Another of these people said investigators are trying to get “into Manafort’s head.”

Manafort, who is a focus of the broad federal and congressional investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign, is also under investigation for his business and real estate transactions, including some that involve Yohai.

That probe has accelerated in recent weeks, according to one of the people familiar with it….

It is unclear if investigators have secured cooperation from Yohai, who also hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing. A lawyer for Yohai didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Bloomberg: With Bank Subpoenas, Mueller Turns Up the Heat on Manafort.

Mueller’s team of investigators has sent subpoenas in recent weeks from a Washington grand jury to global banks for account information and records of transactions involving Manafort and some of his companies, as well as those of a long-time business partner, Rick Gates, according to people familiar with the matter.

The special counsel has also reached out to other business associates, including Manafort’s son-in-law and a Ukrainian oligarch, according to one of the people. Those efforts were characterized as an apparent attempt to gain information that could be used to squeeze Manafort, or force him to be more helpful to prosecutors.

Manafort’s apartment building in Virginia

As prosecutors gather many years of information about his financial affairs, Manafort could be dragged deeper into any number of legal disputes. He has a history of doing business with oligarchs and politicians in Ukraine and Russia that predates his political work for Trump, with payments routed through foreign banks and investments in U.S. real estate….

Part of the reason Manafort is getting intense early scrutiny is that Mueller is drawing on investigations that were well underway, including one by federal prosecutors in Manhattan, when he was appointed in May.

With prosecutors combing through his financial life, the 68-year-old has been toeing a fine line, cooperating with congressional requests for information about the campaign, and insisting he has nothing to hide from Mueller’s team of prosecutors who are delving into his past. Privately, his supporters question Mueller’s work to unearth conduct with no apparent connection to the 2016 election.

North Korea appears to be winning the war of words with Trump. 

The Atlantic: North Korea Answers Trump’s Vague Threats With Specific Ones.

President Trump seemed to draw a red line Tuesday when he warned North Korea that continued threats against the United States would be met with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.” The next day, North Korea crossed it.

Or at least it announced, in unusually specific terms, how it could. The country’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Wednesday night issued a statement that said the North is “seriously examining the plan for an enveloping strike at Guam through simultaneous fire of four Hwasong-12 intermediate-range strategic ballistic rockets in order to interdict the enemy forces on major military bases on Guam and to signal a crucial warning to the U.S.” The statement, citing the North’s Strategic Rocket Forces head General Kim Rak Gyom, added that the plan would be finished by mid-August before going to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for approval.

“Sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason and only absolute force can work on him,” the general said, in apparent reference to Trump, whose ultimatum he described as a “load of nonsense.”

The announcement, coming a day after the North threatened Guam in vaguer terms, is stunning not only as an escalation, but also for the level of detail with which it describes the proposed strike. The statement spells out the number of intermediate-range ballistic missiles that would be involved (four), how far they would fly (approximately 2,085 miles), their exact flight path (they would traverse the three Japanese prefectures of Shimane, Hiroshima, and Koichi), plus how long all of this would take (about 20 minutes), and the earliest the plan would be ready (mid-August, so, conservatively, within a few days). And it takes care to specify that the end point of the missiles is not Guam itself, but the waters off its eastern coast (18 to 25 miles off, to be exact).

Jeffrey Lewis at Foreign Policy: The Game Is Over and North Korea Has Won.

The Washington Post reported yesterday that North Korea has a large stockpile of compact nuclear weapons that can arm the country’s missiles, including its new intercontinental ballistic missiles that are capable of hitting the United States. That’s another way of saying: game over.

Also: I told you so.

There are really two assessments in the Post’s report. One, dated July 28, is that the intelligence community — not just the Defense Intelligence Agency, contrary to what you may have heard — “assesses North Korea has produced nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery, to include delivery by ICBM-class missiles.” The other assessment, published earlier in July, stated that North Korea had 60 nuclear weapons — higher than the estimates usually given in the press. Put them together, though, and its pretty clear that the window for denuclearizing North Korea, by diplomacy or by force, has closed.

These judgments are front-page news, but only because we’ve been living in collective denial. Both intelligence assessments are consistent with what the North Koreans have been saying for some time, for reasons I outlined in a column here at Foreign Policy immediately after the September 2016 nuclear test titled, “North Korea’s Nuke Program Is Way More Sophisticated Than You Think: This is now a serious nuclear arsenal that threatens the region and, soon, the continental United States.”

