April 6, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:56 PM


How 'Chappaquiddick' Distorts a Tragedy (Neal Gabler, April 6, 2018, NY Times)

Many scenes cross from dramatic interpretation to outright character assassination. In this version, the Kennedy character leaves Kopechne to die as she gasps for air, and then, with the aid of his brothers' old advisers, cooks up a scheme to salvage his presidential ambitions. A more callow, cunning, cowardly and self-interested yet moronic figure you couldn't find. His first words after the accident are: "I'm not going to be president." [...]

Contrary to the film's implications, Mr. Kennedy immediately and forever after felt deep remorse and responsibility for the accident; it haunted him. 

Chappaquiddick: No Profile in Kennedy Courage (SUSAN DONALDSON JAMES, Aug. 26, 2009, ABC News)

In the summer of 1969, consiglieres of the former John F. Kennedy administration -- Robert McNamara, Arthur Schlesinger and Ted Sorensen, among others -- convened in Hyannis Port, Mass., to write the apology that would save the young Sen. Ted Kennedy from himself.

Only days before, Kennedy had left the scene of a fatal car crash on the small island of Chappaquiddick on Martha's Vineyard, taking the life of 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne.

The second-term senator waited nearly 10 hours to report the accident and offered virtually no explanation other than he "panicked."

"In those conclaves a speech, not unlike the 'Checkers' speech, was crafted for him to give on TV, throwing himself on the compassion of the American people to write and call in to keep him on the ticket," said Edward Klein, author of the new book, "Ted Kennedy: The Dream That Never Died."

"All of the Kennedy acolytes were there," Klein told ABCNews.com. "His wife Joan was not allowed downstairs. They didn't want her to hear it."

The details of the July 19 accident were salacious: a Regatta Weekend reunion party at a friend's cottage with all married men (except one) and six women -- the "boiler room girls" -- who had worked together on Robert Kennedy's 1968 presidential campaign.

After a day of sailing and heavy drinking, Kennedy drove his black Oldsmobile sedan off a small wooden bridge into Poucho Pond, trapping Kopechne in seven feet of water.

Edward Moore Kennedy -- only 38 and up for re-election the following year-- had violated one of the cardinal rules in politics: "Never get caught with a dead girl or a live boy."

Posted by orrinj at 7:44 PM


Exclusive: Trump adviser played key role in pursuit of possible Clinton emails from dark web before election (Jenna McLaughlin, Jim Sciutto and Carl Bernstein, 4/06/18, CNN)

Joseph Schmitz approached the FBI and other government agencies about material a client of his had discovered that Schmitz believed might have been Clinton's missing 30,000 emails from her private e-mail server, sources say. The material was never verified, and sources say they ultimately believed it was fake.

His push is the latest example of Trump advisers who were mixed up in efforts to find dirt on Clinton during the presidential campaign. Schmitz was one of the first people Trump named to his campaign's national security and foreign policy team. The team, showcased in a March 2016 photo, was thrown together early in Trump's successful run as he faced mounting pressure to prove his ability to pull in high-level advisers who could help prepare him for the White House.

Another adviser pictured in the photo, Trump's foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, was told by a Kremlin-connected professor that the Russian government had damaging material on Clinton. Six weeks later, Donald Trump Jr. got a message from a business associate offering similar information, leading to the Trump Tower meeting that Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort attended.

Posted by orrinj at 7:40 PM


Federal judge upholds Mass. assault weapons ban (Maria Cramer,  APRIL 06, 2018, Boston Globe)

In his ruling, US District Judge William Young wrote the state's two-decade-old ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines do not violate the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment.

"The AR-15 and its analogs, along with large capacity magazines, are simply not weapons within the original meaning of the individual constitutional right to 'bear Arms,'‚ÄČ" Young wrote in a 47-page ruling. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:41 AM


The Conscience of Ann Coulter: Donald Trump promised her a wall. She wants to know where it is. (CHARLES SYKES, 4/05/18, Weekly Standard)
Give her credit: Ann Coulter is a woman of strong convictions. Those convictions may be wrongheaded, bizarre, and even bigoted, but she knows what she believes and is willing to hold Donald Trump accountable. Unless he builds the wall (and not just some candy-ass fence) she's done with him--ready to turn on him with the white hot bitterness of the true believer who suddenly awakes to betrayal.

