May 24, 2018

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ON THE RECORD.....

“We do not hide our feelings of repugnance toward him.” -- Kim Kye Gwan, the North Korean vice foreign minister in charge of arms negotiations about John Bolton, Trump’s national-security adviser.

Lol. I’ve never seen a guest trying to talk over a video clip showing they’re lying. But Rudy gave it a shot. -- Josh Marshall on Twitter

GIULIANI: The President would testify tomorrow if it was about the truth. The truth is he had nothing to do with Russia… Martha Stewart never would have gone to jail if she hadn’t gone and testified.

CUOMO: She lied. https://twitter.com/NewDay/status/997439199929405446

“Y’all been sending thoughts and prayers for two freaking decades now. Time to try something new.” — Texas state Rep. Gene Wu (D), after 10 students were killed in mass shooting in Sante Fe, Texas on Friday.

“I wouldn’t trust his silly ass to pour piss out of a boot if the instructions were written on the heel.” — Former Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) about Donald Trump.

Trump’s furious lashing out, including his reckless escalation of a crisis with the Department of Justice this weekend, provides interesting clues. Trump has no poker face, no chill. The closer the investigators get to incriminating evidence, the more intensely he rages. He resembles a suspect at a crime scene screaming at the police not to go into the attic. And now that attic is looking awfully interesting. -- Jonathan Chait in NY Magazine

“If our leaders seek to conceal the truth, or we as people become accepting of alternative realities that are no longer grounded in facts, then we as American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom. Even small falsehoods and exaggerations are problematic. --  Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in his commencement address to the Virginia Military Institute, warning that American democracy was threatened by a growing “crisis of ethics and integrity.”

“You know why I do it? I do it to demean you all and discredit you all, so that when you write negative stories about me no one will believe you.” -- 60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl saying that President Trump once told her that he attacks the press so no one will believe the negative stories written about him.

“Next question” -- Trump (video), when asked if has confidence in Rod Rosenstein.

All the Trump scandals all lead back to one story — a story about incredibly corrupt people, including the president himself, trampling over the law and the interests of the country in order to stuff their own pockets. And it just keeps getting bigger. -- Paul Waldman in the Washington Post.

IN THIS ISSUE

FYI

1.  Andy Borowitz: Public Demands Investigation of Why F.B.I. Infiltrators in Trump Campaign Failed to Prevent Him from Being Elected
2. Poll: Just 13 percent of Americans consider Trump honest and trustworthy
3. Rising Sea Level Caused by More Dirt on Ocean Floor
4. Trump personally pushed postmaster general to double rates on Amazon, other firms
5. EU to block Trump’s Iran sanctions by activating old law
6. The DAILY GRILL
7. From MEDIA MATTERS (They watch Fox News so you don't have to)
8. From the Late Shows
9. Trump’s FBI Spy Theory Is Completely Insane
10. Late Night Jokes for Dems
11. Wall Street ‘Feverishly’ Averages $4.8 Billion A Day In Stock Buybacks In Wake of Renacci Tax Bill
12. Republicans Claw at Each Other Over Farm Bill Implosion
13. Trump has made 1,628 false or misleading claims over 298 days
14. Democrats’ newest midterm pitch: A crackdown on corruption
15. Immigration showdown puts Ryan's job in peril
16. Mystery in Mueller probe: Where's the hacking indictment?
17. GOP Tax Bill Support Dropping Fast
18. Arizona could roll back teaching of evolution in classroom
19. New N.J. Attorney General Itching to Take on Trump
20. Poll: Trump reelection bid begins in a hole
21. Most Don’t Know Mueller Has Uncovered Crimes
22. Trump lawyer 'paid by Ukraine' to arrange White House talks

OPINION

1. Jonathan Chait: Corruption, Not Russia, Is Trump’s Greatest Political Liability
2. Abigail Tracy: Tump Is Just A Moron”: How The President Played Himself On North Korea
3. David Faris: This is the laziest Congress in history
4. Adam Serwer: There Is Only One Trump Scandal
5. Barbara Slavin: Pompeo’s Mission Impossible on Iran
6. Dahlia Lithwick: How to Survive Trump’s Presidency Without Losing Your Mind
7. Jonathan Chait: In Year Two, Mueller Is Wading Into a Bottomless Pit of Trump Sleaze
8. Ryan Cooper: The mind-boggling corruption of Trump Inc.
9. Jamelle Bouie: Trump’s Animals
10. Abigail Tracy: As Mueller Closes In, Trump’s Allies Urge Him To Go Nuclear On The F.B.I.
11. Emma Stefansky: Trump Goes Nuclear After Report His Son Entertained Illegal Campaign Aid
12. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. My family believed in the ideals of American democracy. Donald Trump's policies discredit them.
13. Jonathan Chait: Trump Is Doing Same Thing He Demanded Clinton Be Locked Up For
14. Tom Coleman: It’s Not a Liberal Fantasy to Ask if Trump Committed Treason

FYI

1.  Andy Borowitz: Public Demands Investigation of Why F.B.I. Infiltrators in Trump Campaign Failed to Prevent Him from Being Elected

Millions of Americans are demanding an investigation into why, if F.B.I. operatives managed to infiltrate the 2016 Trump campaign, they utterly failed to prevent a nightmarish despot from being elected.

In interviews across the country, Americans expressed dismay and, in some cases, despair at the news that F.B.I. infiltrators might have had a golden opportunity to prevent the nation’s current unspeakable nightmare from unfolding but did not get the job done.

Tracy Klugian, of Denver, Colorado, said that a “full and exhaustive investigation” is needed to “determine why our system of F.B.I. infiltrators preventing a horrific proto-fascist menace from taking office somehow broke down.”

“We need to find out what went wrong and fix it before the 2020 election,” he said. “I won’t be able to sleep at night until I know that F.B.I. operatives are infiltrating Trump’s reëlection campaign and irreparably crippling it.” https://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/

2. Poll: Just 13 percent of Americans consider Trump honest and trustworthy

“People have concluded that he’s a liar,” the Democratic pollster Mark Mellman told CNBC, yet “the world hasn’t come to an end…The world’s looking a little better. There’s some good news out there.”

