Originally Published: 9/8/2018
Woodward’s Book: Journalist Bob Woodward has a new book coming out to be released September 11th. It’s about President Donald Trump so maybe there’s a message in the release date. According to reports, Fear offers the most damning portrait to date of the Trump White House, showing how top officials spend all their time trying to control the president’s impulses, going so far as to swipe and hide papers from his desk so he wouldn’t sign them. Even John Kelly, Trump’s chief of staff, referred to it as “crazytown.” (NY Times) Woodward details the insults Trump’s staff have for him. E.g., Kelly describes him as an “idiot” and “unhinged.” [Watch Stephen Colbert’s take on Kelly’s comments.] Defense Secretary James Mattis said he has the understanding of a 5th or 6th grader. Trump’s former lawyer John Dowd described him as a “f**king liar.” (CNN) Woodward telephoned Trump to apologize for not speaking to him before publishing the book, but explained that he tried multiple times to schedule an appointment with him. He put in requests with many of Trump’s staff. You really need to listen to this conversation. It’s only about 10 minutes, but if you can’t or won’t do that, you can read the transcript. (Washington Post). The most interesting part (I think) of this exchange is that it ended, almost predictably, with Trump saying that “nobody’s ever done a better job than I’m doing as president.” (Washington Post) The Washington Post published a report detailing key findings from the book. Naturally, everyone on his staff is denying everything. (Washington Post)
From the Inside: The NY Times took the “rare step” of publishing an anonymous op-ed piece by a senior official in the Trump administration who says he is part of the resistance. [Many are speculating it was submitted by VP Mike Pence. (Washington Post) If he didn’t write it, I believe he is aligned with whoever wrote it, like maybe his chief of staff Nick Ayers. After all, who will benefit most by removing Trump from office? Or, maybe it was written by many people, giving each of them plausible deniability. But make no mistake. Whoever wrote this is working with the Trump administration and is not working for the American people. It also purports to tell us to not worry, they’re looking out for us. They think they’re restraining Trump but these unelected, non-accountable people are enabling him and making him more powerful.] The author wrote: “Meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails, he engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed, and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back.” And there’s this: “In public and in private, President Trump shows a preference for autocrats and dictators, such as President Vladimir Putin of Russia and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and displays little genuine appreciation for the ties that bind us to allied, like-minded nations.” The author also wrote: “The bigger concern is not what Mr. Trump has done to the presidency but rather what we as a nation have allowed him to do to us. We have sunk low with him and allowed our discourse to be stripped of civility.” Trump called the author “gutless” (Washington Post) and he and his aides have “launched a frantic hunt for the author.” (Washington Post) Everybody is denying authorship. (Guardian) Trump held a rally in Montana where he talked about the op-ed piece and tried, unsuccessfully, to say the word “anonymous.” Watch. (USA Today)
George Papadopoulos: The Trump campaign adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian intermediaries (TWW, Criminal Trump Aides, 8/25/18), was sentenced to 14 days in jail. (NY Times)
Interrogating Trump: Special counsel Robert Mueller told Trump’s attorneys that he will accept written answers to his questions rather than a personal interview. He did not, however, rule out a personal interview at a later time. (Washington Post) I’m not sure where Mueller is going with this, but if he’s considering filing interrogatories, these are legal documents so Trump’s responses must be truthful or he can be charged with perjury. Therefore, I’m willing to bet his attorneys won’t let him do this, either.
Another Poll: We thought the poll that came out last week (TWW, New Poll, 9/1/18) was bad. But here’s another Washington Post-ABC poll with more bad news for Republicans.
Chile: For decades Chile has been giving away water rights willy-nilly “with little consideration for their cumulative impact as miners scrambled to stake claims on the small pockets of water available in the salt flats of the Salar de Atacama.” The Salar is the world’s driest desert. As Chile’s population grows, so does its demand for water. But “miners need water” and the critical issue is that Chile is one of the world’s greatest producers of lithium, “the ultra-light metal used in electric car batteries, mobile phones, and lap-tops.” It’s resulting in a water war. (Reuters) Who’s going to win? Mining companies or people?
India: The high court struck down a 160-year-old law banning gay sex. A panel of 5 judges issued a unanimous judgment striking down the provision calling it “irrational, indefensible, and manifestly arbitrary.” (Guardian)
Myanmar: Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have been sentenced to 7 years in prison for investigating the massacre of Rohingya Muslims. They were charged with breaching the country’s colonial era Official Secrets Act when they collected and obtained confidential documents.” (Reuters)
Pakistan: The Pentagon is canceling $300 million in aid to Pakistan “over Islamabad’s perceived failure to take decisive action against militants, in a new blow to deteriorating ties.” (Reuters) Is there any country with which we still have good relations? Oh, yeah. Saudi Arabia. We’re helping them kill Yemenis.