Continue reading at Foreign Policy.

On the Trump-McConnell spat:

Business Insider: Trump’s feud with Mitch McConnell ‘is breathtaking in its dysfunctionality.’

A burgeoning feud between President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could have significant ramifications for the GOP’s once-ambitious policy agenda.

Analysts say the war of words could be another stumbling block for various Republican plans after limited success in their first seven months of power in Washington.

“The Trump/McConnell war of words has zero upside for the GOP agenda and is potentially limit-down,” Chris Krueger, an analyst at Cowen Washington Research Group. “It is breathtaking in its dysfunctionality.”

Isaac Boltansky, a political analyst at the research firm Compass Point, told Business Insider that the words are a stark example of the divide that exists between the two.

“I think the state of political rhetoric is concerning for both the GOP’s legislative agenda and the fiscal deadlines in September,” Isaac Boltansky, a political analyst at the research firm Compass Point, told Business Insider. “Trump and McConnell are linchpins in the legislative process, and these comments suggest a deep divide in both tone and substance.”The cracks are starting to show at a critical time for the GOP agenda, as necessary deadlines and a massive tax reform fight loom on the horizon.

Read more at the BI link.

White House Insanity Updates

New York Magazine: Sebastian Gorka Thinks the Minnesota Mosque Attack May Have Been a False Flag.

In the early morning hours of August 5, someone hurled an improvised explosive device at a mosque in Bloomington, Minnesota. None of the roughly 20 early morning worshippers were injured, but the blast broke windows and began a small fire, filling the building with smoke. The mosque’s executive director told a local TV station that “one of our congregation members came out immediately and he saw a truck fleeing from the parking lot, running at very high speed.” The FBI is investigating; no arrests have been made. On Sunday, Minnesota governor Mark Dayton called the attack “an act of terrorism.”

But the response from the Trump administration has been predictable yet disturbing: almost complete silence. President Trump has not issued a statement or tweeted about the Minnesota attack, preferring to direct his attention to other pressing matters, like Senator Richard Blumenthal’s Vietnam record.  (The Department of Homeland Security  did issue a strong statement condemning the attack.)

In a Tuesday appearance on MSNBC, Nazi-ish quasi–White House adviser Sebastian Gorka put forth a bizarre justification for the radio silence: The attack, you see, may have been perpetrated by the left.

“There’s a great rule: All initial reports are false,” Gorka said. (Editor’s note: This is a terrible rule.) “You have to check them; you have to find out who the perpetrators are,” Gorka continued. “We’ve had a series of crimes committed — alleged hate crimes by right-wing individuals in the last six months — that turned out to actually have been propagated by the left. So let’s wait and see, let’s allow the local authorities to provide their assessments, and then the White House will make its comments.” Responding to Stephanie Ruhle’s assertion that Trump had no problem immediately commenting on a London terror attack in June, Gorka countered that it was obvious in that case who the perpetrators were — ignoring the fact that Trump tweeted out a Drudge Report story written before any facts were known. Ruhle also made the eminently reasonable point that “you don’t have to make a statement about who did it, but you can make a public statement about how terrible it would be to attack a building of worship.” “That’s fine,” Gorka responded unconvincingly. “And I’m sure the president will do that.”

Anthony Scaramucci is no longer in the White House, but he’s still making news. The Washington Post: The Mooch as Monica Lewinsky? Scaramucci’s saga keeps getting stranger.

Anthony Scaramucci keeps complaining about the interview that cost him his job as White House communications director. And in doing so, he keeps betraying how amateur it was that the White House ever hired him.

When the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza first reported on Scaramucci’s vulgar comments about his then-White House colleagues two weeks ago, Scaramucci said he would tone down the language. He then apparently decided to get a little more combative, suggesting the interview wasn’t meant to be published and that a fellow Italian American like Lizza should have known he was just B.S.-ing.

And now that Lizza published additional comments from the interview Wednesday, Scaramucci is trying a new tack: Accusing Lizza of recording him without his knowledge by comparing him to a figure from the Bill Clinton sex scandal, Linda Tripp.

Go to the WaPo to read the whole ridiculous story.

I’ll get to the climate change news in the comment thread. This post is way too long.

What else is happening? What stories are you following today?