There are obvious limits on the upward range of approval of a president who so few Americans describe as honest, caring or sharing their values. Democrats remain near monolithic in their intense opposition. Nonetheless, rising economic confidence may lift Trump’s numbers further if the good economic news continues. https://www.surveymonkey.com/curiosity/explaining-trump-approval-uptick/

3. Rising Sea Level Caused by More Dirt on Ocean Floor

Representative Mo Brooks (R-AL) brought his distinct analytical contribution to the House Science Committee debate by trying to prove to Philip Duffy, Ph.D., President of the Woods Hole Research Center and a former senior adviser in the White House National Science and Technology Council, that the sea-level rise might have causes other than the warming of the ocean and melting land ice caused by warmer temperatures. Brooks began his inquisition by asserting, “Ever since human beings have been on the planet, sea levels have risen.” Duffy explained that sea levels have in fact fluctuated since humans appeared on the planet, and that warmer air was the driver of this change.

Brooks wasn’t buying it. “Let’s assume for a moment that what you’re talking about has some kind of factual, rational basis for it, that ice has melted. Are there other factors?,” he asked. Brooks proceeded to explain that rivers carry dirt into the sea, causing the sea level to rise, leading to this surreal exchange.

Brooks: “Every time you have that soil or rock deposited into the seas, that causes the sea level to rise, because now you’ve got less space in those oceans, because the bottom is moving up.”

Duffy: “I’m pretty sure that —”

Brooks: “What about the white cliffs of Dover, California, where time and time again you’re having the waves crash against the shorelines, and time and time again, you’re having the cliffs crash into the sea. All that displaces water, which forces it to rise, does it not?”

Duffy: “I’m pretty sure that on human time scale those are minuscule effects.”

Scientists believe the accelerated rise in sea levels of the last century is caused by the rising temperatures of the last century. On the other hand, maybe Brooks is right that people are just kicking more rocks into the ocean. There’s no way to tell! http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/05/republican-rising-sea-level-caused-by-dirt-on-ocean-floor.html

4. Trump personally pushed postmaster general to double rates on Amazon, other firms

“President Trump has personally pushed U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan to double the rate the Postal Service charges Amazon.com and other firms to ship packages… a dramatic move that probably would cost these companies billions of dollars,” the Washington Post reports.

“Brennan has so far resisted Trump’s demand, explaining in multiple conversations occurring this year and last that these arrangements are bound by contracts and must be reviewed by a regulatory commission… She has told the president that the Amazon relationship is beneficial for the Postal Service and gave him a set of slides that showed the variety of companies, in addition to Amazon, that also partner for deliveries. https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/trump-personally-pushed-postmaster-general-to-double-rates-on-amazon-other-firms/2018/05/18/2b6438d2-5931-11e8-858f-12becb4d6067_story.html

5. EU to block Trump’s Iran sanctions by activating old law

The European Commission will on Friday launch a trade defense law in response to U.S. economic sanctions against Iran in a bid to keep the nuclear accord with Tehran alive, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Thursday.

Juncker told reporters in Sofia that EU leaders decided Wednesday night to activate the so-called blocking statute, which bans European companies from complying with the U.S. sanctions against Iran.

“We have the duty, the Commission and the European Union, to protect our European businesses,” said Juncker, adding: “We must act now and we will act now. That’s why we are launching the process to use the 1996 ‘blocking statute’ to neutralize the extraterritorial effects of U.S. sanctions on European companies … We will do that tomorrow morning at 10:30.”

The blocking statute would forbid EU companies, under threat of punishment, to cancel business ties with Iran because of the U.S. sanctions. To do that, the EU will need to update the law to include Donald Trump’s sanctions, a process that could take up to two months, depending on how fast the European parliament and Council vote on the update. EU countries need to approve the text by a qualified majority, meaning skeptics like Germany alone would not be able to veto the law.

Juncker also said that leaders had decided “to allow the European Investment Bank to facilitate European companies’ investment in Iran.” This means that the investment bank could potentially issue loans for companies that might no longer be covered by European banks, which are expected to withdraw their operations from Iran out of fear of consequences for their business with the United States. https://www.politico.eu/article/brussels-to-launch-law-for-blocking-iran-sanctions-on-friday/

6. The DAILY GRILL

“And even if it comes from a Russian, or a German, or an American, it doesn’t matter. And they never used it, is the main thing. They never used it. They rejected it. If there was collusion with the Russians, they would have used it.”-- Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani Giuliani declaring that collusion would require using information that was provided by the Russians.

VERSUS

On multiple occasions after the organization began releasing files stolen from Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, Trump celebrated and promoted those releases. Trump Jr. interacted with WikiLeaks directly over Twitter, with the former pitching ideas for things Trump Jr. or the campaign might do and him occasionally responding — and, less frequently, acquiescing. At one point, Trump pronounced, “we love WikiLeaks!,” talking frequently about the Podesta leaks as they trickled out. The candidate embraced those leaks. -- Washington Post

 

Fake News Media had me calling Immigrants, or Illegal Immigrants, “Animals.” Wrong! They were begrudgingly forced to withdraw their stories. I referred to MS 13 Gang Members as “Animals,” a big difference - and so true. Fake News got it purposely wrong, as usual! -- Trump on Twitter

VERSUS

Right, because the guy who called Mexicans rapists and said thousands of U.S. Muslims cheered 9/11 couldn’t possibly have been trying to associate immigrants with gang members, and totally deserves the benefit of the doubt. -- Greg Sargent in the Washington Post

 

Reports are there was indeed at least one FBI representative implanted, for political purposes, into my campaign for president. It took place very early on, and long before the phony Russia Hoax became a “hot” Fake News story. If true - all time biggest political scandal! -- Donald J. Trump on Twittert

VERSUS

Trump has repeatedly insisted that he is innocent of colluding with Russia and had no idea about his campaign staff’s Russia contacts. So he should be glad to know that the FBI appears to have been trying to thwart a hostile country’s efforts to infiltrate his campaign. That he and his allies in Congress do not even acknowledge that these individuals posed a national security threat and instead attack the FBI for apparently doing its job suggests that they would have been happy for whatever Russia was doing in 2016 to continue unimpeded.--Asha Rangappa in the Washington Post

7. From MEDIA MATTERS (They watch Fox News so you don't have to)

Gavin McInnes: Women reporting sexual harassment are "proof that women don't belong in the workforce." 