It's easy to mock Coulter, who wrote a book titled In Trump We Trust, for ever thinking she could trust Trump (and I will probably go on doing so), but at least something mattered to her. Unlike the cultists for whom Trump can do no wrong, and who will not hold him to any of his promises as long as he fights the right enemies, Coulter's politics have a very clear standard. "We have been betrayed over and over and over with presidents promising to do something about immigration," she explained to the New York Times's Frank Bruni. "If he played us for suckers, oh, you will not see rage like you have seen."

Trump does seem worried. After a few days pretending that he hadn't really been rolled on the border wall (Congress allocated only $1.6 billion of the $25 billion he had requested in the budget passed last month), Trump has ramped up his anti-immigrant rhetoric, killed the deal to regularize the status of so-called "dreamers," lashed out at Mexico, and authorized sending the National Guard to patrol the border.

Long gone are the days when he mused aloud about a "bill of love." Now he's reportedly listening intently to advice from a menagerie of misfit toys, including cable talking heads like Sean Hannity and immigration hardliner Lou Dobbs. And Ann is... unhappy. (By her account, they engaged in an "obscenity laced" shouting match in the Oval Office over his "betrayals.")

The message of the hardliners is simple: If he goes all squishy on immigration, he will lose his base. 

And the racists are his base.
Posted by orrinj at 4:40 AM


E.P.A. Officials Sidelined After Questioning Scott Pruitt (ERIC LIPTON, KENNETH P. VOGEL and LISA FRIEDMAN, APRIL 5, 2018, NY Times)

Mr. Pruitt, who often ran late, wanted to use the lights and sirens to expedite local trips in Washington to the airport or to dinner, including at least one trip to Le Diplomate, a trendy French restaurant that he frequented. Such use was not consistent with agency policy, but Mr. Weese was unsuccessful in stopping it.

The agency said Mr. Pruitt played no role in deciding when the sirens and lights would be used. "The security detail for the past 15 years has used them in very limited fashion," Mr. Wilcox said.

Mr. Weese was also reluctant to sign off on requests for Mr. Pruitt to travel in first class based on security concerns. Mr. Allen, Mr. Chmielewski and Mr. Reeder, too, questioned the use of taxpayer money to pay for first-class airfare. Only after Mr. Weese was replaced by Mr. Perrotta did Mr. Pruitt regularly fly first class, agency staff members said.

There were also questions raised about a request that Mr. Pruitt be issued a bulletproof sport utility vehicle with so-called run flat tires, which keep a vehicle moving even when sustaining gunfire. And they challenged Mr. Pruitt's expanded security detail of approximately 20 members, three times the size of his predecessor's. Unlike his most recent counterpart under Mr. Obama, Gina McCarthy, Mr. Pruitt has security officials follow him wherever he travels, and also stay on duty overnight.

"He wanted to be treated like he was the president," said David Schnare, a prominent conservative lawyer and climate change skeptic, who served on the Trump administration transition team at the E.P.A., after an earlier 30-year stint at the agency that started in the late 1970s.

Mr. Wilcox, the agency spokesman, said the larger security team was justified, given threats against Mr. Pruitt. "They run the variety of direct death threats -- 'I'm going to put a bullet in your brain' -- to implied threats -- 'If you don't classify this particular chemical in this particular way, I'm going to hurt you.'"

There was a particularly intense dispute over a request to construct a special security booth in Mr. Pruitt's office so he could have confidential conversations without being overheard by career agency employees, according to interviews and public documents first reported by The Washington Post. [...]

The various challenges to Mr. Pruitt's spending and security priorities did not sit well with him, according to the people who worked with or for the E.P.A., and soon the offending aides were removed.