Arizona: Governor Doug Ducey (R) appointed former U.S. Senator Jon Kyl to take Senator John McCain’s (R) seat until the end of the year. (Roll Call)
Arkansas: More than 4,574 low-income people lost their health insurance because they did not report 80 hours of work online for 3 consecutive months. The new law took effect in June, making Arkansas the first state to implement Medicaid work requirements. (Arkansas Democrat Gazette)
Minnesota: The Agriculture Department (USDA) announced this week, very quietly, that 234,000 acres of land near the Boundary Water Canoe Wilderness area of the Rainy River watershed will officially be open to mining. “The most immediate beneficiary is Twin Metals Minnesota, which hopes to build a copper-nickel-precious metals mine south of Ely.” (AP)
North Carolina: The Justice Department issued subpoenas “demanding that millions of North Carolina voter records be turned over to immigration authorities by September 25.” They are looking at voting by illegal immigrants. (NY Times)
Brett Kavanaugh: Hearings were held this week regarding the confirmation of Kavanaugh as the newest Supreme Court justice. Fights went on for weeks over gaining access to all of Kavanaugh’s records and this was the subject of the first day of the hearings. The Trump administration held back more than 100,000 pages of documents claiming executive privilege. (NY Magazine) But the evening before the hearings began, they released 42,000 pages from Kavanaugh’s time working in the George W. Bush administration. (Washington Post) Democrats on the Judiciary Committee “angrily moved” to adjourn so they’d have time to review the documents. (NY Times) No go. So on the second day Senator Chuck Schumer (D, NY) used the only tool left to him: he objected to a routine request to allow committees to meet, “forcing the chamber to prematurely adjourn for the day.” “Committees are limited to meeting for a total of 2 hours each day the Senate is in session unless unanimous consent is granted on the floor, which it almost always is.” Not this time. Schumer kept them from having “unanimous consent” and, thus, shut down the hearing. (Roll Call) On the third day Senator Corey Booker (D, NJ) announced he ordered his staff to release an email before it had gone through the review process, “saying he is knowingly violating a Senate rule that could lead to his removal from the chamber.” (Roll Call) According to the Washington Post, there are multiple emails that, Booker said, “have nothing to do with national security.” The email from James Ho (who, as far as I can determine, was an attorney for the Senate Judiciary Committee) to Kavanaugh as White House Council, dated March 24, 2003, was among several provided to the NY Times. Thousands of documents had been turned over to the Senate Judiciary Committee by an attorney for George W. Bush, which were deemed “committee confidential.” Democrats complained about relying on Bush’s lawyer (who reportedly worked for Kavanaugh in the Bush White House and is his good friend) for determining what should be confidential, rather than relying, as is usually done, on the National Archives. The documents show Kavanaugh being opposed to abortion and open to changing Roe v. Wade; supporting warrantless surveillance; opposing affirmative action; and multiple other issues. What they demonstrate is that Kavanaugh is not only a rightwing operative, but also lied during his 2006 confirmation hearings for his appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals. During Kavanaugh’s response to a question regarding women’s healthcare, he mentioned "abortion-inducing drugs.” What he was referring to was contraceptive pills. (NY Times) He didn’t make a mistake. This is what these people believe. He doesn’t want to just overturn Roe v. Wade. He wants to go back to 1960 when birth control was against the law.
Kavanaugh’s History: He worked for Ken Starr in his investigation of Bill Clinton, actively pushing for Clinton’s impeachment, and now says a president shouldn’t be investigated or impeached. (Guardian) He was also one of the attorneys for George W. Bush during the 2000 election recount (Washington Post) and Bush rewarded him with a job. [BTW, Kavanaugh worked with John Roberts in the Bush v. Gore case and Bush rewarded Roberts by nominating him as Supreme Court Chief Justice.] In the Bush administration Kavanaugh was in the White House Counsel’s office (Think Progress). Some are questioning his role in the 2001-2003 hacking of 6 Democratic senators (Senator Patrick Leahy) and his involvement in the development of Bush’s torture policy. (NY Times)
Register to Vote: Make sure you’re registered to vote. The National Association of Secretaries of State have a website Can I Vote. You can go there, click on “Voter Registration,” select your state, and you will be taken to the secretary of state website for your state. Just follow the directions and make sure you’re registered.
Migrant Children: Trump is going to “circumvent” the court’s limits on holding migrant children by withdrawing from the Flores Settlement Agreement. (TWW, Immigration, 6/30/18; Retreat, 6/23/18) “The maneuver is almost certain to land the administration back in court, where U.S. District Court Judge Dolly M. Gee, who oversees the agreement, has rejected attempts to extend the amount of time migrant children can be held with their parents beyond the current limit of 20 days.” (Washington Post)
Board Banning: Reps. Tom Reed (R, NY) and Kathleen Rice (D, NY) introduced a resolution to prohibit members of the House of Representatives from serving on the boards of publicly-held companies. (Lansing Star) 13 government accountability groups are backing it. Reed and Rice also introduced a measure to create a similar resolution in the Senate. The resolution only has 12 co-sponsors and nothing has been done since it was introduced. (Roll Call)
Naming Post Offices: What has Congress been doing? Not much, but it’s not very different from prior years. The primary thing that they do is name federal property, particularly post offices. About one-fifth of all laws enacted just designate names. Rep. Henry Cueller (D, TX) leads the House pack with 6 bills. He is followed by Tom Garret (R, VA) with 3 namings, Tom Marino (R, PA) with 3 namings, and Scott Tipton (R, CO) with 3 namings. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D, NY) leads the pack in the Senate with 5 bills, followed by John Cornyn (R, TX) with 3 namings and Ted Cruz (R, TX) with 3 namings. (Roll Call)
Poaching: 90 elephant carcasses were found in Botswana with their tusks hacked off in what is believed to be one of Africa’s worst mass poaching sprees. Most of them were large bulls carrying heavy tusks. They were shot with heavy-caliber rifles at watering spots near a wildlife sanctuary in the Okavango Delta. Poachers have also targeted rhinos in Botswana, with 6 white rhino carcasses found in recent months. (Guardian)
Unemployment: Job growth accelerated in August and “wages notched their largest annual increase in more than 9 years, strengthening views that the economy was so far weathering the Trump administration’s escalating trade war with China.” 201,000 nonfarm jobs were created but the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.9%. (Reuters)