Fox regular claims ICE is only rounding up criminals. Noncriminal arrests by ICE more than doubled under Trump.

Fox & Friends guest claims the FBI started Trump campaign probe without "evidence that anyone had actually committed a crime." So far, the investigation has resulted in five guilty pleas and 17 additional indictments, including of Trump's campaign manager.

Fox legal analyst Gregg Jarrett: "Comey and his minions at the FBI" are out "to frame" Trump.

Sean Hannity: Mueller investigation is "a direct threat to this American republic. ... The only point of a presidential interview is to set a perjury trap."

Fox's Ed Henry likens reporters to "rabid dogs" for covering Trump's "animals" comment.

Fox's Jason Chaffetz blames mental health and "politically correct culture" for Santa Fe shootings.

Pro-Trump media are already accusing Santa Fe shooting survivors of being crisis actors.

NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch: It’s unfair to say “mass shootings” because knife crimes aren’t called “mass knifings.”

Scott Pruitt’s EPA blacklists reporters from summit on toxic water contaminants, forcibly removes reporter from the building. AP, CNN, and E&E News were all prevented from attending.

8. From the Late Shows

Donald Trump Robert Mueller Cold Open - SNL: https://youtu.be/MW8M3tr1XXo

Morning Joe - SNL https://youtu.be/0ynfBTfpJlU

Weekend Update: Eric and Donald Trump Jr. on Trump Tower Meeting - SNL: https://youtu.be/T-pApx7yfh0

Weekend Update on One-Year Anniversary of Robert Mueller Investigation - SNL: https://youtu.be/q1MA-GTzQvM

Sarah Palin Advice - SNL: https://youtu.be/jDHSskZ44XU

What Even Matters Anymore - SNL: https://youtu.be/ZJkc_C5-Cd8

Jimmy Kimmel Live: Rudy Giuliani is Very Confused; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vPj0qzPiMhA

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Donald Jr.'s Testimony Summarized: 'I Do Not Recall': https://youtu.be/4o0cU2-IlCE

9. Trump’s FBI Spy Theory Is Completely Insane

 Gabriel Sherman reports that Trump’s team “is attempting to build the case that anti-Trump forces in the F.B.I. entrapped his advisers using informants to plant evidence about Russian collusion.” Let this roll around in your mind for a moment. Trump is not merely accusing the FBI of planting a spy, but of planting evidence.

“The president himself is convinced that the secret F.B.I. informant who reportedly met with several Trump campaign advisers in 2016 was not merely an informant, but an Obama political operative,” Sherman reports. “One administration official told me the theory has become so widely accepted that people in the West Wing are paranoid that the F.B.I. has multiple informants working to take down Trump.”

Planting evidence? Multiple spies? Obama political operatives? You might think this is all so unhinged Trump could not possibly believe it, but then, you would have to explain Trump’s longtime infatuation with the conspiracy theories he imbibes in his binge-watching of Fox News, where hours of air time can pass by without the appearance of anybody who is hinged. And you might also think Trump could not get his party to go along with this theory, to dismiss all the evidence of culpability as having been fabricated by a pro-Obama cabal in the FBI. But then you would be ignoring how far down the Trump rabbit hole the Republican Party has gone so far. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/05/trumps-fbi-russia-scandal-spy-theory-mueller-insane.html

10. Late Night Jokes for Dems

President Trump yesterday accused former President Obama and the FBI of placing a mole inside his 2016 campaign when they knew full well that campaign was supposed to be weasels only. -- Seth Meyers

Rudy Giuliani said this weekend that special counsel Robert Muellerhas promised to finish his investigation into possible wrongdoing by President Trump by September, possibly even August if Giuliani would just stop calling him. -- Seth Meyers

Former Trump aides say the president thrives on a sense of dominance and control of his environment, so much so that he has a longtime fear of having his food contaminated. Yes, for good reason. Once he was eating what he thought was a safe meal, and he found a vegetable in there. -- Stephen Colbert

And the behavior of some of his staff has been extreme, including the junior aide who was found to be taping meetings with Mr. Trump and playing them to impress friends. Really? I find it hard to believe that someone who works in the Trump administration still has friends. -- Stephen Colbert

In anticipation of the upcoming meeting between Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the U.S. government has minted a commemorative coin. It's the only coin in history where if you flip it, no matter what side it lands on, everyone loses. -- James Corden

This morning, Trump told reporters that the planned meeting with Kim Jong Un "may not work out," adding, "If it doesn't happen, maybe it will happen later." They made a commemorative coin for something that may not happen. That's like the Cleveland Browns making rings that say, "Super Bowl Champions Eventually. Someday. Maybe. Who Knows?" -- James Corden

Today, President Trump said his big meeting with Kim Jong Un might not happen. Trump and Kim have been going back and forth over where to meet and who will be there. Even friends group-texting about brunch were like, "Make a decision already, I mean, come on!" -- Jimmy Fallon

The meeting might get called off. Apparently, Kim Jong Un didn't like Trump's idea of the two of them riding through the streets in a horse-drawn carriage. -- Jimmy Fallon

But Trump wants the meeting to take place. He said if Kim Jong Un agrees to meet, he can guarantee Kim's safety. Trump promises to test Kim's food before he eats it and keep testing it until it's totally gone. -- Jimmy Fallon