Mr. Allen, a decorated 30-year retired Army officer, was transferred to a different office within the E.P.A., where he mostly works alone, according to two agency officials, one of whom described the setup as "an unmarked grave." [...]

William K. Reilly, who led the E.P.A. under President George Bush, called Mr. Pruitt a "third-rate ideologue" and said he was aware of staff members who had been sidelined at the agency for raising questions about Mr. Pruitt's spending.

"I think he's well beyond his sell-by date," Mr. Reilly said. "Any administration but this one would have discharged him long ago."

Whereas Donald wants to make him AG....

Posted by orrinj at 4:28 AM


Ben Sasse says if Trump is 'even half-serious' on tariffs, his plan is 'nuts' (Catherine Garcia, April 5, 2018, The Week)

In a statement Thursday night, Sasse said he hopes Trump is "just blowing off steam again, but, if he's even half-serious, this is nuts." In justifying the tariffs, Trump has accused China of stealing U.S. intellectual property, and Sasse said that while "China is guilty of many things," Trump has "no actual plan to win" a trade war. "He's threatening to light American agriculture on fire," Sasse continued. "Let's absolutely take on Chinese bad behavior, but with a plan that punishes them instead of us. This is the dumbest possible way to do this." 

Don't bet on it.
Posted by orrinj at 4:22 AM


New Disclosures On Roger Stone's Ties To Assange (Cody Fenwick, April 6, 2018, AlterNet)

A new report this week from the Wall Street Journal found that Stone sent an email to his associate Sam Nunberg on Aug. 4, 2016, saying that said he had had dinner with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange the previous night. CNN reports that, on that same day, Stone went on the fringe online right-wing show InfoWars and predicted that Assange had major evidence of wrongdoing by the Clinton Foundation.

"Let's remember that their defense to all the Clinton Foundation scandals is not that 'we didn't do,' but 'you have no proof, yes, but you have no proof,'" Stone said. "I think Julian Assange has that proof and I think he is going to furnish it for the American people."

The next day, he praised Assange on Twitter.

Posted by orrinj at 4:07 AM


Mueller probe tracking down Trump business partners, with Cohen a focus of queries (KEVIN G. HALL, BEN WIEDER AND GREG GORDON, April 06, 2018, McClatchy)

Armed with subpoenas compelling electronic records and sworn testimony, Mueller's team showed up unannounced at the home of the business associate, who was a party to multiple transactions connected to Trump's effort to expand his brand abroad, according to persons familiar with the proceedings.

Investigators were particularly interested in interactions involving Michael D. Cohen, Trump's longtime personal attorney and a former Trump Organization employee. Among other things, Cohen was involved in business deals secured or sought by the Trump Organization in Georgia, Kazakhstan and Russia.

The move to question business associates of the president adds a significant new element to the Mueller investigation, which began by probing whether the Trump campaign and Russia colluded in an effort to get Trump elected but has branched far beyond that.

"I was in the Olive Oil business with his father but that was a long time ago."

Mueller (Quietly) Keeps Turning Up the Heat (Cristian Farias, 4/06/18, New York)

The filing is long but well worth the read, if only to get a better sense of Mueller's case-in-chief. Its biggest surprise, though, was an attachment from none other than Rod Rosenstein, Mueller's direct supervisor. It turns out that last August, three months into Mueller's appointment, the deputy attorney general -- who for purposes of the Russia probe serves as the acting attorney general because Jeff Sessions is recused -- sent a memorandum to the special counsel outlining the scope of his authority. A big chunk of it is classified, so we may never know, or won't know for some time, what the memo says. But the part that is public states unequivocally that Mueller has a green light to investigate whether Manafort "committed a crime or crimes by colluding with Russian officials" in the run-up to 2016, and whether he engaged in wrongdoing stemming from his lobbying work with Russian-backed political actors in Ukraine.