A sinkhole has opened up on the White House lawn. So apparently, another one of Melania's tunnels collapsed. -- Conan O’Brien

President Trump has demanded that Congress investigate the special prosecutor who is investigating him. Trump's remarks were published in this morning's issue of "Things Innocent People Say." -- Conan O’Brien

President Trump met with the president of South Korea to discuss North Korea. The meeting consisted of five minutes about nuclear weapons, and 90 minutes of Trump saying, "So wait – which Korea are you again?" -- Conan O’Brien

11. Wall Street ‘Feverishly’ Averages $4.8 Billion A Day In Stock Buybacks In Wake of Renacci Tax Bill

Regardless of how Congressman Jim Renacci tries to spin it, it gets clearer by the day that his GOP tax bill is not aimed at helping Ohio’s working families. A new CNBC report shows that Wall Street investors have averaged a whopping $4.8 billion a day in stock buybacks in 2018, and JP Morgan projects there will be a record $800 billion by the year’s end. Instead of investing in economic development, job creation, or wage increases, Renacci’s tax bill is funneling money to the wealthy and well-connected while Ohio’s middle class is left behind. https://ohiodems.org/wall-street-feverishly-averages-4-8-billion-a-day-in-stock-buybacks-in-wake-of-renacci-tax-bill/

12. Republicans Claw at Each Other Over Farm Bill Implosion

House Republicans are at each other’s throats after the Freedom Caucus delivered a shock to party leaders on Friday by killing a key GOP bill over an unrelated simmering feud over immigration. Speaker Paul Ryan and his leadership team were sure the group of three dozen rabble-rousers would cave. The partisan farm bill, after all, includes historic new work requirements for food stamp beneficiaries that conservatives have demanded for years. Plus, President Trump leaned in, tweeting his support for the bill Thursday night to up the pressure on the far right.

But Ryan’s team sorely miscalculated. In an embarrassing show of weakness, the bill went down on the floor after a last-minute leadership scramble to flip votes.

Almost immediately, Republicans pointed fingers at each other.Freedom Caucus members said GOP leaders brought the matter on themselves by failing to pass a conservative immigration solution for Dreamers sooner. GOP leaders blamed the conservatives for upending a core Trump priority. And some Republicans even blamed Ryan, arguing they’re stuck with an outgoing speaker who couldn’t get the job done. https://www.politico.com/story/2018/05/18/house-republicans-farm-bill-failure-597888

13. Trump has made 1,628 false or misleading claims over 298 days

For some reason, our year-long project analyzing, categorizing and tracking every false or misleading claim by President Trump had seemed like quite a burden in the past month. Well, the numbers are in and now we know why: In the past 35 days, Trump has averaged an astonishing nine claims a day.

The total now stands at 1,628 claims in 298 days, or an average of 5.5 claims a day. That puts the president on track to reach 1,999 claims by the end of his first year in office, though he obviously would easily exceed 2,000 if he maintained the pace of the past month. Our full interactive graphic can be found here.https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2017/11/14/president-trump-has-made-1628-false-or-misleading-claims-over-298-days/

14. Democrats’ newest midterm pitch: A crackdown on corruption

Democrats are preparing to highlight allegations of corruption surrounding the Trump administration — and a legislative agenda to prevent future abuses — as they continue rolling out their party platform ahead of November’s midterm elections.

The new Democratic focus on corruption as a campaign message marks a return to a formula that helped put Democrats into the House majority in the 2006 midterm elections — after numerous scandals including the Jack Abramoff and Duke Cunningham revelations put pay-to-play politics on the public’s political radar in a big way. Polling done after the election showed that the tide of corruption helped swing votes to Democrats, and the party’s official now sees signs of similar concerns among voters. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2018/05/21/democrats-newest-midterm-pitch-a-crackdown-on-corruption/

15. Immigration showdown puts Ryan's job in peril

Paul Ryan is struggling to stop an immigration showdown in the House, as his Republican conference devolves into an all-out war that could put his speakership on the line.

The Wisconsin Republican pleaded with his conference Tuesday to come together after a tumultuous few days of infighting. The only way Republicans will keep their majority this fall is to work as a team, he argued, urging both wings of the party to compromise on a path forward.

But that call to unity fell on deaf ears.

A group of moderates frustrated with the lack of action to protect Dreamers from deportation is expected to collect enough signatures to force bipartisan immigration votes in the coming days, according to lawmakers and aides tracking the effort. And conservatives who oppose those bills are threatening to hold Republican leaders — starting with Ryan — responsible if they don’t stop it.

"If we run an amnesty bill out of a Republican House, I think all options are on the table," said Freedom Caucus member Scott Perry (R-Pa.) told reporters Monday night when asked if Ryan could remain speaker if the so-called discharge petition succeeds. https://www.politico.com/story/2018/05/22/paul-ryan-gop-immigration-showdown-freedom-caucus-602842

16. Mystery in Mueller probe: Where's the hacking indictment?

In the year since the start of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, one thing has been notably absent: a public indictment of any Russians for the hacking of the Democratic National Committee.

“I firmly believe that we will see that indictment, but the only question is will that indictment include U.S. persons or just Russians,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, who claimed to have seen “overwhelming” evidence underling the intelligence community’s assessment that the Russian government was behind the hacking of the DNC.

“I think that Mueller would want to finish the collusion investigation before he charges that because that is really central to the whole issue of collusion — what role did the Trump campaign play in the release of, timing of, content of these Russian stolen materials,” Schiff added.

The special counsel’s office declined to comment for this article. http://thehill.com/policy/cybersecurity/388707-mystery-in-mueller-probe-wheres-the-hacking-indictment

17. GOP Tax Bill Support Dropping Fast

Nearly six months after the Republicans passed their tax bill, public support for their signature legislative achievement – which Republicans made clear they had to sell to save their imperiled majority – has returned to an underwater status with voters. According to national polling conducted by the DCCC, the tax bill’s favorability dropped to (-6) in April and (-9) in May. 

The dropping popularity of the tax bill is no surprise considering that voters do not expect to benefit from much of the trillion-dollar tax bill, which reflects the reality that the vast majority of the bill’s tax cuts flow to the wealthy and large corporations.

Clearly, the tax bill is not even close to the “silver bullet” Republicans need. https://dccc.org/new-dccc-data-gop-tax-bill-support-dropping-fast/

18. Arizona could roll back teaching of evolution in classroom

“The teaching of evolution in Arizona classrooms could be taking a big step backwards,” KVOA-TV reports.

School Superintendent Diane Douglas is apparently behind a rewrite of science standards for all Arizona school children that would delete references to evolution.

Audio obtained by 12 News shows Douglas believes a version of creationism, called “intelligent design,” should be taught in tandem with evolution.\

The proposed science standards could leave it up to teachers to decide which one students should learn. http://www.kvoa.com/story/38230633/arizona-could-roll-back-teaching-of-evolution-in-classroom

19. New N.J. Attorney General Itching to Take on Trump

The man aspiring to be the new face of the resistance is a practicing Sikh who likes to call attention to his turban and happens to have jurisdiction over 20 of President Trump’s properties, including Bedminster.

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal says he sees an opening in the continuing wake left by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s surprise resignation, and he’s ready to take it. https://www.politico.com/story/2018/05/23/new-jersey-attorney-general-trump-603284

20. Poll: Trump reelection bid begins in a hole

A new Politico/Morning Consult poll finds just 36% of voters say they would vote for President Trump over a generic Democratic candidate in 2020, compared with 44% who would pick the Democrat, the poll shows. One in five voters, 20%, are undecided. https://www.politico.com/story/2018/05/23/trump-democrats-2020-election-603421

21. Most Don’t Know Mueller Has Uncovered Crimes

A new Navigator Research survey finds that 59% of Americans believe that special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation has not yet uncovered evidence of crimes, even though Mueller has already obtained five guilty pleas and 17 criminal indictments. https://navigatorresearch.org/portfolio_page/what-are-they-hiding/

22. Trump lawyer 'paid by Ukraine' to arrange White House talks

Michael Cohen “received a secret payment of at least $400,000 to fix talks between the Ukrainian president and President Trump,” sources in Kiev close tell the BBC.

“The payment was arranged by intermediaries acting for Ukraine’s leader, Petro Poroshenko, the sources said, though Cohen was not registered as a representative of Ukraine as required by US law.”

The meeting at the White House was last June. Shortly after the Ukrainian president returned home, his country’s anti-corruption agency stopped its investigation into Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-44215656

OPINION

1. Jonathan Chait: Corruption, Not Russia, Is Trump’s Greatest Political Liability

Trump’s vision of an economy run by tight circles of politically connected oligarchs has reshaped America’s standing in the world. The same effect that applies at the personal level with Trump has appeared at the level of the nation-state. Small-d democratic leaders have recoiled from the Trump administration, while autocrats have embraced him. Similarly, the president and his inner circle feel most comfortable in the company of the wealthy and corrupt. They have built closer ties to Russia, the Gulf States, and China, all of which are ruled by oligarchs who recognize in Trump a like-minded soul. They share the belief that — to revise a favorite Trump saying — if you don’t steal, you don’t have a country.

An easy fatalism about all this corruption has gained wide circulation. It was known about Trump all along and his voters signed up for it anyway, so nothing matters, right? In fact, Trump’s behavior runs directly contrary to his most important promises. “Draining the swamp” was not supposed to mean simply kicking out Democrats and competent public officials. He made speeches promising good-government reforms: a ban on lobbying by former members of Congress and stricter rules on what lobbying meant; campaign-finance reform to prevent foreign companies from raising money for American candidates; a ban on lobbying by former senior government officials on behalf of foreign governments.

Not only has Trump made no effort to raise ethical standards but he and his administration have flamboyantly violated the existing guidelines. Lobbyists are seeded in every agency, “regulating” their former employers and designing rules that favor bosses over employees and business owners over consumers. The problem of former government officials’ being paid by foreign governments has been superseded by the far larger problem of current government officials’ being paid by foreign governments. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/04/corruption-is-trumps-greatest-political-liability.html

2. Abigail Tracy: Tump Is Just A Moron”: How The President Played Himself On North Korea

In his rush to reach a disarmament agreement with North Korea, Donald Trump appears to have badly misjudged his adversary, Kim Jong Un. As multiple State Department sources have told me, U.S. demands that North Korea give up its nuclear weapons were always going to be a nonstarter for Kim. Nevertheless, Trump appeared to misinterpret Kim’s overtures, relayed via South Korean President Moon Jae-in, that he would unilaterally disarm, and was reportedly “surprised” and “angered” last week when North Korea’s chief nuclear negotiator released a statement to that effect. According to The New York Times, Trump now believes he may have made a mistake in agreeing to meet with Kim, and worries that the summit could become a political embarrassment. “It doesn’t look like they want to denuclearize at all,” one U.S. official told The Washington Post, after Trump made a frantic call to Moon. “The North’s attitude is a pretty long distance away from what it appeared to be as Moon portrayed.”

Diplomats and North Korea experts, however, say this was entirely predictable. “Kim Jong Un has not offered to give up his nuclear weapons. He has not done that. He has never said anything remotely close to that,” Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at Middlebury College, told me recently. “What he has said is that he is willing to endorse the kind of vague principle of the elimination of nuclear weapons.” But Trump, in his excitement over the prospect of a Nobel Peace Prize, inflated his expectations for the June 12 summit. As Korea expert Victor Cha noted, Kim had “not even reaffirmed the more definitive statements about denuclearization that were used by the North Koreans in the past,” during previous negotiations with Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. “It all sounds good if you are not aware of what North Korea’s strategy is. North Korea in the end, they do want a peace treaty, and they do want normalization, but they want those things as a nuclear-weapon state. . . . They’re willing to part with some of their capability, but they’re certainly not willing to part with all of it.” https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/05/donald-trump-kim-jong-un-north-korea

3. David Faris: This is the laziest Congress in history

Has anyone seen Congress lately? If anyone has any information about the whereabouts of the congressional GOP agenda, please contact the authorities immediately. Because with Speaker Paul Ryan headed for the bliss of early retirement and President Trump doing whatever it is he does all day instead of presidenting, the odds of meaningful legislation coming out of this Congress are plummeting by the hour.