In criminal law, that disclosure provides a rough outline of what's known as the theory of the case -- the set of facts and legal authority to support a prosecution. But what's remarkable about it is that, as presented by Dreeben and Mueller's office, this doesn't at all come across as some wild theory being pursued by an overzealous, overreaching prosecutor. If these filings tell us anything, it is that Mueller is running a tight ship and that he's keeping in close contact with Rosenstein to make sure that everything is being done by the book and according to law and departmental procedures. "For additional matters that otherwise may have arisen or may arise directly from the investigation, you should consult my office for a determination of whether such matters should be within the scope of your authority," Rosenstein tells Mueller in the August memo.

That was a long seven months ago. Public reporting since, that federal prosecutors have subpoenaed records from the Trump Organization and are now going after Russian oligarchs, to name just two developments, indicates that there may be other such written exchanges -- or "non-public dialogue," as Dreeben characterizes it -- between Rosenstein and his appointee that haven't seen the light of day. Think of them as two longtime federal prosecutors talking shop about what is or isn't appropriate to investigate. If there's someone in the federal law enforcement apparatus who knows a little bit about propriety, it's these two.

Flowing from this same set of authorities -- which include direct oversight from Rod Rosenstein, the person Mueller consults with for all "significant events" in the Russia probe -- is the special counsel's growing interest in sitting down with Trump face-to-face. As the Washington Post reported late Tuesday, lawyers for the president have been informed that their client is a "subject" in the growing inquiry, and Mueller may even release a report on whether the president tried to thwart his or the FBI's investigative efforts. That Trump is considered a subject is simply prosecutor-speak for the fact that Trump is a person of interest in an ongoing law enforcement matter -- he's more than just a witness to potential crimes and less than a full-blown target of a criminal investigation.

Subjects, who fall somewhere in the middle between witnesses and targets, are attractive to prosecutors because they know a lot about the incidents being investigated. And with many open questions about what Trump knew or his state of mind during key incidents under the microscope -- Was he aware Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, and his son met with Russians during the campaign? Did he know Michael Flynn had lied to the FBI when he fired James Comey? -- it stands to reason that Mueller may want to get direct answers to those simple, yes-or-no questions. An affirmative or a negative to whether, say, Roger Stone gave Trump a heads-up about a soon-to-drop WikiLeaks trove damaging to the Hillary Clinton campaign could be invaluable to federal investigators. (This tentacle of the Mueller inquiry remains a closely guarded secret.)

But even such basic questions could prove disastrous for the president, who isn't exactly a model of truthfulness or modesty when placed under oath. He may be damned whether he claims he did or didn't know about these things: Any prosecutor worth his salt, and Mueller is one, would be ready to put a document in front of him or someone else's testimony to contradict him or refresh his faulty recollection.

Posted by orrinj at 3:59 AM


Trump Denies Knowing of Any Hush Money Paid to Porn Actress (JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, APRIL 5, 2018, NY Times)

The president's comments on Thursday could create a predicament for him and his legal team. Ms. Clifford's case is based on the notion that the confidentiality agreement is invalid because Mr. Trump was not a party to it. By saying he was not aware of the agreement, Mr. Trump appeared to confirm that argument, which would mean neither party is legally bound by it, thus potentially paving the way for Ms. Clifford to break her silence without consequences.

Ms. Clifford's pugnacious lawyer, Michael J. Avenatti, quickly issued a statement to respond to Mr. Trump's claim. He said that the president's professed ignorance of the payment would improve his client's case, suggesting that he would use legal discovery to expose the back and forth around the payment.

"Our case just got that much better," Mr. Avenatti said in the statement. "We very much look forward to testing the truthfulness of Mr. Trump's feigned lack of knowledge concerning the $130,000 as he stated on Air Force One."

"As history teaches us, it is one thing to deceive the press and quite another to do so under oath," he added.

Later, Mr. Avenatti appeared to exult on Twitter about what he suggested were undisciplined comments by Mr. Trump that would give Ms. Clifford the upper hand in the legal dispute.

"Good (actually GREAT) things come to those who wait!!!" Mr. Avenatti wrote. "The strength of our case just went up exponentially. You can't have an agreement when one party claims to know nothing about it. #nodiscipline."