Republicans are conducting a genuinely audacious experiment in non-governance. Since the passage of their unpopular tax cut in December, the GOP hasn't accomplished a single thing of note, and seems to be operating on the premise that anything they or their donors actually want to do will be received so poorly by voters that it might further endanger their already-vulnerable majorities in both chambers. The plan seems to be to take a knee (irony alert!), wind down the clock, and hope that the economy delivers them another two years of power.

One would think that the rolling crisis the president has been yapping about nonstop might be amenable to solutions bolder than a lone giveaway to rich people and corporations and some half-hearted, thus far unsuccessful efforts to renegotiate America's terms of trade and alliance policies. Stay with me for a second, but it's almost as if neither President Trump nor his allies ever actually believed their own apocalyptic rhetoric about the condition of the country. It was all part of the grift. http://theweek.com/articles/773757/laziest-congress-history

4. Adam Serwer: There Is Only One Trump Scandal

The myriad Trump scandals can obscure the fact that they’re all elements of one massive tale of corruption.

The sheer volume of Trump scandals can seem difficult to keep track of.

There’s the ongoing special-counsel investigation into whether the Trump campaign aided a Russian campaign to aid Trump’s candidacy and defeat his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton; there’s the associated inquiry into whether the president obstructed justice when he fired former FBI Director James Comey, whom he had asked not to investigate his former national-security adviser; there are the president’s hush-money payments to women with whom he allegedly had extramarital affairs, made through his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, and facilitated by corporate cash paid to influence the White House; there is his ongoing effort to interfere with the Russia inquiry and politicize federal law enforcement; there are the foreign governments that seem to be utilizing the president’s properties as vehicles for influencing administration policy; there’s the emerging evidence that Trump campaign officials sought aid not only from Russia, but from other foreign countries, which may have affected Trump’s foreign policy; there are the ongoing revelations of the president’s Cabinet officials’ misusing taxpayer funds; there is the accumulating evidence that administration decisions are made at the behest of private industry, in particular those in which Republican donors have significant interests.

The preceding wall of text may appear to some as an abridged list of the Trump administration’s scandals, but this is an illusion created by the perception that these are all separate affairs. Viewed as such, the various Trump scandals can seem multifarious and overpowering, and difficult to fathom.

There are not many Trump scandals. There is one Trump scandal. Singular: the corruption of the American government by the president and his associates, who are using their official power for personal and financial gain rather than for the welfare of the American people, and their attempts to shield that corruption from political consequences, public scrutiny, or legal accountability. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/05/there-is-only-one-trump-scandal/560825/

5. Barbara Slavin: Pompeo’s Mission Impossible on Iran

Since President Donald Trump rejected State Department appeals for more time to reach a supplemental understanding with the Europeans on Iran, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has tried to make a virtue out of failure.

Pompeo listed 12 demands that range from Iran ending all uranium enrichment and providing anywhere, anytime access to “all sites” within the country to stopping support for Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran’s other historic partners in the Middle East. He also demanded that Iran withdraw “all forces under Iranian command” from Syria, where Iranians and Shia militias have been fighting at the request of the Damascus government.

The demands would require that the Iranian leopard not just change its spots but transform itself into a lamb, subordinated to the wishes of the U.S. and Iran's regional rivals — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Israel.

By withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, the Trump administration has likely paved the way toward two major nuclear crises — in the Middle East and Northeast Asia — with no realistic strategy to resolve either. https://www.axios.com/pompeos-mission-impossible-on-iran-1526910087-881b0756-a68e-4c87-9fff-76df8dbd7237.html

6. Dahlia Lithwick: How to Survive Trump’s Presidency Without Losing Your Mind

This past week, journalists in America were struggling to comprehend two major stories: The first was that Donald Trump announced (via tweet) on Wednesday that any news that paints him in a negative light is, by definition, “fake news.” He went on to threaten the press credentials of any journalist who doesn’t portray him in a flattering light. This is, of course, the natural culmination of two years of attacks on the media, threats to reporters, promises to change the First Amendment press protections, and an unprecedented claim that the media itself is an “enemy of the people.” Perhaps relatedly, CBS reported Friday that every television at the Food and Drug Administration is tuned to Fox News and cannot be changed. This stuff is jarring because just two years ago, we believed such threats to the First Amendment died with Richard Nixon.

At the same time, we are all attempting to unravel a narrative in which Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s nonlawyer, created a shell corporation to pay hush money to a porn star with whom Donald Trump claims not to have had sex. That company became a funnel for ungodly sums of money from Fortune 500 companies and Russian oligarchs to perform services that it could have in no way performed.

We are trapped in a kind of national collective madness, where lies are truth, truth is derided as fake news, corruption is cleansing, and cruelty is good governance. Suddenly the adults are children and the Parkland, Florida, kids are adults, and every time you think it can’t get madder, it just does. It’s a world in which the mere act of declaiming, “This isn’t normal,” or “They’re not telling the truth” is dismissed as hysteria and overreaction. Jokes can hurt feelings, but ripping children from their parents leaves no lasting moral footprint. https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/05/how-to-survive-trumps-presidency-without-losing-your-mind.html

7. Jonathan Chait: In Year Two, Mueller Is Wading Into a Bottomless Pit of Trump Sleaze

Mueller has swept up a wide array of crimes that may be secondarily related to collusion with Russia, but are not direct acts of abetting Russian election interference. He has charged Paul Manafort with money laundering, and several other figures with making false statements to the FBI. When federal agents raided the home and office of Trump fixer Michael Cohen, it signaled a new phase in the investigation, homing in on a rapidly spreading web of alleged financial misdeeds by Donald Trump and his associates.

Trump’s supporters have portrayed this aspect of the investigation as a gross overreach. The raid on Michael Cohen’s office “is a major red line in [constitutional] Law,” cried Hugh Hewitt; “If this were Hillary Clinton [having her lawyer’s office raided], the ACLU would be on every TV station in America jumping up and down …” complained Alan Dershowitz. Both Hewitt and Dershowitz are lawyers who were aware, or able to learn, about Justice Department rules laying out just when and where its agents can raid a lawyer’s office, and nobody has made a credible or remotely specific case that the raid on Cohen, a fixer with a lifetime of criminal associations who only barely qualifies as a lawyer, violated attorney-client privilege either by the letter of he law or by the intent.

Meanwhile the Congress has made it perfectly clear it has no intent to investigate any of these curiosities. The House has used its investigative apparatus to hurl a continuous series of calumnies at Mueller and the FBI. The Senate has conducted an earnest but tightly constrained investigation into the foreign policy security aspect of the Russian intervention, and even that investigation has run into repeated brick walls.

Trump’s strategy of brazening out every call for disclosure, avoiding media scrutiny and answering the few shouted questions he gets with lies, has largely worked. The unstated assumption of the case that Mueller should stay away from this topic is that Trump managed to evade scrutiny of his business record during the campaign, and the campaign was the public’s one and only shot at accountability. Now the special counsel is the only force putting real pressure on the unethical and quite possibly criminal culture that Trump has nourished. What possible justification is there for Mueller to ignore this bottomless pit of sleaze? http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/05/robert-mueller-probing-trump-money-laundering-collusion-russia.html

8. Ryan Cooper: The mind-boggling corruption of Trump Inc.

Another week in the Donald Trump presidency, another handful of days so stuffed full of sordid and highly complicated stories that even journalists have trouble keeping track of what's going on.

But the thread tying all the latest news together — from Trump lawyer Michael Cohen's sundry exploits, to Trump's ongoing presidential profiteering, to the Russia investigation — is corruption. The Trump administration will surely go down as one of the most — if not the most — rotten in American history.

That brings me to Trump's bizarre about-face on the Chinese phone manufacturer ZTE, in which he promised to help restore the company's jobs after being hit with U.S. fines and sanctions. Are we really to believe that this has nothing to do with China loaning $500 million to a huge Trump-branded development in Indonesia days beforehand? It simply beggars belief — indeed, there is practically no other comprehensible explanation.

One important reason why Trump was able to become president is because his business career was not derailed at any of the several points in which he allegedly committed crimes. He could have been finished on one of the dozen-plus occasions he was credibly accused of sexual harassment or assault, or when he illegally discriminated against black tenants in his properties, or for the Trump University scam, or for an illegal loan to one of his casinos, or about 10 other things. But instead, he was actually coddled and lifted up by the New York establishment.

And he was far from alone. It turns out that when you stop enforcing the law against rich people, a seething plasma of corruption tends to engulf the national political system. Perhaps in the future we can start applying laws to everyone, even the wealthy and powerful. http://theweek.com/articles/773708/mindboggling-corruption-trump

9. Jamelle Bouie: Trump’s Animals

At a roundtable discussion with California sheriffs on Wednesday, Trump blasted some immigrants as “animals” after one sheriff expressed frustration with “sanctuary” laws that preclude cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities. “They can’t do all kinds of things that other law enforcement agencies can do. And it’s really put us in a very bad position,” said the sheriff, adding—as a hypothetical—that she wouldn’t know if a gang member was in her jail. “There could be an MS-13 member I know about—if they don’t reach a certain threshold, I cannot tell ICE about it.”

Trump responded with his usual riff:

We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — and we’re stopping a lot of them — but we’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals. And we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before. And because of the weak laws, they come in fast, we get them, we release them, we get them again, we bring them out. It’s crazy.

Even if Trump were plainly referring to MS-13, it’s still a step too far for the president of the United States to refer to anyone in the language of “animals.” Not only does it demonize, casting entire groups as subhuman, it opens a door to something worse than just rhetoric, and sends a signal to the agencies and officers tasked with enforcing the laws of the United States.

This particular signal is straightforward: They do not deserve respect or fair treatment. Who is “they?” It may be the gang members themselves, or it may be people accused of being gang members, regardless of the truth. It may be people who want to escape gang life but find themselves stigmatized. It may be entire communities, targeted as one of the president’s vectors for crime and disorder. Indeed, Trump has already obliterated the distinction between the law-abiding and the criminal in immigration enforcement, freeing ICE agents to detain and deport anyone they suspect of being “illegal.” The result is a surge in the arrests of immigrants without criminal records.

If there’s no difference in the president’s policies between criminal and law-abiding immigrants, why should we assume there’s a difference in his rhetoric?  https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/05/donald-trumps-animal-comments-are-just-his-latest-attempt-to-connect-immigrants-and-crime.html

10. Abigail Tracy: As Mueller Closes In, Trump’s Allies Urge Him To Go Nuclear On The F.B.I.

Egged on by his most ardent followers, Donald Trump’s public-influence campaign against the F.B.I. has dogged each new stop of Robert Mueller’s investigation. From casting doubton key players in the bureau to waging a proxy war to discredit Mueller himself, Trump and his allies have sought to weaponize public opinion, even as doing so may further ensnare them in Mueller’s obstruction-of-justice case. This week, the president and his allies have seized on a new talking point to justify their animosity toward the bureau: “Wow, word seems to be coming out that the Obama F.B.I. ‘SPIED ON THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN WITH AN EMBEDDED INFORMANT,’” Trump tweeted on Thursday morning. “If so, this is bigger than Watergate!”

Of course, for Trump it’s not necessarily the truth that matters, but public opinion. If Trump and his allies can poison the well to the point that an attack on the F.B.I. is seen as warranted, then they have successfully manufactured their own escape hatch, even as the possibility of a damning presidential interview with Mueller becomes more likely than ever. “We finally got a brief response that gives us some hope that maybe we can do something,” Giuliani told Politico, hinting at renewed openness to a Trump-Mueller tête-à-tête. “I guess I got to wait and see what they ask.” https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/05/donald-trump-rudy-giuliani-mueller-investigation-fbi

11. Emma Stefansky: Trump Goes Nuclear After Report His Son Entertained Illegal Campaign Aid

Donald Trump flew into a frenzy online Sunday morning after The New York Times published what appears to be a bombshell: the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., didn’t just meet with Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. In a separate, previously unreported meeting, Trump Jr. also met with an Israeli social media specialist, an emissary for two Arab princes, and a private military contractor offering potentially illegal data services to the Trump campaign

It is not clear whether anything came of the meeting. But according to the Times, “Donald Trump Jr. responded approvingly ... and after those initial offers of help, Mr. Nader was quickly embraced as a close ally by Trump campaign advisers—meeting frequently with Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, and Michael T. Flynn, who became the president’s first national security adviser.” Later, Nader allegedly paid Zamel as much as $2 million.

The president did not refute the story, instead launching into a prolonged Twitter rant directed at the Times, the Democrats, and the Clinton campaign. https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/05/trump-rant-nytimes-tweets

12. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. My family believed in the ideals of American democracy. Donald Trump's policies discredit them.

America today is, as it always has been, an enduring struggle between two visions of what our country should be. One vision is that we should be an idealistic nation that serves as an example to the rest of the world of the success of this American experiment with self-government, equality, justice and democracy. The other sees us as another refuge for the rich, where people with money can dominate and subjugate large populations and commoditize the public commons.

There's an outrage in this country today among people who believe in the first, idealistic vision of America and who then look at President Trump and believe that he has brought disrepute to the United States and discredited the entire American experiment in self-governance. President Trump's policies have been not to actively encourage democracy abroad, but to reach out to some of the most tyrannical governments in the world and to give them sustenance and encouragement. That's a discredit to democracy.

And for other nations of the world that are considering democracy, Trump isn't helping the cause. Think about China, for example: Their system rewards intelligence and so, when you meet with Chinese political leaders — which I've done — you are, generally speaking, meeting with some of the smartest people in a given province. So if you're Chinese and looking at what's happening in the United States today, why in the world would you ever choose a political system that could produce a national leader who is utterly incurious, superficial and ultimately a buffoon? And I'm sure other nations are having the same second thoughts. https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/my-family-believed-ideals-american-democracy-donald-trump-s-policies-ncna875406

13. Jonathan Chait: Trump Is Doing Same Thing He Demanded Clinton Be Locked Up For

Politico reports that President Trump uses at least two mobile phones that lack the necessary security features to conceal his communications. The president “has rebuffed staff efforts to strengthen security around his phone use,” the article explains, and while President Obama swapped out his phone every month for security staffers to see whether it had been hacked, Trump has refused to do the same because it would be “too inconvenient.” In other words, the offense is identical to Clinton’s, except that the president is a far more inviting target for foreign hackers than the secretary of State, and Trump in particular is especially vulnerable to espionage and blackmail due to his concealed business interests and habitual adultery.

That is to say, nobody wants to live in a world where Donald Trump is held to the same standard as Hillary Clinton. Nor can anybody imagine what such a world would look like. It already feels like we are numb from the sensory overload of endless sirens directing us to the latest unprecedented outrage. No human could generate the mental space to process Trump’s firehose stream of offenses calibrated at Clinton levels. The political system couldn’t function at such a standard. He would have been impeached his first week in office.

Maintaining one’s intellectual and moral standards is difficult in a political system in which one party operates without either. America elected a president in large part on a platform of demanding adherence to Executive branch information security so rigorous that a violator ought to be locked up. What do we do when we obtain retroactive proof that that entire claim, endorsed without reservation even by Republicans who blanched at other aspects of his platform, was a lie? Just walk away? http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/05/trump-thanks-secure-phone-too-inconvenient-lock-him-up.html

14. Tom Coleman: It’s Not a Liberal Fantasy to Ask if Trump Committed Treason

Under the Constitution an individual commits treason if the nation is at war and the person provides aid and comfort to the enemy.  This is an impeachable offense, committed by word or deed. It's one that individuals need to start grappling with seriously because it is not some far-fetched liberal fantasy to conclude that Donald Trump may have committed treason.

In fact, the case is fairly simple to make.

The U.S. intelligence community’s assessment of Russian activities in the 2016 presidential election concluded that Russia tried to influence the outcome through the dissemination and weaponization of information stolen from the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. The thirteen Russian operatives indicted by the Special Counsel for waging a disinformation campaign through our social media platforms and other internet media, described their activity as “information warfare against the United States of America.”  

Russia’s cyber attack was an act of war. They significantly disrupted and damaged our Constitutional infrastructure in an attempt to undermine the foundation of U.S. democracy. They were of sufficient scope, duration and intensity to deem them armed attacks. Clearly, they meet the international criteria of an armed attack and an act of war against the United States.

Trump’s comments and actions during this time are damning. He continually called for release of Russian cyber hacked documents that were intended to influence the outcome of the election. Based upon the preponderance of these known facts, it would be stunningly feasible to answer “yes” to the following: Did Trump assist Russia in its conduct of cyber war against the United States?  Did the cumulative effect of the Trump campaign and Trump’s personal actions result in aiding and abetting a hostile nation?  Did Trump’s actions rise to the level of giving aid and comfort to an enemy? https://www.thedailybeast.com/its-not-a-liberal-fantasy-to-ask-if-trump-committed-treason

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